Laura Groves

Blue Roses arrive leaving memories and feeling More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, May 1st, 2009

Fourteen Corners, Jeremy Warmsley and Blue Roses Blue Roses Album Launch Night at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Something is wrong with Fourteen Corners. The usual chime of note perfection is failing West Yorkshire's leading band - here in Leeds's Brudenell Social Club as second support at the Blue Roses album launch - is lacking and Luke Silcock's guitar stumbles with a harsh twang through the opening We Are Pathetic, We Are Stars and stutters into The Walk Home.

None of this would be rare for most but Corners can pride themselves - should pride themselves - of getting the best sound in whichever arena they play be it pub or concert hall or strange mix of the two as Brudenell Social Club. One half expects to have a meat draw between songs or bingo numbers called but this Working Men's Club setting is the home of the non-workers, the students, of Leeds now. A mile or so away from the City Centre I muse for a moment on how this gig would have suited the long dead Duchess of York on Vicar Lane, Leeds. That is now a Hugo Boss shop.

By the time the second tune concludes Silcock's guitar has been tamed and Corners are back to the limitless wonders of the Bradford Music Scene which produce the main act tonight. Josh Taylor's vocals are sung with an unoften heard confidence but never with arrogance and they are layered over a set of melodies and tunes as distinctive from one another as the words that are delivered. Mike Wilson's bass and Marco Pasquaiello drums are pulse with an anticipation. One worries that the time for this band has come and gone and that they will leave behind memories of gigs and of tunes but no work and no album to march on as a memento of the excellence.

May The Days Be Aimless hows with a longing - "I know somethings wrong/Hold on now" - and I'm suddenly recasting Corners on the stage where fifteen months ago Okkervil River burst into my consciousness as that kind of spirited storyteller. The set continues and Silcock is back at million mile an hour fingering on his awakened guitar which drops as Taylor intones "To have no is to live without."

Fourteen Corners add another new song which tips hats to Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout and I'm struck by how many times I've heard musicians - good ones too - mumble about how the set up and the sound was wrong and how that is never the case with this collective who master the environment they play in. They finish the set with New Limbs for Old Flames and I doubt I will see a better band tonight or during these three days of Live in Leeds which turns out to be a prediction out by just one.

Second on Jeremy Warmsley proudly announces that he had Blue Roses's Laura Groves supporting her in what was the singer's first gig and I hear my Dad's voice drifting into my cerebrum pointing out that he did the sound at the King's Arms in Bradford for her before then. It is a measure of cultural size when one's parents have heard of the thing you like. Former The Letters and current The Hobbes Fanclub guitarist Leon Carroll confirms that his Dad was also impressed that someone his band had the vaguest connection too (Blue Roses producer Marco Pasquaiello did the sound at The Letters gigs) was being reviewed in the Time and the Observer.

Warmsley hits feedback in his first song. He is acoustic and mellow making the kind of observations on life that would be on Jarvis Cocker's Twitter account and not his albums. His voice recalls Rufus Wainwright but his songs have the importance of everything The Lightning Seeds did that was not The Nearly Man which is not to say he was not good just that he was not weighty which in itself could have charm but tonight does not seem to. Perhaps it is the between song stories which paint him in an ill light or perhaps it is the fact that he falls a little too easily into Geek Chic to not do so consciously.

All that said he enjoys a couplet or two but "If he breaks your heart/I'll brakes his legs" rings hollow. Perhaps it is a stab at irony but too often irony masks a lack of truth and honesty of emotion is everything in song writing - or at least it is to me.

It was that honesty that interested me when I first heard Laura Groves - now Blue Roses - play her songs about Filey and the curved road down to Shipley station. Not the proximity or the fidelity to events but rather the resonance with a life I could empathise with. At the end of 2006 people I recall her voice standing out amongst the likes of The Streets and thinking that hers was the language of dreaming rather than urban nightmares and the broken down mundane.

Taking to the middle of the Brudenell stage Laura there is an air of anticipation. She is joined by Hannah Tidewell on violin and in front off the stage a small sit in has emerged - cross legged and ready for story time - which I join. I feel a burst of near paternal pride. This thing which I have evangelised to all who would hear is about to be shared. I gather thoughts for a moment now on how lucky I have been to catalogue this emergence - although that has been fortunate - but on how much pleasure every trip to The Love Apple or to Fagins, to St George's Hall or around Leeds last year watching this extraordinary performer has brought me.

And so into Greatest Thoughts and their is a silence and an appreciation for some but me I can see the evidence of metamorphosis. I feel I have watched for sometime but cannot tell you when the 21 year old Laura became this performer of depth and range and personality and confidence. These things where there for sure but when did they eclipse? When did they converge? I have watched the progression but I could not tell you when the shoulder became the neck nor when the arm became the wrist. At what point the girl from Shipley on the guitar became a performer of great merits but that she has.

Second is I Am Leaving which overcomes running repairs on the sound system. There is a feeling that there are new people here, people who are not used to the cues but are appreciative. They clap in all the wrong places but that warms the heart. They are new and they are converted. Coast - the song about Filey which first won me over - is picked out on an acoustic guitar maintaining a delicacy despite the layering of a violin to support and everything is how one would have hoped it would be.

