The Puppini Sisters @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

Boogie Woogie Gals


With a bigger backing band than I've ever seen them before (and I have, a few times), the trio Puppini rocked it and swang it once more - though against a far more insipid audience. Yep, the people facing them were mostly... mature and passive, and if it weren't for a couple of crazy girls dancing wild at the back, you would've thought it was the band's fault. They might have chosen a few of their quietest songs for this set, but they were decidedly and categorically not the ones who were being boring (and bored).

First things first, it was music Casanova Earl Okin that warmed up the evening, with his ironically suave, sexy and humorous guitar ballads.

On to the Puppini clan, then... Three amazingly harmonized voices, which come with three equally beautiful, vivacious girls that play keyboards, accordion and violin, swept the stage with oldies and goldies like Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, to Beyonce's Crazy In Love - via Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (a personal favorite), Millionaire, Tu Vuo' Fa L'Americano and I Will Survive.
The girls know how to swing it; they're spicy, funny; and real. They didn't play my top choice, Spooky (find at, but I can't really hold it against them. They could do better - but they steadily respect music, their talent and their audience.

Review and misleading photography (from Puppini's previous gigs and NOT the O2 Empire) by Danai Molocha

Energy high (and then low again) @ Shepherd's Bush Empire

 Amadou & Mariam / Ebony Bones 13/04/12 The blind couple from Mali has its own dedicated following, and for good reason. Soulful, authentic ambassadors of African rhythm, they never fail to get their audience on their feet - with the help of an equally uplifting musical entourage and classics from Dimanche a Bamako (which translates to Sunday in Bamako, the city where they were born, and the name of their fourth, Manu Chao-produced album). Opening was eccentric music W.A.R.R.I.O.R. Ebony Bones - whoalso collaborated with the pair in their latest release. Performing in her usual wacky fashion paraphernalia, she launched herself into a series of sinister dance rock beats, wildly cavorting, as usual, on stage (check her out in this one And we like her thinking too: "Knowing that the majority of music in the mainstream is about nothing - you know, there's a lot of shit going around, how do you, then, create music that looks like it's about nothing, but it's about something?". I hear ya...

Noah and The Whale 17/04/12 This band is among the indie folkies I was intrigued to check out back in 2009, when the press was raving about their album The First Days of Spring. Indeed, it had some good moments, like the luscious opening song of the same name - which, by the way, they luckily played live, opening their encore this time. Till then, their show restricted itself to mostly insipid tunes, like the unavoidably radio-friendly L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. and Tonight's The Kind of Night, from 2011's Last Night On Earth; songs which I don't necessarily find bad, but they do remind me that this band is mostly boring.

Bic Runga18/04/12 That peculiar (by name, at least) Runga was a welcome surprise. She's an exotic presence with an exotic, albeit chart-popular in New Zealand (where she comes from) pop sound. Going through a series of soft, unpretentious melodies with her small band, she never failed to prove she had character, with a romantic, jazz twist. It's not that she is anything wildly original, but somewhere in there, you realize, hides beauty; and you like it.

Review by Danai Molocha (photography from 
the web...)

We Spoke: New Music @ Kings Place

Challenging Limits

Photo credits: Andreas Zhiler
  These performances are not for the lazy. They probably won’t make you dance, but could challenge your critical thinking.
Christian Kesten’s compostiion Zunge Losen,  lacked the suspense it promised. The piece was actually three men sticking their tongues out and making a few sounds, in combination with loud breathing. You had to be there to really get it.
Photo credits: Andreas Zhiler
 The show slightly picked up in rhythm with John Lely's piece Distance Learning,which dealt with the performers physical limits. To make their point, they used sticks to create obsessive, indistinct sounds on a self-made installation.
However, Living Room Music, by the pioneer John Cage, fully displayed the musicians capabilities.  Using random objects, such as an espresso maker, plastic bowls and glass vases, they recited, drummed and improvised with an uplifting creative energy.
Serge Vuille's Noisy Interval, full of pre-recorded clapping, was used to counterbalance the shows lengthy silences. The last piece, Jacques Demierre's Une Table Pour Trois, translates to A Table For Three.  It was a funny, abstract piece toying with the performers reactions and dynamics. They sat around a table clapping, drumming and, unpredictably, even taking their pants down!
Photo credits: Andreas Zhiler
The most refreshing aspect about We Spoke's sonic performances is the cleverness with which they interweave sophistication and humour.  Their conceptual choices are sometimes difficult to grasp, but they did warm up and stimulate their audience.

Review by Danai Molocha for

Gilad Atzmon @ Vortex

Jazz East to West


 A gig by Gilad Atzmon one of Britain's most adventurous saxophonists is always unpredictable.  “We haven’t a clue what we’re playing tonight” he announced before delivering one of his jazziest gigs to date.
Injecting his unpredictable performance with jokes and politically charged comments, the Israeli-born Atzmon sharpened our musical instincts, as well as our minds.  His blend of experimental bop and world rhythms created a freewheeling jazz context for the band to improvise in.
 The sonic landscape was broadened by the presence of guest oud player Alekos K. Vretos, who joined the foursome in covers like the famous Misirlou.  This characteristic Greek tune, used in the opening credits of Pulp Fiction, helped connect tradition with the avant garde.
Whether playing the sax, the clarinet, or just scat singing, Atzmons delivery is chilling. By the end of this “festival of multi-talentless people from all over the world”, nothing was more apparent than his versatility, charisma and unifying music powers.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha for
Live At Your Local 

