- Festival Reviews
A lovely ‘proper’ festival, just 2-3,000 people, in a very beautiful rural location. Started as a travellers festival some years ago, but very open to everyone, and family friendly. Lots of drink etc but absolutely no problems – the local security reduced to wearing silly hats by Sunday. Very dog friendly too – hundreds, including a large number of Chihuahuas – I have no idea why. Perhaps there is a colony nearby. Farmer Phil himself, still very much a local farmer but dreaming of being Eavis, knows most of the crowd by name and says hi to all he doesn’t know. In fact I guess this is like Glasto before it became big.
The legendary Fuzz Townsend lives nearby and comperes the main stage, made from a large cowshed, and there’s a great acoustic stage that still has a tree growing through its roof. Sunday starts with an excellent recycled fashion show run by Pie in the Sky from Brighton, and a kid’s fancy dress competition with the theme of pirates and fairies. Actually most of the adults are dressed as one or the other or a striking mix of both.
A bill of very much ‘festival’/underground bands – lots of ska, folk, punk etc, many great crowd pleasers that I didn’t know before. Here are my favourites, in order of play, and one other….
Professor Elemental – possibly steampunk and definitely ‘chap-hop’, a genre he may have invented – great fun like a rapping version of It Ain’t Alf Hot Mum…
Babyhead – massive ska and reggae with brass, West Country festival legends, with great powerful lyrics
Vice Squad – still going strong, old school punk rock with style and panache, wonderful articulate singer in Beki Bondage, who formed the band in 1978. A passionate vegan and animal activist, she later tells me she keeps VS fully independent, doing all the hard management work as well as fronting…and still loves performing, which is obvious.
Headliners The Orb – cosmic excursions in dub and trance, a rhythmic trip that is way more than Little Fluffy Clouds and the Minnie Ripperton sampling A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld. Includes a version of Fanfare for the Common Man, and amazing visuals
Saturday Highlight – the Blockheads – wonderfully tight and joyous jazz/funk/rock band, performing the hits and less-heard classics like If I was with a Woman, now very obviously about the pain of disability, and Itinerant Child, a poignant anthem to the old days of the Rainbow Convoys. Norman Watt-Roy was really enjoying himself, and Ian Dury’s friend and minder Derek ‘the Draw’ makes a perfectly acceptable substitute for his late lamented boss.
Saturday Lowlight – the Gonads – seemed like an average comedy punk band, some dodgy sexist lyrics, til the singer was revealed as Gary Bushell, rightwing Sun music journalist, and this was his ‘oi’ skinhead band from the 70s. Seems the organisers were as surprised as we were. He walked off halfway through the last song, called England’s Glory. No-one clapped. Would have been interesting to see him sharing a stage debate with Beki…
The Delray Rockets – Stray Cats homage from local Worcester boys, lovingly done with lots of attitude and energy
Flutatious – dreadful name but prog rock originals beautifully played, as applause rained down from the bar where the audience were forced to shelter from a deluge of real rain
Merry Hell – one of several conscious counterpoints to the Gonads, more country/folk/Latin than their name suggests, with entertaining and passionate anti war and human rights songs such as ‘the War Between Ourselves’. Highly recommended.
Tako Lako – yet another festival circuit well kept secret, sounding like a techno New Order with Ian Curtis still singing with them. Seems they are from Denmark, and tipped for good things, and finally…. closing the festival, Farmer Phil’s regulars Ferocious Dog, with a devoted fanbase, the Hellhounds, like that of the early days of the Levellers – with whom they share their sound, also the Pogues.
I enjoyed it but wasn’t won over at first, the likes of Paddy works on the Railways and Mairi’s Wedding being well done but a bit predictable…then they played The Glass. It’s about a young man who hung himself some months after his wedding, as he could not escape the depression caused by his tours of Afghanistan – the son of Ken Bonsall, the mohicanned singer, and brother of Dan Booth, fiddler and songwriter. They follow it by Lee’s Tune, for him, and thank the fans for their support.
Dan later tells me On the Rocks is his about past battle with crack, thankfully won.
They are on tour in Oct/Nov, including Cambridge and Camden Barfly - Go and see this band – you will be moved, and dance your ass off. See this link and their website for more on Lee’s life
- Festival Reviews
From our Senior Festival Correspondent
Back in 1964 the City Council was inspired to approach a leftie local fireman and habitue of Cambridge Folk Club to promote a folk festival. Their motives are lost in the mists of time, but Ken Woolard, who was to remain in charge till his death in 1993, gave up the decorating and window-cleaning and set to, inspired by his visit to the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. It seems that fires and treed cats are not over-evident in Cambridge, as for many years Ken combined the welfare of the citizenry with his real love. Eddie Barcan, his successor as Artistic Director, paints an inspiring cameo of Ken sliding down the pole and legging across to a red call-box to manage affairs, pressing button B to negotiate with Pete Seegar. Said call-box is now on the tourist map and known to the cognoscenti as “Ken’s Office”.
Eddie gave an interesting interview on the history and philosophy of the event – booking policy, order of play etc, essentially telling us the current line-up follows the same catholic approach as 1965. Such is the status of the event that artists are often ready to compromise on fees, permitting bigger names than the size of the event could otherwise support. Part of the continuing success of the event must be down to the site. Cherry Hinton Hall is handily placed in the Cambridge suburbs, offering a sylvan area for camping and a closely adjacent, if compact, event field. Offsite but handy parking, good services, food and organisation add to the charm. Well over 50% of the attendees are regulars.
