Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Standing At The Sky's Edge

Richard Hawley//Bath Pavilion//21st September 2012

The intimate Bath Pavilion was the ideal venue for latest critics’ favourite and unlikely golden boy Richard Hawley. Wee it may be, but the Pavilion – a skating rink when it first opened in 1910 – has played host to some of the biggest names, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Where better to witness a steadily rising northern star…

Approaching its sandstone facade with eager footsteps, what struck me first was the diversity of the queue forming outside – which ranged from twenty-somethings to quinquagenarians and beyond. Feeling quite the culture vulture as part of a handful of under-30s, I joined the crowd jostling through the doors and quietly celebrated. There was a definite lack of glory-hunters, despite Hawley having punctured the mainstream and come to the attention of a younger audience, particularly since his Arctic Monkeys collaboration.

Support came from Lisa Halligan – an Irish songstress with a voice that instantly put me in mind of Ellie Goulding – which did set her at a slight disadvantage as far as any rave review was concerned, from this camp at any rate. However, unlike Goulding, who often pairs her raspy vocals with dubious electro-pop, Halligan chose to combine her sound with warm, plodding beats and jaunty, folky melodies which made everything much better. 

Hawley’s performance, on the other hand, hadn’t even a trace of the ‘grin-and-bear’ about it. Our man of the moment opened with the booming ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, which reverberated around a roomful of admirers standing transfixed beneath a white linen canopy. Otherworldly lighting set the scene, which included leafy trees lining the back of the stage. ‘Don’t Stare at the Sun’ was rueful; melancholic tones melting into Hawley’s lamenting, weather-beaten vocal. Meanwhile, the softer ‘Seek It’ seemed to lull its audience into a silent reverie. The chat between numbers was equally as good, thanks to Hawley’s deliciously droll nature and drowsy Sheffield drawl; dripping with signature sarcasm. The more strapping ‘Leave Your Body Behind You’ offered a melodic, thunderous cacophony showcasing silkiest licks, and stood out as a song that would endure. During ‘Down in the Woods’, Hawley was plunged into shades of absinthe-green that illuminated the surrounding foliage and evoked an eerie feel, particularly when he steadily began to chant lines from nursery rhymes.

The sound was genuinely flawless throughout the set, which also included ‘Remorse Code’ and ‘Open Up your Door’ from 2009 album Truelove’s Gutter. ‘The Ocean’ closed, and we went away in high spirits, happy for Hawley and his well-deserved acclaim. On the whole, a heady concoction that left us a bit breathless – and all before hitting the Pavilion bar.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Peace Not Quiet

Been doing a few open mic nights with The Beau Ties recently (that's the acapella band) and thinking of good Christmas songs to do (obviously I'm keen to head in a more rock 'n' roll/bluesy direction...can't help meself). So far, so good! Also learnt to ski the other day (just the basics) at the Snow Centre near London, which was so fun! Can't wait to do it again. Finding time for drums has been a bit hard, but am loving building my kit bit by bit, bought a set of cymbals recently (including a looovely Chinese splash) for verrrry good price. Also setting up a company blog at work so the last couple of weeks have gone well quick!

This is the review I did when Peace played at The Louisiana a couple of weeks ago (follow the link below)


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Finding Time

I can already tell I'm not going to be the most frequent blogger...but that's fine, right? Sooo this week has been pretty busy, and good! Got a new project at work (job number one, the full-time beast at the publishing house in town), and I also got into an acapella band! This week I'm reviewing Peace at The Louisiana (http://peaceforeverever.co.uk/) and a Spanish band called The Dirt Tracks (http://www.thedirttracks.com/). I'll be sure to keep you (blog) posted.

Also thought I'd share me latest review, of a punk/ska band called Detached and their new album Finding Time - which was a challenge as that sorta stuff really isn't my cuppa chai. But it was a challenge I relished, and here is the result...

In other news... The Shimmer Band have released a belter of a second single, Petrol People. Sit yourself down before you play it, pop dem peepers and prepare your King Lears...

Until next time...

Friday, 19 October 2012


Well hey there.....you've only gone and stumbled across my first blog post. Decided on this as my debut as it's about a new band that I'm raaather excited about. I enjoyed writing this'un and I like the Beat context - it got me thinking about books-an-writin-an-that, rummaging around the dusty old shelves of my mind...

The Shimmer Band

It’s said they once lined men’s souls with gold… a curious-sounding business to say the least. But Chinese whispers aside, it’s their new line of work that’s set to seize your attention....

Arriving this month with quite enough education to perform is a band whose fans (and they are many, already) will soon find themselves at the start of a brand new yellow brick road, looking towards a shimmering sonic vista.

If you’ve been a regular on the Bristol live circuit over the last year or so, you might recognise the six-stringed sounds of Daniel ‘Babsy’ Barry, the dexterous drumming of Willz Hatcher – which have been teamed up on several occasions for the city’s listening pleasure – and the boisterous vocals of singer Tom Newman. The Shimmer line up also sees Jack Palmer on bass, providing a robust, relentless backbone to grind teeth to. 

And so to this tightly-bound bundle casually dubbed ‘plain ol’ rock n roll – tunes for the kids’, sitting at the junction between pop, psychedelia and krautrock, and spearheaded by title release Kool-Aid Acid Kid.

Fans of Tom Wolfe will recognise the literary reference here, but whether or not this influences the meaning of the song is really irrelevant – as the track can be seen (if you’re looking) to answer the distant call of the Beat Generation in its arrangement alone.
Newman’s vocals carry an air of intense conviction corresponding with this underground movement, and have something of a visceral appeal. These fill Kool-Aid to the brim with grit and spirit, rendering it a song to stir and enthuse. The dynamic drum sound, which smacks of the part-man, part-machine processed rhythms of Ian Matthews, suits the industrious style of the Shimmer drummer to a tee, and fuses with a soaring melody. Look out for the driving rhythm guitar of newest recruit Tom Smith, matching the rousing bassline and completing the aural offensive. Smith paves the way for Epiphone-toting axeman Babsy, commonly found freaking over the frets like no-one’s business.

A sneak peek at their second single offers just as much to shout about. Due for release at the end of October, this track also features the mastering skills of Robin Schmidt (whose repertoire includes work for The Black Keys and The Sand Band). Similarly seismic in terms of style – that is to say, raucous and guitar-driven – it's full of that same anthemic energy and flatline bass riffs, as well as a howl worthy of Ginsberg. Familiar motifs return to tether the tracks and consolidate their identity, and the lack of technical acrobatics and general showboating demonstrates more of a disciplined, no-frills approach.

So, tune-thirsty Bristol populace, seek out Tom Newman and his own band of Merry Pranksters, get an ice-cold glug of Kool-Aid down your neck and see if you’re buying what they’re selling.

A roundhouse of a record and what a precursor for things to come – I’m keen to watch the fallout.