Music Monday – The Besnard Lakes.

(I am aware it’s not Monday, but Music Monday hasn’t happened in so long! It returns here…)

So. Usual set-up, Tom gets all excited about a gig, I say yes because I’m his gig buddy, am disappointed my gig research, and then am dubious about the supports – as, if the main act isn’t promising, surely the supports will be dire? – and we always miss the end of gigs. As we aren’t rich enough for a car, and have to rely on public transport.

The Lakes Of Besnard

Right, in all but one point. The supports were pretty good! This is potentially because I’m always expecting them to be awful, but then the surprise me by not only being able to play their instruments, but also playing good music. Good, in that I actually quite like it on first listen. This is rare, and if it comes from a support band, then they can’t be too bad can they?

This gig was on Sunday night (the 22nd) at the Fleece in Bristol, and after having spent a day wandering around the city, we were both pretty tired but still up for some musics 🙂 (Really, when are we not?) The Besnard Lakes were supported by Twin Falls (I can’t work out if this is supposed to be one word, or where they’re from) and Final Flash. The latter were from Canada, and I believe had supported said Lakes on the last few shows of this tour. I didn’t know th supports so had no research done for them, but both bands were rather enjoyable. Twin Falls played without a drummer – a point referenced in their set as “we usually have a drummer, but not today. It’s a nice chilled out set today”, and it was indeed. I would recommend they don’t use their drummer in future, as it gave their band a new sound that you don’t frequently hear: so many bands seem to assume a drummer is necessary. A beat and rhythm – fair, that is usually needed – but in this case, the lack of drummer gave their set a pleasantly relaxed ambience, and it was a very good contrast to what was going to happen later. The evening really did build into a crescendo of noise. It’s hard to describe what music Twin Falls were giving us, but they had four guitars (one acoustic, one bass and two electric) and a female singer. I’m not entirely sure if four guitars were necessary, but they made a good sound and their set went quickly – this is seriously rare with supports. Good work, I enjoyed!

Now – since there is nowhere to sit in the Fleece, we went to the slightly seedy pub next door and shared a pint as our funds were low. How cute. However, their was a juke box within this place, and it played ‘Give Up The Funk’ by Parliament – a tune and a half by anyone’s standards. This broke up the evening nicely, and we returned to the majority of Final Flash’s set. This band has a lot of energy it would seem, and gave it their all during

Final Flash

their music. It was a slightly disappointing to see that Jeff was the only one getting his groove on (as is frequently the case at Bristol gigs), as when a band is putting on such a performance, it feels like the audience should give the same back. But then there was much clapping and cheering post-song, so not all was lost. I enjoyed their music too – it was a little loud, but energetic, pretty melodic, and with good beats, so what’s not to like? I am very appreciative of music that is accessible on first listen, and this was some of it which makes it even better. Again, good work Final Flash, I liked it.

Now. The Besnard Lakes. Formed of Canadian husband and wife team Jace Lasek (a scary looking chap) and Olga Goreas, they are loud, noisy and monotonous. I have discovered one track of theirs that I like, entitled ‘And This Is What We Call Progress’, which we did not see them play, and my gig research on this one was spot on. No. I think it’s just not my kind of music. They played their music well and seem to have a theme going on, which all the songs fit to, but it is most definitely not my theme and I’m not hugely bothered we only saw 25 minutes of them. Unlike someone… My gig buddy was not pleased about having to catch the 11:10 train. We haven’t seen the end of many gigs in Bristol.

So what exactly did I not like about these Lakes? It seemed to me that, even though their was a four-piece band, and it was supposedly the project of a duo, that this was very much one man’s band. Scary-looking Lasek that is, and the times that no one else was playing and he was falsetto-ing over and over was almost cringe-worthy. The first song they played was good in that it started off quietly and build up to a pretty epic finish, but they somewhat self-indulgently didn’t stop playing and sunk straight into the next song (I had to confirm it was the next song with my gig buddy), and each time they started a new tune, my thoughts read “Isn’t this the same song..?” Unlike Twin Falls, The Besnard Lakes seemed to think the louder the better, and I think this is the first gig where I’ve actually come away with a headache. A real one. Not even Mogwai managed that! So I guess Besnard Lakes achieved something. No I would not see them again, but that doesn’t mean they’re terrible. Well they are to me, but I prefer more melodic, quieter, (better), less monotonous tunes. Tunes, I really like tunes.

