Yorkshire singer brings Northern charm and authenticity to London

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It is Friday night at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. A venue that doubles as a bohemian, relaxed and trendy pub in one room and a platform for emerging musicians in another.

The front room is buzzing with post-work conversation. Pints are being poured at the bar. The squishy leather sofas and small fireplace create a cosy atmosphere. There’s a small organ off to the side, but it’s not being played tonight. In the next room there is no patterned carpet or wallpaper, just a completely black room with a small stage.

On stage, Adam White is propped up on a stool. Even sitting he towers over everyone else in the room. He looks completely comfortable on stage as he takes a drink from his pint of Guinness.

White is an acoustic musician now based in London. He’s is a long way from home, a distinctive accent betrays his roots in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. His early days were spent with a family that always had music around. His parents played a mix of folk music, The Police and Queen.

He began writing music when he was 16. After high school he played gigs with a post-grunge band called One Weak Lifetime. Barnsley lacked the places to play. So White moved down to London at 22, young enough to move to a new city without any strings attached.

“I used to suffer from stage fright,” says White. “It was an obstacle I overcame. Before, I was always on edge.”

The stage fright wasn’t present at the Cavendish Arms. Instead, there is a singer with a dynamic voice and plucky guitar. The post-grunge days have been left behind and the music has become mellowed Americana in style. While his music sounds like British folk, he says there’s that signature ‘story telling’ aspect missing. Instead, White’s lyrics focus on emotions that are accessible to his audience.

White says, “I don’t really care about the money. I want people who want to listen.”

He’s working on an EP now after scrapping the idea of making a full-length album. While he admits it takes lots of time that he doesn’t always have outside of work, he still makes the time to record and has even begun work with a producer.  The work of making an EP is always a challenge when life doesn’t allow full-time recording.

White says, “I would love to do music full-time, but there is no money in music. The musicians always get shafted.”

Along with his new EP, White has been working with an ever-expanding group of venues and fellow musicians to help, and playing a series of gigs in a tour of London.

White closes his set with the bouncing and swaying ‘You’re on my Mind.’ When he leaves the stage, a band with a keytar take his place. Style and melody has clearly left for the night, but White has left his mark.

The Age of To and Fro is now available on iTunes.

An American in London celebrating Thanksgiving

In London it’s already Christmas. As soon as Halloween was over, I emerged the next morning in a Winter Wonderland. No – there is no snow in sight but plenty of lights and decorations. But I am an American no matter what and I’m still celebrating our holiday (oh and I guess the one we kind-of share with those Canadians too).

My boyfriend and I will be indulging ourselves in some fanastic Southern-inspired dishes tomorrow in Tower Hill. Probably not the typical Wisconsin home-cooking I’m so fond of, but I’m really looking forward to being surrounded by “my kind.” I’ve actually really missed Americans.

Since there really aren’t “Thanksgiving” songs – anyone who tries usually fails (just because “thank you”  or “grateful” is in the title doesn’t mean we should be putting together crap playlists). The best bet for the holiday tune is by my beloved Vince Guaraldi. Usually referred to as just “Thankgiving Theme” the track comes from the nostalgic TV-special A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Below is a talent rendition of the tune by username Chnarles:

So if you’re alone, with loved ones or even too many of them, remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving and that’s just being thankful. We’re really quite lucky – even with shit gets tough. If all else fails – set all the shit on fire like you’re Wednesday Addams.

Well I’m going down to the record shop

One of London’s oldest record shop is up for sale, and I want it. The shop On The Beat Records has been in business for over 50 years in Soho. That’s a lot of years of music history living in those walls.

As a kid you always have those weird dream jobs: vet, astronaut, producer, record shop owner (or maybe I’m the only one who wanted to be the last two). For the music obsessive, we’ve all tempted the idea of owning a record shop: spinning records all day, talking to people about albums, suggesting things to customers and making awesome bonds over music.

But I suppose it’s a lot more difficult than that. Paying bills, making rent, having to stock shit Mumford & Sons vinyl. But owning a record store still seems to be synonymous with living the good life. In the end, you want a job that doesn’t make you hate your life.

If you’re a bit more ambitious than me (and have a healthier bank account) here’s the eBay listing. There are already 7 bids. Fingers crossed that a similar tragic ending that happened to CBGB doesn’t happen to the shop.  Whoever ever wins On The Beat Records in the end, may you do the shop proud.

Carry on, son, and let the beat go on.

(And listen to C30 C60 C90 Go! and bop to the record shop).

Parquet Courts live at Village Underground 28/10

If you love great Sonic Youth cover bands – Parquet  Courts are the best! I hate being one of “those” people, but really once it’s stuck in your head you won’t be able to escape it either: this band has all of the fun of Daydream Nation with a young Thurston Moore look-alike with no Kim Gordon.

God I can’t believe I’m saying this.

