Thanks for the question you texted me Laurie Hulme. I’ve seen PJ Harvey play sixteen amazing gigs in ten different cities. I saw her eight times on and just after the “Uh Huh Her” tour when the band included brilliant bassist Simon Ding Archer who has also played bass in The Fall, Black Francis band and Bobbie Peru and currently As Able As Kane and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. It’s a shame that band never recorded an album. I saw three early gigs when she had her hair in a ponytail and dressed all in black. I saw three solo “White Chalk” gigs, in Barcelona, Madrid and from a seat close to the front at Bridgewater Hall. Perhaps the best gig I saw her play was in Hulme NIA Centre when she and John Parish played the whole of “Dance Hall at Louse Point” accompanied by three dancers who were upstaged by Polly’s movements. I reviewed that one for a local newspaper based in Hulme and so I was on the guestlist as I was for exactly half the PJ Harvey gigs I’ve attended, although I was on the guestlist of L7 for the Cult in the Park one day festival where Gallon Drunk also played, and two of them (James Johnston and Terry Edwards) are in PJ Harvey’s current live band and play on her most recent album “The Hope Six Demolition Project”. So I have seen her play less gigs than Killing Joke, Wire, Thalia Zedek, Shellac, Mudhoney, The Fall, Bardo Pond, Brainiac, Girls Against Boys, Fugazi, Throwing Muses, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, The Breeders, Leatherface or Therapy but more than Sonic Youth or Swans or Nick Cave or Neil Young. I started writing a much longer version of this but it seemed to be turning into a book and I don’t want to give google copyright.
Thursday, 7 July 2016
In 1989 or so I lived in a shitty student house in Toxteth, Liverpool with a geography student called Nick Smart whose enthusiasm for the music he loved was infectious. He was way more into Husker Du than me. I had their last three albums but he had everything and took great pleasure in enlightening me to the emotional rollercoaster Zen Arcade. I’d only heard a few REM singles but never been that bothered by them but he had all their albums and by the time they released Green I was hooked. Life’s Rich Pageant was their album that really turned me on, beginning as it does with their two most exuberant and joyous songs and following them up with two of their most tragic. When we saw them on the Green tour at Liverpool Royal Court it was so perfect I never needed to see them ever again and never did. They slowly grew ever more bland after Green, but most albums had at least one song worth hearing until eventually they made an album so boring it wasn’t worth listening to twice or remembering its title but it was almost certainly the one after Up if you care which I don’t expect you do. Whilst the Peel session version of Walk Unafraid is the last thing they recorded that I think is worth a listen or three, sounding like it could have been recorded for Green unlike the inferior album version, and Accelerate was OK if unmemorable, their final moment of greatness was this cover of a Leonard Cohen song. I hope none of you are stupid enough to consider me anti-semitic for preferring it to the original.
During the two weeks at the end of June and the start of July when everything turned to shit I was listening to:
Thalia Zedek Band – Eve (promotional download of new album from thrilljockey.com)
Tom Settle and Friends – Old Wakes 2LP
Flexibles – Pink Everything LP (Richard Youngs with his 8 year old son Soley Youngs)
Swans – The Glowing Man 2CD/DVD
Heartless Bastards – The Mountain CD (2009)
Rhys Chatham – Pythagorean Dream CD
David Grubbs – Prismrose CD
Husker Du – Do You Remember Radio? 2CD (2 gigs 1981/85)
Mogwai – Atomic CD
Sunn O))) – Kanon CD
Boston Spaceships – Camera Found the Ray Gun (4 song CDEP, 2010)
Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There CD
Swans – Feel Good Now CD (live 1987)
The Necks – Drive By CD (2003)
Tad – Live Alien Broadcasts
Nancy Garcia – Be the Climb CD (2009)
Bruce and Carl – This is Art (8 song tape)
I watched Under the Skin DVD and I Am Alan Partridge DVD
I read The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
I listened to live music from Radio Birdman, Bloody Heads, Aggressive Perfektor, Denim and Leather, TV Crime, Exxxecutioner, Destruction Unit, Gnod, Richard Youngs, The Birth Marks, Bruce and Carl, Shareholder, The Rebel, Mica, Elephant Blood, Tom Settle and Edwin Stevens duo, Tekla and Tom Settle solo.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
Mission of Burma were one of the main attractions at Stewart Lee’s All Tomorrows Party in Prestatyn so four days later a trip to Leeds to hear them in action again seemed a good idea. Before they played a similar but slightly different set, a Leeds quartet Rats on Rafts warmed the stage with some dynamic indie rock. Whilst not overtly goth they had a sound that had Leeds band all over it. Their best moments were when a song stopped dead and revved up again on a drum break. Their weakest link was the undistinctive vocals. They seemed to have almost as many records for sale afterwards as Mission of Burma!
