Andi Sex Gang
The Dead
Devilish Presley
Rome Burns
Underworld, London
Sunday August 29 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

It’s been five years since Andi Sex Gang played the Underworld. I have a particular reason for recalling this statistic: I was the promoter of his last gig here. That night remains in my memory as...well, let’s say, something special. It certainly wasn’t an ordinary gig, as you can possibly tell from this uk.people.gothic thread which appeared shortly after the dust had settled:

This time, things look likely to be a little more straightforward. No Hare Krishna dance troupes, at any rate. Some things, you can only do just once.  Instead, we have a varied bunch of support bands, the first of which is Rome Burns. They’re one of those ‘been around a bit, never really made the breakthrough’ outfits which lurk in the murkier corners of the UK goth scene. They’ve made some very fine music in their time, but they’ve never quite touched down in the paydirt zone. Perhaps that situation will shortly change, because their set of erudite, wordy, quirky songs seems to hit the spot with the audience tonight. ‘Nothing good can ever come from this!’ chortles the vocalist, as the band rattle in to the first song. Musically and lyrically, Rome Burns probably have more in common with all sorts of off-centre pop practitioners, from Talking Heads to They Might Be Giants, than yer actual goff bands. If you close your eyes, you can imagine a band of new-wavers standing there in skinny-fit T-shirts and Converse All-Star sneakers. Open your eyes and...there’s a bunch of goths on stage. Mike from Manuskript is also on stage for one song, as an impromptu backing singer.  It seems he’s doing some production work for the band, and if anyone’s on the Rome Burns weird-pop wavelength, I think it would be Mike. I look forward to hearing the results of this collaboration.

Devilish Presley do their usual trick of pouring petrol onto the gig-fire.  Any time Devilish Presley appear at a gig, you can bet the energy levels will suddenly shoot off the scale. They do it again tonight with a set of manic boisterousness, all battering beats and rip-roaring guitar; and as ever with this band I’m struck by the fact that there’s such an outpouring of energy you hardly notice that there’s only two people on stage. The Devilish Presley fan club is in full effect down the front - one of them donates his hat to Johnny Navarro - and even some unplanned guitar-glitches can’t stop the flow. There’s a new song in the set, a tribute to blues guitarist and inventor of all that became rock ‘n’ roll, Robert Johnson - the band bigging him up in such familiar terms you’d almost believe the pioneering bluesman was one of Devilish Presley’s mates from East London.  Maybe, in their heads, he is.

Demeter are an odd bunch. They’re half way between a full-on glam rock experience and some sort of ethereal outfit. It’s as if the band couldn’t quite decide whether they wanted to be Hanoi Rocks or the Cranes, so they compromised and ended up being a bit of both. Their songs smooch along on smooth, almost ambient, grooves, then occasionally erupt with squalls of big guitar - which just as quickly die away again, leaving the band tip-toeing their way once more through the sensitive zone. The vocals are way down in the mix, an incomprehensible croon, so much so that I can’t quite work out if the vocalist is singing in plain English, or if she’s doing Cocteau Twins-style random vocalisations. One odd touch is the fact that the singer has two microphones arrayed on a kind of gantry in front of her: the additional mic, apparently, is plugged into some sort of effects unit, although why the effects couldn’t be controlled from a foot switch, or flown in and out by the engineer at the front of house desk, is a bit of a mystery. As it is, I’m forced to take my photos of the vocalist exclusively from the stage-left angle, because the other side of her face is masked by frankly unnecessary extra hardware. I’m left with the impression that Demeter are a band with plenty of ideas, but not necessarily the nous to put those ideas into practice in the most effective way.

It wouldn’t be an Andi Sex Gang gig if we didn’t get some art thrown at us, and sure enough here it comes. A motley assortment of individuals appears, un-billed and unnanounced, on stage. ‘We are The Dead,’ announces the frontman, and I’m not at all sure if that’s the name of the ensemble or simply an observation of their state of being. ‘A post-punk aberration,’ he elaborates - and then they kick up a mad swirl of free-form noise, over which we are treated to a poetry recital. The audience wears expressions ranging from intrigued delight to outright horror. There are only three poems, and I think it’s wise of the band to keep things to this minimal level. An abrupt, hit-and-run raid of powernoise performance poetry works rather well in a short, sharp, shock kind of way, but any longer and I suspect The Dead would definitely outstay their welcome.

At last, it’s time for Andi Sex Gang himself. This is an ‘ambient/acoustic’ performance, a detail which never quite made it onto any of the pre-gig publicity, which means many people in the audience are a little bemused to discover that there isn’t a full band on stage tonight. Andi is joined by two Sex Gang guitarists - and that’s that. No rhythm section, no backing tracks. But for all that, the sound is detailed and full, rolling out of the PA and filling the venue quite impressively, as the guitars jostle and duel. Andi himself - suited, booted, and wearing a pair of frankly alarming spectacles - stands centre-stage and effortlessly commands the proceedings.  This performance showcases Andi Sex Gang the torch song balladeer, rather than Andi Sex Gang the abrasive post-punk rocker, so the overall style is grandly dramatic, all sweeping gestures as Andi virtually acts his way through the songs. It’s an engaging performance, although I can’t help wondering what the be-mohawked hordes of diehard deathrockers who revere the Sex Gang Children as post-punk heroes would say if they could see this side of Andi Sex Gang’s art. ‘Arms Of Cicero’ is a sweeping, swooning highlight, but it’s ‘Sebastiane’ - here rendered almost as a doomed ballad - that captures everybody’s attention and even provokes some dancing down the front, although this set is hardly designed to get the mosh seething. I dare say this isn’t Andi Sex Gang as most of his fans would think of him, but as an exercise in cerebral, cabaret cool, this show works rather well.

see all the photos from this concert here

Andi Sex Gang:
Devilish Presley:
Rome Burns:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Atlantis Music Conference
Atlanta, GA
July 24th, 2004
~review by Derek Ruthven
(photos by / property of Paul Cashman)

July 24th marked the day of Atlanta's largest gothic music event to date this year. Petridish Entertainment, in conjunction with the Secret Room, presented a full night of live bands at the Masquerade, one of Atlanta's premiere venues. Bella Morte and The Last Dance, both bands with a substantial following in the Atlanta area, toplined the event, with the legendary Empire Hideous, Ego Static, and eNTERTAINME.nt on the bill as well.

For me, the fun started around 2:45 am on Saturday morning. The guys in Bella Morte had arrived late Friday night to spend some time in Atlanta with out mutual friend Paul Cashman, so I made the drive down from Tennessee after work. Late Friday nights and into Saturday morning, Paul helps out with WREKage, Atlanta's heavy metal radio show. Since several of the guys in Bella Morte are metal fans, they dropped by to hang out in the studio as unofficial guests. I went by the station, and as soon as I arrived, it was like a family reunion. I met Andy and Gopal several years ago after I helped arrange for them to play DragonCon. Due to mutual interests, I hit it off with them and we became fast friends. Andy and Gopal are like coolness magnets, as each successive band member they've added since then has turned out to be a good friend as well.

We returned to Paul's apartment and several of the guys turned in for some rest. Andy and Micah stayed awake for quite awhile, so we hung out until 7 am. Since Andy had done the fact checking on my recent article about zombies for the current issue of "Dark Realms" magazine, I gave him and the band two copies. I also met Dana of Cave of Graves, who was on the road as Bella Morte's merch guy for this tour. I'd heard a lot about him from our mutual friend Basim Usmani, so it was cool to finally meet him. The sun rose, so, appropriately for a fan of gothic music and literature, I decided it was time to go to sleep.

By the time we all awoke, it was time for the guys to go to soundcheck. As the Bella Mortes were bringing their equipment in, I met The Last Dance's interim touring drummer, Stevyn Gray. In the TLD camp, I know their other touring drummer, Tom Coyne, the best. While I missed being able to talk to Tom and see him perform at this show, I have to say that Stevyn Gray was definitely a cool person, as well as being an amazing drummer. I found him very easy to talk to and he told me that Myke Hideous, from Empire Hideous, was a good friend of his and that I should meet him. While I was unfamiliar with Empire Hideous, I enjoyed Myke's work with the metal band Bronx Casket Co. I approached Myke and found him to be an extremely polite and friendly guy (as were his band, who I met later). I left to grab some lunch, and returned a bit later just as doors opened around 7:00 pm.

Atlanta's own eNTERTAINME.nt opened the show and provided a great warm-up set that seemed to get a good response from the audience. I have seen eNTERTAINME.nt several times now, and this was easily the best set that I have seen from them so far. Very heavily influenced by Bauhaus and Peter Murphy's solo work, I think that eNTERTAINME.nt is beginning to live up to their potential. They come recommended to fans of the afore-mentioned bands, as well as acts like David Bowie, Audra and Legion Within.

The next band on the bill, Ego Static, was the odd band out on the bill but put on an energetic show regardless. Musically, they reminded me of Marilyn Manson, but without the baggage. Some of the old school goths didn't care for them, but since I come from a metal background, I found their set to be enjoyable. They were much better musicians than I expected, and I think they could attain popularity among fans of godhead and like-minded bands.

Next up was Empire Hideous, who in many ways stole the show for me since I had never seen them before. Since Myke was a cool guy, I wanted to show my support by going up in front of the stage with my friend, Atlanta-based death rock musician Adrya Stembridge. The band put on a very intense performance, and I appreciated the fact that they tried to evoke some of the "old school goth" atmosphere by draping a tattered sheet and skulls onstage. Myke is an amazing frontman and his band are very tight. The crowd seemed to come and go during the performance, but they got an increasingly good reaction, especially considering that many people there were like me (unfamiliar with their music). After the show, I made sure that I thanked the band for driving 14+ hours from New Jersey to Atlanta to perform a 40 minute set in front of an unproven crowd. Great guys, great band, easily one of my favorite contemporary goth acts now. Really, these guys are everything I like about the "goth rock sound" - similar to the Fields of the Nephilim, but with the tunefulness of the Cult, and a distinct horror edge to their imagery. Definitely catch these guys when possible.

California's The Last Dance was the next band on the bill, and as always put on an excellent - if curiously truncated (though no fault of their own) - set. I love these guys and they never disappoint. Unfortunately, Rick's guitars were buried down in the mix, but overall the band gave it their all and the crowd gave a great response. The Last Dance began making Atlanta a regular tour stop a couple of years ago, and as a result, they have have an increasingly growing fanbase there. Their album, "Whispers in Rage," may be the first great goth rock album of the new millennium.

