Tuesday, 22 October 2019

1,158 JIMMY EAT WORLD, PRYZM, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Saturday 19th October 2019

I never thought I’d see this lot in a place like this…! Arizona’s finest, enduring Indie-Emo giants and “live” favourites of ours, Jimmy Eat World, announced a 10th (!) album, “Surviving” along with a couple of very unusual “live” dates, one of which was at this venue, Kingston’s PRYZM. Ever heard of it? Yeah, me neither… Pre-ticket sale investigation indicated this would likely be a low-key CD release show in a small venue, so I jumped on tix for myself, Rach and Logan when they went on sale, finding them very competitively priced at £18 – even for what seemed like an early hour’s set from Jimmy – and also including a copy of the new CD! No surprise then that they sold out in double-quick time, but not before we were sorted, with 3 tickets then, later, 3 CDs dropping through the Rose letterbox!

This one also meant a chance to catch up with our friend and Kingston resident Lisa, so plans were made and we set off at 3 after leaving Kasey for a sleepover at Laura’s. Parked up after a couple of confusing laps around the inner ring road and bumped into Lisa on our way to the wrong Pizza Express – good job, that! Had a lovely catch-up over tea, then we wandered around to the venue, bidding our farewells to Lisa before popping in. Had to join a large queue snaking around the downstairs lounge before heading up to the venue, a 500-capacity 3-tiered disco nightclub which resembled a smaller SWX, or a slightly bigger Level 3! There was already a rammed crowd around the tiny stage, so “down the front” was out of the question tonight; instead Logan’s idea was to take this one in from the top balcony, and we got excellent viewing spots right next to the mixing desk. Good shout!

The time ticked on and the floor (from our view) got even more uncomfortably rammed, and I was rather hoping the boys would throw us a bone by starting early. No such luck, though, as Jim Adkins waited until just after 8 to lead his uniform-black clad bandmates onstage where, particularly with the addition of a 5th “live” member on keyboard duties, they immediately looked very cramped! No matter, straight into the tumbling drums and slashing riffery of “Surviving”, the title track from said new album, which on first couple of listens seems more dynamic and less slow-burn than recent releases; a very welcome thing! More welcome was the opening riff to “Bleed American”, next up, the boys belying the slightly murky sound and a similarly muted response from the cramped faithful with an utterly incendiary rendition.

“We’ve just put a new record out! Some of you may know this…” deadpanned Jim ironically before the Hold Steady-esque herky-jerky opening riff to new single “All The Way (Stay)” kicked in, the mood-heavy slower burn of “555” following in short order. But then the highlight of the night for me, as Jim declared, “we’ve been a band for 25 years! Crazy! Here’s an oldie – Tom’s going to tell you about it…” then guitarist Tom Linton introduced a tremendously pulsating and seething run-though of “Blister”, Linton himself taking vocal chores and leading the finally-engaged crowd in a mass singalong. How long would it take to walk across the United States, indeed…?

For all that this was a swift hour set and also ostensibly a “Surviving” CD release show, we still got 6 cuts from that classic 2001 “Bleed American” album, so “Hear You Me” was a poignant and plaintive delight, Jim asking the crowd to, “be part of the show, hold your phones up!” the venue then being bathed in light. The brilliant “A Praise Chorus” followed, Jim demanding the crowd rock out to this undulating thrill-ride of a song, before the final double whammy of “Sweetness” and “The Middle” took us slightly past the 9pm curfew to close out a superb vignette from a band who surely have transcended this size of stage and venue, Jim high-fiving the crowd on his way offstage.

Oh yeah, Logan loved it too, despite the omission of his favourite number “Pain”; as he rocked out to “The Middle”, noisily screaming all the words, I couldn’t help but turn to Rach and say, “this, right here, this is why we had kids!!” A similarly confusing exit from Kingston still got us home before 11 after an unusual but nonetheless excellent Jimmy Eat World gig. Here’s hoping for a bigger tour in 2020, though!

Sunday, 20 October 2019

1,157 THYLA, Ocean Ruins, Aphra Taylor, Oxford Jericho Tavern, Wednesday 16th October 2019

It does warm the cockles of this cynical old muso’s heart, I have to say, when a band takes the step up from intriguing support to fully fledged headliners in their own right. I’d caught Brighton’s young 4-piece Thyla a couple of times before; firstly when their personality (particularly that of vivacious vocalist Millie) shone through a murky mix as support to the late, lamented Inheaven (gig 1,070), then a more coherent and very promising set with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever last October (gig 1,107), so they were about primed to jump on my Dance Card in their own right. Their sonic template falls into various rooms in my wheelhouse; dreamy ethereal shoegaze, more early Ride-ish wall-of-sound, some Pixies proto-grunge stomp, all overlaid with hooky memorable harmony-driven choruses. Another band to join the likes of Desperate Journalist, Basement Revolver et al in taking that post-punk guitar-led sound and putting their own spin on it, could they cut it as headliners in their own right?

