Friday, 31 December 2010

My Year In Gigs....

36 gigs at 17 different venues, in 5 different towns and cities from the old gospel of Mavis Staples to the cutting edge of Grizzly Bear, 2010 has been a great year for live music and here is some of my highlights.


Midlake brought their medieval sound The Cluny and managed to get 6 musicians on the stage which is to be commended. A great way to start the New Year.


Band Of Skulls where brilliant and I expect great things from them in 2011, and Tom McRae brought his wit wisdom and beautiful songs to Newcastle. (But more of Tom later)


Grizzly Bear challenged me musically something Yeasayer would do later in the year, making music that pushed the boundaries but sounded amazing. My love affair with the Dave Matthews Band saw me visiting Manchester Apollo for an amazing gig, supported by Alberta Cross, DMB were brilliant again, one of the most exciting live bands and although unfashionable on these shores I love them! I also saw the Stereophonics at Newcastle Arena and although the band were good I swore never to go to another gig at The Arena, a soulless, huge metal box of a venue, that leaves me cold every time I go to see a gig there.


Laura Marling, Tyne Theatre, engaging, old beyond her years, and a mega star in waiting. The Duke And The King at The Cluny turned out to be one of my gigs of the year, truly amazing and I would recommend anybody to see them. I smiled for hours after the gig. Look them up on YouTube playing outside The Cluny just brilliant.


Saw me attend 5 gigs and a festival, all bar 1 of the gigs were really not worth mentioning, but I again enjoyed the even expanding Evolution Festival on Newcastle Quayside, Ellie Goulding surprised me (very good) Paulo Nutini was everything I expected him to be (a shining star) and Lissie and Ben Howard were brilliant even though there was only a handful of people there to see them. 2011 will see Iggy Pop and Plan B headline so another exciting weekend beckons.

Of the gigs Natalie Merchant at The Sage Gateshead was simply mesmerising, promoting her Leave Your Sleep CD we were treated to 2 hours of stories and music than was enthralling.


The World Cup made sure that there was very few gigs booked in June so my diary was blank, however looking back I could have done with a distraction!


I was back with a bang, 5 gigs, David Ford at The Cluny was stunning on a very hot night, playing with an intensity that had the crowd braying for more. Newton Faulkner at Middlesbrough Empire was again cool, funny and entertaining, his one man Bohemian Rhapsody was a think to behold!


Again no gigs, so on to September.....


Wilco were everything I wanted them to be vibrant, intense, a little bit grumpy, but truly exciting!

Joanna Newsom and Fyfe Dangerfield were both excellent showing why their crowds are growing with each tour.


I Am Kloot played a great gig at The Cluny spoilt by a few drunken Geordies intent on getting drunk and talking loudly!

Tom McRae played the North East for the second time in October and The Sgae Gateshead was the best of the two, cardboard cut outs of Johnny Depp covers of Rihanna and members of the audience singing on stage, what's not to like!


Saw me take off to Seattle, 5 nights 4 gigs, the best of which, was Mavis Staples, gospel soul at it's best.


The Tallest Man On Earth (He's Not) was special, the venue was a church in Salford and his music suited the venue perfectly, beautifully crafted songs sung with a reverence that matched the surroundings.

I also saw the Goo Goo Dolls who brought their slick Amercian rock to Newcastle although good, I felt it was just one of many gigs they do and it could have been anywhere in the world. I know this is the case for most touring bands but it felt like it with the GGDs.

David McAlmont cancelled his December gig and that is where my year ended.

My Top 5 gigs of the Year were;

1. Dave Matthews Band
2. David Ford
3. The Duke and The King
4. Tom McRae
5. Natalie Merchant

I 2011 I have taken a vow of only seeing artists I haven't seen before and I already have 8 gigs lined up. Band of Horses, The Hold Steady, Mogwai, Rumor, David McAlmont, Iron & Wine, and John Grant and Teddy Thompson so it's already looking like a great year. I'm cheating a bit with Teddy Thompson as I'm really going to see the support ( David Ford) but hey I have never seen Teddy Thompson.

