On Friday 15th May, reformed 80s band Blue Zoo are set to appear at Nambucca on Holloway Road – it’s a one-off gig so if you’re a fan, this is an event not to be missed.

Blue Zoo made their debut in the 80s and produced three hit singles (including Cry Boy Cry), tours including supporting U2, and an album. The band dissolved three years later and the members all busied themselves with new careers away from the music business, so one could be forgiven for assuming that “Blue Zoo Two” was not going to happen. But things can bubble under the surface for many years. Andy describes the reforming of the band in 2010 as a sort of ‘telekenesis’ – for their long-term fans, it was a welcome surprise.

It’s strange to think that Blue Zoo have been together for longer this time round than in their 80s incarnation. Since reforming, they’ve supported T’Pau in 2013 (ex Blue Zoo guitarist and co-songwriter Tim Parry was in the audience and was delighted with how the band were sounding), and 2014 saw a Blue Zoo mini-tour including a gig at Islington 02, and one in Andy O’s home town of Braintree.

Bluezoo

Andy O is still the band’s front man – a charismatic figure, tall, lean and retaining his youthful looks. He’s blessed with a magnetic stage presence and voice to match. What first strikes you when you speak to Andy is how incredibly balanced he is. He’s been happily involved with other successful projects away from the music industry, and bringing Blue Zoo back into his life is quite clearly an enjoyment, but there’s no sense that he has anything to prove. My first question is to ask him what has been occupying his life since the original split. I discover that he’s into mushrooms. Before images of a burnt-out middle-aged band member floating on a permanent cloud of the magic variety hover into view, I should add that I’m talking about an altogether more seriously culinary and educational path – as one glimpse of his website Fungi to be With, reveals.

Andy: “I’ve been doing doing the mushroom thing for 20 years… I started back in the early 90s and I started hosting walks around London, under my business called Fungi to be with. The world of mushrooms and toadstools is fascinating and I’ve been educating people about them ever since discovering this interest. And I’m currently in the process of writing a book about the mushroom and toadstools – of Greater London!

Blue Zoo on stage

Tom E Morrison (left) and Andy O. Photo: Steve Lavoie

How did the band get back together after so long?  Mickey Sparrow and I had a spontaneous ‘calling’ of sorts. We both felt it was time for unfinished business. So we arranged a meeting, and got the others, including Tim Parry, to come along. We met at The Ship in Wardour St in the summer of 2009. Tim wasn’t interested in being a part of the revival. I then procured the services of Graham Noon on keyboards and his brother-in law Neil Pyzer on guitar & sax ( he’s now playing with The Selector). Then Tom E Morrison joined in 2013 when we visited the Philippines.

Who else is in the band now, and who is going to be going to be playing at the gig in May? Apart from original members Mike Ansell (bass) and Mickey Sparrow (drums) we have Tom E Morrison on guitar and Graham Noon joins us on keyboards.

Have you managed to find time to write any new material?  I come up with ideas, but seeing them through to something concrete is more of a challenge. I’m waiting for a point when it feels natural for the band to do new songs, but we’ve been so on and off that it’s not quite happened yet. You need to have a focus, and then you start bringing in new songs. So for now, we’re concentrating on playing the old favourites.  And incidentally, Cherry Red re-issued 2×2 in 2013 – it’s an extended version that includes B-sides and the original single version of Love Moves In Strange Ways.

How often do you get to play together… and how easy, or hard is it, to make sure the band are sounding good?  We get together to jam, and get our stage act together. I felt that last year we were sounding at our best, at the Islington gig. And then we disappeared for a year! Making sure that Blue Zoo sound really good is hard work. And of course it gets harder as you get older. The voice is a muscle which gets weaker, and it takes a lot to build it up again, to the point where you feel you are ready to be on stage. We really need to keep the momentum going.

So what can we expect at the gig in May?  Well, I’ve decided to delve back in to the original stuff, right from the beginning. I listened to the old demos seeing what I felt worked, and refreshing them up a bit. There will be a few from 2 by 2 – original numbers like Cry Boy Cry, Something Familiar, John’s Lost, but I don’t want to recreate the flavour of the album, so I’ve gone back to even earlier stuff like Nights like this and Affection. Both were sung by myself and original member Dave Woolfson’s wife, Angie and we would like to dedicate a song to her memory.

Are younger people picking up on your music?  It’s a good mix, obviously lots of older people, but we do have some young fans.

