Henry learns that exceptionally good punk comes from Oxford and L.A. Peach is totally besotted.
This was my first visit to Lower Clapton’s Blondies.
It’s dark, the space is tight and it’s drenched in neon. The stage is situated right next to the entrance, so beware, once the curtain’s drawn and the band have started, you’re stuck – unless you want to join the performance and navigate whoever’s playing.
It’s the only hole in Hackney where the stuff on tap is almost exclusive Vice’s beer– bit of a shame because it’s not very good. There’s also a terrace hidden at the back, so there’s at least one reason to go for an actual drink – just remember, the terrace closes at 21:00 (it’s actually quite cool).
Last night, Blondies were hosting Oxford indie / punk trio Lacuna Common and London-based five-piece L.A. Peach (I think they’re a five-piece, but maybe it’s just a singer with a guitar and some friends).
The crowd was made up of animated mannequins from Beyond Retro. I was wearing a white button-up shirt, carrying a laptop and felt like a total prick.
First up, Lacuna Commonseriously impressed. They’re really fucking good.
The band play that ‘blood-in-your-teeth’ kind of punk (defiantly British), the type that somehow makes stories about the banality of life seem interesting (like an imagined pint of vodka). Punchy and almost immediately captivating, their songs were simple, catchy, held the right amount of suspense, while consistently delivering a certain despondency.
The frontman spat out tales of having no money, people not caring enough about him, skinny jeans and twats from Oxford, while the bassist occasionally chimed in with his own wheys and woes. Instrumentally, it’s basic and the lyrics aren’t anything new, but it really worked. Like, really worked.
(I REALLY LIKED LACUNA COMMON)
Their dad was at the back selling t-shirts and white vinyl pressings of their latest single, Not the Same. Going on the performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually bought one.
L.A. Beach didn’t have Lacuna Common’s energy, but I think that’s the point.
The band’s vibe is dreamy and they deliver subdued, low-tempo numbers that build into strangely gritty and unnerving sonnets. All quite melodic.
Between songs they were kind enough to add liner notes through a lot of one-sided dialogue with the crowd (how post-modern).
Transcribed below, I hope they’ll help you understand a little bit more about the band:
“L.A. Peach is the best thing you’ve seen all night,” – they’re not too cocky.
“What do you call a chicken with a piece of lettuce in its eye? Sees-a-salad” (Caesar salad, get it?) – they’re masters of comedy.
“When I was in year three, I had to run the relay race at sports day. Stick [baton] in hand, I tripped and fell into this girl’s crotch.” – they’ve all had a really traumatic upbringing.
“Have you seen my girlfriend? Doesn’t she look like Trent Reznor?” – they’ve got a lot of respect for women.
All of this context helped me fully appreciate their songs. Particularly why they tricked you into a false sense of security by sounding sweet and ethereal (the type of thing you put on when your mother’s round) then suddenly got really psychotic.
It was kind of like this: bright guitar and a slow groove overlaid with tales of loving someone so much you want to flay their skin and wear it when meeting their parents.
One thing that was clear throughout was that L.A. Peach’s singer / guitarist (maybe L.A. Peach himself) was completely besotted with his new lover (the keyboardist). (Check out this feature inClashif you don’t believe me).
Is it False Advertising if they were definitely playing alternative rock?
Today, I saw False Advertising, a half female / male fronted alternative rock trio at the Old Blue Last. They were there to launch their latest single, You Won’t Feel Love. It’s pretty cool. Listen to it.
As the night’s only band, False Advertising didn’t need to do much to hold the crowd’s attention. Despite this (maybe they didn’t realise), they still delivered a solid performance that didn’t seem to lose momentum despite two drummer / guitarist switches. (I have no base comparison, but their parents seemed delighted, so I’m going to stand by that statement)
The songs were the standard alternative rock stop / start affair, mixed with some jarring hardcore rhythms and the usual discordant guitar. The lead single inspired memories of Veruca Salt’s second effort, Eight Arms to Hold You. That’s meant to be a positive. Also, it was definitely better live. They’re actually pretty decent live.
