Posts Tagged ‘Crescent Community Centre’

It’s not often that an evening of live music begins with spoken word poetry. It’s a shame, as the two media can often prove complimentary. John Cooper Clark supporting The Fall and KJ Farrington supporting Sleaford Mods stand out in my mind for all the right reasons.

Self-professed punk poet and nerd, Henry Raby, gets things going with a couple of pieces. A seasoned performer who seamlessly rides out any fluffed lines (and can turn forgetting a line into a plug for his book), he’s relaxed and emanates an energy that’s infectious, and which is paired with a disarming affability.

Katie Watson’s poetry is personal, confessional, brimming with anxiety and keen observations, and rendered with fine details and a certain self-effacing humour. Her delivery is superb: having previously caught her not s long ago at a spoken-word night in a small room, she seems to revel in the bigger space, the challenge of a larger audience, and being faced with a microphone.

What Henry has a knack of bringing to events he’s involved in is a spirit of inclusivity, of equality, of unity. We’re all misfits together here. So, the board gaming nerds, the varied shades of gender and a range of musical and literary tastes are all catered for here.

Crumbs describe themselves as ‘a post-punk pop party pack’ who like ‘pets and puns’ (and alliteration, on this evidence). The four-piece blend jangly 90s indie with a grunge sensibility. Pavement would be an obvious, but fitting touchstone, and at one point I find myself thinking about a collision between The Cure and Carter USM, while elsewhere, there’s a new song that boasts a chunky, funky bass groove and choppy, fractured guitar worthy of Gang of Four. It’s an eclectic and compelling mix. The guitarist has some of the dirtiest overdrive I’ve heard in a while, creating a strong contrast to the crisp, chiming tone that features in most of the songs’ verses. It’s a simple dynamic, but highly effective. Playing on the floor in front of the stage, the sound in the front rows is mostly backline, and this only heightens the experience of the band being in such close proximity to the audience.

Crumbs

Crumbs

Having only caught the second half of Dream Nails’ set at Live at Leeds, and found it to have been good fun, I was keen to see how they’d go over the duration of a full headline set.

They’re high-octane and high-energy from the get-go, and if there was any question over whether or not they could sustain it for a full set, they answer it with a resounding yes. There really is no let-up in their four-chord poppy punk thrashabouts. The lyrics veer between vulnerability and vehemence, and while they may lack overt depth or subtlety, the directness is part of the appeal. And behind the effervescent performance style, and the bouncy, accessible tunes, there are some serious issues, largely centring around the challenges of being a woman in the world today.

And these are the reasons why I’m here. I go to gigs to watch and listen to bands. As a music critic, I write about them, and because we live in a very visually-orientated age, pictures accompanying a review are often useful. But Dream Nails don’t like having their pictures being taken by men, and since I didn’t have any female company in tow to shoot a pic on my behalf, there’s no image here.

Men snapping away make them feel uncomfortable. Especially men in my demographic with certain types of camera (I’m 42, although the post on their Facebook page which appeared within a short time of the show’s ending would suggest they think I’m older, and I prefer t travel light). Fair enough. Although generally, if you’re going to implement a policy, such as no photography without consent, it’s better to state it up-front. But when that policy is called during the show, and applies only to a few – well, men, actually – the issue becomes rather thorny under scrutiny.

Nobody likes to be singled out, especially not based on an assumption, and even less when the assumption is incorrect – because that’s prejudice. To be singled out as one of two men with cameras, with the justification that they hadn’t given consent, and fuck the male gaze, was not comfortable. I can live with uncomfortable: I’m aware that my own performances have a tendency to evoke a very tangible sense of discomfort and awkwardness. But no-one is ever singled out or humiliated, and it’s not about ‘unlearning oppressive behaviours’.

But more than anything, I found not only the approach troubling, but what it represents. Now, the battleground of gender is one of which I have only a cursory knowledge, but I am acutely aware of the divisions and infighting between the various identifiers. But ultimately, being a straight white male, I’m in the bracket which is the worst of the worst on the enemy scale. As we mark the centenary of The Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave British women over 30 the right to vote, at the same time as picking through the fallout of the events that led to the #metoo campaign, it’s clear we’ve still got a long way to go and that male oppression is rife.

However, the ‘calling out’ of ‘creepy’ guys taking photos of a band performing assumes that all men are creepy and only go and see bands with women in because they want to go and ogle women. Which also seems to undermine the idea that as women making music, people –regardless of sex / gender (I’m aware the correspondence between the two varies considerably) – may simply appreciate their art, and, like so many others, shoot snaps for posterity or social media because it’s the age we live in. To judge an individual based on the behaviour of a number (not even necessarily a majority) is prejudice in action.

