catching up with daily song generator jessica griffin from the would-be-goods

Jessica Griffin from the Would-Be-Goods in London, 2001. Taken by Gail O’Hara

chickfactor 13 (2000) published an interview with Jessica Griffin from the Would-Be-Goods 21 years ago conducted by Peter Momtchiloff, who ended up joining her band, which also features Deborah Greensmith and Andy Warren. I took a lot of photographs of them while I lived in London (2001 and 2004) that have ended up on their album covers, and the WBGs have played at many chickfactor parties. While some of us haven’t been able to focus or achieve our creative potential during COVIDtime, Jessica has become rather prolific. We checked in with her about how it’s going. Interview by Gail O’Hara

chickfactor: how are you holding up? 
jessica griffin: Fairly well, although my dreams are much more vivid than usual which must mean I’m more stressed out than I think. 

How different is your life under lockdown than it was before?
In some ways, very different. Peter (my partner and fellow Would-be-good) has been staying with me since it all began, and I’ve got into a different routine, cooking twice a day (except at weekends) and writing and recording songs daily.

What has been getting you through this time? Books, food, etc. 
Peter’s company, Zoom chats with friends and songwriting. I’m too restless to read much these days, although when I’m feeling anxious I devour 20th-century detective fiction. We’ve been watching the short Cocktails with a Curator talks from the Frick Collection and old black-and-white British films, e.g. Spring In Park Lane, Cast A Dark Shadow. I’ve always cooked regularly but food seems much more important now. We have a proper lunch every day which is quite old-fashioned (and French!) and I’ve expanded my repertoire quite a bit.
I find cooking very calming.

Jessica performing at the Luminaire; photo courtesy of Jessica

What do you miss most about beforetimes? 
Friends and family. I haven’t seen my (grown-up) daughter for over a year as she lives in another city. She’s very Victorian and doesn’t do FaceTime/Zoom. And I really miss my almost-daily lunches at a wonderful local cookery bookshop/café run by an eccentric Frenchman. 

How has London changed since this happened? For better or worse.
I haven’t been further than a mile from home since March 2020 so I can only talk about my own part of west London. In the first lockdown, with almost no traffic and very few people around, you could smell the grass and flowers in the gardens and parks. 

Seeing so many local shops, restaurants and cafés go out of business is heartbreaking, though. 

Can Brexit be reversed? 
Probably not in our generation. I think it’s a huge mistake.

Let’s talk about your new songs! When did you start writing one song per day? And how many are you up to now?
2 October 2020. I thought it would be good to have a creative project as I was slowly turning into my grandmother. I’ve written 157 songs so far. 

How has Peter been involved in the process if at all? 
My idea was to treat songwriting like a game or challenge, so I asked Peter to give me a title every evening. I would write and record the song the following day and play him the result. It’s worked for me in the way nothing else has. Sitting around waiting for the muse never got me anywhere. I should say that Peter doesn’t have any preconception of what the song should be about, or how it should sound. He just gives me a title and that’s it. Sometimes I will change the title retrospectively if I think it suits the song better.

Otherwise it’s a solo project — I do all the singing, play all the instruments (apart from bass on a few songs) and recording.  

What have you learned about yourself as a songwriter, a musician and a home-recorder since you started doing this? 
I’ve learned not to be so precious about songwriting and to treat it like a job that I have to get on with every day, whether I feel like it or not. It’s helped me to override my perfectionist tendencies as I have to finish the song by the end of the day and play it to Peter even if I’m not happy with it. And I’ve learned that I can’t trust my own judgement, at least my first impressions. Sometimes I’ll think a song I’ve just written is rubbish but when I listen to it again a few days later I like it. And vice versa. My singing, guitar and keyboard playing were quite rusty at the beginning but they’re improving. And being in charge of the recording process means I can do as many retakes as I want, which has helped me to sort out some things I didn’t like about my singing. 

Jessica and Peter in London, 2001. Photo by Gail O’Hara

Can you give us some details about some of the songs? Titles/subject/etc. 
“Ouija Board Romance” is set in a provincial English town in the 1920s and is about a housemaid being invited to join a séance hosted by her employer, and the unexpected result. “The Magic Hour” is about a suicide pact between a spoiled young man and an older courtesan in a hotel in Khartoum in the siege of 1884. “The Wind Will Change” is about a drifter in 1940s America, written from the perspective of a woman or girl who loves him but knows he’s not going to be around for very long. “Demon Lover” is the story of the ‘damsel with the dulcimer’ in Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan,” who is outraged that she’s been spirited away from her loom in rural Devon and abandoned in the dark cavern of the poet’s imagination. And finally, “Cavanagh, Cody and Byrne” is about a mysterious vaudeville act that might actually be something much bigger.

I don’t know where these ideas and characters come from. I always wanted to be a writer or film director so maybe these are the novels I would have written or the films I’d have made, compressed into song form. I can picture the characters and their settings in detail and I know who would play the couple in “The Magic Hour” – Omar Sharif and Jeanne Moreau. I’ve also written some songs about universal experiences and situations with quite simple lyrics which aren’t like anything I’ve written before. 

