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Green Man Festival 2019 Review

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Green Man Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 24 August 2019 by Joe

Here we go again, fasten your seatbelts, hang on to your consonants, its time to go to Wales for the annual freakout in the hills.
Greenman has now established itself as a major attraction in the over abundant field of UK festivals, and if you’ve ever been you’ll know why, as it is always chock full of quality acts and non stop diversions.
From folk to freakzone and most points in between you’re bound to find something to blow you away into the surrounding mountains.
Screenshot 2019-08-24 at 12.33.52

Wobby weather on Friday

To be fair the weather behaved itself, it only threw a wobbly on the Friday, but soon dried out on Saturday and Sunday with the arrival of some lovely sun, indeed the words quite and pleasant could have been employed.
Squirrel Flower despite sounding like a twee indie band from Dorset is in fact the stage name used by twenty one year-old Ella Williams from Boston USA. She captivated the crowd early on Friday with a set of self assured and seriously personal songs. maintaining an eerie composure and delivery throughout, she proved to be an early hit.
A totally unexpected treat was an energetic performance from a cracking soul singer going by the name of Durand Jones and the Indications, think Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and you’re somewhere there, the icing on the cake was an absolute fantastic cover of The Beatles Don’t let me down.
From one extreme to another, a climb up to the Far Out tent to check out Pigs Pigs Pigs etc. If you like a bunch of guys who can’t quite play the debut album from Black Sabbath and fill in the bits they can’t master by getting the vocalist to take his top off and scream alot, then this is the band for you.
Much better were TVAM, and the sublime Villagers who always deliver. The Walled Garden played host to a rare appearance by folk royalty Bridget St John, she was followed by a much changed Stealing Sheep, who have morphed into quirky weirdos in lycra complete with cheesy dance routines, they succeeded in confusing me, [not difficult]. After them came Bill Ryder Jones, who was electrifying, chaotic and joyous, often within the same song.
To close the main stage Friday night, the legendary Yo La Tengo totally ripped apart the fabric of space time. Indeed the opener Cherry Chapstick was reminiscent of a supernova of guitar abuse, the ground shook with terror as guitars made noises they were not constructed for. They then take everything down for quiet interludes and harmonies from heaven before erupting into cacophony again, beautiful.
Special shout out to Caitlin Moran in the literature tent who reduced my friend to tears [but in a good way].

Saturday’s highlights

Saturday was a blur of top notch entertainment, Jarvis Cocker put on his DJ hat and made women of a certain age dance like Pans People, Richard Thompson delivered a a scintillating acoustic set. The resurrected A Certain Ratio prove they still corner the market in skinny white boy funk, they even threw in a Talking Heads cover for good measure.
You could happily spend the entire weekend in the Chai Wallahs tent, you never hear anything that is shit, it’s a remarkable place and this year was no exception. Jazz rock proponents Lydian Collective were amazing,with lots of virtuoso playing, boundless energy, a drum solo and a guitarist who wears an unforgivable headband, we went bonkers.
Headliners Stereolab, despite a hesitant start soon locked in to some mighty grooves and proved why they were such groundbreakers back in the day, it was heartening to see such a big crowd as well. Four Tet was a little anti climatic but did have some nice blue lights.

Idles among Sunday’s acts

On the Sunday Yak and Idles won the noisy buggers of the weekend award, but for myself and many others the day belonged to The Liminanas. Hailing from France this proper freaked up fuzzy band of beauties ploughed their way through a delirious set, even throwing in no less than three cover versions, Mother Sky by Can, Gloria by Them and Teenage kicks by The Undertones. On a personal note this gig has elevated them to number four in my all time best gigs EVER !.
A teatime treat came in the form of Eels, a rarish UK appearance that went down fantastically well. Their sound was beefed up by a great band and frontman  E was irrepressably buoyant. By turns funny,  self depricating and hugely entertaining. Dog Faced Boy was dedicated to John Parish who co wrote it, Prince was name checked with a killer version of Raspberry Beret and Novocaine for the Soul was just superb. So great to see them still rocking, check out their remaining tour dates, you won’t be disappointed.
Before we left we caught an amazingly energetic and exciting young lady going by the name of Emily Cappell, small in stature but containing more energy than a spinning neutron star, she had a tune about the poor buggers who have had Morrissey tattoos and their ensuing embaressment as he reveals himself to be a cock. She was fun incarnate and her new album is called brilliantly Combat Frock, what’s not to like ?
So, another year for the Greenman Festival,  another load of crazy memories, more mayhem than you can shake a Jazzmaster guitar at, hell i’ve got withdrawal symptoms already .
By John Haylock
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Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

