Call me Russ L

Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007: Those Were The Two Weeks That Were

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007 by Russ L on 24 October, 2007

So, Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007 is over. That was my GDFAF. 42 bands (29 of whom I’d never seen before) in 12 venues (4 of which I’d never visited before).

I intentionally didn’t write anything about how I felt the whole thing was going as I went along, but anyone who saw me will know that I was completely bored with it by about halfway through. I was enjoying (most of) the gigs, but I was completely fed up with the process. I suppose it just isn’t a novelty any more for me, having done it two years running. Tiredness wasn’t a problem, nor inertia as such; it was active disinterest, if you see what I mean.

Next years is a long, long way away, and so everything could change between now and then, but it’s exceedingly unlikely that I’ll do it again. So… who will? Obviously the main thing about this is for people to go to more and different things than they would in their usual runnings irrespective of how many this may be, but I’d like to see someone do the whole fortnight/major Goodfaff every year. I think it’s a nice tradition to preserve. Hopefully someone local, too.

Well? Anyone?

GDFAF Auxilliary Activity #2: Wasn’t to be (21/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007 by Russ L on 23 October, 2007

Right, so. A gig attended every night for fourteen days (and one bonus one during an afternoon), with the one allowed day off in the middle taken up by going to another event. Going Deaf For A Fortnight duties discharged, non?

Well, maybe not. I planned to go to hear Mahler’s 2nd (my favourite symphony without question) performed by the Cleveland Orchestra (I don’t follow such things in detail but I gather they’re highly respected internationally) at Symphony Hall on the 21st. I could try and claim there was some clever plan in place beforehand, but I’d be lying. I miscalculated. I thought that GDFAF 2007 finished on the 21st, not the 20th. Yes, I am that stupid. I forgot that the first gig was ‘1’ rather than ‘0’, if you see what I mean.

But! But but but… when speaking to The Goodfafther Pete Ashton in the middle of it all, we realised that a precedent had been set without either of us really previously noticing it. Following the 2005 Goodfaff, he went to see his sister play in The Banbury Symphony Orchestra the immediate day after. Straight after last year’s Goodfaff, I went to see ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ at The Rep. This year, the above was planned. Excellent! New rule! After their fourteen gigs o’ fury (with or without the night off, if ‘with’ then preferably spent at some other sort of event), someone who really wants to throw themselves into the major GDFAF lark can spend the following night going to something more high-culture! Fantastic, and grown completely naturally. No pesticides involved.

Apart from… erm… I didn’t go. Poorliness (threatened at the final night of popular-music-ing) placed its foot down quite firmly. Sorry about that. I don’t know why I’m apologising to you, though, since I’m the one who wasted twenty-odd sodding quid on an unused ticket.

Still, though. Precedent~!

I think this post is the future. Rather than writing about things I did, I may proceed by writing about things I didn’t do. Fantastic. Whichever way up, though, there’ll be one more post on the subject of Goodfaff and then I promise to shut up about it for the time being. Well, I don’t mean “promise to”, I mean “might”, obviously.

GDFAF 14: Jeffrey Lewis & The Jitters/Professor Louis/Dexter (20/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 23 October, 2007

The last popular music gig of my Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007 dawned, and I wasn’t feeling very well. Off I went to The Hare & Hounds (for the second time in the fortnight) nonetheless.

Dexter were the first turn. I had seen them once before but I really didn’t remember ’em having a trumpet. I’m silly like that, though. Pop-rock with a bit of ska-punk here and there, anyway, and on the dull side. I wouldn’t suggest they were a waste of electricity, because I’m not nasty like that. Oh no.

Professor Louie (the uncle of our headliner, Jeffrey Lewis. I don’t know which side of the family, but I hope it’s not paternal. Think about it.) was fantastic. He recited his poetry in his tough New York accent, while some vague jazzy grooves were performed quietly by others in the background (although I paid very little attention to those, in all honesty). It sounds kind of beatnik-ish (as in the popular stereotype and not the actual movement, you know what I mean) and in a way it was, but his delivery contained no hint of pretence or fancy. Commonly-expressed lefty sentiments that I agree with but have heard many-a-time before rose above platitudinous-ness by dint of the eloquence and intensity with which he put them across. You could tell he meant it. He was really engrossing, definitely one of the highlights of the fortnight, and I’d maybe recommend trying to see him even if you aren’t normally into any of this live music nonsense. (Have a watch of this video of him doing ‘The Walking Dead’. It’s pretty great, although I’d say it doesn’t capture the full essence it had live).

