Archive | Live Reviews

She Drew the Gun – The Fleece, Bristol ( February 28, 2019)

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She Drew the Gun – The Fleece, Bristol ( February 28, 2019)

Posted on 01 March 2019 by Joe

The last time we caught a live set from She Drew the Gun was at the 2016 finals of the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Contest.

Singer and songwriter Louisa Roach’s stage presence and beautiful vocal performance, combined with political lyrics aimed firmly at disaffected youth, ensured their victory.

She Drew the Gun's Louisa Roach

She Drew the Gun’s Louisa Roach

On the evidence of their sold out show in Bristol, She Drew the Gun have clearly put their prize of a £5,000 development grant from PRS for Music Foundation and the kudos of a main stage slot at the festival to good use.

Now their live set is bigger and bolder. The political edge has increased, unsurprisingly after three years of the grimmest current affairs imaginable, from Trump to Brexit. The sound is also fuller, with an extra guitar added and the synths made chunkier. They also have  far greater command of the stage, with their latest visual show really adding to their live set.

Revolution Of Mind

Poem, the song that so impressed ETC judges was great. But the real highlights came from their second album, last year’s Revolution Of Mind.

This offers a great range of tracks that are even better live, with the 1960s guitar pop of Something for the Pain sounding even brighter and lead single Resister even more powerful and edgy.

She Drew the Gun 3

Best of all was Wolf and Bird, which has a Portishead feel to it and is shaping up to being a live highlight of their set for years to come.

Speaking of 1990s influences, the encore included an excellent version of The Beloved’s Sweet Harmony. This somehow fitted perfectly among, what Roach refers to as, the band’s main business at hand – producing “three minute deconstructions of capitalism”.

Support for She Drew the Gun included a blazing set from Warrington’s Man and The Echo, another act with a strong political edge.

By coincidence we also saw them live back in 2016, when they impressed supporting Billy Bragg in the Leftfield Stage at Glastonbury Festival.

Man and the Echo

Man and the Echo

Here they showcased some fine new tracks such as Capable Man as well as older songs, including Operation Margarine and I Don’t Give A F**k What You Reckon. We thought they were a great live band three years ago and they are even better now, with echoes of the likes of XTC, Fatima Mansions and Teardrop Explodes throughout their confident and fun set.

By Joe Lepper

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Laura Veirs/Sam Amidon – The Bodega, Nottingham (Feb 5, 2019)

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Laura Veirs/Sam Amidon – The Bodega, Nottingham (Feb 5, 2019)

Posted on 09 February 2019 by John Haylock

My first exposure to the music of Laura Veirs was with the very beautiful album Carbon Glacier, which after a quick peep at my copy came out back in 2004 – a remarkable fifteen years ago.

Her stunning latest album The Lookout (2018) is now her tenth long player and her songwriting continues to dazzle. Her incredibly expressive singing voice and ability to pull out gorgeous melodies is as immediately identifiable as ever.

Laura 3

Tonight Veirs, who is from Portland, Oregon, performs solo apart from a number of tracks on which she is more than ably assisted by her support, Sam Amidon. He’s a fellow American now residing in London and incidentally married to Beth Orton (another bloody genius).

To call Veirs’ music pop folk may sound like a disservice but it is most assuredly not. It is both delicate, melodic and infused with a poppiness that is hard to resist.

Sam did a short set highlighting his not meagre talents on guitar, banjo and vocals and then Laura joined him for his last two numbers. He was an integral part of the show as he returned the compliment by accompanying Laura on her final numbers with some subtle violin, which was just awesome.

So with ten albums of material to choose from, Laura dipped and dived into her exquisite body of work starting off with the lead track on The Lookout, Margaret Sands, and veering far and wide, Seven Falls, and a cover of Mountains of the Moon by the Grateful Dead, which brought out the inherent beauty of the song.

Laura 2

She did Song for Judee, a tribute to the late Judee Sill, which appeared on her 2016 collaborative album with Neko Case and K D Lang.

Her set was mesmeric to watch,  with such delicate guitar playing and her crystalline pure voice, especially on July Flame and Thru December. 

