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: The Moonlandingz @ Hare & Hounds 28.03.17

Words by Steve Crawford

On Tuesday 28th March, The Moonlandingz come to the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) on the first date of their UK tour, with support from Goat Girl.

Doors open at 7.30pm. But at the time of writing, this gig has been SOLD OUT with your only chance being the This Is Tmrw waiting list only. For direct gig info, including venue and waiting list details, click here.

It didn’t end well for Johnny Rocket of The Moonlandingz. Stalked by an obsessive fan since seeing him (resplendent in blue jumper and tin foil socks) and ‘his band’ play their ‘cosmic synth, Krautabilly, fuzzy Joe Meek style pop’ at the Valhalladale Working Men’s Club.

Pushed to the edge by his constant rejections and the celebratory mood in Valehalladale following Margaret Thatcher’s death (the stalker has reason to believe she is Mrs Thatcher’s love child), she eventually catches up with Johnny, stoves the side of his head in with a rock and watches as he falls backwards into a river and sinks to the bottom, until the air bubbles stop. So ends Johnny Rocket and The Moonlandingz.

Or at least the fictional versions as created by the Eccentronic Research Council (ERC) for their album – Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Machine Music… I’m your Biggest Fan. This 2015 release saw the ERC collaborate again with the magnificent Maxine Peake – taking on the role of ‘the stalker’, alongside Fat White Family’s Saul Adamczewski and Lias Saoudi.

Over the course of 2015-16, The Moonlandingz started to make the move from fictional to semi-fictional. Johnny Rocket was resurrected by Lias Saoudi, a junkie Major Tom figure who fell to Earth as a dishevelled glam rocker in silver cod-piece with make-up gone awry (See The Moonlandingz‘ ‘Black Hanz’ video below).

Initially conceived as a recording project only, it was after a session for 6 Music’s Marc Riley that The Moonlandingz’ potential as a live act took hold. In 2016 the band played a handful of gigs and festivals including South by South West and the Liverpool PsychFest

Skip ahead to 2017 and a fleshed out Moonlandingz release their debut album – Interplanetary Class Classics, through Transgressive Records on March 24th. Recorded in Sheffield and New York, the album sees yet more collaborations including Sean Lennon (who after re-mixing ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’co-produced the album) Yoko Ono, Randy Jones (the cowboy from The Village People), Phil Oakey and Slow Club’s Rebecca Taylor.

Already a band that are causing rips in the cosmos as a live act, a now infamous naked/dirty protest at their outset meant The Moonlandingz have gained a bit of a reputation, with subsequent gigs having been ‘riotus…feral’. Hang onto your cod-pieces Birmingham.

‘Black Handz’ – The Moonlandingz

The Moonlandingz perform at the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath) on Tuesday 28th March, with support from Goat Girl – as presented by This Is Tmrw. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.


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BREVIEW: Dutch Uncles @ Hare & Hounds 06.03.17

BREVIEW: Dutch Uncles @ Hare & Hounds 06.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review






Words by Steve Crawford / Pics by Denise Wilson

Fuelled by a pre-gig curry, Dutch Uncles take to the stage at the Hare and Hounds to the opening bars of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s version of ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’.

It’s good to see that all the band members got the memo regarding dress code. Not strictly a band uniform as such, but the grey-ish monotone garb, along with more or less matching haircuts, give them a gratifying Gang of Four/Winston Smith dystopian-future citizen look.

As the rest of the band take their places, guitarist Pete Broadhead picks up the ELP riff on his black Stratocaster prompting front-man Duncan Wallis to christen him “Prog Pete”.  The entrance music fades and Dutch Uncles launch into tonight’s gig with a “two-for-one” set opener: ‘Baskin’ and ‘Some Plane Dream’ – both from their new album, Big Balloon.

BREVIEW: Dutch Uncles @ Hare & Hounds 06.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham ReviewAnd so begins… Dutch Uncles’ fifth appearance at the Hare and Hounds, on the fifth date of the tour, promoting their fifth album. Tonight the four founding members are joined by touring guitarist Neil Wright and Prog Pete’s brother, Henry Broadhead, on Casio synth – or the “glorified calculator” as it is referred to. “50 quid off EBay, honestly the sounds he can get out of it – the man’s a genius,” Wallis tells the crowd.

Next up is the pumping rhythmic ‘Cadenza’, from the album of the same name, which gets heads nodding and bopping in the audience. It’s a good turnout for a Monday night; the large room in the Hare and Hounds is near to full.

Dutch Uncles are on top form, much more powerful and energetic than they are on record and obviously BREVIEW: Dutch Uncles @ Hare & Hounds 06.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Reviewaccomplished musicians. A variety of sounds are summoned that reference their influences: Eighties style synths stutter, chirrup, drone and loop; guitars are urgent and spiky. It’s all propelled along by Robin Richards’ thunkingly tight bass and Andy Proudfoot’s precise drumming, holding those pesky “atypical” time-signatures in check.

Seven tracks from Big Balloon are played tonight; ‘Sink’, the slower ‘Comb Box’ and ‘Achameleon’ are omitted, the latter for reasons of difficulty in learning to play live or so Wallis informs us (I suspect with an element of tongue in cheek).  ‘Achameleon’ is replaced by the Japan-esque ‘Tidal Weight’ from 2015’s O Shudder; Wallis’s vocals conjuring David Sylvian.

Distinctive voice. Distinctive stage moves. Duncan Wallis is a natural front-man. He’s captivating to watch as he uses the medium of dance to interpret the songs, moving like a body-popping Kung-Fu Ian Curtis with a dash of Jarvis Cocker thrown in.BREVIEW: Dutch Uncles @ Hare & Hounds 06.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Review

As well as vocal and dancing duties, Wallis also has piano and marimba duties to execute, all of which he seems to do at the same time. This is impressively demonstrated during ‘Threads’, from Out of Touch in the Wild, which sees Wallis not only sing and dance but along with Pete Broadhead perform an impressively fast marimba duet.

