2016 Year Enders

Jim Leonard’s 2016 Year Ender

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Jim Leonard makes offbeat pop music that we like a lot. Previously he has played in bands like: Fat Creeps, Steep Leans, Ben Katzman’s Degreaser, Candy Miami, Al Marantz and the Piffs, Moontower, Golden Retriever, Private Plane etc.

2016 was a year of polarity, yin and yang, elation and turmoil. This year I was fortunate enough to relocate to Edinburgh Scotland with my girlfriend Alison. A city which lacked the comforts of home (Dunkin Donuts) but brimmed with unparalleled natural beauty, ancient architecture and a burgeoning scene of art and music. I watched the circus of the US presidential election from a distance but witnessed the outcome of Brexit from the front row as it strangely foreshadowed what would happen when I returned to the states to witness another unthinkable political decision that people “never thought would happen”.  Regardless of “what you think is going to happen” there is one thing that is almost always a sure bet and that’s if you look hard enough any city you end up in there will be groups of artists out there striving to create new things on their own terms and Edinburgh was no different. Here are some of my favorite happenings and places from 2016 in the UK.

Guinness at Henry’s Cellar

In September my friend Al visited and we went to this show on a whim looking for something to do. We got there just in time to catch Guinness and they almost immediately became one of my favorite bands in town. The duo’s music is effortless, undeniably catchy and full of a dark ennui, which is wholly unpretentious and honest. Between bits of humor (appropriating the lyrics of Supertramp’s “logical song” and Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise” in the same track!) and Quintessentially Scottish lyrics (see “Scottish Water” a track about the purity of the taps in the highlands or “Bowling Green” about a grounds keeper at the Hamilton Caledonian Bowling Club) the group weaves twisted pop tunes with primitive drum machines plodding along behind bass, keys and gang vocals. I never thought I’d hear em’ again, mostly because their totally un-googlable name but I reached out to Nicholas Herd (Who booked the show and a number of others on this list under the moniker Braw Gigs) and he hit me with a youtube playlist of their whole album. Give it a whirl.

 

Guttersnipe at Banshee’s Labyrinth
First of all, this bar is a trip. Situated in Edinburgh’s old town the bar is a literal maze of dark cavernous hallways lined with medieval torture racks that lead to prison cell bars blasting Nu-metal “classics” under a black light glow. Anyway, this particular night I rolled in alone just thinking of grabbing a pint and keeping it low key and I ended up being utterly floored by Guttersnipe, a two-piece from Leeds (I think). Pummeling triggered drums, squelching ripped gutter guitar, nonstop fucked-in-the-brain shrieking vocals and boundless energy. This band destroys. Also, anecdotally, it’s worth to mention that they are just as visually striking as they are sonically, both members seeming to be 9 feet tall, stick-thin with long red/yellow hair. In the vein of Harry Pussy or Arab on Radar.

 

 

 

Alima Askew and Katie Bootland at Holyrood Park

By a stroke of luck when we moved into our flat in the Cannonmills neighborhood of Edinburgh we quickly met our neighbors Axel and Alima who were a pair of goddamned sweethearts and just happened to have strikingly similar interests to Alison and I. One weekend Alima invited us to a performance she was putting together at the ruins of St. Anthony’s chapel in the picturesque Holyrood Park. The performance began around sunset as we paraded up the hillside to the crumbled church overlooking the old town from the east. As friends gathered we passed around a fishbowl full of a bloody mary type concoction paired with a couple of jazz cigarettes and enjoyed the end-of-summer weather. As the sun retreated behind the skyline the performance began as Alima and Katie (attached at the head by a long black shawl) painted each other’s faces and sang a folk song then lead us through the opening of the church. On the other side we all stood on a cliff looking down on a pond full of swans as the priestesses fed us a communion of vodka poured from a bowl of a hollowed out cabbage. As we stood on the cliff we could hear the sound of percussion in the distance and watched as a guy in a paper mache bird suit immerged from the valley banging a bass drum and came stomping up the hill. Once he reached us he took off his suit, sweaty and out of breath and in a heavy accent asked if any of us wanted a beer. Heady times!

http://alimaalulaaskew.com/
http://www.katiebootland.com/
https://www.instagram.com/p/BJYweO1B7wM/?taken-by=tooth87

 

 

Side note about our neighbors

Our building also was the home to Dick Sneddon. The mighty drummer from the 70’s Scottish heavy rock band BODKIN. Dick and I would hang out on the weekends in the yard and he’d give me history lessons and talk about metal. Great dude!

