When my son Matt told me that he was missing Latitude this year, since none of his usual crew were up for it, I put my hand up.  Even after all the disasters such posturing has led me into in the past, I still like to shock.  But there was something pushing from the back of mind, something unique, odd, not to be missed, German....  Only later did I notice the clash with the Lords’ Test and the enormity of the folly.

Matt has fixed views on these matters, so we were packed and away to join the front of the queue.  I had a late panic as we passed the Southwold turn (“Just drop me off at The Crown, Matt”) but held my nerve.  My personal Maconie had us set up base camp under his usual tree, shaded from the blazing sun, in acres of space, with just a few neighbours in the near distance to wave to.  This is for me!

A lot of the stories proved true.  No-one snarled at me all weekend.  The only two drunks encountered propped each other up and staggered politely away.  And, joy, the shopkeepers all said “please” and “thank you”, rather than advising me that there I went.  Shops in profusion, too.  Rather surprisingly, no Waitrose, but the Mini Mart used their pricing policy and added a rather Mornington Crescent twist by enforcing queues on the way in, rather than the way out. 

Almost anything could be had, including a replacement for the tent you left at Glasto.  Those pop-up ones you know they will recycle next year were marginally less than a Rochdale semi.  You could fill the fridge, buy a new wardrobe, get a tattoo, recharge the dog, see a Gypsy fortune teller and so much more even before the shake-down at the arena gate.  And get the latest test score!

I never did discover what my bag was being searched for.  The rather matronly lady I favoured confided in me that “she could tell”, but I could have had a kilo of best Afghani I suspect, all priced up and ready to go.  Not that it would have sold: only around one’s own tent did one even discretely puff a little local-grown ganjha.  Nobody inhaled.

 

 

 

Arriving at what was now a free festival (if you already had a ticket) in Hyde Park on a glorious summer afternoon, the place looked rather deserted. It's wasn't, I was just comparing it to the sold out Stones show the previous weekend.

 

Still, no 30 minute queues for a beer or food and no gold or silver circles, so it was pretty close to the main stage for Gabrielle Aplin and her set, which I think is still a work in progress. The Bandstand was an easy next call for the fabulous Thea Gilmour. Polar opposites to Ms. Aplin, after a few more years’, albums and, experience in the 'industry'. Just back with a new and very promising album.

 

A wander around the site. One thing that stood out was a caged off merchandise stall with piles and piles of Rolling Stones tee shirts for the next day. A few bob’s worth there! We also found a decent pie stall as well.

 

Elvis Costello hits the main stage with hit after hit after, hit. On fine form and in good voice. The only drawback was that a lot of the songs had slightly different arrangements to the originals, which made singing-a-long, a challenge at times.

 

What then remained as a star of the future and a star of the past, both who found their niche on this hot summer's evening; Lucy Rose ex Bombay Cyclist member is now out on her own. Voice of an Angel, a band that is tight and funky and songs without doubt, from the indie world yet, that fit the Band’s groove perfectly. There were even a couple of Physch-out instrumental moments! With so many singer-songwriters around, believe me, Lucy Rose is something special.

 

Back to the main stage for tonight’s headliner. Absent friends says Ray Davis early on “We hope bunter gets better soon” Ray and band then proceed to  give us a Kinks greatest hit’s set, which in the middle of Hyde Park, in the centre of London, is just perfect for the evening.

 

The outstanding moment was ‘Waterloo Sunset’ mid set, which the crowd sang with him, word for word in hushed tones before belting out the chorus. Singing about a place just a mile or two down the road was just right.

 

A London man, singing songs about London town, disaffected teenagers and people just trying to make a way through life. They could have been written yesterday.

 

Thanks to the ‘powers that be’, for keeping this particular show on the road after Elton John's Illness, it really was still a special night.

 

“Get better soon bunter”!

 

Pete

 

Photos

 

So...to truly describe this new festival in Toronto, one must understand the "backstory" and how the success of this new music festival could be instrumental in bringing more events like this to the area. 

