27 october 2005 saint etienne performed live and showed their new film what have you done today, mervyn day? at the barbican, london: the editor of chickfactor was once voted to be one of the biggest assholes in rock and the reason she was chosen was that she was an asskisser to various bands she couldn’t stop championing. if that sort of thing makes someone an asshole, then so be it! here she goes again. saint etienne are one of the reasons I love london. they are so london. I bought foxbase alpha on my first trip to london and I can’t believe I love em as much today as I did then! more, even. that they have transformed themselves into this multimedia enterprise that can get the barbican to commission them to make a film is what makes them my idol. bob stanley set up a superfun film series over the summer that was another reason I feel privileged to live here (we saw the dolly mixture documentary for eff’s sake!!). I was sort of involved in the finisterre dvd project and seeing that film on the big screen didn’t wow me – was it the screen at the ica? I don’t know. but this new film, which focuses on the lee/lea valley in east london where the olympics are supposed to happen some years from now, is perfect st etienne fodder. london, decay, graffiti, cute kids, history. they make films like this to take the attention away from themselves and because they totally should be writing soundtracks. they’re so damn good at it. the band played the brand new mervyn day soundtrack live while they showed the film – which we’re guessing they were up all night editing! the film was beautifully shot and directed by birdie man paul kelly — and his lovely wife debs from birdie and dolly mixture is also in saint etienne (they’re as lucky to have her as she is to be in the band). the new soundtrack was ace (I would say that, what a kissass) and they came back after intermission to play hits from their new album and albums past, including the song of the year “teenage winter” and one of my all-time finisterre/ fave “action”. they must have heard my heart screaming out for that one. I told lupe if they play “action” we have to dance! and they did. and we danced like fools. most of the barbican crowd remained sedately seated sadly – unlike the belle & sebastian crowd a month back – which makes no sense. sarah cracknell is still the pop queen of all pop queens with stardust shooting out of her every fingertip. damn the whole night was fun fun fun and too short if anything. just let bob stanley become the director of the barbican! bob, can you help me get a flat there?
here’s more about the film from the guardian:
23 october 2005 the zombies at ucl bloomsbury, london: my expectations are too high. this applies to many areas of my life. but the reason they are too high tonight is that in the late 90s I saw colin blunstone perform at fez in new york – he did a solo set backed by the loser’s lounge band which specializes in vintage covers. it had a few cringeworthy moments but generally was incroyable. I had never seen mr blunstone with his pal rod argent though I had been warned by peter and jessica that it could be a little noodly. well. oh. my. god. even I wasn’t prepared for this. the band members could probably even see my facial expressions from the stage which must have varied from ecstatic (“summertime” and “a rose for emily”) to flummoxed (many, many poor choices, the argent hit “hold your head up”) and even just plain mortified. number one: will someone please videotape these guys so they can see what they look like? then could they perhaps hire stephen duffy to be their music director once he finishes with his current project (robbie williams)? and also can pam give them all proper haircuts? colin is the only one who looks presentable. they do have it in them to do the zombies songs properly, they really do, they proved it. but they just insisted on rocking out in a cheesy and overly animated way that suggested maybe they have never seen spinal tap. either way, my date was a good sport and just made the best of the so bad it’s good vibe. so many gems left off the set list. too much colin solo material and argent bloody argent. I wanted a refund but then I remembered how good “summertime” sounded. just remind me the next time I book colin for a cf party to insist on writing the set list myself. sheesh.
21 october 2005 mascott at the rockwood music hall, new york: kendall mascot teamed up with the guys from varnaline tonight for a chilled out set at a new venue with grand piano. her voice gets more amazing all the time, her songs more accomplished. can anyone explain why she isn’t a millionaire like norah jones already? she just gets better and better. the only bad thing about tonight was that jennifer o’connor had to cancel her show.
