Tag Archives: Tiger Moth Tales

January 2019 – upcoming English rock gigs – Francis Dunnery’s ‘Big Lad In The Windmill’ mini-tour (18th to 20th January)

12 Jan

Next week, gloriously wayward singer-songwriter Francis Dunnery revisits his past with It Bites – in solo format – as he takes music from their 1986 debut album ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’ out on an English micro-tour.

Francis Dunnery, 11th and 18th to 20th January 2019

When pompous would-be music tastemakers like myself roll out their list of great pop and rock albums of the 1980s, ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’ generally isn’t on there. That’s unsurprising. As a decade, the ‘80s sprawled into outspoken ideological polarisation, during which it sometimes seemed as if everyone in popular music was a purist poseur of some kind or other; whether they were swanning about on yachts sporting terrifying ozone-threatening hairstyles, acting out grimly righteous/reductionist salt-of-the-earth positionings, haute-couture megaphoning about The Future or (rather more constructively) hurtling around America in vans trying to build an alternative economy. Perhaps that’s over-simplifying, but it’s certainly true that it was an age of vivid stances, and that some terrible and reductive snobberies developed as a side-effect of said stances and manifestos. In such a time and in such a milieu, ‘The Big Lad’ was the kind of album that wasn’t supposed to happen… and many people seemed (and still seem) to think it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen.

It Bites: 'The Big Lad In The Windmill'

It Bites: ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’

Admittedly on spec it was also a little preposterous. A shotgun marriage of glutinous, glittery ‘80s pop with hard rock snorts and cartwheeling prog stunts, it was recorded by four self-confessed working-class hicks from England’s gorgeous, isolated Lake District, who also happened to be unfashionably virtuosic as musicians. Possessing a keen ear for pastiche and adaptation, they’d had a prehistory back home as a badly-behaved covers band. Plying the tough Cumbrian circuit of nightclubs and working men’s clubs, they’d mastered reams of contemporary pop hits (Level 42, Police, Haircut 100 and so on) while simultanously nursing a profound love for the 70’s complexity and flourishes of Genesis and Yes, UK and Weather Report. All of which showed by the time they came to write their own stuff. By the mid-‘80s (abetted by resident keyboard popinjay and arrangements genius John Beck), Dunnery was putting together original songs which played on both sets of preoccupations.

Some smartarse once tagged It Bites as “bubblegum prog”, which isn’t too bad a label. It encapsulates the band’s mastery of the kind of throwaway immediate pop tunes which prove to have a tenacious, sticky life of their own: it also takes into account their taste for florid illustrative musical passages. In addition, their playing had a layer of fantasy-funk and soul itch (due to admixtures of Steve Arrington and Prince, plus Dick Nolan’s stalking, slippery bass grooves), and some hard rock crunch (staunch, sturdy drummer Bob Dalton was a Led Zeppelin guy at heart). Collectively, It Bites aspired to the well-drilled, muscular “follow-this” ethic of a black showband; which seemed to be judged as less of a virtue when coming from a white British rock band of the times, where restrictive amateurism or beefy stiffness was the order of the day.

Bear in mind that this was years before white-boy eclecticism inveigled its way back into mainstream rock and pop. Ween were still only releasing home-made cassettes; Jellyfish wouldn’t show up for another three years, and while Frank Zappa stubbornly flew the flag for stylistic fluidity, he was an elder statesman turned cult artiste in a niche of his own. Even Queen had calmed down a bit. Had they slipped into a more parodic approach lyrical approach, It Bites might have suddenly woken up to find that their nearest British equivalents were The Barron Knights. Fortunately, they took themselves a little more seriously: there was silliness in their playful approach, but it was matched by an earnest bravado which won them affection from audiences even as it drew critical disdain.


 
Once signed by Virgin and given a shot at making a record, It Bites treated it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to throw everything they had into the effort and stir it up like crazy. Throughout ‘The Big Lad’ they’re coltish and restless, latching onto impeccable mainstream pop-rock stylings only to suddenly career off into wildly played, cunningly constructed breaks. Turn Me Loose and I Got You Eating Out Of My Hand mercilessly run straightforward pop songs through a mill of transformational time and mood changes. Almost anything goes – heavy metal, jazz-fusion arrhythmia, Al di Meola flamenco, even the drum machine and Bontempi drone of a narcotized lounge act – although the band backtrack and flawlessly reconstruct the songs at the end.

