The War On Drugs Live in Cologne

Some of us do not like to attend festivals (with the exception of small, cosy festivals in nice surroundings and good food and an interested audience such as La Truite Magique in Belgium). Reasons are manyfold: Too expensive, too big, too filthy, too much of everything really. Plus, the gig you would really like to see on a particular festival will draw a certain amount of very tired, very drunk and very not bothered with that particular music at all people.

So it comes as no surprise as I find myself at the entrance of the Live Music Hall in Cologne to see and hear The War On Drugs via one of three mainland Europe gigs outside a festival, that this event has actually drawn people from all over Europe.

As yet it is a cosy atmosphere in a sunny yard outside the hall before the concert with the drinks and food stands offering their wares at reasonable prices, sitting comfortably and people watching. Dave Hartley (bass) and Charlie Hall (drums) can wander about in peace and Jon Natchez (sax, trumpet, keys) is off on his folding bike to explore Cologne. (He writes an entertaining blog about the tour or more likely on his excursions that could well serve as an off the beaten track travel guide for the future).

Adam Granduciel, boss of The War On Drugs (or is he The War On Drugs and the rest, even Dave Hartley are still just the touring band – sometimes it sounds like that and sometimes it does not, so forgive me if I mix up “he” and “they” a bit here), is nowhere to be seen. True, they all look a bit shattered after their 200+ gigs tour and the last three nights having been performances on festivals after a long flight. In fact though, Adam has withdrawn from the press a lot in the past year and in the first interview after almost a year in The Skinny Mag, some reasons are discussed. Allow me to digress a little:

Is Adam Granduciel sick of always being asked the same questions? Last year he said to me that, no way, he really enjoys interviews. But let’s face it: Their epic tour is based on the album “Lost In The Dream”, no new material as yet. “Lost In The Dream” is usually summed up in one sentence in the media: Born out of paranoia and depression. Unless you are a total TWOD nerd and in turn meet their nerdy interests, you will come up with that particular subject. Which of course is a bit unfair as the album is in the past and we rather should look at how the songs sound now after a year, live on stage. In my own humble opinion, we are not talking factors that triggered depression and paranoia but an always underlying mental state that was woken up by certain triggers. And the album might have happened because of that. But at the same time, it happened despite Adam’s state or totally independent of it. D’you know what I mean? Or as Adam Granduciel likes to say: It is what it is.

Despite the appearance of withdrawing from public and/or press and not communicating much on stage, he can be a really chatty guy and this happens when there are no typical press questions but normal conversation about his hobbies and well, music.

Or another reason: The Mark Kozelek attack (google it or don’t, it just gives the man undeserved attention) might have caused him to keep away from social media. I am only saying this much: I found Adam Granduciel’s reaction to MK’s rant about him, the band, the music, the fans, very sweet and endearing as it was open and naive. He basically wanted to find out what was going on, to say it was not their fault and that he was upset, because he really likes your man’s music. And I felt exactly the same and would have reacted the same way. Of course it was oil in the fire and Adam kept shtumm. Only once he flipped publicly and that particular medium published it. And off we went again. Meanwhile, TWOD might have found out that they are not the only victims of MK and by now not the worst off. The whole incident sadly distracted from the main thing, music, it gave the troll publicity and then it made Adam Granduciel withdraw. Sad.

Or he might not want to be asked about his much-publicised leaving indie Secretly Canadian and signing a contract with huge Atlantic Records. I do hope, Atlantic Records will give him the same time and freedom as SC did and that fans won’t see it as a decrease in the quality of their music per se, just because The War On Drugs are not independent anymore. I was really bugged by this question and asked their old label, but calm down, people, all is well. They are sad to see them go but the move was totally amicable.

The War on Drugs © Image taken by Conor Burns

Back to Live Music Hall (old, but nice place by the way, prices okay, sound fine and even the security staff are very friendly). No support act, so the gig was scheduled for eight o’clock. Finally, at eight thirty, here they were. Very very first impression was, thank goodness, the sound is great – you can actually here the voice in the foreground even. The endless layerings of sound don’t resemble a muddy mess but are finely tuned and mixed. Very enjoyable, that.

