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Ora Cogan @ The Lexington, London (Live Review)

 Ora Cogan

 @ The Lexington

 Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

It's Glasto weekend, and while rowdy ‘gotta be scene’ crowdsurfs small boat installations and lose their (perhaps by this part of the festival their actual) shit to the likes of risk takers Coldplay and Avril Lavigne, words cannot describe how fortunate we're feeling to be far, far away nestled in the lofty lofts of the Lexington.

Warming up the crowd, on an already boiling day, Lando Manning with Ora Cogan on deck. We awkwardly made eye contact with the former at the bar as we regaled the bartender about our missing belt. Where did it go? Who’ve they wrapped themselves around this time? Let us paint you a picture, or better yet, we’ll just leave it to the pros like Lando’s drummer do that on the brushes throughout the set. Let’s hope they stick to painting the skins instead of houses, if you know what we mean? When the lower spectrum thrums of the bass and guitar during Manning’s too-short set, rattled the snare so loudly, we knew the only reason we could hear them was because the audience was completely captivated; great support.

Speaking of support, yours truly, is proud to be supporting a group of most excellent Canadian natives in their jaunt across the pond. Had we known beforehand, we would’ve requested a bag of Miss Vickies Spicy Dill Pickle; if you know, you know. As a completely corrupt enterprise, we’re totally partial to bribery (TAKE NOTE!) but also totally unnecessary in this case [Editor’s note: This is not official Muso’s Guide policy]. Ora Cogan has been accumulating laurels, experiences, stories and skills alike since their first pressed music back in 2008. Cogan and her guitar, slung loosely mid-hip, stood before us battle scarred and well-worn deep beyond the lacquer; each lay exposed. The musician in front of their audience on display, as was their instrument, unvarnished, worn where each leaned on the other heaviest. It was a beautiful symbiosis, producing equally gorgeous melodies.

What really stood out for us was how synced up her troupe was. At no time during the set were eyes not flicking, like snake tongues, back and forth between members, with Cogan as their altar. At one point, Ora realises they’ve forgotten their capo backstage. After a frantic fruitless scavenger hunt onstage, Cogan takes off backstage abruptly without warning and the band, literally, doesn’t miss a beat, like when Jake and Elwood snuck off stage at the ballroom to pay the taxes for the orphanage (deep cut), real natural like. It gave us a chance to take in their bandmate’s talents, and for some, their appearances. Like a cross between William Friedkin’s Cruising cowboy meets Angus Young, the bassist made our tummy feel funny, sort of like an appendix that’s about to burst. The western motif was sewn and hung deep. The whole setup really gave us Holy Motor vibes (if you’re reading this HM, we miss you!!). The music overlapped genres, across the 15-track setlist, with smokey gothic tones and hazy folk twang. The cherry on the sundae was a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ that completely came out of leftfield.

We’re bummed to say we caught her last gig of their tour but fear not, there’s no doubt of a return, and now you know you’ve got a huge back catalogue to rummage through and sing along with next time. Ora Cogan has paid their dues and this time they’ll be coming to collect, mark our words. Although touring is done, Formless, out on Prism Tongue Records, is Ora’s latest and is available now across a whole heap of platforms and tangibles. If you’re still reading this and taking suggestions, Cogan, did mention during their set that Italo Calivino is a must read and an inspiration during their writing process.



Julie Christmas @ The Garage, London (Live review)

 Julie Christmas

 @ The Garage

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

 Julie Christmas gave her fans the gift of music earlier this month when releasing her second solo album, Ridiculous and Full of Blood; great title. Jules says of the album, ‘get this in your ears and try to do anything slow and relaxed, you won’t be able to.’ Challenge accepted. ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Thin Skin’ both did seem like two songs, when listened to with over-ear headphones, that would cause an eruptive mosh pit for certain. We’d find out soon enough if they’d cut the metallic mustard as J and the Gang were playing their headline show at the Garage before carrying on a string of other live dates across the UK and EU.

