Live: Sherwood – 26/11/08 [Leeds Cockpit]

The gig was at Leeds Cockpit, one of the best venues that Leeds has to offer, and the first band on were Summerlin — I think. Now, here’s where it gets tricky. The other band supporting that night were London-based Paige. I’ll admit I’m writing this review a little while after the gig, so I pulled up both band’s MySpaces in order to glance over the photos and just confirm what order they were in. However, I ran into some problems here, namely because I found it incredibly difficult to tell the two bands apart.

Stylishly long, dyed hair – check. Bright, colourful t-shirts – check. Tattoos of various hearts/stars/cartoons – check.

After a few more minutes of staring intently at both sets of photos, I finally managed to decide who had been who. So, the first band, Summerlin, took the stage and the lead singer bounded into centre place in front of us. My immediate reaction was to turn to my friend and hiss in her ear, “Is that guy trying to be Trace Cyrus?” Not a good first impression, and things only went downhill from there as I noticed the bright, sleeveless All Time Low shirt he was displaying proudly. I did not, I’ll admit, have high hopes for this band. Sadly, this was confirmed as they launched into their first song. The dancing seemed contrived and forced, the songs were generic and every one sounded exactly like the one before. They were clearly trying, and trying hard, but it seemed like they were only trying to be like every other power-pop Farewell-style band out there.

Next, was Paige. Exactly the same scenario. The band, as I’ve mentioned, looked similar and even appeared to have the same stage antics. The keyboardists had both thrown themselves around, seemingly more into their movements than the music, and the bands began to merge together in my mind, making it hard to distinguish between them. Not one of either Summerlin’s or Paige’s songs stuck in my mind, and the verdict on both was the same: utterly forgettable.

Luckily, Sherwood were up next and they were as on form as always. Sherwood are a band, I always say, that you don’t have to know any of their songs in order to be able to enjoy them live and this was certainly true. The energy in the room increased sharply the minute they took to the stage, and every single member of the audience appeared to be singing along or jumping up and down — involved in some way. Sherwood are nothing if not fun, and genuine, and this is always broadcasted tenfold at their live shows. They’re definitely one of those bands who I think should be a lot bigger than they are, and this includes their lack of mainstream success. They have links with MySpace, signed to MySpace Records, and every song sounds original, fresh and exciting.

Originality was something that had been severely lacking in the show so far, and the two earlier lacklustre performances only served to drive home exactly how much of a change Sherwood are. We were treated to a few songs from their new album; one was an acoustic one which had the powerful effect of silencing completely every single member of the audience, with only the sound of the guitar and Nate’s voice filling the small venue. After a Sherwood show, instead of feeling drained or tired, the overall feeling is one of happiness and excitement, and it is near on impossible to leave without the overall feeling of having had an amazing time.

The band are also genuinely nice guys, at least two of them sticking around after every performance happy to meet and talk to the fans. In today’s scene, where it seems to be more about the success than the people, it’s a refreshing change and something that I do think counts for a lot.

Interview with Room 39 (by Nox)

In this interview, Nox asks up and coming Mississipi band Room 39 about their music, their fans and their crazy shows! Room 39 are pretty hard to describe musically, as they’re a mix of all kinds of styles, so check out their Myspace, linked after the interview.

How many years has Room 39 been a band, and I understand there have been several people that have played along with you guys how does that happen? Any qualifications?
We have been a band for just over 3 years, and according to Don, if you want to be a musician in our band then you have to love music and pretty much be able to count to four – though you have to have some musical background.

You guys pretty much developed your fan base by playing in local coffee shops, correct?

Yeah, we could play in bars and things more easily but the atmospheres are way different. Also, a lot of our fans in high school wouldn’t be able to watch us in bars and the atmosphere in a bar isn’t usually too healthy.

Do you like that atmosphere?
The coffee shop is a wonderful place. It’s ‘kick back and relax’ for people wanting to come and watch us perform, but anyone can see on a well rehearsed gig, so we’re working hard to keep the fans, or people just gettin coffee, entertained.

Anything exciting ever happen at a show, and if so what was the most ridiculous thing?
Well, often we dress up in random costumes. AJ once was a cowboy, Jesse a ninja, Don a zombie, and I was once this duct tape and tin foil armored gladiator.