Finally, Jeffrey Lewis, an artist recommended by many but never heard previously heard by… erm, me. He wore a large guitar. That’s not a euphemism. I just mean that his guitar looked oversized.

‘Whimsical’ is one of those words that has become revolting through over-use by people who have tried to make it synonymous with “acting like a tit.” Another one of said words would be “quirky”. As such I tend to retch when I hear a musical act described via those terms, but I think that they actually may have applied here and furthermore no-one need throw up. A lot of his songs seemed quite silly but were cleverly written, and had a darker edge here and there. His band, The Jitters (I’m not sure if he always performs with them or not) were similarly varied in tone – mostly very lighthearted with the cheap keyboards sounds ‘n’ such, occasionally turning the mood a slight touch more sinister, and then going a bit more dancey on a few songs too. Illustrations drawn by he himself were projected behind them, and were often quite fun (especially ‘Champion Jim”. Champion Jim~!). It was all very enjoyable and I’d like to investigate his cannon further. I had to go before the finish once again (I know there’s been too much of that in this particular fortnight where I really wasn’t meant to, but there you are. Buses. Stabbing pains in the stomach. And so on.).

It’s a bit of a shame I couldn’t find anything to make a big appropriate-feeling finale like Motorhead last year, but never mind. Thus it ended. Or did it? Yes. No. Maybe. Till the next post…

GDFAF #13: Shana Tova/Tom Bellamy/The Cribbler (19/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 22 October, 2007

GDFAF number thirteen (into the final furlong by this point) was chaotic to say the least. The plan was to go and see Capdown at The Barfly, on their final ever ever ever tour. I arrived to find it sold out. Blast. Unlike Clutch or Battles (two other sold out gigs at the same venue this year), there was no happy little Johnny On The Spot in position to sell me a ticket at face price. Alternate plans were needed. It really is a bugger, since I won’t get to see Capdown again now, but that’s life. I raise a glass to them; they were a good band.

Faffing about ensued, and plenty of it. I eventually ended up heading to the Island Bar to see Mills & Boon. It turned out that they weren’t playing, of course, only one of them, but never mind that. I’d never been to the Island Bar before, but quite liked it. Functionably nice, it was. And it had paving stones indoors in the upstairs room. Whatever next, eh? I didn’t try any of their cocktails but I may have to next time.

It’s also possibly worth noting that this gig turned out to be an Oxjam benefit. There were quite a few there, so presumably a good sum was raised.

The Cribbler (of the aforementioned Mills & Boon) started the larks off, but alas had to compete with the excitable yakking ‘n’ yelping of morons. Why? Why oh why oh why? When there’s an entire downstairs available, why do you choose the room in which an acoustic artist is playing as your venue for discussing which branch of Tony & Guy you like the most? Because you’re a pillock, that’s why. Nuts to you.

The Cribbler was ace, anyway. Nifty finger-pickering tricks on the old guitar, combined with some unusual but really intriguing lyrics. He also has the ability to switch from ‘calm’ to ‘manic and intense’ on a sixpence, which adds a lot. I really enjoyed his set, certainly more than I remember liking him at last year’s GDFAF. It’s a shame about all the other sods in the room. I mean, come on – it’s a safe bet their conversations weren’t interesting as what he was doing, isn’t it? I’m going to shut up about this now. It’s not good for the blood pressure.

That was about it for interesting music, as it turned out. Tom Bellamy and his band played folk/country-rock stuff without any immediately attractive songs or other points of interest; Shana Tova played emo/post-hardcore stuff without any immediately attractive songs or other points of interest apart from a singer who was irritating in both face and manner. It was cracking on late, so I had to leave before The Will To Rally played, but I didn’t especially like them when I saw them last year and so they can be added to the general hurrumph.

Still. The Cribbler was good, the venue wasn’t bad, and it was for a good cause.

Sorry about this

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007 by Russ L on 21 October, 2007

I’m getting a bit behind on the chronicling of GDFAF exploits, but I really don’t feel all that well at the minute. I can’t see them appearing this morning, at least. We’ll have to see about this afternoon. Soon though children, soon. Hopefully.

GDFAF #12: Billy Ocean / Ebony Steel Band (18/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 19 October, 2007

In what was without question the most anticipated gig of the fortnight, GDFAF number twelve saw Nyki and I heading to the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton for Billy Ocean. Billy Ocean himself.

First of all – nuts to your sneering little accusations of ironic appreciation. You may be a tosser like that, but don’t drag me down to your level. If I say I like something it’s because I’ve found qualities in it that I like, and I like Billy Ocean a lot.