I was hoping for Galaxies but sadly it wasn’t to be. But this was more than compensated by her and Sam dueting at the end of the show – it was heavenly. I had waited 15 years to see her, make sure you don’t wait that long.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 25, 2018)

Posted on 01 November 2018 by Dorian

I don’t feel like I’ve seen Stephen Malkmus play often, but counting through the times (Pavement at Reading 1992 and their ATP in 2010, with The Jicks at Reading 2001 and three times in Brighton) this is my 6th time seeing him play live.

Stephen Malkmus 1

I’ve also never seen him play a bad show. The reunited Pavement shows may have been done more out of duty than love, but the songs were great so I’ll take it. Given how much I enjoy his work it is odd that I only really keep half an ear on his solo recordings. I enjoy them a lot when I make the effort but I don’t rush to listen to them.

Here on the Concorde 2 stage in Brighton he plays a set that draws heavily from his recent albums and it sounds great from start to finish. Tunes like ‘Middle America’, from Sparkle Hard, may lean towards his more laconic side, but they are so well constructed that I’m happy to sit back a bit with them.

He throws some more upbeat tunes into the set, personal favourites ‘Stick Figures In Love’ and ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’ both get an airing and they really highlight what a great band he has backing him.

Stephen Malkmus 2

One thing that really strikes you watching Stephen Malkmus live is what a great guitar player he is, and what a confident stage presence. His days in Pavement may have left him with the reputation of being a slacker with scrappy musicianship, but this is far from the truth. As he throws his guitar behind his head, never missing a note, you can see how skilful he is.

He’s witty too. St one point a scuffle breaks out in the crowd, some people a little inebriated causing problems. The band reprimand them, Malkmus standing statue like displaying two peace signs. The scuffle ends and the crowd calms. He leaps into a boxer’s pose, hands clenched. “Save your fists for the class war!” he proclaims.

He has also softened in his stance to nostalgia and his old band, he is clearly at ease with his musical legacy and what the crowd wants to hear. When the band return for the inevitable encore he launches into a raucous version of ‘Stereo’, the crowd (inevitably) goes wild. Last of all he appears to deviate from the planned final song, responding to requests from the crowd, and plays early EP track ‘Box Elder’.

His European tour is almost over, you’d need to head to Paris on Saturday to catch him before he returns to the US, but I’d recommend catching him next time you can. in the meantime, give Sparkle Hard a listen.

By Dorian Rogers

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TC&I – Swindon Arts Centre (October 29, 2018)

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TC&I – Swindon Arts Centre (October 29, 2018)

Posted on 31 October 2018 by Joe

Spoiler: If you are going to one of the forthcoming TC&I shows please do not read on. Enjoy the surprises. If you’ve been or are not attending, read on.

On Monday October 29 in Swindon musical history was made.

Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers, the rhythm section of XTC, performed together on stage for the first time in 36 years as TC&I.

That will mean nothing to most people.

Colin wrote many of the bands early 1970s/80s hits, such as Making Plans for Nigel. That may garner a grunt of acknowledgement from some.

But to the 200 passionate XTC fans, who made the opening night of a sold out week long set of gigs at the Swindon Arts Centre, their appearance meant everything. Their whole world.

Almost every fan of the Wiltshire band, who finally split in 2000 after 18 years as a critical acclaimed studio band, has prayed to the gods of pop for them to reform and perform again.

With other songwriter Andy Partridge never to perform live again after suffering stage fright in 1982, Terry moving to Australia shortly afterwards, Colin largely shunning the music business for a number of years and guitarist Dave Gregory plying his trade in other acts, that has seemed an impossible dream.

But with Terry returning to the band’s home town recently and Colin dipping his toes more frequently into musical projects they left fans gobsmacked last year when they joined forces as TC&I with a four song EP of Colin songs. And best of all, this summer they announced they would give playing live a go once again.

Colin Moulding (l) and Terry Chambers (r)

Colin Moulding (l) and Terry Chambers (r)

All dates are sold out. They could have played non-stop for the rest of 2018 given the interest, but the Arts Centre panto takes precedence going into December.

Given the very long wait to see their idols, the atmosphere in the packed arts centre was understandably reverential, especially as some had travelled from around the world to attend.

The smiles when Colin and Terry arrived on stage was a moment of beauty.