Producer Alan Shacklock entered into the spirit of things with a vengeance. He kept a “riot track” free in the mix to capture the band’s raucous in-studio jabbering; he delivered a gleefully glittering plastic sound which revelled in every Japanese-digital synth chime, every start/stop noise-gate interruption and every over-exaggerated bit of sound-panning. He also accidentally sped up the master tape, resulting in the band sounding (according to Francis) “like Pinky and Perky.” The result was – and is – a record which feels like a sudden soda pop binge after months away from the stuff.

‘The Big Lad’ is generally remembered for a surprise Top Ten single. Cantering toytown hit Calling All The Heroes married the band’s musical deftness to old Republic serials, rocking cradles and boyhood cowboy games, fuelled by an earworm chorus and some sneaky false endings. (Presumably the Wild West schtick struck a chord with Shacklock – his own early ‘70s prog band Babe Ruth had recorded The Mexican, an Alamo-themed story with which Calling All The Heroes shares a number of passing musical similarities). For many people, this song is where It Bites have been permanently stuck: pegged to a couple of fanfaring pop hooks remembered by almost every Briton who lived through mid-‘80s chart pop. In the video a bleached’n’styled, cutesied-up Dunnery and co. bob nervously, like a loopier Go West, presaging the marketing problems which would plague them for the rest of their existence. Live, they’d pull out the full prog trickbag.


 
It’s a shame that the album’s glossy, hyperactive surfaces and loop-the-loop stunting make it easy to ignore the substance beneath. Fair enough: something like Wanna Shout mostly exists in order to run demented macho-guitar heroics over stuttering go-go synths, and All In Red does little more than throb like a fourteen-year-old boy’s heat dream of Zeppelin colliding with Level 42. This isn’t the kind of record you put on to remember angry alienation in pre-punk-era Manchester, or to recapture political struggles, or even to remember belonging to anything much (unless it was being part of the crowd which understood the band’s straightforward musical verve and the down-to-earth Cumbrian personalities which bedrocked it).

Yet elsewhere on ‘The Big Lad’, genuine stories about real people emerge from beneath Beck’s thunderous keyboard chimes and Dunnery’s barrel-roll guitar playing. The band’s follow-up single Whole New World is mostly forgotten. It’s actually a fine, agonised pop song, whose horn-assisted contortions marry dashes of dumped-bloke Motown and Memphis under the Christmas-tree synths. On first impressions, Cold Tired And Hungry might be a screamingly uncool rock-snortin’ melodrama, but on a second look its histrionics run parallel to the naked, hurt-boy stances Prince was trying on at the time (although it sounds more like Steve Marriott locked into a sobbing death spiral with Brian May).

Best, though, are a couple of tracks which embrace genuine personal memories rather than generic pop tropes. Under the bravado, Screaming On The Beaches is a flipside take on Calling All The Heroes’ daydream battles. Based on Dunnery’s teasing-out of traumatic wartime memories from his dad (who’d served as a soldier in the Burma Campaign), it’s tech-laden and roaring, screwing its disorientating picture of ordinary men coming apart under fire into a party mixture of twisted pop-metal riffing, jazz-funk cat pounces and Beck’s wailing keytar. Over the next few years, the band would polish it up into a stompingly danceable live highlight, demonstrating that they had almost as much in common with Trouble Funk as they did with Genesis. Conversely, You’ll Never Go To Heaven is one of the 1980s’ great lost lighters-aloft anthems. A heart-wringing Catholic-guilt ballad (capped with Philip Glass pulse-synths and angel choirs), it features a desperate, spiralling outro solo from Dunnery that sounds like Allan Holdsworth giving vent to a primal scream.



 
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Francis Dunnery’s come a long way from the nervous, bullish twenty-three-year-old he was when he recorded ‘The Big Lad’. Four years and two albums after its release, his restless nature (plus a much-confessed dip into a serious drink problem) split him away from his more stolid bandmates. While It Bites have gone on to have a belated second life without him, he’s spent the intervening time following a solo career demonstrating that he’s a rough diamond who decided that he prefers to stay a little rough.

At the time, the necessary polish and consistency required to play the pop game wasn’t right for him. It still isn’t, but he’s managed to turn it to his advantage. Now entirely independent, he follows his own particular muse, popping out records as and when it suits him, and building a relationship with his listeners which has the same mixture of generosity, conversationality and occasional cantankerousness as a genuine friendship. At fifty-six, Francis resembles that old lag with delightful hidden depths whom you might meet during stints on a building site: the one who retains his working-class saltiness, cracks wicked jokes and is still handy in a fist-fight, but likes to sit you down during lunchbreaks and talk about Jung, history and esoterica.

