Friday, October 30, 2009

Diminishing returns


The Rules decree that singer-songwriters should be tedious drips who believe that listlessly strumming a guitar and moaning about something or other at the same time makes them the natural and inevitable heir to Bob Dylan. Thankfully, for Matt Winkworth, the Rules are made to be broken. Your average common-or-garden singer-songwriter he is not, channelling the (melo)dramatic flourish of Rufus Wainwright into a performance that takes in a song written from the perspective of A Midsummer Night's Dream's Puck and a tribute to tragic Eurotrash star Lola Ferrari which succeeds in being as poignant as it is witty, before wrapping up with a cover of Burt Bacharach's 'Anyone Who Had A Heart'.

Also making very good use of other people's songs amongst their own are folky types The Roundheels - tonight a stripped-down twosome of guitarist and vocalist, although some additional assistance is provided on mandolin and slide guitar by members of The Marmadukes. There's a nagging feeling that they're the sort of act who could be found performing in any number of pubs on a Saturday night (indeed their next gig is at the Malmaison), but justice is nevertheless very much done to dark material including Nina Simone's version of 'Black Is The Color (Of My True Love's Hair)' and Neko Case's 'Make Your Bed'.

At least one member of The Halcyons, keyboard player Colin Mackinnon, writes for the site, so he must be used to the difficulty (if not outright impossibility) of being positive or saying at least something constructive in certain reviews. As such, he might be feeling my pain right now. His band won't be responsible for me remembering this as a halcyon evening - let's just leave it there, shall we?

Trembling Bells: the name seems to say it all. Not Howling Bells - not desperate, full of fury or anguish. No, Trembling - nervous, quaking, trepidatious. As they shuffle uncomfortably before a crowd considerably thinner than it was half an hour earlier and begin a song called 'Adieu England', I conclude that perhaps they've bid adieu to their native Glasgow rather sooner than was sensible and would have been better off honing their art at home for a while longer. Certainly their stage presence is non-existent, the drums seem too loud and obtrusive, and I'm struggling to find much to admire in their rambling folk-country (and even less to like). Worse still, two friends confess the need to escape outside to the smoking balcony before the singer's nails-down-blackboard voice drives them to murder.

So it comes as something of a major surprise to learn that not only have the quartet been talked about in excited tones by those in the know, but that two members of the band (at least) have significant form. Alex Neilson is a much-feted drummer who's played with Bonnie "Prince" Billie, Alasdair Roberts and Six Organs Of Admittance amongst others, while vocalist Lavinia Blackwall was part of his Directing Hand free jazz project.

Thing is, though, I came across Directing Hand at Greenman two years ago, accused them of "just taking the piss" and agreed with a barman that Blackwall sounded like "'cats in a bag in the river'". And, personally speaking at least, Trembling Bells are hardly any better.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

She put a spell on me


You’ve heard of I’m From Barcelona, right? (In case you were wondering, they’re not – the lying buggers are Swedish.) Well, Yeasayer might as well be called I’m From Brooklyn, so brazenly do they wear their origins on their collective sleeve – and, anyway, hasn’t affirmative exclamation already been covered by Yeah Yeah Yeahs? OK, so some distance removed from Brooklyn’s current crop of C86 obsessives (see: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Crystal Stilts) Yeasayer may be, but they’ve regularly been bracketed with the likes of Vampire Weekend as Afrobeat aficionados at the cutting edge of cool.

On this evidence at least, all I can say to those who hailed Yeasayer’s debut album All Hour Cymbals as a musical milestone is that they really should know better than to endorse the kind of future where an MGMT sans hooks are king. If a postmodern, artily mangled mess of Fleetwood Mac and Hall & Oates and a vomit-splattered boilersuit with the sleeves rolled up and set off with a power balladeer’s mullet are where’s it at, then I for one would rather not be there.

Frontman Chris Keating attempts flattery, venturing that because this is Oxford we must be a "smart" crowd and thereby implying that we might get what they do. Not me, I’m afraid. Just say nay, kids.

Bat For Lashes should by rights be equally preposterous. Natasha Khan’s first album, 2006’s Mercury-nominated Fur And Gold, suggested someone for whom recording music was a rude interruption from wheeling around in crop circles barefoot, flower-garlanded and dressed in chiffon like a medieval waif or sylvan sprite, partaking in the odd pagan ritual to reaffirm her oneness with her Earth Mother.

