“He was a steampunk jeweller called Pete, and the spit of a pre-pubescent Andy Warhol…”

September 10th was a big night when two of my favourite places, the music world and the twitterverse, collided. A few miles down the road at London Bridge, the London Twestival, headlined by no less than The Hours, was opening its doors. But I was at a far more important gig, at The Good Ship in Kilburn, the first ever #twittergig (to make sure you don’t miss future ones, keep checking the twittergig hashtag), organised and hosted by, and headlining, To The Moon.

No other band more personifies the eccentric, creative, interactive and, let’s face it, slightly bonkers world of twitter. The two-man alt-electronica combo of mJ and Dennis advertise themselves as “preparing for the worst by evacuating earth and heading To The Moon”. They greet each new follower on twitter with salutes, and regularly report in on their mission status. They make Muse look like Internet amateurs. Which is the reason I was there rather than down the road (er, the fact The Hours were headlining admittedly played its part, after I’d stood through their self-important twaddle when they supported Kasabian’s recent UK tour) at a do that had, from what I could see, about 8 corporate sponsors. Yes, Twestival was for charity, and I hope it was a success, but it’s not very twitter!

It’s not the first time I’d met the musical side of twitter – the previous Thursday about 10 of us had swapped usernames at an InLight concert. But it’s the first time I’d met a band I’d come across there, and what I discovered just reinforced my opinions of the twitterverse. I’d interviewed mJ and Dennis a couple of months ago for my regular blog column, and they were (there WILL be puns) out of this world, on another planet even. So I was delighted to be told, on arrival, having flashed my twitter boarding pass for a pound off, that I could find mJ “up there, trying on his space suit”.

Dennis, against a backdrop of a 1950s rocket console, was opening the evening with a DJ set that was perfectly spacey and trippy, with the occasional whir and roar that sounded like an engine launching. mJ, meanwhile, was on the balcony with his girlfriend, sewing felt and calico and bits of tubing together. It looked like his girlfriend’s mate was on the stage, doing some kind of performance ritual. It transpired she was trying to fit a fluorescent lighting strip to the floor to make the stage look even more like a spaceship.

Dennis’ set merged seamlessly into Rabid Gravy’s. I must confess, I was actually rather nervous about meeting someone who calls himself Rabid Gravy (I just couldn’t get school dinners out of my head!), and whose avatar is a dog with red eyeballs munching on a syringe. More worryingly still, Mr Gravy (no relation to Woodstock’s Wavy, I believe) bore more than a passing resemblance to the dog in question. It was hard to tell which of them had been cooked up in a Photoshop session. Which is probably appropriate for a cybergig.

Once I got over the sample of nails scratching an electronic blackboard, Rabid Gravy’s music blew me away. It was quite clear this was something different. Something very serious (he even, albeit in a DM, used the word prog when I tweeted him the next day). And VERY good. He played two sequences of about 15 minutes each. The first was, on the surface, light, built around an electro-glockenspiel sound that had elements of the music from Heidi, and felt decidedly Alpine throughout (I’m sure at times it was mimicking the sound of human yodelling). The second was an altogether different beast, like a Steve Reich take on an East Berlin Stasi torture brothel. It was dark, distant, full of screams rising from oubliettes and interrupted noises, shot through with decadent Salon Kitty eroticism. Taken together, it felt like Gravy had taken us on a musical tour of the dark side of 20th century Europe.

Needing some air, I went out to chat with mJ and Dennis before their set. I asked them why Twittergig was, in their opinion, better than the Twestival. “Well,” said mJ, “they won’t be beset by technical difficulties! And they won’t be fighting on through challenging hair!”

When we went back inside, I asked to be introduced to a guy who’d been intriguing me. He was about 6 foot, dressed in a black polo neck with a shock of white hair, clearly intended to make him look (with uncanny success) like a pre-pubescent Andy Warhol. He turned out to be a steampunk jeweller called Pete.

