Review: Owl Parliament at Union Chapel

This show was absolutely brilliant, in my top 3 of the year for sure. There were 9 bands and we were there over 9 hours, so this review is probably going to be really long, but I will try and make it as organized and coherent as possible.

Owl Parliament was an all day festival from 12.30-10.30 featuring 9 bands and hosted at the absolutely beautiful Union Chapel church in Islington. I met Adam beforehand and we walked up to the church where we met up with Bobbles and John. There were more people queuing outside than I expected. It was a beautiful, sunny and mild day. They soon let us in and, instead of letting us sit down, they shepherded us into another corridor where we had to queue some more. I’m not really sure what the point in letting us in to queue some more was, but it didn’t really matter because once they (properly) let us in we made a beeline for the front left pew and got the best view in the whole house. It should also be noted that the church had some really cheerful, friendly staff which makes a change from those security guards that look like they want to kill you and stuff you in a black bag and toss you in a river somewhere.

Stars of Sunday League: It wasn’t very long before the first act took to the stage. Stars of Sunday League is the stage monicker of Scotsman Euan Robinson, joined by Sarah Triggs on violin. It was pretty straight ahead folky stuff, pleasant to the ears. His set was plagued by one problem though: I was hungry. I can’t concentrate when I’m hungry, unless you are WOW’ing me with something amazing. So it was a relief when he ended and I could eat.

We Aeronauts: We saw the band setting up with a variety of instruments which looked exciting and got me intrigued about what they would be like. They were brilliant. A feast for the eyes and ears, so much going on. Upbeat, rich, folky songs. They noted the wonderful sound of the church and so for one song the band left the stage and came down and sang and played acoustic and unplugged. It was magnificent and really special and good that they did it. I would be happy to see them play again, it’s always great to see a band that surprises you with how good they are. Listen on Myspace.

Planet Earth: I had heard that these guys were boring. After witnessing them, I have to admit I was a little bored. They were  not bad, they were just missing any form of punch. The singer had a meek, uninteresting voice and it was easy to blank them out. Instead we amused ourselved by drawing what the band would like like if they were pandas. Yep. Luckily, Union Chapel has way more comfortable pews than St Giles. I didn’t bring a cushion, but I despite sitting down for most of the day I wasn’t that uncomfortable, which is strange because after an hour of the pews at St Giles I just about want to destroy the pew and sit on the floor.

Mechanical Bride: When Planet Earth started playing nobody was listening, everyone was chatting and minding their own business. As soon as Lauren Doss  from Mechanical Bride opened her mouth and sang the entire place fell silent. The acoustics in Union Chapel are magnificent, absolutely stunning. Her voice carried beautifully and it was amazing. To hear her sing in this place over the top of some sparse piano was a huge treat. She had some horn players playing with her. At the end of the set she did a song where it was just her vocals and glockenspiel. After some fuss getting the glockenspiel at the right height for her (they eventually gave up and just put it on the floor) she wowed us all (some more) with her brilliant voice.

Peggy Sue: I saw Peggy Sue last year at the Cargo and wasn’t really wowed. They didn’t leave much of an impression on me, I didn’t dislike them though, so I was happy enough to see them again. This time, they completely won me over and I would pay money to see them again. Both Rosa and Katy have stunning voices and, I can’t say this enough, the acoustics in this church are SO GOOD. It’s like we entered some portal that transported us to a heavenly place where sound is so beautiful that you could cry (maybe we did…). They were joined by a drummer and some strings. The strings were a particularly great addition as they didn’t have them at Cargo. Once We Were Strangers was brilliant, upbeat and magical. Then they played ‘the most inappropriate song in [their] repertoire’. A cover of Missy Elliott’s ‘All In My Grill‘. I myself am not familiar with the works of Missy Elliott, but this performance was stunning. I can’t really articulate just how gorgeous the acoustics were, it even brought a smile to the girls’ faces during the parts of the song where they would pause and you could hear the sound carrying through the rest of the church. Listen to them on Myspace, they have Once We Were Strangers up and a Youtube video of All In My Grill. 

BREAK: By now the church had darkened more and there was less light coming through the stained glass windows. Everyone went to get some Kentucky Fried Chicken and I stayed to guard the killer pew. Turns out food isn’t allowed in the church, so I had to go out to eat my snack box. I’ve seen Laura Marling twice before and she’s worn the same outfit both times. I was hoping she would be wearing something different today, otherwise all my photos of her look pretty much the same. I saw her wandering around the church and it looked like she was wearing a different top. Good good. I went outside and ate my chicken then returned to the church. 