But guffaws were stifled by the sheer power of the music: rich, emotive, captivating. Otherworldly, yes, but inclusive and enveloping too. It seemed impossible to look on disinterestedly from the outside - you couldn’t help but be drawn in. Tonight, everything from that period resonates with a dark sensuousness: ‘Horse And I’, ‘Tahiti’, ‘The Wizard’, ‘Prescilla’ and especially the single ‘Trophy’, its sinister edge sharpened by Charlotte Hatherley’s guitar and its omission from the Glastonbury set even more of a mystery.

So, how does Fur And Gold’s no less extraordinary successor Two Suns compare? Well, it’s a meditation on dualism and cosmology and Khan still sounds as though she spends too much money on healing crystals and too much time prostrating herself beneath the moon. But the difference, in the words of the Ting Tings, is largely the drums, the drums, the drums: the inventive percussion of ‘Glass’ and the tribal pounding of ‘Two Planets’ in particular, courtesy of New Young Pony Club’s Sarah Jones. Though that’s not to mention the encroaching presence of synths and electronics, most noteably on chart-bothering single ‘Daniel’.

In these respects, the fact that much of the album owes its conception and genesis to a period during which Khan spent living in Brooklyn is evident. It’s as much a surprise that her collaborators in Yeasayer don’t join her onstage at any point, as it isn’t that the infamously reclusive Scott Walker fails to show up for ‘The Big Sleep’, the duet-of-sorts that closes Two Suns, Hatherley instead providing his vocals.

One of the most affecting and intoxicating new tracks is called ‘Siren Song’, but in truth they could all be given that name. Khan is an enchantress and, quite simply, one of the few truly original stars in the pop firmament.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Johnny be good


Japanese Voyeurs, eh? Well, that would make us English Rubberneckers at a particularly gruesome car crash. But then, as cliche would have it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in the eye of Johnny Foreigner this thrashily vapid charisma-free Hole - old enough to be able to grow facial hair and drink beer, but young enough to make a bit of a show of it - would appear to be pulchritudinousness personified. Me, I'm struggling to get past Romily Alice's wail and have to pronounce them less arousing peep show and more grim horror show.

Stephen H Davidson's at pains to point out that his band are called Tellison, and not Television. Not that there's much chance of confusing this bunch of modest Get Up Kids devotees from the south of England with the louche New York art-punks behind Marquee Moon. When he says that the last time they played in Oxford, at the Exeter Hall, they broke everything, I strongly suspect what he actually means is that everything broke - they would probably still be apologising now if it was the other way around.

Studious and conscientious observers of the punk pop rule book, Tellison know that the way to be taken seriously (not to mention the way to a girl's heart) is through bookish lyrics - and you can't get much more bookish than a song called 'Edith Wharton'. In a set heavy on new material, there are the odd diversions from the established template, when multi-instrumentalist Matt Roberts is called into providing electronic beats, additional percussion or even sax (such as on 'Thebes'). But they're actually at their best when not trying too hard and instead sticking to what they know, the Jimmy Eat World-echoing 'Henry Went To Paris' being a case in point.

Twenty minutes later and I'm not sure what the burly brute of a guy to my left made of Tellison, but by the disbelieving shake of his head can well imagine how he feels about having been dragged by his girlfriend to see the headliners: "Johnny Foreigner? Coming over here [all the way from Birmingham]? In a van? Seducing our women? Subjecting our English eardrums to assault by all manner of foul foreign noise? Well, I tell you - we won't stand for it..." And the truth is that for the first three songs - an unbelievably sloppy stew, an unrelenting blizzard of sound - I can kind of see his point.

But then the fourth song starts (perhaps it's no coincidence that it's a new one) and suddenly, as if cured by a fast-working hypnotherapist, they're no longer tune-phobic or afraid to give the music time to breathe. And by the time we're into 'Eyes Wide Terrified', arguably the most dynamic single on debut album Waited Up Til It Was Light, they appear to have made the evolutionary leap it took Idlewild the best part of a year to manage (from Captain to Hope Is Important) in the space of just five minutes.

Now don't get me wrong - there's nothing much enlightened or revolutionary about sounding like Los Campesinos! with your fingers jammed in live sockets and firecrackers rammed up your arse. The longer of tooth amongst tonight's crowd (that'd be me, then) remember back to a time when Urusei Yatsura ploughed a similar furrow and when the aforementioned Idlewild weren't just an REM tribute band.