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Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 05 August 2019 by Dorian

Indietracks is a pretty unique event, in many ways. Most obviously in that it takes place at a heritage railway, but also in terms of what it means to the people who attend each year, and the way it is organised. The people who attend are passionate about the music and the event, and the organising team bring together a wonderful mix of music each year that manages to simultaneously follow a comfortable pattern and throw in some really delightful surprises.

Trains

You get a few industry veterans (Bis, The Catenary Wires, Tracyanne & Danny), some Indietracks mainstays (Martha and a tearful farewell to The Spook School), bands that are just starting out (Cheerbleederz) and bands that are starting to generate some industry buzz (LIINES, Porridge Radio).

There is also a lot of variety of band style considering that most people would see the indie-pop scene as being fairly straightforward in terms of musical focus. There’s black feminist punk (Big Joanie), Euro-J-Pop (Kero Kero Bonito), surf instrumentals (Surf Muscle), pop-punk (Fresh), Hong-Kong shoegaze (Thud) and hard-to-define-pop (The Orielles).

I could write hundreds of words giving my personal view on the dozens of bands I saw but what would be the benefit of that? I know from just the experience of myself and my colleagues over the weekend that everyone will find different things to like from a festival like Indietracks. Be that the different bands, or the owls, or the train sheds, or the miniature railway, or perusing the merch stalls, or surviving the falling speakers at the campsite disco.

So instead I’ll leave you with my personal three favourites from the weekend and a selection of pictures of the event. If you’ve never been then I urge you to give the festival a go next year. If you’ve been already you don’t need me to tell you how much fun it all is.

So, in no particular order, my top three:

Advance Base

Advance Base

This, like most of my favourite music over the weekend, was entirely new to me. I’d heard of Owen Ashworth’s previous act Casiotone for the Painfully Alone but never listened to them. I also knew that he’d recorded work by The Magnetic Fields but never listened to any of those tracks either. In some ways it sounded exactly as I would have expected, downbeat, synth driven and built around some great word-play. What I hadn’t expected was such a beautiful tone to his voice, and so much emotional weight to the songs.

Seazoo

Seazoo

Seazoo play a type of music that has defined my record collection for most of my adult life, noisey(ish)-indie-guitar-pop. They aren’t breaking much new ground but the older ground they are covering is pretty great. They’ve got good tunes, they play well and they seem thoroughly nice. They have just the right quantity of quirk to their sound to make things interesting and I’ll definitely be visiting their recorded output.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep

I don’t think many people would argue with Stealing Sheep being the most polished stage performance of the weekend. Matching outfits, vocoder vocal introductions and synchronised moves sit alongside some pretty slick pop songs. It is joyous stuff and goes down a storm with the crowd. I loved every minute of it and ‘Joking Me’ could well be the song of the year as well.

Bis

Bis

 

The Orielles

The Orielles

 

Cheerbleederz

Cheerbleederz

 

Surf Muscle

Surf Muscle

 

Fresh

Fresh

 

Big Joanie

Big Joanie

 

Martha

Martha

 

The Spook School

The Spook School

 

She's Got Spies

She’s Got Spies

 

Thud

Thud

 

Kero Kero Bonito

Kero Kero Bonito

Words and pictures Dorian Rogers

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Larmer Tree Festival 2019 Review

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Larmer Tree Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 25 July 2019 by Dorian

If you like Gomez or Tom Odell, then I can recommend them. I’ve seen both and they are great live and I’m sure their  appearances at this year’s Larmer Tree Festival added to their reputations as performers that walk the walk (sing the sing?) when it comes to belting out bangers.

However, this is Neonfiller, so we will focus on acts that you may have the chance to see at The Joiners Arms, The Exchange, Thekla, The Hare & Hounds, or other venue local to you.

