21 March 2009: Re-Play Music Festival – The Grove Tavern, Wimbledon, London, England, UK

Some days are better than others and last Saturday was one of the better days. I’d go as far as to quote Lou Reed “Just a perfect day, problems all left alone”.

That bright and warm thing in the sky that you kids call the sun was beaming down relentlessly which is most unusual but very welcome after months of simply miserable weather. The only problem with these early sunny days is the pasty white legs and spare tires on show. Although this is a small problem, catching a sight of the offending body parts can be blinding if the sun reflects from them at a particular angle.

So, after deciding not to venture outside preferring the comfort of my friends sofa, I settled down for a 7hrs non stop Rugby. Yes folks, I am one of those people who howl at the TV set.

Sun gone, Rugby over, yours truly well satisfied with the results, it was time to put on some slap and go out. The Idea was to go to this gig at a pub not far from my friend’s gaff, where I spend most of my weekends. I only intended to see one band, Eastroad, however, once I got there and realized it was a mini music festival in aid of a worthwhile cause I decided to stay.

The venue was The Grove Tavern, conveniently located straight across the road from South Wimbledon Tube. For many years it was nothing but a run down pub badly managed which attracted the lower echelons of south London. Glad to say those days are well and truly over. From the large comfy sofas to the semi secluded good size beer garden, from the well dressed hunky door staff to the young, cute and friendly bad staff and with a good size stage with pretty good acoustics, The Grove has had a face lift and reinvented itself.

I got there kind of late and there was a small queue to get in. There was also a symbolic 1 Pound charge to enter. That said, the 1 Pound included you in a raffle draw for which the prize was a guitar. All the proceedings of the night went straight to Re-Play Music Festival which is an initiative where people donate their old, broken and/or unwanted musical instruments, they are refurbished and donated to schools, prisons and/or individuals who can’t afford to buy one. I think it’s a great idea and worthy cause. They have my full support and I’d like to think that all of you reading this will also try to help by means of donations, spreading the word or making The Grove your preferred booza.

The first band I saw was Mary Jane Burning. By the time I got there they were mid set so perhaps my review of them should be limited to an “ok performance but nothing special” because I might have missed out on some brilliant song or fireworks display. But from the 3 songs I got to hear nothing but second guitarist sticks to mind. Err…I lie. I vividly remember everything but to go any further would be unkind. Just one question: What was that girl doing onstage?

The following act was Eastroad. Well, what can I say about Eastroad which I haven’t already said in several reviews of their gigs? Not much. Taking away the technical difficulty they had during performing the first song, their act was delivered just fine. I did have a feeling, for the first time, that maybe the bass player should be the front man. He certainly has more of an onstage presence, more rock `n roll. Food for thought.

Time for Action. No need to be alarmed or get up. This is the actual name of the band that proceeded. I must say that I had no great expectations of this band. I have never heard of them, they looked young enough to not be allowed in a pub and I’m no great lover of ska. But the truth must be said: Time for Action rocked my socks! The music was a fusion of several genres: ska, punk, reggae, hard rock…all topped up with a perfect dose of irreverence and rebellion. The kids, I mean, the musicians were well rehearsed and as tight as a rats arse! I loved every minute of it! Meg, the lead singer/guitar/harmonic has a huge onstage presence. His energy was immeasurable and his political speeches took me back to a time where people gave a damn about politics instead of this herd of sheep of today. I wish Time for Action all the very best and urge you to try catch one of their shows.

Now then, from a never heard of band to the winners of last year Indie Awards: The Penny Black Remedy. It is easy to see why they were the winners. They are obviously natural born, professional musicians. Every song played was delivered flawlessly. Not one single note out. It was like listening to a mastered album. Their stage presence was pretty good too. They looked comfortable and seemed to be having fun with each other. Its not easy trying to describe the genre they fit in to. They say its Balkan alternative country rock…err…I suppose I’d buy that….whatever that means. If I was asked to describe their style I would have to say I heard something similar at the last BarMitzva I attended…just a hell of a lot better. They were the only band to get just about everybody dancing, including yours truly which is unheard of. My only fear is that due to the genre they get pigeonholed as world music. They have a new album out now, so don’t take my word for it, just go get the album and make your own mind up.

A heartfelt thanks The Grove staff, new and old customers, all the artists and Bob the organizer for supporting this cracking initiative. Also worth mentioning that Green Futures Festival Radio was broadcasting this event live. Green Futures has a stage at Glastonbury festival so be sure to go check them out!

© ASG @AndreaUrbanFox

14 March 2009: ColouringIN – Club Motherf**ker DEAD!, Barden’s Boudoir, London, England, UK

This was going to be a two act, double review of Rex the Dog -a great and well known DJ- and Colouring In – a breaking act pushing to establish a new sound.

But on arriving at Club Motherf**ker in Stoke Newington for its final monthly party, the black board on the street announced that Rex would not be appearing due to a bout of Dog flu.

Undeterred I still paid my six quid, and one beer later Colouring In front man Henry Bennet was making the final adjustments to his band’s four synthesisers.