And some songs in recognisable styles but from a female perspective, like “In The Mirror” which sounds like an angsty early Who song but is about being a young woman, having to be what other people want you to be and being able to be yourself only when you’re alone.

Do you have any rituals or unusual holidays that you celebrate? 
My daughter said at age six that she thought it was unfair that we had Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but no Daughter’s Day so we instituted it and I send her a hand-made card and a little present every year.

What are you reading? 
I started reading Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Rachel Cusk’s Transit but am finding I can’t concentrate for long.

What is in your fridge? What is your specialty to make?
The usual stuff, plus Thai green curry paste, tahini, fresh ginger, kefir. We’re eating very healthily—everything cooked from scratch, lots of vegetables, etc., but possibly a little too much of everything. Irish soda bread (Darina Allen’s recipe) is my lockdown speciality. I make it with spelt flour which gives it a kind of soft sweetness like English scones.   

If you were running the country (or the world), what would you do first?
I would absolutely hate to be in a position of power and can’t even imagine it. Being the mother of a small child was challenging enough.

What is your sign? 

What is your spirit animal?
A rather small and motheaten bear. 

When we’re allowed total freedom, what will you do first?
Meet up with my sister and take her for the birthday lunch we had to cancel last year because of lockdown.

Any other future plans? Where and when will you release some tunes? 
I’ve just set up a page on Bandcamp where I’ll release some of my new songs very soon. Beyond that, I hope to finish the Would-be-goods album we were working on before lockdown and to start doing live shows again (if there are any venues left).

Thank you, Jessica

chickfactor 25: a series of fortunate events

The Softies

The Pastels

chickfactor & the hangover lounge are thrilled to present a celebration of 25 years of pop, friendship & community at the Lexington in London

Saturday, November 11 // Doors 7:30, Show 8

Sunday, November 12 //  Doors 7:30, Show 8

STEVIE JACKSON (from Belle & Sebastian)

Both nights will feature MC Gaylord Fields (WFMU)
& chickfactor / Hangover Lounge DJs downstairs



Kicking Giant

Kites at Night

Stevie Jackson

The Would-Be-Goods

The Catenary Wires

 & & &
• THE PASTELS — The pop geniuses Stephen McRobbie, Katrina Mitchell & Co. came down from Glasgow to play at CF20 in London. We are thrilled to have them back.
• LOIS — Lois Maffeo is indie royalty from Olympia, Washington, where she has made many great albums for K Records.
• KICKING GIANT — Tae Won Yu & Rachel Carns formed this powerful union in New York via Olympia, WA, in 1989. This is their first-ever show in the UK. A double LP reissue of their early work, This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989–1993, will come out on Drawing Room Records later this year.
• KITES AT NIGHT are Rose Melberg & Jon Manning (with Jen Sbragia on bass for this show), whose previous band was called Imaginary Pants. This is their first show in London.
• THE SOFTIES — Indiepop queens Rose Melberg & Jen Sbragia (from Vancouver BC & Portland OR, respectively) reunited for the chickfactor 20 shows in 2012 in NYC, Portland and SF. This is their first-ever show in London.
• STEVIE JACKSON is the amazing guitarist, singer and songwriter in Belle & Sebastian! He also happened to write a song named after our zine “chickfactor.”
• THE WOULD-BE-GOODS — Jessica Griffin, Peter Momtchiloff, Debbie Greensmith & Andy Warren are indie legends based in London & St Leonards.
• THE CATENARY WIRES — This super-duo formed in 2014 when Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey (ex-Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research, Tender Trap) moved out of London.
• Gaylord Fields is an excellent WFMU DJ, a music writer and a longtime MC for chickfactor events.
• The Hangover Lounge is a much-beloved event that happened for years at the Lexington, a label and a community that’s often collaborated with chickfactor before.
• chickfactor is a fanzine started by Pam Berry and Gail O’Hara in 1992. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, it will publish a new print zine in late 2017.

mini-interview with the clientele

we first heard the clientele when they played a chickfactor/papercuts party in london in 1999 and were dazzled for life (we interviewed them in CF13, 2000). they continue to be one of our favorite bands, even if they’ve been less than prolific the past few years (we also love alasdair’s other band, amor de días, natch). we asked alasdair a few questions in advance of their first US show in 4 years (and first with this classic lineup in 9): we cannot wait to see them! the clientele plays at chickfactor 22 with versus, barbara manning and the saturday people on march 21 (night two of two) at the wonderful bell house in brooklyn. be there!

interview & polaroid by gail o’hara

what has the clientele been up to? are you back together for good or just a few shows?
I’ve been slowly and painfully writing a novel, and playing in amor de días. mark has moved into a canal boat and is tuning pianos. james has been growing chillis and playing bass for comet gain. ¶ last year I wrote a couple of songs that sounded more clientele than amor de días and it coincided with an offer for the old lineup to play a festival in denmark, which we decided to do for fun. then merge asked us to record a song or two for their 25th-anniversary 7″ singles club so we had a chance to record together again. that’s all so far.

