ORGAN THING: Thursday night’s art and music, Dale Grimshaw at Well Hung, a Toaster pop up, Miraculous Mule all proper in King’s Cross, that and a unicorn pooping rainbows…


Miraculous Mule, Water Rats, March 2017

They never play encores, they did last night, when Miraculous Mule did manage to hook it all up then they really did have it all, they had it all there, all right there in that packed room, the real live loud proper real deal.. That encore was somewhere near Eleven O’clock though, that was five hours on from the first moves of the night and the start of the evening adventure at Well Hung Gallery over on Hoxton Street. Another random Thursday evening exploring art and music on this side of London town, a little more than just a cut ‘n paste of a press release and wearing a hat if you know what I mean, the evening that ended with Miraculous Mule playing an unexpected encore over in King’s Cross started in an art gallery in Hoxton and went something like this…

When street artists take themselves off the street and divorce themselves from the energy and the clutter, the surfaces, the shapes and the jagged corners, the filth, the beautiful noise, the mess of life, the street furniture, the onslaught of advertising, the annoyance of estate agent boards, the ice cream signs, the taggers, the paste-up menaces and the rest of the competition for your eye, when the street artists take it all indoors and hang their art formally on pristine white walls, when they do all that then there’s a danger of losing the essence of what they do, they’re in danger of losing the energy and immediate power of their marks. When street artists move indoors they’re in danger of become (just) artists hanging work in galleries (just hanging their work like all the other artists do), their “street art” can become dangerously sterile, become polite, just “stuff” to sell, craving acceptance. They relinquish all the advantages of the street and go unarmed into another world, a world that the other artists, the gallery artists understand and utilise and on the whole tend to use in a far more exciting challenging questioning set of ways – a formal white-walled gallery demands a different language, a different way of thinking, of communicating, you might be rather good at rugby league but that doesn’t mean you can switch code and stand out in the rugby union world.   Roa does it beautifully with his broken doors and those beautiful bits of old furniture he treats as his canvas, Swoon does it so so well.  When Dale Grimshaw takes to the gallery on this occasion something is relinquished, the power and scale of his street art, the demanding quality and immediate beauty of  his large street pieces on big walls, his faces dominating, his strong use of colour, his powerful statements, his expensive wallpaper repeat pattern backgrounds, his class.  I’m a fan of Dale Grimshaw’s art, I admire his faces, his style, I like what he has to say and how he’s currently using his art to say it, I like Dale Grimshaw…


Dale Grimshaw at Well Hung, March 2017

Pride and Prejudice brings together a body of work based on a ‘two worlds’ theme that Dale has been developing over the last few years. The work contains a strong political message, depicting portraits of threatened indigenous people, mostly from Papua New Guinea, which collide with familiar symbols of the privileged western world, producing a jarring effect that emphasises their powerlessness.  More recently, Dale has become involved with the political struggle to free West Papua from Indonesian occupation. This bitter and hard-fought struggle is rarely reported in the West and through his work, Dale has been supporting Benny Wenda, the campaigns leader and long term champion Peter Tatchell, in raising awareness in the UK.

I admire his work but there’s something lost in here with the polite frames and subtle lighting, has Dale Grimshaw’s art been neutered? Has the reduction in scale in here resulted in a loss of the power of it all? Did it all have to be so polite and well-behaved?


Dale Grimshaw at Well Hung, March 2017


His work on the street is something to behold, those faces through the clutter and the smells and the nosie and the traffic  Dale Grimshaw is clearly an artist worthy of all the attention he’s rightly enjoying at the moment, last night, in this polite quiet gallery his work felt restrained, stunted, his statements controlled and dare we say somewhat sanitized?  There’s no denying that Dale is a beautiful painter, a technique to be admired, eyes to look into, those eyes are vital, these eyes do the speaking, and he is making important points here with his impressive portraits of those threatened indigenous people – these aren’t just painting of random stylised tribal-looking nothingness, Grimshaw’s style and statements are to be admired, but did the gallery show have to be so damn polite and “proper”, so conservatively hung, so restrained in polite frames, couldn’t he have brought just a little bit of the danger of the street indoors? Just a hint of the attitude? Even when he does take to painting on artists pallets and outside of a frame it seems a little twee, a little polite, does it all a little to coffee table in here?

I am a fan though, and there are subtle changes in his style now, intersting developements, Dale Grimshaw is a little less obviously graphic now, a new confidence? That is a positive, and yes this probably is his best work so far in terms of a gallery show. The things he’s doing on the street right now are undoubtedly his best things and you get the feeling that when he does get around to marrying that street energy to his current painterly developments, when he does bring all that inside and on to the gallery wall, when he pains big and brings the energy along side te framed pieces then something really exciting might happen. I’m an admirer of his style, but this Dale Grimshaw solo gallery show ultimately disappoints, it disapoiints with the politeness of it all where it could have exploded with life and people, exploded with the energy of the things he does on street, some fine work in here, some impressive painting, but the show does feel like a polite compromise…


Dale Grimshaw at Well Hung, March 2017 (were they more interested in their phones?)