A choir boy in his youth , Bennet has hung up the smock, choosing now to perform in a vest – white – and jacket – grey – with the sleeves rolled up, a la The Eighties.

Appropriately the synths are used to create a sound not un-reminiscent of that particular era, but there is enough Naughties edge for it all to sound thoroughly new wave. Add to that Bennet’s rich vocal talent -often sounding like its being pushed hard – and you have a fresh sound that had a trendy crowd nodding in agreement.

Not long in to the set the 80’s jacket had to come off due to the sweaty effort ColouringIN’s front man was putting in at the mic stand. This contrasted with his cool as ice buddies pushing the keys behind him impassively -in one case one handedly.- as if to reassure the crowd they weren’t really that in to it.

Talented enough but cool enough to be trendy, mixing a deliberately retro feel with modern electro; if their headline act drops ill again I wouldn’t worry.

© willrobins

09 March 2009: Gold Future Joy Machine – Star, Bethnal Green, London, England, UK

East London is known most, in musical terms at least, for its role in evolving UK dance music in particular its history of british Hip hop, Grime and Ragga. However a new sound is also evolving in Hackney estates below the radar that maybe has as much to do with Grunge guitars as it does the bleeps and glitsches of Beau Grime or Shoreditch Electro.

Gold Future Joy Machine are a sonic wrecking ball five piece that electrified The Star of Bethnal Green last night, and are the undisputed kings and queens of this new sound. Taking to the stage in rugged monochrome their opening song was called “Sons and daughters”. It sounded like J-Dilla being torn apart by the entire past and present roster of the sub-pop label. A brilliant opener. Frontman Johnny Kenton’s primal voice cuts through the squelchy synths and dirt guitars with euphoric emotion. After being blitzed for so long by eighties revivalists, mockney troubadours and ironic poptarts, it is easy to forget how powerful it is when someone just sings something they really mean.

GFJM, from cracking vocals to pounding dance beats seemed like they mean every bit of it. (Maybe this is the link that these rock and rollers have with their grime neighbours? Both are trying to just tell us their story – how it is, and unadulterated.)

Two songs in and the GFJM party had started. A song called “Space Race” was barbed with strong lyrics such as: “You’re so do or die you’re going to download my soul/ we’re no oil paintings but now our backs are up against the wall” – A generational hit against the plastic state of things? A look into a troubled relationship? I couldn’t tell you. At the time though these words made perfect sense.

The virtuoso drummer kicked out break beats while the sonic-youth/anything goes style guitarists lurched between sweet dream pop and scrapheap explosion. I found out after the show that the band had managed to completely break up three guitars during this show with these antics… Not bad in a half hour set!

Despite the 1000 watt energy and the trashed guitars GFJM and their scene are not all angst like their Seattle forebears. Gold Future Joy Machine – as their name suggests- have beats that are there to make you dance and a playful light touch with melody. There sweeter side was personified at one side of the stage by their sleek mixed-race angel, who looked like a honey-coloured Francois Hardy in torn rock-chick chic .She added Beach Boys style harmonies to johnny’s soaring vocal and did not stop dancing for one second. It seems like GFJM even have their own Nico – except their one can really sing.

The midpointsong was called “Holy Roller”, and was in my mind the most underdeveloped song in an other wise top class display of songwriting. It felt like an MGMT remix of My Bloody Valentine and too much like “the now” rather than the wonderful future promise that is in the rest of the songs. But the drummer and Johnny the singer still managed to give it enough verve and soul to roll us into a final lightening storm of the last tunes. These were littered with punked up synth loops and knife sharp lyrics- my favourite lines coming in the encore – “the agony and the ecstasy. became the agony aunt and the ecstacy dealer.” A fitting send off for a totally refreshing show.

Agony and Ecstacy? Yes. Joy Machine? Definitely. Grunge and East London Dance Music? All there…as well as a load of psyched up Punk-Funk and Motown Soul thrown in for good measure. How do you explain this sound? Gold Future Joy Machine seem by design or accident to be on the brink of something. They’ve got their finger firmly on the raw nerve of the outsiders and the lost ones of a new generation and a new sound to give them hope. They really are that on it. they really are that important. But will they have a Gold Future? This band are special: and in a way that’s my worry. The case seems to be with fresh things (as what happened to the East London Grime and with Grunge too) this scene will be become labelled, copied and exploited. With the industry the way it is you can almost see the train crash coming between the irresistable force of GFJM and the immovable force of an industry that seems to have lost its head to an extent it will jump at anything to make some cash. It will be fascinating to see what happens, whether GFJM will be at the forefront of a backlash against the x factor winners, cold play impersonators and gaga popettes or whether this band and its scene will be forced by an army of pet shop boys to spread its roots subterraneanly. Whatever happens, like the band it will make good watching.

Gold Future Joy Machine, don’t play perfect sets yet: they are too newly formed and too punk in attitude. If you want that effortless slickness and melodic skill a ticket to see Cold play is still your best bet. But GFJM have something that I haven’t seen in years. They’ll remind you of what we seem to have forgotten about rock ‘n’ roll: that in the right hands it has the power to inspire and express things that other ways feel unsaid. I don’t think you can ask anything more of a live band than that.

© sarah