The Curtain Hotel’s LP room is colourful, old-school disco hall in décor and atmosphere for Jay Jay Revlon’s night Let’s Have a Kiki, with the standard of the DJs (Goldsnap / Virginia Wilson and Kartel Brown) and Revlon’s energy, MCing and relentless vogueing driving the party.

Karnage (@KarnageKills), the evening’s live performance act, complements perfectly, retaining the fun of the rest of the night while fleshing out the good vibes with clinical, hard-hitting rap and an on-stage performance that is impressively fearless for someone who has been performing for just nine months.

Subverting the accepted wisdom that sees rap and grime as expressions of overt heterosexual masculinity, Karnage pulls no punches in tracks like Hoe Diaries, “Dylan got a dick bigger than my ambition / Nobody was home so I fucked him in the kitchen” being one of the more PG rhymes.

His flow is precise and delivered with the flair and attack that the in-your-face lyrics deserve, but the performance stays fun throughout. This is as true when Karnage jokes about his DJ’s slowness to drop the next track as it is when introducing the set’s most poignant track, My Life, which explores in sometimes excruciating detail his experience as an effeminate gay man of colour: “Ashamed that your son looks so feminine / In your eyes couldn’t wait to let the devil in / and it’s worse coz I’m judged by the colour of my skin”.

The night saw the launch of Karnage’s first mix tape, Suck It, listenable on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/officialkarnage.

Boubacar Traoré

Boubacar Traoré delivered a potent blend of North African folk and Deep South blues with the assurance and confidence of a man who has done it all before in far more difficult settings than Rich Mix, however turbulent the venue’s current predicament may be. If you don’t know his back story, it’s well worth a look and is immortalised in print and film.

As a performance, the first indication you get about the extent of fusion about to engulf the stage is the dress of the three performers; Boubacar and his percussionist look resplendent in their traditional dress. The harmonica player packs a punch — blasting out big, discordant solos that bring to mind a Jimi Hendrix reverb-fest. On a harmonica. Awesome.

As for Boubacar, he’s a graceful, elegant guitarist that gives the rhythms he picks out drive and energy seemingly without effort, meaning all the emotion goes into the vocals where it belongs. The mood shifts from wistful to jubilant, the most enduring piece being the slightly cheeky Minuit. I didn’t understand a word (I couldn’t even tell you which songs were French, Bambara or something else), but you find yourself hum-singing along to everything anyway. A must-see for any blues fan who wants something a little different — and well worth a look for everyone else.

Joshua Kyeot

“I Googled you last night. Yeah. I did a bit of internet stalking”.

Bold start to your review, you might say, but an even bolder opening line to Joshua Kyeot’s set at Rich Mix. It paid off, settling his nerves and setting the tone to the audience that the set would be about character, lyrical deftness and honesty.

He’s exceptionally likeable, probably because he gives the impression that he isn’t there to impress anyone. He plays a black Fender which reminds every former adolescent blues-man in the room of their first guitar, especially as he hasn’t trimmed the strings around the tuning pegs. He has an air of being nuts about music and writing songs, as well as wanting to share this with everyone around him, whilst at the same time seeming almost embarrassed to be in the limelight. Such musicians are invariably the most gratifying to watch and it’s perfect for the intimate Shoreditch venue.

Ear-catching highlights include his own work Strangers Passing By which almost broke the HolyShitThisGuyCanSing-ometer that I snuck into the gig, and a moving cover of He Lives in You. How many singers can pull off covering the Lion King, let alone admit to it being in their “Top 5 songs I wish I’d written” list? He elevated it to new heights and best of all took the audience along with him, mainly thanks to his obvious and infectious love of music. Several thousand quills to the young man.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

On the face of it, they’re your classic seven-piece. Bass, keys, three guitars and… Two drummers. Standard.

I’m not really sure what’s been happening in prog rock over the last three decades but whatever it is seems to have happened in Australia and it’s led to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, a Melbourne-based septet who fuse the rambling sonic fairytelling of Yes with raw, straightforward punch reminiscent of AC/DC on acid.

Frontman Stu Mackenzie makes frenetic headbanging art in its own right, but otherwise limits his audience interaction to shouting the name of the song in manic staccato and cracking on. So, “RATTLESNAKE” he shouts, and Rattlesnake starts. The lyrics are so blissfully simple (“Rattlesnake, rattlesnake, rattlesnake, rattles me”) and the guitar hook so catchy that the refrain is lodged in your head for the rest of Glastonbury. Which helps if later on you have two hours of Ed Sheeran to get through. Highlight of the set is undoubtedly the symphonic epics Altered Beast / Alter Me from their latest album, which experienced live accompanied by trippy backing visuals is more odyssey than music.