Fourteen Corner's Josh Taylor joins for Does Anyone Love Me Now? softly adding a beat behind and I notice that the capo on the end of Groves's guitar turns and curls as a cello would and I am struck with the sadness of the song for the first time in the emote of the lyric "I tried so hard and for so long/but by the time I woke up you were gone."

A great performance should bring out new things from old songs. My favourite live renditions I've heard came last year with The Magnetic Fields imbuing Popa Was a Rodeo with a stark honesty I found utterly disarming and the aforementioned Okkervil River's A Stone bleeding from stage to audience. These songs were good that became great in performance. These are my pantheon. I'm not mentioning Blue Roses in the same breath, not yet, but only not yet.

Marco Pasquaiello - producer of the album and man on the rise - joins for Rebecca with Groves picking up an electric guitar over her acoustic and dipping deep into the soul to craft something of captive joy. Rebecca the song, Blue Roses the album, Laura, Marco, Josh and Hannah and these nights. These things are burnt into my mind and encapsulated in the optimistic advisory lyric "Turn yourself around/You can do better/Turn yourself around/Make yourself better" delivered here with an earnest gusto and never to be forgotten.

I muse on how watching Blue Roses is a holistic experience and how I can see parts of other bands I've watched over the past three years along with the Kate Bush parts of my Mum's record collection. I think about how the music comes from the surrounding area - from Shipley's Clock Tower of my student days to the East Coast of my young holidays. Perhaps it seems personal to everyone here, or perhaps just to me.

By the time Doubtful Comforts begins I'm aware of how Blue Roses and Laura Groves have drifted away into something bigger, something wider, something with depth and height and breadth and something else. If my chest were a ocean the waves of pride would be Tsunami. Solo - the very well hidden track on the album - references the Wizard of Oz which seems appropriate and finally I Wish I... grows and swell to the point of awe with Laura's vocal gymnastics something of a special effect, a fireworks show, a layer atop but not to distract from the core and that core being an honesty coupled with a ability which is now untethered and gloriously drifts on like a balloon loosed on a blue summers day.

She returns alone to whittle through Can't Sleep and in the last verse picks out a bum note or two. Diligently she looks down and corrects herself continuing with no fuss.

The last swallow of the summer that goes unnoticed. The last kiss.

The Last Granadaland More

Granadaland Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, July 13th, 2008

The Mirandolas, Le Tournoi, Laura Groves and The Tempus Granadaland at The Love Apple, Bradford

Granadaland exits stage left after three, four years when it has become the definitive night in Bradford guitar music. Promoter Mark Husak will be moving on to another venue but this - coupled with Adam Simons stepping back from his night - suggests that the times for music in Bradford are a-changing.

For years the most interesting bands in the area have played under some interesting more well known acts but the night has become bigger than the bands and the final spot is dead weight with the increasingly popular Wave Machines playing to a half dozen not long ago while the outer room buzzed with talk and people. It had become the way.

The Mirandolas are the type of band that have been doing well at Granadaland all these years. They are locals and they play indie pop on guitar pretty fast. They are fresh faced in that way that sends your brain trying to work out what their Dad's were listening to and how it might have influenced the tunes.

Perhaps they borrow the bass from eighties tunes the heard growing up and spliced it together with some Libertines putting a dash of freshness in. The Mirandolas are a tried and tested combination and they bounce along throwing out the odd interesting hook. They are worth a second look and are well received by the appreciative ranks. Le Tournoi's William Sanderson is impressed. He calls them tight, well practiced.

Le Tournoi went through a shift about two months ago with extra guitarist Kez joining the family Sanderson and now they are the talk of Bradford - or at least the train from Bradford to Leeds on this morning - with the buzz that was generated when they burst from the bedroom returning with vigour.

They take to the stage and within seconds front man Will has shirt off - there is a shirt off theme that surrounds the band - and Kez joins him. The tunes thrust with the same unity. Christmas Eve has emerged from the early CD-Rs as a fine work and is infectious tonight.

Infectious too is the enthusiasm that emanates from the stage and for a moment I think about the first time I saw the band and how they seemed like ill fitting pieces. Today they are smooth, at ease. James on drums wears shades and a beatnik hooped shirt. Emilie oozes sexy cool and offers harmonies that add a depth to the sound, Robert's bass is stable, Kez lively standing on a chair to play guitar, Will is eccentric and during It's Only A Power Station edges into David Byrne territory of entertaining intelligence.

They are there - Le Tournoi - and if the end of Granadaland pushes them into new territory they have the power to storm it. Storm it.

If Granadaland has given us Le Tournoi as a son then it's daughter is the brilliant Laura Groves who - as she records her debut album - has a confidence grown in the over talkative atmosphere of this night. Tonight she projects forcefully taking control of her audience as she starts off with Bridges which is picked sharply and rings around the Love Apple. She laments wistfully "This is the last Granadaland. We've had some good times. We've had some bad times..."