So we shouldn’t expect anything new for a little while then…  In November 2014, Tom offered to re- produce our song Somewhere in the world there’s a cowboy’s smiling in his North London studio and also got German DJ Hein+ Klein involved to remix the track and release it on his label https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/somewhere-in-world-there-is/id944186504.

But as far as new material is concerned, we don’t want to disappoint anyone but that will take time. For now we enjoy playing we like to play but we aren’t thinking “there’s a career here, let’s write a new album”. We enjoy playing what we have written and taking it out there. We will know when the time is right.

Blue Zoo are at Nambucca, 596 Holloway Road, N7 6LB on 15th May 2015. Doors 7pm, music 8pm.
Early bird tickets £6 plus booking fee or 2 for a tenner. To buy tickets

Support: Plexiphones, Thomas O’Brien, The Reflections

Blue Zoo poster

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Put together Steampunk bands, cabaret artistes, Electroswing and Goth DJs, plus a mystery guest. Add tea-duelling competitions and the outrageous compere known as Dis Charge, coax your guests to dress up in suitably retro style and you have the ingredients for a party on a slightly dark and decadent side. For extra impact, set the event in the faded glamour of Hornsey Town Hall, a grand Modernist building, mothballed for a number of years and now temporarily back in active service as an arts venue. This unique event, named DecoDanse, is the creation of Sharon Robinson, and it is happening as part of Crouch End Festival which runs from the 5th to 14th of June. The occasion promises to be grown-up and divinely decadent, rounding off the final Festival weekend in style. Tickets are available at the bottom of the page.

I’m not surprised Sharon has dreamed up this extravaganza as she’s a fountain of ideas. Mention to her a vague plan you’ve had for an event – any event –  and you can almost see her mind click and whirr into action as ideas tumble out, one more fanciful than the next. Only they’re not purely fantasy as she’ll whizz into action and make it happen. I asked Sharon about her influences, and what lead to the creation of such an imaginative occasion:

For Crouch End Festival 2014, you organised a literary event – was that the catalyst for DecoDanse?
Yes. I really enjoyed organising the Clocktower Desert Island Book event which I’m repeating this year as part of a literary day on Tuesday 9 June (details will be up on the Crouch End Festival website soon). I got chatting in the pub after the first Festival meeting for this year and the idea for doing a Steampunk/Cabaret event was born. I think all the best ideas start off as conversations in a pub!
Sharon Robinson

Sharon Robinson

How did you get involved?  Since volunteering with Crouch End Festival last year I’ve met many interesting local writers, artists, musicians, café and venue owners, and of course the festival directors and volunteers. My background is in communications and I’ve organised conferences and events – dealing with politicians, authors and commentators. But I’ve never put on a cabaret or music event before. And the lovely people at the Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre where DecoDanse is being held are super supportive.

Do you go to a lot of events around London?  I love immersive theatre – Punchdrunk is a favourite. I saw an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old which I thoroughly recommend and am soon off to see Alice’s Adventures Underground at the Waterloo Vaults.
There are so many strange and interesting things to do around London. I’m trying to improve my drawing at the moment and go to life drawing classes at the Exotique Drawing Salon http://www.exotiquesalon.com/ in Shoreditch where famous burlesque artists often model. I’ve also learnt a lot about the unusual and hidden histories of London at the monthly Salon for the City http://salonforthecity.blogspot.co.uk/ at the Westminster Arts Library. I go to a lot of cabaret – London Wonderground at South Bank, House of Burlesque, La Soirée, Black Cat Cabaret, the Boom and Bang Circus and Late Night Shop Cabaret.
Of course Gourmet Gigs wants to know about your musical influences…
Well due to my mum, I’m a big fan of Ray Davies and the Kinks who have their roots in North London. David Bowie obviously, but I think he is for most people. And 70s Roxy Music. I recently met Brian May from Queen and was lost for words in the presence of a guitar legend.
I was quite young when punk started but remember being fascinated – especially after the Sex Pistols swearing on Bill Grundy’s Today show (with an early appearance from Siouxsie Sioux though I didn’t know it at the time). But I’m really a post-punk girl and still maintain that 1978/79 were the best years for music! Even though the music industry was very sexist back then, there were some really strong female role models around – Patti Smith, The Slits, Poly Styrene from X-Ray Specs, Kate Bush, Pauline Black of The Selector, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry and of course Siouxsie. Later on I got into New Romantic, goth and Indie music and was obsessed with David Sylvian and Japan for a while. Oh and I had a rave phase in the 1990s! Though my taste in music is now hugely diverse, those early influences have stayed with me.
What floats your boat at the moment?   I’m into all things gothic. A recent horror film course I took has further spurred my interest. I love early silent movies such as Metropolis, Dr Mabuse, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu (who incidentally is putting in an appearance at DecoDanse courtesy of Arran Shurvinton) and my favourite book is The Bloody Chamber – feminist gothic fairytales by Angela Carter. I like the graphic novels of Neil Gaiman and also Alan Moore, which led me on to discovering Steampunk literature and I started attending Steampunk events to see my favourite chap hop stars Professor Elemental and Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer. I’ve been standing on the periphery of the Steampunk scene for a while now but have decided to jump right in and become more active.
As DecoDanse is being held in an art deco building and due to my love of 1920s flapper fashions, Tamara de Lempicka’s art and Weimar Cabaret – the obvious theme that emerged was fusion Steampunk and Art Deco. A little research revealed that Decopunk already existed! A sleeker and chrome-plated version of Dieselpunk. And it also give me the excuse to add Electroswing to the programme (a fusion of jazz age and 40’s swing tunes with electronic dance music). There’s a lot of crossover between cabaret, Steampunk and electroswing – it really is a winning combination.
Jay and Kye Mysterious Freakshow

