Gig Review: Swans, Birmingham Asylum, 24th May 2017 by @INeedDirection

Swans, Birmingham Asylum, May 24th 2017

Writer and photographer: Tracey B

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act I scene II:

Arial: All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure, be ’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds. To thy strong bidding, task
Ariel and all his quality.

And so stands Michael Gira, centre stage, as if on an enchanted isle, amidst his admired musical collaborators, like Prospero and his spirit, Arial, conjuring and directing his storm; arms aloft, dark brooding eyes low, conducting each swell and each lull in the soundscape that surrounds him. With gestures as bizarre as a high kick or wild whipping arms, or as slight as a raised eyebrow or a lowered hand, Gira choreographs a ballet of ballast, a tango of tinnitus. The result is a sound that’s immense, immersive; a performance that’s intimate and personal. For though I am surrounded by a few hundred other people, I feel perfectly alone in my reverie. From my position at the front, slightly off-centre, I can easily make eye contact with the band and I take full advantage of this with each member in turn (save for the keyboard player hidden behind a stack of amps) holding my gaze, brazen and steadfast, until it’s acknowledged, maybe returned with a smile. What can I say? I’m a demanding and disarmingly direct viewer. But this is the advantage of small venues and the confrontational nature of performance works best when a connection can be made with its audience.

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Though Swans are widely credited as the loudest band on earth, current decibel levels are bearable (I wear precautionary earplugs nonetheless) and my ears vibrate instead with high-tensile energy. The sound is far from unrelenting aural assault; the set employs clever nuances of sound and technique, contrasts and builds. This tour promotes Swans 14th studio album, The Glowing Man, and also serves as a farewell party to the current cast of players, a line-up established in 2010 (Gira intends to play henceforth with a revolving cast of collaborators). The set list comprises a mere 6 songs, yet lasts 2 ½ hours. Yes that’s right, 2 ½ hours. Anyone aware of my views would know I usually insist brevity is the key to perfect music. And while that may hold true for pop music, it doesn’t apply to the experimental arena in which Swans hold court. I’m loath to promote Sting-endorsed ideology – especially in the middle of a Swans review – but there are tantric forces at play tonight. There is something to be said for drawing out pleasure; for elongating the process to elevate the desired result. And desire is key here. Have you ever felt on the very edge of orgasm for over two hours? My skin tingles in anticipation of each chime, each harmonic touch. I am transfixed, hypnotised, breathless, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Each note, it seems to me, is delivered with full awareness of the effect on its rapt recipients.

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The structure of each song relies on a well-honed ritual; a musical Kama Sutra: The guitar begins, gentle and impassive, strumming a held chord accompanied by tender arpeggiated lap steel passes. The bass joins slowly, the back of a thumbnail rubbed erotically along the strings. My pulse throbs to a low rumble of bass drum and isolated piano chords. As the piece builds and the pace gathers, the keyboard resonates, becomes a spectrum-filling electronic choir. Lap steel and bass: a forceful assault of strings, an arduous pounding. The guitar swirls in dizzying, swelling, ascending and descending fret board patterns all pinned down by a cacophony of percussion. And Gira’s voice, so vital, so primal; a wail that cries of all human emotion. And my heart thumps and my breath quickens. And. And. Oh and…

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And as if to acknowledge my need for the spiritual in addition to a physical and emotional response, in one of the few gaps between songs, Gira tells a Zen story he’d heard about a monk and a tiger. A monk out walking is confronted by a tiger and in his bid to escape he runs to the edge of a cliff, his only option being to jump. Falling, he grasps onto a vine but, as he hangs, a mouse begins to gnaw at the top of the vine. Resigned to his fate of death by tiger above or the long drop below, he spots a strawberry growing from the cliff, reaches out and eats it. It was the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted. Gira says he has no particular words of wisdom to impart but to live in the present and make each moment count. Well tonight he made around 150 minutes count for everything and more. And it was the sweetest thing I ever tasted.

The Dizzy Miss Lizzys, Charters Bar, Peterborough, 2nd June 2017 by @steverodz

The Dizzy Miss Lizzys

Charters Bar, Peterborough, Friday 2nd June 17

Writer and photographer: Steve Rodriguez

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Peterborough’s musical chameleon Gizz Butt rocks out Charters again with his talented The Dizzy Miss Lizzys, The Beatles and classic rock covers band.

The guys in this band, or Friday’s incarnation of this band anyway, have probably been in more bands than I’ve had pints of beer, and it shows. Gizz on lead and rhythm guitar and vocals, Simon Martin on bass and backing vocals, Thorin ‘Fozzy’ Dixon on drums and a surprising guest appearance by Richard Gombault [Editor: previously of successful Peterborough band Midget] on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Their sets are always entertaining and not a single song is given rough treatment or paid lip service to, it’s full on rock from the off. Although the AC/DC Thunderstruck intro that got the lads on the table nearby chanting along at the top of their lungs didn’t materialise into the full song, it gives an idea of what this band are there to do, please the crowd. That’s what they do. Any classic or hit rock song is in their repertoire and to compliment all this there’s a healthy dose of Beatles covers as that is how the band started, as a Beatles covers band. Sometimes the sets are split, half Beatles and half anything goes, but tonight it was all mixed in to a huge cacophony of guitar, drum and bass. There was the usual guitar solos from Gizz, but even a Fozzy drum solo made an appearance tonight, all the ‘rock’ ingredients were present.

