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“The Flaming Lips are in town, THE FUCKING FLAMING LIPS ARE IN TOWN! “ Was my reserved reaction to the prospect of seeing the Flaming Lips at the Edinburgh Usher Hall when first announced many months ago. Now that there are no more days to tick off the calendar, my excitement is more a less tangible!

It’s nearly impossible* to not be drawn into the carnival atmosphere of a Flaming Lips performance. It certainly crossed my mind that the confetti frequently sprayed into the crowd must have something lined on it as it’s rare to be anywhere which has such a jovial air as this. Alongside this is the fact that you know where a lot of your money is going, in an age where solo acoustic performers can charge over £20 for a show** it’s nice to see no expense spared on the decorations this evening.

Wayne Coyne, the voice and ringmaster of the Flaming Lips came onstage in what appeared to by a skinless human onesie encased in a jacket of glitter, which was one of the more normal things to be seen at the show. There were monsters, cages, lights a million and mind swirling projections! Normally with such a stage show I would be suspicious*** that this was covering up a lack of substance in the songs being played but the Lips are the special oddity , it really seemed to enhance it all, and what a set it was.

Despite the image put across of fluctuation and just going with the flow, the set list must have been painstakingly mulled over as it expertly walked the tightrope of new tracks to old. Tracks from the new album ‘The Terror’ were mixed in with little heard gems and a collection of some of their biggest** hits. An audience chorus to ‘Do you realise?’ was not exactly unexpected but this didn’t stop it from being utterly wonderful for the majority of those who participated****. The monsters, creatures and cuddly things***** onstage and many of the audience bounced about to an uproar rendition of ‘Race for the Price’. Whilst ‘A spoonful weighs a ton’ from breakthrough album ‘ The Soft Bulletin’ proved a fine closer to the main set.

Coming back for the encore the band played their twisted take on ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, which was interesting but lacked the strength of the material that had been played throughout the main set. But that kinda sums up the Flaming Lips for ya, why go the easy way when you can take a risk, although it may not pay off it adds to fabric of the show as tonight can testify to.

*With the possible exception of the stony-faced gent just up from myself.

**I realise this is due to less folk buying music and using online streaming and the like but you can’t help feeling short changed at points, even when you know the reasons.

***Except AC/DC, they are exempt from this rule… because their AC/DC!!!

****I’m calling out you stony faced bastards that I noticed.

*****Including Wayne Coyne.

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Touring on the back of last year’s album ‘Meat and Bone’ the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are back in Scotland! There was little press to promote the show which made it even more impressive to see the Glasgow’s Classic Grand filled with this rock n’ roll preachers flock.

The hiatus of the Blues Explosion has led to their strongest release since their heyday, as their output got weaker it looks like a break was what was needed. Recalling earlier triumphs such as Mo Width, the new record provides a rollicking blast of energy that was sadly absent from recent** albums ‘Plastic Fang’ and ‘Damage’, even though during this period their live shows maintained the potency that those albums lacked.

With minimal back drop, lighting and equipment there with little to distract the audience from the band, not that anyone would have noticed if there was as each member proved to be a mesmerising figure. The band hit into the set with gusto, where it was just song after song after song with only the rare breather to interrupt proceedings.

“One more tune”, “Only one more?”, “Twenty Nine more!”, “I’ll see that, and raise you”. This was the banter from the hip-shaker, rock n’ roll preacher Jon Spencer after the opening barrage of tunes only breaking to retune before continuing their onslaught of salivating rock n’ roll beauty*.

And he wasn’t far off either as we were treated to over 30 songs from their catalogue featuring favourites such as ‘2 Kindsa Love***’, ‘Bellbottoms’ and ‘Son of Sam’ whilst throwing in a scattering of new tracks and those from the latest album.

The sonic dementia of the set proved to be more important to the band than the clarity of what they were playing though no one seemed to be adverse to this. With the encore lasting about half as long as the main set when the band were, what seemed like to be, forced to abandon the stage they still looked like they could play for another couple of hours nae bother.

And that was it – 3 men playing their guts out, putting on the best show that they can! Who cares if the songs become indistinct from one another, who cares if the songs don’t sound like they do on the album. It’s about the fucking experience and having a good time, something that the Blues Explosion deliver without a doubt!

 

*Yes I am a fan.

**recent in comparison

***A favourite on my wedding playlist

Drive-By Truckers

With ten albums worth of material* to choose from for an evening’s set list, a Drive-by Truckers show always holds a certain mystery and anticipation for those in attendance with regards to what they shall be serenaded with. Being, by far, one of the most solid and consistent recording artists of the last couple of decades** there is certainly a wealth of top dollar material to be heard but will you hear that one tune that you are frantic to hear live?

This, almost bi-yearly, appearance at Glasgow’s ABC is brought to us by the release of new album ‘English Oceans’***, which presents another slice of their trademark Southern rock and soul shenanigans. With another change in line-up since last time on these shores, the band is a mixture of familiar and new faces but all are equally greeted with rapturous applause from what seems like a bustling crowd****.

Hitting out with a couple of tracks from the aforementioned new record, it doesn’t take long for the crowd pleasers to be tendered out, with ‘Gravity’s Gone’ providing the first instance of hopping about*****. The remainder of the set delivers highlights from throughout their career going as far back as their first two, lesser known, albums showcasing tracks ‘Uncle Frank’ and the fabulous ’18 Wheels of Love’****** which delighted pockets of liquored up folk within the mass.

The real elation for most though kicked in for the closing tracks of the main set from breakthrough albums ‘Southern Rock Opera’ and ‘Decoration Day’. The sumptuous tale of the feud between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young, ‘Ronnie & Neil’ was a mighty ruckus of a tune which had the audience bellowing along, whilst closer ‘Hell No I Ain’t Happy’ proved a nice, and ironic, way to end the set as there wasn’t a frown to be seen.

With the traditional ‘Let There Be Rock’ heralding the close of the evening, not before hearing new track ‘Grand Canyon’ which fit in nicely with the more weathered material, the evening was at an end. It took a fair few minutes for all present to leave as the round of applause that bid farewell to these performers seemed to be undying. It’s a testament to the Drive-By-Truckers professional uninhibitedness that keeps the crowds coming year after year******* with the feeling that the next show may just be their best yet.

 

*I ain’t counting live albums, B-side collections, greatest hits, or solo material. Just so you know.

**At least…

***What seems like a wee bit of a retreat to the position that they’re used to, instead of the Soul vibe of previous record ‘Go-Go Boots’.

****Considering how difficult it was to get a beer at points I’m gonna guess that it was.

*****Cue several spillages of pints held aloft in the air.

******Including myself.

*******This would happen to be my ninth visit.

Dumpster (Dylan Johnson)

WOW! There’s a new band that’s demanding people’s attention and they are from Brooklyn, NYC. This news always comes with a certain sense of déjà vu and more often than not culminates in over hyped poppycock for those that were eager to grab an early taste of the metaphorical bagel. So what am I doing this evening…? I am going to see a band from NYC that is quite hyped and I’m eager to grab an early taste of the action, and that band is Big Ups.

Now Monday night is never the optimum day for a gig as most have spent their due earnings on the lavish weekends leaving one to slowly settle into the hum drudgery of the week. This was very much evident in Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s this evening as myself and my friend in tow were 2 of what seemed like 6 paying punters*. For once the tiny interior of this particular venue felt cavernous, which left me a tad disappointed in my city, who knows how Big Ups felt themselves.

What the environment presented was that this may not be the rowdiest of shows, thus my expectations on what I was going to see took a sharp dip, thankfully was I proved wrong as the band delivered an exhilarating set proving that the hype may be true and due.

Lead singer Joe Calarraga prowled and shimmied around the stage like he owned it, recalling a younger Mark Arm of Mudhoney. Whilst Joe took control guitarist Amar Lal, bassist Carlos Salguero Jr and drummer Brendan Finn kept things tight throughout! Considering that they had only one album to get through ‘Eighteen Hours of Static’ the set wasn’t long but what it lacked in quantity it more than made up with the quality of that which was presented. ‘Goes Black’ and ‘Little Kid’ were particular highlights with the band’s sound in general owing a fair amount to a stream of early ‘Discord’ bands.

At the moment Big Ups very much wear their influences on their sleeves which isn’t a bad thing when your influences are of this quality. With time this may mould into something a bit more individual but hopefully maintaining the sarcasm and snot that they have at the moment. Whatever they do if it matches the sounds of their debut album, and if the calibre of their live performance is anything to go by then it’ll probably be fucking ace!

*I’m not positive if they were paying punters or the support band… as I missed them.