Monday, September 20, 2004

Our petites madeleines: Culla reveries on favourite gigs

Three Cull writers, based in London, Leeds and Manchester, were recently ruminating on their favourite gigs of all time. It was initially a difficult task, as memories flooded back of dismal rather than inspirational shows. Bands really do have to work the crowd/get a vibe going/do something extraordinary to transcend the bland level of consumer entertainment, where you feel as guilty for feeding your ears and stomach as they do for churning it out. At worst, it is an experience totally removed from sticking the lp at home. At best, it is an experience totally removed from sticking the lp at home.

From Stickboy in Leeds
New Order, Happy Mondays/Salford Uni 80something
Suicide/MCR International 1989?
Shellac/Leeds Duchess of York 1994
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, RL Burnside/MC/r University 1996
Sisters of Mercy/York University 2001
Ride/Reading Festival 1990
The Pixies/Reading Festival 1990
The Cramps/London Astoria 2003
Tackhead/Sheffield Leadmill 1991
My Bloody Valentine/MC/R Ritz 1991
honourable mentions for Yargo, Big Flame, The Cult, Woodentops and newcomers Bloc Party.

From Starrzinho in Manchester [In order]
The Strokes/Leeds University 2002
Naçao Zumbi/London 100 Club 2001
Queens of the Stone Age/Wolverhampton Civic Hall 2003
Happy Mondays/All four times in Manchester 1989
New Order, A Certain Ratio, Happy Mondays/Manchester G-Mex 1988
Nirvana/Manchester Academy 1991
David Byrne/Barcelona Zeleste 1992
Mudhoney/Leeds University 1992
PJ Harvey/Manchester Apollo 2004
Mestre Ambrosio/Recife, Pernambuco 1999
Ok to 11…
A Certain Ratio/Manchester Band on the Wall 2002

From Murray in London (not in order):
Ride/T&C 1990 – Got in on photocopied ticket and sold another. Top blagging. Shitfaced after day of drinking in London. My mate ended up in First Aid; I ended up in Christchurch. No shoegazin’ – just a mad moshpit
The Charlatans (an unpopular one this)/Kilburn National 1990. Packed, exciting – all my ropes were Indian that night
Nirvana/Reading Festival 1992 Kurt in a dress/wheelchair. Wierdness abounded. Got in for nothing after pushing the band’s van through the mud into the compound
Naçao Zumbi/100 Club 2002 Heavy, sweaty – an epiphany for the Pernambuco band after the multi-cultis of the Barbican couldn’t handle the sound the previous year
Sonic Youth/Leeds T&C 1992 Alt-grunge here we come. Somehow in the VIP bar with a load of lads from Bishop Auckland
Homeboy, Hippie & A Funki Dred/Farnham Art College 1990. If not “Total Confusion” then mad bleeps and breaks. A glimpse of the future
The Prodigy/PA at Yikes! a rave in Reading 1991 The future had arrived and the kids were excited. Very excited… Eschewing Charly’s advice, I hadn’t told my mother where I was going. And I had been muttering sceptically about toytown techno before…
Primal Scream/Hammersmith Palais 1991. This was also a future. Came on in early hours after “Oakey” and other name djs; then they started taking smack and fucked up….
Mondays/Wembley Arena 1990 Fight between Bez and Paul 2. Hedonistic chaos on export from the north.
Oh yes: MBV, JAMC/Rollercoaster tour Brixton Academy 1991 Shields’ 20-minute one-note cathedral drone. People were looking at their shoes then alright…
Honourable mentions: Roy Ayers (Leeds Irish Centre), 808 State (Farnham Art College), Pharcyde/Subterrania 1999 Quality wiggin’

Some common threads are discernible. The influence of 80s/90s NME-Melody Maker culture for one; many bands’ flights to notoriety, fame and mass market cool wouldn’t have happened without the IPC rags. Similarly, the influence of cult-ish labels like Factory and Creation in the dissemination of post-punk possibilities is clear. As are the roles of rave and the pre-grunge, grunge and post-grunge US orbit now hardly given much credit in certain circles. Hip-hop’s general perception as a bad live medium is supported, while there is also a desire to look for the sonics sans pareil outside the standard confines. Post up yours…

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Saturday, September 04, 2004

Surfeit of acts, deficit of planning

TDK Cross Central Festival
King’s Cross Freight Depot
Sunday 29 August

With its lurid pink and green livery and an achingly cool line-up you’d have thought The Guardian would have joined the event’s stock media partners like XFM, Dazed & Confused and Bacardi. We could have seen a panoply of post-rave acts: hip-hop cut & paster DJ Yoda, bedroom techno pioneers Plaid, sound murderer Cylob, the nu wave of euro-techno such as Blackstrobe, production duo par excellence LCD Soundsystem or even Detroit evangelist Derrick May. With such potential aural treats ahead, £20 a day seemed not too steep for a full day and night of line-ups across seven or so stages.

Mindful of recent over-the-top security experiences we went in narco-light. “Running orders are subject to change” warned the rave brochure caveat. Both aspects would be factors in why this event turned out to be just another disappointing urban festival. Those and the fact that the number of punters had exceeded expectations, middle-class white refugees from the carnival perhaps.

While no-one expects complete adherence to the line-up, the actual running order bore no resemblance at all. This probably added to the day’s main feature – people wandering round trying to correlate set with setting in vain. And though in my mind I took the early inquiries for pills as an inverted compliment, by the 15th time it was irritating. By the early hours no-one wandering on the fringes seemed to be enjoying themselves, but many still seemed keen to top up their intake, to give the set a chance. The drugged lemmings. If you were in the vortex of the central dancefloors things looked better – if you liked dancing within a minute radius. Of course, ravers could top up their consumption with a plastic bottle of Becks for £4. Two visits to the ‘VIP tent’ offered electrorock piss, while opposite the Secret Sundaze stage seemed the most hedonist. One time we wandered into the ‘Nu Cult Alliance’ and caught some divine electro-disco waves (Brooks? Plaid? Vibert?) resonating to a sparse crowd.

So in their efforts to put on a top rave the organisers seemed affected by a common mature capitalist malaise – trying to give us too much. Too many stages, too many acts – a little bit of streamlining and a bit more awareness of likely raver movement s would have made for a better do. The Victorian warehouses, wharfs and basements of the Goods Yard are huge; you don’t have to use the whole complex. In the end, I caught Freeform Five live – tired 80s stylings, far better when Anu Pillai was a ‘mere’ producer; Rahzel – Roots’ beatbox man impressed, failing to defer to the anthem-hungry crowd and twisting his sounds into near house-style rhythms; the clinical San Frandisco of Mark Farina (where I lost Dan for the night); and, best of all, Carl Craig, a brilliant 20-minute live version of Paperclip’s Throw, Craig standing there impassive, directing his men. A transitory moment of genuine joy in a frustrating Bank Holiday Sunday. We went to the carnival the following day – if not easy, free and a better range of sounds on offer – though the thinly veiled inter-race animosity is another feature entirely.

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