Sunday, December 31, 2023

THE BEST LIVE ACTS OF TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY THREE

I'd like to dedicate this year's list to my dear friend Spela, a stalwart gig pal, who passed away from cancer last month. She was a real ray of sunshine (except when Joanna Newsom played End of the Road), and we will dearly miss her.

As always, there were a whole load of very decent bands who didn't quite make the Top 50 but deserve an honourable mention, so thanks to all the following for being great in their own distinct ways: Alicia Edelwiss, Amyl and the Sniffers, Andrew Bird, Andrew Hung, Arooj Aftab, Billy Cobham Blondshell, BODEGA, Broken Records, Confidence Man, DAMEFRISOR, Deary, Divorce, DuoBud, Ed Dowie, Eels, En Attendant Ana, For Breakfast, GOAT (the Japanese one), GROOVE&, Haeparry, Hamish Hawk, Hauschka, Lisa O'Neill, Moin, MOLLY, National of Language, NewDad, O., Otoboke Beaver, Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, Poil/Ueda, Pushpin, Ryota Kikuchi, SCALPING, Screaming Females (RIP), Snooper, STRFKR, The Big Moon, The Necks and Will Sheff.

And now, without further ado... 

50. BE YOUR OWN PET (London Moth Club, 07/06/23) 

The Nashville garage-rockers completely passed me by the first time round, but this comeback gig was pretty incendiary (and not just because the Moth Club was roughly 12,000 degrees centigrade). They all look far too young to have been defunct for 15 years! 

49. WILL BUTLER & THE SISTER SQUARES (London Institute of Contemporary Arts, 17/11/23)

Hyper-energetic doo-wop synth-pop excellence from the younger *and* non-disgraced Butler brother and the fantastic Sister Squares.

48. DEVO (London Hammersmith Apollo, 19/08/23) 

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! It’s a shame most gigs are rendered into an echoey mush by the Apollo’s soundsystem, as all other elements of the New Wave legends’ 50th anniversary/farewell show were as vibrant and joyfully subversive as you'd expect. Many bands have cribbed from Devo over the last half-century, but no-one sounds quite like them. 

47. THE FLAMING LIPS (London Hammersmith Apollo, 28/04/23) 

Wayne's constant need for affirmation was, as usual pretty tiresome, and the sound mix really wasn’t up to scratch, yet experiencing one of my all-time favourite albums in full with the bells, whistles, confetti and giant inflatable robots it warranted was jubilant enough to eclipse any ill-feeling. Plus, that Soft Bulletin-heavy encore could melt even Suella’s absolute-zero husk of a heart.

46. TINARIWEN (Latitude Festival, 21/07/23)  

Tinariwen playing a middle-class music event?! Perish the thought. Yet although the Tuareg desert rock ensemble may have become the default choice for festival bookers looking to make their line-ups a little less...uniform, that doesn't preclude them from being mesmerisingly groovy. 

45. PATRICK WOLF (London EartH, 19/12/23) 

My 98th and final gig of 2023, and who better to spend it with than the majestic Mr Wolf, performing a freewheeling 2.5 hour long set of B-sides, rarities and songs that apparently reached No. 69 in the charts. Nice.

44. LE TIGRE (London Troxy, 03/06/23) 

A bit of a shaky one at first, but by the end the bomp had well and truly been put in the bompalompalomp. JD Samson and Kathleen Hanna both have such natural magnetism, and 'Deceptacon' inevitably reduced Limehouse to a smoking crater.

43. RACHEL UNTHANK & THE WINTERSET (London Barbican, 10/09/23) 

A salute to the dearly missed Paul Whitter, who introduced me to this Northumbrian group 15 years ago. Trad folk isn't my usual wheelhouse, but I fell head-over-heels for the beauty and drama of 'The Bairns' and it was a pleasure to relive that fantastic album so many years on.

42. BALMORHEA (London Milton Court, 14/07/23) 

It's been a whole decade since I last caught these Texans in that there London, and I'd forgotten quite how lovely their restrained blend of folk, modern classical and post-rock could be. 

41. SLOTFACE (London 100 Club, 22/11/23) 

Not even a sedate Wednesday night crowd could quench the exuberance of Norway's premier pop-punk practitioners, who rattled through no less than 18 songs in an hour and still found time to crowdsurf.

40. WE INTEND TO CAUSE HAVOC (London EartH, 28/11/23) 

A supremely uplifting show from Zambia's biggest rock band of the 70s and 80s, featuring massive riffs, snazzy clothes, dad jokes galore and yours truly, rocking the cowbell(!)

