Facebook Slider

Willy Mason @ The Grand Social (Live Review)

Willy Mason

@ The Grand Social, Dublin

By Marky Edison


We first became of aware of Willy Mason in 2004 when ‘Oxygen’ flooded the alternative radio airwaves. That protest song was his debut single and it wasn’t long before he was collaborating with The Chemical Brothers. ‘Battle Scars’ is a highlight of the We Are The Night album and we have no idea how he dropped off our radar after that.  (Apart from this guest spot on Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan’s album in 2010).

Tonight is only his second gig in Dublin, which is surprising when he’s been touring for so long. He must feel some connection with Ireland, given that a recent album of remixed tracks had a title in Irish.

The singer-songwriter is supported by the elegant vocals and sparse hollow-body guitar work of Amy May Ellis. When she started playing, there were 20 people by the stage. By the closing number, the beer garden had emptied as word had spread about her hypnotic, charming, and haunting set. A little artsy for our tastes but she certainly brought the audience on a journey.

We are perched up at the bar for the main set. The unassuming trio take the stage to a polite and understated ovation. The welcome is in keeping with the music. Mason is either very chilled, or very shy. There are a few thanks muttered but no banter between songs. They move quickly from each song to the next. The presence of the rhythm section elevates the performance from what’s been committed to tape/hard drive. It even allows Mason the chance to experiment with guitar sounds and rock out a bit. The aforementioned ‘Oxygen’ and recent single ‘Youth on a Spit’ are delivered with swagger and panache.

They’re organic and rootsy. Even when they skip between genres and throw in a country number, it’s played with well-earned confidence in their abilities and in each other. Mason may not be chatty onstage but he puts a lot into his performance and it pays off with the crowd. They’re happy to sing along, reflecting his verve back to him. It’s a rare combination to be able to write songs that enlighten and affect people while putting on an entertaining and dynamic show but Mason has it, and he’s not afraid to use it.



Dog Unit @ Omeara (Live Review)

Dog Unit

@ Omeara, London

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

Hot on the heels of an eco-friendly album release, At Home, and a sold-out show at the Lexington earlier this month, where not even yours truly could get a spot to review, the masses are lapping up the hype swirling around none other than Dog Unit. Full disclosure: there will be dog pawns a-plenty in this done here review.

Outside Omeara, where a ‘doors open at 5:30pm’ has turned into doors at 6:30, the queue continues to grow as our patience shrinks. Eventually, we make it through the door only to be faced by a human fence across the front of the stage. Nestled in between the ammonia stenches emanating from human trees, likely coming down from a two-day jag where bathing comes second to Red Stripe tinnies, we settle in; breathing through our mouth and hoping to god the set is worth it.

John Kennedy – of X-Posure, which has just turned 25, brought together a celebration of chart climbing semi-underexposed bands, most notably for us, Dog Unit. To be fair, we were impressed with Prima Queen and Chartreuse’ set so big shout out to them for their fine performances respectively indeed. John insisted on introducing, Lucy, Sam, James and Henry by name as they hit the stage in matching boiler suits. They form an intimate setup, with Sam and Henry sat across each other, guitar in laps, as James looms above, bass in hand, with Lucy as over-watch on the drums; keeping the fiends at bay with a steady rhythm.

It’s not easy reviewing an instrumental group without a track-list or opportunity for a quick interview but we’re gonna try; while some might buck at strictly instrumentals, for us, it's the soundtrack to our lives without a muddled dialogue and, in our opinion, sometimes that's just what we need. The opener, straight liquid chill, which the crowd is pretty pleased with. It’s not easy making this set come off as effortless which to their credit is a low-key flex. The crowd has pushed forward and the gaps in the audience have filled up. Launched out of the gate by James Weaver's propulsive, funk-laden basslines, it's a perfect showcase of Walton and Scowcroft's dancing, interlocking guitars, all held in place by drummer Lucy Jamieson's deceptively dexterous beats.