This is one of the good times. The buzz of voices is overcome as much as it ever can be in a pub venue and this is her apprenticeship. Groves has been adding to her set over the years since her first Granadaland and augmenting her standing material. Imaginary Flights benefits from her move into album style production and has a deeper, richer sound. For a moment the song softly drifts us back to St George's Hall and her finest triumph that night.

She finishes her set with I Wish I and both song and set are perfectly formed. She is the best thing to come out from this night and - apologies to The Tempus - she closes off for event for me.

Husak will be back in September. The bands that Granadaland pushed forward are a fitting legacy for his efforts.

Dalliance at Live at Leeds More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Le Tournoi, Pulled Apart By Horses, Fourteen Corners, The Sugars, Dinosaur Pile Up, The Debuts, Laura Groves Live At Leeds, Leeds

I'm Michael Wood and I'm late - this is why - and am stuck on a bus next to a woman who thinks you make Hummus with Yoghurt. Leeds is a traffic jam to get into and while I'm here I've missed Heads We Dance and the first half of Le Tournoi at The upstairs bit at Cockpit as the all day get in anywhere with your wrist band event begins.

Le Tournoi have dropped the old organised shambles approach to performance and put together a tighter, more focused set. The new guy Kez provides a focus - something that Bradford music gaffer Mark Husak noted as he booked them to support Lightspeed Champion in a few weeks - and everything about the band rumbles along more efficiently. They lag a few bands in the Bradford scene a little having shot out of the traps initially but they are never anything less than facinating to watch and they end this set strongly in the early heat of the under-roof in Leeds' leading venue.

A walk about downstairs for a pint and cut in front of someone at the bar. faces are familiar and a rush of people head off to Pulled Apart By Horses in the main room and I've heard good things so I head to the front only to be pushed back by the volume of a band who seem to have mistaken loud for melody, vocal acumen or even making sounds that don't sound like car crashes.

I feel disappointed cause I hoped for better and old because I'm at a gig complaining that the music is too loud and I remember hearing Nirvana in a pub in this City and they didn't have to turn everything up to eleven cause they could rock and write a bridge. I still feel old but am justified in being unimpressed.

I'm always impressed with Fourteen Corners who have a new bassist - Hi new guy - and the set of superb tunes that are a cut above almost everything else that will be heard in the City today. Josh tells us he is sweating and Luke offers the audience "It's getting hot in here", arching an impressive eyebrow, "so take off all your clothes."

The idea of Fourteen Corners master stage craft amuses me for a minute and I hear how the songs mix together better now than they did when I first saw them. I talk to Josh later and he says that he thinks Luke is ace on guitar. I like it when bands get on together and that reminds me how the Pixies used to hate each other really and how I got into a discussion with the bloke who I cut in front of at the bar about how The Pixies were not as good as Throwing Muses/Belly because they were not as honest. Fourteen Corners are honest.

The taxi driver who takes us to Brudenell Social Club is not honest and rips us off for a pound but we are just in time to see The Sugars who are a kind of throwback to a time when looking a bit like Elvis was just being fashionable and when singing "Do-Wop" into a microphone - and The Sugars use beauitful looking microphones - did not have you dubbed and dismissed as a do-wop band.

They are a smarter band than they are often given credit for and they have some tunes worth hearing - hear them at the Love Apple soon - and if you like Metric but thought they needed White Stripe levels of energy then get down to see them.

In the end the only gripe with The Sugars is that while the tall blondeness and the grease hair quiff at the front are individually good they lack chemistry in a serious way and they need to get along better.

Getting along - or rather getting - was the order of the day piling back to The Cockpit to see Dinosaur Pile Up who made a fiver taxi ride and a route march past an old work place (Lower Basinghall Street dontchaknow) worthwhile.

Dinosaur Pile Up are Matt Bigland - one time of Mother Vulpine - and a guy playing fuzzy bass and a fuzzy guy playing drums and they are brilliant. They have added three new songs to the set since last time and each one bristles brilliantly with intelligence, with guitar hum and with melody thudded between slabs of noise.

Unlike Pulled Apart By Horses The Pile Up have the control and the belief to bring vocals - My Rock n' Roll brings smiles to the face, I Get My Direction From is pure Pavement - up the mix and let the guitars thump with tunes. They are the best band on today and they show it.

They are the peak and Le Tournoi's drummer James and Tim of the Chiara L's (bloke of a work mate of mine - Hi Lisa) are equally enthused and for a minute the strands of my life push together. In a little while I will be introducing Laura Groves to a man called Greasy.

Next though are The Debuts who are a massive disappointment taking sombre to a place it should not go - disinterested - and missing the diffidence of shoegazing leaving the impression that they would rather the audience were not in the room and on that point I agreed with them.

They attempt a threaded vocal through a layer or two of guitar but fail and come over as neither interesting or energetic and no one really seems to be having much fun although the applause after each song suggests that my views are not universal. I hear myself mumble "All the songs sound the same" and remember hearing someone once say that about my favourite album.

My favourite album of this year could well be the whatever comes out of Laura Groves - and I mean that in a much nicer way that it sounds - and the Shipley singer is spellbinding tonight keeping a roomful of weary gig goers enchanted streaming lyrics around and about and pulling you into her world or trails and optimism.

