Paul's Week

Who would have thought that what started with a drunken text message on New Year's Day could have turned out like this.

To be honest, when I sent out a mass e-mail to all the people in my inbox asking them to help out with a completely separate Tsunami fundraiser (organised by Leah from Spy 51), I thought that was about as far as my involvement with the fundraising effort would go. Little did I realise that Jim Rhesus had far grander ideas than donating a couple of promo cds.

When Jim suggested doing a festival, my mind inevitably cast back to the financial disaster of Joyfest last summer - it seemed like the worst possible way of raising money that I could imagine. But somehow I allowed Jim's infectious enthusiasm persuade me, and soon we had not just one gig but five to contend with.

  Jim & Paul (photo by Pete Dodds)
GIG #1: Camden, Lock 17 - 14th February
Stuffy & the Fuses, Luxembourg, Pirahna Deathray + The Favours
Pirahna Deathray (photo by Pete Dodds)  

Yes, it's Valentine's Day, and what more romantic way to spend it than in the company of four top bands, to raise money for thousands whose lives have been turned upside down by a natural disaster the likes of which has not been seen in our lifetimes?

Well, lots of things apparently, as Lock 17 is decidedly on the empty side tonight. No matter though, as we've got The Favours down from Hull to tug our heartstrings with a sumptuous acoustic set.

To be honest, I had been a little worried about this one - don't get me wrong, The Favours are an amazing band, but, having lost two members recently (today only singer Sara and bassist Martyn, both on acoustic guitars appear), and with their usual set comprising of ripping indie punk, I wasn't sure how it was going to translate to a more sedate setting.


I needn't have worried - Sara's beautiful voice soars above the subtly strummed backing, given room to breath, where it is usually partially buried beneath the screaming guitars. Tonight, they are captivating and heart wrenching rather than exhilarating and heart

pumping, but whichever set they're playing, they're equally essential.

After this, I'm on door duty and enjoy a friendly chat with the doorman about the merits (or lack of) of Pete Doherty, while onstage Piranha Deathray strut their debauched glam punk stuff.

Back in the main room, and it's time for louche indie popsters Luxembourg, and despite the sparse crowd, they're on top form - frontman David Shah pouting, gesticulating and crooning sweetly while keyboards cascade around him like fireworks. And when they throw in the intro to 'Wuthering Heights' into 'Success Is Never Enough', there's not a face in the room that doesn't have a smile on it.

Unfortunately, it's then back on the door for a rather quieter stint (in which I was most appreciative of the electric heater

Luxembourg (photo by Pete Dodds)

which was nestled beneath my seat thanks to the sub-zero temperatures outside), so I miss what was apparently a stonking set from Stuffy & the Fuses - a backing band supergroup,

Stuffy & the Fuses (photo by Pete Dodds)

including members of Graham Coxon & Chris T-T's support players, and also a top band in their own right.

Back inside after closing, and despite the meagre crowd, we've managed to raise a couple of hundred pounds, and we have Foxy's interesting dj set to content ourselves with.

In the taxi on the way home, Jim's babbling excitedly about playing the 100 Club tomorrow, while Foxy does his best to take the piss, and there's still one highlight of the night to go before nodding off - our residence for the night: chez Fruitbat (who will be playing on Sunday) - the only place I've ever been with a platinum disc in the toilet.

More Reviews and Pictures from tonight
Pete Dodd's photos
Pirahna Deathray's thoughts
Review from Camden New Journal (24th Feb)

GIG #2: Oxford St, 100 Club - 15th Feb
Art Brut, Rhesus, Sam & Me + DJ's Jon Kennedy & The Rock & Roll Idiots
Sam & Me (photo by Pete Dodds)

Onwards & upwards then, and after a hearty fry up, it's off to the 100 Club, where we are greeted by some of the nicest people we'll come across all week (cheers to Jeff & Ray, you did a top job).

