Gnod with The Black Arches @ The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea.

Friday 6 May 2022 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

This was to be the first gig I’ve attended since January 13, the first since we’ve been back in the UK and the first at The Piper since February 2020 when we went to see Penelope Isles; the last gig I attended before the country went into lockdown the following month. I was a little wary approaching this event as a number of people I follow on various social media platforms have caught Covid at gigs in the past month; while no one was particularly ill, I still didn’t want to join them on the ill list. As I write this two weeks after the event I am day three into a nasty head cold. I’d forgotten just how unpleasant a streaming nose and blocked sinuses can be, I guess it not being Covid is a blessing.

The headliners, Gnod, are an English psych/noise rock band that have been around in various forms since 2006, though they didn’t come into my radar until the 2017 album ‘Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine’, a title that surely attracts attention. They have released four albums since then, of which I have three, though the latest album ‘Hexen Valley’ has yet to arrive in my letterbox and is very late due to vinyl pressing issues.

I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, the last records have been heavier and sludgier than the early drawn out psych jam style tracks which I have been listening to a lot lately.

The Piper has undergone a refurbishment over lockdown and is quite a bit bigger, with the stage moving 90 degrees into the new extension. This is good. What they haven’t fixed is the crap lighting, and tonight was pretty bad, The Black Arches under a red glow and Gnod under the even worse (from a photo perspective), blue.

The night started with a set from the Black Arches, a Hastings group led by the writer Gareth E. Rees. Gareth wrote the book ‘The Stone Tide’, comprised of part fiction/part non-fiction tales of Hastings. It was released just as I looking to move to St Leonards and was in part one of the reasons I decided to move here. The other, non-musical, Black Arches are three arches carved into the side of East Hill in Hastings in the 18th century. On a good day when the scrub is clear and viewed across the valley from west Hill, they look like the entrance to a church. No-one really knows why they were carved, possibly as an elaborate prank. It took three attempts for me to find them, finally achieving that goal in Jan 2021. As you would expect I wrote about them at the time.

I enjoyed The Black Arches set, they were a better band than last time I saw them, tighter and a bit heavier, maybe the sound last time was poor? Apart from going to a lot of gigs I know nothing about sound and systems, but to my ears the Piper has a decent PA, loud enough and oomphy enough to allow a good wall of noise that doesn’t sound like sludge. Anyway, The Black Arches set was good.

As the light was so poor I was shooting at a very low speed so some of the images are a bit blurry. These are the best of a poor bunch of images. Red light, it sucks.

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For the final song of their set the band were joined on vocals by Medway artist/poet/musician Sexton Ming, producing one of the best songs of their short set.

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You have to admire a band that has two drummers. The last band I remember seeing with two onstage was Swans and they were amazing and set a high bar for how well two drummers can synchronise a beat, before that it was probably The Fall, an even higher bar. Two drummers means a lot of volume for the guitars to compete with so it was loud, very loud; not oppressively so but definitely loud; my ears were still humming in the morning as I stupidly didn’t use the earplugs that were in my pocket.

I had a good position close to centre front. Paddy Shine, vocals and guitar, stood in front of the low stage, making it more difficult to take photos of the rest of the band as they were in deeper shadow. He has a very expressive face and it was interesting just watching his performance.

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The band played a few songs I recognised, none of the log slow jams with repeating keyboard and guitar riffs and drones, but I knew that due to the lack of keyboard on stage. The set was pretty aggressive, very much the heavier end of their musical spectrum.

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They started with ‘Regimental’, one of my favourites from the their second to last album ‘La mort du Sens’ (The death of meaning), followed by a track I didn’t know and then ‘Pink Champagne Blues’, also from the La Mort LP.

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The fourth track was the 15 minute , repeating two note ‘Spotlight’ off the most recent LP ‘Hexen Valley’. This was the track where the two drummers truly excelled, 15 minutes of pummelling in perfect synchronicity; with no apparent flagging; just fantastic.