She plays - in my opinion - her best ever version of Can't Sleep and pulls her soul out for Imaginary Flights. She signs one fan's single afterwards as I queue - with Greasy - to congratulate her on a great performance.

The night was not going to get any better than that so at eight I depart for Bradford happy that my Live at Leeds let me see a fist full of great acts.

Fourteencorners, My First Tooth, Le Tournoi Excel Before The Peak At All Day Hootenanny More

All Day Hootenanny Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Mark Levin, Garfunkel and Simon (Patrick Dowson), My First Tooth, Pablo's Last Stand, Kid Id, fourteencorners, Laura Groves, Le Tournoi, UltCult, The Seven Inches, The Rosie Taylor Project, Buttonhead All Day Hootenanny at 1 in 12 Club, Bradford

If I ever was to see a man playing Radiohead on a harp - see it and enjoy it - I might have predicted that it would be in the surroundings of left wing cafe serving bean burgers and vegan food to a crowd that divides it's time between band watching and knitting. The All Day Hootenanny - an ambitious split headed all dayer - was a good day and this was a suitability curious start.

Mark Levin's harp performance comes after Garfunkel & Simon - aka Patrick Dowson of Monty Casino - has titillated with a Springstein cover retitled and reformed into Born In The BRI and sets up the curious afternoon in the Library of the 1 in 12 club on Bradford's Albion Street. Having seen Radiohead in my time I can say that I enjoyed Levin's versions of their songs more than the originals and that is credit enough for any man.

There is nothing but credit for Northampton duo My First Tooth who take to the rug that makes a stage wearing matching cardigans - one of which hides Sophie's amusing t-shirt - and perform with a similar fused coordination.

The duo deserve better than to play to a handful of people but play they do with Sophie's multi-instrument performance going from violin to a long necked mandolin to a Bontempi mouth organ while the stoic Ross bends his vocals emotionally around a set of self penned, heartbreaking tunes. Sleet and Snow stands out and is delivered with perfect phrasing on the lines "Who's idea/was this Gondola ride/the cable frayed/we're plummeting."

It is emotive without being overtly emotional and fits the dynamic of the band with the youthful Sophie providing a charm next to the painfully shy Ross who would hide everything but his abilities which shine without braggadocio but with a calm confidence.

Certainly Ross shows less confidence than those in Pablo's Last Stand the two strong folk group who follow My First Tooth but do not exceed them. They are serious folk - the type of folk where one stamps a foot on the floor to keep the beat - and they are good but lack the spark of the previous act who form the highlight of the acoustic half of the day.

Downstairs we are in rockville and Kid Id are a squeezed onto stage party reminding one most readily of Madness but with a more obvious political agenda and this could make them nauseating but in truth they are a riot.

A bongo playing drummer recalls Animal from The Muppets and the Henson theme continues as Kid Id mellow out to play a stand out song called Skipping Stones which recalls Mississippi Mud and for a band who my id seemed keen to dislike I find myself beaming.

I beam when fourteencorners take to the stage. They are shy a bassist - Jim has left for the Marines recalling the Napoleonic phrase about not knowing what he will do to the enemy but he scared the Hell out of me - but have Laura Groves filling in on organ and with customary 'corners ability they master the muddy sound set up to come over as clear as any band will today and more so than most bands will in their gigging career.

I think for a moment about how the ability of drummer Marco Pasquariello especially but also Josh Taylor and Luke Silcock to get the band sounding good when playing in venues of varied qualities may be the decisive factor in my belief that they are West Yorkshires's finest hidden gem. Certainly that skill augments their desire to play cleanly sung, intelligent lyrics over crisp guitars and as with The Lodger one is amazed that this county offers up bands like The Pigeons or Kaisers above them.

Tsotsumi has been dropped from the set but The Walk Home continues to sound better and better with Groves keyboard straining background and Pasquariello's softer touch of drumming. We Are Pathetic! We Are Stars! is Silcock's chance to show finger work on an acoustic that makes one glad one never had to play Subutteo against him and in the centre is Taylor who's heart bleeding on sleeve lyrics and determined certitude create the focal point. Few songs on my Walkman get as many plays as New Limbs For Old Flames - in fact my Last.FM says that none do - and that is the mark of this band.

The mark of Le Tournoi is an inconstancy between a disorganised discord and something that touches on genius and as afternoon begins to fade into evening they are very much the latter having been augmented by the livewire antics of Keiron Casey on guitar the family Sanderson plus one are on form and when on form there are few better.

They are a Scooby gang of a band. Kieron's ebullience seems him leap from the stage to grab a pint, Robert on bass is calm and centred taking vocals at one point for a Neil Young cover - "I can't sing" he intones - while James on drums has praise heaped on him by the previous band's sticksman Marco Pasquariello and pounds the band on.

Emilie - effortlessly cool - streams melody from her keyboard and pitches vocals high augmenting William who continues to grow as a guitarist and songwriter playing newer songs that are richer than the back catalogue that is dipped into with It's Only a Power Station sounding especially full and while many bands group together through likeness the five members of Le Tournoi seem to be a desperate as could be.

