Notes on the NME Awards Shows @ Electric Ballrom & O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire

...And my award goes to...

21 & 22/2/13

Six bands, split between the Electric Ballroom (Beak, Savages) and the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire (The Cribs, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead, Deap Vally, Drenge), lined up to play two of this year's NME Awards Shows. And here are the results - in order of preference:

Drenge The award for my favourite band in this two-day gig marathon of mine goes to brothers Loveless, a guitar-drum duo you'll probably find hanging around somewhere in Sheffield; unless otherwise hung up, touring the UK with Deap Vally. Rockier than the Black Keys, dirtier than the White Stripes, an all-around raw and decadent outfit eager to please those that like their noisy beats without the taming decorative paraphernalia. Go see them live - they deliver (

  Beak When Portishead's Geoff Barrow met Fuzz Against Junk's Billy Fuller (listen to the gorgeous Trane to Neptune here and Team Brick's Matt Williams they made this intriguingly moody experimental-electro-krautrock trio, that lays low (supporting Savages?!) but delivers high intensity combinations. Only downside, the vocals tend to forget themselves into a flat sleepiness, throwing the balance off towards the repetitive rather than the addictive side. Their new single Mono/Kenn - out in a groovy light blue cassette tape you can't resist - delivers full vocal awesomeness, however, and the repetitively addictive instrumental parts remain steadily top-notch (

Savages I knew this band were the new it-thing before the show (and I knew why, they were great last time I saw them supporting Crime & The City Solution), but to get into the Ballroom and see an experimental dance ensemble moving annoyingly slow in the main room seemed downright pretentious. Maybe I'm missing the thought-provoking art-fart here, but it spoiled my mood - even more so when the band took its' time to come out (when the lights went off there was this music supposedly building up the atmosphere, like, forever)....
When they did eventually come out, this all-girl quartet were tight and dynamic: Singer Jehnny Beth, with her usual a la Ian Curtis stage dances and her slightly sobering Siouxsie Sioux voice (the resemblance is sometimes uncanny - I'd like to see a more original voice fit to a current band); introvert guitarist Gemma Thompson (unreadable a presence, expressive and loud in her guitar); vigorous bassist Ayse Hassan and crazy pony-tail drummer Fay Milton. Flying to Berlin, Husbands, I Am Here, Shut Up, City's Full, Hit Me, Fuckers (those last two are separate songs, by the way!) energized the crowd, who danced in the pit more and more as the show advanced. But I was still mad..

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead I never seem to like this band on a CD (nor vinyl, nor MP3); they sound too loud (sonic rebels without a cause), somewhat incoherent in their music messages, irritating. But live they're a different thing. Busy as I was with a continuous wave of distractions, they sounded pretty interesting in the background, at times dare I say fascinating, stage presence included. I tried again their latest release Lost Songs, in case I had misjudged them but, nope, they still sounded annoying (the guitar hook in Up To Infinity, though, is not half bad..). If you happen to bump into them live, give them a try.. (

Deap Vally I had crossed paths with this Californian guitar/drums girl-duo before and I liked their style, mainly cause it's steadfast in character: '70s psychedelic rock with blues influences and an indie twist, a bit too hooked up in the above decade's grandiose sound (mainly vocals). They definitely have a strong stage presence, so if that sounds like your cup of rock you won't be disappointed (

The Cribs My sincere apologies to a band I was looking forward to seeing, thanks to their decade of history - and who hasn't danced Come On, Be a No-One and I'm a Realist in the clubs (I know I have)? Only I'm mostly allergic to bands that add poppy hooks and lo-fi sensitivity to my trusted punk rock - make it pop, make it lo-fi, but leave punk rock out of it. The crowd jumped in tune from side to side - I'm sure they had no complaints of course... In this Cribs-oriented NME cover they said, and I quote, "we've always been radical, idealistic, subversive and naive". First three things I applaud - maybe cut down on that naivete a bit?...(

Deap Vally
Text and Deap Vally pic (from 1-2-3-4 Shoreditch Festival) by Danai Molocha, Savages pic by Vangelis Markatselis, rest of pics courtesy of the web.

