Last week I caught Skating Polly at Gulliver’s in Manchester which prompted me to write a rave review in Live Music Pix.
I have been known to get carried away when I enjoy a gig, but here we are, over a week later and I’ve been to 4 fab gigs since. Yet, I’m still buzzing about Skating Polly, and thinking no gig is ever going to come close, except maybe for another Skating Polly gig!
We all know loads of people who follow their favourite band around the country on tour. But I’ve never in my life been tempted to see a 2nd date on a band’s tour, no matter how much I enjoyed them. I usually want to see something different, a band I haven’t seen before, and maybe catch the band’s next tour, or the one after that.
It’s been a great year for gigs, lots have had me walking on air going home – Laura Gibson, Vera Sola, Nude Party, Catenary Wires, Coathangers and Tacocat all hit the spot. Yet I was never once tempted to try and catch one of their other dates.
And yet Monday night’s gig in Manchester was so mind-blowingly good that I was eyeing up the other dates, thinking “hmm I haven’t seen my mate in Glasgow for a while, and I haven’t been able to chant ‘Oan yersel’ at a gig since The Cure…”. Seeing that a song called “Oddie Moore” was on the Lexington set-list which they didn’t play in Manchester, had me quite emotional. Indeed I had to stop looking at the pictures of the gigs in the fans group as I was pining because they were still in the UK and I wasn’t there!
Yesterday when I read that they can’t play the song “A Little Late” in the UK because they can’t take a piano on the plane, I was gutted because I used to put on gigs in a venue with a baby grand piano! Then I was looking at flights to Seattle (as you do) where they are having their 10th Anniversary show – they are taking requests and a lot of people were asking for the song, so they may play it.
OK, so I wasn’t poised with the credit card ready to book the flights, it was more wishful thinking as I’ve got too many commitments at the moment, but if it were practical, I’d be there in a heartbeat even though I’m an over-thinking nervous flyer who feels uncomfortable on a 2hr flight let alone an 18hr one!
When people leave comments like “I’ve waited 50 years to see a band this good” rather than think they are being over the top, I’m nodding my head because I know exactly what they mean!
After all the bands I’ve seen over the years, why have this amazing trio from Oklahoma that I’d never even heard of until May, turn everything I thought I knew about bands and live music on it’s head, and hook me in a way that no band has ever done before?
I did wonder if it’s an age thing. Do you reach a certain age then start wanting to follow bands around the world?
I had a very worrying experience a couple of years back when they were building a new Aldi round the corner. Me and my neighbour Dave were getting really excited about it, and counting down the days “Only 3 days now Dave, I can almost smell the bargains!” whilst discussing life’s big questions, such as whether American domestic ovens are big enough to fit a whole Costco pizza, or do they have to cut them in half like we do – and sampling my homemade gin/wine/beer.
Once you start getting excited about a new Aldi, it’s a slippery slope. Before you know it, you’ve subscribed to the Readers Digest, bought a brown cardigan and one of those big slippers for both feet that Billy Connolly was going on about.
But nah, I’m probably going to more gigs now than when I was younger, and for example at Butlins weekenders I’m shooting bands 12hrs a day, editing about 5 or 6 hrs a day for 3 days. It isn’t an age thing.
In any case, like I say, I’ve been to great gigs since, and I’d no desire to follow them to another date, much as I enjoyed them.
Obviously all the essential ingredients are there – great songs, great tunes and plenty of them! Great musicians, great singers. Having 2 lead singers is unusual, but otherwise it could describe loads of bands that I probably wouldn’t travel to Leeds for let alone across the Atlantic.
Perhaps I shouldn’t analyse it too much in case it destroys the magic!
My other 2 favourite acts of all time are Emika (Electronic music, once signed to Ninja Tune), and Roots Manuva aka Rodney Smith who is broadly Genre-stretching Hip Hop (but not that sexist/misogynist/greed shite that puts me off most hip-hop, more thoughtful/reflective articulate lyrics)
My 3 favourite artists are clearly very different musically, so it’s nothing to do with nostalgia or genre.