The difference is heard in the music and when it goes right - and it does - it creates drive, snappy, intelligent tunes. There is a new drive in demeanour of Le Tournoi - a determination to push things on - and there is a randomness of how far that could go. Tonight they are enthralling and recapture the excitement that saw them catapulted from bedroom band to Bradford's most talked about act. More of tonight in their support slot at St Georges Hall with Lightspeed Champion could see them seize attention.

Coming off the back of such a support slot are UltCult who are a shadow of the band that played only a few days ago struggling with sound problems and having dropped the most interesting song from their set. They will have better days than this one hopes.

Sounding great are Leeds band The Seven Inches who take the stage with lead singer Ian looking rather like Klinger from M*A*S*H with only my Grandmother's wardrobe to choose from and he is annoying in that punch him way but memorable too and should the band be aiming for distinction in a sea of similar acts around the scene then they achieve it with Ian strumming a paper guitar, bouncing around the room and generally giddying it up.

The songs are strong with Our Type Of Friends (title? - mw) standing out amid a general collection of good pop tunes which do not out stay their welcome with the exception of a lyric about Tom & Jerry which returns to the wanting to punch style of sticking in the mind and at that point one has to wonder if people said exactly the same thing about David Byrne when Talking Heads used to perform and it never did that band any harm.

Not able to do themselves much harm at The Rosie Taylor Project who's inexorable rise continues regardless of a distinct lack of memorability to their songs. They are a serious and sombre act and may be perfect on a mellowed out summer's evening but they do not stick in the memory on a dark night in Bradford.

They play through a set and they seem very in control but they lack the ironic smile of the better Tweecore bands. Buttonhead are twee without the lyrical smarts and after forty-five minutes of tuning up momentum drifts away into the night. They shriek, they need more melody they are easy to break away from, and so I do.

Taking Turns At Granadaland More

Granadaland Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Wild Beasts, Laura Groves, The Debuts, Spondi Pradlo Granadaland at The Love Apple, Bradford

No matter how huge Spondi Pradlo could get - and hearing them one suspects they will not be the next U2 - they will always be known as the band with one of the more ludicrous names to have been considered and passed as acceptable. I'm very sure it has a meaning that that meaning is probably as earnest as Joy Division or Enola Gay and that not knowing it makes me a Philistine of the highest order but even if it does it is still a name that virtually guarantees a struggle for popularity.

Which is a shame because The Pradlo, Spondi, The Spon Boys, Pradders, SP, Whatever, sound rather interesting. They are spirited and manage to fill the stage at the Love Apple with any number of curiously played instruments and the crowd with enough interested acquaintances that they are the best received first band at Granadaland since the insanely good The Swing Movement impressed last year.

This Friday is Granadaland's second birthday. Four baloons hang from the ceiling and real ale is two pounds a pint and these things are done in celebration of the event which stands as a testament to founder Mark Husak. Tonight his event is as full as one has ever seen the Love Apple and the crowd is young and peopled with pretty things who jabber loudly between Spondi Pradlo and the second band The Debuts who open living up to the NME style billing of "Girl fronted Joy Division" but soon spin into sounding rather too much like The Long Blondes to claim genuine originality - something about new year in music seems to have everyone clamouring for all things new and different while in contrast in eleven months time every other song heard will be Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time.

Tonight The Debuts are amusing without being enthralling and they struggle to control the increasingly restless assembled masses but that struggle pales compared the the slight frame of Laura Groves who barely visible on the low stage and is disrespectfully ignored by many who chatter loudly throughout the set and for sure one might thing that Groves needs to roughly take the attention of the audience or perhaps someone should give the Northern Working Men's Club motto of "No talking while the turn is on" but the delicate shading of the Shipley teenager's Joni Mitchell-esque vocal tremblings do not lend themselves to such coarseness and those who can't or won't hear miss out.

Groves is better suited to the stage of larger events - she was never better than her slot at St George's Hall on one of the BD1 nights - where her vocals fill rooms uncontested. Tonight everyone is the victim of Granadaland's success but still the lament of single I Am Leaving - "My home was silent/My town was hidden somewhere in the dark/A spark ignited my imagination." - is music to be in love to and hotly tipped many here will no doubt claim to have taken more notice. Groves goes onto a musical sideline in the next month and with eager ears Dalliance awaits.

Dalliance ears were more curious than eager about Kendalites Wild Beasts who headlined but that curiosity was rewarded by a surprising and entertaining mash up of fifties teen Dance Hall and the most modern guitar driven indie. Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants is high pitched and enjoyable and Through Dark Night's Elvis growls seem to sum up the band's ethos of showmanship without the compromise of parody. Perhaps not the finest songsmiths but the win over the previously inattentive and dancing breaks out. The Wild Beasts stagecraft shines through and while one suspects that they may spend many a year as a very good opening act for the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs tonight they deserve the credit for finishing of a night that troubled as Bradford's best music night veered to being more about hair than hearing.

