Art, Live music review, Media, Music, Uncategorized

Cabbage – The Shimmer Band – April. Live at EBGBs, Liverpool. February 10th 2017

img_0728The first time I heard of Cabbage was during an interview on BBC Radio Five Live between Christmas and New Year.  They sounded young and bored and decried the lack of royalties they receive from Spotify.  As reward, no doubt for their appearance on the ‘serious’ talk radio station, one of their songs was played; Terrorist Sympathiser.  I liked it.  Sing-a-long lyrics sung by a bawdy lad drawing out his vowels with little regard for standing erect at a microphone stand. I thought of Johnny Rotten with his sleeves pulled over his clenched fists.

Forays into the music press revealed Cabbage as a bit of an upcoming band earning affection from music critics writing in broadsheet and music papers alike.  After looking them up and finding their scant website I discovered they were on tour and playing at both Manchester and Liverpool in the North West.  Manchester was sold out so I bought a dirt cheap ticket for the Liverpool gig at EBGBs.  The gig was last night.

EBGBs is the basement bar to it’s more grown up looking sibling Heebie Jeebies on Seel Street.  The cheerful door crew waived me through, I’d shaven my hair completely for the occasion, thinking the lack of grey stubble might help me blend in more with the kids. EBGBs is tiny with a bar in one section adjacent to the auditorium separated by a low arch carved out of the bowels of the pub and what once was, clearly, the cellar to the pub above.

After paying £4.50 for a bottle of Estrella Damm I ducked under the arch to see first support band April in full swing.  April are aptly named as the callowness of the band members matches the month which heralds the first days of Spring.  I imagine the band I played in at school looked a lot like April without the stresses and strains of being on a national tour.  They looked like a bunch of kids whose soap their mums had packed for them had long since worn out and they couldn’t work out how to recharge the batteries in their bum-fluff razors.  I was reminded of Ant & Decs attempt to re-create an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads with their appallingly applied 5 o’clock shadows fresh from make-up, in an attempt to make them look older and wearier.  These kids had it in spades.  They could play and their next single, Time, had a bass line worthy of a sample or two.  The bass player was probably the kid who took A level music and scored a grade 5 piano; there’s always one.

April dismantled and removed their equipment, The Shimmer Band moved  in and assembled theirs on stage.  Sound and light guys walked back and forth with tablets fiddling with the son et lumiere.  After much testing of microphones the Shimmer Band shimmied back off stage and the house sounds came on for another 10 minutes.  It was apparent the band couldn’t play their set without the benefit of sunglasses and they re-emerged donning cheap looking shades which suggested they’d spent the 10 minute hiatus in search of a 24 hour petrol station where they could buy emergency sunglasses.  A swirling opening worthy of the finest Dervish musicians began with the flabby arms of the  lardy singer emerging from a gold velvet t-shirt prodding towards the ceiling.   A stomp of his foot heralded the band joining in with the backing tape as it became suddenly apparent the boy could sing.  The white plastic sunglasses clashed strikingly with his velveteen t-shirt but the voice inside caused the audience to stop and register what sounded like an English Ronnie James Dio.  No sword and sorcery was this as punk energy met middle eastern rhythms during a noisy set of of well constructed songs.  I think they’re from Nuneaton…or was that April.  My listening and viewing pleasure was curtailed when a lady about 5′ 8″ tall stood on the step I was on at the back of the hall, smack bang in front of me with her 2 friends and they began to chatter and laugh loudly.  It was rude it was ignorant and I told them; selfish idiots.

Cabbage followed The Simmer Band.  I read a few live reviews of the band from their 2016 tour and to be honest they weren’t that positive.  The band’s antics were largely thought of as contrived and set them aside as rebels without much of a cause.  Another delay caused by the sound system and they arrived onstage at 10.10pm just after the chattering lady who’s rear neck I had become rather too familiar with had fucked off.   Cabbage continued the trend of the bands playing in ascending age order with their teenage years seemingly just behind them.  T shirts were quickly dispensed with by the two main protagonists of the band who between them shared lead vocal and guitar duties.  It was difficult to tell most of the time as the stage at EBGBs is only about a foot higher than the hall floor and even from my slightly elevated position, I could only see them from the neck up.

The moshpit was in full swing and I enjoyed the gig vicariously sharing the mayhem going on down the front which felt sticky and sweaty.  After two songs the road crew emerged to implore the audience to take a step back  as their momentum had caused something of a stage invasion.  The band said they were ‘fucking skint’ and couldn’t afford to replace any damaged pedals;  “There’s plenty of fuckin’ shit to go and smash up out there, but don’t smash up Cabbage’s equipment” the singer implored.  “Who thought this would be a good idea?” he rhetorically asked before bigging up the audience.  They were great; swigging beer and crowd surfing on an audience who provided backing vocals when the singer found himself po-going in the third row.  He amused me when he announced the next song was about dead people and ‘why we like shagging them’; I couldn’t restrain a reflective chortle.

