Sunday, 25 November 2012

Rhubarb Bomb's Best Stuff of 2012

For the last couple of years, Rhubarb Bomb has declared a Festival of The Year which basically indulged my love of spreadsheets and over complicated scoring systems to crown a winner. This year, partly because I have had a dreadful run of planning to go to festivals that ended up being cancelled, I have been thinking how to expand this idea.

So this year, we have a range of topics for this year’s best ‘stuff’, basically bands, records, live stuff and things that have appeared in Rhubarb Bomb

The music is restricted to records we have actually reviewed. Otherwise, the list would be endless. Basically we try to review all we get sent. Sometimes if one of our writers buys something they love, they’ll do a review. But, for example, we never reviewed The Cribs album. And for the best events, we decided to keep it local.

For each category, I have shortlisted five. They are all potential winners that I would be proud to have regarded as Rhubarb Bomb’s best of 2012. But beyond that shortlisting, the choice is down to you.

The online vote is HERE. Below is some more information on the nominees, with links in purple if you want to see / hear more. Voting closes midnight on December 23rd.

Best Album

Kebnekaise – Wot Gorilla? (self release)

“The sound is new and innovative, but even within the realms of melodic mathrock they bring something of their own to the table; a more accessible charm without tuning down their idiosyncrasies one iota; what an accomplishment.” – Roland X

Midnight At The Sycamore Lounge – St Gregory Orange (Philophobia Music)

“Every ache over the construction of a beat, the rhythm of a line or the structure of a song has moved them further and further from their peers. The final product justifies each of their decisions: no one else in the world could have made this record. A work of wonder and endlessly collapsing beauty from one of the country’s most unique and engaging bands.” – Dean Freeman

The Time And The Lonelyness – Mi Mye (Self Released)

“Like a story being told rather than a song being sung, these are more than exercises in songwriting. It’s music, art and expression in its purest form which is, of course, the greatest thing and the record’s greatest success.” – Dean Freeman

Thirteen Lost & Found – RM Hubbert (Chemikal Underground)

“There is no studio trickery, no dense lyric to pour over and no sense of hype or anticipation. Yet the songs pack a greater emotional punch than almost anything else I have heard this year, which on this scale of minimalism is impressive in the extreme.” - Dean Freeman

This Many Boyfriends – This Many Boyfriends (Angular Records)

“It genuinely makes me want to teleport back in time to be 17, buy a leather jacket, sweat and dance in some overcrowded thrown together club night and fall in love.” - Jack Falcon

Best Single / EP

Day Three – jamiesaysmile (Geek Pie Records)

“Complex but accessible pop anthems that start small then build into wider, more expansive soundscapes. The key here for me is the transition between moods and dynamics; when the overdrive kicks in and mutates the guitars from twangy to crashing or the vocals move from reflective to downright sad, jamiesaysmile captures a sound all of his own.” – Matt Rhodie

Honeymoon On Ice – Soulmates Never Die (Cowsnail Records)

“This whole collection of ‘100mph grunge-folk’, as he has described his own style, is well worth a listen. The scratchy vocals and elegant guitar hook you in, but for me it’s the unpredictability of the journey that appeals most.” – Matt Rhodie

Runaround Kids vs We Are Losers – Runaround Kids / We Are Losers (Philophobia Music)

“It’s great that Philophobia is looking outwards to add talent to its roster. We Are Losers clearly share a lot with a range of PHOP bands, in particularly a hardcore passion hung over deceptively poppy songs. The fanbases of RKs and WAL are very likely to be two separate entities yet both will be incredibly pleased with the songs they know, and will also have found a new favourite band on the flipside.” – Dean Freeman

Selfless – Himself (Self Released)

“A band that live and breathe rock music, learnt how to play it, got bored with it, re-invented it, and fell in love with it all over again. If a band that complex, inventive and brave can keep a simpleton like me interested, they must be doing something right.” - Jarv

Spectemur Agendo – Various Artists (Philophobia Music)

“Philophobia's latest EP which features The Do's, Fur Blend and Clandestines is fucking awesome, pure and simple. I don't know the policy on swearing, sorry kids if you're reading, sorry if you're offended, sorry random-er who thought this might be pleasant, but bloody frigging hellers I haven’t stopped bashing my head around for a second.” – Jack Falcon

Wakefield Gig

It’s a bit of a cheat, but H.Hawkline made the trip up from Wales three times in 2012, all of which were outstanding. Recruiting local musicians as backing mere hours before the shows (or mid gig) added to the already charming performances.

Johnny Foreigner. PAWS. Runaround Kids. Playlounge. Wot Gorilla. The Spills. Need we say more?

The last of the ‘big three’ (the other two being Pylon and Dugong) calling it quits resulted in one of the greatest gigs of the year; the camaraderie of the old Players days mixed in with some high octane, full on punk carnage – ace.

After surprising themselves as much as any one else supporting The Cribs for their Wakefield show, Retarded Fish headlined their own gig, which also saw Protectors play their last ever gig in support.

A special evening that saw a young band release their first record. Whilst always special in itself, it felt like an almost coming of age for all the Philophobia bands that performed, especially with St Gregory Orange finally hitting their stride live. Powerful, because it is such a good omen for the future.

Making Wakefield Better

Who else could have dragged two hundred people to a library on a Saturday dinnertime? And not only that, he made Wakefield’s new library seem exciting and – I’m gonna say it – sexy. Another milestone for a continuously improving Wakefield.

The Jarmans played their first gig in Wakefield in five years and despite reservations about the choice of venue, it was simply an amazing, celebratory, once in a lifetime show. Once more, they act as a vital catalyst and an inspiration to people in Wakefield.

Twice this year, The Hepworth has played host to a plague of zombies. Or, more accurately, it invited people down to be made up as zombies and then walked them round town to scare the bejesus out of people. Still think art galleries are stuck up and boring?

2012 saw the dream of Unity Hall come to life. The share issue was launched in February, allowing local people to invest in its future and have a say in the direction of what will surely be one of the best and most unique venues in Yorkshire, if not the country.

