Royal Blood & Turbowolf in Pittsburgh, PA
Live Review - The Half Moon, Putney
When one member of a band goes out with a bunch of session musicians and plays the hits to smaller venues, it often becomes the target of scorn. That might be the best attitude for ‘From Boney M’, but not so for Saucerful of Secrets. As the only member of Pink Floyd to have played on every single one of the band’s releases, Nick Mason evolved with the band on the drumstool. From their psychedelic pop inception under Syd Barrett, through the concept album Roger Waters years and into the stadium-touring David Gilmour era, Nick saw it all. His drums sticks have not seen much action since the last Pink Floyd tour in 1994. 2005 saw the famous Live 8 reunion, and he’s cameoed now and then with David Gilmour. So it really was a surprise when he announced a series of four Pub venue gigs in London focussing on the early years of Pink Floyd.
The setting was the back room at The Half Moon in Putney, a wide and shallow room perfect for intimacy. In true Floydian spirit, the band’s appearance was preceded by 30 minutes of sound effects played loud over the PA system. To much affectionate hollering and applause, the band took the stage and launched into ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, possibly the archetype of the 1960s psychedelic song. The combined telecasters of Lee Harris (The Blockheads) and Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) sounded like snarling wild dogs as Mason demonstrated his unique rhythmic flair. This terrific opener blended almost seemlessly into ‘Astronomy Domine’, this time featuring harmonic vocals from bassist Guy Pratt (part of the Floyd ensemble since 1987), and Kemp.
Throughout the set the mainly male audience lapped up servings of refreshed deep cuts from the much lesser known Floyd albums. There were airings of songs never even played live by the original band themselves (See Emily Play, Point Me at the Sky), as well as instrumentals that just wouldn’t be part of a PF setlist (Obscured by Clouds, Saucerful of Secrets). What stood out to me was how, if Pink Floyd had ended in 1972, before Dark Side of the Moon, they would still be considered one of the world’s great bands. The fact they went on to become one of the world’s legendary bands meant that this rich seem of outstanding music has largely remained untouched by the band their constituent members. In 2016 EMI issued a compilation of remastered tracks and rarities from ‘67 - ‘72 and this was sort of the live show to compliment it. Songs like Arnold Lane, Fearless, The Nile Song, Green is the Colour and Bike all sounded technicolour and fresh by this slightly odd line up of musicians. I would never have thought a member of Spandau Ballet would work in a Pink Floyd side project - but Gary Kemp played deftly and was a pouting and engaging co-frontman with Pratt.
Nick Mason, undoubtably an elder statesman of the Rock fraternity, looked comfortable, dignified and engrossed in his playing. He spoke a couple of times to his audience to their delight and, for many there, made their musical year by dusting off a set of incredibly important, era-defining songs.
Syd Barrett has been gone since 2006 but disappeared from music in the early 70s after a breakdown. His music endures through new generations discovering its whimsical, playful lyrics and inventive, surprising music. The legacy he leaves, alongside the pedigree work his band mates went on to develop, is surely going to continue to intrigue and inspire many - and thanks to this project - it can be heard as it should be - live.
Contributor: Dave Griffiths / @davegriffithsmusic
Maybe it's a Boston thing; maybe it's a me thing. Either way, I'm probably a bit late to the game with this one, but I just stumbled upon (what I consider) a completely unique way to find new music.
A couple months back, I was talking to a friend about wanting to see more local music shows, and she mentioned the site Sofar Sounds. Although she hadn't managed to get on the waitlist for any events, she explained that she had heard great things about the shows, which are usually held in someone's home or office space and limited in the number of people that can attend. They are intimate and take a lot of the bullshit out of going to a live show (you are asked to not text while the bands are playing and encouraged to engage with the strangers around you). Thinking this could be a really interesting opportunity, I put myself in the running for tickets to all events in my area. Within a week or so, I got a response back that I'd been picked to attend a show at a secret location (to be announced the day before the event) in the Back Bay. I bought my ticket and anxiously awaited to hear more about the show. Eventually, I received the email telling me that the show was to be held in an office on the 6th floor of the John Hancock building and that there would be three bands playing that evening.
