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Algiers, Stereo, Glasgow


Stereo is nearly full by the time the stage is set for tonight's show with the band’s instruments and four red vertical strip lights. When the lights are dimmed, they provide a feeling both warm and menacing, something that the band will seek to also achieve in the performance of their songs. 

Algiers, touring in support of new album There Is No Year, have been described as post-punk, gospel, soul and experimental noise. They are all and none of these. They manage an original trick of being neither a fusion nor a confusion of the various styles that they draw on. There is an amazing balance in transitions between the beats of a metallic Motown and the angry energetic protest of gospel punk. The lyrics are shot through with both dread and hope. Nothing here is meant to be wholly comfortable.

Lead singer Franklin Fisher’s voice soars then wails on ‘Dispossession’ backed by an almost dissonant chorus from the others. Bassist Ryan Mahan irregularly pops dance moves between keeping a throbbing industrial beat pulsing throughout the proceedings. A lead guitar is swapped for a free-jazz saxophone break. Yet, the set never loses its way. ‘Unoccupied’ is one highlight that gets all the crowd moving. It is a prime example of a great swinging beat that is undershot by industrial noise and '80s synthesizer power chords which the band craft into something both danceable and frightening in equal measure. 

This is music for dislocated times. It has sing-a-long choruses and soul beats flipping into noise breaks and back again. The band have touched an essence of uncertainty in the modern world and the audience can be sure they have heard a bit of the broken truth of it tonight.


Rockaway Beach 2020, Butlin's, Bognor Regis - Part Three

Image:- Steven Velentzas (@captainstavros)

Sunday's sunshine enticed us out for a stroll along the front to admire the waves pounding in and to visit a couple of the local pubs as yet untried (with relative success) before Butlin's once again managed to entertain us, this time with go-karting.

Musically the day started off less promising with both Hull's Life and Bristol's Heavy Lungs seeming to fall from the same mold - talented musicians unfortunately fronted by entitled singers. Life's bassist in particular looks set for bigger and better things. Neither band should be faulted for their energy but Life's singer's histrionics (a kind of Jarvis-on-speed without humility) were off-putting to say the least. The excitement of the day may have got to him but me-me-me gets tiresome quickly.

International Teachers Of Pop, another act discovered via Marc Riley, were musically a different kettle of fish. Having been getting into the swing of things since Friday they were clearly as one with the audience. Unfortunately their novelty act schtick wasn't that appealing after more than a couple of songs, nice people though they seemed.

Deciding to take it easy after dinner we opted to miss Brix & The Extricated, although we did pass Brix waiting to be extricated by taxi when we left the hotel to see The Wedding Present, back for their second time at Rockaway Beach. I'd not known they were on the bill and it came as some relief to see their reliable name in the festival booklet. Amazingly they're another act the good Captain was new to. David Gedge and his current band may not have one him over with their competent playing (marred only occasionally by Gedge's guitar sound being too low) and reasonable banter (with enough nous to realise all the Butlin's jokes had been made by this point) but they were as fun to experience as ever as far as I was concerned & generally kept the pace up with only a few slower numbers interspersed.

Closing out this year's festival were 2019's Irish indie wunderkinds Fontaines DC (or "DC Fountains" if you're the Captain). Placing them in the final slot had apparently rattled a few cages, at least on Twitter, but in the end it avoided the scenario from the night before where a bright young act very nearly handed an older one their cards.

I've warmed to the group's album, having initially baulked at the spelling of it's title and the crowd tonight obviously contained a lot of fans of it, being as large as any seen in past years for far more established acts. As far as I know the quintet haven't toured a great deal since its release (happy to be corrected on that point) so this show likely provided more than just me with their first experience of the band live.

An assured and competent show was duly delivered, free of any technical issues and with excellent volume. There just wasn't much real interaction with the crowd (although generally this was a very low chat event across the three days) and something of the album's energy was missing. The performance never got to the plodding stage but neither did the material feel as inspiring as on record. Still, it meant for an early night.

