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The Dykeenies

As I walked into the Cellars Bar in Portsmouth, I have to say I wasn’t expecting much. The venue looked barely bigger than my lounge, and nobody milling about looked like the type to go to gigs. So why were they here to check out a band NME Magazine have said could be bigger than The Killers? Scottish band The Dykeenies were set to play tonight, in a bar that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Only Fools and Horses. NME have said The Dykeenies are “Scotland’s biggest and best new band… a weird and utterly brilliant hybrid of The Killers and Panic! At The Disco. Only they’ll probably end up bigger than both.”  I was here to find out how true that was.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the first support act were all wearing matching suits with added neckties. I didn’t catch their name, and to be frank I’m glad I didn’t. They were just like every other indie band breaking onto the scene.

The second support act were a lot better. Telegraphs are from Brighton, and they burst on to the stage with an energy and excitement that’s rare to see at gigs this small. A girl and guy singer combination worked really well, with great harmonies and swirling guitars. Vocalists Hattie Williams and Darcy Harrison were particularly impressive, and they got the crowd going with handclaps and head nods all around the venue. New single I Don’t Navigate By You is out now and was the highlight of the set, along with The Rules Of Modern Policing and Your First Love Is Dead. Telegraphs are definitely a band to check out and are sure to go far in the local gigging scene.

And then the moment everyone had been waiting for. The Dykeenies came out to possibly the best song ever – I Am The One and Only by Chesney Hawkes. By now the gig had got horrendously hot, with people stripping off left right and centre. The band emerged with cheeky grins and wine, and from then on it was sure to be a great gig. They opened with new free download singleAre You With Me Now?, which was quite a risky move. Surprisingly many people already knew the words; these were hardcore fans. The band had such a great energy about them, with frontman Brian Fire cracking jokes and bassist Andrew Henderson also on great form.

This is a band that could’ve gone either way live – with their synthesizers and ambitious vocals, they would either be one of the best or one of the worst. And thankfully, they were the former. Fire was better live than on their album Nothing Means Everything, from which they played singles Stitches, Clean Up Your Eyes and New Ideas, along with album tracks Things You Cannot See, Pick You Up, Feels Like Sleep and Waiting For Go. New songs were also well received, with Traps gaining the best reception after singles Are You With Me Now? and Sounds Of The City. Fire showed off his lyrics with clever lines such as ‘If you help me through this I’ll hurt you I promise’ – you can see where the Panic At The Disco comparison comes from. Guitarist Steven Ramsay was also impressive, with drummer John Kerr getting the most flack for getting the rhythm wrong on song Feels Like Sleep. The fans didn’t seem to mind – the mood was jovial by this point, and more than a fair few of the audience had had quite a few shandies by then…

Without meaning to take anything away from the band, I didn’t expect a lot from this gig. I didn’t think there would be many fans, and I was scared that they wouldn’t live up to the quality of their album. Thankfully I was blown away, and I would recommend going to see this band to anyone. Their new album is set to be a scorcher.

Full setlist:

  1. Are You With Me Now?
  2. Things You Cannot See
  3. Pick You Up
  4. Square Balloons
  5. Stitches
  6. Traps
  7. New Ideas
  8. Fade Out In The Sun
  9. Feels Like Sleep
  10. Sounds Of The City
  11. Clean Up Your Eyes
  12. Awake
  13. Waiting For Go

More info can be found about the band here

The Telegraphs can be checked out here

To check out who’s playing at Cellars Bar, click here

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Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon’s downloadable media player Spotify seems to be the next big online bandwagon. With just over 250,000 UK users, this social media phenomenon still has a way to go to reach the cult status enjoyed recently by the social network Twitter but with news coverage appearing across the globe Spotify is well on its way.

The concept behind the media player is instant access to millions of songs, streaming live from the internet to your PC without having to download them. The best part is, it’s free! Well, to a certain extent. On the Spotify homepage you can select the free version, which means you have to listen to an advert every few songs, a day pass which allows you ad-free content for 24 hours for £0.99 and the premium service which allows the user to stream music, with no ads, straight to their PC for £9.99 a month.

The site also provides the ability to create and share playlists with friends and family online. This is being described as one of the service’s greatest functions, bringing together users through the medium of music. Users like Sur Duke create playlists and post them on the internet to share with everyone. The creator Daniel Ek has said, “We are huge music fans ourselves,”.

“We set up Spotify to cater for that demand, but, at the same time, create a functioning revenue stream for artists and labels.”

The site is being praised as a revolution in digital music listening and some of the big names in the industry are hoping it will bring an end to illegal file sharing. Others, though, are worried about the effect it will have on ownership. Even with the millions of songs already online, Spotify have still only got access to around 5% of the music industries content. The application has sparked a lot of controversy on recent weeks at a time when music copyright hasn’t really been out of the news.