Colin in the middle aged man’s uniform of cargo trousers and sensible walking shoes, looked more like he was about to nip down to Marks and Spencers to buy some new socks. His scarf and slight mullet the only hint that he has in fact played on Top of the Pops.

Chambers in white t-shirt, looked shy but itching to get behind his drum kit. They were joined by Steve Tilling on guitar, Colin’s son Lee on backing vocals and Gary Bamford on keyboards and guitars for a mammoth 24-song set,  full of the hits, new songs but also some surprises along the way.

Below is the full set list but here we will rattle through some of our particular high points.

Wonderland

What a revelation from 1983’s often overlooked album Mummer, which was sandwiched between two of their most ambitious collections  – English Settlement (1982) and the Todd Rundgren produced epic Skylarking (1986). Here the soft production of Mummer was cast aside and on stage with full band its melody had room to shine. This was the surprise high point for many I spoke to on the night.

Sacrificial Bonfire

Skylarking was well represented, as it should be with Rundgren upping the Moulding song count. Meeting Place, Big Day and Grass were great, but Sacrifical Bonfire was by far the best. Lovely to see Terry take a softer tone with this on a track that was new to him. Mind you, he made up for it by beating the beejesus out of Big Day later on.

Bungalow

Colin’ voice is beautifully preserved, as if kept in honey in his shed for decades, untainted by the rigours of relentless touring. He sounded great all night but Bungalow, which was largely just him and keyboards, was where audible gasps were heard around the enthralled room at the quality of his vocals.

Drums and Wires guitar interplay

The Drums and Wires album track segment early on of Day In, Day Out, That is the Way and Ten Feet Tall gave Steve and Gary a chance to recreate the classic guitar interplay of Andy and Dave. It was perfectly executed.

The hits

Colin also  knows how to write a hit. Making Plans for Nigel, Generals and Majors, Ball and Chain and Life Begins at the Hop were all performed and with his preserved voice it was as if the last 36 years had never happened. We were transported back to their chart bothering prime with only Colin and Terry’s white hair a give away that it was no longer 1982.

Scatter Me

Three of TC&I’s own tracks graced the set list but it was Scatter Me that may well stand the test of time and grace the next live shows in another 36 years. Colin embraces his mortality in perfect fashion as his ashes are spread around his favourite haunts.

Statue of Liberty

The talk before the gig was that Colin would be covering one of Andy’s XTC songs. Which would it be? Surprisingly it wasn’t Senses Working Overtime but Statue of Liberty, a pop gem from their debut album White Music with boop-boops galore . They sailed beneath this song’s skirt with gusto.

Andy chose to leave town during these gigs, especially as he lives nearby. It was probably a smart move. This is Terry and Colin’s week, but he is genuinely keen for the shows to be a success, passing on kind words via Twitter to the band. The XTC brand is at risk if they cock it up, so he has a stake in its success. Andy can be rest assured that the XTC brand is in safe hands.

TC&I set list

Say it

Day in, day out

That is the way

Ten Feet Tall

Greatness

Scatter Me

Wonderland

Where Did the Ordinary People Go?

Grass

Meeting Place

Sacrificial Bonfire

War Dance

Big Day

Bungalow

The Smartest Monkey

Cynical Days

Kenny

Ball and Chain

King for a Day

Standing in for Joe

Generals and Majors

Making Plans for Nigel

Encore – Statue of Liberty, Life Begins at the Hop.

Words by Joe Lepper

See Also: Ten bands that changed our lives – XTC

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 23, 2018)

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Brighton Concorde 2 (October 23, 2018)

Posted on 30 October 2018 by Dorian

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (Rolling Blackouts C.F. for shortish) have been around for half a decade now but only started releasing music in 2016. That debut EP (talk Tight) and 2017’s French Press were very well received but they didn’t really break out until they released their debut long player, Hope Downs, this year. So it is curious how much their live show seems like a greatest hits set by an artist with dozens of releases to draw from.

Rolling Blackouts CF

It might be partly their set-up of three singer-songwriters that contributes to this as it adds a freshness and variance of style through their set. Crucially though it is the quality of the songs that carries them through; the standard hardly drops all evening and even though they don’t play my personal choice (‘Julie’s Place’) I’m still greeted with a barrage of favourites through the evening.

