STANDARD LONDON EVENING Killing night-time in the capital.
Gabriel Bruce, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen 11 12
Lost Treasures of the Black Heart 18 19
The Bronx / Single Mothers / Axis Of, Underworld In the Blink of an Eye, The Last Refuge
27 Psalms / Wild Swim, Queen of Hoxton
Great Waves, Village Underground 7
Django Django, O2 Academy Brixton 28
Evening. This month I saw 15 dawns. In the past, this very thought would have filled me with despair. Dragging my weary self home after a long night out amid commuters and children before going to bed in the daytime never felt right. Even when I first started working nights, dawn was awful. I was tired. I hated everyone. For me, this was bedtime. They had all had a night's sleep, and I'd been grafting. Nick Grimshaw on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show messed my head up, playing his noisy 'Wake Yourself Up' feature and declaring that morning was here. Dawn meant I'd had to work late, or was on a slow bus. But now, as the new year grows up, dawn is stretching back into the night and I find myself actually embracing it. Being in the City of London between 6 and 7am is a little bit like being backstage at an enormous play. There are window cleaners everywhere and the smell of baking fills your lungs with every Pret A Manger you pass, as they prepare for the onslaught of hungry commuters. Out in the suburbs surprising numbers of people start their days by taking to those strange pieces of exercise equipment in the parks. Just after 8am is when the elderly go food shopping in areas gentrified enough that at normal hours one feels underdressed in Morrisons. Now, walking home when the street lights go off is unexpectedly uplifting. Night is over and the sky turns a wonderful tone of blue, dotted with fading hints of stars and planes, with a thin line of light on the horizon. The streets are relatively calm and still, and I am buffeted by icy winds as the sky morphs into the grey haze that generally lingers for the rest of the day. Goodnight London by MONEY sings in my ears and I discover what litter is left behind from the night before. Morning findings: Broken bottles. Smashed pane of glass with no obvious local source. Exploded slugs. Trails of sick in dribs and drabs that echo an unfortunate person's stumble home.
Bursting bin bags topped with more sick. Several unattended crates of oranges and limes: very difficult to resist stealing. Police road block outside the Queen of Hoxton. A full loaf of bread, still in its wrappings. I gave this find to the homeless man who sleeps on the corner of City Road and Featherstone Street. I hope he got it. Until recently I'd never seen this thing blue?
in daylight. Since when has it been /Sophie Armour
G R E A T W A V E S, Village Underground There can be no more than 20 people here. In the dark tunnels beneath a railway bridge in Shoreditch that comprise Village Underground, G R E A T W A V E S are ready to be caught on film performing a short live set. It seems very few got the memo, but the emptiness of the room only adds to the magic. They open with Are Calling, setting the relaxed tone of the rest of the set with its steady, almost meditative synthesized percussion ticking like a clock, rocking the track slowly back and forth as if it rides on ocean waves. Before they started there was the feeling that the stage manager had gone a little overboard on the smoke, as a thick fog drenched the tunnels. But as the lights (the spectacular, bold, gliding lights) lit up the stage the smoke served to immerse the band in rich colour. For much of the set their faces are invisible, cloaked beneath the transitioning lights, which fade between colours and occasionally pulsate on and off, blinking with the rhythm of the music. G R E A T W A V E S' sound is gentle and warm, with low, steady and passionate vocals, sweeping electric organ-style chords and high-pitched guitar lines that dance above the depths. It's just a three-track set, but they play it twice (for this one is for the cameras), much to the delight of the small gathering of people here. They could hear it a thousand times. Between the space, the colour and the sounds, it becomes impossible not to lose yourself in the tranquility of the moment. A million miles from the rough and tumble of your average gig, this night brought calm. /Sophie Armour
Gabriel Bruce, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
