Dems Live @ Birthdays

dems press logo

Taking to the stage to celebrate the release of new single “Christabel” Dems delivered what can only be described as a near perfect set, spoiled only slightly by the terrible sound at Birthdays. Even though the set was almost too quiet to properly hear in places it was abundantly clear that Dems have something a little special.

Bookended by arguably their best two tracks Inner O and House (Track List below), the set was short but sweet, coming in at ~40min. Regular readers will no doubt be aware that personally I think this is pretty much the perfect set length. I regularly seem to spend more time editing tweets than anything else I write (Can you tell…), and there’s a reason for that – It’s incredibly difficult to set out what you want to say concisely without overdoing it. That’s exactly what Dems have managed to do with this set, lay down exactly who they are and what they’re about without going on about it to the point that people are over it.

The undisputed highlight of the show came in the form of a cover of T2’s Heartbroken, not because it stood out as being any better than their own material, don’t get me wrong they’re a band with songs for days, rather because of the moment of pure delighted surprise it drew from the crowd.

A bit shout out is also due to artist Matthew Plummer-Fernandez for putting together one of the best live visuals I’ve seen  for a long time.

If you get a chance to catch Dems live I would highly recommend it, not only do they know how to write a song but they can also put on a show. Big things surely await..

Track List

  1. Inner O
  2. Christabel
  3. T4 – Heartbroken (cover)
  4. Desire
  5. Bridesmaid (I think?)
  6. Down On You
  7. House
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Beach Break Live – A Tale of Two Halves

Life Guard Patrol

Here is a little something to listen to whilst you read. A live “Bootleg” of DJ Fresh Preforming Louder, it’s a crowd recording, so it’s a bit noisy at the start but it gets better.

Another title i considered for this post was “Beach Break Live – Wet, Wind and Wales”, but then on saturday night, finally(!), the sun came out. That says it all about beach break really, it’s a festival whose identity is soo closely pinned to the weather that when you take away the sun there really isn’t a lot left, and damn did those weather gods take away the sun.

Everything was soaked before we even turned up!

Sure you can’t blame the organisers for the Rain, and had it been sunny from the onset it would have been totally different. That said, a festival in Wales was always a bit likely to be wet wasn’t it, would it really have been such a bad idea to plan for that?

Friday was frankly a little depressing, again maybe it all comes down to the rain, but it felt like a ghost festival. As hard as we looked, there was almost no one anywhere, and zero “Festival Atmosphere”. Hardly surprising prehaps when there was nothing to do. I get it, it’s about the beach but would a back up plan for when it’s too cold and windy to go be soo hard? As a result most of friday was spent in the action aid tent, playing connect four. Fun yes, worth a trip all the way to Wales? Probably not.

All in all not a great start, thankfully Sir David Rodigan was booked to make an appearance in the evening. He single-handedly rescued the day, and taught me a valuable lesson which would prove to be true throughout. Nothing happens at beach break until 22:00 at which point there’s a 4 hour window of fun, before more lovely nothing. Whats the point in having the festival in the middle of nowhere in Wales if it can still only get a licence for music until 2 AM?

Deserted carousel

The Abandoned festival. This was late afternoon on saturday!

Rodigan, went in exactly how you’d expect him to. Big records. Big personality. There’s a good reason why the man’s got an MBE.

Mr Jam also put in a solid friday night set, nothing remarkable but at least it got the crowd going, a rare treat for beach break as it turns out. That was the end of friday night.

Saturday was characterised by a marked improvement in both the weather and the daytime line-up, with acts like Ghostpoet, and Labrinth on the main stage, sadly the whole thing was mired in indifference from the crowd, I think this photo from Ambassadeurs set just about sums it up… Ambassadeurs

This isn’t a photo of him setting up, this is the crowd int he middle of the set!

