Thy Barber: A cut above

 

IMG_7206

It’s Saturday morning, and it’s the last Saturday that Thy Barber is doing walk-in haircuts, – they’ve been doing walk-ins only on a Saturday.  I like appointments for hairdressers and normally I’d book an appointment, but I was in need of a clip.

I’ve reviewed a couple of hairdressers, and could do hundreds more. But I don’t have time to write loads of terrible reviews, when there’s good ones to be done.

This is one such. I’ve found hairdressers (plural!) who cut hair well, and do exactly what I want. It’s taken me a while – and I’ve sat in so many barber/salon watching the hairdresser at work, judging them intently as they finish off the odds-and-sods of the back and sides, and brush down the current customer. Usually it’s with a creeping sense of dread at what I’m going to get.

“You having trouble with your name? Want some help?” Frank cheekily asks a hesitant customer, pointing to a thin blackboard where customers have added their names by order. The list isn’t very long, so the wait won’t be more than 30 minutes. Neil has been on the list at the top, but he seems to have wandered off.  The customer writes his name and waits.

Frank continues shaving his present customer. Pauly is just getting started on the sides of my head. When my hair grows out, there’s something weirdly satisfying about seeing it fall to the floor.

Being in Shoreditch you’d imagine it would be quirky. It’s a nicely decked out salon, but because it’s tucked in an alcove of sorts, between a restaurant and a biker-wear shop it is quite odd. They do make the most of the space and, most important, Pauly and Frank are great fellas too. When I have an appointment after work, they always offer me a beer and a comfy seat if I have to wait. I’ve been a few times now, and the haircuts are bloody good.

IMG_7205.jpg

It’s pretty much a win-win all round, I love the booking system, which doesn’t even involve calling up and speaking to an actually human being. And you can get a text/e-mail reminder the day before your hair too.

At 26 quid for a haircut, it’s at the top end of the scale for what I’m prepared to pay – but I know that I can wait a couple of weeks longer than I’d normally and my hair will still look pretty damn good – that’s the sign of a bloody good haircut. The chat is good, and the the music ain’t bad either. The first time I went in there they were playing this, which is all right by me.

My only complaint is that they don’t wash your hair – there’s no basins (given the space constraints?), so that’s a minus, but I’d rather go home and wash my own hair knowing that I have a good haircut, rather than have it done for me and by someone does a mediocre job, so for some as fussy – about haircuts – for me its no big thing.

IMG_7210

It might seem expensive, but they know what they’re doing and I’ve come away a very happy customer every time. Worth every penny.

Thy Barber – The Bike Shed, 384 Old Street, London EC1V 9LT

 

 

 

 

Disappears perform Bowie’s ‘Low’ @ 100 Club 23/11/15

This was an event put on at London’s legendary 100 Club by the Sonic Cathedral record label.


It’s a brave move by anyone to cover a David Bowie song, given the respect and adoration that he commands – it’s an even braver move to cover a whole album as a live set, especially from a three-piece – given the depth of the album in question.

But that’s what Chicago trio Disappears did – covering Bowie’s 11th studio album, and the first of the so-called ‘Berlin trilogy’ albums, which were recorded/mixed in Berlin and collaborated with Brian Eno.

It’s certainly not one of Bowie’s more commercial albums but yet it leads itself well to a live performance, and those in attendance were almost certainly there for their love of Bowie, with no disrespect to Disappears – and the fact that they (or anyone else) is unlikely to see Bowie perform it. Disappears did an immense job and did the album justice in at an intimate venue.


The first side of the album has a poppier element to it than the the more experimental later songs and that gave the crowd enough to go on to evaluate Disappears interpretation of the material – songs such as Breaking Glass, What in the World, Sound and Vision are the very epitome of Bowie’s melding of art and pop sensibilities.

Bassist Damon Carruesco did an admirable job of Bowie-esque vocals when called upon, but the star performer was the drummer Noah Leger -his relentless pounding adding to the soundscapes of the guitar and bass effects, and when he came off the stage at the end of the set drenched in sweat it was clear that he’d earned his crust for the evening.

Overall, this was a solid performance from Disappears, covering material that requires bravery, spirit and some ingenuity – bravo, gents, bravo.

Friday Playlist #2

Another playlist – perhaps I should say something here about the overall theme or why I picked the songs. There isn’t a theme, and I picked them because all the tunes are ace. Is that a good enough reason?

Anything that should/shouldn’t be on there?

spotify:user:115445190:playlist:0xnfACHbTiaf9l3k9CnVzJ

Friday Playlist

Remember in my last blog post I said that I can’t and won’t use Spotify? Well, i lied. It’s taken me a week to compile this after trying to export it from iTunes – and failing miserably. I ended up having to add it all manually, why Spotify won’t let you import new playlists from iTunes beggars belief, but there you go.

Anyway, It’s (almost) the weekend and what way to celebrate it by making a playlist – also it’s also great to share music on the blog and get some feedback hopefully. Have a listen and let me know what you think – there’s a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of funk, a smidgen of krautrock and a touch of pop. What would be on your ideal playlist?

spotify:user:115445190:playlist:3bBv9bWEzrZdZ2mc9yHtoh

ArtRocker Awards Presents Jim Jones Revue – XOYO, London

The Jim Jones Revue collect their Best Live Act award.
With an awards ceremony dominated by names that made their mark over a generation ago, the Artrocker bash might have made more of a commentary on the state of music, rather than the musicians they nominated. So, the Jesus and Mary Chain won an award for best new re-issue and Gary Numan was awarded a Legend gong. The attendees did their best to feign interest when the other bands came to collect their prizes but it was the big names (and the free booze) which captured the attention but not quite the imagination. 
One band that did stand out was the Jim Jones Revue. They were awarded best live band and were praised highly by a number of people at the ceremony, where they were due to play later that evening showcasing some of the winners of the Artrocker awards. 
They certainly looked the part. Quiffs? Check. Leathers? Check. Sideburns? Check again. It certainly helps to be a good punk’n’roll band by looking the part – but you’d better have some smokin’ tunes and a lead singer that is 2 parts starved tiger (ready to rip its prey from limb to limb) to one part catwalk model.
The JJR busted all the right moves from the rock’n’roll textbook. There were guitars-in-the-air showmanship, a keys player who dripped sweat and saliva all over the ivories, some arse-tearing guitar solos and an impressive pair of lungs to belt out their numbers. However, despite these qualities there was something missing. An absent ingredient that makes the good more than just good – that makes them show-stoppingly unmissable, with the kind of rebel cool of a John Spencer or a Nick Cave who play, coax and tease their audience. The kind of cool where the frontman can walk off with your girlfriend at the end of a gig, and somehow you’d still feel privileged.
The set had urgency but lacked that warmth of showmanship and confidence between songs but more telling was the lack of dimension to their music. Perhaps this was part of the problem – there was little in the way of variation to distinguish one song from another for the unintiated. Live sets, just like albums should be something of a narrative – there needs to be that full throttle energy but there also needs to be times when the music is slowed down and the audience’s energy harnessed. JJR lacked that, and as a result, sounded at times AC/DC derivative. While their current LP ‘Burning Down The House’ offers little in the way of variation, there are tunes on the first JJR album that bring out a greater contrast to their formula.
  
In a sub-genre that has legends like The Cramps and John Spencer Blues Explosion and other notable bands like The Supersuckers, New Bomb Turks and The Bellrays, being original is not really the point. But the good bands, the really good bands, somehow offer a blood transfusion to the traditional interpretation of white boy Blues.The Jim Jones Revue may well become one of those but they’re not there yet. In the meantime, if you’re looking for ballsy rock’n’roll and a decent live performance they are worth checking out but it’s nothing you couldn’t get at one of London’s better Blues nights.