Muse @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

Stage supremacy


I was standing stage right, on a clear and straight path to Matt Bellamy's archetypical guitar outbreak. When the hard-hitting notes of Supremacy broke, one man seemingly filled the whole Empire. Delirium.
This is obviously how the crowd, who sold out the venue, felt simultaneously. In their thirties and mature in manner, mostly (apparently one of the One Direction guys was spotted at the VIP lounge), they came to support War Child's pre-Brits show - and did some cardio jumping up and down while they were at it.
Supermassive Black Hole took over next in pure mirth.
I was never a major fan of the band, yawning at their most commonly cited radio hits - when either Time Is Running Out or Starlight were on, time ran out for Muse on my stereo.
But Muscle Museum... that's a different story. I don't care if they're blamed for sonic pomposity - the more supermassive, superambitious and epic the muse in Bellamy's head, the better.
Knights of Cydonia got a diabolical Sergio Leone-esque harmonica intro that absolutely rocked it (now, that's what I'm talking about!) and United States of Eurasia translated to an excellent surfing of Bellamy's on the piano keys.
If Madness is considered a highlight of their latest release The 2nd Law - and I can't deny it's a tight composition - it's down there with Starlight for me in excitement. If we're to talk subtlety a la Muse, I much prefer the wandering Animals (also from the 2nd Law) or the dancefloor-boogie Panic Station (subtlety already flying out the window..).
Back on stage, Dead Star was a rarity (it hadn't been played live since 2010), a treat just for the War Child supporters with the paying mobiles; and at Plug In Baby we witnessed a wild Bellamy smashing his guitar, finally dumping it on Dominic Howard's drums (actually, he seemed to send a lot of things over those drums...). Second best stage stunt after his own power solos, and just before Chris Wolstenholme's bass with the groovy red and blue lights. 
When Uprising brought the first part of the set to a close, we were all high as a kite (on guitarlines). Better yet, they caused a real uprising coming out for an unexpected encore, extending their scheduled stage time to around half an hour - screwing the curfew and adding (presumably) the relevant fine to the bill for the broken guitar. They made a comeback with Starlight (which to me felt like vengeance), but I forgive them.
I like their ambition, even though it can get out of hand - even though it's not necessarily a synonym to true substance. It seems to me that they go out on a limb, because that's who they are and they back it up with confidence. Or nuttiness. Same thing.
 Fun here is challenging, it tickles your ears, provokes your senses and makes you dust off your old records to fill in the missing pieces of the music history puzzle. Who can argue with that?

P.S. Speaking of fun, the opening show by the Vaccines was traditionally enthusiastic. Only, in this case, you were more prone to succumb to a conversation about The Ramones and The Strokes rip-offs than actually party.

Text by Danai Molocha, pictures by the mega-web.

5 things I'm excited about (in chronological order)

You must have seen already, on more than a few red buses, that Bon Jovi are coming to town (shoot, and I lost the Bon Jovi - The Boys Are Back T-shirt I wore in high-school...). Given my lack of money and patience to wait until July (if by now you don't know I'm kidding, here it is - I'm kidding), I decided to focus on a handful of less glamorous shindigs that will rattle and shake London in the next couple of months. If not due to the crowds swarming, at least thanks to their daring palette of temperamental post punk and whip-smart electronica.

Savages (21/2, Electric Ballroom) Critics have been raving about this all-girl post punk tornado in their new-band-in-town columns. Tracks like City's Full and Husbands (take a whiff at, evoking most notably Siouxsie Sioux, The Pop Group and Joy Division, are sure worth it; but nothing will convince you more than a live soundwave of all-embracing power, sexuality, fury and darkness. Them and Skinny Girl Diet (another irresistibly menacing young quartet, only a lot rougher around the edges) are the coolest all-girl ensembles I've seen in longer than a while.

