Memory Man – The Green Room, Perth – Thursday 24th September
Ever since hearing ‘Felix Baumgartner’ on the Vic Galloway show at the tail end of last year I’ve been keen to catch Memory Man live. Last Thursday night at the Green Room in Perth finally provided the opportunity.
Thursday was also my first visit to the Green Room. Initial impressions were favourable – the pub itself is quite nice and the live room is separate through the back. It’s a decent sized space as well with the stage filling three quarters of the back wall. All in all it’s a nice set-up but there are a couple of idiosyncrasies, most obviously that the limited amount of seating in the room is actually along the right wall level with the stage (and under one of the PA speakers.)
With the show scheduled to run until nearer midnight I wasn’t too disappointed to find out that Memory Man were opening the show although inevitably that meant that the crowd wasn’t as big as it might have been. But a few punters did trail through to watch them – then promptly planted themselves in the seats under the speaker.
To the music. With Paul’s guitar very much to the fore in the mix, the show was never going to be anything less than gripping.
The recent E.P. ‘Lost Lovers’ is great but the band didn’t open with any of those songs. Instead they chose one of the handful of unrecorded tunes sprinkled through the set, ‘53’. A fantastic opener, it was probably their rockiest tune of the evening.
‘Felix’ was probably the highlight of the ‘older’ tunes but hearing the others in the more direct live setting threw a slightly different light on them and did them no harm at all.
Of the other new tunes it was the epic ‘Rust’ that was the stand-out. Whilst it was slower than the rest of the set it did build to a spectacular, widescreen finale.
What is apparent from the show is that Memory Man have the tunes to more than back up the four songs on ‘Lost Lovers’. In fact, on the evidence of this set alone, Memory Man already have the songs for two thirds of a potentially great album and that’s not always the case for bands in their position. It seems a pretty good place to be.
One final point. It’s always a sign of a good show when you want to play the records again. And in the last few days I’ve done that several times whilst songs from the E.P. have also been on regular rotation on the internal jukebox. Which rather makes the point that Memory Man songs are as hooky as hell.
If there was a gripe about the show it was the sound perhaps because of the odd placing of that speaker. But it was disappointing that Stevie’s vocals were not higher in the mix ending up slightly battling the other instruments rather than soaring above them as they do on record.
However it’s fair to say that none of this spoiled the show for me. On the contrary it has whetted the appetite to see Memory Man again, hopefully in slightly more favourable sonic circumstances.
Memory Man played:
1. 53 2. Felix Baumgartner 3. Theodore 4. Rust 5. Salzgitter 6. In Praha 7. Taking Back The Flag
Apologies to Paradise Fund and Enemies of the State for not staying for their sets but gigs finishing at midnight on a school night simply aren’t my thing anymore!
Photos from the show here.
Here’s a couple that didn’t make that set:
The film ‘Big Gold Dream’ which documents the Edinburgh post punk scene gets a showing in Fife next Wednesday (30th) at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy.
Here’s the gist:
“In the late 1970’s, from a tenement flat in Edinburgh, Bob Last and Hilary Morrison operated their record label Fast Product. A predecessor to Rough Trade and Factory Records, Fast Product quickly became the hub for a group of ground-breakingly talented musicians. This documentary is the previously untold story of a post-punk/indie music scene that reverberated from Edinburgh, throughout the UK and beyond.”
Narrated by Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens, the documentary features contributions from the likes of Davy Henderson and Bob Last.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, Grant McPhee.
Tickets are £6.50 (£5.50 concessions) from OnFife.
Book Group / Quarterbacks / Campfires In Winter – Nothing Ever Happens Here @ Summerhall, Edinburgh – Thursday 17th September 2015
Thursday night didn’t get off to the best possible start. If there was an exceptional load to cross the bridge in front of us, it did. If there were sets of traffic lights which could turn red, they did. If there was a wrong turn to be taken in the worst possible place, it was.
All of which meant that we missed all of Campfires in Winter bar a few chords of the penultimate tune and the entire last song. My impressions of Campfires therefore are limited but there’s no doubting that they sounded absolutely fucking massive (making me wish I’d taken my earplugs.)
