Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Big Pink Cake weekender 2010

Friday 5th November, Betsey Trotwood, London

So, we're tearing along the motorway, heads and hearts still fluffy and weak from the frivolity of visiting friends in Wales the night before and despite the pints of Purple Moose still sloshing around our bellies and five hours on the road i manage to convince the driver(my friend John, ex-goth and all round good egg) that the little gig ive arranged to go see is still a good idea. Hes compliant if unconvinced and after a slow crawl through the drizzle and dusk of a Friday night London it obvious he would rather have a good curry and a quiet few than seek pop thrills. But im having none of it. So, bags duly dumped and after quick shower and change, we head off into the Clerkenwell night.

Ive never been to the Betsey Trotwood before, and i was impressed. There is something magical about a good London pub at night, and call it driving fatigue, but everything seemed to glow in agreeable hue. everything seemed charming. From the framed Bmx Bandits poster to the little 'indiepop this way!' sign to our pints of Spitfire(after previous experiences of Bishops Finger, we stuck to the weaker stuff) being served in dimpled, handled pint pots, it all seemed designed to charm.

Swerving Cecilia's party and turning left, we navigated the staircase to a tiny room which could not be better suited to watch bands in. It was cramped in a cosy way, with low flying beams and the sort of acoustics that made sure the sound smacked you square in the chops. And so then, onto the first band of the weekend.

Sadly, as is Brilldreams style, we only caught the last two songs by The Kick Inside, but as I was seeing them in Bristol anyway, it wasn't the end of the world, and i enjoyed what i saw.

After a quick cigarette and unconvincingly trying to explain to John why it was a good idea to pay good money to see the same bands twice in a matter of days, it was time to descend that lethal little staircase to catch Pocketbooks. Somewhat staggeringly, it was the first time i had seen them perform live, and luckily they were every bit as dreamy and wonderful as i hoped they would be. We were even treated to some new songs amongst the old favourites. A breathless Footsteps was worth the price of admission alone, and started the first dancing of the weekend, despite the sardine tin
nature of the venue.

Next up were Sweden's The Electric Pop Group a band its almost impossible not fall in love with. They look like a cross between the Smiths and the kids out of Scooby Doo, and produce chimey pop that can only be described as dreamy. Our hearts were stolen by the brilliantly bashful 'Popgirly' and by the time 'Not By Another' had graced our ears and hearts, they had us eating out of their hands. John, who up to now was manfully hiding his reluctance to be here was frothing at the mouth, and immediately dashed to the kiosk to buy CD's. They are that kind of band.

Finishing the evening were The Garlands whose impossibly shy songs about the horrors of love ('You Never Notice Me', 'Why Did I Trust You?') are bathed in an ever so slightly thrashy pop thats makes dancing an inevitability. Theres something satisfying about watching a room full of people dancing and swaying with huge grins on their faces. Christin makes an engaging front woman, hips always swaying, eyes never off the ceiling and a voice that could melt the tin mans heart, she and her band were a brilliant send off that had us dreaming of Bristol and the weekend there within.

6th November The Croft, Bristol,

Theres something of Glastonbury on the streets of Stokes Croft in Bristol. It has the distinct sniff of weed and thrums with sleepy, dread locked young people who seem to have not got over the Levellers. Deep within it heart, amongst the Banksy street art and art centres is The Croft, a suitably pink building that would be indiepops home for the weekend.

By the time i arrive, buy a disappointing pint of Bath Spa bitter and remove my duffel coat, im just in time to catch the last two songs by The Sunny Street, which is a shame, as their gentle, egg yolk yellow brand of swaying pop seemed a pleasing one. I was, however, lucky enough to catch their version of hideaways 'What Is Love', which Remi, Christos and Ian seemed to lay a classic pop base for Delphine to some how turn the lyrics into a beguiling chanson to the mysteries of love.

As much as i like Amida through their inclusion on the Kids in the Club and Indietracks compilations and their release on Weepop!, but i couldn't fully enjoy their set as i couldn't for the life of me figure out who the singer reminded me of. This lack of absorption is all down to me as the band were fantastic. Their bouncy pop subtly framing the lyrics with a crafts mans touch. The set was a rapid, fluid one which was highlighted by a sprightly 'The End of The Affair'. The man i was reminded of by the way, which came to me on the train home, was author, journalist and broadcaster Andrew Collins. Phew.

Next up were our old muckers The Garlands who rather cleverly used the huge on stage projection screen to put on a DVD of simple animation. The effect was the of a puppet -how at the best birthday party ever. The Garls,(i can call them that, were mates)were just as good as London, with 'Throw Away This Day' being the highlight of an engaging little set.

"Go Bristol City!" shouts the guitarist of The Electric Pop Group in his lilting Scandinavian brogue. It turns out the band had been to see the Robins in a no doubt thrilling 1-1 draw with Preston North End. After quickly scanning the room for Bristol Rovers 'top boys', im relieved to find there are none, and settle down to enjoy a set that seems complimented by the excellent sound of The Croft, which breaths life into more subtle songs such as 'I Know I Will' and 'Believers'.