But still the electrified racket and yelping boy-girl duetting of new single 'Criminals' and other tracks from forthcoming second record Grace And The Bigger Picture (they evidently share a fierce work ethic with Los Campesinos! as well as inspirations and friendship) can't fail to stir me to paroxysms of excitement. And you have to doff your hat to an outfit who choose to recognise Spinderella's lamentably oft-ignored contribution to Salt 'N' Pepa's musical output by immortalising her in a song title.

Bassist Kelly Southern asks what we make of her dress (she's wearing it because she thinks "it's the sort of thing girls in bands should wear"); vocalist/guitarist Alexei Berrow claims that the tour's purpose is to encourage fans up and down the country to urge pocket-size Bright Eyes Sam Isaac not to quit music; and neither of them nor drummer Junior Laidley knows when the new album's out. Apologising for stinking, Alexei declares: "We had a choice between washing and playing a show." A round of applause for the right decision.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Flaming marvellous


Forgive me, for I am about to shoot some large and helpless fish in a very small barrel. With a bazooka.

"The world of Talk In Code", their MySpace blurb advises us, "is a world to be involved in". A sentiment I can heartily endorse - if, that is, you like your worlds soundtracked by plodding faux-profound corporate indie anthemicists from Swindon who set their sights on REM and late period Idlewild but end up coming across like the sort of tedious worship band that would have the Big Fella Upstairs, if he existed, cursing his own creation.

The spectacle of them crashing headlong into a wall of silence but remaining optimistically convinced that we're here to see them and not the headliners is even more excruciating than that fist-gnawingly awful bio (another choice line: "They are a band in demand and a band on the rise!" There's a free CD available, apparently - still a bit too pricey for me.

The kindest thing I can say is that they'd probably be lapped up by a different audience - a VERY different audience - and you have to point the finger at whoever chucked together such a horribly mismatched bill (even if it was done so at short notice) and threw Talk In Code to the lions rather than to people who think Keane are an edgy alternative rock outfit.

"I don't think we've ever played with a band whose name is in the lyrics to one of our songs", says Eleanor Friedberger, who it suddenly occurs to me bears a remarkable resemblance to our neighbour. The song in question - a blitzed rendition of 'Chris Michaels' from Blueberry Boat - couldn't be a sharper counterpoint to what has preceded and, even at around seven minutes long, is as succinct a precis as you'll get as to what The Fiery Furnaces are all about: oblique and frequently bizarre sung-spoken lyrics wound up with fragments of melody into a monument to idiosyncratic imagination that is all tangent, flitting ADHD-like between genres and styles while also laughing long and loud in the face of coherence and consistency of tempo.

That's not quite true, though - the indications from last album Widow City and the new material from I'm Going Away (in comparison with 'Chris Michaels', at least) are that they might perhaps be gravitating a little closer towards the straight and the narrow. But everything's relative, of course - 'Keep Me In The Dark', for instance, has a genuine chorus, but it still sounds like an experimental band doing the truly experimental thing and having a stab at a pop song.

Not that they haven't attempted something similar before, but none of their most accessible pre-I'm Going Away tracks are included in the setlist - there's no 'Tropical Ice-Land', 'Single Again' or 'My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found', and Widow City is represented by 'Duplexes Of The Dead', 'The Old Hag Is Sleeping', 'Ex-Guru' and 'Japanese Slippers' rather than 'My Egyptian Grammar'. This may largely be because, unlike on the two previous occasions I've seen them, Matthew Friedberger eschews the keyboard in favour of a guitar, with the result that the likes of 'Staring At The Steeple' pack a surprising punch to the ears.

Integral to this new full-on rock incarnation is the inventive drumming of the guppy-mouthed Bob D'Amico and the distorted bass of a cheery Jason Loewenstein, best known for his alliance with Lou Barlow in Sebadoh (is my Dinosaur Jr T-shirt an insensitive choice, I wonder, given that it's their reformation that's standing in the way of a possible Sebadoh reunion?).

Eleanor is as intense as usual, unable to decide whether to have her coat on or off and staring into the distance as if in a trance - but then just to remember all those hundreds of words must demand serious focus and concentration. Matthew, meanwhile, is enjoying himself, sharing jokes with the others and sarcastically telling some chatterers that they like the interruption because "it's like extra lyrics - and they're probably better than ours".

