The Phoenix Foundation – The Jericho – 1st June 2011

The Phoenix Foundation are yet another band from New Zealand that have caught my ear over the last six months or so. Despite having a large following in their home territory they have been playing small venues here in the UK to promote their first release here, Buffalo. When it comes to small venues you can’t get much smaller than The Jericho. Its a bit of a legendary Oxford venue as most of the Oxford names (notably Supergrass and Radiohead) performed early gigs here. It was a bit of a blast from the past for me, as I hadn’t been to a gig there for about 20 years!

Support were provided by The Title Sequence – a quirky mix of electro-acoustic guitars, retro keys and reel-to-reel backing tracks. That they did an electro-folk Aphex Twin cover tells you all you need to know about them 🙂

The Phoenix Foundation seemed to be slightly boggled at exactly *how* small the venue was (they’ve done arena tour support slots back in NZ). There’s certainly something very intimate about a venue where the band has to come *through* the crowd to get to the stage! It was clear that the band were just as at home doing small gigs though. The set covered most of Buffalo – Bitte Bitte and Orange & Mango being two standout tracks in a very strong album – and a lot of songs from earlier albums that I didn’t know. The full and at times very intricate sounds of the album weren’t lost live – an impressive feat for a five piece band cramped onto such a tiny stage! The incredibly handsome (and beary) Luke Buda and Sam Flynn were obviously having as good a time as the audience and chatted to the crowd between songs – even getting bought a drink when Sam commented that he could use a beer!

The Jericho is a really good venue for getting videos and I was quite pleased with the couple that I took on my iPhone and gives a better description of the band than any amount of purple prose!

The Naked & Famous – O2 Academy Oxford – 29th May 2011

The Naked & Famous are yet more proof that all the great new music is coming from down under at the moment. Cut Copy, Ladyhawke, Empire of the Sun, Tame Impala, The Temper Trap, Van She… The list of great bands from New Zealand and Australia grows longer all the time. The Naked & Famous are yet another band that came to my attention via a session on Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show. As a result of this session I bought their rather special début album ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’ and was rather pleased to find they were doing a date in Oxford (the night before I went on holiday to Paris, made for a slightly knackered Eurostar trip, but hey).

As my boyfriend isn’t really a concert-goer and wasn’t joining me I decided to skip the support (especially given how variable the support acts have been recently at the O2) so we could get dinner at a nearby Italian (Fratelli’s for those interested – really good pizzas). After waving T off I headed back to the O2, got myself a pint and found myself a decent vantage point just before the band came on.

Despite a few technical glitches (one of the problems with heavy use of electronics in live performance), so much dry ice that I could barely see the band at times and the O2’s tendency to make the bass a bit too boomy (similar problems at M.I.A. last year) it was a great set. Thom Powers is a charming group lead and Alisa Xayalith complements him perfectly – endearingly interacting with the audience during the technical problems. They covered a good chunk of the album – highlights being opener ‘All Of This’ and the singles ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Punching In A Dream’, which were every bit as glimmering power-pop-rock live as on CD, and a couple of more indie-rock tracks from their early EPs which showed a different side to the Auckland five-piece.

The band are touring extensively this summer, including a number of festivals in the UK, with a full UK tour in the autumn. If you like electronic-flavoured pop-rock they are definitely worth checking out!

NME Radar Tour Feat Anna Calvi – O2 Academy Oxford 16th May 2011

The last week has flown by, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do!

Last Monday the NME Radar Tour hit Oxford. I bought a ticket on a bit of a whim – a friend had been to the Glasgow date and was completely raving about Anna Calvi so I thought it would be worth a look. The supports did not get the evening off to a good start. First up were ‘The History of Apple Pie’ – who not only had a terrible, terrible name, but seems to be determined to revive shoegazing. It wasn’t much cop the first time round (MBV and Ride aside) so they were on a bit of a hiding to nothing. After that were Grouplove who were rather cheesy Americana – reminded me of Counting Crows or some other such forgettable country-tinged rock-pop.

I texted my mate bemoaning the qualitity of the supports and he assured me it would all be worth it and was it ever! Anna Calvi is an incredible vocalist, she brought to mind a combination of Alison Goldfrapp and Siouxsie Sioux performing a David Lynch soundtrack. Absolutely spellbinding! Highlights of the set were, of course, the single Blackout and her exhilerating version of Piaf’s Jezebel. Given that Piaf is to female singers what Brel is to male it was unsurprising that both Marc Almond and Siouxsie’s The Creatures sprang to mind. Anna Calvi is definitely one to watch – she might not set the mainstream of Radios 1 and 2 alight, but I can see her filling venues like the Royal Albert Hall and holding the entire audience in the palm of her hand. Amazing stuff…

Metronomy – O2 Academy 2 Oxford – 20/04/2011

I’ve only recently become aware of Metronomy, primarily via the single ‘The Look’ which has received quite a lot of airplay on BBC 6 Music and their recent session for Lauren Laverne. The session interested me enough to see if their new album ‘The English Riviera’ was on eMusic. Sadly it wasn’t (Spotify to the rescue – for now anyway, but that’s something for another post) but the eMusic artist page *does* have upcoming gig listings and I noticed they had one coming up in Oxford so I thought ‘what the hell’ and bought a ticket.

Support were provided by Keyboard Choir (not very interesting Orbital copyists) and Ghostpoet (pretty good UK rap – reminded me of Roots Manuva). Metronomy themselves were very good. The obvious comparison is LCD Soundsystem (a band I regret not catching live before James Murphy decided to do other things), though I think Metronomy wear their 80s influences a bit more on their sleeves (or should that be chests?). Only slight criticism I would have is that its fairly unrelenting pop-funk. There was very little in the way of ebb and flow to the set which, given the heat of the venue (for some reason O2 Academy 2 is only air conditioned at the bar) this made for tough going towards the end. That aside I was impressed. The rhythm section were tight (plenty of John Taylor-style slap bass), the songs were catchy, Joseph Mount is an affable front man and the chest lights and dancing were just the right side of gimmicky. Definitely a band to watch.