Music

Searching for Sugar Man + Sixto Rodriguez

A month ago just before christmas I went with a friend to see Searching for Sugar Man at Øst for Paradis and I’ve been recommending it ever since. It was a bit slow in the beginning and at I was even preparing myself for the worst, however when it took off I was entirely captivated. The humbleness and general character of Sixto Rodriguez was very attractive, and add to that an incredible story and an amazing soundtrack!

Afterwards I’ve bought his two albums, Cold Fact and Coming From Reality, and it’s really a puzzle why he never made it until now — try Crucify Your Mind, Wonder, or Like Janis from the first album for instance. It’s not Dylan, but if you like him then I reckon there’s a good change you’ll like Rodriguez as well.

To make matters even better, it turns out that he’s giving a concert at La Cigale in June! Several in fact. My ticket is booked and definitely looking forward to this one.

Weekend in London (with Buzzcocks + Cock Sparrer + Rancid)

A few weeks back we had arranged a weekend trip to London just to get away from Aarhus a bit. And planning ahead I had found a weekend with the maximal payoff in terms of concerts! Beyond that thought we hadn’t really planned that much, and mostly wanted to “go have a weekend in London” as if we were living there.

Friday

We arrived in the city at about noon and went for lunch at a pub across the street from the hotel. It went a bit outside my tradition of starting each countries with its “national” dish (fish ‘n’ chips in England, currywurst in Germany, baguette in France, and hotdog in Denmark) but pub food is a close second in the UK. And I was actually pleasantly reminded of the surprisingly decent food you can get cheaply at the pubs: it hasn’t changed or been influenced much since my time in Edinburgh, and it came with a pint.

Afterwards we went for Death: A Self-portrait at the Wellcome Collection, but in all honesty the venue was more exciting than the exhibition. Also visited a few years back, and with its free entry, nice cafe, and good museum shop it’s a nice place to hang out. This time I realised that there’s also a second floor but that’ll be for next time to explore.

We had a tea and a crumble at the cafe, and picked up some fish ‘n’ chips on the way back to the hotel. Having not looked exactly where the Buzzcocks concert was going to take place, we were surprised to discover that it was in fact a good deal outside the city and hence had to take not just the metro but also the regional train. When we finally arrived, The Mick Jagger Centre looked more like a primary school than the great venue where we were at last to see the Buzzcocks. They played a great concert though, the guitarist seemingly the one with most punk left in him, and the drummer looking like it was about time to retire. However, we had to cut it short by the last to tracks in order to reach the train station in time: unfortunately these were Ever Fallen In Love and, I believe, What Do I Get? That obviously was a bit of a let down, but given how far we were into the country side it seemed silly to risk the last safe ride back.

Saturday

Headed for Camden Market and got an English breakfast at a pub first thing there. The markets have gotten bigger since I was there in 2008, despite the story that parts of it caught fire. It really is an impressive market, not matched by any in Paris for instance. Had a curry for lunch, and a bit arbitrarily picked up Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates.

We then headed to Tate Modern for their William Klein exhibition. On the way we ran into some kind of Father Christmas event consisting of several hundred people dressed up for the holidays and just basically hanging out. We later saw that they had marched through London, at some point also occupying Trafalgar Square.

Great exhibition by the way, and very easily to see that he’s one of the good ones. Particularly liked how good he is at filling the frame and make the photo stuck you in (later wanted to try the same at Brick Lane, but my attempt earlier in Boston was perhaps more successful).

For the evening we decided to get last minute tickets for a play, and ended up with The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre — it was what looked best on the list at the box office, but turned out to be a surprisingly good show! Very good adaptation from the movie with clever use of meta language; highly recommended. The underground theatre itself was very cute, and with an elderly guy in front of us with a very contagious laughter it couldn’t have been must better. We left wishing we could go more often, even if it’s three times or more the price of going to the cinema (the actors seem to perform a more honest job anyway).

Sunday

Starting again with a market, we went to Brick Lane for a late breakfast/lunch. In no rush, we walked up and down the market, bought a few items, and got hungry again looking at all of the different options. Has it become hipster? Yes, but it is a nice place.

Afterwards we just kind of strolled around town a bit until dinner (a lovely noodle place around Leicester Square I think) in preparation for the Cock Sparrer and Rancid concert at The Forum later.

The concerts were great. A bit loud at 110 dB compared to the usual 100 dB, but energetic atmosphere and impressive venue (an old theatre I suspect). My girlfriend remembered listening to Cock Sparrer on cassette tapes in her teenage years, and for me they were a welcomed discovery — am now looking forward to Shock Troops arriving in the mail. Having instead listening a lot to Rancid I was very happy to finally see them alive and they didn’t disappoint. Should have prepared a bit better for the sing-along though.