It seems somehow wrong that an evening in the company of such a resolutely non-linear band should have to reach a definite conclusion, but Matthew softens the blow: "Hopefully we'll be back again soon", he says, grinning, "probably playing different instruments". We hope so too - theirs truly is "a world to be involved in".

Blood, sugar, sex ... er, existential angst

I'm probably the thousandth person to have cracked the gag, but presumably Thom Yorke's been sleeping with dogs to have got a Flea. Seriously, WTF?!

In other less surprising news, Nathan Williams of Wavves has found himself at the centre of trouble recently, with Jared Swilley of The Black Lips vowing to do him and his associates some serious mischief when his tour rolls into Atlanta following a fracas in Williamsburg. I'm just hoping he makes it to Oxford for the gig on 18th November without either being maimed or doing himself some damage (as at Primavera)...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nautical but nice


And there I was thinking piracy was supposed to be a bad thing for music. Not today.

For shiver me timbers if it isn't the annual Southsea Fest - a whole day of music courtesy of local and not-so-local acts at venues mere stumbling distance apart the length of Albert Road - which, by virtue of taking place in close proximity to the sea and on International Talk Like A Pirate Day, this year has a distinctly piratical theme.

So, there are three burning questions:

1. Who will lay claim to the day's bounteous though sadly metaphorical rich stuff?

2. Who will deserve to be flogged by the cat o' nine tails before being forced to walk the plank (again sadly metaphorical)?

3. Which intrepid reviewer is likely to hit the grog to the point of sickness that has nothing whatsoever to do with the sea?

Well, OK, so there are two burning questions...

We start at the Edge Of The Wedge with an assault that is airborne rather than aquatic. I've been led to believe that AEROPLANE ATTACK model themselves on My Bloody Valentine, but today at least they sound less like Kevin Shields and company and more like Helmet. Despite the inspirational presence of 2-D Cat perched on the amp, though, their heavy instrumental churnings never quite achieve take-off. The set over, Rusty Sheriff - a hip-hop DJ/producer when not behind the drumkit - is unsure whether to spew or have a large gin. It's barely 1.30pm.

FINAL ROUND ... FIGHT!'s appalling screamo - a billion times worse than song titles like 'If I'm As Good At Wrestling As I Am At Scrabble You're All Fucked' would suggest - prompts a very swift exit and it's off to the Fat Fox for THE LEVELS. Within thirty seconds of their first song, exactly the same thought has word-for-word popped into my head and that of my companion: the world doesn't really need another Reef. The Levels are cocks of the walk (or should that be swagger?), self-proclaimed "retro riffmongers" who aim at being Led Zeppelin (powerhouse drummer Sean Kenneally's John Bonham T-shirt makes an early claim to be the most redundant statement of the day) fronted by AC/DC's gravel-gargler Brian Johnson and who smell of testosterone and casual sexism. But, y'know, it's early, I'm feeling charitable and they remind me of The Datsuns marginally more than of Jet.

And I'm feeling even more charitable towards them as soon as I clap ears on their successor on the Fat Fox stage, GEORGE KING. King is a singer-songwriter who seems to believe that lyrics detailing more drugs, parties, booze and teenage bedroom fumblings than your average Skins script, if set to acoustic pluckings, make him a sensitive and edgy poet for the post-Doherty era and not a tedious whiny cretin. Give the man a girlfriend - or a good shoeing.

Their Southsea Fest stage in the Loft is local promoters Hong Kong Gardeners Club's swansong, so it's a shame we can't share their enthusiasm for VILLIERS TERRACE. That the name is taken from an Echo And The Bunnymen track should give some indication as to where the teenagers are coming from (or trying to) - the North, circa 1984 - and The Young Knives and The Futureheads are also evidently touchstones. But they're out of time and all over the shop - hopelessly so, even by the standards of music which makes no pretence of precision - and despite frontman Olic Asanovic spraying blood liberally over his white guitar for the cause, I can't help but speculate that Villiers Terrace must be a cul-de-sac.

Next comes proof that Oxford is considerably more pervasive and wide-ranging in terms of musical influence than a city of its size ought to be. To all intents and purposes, MINNAARS ARE Foals, just with inferior songs. But while it's difficult to imagine anyone wanting the likes of 'Are Lovers' when they could have 'Red Socks Pugie' and 'The French Open', there's no denying the quintet's energy, enthusiasm and self-belief. They and their de rigeur assymetrical fringes have come further than any other band we've seen so far (all the way from Leicester), and, judging by their selection for the BBC Introducing Stage at this year's Reading and Leeds Festivals, are destined to go significantly further too.

