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2013 – A Year in Gigs


Digital downloads blah blah blah internet fans blah blah blah – in between the melee of music’s cloud-based future, there’s still nothing quite as effective as a really good gig. People come together, artists connect with fans, and everyone leaves covered in beer and too nervous to talk to that person they fancied in the audience. Because a gig audience is essentially the college smoking area, with the added experience of paying council tax.

Here’s some highlights from The-Monitors’ memory bank ranging across 2013 in live music. No matter what happens in 2014, hopefully moments like this will keep on coming. Well, maybe not the next one…

One of our first outings of the year was actually probably one of the strangest we’ve ever been to. The Strypes at the Old Blue Last in January (review here) was a star-studded affair; Noel Gallagher rubbed shoulders with Teen Vogue models and numerous industry folk. And us. It created an industry hoo-haa not seen since… Brother. Anyway, by the time the four-pieces’ debut was released, NME had ceased worshipping them and resorted to comparing them to McFly, so all that early ‘excitement’ now seems a bit silly.

January also saw the return of noise kings supreme My Bloody Valentine. I quickly hopped down to the Electric in Brixton to hear what all the fuss was about. To be honest, two shows later, we’re still none the wiser (PLAY SOME SONGS. TURN YOUR VOCALS UP).

In February, Wolf Alice headlined the Waiting Room, kicking off a year which would duly see them become one of our favourite rising bands (see our recent interview). But it was their set at Beacons Festival in Skipton – FYI a great gem in the UK festival calendar (review here) – which was the first time I got a proper glimpse at Wolf Alice. A confident band, keen to go places (and very likely to as well).

Wolf Alice by Giles Smith

Wolf Alice by Giles Smith

In February we took our first trip to The Bunker, Mancunian label Sways Records’ spiritual home (they first released MONEY and Ghost Outfit). An old bag factory in Salford behind Strangeways prison, I caught local tipster act Embers supporting Esben And The Witch, performing in a wooden cage which sits in the middle of the freezing warehouse space, projections shining into it. It’s certainly one of the most original settings for a gig we’ve witnessed all year (here’s a review). Our randomly selected local taxi driver had no clue where it was, so if you ever head there take a map beforehand.

The first time we saw grunge three piece The Wytches (at London’s Tipsy Bar in March) we knew we’d just seen one of our favourite new bands of the year, and they haven’t let us down yet.

Wet Nuns‘ (RIP) Detestival (reviewed here) hit Sheffield’s Queens Social Club in March. Bringing two days of noise (and I mean noise) to the old working men’s club, the likes of Hookworms, TOY and Kult Country took to the stage over the two day event. Hookworms‘ show was standardly great, although cut short by the band’s insistence that it sounded like a soundcheck. The weekend was stolen by the powerhouse that is Bo Ningen: dresses, hair and tinnitus-inducing guitars creating a spectacle you really have to see. Then see again.

Photo by Dan Sumption

Photo by Dan Sumption

’80s/’90s godfathers The Stone Roses headlined Finsbury Park in June as part of their reformation. Johnny Marr was embarrassingly bad, Miles Kane was a better version of Johnny Marr, and The Roses themselves were actually technically spot on. If you can listen to ‘This Is The One’ and not feel some sense of joy then you’re dead inside.

The industry showcases started in earnest in May with the arrival of Liverpool Sound City and Live At Leeds (both reviewed here). Two stellar urban crawl events rolled into one weekend, Liverpool Sound City was one of the first events where Savages started to set themselves up as an early contender for act of the year. Their visceral post punk might not be original, but it’s certainly charismatic in a live setting.

Live At Leeds was the place to catch some local talent, with Post War Glamour Girls and Swimming Lessons both impressing in front of busy, friendly crowds. It was Manchester’s PINS who stole the day for me though, it being the first time I’d seen them. Their highly rehearsed racket brought a massive smile to my face.

At the end of May was the totally perfect Primavera festival in Barcelona. Combining a tourist trip, good weather and the best line-up of the summer was always going to be a winner. The Knife‘s controversial ‘Shake The Habitual’ show (we reviewed their Roundhouse show here) proved itself to be as every bit as fun and engaging as they’d promised in interviews. It was Blur that stole the weekend though – every Brit in the audience welled up as they made their way through a set so solid that even die hard fans were finding it hard to think of anything they would’ve added in.

Melt Yourself Down (live review here) not only produced one of the best party albums of the year, but also one of the best party tours, too. Their multi-instrumental cacophony of insanity, all brought together with solid beats, should be set to be a regular addition to the festival seasons in coming years.

Midsummer’s Roskilde Festival (reviewed here) is the Scandinavian equivalent of Glastonbury, if Glastonbury was still amazing. Thousands and thousands of (physically) dirty Danish people camp for a week to experience one of the best-executed festivals of the season. OAPs even get in for free on a Sunday. While Rihanna‘s performance was welcomed with the biggest queue of fans I’ve ever seen at a gig (yes, they queue for festival slots in Denmark), it was both The National‘s emotionally rousing slot (Roundhouse show reviewed here) and Goat‘s ten-out-of-ten psychedelic party which stood out.

London actually got a decent festival in the summer, too. Visions (reviewed here) took over three of Hackney’s most interesting spaces and provided the capital with one of the more interesting line ups of the summer months. An intimate set with Jeffrey Lewis rounded the whole affair off nicely.

The last of our European trips took place at the end of September for Reeperbahn festival. The first thing to say is we’re very sad that The Molotov will be shutting down – one of the best scuzzy venues we’ve ever been in, serving some of the coldest Jaeger. It’s at this venue we caught Drenge for the first time, a sweaty, proper rock’n’roll show. Forget Tom Watson trying to be cool by name-checking them, and get to their shows in 2014 at the soonest possible opportunity.

One that we’re pretty certain no one’s heard of, My Bad Sister played The Birds Nest in November and we attended totally accidentally. The twins and their cohorts dressed like Gwen Stefani and performed cockney-tinged rap (although not as shit as that sounds) over remixes of Grange Hill and Only Fools And Horses. Their entertainment value, synchronised dance moves and all, is genuine and totally engrossing.

They’ll appear on almost everyone’s list this year, but for good reason; wherever the Fat White Family were booked, they came topless and ended up bloody. Professionally destructive, their Stooges-like grooves and sexually explicit moves made them probably the closest thing you got to danger on London’s gig circuit this year.

Photo by Keira Cullinane

Photo by Keira Cullinane

November ended with FEMME bringing her pop party to White Heat. An explosion of attitude, pink and a load of great tunes, the Ultraista front woman managed to create her own enigma in a thirty minute set.

The year rounded itself off with Arctic Monkeys bringing their stellar rock god personas to Earls Court to prove they are now a proper stadium band (reviewed here), while Queens of the Stone Age‘s end of year shows generally got everyone all gooey over Homme’s hips all over again. Finally, Mac DeMarco received a warm welcome from the rammed Scala audience that set him up for a very exciting 2014. Probably the most unexpected success story of 2013, it’s always nice to start to see cult acts tipping into general acceptance.

2013 in Gigs was a hell of a lot better than 2013 in Music News, I think you’d agree? We hope to see you down the front, or by the bar, sometime soon in 2014.

Nicholas Burman

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