Musical highlights? On Thursday I was particularly taken with Catrin Finch on harp playing alongside Senegalese Kora player, Seckou Keita. Seckou brings a smiling joy to his playing: the Kora is like a giant gourd with three pylons and myriad stings. It has an enormous chromatic and tonal range, happily complementing the mellow harp. A special honorable mention for Skinny Lister, who brewed up a real storm with their English ceilidh(?) music. Not many bands feature a crowd-surfing bass player complete with instrument!
Friday brought (inter, of course myriad alia) Fisherman’s Friends, robustly providing the purist alternative to Adge Cutler; Richard Thomson with his usual charm and musicianship and a great set from Mc Goldrick, Mc Cusker and Doyle, in the Irish tradition but with a nod to progressive influences and, again, virtuoso playing. Colin Irwin of Mojo hosted a charming short interview with Richard Thomson, Martin and Eliza Carthy, reminiscing about both Cambridge and their dynastic contributions to the folk scene over many years. Martin and Eliza played together next day: good to see such creativity and harmony between Eliza and her dad – wonderful material and music. Eliza sounded like a young Vera Lynn (look her up!): a very pure and unforced voice.
On Saturday we had The Full English, totally unfazed by the burden of carrying forward the torch(es) of Grainger, Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The line-up features Seth Lakeman, McCarthy M. Sam Sweeney and other top names and the quality from what is something of a pick-up band was astonishing. It was interesting to compare Seth Lakeman’s solo set later that day. The boy sure can play, but was let down by poor microphone technique and (here I go!) too many watts. Loudon Wainwright III did the comedy spot, which amounted to a musical genealogy of his tribe. One cannot but admire a man who can enlist the musical support not only of his kids, but also several of his former wives!
I’ll just mention three from Sunday. I loved Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, fiddle and squeeze box in perfect harmony. A mellow Scottish set that managed to create a lovely club atmosphere in a tent with a couple of thousand souls. A rapturous reception. Van Morrison headlined. Call me innocent, but I had not hitherto been exposed to this Ulster force of nature. Musically gifted and with an excellent jazz-orientated ensemble, it was a pity that the sound was undermined by the vision. To my old mind, Van has all the charm of one of Murphy’s shorter planks, a plumber for a tailor and Mike Mercury for a choreographer. Otherwise, very good. And then the there was, for me, the real piece de resistance.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo has become a world phenomenon. Almost as old as the festival, the band includes the sons and a grandson of the founding father. With a charm and vitality old Van would run a mile from, they sang just five long pieces a capella, with a presentation you could still imagine going down a storm in the township. The dancing and tomfoolery helped to interpret the words, the total opaqueness of which mattered less than a (very small) jot. LBM closed their set with “Homeless”, enlisting the support of an ad-hoc choir of local citizens, young and old, trained on the day, which happily took the festival back to its roots. A young Paul Simon was in the very first festival line-up, watched by just 1400 punters.
All in all, a great event. Programme and domestic arrangements great. A relaxed and friendly atmosphere, good enough weather, although the ale line-up lags the music by a country mile. It does not wear its socialist roots on its sleeve in any obvious way: on the contrary, my financial adviser expressed some concern at the overtly capitalist intention of the Council to devolve the event to a trust, thus shuffling it off the balance sheet whilst keeping the profits in the P&L. We learnt that the festival makes a regular profit at the event level, whilst contributing over a million to the local economy.
My regular readers will recall my report from Latitude last year. There is a strong overlap in the clientele on both ambience and geographic grounds but, for me, the events are very different. On the grounds of musicianship, scale, charm and watts (there I go again) this is still folk at heart. Music in all its forms is given its place (absent outright pop; little jazz) but more intimately and accessibly. You wouldn’t spot its municipal mien, save perhaps in good bogs and safe elves, nor does it skimp in any way in pursuit of a healthy bottom line.
Just shift the ale concession and I’ll be back!
- Festival Reviews
It's been 5-6 years since we did this festival. Glad to report it's not lost any of its charm. It carries the tag as 'the middle-class festival', perhaps deservedly, but it should not be inferred from this that the bands lack quality, diversity, freshness or 'edge' - all of this was present in abundance.
Certainly what Latitude delivers is a broader under-card of Spoken Word, Film, Comedy and the wider performing arts. All very welcome but for punters like us who focus on bands this gives an extra level of 'pressure' as we endeavour to take in some extra-curricular stuff simply to feel we've had a balanced and fulsome festival experience. The extra-curricular activity was in part mind-blowing, in other parts disappointing.
The festival lay-out remains the same and in all aspects is well organised. Saturday saw a large influx of day-visitors but queues at the bar/loos never became unacceptable.
As usual we tended to gravitate to the smaller stages, notably the stage in the woods (i- Arena) and the larger ‘6-Music Tent’ which showcased many of the fresher bands on the impressive bill.
San Fermin – 8 piece: male and female vocalists, keys, drums, guitar, 2 brass, violin. Wonderful tunes. The male vocalist had shades of Tindersticks/Gabriel Bruce. A brilliant kick-off to the music.
Slow Club - had the legend that is Fyfe Dangerfield on bass. Great set featuring songs mainly from their latest release 'Complete Surrender' and highlights from their first two wonderful albums.
Jimi Goodwin – a polished set from this accomplished artist. Wasn't afraid to throw in some Doves numbers: ‘Sulphur Man’ and ‘Last Broadcast’.
Betjeman Poetry - a wonderful deviation into the Poetry Tent for an insight to John Betjeman's life with readings of his work. Final poem was 'A boy ill' - I have this on a 'Morrissey Choice' CD that came with NME 10 years ago. Possibly the saddest thing I've ever heard.
John Wizards - 6-piece from South Africa. Set opened with Jamaican rhythms delivered by a Bob Marley look-alike lead singer accompanied by 3 guitars, bass & drums. But the set developed into a wonderful Reggae/Vampire Weekend/Paul Simon mash up, complemented perfectly by a powerful scent of weed. Best songs were those with extended instrumental passages venturing into prog-rock territory.
The Phantom Band - 6 piece from Scotland: keys, bass, drummer, 3 guitars. Delayed coming on due to sound problems, and then revealed they'd had their guitars stolen so were using Mogwai's equipment. They had the sound of Divine Comedy in the vocal. Oddly one of the guitarists had his back to the audience throughout the set.
Mirror Signal - caught tail end of this 4 piece. R&B sounds. Truly humble to be playing the festival.
Temples - a highlight of the afternoon. A really good live band, with their debut CD not doing full justice to their excellent guitar work, showcased in full here. Drummer had a Hawkwind T-shirt on.
East India Youth – Will Doyle throws his heart and soul into his live performances which get better and better. This was the best crowd reaction I have seen him receive. Resplendent in trademark tweed jacket, shirt and skinny tie, Will Doyle was most certainly 'dripping down the walls' (or at least over his keyboard) by the end of his set.
Teeth Of The Sea - 4 guys in a line across the stage: keys, a stand-up drummer, bass, and guitar. A fantastic trumpet intro to the first number. Dancey instrumental tunes a little in the vein of ‘And So I Watch You From Afar’. 4-5 songs in the keyboard player donned a black mask; I'm not sure of the relevance but it certainly gave the impression of a band seeking to deliver more than a run-through of their songs. Last couple of numbers saw the reintroduction of the trumpet, run through the synthesiser creating a wonderful climax to the set.
Mogwai - sublime. I've never seen this band live before and should know their material better. Everything they do make's me realise they should be one of my very favourite bands with their superb melodies interwoven with strong prog elements and extended solos. Their set showcased their new album ‘Rave Tapes’ - definitely on my shopping list.
Papy's - a late night venture away from music to see the comedy trio we'd caught at End Of The Road last year. Very disappointing. It would be wrong to point simply to the fact that at least one of them was the worse for drink - the real problem was their liquor-fuelled bravado led to them delivering a running Lily Allen joke. It was barely funny the first time, but the constant repetition throughout the show was numbing. A salient lesson: good comedy can rarely be created on the hoof. Even accomplished performers like these need the discipline of a self-critical appraisal at the writing stage and a lot of rehearsal, all sadly lacking here.
- Festival Reviews
The first thing to be said about this festival is that it is VERY family friendly. It's actively encouraged, and in fact, we may have been the only couple there who didn't have kids with us. That said, the atmosphere and setting are both fantastic and with just a 6,000 capacity, a large proportion of which are more interested in playing swingball or making cardboard swords and shields than watching the music, getting up close and personal with any of the acts is hassle free.
Starting at 4 pm on the Friday and finishing at 4 pm on Sunday, the bands occupy 4 stages, and with very few clashes between them, you can see pretty much all you want to see on the always impressive lineup.
The action started in earnest with the wonderful Teleman followed by Woman's Hour, both only playing for a criminally short half an hour each, but going down well nevertheless. Fiona Jane from Woman's Hour exudes a cool calmness into their music, despite the heat in the tent.
Friday threw up what turned out to be my band of the festival, and surprise of the festival. Toy were my highlight, their hypnotic kraut rock style was blistering on the fabulous sound system of the main stage under the equally blistering sun, mainly playing songs from latest album Join The Dots. Then came my surprise of the weekend, especially as I had compromised by giving Wolf Alice a miss due to the one direct clash. Dan le Sac vs Scoobius Pip headlined a packed Lodge Stage, and they had the place jumping. The thumping baselines over which Scroobius Pip raps was both thrilling and exciting, and his banter with the family audience was hilarious.....he reckons the gig took the world record for the most kids on parents shoulders they had played to...
Closing the first night were the ubiquitous British Sea Power, doing as usual what BSP do. Even the two dancing bears in the audience had a good time.
Saturday dawned even hotter than Friday, and it meant having to vacate the tent by about 9am to avoid the personal sauna, so into the arena for breakfast and first band of the day in the stifling Dock Stage, Post War Glamour Kids from Leeds. Post - punk indie is on offer, and a wake up call to those with a morning head.
Raglans on the main stage provided anthemic Irish sing alongs and again woke up a dozy audience. They were followed by the fabulous Eliza & The Bear. An indie band with tunes. Looking forward to a date for their debut album.
We then spent the afternoon attempting to keep out of the sun, so we were hopping about between the shady tented stages and saw Sam Airey, Samantha Crain and We Were Evergreen.
Our first trip to the Obelisk Stage was for the 7pm show of Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls. The hour flew by with a mix of nostalgic Wonderstuff oldies and his equally good solo songs. His storytelling and anecdotes were entertaining and I don't mind admitting that this West Midlands boy had a tear in his eye as he left the stage to a rapturous standing ovation.