We arrived to find the Ebony Steel Band already on. I always think Steel bands are really clever. Getting all those different mellifluous sounds out of things that are essentially percussive is a bloody nifty trick in my view. As such, this involved a fair bit of me murmuring “Oh, isn’t that clever!” A cover (with part of the assembled steel drummery imitating the vocal melody in the sort of style I’m sure you’ve heard before) of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” was the highlight.

Billy! Aaaaw, he’s lovely. When you see him in the flesh he’s just… munchable. You just want a little version of him that you can keep on your desk at work. When you get depressed he can do his little feet-slide-y dance to cheer you up.

It went much as you’d expect, anyway, and was as much fun as you’d think. Billy-O was never likely to alter his songs significantly in a live setting. I was surprised at the large (and I mean large) number of middle-aged women who came over all hormonal and kept running up to the stage, though. I suppose memory can be a powerful thing, or maybe it’s related to my previous paragraph. I bet the hanky that the one woman so lovingly mopped his brow with is already worth a fortune on Ebay.

So, “Love Really Hurts Without You” opened things, we soon got “Red Light Means Danger”, a bloody great three-card trick of “Loverboy”, “Gett Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Going” finished the main set, and “Carribean Queen” was the encore. All your faves. I do genuinely thinK that the better of Billy O’s songs are amongst the greatest pop-soul songs yet created.

Why oh why did they shut the bars in The Civic once he came on stage, though? They don’t normally do that.

GDFAF #11: Unsane/Bee Stung Lips (17/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 18 October, 2007

It was back to something a touch less Out There for GDFAF number eleven, with a Capsule gig at The Medicine Bar. I understand that it’s named ‘The Factory Club’ now, but that just doesn’t feel right. I will continue to call it The Med Bar until someone tells me not to. I like the place as a venue, but I don’t like their drinks prices. You can get around this, though. Ahem.

Bee Stung Lips opened this two band (uhuh) bill, but were suffering from a misplaced singer. As a three-piece they seemed somewhat less manic than usual, but (perhaps because of the lack of distractions) the power of their music came through more. The Jesus Lizard reference that always comes to mind seemed a lot stronger this time, and in a funny sort of way a more hopped-up version of our headliners for the night came to mind at times (this is just my mind, though, and my mind was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that I was imminently about to see them). A different side to the Bee Stung Lips we usually see, but worthwhile.

Unsane are a band I’ve wanted to see for many-a-year, and happily they didn’t disappoint in the least. I suppose the funny thing about Unsane is that as much as I like them, I could very easily see how someone else wouldn’t. In a lot of ways, they are just your basic rock. They have the odd funny time signature and atonal bits, but it’s just rock. The difference is, that they’re Rock To The 381,000th Degree without any of the silly fripperies that so often get added on. Rock fired out of a volcano into the centre of the sun. There’s an almost elemental degree of power squeezed out of basic (if overdriven-to-Billy-O*) blues-based songs. So very loud, as well. Not too many gigs make my ears ring these days, but this one did. One could make a case for a Godflesh-esque trance-state being achieved by the repetition of Great Big Bloody Riffs, but I think that’s reaching a bit far. They just blow your head off, and that’ll do me just fine. Lovely stuff.

As an aside, there was a nice early finish too. This is unusual for a Capsule gig.

* Edit: Billy O, of course, will be spoken about as part of my twelfth GDFAF night.

GDFAF #10: Bark! (16/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 17 October, 2007

GDFAF number ten was another one I didn’t have a solid plan for. I was vaguely tempted by The Rumblestrips at The Academy 2 (after having read many good notices about them from Baron ‘n’ Ben), but I’ve already been to that venue once this fortnight and didn’t want to risk puking up a f’n lung by going again. I was also tempted by The Proclaimers at The Civic, but I have seen them before and (as much as I like them) I don’t think they’re the sort of band one would get more out of by seeing them multiple times.

Casting round on the internet for ideas led down a very goodfaffy path – Bark! at The Lamp Tavern in Digbeth. An act I didn’t know at a venue I’d never been to before and of which I only had a hazy idea of the location. Perfect. Going Deaf For A Fortnight epitomised.

I loved The Lamp Tavern straight away. It’s a really nice proper pub, with loads of real ales (for which they seem to have won numerous awards). I was annoyed that I’d already been drinking lager, but there we go. It’s a little bit out of the way compared to everywhere else, but I can assure you I’ll be heading back at some point.

