When Ryan Sambol, who frankly looks like he hasn’t slept since beds were invented, asks if we want to hear another new song the only people in a packed Borderline who perhaps aren’t sure they do at this particular point are his band, Austin’s The Strange Boys.


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What would Murdoc make of it? Previously, Gorillaz live performances have seen the “real” musicians play anonymously behind a curtain. But not tonight. If anything, tonight’s show abandons the notion of Gorillaz as a “virtual band” altogether. It seems more about establishing Damon Albarn’s overdue re-emergence as a front man, after spending close to a decade in the background on a number of collaborative projects, from Mali Music to The Good, The Bad And The Queen and Gorillaz.


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A packed Borderline gets suitably rowdy later on, when Port O’Brien turn in a surprisingly rocking set. For the moment, though, the crowd’s hushed. Walking in on Laura Gibson, mid-song, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. People are hanging on her every word, their muted quiet close to something like reverence.


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Because, as I have just had pointed out to me, I have foolishly mistakenly read their name as MegaFUN, when the three members of MegaFAUN hove into view, led by a large bearded man with a banjo and a big grin, I somewhat feared they would prove to be relentlessly hearty, the distressing musical equivalent of bouncy castles, red noses, playground japes, a particularly unwelcome wackiness. The kind of jollity, in other words, that makes you want to run screaming from its larkish presence.


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Joe Pug? No, I hadn’t heard of him either, before he opened tonight for The Low Anthem. Count me as a fan now, though. Pug’s a potentially major song-writing talent, as evidenced on his Nation Of Heat EP, available online and really quite brilliant. But who exactly is he?


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When The Duke & The King made their UK debut at London’s Bush Hall in May, I seem to remember there being at certain points up to about nine people on stage, including on at least one number four people playing guitars, someone on keyboards, a couple of backing singers and, of course, Simone Felice, late of The Felice Brothers, and his new musical partner Robert “Chicken” Burke on vocals. The evening also included a lot of instrument-swapping, principally between Simone and Burke, who took turns at the drum stool.


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There were so many people packed last night into the Scala to see Okkervil River that if I’d arrived any later, I probably would have had to watch the show from across the street, on the concourse of King’s Cross Station.


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I mentioned yesterday’s that I was just off to see The Hold Steady at the Islington Academy and I duly went and they were, as ever, duly brilliant – urgent, incendiary, delirious, a symphonic juggernaut, a hurtling thing, a wholly rousing noise.


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In the email newsletter I send out every Monday (you can subscribe to it on uncut.co.uk), I wrote about the number of great gigs looming over the next few weeks, starting tonight, in fact, with The Hold Steady at the Islington Academy. I'm going to that, but wasn't sure how many of the others shows I'd be able to make it to. I therefore invited any readers of the newsletter who had either recently seen or were going to see any of the bands I mentioned to write in with their thoughts on the gig.


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The biggest surprise of the day isn’t the weather, which is what you might call glorious, apart from a late afternoon cloudburst that at least gives me the excuse I’ve been looking for to hide under a table, perhaps the only sensible response to an appropriately thundery set by Ben Harper and the aptly-named Relentless7.


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Editor's Letter

Reviewed: Respect Yourself: Stax Records And The Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon


As Robert Gordon reminds us in Respect Yourself: Stax Records And The Soul Explosion, his terrific account of the rise and fall of the great Memphis soul imprint, the Stax story is more than a record-label history. “It is an American story,” Gordon writes,”...