Posts Tagged ‘Live Gig’

Originally published in London Student Newspaper December 2011.

In an interview prior to the concert, Capdown bassist Boob told us how this was a “back to our roots tour”, warning us to expect “Sweat, thrash, double time… more of the older, quicker stuff”. He was not exaggerating.

After a warm up show at the Purple Turtle across the road consisting of sets from Tyrannosaurus Alan, Anti Vigilante and Jonny One Lung (of Filaments fame) amongst others, excited fans stream into the large-capacity Koko. Unlike most concerts, the venue is already filling up nicely right from the beginning, providing the first support band JB Conspiracy with an ample audience. They kick proceedings off successfully with their familiar style of energetic ska, effectively demonstrating why they were chosen as a last-minute replacement for Mouthwash. They were soon followed with a raucous set from UK street punkers The Filaments, executing their more memorable tracks from What’s Next with bounding style and energy. As they departed, the crowd swelled intensely in anticipation of The Skints.

The boys from MK - ska at its finest!

The Skints, fronted by multi-instrumentalist Marcia Richards, provided necessary respite from the punk fuelled pits so far. But that is not to say that the audience were given time to relax. Instead we are treated to an impressive offering of reggae and dub, giving us an opportunity to dance the night away. Although deliciously varied, the magical combination of tonight’s support bands manages to create an atmosphere ideal for the headliners, UK ska veterans, Capdown. If you take the best of everything on show so far: the bouncy brass of JB Conspiracy, the thrashy punk of The Filaments and the melodic reggae of The Skints, then you may begin to understand what Capdown are about.

The boys from Milton Keynes close their tour having played various dates in the UK, including successful billings at Reading and Leeds festivals. They take to the stage looking somewhat unassuming, but everyone here knows what they are about to witness.  Having clarified that this will be the band’s last show for a while at least, expectations are almost impossibly high but somehow they manage to surpass them with typical ease. In a high octane set Capdown give the audience exactly what they are here to see. In fact, lead singer and saxophonist Jake proudly declares that “We like to think we are nothing if not predictable”, before caving in to the audiences chants for crowd-favourite ‘Ska Wars’. Audience satisfaction is the name of the game,  the band delivering all of their iconic tracks including ‘Cousin Cleotis’, ‘Pound for the Sound’ and ‘A – Political Stand of Reasons’, the latter accompanied by a vicious wall of death, Jake firmly rooted in the middle. Each song is executed with traditional Capdown fervour, the boys far from stationary throughout the show. Showing nothing of their aging over the last 10 years since the release of Civil Disobedients, they masterfully own what can easily be an overshadowing stage.

Jake packs some sax!

Aside from the musical proficiency on offer, the night is not without its comedy. At one point, Jake assumes the role of Busted frontman Charlie Simpson, commanding “I am your monobrowed leader”, soon dropping into sing along classic ‘Bitches and Nike Shoes’. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the evening comes just before the band belted out ‘Faith No More’, the opening track from Pound for the Sound. All four members gathered together to take a group photo in front of the capacity audience. Having filled out Koko, no mean feat especially when they are, in their own words, “a band that doesn’t really exist”, Capdown clearly haven’t let fame go to their heads. With no ego or pomp, the personal gratification of playing live is evident from start to finish. They obviously cherish every opportunity they have to play amongst fans and friends alike, emphasised significantly by their notable absence of late. Having witnessed Capdown play live over the last 10 years there is one thing that remains consistent in their sets: Raw energy as a product of intense personal excitement. It’s this very reason why they have managed to retain such a loyal following, and we sincerely hope that they will be back for more sometime soon.

The Zelda franchise is perhaps one of the most respected and well-loved in all of gaming history. This is due to a number of recurring factors in the large catalogue of games, perhaps most notably the astounding soundtracks. I don’t know anyone who likes Zelda but is not completely enamoured by the emotive soundtracks that accompany the games.

Last year loyal fans were given the opportunity to hear these magical songs performed by a full symphony orchestra to celebrate 25 years of Zelda. If you weren’t lucky enough to attend the very exclusive one off date in the UK then have no fear as a second set of concerts have been announced.

Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses has been confirmed for a US tour across 2012! Does this mean we can expect a European tour in 2013? I bloody well hope so!

You can read an interview with Jeron Moore, Producer of Symphony of the Goddesses by clicking on this Link. Link, geddit?

If that’s whet your appetite, but saddened you because you missed the 25 Anniversary tour then why not pick up Skyward Sword – if you haven’t already – as it contains a commemorative tour CD! Yayyyy!

Alternatively, watch this:


 

Made of win.

Last night my lovely girlfriend took me to see Stewart Lee in his new stand up show Carpet Remnant World at the Leicester Square Theatre. I’ve been a fan of Lee since I was very young, following his career from the days of Fist of Fun and This Morning with Richard not Judy, so was amply excited to be seeing him live for the first time.

Clearly Stewart Lee’s comedy stylings have made significant transitions over the years, abandoning his collaboration with Richard Herring (although they invariably still refer to each other in their solo stand up), securing himself as Britain’s most controversial comedian. This controversy isn’t a product of vulgar or politically incorrect material – although this does form some of his stand up – but his arrogant, self-promoting comedic style. Lee has always come across as a very self-assured comedian. His material consistently displays a weight of intellect that he is clearly proud of whilst often dealing offensive blows to rival ‘lesser’ comedians. Despite seeming pompous and proud on stage, his satirical japery always seemed artificial, like an act. I’m sure he is proud that his sets promote a level of intelligence and an awareness of current affairs; I’m certain that he does indeed feel that his comedy manages to transcend the ‘low brow’ comedy of some commercial stand ups. Lee has long been the darling of the fringe comedy scene but, importantly, he never genuinely appeared to believe his own hype. Until now….

Carpet Remnant World described in three words: Elitist. Offensive. Laboured.

But aren’t these also three particularly apt words to describe how Stewart Lee’s act has always appeared? They are indeed, it’s just that in his most recent show they no longer seem like elements of an act. Instead, they are so fervently present that they create a show that above all doesn’t work but worse still portrays a comedian that has a genuine disdain for his audience.

Let’s dissect:

1. Elitist: As described above, Stewart Lee has long promoted his work as an antidote to commercial stand up and observational comedy. He often demonstrates that his style of comedy is superior to others, that he is some kind of comedic anti-hero destroying the established regime in favour of a comic style with a greater depth of intelligence and socio-political reference beyond the grasp of the common man.

This is true, to an extent. His comedy is certainly more challenging than a lot of comedians on the circuit currently. Unequivocally, there is a subtlety, an ambiguity to his stand up lending itself to a more ambivalent, thought-provoking show. It’s just that in Carpet Remnant World it seems that this has somewhat got to the head of Stewart Lee. He is incessantly snobby about alternative forms of comedy – in his eyes, lesser forms – such as commercially celebrated observational comic acts like Peter Kay and Russell Howard, rather championing his own ‘high brow’ comedy intellectualism to the point of narcissism.

Interestingly though, despite his constant criticism and perpetual self-aggrandisement, the biggest and most consistent laughs of the night came from a repeated impression of Scooby Doo. How does that irony sit with you Mr Lee?

Moreover, Stewart Lee seems genuinely bitter about winning two British Comedy Awards (for Best Male Television Comic and Best Comedy Entertainment Program), driving him to attack those that he considers beneath him intellectually. Not only is this an ungrateful slap in the face of the panel who selected him (including comedic actor and director Reece Shearsmith and the commissioning editors for Sky, Dave and Comedy Central, to name but a few) but in his outbursts he further condemns the fan base he has developed as a result of his BBC Comedy Vehicle. I appreciate that he does not seek commercial success, rather he would prefer to comfortably sit on the fringe with his comedy morals intact, but how can you publicly criticise anyone that has shown you support without any sense of gratitude. In an interview with the Guardian’s Emine Saner, Lee was asked whether he was at all jealous of millionaire comedians like Michael McIntyre. Here is his response –

“Not really. I wouldn’t want that level of recognition. It’s quite difficult as a comic if you’re that famous to know whether people are laughing at you or whether they’re just excited about seeing someone famous in a football stadium. It’s hard to go badly under those circumstances, and going badly is a big part of what I do”.

