Mystery Jets, Electric Circus Edinburgh, 1st April 2012

Ugh, it’s been too long.

So in an increasingly old-fashioned kind of way, Mystery Jets have a newsletter. Ok, it’s an email one, rather than the old style printed sheets you used to get when you joined a band’s fan club. But still. They put one out a few months ago with news about their fourth album and a pre-album tour.  It was described as an intimate series of gigs, getting them back face-to-face with their fans.  Tickets were released to subscribers first, then any remaining ones would go on general release. The only Scottish date was Edinburgh (I’m hoping they save Glasgow for the full post-album tour) but I couldn’t resist and had to snap up a couple of tickets. I even persuaded T to come with me and we decided to make a mini-break of it (small person went to her grandparents for a holiday) . Going to Edinburgh is almost like going on holiday anyway, and with a gig thrown in too it would be all the better.

We arrived to find Edinburgh was basking in the same sunshine that most of the country had enjoyed for the previous week. We checked in to our hotel (the cheap but functional Travelodge) and took a walk up Calton Hill then through Princes Street Gardens. A quick freshen up at the hotel, dinner at the Mussel Inn (yum!) then we headed over to the gig venue.

I’ve never been to a gig in Edinburgh before, and had never even heard of the Electric Circus. However we found it no problem.  It was indeed a small intimate venue, pretty much just a bar with a tiny stage and small dance floor type area.  I didn’t know who the support was, and although I was keen to get down the front I didn’t want to be standing right in their faces if they were crap. Also, after walking around Edinburgh all afternoon I was glad of a seat.  We settled near the bar with a wee drink and kept an eye on movements in front of the stage.

The support were The Peace. Or maybe just Peace. Not sure. Here’s their website anyway. They were ok. T really liked them, I think I’ll need a few more listens, but I’d definitely give them further consideration.  A bit melancholic, but melodic and with some nice hooks.

After them I decided the time had come to make a push for the front. Thankfully I didn’t have to actually push anyone, most people drifted away back to the bar so I was able to take up a position at the side of the stage.  The stage was so tiny that the guitar rack and various bits of kit were set up between the stage and the bar.  There was a flimsy rope cordoning it off, and the crew and bar staff used that way as a thoroughfare, so we just moved right up in front of the rope and let them all go behind us.  I could almost reach out and touch the rack of guitars. I was REALLY tempted, but there were a couple of roadies hovering by and the last thing I wanted was to be chucked out at that point.  If it had been Keith Murray’s telecaster I totally would have. That would have been worth it, but then that Telecaster is legendary.  There was also a Tele in the rack, and I tried to remember whose it was.  I thought William was more of a Gibson guy? Anyway that amused me for some of the lengthy wait.

One of the roadies also taped a setlist to the kit. I tried to sneak a peek. Then decided I didn’t want to know. Then decided I did. I swithered for a while, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me.  Ooh we were in for a treat!  The anticipation started to build.

Finally they came on stage. Well, Blaine, William and Kapil came on with 2 guys I didn’t know. Then I remembered Kai had done some solo stuff and maybe had a baby? Not sure if I remembered that right, but maybe that explained his absence. The other guy was there to play the lap steel among other things. Nice.  Blaine was even wearing an authentically country-style shirt a la Rich Hall.  As usual William and Kapil were wearing terrible patterned shirts. The other guys looked normal, which actually made them look abnormal on stage.

They opened with the new song, “Someone Purer”. I had only listened to it once or twice before, but it is instantly captivating.  I have still only heard it maybe 3 times but often find it swirling around my head. It is beautiful and the thing that struck me most about it is how well it suits Blaine’s voice.  Blaine has really matured, he looks older, and actually looks like he has grown into himself and is more comfortable in his skin now. He looked good and sounded great. His voice has also matured and although it still has an edge of frailty and softness, it now has a depth that comes from age and experience. I had to remind myself he’s only about 25.