The One That Ends Happy More

Granadaland Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, June 8th, 2007

The Lodger, Laura Groves, Le Tournoi Granadaland at The Love Apple, Bradford

I'll ruin the surprise ending: This one ends happily.

If you ever read Dalliance before you will know how convinced I am to the Laura Groves cause, that I think Le Tournoi have something about them and how impressive The Lodger were supporting The Long Blondes earlier this year.

All three on one bill, on a sunny evening, after a day off, at The Love Apple, on a night named after a Wedding Present song. I'll ruin the surprise: This one ends happily.

Something seems to have happened with Le Tournoi who open the evening sans trumpet section but with more of a controlled presence than they have shown previously. The word polish is thankfully never to be applied to the joie de vivre that the Bradford four piece bring to the stage. Where previously Le Tournoi were an explosion of raw ideas now they are showing signs of focus.

Trees early in the set starts a tempo which is maintains as they bash through a collection of ninety seconds songs that are rapidly fitting together into a rather impressive package. Christmas Eve and I Was A Victim Of A Series Of Accidents, As Are We All regretfully fall from the set but perhaps as a result everything is tighter and everything works.

Vocals and guitar William Sanderson carrys on an easy charm joking with the front rows of an unusually full Love Apple looking every inch nerd cool in contrast to the prim prom dress of keyboards and vocals Emilie who offs heels to perform and sturdy Rob on Bass. Le Tournoi are jagged pieces put together into strange and interesting shapes.

These shapes press though into the lyrics - "And when the night begins/The moon will illuminate everything/The trees are closing in/Or So It seems" entertains with lyrical painting using darker palette colours. Some Murder Perhaps offers "Hopes dashed anew everyday/I'm reading the paper to find something new and refreshing/Some murder perhaps". Le Tournoi are short spiky songs about interesting things and dubbed Modern Folk meets Joy Division but my interest is sparked with comparisons escape me and when to finish the set off William embarks on six or seven cords of almost Hendrix-esque guitarmanship - or at least some kind of twang based heroics which was hitherto not hinted at - then I give up searching for something to complete my "Folk done by The Ramones" observations and join the hurrahs.

What can I say about Laura Groves which I have not before? A set that I never tire of, a voice that belays her size and so on and soon one is going towards words like Elfin which I steadfastly refuse to use.

Tonight was the first time Groves has stamped my hand on the way in and the first outing for new song Does Anyone Love Me Now which sits alongside the delights of Coast, Imaginary Flights and Can't Sleep which all blend through the darkening night air. She mentions that Bridges which appears on on anti-torture compilation Fifty Minutes and gives that a plug so I shall too.

Any plaudits that come her way she is worth.

Granadaland's twilight zone comes when the local heroes finish. The Lodger face the often apathetic and frequently far off rows of The Love Apple with a confidence. The Lodger have been playing venues like this for two or three too many years and have seen a couple of bands with a couple of less pints of talent go a bit further. Put this down to the fact that the stompalongs that populate the sets of Leeds lad rock peers like Kaiser Chiefs and The Cribs are replaced by an intelligent set of pop songs that fit perfectly with vocal and guitar Ben Siddall's roots as a bedsit musician.

Without wanting to shortcut the process Siddall is Morrissey and Marr. He is a guy who can write a bittersweet romantic lyric like "Our parents will stay together/And our last dance will last forever." and play then play the jangling Strangeway Here We Come guitar to go with it.

Unsatisfied is all urban paranoia and alternation with a fading melodic lilt, Kicking Sand is melancholic resignation to a furious pop beat. The drummer Katie seems to be - well - older and more of a bloke than last time. Joe The Bass has two go faster stripes on his guitar which may or may not be ironic but see him keep the pace fast with his plucking. It is very impressive to people of a certain disposition.

Those people would seem to be out in reasonable force and The Lodger maintain a healthy focus from the often drifting Love Apple audience. "I never thought I'd say this," Siddall comments, "But could you come forward a step or two."

And people do which is always a good sign and a guy in a Clash t-shirt goes crazy in all the right places and Siddall's guitar drives the self-effacing lyrics on. Stand out track comes at the conclusion of the set after the plug for long time gestated album Grown Ups in Many Thanks For Your Honest Opinion which paces through the most Smithsian chorus since 1987 and The Lodger leave a room impressed.

Me, I'm happy.

A Good Idea On Paper or Otherwise More

BD1 LiVE Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, May 26th, 2007

Duels, Laura Groves, Monty Casino BD1 Live at St George's Hall, Bradford

On paper BD1 LiVE is a good idea. Take some local bands and singers, throw in a bit of polish from Leeds, put them on at a fine old fashioned venue and the Bradford Music Scene has it's first official happening. Sounds like a great idea on paper.

That idea come out of mono - spiritual home of anything one can swing hips to in Bradford - and Granadaland the purveyor's of the region's finest music nights and for sure both are great in the Love Apple on a Friday night but this is bigger time - this is St George's Hall and these walls have seen Depeche Mode on the 101 tour, seen Morrissey belting out Sheila Take A Bow and for on a Saturday afternoon for twenty years they saw Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy wrestling it out. On paper must have seemed a good - but ambitious - idea. Throw in an early start time and last bus home finish time and it must have seemed like a good idea on paper.