A mixed bag this year then. The efforts of the team behind the event were clearer than ever with the added signing sessions & vinyl sales tables and making the John Robb interviews more visible was a wise move, whilst the camp's new pool complex is a compelling feature for those with the energy to get up and down the flumes. Musically, however, it felt like the weakest line-up of its existence (but then most festival's apart from it had crap bills last year so these things happen). No announcement yet of any acts for 2021 but there was a lot of Teenage Fanclub being piped into the restaurant and along the pathways of the site so who knows ...  

Thanks are also due to the lad in the maroon Napapijri running about on the morning of the last day & digging around in the kids' sandpit - cheers for giving us a laugh as we speculated on what you'd mislaid.


Rockaway Beach 2020, Butlin's, Bognor Regis - Part Two

Image:- Steven Velentzas (@captainstavros)

Saturday dawned grey and blowy so clearly it was the best day to check out the excellent new swimming pool and flumes, improved no doubt by the lack of children (waiting up to 50 minutes to climb upstairs to the highest slides in peak season sounds awful).

Having got that fun out of the way we repaired to see Dutch trio The Sweet Release Of Death. A mix of Sonic Youth & Argentina's Capsula best describes their sound. A loud, propulsive and enjoyable way to start off today's live offerings.

Captain Stavros is a great advocate of the work of Our Girl & for me they were one of the very few acts whose Flying Vinyl disc was worth keeping hold of. This evening though the Brighton trio's sound strikes me as no more than pleasant. More bite is what I seem to be after in many cases this weekend and the indie on offer in their set isn't really grabbing my attention so I step out for some air after a couple of tracks.

Our main stage sojourn tonight kicks off with Peter Perrett, not far off the same vintage as John Cale from the night before. An articulate & amusing lyricist whose set on Marc Riley's 6 Music show last year was one of the best of 2019, he has a great number of punchy songs in his repertoire. Unfortunately he doesn't play these in the first part of his set & I'm left yet again trying to explain an act's relevance to The Captain as we mooch back down the stairs.

Next up though comes what, with hindsight, was the best act of the weekend and I'm not even a fan. Nova Twins' play funk metal, in the main, & that's one sub-genre I've never liked. They do though play it loudly and extremely well (their technical ability is fantastic). Singer Amy Love is genuinely pleased to be playing on a stage in a venue she's been to a number of times on childhood holidays and that pleasure is evident in the exuberance of her and Georgia South on bass (no idea who the bloke on drums is). I manage to stick around for most of the set, just to experience the volume & distortion and it's safe to say they do the job required of warm-up act very well. Perhaps too well in fact.

For tonight's headliners are The Jesus & Mary Chain, reformed in the past couple of years and with an overlong comeback album under their belts. Jim Reid falls foul of the urge to be ironic about Butlin's (managing to equate the place with "Stalag 17") and it's also their bad luck to have poor guitar sound for much of the show, rendering William Reid's guitar solos practically silent. I last saw the band on the Destroyer showcase tour in the '90s in the aircraft hanger that is Glasgow's SECC, a venue far too large for them & so tonight is intimate in comparison. Back then though it was already clear they'd shot their bolt in terms of audience baiting antics etc. and tonight was a reminder of how many of their tunes speak to you as a gloomy teenager but in middle age turn out to be plodders. The final straw is Jim's attempt at a joke prior to the encore "we'll go off for a half cup of tea" - just man up and either say a beer or don't mess around with a break in the set at all. Much of the crowd aren't in a state to care anyway so why not plough on? 

When the band speed things up and the sound technician improves things guitar-wise a bit this is probably a vintage performance from the JAMC as they are now but they were close to being blown offstage by the previous trio. Not feeling the need to stick around for an hour until Steve Lamacq gets behind the decks to unleash some lame musical world cup or other we call it a night.


Rockaway Beach 2020, Butlin's, Bognor Regis - Part One

Image:- Steven Velentzas (@captainstavros)

It's that time of year once more to head down to the southern end of GB for the first festival of the year. This time around the on-site, daytime entertainment had clearly been beefed up so an overall different experience from past years was highly anticipated.