 

Ashtray Navigations at Henry’s Cellar

This was one of the first shows I went to in Edinburgh. Ash Nav are stalwarts of the British underground (have existed in some form since 1991) and a lot has been written about them so I won’t get too deep here but the synth wizardry of Melanie Ó Dubhshláine and guitar virtuosity of Phil Todd are something that shouldn’t be missed if you have a chance to catch them live. Also, Scottish musician/artist Malcy Duff opened this show although I can’t remember the name he went under (Maybe “Groceries”?). Great stuff to check out from this dude as well.

Ash Nav:
Malcy Duff:
http://duffandrobertson.tumblr.com/

 

 

The Fall at La Belle Angel

It’s the fucking Fall man. When you get to this venue you have to walk down an alley to get to the front door. I was standing outside and I could hear mark’s voice echoing off of the walls as he came towards the entrance and I froze as he zipped by surrounded by a crew of people in all black, ripping a butt and sneering at everyone. The show was great. The band was terrible. Probably the worst line-up Mark has had backing him in 15 years and he fired his wife 2 weeks before the gig (CLASSIC!). Kind of sounded like a middle school band struggling through some Primus covers. BUT IT DIDN’T MATTER. Mark, in true gremlin troubadour fashion, paced the stage shouting into two mics, twisted everyone’s knobs on their amps and diddled a synthesizer off and on. MES was once quoted as saying “If it’s me and your granny on bongos, then it’s The Fall”. And it’s true.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLHh3jGDH7i/?taken-by=tooth87

 

Sleaford Mods at Victoria Terminal Manchester

I’ve been a big fan of the mods for a couple of years now and they’ve only played in the states a handful of times so I was really excited to get a chance to see them and took a 4 hour train ride to Manchester to get there. This show was a big festival in an old train terminal near Salford and leaned mostly towards contemporary psych-rock bands which was a weird fit for the Sleafords (Lead singer Jason Williamson frequently bemoans the staleness this kind of music in interviews). Nevertheless the Manchurian crowd was flipping their lids singing all of Williamson’s rap/sung

sermons of working class struggle. In comparison the rest of this festival was a big yawn. With the exception of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the rest of the 3 chord reverb drenched Britpop stuff put me to sleep. I don’t get it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Rangda at Summerhall

Summerhall is a former veterinary hospital turned performance art space/brewery/gallery. Great spot. Rangda was on point, dueling guitars from Sir Richard Bishop (Sun City Girls) and Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire) and drumming by one of my all time favorites Chris Corsano. Locked in, trance-inducing jams that are full of dynamism and complexity but stripped bare and void of ego. Solo sets by each Rangda member at the beginning of the night was the icing on the cake.

 

Parquet Courts at La Belle Angel

They ripped. Sold out show. Crowd was going nuts. You know. Ended up reminiscing with old friend and bassist Sean Yeaton about playing punk shows on the North Shore of Boston when we were in high school and then later drinking scotch and beers ‘til late, consequentially missing an early morning flight to London the next day. Woops! Speaking of glory days…

 

Bruce Springsteen at Hampden Park Stadium Glasgow

BRUCEEEEE! We got homesick for America in the summer and got some tickets. Alison got hit in the head with a flying hotdog from the unruly Glasgow crowd of wasted 50-somethings. Ruled.

 

Ghostface Killah at St. Luke’s in Glasgow

My favorite Wu-Tang member playing in an old church in Scotland. Nuff said m8.


 

And here are 20 of my favorite records from 2016 in no particular order :^)

Los Greys – Acid Family Baptism

Cate Le Bon – Crab Day

Circuit des Yeux – Jackie Lynn

Horse Lords – Interventions

Drugdealer – The End of Comedy

Black Milk & Nat Turner – The Rebellion Sessions

Al Marantz – Tall Dancers on Fire

Battle Trance – Blade of Love

Rangda – The Heretic’s Bargain

David Bowie – Blackstar

CE Schneider Topical – Antifree

Plum Professional – Employee Handbook

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Ears

Young Thug – JEFFERY

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

Jessy Lanza – Oh No

Babyfather – BBF

Grape Room – Heart of Gum

Guinness – The Drink

World Cup – Quiz Show Kid

 

 

 

 

 

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