In conclusion, it was all about the supports for me in this gig, and the fact we saw more of them than Besnard Lakes did not annoy or vex me. Having said that, I would take more Besnard Lakes any day to make my gig buddy smile a bit more 🙂

Zun Zun Zun Zun Zun Zun Zun Egui… And some other people.

On Friday last (the 29th), we returned once again to the Fleece and Firkin, à la Bristol. This time we went mainly for the rather pleasant support, Zun Zun Egui first seen by us at Mr Geoffrey Barrow’s ‘Invada Invasion’ last September. The main act were The Ex, with Brass Unbound (and very unbound they were), who made something of a noise-fest, but still had some commendable points.. Gig research was not hugely needed for Zun Zun, but after delving into The Ex, I was a little (a lot) apprehensive (not looking forward to them). I had only their Myspace to work from, which I was not entirely overwhelmed by: it sounded more like they could not decide what genre to jump into, and tried to fit together styles that just would not go. That, and the fact they kept changing their style from song to song meant what I initially heard was so hit and miss, it didn’t look too good for the Ex.

After tea in the Watershed’s restaurant (mm cake.. Mm..), we made our assault on the Fleece, and inadvertently directed (not particularly well – all back streets in Brizzle look the same) a certain Andy Moor to the gig. Slightly confused as to why this stranger ran ahead, we later saw him “rocking out” on stage. I’m glad I didn’t extol the virtues of Zun Zun and tell him we were mainly going for them..

Anyway! Zun Zun Egui. They had such a lovely sedate quality to them that it wasn’t brilliant preparation for The Ex, but no matter. Oddly, what initially struck me was their clothing: Mr Bass had a very cosy looking jumper, a rather odd-shaped hat adorned the head of Lead “Vox” (what a horrible term), and all the male counterparts managed to get away with wearing the tshirt-jeans-jumper combination that males so frequent. Miss Keys, however, went in for a somewhat vibrant dress, which started me thinking – why do females in bands always look marvellous, and males can get away with looking like they’d just walked through a hedge backwards? Is this the typical image of the rockstar/penniless Bohemian artist/musician that we like?

Their set up on stage meant it looked like there was no obvious leader – but instead of this being detrimental to their performance, they worked incredibly well as a pack. Instead of having a mild tentative anxiety (as one can do for supports as they can frequently be both young and nervous) for them, you were confident they had each other’s wavelength in check, and many exchanged smiles and nods between band members created a quietly confident ambience – thus meaning it was awfully enjoyable. Miss Keys, in particular, put such concentration into her work that her expression didn’t change until a song ended and she could actually enjoy they performance they just gave. Only about six or seven songs were played, but Zun Zun are excellent value for money as their song lengths and “rockability” (rock durability – how long they can keep going) are pretty impressive. And long. They’re more “pieces” than songs I feel. And that’s not a bad thing. Similarly it’s not a bad thing that the lyrics were hardly ever in English – one could almost guarantee they would be good. They added to the influence-infused sound: but it felt more that they were giving an appreciation to all the different styles they liked, rather than that they couldn’t decide which one to be. A lovely performance from a charming band.

Now. The Ex. And Brass. Unbound. Kind of ouch, kind of wow, kind of “shhhhhhhhhhut the fuck up”, kind of “hm well they come together well don’t they”, kind of “I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON ANYMORE”. 10/10 for energy. Especially considering some had been going from the 70s/80s. But still – such noise! Sources have labelled them an “anarchist” band. What is that?! A band who’s roots are in anarchy? A band who tries not to be an actual band because they wish to cause chaos for the music world? It makes little or no sense. And is not cool. However. Let us put that aside..