His records have run a similar lane-swapping gamut – the kind of tasteful fingerpicked adult pop which gives the genre a good name; acoustic meditations on life and wounds and healing; fanbase-bewildering dips into laptop R&B; reconstructive tributes to the gothic Cumbrian jazz-metal written by his late brother Barry, and so on. Psychology, astronomy, metaphysics, bite-backs and broad jokes litter his songs. Freed from the standard album-tour-album treadmill, a typical Dunnery gig is now a mixture of friendly encounter group and surreal pub talent night. As well as playing songs, he’ll be telling his audience stories, teasing them about prog cliches or dwarf porn, gleefully upending a performance with comedy and spontaneous competitions, or spicing things up with unexpected guest appearances from his capacious address book (could be a musical friend like Robert Plant, Theo Travis or Steve Hackett; could be an actual fucking pantomime horse…)

While they’ve kept much of the musicality, recent Francis reworkings of the ‘Big Lad’ songs (on his ‘Vampires‘ album) are a touch more sedate and patient – breezier, and partially shorn of their pyrotechnic plastic-synth fizz. In truth, while he’s still more than capable of wringing out the dazzling guitar flash and the singing, the years do make something of a difference: mostly because when set against later Dunnery work (with its accounts of mid-life bereavement, parenthood and the battles fought between a person’s ever-resistant roots and the idea of who they’re trying to be) ‘The Big Lad’ is a bit too callow and fizzy. It’ll always be a young man’s album – drunk on possibilities and grappling with the spirit of discovery while working out some of that immediate post-childhood angst; over-aware of its own muscles and energy; distractedly trying to jigsaw together a sense of history, background and its own place within it via song and allusion. Perhaps that’s part of the thinking behind retaining Francis’ onetime protégé Luke Machin (a former teen guitar prodigy-turned-twentysomething jazz/prog/metal ace) in a crack, hand-picked live band also including Tiger Moth Tales’ Peter Jones and Freak Kitchen drummer Björn Fryklund (plus fretless bassist Paul Brown, holding down the ever-underrated Dick Nolan role).

Regardless of this, even if ‘The Big Lad In The Windmill’ is two parts kiddie sherbet to one part brilliance – and even if you want to clobber it over the head as an example of undeniable ’80s excess – it still stands up. Looking back, it’s still recognisably Dunnery music, a handful of rough adolescent prisms through which his younger, fearful self blinks from underneath the dazzle. Catholic-rooted, disaster-prone but unstoppable; heartfelt and playful; naïve and wise; soft and noisy, driven and impulsive. The man Francis would become – the man he is now – is still waiting in those songs; waiting to be knocked into shape via further adventures, further bumps and arguments along the way. I bet that there are plenty of ’80s pop refugees who wish they’d written juvenilia like this: songs with heart, flash and legs.

Dates:

  • The Slade Rooms, 32-40 Broad Street, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, WV1 1HP, England, Friday 18th January 2019, 7. 00pm – information here, here and here
  • Manchester Academy, University Of Manchester Students’ Union, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PR, England, Saturday 19th January 2019, 7.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7LJ, England, Sunday 20th January 2019, 7.00pm – information here, here and here

 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – London goes prog-happy at the Lexington – The Gift + We Are Kin + Tiger Moth Tales’ Macmillan fundraiser (7th); the David Cross Band with David Jackson and Richard Palmer-James (9th)

5 Aug

I think I’ve previously described the Boston Music Room – one of my own local venues – as London’s current home of prog. If so, the Lexington, down in the hinterlands between Kings Cross and Angel, is making a good showing as a second home. Two imminent shows reinforce that reputation, making next week a good one for London’s prog village.

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The Gift/We Are Kin/Tiger Moth Tales @ The Lexington, 7th August 2016

Resonance, in association with Prog Magazine and Orange Amplification present
The Gift + We Are Kin + Tiger Moth Tales
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 7th August 2016, 6.30pm
– information here and here

The name that’s missing from the promoters’ line-up above is Bad Elephant Music: London’s ever-industrious cottage label for various types of prog, and home for two of the acts on the bill. In some respects, this is a shuffled and re-run of a similar gig back in February, in which The Gift’s mix of symph/prog/folk grandeur plus flashy AOR (and We Are Kin’s exploration of art rock shapes and northern English socialism) lined up with a pair of one-man bands in the shape of steampunk balladeer Tom Slatter and troubadour rocker jh. Now The Gift are back, and so are We Are Kin, with only the choice of one-man-band changed. Here’s the official blurb from the Elephant:

The Gift, fresh from their triumphant performance at An Evening Of Bad Elephant Music, will be headlining the event, bringing their own particular brand of symphonic progressive rock on stage. The band is currently working on the followup to 2014’s ‘Land of Shadows’, and may well be previewing a song or two here.


