I very randomly won tickets to see Scott Matthews play an intimate gig at Islington Bar Academy on Tuesday night, as part of the Xfm sessions series. After being blown away by his album "Passing Stranger" I was disappointed to leave the venue feeling slightly underwhelmed by the evening's proceedings. It mostly wasn't Scott's fault. What became clear throughout the course of the evening was that, while a lot of people who enter competitions on music websites enter them in the hope of winning tickets to see someone they like, a lot of people enter them on the offchance of a cheap night out. Bar Academy seemed to populated mainly by the latter on Tuesday night and, while many of us watched in hushed awe as Matthews and his excellent band brought the album tracks to life, others used the time to knock back tray upon tray of shots and wait for any available pause to shout out annoying nonsense. The inevitable Nick Drake ripoff putdown came out about halfway through, with some chump yelling "River Man, huh huh". Matthews unfortunately made the fatal mistake of responding but did come across as quite sweet and confused that anyone would bother to say such a thing.
It wasn't a slick performance, by any means, with major gaps between songs while Matthews fumbled with guitar leads and tuning, seemingly unable to stay away from the mic and filling up the space with jokes and general mumblings, but when the music kicked in - wow. Ably assisted by Sam Martin on drums, a man whose name I didn't catch and can't find online (sorry!) on bass and the magnetic Danny Keane on cello, Scott Matthews certainly lived up to his recordings, though a less fragmented performance would certainly help maintain the mysterious and compelling atmosphere that his songs work so well to create. Not having a crowd full of idiots would doubtless have made his and the rest of the band's evening more enjoyable too.
The next night I was out again, this time to see Kristin Hersh at Koko. Supported again by the simply marvellous McCarricks, whose fresh, expansive string arrangements over pulverizing beats set to quirky films is always a treat, Hersh effortlessly lived up to everything she has become over the years of her reign as most-interesting-person-in-music-by-far. Smashing through songs from her latest album, "Learn To Sing Like A Star", as well as some of the best songs from Hersh's impressive back catalogue, the band were far more intense than at the Soho Arts Theatre gig and the energy transmitted to the crowd, who bopped and sang along for the entire set. 'Dirty Answer' was one song in particular where I stood captivated, staring at the stage, for a second imagining that we had travelled back to the joyous grunge of the early 90s, Bernard Georges' sinuous, velvety bass slinking along with Rob Ahler's pounding, slamming drums, The McCarricks building up layers of intensity and Hersh roaring over the top.
It was supposed to be an even more impressive gig-going week for yours truly, with Nine Inch Nails at Brixton Academy tonight. That idea was scuppered when I was asked to go away to work in Canada for four days (to which I replied yes please!). As gutted as I am to be missing them, especially considering the calibre of the current band members (Jordie White AKA Twiggy Ramirez - Marilyn Manson; Josh Freese - A Perfect Circle), I decided not to cry about it too much and instead got to experience the usefulness of Gumtree's Swap shop message board when I realised that none of my friends could make the Saturday night gig either.
On my desperate travels to change the tickets to another night I also stumbled across Scarlet Mist, a site where people can "buy/sell their spare music gig and festival tickets ethically" i.e. for face value + whatever fees you paid + postage. With it getting harder and harder to snap up tickets to see your favourite bands, I'd like to think that more and more people will want to pass their spare tickets on to fellow fans rather than try and make a mint on eBay. Pass on that link!
This Week's Five
1. Low Happening - Howling Bells
2. Sweet Scented Figure - Scott Matthews
3. Mistake In Parting - Chelsea Wolfe
4. Don't Give Up - Noisettes
5. Black Mirror - Arcade Fire