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Songs like Get Back, Help, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Hey Jude, All the Young Dudes, Sweet Child O Mine all blend in to the same set seamlessly and in the case of the quieter Beatles songs, all get a suitable ‘turn up to 11’ type treatment with heavier bluesy guitar solos and driving bass.

The personal highlight of Friday for me and possibly a few others was Firestarter, the Prodigy classic from ‘97. For those not familiar with Gizz Butt he was the Prodigy live guitarist during their fat of the land tour in the late 90’s and has played with many household names, including Foo Fighters. Firestarter, although apparently not rehearsed much or 100% perfected, sounded spot on. Gizz is probably at his best vocally on songs like this as Punk bands are pretty much his mainstay, Janus Stark and English Dogs two of his previous bands are steeped in punk roots, albeit the former with a more metal edge.

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If you haven’t had the chance to see The Dizzy Miss Lizzys then go,the next time they’re playing, your ears and throat will hurt but guarantee you’ll remember dancing to Hey Jude with your arms round whoever…

Gig Review: Skinny Lister, 3rd May, Nottingham & 4th May, Cambridge, 2017 @SkinnyLister

Skinny Lister – Devil Heart Fight Tour with Support from AJJ band

Rescue Rooms – Nottingham 03-05-17 and The Junction – Cambridge 04-05-17

Written by Martin Tillyer, Photos by Martin Tillyer, Edited by Fi Stimpson.

The first time I saw and heard Skinny Lister was as support for Frank Turner along with Will Varley in November 2015 at Rock City – these artists are all on the Xtra Mile Recordings label.

Since that date, I have also had the pleasure of seeing them headlining on the first part of the Devil Heart Fight tour in 2016 and then as support for the Dropkick Murphys in London in January 2017.

As soon as the dates for this year’s UK tour were announced I ordered tickets for both of the shows being reviewed here, from this you can gather that yes I do like their music and I also had an idea what to expect from them.

The support – The AJJ Band from America – were new to me, having only seen one video clip on YouTube. “Goodbye, Oh Goodbye” comes over as a very quirky American pop type track. I have to say that having now seen them live they are so much more than that.

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The Rescue Room gig was sold out and the room was nearly full for the AJJ set, some of crowd had obviously seen them before and knew what their shows were like.

As they came out it was obvious that there was kit sharing going on as the drummer was using Skinny Lister’s kit. I think that this was a good thing as they are then not forced to be cramped up onto a stage and left with no room to move and also allows for a quicker change over between bands, some of the more well-known bands should perhaps take note of this.

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AJJ are touring as a four-piece band and start off with “Cody’s Theme”, the first track on their latest album “The Bible 2” which soon had the crowd moving around. They then played through a mixture of back catalogue and new songs that varied in pace, the slower numbers having the crowd listening to the thoughtful lyrics which showed the band’s observations on life. They are definitely a tight band and have the audience hooked; the energy they show is highlighted near the end of the set with the singer doing forward rolls around the stage. Anyone that likes Will Varley and Beans on Toast would definitely enjoy this and I know I will go to see them on their next tour.

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The room fills up to capacity as we wait for Skinny Lister to come on with most having already seen them before; it was good to see people in the crowd that we had met previously at the Bodega gig last October, it feels like a big friendly party is about to start and it does with as they come onto stage to start off with “Wanted“ the first track off Devil Heart Fight, a real upbeat punchy number. They then proceed in the usual Skinny Lister party mode through tracks take from all of their Album releases with the majority of them from Devil Heart Fight (9), Down on Deptford Broadway (7) and Forge and Flagon (6).

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Mid set they fitted in a new song “Thing Like That” which still has the typical Skinny punch too it, could well get to be a crowd favourite once more people know the lyrics.

There is a variance in pace as they slow down for some very soulful vocals from Lorna on tracks like “Bonny Away” sounding reminiscent of Sandy Denny.

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Skinny Lister certainly entertain with a flagon of rum passed out among the audience (sad to say that the Flagon had disappeared at the end of the night).

Party George, Lorna and Max’s dad, was in the crowd and Lorna set off to see him going crowd surfing in a dress, she certainly is one very brave lady.

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Scott Milsom the double bass player is certainly fitting in well having replaced Michael Camino – although I will miss his crowd surfing with the double bass.

They ended up with a three-track encore “Beat it from the chest”, “Hamburg Drunk” and “Six whiskies”, a track that should be played at the end of the night in any pub (it is on the playlist in my local).

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It was interesting to go to The Junction 2 in Cambridge to see both bands the following night to see if they could party just as hard, this gig wasn’t sold out, this was possibly because of the band Alabama 3 playing in The Junction 1 next door.

Both bands produced sets that were of the same excellent quality as the night before with some variance in the setlist order. Skinny Lister had to resort to sending a bottle of rum into the audience due to the replacement flagon they had obtained needing to be cleaned out before it can be used.

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The Skinny Lister audience is growing and I think they will soon be having to tour in larger venues, take your chance to see them in these smaller more intimate ones whilst you still can.

Both bands are very approachable and always spend time talking to the audience after the show, helping out with the merchandise sales and signing CD covers

Skinny Lister are a really hard working band and will be appearing at various festivals over the summer and continuing the Devil Heart Fight tour into Europe later in the year.

They are definitely worth seeing live – go to see them if you get the chance.

http://www.skinnylister.com/