Literature Festival? In Wakefield? A sign in itself of how Wakefield has developed in the last few years, the first Lit-Fest was a success of inspired speakers and performers and engaging workshops and film screenings and was organised by Beam, who are based at The Orangery.

Music Festival

Rhubarb Bomb Article

Always subjective, this shortlist is based on the amount of feedback I received and these saw people from far and wide bothering to say how much they enjoyed them; these kind of articles that give me faith that people are out there reading and enjoying what RB does.

Anatomy Of A Gig – Dean Freeman

Question Of Wakefield Future – Stephen Vigors

Best Thing We Did

Fifth Birthday Gig

We celebrated our fifth birthday with an all dayer amongst the regal surroundings of an 18th century orangery. Champagne, birthday cake, gigs under railway arches, secret gardens and lots of Wakefield bands covering each others songs for kicks. A wonderful day for us.

Over three days, with about 100 bands across ten venues, this year’s Long Division was the biggest yet. Aidan Moffat & Bill Wells in the theatre? Art Brut in Mustangs? So many highlights for us, we hope you loved it too, and we can’t wait for next year.

An 18 track album of exclusives from bands we have supported over the last five years, including those lovely Cribs boys. Packaged inside a limited edition 200-odd page book about music, indie ideals, Wakefield, zines, and how it all fits together.

The Issues

With such a busy year, it’s easy to forget we also released four great issues. Maybe tucking up in a corner and reading our wayward thoughts was your best Rhubarb Bomb moment this year?

The Blog

Our online content has increased greatly this year, and is where all our record and live reviews now live, as well as some opinion pieces that have received almost every response imaginable, both positive and negative…


Finally, Rhubarb Bomb has a special award which it will give to a person or persons who we feel have, through their actions in 2012, helped perpetuate the ideals if DIY and being independent. It doesn’t have to be something huge and world changing. Just an extra thing that we think needs celebrating. Who will it be…?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Clive Continuum

(see also: "Respect" "Side Projects"  "Lyrics" & "Touring")

Creating demos of your songs is an immensely important part of the creative process. Unless you are Paul Simon or Tony Christie, you aren’t just gonna burp out a perfect song first go. If you do it right, demoing can turn out to be one of the most rewarding parts of the process.

Below is a studio demo of one of my songs Midas Loop which, in its finished version, appeared on my 77th album Life Is A Motorway (it sold out in four days). As you can hear, it is quite radically different from the highly regarded and oft-covered album version.

I have decided to take the unusual step of letting the public hear one of these ‘demos’ as way of showing an example of Clive Smith’s (my) constant searching for the new sound. Reinvention is what I am all about; pushing the letterbox, tearing the blue sky, opening the gates of unreality. By sharing it, I hope to offer an insight that might benefit you and your music also.

It is testament to my continuing gaze towards the future that this already sounds old fashioned and almost dishearteningly normal compared to my newest album, which is released today. At the time (4 months ago) it was radical, visionary and perplexing. I imagine this is how you will see it now and all I can say is – don’t be afraid! It’s simply what I do; not only do I continually reinvent the wheel but I do so whilst it’s speeding down the fast lane at 70mph whilst the powers that be try and apply the breaks, fearful of which road Clive’s crazy train will head down next. The sky’s the limit!

Unlike most of my tracks, this recording features contributions from other musicians. I like to record all the instruments myself on the albums as you will find that ‘musicians’ often want credit for the bits they ‘write’ and sometimes even expect payment. Plus, you can’t get the staff. So this way, I can flesh out my ideas and use their ideas later for myself.

You will notice the lyrics are not present at this stage. The music is number one for Clive; always has been. The new sound is tricky to find. You can hear my shouts of encouragement throughout – that’s how I keep the band in order! So even though they are playing the instruments, it’s my guidance that makes sure they play the right thing.

On this occasion, the band were:

Clive Smith: Voice, Guitar
Buff Wadsworth: Ocarina, Tamporini
Chris Crumm: Drums, Percussion
Beefy Cullingworth: Guitar, Atmospheres.
Marlow ‘Brownnote’ Simons: Bass

I hope this example of the Clive Smith creative process and my attempts (and success) in finding a brand new musical style offer some guidance to other up and coming artists. Don’t feel daunted. Give it a few years and your songs will soon be winning you awards and fans and invites to people’s houses. It’s all about self belief; if everyone tells you its shit it just proves what a maverick you are.

Clive Smith

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Ghost of Wakefield Past / The Question of Wakefield Future.

Believe it or not, bands like The Beatles and The Sex Pistols used to play in Wakefield - bands that shaped twentieth century society as much as Presidents and Prime Ministers. Of course this was in an era before multi-national promotion agencies monopolised the gig circuit with generic, over-priced, square rooms, but still, if The Beatles announced that they were playing the ABC Cinema, which would obviously require multiple and variable resurrections, I'd chop off my own arm if it meant I would be guaranteed ticket.

When I decided to go to university I picked Manchester, not for any particular academic reasons, moreover because I had grown up as a fan of Oasis and then matured through The Stone Roses, before arriving at The Smiths. Manchester however, in the early noughties, turned into a parody of itself. Most bands were fully equipped with a simian-looking vocalist, a complete set of Parkas and a nasal twang, yet lacked any discernable talent. One example were The Young Offenders Institute, who both looked and sounded like the cast of Shameless aping Oasis. Meanwhile on the other side of the Pennines everything seemed alive.

In 2004 Leeds was vibrant for the first time in years and Wakefield actually had a few bands that were receiving national acclaim – namely The Cribs and The Blueskins. Despite this there were very few venues in Wakefield for our own band to play, or clubs that represented our music tastes; there was nowhere that did both. Basic DIY; if no-one else is going to do it then do it yourself, which we did on July 23rd 2004 at the now defunct Escobar.

