Deftones @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

24/08/11


Just a few days before their appearance at Reading and Leeds festivals, Sacramento alt metal veterans Deftones indulged their London fans at a sold-out Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
As if to emphasise their raw, animalistic power; Deftones west London show was rather aptly opened by Animals As Leaders and Pulled Apart By Horses. It’s rare for gig goers to be so eager for what sonic sleight of hand support acts might have up their sleeve, but tonight’s line-up pulls off this particular trick. One that switched from pure rock sophistication to nonsensical metal angst, often without leaving us any time to adapt.
Which is how we like it.
Taking their places in an almost straight line, it seems Animals As Leaders don’t share their fictional farmyard brethren’s creed of some animals being more equal than others.
Taking their places in an almost straight line, Animals As Leaders defied the rock constitution of the leader-frontman and faced their audience as triple power.
Providing the atmospheric warm-up to the hell that’s about to break loose can be a tricky affair, but Animals were definitely up to the challenge. Just as you felt their slow-burning, instrumental rock dictate you best unfurl your yoga mat, Animals changed tack with some violently sonic assaults. Just when you thought they had been tamed, Animals’ beast from within took over.
Pulled Apart By Horses, on the other hand, didn’t fluctuate from their course; screaming at everyone and everything in their non-blinkered field of vision. But look a little closer, and their barbaric alternative rock sound goes hand in glove with a great sense of humour.
If anyone proved they meant business though, it was Deftones. A wild Chino Moreno ceaselessly jumped up and down on his own personal pedestal, which may or may have not doubled up as his monitor. He only left this furious activity to jump on his band mate’s pedestals.
One thing’s for certain, Moreno’s feet hardly touched the ground. And nor did his fans. Heads were being sharply thrown in all directions down in that sweaty pit. Neither stopped til more or less the middle of the show, when the band took a little downtime and Moreno’s energy was aimed at his guitar.
Diamond Eyes, Deftones latest studio release, naturally dominated but classics like Change (In the House of Flies) from the career-defining White Pony were epic. Adrenaline highlights like the rapping Engine No 9 rocked the empire to the edge.
Steven Carpenter’s phosphorescent guitar lit up the venue’s darkest recesses like a radioactive firefly in the dark. If we weren’t too absorbed by his awesomeness, the music mob assembled tonight would have laughed. I’m not sure whether drummer Abe Cunningham was strategically placed under that air-conditioning unit, but something was definitely fanning that hair that night.
Deftones seemed in no hurry to leave, eagerly entertaining us for the better part of two hours. If that was meant to be a warm-up, I can’t begin to imagine what those lucky bastards at Reading and Leeds will be treated to.

Review by Danai Molocha for www.soundbite.eu

Solar State, Natalie McCool, Polaroid 85 @ The Macbeth

Sirens calling

Natalie McCool © Alex Lloyd


16/08/11

Sirens Calling.

MK-47 decided to spend Tuesday night wrapped in sophisticated lyricism, giving rock and its various noisy legs a little downtime at The Macbeth. Solo ladies Mwen and Natalie McCool alternated on stage with bands like Solar State and Polaroid 85, each deploying their therapeutic beginning-of-the-week blend of harmonies and electronics.
Arriving a little too late for Mwen’s one-woman drum show, I came across the intriguing foursome of Solar State. Funnily, Kate S’s vocals bore an uncanny resemblance to Lily Allen (or maybe Kate Nash?), no matter how the band’s music stranded away. Songs like Sirens and Firelight painted rather shadowy, romantic pop landscapes that escaped the blunt confines of the capital, intertwining the band’s love of Sigur Ros and Four Tet with their own lyrical vein.
Solar State © Danai Molocha
Theirs was, admittedly, an act that Natalie Mc Cool found hard to follow; if anything, cause she had to succeed a party of guitars, electronics, violin and drums with just an acoustic guitar against a restless and somewhat disrespectful crowd. One that, nevertheless, Ms (Mc)Cool partly mastered as her imagery unravelled. Songs from her two EPs, Black Sun and Shoot Shoot, were inspired of models’ favourite Size Zero and the stressful modern London life; but somehow her voice and melodies resembled those of an obscure siren narrating legends in Celtic waters.
The night saved the biggest for last. Polaroid 85 swarmed up the little stage armed with synths, clarinet, violin, cello, bass and drums - by their newest member, Mwen herself - together tuning into modern romances with a folky edge. Despite their variety of instruments and layers of sonic colour, though, Polaroid 85 have an unmistakeably lyrical, feminine touch. In all respect, not everybody’s cup of tea.