I'll keep you informed as the year unfolds but in the meantime keep it live and support live music!

Friday, 25 June 2010

The Joy Of Second Hand Music Shops!

I can't manage to walk past a secondhand CD shop or charity shop without going in in the hope of finding a bargain.

Today I past a town market that had a stall selling CDs and DVDs and amongst the usual mix of Simply Red, The Lighthouse Family, Busted and Phil Collins I found some real bargains so here goes;

David Gray Sell Sell Sell Early David Gray full of hidden gems from his lesser know catalogue of songs.

Inxs Listen Like Thieves Before all the hype, the drugs, the celebrity girlfriends and the sad premature death of Michael Hutchence, I sometimes forgot that Inxs were once a great band that bust onto the world scene with energy an a knack for a catchy tune. Although not perfect, this album includes What You Need, Listen Like Thieves, and This Time all great tracks.

U2 Zoopora The only U2 album I don't own and truthfully for all the right reasons, a few good tracks but overall thought it was poor when it came out end still doesn't sound good. Stay (faraway so close) was rerecorded with Craig Armstrong a few years ago and was a much stronger version then.

Amos Lee I already own this album but as all the CDs were 50p each I couldn't not buy it!, I'll find somebody to give this to, as everybody should have a Amos Lee CD in their collection the guy has an amazing voice and writes beautiful songs.

Roachford Permanent Shade Of Blue Great album from mid nineties, Andrew Roachford had a great voice and could sing soul as well as rock (check out his soul album released as Andrew Roachford Matters Of The Heart Vol.1) a great album, My Generation and Only To Be With You are brilliant transported me back to my youth!

The Cardigans Gran Turismo Bought on the of the 2 singles from this CD, My Favourite Game and Erase/Rewind. Lets hope the rest of the album is as good.

Beth Orton Trailer Park, again bought because I loved She Cries Your Name.

Shawn Mullins Soul's Core Although I Have his CD made with Matthew Sweet under band The Thorns only know Lullaby but have always loved that song, since it was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The next 2 I bought without knowing the music other than reviews, so blind purchases which if no good will be re-cycled to the Charity shops, Vanessa Carlton Be Not Nobody, and Tweet Southern Hummingbird.

So all of these for 50p each brilliant will keep me occupied for the weekend!

OK so what else have I bought this month. Neil Young, Fork In The Road and Dreamin' Man Live '92 I love Neil Young and picked these up on Amazon cheap.

Tom McRae The Alphabet Of Hurricanes I cant get enough of Tom, bought this on Monday and it hasn't been off the car stereo since brilliant, never understand that Tom hasn't had the success that say Damien Rice or David Gray has.

Local Natives Gorilla Minor God I love this album, bit like Grizzly Bear, bit like Low Anthem and a bit special, missed them live in March regret it even more now that I have heard the album. There is a great film of them Youtube singing Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilla playing in a yard and one of the guys is playing a tree!

The Best of The Railway Children bought this for the track Every Beat Of My Heart rest of the album fairly average other than Music Stop which is great.

Band Of Horses Infinite Arms Just stunning third album form BoH can't get enough of this band at minute.

Drive By Truckers The Big To-Do nice album from guys who have been doing it for a number of years.

Care Flaming Sword and What Ever Possessed You I owned these 2 singles in the 80's and love them. Looked them up on Youtube and was watching a performance and realised the guitarist was Iain Broudie who later went on to have great success with The Lightening Seeds
because of his later success a retrospective CD of Care material so I have downloaded these tracks and boy they are still as good now, I love these songs.

Buy for Now


Monday, 21 June 2010

Love of Music or Obsession?

When does a love of music become an obsession? I'm not really sure, I would say that I love music, but others would say that I'm obsessed ( In a good way I think/hope) but obsessed I don't think I am!

I know a lot about music.....