The bar was hired out by Chris Morse, who played bass in the same band as me, as it was his birthday and we needed a gig. In truth our gig, if memory serves me right, was pretty shoddy (although in our defence it was our very first gig), but the owners were suitably impressed with our intrepid organisational skills and asked us, along with a couple of others, to promote a night at the bar on a weekly basis. We called it Louder Than Bombs for no other reason than it sounded like a good name.

Usually we supplied the entertainment by playing records (Chris had already run a clubnight in Plymouth while at university and he supplied the majority of the vinyl) but in order to get more punters through the door we began putting bands on. Usually it was free in, or occasionally we would charge a couple of quid in, but money was never an aspiration - we just wanted to put together a night that we’d be happy to go to ourselves. We had someone designing flyers, someone else taking pictures and at any time you could find one of half-a-dozen different people working on the door. It was ramshackle, laissez-faire and fun.

Some time during the Christmas of 2005 Dan Barber, who took photos for Louder Than Bombs, played us a band from Sheffield that a friend had recommended to him. I'd seen them pop up on a few internet forums and disregarded them due to their terrible name (Arctic Monkeys), but it was blatantly obvious that they were going to be huge from the first moment we listened to them. With bands like The Libertines on the wane there was a gap for a new group to garner teenager fervour and adolescent adoration. We were desperate to book them, especially when we realised they lived just 27 miles down the M1 motorway in Sheffield. This was a while before anyone had built up any contacts in the music industry so getting hold of a contact number required a fair bit of detective work, and then a fair bit of persuasion was required to book a band that were beginning to gain a fanatic following.

In the end their manager, Geoff Barradale, gave in to my persistence and a few weeks before the band began receiving national acclaim we booked them to play the tiny Escobar venue. Some of my main recollections from the evening of April 4th 2005 included meeting the young couple who had travelled all the way from Aberdeen for the gig and the footprints marked on the ceiling due to the excessive crowd surfing (the image of footprints on the ceiling is regularly recalled by attendees and even by the Arctic Monkeys themselves in interviews and biographies).            

In the following couple of years we promoted gigs in Leeds and London as well as gruelling weekend long festivals at Escobar with promoters Rich Short and Chris Phelan (who also joined us on a “full time” basis). I could probably write an entire book on all the stories and scrapes that followed us around in those days. When myself, Morse and Phelan moved to Leeds our house was dubbed “Louder Than Bombs Towers” and our housewarming party ended up in the Evening Post.

Before we began promoting it seemed to me that the Wakefield music scene was fragmented. A few years earlier there had been McDermott’s on Cheapside that had created a similar camaraderie amongst the bands in the city, but many people, including myself, had missed out on this. Now we had somewhere to go that seemed like Cheers, where everyone knew your name! Looking at old photographs of the crowd at many gigs it is incredible to see how many people were all part of the same group of friends. Bands like Last Gang, The Pigeon Detectives, The Labels, The Old House, The Research, Middleman, The Spills and many more all became regulars both on and off the stage.

A couple of years later a handful of releases came out on Louder Than Bombs Records, with Rob Dee working as part of this (Rob Dee would later rename his vinyl output Philophobia Records). It was also in the following years that Rob Dee and Benjamin Trout started the Rhubarb Bomb fanzine.

A lot of the current crop from the Wakefield music scene spent time at Escobar and Louder Than Bombs. It always had to come to an end at some point but it’s just a shame that a new venue hasn’t come along a captured the crowd in the same way. The scene is still healthy, but it misses a focal point.

Stephen Vigors

This article originally appeared in Issue 3.1 of Rhubarb Bomb and also our book The City Consumes Us. Stephen also writes short stories:

Billy Lunn Acoustic Tour Interview

On Friday 30th November, one of the modern pioneers of Rock and Roll, Billy Lunn, lead singer of The Subways hits Wakefield for a special intimate show at The Hop. He’ll be playing a stripped down acoustic set of The Subways material from their first three albums. Aaron Snowdon speaks to Billy in advance of the show…

Aaron Snowdon: So, first of all, what made you decide to go out on tour on your own?

Billy Lunn: Well I’m actually writing the fourth album at the moment and I wrote Money and Celebrity, our third record, whilst we were off tour and I was at home. You know, just to sort of simulate the creative process, I thought I’d pop out on tour and play some songs for fans. We don’t intend on playing as a full band until maybe, summer next year.

AS:  Do you think that touring is a good time to start writing the fourth record?

BL: I don’t actually really write a lot on tour. By the time we get back on the bus and I pick up my acoustic guitar, I think I’m ready for bed now. When I wake up in the morning, straight out of the tour bus, I’m doing press and exercise. Song writing only really happens whilst I’m off tour. I never know when some ideas might suddenly crop up. I thought this acoustic tour would be a great way and go out there and experience and meet new people.

AS: So in terms of when you’re performing live, with a full band you appear to be quite lively and often crazy on stage, do you feel nervous at the idea of performing on your own?

BL: Definitely! With doing all that crazy stuff on stage and making all that loud noise. When it’s just the acoustic guitar and me, if there are mistakes everybody’s going to hear them. There is a sense of sort of feeling naked. It’s great to challenge myself as well, to have to take the songs we usually play really loud and bring it down to a different level to almost a folky atmosphere. I’m starting to get used to it now, a bit more confident.

AS: Do you like playing the more intimate venues?

BL: It depends really. If we do a huge tour, with the bigger venues we’re sort of craving for the more intimate interaction with the crowd where you can see the sweat dripping from the ceiling. It’s nice just to mix and match. Festival season’s just a great way to exemplify that. When the festival seasons over, we’re sort of ready to get back indoors now and play some really low down dirty club shows. That to us is Rock and Roll we used to go to those kinda shows when we were starting out as a band.

AS: On this tour is it going to be strictly Subways stuff or do you have some solo material?

BL: I was thinking about playing some of my solo stuff, but to be honest, if I write something and I don’t immediately take it to Charlotte and Josh then it’s not good enough. If I don’t show it to them, I don’t really believe the song worked. So, anything I really do write, I’ll only categorize as The Subways. I’m actually planning to do some covers, I’ve already played Supersonic by Oasis and I’m really enjoying playing that. It’s probably one of my all time favourite songs. I’m thinking of Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. I’ll probably be sticking that in the set as well.