 
“Making the journey down to ‘that London’ all the way from Manchester, We Are Kin will be playing a selection of songs from their new album, ‘The Waiting Room’, as well as from their acclaimed debut, ‘Pandora’. Their twin vocal lineup wowed the audience at Abel Ganz’s Christmas party last year, and is sure to be a highlight of this event.


 
Tiger Moth Tales is the brainchild of Pete Jones, who will be performing solo for this event. His live shows have been widely acclaimed for their virtuosity, emotion and huge sense of fun. Pete’s two album releases ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Storytellers Part One’ will both be represented in his performance, and he may well throw in one or two cover versions of the prog classics!”



 

Just one final note – the gig’s a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Trust, emphasising a community that’s broader than just the prog one.

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David Cross Band @ The Lexington, 9th August 2016

The David Cross Band (with special guest David Jackson) + Richard Palmer-James
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Tuesday 9th August 2016, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

Despite nearly five decades in music, David Cross is still best known for his contributions to three albums at the start of his career. During a two-year early-‘70s stint with King Crimson (incorporating ‘Starless And Bible Black’, ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic’ and ‘Red’) David added “delicacy, and wood” to what some consider to be the band’s finest incarnation – part proto-punk-Mahavishu Orchestra, part stately electric-classical chamber group, and part droning/clattering/blaring building site. In its relatively brief and always restless lifespan, this particular Crimson lineup lay athwart the path of progressive rock, heavy metal and European improvisation like a splinter-ridden sleeper across the tracks: innovative, stern and ornery.

David’s amplified violin was a key part of the band’s powerful Euronoise, bringing in evocative melodies and moods which varied between Roma scurries, fall-of-Rome dramatics, foggy drones and angry squeals. As was the case with many of the departures from Crimson, David’s was passionate, painful and galling: progressively swamped by the band’s incremental climb towards avant-rock brutality, he was eventually forced out by its bruising, bristling volume and the implacable battering of its rhythm section. It took a few decades for him to salvage a more cordial relationship with Crimson leader Robert Fripp: nonetheless, the reconciliation has led to a return to the large extended Crimson family including guest spots and latterday Soundscape duets as well as recent electric chamber music with Crim-connected composer Andrew Keeling.)

Immediately after Crimson, though, David had to follow a different winding path of his own. From mid-‘70s work with trans-Manche psych/prog/fusioneers Clearlight (and experiments with big-band improv whilst leading the sadly undocumented Ascend) he went on to a long learning process during which, by his own admission, he failed at jazz. On the other hand, he successfully honed an affinity with alternative improvisation and with other forms. Theatre, in particular, proved to be a natural home, with David working up on stage and behind the scenes as well as in the pit band or composer’s slot. Theatricality also bled through into his other musical work. A trio he formed with keyboard player Sheila Maloney and saxophonist Pete McPhail took to the arts centres to perform musical interpretations of Samuel Beckett plays, while from the turn of the 1980s David was carrying out interdisciplinary performances with dancers, painters and the like (something he’s continued up until the present day).

After a decade away, a return to fusion and avant-rock in the late 1980s saw David becoming a keystone of Geoff Serle’s Radius band; an interesting, if airlessly pastoral, British answer to Material’s electro-funk. He was also a quarter of one-shot project Low Flying Aircraft, in which he joined forces with Crimson-orbit jazz pianist Keith Tippett, drummer Dan Maurer and budding teenaged guitar whiz Jim Juhn in a leaf-storm of nervy electroacoustic frenzy and scattered early sampler sputters. (For my money, it’s probably his most interesting post-Crimson bandwork to date.). He’s stayed busy ever since – this year, for instance, saw the release of violin-and-electronica duo album with Sean Quinn of Tiny Magnetic Pets, plus a live album from Japanese dates in which he guested with Crimson spinoff trio Stick Men.


 

All of this suggests the work of a musician whose reputation should be broader and better respected. It’s probably only the taint of grand prog – and of the “wrong kind” of fusion – which keeps him from it. In experimental rock (or, more accurately, in the media commentary which covers it, particularly on the British side) there still seem to be very clear, if dubious and snobbish, rules about who’s allowed credibility, and why. It’s not easy to escape from those fencings; and without this side of his history, David might have had his due.


