Our final chickfactor 30 party in London was an afternoon Hangover Lounge affair at the Betsey Trotwood and had kind of a chill vibe that was welcome after two nights at the packed Lexington! Marlody is a new signing on Rob and Amelia’s Skep Wax label and her moody, intimate songs were quiet and poignant at a time when finally coming together after so long was so needed. Her music was a reminder that we all need to share our stories. The Catenary Wires are of course pop legends: Amelia Fletcher, Rob Pursey, Ian Button and Andy Lewis. They played stellar songs from their latest, Birling Gap, which you should snap up if you haven’t got it, and even thrilled the audience with a Heavenly song, “Cool Guitar Boy,” in advance of their couple of Bush Hall shows next spring, which was so so fun.
London is a place I was lucky to call home for half a decade and I miss it like crazy. chickfactor’s cofounder Pam Berry has lived there since the late ’90s and I love being able to go back and see people at these events in these places that miraculously are still open. I wish we could do it every year! Thanks again to the musicians, bands, venues, Paul Kelly for backline wrangling, the sound people, Hangover Lounge, Tae Won Yu, the folks who put me and others up, the documenters, readers, fans, friends, strangers, and pop lovers who make up this incredible community.
chickfactor anniversary parties are sometimes characterized as events where we bring bands back from retirement or as total nostagia-fests. While it is true that they are basically the best kind of friend reunion, this year’s London shows had little to do with nostalgia (though there was a wee Dolly Mixture vibe and a Heavenly song!). Our three-day festival featured five bands that were just interviewed in our latest issue, chickfactor 19 (Sacred Paws, Rachel Love and three Bay Area pop bands mentioned below), and two bands whose members (Paul Kelly and Debsey Wykes and the Catenary Wires) have been interviewed on our site in mostly recent times. The Lexington shows also featured three bands making their London debut: Seablite, Artsick and The Umbrellas flew across the world to play in London!
Tonight I was dead excited to see Sacred Paws for the first time, and they did not disappoint! (They toured the U.S. a while back but only the East Coast and I was West Coast then.) Rachel Aggs’ dance moves are a joy to watch and the whole band generates goodness. Their sound is rooted in the ESG-influenced past, but completely fresh and modern. We are so grateful they came down from Glasgow to play!
It was also amazing to see Rachel Love solo for the first time! She brought her kids and their friends to play many of the wonderful songs from her 2021 solo album that deserved more attention. We heard a few Dolly Mixture songs during Rachel’s set (“Down The Line,” “Miss Candy Twist,” “How Come You’re Such a Hit With the Boys, Jane?”), some with Debsey Wykes as a guest! Unbelievable joy. Plus, tonight was the first time Artsick has ever played in London and they were killing it with fizzy pop punk energy!
Thanks to the bands who played and traveled from afar, MC Gaylord Fields, the fans who came out, the Lexington, the soundpeople and especially the Betsey Trotwood and Paul Kelly for sorting out the backline for the whole weekend. Tonight was epic!
Night three at Union Pool was a blast! I was so excited to be seeing ARTSICK for the first time, and it was a NYC/East Coast debut for both them and SEABLITE! Both bands gave it everything and the crowd loved it. NYC’s JEANINES (now more of a Western Mass. combo I believe) and GARY OLSON (with a bit of LADYBUG TRANSISTOR!) brought it too! It was a magical night of old friends, fantastic music and general stardust. Thanks to DJ Sukhdev Sandhu, MC Gaylord Fields, Tae Won Yu for the gorgeous posters and graphics, our wonderful sound person Beck and the folks at Union Pool, along with everyone who played, came out and enjoyed the night! See more of Dean Keim’s photos here.
our second event in New York was at the Chashama space in Brooklyn where Steve Keene was having an exhibition. As the editor of the Steve Keene Art Book, I was sad to miss a number of book launch events earlier in 2022, so I was happy to put on this event with the book’s producer and SK documenter Dan Efram. Many of the pieces on the wall were from his or other private collections, so they were not all for sale (sadly!) Christina Zafiris, who worked in the marketing department at Matador Records when the label did a series of “Pavement Trees” made by SK, wrote about the experience of doing those in the book, and asked me to edit her essay for the book, which led to me editing the whole book. Another contributor to the book, Sam Brumbaugh, interviewed Bridget St. John for chickfactor 12 back in the late ’90s. (Read his essay from the book here!) Our love for Bridget’s music led to us having her play at many of our big festivals over the years in both New York and London. We named one of our festivals at Bush Hall in London “Mon Gala Papillons” (it takes its name from a photograph by Jacques Lartigue), which inspired Bridget to write a song of the same title! We love Bridget. (Photos: Gail O’Hara)
When I arrived in NYC in early October, the remnants of Hurricane Ian were still turning the city into a nasty soupy mess. I visited Eric Fischer at the Frying Pan pier complex a few days before our event there, and the wind and waves were violently shooting up through the dock. But on Oct. 6, the weather and party gods shined on us and gave us a completely perfect NY evening. Luckily Eric, who pretty much built much of the pier complex and has been involved with running and maintaining the ships for decades, is the hardest working person in showbiz and pushed me to try to hammer out every detail before the event. We had special gold wristbands, a fancy ‘chickfactor’ cocktail ready as a special for the event, and even a special vegan menu. Eric’s wife, Christina, procured our giant inflatable CF30 letters. Josh “Other Music” Madell helped me wrangle my least favorite part of setting up shows: PA and backline. Our sound person Mike Yesenosky usually works with the Magnetic Fields, so we were very lucky to have him tonight!
When Beatrix Madell, the 14-year-old who formed a band called Girl Scout Handbook for our CF30 NY party on the Frying Pan, asked her mom (longtime CF contributor Dawn Sutter Madell) what makes a song a chickfactor song, Dawn told her it would have to be a song “Gail likes.” But it’s clear that, between the folks who contribute to, read, support, and sell the zine and the folks who play at and attend our events, there is a community of like-minded folks out there that like similar tunes!
Girl Scout Handbook, a group of 12- to 14-year-olds from Brooklyn, took the stage right as fireworks were going off out in the Hudson River. Helicopters were swooping into the pier next to ours as well. GSH’s set was made up of covers chosen specifically for the event: The Zombies, Heavenly, the Spinanes, Lois, B&S and it was amazing! So great! They only practiced four times and already got written up in the New Yorker! Watching their proud parents watch them was so heart-warming. What a way to start the show!
Next up was DUMP, Brooklyn’s James McNew, who slayed the crowd with his solo set of classics from his repertoire and ace covers. The Jim Ruiz Set, as they often do, came all the way from the Twin Cities to make us swoon to their easy listening pop gems. And the Aluminum Group also flew in from Detroit and Chicago to show the world why it needs to listen to their fab new album. DJs Gaylord Fields and Stephin Merritt helped us keep things humming in between. Artist Kevin Alvir was offering quick portraits on demand, and the Aluminum Group brought a boutique’s worth of fun merch and handmade garlands. It was such a great night full of all kinds of people from different generations enjoying the venue, the music and each other’s company. Thanks to everyone who played, came to the event, and helped out (especially Eric and Christina, Josh and Dawn, and Y-Mike!)