Live: Brighton Source Reviews

Sadly the Brighton Source website has followed the magazine and is shutting up shop for good. I had a great time last year writing for them and it’s sad to see such a great Brighton institution go. Here’s a collection of my writings over the year, the photos were the work of my partner in crime Ashley Laurence. RIP Source, thanks for the memories x

Nightworkers

First up is Brighton four-piece, The Bright Ones. Making online waves with lead single ‘Does She Make Noise’, the band are set to tour the UK imminently. They explode into opening track ‘We Are The Boys’ with frontman Christian Jegard snarling with the punk rock tenacity of a young John Lydon and the knowing lyrical satire of Art Brut’s Eddie Argos. The enigmatic frontman is supported with doo-wop harmonies from guitarist Danny Curtis and bassist Stewart Brown. Drummer Carl Hayden provides a ferocious tightness that runs the rhythm section like clockwork.

The place is filling up and the vibe is total New York CBGB’s at a Ramones show. ‘Filthy Mind’ follows with a real Elastica flavour pronounced in Danny Curtis’ vicious guitar work. It’s all very sleazy and 90s without being too derivative and the chorus hits hard. Other songs capture the haunting psych echo of The Horrors or Cat’s Eyes and by the time the band drop ‘Does She Make Noise?’ the crowd have been stirred into a frenzy. Surreal lyrics “She’s not heavy she’s a piranha!” cause the kind of mass chant more prevalent on football terraces than rock shows. There’s no doubt these boys are destined for bigger stages.

Telford’s Weatherbird follow and leave our ears ringing with the heaviest UK grunge since Nine Black Alps. New single ‘Johnny Strange’ goes down a storm with frontman Jacob Ball embodying the punk ethos of Ryan Jarman’s angsty little brother.

Last to take the stage is Nightworkers, also from Brighton. Vocalist Jack Moullin is quick to address the fact that they are ‘a man down’ as their keyboardist is in A&E but this doesn’t seem to slow the fantastically groomed youngsters a bit. Set highlight ‘Girl’ opens with the band pulling out the sort of vocal harmonies that made the Mystery Jets famous and chugs along with the swagger of Kasabian at their most 60s sounding.

Guitarist Jamey Exton puts the guitar down and delivers some mesmerising harmonica on the stoned cowboy romp ‘Daydreamer’ and the show closes with Jack imploring the crowd to join the band onstage. This doesn’t take much persuasion. An epic end to a colossal show. Escapism doesn’t get greater than this.

The Virgins

 

It’s a blustery overcast Sunday night and we’ve ventured down to The Hope to catch New York quintet The Virgins as they tour their sophomore effort ‘Strike Gently’. There’s a trio of local bands in support; Indigo Beach, Run Young Lovers and Stacks. The latter go down the best and entice the packed-out crowd into mass hysteria.

 

This isn’t the first time The Virgins have visited Brighton, but a five year stretch between albums, a change in line-up leading to an altogether more mature sound makes tonight feel extra special. Formed in 2006 they won acclaim with their self-titled debut. They’ve opened for the likes of The Stooges and being the first signees to Julian Casablancas’ new label Cult Records bring with them a level of indie notoriety.

 

The atmosphere is at fever pitch and as the foursome launch into the opening chords of latest single ‘Prima Materia’ the venue erupts. Guitars weave back and forth between front man Donald Cumming and lead guitarist Xan Aird until at around the halfway mark Aird unleashes a guitar riff as explosively infectious as the hooks in Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’.

 

They follow with ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ which also feels immediately nostalgic and classic. The band rattle along like Tom Petty via Dire Straits and Cumming’s vocals have matured into an effortless Lou Reed drawl. They waste no time hurtling into ‘Flashbacks, Memories And Dreams’ which may have the band’s biggest chorus to date, complete with soaring backing vocals that lift the track to dizzying heights.

 

It’s reaching boiling point inside The Hope and the Manhattan natives don’t disappoint the fans that came to hear some vintage Virgins. ‘We’re gonna play some old songs…’ Cumming says with a knowing smile as the band tear into old favourites ‘One Week Of Danger’ and ‘Rich Girls’ – both receiving an ecstatic reaction on the dance floor.