Contrary to every other gig I've ever organised up to this point, the soundman is laid back and friendly, and the atmosphere is relaxed as members of Art Brut and Rhesus start to drift in. Jim & Ian swap fret-fiddling jargon that goes completely over my head as they drool over their latest 6-string purchases, and for a moment it all goes a bit Spinal Tap, but fortunately we're spared talk of flanges and string trees by the call for Art Brut to set up.

Off to run the door for me once more, and I'm amazed to find a queue forming outside half an hour before we're due to open! Once everything's set up I'm rushed off my feet - the contrast with yesterday couldn't be starker, and the money is rolling in at a rate of knots.

Once again the bouncers are top blokes (I'm sure there never this nice when I'm going to gigs!) helping out behind the cash desk when needed and keeping everything running smoothly.

Again I'm forced to miss a band - Sam & Me had been a bit nervous about how well their folky indie set would go down with fans of the harsher sounds of tonight's other bands, and opinion does seem to be split down the middle, with some mumbling phrases such as 'indie bedwetters', while others praise their subtlety and humour.

However, there's no way that I'm going to miss the rest of tonight's bands, so I leave the bouncers to hold the fort and bound downstairs just in time to hear tonight's compere Jon Kennedy announce Rhesus' arrival on stage.

Rhesus have been getting progressively better and better over

Rhesus (photo by Pete Dodds)
the last few months, and tonight they're on scintillating form, converting all of their nerves and excitement into a blast of pure punk rock energy - and that's punk rock as in Buzzcocks & The Clash, NOT the brand building cartoon version proffered by Blink 182 until their recent

timely demise, or the pussy footed indie-wank version served up by three quarters of the pages of the NME (the other quarter being filled with adverts for weak lager & hair care products).

Tonight there's an extra edge to the barbed wire guitar assault, and extra bite to Jim's vocals, and it elevates them to a level they've never reached before tonight.

And how do you follow that? (Only by being ACDC, Sonic Youth or a reformed Mclusky, according to a rather drunk Jim Rhesus in the taxi home) With new(ish) London heroes Art Brut of course. The Brut were dismissed by many as a one hit novelty band after causing ripples of excitement with debut single 'Formed a Band', but try telling that to the massed throng that are bouncing in time to 'Emily Kane', shouting Eddie's rambling vocals straight back at him with infectious,

Art Brut (photo by Pete Dodds)

atonal glee and showering the band in home made confetti at every opportunity.

Last time I saw this band live, it was under rather different circumstances (specifically, them playing to a virtually empty room at Joyfest while my mind raced with panic), but the intervening months have been extremely kind. They've built up a loyal following, and added

a couple of fantastic new songs to their set. They've become tighter without loosing the edge of chaos, the threat that it might suddenly all unravel around our ears, that is part of what makes them such a compelling live act. And Eddie is still the consummate frontman, preaching to the converted, regaling us with anecdotes, and whipping up a level of audience participation rarely seen outside a Butlins red coat show.

As they launch into 'Top of the Pops' for the grand finale, the crowd goes mental, I go mental, and Art Brut are joined on stage by just about every single member of another band that's in the room.

After the gig, I'm left wandering around like a confused deer caught in the headlights, trying to work out what happened - we put a gig on, and people actually came (about 300 of them in fact!) - it just doesn't make sense. Backstage for a celebratory

Art Brut + Friends (photo by Pete Dodds)

drink, Ian Art Brut perhaps says it better than anyone else - "It was an honour to play a gig in which you didn't get screwed over by someone."

Now the question is, how do we follow that? (does anyone have ACDC's phone number?)

Jim Rhesus' legs (photo by Pete Dodds)


More Reviews and Pictures from tonight
Pete Dodd's photos
Jim Rhesus' photos
Harriette's photos
Lora's photos
Wax Music review

GIG #3: Shoreditch, 93 Feet East - 17th February
Corporation:Blend, Rhesus, Salvo + Lucifer Star Machine

Aaargh, it's 7.30, the first band are due on, and there's nobody here.

Actually, that's a lie - not including band members, managers & gig organisers, there are precisely eleven people here. Even worse, I've been chucked in on DJ duties unexpectedly, and I'm almost out of cds!