Finally, we flew with Ryanair but talked about not doing that again. Why their initial price might be lower than the other airlines, their price curve is also a lot steep: as soon as you want a bit more (such as checked-in luggage) the price goes up quickly and you end up paying the same (if not more) than with a decent airline — yet the airports used by Ryanair are still far away, the departures are early in the morning, and they are not that good at managing overcrowding.

Oh by the way, Songkick turned out to be a splendid tool for researching which weekend to go! It gave me a combined list of all planned performances by the artists of my choosing six months ahead — and brilliant integration with Spotify.

Concert: Blues on Tobakken

When my father invited us to a blues concert at Tobakken in Esbjerg I was happy to go but not really sure what to expect. It turned out to be great though, to the point where one of the bands have been the first choice of music for the past week now.

It was a gathering of three blues bands. The first one consisted of an old Danish film celebrity, Jes Holtsø, who played Børge in the Olsenbanden movies as a teenager. Apparently he ended up in a alcohol and drug abuse, recovering about five years ago, and went into music. Seeing him singing on stage was strange though, but he did a fair job and presented an interesting character.

Next up was Swedish one-man band Daniel Norgren. Almost one-man band at least, as he did the singing himself together with playing guitar, drums, and harmonica — but brought a bassist. He immediately reminded me of Seasick Steve and the fascination of sixties American culture we witnessed in Sweden this summer; from musical style to appearance there was nothing about him that couldn’t have convinced you that he came straight from Alabama as Seasick’s cousin.

His music was great. Something separated it from the other bands and provided an interesting twist. For a second I considered getting an album from his stand, but from Seasick Steve I remembered that what sounds great live may not work at all afterwards. I now know that this is not the case for Norgren as we’ve been listening to it on Spotify a lot since. In fact, we’ve booked tickets to go see him tonight at Atlas in Aarhus.

The third and final band was Buddy Whittington. He was an excellent guitarist but my father seemed to enjoy his style of blues more than I did. More classic blues I suppose.

Finally, let me comment a bit on the photos. I had brought my Nikon D60 and shot a bit from where we were seated. The room seemed to get progressively darker during the concerts so the quality of the Whittington photos also came out worst. However I’m still very impressed about the noise level of the camera (I had to push the ISO high to maintain somewhat of a decent shutter speed) and how well Lightroom does noise reduction. I still want a new camera but if you shoot in RAW format then you can surely pull a lot out of the files afterwards.

Civil Civic + Bandcamp

A few weeks ago I ventured into something new: I bought an album digitally, as in downloadable files instead of buying the CD. I got my arse kicked, yet also made an interesting discovery.

To prolong the story, it goes back two years when I first heard Civil Civic playing at L’International. Me and a friend had spent the day café-jumping in Paris (between all the cafés with “Metro” in their name) and decided to round it off with a gig. Quite unexpectedly it ended up being one of the best I’ve attended at the venue, so naturally I went home looking for their album. I don’t believe I found it though as they had probably only released singles at the time; instead I saved a link to their MySpace page and prepared some patience.

Back in spring this year I somehow got reminded of them again. I looked on their half-dead MySpace page and found that they have now released a proper album, Rules. I listened to it a few times on Spotify and became convinced that I would keep listening to it, and hence needed to buy the album. Disappointedly, all Amazon could offer was a digital download and not the “hard-copy” CD. Alright, it’s an indie release so it’s what to be expected yet I didn’t want to settle (for the reasons given earlier). I kept looking through-out the summer but without luck.

We’re now a few weeks ago. I figured that I’d been listening so much to it that there was no way around it anymore, and started looking into where to buy it digitally. This of course involved an investigation into who provides the best files. First off, I was happy to learn that iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify all allow you to buy the music free of DRM protection. Next came the quality, and it turned out that Spotify was actually the best option: they would sell it to me (Amazon wouldn’t), they use an open format (iTunes use their own), and provide it in the highest quality. It was slightly more expensive than iTunes but not unreasonable: 99 DKK compared to 79 DKK. As a final resort before committing my sin, I called a friend with the same love for CDs as me. Unfortunately however, he could only pointed me in the direction of HDtracks without luck. I did it and ended up with 10 new files on my computer!

Now, a few days later I stopped by the website of Civil Civic for whatever reason. I had passed it in my search earlier but apparently not looked close enough. For what I found was that for 4 GBP (40 DKK) I could download the music directly from them – and, for 3 GBP extra, they would send me a CD! I ordered it of course.

The point here is that not only did I get what I wanted (the CD), I also got it cheaper than having just the files at Spotify. Furthermore, I suspect that a larger cut went to the band instead of the shareholders – I have later discovered that this might be more relevant than I initially thought: several bands are now refusing to put their albums on Spotify because the cuts they get are too small.