Bark!, then. Although I’m open to anything and everything, I don’t encounter a lot of genuine avant-garde jazz in my daily runnings. This gig was something a bit different for me. On one flank, we had a man playing a prepared five string guitar with a wide variety of household objects. I think we’ve probably all seen a violin bow used for the purpose before, but not necessarily a comb or a butter knife (MTO/Brian Duffy’s “Surplus value in things that seem redundant” concept came to mind for the second night running). At the other wing, a chap sat in front of the electronics and triggered samples (was he processing some of the sounds from the guitar, too? I’m not sure). He had the look of an evil genius about him. Finally, a drummer made up the centrepiece. He was interesting to watch as well as listen to – not only did he make use of more sundry objects (tin bowls, lengths of wire etc) in a few different ways (banging and clanging them together as well as scattering them across the drumkit, both to hit with his sticks and to alter the timbre of other bits of the kit he struck), but he seemed… manic. His playing style was not based on any sort of economy of motion in the slightest – when not actually hitting anything his hands would still be frantically quivering and shaking around. It looked like air-drumming at times, in fact. Combine it with the way he held his mouth while playing and you might have mistaken him for being autistic (and that’s not meant as an insult in the least, just an observation) (EDIT LATER ON: I apologise for this. “Autistic” isn’t what I mean at all. I am genuinely sorry about that idiotic phrasing on my part).

I couldn’t follow what they were doing of course. I’m not completely sure there was anything you’re meant to follow, as such, although looking around at other faces in the room people certainly appeared to have latched on to some sort of clever musicianly undertow that I couldn’t see or hear. I don’t think that’s important, though – whatever they may or may not have been trying to express, I got something out of it (yes, yes, ‘Death Of The Author’ and so on). Firstly it was a spectacle to look at. Beyond this, we had the way that moments of order seemed to arise out of the chaos. Every now and then things seemingly clicked together. I couldn’t tell whether they were actually trying for this, or not – throughout they kept me on my toes wondering whether they were trying to play together, or completely independently, or some mixture (at quite a few moments it felt to me like two of them were going mad on their own and the third was tasked with tying the whole thing together. I’m probably completely wrong, but that’s how it felt). It was also interesting to note that – although mostly a-rhythmic (to my lugholes, anyway) – the odd moments of rhythm that did arise seemed to be primarily from the guitarist, even though at other times you could see him consciously checking himself and refusing to fall into too consistent a pattern.

The most important thing I can say is that it asked questions of me, and I think ‘thought provoking’ is a very good thing for music to be. I enjoyed it.

The (very friendly and affable, it has to said) promoter chap wheeled in a prepared piano to play and invited those who had brought along instruments (i.e. about a third of the 10-15 strong audience) to come and have a bit of a jam, with and at times without members of Bark!. This was a bit more hit and miss, as one might expect, although certainly had its moments. The trio of the three fellas on brass was expecially nice, and even amusing when it seemed to get into a macho “I can tootle higher notes than you” contest in the middle.

So, record this gig as “The One Where Russ L Didn’t Really Understand What Was Going On But Quite Liked It Anyway.” And I’ll definitely be going back to The Lamp Tavern.

GDFAF #9: Pram/Modified Toy Orchestra/Shady Bard (15/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 16 October, 2007

Monday the fifteenth saw me at Birmingham Town Hall for third time in Goodfaff fortnight, for Capsule’s night.

There was an interesting post by P’Ashton in the run-up this. While I can’t say that I feel the “identifying with the fact that these bands are playing” part of it myself, I do think that it’s great that these bands got the chance to play in a big hall and in front of the big audience that was at least partly attracted by the fact that this gig was part of the Town Hall re-opening foofaraw. It is also a Very Good Thing that the Powers That Be have decided to get people who know what they’re talking about to sort out this sort of gig, rather than attempting to do it themselves.

I didn’t like Shady Bard when I saw them as part of Goodfaff 2006, and so skirted around them at this year’s Supersonic. I forget if there was bad sound or what, but they sounded like a fairly dreary folksy indie band. At this gig, dreary was the absolute last thing they sounded. They came across as a sort of Walker Brothers-come-Nick Cave-come-Tindersticks gone post-rock. Beautifully arranged melancholic songs with lots of different sounds going on, building up to big stonking crescendos. The singerer’s nervous between-song-banter was endearing, too. Colour me completely won over. I definitely want to see them again.

Theatre-style ice-cream vendors made an appearance between bands. I didn’t buy one, but I do approve of this.

