Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Easter “Meander Lines” (Super Smash Hit Records)

The break up of a long term relationship is often traumatic but Easter wordsmith Tom Long has channelled all the tragedy, trauma and regret into the ten songs on their second album. The band also suffered a break up of sorts, as shortly after recording the album bassist Rich Clarke moved to Mexico, although rumours he was helping build a wall are untrue.  He was quickly replaced by Joel Nicholson who also plays in Chew Magna and Butcher the Bar and can sometimes be found selling CDs in Vinyl Exchange in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Danny Saul who played guitar on their first album also once worked at Vinyl Exchange, so as far as I’m aware they are the only band from Manchester to have had two members work at that shop. When Danny left Rich’s older brother Gavin switched from bass to guitar. Now it looks as if drummer Andrew Cheetham could be on the way out, as he’s also drumming for Kiran Leonard and finding it hard to fit in both bands’ schedules. Losing Andrew would be a terrible blow, as he’s one of the best drummers in Manchester and plays with a fluid dexterity matched by few. I hope he decides to continue drumming for Easter, as he really makes the drums roll in a way few can. Easter’s first full length album is one of the three best I’ve heard from a Manchester band in 2018 and Easter are always great live. Enough of the soap opera, what about the songs? Tom Long is a wounded romantic poet and has some vocal and lyrical similarities with David Gedge of The Wedding Present, but Easter are a much more sonically interesting band. The first song “I Lost My Pen” is a regretful ode to the memory of a lost love, as are most of the others. Another reoccurring lyrical theme is clothes and here Tom “filled five bags of clothes for the homeless down the road.” The metaphor of clothes and changing clothes occurs frequently to denote life changes. Tom’s lyrics are nicely poetic but it’s his guitar playing that is really at the heart of what makes Easter great. An avowed Yo La Tengo fan, Tom shares with Ira Kaplan the capacity to wrench every emotive impulse from a wild guitar solo that sounds like the kind of thing Lou Reed would heartily approve of if he wasn’t dead. Maybe Neil Young would dig it if he gave it a listen in his hippy car on his way to feed cows grass. My favourite song is the album’s biggest rocker, the desperate “Suicide Kiss,” which was almost scrapped along with a few other songs. I seem to recall that my enthusiasm for that particular song convinced Tom to keep developing it as it almost got the chop. “Suicide Kiss” was released as a download single with a non-album companion “No End in Sight” which anyone who likes the album should download immediately from bandcamp as it’s certainly good enough to have been on the vinyl only album. The only problem with that is there isn’t a song weak enough to ditch in favour of it.
Easter play Gullivers on Oldham Street in Manchester on Thursday (25th October) with Paul Fleischman on drums. It’s seven quid to hear them and Omit Sleep and you can buy a ticket for that price (no rip off fees) from the bar at Gullivers.

Monday, 22 October 2018

"To Throw Away Unopened" by Viv Albertine

I’d certainly recommend Viv Albertine’s second book “To Throw Away Unopened” despite the fact that she often takes a statistically infinitesimal sample of men to extrapolate (sometimes inadvertent) generalisations about how all men behave. Like her book about punk rock her honesty about herself is almost embarrassing, but this is the thing that makes the story of her dysfunctional family so interesting. Both parents wrote diaries over the same period leading up to their divorce and Viv only read them after they had died. She began to question her own memories of events reading her abusive father’s diary but then realised he was telling a lot of lies whilst reading her mother’s version of events. My favourite part is on page 192 when she recounts the tale of a “posh twat” taking up two seats on a bus and demanded he let her sit down as there were no other seats left. Their minor altercation got to the point where he stopped the bus with the emergency button and called the police but the bus driver and other passengers ganged up on him and he made a total arse of himself. Another bit I was amused by was when she heard an old Neil Young song from the 1970 but mistook it for a wonderful new music sung by a woman and was disappointed. Why should Neil Young’s gender or the age of the song matter? Neil Young certainly seems like a much nicer man than any of the men Viv has been involved with in her story, and stands as a pretty good example of a man who probably isn’t the way Viv sees men. Then again, maybe it was the fact that the mystery song was recorded in 1970 that she found disappointing. Chorlton library has a copy you can borrow and they’re selling it at Piccadilly Records.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