Toronto has had music festivals before, but very limited and very restricted in their size, location, and even how alcohol is served.  These local legislations and restrictions have pretty much meant that it was near impossible for these events to be successful.  They have forced the events to locations outside of the city centre, with the logistics of getting to the festival, and getting home...near impossible.  They have forced the festivals to serve alcohol in certain fenced off areas, making it near impossible to enjoy a drink and see the stage to watch a band at the same time. Off duty police were the only security allowed to work these events and that was far too expensive (compared to normal event security)..and some of these events were held on Toronto Island, where insurance costs due to having a festival surrounded by Lake Ontario made it a money losing event before it even began.

 

But recently, there has been a shift in local politics and attitudes.  There is a concerted effort to promote Toronto as one of North America's greatest music cities.  Already considered in the top three by the music industry, a successful music festival could do wonders to promote this.  Local promoters (Collective Concerts) have led the way in bringing fantastic bands to the city, and they have enjoyed festivals such as SXSW, NXNE, Canadian Music Week. and wanted to create one of their own, one that takes advantage of the new attitudes and changes in local policy. that would allow a new festival to be located in downtown Toronto and offer something we festival lovers have not been able to enjoy.

 

TURF was created...its site in the downtown core of Toronto is perfect, near many transit options (and walkable from my house!) using a government run historical site Old Fort York. the site of the battle of York from the war of 1812!  (Is it any wonder they picked this site considering the importance of the British to defending the site and Britain's history with very successful music festivals?) and with the change in provincial legislation that allows alcohol to be served with no restrictions on where you could drink it. meant you could grab a drink and watch a band and actually see and hear them. a novel concept for us Canadians.

 

A lot of planning later. and the event was upon us.

 

 

 

 

Thursday

 

It was so good to be back at Glastonbury especially after last year’s break.

 

There is nothing happening on the main stages on the Thursday so it is a time to chill and wander round the vast site and marvel at all the imagination and ingenuity of thousands of people who created this unique wonder that is Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.

 

We did catch some music however, Anthea Neads and Andy Prince (who used to be in Sham 69) with some retro pop rock. Rodney Branigan from Texas with some amazing guitar work. How the hell does he play two guitars at the same time like that?  The Worry Dolls two very talented girls on acoustic guitars and banjo reminding us of The Smoke Fairies.

 

After a sunny day, the evening brought rain which in turn brought some of that special ‘Glasto mud’ (on Friday the sun came out again and Saturday was a beautiful sunny day).  We headed off to the Rabbit Hole and squeezed into Dermot O’Leary’s DJ set for some dancing. Afterwards we caught the Pictish Trail (Jonny Flynn) at the Crows Nest Stage for an excellent acoustic set.

 

 

 

It’s easy one Saturday afternoon in Cambridge each year, to step out of the normal life and step onto planet Strawberry Fair.

The Strawberry fair is in its 39th edition this year and remains a free event on Jesus Green in Cambridge. The event is put on by a group of volunteers working tirelessly for twelve months.  Because it is free, the event attracts people of all ages, all walks of life and for all different reasons.

The music stages contain just about every style you can think of, Folk, Ska, Jazz, Reggae, singer – songwriters and Rock. Circus, film, poetry and very decent beer courtesy of The Portland Arms (in the acoustic tent) are among the other attractions.

As we wandered around we came across Dave Crowharr with this Tom Waits like folk, a lively Eureka Stockade some Ska warriors Killimonjambo and loads more.

So a great afternoon, I left the evening to the kids!  The Strawberry Fair is 40 next year if you want to come to the party.  

 

Eureka Stockade

Europe’s Leading Festival for New Music – works best if you can do lots of homework before on bands never heard of before, which if we are honest is most of them. Held in the perfect city for an urban festival. Stayed with my lovely cousins and without trying too hard I went to 16 venues and saw 39 bands (that I can recall…). Having a bike helped… So, here’s my diary of TGE Highlights:

 

Thursday

Sounds Australia showcase in the Haunt, good unpretentious rock from the Upskirts, and more trendy 80s-style girl with synth (and Toto sample used well) Dune. Hjaltalin, cool slow powerful music from Iceland, featuring violin, keyboards, and the singing duo of Hogni and Sigridur, long haired male and great Adele-like female. And its sunny!