Jay and Kye Mysterious Freakshow

Can you reveal one or two acts on the lineup at DecoDanse who you are extra thrilled about?
We have such a tremendous line-up that it’s impossible to single anyone out. I have to give a big shout out to Miss Von Trapp who was instrumental in getting all the acts on board. It’s also great that Fay from the Mysterious Freakshow grew up here as did Mel Hadland from The Copperfield Ensemble Project. And Robin Stevenson, who runs the café at Hornsey Library and is a very talented artist, will be DJing and organising Tea Duelling competitions.
We’re lucky enough to have the gin-drinking darling of dark cabaret, Joe Black as our special guest. Another star of the show is the venue itself, The Town Hall which is being restored by the Hornsey Town Hall Arts Centre and being brought back into community use. DecoDanse is going to be so much fun. I really can’t wait!
Mr Joe Black - special guest

Mr Joe Black – special guest

DecoDanse is part of the Crouch End Festival.
Saturday 13 June 7pm til late, Hornsey Town Hall
Tickets £9.50 can be booked at http://buytickets.at/hthc/24826
Twitter: @DecoDanse
And if you’d like a preview of what’s in store, one of DecoDanse’s stars, Miss Von Trapp will be performing with The Wattingers at Hornsey Town Hall on Saturday 2 May. Come along and sample this intriguing combination of dark vaudeville folk and steampunk slaughterhouse blues:
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The week started at The Sebright Arms to see Parastatic. This East London venue is one of my top ‘most welcoming’ pubs in London. Laid back, helpful staff unfazed by post-weekend ditheriness about what to drink.. The reason for the (yet another) jaunt eastwards is to see Tyneside outfit Parastatic, a band who came to my attention via Radio 6 Music, when I just happened to catch the tail-end of a track which delivered an utterly euphoric guitar riff. I felt a ‘here’s a new addiction’ moment coming on. What is this, who are they, and when are they playing??

That track I later discovered to be called St Mary, from the band’s latest album out March 2015, Recall Fade Return.
The Sebright Arms’ basement venue has a healthy turnout for the bands tongiht. There’s something about electronic music played live that tends to make its musicians create a wall between the audience and themselves. Fortunately Parastatic don’t fall into that camp, guitarists Neil Caffery and Jon Garrard look outward from the stage, creating a connection between them and us

PARASTATIC 1The band members have good synergy too, both guitarists on either side of drummer Rachel Casey, who makes the most of the limited range of expression that being behind a drum kit will allow with some dramatic flourishes. It’s also good to see a band smiling and looking like they are enjoying themselves up there on stage.

The band’s sound is that of a dense synth sludge of noise, from which rises a driving beat on which layers dance and shimmer. Vocals are woven into the fabric of the music, allowing the instrumentation to speak for itself. Parastatic know how to create vast soundscapes, wide open spaces which can in a flash screw you up into a ball of tension, before unravelling you again. Numbers which take your heartbeat and crank it up a few notches. I Am the One and the wonderful St Mary make it onto the set list, with Breaking me Down to finish.