After all that frantic lurching to and fro, it's high time for HOLD FAST over the road in a rammed Little Johnny Russells, but local rag the News's Best Rock/Pop Band of 2008 aren't on long enough (translation: we're not there quick enough) for me to be able to comment on whether their Depeche Modish electro-noir really is as gripping as the moniker suggests.

A brief lull, during which a girl in a porkpie hat tries her darndest to knock my pint off a table, and then THE B OF THE BANG. Named after the the ill-fated and near-lethal sculpture erected in Manchester to mark the 2002 Commonwealth Games, they're a collective centred around one man, Wit, who also happens to have booked all the bands for this stage. Initial impressions are mixed - he's plainly a good lyricist, but musically the first song drags with the unwelcome lethargic anthemicism of Snow Patrol. There's a marked improvement, though, with the arrival of extra members, and we're suddenly transported into the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink psych-folk holler-along territory occupied by the likes of Oxford types Jonquil. All the same, as far as the bang goes, we don't get much further than the B.

Back at the Loft, it's one in one out. Thankfully there are a couple of punters on hand to assist our swift re-entry, both escorted off the premises by security when one decides to resolve a dispute with the doorman by distracting him and planting a smacker of a kiss on his cheek.

And why's it one in one out? That would be because arguably Pompey's most successful exports of the last couple of years (tour with the Manics; release through Fantastic Plastic; NME album review; festival appearances at Latitude, Greenman and Primavera) have entered the building. THE STRANGE DEATH OF LIBERAL ENGLAND owe their name to a book and their sound to The Arcade Fire. Keys, xylophone and brass are all called upon, but that additional instrumentation generally feels like a simple supplement rather than a constructive complement, and there's neither the fierce passion nor the fascinating idiosyncracy of, say, My Latest Novel to carry them through. Maybe I'm missing something, but the reason for their flirtation with the big time largely escapes me.

That said, TSDOLE are certainly more interesting than Brighton's JUMPING SHIPS, who soon have us, er, jumping ships to the One Eyed Dog. Immediately we're cursing ourselves for tardiness, as BRONTIDE are already well into their mission to command and conquer. They say "Pink Floyd for the scenesters", I say a maths class as taught by Shellac. Bare chests: two. Sinuous bass and tidy guitar patterns with a brutal thwacking follow-through: lots. Niceties: none - except between songs, when frontman Tim Hancock enthuses about the festival and their predecessors at the One Eyed Dog, Tall Ships (not just on the bill for the nautical theme, it seems). Little wonder Holy Roar - sometime label for Dananananaykroyd, Gallows and Rolo Tomassi amongst others - have taken rather a shine to them.

Next up here, on the stage curated by Meat Pie Promotions (which explains the bloke we saw earlier wandering about in a pie costume - unless it was a local with a very odd fetish) - is Malvern's answer to Bright Eyes, SAM ISAAC. He and his band have been holed up writing new songs, all of which impress, but then he already has a 2009 album (Bears) and neatly formed tracks like 'Sticker, Star And Tape' to call upon. On another day (perhaps had we seen all of Brontide's set, or had the Cider Of Doom not brought on a bout of sentimentalism), the politeness and slick professionalism of his cute emo-indie might have been offensive - and indeed the fact that someone in the crowd is quietly singing the "These problems matter" song from the Dawson's Creek parody episode of Family Guy makes me chuckle - but all the same I find myself easily won over.

Walking back past the Loft we spot our over-amorous bouncer-kissing punter being pinned to the pavement just as his taxi announces its arrival with a blue flashing light. Can't tell you much about THE RAMBLINGS (Fat Fox) or DAN SMITH (Wedgewood Rooms), as we catch barely two minutes of either - but, based on those two minutes, the former walk a bluesy walk but with the lolling gait of the Happy Mondays, and the latter is a solo loopmeister and multi-instrumentalist in need of a stage name.