But as well as being loud the final tune had a more subtle extended coda with keyboards and trumpets. On this limited evidence they maybe veer too close to ‘Mixed Drinks’ era Frabbits to allow me to really love them. But it would be wrong to jump to any conclusions based on such a short part of the set and I do wish we’d heard more.
Most definitely not loud was the Quarterbacks set which turned out to be more of a Quarterback set from main man Dean playing solo. The tunes were rooted firmly in New York and were by turns whimsical and charming at a step removed from the full band recordings I’d heard. I definitely need to investigate further.
The volume was back up for Book Group even if not quite at the levels of CiW. (Or maybe my ears were just stunned by then). After Graeme opened the set with a solo number, soundwise, it was all over the place on the first couple of full band songs, as illustrated by the fact that Kevin complained about his bass being too loud. Something’s not quite right if the bass player’s complaining about being too loud!
It did settle down after that but, being honest, it never quite made it all the way to perfect principally because Michael’s guitar was a little quiet in the mix. But I would take Thursday’s sound any day over the ‘don’t disturb the audience’ sound levels of a recent show and it certainly didn’t hurt the show’s energy levels.
As this was a proper headline show it was the longest set I’ve seen them play by some distance. Which not only allowed a fair smattering of old favourites and a big dollop of newer tunes but also a midset Violent Femmes cover, ‘Blisters In The Sun’ which I own and recognised, but couldn’t place either due to the size of my record collection or senility. (Or a combination of both!)
Other than the killer double punch to close the set of ‘Here Is Too Near’ and ‘Victory Lap’ (there’s a balcony at Summerhall, so Graeme obviously couldn’t resist) most of the older songs were grouped at the start of the set. Which left the opportunity to concentrate on the newer stuff and compare these songs back to back later on.
The guitar pop tunes such as ‘Mayonnaise’ and ‘Kickstart’ sounded ever more like killers whilst I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next single was the indie/dance anthem ‘Actress/Model’. ‘The Art of Underachieving’ may not have an obvious hook but still manages to generate a real sense of purpose.
All things considered it was a tremendous show and Book Group sounded like they’re in fine fettle for the coming months. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we finally get to hear that debut LP.
One more thing. It’s fair to say that until they’re selling out the Corn Exchange I’ll always think that there’s not enough folk going to see Book Group but, even being a tad more realistic, the turnout on Thursday was a bit of a disappointment. It *was* a school night and all but I’m a bit baffled as to why there’s not more folk going to see this band. I really do think that they’re my favourite Scottish band at the moment.
Mind you, maybe if they really want to “make it” they need to start recording stuff I hate …
Book Group played:
1 This Little House of Mine 2 Lowdown of a Loud Sound 3 Year of the Cat 4 Mayonnaise 5 A Rough Wooing 6 Seedlings 7 Kickstart 8 Season of Screams 9 Late Show 10 Blister In The Sun 11 Actress/Model 12 The Art of Underachieving 13 Here Is Too Near 14 Victory Lap
Book Group have dates in the following towns/cities in November, venues to be announced presumably:
Aberdeeen 4th December
although Graeme also mentioned a Perth date after the show.
Memory Man – Lost Lovers E.P. (Black Ditto Recordings)
The cancellation of Friday’s Memory Man gig in Dunfermline might have denied me the chance to see the band live for the first time but it at least gives me the chance to fill that “gap” in the MPT “schedule” with a look at their debut E.P. ‘Lost Lovers’, which comes on the quaint format of C.D.
Recorded by Andy Miller at Gargleblast Studios ‘Lost Lovers’, as you’d expect, has both clarity and power that serves the Glasgow band’s sound well..
It contains both of their download singles to date, the thoroughly excellent ‘Felix Baumgartner’ and ‘In Praha’, and hopefully you’ll be familiar with both. If not, it’s fair to say that the two songs match MPT’s notion of the ideal single, exciting rock music packed with hooks aplenty.
Part of MM’s appeal for me is Paul Mellon’s guitars and both singles showcase different aspects of that whether it be the Mascis-esque solo towards the end of ‘Felix’ or the muscular riff on ‘In Praha’.
But it gives an indication of the strength of the four songs on here that neither is the E.P.’s lead track. That honour instead falls to ‘Taking Back the Flag’ which does a good job of setting out the band’s stall.