They played a few songs from the forthcoming album, I’m afraid I can’t remember the names.  I was going to take a picture of the setlist, but it was too dark and I was still slightly scared of the roadies. However 1 roadie in particular seemed to also be a very enthusiastic fan.  He was jumping about, singing along, playing air guitar, air drums and waving his hands in the air.  I think he would have quite liked to have been down at the front of the stage.  He was enjoying himself so much that at one point he forgot to do a guitar change for William. Either William was used to it, or he was embracing the whole back-to-basics ethos, but he just climbed down and got the guitar himself. Again, I resisted the urge to reach out…

Also at the business side of the stage was William’s current girlfriend.  She sings on one of the songs, and spent the rest of the show alongside Enthusiastic Roadie cheering and clapping. William spent most of the show glancing over at her and grinning at her. It was both sweet and somewhat sickening. I wondered how my life and hers differed that she got to be 19 and a successful singer in her own right, and not only on stage with a moderately-famous indie band, but also dating one of them.  When I was 19 I was a mess.  But I digress…

One of the new songs (Greatest Hits?) is a proper Americana country hoe-down, full on lap steel guitar etc etc.  I really liked it, the kids in the crowd were singing and jumping along, for a first outing the song got a great reception.  Girlfriend remarked to Enthusiastic Roadie that they should definitely release it as a single.  Enthusiastic Roadie declared that it would never happen. I’m afraid I think he might be right, while it is a stomper of a tune it is probably too “out there” for mainstream radio etc. But it was awesome live, I hope they keep it in the set regardless.  The duet with Girlfriend was a nice ballad.

As well as some of the new songs they played plenty old favourites.  Two Doors Down, Young Love, Elizabeth etc were obvious crowd pleasers, but I was glad to see both Melt and Flakes played, the latter was the overall show closer.  But I was even more excited to hear “Bunhouse” as the main set closer, pre-encore.  It is one of my favourite Jets songs, and I had never heard it live before.  It was one of those songs that I had just kind of assumed they didn’t play live.  But it was luscious.  Blaines’s quiet quivering lyrics on the verses, contrasted with huge guitar and drums crescendos on the “chorus” parts.  Referring to Mystery Jets songs as “verse” and “chorus” doesn’t usually work, but if you know the song you’ll know what I mean.  They had re-worked the arrangement of it and it was a glorious tour-de-force of a song. I had one of those moments where I fell even more in love with the band that before.  And whilst Kapil was out of my line of sight for most of the show, he was literally jumping on his drums during Bunhouse creating quite a spectacle.

Once again I was highly entertained and somewhat terrified by William’s guitar technique. I’ve mentioned it here before, but it has to be said again – that man is insane! He never uses a pick, just batters away at the stings with his bare fingers.  He strums, picks, flicks, swipes, bends you name it he does it to those strings. He produces a beautiful sound, but by god he works hard at it. His hand was literally a blur at one point. I was fascinated and not a little scared. I half expected to be covered in blood by the end of it.  Those fingers must be calloused to buggery.

Above all I was pleased that the band were back on form.  I’m still not sure what happened last time I saw them, but something wasn’t right.  All my fears were certainly swept aside as soon as they started playing, there was a real buzz and chemistry between them, even with the two new guys.  The set lasted about an hour, I’m sure we all could have stood more, but the venue had a 10pm curfew so it had to end. Happily it ended on the mass arms-in-the-air sing-a-long extravaganza that is Flakes. I joined in, along with Girlfriend and Enthusiastic Roadie, and left with a grin on my face that lasted quite some time.  I can’t wait to hear the full new album and here’s hoping I’ll see them again for a “proper” tour soon.

We Are Scientists Brighton 17Jun11

Ok so this is part 2 of my mini UK WAStravaganza.  Same warning as before – see previous post.

So the morning after the night before I once again tried to have a long lie, god knows I needed it this time but once again my body assumed there would be a toddler somewhere nearby wanting attention at 7am so I was denied any extra sleep.  However happily there were no toddlers in the vicinity needing attention so I was able to take it easy, have breakfast and lots of cups of tea and relax for a while.

I ventured out at lunchtime to have lunch with Kavita, who was quickly kicking herself for having left immediately after the gig and missing out on all the adventures with the gang.  But we had a lovely lunch at Pizza Express (WAS fans laugh at in-joke here) and managed to do some actual catching up.  Kavita had to scoot on to some high powered meeting somewhere in Victoria, so I wandered around St James’ Park then Covent Garden on my own for a while before meeting up with Adrian, Polly and Eddie from the WAS posse.

