Hackney Wicked Festival @ Hackney Wick

The Wick, the weak and the wicked


Unknown band ...folking up the Hackney Wick overground.

Lois and The Love Joan As Police Woman looks, Led Zep onstage drama and a hint of Joplin in the voice. Not a bad music recipe...

Quilla Constance Just another Oxford grad...

Main Stage The sound of the overground

Peter Gordon / Lolo Stereo @ Shacklewell Arms

The curious case of Peter Gordon


I can't say I was all that driven to see Mr. Gordon for his music. Despite his long history in the New York music scene (via Munich, San Diego and Santa Fe) delivering an ambitiously colourful prism of sonic work and collaborations with Arthur Russell and Laurie Anderson to the Desperate Housewives soundtrack, his Love of Life Orchestra just won't do it for me.
But he was there, in Hackney's intimate Shacklewell Arms, admission free, and Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard would be adding their own colour on the decks. I had to see what that curious case of Peter Gordon was all about...
There, inbetween the ladies and gents loos, laid the miniature stage that welcomed Mr. Gordon with his saxophones and synths, trumpetist Max Gordon, guitarist David Cunningham (previously of The Flying Lizards) and all their electronic paraphernalia. The music menu for the night was spicy mixes of new tracks and remixes of old ones, taken from the Love of Life Orchestra album – a retrospective that dedicated fan James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) recently released on DFA.
Prepared for some really annoying disco pop, in which Gordon's sophisticated, thunderous saxophones provide the only silver lining, I was amazed at how LOLO Stereo's moody, idiosyncratic brew drew me in. Painted in pink and blue shades, thanks to the pub's kitschy lighting, the trio found in these Arms the ideal decadent embrace for what they had to offer - an '80s movie ambiance you didn't see on video, but you actually got to play in; which soon, through the sound, evolved into a sinister Lynchian landscape.
That's when the multi-cultural persona of Gordon and the versatility of his compositional background became most evident.
It's not that the disco veil really ever prevented me from seeing the irony in the multi-layered workings of the prolific LOLO mastermind. But it still wasn't my cup of tea. And it was right that moment that I began to have a taste for it, almost hitting my head for not having paid better attention to its delicate sonic qualities and sense of humour in the past.
It wasn't long, though, before the LOLO disco monster came back to life. I don't hate all things strobe light (or pop saxes, for that matter), but any music that makes me feel I'm at an '80s New York gallery surrounded by pseudo-artists in oversized white suits gives me a rash.
I gradually went from swaying to the electrifying rhythm to just sitting there upright, my senses stupefied. In a loose cinematic metaphor, the Mullholand drive brunette disappeared in favour of the predictable blond. A brainwashing feeling that skyrocketed with a marathon ending remix of Don't Don't, with its bubble pink female vocals singing “Baby” in a loop.
I'm not all against Hot Chip either, but I have to say that their after-show disco selections were even worse.
All in all, I do feel Peter Gordon and company exercised my critical and musical thinking. My reflex to break beyond the surface and see if there's more than meets the ear to the types of music I'm allergic to. But as soon the lesson was over, I had to rush out...

Sea of Bees, Peggy Sue @ Northampton Square

Banstand Basking


Well, I got there - a few steps down City University, Northampton Square - late for Veronica Falls. I heard they were good. I had missed them...

Sea of Bees

Therefore, I tried to focus on the Sea of Bees, and tell myself "nevermind, you're enjoying this great band right now!". But this really wasn't the case...
I really didn't like SOB (and, sob it is!). With a voice part Cocorosie, part Joanna Newsom (who, by the way, I adore) and another part I dare say I have just forgot, singer/songwriter Jules Bee (and a blond friend in the backing vocals) presented a folk set too minimalistically weepy for my taste. So I left to go taste a burger instead.
Luckily, justice came in the form of Peggy Sue, which was a trio (and not the following girl holding the accordion).

Peggy Sue

With their smoky vocals, sexy slow drumming and emotive, whimsical originality - they were a big surprise.
I had already felt for their dark streak online and there, bare of their decorative studio accessories, they enchanted me - us, even more.
Softness, power, sensuality, childish naivety (drums, guitars, a violin that left for an interview, a cello, that afore-mentioned accordion...) all fit under that peculiarly hype for the afternoon Northampton gazebo.
Their second album Acrobats is due September, along with another gig at Lexington and a UK tour.
Can't wait.

Eco-friendly setlist
P.S. Somebody tell all photographers and camera men and women everywhere their creative legacy is NOT more important than the band themselves. More and more they (and I take pictures like a maniac as well, but I at least try not to get in everybody's face in the meantime) sit right next, in front, behind - you name it - the performers for that supposedly captivating shot that will buy them their fifteen minutes. Even when you have a job to upload videos on http://bandstandbusking.com/, we got news for you. WE DON'T CARE!!

London Babylon @ Mascara Bar

Music and other love potions 


In the cabaret style ambiance of Mascara Bar there didn't seem to be a place for a nutty rock band. But as heavy red curtains opened at the far end, the first guitar strums could be heard. And two Spanish guys could be seen restlessly cavorting around the miniature stage.
Their accompanying “weird tunes from all pop eras" dominated. There was definite character in their playlist, though: a sexy '60s Rock'n'Roll feel, that songs like Love Potion Number 9 and Shape of Things to Come eloquently sum it up. The chatty Front Man introduced every tune with cheeky punch lines making the small crowd opposite him part of the London Babylon game.  The band could very well make a retro beat scene from the next sequel of Kill Bill, but they still have a long way to go. There's good music taste and energy in their show, but they're too hyperactive for their own good and at times chaotic; nothing they can't fix with a bit of focus and practice.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Rough Trade East

Mortal Sonic Combat


There’s a buzz around Ruban Nielson's Unknown Mortal Orchestra, thanks to a couple of catchy tunes that streamed online months before their recent eponymous debut. Songs like Ffunny Friends and How Can U Luv Me have an undoubtedly playful retro charm favoured by blog circuits.
Competing with the late afternoon shoppers at Rough Trade East, the band had a hard time getting any attention. Nielson came straight out and invited everybody to come closer, as the Psych Rock mysteries of their '60s-infected debut started to unfold.  People eventually built a warm fan base by the stage but, somehow, the pop hooks that gained this Unknown US orchestra its' cross-Atlantic reputation, weren't that arresting live. It was Nielson's powerful krautrock outburst, near the end, that filled the show with the uplifting energy that made it memorable.
According to several music journos, Ruban's music often evokes rock veterans like Captain Beefheart but maybe the time and place didn't quite inspire the band to fully deploy his sonic techniques. UMO could probably take a few lessons on how to translate their idiosyncratic twists and turns on stage.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha, a.k.a. rockets4solitude, for Live At Your Local www.liveatyourlocal.org.uk

Social Distortion @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

These scars in my flesh, I'm bruised and I'm bloodied


Here's to Orange County, the Californian destination that spawns rock'n'roll's most talented eccentrics - from Jeff Buckley to our hero for the night, Mike Ness.
In an Empire full of sculpted rockabilly hairdos and i-heart-mum tattoos, Muddy Waters' Mannish Boy provided the eloquent opener to welcome Ness & company onstage. At last, time for crowd-surfing...
The O2 Shepherd's Bush does occasionally party crazy to some Australian rock royalty (apparently...), but still mostly manages to stay tied to the ground.
But Social Distortion did it, with pit anthems like Bad Luck and Story Of My Life (why do people crowd-surf with these songs? They should be on the floor, weeping!!...).
Our boy Ness has kept his knack for stories from the streets of punk intact and continues to recount them with a hoarse voice that screams, um...punk-Ness. Johnny Cash tribute Ring of Fire typically fired things up (that's what it's there for). In short, Social Distortion were Social Distortion - that thing you know and can rely on, like an old punk couch.
Finally, there were two more things that caught my attention:
a) Social Distortion fans are extremely loyal; and surprisingly multi-culti. Every second person had an accent - and by that I don't mean Cockney, or even Mancunian. They very possibly traveled from all over Europe just to see them. Or I took the wrong turn for Womad there somewhere...
b) Social Distortion fans are extremely disloyal. Despite the abundance of SC T-shirts, half the audience was simultaneously coveting:
New York Dolls
with a touch of Amoeba Music (top Californian destination for independent record lovers) and CBGB's (top NY destination for our proto-punk drugs of choice) - the eclectic ones ...And these are to name only a few (they were so many I forgat).
On that final note, whoever hasn't yet seen the utter 1984 punkumentary Another State of Mind, staring an outrageous Social Distortion and Youth Brigade,
now is definitely the time.

Cinderella @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

Somebody save me...


