GIG REVIEW: Crying High – Three Free Gigs #4

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. Each week I go to three and review them.

The rating system’s simple. How many beers did I buy (drink)? The more, the better.

4. Crying High, Vanity Fairy, Aunt Lucy, ILKA @ the Victoria, London

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Henry crashes a karaoke house party, fails to make friends and realises that no, it really isn’t about the music.

Crying High - Free Merchandise
Crying High @ the Victoria – there was a free merch table. Isn’t this the best bits of merchandise you’ve ever seen? It’s a branded post card! If you send me your address I’ll send you a message!

On Tuesday, I went back to Dalston’s Victoria.

I expected to see another bad gig.

I didn’t.

No, I had the pleasure of seeing three acts (ILKA, sorry but you didn’t make the cut) delight in exposing themselves to an audience of friends. It was like a burlesque show, expect less 12A.

Alone at the back, I felt like I’d crashed a party.

Not the usual party (sitting around someone’s kitchen table playing with the salt shaker and sugar dispenser). No, it was a celebration of friendship, courage, dignity and a night of rolling around in magnetic tape (crooning over pre-recorded tracks).

When it was over, I couldn’t help but imagine what my life would have been like if I’d actually been invited.

Then I took it too far.

Now it’s a story that I’m going to tell everyone this weekend.

How I partied with your Aunt Lucy, Vanity Fairy and Crying High:

Henry:So, I went to this party on Tuesday.

Acquaintance:A PARTY? OH MY GOD HENRY, YOU’RE SO COOL. TELL ME EVERYTHING.

Henry:

It all started with a rap at the door, immediately followed by disappointment.

It was a disaster. That couple ILKA (not-as-synthy-or-strange-as-the-rest) were the first to arrive – no one actually thought they’d show up. 

The conversation wasn’t very inclusive, they insisted on telling everyone what they’d achieved since graduation (yes, they played the most instruments: there was a dedicated drummer, some standing keys, a lil’ bit o’ guitar and a pad-thing that you bash with a stick).

When they started recounting the merits of owning a 4-bed, I realised that the chattier half (singer) sounded like that guy from White Lies (posh English boy who still plays rugby).

I think they thought the boasts were impressive, but really it was just a bit embarrassing (they couldn’t play all the instruments at once).

Also, I should have said to the guy, but if you’re with a new partner, it’s not a great idea to talk incessantly about another girl who you’re trying to get to come over, even if you say she’s like a cactus (sang about how the girl he fancies is a prickly minx).

After one non-alcoholic beer, they left.

Funny how departure can have such a profoundly positive effect on the mood.

Then (you really wouldn’t have guessed itsurprise! your Aunt Lucy showed up.

Aunt_Lucy
Doesn’t she look well? Aunt Lucy @ the Victoria

She’s looking great for her age. Leaving Mike’s given her so much confidence.

To everyone’s delight, she’d done herself up like that guy from Kasabian – decked in a shiny lycra playsuit with shades and stubble.

Don’t look hurt. It wasn’t actually your Aunt Lucy. It was a skinny guy that everyone but me seemed to know.

He spent the whole time requesting songs from Liars’ Mess, then proceeded to thrust manically to them.

We had a brief conversation.

He slurred about the previous afternoon (just one more biscuit) and his upcoming weekend plans (a countryside excursion with the fam).

So forgive me for thinking it was your Aunt Lu?

Everyone was happy. The party had started.

Then the conversation turned to feminism.

It got a bit intense, then this pretty girl, Vanity Fairy made a statement by plundering the dressing up box upstairs. She came back down dressed as Little Bo Peep.

Vanity Fairy
Vanity Fairy coming out of her bonnet @ the Victoria (you can tell we’d had a bit too much at this at this point)

She carried the persona well, announcing her emancipation from sheep and stereotypes, while delivering a fabulous new introduction, “Vanity, baby.

We all celebrated with a bit of a boogie to some ‘nostalgic’ disco numbers.

And then something funny happened. I might have just imagined it, but as the lights turned green, I thought I saw her point out to me and sing in her throaty drawl, “hit me with a move tonight,” but I was nervous, so didn’t. 

Crying High @ the Victoria
Crying High @ the Victoria – honestly, I wish I’d been bold enough to capture an image of all the masks on the back of everyone’s heads

And just as the mood was beginning to subdue, Crying High found a guitar in the front room.

Internally, we all groaned.

He then proceeded to play and, turns out he can actually sing.