To mark the single’s launch, the band bribed the audience with a mason jar filled with swirly-pops. I didn’t take one because my reviews are totally impartial, but apparently the track’s lyrics were singed into the stopper. Sweets are obviously the natural extension of the concept art that’s accompanied a few of their singles (You Won’t Feel Love, You Said and Give It Your Worst) – yeah, actual examples of false advertising.
The rest of the performance sounded a bit more like Shudder to Think mixed with a bit of Jawbox– but less hardcore and alternative now it’s 2019.
Good gig for a Monday.
NB: If False Advertising find themselves stuck for inspiration for the next single, I’d recommend Head & Shoulders (visibly reduced flakes at a distance of 2-feet – yep, the claim was investigated in 2006 but it’s still on the bottle).
Compact space, small crowd, embarrassed band, no crescendos. Other’s would call it ‘intimate’ – but I’m a realist.
This Thursday, I saw Mellow Gang at Lower Clapton’s premier coffee-come-cocktail-come-record-shop, Lion Coffee + Records (it’s almost in the title, isn’t it?). It was a taster gig, organised to showcase Mellow Gang’s upcoming album, Adjourn. Hobby Club supported.
Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive in time to see Hobby Club, but my girlfriend did. She gave me a download: the guitarist pulled faces at the crowd and the singer looked really Hackney (after she’d taken off her jacket). Great then.
So on to Mellow Gang, who I definitely didn’t miss.
For those who haven’t listened, Mellow Gang play dreamy music that would go great in your lounge. Kinda like Cocteau Twins with Lana Del Rey vocals: a lotta’ chime bells (keyboard), electronic drums that could attract an orca (sonar sounds) and female vocals that pour out like molasses. Also, their song Carousel sounds like Supertramp.
During the show, I stood at the front of the audience – a decision I immediately regretted. Yeah, I kept getting in the way of the hired cameraman (he probably hadn’t been to Hackney before – he was wearing a stab-proof) and I didn’t have anywhere to look except directly into the bassist’s eyes. My gaze made the bassist really uncomfortable (shame, I was trying to express that live, he was the highlight).
Technically, Mellow Gang were good (except for some lacklustre guitar – but no big deal). By that, I mean they played songs from Adjourn successfully live.
However, live, they didn’t recreate the draw of their studio material – really dense crescendos.
But that might have been the space.
NB:The space is cool, sounded like the mixing could have been better though.
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.”
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, theyplayed 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).
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 it) surprise! your Aunt Lucy showed up.
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.
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.
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.
A lot more heart than you normally see at the Victoria on a Tuesday.
And as I made sure that the memory was spread evenly across the carpet of my mind, I remembered that everyone had sung in a field of roses, roses without thorns and it was absolute bliss.
Why you should always think a little harder than you actually do
As the memory hit its climax, I remembered Patti Smith calling out to the audience:
“Rise up, oh rise up my young flowers, if we all sing together we’ll break the machine and be free to love each other forever. It’s the sixties all over again. Yeah, we changed the world and it’s great now because of us.“
Wait, the world isn’t great now, is it?
I then learned that everyone else had won tickets on Dice too.
Then my girlfriend said she didn’t want to come on Sunday.
Then I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to rub anyone’s face in the fact that I’d finally won something.
And then I started to remember that no, last year’s All Points East hadn’t been that good, had it?
I looked on the internet to confirm my suspicions. Reading this review on Resident Adviser just confirmed that people who write for RA take too much ecstasy (it really damages your brain).
Yep, it was confirmed. Last year had definitely been awful.
But I tried to not get myself down. I mean, it was going to be sunny. Maybe I could still drink too much and have a fun time?
Turns out I was wrong. Just like I had been wrong last year.