Parquet Courts are quite good, but something feels amateurish. I don’t know what it is. Maybe because I’ve  just seen Jake Bugg (who is only three-years-old) and his odd sort of maturity, something felt kind of…off about the performance last night. It could be the problem is that they’re Americans who think “AW FUCK YEAH” and keep repeating themselves like they’re a fucking skipping compact disk.

They have all the indulgence of Television, the strangeness of Pavement, and the viciousness of, well, Sonic Youth.

But all I can do is sit here and compare them to other bands.

I don’t know what wrong with me. Sometimes it’s difficult to sit there and appropriately understand how you feel about a band. I think Parquet Court are quite good live. Good energy and all that shit. They even have some great songs to listen to sometimes, but I wouldn’t bother. In about three years I won’t give a fuck what a Parquet Court is and we can all move along.

Now I feel like an asshole and I’m going to go sit in my sad cave of journalism gloom.

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Jake Bugg live at the Brixton Academy 25/10

Last night was Jake Bugg’s final night at the Brixton Academy. His three-night stint was entirely sold out. Completely worth it.

I had been waiting to see Bugg for almost six months when I received the tickets for my birthday. To be honest, the anticipation was completely anticlimactic.

We arrived only in time to see opener honeyhoney (some idiotic American country/folk band that sings shit like “I ain’t no Southern Belle” and “I like whiskey when I’m sick. A man when I’m well.”) Thankfully their set went by quickly enough.

Now Mr. Bugg. The boy is 19-years-old and has the charisma of a piece of bark, but there’s still something about him that drove a packed house wild.

Some of his critics have whined that he needs to have a stage presence. That’s not what he needs. What Jake Bugg has that most musicians do not is two things. One, he is completely honest and still void of idiotic fame. And two, his music is still relatable to his listeners. It’s a trait is that is nearly dead. Musicians are so caught up in their own worlds they forget about the one they share.

The sound from the band last night was the best quality I have heard from any live act. Seriously. Bugg’s voice had the ability to soar straight through the crowd. Let’s hope he takes care of it so it ages more like Robert Smith and less like Dylan’s.

The setlist included favorites like “Lightening Bolt” and new singles “Slumville Sunrise” and “What Doesn’t Kill You.” The nicest surprise of the night came one song before the finale:

A lovely cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My.” Most of the audience seemed oblivious to the American songwriter’s tune, but you could tell the crowd was enamored. Guess how many of those kids will go home and unearth Neil Young in the morning?

The night was amazing. The venue was okay. But in the end, I’d say that Jake Bugg has all it takes to become important – he just needs to grow into his boots. Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Oktoberfest Zeit

Turns out, London doesn’t know how to celebrate a good holiday.

I love Octoberfest. Coming from a large German-American community in the States, we always to a bad-ass ‘fest. It was always a joy to go to, even as a kid (get me a piece of fried dough cover in sugar and jobs a good ‘un).

This year, my boyfriend and I made a point to head to London’s Octoberfest in Kennington Park. We thought it was a brilliant idea: beer, German music and (hopefully) tasting fucking German food.

To put it lightly we were mortified how terrible it was. Beyond disappointing. There was a lack of food and only one (ONE!?) beer stand. There was no band on at the time, unfortinately.  As we were heading home from our pub, though, we could hear a terrible rendition of “Sweet Caroline” blasting from the park.

Well, they tried.

I don’t get it. There were plenty of people heading there looking really ready to have a good time. The tent was beautiful but one of the singularly most disappointing ventures I’ve had in London.

“Dumm wie Brot.” Oh well, maybe next year.

American Music

The concept of being “homesick” is a funny one.

I hate the States some days. I really do. For being such a complete country, it’s unstable, uneducated and all around fucked up. So I find it strange that I get homesick when I’m in the UK. Not only homesick, but insanely patriotic. Suddenly everything is funkier in the good ol’ US of A.

It can be difficult (socially) to be a crap Yankee sometimes. That’s why I tend to cover my accent whenever I’m in Dear Old Blighty (whenever I speak to my parents now I get scolded for “not sounding Wisconsin” anymore).

The best way to deal with this crap “homesickness,” for me, is to play Violent Femmes.

Violent Femmes are a group of weird losers, and some of the few musicians to waltz out of Wisconsin and do quite well for themselves. They even hail from my Milwaukee East Side (bring that fun fact up at your next party). To me, they sound and look like everything that damn old smelly city is.

“American Music” is one of the band’s more successful songs from a not-so-successful album. Is it their best track? No. But there’s something liberating about hearing Gano howl about the ugly lake and ask his audience if they do “too many drugs.”

The whole mop of lyrics is just a bunch of irony about pop music, but that’s kind of why it works for a dose of homesickness. This is one of those songs that can be taken too literally if the listener doesn’t take three minutes to sort it out in their mind. It sounds all Americana, but really it’s a slap on the wrists for the mindless-idiots that roam the American radio stations.

In reality, London is quite an unbelievable place to be living. Everything you could want is here, but every once in a while it’s good to remind yourself that you really are a backwards loser American after all.