Posts tagged ‘UK’

4/2/09: Dirty Projectors @ Scala, London (70/100)

April 3rd, 2009

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Happy Birthday to me. What a great way to spend my 33rd, in two countries. The first half of the day in Paris, walking around the Montmartre district with Sunshine, taking in the views of Paris up at the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur. Then back to London in time to throw back pints in the Clerkenwell neighborhood, and pop over for a sold out Dirty Projectors show at Scala.

Sunshine and I had half a day left in Paris in the morning. Our train wasn’t until 3pm, so we got up early and rushed out to Montmartre to climb steep staircases like this:

Which meant I could reward myself with a delicious crepe, like this:

Oh, and we got views like this:

Basically we squeezed as much out of Paris as we could, then got on the train and were back in London by the evening. It’s so weird/awesome how quickly you can go between two completely different countries. Just a few hours before, I was trying to figure out in my head how to communicate without speaking the language, then I was back in a place where the only real language difference is my accent.

We got back, threw down our bag, changed clothes, and headed out to The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell. Sunshine’s friend Tobi was celebrating her birthday as well, so we tagged my birthday drinks onto hers. Sunshine’s friends Russell and Tijs joined us for drinks and treated us to pizza for my birthday (thanks Tijs), before heading to Scala for the show.

We arrived just as Dirty Projects went on stage. Another super packed, sold out show The venue seems like an old theater that was a bit of a maze to navigate. But a cool spot nonetheless. We found our way to the balcony, stepped on about a million people’s feet (at least, I did), and finally battled our way down to the left side of the stage. I could see ok from where we were, but wasn’t satisfied. So I do the really pleasant rock show thing and pushed my way up to the front. Which was easier than you’d think at a sold out show. Then I realize why.

I was standing directly in front of the enormous house speakers. These things were so huge I could actually feel the air released from every beat of the bassdrum. Thankfully I had my heavy duty earphones in (at least, I hope they’re heavy duty).I snapped off some shots, then headed back to an audibly safe distance.

Dirty Projectors are the brainchild of Dave Longstreth, “a former student of music composition at Yale University who left his studies to pursue a full-time career in music.” — according to Wikipedia. (I didn’t feel like rephrasing that). Longstreth is the conductor, and performing the music with him are three women, and two other men. If you’ve never heard them, I can see them being hard to get. They’re a bit avant-garde. And, despite that they’re a 6-piece, their sound is pretty sparse. They don’t follow traditional song structures, and there aren’t “normal” melodies – but they definitely have their own sound.

Here’s a taste:


I knew what to expect, so I was excited. I wouldn’t say they are my favorite band, but I like them. I appreciate how different they are, and find it refreshing. The crowd was loving every second – calling out requests. It’s not a show you dance to or mosh to or anything like that, but you can definitely see and feel the connection with the audience.

They played till right up to 11pm, came out for a one song encore, and that was that (I’m still surprised at how punctual each of the shows have been in London). Sunshine and I somehow found our way through the maze of stairs at Scala, headed toward the tube, and called it a night. All in all, not a bad way to grow one day older.

3/29/09: Pete Doherty @ Troxy, London (66/100)

March 30th, 2009

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This show made me realize how good I’ve had it the last 65 days. The majority of the shows I’ve seen have been at venues within a 10-15 minute walk from my apartment. This show, not so close. We’re talking: Queen’s Park stop on the Bakerloo, change at Oxford Circus to the Central, change at Bank to the DLR, get out at Limehouse, walk about 5 blocks to the club. About an hour trip. Not nearly as bad as it sounds, but keep in mind, it was a Sunday night.

We got to the newly renovated Troxy, located in a rough-around-the-edges East End neighborhood, around 9:15pm. From the beginning, Sunshine didn’t seem to jazzed about going to this show. She’s not a huge fan of Pete Doherty. Neither are any of her friends as it turns out. I think the mere idea of him disgusts a lot of Britons.

But not me. I used to love The Libertines and never got a chance to see them. I know this won’t be the same thing, and I don’t know how much I even love his solo record, but it’s still Pete Doherty in London. Plus, there are just so few rock stars left anymore. Think about it: Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain (reluctantly), Layne Staley, Keith Richards (somehow still alive). The list could go on, but only looking back. Everyone is so safe and indie and precious these days. No one’s hanging off a bridge by a finger nail anymore. Includes Doherty, at least not for the time being. We’ll see how long that lasts. Especially when the stigma is kept alive by selling these FUCK FOREVER t-shirts at the show for example.

