Saturday, 15 September 2007


Venue: The Pitz
Support: 586 / The Modus Vivendi / Mojave Allstars
Reviewer: Phil

Mojave Allstars drive through The Pitz with the windows down and speakers on full. They have a big, solid, well assured sound that’s more mature than you’d expect, considering this is only their second gig. Their sound is equal parts Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails, while their vocalist apes Eddie Vedder and Trent Reznor. They are big, loud and impressive, as are tonight’s second band, local heroes The Modus Vivendi.

Modus Vivendi: 'an informal and temporary arrangement to allow for resolution in spite of differences, or, a way of living'. What more can be said about Beanie and his crew of jazz-funk pranksters? There’s the blues here, there’s funk a-plenty, there’s art rock circa early Sonic Youth, and there’s a groove and a sense of humour that’s reminiscent of Primus or Captain Beefheart circa Trout Mask Replica. The Modus Vivendi’s sound is distinctive, loud and aggressive, but also fun and humorous just like the band. These guys are veterans of the Milton Keynes scene, while not pretending to be in any way connected with it. They are their own movement. If tonight was your first dose of Modus, you may well need to see them a few more times to be convinced. But like eating sushi... you might be unsure the first time you try it, but three meals in and you're hooked!

586 burst onto the Pitz stage, a five-piece who’s irresistibly upbeat clatter is immediately reminiscent of Les Incompetents, Larrikin Love, Blondie or The Pipettes, while their collage of musical textures conjure up Arcade Fire or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They play with confidence and gushing enthusiasm, despite virtually the entire audience having disappeared of to the bar for 586’s set which is a shame on their part! Debut single Money Is The Drug gets an early play and hits you with an irresistible chorus, while closer I’m Not A Monkey tries to be aggressive but ends up sounding like Bridget Jones in a huff. You can’t help but laugh, for in no way are this band taking this rock n roll business at all seriously, except that they are making exceptionally catchy indie rock!

Soho Dolls, a London five-piece fronted by enigmatic vamp Maya Von Doll, play seductive gothic electro-rock like it’s the new vogue. When Maya purrs ‘my vampire’s ok’ she sings it like she believes it, and tonight so do we. With a slab of sleazy 80’s Depeche Mode meets Goldfrapp, Maya sings about vampires, strippers, pimps and princes with equal parts punk attitude and glam seductiveness. An early play of first single Prince Harry sounds like a classic returning home, internet single My Vampire is smooth and utterly captivating, while closing single Stripper is grimy, dirty, and downright fantastic. These guys may be rocking to their own electro-rock tune, like a glimpse down a Soho back alley into an unfamiliar world, but tonight they’ve taken us with them and we’re utterly seduced….

Saturday, 21 July 2007


Venue: Bedford Esquires
Support: Jakobinarina / Somebody
Reviewer: Phil

Opening to a half-empty club, sitting at the corner of the stage with an accordion on his lap, one-man-band Somebody was nothing short of mesmerising! His affected, heartbroken baritone crooned ‘Give me the strength of a single mother’ over the accordion’s single wheeze. Two songs in, and he picks up an acoustic guitar to pluck out a ballad. Its all very Bright Eyes meets Deathcab for Cutie; songs that are the crafted product of a wordsmith, at once traditional and modern and full of earnest imagery. Then he gets behind a keyboard and synth and it becomes clear what Somebody really wants to do is dance. Less Deathcab and more Postal Service, he smothers his heartfelt songs with pulsing beats, dreamy synths and Latin vibes reminiscent of New Order in the late eighties when they where making records in Ibiza. And it really is astounding music!

Jakobinarina, hailing from Hafnarjordur, Iceland - with six members and boasting an average age of just 16 - storm on stage in an explosion of Joy Division-meets-Sex Pistols riffs at once sounding like Iceland’s answer to Franz Ferdinand and with more European punk energy than the Hives just after they’ve tried on new ties! At one point snarling frontman Gunnar Ragnarsson leaps into the audience with the band's keyboard player and they literally go crazy! The band philosophy seemed to be 'play loud and play fast'. Debut single His Lyrics Are Disastrous imploded like a sledgehammer through a speaker, when Ragnarsson growls ‘leave this Island for good’ we believe him from the pit of his sixteen year old heart. While their standout song was easily Nice Guys Don’t Play Good Music, perhaps because it contained the most melodic moments of their brief, explosive set; a counterpoint to a spiraling storm or teenage punk energy.

