Tag Archives: gig

Weekend in Luxembourg

This week has been one of good omens, or coincidences, which ever you prefer. At the weekend me and the husband were discussing some of our favourite trips, and Luxembourg came back into the conversation – we travelled there for a gig just under 2 years ago to see DJ Shadow. We’ve made city breaks for gigs a bit of thing now, but especially since moving to Oxford where a lot of bigger bands don’t play, particularly non-UK based bands: they’ll often play London and Manchester and sometimes Glasgow. Travelling to London started becoming an unwelcome expense – not just the travel, which sometimes included a horribly basic hotel or having to get a late night coach home that takes 2hrs, but also drinks being incredibly overpriced (£5 for a very bland lager sir, single vodka and redbull that’ll be £9 madam etc..). So we made a concious decision to start travelling, to gigs especially to cities we’ve not visited before and bonus if the venue is just that side of smaller and more intimate.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

So that is how Luxembourg came about initially, it also helped that at the time I had a fair amount of nectar points that can be exchanged for easyjet flights making the weekend even cheaper. We saw DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in den Atelier, a really cool intimate venue where you could pretty much see the stage from anywhere, it felt like the crowd was probably only 500 people, but according to their website they can accommodate up to 1200, but it felt like seeing them in a small club.

So the day after we’d been talking about how nice Luxembourg was, another favourite band Interpol* announced a European tour, with UK dates in Manchester and London. So we checked out where else they were playing and narrowed it down to Copenhagen and Luxembourg (both weekend dates). After a quick search it was clear that Luxembourg was going to be the cheapest option by far, so to cut this rambling short: exactly 2 years to the day we saw Interpol play in Amsterdam, we booked tickets to see them in Luxembourg. Also the same day a blog post about Luxembourg came up on my feed, so it felt like all the signs were there.

So two years later, I’m going to tell you about my favourite things in Luxembourg, as it seems I never bothered to blog at the time!

The first thing we did was pick up at Luxembourg Card similar to city cards, its actually valid for the whole country, getting you into many attractions and exhibits for free and to be honest is actually a lot cheaper than most other city cards. We picked up a 2 day card and definitely got some good use out of it just with Luxembourg city. It also includes public transport in the price making it super easy to get around and we actually managed to make it to at least 5 attractions over the 48 hours as I recall (would’ve been 6 but the Bock du Casemates is closed in winter).

mirrors with the worrds Rectum Newt Racoon in a large gallery space with a woman in front taking a self portait with wooden crates in the background

Rectum Newt Racoon – Self portrait in front of sculptures by David Altmejd

These included the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM) a contemporary art museum where the building itself is as impressive as the art it holds (€7) and the next door fortress Museum Dräi Eechelen (€5), Casino Luxembourg (which is now free, but was I think the standard €5) which was full of typography and graphic design. Not to mention the historical Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (€5), Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (€7) and Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City Art Museum (€5) ~ it’s worth noting that some of these venues we probably wouldn’t have bothered going to without the card, and I’m glad we did because they were in stunning buildings with loads of history. It was good to see art and artefacts that were outside of our usual tastes, and of course all these venues meant seeing parts of the city that we might otherwise have ignored due to the comfort of staying within a certain walking radius. If you have the means and will to go further afield there are breweries and swimming pools and other stuff included in your Luxembourg card that is valid up to 3 days, worth noting the days don’t have to be consecutive either – so if you want to spend a day doing museums, a day travelling or doing nothing, then another day doing something then that’s ok – you just fill out the days you actually use the card.

Luxembourg is also home to a what I was going to simply say, a delightful park to walk along that follows the flow of the river, particularly from where we were based close to the Rue Dr Charles Marx, it was a nice walk into the centre via the infamous Adolphe bridge  but as the Luxembourg website says so much more eloquently “Laid out along more romantic lines, the Pétrusse Parks combine steep slopes, strange rock formations and the ruins of fortifications and bastions to form a harmonious unit”

the blue painted metal Adolphe Bridge, viewed from a distance surrounded by green vegetation and trees

Adolphe Bridge, Luxembourg City

Other things to do include the Notre Dame cathedral, maybe not as impressive as it’s Paris counterpart but still a beautiful church, very close to the gold lady war memorial. In the same area is the Place Guillaume II which has a few statues and the surrounding streets are very picturesque.