AS: I noticed that you’ve been asking people for their opinions on what you should play in the set. Does that give you a more personal relationship with the crowd?

BL: Yeah, definitely. That’s what we’ve always wanted since day one. When we first started the band we wanted to be really interactive with our fans. We put up our own website. We’d do that then we’d put up we’re playing at the Buffalo Bar on Thursday are there any songs that you guys would particularly like to hear? I basically went on Twitter and asked, anything you want me to try give it to me and I’ll see if I can do it. I had people request Foo Fighters- Everlong. This one couple were really keen that I play it. When the barman disappeared I took my guitar out and played it really quiet, and they loved it.

AS: You recently did the Propaganda tour with The Subways which visited Leeds 02 Academy. How were these shows?

BL: Yeah, they we great. We booked this Propaganda tour which we thought would be an amazing way to end this Money and Celebrity campaign and they were all 30 minute slots. It was absolutely crazy going out their and banging out 8 songs then walking off stage then going and having a drink. We found ourselves playing to people who have never even heard of us before!

AS: I noticed recently that you’ve been growing a moustache for Movember, the people of Wakefield are going to see it at its highest point on the 30th November. Are you excited to be visiting West Yorkshire again? Has the north treated you well in the past?

BL: Yeah. You know, we’ve always had some amazing gigs up north. Especially in Yorkshire. I’ve gotta say my tash is not looking good at the moment. My brother is 18 months younger than me and he can grow a full beard. I’m much fairer than he is, so when I try grow any facial hair it looks really pathetic. By the time I get to Wakefield it’ll be probably, well I don’t know how it’s going to look! We’ll see!

Tickets for the gig are available at The Hop, Crash Records, Jumbo Records and Ticketweb

Monday, 19 November 2012

Forever On The Ride

Brothers Gary and Dave Cotton have been putting on amazing gigs in Wakefield for years now. They don’t do gigs once a week or every other month, simply when the whim takes and they come across someone brilliant that they just have to share with Wakefield. Because of them amazing people like The Lovely Eggs, Clemence Freschard, Stanley Brinks, The Dead Trees, Malcolm Middleton, The Wave Pictures, James Yorkston, Rozi Plain, Francois & The Atlas Mountains, Kid Canaveral… and oh so many more have visited us.

They have two gigs left in 2012, both at The Hop. The first is this coming Thursday (22nd), when they welcome Mark Wynn to town on his first UK tour. Press-friendly quotes refer to him as being from the same lineage as Mark E Smith, John Cooper Clarke and Lou Reed. A cursory listen to his most recent album James Dean Makes Me Insecure, Why Does He Have To Be So Shexy reveals a equal appreciation of ultra lo-fi with a distinctly idiosyncratic, anxious songcraft (most songs are done in under two minutes).

Support comes from the superb Sam Forrest (Nine Black Alps) and local boyish popster Michael Ainsley. It’s a bargain four pound in for someone whom Tom Robinson said this about on BBC6 Music: “Like the early John Cooper Clarke or Mark E Smith, Mark Wynn has the potential for national treasure status twenty years down the line. And that's not something you'll hear me say often or lightly.”

The last show of the year is a very special one; a double headlining duo of Withered Hand and Darren Hayman. Withered Hand was another fantastic booking On The Ride secured for this year’s Long Division. After an amazing Autumn tour, sadly cut short by illness, this is one last chance to see him in 2012. Widely regarded (in the smarter circles) as one of the best lyricist and songwriters around at the moment, Withered Hand would be worth the £8 in alone. But the added attraction of an all too rare live performance from Darren Hayman sweetens the pill to sickeningly good levels.

Treat yourself before the Winter dip; nothing good ever happens in December does it…

Dean Freeman

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Enrico Pieranunzi at Wakefield Jazz

Enrico Pieranunzi Trio
16th November 2012

I think it is worth pointing out at the beginning of this review that the amount I know about Jazz could easily be scribbled on the back of a postage stamp. So, for all the Jazz heads out there – I’m sorry, this is not going to be helpful. It is less a review of Enrico Pieranunzi and more a ponderance on my entering the world of ten minute improvisations and supposed beard stroking.

As mentioned in the last issue of Rhubarb Bomb, Wakefield Jazz is an institution the city should be proud of, having celebrated its 25th birthday this year. The quality of the stuff they put on is phenomenal. Tonight, Enrico is a great example of this. He has just played Barcelona, and now finds himself in a northern club, by a bowling green. This is only one of four UK dates for the incredibly well renowned performer and catches like this are common for Wakefield Jazz. It’s truly amazing.

Any apprehension you may have about visiting a ‘Jazz Club’ can comfortably be left at the door. A perfect image for Wakefield Jazz’s standing in the city can perhaps be found as you walk through the main door and see a huge, beautiful gleaming black piano stood in the middle of what is basically a Working Men’s Club. In keeping with the traditions of the latter, the atmosphere is very social and welcoming and the bar busy.

Enrico takes to the piano with two other band members; a bassist and drummer. And this is where Jazz begins to show itself as the opposite of everything I feel I know about music. For a start, I am informed that Enrico met the rest of his trio at 18:30 this evening, when he arrived. Doors were at 19:30. Yet a quick one-two-three, one-two-three and they are locked in and on their way.

It would make sense if they were knocking out some twelve bar blues. Naturally I spend the first ten or so minutes trying to ascertain if there is any recognisable structure. There isn’t to my ears, yet I know there must be, as the double bass player is intently following some sheet music, though he never turns the page. The drummer is away, lost in some other world, pulling the greatest Jazz face I’ve seen; like trying to relieve five days of constipation whilst occasionally suffering from terrible jolts of sciatica. He is smiling once the song is complete, so it can’t actually be that bad.