Johnny Flynn: Johnny has a strong voice, and, surprisingly, plays folky music. He was enjoyable enough and was endearing on stage. Someone screamed some weird noise and Johnny awkwardly said ‘it’s just me up here… would you mind not making that noise please’, which drew some laughs. He then changed his mind and said ‘ok, you can make that noise if you want’ and seemingly most of the church started to wolf whistle and yelp for him. There was a moment where it fell silent and bizarrely someone made some sort of chimpanzee-esque noise. The fire alarm went off in one of his songs too. Johnny drew the biggest claps so far, which was a bit baffling to me because I thought some of the acts before were miles better.

Laura Marling: I wonder how many times I’m going to see Laura Marling without really intending to. As mentioned before, I hoped she’d be wearing a different top, and I thought she was, but when she took to the stage it was the same one. NO WAY! It was pretty funny. Bobbles was also convinced she had eaten KFC because she had a greasy bottom lip, but I think this more likely to be lip gloss. She played for the longest I’ve seen her, and she seemed more confident… which is strange because this was also the biggest audience I’ve seen her with. I like that song about being the last serving daughter. Her voice is good but it didn’t have that WOW effect that Mechanical Bride and Peggy Sue managed to provide. She closed with Alas I Cannot Swim, I like that song too. I still don’t understand the Laura Marling hype, but strangely, I wouldn’t mind her being on a bill of a show I attend again.

Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard: By now I was literally jumping in my seat with excitement. I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about Jeffrey Lewis, he has to be one of my most favourite live performers and artists ever. Before he started we watched him setting up his stuff.  The band was formed of Jeffrey, drummer Dave, Jack, Fletcher and Johnny Flynn provided some violin. The band sounded great and were clearly having so much fun performing for us. They played I Ain’t Think from the Crass covers album. There was also a really cool song where Fletcher sang some vocals over some fuzzy guitar feedback, it was really stunning. They did End Result, Jeffrey did his low budget music video for The Complete History of Communism Part 5: Communism in Korea. They also played Wildflowers from the Daytrotter Session, I love that song so that was fantastic for me to hear it again. There was the usual endearing stage banter, Jeffrey spoke about types of animals like a murder of crows, school of fish, pride of lions etc etc. He finished with Chelsea Hotel and I made a point of clapping longest and loudest for Jeff and the Junkyard, because they were the best. After Jeffrey’s set I asked him to draw us a Panda Storm. The conversation went like this.

Herman Dune: I enjoyed their set, upbeat fun songs. For the penultimate song they had Jeffrey and the band join them. I don’t know much of Herman Dune’s music but I enjoyed them and it was fun.

Jeffrey and the Panda Storm: After the show we went and found Jeffrey and he drew us a panda storm for our website which we are planning, called Panda Storm. He spent a good few minutes drawing it and taking his time. He has to be the nicest musician I have ever met. He also drew me a picture when I saw him in November last year. He kindly signed stuff for John and chatted with us all and humbly thanked us several times. It was the perfect end to a fantastic day. Go see Jeffrey Lewis live. There’s nobody else doing what he does. He is amazing.

If anyone read this whole review, wow, bravo.

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5 Responses to Review: Owl Parliament at Union Chapel

  1. Alicia February 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm #

    johnny & laura…… ahhh I can’t tell how much I wish I was there. Laura looks lovely as usual, even if it’s the same top :p

  2. fulltext February 22, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    Fantastic review, as usual. I did read every word and am ever so glad you finally like Peggy Sue. They are fabulous. I’d been collecting demos forever and finally have all their released material, plus some of the monthly mix things. Which to be honest, I don’t know what all they are!

    The whole thing with Laura is quite funny, but I think she’ll win you over eventually. Maybe it is just her clothes and haircut? :)

    And thank you for the introduction to Jeffrey Lewis. I’d seen the name before but had never really listened to him.

    Keep up the brilliant work!

  3. anikainlondon February 22, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Thanks Fulltext :)

    I do really wish I liked Laura Marling, because I have so many opportunities to see her it would be good to be able to get excited about them. If I see her again wearing that top I will buy her a new one and ask her to wear it next time!

    I am glad about Peggy Sue too, look forward to seeing them again.

  4. Gwen February 25, 2009 at 12:59 am #

    Do you know what the first song that Jeff played was called? About seeing his ex in a cafe or something?


  5. anikainlondon February 25, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    Hmm, I think that that song was new and untitled, because I seem to remember after that song it went into that awesome one where Fletcher sang, then back to the old ones…

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