Gig Review :: Frank Turner – Wembley Arena – 13/04/12

© Ben Morse 2012

“Even with the size of the place and all the pomp and circumstance, one thing remained the same. It still felt like a Frank Turner show.”

When I saw Frank play the Manchester Apollo last year I wondered how much bigger he could possibly get. The first time I saw the guy play was in front of 800 people, so to see him play to a crowd the size of the Apollo’s was a little mental. So you can imagine how it was seeing him on stage at Wembley arena. This wasn’t just Wembley Arena either, it was a sold out Wembley Arena. Crazy.

Just walking into that behemoth of an arena was insane. This place would soon have eleven-thousand people in it in a few hours and, honestly, that’s a pretty scary thought. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before we had our first act on stage – Beans On Toast. For those who don’t know, Beans On Toast is a folk singer from Essex. His voice is really fucked up and all his songs are really simple (but in a good way). The fact he was performing at Wembley had to be some kind of awesome in-joke, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t brilliant. After opening with a brand new song, he brought on Bobby Banjo – his banjo player, would you believe? – and they blasted out a few of Beans’ more well known tunes. Well, when I say “blasted out”, I mean they just about got through them.

As is a custom at a Beans On Toast gig, the songs aren’t always played in full and, on occasion, aren’t even played correctly. This is exactly what we were treated to, with Beans even asking the crowd to stop clapping along with songs because he couldn’t concentrate. In between songs he told stories and chatted about what certain songs meant, whilst checking his watch to make sure he didn’t over run the twenty minutes he’d been allocated. Having closed his set, Beans was met with an amazing response from the ever expanding crowd. This prompted him to crowd surf to the back of the arena. It was a great way to open the show and an even better way for Beans to close his set. Though finding later out he’d been chucked out for crowd surfing was the icing on the cake.

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius pip continued the show and, whilst they’re good performers, I don’t think they really fit in with the rest of the Wembley experience. Granted, this was my first exposure to the hip-hop duo, but I found it really hard to get into. With that said, I seemed to be in the minority as they went down really well. Perhaps I should have swotted up beforehand?

That headline slot was edging ever closer and now the crowd seemed to have all packed into the arena. Unlike the night before, people weren’t about to walk out on Billy Bragg here. For those who were at the previous night’s gig, the set will have sounded a little familiar. With that said, Bragg was blasting out the hits on both nights with only a few new ones thrown into the set. Again he played ‘Scousers Never Buy The Sun’, which was especially poignant given how close the show was to the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. The rest was dedicated to a few of his more seasoned songs and, again, he closed with ‘A New England’. This time, with eleven-thousand other voices singing the chorus and a chill descending down my spine. Even this wasn’t enough to top what was about to happen.

Though it had been billed by the man himself as a ‘greatest hits’ kind of set, it opened with ‘Eulogy’ – the opening track from, latest album, England Keep My Bones – and the beginning of Frank’s performance at Wembley did feel a little top heavy with EKMB tracks. However, once it got going the hits kept coming and we all kept singing. Audience participation is a big thing at Frank Turner shows, so if you’re not singing you’re not doing it right! Speaking of participation, before launching into ‘Dan’s Song’, Frank brought his mum up on stage in the hope she would play the harmonica on the track. After a little coaxing from her son and the eleven-thousand that came to see him do what he does best, she gave in and maybe even got the biggest cheer of the night. This was swiftly followed by ‘Father’s Day’, which seemed like a nice bit of set arrangement on Turner’s part given the song’s subject matter. Other surprise inclusions included ‘Nashville Tennessee’. First featured on Campfire Punkrock, the song is a fan favourite that seems to have withstood the test of time unlike others from that stage of Frank’s career.

Amongst all of the hits and surprises, a new song was thrown into the mix. ‘Four Simple Words’ – a track from Frank’s forthcoming fifth solo album – went down really well with the Wembley crowd. Though we didn’t know the words, we danced along regardless. The soft sweet acoustic opening feeling like a ruse, as the body of the song is unleashed. There are very few times I’ve thought about ‘pitting’ to Frank’s music. This was one such time. This song already felt like a hit, and it’s no where near ready for release yet.

When it came time to close the set, Frank went with a little Queen. More recently, the Winchestrian has closed his sets with a rendition of the classic rock band’s ‘Somebody To Love’ and it’s inclusion here was received with aplomb. After bidding us ‘goodnight’, attentions were turned to the big screens hanging above the stage. There was Frank, sitting in a chair, waving back at us. What was he doing? Well, he was waiting to get tattooed. Rather than that rockstar pre-encore walkoff being shrouded in secrecy, Turner decided to let everyone get a peek as a second date was added to his pre-existing Wembley tattoo (done when he supported Green Day at Wembley stadium). With that finished, Turner returned to the stage with Billy Bragg following shortly after. Just like the night before, the pair played Dylan’s ‘The Time’s They Are A Changing’, this time, with a few additional hiccups. There were singalongs aplenty, though the cynic in me wondered how many watching had only heard this song because it was featured in Watchmen. Regardless, it went down a storm. Now was time for the biggest shock of the evening.

Now alone, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Frank set about playing ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’. Though he announced this time “might” be the song’s last outing in a live venue. Emotions ran high and there were even some audible groans from the crowd, but Turner delivered the fan favourite expertly and, in the end, it felt kind of fitting to retire that song at such a poignant time. After such a somber second song, the encore was concluded (as always) with ‘Photosynthesis’. Again the audience played their part, sitting down towards the end of the song before leaping up into the air as Nigel kicks the song back into gear and confetti and streamers fly into the air. It was a showy finish, but it feels like something Frank can pull off at this stage.

Even with the size of the place and all the pomp and circumstance, one thing remained the same. It still felt like a Frank Turner show. It still felt intimate, and Frank never appeared to be out of his depth. It’ll always feel better to see him in a smaller venue – I mean, when doesn’t a small venue feel better? -, but this show was one to remember, and one I’ll be talking about for some time to come.

Album Review :: Apologies, I Have None – London

“…runs the emotional gamut, and does it expertly.”

It’s been a long time coming, but Apologies, I Have None have finally released their debut full-length and it’s absolutely fantastic. Having heard everything the band has done up to this point, and seen them live countless times, I always knew that this was going to turn out great. What I didn’t expect was to have my expectations completely shattered, and that’s exactly what’s happened here.

There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to London. ’60 Miles’ hits you in the face right from the off and just doesn’t stop. The overarching theme of England’s capital making the record completely cohesive, and a very easy listen, despite some of the darker, more intense, subject matter. Rarely have I heard a record that can go from completely uplifting, to down and self loathing, and then do the whole thing all over again so seamlessly. This intensity is epitomised in ‘The 26’, but that was just one of the many times this record caught me off guard in the best way possible. It runs the emotional gamut, and does it expertly.

The record also delivers us a more polished Apologies, I Have None. Previous releases have been far from badly produced, but there’s been very little of this quality out there. This becomes especially apparent on the new recordings of ‘Sat In Vicky Park’ and ‘Joiners And Windmills’. Both songs sound better than ever and really fit in well amongst some of the newer, harder, tunes on the record. It also offers up something different, musically. ‘Foundations’ is nothing more than Dan and a piano, the rest of the band taking a back seat. And whilst it doesn’t sound like a ‘typical’ Apologies song, it’s by far the the most interesting song on the record.

Whilst I love how different ‘Foundations’ is and how intense ‘The 26’ gets, it’s ‘Concrete Feet’ – a song about the harsher aspects of life – that stands out as my favourite. The way the music builds in conjunction with the, seemingly self-deprecating lyrics really helps the song hit home. That’s not to say the lyrics aren’t powerful on their own: “You’ll always make mistakes/you’ll always fuck shit up/you will sometimes make bad choices/and blame that shit on bad luck” is just one example of the lyrical tour de force that this song (and the entire record) is.

In fact, everything about London is fantastic (it’s better than the city it’s named after, that’s for sure). So much so, that I’ve found it hard to review. It’s so good that I’ve found it hard to find a fault. I’d have to really start nitpicking to come up with something I didn’t like about these ten songs. I know there’s no such thing as a perfect record, but this might be as close as you’re going to get. It shows off exactly what Apologies, I Have None are all about, and should see the previously uninitiated clamoring for older material and a chance to see them live.

Songs To Cure Depression :: Wheatus – ‘Anyway’

“…even if I’m luck I’ll amount to zero, but I thought that you’d love me anyway.”