 

The boys are true musical magpies, embodying sounds reminiscent of The Modern Lovers and Blondie but brought to life for a new generation as The Strokes once did in the early noughties. Perhaps inspired by their recent tour with indie giants The Killers, The Virgins end in suitably stadium-sized style with a beefed up version of ‘Figure On The Ice’. It’s an epic finale and they seem poised for a second chance at greatness.

 

After the show we manage to catch up with vocalist Donald Cumming for a chat covering all topics from their current tour to his love of Brighton Rock (the book, not the hard stuff). The guys are off to Paris, Strasbourg and Montreal next. Donald also revealed that they have been writing new material which may even surface before the end of the year. For a band so triumphantly reborn this is music to our ears.

The Hope, Sunday 23rd June 2013

Friends

TWOTHREEFOUR

At the start of the month the Green Door Store showcased some of Brighton’s best rising talent as it hosted the first ever TWOTHREEFOUR festival. We locked ourselves inside away from the mayhem of Pride to check it out.

 

First up is a solo performance from Helen Gayna Brown of Dog In The Snow. Despite the venue being quiet she creates a beautifully haunting atmosphere and it’s a stunning way to start the festival. Flavia Aliverti aka Foreign Skin follows with her own brand of washed out ambient chillwave. Her Hong Kong roots run through the tracks with oriental instrumentals melting seamlessly into the synthy hip hop aesthetic.

 

GAPS are getting their fair share of hype online at the moment and judging by this performance it’s well deserved. The duo have a knack for combining natural sounds, tribal beats and warm folk tinged vocals with a throbbing electro current. It’s Fleet Foxes colliding with Jamie XX and it’s brilliant.

 

The Hundredth Anniversary sound massive today and play a set of highlights including single ‘The Jump’ and b-side ‘34’. They create beautifully realised soundscapes that give way to massive goose bump inducing finales. The band will be playing SoundScreen at the Brighton Digital Festival at The Corn Exchange on 5th September, which isn’t to be missed.

 

Theo Verney and his band play full throttle slacker rock in a similar vein to Girls and Harlem and the results are explosive. New song ‘Walk It Off’ with its Sabbath style riffs incites mass moshing and they’re a big hit. Shudder Pulps are inoffensive and not without indie charm but it’s Tyrannosaurus Dead who really raise the bar. Aided today by Danny Curtis from The Bright Ones they hurtle through a set of highlights including the Smashing Pumpkins nodding ‘Silver’ and their own ‘1992’ which sends the crowd into a frenzy.

 

Californian minstrel Ed Prosek provides a moment of folky respite and a chance to catch your breath. This doesn’t last long though as Demob Happy hit the now-packed Green Door Store with some titanic grunge. The largely 90s feel of the day continues with Kill Moon who feel like the sum of Hole, Frankie Rose and Best Coast. Izzy Philips looks the born frontwoman and is magnetic on stage.

 

Written In Waters headline day one of the festival and they get a massive turnout. People are quite literally scaling the walls inside the venue to get a look at the stage. It’s glitzy and bombastic and tracks like ‘Hymn’ showcase Beth Cannon’s immensely powerful voice. She hits every high note with style and the band end with a seismic face-melting finale that closes the day off with a bang.

 

Day two and this writer is feeling more than a little weather worn. Still we’re eased in gently by Animal Language who seem to be feeling it as well and ask the few in the venue if they “want to see this band collapse?” Luckily they don’t and the set is short but sweet.

 

Things take a turn for the surreal early on, as Wild Cat Strike take to the stage in wigs and kimonos. They’re like gentile geishas and we’re rubbing our eyes in case it’s all a hallucination. They are serious though and the psychedelic shape-shifting set feels like watching an amazing impromptu jam.

 

Birkwin Jersey continues to keep things interesting by conjuring up some terrifically forward-thinking dance. The Green Door Store is livening slightly now and there are some interesting shapes being thrown in the crowd. The Faux Flux performance signals the second show in two days for The Hundredth Anniversary’s drummer Demelza Mather. Last track ‘Come Alive’ from the band’s ‘Come Alive’ EP sounds big and it’s a funky set.

