Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Peter Doherty @ The Underground 12th February 2009

Review and photo Chloe West

With a new solo album release and a subsequent tour approaching, there would always be speculation as to whether Mr Doherty would return to his ‘Albion’, The Potteries for a warm up appearance. And on Thursday evening he did exactly that, announcing the gig just over a week beforehand, resulting in frantic fans buying up all available tickets in less than 48 hours, leaving the less fortunate to queue for hours beforehand. So from the previous facts it would be possible to deduce that the lucky few within the Underground’s walls that night would be Peter’s keenest followers, eager to see this exclusive acoustic set in such intimate surroundings, and with the added prospect of new material? Apparently not.

Prior to stepping a foot inside there were tales of brawls and tensions escalating even before the nine ‘o’ clock water shed. It never could have been a calm atmosphere for one man and his guitar. As Pete(r) strolls on stage draped in the now trademark black trilby and blazer combo, lager showers from either side and it begins. The photo show that is. Never before have such a wide spectrum of cameras/phones been showcased together apart from in the glossy pages of the Argos catalogue, as arms flail to reach the perfect angle. Being not the greatest fan of snap-shotting gigs myself, in this case it almost helped to blend in rather than be alienated. Two lads behind me took so long to position their camera I was half expecting them to pull out a tripod and ask Pete to say cheese.

Anyway, whether being viewed through various mega pixelage or not, Pete casually opens with the raucous Libertine number ‘What A Waster’ before quietly moving into ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ beginning a series of his former bands anthemic tracks dotted through out, including ‘Up the Bracket’, ‘Cant Stand Me Now’, and ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ which the crowd receive with much chorus. This is the same with the many Shambles tunes included in the near 90 minute set, although at some points Doherty doesn’t seem to grasp attention with his new songs, and unfortunately conversation overrules the music. The first example of any material off ‘Grace/Wastelands’ is ‘A Little Death Around The Eyes’, a song which, like a lot of the album, has been developing for some years, with acoustic demos floating about all over the show. Tonight we here something similar to these early ideas, stripped back once again to their rawest elements; minus effects, strings and Graham Coxon’s added guitar. Acoustic ‘Sweet By And By’ seems almost like a jolly school sing a long, apparently partially based on Kate’s lack of goodbye after they split (‘It wasn’t so long ago, when you said you loved me so/ Where did you go? You didn’t even say goodbye). ‘Palace Of Bone’ has a low bluesy feel to it, which becomes part of a continuous half hour jam, Doherty slipping from one age of his song writing career to another within minutes, occasionally perching on a high backed leather arm chair, as though deep in musical thought. At one point he even tucks in a quick version of Love’s ‘Alone Again Or’, but the by this point the seemingly bored majority instead turn to crowd surfing to keep themselves amused.
Ending on ‘Fuck Forever’, the night in a nut shell exposed first hand how explicitly Doherty has become a media persona; the lines of Killamangiro have never seemed more apt (And why would you pay to see me in a cage/That some men call the stage), when most of the crowd only seem interested in ‘the ones they know’ and kicking two shades of shit out of each other. With a police car perched outside the doors as the night drew to a close, it looks like it’ll take more than a personal reinvention and a solo project to shake the reputation created around him.

‘Get up of your back/Stop smoking that/You could change your life/Do you think they’ll change their minds?’

Monday, 16 February 2009

Dayve Dean - Octagon (sampler)

Review by Stephen Harvey

I had the pleasure of meeting and witnessing first hand the extremely talented singer songwriter Dayve Dean performing an acoustic set, at the recent Stoke Twestival charity event. A very confident performer and all round nice guy it seems, having donated not only his time free of charge, but also a number of copies of his latest album sampler to the proceedings, to help raise funds for the ‘clean water’ appeal that had dragged a sizeable audience off their couches, and out to the ghostly surroundings of The Leopard in Burslem, on a very cold and miserable Thursday evening.

The album sampler begins with a good old fashioned balled called ‘I could be happy with you,’ which almost immediately draws comparisons to Gary Barlow. The voice and singing style seemed to run parallel with the songs Gary had created just months after the infamous split of many years ago, that forced him to venture out on his own as a solo artist.

This initial thought and reaction continued for the rest of the album, and I hope Dayve does not feel this to be a harsh description or observation of his own particular style. It is purely meant to describe the overall quality of song writing achieved, and not to suggest in any way that he has attempted to emulate another popular artist. Far from it, this is original and honestly thought out material from his heart I feel.

My own particular favourite is track two titled ‘Starting Line’ which is a bouncy little number with a strong bass-line and pop feel throughout. A cheeky little chorus and punchy lines keep you wanting to hear the rest of the song, and I can almost picture it being performed by a well known boy band (no guesses who) to have a go at it.

Track three ‘like Jimmy did’ is without doubt the best song I have heard in this style locally for a very long time. The piano at the beginning is superb, and I am sure it would be superb to see this performed live in all it’s acoustic glory. A very well written song indeed, and I am certain it will be one his own and his fans favourites on the album.

The last track ‘Follow’ is a guitar based ballad that ‘follows’ much in the same vain as the previous three tracks, with the quality of the lyrics being the real star of the show.