This – literal – finger-pointing may have been well-received by a sector of the audience, but even if it hadn’t been directed at me, it would still have sat uncomfortably on a personal level: publicly humiliating someone based on an assumption is very much a knee-jerk response, the likes of which result in heated arguments. My knee-jerk reaction was to omit Dream Nails from the review altogether, but precisely what would that achieve? Certainly nothing productive. First, what’s actually needed is rational debate and mutual understanding of commonality. Second, they played a decent set, and went down well with a crowd of a respectable size, which is no small feat – especially in York on a Thursday night.

Moreover, feminism, at its heart, is about attaining equality for women. To substitute misogyny with misandry is not a push for equality, but to simply invert and replicate the behaviours of the guilty, and thus perpetuate division. Dream Nails generously commented on their Facebook thread, ‘Also if u r a male fan who is feeling affronted by this, pls remember you are still always welcome at our shows without your cameras.’ So, credit where it’s due, they’re still espousing equality. But is conditional equality really equality? Not really. Obviously, I’m grateful for the concession to be allowed to attend their shows in the same way anyone else is.

I shouldn’t feel the need to state that I’m not anti-feminism; quite the opposite. Moreover, I’m fundamentally opposed to any -ism that promotes inequality, discrimination, prejudice. And so, while Janey Starling may have provoked something personal in her actions, my beef isn’t so much directed at her or the band, but at the way complex and difficult issues are addressed, without any attention to the details or any sense of nuance, with too many people shouting about the lack of consideration they’re shown by others without showing that same consideration in return.

They ended their set with a blistering rendition of ‘Deep Heat’.

Christopher Nosnibor

For a Sunday night it York, it’s not a bad turnout, and while I’m not often a fan of seated shows, this bill of laid-back electronic-based music lends itself perfectly to adopting a less upright position for optimal enjoyment. Plus, it makes a welcome change to be able to put my beer on a table in front of me, rather than have to clutch it and thus warm it with increasingly condensation-dampened hands, or to concern myself with wearing a jacket with adequately capacious pockets that facilitate free hands for taking notes, taking photographs.

Two of tonight’s acts I saw only a few weeks ago, and when Mayshe Mayshe opened up for Living Body (for whom Shield Patterns were the main support) at the Brudenell in Leeds, I was charmed by her lo-fi minimalist pop tunes. Tonight’s set confirms that the bells, whistles, mini-pianos and hair-dryers aren’t gimmicky features of a novelty act, but genuinely useful features of a sound that’s spurred by innovation. Her songs are beautifully crafted examples of quirky bedroom elecro-pop. But for all the sparseness, there are some dense bass tones.

Mayshe Mayshe

Mayshe Mayshe

Having been less than enthused by the performance of hipster laptop DJ Game Program supporting Silver Apples recently, I’m even less enthused by Jakoby’s noodlings. In fairness, he has a lot of ideas. Some of them are good, and some are very good. But many of them are not, and his compositions have a tendency to throw everything at every track, often simultaneously. There were at least a dozen points that would have made a tidy ending to the set, but he kept bringing it back up and what’s likely intended as a brain-bending sonic overload ends up being an overlong exercise in onanism.

Jakoby

Jakoby

What a contrast, then, Elsa Hewitt. Same format in principle: a solo performer with a laptop and a mix desk, she’s understated as a performer, but it very soon becomes clear she has an immense talent and is doing something genuinely different. In this line of work, even the inventive and the radical can pale against the sheer volume of acts trying to carve a niche by virtue of their supposed uniqueness. But with some thunderous trip-hop beats – which are in places contrasted with minimalist, flickering glitch beats – and washes of amorphous sound over low, throbbing, scrotum-vibrating bass, topped with ethereal vocals and looped self-harmonies, Else forges a sound unlike anyone else. Building some slow-burning, hypnotic grooves, the gap in the market for Urban Ambient is hers for the taking.

Elsa Hewitt

Elsa Hewitt

It’s Claire Brentnall’s birthday, and having launched the second Shield Patterns album with a hometown launch show in Manchester the night before, she celebrates with a superlative performance tonight. The duo’s layered, detailed music is well-suited to the intimate atmosphere of the darkened Crescent, and the PA does it justice. The tonal separation and sonic depth is magnificent, the vocals crisp yet still shrouded in reverb: effectively recreating the sound of their considered studio recordings, it’s easy to get lost in the space between the layers of sound. Brentnall’s haunting vocals are enveloped in extraneous noise and a gauze-like blend of synths and field sounds, while Richard Knox hammers out thunderous, rolling drum sounds on an impressive drum pad setup. With the minimal lighting, it all makes for a compelling show, and a magnificent way to end a weekend.

Shield Patterns

Shield Patterns