Throwing Muses – Shepherd’s Bush Empire 2/11/2011

Music venues are supposed to define the kind of act you’re going to see in terms of size and reputation. Unfortunately, gig-going in the 21st century means that, because of a mixture of legislation, health and safety and anti-terrorism measures that rock and roll is a pretty sanitised and clinical affair nowadays.

Having had my bag searched and asked to leave my camera at the box office, then having my bag looked into again I managed to reach the stage and the crap over-priced beer. The music certain to be good but at this point, the whole enjoying-yourself-malarky was beginning to feel like work. While it’s beneficial for everyone that we longer have smoking at indoor events but As an O2 venue, just like the re-christened Millenium Dome, the Empire also has a no re-admittance policy which is tad drastic for those who might still smoke and want to go out for, erm, y’know, a good time.

So being at a gig where you’ve essential been kettled and taken your entrance fee as hostage might not really get you in the mood to either have a good time or have any social display of  joie de vivre. While gigs are no longer the domain of scruffy pissed-up students, vinyl obssessives and would-be musos, does your common or garden gig have to become a more like a trip to a theme-park?

Fortunately, Throwing Muses put on a good show. Kristin Hersh and co have nearly 25 years of tunes to mine from. This tour was to push their recent Anthology an attempt encapsulate the best elements of their back catalogue. The cynic and the realist might say that for a band that have been officially split for over seven years this might be a way of cashing in on the back of early-90’s comeback after the successes of 4AD label-mates Pixies, and acts like Blur, Dinosaur Jr, and most recently, The Stone Roses.

And why not? Throwing Muses might not have the fanbase that the aforementioned artists but they can pull in a decent crowd of followers, albeit some slightly podgier and over-the-hill than when the Muses were still in their pomp.

Much of the set was culled from their earlier material – songs such as ‘Soul Soldier’, ‘Garoux des Larmes’, ‘Vicky’s Box’ and ‘Bea’ all feature from the first 2 albums while the rest of the set was made up of the stand-out songs from University and Limbo, two albums that demonstrate Throwing Muses credentials as a fine pop band. ‘Limbo’, ‘Tar Kissers’, ‘Hazing’ and ‘Bright Yellow Gun’ were probably what most fans wanted to hear. Strange then that these were played early in the set and the encore was given over to their earlier, folky roots. ‘Dirty Water’ and ‘Notorious’ were played from 1991’s critically-acclaimed Red Heaven, although material from The Real Ramona  tunes like ‘Counting Backwards‘ and ‘Him Dancing’ were omitted from both the gig and the Anthology which was a shame.

Perhaps this might have saomething to do with former co-songwriter Tanya Donelly‘s absence who left the band in 1992 after to form Belly. Although Donelly has worked with the band since, both making appearances at live gigs and adding backing vocals to tunes here and there, it would have been great to have had them as a four-piece as a truer picture of the Throwing Muses in their (more or less) original line-up.

Nevertheless, Kristin Hersh is a wonderful singer and songwriter who has, it could be argued, not been given her fair dues, perhaps because of the presence of more famous female rock idols – like Kim Deal and Kim Gordon – and because Grunge cast such a long shadow over early 90’s American indie rock.

Both the gig and the album it is promoting is overall a fair summary of a band that played no small part in the last stand of independent music.

ATP: I’ll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead, London 24/07

ATP have the rare knack of putting on fantastic indie/alternative rock festivals on at the most interesting and quirky of locations this time curated by Portishead and held at the glorious Alexandra Palace in North London. ‘Ally Pally’ as it’s known – is no different. Two fantastic adjacent halls and some quaint gardens to enjoy another rare thing, a beautiful English summer day.

This was the second day of the two-day festival. The Saturday featured performances by Portishead and the magnificent PJ Harvey but offered little else in terms of crowd pulling power. However, the Sunday offered Godspeed You Black Emperor, Swans, Grinderman, The Telescopes and of course, Portishead again. While some of these bands may not be household names, it is suggestive of musicians who have played for many years and won a loyal or cult following.