Bella Morte was the last band to perform that night, and, like The Last Dance, they have a core fanbase in Atlanta. Despite some technical issues early on (most noticeably Andy's vocals not coming through), they ripped through their set with glee. Like with The Last Dance, their set was cut short due to forces beyond their control. They still managed to fit in many of their standards, as well as some songs off of their new album "As the Reasons Die." As they were leaving the stage, I yelled "Play 'The Forgotten!'" Andy turned around and said, "Oh yeah!" and got the rest of the band back onstage to rip through the song. "The Forgotten" may be my favorite Bella Morte track to date, and the performance was excellent, with Tony wailing on guitar while the crowd went berserk.

After the show, I hung out with Bella Morte's keyboardist Micah Consylman and drummer Jordan Marchini. Despite being the two newest members of the band, they have always treated me like they have known me for ages, and both of them have become good friends in record time. Tony was his usual puckish self, and Andy and Gopal were - well, Andy and Gopal. Anyone who knows these guys knows exactly what I mean by that comment. Great band, great friends. I am glad that these guys started a band, as otherwise I never would have crossed paths with them. I was sad that they had to leave so soon after the show, but I also knew that they wanted to see their friends and family back home after a lengthy tour.

Overall the evening was great. In recent years there has been a live music vs. DJs debate raging in the goth community. I am squarely in the group that prefers live bands. If you are a fan of this kind of music and you have the chance to see these bands live, try to get out and support them. I know that sometimes people can't because of work, school, or other obligations. But if you want to see instrument-based goth rock make a comeback, make your voices heard by attending these shows. You'll have a great time and the bands will appreciate it.

- Derek Ruthven

Petridish Entertainment:
WREKage Radio:
The Empire Hideous:
The Last Dance:
Bella Morte:

Voices Of Masada
The Verge, London
Friday July 23 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Maybe it’s because it’s Friday, but the gods of showbiz seem to be in a good mood. The Verge PA, which habitually emits noises more no-fi than low-fi, actually sounds clear and powerful for once. The lighting rig is also fully functional - yep, all three lights are working. Verily we are blessed. Tonight, we are to be entertained by a bizarrely varied bill in which two fairly traditional goth acts support those long-established practitioners of left-field electronica, Attrition. An odd mix, but odd mixes sometimes work.

Excession, I’m startled to note, have been around for six or seven years now, have several CDs on release, and a gig-history that’s taken them all over Europe. Which makes their appearance in the opening slot tonight a bit of a mystery, especially as the band above them on the bill, Voices Of Masada, are very much a new outfit, with only twelve months of gigging under their belts. Surely Excession should have moved up a bit by now?  Perhaps the reason for this apparently topsy-turvy billing lies in Excession’s performance style, which is downbeat and introspective, the band running through their songs with a self-absorbed contemplation that barely takes account of the audience. On guitar, Dave (him out of Vendemmian) plays most of  his parts in traditional head-down-over-the-fretboard style, while on bass, Greg (him out of Womb) spends quite a lot of time turned away, staring at the side wall of the stage as he plonks his plank, not even acknowledging the rest of the band.  Meanwhile, on vocals, Yasmin (her out of...erm, Excession) clasps her hands over the mic and closes her eyes as she sings, an effective eye-of-the-storm stance - except that there is no storm. It’s a shame Excession have no real show, because their brand of stripped-down Xmal Deutschland-ish churning and wailing could potentially hit paydirt, but the overall feel of tonight’s set is that the band don’t have a huge amount of interest in what they’re doing. There’s a revealing moment during the cover of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, a song which surely should be delivered with a certain gritty passion; let’s face it, it’s hardly a ballad. The song features an instrumental break in which Yasmin retires to the back of the stage to grab a drink, while the boys in the band carry on if to themselves. At this point, with Excession’s only focal point suddenly absent, the show, such as it is, simply dies. Nobody on stage seems to have the slightest interest in pushing the performance out beyond the monitors: it’s like being present at a rather half-hearted rehearsal. I confess I’m disappointed. I had high hopes of Excession when they first came along, but they really need to get on the whoopee pills or something. There’s good potential in the material, but this kind of trundle-through-the-songs performance is not the stuff upon which great careers are built.

Now, Voices of Masada, the new kids on the goth block, the latest in a long line of London based trad-goth outfits. And, as it happens, that’s exactly how the band appear on stage. A long line. The four members of the band array themselves across the front of the stage like chorus girls at the Moulin Rouge (but without the flouncy skirts, alas). Two guitarists, a bassist, and a singer. A traditional Brit-goth drum machine clitter-clatters into action, those ticka-ticka-ticka hi-hats that so many bands of this type seem to like dutifully whirring away in the mix, and off they go. It’s grandly dramatic stuff, portentous vocals boomed out over a big gothic rock guitar sound, and while we’ve heard this kind of music many times before from many bands that have walked this particular musical path in the past, Voices Of Masada do it convincingly. Well, up to a point. The tick and clonk of the drum machine sounds frustratingly weedy, the beats hiding behind the wall of guitar as if frightened to come out and play, and the singer’s amiable quips between the songs - delivered in light, friendly tones a world away from his prophet-of-the-apocalypse singing voice - sit rather oddly with the big rock doom machine persona of the band as a whole.  But if it’s that ol’ Brit-goth drum-machine driven sound you’re after, Voices Of Masada will hit the spot. The show belongs to the singer. He’s the focal point, the essential identity of the band, while the other members keep themselves in the background and do their thing. I’m entertained by the way the two guitarists, over on stage left, have a ‘serious muso’ thing going on - facing each other, nodding knowledgeably at each other’s playing, more interested in their own musicianship than the show. Which prompts me to strike a note of caution: in this, Voices Of Masada risk falling into the same trap as Excession, by failing to create a real *performance*. Come now, gentlemen, you can keep your muso navel-gazing for the rehearsal room. There’s an audience here tonight - play to *us*, not to yourselves! As it is, the guitarist on the extreme end of the stage - cuddling his semi-acoustic as if it were a teddy bear - keeps his head resolutely down all through the set, only occasionally raising his eyes apprehensively to the audience, like Princess Diana doing one of her nervous-but-coquettish looks. I think there’s something the band need to work on here - everybody on stage needs to contribute to the performance, rather than leaving it all up to the singer to carry the set.  Voices Of Masada reveal their ‘new band’ state of development in these areas, but there are the makings of an effective gothic rock unit here.

Attrition fit into the traditional goth style of this gig like a brick in an omlette. But then, Attrition have always seemed a little out of place, off on a planet of their own. Their out-on-a-limb electronic squiggles and atmospheres would surely win fans among the artronica-heads who dig the likes of Throbbing Gristle and Coil, Autechre and Aphex Twin, but Attrition, curiously, have never sought out that crowd. They’ve always stuck faithfully with the goth ‘n’ related audience, even though, over the years, it must have become apparent that the goth ‘n’ related audience is only marginally interested in sticking with Attrition. But even though the band’s presence at this gig seems a touch incongruous, the fact remains that Attrition are a bizarrely cut diamond, alive with flashes of their own peculiar light. It’s good to see them in any circumstances.

It’s worth noting that Attrition live are a very different beast to Attrition on CD. The operatic vocal swoops of Julia Waller on the recorded material are here interpreted in a rather more, erm, ‘punk rock’ style by Christine Reid. The controlled, precise, violin interjections which make every Attrition CD a somewhat cerebral experience are replaced in the live set by gleefully boisterous gurgles and sweeps of phat analogue electronic sounds. In short, Attrition as a live band are a rather more gritty and visceral experience compared to the precision and restraint of their studio incarnation. The mysterious DJ Psyche, in her on-stage introduction, assures us that ‘Attrition are gonna kick ass!’, which to anyone who only knows Attrition on CD might seem a rather contrary description of what the band do. But, let me tell you, as a live band Attrition do indeed apply boot to botty in no uncertain terms. Martin Bowes - he who *is* Attrition - wanders on stage with joss sticks a-smoulder, gazing quizzically about him as if appraising his surroundings with a view to presenting a scientific paper on the thermodynamics of The Gig. An electronic groove rolls out of the PA, high and low frequencies, clicks and hums, beats and bass locking horns and knocking heads in a manner which must severely tax the limitations of The Verge’s technology. The rhythms roll and rattle, the electro-sweeps fling themselves past our heads like angry wasps, and Christine, waving a large fan in a vaguely threatening manner, lets rip.  The set features a smattering of old favourites - ‘Acid Tounge’ stomps all over the set list as if it owns it - but there are also plenty of new songs tonight, from the just-released album ‘Dante’s Kitchen’. ‘Head Of Gabriel’ revs itself up on a rattletrap rhythm, while ‘Dante’s Kitchen’ itself is a whacked-out slice of electro-funk, somewhere between Yello and Brian Eno in its art-collides-with-the-dancefloor hi-speed beats and sweeps.  Incidentally, some of the advance publicity for the new Attrition album suggests that the band have taken to using ‘breakbeats’, but that isn’t really true. Breakneck beats, yes. The rhythms storm along at quite dangerous tempos on some of the new material. But just because a rhythm is *fast* doesn’t make it a breakbeat! Regardless of the pell-mell rhythms, Martin Bowes maintains his professorial manner, reciting his lyrics with a combination of authority and detatchment, pausing only to demonstrate the finer points of geometry with the mic stand. It’s a classic Attrition show, the essential out-thereness of the band nailed to pounding grooves and that odd but effective collision of two very different voices. It’s frustrating that Attrition have found themselves, not for the first time, pouring out their art to a handful of bemused trad-goths, few of whom seem to ‘get it’.  A support slot with, say, Coil (who, as it happens, play London a couple of days after this gig) would place Attrition in front of a far more appropriate crowd, but it is not to be. Not *this* time, anyway. For now, Attrition remain unsung heroes of bizarre art.

see all the photos from this concert here


Voices Of Masada:


DJ Psyche, promoter of the gig:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Bats In The Belfry
Voices Of Masada
On The Rocks, London
Friday October 22 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

It’s concept time. Tonight’s gig is dedicated to dead rock stars - or, at least, those dead rock stars who fit in somehow with the post-punk/gothic area. This means we get DJ sets which lean heavily in the direction of Joy Division and vintage Christan Death - and three decidedly live bands on stage. The original plan was to feature four decidedly live bands, but it turns out that the band originally billed as headliners, CreamVIII, pulled out at a late stage (their guitarist experienced a bizarre gardening accident, or something), so we’ve ended up with a three band bill. And there’s nothing wrong with that, in my view. An elegant sufficiency beats an embarrassment of riches every time.

