May on the Cambridge live music scene includes some of the best emerging indie, big name folk outfits and some teenage dirtbags.
Our May guide starts on Emmanuel Road where the picturesque Unitarian Church hosts two stellar events. First up on the 5th we have the returning Cambridge native Sivu. Mixing stately piano, haunting vocals and ethereal electronics, Sivu’s is a sound that is highly emotive and incredibly powerful and fitting for this grand venue. With a new album due later this year, this one is not to be missed.
The same venue hosts Chris T-t (19th) when he brings his ‘Best of’ celebrating 20 years in music tour to Cambridge. Chris T-t has always walked his own path, with visionary psych pop, startling humour and unflinching, sometimes discomforting radicalism. He’s released 10 solo albums to consistent praise and played over 2,300 shows worldwide and this year releases his ‘Best of’ record.
We have a trio of shows that we highly recommend at the Blue Moon this month. First up at the Norfolk Street venue on the 2nd we have an evening of 6 string and lap steel instrumentals and country blues songs of travel with solo-finger-picking-guitarists Daniel Bachman and Jake Xerxes Fussell. Fussell has an unmistakable Swinging Southern folk whilst Bachman is the self-proclaimed player of “psychedelic appalachia”. Second up we recommend American Primitive Guitar exemplar Don Bikoff on the 11th. Completing the hatrick we have Gold Class on the 15th. There are few voices of meaningful dissent left in rock music. Even fewer play with the savagery, subtlety and melody of Melbourne-based newcomers Gold Class.
There’s a heaving line up at The Portland this month. Our first tip is the epic math-rock purveyors Tall Ships (3rd). Almost five years in the making, the Brighton quartet released their second record last month and it is an ambitious and anthemic collection of tracks.
The Magic Gang (8th) have cruised their way into being one of Britain’s most effortlessly exciting new bands. With a debut album in the works, they bring their charming indie-pop to Cambridge as a headline act for this first time this month. Support on the night comes from Abattoir Blues, a band who take their name from a Nick Cave album but really sound much louder, with lush slabs of psyche rock.
Gnod make beats that thrill and fray placing huge, ugly, bouldering ones over spoken word or letting distantly cascading percussive marches roll rhythmically into place, they’re at the Portland on the 18th. Billy Bibby and The Wry Smiles (17th) is the superb new musical endeavor of Billy Bibby, former and founding lead guitarist of Catfish and the Bottlemen and is worth checking out. As is local Spanish-Celtic folk quartet Mad Mary (20th) and Dan Wilde (22nd) who has a bold and richly observant take on folk.
Post War Glamour Girls (16th) are a four-piece who showcase an innate knack for creating intricately layered and intelligent compositions with an almost theatrical Arcade Fire-like build up, they’re definitely worth your time. As are Twin Wild (29th) Natives (10th) and Aleister Kelman (6th) all at The Portland.
A busy month at the Cambridge Junction includes an acoustic outing from The Rifles (9th) and 2016’s biggest British rock success, Twin Atlantic (24th). The hotly-tipped young Brit Declan McKenna plays the J2 on the 16th bringing his smart lyrical fizzing alt-pop songs back to Cambridge after opening for Blossoms here earlier in the year.
Jon Boden is best known as the lead singer of the progressive folk juggernaut Bellowhead. This year he’ll act as guest curator at the Folk Festival but before then he brings his debut solo record to the J2 on the 9th. Other folk acts at the Cambridge Junction this month that are well worth your time include local outfit The Willows (17th) and Ward Thomas on the 30th. Whilst Skinny Lister return with their traditional shanti-inspired folk with attitude on the 4th. Maximo Park bring their irresistible pop songs to the J1 on the 15th. For further naughties nostalgia there is The Kooks at the Corn Exchange on the 9th and Wheatus back at the J1 on the 29th.