This year, I got to even more gigs than ever before, 183 in total. I managed three full festivals, The Great Escape, Primavera and Rockaway Beach. But unfortunately, no SXSW. (But I will be going in 2016).
My most watched band of the year was Public Service Broadcasting, but as usual British Sea Power featured heavily along with a new band, Black Honey.
January was busier than in previous years featuring a number of new bands such as the fun Hinds, Tamun Shud, Jagarra and Saint Agnes. The highlight of the month was the postponed British Sea Power ‘Sea Of Brass’ concert at the Barbican.
February featured some excellent sets by Thurston Moore, Honeyblood, Peace and Public Service Broadcasting. I also caught new bands such as Dolomite Minor, Ex Hex and Songhoy Blues. The highlight was a visit to Leicester’s National Space Centre for Public Service Broadcasting’s album launch gig.
March proved to be a very busy month. Lots of new bands, some excellent, such as Courtney Barnett, Kid Wave, The Lovely Eggs, and a rather amazing group of Spanish teenagers, Mourn. It was also a chance to catch Bo Ningen being their usual expressive selves. The Staves also were sublime. February also featured two of the worst band of the year, Madonnatron and Giant Swan.
April featured some excellent sets from Wolf Alice, Saint Agnes, PROM, Nadine Shah, Saint Saviour and Jagarra, Laura Marling, PINS, Drenge. I also reappraised Bloody Knees who seem to have improved since I last saw them. Highlight was the Lock Tavern’s Easter freebie gigs with a whole host of excellent bands.
May looks quiet on paper. Only 12 gigs. In reality, I hardly had a free evening as two of those ‘gigs’ were The Great Escape festival and my first visit to Primavera Sound. As you can imagine, this meant I saw lots of bands, too many to run through. New band highlights were Black Honey and Torres.
As if it was possible, June was even busier than May, with 25 gigs during the month. From a gig in a Catalonia cathedral, to favourites such as British Sea Power, it was a varied month. Highlights were Blur, Coathangers, Torres, Savages, Sea of Bees, Wolf Alice. But the best gig of the month was British Sea Power at the Roundhouse celebrating the 12th anniversary and re-release of the ‘Decline of British Sea Power’.
July and August are ‘Classical’ months as the BBC Proms start. It’s also the time when bands seem to disappear off to festivals so there’s less happening around London. So both months were pretty quiet. July’s highlight was the Savages and Dead Forest Index’s Barbican ‘sound space’ and in August, Girl Band, a band who’s impressed me throughout 2015.
September was back to normal with some excellent sets by Torres, Drinks, Bo Ningen, Kid Wave, Kingsley Chapman and the Murder, Baba Naga, and Sexwitch. There was also a new mini (free) festival near Kings Cross from the Green Man Festival featuring some excellent bands. Hopefully, it will happen again next year. Highlight of September was Torres. Her Scala gig one of my highlights of the year.
In October I made my first ever visit to Butlins. They’d put together their own new indie festival , Rockaway Beach. It was pretty good. The line-up featuring lots of bands I didn’t know and some were excellent, such as the Band of Holy Joy, Membranes, John Knox Sex Club, Ghostpoet, Telescopes. Definitely something I’ll consider going to again.
November I managed to catch the Eagles of Death Metal. With the attacks in Paris a week after the London gig, it left many of us regular gig goers in reflective mood. They’re such a fun band that it somehow makes it worse. That they of all bands, were attacked. If you want any doubt of what kind of world ISIS wants to create, go to an EODM gig. The fun and joy they want to create, is the antithesis of what ISIS stands for and I for one know which world I want to live in. Other highlights were FEWS, Bully, Kingsley Chapman and Josh T Pearson.
December closed off the year in pretty good style with Christmas gigs from Josh T Pearson and British Sea Power and an excellent set from Queen Kwong. But there was also a surprise in the form of the Savages playing a relatively small venue in advance of the January launch of their new album. They are just such an impressive live band.
Best gig: Torres at Scala
I was really tempted to give the gig of the year to British Sea Power’s Roundhouse gig. It was an amazing gig for fans. But this year Torres has impressed me more than anyone else. Her album is sublime and her Scala gig with her full band was just amazing. She’s such an expressive singer so her album’s emotional numbers seemed to take an extra dimension when played live. At times you feel like putting an arm round her to comfort her, other times, almost scared that she’s about to go ‘psycho’!
Band of the year: Torres
I’ve seen her play on her own on a big stage at Primavera and also with her band at Scala and she’s equally impressive.
Best new band: Black Honey
Technically, 2015 was the first time I saw Torres. But I loved her first album and missed her 2014 tour. But as she’s won best band, I’m choosing a second band, Black Honey, as my new band of the year. I’d not heard much from them before I saw them at the Great Escape. I’ve since seem them four other tines. I think that says it all. They’re such a good live band and I’m looking forward to seeing them record and album in 2016. Definitely worth catching them live.
Best venue: Moth Club
A very late entry. I’ve only been twice and on consecutive nights at the end of November. The Moth Club is an old Services Club in Hackney and they’ve turned the function room into a gig venue. It’s a bit odd but that’s part of what I liked about it. They’ve created a great little venue. Yes it’s tacky with sparkly roof and lots of Service memorabilia on the walls. But I really liked it.
Best Festival: The Great Escape
Primavera was enjoyable but too big for me. I’d do it again because Barcelona is a lovely place to visit. Rockaway Beach was surprisingly good and I’m definitely going to consider going again. It was far better than I expected but it has some operation issues to sort out. It wasn’t too busy (which is a good thing in many ways) but this meant that outside of festival hours the place was dead and much of the Butlins site shut. With Bognor being pretty much dead in October, there’s little to do. So this doesn’t compare well to Brighton’s The Great Escape, where there’s more than enough to do if there’s a lull in the festival line-up. So for this reason, The Great Escape wins.
Worst Venue: Lock Tavern
Oddly, they put on a decent weekend at Easter. But it’s just too crowded. The venue is actually a through-room to the roof garden. So it’s really not a conducive space for a gig as there’s always people pushing by.
Best gig photo: Black Honey at the Garage
I’ve already written about my favourite photos of the year. My favourite photo of the year was this photo of Black Honey taken with my pocket camera.
Album of the Year: Sprinter from Torres
‘Sprinter’ by Torres narrowly edged out ‘Holding Hands with Jamie’ by Girl Band.