STEVIE: DEMS

Following on from their recent supporting tour with the brilliant Azelia Banks, Dems played at Old Blue Last recently and I went along with Arielle Free (co-presenter on Keep It On The DL – Shoreditch Radio, every second Thursday 6-8, tune in!) to catch them playing live. The electro trio played to a packed house in the popular East London haunt.

With a crackle of anticipation they came out to whoops and cheers from the crowd, clearly a happy blend of fans and friends alike, with their down-tempo beats and infectious hooks they  gave the awaiting crowd a raucous and energetic set, tearing through tracks such as House and Down On You and ripping through recent single Inner O with ferocity and fervour, which excited the crowds to a bouncing chanting audience.

With the aforementioned support tour already under their belts and Radio 1 airtime also common 2012 looks to be a big year for the boys from the South London…

http://soundcloud.com/dems

ANDY: WHAT’S UP WITH THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?

Two weeks ago the official album chart in the UK recorded the worst album sales since records began. Adele’s 21 went back in at number one with 15,000 sales that week, almost 15 months since it’s release, pushing her overall sales worldwide to more than 20 million. This led to cries of “change the record” and I, like many in the industry (apart from XL and Beggars Banquet, Adele’s record label), groaned at the dominance of a year-old record still making number one. That isn’t to say that 21 is a bad album and unworthy of such acclaim, far from it. Yet, not even a month ago, 15,000 album sales would not have been enough for the number one spot.

This week’s number one is shaping up to be a brand new entry (thank god) from Jack White, with his first solo album since announcing the split of The White Stripes, titled Blunderbuss. However, Blunderbuss so far has only sold a few more than 15,000, according to the midweek sales. It will probably get to over 17,000, maybe more, yet this still isn’t masses, not by a long shot.

The reason for such poor sales? There are many; poor economic climate (culture is always first to go when money is tight), the lack of any big artist releases that week, the start of the new financial year when unpaid bills come knocking at the door, and there are probably more. Maybe people just don’t really like music anymore, except that definitely isn’t it.

Figures released from the Entertainment Retailers Association, which represents music retailers and distributors across the UK, reported a boom in sales on the 21st of April, with vinyl sales up 50% the same time last year and some independent record stores reporting more than 100% increases over 2011. “Why?” I hear you ask? Because on the 21st of April it was Record Store Day 2012; an international event that celebrates independent record stores, independent and major record labels, artists on those labels, the music they make and, of course, the fans. It started in 2007 in America and is now celebrated globally, with limited edition, exclusive to that day and often incredibly inventive and unique releases. This year, for example, The Flaming Lips released a double album featuring a variety of different artists, like Chris Martin from Cold Play, Bon Iver and Ke$ha. There are only 10,000 copies made (a lot for a Record Store Day release, mind) and the lead singer Wayne Coyne claims that some were made with Ke$ha’s blood sandwiched in the middle of the vinyl. True or not, it all adds to the excitement of the day… if you wanted to buy that record that is.

Having only missed one Record Store Day in five years, because of an unfortunately timed trip abroad, I was just as excited for this one too. My friends and I made a list of all the records we wanted, because there are hundreds and it is easy to forget the exact ones you should be looking for, and set our alarms for 8am. Records stores open ridiculously early for Record Store day, most at 8am, but we just couldn’t handle any earlier than that. Needless to say, we woke up late and by the time we got down to Sister Ray in Soho it was already 9:10am and the queue was enormous, running three sides of a block (see pictures). We then made our way to Rough Trade West in Ladbroke Grove, then all the way to Rough Trade East in Liverpool Street. They both had queues and were packed out once you eventually got inside. We then ventured to Victoria Records in Dalston and by that time it was midday and our bank accounts were crying. I didn’t get everything I wanted, as is life, but I did get some of the vinyl, tapes and CDs I was after.

So maybe, just maybe, the poor album sales of the week were in fact down to music lovers saving their money for the ever increasingly, overpriced, exclusive records they wanted to buy on Saturday for Record Store Day 2012, and the aftermath. I somehow doubt that though.

It was evident to everyone who experienced Record Store Day 2012 that people still really, really love music. Of course they do. So while the independent stores and labels that participated are still counting their takings from Saturday, the big cats at the majors must be scratching their heads at the latest sets of figures. What a strange couple of weeks for the music industry.

STEVIE: WU LYF @ HEAVEN

I recently caught Wu Lyf, a 4 piece from Manchester at Heaven in London.  Playing out their debut Go Tell Fire To The Mountain, they rattled through a superbly joyous and energetic set.