Perhaps this explains why he appears to have such a problem with the recognition he has received of late. There is a simple solution though: don’t do a comedy show as part of a primetime BBC schedule. If you are so profoundly opposed to any sign of commercial success then ensure that you remain in relative obscurity, by playing only to low level crowds up and down the country. No Comedy Vehicle = no awards.

2. Offensive. Again as discussed above, Stewart Lee is known for his offensive attacks, not just against rival comedians but his audience also. Readily he delves into a seemingly ill-prepared joke which insults a local stereotype of the location he is playing in. For example, in Stand Up Comedian, filmed in Glasgow, he regularly insults the Scottish with a combination of regional stereotypical opinion and an attack on Scottish heritage. Yet, Lee always had the wit to carry it off in a way that reveals its artifice. The jokes are not needlessly offensive, supported by a degree of intellect and a structural preparation that engages the audience, allowing them to see past the overt, explicit insults.

However, in Carpet Remnant World these insults are much more personal supporting the idea that the show is no longer an act. Throughout the set Lee repeatedly criticises people for not understanding certain jokes, implicitly labelling them as inferior for having less of an intellectual capacity. He even sought to divide the room into sections, those that got his material and those that were simply there as a result of his new heralded, British Comedy Award, fame. These insults were not subtle, such as those witnessed in previous shows. They were so frequent and delivered with such bitterness that they were beyond tacit, satirical digs. At times the show had the impression of a witch hunt, scanning the audience for people who weren’t laughing as to belittle their intelligence, to the point of discomfort. I genuinely believe that there were some people in the room who laughed defensively, who smiled along so as to gain the approval of an elitist comic. This then has interesting implications on Lee’s aforementioned response – “It’s quite difficult as a comic if you’re that famous to know whether people are laughing at you or whether they’re just excited about seeing someone famous in a football stadium” ….. or laughing out of fear of embarrassment.

As observed above, Lee was also highly critical of his comic rivals, in particular the Russells, (Howard, Kane and Brand) and Michael McIntyre. He audaciously knocks their comedy successes making it clear that their brand of energetic observational comedy is inferior to his. With this is mind, who is Lee really chastising, the comedians or their fans? Inherently he is rebuking the fans for their poor taste in comedy – in his opinion. As Guy Stagg of the Telegraph puts it, “But McIntyre is not the real object of this scorn. It is the people who find him funny. The people who are so unsophisticated that they laugh at observational comedy. Because comedy snobbery is just a vehicle for other, more poisonous forms of snobbery.” Shockingly, Lee has selected a quote from this damning article to advertise his show. This choice denotes an intensely obnoxious pride, one which is heavily misplaced.

Stewart Lee is often described as a left wing comedian, and with his regular dissection of the Tory party, David Cameron in particular, it is easy to see why this is. He certainly appears to align himself with the left, yet his style of comedy is inescapably right wing. It is not inclusive, it is very much elitist, seeking to undermine those that don’t fit in with his intellectual ideals. Once again I am amazed that he so comfortably seeks to repel his fans who have dispensed with time and money to see his show. I know it’s not very anti-establishment but he should certainly feel privileged.