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Spotlight was followed by two more songs from Hexen Valley, then a couple I didn’t recognise. The set finished with a cracking, fast version of my favourite of their heavier tracks ‘Bodies for Money’ from ‘Just say no to the psycho right-wing capitalist fascist industrial machine’, an album title that sums up the political stance taken in their lyrics.

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It was a great gig, well attended, loud, hot, sweaty and I enjoyed it immensely. I heard the following day that apparently the band did as well, and they will be back to play St Leonards on a future tour. Yay.

10 minute walk and I was home, who can ask for better than that.

‘Swell Maps’ @ Rough Trade East, London

Thursday 24 March 2022 – Shoreditch, London.

I’ve no idea when I first heard Swell Maps, given I didn’t start listening to punk until late 1978 and my exposure to new music as a mid-teen in Auckland with no older siblings was limited. I expect I didn’t hear them until after they broke up in 1980. I know I had their first single from 1977 ‘Read about Seymour’ on a cassette one of my workmates made me in 1981. I guess that was possibly the first time for me. It is a great song, as were the other singles.

They are an odd band, originating in Solihull in the English midlands the various members muddled around experimenting with music and sound in various duos and trios from the early 70s but didn’t form as Swell Maps until the punk explosion. Their early singles were short sharp bursts of jagged guitar driven punk, ‘Read about Seymour’ is only 1 minute 27 long. Resolutely DIY, they used cheap instruments in cheap studios and it shows in their early recordings, they all sound fabulous. I love that lo-fi over driven sound.

They released two LPs; the first in 1979 ‘A trip to Marineville’ and the more well known ‘Jane from Occupied Europe’ in 1980. Both were on the fledgling label Rough Trade. The band split soon after ‘Jane’ came out and most of the members went onto other musical projects, none were what you would call commercially successful. Both their LPs are more post-punk than what most would consider punk, with longer songs (Gunboats was over eight minutes), some instrumentals and lots of weird instrumentation and found sounds. Those records still sound good today.

They were not a band I followed, perhaps because they split before I started buying music. However, I suspect it’s more likely that by the time I first heard them their music had moved on from three chord DIY punk to something more challenging and interesting and I hadn’t moved on at all. I have been listening to them more over the last few years though and was interested enough to order bassist/guitarist/vocalist Jowe Head’s book about the band when it was released earlier in the year. A copy is waiting for me in my favourite bookshop, Printed Matter in Hastings, when I get back to St Leonards next month

As was normal in the early punk days most of the band members had made up names, Jowe Head, Epic Soundtracks, Nikki Sudden, Biggles Books, Phones Sportsman and Golden Cockrill. Sadly Nikki Sudden and Epic are no longer with us, both passing too young. After Swell Maps split Jowe Head was in an early line up of the Television Personalities.

I only saw that this interview with Jowe Head was on tonight at Rough Trade on Tuesday. As it was free and early in the evening and the weather was going to be nice I decided to get a ticket and make the walk to Rough Trade in Shoreditch after I finished work in Westminster. I need the exercise and the walk took an hour which was perfect, I’d earned my pint. I didn’t realise that after the interview and Q and A with Jowe there was going to be a live performance of Swell Maps songs by Jowe and friends. This was a massive bonus, and I was glad I had lumped the camera around with me. 

The band tonight comprised of – Jowe Head, guitar and vocals,
Dave Callahan of The Wolfhounds and Moonshake, guitar and vocals,
Luke Haines of The Auteurs, guitar and vocals,
Lucie Rejchrtová of Instant Flight, keyboards,
Jeff Bloom of Television Personalities, drums
Lee McFadden of Alternative TV, bass and vocals.

The band was joined for the songs ‘Harmony’ and ‘Cake Shop’ by Gina Birch from another seminal band, The Raincoats.

It was a lot of fun, the band were great, a little chaotic at times, the mix was really good, and it was a joy listening to songs I never ever expected to hear live.  Midget Submarines was probably my favourite song of the night, though Seymour and International Rescue were brilliant. The set ended with a five minute or so jam of what was apparently a Can track. Kinda the perfect way to end a set really.