I can tell you that Ben & Jerry's Have named 4 flavours of Ice Cream after songs or bands;

1. Cherry Garcia - after Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia
2. One Sweet Whirl - After Dave Mathews Band song One Sweet World
3. Phish Food - after band Phish
4. Bohemian Raspberry - after the Queen song Bohemian Rhapsody

I get requests from people half my age to for recommendations of who to see at Glastonbury, and usually I'm the first to be asked who's this and have you got the CD?

I check the gig listings a least once or twice (truthfully 3 or 4) times a week to ensure I haven't missed any gigs being announced, and trawl Facebook and the other social Media sites to sign up to official artist pages so that I don't miss out on announcements.

I read 3 or 4 music magazines a month and usually get a free CD with most which listen to in order to discover new music.

TV programmes and films are constant sources of new music, (found M Wards brilliant cover of Bowie's Lets Dance on the film Eagle v Shark).

I don't think I have an obsession, maybe a healthy interest in music, but if you really want to know which songs, accompanied the scenes in Greys Anatomy when the bomb disposal unit guy dies and Dr Bailey is having her baby then give me a shout ! ( Breathe (2AM) by Anna Narlick if you really need to know was playing for both!)

Obsessed yes maybe.....


Gig #18 2010 The Hoax

I went to see The Hoax last night at The Cluny in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Hoax realised a three great blues rock albums, Sound Like This, Humdinger, and Unimpossible before breaking up.

They reformed in 2008 and the response from fans was so good they have decided to give a go again and I'm glad they did. The Cluny, is a great venue that is grown in reputation over the last few years and although not full, there was a good turn out for a World Cup night.

We were treated to 1hr 45 of high energy blues, blistering guitar solos and great harp playing, a bizarre moment when 3 members of the band all played the same guitar at the same time! (Amazing) and two blistering cover versions, The Beatles, Come Together and Stevie Wonder Superstition which was the encore and lasted 15 minutes.

I don't go to see many blues bands now, it's a genre I don't listen to much now, but went to this gig out of nostalgia and I'm glad I did. It you get a chance to see the The Hoax take it you won't be disappointed.


Saturday, 19 June 2010

When The Needle Hits The Record

I bought A track the other yesterday, The Beautiful Game By Billy Franks. It was brought to my attention by Facebook it was for charity and I like Billy Franks so I did it, one click to i-tunes another to download and it was done, sitting in my i-tunes library waiting for me to play it, and that's the point I haven't listened to it yet. The track isn't significant, I have 100's of tracks I haven't listened to, I'll get round to it eventually but I sometimes wish we were back in my teenage years when music wasn't as easy to access.

When I was first getting into music we only had 2 formats, vinyl that came in 45 and 33RPM versions single and album and cassettes, 8 tracks had died and CD's were a good few years away. I still remember the excitement of the weekend approaching, when you could travel to your nearest city or town to buy your single of choice. Supermarkets didn't stock music in those days it was all about the record store small or big, or maybe within a department store but I lived for the moment of approaching the sales counter and asking for my choice of single, would they have it? what would the b-side be? Would it have a picture sleeve? All things I would ask myself a hundred times on the bus. The ride back home would be more exciting looking at the purchase as the tension mounted before you could get it home and eventually play the song. In those days we played the b-sides as well over and over ago. I remember buying Dave's On The Road Again by Manfred's Manns Earth Band and being totally transfixed by the B-side California, I recently downloaded both tracks and have to say I still love the B-side. Picture sleeve were limited in order to get people to buy the single quickly and get it in the charts and this was followed by coloured vinyl, picture discs and and then bizarre shaped picture discs and then 12 inch singles in all formats.

My world went insane with my first 12 inch single was Airport by The Motors it didn't have a picture sleeve but it was blue vinyl, I think I looked at it for days in wonderment. Albums weren't bought as often however you could multiple the excitement by 10 for the purchase of an album, because of the cost it was really important to get this purchase right but there was so much more to look at, gatefold sleeves (sometimes) lyrics (rarely) but even the front and back of the album cover was enough to keep you happy. Truthfully you wouldn't need a lyric sheet as you would listen to the album so many times, you would know the lyrics within 2 days anyway.