We tried to interest Adrian in some of London’s most famous sites – Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace etc etc but between the tiredness, hangover and post-gig / post-most-awesome-night-of-her-life feeling she wasn’t much in the mood.  I had to leave to meet up with my host No.2 but we made plans to meet again the next day for our Brighton trip.

I spent a very pleasant and relaxing evening with my good friend down Crystal Palace way before trying to get myself some much-needed sleep.

The next day it was a mere hop and a skip on 2 trains to get to one of the Croydon stations (East? West? I’ve forgotten) to meet up with Adrian and Polly to get the train to Brighton.

I had a mild heart attack on the train when I realised that I had left my gig ticket back at Rebecca’s house.  I swore profusely for a while, and was dreading the throught of having to go all the way back to get it, when Polly said she had a spare ticket because she had managed to get a photo pass to shoot the show.  I was extremely relieved and grateful to Polly for being fab.

One of the reasons I had wanted to go to Brighton was because I thought going to Brighton in June would be like a mini summer holiday. Brighton in June, I imagined, would be almost Mediterranean.  It was not.  It was more like Scotland in November.  It was freezing cold, pouring with rain and what felt like gale-force winds.  Lovely.

We arrived and wandered round the Lanes for a while, but soon had to head indoors because we were slowly drowning.  Polly took us to a milkshake bar and consumed the most sugar ever to be put into one cup, while I had to have a hot chocolate to warm up.  However eventually we had to venture out again so we wandered down to the seafront, then went to meet up with one of Adrian’s friends.

The Pier

We had a quick stroll on the Pier (mainly to find some toilets) then headed off in search of the venue.  I can not stress how miseable the conditions were.  We were soaked to the skin, frozen and most of us were tired from the previos few days / week.  But we soldiered on, the anticipation of the evening’s entertainment lifting our spirits.

Adrian using her "Lesbian Orgy" t-shirt as a makeshift hood

We walked along the beach towards the venue, which seemed to be miles away, but I’m sure on a sunny day would have been but a pleasant stroll.  When we arrived Adrian called the band’s tour manager because she was due to interview them.  I did get rather excited that she might be calling Chris himself, so very enthusiastically leant her my phone, but she gently let me down and explained that wasn’t how it worked.  The tour manager told her to come back after the band had finished their soundcheck so we had a few more hours to kill.

Polly lead us on towards the marina where we found somewhere to get food and shelter from the elements.


(Sorry time for another WAS in-joke. Look – Adrian IS “nachos” cos of the interview, but she’s also EATING nachos. Geddit?)

Our quest to get warm and dry was somewhat hampered by our decision to sit at a table right near the door people went out to have a smoke.  Every so often we’d get an icy-cold wet blast and shriek like schoolgirls, much to the amusement of the bar’s patrons.

So finally we had to head off, back to the venue (via Asda to buy some cheap sweaters).  Adrian phoned the tour manager again but we could hear the guys were still on soundcheck.  I heard a blast of Foreign Kicks (which I have grown to know and love, but knew that meant we were unlikely to get Textbook) and I heard Chris playing some funky bass.  I didn’t recognise it, so either he was working on some new stuff or just playing around.  It sounded so good, I wish there were more prominent basslines for him to get his teeth in to.

So after a little while Chris himself came out to get Adrian, which was brave of him given that there were already fans waiting in line.  I had been begging Adrian to let me come and do the interview with her, initially because I just wanted to, on the day it was because I was desperate to get out of the rain.  There was no persuading her, but really I knew this was an extremely big deal for her so didn’t want to muscle in.  She and Polly (official photographer) went inside and suddenly I got very nervous for Adrian.  I really wanted the interview to go well and for WAS to be on form.  She was gone for ages, we continued to take shelter underneath the entrance, meanwhile the official queue formed a bit behind us.  Eventually security guards arrived and after some initial confusion we were allowed in.

On entering the place we saw Adrian and Polly sitting at a table in the bar having a cosy drink with Chris and Andy.  I assumed the interview was over and went over to Adrian, saying hello and telling her we’d save a spot on the barrier for her.  We ran to the barrier, got a prime “Keith” spot as requested.  Then Han and I both realised we needed to go to the bathroom, but we were too scared to leave in case people poached our spot.  There followed a very uncomfortable period while we waited for Adrian to arrive, but finally she did.  By that time Ben Burrows had started his set so I couldn’t ask Adrian how it went, but she looked chuffed so all seemed to be well.