Showing up to the gig in khakis, a Hawaiian shirt and white sneakers, pressed against the metal barriers at the stage amongst a crowd clad in worn out dark denim, fishnets, docs and sleeveless shirts, was a bit awkward. For sure, our sweet threads would be soiled and destroyed beyond recognition come the end of the night; fashion actions have consequences, kids! Although, not in this case. From our gig notes, we’ve underlined heavy and slow but not in a Black Sabbath Into The Void sorta way, but more ‘I’ve had too much to eat at the Mexican buffet, and I’m now having trouble breathing, and there’re pins and needles in my arms and legs’ sorta way. Was this a metal gig or a slumber party in a library!? The set lumbered along like a wad of refried beans through our lower intestine, that is to say, seemingly not at all.

J Chrizbo eventually followed out her band to a sparsely filled venue looking somewhat like Harley Quinn tangled with (pun intended) a fibre optic server. Masked and covered in fairy lights, touting heavily processed vocals backed by a kickdrum we could feel in our chest, music pounded out from the speakers. As each track continued however, the novelty wore off, Jules even gave up on wearing the mask and we, as an audience, collectively just gave up. Everyone was super polite about it though. The book tucked into the waistband of our trousers called to us as we yearned for any sort of stimulus but instead, we just kept on listening half-heartedly.

In front of us, on the other side of the barrier, was a child standing with her mother. Her mother was controlling the optic lights on J’s costume via BT Remote, real clandestine stuff. The kid in flip-flops, denim shorts and pink t-shirt must’ve gotten the Muso’s Guide ‘How To’ on proper attire for a summer gig. Wearing massive ear defenders, she scrolled Instagram updating her stories, selfie camera only. Either the show was boring, or we had the attention span of a 10 year old. Not even the lyrics of ‘Not Enough’, “I’ve not yet begun to defile myself” were enough to snap either of us out of our trance.

There were some redeeming qualities to the show like the synth samples, the guitarist’s guttural vocals sounding like a man possessed, and being able to leave the venue without so much as bumping into someone on your way out, our unscathed sneakers still gleaming. We were hoping for a little more Nova Twins and a little less Leonard Cohen though. All in all, an unremarkable set, sorta like having porridge for breakfast; nourishing, yes, but at the cost of texture and flavour. We supposed after 14 years, there’s probably a bit of calcification on the ole metal bones. Hopefully, Julie Christmas and the gang will loosen up as the tour continues. Catch ‘em if you can as they squeeze through, a-la-molasses, by a town near you.



The Reds, Pinks and Purples @ The Lexington (Live Review)

The Reds, Pinks and Purples

@ The Lexington, London

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros

On night two, of two sold out back-to-back nights at The Lexington, and after the driest ever opening band, The Reds, Pinks and Purples, styling themselves after the colours at magic hour, were anything but abracadabra. With the bravado, body and charisma of a national bowling league champion, Glenn Donaldson played to an ageing dad rock audience shrouded in blue-black darkness. When called out on said darkness by the fans, we were kindly asked to keep it to ourselves. The 12-song set started off with ‘Record Shop’ ,where we were not at all subtly reminded in a sing-song manner to pick up the record at the merch booth after the set, way to trip at the starting line, bud.

Donaldson’s on-stage persona reminded us a lot of Cake’s John McCrea. Guess that shouldn’t be so surprising since both hail from similar regions on the planet. Their attitudes on stage, also similar and lyrical songwriting too. The feels come across sort of like, ‘I’ve made it now, so you have to put up with me’ but that’s where the similarities end. John has an old hat approach to his singing style, spoken, Sinatra-crooneresque. Donaldson, on the other hand, comes across as a mix of The Cure’s Robert Smith and Blues Traveler’s John Popper. I know, worlds apart, but this is our article, we were there and you likely weren’t. We’re dying on this hill. The music, too, differed. Unlike Cake’s constant evolution experimenting and stitching together different genres and instruments eludes The RPPs. They stick to what works and vary safely with tremolo surf styling, which were a hit with us. Overall though, we weren’t bowled over by the set, nor particularly repulsed, we just wish we’d have felt something, they had tried more, or a combination of the two.

