This was my first gig in just over three months, with three thoroughly enjoyable acts at The Shacklewell Arms – Veronica Bianqui, followed by Dream Phases and then headliners The Blank Tapes, although members were shared across the three performances.
This at 94 days (since Travis at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, as reviewed here) was my longest gap between gigs since February 2013, fact fans, when I saw Django Django at the O2 Academy in Liverpool 98 days after Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti at The Kazimier, shortly before I started this blog.
As I’m currently working down in London for two days a week, I took the opportunity of having a rare night out in town rather than heading back to Upminster for a quiet night in, especially as this was a free gig for some reason.
I first came across The Blank Tapes a few years ago on The Rider podcast, quickly snapping up their Vacation album in July 2013. I bought this year’s Candy upon deciding to go to this gig, and it’s another fine quirky indie psych pop release. I didn’t know the other two acts on the bill, beyond listening to a couple of their tracks apiece online as ‘homework’.
I left the office in Moorgate and made my way to Dalston Junction, stopping off at McDonald’s for some quick, reliable pre-gig sustenance, before making my way ten minutes up the road to the pub.
It was a nicely rough ‘n’ ready establishment, with a few craft ales on tap, so I settled for a pint of Five Points IPA for the princely London sum of a fiver. I was a little early for the first act, so had time enough to scout around to find out where the bands would be playing, as this was somewhere I’d never been before. Unsurprising, as it only started putting on gigs in 2011, three years after I moved away.
I decided to push the boat out for a second pint, but as they were having problems with the ELB Pale Ale, I went back to the Five Points, supping some of it in the garden area before heading through to the back room where the crowd of just two punters soon grew as the first act started.
Veronica Bianqui (and her tremendously stripy trousers) was joined by Luisa Mühl on drums (stylistically more Mo Tucker than Keith Moon), whose first ever time it was playing these songs, with the bassist (in a Beatles’ Let It Be t-shirt) spending much of the set seated on an amp.
Jet Plane was the first of five songs to feature Brandon from Dream Phases on guitar, adding some Jefferson Airplane touches to the sound.
I Do Much Better ended with some great bass work, and was followed by the much more minimalist Sunday Cups.
Love’s A Gun was the last number with the extended band, with final song Don’t Love Me Blue featuring just Brandon on guitar and Veronica’s really BIG voice. Sadly, she had no CDs for sale at the merch stand.
It was at this point that I realised I had lost my glasses, so I retraced my steps to the areas of the pub I had been in previously, with a couple I’d been sitting next to earlier thankfully telling me they had handed them in behind the bar. While on this mission I was rather oddly asked by someone in the pub, “do you play drums, mate?”. The answer was obviously no.
I discovered some more interesting music between bands as there was some Younghusband being played, a band I only knew the name of prior to this evening.
The bassist looked he’d stepped out of either Sweet or Mud, and was giving it loads during Summer Daze, especially. Lead singer Brandon Graham, who’d played with Veronica Bianqui, reminded me of a cross between Bobby Gillespie and several The Long Ryders band members.
New number She Helped Me Forget was a slow burner, with the Roy Wood-alike guitarist Keveen Baudouin spending its duration on his knees. This was followed by the rather squarer To Walk Away.
Dream Phases had some cassettes for sale, but sadly no CDs. There were a couple of Blank Tapes albums I didn’t have on offer, but I resisted the temptation to splash the cash.
There was some more decent, unknown-then-to-me music between bands as the DJ played some tracks off the hard-to-Google ********’s The Drink album.
Topping the bill was The Blank Tapes, the name used by Matt Adams to release his music since 2003, much of which has been recorded entirely solo.
I recently came across an interview where he says “everything changed for me when I started listening to The Beatles when I was thirteen or fourteen. It was like drugs for me and still kind of is.” You can hear that in his love of psych and pop.
The line-up tonight was Matt (who reminded me of the actor Jeff Daniels, who I had watched that morning in The Squid And The Whale) backed by Veronica Bianqui, Luisa (aka Lulu) on drums and two more of Dresden’s The Roaring 420s, Florian Hohmann on keys and (balding) bassist Monika Lange.
Much of the set came from Candy, and they kicked off with Paradise, its opening cut, before they went back two years for Sexxy Skyype from Ojos Rojos, an album I don’t know.
Other tracks played off the latest album included the mellow It’s In My Mind and the bluesy Everything Will Fall In Place. This was followed by a wordless song about the beach, which I think was Little Corona off 2015’s Compassing Soundtrack, which kind of reminded me of The Barracudas.
After the title track from the latest album, The Roaring 420s got to perform their own song. As they’re a band I’d never really heard of before, I’m not sure what that was.
After Let The Growing Begin from Home Away From Home, the set ended with Other Places, also Candy’s final track (besides the unlisted She’s Your Baby), which featured a very long guitar freak-out ending that saw me head over to the exit-side of the venue, ready to beat a hasty retreat at its close to ensure I could make it to the station in time for the train I was hoping to catch.
It had been a long day as I had got up at 5am to get the train down to London, and I didn’t get into bed until shortly after midnight, but this was a very enjoyable gig, with three somewhat diverse, but clearly linked acts, chock full of good tunes and interesting sounds.
Despite coming from the office, I was sufficiently organised to have a t-shirt for the gig, a dark green The Dream Syndicate one. I thought I saw a Sleeper tee amongst the audience, but on closer inspection I was mistaken!
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify: