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Monday mood mover – Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard

Let’s get that chin off the floor. Yes, it’s Monday; these things happen. Here’s the ‘How Can It Be’, the first single from Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard’s lovely new album A Turn in the Dream-Songs. If this slice of gorgeous pop majesty doesn’t make you feel great, then you might have to accept that dream job in the sex dungeon isn’t going to work out.

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard – Stereo, Glasgow

‘I might not be in magazines as a heart-throb face’ sings Jeffrey Lewis on ‘Cult Boyfriend’, ‘but in a few devoted places I’ve found a strong fanbase’. Glasgow, it appears, has joined the ever-growing list of cities to be captivated by the idiosyncratic charm of the man Jarvis Cocker described as ‘the best lyricist working in the US today’. Stereo, a medium-sized venue, is absolutely packed midweek for Lewis and backing band. It’s a testament to the virtues of lo-fi songwriting of the highest quality married with a ferocious work ethic.

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Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard – Glasgow, Oran Mor

Jeffrey‘Eclectic’ is a cliché in modern music. Journalists pen it about acts for simply speeding up the drum beat, and herald the addition of a string section to an average rock record as if Wheel 2.0 has arrived. Bands strive for it, everyone falling over themselves in the rush to show hitherto-undreamed levels of depth to their work. It never works, merely confirming their status as one-trick ponies trying to master the hula-hoop.

Occasionally, quietly, someone does deserve the epithet though. Jeff Lewis is certainly one of those.

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Anti-Folk Anti-Hero – Interview with Jeffrey Lewis

Jeffrey Lewis

People demand much from their musical heroes. This certainly seems to be the case with Jeffrey Lewis. For it seems that the critically acclaimed albums, the superb live shows and the awesomely witty and touching lyrics have obviously created the belief among promoters of tonight’s sell-out show at King Tut’s in Glasgow that he can transubstantiate. ‘I think I’m supposed to soundcheck, do the interviews and eat pretty much simultaneously’ he says, as we note that the difficulty this poses him is that these events take place in three different buildings.
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Hinterland Night 2 – Glasgow, Various

After doing a passable impression of Bunk and McNulty the night before, a tender ELM team have spent the day interviewing bands and now just want to hear some live music. We’ve heard good things about Y’all is Fantasy Island who open up at the Arches. Again, a strong post-rock theme emerges, with dandruff-displacing riffs and lots of effects creating a strangely uninvolving racket. The Arches is a dark venue, and when the lights go out and the band turn the feedback up, the sensation is that of sensory deprivation, which is all very interesting but not necessarily all that much fun.

Y'all is fantasy island
Y’all is fantasy island

The issue that a band like YIFI have at this stage of their career is that they haven’t yet found their own area to inhabit and are still very much in thrall to their influences. So you catch some Godspeed You Black Emperor, some Slint and some Fall without finding out much about them. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of beauty here, like a daisy poking its head out in an industrial warehouse. Just not enough of them yet.

Next up is Sky Larkin at the Sub Club. Sky Larkin are a three piece propelled by hyperactive drumming from the splendidly named Nestor Matthews. He really is an impressive specimen of Animal-esque fills and energy and it elevates Sky Larkin above the usual trad-indie fair. Singer/guitarist Katie is very charming, and the band draw comparisons from us old fogeys in the audience with the Sundays and, erm, theaudience.

Skylarkin

Skylarkin


Their single ‘Beeline’ was an iTunes single of the week a while back, which may help explain why they’ve managed to draw a reasonably hefty crowd in, but to be fair, they do pretty well. Although there is an element of ‘one song played eight times’ about the set. it’s certainly not one which has gone unappreciated.

But, alas, we have to use our legs and head up the not-insignificant hill along the not-insignificant walk to the Art School to catch the end of Zoey Van Goey, and glad we were too. ZVG are a band who seem most likely to emerge from Glasgow’s hipster scene and deliver something genuinely classic, much in the way Belle & Sebastian did over a decade ago. Mellifluous and charming, their songs are insanely catchy, very moving and also fun.