20 october 2005 mean reds orchestra at king’s, raleigh, north carolina: back in the 90s there was a band called soccer fronted by a guy named gavin o’hara who happens to be my brother. they were kinda silly – they had songs about zema and coffee and stuff like that and they even had a hit song called “hey hipster.” once, during mergefest, we heard it on the radio (okay, like duke or unc college radio dude). stephin merritt was in the car. he said in typically eeyore style, “I wonder what it feels like to hear your songs played on the radio.” gavin said we should just leave the radio on because they play the magnetic fields like all the time. anyway, the mean reds are gavin’s new band. I thought they were going to be a cross between gil scott-heron and lambchop – at least that seemed to be gavin’s intention? but live it is a bit harder to size up: there is a funky moment, then a rap moment, all accompanied with a cello, violin, etc. gavin is a good lyricist though and when you can hear it it all makes sense. he should just skip the indie rock thing though and head for a major label because he has that kind of voice the mainstream people would like. (not a slag!) he sings like a pro. anyway, I’m not really able to be objective!
16 october 2005 mia doi todd at the bowery ballroom, new york: a long time ago I used to have trouble with l.a. folkstress mia’s lyrics but they have improved by leaps and bounds and they’re quite moving. her last few albums have been pretty great and I had been meaning to see her play for ages. she did sound fantastic tonight – she was supporting the swedish band dungen who are apparently huge enough to do two nights at bb – though not as crisp as she does on those albums. I had a problem with her not playing her really great originals and instead going for fairly obvious covers by bob dylan and neil young that tend to make the other songs she was doing sound less good by comparison. still, go see mia. her voice is amazing and singular.
15 october 2005 jens lekman + olson + nedelle at the mercury lounge, new york: this was the third time I’d seen mr lekman and I have to say it was definitely my least favourite gig. first time I saw him at the chickfactor mon gala papillons festival in december 04 and he played alone with “the party machine” and it was absolutey dreamy – the kids danced, he chose all the right songs, the speakers nearly tumbled down upon the revelers (I had had some champagne as well…). if anyone doesn’t know mr lekman’s stuff – which is unlikely if you’re reading this magazine – he does crosses merritt and jonathan richman with a touch of morrissey but still manages to overcome the imitative thing with his own goofy spirit, crooners delight of a voice, and silly but lovely lyrics. the second time I saw him was at the duke coffeehouse in north carolina, and he played with a small combo (cello, etc). he played some stuff alone as well – and he was quite the singer. he was dazzling actually. this time things seemed a bit crowded onstage, a bit disjointed setwise and they seemed just kinda going through the motions. placing a bunch of small indie girls up there to sing unrehearsed backing vocals smacks of another bunch of indie giants: b&s. but it just lacked the sweet punch of the better shows. and while we’re on the subject, when did new york city become so rich white and clean cut? damn.
14 october 2005 lambchop + the ladybug transistor at the bowery ballroom, new york: man oh man. lambchop has really scaled it down! I guess too many members of their 14-piece ensemble are having children and then opting out of the live tour thing. it was the smallest ‘chop I have ever seen, only seven or so! it still sounded real nice, though that man’s lyrics make me wonder sometimes, and I even wish they had more instrumentals! someone had a tantrum toward the end of the set – a fan (a member of the scene is now perhaps?) saying “I love you but why don’t you play some old stuff?” and then stormed out! it was quite silly but generally the crowd just could not give the chop enough love and they didn’t seem to mind what songs were played. I had not seen the ladybug transistor (well, full band style) in ages and they sounded stellar too.
8 october 2005 karaoke at ribon, london: okay, big deal, we did karaoke. mostly mentionable here cause lupe pipas and mark lucksmiths did a hilarious duet of michael jackson’s billie jean complete with dance moves and ‘hoo!’s lupe and I did the cher gay nightclub hit “believe” and I got the whole room moving to “lovefool.” so goofy and yet so fun.
3 october 2005 donovan at foyle’s bookshop, london: right. well, it’s old hippie month in london! even as a tiny child my siblings and I made fun of donovan when our babysitter “fat diane” showed up with armloads of his albums. the hurdy gurdy man turned up here tonight to promote his new autobiography (ahem: I don’t think he actually remembers enough about his own life to actually have written this book on his own!), which is titled, erm, the hurdy gurdy man. I did not buy it and I have not read it. but he did play some super-obvious donovan hits for the indie star-studded crowd (oh how young we all felt!) and then he answered some questions from the audience, many of which he could not answer and he kept looking for his old pal, rambler or something, to help him out with the memories. there were so many birds, you see, hard to remember which was which! (apparently he doesn’t even remember vashti bunyan – which makes him a total loser to me) it was all a bit sad!