By now it was time for the star (er, planet, er, spheroid lunar body) turn. The whole place felt like the inside of a spaceship, or a substance-distorted encounter with a Rocky Horror troupe on a dark night in, again, East Berlin. Hmm, there’s a theme emerging. To the Moon emerged garbed in lab-coat and space-suit respectively, and launched (damnit with the puns!) into a set that was, in its way, as experimental as anything from Mr Gravy. The interstellar theme permeates the lyrics and electronic but it’s suffused with enough cross-genre references (yes, that IS Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the start of A Halo, although he denied it when I asked him!) to keep anyone satisfied. Combine it with a trippy filmic backdrop and the effect is enough to wrap every one of your senses in a gigtacular spacepod and allow you, for one night only, to transcend the dull confines of your usual events.

Back to why twittergig 9/10 outshines any twestival, and in mJ’s words, “it’s like a gig, only there’s not a guitar amp or a drum kit in the building!” No, but there IS a spaceship, a bunch of buggered lighting, and a steampunk jeweler called Pete.


Harry Potter + The Dodo’s + Choir of Young Believers

I’d like to start this Aren’t You Glad It’s Now You Can Listen to Indie Music Wednesday by Finding Bands on Twitter By Searching #FAIBW by saying that yes, I did go to a midnight showing of Harry Potter last night, and no, they did not start on time because despite the fact that they play hundreds of movies every day that are boring and ordinary and start exactly on time and work perfectly well, when they have a midnight showing of something people desperately want to see, of course something will be fishy with the film reel and the start time will be delayed, and although Eric can (and does) survive quite well on very little sleep, I do not, and so I have been dying all day at work and now I am dying some more trying to put coherent thoughts together.

I’m sorry, was  that irrelevant?

The Dodo’s have been around for awhile, but they came up on FAIBW today, and I found them, not surprisingly, more than worthy of a mention.  This is especially fitting for FAIBW, which is always a place to find not just new music but also free music, because their new album “Time to Die,” which comes out *technically* on July 28th digitally and in September physically, is streaming here now.  Over and over again I will apologize for making fun of Fleet Foxes–I really do like them, I swear, we just make fun of them all the time, don’t we?–but again, we’ve got a band that rivals Fleet Foxes in sound and then overcomes them with authenticity.  I recommend “The Strums,” which will charm you with its melancholic drive, “Two Medicines,” and “Troll Nacht,” because it is beast.  Also, while you’re listening, read the comments because they are funny.  We need some more funny comments on this blog.

Choir of Young Believers have also been around for awhile, so I guess that’s just where we stand with FAIBW today!  These guys are from Denmark, which is always a plus, and their sound is delicious, with lovely strings and subtle dissonances and mellow vocals.  It isn’t often that you hear something truly beautiful.  “Under the Moon” and “Why Must It Always Be This Way” are my favorites on their myspace page, but I suspect I’ll be checking out their album very soon.

So, I’m only leaving you with two bands tonight, but one of them has an entire album for you to stream for free, so I don’t feel too horrible about that.  I think there is enough substance in both artistic endeavors to leave it.

It’s UK Day at FAIBW!

Hello, everyone!  Please forgive us for not covering Follow An Indie Band Wednesday (FAIBW…fyi) last week!!  We are eternally apologetic.  Tonight will not disappoint because tonight I noticed that many of the best from FAIBW are from the United Kingdom and I am thereby declaring today UK Day at FAIBW.  Do I have the authority for that?  Well…yes.

We Were Promised Jetpacks hails from Glasgow, Scotland.  I had never heard them before tonight and I’m ready to purchase everything they’ve got out.  Too bad I am poor.  Anyway, We Were Promised Jetpacks can be described as tight alternative indie, with driving guitar and cathartic build.  I’m  in love with the listening experience here…the intense amalgamation of talent and passion.  Between the four songs on their myspace page, I can’t pick one favorite–everything they’ve got is so completely together, and their hearts are completely in it.  They strike the glorious balance between power and fragility, something that doesn’t always fall into place with other bands.  Also, Eric and I decidedly love Scottish accents, although he will be less than thrilled that these are boy accents and not girl ones.