39. COCOROSIE (London Electric Ballroom, 27/06/23) 

CocoRosie are an acquired taste to be sure, and I’ll fully admit they sometimes come across as insufferable, but the pairing of the Casady sisters' very distinct voices with beatboxing, harp and genre-agnostic beats really hits the right spot for me 

38. SARAH NEUFELD (London West Hampstead Arts Club, 26/01/23) 

A virtuoso and unexpectedly epic set from Schrodinger’s Arcade Fire Member at a lovely little West London venue I never knew existed. I actually think that she's now surpassed Owen Pallett as my most seen musician live (39 sets!). 

37. PUULUUP (London Kings Place, 20/05/23) 

A show I attended simply because the blurb sounded intriguing, and I’m so glad I did- this deadpan Estonian folk duo incorporated elements of DakhaBrakha, Chilly Gonzales and even Dan Deacon to accomplished and surprisingly hilarious effect.

36. BELAKO (London Camden Assembly, 17/06/23) 

This brilliant Basque four-piece tested the tensile strength of the former Camden Barfly to its limits last night with their barrage of electrifying pop-post-punk. A surprise highlight of an exceedingly good June.

35. METRIC (London Rough Trade West, 16/10/23) 

What an absolute treat to see Actual Emily Haines of perform in a 60-capacity record shop. Only four songs, but every one a joy.

34. BLUR (London Wembley Stadium, 09/07/23) 

What better way to end such an incredible couple of weekends than with a bit of ‘Parklife’? Yet while ‘Song 2’ and ‘Girls & Boys’ got everyone singing and dickheads throwing their pints, it's the less boisterous moments - ‘Under The Westway’ (with Damon bursting into tears afterwards), ‘Beetlebum’, ‘Tender’, ‘The Universal’- that will stick with me. 

33. THE LAST DINNER PARTY (London Oslo, 13/06/23) 

They're going to be huge, aren't they? They have the stagecraft, they have the songs, they have a lot of industry backing and - very much in their favour in 2023 - they actually have melodies (think ABBA/B52s/Kate Bush) rather than just post-punk basslines. I'm sure many will bounce off their sheer poshness but there's no doubting these ladies have that special something. 

32. SPARKS (London Royal Albert Hall, 29/05/23) 

It took half a century, but the Brothers Mael finally made it to the Albert Hall. A well-earned and most enjoyable victory lap, even if it lacked some of the, well, spark of shows I’ve seen in less ostentatious venues. 

31. FEIST (London Roundhouse, 09/09/23) 

The mighty Leslie Feist, performing half "in the round" solo and acoustic; half on stage with her full band. Not even a bizarre smattering of sociopathic chatterers narrating their TikTok videos whilst she was literally performing could ruin this. 

30. THE SUN-RA ARKESTRA- (London The Forge, 10/08/23) 

Marshall Allen was sadly absent this time round (to be fair, he is 99 years old), but the Arkestra's astral jazz continues to send us all to another plane of existence. 

29. JOANNA STERNBERG (London Kings Place, 11/11/23)

I have a long-attested allergy to acoustic guitars, but I really enjoyed this short, extremely charming set from a mightly promising songwriting talent. A pinch of Carole King here, a hint of Joanna Newsom there and a whole ladleful of Kimya Dawson and Daniel Johnston.

28. THE HOLD STEADY (London Colours, 12/03/23) 

It’s the Hold Steady, doing their thing (i.e. rollocking bar-room blues overlaid with Craig Finn’s witty, self-referential vignettes of small-town teenage life) and as ever THERE. WAS. SO. MUCH. JOY. An March tradition I hope that goes on for many years to come. 

27. YEAH YEAH YEAHS (London Victoria Park, 25/08/23) 

A thrillingly triumphant, “should-have-been-the-headline” set from the legendary Karen O and pals at an All Points East event ostensibly topped by The Strokes. Dramatic, eclectic and incendiary.

26. BLACK COUNTRY NEW ROAD (London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 11/10/23) 

I’ve struggled to get to grips with much of BCNR’s post-Isaac material, but this show went a hell of a long way in resolving that. Yes, there’s still some weaker elements, but the second half came precariously close to recapturing the magic of the “old” days and the epic piano ballad ‘Turbines/Pigs’, always the strongest of the new fare deservedly received one of the most enthusiastic ovations I’ve witnessed all year.

25. SOAP & SKIN (London Purcell Rooms, 18/06/23) 

A sublime early-evening set from incomparable Austrian singer and Goddess of the Night Anja Plaschg. Beautiful and brutal in equal measure.