Our first of three, Voices Of Masada, crank up their guitars to the time-honoured tub-thump of the Traditional British Goth Drum Machine. Last time I saw this band, I was struck by their rather introspective, static, stage personas: musos getting into the music, rather than showmen getting on with the show. A point, I was secretly rather relieved to note in an ‘at least it’s not just me’ manner, that Bubblegum Slut fanzine also made when they described Voices Of Masada as ‘shoegazing’. This time, the band seem a little looser, a bit more ready to rock. Not that there’s any real craziness going on, but at least the band move around a bit more than previously, and raise their eyes occasionally from their shoes and their fretboards. I’m amused to see the semi-acoustic guitarist is wearing a raincoat throughout the set, as if he’s just popped in for a swift strum with the lads, but he won’t be stopping. It’s still very much the singer’s show, and in many ways the singer’s music - his Traditional British Goth Voice, all swooping dark dramatics, is the focal point and the dominant element of everything Voices Of Masada do. I see that I’ve used the word ‘traditional’ twice here, and in truth if you’re looking for a one-word summation of Voices Of Masada, that’s it. Musically, they sit slap in the middle of that Sisters/Mission/Nephilim trad-goth triangle, and while I have to say that particular musical area has never exactly roused me to edge of the seat excitement, if it’s your thing then I think Voices Of Masada are highly likely to be your band.

Essential information about Quidam. They come from Spain, and they’re relatively new band in their present incarnation, although guitarist Paco Boli has, apparently, been involved in several previous Quidams going back to 1995. In one of those delightfully surreal English-as-a-second-language quirks, the singer calls herself Whitby - which probably sounds totally gothic and hip in Spanish, but from the English perspective is a bit like me naming myself after a picturesque Spanish coastal town, like Cambrils, or Palamos, or San Feliu de Guixols, and then wondering why Spanish people kept on giving me funny looks. Whitby, however, is a delightfully crazy and cool frontwoman, flouncing around the stage in an Elegant Gothic Lolita dress that appears to be mostly frills, fixing us with expressions that range from mad to manic, and letting rip with a voice that sounds like Lene Lovich being dunked in a bath of cold water. The music is angular, full of jump-cuts and clashing chords, rhythms that shoot off in six different directions at once. It’s as if Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band were locked in a slightly sticky embrace with The Slits. The resulting noise has a tangental relationship with good old rock, but Quidam are clearly not particularly bothered about ticking boxes in the rock ‘n’ roll rule book.  Some of the songs are illustrated by little dramatic vignettes: Whitby and Paco Boli stage a bit of a pushing-and-shoving fight; Whitby produces a noose and proceeds to hang herself. Don’t ask me what it all means, but I dare say it means something, and as a spectacle, driven along by that whacked-out, fractured, music, it works just fine. It occurs to me that Quidam are operating - I assume by default rather than by design - in a similar area to Cinema Strange, in that they’re clearly out on their own limb (if not entirely out of their tree) and the result is something individualistic that owes very little to any standard definitions of deathrock, or goth, or whatever genre-box we’re in this week. We need more stuff like this, I reckon - and more Quidam in particular would be just fine.

Talking, as we were up there somewhere, of English-as-a-second-language names which sound rather odd and silly to anyone who speaks English as a first comes our next band: Bats In The Belfry. With a name like that I was almost expecting some sort of novelty parody outfit, or a faintly embarrassing ‘comedy’ band, like the Scary Bitches. Fortunately, Bats In The Belfry are a more serious proposition: three post-punks and a drum machine, kicking up an early-Sisters racket, as if their principal inspiration was the original version of ‘Body Electric’, with its steaming drum machine and punks-in-a-bedroom production. That’s not a bad starting point as influences go, but having set out their musical stall, Bats In The Belfry don’t really go anywhere with it. Song after song rattles by, the drum machine clattering, the guitars riffing, the vocals rapped out over the top. The tempo never really changes; nothing really changes. Individual songs start to blur into one, and I find my attention wandering. I only sit up and take notice again when everything suddenly stops. One of the bass strings...well, it hasn’t so much broken as come unravelled, much to the consternation of the bassist. Fortunately, Voices Of Masada are on hand to loan a replacement bass, but frankly when the most interesting thing about a band’s set is the technical hitch, that’s not good. Bats In The Belfry have hit on a decent starting point, but they need to fuel up with a few more ideas if they really want to make progress. Come to that, if they want to be taken seriously in the English speaking world, a replacement name might not go amiss, either.

see all photos from this concert here

Bats In The Belfry:
Voices Of Masada:
Bubblegum Slut fanzine:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Black Wire
Dirt Candy
Barfly, London
Wednesday August 11, 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Remember the good old days, when we used to get all worked up about megastars like the Rolling Stones or Michael Jackson accepting sponsorship from top consumer brands such as Levis or Pepsi? Oh, how we sneered at the machinations of the corporate rock behemoth from the purity of our cool alternative scene. Well, that was then, and this is now. Today, sponsorship is everywhere, yes, e’en unto the very portals of the alternative music world. The suits have tumbled to the fact that alternokidz are consumers too, and even relatively small-scale indie venues are now routinely festooned with logos and brand names, for everything from leisurewear to mobile phones, radio stations to websites. Here at the Barfly - one of London’s classically scuzzy small rock ‘n’ roll holes, all matt black paint and sticky floor - the major sponsor is Carling, multinational manufacturer of that ghastly yellow fizzy stuff which passes for beer in certain unenlightened quarters. There’s a big, bold backdrop behind the bands, ensuring that we all know who’s bringing us tonight’s entertainment:

‘CARLING LIVE SESSIONS’. Soak it up, folks. We’re all dutiful consumers now.

Gamely trying to cling on to independence in the face of the corporate-sponsorship juggernaut, I opt for a pint of Murphy’s Irish Stout at the bar, and then worm my way to the front for Dirt Candy. They’re a very ‘now’ band in that they’ve taken that minimalist punky blues thing made popular by the White Stripes and friends, and given it their own spin.  The guitar is loud and dirty and driving, incongruously played by a reserved, impassive girl who seems utterly unaffected by the great sheets of noise she’s unleashing from her six strings and box of effects. Over on the other side of the stage there’s a drummer; flailing, hammering, and generally giving it the full Rat Scabies. And centre stage, leaning into the mic and contorting himself in rock ‘n’ roll agony, a vocalist in a kind of desert rat version of grungewear shrieks wildly in a hellhound wail.  There’s no bass guitar, and no need for any bass guitar. The sound is gutsy and raw and thunders along, the pace forced by those ever-pounding drums, the guitar breaking over the top like waves. It’s such a big, full, sound that the stripped-down line-up of the band just isn’t noticeable until you glance around in search of the other members, and realise that there ain’t none. The singer rips out his lyrics in a reedy, fractious, keening feak-out of a voice that sounds at once incongruous and appropriate. Over any other sort of music I dare say his style (or anti-style) of singing would grate, but amid Dirt Candy’s mad racket it somehow works. And then, just when you’ve more or less got your head round the band’s minimal mash-up, they strip it down even more. There’s a song in which the guitar drops out altogether - the guitarist just stands there, having a zen moment with her effects pedals - and it’s all down to just the caterwaul of the vocal and the rumble of the drums. It’s crazed and cool and it really does work. Yes, I shall definitely be checking out Dirt Candy again. Music for torching cars at the crossroads at midnight.

What’s this? A roadies’ convention? Suddenly, the stage is swarming with blokes in blue jeans and black T-shirts. But these aren’t roadies - this is a band. Sevenball seem to have some sort of ‘ordinary blokes’ thing going on, to the point where they’ve all dressed down in a self-consciously ‘everyday’ uniform of none-more-plain clothes. That’s fair enough, but it does make for a rather bland visual spectacle. Still, the music packs more of a punch than the band’s non-image might at first suggest. It’s a wide-screen rolling blues, played with great care and attention by musicians who obviously take their craft very seriously. The bass player screws his face into a series of alarming muso grimaces as he rolls out his basslines, but the most enthusiastic person on stage seems to be the guitarist over at stage right, who spends most of the gig gleefully wrenching a bluesy wail out of an acoustic guitar, played lap steel style from a sitting position. He ably demonstrates that it *is* possible to rock out while sitting down, and his guitar sound - assisted by a bottleneck and a Crybaby - has an effective (although, in this ultra-indie venue, a little incongruous) deep-fried southern blues feel. But by and large, this is a band which plays it very straight. There’s no punkish bash-it-out-and-damn-the-torpedoes attitude here. Sevenball mean serious business. I dare say they all go home and listen to Cream albums to get that vintage British blues boom sound just right. All this doesn’t mean the set is a pedestrian experience - the band certainly know how to flam it up and put some fire into their sound. But the overall impression I get is that here’s a band which, above all else, takes *care* with the music.  Sevenball just aren’t in the business of pushing things into the out-of-control zone, and there’s no shame in that. It’s just that the out-of-control zone is, for me, the place where it all gets interesting.

Did I mention the out-of-control zone? As if on cue, here’s Black Wire.  Three skinny garage-punk urchins, a couple of combo amps, a drum machine, and an all-or-nothing attitude. Essential ingredients present and correct.  Black Wire are a relative newcomers, fresh out of Leeds with only a couple of seven-inch singles to their name. Their efforts received an unexpected boost a while back when the NME, getting its finger uncharacteristically close to the pulse for once, made the band’s debut release, ‘Attack!  Attack! Attack!’, single of the week. That accolade might not mean quite as much as it once did - the days when the NME had a sweeping influence on the music scene at large are long gone - but it nevertheless gave Black Wire a sudden burst of attention at a stage when otherwise they’d probably have remained an unknown Leeds phenomenon. But one NME review doesn’t make for an instant career, so Black Wire are on the tour circuit in a bid to build up an audience in the traditional way, gig by gig. They twitch with energy and seethe with the righteous juice of ramalama rock ‘n’ roll as their set kicks off - the drum machine battering out a minimalist tattoo, the bass rumbling like an approaching bulldozer, and the guitar stabbing and thrusting its way into the rhythm like it’s making musical fencing moves.  It’s a nervy, staccato racket, all angles and sharp points, every song fizzing like a shaken-up can of (Carling) lager. The singer, in a hairstyle stolen from the young Rod Stewart, is the focal point of the on-stage melee. He jumps and lurches and staggers about, divesting himself of clothes as he goes. In the moments of quiet between the songs he addresses the audience with sardonic wit. ‘It seems that standing at the back,’ he observes, looking out over the audience at the unconvinced bar-huggers keeping a safe distance, ‘is the new dancing’. Someone hands him a crumpled flyer. ‘Oh, a gift!’ He exclaims in delight, before feigning disappointment: ‘I thought it was a poster of Franz Ferdinand!’ And then the band kick it all off again, rattling and colliding like a train of goods wagons on a downhill gradient. They throw in their latest single, ‘Hard To Love, Easy To Lay’ (these boys have a way with titles) and the vocalist throws himself into the audience. It’s over too quickly - the band keep the set short and sharp, but then everything about Black Wire is short and sharp. Thanks, goodnight, applause, they’re gone. Excellent stuff; a much needed dose of gloriously ramshackle energy. Black Wire kick the zeitgeist up the arse, and wear gleeful grins as they do it.

see all the photos from this concert here

Black Wire:


Dirt Candy:  (No website)

Trackmarx webzine - check out the Black Wire interview:

Website of the Barfly club in London:

Main Barfly site, containing info on all the Barfly clubs around the UK:

A word from our sponsor: (Don’t worry about the requirement to reveal your birth date in order to enter this site. In a bid to subvert the Carling market research department’s data, I entered my birth date as 31 February 1905, and the site worked fine. With any luck I’ve skewed Carling’s promotional strategies in the direction of the centenarian demographic...)

