Monday, 31 December 2007

Andrew's 2007 Highlights

My friend Ian said the best thing about 2007 was his girlfriend moving out; "the bitch" with that as context this is my year in review.

Music: '07 was the year of Ideas Over Marketing as the online democracy finally took hold. Robyn's Konichiwa Bitches was the best start to the year the DIY industry could have had.
After his Tomahawk distractions, Stainer fans could rest easy that the undisputed master of the snare drum was back in the now to often lauded Battles. Future Of The Left proved they were vastly superior than the sum of their parts (even NME sez so - so meh!) on the wonderfully executed and titled 'Curses'. Even a cursed Soothsayer couldn't keep The Mars Volta down and Les Savy Fav laid waste with their first fully realised record. Album of the year was Comicopera by Robert Wyatt.

Interviews: Unembarrassed by the fact that they actually began to start playing Les Savy Fav on the Radio in the year that we decided to release 'Why Do They Never Play Les Savy Fav On The Radio?' - one of my personal highlights was interviewing Tim Harrington before their Scala show. You can download the whole sycophantic thirty minutes right here.

In matters much more professional; interview of the year was at the Purcell Room with Robert Wyatt curated by Sean O'Hagan.

Magazines: Alternative Ulster became AU and looks all the better for the missing letters; Rocksound's monthly reviews became indispensably comprehensive; Organ is the best it's ever been; Plan B became more willfully and brilliantly obscure and Artrocker remains the essential purchase for the indie pop trawler. If Robert Wyatt had published a magazine this year it would have been Magazine Of The Year - just for completeness.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Jingle All The Dayer

Note to self: learn how to use your phone.

I spent this weekend in Leeds, helping out Nestor & Joel from The Deku Tree run "Jingle All The Dayer", which for those of you who haven't been keeping an eye on the newspage was an alldayer with Yndi Halda, Cats In Paris, Laura Groves and a bunch of others playing in a CHURCH in the centre of LEEDS.

Except I nearly didn't make it. Train companies seem to price gouge people at this time of year, so in a cost-cutting measure I booked myself onto a National Express service at 8:30 on Saturday morning. I set the alarm on my phone for 6:30. It didn't go off, because I'm an idiot who can't use his own mobile. I eventually woke up at 7:30, after one of those half-awake, half-asleep "shouldn't I be awake by now?" thoughts made me check the time. Queue a horrible rush across town on the tube, only to discover that the Victoria Line isn't actually stopping at Victoria until January.

Easy Chewie.

I eventually made it to the Coach station at 8:25. To describe it as "pandemonium" would... well... let's just say this: my coach was overbooked. TOTALLY 100% overbooked. They had to lay on two coaches, and I'm not even sure everyone got onto those. Considering all this, the journey there was pretty smooth. I've never been to Leeds before, but my impression of the city centre is generally positive. Much like many other city centres, there's tons of building work (mostly residential!) going on as decades of neglect are fixed. It's good to see, especially for a dirty cynic like me.

I meet up with Nestor and we go off to the church to find Yndi Halda soundchecking. First impression: the church is HUGE. Second impression: the sound is INCREDIBLE. We spend some time setting up, before ducking out for an hour whilst a carol service takes place. A charity shop is raided for some raffle presents (2 ghastly-looking 60s Christmas LPs and a Phil Collins 12" single - more on him later), and some are purchased to project whilst the bands play (we go for It's A Wonderful Life, Groundhog Day, Jingle All The Way, The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Snowman) and then head back to the church to put up Christmas decorations.

I'm also roped in to helping put the video screen up, which is strung from two pieces of string coming from the ceiling. Despite being convinced that my pansy knots would break at some point and it would come crashing down on top of a couple of musicians, it manages to stay up all. Ten points to me!

Eventually the church is ready to go, and people start to arrive! I sadly have to miss the first band to go out and buy an extension lead so we can plug the DVD player in. Sadface. The first band I do catch are Lanterns On The Lake. In what will be a running feature of the day, they sound INCREDIBLE. The acoustics in the church are marvellous, and totally suit their epic kinda-Godspeed-gone-maybe-a-bit-post-folk-ish sound, and the female vocallist really shines. I disappear off to check into my hotel (a Travel Lodge a few minutes walk away - god bless bland, inexpensive chain hotels). I get back as Worriedaboutsatan are setting up. They're a two-piece, rocking the whole beats and spazzed out guitars thang, and they do it really well, clearly having a lot of fun in the process.

Paul Marshall is up next - one of the many people I've heard of, but never actually heard (I think he toured with Jeniferever early in the year?). Again, the acoustics of the church really benefit him, and he manages to fill the huge space with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. He even throws in a Christmas cover, doing "Fairytale of New York" but slowing it down and stretching it out. He totally makes it his own. Fran Rogers follows (who also designed the event's poster - ever feel jealous because some people are unfairly overloaded with talent? pffft) and she's kinda the female take on Mr Marshall - they even duet at one point. She covers a Leonard Cohen song and my heart breaks.

After Fran finishes up, my friend Steve plays a "guerilla gig" (how 2005 of me) in the Church canteen. It's his first ever gig. He's only written three songs, and he wasn't even sure how to play one of them. But he does anyway! My favourite is the song about wanting to be a Manatee. I'm going to put it on Public Service Broadcast 10, mark my words.

