Thursday, 29 April 2010

Dinotour: Laura Marling - Southampton Guildhall - 23.04.10

'Alessi's Ark' playing with the cast of Watership Down out of shot to the right.

I think it's time for a bit of honesty, isn't it? For a long time now, I've always believed that self reflection is crucial if you are ever going to develop as a person. Naturally, I try to apply the same thinking to this blog because this little experiment needs to develop too. From my last count, I'd say there are various criticisms you could level at this blog. Firstly, I am probably overly critical of people at times. Y'know people who have worked hard to get where they are today only for an army of keyboard warriors such as myself to shoot them down for such trivial reasons. I apologise unreservedly Ms Joss Stone, you are talented and I will never do it again* A more pertinent criticism, however, would revolve around the length of time it takes me to post sometimes. I highly doubt whether I have any regular readers but man, you could watch the sands of time change over and over, finger jammed on F5, before you'd see a new post sent direct from H.M.S my little head. Case in point being this Laura Marling show I saw on the 23rd of April. Yes, April. The month of fools and showers, eggs and resurrection.

Before I fully start though, could I just divert your attention to the Southern Daily Echo's review of the same gig (from whence the above photo is from clearly, you all know what I'm like with cameras). This was posted on the Monday after and I think might validate my point about not publishing posts straight after seeing things - they can read pretty poorly you see. A "soft yet powerful songstress" ohhh err missus.

First thing I'd have to mention would be the layout of the Southampton Guildhall. Why? Well, it was completely bizarre, that's why. It's a spacious high vaulted old place and for this night, for some reason or another, the venue had decided on all seating. This meant a floor consisting of rows and rows of neatly aligned temporary chairs. I remarked at the time that the whole thing looked like a 'Battle of the Bands' night at a private school and I stand by that. In a venue that looks a bit empty even when it's full, the organizers were trying their hardest to install a vaccuum here. Couple the whole seating fiasco with the average age of the audience (16.4 years at a guess) and feelings of being back at school were hitting both regularly and strongly. See pictorial evidence below.

I mean, seriously? Imagine Hendrix burning his Strat onstage with the crowd watching on in seats like these. Wouldn't happen.

Unbeknown to me because I usually don't think about concerts until about 5pm of the day they are actually on, there were a couple of support acts due before the main event. Here's a brief summary:

Boy & Bear

Described by reviewer extraordinare Corey Stephenson at the Southern Daily Echo as "Aussie folksters". Described by me at MMD as "Fleet Foxes for Mumford & Sons fans who have never heard The Grateful Dead". They were okay although I got the feeling that they sounded completely different ohIdon'tknow about 2 years ago until they heard that Sun King EP and one of 'em popped his head up and said "G'day guys. Any of ya wanna go halves on a blaady banjo wi' us?" and history, as they say, was written. Boy & Bear covered 'Flume' by Bon Iver during their set. This made me feel very old because I'm pretty sure when I first started going to gigs around the time of the War of the Roses people use to only ever cover songs that pre dated me by an awfully long time whereas this song came out last week or something. Bon Iver irritates me to the point of scratching generally anyway so yeah, the bear ate the boy and all ends out, they didn't really get on that well.

Alessi's Ark

Consisted of a guy and a deliberately quirky girl who, to be fair to her, had quite a nice little voice. Her onstage 'character' was pretty painful though, I mean that. All shy country girl forced into the spotlight when she'd really rather be lost away in the meadow making daisy chains and playing with squirrels and all that. A cursory check of respected online academic resource Wikipedia actually confirms that she's from 'Hammersmith' in picturesque 'West London'. She kept saying things like "Thanks....I love you...I think we should all be friends. Forever and ever," to the crowd whilst acting all cutesy, it got pretty annoying. She did have one song that included the line "I must have roots in my boots.." which I, and I don't really know why, really liked. Sound style and everything else wise you can thank the usual tired suspects. Think Kate Bush *yawn*, Jenny Lewis *nytol* and Kate Naszzzzzzzzzz.

Laura Marling then. As I've mentioned before, I'm new to her. I've a friend that has been a big fan for a long time. All the way back when she was 16! Can you believe it?! Sweet sixteen! That's, ohh, four years ago now ffs. It was with this last release 'I Speak Because I Can' that I really gave her a chance and that record is a really strong one. Mainly for three reasons - 'Rambling Man', 'Blackberry Stone' and 'Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)'. Three stunning songs placed smack in the middle of this record that leave you thinking all manner of great things about Laura Marling post listening. Three songs of such beauty and quality that all you can say in response to them is "you don't hear songs like that too often".

The lighting team did really well with Marling. Mainly using a row of about ten circular globes at various heights they managed to create some semblance of mood that largely deflected your attention away from a ridiculous seating plan and a room that you can mainly imagine people using for trampoling or graduations. 'Rambling Man' was well measured and the use of spotlights for the passionately delivered chorus that I always imagine to be sang through gritted teeth worked really well. A few songs were illuminated by the bands massive shadows cast onto a white backdrop which also looked pretty cool. Not really sure why Laura Marling and guitar as a shadow look like the minotaur though. (Man, Meet Minotaur blog idea everyone! Who knows about Greek classics? anyone?)

Marling was in fine voice and my well educated friend informs me that has always been the case. Her voice is very powerful when it wants to be and being as I am (i.e. incredibly judgemental and thinking I know everything) I wasn't sure whether she'd be able to carry certain songs live or not but 'Devil's Spoke' lost none of its combative message nor did 'Alpha Swallows' sound any less resigned than it does on record. I'm far more aware of 'I Speak Because I Can' than anything else so a lot of her older material was a little lost on me aside from 'Ghosts' which is a pretty little song that is just waiting to be cast in a Brit rom-com of some sort or another.