How Not to Behave at a Low Concert in a Cathedral

“Oh no! We’re stood behind the most annoying man in the room!” said my friend after a couple of Low songs. “Just so long as he doesn’t sing along out of tune anymore it should be alright,” I replied, loud enough for the annoying man to hear. As well as humming out of tune, this oaf was wobbling from foot to foot getting in other people’s space around him, but not so much as to be more than a minor irritant. Much more annoying was his stupid habit of whooping like a girl at a Beatles gig during quiet parts of almost every song Low played, whilst EVERYONE else in the cathedral was respectfully silent. He was also so insecure he needed to keep babbling at his partner how fantastic and amazing Low were, in case maybe she might evaporate if he didn’t stop yacking at her. Of course being a boorish oaf he mostly did this in the quiet parts of the songs. I think it was during the quiet start of “Nothing but Heart” that I’d finally had enough and started hissing “Shut up!” at him. Next song he completely ruined the quiet build up by babbling words of praise during every gap between notes and I turned and told him to shut the fuck up. His partner told me not to be aggressive as he got all macho and started babbling, “What’s your problem? What’s your problem?” I’d just told the fool so I just made a shush gesture as he started disturbing EVERYONE else’s enjoyment of Low even more by babbling that I was “ridiculous” and “a cunt.” I turned away and ignored him, but between songs he started up again trying to pick a fight. His partner got between him and me and I turned my back and ignored the pillock. She told me I should move away. That wouldn’t have worked as he was shrieking so loud I’m sure everyone at the front could hear. What the hell is wrong with waiting until BETWEEN the songs to do this? No one else in the whole cathedral felt the need to behave in such an inconsiderate and moronic manner. “He’s enjoying himself,” she explained as if it was somehow impossible for this total arsehole to enjoy himself without whooping like a little girl on a swing. Then she tried a pathetic bit of emotional blackmail: “A friend of his who liked Low died recently!” So that meant I should put up with him spoiling the atmosphere with his bad manners? I hope he learned to appreciate live music without shrieking at the band, as I didn’t hear any more of his whooping during songs. I spotted a few people leaving near the front and took their place away from the whooping arsehole. Unaware of all this Alan Sparhawk told us towards the end that the previous night in Bristol there had been a fight down the front near bassist Steve Garrington. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it was just one insecure macho prick who was making too much noise or shoving people and was told to stop who started it. If you are at a gig and you won’t shut up when asked to and try to start a fight over it then you are a grade A arsehole. I suppose I could have been more polite but that jerk had been annoying for most of the gig, whilst EVERYONE else nearby had been content to listen and show their appreciation BETWEEN songs. When Low finished with “Murderer” I couldn’t help thinking it would be nice to have a murderer finish off people who ruin quiet gigs by talking, whooping and being incapable of silent listening. Another top tip: if you’re going to piss off someone at a gig, try to make sure it isn’t someone who will write about it later. Better still have some consideration for everyone listening around you and respect for the artists and don’t ruin the music by babbling on during the songs. Talk and clap and whistle and shriek between the songs, unless you’re having a medical emergency.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Legal Con of the Booking Fee

If you read my list of good gigs happening in Manchester you will have realised that I don’t like so called “booking fees” on gig tickets especially when they get so high that the “booking fee,” or rip off fee as I shall call it from now on, is higher than the ticket price of a cheap gig. For example I recently paid £3 to see Drink and Drive, yet the rip off fee for the Gang of Four gig is more than that. What is this fee for? Online ticket sellers are unnecessary middle men who need to be paid. It’s a legal scam almost as pernicious as the credit card. They make up their own terms and conditions and prices and screw extra money out of music fans for what? You get a guarantee that you’ll get into a gig, just in case it sells out. However if there were no pre-gig tickets then no gigs would sell out in advance, and if you were worried that a gig would sell out you’d have to turn up early. Of course this would lead to hilarious queues of eager fans forming days before some gigs so might not be such a great idea for certain larger gigs, but for smaller gigs there’s really no reason for not making them pay on the door only and ending this farce of ripping off music fans for the sake of promoter convenience and unnecessary middle man profiteering. Who really benefits from advance tickets aside from the online ticket sellers? It’s the gig promoter of course, and one seller (skiddle) does actually give the promoter the option of paying them the rip off fee themselves. This seems reasonable as there are at least four ways the promoter profits from advance tickets:

1.       They get your money sometimes months before you get to hear the live performance that you paid for.

2.       If someone can’t make the gig and a ticket goes unused, the promoter still gets the entrance fee. However this is a gross disadvantage for music fans as it means one less person will get into a sold out event for every unused ticket, and the venue won’t actually be at legal capacity.

3.       The promoter does not have to make physical tickets or make much effort to sell them. This saves them time and money, yet this saving has been passed on to the music fan in a legal racket that has become normalised.

4.       The promoter has less cash to handle at the gig entrance, so there is less risk of theft.

So if you’re putting on a smaller gig for the love of music, why not consider NOT doing what the big money promoters do? Why not make it pay on the door only like the Eliminator and Aggressive Perfector gig at The Peer Hat?
At the very least it would be nice if promoters would be honest about the entrance fee of a gig. If the only way to buy a ticket is from online sellers, then why advertise a gig as costing £18 when it actually costs £21.45 and it’s impossible to actually buy a ticket for £18? Surely this is false advertising and the promoters should be prosecuted by Trading Standards like a shop would be for doing the same thing. How many shops have you been in that advertise products at a price that doesn’t include VAT then add an extra VAT fee at the till which is quite often higher than the government rate of VAT?
Another idea is that promoters who actually personally know people who come to their gigs could take an advance cash payment for a gig ticket and just put their name on a list so they could avoid the rip off fee.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

October Gigs in Manchester

These are the good gigs I know about that are happening in Manchester in October 2018:

Monday 1st: Anna Calvi @ the Ritz (£20 plus unnecessary middle man rip off fee)

Tuesday 2nd: Elder + Ancestors + Cattle @ Rebellion (£15.40 including rip off fee, Beauty Witch)

Wednesday 3rd: "Imagination in Play" Art Exhibition and Open Mic @ The Peer Hat (FREE)

Thursday 4th: Life + Mush + The Starlight Magic Hour @ Night and Day Cafe

Thursday 4th: Amber Arcades + Songs for Walter @ Deaf Institute

Friday 5th: The Sonics + The Creature Comfort @ Academy 3 (£23 plus rip off fee, although unlike most promoters these days you can still actually buy a ticket at the students union with no rip off fee and cut out the leaching online ticket sellers)

Saturday 6th: Nick Branton, Alvarro Tores & Johnny Hunter @ Chorlton Tap 2pm

Saturday 6th: M20 Festival: Factory Records 40th anniversary founding celebration including Joy Division tribute band Transmission @ various Withington venues: Fuel, Indigo, Solomons, Deco Records, The Victoria, The Orion www.M20Festival.org.uk (FREE)

Sunday 7th: Eliminator + Ascalon + Aggressive Perfector @ The Peer Hat (£5 on the door, no advance sales just like it should be)

Monday 8th: The Bear Around Your Neck @ Jimmy

Monday 8th: Devil's Avocado + The Birth Marks CANCELLED

Monday 8th: Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood @ RNCM (£22 plus rip off fee, unless you buy a ticket from the RNCM box office)

Monday 8th: Johnny Hunter @ Matt and Phreds (FREE, 9pm)

Tuesday 9th: Chris Corsano + David Birchall, Andrew Cheetham, Hannah Marsahall and Kaier @ the Peer Hat

Wednesday 10th: The Staches + Lassie + Handle + Smelvis and the Farts @ Fuel

Wednesday 10th: Daniel Johnston film @ Dulcimer, Chorlton FREE

Thursday 11th: Angel Sword + Aggressive Perfector @ Aatma

Friday 12th: Spaceheads with visuals from Rucksack Cinema + Cynthia’s Periscope + Project Concubine + Lucy Leave @ Peer Hat (£4.40 online or £5 OTD)