In need of an identity of their own are Cambridge outfit THE TUPOLEV GHOST (Edge Of The Wedge), whose unremarkable post-hardcore wears its influences on its sleeve (or, in the case of the frontman's Black Flag T-shirt, on its chest) and rarely suggests it has either the brawn or brains to step out from the shadow of the likes of Bluetip and Sparta. But I'm prepared to cut them some slack for three reasons: firstly, they're just finding their feet again after losing two band members; secondly, the single 'Diagrams' has a corking chorus; and thirdly, their mini-album, released on Oxford label Big Scary Monsters, features a track called 'Giant Fucking Haystacks'. I'm assuming the "Fucking" is an adjective and not a verb - otherwise that would just be weird.

Now HERE's something: a rabble with a double-bassist and an extraordinarily barnetted showman called Lou Vainglorious who look like Dexys Midnight Runners lost in Shoreditch and whose secret weapon is a bizarrely effective cover of MIA's 'Paper Planes'. A cynic might venture that Southend's HOODLUMS (Wedgewood Rooms) are at least three years too late for the Thamesbeat scene, which in any case only really spawned Mystery Jets in terms of bands with any longevity. But nevertheless, the likes of 'Estuary Boys' and the glam-gone-gypsy-with-terrace-shouting single 'The Beat Bop' (released on Nude) intimates that they've definitely got a certain something about them.

I've repeatedly missed THIS TOWN NEED GUNS (Edge Of The Wedge) when they've played in their native Oxford, so gawd bless the Southsea Fest organisers for putting them on tonight. Labelmates of The Tupolev Ghost on Big Scary Monsters until recently, they're math rock flavoured with a little early emo (think Cap'n Jazz, The Promise Ring - ie back when emo meant thick-rimmed glasses, rucksacks and Smiths-loving US punks, not black clothes, self-harm and My Chemical Toilet) - which makes me just a little nervous that their song 'Wanna Come Back To My Room And Listen To Some Belle & Sebastian' might not be satirical after all. Judging by the handclapping of an excited crowd, their popularity with the locals is well established - but, while I can admire how busy and tight they are, I can't say I genuinely love it.

Strolling back through the main room en route for the exit I note that PEGGY SUE have dropped the "& The Pirates" since I saw them supporting Blood Red Shoes (well, since gaining a drummer, to be precise) - rather inappropriately, really, given the context.

Back at the Loft, it's cooler and quieter than earlier in the day - almost as if people don't realise that one of the festival's highlights are about to hit the stage. Not that IT HUGS BACK could really be described as "hitting the stage" - these four fresh-faced youngsters are far too polite and restrained for that, and it's hard to believe that they call legendary label 4AD home. But debut album Inside Your Guitar actually makes a virtue of being largely devoid of visceral impact; instead, it's the subtlety that seduces. Live is no different: 'Q' is a gorgeous wash of fuzz, and when they do work themselves up into a bit of lather (relatively speaking), on 'Don't Know' and set closer 'Now + Again' (which has my companion jigging around with the keyboard player's mum and sister - it's that time in the evening...), it feels organic and natural not like a forced teenage temper tantrum.

And so to the headliners. And So I Watch You From Afar, Band Of Skulls, Tubelord, James Yuill and Official Secrets Act are all playing elsewhere along Albert Road, but we opt to stay put for THE JOY FORMIDABLE. My first impressions were far from favourable - will time, another viewing and copious quantities of alcohol change my perspective? Not really, is the answer. They're certainly looser and not quite so buttoned up as they were supporting Howling Bells (Ritzy Bryan actually turns off the icy stare on a few occasions long enough to crack a smile or two), and coo-pop-in-a-hurricane single 'Cradle' has won me over. But I'm left unconvinced generally, not least because the rest of their material (presumably taken from the debut LP given the comically awful name A Balloon Called Moaning) is rarely up to scratch. All the same, it's pleasing to see speaker stacks shaking and feel the floor vibrating at the end of the night, as Hong Kong Gardeners Club goes out with a flourish.

The music over, there's nothing left but for two deafened inebriates to dissect the day's entertainment - all for the bargainous price of £12 - over a curry, awarding the rich stuff to It Hugs Back and the flogging and plank-walking to George King.

My guess is that Southsea Fest could become an annual fixture in my calendar as well as that of Portsmouth. I wonder whether the organisers will realise the potential in making it an all-weekend event to coincide with Love Albert Road Day, which this year takes place the following weekend?

Anyway, a sneak preview of next year's bill: Oceansize, Wavves and Fish from Marillion. Perhaps.