- Festival Reviews
No major changes on the site itself to mention this year. The Silent Disco was now in the Garden stage area, and there was a sizeable Fox at the top of the field for the Woods stage and an elephant hanging from a hot air balloon in the Big Top tent. The woods themselves were a myriad of colour and sounds with many delights to be discovered.
Sunday was glorious weather; the rest of the weekend was overcast and generally autumnal. Less of a family feel this year with the kids already being back at school but an increase in the pre-Uni crowd was evident. As ever a decent vibe and many smiling faces.
Palma Violets were a rocking start for the early arrivals on Thursday with a crowd surfing, stage invading set and the festival as a whole kicked off on Friday with a laid back, jam orientated Ryley Walker on the Garden Stage just after midday on the Friday.
Loose Music's Andrew Combs brought a fine country vibe to the Woods stage followed by a trio of ladies who stormed the rest of the afternoon. Frazey Ford stared off gently with some very fine songs from her solo album followed by the rising star that is the formidable Nadine Shah who put on an electric performance in the Big Top tent. The trio was completed by a sonic if somewhat distance performance from Torres.
Back to the Big Top for a superb show from a psychedelic driven Pond who really excelled as did, the fun filled Diagrams in the Tipi (Uncut Stage) tent.
TY Segall's Fuzz blasted the last remains of any Friday daylight out of the sky and plunged the world into darkness with their sonic horizon filling sound. Final choice of the day was Tame Impala or Low. I went with the latter and was rewarded with a spell-binding set from the band containing a lot of new material.
Low seem be to on a creative high again. Adam mentioned that he was surprised to be invited back to the festival where last time he threw his guitar into the crowd (not gently either). Thank heavens they were asked back though, this was a show totally focussed on the music, no major lighting or videos, just the music.
Saturday started with a soon to be indie Welsh legend, H. Hawkline. Huw and the boys really had some cracking songs in the sunshine followed by The Duke Spirit who delivered a rocking return on the Woods Stage.
Madisen Ward & Mama Bear gave a delightful show of country blues to a packed and overflowing Tipi tent audience after which Stephen Steinbrink brought some heart wrenching solo tunes to the same stage followed by a young Flo Morrissey who then charmed another substantial crowd on the Uncut stage with her angelic voice.
A sojourn to the tented base camp was followed by a widescreen rock show from My Morning Jacket who packed a 60 minute set with as many songs as they could. Leaving time for an encore, I got the impression that they left the stage, only to be told there were no encores?
Tonight's Saturday headline for the 10th anniversary of the festival was the much sought after Surfjan Stevens, whose shows the previous week leading up to the festival were given 5 star reviews across the board but, could that translate to a festival field? Well quite frankly, yes. I don't think I have ever seen a festival audience so quiet and reverential. Dawn Landes was in Surfjan's band this time around and the whole unit seemed to gel exceptionally well together. It's just hard to actually find anything lacking in the performance, stage lighting, sound or enthusiasm of the band; this was darn near as perfect festival set as you could wish for. some more thoughts on this particular set are HERE.
Sunday was a slow peaceful start but we did make it to the Woods stage for the rather excellent Houndtooth who were just beautiful in the sunshine. The Black Tambourines from Nottingham lived up to their growing live reputation with their Stones like riffs and retro reverb filled tunes. Ultimate Painting followed, these guys part Mazes, part Veronica Falls are a really first rate outfit. Marika Hackman underlined her performance at the Green Man Festival with another fine set, just one woman and a guitar (and amp).
Sunshine, main stage, Alvvays, what more could you need for a teatime slot, just glorious, the band from Nova Scotia relay delivered even though lead singer Molly Rankin was suffering with a sore throat.
A Giant Sand gig is always an intriguing affair and after a storming set at Glastonbury hopes were high for End of the Road show. Endless tuning meant the band where fifteen minutes late on even Howe quipped, "we only have time for one song now, but, it will be a good one". Howe never really seemed to have his heart in it and although the remaining forty five minutes sparked occasionally, overall it was a sense of what could have been.
Future Islands on the other hand exceeded expectations with a thoroughly entertaining set as day turned to night. Headliners for me were The War on Drugs who wound up the festival on a terrific high. There must be a new album soon and still more to come from this great band.
Highlight's of the late night sets in the Tipi included Jaco Gardner who had everyone dancing on sore feet and Ex Hex who just rocked the place to the ground.
So, the Tenth Anniversary is done and dusted and an excellent event it was as well. Here's looking forward to 2016!
- Festival Reviews
The overriding sensations' at Green Man 2015 were, the fabulous vibe amongst the sold out crowd, staff and artists, the sensational music and, the apocalyptic rainfall.
The Black Mountains of the Breacon Becons in Wales offered us a sunny Thursday morning to set up base camp, before the rain started to fall around teatime. Settling in all day just saw us check out part of the revitalised Leftfield's set before returning to the Courtyard for the100 Welsh Ales and Ciders testing commitments.
Facilities remained impressive throughout the weekend. Even with all the rainfall the site and staff responded well to the changing conditions. Indeed how much have festivals changed these days when the main concern of someone coming out of a toilet cubicle is to whisper the news that "the hand sanitiser has run out, is that ok?" …. Another brilliant job all weekend by 'Andy's Loos'.
Friday starts off with competition winner's Hunck and the hardy souls standing in front of the main stage. A nice and brave set from the band to get the festival started. The Green Man Rising stage is next and the fabulous Art Bandini and band offer some rootsy blues and Americana by way of a seven piece band. It's a real spirit raiser!
Coral guitarist, Bill Ryder-Jones had the perfect tone for the weather and C. Duncan followed with songs from debut album 'Architect', which is full of fine music from this Scottish producer and musician, today with a full band this was classy set.
Slug, part of the Field Music Empire from Sunderland, were in fine fettle having survived the car journey down from Wearside and really got the crowd revved up in the Far Out tent. A really great show from a charismatic band. Teleman followed with a very polished set and lots of new songs. This band is really maturing nicely.
Syd Arthur bring their heavily 70's influenced sound to the Chai Wallah's tent, but with a rum 'Super Furries Fizz' in hand, the sonic attack on the senses that is otherwise known as Viet Cong was the preferred option. Formed from the ashes of Canadian sonic warriors, 'Women' the band did not disappoint, particularly with the Neil Young esqe style, never-ending finishes' to songs.
Singer/Songwriter Joe Pug played a lovely set in the summer sunshine on the Walled Garden Stage. Storytelling and singing in equal measure made this an intimate set. Calexico in all their glory triumphed with a great set on the Mountain stage. Indeed it was hard seeing anything surpassing this set for the rest of the day when next came, Atomic Bomb! The music of William Onyeabor with a joyous explosion of sound and attitude. Special guests included Hot Chips' Alexis Taylor and Jimmy Rip from Television amongst the large band of singers and musicians. If Calexico were joyous then this lot moved the happiness level up to good few notches. Hot Chip were the headliners on the Mountain Stage on Friday evening and seemed to draw the biggest crowd of the entire weekend to their show. I however, chose Mew on the Far Out Stage to end my Friday night. An excellent band with an ever growing catalogue and nice light show, this proved a rocking end to a Friday night.
Hannah-Lou Clarke was our first full set on Saturday. Initially checking the music out as we wondered if this Hannah-Lou, was the Hannah-Lou of 'Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou fame. She wasn't but, my, what a discovery. With a very fine band in tow, this was a fine set. Good songs, lead and rhythm guitars. With a grit reminiscence of Beth Orton and with this band set-up, Hannah-Lou Clarke is one to look out for.
As with every version of this festival, the great music just continues to flow and, Marika Hackman had the main stage all to herself with her electric guitar and amp, as the sun shone down on a quiet disbelieving crowd. There was even a queue at the Ice Cream van. Marika's lovely songs kept the crowd entranced.
The Far Out tent was bursting to overflowing halfway down the hill for Songhoy Blues, but in the sunshine the rhythms sounded just as good even if, you couldn't actually see the band. The Leisure Society continued the feel-good factor with their usual style and had the crowd jigging away. Then Nick came out with the comment "where's this rain we were promised". Well it turned up around teatime and took on seemingly apocalyptic strength over the next 18 hours and well into Sunday morning.
The Green Man Folk are made of hardy stuff and like any festival, you just get on with it. On Sunday morning it was reassuring that not many cars had left the site.
So Saturday continues apace, Jane Weaver spreads her psych sound from the Silver Globe LP across the Walled Garden crowd, followed by the storm at its most ferocious and primal.That's not the rain by the way, that's Richard Dawson who was next up on the Walled Garden Stage. Certainly an artist to split opinions, I found his set captivating. Described as a folk musician from Newcastle, that title just scratches the surface of a spine tingling live performance.
It turns out that we are in the Walled Garden for the afternoon and early evening. The final act for us this evening is the sublime This is the Kit with added Rozi Plain. A delightful and delicate lo-fi set from this wonderful band.
It's 9.30pm and the rain has eased and the main stage turn's it's attention to the legend that is Television performing the equally legendary album 'Marquee Moon'. For those people of a certain age, this is 'Goosebumps on the back of the neck time'. The bands are electric and the songs from the album captivating. It's great to see the kids of today dancing along and singing the words. As impressive as the recent Patti Smith 'Horses' shows, both gigs were quite astonishing.
Biggest decision of the weekend was Super Furry Animals or Slowdive (who on earth did that scheduling?). Welsh band, Welsh festival, so SFA got our vote and the ninety minutes of hits and more was truly well received in the pouring rain. The recent UK tour obviously had longer shows and there was the unknown factor of what was ahead. Tonight it was more a celebratory homecoming and the band triumphed.
The heavens kept the tap open all night and well into Sunday morning. Boots turned to wellies and the grass disappeared into the mud. Having said that, the site drainage is excellent and there are never any real Glasto mud moments.
Sunday was a day of musical gold, starting out on the Far Out stage with the excellent Ultimate Painting. Part Mazes part Veronica Falls, there was a slight twinge of West Coast evident though an impressive set. Steve Gunn was next on the Mountain Stage. A prolific songwriter and guitarist, he as fabulous in the strengthening sunshine. Plenty of exercise today moving between stages, hence a new slim line Matthew E. White appeared with his band on the main stage and were beguiling, after which it was back up the Far Out stage for workwomanlike set from Waxahatchee. No chat, just a chock –a block set of songs squeezed into the band's allotted forty five minutes slot.
Son Lux were a real find. Perhaps a close comparison would be Battles (for me). Son Lux seem genuinely nice guys, pleased, happy and humble to be playing at the festival. The music was superb and a band you should truly check out.
The sun is blazing and everyone is drying. Antlers and The Staves both put in solid sets in the sunshine. Back in tent for the first gig I have seen by Public Service Broadcasting. What an original idea for a show, educational, engaging and visually enthralling. The day just gets better.
Back to the main stage for Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty. For a drummer he is certainly not shy in coming forward making this is a brilliant and fun show. Great songs from a growing solo back catalogue. Josh is a real showman.
Final band of the festival for me is Goat. Again I had never seen this band live before and what a live experience they are. Psychedelic aerobics in Aztec costumes perhaps might get close. An outstanding performance anyway.
So there we are then, another Green Man passes with the burning of, yes, The Green Man and fireworks. Another stunning edition of this family friendly festival.
- Festival Reviews
The Pig Hotel, Pensford, a few miles west of Bath, is one of a small chain of boutique hotels in the South of England. Through the summer months most locations host a live music event under the 'Smoked & Uncut' banner.
It is an imaginative attempt to showcase original and contemporary artists in a wonderful setting. This particular event was right up our street as favourites Teleman were on the bill topped by singer-songwriter with god-like status in my eyes Ed Harcourt.
We made the festival the centrepiece of the weekend and stayed the weekend at the hotel. So as we enjoyed a leisurely Sunday breakfast in the conservatory we were able to see the festival being set up before our eyes. The spacious lawn was populated with straw bales which lent itself beautifully for a picnic-style music afternoon. With just 650 tickets on sale there was plenty of space, arguably a little too much space as the tendency for folk to place themselves at the back (some behind the small tented sound desk) meant there were no people up close to the stage. The only exception was toward the end of the Teleman set when the band encouraged a few people forward, so I was able to jump around for their set closer 'Not In Control'
A nod to the catering. This is a top-quality hotel and restaurant and the festival fare followed suit: a variety of alcoholic beverages including some decent real ale plus a selection of fresh cooked food from pizzas, flat-breads to barbecued mini-skewers with dips. A voucher system was in operation. With vouchers (=1 pint) at £5 each it puts it on the expensive side. But accepting that, it's good to see establishments like this provide an entree to families to the wonder of listening to a variety of music in the sunshine.
Given the family-centric nature of the day the live music lasted from 12.30 to 6.00 pm, followed by DJs for an hour. In that time we enjoyed:
Carousels & Limousines - guitars to get the afternoon off to a rocking start
The Drystones - a guitar and fiddle duo playing lively tunes with overtones of The Unthanks/Bellowhead. A virtue of this genre is that it got a few people to their feet. New song 'Green Trees' came to an abrupt end - with fiddle player, Alex, explaining that guitar player, Ford, had broken a string. They then went into a final assault of a medley of songs with Ford demonstrating his prowess on a number of variously-sized penny whistles. Impressive and entertaining in equal measure.
Brother From Another - an acoustic duo that performed a few covers under a canvas at the side of the lawn. I didn't have high hopes as they went into their opener 'I Wanna Be like You' from The Jungle Book, but they redeemed themselves with some George Benson and Hendrix material later in their brief set.
Sinnober - a folk/indie band with Danish roots but now located in Somerset. Great melodies and a very tight live performance with songs covering multiple styles including an unmistakable Zutons sound in 'Lucky 13'. The only slight disappointment was that they terminated 'Hollywood Lies' without the guitar solo that brings this song to a conclusion on their eponymous debut CD.
Teleman - their debut album 'Breakfast' was in my 2014 top-3. Nevertheless it was good to see them breaking away from those tunes. More than half their set was 'new' material including recent single 'Strange Combination'. Not a major shift from the winning formula and unique sound of their first offering but 'Dusseldorf' and 'Glory Hallelujah' are underpinned with a slightly heavier piano sound. '23 Floors Up' from 'Breakfast' was a set highlight.
Ed Harcourt - played a set sprinkled with many of his better known numbers 'Apple Of My Eye', 'I've Become Misguided', 'Born In The Seventies', 'This Ones For You'. At one point he clambered from the stage cutting a pied piper-like figure with children draped round his neck as he delivered a number a cappella (in Spanish). Another brief sortie across the lawn accompanied the beginning of set-closer 'Until Tomorrow Then' delivered with the now familiar RCA microphone and the usual Harcourt panache
A marvellous conclusion to a beautiful afternoon.
- Festival Reviews
If anybody is looking for a small, family-friendly festival, look no further. Truck has been going for 18 years and is a well-established item in the local Oxfordshire calendar. Located on a farm near Dicot it is easily accessible for anybody in the South.
It falls on the same weekend as Latitude so quite understandably as far as the bill is concerned Truck cannot boast the riches of the Suffolk-based event, but at £80 for a weekend ticket, value-for-money cannot be faulted (and the kids are free).
This was the first time we had taken small children to a festival (a four and ten-year old) but with plenty of adult company the band-watching was not compromised too much. And there is certainly more than enough to keep the little ones amused in the form of circus classes, painting and fairground attractions.
The festival is held over two days, Friday & Saturday, so a big plus that it only requires a single day off work. A small frustration that the camping doesn’t open until Friday morning, so after queuing to get into the car-park the tent-pitching and setting up was followed by an immediate launch into the bands which frustratingly meant we missed a couple of bands on our agenda..
I suspect the festival has grown a little over the years. On previous visits the car park was easily accessible and extremely close to the camping. This year the car park was further away and it took us longer to get in, and an hour to get out on Sunday morning. But these are trifles relative to the joy this small event provides.
The main stage area “Truck Stage” is an open space. Second venue “Market stage’ is a moderately sized big top. Third stage is a barn – an excellent location to showcase the ‘heavier’ bands on the bill like Pulled Apart By Horses, Slaves, Bo Ningen, Eagulls.There were also three further stages so plenty of choice throughout the weekend.
Spring King (Truck stage) - unusually the leader of this guitar band is the drummer but all four band members contribute to the vocals. Sweeping choruses make their song highly accessible, though they were occasionally a little too close to boy-band territory for my liking. The bass player broke his e-string In the first number and, failing to live up to their name 'Nothing But Thieves' lent them a replacement.
Bloody Knees (Barn) - guitar band; clearly a favourite of the Oxford kids as they got an early afternoon mosh-pit going
Cut Ribbons (Palm City stage) - a 5-strong line up including a female bass player. Lo-fi pop, great preparation for afternoon slumbering.
The Bohicas (Truck stage) - Guitar band who had to overcome a power-out mid-set. The drummer manfully tried to fill the gap with a drum solo.
Neon Waltz (Market Stage) - Refreshing to see a lead vocalist not encumbered with an instrument. He is supported by two guitars, bass, drums and keys. Hailing from the outer reaches of Scotland, the keys-man interestingly has his keyboard draped in a Spanish flag emblazoned with the name and logo 'XV Brigada Internacional' a multi-national brigade that battled to quell the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Well-crafted indie tunes delivered with conviction. Best discovery of the day.
Sunset Sons (Market Stage) - lead vocalist plays keys with guitar bass and drums in support. Drew a large crowd to the tent. Tattoos, Ponytails and long curly locks gave the look of a band that was going to give in yer face rock so it was a little disappointing that their set comprised fairly unremarkable, gentle indie tunes.
Eagulls (Barn) - great sound for this first-class Leeds band. Within their thirty-minute they gave plenty of airing to their excellent debut album plus new song 'Life In Reverse'. A very lively audience with crowd-surfers young and old.
Clean Bandit (Truck stage) - a superbly polished act. Their dance-funk tunes have mass audience appeal. Some hits thrown in too!
Darwin Deez (Market Stage) - Truly a one-off. Darwin and his band provide entertainment of the first order combining quirky pop, dance-routines and audience participation all meandering into prog rock refrains. Got the tent bouncing from the very start of the set that included songs old and new, including 'Time Machine' from forthcoming album 'Double Down' out in August; also the excellent Chelsea’s Hotel from 2nd album ‘Songs For Imaginative People’ . As if the crowd needed to be delighted any more than they already were, the encore was concluded with ‘Radar Detector’. Best set of the weekend.
The Charlatans (Truck stage) - Tim Burgess once again delivers a sublime performance with timeless Charlatans classics peppered with songs from their brilliantly-crafted 2015 album ‘Modern Nature’
Safe To Swim (Market Stage) - Guitars with very imaginative keyboard refrains. Summery tunes morphing into excellent grungy guitar outros reminiscent of Idlewild
New Desert Blues (Truck stage) - Mature guitar songs from this Hampshire-based six-piece. Not frightened to vary the pace. Slower song ‘Summer Skin’ had shades of Arctic Monkeys.
Allusondrugs (Market Stage) - taking the stage when the sun was at it's most intense this was the hottest the tent got all weekend. So highly appropriate that the drummer and vocalist should be bare-chested with impressive tattoo work on show. Conversely the rhythm guitarist sported a shirt and woolly cardigan, but didn't lack for movement for all that. This was in yer face punk-edged songs. Friends of Pulled Apart by Horses, their closing number could have been a PABH song.
Simon Stanley Ward (Great Western Saloon stage) – my first visit to this stage, with a facade of a western saloon. Stupidly I was surprised they actually had a bar in there (!) so it seemed rude not to avail oneself of a pint of Hobgoblin. Despite the tin roof this was the coolest (temperature-wise) drinking establishment on the site. As for the music, this was a deviation into Country & Western territory but with strong sprinklings of humour evidenced by the best opening lyric to a rockabilly song I’ve ever heard: 'I went to a psycho hydro-therapy class....'. Showed the band not taking themselves too seriously; and again on closing number, winning best song title of the weekend: 'I wish I was Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park'. Simon mentioned he had CDs for sale but only had 5 left – this set was great fun but I must confess I made a mental note that if I found myself in the queue I would make sure I was at least six back.
Magic Gang (Market Stage) - Highly competent at what they do. What they do is anthemic indie songs which border on Simon Cowell manufactured, mass-appeal tunes. Perfect example, mid-set song 'Only In My Dreams', a saccharine-fuelled pop song. This band is getting a great deal of acclaim in the credible music press and today there were a lot of people who knew their stuff to the point where the local kids were moshing to it. My concern is if this is the direction indie music is heading this is (for me) the wrong direction.
Rat Boy (Market Stage) - unlike the previous band this band feels 'real'. A hybrid of Streets, Billy Bragg, King Blues, Jehst. Brilliantly constructed songs with a highly relevant topical edge. Jordan Cardy is clearly the main man but he had the grace to announce his band (guitar, bass, drums) as 'We are Ratboy'. For the final song ‘Sign On’ he invited a stage invasion - only partially successful on account of the well-drilled Security Crew.
Peasants King (Palm City stage) Lead vocal, 2nd vocal (plus tambourine/bass drum), bass, 2 guitars, drums. Loud and proud, high-intensity rock. Suffice to say, forthcoming single 'Give A Little Love' is far removed from similarly named tune from The Osmonds. This band are from South Wales - perhaps it's the Celtic routes that put me in mind of a many Scottish bands that deliver superb songs with a dark bass-drum foundation.
Rae Morris (Market Stage) - with a band comprising 2 guitars and female drummer. Her early 2015 album passed me by - most definitely an oversight on my part. Superb songs. Whole band smiling all the way through, loving the love they were getting from the crowd
Public Service Broadcasting (Truck stage) - I love this band but tonight was a disappointment. 2-3 years ago at an early PSB show at The Haunt, Brighton (a Sea Power club night) their makeshift projector broke down leading me to comment (partly in jest) 'Public Service Broadcasting are nothing without the films'. Tonight the backdrop and now traditional stacked-up retro TV sets were devoid of film, showing just the static PSB logo. Sorry to say that the songs lose their charm without the supporting visual footage. 'Letters for the rich, Letters for the poor, the shop at the corner and the girl next door’ seemed a little hollow without the images of the rushing train. I am no technical expert but I can't believe it can be that difficult to display the films, as a minimum on the backdrop screens? My sadness is I love this band and all the stuff they've done, but I suspect anybody watching for the first time wouldn't warm to them on this performance.
Temples (Truck stage) - having seen them perform an excellent set in Holland a few weeks ago, today seemed a little like going through the motions. But the set was lifted to a brilliant height when they played a new song, which sounded like early Floyd
Basement Jaxx (Truck stage) – with kiddies tucked up in the truck, lovely to enjoy this band with a warming whisky in hand
- Festival Reviews
It was another great Glastonbury. Shared this year with Joe and Ian (and of course a mere 175,000 others).