3. Laboured. Stewart Lee’s material has often seemed very laboured, full of hesitation, repetition and self-reference. This has always been part of its charm though, as you see how disparate thematic material is eloquently drawn together by the end of the show. His delivery is slow paced, with recurring repetition for emphasis, especially of particularly important thematic references. Yet, in Carpet Remnant World Lee’s jokes are far too laboured. His hesitation is such that it damages the fluidity of the show, but worse still there is simply not enough material, a fact he happily reiterates throughout the night. Lee constantly refers to the fact that he hasn’t had time, nor the experiences to create an interesting comedy set, instead spending the last year looking after his 4 year old son and driving around the North Circular. I gather this is supposed to be subversive whilst preparing the way to eventually disprove this statement. However, he is not able to successfully achieve this as his initial statement is quite true; there is not enough material in the show. As such, he relies too heavily on repetition, which only serves to damage the quality jokes he does have; a prime example of this is the Scooby Doo based ‘jungle canyon rope bridge’ skit, which started on a hilarious high but unfortunately ended disastrously as it was continuously redelivered in needless iterations.

I fully understand the set’s closing metaphor too, which seeks to unite Stewart Lee’s meandering themes into a final conclusion with the show’s supposedly ironic title. He compares his set to the characteristics of a Carpet Remnant World, of taking snippets of ragbag material and combining them with a sensitivity and artistry that somehow manages to create a satisfying whole. But it didn’t…. It really didn’t. His set did not come together as a satisfying whole, as he promised early in the show. Alternating sections seemed disparate at best, and a typical Lee-esque cohesion was never really achieved, leaving the audience feeling somewhat lost.

By now Lee devotees out there may well be thinking that I’m the Russell Howard loving, comedy philistine that he so fervently seeks to alienate in his show. Patently that is not the case though. The problem isn’t that I didn’t ‘get’ his jokes. It wasn’t that they were above my head. I fully understand his side swipe at lower forms of comedy. His reference to Boyle’s law, his retelling of a joke in French, his attack on those comedians that end a set with a solemn personal story – clearly references to Frankie Boyle, Eddie Izzard and Richard Herring respectively. And I in fact share his disliking of Michael McIntyre’s and Russell Howard’s particular brands of comedy. He just does it in such a way that is far too explicitly offensive, only serving to insult the audience members that may well enjoy them.

To end this rant I will refer to one last joke from Stewart Lee’s set, one which I feel entirely encapsulates what was wrong with it. Halfway through the show he criticised Ricky Gervais for becoming as arrogant and offensive a person in actuality as his act entailed. This was the bitterest irony of the night, completely highlighting that he himself has undergone a similar process. His set was clearly no longer an act; there was patently a genuine dislike for his audience, combined with a pretentious feeling of superiority.

Stewart Lee. Elitist, offensive, laboured. Oh and hypocritical, mustn’t forget that.

A few days ago, I manged to pick up a last minute ticket (from Last Minute Dot Com – duhhh) to see the UK’s foremost Jewish Beatboxer, Shlomo.

Staged in Waterloo’s Royal Festival Hall (in the smaller Purcell Room mind, he’s not that big!), in a seated only venue, it was not the traditional atmosphere for a beatboxing set. Having watched the show however, it was perfectly suited to this particular beatboxer.

Personally, my lasting impression of the show is that is seemed very, very middle class. Now maybe that says more about my own particular standpoint than the actual show, or maybe it’s a combination of the location and crowd (there was a couple approaching their 50’s who were proper feeling it. They were bopping their heads and tapping their knees the whole way through, especially during the Dubstep tunes!) Shlomo certainly embraces this representation though, bolstering it with a somewhat geeky dress sense in thick glasses and a spiffing jumper, and awkward Napoleon Dynamite-esque movements on stage. He wasn’t helped by a late collaboration with 2 time Vauxhall UK Beatbox Champion Reeps One whose style and flow made him look all the more poncy. The duet was apparently unplanned, which Shlomo chose to describe as “organic, dahhrllinng”. Ok, so I may have ad libbed the last bit.