My favourite in this band was again the only female (the drummer), especially considering that if she hadn’t been there, they would have been all over the bloody place. That, combined with the fact she delivered my favourite song by them (a pleasantly calming folk song), and that she seemed to really care about her craft made for an excellent musician. Go Miss Drums. Some excellent European on-stage banter came from the newest member (Mr de Boer), in the form of phrases such as “Thank you very much, you’re very kind” after a song loud enough to make one’s ears bleed. I found you couldn’t really categorise them – which frustrates me ten-fold – but you could say, I suppose, it was “rock with a brass section”. Now the Brass Unbound were a little irritating in that they were such brilliant musicians, but on more than one occasion didn’t exercise this to create the nicest sound. Instead they appeared to be having arguments with theirs instruments, whilst trying to the contest of who can make the most noise. Why must people do this?! It is not music! I’d rather listen to Mogwai with NO EARPLUGS than this drivel. Having said that, there were times when they came together as a group so well, you were thinking “YES Brass, again please” – which added up to a damn frustrating group. They really did add to what The Ex made, but still – why can’t they play nicely all the time? And don’t give me any of that improvised, “creative”, “going into a brass trance” stuff. It does not sound good.

All in all, The Ex and Brass Unbound were exceptionally hit and miss, and getting to the extremities of both good and bad. Zun Zun, however, were pretty flawless all the time, so they win this round…

I am slightly concerned that…

… I preferred a support act to the headliner. Although serious kudos to, in this case, That Fucking Tank – I usually despise supports. It literally is a case of me standing, arms folded, saying “Right you juveniles, impress me!”, and they frequently don’t.

This gig took place in Bristol (as most of the ones I attend do) at the Fleece and Firkin, Friday 4th December. I had my trusty gig buddy (The Rt. Hon. Thomas J Bench Esq.), who usually expresses his intense want to attend a musical event and I am left to the particulars. But at least I know what is going on. The Fleece was a new venture for us, but a rather good one – I’d rate it far above the Anson Rooms for cosiness and above the Academy for ambience and style. I had visions of a mere handful of very dedicated fans turning up – making the main act look a little silly for more than one reason – but apparently I underestimated the talent of Lightning Bolt. Although the crowd was a 90 – 10% split, males to females. My gig research this time was intermittent – the main band in question were not altogether to my taste which led to minimal amounts of investigation, and it was almost a physical impossibility to find anything about the first act, The Hysterical Injury, but as it happens this didn’t matter for once. This was much more an evening of experience than just a mere gig!

The Hysterical Injury I was exceptionally impressed with, considering they were a two-piece, and made a much better sound than, for example, the White Stripes can. It was more refined clamour than a five year old banging a drum kit (see Meg White). Good work ‘Injury – very good stage presence and confidence too, which I find unusual in the early supports.

Maybe these are on the up, because That Fucking Tank blew me away. In some cases literally. We were standing next to the speaker. Not the most sensible option, especially considering we saved the earplugs for Lightning Bolt, but given the enjoyment factor it was definitely worth it. Despite a small technical hitch part-way through the set, they held our attention with something of a vice (ie. their talent), and provided some witty on-stage banter with LOUD NOISES that were actually SONGS too! Total value for money. I also particularly liked the stage set-up – drummer SR, guitarist SL, and.. facing each other?! But worked so well – wavelength levels were clearly high, and their live performance excellent.

Now Lightning Bolt are an interesting band. I use this term for a diplomatic stance. Playing in the middle of a crowd may be seen as different but could also just be awkward. To gain a good view, a fan even stood on the pint-rest surround on a pillar. All tables were used as view-points. Social norms were obselete by this point, and by the end of the set, the entourage (consisting mainly of the males) at the front/nearest the band represented something of a river of piranhas.  Decibel-wise, Lightning Bolt had it. It did somewhat seem like a constant stream of noise coming from two (although you may be led to believe it was more) musicians I couldn’t ever hope to see. I caught a glimpse of the somewhat creepy mask of Mr Chippendale, but I feel a safer stance was further away from the headliners as possible. I haven’t shared that much sweat with strangers since a Manics gig. Although the crowd was a huge amount more pleasant here – not quite everyone for themselves, but the maximum amount of enjoyment from the music for everyone as it is possible to have, perhaps.

Really, I’d like to give you a set list from Lightning Bolt, but it would be a grand feat if anyone could pick out all the songs (I use this term loosely) they played (again, loosely). Apparently it wasn’t all improvised. That’s not to say it was bad – au contrare – one has to give it to them for sheer stamina and clear crowd pleasing value. Evidently they are very good at what they seem to want to do (make noise!), but I still preferred our supports. Maybe I just don’t like to stray from the norm. How awfully dull of me…