There were two moments that the crowd came together to create anything like atmosphere, the first was for England Vs Sweden, the second was in the undisputable festival highlight “The Juke Joint”, a party house of dancing and southern comfort with an old american speakeasy vibe. It was the only place on site that really felt anything like a festival.

Dizzee rascal's crowd

Moshing Penguin

Dizzy rascal opened up the 22:00 – 02:00 fun window, with a solid, but short and somewhat unremarkable set. What is it with festival headliners doing under an hour these days? Still at least there weren’t any moshing Penguins!

The real highlight, not just of saturday, but of the whole festival was steeze merchant, DJ and all round bad man Toddla T. An “if carlsberg did DJ set’s…” moment, except imagine if you will that carlsberg actually make quality champagne. Perfectly balanced, just the right amount of hype and MC Serocee is always a bit win. Just when Toddla had the crowed pumped it hit 2AM Game over. Time to wander round aimlessly for an hour in search of some nonexistent fun.

Toddla T & Serocee

A Man pisses on HIS OWN tentI know beach break is a student festival, but I can’t help thinking its target market is a student soo stereotypical that I was struggling to believe that he / she actually existed. That is until I woke up on sunday morning to find someone pissing on THEIR OWN tent. Despite their being a Sunday lineup headlined by Friendly Fires, and some super sunny weather, the last 3 days had convinced me it was time to go. We busted out of their straight back onto the first train home.

Ice Cream Van

It’s the poor underworked Ice cream men I really feel sorry for…

For some more photo’s check out the slide show below. Due to some kind of “incident” at snappy snaps which I don’t really understand, a lot of the better photo’s don’t seem to exist..

Iggy Azalea Live at Birthdays

If there’s one thing that the Watch the Throne tour made me realise when it rolled into town, then it’s how much of a difference really crisp, sharp vocals make to a rap show. Kanye and Jay had it down, you could hear every line as though it were a record. Sadly Dalston’s Birthdays don’t quite seem to have mastered that specific art yet. Not that that can really be seen as a reflection on Iggy, but it does kinda spoil the show a little bit when you can’t really hear what she’s actually saying.

(I like this track, it’s like chipmunk finally decided to make a really good record, Iggy doesn’t pop up until about halfway though.)

The set it’s self was short and sweet. Short because, apparently it was like 40 minutes, felt more like 20 if I’m honest. Sweet because, well time flies when you’re having fun I suppose, and it was a fun show. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never a bad thing to leave people wanting a bit more, but for the kinda price she’s charging you can’t really get away from the fact people expect a bit more, maybe she wanted to escape back to new(ish) boyfriend A$AP Rocky as soon as possible (sorry couldn’t resist that little pun). Having said that as she likes pointing out (Check her twitter), Ms Azalea stuck around after for photo’s and all that kinda stuff. A proper popstar in the making prehaps, just a shame some of that time couldn’t have been spent on stage.

If your new to Iggy then don’t let that put you off, you should deffs go and grab a free download of her “Ignorant Art” mixtape here, and keep an eye out for the forthcoming “Glory EP” which is allegedly dropping soon.

Py – London’s Hot New Voice

Py Live At ScalaThis was going to be a live review of Belleruche at Scala (31/05/12) but after watching London’s very own Py play the support slot, followed by a thoroughly uninspired set by Belleruche I think it’s about time i did a post about Py.

She first came onto my radar, and i suspect many other Peoples, at the start of the year with a wonderful vocal feature on Moments the stand out track from Lapalux’s “When Your Gone EP”

It seems that increasingly these days what makes a great singer is the producers they chose to work with, if that’s true then Py is on point, having worked with Lapalux, George Fitzgerald, Raffertie and Breton amongst many others.

