Friday, 15 January 2010

Commons the biffy!

Biffy Clyro became the first rock band to play the Houses of Parliament on Thursday, and yours truly witnessed it. The band played an intimate acoustic set to a selection of MPs, industry professionals and competition winners to celebrate Absolute radio achieving 50% of their audience...ah who cares why.

The biff played Mountains, Many of Horror, The Captain, Machines….all were absolutely awesome. It’s amazing to hear the songs stripped down and realise what the term “melodic” really means – when you turn of the distortion it still makes sense.

It was a really great night. Free booze and parliamentary canopes (including fish and chips in a cone!) and on top of that Frank Skinner pushed in front of me in the security queue, Dave Gorman let me through a door before him, I met Ben from the Biff at the urinals and shook Simon's hand in the Westminster entrance hall. As my friend said shortly after accidentally burping in Speaker of the Common’s Jon Bercow’s face:

“It’s probably the best Thursday night I’ve ever had.”

Pics are copyright of Jonny Garrett 2010

Guy Ritchie's House band sign to his new label

Tuesday saw the first official showcase of Guy Ritchie’s house band, The Punch Bowl Band, who have signed to Ritchie’s new label.

The Irish folk group played to a group of music professionals, executives and friends (including me) upstairs at Ritchie’s pub the Punch Bowl in Mayfair. Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics put in a brief appearance, but disappeared before the music actually started. Free food was laid out for the guests and the Guinness flowed freely, mostly put away by the band themselves.

The Punch Bowl Band have shot to fame after Ritchie set up Punchbowl records, a subsidiary Universal, solely to sign his house musicians. They now have their debut album Journey out on 1 March and a full UK pub tour being put together. It’s quite a turnaround for a house band that play together more out of accident than design.

Fiddle player Steve Mulhern says, “It only started because my friend asked me to cover a gig at the Punchbowl. I got some friends together and we played the night. At the end Guy [Ritchie] came up and said ‘Who are you and why aren’t you here every week? Are you free next Tuesday?’”

Since then the band have jammed with Justin Timberlake (who accordion player Daniel Gott said was the “quickest learner on a barrel drum I’ve ever known”) as well as Robert Downey Junior. More importantly Paris Hilton likes them. Horn and pipe player Brendan McAuley also worked on the soundtrack to Ritchie’s new film Sherlock Holmes with legendary film score composer Hans Zimmer. Such a history points to a bright future, but it is their more down to earth appeal that made Ritchie want to launch their career:

“It's exciting to venture into the world of the music industry. It's a tough place, but I've witnessed this band connect with people first hand. They have every chance of being embraced by a wider audience.”

The pub has had several battles with local residents who complain regularly about the pub noise levels. With the band going on tour, hopefully now they might get some peace.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Interview with Jon Morter the Rage in the Machine.

They say that you should never meet your heroes, so I didn't. I called him. Jon Morter, the man behind the Rage Against the Machine Christmas campaign, may not be everyones idea of a hero, but he certainly made my Christmas and for once stopped corporate culture pissing all over the masses. That's more heroic than I will ever be.

We chatted for about half an hour, and he came across as genuinely bemused by his new found status, delighted by people's reaction and childishly excited about the future.
His latest venture is a campaign to get Top of the Pops back to its weekly format. It's a much tougher task, but its the joy of trying that made the RATM campaign a real success. As he said:

“We thought if we got rage to number 1, let’s try something harder! Can we find enough people of the social networks to get TOTP back...yes I think we can! It’s definitely going to be a bigger challenge. How ever many people we get the BBC may still decide not to take the risk.”

The idea seems to make many people's eyes roll, but actually its a damned important campaign. We have no chart show whatsoever on TV - something noted by industry people like Mark Goodier, Paul Gambaccini and Dylan White.

"TOTP got me into lots of stuff I wouldn’t have known about. I remember watching White Snake when I was 7 and thinking, 'that’s good.' They weren’t pop and there wasn’t any internet back then so I couldn't have found them otherwise. It’s only X Factor that gives us a regular dose of music now. TOTP used to be the one stop off to see whats going on"

With a few format changes TOTP would make a very welcome return - particularly if the performances were live and the playlists a little more varied. Chart coverage no longer cuts the metaphorical mustard.

"I think a new show needs a new format, and amalgamate TOTP one and two – mix archive footage with live studio stuff. Why shouldn't Motorhead come after Leona Lewis?"

The campaign has started well, with a much quicker take up than the Rage Facebook group. Started at midnight on New Years Eve the group already has nearly 4,000 members and media the news has already hit the major papers (see my article in Music Week). In fact, our chat was cut short by Kerrang calling.