Paper Aeroplanes were pleasant and quiet in comparison, but we were building ourselves up to the main act of the weekend....
The legend that is Johnny Marr took to the main stage in front of the biggest crowd so far, and opened with Panic. Those of us middle aged watching went nuts....
Looking the part in sharp suits, the band tore through a mixture of tracks from solo album The Messenger, and a generous amount of Smiths classics such as Bigmouth Strikes Again and Stop Me If You Think You Have Heard This One Before. The last track of the main set was There Is A Light That Never Goes Out......guess how that felt...?
The three encores were : Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, I Fought The Law and How Soon Is Now. Fantastic, amazing, emotional, rapturous....
Just before leaving the stage, Johnny instructed that the night was young and to go enjoy ourselves, so we did, back at the Obelisk Stage.
Keston Cobblers Club provided the afterhours entertainment, with their Leisure Society-like folk and we danced into the early hours.
Sunday is always the pack up and come down day, but there were still a couple of bands on the must see list.
Sheffield's Slow Club played the Lodge Stage, with mainly stuff from their fabulous new album Complete Surrender. A fabulous performance, really engaging and appreciative of the still large crowd.
Then finally, Stornoway closed the weekend with their Main Stage appearance. Nice way to finish a festival, not too demanding of the weary punters in the still intense heat.
I'm not sure I've ever been so hot or tired after a festival, but it was well worth it. Excellent bands, food, drink (beer provided by the always excellent York brewery) and this year, exceptional weather.
- Festival Reviews
A ten hour trouble free Thursday road trip up the fine British road network. A calm as a millpond sunny late evening ferry to the Isle of Eigg from Arisaig saw the tent pitched by the harbour for 9pm.
A quick wander around to get our bearings, local catering and a beer & malt to watch the stunning sunset by. This is going to be no ordinary festival.
Have you ever been to a festival where the audience is made up of around 400 happy campers? When the camping was not crowded and placed in one of the most idyllic spots (just off) our shores?
Have you ever been to a festival where you could see every performance from every band or artist, where there was no need for security staff, where the vibe was so chilled that punters, musicans, and residents happily co-mingled and all went round happily smiling and striking up conversation with each other for four days and nights?
Welcome to Howlin' Fling 2014 on the Isle of Eigg in the Hebrides. This is actually the third running of this delightful festival but the first time it has been run under the banner of Lost Map (previous versions were Fence Collective ventures) and under the sole curatorship and general hands on effort of Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail) and his team of impressive helpers and organisers.
A Beautiful day on Friday saw us hiking up and tumbling down 'An Sgurr'. A very musical mountain on this particular Friday as, we passed Beth Orton & Sam Amidon on the way up and at the top we could hear Steve Mason & band soundchecking a long way below.
Back down a lamb & mustard stew cooked by the crew of 'Where the Monkey Sleeps' hit the spot. Actually catering via Eiggy Bread, Dan at the Hebridean Larder and the Galmisdale café created excellent dishes all weekend long.
The Music kicked off proper at 7.30pm on Friday as bands alternated between the Ceilidh Hall and Marquee which where about 1 minutes' walk apart from each other. The rule of thumb being, that the band following on, did not start until the previous band had finished. At the end of the night that meant (I'm told) that last band on 'Miracle Strip' came on around 04.30 on Saturday morning rather than the 02.30 slot in the programme. Fantastic and who cares, no one was going anywhere!
Sam Amidon kicked off our musical evening. A Very talented singer-songwriter, who did however, lapse into comedy moments, which took away the intensity of a very good set. Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, played as part of a three piece and delivered some delightful ballads.
Beth Orton entranced as usual but was hindered by a very talkative crowd. Beth in the past who would tell everyone to "Shut the f*ck up" but this time just said to the audience that they "were talking so loud, she could not hear herself sing" It had the desired effect for a while. Tuff Love came across slightly less spectacularly than they do on their debut EP but it was a lively set.
Steve Mason and his band where the night's other A-listers and didn't disappoint with a full length concert set that was full of energy and enthusiasm and had the crowd bouncing from start to finish.
Saturday music lasted well over 12 hours and started at lunchtime with Mark Andrew Hamilton a.k.a. Woodpidgeon backed by Eagleowl (Lost Map's shoegaze specialists). It was vice versa during Eagleowl's own set with Mark joining in as well. Seamus Fogarty was on fine form (hard not to be when on Eigg he later said). Rozi Plain added sound effects, some of which brought smiles as Seamus tried to integrate them into his songs.The low key relaxed nature of the set was something to behold
Jens Lekman was a true star. First half of the set was filled with singer- songwriter, acoustic guitar, and humorous songs about life in Gothenburg. (I also know someone who danced next to Kristen Dunst). Midway through the set Jens passed around small envelopes with sweet smelling lavender inside which, he then told us to crush between our fingers and smell, at which point if launched into a disco driven 20 minutes that had the crowd jumping and the tent swaying.
Homecoming hero The Pictish Trail also had the marquee shaking which was packed out for a career (so far) spanning set. All quite picturesque with a band comprised of a bassist and guitarist with long flowing blonde hair (who both looked more suited to Iron Maiden) and Tuff Love guitarist. It all worked though and sounded suitably celebratory in the middle of such a great festival.
Saturday also had a dynamic headline set, this time from The Phantom Band who had played the Latitude Festival the previous day. They seemed to have been having a nightmare weekend, with stolen guitars, broken down vans and police checks but they had finally made it to Eigg and the magic of the island had begun its work. A fiery anthem driven 90 minutes certainly brought their spirits to a good place and blasted the sing-a-long, arms raised crowd to new heights. By now we had survived 12 hours of rain but our own sprits still remained high as the bands continued through the night.