Better get Lucifer Star Machine onstage quick (although I'll ask Jim to do that, as to be honest the vaguely menacing look in their singer's eyes is scaring the shit out of my indie wuss self).

LSM got in touch with us to volunteer their services & were booked (without us having heard them) solely on the fact that Rat Scabies is producing their cd. They come on stage all dressed in black, sneering at the paltry crowd with sideburns so sharp you could cut yourself, and enough ink decorating their

Lucifer Star Machine

arms to fill a volume of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, and proceed to play a sedate acoustic set of songs about fluffy kittens.

Of course they fucking don't, they sound exactly how they look: balls out (almost literally

for a few chilling seconds), heads down rawk n rawl, with the amps turned up to eleven, the dial in the red, and as many other hard rocking cliches as years of reading the popular music press can conjure up in your mind. And they do it damn well too.

Their singer is a ball of hateful energy; spitting, glaring and bawling his way through the fug of distorted guitars that swarm around him. But as great as his mic swinging, whiplash inducing antics are to watch, they've got the soundman worried, and warnings of £70 fees for broken microphones are issued. Their set hurtles to a lurching stop, mic still intact, and we breathe a sigh of relief (no pun intended).

However, that sigh soon turns into an anxious gasp, as the microphone suddenly gives out halfway through Salvo's set of churning punk. They'd been doing pretty well up to that point, matching their predecessors for volume, if not for spectacle,

Salvo

and showing a knack for fusing punk rock energy with metal riffage in a way not seen since Mudhoney started cashing their pension cheques.

Unfortunately, the dodgy mic seems to throw them off their game, and they never quite

pull themselves back from it. Still, they've got a chance to put that right on Sunday, when we'll be hearing from them again.

Next up, Rhesus show us once again what an incredibly exciting prospect they have become, ripping through recent single 'Art Is Dead' at double speed.

I've finally settled down enough after the first two days to resume my usual gig going behaviour and am snapping photos at such a rate that I don't notice until half-way through the set that the crowd has suddenly swollen to almost ten times the size it was when Rhesus started.

My mood is further improved when, having witnessed the anthemic 'Performance' (which I might label the best Emo song ever written by a British band, or any band for that matter, if it wasn't for the fact that Jim would kick my arse for calling them

Rhesus
Emo) and a triumphal closing 'EYOY', the soundman lets me know that the mic isn't as badly damaged as first thought & he's willing to pay for the repairs as a donation to the cause - top bloke!

Straight after the performance, Arran Rhesus is off to the NME awards, and leaves with instructions to punch someone famous, preferably Jonny Borrell.

Then finally it's time for tonight's headliners, Corporation: Blend.

I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive about this one - I'd seen C:B about a year ago and been distinctly underwhelmed, but on the other hand I knew that both Caffy and Jim are extremely passionate about them, and they're rarely wrong when it comes to bands.

Fortunately, they were right again on this one - this Corporation: Blend bears nothing but a passing resemblance to the sluggish, dirgey, uninspired band of my memories. Ploughing a classic rock furrow, augmented by keyboards and

Corporation:Blend (photo by Pete Dodds)

Dexy's bubbly, pogoing enthusiasm, there's is a sound that bypasses your head and goes straight for the heart with big chunky riffs, yelps and swirls of keyboards, while the drums

pound and clatter from the back, driving the sound on to greater and greater heights.

The crowd are loving it too, with a mini dance floor forming at the front, and singer Rob even being bombarded with underwear!

Sadly the night's festivities have taken their toll on C:B drummer Ash, who leaves the stage with a nasty looking swollen purple finger. Especially bad as the band are set to head off on tour tomorrow. Caffy whisks him off to A&E for a check up, while we polish off the rider and head for home.

More Reviews and Pictures from tonight
My photos
Pete Dodd's photos
Jim Rhesus' photos

Corporation:Blend
GIG #4: Oxford St, Metro- 19th February
S*M*A*S*H*, M.A.S.S, The Electric Shocks
+ The Patty Winters Show
The Patty Winters Show

On to gig number four, and I'm feeling strangely relaxed - the two shows I was worried about (Lock 17 & 93 Feet East) are over and done with and now it's time to enjoy myself.