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Cinema Strange
Devilish Presley
The Spitz, London
Saturday October 23 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

At last, Cinema Strange have come to London. After several years and several European tours, during which the band always contrived to pass by the UK with their eyes carefully averted, we’ve finally snagged ‘em. And, just to reinforce the sense of a special occasion, this gig is not taking place in one of London’s usual rock ‘n’ roll holes. Instead, we’re at The Spitz, a cool east end arts venue with its bijou bistro on the ground floor and a rather tasty selection of continental beers at the bar. What’s more, it’s a sell out tonight, and that in itself is a rare occurrence on the London gig circuit. Curious souls from all over town and beyond crowd the staircase up to the music room in the attic, along with sundry representatives of the Cinema Strange Barmy Army - the travelling circus of fans who seem to show up at every gig. I’m sure I recognise some of the girls who so enlivened the moshpit at Cinema Strange’s Prague show last year with their formation slam dancing. Could be we’re in for an interesting night.

Angular and abrasive, like ripped-up bits of musical sandpaper, Leisur::Hive scratch and caterwaul through their opening set. They’re a splendid foil for Cinema Strange’s own tangental art-rock, their purposeful, dressed-down image neatly counterpointing the Cinema chaps’ wayward glam, while the music just...fits. Violin duels with guitar, and on vocals, standing at a bandaged microphone stand that from some angles creates the impression that ectoplasm is spewing from his mouth, Dan spits out words with an intensity that gets quite alarming. The audience pays the band the compliment of watching with rapt attention: I imagine many people here are new to the Leisur::Hive experience, and I think they’re going to go away impressed. ‘Try To Be Still’ turns up in the set, a blustering squall of violin, as do sundry other selections from the band’s new album ‘ 3 Ton Edition’. On form and cooking tonight, Leisur::Hive’s music splinters like broken eggshells, and I’m sure a shard or two pierced a few new hearts tonight.

And now a complete contrast crash-lands on the concert, as Devilish Presley take the stage and hammer tremendously through a set of their mutant blues.  Goading and exhorting the audience between songs, Johnny Navarro displays a fine a take it or leave it attitude that has some of the audience hanging back, bemused, unsure how to take this rampant rock ‘n’ roll wildman, while others pile down the front and boogie. The band have a new album in the works, so the set is slanted towards the newies, but it’s all supremely accessible stuff. As soon as the drum machine starts beating out its insistent tattoo, those basslines start rumbling and the guitar shoulders its way into the fight, you’re there, unceremoniously dunked in a bucket of seething rock ‘n’ roll. Take it or leave it, folks, that’s just what Devilish Presley do.

At last, it’s time for the main event. Cinema Strange’s appearance on stage results in instant cheers and a few puzzled looks. An odd side-effect of the band’s absence from the UK until now is that most people’s impression of Cinema Strange has been gained from the relatively old photos of the band which still seem to be everywhere, in which Cinema Strange look like a fairly standard (if more than usually left-field) collection of fishnet ‘n’ mohawks deathrockers. These days, of course, Cinema Strange have moved on from that style, and when they emerge tonight in braces and dickey-bow (Lucas), a Punch and Judy professor’s humbug-striped shirt (Michael) and a monochrome undertaker’s suit (Daniel) and - shock! - a dangerously rock ‘n’ roll bandanna on the head of the drummer, it’s amusing to see the expressions of bewilderment cross a few faces. This is Cinema Strange?  But...what happened to all the artfully-ripped fishnet, the Batcave threads, the *hair*? Why, they’re even wearing paper hats! Johnny Slut never did it like this!

Oblivious to the fact that they’ve just let a cat among the fashion-pigeons of the nascent UK deathrock scene, Cinema Strange tumble into their music with all the gleeful energy of children sliding down the bannisters of a stately home staircase. They bob and dive and whirl around the stage, always in motion, never letting the show slow down. They whip up that strange tension, that feeling of pent-up electricity: much of it’s in those tense, nervy, thin-string basslines (Daniel Ribiat tends to avoid his E string, as if he’s frightened of getting a parking ticket if he lets his fingers rest there for even one note), and those controlled, clattering drums that seem to start and stop so instantly you’d swear someone had flipped a switch. The guitar darts and pokes and, on occasions, lets loose with a big crashing chord, and over all this Lucas Lanthier recounts his fables and allegories, tall stories and cautionary tales. Sometimes leaning out at the crowd, brandishing the microphone like Piggy with his conch, agitated and forceful; sometimes hanging back like a lecturer surveying his students to ensure that they’ve taken it all in, he’s the patch of calm as the storm swirls about him - and always the focal point of the show. And what stories does he tell? Old stories and new stories, favourites and trip-you-ups: ‘Catacomb Kittens’, ‘Lindsay’s Trachea’, ‘Needle Feet’ and ‘Aboriginal Anemia’. They’re all received with delight, although somewhat to my surprise, the Cimema Strange Barmy Army at the front behaves with impeccable restraint, gazing with wide eyes upon the band and hardly slam-dancing at all. But if the audience antics are a touch subdued, the applause that breaks out after every song is warmly enthusiastic. Cinema Strange, it seems, have been taken to the hearts of London, and are probably wondering why they didn’t pitch up here sooner. Let’s not leave it too long before the next one, gentlemen!

see all photos from this concert here

Cinema Strange:

Devilish Presley:


Cavey Nik, promoter of the gig (aided and abetted by Devilish Presley):

The Spitz:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Devilish Presley
Zen Motel
DC Molina
On The Rocks, London
Sunday September 12 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Tonight, we’re off to On The Rocks, a small pub full of red light and noise, somewhere in the east end of London. Frankenstein have blown into town on the UK leg of their European tour, and an evening of suitably noisy entertainment has been assembled around them.

Opening the show in a haze of smoke, we have DC Molina, former glam-punks gone weird. I say ‘former glam punks’ because in their present incarnation DC Molina seem to have shifted away from their previous identity of a slightly odd, but decidedly rock ‘n’ roll, outfit. Now, they’ve gone all Public Image Limited, and that’s not just a reference to the lead singer’s Lydonesque beret. Their sound is all odd angles and wails, experimentation and bizarreness. The guitar fizzes and stabs, the stand-up drums beat an assertive tattoo, and the vocals keen and freak amongst the noise - it’s all very ‘Metal Box’ in a way, and although the overall sound isn’t what you’d call instantly accessible it hits the spot with me.

Zen Motel are a complete contrast. They’re a three-piece rock band, and that’s rock as in ROCK. They’re loud, assertive and play like they’re on stage at the Enormodome. The two guitarists up front spend much time rockin’ out with that classic legs-apart, head shakin’ stance that has been successfully employed by everyone from The Jam to Guns ‘n’ Roses. Now there are two band names you might not expect to see in the same sentence, but if you were to establish Zen Motel’s coordinates on the Great Map Of All Things Rock, then I think they’d turn up neatly equidistant between those two combos. Their songs are brash and loud, rooted in the punkish attitude of the short sharp musical shock, but played with a kind of stadium-status flamboyance that sits rather awkwardly with this small venue. When the singer starts trying to get some audience participation under way, clapping along to the beat with arms up above his head in true rock messiah style, shouting at us all the while to try and get some sort of reaction - well, frankly, it all gets rather embarrassing. Zen Motel aren’t a bad band, but I think they really need to work on a way of communicating with their audiences that’s more appropriate to the small venues they’re playing. All that stadium rock god stuff can wait until you’re actually playing stadiums, lads.

It’s compare and contrast time. Devilish Presley have the knack of audience communication neatly sorted. They rock out like there’s no tomorrow, naturally, but somehow they create an atmosphere like we’re all mucking in at one big party. Johnny Navarro talks *to* the audience, in a succession of pithy comments and pointed asides between the songs, rather than simply shouting stadium rock-isms out from the stage. But, of course,  it’s the songs that make the show - those explosions of energy, detonated one after another as if the venue has been mined with rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a classic Devilish Presley set, with all the essential elements present and correct: the hardest working drum machine in showbusiness slapping the beat around, those piledriver basslines shoving it all along, and, balanced precariously on this foundation, guitar riffs stacked as high as Robert Johnson’s eye.  It’s rock music, sure enough, but done with a strange kind of gung-ho, foot-to-the-floor minimalism in which sheer energy fills the space where, in a conventional band, the other musicians would be. Weird but it works, folks.

And then comes Frankenstein: the man, the band, the slightly bedraggled and sleep-deprived rock ‘n’ roll experience. This is gig number five and country number four in five days of touring, and the band is still standing, if rather unsteadily. They crank up a witches’ brew of swamp-rock riffs, the basslines burbling like gas oozing up from the murky depths. And here’s Dave Grave himself, the man who is Frankenstein: a very dapper monster in slicked-back hair and black leather jacket, commanding the centre of the stage with a casual, offhand confidence. He rumbles out the vocals in a voice like a train going over a wooden bridge, while the band chugs and churns around him. Between songs, he engages the audience in quickfire (and occasionally incomprehensible) banter, a rock raconteur with a hundred crazy tales to tell. It’s all good fun, but it must be said that Frankenstein are not here to blaze any new musical trails. Their schtick is good-time, mid-tempo rock ‘n’ roll, and they do it very well - but it’s very quickly apparent that this is all they do. If you’re looking for some easy-going entertainment delivered with good humour, a quip or two and an arched eyebrow along the way, Frankenstein are your band. They aren’t in the business of challenging the listener, or talking their audiences into new and strange musical territory - they’re here to grin and rock out and have fun, and that’s fine, but it does mean the band tend to bump up against their own self-imposed limitations. I’m not at all familiar with Frankenstein’s material, but as I stand listening to their set I find I can pretty much predict how each song is going to go from the first bar forward, and that leaves me feeling a bit ho-hum. I’d like to hear a bit more of Dave Grave’s off-the-wall personality in the music itself, but Frankenstein, it seems, don’t want to go there. They just keep rockin’ amiably along. Good fun stuff, sure enough - but no surprises.