Review by Danai Molocha for http://the-macbeth.tumblr.com/

BlakMagikSociety & Hotgothic @ Ryans Bar

Hot punk society

13/08/11 

BlakMagikSociety
A full moon on an August Friday night should get the wild side out; all the more likely at a Ryan’s Bar Punk special.
The basement was still calm when one-man band,  Duck & Weave came out with his guitar. He warmed up the room with a series of riot jokes and Acoustic Punk noise, occasionally reminiscent of Brit troubadour Patrick Fitzgerald.
Then BlakMagiKSociety got on stage and people swarmed 'round.   A trio with guitars, percussion and an i-phone kept up the beat.  Instantly heating up the air with a mix of Soul Punk, Psychedelic Garage tunes and a couple of rather romantic Doo-Wop chants.
Hotgothic, on the other hand, were stripped of all romanticism focusing on upbeat tunes, a sound-defining bass and a lot of bad language. They could've just as easily been found in a Berlin basement opening for Electropunk bands like Lesbians On Ecstasy.
Maybe only a few of us were left there near the end,  but we were all singing along and dancing.

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

Szjerdene, & Official Burnt Toast @ Favela Chic

Pop poetics

02/08/11



There's always promise in one of DJ Nick Luscombe's Flomotion events – a name that stands both for his long-running radio show and his successful live and club nights. The music menu for this evening was tastes of Soulful Pop and Alt Hip Hop, with a selection of Jazz spice.
East London singer Szjerdene's voice and presence are imposing from the start. A modern day Pop muse in a long beige dress, balancing maturity and sweet eroticism all in one go. With influences from her childhood obsession, Mariah Carey, blended with the classic vocals of Sarah Vaughan, it lingers between R & B and contemplative Jazz.
Less people hang around to welcome Official Burnt Toast. MC Adrian Lawrence and his band complemented Szjerdene's sensual chant with spoken word from the streets. Sinister Hip Hop rhythms criss-crossed with poetic narrative, painting the night with a sophisticated underground vibe- admittedly less becoming to a lightheaded Tuesday night audience.
The two bands formed a Pop style yin and yang: Contradictory, but fresh and smart in style.

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

Field Day Festival @ Victoria Park

06/08/11

Zola Jesus


Another all-day festival, another breathless attempt to speed stage-to-stage, shoving kids with Bratwursts in hand for that ideal stage view. With seven or so stages and a few dozen bands crammed in one day, the Field Day extravaganza was meant to be as exhausting as it looked.
Well, in the beginning, us festival goers are always na├»ve enough to think that we can keep our priorities straight and go see the bands that really matter.  Then festival reality hits; catching The Horrors, Anna Calvi, Tribes and enough time to visit the loo in a little more than an hour is just not going to happen. And the fact that this festival shamelessly tried to profit from our desperate need for stage times certainly didn’t help. If you spotted the guy that sold those little suckers, richer revellers could buy a “souvenir” line-up timetable for five quid. Otherwise you had to photograph or write down the info on the one and only mega board placed among a craze of carousels and food stalls.
Warpaint
 But ignorance is bliss, which in my personal festival slang meant that while trying to unearth John Cale amid Field Day’s chaos, I unexpectedly bumped into Darkstar under the Bloggers Delight tent. Not one of my so-called “priorities” up to that minute – and what a mistake that was!  The trio’s debut “North” is a dark and decadent jewel that beams with frustrated dubstep beats, yearning synth harmonies and James Battery’s self-abandoned, melancholic vocals. Just a few notes into “Deadness” and I was hooked.  A delight alright, a little while later the same stage hosted the full-blown talents of a Russian-American tornado called Zola Jesus. A petite blonde covered in white, Jesus – is that blasphemy? – delivered her indie goth chants like an angel possessed, running wild down the stage and dancing in ecstasy. Florence Welch minus her famous Machine was spotted watching absorbed among the crowd.
 From the darkness of the mini Bloggers tent to the sweet daylight of the main stage where tons of festival goers bathed, it was finally time for those other beautiful ladies; Warpaint. They’ve been hailed as some sort of alternative super-girls in the Brit press and beyond; and hype is, more often than not, good cause for suspicion. Not in Warpaint’s case though, even if I’d describe them in much humbler terms. Making the rock ritual dreamy and subconsciously addictive, a kind of mass indie hypnotism, is second nature for this LA quartet.
Sun Ra Arkestra
Near twilight I caught up with the dark Ms Calvi in the Village Mentality tent, which also doubled as shelter from the untimely downpour. The hustle and bustle just added to the low – the lowest! – quality of sound that eventually made her show unbearable. Frankly, I don’t think there was anything much to squeeze for in the first place.
The same goes for the Horrors, sadly, who could have done better with the live rendition of their deservedly acclaimed third album Skying. Desperately in search of good sound, I was served up deafening bass form all sides. Worse than that, somehow The Horrors repeatedly come off as boring on stage.
John Cale
A special mention must go to the almighty veterans who played Field Day too. If anyone rocked the festival mid-afternoon, that was The Sun Ra Arkestra; a bunch of men in their rock dotage dressed in flashy ethno-disco glitter, if such a thing exists, revived the Sun Ra legacy in the eyes and ears of younger generations. Cosmic jazz of the most charismatic kind was played out with high spirits, verve and jaw-dropping suppleness; that’s what you call it when a percussionist suddenly starts pulling crazy acrobatic dances and near somersaults on the side.
As for the momentarily elusive John Cale, who succeeded Sun Ra later on the main stage. Cale was never the most obvious case of genius but, between his viola playing in Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs and his production credits in obscure masterpieces like Nico’s Desertshore, there’s no doubting he is one. He carried an imposing presence, spiced up by his low key sonic wisdom and cheeky electronic versatility.  All in all festival-wise, watching blindfolded people eat corn till they drop in a fierce Village Mentality competition at Field Day was good fun.  But if I ever miss Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti again, cause I’m too dizzied by a hoopla of faux-peasant stalls to spot a freaking solo timetable, I’m going to haunt that Field.  For good.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha, aka rockets4solitude, for www.soundbite.eu.

