Thursday, 19 August 2010

Summer Sundae, Leicester, 2010

Belated review of this festival now. We were lucky enough to win tickets through Go Leicestershire, along with fancy-pants hotel accommodation, so we weren't immersed in the full festival experience. This along with the, er, modest size of Summer Sundae made it kind of feel like a weekend away during which we caught a few bands in the local park. In fact, that was exactly what it was. However it was a very nice local park, with tasty food and some great bands.

It was very family-friendly, with lots of cute things going on like this Punch and Judy show.

Music highlights included the lovely Laura Veirs, with her new band the Hall of Flames.

Tunng were without a doubt the band of the festival for me. Last time I saw them, at the Band on the Wall in Manchester, they seemed nervous to be back, but this time they through themselves into the set with abandon, and I loved it so much I had a little cry. There had been wine that afternoon. Got a good feeling about these guys, think they might cross over to the mainstream if they carry on producing songs of this quality.

This was the first time I'd caught Liam Frost ( and live in Manchester, I know!) and it was everything I had expected and hoped for - gentle, heartfelt songs sung simply with just a guitar. Beautiful.
The Besnard Lakes were our last band of the festival, and although they didn't maybe click with the Sunday afternoon crowd they put in an impressive effort on one hours sleep in 36 hours, and since seeing them live I'm starting to really enjoy the album. They're growers I reckon.

All in all a good weekend. Would I go back under my own steam? Maybe not, but something like this closer to home would be a proper treat. Get on it Platt Fields.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Jens Lekman, Deaf Institute (& Sandbar!), 2 August 2010

Bit of a treat today, here's a review of what sounds like it could be the gig of 2010 so far, by Mr Noggin....

For a whole week before this gig, I thought I was going to see an singer called Lens Yeckman – such was my criminal lack of knowledge about Swedish singer Jens. He was someone well and truly off my radar, his music was as alien to me as the music of Maurice Ravel or JLS. I think I half heard him the Friday before the big day in Saki Bar during their bi-monthly Underachievers Please Try Harder night; it brought to mind Jarvis Cocker singing a Belle and Sebastian number, with a slightly quirkier accent. This had the potential to be quite good, but I also had the nagging feeling that it might also be terrible.

August 2nd arrived. With Lazy Noggin away in London for a lavish wedding, it was up to me to stand in for her – I’d be the cultured lover of all things zeitgeist and twee – and then I’d report back to her, with sarcastic vitriol, how it was all the same old self aware indie bobbins, with added tweed, unkempt hair, and beads.

The Deaf Institute is an excellent venue. For a sauna. Bad start. It was hot in there – I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. Except it wasn’t mine – it was the person stood behind me. If you want to see a sea of unhappy yet shiny faces, then go to the Deaf Institute before a mildly popular gig. Or just spray paint a stranger silver.

And then Jens Lekman walked out with a gaggle of on stage beauties – male and female – they’re a lovely looking bunch – all cool and accessorised – with brass and string instruments. Needless to say, it was easy to forget about being 70% water when he appeared at the front – he won the crowd over with an effortless charm, a good-natured humour, and some bloody excellent tunes.

Tracks like the disco tinged The Opposite of Hallelujah, floating past like Tigermilk era Belle and Seb; blunt yet funny whimsical soul like A Postcard to Nina; and the heartbreaking The End of the World is Bigger than Love – flew by, seeming like songs I should have heard, should have had in my heart, and should have been singing along to like the rest of the audience.

Jens Lekman is hard to place – he’s pop without being embarrassing, he’s funk without needing marijuana, he’s northern soul without the dance moves. He’d probably slot in your CD collection nicely next to The Magnetic Fields, Kings of Convenience and Loney, Dear – yet he sounds utterly unique.

So there I was, happy, amazed, enchanted. And then the gig was over.

But no, Jens decided it wasn’t – he wanted more. And so did everyone else in the room. After a short break, her led us all over to Sandbar - a pied piper to us indie rats. This is where the true appeal of Jens shone through – he was alone, playing a little acoustic guitar, surrounded by cross-legged doe eyed fans, relying on his songs alone – and he had everyone singing along – he made us all feel like we were part of something special, something amazing – he brought down the barriers between musician and listener – we were all as one. Or maybe it just felt that way after the free booze laid on by the rather magnificent manager of Sandbar.

Jens was a true gent, staying way past 1am to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and engage in banter with people way more pissed than he was.