We set out at 6:30am on Wednesday morning so that we could camp at Pennard Hill Ground. That’s my favourite camping area between The Park and Greenfields and not far from many of the stages, not far from beer and not far from good food. However, it took 2 hours to get into the site via gate D and so we had to opt for South Park 2 field on the west of The Park. Still a good location though. We spent a lazy afternoon drinking Brothers cider on the West Holts ground after which it's our annual fix of Goan Fish Curry from the West Holts field.
Thursday was a beautiful sunny day with our morning spent on the lounging fields above the Park where this year they’ve built a bar serving real ales! Didn’t think the Park could get any better but I was wrong! Listened to a few bands on at The Bandstand.
That evening Heavenly Records were hosting at the Crow's Nest, the tiny venue at the top of the Park hill with Eaves, The Voyeurs and Toy. Toy sounded superb as always with their pulsating psychedelic riffs.
Friday started with The Charlatans as special guests on the Other Stage belting out their anthems. Then it was off to the John Peel tent for Hinds, 4 Spanish girls enthusiastically dishing out pop rock numbers.
Everything Everything had the crowd bouncing on the Other Stage and told us “best week in our fu**ing lives”. Alabama Shakes were superb on the Pyramid Stage. The rain couldn’t dampen the powerful sound of Brittany & band's version of soulful rock. After which Mary J Blige gave an inspired performance.
The sun came out for Motorhead who were up next. Classic heavy rock experienced (and a first for me) from the front rail of the Pyramid Stage with a constant flow of crowd surfers passing over my head!
Then for some gentle chill-out sounds from King Creosote who was performing songs from his recent album 'With Love from Scotland'. Magic! All this just left enough time to catch Caribou at West Holts. Their electronica sounds were so good.
We all met up at the Somerset Cider bar before Florence and the Machine headlining on the Pyramid. We were half way up the field for the show but even from there, her performance was superb and her stamina was awesome. She well deserved that headline slot.
Glastonbury never sleeps so it’s off to my favourite chill out bar at the back of the stonemasons tent in Greenfields. You can rest up in their armchairs sampling their real ale before heading back out into the night to NYC Download in Block 9.
This is the club with a facade of a ruined New York tenement block with a yellow cab imbedded in the second floor. It’s crowded hot and sweaty with great vintage club music. It’s the kind of thing that makes Glastonbury so special. At dawn it's time for some Chai in the tipi field served by a Tibetan from a log fire before heading back to camp for some kip.
Saturday started at the Park with the sweet young voice of Flo Morrissey, followed by Eves and the fine acoustic guitar songs of Joseph Lyons and his band. Then the 2 Cuban sisters that are Ibeyi were also on at the Park stage but I struggled to dial into their sounds. Maybe a smaller indoor venue would suit better.
Giant Sand was in 8 piece legendary band mode on the Park stage. They started slow and bluesy with Howe Gelb’s gravely low voice. They then ramped the set up and five guitars were rocking by the end. After that Gaz Coombes, the former Supergrass front man produced some excellent songs old and new with his band to a hands-aloft crowd.
Leaving behind the Park Stage I headed for some pop from Paloma Faith. Again into the front area of the Pyramid Stage I witnessed her ‘show’ from close quarters. She is such a great performer and the three backing singers in her band were superb.
Pharrell Williams was next up. The songs and the dancers were all great and packed with that feel-good factor that is the song 'Happy', one of those great festival sing along anthems.
I wasn’t going to stay for Kanye West but we were so near the front of the stage I decided to hang on. That was a mistake! I’m not a lover of rap so found it tedious! Just him on the stage (mostly) and moving slowly under yellow lights. I was trapped and had to stay until the end. Even the appearance of Justin Vernon did not rescue the situation.
Eventually freed myself and met up with Joe at the Crow's Nest for a late night gig from Django Django. The small tent was full by the time we got there so we sat outside with a beer. Couldn’t appreciate the set because of the sound coming up the hill from below. The view of the Glastonbury lights and the fireballs from Arcadia were superb however but not enough to rescue the night.
Sunday was another very good day, I had wanted to catch the excellent Songhoy Blues on the Pyramid Stage but the Dalai Lama beckoned! He spoke from a Tibetan timber stage in the stone circle field. It was an inspiring speech covering such subjects as war, ISIS, religion, poverty, happiness, care of the earth and music (which he doesn’t rate!), afterwards time for a beer or two at my favourite Greenfields bar.
Then to the Pyramid stage for another brilliant performance from Patti Smith performing her classic album 'Horses'. She was joined mid set by the Dalai Lama who said a few words, but he didn’t play in the band (see above). Patti finished her set with My Generation and a nod to the Who complete with amp feedback and guitar string breaking!
After this we were at the Park Stage to hear The Staves who gave a great performance of their folk rock harmonies with added Justin Vernon. Alas Kanye didn't show this time. This was followed by some more rocking from the excellent Fat White Family
Next it's back to the Other Stage for the happy sound of Belle & Sebastian in the evening sunshine. All the classic numbers from this large and very musical band complete with the usual dancers from the crowd invited up for 'The Boy with the Arab Strap'.
Back to the Park Stage again (good exercise) for some classic garage punk rock from The Fall after which Goat hit the stage. Goat are a Swedish psychedelic, mask wearing trance inducing band with some exotic dancing added in. They are superb!
Then it's down to the final headliner of the festival on the Park Stage, Ryan Adams who never fails to deliver. This time it's a storming rocking set and the perfect ending to another perfect Glastonbury.
But wait, earlier I said I couldn’t go to Songhoy Blues because they clashed with the Dalai Lama, well guess what! They turned up for a secret gig after Ryan at the Crow's Nest. We danced to their late night set of rock rhythms before a last pint on the top of the Park hill and a last view of the Arcadia fireballs lighting up the night sky.
- Festival Reviews
Our first venture to a non-UK festival and pleased to report a first-class experience.
The event was located on a Leisure/Safari Park just over the Dutch border from Belgium, a 3 hour drive from Calais. Entry to the campsite was not allowed until Friday so we travelled Thursday and stayed in a hotel at nearby Tilbourg; otherwise a middle-of-the night departure would have been required. Not a large festival, about 15,000 people which included weekend campers, weekenders staying in chalets on the park, and day visitors. First impressions were extremely favourable as the camping was just a 10-minute wheel-barrow push from the car park. The festival site was a 20 minute walk from the camp-site so nipping back to the tent during the day wasn't really an option, but this sounded better than some of the chalets which we heard were up to 45 minutes' walk away.
The main stage was on a man-made beach by a lake named, in typical direct Dutch style, 'Stage One' with the others being 'Stage Two', a sizeable big-top, 'Three' and 'Five' (smaller tents) and 'Four' an area a couple of minutes away that hosted DJ sets most of the time. Such was the quality of bands on the bill we didn't venture there at all.
This festival is well organised and the most noteworthy aspect is the chip that is part of the festival wristband. This needs to be loaded up with cash and is the only means of payment for drink, food, merch or records. This leads to minimal waiting. Even if there was a queue at the bar it moved exceedingly quickly as no cash or tokens were changing hands. One tip for any future visitors however, the chip cannot be loaded with Visa/Mastercard, just a local NL 'maestro/PIN' card. This gave us our one stressful moment of the weekend as we had to load all our cash onto our chip on day one and spend an hour Saturday morning driving 5 miles to Tilbourg to locate an ATM.
As regards catering, the standard beer on offer was 'Juliper', available in small (250 cl) or large (440cl) servings. It was interesting to observe the differing drinking habits. While I walked around most of the weekend clutching a large beer in true 'brit abroad' style, most of the locals (including groups of lads) were drinking beer in the smaller 250cl portions. After a day on Juliper I was craving some real ale or 'The Cider Bus' but the closest available here was a small selection of craft beers available on the jetty bar stretching over the lake.
We had been drawn to this festival by the excellent line up, but one experience to recount: Sunday afternoon we had fantastic band after fantastic band including (on the bounce with no time in between) new band Gengahr, 2014 favourites Alvvays and the fantastic Mew. So having been taken to such a high I truly thought the Royal Blood set later on would be a perfunctory viewing of this much hyped band - but it took us to a yet further high, a reminder why we do this stuff.
And so to the bands:
Metz (Stage Two) - Raucous guitar tunes from Canada
Drenge (One) - This band have matured over the last 18 months, and whilst still technically a two-piece brothers Eoin and Rory were today accompanied a third band member adding a further guitar. Shades of Parquet Courts guitars and clever lyrics grounded in Arctic Monkeys style. My favourite was ' When I put the kettle on, you put heavy metal on'
Fidlar (Two) - As we entered the tent we both wondered how come so many people in Netherlands had heard of her. As the lights went down it became amusingly evident to us this was not Stockport-based songstress Finlay ! No, this was a quite different proposition. Fidlar are a guitar band from California but were greeted like local heroes with moshing and crowd-surfing from the off. Dressed for the beach. Emo tunes spattered with heavy guitar riffs.
Klangstaf (Three) - Wandering to Stage 3 for the first time we came across this local Netherlands band. 4-piece with drummer side-on plus guitar, bass and keys. Verve-sounding tunes with prominent keys. The fact they were a local band didn't stop people talking so their delicately crafted tunes got a little lost.
Yak (Five) - 3-piece indie guitar band with occasional keys thrown in. Jim Morrison meets The Strokes. Announced their last song after just 30 minutes and went into a superb 8-minute chaotic number replete with drum solos, PA kicking and guitars strewn on the floor. Marvellous
Eagulls (Five) - Good to see them do some new songs 'Stab In The Dark', 'Opaque' and 'Life In Reverse' which appear to signal a slight mellowing in their style. The prominent nature of George Mitchell's vocal requires the sound balance to be spot on which sadly it wasn't today (at least from where we were standing at the front).
Chet Faker (Two) - Drew a large and enthusiastic crowd for his rehashed classics
The Tallest Man On Earth (One) - this is the moniker for Swedish singer songwriter Kristian Matsson. Sounding like the love-child of Bob Dylan and Hamilton Leithauser..... with some Sam Duckworth guitar action thrown in. Despite hailing from Sweden I'm sure he announced this his first time in Europe (??). He was accompanied by a band but the 2-3 songs he did on his own were somehow more engaging.
The Libertines (One) - Of the three headliners this weekend (the others were Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Alt-J). The Libs delivered the most vibrant top-of-the bill show by far. Libs shows are a stroll down nostalgia lane but the chemistry between Carl and Pete is truly wonderful to behold. With many music media column inches being devoted to their forthcoming new album they gave a sneak peak by playing single Gunga Din. A defining band of the indie-age; great to see them on such good form.
Rhodes (Three) - A wonderful sound. Hearing David Rhodes' vocal I suspect the jury would be out as to whether it was male or female. He was complemented with a four-strong band on drums, guitar, bass and keys (with occasional Cello). Spine-tingling songs. Album is coming out late August - let's hope the production gives these songs an indie feel rather than a 'James Blunt' veneer. I believe this will be a defining point as to whether this excellent artiste falls into Radio 2 mainstream or 6Music quality.