As I sat at the goddamn desk, sipping at my second coffee and wondering what the hell I was doing with my life and if any of this would ever lead to anything close to a wage, I felt a strange sense of something, not quite satisfaction or contentment, that is best described with the word “apathy,” a less crass way of describing the sentiment “I don’t give a fuck.”
Which to most might not seem like a good way to feel, but it was better than the 100 tonne anchor of depression pulling me into another week long black out binge session where I achieved very little apart from a few scrawls here and there. Yes, apathetic was progress, I had so many deadlines and so little enthusiasm to do them, but at least I wasn’t going under. But how did I get to this place? I sure as hell didn’t feel like this a few hours ago. Was it the fresh air I’d taken in on a stroll? The 30 minutes of meditation I had just recently done? Or was it the music? The beautiful music that has saved me from the jaws of that bastard death-shark more times then I can recount. A dose a cheesy indie-pop was just the ticket. Wheatus had been my guilty pleasure for so long that it wasn’t even a secret anymore, so much I just admitted it to anyone who inquired. And why shouldn’t I? As much as they will always be tarred as “that teenage dirt-bag band” (shockingly, they have other songs) Wheatus were in fact a group of talented, fun loving, song writers who could spin a mood from minus to plus within three minutes of high-pitched vocals, bouncy rhythms and tongue-in-cheek lyrical content (I mean, BMX Bandits is about jerking it to 16 year old Nicole Kidman) and there is few other examples of Wheatus at their best then the song “anyway.” I have no clue what the hell this video is about though, but it was the best YouTube had to offer.

Moon & Back Session :: Austin Lucas

“You are fucking gross” – Austin Lucas

On his recent UK tour, we caught up with Austin Lucas and put him to work. After all, playing a song to a video camera is exactly what you want to do on your birthday, right?! Austin, very kindly, obliged to play us a new tune for a Moon & Back Session and it’s absolutely awesome. ‘Alone In Memphis’ is going to be featured on his new record and we can’t wait to hear the final version. But, for now, we have this to tide us over.

Apologies for the camera not quite getting Austin’s guitar into shot. This room was tiny and there was five of us in there. Regardless, we think it turned out great. Be sure to check out Austin’s latest record A New Home In The Old World and tell us who you want to see do a session for us in the comments below!

‘Alone In Memphis’

Going Underground :: James Choice

“I know every Alkaline Trio song on guitar…”

The first thing I noticed when listening to the three songs by James Choice that I have on my portable music player (a.k.a. the pie-pod) is the fact that after the first ten seconds I was greeted by a Futurama quote, so straight away the guy was on to a winner. But hell, we’re getting ahead of ourselves right now. The first time I met James Choice was at a house party in Manchester, where he happily let me sing a couple of Alkaline Trio covers with him. In the morning, he gave me the details for an online medium I could listen to his songs. This was two months ago and here we are, finally, with the article I’d promised, half inebriated, that Saturday morning.

Now I’ve had a few run ins with Jame Choice and I could write an entire article about him as a person but, fuck, I have to maintain, not an air but at least a slight draft, of professionalism so lets move onto the music.

There are obviously similarities here with such Asian Man Records acoustic acts like Matt Skiba (the stuff the split with Kevin Seconds) and Mike Park (Asian Man founder). These are clearly a huge influence on James Choice and rightly so, he has taken a strong influence and placed his own twist in both terms of vocals and production, so lets address both.

The vocal talent of this man is surprising. Surprising in a sense that I am genuinely surprised that the first time I saw him play was a house show for little to no money (but perhaps this was a personal choice). At times the vocals are reminiscent of Anthony Raneri of Bayside fame. Seeing as Raneri is also a known Skiba fan, there’s cause for seeing this similarity as, at least to some extent, intentional.

The production of James Choice is what makes the music the most unique. Apart from the fact that, for being demos, the three songs I own would sound perfectly comfortable on most low-key studio recordings (this isn’t a put down, I prefer a bit of raw studio against the “over polished turd” studio sound). James Choice also takes this a step further adding extra instrumentation and synth/samples, creating an atmosphere wholly different to that of 99% percent of underground acoustic acts on the scene at present. Hell, perhaps even 100%, there’s definitely something else in these tracks. ‘Take A Leak’, for example, shows James Choice take a completely different path to the norm, vouching for a much darker style, which would probably be better affiliated with Marilyn Manson’s Holywood that anything in the ‘punk acoustic scene’.