Weather-wise we got probably the best possible for a January weekend & certainly the best of the three years the event's been on at that time. This made daytime wandering around Bognor Regis itself very pleasant, whilst the location of this year's accommodation couldn't have been handier for the performance spaces + we even had a sea view.

Once we'd arrived, checked in and then had dinner the first act we were able to catch on the Friday night were Young Knives, who I think I last saw around five years ago (a quick look on Wikipedia confirms it was in fact eight, seeing as it was album number three they were touring at the time), the first of the weekend's acts whom Captain Stavros was unacquainted with. Singing their praises as decent purveyors of indie & post-punk, I lead us off to the show.

Eight years is clearly a long time in music. Having previously dressed as if they'd just left the office(s) they still had to work in to make ends meet, there's now shoulder length hair, a full beard, some kind of sequined, glam rock t-shirt, a coat which could once have been a pair of curtains and a fourth member on percussion. Not that any of that is in itself cause for alarm. Having stood about through a long-winded setting up of levels (the more kit you have the more there is that ca go wrong) we in the crowd finally get some music, fifteen or so minutes later than billed. 

Noise rock is about as close a description as I can manage. Screaming & shouting was a part of the band's sound previously but now there's a cacophony of guitar and drums worlds away from the likes of 'Sister Frideswide' or 'She's Attracted To'. After four numbers & with no interest in seeing how known songs are fitted into the set, we beat a hasty retreat, with me attempting to explain how different they used to be.

Thankfully this is the only real shock of the weekend. There's at least one surprise, on the Saturday night, but everyone else plays it as expected, for better or worse.

On to the main venue then for Black Country, New Road. The youthful septet served up a blend of Eastern European folk music sifted through Roxy Music & James Chance's saxophone noise. I've either not paid enough attention to them on the radio or it was a case of a band being very different in the flesh, but they weren't exactly what I was expecting. Which isn't though to say there was anything wrong with the show - they were an enjoyable act to watch & went down well with the crowd, albeit with the odd bizarre heckle although those happily seemed to go over their heads.

BC,NR were followed up about twenty minutes or so later by Soak, the first of the bands we saw to actively take the mickey out of the collective experience of us all being at a holiday camp. That fell as flat as it deserved. Having done something similar when reviewing the event in the past I can now speak as a convert. This was the festival's fifth iteration and it was clearly well attended & the assumption could be made from that that many people had been to it more than once in the last few years - not something to be mocked.

Musically the band played some pretty competent shoegaze incorporating a bit of Sundays twee, with on occasion Big Countryesque guitar solos. On the whole they left the impression that they'll be filling the shoes of Texas and/or Deacon Blue in years to come if they last that long.

Tonight's headliner was John Cale, the definition of a living legend and in an utterly different league from most of the other acts appearing over the weekend. That said I know nothing of his output other than the Velvet Underground material, Paris 1919 (first heard only last year) and the awful Songs For Drella album which I ended up putting in a litter bin as no secondhand record shop would take it off my hands in the decades before Discogs (Q Magazine didn't half recommend some terrible music in the '90s).  

He starts straight into his set with no preamble, which sets the scene for the entire show seeing as he's not that chatty. Making full use of the venue's projection facilities he and his band have some some of the best films/abstract displays of the weekend. Plenty of the songs maintain a good pace but noodling does become an issue on more than one. 'I'm Waiting For The Man' proves to be the only song I recognise, albeit it's a bit drawn out & sounds odd with Cale singing it. Still though this is one of the tightest sets I've seen at the festival to date, despite which (as well as out of respect for the singer's six decades of performing) people still felt it was more important to have a conversation throughout the performance.

Princesteen is the night's closing act but the combination of the two performers being paid tribute to doesn't inspire me to stay out so it's off back to the Shoreline for some shut eye. 