The night of the show, I got to the location early enough to get a great spot (sitting on the floor) right in front of the stage. Unfortunately, I might have come a bit too early, because people filed in after and ended up sitting in front of me. Fortunately, I was still able to see enough of the stage and was close enough to hear the bands clearly, as they wouldn't be using any microphones to project the music.
Once everyone was settled, the host announced the first band, Dan and the Wildfire. As soon as they started their first song, I could hear strong influences of Mumford and Sons. I'm not usually one to listen to much folk music, but there was something about their sound that really drew me in. The lead singer had a really strong presence and all of the guys harmonized beautifully, especially during the song "The Devil Came Calling," which I personally loved. The trumpeter was also extremely talented and blew me away with some of his solos (I don't often see live music with a trumpet, so I found this really cool). They closed out their set with "You Don't Wanna Know How It Feels," a beautiful piece about loss and love off their new EP, The River's Gonna Rise, Pt. 1. All in all, their soulful rock and roll sounds were a great way to start the evening.
The next artist to perform was Cliff Notez (he made sure to note that the "Z" was to avoid copyright issues). During his introduction, he mentioned that he was greatly influenced by racism and mental health issues when making his album, When the Sidewalk Ends. His performance was a mix of rapping, singing, and spoken word, touching on some current political issues (one song started with "f*ck the system, mother f*ck the system" and there may have been a strategically placed "f*ck Trump" thrown into a song or two). During the song "Good Riddance," he says that he has no more f*cks to give because he gave them all away yesterday, commenting on how exhausting it can be to constantly be fighting for something and that sometimes you just don't have anything left to give. He ended his set with a funeral-inspired song, "Lights Out" that incorporated the lyrics "Can't cut the lights out without starting a party," encouraging the audience to sing along with him. By the end of his performance, it was easy to see why he has been chosen to kick off the upcoming Boston Music Awards New Music Series.
After a quick break, the final act, The Novel Ideas, started playing. Although they were the second folk band to play that evening, they brought a completely different feel. Their sound was a bit more country that the first band, and their female lead singer's voice was (honestly) captivating. Whenever she started singing, I couldn't take my eyes off her and I was completely in awe of her voice, especially during the songs "I'm Not Waiting" (my personal favorite) and "Old Ways," where they encouraged the audience to sing along to the chorus. Fun aside: the fire alarm also went off twice while they were playing, and they legitimately didn't miss a beat (it was just a drill, not a real fire, so it was safe to do so).
So I'd have to say that my first Sofar experience was amazing. I came out of the show wanting to hear more from each band, and following each of them on Spotify. One thing that I absolutely loved about this show was the fact that all of the bands were all local, so if I wanted to catch them again, I could easily do so. I also didn't realize how many great bands there are in Boston, and I'm excited to start using Sofar to see more.
Contributor: Erin Duggan @mysocalledsemiadultlife
Dan and The Wildfire
The Novel Ideas
When I was in my early-20s, my roommate introduced me to a local band, Lannen Fall. She somehow knew all the guys and we would frequently go see their live shows. This was probably the first point in my life where I was really getting into music and the idea of seeing live performances was still novel to me. I thought it was so cool that a local band had an album that I could buy on iTunes (this was pre-Spotify) and play over and over again. Honestly, I probably listened to their first album, Stories, hundreds of times. I knew all the words and could sing along with we went to their gigs. I guess I might have been considered a bit of a fangirl at that time.
Over the years, people grew up and parted ways, and while I no longer speak to that roommate, I still listen to the Lannen Fall album (now on my Spotify playlist) when I'm feeling nostalgic. I recently noticed that they dropped the "Fall" and now go by just Lannen, so when I saw that they were going to be doing a live show near me, I was excited to get the opportunity to hear what they sound like now.