Girls Names, of Belfast, great hooks but a bit too laid back on record for me, Really smashed it live! Cure/New Order style, plus feedback. Wolf Alice very good too, arresting vocalist. Huge Qs for Tom Odell, and indeed any well known/hyped bands, one of the drawbacks of this otherwise great friendly festival (the other is virtually no info on the many cancelations and their replacements). However did make it into the Warren, one of the best venues with beer garden and lots of space once in.

 

A great line-up – Jeremy Loops, a SA singer/guitarist who uses…guess what…loops, to great effect with some really catchy sing-along tunes, all done with bags of charisma; Deap Valley, a real highlight, a female White Stripes from California, initially put off a bit by the cheap leather undies and hairspray, but they really rock! Came on to the sound of Led Zep; looks like Barbarella on guitar and the young Liz Taylor on drums, great blues voices and crunching riffs. Guitarist turned up in the moshpit for Parquet Courts too, much respect!

 

 

Despite an early night..this day was still based around the theory that we both needed some rest. Breakfast and lounging started the day off and then the leisurely walk over to La Zona Rosa for the Rolling Stone party. La Zona Rosa also will be the site for the Prince show tonight and security is already there and they are setting up some new barricades for what would turn out to be the huge lineup to come tonight.

Thankfully...Badges allow us to wander in and get a strategic seat/picnic table outside to grab some free food/craft beer/and...makers mark bourbon based mixed drinks!   Sandra is going all out as she knows her day is going to be an easy one so she dives into the bourbon based mixed drinks and all I can think about is how I have a huge show tonight..so I stick to beer!
 
The showcase today is not going to hurt us..push us in anyway.  Really wanted Sandra to get to see Jake Bugg and Lord Huron is also playing and this is going to give us a chance to really hear them play and lounge about! 
 
Surfer Blood come on, and yes..this could be the 6th or 7th time I have seen them but its good to see them up close and they again provide a solid set. 
 
Next up...Gus & Scout.  Had never heard of them before and while they perform really well..smooth alt-country songs I cant help but think there is more to this as the lineup today features a few popular artists and these guys (while still putting on a solid set) are really new to me.  A little google search answers that question, as Gus..is Gus Wenner (son of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner) and Scout Willis is daughter of Bruce and Demi.  These two hung out together as kids and grew to love the same music and thus...Gus & Scout.
 
Next up...Jake Bugg
 

One  thing to note before day 4 begins..the lottery.  There were a number of lotteries this year at SXSW. Started last year to award lucky winners a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen, this year, the showcase list that required a lottery winning was longer.  There was Nick Cave, Yeah Yeah Yeah's, Green Day, Sound City, Depeche Mode, Prince, and Justin Timberlake.  Sandra and I entered all the lotteries and we did not have a lot of luck.  One thing to note, it was clear after the Nick Cave  and Sound city night at Stubbs..if you hung around outside in a badge line long enough..you could eventually get in, which is what some friends did.  You really have to want to go though as you miss a lot of music standing outside and it was for that reason that we chose not to..

Friday has another leisurely start..after breakfast we roam the city getting some sun and waiting for the  Vegan party to start.  Had to catch Half Moon Run there as this would be our last chance.  Got inside for some free vegan food and a quick drink and on came Half Moon Run.  The band is comprised of British Columbia kids that moved to Montreal when they got signed to a label there and ..this band sounds airy and dreamy like you would expect from a west coast band.  Though the lead singer has been sick for over a week now, you cant tell from his voice.  According to label friends at this show..the band just keeps getting better and tours in Canada with bands like Muse and Mumford & Sons is hurting nothing..their reputation is growing.  They are quite polished and the set is tight and sounds great..if you get a chance, go see them.
 
Next up is another must see here in Ausin. Toy hit a lot of my friends Top 10 cd's of the year.  What I had seen online and what I heard was certainly nothing new and I liked it so if they put on a good rock show, fine with me.  The band comes on and they played some loud rock n roll!  The band is tight and its spot the influence time but the band is really good.. turns out lead singer is Rose Elinor Dougalls brother and the band..they are the "Jin Jang Jong" from Joe Lean and the "Jin Jang Jong"..they make no apologies for sounding like a lot of different bands and its a quality show.
 