Fire Records Xmas Party, Studio 9294, London


Ah December, synonymous with warm fires, friends, kicking back and maybe even poppin' off a few crackers while downing a few constitutionals. Our crackin' times kicked off a little bit early this year with a few cheeky gifts under the tree (our inbox). The Musos' gang got to open 1 such digital gift early when we popped open an e-mail and found an invite (THANKS GUYS!) to the Fire Records Christmas Party this past weekend. Fire Records and friends were sleigh, sleigh, sleighing it all the wayyyyyyyyyy over at 9294 from the late afternoon till the wee morning hours. Some of you purists out there may say, 'hey now, opening presents before Christmas is just bad luck!' to you I'd say you're probably right and we ended up paying for it.

Some people like hitting up a gig but before hand pump themselves up by listening to the artist(s) they're about to go see. That's not really our jam, plus most feel that we could use more pumping down than up. This time I wish I had because I would've avoided a crushing heartache the next day, more on that later though. So we arrived early thinking we might sneak out between acts to skulk about the always changing Hackney Wick, no luck. Not only were the acts pretty close together but the sites (pubs) we wanted to hit were to widespread, not to mention that from 5:30-6:30 the venue housing the studio had filled up!

Digging in I held firm not wanting to miss out as the tunes and bands both descended upon me. The first highlight for us was The Pictish Trail (@pictishtrail). I'll be honest, anytime I see anyone get on stage with an acoustic guitar......my skin crawls, in fact my notes start off with the word 'yikes' under T.P.T. I couldn't have been more wrong. Johnny Lynch asks us to all welcome Pictish Trail to the stage, looks off stage starts clapping.......when he's already on stage. His talent is in line with his humour and translates to the tunes the duo version of the band pumps out on stage. The show absorbs you because it turns out T.P.T. is a seasoned vet and played his guitar like a motherfucking riot, we shit you not! Supplemented by keys, fun lyrics, a psychedelic light show it's not to be missed, weirdly wonderful vibes.

The next and final highlight for us of the evening quite literally took us, and everyone else in the Studio, by surprise. I had an aunt who once tried to teach me a lesson on how to gain a person or persons' attention without being obnoxious, it never took, but I also never forgot it. She said, 'speak firmly and speak quietly, people will endeavor to listen'. It's now just after 8pm, some of the crowd have been on their feet for three hours and most had been drinking, to say it was a bit rambunctious with everyone trying to go every which way in between acts might just be the understatement of the century. Between sets there were solid tunes being pumped out by the sound crew so it took a while for my ear (wearing earplugs Mom don't worry!) to discern a difference in tones AND crowd noise. Islet (@isletband) I'd soon discover had begun to transform what was our perceived stage space and soundscape blurring the lines between space, audience and band member. Like a Great White's dorsal Islet's collective hands cut through (not literally, although interesting enough to imagine) the tops of our heads in the crowd striking small glossy rectangles. Together as they filtered through and over us they remained mostly unseen but the crowd was reduced to a hush as plush chimes and tones synced up as the trio made their way on stage. I can honestly say outside of Arcade Fire doing a bait and switch with a false stage papier mache band and curtain drop at the Apollo years back this has been by far the most beautiful and ingenious opening to an act I've ever seen, it resonated with everyone. The Welsh art funk 3 piece kept the energy going strong and long with jangly dances by the keyboards, slapping the shit outta the standing drum kit coupled with oblong shaped guitar tangos. Their first performance in the Big Smoke since 2015 we here at Musos' sincerely hope to see them again soon.