The crowd, mostly made up of students (I think I was the 2nd oldest there), got their moneys worth with a set of blistering energy and well crafted punk-pop songs.  Cabbage 2017 are kids on fire who, if they took any notice of their critics in 2016, have learned to have a fucking good time on stage and let their music do their talking for them. If they don’t implode they have a chance to replicate fellow Mancs, The Happy Mondays as stardom awaits.  After it all finished the band came out and mingled with the departing audience.  I shook one of the singer’s hands and he seemed genuinely pleased when I told him I enjoyed the performance and what a great gig it was.  There was enough humility which made him likeable which, along with his talent should see them through.

Well done cabbage, you fulfilled my 5 a day.

Magaines, Media, Music

I’ve got your music

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Where I live and work in the St Annes-On-The-Sea part of Lytham St Annes, when this supposed summer’s day is beset by strong winds and drizzle, there isn’t really much to do during the lunch break other than have a browse around the local branch of WH Smith. It’s not one of their bigger branches but they sell a selection of books, magazines, cards and stationery, much as you would expect from any branch of the ubiquitous newsagent. I must visit 3 or 4 times a week just to kill a few minutes by browsing a book, flicking through a magazine or scanning a newspaper. It’s repetetive, certainly, and a long stretch from the days when I worked in cities such as Leiceter, Nottingham and Manchester with a myriad of shops and walks to make the lunch hour a worthwhile escape from the goings-on in the office. But if there is one thing that strikes me, even in the modest surroundings of our local ‘Smiths’ is the abundance of music magazines on sale these days. I remember when I was an avid music fan in the 1970’s you were pretty much limited to a choice between the New Musical Express (or NME as it became popularly known), Melody Maker and Sounds. Sounds used to be my paper of choice, delivered by the local newsagent on a Wednesday morning because of its coverage of rock and heavy metal which I was particulalry ‘in to’ at the time. Melody Maker continued to hang on to it’s pre-punk hippy roots and the NME, which by its own admission was late onto the punk scene made over-zealous amends for its past musical lethargy by becoming the paper for punks, post-punks and anything which chimed with two thirds of its abbreviated title, new and musical. There was also The Record Mirror but that didn’t seem to linger for long and if I remember correctly got swallowed up by Melody Maker. With the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, or NWOBHM, in full swing by the late 70’s and early 80’s, Sounds’s champion of all things heavy, Geoff Barton (or Def Barton to his mates) was the must-read music journo for all things metal back in the day; apart from his habit of awarding any Kiss output, no matter what the quality (Unmasked, anyone?) a fabulous 5 stars out of 5 including two awards of 6 out of 5 (seriously) for 2 of the 4 solo albums the Kiss members produced at the time (Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons if I again remember correctly).

By the mid-80s both the Melody Maker and Sounds appeared to have lost their way by hanging on to old trends whilst the NME which managed to keep abreast of the fast pace of youth culture of the period (The Smiths!) and as Melody Maker and Sounds disappeared from our Newsagents’s shelves, The NME had a near monopoly on quality music journalist publication. For the pop afficionados, Smash Hits ruled the shelves but it was the NME which spawned a host of fine writers that achieved the longevity which still sees it appear on our newsagent shelves, albeit in glossy magazine format today. Some of those old NME journalists went on to form new magazines such as Q which now captures that BBC 6 Music audience which crosses the divide between the best music of yesteryear while having the confidence to promote the best and worst of new artists amongst their output. A decade or so ago came magazines like Mojo which seemed to be aimed at the old Melody Maker crowd while readers of Sounds emigrated to its then sister magazine Kerrrang, aimed at the old metal heads. All 3 sit crowdedly vying for space on the shelves of a CTN (concectioner, tobacconist and newsagent) near you! I mean, just look at the photo…there are magazines for every genre of music, new and old, classical and pop with specialist publications for musicians and collectors. God knows what the circulation figures are for Acoustic, but there it sits alongside 4 other specialist guitar magazines…and good luck to it to, it’s good to see a wide range of magazines for sale in a sleepy seaside town catering for all tastes in readership in this digital age.

I don’t buy magazines as often as I’d like but there are some great choices out there amongst the music, fashion, food and lifestyle. I tend to go for Q magazine when I choose a music mag but I’m not an avid reader. The NME is still there even though I last bought it in Christmas 2011 but long may they sit there and be read, championing live and new music because it would be a lot gloomier world without them!

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