It's quite extraordinary just how interested people can be in the most boring of bands. On stage are three punks who appear to have travelled here in a time machine, all dressed in Doc Martens and tartan trousers, playing tedious almost-Sex Pistols cover songs with a frontman barking at the mic like he thinks he's Joe Strummer. The audience laps it up. Dread instills. Is this what 'new' music has come to? And then Gabriel, the saviour, arrives to assert his position as perhaps the best new act on the scene. Certainly, he can claim the best voice, some of the best songwriting and some of the best moves. His voice is nothing short of incredible: its deeper-than-deep tones magnificently reverberating through each audience member's chest. With seemingly little effort, he can roar with more passion and fervour than you can fathom, conveying all the feeling of some of a great blues singer but channelling a sound caught somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed. The fire in his belly seems impossible to contain, as he is compelled to move around as if possessed. Like a melodramatic actor caught up in a moment or a toddler throwing a tantrum, he screams and throws himself around with no regard for his surroundings. Even a self-confessed cheesy speech at the end of Honey Honey Honey (something to do with a plane falling out of the sky, and how we should all experience love for there is nothing greater on this Earth) is surprisingly engaging as his voice turns from a beautiful hum to an impassioned shout. Together with his charmingly simple yet richly emphatic lyrics, and the cohesion of his backing band, the sound of Gabriel Bruce is of a rare quality. Next to this, very few will appear to possess any talent at all. /Sophie Armour
Lost Treasures of the Black Heart Tonight marks the return of Josie Long's Lost Treasures of the Black Heart: a monthly session dedicated to 'unsung heroes'. This month being February, almost everything that happens is garnished with a hint of Valentine's. Happily this evening, though taking on something of a Valentine's theme, falls somewhere in between the clichĂŠd tacky romantics and the predictable aggressive singletons. Small packets of Love Hearts are given out at the door, and Josie kicks off proceedings by telling an uncharacteristically sexual story, involving a certain manoeuvre and a certain time of the month. With the standard set, the audience is invited to, rather more anonymously, write down tales of their own unusual encounters during which something cool happened, as well as some of their favourite song lyrics. Thus begins a night of sheepish giggling. Things carry on in their more usual manner, with writers and comedians discussing their favourite unsung heroes, from Canadian pianist Glen Gould to pancakes (for today is indeed Pancake Day). There are stories about Charles Darwin that prove, while not exactly unsung, he is an absolute hero, and details of how complicated it is for immigrants to obtain a National Insurance number. This is most definitely a funny event: everyone is here to be amused. But at times it can feel almost like being at a socialist rally, in the best possible way. Josie declares that she is more than willing to back anyone interested in starting a violent revolution and almost every other act shares their generally left-wing, liberal ideas with the seemingly likeminded audience. Eventually the handwritten sex stories are read out, with one of the best revealing how someone got laid while dressed as a thesaurus, after a dinosaur-themed fancy dress party. And, just to tie a bow around the romantic theme of the evening, a couple both wrote down the same song lyric as their favourite, unaware that the other had done too. With Lost Treasures you get more than what you usually would from a comedy night â€“ tidbits from other people's sex lives, free sweets and a whole new roster of little-known facts. /Sophie Armour
The Bronx / Single Mothers / Axis Of, Underworld
There are some bands who can't help but sound like the city that produced them; Joy Division drone like industrial Macclesfield, The Libertines shamble like noughties London and the Ramones, The Velvet Underground and countless others scream New York. Axis Of meanwhile take the big, rocky, grey, physical landscapes of Northern Ireland's coast and channel them into a fist through a heavy, stomping three-piece assault that straddles the line between punk and altrock. Opening the night in Camden's Underworld, to a less than full room, the band bring enough energy to keep everyone else pumped all night. There are screaming accents carved out by rough tides, as guitars are thrown around and stages stamped under big throbbing guitar lines. However, where Axis Of really come into their own is their ability to combine their stomp and swagger with huge heartfelt courses. First single off new album Finding St. Kilda, Lifehammer, epitomises this; there are shout-along sections, which might be difficult for those unfamiliar with the region's accent to make out, juxtaposed with mosh-yourself-senseless outbursts. The band have worked for a long time on their sound, taking lots of cold boat rides to tour relentlessly, and now it is flourishing. This combined with their absolute commitment to live shows makes it seem like no word of an exaggeration when Rocksound called them "the most exciting band to come out of Northern Ireland, possibly ever". And tonight they sound too big for this stage. Second on the bill is Canadian quartet Single Mothers. Minus any children, who take to the stage are four incredibly normal-looking guys. The music is simple, fast, shouty and fun. One could say that Single Mothers convey what modern punk is really about.
