Amber Arcades at the Moth Club Hackney, 20 October 2016

Last night my friend Jon and I went to the Moth Club in Hackney to see a band we really enjoyed at End of the Road. And whose album I have been playing incessantly recently. The album is “Fading Lines”, the band Amber Arcades, led by Annelotte de Graaf. They are from the Netherlands.


The Moth Club is based in what seemed to be an old soldiers’ club. It had a decent bar, serving good beers, a strangely glittery ceiling and a similarly flash backdrop to the stage. The place was pretty packed for Amber Arcades and got rather warm.

We missed the first act, but saw second support Ella, who is the keyboard player in Amber Arcades. She had the band’s guitarist Manuel with her too. She played a nice set of mellow, kind of torchy tunes, mostly on her electric guitar. Annelotte joined her for the last song.

And so, on to the band themselves. Fronted by Annelotte on dreamy vocals and pristine guitar, with Manuel playing most of the shimmering guitar runs and Ella adding harmonies and a depth to the music. All backed up by a really tight bass and drum combination. I just love the melodies, Annelotte’s voice and those soaring, chugging, crystalline guitars. A wonderful sound.

The album is great, but live the songs are even better. They may not change the world, but they combine U2, Velvet Underground, Blondie, Abba, and, more obscurely perhaps, Veronica Falls for the rhythm and Mazzy Star and the lovely Hope Sandoval, for the dreamy vocals and wistful ballads. Whether all or any of these are influences, who knows. But Amber Arcades, like all good bands, absorb the influences and make the sound their own.

The whole album got an airing, I think, and of course they ended with the epic “Turning Light”. Highlights for me were inevitably “Fading Lines” – such great guitars – and “Come with Me” with its so-catchy melody. And I loved “Constant’s Dream” with Annelotte starting the song with that simply strummed electric guitar and more of those dreamy vocals.


But it was all good. So good. I hope they have great success. They are getting a great reaction already, but there is so much competition out there. They’ll be doing a lot of gigging to build that following I guess. And when they are in a London I will be there!


For “Turning Light” their regular guitarist, whose name I’ve now forgotten – sorry! – came on. He’s been at “school”, which I presume means university or similar.





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Augustines at Kentish Town Forum, 18 October 2016

The Augustines farewell tour! Why? They were doing so well. The official explanations suggest that it just wasn’t working financially. But they had achieved so much. It’s so sad to see them giving up when, you never know, they could have been big. Following in the footsteps of one of their undoubted influences, Bruce Springsteen. Instead, they’ve followed the example another massive inspiration, The Clash, although there is no indication that the split is for personal reasons.

So last night was a celebration – of the music and the spirit that they have created over these last six or so years. The spirit of rock’n’roll, of the faith in redemption through music. The same values that Bruce has always embodied. The belief that inspired me to write my book on music.


I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Augustines. I think it is six or maybe seven. I first saw them at Latitude in the i-Arena tent in 2012, and their energy was so immense, their following already so devoted, that I had one of those this is the future of rock’n’roll moments. I saw them at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, still finding their way. I saw them on the street – Berwick Street, playing a few songs at a free concert celebrating Soho. I saw them in and out at Latitude again, balancing gigs, and, crucially at the Roundhouse in December 2014, when they were astonishingly good, playing with awesome energy, emotion and intimacy. Billy McCarthy, main man and singer/guitarist poured out his soul at that one.

And every time I loved them even more.

Last night brought it all together. Yeah, it was a bit self-indulgent in places, but why not? It was a celebration of the past – and I hope, a look to the future. All the great songs, “Book of James”, “Juarez”, “Now You Are Free”, Weary Eyes” and, of course, the awesome “Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)” were there and in rocking and anthemic shape. And much, much more.

One lovely moment was when drummer, Rob Allen, brought his dad, “Bob” out on the stage, to celebrate his 70th birthday. We sang “Happy Birthday” and then he went onto the spare drum set, which had been set up for a previous cameo from some old friends/ colleagues of the band from New York called Pela. And they played a cover of of the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton”. Wonderful.

Maybe the reason I like Augustines so much is that they not only have the ethos of Bruce throughout their music, but they have the same favourite bands as me, with the Clash to the fore.

A few pics here. Billy has grown his hair and wears a cap. That looks a bit like The Hold Steady, a band with which they have quite a lot in common. But Augustines have a more optimistic world view. Like Bruce, they reflect the sadness, but also the hope and aspiration.




The celebration at the end with the whole team on plus Pela members. The Augustines family!


There’s a film about Augustines on the road coming out in 2017. It’s bound to be good. Maybe it will revive interest and get them back together. I guess we wait and see.