Would you say you guys have a good one on one connection with your fans?
With some of our fans, yes, we most certainly do. Though, not with all of them, which is something I would like to change. We as a band think that the aspect of being one on one with the fans is crucial because they enjoy that… which gets them to like us even more and that never hurts!

Exactly how many instruments in all are each of you capable of playing, and how many of those do you use in your music?
Well, I know Don can play many many instruments but ones that he has used and has intentions of using are the guitar, violin, cello, egg shaker, cajon, bagpipes, and much more. Jesse brings a lead guitar and banjo to the table. AJ can pretty much play anything you set in front of him, but he mainly plays drums and variations thereof, and he also has played mandolin. I have played guitar, bass, and didgeridoo.

What’s your favorite instrument to play?

We always get the biggest response from the didgeridoo. It’s a wonderful instrument that is underutilized.

What makes Room 39’s music stand out from any other band’s?

No matter how young or old a person may be, it is still appealing. Our music is so versatile and the genres we play are spread pretty far apart.

What does the future hold, any upcoming tours or records?

Well, nothing set in stone, but I think maybe something in Nashville will be in the near future.

What sort of message do you guys try to convey to your fans, and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Music is enjoyable, so enjoy it! Also, it’s so expressive and through our body language anyone can see just what we are trying to convey. Don draws his inspiration to write songs through a lot of things but music in general is inspired by a lot of the old greats and anything in the world. If you can;t hear music in everyday life. you ain’t listening.

If you had to explain the essence of a Room 39 show in 60 seconds, what would you say?

‘Holy cow!’, boom in your face, good timing, fun laughs all around, sweet action… either that or ‘Mmmm, good!’

You can check out Room 39 at their Myspace.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk (a review by fightclubsandwich)

Disclaimer: the pseudonym “Fight Club Sandwich” under which I write for this website is merely an expression of my love of stupid puns, not the work of this particular author. In fact, I’ve never read Fight Club, though I do have the film on DVD, and really strongly hated the only other work of Mr Palahniuk’s that I had ever read. Appearances can be deceiving.

If Chuck Palahniuk ever decides to start his own militia for whatever reason, he will have no trouble accomplishing this. Palahniuk fans are a strange breed. I’d hate to call them “rabid” – not only because it would be a really terrible pun in context, considering the subject matter of this book, but it would also be inaccurate and misleading. They are a devoted bunch, though, for sure, basking in the quirky and grotesque worlds that Palahniuk builds, seemingly by picking on the most disenfranchised, skewed or obsessive perspectives he can find, working out characters who think that way, and placing these characters at the eye of the tornadoes that are brewing up around them.

In Rant the misfits at the heart of the story are the “Party Crashers” – a subculture of nocturnal kids who crash their cars into one another on purpose. It’s a sort-of-biography of Buster “Rant” Casey, an individual who is heavily involved in the Party Crashing scene, told by those who knew him best, from after his death. This format is a really great choice, allowing Palahniuk to stay true to his very controlled, technical narrative style, to peel back elements of the real world and immerse us slowly into the one he has created, which grows further and further from reality as it goes, but at the same time, a lot of the story is left ambiguous, and for the reader to interpret however they want.

The story’s events are very strange, to the extent that some readers might be put off by the sheer leaps and swirls and crashes and other words with connotations of movement that the narrative takes. There’s a plague of rabies, very old, very valuable coins, potential time travel, it’s a very busy plot, but arranged in a way that is obviously designed in reflection of real life – a lot of strange stuff happens, often in random and unconnected ways, that’s just how it goes. But events and characters are linked to one another, and you’d never guess how. It gets eerie and is done very cleverly. If you like strange plot elements, you will like this book, Palahniuk manages to pass off a shocking amount of supermarket-tabloid-weirdness, on the strength of the way the story is told.

Weirdly, the world constructed within the book somehow comes off as completely believable. This is aided by characters who feel utterly real – one of the most satisfying feelings that accompany the finishing of a novel is the feeling that the characters are not fictional creations but people you’ve just met, and many of the figures in Rant feel this way. These include many of the titular character’s team of Party Crashers, and his mother Irene, and the fact that many of the strongest characters – the characters who get the strongest writing and ideas attributed to them, not necessarily the strongest personalities – are female is particularly refreshing. The women in this novel are not treated as “female characters”, as a defining trait, and it doesn’t feel as if Palahniuk has stopped and tried to force himself to consider “how women think” at any point. The believability of the characters is also important since many of the weirder elements of the story are introduced in their words. The character of Christopher “Shot” Dunyun introduces the reader to the concept of “boosting peaks” – a sort of virtual reality industry involving plus in the backs of many characters’ necks – in one of the strongest written chapters in the book.

