When I was eleven I made a new friend. He decided we should start a band and gave me a cassette tape. On one side was ‘Dookie’ by Greenday and on the other was ‘Restraining Bolt’ – the debut LP from Ben Kweller’s first musical project Radish, a band he started at the age of twelve!
Needless to say Radish were awesome, our band, less so. Now Kweller is all grown up, married to the eponymous ‘Lizzy’ with two kids. He is a bonafide genre spanner, over the years producing punchy Radish-esq rock/pop albums as well as more low key acoustic and piano filled records, and even a full blown country effort.
Taking to the stage at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, Kweller is reminiscent of a Woodstock era Arlo Guthrie, if Guthrie had been an extra in Wayne’s World. He is a charmer and his fairly new band is mega tight. He seems so comfortable and at ease with the audience you can tell he’s grown up in front of a crowd.
The set list reads like a lovely tapas dinner with a couple of delish morsels from every album. Highlights include the whole crowd joining in for a raucous rendition of Wasted and Ready, performed after the band down their halftime jägers. Plus a little acoustic set of requests including Drug Buddy – a cover of the great Evan Dando and a nod to the guy who gave him one of his first support slots.
Ben Kweller is like the cool older cousin who lives abroad and you only see at the occasional family get together, the kind that tells you about a band that will change your life and sneaks you a shot or two when you’re thirteen. You worry that the next time you see him he will have changed, but actually he just keeps getting better.
We’ve heard Haim described as “three sisters – like Hanson, but with Destiny Child’s dance moves”. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but their Californian blend of folk-pop and R&B honestly really, really works.
With shows at Camden’s Dingwalls and the Roundhouse already under their belts, the band are returning to London next Wednesday with a show at KCLSU. Haim are destined for some serious hype, but it will be with good reason. They’ve already caught the attention of big name British acts, having supported both Mumford & Sons and Ellie Goulding, and with dates lined up to open for Florence and the Machine in December.
Their one EP Forever showcases three slam-dunking tunes, each one better than the last, and there are enough YouTube performances out there to suggest they’ve got plenty more of these beauties lined up in their back pockets. This was our soundtrack of choice pedalling around Venice Beach earlier in the year, and it’s just as delicious back home. We’ll be front row next week – we suggest you are too.
It was with a slight sense of apprehension that I headed down to Koko to see M. Ward play Camden on the last night of his European tour.
I had been a genuine fan of his breakthrough album ‘Post-War’ back in 2006, but was markedly less enthused by his twee and rather restrictive She & Him collaborations with Zooey Deschanel, and his latest offering ‘A Wasteland Companion’ released earlier this year. Would he stick to his new material or would I get to enjoy a nostalgic trip down a musical memory lane?
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. M(atthew) Ward treated us to a healthy dose of songs both old and new, peppered with a few happy surprises.
BittersweetPoison Cup and Chinese Translation were both honoured and elicited delighted cheers from the crowd. Tracks from the new album such as Primitive Girl and Sweetheart that had previously left me cold thankfully came to life on stage, and I was left with a greater appreciation for the record once Ward had shown us how they were meant to be played. A couple of unexpected covers were thrown in for good measure, including Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven and a perhaps overly syrupy rendition of anti-folk hero Daniel Johnston’s Story Of An Artist.
The sweetly husky voice that draws you into his recordings was just as seductive live, and left us wondering exactly how he manages to perfect the gritty yet oh-so smooth vocal combo – I reckon if it was breakfast it would be a slice of burnt toast drenched in honey, except rather than tasting better than it sounds it would sound better than it tastes…
Ward’s lack of on-stage chat and genre-spanning set make him a tricky man to pin down, but his genuine love of music shone throughout the show as he and the band delivered a schizophrenic smattering of country, blues, rock and sturdy folk songs. Whoever he is and whatever he is about, I hope he sticks with what he excels in – showcasing his gorgeous voice with the help of some good solid tunes.
We first came across Kyla La Grange in Camden over a year ago, and have been keenly monitoring her progress ever since. Kyla boasts all the ingredients you’d expect to see from the next female success story on London’s music scene – the guitar-toting beauty does a great line in gothic folk, delivered with nymph-like tippy-toe charm.
She already has three epic releases under her belt plus an album lined up for July, and now she’s capturing the imagination of the national music press with a headline slot at the Guardian blog’s New Band of the Day gig at the Barfly on Thursday 14 June. If you’re looking for just one night out in Camden this week, make it this show. Kyla’s barefooted performances are guaranteed to get you in the mood for the summer festival season, and she’ll be supported by more new favourites including We Were Evergreen and Seasfire.
If Edward Scissorhands had got himself a successful hand transplant and swapped his outrageous snipping skills for guitar picking, I think he would bear more than a slight resemblance to Jack White.
It’s Monday the 23rd of April, and Jack White is marking the release date of his new album ‘Blunderbuss’, by playing his first ever UK gig as a solo artist.
White is touring with two bands. One all male, and one all female. He enters the stage tonight surrounded by women and promptly explodes into the White Stripes classic Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground. The band encircling the wiry-haired dervish consists of a piano, a violin, a backing vocalist, a pedal steel, a double bass and a particularly fantastic drummer.
The gig plays like a Jack White retrospective. Songs from the new album are juxtaposed with old classics from The White Stripes and The Racontours as well as his work with Dangermouse.
Highlights included a face-melting rendition of the solo heavy Ball and a Biscuit, immediately followed by the two and a half minute storm in an eggcup that is Sixteen Saltines. By the time the inevitable Seven Nation Army rolled around the entire audience was singing along with the riff like a crowd of plaid clad football hooligans.
A more comprehensive tour of the UK is scheduled for the summer. Get a ticket. Or get two and see him play with the boys as well.