Archives by month/year

The Flamin’ Groovies (live at The Scala)

London 25 April 2016

Just as everyone thought that Spring had really, finally, definitively arrived, fresh and rosy-fingered, Winter once more puts its cold, cold hand back onto our shoulders. Arriving at The Scala (always redolent with memories of all-night Eighties quadruple bills and marathon Shock Around the Clock gorefests1) it feels more like January again than practically May.

Inside, I stake a place at the front of the upper tier, crack open a ridiculously over-priced can of San Miguel, and survey the scene. Faded nostalgic ghost films flicker across my Kopfkino as I picture the tatty auditorium as it used to be in years gone by: the cinema cat walking across my lap during a showing of From The Velvets to Voidoids; the seat I was in for the last film I ever saw here, preposterous Greek “experimental independent surrealist underground art film” Singapore Sling, about incestuous mother and

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Caravan (live at the Union Chapel)

Caravan live at the Union Chapel March 2016London 14 March 2016

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, the Jules Rimet still gleamed in the trophy cabinets of old Albion, Patrick McGoohan was recognisable to the nation as Danger Man John Drake rather than some arsy bloke being pursued across a Welsh beach by a weird white ball, and Harold Wilson was the dynamic, thrusting young politician thrilling the body politic. Around the same time, although Swinging London was grabbing all the headlines and covers of Time magazine, the Canterbury scene was also a seriously happening event.

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This Is Not This Heat (live at Café OTO)

London 13 February 2016

This Is Not This Heat live at Cafe OTO February 2016I suppose it would be prudent to start off with something of a disclaimer – it’s going to be very difficult to get much critical distance from this evening. Like no other gig I can think of, I was nervous when I thought I wouldn’t be able to go, nervous when I found out I could go, and nervous about trying to write any kind of review. The weight/wait of expectation is almost too much to bear.

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Drew McDowall / Helm (live at Café OTO)

London 3 February 2016

Analogue at Cafe OTO February 2016It’s all very restful really, sitting around at the front of OTO, bathed in the soft orange glow of the tea-lights scattered around the stage and sipping a cranberry juice. I’m trying to get my head around Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s recent tome on anti-fragility whilst awaiting the arrival of the “notoriously reclusive” Drew McDowall, one of the lesser-spotted denizens of the liminal zone staked out by his erstwhile collaborators Coil, when suddenly the guy sitting next to me strikes up a conversation.

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Faust / Nurse With Wound / Cut Hands (live at St John Sessions)

Faust & Nurse With Wound live at St John Sessions December 2015 (Picture: Michael Rodham-Heaps)St John at Hackney, London 5 December 2015

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: illuminations strung across the lampposts of the capital, sparkling every night like twinkling stars; the inky darkness of the night already setting in by mid afternoon; overflowing trays of “luxury” mince pies everywhere you look. And – really – what says “Christmas” more than a Faust gig?

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Various Artists – Brown Acid: The First Trip

Riding Easy

Brown Acid - The First TripIf this album were attending high school, right now it would be on its way to the principal’s office, about to be expelled for having been caught selling cheap speed to the younger kids at the school gates.

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Gary Numan (live at The Forum)

Gary Numan live at The Forum October 2015

London 23 October 2015

Can you imagine how hard it was being Gary Numan in 1989? A decade earlier, shortly after “Are Friends Electric?” had been released in May 1979, Tubeway Army made their triumphant appearance on Top of the Pops, and the sound of a generational gasp could be heard all the way from Truro to Inverness. Punk’s white light had burned away so much dead wood, reinvigorating youth culture and opening the door for those with the boldness of vision to step through it. Now, a new dream of futurism seemed completely embodied in Tubeway Army’s woozy Polymoog synth wash and Numan’s cold, android stare. Like the Apollo space programme earlier in the decade, Numan’s emergence into the musical firmament promised a new dawn that felt so close you could almost reach out and touch it.

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Terry Riley (live at Station to Station)

The Barbican, London 18 July 2015

“My name’s Terry Riley, I’ll be here all week”. It would be nice to think that at some stage over the previous weekend, America’s great composer actually expressed his forthcoming residency in exactly this way. For in order to celebrate his eightieth birthday, El Tel (as doubtless everyone calls him), has spent the last seven days encamped here as part of the Barbican’s Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening event.

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AC/DC (live at Wembley Stadium)

London 4 July 2015

And did those feet, in ancient times, walk upon England’s mountain green? And was the holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Whilst my marginally less ancient feet are walking up Olympic Way once more (a mere ten after having last done so), the one man who might be able to answer those questions is doing a decidedly poor show of proving his right to do so. As the sweet summer sun is beating down upon the flagstones of Wembley and the massed battalions of heavy rock are march raucously towards the stadium with all the fervour of Napoleon’s Grand Armée entering Moscow, a lonely Christian preacher on a nearby overpass reads scripture through his loudhailer: “And, as we learn in John 14: 19, ‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you

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ZZ Top (live at Wembley Arena)

London 24 June 2015

I’m shuffling through the Wembley sand, but my head’s in Mississippi.