Built around the sort of bassline that TOY might deploy ‘‘Taking Back the Flag’ is a clarion call to arms. It’s without question anthemic rock but at no point does it fall into the trap of sacrificing the song at the altar of rock bluster. Not a hip name to drop perhaps but TBTF reminds me a little of the best of the Armoury Show.
The other ‘new’ track “Theodore” is somewhat lighter in tone. The verse in particular reminds me of Boston’s 90 alt-rockers Big Dipper and would have fit rather neatly on their ‘Heavens’ LP.
In fact, all things considered, the Dipper are a pretty good fit for Memory Man. Both bands make literate, accessible rock and both have memorable tunes with broad appeal.
‘Lost Lovers’ may only just have arrived but I can’t wait to find out what comes next.
Here’s a reminder of the video for ‘In Praha’:
‘In Praha’ video and Memory Man photograph by Kris Boyle
‘Lost Lovers’ is available at discerning record shops, from the band’s Bandcamp and at their shows.
To support ‘Lost Lovers’ the band are out and about over the next couple of weeks:
- Wednesday 16th September – Edinburgh, Electric Circus (with Haylee G, Devils In Skirts, Our Future Glory and Nipples of Venus)
- Thursday 24th September – Perth, The Green Room (with Enemies of the State and Paradise Found)
Previously on MPT
Memory Man interview (July 2015)
Spare Snare / Emma Pollock – D.C.A., Dundee – 5th September 2015
As something of a Johnny Come Lately to Dundee’s Spare Snare I’ve had few opportunities to see them in a live setting. So the run of shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of debut LP ‘Live At Home’ was right at the top of my ‘must see’ autumn gigs.
Saturday night’s hometown show took place in a sold-out D.C.A. to the extent that dozens were turned away at the door. Fortunately the show more than lived up to such high expectations.
Whereas last time I saw the Snare, I was surprised to know just about all their set, Saturday’s setlist was drawn from throughout their career and showed up the gaps in my knowledge. Drawing most heavily from ‘Live At Home’ (naturally) but also ‘Animals and Me’ the band also included their last two singles ‘I Am God’ and the Billardo cover. There was even space for an old song, ‘James Dean Poster’, which apparently had never been played live before.
It was a high energy performance, particularly from Jan, who frequently seemed on the point of bouncing into the audience.
Whilst there was a little tinkering with the sound on the opening ‘As A Matter of Fact’ it sounded great thereafter and they were properly up and running with blinding versions of ‘Stop Complaining’ and mission statement ‘We Are The Snare’.
Pretty much the only minor hitch was when Adam started the sequencer for ‘Spot The Difference’ several songs too early.
Guest musicians were scattered throughout the set with Jan’s dad, Dave, joining the band early on whilst Mike Kane added guitar noise to an epic ‘Spot The Difference’ to close the main set.
The band returned for one encore with Ross Matheson of STOOR contributing additional guitar to the closing ‘Surrender’.
As stated above Snare live shows have been rare events in recent years but if the band genuinely thought that they might only sell 30 tickets then Saturday undoubtedly demonstrated that there remains a healthy appetite for live Snare – a sentiment that this writer heartily endorses.
Spare Snare played
1. As A Matter of Fact 2. Stop Complaining 3. We Are The Snare 4. I’ll Get By 5. If I Had A Hi-Fi 6. Skateboard Punk Rocker 7. Super Slinky 8. Wired for Sound 9. James Dean Poster 10. I Am God 11. Smile It’s Sugar 12. No Quise Angustiarte 13. Bugs 14. Spot The Difference
Earlier Emma Pollock had somehow managed to rejig the U.S. Open schedule to allow her to open the show.
Her set was a mixture of old and tunes and wasn’t quite the acoustic set that had been billed in advance. Instead Emma was joined on stage by Graeme Smillie who contributed both piano and bass to the set with the added heft of Jonny-Scott-in-a-box drums on a couple of tunes as well.
Straight off, the hard edged electric guitar on the opening ‘Acid Test’ gave the lie to the acoustic tag with ‘Confessions’ given a similar treatment, somewhat removed from the more electronic version on the album. Otherwise Graeme’s piano carried the lead on songs such as the fragile and beautifully sung ‘House On The Hill’ as well as new tunes such as ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’.