If it’s all about working with underground superstars off stage, on it is an entirely different matter. Performing as a three piece with a live drummer and laptop / keys guy, leaves lots of room on stage for Py to shine, delivering an elegant yet understated performance. (I’m not sure if that really means anything, but it sounds nice, and she really was very good)

Her mixtape “Tripping On wisdom” is out now to download free or if its your into the kinda retro 90’s thing that’s big at the moment it’s also on cassette. Don’t own a cassette player? No one really does anymore, but hey you could make a necklace out of it or something. cassette necklace

The Stepkids – Live

Ok so the first thing I have to ask is, what the hell were Stepkids thinking when they booked the support band. Young Fathers on first then the stepkids, ok that’s kinda funny I can see what they did there – get it eh’? All I’m saying is that if it was my gig there’s no way in hell that I’d want to go after them, and unfortunately they blew The Stepkids off the stage. Not literally it’s not like they were all huddled on stage at the same time or anything but you get me.

Whilst we’re talking about stages an interesting point to make is that some of Young Fathers highlights came when they weren’t on it at all. At one time leaving the stage to walk round the crowd banging a drum – wayy better than it sounds – and at another abandoning the PA all together and instead descending into the crowd to sing over a boom box backing track. There are probably a load of metaphors or something I could make at this point about the stage being unable to confine their boundless energy, but I’m not going to. Oh I should probably have mentioned by now that Young Fathers are a Scottish hip-hop trio, how very forgetful of me. I googled the Scottish thing, you never woulda guessed from the accents.

This is just about the point in the review when I forget all wonderful quotes and soundbites that I came up with during the gig –Damn you alcohol!- so all I’m going to say is they had loads of energy sounded great and if they’re playing a gig near you, well then you should probably go see it. (Unless you hate Scottish hip-hot trio’s I spose – but then you should probably take a long hard look at yourself init.)

I think officially Young Fathers now win the award for the most words I’ve ever written about a support band. When I upload this I might Google reward and even put a little picture in…..

Award

Yup there it is.

So The Stepkids, what to say… They we’re good, a solid performance, and

The Stepkidsthe singles sounded great. The lightshow also added a nice visual element to the proceedings, projecting a series of coloured lines and spots onto the stage that wouldn’t look out of place at a Brainfeeder gig.

The thing that I think kinda works against them is the fact that they’re all soo at ease and comfortable on stage. That might sound weird, but woah their, lemme finish. Sure if you were more used to playing arenas with 50 cent or Alicia keys, you probably would feel comfortable playing a Shoreditch pub. BUT essentially The Stepkids are a new band, granted one with a long combined history in the industry but reasonably new as a band none the less. With the natural quality of the onstage performance – questionable guitar playing with teeth aside – it’s easy to forget that, and maybe, just maybe expect a little too much. Not victims of their own hype exactly, but maybe a hint of that kinda thing.

Having said that, judging them in the context of a new band they have a good set of songs and a decent live performance to build from, so I really can’t see how the future is anything other than rosey. Oh and the crowd loved it, and after all this reviewing and whatnot, essentially isn’t that what a live performance is about.

Tom Riste-Smith

Live Review: Gonjasufi at Rhythm Factory, December 9th 2010

Forget all that Josh Homme, Arctic Monkeys desert rock stuff; Gonjasufi is the desert, sand runs in his veins. How do I know this? Simple: He lives in a cave, in the Mojave Desert on the outskirts of LA, but he’s only ventured onto the strip once!

Ok so I made a bit of that up. He probably doesn’t live in a cave, but that’s the great thing about Gonjasufi and his story; it’s got just enough of the mad and the mystery to let your imagination run, and let’s face it who doesn’t like a good rock and roll legend? Legend in the fairy tale sense that is, I think I’ll save judgement on the legend status until after the show.