why was it important to reissue suburban light?
again, it was merge’s decision, as part of their 25-year anniversary reissues series. I over-listened to that record when we mixed it the first time round and I got sick of the songs. james and I were talking about how frustrating that whole time was, we kept losing drummers and we wanted those songs to be on the radio but we were in a little studio trying to cut out the hiss on the tape by sliding the faders up and down. every sound engineer we met tried to make us sound like radiohead. ¶ coming back to it was really positive though—we unearthed a lot of stuff everyone had forgotten. It was weird being in a room and hearing our younger selves bantering on tape. I think the reissue does it justice, and it seems to be a lot of people’s favourite clientele record so hopefully it will be enjoyed.

how has your songwriting process changed since you were a teen?
I learnt that songs don’t need to be symmetrical—if one verse has four lines it’s okay for the second to have three. otherwise, not in any way!

how do you keep your guitar nails from chipping?
on tour you can’t keep them from chipping but once they do chip you can replace them with estee lauder press-ons and superglue. kurt wagner showed me when we toured with lambchop and since then both have become an essential piece of tour kit.

what records are you most excited about these days?
I really enjoyed gerard love’s lightships record. the new boards of canada is interesting. I’ve been catching up on old martin newell and cleaners from venus records and also listening to a lot of virginia astley.

what’s the best pub in london?
for me the pembury tavern in hackney central is OK. also the elderfield in clapton.

who is the comedian in the band?
we are all equally amusing.

what will you do in NYC when not playing?
have lunch at angelica kitchen.

best chickfactor party memory/story?
flying in to play one of the london chickfactor shows after a gig in berlin. we arrived backstage with several bottles of berentzen apfelkorn, which is a kind of schnapps which sends you completely bananas, god knows why we had picked them up but we did. we tried to get club 8 to drink it, a german guy personally interceded and warned them not to deal with us.

london tour diary!

oh london, you know how I adore you.

8 november: arrive at heathrow. terminal 5 reminds me of the buildings in the movie brazil. in a coma most of day. spent quality time in crypal with the girls.

9 november: still sleepy. lunch at domali (some kind of cheese and veggie sausage toastie with loads of mustard was in order). jenn connor showed up! dinner at the berry jones casa: butternut squash risotto (which kicks off a week of what feels like a weight-gain diet!).

10 november: went to planet organic (their food boxes are one of the best tasting food bargains in london; and the crazy selection of outrageously expensive food and tea items is way fun to peruse), met lupe, we sat on a couch in muji and talked, then ate delicious thai food at busaba eatthai (pumpkin curry and pad thai I believe!).

11 november: met one of my many u.k.-based cousins for lunch at ray’s jazz café (chickpea spinach dahl). wow, the entire area surrounding tottenham court road tube station is a huge construction mess! went to the hangover lounge at the lexington for an easy, breezy afternoon with close friends. had my first pub version of a nut roast (not a fan), though it came with butter-drenched veggies, potatoes and yorkshire pudding, which I’d never had and is basically a popover to american palates. not bad.

12 november: headed north to go meet up with peter paphides, said hello to his famous wife and lazy cats, we picked up bob stanley, had a cozy pub lunch (the butternut squash risotto), went record shopping (I got a harry nilsson LP), that was fun. bob and I went to the relocated photographer’s gallery (I was a big fan of the old one). my take: location is fine. there is no natural light inside and the overuse of track lighting is blinding. the photo show we saw by tom wood was excellent but I couldn’t wait to get out of the space. ugh, I hate change. there was also a giant display of a LOLcat in the lobby, which I found disturbing. tonight was a chickfactor dinner party at mildred’s, one of the best vegetarian restaurants in london (on my personal menu: mushroom ale pie with mushy peas and chips).

13 november: I head to bayswater to meet up with jessica would-be-goods. we have delicious mezze at al-waha, where she is treated like royalty. we spend the afternoon with her burmese cats, chatting, eating amazing chocolate and looking at designy stuff. I head to one of my favourite bars, the phoenix theater bar, which is unchanged (and there is a large poster of kirsty maccoll on the wall), where I meet with some of my pals from my london magazine days for some halloumi cheese and drinks. then it’s off to walthamstow to meet with some merge records act, which picks me up at the tube station.

14 november: isn’t walthamstow village lovely? I have lunch with stephen coates at one of london’s private clubs (blacks), where the only veg option sans egg is… butternut squash risotto! later I meet travis and we check out the photographic portrait prize show at the national portrait gallery, which I always go to see and I always complain about. it was very dull this year. most of the photos are unbearably sterile, gimmicky and this year had way too many celebs. after that it was off to the curzon soho, where I attended a screening of lawrence of belgravia followed by a Q&A with director paul kelly and the BFI’s michael hayden, a big indie nerd. it was delightful! except that lupe and al were waiting outside for me and wanted to flipping kill me because they were so hungry (we went to taro for bento!).