Unfortunately it does include a slight mishap as Wallis messes up what, to an untrained eye, seems a relatively straightforward piano part? “Sorry,” he says to both band and audience “but I’ve fucked up that piano part every night so far on this tour”. Although, to be fair, he’s just taken multi-tasking to a brand new level. The only other mistake tonight involves Prog Pete, who plays one extra single note on the marimba – a fact that would have gone unnoticed by most had it not been for Wallis gleefully pointing it out. Harsh.

Set closer is ‘Big Balloon’ – the title track from the new album, and it’s well received. But ‘Flexxin’, played in the encore and probably the Dutch Uncles’ most popular track, is the BREVIEW: Dutch Uncles @ Hare & Hounds 06.03.17 / Denise Wilson – Birmingham Reviewbiggest hit of the night and something of a treat for birthday boy Henry Broadhead. Having reached the dangerous age of 27 he is allowed make any sound he likes on his Casio calculator as way of an intro into it.

The final song of the main set is ‘Dressage’ – a more guitar driven number than most, it’s the Prog Rock experience in a three minute pop song.

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to come around to the Dutch Uncles on record and I was never sure how well their material would work when played live. The dictionary definition of a Dutch Uncle is: ‘someone who issues frank, harsh or severe comments & criticism to educate, encourage or admonish’.

After tonight’s performance I feel both admonished for doubting Dutch Uncles as a live act, and educated in just how vital it is to see bands playing live to fully appreciate them.


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BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.17

BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Review





Words by Steve Crawford / Pics by Denise Wilson

Thursday 19th January saw the return of The Blue Aeroplanes to a sold-out Hare & Hounds, promoting their 14th studio album Welcome, Stranger! Last seen at this venue in December 2013 it appears to be the exact same line-up tonight. Famous for their ever-changing crew (47, including today’s line up) is this period of stability something of a record for the band?BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Review

The roar of aircraft engines fill the room and the stage lights go into search-light mode as all seven members of The Blue Aeroplanes take to the stage. Head aeroplane, Gerard Langley, in check suit and ever present wayfarer shades, clutches a folder of full of lyrics giving him the air of a cool college tutor. (In keeping with the hero-teacher role, and as way of introducing a couple of songs, he later gives a mini-lecture on the superstition associated with walking under ladders and pose a philosophical conundrum on the existence, or non-existence, of the future.)

‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’ from Welcome, Stranger! opens the set, followed by ‘Yr Own World’ from the 1991 album Beatsongs. “So far 50-50″, declares Gerard Langley, “but this is not a nostalgia exercise” he warns, alluding to the BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Reviewfact that over half the set will be comprised of new material with all ten tracks from Welcome, Stranger! being played tonight. Or possibly referring to the rumour that this album is something of a departure for the band sound wise? In a recent interview with Marc Riley, Langley said Welcome, Stranger! is “less of the leftfield, arty, poetry stuff and more of the riff-y, chorus-y stuff’.

This ‘riff-y, chorus-y stuff’ is evident in the songs ‘Looking for the X’s On A Map’ and ‘Here Is The Heart of All Wild Things’ – the latter including a My Bloody Valentine ‘You Made Me Realise’ extended aural assault section, as guitars and drums repeatedly pound away in the closing minutes. ‘Skin’ sees guitarist Bec Jevons adeptly fronting the band, taking on lead vocals whilst still rocking out foot on monitor style with her Fender Stratocaster. Played live this proves to be an absolute tank buster of a song.BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Review

So not an exercise in nostalgia. But tonight isn’t just about the new stuff and there’s room for some more much-loved old familiars. ‘What It Is‘, slows things down and the crowd sway along. Gerard Langley is relieved of vocal duties for two numbers as first guitarist, Gerard Starkie, and then bassist, Chris Sharp, take on ‘Missy Lane’ and ‘Fun’ respectively. But it’s two of the big hitters from Swagger, ‘…And Stones’ and ‘Jacket Hangs’ (playing cards thrown into the crowd in unison with the opening lines), that are met with the biggest cheers of the night; pockets of the audience are dancing, throwing their arms around and generally swanning about.

Talking of dancing… it’s about time The Blue Aeroplanes’ long-standing dancer, Wojtek Dmochowski, was mentioned. He seems to have decided that middle-age isn’t for him; it’s just not his thing. In constant motion (and a sweat drenched red ‘#keepcorbyn’ t-shirt) he bends, leaps, weaves and free dances his way around fellow band members, pushing himself off the walls, eventually ending up in the audience for a dance along.  Earlier Langley had joked that Wojtek Dmochowski was only here to flog his new fitness DVD.

But Gerard Langley has some fine stage moves himself: dodge, step aside, swing, take cover manoeuvres that look a lot more manageable than a ‘full Wojtek’. The rest of BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham ReviewThe Blue Aeroplanes engage in semi-choreographed mayhem as they joust, thrust, charge and entangle each other with guitar cables and, like Dmochowski, eventually spill out into the audience during one of the encores.

The first of which (we get two tonight) includes a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ and ‘Poetland, the last song played from Welcome Stranger! The second encore begins with a lone Bec Jevons on stage, starting up the riff for traditional set closer: Tom Verlaine’s ‘Breaking in My Heart’. Soon joined by the rest of The Blue Aeroplanes, plus support act – Leicester’s Michael Vickers, more cavorting ensues from both tonight’s musicians and audience.

As the final few bars are thrashed out, Gerard Langley collects his notes, walks to the side of the stage, and causally puts on his jacket. Lecture over.


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