A few sore Sunday heads although, the rain had stopped and the Island had a misty glow. A few games of 'Bananas' (like scrabble) accompanied breakfast in the cafe before we were all heading up the hill to watch a young chap by the name of Olly Coates who played some divine music on his cello. Prehistoric Friends had a more traditional straight ahead band approach and were excellent. In some ways they had a Leisure Society layer to their songs and were really entertaining. This band should go a long way!
Rachel Dadd was her usual vibrant self and had added assistance from Rozi Plain and husband Ichi (who had played a massively entertaining set in the marquee earlier in the afternoon).
Gabe McVarish and Griogair Labhruaidh went down a storm with some traditional Scottish music in the Ceilidh Hall before festival closers Meursault, turned up the amps so that they could be heard over on the mainland and played an impressively sonic set.
But festival closer's they were not, having missed the ferry, rm Hubbert arrived too late for his afternoon slot but on Eigg, everyone plays, so 'Hubby' got to close the festival stages and, he did so with magnificent style.
"In a good place now" (in his life) he told us, this acoustic guitarist played his instrument as great as ever and with a razor sharp wit, regaled the growing crowd with stories between songs that had us in fits of laughter. Troon, local beverages, tattoos, ex-wife, pet dog oh and God. Banter with the entire tent, his set will be an everlasting memory.
So the party continued throughout the night and as we started packing up the tent at 6am on Monday morning, people were still returning to their tents from the night before. the sheep continued to tuck into the grass, undisturbed.
So a magnificent event, hats off to all the organisers, islanders (who made everyone welcome), bands and fellow festival goers who made it such a memorable weekend. Do we really have to wait two years to do it all again?
- Festival Reviews
I'm not sure Hyde Park is the best place to see Neil Young, nor any band other than perhaps the Rolling Stones, it's just so 'bloody big'. One of those British Summer Shows with tiered entry, the extra £££ for "Premium View" certainly did not provide 'what it said on the tin' but, hey ho, the sun was out and an early start was to dive into the Sony Unlimited Music stage (which you could only get into if you gave someone with a clipboard your email address and favourite song, tiresome) to see The Battles of Winter, who are a very decent band indeed. A sort of cross between Boxer Rebellion and Interpol this four piece from London are well worth checking out.
With the sun still beating down we headed into the 'Village Hall' tent, to be greeted with a sauna type temperature through which the divine Webb Sisters excelled. Beautiful songs, a wicked sense of humour and, some very sweet harmonies. Finally off of the Leonard Cohen World Tour bus the ladies are now back on their own and should certainly be staking a claim on the music landscape.
The next obstacle came when trying to get into the 'Barclaycard Theatre' for the likes of Phosphorescent, Caitlin Rose and Midlake, which unless you were in the tent at 2pm and staying there for the afternoon, there was no hope. The queue for the aforementioned Phosphorescent impressively stretched almost across the width of the park! Perhaps a second outdoor stage is required when booking so many A listed bands in future?
Still plenty to see, Half Moon Run, Bruno Major & Tom Odell before The National appeared at 5.55pm precisely. A sparkling set with the benefit of their enlarged video backdrop, the band really did put their all into the next 1 hour and fifteen minutes and went down a storm.
One thing about 'British Summer Time' is that it all runs to schedule with the ever impending early curfew. Neil Young and Crazy Horse (minus Billy Talbot, who has suffered a mild stroke and added Rick Rosas and Mahogany Blue's Dorene Carter and YaDonna West) were blasting through 'Love and Only Love' before 8pm. Inserting the phrase "free the people of Palestine" into the opening song, Neil was in a 'No messing' mood.
I still think the intensity of the Crazy Horse sound is best experienced indoors, but Neil is on good form tonight and (for him) quite chatty. The majority of the crowd seem there for the timeless acoustic classics from the signs of the early heckling and Neil's sardonic sense of humour came to the fore calling the crowd "sad bastards" (and he meant it and not necessarily in a nice way although he was smiling – was he being cutting, because the crowd didn’t fully appreciate ‘the Horse’ perhaps?) mid- way through the show.
As ever the songs most requested came with a twist, an electric 'After the Goldrush' before a sing –a –long, 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' and acoustic (Dylan's) 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'Heart of Gold'. These songs seem to carry the crowd through the remainder of the band's sonic run in to the lengthy closing version on 'Down by the River'
10pm and the day is done and dusted and the band are off to Liverpool for the next night's indoor show at the Echo Arena, with a similar set, it would be interesting to know the comparison of both shows. Try Thrashers Wheat for that.
Love and Only Love
Days That Used to Be
After the Gold Rush .
Love to Burn .
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Blowin' in the Wind
Heart of Gold
Rockin' in the Free World
- Festival Reviews
As last year we set out on Wednesday from the O2 in London to travel by coach meeting up with our pals in Darble field close to gate A. The evening warm and sunny and we started the festival with pints of the excellent Brothers Pear cider in the West Holts field. They used to print on the bottles “best consumed in a muddy field in Somerset”. That is true although, the mud was to come later.