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Dave Callahan, Jowe, Luke Haines. Lee McFadden

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Dave Callaghan singing ‘Let’s Build a car’ with Lucie Rejchrtová in the background. I wasn’t able to get a decent photo of Lucie from where I was standing. 

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Gina Birch.

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Lee McFadden and half of drummer Jeff Bloom.

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Luke Haines summing it up (he is a great performer)

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At one point when I was taking photos I realised I’d moved just out of sight of my back pack which contained work laptop, I could feel the person behind me getting closer to me, so I stepped back a bit and turned round and it was Thurston Moore, I realised my bag was going to be fine.

I’m really glad I went, it was a fun atmosphere, with what I’m guessing were loads of friends of the band giving them loads of love.

Three Songs, No Flash. The Beths @ Whammy Bar

Wednesday 12 January 2022 – Auckland

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Before I start here is a quick note for anyone who landed here from a Google search while looking for information on The Beths Whammy Bar series. I couldn’t find the stage times elsewhere. This was from the Wednesday night performance so may not reflect the following nights.

  • Other than Friday 14 Jan, all five Auckland shows are sold out.
  • Doors at 7:00, the support band, Lips were on stage at 8:00 and The Beths on soon after 9:00.
  • A vaccine pass was required; most of the punters were wearing masks (yahoo).
  • Whammy has been proactive and installed some much needed, and very efficient, air-conditioning. The staff were great too.
  • Capacity has been reduced from 210 to 170 which made a massive difference to space.

The most important thing you’ll want to know; was the Wednesday gig any good? Hell yes, of course!

After the obligatory ‘Hi, we’re The Beths from Auckland New Zealand’, the band started with the fabulous oldie ‘Happy Unhappy’ with its poptastic ‘oh-uh’ opening, before launching into a set that seemed to have more tracks from the first LP than the second. All the ‘hits’ were there as you would expect so I doubt anyone will leave disappointed their favourite song wasn’t played. They introduced three new songs, unusually closing the encore with one of them, the very un-Beths like rager ‘Silence is Golden’, a track I’m looking forward to hearing on record.

If you have not heard The Beths and you like indie pop with great musicianship and witty songs with the best vocal harmonies New Zealand has produced since The Muttonbirds, then you definitely need to check them out. Then go buy some records. They are a great band, seem like lovely people and deserve to be huge, though not stadium huge as I hate stadium gigs. The Beths are doing a good old fashioned five night residency at the freshly post-lockdown re-opened Whammy Bar on Auckland’s K’ Rd.

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My favourites ‘Future me Hates me’, ‘Uptown Girl’ and ‘I’m not getting excited’ were played at pace and were fabulous, as was ‘Jump rope gazers’. With so many people masked up the crowd singing along was slightly muted too, an unexpected bonus!

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Australian artist Stella Donnelly was supposed to play the support slot but was unable to attend due to the travel restrictions. The Beths played one of her songs ‘Tricks’ in tribute, I thought that was the weakest song of the set.

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We saw a great The Beths set at Heaven in London in August 2019, along with 1100 other people, though this much more intimate venue really suits their personalities. The on stage and audience banter worked so much better here and at times it felt like it was a sing-along with mates rather than a public show. With fewer people than normal Whammy Bar was the best it has been, the sound was excellent, particularly at the back and the lighting was not too terrible for photography, though I still had to convert to mono as the colour cast was pretty bad 🙂

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I stayed at the front taking photos for the first three songs before heading to the raised area at the back to stand with Eleanor to enjoy the rest of the show.

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I have not heard support band, Lips, before. I thought they were OK, they had some good songs, the first couple and the last were the standouts for me.

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While Covid rates are (thankfully) incredibly low in New Zealand we all know how virulent the omicron variant is and we won’t know it’s in the community until it’s in the community. Getting Covid right now, just before we head off on holiday, and then back to London would be just so ironic. With that in mind I (we?) was a little tentative in the hours before the gig; this was only the second show we’ve gone to since Feb 2020 when we saw Penelope Isles in St Leonards. The last gig we went to was Deathcrash in July 2021 and it was a fully seated, socially distant event held in a Hackney church. The lack of shows was not through lack of desire; there were none in the UK before we left for New Zealand, and when we arrived in Auckland we went straight into lockdown. Gigs have just started again and we were so glad we got to go this one before we leave. It was originally scheduled for September and had been postponed twice before.