But the songs. It’s gets tricky here. I’ve never considered it but I guess the reason I go to watch bands is for the songs. Have they got good songs? The performance is probably secondary. But here, the main selling point is the skill and ability of the performers and the actual songs (but not the music) are secondary. Here, Enrico plays a range of tracks that are well known (again, not to me) as something akin to Jazz standards. It means nothing to me, but clearly his skill is the way he reinterprets them in his own way. Further pleasure is the way his band then react off his improvisations and add their own elements to it.

I am informed that audiences will come down purely if there happens to be a good drummer in a band’s lineup. Such is the reverence with which these people are held. There’s a great moment in one number when the song is seemingly winding down, with just Enrico noodling around. Then he does something. I don’t know what (I’m later informed he switched it to Bebop…) but a huge grin covers the bass player’s face. He can see the clever thing his band mate has done. The grin mutates into a furrowed brow as he consults his notes. And before you know it, the drummer and him have dropped back in to this new style, the band clearly enjoying the challenge and experience of playing with a great pianist.

Moments like this stand out. There is a tendency for the audience to clap randomly in the middle of songs. I guess something awesome I didn’t notice happened. A lot. But it shows the audience is very engaged and very appreciative. I wish more audiences were like that.

The first set last for an hour, and it goes surprisingly quickly. The second sets at the club usually last the same; Enrico wrapped it up after 45 which I have to say felt about right for me. A degree of repetitiveness had crept in, but it has to be said; this is not just something that happens with Jazz! It’s a long time for any performer to keep things fresh.

The second set had the two highlights for me; a performance of a track he wrote himself (the only of the night) as a film score for Cinema Paradiso and a solo performance of a classical piece by a 17th century composer who’s name I cant remember. I am told afterwards that classical composers were the jazz musicians of their day. Initially, the music wasn’t written down, so each performance would be unique. Once they were actually scored, the music became set in stone and turned into what we now know as classical music. Tonight, Enrico took the composers work and improvised his own twists to it, much as the original chap would have done. It was a nice change of pace, and a good education too.

So I’ve learnt there is joy to be had in Jazz. My first experience was a rather traditional and ‘safe’ one, but done to the highest standard. It was a very engaging experience and I found myself simultaneously trying to concentrate very hard on what was happening whilst also trying to let myself go. You can do both, which was what I always enjoyed about Mogwai, to be honest. At its core it is simple, but beyond that, there is so much going on.

Probably because all I was hearing stood against my accepted ‘norms’ for music, part of me craved to hear Mogwai's Ex-Cowboy, probably because it could provide me with what I wasn’t getting here; clear dynamics, upsetting volume, a sinister mood, powerful performances and an emotional response. Instead, tonight I got virtuoso performances, a generally buoyant, playful mood and some slightly impenetrable structures and dynamics. Impenetrable for now, that is. It’s great to find something new, something you don’t understand. I will be back to Wakefield Jazz; it’s a different kind of night out, a different experience and a different approach to music, done incredibly well. I seem to get shot down in flames for daring to say such incendiary things as this, but I am going to say it anyway; step out of your comfort zone, try something new!

Dean Freeman

Friday, 16 November 2012

Unhappy Birthday Review

Unhappy Birthday
Any Lame

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is many things to many different people. And a lot of people head to Scotland for some, if not all, of the three weeks in August. Just short of two million at the latest estimate. That is what I call “a lot”. Is it an enlightened perspective on the current state of the world of performing and visual arts? Or is it merely a poncy indulgence for arty-farty types at the taxpayer’s expense? Whatever.

Since 1947 many an aspiring thespian has set up shop to showcase their varying degree of talents. High art, low art, mediocre art.  It’s all there. Many will go on to achieve greatness. Others will pack up at the end of their shift and go back to the day job. Much like a music festival really.  

2012’s Fringe was not a lot different to any other. The usual glut of  students who think they are desperately funny, but who should really just stick to the swotting. A decent play here, a lively Beethoven concert there. Much of a muchness really. So there I was, resigned to heading back down south thinking Ho Hum, Another Fringe. But then, on my last night there, I happened upon Unhappy Birthday.

It was The Smiths connection that initially caught my eye.   I was looking forward to a decent soundtrack if nothing else.  The blurb looked interesting.  “Amy is having a birthday party.  Morrissey is invited, and so are you.”  That kind of thing.  Even The Guardian had been impressed: “popping the bubble of pretentiousness around performance art.”  And they tend to know what they are talking about with stuff like this!  Who was I to question their wisdom?  So off I went.

You walk in and immediately you are given a hat and a party popper.  This is, after all, interactive theatre.  There’s no point turning up if you just want to sit quietly at the back.  You would only get picked out if you tried that trick.  And I was right about the soundtrack.  It was all Smiths, Smiths, Smiths.  Well, nearly all.  There was a smattering of their vocalist’s solo material also thrown into the pot.  You are taken through the story of Amy’s life with these songs as the backdrop.   You play pass the parcel.   You come close to getting a slice of birthday cake, but it’s Amy’s party after all and she is perfectly entitled to scoff the lot.  There is a karaoke  (surprise, surprise it was a Smiths hit – an honourable rendition of Sheila Take A Bow).  We finish off with a community prayer (“A Moz Blessing”) where you make your proclamations and then sing along to that well known hymn This Charming Man.

After the show I felt obliged to hang around and tell Amy that it was the best show I had seen in over a dozen visits to The Fringe. A genuinely heartwarming show, it is now the yardstick by which other stuff will be judged.  Whenever I go to see a play in the future, I will somehow want more than just talking heads on a stage. This is a piece of work that is alive. It is in your face, in the literal sense.  I would like to think it is going on a tour of the provinces. I would not expect to see it at the Theatre Royal, it just wouldn’t work in such a sizeable arena. But I could envisage it in the intimacy of the upstairs room at The Hop, for example. That space is very similar to the one used in Edinburgh.  

The best plan is to keep an eye on if your tastebuds are aroused by the music and the medium of live theatre.   And, Amy, if you see this article, please bring the show to Wakefield some time.  I’ll be there.  I have, after all, vowed to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of Morrissey, despite the shame this might cause.”  That’s what I’m doing right now.