Having definitely experienced this before and now having absolutely no desire to experience it again, I decided to write down exactly why All Points East was an awful experience (AGAIN) and why I never want to go back, EVER AGAIN.
Henry’s list of things that you should definitely read before accepting tickets to go to All Points East
1. The people often suck
Why do a lot of the people at day festivals suck?
Because they’re the types who think the best place to see Foo Fighters is from the seated bit at the back of Greenwich O2.
It’s not. The best way to see Foo Fighters is sticking your head down a u-bend screaming Monkey Wrench.
I don’t need to labour this further. No, someone provided me with the perfect example while I was queuing on Saturday.
Ahead, there were swathes of white people and despite the overpowering scent of sun block, the back of everyone’s necks and ears were piglet pink.
And get ready, because behind there stood the most disingenuous couple I have ever had the pleasure of eavesdropping on, EVER.
The mysterious couple’s All Points East queue conversation
The girl, “Oh, you know that babe that I’m totally obsessed with on Instagram? Yeah? Well she’s in Majorca and it looks so LUSH. She just looks so LUSH. She’s SO beefed right now. It’s really inspiring me. You know what? I’m gonna go beefer.”
The guy, “Ah, babe this is why I love you so much. It would be my absolute pleasure to go beefer with you.”
The girl then responded, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH [BEEF] BABE.”
Lucky for them, everyone’s cattle prods were confiscated at the entrance.
2. The bands don’t have a very good incentive to play well
If someone wrote you a check for £50,000 and then said all you had to do was jump around the stage at the petting zoo, would you put on your best performance?
This year, it’s already been reported that the Strokes sounded like underwater karaoke. Look, it’s in the Independent.
For some reason though, the Independent didn’t get in touch with me for a quote.
It’s a shame because I actually spent most of the Strokes’ performance standing to the right of the main stage – exactly where it sounded bad. I’m afraid that I need to testify that while the Strokes were hard to hear (and there was one hell of a lot of booing), it did not sound like underwater karaoke.
But I can tell you that it’s a shame it wasn’t underwater karaoke. If it had been, all the people who were singing, “nah-na-nahh-na-nah-nahhhh-nahhhhh,” to that guitar bit that everyone knows in 12:41 would have probably swallowed a little too much water.
All Points East’s website describes the companies that sell all of these great things as partners not sponsors.
You know that’s the corporate way of saying ‘I’m with the band’.
And I hate to labour the point, but the adverts are so hard to ignore.
Here were my favourites:
The Logic Vape tent (how is it ok to advertise vapes but it’s not ok to advertise cigarettes? All those vape adverts just remind everyone that they used to smoke real cigarettes. I mean, if I was working in Marlboro’s advertising department right now I’d just invent a vape that looks like a pack of Marlboro Reds and plaster that everywhere)
The Huawei spying platform (yes, Huawei had a platform directly opposite the main stage, where else would it be?), and
Can you imagine a tent full of people who only have two things in common: an Amex card and a desire to only hang out with other people who have Amex cards?
I bet the Amex tent’s great.
Who doesn’t love spending time at concerts comparing their Experian credit rating (by the way, it’s 300 (that means good 😉 ). How about you send me some money in the post?).
4. No one seems to be angry that it’s blatant commercialism
Let me tell you a story:
Once upon a time, at All Points East there was a Tinder Van.
Everyone walked past the Tinder Van and said, “Oh, sweet, it’s really useful that there’s a Tinder Van at All Points East. You know, somewhere you’re able to change partners when you fall out of love for forty minutes and both no longer want to see the same band. It’s just great that you’ll still have someone else’s back pocket to keep your hand warm in.”
Then, when Interpol started playing Henry’s girlfriend went up to the Tinder Van and said, “Oh please Tinder Van, can I exchange this Henry for someone who doesn’t want to see Interpol?”