In the meantime, Billy and all the band, thank you for some great music and some awesome concerts. Music we live for. The true, undying spirit of rock’n’roll. 



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Parquet Courts and Eagulls at Kentish Town Forum, 11 October 2016

Last Tuesday, Jon, his son Louis and I went to see Parquet Courts, supported by Eagulls at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. The place we used to call the Town and Country Club. I ask you, which is the better name? There was another support band, Goat Girl, but I’m afraid we missed them. Work and school!

We saw both a couple of years ago at Latitude. I only saw a snippet of Eagulls, because I had my sequence of Augustines, Parquet Courts and War on Drugs to prioritise, but Jon and Louis both really liked them. They were excellent again. Different to what I expected. More Goth and less rowdy. And the singer, George Mitchell, looked to me to have modelled himself on Bowie, Thin White Duke style. Could be wrong, but those high waistbands and floppy hair…


Parquet Courts were immense. They were always sharp, but now they were even sharper. When I first got into their music, it was the Strokes-like energy, coupled with a Velvet Underground sleaziness which appealed. Over time the Velvets are winning out, with an additional veering into the discordancy of, say, Sonic Youth, to keep it to New York analogies.

That Sonic Youth comparison is accentuated by the fact that guitarist Austin Brown is looking ever more like Thurston Moore, main man from the Sonics.

I was, of course, delighted that they still played the double of “Master of my Craft” and “Borrowed Time” and revived “Careers in Combat” from the “Light up Gold” album. The title track was the last song of the main set too. Parquet Courts don’t do encores – they are far too arsey for that.

And there was a good balance of songs through all of their albums. The hard, fast ones, and the meandering, discordant ones. They are truly a New York punk band. It was very loud – my good ear was ringing for quite a while.

But yeah, it was great rock’n’roll. They are one of the best bands around.

A few photos here. With my little digital camera. We weren’t near the front, where there was some impressive moshing, suggesting that they have begun to attract a younger audience – always a good sign! So they are a bit blurred, as they always are when lights are flashing. I’ve tried to make a virtue of that.


Andrew Savage.

Version 2

Austin Brown.


Sean Yeaton on bass, Max Savage on drums.





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lovelondonscenes 117 – The Hive, Kew Gardens

Yesterday we went to see the most recent attraction at Kew Gardens – the Hive. The Hive is a 17m high latticework of aluminium pieces which represents the structure of a bee hive. It was designed by a British artist called Wolfgang Buttress, for the UK pavilion at the Milan 2015 Expo and has now been brought back to London.  It’s fascinating from the outside, but even more so from the inside. There you are surrounded by the constant hum of a beehive, supplemented by some human voices and instrumentation which has been created by members of the psychedelic band Spiritualized. In fact there is even an album soundtrack. The Guardian reviewed it in the summer. Apparently bees hum in the key of C.

The other intriguing thing is to watch the LED lights coming on in waves around the structure. These reflect the vibrations emanating from a real beehive in another part of the gardens. The lights aren’t too visible from the outside in the daylight, but we managed to pick a time when it was pretty gloomy – in fact it started to rain quite heavily – so they became quite distinct.

A few photos below.





A few raindrops on the next one, which is taken from the upper level, where it is open to the skies.


Whether the man in black was overwhelmed by it all, or just wanted to get a good photo, who knows!


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lovelondonscenes 116 – the Nova development, Victoria

My office used to be in Bressenden Place, near Victoria station. I’m now on Millbank by the river. I walk up to Victoria Street from time to time – it takes about 15 minutes – but usually through the quiet back streets. So I hadn’t really noticed the latest state of the building development just opposite the station. I once wrote a blog about this, musing about how buildings ever get built, as there seem to be a lot of men standing around doing nothing on site. But built they are. Earlier this week, in beautiful autumn sunshine, one of the towers loomed before me, as I walked up Vauxhall Bridge Road. You can call this a monstrosity, out of keeping with its surroundings, or a rather stunning building, whose outer surface seems to ripple in the sunlight.

I’ll go for the latter!




By the way, when I wrote the earlier blog, I thought Victoria was on the Crossrail route. It isn’t! This is an entirely commercial development, though I think it will also provide new access to Victoria station. Hope so – it has been an utter shambles for years.

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Have you heard? – (78) “Fading Lines” by Amber Arcades

This is my new favourite album. There are five tracks I absolutely love; and the rest is good too.

I had never heard of the band until I went to the End of the Road festival at the start of September. They were the first band we saw on Friday and they made a real impression. this is what I said in my review of the festival:

Our first band of the day was Amber Arcades on the Garden Stage. The band features Dutch singer Annelotte de Graaf on dreamy vocals and guitars. I really liked their sound. It’s hard not to lapse into clichés here, but there was a European-ness to the melodies: familiar, but infectious. There was a wooziness to it that conjured up My Bloody Valentine a bit. Maybe even Nico-era Velvet Underground. Or maybe The Delays (remember them?). Definitely one I shall research further.