Despite how negative the last paragraph sounds, it must be said that I don’t feel this ‘middle class’ representation really damaged the show. There is no question that Shlomo is an extremely talented beat boxer. He has a very developed ability but so much greater is the creativity he displays. Throughout the show he dropped various different musical styles, ascending the brassy heights of Jazz down to the bassy depths of Dubstep. He also delivered some impressive covers, including the Jackson 5 classic ‘I Want You Back’ and the Eurythmics ‘Sweet dreams’. Each cover was delightfully varied and executed with a panache that ensures he will not be forgotten any time soon. He even brought with him  some kind of mini harp, which he twanged alongside some breathy beatboxing. The most impressive element in my opinion though, was a discussion of how much bass effect is lost through the throat when beatboxing. To remedy this, Shlomo took out a second mic and placing it to his throat managed to capture a powerful bass sound whilst dropping a melody with his lips and tongue. Absolutely jaw dropping.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that Mouthtronica was not just a beatbox set, instead forming an introduction to beatboxing and the techniques used. Shlomo opened the show discussing the 10 factors that combine to create a beatbox, including teeth, lips, loopstations and crowd participation. The latter two were used particularly well. As a World Loopstation Champion (a fact he regularly reiterated to the crowd), Shlomo is well suited to demonstrating the artful use of this technology. Throughout the show, he layered samples of his own voice using a loopstation, creating entire songs with a real depth of character. At one point he recorded some voice samples from audience members in the front row, and at another the cheers and claps of the crowd, using them both to create interesting tunes.

You see, Shlomo’s show was much more than just a simple beatboxing set, in fact in places it had the character of an interesting, musical lecture. Unfortunately though, a simple beatboxing set was what I hoping for. I expected a raucous, booze fuelled crowd, dancing the night away. Instead it was a much more civilised affair. The most disappointing part of the evening was the length. It was only a lacklustre hour show, for £30! Luckily we managed to get 50% off on Last Minute. Unluckily for Shlomo, this strict time frame meant that his show was scrutinised far more.

In Mouthtronica, Shlomo demonstrated that he attempts to be much more than a beatboxer. He introduces himself very much as a comedian and a story teller, both of which he is successful at…. for the most part. It’s just that with a show so short I would rather hear another few tracks instead of listening to you tell a dreary story about how you used to belly dance for your extended family as a child. I applaud the premise, in wanting to offer an all round entertainment show, one which seeks to engage those that aren’t necessarily into hiphop or beatboxing – a goal he clearly achieved. It’s just that by diluting his show in this way, Shlomo has only served to alienate those that are there for the core reason: the music.

Shlomo: He’s a Beardyman for the middle classes. Talented, articulate, with a smashing cardi. For me, the night was epitomised by the Jeffrey/Christine Archer-alikes bopping away and although I shared no affinity with them, they were bloody hilarious. Huzzah!

For anyone that read my review of Life’s Too Short, you will be aware of how much I adore the co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

Mr Gervais has already plunged into stand-up comedy, forming another successful string on his comedy bow (to a point…. Fame began what was a downward spiral in his live shows. Animals and Politics were incredible. They were clever, thought provoking and above all, hilarious. Ricky certainly deployed a comical egotism in these shows, which was very likeable, but somehow in later tours it no longer seems like an act. He has become Brent, offensive and arrogant, but worse still, the shows suggest a laziness and complacency that can accompany award-winning success. He introduced Animals as a ‘lecture’, and it certainly had the feel of one, just hosted by the cool, young teacher in school. You leave the show having learnt something, a testament to Gervais’ comic writing and intelligence. But in his last 2 shows, you don’t. They didn’t really seem structured and barely skimmed their relative subject matters – Fame, for example, barely dipped a comic toe into the trials of being famous, a subject vast in scope and its potential for comedy).

Smooth operator...

Enough ranting…. It seems about time that Stephen Merchant took a punt too. I’ve always found him hilarious. He has proven time and time again, especially over the course of the XFM shows, that his Bristolian vowels and proficient improvisational ability are perfectly suited to the comedy circuit. However, a feeling of trepidation also felt entirely natural when I heard about the prospect of a live show. I mean, this man has been involved in the comedy industry for the best part of 15 years and only now is he getting involved in stand-up (this is not entirely true. Having committed myself to some research – or in other words, reading his Wiki page – I see that his career actually started in stand-up, although in his own words, it didn’t really set him on the path to stardom, “The first week I did really well …The second week I died on my arse. I realised that stand-up was not that easy after all.”) He certainly looks comical, with his squinty eyes and lanky 6ft 7″ frame, a physicality which he uses very effectively in the show combined with a close range camera and a big screen! He is also patently a very established comedy writer, but I was intrigued to see how well he could transfer his penchant for situational comedy to stand-up.

