Apr 06

Sunday 2nd April

Mogwai, The Magnificents
Coal Exchange, Cardiff.


Five piece of drums, bass, guitar and two keyboards The Magnificents hail from Edinburgh and sound like they must have left around 1981 to start this tour and arrived in Cardiff in 2006 using a time-warp machine without changing their set. Part Simple Minds part Human League and a tad of D.A.F. for good measure. Dirty electro music with little heart or soul to capture the imagination. The only track worth listening to on their tour EP (sleeve left) is the Mogwai remix of Greenprint. Hmm...

By the time main act Mogwai hit the stage the Coal Exchange was jammed to its 140 year old rafters with the sell out crowd including Super Furry Animal  Gryff skulking at the back of the hall. I had never seen noise merchants Mogwai before, but had heard  tales of legendary volume levels at their gigs high enough to induce vomiting, deafness and sensory loss - on their quieter nights. This urban myth was supported by the sight outside the venue of the biggest juggernaut of PA gear ever seen in these parts - the sort you see outside the CIA or NEC, not a 500 capacity former Coal Exchange!

There was an air of heady expectation as the band launched into Satan v Mogwai from their debut Young Team album. Picking the majority of the set from their latest (and best) album Mr Beast and a selection from their previous Happy Songs For Happy People the band seemed to be enjoying sending a sonic boom through the audience.  At one point in Glasgow Mega Snake, the bass seemed to hit a frequency I have never experienced in nearly 30 years of gig-going. I could feel the vibrations run from the floor up my body to the top of my head until it felt like every hair was physically on its end! Spinal Tap may have amps that go up to 11 but these boys have the ones that go up to 12! With songs that go from virtual silence to blistering volume in the blink of an eye, maybe their shows should have health warnings as the shock could be too much for anyone of a nervous disposition! Lead guitarist Stuart Braithwaite enjoyed every second of controlling the sheer energy their music drives through the air and for finale We’re No Here simply played the same two chords (and the audiences full attention) for a full five minutes before the song descended into a cacophony of noise and lights. Their sound and lighting crew must surely be some of the best in the business as they were in total control of the halls atmosphere for the 100 minute set and without distortion, allowed the music to levitate the crowd off of the floor. The Mogwai records give you an idea what they are about, but live, they are a mesmerising and altogether enthralling aural proposition. If the authorities get to hear about this lot they’ll start putting noise terrorists in the music equivalent of Guantanamo Bay! Thanks for the set list guys....     


Thursday 6th April

Guillemots, Mistys Big Adventure
Barfly, Cardiff.


Mistys come from Birmingham, but it may well not be in this stratosphere. An eight piece (including multi armed red and blue Bez style dancer - see pic!) with lots of influences evident from the Bonzos, Zappas Mothers of Invention through to Beefheart and Pulp. Theatrical pop fronted by a Gareth, a man so deadpan he would make Alan Bennett seem like Norman Wisdom, but somehow it works. They must be on some sort of student grant for their highly amusing set with songs of George Bush and having Two Brains. Interesting use of kitchen implements, including a hand-whisk solo! Check out their website:  www.mistysbigadventure.co.uk/


In addition to the Barfly gig we were lucky enough to catch the Guillemots play a three song set and record signing in Spillers earlier. Confessing it was their first ever in-store promotion and that they found it more stressful than any gig they had played, Trains to Brazil, We’re Here and Blue Is Still Blue were played with brilliant ease by Fyfe and Aristazabel for the 40 or so fans locked inside the shop. We also got tickets for a raffle to get them to play in our house, so watch this space (see Spillers Website for pics here >> SPILLERS)

Later that evening at Barfly, with lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield safely onstage and solo intro song If The World Ends completed, the three other members of the band appeared on stage through the audience using loud-hailers, drums and bells as they made their way through the packed crowd. Fyfe looking like a Cornish fisherman (complete with straggly beard) still in his pyjamas while Brazilian guitarist Mc Lord wore a fetching green sow ester, double bass player Aristazabel a flowing cocktail dress (no doubt from her days playing cruise ships) and drummer Greg Stewart in his smock! The music was at times as bizarre as their getups....