15 november: today was a chill morning with pam. I imagine domali was involved, I probably ate some kind of heavy-carbed snack like an HBLT. later we picked up her girls from school and took them to the tate modern. after that I met up with paul kelly and his adorable son donovan at the horseshoe pub, where we are having an event the next night. we ended up having a pint at the betsey trotwood, where we talked about the simpsons a whole lot.

16 november: lunch at the gate islington. I had some kind of enchilada. later I headed over to the horseshoe pub in clerkenwell. gaylord turned up, then paul kelly and donovan, and after a number of bothersome technical issues, we were able to proceed! I had a brie and red pepper panini (too rich for my blood). then various pals began to arrive: the aislers set! the jim ruiz set! pipas! amor de días! the berry joneses! the starfolk! we all settled in to watch take three girls: the dolly mixture story, which is so great; and then gaylord conducted the pop quiz that he and pam and I came up with! good fun was had by all and it was just the way to kick off chickfactor 2012: for the love of pop! weekend in london.

17 november: tonight kicks off the live music portion of the weekend at bush hall! with the lineup that is hard to beat:

honestly, not much could have ruined this night. if I could change one thing, it would have been to keep the audience quiet during amor de días but as pam would say: it’s impossible to get a roomful of people who haven’t seen each other in 15 years to be quiet. everything else was just flat out marvelous. gaylord was the best MC! here’s a post on la terrasse.

18 november: today’s lineup was just as spectacular! the lexington is a dreamy venue, love it. gaylord & the hangover lounge folks = the best DJs!

  • tender trap (watch “train from kings cross station” + “do you want a boyfriend?” + “memorabilia” + “leaving christmas day” here) really really stellar set! loved it. just still cannot get over how ace their new album is! amelia talked about the early days of chickfactor, and how it was celebratory instead of angry like riot grrrl. ended the night with everyone dancing like goofballs.
  • pipas (watch “barbapapa + “bitter club” + “hiding in the park” + “the occasion” + “rock and/or roll” + “wells street” here) pipas won them over, as always, despite no soundcheck, despite knocking over a lovely guitar several times. another band that should not be allowed to be inert. such charm! such songs!
  • the real tuesday weld, who have a foxy new girl singer that attracted every man with a phone camera in the place! always great to see jacques the clarinetist, who commented that the girls in tender trap looked to be about 20. always so entertaining, these guys!
  • bridget st john with brian willoughby (strawbs) (watch “ask me no questions” + “hole in my heart” here) bridget is such a lovely presence. it’s always such an honor to have her play our shows! she played “mon gala papillons,” which was inspired by a chickfactor party in london in 2004.
  • the jim ruiz set featuring the legendary jim ruiz from the legendary jim ruiz group. I only wish tracey thorn and max eider could have been front and center to watch this charming jazz-tinged minneapolis pop group play their london debut.
  • harvey williams + josh gennet (watch “I don’t suppose I’ll get a second chance” + “her boychart” + “colour me in” here) perhaps you remember josh from the u.s. indie band holiday and harvey from such bands as another sunny day, the field mice and trembling blue stars. they also covered carole king & a girl called eddy — my favorite part of the night was teaching ava berry jones to finger snap.
  • the starfolk (featuring brian from the hang-ups and allison from the jim ruiz set, typsy panthre, etc) my first time seeing these guys—they were so great! here is a write-up on la terrasse.

see photos from the weekend here from andrew bulhakmarianthianneliesechris stevensonandy aldridgenatascha unkart.

19 november: it was family time in gerrards cross, buckinghamshire; followed by mellow drinks and snacks at medcalf with travis, josh, sarah, paul, debs & donovan; followed by gentle chilling at lauren’s cozy flat in gipsy hill.

20 november: spitalfields walkabout this morning, checking on how the hood has changed. lunch at mildred’s again, then off to the magma product store. before heading back to SE london to have a low-key night in with the family-friends.

21 november: flew out from terminal 5. they have a wagamama!



the chickfactor & gaylord fields pop quiz!


the first night of our chickfactor london 20th-anniversary party featured a screening of paul kelly’s ace documentary take three girls: the dolly mixture story followed by a pop quiz created by the zine’s cofounders gail and pam and gaylord fields (wfmu dj who also MCed the saturday show at bush hall and DJed upstairs at sunday’s show), who also presented the questions. the questions and answers for the quiz are listed below! the event took place at the horseshoe pub in clerkenwell on friday, november 16.

part one: lyrics to identify

  1. “I crawl like a viper through these suburban streets / make love to these women languid and bittersweet’’

answer: steely dan, “deacon blues”

  1. “when we groove on into town / charles atlas he starts to frown”

answer: josef k, “sorry for laughing”

  1. “nibbling on bacon, chewing on cheese / sammy says to susie ‘honey, would you please be my missus?’ ”

answer: america, “muskrat love”

  1. “it is your blood I crave / I am the bitch goddess from beyond the grave”

answer: future bible heroes, “I’m a vampire”

  1. “your eyebrows may be the best thing in town/I’d like to shoot ’em up and make ’em frown”

answer: dolly mixture, “how come you’re such a hit with the boys, jane?”