I was not let down.

First I must say what a tragedy it is that his tour sold so badly. We actually managed to obtain free tickets for the night, seemingly alongside many others up in the circle, for answering a simple question on See Tickets’ Twitter page (it was actually my girlfriend that did it <3). Having been asked a few hours before we (she) even saw the question, we really thought that there was very little chance of bagging free entry. To our toothy-grinned surprise though, See Tickets were not just giving out one set but multiple. Even better, they were simply tweeting the same download code to every ”winner” which was therefore visible to everyone! (Was this an administrative error, or a sign of how nonexclusive these tickets were?) We didn’t even need to enter the competition to obtain our seats! So my lovely purple-headed girlfriend clicked on the link and got us our tickets. Unlucky to everyone who paid £35 a pop to sit in the stalls, including my brother, ouch, sorry bro.

Watch a clip of the show below, as Stephen talks about venn diagrams….


It’s a real travesty that the show sold so poorly. I put it down to the fact that he has been marketed as Gervais’ sidekick, an almost anonymous face in comparison, when really he is a successful comedy creator in his own right. It must be really disheartening to Stephen Merchant, perhaps forming an insecurity about creating another tour in the future. I sincerely hope not because the show was great! Significantly, it’s his insecurity that makes him, and the show, so loveable. Stephen is innately awkward, bumbling around stage (apt considering his gaming cameo as the voice of Wheatley in Portal 2), much like his character Oggy ‘Nathan’ Ogmonster in The Office. This personality trait is even reflected in his management of heckles – as one unfair patron shouted that “No one gives a shit”, he charmingly responded with an almost childlike defensive torrent of “Just leave it mate”. In fact, the show is really devoted to this insecurity. ‘Hello Ladies’ refers to Merchant’s difficult search for a partner, with the content of the show detailing his struggles, from the obstacle of his height to the dangers of sexual endeavours.

Merchant is particularly likeable as a comedian. His delivery, accent and tone are all very engaging, supported by pacey and well-constructed jokes. He even ended the night on an impromptu reimagining of a play he wrote in school, entitled ‘Choices’. Although I felt that it dragged on somewhat, and would probably be more memorable if it was cut half way through, it was a brave success. Not many comedians would risk bringing on two strangers to perform with him on his first tour. The skit was thoroughly enjoyable, demonstrating a naivety of script and such a hilariously superficial treatment of potent social issues that it was believable as a childhood play. For me this was the real mark of its success, not only was it consistently funny, it was entirely feasible as a real play he wrote as a teenager.

It’s a bit of a spoiler but see the play below:


Generally, I have nothing but praise for the show, a very pleasant surprise indeed. However, I did have a few minor quibbles. Unfortunately, you can’t help seeing Ricky Gervais in his performance. There is a very similar style of delivery to many of his jokes that is inescapably Gervais. Although it still worked perfectly, I cannot help but think that he is doing himself a disservice by not distancing his act from his comedy partner. In fact, Stephen actually declares in Hello Ladies that a significant reason for doing the show in the first place was to get away from Gervais! Moreover, Merchant also has an egotism on stage, often referring to his Golden Globe successes. Somehow this manages to be endearing though as part of the act, like he is overcompensating for what he lacks in good looks or average height. It’s just worryingly reminiscent of Ricky. It has to be said that this was not at all damaging to Hello Ladies, but he must ensure that he does not let this egotism consume his actual character – like Gervais seems to have done – or he will lose the very thing that makes him so likeable.

Overall it was a top show, and a real surprise. Absolute bargain for free too!

Originally published in London Student Newspaper October 2011.

