Hullo George!

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Please allow me to formally introduce George, our new German Shepherd Dog. We discovered him (or at least my brother-in-law Steve did) on the K9focus rescue site, where he was described as a 12-14 month old stray who had been found starving and frightened some months before, and who was waiting for the right family to come along and adopt him.

Well, apparently that was us, and George is ettling in really well, having obviously decided that a household of dog lovers, Ripley (our 2 1/2 year old GSD bitch), and three cats was a much better gig than a boarding kennel.

Sure, there’s more work to be done, but K9focus’ Phil had already worked wonders with him, providing an excellent and promising foundation for us to build on, and all indications for further improvement are extremely good at this point, and we really couldn’t be happier!

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Chamonix Sunrise

 

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Magic Bus – Live At The King Arthur, Glastonbury 1st July 2016

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Jay Darlington – keyboards; Viv Goodwin – flute; Paul Evans – guitar, vox; Terence Waldstradt – lead guitar; Connor Spring – drums; Wihll Mellorz – bass (photograph by Dean Hind)

I last saw Magic Bus at the King Arthur back in February of this year, and based on Friday’s performance I’d happy to go and see them again at a moment’s notice, as they were sublime earlier in the year, and yet somehow managed to top that with this latest show.

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It was business as usual when we arrived at ‘The Arthur’, with an interesting crowd mingling beforehand, as the band set up in the back. Dean, Rich and I were enjoying a drink or two as our old mate Andy strolled through the door accompanied by Mark, both having been lured down from North Devon by my promise of an excellent show, and making the whole thing just that little bit more fun.

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Once again the format was to be two nice, long sets with a break in the middle where the band mingled and chatted with the audience. Connor (below) was particularly chatty, sitting down with Dean and telling him about new forthcoming projects, including the new Magic Bus album and a collaboration with the bassist Wihll if memory serves. We were pretty excited to hear about the new album and pressed the band for a vinyl release at every opportunity!MB9Both sets were passionate, full of light, happiness and energy, and once again I find myself dancing throughout, pausing only to snap the odd picture. The sound was of a similarly high quality and was perfect when it came to clearly separating out the individual instruments from the gorgeous, harmonious whole.

Magic Bus sailed a tight ship through wildly psychedelic seas, bathed in glorious light and shifting images, with the crew drawing upon various influences from an incredibly creative and exciting period in British music history, then expanding upon it with a genuine love of the past and an eye to the future, breathing new life into a fantastic genre and taking it to exciting new places, and as such they really are a must-see band!

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre – live at Engine Rooms, Southampton 19 June 2016

BJM1The last time that I saw Brian Jonestown Massacre they were somewhat tetchy to say the least, grumbling about the poor quality of the pharmaceuticals and tour buses on offer in the UK. However, on this occasion they had a reasonably impressive bus and,  judging by their mood, had either cleaned up or scored some really great gear for this tour!

Anyway, we had learned from Anton during the day that the support band had bailed on account of injury, and that we were to show up at 2000 sharp for an extra-long set from BJM. As much fun as seeing a long show was, there was disappointment, too, on account of missing one of the typically excellent bands that get chosen for BJM support slots, but I guess you win some you lose some, huh?

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I’d dearly love to tell you what was played, but I must confess to having been totally mesmerised from the moment they came onstage to the moment they left, so compelling was the performance. The band got into their stride quickly and did battle with the dubious, muddy sound until that was satisfactorily tweaked after twenty minutes or so.

It wasn’t until I wandered out to the bar for a supplies that it became apparent that the venue was pretty much full with an interesting mix of folks, young and old. Absent were the aggressive looking for a Dig! moment, which meant that the band could get stuck into their extensive and impressive back catalogue free of distractions. Joel Gion’s feigned insouuciance and precise timing on the tambourine was an excellent metaphor for the band who, while seemingly not giving a stuff, made it clear with their consumate professionalism and impressive stamina that they are the real deal if you’ll just let them play.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were dancing, which sounds like an odd thing to say about a gig, but sadly reflects the number of shows I attend where people stand around looking bored or uncomfortable. The response between songs was suitably impressive too and Anton was in fine form until I hollered out for ‘Hide And Seek’, when he proceeded to tell everyone that BJM ‘don’t do requests’ and ramble on for few minutes; I get that all their songs are great, and that they get to choose the setlist, but I will never have heard enough of that song, and I really need to hear it live!