Combining melancholic melody with lush, atmospheric accompaniment. Their unique sound — instrumental music that leans just as heavily on the tune-first, purist pop qualities reminiscent of instrumental bands in arms Foxtrot Sierra and the Uniforms, Captain Rico & The Ghost Band, Khruangbin. Dog Unit’s got a bit more bite than the aforementioned, when someone, somewhere, steps on a switch on a board toggling a grungy fuzz that kicks in as much as it kicks out. Tremolos rip up and down the fret board both on guitar and bass alike. Lucy’s percussion is in lockstep with James’ bass and both punch out for a bit of flavour.

Set highlights for us were Sam Walton’s tiny piano, affectionately named Harpy Harpington (by us, don’t ask why) and when Lucy pulled out gong sticks to play her kit. The sounds were ever so subtle and enveloping, well played. It's very apparent that the band is meant to complement each other's strengths. There’s contrast instead of conflict in these twangy and tripped out pseudo psychedelics, and we are totally here for it. These lot form a cohesive unit and their charming tones are certainly of the seductive persuasion. The term, ‘a tough act to follow’ came to mind more than a few times watching Dog Unit who will be touring extensively into the Autumn, keep that info on…. a tight leash, waaaay-o.


Nuha Ruby Ra @ The Moth Club, London (Live review)

Nuha Ruby Ra

@ The Moth Club

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros


The horseshoe-shaped booth at the foot of the stage at the Moth, our go-to clubhouse for one, is occupied by a group of human fossils this time around. These lot have been around long enough to know a good spot when they see it, and luckily for us, they are as friendly as they are savvy, letting us rest our weary bones for we’ll need all our strength during Nuha Ruby Ra’s set tonight. We first spot Nuha on the frontlines in the audience beckoning the crowd forward during the support acts (End of Europe/Miss Tiny), closing the gap and blurring the boundaries between performers and spectators. The theme on stage this evening is gothic birthday party (curly ribbons and black/red balloon bouquets) celebrating Ruby’s day and tour.

Sets run late but eventually the Ra and what looks like a gang of extras from the set of The Warriors start setting up their kit. An oblong copper ring suspended on a stand above a box with a cowbell inside of it looks like The Eye of Sauron; grabbing our attention, and holding it. Imagine a love child between a theremin, a belt buckle and a birdhouse. An LED flood strobes and bathes the entire stage in lightning blue whilst a mesh-clad, beret-wearing saxophonist empties their spit valve as they float through scales, is this a band warm up or an ‘80s softcore sex scene? Answers are no clearer when Nuha comes out during sound check clutching a bugle and rocking Morpheus’ sunglasses. It appears the band is having issues sound-checking her twin mics. Naturally, only she can decipher how to turn on her mics and her audience alike.

Where have this lot come from? Not much info there pre-2023, seemingly they’ve materialized out of thin air. Going into a gig space blank is our forte, mostly, we want to remain impartial. Making all the connections and digging in deeper is strictly a post-show MO for us. Watching Ruby on stage with her six bandmates reminded us of the time we caught up with Black Country, New Road (RIP kinda) about 5 years ago, only to find during our deep dive that none other than Andy Savours in fact produced their new single ‘Fetish 2 Forget’. Both were/are sleepers but quickly gained traction and notoriety. If living bare chested legend Iggy Pop (BBC 6) and Goat Girl are longtime fans we’re certainly here for it.

Having played a plethora of prestigious festivals both on home turf and abroad including Glastonbury,SXSW, The Great Escape, Green Man, Wide Awake, Manchester Psych Fest, Levitation (FR), Grauzone (NL) and several more, as well as having previously supported Self Esteem, Yard Act, Warmduscher, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Viagra Boys. Following a string of mini releases, two EPs and a few singles, both momentum and pressure are building in equal measures for this much hyped artist.