Friday 12th: Nibiru + Even Vast + The Medea Project @ the Star and Garter (£5)

Friday 12th: Terry Riley @ RNCM (£25)

Saturday 13th: Bo Ningen + Witch Fever + Milk Disco @ Night and Day (promoter has been saying this is “almost sold out” for months now so maybe its almost sold out)

Saturday 13th: Yossarians + godspeed you peter andre + Sly and the Family Drone + Mother, etc  @ Partisan (3pm start, Fat Out, £8 plus a little extra for the unnecessary online middle men)

Saturday 13th: Punk Rock all dayer with The Drones @ The Peer Hat

Sunday 14th: Punk Rock all dayer @ The Peer Hat

Monday 15th: Paul Hession, Mark Hanslip, Nina Whiteman and other improvisers @ Whisky Jar

Tuesday 16th: Low @ Manchester Cathedral (£27.50 including rip off fee)

Wednesday 17th: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks @ Albert Hall (£25 plus a few pennies including rip off fee)

Wednesday 17th: Dark Thoughts + Careering @ Fuel

Wednesday 17th: Mokoomba + Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh @ Band on the Wall

Thursday 18th: Gang of Four @ Ruby Lounge (£18 plus communist rip off fee to unnecessary middlemen who make their profit down on the disco floor; yes some capitalist shit is really taking the piss as tickets advertised at £18 are actually costing £21.45 on Ruby Lounge website)

Thursday 18th: Liines + Kaze + Emily Oldfield @ Night and Day Cafe

Thursday 18th: Mutabase @ The Peer Hat

Thursday 18th: Caitlin Gilligan @ The Cleveland, Crumpsall Folk Club

Friday 19th: Cocaine Piss + Crywank + Smelvis and the Farts + Alan @ The Star and Garter

Friday 19th: “Difficult Fun: Post-Punk and the Politics of Pleasure” talk @ Irish World Heritage Centre, 1 Irish Town Way M8 0AE (not a gig, a talk about music)

Friday 19th: Toots and the Maytals @ Academy

Friday 19th: Magic Shoppe + Frankie Teardrop + Sioux @ Night People (starts 11pm)

Saturday 20th: She Makes War @ The Castle

Sunday 21st: John Carpenter @ Albert Hall

Sunday 21st: Jo Rose @ Dulcimer, Chorlton 9pm FREE

Sunday 21st: David Birchall, Sam Andreae and Otto Willberg @ secret location in Gorton

Monday 22nd: The Mauskovic Dance Band + Mama Racho @ the Peer Hat

Monday 22nd: The Chats + WITCH FEVER @ Academy 

Tuesday 23rd: Adrena Adrena + Triangle Cuts @ the Peer Hat

Tuesday 23rd: Sink Ya Teeth + Eton Crop @ The Eagle Inn

Wednesday 24th: Space Lady + The Seer of Eye Spirit @ Yes (£15.40 including rip off fee or £14 for those privileged kids with fancy internet phones who listen to all their music for free and wave the damn things in your face making crappy bootlegs whilst you are trying to watch the band. Its at Yes so everyone will probably just talk over the Space Lady anyway)

Thursday 25th: Easter + Omit Sleep @ Gullivers (£7 tickets available at Gullivers just like they should be available from every venue with NO rip off fee for EVERY GIG)

Thursday 25th: Stallion + Aggressive Perfector + Heavy Sentence @ Dulcimer, Chorlton (£5 OTD)

Thursday 25th: Brix and the Extricated @ Night People (£15 plus rip off fee, tickets not available from Hotel Bloedel)

Friday 26th: Henry Herbert and the Fury + Hopper Propelled Electric @ The Castle (£11 including rip off fee for some piano propelled rock’n’roll)

Friday 26th: The KVB @ Yes (£9 plus rip off fee)

Friday 26th: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs + ILL @ the Star and Garter (SOLD OUT, Beauty Witch)

Saturday 27th: Bones Shake + Thee Windom Earles + The Dee Vees + Guts + Snakerattlers + Tensheds + Weird Sex + Thee Rag and Bone Men @ Thee Peer Hat (£5 OTD, 5pm start: rock’n’roll bargain!!!)