First up were Godspeed! You Black Emperor (GYBE) a post-rock Canadian 6-piece ensemble whose music is a mixture of classical, rock and jazz. Their music is haunting, bleak and at times heartbreakingly beautiful. Their two-hour set spanned their 5 albums with warmer reception being reserved for earlier work like ‘East Hastings‘ and ‘Providence’ from #F #A Infinity and ‘Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennae Towards Heaven’ from the album of the same name.  Much of the soundscapes and images that the group make (in their accompanying film) show a harsh, apocalyptic world of suffering, torment and love.

Post-rock as a genre conjures up images of serious boys who file their extensive vinyl collection by genre, sub-genre and then alphabetise them. Boys, for who dancing, means moving nothing below the neck. But GYBE are playful and anarchic in their choice of song-titles and their samples often evoke humour as well as impending calamity. 

LIARS were next on the bill and they played a storming 45-minute set sounding more like The Stooges than the sound mash-ups from their earlier material, playing a very melodic, stripped set with ‘It Fit When I Was a Kid’, ‘Plaster Casts of Everything’ and ‘Loose Nuts on the Velodrome’.

And so to Grinderman. Although not top billing, the anticipation for Nick Cave and could not have been more keenly felt. There is no doubt Cave’s undeniable talent, a monster of creative energy – his career spans film scripts, spoken word tours, two novels and a seminal discography with his first band The Birthday Party, not to mention the acclaim and high regard his work with The Bad Seeds has produced.

On the day after Amy Winehouse‘s untimely death, here was a true rock and roll legend who had fought his own demons and drug addiction to continue at the zenith of his powers as an entertainer. That a man who allegedly once turned his own apartment into a shooting gallery from where he dealt drugs, it’s hard to imagine someone could produce art of such slick, monstrous beauty – not to mention such impecable personal grooming.

Grinderman didn’t disappoint, that’s for sure. Nick Cave worked and menaced the stage, constantly tempting the audience forward and into his frenzy with teasing – moving ever nearer the mosh pit and the sea of grasping hands. Happily obliging at times, Cave entered into the crowd snarling and foaming like a nutter hanging out at a tube station in rush hour, spitting out the venom that accompanies his low-life personas and twisted melancholy.

The majority of the set was made up of tracks from the current ‘Grinderman 2’ album but his public were just as happy to lap up ‘Get It On’ and ‘No Pussy Blues’ from the first album as ‘Worm Tamer‘ and ‘Bellringer Blues’. As a live act, Grinderman manage to give their songs much more garage rawness and brute power than the recorded product sometimes allows. That a 53-year old man (and 3 other members who can’t be much younger) can put on that kind of rock show with the kind of urgency that puts to shame musicians half his age.

Describing musicians whether they are dead or alive as ‘a genius’ shows the kind of clumsiness of language that writers reserve for describing the famous and talented. Very few individuals deserve such a title bestowed upon them, Nick Cave however, showed why he might deserve it more than most for his contribution to modern pop culture. 

 The Caveman keeps evolving

And so the final band of the night, or at least for those with day jobs (the interesting Caribou played on until the wee small hours) was Portishead, the curators of this year’s ATP. The success of the Bristolian trio gained acclaim in the 90s for their hybrid trip-hop sound on the albums Dummy and Portishead, returning in 2008 with Third, after a 7 year hiatus.

While tunes from the last album were warmly received like ‘Silent’ and ‘The Rip’  the crowd – of the age and demographic to remember their debut, were clearly nostalgic to hear the more famous numbers: ‘Sour Times’, ‘Glory Box’, ‘All Mine’ and ‘Only You’ and ‘Wandering Star’ were delivered with ghostly aplomb – vocalist Beth Gibbons still retains the ability to haunt with her voice and guitarist Adrian Utley could easily sneak into The Cramps with his tremolo-heavy guitarwork.

Portishead in many ways embody the ethos of All Tomorrow’s Parties: bands that despite having their day in the sun, critically at least, still retain a huge fanbase and a unique sound. Many of the bands on the bill for ATP do not really need to evolve in order to please. For those who still maintain an interest, old is the new ‘new’.