1 october 2005 the modern times club at shanghai blues, london: david and johnny from modern times are visionaries on the london club scene and we are glad that they exist. they host parties where folk are expected to dress properly (1920s to the 1950s), drink proper cocktails and know how to foxtrot dammit. or at the very least to waltz. music is played by djs who know their noel coward from their al bowlly and know when it’s best to sit and sip or drink and dance. I have fond memories of bonding with the retro girls at the great eastern hotel or reclining with a cool tall one at the sweet old throgmortons, conversing with men wearing zoot suits and silly hats. but tonight all those fond memories vanished because tonight’s affair was more like being on the set of a very badly art directed period film. blame it on the most recent media coverage of the modern times club – in vogue – and media coverage in general for ruining all good vaguely underground things. the boys and girls at shanghai blues were not even dressed properly: a 1970s khaki safari mini dress with stilettos? wrong. a corset that should only be worn beneath an outfit worn instead as outerwear? bad. these people did not even try. my compadre emily and I snickered behind our £12 cocktails (but who was laughing at us for paying that price? oh it isn’t funny is it) at the misdressed masters and mistresses. many of the lads looked as though they were expecting a burlesque show for the stag night they were out on. many of the girls were just slutty exhibitionists who probably don’t have a proper vintage dress in their wardrobes. yawn. we had a fine time on our own but what a sad crowd (kelly osborne was there dontcha know).
28 september 2005 broadcast + things in herds at koko, london: I didn’t review koko in my previous rant against — I mean, assessment of — local venues, but basically I adore the place. I went there for the first time in august for the fabulous yo la tengo + the scene is now show and we were blown away by the lush red bars and multiple rooms and layers and levels and the redness of it all and the giant mirror ball. this is the kind of venue I should own and run my nightclub in. it used to be the camden palace, as I am often reminded, and many people say oh, it used to be so much better but I can’t see what is wrong with it now. but then we came to the broadcast show. not to worry, broadcast were just as flawless live as ever. no one would disagree. but when I got to the venue early so that I could show my dashing companion all the lovely mod upstairs bars where we were going to sit quietly and engage in a little badinage, I realized that all the fun upper levels were closed down! roped off! what the hey! but that did not stop me and my costar. we grabbed some cocktails and snuck into the mod red bar and chilled, then we got caught and tossed out. then we sat in another off-limits area, in some rows of chairs where there was so little light we went unnoticed, until a large, unpleasant bouncer dude ejected us from our private spot once again. the whole evening turned into a chase scene. we darted from nook to cranny to box to booth while the large man with the bulbous nose tried to keep sight of us. broadcast only made the whole situation all the more sinister.
25 september 2005 belle and sebastian perform if you’re feeling sinister at the barbican, london: the all tomorrow’s parties folks did a series of concerts this autumn called don’t look back where some popular act — such as the stooges, dinosaur jr, cat power, mum, melvins etc. — plays its most definitive album (according to whom?). b&s did this one, which for many (including me) was the first one ever heard. I have a soft spot for it (oh please stop, asskisser! – editor) even though it doesn’t have a song called “chickfactor” on it. the band played five songs, then the sinister album in its entirety and order, then five more songs as an encore. it was a divine experience this show. it seemed a bit silly, this album concept, but then hearing it all — you know, eight or nine years (ten?) after they actually recorded it — made it seem really special. the songs have different meanings now. they perform so much more confidently now. my charming companion and I endlessly discussed which song was our favourite and reconsidered some of the lesser tracks, changing our minds throughout the event. even “me and the major” seemed to have some kind of charm that it used to lack (for me!). the song that was stuck in my head the next day, however, was “stars of track and field.” groovy show – ending with all the barbican on its feet singing along to the most recent album’s best track: “if you find yourself caught in love.” practically too much excitement for one night.
listen here: http://www.bowlie.com/torrents/mystats.php
for you nerds, the barbican setlist, courtesy the band’s own site
• slow graffiti
• another sunny day
• women’s realm
• the loneliness of a middle distance runner
• electronic renaissance
• the stars of track and field
• seeing other people
• me and the major
• like dylan in the movies
• the fox in the snow
• get me away from here, I’m dying
• if you’re feeling sinister
• the boy done wrong again
• judy and the dream of horses
• dog on wheels
• the boy with the arab strap
• the wrong girl
• I’m a cuckoo
• if you find yourself caught in love