Saturday 27th: International Teachers of Pop @ White Hotel

Sunday 28th: Dead Meadow @ Soup Kitchen (£14 plus rip off fee)

Monday 29th: Marissa Nadler @ Gullivers (£13)

Monday 29th: Melvins + Jon Spencer@ Academy (£28)

Monday 29th: Snack Family + Bingo Harry + The Sandells @ The Peer Hat

Tuesday 30th: Duane Eddy @ Bridgewater Hall

Wednesday 31st: Epic 45 + No Talk + Little Mother @ The Peer Hat

Friday November 2nd: Coupe-Gorge + Heavy Sentence + Implement @ Fuel (Lovely Hens: £5 OTD just like it should be, a real underground gig with no internet rip off fee middlemen and no wannabe career promoter advance ticketing bullshit)

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Songs for Walter and Playacting @ Yes 28.9.18

Yes is an old prog rock band. Now it’s also a tediously trendy new venue in Manchester. Maybe the name was chosen with the same total lack of originality with which they coined the name “Now Wave” which had already much more appropriately been used by Skin Graft records for music on their label informed by no wave and punk rock. This is of course a case of the pot calling the kettle black as back in the nineties I stole fanzine names off Nomeansno (“Kill Everyone Now!”) and Brainiac (“Cracked Machine”) and this blog’s name is stolen from a Wire lyric (“99.9”). I’ve never found out if Manchester promoters Now Wave have even heard of Skin Graft and their previous use of the same phrase, although judging by the mostly rather bland artists they put on, I’d guess Skin Graft was not an influence. The bevvy of bouncers on the door were very friendly but I guess the students who dig mediocre fluff music might get rowdier than hardcore punks these days as there were far more of them than you’d get at venues where violent underground music gets played. The fixtures and fittings (funded by some Camden company I was told) looked quite fancy, so employing a small squad to keep order is probably quite sensible. On the ground floor the atmosphere was horrible. Young DJs played crap music VERY LOUD: so loud everyone had to shout to make conversation, leading to total bedlam. A few people found it a bit stressful, however there was no relief in the basement where the lighting was so blindingly fierce before the bands played that someone remarked that he felt like he was being interrogated by the Stasi! Fleeing back upstairs we discovered that the only cider available was Symonds carcinogenic toxic artificial sweetener fizzbomb hangover flavour, or two varieties of bottled alcopops that are too sugary to get you drunk (Old Mout and Rekorderlig). Even worse than that, they sell pizza that some fool has decided to name “Pepperoni Playboy.” What on Earth were they thinking when they came up with that name? Let’s commemorate dead sexist pigs? I just hope that some clueless advertising agency wasn’t paid to come up with that stupid name. Downstairs after a more or less standard small gig delay of about twenty minutes trio Playacting played some slightly fey and fussy but technically interesting and emotive music that people like to refer to as “math rock” because they aren’t just banging out barre chords in 4/4 time. Their best song started very quietly, and built to a much louder climax, which was fortunate as the room was filling up with people who mostly seemed to be intent on carrying on shouting at each other whilst the bands played. Whilst this might seem socially acceptable whilst a “support band” is playing, it’s the height of bad manners to do keep on SHOUTING at your friends for the whole gig. If you want to shout, do it between songs. The noise levels were so high as Songs for Walter played that I almost had to put my head in the PA!  The day before I’d seen singer-songwriter-guitarist Laurie Hulme warm up with a solo performance at the Manchester Food Festival on Albert Square. He must have got some good practise in for playing whilst people chat as he didn’t seem at all bothered by the relentless chunder. He’d played a cover of “Total Trash” by Sonic Youth in the big marquee on Albert Square, and dedicated it to me which was nice. There were no Sonic Youth songs tonight, just his new album played in running order by a four piece band which latterly expanded to five. Long time Songs for Walter collaborator Tekla sang backing vocals and played tambourine. Joel Nicholson of Easter and Chew Magna played another guitar and Liam Stewart of NASDAQ, Lonelady and Elle Mary and the Bad Men drummed. At one point Liam remarked that playing drums in Songs for Walter was a completely different skill to what he was used to, as the songs were all so rhythmically simple. Playing the album song by song meant Laurie had to switch guitars continuously but this didn’t lead to any noticeable delay. I got another dedication with “Alien” which also happens to be the film I’ve watched more times than any other! I don’t think the song has anything to do with the film. Laurie introduced “I Don’t Know Who You Are” with an amusing story about events that inspired the song. He’d locked his car keys in the trunk, his phone had died and he’d run out of money. To get help he had to knock on doors at random and hope that someone would let him sleep on their couch. A friendly Spanish guy let him do just that but bizarrely only listened to one song all night, “Losing My Religion” by REM. Things could have been much worse. What if the Spanish guy’s favourite song had been “I Wanna Be Adored” by the Stone Roses? I think I’d have chosen hypothermia!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Empty Page + Bivouac @ Night People 24.9.18