The performance is great, with the three singers switching the lead, and knocking out some great guitar lines throughout. Even though they each have a distinctive voice and songwriting style there is enough consistency of sound to demonstrate an undeniable Rolling Blackouts C.F. sound.

The rhythm section is consistently brilliant, a real driving engine behind the sound that really boosts the songs with energy and urgency. It is perhaps this frenetic driving quality that makes them sound quite different to The Go-Betweens, an act they are often compared to.

They’ve finished their UK tour, although I’m sure they’ll be back again next year, so if you aren’t familiar with the band give Hope Downs a listen. In my view the best debut album released this year.

By Dorian Rogers

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The Lovely Eggs – Leeds Brudenell Club (October 19, 2018)

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The Lovely Eggs – Leeds Brudenell Club (October 19, 2018)

Posted on 24 October 2018 by John Haylock

The Lovely Eggs are husband and wife duo David Blackwell (drums, vocals, home made box of wires with a bright light screwed onto it) and Holly Ross (guitars, vocals and orange tights).

The redtops would probably describe them as quirky. They play ramshackle, coming apart at the seams punk-rock that goes blam blam blam…Blam!

The Lovely Eggs

Tonight’s mayhem happens inside a sold-out Brudenell, one of our favourite venues. I mean how can you not love a club in which you hear Can, Neu ! The Sleaford Mods and The Velvet Underground while you’re waiting to get served?

Holly takes to the stage clad in the aforementioned orange tights, probably the same ones she wore at the Greenman Festival in August (I do hope she’s changed them ).

Gobby, excitable and bonkers

 

She’s gobby and excitable, with a guitar style best described as bonkers. They’re playing on their own turf tonight and the crowd love it.

The Lovely Eggs are very much a one trick pony, albeit it a muscular, slightly demented Lancashire pit pony. And the trick is second rate Paul Daniels. No matter though, as they are adored by the faithful, who sing along vociferously to some great song titles such as I Like Birds But I Like Other Animals Too, Fuck It and the sublime People Are Twats.

We even get some cooking tips for onion rings. There’s also a minor crowd altercation with an over excited bouncer and a some drunk lads. This is swiftly tackled with humour and some Northern common sense.

Not a bad night. A bit one dimensional but that might have been the (very) pale ale.

Special shout out to Rob Auton who hails from York who’s doing some daft stand up on the forthcoming The Lovely Eggs dates. Now he is quirky, but in a good way.

Wiggy Giggy was great.

Words by John Haylock

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Villagers – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (October 17, 2018)

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Villagers – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (October 17, 2018)

Posted on 21 October 2018 by John Haylock

When you do a  search on Google for Villagers more often than not those hunky chunky purveyors of ultra camp seventies disco The Village People come back at you singing YMCA. As much as I love disco classics I think I’ll stick with our Irish friends for the time being, thank you.

Since Villagers launched ten years ago, they have very quietly, very gently, rocked our world. Leader Conor O’Brien’s  melodic introspections and observations have healed and shone light into our collective hearts.

Whilst all around is going to Brexit in a handcart they are a little oasis of sparkling tunes and old fashioned musicianship. So with a new album to promote (The Fine art of Pretending to Swim),  their fifth if my calculations are correct, a tour is in order.

v8 (2)

The new Villagers album is an absolute joy that is chock full of many  slyly insidious tunes. I’m assured the young kids on the street today describe this as ear worms. A vulgar unpleasant phrase. I prefer to use the phrase angel cake whispers instead.

So eyes down for an evening of angel cake whispering.

Conor is given a hero’s welcome as he buoyantly takes to the stage accompanied by his superbly talented band (tonight’s Haylock award for outstanding individual achievement goes to the drummer James Byrne, a brilliant display).

Diving head first into an evening of classics and playing many of the tracks from the new opus we embark upon on an emotional rollercoaster of aural joy, the new stuff sounds absolutely brilliant, there’s some seriously catchy Villagers songs on display, especially Again, Sweet Saviour and Fool. One of the highlights was a fantastic new composition called Love Came With All That It Brings. A song from the top drawer if ever there was one.