Spotify functions beautifully, is incredibly user friendly and it looks good too. There is still a long way to go to get more users and more content and there will more than likely be a few more disputes over copyright ownership and infringement between the Spotify owners and the music industry.

Every year at Christmas, I usually end up with at least one gift voucher for a music store such as HMV or Virgin Megastores. Since my early teenage years I took great pride in walking in and perusing every album on the shelves. My eyes could look for easily over an hour, finally deciding on the perfect way to get value for money. Buying an album has always meant a lot to me. It makes me feel like an enthusiast, a part of the music community and a supporting fan of that particular artist. A gift voucher was like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. Until I was old enough to have a part time job, I would cherish it with my life.

shibuya_hmv2

Once I was home from the record store, I would put the CD on and lie on my bed so that I could listen from start to finish. During that time I’d be able to take in the artwork of the album case and read through the booklet with complete content. This regime obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but I feel that for the past few decades the ideal of a physical collection has been really important. Whether it is vinyl, cassette or CD.

This year though, I opened my card to find an iTunes voucher inside. I was instantly elated, having only recently started using the Apple software to store my music collection. I had never really looked at the iTunes Store before and wasn’t really sure how it worked. My brother explained to me how I would go about it and once I reflected I was slightly disappointed. I had thought that maybe I would walk into the Apple store on the High Street, where they would have their own choice of records and I could continue my tradition. No, instead I would be doing this online. As I booted up the software I began clicking through a few pages and felt my heart sank.

The fact that I had received a gift for Christmas was something I should be eternally grateful for, and I was. However, knowing that I was going to be spending that money on a file, something I wouldn’t be able to touch or keep on a bookshelf felt wrong. Is this the way all of our music collections will be going? Rather than going out to the independent music stores, we will just be sitting at a screen ordering with the click of a button? Illegal file sharing may be becoming ever prominent for youths, but for those of us that still buy records the future is already arriving. Rather than flicking through cases, we’ll be scrolling through music applications.

For some this digitalisation may not be an issue, but I’ll miss having an ever-growing CD collection. Seeing the independent shops close and even the larger chains such as Zavvi go down is a saddening thought on the shift of our industry. With CD sales decreasing year on year, it will be interesting to see how artists will continue to source their income. Does Apple give artists the same profit chunk as traditional labels did? I’m not sure. Regardless, it seems that soon the CD collection will be just like Vinyl. A retro niche, overshadowed by the next technological step.

When you think of the UK hip hop scene, usually you don’t think of two white middle aged men sporting beards or sideburns. This is with good reason though, because Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip aren’t your usual UK hip hop act. Hailing from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex, the duo have more than made a name for themselves after competing with Rage Against The Machine for the audience at this year’s Reading Festival.

Their most recent album, Angles, was released earlier this year, featuring their signature track “Thou Shalt Always Kill” which broke into the UK Top 40. So what makes these two unique? Unlike the stereotypes of their genre Scroobius Pip rhymes with passion and intellect, producing prose that can be both comical and thought provoking within an instant. Dan le Sac on the other hand is in charge of the sampling and DJ decks, occasionally unleashing his own voice in tracks such as “Look For The Woman”.

On the 29 of October The Old Fire Station opened its doors to the student demographic in Bournemouth. Inviting the cold in for an evening that would be both different and more entertaining than the usual clubbing culture, at first glance it seemed like the turnout might be poor. Rest assured though when Kid Carpet came on for the headline supporting act, the floor filled. An electro musician from Bristol, the male in his twenties was quick to introduce himself and a snippet of the array of instruments he was about to use.

“This here is my guitar. I have to strum the air like this for it to work see.” Holding a small neck from a guitar, he points to the bottom where an infra-red sensor is placed. Quickly he waves his hand in front of it, once up and once down in quick succession to show the difference between an upstroke and down stroke. It sounds ridiculous, but as soon as it’s accompanied by a series of melodies the concept seems genius. Walking round the stage with jarring movements, Kid Carpet has as much if not more energy than the crowd he’s performing to. Which is a good thing, because before long the once placid degree hopefuls are bouncing up and down and cheering when a new recognisable sample comes in.

Merchandise is being sold in the corner, subtlety being plugged by the artists in between their songs. T-shirts, albums, flyers and even LP records are scattered across the table in the dimly lit corner. With good reason, being in an economic climate where album sales are lower than ever, this is the time for artists to make their wages and spread the word for themselves.

Once his half hour is up Kid Carpet puts down the fisher price tape recorder that he’s been using for his last song, bowing graciously and taking up the microphone originally meant for him to sing in. “Are you guys ready for Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip?” He calls out to the crowd, to which he receives a well deserved roar. “Then my job here is done.”

