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Matt Berry and the Maypoles, The Janice Graham Band and The Dash

The Relentless Garage, London on 26th April 2011
Reviewed by Helen on 27th April 2011

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You probably know Matt Berry best from his appearances on comedy programmes like The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh. This morning, so did I. Not any more, though. Not after tonight.

It's not that I just saw a new side to Matt Berry this evening: not at all. I already thought Matt Berry was awesome. Everyone knows that. Ask the casual passer by what they think of Matt Berry, and the general consensus will be "Oh yes, Matt Berry? He's awesome." Either that or "Stop talking to me. I don't know you." But now, I am confirmed in what I now realise used to be mere suspicions. Matt Berry is far, far more awesome than anyone could ever have known.

Anyway. Like with all good stories, let's start at the beginning.

The Dash

A firm start, with The Dash. It's worth explaining that I stopped doing music reviews over a year ago, because everything just started sounding like bloody Babyshambles and it really did my head in: so it says a heck of a lot for The Dash that by the middle of their opening song I was scrambling for my now-dustry notepad with a sense of vague shock.

I'm not going to bother lying: they do sound a tiny little bit like Babyshambles. They looked like they might sound like Babyshambles too. However, thankfully, there the comparison ends. Instead, I am extremely happy to report that they sound much like The Paddingtons. Remember The Paddingtons? Sure you do. They played about a million gigs in two minutes about five years ago, and for about five minutes before those five minutes they were my favourite band in the country. Well, these guys are like The Paddingtons, except with a handful of Madness and a fistful of unexacting bass that hits you right in the stomach. My co-conspirator on this trip, one Mr. Agnes Guano, accurately described them as "a sort of healthy-looking Ramones", and it's impossible to argue.

I think what surprised me, though, was their ability to put something slightly new into every song - and their even more impressive ability to glide through a slower track without becoming annoyingly "anthemic". At no point did I feel like I should be admiringly waving a lighter, a sensation that is often accompanied by a burning need to sick up a little bit, in my mouth. So yes, a terrific band that I wasn't sure could be matched, but let's press on, shall we? It's still early, after all.

Rating: 8/10
Website: myspace.com/the_dash

The Janice Graham Band

"What kind of name is that for a band?" - good point, Agnes my friend, good point. It's a ludicrous name for a band. But then, so is "Babyshambles". Yeah, I really do bloody hate Babyshambles. Sorry. It's not them, it's me. Well, it's half them.

This name band also had shades of Babyshambles. More worryingly, they also had shades of Arctic Monkeys. According to Mr Guano, "like the Arctic Monkeys met Herb Alpert on a Tuesday."

Fight past it, though. Fight past the instinct to find the nearest door and run until your feet are bleeding and raw and all you can hear is white noise and the sullen beating of your dying heart. Because this band is really, really good. I even feel safe comparing them to, say, Less Than Jake (a heavy Ska Punk influence in there, no doubt about it). Again, a bit of Madness chucked in there, but this band threw their net wider than the last: Agnes' missus quite accurately pointed out that they bashed through a minimum of four different styles per song.

In a sentence? The Janice Graham Band are punchy, snappy, edgy, resonant, energising and everything else a leading-brand breakfast cereal should be. Imagine if the Arctic Monkeys had some kind of ground-breaking personality and skill transplant, meaning that listening to them no longer made one want to claw one's ear canals out with a blunted fork. Difficult, I know. But try and imagine that. An Arctic Monkeys with style, panache and much better taste in music. Yeah. Go see this band.

Oh, and apparently they're from Manchester too, which makes me feel pretty damn smug as I'm moving there next month. Ha! Go me.

But onwards, onwards - and inexorably upwards, my friends.

Rating: 8/10
Website: janicegrahamband.com

Matt Berry and the Maypoles

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Here we are. Here, at last, with Matt Berry. Standing, coincidentally, with Agnes Guano, a man who sounds far more like Matt Berry than even Matt Berry himself does. You might think I've already typed "Matt Berry" too many times. Well, steel yourself.

If you have heard recordings of him and his band (like his new album Witchazel), you might think he was a little bit folky. I know I did. I was very surprised by the support acts, in fact - until I discovered that Matt Berry live is a very, very different deal from Matt Berry recorded. I'm not saying don't check Witchazel out - it's terrific, mostly kind of psychedelic and chilled out - but hell, if you get the chance to see this band live, then don't even pause. Just go.

What struck me most about this band was that they sound like they're already famous. Like, really famous. They sounded like they were playing out their Best Hits album. This is Summer of Love stuff. It's like Matt Berry trapped sunshine and miniature unicorns and distilled happiness in a jar, shook it all up with a liberal handful of funk and then hit you over the head with it while you were unsuspectingly enjoying fresh doughnuts with caramel sauce. Complicated I know, but if you were to somehow manage that, it would be EXACTLY like being at a Matt Berry concert. No, I'm not stoned.

Anyway, for the third time in one evening, one band strolled through many genres. We were blown away by the range of instruments whipped out from god knows where - it was like an instrument safari. Trumpets, keyboards, trombones, clarinets, cowbells, saxophones, more keyboards, a freaking Moog - everything. I can't even begin to describe the guitarists and drummer, who were simply outstanding in every possible way. Every part of every track was different, but somehow it was bound together by one common element: pure, unadulterated Matt Berry-ness. I can't describe it better than that. That amazing gig I just went to - that WAS Matt Berry. It oozed Matt Berry. One page of my notepad just has "Matt Berry is AWESOME" written on it, three times.

So go see Matt Berry. Go see him. Go now. Just go. Look, here's a link to the NME ticket listings website. If there aren't tickets there, just visit the page again tomorrow. And the day after. Every day in fact. Keep a tab open. Maybe refresh it a few times a day. You know it makes sense.

Rating: 9/10
Website: myspace.com/mattberrysmusic

In conclusion? Three excellent bands. Well done, everyone. Top night out. First two bands: you gave me faith in indie again. Matt Berry: well, let's face it, I already thought you were pretty cool. This proves you have rather handy mates as well. Good luck to all of you.

Comments

Gravatar mikey123 says:-

I love The Janice Graham Band. Being from Manchester myself, I've managed to catch them live a good few times, and think they are really special. Exciting, different, skilled, eclectic and interesting. The dog's b*;;*cks!

27th April 2011 @ 14:30:31 GMT

Gravatar Helen Purves says:-

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to checking out the Manchester music scene. Am placing great hope in the possibility of reviving my love of reviewing bands. I have no idea where to start, but finding out where The Janice Graham Band plays seems like a good tactic.

30th April 2011 @ 14:34:42 GMT

Gravatar Sam says:-

I was really upset that I missed Matt Berry's tour as my tutors (the guitarist and drummer) from K College (tonbridge) were playing with him. Some friends of mine went and said the whole thing was outstanding! hopefully I'll catch him next time.

19th May 2011 @ 15:18:58 GMT

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