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This was the first night of the current Villagers tour and you might have expected hesitancy or at least some  nervousness but it was flawless. Conor has such a winning way with the between song banter. He won us over easily. Both funny and modest , his demeanour is the polar opposite of most frontmen. His audience loves him for it.

Occupy Your Mind was given a new suit and tie, a wash and a shave and turned into a whizzing speeding thing of beauty. Another new song Long Time Waiting seemed so gorgeously familiar. An effortless reflection on modern living with added trumpets.

Old favourites blend with the new

The final furlong saw the welcome return of two old but genius nevertheless faves, the irrisistable sing along Hot Scary Summer and of course Courage.

These were preceded by one of the most adventurous new songs from the album, Ada,  a song Conor told us was about Ada Lovelace the mother of modern computing  (Charles Babbage being the father, see Analytical Engine for further details) . Unknown to Conor, until someone in the crowd pointed it out to him, there was a Nottingham connection here. Ada was the only legitimate daughter of local lad, romantic poet and total shag monster Lord Byron. Synchronicity or what? That blew him away.

I urge you all to check out the support artist on this tour. She calls herself Billie Martin. Originating from Ripon, she has a stunningly beautiful voice, and plays guitar with a featherlight touch, and with the aid of a solitary drummer. They created a little sensation among the crowd tonight. Very rarely does an audience just shut the fuck up and listen to a support act as intently as I witnessed tonight.

A lovely gesture was witnessed as she had left a hand written note on the merch table. It read simply,  “sorry no merchandise but I’ve baked a cake (lemon drizzle, my favourite) please help yourself”.

Yum and indeed yum.

 

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Brian Jonestown Massacre – Birmingham O2 Academy (October 16, 2018)

Brian Jonestown Massacre – Birmingham O2 Academy (October 16, 2018)

Posted on 18 October 2018 by John Haylock

Two months ago we caught Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Greenman Festival and were overwhelmed (drunk). We had to see them again.

If you’re not familiar with the Brian Jonestown Massacre just think of an old Hollywood western.

Picture the scene, the locals are in the saloon having a drink, laughing and carousing. In the ramshackle street outside ladies with bonnets stumble across the rudimentary High Street, which is little more than a  muddy track, as they make their way to the store for supplies and sundries.

Then in the distance you hear the sound of hooves and some boisterous hollering and swearing as the local gang of bearded unkempt rustlers, outlaws and general ne’r do wells ride into town on their sturdy steeds. The local sheriff ( played by Bradley Walsh) is sent for, he and his deputy (an unshaven belligerent Tom Hardy) walk toward the gang with hands on their holsters, it’s all going to kick off.  Brian Jonestown Massacre have come to town.

Photo Credit: Bradley Garner

Photo Credit: Bradley Garner

And kick off it does down in wild west Birmingham, as 600 rabid hipsters await the arrival of the most bad ass guitar toting scruffs on the planet. Led by  general all round modern day iconoclast and  psychedelic guru Anton Newcombe.

It’s a guitar orgy

The stage is full of guitars, It’s a guitar orgy. A sonic spectacle, which starts of slowly and falteringly with We Never Had a Chance and What Happened to Them.

Then slowly the pace increases and by the time the ecstatic Hold That Thought materialises it’s all systems go.

They have this fantastic primordial soup of a rhythm section, reminiscent of Primal Scream, Ride and absolutely definitely The Rolling Stones, circa Sticky Fingers. It’s a pervasive irresistible beast, that Anton tops off with some tasteful lead work.

By the time we get to perhaps their biggest hit, Anemone, all cylinders are firing. The lighting guy has woken up and were tripping the light fantastic.

Joel Gion on tambourine and flamboyant hand gestures is a focal point. He is the Hendrix of tambourine playing.

The numbers stretch out and enter lengthy jam territory with some great wig outs that you just don’t want to end. I start hearing influences ranging from The Velvet Underground to The Byrds via Spacemen Three. So many influences, so little time.

As we propel towards nearly two hours of this madness, The devil May Care (Mom and Dad Don’t), Drained and What Can I Say assail the senses. When they finish they do it in their trademark manner. No encores, just a version of A Word that segues into a monstrous, almost tortuous ten minute-plus hurricane of feedback and squall.

I shot the sheriff but I did not shoot the deputy.

