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.

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.

Sweet Sweet Lies five star album review / Brighton Launch

Fresh from receiving a four star review in Uncut for their new album The Hare, The Hound & The Tortoise, and the London album launch last week, Sweet Sweet Lies have score a five star review in The Independent, courtesy of fellow Brightonian Simon Price. Well done!

We’ll be reviewing it ourselves once we’ve got our hands on a copy. It’s out in the shops next Monday (February 20th), and they’re holding hometown launch on Friday 24th February at The Jive Monkey on Steine Street (formerly Om Bar).

If you need a fix of Sweet Sweet Lies before then, here’s their latest video for The Day I Change:

February Bleeding Hearts Club

At the end of the words I wrote for last month’s Bleeding Hearts Club, I said that I would definitely be heading back at some point. I didn’t know at the time that it would be quite so soon, but there were a few bands on this month’s line up that caught my eye.

First up was Ampersand – I featured the video for his new single 20 Seas 4 Oceans in my Media Roundup post about a fortnight ago. Better known as Matt Hainsby from Fujiya & Miyagi, Ampersand plays beguiling solo acoustic pop music. He supplemented his guitar with the occasional loop and sample fired on some foot pedals, but it really was all about his voice and his playing. The single lollops along like a lazy stripped down Fujiya & Miyagi transported to the west coast of America. The other tracks didn’t really hint at krautrock at all and sounded a bit more retro; I’d go so far as to say that on the last song I was getting a bit of Roy Orbison. I was impressed enough to buy the 7″ of 20 Seas 4 Oceans that was for sale. If the song wasn’t enough, the record also comes with a rather beautiful gocco Ampersand print made on very thin wood. You can buy it from the Great Pop Supplement website.

Ampersand

Next up were Naomi Hates Humans. They’re not from Brighton, and it was their penultimate gig, so even if I was moved sufficiently to tell you that you must go and seek them out (which to be honest, I wasn’t really), it would all be too late. So I’ll move swiftly onto Kate Daisy Grant. My first impression of Kate was a very child like quality – a toy piano can do that. In the space of four songs though, the instrumentation became less important, and some top songs and an amazing voice shone through. The last track was especially good – with the addition of some lush strings and a big trip hop remix it could easily be the next bond theme.

Kate Daisy Grant

Kate’s accompaniment was headliner Nick Pynn, who’s one of the great unsung heroes of the music world, playing and touring with some of the biggest names in rock, pop and, er, comedy over the past twenty years. We were treated to a short solo set at Monday’s night gig which consisted of a couple of songs on the fiddle, one one a handmade Appalachian Mountain dulcimer, and one on cocolele – a ukelele with half a coconut shell for the body! This was a virtuoso not a novelty set though, and a fantastic way to round off the night.

Nick Pynn

Sea Monsters 2 CD / Tyrannosaurus Dead interview

One Inch Badge, who put on the recent Sea Monsters gigs at the Prince Albert, have put out a cd with one track from every band who played at the festival. For now, you can buy it from their web shop here or from Resident or Rounder in town for a mere five pounds. It gets an international release on 9th April. If you want a listen first, here’s the soundcloud widget. But why not just buy it. It’s only a fiver! You can’t go wrong spending a fiver on a cd. That’s less than two pints!

Rather than do a review of the CD, since I reviewed every gig of the festival (and since you can listen for yourself), I decided to catch up with one of the bands to talk about things from their perspective. On a wintry January Saturday lunchtime, I caught up with Billy Lowe and Tom Northam from Tyrannosaurus Dead, who played on tuesday night’s gig and whose track 1992 is on the cd, to talk about Brighton, Gigs, 1992, and not singing in American accents.

Billy Lowe, lead singer of Tyrannosaurus Dead

Billy Lowe, lead singer of Tyrannosaurus Dead

On the Brighton connection:

BL: I went to Sussex University and had the best time. Tom and I are both from Poole in Dorset, and have known each other since we were about ten or maybe even younger. I lived here for years, I was in different bands, but lack of opportunity for work means I live in London at the moment, but I’ll definitely move back at some point, we play here all the time. Everyone else in the band still lives in Brighton.

TN: Billy set the base up for us all living here. We had all our friends in Poole – Billy moved here to go to university, and then his brother moved down, half of our friends moved here, we made friends with all of Billy’s friends that he made at uni, and I’ve just gone back to uni last year at 25 to study maths at Sussex, and now all of the rest of our friends have followed me, so the whole Poole group has moved to Brighton now.

