Entries in brixton windmill (4)

Saturday
Nov192011

William Elliott Whitmore - Windmill, Brixton

Photo by Pieter Morlion

There are many great things about living in Brixton and one of those is being just a stone throw from the Windmill where on Thursday evening William Elliott Whitmore took to the stage. A rare opportunity to see William play in such an intimate venue the gig sold out weeks in advance, however being both slim and very lucky I was allowed to squeeze in!

At the Windmill it's been a fine year for artists of the folk-punk/alt-country genre with Austin Lucas, Digger Barnes, Two Cow Garage, Crazy Arm, Frontier Ruckus and Franz Nicolay to name just a few who with tattooed arms and shots of whiskey have taken the stage in recent months.

Support on the evening came from London based, and Windmill regular JD Smith. I arrived a little too late to catch his set but based on previous times I've heard him play he's well worth checking out if you get the chance.

William's act is a minimalist one accompanied with just his banjo and kick-drum, and there was a sense the evening would be a long one as he invited folk to make room for others saying "there's plenty of room up here on the stage, just don't touch me or touch my shit!". And a long one it was, for the £10 entry you certainly got value for money with a set which topped the two hour mark.

With seven albums to his name there were plenty of songs to play and it seemed as though William would have been happy playing through all of them. Taking numerous requests from the audience William was willing to play whatever the eager and informed crowd wanted to hear, and the frequent stops between songs for banter, a steady flow of whiskey being passed forward from the back of the room and the lights down low it only added to the intimacy of the event.

Although a great banjoist it's William's voice that really sets him apart. His deep, throaty vocals are often described as 'the voice that Tom Waits has been after for years' and something of a mix between Solomon Burke and Captain Beefheart with plenty of whiskey and cigarette abuse thrown in for good measure. A blend of gospel, blues, folk and country it's a sound that wouldn't be out of place in the 1930s but fits equally well in 2011. And lyrics of solid Americana pedigree speaking of drinking, loving and losing, the devil and darkness, as well as reflections of life growing up on his grandparents farm in Keokuk, Iowa you were left entertained, informed and feeling as though as long as people kept making music like that then everything was going to be alright.

If you get a chance to see William live you should, and if you don't then you should at least give him a listen!

Monday
May092011

Austin Lucas, Brixton Windmill 8th May

For fans of the folk punk genre of music the last couple of weeks have been a real treat at the Windmill, Brixton. Two weeks ago Two Cow Garage played alongside the Blacklist Royals, Crazy Arm and El Morgan. Last night it was the turn of the rather awesome Austin Lucas.

I saw Austin Lucas play at the Windmill last October (that time with Cory Brannan and Drag The River) and was keen to see him again. He played a couple of unofficial shows at this years SXSW but both I and then a taxi driver got lost trying to find the venue (it was quite a way out of town) so I was pretty chuffed to see him booked to play back in Brixton.

In trying to get some friends to come along I described the music genre as alt-country punk, which admittedly doesn't sound very appealing to those who aren't already a fan of the genre. In hindsight I should have done a better job at selling the gig as it turned to be one of those rare evenings where you wish all your friends were there to witness it. Support for the evening came with a wealth of talent in the form of Digger Barnes, Darren Johns (of Crazy Arm), The Henry Brothers, El Morgan and Jimmy Islip all playing. I arrived missing the first act but caught the middle of El Morgan's set, it was the 2nd time seeing her play in as many weeks and I'll definitely be looking out for her coming back to London soon!

Anyone at the Windmill last night who wasn't already a fan of Lucas will surely be now. Playing a solo set as preparation for his forthcoming Country Throw Down tour with Willie Nelson, Lucas started out with the traditional Wild Boar, ending with Go West and winding through songs from across albums A New Home In An Old World, Somebody Loves You and Putting The Hammer Down often turing to the audience to determine what they wanted to hear next.