Review by John Haylock

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Sweet Spot Festival – Inaugural Estonian event impresses

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Sweet Spot Festival – Inaugural Estonian event impresses

Posted on 23 August 2018 by Joe

It’s no secret that we have become a little fond of Estonia after visiting Tallinn Music Week for the last two years. So how could we say no to checking out the inaugural  two day Sweet Spot Festival with the likes of Tom Odell, Jose Gonzales, Roisin Murphy and London Grammar on the lineup.

Here’s a roundup of the standout acts we saw…

Tommy Cash

Despite being placed on the Sweet Spot Festival B Stage, Estonian rapper Tommy Cash attracted by far the biggest crowd of the entire weekend. We had to use a mixture of politeness, cunning and the occasional elbow to reach the front. Upon his arrival he was dressed in what could only be described as the stinky black pair of shorts and white vest, last seen by the unfortunate few who forgot their school PE kit. This look was topped off by a pencil moustache akin to Poirot and spikey hair not to dissimilar to Keith Flint in his Firestater days, although now the spikes were held in place by condoms.

Tommy Cash

Tommy Cash

Cash is by far biggest star in the Estonian music scene right now, and its well deserved. On performing his song  X-ray we couldn’t help thinking that 90% of the crowd needed X-ray eyes (or at least glasses) to see him. He also performed songs such as his latest hit Little Molly. After completing his set the crowd chanted his name for more than five minutes hoping for an encore, but of course he was too cool for that.

Tom Odell

On arriving to the Sweet Spot Festival stage to watch Tom Odell it was clear to see that the audience was comprised of at least 90% women (and that is probably an underestimate). It was therefore no surprise that when he walked out, the Dennis the Menace of Indie pop had a face like a kid in a candy store.

Tom Odell

Tom Odell

As each song progressed he slowly melted the hearts of the ladies in attendance, until a sudden thunderous downpour saw the crowd run for cover and him calling a 10 minute break. Upon resuming he played the song “Hold Me” and we couldn’t help thinking that is exactly what the sodden ladies in attendance wanted.

Other highlights included…

NOEP

NOEP played on the C stage at club PADA. To say it was packed to the rafters would have been very apt had there been a roof, so instead the spectators headed in to the trees to grab a better view.

With the evening sun sinking and temperatures beginning to cool his song “San Fransisco” matched the mood of the crowd and climate perfectly. It is no surprise that his brand of electronic pop has gained international attention in recent years.

Jose Gonzales

With the mercury hitting 30C and the sun beating down, the crowd were in need of a little bit of cool. And then, outstepped Jose in a Hawaiian shirt, nonchalantly carrying a cold glass of white wine.

Jose Gonzales

Jose Gonzales

He proceeded to play a mixture of older songs such as “Teardrop” and newer ones like “The Forrest” (we certainly could have done with the shade of a few trees as we baked slowly in the sun). With as much desire from himself as the crowd, Jose played two extra songs, one of which was “Heartbeats”.

Special Mentions…

Kodaline

With Sweet Spot Festival first night headliners London Grammar cancelling just one day before, the upmost respect must go to the organisers for securing an equally well known headline act  –  Irish songsters Kodaline.

They didn’t disappoint either, playing a mixture of well-known hits such as “All I Want” and “High Hopes” as well as songs from their new album due later this year.

Little Dragon

LittleDragon were Jose Gonzales’s recommendation, and they certainly didn’t let him down. The Swedish electronic group were the first act to provide real energy and get the crowd going on the first day.

Little Dragon

Little Dragon

Charismatic lead singer Yukimi Nagano certainly grabbed the attention of the crowd, along with drummer Erik Bodin whose antics and spotty t-shirt likened him to a musical Mr Tumble.

Words by Mark Taylor, pictures courtesy of Sweet Spot Festival.

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Green Man Festival 2018 – Psychedelic awesomeness

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Green Man Festival 2018 – Psychedelic awesomeness

Posted on 23 August 2018 by John Haylock

Our big green friend, the Green Man Festival, never disappoints and once again provides one of the best festival weekends this side of Pluto.

As always the depth and quality of performances was magnificent, with nary a dud in evidence. The oh-so unpredictable Welsh weather remained the right side of sub-Arctic, and on more than one occasion I spotted people applying sun tan lotion. Yes, suntan lotion! Not something I can remember ever seeing in Wales before.