  1. “don’t throw your hand / if you feel you’re alone / no no no you are not alone”

answer: r.e.m., “everybody hurts”

  1. “oh but being with you is like killing bob dylan / if I had to do it I would die”

answer: pipas, “cruel and unusual”

  1. “beetles and eggs and blues and pour a little everything else / you steam a lense stable eyes and glass”

answer: cocteau twins, “cherry coloured funk”

  1. “it’s the singer not the song / ‘something’s gone wrong’ said the spider to the fly”

answer: belle and sebastian, “chickfactor”

part two: trivia questions

  1. what was the first single on caff records?

answer: east village “freeze out” / cath coughlan “Im’ long me measaim”

  1. what record store did slumberland records boss / black tambourine member mike schulman work at in the u.s.?

answer: vinyl ink, mod lang

  1. what band recorded the largest number of peel sessions?

answer: the fall (24)

  1. what dance troupe replaced pan’s people on top of the pops?

answer: ruby flipper

  1. what motown offshoot released only one single by sammy davis jr?

answer: ecology

  1. who were the three founding members of biff bang pow?

answer: joe foster, alan mcgee, dick green

  1. what is the name of nick drake’s home in tanworth?

answer: far leys

  1. what was the flexi only label matt haynes ran that preceded sarah records?

answer: sha-la-la

  1. what fanzine did katrina tender trap publish in the 1990s?

answer: charity shopper

  1. what was the original name of the clientele?

answer: the butterfly collectors

  1. what band played the bowlie weekender and is also playing chickfactor 20: for the love of pop! london this weekend?

answer: the pastels

part three: audio clips (the kids only got to hear a few seconds of each)

  1. sugarcube” — yo la tengo
  2. alone again (naturally)” — gilbert o’sullivan
  3. try” — delta 5
  4. she cracked” — the modern lovers
  5. ce petit coeur” — françoise hardy
  6. the most beautiful girl in the world” — prince
  7. candy” — the magnetic fields
  8. it’ll never happen again” — tim hardin
  9. call me maybe” — carly rae jepsen
  10. linus” — birdie
  11. working girls (sunlight shines)” — the pernice brothers
  12. long hot summer” — the style council
  13. bigmouth strikes again” — the smiths

the pipas & amor de días team won the quiz, which may be a bit unfair since there were two questions involving pipas and the clientele, but the momtch/travis table took home most of the prizes (chickfactor london posters designed by tae won yu and badges designed by lupe pipas) and non-vegan treats.

quiz photo courtesy of mark pipas!

chickfactor 2012: for the love of pop! london announced…

chickfactor fanzine continues its all-year-long 20th-anniversary celebration with a series of concerts around the U.S. and UK.  cf heads to Los Angeles on Sept 20 for an amazing show, followed by San Francisco on Sept 22 for another! And then there is our beloved London Nov 16, 17, 18. Here is the lineup below — get your pop plane ticket now and come on over!

November 16
Film screening and pop quiz (venue TBC)

November 17 at Bush Hall
The Pastels! The Aislers Set! Amor De Dias! Would-Be-Goods!

(Doors 6:30, super-early showtime 7pm) Tickets are here!

The Pastels
The Pastels and chickfactor go way back. the inventive Glasgow pop group has a new record coming out early 2013 on Domino, recorded Glasgow, mixed Chicago with John McEntire.  It will be their first record since the 2009 collaboration with Tenniscoats, Two Sunsets.  The group is currently Stephen McRobbie, Katrina Mitchell, Gerard Love, Tom Crossley, Alison Mitchell, John Hogarty.

The Aislers Set
The wonderful Bay Area pop group led by Linton reformed for chickfactor 2012: for the love of pop! brooklyn earlier this year and blew the roof off the place. These days we have to fly them in from the East Coast, West Coast, Sweden and Germany — shows with them all are rare indeed so do not miss!

Amor De Dias
We at chickfactor cannot get enough of The Clientele and Pipas, so when members of those bands — Alasdair MacLean and Lupe Nuñez-Fernández — formed Amor De Dias (means Love of Days), we were stoked. They are finishing up their second album this summer, and we can’t wait to see their delicate set tonight.

Fronted by Jessica Griffin and featuring seasoned pop stars Peter Momtchiloff, Debbie Green and Andy Warren, the elegant London group has been around since Jessica released her first record on él Records in 1987. Like most of the artists here, they have played many a chickfactor show including the 10-year anniversary parties in NY, DC and London.

& DJ and MC Gaylord Fields (WMFU)

November 18 at the Lexington
chickfactor / Hangover Lounge All Dayer (2–10:30pm)
Ticket link here!
Tender Trap!
The Real Tuesday Weld!
Bridget St John!
The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group!
The Starfolk!
MC & DJ Gaylord Fields!