The Fauns are as Bristol as the suspension bridge and pasties and they seem to relish being on home turf. The are like a collision of the girl out of Portishead (a cowardly comparison admittedly, but one that stands up) and the blokes out of Spiritualized. The mix of spell binding shoegaze and the on screen film of crafts and planets drifting slowly in space quickly absorbs us, and for a while we are in space with them. That is until, like the clumsy twit i am, i knock a three quarter pint of Guinness off the sloped beer ledge onto a hapless amateur photographer. Its times when the whole room is snapped out of its daydreams and turns to look at you with thinly disguised disgust that you wish you were not 6ft6.

Headlining the evening are The Blanche Hudson Weekend, and for all their quality and presence, they could have been headlining Glastonbury. Quite frankly, Caroline is a star. Blonde, head strong and brassy in a spangly dress, she's like a Morrissey heroine come to life. Luckily, the band are more than up for the challenge, and the set is rapid mix of fire and skill.

On then, for a swift cigarette before the dancing, where i witness Rocker buying the bouncer a kebab because "she was cold". What a man.

And what a DJ set to end the night with. It was somewhere around 'Pristine Christine' being played, dancing between the prettiest girl and the most handsome boy where i got the feeling. You know the one, where work seems a million, billion miles away and the pop dream rushes from your feet to your head, and you cant stop smiling. And this is what its all for, all this playing records and daydreaming, you can dance how you like here because you know no-one will laugh and you dont have to explain because you know they get it too. and you want every day of your life to be like this and you want this feeling to last forever. But it doesnt, and now your singing along to the Damned, yelling along, and you know this is the last song but somehow is doesnt matter, and you look around you, and you know, you just know everyone feels it too, and maybe they wish you lived in their town as much as you wish they lived in yours. And despite the cold world that waits for you outside, you know youre going to be smiling all the way home.

7th November, The Croft, Bristol

On to Sunday then, where after getting hopelessly lost whilst exploring Bristol i catch on the last song of A Fine Day For Sailing's set. It seemed like a very good song though.

The Give It Ups are a perfect tonic for that sunday afternoon hangover feeling. Coming on like incessantly cheerful childrens TV presenters via Butlins, they sooth away the fatigue, and despite the rather racy film on the screen, the set is a diverting one, where we are treated to a new song about "How Battlestar Gallactica is better than a relationship".

Doggy are almost impossibly french. Sophisticated and restrained, i wish i knew more french so i knew what their lyrics where about. One song, as the singer helpfully pointed out was about how beautiful there home city is. It must be pretty special as the song stopped twice with the singer shaking his head. "This song" he said "must be done more beautiful". And it was.

Some would argue that the Mai68's set was arty and punk and a moment. To me, however, it was wonky walk down pretension street. Songs fell apart, stuttered, went off in different keys, lyrics were forgotten. No one expects Bon Jovi, but you cant finish a single song maybe its time to practise. Call me an old fart, but i dont think the revolution will come from half arse, half pissed art school sloganeering.

The flaws in The Mai 68's Tony-Hancock-plays-a-terrorist set were shown up like sunlight through a crochet blanket by the excellent set by The Kick Inside. They played like their girlfriends were in the audience, who indeed were. Confident, controlled and sounding excellent despite the guitarist's weekend of worrying, they played like a band who had been together forever. Highlight was the version of their current Odd Box 7" 'Oh Vanity'.

Standard Fare are always at home at an indiepop weekender, and this was no exception. Self assured with their shiny new instruments, the played a 30 minute set that seemed a third of that length. Their constant touring has seen the once bright new stars of the circuit turn into seasoned professionals, and with
a set list that run like a greatest hits package, its surely only a matter of time before they 'do a Pains' and find themselves a the bigger stages the are so obviously destined for. Not even the scary bits of Batteries Not Included on the screen could spoil the fun.

The Standard Fare set had reduced people to sitting in chairs, as by now everyone was feeling knackered. Luckily, The School were on hand. With so many people on stage, they looked like a sound mans nightmare and not unlike a frieze. The School love what they do though. It was fun just watching them set up. Theres something right about them being the last band of a weekend with their infectious joy and aura of a christmas party. Stood in front of a 70's episode of Dr.Who, and with little tins pouring out bubbles from both sides of the stage (the bubbles being refilled probably got the biggest cheer of the weekend)the band performed a greatest hits set, with a closing pair of 'I Want You Back' and 'Let It Slip' sending everyone home with a full heart and knackered legs. Now, wheres that kebab shop Rocker went too?


  1. Bath Ales' Spa ale is their weakest - you should have gone for the bottled "Gem" at 4.8% my favourite beer at the moment.

    My recommended kebab shop is, as always, Rita's on Stokes Croft - almost opposite the Croft.

    And yeah, I ended with "New Rose" - and the PA got shut down before I could play Laura Cantrell's "The Way It Is", which would have made an ideal tearjerking end to the night (except of course I went on to my mate's Hot Buttered Soul night over the road...)

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  3. [the Czech beer (Zatec) was the best...]

  4. Lovely write-up! Thanks for the kind words about Pocketbooks, and it was nice to meet you in person!

  5. Thanks for the comments about Amida, although we didn't actually play End of the Affair this time!

    We have some new releases coming out soon hopefully so keep a look out!

    Thanks again,

    James Amida

  6. It was a great weeknder, and I agree 100% about the Mai68's...sadly. They were bloody terrible, and not in a good way!