My next UK favorite of the day is Dinosaur Pile-Up.  These alternative indie Brits have not let me down except in picking a weird band name (boys are weird).  They have especially not let me down in their attractive myspace profile picture–it is QUITE sexy.  But seriously…I was going to say that Dinosaur Pile-Up is pretty similar to We Were Promised Jetpacks in its drive, but their heavier guitars and darker vocals really make that a stretch, so I won’t say it.  They’re more grunge than melodramatic, but they’re absolutely adorable nonetheless.  And very rock’n’roll.  Also, I really want one of those cool tshirts.   White, size small, please.  Who is going to make that happen?  They’re so rock’n’roll!!  And maybe some Clash-inspired lyrics?  Did I make that up?

Finally, in keeping with tonight’s trend of inexplicable band names, United Kingdom origins, and a more alternative vibe than you usually get from Miss Indie Folk (that’s my new nickname, btw), here is Scientist The Orange Pip!  Actually, Scientist The Orange Pip is, while still alternative  indie, not too far from crossing border into emo, but their innovative sound and rhythmic play prevents them from getting there and emotionally convinces me, which is something most emo (read: Dashboard Confessional) fails to do.  However, if you have emo leanings, this may be your thing.  The changes in “Lupitas Observation” rival The Format’s ability to brilliantly cater to ADHD listeners, so obviously I recommend it, and “Proof of Propensity” has a great sound as well, a bit different from their other songs.  I think my favorite thing about these guys, though, is their background vox.  Is that weird?  They’re fun, biotches.  So, button up those skinny jeans, smudge that eyeliner, and freaking check it out.

Thanks The_Recommender, Miss_Cain, and NatGuy for winning suggestions this week.  Thanks to the UK for producing such fabulous music.  See ya next week for Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!  (Unless of course something cooler comes up, in which case you should be here anyway, shouldn’t you?)

Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!

Well here we are, another Wednesday, another FAIBW! In case you’re not hip with the acronyms and/or twitter, FAIBW is Follow An Indie Band Wednesday on Twitter (search #faibw and find tons of great music!)…and I’m sorry you failed to celebrate it! Good thing we’re here to catch you up with the highlights!

Among many great artists, you will find some of my faves of the day…

What Made Milwaukee Famous
So What Made Milwaukee Famous isn’t completely unknown (finding the unknowns is the best thing about FAIB), but they’re still a great indie folk rock band! I’m digging the call and response on “Sweet Lady” (call & response always makes for a great drinking song) and “Sultan” has great line…is that a music majory thing to say? I’m loving the keyboard! And the driving bass line!

Nicole Atkins & The Sea

I’m not sure if I should have heard of Nicole Atkins before or not, but now I have and I am loving her voice! It is beautiful, rich, and chock full of emotion–if I had to make a comparison, I could point to Fiona Apple or Aimee Mann but I’d rather not, because she really is incredibly unique. Her voice + what sounds like a full orchestra behind her = Broadway for indie rock [in a good way]. I’m not sure if she was classically trained or not, but lord she sounds fabulous. American Idol can suck it. Check out “Maybe Tonight” and “The Way It Is.”

The Gin Riots

The Gin Riots have a dancey London Saturday night feel, and if BritPowerPop is a genre, I guess that’s what they are?  They remind me a bit of the Kooks, but less manufactured.  I love when a band provides release…don’t get me wrong, twee is fabulous, but there’s something to be said for pure catharsis, and The Gin Riots definitely provide that.  My faves are “Pretty Little Things” and “I Didn’t Mean It.”

Yves Klein Blue
Yves Klein Blue only has 3 songs on their myspace, but those 3 songs are enough to tell me that they are going somewhere, and there will definitely be more to come.  Their lyrics are sassy which is always fantastic, and they’re from Australia, so Michael Tomlinson’s accent adds something to the overall aesthetic that we Americans just love.  As for the music, the genre could be classified simply as indie rock, but they’ve got a dancey, throwback feel.  Keep your eyes and ears open (we will too!) because their debut album comes out late June!  Also, they’ve got an advert on their myspace that says “Want us to play a gig at your house party?”  Um, yes.  Will you fly to the States to play for my house party slash wedding?  Mmkthat’dbegreatthanks. 

That’s all for this week, folks!  Thanks for listening!  Tune in next week!!

Something to like about today.