Back on stage, the set opens with noise track, ‘Cure For Tired Business Men’, followed by ‘Sparky’ where the sax goes to work. “Experiment, experiment with each other” allocates Nuha into dual mics; the experiment from where we’re sitting is certainly producing favourable results of which honky-tonk samples and hushed and luscious saxy tones top the list. Outside of ourselves (strictly business kids) no one is on their phone, which is saying a lot. The audience is fully engaged in this lattice of aurality while the oblong copper ring is fondled with a couple of snare brushes by a mulleted maestro. We’re still not sure we can hear it but we’re certainly paying attention.

‘Rise’, is instantly recognizable. The music essentially sounds like the collapse of civilization; thrilling, entertaining and frightful all at the same time. The bass is completely discombobulating, accompanied by keys whose deep synth reverberations shake our teeth in our skull and concentration alike. Psych visuals, provided by Mate Koi, bleep, bloop, blip, and splash across the stage along with sound devices of unknown origins to mortal ears. The set confuses in as much as it captivates.

The performance was as exceptional as it was enigmatic. After each song, we got a tiny peak behind the inner workings that is Nuha’s mind, ‘2-7-4’ would be repeated, a numerical mantra, and that would be it. Were they thinking of a bus route they’d need to follow to return to parts unknown or a storage locker combination? The cipher would remain a mystery. “What does punk mean? It doesn't mean whatever you think it means.” Although these snippets come from a stream of consciousness seemingly untethered to reality. Ruby is fully present and reigns in control when necessary. Although the audience is off the hook throughout the performance, the same can’t be said for the band. Ra works both solo and with bandmates but her work is her own, so tread lightly. On more than one instance eye daggers were thrown or an abrupt gesture used to snuff out a rogue solo or transition from accompanying bandmates (so much for experimenting with each other).

Even though Nuha informed us that she’d had lost her voice at the beginning of the tour, the extra husky tones worked a treat, but their set was now drawing to a close. “How much longer have we got, 15 minutes?” The reply, from the audio-tech came, “1 more song”. Two were played ‘Run Run’ and ‘Hookah Chalice’ before the house lights came on forcing a conclusion. Seemingly, Ruby has fallen from the sky, but so does lightning. "Nuha Ruby Ra is set to begin her trailblazing quest of what may be her breakout year – dismiss her at your peril." - Clash



Nouvelle Vague with Kill the Pain @ Union Chapel, London (Live Review)

Nouvelle Vague with Kill the Pain

@ Union Chapel

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

“We are really excited to come and play in the UK, we feel like the public will understand our music, our sense of humour and our style perfectly!” - Phoebe Killdeer/Melanie Pain. In the parlance of our times, assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups. Tonight, Union Chapel is packed with an expectant audience. The front row of pews is empty but upon closer inspection, and to our great annoyance, are reserved. There’s a loudish murmur descending from the balcony level mixing with the shuffling of our feet as the last pockets of space in the pews are snapped up. The lights have been turned down low, our space now secured by stage right, looms spotlit and empty. Unexpectedly, some flat & low-quality music begins emanating from the speaker stack by us, stupefying since no one is on stage. After what seems like an eternity, two vinyl costume clad animatronic-like humanoids clunk, jutting and jeering, onto the stage carrying microphones. This, is going to be a long set.

This is probably a good spot to take a trip back to a simpler time, allowing our brains to recover from the brain-melting horrors just witnessed. The year is 2004 and Nouvelle Vague, a French cover band, is about to drop their first album. At the height of the bossa nova bubble in the early ‘00s, the French troupe took advantage of a niche trend to introduce a new generation to a wealth of classics; ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, ‘Guns of Brixton’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ to name a few. With internet sales gaining ground, and piracy proliferating, this environment created a perfect storm causing the album practically fly off the shelf. It was catchy and approachable but ultimately derivative; perfect for quick and easy nostalgic consumption. After 20 years of franchise success perhaps imposter syndrome cajoled Killdeer and Pain to set out to and stake a claim in original music. Enter, Kill the Pain.