Things kicked off tonight withjust Pete and an acoustic guitar. The crowd hung onto and sung along with every word. After a few songs, a band filled out the stage. I didn’t pay too close attention during the Babyshambles era, I am more of a Libertines guy. So I didn’t know too many songs, to be honest. But it didn’t matter. They sounded great, and the crowd was loving it.

Security was really tight, as you can imagine it would be at a show of a “former” heroine abuser/crackhead. The funniest moment was probably watching two young girls run under a roped off area towards a stairwell, only to have security dart after them a minute later. “Maybe they were trying to find somewhere to shoot up,” I said . Then the girls got hustled back into the venue by security, and Sunshine said, “With that kind of outfit, they were trying to get backstage.” It was a 14+ show. There are too many things wrong with that.

Pete was joined on stage not only by his touring band members (including former Babyshambles members), but also a small string section and keyboard players – all dressed in matching black suits with white shirts and skinny black ties. “They all look like Mark Ronson,” Sunshine thought.

Later on in the show, a guy named Stevie, dressed in full Native American attire complete with feathered headdress, came on stage and Pete sang him “Happy Birthday.” Eeven later Lee Mavers of The La’s came out and played one song, “Son of a Gun,” with Pete and the band. That was great, but I kinda wished that one song would’ve been “Timeless Melody.” Oh well.

The show was surprisingly good (even turning Sunshine into a believer), and the crowd was tamer than one might expect, save for those who throw full cups of beer or water into the air randomly. I noticed this at the Lily Allen show as well, must be a UK thing. When the show was nearing an end, Sunshine and I got a jump on the crowd and scooted toward to the door. Once Pete finished, we made a mad dash for the DLR, preparing for another hour long ride back to Queen’s Park.

3/28/09: Animal Kingdom & Dutch Uncles @ Notting Hill Arts Club, London (65/100)

March 29th, 2009

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Nothing wrong with a little free, Saturday afternoon indie rock at the Notting Hill Arts Club. By the name you might think this would be fancy club, but it’s not. It’s a dark and dingy, underground indie rock club with rundown bar, tables and booths, £5 Tropical Martinis and £ 2.3 house/mystery beers. Mystery meaning you’ll get something you’ve never heard of, and aren’t sure what that is until you get it. The stage is tiny, and has 60s era PA speakers hang in front, blocking the view of half the band. NHAC is DIY in the UK. My kind of place.

Every Saturday is a free Rough Trade show at NHAC, featuring rising local/UK bands. This week it was called the Clash Saturday Social, and co-hosted by Clash Magazine. We could only stay for the first two of three bands: Animal Kingdom, Dutch Uncles and It Hugs Back. Neither all that impressive, to be honest.

Animal Kingdom was a bit of a generic, UK-sounded band, ala Coldplay or U2 – but without the songwriting (and I hate Coldplay). They were all reverb and delay, keys and brooding vocals. And they continued what is becoming an indie rock cliché (I think): multiple members playing multiple instruments, in this case guitar, keys and glockenspiel.

I’m not trying to be critical just to be critical, Animal Kingdom wasn’t the worst band I’ve ever seen. But truthfully, the most impressive thing they did was getting all five of them on that tiny little stage. Plus, they had an animal named band. Not only that, they tried to own the entire kingdom of animal band names.

After they finished, the room cleared out as they broke down their gear. Sunshine finished her Tropical Martini, which she pretended to like, but tasted pretty much like pineapple juice. I grabbed another mysetery beer which didn’t taste like much of anything.

As I stood there, I noticed that in this young crowd, out of roughly 50 people, there were exactly four dudes with beards (including me). That’s 8% of the crowd – a percentage that would be unheard of back home. I guess NYC music fans are the only ones still hanging onto this trend. Again, yours truly included.

Then Dutch Uncles was on stage and ready to go. The first, most noticeable thing is their “style.” A bit pretentious, and obvious attempt at irony. The eccentric lead singer in his shirt that looks like a Bill Cosby sweater, but it’s a shirt, and it’s silk. The guitar player in his super tight oxford shirt and slacks. Very anti-rock ‘n roll.

