Increasingly, we’ve placed as hefting an import as possible upon live music. Primarily in and around London, this year we’ve striven to incorporate better varied reviews and coat said writings in a more professional veneer, so as to reinforce the impression that the live arena subjectively remains the most connective, if at times commotive medium when it comes to aural appreciation. We then begin our Shows of 2013 rundown below, numbers six to twenty-five ranging from Weezer in Vegas to Local Natives in Brixton; dark ambient experienced as far afield as Braga, Portugal to a particularly extraordinary day out and about in London. Dots & Dashes’ Shows of 2013 therefore start thus:
My adulation of RocketNumberNine knows no upper bound, but strangely enough it was a compelling performance alongside none other than Neneh Cherry at January’s Worldwide Awards, rather than another together with Four Tet, that made the proverbial grade this time around. Expect further excitement to unfurl as the canvas that is Blank Project is gradually coloured…
Goldfrapp’s latest, Tales Of Us, made for a sedate, if still exhilarating collection, although the likes of Drew and Annabel palpably felt as though they’d really come to life last month at the Eventim Apollo. Which, paired up with glitzy singles past, made for a show that was outwardly schizophrenic as it was intrinsically scintillating.
When fully immersed in London, where even a week can at times feel interminable, it’s only too easy to forget that the pros heavily outweigh the cons. This one is thus less a show per se, and more an afternoon spent out and about in the capital: beginning with an inspiriting performance by Sigur Rós live at Maida Vale, and continuing with a soi-disant ‘impromptu’ few tracks from none other than Sir Paul McCartney at the beating heart of Covent Garden – one still palpitating to business lunch patter – the two headliners in kind vigorously reminded me of what a vibrant hive London is for live music. In the case of Sigur Rós, my faith was restored while Macca, well, he wasn’t half bad either…
Rivers Cuomo’s Weezer. Playing a Las Vegan pool party. On the umpteenth storey of some semi-chichi hotel. We took some pictures by the pool, although I’d imagine the success of this one more or less paints itself…
Allison’s twin sister Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, felt obliged to engage in a verbal bout with some impudent natterer midway through Swearin’s October Dalston date, Kyle Gilbride giving Empty Head a rare airing as the band ran through their eponymous début in full. And, as they flitted wondrously erratically between these sorts of tender, introspective pieces and more self-assured punk-rock giddy-up, you too would’ve felt diddled had you been unable to experience, say, Dust in the Gold Sack in all its vulnerable beauty. Effin’ excellent.
Headliners of the inaugural Ja Ja Ja Festival live at Camden’s Roundhouse, and without question the standout performance of a thoroughly impressive Friday, Mew represented a joy rigorous as their thoroughgoing rummaging through their back catalogue. Everything from a tumultuous Apocalypso to a temperamental, if continually luxuriant Comforting Sounds felt heartbreaking as it was bone-crunching, ensuring that only very intermittently were there exclusively lulling letups, respites, etcetera.
In both Motto and Motto alike, Leodensian duo Sky Larkin have this year proven rather conclusively quite why they’ve mattered so much to so many for so long already. And in N1, they ever so dextrously translated their ongoing cultural relevance to a vitally lit stage, Katie Harkin’s witty quips as nimbly entwined together with Nestor Matthews’ typically rambunctious drums as new material was with old.
In a sense, it was somewhat disconcerting to see Ellis Ludwig-Leone – polymathic arranger-cum-composer-cum-songwriter extraordinaire of San Fermin – play such a peripheral role in the band’s live show. Although with such show-stopping pieces as Daedalus (What We Have) and Sonsick to pick from his nonliteral hat, the feeling soon evolved from disconcertion to delight, the rather more vocal likes of Allen Tate, Rae Cassidy and Rebekah Durham elevating the level of performance far beyond Ludwig-Leone’s masterly keys ever could have.