Roger Green

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Do's EP Launch

The Do’s EP Launch
The Hop, Wakefield
9th November 2012-11-12

I’d been looking forward to this gig for a good while, partly as respite from the hammering RB had taken in the fallout from… “Cover-Band-Gate”? I need to think of a better name for it. But, after receiving a small number of furious responses to our suggestion to ‘try something new’, not only did I need a good night out, I also need my faith restoring a little.

Tonight did that. Halfway through the night it did strike me that it was the perfect response. Four great, local bands really pushing themselves into new territories and rejoicing in their own creativity. And for once, a decent crowd was there, rejoicing with them also.

The night kicked off with Michael Ainsley, who until recently performed lovely little pop songs with smart turns of phrase on an acoustic guitar. He was a gem amongst many a lineup where he would generally sit towards the bottom of the bill, due to his not-in-your-face approach. Tonight, that all changed.

Now backed up with the rhythm section from Retarded Fish, Rob from Runaround Kids and Harry from St Gregory Orange, Mike has reached an almost Mi Mye-esqe capacity for creating a local ‘supergroup’. But most surprising of all is how well the songs work in their punked-up incarnations. Despite the almost painful volume, the lyrically melodies – always Mike’s greatest asset – rise above it all. The band look like they are having fun, which hits me as something unusual in Wakefield. They remind me more of the generation of bands which Retarded Fish themselves belong to; faster, punkier, simpler and more carefree. To say the wild, joyous abandonment was infectious would be to put it lightly and Michael Ainsley set the bar for the evening incredibly high.

Buen Chico arrive next who, after some time off, have been re-establishing themselves as a tight and awesome as fuck guitar pop band. Tonight is no exception and tracks from their last release The Seasons EP are joined by newer, more diverse material. As their signature tune Happiness Is Important suggests, they are largely a band radiating with positive sounds, even when dealing with darker issues and it’s this tightrope walking that makes them more than what they could be: an awesome party band. Instead they show smarter songwriting skills and, as ever, the humorous and self defeating banter between songs cannot help but make you smile.

St Gregory Orange are next to grace the stage, and for the first time they are a ‘proper’ band. That’s some feat when they’ve been playing live for around three years. Now a five piece - the duo joined by Jack of Runaround Kids on Bass, Chad of The Spills on Guitar and drummer extraordinaire Dan Hayes - excitement was thick in the air as they kicked into the first song.

I have to be honest and say that I always felt St Gregory Orange were probably my favourite Wakefield band. But after tonight I can see that I was wrong. They created perhaps my favourite records, some of my favourite songs and lyrics. But, as a duo struggling to bring their creations to a live arena, they weren’t ever my favourite band. Until tonight.

The transformation is instantaneous. Still playing with minor laptop backing (itself a tense experiment to see if Dan can keep to the click) the sound is huge. The sense of dynamics a full band now brings means the songs have such greater power, much greater immediacy. The computer created beats are reproduced well and I saw two people dancing at one point. Seriously. The band themselves have greater freedom to rock out and what was once akin to a still life portrait is now an engaging stage spectacle.

Their album earlier this year was an amazing piece of work, so it’s no surprise it took a while to be able to do it justice live. But, in spite of all their achievements, this now feels like a beginning for St Gregory Orange, with even greater things to come.

After all of which, I didn’t envy The Do’s following those three bands, even if it was their own EP launch. Following three support acts that between them have released five albums when you are on your first solo release…

But they nailed it. The ferocity and directness of their approach was fitting for the end of the evening. There’s no fuss, no mess, no stray edges or unsure steps; everything is essential and honed to a fine, sharp point. The onstage relationship of a two-piece is always special and here it is displayed in a tight but energetic style. The riffs and songs are strong, rich in swagger without being over serious. It’s a celebration afterall, and tonight the bouncier tunes full of nervous energy get the greatest response.

With the exception of St Gregory Orange, these bands could have played a short set downstairs this evening. Once, that would have been a nasty dig. But these bands have a directness, an engaging quality that means they could reach out to people and – god forbid – actually entertain them. Some like to sneer at bands creating their own music for their own enjoyment as elitist. And some believe a stint in a cover band is a rite of passage to be allowed to play your own stuff. Tonight showed that to be complete bollocks. If my initial method of trying to convince people upstairs, to try something new, was faulty in its conviction, I am at least proud that tonight was the perfect example of what they were missing by failing to take that chance. And my faith is once more restored.

Words: Dean Freeman
Photo: John Jowett

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Jarvis Cocker opens Wakefield Library

"I've always wanted to open a library" Jarvis Cocker tells the crowd, with a slight smile, in Wakefield's new museum and library building, Wakefield One. A surprisingly large crowd has gathered on what may well be the last sunny day of the year. The library building, with large square glass windows from floor to ceiling and low level, pure white book shelves invites in this sunlight and the space feels inviting and peaceful, if a little clinical.

Introduced by Councillor Box, Jarvis gives a short speech about his love of books and stories. He says he was surprised to receive the invite to open a library when so many are closing. Before his arrival I had attempted to ponder the question of whether libraries would be a thing of the past in a digital age, if the idea of storing thousands of physical books was a rather anachronistic. I say 'attempted' as my tired, hungover brain struggled to juggle the question and my co-ponderer Jack Winn of Runaround Kids simply gave me a wearied look as if to say 'do you ever stop, Dean?'

Jarvis kind of answered this in his speech, saying that the way you hunt for information and stories in a library is different to the internet. You might pick up a book simply because it’s a nice colour. Or the cover looks good. He's right; there is a random element to browsing in a library, or bookshop or record shop that is hard to replicate online.

He spoke to of the escapist quality of books. When reading online, he said, there is the constant niggle that you could be buying a new jumper or checking your Facebook that pushes you through your article or story faster than you may otherwise wish to. To curl up at home, or indeed a corner of this very library, and immerse yourself is very special indeed.