Zoey Van Goey

Zoey Van Goey


ZVG have a very open and direct stage presence which is borne of confidence in what they are doing. Which then leads us on to the next group….

What Phantom have is a sense of place, like they belong in their own context and don’t need to rely on anyone setting it for them. they describe themselves as ‘gorgeous pop-noir’ and it’s very apt. They are a very glamorous three piece, fronted by the striking Elsie and have elements of Nick Cave, especially the Birthday Party-era Cave, but with a sense of proper pop infused. Like all great bands, they make music organically; this sounds like what it sounds like, no artifice.

Phantom
Phantom

Bassist Johnny is a classically trained musician and the clash between that and Elsie’s self-admitted self-trained style leads to some interesting styles. There’s a verve and, dare we say it, spunk about Phantom.

Phantom
Phantom

What is a shame is that because the Art School is so isolated, they play to a much smaller crowd than they deserve. Frankly, they won’t be doing that for long. Some air-play (especially with Bat for Lashes clearing a path for dark, glamorous pop) and they won’t be playing venues this size for long.

Similarly short-changed by the crowd he plays to is the Voluntary Butler Scheme, aka Rob Jones.  The VBS moniker hides his reticence to be lumbered in to that ‘songwriter’ genre, which is fair enough, but he’s as far removed from Morrison/Blunt/Rice as it is possible to be. He has a sense of humour for a start. He’s playing the Flying Duck, which is as far away from all the other venues as it is possible to be and still be in Glasgow, which has led to a sparse crowd. A more fragile ego could easily take a huff and get through it as quickly as possible, but that’s simply not his style.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme
The Voluntary Butler Scheme

VBS is simply a modern day take on a one man band – piano, guitar, snare/bass drum/cymbal, a loop pedal and a warm, classically British pop voice creates a series of dazzling, left-field pop songs. The word ‘quirky’ can be used to cover a multitude of sins, of songs which don’t have form or shape, but in this case it is genuinely true. He starts with a couple of new songs, piano based tunes which, in his words ‘are my Myleene Klass things’ before playing the songs he’s starting to get known for; the sublime ‘Multiplayer’ and ELM’s single of 2008, ‘Trading Things In’ (on which a few of us supply backing vocals, Badly. But God Bless crowd interaction.)

His between song banter puts to shame many bands who have been touring a lot longer than he has (possibly because he’s a witty guy who doesn’t feel the need to rehearse every little thing; lessons there for everyone) and the audience are genuinely upset when he announces he is closing with ‘Tabasco Sole, which, if their is any justice, will be the big summer single of 2009. It’s fantastic, it’s every great 45 you ever owned and it’s the closest a white man will ever get to writing a Jackson 5 song. It also contains the line ‘if you are ever start to feel down, wear a De La Soul T-shirt once in a while to make you feel more hip-hop than you are’.

In other words, it’s not just a song, it’s a way of life. If there is any justice in this cruel world of ours, then this guy will be lauded. In an increasingly samey, one dimensional world, he’s a genuine maverick, and someone who deserves your attention. Buy his album when it comes out; that’s an order.

We’d plan to leave a couple of songs early from the VBS show to get there early for Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard at King Tut’s, but there was no chance of that once we’d heard him play. Luckily, we arrive in time to catch the legendary American artist. We’d felt all week that putting Jeff on at Tuts was madness, as it is a great but small venue with a limited capacity and it was clear talking to everyone walking about at shows that this would be one of the hottest events; so it proves. It is insane by the third song, so much so that they finally realise this and stop people coming in. Simply put, where you are standing is where you are standing; it’s so tightly packed that further ingress and egress is an alien concept.

Jeffrey Lewis
Jeffrey Lewis

Luckily, he is brilliant. ‘Whistle Past The Graveyard’ is delivered with venom and the new, psychedelic edges of his music comes to the fore, before a stunning piece which, frankly, only he could come up with. It is, and I kid you not, a fifteen minute exploration of the history of New York Punk. In the form of limerick. I know. Then, we get blasts of all the acts mentioned, from The Fugs to Patti Smith to Richard Hell to the Ramones.