see all the photos from this concert here

Devilish Presley:
Zen Motel:
DC Molina:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Mercury Rev
Silver Ray
Brixton Academy, London
Friday November 12 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Here’s a tale for you. This year marks the 20th anniversary of my first Bad Seeds gig. Dear me, doesn’t time fly, and all that. Why, it seems like 1984 was only...well, two decades ago, as a matter of fact. But I remember that first gig well. It was at the Lyceum in London, a faded opera house which had been turned over to the cause of rock ‘n’ roll. The previous year, I’d seen The Birthday Party at the same venue. The band were in full-on, fuelled-up mode, playing what must have been one of their last gigs, if not the very last one. So, the prospect of catching Nick Cave’s new incarnation so soon afterwards was intriguing. Alas, during the intervening year something odd seemed to have happened to Nick Cave. He’d gone from the freaked-out hellfire preacher of the Birthday Party to a stumbling, downbeat, out-of-it crooner, who barely seemed to have enough energy to perform. The venue crew appeared downright hostile to the band - the Bad Seeds took the stage in almost complete darkness, and Nick had to ask for the lighting to be switched on. But the highlight (of sorts) came mid-set, when Nick, lurching randomly around, knocked over the mic stand. A roadie ran on to set it right, and Nick, still stumbling around, bumped into him.  Whereupon the roadie rounded upon Nick and proceeded to beat him up, live on stage. For one glorious moment, Nick’s carefully cultivated demeanour of wasted rock star cool was replaced with an expression of pure fear. The roadie was dragged off by other crew members before any real damage was done, and Nick, mustering the last tattered shreds of his dignity, carried on with the gig - but I reflected that the Bad Seeds certainly didn’t make many friends on that night.

Later, thanks to some rather injudicious revelations in the music press and some (later still) confessions by Cave himself, I figured that the gig had coincided with Nick Cave’s heroin period, and the shambling figure I had beheld on stage - not to mention the obvious annoyance of the crew - amounted to Nick’s own demonstration that the drugs don’t work. Or, at least, not *those* drugs. But I stuck with the Bad Seeds, and over the years I’ve been rewarded with some unquestionably fine shows. Nick Cave, when he’s on form (which, I’m glad to say, is more or less always these days) is a stunning live performer. The albums have been good, too: at any rate, the uptempo ones have always hit the spot with me. I’m not so keen on Nick Cave the lovelorn balladeer, mind. I don’t think The Boatman’s Call, an album of mawkish love songs in which Nick bewails his splits with his wife and PJ Harvey (who doesn’t *quite* get mentioned by name) has left its case since the day I bought the CD. But now the word is that Nick has the fire in his belly once again. There’s a new two-albums-at-once release - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus, a new tour, three sold-out London gigs, and a buzz of anticipation in the Brixton Academy that effectively drowns the Bob Dylan tracks playing through the PA.

But before the Bad Seeds, the support bands. Silver Ray, apparently, come from Melbourne, and thus are possibly old muckers of at least some of the Bad Seeds. They play a selection of bluesy instrumentals, down-home bar-band stuff which occasionally rises to crescendos and allows a little drama in. Not bad stuff if you’re in the mood, or at least in a down-home neighbourhood bar, but in the vast theatre that is the Brixton Academy the band don’t quite seem at home. Mercury Rev, on the other hand, are relatively famous on their own account, and clearly have a bunch of fans rooting for them at the front. Their whimsical, dreamy indie-pop has, perhaps, been eclipsed these days by The Flaming Lips, but they’re still hanging in there, still contenders, and still capable of coming up with nagging, lilting songs that stick in your head. They’re cheery and upbeat, clearly glad to be here, but I’m not sure how much impact their music is making beyond their own fans. I shall file them under ‘a nice interlude’, and if that seems like I’m damning the band with faint praise - well, yep, maybe I’m doing just that.

Finally, the Bad Seeds file on, to a gust of applause. No Blixa, but a four-piece gospel choir and two drummers. And here comes the man himself, striding purposely forward as if anxious to get the night’s business under way. The band strike up, and Nick flings himself into frontman mode, barrelling straight into ‘Get Ready for Love’, a fine burst of gospel thunder from the new album. And it’s good. Of course it’s good. And yet....something’s not quite right. Something’s not catching fire here.  Nick and the band are giving it loads, but somehow they’re not quite connecting. The stage at the Brixton Academy is a vast sweep of space under a magnificent proscenium arch, and it’s not every band that can successfully fill this huge space with their presence. The Bad Seeds would normally have no trouble - but this time it’s not quite happening. What’s the problem? I’d say it’s down to the stage layout tonight.

The band are arrayed on risers and stationed behind individual clusters of monitors, every musician in his own designated little area, and all pushed way, way back to the rear of the stage. This leaves a broad expanse of empty boards at the front upon which Nick Cave himself can throw his shapes and generally act the goat, antics which, of course, are the man’s forte.  But this formal, band-at-the-back arrangement does rather kill any chance of whipping up a real atmosphere. The musicians can’t come forward, they can’t interact, they can’t make contact - they have to stand in their designated spots, on their designated risers in their formal array, and they’re not allowed to move off their marks. There, I think, we have the problem with this show, the factor that stops it short at ‘good’ and prevents it pushing up to ‘great’. With the band in the background, static and detatched, it’s almost like watching Nick Cave performing a solo show to a backing tape. The band are *so* far back, so utterly removed from the proceedings, that they barely register. They’re certainly out of camera range. My photos from the gig feature Nick Cave alone, with nothing visible in the background but the snazzy light-effect backdrop. This makes Nick look rather like he’s addressing a convention of double-glazing salesmen, rather than performing with his band, but frankly, in order to grab a few shots in which the Bad Seeds were visible, I think I would’ve needed to bring in a hefty tripod, a telephoto lens, and military-spec rangefinding equipment.

The set is all new material, drawn from the latest album(s), and that’s not a problem for much of the audience who are clearly on familiar terms with the songs. But there are times when the momentum flags, times when the judicious injection of an old-skool brawler like ‘John Finn’s Wife’ or ‘Jangling Jack’ would’ve usefully lit a fire under everyone’s arses. Alas, such rumbustious oldies do not appear: it’s new stuff all the way, the set more or less arranged in a ‘loud song/quiet song’ see-saw. The ballads are substantial enough, although on the occasions when Nick decamps to his upright piano just in front of the drum kits, there’s effectively nobody fronting the show at all, and regardless of the quality of the songs, it all goes a bit flat. The noisy songs work better. ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’ is a classic Bad Seeds stomper, and sure enough it roars and rumbles in the approved style. Alas, again, its power is diminished by the fact that while Nick is emoting furiously up front, the band are half a mile away. It’s frustrating. Nick is clearly giving it his all, and the Bad Seeds are brewing up what under other circumstances would be a right old storm, but they’ve deliberately introduced this absurd distance between performers and audience, and it’s just not easy to bridge that huge divide.  Look at Warren Ellis, on violin, flute and mandolin, bobbing and weaving like a demented carny busker - if only he was allowed to come right to the stage-edge and perform to *us*, he’d be an instant hit. As it is, stuck in his upstage spot, just off the left-hand drum riser, his natural showmanship goes to waste. Nick himself works the stage with a relentless determination, pacing from side to side to ensure that all parts of the crowd are catered to, doing his hip-thrusts and dramatic gestures, and even on the occasions when he has to steal a glance at his lyric sheets he doesn’t let up. Everyone’s doing the right thing, but the physical layout of the show - the distance, the formality - blunts the edge of potential greatness.

Eventually, it’s time for Nick to utter that hoary old rock ‘n’ roll euphemism - ‘Thanks, goo’night!’ (Translation: we’re going to go off stage for a while, and then come back for the encores) - and sure enough the band returns, with an extended encore set which features the Bad Seeds’ greatest hits. ‘Deanna’ is tossed off almost casually; ‘Red Right Hand’ churns and stews effectively. ‘Do You Love Me?’ seems to have had some tricksy stuff done to the rhythm, which, I have to say, is not an improvement on the original arrangement, but ‘The Weeping Song’ still retains its psyche-tugging lilt. It’s good to hear the old songs again, but I’m still not entirely comfortable about this idea of playing a set of newies, and then consigning the oldies to a separate, elongated, encore set. Not only does this sometimes allow the new songs to drag, as everyone waits for the energy-boost of the classic showstoppers that never quite arrives, but it’s also a bit too much like pensioning the old songs off to a care home, where they can burble amiably amongst themselves without getting in the way of the thrusting new numbers. And, of course, the formal stage layout, the lack of contact between band and audience, still takes the edge off things.  Call me a heretic if you will, but I don’t miss Blixa Bargeld’s musical contributions to the Bad Seeds - all I ever remember him doing was going ‘schlang, schlang, schlang’ on the guitar, anyway - but his physical presence, his quizzical glances at the crowd from the lip of the stage, would definitely have given the proceedings a lift tonight.

Last song is ‘The Mercy Seat’, the two drummers giving it the full Glitter Band treatment, hammering it along like a train, and then it’s ‘Thanks, goo’night’ for real. ‘See you in a coupla years,’ is Nick’s parting shot as he walks off, making it sound like his whole life works to a pre-planned schedule. But then, perhaps it really is all worked out in advance like that. Certainly, the carefully set out formality of tonight’s show seems to suggest that spontaneity doesn’t play a huge part in the world of Nick Cave these days. If so, I think that’s a pity, because this new, formal, approach does seem to damp down the power of the band, and the natural force of the man. Maybe Nick could do with a few more impromptu bouts of fisticuffs with random roadies. I’m sure that would liven things up no end.

see all photos from this concert here

Official site for Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds:

And a couple of unofficial ones:

Mercury Rev:

Silver Ray:

Brixton Academy:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Skeletal Family
The Last Cry
Slimelight, London
Saturday July 10, 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Once more into the Slime, dear friends, for one of the Slimelight’s three-floor extravaganzas, featuring two live bands in the Mad Max techno-chaos that is the club’s top level. A Slimelight gig, as I’ve remarked before, is not the easiest environment for a band to deliver its best. A large chunk of the crowd is primarily interested in dancing to the DJ’s selections, which means that the bands have to work hard just to pull some attention towards the stage. Meanwhile, the bands also have to contend with the will-this-do nature of the club’s lighting rig - which tonight comprises four functioning par cans, one white and three, er, pink. This makes the stage area look like the boiler room in a steampunk brothel. Hmm, tasteful.

The Last Cry have some history - and a lot of different line-ups - behind them. The original band, then only at first-single stage, got a small feature in Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock book of 1991. (I looked them up specially - ha, now who dares say I never do my research!) Mick remarked of the band: ‘Expect success’. Well, unless I missed something, success never quite arrived for The Last Cry, but they’re now back for another bite, with yet another line-up.