Finally, he told us how he saw books more as people; each an insight (or a 'holiday') in someone else's mind. Which in Jarvis' mind makes a library more like a party, a room full of people with interesting stories to tell. Only Jarvis could make Wakefield library seem like it was the core of a throbbing social gathering, a buzzing exciting place full of potential.

He was an inspired choice to open it, I feel. There were a lot of people from the previous night's gig at The Hop and the opening felt like a social event, like being in a pub. Walking around, bumping into people and chatting. But in a library. The air of stuffiness most of us still associate was notably absent. Personally I would go watch Jarvis open a pot of yoghurt, so I was always going to be here. But by drawing 150, maybe 200 people down, it also removed the feeling of apprehension involved with visiting somewhere new for those that attended.

For those that didn't I recommend a wander down. I haven't looked around the new museum as yet (though I hear there is a VERY special guest in line to open it next month) but there is also a great looking cafe as part of the large building. The council in general seems to take a bit of a battering from all sides on all manner of topics, though I expect this may be the case across the country. Personally, I feel the fact that new things are being built and promoted with such conviction is essential for the city.

As I admit, I am a great fan of Jarvis, but aside of that I did feel a serious pang of civic pride in him travelling up to Wakefield to open our library, which felt a little odd to me - but pleasingly so. It was great too that he patiently hung around to sign things and have photo’s taken. It was lovely. The positive perspective of an outsider always feels sweeter, so this was a good day for me and for Wakefield too.

Dean Freeman

Friday, 9 November 2012

Slide Review

The Do’s
Philophobia Music

The Do’s are a two piece alt rock band from Wakefield and are signed to Philophobia Music, surely the best Independent label in the city. With Philophobia hosting bands such as Runaround Kids, The Spills and Piskie Sits, The Do’s certainly have a tough set of bands to follow. Their debut EP, Slide is to be released on the 12th November. 

The first track on the EP, Pleased To Meet You, greets you like a slap in the face with a meaty riff, which seems somewhat inspired by The Black Keys. Yet with vocals which resemble Jack White. The lyrics “Pleased to meet you, now your life seems so easy” seem like a personal dig at someone, yet work fantastically as a melody in the chorus with Elliot Oldroyd backed up on vocals by drummer, Matthew O’leary. Considering that the band formed in 2010, they sound much more mature than their time.

Carousels carries a manic riff, with equally exotic drums. Oldroyd’s vocals suddenly remind me of Future Of The Left’s Andrew Falkous. If you’re interested in grunge rock, The Do’s are the band for you. For a local band to be producing hooks that are as catchy as this, it’s not surprising they’ve been added to the Philophobia label. 

Third track in, If That’s All You Know, seems to show a progression in ruthlessness. The track is still as quirky as hell, with well rehearsed breaks and pauses, almost Biffy Clyro-esque. I still get the impression that The Do’s are sending a message out to someone in this EP through their own feelings. Lyrics like ‘If that’s all you know, then why go and take it out on me, because you can’t find the thing that you need’ hit home that they mean what they are doing. This is definitely what I appreciate about The Do’s they are passionately making music and standing out as one of the best bands in Wakefield.

Unfortunately all EPs come to an abrupt end. Yet The Do’s are going out on top. Steven the Wasp, ties everything together and is a perfect set ender. Oldroyd is backed by tight drumming from O’leary, which is a necessity, as there are too many local bands similar to The Do’s who’s sticksmen are trying far too much to be Travis Barker and it doesn’t translate well live.

Overall, considering that this is a debut release from the Wakefield based band, they’ve produced something fantastic. If you like what you hear, check them out at The Hop on the 9th November (Tonight). Most importantly go and BUY the EP. It’s going to be released digitally or if you still indulge in CD’s it will be available online or at their shows.

Aaron Snowdon

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Clive Continuum

“Respect”   (see also: "Side Projects"  "Lyrics" & "Touring")

I’m furious. I’m absolutely bloody apoplectic. I’ve had to put Homes Under The Hammer on mute and delay putting out the bins to get this written down, that’s how maddened I am.

Cut straight to the chase? Bands these days have no respect. R.E.S.P.E.C.T, as was sung by someone they don’t even know because all they listen to is gangster rap and guitars. As someone who has been there and seen it all, it saddens me deeply to see these promising young musicians turn their precious little cheeks the other way when offered advice by someone who has been there and seen it all, which is me. It wasn’t like this in the old days. I say ‘old’, it’s not like the ‘70s was that long ago pal! Not that much has changed since then. But back in them days, you didn’t see The Rolling Stones or Billy Idol disrespecting their predecessors. And what a better place music was for it.

If you want to make it in the music world, if you want to make it to retirement age with a garden shed, a full head of silky grey slicked back hair AND a back catalogue that is the envy of your neighbours, you need many things. But if you want people to respect your achievements, you yourself need to respect the achievements, beliefs and career decisions of others.

I bring this up as I feel, of late, that Clive Smith is not being respected. All the advice I have given over the course of this series has been timeless. It will always work. It always worked for me. But this one is different. Because the meaning of ‘respect’ has changed.

In my day (which was a better day), people respected their elders. Musicians respected those who came before them. I proudly learnt my trade in the clubs. Watching the masters at work I learnt a magical ‘something’, some kind of charisma, a charm that means heads turn, chatter hushes and ladies blush ever so slightly when you enter the room. You can’t learn that at university or off the telly. It’s like an Eskimo teaching his only son to fish. It is exactly like that.

I’ve noticed it more since I joined Twitter. Like many people I saw this new invention as a needless intrusion into my peaceful life of getting angry at the TV and writing endless, annoyed letters. But on the advice of Rhubarb Bomb’s editor, I joined. At first, it was really interesting. So many people on there! But then reality slowly dawns. No one is listening to you. I’m there tweeting goodwill across the globe but people are just ignoring me, like some mad man shouting at the TV or a lunatic writing letters that end up being read out in court.

