Posts Tagged ‘The Walkmen’


June 4, 2013

Day two commences with math-pop heroics courtesy of Vasco da Gama. Difficult to dislike a band with such fluid mastery of musicianship, especially when they’re so goddam modest about it. There’s frequent nods to The Dismemberment Plan and Dischord Records, but for all their clever arrangements, there’s a lingering suspicion that they’re a pop band at heart. Winning choruses mesh perfectly with the frenetic fretwork of guitarist Chris Lynn, leaving early evening revellers dazed but excited.

It’s a shame that the equally energetic Hands don’t attract a bigger crowd – their forthcoming Synaesthesia album ranks amongst the most immediately catchy collections to bolt from the Kill Rock Stars stable. They bounce adorably and ecstatically around the stage, with the soaring pop melodies of songs like ‘Trouble’ suggesting there’s even better to come from a band who’ve really got this ‘hooks’ thing nailed. Keep an eye out; they could well be soundtracking your summer.

Suitably cheered, we head to The Kazimier for something a little grittier, and Bad Meds are happy to oblige. Something of a local supergroup, the band includes Vasco da Gama drummer Dave Kelly and Hot Club de Paris’ Paul Rafferty amongst their number, and as such the curious cognoscenti are out in force. Theirs is a fun and frantic take on the skate-kid hardcore of early Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, replete with knowing banter (“Has anyone been signed yet? That’s the ultimate aim of Sound City, isn’t it?”) and a gloriously sludgy cover of ‘It’s Grim Up North’. Instant favourites.

Meanwhile, up the road, the much-hyped TOY decorate the Anglican Cathedral with their mountainous noise and Cousin it haircuts – given the time they’ve probably seen their music described via the shoegaze cliché ‘sonic cathedrals’, you gotta wonder if they ever imagined they’d actually play in one. As it turns out, the venue suits their sound rather well, as woozy riffs pile into each other atop a motorik rhythm section. Some of the more subtle chord changes of ‘Colour’s Running Out’ feel a little lost in the melee, but it’s a small price to pay to have your hearing blown out so magnificently.

The dashing Dan Croll is somewhat easier on the ear, and his take on classic pop songsmithery feels positively heart-warming. An evident knack for a hummable tune is enough to make every song feel instantly familiar, almost masking the dextrous subtleties of the band behind him. More of this winsome loveliness please.

The day’s final trek to the Cathedral feels, ludicrously, like the furthest Gigwise has ever had to walk, but The Walkmen are more than worth it. As dapper as ever, the band’s newfound maturity sees the majority of the set pitching for a rather more windswept approach than the energised stress of old favourites like ‘The Rat’, and it suits ‘em pretty neatly. Difficult to believe that they’re more than a decade into their career when their manifest enthusiasm still feels so fresh.

It’s been a pretty stellar day thus far, and Gigwise begins to worry that something is bound to suck at some point. And so we come to the tipsters’ faves Savages – on hand to prove that if you’re gonna be bummed out, it should owe a debt to their own high levels of menace and intensity – they’ve drawn plenty of comparisons to Souxsie & The Banshees, but the taut funk of their basslines owes just as much to the hypertension of The Bush Tetras, while Gemma Thompson’s strafes of white-hot atonality flash across the stage like electric storms. Every song drips with vitality and purrs venomously: once bitten, you’re lost to ‘em forever. Band of the weekend? Don’t bet against it.

Melody’s Echo Chamber present a much more relaxed affair, as their dizzy psychedelic alt pop proves to be much less acrid. Their delicacy serves as a neat counterpoint to their tendency towards off-kilter shonkiness, making them lovably delirious in the best sense possible.

Over at Leaf, The Still Corners seem to be struggling with technical difficulties that delay their set by a full half hour. When their reverb-drenched indiepop finally gets going, there’s a palpable sense of relief, albeit underpinned by a sense of irritation that it’s taken this long to get going. As a result, Gigwise ends up at the back of the queue for Thee Oh Sees, whose sweat-drenched set creates such demand that the rickety old Kazimier struggles to cope. There are angry scenes as waiting punters realise they won’t get to see the show, but what we eventually manage to catch amounts to a furious blast of psyched-out garage rock. Bodies spill over the monitors as the heaving moshpit flings itself back and forth with reckless abandon; sweat-sodden riffs riding hip-swaying basslines that pummel the guts and spill out the messy yards of intestine within. You can’t help but love a good rock show.

Speaking of which, that’s precisely how Future Of The Left opt to close out the day’s events, spraying a rowdy 2am crowd with gallons of molten riffage and barbed witticisms. The somewhat inebriated audience dances, screams and collapses into dazed heaps on the ground, surrendering to the forceful rage of the band… but that’s nothing compared to what happens when FOTL unleash two classics by frontman Falco’s previous outfit Mclusky. ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ sees the first outbreak of pure euphoria, while the bon mots of ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ amount to a twisted singalong with everyone’s shit well and truly lost. They close with a cover of Andy Kaufman’s infamous ‘I Trusted You’ – a helluva song and bona fide contender for greatest piece of performance comedy ever devised. Which is as decent a summation of this Cardiff quartet’s modus operandi as you could possibly desire. Bed time approaches – not with a whimper, but a full-on roar.

(Originally published by Gigwise, 06/05/2013)

All Tomorrow’s Parties

May 20, 2010

After another despicable lapse in posting, WHTB has decided that the best form of self-admonishment is self-correction. Or something. So without further ado – certainly none of that apologising lark – here’s WHTB’s account of this year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. Pray, do not judge this meffy soul too harshly.

ATP is a (now bi-)annual indie rock festival which takes place in the quaint setting of an old British holiday camp. Having relocated several years ago from Pontins in Camber Sands to the larger and more impressive Butlins site in Minehead, it has grown with the recent rise of so-called ‘underground indie rock. This year’s curators, the reformed Californian slackers Pavement, had sold out the festival on their name alone. Almost entirely to checked-shirted boys such as WHTB, in fact. Boys, it turns out, love Pavement.

I arrived at the festival site in something of a grump. Minehead is a lovely-looking coastal town with a beautiful shoreline, and the thought of the weekend ahead should have been enough to keep my spirits buoyed, but no. Due to a variety of circumstances too dull to relate, we were unable to check into the festival until some time towards the end of the first two bands’ sets. Avi Buffalo and Surfer Blood both featured rather highly on my ‘wanna see’ list, but no matter. There remained plenty of time to enjoy bands.

My friend Pete was heading over from New York, and so we had loosely arranged to meet up. Not having seen him in five years (other than in pixelised form) left me rather doubtful as to whether this would happen. The fates are mysterious creatures, however, and they dictated that we should walk past each other as soon as we both entered the arena. We half-took in a disappointing set by Spiral Stairs and caught up over the first of many beers. Fun!

We then moved on catch the Mariachi-drenched Americana of Calexico. A good band will always improve matters. As will a good Minutemen cover (Corona). More beer.

Next we caught The Walkmen in time to hear their hits, despite a fuse blowing onstage, causing them to abandon their set for a good five minutes. They re-emerged baffled but eager, and reminded us all that The Rat is ace. More beer.

I had eagerly anticipated Broken Social Scene, but after a promisingly noisy start, they descended into pseudo-epic rock that was a little too U2 for these ears. Beeeeeeer!

Mission Of Burma put in an early bid for band of the festival, which came as no surprise after witnessing their heroics at Camber Sands in 2006. Great stuff. Getting drunk now. That’s when i reach for myyy revolveerrrr!!! Ah, anthems.

We watched a bit of Quasi – not bad but I was getting a little band-fatigued. Had a wander. And some beer.

Next we caught the end of Marble Valley, and met up with my bud Yoshi from Still Flyin. Good guys. Beer? Again? Don’t mind if i do…!

Times New Viking are one of my favourite bands, and by this stage i was pretty darn drunk. Which was good news, of course. Around this time I stumbled across Westie from Pavement – a charming man who appeared to have time for everybody. Hewas even willing to pose for a photo with a drunken, incoherent fanboy such as myself.

After bar-hopping for a while, I found Pete and the Still Flyin boys again. Around 4:30am we somehow wandered into a packed ground floor chalet party. With a fog machine and a strobe light. WOAH. An hour or so, i looked up to see a nekkid girl dancing on a table. “I’m not cool enough for this shit,” I muttered to Yoshi, feeling a bit awkward and wondering exactly how I was going to explain this to my better half. Not short of young gentlemen willing to help her dance, the nekkid girl eventually jumped off the table, skipped across the room, jumped out of the window and ran off into the night. It was strangely poetic.

Eventually, I got back into my chalet at 7am. Drunk.


Day Two coming up…