My friends are always telling me that I go to too many gigs, but I'm not certain that's actually possible. I mean, what else am I supposed to do with my evenings? Well, in something resembling a year in review, here is the good, the bad, and the indifferent of all the gigs I went to (and there were many).
January is always a pain, but was made easier by the magnificent James Vincent McMorrow and his performance at the Barbican. One of only a few seated performances I attended, I was lucky enough to have purchased fifth row tickets, and he proved that there's no need for over the top stage productions when you're equipped with talent and a strong catalogue of songs.
January also graced us with Moonface, who was touring in support of 2013's Julia With Blue Jeans On. Performing in the Elgar Rooms, a tiny, top floor sub venue within the Royal Albert Hall, Spencer Krug left me speechless with his solo piano performance, and proved that he has the talent to one day play the main stage within that building. I made sure to catch him later on in the year at the Cecil Sharp House, another venue I was unaware of before his show, and once again he was breath taking.
I was there for La Dispute's first of three shows at Bush Hall, and it was a pleasure to hear frontman Jordan Dreyer's carefully constructed lyrics in a live context, and it immediately becomes clear that his vocals are not an act; raw emotion drives every scream, shout and whisper.
The very next day I made my way to the Roundhouse to see Neutral Milk Hotel, which I never thought I'd be able to say. An exceedingly private band, they asked for no photography, and I was captivated throughout by the cacophony of accordions and singing saws. To hear a room full of people sing along to songs that I've only ever listened to whilst alone was a unique experience.
Arctic Monkeys provided a day out in the park, bringing Tame Impala and Royal Blood with them for good measure. The Sheffield boys have undoubtedly found their stride once more since the release of AM, and have refined their stage show to a tight, seductive, and overall fun experience.
I was present for the Saturday of Field Day, and it was a glorious day in the sun. Despite having some truly terrible clashes, I managed to catch the likes of Warpaint, Thurston Moore, my favourite Jamie xx, as well as others. The top performances that day came from Blood Orange, who had everyone up and dancing, and headliners Metronomy, who were on top form as day gave way to night.
My year in review cannot continue any longer without mention of my first ever Glastonbury. I was initially disappointed by the line-up, only a handful of bands I truly loved had made the bill, but of course, that could not deter me, and there was more than enough to tide me over.
Metallica were the controversial headliner, but they played their part by staving off the self-indulgence they can afford in their natural habitat, the metal festival, and their set subsequently went off without many complaints. Arcade Fire were triumphant, it's amazing to hear how songs like 'Wake Up' and even tracks off The Suburbs have become so iconic so quickly. Other highlights included Interpol and their ever so stoic performance, Deltron 3030 who sounded incredible with Dan The Automator playing Conductor to the orchestra on stage. Jagwar Ma smashed a set on the Park Stage in the rain, and it felt like the perfect atmosphere for it. As there was music for every waking hour of the day, there was simply too much to surmise here, but what it did teach me was that I need to go back.
After missing out on February (I was already attending one of the final Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip shows - shout out to those guys), I procured tickets for Childish Gambino's sole UK Deep Web Tour show, and it didn't disappoint. I was a big fan of his app and interactive backdrop for between sets, definitely something new, and he churned out tracks from Because The Internet. Finishing with a few medleys of old material, he might have dwelled here for a little longer, but that's just the fan in me talking, as it was otherwise a very polished performance in a packed out Brixton Academy.
Friend and cohort of Childish, I made sure to catch Chance The Rapper when he swung through London. Just two mixtapes deep, he already has a legion of fans, and is a natural performer. It's clear he's going to be around for some time to come, and an eventual album will definitely help strengthen his set and stage performance, which at times he let fall a little flat.
Manchester Orchestra do loud better than perhaps any other act I know, and a perfect example that volume doesn't have to compromise clarity. I also loved that the band essentially opened for themselves, as Bad Books were first on the bill. I’m all for as much Andy Hull as I can get, so certainly no complaints from me there.
Balance And Composure put on a stellar show at Dingwalls in October, refusing to let illness or stage divers ruin their set. Seahaven supported, and at both this performance and their Birthdays headline set earlier in the year, they put in a solid shift.