BL: I think the reason people like coming to Brighton is that it’s like a micro-city – you’ve got venues all close together, you’ve got a really nice fashion scene, really nice art scene, you can walk everywhere, you don’t have to get on a tube, you don’t have to get on a bus – that’s what I love about it – that you can go to Brighton Live, or Fringe Festival, or Great Escape, or anything like that and just walk to all of the different things. The only trouble is that after you’ve lived here for a few years, it’s impossible to walk around and maybe see people that you don’t want to see!

TN: I’m even seeing people now that I’ve known from other past lives – I lived in Southampton for three years and I see people about in Brighton and it’s like “I went to uni with you, I went to that pub with you…”

On gigs:

TN: We’ve been quite lucky, our crowd is getting bigger at the moment. We’ve started seeing in the last couple of gigs people coming along who aren’t just our friends, and people will come up to us after the gig and tell us we were really good. It’s good to get feedback like that because your friends are always going to tell you you’re really great aren’t they?

BL: Yeah, and you don’t necessarily like the same music as your friends. They’re supportive – when you first start out you have to draw on your friends so much to come along otherwise you’d never get off the ground. But it gets to a point where your friends have spent so much on going to gigs and they’re like “I’ve seen that set a couple of times now, I’m gonna leave it” and then of course you need to start getting other people in and luckily we’ve managed to do that.

RO: I guess Sea Monsters was really good for that because people would go because it’s Sea Monsters, or they’ll go because it’s Fear of Men and see you as well…

BL: I’ve seen Fear of Men before in London and I’ve always thought they were really good. But we’ve been really lucky with Sea Monsters, because they really plugged us and that definitely helps. When we came on we had a nice big crowd and I think that was probably because they said 1992 was a really good track.

RO: On Soundcloud, yours is the second most listened to track on there, after the Restlesslist track.

TN: Which is pretty mental really. Restlesslist are the first track on the cd, so everyone’s going to start listening from that point, then you scan down and I think it’s a bit of a snowball thing – people see “oh, they’ve got lots of hits, what’s that one?” and then more people click on us because we’ve got more hits.

BL: When there’s twenty odd tracks, you’re not going to sit and listen to twenty songs, so you look at what draws your eye, and possibly because they mentioned the track in the Source rather than just the band, people might have listened to it. I thought we would be right at the bottom of the cd, but just being next to Fear of Men, getting mentioned alongside them is great. The association we’ve got with Fear of Men is amazing – obviously they’re way ahead of us.

RO: How did you get to be on the bill at Sea Monsters?

TN: We launched our EP down at Fitzherberts – we hired out the top room, we got a couple of local bands, Two Jackals and Hockeysmith to play with us, put it on as a free night, and the One Inch Badge guys happened to be drinking downstairs. We packed it out, you couldn’t get in to the room we had upstairs at one point, and the rest is history.

Tyrannosaurus Dead at Sea Monsters 2

On 1992:

BL: I was maybe nine years old, so I was probably learning maths in 1992…

TN: Same thing that I’m doing now!

RO: So where does 1992 come into things?

BL: When you get a bit older the time of stuff that happens that you like doesn’t quite correlate to where you are in your life, so we really like the Pixies and Nirvana, but when we were 9, we would have found it hard to relate to anything like that. It loses it’s place in time with your life. It’s also a reference to the way the music was changing at that time, not specifically 1992, but in the early 90s. In England, you had a hangover from the late 80s indie scene which had some of my favourite bands, and a little bit into the 90s American music was hitting it’s peak with grunge coming in, whereas in England we lost a lot of bands that I really liked and went into a new phase of Britpop which was after the high point of guitar music in this country. So the song’s saying that the end of something isn’t necessarily the best of it. I think that’s how British music was then, and I don’t think it’s ever truly recovered.

TN: Plus Waynes World was released in 1992!

BL: Years in songs always tend to sound quite good – 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins is one of my favourite songs ever. Melodically it works quite well to add a year into songs, and a year’s an easy thing to relate to because you know where you personally were in that year.

On accents:

BL: When I first started, quite embarrassingly, because I like those American bands, I’d not sing in an American accent, but pronounce things a little bit more American, and it’s the wrong way to go. Belle & Sebastian and other Scottish bands, their delivery is really nice and their accent really comes through, and you can really hear what they’re talking about. Sometimes when an English person sings in an American accent, it’s a bit contrived, and it’s difficult to relate to it because if they’re singing in an American accent, are they really meaning what they’re singing about? So we really made an effort to sing in our own voices and because of that it sounds very English. Eleanor who also does vocals has a very English voice. Singing in your own accent is a lesson you have to learn. When you try and sing in any other way and you listen back, it’s embarrassing.

Tyrannosaurus Dead are playing at Late Night Lingerie on 24th February and are supporting Spotlight Kid on 2nd March, both at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, and are heading into the studio in April to record their debut album.

words and pictures by Rob Orchard