There are of course exceptions to this, which is pretty inevitable considering the way the book is put together, there are so many characters and a good deal of them play very small roles and don’t get to say much. Galton Nye, for example, is a right wing Christian minister whose daughter rebels against her parents. His character is an entirely two dimensional straw man type, and feels like a bunch of the most negative, unpleasant traits propped up into a paper-thin excuse for a character. This is the complete opposite of Irene Casey, the mother of the titular character, who is written in a way that constantly evades falling into the pit of cliché, despite how easy it would be to turn her into a caricature of a red-neck-ish mother and wife who only bounces like a tennis ball between those two roles.

Conversely, the believability of the world Palahniuk has built may be one of the novel’s greatest strengths but also exposes a weakness – his attempts to reconnect his fiction with the real world can be problematic. The attempts at academic writing that crop up from time to time – due to the myriad “contributors” who write paragraphs in the novel – are, for the most part, just unbelievable, whether they’re too stylised or just over-simplified and clumsy. But the most grating part, for myself at least, is the way Palahnuik delivers his observations or speculations on humanity. I just have never been convinced by his philosophies, and perhaps this is a position that I’ve arrived at only because of outside sources twisting his words and adopting very crude and basic forms of nilhism that makes the interesting, complex versions boring. Or perhaps Palahniuk’s observations are just too simplistic to begin with.

This may just be a personal thing – when I read Haunted, the only other novel of his that I have read, I found the unrealism of the scenario grating – and it was a scenario that revolved around human nature and inner darkness. Rant has a far less believable plot in terms of the events that actually happen – or do they? – but the characters are much stronger than the earlier book. On the whole, Rant is a book that has strong enough foundations to be a really enjoyable read, and is satisfying enough as a whole for the few flaws to fade from your mind. It’s sufficiently strange to be off-putting to some, changing stylistically throughout, but the wacky events are handled solidly. Palahnuik has really proven himself imaginative enough to shame the likes of me, who might be only too willing to write him off as an unfavourite. That’s hard to do when one single book has the most vivid ADHD about its subject matter, there’s so much going on that this is a book it can’t hurt to try.

[Pop-punk showdown!] NOFX by soufex

Probably not the best way to start off an article about how great a band is, but… NOFX aren’t really that great. They’ve been around for 25 years, although I’m not really sure why. Their live shows are hit-and-miss. Half their records kind of suck. They recently “totally sold out” or whatever and made a TV show. To quote the band, they’re kind of at 60 or so percent.

So, yeah. They’ve been around since 1983, but most people don’t give a shit about anything pre-White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean, and only give a shit about White Trash because of Bob. Occasionally Stickin In My Eye, but it’s mostly Bob. Everyone sort of likes Linoleum. I could probably go on about how people sort of maybe like NOFX the way NOFX are sort of maybe a good band, but I really wouldn’t be doing this article much justice if I did.

I love NOFX!

No, seriously, I do. I’ve been into them since I was fifteen years old, and I vaguely remember them earlier than that, but I lived in my own little personal void of weirdness for most of my early teens so I couldn’t be expected to know these things then. The first album I bought was So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes, from a record store in Amsterdam called Boudisque, back when I thought emo was an old 90s thing involving Sunny Day Real Estate and Fugazi, punk rock was ALL and No Use For A Name and I was hella into desert/stoner grunge rock. (I also bought Bad Religion’s The Empire Strikes First. Both of which are still two of my more favourite albums.) Shoes wasn’t my turning point for getting into punk rock properly, but it certainly geared on the process. That summer I saw them play Reading from fairly far back, but it wasn’t a big deal. They were still just one of those bands I liked.

In fact, it actually took a good few years for me to really realise how awesome they were. I had a handful of albums that I would listen to semi-regularly, I think I’d bought The Decline EP because it was cheap and never really paid attention to it… and then when I was pushing 18 I suddenly realised they were kind of cool. I read up, educated myself on these hapless old dudes, wow it’s so cool, Mike’s the dude behind Fat Wreck Chords and they’re an awesome record label! They weren’t really one of absolute favouritest bands until I started art school, listening to The Decline to pass the time on a train trip, and I got hooked like crack from there. That year, Naja was staying with me, and NOFX were playing shows in the UK, so we went and saw them a bunch of times, got to know the guys- band and crew- as people, made friends with some incredibly cool people that I still talk to regularly today, and Naja proposed to me onstage. (Which I actually sometimes forget and then I remember and go fuck, that’s awesome.)