Labelled as ‘outlandish women prepared to push pop culture to its limits’ we can honestly confirm that those limits have been met and exceeded by the performance we caught. Said to have been inspired by legendary music mainstays such as The Slits, Le Tigre, Peggy Lee, Patti Smith and Kim Gordon, we believe it’s one thing to listen to and quite another to be inspired. Drawing comparisons and gaining notoriety by proxy, by attaching yourself only in namesake, to a musician is poor form. Peggy Lee’s ‘Johnny Guitar’ is so steeped in sorrow, it’s an absolutely heartbreaking masterpiece, you can’t fake that kind of talent and we didn’t see that in Kill the Pain’s set. Kim Gordon’s a living legend at 70 years old and is still pushing out original music, most notably ‘I’m a Man’. A gutsy and raw tune, she is the man. Kill the Pain’s ‘I Do What I Want’, by contrast, explores nothing of the aforementioned themes but instead is a silly piece utilizing upstrokes on a guitar with bubble popping grating noise, excruciating to listen to. The set relied heavily on audience engagement and lazy costumes, it felt like watching a pair of stroppy children ruining a dinner party with their ‘performance’ before dessert. Check please.

To be fair, there was a sweet takeaway from the aforementioned nonsense as a saving grace. Nouvelle Vague, post-punk bossanova brainchild of Marc Collin which has recently expanded into themes of reggae, cabaret, blues and soul on their latest album, entertained so completely that parishioners that evening were positively possessed as they shot upwards onto their feet. Marine Quéméré and Alonya were positively electric; burning up on stage in absolute radiance. Marine’s presence on stage exuded comfort and confidence in equal measures. Although we were all there for those warm and silky-smooth French undertones, her highlight for us was in her whistling prowess. Alonya, self-proclaimed Swamp Pirate, to our pleasure and disbelief was a loose cannon throughout their set. When, ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ began, she shot off the stage in a roving mission of mischief, jostling everyone in the crowd she came in contact with. Shortly after returning, she popped the cork on a bottle of champagne and clamber on a large and pious marble altar a few meters above the stage. The audience was witnessed holding their breath when she finished, ‘What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend’ with an impromptu contemporary dance routine. For the four encores (‘In A Manner of Speaking’, ‘Ever Fallen In Love?’, ‘This Charming Man’ and ‘I Melt With You’) Melanie Pain & Phoebe Killdeer joined the ensemble to close out the evening and totally redeemed themselves. We may not have gotten Kill the Pain’s humour but their vocal talents are irrefutable. An altogether unpredictable, peculiar and enjoyable evening. Highlights were a Mother/Daughter combo behind us singing along with the group at the top of their lungs, “TOO DRUNK TO FUCK!” In a church, no less!  Kill the Pain & Nouvelle Vague are currently touring.






The Fauns @ Rough Trade, London (Live Review)

The Fauns

Rough Trade, London

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

Our evening begins with a failed attempt at bribery, by way of a non-existent Tiramisu, meant for (we found out afterwards) a lactose intolerant gate keeper. Perhaps you might be wondering what event would be worth a tentative homicide? The Fauns album release gig at Rough Trade East. Fortunately, this botched venture to gain access earned us good fortune as our intentions were seen as virtuous, rather than a haphazard poisoning, and in we went.

With the lights down low (off) and the wheelie bins full of musical artefacts pushed out of the way, the trade floor lends itself well to the performance and really opens up. Muted warm trace lighting splashes shapeless shadows across walls and pillars strewn by graffiti and autographs. Backlit forms congregate loosely against the metal barricades propped against the stage in anticipation. A few moments later a four-piece collective materialises before us after a decade’s hiatus.

The Fauns, are a Bristol based shoegaze ensemble, formed in 2007 self-releasing their eopnymous debut album in 2009, followed by Lights in 2013. The success of the first two albums, and an ever-growing fan base of the genre, led to a lengthy stint of touring. Seemingly just as soon as they appeared, they’d just as suddenly vanish mysteriously. Michael Savage, founding member and bassist, laments on their absence and process composing How Lost, their third LP.