So were I'm I going with this, I'm not really sure I love the fact that music is so accessible now, I watch a show on TV here a song that I like use my phone and Shazam to determine who it is and within a couple of minutes have looked up the artist, listened to a taster and then downloaded the album within 5 minutes, and that can be as exciting as the bus ride home after purchasing a single but I sometimes wish for the innocence and exciting of limitations of youth.


Thursday, 17 June 2010

Web Exclusive: The Gaslight Anthem Covers Pearl Jam's

Web Exclusive: The Gaslight Anthem Covers Pearl Jam's

Loads of energy, Gaslight Anthem covering Pearl Jam what's not to like!

I traveled from the UK to Seattle last year for a holiday, and picked my destination on basis I could see both bands in a week. Ben Harper supported Pearl Jam, and Frank Turner supported the Gaslight Anthem both gigs were amazing.I also managed to see Lizz Wright in a tiny jazz club who blew me away.

But for the moment sit back and enjoy this performance. Enjoy.


Monday, 14 June 2010

What Kind Of Music Do You Like?

People often ask me what type of Music do I like and I find this question very hard to answer without sounding vague, and a bit pretentious, but the honest answer is I like all types of music a good song is a good song.

Let me explain, In my teens like post kids growing up in The 80's you were either into Heavy Rock or Punk, I went with the former, and loved Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, UFO, Thin Lizzy and everything in between, but I still loved the power pop of The Clash or The Ruts.

As I left school I was introduced to David Bowie and quickly managed to get my hands on his whole back catalogue. At this point I stopped worrying about being associated with a certain genre and just accepted that a good song was a good song. I discovered The Waterboys (A love affair that lasted many years and deserves a blog of it's own sometime) and they switched be on to Van Morrison, who in turn made to start a historical journey into blues and soul music that occupied a number of years, and took right back to early American field recordings and gospel music and also elements of folk through Woody Guthrie.

I struggled with country, in it's purist twangy style but love a lot of Americana, Steve Earle, Wilco, Ryan Adams, Grand Drive, the Jayhawks, Green or Red etc. Saying that I love what Rick Rubin has done with Johnny Cash with the American Recordings truly amazing!

I now can't say what my favourite genre is, it depends on what time of the day it is and what I'm doing, I manage to get to 3-4 gigs a month (excluding local bands) and have seen The Dave Matthews Band, Paulo Nutini, The Stereophonics, Tom McRae, Natalie Merchant and Grizzly Bear amongst many others this year alone.

I love modern prog Rock (Mew, Porcupine Tree, The Mar Volta) and Jam Bands (DMB, Phish, Grateful Dead, Gov't Mule etc) and singer songwriters, (Damien Rice, Ray Lamontagne, David Grey, Newton Faulkner) I also have a huge amount of Neil Young's music and the whole Laurel Canyon scene of the 80's.

I struggle with Rap, although enjoy the odd song by Jay-Z and others than reach my ears from the radio and MTV.

I get frustrated by what is called R'n'B because it's not Rhythm and Blues a far better title is Neu-Soul and thing there is some amazing talent out there, Angie Stone, India Irie, Maxwell, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu etc

So if I ever meet you and you ask me what kind of music do I like don't get pissed when I give you a pathetic answer I don't mean to, I just have too much music in my head!



Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Guilty Pleasures

People talk about what is your Guilty Pleasure when it comes to music, in fact, loads of money has been made on club nights and compilation CD's pulling together all those songs we are not supposed to like but secretly listen to and artists far to uncool for for us to admit to liking.

Well hear this, I have no guilty pleasures! I am happy to admit I have an unhealthy amount of American melodic rock on my i-pod (a bit of a sin in the UK) I love Hootie and the Blowfish and even have the solo releases of Darius Rucker and Mark Bryant. I actively look for new bands in this genre, Dishwalla, Sister Hazel, Vertical Horizon etc. For every 'cool' CD I have by Wilco, Grizzly Bear, or MGMT I have another by Bon Jovi or Genesis. I'm happy to say I have seen James Blunt in concert and enjoyed it!