First up are The Patty Winters Show, whose peculiar mixture of charismatically flat male lead vocals and soaring, almost operatic female backing vocals stuns the rapidly building crowd. Add in some guitars from the time when indie actually meant something and the effect in startling. PWS are going to be a band that will polarise opinion (and with the unusual vocals stylings and Tom's tank top/knee

socks combo and bizarre pink triangle badge, you sense there'll be a lot of ammunition for the haters), but don't all the best groups?

After this, it's off for another stint of door duty (I'm actually starting to quite enjoy it now),

while The Electric Shocks strut their retro rock 'n' roll stuff downstairs.

Fortunately, Katie & friend arrive to relieve me in time for the arrival of M.A.S.S.

This is it, the one I've been waiting for more than any other show this week - After coming across the band over year ago when I was handed a copy of their debut single 'Hey Gravity', I was immediately hooked, and catching a few of their all too rare UK gigs has only heightened my addiction (the band have relocated to France, where they appear to be doing rather well for themselves).

Last year, they released 'Testify', which (had I got around to putting together a list) would have been my album of the year - so many amazing tracks: 'Live a Little', 'Give Me a Break', 'Fake

M.A.S.S

Talk'... in fact I could list the entire album, but I might start to bore you.

Tonight however, is a night for new material, with only 'Testify' being given an airing from

their previous output, and sparking a riotous moshpit, while singer Justine took the opportunity to climb atop the bar and deliver the song from there.

Now usually when a band plays so much new material, it kills the atmosphere, but not today - the new songs are pumped full of the same pure rock and roll adrenaline that fuelled their previous outing, and the effect on the crowd is much the same - to be honest, with Justine's fearsome vocals, Jonny & Andy's guitar assault and Stuart's furious drumming, they could be playing Westlife covers and still sound like the most essential punk rock band on the planet.

By the time they're through, I'm left a gibbering, non-sensical wreck, but there's no time for that now, I need to pull myself up by the bootstraps for indie-punk godfathers S*M*A*S*H*.
.

M.A.S.S

Being but a young lad of 24 years, I missed them the first time around, having only been 12 when they first started gigging, but Jim's even more excited than usual about the prospect of seeing them live tonight, and with good reason.

The intervening years certainly seem to have been kind to the band, with Singer Ed

bouncing around the stage with the energy of a Mcfly fan high on e-numbers, while bassist Salv executes potentially groin straining scissor kicks (one of which came within inches of dismantling my camera), despite a bout of gastric 'flu.

The music sounds as fresh today as I imagine it must have done back when the eNeME were lauding them as leading lights of the ridiculously monikered New Wave of New Wave movement along with fellow Reliefers Carter USM (or at least their component parts - see Sunday review), and parallels between current favourites such as The Rakes, The Departure, and half of the million other bands prefaced by the definite article, are not difficult to spot, with punchy guitars and danceable beats.

There are still plenty of the old faithful coming out to see them, but they will also have won themselves a few new fans tonight.
.

S*M*A*S*H*
After the show, it's off to London's trendiest indie nightspot Frog for a some cheap drinks and MTV2 approved floor fillers in a room full of people with ill advised hair styles. I feel fairly uneasy in places like this at the best of times, and my complete lack of sleep this
S*M*A*S*H*  

week is doing nothing for my enthusiasm.

Things promise to pick up with a set by hotly tipped newcomers The Subways, but despite the exuberance of their much lusted after blonde bassist, they failed to inspire anything other than indifference in comparison with M.A.S.S., S*M*A*S*H* & The Patty Winters Show, so it's a taxi back to Brixton for a few hours kip before the big finale.