NOFX aren’t so much a band but a part of my life, to be honest. It’s kind of weird. Where some couples go hiking or collect stamps, Naja and I go to NOFX shows. They’re a highly integral part of the last few years, have set off all kinds of big life decisions and events. And Heavy Petting Zoo is a really good album, seriously. I wouldn’t start there but it’s definitely worth a listen. I think the main problem with NOFX’s albums is they tend to be full of filler, but there are always a handful of really, really stellar songs, stuff that makes me warm and fuzzy when I hear it live or on record.

I’ve really forgotten where I was going with this…. uh.

NOFX are awesome. A bit shit, but awesome. And they’re really nice guys in person. (Which I have to tell people a lot because they don’t believe me.)

Yeah, NOFX are awesome.

[Pop-punk showdown!] Millencolin by Ripper

I just don’t know what it is with Swedish music and me, but we seem to have this love affair with each other that never ever gets boring. For my entry into the pop-punk showdown series, I’ve decided to look at Millencolin, Sweden’s number one export. Well, after Abba, Dennis Lyxzen and Little Gamers, that is.

So, where do we start with Millencolin? Millencolin are a pop-punk band from Sweden on Burning Heart Records. They formed in 1992 and are still going strong today, with a total of eight studio albums to their name. And other than that, Millencolin are fairly hard to describe. They’re more punk than pop, but have more energy than the Duracell bunny on coke. Their lyrics leave a lot to be desired, but at the same time, who else can write a song where their new car sounds more like their new girlfriend? While Millencolin don’t really break any boundaries, they write songs which are fun, upbeat and give you a musical punch in the face – and that’s how pop-punk is done best.

While they may not be great innovators within the scene, Millencolin are fairly well rounded for a pop-punk band. There’s all your pop-punk staples in there – love, hate, anger, joy, rejection – all wrapped up in a deliciously riffy package. However, as Millencolin get older, their albums get a little more ballsy, a little more profound and a lot more awesome. Whilst it’s not my favourite album (but isn’t far off), Home From Home is a great example for this, picking up where Pennybridge Pioneers left off but with a lot more swagger and some incredible riffs. As a (vague) guitarist myself, I love being able to pick up a guitar and breaking out into Punk Rock Rebel. It just gives me this incredibly badass feeling, and if a pop-punk song isn’t doing that, it’s not any good.

While Millencolin albums on their own are pretty darn spectacular, it’s just not the same as seeing them live. Millencolin are absolutely fantastic live – energetic, hilarious and (pop)punk as fuck. See for yourself – this is some footage from a show they played in Stockholm. If you get the opportunity, I urge you to go to a Millencolin show, because the only place you would have more fun would be in a room filled with trampolines, free balloons and ice cream.

You might not know it, but you’ve probably heard a Millencolin song before. If you’ve ever played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, you’ve heard Millencolin, in the form of No Cigar, potentially one of their best songs and the one that brought them to fame in the punk scene. Millencolin, as any good pop-punk band should, have their origin in skateboarding – even their name is a variation of the skateboarding trick ‘melancholy’. They have their own skate shoes, a skate video (sort of – Millencolin and the Hi-8 Adventures is a behind the tour video with lots of skating in it) and their own skate competition. The Millencolin Open is a three day skate fest, held once a year at their own skate park, attracting sponsors and skaters from all over the world. In the words of our very own fightclubsandwich, “that is fucking sweeeeet!”

The truth is, I’ve essentially grown up with Millencolin, and I think this is why I love them as much as I do. My first foray into the world of pop-punk began with the Tony Hawk’s games, and Millencolin with that. Pennybridge Pioneers was one of the first albums I listened to that wasn’t in the top 40. Millencolin were one of the first bands I saw live, when they supported Good Charlotte in 2005. There’s all kinds of little things that I love about them, such as the fact that they did a split EP with Midtown, another of my favourite pop-punk bands. Millencolin are still going, and every new album they bring out is as good as the last, if not better. Millencolin are here to stay, so you might as well love them.

Recommended material:

Official website
Video for Kemp (trust me, this is awesome)