27 April 2009

connect the dots - and get to Dot to Dot (edited)

edited on 27.04.09

after some deep thought and an unsuccessful attempt to guilt some friends of mine into getting tickets to the deal of the century (aka the Dot to Dot Festival in Bristol and Nottingham on 23-24 May), I will be going to the Nottingham date on 24 May!

the lineup is great, I am so chuffed...Alessi's Ark and Dan Black have also been confirmed since they published this poster. it'll be a total danceathon with Friendly Fires and Ladyhawke. woot!

if you fancy booking a ticket, we could meet up...let me know!


25 April 2009

this week's Roundtable (23/04)

Thursday sees Tom from Gomez, Huw Stevens of Radio 1, May Kay from Fight Like Apes in the studio for Roundtable

1. Kasabian - "Fire" - this sounds a lot different than the previous single, "Vlad the Impaler" (which totally did not impress me!). heh, things build up and I'm liking this better. "Oriental Doobie Brothers"? lol

2. Basement Jaxx - "Raindrops" - boys, it's been too long! perhaps it's because of your dancey XL label brethren (like Friendly Fires), but you need to be back on the dancefloor. ASAP. I don't see the early '80s Macca comparison...do you?

3. the winner -
Sonic Youth - "Sacred Trickster" - don't like the vocal. I was never a Sonic Youth fan, so I don't know if that would have helped in the enjoyment of this track.

The Joy Formidable - "Whirring" - ooh yeah, I like this!

Placebo - "For What It's Worth" - the title sounds like a Buffalo Springfield tune, doesn't it? the groove is great, but the voice is so Gary Numan-robotic. the Atari-style electronic beeping is interesting. Mary Kay wants to blow his nose and doesn't like his voice either!

Kap Bambino - "Dead Lazers" - hahahaha ok this is TOO electro bouncy and dancey for me. I need to be able to at least hear the lyrics. this is like you're bouncing off the walls and you can't stop. "squawking girly thing" - exactly!

the Maccabees - "Can You Give It" and "Seventeen Hands" in full plus others - this band enjoys popularity in the UK that I don't really understand. maybe with more listens, these will be growers. not yet tho.

**I nearly missed who won b/c Lammo was so nonchalant about the announcement. you would have missed it too I bet if you were trying to book travel between Nottingham and Oxford without having to sell your first born!

16 April 2009

this week's Roundtable (16/04)

Roundtable returns for another week, with The Observer Music Monthly's Caspar Llewellyn Smith, comedian Danny Robins and Matt from the Rakes

apologies for not blogging on last week's Roundtable. I listened in but my brain was going in 20 different directions and I thought I'd have time over the weekend to relisten and post but alas, it was not meant to be...

1. Green Day - "Know Your Enemy" - I miss the days of "Basketcase" and "Time of Your Life (Good Riddance).

2. Phoenix - "Listomania" - I think their album title will get more attention than this single. just saying.

3. Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks" - I almost laughed out loud when I heard the bangy piano chords at the beginning of this, especially since I recently picked up Keane's first album, "Hopes and Fears" (and hated it, sorry). the difference between this and Keane is the piano is really annoying in "Two Weeks." it reminds me of the piano effects in most hip hop songs - overpowering the vocals. "classic blogosphere band"? you decide.

4. Dead Mouse - "I Remember" - not feeling this right now, but as suggested by Lammo, it sounds like a summer dance record.

5. Bob Dylan - sorry I missed the title, but I guess it doesn't matter cos - the waltzing rhythms don't work well with Bob's voice. and I've always had a problem with Bob's voice. there I've said it! ::ducks:: one of the punters in the studio said he is trying to sound like Tom Waits, and I concur.

6. the winner - Marmaduke Duke - "Rubber Lover" - interesting. it is poppy to me yet it is dark to Steve's board.

7. Depeche Mode's new album "Sounds of the Universe" - "Wrong," "Fragile Attention," "Perfect, " and "Peace" - I've seen the video for "Wrong" - it was disturbing. I'll be the first to admit I haven't been paying much attention to DM for the last couple of albums, although I did like the singles of "Exciter." about "Perfect" - it is sometimes unnerving and scary that Dave Gahan can really make himself sound like an unfeeling goth robot. I realise this is the sound they are trying to achieve, but it's not really for me. I mean, I like a bit more pop and zip to my music. ask me again in a month, I might have changed my mind! "Peace" sounds more DM in my mind, but you may think different. have a go...

15 April 2009

lesser known UK festivals / Doug Fink answers my burning questions / Green Apple Festival

I forget when I heard it on 6music, but there was a report last month that some festivals in the UK had called it quits this year b/c of the credit crunch and that only the larger festivals had a chance of breaking even this year.

if so, how do you account for the proliferation of these festivals I've never heard of? (forget the biggies - Glasto, Reading/Leeds, V Festival - chances are if I haven't heard of these, you haven't heard of them either!)

Blissfields - Hampshire, 3-5 Jul - looking to be a bunch of folkies

Creamfields - Chester (that's outside of Liverpool), 29-30 Aug - sure to be a rave based on the number of DJs and dance bands already committed

Bestival - Isle of Wight (an island off the south coast ofEngland), 11-13 Sept - this one is going to be a doozy with Elbow headlining


to close their North American tour, Noah and the Whale will grace the Black Cat stage in D.C. on 2 May. Doug Fink, drummer for the Whale and brother of singer/songwriter Charlie, was kind enough to answer some questions I had for him. head on over to Popwreckoning and have a read.


save the planet. seriously.

and look! a music festival in my own backyard. that I can't attend. ::facepalm::

for those of you who are actually going to be in town on Sunday (unlike yours truly, who will be in NOLA for work :P), there is a free - FREE! - Earth Day concert featuring the headliner the Flaming Lips. you can't miss this, folks!

for more info on volunteering and such, read the Popwreckoning news item or visit their site.

13 April 2009

Stereogum "Decompressed" - remember the "MTV Unplugged" days?

look what I found! for those of you like me who remember the good ol' days of MTV Unplugged, or the later and also very good VH1 Storytellers, Stereogum has a similar online series called Decomposed featuring up and coming artists performing stripped down versions of their songs. and some v. pretty photos, if I might add.

here are links to three of them:

the Soft Pack

Friendly Fires - who interestingly enough is the first non-American band to take the Decompressed stage

the lovely School of Seven Bells - who you might know through their single "iamundernodisguise"

11 April 2009

more photos from White Lies/Friendly Fires/the Soft Pack, 24.03.2009

related to this earlier post

in addition to the photos I posted for Popwreckoning, here are some more pics from the "NME Presents" tour when it touched down in Washington on 24 March:

I need more cowbell!
Ed Mac and Rob of Friendly Fires

Ed Mac of Friendly Fires

a boy and his guitar

Edd G. shredding it

Edd (left) and Ed - most definitely not the cartoon!

so sue me, I like the shoes! ("fox"y)

sorry about the two arms in this picture. it's the only picture from the night I have of FF's drummer, Jack (middle).

Charles Cave of White Lies

Harry McVeigh of White Lies

Harry again

Harry and drummer Jack (is the name "Jack" requisite to be a drummer of a band in England?)

for those completists, here are the setlists:

10 April 2009

t'anks for the memories (recent ticket stubs)

while I was cleaning my room today, trying to find some things for my trip to New Orleans for work next week, I found and photographed a couple of my recent ticket stubs. (for some reason, I cannot find my stub from the Morrissey gig in March, the David Byrne concert in November, or We Are Scientists's set from last summer...)