When caught by an act of stupidity, an occasion to rationalise it is sometimes welcomed. And how can that be done in this case? There’s the good old “it’s only the price of two beers” or “most music you buy is very cheap so it equals out”. However I this case I went with “it’s the price of experience!”. Of what? Of learning about Bandcamp, the website through which Civil Civic and numerous other indie bands are selling their music!

Northside Festival, Day 3

I’ve already written more than I expected for the other days, so here, for the third day I’ll allow myself to be a tad brief. The day also turned out to be the musically least interesting day, although definitely not with a few good experiences.

In general the festival has been very good. Perhaps not matching last year exactly, but very close: this year the good bands for me have been the lesser known bands, while last year I mostly enjoyed the well-known bands such as Elbow and Editors. A bit loud at times, and a bit expensive for just three days. However, it was well-organised without being forced to pick in the programme nor to wait at the toilets and food stands.

Little Dragon
At the concert I was not convinced: too electronic, too lounge. But I’ve actually ended up ordering Ritual Union after listening to it on Spotify for a while. It’s not amazing – the first two tracks being by far the strongest on the album – but there is something to a few of the songs that made it worth it. On stage the sound was letting her down but unmatched on the album. Official website.

Bat for Lashes
Another positive experience during the morning; as with Little Dragon I didn’t know Bat for Lashes prior to the concert. Preferred the quite, less electric, songs of hers which were great. Reminded me of Björk which is not generally a good thing. She also put on a good performance (smiling, sincere, general likeable) which is a big plus no doubt. Official website.

Turboweekend
Although currently a big Danish name I’m not fond of their music at all. Let’s say it’s too mainstream. However, I noticed during the concert that I kept recognising people from the other days, which added a kind of local feel to the festival. Official website.

James Blake
Another non-favourite. Official website.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Not unlike Oasis (even played a few). I’m not a huge fan of their style but it was not too bad for what it was. Also, I thought he would have a lot heavier brit-pop attitude, but seemed way more likeable than e.g. Kasabian – positive surprise! Official website.

Garbage
No guitar switching! Compared to some of the other bands that have played here this is very old-school by now. I enjoyed the concert, and only slightly ashamed when I realised half-way through that I knew them. No doubt preferred their old stuff. Official website.

Snow Patrol
Perhaps fortunately, the festival ended with Snow Patrol which was not really our kind of music, thereby making sure we didn’t go to bed too late. They engaged the audience well and were rewarded with a large scale sing-along. A good way to end the festival for all of us :). Official website.

Northside Festival, Day 2: Kashmir

I was introduced to Kashmir half way through secondary school – for some reason that I haven’t investigated further they are particular popular among this part of the population. And as far as I can tell as much today as 10 years ago.

Going back to these days they had just released their third album, The Good Life. And what an album! Mom In Love & Daddy In Space made it on to MTV but was not even on my top four: Lampshade, Make It Grand, Miss You, and Graceland. I should say our top four though, because we often heard and sang along in groups. An enjoyment that by the way repeated itself out of nowhere five years later on a road trip with a good friend.

Now, before moving on I should point out that Kashmir has one thing in common with D-A-D: I can’t tell if it’s actually good or if I just like it for nostalgic reasons. To the best of my knowledge they never made it that well outside Denmark, and whenever I’ve tried to play it for foreigners it hasn’t gathered nearly as many eye sparkles as when played for a fellow Dane (at my first attempt at this it was simply written off as a Radiohead clone). At any rate, it was evident that I was not alone in being excited to see them live again.

For reasons I can no longer remember, they’d decided that this concert would be a tribute to The Good Life album and hence played it in it’s full. It was brilliant, and none of the people I could hear from my position could help but to sing/scream along to less than half of the songs. I haven’t really heard them for the past five years but that made no difference – we’d abused our CDs so much 10 years ago that it’s forever imprinted as long as someone knows the first few words of every verse. And lead singer Kasper Eistrup seemed genuinely happy and touched by being there on stage in front of us.

Northside Festival, Day 2: The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

I didn’t know these guys until my girlfriend played them during breakfast (another perk of a festival 15 min in walking distance from your flat) but writing this in retrospect they turned out to be the biggest surprise of the festival! It’s the band I’ve been playing the most since and couldn’t even wait for the CDs (so thank you Spotify).

I must really have been sleeping though because they are from Denmark (at least my girlfriend didn’t know this and asked during the concert how their Danish were) and have not exactly been hiding deep in the underground: their first album Fruit has been out long enough to be used in a Heineken beer ad. Searching their YouTube page a bit you also find that they’ve done three tours, two in Europe and one in the US.

The 60s inspired music is catchy, the use of horns refreshing, and the lead singer has a great voice that makes me think of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. A good start is The Golden Age, Around The Bend, and Bad Fever on their first album Fruit, or Heart Attack on their second album Out Of Frequency.

They play at Train in autumn and I can only recommend it highly.

Northside Festival, Day 2

As it got a bit late on the first day we decided to skip the first two bands today and arrived for The Asteroids Galaxy Tour instead. I’ll do a summary below of the bands but let me start by mentioning one of the perks of the Northside Festival: you get to sleep in your own bed! Of course it’s not the full festival experience but after standing for an entire day I can slack a bit on my ideals (maybe I’ll change my mind after Glastonbury next year).

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
Turned out to be the biggest surprise of the festival and the band I’ve been playing the most since! I’ve given them a separate post and can only recommend to catch them if the opportunity arises.

Bombay Bicycle Club (BBC?)
For some reason I had confused these guys with Two Door Cinema Club, and was puzzled that I couldn’t recognise their faces at all from Rock En Seine in 2010. Anyway, they gave an okay concert – most strikingly however, was that the lead singer kept smiling all the time, reminding me of Matthew Broderick in the Inspector Gadget movie from 1999. Otherwise it was hard to heard that you were not just listening to the album. They were constantly switching guitars though – I know there’s a difference in sound, but that much really? Several bands have done it a lot better using just a telecaster! :) Official website. PS: during this concert the smell of sour feet kicked in for real.

Lukas Graham
This young guy has been a massive hit in the mainstream lately with his debut album. My brother also recommending him. Hence, I was looking forward to the concert. I’d listened a bit to him on Spotify without much attraction but figured it deserved a second chance. However, while it was not bad as such, I had my suspections confirmed: it is not my type of music at all. How about adding a guitar for instance, say a telecaster..? Official website?

Suspekt
I don’t this kind of music. Not hip-hop, but crappy hip-hop. It evokes nothing in me and don’t get why the attitude is essential.

Kasabian
Massively overrated. Singer acted like the too-often seen brit-pop-attitude also found in Arctic Monkeys and Oasis, and using way too many cheap trick (you know, shouting “Denmark!” – couldn’t even be bothered to make a full sentence). Music is monotone, you might as well listen to the background noise. Official website.

Malk de Koijn
Again I can’t really say if it’s good or not. Gaffa liked them. But again, why the fake attitude and slow motion head padding from the crowd behind you?

Kashmir
Ah ha! Finally the good music was back. The trick with Kashmir however is the same as with D-A-D: is it good because I grew up with it, or is it actually good? Anyway, it was a nice reunion for me that I’ve given a few more words in a separate post.

Northside Festival, Day 1: Noah and the Whale

Here, on its first day, we caught the Northside festival just as Noah and the Whale (NATW) where starting. After Mumford & Sons, who cancelled just a few days ago, NATW were among the high priorities (I’d be surprised if there hasn’t been a bit of rivalling between these two bands – not least if the rumour that Marcus Mumford “stole” the girlfriend of Charlie Fink is true). Since the Mumfords cancelled (maybe the claimed broken arm is due to Fink; or maybe self-inflicted by a fear of running into him at the festival?) only NATW were left standing on the stage of new British folk music.

During the concert it occurred to me that it’s the first time I’ve “followed” a band for a while and noticed a development – I’ve seen other bands several times as well, but never noticed a change like this. I caught them first time at The Roundhouse in London some years back after they had just released their second album, The First Days of Spring. Coming to the gig with an expectation of another album along the lines of Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down, we experienced a moody concert to say the least (this was just after the girlfriend had left). Not a bad concert, but definitely not bursting with happiness. It took me a while to like this second album but it was since grown on me: as an exploration of the emotions following a breakup they certainly produced an album with good lyrics and mood, and tracks bound together in a way I doubt many of the current mainstream albums are.

The second time I saw them was last year at Cafe de la Dance in Paris where they had just released their third album, Last Night On Earth. I remember being a bit disappointed. Maybe it just didn’t evoke that much in me that particular day, but I also recall a feeling of indifference on their part. For this reason I did not have my hopes up too high for their performance at Northside.

Today, however, they did a good concert at Northside. I’m starting to doubt if they’ll ever put on a huge stage performance, but there was a blink in their eyes today, not least in Fink who jumped and danced around the stage a few times in his suit. Maybe, and this is solely my impression, The First Days of Spring have now completely passed and he is back enjoying the summer. Although they all (except that one old guy) look young, they certainly do a great job – I keep being surprised by how great a voice Fink has! As far as I could tell they only played a few songs from the back catalogue and otherwise stayed mostly at the third album. Maybe this helped form my impression that the past is behind them.

Oh, and I noticed that they play the telecaster – always a good sign.