DFA 1979 proved exactly why they reformed at the Electric Ballroom; they make being punched in the face fun again.
Folk punk legends Andrew Jackson Jihad sing the blues in the chirpiest way, and The Dome was full of young and old, who all sang along to those Bad, Bad Things.
I managed to see We Are Scientists four times throughout the calendar year, including an instore performance, and on top of a shipping container. Regardless of venue, they always put on a show.
The Red Bull Culture Clash was hands down the most unique event of the year, with four stages set up in Earls Court, each with their own 'Sound System'. Bringing grime, hip hop, reggae, dancehall and everything in between together, it was fascinating to see thousands of people run around a venue to secure the best spot before the countdown gave way to the next set. David Rodigan is an institution at this stage, and I loved seeing all of BBK together. Slightly ridiculous, but definitely an event I won’t forget any time soon. Speaking of grime, Eskimo Dance snuck in as my final show of the year, and it definitely felt like a holiday celebration.
One of the shows of the year was tinged with sadness, Bombay Bicycle Club’s fantastic Earls Court concert was the venue’s last, as it’s now due to be demolished and replaced with a residential estate. The concert itself was phenomenal, and I was proud to be there for such a fitting farewell on what was otherwise a very sad day for UK music and it’s heritage. Oh, and the icing on the funeral cake (that’s a thing right?) was David Gilmour coming out to join on a track, and then perform Wish You Were Here. I was in disbelief, jaw hanging open and covered in goosebumps. That one will definitely go down in history.
In terms of non-events, I was severely let down by Jabberwocky, or should I say, the lack of Jabberwocky. An ATP festival, I was preparing myself for the likes of James Blake, Kurt Vile, more Neutral Milk Hotel, Liars, Deafheaven amongst many more, but the two day festival was sadly cancelled due to poor ticket sales. Talk about an anti-climax.
Another bittersweet festival was Wireless. I’ve never before wanted to attend, I vowed to go simply to witness Kanye West perform live. I managed to miss Giorgio Moroder, which I’m still mad about, but did catch the end of Meridian Dan’s set, where he simply gave up the stage to Skepta and JME, before returning to finish with ‘German Whip’. Iggy Azalea was there, but the less said about her the better. By the end of the day I was ready to watch Kanye and leave, and when he did perform, he was excellent. However, I’m not certain what was more disturbing, the intermittent 'rants', or the booing that rang out around Finsbury Park when he wouldn't shut up.
The weirdest gig I attended has to go to The Neighbourhood. Ever since I heard ‘Wires’ a few years ago, I considered myself a fan of the band, appreciating the indie/R&B hybrid sound, but never really reading further into them. They’d passed through London a few times and I held off, but I decided to take the plunge for their show at the Kentish Town Forum. Heading along with a mate, I’m not quite certain what I was expecting, but definitely not what I arrived to – a room full, and I mean full, of screaming teenage girls. Somehow, I had completely neglected to realise their fanbase was mainly young female girls, and I quickly learnt just how loud their screams can be. Feeling more like a chaperone than an audience member, I vowed to research bands a bit more before I buy tickets to see them.
The biggest let down of the year came in the form of SBTRKT. A huge fan of the debut album, I was excited both for Wonder Where We Land and to see them live, and I was left wanting by both. I turned up to Brixton in October looking for a party, and left still searching for one. The pacing was completely off, too often breaking to remark on the magnitude of the event , that in itself is wholly forgivable, but the rest of the evening was just too hit and miss. In a max capacity crowd I barely broke a sweat (that in itself a challenge), the moments of brilliance could not be sustained, and tracks such as ‘Hold On’ felt disjointed, and god forbid, out of time. I wasn’t certain if my own feverish anticipation had warped my expectations, or if I was clinging to the highlights to carry me through the night. By no means awful, but falling far short of brilliant. Sampha was great though, so there’s always that.
So all in all, 2014 treated me pretty well. As for this year, as of typing, I have 12 gigs currently lined up for 2015, and a Primavera ticket for Barcelona in May. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in, and if I haven’t driven you away yet, then I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it all.