More Reviews and Pictures from tonight
My photos
Pete Dodd's photos
Harriette's photos
Jim Rhesus' photos

eMel's photos
Sounds XP review

S*M*A*S*H* Revisited review

GIG #5: Brixton, Windmill - 20th February
Rhesus, Abdoujaparov, Jim Bob, Ciccone, The Video Club, Stephan Smith, Salvo + Barrel

This is it then, the last leg of a week that has been as exilerating as it has exhausting. One final party before we all go back to our normal lives, and tonight (or rather this afternoon, as we're kicking off at 4pm) almost feels like a family re-union - half the bands here have either played with or in, lived with or been otherwise engaged with the other half, and have played the Windmill so many times that it's become almost a second home.

By now with my third DJ set of the week, I've become almost passable at using a crossfader, but my winning run of five smooth transitions in a row is brought to an end with the introduction of the first band, Barrel. Featuring members past and present of Abdoujaparov, and having had only a few snatches of rehearsal before this, their first gig, Barrel plough their way through an entertaining set of punked up cover versions, taking in classics such as 'Twentieth Century Boy', and

Barrel

erm, 'Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You' by Spinal Tap. Highlight of the set came when they were joined onstage by 'helium roadie' Jim Rhesus, who arrived with a balloon full of the popular inert gas for some high pitched "Woo Hoo!"s for a version of 'Song 2'.


Next up was a quick jaunt outside into the sub zero temperatures for a hot dog from the fantastic (not to mention free!) Windmill barbeque, then back inside to catch Salvo on their second Relief outing.

Free from microphone meltdown they seem a lot more relaxed, and a hell of a lot heavier than I remembered from 93 Feet East, with the Windmill's charismatic soundsystem, upping the layers of grime that coat their stooping basslines and spurring them on to be faster, louder and more aggressive than before - indeed it's hard to tally Chris Salvo's personable

Salvo

offstage manner with the furious anger of his onstage delivery. Still, whatever it is that's pissed him off enough to create such a racket, we can only be thankful for it.

The contrast between Salvo's decibel heavy set and that of singer/songwriter Stephan

Smith could barely be greater. Smith was a late addition to the line-up following a request from the venue, and to be quite honest, we had no idea what to expect, so were rather taken aback when his first song turned out to be a Romanian folk instrumental played solo on the violin.

After the shock had worn off, we settled down to an entertaining set of protest songs; and being an Arab- American with family in Iraq and censored as a dissenter by the mainstream media in his home country, he's got a fair amount to protest about.
.

Stephan Smith
Unfortunately, a sizeable number of people weren't too interested in what he had to say, and at times the beautiful swathes of violin and electro-acoustic guitar were almost lost beneath the chatter - even references to the Tsunami (which at a Tsunami benefit, you
The Video Club  

would have thought would have been fairly effective) fell largely on deaf ears, but Stephan's skillful tunesmithery and sincere, astute lyricism was appreciated by all those that were gathered around the stage.

And now, as a wise man once said, for something completely different - taking another stylistic quantum leap, it's time for the regency disco of electro dandy's The Video Club, whose raunchy beats, smutty lyrics and deadpan delivery whisk the crowd into something of a frenzy.

To be honest, musically it's not my kind of thing, all cheap synths, repetitive beats and gimmickry, but their foppish attire and straight faced showmanship manage to keep my eyes hooked to the stage.

Tellingly enough, The Video Club are also in another band

with Eddie Argos - you'd never have guessed.

By now, the Windmill's starting to look pretty full, and with good reason, for next onstage

are the wonderful Ciccone, who are on spectacular form tonight, tearing through new album 'Eversholt Street' with gleeful abandon.

At the back of the stage, Damo remains the most entertaining drummer this side of Electric Eel Shock (with the possible exception of Stuffy & the Fuses), and Rebekah purrs and spits out her lyrics like a South London alley cat, contrasting with Mickey's strained delivery perfectly.

Tonight, 'Just Got Laid', 'Look At You Now' sparkle with a spit washed sheen of sparking guitars and frantic rhythms, and even lengthy delays when Mickey's guitar decides to pack in can't dampen their enthusiasm.

