Bilbao is a beautiful modern city in Northern Spain, sitting between mountain ranges which surround the estuary of Bilbao. BBK festival has been running for 8 years and is located part way up the mountains to the south of the city. It attracts c 100,000 people over it's whole course but breaking this down to a daily footfall it makes for about 30,000 each day. The site has a compact feel but it never feels overly busy and moving around was easy.
Bands play across four stages, three of these in the open air: the main Bilbao Stage, slightly smaller Heineken Stage and small Matusalem stage. There is one sizeable indoor arena, Starman Stage, which isn't a tent in the way we know them in UK. This is more of a semi-permanent structure with steel frame.
A real plus is the cashless nature of the festival. All expenditure at the event is by pre-loaded chip on your wrist-band, and fully embracing available technology this can be loaded up in advance and whilst at the festival via the Festival app. This makes for zero queues at the bars. There were small queues at food outlets at busy times.
As regards beer on offer, the heavy sponsorship (by Heineken) carried through to all bars with apparently only that beer on offer. But Rock Club buddies Keith & Ali discovered early on Day One that the bar in the Starman tent also had a German wheat beer (Paulsner) and a very pleasant double-drop dark Affligem beer on offer. Suffice to say every beer visit of the weekend was to these lone taps.
There were well organised shuttle buses running to the festival site from Athletic Bilbao football stadium. As is the nature of festivals in such climates, the bands start at 5.00 pm leading to the headliners about 10.30/11.00 followed by more bands until 3.30 a.m.and DJs after that for the truly nocturnal souls. The shuttle buses ran through the night, and taxis back to the hotel were easy to grab. Camping was an option but reasonably priced festival ticket & hotel packages are available so a sensible option.
With the sponsors laying on events through the city we managed to catch 29 acts across the three days.
DAY ONE, Thursday 6/7
David Bowie Tribute band - Bilbao city centre. Stumbled across this in the city outside the bbk (local savings bank) office, where we discovered, after watching the band, that we could collect our wristbands. An excellent DB lookalike supported by a highly competent band. Great fun to kick things off. The only set all weekend where we knew all the songs. We were treated to Fame, Sufragette City, Changes (band had no sax which was a shame), China Girl, Ashes To Ashes, Starman, Let's Dance, Rebel Rebel, Young Americans, Heroes
Rufus T Firefly - Bilbao Stage. As a Marx Brothers fan I simply had to watch this band. Hailing from Spain their songs were all sung in Spanish, a lyrical language but not best suited to rock n roll. Anthemic songs in Arcade Fire mould with excellent instrumental breaks.
Circa Waves - Heineken Stage. Clashed with Cabbage but opted for CW as we'd seen Cabbage earlier in the year and they're also on EOTR line-up. Solid guitar band from Liverpool, but somehow lacking a spark today. A few songs in they announced "it's mosh-pit time..... when I say Go, Jump!' A good part of the crowd duly did but it felt rather contrived. The moshing was better, more spontaneous for following song 'Fossils'. Half way through we high-tailed to The Starman stage for Cabbage.
Cabbage - Starman Stage. Full of energy. Spontaneous moshing here. Think Jonathan Richman with contemporary themes (including a song about Jimmy Saville). Only caught last four songs but glad we did.
Cage the Elephant - Bilbao Stage. US guitar rock n roll from Nashville Tennessee. Drew a good crowd. Fully hit their stride towards the end of their set with more melodic songs.
Sundara Karma - Matusalem Stage. I had reservations about this band as the recorded material I've heard puts them in a category I call 'one up from a boy band'. Much better live than on record and provided a highlight of the day. Quite humble "..... we didn't think anyone would be singing along". Quality stuff - a band on the rise
The 1975 - Heineken Stage. Best stage and light show so far. Apart from an interesting sax solo where the sax player was in darkness. Lost the impact of what might otherwise have been a beautiful moment
Depeche Mode - Bilbao Stage. Excellent view from the grass bank toward the back of the auditorium. Excellent front-manning from Dave Gahn. Set comprised old and new tunes including an excellent 'Somebody' and 'Where's The Revolution '
Spoon - Heineken Stage. Mature US sounds veering between smooth synth-based songs and jerky dance tunes. Excellent pop songs, delivered with panache
Justice - Bilbao Stage. Impressive stage set-up with banks of speakers. Perfect early-hours set to keep the crowd dancing
Idles - Matusalem Stage. This band's performances get ever more anarchic. Today the lead guitarist, dressed in just swim shorts made two sorties into the crowd. Other band members saved their crowd surfing antics to the last song. Excellent set with casual vitriol directed at The 1975 throughout "We are The 1975 - we are the best band in the world "
DAY TWO, Friday 7/7
Amazons - Bilbao Stage. English guitar band. Drummer was bedecked in beret, red neckerchief, white shirt and black waistcoat. His cousin Christian was on his stag-do at the fest. His outfit matched 16 others, all in lively early-evening mood. Excellent set from this band playing their first ever gig in Spain
Jenny Lanza - Starman Stage. Caught a few tunes while at the bar. Solo, on decks. Impressive projections on screens but only drew a small crowd. Perhaps would have been better suited to a slot in the small hours.
