acb: (buttons)
This weekend, I went to the London edition of the Chickfactor 20th anniversary gigs. The zine was founded in 1992, and consequently they've been organising commemorative gigs throughout this year. I had already attended (two nights of) the Brooklyn ones in April, largely because it was quite possibly my only chance to ever see The Softies play live (and it was worth it and then some, but that's another post). Anyway, Chickfactor had for a long time had a connection to London; it was founded by American indiepop kids, a subculture with an inherent Anglophilic streak (often coloured by a stylised, mildly anachronistic swinging-60s aesthetic; witness the summer dresses and severe Mary Quant bobs favoured by girls in the scene). One of the founders, Pam Berry (also of Black Tambourine) married an Englishman and ended up in London, while the other, Gail O'Hara, spent some time living in London in the early 2000s, and had a weekend festival, Mon Gala Papillons, at Bush Hall in 2004 (one of whose nights I ended up attending). So a London festival was only a matter of time.

I didn't go to the film screening (of Take Three Girls, the documentary about post-punk girl band Dolly Mixture, which I had seen before) on Friday, largely because I had already bought a ticket to the Rodriguez gig at the Roundhouse (which was great, incidentally). I went to the Saturday evening gig (back at Bush Hall, around the corner from where I used to live, but inconveniently far from everywhere else), and to the Sunday afternoon/evening gig, which was held at that haunt of London indiekids of a certain age, the Lexington.

Saturday's gig started off with Amor de Días, Lupe from Pipas' new project with her partner, Alasdair from The Clientele. It was as one might imagine; more languid and dreamy than the indiepop of Pipas, and redolent of the psychedelic folk of the Sixeventies in its languor. They were followed by the Would-Be-Goods, a band started by the teenaged Jessica Griffin in 1987, launched with a mildly saucy song about modelling for photographs, which they followed with some highly literate pop songs. The Would-Be-Goods have kept to the jangly indiepop formula for the most part, though have matured somewhat in their themes; whilst some songs are set in the language of youthful friendships and crushes that is the idiom of indiepop (Temporary Best Friend, for example), others anticipate old age and its miseries (Too Old, for example, a song which sits next to Platinum by their fellow él Records alumnus Momus in the canon of starkly, heartrendingly beautiful meditations on the passing of time and all of its crimes). Shortly after the Would-Be-Goods' set finished, the room started to pack out in anticipation of The Aislers Set. They did not disappoint; they tore the roof off the place, much as they had done in Brooklyn. The evening was rounded off with The Pastels, who played a mostly mellow set.

Sunday started with The Starfolk, a husband and wife duo from the US, who played a guitar-driven pop. They were followed by Harvey Williams and Josh Gennet (who had been in a band named Holiday in the US), who played a selection of songs (mostly Harvey's, with some of Josh's and some covers of female singer-songwriters; their version of Broadcast's “Colour Me In” was lovely). Harvey hadn't been busy at work on new material, though had one recent song (“Quiet Domesticity”, a paean to staying at home) and had updated The Girl From The East Tower with a verse about the aforementioned girl losing her job (which turned out to have been at the BBC, where Harvey also works) due to not willing to relocate to Salford. The Real Tuesday Weld played a set a bit later, and had morphed into a more swing style in the years between their initial dealings with Chickfactor and now. They were followed by Pipas; it was great to see them, and hear them play their new song, though their set was somewhat more shambolic than the one in Brooklyn. The night was rounded off with The Tender Trap, Amelia Fletcher's band, who rocked harder than I expected; stand-up drums, skronky guitars and female vocal harmonies, backing vocals themed with the old youthful themes of boyfriends and girlfriends and such; Amelia seems to do such pop better than the more grown-up themes and mellow sounds of her previous Tender Trap albums.

One thing that was inescapable at the Chickfactor gig was a sense of the passage of time. It was the 20th anniversary of a zine from the golden age of zines (after desktop publishing made them cheap and quick, but before the internet made them redundant as a means of communication) and arguably of a certain type of indiepop, and many of those who were involved back in the day are approaching or well into middle age, often with children. (The drink coasters printed for the US dates read “doing it in spite of the kids”.) It was interesting to see how the indie kids of yesteryear squared their love of and identification with an intrinsically youthful genre with their age and adult roles in life. Harvey Williams wrote a song, with the dry wit familiar to those who remember Another Sunny Day and his solo album on Shinkansen, about the mild joys of not going out (a contrarian stance which parallels the anti-machismo of his youthful work, along with that of his peers). Jessica Griffin, who (whilst presumably still in her 30s) wrote a sad song about the ravages of aging, commented that she doesn't expect to be still doing this sort of thing in ten years' time, while Amelia Fletcher has taken the opposite route, embracing the formalism of indiepop as ballads of youth in the vinyl record age (her band's previous album was titled Dansette Dansette, after a 1960s-vintage record player), said that she can see herself singing songs about boyfriends and girlfriends when she's 80.

