A New Old Venue for Brighton

After seemingly years of inactivity, Academy Music Group are in discussion with Council planning officers to kick start the process of bringing Brighton Hippodrome back to being a music venue. AMG took over the lease to the run down Grade II Listed theatre in Feb 2007 after the building was bought by Cheval Properties following forty years of it being a Mecca Bingo Hall, and it has remained empty ever since.

The venue started life as an ice rink back in 1897, but that didn’t last too long and it was converted into a theatre just after the turn of the century, playing host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Max Miller, Laurence Olivier, Laurel & Hardy, Gracie Fields and Harry Houdini (Thanks Wikipedia!). At it’s peak it packed in 4,500 people despite it’s official capacity of 3,000. After the second world war the theatre declined in popularity and started hosted more music concerts in an effort to widen it’s appeal. In 1964 both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones played there but the theatre closed it’s doors the following year, re-opening as a bingo hall in 1967. It was given Grade II Listed status in 1985

Academy Music Group run 24 venues across the country, and are probably best known for Brixton Academy. I’m hoping that they keep the Hippodrome name – out of the venues they run twenty are called Academy although a few have retained their original names. There won’t be any escape from heavy branding though. At the moment, all of them are plastered with O2 logos everywhere, after a few years of them all being badged as Carling venues.

The intention is to convert it to a 2,000 capacity venue – less than when it was a theatre, but that’ll probably mean more room for bars, a bigger stage area, and more fire escapes, which probably weren’t so much of a priority a hundred years ago. This is roughly the same capacity as the Dome, but the Hippodrome would be pitching for a much younger audience – a quick scan over the gigs on at the Dome in the next few months shows the likes of Joan Baez, The Chieftains, Suzanne Vega, Joan Armatrading and Don McLean coming up. The Concorde 2 only has a capacity of 600, and the Green Door Store only 250, so the Hippodrome wouldn’t really be in competition with any existing venues.

There’s a bit more info in the full story in the Argus.

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Shrag at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar

Last night, Shrag kicked off the first date of their tour to promote their new album Canines (due for release in May). It’s a double headliner tour with Tunabunny and to celebrate there’s a split single with each band taking on a side of the 7″. Shrag’s track is Tendons in the Night, which you can watch the video for here:

 

None of the supports were from Brighton, so I’ll rattle through them quickly – Dogtooth are the new project from Shrag’s original Canadian drummer Leigh Anne Walter, who’s teamed up with singer-songwriter Kate Gerrard, and the Metatrons were like a day-glo version of Shrag. If you didn’t know that co-Headliners Tunabunny were from Athens, Georgia you could have guessed from the opening song which sounded an awful lot like one of their hometown’s most famous bands (and I’m not talking about the B52s here). Over the course of their set though they ended up sounding a lot more like the Breeders, and that was no bad thing at all.

Dogtooth, The Metatrons and Tunabunny

Shrag arrived onstage later than advertised, which is kind of inevitable with four bands on the bill, and wasted no time in treating the audience to a set which was mainly made up of tracks from the upcoming album, with only a handful of tracks from 2010s Life! Death! Prizes! Last month, Shrag posted up a new track called Chasing Consummations which hinted that the band might be maturing a little – while they might be developing on their recorded output, live they were still just as full of energy, and the banter inbetween songs was anything but mature. After forty five minutes which had me sold on the new album, the band were off, without an encore.

Shrag

The split single is being sold on the tour, but can be bought from the usual places (Well, Resident have it on their website)

Album Review : Sweet Sweet Lies / The Hare, The Hound & The Tortoise

If you were to trace the genealogy of the music I love, you can follow pretty much everything I listen to now back to a cassette I had in my youth back in the early nineties. It had two albums, one on each side, as was the way back when home taping rather than illegal downloading was killing the music industry. If you left the house you didn’t go with an iPod with forty or fifty albums, you went with the tape that was in your walkman. And if you didn’t get around to changing the tape that often, you ended up listening to the same albums over and over, which meant that the music left a very strong impression. On one side of the tape was Happiness by The Beloved, but this review has got nothing to do with that. On the other side was an album of alternative country-folk tinged indie, with clever lyrics, predominantly about breaking hearts and drinking. My first listen to the Sweet Sweet Lies album took me right back.

The passage of time hasn’t been especially kind to The Wonderstuff, whose album Never Loved Elvis (and consequently their other albums too) meant so much then and continues to mean a lot. Thankfully Sweet Sweet Lies have carefully skirted around some of the Wonderstuff’s biggest issues. Lead singer Dominic Von Trapp isn’t an a annoying gobshite like Miles Hunt, and since the nineties are long gone no one in their right mind would dream of dressing like a Grebo (I’ll let you google it) – the band have opted for the complete other end of the spectrum and dress in suits for their stage wear, making them a strong contender for the smartest band in town.