Identifying where exactly the Cajun comes from in their band name is a tough one, but not a question worth worrying about for too long. With solid, self assured songs, dexterous guitar work, a six foot blonde in emerald slippers behind the keyboard and a frontman who literally tears the place down: leaping into the audience, twirling a walking stick wildly at the crowd and pulling ceramic tiles from the roof... Cajun Dance Party are simmering with youthful indie energy. Their pop tunes, infused with punk and folk vibes, bring both The Libertines and Larrikin Love to mind along with a host of other indie club legend hopefuls. Deranged frontman Danny Blumberg sung his call to arms from beneath of a mob of curly hair, this five-piece have the tunes to make it to the top and they know it! Debut single The Last Untouchables is no fluke of youthful insanity, these guys know how to write a good song and tonight’s set is literally brimming with them. If they'e lucky, they could be very big indeed.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007


Venue: The Pitz, Milton Keynes
Support: Sign
Reviewer: Phil

The Pitz seems far fuller tonight than it should be and everyone here appears to be at least three inches taller than the usual crowd! What’s got all these 9-5ers back out on a windswept midweek evening? Something decidedly retro is about to happen!

Icelandic rockers Sign power through their set like a spitfire engine gunning on all cylinders. Down-tuned twin guitars and a rumbling bass surge through songs as if their players have just had nitrous oxide injected straight to the vein, while the drummer pummels the skins with complex polyrhythms that threaten to rattle apart at the seams at any moment. But make no mistake, these guys are tight: their sound solid and impenetrable. Chunky, metallic riffs dominate Sign’s hard rock sound, punctured occasionally with tight, stark guitar solos from frontman Zolberg who yelps and sneers like Axl Rose and Bjork all at once, and yet sounds as fresh as the smell of napalm on a burning jungle. Back home in Iceland, Sign are something of an Icelandic Silverchair, musical protégées who’ve been making records since the beginning of the decade, and they desperately want to be recognised here. At one point, in broken English that sounds vaguely Californian, Zolberg begs us to sing along if we happen to know the words to last years single “Little Bit”. We don’t, but the song they play is fantastic and we wish we did. If “Little Bit” and title track “Thank God for Silence” from last year's album are anything to go by, Sign are a band we should all be into.

If any band has really earned their dues it’s the Wildhearts! Since the early 90’s these guys have been spreading the rock ‘n’ roll love everywhere they can. Mainstream success may have eclipsed them, despite putting out a fist full of extraordinarily catchy rockers over the years, but their hard work has earned them a dedicated following that turn out to every gig and sing along to every song. The Wildhearts sound like nineties post-grunge, they’re Foo Fighters, The Offspring and Green Day all at once. “The Revolution Will Be Televised” from last month's self titled album sounds like the band’s response to Green Day’s “American Idiot.” But they’re also a band stuck out of time. They sound like a product of the 70’s; feel good hard rock ’n’ roll played by kids who grew up listening to the Beach Boys. Yes, they’re also Cheap Trick. The Wildhearts hail from a region of Newcastle-upon-Tyne where the sun forever shines, and you can feel the love oozing from the stage. All four band members wear beaming smiles throughout as they play through ridiculously catchy pop, punk, rock and metal anthems, frequently playing four or five songs tightly back to back with barely a pause for a cheer. And tonight everyone in the audience is feeling the love too; tonight the Wildhearts are heroes!

Sunday, 22 April 2007


Venue: The Pitz, Milton Keynes
Support: Terrapin Trainstation / The White Room
Reviewer: Phil

It takes commitment to both the bands and the venue to venture out on a Sunday night to take in a band when most of us should be recovering from the weekend, which it probably why tonight the Pitz is anything but full. Yet the small crowd that does gather warmly welcomes all three of these bands onto the stage for what proves to be an excellent line-up it’s a shame so many people probably missed.

Local rockers The White Room take the stage with big riffs and a big sound, the three-piece filling the stage like pro’s. Its all classic guitar riffs and big pop tunes. Startling guitar soloing and polyrhythmic drumming slip and snarl across simmering blues driven pop.

Impressive local five piece Terrapin Trainstation follow up The White Room with music of much the same vein. Their sound is meticulously sculpted, borrowing heavily from Pearl Jam and the good bits of Counting Crows, and to confirm their influences, toward the end of their set they tear through a crowd pleasing cover of Mr. Jones. Frontman Dave Godfrey may hail from this side of the Atlantic, but he bellows and croons like a Bay Area local, while Kev Cooke makes a very good argument for five string bass guitars, putting in some impressive and creative licks. It’s a skilfully assembled trans-Atlantic sound, and with Terrapin Trainstation that’s no bad thing, their set coming of as instantly likable stadium rock.

Four-piece Kharma 45, hailing from the other side of the Irish Sea, play an impressive and diverse set. Seriously, if you have a chance, catch this band now before they explode! Kharma 45 are certainly cast from the same mould as other big unit shifters like Bloc Party or The Killers, but you can also hear the Irish influence of U2, JJ72 circa Snow, or late 80’s and early 90’s New Order at the peak of their dance hall phase. Where’s Your Spirit Man, due for release on May 7th, already plays like a hit single, while synth drenched Ecstasy is an epic show closer. All four musicians exhibit an impressive range, deftly handling both subtle synth driven pop and chunkier riff laden rockers. Its accessible rock ‘n’ roll all the way, but it’s also creative, urgent and captivating, and really not bad at all for a fiver on a Sunday night down the Pitz.

Saturday, 17 March 2007


Venue: The Pitz, Milton Keynes
Reviewer: Phil

I once phoned the editor of our local Citizen and asked him for a job. He asked me what I wrote; ‘stories!’ I replied. He then gave me some harsh words about how the press deals only in reporting facts, not stories, that’s the sort of thing that apparently gives them a bad name! Then he hung up! Well, if that’s the case then I better just stick with the facts here! I’m hiding behind a thick curtain at the edge auditorium of the Pitz, I don’t care if I came here with a girl (Monkey Kettle Tea Girl Nikki) and so should probably be acting more manly, there are vicious looking space aliens on stage and they are spewing blood and bodily fluids all over the audience and I’m wearing my favourite t-shirt! Perhaps a few more facts are needed!

In the mid 80’s a group of space alien dudes crash land in Antarctica. They hang out, take in the sights, and then move to the US presumably because they discover chicken deep-fry’s better than penguin! They formed a band, probably to combat a strain of hair metal that was currently ravaging the nation. Replace Antarctica with Virginia Commonwealth University and ‘aliens’ with art students who just love dressing up for Halloween a little too much and you pretty much get the gist! And they’ve been battling it out ever since, going on to find notoriety, a guest spot on Empire Records and at least nominal success.

Back at the Pitz, shortly before Gwar are due to take the stage, Nikki and I nervously watch the sound desk being carefully covered with clear plastic. Then a girl dressed entirely in white and looking like she’d be more at home in Lloyds this particular Saturday, tells us in a worried voice that apparently the entire hall is to be drenched in fake blood and pus! Hordes of metal kids are pushing to the front row, eager to get drenched, while us older folk line the outside of the hall, hoping we might get away with this and still look respectable enough to head up to the bars in the city afterwards!

Onstage, Gwar work hard for their ticket money. Frontman Oderus Urungus, a.k.a. Dave Brokie, and his crew of assorted rock ‘n’ roll adventurers, play tight and fast for two hours, dressed in huge foam costumes. They look like oversized cartoon hero’s battling for space on the Pitz stage. Nikki and I were both impressed with Oderus’s shoulder pads; striking four foot tall spikes. Now that’s the kind of power dressing that would make an impact in the office! The band’s set has the drums poised high over the stage, surrounded by a vast wall of bones which probably houses their guitars! But the effect is something from a funfair of horrors. Frequently between songs, ‘slaves’ dressed as various icons of modern culture, including Hitler, Jesus and Osama Bin Laden, are marched onto the stage only to be decapitated, torn from limb to limb, their blood sprayed over the audience. All the while Oderus baits the crowd, says he longs for a return to the days of Margret Thatcher, and sprays the audience with suspicious looking liquid from his own giant prosthetic phallus. At one point George Bush is decapitated, his blood spewing on and off the stage. Oderus then climbs on his little stage pedestal and attempts to mount the hole left on George’s neck. Gosh, these are politically proactive chaps!

So then perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening is the quality of the music. Over the past 20 years these metal underdogs, banned from theaters and ridiculed by the mainstream, have actually sculpted a melodic and creative sound. Far from ‘God-What-an-Awful-Racket’, they actually sound more refreshing and modern than Trivium, more tuneful than Slayer and more heartfelt than Panic At The Disco. These guys believe in what they’re doing, they believe in their art, they believe in giving the audience the best stage show in town every night, and they believe in writing and playing the best music they can. Against a backbone of chunky mosh-pit raging riffs they layer bass breaks, guitar solos that carry the song without sounding cheesy, socially and politically proactive lyrics and soaring choruses Slipknot would be proud of. The band don’t sound 20 years old, and the members, despite still not managing to become millionaires when far more mediocre acts have found success in their place, are still giving it 100% every night. Tonight, this really is the best show in town!

Standing outside the venue afterwards, I feel like I’m standing outside A&E shortly after an unfortunate incident with a litter of hungry pumas! Kids pile out of the auditorium, thick in fake blood and green bile. We escaped without a scratch, those blood spewing cannons evidently calibrated to reach only to within about ten foot of the walls of the auditorium. And I read in an interview afterward, Gwar only like to use food dyes that wash out easily and have no wish to ruin cloths or auditoriums. Its only a show, this is just for fun, and they’re ok these Gwar dudes!