We’re not here to trash the set, any more than a racoon can help being what it is; a trash panda. Both racoons and The RPPs have their place with us and are entertaining in equal parts, though mostly for different reasons. Few can refute that they are living their best lives, and mostly, people are here for it. Both shows at the Lexington were sold out, no doubt from longtime fans. The audience gave off Thatcher/Reagan era vibes but sold out nonetheless (Fuck you trickle-down economics Tory scum!). The atmosphere had the flavour of beans on toast, warm and comforting but not something you’d order out in front of someone (sort of like wearing a bathrobe in public). Although the music didn’t leave a bad taste in our collective mouths, the recent trend of loud-mouthed audience members did.

We will say that we were very impressed at Donaldson’s handling of the situation. Without skipping a beat Glenn sauntered over to stage right, singing into the offending member of the audience’s fat-face, giving them the attention they so desperately yearned for and so sorely lacked in their lives. It wasn’t until the lady next to us turned around and yelled “SHUT UP!!” at the top of her lungs that the offending party did so and slunk away with their tail between their legs. The highlight of the set, to be sure, as we didn’t stick around for the encore.


PEM @ The Lexington (Live Review)


@ The Lexington, London

Words & Pics by Captain Stavros 

A few months ago, Brace Yourself Press, who’re a seemingly never-ending fountain of consistently solid recommendations, shot us one out for PEM and her then recently released single. The vocals hooked us straight out of the gate and shot us back to 2017, when we got caught up in Zoee’s sugar sweet pipes layered atop of equally enamel corroding synth pop. The underwater trill in PEM’s voice is our siren call and could be yours too. If you close your eyes and listen closely when she speaks, you can hear it floating in the back of their throat almost imperceptibly. Their music invites the listener into a conspiratorial embrace and holds them there firmly; not that there was much resistance in the first place. The single came on us like a downpour so naturally we did our best to blag our way into their set to hear it, and much more, for ourselves.

Although singing nearly solo throughout their performance, PEM is quick to note that the rising tides (or talents in this case) raise all boats. From support acts to her band, family, friends, audience, and even designer friend that made their loosely woven and airy Furiosa attire, (pre-Fury Road, more The Green Place). The eleven-track set kicked off with a level climb from ‘Gulls’ and kept a steady ascent all the way through to ‘Sentimental’ (where the violin really came into its own). Set standouts, included but were not limited to, the aforementioned ‘Awe’,‘Gut Health’ and ‘Lullaby London’.The audience hung forlornly off every syllable and note as precariously, and in as much of a fragile state, as PEM’s fingernail which had recently been smashed up in a car door.

Getting away from a ketamine nightmare for a moment, yes, the vocals very much did live up to the hype. We imagine hearing her for the first time would’ve been the same as hearing the golden tones of Karen Carpenter’s voice as she sang‘Superstar’; utterly captivating. The whole set, in fact, was a landscape of rich tapestry, woven right before our very senses.  It is both alluring and terrifying that such a young soul’s well-formed storytelling feels like it has a lifetime’s worth of experience behind it. Speaking to PEM candidly, and off the record, in a sea of people at The Lexington, which surely must’ve been over capacity, everything and everyone else melts away and, like her performance, is a singular experience we recommend if you’re lucky enough to have it. As luck would have it, you can. PEM is currently touring and has just released her EP, which is as satisfying an experience as the performance live was.

Our biggest, and only, regret of the evening is not having the wherewithal when given the chance during our chat to ask if she’d ever consider covering Roy Orbison’s ‘Blue Bayou’. If you, the reader, would also like to avoid the pitfalls of regret,don’t forget to catch one of PEM’s upcoming gigs but bonus, the opening bands were super-solid-rocksteady too and you shouldn’t miss any of their upcoming gigs. Up and comer Scarlett Wolf and her witchy sisterhood slapped. Canty,who followed suit and came at us out of nowhere like a rogue wave, did not disappoint; quickly capsizing any reservation one might have seeing only two figures shrouded in darkness, one sitting on stage. They both are a vivid reminder of the reasons to never miss the opening acts.









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.

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