Kate Nash: The Institute, Birmingham – live review

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Kate Nash
The Institute, Birmingham
11th October 2013

Kate Nash took The Institute by storm with her new indie punk sound – backed by a great line up of The Tuts and Vulkano.

The last thing my wife always says to me before I leave with my cameras for a gig is – Have you got your ear plugs? It’s not intended as a slight on the artists involved it’s just that down in the pit you often end up very close to the speakers and the results can be literally deafening. On Friday night as I opened the door and she asked the usual question and I just shrugged and said ‘Hey, it’s a Kate Nash gig. How loud can it be?”

And the answer to that question is …. a lot louder than you think.

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Having made her name as a composer and performer of witty and quirky songs about relationships delivered almost parlando, full of humour and spiced with just enough home truths to make girls love her and boys feel uncomfortable Nash lost her record deal with Universal and had to crowd fund her latest album Girl Talk, but instead of sticking to formula and playing safe she has used the new found artistic freedom to reinvent herself and her sound.

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Drawing inspiration from the Riot Grrl movement and her own previous involvement in the indie/punk scene (she used to play bass in side project punk band The Receders) the new Kate Nash is a performer far removed from the dreamy, wistful popstrel of Foundations and Mouthwash. This Kate Nash is an all together louder, more abrasive, punkier performer. The new album has had mixed reviews, being dismissed as punk feminism light in some quarters but live it’s a different matter and backed by a first rate ‘all girl band’ (not a phrase I’m entirely happy using but it seemed to be the epithet of choice on the night so I’ll use it here) Nash delivered a storming set at Birmingham’s Institute on Friday.

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First up, on a night when the stage is dominated by female performers were The Tuts, an ‘all girl’ three hander from Hayes who sound a little like a female version of the Libertines and quickly get the crowd on side with a high energy dose of melodic punk ska. While not always subtle – ‘If you’ve got a shit boyfriend, get rid of that boyfriend’ they yell before the (unsurprisingly titled) Dump Your Boyfriend – they have great tunes and should be a name to reckon with in the future.

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They are followed by Vulkano, a female duo (with a young gentleman bass player in tow but frankly this just smacks of tokenism) from Sweden with a great line in post punk indypop and a singer who also plays lead drums which is an unusual combination. They’re two fifths of Those Dancing Days but considerably harder edged. Their songs are about Wolves and Spiders and lead singer Cissi Efraimsson makes some great noises, including an impressive selection of animal influenced barks and yelps and a red Indian warble which rapidly becomes a feature of the night while hitting the drums extremely hard. Possibly they have upset her.

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Kate Nash is backed by the regulation girl band dressed in black while she herself has an extraordinary dress made of brightly coloured hearts. I am not a fashion blogger but the dress is fabulous and should get its own show and Kate Nash wears it very nicely. Nash’s new style is fast, angry indy punk, which suits the new songs just fine. They’re not her subtlest work and they work a lot better live than they do on the album where their relative simplicity is more of a problem. Here they function as a perfect canvas for Nash and the band to lean into and make some great music around, and the wilder and more exuberant the performance the better they sound although older songs like Foundations and Mouthwash fare less well, the lyric getting somewhat lost in the mix.

This is a minor quibble in a fine show however. Nash clearly has a great easy stage presence and a loyal following – the Institute is packed – and the crowd hang on her every phrase. When she leaves the stage at the end of the main set, following a stage invasion and some of the funniest crowd surfing I’ve seen in ages, the chant is not Encore or More but ‘Where the fuck is Kate?’ which seems to be appreciated by the lady herself when she returns for a finale performance of Merry Happy, one of the few among her old songs which sound pretty much like their original selves on the night.

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The Tuts can be found on their website Facebook, Twitter and BandCamp pages.

Vulkano are on Facebook and Twitter.

Kate Nash’s website is here. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

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Art Brut: New Adelphi, Hull – live review

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Art Brut
The New Adelphi, Hull
29th September 2013

Classic rock band Art Brut barnstorm their visit Hull’s New Adelphi.

My first time at the New Adelphi in Hull. I’d been told it was tiny but it’s much smaller than that, one of those proper little rock and roll venues the are disappearing fast. It’s basically an end terrace with the downstairs rooms knocked into one, bright blue and pink walls, a mural at the back of the stage and an array of lights hanging from the ceiling that look like they were made out of catering jam tins.