Somewhere between my passion for hardcore Black Flag, bluesy Blind Willie Johnson and avant-gardist Jani Christou hovers a weakness for Cinderella. Yes, that American glam-occasionally-turning-bluesy band that ruled the '80s and, for some dark, inexplicable reason it continues to rule my vinyl collection.
I instantly fell for them as a kid, the moment they got onstage to sing Nobody's Fool for that Music Peace Festival in Moscow 1989, playing live on my bedroom TV set and promoting the opening of the former Soviet Union to western hard rock madness.
Tom Keifer gave an excellent performance as a frontman winning my heart for good - an image he managed to maintain, beyond any expectations, at the Empire 2011 gig. Unlike the rest of the band, he was a relatively modest front-figure for any glam rock standards and, from song-writing to guitar, piano and saxophone, a gifted musician.
The band in its' whole, though, was responsible for a top notch, typically-pretentious hard rock performance including all-time classics Shake Me, Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone, Somebody Save Me (now I know nobody will), Gypsy Road and, of course, Nobody's Fool.
Keifer's voice found it hard to keep up with the dexterous twists and growls of ballads like Long Cold Winter - and, given his continuous struggle to cure the serious problems he's faced with his vocal chords, he did an excellent job. And the guy totally rocks on saxophone.
Let me credit here the trash, yes, but wild at last fashions of trusted Cinderella fans. I might not share their flair for fringe jackets (now that I think about it, I'm not so sure...!), but rock fans have been increasingly conservative and aging in style and, well, it was a very welcome change.
If you ever feel like letting your trash glam monster out (and that's a good thing), Cinderella is the word. Oh, man!...

The 1-2-3-4 Shoreditch @ Shoreditch Park

Adventurous music - and toilet paper - in abundance


A fairyland of sky, grass, Mr. Whippy icecream, Ostrich burgers, amusement park type thrill rides and, as expected, truckloads of music welcomed us on Saturday the 9th of July.
The usual East London alternativa (rimes with diva) swarmed in after 11 am and was found strolling around in imaginative diy fashions checking out the 50+ bands that noisily sprawled over the four stages.
Arrows of Love Cheesy name, spicy music.
According to the rockets4solitude book of weirdos, the best of them were found in the sounds and expressions of: Lydia Lunch, Damo Suzuki, Fair Ohs, Patent Saints, Black Lips, Rayographs. Electricity In Our Homes, Rainbow Arabia, The Raveonettes, 5 Seconds Exposure and Blood Music. This goes for the live version only, as some of the newest bands I have yet to check online, and discover whether there's a boring alter ego hovering there somewhere...
All in all, most of the music that meant business had at least one Japanese guy in the band.
Lydia Lunch Having rejoiced in her presence at least five times in the past, in a wide gamut from spoken word rants to no wave paranoia, I approached the stage rather nonchalantly - and regretted every second I spent away. In top form, she left her mature jazz incarnation behind to once more fit snuggly into her punk rock super-chick costume, courtesy of Big Sexy Noise. Gallon Drunk's James Johnston in the guitars, along with fellow super-dudes Ian White and Terry Edwards followed her step-by-noisy-step, as she went on cursing everyone from Pete Doherty to the world in its' whole. It might be coming to an end, but now we know they'll still be rocking it. Doesn't get much bigger, or much sexier than this.
Black Lips If Arabia Mountain is not quite the material I listen to at home - I tend to go for more heavy and...um, mature garage punk - I more than gladly cavorted to the band's jolly chaos. Thumbs up to the massive toilet paper  extravaganza, which started with a wild bunch that run out from backstage and ruthlessly bombarded us with rolls. The vindictive bastards we are, we kept bombarding them back throughout the gig.
You probably know it already, but it's displayed ever more clearly onstage: those Lips are much more serious about their music than they care to look; and, all fun aside, they do it well. That is why we will continue to let them bombard us with all the crazy shit they can think of. Yes, I know I should be careful of what I wish for.
Damo Suzuki He can get tedious, that guy... Half an hour into a sonic marathon of a song, I eventually decided to go check another band. Till then, however, he hypnotized me with a demented vocal roller coaster - and a bunch of genius Japanese guys who were losing it at the back.
The Raveonettes I can't quite put my finger on it, but something looked wrong with these guys. A bit neglected, a bit worn out, a bit fat (for their usual Top Model standards); I wondered if all their previous hype and success had got to them eventually. Good news is that new song War in Heaven is good staff - and they managed also to beautifully revive some of their trademark hits.
Yuki Tsuji The Bo Ningen guitarist was the rocket in my festival solitude whenever he put his foot up onstage: Bathed in thoughtful ambient psychedelia with 5 Seconds Exposure, rocking it wild with Patent Saints, all the way to bordering on schizophrenia for the sake of Mr Suzuki. I got my eyes on you Yuki!
The doppelganger effect A teenage-looking Mark E. Smith sang with Advert, a pretty youthful Nick Cave joined Damo Suzuki's backing band and - in spite of her usually citing as influences Gang Gang Dance and Omar Souleyman - Mrs Tiffany Rainbow Arabia Preston really just reminded me of M.I.A.
The toilet paper You probably thought that toilet paper just earned a top spot in this blog thanks to the instrumental part it played at the Black Lips show. But no; it actually managed to have an equally dynamic presence in the loos, holding a decidedly protagonist role throughout this year's festival.