By the time I turned up the main room was packed, there was anticipation in the air. The kind of anticipation that only comes from an audience buzzing, in the knowledge that this is a one off; they are the chosen few who get to witness the special “Live Show”. On to the stage stepped a man, with a tape recorder no less. After a quick nod to the sound man he went into some elaborate mime work, praying to the crowd, a waft of frankincense wouldn’t have felt out of place. The tape started to play, bursting the sounds of ‘Bharatanatyam’, the album’s introduction. Right about now I’m thinking “this is special”. From there sadly I think the whole experience went downhill, what looked set to be a show deteriorated into essentially just a gig. That sounds like a strange thing to say, sure I can appreciate that, but the songs and the performance bore no relation to the album. The set-up, with bass, drums, guitar, tried to strip the songs back to a more rock orientated core, an odd decision possibly for an artist whose body of work is based more on hip-hop and African influences.

The set was all improvised intros and punk guitar riffs, the songs bearing no relation to their recorded counterparts. Let’s take a second here to look at a couple of ideas. The first is general, there is of course the school of thought that a song is never finished, that it’s always a work in progress evolving as its performer does, a recording being just a snapshot in time. Sounds good sure, but not for an artist who only has one barely toured album. The second is this: that in the case of Gonjasufi it’s the album which is a mis-representation of him, being over-produced by the likes of Gaslamp Killer and Flying Lotus. This is possibly alluded to in the album title; A Sufi and A Killer. Gonjasufi and Gaslamp Killer perhaps?

Right; now I’m going to lay it down, neither of these arguments holds with me. With just one album out – that album is the reason people are here – it’s that body of work that has gotten people interested in Gonjasufi, that’s gotten people to buy tickets and come down to the show, no one is here because they think “ahh Gonjasufi is back, I wonder what he’s up to?” Some artists are at that stage in their career, Gonjasufi may well be there himself in a few albums time, but my point is he’s not there yet!

There was quite a lot of crowd interaction throughout the gig, with Gonjasufi constantly asking what people wanted to hear, the resounding answer always ‘Cowboys and Indians’. Sadly what people were here to hear and experience as I’ve already mentioned didn’t seem to match up with what the band on the stage were there to play. In the same way as all the sounds and style that brought the crowd here were omitted from the set, so too was the song everyone was calling for. Why? Who knows?

The end of the set was a big improvement on the rest, the more interesting sounds came out and Gonjasufi’s undeniably incredible voice came to the fore, but it was too little too late. The whole thing seemed a bit self indulgent to me. Personally it wasn’t really what I wanted to see, I’m sure I’ve made that pretty clear, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Gonjasufi isn’t an artist you just stumble upon, for most people it takes years of accumulating musical tastes to appreciate his style, it’s not the kind of gig you see loads of sweaty teenagers at. The problem with that is that everyone in the room will have taken a different musical journey to get there. People like me who come at it from a more rock-based background can kind of appreciate it, but it definitely doesn’t work for everyone in the room.

There is a massive epidemic in music at the moment, which owes a lot to the 90’s dominance of guitar and rock bands, of a “live show” consisting of guitar, bass, drums et al. This is a lingering “tradition” that it appears that many of the new innovative artists coming through now appear to be struggling to work within. Until people start to have a serious re-think about what it can mean to be a “live show” reviews like this will continue to be written. Reviewers will continue to say that the gigs were ok, but just a bit dull. Gonjasufi is an interesting guy and for as long as he keeps producing interesting records I’ll keep listening, but until he can work out how to give people what they want live he has a big gaping hole in his arsenal.

Tom Riste-Smith

Edit: – Post originally written for Under City Lights Magazine. It can also be found online here – http://bit.ly/wfsswg

Live Review: Flying Lotus at KOKO, October 26th 2010

Flying Lotus FlyerFlying Lotus: arguably one of the most experimental people in music at the moment, what’s not to like? I’m excited. Having been the highlight of my Bestival, blowing the roof off the Big Top Stage, I was looking forward to checking him out tonight in the more intimate setting of Mornington Crescent’s KOKO.