Runaround Kids were the first ones. I had a really great tour of some clubs in the North East lined up. Bongo Bongo Club, Kaleidoscope Lounge, Boogie Heaven: real quality places. Thought it’d be great to take em along, teach em some humility y’know? Didn’t even respond. It’s a shame because Clubland has changed a lot. It’s not all cover bands and variety. Sure, for a good night and to get a steady string of bookings you need some classics in your set, but only about 75%. Then you work in your own material and win ‘em over. Don’t you see? You don’t do you?!

It’s tried and tested and the examples are endless. Look at Billy Bustop and The Macarenas. What about Buff Charington and the Marlborough Teasers? What about Clive Bloody Smith?!

Oh yeah, and Gary Barlow too. I have tweeted him on three occasions asking for the chords to Back For Good so I can incorporate it into my set. Has he replied? Has he balls. No respect these young uns.

Instead, the people they ‘respect’ are these gangster trippers and celebrity makeovers on the satellite. People without an idea inside their shiny plastic skulls. Try a bit of reality kid. No-one keeps it more real than Clive Smith. I played in South Africa before Apartheid ended. I snorted the drugs from a dwarf’s boobs before it was fashionable. I never avoided paying taxes. Not once. Am I making myself clear?

But this isn’t about me, obviously. I am worried about the state of Wakefield and Yorkshire and Britain and The World. That’s my specific concern. But these young musicians have too lofty ambitions. They think they are The Beatles. Everyone knows those Scouse chancers lost it around ’64. Did they ever better Twist and Shout? That’s why you hear people playing it in the pubs, see? Because PEOPLE LIKE IT. These kids sit in circles blowing smoke up their arses trying to spin a ZERO on the roulette wheel. It aint gonna happen. You’re not going to be successful. Take the hints: no-one is coming to your show. No-one is buying your records. Lower the odds. Aim for an even number. Aim for Black. Throw in some songs people actually like, a tune they can actually whistle along to…

Why has this got me riled all of a sudden? Because last month I released a Best Of Collection called The Colossal. It was beautiful. You should have seen it. You never will now because it sold out (imagine that, eh?). But I got a snidey comment from one of my fans. It read:

Dear Clive,

I will start by saying I am a huge fan of yours. The way you combine genres into brand new forms almost at the drop of a hat is ‘awesome’. For me, no-one comes close to you in Wakefield or further places for sheer consistency and magnetism.

However, I must say I am slightly disappointed with your recent collection. As one of your tracks states, you have always been ‘a futures man’. Yet here you are, recycling your greatest moments for a quick buck. I find it a little upsetting and disheartening. If only the music wasn’t so good, I’d happily put my copy in a cupboard and only play it on special occasions.


This person is clearly insane. How can they claim to be my fan yet disagree with me? I tell you why – a lack of respect. I can tell from that poncey name alone that they are young. Well, maybe when you’ve had forty years at the top you can go around telling people how to do things.

In fact, read that last sentence again. That’s how the world should run. Because then things wouldn’t change. We’d still be living the dream in clubland with the songs and jokes of yesteryear. Wanting to smash up the status quo (not the Status Quo!) is just pathetic. If you youngsters want to make it in showbiz then you need to a) lower your expectations b) understand showbiz has a rite of passage and your elders hold the keys c) cut the arty crap d) subscribe to the holy motto of ‘The public wants what the public gets” and e) learn some respect. Us lot, these people with 20 plus years experience you so openly scorn; we’ve been there and done that. The fact we are still here, living in the same houses and drinking in the same pubs and listening to the same music proves that our way is the ONLY way to achieve any kind of staying power.

So remember, Clive is here for you. Respect me and you shall receive my respect. Together we can make the world a better place.

Clive Smith

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Thirteen Lost & Found

RM Hubbert
Thirteen Lost & Found
Chemikal Underground


As mentioned in our recent live review, I have seen RM Hubbert perform three times this year. Yet it took until the third for me to purchase his album. There are many possible reasons for this; the slow burning nature of the music, the fact I was drunk out of my mind at the Aidan Moffat show at Brudenell, the loss on the door I was mourning when he visited with Emma Pollock or perhaps just the fact I don't have much money. But it was never because I didn’t want to own it, because those three shows were all sublime.

RM Hubbert is from Glasgow. He is a man with a guitar. A lot of his songs are instrumentals, played purely with his acoustic. On some he sings, and on this record he gets a couple of guests along to help him flesh it out.

I frame this in such unspectacular language as this is part of the magic of RM Hubbert live, and now also on this album. There is no studio trickery, no dense lyric to pour over and no sense of hype or anticipation. Yet the songs pack a greater emotional punch than almost anything else I have heard this year, which on this scale of minimalism is impressive in the extreme.

Hubby is a supremely talented guitarist in a pleasingly un-showy way. He finger picks gently, etching in his own counter melodies, all with a wistful sense of fresh air, evenings musing by log fires or long drives through the night. The stories are not told with words but through the veering structures, moving from delicate sections to huge open tuning strums, all contributing to the twists and turns of a narrative. Although vastly different musically, some sections remind me of the atmospheres of Godspeed You! Black Emperor in their glowering mystery.

This album’s added accompaniment is subtle, but enough to draw a proper album out of the basics (meaning one that flows and has a life over it’s 40 minutes). Second track Car Song featuring Aidan Moffat is a definite highlight, the fellow Scot's growling monologue custom built to sit over the smart backing. We catch glimpses of organ and piano but generally, bar further guest spots (including Emma Pollock), this is very much Hubby's world. Like a supremely talented water colourist, he manages to say more with delicate strokes and washes, where others would spray paint their ideas, bold and brash, and often quite boring for it.

I will concede that seeing Hubby live has heightened my enjoyment no end. Hearing about some of the trials he has faced through his life and how his music has ended up help him deal with them added something to the music, but that such things didn’t result in heart on sleeve, literal retellings on those tales adds a greater depth to this record. It's an album that draws you in, but doesn’t give you any conclusions. That's the slow burning element of it that I love. Deeply evocative, but what of is up to you.

Dean Freeman