Sue The Night (One) - Suus de Groots gave a wonderful performance with a 5-strong band in support. Did a quirky version of Heart Of Glass
Fickle Friends (Three) - Female lead (also played keys). Poppy songs given a thumping edge through the prominent bass and drums. Got the crowd jumping at the end with a Caribou-sounding number (coincidentally called 'Swim')
Temples (One) - A wonderful band, should be sub-titled 'The Young Persons Guide To The 1970s'. Apart from the young indie dude on drums the three front-line band members have the look of rock icons: John Lennon, Ian Hunter, Dave Hill (of Slade, but with black hair). Their set swings between jangly guitars, 70's style guitar solos (on new song 'Volcano') accompanied by lyrics early Genesis fans would warm to. If their look doesn't lay down their RnR credentials their songs certainly do
Of Mice And Men (One) - British Sea Power playing Lanterns On The Lake covers
Death Cab For Cutie - I can't make out whether DCFC sound like everyone else or whether everyone else sounds like DCFC ? A great set from this highly accomplished US indie band. Closing song 'I Need You So Much Closer' filled the tent with stunning sounds
Follakzoid (Five) - we were drawn in out of curiosity after hearing a few bars. This band from Chile was Kraftwerk doing Bellowhead. Certain factions of the Dutch audience were going mental. Each song lasted 8-10 minutes with chord changes 5 minutes apart. The repetition was mesmerising.... to a point. I was waiting for the moment it all fell into place - but it didn't. As I left during the closing number I turned to a guy wildly bopping around and said ' You Dutch like some f***ing weird shit'. He smiled broadly, nodding in agreement and high-fiveing. [Aren't festivals just wonderful !]
Balthazar (One) - Wonderful to see this Belgian 5-piece playing such a big stage. Veering between indie tunes and prog-rock time-signatures, the guitar playing was excellent throughout
Boxed In (Three) - horrifyingly appeared to be in the Keane mould in their first song, but quickly threw off any comparison as they moved into a quality dancey number for their second tune. The sound got darker during the following tracks including ' Say It All'. New number 'Searchers' reverted to a mainstream feel but plenty on show here to suggest this band could go far.
The Vaccines (One) - A notable aspect was the large mosh-pit behind the tented sound desk. You couldn't see the stage from there (and the band wouldn't have been able to see them!). Great to see a bunch of people enjoying music for music's sake. New songs are clearly moving into the anthemic/stadium-filling direction but sounded good for all that.
Hookworms (Five) - A moody sound. Vocals/keys with two guitars, bass and drums. Highlights of the set were when the guitars got into a frenzy against the back-drop of the thumping beat.
Kindness (Five) – Best set of the weekend and unquestionably the niftiest footwork. This show was a real performance with Adam Bainbridge directing the show (as well as the off-stage huddle/pump-up in the wings beforehand). Fantastic female vocals (two of em), smiley guitarist and drummer - all leading to a show with pinpoint precision and unrehearsed feel in equal measure, with each song culminating in chaotic drumming. At one point Adam handed a cowbell and drumstick into the crowd - the couple in front of me who grabbed it soon got bored so passed it back - so I was delighted to accompany a couple of tunes from the floor. (Well it sounded in time to me ..... ! )
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - we caught the last three songs, a really good number off the album followed by the single (which I'm not keen on) and then Don't Look Back In Anger. The crowd seemed fairly muted but burst into life for the final number.
Pretty Vicious (Two) - Everything about this band is brilliant: their Youthfulness, their band-name, their swagger, their maturity of performance, their songs. Excellent rockin tunes throughout the set. Not in the 'Metz, North American-rock' style but 100% in the UK-indie sound reminiscent of Sex Pistols/ Ramones / Strokes / Libertines (and yes I acknowledge two of those are American) but this is a British, vibrant indie sound with a genuine punk edge.
Marmozets (One) – Kerrang favourites from West Yorkshire, comfortably gracing the main stage. Didn’t draw a particularly big crowd but most of them were going wild. I guess you either love em or you hate em.
Wolf Alice (Two) - London-based indie guitar band, being watched by Pretty Vicious from the side of the stage. Lead vocalist Ellie Rowsell's piercing voice fills the tent. Their set builds and builds to a wonderful climax. We met the band later that day in the pop-up record shop - were able to tell them that amongst our forthcoming tickets we have two gigs at Southampton Guildhall: Wolf Alice and Bob Dylan, so they're in good company !
Gengahr (Five) - another band I was excited to see having caught them supporting The Maccabees on recent tour. They sound even better live than on their excellent album, A Dream Outside, recently released
Mew (Two) - I was surprised to see this fantastic Danish band on so early, renowned for giving good value for money, I was curious to see how they would structure a set lasting just 45 minutes. Suffice to say it was brilliant - liberally peppered with songs from their excellent recent release '+/-'. (Satellites, Witness, Water Slides) dovetailed with favourites from their three earlier albums. For the first time in my many excursions to see this band they didn't play Comforting Sounds, the usual set-closer; just as well as that would have taken 10 valuable minutes from this stunning set.
Alvvays (Five) - fantastic Canadian band led by beguiling vocalist Mollie Rankin. Their eponymous 2014 album was my favourite of the year so great to see them airing their tuneful songs live. Taking to the stage in the now familiar Arrival (by Abba) they proceeded to deliver a wonderful set containing three new songs too
Swim Deep (Three) - a rather odd experience. This band was not announced on the programme and we wandered in as they went into their first number not knowing who they were. I vaguely recognised the band but couldn't pinpoint them. So here we were judging the tunes on merit with no pre-conceived ideas and no influence from hype. The male vocalist had a deep speaking voice but sang mostly falsetto. Indie tunes, some verging on an emo sound but mostly guitar/keyboard based melodies. By mid set we had worked out this was a British band and this was reaffirmed near the end of the set as Wolf Alice walked in. They eventually announced their band name as they went into the last song. A refreshing experience and highly enjoyable set.
Royal Blood (One) - this much-hyped Brighton duo are a band that, through force of circumstances, we hadn't see before so they were definitely on our list. But after such an intense afternoon of exciting bands on the smaller stages, we simply felt maxed out as we strolled toward the main stage to watch them. But such is the power of rock n roll to lift us to yet higher levels. Royal Blood delivered on every front: energy, performance, swagger and most notably their superb songs. Their 2014 album is one of those that is crammed so full of great tunes that watching them live you are convinced they've done all their strong material but they continue to deliver great song after great song. As a two piece it would be easy for them to just rock through their album but you get the real feeling they think through their performance which is duly punctuated with goading the crowd, standing on the drum kit and culminating in drummer Ben Thatcher crowd-surfing.
Sohn (Two) - gentle electro tunes that grew and grew. Accompanied with guitar and drums though barely visible through the dry ice. A quality performance.
Alt-J (One) - an excellent set from this accomplished band, playing a varied selection of songs from their two albums. This band always conjure up colourful images in my head so it was interesting to see the screens either side of the stage were in monochrome for the whole set, apart from song Blood Flow when a hint of red was appropriately added. The band lined up as a four across the stage giving a Kraftwerk feel to the performance. Clinically delivered songs in classy style.
To sum up, a well organised event. The ticket price offers excellent value for money though this of course must be offset by the additional travel costs. But overall a festival we would commend to anybody.
Si & Sally
- Festival Reviews
What was once Hard Rock Calling over three nights in Hyde Park has found itself as a one day event on Clapham Common with a capacity 10% of the former event. No doubt had ticket sales been higher then the site size itself would have been larger. The Calling Festival this year really was the festival equivalent of an intimate indoor gig. The O2 vs Shepherds Bush Empire perhaps.
The festival had the feel of a one day event all over, catering and bar stock, pretty uninspiring. No Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi this year either, it's Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds headlining the main stage with 2015 breakthrough band Wolf Alice top billing on the second stage.
So, excepting what it is, the day is actually full of cracking bands for your £60. Sundara Karma were our first band of the day on stage 2, A very capable outfit and one to look out for. The first big hitters on the main stage just after 3.15pm was Echo and the Bunnymen who delivered a glorious hit laden 45 minutes in the afternoon sunshine. The next positive was as there were two stages located pretty close to each other, there was only one band on at a time. The timing was actually pristine, as one band left the stage, there was the next one walking onto the other stage.
The Hives are getting older but remain as energetic as ever and get the crowd in audience participation mode from start to finish. James Veck-Gilodi comes across as a very able singer- songwriter on the second stage after which, the very fine, Modest Mouse blast though their set on the main stage with the sun still blazing. Having had their instruments "liberated" according to main man Isaac Brook, the band sounded just great on presumabley borrowed instruments. A quick fire succession of 'Lampshades on Fire' and 'Dashboard' had the crowd jigging and 'Float On' had the crowd jumping.
Bleachers just rocked on the second stage, crowd arms aloft loved it. 7pm and Ryan Adams and the Shining take to the main stage. This is Ryan in Neil Young & Crazy horse mode. All electric, massive amps as stage props and a vintage Dr Pepper vending machine and various animal models and memorabilia make up the stage background. The five piece band is a well oiled machine now and Ryan is in guitar hero electrified mode.
The twelve song set started with a powerful 'Gimme something good' , drifted into the countyesqe 'Let it Ride' then a rocking 'To be Young'.Just with an hour set, the songs came thick and fast, as Ryan pulled his guitar shapes to each. An electrifying sixty minutes!
Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Stay With Me
Shakedown on 9th Street
This House Is Not For Sale
Peaceful Valley Come Pick Me Up
By the time 8pm arrived, most people seem to be in the queue for toilets, food or beer and that's where most people enjoyed Wolf Alice from. A superb set of high energy rock n roll for 2015 from a band cementing their place in the band of the year spot!
Last band of the day and headliners of "a gig in a big field" as described by the man himself earlier in the week were, Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds. Both albums get a look in and new songs like 'Riverman' and 'Lock All The Doors' are early winners. The set contains half a dozen Oasis songs and an early doors showing for 'Champagne Supernova' had the whole crowd as one singing at the top of their voices. So let's hope these brothers make up one day!
A great day out in London Town, not a festival though so 'Calling' has some soul searching to do before 2016.
- Festival Reviews
Day two and a special Sunday in East London; the sky was blue, the sun shone, the crowd was around 15/16,000 mark which was comfortable and the vibe was a happy one.
Ex-Hex were first up (most bands seemed to have flown in from Primavera in Porto overnight) and all donned in sun glasses (in a tent) gave us a rip roaring thirty minutes of bubblegum pop, just perfect for the weather on the day.
Allah-La's took a bit longer to get into their breezy west coast reverb set, but triumphed in the end as the crowd grew larger and larger inside the tent.
Canadians' Viet Cong from Calgary, where not in the mood for any sunny pop that's for sure. Rising out of the remains of 'Women' their set was pretty much sonically heavy, but heavy with style and power. Almost Crazy Horse like in places, with the never-ending, endings to songs.
Matthew-E White was in duo format. "If you know the words to the songs, help us out and sign along" One soulful voice, two guitars. Being joined by Natalie Prass on vocals late in the set was a great idea.
My Brightest Diamond is singer–songwriter and general all round musician Shara Worden and her three piece band, all of whom were in supreme form and highly entertaining. As was Jane Weaver and band in psychedelic mode for lengthy songs from her new album Silver Globe.
Over to the main stage for the first time and it's 6.30pm.The sun is still strong as Patti Smith apologises for wearing sunglasses as the sun beats down on the main stage. (no apology required) Again, she was in Portugal last night and she is 92 don't you know! Well according to Patti herself that is. From the viewpoint of the crowd she actually looks to have the power, energy and enthusiasm of a twenty year old!
On a tour playing debut album 'Horses' night after night, she could easily be forgiven for going through the motions but none of it, this as a real 'lump in the throat show' of an album that is forty years old this December.
Songs were sung with power, passion and poignancy. The crowd was the biggest at the main stage all day and what was the truest testament to this album actually came from the crowd itself. Two girls standing next to me in their early twenties knew and sang every word of the entire album. An album that just gets passed on through generations it seems.
Once the album is completed with 'Elegie', written for Jimi Hendrix orginally but, now shared by Patti with us all us to remember all those we and she has lost over the past four decades it brings the show to an even more intimate level to the point, where you forget you are standing in a park and watching the small figures on the stage from so far away.