Explosions In The Sky - Heineken Stage. Every festival should have an EITS slot on the bill. Elongated tunes with no vocal, harping back to days of prog rock excess. A very pleasing deviation from standard RnR guitar chords. Songs are mostly guitar based but keys feature heavily. Studious intensity from every band member. We were only 20 feet from the stage but I was nevertheless drawn to the screens simply to enjoy the intricate guitar work.
Fleet Foxes - Bilbao Stage. Having been an admirer of this band's work for some time I was looking forward to this set but as I have found at a festival a few years ago I was rather disappointed. With six of them on stage there is enough manpower to give their songs depth but they don't really go beyond the distinctive vocal on enough occasions. Most impressive was the multi-instrumentalist who contributed with tuba, flute, double bass, violin, guitars, maracas, tambourine and the occasional vocal.
Jens Leckman - Starman Stage. All female backing band on drums, bass and keys/synth. Bass player was particularly energetic. It was raining so the tent was fuller than it might otherwise have been with rather too much chatter from the back. This was the perfect antidote to the uninspired Fleet Foxes set. Dancey/pop-ey tunes. A fun Belle & Sebastian. JL gives you licence to dance like nobody's watching. (With pint of Affligem in hand I did)
Killers - Bilbao Stage. Took us a few minutes to find a good vantage point as annoyingly the sound was bouncing off the side of the Starman tent. But once we found a suitable spot we were treated to a wonderful set from this iconic Las Vegas band. A customary energetic performance from Brandon Flowers. It's indie rock n roll for me...... and for the whole BBK crowd.
Royal Blood - Heineken Stage. As they are apt to do, RB took things to another level. Excellent stage set which gave the impression they were playing in a room, drawing you in so you completely forgot you were outside. Plenty of material from their excellent new album 'How Did We Get So Dark' mixed with older favourites. Superb.
Joe Goddard - Starman Stage. JG (of Hot Chip) on decks supported with sublime female vocalist Valentina Gabriel. Highly enjoyable set but as the clock hit 3.00 our tired bodies demanded we call it a day.
DAY THREE, Saturday 8/7
Isis - Bilbao city, square opposite our hotel. Spanish female singer with a full brass section in support. Obviously a local favourite evidenced by the participative crowd.
Naranja - Starman Stage. Spanish 4-piece guitar band. Front man looked like a young Jarvis Cocker. Mix of slow songs which sounded a bit like Alex Turner, and harder-hitting guitars. The slow tunes were better suited to the Spanish lyrics.
Los Bengala - Heineken Stage. Another Spanish band, this one a different proposition altogether. Two piece, a la Royal Blood with similarly powerful tunes. Thoroughly enjoyed themselves (particularly the bare-chested drummer) as did the enthusiastic crowd
Saint Motel - Bilbao Stage. A happy festival band, hailing from LA. Described as everything from dream pop to indie prog. Not a bad description. Five-piece. Front man on keys with bass, guitar, saxophone and drums. The sax was used to good effect in several songs. Got the crowd singing along to summery anthem 'Sweet Talk' and jumping in the last number as the lead singer made good use of the runway. The most notable thing for me though was that at the beginning and middle of this set I was on my knees through sheer tiredness, actually kinda wishing I was somewhere else. But by the end I was buzzing, raring to go for more bands. Such is the the power of Rock n Roll. We are privileged to love this stuff.
The Orwells - Heineken Stage. US rockin guitars, tinged with punk in places.