Arriving into the venue around 8ish it was already about a quarter full, filling up to almost full by the time the first support came on, such is the reputation of Mr Lotus as an influential selector; who in their right minds would want to miss his choice of support for the evening? This support came in the form of Harmonic 313. With releases on labels such as the ever influential Hyperdub and Warp Records, and the backing of Fly Lo, I was expecting this to be huge. It wasn’t! Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good set put together by someone who is obviously a very competent DJ, but that’s about it. The personal highlight for me was when he dropped “Apollo 9” by Jo.

By the end of his set the venue was rammed, the anticipation of the crowd was evident in the amount of people pushing forwards and conversely in the people getting irritated by this. The crowd was so diverse that it’s hardly surprising that in the build up to FlyLo taking to the stage there was some tension between the different groups. The stoned hippies, the hipsters, people here to dance, some to stand and listen.

As soon as Flying Lotus took to the stage however all these differences were united, a harmony swept the room if you will, everyone united by one common love. Tonight Flying Lotus was billed as a “unique live show”. Essentially this meant he was joined by Dorian Concept on keys and Richard Spaven on drums. The drummer was great, no issues there at all. It was the inclusion of Dorian Concept which I’ll take issue with.

Initially it was great FlyLo was doing his thing, Spaven was bashing away on drums, Dorian was adding his own style of keyboard jazz stylings over the top. Pretty soon though Dorian Concept really started to get on my nerves, it was like he was there purely to play bad improv over everything else that was going on. This went on probably for the best part of 40 mins, although by the end it felt like forever and as much as I’m loath to admit it I was kinda waiting for the gig to finish so that we could leave. YES it really was that bad. It sounded unbelievably under rehearsed, which was later revealed true when FlyLo stated “we have only practiced together for about 20 minutes”. Now I’m all for experimentation and improvisation but not in front of a paying crowd at your only London show! Thankfully just when I was thinking it could only get better; it did!

Flying Lotus stopped taking the back seat, and started pumping out some of the awesome synth sounds he’s best known for. Dorian Concept looked a bit confused at this point, sticking around only to try even more miserably to play something over the top, before finally leaving the stage. About time too.

Once Flying Lotus took to the stage and started putting on the kind of show he’s famous for it went off, the crowd instantly got into it, everyone connected with what was happening on the stage where beforehand some of the crowd were starting to look a bit disinterested. Suddenly hands were in the air, people were dancing and having a good time. FlyLo himself too looked like he was having way more fun, looking up at the crowd more and generally increasing the level of interaction.

The change was remarkable, it was essentially two different sets, were it not for the fact that we overheard two girls talking about how the first half was “much better” I would try to claim that it was all a bit self indulgent for those first 40 mins, but evidently some people did enjoy it.

I can’t tell you which songs were played, Flying Lotus live isn’t about that kind of experience, every now and then you catch 30 seconds of a crowd favorite like “Tea Leaf Dancers”, and everyone goes crazy, but really it’s all about sounds, and the emotions they conjure up.

A trademark of Flying Lotus (read something he did the only other time I saw him) is his reticence to leave the stage. At Bestival they had to cut the power to get him to leave! This wasn’t quite on that level but he ran over a fair while by repeatedly promising the sound man he had just one more song, before playing another 10 minutes. Whilst it’s awesome to see an artist so in to what he’s doing it kinda just made me think that I wish he’d cut all the crap at the start and played the whole show the same way as the second half, which would have made it AMAZING, rather than just good.

When Flying Lotus and his synths and electronics came to the fore there was nowhere else I’d rather have been on a cold wet Tuesday night, when they we’re doing all their experimental jazz stuff I would much rather have been on a dingy floating out to sea in a thunder storm!

The moral of the story friends is this; you need Flying Lotus in your life, he’s one of the most influential men in music at the moment, and rightly so. Just check the poster before you buy tickets to make sure it’s not a “unique live show”.

Tom Riste-Smith

Edit: – Post originally written for Under City Lights Magazine. It can also be found online here -http://bit.ly/9VNCu3