The overall impression of the new material (several examples of which Emma also played here) is that her third solo LP, due out in January, should be a worthy successor to ‘The Law of Large Numbers’.
But the set’s highlight (and the song stuck on the internal jukebox ever since) came from her debut album – the gentle run through of ‘Paper and Glue’ was magnificent.
All in all, Saturday’s performance was a timely reminder of what one of Scotland’s finest songwriters is capable of.
1. Acid Test 2. Clemency 3. Confessions 4. Red Orange Green 5. Intermission 6. House on the Hill 7. Don’t Make Me Wait 8. Paper & Glue 9. “Looking Glass”
I’ve taken so long to get this done that the Snare tour is almost complete with dates in Glasgow and Liverpool past. But they will be performing twice in London in the next 48 hours – at Servant Jazz Quarters on Thursday (10th) at 8 p.m. and on Friday (11th) at Rough Trade West at 6.00 p.m.
Spare Snare sing Billardo (on red 7″ vinyl) is available from the band’s Bandcamp or at the above mentioned shows.
Emma meanwhile has dates lined up as follows:
- Sep 18 Paisley: Bring It All Home
- Oct 09 Bognor Regis: Rockaway Beach Festival
- Nov 14 Manchester: Academy
Previously on MPT:
Spare Snare interview (March 2013)
We Were Promised Jetpacks /Little Kicks – Nothing Ever Happens Here @ Summerhall, Edinburgh – Wednesday 26th August 2015
Largely due to circumstances beyond my control, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a proper loud We Were Promised Jetpacks performance. So long in fact that, other than the interesting siding of June’s Oran Mor show, I hadn’t seen them perform as a five piece. It’s fair to say then that I’d been looking forward to this one with some anticipation.
Early impressions of the expanded line-up are very positive with ‘not so new now boy’ Stuart McGachan’s keyboards clearly audible in amongst the band’s guitar maelstrom. In fact, if anything, the keys help build up the Jetpacks’ wall of sound and it’s quite cool to hear some of the songs off the first two albums being retro-fitted with different sonic textures.
The set draws equally from all three albums allowing the new album plenty of time alongside the hits and the best of the second record. Midset there’s even a tune I don’t recognise which is likely the new tune tentatively promised in advance of the show and may be called ‘Hard To Explain’. It sounds cut from similar cloth to the ‘Unravelling’ material which is undoubtedly a good thing as I’m inclined to think that ‘Unravelling’ is their best album to date.
But great though tunes such as ‘Peaks and Troughs’ and ‘I Keep It Composed’ are on the night, the real showstopper for me remains the massive version of ‘Pear Tree’.
It’s a fairly energetic physical performance too with a fifth member onstage adding something to the physical dynamic. But most notably it’s Adam who dashes around the stage far more than I can remember from previous shows.
One of the things that’s always impressed me most about Jetpacks is their constant need to evolve. ‘Unravelling’ suggests that that remains true today whilst the live show is a timely reminder that Jetpacks remain one of Scotland’s most potent and adventurous rock bands.
We Were Promised Jetpacks played:
1.Human Error 2. Moving Clocks Run Slow 3. I Keep It Composed 4. Quiet Little Voices 5. Moral Compass 6. Part of It 7. Roll Up Your Sleeves 8. Sore Thumb 9. Hard To Explain 10. Peace Sign 11. Peaks and Troughs 12. The Boy In The Backseat 13. Pear Tree 14. It’s Thunder It’s Lightning
15. Keeping Warm
I’ve been aware of Aberdeen’s Little Kicks for some time without ever really hearing them before. So Wednesday’s opening set was my proper introduction to the band.
They’re a much dancier proposition than I’d imagined but I’ll have to confess that mostly they do rather wash over me. It’s not that I don’t like them, on the contrary they’re very likeable and the singer’s got a good voice. But in that context it’s ironic that it’s really only the last tune that makes me sit up and take notice – and it’s an instrumental.
Pitched somewhere between Remember Remember and the Phantom Band’s ‘Crocodile’ the song builds up a real sense of momentum in the way the rest of the set hadn’t managed. More stuff like that and I’d be interested but at the moment I’m happy enough to file them away as a fairly pleasant live experience.