Another band I was excited about for a while was Clean Bandit when I saw them play the real-ale tent at Summer Sundae in 2012 to about 30 people, when they still blended electronic and classical. It was a real “Holy F*ck” moment, but once they signed to a major who polished out what made them special to sanitise them for mass-consumption by people who don’t like music, and M&S Commercials, I naturally lost interest.
Maybe that gives the 1st clue into the appeal of Skating Polly.
I can’t imagine Skating Polly (or indeed Emika or Roots) ever sitting down thinking “right, I’m going to write a big money-making cheesy hit”. I think their #1 priority is to write great music, and to keep their artistic integrity and keep developing as an artist. (Though if they did ever write a cheesy hit, I wouldn’t judge!)
Not quite sure how to describe it, but a few years ago, I met up with a friend for a pre-Christmas catchup drink. For some reason we gatecrashed the private members bar of a west-end theatre. Anyway, we came up with this idea of doing a club night. Most people would have woken up the next day, said “Oh my head” and laughed at the crazy idea – I’d never DJ’d in my life, knew nothing about hiring venues, or anything to do with putting on nights. Yet by February we’d put on our first night (which went surprisingly well) and I was booking live bands for the next one, and by June I had a 6 month, monthly residency in a venue in North London (with a piano!), sourced PA equipment, Par cans and a lighting desk, and even a Gobo and a projector to project the logo on to the wall. I’d booked bands for all the slots so that I could get permission to put one song from each band on a promotional CD by way of a flyer. I built a CD duplicator, sourced an office laser printer from Ebay, got printable CDs and a printer that could print on them. Duplicated about 3,000 copies of the CD, and regularly handed them out around Camden tube (even handing one to the lovely Amy Winehouse RIP) and through the doors around the venue, all done on a tight budget.
My mate summed it up with something like “I’ve talked to lots of people over the years about putting on a night and it’s just been talk, I knew with you it would actually happen, you don’t do things by halves”.
The impression I get is that these 3 artists don’t do things by halves either! (sorry for the long winded example but I couldn’t think of a way to describe it). I think that once they decide to do something, they pull out all the stops to make sure it happens, on their terms, with integrity.
Most of the people I’ve sent the video for “Hail Mary” to, have come back with “wow” or words to that effect. Imagine if the band were around in the 90s. A single play on MTV would go out to the entire US. MTV Europe in the early 90s covered from Ireland to the Baltics before they separated it out to different countries. A few plays would be enough to sell out stadiums I reckon.
Even a single radio play from John Peel in the UK could sell out a tour of small clubs on occasion.
On Saturday I saw on Facebook that the final date of the UK/Europe tour in Birmingham was 80% sold out. I was hoping that it would sell out so that they had sold out England’s 3 biggest cities on this tour.
Just then, I received an email from facebook saying I had a free £30 ad credit for promoted posts – brilliant timing I thought.
So I popped up a post with the Hail Mary video, saying something like check out this amazing band playing Birmingham on Sunday night, with the aim of promoting it to people who live in the West Midlands and like the bands they are influenced by.
But the “Promote” button was greyed out. I messed around with it for a while, and in the end googled it and apparently facebook and youtube have had a corporate falling out, so you can’t promote posts with youtube videos any more!
I found it frustrating as a fan, but for the band jumping through hoops like that every day so that they can develop their fanbase and keep doing what they love must be an absolute nightmare. They must have lots of determination to deal with that kind of stuff every day.
But there must be more to how I feel about the band than them being determined and focused.
I got curious about how I felt about the band when I first got the press release. Looking at my initial preview, I’d already found several songs I liked. But something from the press release jumped out at me and it all fell into place:
Commenting on the track, the band’s Kelli said: Flyer is about this overwhelming self consciousness and agoraphobia that’s been hitting me a lot lately. I was scared to leave the house, scared to see my friends, scared to make decisions of any kind.
On reading that, I wish Kelli could see her achievements through her fans eyes. Unfortunately it’s never that simple. Telling someone with self-doubt how great they are is probably no more effective than telling someone with depression to cheer up. I really hope she’s been able to work through it.
