For the last 25 years or so, I’ve been pretty ignorant of the Duluth, MN band Low. Their brand of not-quite-shoegaze, affectionately dubbed “slowcore” by their fans, has never been my forte, but earlier this year the band released what will go down in the history books of 2018 as the possible album of the year with Double Negative.
When news of the union of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus broke, along with an upcoming tour it was just a matter of where to go and catch them perform live. With no run through the southernmost states, it may not have seemed genius to fly from a perfectly sunny Florida winter day to Wisconsin and a mid-teens forecast. But not knowing whether this run of dates would get extended or not, you gotta pack up your meager winter wardrobe and get on the plane.
Bermondsey Social Club is a deceptively hard small venue to find, tucked away as it is in a dark alleyway of industrial arches you could easily walk by (which is what I did…), like getting invited to an underground warehouse party you need a secret password and good credentials for.
The last time Sam Beam (aka Iron & Wine) came through town, it was a solo show. That’s a bit of an underwhelming statement compared to the reality of it. At that show, Beam strode on stage with acoustic guitar to much applause, paused and asked: “What do you want to hear?” That was the format for the next ninety minutes and it was amazingly intimate and effective. Some kid in his dad’s lap yelled out for ‘Dead Man’s Will’ and left me with nothing to do but be awed. There was no buffer between Beam and his audience that night many years ago, and though he had a four-piece primarily acoustic band in tow this time, the wall between artist and fan remained very transparent.
When we think of Rock’s great guitar gods, Hendrix, Clapton and Page always come to mind. Its criminal Richard Thompson remains a too well-kept secret. These days, he’s more famous for not being more famous. In addition to a spellbinding virtuoso, he’s also a wickedly talented songwriter.
- Kevin Orton
To watch Killing Joke take to the stage is like seeing the Mount Rushmore of post punk assemble before your eyes. Masterful drummer who can switch from tribal power to fluid subtlety on a dime, or a penny if you prefer, guitarist carving arcs of controlled noise from the air, always precise never gratuitous, bassist driving beneath it all with just the right amount of space around the notes, and a singer for whom the term is woefully inadequate.
- Simon Heavisides
There are a handful of venerable listening rooms and dance halls in Texas that have been graced by the presence of undisputed songwriting legends. Places like Anderson Fair in Houston, The Cactus Cafe in Austin, and Gruene Hall in New Braunfels have had the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, and Guy Clark cross their stages. Tonight in an interesting twist an accomplished songwriter with Texas roots, Amanda Shires, took the stage at another legendary listening room, but this one in Winter Haven, Florida.
I’m not sure but I think The Lovely Eggs might have been out on tour for the entirety of 2018. Fuelled by cider and an undimmed passion for all things DIY, Holly Ross, and David Blackwell have been nigh-on unstoppable. They’ve even found time to release one of their strongest albums to date, the psychedelically inclined punk-rock opus This is Eggland. Even a bout of pneumonia (David spent some time in hospital) didn’t come close to slowing them down. Tonight will be the third time I’ve seen them this year and I can’t wait.
Going back into the last century, I’ve seen Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds a ton over the years. He has never disappointed. No kitchen sink remains unscathed. Passions are torn to tatters and flung in your face. To take the edge off, he croons beautiful ballads telling you terrible things. And all of that was in store for the crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last night. And more.
Well, I just saw Nine Inch Nails play all of Broken in sequence. If that weren’t enough, they whipped out their cover of How To Destroy Angels’ “Parasite”, “Me, I’m Not” from Year Zero, and “The Background World”, the phenomenal closer from last year’s Add Violence. Somehow, after three unique and surprising sets, Trent motherfucking Reznor keeps things interesting.
Bristol’s Laura Kidd has been releasing music as She Makes War for the last 8 years, steadily amassing an army of fans. A slot supporting The Wave Pictures a couple of years ago and the album Direction of Travel showed me what I’d been missing. Fast forward to 2018 and Kidd is headlining the Brudenell Social Club in support of her brand new album, Brace for Impact.