Enablers with Van Coeur @ The Piper

Friday 02 September 2022 –  St Leonards.

This is only the third UK gig I’ve attended this year and it’s also the third with a direct or indirect relationship with Wrong Speed Records, the label that headline act Enablers released their new album ‘Some Gift on. The record came out today, which provided little time to cement any tracks in my head before the gig started. Not that this was to be a sing-along show anyway.

I’m gonna take a little bit of credit/responsibility for the gig happening at The Piper. The label did a call-out on Twitter for a venue in the south of England who would be up for show on the Enablers UK and Europe tour, and I suggested St Leonards. Somehow it happened, and I was very happy with that. The more tours that come through St Leonards the better, though of course small town SE England isn’t an overly attractive place to tour. Hasting/St Leonards may not be small geographically, but it’s small in other ways…

Arriving at The Piper at 8:30 (doors at 8:00) I wasn’t surprised to find the upstairs venue still closed. There a few people gathered in the bar below, and most of those were just Friday night drinkers, though there was the odd bloke (mostly blokes) on their own who looked like gig attendees. I think I was the only person in attendance in a band t-shirt (NZ band Die! Die! Die!), this is highly unusual behaviour, obscure band t-shirts are almost compulsory at obscure band gigs. Obviously the t-shirt shouldn’t be from the band/s you’re seeing, that would be very uncool indeed. Maybe things have changed? As Eleanor will attest I’ve been trying to wean myself off of obscure band t-shirts as I approach 60; with limited success. I’m wearing one (Southern Death Cult) as I head back to Walthamstow on a Saturday morning train.

A couple of very loud drunk/wasted guys came into the bar so I climbed the stairs to the venue and joined three other people waiting for the support band, Van Couer, to take the stage. It was a bit of a wait, I assume they were waiting for more people to arrive. Just before the band took to the low stage the two drunk/wasted loud blokes arrived in the room and looked around for somewhere to sit. Finding nothing they liked they dragged a small bench into the middle of the venue and plonked themselves down right in front. I’ve never seen anyone do that before, I quietly admired their confidence.

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Van Coeur are a three piece from Brighton; comprised of two guitarists and a drummer; all contributing to the vocals, their music is a very slow almost folky post-rock; think Slint, mixed with Low and Haress and slow it down some more. They reminded me a bit of Deathcrash, who we saw in a church in Islington last year. They are a very quiet group; as they played their opening track (You have the benefit of all my doubts) I heard the fizz of an illicit can of lager being cracked open by someone sat further along the bench I was on.

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I hadn’t heard of them prior to the gig being announced and only started listening to them yesterday. I really like them, and am listening to them on the train as I write. I don’t know the names of many of the songs they played, one stood out in particular though and I hope to stumble across it again as I listen (I didn’t (sad face emoji) ).

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Enablers are a Texan four piece, and like Van Coeur before them they had no bass player, just two six-string guitars, drums and vocals. I don’t know much of their music; they are touring the UK and Europe to promote the new LP. The audience only got to hear the songs that made up most of their set for the first time just before the show started. I would describe them as a post-punk/post-rock band backing a poet/story teller, the lyrics are mostly spoken rather than sung. They are delivered with passion and style, this isn’t a book reading.

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This was the second show on their current tour and the set was crisp and enthusiastically delivered and I thoroughly enjoyed their set, as did the small appreciative crowd. I think my favourite track was called ‘Willard to Kurtz’, a clear reference to the film ‘Apocalypse Now’. It’s very much my favourite from the record.

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Pete Simonelli is an engaging front man, difficult to photograph as no part of his body was ever still, I took a lot of photos that were plain rubbish. The light was significantly more photographer friendly than it was for Gnod a few weeks back which meant I managed to get a couple of quite crisp images. I moved closer to the centre of the stage and shot these photos between the head and shoulders of the two Van Coeur guitarists.

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it was great show and there are now another couple of LPs to add to my wish list.

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There was a small piece of exciting news this week. New Zealand (I think, though he lives in Canada) author, Matthew Goody, has written a book, ‘Needles and Plastic’, documenting the 1981-1988 period of New Zealand music label Flying Nun; their most fertile and influential period. I have more records and CDs on Flying Nun than any other record label. I’ve been waiting for the release announcement for some time as Matt has used some of my photos from the period, which will be the first time any of my photos have appeared in a book. The book comes out in November and I’m quite excited by this.

I never link to products for sale, but will make this a rare exception.

In NZ the book can be ordered from here 

and from here for the US and UK/Europe.

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.

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.