I grabbed a ticket for this Autumn tour quite early, revelling in the opportunity for a rare return to one of my 80’s/ 90’s fave haunts, the Jericho Tavern. After a false start to drop Logan’s Diabetes scanner off at his evening club, I however remembered that Oxford Jericho Tavern has one big drawback, being that it’s in Oxford! Stuck behind a lorry for most of my journey there, I then found “Road Closed” signs into Walton Street, picking through tiny side-streets to the venue. Then, the usual parking-mare ensued, and I exasperatedly dumped the motor down a not-so-nearby side-street, thereby missing all but the last half number of hushed folky opener Aphra Taylor, who finished earlier than her scheduled 8.30. Bah! However, next up were locals Ocean Ruins, in front of a score of early punters. Openers at that Inheaven Reading gig, they’ve come a long way since that passable but hesitant performance; a lazy droney opener with hints of Galaxie 500 gave way to some more upbeat and spooky, moody material, with some angular backbeat drums from an impressive sticksman (a new guy, apparently) and some driving choruses. The female vocalist this time sounded more confident, her slightly nasally warbling voice more to the fore, and I enjoyed the likes of “Broken Toys” with its’ quiet/loud grungy vibe and big chorus, and the driving rockers of set closers “Tokyo To Mexico” and “Love Drunk”. Overall, a quantum improvement since my previous viewing, and now a band I’d certainly check out again, a point I made to them afterwards.

Chatted with Thyla’s bassist, who remembered our Pixies-centred chat after the RBCF gig, before he set up with his bandmates. Shortly after 9.30, Thyla took the stage to little fanfare, in front of a bigger and more engaged crowd, opener “Only Ever” bathing us in washes of shimmering guitar sound before dropping into a dreamy mid-paced number with “Dreams Burn Down”-esque haunting guitar licks. “Blame”, next up, was a more driving and dynamic rocker, with a lengthy note impressively held by pocket dynamo vocalist Millie, smiling and buoyant throughout the set. “Candy” featured a strident and bratty choral hook, building to a grungy and noisy crescendo with swathes of Bob Mould/ MBV noise, but new single “Lenox Hill” was for me the set highlight, a well-constructed and streetwise slice of Belly-esque dreampop, and a likely shoe-in for my “Best Of 2019” CD… if I get it downloaded in time! A later “Biting” was a moody Pixies-ish death march, and as the quickfire 45 minute set drew to a close, “Blue” featured a fine growling intro and excellent backbeat drumming. Throughout the set, though, Millie was the main focus; bouncy and enthusiastic, despite her huge boots (!); this girl can not only sing, but has onstage charisma to throw away, and I repeatedly found my thoughts drifting back to another similarly charismatic blonde who I saw perform 4 times on that very stage, namely Fiona of The Parachute Men… My only quibble was that her voice wasn’t as far up in the mix as I’d have liked, leaving us a little bereft during her frequent off-mic excursions. But hey, this was a cracking little gem of a set from a band who’ve come on in leaps and bounds, and firmly grasped the nettle of headliner status. OK, the influences may be easy to spot, but they’re mixing them up and making something of their own. Nice work!

A quick chat and pics with the band afterwards before a much easier egress out of the city. Splendid set from Thyla, though, a young band well and truly – and deservedly so – on the up!

Friday, 11 October 2019

1,156 GAZ BROOKFIELD, B Sydes, Will Davies, Swindon The Victoria, Thursday 10 October 2019

Gaz Top! (the older amongst you might get that reference…!) This was an auspicious occasion, as tonight marked my 23rd time of seeing Gaz Brookfield “live”, either in his solo acoustic guise, or with his excellent Company Of Thieves band in tow, thereby supplanting my 90’s-00’s “live” faves, the Mighty Seafood, atop my “Most Seen” live act list. Move over Messr’s Line, Hendrick and co., there’s a new leader in town! And in town indeed, for Gaz’ Autumn tour promoting new album “Lostfolk” inevitably included a date in Swindon (unfortunately on a school night at the 18+ Vic venue, so Logan couldn’t’ join me; he’ll have to wait for Salisbury next month for his Gaz fix!). Said record is an absolute corker as well; continuing the forward momentum from last album “I Know My Place”, “Lostfolk” is an utterly accomplished (dare I even say, mature…) body of work, featuring musings on the relentless march of time, mental health et al, as well as the usual buddy boy drinking songs, set to some relentless and incendiary powerpoppy punk rock (with a tad, nay, a soupcon of folk thrown in, of course). Easily his best work, I had to hear this “live” with a full band, so I snapped up a ticket for his December SWX full band show, as well as tonight (and Salisbury with Logan)!