Regarding the venue, it was my first visit to Engine Rooms and I have to say that, like 1865, it is a nice small-to-mediun sized hall, contrary to its somewhat dubious outward appearance which doubtless derives from its location in a trading estate. That said the sound was relatively poor compared to other venues I have visited recently, and they could definitely do with sorting that out. The predominantly red lighting was a bit of a challenge for my flash-free photography too, and the quality of the images that resulted from my efforts to capture a visual record of the show were diappointing.

Terrifiyingly for my wallet, the merch stall was incredibly well stocked, and that I came away with only a copy of Methodrone plus the latest 10″ single, Bout Des Doigts, is a sign of my strength of will (and decrepit finances).

Overall I had a great night, as did my BJM-newbie friend, who went away suitably impressed.

 

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Os Noctambulos Live At The Anvil, Bournemouth May 22nd 2016

AVN3Having been to an excellent gig at one of my favourite venues just the night before, it was evident that the bands appearing at The Anvil’s psych night were going to have their work cut out if they were going to make an impact following on from that, especially given that my memories of the venue in a former life were somewhat less than favourable.

Indeed, having met our friends and descended the stairs into the dingy basement I wondered if we were going to get a replay of the claustrophobic Robots In Disguise show where the low ceilings and restricted views severely cramped the band’s exuberant and outgoing style to the point where I swore I’d never return there.

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However, despite a healthy turnout for the first support band Acid Valley Nomads, the room seemed bigger and I suspect that a duct that once crossed in front of the stage had been removed, affording a better view of the band and thereby opening up performance area if only in the psychological sense.

Acid Valley Nomads turned out to be an excellent local band who played punchy garage rock with a hint of rock ‘n’ roll that occasionally put me in mind of Fat White Family in terms of their sound. As support bands go I felt that they were of the highest order and that I would happily go and see them headlining, which set bar high for the next band onstage, Ouzo Bazooka.

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Ouzo Bazooka hailed from Tel Aviv, and took to the stage wearing robes adorned with beads and icons that were entirely in keeping with their upbeat Mediterranean prog/psych sound that put me in mind of Goat and, to a lesser extent, Aphrodite’s Child.

The stand out element of the performance was definitely the wailing, droning keyboards of [name], along with the slightly manic drumming style of [name], whose quizzically amused expression frequently had me grinning along with him. The lead guitar and vocals were stylishly delivered by [name]

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For the uninitiated Os Noctambulos are the Paris-based garage rock band fronted by Nick Wheeldon, whose sound incorporates psych, surf and country rock. I remember thinking what a curious and seemingly mismatched bunch they appeared to be when I first saw them at Liverpool Psych Fest three years ago. Those thoughts were not so much dispelled as shattered by the band’s upbeat and attacking style, with Nick (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Valentin (lead guitar) barely restrained by the rhythm section Coline (bass) and Baldo (drums).ON4

Tonight Nick was initially to be found watching both the support bands from the front row, and it was really nice to chat about 39th & The Nortons, Os Noctambulos and the scene in general in between performances. He is a friendly, quietly-spoken chap and the contrast between his persona on and off stage was quite remarkable.

 

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And once again Coline’s confident, controlled bass and Baldo’s studiously compact and deceptively powerful drumming kept the guitarists in check, with Coline often looking beatifically off to the corner of the room as the boys let rip with infectious wailing, penetrating riffs and Baldo studiously thumped his kit in a powerful but compact manner.

 

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As you can probably imagine this was all pretty intense so it was nice when Baldo theatrically stepped out from behind his drums to fix a dodgy monitor, and Coline took a pragmatic step to her left along with her mic stand to avoid Valentin’s eratically swinging guitar neck, as the music took control and he surrendered to it, playing fiercely and adding a dangerous, anarchic layer to every song on stage right.

 

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Over on stage left Nick moved between his mic and his amp, passionately pouring out his songs of displacement, isolation and despair to us, or alternatively absorbing the intense sound of his own guitar direct from the source.

And finally, speaking of the sound, it was uniformly excellent, at no point too loud to be enjoyed, but always loud enough to fill the room and convey the full power of the music without any distortion.

A terrific night!

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Kozfest 2015

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I thought the six-month wait for commencing my Liverpool Psych Fest review was bad, then I discovered this lurking in the drafts folder! Oh well, let’s see what I can remember…

Kozfest has become a regular fixture in my calendar, and the same is true of all my friends who have made the pilgrimage to Deepest Darkest Devon for the tiny little festival that increasingly becomes more like a party for like-minded souls with a love of psychedelic/Kraut/space rock than a conventional festival.

