Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Top 10 gigs of 2010 — with tunes

I like music. I hardly ever write about it, however, because a) it's really hard and b) to be honest there are lots of other people who do it better and with far more energy and enthusiasm (Pull Yourself Together and The Pigeon Post are good starting points). Even though I've not been to many gigs this year (having a 9-5 job pretty much destroyed any desire I may once have had to be awake after 10pm), out of the gigs I did go to these are the ones I enjoyed the most:

1. The Blow, supporting Jens Lekman, Deaf Institute, Manchester, August

One of the most intense but engaging performances I had seen for a long time (and now one of my favourite gigs ever, not just of this year). Khaela Maricich spent the gig, dressed in what looked like a cross between a nightie and gym wear, discussing her sexuality and telling a rambling, unlikely story about collaborating with, then getting dumped by, Lindsay Lohan that seemed to leave most of the audience completely bemused. Live, she's a one woman band who makes amazingly catchy, hard to stand still to dance-pop. I've been unable to get True Affection out of my head since the start of August.


2. Trash Kit, supporting Grass Widow, Trof Northern Quarter, Manchester, October

Trash Kit are probably my dream band a violin playing three piece punk band who make tight, taut, clean pop songs, almost always in under two minutes, where all the parts fit together perfectly with no unnecessary clutter. At their previous Manchester gig, in summer 2009, they were held up on the motorway and frustratingly only got to do a handful of songs, but what I saw gave the impression that they would be my new favourite band, and it was well worth the wait to see them again. I also love headliners Grass Widow, another all-female trio. They were great too, but somehow sounded slightly sprawling after the short, sharp assault of Trash Kit.


3. The Fall, All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Pavement, Butlins, Minehead, May

Most of my favourite gigs are by either bands I've heard very little of before, or people I love but expect to be terrible live, who then turn out to be the best thing ever (Neil Young epitomises this phenomenon of an artist being better than you could ever have dared to hope). I first saw (heard/jumped up and down to) the Fall in my heavily pregnant mother's womb. Despite having lived in Manchester for the past five years, it took until the eve of my 23rd birthday to repeat the experience, having been waiting for the right occasion for a number of reasons: their gigs are always really expensive, they generally play in horrible venues and they are notoriously bad live. So I would never have expected the Fall to be by far the best band at All Tomorrow's Parties. I thought they'd be obnoxious, noisy and abrasive, but I soon realised THE FALL ARE A BRILLIANT POP BAND, storming through song after song of keyboard hook driven tunes. An unexpectedly amiable Mark E Smith even returned for two encores. The most animated crowd I saw at ATP, and the most fun I had all weekend dancing and jumping up and down as part of a sweaty mass.


4. Jens Lekman, Sandbar, Manchester, August

Jens Lekman is my favourite pop star in the whole world, and I arranged my summer (which included a pilgrimage to Jens' hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden) so I would be in Manchester to see his unmissable double bill with the Blow at the Deaf Institute. After the gig, Jens decided the audience should join him for a drink, so we headed en masse to Sandbar across the road. The manager initiated a lock-in and promised a free drink each. Jens carried on where he'd left off at the gig and played some of his loveliest songs acoustic in a corner whilst we sat around him and joined in at appropriate moments. Several people lined up for a few moments of conversation with Jens, topics ranging from how nice Sweden is and Jens being notoriously unlucky in love to the merits of maths/physics and fanzines, all of which he took with a smile. I gave him a copy of the food special of The Shrieking Violet as a souvenir of his trip to Manchester and he seemed touched. He examined it, sniffed it because he 'loves the smell of Xerox machines' and said he would treasure it as he loves fanzines but no-one makes them in Sweden anymore.


5. La La Vasquez, Trof Northern Quarter, Manchester, March

Another female three piece there is a theme developing who make stripped down, rattling punk music for your feet and heart rather than your head. Over the past year and a half, I've discovered I really like Trof NQ as a gig venue, and a high proportion of the best gigs I've been to have been there.


6. Hotpants Romance, Valentines Day Prom, Islington Mill, Salford, February

There are so many reasons why doing anything to acknowledge Valentines Day is a terrible idea. Apart from the obvious sexual tension, social awkwardness, pursuing highly unsuitable people etc it's in February, possibly the most depressing time of the year, when it's cold and dark outside. Punk trio Hotpants Romance, undoubtedly the most fun band in Manchester, gave a reason to leave the house, for a confetti strewn and balloon decorated afternoon prom what school leaving discos would be like in a dream world. And they played in Hotpants, in February.


7. Pavement, All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Pavement, Butlins, Minehead, May

Given that they're one of my favourite bands, seeing Pavement was always going to be an anti-climax no matter how good they were (apart from the chance to sing along to Shady Lane, loudly and untunefully, obviously). Stephen Malkmus, who's a bit on the smug side onstage, isn't a particularly likeable frontman, but it was touching when Bob Nastanovich's wife joined him onstage for a dance and Steve West invited the crowd to a stonemasonry demonstration. And it was worth being wedged in a crowd so packed it was almost impossible to move when they finished with Debris Slide.