PARASTATIC 2I’ve listened to Parastatic’s first album from 2012, Lost Highway, and it feels more vocally driven, with a distinct prog element – Breaking me Down reminds me of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, only without veering into proggy self indulgence. (Curiously, listening to Angel Sigh, the intro has the same feel as Under the Pressure on The War on Drugs’ more recent 2014 Lost in the Dream). New album Recall Fade Return is a far more cohesive and confident body of work and carries forward that distinctly Krautrock influence – Neu!’s Hallogallo drives tracks like St Mary.

A later number, T.R.E.M. is a nervy, restless track which could have a scary tale to tell, laden as it is with echoey synth which builds and gathers pace. All that remains to be said is… here’s an album which deserves to be heard (and danced to), so here’s hoping that Parastatic get the airplay and live performances they deserve. Our ears and souls will be all the better for it.

PARASTATIC 3 PARASTATIC 4

All photography: Daniela Fleckenstein; http://www.fleckensteinphotography.com Goodsoul Promotions; goodsoul@live.co.uk

THE SMALL PRINT WHO: In Violet, Parastatic, Kontakte WHEN: March 30, 2015 WHERE: The Sebright Arms, London TICKETS: £7 PARASTATIC 5

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On first hearing that jagged, fractured guitar intro to Intuition, I was transported back to the days of the late 70s band Gang of Four, my former university colleagues. Indeed Julie Ann Campbell, aka LoneLady, is a bit of a fangirl for the group, and for that era of spiky, spare post-punk. More recently her performance at Oslo, Hackney, saw her supporting Gang of Four, or what’s left of them, now that Andy Gill remains the sole original member.

Lonely Rough Trade

With no preamble other than a vague ‘Hi’ at the direction of the growing crowd spilling into the space at the back of Rough Trade East record shop, LoneLady – the four-piece band – open with Into the Cave, lead song on brand new album Hinterland. It’s a collection of tracks inspired by the urban landscape of post-industrial Manchester, not the renovated inner core but the unregulated anonymous sprawl around its edges, an uneasy mix of low-level buildings punctuated by high-rise towers.

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or… what to do when a favourite band splits up.

Last Friday morning I finalised plans with friends for the evening’s jaunt out to Twickenham to see The Bedroom Hour perform in a local pub. Then came a phone call out of the blue from one of the members, informing me that the band had decided to call it a day and – in fact – wouldn’t be performing that night.

The Bedroom Hour at ProudOn a scale of the miseries that life can throw at us, a beloved band splitting up is, let’s face it, not exactly at the top of the list. That space is reserved for the death of loved ones, cancer – the bleak side of life that lurks under the surface. One has to retain a sense of proportion in all this. But music that speaks to you, and the act of following a band you love, watching them progress and develop, is very much one of life’s special pleasures. Make that doubly so when you get to know the musicians, and feel part of something like a big family. So their demise is quite rightly something akin to a small death.

The Bedroom Hour came to my attention by way of a tweet from the band. Before even hearing their music, I was fairly taken with the name. The Bedroom Hour. Whoo, classy and sexy sounding, not easily forgotten. Being grabbed by their music – a love-at-first-track moment – was a double plus. So I tweeted back, entered into a Twitter convo of sorts, and before long was off to see them live for the first time.

I’m still shifting from one emotion to another as time passes and the reality of their disbanding sinks in. Disbelief at first, and sorrow over a band who seemed on the face of it to be making strides musically – strong songwriting skills, regular live performances, adept at social media, band branding and merchandise. Then there was their successful crowdfunding venture to put out album Hinterland. Add to that the heartfelt, soaring vocals of Stu Drummond, a vocalist and front man gifted with a communicative ease whether on stage or with the band’s many fans. Not all the emotions swimming around in my brain have been so benevolent. I’m less proud of feeling a touch petulant, let down: how dare The Bedroom Hour not exist any more for my listening pleasure.

Zooming out and away from the rawness of this present moment, musicians moving on and coming together in different formations is part of the creative process, and always will be. Stagnation is no place for creative talent to thrive. New acts will come to fill the void in their fans’ lives. But the musical talents of Stu, Mark, Rob, Andy and Lewis are still there and will, in time, find a new place – I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them. All that remains to be said is to send The Bedroom Hour thanks for giving us such wonderful music, and we’ll be all ears to see what develops in the future.

