Mr. Scruff, Local hero and probably the hardest working DJ in the business has relocated his Keep It Unreal night to the recently renovated Band on The Wall in Manchester. Last night was the ‘housewarming party’, the first in a long run of monthly Mr. Scruff events (including New Year’s Eve!) and if yesterday was any indication, one of the hottest tickets in Manchester. The entire venue was transformed for one evening into a whole new little world, complete with tea room, mood lighting and chillout lounge.
I’ve been to a fair number of events at Band on The Wall since the grand re-opening and last night by far was the best atmosphere and best use of their incredible sound system yet. The music was a wonderful mix of jazz, funk, soul and house, with a good mix of tunes to both have a dance to and retire to the tea lounge and relax to. Mr. Scruff played solidly from 9pm to 3am, without a break and without any support/warmup act. Not many musicians or DJ’s have the stamina (or record collection) to do that, and this is a sure sign of a guy who really enjoys his work. For those casual observers who aren’t usually into jazz, soul, funk or disco, going to a Mr. Scruff night can be a wonderfully fun education into a whole new world of music that you’d not usually encounter. The bringing together of so many different people on one level was almost magical, and without sounding too hippyish is the sign of a true DJ with a real talent.
I caught up with Mr. Scruff one typically sunny November Manchester afternoon and had a bit of a chat. Here’s a few minutes of us chatting about music, tea, biscuits and jazz nerds:
(Mr. Scruff interview – download)
Firstly, I must apologize for the lack of recent updates; I know you lovely readers must be missing your regular indie-schmindie fix and I have let you down. *cries*. The main reason is that I’ve recently moved into a new apartment and have been living out of boxes with no internet connection for a few weeks. Do not fear, everything is back up and running and back to normal now!
On to the main attraction, Friend Rock favourites Amoriste have a new video, This Park Is Mine:
I love Amoriste. They’re one of my favourite unsigned bands around at the moment, and have a level of professionalism and determination that would put many large touring bands to shame. This Park Is Mine follows on from previous tracks Secrets and Berlin in that it is jam packed full of catchy indie pop hooks and melodic vocals bursting with a definitively English flavour of sunshine. While This Park Is Mine doesn’t have quite the explosive radio-friendly progression of Secrets or the momentum of Berlin, it does demonstrate that Amoriste are a band made of the right stuff, and I really do feel that it is only a matter of time until they get their big break.
Regular readers will already be aware of the fact that we absolutely love Beat The Radar. Singles Telephone Conversation and 18,19,20,21,22 were a great taste of what was to come from BTR, and a much needed kick up the arse to the Manchester indie scene. Once again, Akoustik Anarkhy have pulled it out of the bag and released a proper stomper of an album. Beat The Radar are quite hard to define. They have the jangle-pop of Johnny Marr, the rhythm section of early Bloc Party and the balls-out energy of The Cribs all wrapped up in a perfectly formed and distinctly powerful album that shows just how good these guys are at writing a good old northern ‘bangin tune’.
I remember the first time I saw BTR, it was at the Piccadilly Gardens Hotel, in the dirty basement. I was hungover and drunk at the same time, just as I had been so many times at Akoustik Anarkhy nights there in previous years. BTR encapsulate the real spirit of aA. They’re raw, energetic, passionate, a bit nerdy and are just doing their thing without any consideration for image or ‘indie’ fashion. Just as it should be. Get involved, as they say.
As a few of you may have heard, Jerry Fuchs, drummer with the band !!! (Chk Chk Chk) has died after falling down an elevator shaft in Williamsburg, NYC. At this time we’d like to express our sympathy and note that our thoughts right now are with Jerry’s friends and family.
He passed away at 03.3o EST. He was 34 years old.