Tender Trap
Fantastic London pop group fronted by former Talulah Gosh / Heavenly singer Amelia Fletcher, we are very excited to be seeing them! Their latest release, Ten Songs About Girls, is out now on Fortuna Pop! records.

The super-charming Brooklyn-London electropop duo of Mark Powell and Lupe Nuñez-Fernández have performed rarely in recent years, but did reunite in April 2012 for chickfactor’s Brooklyn show. Do not miss this show!

Bridget St John
The stellar British singer-songwriter who John Peel started Dandelion Records for back in the day moved to New York years ago and occasionally returns to the UK, often for chickfactor parties. She performed at our chickfactor 2012: brooklyn show along with our 2004 party at Bush Hall called “Mon Gala Papillons,” which inspired her to write a song.

The Real Tuesday Weld
The ace TRTW is led by the talented Mr Stephen Coates, once inspired by the actress Tuesday Weld and the 1930s crooner Al Bowlly to make crackly vintage swoon-worthy pop tunes. His group’s 2011 release, Songs for the Last Werewolf, was a soundtrack to a book, and they have been known to put music to film as well.

Legendary Jim Ruiz Group
A rare show from the sparkly Minneapolis jazz-pop combo led by the Legendary Jim, who recently completed the long-awaited third LP with help from California pop dude Allen Clapp, titled Ambassador Jim – 1965. Also fresh from the stage of chickfactor’s recent anniversary parties in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, the LJRG lineup tonight will be Jim, Emily on drums, and Allison and Brian from The Starfolk. “I’m leaning strongly toward taking a 1964 le beat group approach,” says the Legendary one himself.

Harvey Williams and Josh Gennet
Fluffy-haired Harvey is well known to the pop kids as a former member of Field Mice and Another Sunny Day and an excellent if not prolific solo artist of a gentle nature; tonight he will play with former Holiday frontman Josh Gennet for what will certainly be some serious pop stuff.

The Starfolk
Fun Minneapolis orch-pop trio The Starfolk is fronted by Brian Tighe (The Hang Ups, The Owls) vocals and guitar along with Allison LaBonne (The Owls, Typsy Panthre, Legendary Jim Ruiz Group) on bass, Stephen Ittner (The Hang Ups, The Owls) on drums and Jacqueline Ultan (Jelloslave, Saltee, Anti Gravity) on cello, though tonight Allison and Brian will be backed by Jim and Emily. The Starfolk is currently finishing up their debut full length, the mixing will be completed in September.

Gaylord Fields Fake Beatles Talk
The inimitable Gaylord Fields is a DJ on the prestigious New Jersey radio station WFMU, along with a chickfactor contributor and MC for these two nights! He will do a special presentation on Fake Beatles starting at 3pm.

chickfactor / Hangover Lounge DJs!

Thanks to the Hangover Lounge, WIAIWYA, Half Pint Press, Tae Won Yu, LD Beghtol, Lucy Hurst, Fortuna Pop! and Slumberland for helping us!

rooms and a view

as a future nightclub hostess I am forever evaluating any venue I happen to find myself in. of course london is known as a crap town for musicians but the rooms do vary. here are a few recent observations.

case study: the pullens centre, crampton street, london se17
show: pipas along with rachel app and butchers boy, june 11
this was a low-key afternoon deal in a part of london most people tend to avoid – but the audience here not only like the area, but currently or previously live in it. it was a benefit for a political prisoner named jeff “free” luers (an environmental activist who is serving 23 years for torching three suvs), but it was also sorta portrayed as a free show so I’m not sure how many pounds and pence were tossed into the watering can. the typical punky slash indie crowd member here tended to be on the skint side I am guessing. this is such a humble event and a modest room – very little atmosphere, attention to sound quality, etc. but it didn’t seem to matter in this case. pipas fared best in terms of good sound – because they peddle a softer sort of musical entertainment than the other acts. room itself could use a little love. tolerant crowd. table full of zines. could have used some incense. ear plugs a plus.
recommendation: let pnac play the pullens! with gnac perhaps!

case study: wilton’s music hall, graces alley, london e1
show: royal college of music jazz band, june 10
my lovely flame-haired shellac sister pal virginia corralled a bunch of hackney sorts into attending this concert, which was primarily a reason to see the restored (and in the process of being restored) shabby-chic old music hall which is just up the road from tower bridge and the tower of london. wilton’s claims to be the world’s oldest surviving music hall, having had its heyday in the 1850s/60s, it was once described as being “the handsomest room in town.” (sadly the chandelier that helped it get its name is no longer burning). lucky for us, john betjeman managed to stop it from getting demolished in 1964. since its reopening in 1999, some film scenes have been set here (interview with a vampire, chaplin, catastrophe, among others) and all kinds of entertainment (from opera to burlesque) has been staged. tonight’s jazz big band played mostly acoustically and featured a few familiar miles davis tunes alongside their ambitious originals. it wasn’t life-changing but was well worth the five quid. the room tends to overshadow the show – there is so much character in it it’s almost frightening. I sprinted home to email the venue about booking it for a cf event and cannot wait to hear the pines, keren ann, or some other worthy acoustic acts fill this place with music.
recommendation: send them a cheque (or a check if you’re in the states)