But it was his character and interaction with the crowd on stage really shone through. It's clear to see that he's someone who loves what he does and enjoys seeing others having a great time, you got the sense that he'd just as rather been in the crowd as playing on stage. During the set Lucas spoke about how he enjoyed the lack of green room at the Windmill as this meant he could get to hang out with fans stating if your fans aren't good enough to hang out with then you're playing the wrong type of music! In recent tweets Lucas demonstrated again that he appreciates people who want to listen to his music saying, "..love seeing free download links for my album online. It's kinda like when kids make their own Tshirts for your band. You know you've made it", although of course he'd rather you buy the albums. And you really should.

If you get a chance to see Lucas play live then grab it! I'll be looking forward to him coming back to London soon!

Thursday
May052011

The Windmill, Brixton

Prompted by the NME's Britain's Best Small Venue competition and that a couple of times I've made reference to the The Windmill when talking about bands on here I figured I'd write a short post about the place which Drowned In Sound calls "your favourite new venue".

Prior to moving to Brixton I'd been to the Windmill a couple of times and when a house came up in the same road I wouldn't say it was my main factor in moving but having the Windmill as my local was certainly a considerable factor.

The Windmill has a strong history, in it's past it was best known as bikers bar and then the chosen haunt of Brixton's Irish community. For the past 12 years its been hosting live music pretty much seven days a week and still remains a pillar of the local community – evident in the cliental mix of music fanatics and old time regulars sat along the bar.

It's been around a year since Windmill became my local and in that time I've seen a whole bunch of great bands. To list them all would be impossible but some personal highlights have been folk punk bluegrass-ist Austin Lucas; garage rock band The Ettes, current darling of Nashville Caitlin Rose, Austin legends ...trail of dead, Icelandic classical/pop Rökkurró, experimental glam rock Bobby Conn, and Canadian indie jazz sextet Brasstronaut. Oh, and how could I forget the legend that is Adam Bomb – stadium rock (complete with pyrotechnics) in your living room!

I caught up with Tim, the Windmill's events/band manager to have a quick chat about the venue:

How did the Windmill become a live music venue?
It kind of happened by accident, late night sessions at the bar revealed that the regulars carried a wealth of experience in musicianship and promoting, and since we all drank there we figured that we should get a good band down every now and and again. The bands came and they loved the venue and informality. Many of the bands kept coming back to play again and it kind of evolved from there.

What has been the most memorable gig you've put on at the Windmill?
Some that quickly come to mind are ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead which was just last month. The 5678s played just after Kill Bill 2 had come out and they were in it, Scritti Politti's comeback show after (gulp) 26 years, The Vaccines played last summer to just 30 people, and loads of others such as the much-missed Clor, Stereolab...

The Windmill prides itself on putting on good music, how do bands go about getting the chance to play?
Sound good and don't ask us for a gig four months in advance. There's always decent slots available. No matter how many of your mates you can get to 'ram the place' if your music sucks we're not interested! For more band information take a look here

RoofdogThere are some great gigs coming up, who's your pick to look out for in 2011?
We've got loads of great Canadian bands coming through in May. I'd say Said the Whale. They're blowing up in canada right now.

Roofdog is turning into a bit of a cult legend, how big is his fan base? Does he have a favourite band?
He's got over 500 fans now on Facebook. His favourite band is ...And You Will know Us By The Trail of Roof Dog (it's a covers band) but he also likes Caitlin Rose for chilltime.

You've recently started on putting on art exhibitions, any plans to continue this theme or branch out?
It was nice being arty. We also like having a pop-up shop too.

The NME is looking for the UKs best small venue, in my opinion the Windmill ticks all the right boxes – a good mix of promoting and nurturing local bands as well as bringing in acts from around the world, a venue run by people who know and love their music – and always up for for a discussion about the merits of some obscure sub-genre like alternative folk chamber pop!

If you'd like to cast your vote (and you really should) you can do so here, hurry though as voting closes on May 11th.