Art School Haircuts For All

So last night I had the pleasure of seeing My Latest Novel live for the first time. I was at the Liquid Rooms to see Frightened Rabbit and it so happened that MLN were the second support act. If I’m honest, I’d never really heard anything by them until last week when we toured with The French Quarter. Those guys played Wolves by MLN before and between bands on the first 2 nights of the tour and I really fell in love with the album. So I was delighted to hear they were supporting FR and that I had the chance to check them out. First of all – I really enjoyed their set and disagree with Tom and Matthew that they were singing out of tune. However, when the band formed, I do think they must have sat down, decided who were the best singers and then decided that the poorest singer should sing. Not that he is a poor singer, he’s got a really good voice – but the other 2, who appear to do most of the backing singing were amazing singers and added so much to the songs. I was well impressed. I had ordered Wolves prior to the gig and look forward to the release of the new album as well. Also, watching MLN I decided how to take the Kays to the next level in 2009. I’m going to have to get everyone in the band to get Art School Hair Cuts. Maybe I’ll change the name of the band to that. I like it. Seriously though, the short round sides and back and sweep from one side to the other with long at the front hair cut is something to behold. I don’t know how to do that. I think hairy and shaggy will have to do for now. Anyways, I cannot wait to hear more of MLN, they are definitely my kind of band and I’m disappointed it’s taken me this long to get into them.

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The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon

So this was dropped on my desk at work just yesterday by a friend. I knew nothing about this band at all but Ross informed me that it was the side project of one Sufjan Stevens. So I listened to the album during the day and immediately I loved the music, and it was so clear that it was the offspring of Mr Stevens! If I have one criticism of the album it would to be that the lyrical content at times is a little overtly preacher like for my liking. However, I am willing to put that issue to one side because the music is simply stunning. Sufjan Stevens has been a favourite of mine from the first time I heard Michigan. The simplicity of Seven Swans is absolutely gorgeous, but his ability to layer such simple and stunning songs and create albums like Michigan and Illinois have always amazed me. At times I find his music almost like a musical. It’s slightly over the top. It’s layered with instrument after instrument. It’s often close to being theatrical. But I love it. And I love this. If you can get past the fact that this is an unashamed collection of heavily religious songs then you are going to be in for a treat. Possibly the most interesting thing is that The Welcome Wagon is not Sufjan Stevens, he is just a part of it on this album, helping shape the songs that were put to him. The Welcome Wagon is in fact a married couple, the Reverend Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, who execute “a genre of gospel music that is refreshingly plain. Their hymns are modest and melodic takes on a vast history of sacred song traditions, delivered with the simple desire to know their Maker—and to know each other—more intimately.” Well that’s how their record label describe them. This is undoubtedly religious church music. However, it’s tinged with a country soul and the texturing that Stevens brings to these songs is something to behold. I never tire of his songs. I never tire of his incredible ability to make everything he touches turn to gold. This album is golden. It sparkles from start to finish and I would highly recommend that you check it out if you are a fan of Sufjan Stevens.

http://www.asthmatickitty.com

Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh, 7th December 2008

Well this was great.  Easily the best we’ve played for a long time.  I thought Grant was magic last night and Russell adds so much to our sound.  I wish I could convince him to join the Kays full time.  I plan to work on this though – so Russell, if you read this, you have been warned!  Anyways, I really enjoyed playing last night.  Afetr Graeme and I did a good show in Aberdeen I felt confident again and soundcheck went really well too.  Alex is such a top sound engineer and I never ever doubt how good we sound with him controlling things.  I think that’s why Trampoline is much more stress free to be honest, because I know when bands turn up they are going to get top sound each and every time.  And last night he recorded the show as well so I might be able to get hold of some live tracks in the near future.  Don’t think we’d release them, but if they sound good would be nice to have a live recording here and there and available to use when we want.  So yeah, last night for me was great, the songs sounded great, we played really well and it has left me feeling really confident about recording.  The songs we will record are all decided now so it’s just a matter of getting our heads down and getting on with things.  With Neil from Meursault in control as well I feel really sure we can produce something special that we are all proud of, and hopefully that people will really like.  Of that you can never be sure, but I guess you’ve got to be selfish first and then just hope that was sounds good to you will sound good to others.  Hopefully at this time next year we’ll have a really positive answer to that question.

Aberdeen, 6th December 2008

Well that was really great.  I feel a lot more energised about things after tonights show.  Given that there were only 3 paying customers at the Dundee show, it was nice to see so many people through the door tonight.  And despite Graeme and I worrying about not having practiced a set as a 2 piece, I think we sounded good.  The sound was great in SNAFU so a big thank you to Rob from Kartta for that.  I feel bad for having to leave early again tonight, but to be honest I am glad to be tucked up in my bed just now.  Next time though I will make sure I get sorted early and maybe crash at Phil’s or somebody in Aberdeen!  I think Phil does a great job up there though.  Good promoters are hard to find to be honest but Phil puts on great nights and tonight was no exception.  I also have to say that he’s the first promoter or reviewer that has got the bands who influence me correct!  Nice flyer/poster made me smile before we’d even played.  And our set was fun.  After the weirdness of Dundee it was a lovely tonic – tomorrow in Edinburgh should also be great.  Grant is back in the set up and Russell will be playing viola as well – so it should be a lot of fun.   Then it’s back to recording the album!  Can’t wait!  If you are free.  Please come along tomorrow night.  Should be a good one.

KAGE, Dundee, 5th December 2008

KAGE used to be a lap dancing bar.  It’s down a dodgy back alley, which I wouldn’t venture down even if I knew there was a gig going on.  It’s up about 100 stairs, which I wouldn’t climb even if I knew a gig was on.  Actually, come to think of it, I can’t believe anyone would climb all those stairs for the hassle of a lap dance!  We get there to discover there is no sound engineer for the night and only a vocal pa, which is not ideal. Even with only 3 of us I think we struggled to hear on stage what was going on.  Thanks to The French Quarter and Chris from Esperi though I think the room sound was quite good.  Unfortunately, we’re only playing to the bands and a sprinkling of others so it really did feel like a practice show.  But it’s cool because I think tonight and tomorrow will be good and so it was worth doing.  I had a really good night as well and it’s always nice to make new friends and meet people.  Chris from Esperi was a lovely guy and I really enjoyed his short set.  Bizarely, I used to go to school with his bass player but didn’t recognise him when we shook hands at the start!  We used to walk up the road from school every day!  Was cool to catch up.  It’s a small, small world.  Anyways, I thought we played ok even if not everyone in the band could hear everything.  So now we head on up to SNAFU in Aberdeen but we’ve got to leave Grant behind as he has to work today.  So myself and Graeme will head up the road and attempt to do something make shift.  We’ve not really had an opportunity to practice songs so I think we might need to use the soundcheck to figure out exactly what we’re going to do! 

Anyways, the other good thing to come out of last night was me getting to hear My Latest Novel for the first time.  The French Quarter have been playing them between band sets and they are just brilliant!  So anyways, another day, another trip, another gig.  Hopefully this one will result in something more positive than last night.  However, like a friend reminded me last night,  even if one person goes away and checks you out, it’s one more fan than you had at the start of the night.  I guess I suffer from self confidence issues.  But they also reminded me that creativity and self confidence don’t often go hand in hand and it’s better that way.  And I agree with that.  It made me feel a whole lot better.  So now I head to Aberdeen in a brighter mood and wearing a t-shirt my mum gave me that is made from bamboo!  I don’t understand it.  A t-shirt made of bamboo?!  Oh well, it’s something to chat about on stage tonight…..

Done time, Done drugs, Dundee……

So, I am sitting in my parents living room with the dog passed out in one corner, the cat passed out in the other, my dad passed out upstairs and my mum’s ability to talk for Scotland in full swing!  I do love coming back to Dundee.   It’s a great city that takes a lot of abuse from people that don’t really have a clue about the city and it’s a real shame.  It was a brilliant place to grow up and I always look forward to my trips home, though they have become more and more infrequent in the last year due to circumstances.  So when I do come home I intend to enjoy every second of it.  And my piano is here. Well, it will be mine when I have enough room for it in my house.  I have written some of my favourite tunes on it and though it is well and truly out of tune at the moment, it always seems to cure any issues I have about songs.  Today, a song called Remote Viewing, which hopefully will make the album, has been solved.  I’ve had issues with finishing this tune for ages now with bits being added and removed left right and centre.  Then the good old upright came into play today and cured my headache. I think I have it sorted now.  I am pleased.  

Tonight we play Dundee’s KAGE – wherever that might be.  I am gutted to be missing the songbytoad Christmas party tonight but I guess it’s good to get straight back onto the wagon after a performance I would probably describe as less than convincing!  I’m sure we’ll get better as the tour goes on but last night was not a great start.  We only got a line check so I think a lot of my issues were because of the onstage sound.  Hopefully tonight is a bit more organised.  Anyways, I just want to record, so maybe my mind set is wrong for all these live shows.  Best just go out and enjoy playing I suppose.