Ben Burrows was better this time around, he seemed to focus on his performance more and fiddle with his computer less.  I would still have preferred him to do without the computer at all, and it must be said that the lyrics to his songs were weak at best and cringeworthy at worst, but he’s clearly a talented musician, so I’m sure once he works on his actual songwriting he’ll be really good.

Ben Burrows

Tall Ships were up next again, and once again they gave a really good performance, the songs were catchy enough that I could almost join in this time at parts and there may have been even more instrument swapping this time.  As we were right up at the front I got a far better view of them, and was really impressed with their drummer.  He was excellent and very interesting to watch.  I’m sure this band will go far, and I’m definitely up for seeing more of them if they tour again.

Tall Ships

Then is was WAS time.  The venue had really filled up, it quite a bit smaller than anywhere I’ve seen We Are Scientists play before, but I liked that it was smaller and more “intimate”.  I think WAS do better on smaller stages because there’s only 2 of them up front and so much of their performance relies on the interplay between Keith and Chris that I think the closer they are the better.

I was so glad to be at the front, with an uninterrupted view of the whole stage.  the stage was quite high, which meant either neck-cramp or crotch-watching, but I was willing to put up with that.

They played pretty much the same set as London, maybe without Ambition, but I can’t remember any other changes.  Dinosaurs was, if anything, even more amazing that before, or maybe it was just that I could fully appreciate it not being crushed half to death.

Another bonus of being up front is that I find it fascinating to watch Keith (in this instance) play his guitar.  I love that guitar.  I could watch him all day as he effortlessly moves up and down picking out those familiar melodies and straying off into improvised riffs.  He is a REALLY GOOD guitar player.  I can understand why he doesn’t want to put 3 minute solos into his songs, but I wish he would show off his skills a bit more often.  Or maybe it’s cool that he saves it for the live shows, then we get a  treat.

Keith Murray and his beautiful Telecaster

A couple of times Andy seemed to be out of sorts on the drums, missing entries and getting out of time a bit.  I’d never seen him drum with WAS before London, where I didn’t notice any issues, and I presume he is normally on the ball so I don’t know what was happening but something wasn’t quite right.

Also Keith seemed a little off too, he appeared to be in a rush to get on to the next song every time and didn’t initiate much of the between-songs banter.  I thought I heard Chris say that they were being pressured by the venue staff to finish by a certain time, so maybe it was just that.

But on the whole they gave a good performance, we certainly had fun jumping around and dancing along to all the songs.  This time I didn’t care what the rest of the crowd’s reaction to the Barbara songs was, I sang my heart out to Pittsburgh (again, yay!) danced to Break It Up and Central AC regardless.

Adrian almost died when she noticed that Chris came out for the encore wearing her “lesbian orgy” t-shirt.  He had asked if he could have it in London, and she had given it to him during their interview.  I tried and failed to get a decent picture but this is it, believe me.

Chris wearing his new "I'm here 4 the lesbian orgy" t-shirt

So afterwards we headed out back to the bar to look at the merch stand.  By this time we had met up with Sophie again, she had also been on photo duty during the show.  The guys from Tall Ships (we didn’t know their names, so christened them Tall Ships Nos 1, 2 and 3) were hanging around the merch stall signing their EPs etc.  We went over and told them how much we had enjoyed their set.  We had found out they were local to the area, so asked them if they could recommend a good place to hang out until the first train the next morning. (We hadn’t booked a room, wanting to save money, so were aiming for the 3.45am train). Tall Ship No.1, who we later discovered is called Ric, said they were having a party at their place which we would be welcome to join.  He gave Polly his number and told us to call them later.

We went outside, and waited at the back door in the hope that WAS would come out.  Unfortunately there was a whole squad of kids there too, some of whom sneaked into the back of the venue but promptly got kicked out by security.  We waited round the corner, and Ben Burrows came out to say hello.  I feel bad for not being entirely complimentary about his music, because he is a lovely guy, I even got a high five and a hug for being the “right” age, he was quite shocked that most of the folk waiting were about 17.  He then proceeded to tell me I sounded like Edith Bowman and that I should take over her voice-over work.