The Parrots - Starman Stage. Spanish rock n roll punk blended with thrashing guitars. Wonderfully lively. Towards end of their set played their excellent anthem 'No Te Gusta Te Quiero' (I don't like you, I love you)
Brian Wilson - Bilbao Stage. Funny moment at beginning of opening song, California Girls with BW' s face large on the screen only to be obscured by an inflated floating condom. BW was today supported by a ten-strong troupe, delivering the whole Pet Sounds album. It deserved a hot sunny day rather than the chilly cloudy day we were experiencing but good to see these legendary songs delivered by the legend himself. BW took on some of the vocal (not the high bits). Good Vibrations closed off a memorable set.
Chk! Chk! Chk! - Heineken Stage. The power of poor research. I have some of this bands material on my I-pod but haven't listened to it for ages. Neither did I read up on this band beforehand. Had I done so I might well have given this a miss but glad I didn't. Compelling performance from jagger-esque front man and female singer who pumps energy into every beat. 80's disco rhythms, much of the material was almost spoken, Grace Jones-like
Two Door Cinema Club - Bilbao Stage. Plenty of good tunes in this band's catalogue to fully justify their headline slot. Sound was particularly good from our vantage point on the grassy bank.
The Lemon Twigs - Starman Stage. Couldn't think of a better band to round things off. Played all the great songs from their 2016 album plus new number 'Queen Of My School' off next album which they announced is out later this year. Also 'You Can't Talk To The Dude' off forthcoming EP.
A wonderful festival experience. We spent three further days in Spain with Rock Club buddies recuperating from the festival, and taking in the Pamplona San Fermin festival, a visit to a vineyard and a brief stop-over in San Sebastian, a beautifully unspoilt resort city on the Bay of Biscay
(PS: Rufus T Firefly was the character played by Graucho Marx in Duck Soup)
My first Glastonbury festival since 2011 and my eighth visit to Worthy farm for this global event.
Arriving on the Thursday to avoid the predicted queues and understandable searches (which never seem to have materialised?) we were on the site after a short queue and body scan (that’s us, not our baggage??).
Camp set up and it’s time to explore the site which seemed to be the usual wonderland of sights, sounds and smells already. Perfect weather all weekend, meant it was neither too muddy or, too hot to walk around all the stages, stamina and human traffic permitting.
It quickly became evident that there was a political heat at the festival quite unlike I had experience before, indeed, it did not seem to abate even slightly until Sunday. It did at times over the weekend seem like we were living inside a Labour Party Political broadcast!
The vibe otherwise was generally ‘peace’ orientated although I did feel that when crowded the pushing and shoving came without any politeness in many cases unlike past years which, was sad.
Anyhow, happy to be back and here’s the music I got to see;
The Earache Records Metal Stage in Arcadia saw Napalm Death from Birmingham kick our festival off to a rocking start on Thursday evening.
Fast forward to 11am Friday and it’s a resurgent Pretenders on The Other Stage, Chrissie Hynde is in fine form and the new material fits in well with the classics.
A 15 minute stroll to the Park stage where I set up camp for the afternoon starts off with a sonic storm that is Bo Ningen. Next up is Margo Price (which just shows the diversity of this festival) Psych rock to country in a blink of an eye.
A lovely set which was great to start with and which seem to go up another notch when Margo left the stage to take off her (presumably painful) boots!
Walkman, Hamilton Leithauser and band looked like they had just arrived and gone straight on stage (immigration hold-ups Hamilton explained) but with his voice the songs are as powerful as ever. Mark Lanegan is more suited to darkness than bright afternoon sunlight but the man with the baritone still comes across in menacing style.
Next one of my festival highlights was Angel Olsen and band. Great songs, temperament and her general mischievous nature made for a fabulous set. Then we were into surprise set territory. Rumours during the day included Elbow, Arcade Fire and the Maccabees.
Elbow took the stage and played a triumphant set with Guy Garvey in pristine form. A brilliant sing-a-long even with those on the hill behind.
Straight over to the Pyramid stage for the night’s headliners, Radiohead. Having followed this band all the way through their career this was an incredible show for someone like me, for newcomers an introduction but, the the set needed a true attention span to be present and this was never going to happen hence, the range of comments after the set. For someone who love this band, it was magnificent.
All the oldies (there are still plenty of us at Glasto) gathered back at the Pyramid early Saturday morning with the kids, for The Bootleg Beatles and their run through Sgt Pepper with an orchestra.
Good fun to start the day.
Joseph are next on the Acoustic stage. Three sisters with wonderful harmonies provide a lovely set. Then it’s off to The Other Stage and great to see British Sea Power blast through a set of songs on the back of their new album, wild bears included!
Sigrid a future pop star from Norway played the Park Stage to a sizeable crowd although I did find myself drifting to the Bumble Inn for the fabulous trio, Thrill Collings. An acoustic guitar, stand-up double bass, bongos and three voices, what else do you need? Massive fun and engagement with the crowd, a fantastic Skiffle group!
It always pays to read the programme closely, expecting to see New Zealander Nadia Reed on the Park stage, it turn out to be Nadia Rose! .. I decide to start the trek from The Park to William’s Green which turns into a marathon through the biggest congestion of human traffic I think I have ever seen. A crammed Other Stage for Kaiser Chiefs is met by thousands of people moving away from their Corbyn Fest on the Pyramid, rather than stay for Run the Jewels. Result, gridlock.
I get to the Williams Green tent for most of a sonic Thurston Moore set, then it onto the front rail for growing Aussie legends, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (who came up with that name?). Thirty minutes of psych rock follows that would blow off anybody’s socks. Impressive!
It’s the Pyramid Stage for the rest of the evening starting with The National playing their first gig of their latest world trek. One of my favourite bands, they do however, seem a bit lost on the vast expanses of the main stage but still seem to enjoy themselves. The new songs sound excellent but the energy of the band never transmits very far up the hill.
Foo Fighters finally make it to Glastonbury and play a brilliant set that must mean a return visit one year. One of the biggest bands in the world they never seem to stray far from the common man, keeping a connection with the crowd that is mightily impressive. Rock on guys!!
Sunday starts with Slaves in the “Sunday morning legends slot” on the Other Stage, a set that certainly blows the cobwebs away. Deaf Havana next up on the same stage prove a solid rock band before we head off for an afternoon at the John Peel Stage.
Real Estate are such a great band, real class and great musicians. Another set from King Gizzard follows this time on a much bigger stage with videos. Like Mark Langegan tho ... these guys need darkness!
Next is one of the stand out sets of the entire weekend which is quite amazing since it followed the energy of the aforementioned King Gizzard and preceded the by now, common knowledge, Killers surprise set.
Enter, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. A man who most defiantly wears his heart on his sleeve and tells the crowd how it should be. Be that the set up of the mosh pit, the warm cider (?) poured over him and back over the punter by Frank when on walk-about in the crowd or, the fact that ladies should be allowed to crowd surf WITHOUT being groped! Which they did quite happily as Frank had given a stark warning of the consequences should anyone transgress. This was primal rock n’ roll and outstanding in it’s execution.
The Killers are next, the place is rammed and rammed again, everyone jumping and singing so loud it’s difficult to hear Brandon himself. This was an absolute triumph and 60 minutes never to be forgotten. Brandon said he was told “you play the John Peel Stage twice in your career, once on the way up and once on the way down” I don’t think this particular band will ever be on the way down!
A walk over to West Holts for a wonderful set in the sunshine from the Cinematic Orchestra was well with the effort. The site was always busy and if muddy theses lengthy walks between stage would have been a nightmare.
Sustained after a Goan Fish Curry, I trek back to the John Peel stage for London Grammar only to find the tent and field as busy as it was for The Killers so, it’s a trek back to The Other Stage for a sublime show from Emeli Sandé and that, concluded my musical Glastonbury 2017.
Apart from Ani di Franco and Metronomy on Acoustic and John Peel stages (just too tired for another trek) respectively, nothing else really struck a cord with me to watch as far as Sunday headliners went.
Overall then, the massive endeavour that is modern day Glastonbury passed off brilliantly well. The weather took a big hand in that but as ever with well over 200,000 people on site the organisers and staff deserve a BIG THANK YOU.
2019 it is then.
Back from my 17th trip to Worthy Farm. I arrived in England during the mini heatwave. On Wednesday it was 34 degrees. Thursday was perfect. There was some drizzle at the weekend but all in all one of the easiest years weather-wise.
I managed to get through the gate early (9:30 Wednesday morning) and this gave me plenty of time for all the other, wonderful stuff, of which there is so much at Glastonbury. I really wished it would be on for a week so that I could fit in even more.
Of course there were schedule clashes. Friday was the worst. I would have wanted to be everywhere. Particularly sorry to have missed Kris Kristofferson but it could not be helped. And so on to the highlights:
1. THE YOUNG 'UNS
When I first came across theYoung 'Uns I did not like them that much, but they have grown on me. Turning point was probably when I saw them as guests on the Unthanks' 'Mount the air' tour. This may well have been their finest hour. I had goosebumps from the moment they started with their fabulous cover of Billy Bragg's 'Between the wars'. They are funny and entertaining too, and were exactly in the right place and time in this year when protest songs are suddenly cool again.
They were the first act on the West Holts stage on Saturday. A very special moment. Rain had returned to Glastonbury and it was a bit misty and drizzly. Sounds strange but it was absolutely right for their laid back set. They play instrumental music. Seem very nice people too. Guitarist Mark really connected with the audience with his chilled out comments. I felt like I was tripping on ice cream and caffeine. I got their album 'The Universe Smiles Upon You' as a souvenir – highly recommended.
3. SHARON SHANNON
To be honest, Sharon could be my number one every year. It is just that she is so consistently excellent that there is less of an element of surprise. She is always a highlight. You look around you and see the Acoustic Tent completely full and everybody smiling from ear to ear. The band consisted of Jim Murray, Jack Maher and Sean Regan. And there is no denying the magic of the 'Galway Girl', especially now that they twin it with 'Music for a found harmonium'. Absolutely top stuff.
4. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
One day the rest of the world will wake up to what a genius this man is. I hope JTE will get this recognition sooner than the man he is named after, Townes Van Zandt. There was not a huge crowd at this gig, but everyone there seemed a fan. Ideal circumstances really – no walkers and talkers. Justin played songs from his new album as well as 'One more night in Brooklyn', 'Rogers Park', 'Harlem River Blues', 'Memphis in the rain'. Nice chat in between songs as well. An expected highlight; he delivered.
5. THE PRETENDERS
Opening the Others Stage on Friday. It has been a thing online where people talk about longest time between seeing bands. I last saw the Pretenders when they played support on the original 'Joshua Tree' tour, so that was thirty years ago. Chrissie Hynde is the undisputed coolest woman in rock. And with that back catalogue of hits you just cannot go wrong. Highlights were 'Hymn to her', which she dedicated to Michael and Emily, 'Message of love' and my favourite, 'Back on the chain gang'. Chrissie's chat was fun too. She talked about how 'I'll stand by you' gets used in reality TV shows: “...which I don't watch, but I heard about it”.
6. BILLY BRAGG's RADICAL ROUND-UP FEATURING RALPH McTELL, LOUISA ROACH from SHE DREW THE GUN and STEVE KNIGHTLEY (SHOW OF HANDS)
The Radical Round-up happens every afternoon on the Leftfield stage. It is Billy Bragg with three guests, who take turns singing songs and chatting on stage. I attend one every year and have seen great guests over the years (Frank Turner, O'Hooley & Tidow, Lisa O'Neill). This year I went particularly because I wanted to see Steve Knightley, who was great. Protest songs are back on the menu, but Steve has never stopped writing them. Louisa from She Drew The Gun was really impressive. Her song 'Poem' got the longest applause, causing Billy to remark that it IS really a competition and he wondered if Steve could better that. Billy also said that he loves what Louisa does with her band, but that it works really well solo, and I agree. When he introduced Ralph McTell and was thinking that he had the same name as the man who sings 'Streets of London', only to realize that it was himself. He sang the song in question and it was beautiful.
7. FOO FIGHTERS
This is how it is done. Pure rock'n roll. All hail Dave Grohl. He walked on stage on his own, apologizing for being two years late. He said he had watched Glastonbury on TV two years ago, sat in his wheelchair with his broken leg, and he thought that Florence & the Machine were amazing and that she always should have been the headliner anyway. Thousands let out a collective “Awwww...” I thought we were going to get a Florence cover, but alas. Later did play a great cover of Queen's 'Under Pressure' though, with Taylor Hawkins singing up front and Dave going behind the drums. There was no funny intro film, no balloons, guests, wristbands or any sort of gimmickry. The screens were only used to show sweaty long-haired musicians. They were intend on breaking the curfew and the on-TV-swearing record and they did both. Nice to be able also to put a face to Chris Shiflett, whose Walking The Floor-podcast I have been listening to a lot. I saw only two shows on the Pyramid stage this year and am very glad this was one of them. I got into a good spot, between the pit barrier and the sound tower, where the sound was perfect and I could watch the stage rather than the screens most of the time. Fabulous fireworks afterwards.
Every festival there is a band that makes me feel proud of my adopted home country and this year Altan was that band. I recently stood behind Ciarán Tourish in the queue at Nick's Coffee in Ranelagh. I realized that it had been two years since I last saw Altan in concert and at that point I made up my mind to catch them at Glastonbury. They were excellent, only there set was cruelly short.
9. SETH LAKEMAN
I am a fan so I knew what to expect, but that did not make it any less fun. Wildwood Kin were there and joined Seth on songs from his last album 'Ballads of the broken few'. It's Seth's own band that brings the magic though, particularly drummer/bodhran player/vibe master Cormac Byrne. 'Lady of the sea' has now replaced 'Kitty Jay' as my favourite Seth song live.
10. ALSARAH & THE NUBATONES
I know this band from Songlines CDs and their excellent Tiny Desk Concert. I had to trek to the Gully stage in the Silver Hayes (dance) area to see them. Alsarah and her sister Nahid were born in Sudan and lived in Yemen prior to moving to the U.S. There are five band members altogether, including a wonderful oud player. Their sound is completely unique – to my ears anyway. The gig was sparsely attended, but everyone there was really into it and the band gave it their all. Happy to have caught them, even if it meant missing Beans On Toast.
11. BILLY BRAGG
I had hummed and hawed for weeks. I felt I should go to see Radiohead because everyone rates them so highly, even though I never really got into them. In the end I went for Billy's headline show at his own stage (this also meant that I still had time to catch the Mavericks at the Avalon afterwards). I didn't speak to anyone who went to Radiohead so don't know if I made the right decision, but I thoroughly enjoyed this show anyway. Billy Bragg songs are like clothes. Keep them long enough and they can be used again. 'Sexuality' was dedicated to the DUP, 'Scousers never buy the Sun' is topical once more and the show ended with a lovely version of 'I keep faith' from the 'Mr Love and Justice' album. He also played 'The milkman of human kindness', which I actually remember him playing the very first time I saw Billy live at Pinkpop, a whopping 33 years ago!
12. LAURA MARLING
A darling of the critics who I never 'got'. It was a last minute decision to go and see her, because she fitted, and because I thought I'd better see another show at the Pyramid. It was lovely. Great band, backing singers, lovely presentation, beautiful dress – all nice. The screen was showing mainly female fans who seemed to know all the songs word for word. Must investigate further. A pleasant surprise.
13. NAPALM DEATH
Death metal is not my cup of tea, but I welcome variety and this seemed a fun thing to go and check out. I got there early and sat down in the grass (there was grass this year!) to read the Glastonbury Free Press. The previous band, the New York Brass Band, were still on, and just then band came through the crowd in procession with many fans following, singing 'You can call me Al'. I was sitting there surrounded by metalheads and couldn't help thinking, “Where else would you get it?”
Napalm Death were loud yet sympathetic. Singer Mark Greenway explained what the songs were about, which was helpful. 'Dear slum landlord' is a title that stuck with me. The band said that it was a pleasant surprise for them to be there and I felt the same about seeing them.
14. BO NINGEN
Noise rock from a Japanese band now based in London. I had seen these last year when they supported Primal Scream. They are unlike anything I have seen and heard before. I won't rush out to buy a CD but a great spectacle to undergo live.
15. EMILY BARKER
Keeps reinventing herself. Her latest album has soul and funk influences and this is what she brought to the Acoustic Stage. A very full sound; lovely singing.
This was my alternative to Ed Sheeran. I missed Shaggy's afternoon show at West Holts, but saw him Sunday night when he was the final act on the Gully stage. Got a great spot on one of the viewing platforms at the back. The place was jammed with other Ed escapees. Mr Boombastic delivered a fun show, with 'It wasn't me' the standout. Quite tiring, as Shaggy demands lots of audience participation, from 'Sunny day'-waiving to a reggae variant (up and down) and bumping and grinding etc.
17. LIAM GALLAGHER
Due to being at Jeremy Corbyn's talk at Leftfield I got to the Other Stage for Liam much later than I had planned. As a result I had to watch from quite far back where the sound was blowy. I thought the new songs actually came across better than the Oasis stuff. For the new songs Mr Rock'n Roll was joined by backing singers and a brass section. 'Wall of glass' is a great song. This show would probably have ended up much higher on my list if I had been a bit nearer to proceedings.
18. SHOWHAWK DUO
Acoustic guitar duo who specialize in techno classics. Sounds odd but it works. This was on the Thursday, when only some stages are operating and as a result the Williams Green tent was chockers. A fun atmosphere. They finished with 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which really is a modern folk song. I mean, it is very long, very complicated, yet thousands who were not even born when it was written can sing along word for word. Must see if there is a clip of this on YouTube.
