Off we went to the Half Moon in Putney on Monday night. We were there to see Mike Halliwell and his band - friends of my lovely young wife. Overall an excellent night. It was an acoustic/unplugged night, so there were about 9 bands/artistes of varying styles and calibres.
The room at the Half-Moon is a decent size, probably holds 150 standing and the crowd of about 50 or so were all quiet and respectful to the acts.
Mike Halliwell (along with Matt on bass, Adam on drums and roadie Nick) was very good indeed. They guys try to gig once or twice a month, at least, and they're well worth catching. If you're going to Cameron and Kirsty's wedding next Sunday (and why wouldn't you be?) then you'll hear them.
Another standout act included The Ballinsky Project. A guitar/cello duo. Nathan Ball, the guitarist and singer has a voice reminiscent of Cat Stephens' (that's a good thing, by the way) and their songs were beautiful, yet complex. Thoroughly recommended. I've ordered their CD.
Also worth hearing was Rami. This Bob Dylan/Art Garfunkel lookalike sings with a deep American drawl (think Leon Redbone - I think) but is actually English. Which made me think he was a trifle pretentious for a moment - but after listening to his songs I was converted. An excellent guitarist and an adventurous and amusing lyricist. His last song mixed Dylan with Beck and was a marvellous concoction.
The next night we went to see Nizlopi at Koko (formerly the Palace Ballroom) in Camden. This was a different kettle of fish and reminded me why I generally don't like going to 'bigger' gigs.
Let's start with the band as that's the most positive. You'll probably have heard of Nizlopi from The JCB Song which was a number 1 single just before Christmas 2005 and also did the rounds via viral emails for a while previously. Their album Half These Songs Are About You is excellent. Agood mixture of folk, rock and gentle hip-hop styles. Of course, a multi-instrumental album is difficult to reproduce when you are a duo (guitar and double-bass), but they opened the show with a real bang. John (bass) is a superb human-beatbox and so the fast, inventive, excellent bass-playing on the first couple of songs was backed by a really good rhythm. And so were the next two tracks, and the next, and the next.
In fact (and this is my main grumble about the music) ALL the tracks they played, bar one, were re-invented as banging hip-hop tunes. Nothing wrong with ringing the changes and rearranging a few tracks - and the new twist worked really well on, say, six or seven of them, at the most. But applying this template to everything was a mistake. A far better choice would have been to employ a drummer who could take a seat for alternate tracks, or for the 2nd half of the set.
[And, while we're moaning about the hip-hop theme... Let me just say that I do really like hip-hop and I don't believe that there's any shame in middle-class white boys playing and writing it. But... When you're a middle-class lad from Leamington Spa (as Luke from Nizlopi is) there's no real excuse to be talking like you're from the 'Hood in Compton or something. Perhaps this was some sort of Ali G style spoof. But if it was, it didn't work. The well-dressed, nicely-spoken black guy standing in front of me told his friend, "blimey! That bloke talks just like my nephew".]
So... The music. Enjoyable-ish. But the whole night was spoiled by:
1. The appalling acoustics in the venue - come on guys, you've just spent a fortune on new decor, a new bar, new marketing, a relaunch. Couldn't you have spent some money on making sure the sound wasn't so muddy and dirty that it was impossible to hear the lyrics or the between-song banter?
2. The fatuous behaviour of the punters - I'm still at a loss to understand why someone would spend decent money to go to see a band and then spend all their time talking and larking about with their mates instead. That would be OK if they did it somewhere at the back of the hall near the bar, but no, they feel the need to disturb the rest of us. And it's not just a few isolated groups. At times it felt like 1/3 of the audience were more interested in their conversations than in the band they'd paid to see. Twats!