Live Review: Chvrches (Alexander Palace, London, 2015)

 

I was slightly cynical before attending Chvrches largest London headline show to date, having previously seen them play Laneway in Auckland in 2014, where they had been promoted to headliner after Lorde dropped out. At the time they didn’t quite seem headline material, even for an indie festival such as Laneway, and a minimal stage set up and technical issues in my eyes confirmed this to be the case. With their latest album, Every Open Eye being a strong follow up to The Bones Of What You Believe, and their fan-base only growing in size and dedication, it seemed there were enough reasons in the lead up to the Alexander Palace show to believe that Chvrches now have what it takes.

Alexander Palace, with it’s standing capacity of 7,300 is not a small venue. Chvrches has sold this out, which is perhaps an indication of their rising popularity. The audience was eclectic, not being dominated by teenagers or indie kids, but with a suitable proportion it seemed of over 40 year olds and casual concert goers, of both genders. Gangs of lads could be spotted as could many couples, choosing this band for the soundtrack to their courtship. It seems Chvrches are a band that crosses demographics.

The opening acts were equally eclectic, with Australian indie-EDM cross-over act Mansionair opening proceedings. There drummer was particularly notable, backing up layers of melodic synths and reverb heavy chords with jazzy rhythms and the expected drum machine sample. It was a fairly chilled beginning, before Four Tet took the stage with his intoxicating progressive house vibes, encouraging some welcome movement throughout the steadily growing crowd. It is perhaps notable to mention that the show ran like clock-work, with Chvrches taking to the stage exactly on their 9pm listed time.

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The house lights went down and the Glasgow band emerged, with singer Lauren Mayberry’s presence causing the expected shrieks of excitement from their especially female fan-base. Wasting no time, Mayberry danced about the stage, leaping up on the fold-back’s and seemed a much more confident front-woman than at Laneway two years earlier. Opening track Never Ending Circles has some of the best hooks off the new album and provided an energetic opener. Her two bandmates, Martin Doherty and Iain Cook, were largely stuck on their podiums of synthesizers and samples, although 41 year old Cook occasionally left his podium to add live bass. Doherty gets turn front of stage later for a lead vocal cameo, with Mayberry showing her percussions skills, her drumming cameos being somewhat of a highlight.

The two massive screen’s either side of the band focused on Mayberry, making her a seem larger than life presence, in spite of her relatively slight real life stature.  These screens also provided a glimpse into what was taking place behind Doherty and Cook’s podiums, giving evidence that they were in fact playing their synthesizers live – not just queuing backing tracks as could easily be assumed. The stage design has gone up a notch as well, though remaining understated, with three screens of colourful animations and an arena-sized lighting rig providing a visual accompaniment to the music. These production values are expected for a band of this size, but in my eyes greatly improved the shows sense of spectacle compared to that minimal Laneway performance. They are now suited to a venue the size of Alexander Palace, without completely giving themselves over to the excesses of mainstream pop live productions.

Although Chvrches are fast rising the ranks of indie fame, they continue to approach their pop career with modesty. This determination to stay down to earth shows itself particularly in Mayberry’s on stage persona, herself admitting during between song banter that she could never be a Motley Crue-type, crowd pleasing front-woman. Although asking the crowd later if they were having a great time, referencing the earlier self-deprecating banter, the crowd in turn responded with cheers, showing that if Mayberry was every to fully embrace the role of a rock performer, she would well have the capability. But perhaps Chvrches reluctance to embrace the fake side of rock and pop is what draws their fanbase towards them. At other points in the concert, Mayberry talked of her fear of becoming another headline, in light of recent onstage events becoming tabloid fodder. Regardless of what the journalists chose to write, the bands authenticity in songwriting and performance remains endearing  and I think it is a large part of their appeal.

Most importantly, Chvrches have the hits, blitzing through big singalong moments such as Gun and We Sink off the first album, with new singles Empty Threat, Leave A Trace and Clearest Blue already being some of the biggest moments. Vocals are always impressive and the performance quality near identical to what is heard on the album (a good or bad thing depending on your appreciation of improvisation). Ending with the tender Afterglow, before signature anthem The Mother We Share, Chvrches prove they more than have the songwriting skills to be major headlining act. Compared to recent concerts I’ve attended of this genre which seemed slightly underwhelming, Purity Ring being one example, Chvrches are staking their claim as a major electronic pop live draw-card, and they have the evidence to prove it.

chvrches alexander palace

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An Update On Life in London

I hate to think of this blog being dead, so for the first time in over a month I’m focusing and finishing a post. I had a good run there for a while – several posts a week for a few months. I guess it was the extra free time from being unemployed for the first time in several years combined with the excitement of being a new city. But then suddenly – inspiration caved away. To be completed honest I seem to have been in a post-travel rut for the last month. The first few months in London were hugely exciting, full of ups and downs – and although I found myself missing home I had enough anticipation and hope about what was to come in London that I remained optimistic. But during this last month, I guess the reality of living in this city dawned on me. It’s an expensive place, it takes a very long time to get anywhere and much of the time – it’s pretty boring. Just like anywhere. I’ve traveled half way across the world and relocated to a major international city only to find that life is much the same here as it was back home.

Not a huge revelation I suppose – I’m the same person here as I was 3 months ago in Auckland. You take your problems and personality traits with you. Life doesn’t automatically change just because you’ve moved to some foreign place with a lot of history between it’s walls and within it’s streets. The grass is just as similar a colour as what the saying suggests it will be.

So no great revelations, but I have learned a great deal. About myself, about friendships – about how people half way across the world from each other are not all that different at all. London is still a fantastic place and I’m having a lot of good times, and new experiences. Obviously I’m not leaving yet – I’m getting enough out of living here to stay for the time being.

There’s a lot I’ve been wanting to write, review and talk about – but have been lacking in concentration and motivation. I could be concerned about views a little too much. Rather than just writing what I want, I end up writing posts in order to get my view counts to rise. Sometimes it seems a waste of energy to write long blog pieces only to get a dozen or more eyes scanning the page. I don’t know how many people actually read these, probably very few. I’m not making any money from whatever views I do get on this blog, wordpress takes whatever cents I could be making. I’m therefore far from a successful blog writer, but considering this is only one of the many hobbyist activities I’m pursuing – it’s not a huge deal. I should probably keep writing for myself, little diary entries such as this, and then it might be much easier to keep up the posting regularly.

Just this last week I saw both Morrissey and Martin Phillips live in London. Both were great, although for me Martin Phillipps took the cake – playing a mix of rarities and crowd pleasures. Morrissey was great for sure, but his ego is so far up his own ass – he seems to really believe in the mythology of himself – that too much of the show is all about worshiping the great Morrissey, rather than about good music. Morrissey has a lot of good songs, but he chose instead to play majority songs from his newest albums, mixed in with 90’s deep cuts. The diehard Moz-heads seemed to love it, I guess I’m just not die hard enough. These are concerts I should review in more detail – and hopefully I’ll get around to more of that soon. Off to Greece next month as well – first time in the Mediterranean and could supply inspiration for a post or two. I’ll most likely just eat some awesome Olive drenched food, and stare at some old things.

There is a lot more I want to write about London as well. The city and experiences within it have been well covered within blog posts – but I feel there is still room for another voice on the joys are struggles of this over-crowded British center. Alas, life in London will continue – I will endeavor to tell you more about the stupidly high cost of living and terrible experience that is the London underground. Until then, here is video of a rap set I performed recently at Cafe 1001, in Shoreditch:

How to live and work in the UK! – Steps to getting the visa

Before you head off on your ‘O.E.’ (if you’re a Kiwi the classic adventure is working in the UK), the first and most obvious step is to obtain the legal right to live and work in that country. As an Australasian or Commonwealth citizen one way to obtain this is via the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, which allows a member of the commonwealth to work in the UK for 2 years.

If your parents or grandparents were born in the UK you can obtain a 5-year Ancestral visa. Of course, if you or your parents were born there, you most probably can get citizenship.

I successfully got my Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa back in June and have now successfully managed to get set up in London. I feel therefore I can be of some help sharing my experiences.

Application

You can apply for this at this website: https://www.gov.uk/tier-5-youth-mobility

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Tier 5 visa, you must be between 18 – 31, from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Republic of Korea and have not secured the visa in the past. You must have proof of funds of £1,890 Pounds and apply outside the UK.

Also, you can only apply for this visa within 3-months of when you plan to enter the UK. If you submit the application and pay the fee, your visa will start from the date you set, within that three months, regardless of whether you’ve entered the UK or not. It therefore pays to apply for the visa once you have a definite date of arrival.

You can not get this visa more than once. So make sure you’re ready to go before you apply.

In saying that, it is relatively easy to obtain the right to work in the UK. These are the steps I took to gain the Youth Mobility Visa.

Filling out the visa

Start an application online: https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/

Fill in your personal details. You’ll need this information:

  • Current passport number and details
  • Previous passport details if you have them
  • An address and contact details to give of someone in UK
  • Your past UK and international travel details of the last 10 years
  • Details of your parents, their DOB, etc
  • Details about children/dependent’s you may have
  • Past UK medical treatment details
  • Proof of funds for £1,890 Pounds

There are a few tricky questions within the application, one of these I encountered was regarding your passport. Place of Issue I was initial confused about as there wasn’t a section on the passport that stated that. I eventually decided to put New Zealand for Place of Issue, and Issuing Authority as DIA WLG. My visa got approved so it must have been correct.

You have to claim points towards the visa, to show you’re of the correct nationality, the right age, and have enough funds. You can work out the calculation for this here: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/pointscalculator

If you can’t be bothered doing the calculations – fair enough. The points as you list them on your application are:

  • Age Requirement = 10 points
  • Maintenance Requirement = 10 points
  • Nationality Requirement = 30 points

Biometric Appointment

After filling out your form, you sign an online confirmation and then proceed to choose a date to get your biometrics taken. Biometrics are a scan of your finger prints. Once you have chosen a date, you have to pay for the application. This costs $426NZD

You can generally get an appointment within just a couple of days. When you head off to get your biometrics taken, make sure you have these documents:

  • your current valid passport
  • a passport sized photograph of yourself taken to UK passport specs (wise to get this done professionally)
  • a bank statement showing you have at least £1,890 in savings
  • the print out of your application
  • a print out of your biometric appointment confirmation
  • Two courier bags with postage pre-paid, one to send off to UK immigration, the other you send with you application so that they can send your passport back (hopefully with the visa inside)

You must at this stage check if you have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge. This is a recent addition to the application process, and citizens from New Zealand do not have to pay this surcharge. You do however have to include an IHS reference number, confirming that you’ve either payed or are exempt from paying. This can be obtained here: https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application/pay

The IHS reference number is then written on the front of your application, which seems odd to me, but that probably shows how new this addition to the application is, the fact they haven’t included a section in the application for it.

Sending Application

In New Zealand the options of where to head to do your biometric appointment are:

Immigration New Zealand
39 Paramount Drive
Henderson
Auckland

Immigration New Zealand
110 Wrights Road
Addington 8024
Christchurch

BHC Wellington
Immigration New Zealand
Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
Level 2 Kordia House, 109 – 125 Willis Street
Wellington

Because I lived in Auckland, it’s probably no surprise that I headed out to the Auckland Immigration office. Being out in West Auckland, it’s a fairly out of the way from where most of us live and work in the center of the city and it took a good hour commute to get out to the appointment. The appointment itself was very quick and painless. The man there had a look at my documents, took my finger prints and then stamped my application front page.

At this stage I headed straight off to the nearest NZ post store, double and triple checked that I had all the documents correct, made sure I had a courier bag with postage paid for include inside for them to send the passport back to me with, and then I sent it all off, crossing my fingers and my toes.

Biometric Residence Permit

Also, as of the 31st of May, instead of straight given a sticker in your visa that states you are able to work in the UK for two years, you will be given a vignette that allows you to enter the UK within 30 days of the date you gave as your start date. Once there you pick up your biometric residence permit, or BRP from a post office near to the address you gave on your application. You can apply for another 30 day vignette to pick up the BRP if you enter the UK after the initial 30 days have expired. I did not have to go through this as I applied before the BRP came into effect, and my man Chris from Aussie Nomad is a lot more knowledgeable in this than me, so head over to his site for more information. Alternatively email the UK immigration department in charge of all this, if you need any more information: BRPCollection@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Wait times

The visa arrived relatively quickly. These are the dates of my process:

  • Sent application off: 6th May
  • Biometric Appointment: 11th May
  • Sent documents off: 11th May
  • Received email from UK immigration station decision had been made: May 25th
  • Received visa: May 29th

I had put on my visa the start date of 8th of June, although I was quite worried about it arriving in time for when I actually left the country, which was the 15th of June. Turns out I needn’t be, as it all arrived well before when I needed it.

Living in London

I’ve now been living in London for nearly two months, so I can probably offer some advice for how to get prepared moving to this city and country. I will do a larger guide later but the one thing I can stress for now, is that it is EXPENSIVE. People say that London is one of the most expensive places on the planet, and they’re not lying. I would recommend taking well above the amount required for proof of funds. Depending on your situation when you arrive, if you are traveling or sight seeing first, make sure you have enough funds to cover your adventures. I brought some where roughly around $10 000 NZD and I have chewed through most of this, perhaps somewhat due to attending music festivals. The exchange rate is also not great, as I write this something like 2.4 New Zealand Dollars equal one British Pound Sterling. In saying that, I didn’t spend a lot on accommodation when I arrived, having had a family member to stay with for the first few weeks. I would recommend greatly finding a friends couch to doss on for a few weeks at the very least, until you find a job and have some sort of income rolling in.

Accommodation isn’t hard to find, but it is overpriced. Jobs likewise, there are plenty of them, but most are low paying bar or cafe type jobs. London can be hard on a low wage. Once you start earning pounds, I’m sure it gets easier, but as I write this I’m still awaiting my first pay – a month into the job.

Not to put anyone off, London is great and if you want the adventure, come along. But be prepared for this place to leave a nasty hole in your wallet though, at least at the beginning.

Other Guides

There are many guides already available on the internet that give exhaustive information for what this involves. The best of these, or the one I referred to the most, was by The Aussie Nomad. Chris who runs the site is a great guy, spending a lot of his own time and effort answering questions in the comment section of his Tier 5 Youth Mobility guide. He’s answered many of my questions – so I suggest you head in the direction of his website for extra advice.

new zealander in london

Glastonbury 2015 live blog: Day One

As long as I can get some wifi, and have a little bit of battery life, i will attempt to blog live throughout Glastonbury. Which means the writing might be a little sloppier, but will benefit from being in the moment, rathered than a laboured review two weeks after the event.

09:34

I’ve made it through the gates. The queue wasn’t too bad for me although i had to trek for some time around the festival perimetre to find the international ticket pickup office. The various security and festival staff all seemed to have a different idea of where the ticket office was – at one stage i went back and forward over the same field between different gates three or four times, until eventually finding the correct gate. The line was thankfully short from then on, although my friends perhaps weren’t quite so lucky. As we speak I sit eating a bacon, sausage and egg wrap from the first food stall that greeted me upon entry, quite delicious and a much needed energy boost. My friends on the other hand did not have to trek between gates to pick up their tickets, they are however still in a much larger queue to enter.

Last night we stayed at the town of Glastonbury, which is a town full of history, old buildings and a pagan vibe. Felt like I was sleeping in the Inn from the film The Wicker Man. We took the Megabus yesterday from London to Glastonbury, which on the other hand, is not an experience I would recommend or repeat. It will probably go down as my least favourite bus ride ever, with drunken young lads from London drinking, fighting and streaking throughout the bus. Added to this, the bus had a toilet onboard, which soon lost its ability to flush. ‘Nuff said.

But onwards and upwards, its a beautiful day, and i may blog again soon.

glastonbury day 1

14:48

Tents have now been set up and the crew has been reunited minus a few who are still stuck waiting for coach back in London. We’ve found a good spot to camp near John Peel stage, which, upon scouting the area seems to be not too far of a walk between the Pyramid and Other Stages, as well as much needed necessities such as toilets, taps and food areas. Competition is high already in the quest for the perfect spot, we’ve had to protect our area already from a flood of fellow opportunist campers.

Most of the afternoon has been spent exploring the grounds, mapping out routes between stages and checking out the markets and food stalls. Bacon buttys’ seem so far to be the food choice of the day, another having been consumed at the Summer Cafe on the way back from checking out the Other Stage. The grounds are as magnificent and spectacular as I had expected, the iconic Pyramid stage being surrounded by other notable icons such as the blue and orange John Peel circus tent, the giant maypole in The Park and the..

I’m now on a mission to try and find showers, which are apparently near Michael Eavis’ house. Fingers crossed I’ll run into the man. More from me soon.

18:22

No luck finding Michael Eavis but i did run into his grandson working at the Merchandise tent, upon buying an official festival Tshirt. I’m still exploring the Glastonbury site and haven’t returned back to the camp, so I’ve no idea what the rest of my group are doing. It turns out that the Glastonbury site is indeed huge, and around every corner is another section of interesting food or market stalls – or crazy, wild, diverse music stages.

21:33

Finally made it back to the campsite and to my friends after already having a pretty great time, just one day into this festival. Most of the enjoyment came from having cool conversations with random festival goers and staff, including a long chat with Glastonbury veteran, photographer and friend of the Eavis’s, Matt Cardy. I also found a jam spot in The Park complete with a drumkit – and proceeded to join in a jam of American Pie. A pretty sloppy jam at that, but I can kind of say I’ve ticked something else off the bucketlist – gigging at Glastonbury.

As I write this we’re heading off to the Stonecircle to watch the sunset, so I should probably get off social media for today and get in the moment. I will try to keep up these blogs or at least write a couple more from here, but no promises.Making the most of the festival should probably be my priority so for now, peace out from Worthy Farm.

glastonbury day 1