 

I Like The Go Go play a stormer, rattling through songs at a hundred miles per hour. The duo has the garage rock intensity of The White Stripes delivered with a 70s British punk ferocity. The crowd has been building and it’s pretty packed by the time Telegram take the stage. They look a lot like The Horrors but unfortunately don’t quite pack the same punch.

 

Fuzzy psych rockers Spit Shake Sisters may just have played the set of the festival and blow the roof off of the venue. Singer and guitarist Harrison Davies looking like a young Kurt Cobain climbs down from the stage with guitar and mic and closes the set right in the middle of the crowd. Our ears will be ringing for a while after this.

 

The New Union have an epic sound which is well received. It’s polished and professional and they seem destined for bigger stages. Tigercub are a commanding presence with a giant frontman and an equally herculean sized sound. The trio play heavy angst-infused grunge that causes ecstatic fans to create a moshpit at the front. It’s no surprise these boys have toured with Dinosaur Jr recently, this one has gone off.

 

The hype is realised for Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs who look stoic and determined as they pummel through a set of Television-meets-Suede style numbers. They already look and sound classic and should be poised for indie stardom.

 

Closing the festival are Scottish pop punks The Xcerts. Singer and guitarist Murray Macleod implores the massive crowd to forget work tomorrow and cut loose. He also reveals the band has been working on an album that’s 98% written; new song ‘I Don’t Care No More’ seems to go down well. Older favourites are greeted with football terrace style singalongs and it’s an anthemic and celebratory close to a fantastic couple of days of music. Let’s hope it happens again next year.

Green Door Store, 3rd-4th August 2013

Shakedown

 

It’s the end of the Summer and the festival season is almost over. Brighton SOURCE is at the third annual Shakedown festival at Stamner Park to check out the action across the three stages.

 

Brighton has seen its fair share of festivals come and go with the likes of Beachdown and White Air failing to leave a mark. Over the years Shakedown has hosted the likes of Katy B, Dizzee Rascal and Razorlight (remember them?) and this year the line-up looks better than ever.

 

Veteran DJ Krafty Kuts impresses in the Supercharged Arena and plays to a packed crowd early on. It’s a breakbeat masterclass and goes down massively well inside the tent.

 

Over at the Audio Arena there’s quite a different atmosphere surrounding Marlon Mahroyan whose moody industrial electro set caters for dance fans who like their music a shade darker. The sound has a similar apocalyptic aesthetic of later Fuck Buttons and it sounds enormous.

 

Over on the main stage Jaguar Skills shows his flash for theatrics. Dressed in a mask like a foot soldier from the Turtles, he plays from inside a massive 80s arcade machine. His set includes fan-pleasing mixes of Disclosure and Nas and the crowd feed off of his enthusiasm as he dances around like an electro Shinobi.

 

Recently seen at the Arcadia Stage at Glastonbury, Andy C and his RAM label-mates play a tent-shaking set in Supercharged Arena. The group are like a British drum’n’bass equivalent of Kanye West’s GOOD Music troupe – with Andy C’s experience and mentoring shining through the nostalgic set. The drum’n’bass pioneer manages to capture the 4am feeling at 6pm and his classic track ‘Mr Happy’ spurs an ecstatic reaction inside the rammed arena.

 

Sub Focus put on a show of stadium-sized proportions. Nick Douwma who used to be fairly hidden on stage has recently said that he wanted the shows to be more of a live performance. He certainly succeeds, at one point asking the crowd to raise their lighters in the air creating a cosmic scene to go with the anthemic ambience.

 

It’s been a massive few years for Rizzle Kicks. At The Great Escape 2011 they played a tiny acoustic show in Beyond Retro. They went on to duet with chart topper Olly Murs and most recently played the Yahoo Wireless Legends Of The Summer with the likes of hip hop legends: Nas, A Tribe Called Quest and Jay Z. Tonight they headline the Main Stage at Shakedown. The sound is a little flat and the crowd isn’t at its busiest but the boys work hard to stir a reaction, even if it does feel a bit like a Butlins red coat routine. Rizzle Kicks save their hits until later on and ‘That’s Classic’ is well received with mass dancing in the crowd.