Laura Marling is still very young and on occasions I think that shows, in both good and bad ways. I got the feeling that she felt she had to engage the crowd between songs which isn't really the case and occasionally led to her walking up different blind avenues and I also wouldn't advocate anyone to cover Neil Young's 'The Needle and The Damage Done' as it's just very very difficult to pull off. In fact, I don't even think Neil Young could play that convincingly now. That said, you've also got to admire her for trying. Marling's (yeah we're on surname terms) a really likeable girl and this was an entertaining show which my old mate Corey Stephenson felt the need to describe as a night of "folk blended acoustic magic." Give me strength.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


My dog. And some thang on-a lead.

Such a cool word. Could mean a million things couldn't it? I imagine loads of little kids shouting it and running to a football mascot. I imagine an American commentator shouting it when something happens in some American sport or another that I don't understand. I also imagine it being some new radical weapon on Call of Duty that in, some way or another, will make my life a misery by killing me over and over again before I've even had a chance to blink.

What it is of course is the name of the latest Big Boi single and my God. He. Has. Done. It. Again. Three singles in a row that are all different but all share one crucial thing - they're all absolutely stone cold, well, cold. That's what cool people use these days to describe something that's good. Big Boi's three singles from the forthcoming 'Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty' have been cold, rad, mega, brill, sick, bad and just really quite good. Use whatever word ya want, I don't know what generation ya belong to.

Tunes like this make you sort of not miss OutKast that much, no? *ducks*


"Shutterbugg! Everybody Shutterbugg!"

'Shine Blockas (Ft. Gucci Mane)'

"I came equipped like an prophylactic..."

'Fo Yo Sorrows (Ft. George Clinton & Too $hort)

"Put it in yo' mouth and squeeze it like your mornin' toothpaste."

Saturday, 10 April 2010

"Keep me in the loop."

"Do you smoke?"..."Yeah I do. I smoke seriously. I'm a serious smoker."

People say that a lot, don't they? "Keep me in the loop on that." Normally it's those lucky souls that spend the majority of their weeks in artificially lit offices severely lacking in upbeat demeanours and inspiration. I'm sure you'll know what I mean there. "Keep me in the loop on that printer cartridge situation man! That's some important shit." That kinda thing. I myself am rarely 'in the loop'. My most common response in professional circles being "Umm. What?" It's a wonder I don't work in McDonald's. If they let you put your own music on whilst you worked and said you could just not turn up for, let's say, 20% of your shifts I would you know. I really would. Careers are overrated. In fact, you often read about cars careering off the road and those stories never end well, do they? Example here over at the Daily Heil. Four houses! Madhouse!

I did have a point here, I promise. Being in the loop with your favourite artists latest moves. That was it. It's strange because there's a fair few people I have, at various times of my life, completely loved yet now I sit here not knowing what their past three albums have sounded like. It's a strange thing. Maybe there's a simple answer. Maybe it's time. You can only listen to so many things can't you? I mean, unless you're doing that 'Zaireeka' experiment and if you're doing that you definitely do a have a problem with old Father Time son. That being that you have FAR too much of it, of course. Tastes change too, obviously. 1. I don't obsess over Ryan Adams like I once did. 2. I don't actually mind capers anymore whereas there once was a time I would've willingly marched myself to Guantanamo Bay before I'd eat one of those salty wonders.

Why am I rambling on about all this anyway? Rufus Wainwright is why. I ordered his new record 'All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu.', yesterday and I'm really looking forward to getting back in to Rufus world as it's been far too long. I'm not too sure what happened or where because I listened to both parts of that 'Want' album into my ears damn near fell off as it was an absolute peach. Since then though, I just ain't been returning Rufus's calls. I can't put my finger on why but we've just grown apart. Apart and away from each other.

Maybe it was that Judy Garland thing he did. I mean, I intend no offense and I probably should be open minded but c'mone, wasn't that album just Rufus performing, well, like proper show tunes?! Are you serious man? *shudder*.. Show tunes are not my bag at all. To me, they were born and raised in the same crib as other not-so-favourites/music I utterly despise like 'wartime songs', 'carols', 'acid house' and 'Joss Stone'. I think that record put me off for a bit and during this time Rufus just slipped off my radar. However, I read a couple of reviews of 'All Days Are Nights...' and was instantly alerted when I saw that this album is just Rufus and piano with no show tunes or camp C3PO stuff in sight. This is just Rufus with a piano singing songs about the recent loss of his mother. Sad stuff for sure and I'm pleased he seems to be dealing with that pretty well now. I've got high hopes for this one and naturally, I'll let you good people know what it's like so you can all stick it on your long list of things to download. Go on, pencil it in nerds. Just below 'World of Warcraft update patch' but just above 'Red Dwarf Series 4'. What's the worst that could happen?

Listen to this song. This is something else.

"No matter how strong/I'm gonna take you down with one little stone..."

Naturally I couldn't talk about anything being in or out of the loop without mentioning the below a little. If you haven't seen 'In The Loop' you're probably one of those people that needed counselling after watching 'Avatar' as you thought the world in that film was 'perfect' and you got all depressed coming out of the cinema and back into real life. Real life where people like the cast of 'Jersey Shore' exist and where millions upon millions of people listen to Chris Moyles every morning and enjoy it. God, now I've written it out and read that in blue and white I feel kinda low. What's your counsellor's number?