Visually, The Last Cry adhere to the black-clad rock-bloke school of sartorial elegance, and they brew up a suitably dark rock sound, somewhere between Joy Division (listen to the way the bass and drums work together...) and The Marionettes (check the singer’s dominant stage presence and stentorian bellow). The show is more or less carried by the vocalist, who looms forward, making sweeping gestures and striking poses, staring out at the audience in a manner that’s faintly unsettling. The rest of the lads keep themselves in the background, squinting at their instruments; they’re musicians, not showmen. Except, that is, for the drummer, who hurls himself into every song with a display of rampant enthusiasm and an ever-changing range of goofball grins and crazed, bug-eyed, whacko expressions. He’s a rock ‘n’ roll Punch and Judy show all by himself, and a bizarrely effective counterpoint to the distinctly more restrained persona of the band as a whole. I confess I don’t find any of The Last Cry’s songs lodging in my brain: the band have the sound nailed down, but there seems to be a dearth of killer hooks and instantly memorable choruses in their songwriting. At the very least, they need one big anthem, one no-shit, instantly recognisable tune that could *only* be The Last Cry, and to my ears they’re not quite there in that department.  But we’ll file ‘em under ‘one to watch’ and catch them again....

Skeletal Family are on a bit of a roll at the moment, just back from the Wave Gotik Treffen with their reputation building nicely. You still hear the occasional complaint from old-skool fans that the current band doesn’t feature the original singer, but little by little those gripes are fading away. Skeletal Family seem to have decided that the best way to deal with the situation is simply to get out there and prove that the new line-up works. An effective strategy - which, as it happens, certainly kicked my own initial doubts about the new-look band into touch. The past is the past. It was good, but it’s not coming back. Now let’s cut the crap and make some noise in the here and now.

Just to make things more interesting, Skeletal Family’s appearance on stage is heralded by the sudden death of the lighting rig. Inexplicably, the three pink lights suddenly go off, leaving the band to play under the feeble glimmer of the one remaining white light. What is it with London venues and stage lighting? The simple notion that bands should be able to play under effective, comprehensive lighting seems to be a huge problem for venue owners to grasp. I hereby advise all bands who have a London gig coming up to go out and buy some floor spots - the chances are, you’ll need ‘em. Either that, or tell your fans to bring torches. So, Skeletal Family are little more than shadows in the murk: only the centre-stage area has any kind of real illumination. Fortunately, that’s where Claire, the band’s vocalist and visual focus, stomps and swirls and grooves her way through the set, so even though the band as a whole are barely visible, we still get a *show*. Claire has that self-contained coolness about her - no cheesy jolly-ups for the audience, no toe-curling shouts of ‘Hello London!’ or any of that old bollocks. She delivers a confident, energetic performance which transcends these prosaic, ill-lit surroundings. Meanwhile, the boys in the band loom darkly in the shadows - only Trotwood, on bass, is within range of the one white light - and keep the sounds coming. There are two new songs in the set: ‘All My Best Friends’ and another, the title of which I don’t quite catch, but it’s a good ‘un, with a nifty little keyboard motif that definitely passes the ‘lodge in my brain’ test. It’s a good set and a good gig - it’s just rather a shame that, yet again, the bands have been forced to pit themselves against a venue that just can’t seem to get the basics sorted. But I suppose that’s the London live music circuit for you.  If you can handle a London gig, you can handle *any* gig. Skeletal Family, at least, grab a win tonight.

see all photos from this concert here

Skeletal Family:

The Last Cry:

The Slimelight:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

An Evening With Siouxsie
B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, New York City
Monday September 6 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

I kid you not, dear reader. The venue for tonight’s gig really does style itself a ‘blues club and grill’. From this, you might infer that Siouxsie is playing a ramshackle roadhouse, a down-home bar in a downtown backstreet somewhere in, say, Louisiana or Kentucky. But nothing could be further than the truth. In fact, we’re slap on 42nd street in NYC, and the venue is large, plush, thickly-carpeted, air-conned to the max, and decidedly upmarket. Whether or not the club has anything to do with B.B. King himself is another matter. Although the veteran blues guitarist’s name and likeness are featured in neon-lit glitz on the sign outside (thus creating the rather odd impression that Siouxsie is actually the support band at a B.B.  King gig), there’s nothing to indicate whether he actually has any kind of business interest in the place. If the venue is simply using the great man’s name to lend a bit of cred to the establishment, all I can say is that I hope he’s getting royalties.

While we’re considering names, it’s worth noting that tonight’s show is simply billed as ‘an evening with Siouxsie’. Not the Banshees, not The Creatures - this is Siouxsie in a new guise, as a solo performer, with a set that draws in material from all her previous incarnations. But this doesn’t mean she’s alone on stage. We have a full band which features Budgie on drums (of course), recent Creatures collaborator Leonard Eto on a fearsome array of Japanese percussion, and late-model Banshees guitarist Knox Chandler. Add two supercool twin girls on backing vocals (clocking them is a real how-many-beers-did-I have-tonight moment) and a noo-wavey looking guy in white DMs on keyboards, and there you have the band.  Significantly, given the tales we’ve doubtless all heard about the Siouxsie-versus-Severin stresses which so enlivened the latter-day incarnations of the Banshees, there is no bass guitar in this line-up. It’s as if Siouxsie is so reluctant to risk opening that particular box of delights again that she hasn’t merely severed all ties with Severin - she’s nixed the idea of having any bass player at all.

The band arrange themselves in their places without ceremony, and are greeted with a huge gale of applause from the packed house. There’s a feeling of goodwill in the air, a sense that something positive and special is about to unfold. And then, with a wham and a blam and a cannonade of drumbeats the show is under way, kicking off with a selection of new tracks from The Creatures’ recent east-meets-west percussion frenzy that is the ‘Hai!’ album. Siouxsie herself is on fine form, swooping and gyrating around the stage like she’s been on the whoopee pills. I have seen Siouxise in good moods and bad moods, cheery and curmudgeonly, but I’ve never seen her having so much fun at a gig as she clearly is tonight. This is always the great unknown of any Siouxsie performance: will she be in a good mood, or will she be in a strop? Both moods will, in different ways, get you a good show, but on balance I think I like happy Siouxsie more than stroppy Siouxsie.

The band pitch merrily into the set list, giving us a bit of everything: we begin with recent Creatures and progress seamlessly to vintage Banshees.  ‘Godzilla’ in particular is a lunatic beat-barrage, Budgie and Leonard Eto setting up a downright funky percussion groove as they trade tricks and licks, Siouxsie yelling out those magnificently silly lyrics like they mean all things profound. Budgie comes down the front for his turn in the spotlight, laying into a couple of downstage drums, wearing a grin like he knows something tasty is being cooked up tonight. Siouxsie is on top form between the songs, joshing with the crowd and goading the venue management for turning the air conditioning up too high - ‘Wankers!’  Endearingly, Siouxsie always becomes extremely saaarf Laaahndon at such moments.  Well-wishers in the seething crowd proffer gifts towards her throughout the show - I’m amused to see a hand rise out of the mosh bearing a neatly-wrapped parcel, gold ribbon and all. What, I wonder, does that person expect Siouxsie to do? Stop the entire gig to unwrap her present - ‘Oh! A tea towel! Just what I’ve always wanted!’  There’s a bloke just in front of me who’s brought along a large and cumbersome bunch of flowers which he waves like a football trophy. He thrusts the flowers at Siouxsie, who adopts a comedy-horror expression and waves him away, and then she’s off to the other side of the stage, hamming it up for the photographers in the front row. Another hand emerges from the melee, holding a small camera.  Siouxsie leans into the lens and lets out an open-mouthed ‘Waaarrrgh!’ just as his flash goes off. Someone, somewhere, has a photograph of Siouxsie’s tonsils. If I had been able to find that photo on the web, believe me, you’d see it here.

But let’s not divert ourselves too much from the music. The band squeezes new life into familiar songs: I’m particularly struck by the grooved-up version of ‘Kiss Them For Me’. It’s lithe and forceful, packing far more of a punch than the rather wet album version, on which Stephen Hague’s programmed-to-death production suppressed the band’s natural identity.  Remember Stephen Hague? Hot-shot producer of the early 90s, who only ever had one snare drum sound which he imposed upon every band - nothing short of a criminal technique when you’re working with a drummer as individual and creative as Budgie. We also get a curiously beefy version of ‘Happy House’, the stark minimalism of the original replaced by a bigger, warmer, arrangement, as if the band have been feeding the song up on protein pills and Bovril. But for my money the showstopper has to be ‘Second Floor’ - always an epic, and never more so than tonight. It roars, it churns, it builds and builds into a mighty anthem, Siouxsie swirling like a flamenco dancer as the song reaches its crescendo - and then, instead of a conventional ending, it all drops and drops and drops away, the tempo slowing down, Siouxsie collapsing slowly to the floor until she’s on her knees, beating the stage as she drags out the final words: ‘Second....flooorrr...’. And then it all finally shudders to a halt; the audience hesitant, reluctant to applaud, unsure if it’s all really finished - and then the roar of the crowd nearly brings B.B. King’s roof down.

There are encores. Of course there are encores. ‘Face To Face’ (‘This is for all you lovers of bats and cats,’ says Siouxsie), a staccato, jumping-bean ‘Right Now’, and a positively rifftastic ‘Arabian Knights’, with Knox chugging away on the guitar like a good ‘un. Finally, it’s all over. Everyone lines up for a bow - good old Knox, a tousled teddy bear in black, getting his own special cheer - and then the band heads backstage, picking their way through the hardware. As Siouxsie makes for the exit, the bloke with the flowers makes one last attempt to attract her attention, waving his by now bedraggled blooms over the barrier. This time, Siouxsie relents. Just as she’s about to walk offstage, she half-turns, half-smiles, and holds her hand out behind her back in that time-honoured ‘backhander’ gesture. The persistent florist passes his flowers to her like a secret agent handing over the files, and then, with a wink and a grin, she’s gone.