case study: carling academy (or islington academy), upper street mall, london
show: smog, june 9
last september I saw smog at conway hall, a wonderful venue smack in the centre of london, which is just the right size, at a festival called homefires, which brought in a very chilled out crowd of folkie ish types. I hadn’t seen smog in eons – since he was so small he had to play mercury lounge. he was compelling, he was mesmerizing, he was on, he was on fire. I was shocked at how much I had been missing and by how much mr callahan has changed for the better. trevor and I told travis and helene about this show and they must have expected an awful lot. I know we did. the first clue to this place being a shithole is that it’s in a shopping mall. the second is that they have a half dozen burly bouncers ready to bounce ya out if ya give em any lip guarding the velvet fucking ropes. one of them wanted to confiscate my camera (which I take everywhere all the time), but a manager lady came out and took me at my word that I would not be using it in the venue (surprisingly). the carling academy is big, very big. too big for such an intimate and intense smog show as we witnessed last september. the room is packed, too packed, with very tall men, mostly men. everyone in my party is among the smaller guests – none of us can see a thing from anywhere. after getting batted about like a big tennis ball on the floor while people struggling to tote 4 pints of beer in wobbly plastic pint glasses weave around me, I finally take my claustrophobic ass upstairs to try to peer over the wee balcony. I can catch a glimpse now and again of mr smog but mostly I really cannot see a thing. look, it’s okay. I know what he looks like, but if you’re going to charge all that money for a show, shouldn’t someone (besides the unusually tall) apart from the first three rows be able to see? yes, they should. I didn’t expect much from this venue but then two things made me think it was even worse: 1. they have giant fans blowing air on the crowd, which seem like a great idea (unless you are freezing) to circulate the ciggie smoke. but when I got home I had massive chest pain from secondhand smoke inhalation! 2. when the show ended within seconds the aforementioned burly bouncers start shoving the audience members toward the exits. yes, physically touching them. this makes me very angry. there is nowhere to go – the crowd isn’t moving. yes, we all want to leave, desperately, but there’s no need to be treated like cattle.
recommendation: must be turned into a public toilet immediately.

case study: jazz café, camden, london
show: laura cantrell, june 1
laura’s fans are much smaller than mr. smog’s, which is a relief. they also love the dear girl to death, so they don’t mind in the least when she forgets the words. the audience cannot even believe what a beautiful person laura is – that people this good and smart even exist anymore, even in america. she teaches them about american music – about her heroes – as she charms her way through the set. despite being in a terribly clichéd “rock and roll” and “punk rock” part of town (the kind where 12 year olds run away to, get tattoos, show off their baggie trousers, and junkie hookers would like to tell you a story about why they need £5 to get to walthamstow), the jazz café is remarkably unfussed tonight. being a jazz venue usually means high-priced drink minimums and pushy hostesses, but I didn’t notice any of that. I did notice a high-ponytailed lady throwing cutlery around upstairs during some quieter moments, which was a bit annoying. especially considering that they have a sign that reads “stfu during the performance” just above the stage. still, apart from being a bit sterile and in camden, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot wrong with the jazz café. (didn’t see the loo, however) and there is hardly anything else in the world that tops laura c. singing “the whiskey makes you sweeter.”
recommendation: let them stay.

case study: cecil sharp house, camden, london
show: swaddling songs present richard youngs and alasdair roberts, may 28
on such a beautiful spring evening, it’s tough to even go inside but if one must go, then let it be to the cecil sharp house. swaddling songs is bob stanley and peter paphides’ folk night – and I would drive a smartcar across the desert to just hear these guys dj cause they got it going on. didn’t know much about the two scots on the bill. youngs was not great. he had a monotonous voice and repetitive and uninteresting lyrics – half the room emptied during one very lengthy rant. while I wanted to like him I just wasn’t into it. roberts is more my speed – there was some humour and melody. it was still a rather dark night. the house, which has giant windows, should have been left open to reveal all the glorious leafy greens fluttering just outside in the twilight. but no, it was dark and funereal onstage. still, very well-mannered crowd. reasonably priced bar. gorgeous room, loads of character.
recommendation: don’t ever let it close – sandy denny played here! the english folk dance and song society should hire me to curate a regular series.

case study: water rats, grays inn road, london
show: the clientele (+ some other bands), may 27
after the clientele’s previous london gig (at nambucca pub last month), things could only get better! the water rats is a nice intimate space, though we have on occasion had to run out of the room because it’s so hot and crowded. not so tonight. it’s the hottest day of the year so far in london, but it’s cooler in here than the tube or bus. the band is on fire. they play the hits and a few new ones. one college girl bobs along upfront and grins goofily at alasdair like he is donny osmond. the fans are here. people don’t talk. some smoke, some drink, all is well. the clientele are of course the best band in london and they don’t play nearly often enough. the great thing about tonight’s show is that it’s free. the creepy thing about tonight’s show is that it’s free…because budweiser has paid for it! so the beer drinkers are left with one choice only on the taps.
recommendation: keep it open. keep budweiser out of it – the budweiser logo being spotlighted across the club’s ceiling = tacky.