Well, I have researched further!

The album is laced with lovely melodies, with Annelotte’s voice floating beautifully over the guitars. And those guitars! They shimmer, they shine. They are electric. Thinking about it now there’s maybe a bit of The Edge in U2 coming through – and that is always a big plus for me. It’s impossible to avoid a hint of a Blondie comparison – the melodies, the voice, and Annelotte’s look too. Nothing obvious, but there is a heritage. Even Abba, but only because of that European-ness which I talked about in my End of the Road blog. That sense of melody.

The songs I most like on the album, if you give it a listen, are: “Come With Me”, “Constant’s Dream”, “Fading Lines”, “Perpetuum Mobile” and “Turning Light”. Come with Me”, “Fading Lines” and “Turning Light” have the shimmering guitars and a pounding, almost-dance beat, with that voice hovering over them. “Constant’s Dream” has a simply strummed electric guitar and a really lovely, melancholy melody; while “Perpetuum Mobile” has a bass line at the beginning that made me think at End of the Road that they were going to sing “Stand by Me”, the old soul tune. Needless to say, it’s nothing of the sort.

It’s not a world-changer. But it is a great indie-pop album. Familiar in many ways, but different too. The lovechild of Abba and the Velvet Underground (or U2), maybe.

There are moments where you might want to play that invisible guitar. And the melodies, melancholy and beautiful, might just hook you too.

If you live in London, they play a place called the Moth Club in Hackney on 20 October. I’ll be there!

And here are a couple of samples of their music; “Turning Light” and “Fading Lines”.


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Dilly Dally at the Scala, Kings Cross, 22 September 2016


Thursday before last I went to the Scala with my mate Dave, aka DC when he comments on my blogs, to see Toronto band Dilly Dally. I first caught them at End of the Road and really liked them – the energy, the dynamism and that distinctively 90s sound. The sound we generalise as grunge, though like most things, you can’t really categorise it neatly.

So yeah, grunge is definitely in Dilly Dally’s sound, but so is punk and the likes of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey at their most visceral. Singer/guitarist Katie Monks has a voice that combines a rasp and a slur. It certainly gives the music a hard edge and works best on the rockier, faster songs. With the slower ones, she could probably work on a bit more variation – occasionally the voice loses touch with what melody there is. It’s distinctive though – no messing with Katie Monks.

The band released their first album, “Sore” in October 2015. It got some good reviews, though it passed me by at the time. I bought it after End of the Road, and I like it a lot. It’s uncompromising stuff and the more tuneful songs like the opener “Desire”, with its Pixies-style guitar solo from Liz Ball, are excellent. Great rock’n’roll. “Snake Head” is another with a rousing, shouty chorus and some classic grunge guitars.

Musically, I think Dilly Dally are closer to The Pixies than Nirvana, but in spirit it is probably Nirvana and, surely, early PJ Harvey. Which of course begs the question, how will they evolve, if they stay together? If it’s anything like Polly Jean they are going to be very good!

I was pleased DC came along – I wasn’t expecting any takers for my spare ticket. A few beers and some nosh in the excellent Parcel Yard pub in Kings Cross station – it’s Fullers so it has to be good – and then over to the Scala just in time for the start of Dilly Dally. Meant we missed Weaves (who I saw at Latitude) and Abattoir Blues (great name), which was a shame, but we wanted a balanced night out. DC’s love for rock’n’roll veers towards the metallic end of the spectrum, so I wasn’t sure what he’d make of Dilly Dally, and I’m not sure he was sure by the end! But he said he enjoyed it. So I’ll assume he did.

I loved it. Musically, it was rambling at times, but the core sound is a good one and there was a cracking end to the main set, with an extended “The Touch” (I think) and a rousing “Desire”. They came back for a rather abrupt encore of “Next Gold” and left the stage without a word.

But there had been a much more interactive – and touching – moment earlier in the concert. Not very punk, but very human. Katie started to talk about how they’d played London five times this year and how important her friends were to her – there were a few in the crowd. And there were definitely tears. A reflection of how important all this is to her: playing her music, living the dream. And that is one of the things I love about watching bands like Dilly Dally. Just making their way, not the finished article, but utterly passionate about what they are doing. In love with rock’n’roll and bristling with ideas and creativity – and attitude. Wonderful. The reason why I’m still passionate about music at my age. And if anything, getting more into the live experience than ever before.

So, yeah, I really enjoyed Dilly Dally, not for just what they sounded and looked like, but for what they represent – the ever-burning flame of rock’n’roll.




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