Lydia Lunch Calling the dealer: "I can't stand rock stars who can't handle their drugs. Give me the drugs - I can handle them!"
Lydia Lunch She's got her eye on you Pete Doherty!! And it ain't looking good...

Black Lips Toilet Paper war on Arabia Mountain
Throwing Up Hole deja-vus. Not bad...
Damo Suzuki Tons of backing musicians - one hell of a voice!
The Raveonettes The world according to Sharin Foo is looking pretty damn good
Patent Saints That goes to say, almost no saints at all
Fair Ohs Obviously fair, definitely oooh!!
Forms We're lucky they didn't call themselves Muscles. It was their first gig ever; we're definitely waiting for some improvement over here...
5 Seconds Exposure Half an hour lost in psychedelic avantguardia

Photography by rockets4solitude, aka Danai Molocha

Doctor Blue & The Prescription, Meg Cavanaugh @ Ryans Bar

The blues Musketeers


The weather was whimsical outside, but it was all warm in the Ryans Bar basement.
Meg Cavanaugh and her guitar, with a little help from Doctor Blue's bassist and guitarist, got up on stage to face only a handful of attendees; but she wasn't the one to shy away. Her selection of Roots Rock ballads and a voice alternating from raspy to sweet soon found a bunch of new fans. Reminiscent at times of Sheryl Crow or Norah Jones, the American singer/songwriter warmed up the “cosy basement” (or “sleazy dive”, as a fan teased her!) with babbly introductions and originals from her CD The Musketeers Handbook.

She has become the occasional fourth Musketeer to the Doctor Blue & The Prescription three.   They took over and raised the temperature with a series of electric Rhythm 'n' Blues. Muddy Waters classics, such as “Mannish Boy” and “Got My Mojo Working”, along with a Chicago-Texas mix and tons of the typical Blues harp sound fired the place up.
Maybe it was the band's colourful shirts, or simply the loud, hot music, but whether we were in London or Mississippi, you couldn't really tell!

Review and photography from Danai Molocha, a.k.a. rockets4solitude, for Live At Your Local www.liveratyourlocal.org.uk

Cowbell & Planet Brain @ The Macbeth

From Jupiter to Tallulah


 It's FryMyLittleBrains debut night at the Macbeth and the smell in the air is rock 'n' roll. At least until the minute The Heebie Jeebies pull out of the bill (one of their members broke his hand); and the darn rain never seems to stop, bringing everything down a gear.
In that lazy, family atmosphere of guys shooting pool and the first drinkers of the night having a couple of beers at the bar, Chris Aliano (of Stages of Dan) hits the stage with his guitar. His choice of stripped-down folk songs could have been a comforting voice under the melancholy rain, but he has a hard time drawing attendants from their respective evening sports. Luckily, his sense of humour is enough to weather through and he manages to warm up the atmosphere with an emotive cover of Cry Me A River, or the original Sense a Change.
Things pick up in rhythm the moment Planet Brain take over. The minimal guitar-bass-drums trio from Italy make for an intriguing listen thanks to a basketful of contrasting sounds: There's a heavy dose of Jeff Buckley in Marcello Batalli's voice, while both the vocals and the sonic ambition scream Muse; there are a few idiosyncratic hardcore outbursts that evoke Texas's At The Drive In; and some post rock contemplation also creeps in. Luckily, original tunes like Jupiter Completes Its' Orbit never stick to one sonic recipe, eventually defying references and holding their own in the rock space.

Final call is for Cowbell, the London duo of vocalist/guitarist Jack Sandham and the barefoot (well, at least for tonight!) drummer Wednesday Lyle. Less blues and more garage, they draw the inevitable comparisons to the White Stripes, or Jon Spencer, where their frontman is concerned. But they give out a friendlier guys-next-door feel, which is exactly what the night needs. High-energy tunes like Never Satisfied and Oh Girl ooze sexy electricity and Tallulah – whether it's the city in the American South or a girl - heat up the air. It's our party and we'll dance if we want to – and Sandham, too, comes down to join us for a while. There's great satisfaction in the careless abandon and conviction on the dancefloor. Rain or no rain, crowd or no crowd, you gotta work with what you got.
The party must go on!

Review and photography by rockets4solitude, a.k.a. Danai Molocha, for