And back out on to the street, head down Hoxton Street and over to Jealous gallery for a quick slice of toast, past that old piece of Bob and Roberta that always bring a smile, off to Jealous, a quick scoot around the streets, past Pure Evil, a check to see what’s appeared since last these streets were walked, it all evolves so quickly, blink and you’ve missed it…


Toaster at Jealous, March 2017

Toaster at Jealous then, what is going on here? What would Derek Dougan say? What would the Doug make of it all? There’s always been playfulness to the Toaster thing, those toasters on the road surface a couple of years back at the Tour De France, the banners at Wolves, a football ground full of toasters and the adoption of the symbol without really knowing what it is, did we see the Wolves chairman wearing a toaster badge telling us he hadn’t got a clue what a toaster had to do with anything? I’m a fan of that Toaster as well, the repetitive graphicness of it all, the relentless evolving out on the street walls, seeminly all over the globe, the colourful evolving of the now very familiar pop art image, that faded weathered toaster image on railway bridges, lampposts, garage doors, the dissembled elements, all of it brilliant evolution of a piece of pop art, love it.  But what the hell is going on here? How much for a slice of toast? A man in a balaclava burning breas and laughing as he dances over to the bank, are people really prepared to pay those prices just to buy in? Another Soup can anyone? Grab hold of this red Balloon while we flog you some more street art stuff?


Toaster at Jealous, March 2017

Jealous are thrilled to host the opening and unveiling of ‘Toasted – A Pop-Up Show’ by Toaster. Building on the identity of their iconic toaster image and pushing it further than they have previously dared, the exhibition will feature a brand new body of work by the internationally renowned street artist, including unique hand-painted toasters, branded toast, and a limited edition screenprint, printed and published by Jealous Print Studio.

Three people, one Toaster image, Everywhere. Since 1999, before the term ‘Street Art’ existed, three people have placed their Toaster image all over the world. On stickers, posters, using stencils and on banners, the image has appeared on streets, at music festivals, in sports stadiums and on museum walls. 15 years on from its conception, the ‘project’ continues with the Toaster being placed both in the purest form and in various abstracted states.


Toaster at Jealous, March 2017

Pop art as piss take? Art as fun? Laughing all the way to the bank?  It is a beautifully evolving piece of graphic design, when they do finally get around to that giant Toaster retrospective and gather it all together it will be impressive.  Sure, those painted toasters look impressive enough tonight but dare we ask if it feels just a little bit too silly in here? There’s someone burning toast while lots of earnest middle age males talk to each other and compare images of whatever they’re comparing on their phones, some in their suits and ties fresh from their offices ready to spend their cash on the latest piece of must have politely framed “stuff”, others with their fingers and clothing stained with paint just to show us all they’ve been out painting today, and well, I don’t know, is street art in a gallery become a little bit of a parody of itself? Exit past the new print release? Someone tells me to stop being so damn grumpy about it all and fair enough, I guess this is fun, I do like seeing a toaster, do love the repetitive positiveness of it all and hey, this is the business of street art (was the term really not around in 1999? Pretty sure it was, John Richards will know). I don’t know, besides the silly looking bloke in te silly looking balacava burning toast once you’ve glanced at the burnt bread  in the frames and briefly admired the colour range of the painted toasters there’s not a lot to see in here. Yes, sure, the painted toasters are neat enough, classic Toaster art, the print itself isn’t the most exciting use of the familiar repeated image we’ve ever seen, and well, there’s someone (one of them?) burning toast while people take photos and there goes  another street art gimmick  Another opening the street art blogs will proclaim as “the bomb” or “smashing it” as they Instagram away and count their “likes”. “Stop being so grumpy about everything!”   Another case of when you take it off the street it really isn’t as exciting as you thought it was? Not as interesting as it is was when you find it unexpected on the street? How much for a piece of framed what? Did anyone buy one? if they did then I hope they don’t have mice (or maybe I hope they do?), them Toasters must be laughing?  Street art? is it all just about the “stuff” now, about having “stuff” (or at least a photo of the “stuff” on your phone?), got to have the print, the glossy book, got to have the piece of toast? Be sure to exit through the gift shop now, what would Jeff Astle think?  Do like a piece of toast, and I do enjoy a piece of Toaster art, I am a fan, was this fun? Should I stop being so damn grumpy? Shall we go to a gig instead? Enough of this street art in galleries and the flogging of stuff nonsense, the burning smell of bulshit and the toast done up like a kipper. Got to love a Toaster, got to smile at the nerve of it all, there wasn’t even a wholemeal option!  Ah, look, there’s a couple of Aida Wilde paste ups over there in the dark, all is well with the world and life is a f**king unicorn shitting rainbows of candy, I do love (street) art, I do, really, I really do, mustn’t let it get me so damn grumpy, nothing worse than an overpriced burnt bit of toast (Did you buy one? I’d really love you to tell me why). Denis was always the King, Astel was just the king of West Bromwich, The Doug was just cool as flip whatever your chosen colours, off we go, need a bit more than a piece of toast tonight…