For a return to standing gigs we couldn’t have picked a better one. It was a fun show; great band, good sound, busy but not packed venue, and most importantly smiles round (as far as I could tell as the majority of the audience were wearing masks).

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New Zealand Music Month, 2009 Gig photos

Auckland 2009
New Zealand Music Month.

The second and final post for New Zealand music month.

For a few month across 2008 and 2009 I did some gig photography for an Auckland based website. In the end it just got too much and I could not sustain late nights taking photos as well as working a busy job and a family; albeit only one of the kids was at home by then. Looking at the dates of these photos it looks like I stopped in March and then did a couple more months in July and August. I did get to some great gigs, mainly by New Zealand bands; though I did get to see legendary English band Spiritualized.

DHDFDs,
Kings Arms, January.
I absolutely loved seeing these guys, completely bonkers, and they could play too.

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Set On End,
Somewhere, January.
Metalcore band from West Auckland who were good friends of my son Dom.

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X-Features,
Support for Spiritualized, Powerstation, January.

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Hasselhoff Experiment,
Cassette 9, February.

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Head Like a Hole,
Kings Arms, February.
Wellington’s Head Like a Hole were a must see gig when they first started coming to Auckland in the early 90s. Absolutely insane live.

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Lawrence Arabia,
Early evening gig in a Cafe on K’Rd, March.
I was contacted by the band after the photos went up and some were used in a print article in NZ Musician magazine. The only time any of my gig photos have made it into print.

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The Randoms,
Somewhere on Nelson St, July.

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Silhouette of the guitarist from Frayden,
Somewhere on Nelson St, July.

Shadow Play

Piece War,
Support for Shocking Pinks, Cassette 9, July.

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Shocking Pinks,
Cassette 9, July.

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Drab Doo Riffs
Cassette 9, July
Karl Steven was probably the most engaging live vocalist in NZ at the time, it was great watching him perform, I have a lot of photos.

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Brand New Math,
Support for Handsome Furs, Cassette 9, August.

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 And that was the end of my short-lived, unpaid career as a gig photographer. It was mostly fun, but also hard work. With such terrible public transport in Auckland, a lot of people drove into the city for gigs, which meant they were always on really late, often finishing at 2am, even mid week.  One of the (many) things I love about the UK is most gigs are done by 11pm, getting home early is something I very much appreciate.

New Zealand Music Month, 2008 Gig photos.

Auckland 2008
New Zealand Music Month.

I have been a music fan since my teens and have had an interest in photography for almost as long, so it was inevitable that these two interests would collide. I bought my first digital SLR in late 2007 and though I didn’t go to many gigs in those days I did take my camera to the ones went to.

Bill Direen and the Builders
Masonic Tavern, Devonport, November 2007.

Bill Direen - Builders set

Mint Chicks
Kings Arms, March 2007.

I loved the Mint Chicks!

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I can’t remember which photo I posted on the Flickr website that led to ‘A’ from the ‘website that shall not be named’ getting in contact with me to ask if I would do some gig work for the website, though I am pretty sure it was photos from the above Mint Chicks show. I did a couple of years of photography for him, but in the end it got too much and I had to stop. I couldn’t do two late nights a week and my immensely busy day job. Of course the gig photos were done for free, but I did get a photo pass.

As May is New Zealand music month, the images here are just the New Zealand bands I shot for the website. I only shot a small number of overseas acts, though I did get to see some good ones; Broken Social Scene, The Breeders, Spiritualised and Stiff Little Fingers being highlights.

So, here we go, gigs from 2008.

Shocking Pinks
Supporting The Clean, Kings Arms, January.