And then the Tinder Van lady said “Oh no Henry’s girlfriend, I’m afraid not, this van is just for beer, but if you pull your top down a bit I’ll set you up with a new profile.”
And in the end poor little Henry got abandoned at the carousel that looked like it was dancing to the end of the world.
Have you worked out what’s strange about that story yet? You guessed it, no one’s angry that I was abandoned.
Want to hear something else people weren’t angry about?
There was this All Points East app that was meant to tell you when and where your favourite acts were playing. But it’s like they made sure it was completely web-based on purpose.
Of course it wasn’t going to work.
When have you ever had mobile data at a festival?!
The organisers clearly knew it wasn’t going to work. That’s why they hired a bunch of people to stand around with physical guides on really cool lanyards that cost £5 each.
My point here is that no one seemed to care that they were being ripped off. Or angry about anything. It was just kind of like everyone there wanted vanilla icecream and everyone got vanilla icecream.
5. The hypocrisy
I really wanted to see Parquet Courts on Saturday and I did. It was great. I think Parquet Courts are ace.
But, despite a solid performance of Tenderness, no one seemed to take the lyrics to heart.
And like that magnificent band from New York City, this weekend, I too was left without a fix of a little tenderness.
Excerpt from Parquet Courts’ Tenderness
Nothing reminds the mind of power
Like the cheap odor of plastic
Leaking fumes we crave, consume, the rush it feels fantastic
But like power turns to mold, like a junkie going cold
I need the fix of a little tenderness
But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any good bits.
A crucial step in my seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER involved making sure that everyone in London knew I was the coolest kid in Hackney.
Out of 32 London boroughs, Hackney was definitely the coolest (how isn’t being 98% over the European legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions a middle finger straight up at the man?) and if I managed to become the coolest kid in Hackney, I’d probably be the coolest kid in London.
Actually, it wasn’t.
I didn’t appreciate the challenge I’d set myself until I took a long look in the mirror.
Standing in my mirror staring spot I said, “mirror mirror, oh what do I see?”
Knowing the answer, I gave it, “a 28 year old with great hair.”
Suddenly an evil voice emanated from the frame, “look closer. What do you see?”
A little confused, I replied, “unwavering determination?”
The same voice hissed, “look closer and up a bit.”
Then I saw it. I must have missed it because it wasn’t there – a hairline about to sink from mild recession into a deep and tragic depression. And this time the economy definitely wasn’t going to pick up – I didn’t have a job.
Rolling Stone would probably give me a job and I’d be like that kid in the movie about the band who were in that aeroplane that falls out of the sky then the drummer tells everyone he’s gay (you guessed it, Almost Famous).
So I found three free gigs on Dice and went to them.
It was settled. I was going to become the greatest copywriter EVER.
How it started
Easy. I needed to lay some sturdy foundations and figure out exactly what copywriting was.
To the foundations!
And where do you learn about laying foundations? Wikipedia!
I looked up the definition of copywriting:
Copywriting is the act of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.
Copywriters help create billboards, brochures, catalogs, jingle lyrics, magazine and newspaper advertisements, sales letters and other direct mail, scripts for television or radio commercials, taglines, white papers, social media posts, and other marketing communications.
That was definitely manageable.
With an in depth understanding of copywriting I started looking for a new job.
Looking for that first copywriting job
I went straight onto LinkedIn (actually my girlfriend sent me some links. Impressed aren’t you? I’m getting pretty good at twisting the truth, aka advertising).
One position came out with a swift kick to the teeth: Junior Copywriter at Dr Martens.
Before I’d even read the ad I knew getting the job must be a piece of cake. Why?
People call those boots Doc Martens not Doctor Martens, hence it’s safe to assume that their head of advertising department can’t read and is highly incompetent.
They are probably desperate for a cool new, left-leaning junior with a lot of hair (yours truly) to help them shake off the image of skinheads and neo-nazis.