24. TEETH OF THE SEA (London Walthamstow Trade Club, 07/10/23) 

Dystopian cyberpunk disco vibes in a Walthamstow working man's club with the cheapest pints in London (possibly). Hell yeah!

23. SUZANNE CIANI (London Kings Place, 11/06/23) 

An honour to once again experience the 77-year old modular synth pioneer in action. The quadrophonic soundscapes weren't quite as uncompromising as EartH last year, but the intimacy of Kings Place lent them more warmth.

22. DEERHOOF (London Lafayette, 21/08/23) 

There are few acts that could genuinely be described as “one-of-a-kind” but Deerhoof must be on that list. A thrilling set even by their uncompromising standards, I could happily watch John Saunier’s spasmodic drum stylings for hours. 

21. BLONDE REDHEAD (Bristol Thekla, 10/12/23) 

A stunningly sumptuous comeback from the blissful alt-rock trio, delivering noise and lusciousness in equal measure. They were a bit crap when I saw them back in the day, but this was leagues better.

20. TITUS ANDRONICUS (London Moth Club, 18/02/23) 

Genuinely can't believe it's been almost seven years since I last saw a non-solo Titus show and in honesty I'd forgotten quite how much I bloody love them. Arrived at the venue in a hyperglycemic slump, ended the show in the mosh-pit for "A More Perfect Union" - now THAT'S what I call a band!

19. MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER (London Scala, 15/03/23) 

Waited a decade to see Melody Prochet live, and she exceeded even my sky-high expectations with ninety intoxicating minutes of classic French dream-pop. Felt suitably celebratory too, as in 2017 a serious accident left her with a brain aneurysm that could have ended her career for good.

18. A.P.A.T.T (London Cafe Oto, 13/10/23) 

Every seven or so years, a batshit collective of Liverpudlian oddballs enter my life, perform a genre-hopping set that sounds like Penguin Cafe covering Deerhoof, or Beefheart covering Beirut or something different altogether then disappear into the √¶ther. That band is a.P.A.t.T and I think they're bloody brilliant. 

17. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (London Hyde Park, 08/07/23) 

The 2016 London show was better, if only because it had The Greatest Encore in the history of live music, but this was another 3-hour tour-de-force from the electrifying, stupefying, awe-inspiring, age-defying E! Street! Band! 

16. JOE HISAISHI (London Wembley Arena, 22/09/23) 

Almost ten percent of my life passed between me purchasing tickets for Joe Hisaishi and me attending said concert, so I was gratified that it ultimately exceeded even my Castle-In-The-Sky-high expectations. So many heart-stirring Ghibli moments, but Kiki's Delivery Service, Ponyo and Princess Mononoke elicited honest-to-God feelings, and there’s something about a full scale orchestral/choral rendition of the Totoro theme that could dispel the darkest gloom. Wonderful. 

15. THE BURNING HELL (London Dalston Victoria, 21/05/23) 

What I love about this band (apart from the sharp wit, dazzling musicianship, "Fuck The Government" singalongs etc. etc.) is just how much laughter inevitably ensues, both on stage and off. Always such a genuinely uplifting experience, no matter how you're feeling beforehand.

14. CALEXICO (London Electric Ballroom, 02/11/23) 

17 years since I first saw them, Calexico's fusion of Americana and brass-punctuated Mexicana remains as vibrant and celebratory an experience as it's ever been, although this playthrough of 2003's "Feast of Wire" was also a high-spirited reminder that they're not unafraid to sprinkle in other styles and genres too. Perhaps the most reliably excellent live band touring today.

13. CAROLINE ROSE (London Heaven, 05/06/23) 

Well, that was quite the *journey*- from the celestial synth choir of "Love/Lover/Friend" (a true goosebump moment) to moments of self-doubt and stage fright, to gyrating behind a bemused security guard, to an all-out riot grrl finale. An unanticipated gem of a show.

12. BELL ORCHESTRE (London Queen Elizabeth Hall 25/01/23) 

A rare UK outing by the Arcade Fire-adjacent instrumentalists, tonight accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra. A genuinely stunning, heart-stirring performance full of colour and subtlety.

11. OWEN PALLETT & THE HIDDEN CAMERAS (London EartH, 10/04/23) 

One of the plus sides of my road-trip to Croatia meeting an unexpectedly early terminus was that it allowed me to catch the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy on these shores for the first time in eight years, ably accompanied by veteran “gay church folk” balladeer Joel Gibb. Needless to say, it was outrageously good, and "The Great Elsewhere" and "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt" will never fail to clobber me in the emotions.