Modified Toy Orchestra, as any fule kno, are one of my favourite bands. Their music is made by means of electronic toys that have been doctored by means of the arcane art of circuit bending. Your man opens it up, makes connections between bits of the circuitry until it makes a reaction he likes, then solders it together thusly. Genius. This gig made me wonder (although not for the first time) why MTO weren’t playing at Artsfest. If there are two local bands that combine ‘substance and actual worth’ with ‘the ability to appeal to lots of different walks of life’, they’re The Destroyers and The Modified Toy Orchestra. I’m sure it’s no co-incidence that both of them ended up playing as part of this Town Hall opening fortnight.

MTO just manage to work on so many different levels, and keep revealing more. There’s the novelty aspect (toyz~!) of course, but you have to add the philosophical side to it (finding potential in the gaps of modern life. I’ve linked this interview a couple of times before, but it’s well worth a read), and the fact that they have bloody ace songs that will appeal equally as much to your 10 year on sugar, your 20 year old on pills, your thirty year old on lager and your 40 year old on chin stroking. This time there were various people bursting into laughter at certain sounds they weren’t expecting (a sudden moo of a cow, for example), which I hadn’t really encountered in any of the previous five times I’d seen them but is a perfectly reasonably response and yet another way to enjoy them.

Pram always sound less electronic-y than I expect them to be. How they manage to do this every single time I hear them without me changing my expectations is a question you’ll just have to ponder. Apart from sounding pretty darn jazzy in places this time (certainly more so than the last time I saw them), the thing that always stands out about their multi-instrumental sound adventures is the dreamlike quality (and the occasional hint at a nightmarish quality too). They’re always very beautifully textured (that’ll be all the different instruments. And no, we won’t be having any jokes about tromboning here), but seem to have an almost otherworldly element about them too.

Also, they’re hard to describe. Oh so very hard to describe.

A really nice night of music, altogether.

GDFAF #8: Contempt / Eastfield / Pungent Smells (14/10/7)

Posted in Going Deaf For A Fortnight 2007, Music by Russ L on 15 October, 2007

Back to the Goodfaffery. I didn’t actually have anything planned for the 14th, and so a degree of interwebnettery was needed on the actual day. I was tempted to go and see Lethal Bizzle at The Civic, but thought I already had enough ‘big’ gigs attended and planned for the fortnight (it’s not strictly contrary to the rules, but enormodome things don’t accord 100% with the general spirit of it all. Having said that, though, it’s supposed to be about pushing yourself and a gig in a big hall is a lot more alien and weird-feeling to me than a gig in an actual pub. Hmmm…). I ended up opting for a punk ‘n’ reggae do in the beer garden of The Malt Shovel in Balsall Heath. It was Goodfaffy in the sense of being a venue I’d never been to before but not-especially-Goodfaffy in terms of the fact that I knew in advance that I’d miss the start and the end, being as it was meant to be on from “2pm till Late”. 2pm had already passed, and we public transport-eers don’t do ‘late’.

I eventually got there whenever I got there (just after six? I forget), to find not a lot in the way of live music happening in the back garden. Reggae records were being played out there (as well as in the pub – dubbier stuff outside, rootsier stuff in. Soundclash! Well, not really) and I soaked up the ambience (and some Red Stripe) for a bit, before deciding to head down the road for a pint (or two) to pass the time. I returned to find a band onstage, and (eventually) established that I was about halfway through the bill (not knowing who this band were and not being too clear about precisely who was on the bill didn’t help with this). Since I doubt they got three (I think) bands on while I was away, I can only assume that they had some on earlier on in the afternoon followed by a really long break. Or something. I was hugely confused.

A bit of research has shown me that the first band I saw were called Pungent Smells (lovely. No website as far as I can tell, but I did come across this video of them). Your basic streetpunk-with-bits-of-reggae lark, none too interesting. Eastfield, however, were great. I’ve always liked them but have managed to let it go over six years since I last saw them. Oops. For those that don’t know them, their ‘urban rail punk’ might best be described as high energy three-chord pop-punk, with frequently witty lyrics. They’re a really, really fun band, and hopefully I won’t let it go for another six years before I see them again.

I’m not sure they’d approve of me as much, though. I’ve paid on every train I’ve been on for quite a long time now. The lessons of ‘Faredodging’ have obviously been lost on me.

Contempt were on next, playing hardcore punk (the streetpunk-sped-up type, not the pointing your fingers in the air and using American phrases type). I know they’re a well-regarded band amongst the sort of people who regard them well, but I wasn’t feeling them – they seemed to be just the typical sort of thing, really, without any especially memorable songs.

Things were due to keep on going (they’re probably still going on now), but that was about enough for me. I enjoyed this gig, though, disproportionately when you consider I only actually liked one band out of the three that I saw.