Appearing for the eleventh time at Koko, it seems that quirky British DJ Mr Scruff has taken up residency at the former Camden Palace Theatre. Initially, the high ceilings, red curtains and royal balconies seem at odds with the decks and projector screens stationed on stage. The modern meets the traditional, with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen left to cower in horror. Yet, somehow it all merges together beautifully.

Scruffy transforms Koko into one massive dancefloor

The theatrical decadence of the main venue fades amidst the darkness with only vibrant red and blue lights directing attention towards the stage. Mr Scruff starts proceedings with a compelling mix of soul and jazz, easing the slowly filtering fans into a night destined for big beats, heavy drops and powerful bass. As the night continues, a captive audience are treated to a wide selection of Drum and Bass, Spanish Folk and even some contemporary Dubstep thrown in for good measure, all immeasurably enhanced by Koko’s incredible sound system. On the dance floor, the bass is inescapable with palpable vibrations in your ears and chest, impressive considering the size of the venue. Interspersed throughout his seamless, unknown mixes are some recognisable favourites including ‘Buggin’ Out’ by A Tribe Called Quest and Too Short classic, ‘The Ghetto’.

Energy is consistently high both in terms of the set being played and the enthused crowd. Everyone is on their feet grooving the night away, even those tucked upstairs in the viewing gallery. A quick span of the brimming venue is all you need to witness just how universally loved Mr Scruff is and by such an interesting concoction of people. His deliberate focus on fun manages to draw in an audience that is impossible to pigeon-hole, from city bankers to trance fanatics. Young and old come together and do all that is possible when faced with a Scruff set: dance, with genuine joy and no pretensions.

Well, would you?

As captivating and varied as Mr Scruff’s set has been up until this point, it has to be said that there is a disappointing lack of songs from his studio albums. Undeniably, Scruff puts on a breathtaking set, but for those seeing him live for the first time, you would forgive them the feeling of being slightly short-changed. Coming to see an artist with 6 albums, especially one who is known for playing marathon 6 hour sets, you would no doubt expect that a generous percentage would be devoted to the songs that fans are clearly there to experience live.

Fortunately however, in the closing hour of the show Scruff rewards those loyal fans who remain with a few choice selections from his catalogue of albums. These included ‘Vibrate’, a bouncey, hiphop fuelled track featuring Braintax, perhaps Scruff’s most recognisably wacky song ‘Fish’, and as a well-timed remedy for early morning fatigue, the fittingly titled ‘Get a Move On’. A late inclusion of a new track labelled only as ‘new scruff tune’ on the screens met a riotous reception from the crowd with its chest-shaking bass. Due for release early next year, it’s an exciting insight into Scruff’s upcoming releases.

Want a brew?

As you would expect from songs like ‘Ahoy There!’, Mr Scruff’s gigs are delightfully quirky. His set is accompanied throughout by cutesy animated projections of chubby, animal-like creatures, all created by his own hand. Particular favourites are those dressed in chef’s hats, banging away on biscuit tins and tea pots with a rolling pin as tunes begin to drop; familiar Scruff territory. As you’ll soon learn from attending a Mr Scruff show, he is a strong advocate of tea drinking, somewhat odd at a rave. Alongside CD’s and shirts, the merch stall also offers a charming collection of mugs, flavoured tea bags and even hot tea for sale, all from Mr Scruff’s very own Make us a Brew tea company. Not quite your average round at the bar then.

With Mr Scruff’s refusal to play more than a handful of his own tracks, tonight didn’t really have the customary feel of a tour date. Instead, with refreshingly varied mixes it seemed a little more like a club night hosted by a guest DJ. Fortunately though, the fascinating visuals and tea induced hangovers ensured that the gig was inescapably Scruffy. An incredible venue hosts a multi-talented DJ to resounding success. In Scruff’s own words, ‘Amazing crowd energy and great sound made it a real pleasure to play all night’. And to listen, Scruff, and to listen.

To hear Mr Scruff’s Koko set in its entirety please go to http://soundcloud.com/mr-scruff/mr-scruff-koko-oct-2011, or catch him live in February 2012.