They're not head to toe in leather and hair gel trying to unnerve old ladies. They're regular guys, who are fucking angry. Their lead singer Andrew Thomson, Stella in hand and missing a front tooth, barks out the story of his mental break down, backed up with a no bullshit straight up soundtrack. With the young upstart punks finished it's time for the old pros. Underworld packs in tight as The Bronx come out raise hell. Fronted by Matt Caughthran, a shaved-head LA guy who you know not to fuck with, The Bronx pack a heavy dual guitar punch that sends the sweaty audience flying. Proceedings take a civilised turn early on when Caughthran introduces to the evening's two security guards at either side of the stage (also gentlemen with whom you do not fuck) and outlines the designated stage dive area. From this point the audience divides itself between the boney, shirtless kids who'll spend the whole night in the air and those who'll spend the gig holding them up. Anarchic live shows aside, what's kept The Bronx going for more than 10 years now is an abilty to write proper decent songs. Unafraid of writing melodies and hooks or even the odd mariachi album, pinning them down as punk or hardcore is shortsighted and there is an LA hardrock feel to some of the riffs, as well as the guitarist's moustache. As the set winds down a cake appears from somewhere, along with a round of Happy Birthday for Caughthran who's turning 34. But it could never stop him finishing the set in the midst of the sweaty crowd. Tonight's message was simple: punk was never dead it was just evolving. /Ben Graham
In the Blink of an Eye, The Last Refuge
The Urban Foxes Collective intends to portray something rather dark tonight. Their performance is inspired by the moment right before death, when a person's life flashes before their eyes, and looks at what fits into this final gasp. The Last Refuge is a suitably austere venue for such a subject. Deep in a very dark, very quiet industrial estate in Peckham, its theatre is stripped almost bare for tonight's performance, and is as cold as it is outside (which feels like about minus five). But what happens In the Blink of an Eye serves to uplift the whole scene. Upon entry four girls dressed in hospital patients' gowns are frozen in intriguing positions. One lies on a table with her legs in the air while the others stand around her holding them up. It begins where it should: birth â€“ complete with a loud and energetic soundtrack. From the start all four spring into action with enough energy for a lifetime. The significant moments of life are illustrated through dramatic movements and comically exaggerated facial expressions. Not a single word is uttered, yet a strong story is told, entailing everything from love and sex, to drinking and nightmares, backed by a soundtrack that forbids misinterpretation: career scenes are backed by Dolly Parton's 9 to 5. Invisible children are born, husbands and wives die, and characters experiment with lesbian sex, all within a short and hilarious half hour. If this is what our final second looks like, it may actually be something to look forward to. /Sophie Armour
Django Django, O2 Academy Brixton
After 12 months of frantic live activity, Django Django headlined the last night of the NME Awards Tour with a set that truly vindicated their status as one of the finest new bands in the UK. Django Django have cemented a truly glorious noise, revisiting elements from almost every popular musical genre of the last forty years to create something that is decisively forward-looking. Crucially, the quartet fuses deft vocal harmonies with breezy Balearic beats and stuttering rhythms and electronics that could almost be described as prog-pop. As always the crowd laps it up, and live staples such as Default, Waveforms and Lifeâ€™s a Beach are rapturously received. The restrictive acoustics of Brixton Academy struggle with the sonic nuances, but this doesnâ€™t really seem to bother anyone. They perform in front of grainy, Radioheadesque projections that help promote the ambience of an event unravelling. According to their latest Facebook post, the Brixton gig will be their last for a while and the band are likely to begin writing sessions for their second album. Hopefully theyâ€™ll be able to match the ingenuity of the debut. It will be thrilling to observe which key pop music genres they attempt to appropriate this time. /Miles Matthews
Psalms / Wild Swim, Queen of Hoxton
Radio 1 DJ Jen Long's regular night at the Queen of Hoxton, Simply Rad, is generally pretty dependable for those seeking the hottest new bands, which means, if anything, expectations are extra high tonight. Wild Swim have certainly got their sound locked down. Their lead singer oozes confidence, throwing out every word loud, proud and distinctive, as if he is telling a very important story. He owns the stage and holds your eye. This is real pop, complete with harmonies but spun with intertwining rhythms and the odd bit of haunted house-style organ. Headliners Psalms take to the stage and the difference in sound is stark in every sense. Where Wild Swim had a pure clarity, Psalms are grungy. This is their first ever gig, and it shows. Their sound engineer has got it all very wrong. The vocals are lost beneath the pounding drums and the guitars are ruined by endless feedback. Between tracks the audience yells for the vocals to be turned up, to small avail. With a slight adjustment, the female vocalists' beautifully soft and delicate tones can be heard. The levels still aren't good, but there is a sense that what lies beneath has potential â€“ a satisfying clash of noisy, heavy guitars and angelic vocals. A few audience members give up and the set is kept short, but next time, with the right levels, Psalms could prove worth sticking around for. /Sophie Armour
Po Natio Thea 18
Mens Adventures / Carousels / Blackeye / Sisters, Birthdays
Frida Foals, R Sundemo, Albert Sebright Arms
I'm Just Like Magda Goebbels, Camden People's Theatre
ort, onal atre 21
Queen of Hoxton is 4 28