I just hope that making the likeness to Gary Barlow in my review is not taken too seriously out there in the Stoke scene. We all know in this part of the country Robbie Williams is king, and we foolishly pushed aside Gary until recently (I feel a tear forming in my eyes) Is it such a bad comparison for an aspiring artist to reach for, given the success of Take That of late with very similar songs to this?

I don’t believe so, and I think Gary has finally had ‘the last laugh’ and the recognition he should have got in the first place for such well crafted songs, but please bear in mind that the Gary Barlow reference was only to help explain the overall quality of song writing achieved on this album, and that in my mind should be applauded in Dayve Dean’s work.

What you the listener does need to understand though, is that this was only a four track sample of Octagon, and not a full representation of the complete album. What I can honestly say is, the sampler did urge me to listen to every track a number of times, and search for him online to see what else he had to offer and I will be purchasing the full album. My wife is now a confirmed fan, and has even asked when he is playing again!!!

I hope you will join me in promoting and nurturing home grown talents such as this to their full potential.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Bitjam @ The Rigger 5th February 2009

Review by Charlotte Lunt

Photos by Scott Sharman

Bitjam is a wonderful anomaly within the local music scene. For some the thought of getting on to a stage completely unrehearsed is simply a recurring nightmare, for Bitjam it is their raison d’etre. Once a month at The Rigger, Audio Congress (Ben, Carl, Philsy and Matt) host an evening of improvised electronica with some residencies such as Kettlehead and also an extended invitation to fellow musicians to join them for a jam session, or to perform their own set. Fully embracing technology, tonight’s audience was both real and virtual with a live on-line feed allowing observation and comments from across the globe.

Tonight’s performance starts with Audiocongress’s Matt and Ben providing a stripped down ambient set with trace’s of 70’s funk bass lines combined with 80’s synths layering over them. Showing the synergy between the performers, and adding another dimension to the music Philsy unassumingly joins the stage to play keys, and they remain a three-piece until the end of the half hour set, taking their audience on the journey with them.

Next on the stage are guest performers Bembaya Funk, a group of local and Brazilian musicians who provided a crowded stage with instruments ranging from to familiar keys, bass and drum kit, to conga’s and traditional birenbow. This unusual ensemble seamlessly combines Brazilian and Cuban music with jazz, soul and funk using traditional rhythms and rules as well as improvisation. Through the use of call and response patterns to ‘re-group’ musicians and allowing them to explore their own creativity the group give a commanding performance, which will hopefully be the first of many in the area.

For the first time since Bitjam relocated to The Rigger, tonight’s performance was complemented by visuals by Optical Fury, who provided a range of visuals throughout the evening, as a creative backdrop to the music. During a brief musical performance interlude, the audience were treated to a soundtrack by Audio Mill which accompanied visual art by Rob Pointon and Big Red Studio. Combining many schools of thought this art also reflects the ethos of the evening, with roots in both fine art and social commentary.

Sneaking on to the stage amidst the jungle mic stands, Kettlehead starts his set. As with the Audiocongress there are no specifically identifiable tracks but rather themes that develop and flow into each other. Picking up the tempo and playing with tremendous nonchalance and pint in hand he has a more old school approach, not only in the style of music he composes but also I am reliably informed in his choice of software.

Audiocongress take to the stage again for the final set of the night with its full four piece line up, and jamming with Dan and Nick from ‘What would the Captain do’ providing more ambient tunes and creating a relaxed atmosphere to round up the evenings performances.

Whilst it might take a small leap of faith to regard some of tonight’s performers as musicians with some of the tools of their trade being laptops and sequencers, after seeing a live performance there can be no doubt that they are. Although Bitjam cannot be described as a gig, it is far more of an event and the inclusion of differing art forms throughout the evening shows that it is gaining greater recognition from the artistic community, and building momentum.

Bitjam takes place on the first Thursday of each month at the Rigger from 9pm, all welcome whether audience or performers.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

City Voices Festival - March 2009

City Voices Festival of words and music

March 2009 – Looking for Folk / Cajun Bands.

City Voices is an Arts Council funded project from Stoke on Trent in Staffordshire. We meet fortnightly at Central Library, Hanley to write and perform our creative writing. We are currently organising our third festival to be held in late March 2009.

The last two festivals of words and music have been very successful and have been supported by such well - known artists as the Boat Band and the Trent Vale Poet. We have enjoyed coverage in the local press and are committed to making this festival even bigger and better than the previous ones.

Although the group mostly consists of poets and authors, there are also a number of musicians, and we would like to widen in this direction in the future. We are looking for talented musicians or bands, which are willing to perform at this Festival of words and music for free. All proceeds at the Festival will go directly to the Douglas Macmillan Hospice, which I am sure you will agree is a very well deserved local charity that is close to a lot of our hearts. I am sure it will get plenty of positive publicity in the local press, and I hope you will join us in helping to raise not only our own profile but your own, while helping this fantastic organisation to prosper and help many more families in the area..

If you are interested, or would simply like to be involved in some way, then do please contact us for more information at: therealstokesound@googlemail.com