So it’s that time of year again. That’s right, Summer Festival Announcements!

Today saw the release of the eagerly awaited Reading and Leeds festivals line ups for 2011, and my my we haven’t been let down. In fact, I’d say this is perhaps one of the best line ups I’ve seen in a long time (that’s absolutely biased to my music taste though). See for yourself:

Bang-ing. Correct.

Every year, a chaotic marathon ensues as loyal festival patrons (and bastard touts) attempt to secure themselves with the proverbial golden tickets. As 7.15 approaches the race is prepped: Enough money in my account? Check. Laptop on, five different ticket sites open, finger lingering tenderly above F5? Check. Phone in hand, number dialled, ready for redial? Check. And all this before we’ve even seen who’s playing!! Usually festival goers must rely upon a combination of vague rumour and reasoned inference (what bands are touring the UK around festival season usually offers some interesting speculation) to provide some early idea of what they can expect for shelling out £200 a ticket. Fortunately that was not the case this year though; thanks to an early leak of an official Reading poster the inner ring no longer existed, and from Midday today it became clear that I had, HAD, to be there.

Reading is shaping up to be an absolute cracker, and the Lock Up Stage – perhaps one of my favourites at the annual festival – hasn’t even been announced yet! Let’s start with the headliners:

  • My Chemical Romance: I have to say that generally I wouldn’t care for this sort of band, and that’s being diplomatic (Panic! At The Disco can fuck right off…). However, for years a good friend has gradually forced their music upon me and I am, reluctantly, impressed. Their early material has a really punky vibe – pacey riffs, heavy drums and vocals that are more aggressive than whiiiiiiney. Even some their more recent offerings, despite various style transitions, are really catchy and likely to be good fun live. Na na na na na na. Yet, I’m slightly dubious about how successful a selection they are for the first day headliner, as a headlining band at all for that matter. I guess time will tell. If you have no interest, you can always check out Beady Eye on the NME stage instead. It’s sure to be a memorable show! Paisley scarves at the ready.
  • The Strokes: I must admit, I’m not the greatest follower of the Strokes, but as headliners go, they seem suitable. They’re relatively big, they have new material to perform, alongside various renowned albums and a vast back catalogue of classic singles – everyone’s going to keep a keen ear open for ‘Someday’. Importantly, they also stand out musically from all other headliners on the bill. It’s gunna be rammed, and could well be a winner. Let’s just hope the new album doesn’t disappoint.
  • Muse: The epitome of festival headlining (closely followed by Rammenstein. If you’ve seen them live you’ll know what I mean). I saw them last year at Rock AM Ring in Germany, and MY GOD, what a performance! Muse has become a byword for quality assurance: incredibly written songs, delivered with a passion and intensity of vocals unrivalled by any other band I’ve witnessed live. Further enhanced by beautifully organised visual accompaniments, like the noteworthy mid-air gymnast, they clearly put their all into performances; no expense is spared. They are an ideal choice for a final night headliner – as the old maxim goes: Save the best ’til last.

Alongside these headliners come a cornucopia of incredible bands. Particular highlights include Rise Against, Deftones (my favourite metal band – I’m already anxious about the pits during ‘Seven Words’) and American punkers the Offspring – let’s just hope they play a majority of their set from Smash and Ixnay on the Hombre. I’ll never forget the first time I heard ‘All I Want’ on the Crazy Taxi soundtrack. Feckin’ awesome. As you’d expect of a festival as musically diverse  as Reading, there are plenty of less ‘alternative’ alternatives: British ska band Madness are a sure-fire hit during the sunshine, and American rappers OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Em All) fulfill the vital hiphop element early on the Saturday.

Ohh, and if you become fatigued with the music, you can always pop along to some live comedy, with Russel Kane and Tim Minchin guaranteed to entertain packed audiences. Lee Nelson shouldn’t bother turning up. Someone has to get bottled and my money’s on him. After all, Daphne and Celeste aren’t there this year.

Now, who wouldn’t pay to see that?