October is a good month for gigs in D.C. Patrick Wolf came with his good friend Bishi (who was awesome, especially in her duet with him on "Magpie"). Lykke Li came with Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (instead of the seriously-missed Friendly Fires, who were with her for the rest of that tour of hers).

the Airborne Toxic Event, 12 March 09 (with the Henry Clay People and Alberta Cross)

White Lies and Friendly Fires, 24 March 09 (with the Soft Pack)

08 April 2009

bop your head. groove to the beat. pump fist in air. lather, rinse, repeat.

disclaimer: mp3s contained herein are property of the BBC and are being used for an illustrative, noncommercial purpose - no copyright infringement intended.

the radio programmes described below can be heard online as they are broadcast or for 7 days after on the BBC iPlayer at bbc.co.uk/6music

interested in a technical (and shorter!) review at popwreckoning? read it here. it has photos too. (when I've got more time, I'll post others on this blog.)

when you've only ever heard a band on the radio and fell in love with them purely on the basis of sound, it stands to reason that when you are finally faced with the prospect of seeing them live, it will be an event. multiply that by 3 and you can get a sense why my neurons were firing all over the place in anticipation of the "NME Presents" tour starting at the Black Cat in D.C. on 24 March. The show was being coheadlined by White Lies and Friendly Fires, supported by the American Soft Pack. being an early riser, I commented to Nemone of 6music that I was worried about staying awake. (frankly, I needn't have worried.) [listen to the mp3] besides, on the train downtown, the revelers heading for the Britney Spears show the same night at the Verizon Center made for good theatre.

the three bands on the bill couldn't be any different. (the one thing that brought them together in my mind? I'd heard all of them for the first time on 6music - either on shows by Nemone, Steve Lamacq, or Marc Riley - where they were actually given a chance. I don't even know if any of our local stations here play their music...I've given on local radio.)

The Soft Pack have a snotty, "eff all this" kind of attitude that works well with the singing style of Matt Lamkin and the devil-may-care way Brian Hill pounds his drums. I recommend checking them out on MySpace, I love "Parasites" and "Nightlife" in particular. (FYI they used to be called the Muslims, if that helps any.) they played a short set for Rob Hughes (who was standing in for an absent Marc Riley) on 18 February, and I got a question to them about this tour - sorry, their response wasn't v. verbose! [listen to the mp3]

if dance music is more your speed, then you can't go wrong with Friendly Fires. it was with much disappointment when I read a week ago that me and my girlfriends might have seen them open for Lykke Li last October at the same venue (we got Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson instead - who did nothing for me at all). so I like to think they were trying to make amends for skipping over us last fall in favour of Philly. take the best of house, disco, funk, new wave, and new romantic, roll these disparate genres into one, and you have something approximating the wonderful noise Friendly Fires make. as a longtime supporter of synth-driven '80s dance pop, the Fires hit the spot for me. I've been reading up on their history - when you consider that their album was recorded primarily in singer Ed Macfarlane's parents' garage and somehow emerged from the mixing desk like a glittering jewel, it should be no wonder that they can deliver live. apologies in advance for the "Jerry Maguire" nod, but they had me at "Lovesick" (their first song of the night). if you ask me, that should have been a single before "Jump In the Pool." from my center vantage point, I got a good view of guitarist Edd Gibson and touring musician Rob Lee, but sadly I couldn't see drummer Jack Savidge (the White Lies drum kit was in the way, I hate being short :P) "Paris" and "Skeleton Boy" were better live than I could have imagined. we should have given Ed Mac a gold medal for booty shaking that night, and in one rocking-out trance, Edd tipped over his mike stand. but from what I've read, this is pretty typical for one of their gigs. one has to wonder what they're like at a festival!

before I go further, let me set the stage for you between the first and second acts. after the Soft Pack departed, there was a curious shuffling of people near the stage. now, I'm 5'3", so you can usually find me right up at the front at gigs - or else I've no chance of seeing a thing. and I'm usually at gigs by myself, b/c my friends in town aren't in music like I am. so imagine my surprise when all of a sudden, I was surrounded by a large gaggle of Asian girls of similar height, some of them wearing veils or burkas. I'm not sure if they knew any of the 3 bands, but as soon as Ed Macfarlane started singing, all the while hip shaking to the music, I thought, "good lord, are these girls going to be scandalised? is this going to be an international incident?" (BTW, I think I guessed right, b/c surprised oohs and ahhs abounded that nearly made me laugh, if I hadn't been concentrating on the music. they must have liked what they saw, b/c they all had their cameras snapping away!) this is an interesting point of discussion b/c I'm Chinese, and whenever I talk about the act of gig-going, my friends and relatives give me this funny look of "why?", like I should know better. there's no contest: music is my life and I go to gigs when I fancy, and when something's got a good beat, I'll shake my tail feather however I want, and in the case of Friendly Fires, I thoroughly enjoyed myself :D

as of late, I have 3 albums on heavy rotation - Keane's "Perfect Symmetry" (ha! English piano/synth-driven pop!), the Airborne Toxic Event's self-titled (good American angsty rock), and Friendly Fires' self-titled. after further listening I think I've sussed another reason why their music. Edd Gibson's guitar in "In the Hospital" and "On Board" (in particular) remind me of Andy Taylor's '80s guitar work with Duran Duran and the Powerstation. anyhoo, before I run off on an album tangent, let's get back to the gig...

ok, so if rock with 'tude or electropop isn't your poison, maybe the brand of post-punk rock of White Lies is for you. by this time, a good friend of mine in Holland had seen them live twice already, so I was already primed for a good performance. lyrically, their torch song "To Lose My Life" has a hint of love-borne fatalism similar to the Smiths' "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," so the band was already high up my cred list long before they arrived in Washington. except for the smoke machines and blinding light show, I enjoyed their set - especially the fantastic start with "Farewell to the Fairground" and the previously mentioned "To Lose My Life." Harry McVeigh's booming vocal was as welcome as a lighthouse in a stormy sea - which is what I expect the band intended, complementing the driving bass lines of Charles Cave and the manic drumming of Jack Lawrence-Brown (who made a good show of it despite being engulfed by the at-times crazy levels of smoke on the stage).

however, other local reviews were not as enthusiastic about their set. my thoughts on this and the evening as a whole: in general, Washington can be a pretty stodgy town. (I'm single-handedly trying to change that with my presence at and post-reports of these gigs, especially when it comes to spreading the gospel about my favourite English music ;) and let's face it: with today's bleak economic picture, the night was probably a good opportunity to let out your inner child and dance. there was also some confusion over who was headlining - while queuing outside the venue, I explained to other people that all three bands were equal in the sense that here on American soil, as none of them have had a big hit here. but in terms of quality, it wasn't confusing to me. I came into the gig expecting to be entertained; I left on a high like no other, and with barely no voice. my only regret is that I won't be able to travel to the festivals these bands are scheduled to hit in the coming months, thanks to that pesky thing called work...

when I spoke to Steve Lamacq on the phone last November, he said he hoped to organise a 6music night for us in D.C. someday. if this gig was any indication, British acts are - and will be - well received, so I say to Lammo, bring it on :D

07 April 2009

reflections on 14 March 09 Morrissey gig

St. George's Cross flag for Morrissey, in progress on 4 March, sitting on my duvet
sorry if it's huge! making that "S" took forever...

nearly a month after I saw "the man" in concert for the 7th time, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect back on the night before my brain loses any more of the memories.

I'd given him something at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester 3 years ago (or more accurately, chucked the necklace onstage with all the might in my left arm), and it seemed somehow appropriate for me to give him something for again gracing my hometown's stage. I've been a fan of Morrissey's since 2003 - my now ex-bf gave me a mix CD of his solo stuff and I was hooked for life. he writes lyrics that touch me deeply - and I just love intellectual lyrics. it's not enough for me to get the groove - I need to feel something in the words a performer sings. and what he's meant in his words has meant so much to me.

thanks for the people directly in front of me (equivalent to about 4 people rows), the flag made it onstage and eventually, after some stage changes, it was propped up on the bass drum. I have circled it on these pics from the delightful Mallory (a fellow MD concertgoer) so you can find it easily if it's not immediately obvious.

overall, I sang my heart out, I swayed to the music (even though the Northern bloke kept trying to put his arms around me - dodgy!), I danced - and had a really fab time. for a more technical and possibly more literary take on this gig, read my review at Popwreckoning.

some people in mozzolo land and further afield have expressed discontent in his set list for this tour - apparently he's not varying the set list, making tour stalking throughly disappointing. having only followed one tour - the Ringleader of the Tormentors tour in 2006, and only 4 dates, 3 in Manchester and 1 in London - I don't have an opinion either way. with a new multi-instrumentalist for this tour (whose name I don't know, but he replaced American Mikey V. Farrell), not varying a set list was probably smart. there is also much made about security being a beast at the Warner. well folks, you're in the Nation's Capital, what do you expect? and it's a seated venue. if he didn't want this, he should have booked the 9:30 Club.

03 April 2009

this week's Roundtable (02/04)

Wednesday sees Lissy Trullie in the studio as New Favourite Band and Daniel Miller of Mute Records joins Polly Scattergood and Wire's Colin Newman for Thursday's Roundtable

1. Manic Street Preachers - "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time" - written with lyrics provided by tortured and famed disappearing lead singer Richey Edwards

2. Passion Pit - "The Reeling" - when this came on, I hadn't heard it was Passion Pit, so it was slightly humorous to me when it was revealed to that it was from their band.

3. Dizzee Rascal - "Bonkers" - still not into this sound. sorry. I mean, if it's dance music and it's DECENT lyrics, I'll probably like it. this is like hip hop words over a dance groove.

4. the winner - Au Revoir Simone - "Shadows" - the only thing I know of these gals are of the angelic voices they added to the chorus of Friendly Fires' torch song, "Paris." I am glad to hear more female singers but worry that there are so many of them that sound similar - see School of Seven Bells, "Daniel" by Bat for Lashes, and the new "French Navy" cut from Camera Obscura. In the case of this track from ARS, the background music is rather repetitive and distracting. Based on evaluating the voices alone, I can't fault this choice as the winner. (or maybe it's just my wishful thinking that their beautiful voices will pair again with Ed Macfarlane's for some future indielectronica tracks?)

5. Kasabian - "Vlad the Impaler" - first impression, the vocal reminds me of Perry Farrell. however, the music does not live up aurally to Jane's Addiction. the chorus may be addictive to some, tho the song got a bashing in the Roundtable chatroom as "Transylvanian goulash".

6. Magic Arm - "Widths and Heights" - why are so many vocals nowadays sounding like they're stuck in the '60s?

7. Bat for Lashes new album - "Daniel," Glass," "Pearl's Dream," among others - ok, sorry dear, but all your songs sound the same. maybe they will grow on me, but like I wrote above, all the glass-eyed, fragile singers in the backdrop of drum machines are starting to sound the same!

02 April 2009

Keane live in 3D from Abbey Road (2 April 2009)

just got through watching the Keane 3D live cast from keanemusic.com live from Studio 1 at Abbey Road. v. nice indeed. now looking forward to seeing them in May!

set list:
The Lovers are Losing
Again and Again
Perfect Symmetry
Is There Any Wonder?

this begs the question: will there be more shows like this broadcast on the Web? b/c it seems pretty cutting edge for today, anyway.


I'm not even sure how to classify this, so I haven't tagged this entry besides it being about future D.C. area gigs....hrm...and I also got my ticket for one of Elbow's 3 headlining shows in the U.S. this summer (4 August at the 9:30 Club) - woot!

01 April 2009

you've got a spider on your eyelid (Lady Gaga on American Idol, 1 April) / another one of my gig reviews has been published

no, the image below is *not* an April Fool's joke.

(l to r) American Idol alum David Cook, and Lady Gaga

I haven't watched American Idol regularly for a long time, but I decided to post about tonight's episode because not only is last year's winner David Cook performing, but also the curiosity that is Lady Gaga. I must admit that I still am not really into her stuff, but I do acknowledge that her grooves will get you on the dancefloor. Do do doo doot.

I only wish her hair didn't look like a removable lampshade, or her fake eyelashes did not look like two large tarantulas have sprouted from her eyeballs. for whatever reason she dresses the way she does - almost like a space Christina Aguilera?...it has done its work. America is interested - and so is the world.


here's my gig review of the Airborne Toxic Event gig here on 12 March, posted on Popwreckoning. for my previous musings, have a read of this previous post.

it's only my second gig review on Popwreckoning, so comments here or there are appreciated! thanks :)