So after all this we’re very excited to return, particularly as it will be high summer, rather than winter, so we’d  love to hear any more tips of what to do in the comments!

*not just a favourite band, but a band touring their first album, of which several songs were ‘our songs’ early on in our relationship so actually hold a really special place in our hearts

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Of Monsters and Men – Beneath The Skin

I know this album has been out going on for 9 months by now (in fact my procrastination skills are so on form, I just found an 8 month old draft… oops), but seeing as I’m not the sort of person who gets advance review copies, there was no way of pushing something out around the time of release. I also believe that these things take time to sink in and be fully absorbed – I can tell you that Crystals, which started out as a firm favourite in the beginning (released almost a year ago this week!), went to being at the bottom of the pile, then back up into my top 3 (maybe). Initially I loved it because it was new,  in terms of UK releases, the newest single in 3 years, then once the entire album was released I preferred other songs as they were newer, but then in late 2015, possibly after seeing it performed live I fell in love with in all over again. The huge swelling drum beats that start the song before Nanna’s vocals win me over every time. It was also used for a Disney film about dinosaurs which I have not seen.

Of Monsters and Men

Black Water was another instant favourite, I used to sing this in my head whilst I was swimming in the summer and found it was good for focusing, except where counting how many laps I was doing was concerned! Also the lyrics felt like they could have been written about the characters in the book series I reading within the supernatural genre which was an unusual twist. Wolves Without Teeth might just be my number one track though, again the drum beat starts up and it could be the rhythm of the beast running – now I’m in training for a 10km race later this year, this track is on my essential playlist as the beat is spot on for me. However Slow Life is a track that took until this year to really gain a place in my heart, I think maybe because it feels to me like a real winter tune, and here in Oxford at least, winter didn’t really kick in until February. The whole feel to the album is a generally more larger, all encompassing sound, the music press would probably say it’s a more ‘grown-up sound’ but that would also imply that the previous album was immature sounding? they haven’t lost their playfulness which is part of why I love them. There’s still plenty of creatures as metaphors à la Dirty Paws.

 

As I mentioned above, I travelled to see OMAM in concert back in November, as now we live in Oxford, a lot of bands don’t play locally, particularly non UK bands (where as in Manchester, most bands if playing outside London will play there as well). We live equilateral travel time from both Bristol and Birmingham so chose Bristol as my husband has never been, and also it was a Friday night rather than midweek which didn’t require time off work which is always a plus.

The gig itself was amazing, even if the venue was not. The band played their socks off, the sound was possibly better than on CD, I don’t know why I’m always amazed by how good Icelandic acts sound live, maybe I’ve seen too many poor bands or bands in bad venues? Or maybe they’re all just so good at what they do… Anyway, the only downside, was missing part of the gig – how did this happen you ask? well the doors opened at 6:30pm, usually gigs open the doors at 7 or 7:30pm with the main band being on stage at 9pm – and either 1 or 2 support acts on, curfew is usually 11pm unless it’s a Sunday – I say usually because me and my husband have collectively being going to gigs in various cities since the 1980’s and this is the only time we’ve come across a gig for all ages that the curfew was 9:30pm, I shit you not! So after finding our hotel, dropping our bags, rushing to find somewhere to eat quickly, then heading to the venue, stupidly thinking we might catch the end of the support act, we walked in part way through King and Lionheart (full set list here) Because as it turns out that in order to maximize profits, the Bristol O2 academy does a club night every Friday opening at 10:30pm – this is not something that is communicated to attendees despite it being highly unusual for a gig venue as speaking to other gig goers who’d also travelled from various cities in the UK they were all equally surprised. The venue was also overcrowded and a potential fire hazard IMO, with staircases that led to fire exits jam packed and impassable, and did I mention some parts of the room you can’t even see the stage?!… but I digress. Of Monsters and Men and their touring band played so amazingly, my favourite part was when Nanna took the drumsticks and started pounding what I think was a Timpani drum with a look of pure mischievousness on her face, before rushing back to get her guitar strapped back on to finish the song! which may or may not have been Crystals… I really hope I get the opportunity to see them play again with this album, but at the moment it seems to be festivals only and no mention of an Airwaves appearance yet (I was praying for last year, as they had two empty tour dates during Airwaves, but I guess everyone needs a break!