As my first potential position I knew I’d be more than happy to put in some extra work and help Dr Martens completely reinvent their brand for 2019.
Feeling confident, I looked at the job spec.
It was the first time I realised that copywriters are a pretentious as hell.
Getting my first ‘gig’ might prove difficult than I’d initially thought.
Take a look for yourself:
Doc Martens, Junior Copywriter
To be our Junior Copywriter, you will also possess the following:
Experience in a full-time copywriting role. Preferably in the retail, fashion or music industry
A love of music, DM’s, fashion and footwear
A track record of managing tight deadlines and multiple projects simultaneously
A passion for language and a flair for writing original, unexpected copy
Strong commercial awareness and knowledge of key copy KPIs
Enthusiasm and an inexhaustible supply of ideas
The confidence to tackle all forms of copywriting: from click-worthy captions to scroll-enticing articles
A degree-level qualification in a relevant subject such as English or Creative Writing
Damn the requirements were high and this was only for a junior role!
It presented a real problem.
I had no experience in a full-time copywriting role, I thought DMs (dungeon masters) were totally uncool, I was bemused by how words could have key performance indicators (‘boot’ needs to get at least 4,000 views today) and definitely did not have a degree in creative writing. Who does have a degree in creative writing anyway?
How the hell was I going to get a job like that?
I needed to tear down my soft, non-copywriting self and to begin rebuilding immediately. It was daunting but exciting – I was about to become the slickest creative machine in Hackney and I knew it would probably involve stickers.
So I decided to systematically strip myself down. The best way to do this: a foolproof seven point plan (to do list):
Henry’s seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER
1. Do way more research
I needed to become fluent in the language of copy. Yes, I had to develop an understanding of advertising, marketing and all of the associated acronyms (CPM, CTA, IAB, SOV, SEO and more). I also needed to know something about psychology. Why? How else was I going to trick someone into giving me a job?
2. Get good at writing
I wasn’t immediately convinced that this was necessary but I knew that I needed to sell myself as more qualified to write than anyone else. To do that, I had to at least trick myself into believing that I’d got super good at writing. The first step was probably to write and read more. Decent outcome.
3. Develop a kickass portfolio
For a profession that spends all day playing with words it’s surprising that it can’t just take me on mine, but life’s confusing. I needed to develop a killer portfolio with a shed load of original and creative copy. It had to have the best adverts selling bubble mixture, jingles explaining the dangers of not eating enough carrots, all potentially topped off with a radio advert for the mayor on today’s most biting issue: public urination.
4. Get some experience (and references)
Just a portfolio wouldn’t cut it. I had to get some real experience so I had references. References would mean that other people would suddenly become accountable for my eventual employment. The easiest way to do that would probably be to do some writing for free. I needed to do some copywriting volunteering.
5. Find a special subject and stick to it
All the advice that I’ve read online says that generalist copywriters fail and copywriters with a special subject succeed. The problem was I didn’t know or really care about anything. The options were limited too. What subject can you specialise in as a copywriter? Trains, video games, legal regulations and hatred of men? I didn’t want to write about any of that. Then it struck me. I could write about technology or digital or ‘the internet‘. It seemed like a safe bet, as it could cover anything from sex dolls to how to talk to your toaster! Perfect.
6. Build a professional network
To secure work employers need to think you’re the real deal. Humans are social creatures so association with other humans is important. I was going to have to meet other copywriters and make friends with them. Maybe I could meet them at Westfield Shopping Centre? There are lots of things that need copy there.
7. Rebrand myself as the coolest kid in Hackney
The Doc Marten advert said it all: creatives need to be cool. I was already super cool, but deep down I knew that not everyone knew this. I was going to sacrifice some of my current cool to make sure that everyone found out (unfortunately self-promotion is not cool). I’d begin by developing a social media presence (here’s my instagram), take pictures of myself doing cool things and buy more thrash metal t-shirts.