Friday

Arriving with the dawn on the Friday via a breakfast at Waitrose in Abergavenny, we threw ourselves into putting up a tent badly.

This done we were lured by The Lovely Eggs up at the Far Out marquee and were greeted by some very lively punk action. Guitarist Holly was great, playing speedy tunes and throwing shapes. Despite the garish yellow tights she looked and sounded like a star. The crowd loved them.

The lovely eggs

The Lovely Eggs

An hour later The Lemon Twigs played Beatlesque slacker pop to an enthusiastic crowd. They certainly won me over but by then whiskey had been taken, so they could have been rubbish, who knows ? Nice vibes, I think.

The best at the Green Man Festival on Friday was a superb set from Joan as Policewoman. A small woman with big talent,  blessed with a multi octave voice that transports you to heaven via Bonnie Tyler’s chip shop in Crickhowell. Her band was super tight, soulful and classy, and what did she do as an encore? Only bloomin’ well Kiss by Prince. Utterly sublime and it’s not even teatime.

Joan as Policewoman

Joan as Policewoman

The  Green Man Festival layout is great. It’s not too big although there did seem to be larger numbers of people here this year, which was slightly disconcerting. You don’t expect the Walled Garden to be rammed mid-afternoon listening to obscure Australian folk singers.

In the past there was always room to collapse in a semi-catatonic heap next to a rubbish bin and not get your head trodden on.

Next up was a look at the Green Man Rising emerging talent competition, to sample the delights of fresh new blood. They don’t get any fresher (or madder) than Gentle Stranger.

Gentle Stranger

Gentle Stranger

The compere said they were like the bastard sons of Ian Curtis and Talking Heads, which is rubbish. In fact, they were more like the bastard offspring of the Mothers of Invention and a small white sliced loaf.
Among Gentle Stranger’s line up was a drummer who also played oboe and looked like he should be at a Metallica covers band audition. A skinny bassist in awful make up laying on his back holding his bass guitar with his feet whilst applying hair gel. They also featured a topless hairy bloke with braids in a blue midi skirt and hobnail boots playing guitar and blowing on things. Totally fantastic.

The Hungry Ghosts

The Hungry Ghosts

Were also impressed by the dirty, rock ‘n’ roll filth of The Hungry Ghosts from Birmingham. Then had to administer self flagellation for missing Snail Mail, which shows the depth of talent at this year’s Green Man Festival.

Back at the main stage it was time for  headliners King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. The Australian psychedelic rockers have inexplicably become hip. Their lengthy guitar work outs, nimble ensemble playing and nicely complimented vocals went down well. But I failed to achieve orgasm, unlike the other five thousand other folk in the crowd. Mind you their 2016 track Rattlesnake was groovy.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Time to party until the late hours, 11:55pm in our case. We were knackered.

Saturday

We awoke to no rain, at all, not even drizzle, remarkable.

After a dodgy dinner the Walled Garden played hosts to Goat Girl who seem more popular than The Beatles. The place was full, and quite rightly as they did their no nonsense pop-lite thang.

A duo under the name of Ider did it for me. Poppy niceness to the fore. They should be pop stars tomorrow with their nice bouncy tune and big singy choruses.

Baxter Dury

Baxter Dury

Happiness achieved but  had to curtail my enjoyment to rush over to the main stage to catch the late Ian Dury’s son (thats him on the cover of new boots and panties), Baxter Dury.  Top notch swearing and funky jams predominated the proceedings. He seemed slightly aggrieved but was all the better for it. A riveting set.

The evening then turned into a cosmic trip with a visit down memory lane with the ever dependable Teenage Fanclub.Boy Azooga, despite a hesitant start, won in extra time but then it was time for John Grant.

If you know Grant, you’ll know he was inevitably superb and if you’re unfamiliar with him then where have you been for the last few years?

It’s been heartening to witness  him graduate from touring half full pubs with Midlake five years ago to thrilling eight thousand people in a Welsh field on a nippy night.

John Grant

John Grant

Such is his charm and self-depricating wit that he can make these intimate, lyrically subversive songs work even on a grand scale.

