Sunday, May 21, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hawkwind. Live at the Instutute review. (16/5/17)

In an unexpected twist, Hawkwind's current support on tour is Hawkwind (8.4/10). Their set at the Institute began with a short half hour acoustic set. Taking a break from interstellar travel to play some tunes around the camp-fire. Unlike Staus Quo these acoustic sets are not a way of covering up a lack of new ideas or ability to play at full volume but more of a chance for Hawkwind to communicate with each other and their fans more openly. The acoustic set gave Hawkwind's ship captain Dave Brock a rare chance to enjoy some nostalgia and relive his busking days. During this set Hawkwind nearly delved into some old jazz standards and Chuck Berry covers. the band and crowd did enjoy some light hearted banter about 'getting yourself together' and the recently detonated Aston Bomb, "did he say bong or bomb?" before Dave decided that the band should get back to playing some Hawkwind classics, "I mean I'm a Hawkwind classic!"
If the little acoustic set found a band nearing their 50th anniversary relaxing and looking back on their past then the second set was anything but. While the topless dancers may have left, the brain melting graphics have not. Hawkwind have been boosted by the addition of new(ish) members, such as their a young(ish) bass player who channels the spirit of Lemmy through his Rickenbacker bass guitar. Hawkwind's current singer is the formidable 'Mr Dibs', who has the task of singing tracks originally sung by a multitude of legendary frontmen.
The setlist was made up of deep cuts from their career such as overlooked 80's gems Psy-Power, 70's classics Warrior on the edge of time and recent tunes from the last two albums who Mr Dibs thanked us for helping chart for two years in a row. But sadly not the interplanetary hoedown of Spaceship Blues. The second set flew by despite almost every song being stretched out over ten minutes.
Mr Dibs thanked the crowd again for coming out year after year to see these "obscure cult motherfuckers", and took photos of everyone in the front rows.
After Hawkwind left the stage an encore was inevitable, yet the demand for one was still amazing, the bands name was chanted over and over while the stomping of feet shook the floor. When Hawkwind did come on stage it was to play their biggest hit 'Silver Machine', with probably the strangest part of the stage show - a dancing badger, and after two and a half hours Hawkwind left the stage.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lowly + Hoopla Blue. Live at the Hare and Hounds review (15/5/17)

 When Chartreuse pulled out due to their guitarist and driver breaking his foot it was up to Hoopla Blue to step in and save the day. As it turns out Hoopla Blue (7.2/10) were a perfect support act for Lowly. Having seen them a few times now I still can't accurately describe their music. They're the kind of band who could only have come out of this decade. They mix odd time signatures, with shimmering guitars, keyboards and some elements of sampling to add to the overall atmosphere. They can go from frantic Battles style math-rock to Wild Beats style grandeur in the space of a song.   Despite making such odd music Hoopla Blue could hardly be described as experimental, as they've honed their sound and they play with a quiet brooding confidence. Hoopla blue seem to get better with each performance.

A few years ago no one would have predicted that Denmark would have produced so many influential artists. Iceage, Communions, Marching Church, Lust For Youth, Liss, and Mo have all helped make a huge impact recently. Lowly (8) are the latest Danish band to break through, having recently released their début album Heba on Bella Union records. Their show at The Hare And Hounds was their very first in Birmingham and Lowly were clearly humbled to be there, saying "What a big crowd you are, so great!" early on. Like many of their Danish contemporaries Lowly are still a pop group at heart, no matter how experimental or avant-garde they get. Much like Mercury Rev, Lowly may sound mellow and dreamy on record, yet their songs are far more powerful when performed live. They bought an array of keyboards with them to help build a huge wall of sound, most of which were mixed and multi-tasked by the keyboard wizard Kasper Staub. Lowly can go from sounding overwhelmingly huge to bringing a whole room to absolute silence. One of these incidents was when one piece of kit seemed to break. The crowd stood in absolute silence before joining the band in awkward laughter. Lowly's vocals were split between Soffie Viemose and Nanna Schannong. While Nanna lent gentle melodies to their sound with her guitar. Soffie stood out with her fantastic voice and nonchalant dancing as being the front-woman of the band. Simply tossing aside a request for their breakthrough single 'Daydreamers' with a simple 'haha no'. While Nanna invited the audience to come over and say hi, and that they didn't have to buy anything, Lowly seem like genuinely nice people. Despite being such a new band Lowly have created a unique sound. That they've managed to do this while still making memorable pop songs and without being over pretentious seems to have been important to their success so far.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hoops + Cymbals. Live at The Hare and Hounds review (7/5/17)

Having rediscovered Cymbals (7.2/10) excellent second album 'The Age of fracture' it still seems strange to me that the band aren't better known. Cymbals refreshingly eclectic update of 80's pop, still sounds fantastic 3 years on. Since then the band seemed to have spawned several more successful and less vibrant imitators. So I was glad to finally get a chance to see them live ahead of the release of their third album 'light in your mind'. Unfortunately the giddy joys of the last album seem to have given way to a more sombre violin led sound. Taking in elements of post-punk and and toning down the exuberance of the earlier material, of the newer songs it was 'fully automated luxury' which stood out as the strongest. Despite being less keen on the newer material, I'm glad that I've finally had the chance to see brilliant songs such as 'the natural age', 'empty space' and 'like an animal' played live.
While the vast majority had come along to see Los Campesinos in the bigger room next door, an admirably candid Hoops (7.6) said 'thanks for coming to our show and not *points at other room*'. . Hoops hail from Bloomington, Illinois. Despite only playing to a relatively small crowd, Hoops were having the time of their lives. Saying that Birmingham is a 'beautiful city' and that 'if you've not been to Illinois then you're not missing much'. Hoops have a slacker charm and a dry sense of humour. 
They don't have a front-man, yet the constantly smiling guitarist Drew, seemed to be the mouthpiece of the band, saying 'I like this song' before almost every song and just shrugging off their keyboards joke that all their songs are shit. Hoops play the sort of hazy, lazy indie rock that used to be associated with Mac Demarco. Despite looking and sounding like slackers, Hoops musical ability sets them apart from most. Many of the songs off their début album are bursting with energy and melody. While they have only just released a record hoops are a fantastically tight live band who've been honing their craft for 6 years. The vintage keyboards and lo-fi guitars give their music a washed out sound, as if it's been warped on an old VHS. The only real fault with Hoops is that despite having three vocalists, none of them are very good at singing. The flat mono-tonal singing suits their sound, but it robs the songs of any real emotional connection. Hoops début album 'Routines' came out last Friday on Fat Possum records and I highly recommend you give it a listen.