Stuck Between the Middle with Dinosaur Pile-Up More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Holy State, Turbowolf and Dinosaur Pile-Up at The Cockpit 2, Leeds

If it were the case that bands enjoyed a linear progression from nowhere to somewhere then it would be hard to place where Leeds three piece Dinosaur Pile-Up were on the trajectory.

Filling the Cockpit's second room is not uncommon and undoubtedly DPU have done it by virtue of a strong following. Impressive immediately on first listen it is not hard to see why but just as the progression from local lads making good to national indie stars seemed to gape in front of them the band seemed caught like rabbits in headlights.

This will probably not be a problem Holy State who are an earnest and not entirely bad outfit but lack anything like a signature or a stamp of originality. Thinking back to the first time one say Dinosaur Pile-Up one was taken by the clash of melody and grunge and how well Matt Biggland had been able to pull that off. Holy State's journey needs to get to the moment of alchemy where something unexpected occurs.

There was something massively unexpected about Turbowolf who were Heavy Metal as if Spinal Tap and Steel Panther never existed. They rawk, and they do so unapologetically, and in a sea of indie gigs in an indie town like Leeds that is the hurricane surge of fresh air.

A band who seem to enjoy being on stage, who seem to enjoy playing guitars, who seem to have a demented need to make sure I enjoy watching them they are a blast. It is speed metal - I discover later - and it is massively good fun.

Fun being what seems to have drained from Dinosaur Pile-Up. The first half a dozen songs sounded like a man having a great time, liberated and with a guitar, and stand out on the night amid more ponderous and almost forced efforts. The album Growing Pains is more a difficult second affair than the fresh first and hearing the tracks from it ground through live has me wondering if Biggland will recapture the effervescence that marked those early song.

Until then, one fears, Dinosaur Pile-Up are stuck in the middle.

Committing for the Uncommitted More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Blood Oranges, Summer Camp and Frankie & the Heartstrings at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

It is Elizabeth Sankey's birthday and the slimmed down Summer Camp are playing songs from their new ep to a smattering of people in Leeds' Brudenell Social Club. Each track has a vague sound of a brilliance just out of reach and suddenly I am struck by the worry that this will always be the case.

Opening act Blood Oranges do not have this worry. They are a fine but formulaic act. No trees were harmed or pulled up in their performance and that is entertaining but ultimately unengaging. They have an excitement that last for exactly the time they are on stage, no more no less, nothing is out of their reach but their reach is not great.

Likewise main band Frankie and the Heartstrings are a superbly tight band who set out to create a modern spin on fifties rockabilly and - like The Crookes - pull that off. They are a raucous night and good to listen to but what you see with them seems to be what they get.

Summer Camp though promise something iconoclastic. A sly take on pop culture while at the centre of it. The smartness of the kid at school who was sexy because they didn't try to be. They throw out lines of cynical gold. Jake Ryan's "I can't wait to burn your letter" is as good a comment on living through mediated culture as you could hear.

They deserve more, but they have to earn it. Sankey is charming, Jeremy Warmsley a smart partner and to see them commit to being the uncommitted band is almost a tautology but they need to take more care about not caring. It is hard to put the finger on why things do not click live as well as they do on record but undoubtedly the blast of smart brilliance that comes from the speakers is not passed over live, or has not been so far.

As a band they have a lazy way - new song Veronica Sawyer is dreamily sublime - but as much as the band deserve all the plaudits for what they do they need to make sure that what they have in hand does not drift away.

That Summer Camp is more than just one good season for eight sunny week.

Nostalgia and The Wedding Present More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Cinerama and The Wedding Present at Picturedrome, Holmfirth

Holmfirth's Picturedrome - a fine venue let it be said - seems to fit The Wedding Present as much as any venue can. Like singer David Gedge the location is stuck between Yorkshire and Lancashire and while it has ideas of modernity with Tapas and a refined bar it is still the place of Sid's Cafe and the last of The Last of the Summer Wine.

If not a man out of time Gedge is something of a throwback to an age of guitar music before the genre enjoyed popularity. He is acerbic - rather than miserable - but make no mistake that the band described by Steve Lamacq as sounding "like a Maths teacher moaning about his girlfriend leaving" would not be headlining the opening Leeds Festival were they twenty years younger. Music - even this music - has changed.

Not that Gedge and his entourage have not changed too most notably in the transformation into opening act Cinerama who were basically The Wedding Present in the late 1990s. Gedge fronts both bands and the revival of the more sweeping, less jangly band first on the bill tonight presents a curious dissection of the main bands work. Starry Eyed is lashed through and seems to provide a pivot point to the 2005 reformed Present and the bedsit janglers who came before and dominate proceedings on this evening.

For tonight - and as preparation to a larger tour in the Autumn - the entirety of the 1990 album Bizzaro is played in order. Brassneck, Kennedy, Take Me and all.

It is too much for some. The crowd - of which I am happy to affiliate myself - are showing age and a mosh pit of balding heads is kind to no one. They bounce and jump in a way that belays their and my advancing years and as Gedge rips through a guitar string or two there is an air of unmistakable release. It did used to be like this - before mortgages and children - and it was as raucously enjoyable as anything post-punk pre-Brit Pop ever got.

