Planes, Sulk @ The O2

December Sessions under way

07/12/11


 Twenty nights, a hundred bands parading in the O2 London Piazza at no charge whatsoever was an ambitious plan and, as far as I saw at least, not a very successful one.
And it was probably that Piazza to blame... Cold, impersonal and, if it were to get busy, it would be rather for the world-famous gigs being held at the nearby O2 arena, and the mainstream chain caf├ęs and restaurants which decorate this tacky neighbourhood. In a few words, it's not the place to be for young and talented kids with an audience that probably doesn't have much reason to "drop by" the O2 Greenwich complex.
Shame.
 Planes and Sulk were surely worth it; but I was given the impression they were being made fun of, being put against an audience of five...ten people taking turns (though a few of them looked like groupies right out of Almost Famous, I must admit). In a generous space dominated by a gigantic bank ad (which I masterfully tried to avoid in my pics - and I failed), with no heart, atmosphere or sense of hanging-and-drinking camaraderie, to say the least. It certainly didn't do them a favour.

Planes are fronted in vocals and guitar by ex-Placebo drummer Steve Forrest, an obviously pro performer that leads the band through colourful rock'n'roll-blues-folk paths. And Ms Char O'Lette makes things interesting with her violin and fancy dress.
Songs like Moving On and Grinding Teeth range from beautiful to plain catchy. Still, I feel that Planes fly through diverse influences without having fully determined their character; meaning that various sound colours are not as integrated in their music as they would obviously like them to be. It's still the beginning, though, and they're definitely on a good path.

Sulk I've seen before and, from what I hear, in the meantime they've been taking steady steps toward bigger, better and more far-away things; even Texas' massive SXSW (South by Southwest) festival might take a place in their 2012 calendar.
The band holds on tight to its' euphoric, psychedelic imagery; an addictive tribute to the Roses '90s, eloquently manifested in their newest video/single Back in Bloom (and I love the cover on the 7'' vinyl it comes in). Their frontman also brought it down a notch in exhibitionism since the last time I caught them on stage.
I find Britain particularly prone to such sonic revivals at the moment; what I believe became the cause of the Stone Roses' reunion and developed from there. Sulk are set to receive increasing interest and attention, but they're revivalists that are worth it. If it's your sound, pay them a visit. They won't be short of new live ventures.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha.

Back at the Empire - Snippets from the O2 Shepherd's Bush

The bold and the beautiful

Two bands that have absolutely nothing in common, apart from the fact, of course, that they played the Empire. And that, together, they inspired a great reference to a soap legend - hence the title. Crass or what?...
Crass Steve Ignorant performed a tribute to the anarcho-punk songs that caused a stir 34 years ago, appropriately naming it The Last Supper. A last goodbye to a musical life that he and Penny Rimbaud tirelessly fed with beliefs, ideas and a helluva lot of activism, showing a truck-full of bands - and a lot of us kids - the way.
Penny joined him on stage for a rather unusual cover of Do They Owe Us a Living? (which also rebelliously opened the gig) - and it even got a little emotional.
Eve Libertine rocked then and will always rock as female punk-attack; a comment I rarely ever make, as I often find that women in rock try too hard to show their balls and desperately mask the fact that they actually don't have any (maybe if they stopped trying...). As a stage presence, though, Eve was ever slightly awkward.
I could talk forever about Crass - but just because their importance could never fit in a stupid review, I'll just have to stop._
Lisa Hannigan The Irish cutsie won over a seated Empire with picks from her two acclaimed albums. The quirky jerks of her hair and her rather dorky Irish dances spiced up her stage performance, physically contradicting an unexpectedly graceful repertoire.
An apt band accompanied her in the violin, the guitar, the percussion - plus a double bass that made us gloriously aware of its heartbeat. Lisa herself seemed, on the other hand, very talented in making a new instrument magically appear from every direction.
Occasionally vocally reminiscent of Joanna Newsom (though far more... earthy a vocal species than the latter), with a touch of Laura Veirs folk sophistication, Hannigan wasn't as enchantingly quirky as the two above, but she was definitely alright.
Too tame, in comparison, and romantic for my taste, she nevertheless made clear that - after her years spent accompanying Damien Rice - she has become a beautiful addition to the pool of new folk princesses.