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Nick Harte, in the photo, is the Shocking Pinks, with band members roped in for gigs. This photo still gets used by him and is the photo on their Spotify page. I guess it is my most viewed image.

The Clean
Kings Arms, January.

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Surf City
Supporting Broken Social Scene, Kings Arms, February.

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The Bats
The Media Club, Christchurch, March.

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Tentacles Of Destruction
Helen Melville Hall, June.

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Kerretta
Supporting The Breeders, North Shore Centre, August.

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Sora Shima
Kings Arms, August.

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Cut of your hands
K’ Rd venue unknown, October.

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Anabys
Supporting Set on End, October.

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Set On End
Metal bar on Nelson St? Cannot remember the name, October.

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Spelling Mistakes
AK79 reunion shows, venue unknown, November.

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X-Features
AK79 reunion shows, venue unknown, November.

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Die! Die! Die!
Zen Bar, November.

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My favourite gig of that year.

Los Hories
Website 5 Birthday Gig, Cassette No 9, December.

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Princess Diana
Website 5 Birthday Gig, Cassette No 9, December.

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Trees Climbing Trees
The website 5 Birthday bash, Cassette No 9, December.

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Bemsha Swing
Holy Fuck Support, The Studio, December.

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Golden Axe
Holy Fuck Support, The Studio, December.

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The Conjurors
Ruby Suns Support, Kings Arms, December.

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Ruby Suns
Kings Arms, December.

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Cobra Khan
The Bronx support, Kings Arms, December.  

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It was a busy end to the year, but I loved all those gigs.

Penelope Isles, Winter Garden, Hanya @ The Piper.

Saturday 01 February 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

I was contacted earlier in the year by Mark who I met at a Walthamstow Rock n Roll book club event last year. One of his friends has been looking at flats in St Leonards and has made an offer on a place not too far from mine. He wanted to know what I thought of the town, so I gave him a run down on St Leonards and mentioned The Piper had recently opened and had some quite good gigs.  A couple of weeks back mark got in contact to see if I wanted to go and see the band Penelope Isles at The Piper. I said yes, so tonight we did.

I offered Mark the flat’s spare room for the night, our first overnight visitor since my sister stayed in May. We left for dinner soon after Mark arrived at the flat, choosing to eat at The Royal; a recently refurbished, re-opened, turned into a London priced gastro-pub near Warrior Square station. The food is very very good, worth the price, and it is an enjoyable place to eat in too.

We arrived at The Piper about 9:00, time enough to catch the last couple of songs of the first band Hanya, they were OK. I didn’t hear enough of them to form a proper opinion. The pub was packed and I heard one of the organisers say that the 145 capacity venue was sold out. El and I found a spot at that back, we could still see OK, but it was slightly less crowded and the sound at the venue has always been good no matter where you stand.

I went closer to the front for a couple of songs of the second band, Winter Garden. They weren’t really my cup of tea, nothing wrong with them, they had a very good guitarist, but the songs didn’t really set me on fire. I did like some of the guitar and looped synth noodling between songs, there was a great gothy noodle of the intro to Neil Young’s ‘Hey hey my my’ that would have been a good cover, though it was just an in between song thing sadly.

I have listened to Penelope Isles debut LP ‘Until the tide creeps in’ a few times in the past couple of days. It is OK, a gentle dream pop LP, something to listen to and enjoy, though it didn’t catch my attention as immediately as the Hey Colossus LP (the last band I saw at The Piper) did. Though after seeing them live, performing most of those songs, a grittier production would have suited that record better in my very non-expert, but very biased opnion.

They have some very good songs, but the LP is a little too shiny for my taste. The track ‘Gnarbone’ was so much punchier live, a highlight of their set. The recorded version does not capture the possibilities the song offers; noise, feedback, looped pedal generated squeals, all the things I like from a live band. I have no desire to see a band doing their studio thing!

Noisy squealy feedback things during Gnarbone.

I very much enjoyed their set; they are a great live band. What set them apart from the other bands that performed tonight, apart from the songs; was stage presence, they really know what they are doing, and how to work the crowd. There was nothing they did that was massively different to the support acts, but what they did do, they did so much better.