Ciccone have always been a criminally under-rated band, travelling the less salubrious venues that the UK has to offer

Ciccone

for more years than I care to remember, but if they can continue to produce performances of this calibre, surely they can't be ignored for much longer.

However, despite all of the fantastic bands that we've seen so far, the moment that most of

those present are all waiting for is yet to come. And when it finally does arrive, it comes in the form of a middle aged man, smartly dressed in a Beatles-y suit and tie, with an acoustic guitar draped over his shoulder. Jim Bob, for those of you not yet up to speed, was one half of the frontline of Carter USM, who back in a long forgotten era when tunes were deemed to be almost as important as haircuts, assaulted the nation's consciousness with songs of wit and substance, even making that oft dreamed of appearance on pre- Andi Peters Top of the Pops.

Tonight, he plays a set of acoustic songs to an

Jim Bob
enraptured audience, taking in songs from Carter, former band Jim's Super Stereo World, and his more recent solo work, and contrary to Stefan Smith's similarly sparse set, while Jim is singing, a hushed reverence replaces the chat and burble. We even get a few singalong

anthems - shut your eyes and this could be Glastonbury (ok, maybe I am getting a little carried away, but it was still a special moment).

Jim's former onstage partner Fruitbat is up next with the latest incarnation of his band Abdoujaparov. Last time I reviewed Abdou, I wrote a generally positive review with one or two constructive criticisms and was crucified on their messageboard for it - fortunately I should have no such problems this time, as tonight they are leagues above what they showed then.

New songs are thrown in with some old favourites, each one standing out as a highlight, and sparking some serious cross generational arse shaking in the crowd, with fans old and new losing themselves in the honest, self deprecating humour of the lyrics and urgency of the punky guitars.
.

Abdoujaparov
So finally, this is it - the last band of the last gig of Relief Week, and I'm glad that it's Rhesus. We've been through a lot together this week, and while the highs massively outnumbered the lows, it could still have been a stressful time in other company.


By the time they get on stage, the gathered crowd have only one thing on their minds - to go fucking apeshit - and Rhesus seem to be thinking the same.
They storm through a serrated set of lightning quick punk rock - 'Too Weak' and 'Art Is Dead' over in a heartbeat and prompting a pile-up of pogoing enthusiasm in the crowd.

They're going to take full advantage of the occasion tonight, and Jim's giving it the full rockstar - calling up their ex-bassist from the crowd for some backing vocals, then even calling out to the crowd for requests - "Performance!!!!" is the overwhelming response, and the stark contrast between it's slow building intricacy and the high speed train wreck of their other songs is devastatingly beautiful - I even spot a tear in the eye of one punter as we all sing along to the chorus.

Rhesus

Then, just as quickly as it started, it's all over - Jim's wrecked his guitar & there's no spare, so they launch into final number 'EYOY' and end with Jim sprawled on the floor, while the crowd bay for more.

And that's it - Relief Week is over. We've raised over £4,000, met some wonderful people, seen some amazing bands, and now we have to go home.

I say my goodbyes and walk out of the venue onto the streets of Brixton, and it's snowing. And suddenly everything seems perfect.
And I smile.
And I cry.
Tears of Joy.

More Reviews and Pictures from tonight
My photos
Harriette's photos
Chris Salvo's photos
Jim Bob's Blog
Wax Music Review
Rockfreaks Review

Reviews of the whole Week
God is in the TV review Part One + Part Two

Reviews and all photos (unless otherwise stated on rollovers) by Paul Madden

Did you go to a Relief Week gig? Tell us what you thought here

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the following people for their involvement in Relief Week - Jim, Arran, Aurora & Wayne, Caffy, Gareth at Tsunami Relief, Pete Dodds, Foxy, Les, Katie, James Oldfield, Harriette, Simon Bloc Party, Jeff & Ray at the 100 Club, Paul Blowup, Sean & the soundmen at 93 Feet East, Tim & Seamus from the Windmill, Hanna at Lock 17, all of the bands, and everyone who came along to the gigs and helped us to raise the fantastic amount that we did.