10. KISHI BASHI (London Union Chapel, 22/06/23) 

The great showman of the string-looping world finally makes it to Union Chapel, and it’s inevitably a match made in heaven. I’ve seen him do the “acoustic encore in the middle of the audience” thing several times before, but it’s somehow even more extraordinary in a venue that beautiful.

9. THE GO! TEAM (London Lafayette, 31/03/23) 

An 80 minute explosion of genre-mashing technicolor fun from Brighton's premier joymakers. Loved seeing Ninja's kids bopping side-stage, although it was a bit sobering that my first Go! Team gig (Feb 2005) clearly predated the birth of more than a few members of the audience.

8. RED SNAPPER (London Rich Mix, 18/11/23) 

Four consummate musicians generating levels of groove that could power one of George Clinton's Motherships = my new favourite new (actually pretty old) band?. Cracking cover of Sound & Vision too. Can’t believe I’d never seen them before; I’ll be unlikely to miss an opportunity to see them again. 

7. THE WALKMEN (London KOKO, 29/08/23) 

Well, that was one for the ages! A brave move to dispatch The Big Hit only 4 songs into the set (and my Lord, how spectacular that was), but the likes of "Angela Surf City" and "Heaven" were received just as, if not more, rapturously. Plus, fair play to the refurbished KOKO - the sound was superb AND the air-con was on-point. I’m not even the biggest Walkman fan, but I can’t think of a single way this could have been bettered.

6. SIGUR ROS (Wasing Estate, 02/07/23) 

A prestine, powerful (the sheer roar of 'Glosoli' nearly knocked me off my feet) and mesmerising Greatest Hits set from the Icelandic trio, performing in a verdant forest amphitheatre. Their sophisticated and unexpectedly subtle orchestral concert at the Southbank a couple of weeks earlier was certainly more of an 'event', but I can't deny in terms of pure enjoyment that this was the one for me.

5. STARS (London Lafayette, 11/12/23-12/12/23) 

Two tremendous, celebratory, heart-warming shows from the Canadian indie-rock stalwarts, featuring The Wedding Present’s David Gedge on "Elevator Love Letter" and Canadian music stalwart Murray Lightburn providing bonus Dears content. I’ve said this many times about Stars, but their earnestness is their greatest strength; they may be a bit corny at times but God, they’re a joy to share a room with. 

4. M83 (London Roundhouse, 29/06/23) 

Anthony Gonzales somehow constructed a set that almost entirely ignored the existence of “Tomorrow=Youth”, yet still delivered one of the most astounding musical experiences of the year. Like being washed away in a glorious tsunami of sound.

3. SUNSET RUBDOWN (Seattle The Crocodile/Portland Doug Fir Lounge, 21/04/23-22/04/23) 

There are vanishingly few bands I would consider travelling to another continent for, but the moment I heard Sunset Rubdown were reuniting for a few dates around North America, it became inevitable that my bank balance was going to take an kicking. Were these objectively the best gigs I’ve ever seen? No. But sometimes being in a room full of like-minded people singing along to painfully obscure mid-Noughties Canadian indie-rock about ghosts, snakes, horses and all of the above with all the gusto a long-starved fandom can muster is as exhilarating an experience as one could possibly have. 

2. ORCHESTRE TOUT PUISSANT MARCEL DUCHAMP (London Cafe Oto, 12/12/23) 

I have seen literally thousands of musical acts over the last two decades, but I don't think I've experienced one that so gloriously encapsulates everything I adore about live music than this 13-piece Swiss ensemble. Part Chrome Hoof, part Penguin Cafe, they are chaotic, scintillating, beautiful, noisy, exciting, technically dazzling and most of all, a hell of a lot of fun.

1. PULP (London Finsbury Park, 01/07/23) 

Well, that wasn't really much of a surprise, was it? I did have the absolute pleasure of attending Pulp's first show in 11 year at Bridlington Spa and it was glorious (Jarvis remains as phenomenal a frontman as ever), but their grand day out in London just had more polish, more atmosphere and dare I say...more razzamatazz (note: they did not actually play that song). Some may quibble the setlist was a little safe, but I loved every sordid, thrilling, revelatory, witty, danceable, anthemic moment of it and I'm counting down the days until I see them again next June.

(And for previous editions of this self-indulgent nonsense, now in its 17th year, here are the lists for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 sadly the photo links are STILL busted but I plan to sort that out before the heat-death of the Universe. Until the next time!)





PATRICK WOLF (London EartH, 19/12/23)

My 98th and likely final gig of 2023, and who better to spend it with than the majestic Mr Wolf, performing a freewheeling 2.5 hour long set of B-sides, rarities and songs that apparently reached No. 69 in the charts. Nice.

THE BIG MOON (London Union Chapel, 18/12/23)

Can't say I was overly familiar with the all-female London indie-rockers except for an Ezra Furman support slot in 2015, but I truly enjoyed this- lovely harmonies, classy string arrangements, and a warm, festive atmosphere.

PANDA BEAR (London Heaven, 14/12/23)

My 7th gig in 7 days, and truth be told I was starting to seriously flag but I unexpectedly fell in love with this album last year and felt obliged to check it out live. And though I've not enjoyed my prior Panda Bear live experiences (more noodly than a ramen factory), this featured all the chill grooves, Beach Boys-esque harmonies and hypnotic visuals a tired old man could desire.

ALICIA EDELWEISS (London Green Note, 13/12/23)

An evening featuring German folk tunes, Daniel Johnston covers, hula hoop skillz and a talented, quirky Austrian-Welsh multi-instrumentalist destined to capture that cultural space that’s been gradually vacated by Amanda Palmer.

ORCHESTRE TOUT PUISSANT MARCEL DUCHAMP (London Cafe Oto, 12/12/23)

I have seen literally thousands of musical acts over the last two decades, but I don't think I've experienced one that so gloriously encapsulates everything I adore about live music than this 13-piece Swiss ensemble. Part Chrome Hoof, part Penguin Cafe, they are chaotic, scintillating, beautiful, noisy, exciting, technically dazzling and most of all, a hell of a lot of fun. Gig of 2023? Up there, certainly.

STRFKR (London Garage, 11/12/23)

These day-glo synthpop maestros last graced the UK over a decade ago, and as someone who recalls watching them in a half-empty pub in Kentish Town circa 2009, it was heartening (if slightly unexpected) that they sold out the Garage this time round. Their vibe is a little more chill and less high energy than back in the day, but a more aged me is basically fine with that, and their cover of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" remains a campy joy.

BLONDE REDHEAD (Bristol Thekla, 10/12/23)

A stunningly sumptuous comeback from the dream-poppy alt-rock trio, delivering noise and lusciousness in equal measure. A huge step-up from the previous times I’ve seen them.

DAYLIGHT MUSIC (London St John’s Bethnal Green, 09/12/23)

I may be a lazy bugger, but I actively try to drag myself out for the final Daylight Music of the year because sipping (non-alcoholic) mulled wine in an old church listening to pretty music is always a fine way to spend a lunchtime.

NEWDAD (London Third Man Records, 08/12/23)

Good craic from Galway's No.1 alternative beat combo, showcasing their upcoming debut album ‘MADRA’.

SLOW PULP (London Garage, 06/12/23)

Not to be confused with the more averagely-paced Pulp I saw earlier this year. Fine, I guess.

MOIN (Leeds Brudenell Social Club, 02/12/23)

Raucous post-hardcore antics from experimentalist duo Raime and Italian percussion supremo Valentina Magaletti that impressively attracted a full house on an evening best described as "cold as balls".

WE INTEND TO CAUSE HAVOC (London EartH, 28/11/23)

A supremely uplifting show from Zambia's biggest rock band of the 70s and 80s, featuring massive riffs, snazzy clothes, dad jokes galore and yours truly, rocking the cowbell(!)

O. (London Third Man Records, 24/11/23)

Been meaning to catch this hotly-tipped sax-and-drums duo since the beginning of the year, and their scuzzy genre-hopping racket proved worthy of the hype. The Comet Is Coming and Party Dozen have a worthy rival!

SLOTFACE (London 100 Club, 22/11/23)

Not even a sedate Wednesday night crowd could quench the exuberance of Norway's premier pop-punk practitioners, who rattled through no less than 18 songs in an hour and still found time to crowdsurf.

THE NECKS (London Kings Place, 20/11/23)

Caught the legendary Australian improv trio in action and finally understand what the fuss is all about. With just a piano, double bass and percussion, they create two entirely original pieces on the fly (the latter tending to lean more “intense” than the former); their obvious psychic connection means this seems almost effortless on their part even though the actual level of musicianship is astounding. Almost had to break up a fight on the way out though, because avant-garde audiences can be quite aggressive...

RED SNAPPER (London Rich Mix, 18/11/23)

Four consummate musicians generating levels of groove that could power one of George Clinton's Motherships. Cracking cover of Sound & Vision too. Can’t believe I’d never seen them before; I’ll be unlikely to miss an opportunity to see them again.

WILL BUTLER & THE SISTER SQUARES (London Institute of Contemporary Arts, 17/11/23)

Hyper-energetic doo-wop synth-pop excellence from the younger, non-disgraced Butler brother and the fantastic Sister Squares.

DEARY (London Rough Trade West, 17/11/23)

A gossamer-delicate acoustic set from the amiable shoegazers.

JOANNA STERNBERG (London Kings Place, 11/11/23)

I have a long-attested allergy to acoustic guitars, but I thoroughly enjoyed this short, extremely charming set from a mightily promising songwriting talent. A pinch of Carole King here, a hint of Joanna Newsom there and a whole ladleful of Kimya Dawson and Daniel Johnston.

GOAT (London Kings Place, 10/11/23)

At least 12 gigs worth attending on the same night, but I went with the mad Japanese experimentalists because that's the oddball I am. Percussive, discordant, intense and LOUD...very much my cup of sake.

SNOOPER (London Third Man Records, 09/11/23)

35 minutes of sheer anarchy in the basement of Jack White's record shop - just what the doctor ordered.

HAUSCHKA (London Milton Court, 06/11/23)

The ever-genial Volker Bertelmann has come a long way since I saw him play a toy piano at Northampton Square Bandstand (I mean, he's won an Oscar since!) but his ingenuity, playfulness and preference for risk rather than perfection remains as evident as ever. Plus, he still uses a prepared piano with ping-pong balls and that makes me smile.

CALEXICO (London Electric Ballroom, 02/11/23)

17 years since I first saw them, Calexico's fusion of Americana and brass-punctuated Mexicana remains as vibrant and celebratory an experience as it's ever been, although this playthrough of 2003's "Feast of Wire" was also a fun reminder that they're not unafraid to sprinkle in other styles and genres too. Perhaps the most reliably excellent live band touring today.

BLONDSHELL (London Lafayette, 01/11/23)

An unexpectedly lively set from the LA indie-rocker, more upbeat than you might expect from the lyrics. I’m always a sucker for a ‘Deceptacon’ cover too, although illness precluded me from catching the whole show.

BILLY COBHAM (London Jazz Cafe, 25/10/23)

I mean, it's Billy fucking Cobham right? Miles Davis collaborator, composer of the greatest jazz-fusion instrumental of all time (heavily sampled by Massive Attack) and all-round cool dude who's still a percussive powerhouse at the age of 79. Can’t deny this pushed my personal limits for noodling by the end, but when it was good, it was really f’in good.

HAEPAARY (London Lower Third, 24/10/23)

A Seoul-based electronic duo whose sound suggests Korean shamans channelling the first Fever Ray record (something I'm very much on board with). Dark, atmospheric, and featuring a big-ass drum – what’s not to like?

BROKEN RECORDS (London Lexington, 20/10/23)

In early 2008, I attended "the Scottish Arcade Fire's" first ever London gig and became a minor-level fanboy for a while. Almost 16 years on, Broken Records are less ‘Win Butler’ and more ‘Bruce Springsteen’, but it’s nice to see such a cult concern still going strong. Also pleased to note that "Nearly Home" still bangs live.

GROOVE& & DUO BUD (London Kings Place, 19/10/23)

Two mesmerising takes on Korean traditional music - the former with intricate, epic instrumentals built around gayageum and drum; the latter rocking a shamanic, relentlessly percussive "gong-core" sound. Another triumph from the always eye-opening London K-Music Fest.

METRIC (London Rough Trade West, 16/10/23)

What an absolute treat to see Actual Emily Haines of perform in a 60-capacity record shop. Only four songs, but every one a joy.

IRIANA MANCINI (London Omeara, 14/10/23)

I did try to like this, but in truth it mostly gave me “cruise ship to Benidorm” vibes.

KUKANGENDAI & A.P.A.T.T (London Cafe Oto, 13/10/23)

Every seven or so years, a batshit collective of Liverpudlian oddballs enter my life, perform a genre-hopping set that sounds like Penguin Cafe covering Deerhoof, or Beefheart covering Beirut or something different altogether then disappear into the æther. That band is a.P.A.t.T and I think they're bloody brilliant. (Kukangendai were also good, but the minimalistic Japanese trio felt a bit like a delicate salad after a particularly bold dessert).