Gimme Shelter Part 2. – Mono, Glasgow, Sunday 30th November

So, this is going to be a bit of strange post as I cannot comment on any of the performers after Frightened Rabbit because suffering from exhaustion we decided to head home after Scott played a great solo set.  It was interesting to hear where the songs from both albums come from and even more interesting to note all those little guitar intricacies which you just assume must be one of the other guitarists in the band until you sit and watch him doing it all on the one acoustic guitar.  Highlight of his set for me was ‘Good Arms Vs Bad Arms’ and I do love ‘Less Rude’, so it was nice to hear that in a relaxed, chilled out form.  The main highlight of the day for me though, at least of what I saw, was Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers.  I have been a fan of Woodenbox’s stuff  since I first caught him at a Gentle Invasion show.  However, the next time I saw him at the GRV he blew me away with the energy and power of the performance.  He has surrounded himself with exceptional musicians and is now part of a band looks like a lot of fun to play in.  If I lived in Glasgow it would be amazing to play piano for them!  You get to play in a fun band and grow your hair and beard to a ridiculous but cool length!!  Anyways, dress sense/style aside, they were brilliant.  Absolutely class.  Along with Withered Hand probably the highlight of the 2 days of music for me. 

The whole atmosphere of Mono is completely different from the Caves.  The Caves felt like a massive gig, in a dark and cold cellar whilst the whole family fee at Mono was something totally special, as it always is.  I truly hope this is not the last Gimme Shelter festival because it was truly a great success and Graeme deserves a lot more credit for what he does.  He also deserves a lot more support from the press if you ask me.  It’s tragic to open the Metro or other publications and not ever read about the festival.  I hope it gets some good reviews but in my opinion the press should be talking to Graeme before hand, doing some interviews and helping support what is not only a great 2 days of music but also in aid of a truly worthy cause.

www.myspace.com/woodenbox

www.shelter.org.uk

Gimme Shelter – Part 1. The Caves, Saturday 29th November

Well this was just brilliant.  Congratulations to Graeme and everyone who helps him run the festival for managing to sell out the Caves.  Turning people away from the event – that has got to be a first for Gimme Shelter and showed how much time and effort has been put in to making the night a success.  Despite the difficulties that were thrown at him I thought Graeme did amazingly well to keep cool and make the night work.  It wasn’t ideal, he would have liked to have done things differently but circumstances meant it wasn’t possible, so given the problems he faced I think it was a massive, massive success.  I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t see that many people on the main stage – actually, I only saw Broken Records – but I am assured that Jesus H Foxx were magnificent – which I kind of expected – that Mrs Toad loved The European Union and that Graeme and Tom couldn’t agree on De Rosa – one loving the other not so much.  As for me, well I played for Team Turnip and The Kays which was a lot of fun and then stuck around to catch Little Pebble and eagleowl – both of whom were on fine form.  It was nice to see Alan again, I haven’t caught his live set for a while but was delighted to be able to buy a ‘greatest hits’ album of his stuff.  I thought he played an excellent set – the finishing song, played on a £1 casio keyboard was excellent, programmed drum beat included!  As for eagleowl, well it was nice to see them with Malcolm and Motherfucker has to be the best way to finish any set.  Then I nipped downstairs to do another stint on the door before going to check out Broken Records.  I have to say that I enjoyed their set on Saturday more than I had the single launch, not to say I didn’t enjoy the single launch, but there was something great about their performance on Saturday night.  

And then to the highlight of the night for me.  The hour was just past 2am when Withered Hand took to the stage to deliver the performance of the night.  Pressed for time to fit both himself and Meursault in he just blew me away with the raw energy of the short 4 songs he played.  The very first time I saw Dan he played a solo set supporting eagleowl, he seemed a little lost on stage and I didn’t really get it.  Every time I’ve seen him since he’s got better and better and better and on Saturday I think I saw a performance from possibly the best unsigned act in Scotland.  It was fantastic.  I adore Religious Songs.  It’s a brilliant ep and now Dan has hit a level of live performance that not many could touch.  Brilliant set.  And to finish it all off were the ever brilliant Meursault.  I love how you never know what to expect.  They never ever do the same thing twice and it was yet another great performance and the perfect end to the night.

Well, it wasn’t the end to the night.  We had to stand in a taxi cue for ages waiting in the freezing cold to get home and listening to some poor young girl who’s mate had stolen her passport from her.  She wasn’t happy.  Her feet were sore too.  Poor thing.  Still, great night and thought I staggered in at a ridiculous hour of the morning it really all put me in the mood for the next day’s festivities at Mono.

www.myspace.com/witheredhandmusic

www.shelter.org.uk