Ponys conquer London (part two)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonic Cathedral is a cool place to play and it feels right for the Ponys further onslaught across this city. The ceiling is crowded with yellow balloons with silver strings dangling onto the audiences heads. Nat who runs the club is DJing and shows some fine rocking selections. So do the Ponys. This band kick proverbial ass. They delve into "rocks rich tapestry" ( (c)Julie Burchill circa 1979) but come up weaving their own distinct and visceral sound. There is the sweeping grandeur of "1209 Seminary" and the stately beauty of  "Shine" balanced by the punchy future rock classic "Double Vision". The gig ended ends in a rock and roll maelstrom and yes indeed they "rock like a hurricane" ( (c) Sharon O'Connell circa 2007).  As they leave the stage Nat cues Television, a fitting salute to The Ponys' power and pedigree. 

Cat Power at the Brits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the scene on Wednesday night at the glittering Brit Awards, the UK's equivalent of the Grammys. Cat Power was given the accolade of being nominated as Best International Female and both Chan Marshall and co-emperor of Matador Records Chris Lombardi are seen taking it all in. Held at Earls Court (surely the worlds biggest hanger?) home to the Ideal Home Show and various superstar triumphs and disasters over the years, thousands of media industry types and even more pop loving civilians witnessed a roll call of the great and the good (it says here). OK it wasn't the "carnival of mayhem" Russell Brand promised us and we all secretly wished for but there was enough going on to keep us amused and appalled all night. Compere Mr Brand's opening salvo at David Cameron raised him a notch or two to my mind and although he managed the usual percentage of own goal jokes ("Queens vagina" anyone ? I mean anyone?) he carried off the night with ease.Unfortunately Cat Power didn't walk away with the award she so justly deserved but since when has true and authentic quality, style and genuine talent won out against production teams, song doctors and corporate back scratching at such events. (OK a couple of times). But we weren't the only ones that wuz robbed Justin Timberlake over Bob Dylan, don't get me started.
Rumours of strange fluctuations in the telephone voting I am sure are just that. Of course Orson deserved that award – fair and square. And to my mind their acceptance speech was one of the low highlights of the evening that makes the Brits such a memorable entertainment in the pop firmament.

The Arctic Monkeys didn't accept their awards in person but their filmed acceptance speeches first dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz (great cowardly lion by the way) and then as the Village People really did show their humorous side.

I also learnt that British people LOVE Take That. I mean everybody or at least 99% of them and the other 1% are probably in comas. They have obviously transcended every hurdle to become the sort of icon that is unimpeachable (at least until the next tabloid revelation – build em up and shoot them down).

And we finished up with only one staff member missing in action the next day.
 

Chan(el)

In an event that edged on the surreal but certainly was a hugely successful piece of grand theatre Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues rocked the highest echelons of the fashion world on Tuesday providing the music for Chanel's haute coutre cat walk show. Housed in the magnificant and recently restored Grand Palais in Paris the performance took place in a specially constructed arena with the stage high above the models entrance. Proceedings kicked off with Judah, Greg, Eric, Jim and Chan swaggering into a version of "Naked If I Want To". Six men rolled out a huge grey and white carpet  centered with a giant Chanel logo. The models strutted their stuff wearing what to these unschooled eyes looked like opulent and sophisticated yet very pleasing creations. The DDB kicked into a muscular version of "Could We" proving what they bring to the mix (though it doesn't detract from the the album or the Memphis Rhythm Band versions)  creates their own sinuous take on the song. As "Satisfaction" continued the momentum did I notice a flicker of amusement across the concentrated face of Marianne Faithfull watching the models intently from row two? Certainly the woman next to Sean Lennon started taking photos of Cat Power and not the models. The band seamlessly stepped into a gorgeous version of "Tracks of My Tears" which built to a crescendo with Chan singing "you can tell by the look on my face" as the final model commanded the floor in a stunning white coat and gown. The curtains opened and Karl Lagerfeld sat there amongst his team as if they too were an audience watching the show.

So I missed clocking Sigourney Weaver, Madame Chirac, Catherine Deneuve, the French Minister of Culture  oh and Kate Moss but we did see Sofia Coppola and get to take same great photos of Chan with Marianne Faithfull and Karl Lagerfeld.

 

Sir Henry

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"I dont' know what I want but I want it NOW"

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Let us celebrate the DVD release (in the UK) of Vivian Stanshall's comic masterpiece "Sir Henry At Rawlinson End" . Originally released in 1980 and not readily available on VHS for some years I had not had the opportunity to submerge myself in the dark, complex and surreal world created by Stanshall until now. Should you enjoy a vision of the underside of olde English life with drink sodden aristocrats careless shooting at each other and at the lower orders and other barmy yet joyous behaviour this is the movie for you.

I look forward to my alcohol befuddled family Christmas, shot gun in hand.

"If I had all the money I'd spent on drink – I'd spend it on drink"

Cat Power in Paris Nov 5

Le Grand Rex in Paris is a glorious example of the extravagant art deco picture palaces that were built in the thirties to impress the general public with the magic of the moving picture and the fantasy of exotic places. Worlds away from production line, snack dispensing, surround sound cinemas we have now. The Rex, like others of the era, takes the term picture palace literally and the three tiered auditorium is themed around an Alhambra styled Moorish castle. All the public areas outside the have beautifully preserved wood panelling and chrome detailing. This is not a regular rock circuit venue and only the lucky properly feted musicians get to grace its stage. Cat Power is such.

The set starts very much as the recent London show. The Memphis Rhythm Band ably warm up the audience and the sound engineers with their sinuous funk. Chan kicks off with the Greatest which has now cemented its place as her theme tune. Having pulled rank for a photo pass for the first three songs in a vain attempt to get something adequate to illustrate this dispatch, the first section of the show passes in a flash (not photographic however as these are barred).