James Choice is available to listen to here

Album Review :: The Magnificent – Bad Lucky

“…there’s thousands of punk bands out there proclaiming their town is the shittest, but no one does it quite as well as The Mags”

Let me pose a question: If you were to take the poetic, typically English, story telling of The Clash and combine that with the angst-ridden, raw, pop-punk of  (old) Green Day, what would you get? The answer to that is The Magnificent and, In a nutshell, their latest offering sounds like the bastard child of the aforementioned.

Whilst Bad Lucky does nothing especially groundbreaking, it is a really solid punk record. Opener, ‘1981’ sets the tone right from the off. It shows that the band aren’t afraid of delving into territories unknown. I mean, how often have you heard a song about a royal wedding with such awesome guitar work? The semi-dystopian world view carries on throughout the entire album, setting it apart from anything else. I mean, there’s thousands of punk bands out there proclaiming their town is the shittest, but no one does it quite as well as The Mags.

Of course, not all of these songs are about decaying towns. ‘Working Mens Club (Part 2)’ – a song that might well be my favourite on the record – focuses on the monotony of the ‘nine to five’ and, presumably, the overall hatred of having to work in a job you hate. This track also offers a change of pace not heard elsewhere on the record, introducing a hard, fast, Descendents-esque sound that would’ve been welcome more than just this once.

There’s also some real good sing-along songs on here too. ‘King Of The Denim Jackets’ springs to mind with it’s catchy opening verse and plethora of ‘woah-ing’ and ‘oh-ing’. Though a resounding cheer of “1990” emanating from the crowd at the next Mags show is a safe bet too.

Honestly, there’s very little wrong with Bad Lucky. Alright, there’s a few sketchy lyrics here and there but, more than any record I’ve heard recently, Bad Lucky has a real old school punk swagger about it. A real nostalgia, not all of which is derived from those songs with dates for titles.

Podcast :: UTB #35: We’re Going On Tour With Soundgarden Too!

“If you see an old woman on the street…hit her with a crowbar” – Ian Critchley

The subject of Carol Vorderman is firmly off the table for this week’s Under The Bridge, we’re sticking to the music talk. Thank christ for that! This week Emma Hallows tells us all about her recent tour with Dave Hughes, we discuss hypothetical meetings between penguins and polar bears and are asked the question “What is Cliff Richard doing right now?”

This week’s music is provided by Great Cynics, Martha, Harker and The Menzingers. No excuse for this being late. Barlow (eds note: honestly) just forgot we’d done it. It was edited, ready to go, and everything!

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #35: We’re Going On Tour With Soundgarden Too!

Gig Review :: Brand New – Academy 1, Manchester – 09/02/12

© 2012 Tom Bailey

“…the audience calm, and cling to every word, eventually taking over singing the song like a drunken choir, and seemingly putting Lacey off his lyrics. But who cares, the mans a legend.”

As the first chords of ‘Welcome to Bangkok’ ring out, myself, and I would imagine most of the crowd, are suddenly 14 again. Taken back to that place in time we first fell for Brand New, reminded of our teen loves and broken hearts, the band being the sound track to those drunken underage parties and our disenchanted younger years. Very few bands from my teen years still appeal to me, but Brand New explain why my love for them is so strong through the course of the show.

Looking around the room as the anticipation builds I find myself as another mismatch in a room full of variety. From 14 year olds in brand new Brand New shirts, to the Wiccan odd ball in front off me, to people like myself the post-emo veterans holding on to youth with white knuckles and teary eyes.

The atmosphere was electric as the band stepped on stage and began “Welcome to Bangkok”, ploughing through to ‘The Archers Bows have Broken’, ‘Millstone’, and ‘Sowing Season’ until there was a problem with Derick Shermans guitar we the  found Jesse filling the time with talk of his day in Manchester, explaining his great “Luncheon” and the fact that they have spent all day napping, he is a very humble and seemingly shy character (hidden bellow a baggy beanie) and despite the chat only being a filler for an onstage mishap the crowd are transfixed with what he has to say. As Derrick’s guitar comes back to life, Jesse apologises for wearing the same clothes tonight as he has for the last two shows, “I smell good though” he reassures us.

As we get to the fifth song, the crowd are gripped by the throbbing bass line of ‘Vices’ and are whipped up into frenzy. Moving onto ‘Sink’ another bass heavy beast of a song we can see just how great a bassist Garret Tierney really is ripping in to his bass with endless energy.