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This year’s line-up lacked some the ‘must-see’ draws for me of previous years, but no matter, since my experience of of those previous years taught me that all of the bands would be eminently worthy of my attention and lift my spirits. However, the ones that did catch my beforehand were:

  • Here & Now
  • The Cult Of Dom Keller
  • Da Captain Trips
  • System 7
  • Sendelica,
  • Vert:x

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The weather did it’s best to put a damper on proceedings, but fortunately failed in its attempt. For sure there was the odd damp and muddy track, but there was also sunshine, lovely folk and great music, so who cares?

And speaking of the great music I arrived just in time to see vert:x play an ace set of punky space boogie, which is a pretty good way to kick off a festival that celebrates such things. This performance was notable over last year’s by the additional keyboard player in the lineup adding layers of space that allowed the rest of the band to really drive it home.

Dubbal_4_COL_1600x800_1The Cult of Dom Keller made a welcome return this year, leaving last year’s equipment hassles behind and laying down a punishing live set of entrancing, krautrocking dark psych is guaranteed to get feet shuffling in even the most statuesque punter.

Here & Now seemed to have really pulled everything together with this lineup, and with that cohesiveness and stability has allowed them to revisit some of the older songs, breathing new life into them and revealing new aspects which is nice for a band that I have been following on and off since the mid-80s.

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System 7 played a great headline set which was divided into two sections, their normal techno set and then Gong-inspired set featuring various special guests including Graham Clarke, in tribute to the then recently departed Daevid Allen, and which went down very well.

Sendelica put on a great show and it was good to see them back in full force after the previous year’s pared down appearance; as much as I enjoyed that, this is how I like to see Sendelica, bringing weirdness and power to the festival in equal measure!

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Kikagaku Moyo

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With none of the delicate noodling that preceded their last London show at The Lexington, Kikagaku Moyo launched straight into an upbeat set under the railway arches that define the small venue ay London Fields Brewery.

The near capacity audience was an interesting mix of young folks and old, who danced happily with the established fanbase smilingly knowingly while the the necomers grinned in amazement as the two lead guitars and the electric sitar soared up into the psychedelic stratosphere, atop the solid bass and drums.

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We were treated to a selection of songs from House In The Tall Grass, which sat comfortably alongside old favourites from previous albums, with several the songs building steadily until they erupted into full blown freak-outs that had us shouting our appreciation as they came to an end.

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The only downside for me was the number of people who were out to socialise and found the seemingly irrepressible need to shout their banal conversations over the music. It’s an age-old problem but I do wish they’d naff off outside where they could hear the music and talk to each other without the need to holler.

The merch stall did an excellent trade with CD and vinyl copies of the new album flying off the shelf, as well as posters and t-shirts. In fact I bought a t-shirt, promptly gave/threw it away, then naturally had to go and buy a replacement as I loved the design.

Still, that aside Kikagaku Moyo were amazing and I had a great (and somewhat chaotic) night amongst friends new and old that completely eclipsed any minor annoyances.

Tau

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I first encountered Tau’s folky drone on the superb first Fuzz Club compilation, and was therefore excited to see them on the bill supporting one of my favourite bands. In the flesh their sound was considerably less polished but no less exciting for that, with sparse pre-recorded rhythms overlayed by distorted semi-acoustic guitar and an interesting mix-and-match kit of of percussive instruments. The vocals, shared between the drummer and the guitarists, tended toward chants and utterances, and the songs combined all of these elements into entrancing, irresistible dances that made for an excellent warm-up for what was to follow.

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Electric Moon live at Electrowerkz, London, 13th May 2016

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There are great gigs, and then there are emersive, amazing, inspiring gigs. Can you guess which category Electric Moon’s appearance at Electrowerkz falls into? 🙂

Interestingly, having since heard a recording of the show, it was about more than just the music itself. I have been listening to Electric Moon for several years now and love their recorded work, but it was a combination of the audience, the venue, and of course Electric Moon’s stage presence that combined to make the unforgettable experience that had me wondering why it has taken me so long to see this band live.

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En route to the venue we spotted a couple of fellows who had to be going our way, and engaged them in a conversation that confirmed this before we all dived into a noisy near-by pub for cheap(er) drinks before we headed into the venue. They were jolly, like-minded types and this put us in a good mood when we finally made our way into the gloomy, post-industrial venue.

The support band Enos sounded pretty good from the bar, where I found myself chatting to various folks throughout their set, which may sound a bit rude, but beats chatting away while a band are playing in the same room like so many people do these days.

Anyway, after a while it became apparent that Electric Moon were coming onstage so we made our way into a fairly packed room and gradually danced our way to the front as the crowd thinned out throughout the 80-minute performance.