On Thursday we woke to hot sun turning our tent into a sauna. After cooking up some bacon butties we explored the vast city that is the Glastonbury Festival before the rain came in in the afternoon. We lounged on cushions in the warm dry comfort of a hippy tepee drinking chai and being serenaded by its resident musicians on acoustic guitar and flute. That evening we saw the excellent poet rapper Kate Tempest in the Rum Shack.
The first band we saw was Blondie at the Other Stage. She looked as cool as ever and the band were as tight as you would expect. The large crowd were clearly ‘touched by her presence’ and sang along to all the classics.
Next it was off to the Pyramid Stage to catch Rodrigo Y Gabriella. They are phenomenal. It is incredible how they can play such fast rhythms whilst using their acoustic guitars as percussion. Gabriella’s fingers are just a blur. Next up was Temples at John Peel Stage. This four piece band has a great retro, west coast trippy mellow guitar sound. Poliça next, hypnotic rhythms with enchanting vocals from Channy Leaneagh.
Manage to shelter from the first enormous downpour but got caught in the second and so arrived at the Pyramid Stage very wet. We got there early for the evening to get to the front for the nights headliners Arcade Fire. They had switched off all the power to the stages because of the storm so when Lilly Allen started she was late and had her set cut. She was her usual sassy self but perhaps a bit mellowed by being a mum which she referred to proudly.
When Elbow came on naturally the sun came out ( it always does for Elbow) and the backdrop to the field was dressed with a rainbow. Guy Garvey is a master at interacting with the crowd and so had everyone waving and even Mexican bobbing to his command. It was all good and finished with the festival favourite classic sing-along One Day Like This.
Arcade Fire were fabulous. A visual and aural delight best appreciated from the front of the Pyramid Stage. (we were about 8 rows back). They are a big band of twelve on stage with stunning graphics on the giant screen behind. The set started out with a firework display then played 'Reflector'. They played a vast selection from the back catalogue. 'Tunnels' from Funeral was just superb!
The rest of the night was spent in Shangri La before the dawn summoned us home. This year I was disappointed with Heaven in Shangri La as it was so much smaller than last year being basically only one large room with cream carpet (you have to take off your boots), DJ but with no Snake pit bar!( a favourite in the past) All the areas outside Heaven and around Shangri Hell were buzzing.
- Festival Reviews
A minor regret of 2013 was that we didn't attend that year’s Dot to Dot festival. Frankly we missed it. It's a great showcase of 'radar' bands, often in our experience, featuring next year’s 'Glasto must see' acts. So we were determined to go to the 2014 event. We had previously attended the Nottingham version of this festival several times so we thought a change of geography would be appropriate this time around so decided to try the Bristol event instead.
It's every bit as well organised as Nottingham but whereas the majority of the Nottingham venues are centred around one location (Rock City, Stealth, Rescue Rooms and the nearby Trent Uni) the Bristol venues are more widespread making timetabling and band selection (or de-selection) a challenge.
But the venues are all individually good, particularly the Thekla, a beached boat, and The Fleece which is under threat of losing it's license if a planned development goes ahead to build flats opposite the venue.
So to the bands....
Cursor Major (Louisiana, downstairs bar)
A good opening set to get the ears tuned. 4-piece guitar band with in-yer- face anthemic songs, the type of tunes that would sit well opening a big festival stage.
Casimir, The Fleece
Fresh-faced 4-piece. Looked less rough round the edges than the previous band but their indie guitar songs had a slightly harder edge. Overtones of Arctic Monkeys in some of their numbers later in the set
MT. Royal (The Fleece)
Canadian 5-piece with female lead singer. Opening song was beset with sound problems such that the last couple of minutes, as the keyboard came in; the song was overtaken by distortion and feedback. I think this was probably the best quality band so far but, for me, the sound never got quite right and in particular the high register vocals lacked the clarity their interesting songs deserved. Their tunes had more than a little nod to Beach House but with a rockier edge.
The Trouble With Templeton (Louisiana)
Hailing from the Bella Union stable, we knew there would be a vein of quality running through this Aussie 5-piece. And so it proved. Excellent lead guitarist, and lead singer sounded like Neil Young on occasions.
Another Aussie band. 6-piece with female lead singer with striking green hair, and female bass. Solid indie tunes but nothing remarkable to note.
- Festival Reviews
There’s an art to doing the Great Escape – 400 bands, mostly new, in over 30 venues over 3 days, with showcases from all over the world curated by groups in the know. You can’t see them all, many venues fill up quickly and others have awful sound…so move around, aim for those you like but also take a chance…and most importantly, have a good time! I managed 32 bands. This year’s themes for me included political lyrics (and the general lack of...), looped folk, and famous people’s side projects…
Lyrics – one of the highlights was FTSE, playing at the always worthwhile Republic of Sound party. I loved what I had heard of his recorded stuff, especially the terminally catchy ‘Nite Life’, great videos too. Ostensibly a young grime/triphop rapper from somewhere in the Midlands, in the Frank Ocean mode – will he kill it live?......Oh Yes!! It’s much more intense than on record, louder and darker, intelligent words, with lots of nihilistic commentary and profanity. He performs with a woman with a perfect voice, who turns out to be his wife. Next day he plays in a hardcore grunge band, Get Hot, with Jakwob, virtually their first ever set, and it’s blistering. We have some politics in common… interview to follow soon
More conscious lyrics from Dizraeli, in the frankly bizarre surroundings of the Lush cosmetics boutique. Queues round the block for his set as Disraeli and the Young Gods, real live organic hiphop. How will he do alone, amongst the soaps? …..Mostly acapella poems, the first I hear is Thank You...to his brother, his ex-girlfriend, and his 92 year old nan, inspired by her realisation as she held her husband’s hands as he died, that she still had so much she wanted to tell him. We are all totally moved. Do they sell hankies here? Other highlights are We Can Be Children Again and Good God, about the equanimity of spirituality and whatever you may call God. Again very different to the recorded stuff. However I now want all his albums and, to see him with the band.