Lead singer Ellery Roberts, with his trademark vertiginous quiff, performed side on predominantly to the audience jerking and dancing around the space and at his keyboard reminiscent of the moves of a young Ian Curtis, his gravelly, husky voice chanting out to the packed house. With a light spectacular supporting their brand of heavy pop, the lads from north of the border whipped the crowd into a frenzy, exploring the highs and lows, quiet and loud within their set to devastating effect.

Their huge intense songs, particularly ‘Spitting Blood’ and ‘We Bros’ were hauntingly howled moments of emotive affecting brilliance. Throughout, the quintet seemed fully engaged and enjoying themselves, a joy to both watch and hear from an audience point of view. Before the end Roberts launched himself into the crowd and was surfed and cheered around the front of the thronging energetic mass. Following a return to stage, and as it was the last date of their English tour, there was a genuine cathartic atmosphere amongst audience and band alike, both of whom had been taken on an hour long journey. A journey I for one, hope long continues…

http://www.wulyf.org/

LUCY: MY MUSIC MONTH

It’s been a month of music for me… Lets start with Skrillex.

Skrillex

I knew that Skrillex had won three Grammies but no more than that. I went to see the gig with Isabella ‘The machine’ Summers. Isa was convinced I would hate it but nothing could have prepared either of us for Skrillex’ sold out show at Brixton Academy.

A gigantuate stage was revealed, it reminded me of a Thunder Cats cross Transformer mountain. Skrillex has a team of super talented visual artists VJ’s that project the most fantastical landscapes live whist he provides incredibly energetic powerful soundscapes. He wore a suit that mapped his every movement and behind him were huge robots that mirrored him, I’ve never seen anything like it. This guy has so much energy; I don’t know how you could maintain it night after night. The crowd was unusual you had cyber punks, goths, ravers, everyone was absolutely out of their minds during this visual aural reckoning. During the set he delved into R’n’B , Hip Hop, Dance, Dubstep, techno, pop and reggae faultlessly. Nero ‘Promises’ got a huge reception from the crowd, I like that one, I worked on the video for it. The crowed LOVED him and we loved it too. After the show we went backstage there was a huge bevy of people, it parted and what I didn’t expect was to be introduced to Sonny himself. I was so amazed all I could muster was ‘you’re the 5th element, right?’. Sonny was surrounded by hippie types that looked like they’d literally just walked off the Woodstock festival site, there was a hippy anarchic atmosphere, my favourite. For me that gig was up there with Maria and the Mirrors, you have to see it to believe it.

SKRILLEX

Azealia Banks was opening for the NME tour a week later on the same stage, you will probably be familiar with her explicit 212 track. This NME tour seemed more subdued than previous years when you had Florence touring with the likes of Friendly Fires. Azelia had a small neon sign that looked like it had been stolen from a rundown noodle shop with dead ducks glazed orange hanging miserably in the window. She spat over beats, she has a huge amount of confidence and swagger but it was the more melodic and hooky 212 that finally got people going. The crowd was a bit stagnant to be honest. They did respond when she sang Amy Winehouses’ Valerie and they were just about drunk enough to sway slightly when she really randomly finished her set with ‘Fire Starter’ by The Prodigy.Azealia Banks

Florence and the Machine – I have watched Florence go from Antenna Studios and pub gigs to opening the NME tour then to her own headline tour and on a Friday night I caught her at Alexandra Palace.
The stage was an impressive art deco dream with beautiful Art deco screens for those of us at the back. Florences’ performance was captivating far flung from seeing her open Brixton Academy 2 years ago charging all over stage and bulldozing you over at the after show parties. Florence seemed more measured and refined and not in a manufactured way. She was accompanied by a beautiful choir and an impressive string section, they played the most delicious intro to ‘You Got the Love’. ‘No Light stuck out as did “Dog Days ‘ which got Flo bouncing and charging around like back in the day and finally ‘Lover to Lover’. This is not an easy venue to play the ceiling is extremely high the sound is less concentrated and there is a courtyard full of bars, merch stalls and food vans, you can even go out and smoke, the audience is on one level and can come and go as they please. The ladies in the crowd were shouting out every last word fiercely, the disciples of Florence. The ‘Machine’ backed Florence faultlessly but I would like to see them back in the Academy or Apollo.

Florence + the machine

Go see Skrillex. In the words of Quincy Jones ‘hes the Dude’.