Baaneex & Shake Rag @ The Macbeth


Join the weird dance

03/08/11




Flying Dropkicks night No 10 promised to bring on stage two London bands that speak Birthday Party, The Fall and Deerhoof on their own terms: Shake Rag and Baaneex, the reason why this otherwise quiet Wednesday is gradually looking up.  Shake Rag are the side project of Santiago Horro, bassist of hardcore wackos Nought, and tonight they introduce themselves on stage for the first time. Adding two guitars and drums to his familiar bass, the band is Birthday Party alright: Determined, aggressive and raw, only the female vocals ultimately differentiating their sound.  Part Siouxsie Sioux and part Diamanda Galas, the voice of Shake Rag is morbidly beautiful and imposing; but also a frontwoman completely unattached to the driven backing combo, her lifeless body language failing to back up her own… Devil Mouth.
Baaneex, on the other hand, are a completely different deal. Brash, cheeky and fairly nutty, they know how to laugh with themselves – and make some serious noise in the meantime.
Three nerdy looking guys and one mean female drummer wavering from unorthodox rock guitars (occasionally reminiscent of The Pixies) to unforgiving punk screams and very menacing “Dracula-inspired” keys. They’ve built up a reputation for being somekind of weirdos in the live circuit (well, playing Weird Dance 1, 5, 7 and 8 in one night doesn’t really help), but they are by far one of the most intelligent and ass-kicking bands currently hovering around London.  Best of all, they are truly and utterly unpretentious.
A rare commodity these days…

Review and photography by Danai Molocha, aka rockets4solitude, for http://the-macbeth.tumblr.com/

Wolf Gang @ Rough Trade East

Heady Faults

26/07/11



Max McElligott and his band, Wolf Gang crammed the tiny stage with keys, drums and guitars facing a full Rough Trade store. Their fans had been lining up outside early on, as the all-fresh release of their debut Suego Faults filled the air with anticipation.
The band surprised us. Trading their usual cocktail of upbeat Indie Synth Pop, for some romantic, sophisticated balladry. A wise decision, probably, after an electricity-charged night at Camden's Barfly, that left McElligott admittedly “hungover”.
His charmingly inebriated state made him lose a word or two but this suited the band's melodic sensibility, beautifully. Abandoning their usual supply of danceable rhythms, Wolf Gang favourites such as The King And All of His Men and Lions In Cages, sounded strong in their low key purity. A special bonus - singer/songwriter Kyla la Grange lent the boys her deeply felt female vocals to accompany Dancing With The Devil.
It was a mini showcase of Suego Faults valuable pop assets and proof enough that Wolf Gang don't limit themselves to a bunch of radio friendly anthems.

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