We all groaned a bit more.

Thank god he was only joking!

After one song with the guitar he flung it out of the window and got funky, entering his own sing-on-top-of-the-pre-recorded-track routine.

It injected so much new life back into the gathering.

My friend even found the time to make some paper masks with Crying High’s face on, which we all wore on the back of our heads, while the man himself as he stood on a coffee table.

And he sang and sang. And with two microphones (someone told me that’s how you train mics for live performances – start them off in pairs).

I didn’t want the night to end. But it did.

At least there were party bags (a free merch table) filled with post cards, polaroids and paper masks – just so we could remember the great time we had.

Conclusion

A lot more heart than you normally see at the Victoria on a Tuesday.

Four_Beers

4 BEERS

GIG REVIEW: Longheads – Three Free Gigs #3

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. I go to three a week and review them.

The rating system’s simple. How many beers did I buy? The more, the better.

3. Longheads, Mister Charming Alarming Professor Alfred The Hitchclock and Milkjug and @ the Social, London

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Is competent a compliment?

Longheads 2
The legacy of the Paracas lives on. Longheads @ the Social

Milkjug sing about elves. They’re a psychedelic dreampop quartet who sing about elves. They announced their love of elves to the audience – as if the long hair wasn’t a give away. Didn’t manage to recreate the tranquillity of the forest, as bumpy dynamic changes uprooted the mood.

Smarming rhymes with Mister Charming Alarming Professor Alfred The Hitchclock. Who? A three-piece, bluesy and ‘conventionally strange’ rock band. And what does smarming have to do it? Dramatically extraordinary tempo changes, blistering nitroglycerine fueled vocal duels and a surprising turn-of-the-century mid-western vibe. Soft / Hard / Repeat (think Pixies). Quite talented, maybe it’s time to drop the weird act.

What can you say about Longheads? The band were, um, competent. A set of bass driven songs covered in fuzz. For once, it was sweet to see shared vocal responsibilities that didn’t descend into a competition. But throughout the performance, it felt like something was missing. That’s sometimes the point, and could have been what Longheads were going for, having incorporated some elements of shoegaze into their sound. But unlike DIIV or Ride (or even Drop Nineteens) I wasn’t drowned in waves of drone and then lifted into the outer atmosphere. No, listening to Longheads was like paddling in the sea. Nice when you’re doing it, but boring as hell (unless you’re five) and the leading cause of sandy socks.

Longheads were the best band but also the biggest bore. Hopefully Milkjug and Mister Charming Alarming Professor Alfred The Hitchclock stick at it.

Three_Beers

THREE BEERS

GIG REVIEW: Sólveig Matthildur – Three Free Gigs #2

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. I go to three a week and review them.

The rating system’s simple. How many beers did I buy? The more, the better.

2. Sólveig Matthildur, Hyeanah & Nike Neblem @ – Shacklewell Arms, London

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Sparse beats and ethereal rhymes under throbbing crimson.

Hyeanah
Crouching Hyeanah @ Shacklewell Arms

Nike Neblem, female duo draped in black delivered an experimental piece questioning something (?) about a world where truth is an option. Announced their arrival with a distorted amp / guitar duet but despite threats to entangle the audience in their agenda with a ball of twine they didn’t manage to add much originality to subject matter.

Synth and drum combo Hyeanah generated oppressive aural landscapes, underscored with clattering percussion and topped with schizophrenic free-verse. It sort of worked, but difficulty discerning between each song robbed them of a final applause.

Main act, Icelandic Sólveig Matthildur (Kælan Mikla‘s bassist) drew a crowd of her own to mark the launch her new LP, Constantly in Love. Sparse beats and ethereal vocals proved captivating throughout. Despite no live backing, her vocals added much welcomed depth to each song. During the gaps inbetween Sólveig’s interactions with the crowd were endearing and provided a platform for her to dispel various (apparent) online rumours that she just sings about boys. Highlights including Twin-Peak-theme-twinged Dystopian boy and pulsating disco of Tómas.

First two acts lacked direction, Sólveig Matthildur made up for it.

Four_Beers

4 BEERS

GIG REVIEW: The DandyLions – Three Free Gigs #1

There are a bunch of free gigs in London. I go to three a week and review them.

The rating system’s simple. How many beers did I buy? The more, the better.

1. The DandyLions, Røyaltee and Crimson Cobra @ the Victoria – Dalston, London

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Audience participation required. Shame there wasn’t a crowd.