Aida Wilde, Hoxton, March 2017

Nothing else happening? No more galleries tonight? Nothing spotted anyway, quick look up Redchurch street, past another big piece of This One, no, nothing, nothing to be seen anywhere in terms of a gallery, no more art tonight.  Off to Kings Cross then, off to the Rats, The Splash Club or whatever it might be called now.  Not been to the Water Rats for years, wonder if I’m still banned?  Put on hundreds of gigs at the Rats (as no-one ever called it) and I can’t remember a thing about any of them other than Lee Bowery taking a dump on stage mid way through a Minty set and leaving it there to be cleaned up, Lou Reed coming to see Charlie’s Angels and a particularly good Crazytown gig, that and some band called Dream City Film Club, oh and that punch-up with some band called Monsoon Bassoon apparently p’ed off because we called it as it so obviously was and called them prog rock, they didn’t like that! Where are they now? Off on some hellish notion of a prog rock boat cruise operating under another name and crusing with the bloated leftovers of Yes while they lord it on the glossy pages of over-priced prog rock magazines, Close to the edge? Oh the irony


Miraculous Mule, Water Rats, March 2017

The Water Rats then, whooo, they’ve poshed this place up, there’s people trying to eat meals while others push passed them to get to the back room and the music, bring on the band and enough of what happen here in the last century with Tura Satana and the wicked kid sister of Adam Ant and that time when Pulkas dug a hole to the pit of your soul. Enough of all that stuff from a time before Street Art existed (according to them Toasters), this is 2017 and the Mule have a glorious new album to launch tonight. And you know how we feel about Miraculous Mule and that new album and looks like things are going to be busy in here, looks like the place is sold out, there are lines to get in, there’s a buzz in the air and hey look, surely enough has been said on these fractured pages about the vital sound of Miraculous Mule and that urgently tasty new album and how they really are the soul-dripping real real finger on the pulse real deal and quite probably the best damn live band out there right now.


Miraculous Mule, Water Rats, March 2017

Tonight they launch the new album, and Two Tonne Testimony really it a beautifully massive beast of an album, been playing it to death for the last couple of months, stick by every word said in that over the top review a few pages back and really what more can be said here? They sound bigger than ever tonight, they look bigger than ever on that stage tonight – heavier, louder, they launch with Holy Fever, holy fever indeed, they perform most of the new album (will they ever play Sound of The Summer?).  The three of them up there sounding ridiculously big, oozing soul, flowing with their blues, heavy, loud, alive with the pure undiluted electricity of it all, just the right dose of attitude, a knowing swagger, plugged directly in to the source, sunglasses, big riffs, wah peddle, amped to the max in the red lights.

The Mule, as we keep on saying (and saying and saying again), are the real proper deal  Okay so sometimes it feels like they’re battling the sound in here tonight and some of it does get a little muddy, at times it kind of feels like the three of them are battling it all up there in the lights, battling to connect it all up, when they do hook it up then it really is glorious and when they launch We Know About Cha, it really is the closest you’re probably ever going to get to that feeling of Motorhead at the Roundhouse in ’78 when the rails were still there to trip you up and the Angels were there to stomp anyone who got out of line. The reprisal of Blue Uzi really is something big – them blues ate vicious, the whole thing is dedicated to Chuck Berry of course – all that guitar in the hand and howling at the moon as they blast through almost all the new album, the whole thing dripping in guitar and gospel, dripping in holy fever and attitude and the barbed bites at the monsters who lead and the cuts that bleed.  All defiant and proper, all big, an understanding of what’s right, the properness of it all, grabbing your soul, proper plugged in rock music, big bold and unapologetically so, when they hook it all together tonight they’re brilliant again, it does’nt all hook u but whein it does the Mule are vital, they’re massive and I really can’t keep saying it, just right, just PROPER.    And then they did an encore, they never do an encour, a proper encore, a proper gig, a proper band, just proper.   (SW)


Dale Grimshaw is at Well Hung, 239 Hoxton Street, London, N1 5LG until April 16th 

The Toaster pop up is at Jealous East, 53 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3PT until April 2nd

The new Miraculous Mule album is out this week, more about them here while you prepare for the real sound of the summer. (the Wicked kid sister of Adam Ant has not been seen for years, Pulkas really did dig holes and street art did exist before 1999, see you agaim same time next week)

Click on am image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show…

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