 

 

Snorri Helgason & Ásgeir – Deaf Institute, Manchester

Last night I headed on down to Manchester’s Deaf Institute for a gig featuring not one, but two Icelandic artists in the form of Snorri Helgason and Ásgeir who are both often described as folk, melodic sometimes poppy but most definitely folk.

I was looking forward to this immensely (despite only hearing of and booking my ticket less than 2 weeks ago), as I’d previously had the pleasure of seeing Snorri perform back in November at Iceland Airwaves festival, against the interesting back drop of a men’s clothing store, surrounded by deer stalker hats!

Up until a couple of weeks ago the only Ásgeir track I’d heard was a cover of Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box on YouTube (and only a matter of days before Gizmodo ran an article entitled ‘watch this one woman band cover an uncoverable Nirvana song’ err yes not that uncoverable then). I’ve since listened to the few tracks available on Soundcloud and liked what I’d heard.

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The Deaf Institute is a wonderful gig venue, small and intimate without feeling overcrowded, bird print wallpaper lines the stage area which is draped with deep red, luscious curtains, there’s even a fireplace if you look hard enough!
Snorri kicked off proceedings with an all too short 30 minute set, playing at least a couple of songs I recognised from his most recent album Autumn Skies (give it a listen on Soundcloud) and the harmonica made an appearance. There was new track he wrote whilst in Nashville which at first I thought was called mad cap (and didn’t know what to expect!) But by the end of the anecdote I realised that as someone had described the song to him as ‘like the last you drink before you put the candles out’ I realised it was called Night Cap.
Then it was all over, I managed to grab a copy of Autumn Skies directly from the man himself after the gig and managed to not to say anything too embarrassing in the process.

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After a short break Ásgeir and his band took to the stage and started with two songs in Icelandic before introducing himself to the crowd and later on the rest of the band which includes his brother.

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The afore mentioned cover of Heart Shaped Box was in there along with Dreaming, new single Going Home and finishing with the upbeat Torrent. great night all round, I’m hoping to catch both artists back at airwaves in November.
Oh BTW Ásgeir’s record Here It Comes with Heart Shaped Box on the B side is a Record Store Day release on Saturday 19th April – go buy it!

Elbow – Manchester Arena 9th April 2014

I was very lucky to see Elbow play their hometown concert last week, thanks to winning tickets via Nicholson’s pubs Facebook page (in case you hadn’t heard, Elbow have released another beer,recently, Charge was launched at Nicholson’s pubs around the country in March) haven’t been to the Manchester Arena (I’m sorry I can’t bring myself to call it the phones4u arena, it sounds daft) in about 20 years mostly because I find arena gigs can feel awfully
impersonal due to almost always having tickets right at the back. Not to worry this time though, as well as being seated in the friends and family section Elbow also manage to make it feel intimate.

Guy Garvey spent much of the evening walking down a ramp that cut through the centre of the standing section to ‘stage 2’ to be truly centre stage, entertaining the crowd with anecdotes and love for his fair city, this also played host to couple of acoustic numbers, giving the mini orchestra a wee break. As they’ve recently released a new album the set list consisted of several new songs, but they didn’t disappoint with the obvious crowd pleasers either.