The shows wraps up with classics 'Dancing Barefoot' dedicated to PJ Harvey, ' Pumping (My Heart)', 'Because the Night' . 'People Have the Power' and 'My Generation'. It's magnificent.
Who on earth can follow that and provide any level of excitement anyway close to Ms. Smith, well it would have to be Savages?
Jehnny Beth and co are at their usual powerful, primal and snarling best back in the Shacklewell Arms tent which is rammed to capacity. A chunky section of new songs, and old favorites and an hour later, dazed and still exhilarated its back outside for the last night of this leg of the Ride tour.
The main stage is packed back to the mixing desk, and then it is very sporadic. With all the other stages finished, it looks like more people attended today to see Patti Smith than Ride which, with tickets going faster than Lewis Hamiltion on a pole setting lap for the band's recent UK shows seems strange.
Not that any of that matters, the band are on majestic form. Just three songs shy of the recent Roundhouse show, it's still amazing that we are witnessing with this band being back on stage.
So for £45 Field day was a cracking Sunday afternoon/evening's entertainment. See you again in 2016!
- Festival Reviews
The inaugural Common People Festival held over two days of the Bank Holiday Weekend on Southampton Common. No camping facilities so this made for a very local audience.
Previous events on this scale have been The 80s Festival so good to see a move in a rather more creative direction. Driving force behind the festival is Rob da Bank and it had the slight feel of being an advert for other events he curates in this neck of the woods, notably Bestival (Isle of Wight) and Camp Bestival, the very family-friendly festival held at Lulworth Castle.
The consensus was that as the inaugural event they had played safe with the line-up which comprised a large sprinkling of DJ sets (including Saturday headliner Fatboy Slim, and Rob da Bank himself on day 2). The bands were also mainly local, including Band of Skulls. Sunday’s headliner was Grace Jones, again going for the mass-appeal vote.
Organisation was pretty good with plenty of distractions for younger ones via the mini fairground and play area. There were usual comments about length of wait at some food outlets.
One gripe from me was the bar facilities. There were lager-bars aplenty across the site. Very laudable that they also had real ale and craft beer available but this was limited to the small 'Uncommon Stage'. This would have been ok but their very helpful idea of providing 4-pint pitchers (think ‘milk carton’) meant the lager-drinking fraternity were also drawn to this bar for lager in 4-pint servings, making for a painfully overcrowded bar situation.
This was particularly acute on Saturday afternoon; less so on Sunday as they ran out of cartons so only those who took cartons back for refills were able to continue availing themselves of the facility (which I did).
We were able to attend some of Saturday and most of Sunday.
Here is the review of the acts we enjoyed
Novatones - earned their spot as winner of Battle of Bands. Very competent and enjoyable 4-piece guitar band, today with a 4-strong female backing vocal accompaniment. Drummer had his right arm in a cast leading the compere to comment 'the best one-armed drummer I've ever heard'. Not sure if he was being facetious or had never heard Def Leppard.
Rickyfitts - 2-piece guitar/drum line up, in the current mode. More melodic than many bands of their ilk, but still best described as crashing guitars and roaring vocals. Excellent.
Plastic Mermaids - hailing from the isle of Wight, all five band members were in bright, sixties style dress. The set started off with electro guitar mash-ups all accompanied with wide smiles, the epitome of a band delighted to be playing such a big stage. As the set progressed the tunes became increasingly atmospheric with the lead guitarist using a bow on some numbers, and this morphed into beautifully melodic/summery tunes reflecting their flower-power era outfits. The set climaxed with the introduction of a female vocalist who sang in operatic style - a spine-tingling conclusion to an excellent set. (This band is my one find from the weekend - already booked tickets for their London show in October).
George The Poet - as the best-known act so far on the main stage GTP was the first performance to draw real energy from the sun-drenched crowd. His articulate rapping is underpinned by strident if broad-brush political views. Unfortunately for me, I'd been looking at Akala videos in the morning - a far more edgy performer; made GTP sound a little bland by comparison.
Black Kat Boppers - RnR standards. Standard.
Jaguarskills - reflective of the atmosphere of this festival this DJ / Dubstep set was core fayre for much of the crowd.
The Costellos - another local Battle of the Bands winner. A youthful 4-piece guitar band delivering their own RnB tunes with great energy.
Craig Charles - Soul and Funk DJ mash-ups. Highlight was Sexual Healing on brass over a funk groove. As on Day One, the nature of the audience at this event meant this got a greater response than many of the bands on the bill.
Charley Macauley - wonderful soulful voice. Her songs were given colour through her 7-piece band that included a vibrant brass section, but never over-powering the strength and clarity of her vocal.
Cuban Brothers - usual zany antics from this dad-dancing/underpant-wearing troupe. Mr Tumble for grown-ups.
Daisy Kitty & Lewis - Rockabilly six-piece. Their best tunes were those that lead with Harmonica or Sax, giving a more earthy, bluesy vibe
Slaves - great response to this brash full-on two-piece band. Most entertaining song was 'Feed The Manteray' when a crowd-surfer dressed as a flat fish jumped from the stage. Humorous moment when the band had to stop to ask the crowd to pick him up so he could complete his journey back to the stage
Years And Years - 4-piece band: 2 keys, drums and vocals. Drew a good crowd for their poppy/tuneful songs
Brother Goose - another local band on the smaller 'Uncommon Stage'. All five of the band were in maroon. Fortunately that's where the comparison to Maroon 5 ends. A punchy set interspersed with melodic pop numbers, like 'Lightbulb Moment'. Had a bass player making his debut. New tune 'That's The Way It Is' in the middle of the set was the highlight.
Band Of Skulls - 'local band made good' were very comfortable on the larger main 'Common Stage'.
The Rising - much better live than their demo CD suggests. A really tight set. I still think their song 'Strangers In The Night' is a classic.
Clean Bandit – Solid performance from this band that have got themselves well into the mainstream. Rather Be was an expected highlight and drew an excellent reaction from the early evening crowd.
Grace Jones - broody and prowling around the stage with youthful grace (excuse the pun). Hats off to her continuing to deliver such an entertaining show.
So in summary, a good kick-off event which we hope will be repeated. I think there is a worthwhile comparison to be drawn with a comparison the Victorious Festival, down the road at Portsmouth.
Victorious had it’s inaugural year last summer, and apart from a few indie bands it was a pretty safe line up with 80s bands and Stones/Beatles tribute acts.
The 2015 line-up this coming August is looking much more ambitious. So from a selfishly optimistic view I hope Common People Fest goes the same way.
- Festival Reviews
The Great Escape is unique – as a showcase for new artists from around the world, from all genres, it offers the chance of seeing some of the best performances of the year – and some of the worst. With over 30 venues and 450 bands, no-one’s experience of it will ever be the same. The trick is trying to find the good stuff, whilst retaining a sense of fun and not rushing all over town on the hunt. I try to ask as many knowledgeable friends as possible, and lots of random strangers over the weekend ‘so, what do you recommend?’
Day 1 Act 1 – coming out of torrential rain into the warmth of a little cellar bar to find Blair Dunlop (son of folk legend Ashley Hutchings) performing new songs like 'Castella' and 'Fox News' to a damp, quiet audience – he dedicates the latter to me, as the only person to respond to its anti-Murdoch intro. Later I stopped a man with a guitar to ask the way and instead he gave me his new cd – very nice lovelorn original Scottish folk. Thanks, Aaron Fyfe!
Slaves – so good live that their madness transcends any notions of cartoon pop-punk. Sure they tell funny stories, but the tunes are massive, and they have something that so many lack – effortless rapport with their audience. So good I saw them twice, the first time amongst fans, the second with mostly record industry people – each time the effect was the same, within minutes sane people were running amok in total support of the duo – literally, when they walk out onto the outstretched arms of the audience towards the end of each set. While even they describe songs such as 'Feed the Mantaray' and 'Wheres Your Car Debbie' as ‘silly’, that mutual shared energy wins over – and numbers like the 'Hunter' and commuters theme 'Cheer Up London, You’re Already Dead' (introduced with “if you don’t like your job…change it”) are political punk anthems.
Some great music coming out of South Africa right now, most notably Die Antwoord, so a pleasure to catch fellow rapper Okmalumkoolkat, who has the wooden floor bouncing at a lovely pub venue the Prince Albert. We shout back the lyrics to 'Holy Oxygen' and other slogans in unknown languages. Shaka Zulu would be proud (both the rebel warrior, and the sound system!)
Thurston Moore showed the youth how to do it, trading 10 minute riffs with his excellent band. Totally engrossing and enveloping, like a drug – to such an extent that the audience were dismayed at staff pulling the plug on them, only to discover they had overrun by 25 minutes!
However probably the most exciting experience of the weekend was even older - watching two 70 year old men in a small rammed pub – Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, the original Zombies, doing a 40 minute set spanning 50 years, including Time of the Seasons and She’s Not There, plus songs from their new album as premiered earlier this year at SXSW, with such joy and passion. Let’s hope some of the new guys here will be doing the same in 2065.
And a special mention for
Wand’s Californian psych wig outs, complete with crowd surfers
Zun Zun Egui’s tribal rock chants, face to face with the audience in a hotel living room
Delta Rae’s wild gospel blues, inc a cover of FMac’s the Chain
Lee Bains III and Glory Fires – Skynyrd on speed, watched by their mates Alabama Shakes
Mile Me Deaf – Austrian kraut/noise rock done with panache
Michel’s superb Palestinian falafels at Trafalgar Arches – as eaten by Michael Portillo!
- Festival Reviews
The temperature’s in single digits, the rain showers are heavy and the forecast for the rest of the day isn’t much better, it must be time for the first festival of the year, albeit thankfully indoors.
Spread across 19 venues around the city, Live At Leeds (not to be confused with THE Leeds Festival) is a metropolitan, mainly 1 day event with over 150 bands playing and at a mere £27 for a wristband, excellent value for money.
Following a trip to the wristband exchange, then a hearty breakfast to set us up for the day ahead, the first decision was where to start? 8 of the venues had bands starting at midday, so we plumped for possibly Leeds’ newest venue The Key Club, which is rapidly getting a reputation for excellent rock nights. Local new band Forever Cult were on, a shouty, noisy three piece garage-rock band, not dissimilar to other local favourites Eagulls & Hookworms. This was both a good start and a scene setter for the day.
On the way to one of the larger venues taking part today, the O2 Academy, we popped into The Nation of Shopkeepers where a band called Ngod were playing, and impressing the large crowd in there with their indie/electronic hybrid brand of music.
So then to the Academy, where we joined the queue and intended to stay for most of the afternoon. Gaz Coombes opened the show, and was typically very polished with an excellent band and light show. Sadly no Supergrass songs were played, however with only a 45 minute slot he had to showcase mainly the new album.
After a 30 minute break, we made for row 1 for what was my wife’s anticipated band of the day, Dry The River. Elation turned to disappointment as mid set the power on stage completely went off, so like the true professionals they are, from the edge of the stage they performed an acoustic version of Weights & Measures from Shallow Bed. This only seemed to add to the magic of the performance, and when they ended with an electric version of the same song, the roof was nearly blown off.
Stornaway were next up, and we retired to the seats on the balcony. This is a band I love on record, but for some reason they don’t grab me in a live setting. This was the third time I’ve seen them, and the 3rd time I’ve left before the end of the set.
So that was the end of the Academy for us, so we had a big decision to make…where next ? So many venues, so many bands - probably enough bands to have a 3 day festival with. Leeds Beckett had : Menace Beach, Genghar, Hookworms, Eagulls & Thurston Moore, The Brudenell had Pinkshinyultrablast, Spring Kings, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Slaves and The Town Hall had Dutch Uncles, Palma Violets and The Cribs….we decided on the 2 stage venue of the university.