Chan is on top form. She later claims to suffering nerves. Perhaps it is playing in Paris or the venue size but her nerves are not apparent in her vocal performance or her playful onstage manner. One of my favourite moments is her miming swimming strokes and surfing a board in the introduction to "Islands". The slightly fractured grain of Chan's voice in "Where Is My Love" is immensely powerful and simultaneously very sensitive. In a slightly self mocking move Chan holds her lighter aloft to symbolise an ironic power ballad nature of the song.

The solo section features "House of the Rising Sun" and beneath the glorious deco arch and purple curtains Chan is bathed in blue and green lights making her seem to be underwater. "Wild As The Wind" has an exquisite beauty and as "I Don't Blame You" is sung the stage lighting evokes the light of a shimmering green forest. The audience listen in rapt silence.

"Nude As The News" was a minor hit in France and its opening is very warmly welcomed. The version is a little fast for me but builds into a compelling crescendo and then blends into a rocking full band version of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction". If you watch closely you can catch Chan  flapping her hands behind her bottom a la vintage Jagger.

After a surprising yet highly entertaining version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" Chan starts throwing white roses into the audience. Has she gone all Morrissey on us? To dispel the image she launches into a long story about her childhood and it eventually evolves as an explanation about her life long love of Paris. And Paris loved her back.

Matmos at the Centre Pompidou, Sept 27 2006

The Matmos Paris France experience proved to be more graceful and elegant than the earthier and rocking Matmos London England experience. A bit like Paris versus London all over really. I guess the tone was set by the cultural palace that is the Centre Pompidou versus the garish red walls and velvet of Koko. But it was also the appearance on stage of the grand piano, its raised lid echoing the curves of the full sized classical harp. Both these instruments were missing from London.

The shows starts with Nate walking on to the powerful filmed imagery of the rose emerging from a cows uterus. The screen is massive (as is the stage) Disembodied plastic gloved hands manipulate both flower and body part. The song this accompanied, “Tract For Valerie Solonas”, ends with Martin playing a large inflated helium balloon. “YTTE” proves to be a crowd pleaser. “Roses and Teeth For Ludwig Wittgenstein” is propelled by Nate and Zeena using bunches of red roses as drumsticks. Petals fly into the air leaving the centre stage with a carpet of red. “Germs Burn For Darby Crash” starts with the unsettling footage of a cigarette burning Drews forearm and the gasp of his pain. An audience volunteer has his head shaved into a Mohawk with an amplified electric shaver by Martin. As the performance ends the audience calls for an encore. The house lights go up but people want more. After another song the band have to return to the stage to a standing ovation. Paris loves Matmos! And so do I. Both the London and Paris shows were stunning in their own right.

Wishing Ourselves A Happy Anniversary

This week is the 10th anniversary of the commencement of Matador Records Limited. Ten years of fine music unleashed on unsuspecting Europeans (although they were of course getting it before the UK company was set up).

Just think back – one of the first releases for the newly set up company was Cat Power’s “What Would The Community Think”. The UK was very slow to pick up Cat Power. We struggled to ship over 200 copies. We struggled to get interviews from all those fine UK music    publications (RIP mostly). But the only way was up. Cat Power may not yet have conquered the UK totally but she has a large loving audience here now.

Our French friends were much more on the ball in 1996. They knew what they had. Chan was soon on the cover of France’s premier music magazine Les Inrockuptibles playing big sister to Fiona Apple. She immediately became Matador’s most successful artist in France – no mean feat against Exile in Guyville’s previous success there.

There have been so many great records and so many great moments in the last ten years. Most of those moments have been just shit hot live shows. Thrilling shows from Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, Sleater Kinney, Matmos and too many others. It is unfair to mention any specifically as I would be leaving so many out. However I can’t resist reminising about a few magical nights like…

– the Garage show by Yo La Tengo around the time of I Can Hear The Heart Beating that was so uplifting it was like a beautiful drug experience
– a Guided By Voices show at the height of summer at the Garage, again, that brought new meaning to the word sauna but was genius (Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell line up)
– a moment of epiphany as GBV played “Motor Away” at Kings College (the Chavez guys going apeshit down the front)
– those joyous Superchunk London shows
– M. Ward at the Hammersmith Lyric – a night of perfection
– Interpol slaying Brixton Academy two nights in a row (actually the wired, fast set played at the ICA has to be my favorite)
– Burma being Burma at the Garage and ICA
– Cat Power (those special magical nights like Cafe de la Dance in Paris, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Union Chapel, Barbican in London)
– highs and lows of Pizzicato Five at the Roskilde Festival
– first time seeing Guitar Wolf play London probably at the Dublin Castle if memory serves me right.
– Arsonists do their thing on stage
– Zeitgiest riding with Fantsma and the first UK show by Cornelius and Solex at the tiny Eve Club with the speaker threatening to crush half the audience
– the Cornelius show at the Royal Festival Hall…… and so on

The music and people are so intertwined – such as drinking endless coffees with and listening to Monoman prior to a stunning Lyres show at the Dirty Water Club. Visiting Peel Acres with Solex, Cat Power and Wisdom Of Harry and the hospitality, wine and conversation post broadcasts. Being able to give Interpol their justly deserved gold and silver discs. None of us having a heart attack during or after three days and 15 bands playing the tenth anniversary in London.

I honour those who have served their time and now have been released into the community Rob, Shane, Helen, Sarah, Alan, Janis.

Thanks to Lucy and Rauiri, everybody on Matador NYC, to our friends at Beggars all over the world but most thanks Gerard, Chris and Patrick.

We hope to be staging a celebratory screening soon of the Almodovar film “Matador” in London to mark the decades passing. Those in the know know why.

Bring it on.