"THe last couple of weeks haven't really sunk in yet. I'm still working my way through the 7000 messages we received. The whole Rage thing isn't over yet. Simon Cowell has offered to take us out for a drink when he's next in London too."

I'm pretty sure it's Simon's round.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rage Against The Machine and how Facebook saved Christmas

So Rage actually did it. Well, Rage didn't, we did. Killing the name sold 50,000 more copies than the Climb - the competition wasn't even close.

The reality is sinking in. Not only did hundreds of thousands of people rebel against mass markets, advertising, reality TV and rich corporations but they gave themselves a voice. Most of the buyers have probably never had much of a say in who rules the charts, but they have one now and the effects will go down in history as shitty teenage music channels are forced to play the black sheep of christmas singles - 2009.

Will we be shopping for our Turkeys in M&S to the tune of Killing in the Name next Christmas? I sincerely hope so.

A fitting end to a decade governed by the public's lack of imagination and action, this is genuinely a victory. It shows the power of crowd consciousness and emotion, the relevence of online media, music's ability to unite and empower and the fact that underneath a very consumerist layer lie people that are genuinely individual.

A sentence I never thought I'd say: Facebook just saved Christmas.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Mars Volta live at the HMV Forum, Kentish Town

Isn’t it refreshing when a band plays their best tracks, rather than cramming their new material down your throat? The Mars Volta gave the audience a master class in crowd pleasing at on a God forsaken winter evening in London.

Opening with the heart thumping “Son et Lumiere” and “Inertiatic Esp”, the band took in all four albums during their mammoth two hour set. As expected plenty of that was spent watching the band jam away as if no one was watching, but these breaks only served to make the climaxes more exciting. “Goliath”, from their formidable “Bedlam in Goliath” album, was jarring – forcing you to move and sway to the Hispanic grooves. Stood at the top of some stairs I was mesmerised by the sea of heads and hands below, moving like sound waves towards me.

The band still tore the stage up, echoing their more legendary sets as At the Drive In, but this was a band in complete control of their irrepressible talent. Cedric’s vocal range was unbelievable and Omar was like Hendrix incarnate, his fingers a blur as he jammed away.

The set highlight was “Cicatriz Esp”, where a break down took 10 minutes to reform into the song’s finale. When it did, however, I have never heard or felt an ovation like it. In an industry where intention spans are getting shorter than ever, The Mars Volta are a reminder of how much patience can pay off.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

A dubstep Muse - What the world was waiting for?

You must check this band/man out - the music is simply stunning. Billed as a Dubstepping Muse (it really is the best way to describe it) and already tipped for the top, I would like to add my tip to that pile....

That sounded wrong.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Chrisgate - Why do we have to stick "gate" after every public airing of scandal?

In an inspired piece of article titling, the infamous (really?) Irish Times labelled a letter of complaint sent by Chris de Burgh "Chris de Burgh Sees Red". The paper then ruined this by calling the episode "Chrisgate".

The letter was in response to a review of his latest tour in Ireland, claiming that the writer was prejudiced. The truth is that reviewer, Peter Crawley, was prejudiced, but this is not the first time a musician has reacted to a bad review. This time it has hit the papers because...

a) because de Burgh has been so middle of the road for so long it's a miracle he hasn't been run over,
b) he is such a spanner it's a miracle no one has ever swerved to run him over,
c) because the Irish Times called it "Chrisgate".

To be fair the review is harsh, dismissive and breathtakingly prejudiced. Not once is the music mentioned, but constantly is de Burgh's short, pristine appearance and fondness for the crowd. It seems that it is not so much the music Crawley hates, but the man behind it. While the piece makes partially entertaining reading, it is a disgustingly lazy and predictable piece of journalism which leaves you in no way enriched, satisfied or vindicated. In fact it makes you like de Burgh a little more - surely not the point of the review.

De Burgh's letter is only slightly more mature, picking at critic cliches in the same way that Crawley does at middle aged, middle roaded pop stars. However, he manages to take the moral high ground by offering to meet and coming up with far more imaginative put downs (I particularly enjoy the part about Crawley "riffling through the garbage bins of despair".

Mr MOR as I like to refer to him is, of course, wrong in saying that Crawley was the only person at the concert that didn't want to be. I'd imagine none of the husbands did, but I bet at the end they went out singing "Spanish Train" or thinking of buying their wife a slutty red dress.

The horrible thing about MOR music, and the reason it sells well, is because deep down we all love it a little bit. The only exceptions are people that don't have anything "Deep down". Like most critics.

The review and response can be found if you click on this blogs title, or look at my previous post on a similar subject (but with a funnier title) by clicking here!