The DandyLions - the Victoria
The DandyLions @ the Victoria – Pink and crimson clash. Who’s gonna win?

Three rock bands – one distinctly more glam than the others.

Crimson Cobra kicked it off with a solid set. Sounded like Royal Blood. Guitar occasionally soared into an aerial assault and a well-timed drummer come singer.

Second Røyaltee announced that this wasn’t a normal show, told everyone how hard his life’s been then cajoled the crowd into overhead clapping. Already cringe inducing the frontman topped it with a directed sing-a-long: ‘when I sing ‘scream, shout’ you shout ‘scream motherfucker.’’ Hit the pinnacle of cool with their miserable Pop the Drugs – Mr Brownstone without the class.

Unashamedly glam, the DandyLions gave the best performance of the night. Decked in pink and yellow lycra with at least one wrestling mask, they clearly did not give a shit. Unfortunate that only about ten people were still there. Launching haribo from the stage they ran through a set of songs as camp as Queen, potentially inspired by sex (or lack of it), including Hairspray, Drink me Like Water and Legendary Fire. Veered a little more PC with faux-feminist power-pop number Women in Charge.

Pleasantly unexpected end to an otherwise unmemorable and occasionally bad show.

Two_Beers

TWO BEERS

MUSIC REVIEW: The Dirty Nil @ Boston Music Room, London

The Dirty Nil played Boston Music Room on Friday, 28 September 2018. 

I went along. Here’s how it was:

The Dirty Nil, Winter Passing & Weatherstate @ Boston Music Room, London

Friday, 28 September 2019

Guitars, sequin, sparkles and a whole lot of men.

For those who don’t care enough to look them up, the Dirty Nil are a three piece ‘rock’n’roll’ band from Ontario, Canada. They won a Juno last year (2017) which I presume is the Canadian equivalent to America’s loftiest honour: the MTV Award. I think the recognition was for their exceptional cover of B. A. Johnston’s ‘My Heart is Broken like an Old Nintendo’.

Why did I go? I don’t know.

To the gig: 

The venue was at half capacity, awash with Less than Jake t-shirts, chequered sweatbands and fringes that weren’t even cool when the Black Parade was playing on Kerrang!. Very male.

Weatherstate were the first support. They put in a good performance but somehow managed to come across as a more English looking but American sounding version of Feeder. I’m sure they’ve tried covering Buck Rogers by replacing all references to Jaguars with Corvettes. Cliche choruses ranging from ‘Smell the Coffee’ and ‘Lately you’ve been lying low’. 

Second support The Winter Passing were folky and correspondingly lacklustre. Tried and failed at getting the crowd going. Might have worked in a different context, but wasn’t right for the night. Sadly PA system received more applause when Code Orange’s, Bleeding the blur came on.

The Dirty Nil announced their arrival with a type of (I don’t say certain) style. Front man, Luke Bentham was attired in a racy black cowboy shirt peppered with sequins and set off with a snarl. Real dandy.

The band were competent and played well to the crowd. For a three-piece in a small venue the show was surprisingly bombastic, verging on crazy theatrical. Exactly what displays of ‘rock’n’roll’ should be.

Distilled: it was eighty percent power chords, fifteen percent self-aware curls of the upper lip with a remaining five percent ‘feeling of loss at the worryingly social-misfit-esque vibe of the crowd’.

They delivered an impressively meaty set focused on their latest LP Master Volume – so more pop punk than the abrasive outbursts of Higher Power, but the crowd were into it. Managed to keep up momentum despite the intensity of the first forty minutes.

Highlights included a high octane delivery of Bathed in light, a return to 2011’s Fuckin’ up young, a not so harrowing Evil side and a good closer with Bury me at the rodeo.

The Dirty Nil play a certain type of rock music. In this context rock and pomp managed to go comfortably hand-in-hand without inspiring winces. But it’s a fine line. Whether you like their current direction or not there’s no doubt that they play well and deliver more than their records ever could live.

Solid gig.

Set list: That’s what heaven feels like, Bathed in light, Pain of infinity, Cinnamon, No weaknesses, Zombie eyed, Always high, Fuckin’ up young, Auf weidersehen, Smoking is magic, Friends in sky, I don’t want that phone call, Know your rodent, Big Star’s – September Gurls, Wrestle yü to Hüsker Dü, Evil side, Metallica’s – Hit the lights and Bury me at the rodeo