The sight of the Weddeos Widows - women dragged by other halves and abandoned at the sides while Sir goes to join the throng at the front could be saddening but there is an easy joy about proceedings. It is reminisce.

Reminisce which is not to be mistake for nostalgia. The Greek word nostalgia literally refers to the pain from an old wound and as Gedge - who starts off with Corduroy and goes into Dare - starts to play three of five new tracks which will be a part of next year's next album the pain is illustrated vividly.

You're Dead is as much about infidelity as anything from any Wedding Present album of the last twenty five years but it talks about iPhones and the relationship rent asunder are more serious, more sombre, more important things.

Enjoy this trip back to your youth - it seems to say - because the pains of then are still the trails of life now. Nothing thing changes but the bodies get older and the aches more heavy.

The pains form old wounds still hurt.

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The valiant failure of Jens Lekman More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The Blow and Jens Lekman at The Deaf Institute, Manchester

The Blow are not really a band but one would hate to make Khaela Maricich suffer the tag of performance art. Innovative, perhaps to a fault, Maricich's spares vocals over a dance beat accompany a kind of storytelling which veers between believability and fantasy and is all the more entertaining for that. Tonight she relates how she wrote songs for an actress turned singer in New York and the relationship she had with that would be performer and in doing so plays with the notion of the construction of performance. Gradually reducing her attire from baggy top to leotard the affect is a little bit like a confessional Jane Fonda workout video.

It is entertaining, and in its way far more enlightening than one would expect.

The affect of Jens Lekman is always provoking. The Swede folk-popster pours his heart into his performance and seems to bleed emotion from the stage. Tonight he has a full band and a couple of Saxophonist - I may be alone in questioning the merit of the Saxophone in pop - picking out the melodies of his often soft, reflective tunes. As always Lekman is a joy to listen to throwing a few new tunes into the mix alongside staples of his set - would he ever not do Black Cab? I do hope not - and seems to breath a uniqueness into each performance.

Lekman continues the gig over the road at another bar after curfew at The Deaf Institute, and then goes onto the street trying to elongate the still moments his songs attempt to encapsulate. Night falls, the attempt fails, but valiantly so.

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For Summer Camp read: The Best New Band In Britain More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Summer Camp and Slow Club at The Cockpit, Leeds

A dozen and a half years ago in the wake of Melody Maker's declaration that they were "the best new band in Britain" - and armed with a demo tape of four tracks - Suede put in faltering performances not dissimilar to Summer Camp's final gig of their first ever tour.

An initial buzz and curious mystery Summer Camp have played a seven song support slot for the last week that - as with Suede's four tracks - vary between songs that have been stuck to one's turntable for the last three months and things that are new to the ears.

Ghost Train - the first release and first played - suffers fro a sound problem that plagues the night at Leeds' Cockpit venue with Elizabeth Sankey's vocal sounding as if it was amplified through a septic tank and Jeremy Warmsley's guitar and keyboard - as well as the second keyboard which put a lie to the idea that the band are a duo - lost under a thud of bass.

Nervously Sankey looked over an audience who struggled to be impressed but - chink by chink - a quality emerged and once the sound problems were if not solves, then a little sated, killer hooks and smart lyrics started to become clearer and Sankey's front woman persona look shape.

Wearing a kind of all in one and wiggling around the stage Sankey comes over as an amalgamation of big haired eighties pop British songstresses like Dana and something more modern and Transatlantic. She is Karen Over-here and she is good adding a sly smile to the smartness and a twee innocence. On best song Was It Worth It she croons "If we weren't at your parent's house/I'd probably cry" and it sounds honest.

One would never have accused Warmsley of honesty in her previous solo career. Twelve months ago when playing Leeds in support of Blue Roses a lyric from the nerd with guitar offered was "If you break her heart/I'll break your legs" which was patiently untrue as it looks as if the bespectacled singer/songwriter would struggle to break an egg. It lacked honesty, had no authenticity.

Which is not to say that Summer Camp are opening their hearts on stage but they are making something with a created core of truth. The songs are lazy sixties beach bingo tunes with girl group vocals and swooning cynicism that battles a smart flick through of music touchstones. They go gospel for an intro, Sankey bends head back on a never heard before tune Warmsley steps back and plays pseudo-metal licks.

The sound - indeed the band - are the creativity of a scrapbook. Nothing strikes one as massively new but everything is arranged in a unique way. Glued in and scribbled over, highlighted and starred and made into something new.

Perhaps then the between song banter - Sankey's referencing of Alan Partridge's Dan wins me over - and the half shambles of trying to sort out a van back to London while on stage is a part of that scrapbook creativity or maybe - as with Suede - the haphazardness is a band who have risen to prominence faster than they have been able to prepare but showing all the signs that they would make it.

For Summer Camp may have read "Best new band in Britain" and stuck that in the scrapbook too.

Slow Club follow and make an impressive entrance cutting through an augmented and enthusiastic audience as a pair playing acoustic guitars stopping at the front to play a first song in the front row. They storm to the stage but are beset with the sound problems that Summer Camp faced but the problem mire the two piece further to a point where the crowd are forced to hush to hear an electric guitar played without amplification.

"It's been shit tonight," says Rebecca Taylor in her gruff South Yorkshire tones "but you've been good" and the band deserve not a review of a gig that they would hope to forget so hard was it to get through a song without the ring of feedback but credit for battering on through it.

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