It gets a bit quiet round here in the summer – festival season kicking in and all that - but thankfully the absence of unnecessary chaff just makes the delicious wheaty goodness all the easier to spot. Here’s the pick of what’s out there so far.
R STEVIE MOORE IS COMING TO CARDIFF! This is unmissable, and here’s why. Dude is 59 years old and has a great big bushy beard. He has dedicated his life to churning out home-recorded albums – over 400 to date – spanning the rock and pop lexicon from unabashed Beatles/Wilson worship to wiggy psych to oddball synthpop. He’s embraced the internet like his first meal after captivity, uploading countless home-shot videos to his Youtube channel. If you’ve any affinity for the outsiders, the crazies, the pop historians who love the form so much they squeezed it into new, weird shapes – the Daniel Johnstons, Ariel Pinks, Irwin Chusids, Frank Zappas, Tiny Tims of this world – you need to attend his gig FOR US at Undertone on the 7th of August. It’s his first time outside the US, his first ever tour. He’s backed by Brooklyn psych outfit TROPICAL OOZE, and supported by our own H HAWKLINE. It’s the gig of the month, no contest. Possibly the year.
We’re not finished there, mark you. In another team-up with the excellent folk of The Rusty Trombone of God, we present a totally ace line-up of psych/drone/improv treats (Buffalo, 24th) from Pasadena-based psych vets PRIMORDIAL UNDERMIND, Bristolian bliss-out noise kings THOUGHT FORMS, Martini Henry Rifles/Brown Wings side-project BEAR-MAN and recently added special guests NAZKA who offer intense, repetetive grooves all the way from Chile. Phew. Goes without saying that you should also chance your arm on Rusty Trombone’s other presentation this month, wherein A S S S give it some head-spinning prog-noise and MEDDICINE dabble in Throbbing Gristle-esque dark electro gunk (Undertone, 4th). Altered perceptions guaranteed, maaan.
Righto, shameless self-promotion over, what else is worthy of your time? Certainly the NATNIGHT fundraiser (Clwb, 4th) which brings together a superb line-up in honour of Nat Rowson, former frontman with mind-bendingly unique early 2000s Cardiff legends The Toe and contributor to (and supporter of) the local scene, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Folk legend WIZZ JONES, the mighty EUROS CHILDS, SPENCER McGARRY SEASON, RATATOSK, THE KEYS and the reunited STRAY BORDERS take part in aid of Nat’s adopted charities Rookwood Hospital and WhizzKidz. Dig deep, please. Elsewhere, further indulge your taste for marathon gigs with Lesson No. 1 and SPIDER KITTEN‘s ‘Loserpalooza’ (Buffalo, 6th) where the aforementioned doom/psych/stoner dudes appear alongside techgrind nasties ATOMCK, riff-heavy ex Circa Regna Tonat dudes THORUN, SMILER, PUS and JIMMY ROWE.
Fans of borderline acceptable toilet facilities look away now, as it’s a busy month at Undertone. Glowering no-wave neckbreakers DIVORCE return to Cardiff (Undertone, 9th) care of Small Cities (Jim and Dan of support DRAINS); promising Baltimore noise duo WEEKENDS visit (14th, with JOANNA GRUESOME and VANITY FAIR); newly-minted Cardiff ‘zine Reeks Of Effort throw a launch party with Joy faves YAJE and SATURDAY’S KIDS alongside Joanna Gruesome and Bristol’s CAVES (11th) and decent post-hardcore types A THOUSAND ARROWS play on the 10th.
HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT in Cardiff’s, nay Wales’, most bitterly appropriately named venue? The dream’s a reality. The Wirral’s finest chroniclers of all that is absurd, vexatious and beautiful in this sceptred isle return to Cardiff this month (Solus, 25th), supported by JOHN MOUSE. Just announced for Clwb is a reunion show for scabby grebo funsters turned unlikely socio-political commentators POP WILL EAT ITSELF (19th), albeit with one original member, and noted soundtrack composer Clint Mansell replaced by, er, the bloke from Gaye Bikers On Acid. Exercise extreme caution, then. SHONEN KNIFE are back too, returning swiftly for a 30th anniversary tour (!) with VEG CLUB and excellent new wave robopop trio SUPER CUTE VOICES in support (Buffalo, 21st). Funtimes! See also BEN BUTLER & MOUSEPAD aka Joe Howe, once of Germlin/Gay Against You, whose dry, hyper-nerdy, mock-serious prog-pop baffled the scattered few at Max Tundra’s last Cardiff show; he does 10 Feet Tall on the 10th. Signature continue to wipe the floor with the competition in getting top-drawer forward-looking electronic talent across the bridge; this month alone sees atmospheric dubstep from DISCLOSURE (4th), futurist hip-hop from MIKE SLOTT (11th) and a sure-to-sell-out showcase from GIRL UNIT kicking off the bank holiday weekend (25th). Awesome stuff.
What about you, Bristol? Precious little this month, unless they’ve just decided to stop publicising gig details down there. Among the highlights is a cracking double bill featuring ex-Black Flag/Circle Jerks mainman Keith Morris, now 55 and still blasting through nuggets of flinty, belligerent DC hardcore with Hot Snakes and Burning Brides alumni under the name OFF!. They play the Thekla (5th) with the excellent TRASH TALK. FOOT VILLAGE, staggeringly great at Undertone the other week, are in town the same night (Croft, 5th, with Matt Williams’ FAIRHORNS). SHONEN KNIFE‘s tour takes in the Fleece (20th), where reunified stoner dudes KARMA TO BURN also appear (4th). There’s a smattering of Green Man warm-ups over the bridge, too, for scrappy, pleasingly moody indie-folkers THE CAVE SINGERS (Fleece, 13th), 6 Music-approved trad-soul revivalist MICHAEL KIWANUKA (Thekla, 20th) and, in Cardiff, stomping, bluesy duo SHE KEEPS BEES (Buffalo, 22nd).
Some nice stuff in Bristol this month if you’re into your indie-friendly R&B slow jams and twinkling hypnogogic pop, or whatever. HOW TO DRESS WELL are/is remarkably adept at the former, and if memory serves from Primavera last year they do it pretty tidily live too. Check them at the Thekla (10th), and get there early for GRIMES‘ bass-weighted shoegaze if you do. WASHED OUT‘s blissed-out, smartly rhythmic electro-pop gets a run-out the following night (Thekla, 11th), while the punchably named ∆ (alt-J, if you prefer, after the Mac keyboard shortcut – euchhh) do a serviceable UK take on similar styles (Thekla, 18th). If all that’s too Urban Outfitters for you, how about MARK KOZELEK‘s dreamy balladry (Thekla, 9th), a Trojan Soundsystem night featuring the splendidly named EARL GATESHEAD (Start The Bus, 5th) or smiley Dirty Projectors/Polyphonic Spree pop types GIVERS (Start The Bus, 11th). Can’t say there’s not variety.
Round-up time. Shouldn’t take long. The Big Weekend is, sadly, once more a nightmarish farrago of blokey Valleys emo, reanimated Britpop has-beens and soul-deadeningly bland Heart FM fare, though HYPNOTIC BRASS ENSEMBLE on the Saturday evening (6th) will be worth dodging the beakers of piss and half-digested hotdogs for. Butetown reggae/funk songman WIBIDI, with a band comprised of various SFA-afilliated likely lads, tours South Wales taking in Undertone (2nd), Clwb (3rd), The Globe (4th) and Le Pub (26th). RACE HORSES (Buffalo, 26th), GENTLE GOOD (CAI, 17th) and THE DEATH OF HER MONEY (Croft, 11th) are ever-reliable live turns, TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET do serviceable punk-pop straight outta Wyoming (Le Pub, 24th) and Gathered In Song return at the end of the month with TWIN FALLS (Le Pub, 27th). None of these chumps can hold a candle to IRON MAIDEN (Motorboat, 1st) though, so why try? I’m off.