They don’t get grander than Queen of Denmark which tonight is bombast incarnate, yet there is so much more to his music. You have the whimsy Marz. The electro incisiveness of Black Belt and Pale Green Ghosts. The beautiful Glacier and even an almost hit-single singalong GMF.

I asked Grant before he went on to sign a Barry Gibb and Barbara Streisand album. He laughed, signed it and then asked him to do a Bee Gees number. He said he’d think about it but sadly it didn’t happen [what an anecdote that wasn’t].

This Green Man Festival gig was one of the last times you’ll hear this material for a long time, he admitted. It’s new stuff from now on in , and personally I can’t wait to see where he’s going to go next. It is certain to be intriguing.

One of the absolute standouts of the entire weekend was an appearance by Simian Mobile Disco, performing with Green Man Festival regulars Deep Throat Choir.

This was an aural massage the likes of which will live long in the memory of those who witnessed this performance. The two guys within  their jumble of leads, decks, cables , laptops and other magical devices (probably stolen from magic pixies on a night with a full moon), delivered the most deliriously sublime set. Murmerations was performed in its entirety. The choir building up tension as waves of beautiful sound crashed like waves of pure love over our collective heads. I forgot the number of people I spoke to  the next day who thought it was astonishing.

Two hours later and we’ve still not got back to the tent. There were a few distractions. Impromptu Aretha Franklin singalongs, a cocktail bar, a merman and a mermaid, an art installation that was just some lights outside the toilets and a chat with a bloke dressed as a bacofoil deep sea diver thankfully was all I can remember.

Sunday

Sunday and your despicable soundchecks from War on drugs. I’d only been asleep three hours, still we are veterans after all and by 10 o’clock we were asleep again.

First band on at the Mountain Stage at dinnertime were the new project featuring Simon Raymonde from the Cocteau Twins, called Lost Horizons.

Black Angels

Black Angels

They excel at atmospheric gritty soundscapes with vocal contributions by the bassist, the keyboardist and especially their very expressive lead singer.  A very good way to start the day.

Such is the current vogue for glamping we found an area where you can sit in a hot tub and be served champagne. We were quite rightly immediately ejected.

We tried to enjoy Anna Calvi. But I appeared to be sitting next to the Abergavenny under-fives acrobatic team. It was difficult to concentrate but she was good and the version of Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy was stunning. As was the encore  – a cover of Ghost Rider in the Sky from Suicides’ debut album.

An evening of dark intense brooding rock ‘n’ roll at the Green Man Festival followed. First up Chilean trio Follakzoid who put in an unbelievable performance.

They only did two songs, the first was 25 minutes long, the second 20 minutes and that was only shorter because their enigmatic guitar shaman Domingo Garcia got increasingly angry over the mixing desks inability to hit maximum volume on his monitors. He pulled over the speakers and flounced off in a Chilean huff. After five minutes he came back on due to public demand and finished off the set.

It was great to watch as he played about with his pedals and various fuzz boxes. Then he’s doing the dance of the seven veils and swinging the guitar round his neck as it squeals its protests.

This was in the Far Out tent as were the three remaining acts we saw.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal  Fever from Australia recalled fellow brethren The Triffids, with some great guitar interplay and punchy tunes.

But the  best was to come. The Black Angels were relentless –  a fucked up marathon boogie  kept in the air by non stop drumming from Stephanie Bailey, the likes of which I haven’t witnessed for years. The woman is a machine built of steel and unsmiling stamina. It was like the Velvet Underground but with better tunes.

The icing on the  psychedelic cake of this year’s Green Man Festival was an appearance by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Imagine the aroma of late 1980s Primal Scream inhaled from a pipe of Exile on Main Street. Loose but tight. Rough but nice. Good cop, bad cop but mostly bad cop. Oh man, this is my rock ‘n’ roll.

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Brian Jonestown Massacre

I am unable to describe any further events of that Sunday night as I appear to have run out of superlatives.

Not one bad band or performer at Green Man Festival all weekend. No hassle and no downsides, apart from the small matter of missing the Wedding Present, Tom Wrigglesworth, War on Drugs, Public Service Broadcasting, Kelly Lee Owens, Phil Wang and Teleman.

This festival spoils you every time and you have to make choices.

I choose Greenman.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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