Rolling on to ‘Sic transit Gloria… Glory Fades’ the band are joined by a riot of vocals from the audience, followed up by ‘Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ the whole first verse taken over by the audience, the band seeming stunned by this looking at each other with confussed faces. A nice reminder that the band don’t quite realise just how good they really are.

The bands stage show was perfect, understated lighting and dry ice, nothing fancy just us and them, the way a good rock show should be. Yet another reason to see them live, it’s all about the music.

As ‘Jude Law and a Semester Abroad’ got started the room erupted once more in to a fury, not a body in the place wasn’t dancing. Following up with ‘Seventy Times 7’ only added to the atmosphere. Again taking people back to 2002 with the emo anthem.

Pausing at this point to ask the crowd ‘Play Crack the Sky’ or ‘Soco Amaretto Lime?’ Jesse asks for a clap vote, ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’ being the unanimous winner, the audience calm, and cling to every word, eventually taking over singing the song like a drunken choir, and seemingly putting Lacey off his lyrics. But who cares, the mans a legend.

Working through ‘Limousine’ to ‘Jesus’ we again find the crowd taking over the show to the bands delight. “Jesus Christ that’s a pretty face” bellowing from the moving mass of bodies.
As the show draws to a close we get ‘Degausser’ and finally ‘You Won’t Know’. With a towel over his head Lacey is an ominous presence on stage, considering the haunting Echo and the Bunny Men style to the tune, the tone drops and once again we are all hypnotised by Lacey’s presence. As the bass and drums pick up we are once more consumed with the need to dance, and we do, en masse! The whole room once again and for the last time turbulent and exhaustedly dancing like it is the last night on earth. As the song trails off the rest band quietly leave stage leaving Jesse behind to drop to his knees for the final solo then knock the mic stand over and throw his guitar through the drum kit.

A quick nervous “We will see you next year” and mention of a new album coming up excites the crowd and, with that, Jesse leaves the stage. The house lights suddenly blind us all and we quickly realise there will be no encore, a little disappointing given how good a show it has been. A large knot in my chest had me hoping in vane that they might come back with an acoustic and bring us to climax with ‘I Will play my Game Beneath the Spin Light’ or ‘Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot’. Missing ‘Guernica’ also left a few people disappointed but what will be will be, despite the lack of encore and a missing favourite the crowd leave sweaty and entirely satisfied, already buzzing with talk of next years gig.

Glory Fades… but not for Brand New, I am exited and refreshed, looking forward to what lies ahead for the talented gents from Long Island.

– Nick Matthew

Moon & Back Session :: Mike Scott

© Michelle Midwinter 2010

“This is a song about Polish ladies…” – Mike Scott

While on tour with Random Hand’s Joe Tilston, we asked Mike Scott if he’d like to partake in one of these ‘Moon & Back Sessions’ we’re so fond of doing. Not only did he oblige, but he dragged a few more people in on it too.

Backed by Luke Yates (Sounds Of Swami) and Ren Aldridge (Ren Spits At Magpies), Mike performed ‘Following The Leader’ – a track from Everything Else – and I think you’ll agree that it turned out rather well. You can hear more from Mike by heading over to his Bandcamp page and by ‘liking’ him on Facebook.

As always the video was shot and edited by Dicking Around Productions. Thanks a lot to The Star & Garter, Manchester, for letting us film. if you have any suggestions as to who we should get in session next, put it in the comments, write to us on Facebook, or send us something on Twitter.

‘Following The Leader’

Moon & Back Session :: Dave Hughes

© Robert Balmer 2012

“I got the chorus slightly in tune that time…”- Dave Hughes

Dave Hughes recently embarked on a short UK tour with Emma Hallows. Under The Bridge (and, by proxy, Moon & Back) organised a Manchester show for the pair and, whilst we were waiting for things to get rolling, we shot a session with Dave under a bridge.

Dave performed ‘Tacitus (Burn Like A Fire)’ – a track taken from the Hughes/Harker/Hallows split released on Under The Bridge Records – and ‘Mirrors’ for his session. Sorry about all the wind, talking and trains. These are the hazards of filming outside. Regardless, both videos turned out well. Enjoy!

As always the video was shot and edited by Dicking Around Productions. If you have any suggestions as to who we should get in session next, put it in the comments, write to us on Facebook, or send us something on Twitter.

‘Tacitus (Burn Like A Fire)’