It’s been a long time since I was last at Wembley Arena. Twenty-two years ago this month, in fact, lured like a Hamelin rat by the strange and, ultimately, ill-fated second coming of The Velvet Underground (Reed and Cale needing to spend more time together in order to remember exactly why it was they stopped spending time together in first place). So on this hot London summer night, a startling crescent moon already faintly visible overhead, I’m once again walking up Olympic Way.

Counter-intuitively, Fiona and I are heading straight for the venue that I used to dread the most. I’d walked away unsatisfied from almost every gig I’d ever seen here, its vast hangar-like structure exercising a seemingly occult power in squashing the life out of any performer hubristic enough to take to its

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HJ Irmler and Jaki Liebezeit (live at Café OTO)

London 16 June 2015

HJ Irmler and Jaki Liebezeit posterThere is a German proverb which reads, “Jede Leiter fängt mit der untersten Sprosse an und nach der obersten kommt nur noch freier Fall.” We might possibly translate this as, ‘Every ladder begins at the lowest rung, but after the highest the only way is down’. Tonight, the capacity audience packed into a summer-heated Cafe Oto are treated to evidence that miraculously both confirms, and at the same time, gloriously disproves this pithy aphorism of folk wisdom.

It’s like a sardine packers’ outing in here. The only time I’ve ever seen OTO this full before – and with such a palpable sense of fevered anticipation – is awaiting the entry of the Sun Ra Arkestra. And the reason for tonight’s sense of breathless

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Fairport Convention (live at The Borderline)

London 22 May 2015

Fortis Green, north London. A place of fertile musical soil. Back at the turn of the Sixties, Fortis Green was the manor of brothers Ray and Dave Davies, whose combination of gifted lyricism, overdriven Vox amplifiers and almost unrivalled songwriting ability saw them take the output of their ground-breaking – although never less than highly combustible – band, The Kinks, to the pinnacle of the decade’s musical achievements. No compilation or documentary on the decade is now complete without a playback of the band’s performance on Shindig in 1965 (Ray purring out the words to “You Really Got Me” whilst Dave conjures the spirit of metal from his freshly-razored speaker cabs like Dr John Dee wrestling with a semi-acoustic) or grainy colour footage of the beautiful people rifling through racks of guardsmen’s jackets and groovy A-line skirts in Carnaby Street, all to the strains of “Dedicated

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Gnaw Their Tongues – Collected Atrocities 2005-2008

Crucial Blast

Gnaw Their Tongues - Collected Atrocities 2005-2008This is the record that you put on when you are lying entwined with your loved one, the both of you perhaps shimmering in a post-coital afterglow, the bedroom window open, a warm breeze blowing in the faint sounds of summer. Hang on. Actually, no. Sorry. That’s by The Isley Brothers.

Rather, this is the record that you put on when a small selection of your closest friends are gathered in your living room, the wine flowing, the conversation convivial and animated, as you open another bottle and stand in the doorway, filled with joie de vivre and deep sense of connection to your fellow man. Oh no, sorry, it’s not that one either. That one’s by Miles Davis.


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Williams S Burroughs – Nothing Here Now But The Recordings


Williams S Burroughs - Nothing Here Now But the RecordingsTowards the end of his long and picaresque life, Billy Burroughs had become such an in-demand photographic accessory for the rock star du jour that the astounding body of work that had made him so notable in the first place was starting to slip dangerously into the shadow of his alternative celebrity status.

Musicians quite literally seemed to be queuing up to be snapped standing next to him, all lined, grim-set visage, grey felt hat and optional firearm (him, not them). Christ, it’s like some demented vision of Stars on 45: David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Frank Zappa, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, Jimmy Page, Husker Dü, Debbie Harry, Kurt Cobain, The Police, Tom Waits, Sonic Youth, Madonna; the list goes on and on and on.

In some ways it’s just as well that

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Silver Apples / Tomaga (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Corsica Studios, London 3 December 2014

One of the bonuses of the gig being at Corsica Studios is that I can have a wander around inside the Elephant and Castle shopping centre beforehand. It’s a truly gargantuan space, way too large to justify its enormous real estate footprint in these slavering Neoliberal times, but somehow it manages to persist, its small-flecked 1970s flooring and wooden handrails clinging on in 2014, as anachronistic as pair of brown flares and a pint of Watneys Red Barrel. It’s not pink any more, and sadly no longer has wonderfully alliterative pairings of its purchasable wares written around the top of the facade (“Shoes / Sandwiches”!), but damn it, it’s still there.

Even its original architects later admitted that “the site is really saying no with a big NO to almost any poor pedestrian who wants to creep into the building.” but after many years

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