I’m all at sea when it comes to percussion so I ask my drummer friend standing next to me why they have two. Are they playing different things, syncopating, layering the rhythm? No. Apparently they’re just doubling up.

Which sort of sums up King Gizzard. They are, in many ways, gloriously pointless. They come across as seven talented mates who above all want to have a laugh, enabling them to produce psychedelic rock that blends a sense of impending dread with a healthy dollop of fun. Perfect Sunday afternoon fare.

The Darkness

In the aftermath of the EFG London Jazz Festival the Prickle has been populated with excellent, high-brow reviews of excellent, high-brow music. Deciding it’s time to balance that with some audial smut, I boarded a train to Cambridge to see the Darkness.

Last time I was in the Cambridge Corn Exchange I was sitting an exam. It’s not a huge venue – the auditorium has an almost village hall feel to it before the band troupe in. Once they get going though, squint and you could be anywhere – Glastonbury, Wembley, even Lowestoft. A lot of concerns evaporate instantly: oh fantastic, they’re wearing spandex catsuits; superb, that chap at the front with his hair cut short really is Justin Hawkins and not a supply teacher filling in; and (perhaps most importantly) golly, it’s been a few years but give me the right sonic impetus and apparently my body remembers how to headbang.

We’re falsettoed through the old classics alongside a smattering of choice cuts from the new album, which have a slightly more stadium rock feel. We’re entertained thoroughly. Our retinas are treated to a light show seemingly designed to mimic the surface of the sun,making the banner behind the band reading “The Darkness” at times seem deliberately ironic. We’re reliably informed, by no less an authority than Justin himself, that his brother Daniel Francis “plays the e-lectronic mother-fucking guitar”. Play it he does, and some, although the show-boating frontman keeps the pick of the solos for himself alongside playing a one-man game of strip poker throughout the set and finishing by hurling his tattooed torso into the audience for a suitably flamboyant crowd surf.

Slight nit-pick – they didn’t play Last of Our Kind which given that a) it’s the eponymous track of the new album, b) the tour is called Blast of Our Kind and c) it’s a belter seems a shame. Otherwise, despite pre-gig fears to the contrary, they completely lived up to the hype their formidable reputation generates. Great music, great performance, great entertainment.

David O’Doherty

I’ve felt like David O’Doherty has been stalking me ever since I arrived in Edinburgh. I nearly bumped into him the second I stepped off the tram on Princes’s Street, too preoccupied hefting suitcases to come over remotely star-struck.

Then, filing into the Assembly Theatre on George Square, as I ventured towards the steps up to the stage he jogged nonchalantly past me with an air of being late for something important without being especially bothered about it. Had he followed me into his own gig? Or was it a case of one haggis toastie too many too close to kick off?

When his show begins – all that nearly-late adrenaline channelled into energetic ramblings over his trademark keyboard as the latecomers trickle in – he doesn’t exactly do a lot to convince you he’s not the sort of bloke to pick a random punter and follow them around all weekend. Tales of misery over wealthy uncles buying him the wrong Star Wars models, and spending £18 trying to fish a particular stuffed bear out of an arcade machine (“You Only Live!”), are hallmarks of his TV persona that didn’t disappoint.

What did we learn about the man behind the Yamaha? We learned that he shat himself when Ireland voted in favour of gay marriage. We learned that he’s a big cycling fan who blames Lance Armstrong for all the world’s problems. We learned that he can’t quite work out how to pun Shirley EmBassey. In amongst all the surrealism, angst and whimsy, however, he takes the mask off just briefly for a bit of back-and-forth with a guy in the front row dressed as a dalek. When the audience are crazier than him, he actually comes across reassuringly grounded and normal.

A relief really, since the rest of the time he’s the type to follow you round a city until you’re physically in his show. Go see him. Or else.

Trevor Noah

When I tried to book tickets for Trevor Noah, they were sold out. When I trudged towards the box office the way was walled with Trevor Noah posters with huge “SOLD OUT – NO MORE TICKETS WILL BE RELEASED!!” banners slapped across them. Closer in these switched to “TREVOR NOAH – SOLD OUT – ABANDON ALL HOPE.” When I got to the box office in the Assembly Theatre to see if there was a waiting list for tickets, the guy said “Honestly, mate, we could have a thousand drop-outs for this one and we still couldn’t release any more tickets”.

I wasn’t sure what he meant by this so I persisted, and eventually convinced him to take my number down and call me if any came up. So it was with a certain smugness that I fielded a call fifteen minutes before the show started informing me that some tickets had come available if I was still interested? Yes I was.