 

The festival really closes in style though at the Supercharged Arena with electronic trio Nero. It’s an exhilarating set combining spectacular mash-ups and original material. Alana Watson’s vocals soar and the bass thunders through the tent. Combined with an amazing lightshow the whole thing comes off like M83 at their most cinematic and futuristic. It’s a triumph and the general consensus seems to be that this is one Brighton festival that is on the up.

Stamner Park, Saturday 28th September 2013

Deap Vally

It’s Friday and we’re at Concorde2 to watch Deap Vally with Tiger Cub and Skaters in support.

 

Tiger Cub warm up the crowd nicely, seemingly going from strength to strength with every gig. The local trio smash through a fierce set of primal Nirvana-nodding grunge and the onlookers appear to appreciate the noise.

 

Skaters frontman Michael Cummings informs the crowd that today marks the band’s second birthday. They certainly have plenty to celebrate having released their debut EP ‘Schemers’ for free on their website, signing to Warner and playing a stormer at SXSW in March. The Anglo-American five piece combine the quintessential New York sound of The Strokes with an English slacker aesthetic similar to early Cribs.

 

Single ‘I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)’ is a masterclass in indie pop perfection. Cummings, wearing a green parka, croons croakily into the microphone like a mod Julian Casablancas while Joshua Hubbard (formerly of The Paddingtons) weaves an irresistibly infectious hook that could have come straight from The Vaccines’ playbook.

 

The crowd are at fever pitch by the time the band drop ‘Deadbolt’ which combines another bit of anthemic guitar noodling with stadium sized drums. Cummings drawls the line “Here come the cops” and the song feels like a warped update of Supergrass’ ‘Caught By The Fuzz’. A massive moshpit erupts when the chorus hits and we’re nostalgically transported back to the early noughties indie scene. Watching this show, it feels like Skaters could be on the cusp of greatness.

 

Deap Vally are no strangers to Brighton. Tonight they return to the city for the third time this year, but a lot has changed since their last visit during The Great Escape Festival. Their debut album ‘Sistrionix’ was released in July and they also played their biggest and most prestigious slot yet, at Glastonbury.

 

The duo’s experience of bigger stages is clear in their commanding presence. Tracks ‘Walk Of Shame’ and ‘Bad For My Body’ sound huge. The beauty lies in the primal simplicity and ferocious delivery. The reaction inside the venue is feverish and a fan next to us actually looks as if he’s being exorcised.

 

It’s a mixed crowd tonight of all ages. The band certainly appeal to a wide demographic; ‘Sistrionix’ charted at number 38 on release. Teenagers and twenty-somethings could draw the obvious comparisons with The White Stripes or Black Keys while older generations might listen and reminisce about Led Zeppelin. Singer/guitarist Lindsey Troy can really wail too and songs like ‘Make My Own Money’ come to life live.

 

Single ‘End Of The World’ builds slowly like The White Stripes’ ‘Hardest Button To Button’ and sounds as apocalyptic as its title. It’s the band’s call to arms and when the guitar weaves distortedly around the colossal drumbeat the crowd reacts ecstatically.

 

The show ends with Troy jumping into the audience and being surfed back on stage while drummer Julie Edwards launches her sticks into the throng. It’s a classically rock’n’roll finish for a band on stellar form.

Concorde2, Friday 1st November 2013

Albert Hammond, Jr.

Albert Hammond, Jr. returns to Brighton for the first time since 2006 tonight in support of his new EP ‘AHJ’.

It’s been a massive year for the 33-year-old guitar icon. The Strokes (his day job) released their fifth album ‘Comedown Machine’ in March, almost exactly 2 years after their last. In addition, his EP came out in October under his bandmate Julian Casablancas’ label Cult Records, marking a surprise solo return after six years.

Hammond, Jr. and his band arrive on stage to rapturous applause and open with ‘Holiday’ from Albert’s first solo album ‘Yours To Keep’. “Warm sun, tells me that it’s more fun to stay on holiday,” he croons into the microphone while effortlessly weaving a suitably sunny riff on guitar.

