Someone pointed out that I haven't done a gig review in ages. This is a attempt to address that lack.
I went to see Walter Schreifels and Jonah Matranga play separate shows in the same week in April, both solo shows from people better known for their bands. Here are my thoughts.
Walter Schreifels played at Manchester's Ruby Lounge on 22nd April. You might be familiar with his bands Rival Schools, Quicksand or indeed Gorilla Biscuits - the man is a legend of hardcore and post-hardcore.
It would also appear that he's obsessed with Joy Division and The Buzzcocks, making frequent reference to Peter Hook's current book and dropping in a Buzzcocks medley (indeed he's done a cover of 'Why Can't I Touch It?' on Rival Schools' 'Founds' album). It would seem the audience were a bit less interested in New Order.
It was a strangely civilised affair, more like a cafe gig with tables, chairs and candles on the go. Walter played an electric guitar through some effect pedals (until one of his cables died and he had to sack off the pedals) and worked through his back catalogue - Rival Schools classics like 'Good Things' and 'Used For Glue' in amongst his solo stuff and various random cover versions (he seemed pleased that a Manchester audience requested his cover of 'How Soon Is Now?'), chatting about the songs and attempting to engage the audience in between, and sticking around to chat to people afterwards. It was a good show but probably too large a venue for the size of audience. I'd definitely see him again though.
Jonah Matranga played at The Star and Garter on 23rd April. Essentially he was playing in a bit of pub. This felt like a proper DIY show, no stage, minimal fuss. All the acts were playing acoustic, and I recall Crywank being both brilliantly named and pretty good, and Kelly Kemp being excellent (check her out here: http://catsayerecords.bandcamp.com/track/kelly-kemp-homes-castles).
However everyone was there for Jonah. He is perhaps best known for his old band Far, whose album 'Water and Solutions' is an underrated classic. He opened the show with a Deftones cover, speaking openly and touchingly about his friend Chi Cheng, the late Deftones bassist, then playing his tribute to Chi 'At Night We Live' as well as massive chunks of the aforementioned Far album and various selections from his many projects such at New End Original's 'Lukewarm' and Onelinedrawing's 'Smile'.
Jonah has a different approach to shows than most. In a fairly small room the whole thing felt like a conversation between artist and audience, with him actively encouraging us all to sing along, even clarifying the lyrics for some parts before starting on parts people would otherwise mumble over. He told us stories between songs, including a cringeworthy tale regarding Far's cover of 'Pony' by Ginuwine being played at his daughter's prom, a song which is a long metaphor for sex and features the line "juices dripping down your thigh" - awkward!
People use the phrase 'intimate gig' as euphemism for a tiny, poorly attended show. This felt intimate in a truer sense, like he was playing this show just for you, and you'd all become his friends. It felt like the gigs I used to play when I was 17-18 in pubs, with no managers or rock star bullshit, just people wanting to have a good time, people striking up conversations with strangers (hello incredibly tall man from Hull in the unlikely event you're reading!). It felt like a secret show, or a house party gig. I left feeling inspired.