Wandering up to ramp to the oft overlooked venue and there is a slight tingling - if not buzz of excitement then a flickering of ambition. The halls of St George's are not often trod by so many pairs of Converse All Stars but by the time Monty Casino come on the hall is nicely filled with enthusiasts admiring the curiosity of Bradford's fresh faces shambleists and complaining that the beer is no match for the Love Apple's.

Of course Monty Casino are a shambles in the finest possible way. The make good use of the self applied tag of experimental with a scratched out guitar mix of agitpop songs about obscurities. Lead singer Patrick does not want to fill the stage but stands looking sore thumb in the middle with bassist on his left and the open space on the right. It fits nicely as does the lack of polish to the nth degree that comes between each two minute thrashed out spike of pop.

And such spikes. Tour De France is about the cycle race, Gorbachev about the middle man of Russian history. "I don't know if anyone studies history but this song is about the man who shot Franz Ferdinand and caused the first World War, Gavrilo Princip", he says to an enthrallingly bemused audience, "and I wrote a song about him."

It probably takes thirty seconds for your mind to decide on Monty Casino and you probably either are prepared to proclaim them as genuine angry pop terrorists - bastard sons of The Jam and The Fall - or they are a bunch of kids on stage having had three years of history lessons and three years of music and got the two mixed up. Personally after thirty-one seconds I was sold. Monty Casino are one of the most curiously interesting bands I've ever seen and more power to them. Hopefully they will never lose the beautiful lack of cynicism that marks out their songs. They are smart and angry and a unapologetic and that is great.

Smart in a different way is Laura Groves. She has put a posh frock on and wanders onto a stage which is bigger than the footprint of Fagin's Bar in Halifax where first I became convinced on the Shipley songstress and stands in the middle with guitar around neck taking a deep breath and looking out on what must have very suddenly seemed like something while a good idea on paper. Slowly her fingers start to pick opening notes of I Am Leaving and the figure in the centre of the stage grows and every word rings as clear as a bell and swirls around the Hall mingling with the grandiose ceiling and all the history that that entails and each note is flying around and gliding between couples inching closer together and inhabiting the stalls and they circles back and returns to a single figure on stage who closes and opportune to the microphone. "I feel so small."

Laura Groves has never sounded so good. Each pick is heartstrung and each lyric draw in sharp contrasts and I am struck with how easily dismissed girl singers singing pretty songs can be and how harsh that would be on someone who can and did write "God knows, I want to write a love song/You asked so nicely for one/I promise I will do one/Before too long" and then by the depth of Laura Groves's palette. Not black and white, not subtle shades or pastel colours. A rich and deep palette.

Coast's lingering images of ships in storms is vivid and Bridges is a passion played out as Groves switches between guitar and keyboard and it seemed that the good idea on paper is just a good idea. I have heard this set a half dozen times but never this fitting, never this paradisiac, never this good.

Imaginary Flights is a fitting - and moving - final song and the applause is as genuine as the emotion. She lingers on stage and almost prepares a bow but instead dodges shyly behind the drapes for an excited hug.

Duels are an altogether more practiced affair than this Bradford Music Scene is used to. They mix new with old and the latter sounds quirky and inquisitive and really rather interesting while the former is a bit more on the Arcade Fire that is music in 2007. They slide easily into a rapport with the audience - no mean feat - and entertain without enthralling. Potential Futures stands out and the slowed down guitar and backing vocals that singer Jim Foulger and the returning Laura Groves enjoy is a smart move.

If This Car Should Crash shows a darker edge and they justify top slot and are an object lesson showing the hosts of bands coming from this side of Pudsey how the rigours of the Leeds circuit require a more slick edge.

So in time for the last bus for some who need it the first BD1 LiVE draws to a close and it all seems to have been a very good idea on paper or otherwise.

The Woollen Wig Out Festival More

Live Review The Woollen Wig Out Festival

Written By Michael Wood Sunday, April 8th, 2007

fourteencorners, Laura Groves, Le Tournoi, That Fucking Tank, David Broad, Serious Sam Barrett, Harmacy The Woollen Wig Out Festival at The New Beehive, Bradford

Hope is a wonderful emotion and not easily spoiled. Hope had sprung eternal minutes before the doors opened for the Woollen Wig Out Festival and in the corner bottom corner of Bradford near Lumb Lane and opposite the real best restaurant in the City soaking up the early sun it seemed that hope was in the air for all.

The Woollen Wig Out Festival had a wonderful organised shambles quality to it which probably proved its undoing later in the day but listening to Monty Casino kicking off half an hour late it and seeing the fresh faced kids picking up guitars and hammering out something loud and spiky on them it seemed entirely appropriate and in keeping with the mood in the air.