I absolutely love her honesty. When I was a teenager I suffered with chronic shyness, and what compounded it was thinking that nobody else suffered from it and I was weird and everyone was looking at me etc. It took me years and lots of alcohol to realise that lots of people suffer with shyness, they just hid it better than I did. Imagine how comforting it must be to a young person with self-doubt to hear that Kelli, who appears extremely self-confident on the surface, suffers with self doubt too.
It’s a well known fact that geniuses/experts are plagued with self-doubt because they know what they don’t know, whereas the rest of us think we know more than we do. All 3 of my favourite artists have well-publicised issues with self-doubt, clearly I’m drawn to genius!
I know nothing about musical theory or songwriting. For example one of the comments on YouTube for the “A little late” video says “This song has like 5 choruses and does not stick to the standard song writing”. I’ve no idea what that means, but it sounds clever and may well explain what I love about that song, even if I can’t articulate it.
As I said to my new gig-buddy at the gig, when I first heard it I thought it was a little naive/twee, but it kept coming up on the YouTube play-list and the more I heard it, the more I realised it is genius (I wasn’t using the term literally then).
Another song I thought was a bit naive/twee when I first heard it before I learned to appreciate it was John Lennon’s Imagine. Obviously there are a few logistical issues to him playing it live now, but if he was still alive and was going to play it in New York or somewhere, and someone from Liverpool who is really into The Beatles flew over to watch him for a special occasion – nobody would bat an eyelid. Just because Skating Polly’s genius isn’t as widely recognised yet, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong in wanting to go to great lengths to see them perform.
So, maybe I’m not cracking up after all 🙂 Which is a relief!
I saw a comment on one of the band’s videos from some guy saying he likes the music but he can’t listen to them any more because of the “I heart Repro Rights” stickers on their guitars.
Isn’t it incredible how some right-wingers bang on about free speech when they want to say something racist/homophobic/misogynistic and yet when they see a different point of view, they feel the need to flounce off. And they call us snowflakes!
Tory MPs quote from the bible over abortion, yet happily vote to cut disability benefits and the NHS – did they miss the bit about looking after the sick and the poor? People who make vile comments about dead refugee children on social media, get all “bleeding heart” over unborn ones. Does “blessed are the children” only apply to the unborn ones? Did the multi-millionaires and billionaires with offshore accounts miss the bit about rich men and needles? Clearly their sort aren’t motivated by morality they are just sad little men who want to control women. And I’m also struggling to find the passage that says “though shalt build a biggly wall to keep your neighbours out” I thought it said “Love thy neighbour” how very silly of me. And as Roots Manuva said “Can I trust King James to translate these papers / do I need a middle-man to link with the creator?”.
With so little to be optimistic about in global politics right now, we all need a band like Skating Polly in our lives, telling it how it is and standing up for what they believe in!
As a genius songwriter once wrote:
“Chase away the thoughts that make you hate/
‘Cause hate does not create/
And hate at best will just keep you a little late, a little late”
Beautiful in it’s simplicity, laser-sharp on point. It’s a much needed anthem for these dark times! And I will see it live, one day!
Anyway, that’s probably enough from me 🙂 Brevity isn’t my strong point, this is probably why I don’t use Twitter!
I decided to track down people who attended the gigs around the country to find out what they thought.
Their responses are below, and I’ll add to it if I receive any more.
Monday 14th October 2019 – Gullivers NQ
Mike Featherstone. In almost 50 years of attending gigs I can’t think of one I’ve enjoyed more. The sheer pleasure of watching Skating Polly is enhanced by the obvious pleasure they get from playing their unique songs. They’re most definitely a must-see.
Alison Schofield. 3rd time seeing Skating polly in the UK, amazing atmosphere and energy and love their music, always happy to chat and have photos too, can’t wait to see them again
Kevin Randall. Something very special about these three. Honestly feel like I’m watching a band who should be selling out stadiums. Just too good.
Kevin A. Griffiths-Bowden. “they we’re fucking amazing! “
I wholeheartedly agree Kevin! (Wish I was that succinct – if you ever fancy writing reviews for Live Music Pix and Urbanista let me know mate!)