The only frustrating thing of the whole night was knowing that Lazy Noggin missed it all. Bloody London.

So the night ended, after a nice little lock in, some delicious red wine, and some excellent music – we’d hijacked Sandbar, and Jens, for long enough.

Much like this blog.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Next month in music

A quick canter through what looks good in Manchester between now and the end of August:

Hey Manchester! @ The Deaf Institute, Monday 2 August 2010

The folk and Americana promoters Hey Manchester! present the ever inventive Swedish/Australian singer Jens Lekman, with support from The Blow and Bill Wells. I am very sad to be out of town for this one

Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly @ The Deaf Institute, Tuesday 10 August 2010

Lovely Sam Duckworth is out on tour ahead of his new album in September, supported by Xcerts. Kind of surprised he’s playing such a small venue, but certainly not complaining

A couple of excellent acts on at a decidedly mediocre venue:

Laura Veirs and her band The Hall of Flames @ The Ruby Lounge, Friday 13 August 2010

The Besnard Lakes @ The Ruby Lounge, Monday 16 August 2010

The Crookes return to Manchester to play Moho Live on Friday 20 August 2010. They apparently performed an excellent set at Dot to Dot so this is our second chance with the Sheffield indie kids

Hey Manchester! @ Dulcimer, Chorlton, Wednesday 25 August 2010

Hey Manchester! are keeping busy, they also have a new monthly night at one of my all time favourite venues - upstairs at Dulcimer in Chorlton. The first night features David Dondero and is a bargainous £3

Caitlin Rose @ Night and Day Café, Wednesday 25 August 2010

Competing for your attention the same night is the young Nashville country singer Caitlin Rose. Damn clashes!

Gideon Conn @ Band on the Wall, Thursday 26 August 2010

Folk magician extroadinaire returns to his Manchester roots


Monday, 26 July 2010

Linen, Manchester

Searching for a pre-Inception meal, we thought we’d finally try one of the many offers Linen continually promote. It’s a funny one, Linen. Hidden away at top of Manchester235 casino in the Great Northern development, you have to traipse up escalators, across gaudy carpets and past hardened gamblers to get to your meal. Once in the restaurant, the low brick arched ceilings, white tablecloths, lit up posts and baroque furnishings create a weird space, to be frank. Bit too footballers wives for my taste. It was an early Friday evening, and the room was dead, but in fairness it had picked up a bit by the time we left.

The staff were nice, though the formality felt a bit overdone as they served two diet cokes to us in the empty room. We had been reeled in by the two courses for £10 offer, which whatever way you look at it is extremely good value, and is especially so in a place like this where the kitchen obviously knows their stuff. The mains of sausage and mash and Goosnargh chicken were tasty and well-cooked, but the starter of mushroom pate was a bit flabby and tasteless, and although the chips were temptingly dark, ultimately they were soggy and disappointing.

So, we came away in two minds. Mr Noggin was enthusiastically in favour, and in many ways he’s right: the food is generally good and the price is hard to beat. I’d say the food quality was as good as Choice and a quarter of the price with the deals they have on.

But I just don’t feel any need to go back. It doesn’t excite me. It is missing a certain something that makes me love a restaurant, be it the extravagant décor and unusual flavours of Chaophraya, or the buzz and menu appeal of Piccolino’s. Yes, next time I think I’ll pop round the corner to Dimitri’s.

Friday, 23 July 2010


So I got busy and lazy and abandoned the blog for a couple of weeks. Oops. Here’s a round-up of stuff I did while I was away:

Saw Noah and the Whale at Manchester Cathedral – got cheap tickets last minute, bit of an afterthought, but ended up being blown away. They are really excellent live, much improved according to my gig companions who had seen them before. Saw them again at Latitude, their last gig before going back in to the studio, where they again wowed the crowd.

Had dinner at
Zizzi’s in Didsbury – turning into a bit of a reliable fallback this one, great food for a chain, lovely décor, super friendly student staff, good tipping policy and the pizzas are the biggest I’ve ever seen – I got 3 good meals out of mine.

Went to West Kirby beach – when you think North West England, you don’t think great beaches, but we discovered an absolute gem up on the Wirral at West Kirby. The tide was out and we picnicked before strolling out across the sands to the little islands, taking lots of photos of the great expanse. However much I love the city life, I do love a change of scenery and this is as good as you’ll get within an hour's drive.