The Empty Page is such a perfect name for a band if you’re writing a review about their music. There before me is an empty page to fill with words about The Empty Page. They are a Manchester trio. The bassist is a woman with dyed mostly blondish/white hair called Kel who also sings and shouts a little bit. The other two both have beards and are men as far as I can tell. Big Jim looms over his drum kit at the back and thwacks the snare louder than any other band in town. Long haired Giz plays a pink guitar and roams the stage looking cool, although he didn’t move about as much as I’ve seen him do at previous gigs. If you have a clue you’ll have probably guessed from their name that they like Sonic Youth very much and you don’t have to ask them to confirm this: their black on white or white on black T-shirt is a homage to the Raymond Pettibon cartoon on the cover of “Goo” with the three of them in the car. They were on early at 7.30pm and had just started their set as I walked down the stairs into Night People. Less than half the set was from their 2016 album: “Big Wheel,” “Turbulence” and the last song, title track “Unfolding.” Kel half apologised for introducing “He’s Very Good at Swimming” as a song about victim blaming but, she said, this room full of mostly men would have to put up with it as she’s had to listen to too many songs about cocks. “Whose cock?” shouts one guy, so I shouted “Buzzcocks!” and with that they kicked into the best song they’d played so far that night. “Thanks for listening to us whinging on a Monday night,” said Kel, then they played the song that really got me moving, “When the Cloud Explodes.” This is soon going to be a single. I felt like I was just getting warmed up when they played the last song “Unfolding.” The Empty Page could have played a set twice as long and deserve to be headlining larger venues. I hope this happens as Kel has something to say, and Jim’s snare drum thwack is too loud for small spaces! After they played another woman arrived making a grand total of five women in the room amongst about 30-50 men. Three of those women seemed quite likely to be Gardenback’s girlfriends, as they jiggled around a bit whilst the next trio played then disappeared when Nottingham’s answer to Dinosaur Jr, Bivouac, played. Gardenback are another band with a singing bassist, but he lacked Kel’s charisma and attitude. I spent their whole set wishing the guitar was louder as it had a spiky spangly Gothic tinge, but unfortunately the guitarist looked like he could have been the son of Mike Rutherford from Genesis, and this was a bit distracting. I’d only heard about Bivouac’s reformation when I saw a poster for this gig in Night People. The low turn out could have been down to it being a Monday night, which is also the worst night for gig attendance. Also there are too many good gigs happening in Manchester these days and most people just can’t afford to go to everything even if they want to. Bivouac were just as good as they were in the 1990s. They looked a little older and Paul and Antony the drummer have grown beards. I’m not sure if they played all of “Tuber” as my CD is buried in a box somewhere, but the best songs of the set were actually the two new ones they played from their recent single. I’d have liked to have bought a copy but didn’t have enough money left.