Guy Garvey wows the crowds

My gigging partner for the evening, Sue filled me in on the amusing but sad story behind The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver whilst Mirrorball, complete with huge mirror ball dazzled the room, Grounds for Divorce was one huge sing along.
Before we knew it, we were all singing ourselves hoarse to the final incredibly beautiful song, One Day Like This, as the odd looking ‘lights’ Sue had pointed out earlier turned out to be balls that fell from the ceiling, bouncing around the crowds but mostly being bounced at Guy, time was up,almost 2 hours of great music.

At the end of February (the 24th to be precise) we went to our first gig of the year, I would’ve blogged sooner but it was not long after we headed up to Scotland for another gig (more on that later) mixed in with holiday so haven’t really sat still for a few weeks.
Unusual for us, we arrived early for the OMAM gig as I’d heard that fellow Icelandic artist Mugison was supporting them, and as I’d listened via his facebook page to a few tracks and decided we should get there early to check him out, we arrived at Manchester Academy 1 (the big one) before 8:30pm. At this point the place was fairly packed, but not with the usual teenage crowd I’d expected for a band that had hit the top ten in the UK and would be flooding a gig that catered for the age 14+ market. Instead plenty of people who made me feel young (which at early 30’s is usually reserved for bands who are on their reformation tour having split up at least 10 years ago), not to mention an abundance of Nordic inspired heavy woollen looking jumpers, which seemed a bit over kill for what was to soon become a hot sweaty venue.

mugison icelandic musician

Mugison at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft


Anyway, onto Mugison: every bit as excellent live as I heard from the tracks I listened to online, only with this very amusing off the wall banter, about sending farts in a jar to Andy Votel and his family having to hand-craft thousands of CD covers. He played in no particular order Poke-A-Pal, Pathetic Anthem, Itrekun (which my other half describes as very Nick Cave-ish, in a good way) and Murr Murr the latter of which was song of the year at the Icelandic Music Awards in 2004 and you can catch a a live performance of it here, he actually played a few more tracks that I didn’t catch the name of (we’re pretty sure Kletturinn was on there though), but I’m sure I’ll learn them all after I picked up a 5 (yes, 5!) CD pack of his albums for a mere ten quid at the merch table.

mugison icelandic musician manchester academy 1

Mugison at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft


If you want to find out more about Mugison or read the full story about the fart in the jar, check out the extremely well written & researched wiki page.

On to Of Monsters & Men, well they started right in there with Dirty Paws which got the crowd riled up and ready to sing along and dance their socks off! I loved the way they almost marched back & forwards in sequence with each other, like a well rehearsed marching band

of monsters & men gig photo singing on stage at manchester academy 1

Of Monsters & Men at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft


Swiftly followed by From Finner and Slow & Steady, if I can remember it wasn’t until another few songs before they actually spoke to the crowd. They played what we assumed to be a new song but has turned out to be a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Cover, and finished the set by playing the rest of the album (yup all 12 songs played) with Sloom & Yellow Light being the encores, before the lights went up. I was more than impressed with this gig, although I’ve seen live versions on youtube etc and knew they could pull it off, I wasn’t quite prepared for the extra oomph of the bass and what felt like more complex musical arrangements at times than on the album (or maybe I just don’t have a good enough pair of headphones?).
Highlight of the night? Possibly the fantastic trumpet solo from Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir, possibly the slightly disconcerting moment when the lead fell out of Nanna’s guitars almost creating the illusion of miming as the music continued…
Of Monsters & Men performing at Manchester Academy gig

Of Monsters & Men at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft


Non the less one of my favourite gigs of the last few years, I’m hoping to see them again somewhere soon

Music in Prague from Dubstep to Dvořák

Not doing so well with the daily posting for NaBloPoMo, as I still haven’t finished my posts on Prague and we’ve been back home a week!

