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2013 Round-up

Posted by jill on January 2, 2014

During the year, it seemed that 2013 was a bit of a dry year in terms of music. Without the time to dig through every blog and music review, I didn’t really come across any great new favourite act. And there was so much going on elsewhere that there was always something in the way of a gig or a concert I really wanted to attend.

However, on reflection the gigs and concerts that I did manage to make it to end up providing a pretty fair reflection of my year. Several themes crept up in the concerts I attended:

  • Concerts in more unusual venues (contemporary classical in an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and next to an upside down house or jazz/rock fusion in a bar right next to the Thames)
  • Watching bands that I had once thought would never play live again (Postal Service, Neon Neon, Helen Love and Talulah Gosh) or merely would never get the chance to see (Arcade Fire, The Knife and Pet Shop Boys)
  • More interaction and dressing up at gigs was actually fun and made the gigs into more of a special event (Neon Neon and Arcade Fire)

So, as a way to capture my 2013, here is my list of top 10 11 gigs/concerts in chronological order.

20th  January 2013 – Aurora Orchestra at Southbank

One huge regret of the year was not having the time to explore the Southbank’s season of 20th Century Classical music. One thing I particularly enjoyed about these concerts was the narration about the context of the pieces being performed. This concert featured the sculptor Edmund de Waal explaining the world of early 20th Century Vienna. The pieces were then performed in the surprisingly intimate setting with us the audience sitting on the stage at the Royal Festival Hall along with the performers.

7 Feb – Kraftwerk/Radioactivity at Tate Modern

At the other extreme, was the Kraftwerk concert inside the huge turbine hall of the Tate Modern. Here, technology shone above emotion as the bespoke 3D soundsystem played out the train noises and other sound effects all around us, while it remained unclear whether the members of Kraftwerk were performing live or (as I always suspect) just playing Solitaire on their laptops.

9 March – Concert at the Hayward Gallery

From one art gallery to another in the next month, this concert featured a series of short contemporary pieces played out amongst the art works of the lightshow exhibition. The crowded nature of the event, squeezing the audience into the small spaces around the art work, meant that you really concentrated on the  music (at one point I was sat just next to the spike of the cello) but also meant that you were able to spend more time than usual reflecting on particular pieces of art works. I wished this crossover between art exhibitions and music would happen more often.

16 March – Concert at the Musikverein

March also saw a trip for work to Vienna, the opportunity to stay behind for the weekend and therefore the chance to go to a concert at the beautiful Musikverein. What made the concert even more special was that one of the pieces was a piece by one of my favourite composers associated with Vienna, Richard Strauss.

20 May – Postal Service at Brixton Academy

Like with many other people my age, Give Up by The Postal Service was a very influential album in my listening habits when it was released. Having never had the chance to see them at the time of that album’s release I thought it would remain an album I would never see performed live. This show, as a part of the 10th anniversary of the album’s release, brought back all the great memories of what gigs used to be like.

4 June – Neon Neon at Village Underground

One main reason why I have stopped going to so many gigs was that they just didn’t seem so much fun anymore. However, one show that didn’t have this problem was the Neon Neon gig, which was more of an interactive theatre performance with some music thrown in. Using the theme of their second album, about the life of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, they encouraged the audience to dress in red and the actors and the  band even roamed amongst the audience before the beginning of the show. It both brought more context to the stories behind the album as well as making sure the audience were having fun and participating rather than just watching passively.

17 August – Melt Yourself Down at Propstore

I’m not sure whether the National Theatre knew what they were letting themselves in for when they asked Melt Yourself Down to play at their temporary pop up bar along the Southbank, a bar that is decorated with the props from play plays at the theatre. In any case, MYD gave their typically hyperactive live show with Kushal Gaya hanging off the ceiling and some of the loudest music the Southbank has seen in a long time.

27 August – Prom 60 – Billy Budd

This year was my busiest Proms season yet, with six concerts, and this year being the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth quite a few of the concerts featured pieces by Britten. However, this semi-staged version of Billy Budd was probably my favourite  of a very good year of the Proms.

28 September – Foals at Enmore Theatre

The northern hemisphere’s Autumn saw me visit the southern hemisphere’s Spring and a fortnight’s trip across Australia which found me in Sydney at the same time as Foals. Now, I don’t pay as much attention as I used to to what the mainstream music press covers these days and have lost track of what bands like Foals are up to. So, it was a surprise to see them on the first of two sold out shows in Sydney and to watch a crowd of young Australians scream and shout for a band I used to watch in tiny venues in Oxford.

4 November – Helen Love (and Talulah Gosh) at 100 Club

After having seen Postal Service earlier in the year there really weren’t that many other bands I really wanted to see live. One that I had never anticipated having the chance to see perform were Helen Love. They reformed for Indietracks earlier in the Summer,  but I wasn’t able to make that show. So I was delighted when they announced a one off London gig. This show was always going to be special, but what made it even more special was when the surprise support act turned out to be Talulah Gosh playing together for the first time in more than 20 years. However, nothing can beat the fun of the last five songs in the Helen Love set (Punkboy, Shifty Disco Girl, We Love You, Debbie Loves Joey and Does Your Heart Go Boom).

