BREVIEW: The Moonlandingz @ Hare & Hounds 28.03.17

BREVIEW: Goat Girl – supporting The Moonlandingz @ Hare & Hounds 28.03.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham Review




Words by Steve Crawford / Pics by Denise Wilson

Tonight’s support, Goat Girl, are a four piece South London band from an emerging DIY indie scene. Signed to Rough Trade last year, they’ve been getting great reviews whenever they play live. Songs that build slowly with quiet-loud sections, repeating guitar riffs with a twang played against a tribal, Cramps like drum beat. Spleen is vented in songs like ‘Creep’ and ‘Country Sleaze’ – delivered in nonchalant, laid back vocals from singer/guitarist Lottie. An album is due out later this year which possibly means Goat Girl will return to Birmingham at some point as a headline act?

After a comprehensive sound check from a roadie searching for the troublesome “mix 6” which has disappeared from the monitors, The Moonlandingz finally take to the stage. What we’re all wondering is what exactly will Valhalla Dale’s most infamous resident, Johnny Rocket (aka Lias Saoudi), be wearing this season? The wait is over as – heeeeeere’s Johnny – in (it has to be said disappointingly) normal brown shoes and trousers.

BREVIEW: The Moonlandingz @ Hare & Hounds 28.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham ReviewBut it’s the topper-most half of the outfit that gets the fashionistas from Vogue scrambling for their notepads: cling film wrapped around a naked torso, worn coquettishly and daringly below the nipples, holding within pictures of a beaming Kriss Akabusi and two chocolate digestives. It takes some doing to make an entrance at the Hare and Hounds, lack of access to the stage via wings means performers have the indignity of wading through the throng from the back of the venue, but Johnny/Lias pulls it off with aplomb.

‘Vessels’, the first track off the debut album Interplanetary Class Classics, is the set opener and what’s immediately apparent is that The Moonlandingz like to crank it up when playing live. It’s LOUD. Somewhere in-between Saturn 5 rocket launch loud and Motorhead loud; the bass pummels and re-jigs internal organs and the fluid in the cranium starts to swirl and eddy. Looks like “mix 6” found its way BREVIEW: The Moonlandingz @ Hare & Hounds 28.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Reviewback with a vengeance. Volume does mean a lot of the subtleties of the album are drowned out tonight, but then the recorded LP will always exist for such things. The band keeps up the pace with a “greatest hits” section as ‘Black Hanz’ and ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ get belted out; pools of the audience bounce and semi-pogo along in the sold out, sweaty Hare and Hounds.

A lot is made of Lias Saoudi as a front-man, and rightly so. Adrian Flanagan considered him to be the best in Europe. Tonight as alter-ego Johnny Rocket he gives it his all in a delightful sleazy, louche and salacious performance, with a whiff of danger that never really becomes more than a threat – although at one point a mike stand is dropped into the crowd, nearly clattering into the photographers below. Refreshed by cans of draught Guinness which aren’t even poured into a glass, let alone left to settle (the man’s an animal) he doesn’t let up and keeps his foot on the pedal throughout.

BREVIEW: The Moonlandingz @ Hare & Hounds 28.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham ReviewBut this isn’t just the Johnny Rocket show. Rebecca Taylor, glorious in fake fur coat, is more than a match for Johnny/Lias in the band-fronting stakes; it is very much duel effort fronting The Moonlandingz. The foil and counter-foil between Taylor and Johnny/Lias is nicely highlighted during the latest single, ‘The Strangle of Anna’, which sees them as a latter day Serge Gainsborough and Jane Birkin.

Joining in the carinivalesque on stage there’s some fine swagger and posturing from bass player Manfredo, whereas guitarist Mairead O’Conner is the epitome of serene tranquility. The calm at the eye of the storm she is totally unfazed by her wayward bandmates antics and holds a sure and steady course. Watching over it all from behind his keyboard is the band’s avuncular leader, Adrian Flanagan, in a gone-fishing hat and shades. The only member who really engages the crowd between songs (although I can’t make out what he says) Flanagan looks both amused and delighted at times with his creation, diving beneath a towel at one point to reappear moments later, BREVIEW: The Moonlandingz @ Hare & Hounds 28.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Reviewpossibly to confirm that this fictional band are indeed punching holes in reality tonight.

All tracks from Interplanetary Class Classics are played plus ‘Drop It Fauntleroy’ from the Black Hanz EP, but the band finish up with ‘Man In My Lyfe’ from The Eccentronic Research Council’s Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan album – which is where all this began, giving birth to the fictional Johnny Rocket and his band The Moonlandingz.

As the final track fades Adrian Flanagan announces “That’s yer lot”. And so it is. No encore. The spectacle that is The Moonlandingz exit stage front, back through the cheering throng once again.