"We were determined not to tread familiar ground with the third album. We consciously chose to veer away from shoegaze conventions, infusing our music with elements of electro and disco. It's been a delicate balancing act, but we think it works nicely. Moreover, the album marks a shift in lyrical themes and attitude. Poignant tracks coexist with narratives of vodka-infused nights in dimly lit clubs, reflecting a departure from introspection. "This album is less about the melancholy associated with the genre and more about getting our audience dancing.”

Back at Rough Trade East the fauns set starts off with ‘Rise’ from their second album, Lights. It’s a wavy start that sets the tone for the ambience they’ll build throughout their set. Although Michael mentions wanting to get their audience dancing with their new material it does not appear to be happening this evening. Set against a backdrop of utilitarian men, Alison Garner’s hushed vocals are swallowed up by the accompanying instruments to our disappointment. The performance is a sombre one and any anxiety that might be felt on an album release day, or a first performance after a decade, is unnoticeable. There are no technical difficulties, nervous audience engagement, they are a professional troupe. Each song transitions seamlessly into the other with the exception of ‘With You’ off Lights, and ‘Spacewreck’ off How Lost, as our standout set favourites. The set came to a close in a demure manner after ‘Spacewreck’ with each member peeling off stage following Alison’s lead. The left as candidly as they’d appeared but our hopes are this won’t be the last time in a decade, we’ll hear from them. How Lost is out now and you can expect tour dates to follow soon.





Murray A. Lightburn @ Old St Pancras Church (Live Review)

 Murray A. Lightburn

 Old St Pancras Church, London

 Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

Old St Pancras Church is hugely unassuming, situated rather than nestled, by Kings Cross St Pancras station.  In fact, our plus one had to send several texts (two of which included pictures) to confirm it was the right place, citing trepidation about crossing the threshold of a church.  Making our way to our seats in the front row, we swung by the merch table where a mild-mannered Ramona Flowers type was swallowed up inside a book.  Standing politely and answering our questions as we loitered, we couldn’t help but feel a familiarity with someone we’d never met before.  Shrugging off the spookies, we ventured deeper within.  The Church, a structure with a small exterior once inside, opened up its hidden depths to us.  So would, momentarily, Murray A. Lightburn.

23 years ago, nearly to the day, yours truly arrived home quite inebriated around two in the morning and put on the TV at the end of their bed.  During that time, in Canada, MuchMusic would bury its tax funded countrymen’s music to hit its Canadian Music Quotas.  Oh, Canada.  The block was called The Wedge and, in the early ‘00s, it was playing some of the best up-and-coming national artists who would later explode internationally.  It was a very proud and memorable moment in this music fan’s tiny existence, but we digress.  On this particular occasion, one miserable fuck unknown to us at the time as Murray A. Lightburn, walked swigging liquor from a 26’r alongside a motorway in Montreal, mumbling “I hate this miserable fucking video already”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALA8bszA0L0   One man’s trash is another man’s ‘Dumpster Gold’ and in this case we felt we’d hit a musical goldmine.  End of a Hollywood Bedtime Story, both album and title track blew us away completely.  We had to special-order the album and pay import CD prices, but it was completely warranted in our opinion.  Two lukewarm albums would follow, each with a few solid tacks, but what we remember as sticking out the most during that time was a) the live performances which were nothing short of stellar, and b) meeting Murray and him being consistently introverted and grouchy with a massive chip on his shoulder.  Never meet your heroes, kids!