Having played a freebie at Dalston’s Birthdays a mere two months prior to the progressively great Danes’ second London show at the Sebright Arms, to say the turnout this time around was scanty would be to grant Blaue Blume something of a service. Nonetheless, the four-piece turned in an emphatically dramatic showing to suggest that by the time they next return, a few more heathens may be clamouring to clamber down such dimly lit stairwells…
Braga’s Theatro Circo – a nigh on unfeasibly opulent, newly renovated Portuguese revivalist arena – may not at once appear the perfect setting for Bobby Krlic’s dense and oppressive impressions in dark ambient, but under a mantle of impenetrable black, The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation suddenly made brightly lucid sense. Seems two and two can indeed equal five, as Thom Yorke first prophesied…
Slowly yet surely, Local Natives have become a quintessential contemporary band – their boyish charm, combined with keening lyrics delivered with stanzaic poise, render them an irresistible proposition. And at the O2 Academy Brixton, where I’m both delighted and still distressed to inform they played an irreproachable Colombia, they at last looked to have arrived at that bigger time they’ve been worthy of for quite some while.
In Elements Of Light, Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory concocted one of the most striking records of the year and live, the mesmeric tolls of both Particle and Spectral Split combined to make for one of the more captivating, even momentarily heartwarming winter evenings.
The most glaring, inexcusable omission from our Records of 2012 rundown was, without doubt, Chris Cohen’s irresistibly bristly Overgrown Path. Indeed, for all the adoration foisted onto the likes of DIIV and Mac DeMarco, Cohen was Captured Tracks’ standout performer, and in live performance he excels similarly. The Dalston Victoria, humble and pungent, may not have made for the best of fits on paper, although in practice, Chris put on a show succulent as the fried chicken served out front.
Less a gig and more a glittering piece of vanguardist theatre, Praxis Makes Perfect at last came alive in more ways than one when recited live by Gruff Rhys and Bryan Hollon, the duo’s impressionistic presentation of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli’s life, livelihood and premature death proving invigorating as it was immersive. Whether or not it made a Communist out of anyone to have attended any one of its three sold out, Barbican-abetted performances remains to be seen, although a summery London was considerably less oppressive for its vividly evocative staging.
Bradford Cox & Co. pitched up at the Barcelona leg of this year’s Primavera Sound nigh on omnipresently, at first enrapturing the Ray-Ban stage on the Thursday, before going on to stand in capably, if a little casually for the absent Band of Horses, and at last hauling down the figurative curtain on the festival’s closing party at the Sala Apolo. Adorned in bedazzling sequins and seemingly all set to cross right on over into a more mainstream consciousness, Bradford’s Deerhunter got their best out the way nice and early on, perhaps allowing for Barça to then satiate their every hedonistic desire.
Dots & Dashes don’t do festival rundowns although if we did, Latitude would’ve been awarded many a gong, as would Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally for their part in the Suffolk festivities. Closing out the Sunday night in style beneath the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage’s appositely polychromic tarpaulin, Beach House proved blooming epic and appeared to put a handful of disappointing performances behind them with aplomb.
If we’re talking the exposure of an artist and an audience’s overall experience, this was the year of Light Up Gold. Nevertheless, having first been released independently via Andrew Savage’s Dull Tools indie in August of last year, it fails to feature by default in our Records of 2013 digestion. Though that’s not to say that their rip-roaring, breakneck showing down in the insalubrious depths of the Sebright Arms is picking up something of a sympathy vote – anything but. For what the NYC four-piece exhibited was a visceral brilliance in abundance, a short and sweet setlist slaking the insatiable thirst of those in the market for Parquet Courts’ hyper-erudite take on impish punk.
Barbaric as this will doubtless sound, in light of recent diagnoses, I wind up counting my lucky (Hollywood) stars (whose careers, concertedly or otherwise, he’s caused to skyrocket) every summer during which I get to see Nile Rodgers, and this one was thankfully no exception. Ahead of the Manics’ rousing return to roisterous form, Chic retrospectively flicked through some of the greatest funk and soul cuts ever recorded to bring a hitherto unprecedentedly rich party vibe to the intensely surreal Portmeirion.
Well “beyond the regular rectangular”, in General Dome, eccentric Brooklyn-based two-piece Buke and Gase boast the best of their two magna opera to date, although it takes some seeing to believe, and subsequently believe fully in Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez’ ineffably idiosyncratic stylisation. Live at The Lexington, a “toe-bourine” stomped to the mangled gurgles of the “gase” and the coruscating chinking of the “buke”. Another sight for sore eyes was the veneration the band command, Dyer’s elaborate lyricisms delivered right back at the duo verbatim. Which, given the apathy long since renowned of London, really is no mean feat…