 

For better or for worse, David’s most enduring project has been his own David Cross Band. Anchored since the mid-’90s by cohorts and co-composers Mick Paul (bass) and Paul Clark (guitars), it displays his electric violin – by turns stately, romantic, gnarled or locustlike – coursing fluently over a grandiose, detailed bed of prog pomp, deep metal, and flaring jazz-rock gestures. This year, however, the band’s taken an intriguing and strategic left-turn. With their latest album ‘Sign Of The Crow’ barely out of the gate, they’ve unexpectedly replaced keyboard player Alex Hall with veteran avant-prog sax hero David Jackson, once of Van Der Graaf Generator.

David Jackson in full 1970s effect (photographer unknown)

David Jackson in full 1970s effect (photographer unknown)

Musically adventurous and visually iconic, Jackson spent his Van Der Graaf years festooned with multiple instruments, blowing double-horn brass sections through brain-buggering electronics and being described as “a Third Reich bus conductor”. Since then, he’s spent much of his time working on the gesture-to-MIDI Soundbeam electronic project (bringing out the musicality of disabled children) while sometimes venturing out for gigs on the strength of his experimental rock reputation. Since crossing paths with David Cross at one such gig in Verona years ago, Jackson has been one of his frequent improvisation partners, making him an overdue natural fit for something like this. Regarding their chemistry, here’s a lengthy fly-on-the-wall video of the two of them playing (alongside Yumi Hara and Tony Lowe) at a release show for the Cross/Fripp ‘Starless Starlight’ album of Crimson-inspired Soundscape duets. Covering the show from rehearsal to performance, it hints at some of what the Cross/Jackson duo might be bringing to bear on the band shows; something which might well be transformational, pulling the band up and out of its shiny prog-metal box and perhaps delivering David Cross some of the broader respect he deserves.


 

The new Cross Band lineup, completed by Space Cowboys singer Jinian Wilde and by poly-disciplinary drummer Craig Blundell (who displays a heartening taste for post-dubstep playing when people let him off the prog leash), made their live debut in Wolverhampton last month. While no videos have emerged from this, there have been enthusiastic reports; and as King Crimson tours as a grand septet with a long-denied, fervently-delivered battery of archived ’70s classics, the Cross band are studding their own set with live deliveries of 21st Century Schizoid Man and Starless.

The London gig’s also intriguing in that it features a rare-as-rocking-horse-shit British solo slot from Richard Palmer-James. Originally the embattled first guitarist and wordsmith for Supertramp (a long time before they hit big at the American breakfast bar), Richard was the long-distance lyricist for King Crimson during David’s tenure and has subsequently carried out the same favour for twenty years of various Cross bands. Based in Bavaria for forty-odd years, he’s spent most of it embedded in production and writing work for German pop: since the turn of the century, however, he’s revived his original love for playing blues and country guitar. Most likely it will be this side of him that we’ll see at the Lexington on Tuesday. Still, who knows what the sense of occasion might bring out?
 

December 2015 – the last of the Christmas gigs – a happy Glasgow progmas with Abel Ganz/Tiger Moth Tales/We Are Kin; Harry Merry/John Callaghan/Sealionwoman/Tropic of Xhao in Colchester; while in London there’s a Momentum Arts Xmas Fundraiser (with The Marzec Group, Mariela of Venus On The Radio, Maz O’Connor and Keith Burstein), a spill of art-punk-psych-rock bands and a shamisen at the Firstivus, a Christmas Cabareilidh in Stoke Newington, a Yuletide math rock growler (with Axes/Shitwife/Vasa/Wot Gorilla), Kavus Torabi rides with mummers in Deptford, and Café Oto sees in the New Year with Hieroglyphic Being

17 Dec

Rush, rush. Last gigs before I give it a rest for the year. Here’s the expected random peppering, that lack of a consistent aesthetic, and all the other things you either love me for or despair over. They’re still mostly London shows, but Glasgow and Colchester are getting a look in.

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The Prog Before Xmas, 18th December 2015

The Prog before Xmas: Abel Ganz + Tiger Moth Tales + We Are Kin (Saramago @ Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street, G2 3JD Glasgow, Scotland, Friday 18th December 2015, 7.30pm) – £13.00 – information here and here  – tickets

I probably can’t get away with calling Abel Ganz “veteran neo-proggers”. Although they’ve had no shortage of lineup changes and lengthy hiatuses since forming in Glasgow back in 1980, in recent years they’ve become an almost entirely new band, with the last founder members finally stepping down a year or two ago in favour of new musicians. Not so unusual, perhaps; but oddly, Abel Ganz has thrived in these new circumstances: in 2015, they’ve enjoyed their most successful band year in three-and-a-half decades, and are in the mood to celebrate.