My second visit to The Hare, The Hound & The Tortoise gave me a completely different perspective. I’d had the album on repeat on my iPod and it started up two thirds of the way through. While openers Capital of Iceland and Overrated Girlfriend might have given a first impression of a band of upbeat fiddles and guitars, and Winter of Discontent hints at more flamenco / mariachi direction with it’s trumpet and Spanish guitar, there’s a lot to be gained by sticking around to listen to the rest of the album too, where genres – square pegs trying to fit into round holes at the best of times – drip away to reveal songwriting in the classic style. Tracks like No-one Will Love You (Like I Do) and Too Drunk To Love are more likely to recall The Divine Comedy or Gene, both in their vocal style and intelligent lyrics (in fact, Sweet Sweet Lies supported Martin Rossiter on a recent solo tour). Singing duties are split between the two songwriters Dominic Von Trapp and Michael Hayes, with Dominic’s distinctive style, more crooner than modern pop star, making you truly believe that he would readily drink you under the table then steal your girlfriend.

The high quality of the songwriting as well as the consistency, strength and dark humour in the imagery in the lyrics throughout put Sweet Sweet Lies not just head and shoulders above most other bands in Brighton, but everything else that’s on offer too. This is an incredibly accomplished debut that the band should be truly proud of.

The Hare, The Hound & The Tortoise by Sweet Sweet Lies is out now on Something Nothing Records, and the Brighton launch for the album is at the Jive Monkey on Steine Street on 24th February.

New Kidda Single – Together Again

Next monday (27th Feb) sees the release of Together Again – the latest single from Kidda’s fantastic Hotel Radio album.

Also in the single package are remixes of the track by Detboi and Black Dots, as well as a remix of Hanging Around by Destruction, which you can take a listen to here:

 

Album review : The Galleons

When I wrote about The Galleons a few weeks ago after they played at the Brighton Folk night at The Brunswick, they were just waiting for their album to come back from being pressed. Now it’s arrived and ready to be heard by the world.

The Galleons eponymous debut long player is a warm, gentle folk-pop excursion. Over the course of a dozen tracks Ben Brockett and Beth Chesser harmonise and swap melodies over electric and acoustic guitars and pianos, reminiscent of Tunng but without the quirky electronica. Opener “The Eagles on your Eyelids” is one of the best showcases for Viktoria Mutore’s piano, which runs throughout the album, setting their sound apart from so many folk bands who stick to guitars.

The whole band play on all of the tracks, and I can’t help thinking that perhaps every now and then a more minimal stripped approach might have helped, giving a less-is-more quality to some songs, and giving the whole album a bit more colour.

This is a minor gripe though, and there is variety across the tracks, from jaunty up beat numbers like The Lion’s Den and Happy as a Lamb, to quieter tracks like The Moon & The Gate and closer Seven Hours. If you want to hear more, their next gig is at The Hydrant on Wednesday 14th March. There’s a taster of a few of the tracks on their website, where you can also buy the album.

February Source New Music Night at the Pavilion Theatre with Foxes!

After taking a month off (when quite frankly, we were all too busy with Christmas or too poor after Christmas), The Source return to the Pavilion Theatre for their regular New Music nights. I completely missed first act on the bill, Fragile Creatures, who I saw at the start of January headlining the Bleeding Hearts Club at the Albert. From what I heard, they went down an absolute storm though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back there higher up the bill at some point.

The night stuck to their normal format of an acoustic act in the downstairs bar to keep the music playing between bands upstairs, and this month’s turn was Daniel James, who started off with a cover of Britney’s Hit Me Baby One More Time (although perhaps sensibly, he missed out the chorus). Daniel had some good songs, knew his way around a melody, and established a bit of a rapport, and if I had one complaint, it was that he wasn’t nearly enough of a geek – because if he was, he’d know twice as many chords, and have spent far too many nights playing with all the different settings on his amp, and he’d sound so much better.

Daniel James

Next came Jetglo. They had the riffs, they had the audience in the palm of their hand, and if you want a good solid rock band, then look no further. Not really my kind of thing, but the response from the crowd showed that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Jetglo

I’ve written about headliners Foxes! before. I wrote about the gig they played just before Christmas at the Green Door Store, and I reviewed their album when it came out earlier this year. So when I heard that Foxes! were going top the bill at a show I was planning on going to anyway, it’s fair to say I was quite pleased. The other bands on the bill had good songs and had a connection with the audience, and Foxes! had that too, but on top of that they were in a different league in terms of musicianship, and they had humour, and they drew influence from so many more places. And it’s not every day you see the drummer of a band being female and the lead singer, either. They could have been scuppered by a broken string towards the end of their set, but they carried on regardless. The only thing anyone could possibly moan about was the lack of an encore, but then all the best bands leave you wanting more, don’t they?

Foxes!

BirdEatsBaby Album Launch at the Ranelagh tonight

BirdEatsBaby are launching their album Feast Of Hammers tonight at the Ranelagh on St James Street tonight (15th February 2012). The album, which isn’t officially out until 20th, but will be available tonight and at the London launch on saturday, should be a treat for those who like their rock dark and theatrical. For a taster, here’s their latest video for the single Incitatus:

There’s a facebook event page for the gig here.