Out into the white light night of 42nd street, where so much artificial illumination pours into the air that I’m temporarily disoriented, convinced that somehow the world has turned and it’s daylight again. That was classic Siouxsie, fired up and on the rampage, no quarter given and obviously having a good time doing it. At a time when so many of her contemporaries from the punk era and after are plodding round the revival circuit, or contemplating everyone-else-is-doing-it-so-why-don’t-we reformations, it’s good to see an artist so unequivocally at the top of her game, and moving forward with the creativity throttle wide open. Siouxsie, as ever, is the standard everyone else has to beat.

see all the photos from this concert here

The Creatures' website - official source of all current Siouxsie info:

Unofficial Siouxsie site - best for comprehensive tour info, setlists, photos, reviews, etc:
(Check the 'Tour' section to find this gig)

The B.B. King Blues Club & Grill:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Siouxsie: Dream Show
Royal Festival Hall, London
Friday October 15 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

Tonight, I’m not in my usual haunts. For once, I’m not propping up the bar in one of London’s grubby rock ‘n’ roll holes. I’m in the altogether more upmarket surroundings of the Royal Festival Hall, all fifties-modern wood veneer, besuited stewards on every door. There’s a hubbub of conversation in the crowded foyer as the audience - everyone from fiftysomething avant-rock aficionados to young, wide-eyed nu-metal kidz - gathers for the performance. Tonight, we will experience Siouxsie’s Dream Show - a bona-fide concert, rather than a plain old gig, in which Siouxsie will deliver selected highlights from her repertoire, arranged for orchestra and rock band, and presented in the formal surroundings of one of London’s foremost concert halls.

I must admit I had my misgivings about this idea. After all, it’s hardly what you’d call punk rock. Wasn’t this sort of thing exactly what punk was supposed to kick into touch, or at the very least kick up the arse? I can imagine, say, Yes, or Pink Floyd putting together an orchestral concert, but surely Siouxsie was always on the side of visceral thrills rather than meticulously-planned formality? But then again, it’s not like Siouxsie ever troubled to follow anybody’s rule book. If orchestras, concert halls and formality are against the rules of punk, well, dammit, that’s a good enough reason to do it right there. What makes this idea even more interesting is that this concert comes only a week or so after Siouxsie and her current part-Creatures, part-Banshees band played three nights at the 100 Club, the very same venue where a hastily-formed group of Sex Pistols followers called Suzi And The Banshees appeared at Malcolm McLaren’s punk festival in 1976. At a time when so many old-skool bands are reforming in an effort to capture former glories, the juxtaposition of Siouxsie’s London gigs sends a typically snook-cocking message. Siouxsie can dip into her past any time she likes - but, alone of all her erstwhile contemporaries on the punk-and-after scene, she’s also moving onwards and upwards.

The audience is gonged into the auditorium. The lights go down, the traditional expectant hush falls. And here comes the orchestra: a string section, a distinctly jazz-oriented horn section, percussionists and a harpist. Along with them, the current Siouxsie-band, including Leonard Eto with his battery of fearsome percussion. We begin with a Budgie/Eto drum duel, the sound unfurling itself huge and high into the acoustic funnel of the auditorium. And then Siouxsie herself is on stage, whirling in the spotlight as the band fires Creatures numbers into the audience like shells from a Howitzer. ‘Say Yes’ is a powerhouse of precision percussion;

‘Godzilla’ - complete with projected cityscape backdrops - a glorious romp.  ‘Miss The Girl’ makes an appearance, a groovy tumble of marimba and drums, light on its feet and sounding delightfully fresh. But it’s on the older Banshees numbers that the orchestra really comes into its own. ‘Dear Prudence’ is a great sweep of drama, the string section swooning away like nobody’s business, while ‘Obsession’ manages to sound close and claustrophobic even in the wide open spaces of the Royal Festival Hall.  ‘Second Floor’, as ever a mad rampage of an anthem, slams in; the new arrangement of the song with its long drawn out, so-mo coda giving Siouxsie a chance to do her dying swan number on the stage. And then ‘Happy House’, with much of John McGeoch’s distinctive guitar figure given to the harpist - ah, now, that really does work. I can almost see old McGeoch grinning with delight at the cheek of it.

There’s an interval, during which we may adjourn to the foyer bar for drinks, or stay in our seats and chuckle at the projected message on the backdrop - ‘I wanna Ice Queen!’ - an amusing pun for those whose Banshees-knowledge is arcane enough to get the joke, and proof that Siouxsie never forgets what the press say about her. The gong goes for part two, and the orchestra takes the stage once again. They’re joined by Martin McCarrick, former Banshees cellist, who sets himself down by guitarist Knox Chandler, the two of them stationed on a podium as if they’re on display - ‘Exhibits A and B - two Banshees, high mileage but full working order’. The orchestra slips neatly into a naggingly familiar string figure. It’s ‘The Rapture’, the grandiose orchestral number on the Banshees’ last album. It’s a track which I always felt fell rather flat on record, but this version - unleashed into its natural habitat, a concert hall - sounds full of life.  ‘Cities In Dust’ provokes the audience into the kind of frenzy seldom seen, I’ll warrant, in these staid surroundings, the entire downstairs contingent leaping out of their seats and turning the Royal Festival Hall’s stalls into a good old moshpit. Siouxsie herself is on a roll, revelling in every minute. When someone shouts out ‘We love you!’ she turns to the audience, arms outstretched, and for one minute I think she’s going to give in and simply bask in the adulation. Ha, I think, she’s having such a good time she’s forgotten to be cynical old Siouxsie! But she recovers herself, and turns the compliment towards the band: ‘We love....all *this*!’ she says, and nobody’s going to disagree tonight.

Encores follow, including ‘Face To Face’, the Banshees’ Batman tune, and another song which benefits hugely from the full-scale orchestral arrangement. And to finish, a pedal-to-the-metal romp through ‘Spellbound’, everything piled in to the arrangement, that big, slamming drum tattoo - ‘Dance! Dance! Dance!’ - hammering out like the 1812 Overture. And that’s yer lot; there is no more. The audience files out, dazed and grinning, all of us aware that tonight we’ve seen Siouxsie break the rules and push the boundaries and come up, yet again, with another success. Sure, that wasn’t punk rock. Nowhere near. But so what? We’re a long, long way from all that now. Times have changed, things are different. And Siouxsie’s still out in front.

And yet, and yet. Outside, on the walkway overlooking the Thames, the usual ‘unofficial’ T-shirt vendors have spread their wares. The latest Siouxsie image is displayed on blue and green and white shirts; a multicoloured display of Siouxsies staring up at us under the glow of the Royal Festival Hall’s lights. A girl just ahead of me surveys the display with disdain. I overhear her unimpressed comment: ‘Why haven’t they got anything in *black*?’  she complains. Ah, many things may well be different now - but some things never change!

The Creatures' website - official source of all current Siouxsie info:

Unofficial Siouxsie site - best for comprehensive tour info, setlists, photos, reviews, etc:
(Check the 'Tour' section to find this gig)

The Royal Festival Hall:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

The Tiger Lillies
Bloomsbury Theatre, london
Sunday November 14 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

How’s this for incongruous. The Tiger Lillies have brought their twisted, clockwork-toy-gone-wrong vaudeville to the brutally lumpen 1970s bunker that is the Bloomsbury Theatre - a head-on collision of art and architecture if ever there was one. But somehow, when the band arrive on stage, the shades of a particularly unsavoury 19th century music hall gather about our heads and we’re instantly transported to The Tiger Lillies’ penny dreadful world. It’s a world of unspeakable diseases and strange deaths, of aunties with unexpected genitalia and merrymaking at crucifixions, tinkers and tailors, pimps and sailors, where a man’s best friend is his sheep. It’s all set to the clump and fizz and keen and twang of accordian, piano, double bass, bowed saw, and the rattle of a drum kit that looks as if it was designed by Rowland Emett. The Tiger Lillies, in short, are not your average rock ‘n’ roll combo.

Frontman and songwriter Martin Jaques, a vaguely sinister master of ceremonies in his weskit and spooky clown make-up, lets rip in a cracked operatic wail as the band clatter into their songs of low rent and low life. There are songs which have the audience rocking in the aisles with laughter, and songs which strike a sudden chill and give pause for thought.  It’s a tribute to the quality of the band’s songwriting that they can go from mood to mood so seamlessly, with the audience with them all the way.  Two examples must suffice. Let’s take ‘Your Suicides’, a catalogue of deaths postponed, as one: ‘Your Suicides/You do them with pride/but are you really sincere?/You say some day you will succeed/But you’re ninety-three next year’. And ‘The Pimp Song’, a lament for a destructive relationship that just keeps on spiralling down, but will never end: ‘You knock her senseless/You hate her guts...and she wants to be, she wants to be with you’. The Tiger Lillies can run a cold finger up your spine, even as you’re still chuckling at the jokes in the previous song.

The three band members all take their own personas for little jaunts around the performance: Martin Jaques himself, magnificently world-weary, regarding the world through jaundiced eyes and jaundiced songs. The bassist, casting appraising glances around in his role as The Sensible One (every band must have one). And the drummer, a madcap favourite uncle, all toys and tricks and gimmicks, sitting in his armchair for all the world as if he’s ensconced by the fire with a wide-eyed nephew at his feet, waiting for the conjuring to begin. During ‘Banging In The Nails’ - a very merry crucifixion song - he attacks his kit in a frenzy with toy hammers, reducing it to scattered components - and then has to play the next song while leaning down to the floor in order to reach his dismembered drums. He climbs upon his chair and swallows many gobstoppers, then plays a drum solo by spitting them, in turn and bang on the beat, at the drums and cymbals below him. He even contrives a big death scene, and finally slumps, inert, under a sheet on the floor, thus leading Martin Jaques to deliver the immortal payoff line: ‘Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid that’s the end of the show, because our drummer has died.’  Then, struck by a thought, he brightens. ‘Unless, of course, there are any drummers in the house...?’

Ah, they don’t make entertainment like that any more. But then, I don’t think they ever did - until The Tiger Lillies came along.

see all photos from this concert here

The Tiger Lillies:

The Bloomsbury Theatre:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

The Last Dance
The Last Cry
Purple Turtle, London
Thursday October 21 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

The Turtle isn’t as purple as it used to be. This designer-alternative bar has been given a make-over, and now looks more like a Berlin culture bunker, albeit a *designer* Berlin culture bunker. There’s a new stage for live bands, a precarious shelf wedged between the bar and the fire exit, and upon this precarious shelf tonight three bands will strut their stuff for our entertainment.

The Last Cry open the proceedings. For the band, this gig is another staging post on their comeback trail, and by now they seem to have picked up the makings of a decent following. At any rate, they win the crowd’s attention with a set of scary, moody, rock, the vocalist looming out at the audience as if trying to force himself into our consciousness by the sheer intensity of his stare. The band whip up a punchy, controlled, sound, never giving way to rockstar histrionics and always keeping a downbeat demeanour.  All, that is, apart from the drummer, who freaks and gurns his way around the kit with his trademark array of crazed expressions that are, in their way, almost more scary than the vocalist’s Mister Intense persona. As before, I find myself rather more impressed with the band’s presentation than the content - they’re still in need of that killer anthem, in my view - but it’s all an effective package, and if you’re in the market for a bit of granite-solid rock played with a no-shit attitude, The Last Cry may well be up yer alley.