“We really wanted to end what has been a fantastic year for us with a special show in our own home town – and to help us celebrate we have invited along not one, but two of our very favourite bands to join us. Amazingly, they have both agreed! First of all, we are absolutely overjoyed to welcome along the man who is behind the brilliant Tiger Moth Tales: Peter Jones! Anyone who has not heard Pete’s albums ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Story Tellers’ is really missing out! The reaction to these astonishing works has been nothing less than ecstatic with many reviewers – quite rightly – hailing the man’s arrival on the prog scene as a major talent!

Secondly, we have been watching with great interest the growing roster of fantastic artists that have been gradually collected by perhaps the most important and influential independent prog record label around at the moment: Bad Elephant Music. Amongst their many stand-out releases in 2015, there is one in particular that we keep coming back to: ‘Pandora’, by young Manchester band We Are Kin. Rave reviews describe this fresh band’s atmospheric approach as music that “transcends genre and sound to become something timeless, original and new”. So – there you have it. We are really, really excited about this! Three bands on one Xmas party night. We are so pleased that Tiger Moth Tales and We Are Kin will join us on this special occasion, and we are very proud to be bringing them both to Scotland for their first shows north of the border.”



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Back in London, Momentum Arts set themselves going with a Christmas gig. They’ve got roots in, and are closely associated with, the Jeremy Corbyn movement, so the politically averse/committed should expect speeches and some familiar political faces to be included in the package along with the music. You can find out exactly who’s speaking, and in some cases what about) by following the information link). Personally, I share quite a few of their sympathies; but here’s what they have to say:

Momentum Arts Xmas Fundraiser with The Marzec Group + Mariela of Venus On The Radio + Maz O’Connor + Keith Burstein + others (Momentum Arts @ POW/The Prince of Wales, 467-469 Brixton Road, Brixton, London, SW9 8HH, England, Friday 18th December 2015, 7.00pm) – £6.00-£7.00 – informationtickets

Momentum Arts is an open network where creative people from all walks of life and lovers of the arts can unite through a shared passion for contemporary progressive, socially democratic politics. We are very proud of this and always aim (as far as possible) to create organising spaces which are safe for all. For this reason we’ll be operating on a zero tolerance policy for homophobia, racism, classism, transphobia and misogyny. We’re excited to present the first Momentum Arts event upstairs at the Prince Of Wales in Brixton! Get down to hear our excellent speakers, some inspiring music or just have a bit of a dance.

Performing:

The Marzec Group‘s appreciation for the club culture and electronic music genres brings back a reality to jazz; a grit long forgotten. Channelling these influences through a fresh and sophisticated combination of jazz, soul, blues and electronic music, their intense and improvisatory grooves are tailor made for the dancefloor.

Mariela is a girl of many hats; a musician and published author influenced by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Jack White, Sergio Moroder and many others. With longtime collaborator Anthony she formed Venus On The Radio, a band which after recording in Abbey Road studios, was featured in BBC Introducing.

Maz O’Connor is a gifted singer of traditional and self-penned songs. Influenced by the folk songwriters of the 1960s; Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Neil Young along with her literary leanings make for a varied and intriguing body of work.


Keith Burstein is a composer whose work includes controversial operas which have provoked much comment and indignation from the right-wing press for daring to question the political establishment. Most notable among these is ‘Manifest Destiny’ (co-written with Dic Edwards) which portrays would-be suicide bombers who renounce violence and trigger a peace movement across the world. Keith will be performing two songs on piano, with a guest singer.



 

DJs Dr Punkenstein and Calvin De Kline will also be playing sets.

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In Deptford, something a little more straightforwardly musical:

Firstivus (The Bird’s Nest, 32 Church Street, Deptford, London, SE8 4RZ, England, Friday 18th December to Sunday 20th December 2015, 5.00pm onwards) – free – information & tickets

Firstivus 2015

Two Deptford gig-scene lynchpins, Sinema City and Tom Moody –join forces for this year’s Firstivus – “a fun-filled weekend that will likely proved to be just a little too rhythmically-challenging for the whole family.”