‘Scared’ from the same album has added bite live. His guitar work is beefed up with the force of two other guitarists in the band and when the chorus drops it sounds huge. As good as these older tracks sound the crowd is subdued and Hammond, Jr. at times appears to be going through the motions.

When the band plays the new EP tracks we see an instant change in the frontman. ‘Cooker Ship’ burns with intensity and lines like ‘Self-inflicted nightmare… lately I’m just not quite myself.’ strike a chord in the context in which they were written. The singer has been very candid about his struggles with drug addiction throughout his career and he seems rejuvenated when playing the new tracks.

The crowd’s response to lead single ‘St Justice’ is rapturous. “There were dreams in my eyes that now, don’t shine through,” sings Hammond, Jr. affectingly while the guitar solo at the song’s midpoint soars.

He keeps his interaction with the crowd minimal but seems happy, albeit focused. The band cover ‘Postal Blowfish’ by Guided By Voices, a major influence of The Strokes. The band seem to be enjoying themselves and it’s received with nostalgic appreciation in the crowd of 20/30 somethings.

As the last chords of the Springsteen-saluting “The Boss Americana” are still resonating in our ears the band disappear offstage leaving Albert alone. The lights dim and the Strokes axe-man plays a beautiful rendition of majestic ‘Yours To Keep’ track ‘Blue Skies’. Flashes go off throughout the Haunt and the atmosphere is electric as the crowd unites to sing the lines of the chorus with him. There’s a twinkle in his eyes and you get the feeling this is somewhat of a resurrection and a second chance at greatness. Welcome back, Albert we’ve missed you.

Haunt, Thursday 5th December 2013

Palma Violets

 

Tonight Palma Violets stop off at the Concorde2 on their Rattlesnake Rodeo Tour. Childhood and Telegram are in support.

 

It’s a sold out show and the staff at the door seem a little sceptical about letting us in. It’s no surprise though as they seem like they’ve got their hands full with fans desperate to get inside one way or another. We’re admitted in time to catch Childhood who impress the packed-out crowd. Comparisons have been made with the Stone Roses but their dreamy psychedelic style of shoegaze feels more comparable to some of their American contemporaries.

 

‘Blue Velvet’ has a nod to the Mersey Beat scene but the vocals of singer Ben Romans-Hopcraft (sporting a spectacular afro) are reminiscent of Wild Nothing’s distant dreaminess. ‘Haltija’ has all the youthful exuberance of the Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Smith Westerns at their most psychedelic and summery. This writer can’t remember the last time he’s seen a support band cause quite such a stir with the crowd as fans pogo energetically throughout.

 

Palma Violet have become a pretty big deal since their last visit to Brighton playing The Great Escape in 2011. Known for their frantic and combustible live shows we wait amongst the dense sea of humanity for things to potentially get very sweaty.

 

It doesn’t take long. Palma Violets storm the stage to an ecstatic reaction while The Cramps ‘Human Fly’ blares out of the venue speakers. The atmosphere is at fever pitch and we can’t help but feel there’s a special something in the air tonight. The Lambeth boys open with ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ which races along at breakneck speed and is propelled by William Doyle’s funereal organ tones. Sam Fryer’s classic croon sounds brilliant combined with Chilli Jesson’s intermittent punky snarls and howls. All Doherty/Barat, Jones/Strummer comparisons aside, the two have an obvious chemistry which feels unforced. It’s a magnetic spectacle live.

 

The fans inside the Concorde obviously agree. As the boys drop NME’s track of last year, ‘Best Of Friends’, a huge pit erupts and the crowd becomes a wave of bodies crashing from side to side. Chilli riles them up further by climbing the barricade and gesticulating like a young Iggy Pop.

 

Album highlight ‘14’ is where things take a turn for the anthemic and all of a sudden it feels like being in the terraces at a football match as everyone sings along to “All fourteen, all fourteen take me home”. The whole thing finishes with a massive stage invasion from members of Telegram and Childhood. Fans are crowd surfing, scaling the barriers and clambering on top of each other. The frontman of Telegram Matt Saunders dives off of the stage into the crowd as Palma Violets salute their followers from the stage and disappear. It’s rock’n’roll mayhem at its best.

Concorde2, Wednesday 4th December 2013

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