Sometimes I don’t like anything about Wednesdays.  Today was especially rancid as far as Wednesdays go.  And yet, here is something to make Wednesdays better:

Follow An Indie Band Wednesday! (exclamation point mine)

The list of things I like about Twitter is growing.  Visit http://search.twitter.com and search “#faibw” — here is what you find: all of the indie cred you ever wanted!  People post links of their favorite indie bands, often unsigned, and even tons of free downloads, and they put “#faibw” at the end of their post.  That way, when you search for it, you get all of these indie music posts!  You can even play a fun game called “How Indie Am I?” where you count all the artists you know, and then marvel at your own ignorance.  Here’s a tip–make yourself feel better by hiding it from your friends, and then name-dropping all the bands they don’t know!

Just kidding.  I obviously think you should share the wealth.  Sorry for the sass, it was a bad day!  Here are some highlights from Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!

The Secret Life of Sofia — slightly minimalistic (makes me think of Phillip Glass), great lyrics (check “Moose Collision”), dark and delicate, quiet energy…the video is cool, too.

Michou — Canadian folk-rock, lovely voice, adorable lyrics (a bit sappy at times, but not obnoxious, so that’s always a plus for me), interesting & subtle harmonies (not your same ole same ole!), also is that trumpet and violin I hear?…”Control” reminds me of an acoustic Panic! and I also particularly enjoy “St. Mary’s Park” and “In Passing,” but that’s just the kind of day it’s been, now isn’t it?

Snowsera — keep your eye on these guys, they probably won’t be “indie” for long, but they’ve got a cool sound, comparable to The Hush Sound, Maroon 5 (ish), and Bitter Things (did you see this post?).  You get the impression that they really like to rock out.  For your viewing pleasure:

The Substitutes — And finally, as my descriptions get lamer because my laptop is dying and so is my attention span, here is a band we somehow skipped during Dutch Week and also the lead singer’s voice sounds like Conor Oberst.  Check out “Summer’s Here Kids,” because geez kids, it pretty much is.  Apparently Paste Magazine likes them; it won’t kill you to give them a listen.

There are your highlights for F.A.I.B.W.  Take advantage of them.  Spread the indie love, because indie is all about the love (read: it is not about impressing your friends or making other people feel stupid (unless they are)).  Tune in next Wednesday for more!!

Ah, Sweet Bitter Things

Why we at The Indie Handbook are –oh god and I thought I would never say it– big fans of Twitter:|

1) Eric can tweet at people (dirty!)
2) We can discover fantastic music that we may not run into otherwise

Bitter Things is one example. So, thank you, Bitter Things, even though you may have started following us only because we had the word “indie” in our name (although you really don’t seem like the type) or because we happen to be following some of the same record labels. I’d like to say that we officially love your music.

I only spent a few months in London, but to me, Bitter Things has a quintessential London sound, dark and moving and full of convincing guitar riffs.   In fact, although “Let Me Down Slow” is over 4 minutes long, it’s my favorite of the songs on their myspace page.  They clearly know what they’re doing– longer than 4 minutes and you’re just being greedy, so usually I’ll officially peace out, but Bitter Things has me hooked.  Nick Gledhill has a voice full of character (check out “You’re So 2oth Century”), reminiscent of David Bowie on Ziggy Stardust, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter, or the Kinks’ Ray Davies.  Not that their sound is completely British 70’s rock, but who doesn’t love a little Bowie twist?

Speaking of influences, the “influences” section of Bitter Things’ myspace bears mentioning.  Nick begins talking about the music he’s been listening to lately, then mentions movies he’s seen and books he’s been reading, and then discusses the National Portrait Gallery and the paintings he has been enjoying and the people he has been watching, and finally he concludes (as every philosophical, self-aware, true lover of life eventually does) that “[the girls in the art museum] are also an exhibit and so are you and so is everyone who passes through the place to behold and be beheld and this is a very strange and interesting place to be.”  Except obviously he explains it all in much more length and with much more eloquent detail than I just did, so I’m suggesting/demanding that you go to their myspace page immediately, listen to their music, read their “influences” section, and cry because unless you are in the U.K., you probably won’t catch a show anytime soon.  Or maybe you will.


P.S. Eric would like to add that the Bohemian girls are his favourite part of the V&A, too, and the Tate Modern, for that matter.