When magazines list the classic albums of the year, decade, last 50 years I can proberly say I usually have minimum of 50% of the choices, but I have an enormous amount of 'uncool' stuff. Rick Astlely remember him? 90's Stock Aitken and Waterman artist, yeah but Cry For Help was a gospel tinged masterpiece. I could go on all night and mention Meatloaf, The Lighthouse Family, Fleetwood Mac, Marillion and a host of others, but I have a question for you.

If you turn the Guilty Pleasure issue on it's head, if you reverse it, what is the artist you know you should like but really can't stand? Who for all the right reasons should be in your music collection but isn't?

For a long time this was Bob Dylan for me, I appreciated his talent as a songwriter, as many artists I loved had covered his songs, and I understood his importance in music in the last 40 years, yet I would have rather hit my thumb repeatedly with a hammer than listen to one of his albums, but have to admit over the last 2 years I have grown to love him.

I confess now I struggle with The Beatles and The Stones, I am a man in his mid 40's and have The Beatles Red and Blue albums and The Stones Greatest Hits, however I never listen to them and every now and again when I think I should give them another go, I get bored. I only bought them because I thought I should! I have seen The Stones, around 1990 and thought they were OK, but really I would rather listen to who originally wrote the music The Stones pinched, Howling Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson etc.

How many of us have bought albums because we thought we had to? That it was the cool CD to have, and everybody else had it so I must buy it?

What I'm saying embrace your music collection, admit your 'guilty pleasures' and play them with pride, and don't be scared to say you don't like The Beatles!



Monday, 7 June 2010

June: Purchases, Bargains, and Hidden Treasures So Far..........

Picked up an eclectic mix of music so far this month;

  • Jeff Buckley - Grace Around The World CD and DVD £5.99
Another trawl through Jeff''s back catalogue, saying that some great live versions of all of his well know tracks.

  • The Jayhawks - Anthology Music From The North Country Deluxe Edition £8.99
The 1 CD version of this CD is a great introduction to The Jayhawks but as I have all their Cd's it's the deluxe version I have been after that includes a DVD of videos and promos. For those not aware of The Jayhawks they fall into the Alternative Country/Americana genre of music and play beautifully crafted songs with strong harmonies.
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger Box Set 2Cd's and DVD £9.99
Never been a fan of Billy Joel especially Up Town Girl onwards, but this CD includes a song from my youth Moving Out (Anthony's Song) which I have found memories of. What you get with this box set, the original CD a life concert from around the time, and also a DVD of a extended performance form The Old Grey Whistle Test ( for those who can remember this) Billy and the band come over as young musicians really on there game, with a sense of urgency the really comes across in the performance.

I bought all of these at JG Windows in Newcastle upon Tyne and are all substantially cheaper than I can find them elsewhere either on the high street or online.

  • Natalie Merchant - Retrospective 1990-2005 Deluxe Edition
Again I bought this for the additional CD of rarities, covering tracks recorded with REM and Billy Bragg amongst the 15 additional tracks.

  • Justin Currie - The Great War
The second solo release from the main songwriter from Del Amitri, Justin never disappoints giving us another CD of bittersweet love songs including the amazing The Fight To Be Human.

  • Fyfe Dangerfield - Fly Yellow Moon
Solo release from singer from The Guillemots, sounds very much like a Guillemots release but can't pretend that isn't a good thing. CD back in the public eye due to the cover of Billy Joel's More Than A Woman.

  • The Duke & The King - Nothing Gold Can Stay
Amazing Album by Simon Felice (The Felice Brothers) and friends simply quiet amazing mix of soul, Americana, funk, and everything in between. an amazing live experience if you can catch them.

  • Train - Save Me, San Francisco
Great pop rock release by the Bay rockers that last troubled the British charts with Drops Of Jupiter, The track Hey, Soul Sister is getting lots of air play and hopefully this will give them the exposure in the UK they deserve.

  • Ben Howard - These Waters
Please see my last blog about Ben, great CD.

  • Charity Shop CD singles
I bought 6 CD singles in a charity shop today for £2 primarily for the extra tracks, these included singles by the artists, Texas Del Amitri, Tal Bachman, Lifehouse and Five for Fighting. The FFF release is Superman a great track from the America Town CD, it has 3 live acoustic versions of album track on and this is why I bought it, turns out Amazon Market place has 3 copies for sale for around £50-£60, as I have now added tracks to i-pod, might try and sell it but feel would have to donate any profit back to charity. Over singles have already been recycled into charity bag, once added to I-tunes.

  • Mark Oliver Everett - Things The Grandchildren Should Know
This is the autobiography of E from Eels a very honest and frank and humorous insight in his life so far, the dead of his parents and his sisters suicide, and his dealing with the ever changing world that is the music industry, whilst trying to hold onto his beliefs and integrity.

Bye for now.


Friday, 4 June 2010

Singers Who Surf Or Is It Surfers Who Sing?

I was at Newcastle Gateshead Evolution Festival last weekend across 2 days we were treated to the likes of De La Soul, local heroes The Futureheads, Field Music (brilliant) Paulo Nutini, (Great MGMT cover) Ellie Goulding, (believe the hype, I was very impressed) and many more great acts.

On day 2 whilst the main stage filled up with what looked like 15,000 extras from an episode of Skins, I wandered to one of the smaller stages to see what the great promoters the Junpin' Hot Club had in store for us. The first act on at the thankless time of 1pm was Ben Howard, I hadn't heard the guy before but I was met by another laid back singer songwriter, who sometimes sounded like Ray Lamontagne singing Newton Faulkner and sometimes a little bit like Devendra Banheart but truthfully had a sound all of his own. Although unsigned I bought his 6 track CD These Waters and when I got home I started to do a bit of research. Turns out Ben is another surfing singer or is that a singing surfer? It seems that we have a number of successful recording artists that surf and I started t wonder what came first. I think in the case of Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), G Love and Ben Harper that they were musicians before they were surfers, but clearly Jack Johnson and Dovavon Frankenreiter were surfers before they were singers. Ben seems to get some kind of support from Quicksilver so that says to me that he falls into Surfer first category, so why does surfing produce such good artists I ask myself, is it the sea air having a position effect on the vocal chords, or does all that spare time waiting for a wave allow them to work on great songs I not sure but I don't think we have an other extreme sport at this moment generating the same number of talented musicians.

Getting back to Ben Howard I highly recommend that you check his Myspace page out and then click on the link to get the free track Three Tree Town in exchange for your email address, his CD is available at Amazon and I-tunes and is well worth the £4 or £5 it will cost you.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


I spend far to much time listening to music, reading about artists, going to gigs, and generally obsessing about music, and can sometimes see my friends eyes glazing over when I talk about music, so this is to give me an outlet to all my thoughts with regard to music I have heard, gigs I have been to, and generally what's going on in my head i.e. can you really tell the different between, Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket and Alberta Cross ? All great bands but to a casual observer they all sound similar, and seem to merge into a big mass of facial hair and plaid shirts. I wonder if they swapped drummers for a night would we really notice.

At the beginning of this 2011 I started a project that would force me to listen to 3 CD's a week, from my collection on a random basis. I use a very complexed process, (3 envelopes with numbers in!!) I pick 3 numbers that related to the column,(1-11) the shelf (1-12) and the CD number (1-16), it you do the maths you'll release I have a fair few CD's and I'll only manage to review 156 this year through this project but it has been good fun so far. Sometimes I pick the numbers myself sometimes it's done via Facebook and Twitter, it you want to get involved then leave me 3 numbers in the comments box and I will review your choice.

My other blog entries are usually my Recent Music Purchases, Songs That I Love, which is an occasional series of one off song choices, gig reviews and the odd random though on music in general. Hope you enjoy.