After a tiring first day full of weird and wonderful things, lets relax by going crazy with an old favourite…The Hold steady, at the Uncut showcase. They don’t disappoint, with 3 guitars and no keyboards, all the old rock favourites like Chips Ahoy and Little Hoodrat Friend, plus some from the new Teeth Dreams album. Craig seems really happy, still mouthing the lyrics between the lines, and doing little Dad dances in between verses. So good I see them again at XFM on Friday.
Q magazine have a lineup in a conference centre featuring the Strokes, Doves and Snow Patrol…or rather people from them. Nathan from SP’s Little Matador is good solid Metallica-type rock, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Reminds me of early SP when they were a punk band… Jimi Goodwin is very serious, and not very happy, having just woken up at 9pm. It’s a bit pretentious for me but Doves fans would probably like it. Best of the lot, rather surprisingly, is Albert Hammond Jr. Very tight, very Strokes-y, but all his own stuff I think, apart from a cover of Buzzcocks Never Fallen…
RM Hubbert is a big sweetie with a guitar, lots about his dog, a song about Joe his dead father-in-law and one called Buckstasy about an Ayrshire cocktail (!). He confesses he performs to help his clinical depression. The Car Song, written with Aidan Moffat, is an absolute classic.
Looped folk – Uncut has the wonderful Lisa Knapp, who plays mostly songs linked to the month of May, with subtle field sounds and added quirks. In the same vein is the exotically dressed You Are Wolf, who does songs about birds from new album Hawk to the Hunting Gone. They are followed by something completely different – Arc Iris, which is a lyca-clad Josie from the Low Anthem, performing a tribute to 70s rock operas with gusto and aplomb.
Other highlights new to me – Lizzo, larger than life hiphop queen from Minneapolis, Salt n Pepa n Shirley Bassey all rolled into one big fun package. Her vid for single Batches&Cookies features her “rubbing butter onto a naked man”, she says with relish.
Girl Band from Dublin, who sound like early Fall or Joy Division if Ian was really drunk and slurring his vocals. Powerful highlights include Lawman, My Daughter Paul and the very short ChaChaCha Song, as released for Record Store Day.
Ezra Furman, bastard son of Buddy Holly, PeeWee Herman and Jonathan Richman, if you can imagine that. Very happy, very eccentric. Local Cambridge legend Chris T-T is in the front row.
Courtney Barnett, who adds lashings of crazy psych guitar to her country songs.
Kate Miller-Heidke, also from Australia but very different, torch songs and comic opera.
Oy, the Berlin-based Swiss-Ghanaian vocalist, who performs songs based on African proverbs with great energy, to an intense Afro/electronic beat.
Goodbye Brighton, and thanks to my wonderful family – see you again next year!
- Festival Reviews
Saturday arrives and it rained! Austin on Saturday was cloudy but it doesn't last long enough so that you started to wonder whether it was a day to get soaked at the various showcases.
Fortunately, our new favourite venue (Hotel San Jose) has plenty of cover but because of the rain there is a slight delay so we stumble upon a Avi Buffalo show right across the street. Lovely little band, great sound, solid straight ahead rock with plenty of tempo changes to keep you guessing. . This was a great accidental find in typical SXSW style.
Back to Hotel San Jose and we sit back at our picnic table and settle in for the afternoon. First up is lovely rock outfit Tina & the B sides. Good lead singer that reminds me of Joan Jett doing classic rock songs, they try to dry out the crowd with some solid rock. Districts are up next a brilliant little 4 piece that reminds me of the Cold War Kids or Spoon. Soul/rock that gets loud when needed and with solid musicianship I now regret missing them when they opened for White Denim in Toronto a few weeks ago!
Up next is Syd Arthur again! Now is my chance to see these guys when the sound is working well and it's sunny again so it's perfect. They are a wonderful quartet from Canterbury England who got their record deal after performing in Austin at SXSW2013. Bringing psychedelic rock into 2014 they perform magically beautiful songs in a hypnotic style similar to what you expect from Tame Impala..it's very whimsical at times but always sounding a little more orchestrated. Its a beautiful set of high energy textured songs that quickly remind me of how lucky I am to see them when I can hear the full effect of their complicated sound.
A quick set now by PAPA..a wonderful full rock n roll band who have been around for a while..soul/rock/punk..a good blend of tasty stuff with a bit of a swagger by the whole band they are very confident and sound pretty solid.
Now it's a perfect transition to yet another band that I had to see in Austin. One of my top albums of 2013 was by San Fermin and here they were performing on an outside stage in the sun..it was perfect. The band has grown from its original size to a commanding full sound with 8 members. Trumpet, saxophone, two guitarists, three vocalists one on violin, drummer, it's a wonderful sound. The songs are sung tag team style mixed between female and male vocalists and the harmonies are wonderful. The songs were composed with themes in mind and they were created with almost a classical orchestral feel. They each had a life of their own and even a new song that they had not played before was welcomed by a clearly overwhelmed audience. They really put on a fantastic show and its somewhat heartwarming to see a personal favourite go over so well at this venue considering the talent on this stage over the last few days.