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BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17

BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Rob Hadley

Warpaint almost split up before recording last year’s album, Heads Up. After 18 months on the road the LA group’s four members took some time to pursue solo endeavors, with bassist Jenny Lee Linberg releasing a solo album and Stella Mozgawa drumming for a number of artists, including Kurt Vile. They almost didn’t reunite.

Happily they did, and the resulting album transmits a rediscovered joy of playing music together. It feels freer and lighter than Warpaint’s previous releases, while still being meticulously crafted and beautifully produced. It stands up well to repeat listens.

Tonight’s gig at the O2 Institute is the first of a five-date UK tour, in the middle of a month-long European tour. Warpaint sidle onto the stage for an oddly low-key beginning to the show, with a ponderous instrumental introduction leading into the hypnotic ‘Keep it Healthy’, taken from their eponymous second album. It’s a gorgeous song showcasing the talents of Mozgawa, whose drumming is a focal point throughout the gig.

BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review‘Heads Up’, the title track from their latest album, ups the pace; dancey guitar lines flutter in and out across a driving bass line. ‘Undertow’ (arguably still Warpaint’s best song, keeps up the momentum. The enchanting, eerie vocals are mantra-like, building to a satisfying guitar breakdown payoff.

Tonight’s set draws evenly from across the band’s three albums. By the middle of the gig this serves to highlight the fact that, throughout their career, Warpaint have written a lot of mid-tempo tracks. ‘No Way Out’, taken from a 2015 EP, meanders through seven quite dull minutes. ‘The Stall’, from the new album, is similarly uninspiring and ‘Stars’, a post-rock opus, may be carefully considered and executed, but ultimately fails to hold the attention.

Part of the problem is that the subtleties of Warpaint’s recorded work, particularly in the gorgeously produced new album, are lost in the muddy sound of the live arena. An issue too is the aloof, introspective nature of the band members; they have a lot of chemistry, but at times I feel like an outsider awkwardly gate crashing into their rehearsal room.BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17 / Rob Hadley – Birmingham Review

Things pick up again with ‘Whiteout’, the opener from Heads Up. ‘Whiteout’ sounds more modern than much of Warpaint’s Cure-rock, with a funky, almost r‘n’b vibe benefiting from an impassioned vocal performance from Emily Kokal and insistent, woozy guitar triplets.

‘So Good’ and ‘New Song’ are also highlights of tonight’s gig, showcasing the pop sensibility of Warpaint’s most recent material. It’s the sound of a band that’s confident, adept and at ease with itself. Perhaps some time apart has done them good.

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BPREVIEW: Warpaint @ O2 Institute 22.03.17



Words by Ed King

On Wednesday 22nd March, Warpaint come to the O2 Institute – with support from a band on the punkier side of the UK Rough Trade roster, Shame.

Doors open at 7pm with tickets priced at £21 (+booking fee), as presented by Crosstown Concerts. Minimum age for entry is 14 with under 16s requiring adult accompaniment. For direct gig info, including full venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Warpaint come to the O2 Institute in Birmingham for the first date in their six date UK & Ireland tour, including a set at the BBC 6 Music Festival in Glasgow. On the road promoting their third studio album, Heads Up, Warpaint land back on British shores after six dates across mainland Europe.

And Heads Up is what’s it’s all about right now for Warpaint, with only a handful of songs from their latest LP making it onto the previous tour’s set list. As Theresa Wayman told Clash Magazine in late 2016, “right now we only have five new songs in the set, which doesn’t feel like enough”.

But Heads Up is an arguable transition for Warpaint, with a new approach to writing and recording bringing a broader spectrum of styles and tempo; the opiate haze from much of Warpaint’s back catalogue now has the odd disco biscuit bounce and white line shuffle to keep it on its toes. There’s even a Soulwax remix.

The crowds seem to be toying with a chance of pace too, as Warpaint’s last gig in Manchester received a respectable mosh pit response. “We played ‘Love Is To Die’, ‘New Song’ and ‘Disco/Very’ all in a row” continues Wayman in her interview with Clash, “and people were moshing pretty hard. But we did the same set in Edinburgh the night before and it was completely the opposite, so I don’t know what the secret is really.”

But with Jake Bercovici back at the helm, who produced Warpaint’s debut Exquisite Corpse EP, it’s not a total clean slate. And lots of Heads Up harks back to the shoegaze dream rock of releases gone by. Not that any of this matters until you see it on stage, and with Birmingham getting the first UK look at an amended set list it would be rude not to form a new opinion.

In the meantime, check out a couple of strands from the new Warpaint spectrum with the following tracks featured back to back on their Heads Up LP.