19. DAWN PENN
A grand dame of reggae music, best known from the hit 'You don't love me (No no no)'. She played Sunday night at the Gully, before Shaggy. Very nice atmosphere. You could get stoned on the air and everybody was up for a last hurrah. I realized that reggae is the only music I feel very comfortable dancing to.
20. LITTLE MAMMOTHS
Up and coming band from London I had come across during my research. They played the Rabbit Hole on Thursday. A bit Gaslight Anthem-ish, with a very nice pedal steel. Check out their song 'Waitresses and barmaids'.
Biggest disappointment: MARTHA WAINWRIGHT
This was about the fourth time I thought, “I must try her”, probably because I like her dad so much. Note to self: I do not like Martha Wainwright – skip her next time. In fairness, she had the impossible task of following Sharon Shannon, but even so... uninspiring.
Am now looking forward to catching up on what I missed on the iPlayer. 720 days to go until the next Glastonbury Festival...
As a quick overview, it was another successful SXSW. It's not an easy festival to negotiate without some serious planning. With 100's of unofficial shows and a slew of SXSW showcases to choose from/ The cost of the badge (if you buy one), hotels and flights, and the Increasing distance between venues means you must have a plan, then have a back up plan.
You also must use social media to keep on top of changes. Is it worth it? For me it has been because to me it's about discovery and the festival has made that a focus again recently but it is a festival built around the industry. Most that buy badges work in the industry, they are not here as simply music fans as I am, they are here to do business and see bands. But what the festival offers is almost 2000 bands and surely anyone could visit and find a new favourite while seeing seeing some of your old favourites as well.
This year, I was able to see 99 bands, (100 if you include Talib Kwelli that I heard between sets late one night). Not only that, Austin is a wonderful city that offers up great weather, great food, and some mighty good tasting Craft Beer so there is that.
It gets harder as I get older and post festival general notes have started to list venues and showcases that offer plenty of comfortable seating so that should indicate just how hard it is but with a festival like this, at which you could watch bands from 6:30am to 2 am every day..it still excites me to think about it so we will have to start thinking about SXSW 2018!
It's the last day of what has been a solid visit to Austin. The sun is shining and a well balanced week means we still have some energy to be able to walk around the city so we are off It's a quick walk into the convention centre to check out Flatstock (a huge market of concert posters and gear) and while in the building we are able to catch two bands
Spinning Coin are first up on the international stage, the indie rock band from Scotland were the opening band for Teenage Fanclub but on our UK visit, we had missed them at both shows. This riff heavy 4 piece put on a fairly good show for the few who have made it to the stage. It's a rather messy mix of sounds, some simple harmonies and they produce some pretty solid guitar rock.
The next band up on a stage in Flatstock is Ramirez Exposure. This youngster reminds me a lot of Jake Bugg but with his 5 piece full band, this young Spanish group produce a 60's influenced indie pop. Clearly a big fan of Beach Boys and the Beatles, there is plenty of wonderful harmonies and when some great guitar work starts washing over the songs...it's become Big Star. The kid is young but the band sounds mature and they work together well. This could just be the start for these fellas
Now the walk in the sun over to South Congress and we head back to South by San Jose and the comfortable surroundings of Hotel San Jose as does a large crowd as today's schedule is loaded.
We start out with Slow Dancer. This Aussie 3 piece that are based around lead singer Simon Okely, produce some very solid indie folk. There is a summer feel to these guys and as people scatter around the venue to find shade, the band plow through a set of songs seemingly inspired by some classic R&B and it works.
Ron Gallo is the next artist to hit the stage. This is one complicated band. They start with an awkward anti establishment speech and then jump into a set of indie, glam, fuzzy guitar punk rock. This guy and his two fellow band mates produce a garage rock that is heavy on noise but it's not hard to listen to, the songs may be bleak but his commitment to some high quality singing takes the edge off. This guy is one album in and I would suggest seeing him and making up your own mind
The next band is a departure from everything we have seen but it's more then welcome on this gorgeous sunny day. Khruangbin is a wickedly wonderful 3 piece who base their sound on what I discover to be Thai surf funk music of the 60's and 70's. With very little singing, the lead guitarist and bassist share duties fronting this band with some help from a very good drummer and they put on a rather stimulating clinic in how to get a crowd moving and inspired with only instruments. Please check them out as the are excruciatingly hard to describe but leave everyone smiling in this crowd in Austin and are a fantastic little band
Next up are another buzz band and perhaps why many of the crowd are here. PWR BTTM are an unapologetic queer punk band with a message and they are quick to warn the crowd of parents who have brought their children, that their method of communicating with the crowd involves a lot of rather profane language so we are all warned. Before they get too far into their set, the band are clearly here with an agenda as they are at all their shows, to entertain as well as educate.