That's it for the afternoon entertainment so we go back to the hotel for a little quiet time and then it's off to our favorite restaurant, Moonshine for some solid IPA’s, a wonderful meal, and Gary Numan and his wife sitting beside us. (didn't say hi, he was too busy eating).
- Festival Reviews
A number of things are in play now. One, is that with age comes the sad truth that it's more difficult to rebound from late nights. Thankfully most showcases do not start until later today so there is still plenty of time to rest. As well…the new essential purchase of a new orthotic insert for my shoes seems to have taken some pressure off my poor old back..it's working well so we rebound quickly. As I said…sad truth of what comes with age….
Another factor that comes into play is that Wednesday's choice to go see Spandau Ballet was up against a Damon Albarn show at Stubbs. Turns out it was a good choice as Damon’s show was delayed considerably because of the horrific accident. And today is the day we can finally see him.
We are off to the Radio Day Stage, the pinnacle of comfort available at SXSW. In the Convention Centre, the auditorium is filling up and with free Wi-Fi, vendors selling food and drinks, and comfortable seats, its a good call!
Having always sided on the Oasis side of this battle, I would like to say Damon was horrible, but alas, it was very beautiful. As many as 15 people hit the stage at one point or another. A full complement of gospel singers, guitarists (all acoustic) violin, cello, piano and ukulele. Damon switched from guitar to piano effortlessly and did a 6 song set all from the new album. Not sure if I can really do justice to how these 6 songs sound in this environment, very intimate and lovely, it is a great way to be introduced to these new songs. Plenty of videos available online of the show. Go take a look.
Now we head out, todays plans are up in the air. A new personal favourite (Chlöe Howl) has announced that her band has finally been allowed into the country so she is doing her first show (should have been her third) at SXSW at the Cedar St Filter magazine party. Having always been one of my favourites, the Cedar St show is always a lot of fun and it's a great venue so I commit to the showcase and get there early to make sure we see Chlöe Howe. It's a Swedish theme today and all the bands on before Chlöe are Swedish, and the free food is Swedish which is a bonus!
- Festival Reviews
Thursday started, as you would expect in a reflective space with news from the previous night’s accident still filtering through. Some of the the shows were moved from the affected areas and we were all answering plenty of questions from friends making sure we were all ok but, the show must go on I suppose and it was another sunny day in Austin and plans are in place for yet another hectic day as we head off to a venue we have never been to before but have heard great things about.
Hotel San Jose is on South Congress. 30 minute walk from our hotel and a good distance away from the madness of 6th street which is the hub of SXSW activity. South by San Jose is a mini music festival open to all …no badges necessary and based in a big parking lot with independent vendors, great food and craft ale and some pretty spectacular music
A good solid crowd of kids and adults, very comfortable and ideal for seeing bands, the person responsible for picking the bands has done a fantastic job
First up is Steelism, a band centred around a fantastic pedal steel guitarist, originally from London England who now lives in Nashville. Upbeat,,fun,playful and without vocals. This band does with their instruments what many try with lyrics. It's a fantastic set of music designed to get you engaged and warmed up for a day of bands.
Next up, Spanish Gold, a super group consisting of members from many bands including My Morning Jacket. Their set is full of influences, and it sounds fantastic. Sweet, smooth, funk, rock, it goes all over the place and sounds quite good at this outdoor venue.
Up next a band from Calgary, Alberta called Reuben and the Dark, a great Canadian rock n roll…with a taste of Neil Young and a great blend of classic rock, it's wonderful to come all this way to see a band that I should have known about living in Toronto. Their drummer who plays standing up comes out front to do a song they had not planned on doing (keyboards were not working) for the last song and it's a stunning song, 5 part harmonies, a beautiful track called Rolling Stone and it will be remembered for some time. I am looking up their tour information here to see if I can catch them again soon.
Now comes a personal favourite, Temples, this young British band were phenomenal at their Horseshoe show and I expect nothing less from them here at this venue. Beautiful Psych Rock on a sunny afternoon is perfect. Perfect blend of harmonies and great rock n roll, their songs draw the entire crowd in and they clearly know how to please an audience. They feature pretty much their entire Sun Structures album in their set and happy to say I am not disappointed. Their 60s influenced sound is fitting for tshirts and shorts weather!
Now comes the most anticipated show of the day, the wonderful St Paul and the Broken Bones. A very big band with horns, great bass player and guitarist and picked as the must see band this year at SXSW and they deliver! The lead singer reminds me of Drew Carey (when he was a little bigger) he comes onto stage after his band play a wicked intro and he kills it! This guy is being possessed by every classic soul singer and dances like a madman. He is like a TV evangelist when he performs and is completely mesmerizing and captivating. He sings doo wop style at times and runs around the stage challenging people not to have fun…it's impossible! Everyone is dancing around and their set comes to a close far too quickly. Like Alabama Shakes times 10 this is a fantastic band that has to be seen live.
Then to cap off the afternoon, the new kid on the block, a spectacular new performer Benjamin Booker, think Black Keys, White Stripes, a two piece with explosive sound and fantastic dynamic between guitarist and drummer. This kid knows how to play and if you watch his videos, he can croon as good as the next guy but this two piece tries to overwhelm you with a full on rock show and they succeed. But sadly, it's almost 5.30, time to get that much needed hour or two of hotel rest time so that we can start our evening off refreshed!