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We essentially got three numbers (jams I believe), each one building from humble beginnings into tumultuous, compelling numbers that saw me dancing from the beginning to the end, following the music’s  dence, unpredictable, twisting path as closely as I could, grining joyously, happy to be there in the moment that a unique psychedelic song snaked its way from string and skins and into our minds through the crystal clear sound system.

The set slipped by incredibly quickly and after the show the band graciously signed records and listened humbly to our happy praise, at the same time revealing themselves to be typical of the lovely generous artists who cater for our scene.

My advice to you is under no circumstances miss these guys because they are great live – even better than their impressive and highly sought-after records!

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Moon Duo Live at The Joiners, Southampton, 11th June 2016

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I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Moon Duo were coming to The Joiners and immediately grabbed a couple of tickets some time back. In the meantime I have been to a number of gigs (Electric Moon, Night Beats, and Cary Grace, to name but a few) and got to the point where I was wondering when I was finally going to see an average show or experience poor sound, as every show I have seen of late was excellent in both the quality of sound and the performance. Thankfully Moon Duo elected not to buck this trend and we had a great night of full on Krautrock the really gave me a new perspective on the band.

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We arrived early as I was after a copy of the Kikagaku Moyo / Moon Duo split 7″ tour single. Three mates asked if I could grab them copies and when I asked for four the merch guy could only find two, so I wonder if the luck that saw me grab the last tour CD-R at their last London show had held out, as there were none on display when I returned to the merch stall later either.

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The support were apparently Burning House, and, very much in line with those other shows I mentioned, they were an interesting and entertaining band of the sort that I’d be happy to see on the bill elsewhere with their powerful, droning Telescopic (sic) sounds setting us up nicely for the main act.

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Having bought my record I made a point of securing a spot right down the front, which afforded me the opportunity to take some pictures and dance myself silly as Moon Duo quickly found their stride and took us on a looping fuzzed out motorik journey, powered along by the incredible drummer, John Jeffrey, who, in making a riddle of the band’s name and making their drum machine redundant, has surely cemented his place alongside Erik Johnson and Sanae Yamada.

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In a delightful maze of droning guitar riffs, swirling synths and mehanically tight drums with Erik’s voice gently intoning the words, time passed incredibly quickly and I couldn’t even guess at the set-list as I was completely zoned out throughout the performance, occasionally taking pictures when the light permitted, or mostly dancing with abandon to the compelling rhythms.

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What started out as a side project for Wooden Shjips’ frontman Johnson has established itself as a superb band in its own right and, should the opportunity arise, you should make every effort to see them play!

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Night Beats live at The 1865, Southampton, 18th May 2016

NB10Having loved Night Beats’ Liverpool Psyche Fest performance back in 2013 I was both surprised and thrilled to discover that they were playing The 1865 club in Southampton, just 20 or so miles along the coast from where I live. I naturally alerted a good number of my friends and in the end 3 of us made it along to the (new to me) venue.

I got there just in time to see the first support band who had apparently improved throughout their set and certainly sounded pretty decent to me as they played their last 3 numbers. Next up were Melt Dunes, a band I’d previously seen supporting Back Bombaim last year at a woefully under attended gig at The Fat Fox in Portsmouth, and once again they put on a good turn although to my mind their style seemed to vary a little too much for consistent appeal.

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As they cleared their gear away and Night Beats set theirs up it became painfully apparent that this gig was going to suffer from a similar lack of local support to the aforementioned Black Bombaim show, as when they took to the stage there were about 50-60 people in a venue that looked like it comfortably hold 500. Unperturbed the band got stuck in to their stylishly delivered psych/garage rock set that consisted of a selection of tunes from the latest album, Who Sold My Generation, along with old favourites from their self-titled first album and Sonic Bloom.

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As with all of the gigs I have attended this year the sound was crystal clear and perfectly separated, which is how I want it, plus my earplugs stayed in my bag which indicates the levels were nowhere near as high as they were in Liverpool when I swear you could see the air shimmering on account of the face-melting.

Like their new album, this performance was far more confident and assured, and the subtleties that have crept into their music over last few years were also clearly audible in the well balanced mix.

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The crowd, thin as it was, tried to make up for the lack of numbers with noise and enthusiasm, and we must have been at least partially successful as we got an encore where a less professional and gracious band might have packed up and gone home.

I managed to chat with Lee Blackwell and Jakob Bowden and, despite their intense and moody appearance onstage, they turned out to be quietly spoken and and incredibly polite in the flesh, where they revealed that a new album was taking shape.

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