Friday 18th opens, appropriately, with First (about whom no-one seems to know anything), followed by a pair of noisy drum-and-guitar duos (Charles Hayward’s Bass Drum project with his son Riley Hayward, then the more secretive No One You Know). The music continues with garage-grungers Black Plastic Cardiacs/Bungle/Zappa-inspired progressive punk tanglers The Display Team, Gong-esque jazz-rock collisionists Psychoyogi, and finally by Ted Milton’s veteran schizo-disco art-punks Blurt (who are informed by poetry and puppeteering as much as by rock and roll).






Saturday 19th sports another diverse roster – stoner rockers The Cortège, the ”post-punk/alt-pop/awkward friendliness” of Dead Arm, The All New Greatest Hits Band (in which event organiser Tom Moody fronts the rhythm section of The Display Team), an acoustic Japanese interlude with shamisen player Hibiki Ichikawa and Champagne Dub, a new teaming of established friends: polydiscipline drummer Max Hallett (of A Scandal In Bohemia/Super Best Friends’ Club) and bassist Ruth Goller (Acoustic Ladyland, Oriole, Bug Prentice, many others), who’ve previously worked together in the encym trio. The evening rounds off with Afrobeating Leeds post-punk trio Azores and headliners Boss Terror (who bring “drone, punk, spaced-and-motorway funk” as well as “Cockney tropical surf”).





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To be honest, I’ve got little idea of what’s going to happen with this next one, especially since it’s at The Others – but all of the clues point to a fusion of music, theatre and audience, and what time of year is better for that?

The Christmas Cabareilidh 2015

The Christmas Cabareilidh (Troupe @ The Others, 6-8 Manor Road, Stoke Newington, London, N16 5SA, UK, Saturday 19th December 2015, 8.00pm) – £8.00 – information & tickets

A brand new night out that fuses the fabulous fun of cabaret with the gaiety of a good old fashioned ceilidh. Fresh from the success of our last sell-out event, Troupe presents another Christmas Cabareilidh that promises to be even more delightful than the evening’s portmanteau. You’re invited to sit under the glowing haze of fairy lights, as our hilarious cabaret performers fill you with festive cheer. Dance with giddy abandon to the live folk music of our Cabareildih band and fill your stomachs and hearts with mulled wine, minced pies and cheery Christmas carols. Join us at The Others for an evening of irreverent yuletide song and dance- because nothing says Christmas quite like a Cabareilidh!

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Out of London again for a moment… over in Colchester, one of the town’s leading alternative venues (and one of its more eccentric promoters) has something for you.

A Harry Merry Christmas @ The Waiting Room, Colchester, 19th December 2015

A Harry Merry Christmas with John Callaghan + Sealionwoman + Tropic of Xhao (Mother Popcorn @ The Waiting Room, The Old Bus Station, off Queen Street, Colchester, Essex CO1 2PQ, Saturday 19th December 2015, 7.00pm) – pay-what-you-like – information

Harry Merry returns to Colchester for the final Mother Popcorn gig of 2015. Last time he was here was a few years back (when what is now Tribal was still Molly Malones). If you were there then you know what went down. If you weren’t, don’t miss this opportunity to see a Rotterdam legend do his thing in Colchester! Harry has toured extensively with his good friend Ariel Pink (who covered his song ‘Stevie Storm’) and has shared the stage with R. Stevie Moore, Quintron & Miss Pussycat and Colchester Arts Centre regular (via the Faroe Islands) Goodiepal. Here’s what ‘The Weirdest Band In The World’ blog has to say about Harry:

“Harry Merry is a living underground legend from the Dutch harbor city of Rotterdam. Dressed up in a sailor’s tunic and styled with an iconic haircut, he is out there to flabbergast with his unique brand of entertainment. His favorite keyboard is subjected to his own wild arrangements, full of odd chord changes and a tone scale of its own. Add Harry Merry’s unique, heavily accented voice and your ears will witness a match made in weirdo heaven.”

In support is John Callaghan (“an unusual songwriter / performer of thoughtful and spiky electronica from Birmingham… king and fool of the Eccentronica Microscene”), who played for Ma Popcorn back in May and made such an impression on Colchester that he was invited back for the Free Festival in August.

Tropic Of Xhao, that weird psychedelic drum n bass lot from Essex’s only tropical island St. Xhao (and featuring Captain Mother Popcorn) will be playing as well. We invite you to come and do weird dances with us.

Really happy to say Sealionwoman have just been confirmed to complete the line-up and open the show! This will be their first Mother Popcorn but the third time I’ve seen them, and I already want to book them for more next year. Double bass and vocal, both at the top of their game in terms of musicianship, just an incredible force to watch and hear. They list their band influences as “gin, jazz and noise” which sums them up better than anything I could write.