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There are concrete beams in the roof, one of which passes directly above the front of the stage, causing lead singer and extreme ironist in chief Eddie Argos to raise a hand to ascertain its location at the start of each song before essaying one of his trademark pogos. As a six foot fourer who has had to wear a stupid looking collar on three occasions as a result of low ceilings I worry for him.

Openers on the night are local guitar and drum duo The Glass Delusion whose set is made up of great, fast, loud one minute songs about literature, the importance of not being buried alive and their disdain for tribute acts. Great fun and I’m nominating them for a special award as the band who sound least like their web material when you hear them live. Following on are La Bete Blooms, usually a five piece, tonight playing as a four, harmonic post punk tinged with some delicate pop sensibility. It’s a great bill put together by Screaming Tarts who bring a lot of good music over to the east coast where god knows we need it.

Having arrived at the gig knowing that I liked Art Brut what takes me by surprise when they arrive on stage is how much I like them. They manage to go from being an amusing band that I rather like and approve of to being one of my favourites in the space of the set. I think this is because I’d mostly though of them up to now as ironists. I hadn’t really appreciated what a good noise they make and what a barnstorming over the top show performance we were in for.

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On CD the band are almost subdued, mostly present to service the lyric but live they are tight, wild, disciplined and raucous, not by turns but all at the same time which is a tough combination to pull off. Proceedings are inevitably dominated by front man Eddie Argos, who delivers his lines with the accompaniment of an impressive repertoire theatrical gurning and gesticulation.

All the favourites are there – including Formed A Band, Emily Kane and My Little Brother but best song of the night is the newest Arizona Bay, a nod in the direction of Bill Hicks which has a great deranged swagger to it. The spoken interludes and commentaries which last only a few seconds on CD become extended monologues lasting several minutes in some cases. During Modern Art he steps down from the stage and out into the crowd, having everyone sit or crouch down while he leans over them and exuberantly narrates the story of his visit to the Van Gogh Museum like a particularly enthusiastic nursery teacher trying to whip some enthusiasm into story time.

The irony is still a big part of the show of course – not just the straightforward stuff either but a special kind of multilayered reflexive irony which has always been present in their work -‘This is my real singing voice, I’m not being ironic’ Argos declaims on Formed A Band.

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During his Modern Art soliloquy he explains to the audience that he has lost the thread of the story and has improvised himself into a corner he doesn’t know how to get out of, only to admit a few moments later when the laugh has been won that in fact he knows exactly where he is headed because the impression of spontaneity is of course an artifice and the same monologue, including this bit, can be found word for word on the CDs available (at remarkably good prices) on the table to our left.

Most importantly the band look like they’re having a great time. Argos points out that they have two new members on board and he takes great delight in confounding them by departing from the set list for what appear to be unrehearsed songs. ‘Play one the drummer knows’ someone shouts from the back during a moment of confusion. Argos enjoys it too and repeats it in case anyone missed out. It’s my favourite heckle at a gig in ages and all the more enjoyable because of the sneaking suspicion that maybe nobody shouted it at all and Argos just made it up and it’s part of the regular show.

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Art Brut can be found at their website and at their Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages.

La Bete Blooms are on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

The Glass Delusion are at their website and at their Facebook and BandCamp pages.

The Lincolnshire Food Festival 2013

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Down at Meridian Point there were some seriously good aromas wafting on the breeze and plenty of entertainment too with top chefs like Franck Pontais and Nigel Brown presenting giving masterclasses and musician and entrepreneur Levi Roots telling his story, singing songs and rustling up some tasty West Indian delicacies.

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Exhibitors included top local producers and retailers including Peaks Top Farm of New Waltham with some amazing locally produced fruit wines, Spinney Kitchen of Brigg with their amazing selection of teas and coffees (and especially a fabulously smokey Lapsang Souchong, and Katies Cupcakes of Cleethorpes with lots of delicious baked goodies for weddings, parties and other functions!

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There were so many good things on offer it would takje forever to list them all them all but we took home some fantastic cookies from the Real Tea & Coffee Company of Ruskington and of course some great recipe books signed by their authors including none other than Mr Levi Roots himself. Levi had brought his guitar along and treated us to a rousing chorus of the Reggae Reggae Sauce song as well as sharing his story and advising everyone to go out and confront the dragon’s in their own lives.

So if you’re getting sound advice and good food all at once that’s got to be a day well spent hasn’t it? We look forward to next year with anticipation.

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