Just like Prestatyn Mission of Burma started with “Funworld.” There was a small delay after Roger Miller strummed the riff for “Spider’s Web” before bassist Clint Conley and drummer Peter Prescott were ready so I got to do a little acapella “world flips when an animal gets its soul” in the interim. Clint’s first lead vocal of the night was “2wice” if I remember correctly, and Peter’s “Sectionals in Mourning.” Mission of Burma have a sound a like a juggernaut crashing off the tracks and taking half the road with it, although the experience is a hell of a lot safer. Maybe not so safe for the ears though, as it’s well documented that they had to stop in the eighties due to Roger Miller’s hearing damage. Peter Prescott still wacks the drums hard, and there is still a perspex screen between him and Roger both this and the Prestatyn performance were not as loud as they have been on past occasions. “1,2,3 Party!” had a roadie in a Ramones T-shirt join them to say the “1,2,3” part but had to be aborted at first attempt due to transformer problems. Bob Weston filled in with some varispeed digital loops of guitar drone and about five minutes later they were ready to resume the party. “Let Yourself Go!” hollered Peter, so we did, as he drummed like a ten car pile up. There was some neat manic slide guitar from Roger on “This is not a Photograph.” There was a new song they didn’t play in Prestatyn, unless it was some obscure cover version. “I’m so tired…” sang Roger at the start of “New Disco” which perfectly described my physical state all week after the Prestatyn party. Then he looped himself out of a personal grudge. “Fame and Fortune” was still a stupid game. I forget which song it was but towards the end Roger knocked his microphone at a tricky angle and had to lean over to sing into it. After falling into the water and reaching for their revolvers they escaped their certain fate by walking off for a quick break. Despite singing them a bit of “Wounded World” I didn’t get my song request but the encore was a triple wammy of “Peking Spring,” “The Ballad of Johnny Burma” and “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate.”
The next day they should have been playing the cancelled All Tomorrow’s Party curated by Drive Like Jehu but instead had arranged a last minute support with Fire records label mates Pere Ubu in London. They ended up backing David Thomas on a rendition of “Heart of Darkness.” Then they flew to Belgium. Not quite the heart of darkness perhaps. More like the heart of chocolate and strong beer.
Thursday, 21 April 2016
The new BARDO POND song that had a chorus where Isobel Sollenberger channelled the “Day in the Life” McCartney when he went into a dream that could be their best song yet. I cried tears of joy during their set including some older surprises and at least three, maybe four new songs.
The moment of the first drum beat in BOREDOMS set. They began with a very long subdued drone that slowly increased in volume and the tension grew…that first beat made one guy whoop and that made everyone down the front laugh. They then sounded like they’d never done before and also made me cry tears of joy, despite only having two drummers now.
Terrie Ex grabbing my hat and having a short tug of war with me towards the end of his hilarious set with brilliant drummer Han Bennink. It was Han’s seventieth birthday. What a fantastic celebration!
Needing full on rock action after a pleasant mellow Saturday afternoon and getting it in spades from THE HEADS. Just like curator Stewart Lee it was the first time I’d seen them play and they were even better than I’d hoped.
The moment the mighty MISSION OF BURMA played “Max Ernst” and people started going wild down the front. Afterwards I bought Roger Miller’s new single by his new band Trinary System and he signed it and I can happily report that it is excellent. I’d met Clint Conley outside earlier in the day and during our conversation he told me that “Slow Death” by the Flamin’ Groovies is one of his all time favourite songs.
Roky Erickson having his shit together despite disgruntlement over money and going on with the show to play a blinding “Rollercoaster” even if the bass was cranked way too high for the whole set and the electric jug was inaudible.
Meeting my beautiful friend Annie Davey who I maybe hadn’t seen since the very first Shellac curated ATP.
My excellent chalet sharer Markus Moises, a photographer from Nuremberg.
THE EX. They always bring the party. The fact that John Cale pulled out shifted them to the perfect time slot later in the evening. I didn’t give a shit that Cale didn’t play. It was also nice that Andy Moor of The Ex was selling improv CDs from his Unsounds label for a mere fiver after his excellent set with abstract saxophonist John Butcher.
Saving Stewart Lee from a mithering critic near the start of THE NIGHTINGALES’ sadly under-populated set and making him laugh with the first thing I said to him. This guy was saying, “I like your early work but blah blah blah…” and I jumped in with, “I don’t like any work. I’m a lazy sod!” Mr Lee laughed and walked off.
Richard Youngs playing the very song a lady called Leonie asked me to request at the end of his second set of the weekend. It turned out to be the best song he played, although the one his seven year old son sang the day before with Damon Krukowski was the most entertaining.
EX-EASTER ISLAND HEAD packing out the small room upstairs with their Branca meets Reich precision guitar percussion just after THE NECKS expanded our heads downstairs with piano, double bass and drum improv; a perfect sequence of performances and a great way to start a Friday evening after a little bit of John Cage's indeterminacy.
SUN RA ARKESTRA taking us all on a golden suited trip to Saturn last thing Sunday. Joining their ecstatic conga line with Miriam, Martin and Lou and dancing from one side of the room to the other. Could this be the last time?
Thursday, 14 April 2016
Nocturnal Koreans EB EGAE
Diamonds ECDE – GBAE
Mekon Headman FF#Aflat – A#DAflatC#
Sonic Lens EGGflat ECGA
Joust and Jostle EB.EBB.DB
In Manchester E – GA.BC
Sleepwalking E.B GGflat x2
Stealth of a Stork (Witness to the Fact) BGflatGBflat
Split Your Ends CDA.DCG
Used To CDA.DCG
Blessed State AEGflatG
Thanks to Graham Lewis for allowing me to Take It.
I think this was Colin Newman's setlist, but not sure.