12 November – Arcade Fire at Roundhouse

This Arcade Fire concert rounds up a couple of themes to my year of concerts. Before getting tickets for this show just the weekend before the gig, I had given up on ever seeing them live (having missed out on their smaller gigs when they started out and not being a fan of arena shows). Of all the gigs I attended this year this one felt like more of an event than any of the others, mainly due to their request that everyone dressed up in their finest or in fancy dress (it made for a great game on the tube trying to work out who was only heading home from work and who was going to the gig). While I’m never going to be able to see them at the peak, during the Funeral era, at least this was a slightly more intimate affair.


It’s been a while…

Posted by jill on March 12, 2013

Can it really be almost a year since my last post? I haven’t stopped listening to music, but my tastes have change. A quick review of my diary for this year so far indicates that I’ve been to three gigs so far this year, but four classical concerts. Admittedly this is probably down to the excellent Rest is Noise season down on the Southbank but it really seems like there’s more experimentation in the contemporary classical world today than in the other music I come across these days.

Two of the highlights this year so far are Kraftwerk at the Tate Modern and the Harmonic Series special at the Hayward Gallery. Coincidentally both of these took place in art galleries, but in very different settings. Kraftwerk was everything you would wish a Kraftwerk show to be – there were great 3D graphics and a bespoke soundsystem for the gigs. Having heard the train noises coming from behind me for TransEuropeExpress, can’t really think any other Kraftwerk shows can top that.

The Harmonic Series concert at the Hayward Gallery was a part of the Light Show exhibition. Four musicians performed modern pieces amongst the artworks, which sometimes worked with the settings and sometimes not. We heard some Bach whilst staring at Olafur Eliasson’s amazing Model for a Timeless Garden (this was probably due to the necessity of a piece that the cellist could play from memory in strobing lights) amongst other works. But the best of all was listening to two female voices and the cello almost merge into one in Morton Feldman’s Voices and Cello whilst sitting in a room only lit by red fluorescent lights. This piece was originally written to be performed in Rothko’s Chapel, but save for only going to the real chapel itself, this was probably the best setting to enjoy the piece.


A List of things which are in consideration when deciding to go to a gig

Posted by jill on February 21, 2012

It’s been a while since the last update, probably pretty reflective of the amount of interest I’ve placed in new music in the past few months. So far this year I’ve been to three gigs with a fair representation of the factors which affect whether I go to a show or not.

1) It was free
The first gig of the year was a free show at 93 feet east (breaking one of my gig rules about the location of a venue, more later). But, it was free and I went to catch up with a friend. Subsequently, I paid very little attention to the bands, who seemed a bit rubbish.  

2) I played at the gig
The second gig of the year was a lot more fun, with A Little Orchestra curating a How Does it Feel night at the Buffalo Bar. We played with one of my teenage music heroes (Shirley Lee from Spearmint) and also one of my favourite discoveries from last year (Haiku Salut). Performing is probably a good reason to show up at a gig.

3) It’s in a church
Actually this rule not only applies to churches but also concert venues with seating (such as the Barbican or the concert room at Kings Place). Somehow pureple don’t chat so much in these more formal environments. Last night I saw Active Child for the second time in a church. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to the album recently, but what struck me more live was just how great the synths are in his songs. The church is a great setting for this sort of music.

Main reason not to go to a gig
4) location of the venue
While I would probably still trek across London for a particularly good gig, there are areas I would also avoid for the types if crowd it would attract. One such obvious area is Shoreditch, which has changed so much even in the few years I’ve lived in London. Add to this list a couple of venues where I’ve never had a good experience (Shepherds Bush Empire and The Kentish Town Forum), it turns intoo a pretty good money-saving device as I don’t have very many gigs left to choose from!


Anyone (in Oxford) can play guitar

Posted by jill on September 21, 2011

When I was 13 I once moaned to a penpal that Oxford was very dull and there was nothing to do apart from shopping (and being dragged round Cornmarket by my mum wasn’t much fun either). The only exciting thing to happen was a Radio 1 roadshow at South Park, which I wasn’t allowed to go to. Listening to it on the radio instead, I heard a band called Ride, who were from Oxford. By the next Summer I started to read Nightshift and then Sound City came along, and I began to discover that Oxford wasn’t such a dull place after all. In fact, I started to think that every city had a local scene like this and long lists of great bands that couldn’t quite break through. It was only many years later that I realised just quite how lucky we were in Oxford and since then had difficulties explaining to others just how I spent my spare time in the early 2000s.

If I have to do that now, I’ll just need to sit them down in front of ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’. It tells the story of successive generations of Oxford bands, each one just about managing to do that little bit more than the last generation, until you get to the R-word (Tallulah Gosh, Ride,.Servedriver), but at the same time it also tells the more familiar story to many Oxford bands of the might have beens (Dustball, The Rock of Travolta, The Candyskins). It’s not just about the bands as distinct units, but also how they helped each other out.

Of course with a film like this it doesn’t tell the full story. There are loads of other bands who didn’t get a mention, and it was mainly focused around Jericho and the Cowley Road. But it is a great scrapbook of memories and made me glad I grew up in Oxford after all.