Mood is never more lifted than when listening to the incomparable fourteencorners. On early to allow the band to make a rapid exit for bassist James's mum's birthday tea kept up their own stupidly high quality. Everything is balanced on the right line of precision and roughness and this late afternoon New Limbs For Old Flame in its speeded up live version is superb and blends pauselessly into The Drive Home so we don't have to applaud at the end of the first one we are told. "You don't have to applaud at the end of the second one if you don't want" singer Josh adds in what is increasingly false modesty. Everyone who sees them stands impressed. Everyone who sees them has high hopes for their future.

Le Tournoi I didn't get last time I saw them but today in these surroundings everything clicked into place and I was won over. They are, in their own rough edged way, the bravest and most innovative band around West Yorkshire at the moment with innovation not measured on a scale of strange beeps but on short, spiked pop pieces.

They are Magnetic Fields signed to Sarah Records band with all the wonderfully haphazard elements that suggestions. William has the kind of intelligentsia hip that justifies the excellent I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all which buzzes around the cellar bar so utterly pleasantly while Emilie oozes cool and makes things sound melodic. I still struggle to hear the sounds of - or be won over by the usefulness of a - saxophone player but like the violins on old Blueboy records if it works why knock it and something about Le Tournoi works really well.

Also working well is David Broad who's fedora and suit age him twenty years as he rips through a foot tapping bluegrass set almost all of which is entirely new to me but feels well worn and wonderfully comfortable. St James Infirmary wins me over for good and I'm not alone in making mental notes to take more interest in him, and probably in bluegrass, beyond the White Stripes.

It would be hard to take more interest in Laura Groves who seems to be on the bill at every other gig I see but tonight I end up saying Hello to her Mum - she is nervous and can't watch - and standing behind to her sister - she is short and I get a great view. If hope is in the air then Laura Groves conducts it. Her voice-as-instrument melodies and picked out guitar sounds are never far from familiar but sound unlike anything else. "Suzanne Vega" someone says, miles wide of the mark, "Joanna Newsome" someone else comments but Joanna Newsome never sung about Filey as the always wonderful Coast is and perhaps that is what is so enchanting about the Shipley born singer/songwriter. Her uniqueness comes from growing up near the Shipley Glen Tramway not the Palm Springs Aerial. Perhaps she is as much a product of the area as riots or superb Chicken Pathia or Rugby League. She is fabric.

The need for superb Chicken Pathia takes over and The Hipshakers could be the greatest band ever but I've gone to eat. Next time I hope.

Kill Manticore are noisy boys and trash at guitars as if they have done something wrong. They stomp well and effectively and show the breadth of acceptance of the music scene in West Yorkshire at the moment.

Later in the night Serious Sam Barrett and David Broad will be sitting on two beer barrels deep in conversation and when Barrett takes to stage it is not hard to see why. Both are cut from the same cloth and both are are equally enjoyable pitching perfectly for place and people. Barrett's mic fails and in an hours time technical problems are going to boil over but he Serious Sam plays on and is applauded for it.

That Fucking Tank suffer the same technical problems but create a hell of a racket. By the time Harmacy come on the mics are failing and vocals sound as if they are sung from deep underground. Steve Albini would have loved the sound of Harmacy ala Seamonsters but after one song someone takes exception and a scuffle breaks out. Everything gets very strange and the end is no reflection of the day nor is it a reward for the work that went into it. It is sour but does nothing to dampen the mood. I head for the door but I hope - I hope - that we get to do this again sometime.

Laura Groves Impressive In The Small Northern Town More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, March 26th, 2007

Harmacy, Laura Groves, Kubera at Fagins Bar, Halifax

These is something impressively beatnik about Fagin's bar in Halifax - scene of the would be double header of Bradford's slack rockers - and would be Pixies - Harmacy and the pixified Laura Groves. It is a bar where lager is drunk from tall stem glasses without staying into real ale territory. It is a place without irony and enjoys that fact.Opening band Kubera lack irony but not quality. They wear rough coarseness as a badge and wear it well going through a six or seven strong set with a heaviness a darker territory. Every song is tagged as sleazy, every song is gravel voiced.

Never one to stay too far down the path to darkness is Laura Groves whose melancholic twang of guitar always is a constant delight. Tonight she is done no favours by the venue which cries out for brick shaking but still commands the room in a way that is rare on a Sunday night in this small Northern town. Imaginary Flights is wistful and dreams away. Six songs pass too quickly.

Local residents and worries about noise cut the night before Harmacy can play and wandering back to the taxi rank two officers of the law pass us and one looks at how the only resident within earshot is a gaudy lit MacDonalds.

Some way to go.

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Baby, It’s Warm Inside More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Saturday, February 10th, 2007

Heads We Dance, Laura Groves, Sportsday Megaphone Granadaland at The Love Apple, Bradford

It snowed, lots, and for a long time the Love Apple was empty feeling with bodies of people around the sides drinking shorts to keep the sub-zero temperatures at bay.Then it was filled and it was warm and an energy surged through the room as Laura Groves picked at a guitar and powered her voice around the room and everything was touched and everything was illuminated.

Coast was dubbed "A song about Filey" and stood out. Imaginary Flights mingled with the fluttering of what was a blizzard falling idly by outside was as glowing as the faces and moods tucked away from the cold of a wintery Bradford night.