ANDY: KINDNESS AT XOYO 21ST MARCH 2012

XOYO was jam packed to the rafters for the long sold out London date of the (very) short UK Kindess tour. I, as much as anyone else there, was excited to see what Adam Bainbridge had to offer in the way of a live performance. Having listened to his debut album World, You Need A Change Of Mind the week before, I knew he had the songs to make this one funky show (apart from an appalling cover of ‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’ by Anita Dobson – you know, the Eastenders theme tune). This is the first we have heard of Bainbridge since he dropped a couple of singles back in 2009, but he was back to fill XOYO with his unusual style of electro funk-pop and there was a genuine sense of anticipation in the air.

Before Kindness even took to the stage, the support act Zdar had blown me away. Zdar is one half of the famous French house producers Cassius who have remixed the likes of Daft Punk and been sampled by Jay-Z and Kanye West on last years collaboration album Watch The Throne. He spun a whole bunch of obscure house and synth pop edits that had the whole crowd who had got down early moving and shaking, whilst as the same time seeing off a pack of Marlboros to the bouncers irritation.

It was pitch black when Adam Bainbridge and his cohorts made their way to the stage, which only served to add to the buzz. The lights went up and I can honestly say everyone danced continuously for the whole hour and a half set. Bainbridge’s music is so care free and accessible that anyone would have done the same; you just cannot help but smile and move.

Of course, covering enormously famous RnB tracks like Womack and Womack’s ‘Teardrops” is going to sweeten the pill and brush over some of the more mellow and tedious album fillers (like the Anita Dobson cover – why would you do that??).

A special mention must go to his two backing singers who both danced the night away with the crowd, Hercules & Love Affair style. I’m sure Kindness will be doing the festival rounds this summer so if you get a chance, I reckon it’s worth your time (if you have your dancing shoes).

HARRIET: HULA HOOPING WITH MARAWA THE AMAZING

 

It’s the same reason I play Billie Pipers “honey to the bee” full volume when I awake, why I went, and have been obsessing over, Hula Hooping classes. The same reason I drag my unwitting friends to pole dancing in activist’s and freedom fighter’s squats in Hackney Wick (you get a tangerine and a slap on the bottom at the end). It’s the quest to find and insure that my inner 90’s bea-stung breasted monster child is still in there. So, with the promise of a florescent pink Queen of Hearts cocktail and an assurance that this is NOT exercise, darling Mimi and I  ventured to the Biscuit Tin, Shoreditch, to find the 6 packs we had lost somewhere between puberty and McDonalds.

MARAWA the AMAZING. Phowaaoor.  Not only has she played at EVERY festival you’ve ever been to, The Amazing has  done it on every continent, she’s done it on a trapeze, TV shows, music videos. You name it Marawa has grinded on it. Pint sized Marawa is a delicious, Nutritious, heart racing and good for your health. Her current record, she told me, is 133 hoops at once.  She’s better than a light installation or a disco ball, its mesmerizing to watch.  So after an hour of Mimi boomeranging her hoop across the room several times, me playing a brown nosed teacher’s pet, we upped our game.

So imagine a torpedo hula hooping, okay? So your this torpedo, hula hooping pedo, your arms are in the air, your nipples have popped out and then taken shelter and Marawa starts throwing a heap of hula hoops at you, screaming, HARDER, KEEP IT UP, rhythm… cuuum OOOOORRRN, KEEP GOING FASTER!!

“Ok well it takes a lot of practice”.

I ended up being 130 away from Marawa’s record, three on the go, frizbeeing someone in the head only once.

Mimi at this point has a green bruise crawling up her hips and announced herself exercised out. I announced myself too sober and we left. But I am going back Sunday…

(Photos courtesy of Marawa the amazing)

Marawa website: http://marawatheamazing.tumblr.com/post/20002449886/circus-fest-is-getting-close

STEVIE: DJANGO DJANGO

Having kept a close eye on Django Django’s rise to prominence, I was fortunate enough to have seen them play at Rough Trade East recently for the launch of their eponymous album.

Their live performance breathes vitality into their upbeat songs. Blending a heady mix of electro, blues, choral chants, tribal yelps and percussive beats the three front men rhythmically mix their instruments with a range of percussion that wouldn’t look out of place in a primary school music box.

An eclectically attired bunch, with one member wearing a sweatshirt and clear Perspex glasses, another a slim prison stripe shirt to the lead singer donning a colourful patterned shirt. But this mismatch of clothing, much like the music, was a broad brush stroke of styles that sat together perfectly.

With such energy and music their live show does little to damage the power of the album, which I predict will be slow grower throughout 2012, gathering fans much like a snowball on a hill. I for one know it’ll be blaring out of my speakers for some time to come.

http://www.djangodjango.co.uk/