They were also anti-genre, too apparently. Rather than try and sound like other bands from Manchester like The Fall or The Smiths or Joy Division – they just decided to sound like all of them, all at the same time. That’s the biggest knock on these guys: lack of focus. They could’ve easily been a dance rock band if they wanted to (ala Franz Ferdinand) – but would need better songs. Or a punk rock band, ala MC5, if they’d just decided to. Instead they want to do everything, all at once. Not realizing where their good bits are and throwing out the bad. Just don’t be fooled by the single “Steady Cam” on their myspace page.

And if you find yourself at the Notting Hill Arts Club, don’t be fooled by the tropical martini, either. Go for the mystery beer, instead.

3/27/09: Lily Allen @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London (64/100)

March 28th, 2009

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I see London. Soon I’ll see France. Right I now see my underpants, and socks and button down shirts – and every other piece of clothing that I own in my bag that was grossly over packed for an 8-day trip. So much so that my luggage actually busted open en route. Which I noticed when I got to baggage claim and saw it wide open on the carousel, with my clothes thrown back into it in a heap.

Welcome to London, mate

I made it to Sunshine’s flat around noon, took a quick nap, was up at 4:30pm and was ready to head to tonight’s show around 6:30pm. But first, Sunshine uttered words I never thought I’d hear, “Let’s go to the mall for dinner first.” I guess the Westfield Shopping Centre is brand new, right near the venue, has a bunch of new restaurants and is the biggest mall in the UK. But I grew up a 10-minute drive from the biggest mall in America, so there.

We jump on the bus to Shepherd’s Bush and as we step on, it hits us like a punch in the face: the overbearing smell of urine. What the what?! Where is that coming fr…oh, right there. That homeless guy. Damn it was unbelievable – and apparently, something the Brits aren’t that used to. To me it just smells like the E train. But each person that walked onto the bus, immediately covered their nose, opened up windows, and outwardly complained. A group of teenage girls took it a step further, screaming and yelling about how bad it is until the driver stopped and forced the man off the bus.

We finally escaped the pee bus, grabbed a quick dinner at the mall, and then headed over to Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

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There were balcony level tickets and floor tickets. We were on the floor, where I like it. Thanks so much to Jeanne and Amy at EMI for hooking me up with these. I would imagine a Lily Allen ticket in London is a sought after ticket, especially considering how packed it was.

We checked our coats and grabbed a Tuborg, a difficult beer to order two of without sounding like you’re stuttering (try saying, “Two Tuborgs” in a loud club). Ten minutes later, Lily took the stage and the crowd went nuts. London loves Lily. A young 18+ London, mind you.

Somehow, we got stuck behind a fortress of tall people. I could see, but Sunshine couldn’t. This being my first ever show in London, I didn’t know what to expect. What would the crowd be like? Did people take pictures like in NY? Would people be dancing? Pissed drunk? Nice or rude about being jam packed together? The answer turned out to be all of the above. It was pretty much like a NY show, only with way more people take pictures with their cameras and phones.

I tried to push myself closer to the stage a few songs in, to try and snap off some shots, but was met with the same sort of resistance I get in NY. Halfway through I noticed a pocket open up, and move into it – putting us the middle of a sea of young people, dancing. But finally we could both see, and even though it was crowded, it was never all that annoying. Just fun.

Lily seemed to be enjoying herself, too. Thanking the crowd, it was nice to be back in London, pointing to and giving a shout out to her Mom up on the balcony level. She was feeling it. So was I, quite frankly. It was a blast. I don’t really listen to Lily that much, but it doesn’t matter. It was a fun show, in a great venue, on the first night of my vacation.

When it was over, the place cleared out slowly. We waited while hundreds mobbed the coat check, and in return for our patience, were rewarded with the best story of the night. Sunshine was in the bathroom when the Empire staff opened up a stall, and found a young woman on the toilet – completely passed out cold, unconscious. What do they do with her? What else? They laid her on the floor of the bathroom. Yes, on the floor of a bathroom at a rock club. Then, to add insult to injury, her friend began yelling, “Get the fuck up! Come on! Wake the fuck up!” She didn’t hear her

What a way to end a night.