SOON after Islet I started fading but my bad luck would find its second wind as opening our gifts a tad on the early side would come to bite us on the ass. There were a bunch of peculiar and strung out drunks around me crashing and shoving into my precious self throughout the night and after 6 hours of standing still and sober on concrete I started to buckle and became overwhelmed by my station's responsibilities. The final nail in the coffin was Fenella, who although I'd heard great things about, failed to meet my expectations live. Just too 'out there' for me so I promptly packed it up and made tracks thinking Vanishing Twin would've been along the same lines so I vanished myself. Big-MISTAKE. Leaving 9294 I was caught in the rain and was instantly put into a miserable mood, my +1(s) texted and called to apologize for not making it out and by the time I got home soaked and tired I realized I was plum fresh out of snacks! As I sat down to finish keyboarding this article I texted back and forth with The Chief who implored me to expose my shortcomings......I wasn't so sure I wanted to. So, I did what anybody would do who's as much of a piece of shit as I am, I tried to fake it by listening to V.T. over YouTube music and freaking heck, the lowness hit an all new low. What I'm hearing, if it were even a fraction as good as the studio stuff, live would've been remarkable. Not only that but as I left V.T. to stream in the background I was introduced to a variable plethora of other amazing artists; even by proxy these guys are amazing. I truly feel like I've let our friends over at Fire Records down but even more so ourselves. I've just done a quick search and have seen that Vanishing Twin'll be playing in Cambridge come this February. I'll be there, and I recommend and hope you will too, front row center.


Temples, Shepherd's Bush O2, London


Sometimes it's hard to see stuff, even when said stuff is right in front of you, hear me out on this one. I'm going to stick to the pertinent points about 'stuff', for once in my life, relating to gigs in particular. Being short and not at the front, you're in trouble. Maybe you've just snapped back into reality only to realize you've been rocking some serious tunnel vision videographing half the gig you're (not) present at missing that sweet sweet peripheral action because you've been watching it through your phone's screen....hands up, guilty as charged. Perhaps worst of all is something we've all been guilty of at one time or another which is being too close to 'stuff (someone) we care about and mistakenly attributing those feelings and projecting them onto what's actually happening in front of us, in other words being blindsided. More on that later.

 I arrived late for the Temples (@templesofficial) gig at the 02 and in a state of Popsicle (ice-lolly) this past Sunday evening and missed most of the opening acts. Melting my way into the lobby I pool in front of the guestlist ticket wicket and drop my name. It appears for the first time in weeks I'm actually on the list but not only that along with my tickets tumble down a few wristbands for the 'after show'. I act cool (no involuntary hiccups or twitching) and slap the band on before they've got a chance to take it away. I'm lead up to level 1's reserved area and finish thawing out. There's a vacuum where the atmosphere should be presently but crowds can be fickle up until the headliner takes the stage.

 Temples materialize suddenly in front of us and I can't take my eyes off of them. Imagine this, a visual mashup based upon the best of Prince and Led Zeppelin at their respective peaks. I cannot compose in words the construction of a cage made up entirely of my utter and absolute jealousy on the subject matter.  James (vocals/guitar) is rocking a a tailored dusty rose suit, Adam (keys/rhythm guitar) is draped in dark colours with a Sheriff's badge on his smoking jacket (yeehaw!), Rens' open shirted neck-kerchief percussion is something to behold, I'm thinking along the lines of MC5's drummer Dennis Thompson. Perhaps my favourite though was Thomas (bass/backup vocals) who'd easily teach  masterclass on androgyny second only to Bowie (RIP sweet prince) himself. Their hair alone would get the win Britain's been so hungrily awaiting all these years on Eurovision. 

 This show is the last of a slew of UK/EU tour dates bring the year to an end and the fatigue's just settled into Temples bones seizing up their limber youth before our very eyes. Just like the infectiousness of a psychedelic plague can spread throughout a crowd in equal proportions so does fatigue. James starts out thanking the crowd for coming out because 'it's cold and a Sunday' two songs later into their act he back-flips with 'this is the quietest crowd ever' ya mate, it's Sunday and it's cold. It's never sat right with me when the band needs the audience to revive them, sorry but you lot are the Pied Pipers, not the other way around. To be honest I was bobbing my head at the beginning of their set but after a few tracks when the glitz and glamour of their most righteous facade wore of their stage presence wore out and along with it my attention span. I sorta just zoned in and out of their performance. I sat back and thought to myself, not a bad lot but not  headliner material. Temples aren't a hungry young band any longer, they've burnt bright and fast. They're live act reminded me of the time I saw Crows play the Tufnell Park Dome years after their break out tour where metal barricades were being torn apart by the hands of crazed fans in Birthday's basement. Now fast forward only a few years later and at both shows sparse crowds make up the bulk of the crowd on the main floor.  Kids feel it's safe enough to invite their parents and so expose them to their life in London's mainstream music scene in mild doses too weak to kill them but strong enough to embolden them against the horrors of what someone shoving their way out of the crowd to use the loo might easily be mistaken for the fabled mosh pit! Temples, the flu-jab of the music scene. Sluggish and uninspiring they move through their performance like most of the lads attending moving towards the bar to squeeze in one more pint before the encore. I find myself thinking how found myself listening to Temples is exactly the reason I wouldn't recommend them to anyone. Their vocals sound like Kevin Parker's. I say to myself here you are giving me a knock-off when you know I want that name brand.

