If you were to list the great musical landmarks and locations in London, it would be a while before Walthamstow tripped off the tongue. However in Hoe Street, around the corner from the crumbling art deco cinema where the Beatles once played is a nondescript shop at the very centre of the punk explosion.
Today, 162 Hoe Street provides tasty Kabanos and other Eastern European grub but in the late 70’s kids from across the capital would make a pilgrimage to Small Wonder Records for the latest Punk and post punk sounds. Crass, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Cravats, Patrik Fitzgerald, Cockney Rejects… to name but a few of the bands who had their first release on the Small Wonder label.
I’ve been to a few gigs over the years but I can’t think of many occasions where I’ve given much thought to whoever organised it, beyond perhaps.. which idiot chose this support band or the running order says stage time 9…Its 9.30 now!
After “organising” (in the loosest sense of the word) Oxjam Walthamstow I’ll forever have a respect for promoters and their secret language of backlines, di’s, breakables & get-ins.
In the months between committing to put an Oxfam gig and the night itself I’ve gone from angst to wild eyed panic. At any moment a banquet of worry on which to feast… will the bands you love agree to play… wow they agreed, now what order to play in, which venue, how do I find kit cheaply, create publicity on a zero budget…
By the day itself I was a whirling dervish, dashing to collect a microwave to raffle, stressing over whether the children’s “You’re a star (cute bunnyrabbit)” handstamp or office envelope date stamp is best suited to marking punters. Arriving at the venue slightly late with bits of drumkit squeezed into every nook of my Nissan Micra I was so distracted by a mental checklist of things to do that I bumped the car into the car park wall. On cue the passenger window gave way, slid down with a clunk and refused to countenance the prospect of shutting again.
Anyway you get the picture, less Bill Graham, more Frank Spencer… on roller skates… going under a bus.
Attending a really well organised Oxjam elsewhere in North London a couple of nights earlier hadn’t exactly quelled my fears. Listed in Time Out (unlike me despite numerous attempts) it spanned 3 rooms with inspired comedy, an eclectic mix of live music, and DJ’s (including Coldcut’s Matt Black!!) It was genuinely superb from the soul of Nike Jemiyo backed by south London’s answer to The Dapkings to the amusingly titled Yorkshire Rapper (Listen to “Up North” – up north up north up north).
The only problem… As the night went on it became clear that a high percentage of the not exactly numerous audience was made up of members of the bands performing. Even worse the far from “Sensible” headliner had pulled out that morning after demanding more cash and to be chaffered to the venue!!!
"If this doesn't work I could just stand like this all night"
It’s the little things, so many little things, that trip you up.
Take the picture (above) featuring my puzzled attempts to construct a desk for CDJ’s out of empty beer crates and a stray coffee table, while in the background the sound man knocks up a wire for the mixers non-standard output. Meanwhile it’s an hour and a half before doors, 4 acts to soundcheck and time seems to be the only thing rushing.
The soundguy’s so laid back he appears to move in as if filmed in timelapse. It stressed the hell out of me but was thankfully merely the calmness and consummate skill that comes with having seen it and done it all before… “it’ll be fine” he reassured. Sure enough only 20 minutes after the advertised time, the doors were flung open and fortified by a glass of dry white, the volunteer on the door began to take punters money. Punters! Actual real people have come… and there are some I dont know by name.
THE MELTING ICE CAPS (Above)
I’d love to be able to give you a band by band review but the entire night exists to me only as some vague blur so if anyone wants to tell me what it was like please do!
All I can say with any certainty is thank god for Akira The Don, not only for performing but for his wildly enthusiastic hosting. He set the tone introducing The Melting Ice Caps (or Melty Ice Caps as he took to calling them) as his new favourite band… “OH MYYY GODD they’re incredible!“.
Described by a friend as “Divine Comedy channelling Morrissey in Marc Almond’s boudoir while wearing a Pet Shop Boy’s scarf” I’ve seen David Shah’s Melting Ice Caps a few times. Most notably a hilariously fractious performance, accompanied only by a DVD player in a sunken pit in the corner of a boozer. At the end of a truncated set Shah quite rightly declared “Im never playing here again“.
Thankfully for Oxjam Shah took full advantage of The Standard’s unusually wide stage with the full band Ice Cap experience, now with added Sax. New tracks “Join The Dots” and “In Bloom” were given an airing ahead of an EP in the new year, along with many of their nine “mostly free to download” singles (Grab them here).
A stray set list at the end of the night revealed that even with a bumper 45 minute slot there was no room for the superb “Pavlovian Boy“, or singles “Being No One” and the melancholic magnificence of the breakup song “Hard To Get“. As ever it ended with “Selfish Bachelor“, the diamond in a jewel encrusted crown of bittersweet pop songs. “You’ve been the best audiences we’ve had all year” said Shah before adding “although this is only the third time we’ve played…“.
For some reason #oxjamwalthamstow wasn’t trending worldwide at this point but word of the mighty Ice Caps did spread into the twitterverse with the local MP tweeting from Westminster:
Mise En Scene, Through a prism, Join the dots
Strike in the dark [audio:http://www.musiclikedirt.com/wp-content/MP3/strikeinthedark.mp3]
our lovely afternoon
le cafe et les hommes, in bloom, ohio
between eros and agape
Barbarossa (Italian for “red beard”) has been around in various guises since 2006, and recorded the first and so far only MusicLikeDirt Live session earlier in the year during a brief sojourn under his real name James Mathe. Most recently “Stones” a track featuring Jon Hopkins from the 2006 LP “Sea Like Blood” LP featured on the hit US series “How I Met Your Mother“. Fans of the show filled chat rooms with plea’s like “Help! I need to know what that song at the end of the last episode was… I want to play it at my wedding!!“. Basically the man’s got a beautiful voice, what more is there to say? That voice was even more to the fore as this was a solo stripped down performance, just James with his instruments spread out across 3 low tables.
The gig took place days before he was due to head to the hills outside Manchester to record
For 364 days a year this blog is dedicated to music I love, artists that need to be heard, and songs to make you sing/dance/cry/make love (delete as the mood fits)…
However Christmas Day is a very very special day. Its a day when we listen to music we’d rather die than hear for the other 364 days. Nevertheless I’ve hunted high and low (ie, blew some dust off the CD rack) to find a few truly great xmas tracks (and some others that at least don’t make you want to put those lovely new socks over your ears).
Thanks to anyone and everyone who’s visited this site in 2010 and to the people with the real talent who make the music.
1. KELPE – “Silent Night” / PAUL WHITE – “We Three Kings”
Lets start with two reworkings of traditional Christmas staples. First up Kelpe treats “Silent Night” with total reverence as distant choirs burst through, and impossible beauty unfolds. Paul White transforms “We Three Kings” into the finest seasonal beat since Coldcut’s risked career and credibility with their Christmas Break. Say Ho…. Ho!
I dont think Maps lead singer James Chapman quite understood the spirit of Christmas when introducing his cover of E17’s massive Xmas hit “Stay Another Day”:
“This song is my special Xmas gift to you, inspired by taking 12 Es and running myself over in my own car. Only an enormous puffer jacket prevented me from certain death“.
Their transformation of the song into a blissed out trippy shoegazing epic is nothing short of astonishing, and just goes to show how the much maligned E17 actually penned one of the pop songs of that decade.