With that, let’s time travel back to the present.  We’d long ago lost touch, to our deep regret, with the founding members of The Dears.  We’d somehow grown inexplicably close with them and their music both.  Having left Canada and spent the better part of the last decade floating around the globe aimlessly, tethers soon loosened and were ultimately lost.  Then, as carelessly as we’d drifted away, into our inbox floated Once Upon A Time In Montreal.  Unbeknownst to us, Murray had developed a whole solo career over the last 10 years with three releases in tow.  This evening, Lightburn is flanked by five session musicians and backed by a pointed dress shoe that taps loudly as it keeps the beat.  If you’re familiar with Murray, you’ll know he’s a massive perfectionist.  It is only then that you can hear the strain in each toe tap like the beating of the Tell-tale Heart.  Standing before us in a three-piece suit, with all but the coat tails of a bygone era bandmaster, he tosses strained aural and visual musical cues to the players surrounding him.  It feels strained and a bit uncomfortable to witness, but then, something happens.

Lightburn lightens up.  It sent a ripple of goose pimples across our tender flesh.  To put it bluntly, it was a fucked up and surreal experience, rolled up into a church. Jesus Christ!

 The subtext of the album is definitely about making your case for your own personal growth.” It’s a complex and vulnerable release involving, at various points, communication breakdowns, admitting one’s faults, making amends, and understanding true devotion. While Lightburn notes that Hear Me Out is not wholly autobiographical, it is an ultimately inward-looking experiment that has him contemplating how we treat the people in our lives.

If you didn’t believe in a God beforehand, you’d be hard pressed not to after this event.  A welcome change nonetheless though.  The chilled Murray made his first appearance struggling with clamping a capo, in Chaplinesque fashion, on the fretboard.  “Don’t worry, I’m a professional!”, he cracks.  He went through most of his latest album nailing every track.  Later still, he’d crack a few anecdotes like meeting a proper Londoner in Montreal for the first time, who introduced himself as “London, born and bred”.  Born, and bred, “he said it twice! I think about that often, it gets me every time”.  Before singing a Dears classic, ‘You And I Are A Gang Of Losers’, Lightburn tells us this was the song he’d sooth his wailing newborn in the car with, who’s now all grown up and selling merch by the entrance.  Unreal!  We’d never met Neptune Lightburn but they were instantly recognizable as equal parts Natalia (founding Dears member) and Murray’s partner.

After each track followed an applause louder than the last, drawn out in the hopes of distracting the musician as one does from their set’s end.  We’re soon put at ease when Murray comes back with, “I think I’ve got a few more in the tank”, which was followed by Dears classics ‘Pinned Together, Falling Apart’ and ‘Lights Off’.  Mrs Lightburn is in the audience, and we hear the story of how his parents met, “and if you were born in the ‘60s in London, my mother might’ve delivered you. True story”.  He closes his set with ‘Belleville Blues’ from Hear Me Out; “This song, I sing in the voice of my father”.  Lightburn holds the line, “save me from myself” after dismissing the musicians making up the travelling band, the last word, in the final line before the outro.  The duration of which, the strain on his jawbone and voice is both visibly and sensibly painful to endure, is felt.  It holds unbearable sorrow and peace in equal measure.  That being said, Mr Limelight, was certainly lapping it up like a cat at a saucer of warm milk.  To add to the drama, halfway through the final song the church bells struck the hour, resonating like phantom backup singers.

After the performance, to our shock, Murray all but dove into the crowd and engaged with the audience, greeting his mother, son Apollo, and partner Natalia, before signing autographs and exchanging pleasantries.  His latest work is a masterpiece.  His voice, even after 25+ years of singing professionally, sounds fortified instead of weakened.  We were impressed.  There were two unexpected titbits we neglected to mention earlier but will do so before signing off.  The first was of a heartfelt appreciation of the moment Lightburn found himself in and the pure joy he gets from performing, “This job is a grind, really grinding, but this moment makes it all worthwhile.”  We’d never heard him, but also found it completely refreshing, sounding so appreciative.  Perhaps the most insightful was a moment of enlightenment for all music when Murray explained that, “all of these songs aren’t biographical, they’re sung in the voice of the character. What can I say, I’m a writer, I like to embellish”.

Subscribe to this RSS feed