As usual pay what you can afford. All the money goes to the bands so please give generously if you can.

(Just to add a little to the blurb on Sealionwoman: if you want to read my own live review of them from a few years ago – also featuring Liam Singer, Foxout! and a moonlighting Laura Moody – it’s here. And to add to the blurb on John Callaghan: while I’ve yet to make it to one of his shows, I know his music, we’ve conversed, and he’s one of the wisest men I’ve met but cunningly disguised as one of the silliest.)

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Back to the centre of London for some no-nonsense math rock, post-hardcore and brainwork with knuckles… and what could be more festive and seasonal than a band called Shitwife?

TINJR Xmas Party with Axes, Shitwife, Vasa & Wot Gorilla (This is Not Revolution Rock/Jebs Presents @ The Borderline, Orange Yard, off Manette Street, London, W1D 4JB, England, Saturday 19th December 2015, 7.00pm) – £8.50-£9.60 – informationtickets

“Absolutely buzzing for this show. Not only will this be the Xmas party for This Is Not Revolution Rock / Jebs Presents, it marks Del’s 30th birthday and 200th show as a promoter. So we’re really pushing the boat out and there might be some free mince pies. Please spread the word and let’s pack the venue out from start to finish for this, the last show we’re putting on in 2015!”

(They’re so carried away by the occasion that they didn’t really introduce the bands… or assumed that everyone reading would know them. I’m in a hurry, so here’s the one-line version.

Axes – brash and playful mathrockers with a Foo Fighter pop vigour.
Shitwife – astonishingly brutal drums/laptop/electronics juggernaut fusing rave, death metal, noise and post-hardcore. Side project of musicians in bands with equally tasteful names.
Vasa – noisy synesthesic post-rock package.
Wot Gorilla? – how to noodle away at prog-inspired math rock and not alienate people.




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Here’s Knifeworld’s frontman (and eccentric broadcaster, in every sense) heading over to Deptford to dig up something old for the end of the year…

Dear Boss, 20th December 2015

Dear Boss: Kavus Torabi and others (The Bird’s Nest, 32 Church Street, Deptford, London, SE8 4RZ, England, Sunday 20th December 2015, 4.00pm) – free entry – information

It’s Chri-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-istma-a-a-a-as! Join us as we are joined by avant-psych-rock multi-instrumentalist and all round Interesting Alternative guy Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld/Guapo)…(Mr. Steve Davis sadly can’t join us, as he’s gone skiing). And… come early to witness one of England’s strangest and most resilient midwinter traditions – ‘The Christmas Champions’ (a.k.a ‘The Mummers Play’). Our team of Jolly Boys and Guisers will offer up some seasonal shambols – preparing to entertain you with a short performance featuring William the Great, St George, Bull Slasher, The Doctor and old Beelzebub himself – with original music from James Larcombe (Stars in Battledress/North Sea Radio Orchestra). We’ll be doing it around 7-ish, I expect.

Boss. Wassail!

Beyond all of the throaty bombast I think that most of what’s beyond the mummery is DJ sets, although anyone who’s tuned in to Kavus on the Interesting Alternative Show will know that he can slap together some of the most extraordinarily eclectic sets you could ever hope to hear, featuring plenty of names you’d never heard, while telling cheerful lies about other cult artists who don’t actually exist. Fun to catch, in other words.

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On the subject of DJ sets, here’s one last one…

Hieroglyphic Being

Café Oto NYE Party with Hieroglyphic Being 6-hour DJ set) (Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, UK, 31st December 2015, 10.00pm) – £20.00-£30.00 – informationtickets

We’re ecstatic to be welcoming in the New Year with Jamal Moss (a.k.a. Hieroglyphic Being), who will be flying in especially to Café Oto for a bumper 6 hour DJ set.

Jamal is one of the most unhinged and adventurous artists working in electronic music today; born in Chicago and raised in the heyday of the city’s house music scene, he has gone on to blur the lines between various forms of dance music, free jazz and industrial music, releasing countless singles and LPs, and even recently collaborating with the likes of Marshall Allen and Daniel Carter. His infamously unpredictable DJ sets have gardened considerable praise over the years, so we’re delighted to have him here for this very special occasion.

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And that’s it – although there’ll be a ramble through 2015 sometime between now and the end of January, and I may sneakily shuffle a few previously-incompleted posts back into the dates when I intended to publish them.

See you later.
 

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