Jeffrey Lewis
Jeffrey Lewis, in glorious technicolour

It’s an astonishing tour de force. The one annoying thing is he is primed for an encore when he is told by the organisers he can’t do one. This is probably the biggest crowd Tuts has seen in a while; he’s brought it. Let him fucking play.

But after a stunning 45-minute set, his reputation as one of the alternative scene’s hidden gems is utterly enhanced.

The crowd disperse rather quickly, leaving the room half empty for Dinosaur Pile-Up, which is a shame as they aren’t bad at all and are maybe suffering from the audience having peaked, certainly in this venue, a little too soon. however, with crunching riffs and real purpose, they are very good at what they do. There’s an original SubPop vibe to them, and ‘Traynor’ is an excellent rock single. They’ve had a tough act to follow, and just about pulled it off.

Dinosaur Pileup
Dinosaur Pileup

So that was Hinterland. It was exciting, a great concept and well-delivered. Yes, you could get riffed-out, but there was always something of interest on somewhere. if you didn’t like a band, you had six or seven options, there was no mud and very few hippies.

It gets our vote!

All photographs Copyright © 2009 Chris Osborne, Used with permission.

Hinterland Update

Hinterland rocked like a mutha, it must be said. We’ll be bringing you interviews with Jeffrey Lewis, the Voluntary Butler Scheme and Phantom, as well as unrivalled gig reviews from our team in the field and exclusive photographs from the Wookie, including one of Mark E.Smith that is giving us all nightmares.

We also found time to see the mighty Art Brut at Stereo last night, so we’ll have full coverage of that as well.

This will all be coming your way this week, so don’t forget to keep coming to the site as the articles will be coming by thick and fast!

While we drink de-toxifying drinks and rest our weary legs, here’s ‘Multiplayer’ by the brilliant Voluntary Butler Scheme, aka Rob Jones, a wonderfully nice bloke in a not-so-pleasant industry who just happens to be brilliant as well. Enjoy.

Something Interesting Comes This Way – The Hinterland Festival, Glasgow

There are precious few things to get excited about right now, let’s be honest. The papers are depressing, the TV is even worse and there are plenty of punters willing to indulge in ‘the world is ending’ apocalyptic doomsaying. We need some good news, frankly.

And poking out like a single beautiful daisy in a post-nuclear wasteland is the Hinterland Festival, which takes place in Glasgow between April 30th and May 1st. We like things which are innovative round these parts, and this certainly is; rather than dragging us all to some godforsaken field in the middle of nowhere, it is spread across 15 venues in the city with a variety of acts which, for once, actually justify a promoter using the term ‘eclectic’.

Headliners include Manchester’s finest curmudgeonly mentalists The Fall, nu-folk legend Jeffrey Lewis and Glasgow’s own sleaziest, dirtiest rock band (in a good way) Sons and Daughters. Metronomy and Broken Records also feature highly.

It’s what we find lower down the bill, though, which really gets our collective juices simmering. Hotly-tipped acts such as Prego, 85 Bears, Zoey Van Goey, Dinosaur Pile-Up mix with such ELM favourites as Team Waterpolo and The Voluntary Butler Scheme. Throw in Elks, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Fanfarlo and De Rosa for good measure. There are over 100 acts, so if you can’t find a few things which tickle your particular fancy then we suggest you may be rather dull of soul or a Snow Patrol devotee, which is much the same.

ELM will be bringing you interviews with some of the acts in the lead-up, before comprehensive reviews after the event. As good as we are, though – and we are, you knows it – nothing will beat actually being at it, and a very reasonable £42 for an all access ticket, it represents pretty good value even in these credit-crunched times. Serious hat on, this is a really innovative format and line-up in a time when the increasingly staid mainstream festival gets ever safer and ever less interesting. if you can get along, it is truly worth supporting. We may even buy you a drink.*

* We won’t. Come anyway.

The Hinterland Festival, April 30th – May 1st, Glasgow, Various Venues, £42.