Model Aeroplanes were first for us, sounding like a younger Bombay Bicycle Club and the small but enthusiastic crowd was won over.
Misty Miller, a 20 year old Londoner was one of the finds of the day. Accompanied by a full band she has no right to have that powerful a voice and such an assured performance. Excellent.
Manchester’s Man Made were up next, and possibly another tip for 2015. A 3 piece guitar band, again they impressed hugely.
Next up were my 2 anticipated bands of the day : Blossoms & Hooton Tennis Club. Blossoms, from Stockport, had an Oasis thing going on, with added keyboards, and with the same assuredness and stagecraft of the aforementioned. Looking forward to the album release. Liverpool’s Hooton Tennis Club followed on in the smaller stage and to a criminally small crowd. Energetic, sloppy, noisy, tuneful and youthful scousers. Again, bring on the debut album.
And finally for the Uni, up were Fransico The Man from LA. A blistering wall of shoe gaze noise and guitars. Exhilarating.
So this takes us up to 9pm, and fatigue is setting in, so back to The Nation of Shopkeepers for a change of pace and 1 final band Jagaara. They might well be London’s version of Haim, but again another find for the day.
I’d love to have finished off with The Cribs, but the queue outside the Town Hall told you the venue was at capacity, so off we went to get the train home. All in all, a fabulous day, some great finds and some fantastic performances were seen. This will definitely be a regular in the calendar from now on.
- Festival Reviews
Before the trip itself, there had been plenty of talk regarding SXSW and what it had become. Whilst as a music fan, not much had changed as far as amount of bands was concerned, the corporate side of SXSW had become a bit of a monster in recent years. It was drawing in big name bands for exclusive performances, and while that was great for the fan in general, it may have not been great for the festival itself and the 1000’s of bands that make the trip to Austin to gain something from the all the work they put in. Pretty difficult to compete when all the talk is about Prince or Coldplay…Kanye…
With increased exposure came even more free parties, open to all, and attracting even more to the city. However, it had become unmanageable. Line-ups became problematic and sheer volume of people in the city had started turning many industry folks away from Austin. In 2015, SXSW made changes after feedback from those who attended and after hearing from so many bands, managers, and labels, that it had become difficult for them to justify the money, time and effort that it cost to attend.
So with that in mind, we prepared for SXSW 2015 not really sure what we were going to find when we got there, but we were going to have a concrete plan of bands to see before we got to Austin and take it from there and when the planning was all done, it was time to head to Austin.
Monday 16th March 2015
So, the intention was to fly to Austin before the Music portion of SXSW kicked off. That would give us an opportunity to have a few drinks at our favorite craft beer bar, eat in our favorite restaurant and get a little rest before everything started.
That didn't exactly work out to plan as it turned out, there was plenty to do on Monday and there was no point in resting, SXSW had begun.
The party of the night turned out to put on by Rocket Fuel, a marketing company, and with Misterwives, Real Estate, and New Pornographers playing; it was tough not to go. Sadly when we stood in line, it was revealed that while we all had rsvp’d, not everyone was going to get in. Those who had received a confirmation email from Rocket Fuel were getting in and 3/4 of those in line would have to wait until later to join in on the fun, so….it was off to Latitude for the Monday night British Embassy party!
Got straight in to Latitude and they were handing out free beer tickets, and we were off.
Lost Brothers were up first and we had seen them before…lovely 2 piece Irish folk group and it was on. Talented young men with a great sound. Next up, surprise guest? No band listed so we were unsure who to expect. It was Irish night at Latitude so that gave us one clue but we waited to see.
That's when we were all asked to remain quiet for the duration of the next show as it would be worth it…and they were right. Soak came onto the stage. This young 18yr old is a fantastic young talent. Her songs are beautiful, her voice is pure and subtle and Latitude was silent but for her singing and guitar. She really is a wonderful singer and it's easy to forget that she is only 18 as she sings with such compassion and maturity that the songs just flow ….and she holds everyone's attention until the end of her set when the entire bar erupts in cheers, and clapping and there is not a person in the bar that regrets being there, it really was fantastic!
Then it was time to try to get into the Rocket Fuel party. It was time for Real Estate. A quick walk over to the Vulcan Gas Co bar, line-up was still there but they were pulling out anyone that had badges and in we went. Here we found an open bar and free food…not what we really needed but its rude to say no…..…
We had missed Misterwives but still had the opportunity to watch Real Estate and New Pornographers. Real Estate put on a solid showcase of their new and old tracks, another solid set of great songs that kept the crowd going (that and the free booze) until New Pornographers one show in Austin for SXSW.
New Pornographers played a full set of old classics and new tracks off of Brill Bruisers. Would love to list any or all of the tracks they played but at this point, its after midnight and the free booze has caught up!! I do recall dancing rather a lot during the great “Use It” but other than that, it's a little foggy. Could also be the green drinks they were handing out but it was a heck of a first night.
note to self, when jumping into a first night like this, perhaps some restraint is best as this first night not only led to a wicked Tuesday morning (and afternoon) hangover, but repeated drunken attempts to upload video and photo’s used up most of what data plan I had purchased for our trip to the United States and the bill for using my phone was looking to be huge by the time we got back.
So, so much for a calm start to SXSW 2015, we dove in and it had begun. It was now Tuesday morning, time to knap and start over!
St. Patricks Day 2015
Well,its a little early to be this hung-over but it has happened. Its going to be a long day.
First off, is the Rolling Stone party that is happening this year at Mellow Johnnys bike shop. Tuesday afternoon is usually pretty quiet for options so a party that is featuring Alex Winston, Best Coast and TV on the Radio, you pretty much have to commit.
After a short wait outside, the free food and more free booze is on (I abstained) and after a couple of young new artists perform (Cramer a young r&b artist and a young singer songwriter whose name was never clear) it was time for Best Coast. With new music ready to go and plenty of recent exposure, their set was full of pop and shoegazey classics including “Last Year” as well as new track “Heaven Sent”. It's a fun venue to see them in and the place is packed. Party was open to all so it's not badged and wristband folks, it's a lot of fans so the crowd is all over it.
After a short break next on is Alex Winston. Alex is a talented young pop rock singer songwriter and though I don't recall any new material for some time, it's clear the Rolling Stone folks love her. They give her a great avenue to get back in people's faces, and with being tour support for Edward Sharpe, every little bit helps. She is a classically trained singer so there are some fairly strong songs; no doubt new material is in the works
Now it's late afternoon and its time for the party to kick off. Pretty much everyone at the party has shifted inside making it as packed as I have ever seen Mellow Johnnys…for TV on the Radio. Tunde Adebimpe is his frenetic manic self and the whole band is jumping. You can see the bikes, hanging from the ceiling of the shop sway slowly to the deep bass that's happening in the venue. There is a sexy nerdiness to these guys and the crowd eats them up. There is no sign of any issues with the band, they all seem healthy and tracks like “Wolf” and “Trouble” stand out. It's a full on show, and the band does not hold back at all…and it's a good solid 45-60 minute set that makes everyone happy.
Dinner and drinks are welcomed now to prepare for another full night.
Tonight were are off to British Label Transgressive Records party at Buffalo Billiards. While there were some solid showcases this night, this one would be the one with the best chance for me to see Songhoy blues. I have always been a fan of the label having loved bands like The Subways, Johnny Flynn, Mystery Jets and of new acts like Songhoy Blues, Gengahr and Spring King.. it's an easy choice.
Spring King are up first and these kids rock. Have always admired bands whose drummer is the lead singer and that's not easy considering the punk rock style they play. Its messy and straight ahead, loud and abrasive but still smooth. Very nice, and while on occasion it all slows down a bit so drummer/lead singer Tarek Musa can catch his breath, it's a solid first show of the evening.
Next up, Gengahr. Indie Pop at its best, and kinda sinister, there is something lurking underneath the surface for this band. It's a wonderful set of songs that are refreshing, I hear the Smiths on occasion, love when you are listening to a band and you don't quite know what is coming next and it's a great follow up to the in your face, Spring King.
Next it is Songhoy Blues.This band comes with plenty of hype and this is only their 4th show ever in the States and it is a good one. The band from Mali, who are always smiling, play a fantastic live show. This despite the fact their songs are based on tragic stories, of a brutal history, which their songs featured in the movie “They will have to kill us first” which is being featured at SXSW film, a movie about the Jihadist takeover of Northern Mali in 2012.
Their live show is the ultimate experience of their talent, I am not sure how it will translate to an album but the show is infectious and grooving, a fantastic guitar driven rhythm based party and its a solid 45 minutes of fun.
The sound has that world beat groove and with lead singer dancing around and enjoying the show as much as he does, it is impossible to not love these guys. Can't wait until these guys visit Toronto, its hard to label their music but it's well worth it to check them out wherever you are.
Next it's off to Latitude to check out Catfish & the Bottlemen who having sold out their last show in Toronto, it's obvious they are popular and the bar is crammed! I decide to do what many are doing and that is stand outside the venue, where you can easily see and hear the band, and check them out.
Once described as the “defiantly uncool Welsh indie Rockers”, these kids are solid. Indie pop rock well performed and it's difficult for me to find any fault in their show. It sounds perfect, some great songs, done by a very talented band, and I enjoy all of their set, especially seeing the show from outside on a beautiful night in Austin!
It's also a fantastic way to end the night, after a long day it is time to walk the 2 blocks to my hotel while humming Catfish songs and get ready to go again tomorrow!
Wednesday 18th March, 2015
Feeling great this morning having recovered from Monday debaucher and managed to get some sun on Tuesday and Wednesday brings more sun to Austin and a very busy day for SXSW.
The plan is to head to the Mohawk for a day full of shows put on by Pitchfork. Some may remember that this venue gets very busy and it has two stages, an inside stage in a very small room and an outside stage that holds considerably more people and levels of viewing areas, and a much more comfortable experience.
Some bands I watched for only 10 minutes (because we were stuck inside) and others we watched a full set outside, it was a busy day of running between the two stages and got a little tiring but badges were let into the building a lot earlier than those who had simply rsvp’d so we got a solid perch outside and one of us kept our spot safe while the other (me) spent the day between the two stages.
First up outside was Torres who is a rather gritty performer. Guitar based band with a tough lead singer, even the songs that start out as a ballad morph into something a little harder. Her new album is coming out soon and she sings in a throaty whisper and switches to a full howl quickly and its a solid set of grunge guitar outside.
Inside…its a few dreamy songs by Lydia Ainsworth. This local (Toronto) talent is well known here for being classically trained and has produced some very experimental stuff. Inside, her songs have pulled in a huge crowd in a small room so I stay long enough to hear some Kate Bush and Bat for Lashes like songs…a rather beautiful sound that is tough to give up on but it's just far too crowded inside.
Outside it is Speedy Ortiz. A much buzzed about band lately…they rock! Even when they invite a comedian in the crowd (Hannibal Buress) to drum for them (he can't drum) they perform a solid set of College Rock and shine on this stage. Can't ignore this band live they are very good. Full sound, great players and I am outside, it's perfect.
Sadly…next up is another inside show and it's Natalie Prass One of my must see artists, if the room was full for Lydia Ainsworth, its crushing inside with a spill over crowd out towards the other stage. Natalie gets some roses delivered and then she and her band deliver song after song off of her new album. Her country rock roots were apparent and she sings with a style that is very appealing…if you like her new album, you will love her live show. Even the constant surge of the crowd trying to get in the small room doesn't take way from set but after a while, it's become uncomfortable, and I wait for her song “Is it you” to be performed (mesmerizing) and I am back off to the stage outside.
Steve Gunn is playing outside. Part of the Kurt Vile band, he is a killer guitarist and his band perform some lovely melodramatic guitar rock outside a good solid set. Inside now…is Son Lux, a three piece post rock electronic band that sounds good but I can't even get in the small room to see them so back out to prepare for Viet Cong.
Viet Cong are the new buzz band here in Canada and growing internationally. As they get on stage it's clear this is not going to be your normal show. The drummer who plays on a drum kit and sample pad is struggling with a broken hand, in a sling. Lead singer, Matt Flegel, playing bass pushes on and this post punk set of pure rock is stellar. Songs come and go and between the amazing playing and witty banter, it's by far the best rock show of the day! It's the 11 minute closer “Death” that pleases the most, the song is a punishing piece of guitar work and ends the set perfectly.
At this point, its late afternoon and some re-energizing is needed but not before we hang around long enough to see the lovely Courtney Barnett perform on the outside stage. Don't need to tell many out there that this will be Courtney's year. Her new album is brilliant and having seen her a number of times before, I knew what to expect. This set is just her new album, every track performed, and outside…all level of viewing areas are packed. Her set is a beauty, I don't have all the tracks memorised but Courtney leads her band through a fantastic rock set and she really does play guitar and sing really really well. Can't wait for another show here in Toronto…she is a must see.
After dinner it's off to Latitude for another Brit night! I really wanted to check out Blossoms. No chance of them visiting Toronto anytime soon and had been hearing much about these guys. From Stockport, these kids play some lovely psych-pop songs with beautiful melodies and with Steve Lamacq and the Coral's James Skelly shouting their praises it looks like these youngsters will do fine. It is a beauty of a first set of the evening..
The next two acts are both acts we saw the night before but loved them so much. I am seeing them twice. Gengahr sound even better here at Latitude, louder, tighter, and another solid show. Soak...again is brilliant. Again, the venue is quiet, nobody talking and she amazes us again with a beautiful set of songs …and again, the crowd goes nuts..its an amazing response for another fantastic show
I stick around for Jack Garrett. This solo artist is a one man band, a fantastic blend of soul, hiphop, and pop performed by one guy, standing on stage and it's a surprisingly full sound that is pretty fun!
Now it's that time to find one other show to jump into before some rest. Bad Cop and Kopecky are playing close by so I am off. The Majestic club has about 40 people in it to hear Bad Cop. I don't get to hear too much..its simple in your face rock but I am really here to see Kopecky
The Kopecky Family Band are a personal favorite and I have not seen them for a while so, I am quite happy to have fit them into my schedule. They do not disappoint! Solid set that includes “Wandering Eyes” and “My Way "classics off their album' Kids Raising Kids It's an indie pop rock show and it's a beauty. New songs from an upcoming album fit right in with my faves so I have big expectations from the new LP already. It's a family full of harmonies and Nashville rock and it's a great way to end the evening.
Thursday 19th March 2015
Big day here in Austin! Today is Spotify house day!! Bound to be a big line-up so we show up a little early but again, it is not needed, as badge holders have a small line and we are near the front, and…get in quickly. Inside, it’s a maze of inside rooms and a big stage outside. The line-up today happens to allow me to check off a number of boxes with Tobias Jesso Jr, James Bay and Ibeyi all playing but….first off, we have Twin Shadow
Usually Twin Shadow live shows are a mixture of synth pop and drum machines, bitter lyrics and a taste of Depeche mode. Today, Twin Shadow is playing a rare acoustic show featuring himself on guitar and a friend on keyboards. Shocking himself the most, he pulls it off. His songs, minus the production, are just as lovely, a little clearer where they are going and his voice might be a bit more powerful minus the extras. It’s a lovely start to the day.
Ibeyi are a pair of French Cuban singers, twins, Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz. Their father was in Buena Vista Social Club so music is in their family. They grew up with solid roots in a widely practiced Afro-Cuban religion based on West African Yoruba culture and musically this is where they get their inspiration. For this, Sandra and I are very glad because the next 45 minutes would represent the best of SXSW 2015, even during the show, we both discussed how it would be impossible for any show following this to be any better.
Ibeyi mix jazz, soul, hip hop and electronica with the Yoruba influences and the mixture is magical. The twins need no band, one on keys, the other doing percussion, their voices mix together in the most perfect harmonies I have ever heard. The crowd, many of whom had no idea who these young ladies are, and probably are at this showcase just for James Bay or Big Data who are coming up…are all in the massive crowd in front of the stage.
These twins love each other and love their songs and they are genuinely giddy from the response they are getting. They sing about their father who has passed, they sing about their mothers struggle to deal with the loss all the while their singing seems like a celebration, despite the subject of their songs.
They smile through every song and from the set opener of the two singing with no instrumentation to the final song “Ibeyi” in which they solicit the crowds participation to help sing it’s a stunning set of beautiful songs about family and love and while we often don't understand what they are singing, it doesn't matter…its stunning. Please check them out, listen to the album, go see them perform, they are pretty special
Back to the Acoustic stage to check out our Canadian guy, Tobias Jesso Jr. it’s a simple set of songs performed solo on a keyboard, think Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman ..mix in a little McCartney and you have Tobias. Simple showcase as he stumbles over his own songs in a self-deprecating way, forgetting his own lyrics on occasion but it doesn't matter. it’s a solid set of songs that show off not only a great voice but simple lyrics that show off his writing talents. It’s fun and endearing and James Bay is waiting nearby to take his spot on the big stage.
Having seen James Bay at Austin City Limits music festival, we wanted to see him again at a solid showcase and standing in the sun, drinking free beer. After seeing Twin Shadow, Ibeyi and Tobias is about as good as it gets. He is already at the stage of being deemed the “next big thing” by the looks of the crowd, he is already there. He is a very good singer, not flashy, doesn't bounce around, he just sings his songs with the intent to please the crowd.. He does have some very catchy songs like “Hold Back the River” and “Sparks” and the entire set goes down very nicely. Some may criticize him for being “bland” or too simple and uncomplicated but he sings a good song to me and Sandra and we are glad we stayed around long enough to check him out again.
We now make the call to run over to Waterloo Records and their big outdoor stage to catch Elle King. Fortunately we get there in time to see 2 songs by Son Little. He has worked with the Roots and singing with a solid Cody Chesnutt vibe, glad we got to see a bit. His band mixes quite a few influences with some Reggae Soul and Blues leading the way but sadly the band is off and they are setting up for Elle King.
Elle King is one Badass Blues Rock artist. Her voice is amazing, her band equally so and her humour, it just makes everything better. She tells some pretty funny stories while playing the banjo or guitar…she is pretty sassy and has plenty of attitude, (this may be because she is the daughter of Rob Schneider, SNL comic) but she sings some seriously catchy Country Blues/Soul songs to the delight of the crowd. With no full album out yet, can’t wait for more from her.
Latitude show tonight starts with Laura Welsh. A lovely British singer, who has toured with Laura Marling and London Grammar and sang with Gorgon City. She sings pop anthems back to back with some ballads and flows through a full set of some pretty good songs. Hate to say it though. It’s early and all I can think about is the mess that's to come.
Next up is the lovely Dry the River. It’s a pretty great set of all the hits from their two albums and while they make a joke that they are performing for the third year in a row at SXSW “to be discovered” there is a lot of people in the crowd that know every word to their songs. They do have Angelic voices and look like rock stars and possess some stunning harmonic talent. The songs build and breathe and it’s great to hear all of these songs again in this bar, the sound in here is fantastic, one of the best at the festival.
Black Rivers (featuring two members of the Doves (minus Jimi Goodwin) They struggle with soundcheck, maybe trying to be too perfect and 20 minutes of their set is gone before they start a song. What we do get is 4 songs of layered psych rock but the singing is a bit off and does make me miss the old band. Still enough there to keep me intrigued so we will keep an eye on the band and see where they go.
Now it’s Circa Waves. Fantastic little Liverpool band whose songs are quite the little nuggets of pop, some wiry guitar and building chorus and are full of energy. What you hear on their EP is only a portion of what their potential is. They are far more energetic and frantic live but still with that underlying element of being pure pop, it works really well tonight and this crowd is actually kinda dancing,”Young Chasers” and “T-Shirt Weather” are standouts but really it was all great.
It’s a beer and Carl Barat & the Jackals! It’s a must see show as Carl has cancelled all other shows, its SXSW or nothing, so I am in. It’s a no nonsense messy and swaggering rock n roll/punk show with sweat and spit flying everywhere. A 40 minute set of madness and epic rock songs and if you loved the Libertines, you will enjoy these guys it is like the Libertines without the baggage, a professional rock show performed by very solid musicians and it is a lot of good times!
But now...the question I have is how the next band Public Service Broadcasting can follow Barat, will it work? How can it work? No Worries, it does! Public Service Broadcasting are a two piece band that create a soundtrack to an ongoing visual display behind them and it is stunning. With no vocals and only limited communication with the crowd through pre-recorded responses from their laptop, it’s up to the drumming (fierce and forceful), and odd guitar and banjo, to tell the stories and it does.
I find myself in the front row, completely intrigued by what I am hearing. Almost more punk rock then Barat, its loud and sweet and danceable and engrossing and most interesting is the fact I find myself almost singing but there are no words?!!!
The set contains an intensity that I did not expect and clever and rather overwhelming but it’s a stunning set of fantastic songs and I can’t think of any better way to end the night and one of the biggest surprises of the festival.
That ends it…another great night; sore tired legs and all...off to sleep!
Friday 20th March 2015
Good Day Austin! So there was plenty of planning in place before our trip to Austin. Some of that planning included having backup plans in case of rain. It has threatened rain a few times but we escaped the weather as it skirted past Austin or hit over night.
Today it looked like we would not be so lucky so we hit the venue we knew we would be protected the most and that is the Red Eye Fly. While it still has a stage outside (as well as inside stage), most of the outside area is covered so the risks were minimal and the line-up was really quite strong so at noon…we were there.
Before we head to Red Eye Fly we attempt to pop by Canada House to catch a set by Heat. A fantastic band from Montreal. Having listened to much of what’s available from them we were really interested in hearing them but sadly, as sometimes happen, someone forgets to hit a switch, they spend 15 minutes trying to get the Mic’s working (literally was a simple switch that was missed ) and we couldn't stay any later.
First off inside at Red Eye Fly is Down & Outlaws, a hard rock blues band from San Fransisco. Its straight ahead rock n roll and it’s a admirable set by a band playing for about 10 people. It’s early and they are loud but people are slowly trickling in.
Outside Mathew E White is setting up, suited up and ready to go, his baritone voice is great, matching his skill with his guitar, and he plays a set of songs that include almost his entire new album. He and his band toss in some jazz, blues, gospel and rock into a fusion that approaches an indie pop flavour. It’s an nice early show and it’s still sunny out, can’t ask for more. Matthew is also tied to production and studio work and he is recognized as being an essential part of the beauty of the Natalie Prass album so it leads to her showcase later.
Back inside, for a complete change, Skylar Spence is creating an offbeat dance party all on his own. Formerly Saint Pepsi, Skylar is really pumping it up inside and considering the indie rock blues set we just heard outside, it’s a refreshing change.
Next, a personal favorite outside, Wolf Alice. This band were a SXSW2014 favorite of ours, pure rock n roll led by a young lady that likes to channel Robert Plant to produce an inspired set of songs. With a new album coming, the band tosses a number of new songs into the set and they sound fantastic. She (Ellie Roswell) can sing like an angel one minute and then she is belting out a grunge song next, that song started out as a ballad. It’s a wild ride with this band, they are a heck of a lot of fun. They created quite the buzz last year and felt a return this year with a US tour was a good idea, I would say they were right, there was a lot of people talking after the set about how they had no idea who Wolf Alice were before the show, but they sure know now.