They want the crowd to know about the importance of gender neutral language as well as the need to convince the Texas government not to support the bathroom bill that is being proposed that will basically restricts access for many transgender Texans to the washroom they require. It would mean this band cannot tour in Texas and they will not return. The message though is really much more positive as this band emphasizes love and friendship with their clever guitar songs and pop punk and melodies and you can't help but love this set of songs that all have a message to the crowd.
In no way does the set get dragged down by the message as the music is still fun and rather lovely, but it demands thinking and no doubt many who leave here have a new respect for the frustrations of the transgender community.
Cherry Glazerr are up next on the big stage and they are LOUD! I gather the band has changed members recently and what I see here is pretty impressive. Led by a very dynamic lead singer, Clementine Creevy, she howls through a set of indie punk and it's viscous in its intensity. This band seems angry and with some big guitar riffs and synths, I am kinda glad we are at an outdoor stage...this would be terrifyingly loud in a small venue. This Los Angeles based rock band have certainly woken this crowd up as there is still no place to hide and even though we have to leave 3/4 through the set, we can still hear the band blocks away.
Our plan was to grab a quick dinner now and get in line at the second annual Roots & Friends show at SXSW. Last years event drew a big crowd and a fantastic showcase from what we have heard so our plan is to get to the venue early Apparently, an hour early is not near enough time as there must be 1000 people in line. It's all badge holders and there is no way this small club show is going to be possible so, as happens often at SXSW..we go to our back up plan and we will head to Latitude and the British Music Embassy
It's a wild and wacky cross section of bands playing tonight and none more so than the first band up..Anna Meredith. It's a struggle to describe what is going on here. I find out that Anna used to be a member of the British Symphony and she "composes" a terrific set of wonderful and unique songs. She sings, plays keys, laptop loops..bells and a clarinet as her band plays a tuba, cello, drums and guitar? Its progressive pop and dance and upbeat and it's a great collective of sound. When they drop their instruments and sing in unified harmonies, it's a great little shift and throw in some math rock, some indie dance and it's clear you never really know what you are going to get from this band. It certainly gets the crowd bouncing around at Latitude and is a great start
Alice Jemima is next up and it will be difficult to follow Anna. Alice is a singer/songwriter from Devon and sings some rather atmospheric lyrics with minimal guitar backing and kind of reminds me of the sound of bands like the XX. When she cranks up her version of Blackstreets "No Diggity", which is rather clever, you can't help but be impressed but again, following Anna Meredith is difficult tonight. As this set ends, we get a bit of a break as somehow the club blows some breakers and with minimal lighting and no background music, we all stand in the quiet and wait. When the problems are fixed and a short sound check is done, Aquilo hits the stage.
Aquilo are a very polished band from the Lake District that produce some very soulful, ballad heavy songs. It's simple and rather pretty and clearly is based around the two young men who have some very lovely voices. It's not complicated and is rather catchy and the guys do well to produce a solid clean set with little sound check time due to the electrical issues.
Superglu is next up and you can't help but perk up and perhaps pay a bit more attention to these guys.. Tempo changes, some howling, big hooks and harmonies are all featured in the set from this 4 piece. They split the vocal duties and on top of some wicked guitar work and great percussion, you can watch this band and know they are having fun. It's a great little indie rock set from these British kids and it's very clever and fun.
Sundara Karma are up next and that might explain why the bar is a little more crowded. As said before, this band makes some big guitar rock songs, and combines it some pretty solid singing and harmonies and it probably sounds a bit better here in a smaller club show. The crowd again sings along and is another solid show
Finally, the last band of the night, and as often happens here at Latitude, the last band is going to be the one that is quite possibly the loudest. Life are another classic punk rock 4 piece band from the UK. They are gritty, angry, and rather brilliant. It's modern day punk and quite fitting to be the last band of the day. It's a very loud set and it's crowded in the venue, the bands that have played here during the week seem to all be in the crowd and it's getting a little hectic. I back out of the crowd and listen to the lead singer spit out his clever punk lyrics from the safety of the back of the club. I drift away from the bar as the band finishes its set, once more I have completed a full day and tomorrow we are off home.