Oh my, they look tired. Adam Granduciel’s voice took a while to come back to its usual character, first he sounded a bit croaky. Now, there are no gimmicks on stage (if you do not want to call the vintage gear that they still bring with them call that). There are no show stopping antics of the musicians either, other than musical ones. But the by now plentiful audience members that as usual counted astonishingly many older fans, do not expect this either.

What did we get? We got almost two hours of The War On Drugs, a band that enjoys making music together. We got all the fine tunes from Lost In The Dream and some extras from their second album “Slave Ambient” (and my, was I over the moon that they included “Black Water Falls”!) There were four encores and some songs got a totally new twist, being presented barer and slower. I was very happy that finally Adam Granduciel played the Red Eyes intro the way my ears perceived it first and now again. There was only a minimum of banter but nobody missed it being totally engaged with the songs, the sound and the vision of six people immersing themselves totally and happily in their music. Also we had many opportunities to admire that fine Gretsch guitar!

Even if the whole audience would have probably been able to enjoy it even more if the airco in the venue was a tad stronger, this was a gig of a band who has toured a lot, who has grown together and still enjoys going on and creating new stuff and playing with the old material, getting ecstatic over new gear and thoroughly communicating this feeling to the audience without any words. The songs, if almost perfect on their albums, have benefitted greatly from all the above and I bet you could go to another gig of The War On Drugs and have another aspect of the very same song presented to you.

And on they go, certainly to a place near you!

Molly Pinto Madigan – sublime!

The things that Molly Pinto Madigan loves most, I share … such as roses, old ballads, faery stories and beaches, tea-drinking, music-making and novel-writing. Only, at least at the last two she is clearly much much better than me.

I do recommend you to write her fairy tales, however, this blog is about Molly Pinto Madigan’s music. Her voice, her lyrics and her music are outside this world in the truest sense.

Starting out at a very young age, she was lead singer for bluegrass band Jaded Mandolin, has been named “Artist Of The Year” at her university, won first place in the Family Folk Chorale Songwriting Contest, and was awarded a prestigious Passim Iguana Music Fund for her album, “Wildwood Bride.”

She has toured a lot and collaborated with many established artists. But you have to listen to her to truly be captured and understand how well deserved the praise is and how much I am looking forward to the years lying ahead for this young artist.

Her current album Wildwood Bride you can have an overview and “overhear” of in this clip:

Here is a taste of what Molly Pinto Madigan does live:



Find Molly Pinto Madigan in all the usual places online and hopefully in a venue near you!

More music from Glasgow: Yaya Club

Darren Vincent moved from his native High Lands to Glasgow, venue city, media hotpot, centre of creativity in Scotland. There the singer-songwriter, so he says, can often be found baking banana bread (yummy) and stealing the neighbour’s cat – I hope the two are not connected in any way. He performs under the moniker of Yaya Club.

His first release was the EP “Poor Sheesht”, pure American tradition, beautifully rendered. Then followed “Born In The Eighties” featuring a lush band sound. The man takes folk, country, pop and blues and makes it all his own. Does he ever write a huge big profile about himself? Er, nope. But he can blather, preferably on stage. And I imagine a YaYa Club gig to be musically intense, professionally executed with loads and loads of funny natter in between!

If you cannot make it to one of his gigs, either solo, or supporting or playing with others, you can listen to loads of Yaya Club’s tracks on his soundcloud page.

Why am I telling you all this? BECAUSE Darren Vincent is working on new stuff, a new album is coming in a few weeks, during holiday time, so for crying out loud: Don’t miss it,  watch this space!