Worth it? Definitely. Side-splittingly funny and, in parts, thought-provoking enough to justify the fact that a lot of the humour is borne out of stereotypes, funny accents, even the odd toilet gag. Good comedians push the line of social acceptability a few times throughout their set – Trevor Noah seems to live on that line and doesn’t ever deviate from it for any significant stretch of time.

He also manages to avoid even suggesting offence, impressive given that the topics covered include British binge drinking, ebola, shifting airline prejudices, more ebola, Charlie Hebdo, Oscar Pistorius, and an interesting take on Scottish racism. In fact his take on everything is interesting – he approaches his subject matter from a wide range of angles, with perspectives that don’t necessarily spring straight to mind, and gives his audience a great laugh and plenty to chew over mentally in the process.

Next time he’s playing near you, book well in advance.

Green Man 2018

“Are we old?”

I immediately check for protruding nostril hairs but, finding none, decide that the girlfriend is probably referring to our sitting in a field in the Brecon Beacons nattering idly about how pretty the sky over there looks and how great it is to go to bed before midnight.

I reply that this conversation will probably form the focal point of my post-festival write-up, and from there launch into a diatribe about gonzo journalism. She looks at me, blinks, then answers her own question “Yes, I suppose we are”.

While we might be getting old, our approach to Green Man 2018 is for us radically new. In the ultimate act of quarter-life rebellion against the Man (not the Green one, obviously) we shun the prescriptive dogma of the festival timetable and march blindly into the arena, following our noses wherever the wind may take us. This adventurous approach offers many advantages to the newly grown-up millennial, chief among them spontaneity and a sensibly middle-aged avoidance of the £8 programme price tag.

We’ve picked the festival deliberately as seemingly the best counterpoint to our frenetic, borderline illegally-polluted London existence; everything about it from the achingly pretty hilltop setting, the on-site yoga, to the accessible Indie/Folk line-up doesn’t so much scream as reassuringly intone relaxation.

One big exception to the easy-listening vibes is Friday’s headliner, the high-octane King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard. I first came across this psychedelic Australian septet at Glastonbury last year and I thought there was something refreshingly if unnervingly different about them. A year on and seeing them headline an opening night blew me away. They are masters of their craft, and their craft is to stand at the meeting point between order and musical chaos, trusting in each other’s ability, Stu Mackenzie’s occasional marshalling and the awesome power of the trippy backing video to guide them and their audience to alt-rock nirvana. Five minutes in the girlfriend told me she didn’t like them that much; three days later I overheard her humming Rattlesnake.

In between headliners we bumble around the various stages spurred by our radical newfound nonchalance towards being anywhere in particular. We stumble on all sorts of hidden gems: Annie McGrath giving an expletive-strewn stand-up set that’s as incongruous with her public school accent as it is unsuitable for eight year olds; the Monster Ceilidh Band brewing up an electro-folky storm in Chai Wallahs; and Rob Deering proving that loop pedals aren’t just for Ed Sheeran and can also be used for entertainment.

I should talk about Fleet Foxes, but given that I listened to their set from the comfort of a cosily furnished street food café round the corner from the main stage I’ll talk about the food instead. The emergent grumpy old man in me wants to rail about the price, but that’s just him not going to many festivals (although as a Londoner the dearth of places accepting cards was unsettling). For Green Man’s size, the array and quality of the food on offer is excellent, and in trendy rejuvenating style vegetarian and vegan eaters are more than adequately catered for (Pie Minister, one of the less healthy outlets, sold out of their three vegetarian and vegan pies before any of their meat options). Particular highlights were the Dosa stand opposite the main stage that drew a shout out from Grizzly Bear and created the world’s first ever onion bhaji too big for me to eat it all, and a ‘Bit of Everything’ from Flavours of Africa.

Grizzly Bear, finishing their European tour promoting their new album, kicked off Sunday evening nicely before handing over to the War on Drugs. The headliners first performed at Green Man ten years ago and Adam Granduciel seems endearingly excited to be back, botching the intro to Strangest Thing after enthusiastically hoofing an inflatable ball back into the crowd. Having seen WoD a few times and as a devoted fan of their recorded work, I’m yet to see a live rendition of Baby Missiles that works for me. Whether it’s unavoidable or deliberate there always seems to be a layer missing, meaning the punchy upbeat riff gets lost in a sea of indistinct chords. In my view, however, this is a vanishingly small price to pay for the power and depth of sound they’re able to pack into their big numbers. Under The Pressure, leading into In Reverse against an exquisite backdrop of rolling Welsh hillside, draws a worthy musical curtain across a thoroughly charming festival.