El and I both went to the front for their set, standing to one side, against the wall. I had the GX800 camera with a fast lens, so it was great for low light. The lens is not very wide and as the place was packed it would not have been any use if I stood in front of the band, so I stayed were I was and just took photos from there.

Unusually for The Piper the light was really good, thanks to some visuals from Brighton’s Innerstrings. I have been to shows with their light system before, most recently a gig in Dalston, and it does make a massive difference. I hope they come back to The Piper

I suspect Penelope Isles will be big one day, so go see them while you have the chance to see them in a small room. Small rooms are always best.

Hey Colossus Supported by Mullholland @ The Piper, St Leonards.

06 November 2019 – Hey Colossus with Mullholland @ The Piper

Hey Colossus are a bit of an odd beast; a sort of noise/droney/experimental/metal with a bit of pop, band. They are impossible to accurately describe, and each album is a little different to the previous. They are resolutely low-key. I had not heard of them in NZ, yet they have been around since the early noughties, releasing records and touring. They released a new LP, ‘Four Bibles’ in May, and it sits very high up on my album of the year list. I was pleasantly surprised that they were playing a gig in St Leonards, and for a paltry £5.50. OK it was a Wednesday, but now I have discovered I can work from a Hastings office a Wednesday is not as tricky as it could be.

After a busy day at work in London I had a fairly stressful drive down to the flat. It was as busy as you would expect for rush hour. I am not a big fan of driving in the dark, off the main highways the roads are crap and I don’t drive often enough now to be totally comfortable on the road. I am becoming one of those slow and overly cautious drivers I hated being stuck behind when I was in NZ. I am seeing the other side now.

Arriving at the flat not long before the gig started, I dumped the load of stuff I brought down, and headed to the pub almost immediately. Rushing  didn’t help the stress levels. I really like The Piper, it is a new pub, having opened since I have been in St Leonards. They have bands, most of which I like, the music in the pub is often really good, and they have a really good house red at a decent price. [*note; 3 weeks later, the good house red at a decent price seems to have ended.]

Hey Colossus were supported by Mullholland, a young instrumental duo from the Channel Islands, now living in Brighton, I am guessing there is not much of a music scene on Jersey. I thought they were brilliant, they have released a couple of albums, which I had listened to at work, but they were very much a live band. I took a few photos, and am looking forward to hearing the next, pending, record.

Hey Colossus are a six piece guitar, bass and drum band. A bit too big for the stage at The Piper, and too big for the 20mm lens on the GX800 (basically a 50mm lens on a normal camera). I could not fit all of them in a single shot. This is the first gig on a European tour, they are from London and the south west, so I guess this was on the way to the ferry to France. There had been no sound check, it was at times a total wall of noise, at others the sound was crisp and clean. Either way it was pretty damn good. The vocalist was standing directly under that hideous purple spot light, so I was forced to convert these to black and white.

When they hit the stage I am fairly sure they was more band members than audience, something I was pretty upset about, though it did fill out a little once the the music started. I know this is small town coastal England, Brexit country, small ‘c’ conservative, and yes Hey Colossus are never going to be Ed fucking Sheeran, but they deserved a much bigger crowd than this. They are innovative, noisy, talented, though to be fair I doubt they gave a shit. Small audiences are what they are used to I guess.

I was mesmerised by the vocalist, he does not look like his voice. Maybe it was the ‘tache.

I loved them. My ears less so, they were still humming well after I got to work on Thursday.

I posted  couple of photos on Instagram on Thursday night and Mullholland asked if they could use them, which was very nice. My photos on their Instagram feed get more likes than any photos on my feed!

Night Beats, supported by Strange Cages @ The Piper

September 03 2019 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

St Leonards is constantly changing, gentrifying, and in my mind improving. I know not everyone agrees that the gentrification of this, or any other area, is a good thing; but hey, I am a property owner and anything that increases the value of my investment is a good thing! I am a middle aged, middle class man who likes, and can mostly afford good coffee, nice wine, good beer and music. Therefore I am very supportive of the addition of places that provide those things to St Leonards, even if the price of a pint is a lot more expensive than others.