The Bedroom Hour

Click to enlarge photo

Brand new internet radio station from Leeds, Radio KMAH began broadcasting Tuesday 10th March with plenty of ambient, electronica, world and dance music on the menu. So far I’ve been entranced by some wonderful eclectic sounds – not much luck Shazamming anything though, so it just has to be a “live in the moment” experience. Equally impressive is the station’s cool, moody, minimalist website. On the waves from midday to midnight, tune in here

SORRY THE BEDROOM HOUR EVENT FRIDAY 13TH MARCH IS NOW CANCELLED

Happening soon >>>>

Gallic trip-hoppers Chinese Man are back in the UK for four gigs. London, Brighton, Birmingham and Bournemouth, starting 4th MayDépêchez-vous and get your tickets here. No doubt we’ll be hearing some tracks from The Groove Sessions Volume 3, releasced in April 2014.

Here’s a fave video from The Groove Sessions Volume 1 2004 – 2007:

Broken Witt Rebels came to my attention recently through Twitter and their powerful, raw sound blew me away. The Brummie foursome ooze a sexy bluesy confidence and they have some strong numbers. Broken Witt Rebels are signed up for Camden Rocks Festival on 30th May, and are playing Birmingham 2nd May, Liverpool 9th May. There’s a possibility of another London gig before too long, keep an eye on their website.

Leeds Uni punksters Gang of Four are cited as an influence, and you can hear those jagged guitars popping up alongside dancey grooves – I’m talking about the quirky and super-talented Mancunian Julie Ann Campbell, known as LoneLady. She has just added a load more gigs on the Lonelady Tour, including with Rough Trade Nottingham on Tuesday 24th March. then Rough Trade London (in-store gigs with new album). Tickets here

 

 

 

 

It’s The War on Drugs’ second and final performance at Brixtons 02 Academy on a Monday night. The Brixton 02 is freezing cold and around me, seated upstairs, audience members are swathed in coats and gloves (O2, please take note). After an impressive set by New York trio Amen Dunes, The War on Drugs take their place on the stage, Adam Granduciel’s personal front-of-stage territory graced by a Turkish rug. The War on Drugs in Brixton 2015   War on Drugs 5 BrixtonUnder the Pressure from Lost in the Dream, the band’s lauded album from 2014, a body of music borne from a dark period for Granduciel, a failed relationship, a disconnect from life. To be fair, contentment with your lot in life never did produce the best tunes. Performed live, all the elements that distinguish the track on the studio version all shine through, the lush, rich sound, the pulsing guitars, with Granduciel’s languid vocals rising above the noise of the guitars, at other times his lyrics unintelligible, sliding down into the mix. He shares with Kurt Vile that distinctive, swoopy Dylanesque intonation which can sound anguished, and at other times triumphant.

Baby Missiles follows and Granduciel makes a dedication to The Windmill in Brixton, a place he’s played before three times – how times change now the band are filling Brixton Academy twice over. He seems upbeat, and later thanks us all for coming out on a Monday night, but keeps some distance between himself (and his band) and the audience. Arms like Boulders from 2008 Wagonwheel Blues introduces an earlier more gentle Dylan-influenced number, before heading back to Lost in the Dream with Burning. This is one of the numbers with War on Drugs’ trademark driving beat, insistent like a heartbeat, anchoring the base of the song, allowing the upper layers to float free and take their own course. It also has a Dire Straits The Bug feel.

Eyes to the Wind sounds hauntingly beautiful with the slide guitar, the dreamy vocals, building till the piano crescendo. And as the show continues to get into its stride, the mesmerising quality of the band’s work exerts its magic. It seems to reach out and pull you under, submerging you to the point where you find you just float off into your own head and submit to the song’s power, never wanting it to end. The ending to An Ocean in between the Waves always makes me smile, the way it draws you in with an elongated instrumental, then screeches to a halt with a sound akin to a needle dragged across the record.

The stage set is a graduated set of panels forming half of a kind of stone circle, the backdrop for a series of playful lighting effects of different colours. Mid way through the set, shards of powerful white light beam out across the auditorium, stealing the limelight from Granduciel and his band.

The set continues to ricochet between earlier numbers and those from that last album. For the encore we are treated to three numbers, the first is the title track itself, a low-key Lost in the Dream, and closes with It’s Your Destiny.

The set included most of Lost in the Dream, and credit goes to Granduciel’s band who played superbly. I am, perhaps rather unfairly, crossing my fingers we don’t have to see War on Drugs at an even bigger venue next time they tour the UK.

The War on Drugs 3THE SMALL PRINT
WHO: The War on Drugs, support: Amen Dunes
WHEN: March 2, 2015
WHERE: 02 Brixton, London
TICKETS: £22 approx

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