You wouldn’t think that The Old Fire Station could get any busier on a Wednesday night, yet somehow the first sighting of Dan Le Sac on stage brings a throng truly worthy of the headlining partnership. As they announce their gratitude for having us all packed into such a tight space, with true respect Dan Le Sac is already sporting one of Kid Carpet’s t-shirts. It’s great to see the music community supporting one another. Adjusting his trucker hat Scroobius Pip is ready and their first track “Beat that my heart skipped” begins, instantly sending the audience into a chant of “Boom, boom, boom.” With a smile Scroobius Pip raises his microphone stand into the crowd, giving the ok sign to show his approval. It’s easy to see that these two enjoy the music they make and both Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip pull off their opening with poetic flow.

‘Magician’s Assistant’ and ‘Angels’ bring a much darker tone to the set, sending Bournemouth into a hushed silence as the themes of suicide and violent points of view are explored. The lyrics show a depth that is probably more mature than many poets their age, but in a musical context it also adds to the mood and overall entertainment. This is where the mix of prose and hip hop links so well and they quickly change the mood and address this with “Fixed”. The song uses a riff from Dizzee Rascal’s “Fix Up, Look Sharp” to comment on his argued shallow climb to the top of the charts and the current state of UK Hip Hop.

They leave their most famous song “Thou shalt always kill” until the latter half of their set list when they have finished some of their playful banter. Using a large book Scroobius Pip reads like a prophet, turning the pages as he raps over what he believes society should and should not adhere too. Strangely though, even with a call from the crowd for the song “Tommy C” they leave it out of their performance, perhaps unprepared or simply running out of time. As is now customary to nearly any gig, they are brought back on for an encore after exiting and saying thank you to The Old Fire Station.

As if on a whim Scroobius Pip calls out for Kid Carpet to return to the stage and the trio ignite the crowd once more with a hardcore version of “Nightclub” by The Specials. Perhaps an odd choice of song for some, but the students seemed to show their approval by producing a mosh pit any metal band would be proud of. Although not mainstream or stereotypical enough to please everyone, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip is definitely an act worth checking out if you’re prepared to spend some time with it. For a weekday evening I left the student bar with a grin plastered across my face, knowing that the eight pounds I had spent was more than value for money.

I found a great artist recently through a couple of friends. Her name is Laura Marling and her new single, cross your fingers is out on June 9th 2008.

She has a beautiful voice and an interesting writing style. Her songs are both lyrically and musically beautiful and very listenable. She is obviously influenced by folk and country music as alot of her music has that kind of sound. However, some of it is very different and it’s all very good.

Miss Marling tore up the festival scene last year and has toured with a number of UK artists, including Jamie T, who personally invited her on tour with him last year after he attended her second-ever gig. She released her debut album, Alas I cannot swim in February 2008. You can listen to some of her tracks here:

Sounds

She is playing at Auntie Annies in Belfast on the 2nd of July 2008. You can find out more information about the gig on their site:

Auntie Annies

And you can buy tickets here:

Tickets

For only £9.00 its definitely worth a peek. I’ll be there and I hope to see you there too.

Dan

So, I went to see the Wombats the other night – Tuesday 27th May – in the Mandela Hall in Belfast. It was an awesome gig to say the least; great atmosphere, great music and a great venue. I really enjoyed the night.

The interesting thing is, though, that I’m not really the biggest Wombats fan in the world. I bought the ticket a few months ago because I was offered it and it was only £13.50, and I thought I’d just go because I love live music so much. At this point I don’t think I’d actually heard The Wombats except for maybe one song.

I spent the next few months listening to them and getting into the band. I really like their sound and, although they’re pretty mainstream I do think there’s something fresh about them. Plus, as a diehard Beatles fan, I could never say no to a liverpudlian accent.

I was talking with a friend, who was at the gig and in pretty much the same situation as me and we both agreed that seeing a band live was a great way to first get aquainted with them.

On to the gig itself though. The band were really good. They opened with the wonderful and well known Girls, Boys And Marsupials and continued along those lines, with their awesome mix of indie pop and beautiful harmonies. The atmosphere really added to the experience as it does at any gig and this was mostly due to the Wombats themselves. You could really tell they were enjoying themselves and that makes you enjoy yourself too.

The support band were pretty awesome too. They’re called General Fiasco and they’re from Belfast. They had some really nice songs and the singer has a great voice. Check out their myspace to listen to a couple of their tunes. General Fiasco

All in all, the gig was fantastic. I’d reccomend it to anyone to go and see them. They won’t be back in Northern Ireland on their current tour but you can catch them at Oxegen, Glastonbury and T in the Park, to name but a few of the festivals they’ll be attending. If you get the chance go and have a look. It’s definitely worth it.

Dan

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