Tuesday 15th October 2019 – The Cluny
Wednesday 16th October 2019 – Broadcast
David Blair: Skating Polly straddle a fine line expertly moving between songs of emotional tenderness to energetic punk pop. A captivating live band with the tunes to match.
Thursday 17th October 2019 – Beta
Steven Walker: Absolutely awesome. Special mention for Barefoot In Baltimore. (also attended Birmingham)
Friday 18th October 2019 – Lexington
Jorge Ruano Pérez: The moment I found out Skating Polly were going to play London in October, I became instantly excited. I knew that by the time of the concert I would have just arrived to the UK, and wouldn’t have had time to settle yet, but I couldn’t help it. Ever since I first found out about them, they became a big part of my life. I would sing their lyrics with rage and dance frenetically to liberate my inner teenage angst. I wasn’t going through my best, to be honest, and their music helped a lot to carry on, so it was a must for me. After a horrible day of getting lost around London and getting on wrong buses and trains, I actually managed to get on time for the concert. First, Laura Kidd with her terminating project She Makes War. I had listened to some songs by her, but by no means did I expect such a good live performance. She was fun and sympathetic with her audience, and engaged them with a passionate display of great music. Whether she was rocking with the band and electric, or calming things down with the ukelele, her voice was always always on point. Unquestionable talent and practice. The peak of her performance was when she began looping her own voice and harmonizing with herself. That was magical. I’ve never seen something like that done on stage. Truly astonishing. For the last part, some of her backstage friends, whom included Kelli Polly, came on and joined her and the audience on the back voices over which she would sing. Almost religious. After the show I had no option but to approach her and give her my sincere congratulations. I bought her CD Brace for Impact and some badges as well.
Then it was time for Skating Polly. After some initial difficulties with the bass sound, the band was ready to start, and from the beginning they offered a brutal spectacle of pure energy, accompanied by the distinctive beauty of their composition and vocal harmonies. And they had a great time during the show, which was obviously contagious. Peyton seemed to have a tired throat after all the tour, but I don’t think it affected her magnificent singing, Kurtis worked precise like a clock on drums, he adds so much to the band, imo. And Kelli is a rock and roll animal. She devours the stage, from her signature kick to rolling on the floor and crowd surfing. She’s born for this. Naturally, I’m a fan of the band, and I knew the lyrics and such, but I can objectively say that it was a great show. They sound as well as studio, if not better. On top of that, they transmit an intensity to their performance that makes it so much bigger. I spent the whole show with a smile on my face, for me it was a dream come true, and I had high expectations, but they delivered. After the show, stupid of me, I was too intimidated to talk to neither Kurtis nor Peyton while they were packing up their stuff, now I regret. Luckily, at the merch table I was able to talk to Kelli and express my gratitude, and everything that their music meant to me. She was so sweet and comprehensive and easy going it brought me to tears. I got my SP shirt signed, and I wish I had asked for a photo. I will remember that night for a long time.
Saturday 19th October 2019 – Swn Festival
Sunday 20th October 2019 – Hare & Hounds
Ryan Edmonds: If I were to mention anything it would just be the raw energy the band always shows without fail; like the flick of a switch they go from lovely innocence to an absolute punk powerbomb that never fails to impress
Steven Walker. (See Nottingham)
I’ll add to these as I receive them.
So, this is the video that started it all off for me…
Be warned though! It starts with a couple of Hail Mary’s. Then it’s Little Girl Blue and the Battle Envy, and before you know it, it’s 5 Hey Sweet, 4 Blue Obvious, a couple of Queen for a Day, Free Will at Ease Arms & Opinions and A little late before breakfast and your youtube will look like this!
Also, check out this podcast with Kelli
The UK tour is now sadly over, let’s hope they come back next year!
Main Review Words + Photos: John W. King / Live Music Pix
Quotes as attributed. Thank you to all contributors. If you would like your comment added, please contact via my thread on the fans page as the Urbanista page gets very busy and may be missed.
Skating Polly’s 10 year anniversary show takes place at The Vera Project Seattle, USA on 2nd November 2019. Tickets available here.