Now a quick lunch and its back to Paste party on 6th street.  Starts with an old favourite..The View.    Little Scottish kids have gotten older but they play a set that is strong in new and old songs and looks like they have plenty of fans still.

At one point, our plans for every morning in Austin included a run and the early morning radio station sponsored shows..well, that didn't happen.  Turns out wandering around the city and standing at gigs all day and night tires out this old guy so...our first band of the day on Thursday..is

 Billy Bragg at 11:30 am at Mellow Johnnys.   Again, this has quickly become one of my favorite places to see shows and if bands are playing there that I have any interest in, I am there.  Bragg, like Robyn Hitchock, is a story teller.  He is a funny guy, even when he is trying to be politically serious, and his songs are well written and he can still put on a solid, amusing show.  He played a number of songs off the new album and some classics, including Great Leap Forward that has been completely re written to include modern politics and it was quite clever.
 
Thursday was always going to be the day Sandra and I spent primarily at the Paste party, at Stages on 6th.  It is a fantastic venue with an inside and outside stage with shows back to back.  When the band inside is off, head on out into the sun, grab a beer and watch another band that is just about to start
 
Day 2 and another sunny day in Austin
 
Get up for free breakfast and realise..I am getting old.  The early morning flight..then a night full of rock n roll have combined to make my poor old legs feel like Crap!!!
 
But..show must go on and we have a plan
 
First show of the day is at Mellow Johnny's bike shop and some great story telling from Robyn Hitchcock.   In between the wild and wacky stories he told, some of whom went on some weirdly wonderful tangents, there were great songs.  He is an entertainer, sometimes a very odd one, but an entertainer nonetheless and when you can watch him in the comfort of the bike shop setting, it makes it even better.
 
Now, off to Waterloo records and their lineup this year was immense!  Today, it was a quick trip over to check out Thurston Moore's new band Chelsea Light Moving.  Band comes on to a full house...place is packed, and the band is loud!!  Just like Sonic Youth, they play hard and they play well and it is all about rock n roll.  Every song seems to be a protest song....and announced as such.  Looks like Thurston is on a mission.   People are enjoying the show and new album is really strong and it comes across in the live show.  
 

After much planning and stress over planning, we hit Austin on March 12th to 80 degree temperatures and a city full of music.   After the usual trip to Opal Divine's for a beautiful micro brewery beer..then Whole foods to pretend to buy groceries that were good for us, quick pit stop at our hotel and then Moonshine Restaurant for a Day 1 feast of tasty steak and more beer Then...Latitude 30 for the start..the British Music Embassy;.

The Huw Stephens hosted....Tuesday at British Music Embassy is always fun.  Everyone wants to start off well, up first..   Y Niwl    Welsh Surf Instrumental band.   Wicked little band, no vocals, in fact no words at all (Huw pointed out before they played that there will be no banter...just 30 minutes of surf punk instrumental music...tasty way to start

Lucy Rose ..have been following her since her time with Bombay Bicycle Club..her performance started off with sound issues as they often do in Austin but the set built up nicely and the last two songs were perfection...she does have a lovely voice!

Tall Ships were up next..solid psychedelic rock with plenty of tempo changes.   Good change from Lucy Rose..needed a bit of a boost
 

A late afternoon drive down to Camber Sands and an arrival in the dark, but having missed the rush, we had a speedy check-in.

 

By 7.30pm we were ready for Stage 2 and the impressive Buke & Gase. A duo playing gritty guitar cords with vocals to match. LULUC followed in a more gentle style after which we sped upstairs for the end of the Kronos Quartet set, which really whetted our appetite for a full set on Saturday.

 

Bear in Heaven played a funky set. Their bassist (and his headgear – a raised black beanie) was a regular figure at shows for the rest of the weekend. Indeed, most bands seemed encamped for the weekend which was great.

 

Tim Hecker played in complete darkness at sufficient volume to make the whole experience uncomfortable, so after some Air hockey there was a much brighter Boris who ‘Rocked the Joint’ as they say.

 

Final band of the day was Kurt Vile & the Violators.  It’s always interesting to see which Kurt turns up. Tonight he was in electric guitar mode and hit the stage pretty much on time. A rocking set for sixty minutes or so, although there was 90 minutes on the schedule.

 

 

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