Demons Of Ruby Mae – The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch 02.02.15
Angsty vocals shatter over drips and drops of synthesizers when Jonny Gavin and Adam Rowley – collectively called Demons Of Ruby May – perform together. This intimate set at The Old Blue Last saw their first few releases mixed with a showcase of this year’s EP The Boy Who Cried Wolf and a cover of Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’, creating moments that could almost be two parts Jamie XX, one part The XX.
Spandau Ballet – The o2 Arena 17.03.15
Following their cinema released, feature film, Soul Boys Of The Western World, Spandau Ballet toured the UK for the second time since reuniting. As grand as ‘Gold’, ‘True’ and the rest are, the highlight came midway through, when the band went back to their debut roots for fifteen minutes of synth-heavy music, more often linked to Human League, Kraftwerk or Visage. For a moment The Blitz Club was up and running again; should the band record a new album together this is the direction it should take.
Fleetwood Mac – Isle Of Wight Festival 14.06.15
Watching Fleetwood Mac at Isle of Wight Festival has to be my the stand out gig of the year, and it’s not often that you find yourself standing in a field with a wide smile joining in with children and grandparents singing in unison to ‘Everywhere’. Not many acts can unite three generations, and it’s a great reminder as to how many amazing songs Fleetwood Mac have written. Witnessing Lindsey Buckingham’s ninja guitar-work to ‘Big Love’ is a dazzling sight that will take the breath away of any music fan. They have been playing for over six decades, and the dinosaurs still rule the world.
Slaves – T In The Park 10.07.15
Despite it almost being half a year away, Slaves performing at T In The Park was by far the best performance I witnessed this year. Staged on BBC Radio 1, the energised duo enlivened their crowd for the entirety of their set. After Isaac damaged his drum set, it emphasised how professional yet engaging the band already are – smoothly transitioning into an acoustic track, ‘Are You Satisfied?’. Dressed in an eye-catching orange prison suit, Laurie dived into the invigorated audience towards the end of their set list. Filled with a poetic, anecdotal opening to each track; there is no wonder this band have received the praise of which they’ve earned during 2015.
Darwin Deez w/ Hinds & Oscar – Village Underground, Shoreditch 23.07.15
With a set featuring new records from the upcoming album and punky Madrid quartet Hinds stirring up the crowd, Darwin Deez gave London independent record label Lucky Number a birthday to remember in July. Celebrating the 10th year of the label, Oscar, Hinds and Darwin Deez brought electric sets and enviable dance routines (we’re looking at you, Darwin). Hinds are the coolest band around at the minute, with a brilliant debut album due for release in January and Oscar Scheller’s been tipped as one to watch in 2016! It was a great gig showcasing what’s sure to be an exciting and inventive new year for music.
Deja Vega – Shiiine On Weekender, Butlins Minehead 6-9.11.15
“Sonic architecture in excelsis” is how Christopher Wren would have described this performance by the criminally unsigned Deja Vega. A freakpower-trio second to none delivering an aural assault on all and in every sense. Cacophonous creativity does not come better than this, LIGHTS! CHIMERA! ACTION! The risk of whiplash is ominous when witnessing, the neck-breaking machine-gun thuds rendering the viewing victim incapacitated. Every ending a beginning. Newcomers to the band evidently enthralled, evincing ecstasy and elation. End of. Innovative, imaginative and indispensable. Have I mentioned these before..?
Psyence – Shiiine On Weekender, Butlins Minehead 6–9.11.15
Topping their set at Hoxton’s Bar & Grill in January, Potteries-dwelling Psyence took control of a 1000 strong throng delivering a masterclass of poise, power and performance. Frontman Steven Pye, the epitome of the pin-up, basking in the lights, commanding and charming, resembling the love-child of Frank Zappa and George Harrison (21st century psyence, innit?) backed by a superior tri-pronged heavy-rock chug of expertly moulded clay, worthy of Henry ‘Gimme’ Moore. Confounding, captivating and classy, ignore the also-ran psycho-nots, back a thoroughbred pstallion. The appliance of Psyence, makes perfect sense. Psygn up, get on board and take that trip.
Courtney Barnett – Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall 27.11.15
What a privilege; seeing the young Aussie rock star and her accomplished band in an intimate venue, for what could be the last time if her stock continues to follow the same upwards ascendancy that it has in 2015. An enigmatic, energised and charming performance supporting one of the most original and insightful albums of this year. The confident show was lit up by Barnett’s strong vocal performance and absorbing stage presence. Intertwining the early EPs with the new record, Barnett and her band sound more raucous and raw than on their studio recordings. It’s this energy and entertainment on a bitterly cold Midlands evening that will stick long in the memory.
James Van Praag
The Band Of Holy Joy – The Betsey Trotwood 12.12.15
This multi-layered ensemble have been in existence for over 30 years, incorporating numerous influences and styles with ever-present themes of NOW. None more so than on the new, marvellous album, The Land Of Holy Joy. This intimate gig in the cavernous underbelly of Farringdon’s Betsey Trotwood is predominantly an airing of the album, North Eastern émigré Johny Brown’s lyrically elliptical tales of witnessed events and autobiographical psycho-geographical exploits of inner-space and outer-place. The set also featured Easy Listening’s ‘There Was A Fall’/The Fallen’, a tale of social injustice namely the horrific and unlawful death at the hands of our boys in blue of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson in 2009, an uncomfortable listen for an uncomfortable story. Still “manic, magic and majestic” after all these years, this band can and will change your world. Repent and exhort ‘hallelujah!’