Since I have moved into my flat the only closed pub in the St Leonards has been renovated, reopened, renamed as The Piper and rebranded itself as a live music bar and venue. It is very much my kind of place.

I popped in their for a quiet pint last time I was down and ended up staying there for five drinks, it was the sort of place where I felt comfortable sitting alone with my laptop and writing. In that case one of the many blog posts I managed to write that week. They were also playing some of the best music I have heard in a pub – almost as if they had been referring to my Spotify playlists. I have been back since, but not staying that long again.

They started having bands play a few weeks ago, a couple of really good acts have played there, including Toy, one of my current favourites, so definitely a place to be excited about. Tonight they hosted Night Beats, an American psychedelic/garage rock three piece. Though this is my sort of music I had not heard of them before, so this was a very good reason to head to a new favourite ‘local’ and go see a band, or two.

Last week I bought myself a new camera, something to be covered in the next post, so I it along tonight. It is pretty low end, but I was hoping that as it is new technology it would have better low-light capabilities than my other cameras. I was pleasantly surprised.

I got to the venue about an hour after doors opening and was a bit gutted as to the very small number of people there, however by the time the support band, Strange Cages, came on the crowd had expanded enough for there to be a good atmosphere.

Strange Cages are from Brighton, I had checked out a couple of tracks on Youtube and didn’t like them, but will always check out a live band. They were much better than their Youtube clips gave them credit for, and subsequent listening on Spotify proved their youtube presence is bad. Their last track was a long jam, reminding me a lot of early Pink Floyd, but the synth was a bit too twiddly for me. They did however, have the best drummer I have seen in ages, extremely aggressive and very talented. Worth going to see them for him alone. Though naturally I have no photos of him, mainly the front man. As always

Strange Cages.

Night Beats are just starting a European tour, so I guess this is a bit of a warm up show for them, small venue in a small town. The place was full one they got on the low stage, though I had not left the room between sets so was close enough to take photos before the crowd made its way in front of me.

The lighting was terrible, as is always the case in small venues. Why do they insist on those awful red or blue lights?

I had fun, they are a good band, live they were a bit more 60s garage rock than full on psychedelic rock. A good night out.

Night Beats.

Wax Chattels @ Lock Tavern

Tuesday 26 June 2018 – Wax Chattels @ Camden Lock.

I am a massive fan of Auckland, by way of Dunedin, band Die! Die! Die!. I believe they are the band I have seen the most often over the 38 years I have been going to gigs. It is fortunate that they come to London pretty regularly. I have seen them three times since I have been here, only missing their last gig here as I was too sick to go.

Wax Chattels are a young Auckland band, also a three piece and clearly influenced by Die! Die! DieI, though with one massive difference; Wax Chattels have keyboards rather guitar as the lead instrument. They have been described as a “guitarless guitar band”, an apt, and frankly brilliant description for them.

Wax Chattels released an LP a few weeks ago and have come to London for a couple of release shows. The first was on Saturday night, however El and I were already at a gig, seeing the mighty My Bloody Valentine, a band I have always wanted to see, but have never had the chance to before. This was My Bloody Valentine’s first UK show in over five years, so I wasn’t going to miss that.

Fortunately there was a second gig, on a Tuesday night in Camden. It is not my favourite night to go out, but at least Camden is not a major pain to get too, and it would be a reasonably early one. Plus, it was free.

This was my third gig in six days, definitely a record for me.

I got to the Lock Tavern in Camden pretty early, far too early in fact and had to wait for most of an hour for the support band, Careers, to come on. They were Ok, a bit derivative, a bit London indie pop. Un-offensive but not spectacular, there were a couple of good tracks and I was entertained enough. The light was really poor, and the stage was between two doors to an open balcony holding a private party and the daylight just streamed in. None of my photos were any good sadly.

There was a thirty minute wait for Wax Chattels to get their gear ready and come on stage, it was still pretty light outside, but the light was slightly better. I wasn’t really banking on a full room, so didn’t get myself a spot for taking photos until it was too late. I grabbed a few shots from one side of the stage before moving to the other. I took the big camera and the 50mm lens, but even shooting wide open it was still a bit too dark for the low top-end ISO this old beast of a camera has.

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They were really good, great songs, and good performances, nice to see from a young band playing a free gig to a small, albeit full room. Highlights for me were Concrete, Shrinkage (the best Die Die Die song not written by Die Die Die) and In my mouth, a song I do not particularly like on the LP. It made more sense live.

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This is my favourite image from the night.

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I really enjoyed the show, and did buy the LP from the merch stand. Hopefully they will be back in London soon. I would definitely pay money to see them again. This is my favourite image from the night.

Mogwai @ Royal Festival Hall.

Thursday 21 June 2018 – Mogwai @ Royal Festival Hall.

Confession time. I came late to the Mogwai party, not knowingly hearing them until the mid-2000s when instrumental post-rock started to dominate my music listening, which it still does. Even then Mogwai were not my first pick, New Zealand groups Sora Shima and Jakob, Japan’s Mono and Texans Explosions in the Sky were usually first to the turntable or CD player. Post-rock really helped get me through the endless journeys I took on my travels. Many of those hours spent in planes, trains, buses and trucks were passed listening to long, winding instrumental tracks.

I am not quite sure when this changed; when Mogwai became not just my favourite post-rock band, but my favourite band of all and any genre; sometime after arriving in the UK I guess. This will be the third time we have seen them.

When Robert Smith (singer, guitarist, songwriter and main man from The Cure, another long time favourite group) was announced as the curator of 2018’s Southbank Meltdown Festival I was excitedly looking forward to the acts he would announce to play over the course of the festival’s two weeks. He does have very good taste, but wow, what a line up, exceeded my expectations! If I was wealthy enough and could take two weeks out of work I could have gone to at least one gig each night, so many great acts were playing. However I am not wealthy, nor able to take two weeks holiday, so I restricted myself to booking two shows. Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine. It was a tense couple of hours when pre-release tickets went on sale, hovering over the refresh button on my computer; even cancelling a meeting at work just to be sure. But I did get the tickets I wanted; and My Bloody Valentine sold out almost immediately. The online queuing was well worth it.

I love the Royal Festival Hall, a fully seated venue with excellent acoustics it is perfect for Mogwai’s instrumental loud-quiet sonic assault. With loads of bars and bathrooms the venue does not seem rushed or crowded and with a long veranda overlooking the South Bank and the River Thames, getting there early for pre-show glass of wine is no chore either.

Kathryn Joseph was the support act, I have not heard her before. A two piece set of piano, drums and voice. It was OK, I warmed to her style towards the end but it was not really my cup of tea.

Mogwai came on stage exactly on time, to a loud roar from the capacity crowd. Opening the 90 minute set with the title track of their new LP ‘Every Country’s Sun; co-incidentally, my new favourite track. A cracking start!

Playing material from the full range of their 22 year existence, they finished an outstanding first set with ‘Mogwai fear Satan’, another favourite track and one from their first LP. The early tracks are a lot more guitar based than the later material which incorporate more electronics, glitchey noises and samples along with piano. Their music maintains a certain core ethic, they always sound like Mogwai, though the sound is shifting and dynamic, developing with each new LP. There are even the occasional vocal tracks on albums these days.

After a short intermission they appeared back on stage, with original drummer Martin Bulloch taking the seat The ‘encore’ was excellent, concluding with a fabulous 15 minute of ‘My father, my king’, coincidentally was my previous favourite track. It all made me feel very very happy!

We were a few rows back from the front so not in the best seats for taking photos. The light show was amazing, as good as the music deserved. I would love to get a press pass one day and be able to take all the photos I want using the big old DSLR. These photos just do not do justice to how amazing the lighting was.

Third time, and I think this was the best set yet. They are a fabulous band, one that very easily transcends both record and live performance , not something that is always accomplished.