Scissor Sisters @ The Apollo – this was a free ticket through some Oxfam volunteering, so again not one I had been anticipating for weeks. Its not really my bag, but they put on a cracking show, lots of good sing-a-long moments. Also, they seem genuinely nice people, they came round the side and signed autographs and chatted to fans for ages after. I like that kind of attitude.

A few old stalwarts visited –
Dough, Great Kathmandu and Red Chilli
. They never disappoint.

And a new favourite found: Zouk Tea Bar (above) on Chester St (off Oxford Road, opposite the BBC). Took an out-of-town friend, from Birmingham no less, to this Indian the critics have been raving about, and my God am I glad I did. My lamb chop starter was just delicious, and the salmon main was some of the best salmon I’d ever had, served on a slab with a memorable tangy sauce. My friend went for the tasty Palak Tikka and the recommended Lamb Nahari, both outrageously good. He declared it the best Indian he’d had, not bad from someone who lives within walking distance of the Balti Triangle. I mostly spend my time these days working out when I can next go there and have the lamb chops again.

Finally I spent the weekend at Latitude, a most civilised affair involving a dinner reservation, jugs of Margheritas, deckchairs and Pimms. Glastonbury this was not. Highlights included the glorious Belle and Sebastian, Holly Miranda, Vampire Weekend, Noah and the Whale and midnight storytelling and songs from Daniel Kitson and Gavin Osborn. Yes, I’m already pining for next year.

Ok, that’s the round up, I’ll be back much sooner this time, with a review of Linen if its worth writing about.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Middle East @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester, Friday 25 June 2010


The best gig ever?

Do you know when you almost don’t go to something, but then you do and afterwards you can’t believe you came so close to missing it? Well, maybe that’s a bit specific, but that was how I felt as I supped a post-gig drink in Sandbar. It was almost shellshock, a kind of “how amazing was that” euphoria.

The Australian band has been going for five years now, but it was their recent five song EP The Recordings of the Middle East which brought them to my attention. At the Deaf Institute on a beautiful summer evening the band open with The Darkest Side, which immediately sounds ten times better than the already good album version. There are six men and one woman on stage and the sound they make between them is just sublime. I don’t know whether to be impressed by the band or annoyed at whoever produced their EP that this sound was only hinted at on the recordings. The men harmonise together closely as they play guitars, drums, keyboard and a range of other less recognisable instruments. Then the beauty of the music is lifted to another level as Bree Tranter’s voice enters the fray, high and pure but somehow fitting in perfectly. With so many people on stage I was astounded at how considered the sound is. It would be easy for the sound to become loud, raucous or chaotic sounding, but the arrangement is perfect, with members sometimes singing away from the microphone or playing softly to control the song build-up.

I saw them again at Latitude and although the sound was lost a little on the windy Sunrise stage it was still special and beautiful. Highly recommended – go see!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Next month in music

A quick rundown of musical things that look good between now and the end of July, generally a pretty quiet time on the music scene:
Thursday 24 June 2010 (tonight!)
Midsummer House Party @ The Whitworth Art Gallery

A folky evening gig at a beautiful art gallery ten minutes walk from my new home? Its like if Carling put on gigs (though of course they do and they’re nothing special, but you know what I mean). Pull Yourself Together, Manchester’s indiepop fanzine and clubnight have singer songwriters Edmund Cottam and Christopher Eatough before PYT DJs play some tunes. For Folk’s Sake, the huge folk website, have poets Gemma O'Neil and Jackie Hagan. Also playing are Jam on bread and the Chantilly Belles. All relative unknowns to me but look like they will combine to make a splendid evening. There’s also some craftiness (what, like it wasn’t twee enough?), a bar and the whole thing is free. It’d be a crime to miss it.

Friday 25 June 2010 (tomorrow!)
The Middle East @ The Deaf Institute

This Australian band’s EP, The Recordings of the Middle East, has barely been off my ipod. Their music is indie/folk/bit of everything, and very much worth catching.

Tuesday 29 June 2010
Johnny Flynn @ Academy 3

English folk singer who’s been around for a while now and has played with Laura Marling. This will be a lovely gig to promote his new album Been Listening.

Saturday 3 July 2010
Noah and the Whale @ Manchester Cathedral

They need no introduction as the pioneers of the new British folk scene. Enjoy them in very special surroundings.

Later in July…Latitude! Pick of the festival to come