Unfortunately Keith, Chris & Andy snuck away before we could speak to them, which was quite disappointing, but they had to be at a festival in Wales the next day so they must have had to get going to that.

Tall Ship No.3 and some others then decided to go on off to a late bar, so we all followed them.  Thankfully it had stopped raining by this time.  We got to the bar and hung out there for a while, but it was very tempting to slump into the comfy chairs and have a sleep.

Tall Ship No.3 came over and spoke to me at one point, but I suddenly realised that one of our party still hadn’t arrived so I’m afraid I gave him the brush-off to try to find out if he was ok.  Tall Ship No.1 seemed to fall asleep in the corner, then got escorted away by someone else, so the chances of there being a party at his house seemed slim.

At chucking out time everyone seemed to disperse, and not wanting to be creepers we just left in search of an all-night cafe.  We didn’t find one but we found a Subway, so camped there for a while until it was time to get to the station.

A long wait at closed station gates and we finally got on the train back to London.  There were delays on the line, but that just gave us more time to sleep.

Sleep at last

So another day another We Are Scientists adventure.

As I mentioned before I didn’t take too many photos of the actual gig, and anyway my camera can’t cope with the dark, so those ones above are from my phone.  I’ll refer you to the professional for better shots:

On learning the guitar

(Originally published on my MySpace blog on 29th September 2008)
So a few months ago my neighbour was throwing out an old guitar and rather than see it go in the bin I salvaged it and took it in. I’d played a wee bit in school but got so bored of endless slow, painful whole-class renditions of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” that I quickly gave up and took up the drums instead. Then while I was in Sweden a 10-year old boy taught me a few chords in return for some drum lessons but that never really got off the ground. So with my bin-find I thought I’d have another go, and I’ve really enjoyed playing about with it. I got a chord book and racked my brain for stuff that I learned before and I really started to get into it. Unfortunately it turned out that my bin-find was a piece of old junk after all, it was a classical guitar that had been strung badly with steel strings and was all out of sorts. I decided that I wanted to pursue learning, so I bought myself a decent second hand guitar and have been having so much fun learning and playing.
As well as drums I’d played trumpet and keyboards before. I was told that I could never get a good clean sound out of the trumpet because I had the wrong embouchure, so that didn’t last. I still have a keyboard and play about from time to time but it’s all too, well, electronic. Even with pressure sensitive keys etc the sound is still generated by a chip and you only prod it with your fingers, and press buttons to get different sounds. Perhaps playing the piano would be different, but my parents were never middle-class enough to send us for piano lessons, and we certainly would never have had one in the house. The guitar is much more part of you when you play it, you almost hug it into yourself, rather than keeping it at arms length. I really like how you can have much more of an effect on the sound by the way you play, just by subtle changes in position, pressure or movement. Although let me be clear, it’s early days for me yet and there’s not much subtlety about my playing! I can understand now why guitarists give their instruments names. I’ve yet to name mine, usually you hear of men giving their’s female names, so I guess I should give mine a male name, but I’ve not come up with one yet.
The only downside is being exposed to guitar culture. Somehow people expect you to want to learn to play Hendrix or Van Halen or some other virtuoso that I’ve ever even heard of, never mind listened to, never mind want to emulate. I must say that the guys in the wee guitar shop that I go to have been very helpful and not at all patronising or sexist or anything, but I am quite nervous when trying out guitars in the store, because they just pick them up and rip right into some amazing solo and I pick my way falteringly through a wee 2-bar riff that took me days to learn. I’ve mostly been playing stuff from bands that I’m listening to – We Are Scientists, Editors, KT Tunstall. Franz Ferdinand etc. I’m not in this to show off or perform for anyone, just for my own enjoyment. Thing is, now I’m getting interested in electric guitar too. Seems like a lot of girls who play get into playing bass. Not that I’m not interested in that, but I’m more interested in rhythm or lead guitar stuff. I saw a really nice telecaster-style guitar in the shop window today and am sorely tempted to buy it… 

New acoustic
New acoustic




New electic
New electic