After taking a brief hiatus and getting a new bassist, the guys from Lannen put out a new album, Anchor & Chain, last year. Inspired by bands like Jimmy Eat World, Kings of Leon, Biffy Clyro and Foo Fighters, the nine songs on the new album sound markedly different than their old album. Besides the fact that they have all matured musically and lyrically, the new album has a much different feel from their older songs. Also this time around, they all contributed to the writing process, with each of them having a larger part in the creation of certain songs.
Knowing that their new music was so different from their old songs, I was really interested to see how their live show changed over the years. The band used to tour for periods of time years ago and amassed a fairly large following of fans. The shows I would see in my 20s were packed full of people who would dance and sing along to all their songs, and I wondered if the same group would be at their "Lannen's Luau - See Ya Later, Winter" show.
I got to the venue, Bill's Bar near Fenway Park, while the guys were setting up for their sound check. After some catching up and getting suckered into helping decorate the bar (I ended up blowing up a dozen or so inflatable beach balls and palm trees), the opening bands (Nick and the Adversaries and Major Moment) started the night off and people began to filter into the bar. By 9pm, Lannen was getting ready to start their set and a large gathering of people had settled at the front of the stage. The started off with the upbeat Seasons and people immediately started to get into the music. Just like I remembered from years before, their fans were completely absorbed in the songs. By the time they got to Brooklyn Summer, most of the crowd was now singing along and batting around beach balls. Even if you'd never heard the songs before, it's hard to not get pulled into the music and sing/dance along. The second half of the set started with the slower set Waiting Wolf and the bluesy/indie rock ballad Anchor & Chain, before picking back up with The Songs We Never Sung. (Talking with the guys later on, I found out that this was the song that the lead singer was most proud of, and the one they band first started with once they began writing the new album.) After playing If I Can’t Fix You No One Can, the band then closed out the night with the fan favorite Thank You while the crowd loudly sang along. All in all, it seemed like everyone in the audience thoroughly enjoyed the show.
So was Lannen as good ten years later?
Actually, I think they are better. And I'm not just saying that because I know them. I legitimately enjoy their new music as much (if not more) than their old album. Since seeing them perform, I've downloaded Anchor & Chain on Spotify and have listened to it multiple times. There is a weird sense of nostalgia that I get listening to it, although the album is only a year old and truly sounds different from their first album. And they definitely still know how to put on a good show. I wasn't expecting everyone there to know all the lyrics and be so into the songs, but it was an amazing feeling to be around that kind of energy. To have fans that stick with you for over ten years is seriously a feat, and I can honestly say that their show has rejuvenated this former fangirl's interest.
At this time, Lannen will be performing around New England/New York, promoting Anchor & Chain before getting started on their next album. Listen here:
Jay Tagg - Vocals, Guitar
Ryan Mercedes - Guitar, Vocals
Dennis Walsh - Bass
Matt Wishnack - Drums
Contributor: Erin Duggan @mysocalledsemiadultlife
Like so often is the way, I didn’t fully appreciate Gerry until I saw him live for the first time. And that will do it. You can not listen to his album, Erratic Cinematic, without seeing Gerry’s beaming smile and hearing the audience's football like chants that follow him wherever he strums that guitar. The album is a back of the van journey from town to town, sell out show to sell out show. His vocals are like pitched harmonics as they double up and collide on tracks such as What Have You Done and Belter (great name for a song). I am now a Gerry Cinnamon fanboy. Don’t miss out seeing him in a small venue before you’re too far back to see that infectious smile up close.
Contributor: Matt Spracklen / @MattSpracklen
An all female trio from LA, Muna sit somewhere between The 1975 and Haim, combining emotive lyric and nostalgic electronic pop. More mournful in tone than most of their synth-pop contemporaries and employing more guitar - songs such as Winter Break and So Special show an emotional depth. But there's hopeful bounce in radio hits like I Know a Place and Loudspeaker. Muna are obviously an intelligent pop outfit that should be around for years to come. This album is an impressive debut and should be best enjoyed as a whole listening journey.
Contributor: Dave Griffiths / @davegriffithsmusic