First full band song Through The Windowpane set an eery scene with bird calls (guillemots presumably?!) and whale sounds completing the nautical theme. Eclectic and engaging but occasionally self-indulgent and doodling, the 80 minute set was not as musically captivating as their three singles to date have been. Following a competent Made Up Love Song 43, the live version of Who Put The Lights Out Baby nearly totally fell apart when the Black & Decker power drill onto guitar solo (I kid you not, see picture to the left with him kneeling!) went on far too long, prompting Fyfe to plead “stop it, its not working” yet he continued on as if in spite… Highlight was Trains to Brazil with the crowd singing along but new single We’re Here didn’t fare as well as the acoustic version in Spillers earlier. Fyfe’s solo rendition of Blue is Still Blue managed to keep the usually chatty Barfly crowd quiet for 5 minutes. Guitarists Mc Lords blue manual typewriter used as percussion (fully miked up with its own stand no less!) seemed pretentious and unnecessary when Greg can make such a fine rhythmic racket with his sticks. The encore finale with Fyfe on bass was a rambling jam of a song which would have been better left as the free website download it originally was.

All in all, a disappointing night which promised so much. Some good tunes in there, but somebody needs to put a finger on the quality control button if they are to make it out of cult obscurity. Maybe a name Producer could lick them into shape and knock off the wackier experimental edges which frankly don’t work. Loved the Guillemots egg shakers mind – a top promo gift if ever there was one!

Check their Website for free downloads: www.guillemots.com

Saturday 8th April

Broken Family Band, The Keys
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff.


Yes officer, that’s him. He’s the one who wanted to piss on my pregnant girlfriend’s face!

Clocking up a set of nearly an hour, The Keys overstayed their welcome by about 45 minutes we reckon. In the space of their 60 minutes of fame they managed to cram in songs that sounded like The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Cream, Traffic, The Byrds and just about every other band that existed in the 60s. They’d be better off working out what they would like to be in 2006 rather than living as a pastiche of the past. People seemed to like them, but does the world really need another Bootleg Beatles?

Broken Family Band shambled onstage and quickly launched into Happy Days Are Here Again from last years excellent Welcome Home Loser album. From then it was a selection from latest offering Balls and a smattering from some of their back catalogue which was often played by the late John Peel, who was a big fan. Some friendly banter warmed the Cambridge quartet to the with the enthusiastic Saturday night crowd. With the band looking like they were enjoying their visit to Wales, lead singer Steven Adams asked if anyone wanted a song for someone special and a guy said “yes, for my pregnant girlfriend”. He soon regretted it when one of the lines included “I wish you were dead so I could piss on your face”! Imagine if Morrissey had gone English Country (Lord) rather than English Rockabilly (Clown) and you get the picture. Lyrics with humour dryer than a bone and music that would make a corpse tap a toe; Clwb Ifor was turned into a twisted hoe down for the evening. Ending with Diamonds in the Mine, the Broken Family Band won many new relatives on the night and may even end up marrying their own sisters! check out: www.thebrokenfamilyband.com


Monday 24th April

Blind River Scare
The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff.


First time we’d seen The Blind River Scare in a while and first time we’d ever been to the new arts centre in the heart of Roath set in a former church. Internally very smart and modern, it was a bit like playing Ikea after the staff had gone home. Intimacy was the name of the game as the students who frequent the area were still at home with mum and dad in the South East.

The band played an hour long set for the small but appreciative crowd of their trademark clever country tinged songs with personal favourite Something For The Pain mixed in with the now familiar Wolfman Jack, Killing Time and eponymous Blind River Scare. We enjoyed it so much we went to see them on Wednesday too........

Wednesday 26th April

Blind River Scare, The Grief Brothers
The Riverside Tavern, Newport.


First outing for a while for the Brothers Grief. Racing through a set featuring covers of Clem Snide, Sleepy Jackson and Son Volt as well as a few of their own, the men in black seemed to go down well with the mainly inebriated crowd. The only thing that spoilt frontman Steve’s birthday party seem to be the technical problem affecting his amp. Good bar room fun for all the family.


Blind River Scare fresh from their gig in Cardiff on Monday were raring to go and play a storming set on their home turf. Keep Saying Sorry, Graveyard Sounds and Its Out of My Hands came across really well as did as some highly amusing banter between drummer Jem and singer Tim concerning his 800 guitar that goes out of tune and forgetting the words to Wolfman Jack. A surprise addition tonight was the inclusion of (a very pregnant) female vocalist to duet with Tim for one song Actions. Lisa Matthews is joining the band full time later in the year and judging by tonight performance it will add a nice edge to the bands already bittersweet songs. Could they be a country Beautiful South in the waiting? Only time will tell but the band just go from strength to strength. Keep an eye out for more gigs at: www.blindriverscare.co.uk

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