 ‘New Song’ (YouTube video) – Warpaint


‘The Stall’ (recorded by NPR Music at the 9:30 Club, Washington D.C.) – Warpaint

Warpaint perform at the O2 Institute on Wednesday 22nd March, with support from Shame – as presented Crosstown Concerts. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


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BREVIEW: The Hungry Ghosts + Goat Girl @ The Victoria 25.10.16

The Hungry Ghosts @ The Victoria 25.10.16 / By Claire Leach © Birmingham Review


Words by Jay Dyer / Pics by Claire Leach

I have long been an admirer of The Victoria. It’s a quaint, traditional pub, at the heart of this vastly changing city – one which has not been hit quite as hard by the wide gentrification across the road, in the new (sterile) Grand Terror Watts – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ The Victoria 25.10.16 / By Claire Leach © Birmingham ReviewCentral/New Street station. Plus The Victoria has a wonderful stage room upstairs, which is sadly not utilised enough. It is the perfect venue for the city; it’s neither too large nor too small, and I am joyed (and somewhat surprised) to see The Hungry Ghosts on their bill – blowing away the establishment’s Tuesday night cobwebs.

I arrive early, embark up the stairs and into the gig room. I take another look at the date on my phone to make sure I have the right night, as I find myself all alone. The date is right. I grab a beer and waste a bit of time downstairs so I look less weird. As I swig from my glass of unpronounceable lager, finally people arrive so I head back upstairs to find Terror Watts setting up their equipment.

Terror Watts are a band that I enjoy live and tonight is no different. They hit you with bursts of energy, married with fine-tuned garage rock songs. In other words everything I love to see live. Their set is tight as can be too, something I imagine has taken some time in the practice room to get right. However I am getting a strong sense of déjà vu; it takes 2 or 3 songs for it to dawn on me that Terror Watts have not altered their set in the slightest Goat Girl – supporting The Hungry Ghosts @ The Victoria 25.10.16 / By Claire Leach © Birmingham Reviewsince I last saw them. With such a condensed music scene in Birmingham, being original and taking pride in variety is key to making a name for yourself. Terror Watts ignite with a flash to some delight, but after a while I long for something bigger.

The next band on stage are Goat Girl, a 4-piece garage rock outfit from London. Goat Girl have recently signed to Rough Trade so I feel a bit of buzz and anticipation for what’s to come. On paper, they are everything I love in a band; raw garage rock, forged through simple chord structure and dancing harmonic melodies, is what I absolutely yearn for. I’ve listened to some of Goat Girl’s music online and I love it, it really engages with me with its energy and production.

However, after they finally get pulled away from their cocktails downstairs (where Goat Girl have been residing all night) they embark on a set which neither inspires or encapsulates my eager mind. Tonight Goat Girl come across as overly self-absorbent, looking as if they’re only thinking about what next to order from the cocktail menu.The Hungry Ghosts @ The Victoria 25.10.16 / By Claire Leach © Birmingham Review

The music I loved so much on record is diluted by a lack of live dynamic range; the set is void of energy. I want to shout, “hey, it’s a Tuesday, it’s not a big crowd, but show some energy to those who came out to see you”. Somewhere buried deep down I can hear some wonderful hooks and rhythms, but played with such reluctance they lose the audience in large parts. Goat Girl do play well, I just don’t ‘get’ what they are trying to do live. But somehow they bagged themselves a Rough Trade deal.

The Hungry Ghosts are next up, bringing their self-titled ‘slaughterhouse blues’ to the stage. The four piece have been making quite a name for themselves over the past few months; The Hungry Ghosts have recently released their debut Blood Red Songs EP and played a barrage of shows around the country.

The Victoria‘s upstairs venue has now filled to about half capacity, which is alright for a Tuesday night, and The Hungry Ghosts’ set is an unforgiving and brutal display – marrying gloomy bass with screaming highs. Each song is played with such The Hungry Ghosts @ The Victoria 25.10.16 / By Claire Leach © Birmingham Reviewprecision and energy it makes them perfect to watch; effortlessly playing their way through a destructive set.

Front man, Joe Joseph, becomes a focal point of the performance as he looms over the microphone with one eye darting behind his cascading hair. It really is the eyes; they unnerve me slightly. They remind me of an overly exuberant actor I watched portraying the blind old man in a performance of ‘Antigone’ a few years back.

Joe Joseph seems to react to every single movement of the music, his body jolting with the beat. This is peaked when he ends up laying in the foetal position in the middle of the audience, screaming into the microphone.

There’s nothing ‘quaint’ or ‘traditional’ about The Hungry Ghosts, but they can fill up a room no matter how many people are in there with them. When you go to watch The Hungry Ghosts you are watching a band perfectly navigate the line between destruction and control; I absolutely love it.

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