Funhouse are old friends of the UK scene, although as it happens they haven’t set foot in the country since that nice Uncle Nemesis put them on in 2001. Tonight, we get a revised version of the band: a couple of the regular Funhousers are temporarily absent, so for this gig the band have a replacement guitarist and bassist. But it’s rumbustious goth ‘n’ roll business as usual, the band rattling out a set of unpretentiously good-time tunes with an amiable humour that contrasts drastically with The Last Cry’s furrowed-brow seriousness. Funhouse are nothing if not showmen, so we get the full gamut of rock ‘n’ roll shapes, and a tune selection which leans heavily on the band’s most recent album, ‘Oceans Of Tears’. There’s also a brace of covers - Depeche Mode’s ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ and Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ - and even the untimely demise of one of the monitors can’t stop the flow. With fans on the monitors to keep them cool and functioning (I shall resist the temptation to make the obvious crack about Funhouse always getting their fans down the front) the band hurtle on, and the crowd is with them all the way. A performance that provides more proof, as if it were needed, that Funhouse are probably the best rock ‘n’ roll party jukebox on ten legs.

The Last Dance are somewhat frazzled by being pitched into a gig about five minutes after their flight touched down, but, much-travelled troupers that they are, they still pull a good show out of the bag. Vocalist Jeff is sporting a new bleached hairstyle tonight, which, with his Californian tan, makes him look disturbingly like Robert Kilroy-Silk. But once we’ve got over that little trompe d’oeil, the band’s set is as full-on and seamless as we’ve come to expect. The Last Dance are a highly professional unit - you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth, regardless of how far the band have travelled to make the gig, or how much sleep they’ve had to forgo in order to play it. Tonight’s set is predominantly built around selections from the recent ‘Whispers In Rage’ album - ‘Nightmares’, ‘Voices’, and ‘Dead Man’s Party’ all crop up, as does ‘Terribly When’, a song title which I always think looks like it’s been randomly grabbed from a William Burroughs cut-up. Jeff stages an impromptu stroll along the top of the bar - the bar staff swallow hard, but nobody dares to pull him down - while Rick, on guitar, judiciously selects from a cornucopia of effects pedals.  There’s even a special big-up for Stevyn Gray, on drums, who awards himself a little beat-flourish to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd. ‘Is this your drum solo?’ inquires Jeff. ‘It’s the same one you used to play in Diva Destruction...and Faith and the Muse...oh, and Rozz really liked it, too!’  The band wraps it all up with a zip through ‘Do You Believe In Angels’, and then it’s all over. A typically sterling set by a band who never deliver anything less than the max, and a fine climax to a good rockin’ gig.

see all the photos from this concert here

The Last Dance:
The Last Cry:
This gig was a co-promotion by Resurrection Records:
and the mysterious DJ Psyche:
The Purple Turtle:
Robert Kilroy-Silk (not an official site!):
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

The Dead
Slimelight, London
Saturday September 25 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

There’s a strobe on overdrive hammering out its blank white message. There are vague shapes behind the light, and a blast of noise coming out of the PA, like a washing machine on the techno remix cycle. Somewhere in all this, a voice is almost singing. What can it all mean? The Dead are back, that’s what it means. The powernoise performance poets who gatecrashed Andi Sex Gang’s gig a while back have got themselves another gig - and this time they’re doing music. Well, sort of. Their set is clearly an attempt to be confrontational and ‘difficult’, and it works up to a point. But the trouble is, in these post-punk, post-industrial, post-everything times, this kind of antagonise-the-audience stuff has been done and done and done.  It doesn’t even get anyone annoyed any more. As The Dead rant and blare, the sparse early crowd simply stands and stares into the strobe with mild interest. I think if The Dead are to continue with their, uh, project they should consider adding a bit of structure to their raw art. OK, so this might mean taking a step or two in the direction of conventionality, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Because nobody gets all worked up about full-on confrontation these days. Nope, we just get a little bit bored.

Attrition are not in the business of plain old confrontation, but they’re certainly taking no prisoners tonight. Attrition are always a somewhat harder-hitting proposition on stage than their precise, cerebral recorded incarnation - out go the violins, in come shuddering slabs of analogue electronics - and on this occasion they certainly seem to have lit a fire under themselves. Not that they’ve gone all rock ‘n’ roll, or anything: now that really would be a turn-up. But Martin Bowes rasps out his lyrics with plenty of grit and attitude, and I recall that the new songs - of which there are plenty in the set tonight - apparently document all sorts of upheavals in his personal life. Judging by the bile and wormwood which flavours this performance, some of those upheavals still rankle. Whatever behind the scenes events have inspired Attrition’s new material, the fire that smoulders beneath it all is obviously still burning. ‘Dante’s Kitchen’ is a swirling mass of booming rhythm; ‘Acid Tounge’, Attrition’s long-time opening track, now shunted into mid-set, slams harder than ever. A bit of a classic set, I’d venture, and I speak as a veteran of many and various Attrition gigs. Tonight, we get Attrition on overdrive: full speed ahead, and some of that essential grit in the gears.

Tuxedomoon have certainly pulled their fans out of the woodwork for this one. The Slimelight is positively stuffed with people who have clearly made a point of being here just for the band. Right at the front there’s a couple of Geordie boys, down from Newcastle for the occasion, and almost vibrating with anticipation. What is it about Tuxedomoon that inspires such devotion? Perhaps it’s because they’re one of those bands that has doggedly ploughed an individual furrow for more years than I suspect any of us care to think about. Since they emerged from the electronic music lab at San Franscisco City College in 1977, and found kindred spirits in such whackos as Devo and The Residents (to whose Ralph Records label they signed), they’ve cruised through umpteen musical excursions and myriad line-up changes to arrive here, in a grimy warehouse in north London in 2004, in front of a crowd which clearly believes that the messiah, or at the very least his backing band, has come amongst us once again. It’s hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm as the band plunge into a set of quirky avant-jazz-industrial numbers, running the gamut from cooled out grooves to great slabs of heated up noise. The band members wear the years lightly, coming on like an arty, surrealist version of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds.  Founder member Blaine Reininger, on lead guitar and violin, fronts the show with avuncular irony, ever and anon raising an eyebrow at the audience as if to dispel any notion that we should take the proceedings with po-faced seriousness. He’s the principal visual focus - indeed, *the* visual focus - of the band, and it must be said that without him Tuxedomoon would probably be a little too muso-ish for comfort. With him, they’re cool. Projections dance behind the band, while the music is full of tangents and excursions, seldom going where you’d expect it to go, and that counts as good stuff in my book. Some of the regular Slimelight cyber-crew, standing at the back wearing bemused expressions, waiting for the EBM to begin, are rather nonplussed (there’s even a shout of ‘You’re rubbish!’ at one point) but the Tuxedomoon massive never lets their enthusiasm slip, and Tuxedomoon themselves are entirely unfazed. I dare say, at this distance, they’ve heard it all. At the end, an accolade. One of the Geordie lads turns to his mate and exclaims: ‘I think I’m the second happiest I’ve ever been!’  Ladies and gentlemen, you can’t argue with that.

 see all the photos from this concert here

Tuxedomoon (official site):

Blaine Reininger's Tuxedomoon page:


The Dead:  (No website)

Hagshadow/Hinoeuma The Malediction, promoters of the gig:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:

Psychic TV
Living With Eating Disorders
Forum, London
Saturday October 9 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

As Genesis P-Orridge himself would have it, we are present tonight at ‘thee third couming ov Psychic TV’. Or, if you’d like that in plain English, Psychic TV are back, with a new line-up and an extensive tour (that’s ‘de-tour’, in P-Orridge-speak) which takes in everywhere from Oslo to Moscow, Zagreb to Warsaw. This London show is a whistlestop one-off: yesterday the band were in Porto, Portugal. Tomorrow they’ll be in Athens, Greece. Hmmm. That’s an interesting travel itinerary. Maybe Genesis was right to call this escapade a ‘de-tour’ after all.

Unusually for a Forum gig, the main floor area directly in front of the stage has been tricked out with chairs and tables, possibly to give the gig an artistic pavement-cafe-in Paris feel, but more likely to fill up the space a bit and disguise the fact that the crowd isn’t exactly huge tonight. This gig was not, as far as I can tell, advertised widely (if I hadn’t glanced at the Living With Eating Disorders website I would never have known it was taking place), so the venue remains fairly empty throughout the evening. This means that Living With Eating Disorders themselves, unceremoniously punted on stage mere minutes after doors-open, have to contend with a vast empty space in front of them, with a relatively small bunch of fans and curious onlookers clustered right down the front.  It can’t be easy for the band, throwing their music out into the void with hardly enough of a crowd to generate any real reaction, but the out-front sound, barrelling out of the Forum’s massive PA, is good, and little by little Living With Eating Disorders claw and caterwaul their way into the audience’s faces. Noisy songs like ‘Horsemilk’ and ‘Demon In The Wheels’  come over well; it’s the quieter numbers that tend to fade away somewhat as the emptiness of the venue gains the upper hand. In the end, the band pull off a victory on points under distinctly unfavourable circumstances.

Snowpony seem interesting at first, but fade into ordinariness as their set unfolds. Maybe it’s unfair of me to come down on the band, since, like Living With Eating Disorders, they have to contend with the big venue/small crowd non-atmosphere. But even after cutting them some slack because of this, Snowpony still don’t do it for me. They play a rather generic brand of mid-nineties indie which isn’t *bad*, you understand: it’s just that anyone who has a passing familiarity with the likes of, say, The Cranberries will find no surprises in this music. At first, it sounds cool, but as the set continues I realise that what I’m hearing is essentially respectable and competent almost-alternative rock, without anything particularly distinctive or attention-grabbing about it. The vocals simply hang in the air, without any real force or point, while the band seem self-absorbed, barely registering the presence of the audience at all. The guitarists keep their heads down while the singer does odd little dances whenever she’s away from the mic, grooving away as if she’s in her own world. Half way through the set, she takes off her bright red wig to reveal her real, and entirely ordinary, brown hair beneath. That’s a good enough metaphor for the band as a whole, as it happens. Early hints at something quirky and individual, shading into just-another-indie-band mundanity.

The lights go down. A large screen at the back of the stage flickers into life: random images, shapes and fuzziness. Hmmm. This looks suspiciously like Art. Must be time for Psychic TV, then. Weirdness ahoy. Ah, you could never mistake Psychic TV for just another indie band. Although, having said that, once you get beyond all the grandstanding, posturing and plain old kerfuffle about art and philosophy and symbolism with which Genesis P-Orridge has contrived to surround his band, this particular incarnation of Psychic TV turns out to be a perfectly accessible - and actually rather good - mash-up of post-punky