Here are a few tracks for your delectation:

(Sorry, have to compose myself here, hanging off the chair laughing, listening to “Fluffy Sheep”…I would also like to introduce you to “Geez A Swatch” merely for the title which translates as “Let me have a look”. But now, guys, seriously…)

From the forthcoming album, this is “Wandering Girl”:

And old favourite “Sometimes”



First Tiger – New Music From Glasgow

The music scene in Glasgow/UK is huge compared to the actual number of inhabitants. Is there something in the water? Or is it really due to the fact that the weather is so vile, that there is not much else to do but to play music? It might have been the decade long industrial decay that – as in so many cities in the North of the UK – has spawned football clubs and music. Or the heritage. Or the sheer flow of creativity.

Thankfully, this flow does not seem to end. First up, First Tiger. In their own words because they write so beautifully and funnily. So this is truly THEIR blog post on their origins, their new album, their live gigs and their connection to Glasgow:

“We (Shorts and Stevie) started learning guitar together as teenagers in Glasgow, but it was a while later that we started playing gigs. In between times we studied, travelled, worked and lived in different countries.

When we both ended up back in Glasgow, we decided to take some of the songs public and started playing as an acoustic duo around the city. Lots of small venues and great people around Glasgow made this surprisingly easy.

We’ve worked with several drummers and bass players, but after few different line-ups – which were all great fun – we met Iain (bass) and Paddy (drums) and things started coming together very nicely.

We’ve just finished recording our first album with a highly-respected Glasgow producer, Stuart McCredie, who has worked with some great names in Scottish music (Texas, The Blue Nile, The Fratellis).

His lean, direct production has brought out the strength and originality of our songs, and shows Stevie’s knack for an irresistible hook and Shorts’ distinctive vocal at its best. The record is being mixed at the moment, and will be finished before the end of this year.

We’ve played places where the joint is jumping (to borrow a phrase from the great Fats Waller) and we’ve played to empty rooms. We’ve played well, and we’ve had disastrous gigs where everything went wrong. We once played in a venue where one man and his dog showed up (literally) and listened in silence until about halfway through the set, when, in the middle of a song, he reversed his electric wheelchair slowly out of the room… and the band played on.

We’ve played at house parties, charity events, in a Spiegel tent at a ship festival, and at Christmas celebrations in a Russian café (lots of free vodka). We’ve played gigs where people listen in respectful silence, where people talk and ignore you, and, best of all, gigs where people get up and dance and shout for “one more tune!” at the end. We’ve played in rooms that sound great, with really dedicated sound engineers, and awful rooms where we can’t hear a damn thing, and the sound engineer is out to lunch.

Perhaps like a lot of bands, we find it hard to describe or define our own music, but people who have seen us play have compared us to all kinds of bands and singers – some we’ve never heard of, most we would never have thought of, and occasionally one we’re flattered to be compared to.

We love playing live, and you could easily play a gig every week in Glasgow. But with so much music out there, it can be hard to find your audience. And we also don’t want to exhaust the goodwill of people who come and see us play, so it’s important to choose gigs wisely, and not too often.

There are plenty of places that will have you in to play to crowd who are not necessarily there to hear music, but that’s often where we get the most interesting and honest reactions. Glasgow audiences have a reputation for not tolerating any crap, but also being incredibly warm and generous if they like you. So when a drunk stranger comes up to give you a big handshake and congratulations on the music, it really means something.”

First Tiger‘s music hits you as fresh and innovative with lots of little surprises to discover. A band which surpasses the sum of its parts (which are brilliant). In their own inimitable words, here is a description of the music:

“If there’s a missing link between Fats Waller, Jacques Brel, Radiohead, Prince, the Strokes and the feeling you get from Raymond Chandler novels, by god, we’re determined to find it.”

But they do like the big entertainers, the fact that they entertain for a start and that they exist to entertain their audience not just themselves.

And yet, words cannot capture sound perfectly, not even First Tiger‘s well-written descriptions, so here are some audiobites. Enjoy and keep an eye out for their new album. I chose an upbeat track – not lyrically, mind you, a wistful chilled song (gorgeous guitar!) and an older track that reflects the delicious eccentricity (mixing country, jazz, you name it) of their music.

First Tiger: