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jonah 2

What is one to do on a cold and dreary Monday, well my first thought was to stay in but it seemed that Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s was hosting an evening of acoustic punk* with emo god like figure Jonah Matranga headlining, with Oxygen Thief as support, which proved too enticing a prospect to pass up on.

Due to the lack of audience at the early point in the evening, Barry Dolan otherwise known as Oxygen Thief arrived on stage to little fanfare; however the same could not be said at the end of his electrifying set. Showcasing several tracks from his mighty fine début album ‘Destroy it Yourself’ which hosts defiant anthems in the waiting. Amusingly the signature time changes and stop/starts of the set had Oxygen Thief kicking against the pricks that were frequently in conversation early in his set until the aforementioned stop/starts led them to a further away part of the room. With the promise of a full band tour coming soon** left one rather tantalised at the prospect.

Jonah Matranga was sharp onstage with… himself and his acoustic guitar in tow, no backing to speak of. Despite their only being about 20 punters in the audience which made even this tiny venue seem somewhat sparse, to his credit, this did not seem to adversely affect Jonah’s disposition.  If anything it meant that it was a far more intimate experience for those savvy enough to be in attendance.

What followed was a set that covered all stages of Jonah’s varied career; Solo, Onelinedrawing, New End Original, Gratitude, Far and new project I is Another. With so much material to choose from it proved a highlight of the evening when Jonah asked for audience requests – which was greeted coyly as a test by some but as the first few were shouted out the man found himself inundated. This led to one of the odder moments of the evening as Jonah combined the polar opposite sentiments of songs ‘Are you Sure’ and ‘Fight Song #16,233,241’***, which we were told was the first time this has occurred.

Seeing Jonah cascade into a searing rendition of ‘We Had A Deal’ was not only a valiant display of why a solo performer doesn’t necessarily have to be the quiet, reflective song smith. Not only can they rock harder than a good dose of ensemble bands but can also remind you of why you go to see live music – where there is a moment that you are completely mesmerised, where all the other shit you carry is set aside for a few minutes****. This was one of those moments!

Greeted by the man himself after the show on exiting, more a less every member of the audience was treated to a hug and a short conversation. This cemented the fact that this truly felt special, that he appreciated us being there as much as we appreciated him coming to play. It makes me love punk rock and it quantifies why I love this guy and guarantees that every time that he tours I will make the effort of seeing him and will badger others to do the same*****.

*I hate to regurgitate that term as it’s just a bit shit but I’m at a loss to what else to call it.

**Touring but not in Scotland, unfair!

***That was I that requested ‘Fight Song’.

****Sorry to get all Meta on you.

*****Consider this you being badgered!

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Ted Leo

On my second expedition to Glasgow in a week for the punk music selection offered by the Celtic Connections festival, I found myself running to Glasgow’s ABC venue from the train station. This was due to receiving the knowledge that Ted Leo* would be on at a sharp 7.30pm. Luckily due to a recent bout of health consciousness prompting some running on my part prior to today, I entered the auditorium as the first song of Ted Leo’s set was finishing.

Getting myself to the front of the stage proved to be no great achievement as the audience was meagrely populated at this early hour**. Despite appearing with a lack of his backing band the Pharmacists, Ted Leo still had all the impact that I expected as he remained an enthralling performer despite flying solo on a rather large stage. He treated the audience early to his ode to Glasgow ‘A Bottle of Buckie’ followed by ‘Bottled in Cork’*** from his last release ‘the Brutalist Bricks’. As a gift to those who arrived early; our headliner Aimee Mann joined Ted on stage to perform a couple of songs from an untitled EP that they have collaborated on. A bit more country influenced than usually expected from Mr Leo, it was an interesting detour in the set with ‘The Gambler’ proving to be a highlight of the whole evening. Previous to Aimee Mann joining our support act, an in the know member of the audience shouted a polite request for the song ‘Timorous Me’ which was initially refused due to limited time. Upon pondering his response before heading into the next song, Ted Leo returned to address the audience member and stated that his request would be the song that finished his set which was the case****. A real treat for those that got there in time, and judging by the decibel level of applause I was not alone in discerning that.

Next up in our speckled evening of entertainment was Amelia Curran, who presented what would be more in line with the music presented usually, be Celtic Connections. For the next half an hour or so we were plied with whiskey soaked tales of love, and with the announcement mid-way through that we were hitting the ballads, the loss of that very love. Everything was well written, impeccably (if a little endearingly shyly) performed and Ms Curran was a charismatic character. However it just didn’t grab me wholly and in such an over populated bare bones market of singer songwriters’ oot there I would say that being grabbed was fairly essential*****.