Had last night’s gig been held anywhere else but the beautiful setting of Manchester’s Cathedral, it would’ve been just any old (not too exciting) show. As it was though, Grizzly Bear‘s music was appropriate for the location. Lots of jazz soaked jamming combined with hymn sounding wailing made for an interesting, if not a little uncomfortable listening experience. Grizzly Bear are without a doubt very talented musicians but last night I just didn’t ‘get’ it. Perhaps it was the Wilco comedown from the night before, perhaps it was the freezing cold, or the fact that the promoters oversold the show meaning I could see pretty much nothing. Who knows.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Grizzly Bear, I will admit. I went to the show last night because they’re one of those bands that I felt I should make the effort to check out, rather than actually being that bothered about it. While enjoyable enough, every song kind of sounded the same to a degree and I did find my mind wandering quite a lot throughout the set. Perhaps if it was seated (as originally intended) it would have been different. My departing thoughts of the show were ‘great location, too busy, Grizzly Bear – lots of talent but no big hook for me’.
Prior to last night, it would have been five years since I’d last seen Wilco live, on the Ghost is Born tour at Manchester’s Academy 2 back in 2004. Frontman Jeff Tweedy was in a bit of a bad way back then, having just come out of hospital after a few problems with prescription painkillers. Last night’s show in Leeds was a completely different affair. Tweedy seemed confident, happy, full of energy and for want of a better phrase, up for it.
Wilco played a ‘greatest hits’ set, playing tracks from pretty much every record in their extensive back catalogue. Tweedy also invited the audience to shout out requests and seemed very much in the mood to really engage and break down the fourth wall.
Tweedy and co. put in a set lasting over two hours, and while this length of time is usually a bit too long even for the greatest of bands, in my opinion (yes, that includes you, Radiohead) not so for Wilco.
The whole show seemed to go by in a flash and I could have easily stayed and listened to them all night. The highlight though was the utterly brilliant version of Jesus, Etc from the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album, sung entirely by the crowd.
I must confess, I really wasn’t expecting this show to be quite as energetic. I suppose, basing my expectations on the gig in Manchester those years ago, I feared the worst. I was very, very pleasantly surprised. Wilco are one of my favourite bands, and last night’s show is a definitely contender to the prize of my top gig of the year so far.
Special thanks to Matthew Rankin at Nonesuch Records for sorting the passes out. Much appreciated.
Rivers Cuomo is 39 years old, yet after listening to this record you’d think it had been made by a skateboard riding, comic book reading 17 year old sexually frustrated middle high student from California. I am a fan of Weezer, they’ve made some great pop rock records (2001’s Green Album being my personal favourite), but seriously, ‘dude’, grow the hell up a bit yeah and act your age. Listening to someone old enough to be my dad sing lyrics like “I can’t stop partying, partying, partying…if you’re looking for me I’m in VIP…all the girls in the corner gettin’ loose..” is so cringeworthy and it took all my effort to keep my breakfast down.
I’ll tell you what this album is. You know that barrage of American ‘College Comedy’ films that came out about 10 years ago? American Pie, Road Trip (I actually like that one), etc, well Raditude is a soundtrack to those films. The opening credits where it shows a clean campus, 18 year old students being played by actors in their 30’s, beautiful sunshine everywhere and everyone is good looking (apart from the one token nerd, obvious), well consider that image and stick this album on. It fits perfectly. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t 1999 anymore, and Weezer aren’t a young band. This kind of music has already been done to death by the likes of Vandals and, err…Weezer… over 10 years ago. Let it lie.
The thing is, Cuomo undoubtedly has significant songwriting talent. He’s also obviously not taking himself seriously here, and it is very probably the case that the youthful energy and attitude demonstrated in Raditude is more a reflection on his youth than him simply him not wanting to grow up. Having said that, until he comes out and gives an answer either way we’ll never know. Unfortunately, as it is right now, the impression I get is that this record is Rivers Cuomo screaming ‘midlife crisis’ from the rooftops. Which is a great shame, as I was hoping for an improvement over the throwaway pop-pop dross that was The Red Album.