case study: ronnie scott’s, soho, london
show: roddy frame, may 22
I hadn’t seen mr aztec camera since he was born practically, so I jumped at the chance to go see him perform some of his classic pop hits (tim said he would and he wasn’t wrong). on our way in one of the mafioso-wannabe assholes at the door took a dislike to me. he said “the lady will need to check her coat.” I said, “the lady would prefer not to check her coat.” he spoke to me as though I were an inmate: there are no coats allowed. if you don’t check your coat I will refund your money. I almost went in with my coat on and then I saw tim’s poor face. I took off my fucking coat and bloody checked it — for a mandatory fee, natch. I don’t know what it is that makes doormen/bouncers into such huge pricks. we entered the theatre and I realized that no one else, including my own friends, was forced to check a coat. ronnie scott’s is a shit-hole. perhaps important people once played there. perhaps those people had no choice. important people rarely play there now, and it’s just one of those lame-o “jazz” clubs that charges outrageous drink prices, crams people in too close to each other, and employs lots of ugly and useless staff. most people sit with their backs to the stage! someone shoot the dying horse and put it out of its misery.
recommendation: immediate demolition please.

case study: king’s head, crouch end, london
show: damon & naomi, king creosote, may 20
crouch end isn’t really in our neck of the woods but we like d&n and felt like making the trip. the upstairs was a mob of friday night party kids typical of any london pub. they are the reason I like to stay in on weekends. the gig was downstairs. it looked a bit cheesy at first – like a comedy club with really low ceilings. once it filled up and the show got going it had a fantastic vibe – lots of folk kids in the house. I hadn’t seen kc and they were ace, really moving stuff. d&n did their gentle thing as a quintet tonight. there’s nothing that special about the room itself, but as long as something interesting is happening, this is a happening.
recommendation: get rid of the top level and raise the ceiling.

case study: the ica, london
show: archer prewitt, may 15
we’ve loved mr. prewitt since he was a coctail boy and his toons have no equal (nor does his collection of creepy farm toys). we had not seen him play as “archer prewitt” since oh god knows when at maxwell’s when he did a quiet alone man thing on a bill with edith frost and sam prekop acting similarly (was I in heaven? oh yes). okay. so the ica is a place where they have art shows and stuff but it’s mostly about the bookshop and meeting cute trendies in the bar, isn’t it? yes, it is. it’s not the greatest place for art-watching (especially during an opening), and it is one of the worst places for music watching. how can it be that you find yourself inside this amazing building (from the outside) and yet the inside has had any sense of place erased from it? perhaps the stage is meant to be art-gallery minimal. look, I don’t know. I just know that I don’t want to go to shows there anymore. it makes me sad. archer and his mates wanted to rock that night and rock they did. this was the archer prewitt ensemble’s london debut as far as I could tell and it shoulda been in a better place. still, thumbs up for not too crowded ness, showmanship, and the fact that it was still light out when they finished.
recommendation: turn the “venue” into a discotheque. or let pam berry reimagine it as a venue slash installation.

case study: new theatre, oxford
show: rufus wainwright + joan as police woman, may 13
we have a few of these sit-down theatre deals in london, all right. you know, fancy with red seats and stuff. I wasn’t around for this lineup in london so I headed up to oxford to see the big show. what I wasn’t expecting is that the room was almost bursting with enthusiasm and energy from the get-go – this is something we do not have in london. joan as police woman is a talented new york chick who used to play at chickfactor gigs in the early days as a duo with mary timony. she’s so hot! anyway, she is also in rufie’s backing band and, well, no one was really prepared for a show like this – filled with such utter showmanship, over-the-top-ness, pop music insanity. I think I sat there with my mouth hanging open the whole time (not just during the bit where the whole band stripped down to their underpants and did a little fetish comedy number for us). the venue was glam, the show was even glammer.
recommendation: fling those doors open. and reward the oxons with 7 shows a week!

case study: betsey trotwood, farringdon road, london
show: carolyn mark, may 11
ah, the quintessential indie venue. how many fricking indie things have happened here? some track and field dance night, some sinister meet-up, some chickfactor slash papercuts gig featuring the clientele and baxendale! many cute indies have hooked up or at least bumped into one another’s sweaty bods here. I actually have a soft spot for this place and I do fancy a drink on the ground floor – anytime really. I could do without those packed nights in the basement though. oh, if only the bands could play on the first floor instead, like in the old days. I have actually begged some acts, such as pipas and tuesday weld, to please not ever play in this basement again. tonight it’s okay – because there are only 17 of us here for canadian country-ish chick ms mark and we’re not even sweating in here. still, let’s keep the basement free of bands and move the pa upstairs, eh?
recommendation: like I said….