But this one first; I headed up the hill for 8ish, running into Dave Franklin and meeting Rich and Ady, whence we 4 put the world of rock’n’roll to rights (of course). Wandered into the backroom venue (following Linda’s lusty bellow heralding the first act!) for opener Will Davies of The Flour Babies. Been meaning to check out his band properly for some time but we just keep missing each other, it seems… anyway, solo Will was a hushed, introspective prospect, with some glacial acoustic Americana which early doors recalled “Fables”-era REM and Sparklehorse’s quieter moments, then later on, the likes of Death Cab For Cutie! Small wonder then that the sole cover was an obscure Modest Mouse number, followed by an original which, according to Will, ripped said number off! Thematically, lots of lovelorn material delivered in an understated, conversational voice which gave the impression he’d been through the wringer a bit and maybe just needed a hug. Anyway, good start and I promise (once again!) to check out Flour Babies properly!

Gaz’ tour support Ben “B-Sydes” was next; Mr. Franklin had introduced us earlier and I’d commented on his “All Roads Lead To Frome” set a couple of years back (gig 1,036), which I found enjoyable if a little low-key. Well, straight from the outset Ben seemed determined to prove me wrong tonight, with a considerably more overt, upbeat and dynamic set. His second number (“about stupid decisions, as my life is held together by [them]”) kicked in with a Bragg-esque “New England” riff, segueing into a plaintive yet strident Dashboard Confessional delivery. “This Used To Be My City”’s understated woah-oh’s were the exception rather than the rule tonight, as this set bristled with upbeat, almost emo-esque numbers, delivered in Ben’s heavily nuanced vocals, which reminded me a bit of Placebo’s Brian Molko (!). At one stage he hopped off the stage and handed me his pick to play the last chord of a song (!!); on another occasion he paused a number midway through to pithily comment to a couple of unwelcome chatty Cathys, “I know the chords, I’m just waiting for people to shut the fuck up!”; and another rousing choral singalong was the feature of set highlight “The Desperate Dance”. Another emo-lite gallop concluded a startling and splendid support set. Well done Ben!

A quick chat with Ben as well as Gaz (manning the merch) as I bought Ben’s CD, then I took my spot down the front, house left for a change, for Gaz. Opening with “Pen To Paper”, his wry musings on writers block (!), he then commented on the “semi-circle of doubt”, the empty space near the front of the stage. Oddly for a Vic Gaz gig, this remained relatively unoccupied throughout, only myself and (later) Ed and Linda daring to get that close. No matter, title track “Lostfolk” was next up, Gaz giving it his usual full-on passionate delivery, all energy and attitude. Happily (for me at least), Gaz found space for ALL the numbers off the new album tonight (despite an earlier comment of “don’t you hate it when you see a band with a new album out and they just play the new stuff?”) as well as a smattering of old faves such as the enthusiastically-received “Tale Of Gunner Haines” and the intense roar of “Black Dog Day”, which had segued directly in from similarly-themed newie “Afterthought”. Before this early double, Gaz had promised to, “get the miserable shit out of the way early so we can concentrate on enjoying ourselves,” and was true to his word; slow-burn newie “Oalaero” had an entertaining intro chat about Gaz’ search for a pedal steel player for the CD version, which then inexplicably diverted into a discourse on the Vic’s blokes’ loo d├ęcor (“the then landlord asked us regulars if we had any spare porn! This was pre-internet days – spare porn, what’s that?”), a punky “Uneducated Guess” was breathtaking and brilliant, Gaz’ take on Frank Turner’s similarly themed “1933”, and after the almost melancholy “Just Another Day” finished the set, Gaz commented, “I’m not going offstage [to come back on again for the encore] as it’s just a cupboard – there’s no strippers or cocaine!”. A venomous “I’ve Paid My Money” was an encore highlight, before Gaz took to the dancefloor for final number “Great Minds Drink Alike”, conducting the singalong with Ben Sydes filling in for Jake Martin’s lines. A great way to end another great Gaz set!

It occurred to me that this 23rd time needed noting, so Gaz happily posed for a pic with me, before I bade farewell and headed off. A new leader, and with 2 more “live” Gaz outings before Christmas, he’ll be out of sight by New Year. And a well-deserved accolade for the Top Man Gaz!