Hated that set to end but it did and it was inside to see Blank Range. Blank Range are an American rock band from Nashville. It was solid blues based rock again but I could not get past the point that the lead singer was wearing sandals ? Southern rock in sandals? I had a hard time with that, songs were good. But Jack Ladder was about to start outside so off I went
Jack Ladder is an odd one, crazy little band behind him now and he is about 6’6” as a lead singer wearing a robins egg blue suit. He would remind you of Nick Cave or Mark Lanegan and his new album features Sharon Von Etten. He is quite popular and is playing in Austin a lot, and he is impossible to ignore when he is on stage. A weird new wave, 80’s vibe but he is a dark one,.never really sure what you are going to get with him. I found myself watching his guitarist as he was even crazier then Jack, which says a lot. Songs are fun, and it’s a good showcase for them.
Back inside, and I have to get a good spot as Natalie Prass is about to go on. This is a much more comfortable spot to watch her and her band perform and they do not disappoint. Performing wonderful country soul/ blues, a friend of Ryan Adams, this little lady is a firecracker. Her performance is refined and lovely, a class act as far as pleasing the crowd not only with fantastic songs but some pretty great banter. Will wait for a solo show here in Toronto to see a full set, it will be even better.
Back outside for a quick song or two by new buzz band Twin Peaks. Messy noisy and fun filled punk rock played by this Chicago band. They have a lot of fun playing and it’s a good rock show but we have little time to listen. We must get to the Convention Centre.
Now we are out in to the rain and walking quickly to the Convention Ctr to see Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. These two are a mother and son duo from Kansas City who only in the past year have signed a label deal and is now getting the finishing touches done on a new album. Between jokes about Kansas City BBQ vs Austin BBQ and jokes about performing with your mother or son, these two produce some pretty special songs. An acoustic blues set of very very great songs and for about 25 minutes it seems you are sitting in their living room and having a drink and watching them.
They have played together for years in Kansas City and I am very glad we are all getting a chance to see them. It’s a warm, comfortable set of songs performed by a genuinely tightly knit and fantastic duo.
This evening we are off to St. Davids Historic Sanctuary. Have never been there but the appeal of sitting in a pew and watching bands was something my poor legs could not turn down. Helped that the line-up was stellar.
First up inside was Tove Styrke. A fantastic up beat young singer/band from Sweden. She is a fantastic talent and they were a lot of fun.
Next, the torytelling expert and ridiculously talented Laura Marling. Have seen her many times but I think the festival has tired her out so much now that she is giddy! Singing all your favorites while making some pretty funny little mistakes and at times she couldn't actually sing as she was laughing at her self so much. Telling the story of her first SXSW when she was 17 and was hanging with Johnny Flynn and she couldn't get into a venue to see Breeders. She did the most natural thing and she climbed in the bathroom window of the bar.
These stories mixed with her amazing singing (and amazing acoustics in the church) make for a great show. Her troubled lyrics mixed with her angst and attitude and this angry folk artist is hard to ignore. It all came together for a great way to showcase a lot of new songs and some old classics.
We felt a little sorry for Foreign Fields who were up next .this 7 piece band produced some fantastic melodies, with as many as 5 members singing at one time but to follow Laura is tough. It is Folk tinged Electronica played with a full band and it is a rather grand sound. This band now reside in Nashville and are working on a new album, I will be watching out for that.
Now comes the main reason we are here. Another huge buzz band is up and it is Leon Bridges. With only two songs officially in the books, Leon has got signed based on that. He shows up at St Pauls with two back up gospel singers as well as some great s musicians from White Denim.
Leon Bridges is so popular, it turns out the Fire Marshall is getting close to shutting the place down. It seems the festival has maybe under estimated the crowd and the spill over in the waiting area is threatening the event. Thankfully, it gets sorted and we are in for a show.
Like watching Sam Cooke and Otis Redding but, it’s a Leon Bridges show, he leads the band and looks as accomplished and confident as any I have seen. He sings about his family, how his grandparents and how they met, he sings about growing up and he does it well.
The shows gospel spirit works well at St. Davids and the only sign I see of Leon being uncomfortable with his new found fame is when he gets a standing ovation and really does not know how to react. Meanwhile, it’s time to move on and there is a crowd outside who have been listening to the show on loud speaker, specifically put in place for the overflow, and as we leave, they prepare to go in to see James Bay.
Off to the Parish (a great venue) to catch Songhoy Blues again! Just as happy as the first time I saw them, still full of spirit and passion for the music they sing a serious rock show. To pump it up a bit more, Nick Zinner from Yeah Yeah Yeahs join the band for some songs making it’s a great showcase for the band, a great stage for them to play and there is a lot of people dancing about!
Then its 1am and its time for the last band of the night (morning?), a favorite for many years, The Cribs hit the stage for a hour long hits laden set of loud rock n roll. a pit full of fans is ready the minute they hit the first chord and it’s a must to keep an eye on the crowd around you, there is people flying everywhere!
While the set includes the hits like “Hey Scenester its balanced with some new more "Pop" songs off of the new album. They work just as well as the classics and the crowd is bouncing around even more now. The brothers seem to actually be enjoying themselves tonight but you never know. They are professional and spitting out great rock and to close the set, just to make things interesting , a few guitars and microphones get thrown around, .just so that nobody forgets who these guys are, .that was a good night (and day) off I go home, time to rest!
Saturday 21st March
We are getting awfully tired now. It’s been a solid week of music and today it’s all about finding a comfortable spot to hang out, maybe away from the big crowds
We decide to head over the bridge, over to South Congress where there are some amazing, open to the public, no badges shows happening today. We have Music by the Slice, and South By San Jose, both featuring a day full of some very quality acts.
We catch the set by Great Caesar, from Brooklyn, a very capable folk rock band lead by a very dynamic lead singer, they are a good start here at Music by the Slice.
A run across the road took us to South by San Jose, one of our favorite spots, and we watched Peter Bibby, a wonderful little folk artist from Australia. a seasoned vet, he is great with the stories and the songs, and there is an association with Tame Impala so he comes with some history. We stick around South by San Jose so that we can catch Kate Tempest. This young British rapper is spitting rhymes quicker than most. She is a very positive force, a brilliant little talent and I can see why she is getting so much attention. She is an amazing little poet and she wins over the crowd, all convinced she is singing to them and it’s a great show.
Now its time to head back over the street to Music by the Slice to catch a number of shows. JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. A solid funk/indie soul set from this band from Chicago, with a charismatic singer and they describe themselves as Otis Redding fronting The Stooges and can’t say they are far off. A little rough and smooth, all at the same time.
Next up is Hey Marseilles, and indie folk chamber pop band from Seattle. Great lead singer, this band reminds me a bit of Lord Huron and it sounds very lovely outside on this stage.
Now, Third Man Records has opened up shop and with a tiny stage, they present a few bands between sets on the Music By The Slice stage. First up on third man is Blind Shake. They are loud! a Garage Punk band that almost forces you to back off a bit…they were quite the change from what we have heard.
Back to the main stage, and its Ball Park Music, a “Geek Pop” band from Brisbane. You pretty much have to smile during their set, its upbeat and clever but not being too soft. It’s very solid and the band are shocked as there are a group of 8 young kids directly in front of the stage singing every word, and I mean every word, to every song….its rather cute.
Luceran Raze is up on the Third Man stage, and they are intense. The band is led by Luke Reilly, formerly of the band “Sex Beet”. It is loud and it’s hard to get close to where they are playing, they are surrounded. What I hear half scares me and half appeals to me…its solid
Canadian band Reuben & the Dark is up on Music by the Slice main stage. We have seen them before over here last year and they are quite the little band. Beautiful harmonies and a talented bunch, they all play multiple instruments, their songs are well built and crafted and it’s a nice change from Luceran Raze! I have heard this band described as Mumford & Sons mixed with Arcade Fire, they do create some great indie folk anthems.
Back to the Third Man Stage, and its slightly more manic and loud Pujol. Accessible punk rock, well written and solid performers, they do well on this tiny stage.
Now…I have to be in two places at once. Here, on the Music by the Slice main stage, we have another Canadian with Dan Mangan and Blacksmith. This is my first chance to see Dan with his new band but across the street is Milo Greene and I have never seen Milo Greene before. I stick around to see Dan perform three songs off of his new album, one of my top albums, and its brilliant. Dan was a solid singer before, now, with a fantastic band, he may be even better. If you like his new album, you will really love his new live show. Its dynamic and full sounding and it is a perfect blend of Mangan's voice with chaos of guitars and synths, it’s a folk rock experimental blend that is hard to leave, but I must run
Across the street at South By San Jose, I am able to catch the final half of Milo Greene. New and old songs are sung with expertise, this band seems to have been touring non-stop since the first album came out and with the new album getting rave reviews, I don't see that changing much. It is cinematic pop at its best, with basically four lead singers, this outdoor stage and no rain, this is the sound I was hoping to hear from the band. A great time for some perfect pop and we shuffle on home for dinner happy.
After dinner, and being Saturday night, this is it, and I know I want to be at Latitude at 1am so I am just going to settle in there for the evening. There is enough to keep me going.
First up is Honeyblood. Despite being a two piece having lost one member in the last year and replaced with a new, this band, one of my favorites from SXSW 2014 kick serious butt. This Glasgow band are brilliant, their album is another of my top albums and it’s a sweet full on rock show put on my two very talented young ladies, great start to the this showcase.
Next up, its Ultimate Painting. These guys are a wonderful, they play precise, well written songs and when these two came together to form this band (one from Mazes and the other from Veronica Falls) it meshed immediately. They are not going to blast you out of the venue, they just put together songs in a very orchestral way again, in this venue, it sounds great.
A somewhat quick change over on stage and we have Hinds (formerly the Deers). The Spanish group of young ladies play some solid songs in a somewhat shambolic surf grunge style. Considering it was not that long ago that they learned how to play their instruments, they do impress the crowd. Their vocals are never quite perfect tonight and maybe its the fact that today I have heard some beauties but when the band explains that this show was their 16th of the week…I will give them a break.
Happyness is up next and boy these guys are good. Does seem they have listened to a lot of Yo La Tengo as was pointed out by a few people at Latitude, that does nothing to take away from their show. It is lush indie rock with some fine lyrics, a warm rock show that pleases the crowd here for the last night.
I am fading at this point so it’s good that Hector Bizerk is on next. This Experimental hip hop group from Glasgow is led by a very charismatic rapper named Louie. There is no chance of falling asleep or not paying attention during this set...he is on everyone to participate. Its great for midnight on Saturday, having these guys forcing people to bounce around and kneel on the floor...its an odd sight but people are into it.
Now, its 1am and it was my choice to end my SXSW with Girlband. Over the years, we have seen many great bands at 1am on Saturday with Drenge and British Sea Power coming to mind. Tonight I chose to go with some massive noise. Girlband are a very loud noise rock band from Ireland. Highly touted, these guys sing with intensity with a touch of thrash and hardcore, but it comes in waves. Not always hitting you, it sneaks up on you and before you know it , it hits My Bloody Valentine volume and you are wondering whether it’s time to call it a night! The singer is a brilliant performer and maybe that is what takes the edge off of the volume, he is great to watch. But for me, I see what many are doing is heading outside to watch the band from a safe distance so I join them and then call it a night.
Legs are rubbery and my brain is melting but I am happy to have made the most of SXSW 2015
Thanks for reading!
Jim & Sandra