Anyway, photos are being posted to the usual place. I managed to get some video with my iPhone, which is currently in the slow process of being uploaded to YouTube. (At time of writing, the first day's up.)

acb: (Train)
This weekend, I went up to [livejournal.com profile] indietracks' <i>A Christmas Twee</i> event this weekend, catching a train up to Nottingham yesterday afternoon, checking into a hotel there, and then catching the familiar Rainbow 1 to Ripley. (Ah yes, the Rainbow 1. I think that at some point in the next few decades, the Victoria & Albert Museum or some similar institution will have a retrospective on the 1990s rave-techno futurist aesthetic; alongside, say, the complete works of The Designers' Republic and a PlayStation playing WipeOut, they'll have some photos of Trent Barton buses.) Alas, as the bus was passing through Heanor, I realised that I had left the mix CD I had painstakingly assembled for the secret-Santa box in my bag in my hotel room. FAIL.

Other than that, it was good; attendance was a bit on the low side (a lot of people instead went to an all-dayer in Nottingham a few weeks ago), and I only knew something like eight people there (about half of whom were involved in organising aspects of the night). The bands were OK, though I wasn't blown away. The headliner was Phil Wilson of 1980s C86esque indiepop band the June Brides; they weren't one of the bands I've gotten into, so I couldn't say how good the show was; other than the fact that he did a skronky/jangly C86 cover of Kraftwerk's <i>Neon Lights</i>, which worked rather well. The other bands, Horowitz and Mascot Fight, were both OK though neither blew me away. (Mascot Fight's frontman going on dressed as a snowman was a nice touch, though.)

The actual event was in a marquee attached to the front of the station building on the Midlands Steam Railway, which appeared to be used for some sort of Christmas events during the day. There were animatronic reindeer and snowmen and similar winter wonderland denizens mechanically boogieing in the background behind the stage, which added a certain something to the festivities. There was also a whopping great steam train parked outside at the platform, its wood-panelled carriages shrouded in steam, which seemed to come up from beneath them. (I'm guessing that the actual steam is piped through the train to power/heat the carriages, rather than being converted to electricity in the locomotive.) Some carriages' electrics seemed to be in better shape than others; while some were very dimly lit, others were lit up like, well, Christmas trees. Being in the interior of a wood-panelled 1950s rail carriage, its lights flickering, and thick white steam shrouding the vestibule, was quite atmospheric, like something out of a David Lynch movie or something. Anyway, the guard's coach on the train had been converted into a disco, with DJs spinning records; in between sets, the train would be driven a mile or so up the line, then the locomotive would move to the other side and it'd go back, in time for the next band, while people sat around and talked in the carriages, drank ale from the bar in the buffet car, or else danced at the disco.

Staying in a hotel in Nottingham, I took advantage of this and took my laptop with me, managing to get a few things done on a remix I'm working on on the train there and back. (East Midland Trains generously provide power sockets in economy class, which is not bad for the £6-14 each way a seat costs if you book early enough.) I find these days that I'm most productive on music either in cafes or on train journeys (those of 1+ hours). Which means I should probably make more excuses to travel around the UK's railway network.
acb: (buttons)
I'm From Barcelona were ace.

It was much as the previous gigs, only with a few more new songs. They had the whole spectacle: the entrance to the sound of a Queen sample, the several enormous balloons inflated and thrown into the crowd, who kept them flying like a game of volleyball, the bags of confetti. The band were attired in their slightly cartoonish hipsterwear, and Emanuel was his usual charismatic self, even crowd-surfing on one occasion. The new songs were pretty good; there was one (just performed by 3 members) about making friends with grizzly bears (influenced by the film The Grizzly Man), and one inspired by The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou; and the band got up to their old tricks and broke into reggae towards the end of one song.

There was lots of audience participation, with the audience being invited to sing certain words, clap, and play kazoos, as well as batting balloons around. There was a really friendly vibe.

The support band, Irene, were excellent as well; somewhat smaller, and not quite as over-the-top, but in a similarly joyous indiepop vein.

I want to know what they put in the water in Sweden, and where I can get some.

September 2015

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