Meanwhile, Cats In Paris are starting on the main stage. We nab the front pews to get a great view. I first came across the band a few months ago, while searching out support acts for the A Sunny Day In Glasgow show I promoted. I was really taken with the myspace tracks, they were really ace in a sunny, melodic way. It turned out they were quite different live, and even better than I was expecting. Today follows suit: samples of cats meowing, frantic violin playing, massive walls of sound. This band are something special, and I hope a million other people eventually see this because they deserve little else.

Things start to blur a little after this, as the combination of Strongbow, Red Bull and lack of food (the curse of running things - you never get a chance to eat, even when things are going smoothly) took hold of me. What I do remember is this: Wintermute not only made us put Die Hard 2 on whilst they played, but also brought some fun rock ACTION to the Church (a couple of drunk homeless men who wandered in really liked them) and Laura Groves had a voice that was so huge it really shouldn't fit into someone so dinky. Good times all around.

After Laura had finished, I found myself onstage with two helpers, doing the draw for the raffle. The prizes were as follows:

  • A complete set of every 2007 Smalltown America release, and a copy of Fighting With Wire's forthcoming album.

  • A bag of CDs / vinyl / t-shirts donated by the bands playing.

  • A set of FOUR Christmas/winter-themed jigsaws.

  • The previously mentioned awful 60s Christmas / Phil Collins records.
I should, at this stage, point out that we got just about every musician playing (as well as the soundman and two guys in a band who weren't playing) to sign the Phil Collins one. On his face. ALL OVER HIS STUPID, "LOOK AT ME I'M A SERIOUS ARTISTE" FACE. It was heroic. I'm going to try and track down a photo of it to post on here.

On a total tangent, whenever people talking about Phil Collins on messageboards, I quote this.

With prizes dispensed, Yndi Halda take the stage. They were staggeringly good. Yes yes yes, you can bandy about the usual post rock clichés about how they sound like Godspeed and suchlike, but really: is that such a bad thing? I think not, especially when they spend the set throwing themselves around the stage, attacking their instruments with gusto. It's the sound of a band who are locked in with each other, who know what they're doing, and are able to act, to move, as one. They're a band born to play in Churches, basically.

And that's it! It's over. Gone. Finished. We tidy up, pouring the contents of a lot of half-empty cheapo beer cans (whoever bought Morrisons beer: did you REALLY expect it to be drinkable? tut tut) down the sinks and filling bag after bag with rubbish. The curse of DIY, eh? An hour later and I find myself in Leeds' legendary Cockpit venue, at a clubnight so spectacularly full of fail it actually passes out the other side of awful and becomes fun again. The DJ in the metal room wins a million points for playing 'Guerilla Radio', and then loses them for playing 'Killing In The Name' less than an hour later. He then loses even more for playing Blink 182 followed by 'All My Best Friends Are Metalheads'. The bar sells double-vodka and lemonade for £2.00, except it's the worst vodka I've ever tasted, so, as you do, I drink an obviously silly amount of them in a fairly short period of time. Some girl steals my Santa hat. I vaguely recall dancing to 'Motown Junk' in the indie room, which seemed to always be so full of smoke you couldn't see the person next to you. I have no memory of leaving.

I awake the next morning with an awful hangover. The coach journey home is horrendous. The driver insults everyone within five minutes of leaving Leeds, we make no stops (despite pulling into two service stations), the heating is on full blast for most of the journey, and two people throw up about ten minutes before we arrive at Victoria Coach Station. What's that about?!? Not the best end to the weekend, it's gotta be said, but there you go.

FYI: Nestor is already talking about running another one next year. I would guess the Alldayer Bug that bit us a few years ago has found another victim.

2007 was the year that saw...

Tom Morello Eats Cahir's Dust: Jetplane Landing released third album, Backlash Cop to a hailstorm of Rage Against The Machine comparisons. NME gave it 3/10; but we stayed up all night and manged rearrange the review copy to generate the 'This Album Is The Shit' strap-line.

Your Going Home In A (Green) Ambulance: The Young Playthings made a stone cold classic debut record Who Invented Love? and bought a post WWII ambulance to tour it in; several young ladies had to be resuscitated in the aforementioned vehicle by Jors Truly after a particularly dangerous front row crush in York.

Oppenheimer - The Only Bees In Our Bonnet: Oppenheimer make staggering mainstream inroads over the year - touring the US more times than Bono has had hot dinners; soundtracking Ugly Betty; supporting They Might Be Giants and opening the NYSE on Boxing Day - 2008 is sure to contain their pivotal shot at the title.

Emo Is Dead - fightingwithwire Insert Spaces In Their Name Shocker: Cahir O'Doherty and his newly monikered Fighting With Wire co-horts engineered enough time out of Sandino's to construct Man Vs Monster. Sounds like Chris Cornell fronting Foo Fighters after a hefty dose of radiation gene therapy.

Public Services To Close: This country has gone to pot, first the railways then Public Service Broadcasting. The ' record label' (read 'the man') announced that PSB is to be put out to clement pasture in 2008. We are currently preparing the final installment of our revolutionary compilation series. Bands continue to help each other out by donating their tracks free to the movement - '07 saw notable contributions from Holy Fuck, You & The Atom Bomb and Tiger Force. Daniel absconds with the royalties.

Clone Quartet Cause UK 'Credit Crunch': Uncertainty in the sub-prime mortgage market ensued when Clone Quartet released a debut album in which the entire retail price of Well-Oiled Machine was swallowed by packaging costs. Mervyn King stated 'the repercussions of this remarkable decision will be felt by markets for many years...' Richard Branson has agreed to bail out STA on this occasion. Good lad.