Pioneers of Electronic Music (6-17/3/13, various venues) Nonclassical, a music label with a knack for both musically and mentally tantalizing events, got into quite some trouble to put together an 11-day electronic extravaganza that uncovers the "mavericks, machines, heroes and heroines that helped shape modern music". Keep your eyes and ears open for new additions and updates (, that will come to enhance an already multifaceted agenda of live music, talks, workshops, film and dj sets. Build your own synthesizer (in the Dirty Electronics Synth Lab), follow the life and times of great American innovator Raymond Scott (in the documentary Deconstructing Dad), join Varese and Stockhausen (in spirit, at least), as well as a 30-strong electronic ensemble for some visionary music at Xoyo. If you 're into electronic invention, there will never be a dull moment in this festival.

Mouth to Mouth (4/4/13, Koko) Apart from giving us the mind-blowing The Seer, the past year, Swans' Michael Gira concocted this refreshingly heterogeneous festival, which he will headline along with his team of musically manic friends. A first one for Gira, who aspired at an eclectic bouquet of cinematic dreamers, ambient experimentalists and relentless noise-makers that can challenge and broaden our sonic spectrum. Hence the line-up that sees Mercury Rev's Cinematic Silent Sound Tettix Wave Ensemble, Ben Frost, Xiu Xiu and Grouper follow Swans' lead, in a much anticipated event that both Gira and i hope we'll see for a few years to come.

The Soft Moon (16/4/13, O2 Academy Islington) More post punk coming our way, this time by an all-boy San Franciscan quintet, more electronically-oriented and charmingly autistic than that of our above savage girlfriends. The seductive darkwave chords, experimentation and imagery are definitely there, as are the old familiar synths, but these guys also leave space for some forward-thinking electro-twists. Check out a bunch of gorgeously avant garde videos at in preparation.

  I'll Be Your Mirror (4/5/13, Ally Pally) Always an event of stature for the idiosyncratic, guitar-loving music adventurer, this year's I'll Be Your Mirror is curated by arty disco screamers Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a few days after their long-anticipated fourth album Mosquito hits the stalls. The sex beat will be high - with the usual crazy antics and outfits of Karen O, the blues cannibalism of Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion and the smooth eroticism of Dirty Beaches. Among the rest of the guests (The Field, Anika, King Khan & The Shrines), my own personal highlight is former Bad Seed Mick Harvey performing the music of top French provocateur Serge Gainsbourg. Though at this price (£ 64.90 with the fees, mind you) I'll have to drop all of the above in order to attend. Well, I can live without the Yeah Yeah Yeahs... I do feel a little twinge about missing Mr Spencer. But I could never, ever miss a sonic avalanche by the likes of Michael Gira.

Text by Danai Molocha, photography borrowed from the kind users of the web.

Sonic glimpses @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

Alt-J 18 & 19/1 Trusting the hype is not a wise thing to do; though I have to say Mercury Prize winners rarely disappoint (unlike the MTV Awards, or even the Grammys). As the 2012 Mercury favorites (thanks to their refreshing debut An Awesome Wave) Alt-J were both worthy of the prize and the hype. Letting go of the fact that their fans seemed more scatterbrained champions of the latter, than thoughtful lovers of the former, those two nights at the Empire, I shot my attention straight to the stage. The band was humble, the songs equally sophisticated and entertaining - and sexy, ooh yeah (never to be underestimated). I couldn't quite stand the melodic romanticism of their catchy hit Matilda, that intoxicated the crowd, but I did love the sinister vocal rollercoaster of Breezeblocks, the sensual breeze of Tessellate and the menacing goose-bumps of Fitzpleasure. An Awesome Wave, that was...
Blood Red Shoes 22/1 An unexpectedly loud gig - given that BRS are your average (meaning in volume levels) alternative rock band. Opening with Wet Nuns and Rolo Tomassi, the night was filled early on with a splitting (in a good way) buzz, only for the headliners to take it up from there with their probably best record to date. In all honesty, I haven't spent tons of time on the Brighton band, but it was still obvious that along with the release of their ambitious third album In Time To Voices came a new-found musicality, which beautifully punctuated the noise. It hadn't always been obvious on record but, on stage, it was ours for the taking.

Review by Danai Molocha, photography from the web search.