Looking over my notes I find gems like 'rock boys in big boy outfits'. There's no denying, the formula's there you just can't fake the results. The Mystery Lights (@themysterylights) one of the breakout bands of this year for me with a modest 11k following blew me away, Temples with their 60k+ following and look may-be getting a glossy cover on Rolling Stone but won't hold my attention. The studio tunes have that smooth production sheen but lack psychedelic magic. Previewing 'Hot Motion' I fell pray to it thinking,'is this Tame Impala?' as YouTube's algorithm shuffle snuck 'em in; not by a long shot but it did grab my attention. Live, sorta the same deal, pop and fizzle. Captain Stavros footnote, seeing Tame Impala live sold me whereas their albums never really grabbed me. The exact opposite happened with Temples. Had I been on the main-floor I would've probably have just left, not because it was terrible or anything but you know how it is when one person yawns you end up yawning too. The band was flagging and I guess I just caught that from them too.

Others though found their second wind after their fourth pint. A splinter faction of  fans formed like braying jackasses congealing near the stage sending half-filled pints sailing through the air closely followed by their 'weeeeeeeeei's. The same lot attempted to start a pit which sputtered and failed during the slower tracks. Sure, the results themselves were mixed but I must admit plenty of people did get their drinks spilled all over themselves by these buffoons so A for effort? Between the aforementioned and James's random 'Vote Labour' and other off handed remarks like introducing their tune as, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'.....came off as pretty self-assured, I know, a dirty word. As the band's encore finished up of whatever it was they were grinding out I realized I wasn't even listening to it anymore anyway. My thoughts and body drifted towards the after party instead. I really wanted to rub elbows with some of those finely adorned vintage people in the crowd who were heading back stage and maybe get the low-down on the vintage underground in London. Instead I'd be getting a different scoop.

 After the gig I ran into an older gentleman with a 'backstage pass' prominently adorning his breast whom I had also bumped into earlier before the show. His name is Richard & he's James's Dad. I'd first asked him where the after party was because he looked cool, 'there's no after party for us' he'd said, 'James, the wife myself and the rest of the family are driving back home right after the gig tonight,' he'd said, ' we're all tired and are about 100 miles from London'. Fair enough I thought as we continued to exchange pleasantries. Richard was super proud of his son and told me that although 'James can't even read music, it comes from here and here' he was pointing to his head and his heart which I thought was sweet. I asked him if he'd supported James's musical endeavors not only now that the band had found commercial success but in the olden days of 2012, 'hell' he said, 'he started playing music because I was always playing music, of course I did'. Richard was obviously a proud father and furthermore told of James helping spread the wealth by producing up and comers whom he'd recently toured with too. Afterwards when I ran into Richard again he was beaming with confidence, 'what'd ya think' before I could even answer came, 'great weren't they? I told you!' I suppose I missed the nuance of the rhetoric. 'I just don't know why they aren't bigger in the UK' he concluded with. I'd hear Richard repeat this phrase to pretty much anyone within earshot. I even caught an encore at the urinals when he addressed a man with frosted tips on the other side of me as he spoke through and behind me. For the record I really hate talking or being spoken to at urinals but not more than dudes scrolling through their phones , seriously dudes, gross. Sure if Richard stepped back he might get a little pee-pee on his shoes but maybe that's what being a Dad's all about? Stepping back to get a better view.

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