P.S.1 You can find Gilad's book The Wandering Who? A Study Of Jewish Identity Politics ("The most controversial book in the history of jazz - and Jews", in his own words) on sale by Zero Books.
P.S.2 Oudist and Oud composer Alekos Vretos does a wonderful job flexing the Greek music muscle, injecting it with Latin, Arabic and of course-given his creative gives-and-takes with Atzmon- Jazz flavours. Check out his latest release Mergin' on

Shearwater @ Scala

The leopard in the room


 I discovered Shearwater as late as 2008, with their 5th release Rook. And though I usually cringe at one's overbearing, for my tolerance limits, display of lyricism and love of nature, there was something about those guys. Or some - things...
For one, there was an informed and multi-layered sonic landscape.
There was an authentic melodic spirit that intensified the band's identity, fairly uncommon among modern indie bands.
Two albums later, via the inspired Golden Archipelago, here comes now Animal Joy to prove me that Shearwater haven't let me down (though this album did keep me a bit less interested).
Not in the studio, and definitely not on stage.
Up there, Shearwater have a lot more than founder Jonathan Meiberg's given talents to thank. ...Like a passionate five-piece swapping keys, guitar, singing, strumming, drumming. Their charisma to juggle lyricism and palpitating rock electricity goes to show they know their stuff well; and they use it to full effect, for a good show - and in depth.Once again, it was Rook highlights The Snow Leopard and Rooks that stood out. But when Meiburg was left to his own devices, with just a guitar and one more man for accompaniment, it got downright dull.
My goodbye lines go to the (second) support act Julie Doiron. Shy, nervous and bubbly like a little girl (she's far from...), she managed to work through it all with a goofy sense of humour.
Back in the nineties, I found her debut solo album Broken Girl terribly boring. This time I almost enjoyed it; but then, she did have to bribe me with Pavement's Shady Lane...

Review and photography by Danai Molocha.

Singinmad @ Theatro Technis

Voices unite


Being part of soprano Kate Radmilovic's workshop Singingmad ( means that, give or take a few weeks, ready, confident or not (are you, ever, completely ready anyway?), you get up on that stage, in front of an audience, against the mics and under those bright theatre lights to show us friends, family and the rest of the scary crowd what your passion is all about.
And it ain't easy.
A bunch of vocal students of all levels and ages, either fairly new, or under Radmilovic's baton for a while now, gathered at the endearingly shabby Theatro Technis, in Camden, to prove they can put themselves out there.
Having arrived at the third and last part of Singingmad's spring concert, I was present at only a dozen-plus songs, presumably pretty telling of everything else I had missed. Ranging from Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys to Dylan and Nina Simone, the songlist became a platform for an eclectic range of talent.
As expected at a public students showcase, any mistakes, lack of experience, skill or talent, for that matter, become brutally obvious. And the audience is not just there to be entertained, but also to understand (and forgive).
Personally, I find mistakes, lack of experience or skill rather trivial, as long as there is passion. But I don't forgive trying to be what you are not. A student's biggest problem is usually lack of identity, more than skill. If you decide to play the performance card, student or non-student, be ready to take it all in - insensitive criticism and all. It's good making your dream come true, but it's the reality of it that will make you a better performer. That's where I stand.
Without any wish to hover over any student's expressive/vocal inability or missteps, the moments I took with me on my way home were these:

1) Ability met sensibility in Sarah O'Brien's Angel - a solo goodbye to a full five years of vocal training (she joined Singingmad as a complete beginner in 2007). I guess it was worth it.
2) Helene Daouphars' Nature Boy; or how a quiet, humble delivery can steal the show.
3) Daouphars (again), Gayle Haddock and Asha Kingsley's Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy; a saucy all-girl trio in total synch.
4) Haddock's solo Papa Can You Hear Me also proved that it pays to be given - even to a treacherous devil of a vocal part.
On that note, there's probably hope for us all.
But, wannabe singers, beware: All hope (and training) crumbles the moment you pick the wrong song.
That's as kind as I can get...

Dr. Blues and The Prescription @ Off Broadway

Blues Medicine


In an effort to establish this elegantly laid back and atmospheric Broadway Market haunt as a home for live music, this dedicated blues gang gathered for a special show on this warm Sunday night, in the cosy basement.

Ex-The Enforcers Tim Hill took the place of Mike Mc Keon on the vocals and harp, leading the Dr. Blue journey into their Texas and Chicago Blues.

Guest saxophonist Olivier Saurin and guitarist Ray Miller also shared stage space with band regulars Dave Piggott on guitar, Pete Feldon on bass and Pete Abernethy on drums, while a couple of Swing Patrol dancers took the dance floor.

Songs like opener Riding in the Moonlight and Talk To Me Baby gave us a characteristic taste of the band’s energetic blues recipe, while the Mama Talk To Your Daughter/Caledonia medley would definitely count among the highlights. However, they didn’t hold the younger crowd in the room for long, who seemed unable to engage with the less-than-trendy blues culture.

In all fairness, Tim Hill often lacked the verve needed for some of Dr. Blue’s livelier songs. But his passion was obvious on the harp and a couple of slower, more heartfelt songs which, along with some guitar solos, ultimately stole the show.

Review and photography by Danai Molocha for Live At Your Local