We’ve had another fine year on the gig-going front with our local venues and promoters putting on exceptional shows. Among our favourites were a secret Marika Hackman gig supporting Me and the Moon and Jamie Lenman’s Christmas Jamboree at the Guildford Boileroom, Black Peaks, Souer and Muncie Girls at the Westy (Aldershot) and an all-too-rare So-Crates show at the Star. We were also so happy to see The Xcerts play to huge crowds at 2000 Trees, Westival (where Duotone made a welcome return), Brighton and a triumphant tour closer at the London Scala. We hope you’ve pre-ordered the new album and booked for the spring tour? Further from home, we were also lucky enough to see Biffy Clyro support themselves with a set drawn from their first three albums at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
Anyhow, let’s move on to the Top 5 live performances that stood out for us this year…
Ryan Adams – Royal Albert Hall, London. 22 September.
We’d waited a long time (16 years) to see Ryan Adams, so when a date at the Royal Albert Hall was announced, we just had to be there. Ryan did not disappoint. With a stage full of model cats and incense sticks, Ryan and his band delivered a career-spanning two-hour set that ranged from quietly heartbreaking confessions of the soul to good-time rock and roll and U2-esque anthems – complete with some stylish stage moves.
Tricot – ArcTanGent Festival. 19 August.
We could have picked any of a number of performances from this year’s ATG. Explosions in the Sky’s headline set was magnificent; Totorro showed why they are one of the most fun math-rockbands around; and itoldyouiwouldeatyou packed out a tent with their melodic blend of emo, twinkling guitars and powerful cultural statements. However, the set of the weekend had to go to Tricot. The BSM signings were on in the afternoon of the last day of the festival playing to a crowd who’d had to put up with every kind of weather you could think of (bar snow, and even that may have made an appearance – there was definitely hail!) but quickly put a smile on everyone’s face as they delivered a heady mix of abstract time signatures, complex riffs and disco hits. The ovation they received after their set may have taken the band back a little, but it couldn’t have been more deserved.
Phoenix – Glastonbury Festival. 24 June.
While the majority of Worthy Farm stayed at the Pyramid Stage to watch Dave Grohl and Co roar through the hits, we decided to follow up The National’s all-too-short set with something a lot more fun. Phoenix have always been an exhilarating live prospect and now they’ve added am extra visual slant to the show. Beset by technical issues from the moment they started soundchecking, the band played in front of a huge light board (put together in under 40 minutes by the crew on stage) that apparently wasn’t working correctly but the huge blocks of colour, silhouettes and shadows on stage just added to the joyful and communal feeling as the whole crowd sang, danced and bounced almost non-stop. There was so much love and enthusiasm in that tent. Take us back.
Beach Slang – 2000 Trees. 7 July.
You know when a festival puts a band on in a slot that just couldn’t be more perfect? Well, Beach Slang in the Axiom on the Friday night of 2000 Trees was that and more. James Alex’s band delivered their short and sharp songs with gusto and even threw in an inspired cover of Pixies’ ‘Where is My Mind?’ There were also interludes of ‘My Own Worst Enemy’, ‘Wonderwall’ and Santana’s ‘Smooth’ (on various occasions) to add to the party atmosphere. Beach Slang are the best soundtrack to your next big party.
Tim Kasher – Boileroom, Guildford. 25 March.
While promoting his ‘No Resolution’ record (do have a listen if you haven’t already), former Cursive frontman Tim Kasher played an intimate, stripped-back set at the Boileroom. Supported by Lee Martin and Matt McKee, Tim’s set took in his various projects and the acoustic reworkings of the older songs gave extra focus to his observations on culture and society. Backed by Megan Siebe on cello and melodica, this was a quiet gig that had the crowd captivated from the very first note.