Aimee Mann

Now for the closure of our adventure in Glasgow, Aimee Mann & band****** arrived on the platform. Despite the relatively low keyness of her music, Aimee Mann certainly has presence and was the focal point throughout the set. After the obligatory opening of relatively oldies, Mann forewarns the inclusion of new material from this point on. She admits this is a precarious move as explained by an anecdote involving her brother stating that no one goes to a gig to hear the new material*******. Ironically, things really come alive when she plays her biggest hits ‘Save Me’ and ‘Wise Up’ from the Magnolia soundtrack followed by a pleasant cover of ‘One is the Loneliest Number’. This more or less sets the template for the rest of the show, a solid mixture of old and new, finishing up with ‘It’s
Not Safe’
. Returning for an encore that ended the evening with ‘4th of July’, but not before Ted Leo re-joined her onstage for some Thin Lizzy noodling. To come clean, I wasn’t too au fait on Aimee Mann’s back catalogue, but I had read that she was a rather stand offish and cold artist. I did not get that from her this evening. I was entertained throughout and found that when she really comes alive is when things get really quiet.

*The main reason that I was going to this show.

**By gig standards anyway.

***Are we all drunk or something…?

****Jolly nice if you ask me.

*****Even Bon Iver went all E-Street on us.

******Do you ever get the fear when you see a band that looks like they have just stepped out of that move ‘Almost Famous’?

*******Depends on the artist I suppose…

Hamell on Trial

Another Celtic Connections is upon me and one of the required viewing gems is Mr Hamell of Hamell on Trial playing at Glasgow Oran Mor. I wasn’t quite sure of the set-up as Celtic Connections tends to throw a few curveballs each year* to fuck your expectations up a little. For a festival that brings together folk, country and world music genres to the fore, I always seem to end up at a punk gig** and tonight was no different…

Upon entering the venue support act Lach was already on stage*** regaling the audience with twitchy folk rock goodies. Looking like a cross between Christopher Lloyd and Elvis Costello****, he was treating the sparse crowd to some jokes and banter which wasn’t fully connecting with the audience. This seemed more than apparent to the man himself thus audience interaction was shunned for the next few numbers. However, as the venue began to fill up with late arrivals, Lach was greeted with a friendlier and louder response – a highlight being his shout out to the Kiss army*****. Sadly as Lach was hitting his stride and audience appreciation grew, time was up.

Strolling onstage to rapturous applause looking like the bastard son of Fu Manchu if he had made a cultural visit to Syracuse, New York, came Hamell on Trial. Opening with ‘Glad You’re Gone’ and continuing on for a couple of numbers before we were promised by Mr Hamell himself that there would be no jokes or stories, instead we would be treated to an evening of interpretive dance with the finale involving the sight of our main act in a thong******. Mr Hamell is not a man to keep his promises…Continuing on, we were diverted with an ode to Mr Hamell’s 1937 acoustic guitar, which by the man’s own admission he wields like a Tommy gun, which I can confirm is the truth.

Hamell has always seemed to me to be an artist who moves with the times, not particularly his style of music, but in terms of mood and feeling. He provides a document of what the collective are feeling and offering possible solutions that only a man who has lived his life according to punk rock can. Hence a lot of this evenings set list focused on highlighting tracks from his new album ‘The Happiest Man in the World’*******.  After the midpoint in the set the audience were treated to a double whammy on the effect of the economic recession on the working person. ‘Jennifer’s Stripping Again’, explaining the measures people will take to keep things going. This was followed by ‘Richards Got a Job’; displaying some hope and that if people keep trying things might be alright.

The rather diverse characters******** in attendance lapped it all up, especially when the floor was open to requests. I am surprised he was able to make any of it out due to the barrage of ineligible cries*********. Obeying those that he could comprehend & finishing the evening with two tracks from his beloved album ‘Choochtown’ (When Bobby Comes Down and Choochtown) left things on a really fucking high note. Not exactly a Celtic evening but Hamell on Trial made a connection with everyone who turned out.

*Or the Scottish equivalent of that saying.

**Hey, I am not closed minded, kay!

***At 7.35pm you can’t say Celtic Connections aren’t prompt.

****If they both went into that machine in Cronenbergs ‘The Fly’.

*****Kiss rules Motherfucker!

******Say what you will, I would clearly have remembered it.

*******It’s pretty tidy.

********Dead Kennedy beanie hatted gents next to those in full tweed suits.

*********I did shout for Coulter’s Snatch, but was denied… yes it is a song.