Our last night and day in Prague involved music from opposite ends of the spectrum. Thursday evening saw us heading the Archa Theatre for a DJ Shadow DJ set (rather than gig) as a part of the Radio Wave Stimul Festival. Supporting were a band playing ‘psychadelic japanese rock’  called Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO  who were a bit crazy, but the crowd seemed to like them.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO @ Archa Theatre

The Archa theatre is a great venue, if a little confusing – their tickets seem to have the standard you ‘must not take photos, cameras are not permitted your mobile phone must be switched off during performances’ etc which turned out to be BS, and although we had e-tickets with scanable barcodes, it would seem the door staff are not equipped to deal with this, therefore you have to go to the box office, where they scan your ticket then stamp it/scrawl on it, to present to the door staff. Once inside you can see that health and safety is not an issue, the stairs (the venue appears to be set over at least 3 floors) are littered with people chain smoking, which seems odd when you are free to smoke and drink on the ground floor of the venue. In very pleasant surprise the drink prices unlike UK Gig venues,  are not inflated  as such where as in the average pub /restaurant in Prague you would pay between 27-32 koruna  (85p -£1) for 50cl (almost a pint)  here you paid 28kr for 40cl – of Budvar, no nasty cheap Carling or something equally as tasteless, spirits & mixers were also reasonable as spirits come in 50cl measures so what would be classed as a double vodka & coke back home is about £3 and again, it’s premium brand. It’s one of the things I love about Prague, going out for a drink or food in a major city and not coming away feeling ripped off (if you DO want to feel ripped off, head to the ‘Irish’ pub off the Old Town square, they’ll happily charge you £3-4 for a crappy pint of fosters if it makes you feel at home). Another thing they had was not only the merchandise stalls you get at every gig (also cheaper than back home), but a guy selling CD’s & records, not just of the performing artists which was nice too.

DJ Shadow @ Archa Theatre, Praha

On to the gig, well the venue posted on twitter & facebook incorrect start times which was confusing, but turned out in our favour – they posted that Shadow would be on at 11pm,. rather than 10pm, so meant that we would be out as late, and we ended up leaving at 12:15am earlier than expected (but we still ended up walking all the way back to the hotel as the tram was gonna mean waiting longer than it would take to walk)…

So.. DJ Shadow did his DJ set, not a gig, which was made perfectly clear at time of announcing”All Bases Covered -DJ Set” , but still a lot of the audience seem to have expected a ‘greatest hits gig’  and really didn’t get this new angle he as approaching despite his fairly detailed explanation, that I’m pretty sure most other DJ’s don’t have to give. The comments on the Facebook events page after the fact were unnecessary and ill-informed  – “shitty dubstep” was the general feeling. Shadow explained his reasoning behind choosing the set as well as  mentioning that he performed the Shadowsphere set here also, which to my recollection (sorry if it’s a bit fuzzy, I only saw the show twice) was also fairly dubstep/breakbeat heavy, so I’m not entirely sure why the crowd was seemed so surprised,  if they are the hardcore fans they claim to be, then surely they saw the Shadowsphere tour that was so musically similar?

Crowd enjoying DJ Shadow @ Archa Theatre, Praha

Anyway, I wont waste time over so called fans not getting a show and therefore not dancing enough, the following day was our last in Prague, so we didn’t want to strain ourselves. Both being fans of classical music  the Dvořák museum seemed a natural choice, especially as it is housed in the Villa Amerika about 3 minutes walk from our hotel (the fabulous Miss Sophie’s if you haven’t czeched it out already).

Villa Amerika – Home to the Antonín Dvořák Museum

Although Dvořák never lived here, there is a permanent exhibition  entitled ‘The Journeys of Antonín Dvořák’ which focuses on the journeys he made across Europe and to America where he taught. The museum was undergoing some renovation work when we arrived which meant the entry fee was reduced, there was a piano along with a plethora of artifacts and letters. My favourite part was a wall with headphones where you could listen to re-arranged songs or remixes along with the originals including reggae and electronic interpretations.

Husband at the listening post in the Antonín Dvořák Museum

this was truly one of my highlights of the whole trip to Prague, I hope next time I can visit  a few more sights as there are several within the umbrella of Dvořák Museum’s to see.