8. Best Coast, Deaf Institute, Manchester, May

When look back at 2010 and think about music I will think of Best Coast and how they were one of those bands who came along and perfectly summed up all my feelings at that time, specifically the line 'I hate sleeping alone'. By the time of the gig, Best Coast were all I had listened to solidly for months courtesy of a mix tape from my friend Dom. And I can still listen to that tape without getting bored.


9. The Raincoats, All Tomorrow's Parties curated by Pavement, Butlins, Minehead, May

The band who appeared to have the most fun onstage at ATP (despite playing in a nightmarishly claustrophobic, windowless, carpeted room with a low ceiling that may be a bingo hall or casino or something the rest of the year round) like your cool, violin playing middle aged aunty having a party onstage with her girlfriends. You had to smile.

10. Former Bullies and Boy or Bison, The Kittywake boat, Wigan, August

Between them, Boy or Bison and Former Bullies have played at most of the best gigs I have been to in Manchester this year. When they played together on a boat I thought it would be the perfect chance to fulfil two long-held ambitions: visit Wigan and see the pier, and go on a barge. Unfortunately, I had assumed the barge would be stationary and it hadn't quite clicked that the barge would be moving, on a four hour cruise, and wouldn't be back in Wigan until the last bus and train back to Manchester had long departed. It was a very surreal experience, gently gliding along the Liverpool-Leeds canal keeping half an eye on the scenery outside and half an eye on the bands. The bands carried on playing at the front of the boat whilst it stopped and started, waiting for the water levels to rise as we climbed over locks. I had to get a taxi back to Manchester as it was a week night and I had work the next day, at a cost of £40, making it the most expensive gig I've ever been to. The taxi driver chatted the whole drive back about how much he hated living in Wigan.

Former Bullies aren't on spotify but go on their myspace and listen to the song Planetarium.

Here are all the songs that are on spotify together in one place, like a mixtape: http://open.spotify.com/user/natalieroseviolet/playlist/4Xo2RokVXTZqMr36gdlUZ4

Other gigs I enjoyed include Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra in the Kings Arms, Salford at Sounds from the Other City and Monkeys in Love and Nuzzle Muzzle at Fuel in Withingon.

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Shrieking Violet and Manchester Modernist Society joint event — Newspapers on Film, Saturday December 11

Newspapers on film

Saturday 11th December, 3.30pm-6.30pm

Manchester Modernist Society HQ, 142 Chapel Street, Salford M3 6AF


The Shrieking Violet fanzine and Manchester Modernist Society invite you to a seasonal gathering celebrating Manchester's media heritage through documentaries from the North West Film Archive.

There will also be some baked goods from recipes which have appeared in past issues of the Shrieking Violet fanzine expect shortbread, sloe gin, grape vodka, tea and an edible, highly glittered Daily Express building.


People and Places Around Ordsall

Salford newsagent, amateur filmmaker and onetime newspaper delivery boy Ralph Brookes documented the changing face of the inner city area Ordsall in the 1960s and ‘70s, making over ninety home movies about the community around him, documenting everything from his home, family, birthdays and Christmas to mingling with the stars for an episode of Coronation Street which was filmed in the local park.

Here is the News

Colourful, jaunty, jazz-soundtracked film about how the Evening News is produced. Made in 1968 to celebrate the newspaper's centenary, the film shows the 'daily miracle' that is producing a newspaper, from visiting the various departments in the newspaper offices to distributing copies around the city to be read in suburban family homes.

News Story

A day in the life of the famous Guardian newspaper in 1960 (four years before it moved to London), from meeting the journalists in the various departments which put it together to printing with linotype and hot lead and its distribution around the country.

The event accompanies a media themed special of Manchester-based fanzine The Shrieking Violet which looks at various aspects of Manchester and the media including Jack Hale of Manchester Modernist Society writing in praise of the innovative Daily Express building on Great Ancoats Street. The films in the North West film archive help give a sense not just of the labour and space intensive process that traditionally went into making newspapers, pre-digitisation, and the buildings in which they were made, but also illustrate the importance of newspapers in the city. The films, which each last around twenty minutes, provide fascinating insights into the time in which they were made: Here is the News is an optimistic look at the modernist city in the swinging sixties, whereas People and Places in Ordsall depicts the other side of life in the region, and the great changes Salford was undergoing at the time as part of slum clearance programmes.

Poster by Lauren Velvick.


Here's the edible Express Building — shortbread topped with readymade black icing from the Arndale Market, into which was embedded many silver balls. Sprinkled with black edible glitter.