Where better to start than a half-empty tent at 9:30pm on the Sunday night, populated with small groups of Odell refuseniks who are now just about running on fumes after the long festival weekend?

BC Camplight

BC Camplight

Into this cauldron of apathy strolls BC Camplight who promptly delivers the performance of the festival. Brian Christinzio is a piano virtuoso with a big voice and – seeming to serve notice to the sparse crowd that they were in for a ride – started big, with Deportation Blues. With barely time to swig more gin and wine that can be good for you (and nurse a melting microphone stand) he and his band piled into the set list. Just Because I Love You and I’m in a Weird Place Now showed the full range of his voice, from choirboy sweetness to Springsteen bellow.  Fire In England started as expected but morphed into a deranged Madness / John Grant mash-up whilst You Should’ve Gone To School washes over like a soothing AOR balm.

The band is on the ball and tonight this sonically confusing, sometimes scary, but ultimately warm and big-hearted performance gave the crowd more than they expected.  Inevitably I’m Desperate closes the set and (with an exhortation to come back for a main stage appearance at The End of the Road Festival here later in the year) he is off.

It’s easy to forget how good BC Camplight is. A frenzied all-night trip with Michael McDonald and Billy Joel that turns out OK by the morning might get close, but if that’s not an option, then go see him.

Du Blonde

Du Blonde

Working back to Saturday afternoon, Du Blonde (Beth Jeans Houghton) clearly has more artistic talent and drive than I could dream of. As well as writing and performing, she is a painter and illustrator, and has produced animations for her own work and the likes of Ezra Furman and Lump. Given this, the fact that she gave a vocal performance that had hints of Anna Calvi shouldn’t have been a surprise. The driving rhythm section set the scene for her guitar playing that – through a diverse set list that veered from rocking out riffs to doleful ballads – left you wanting to hear the next song. Angel stands out for its riff heavy chorus, and whilst some compositions lacked streaming-friendly immediacy, your patience is rewarded.

Odstocks, appearing in The Village Inn, a two minute stroll from the Peacock Palace (where Du Blonde wrangled her Stratocaster) gave us a nonstop set of proper stonking Indie boy rock, but with enough twists and turns (including occasional hints of The Cure in some of guitarist Tommy Nicklen’s repertoire) to lift them above pub rock. Determined to ignore technical glitches – from both the sound system and lead singer Jack Wilkinson-Holton’s sunglasses – their vibrant under-3-minute tunes won the tent over.

BASH

BASH

The act most thrilled to be at the Festival was clearly BASH! Following up on their main stage appearance the day before, the smaller Village Inn tent was full of people and anticipation well before they started. With pop unashamedly front and centre, they had the attitude of a born-again Postcard Records signing. Lead singer, Amanda Bashmakova started off a little breathless but her Claire Grogan-like delivery quickly matured to a vocal performance evoking Gwen Stefani. Not to be out done by Amanda’s vogue-ing; bassist Miles Hobbs injected both funk and – via expert stares and moustache twitches that Ron Mael would applaud – added a little jeopardy to keep the crowd on their toes. “Lovely, Smart and Beautiful” showed them at the best, and as joint winners of Larmer Tree’s ‘Breakthrough Act’ (alongside with Bristol’s Agata) the organisers must have been chuffed at the reaction of the crowd. Fun, not dumb.

Surprise act was possibly (& perhaps controversially) K T Tunstall, who cranked up the rock with her new band. Yes, she still gets the Acoustic out to play arms-in-the-air ballads and crowd pleasers, like the loop-pedal ‘woo-hoos’ of Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, and the Radio 2-friendly Other side of the World, but tracks like 2010s Push that knot away get a heft that had not been evident before. This band featuring Mandy Clarke on bass and Cat Myers (whose work with Honeyblood has been praised on Neonfiller before) give KT an urgency and attitude that takes the music somewhere else. Think Blondie, think The Pretenders, think nice one KT.

For reasons beyond my control I could only arrive on Saturday, so was sad to miss some bands, but it is clear Larmer Tree is a great little festival with big acts. Yes it’s one for the families, but there are some acts in there that can still be relied on to frighten the horses and the compact size of the site, easy camping, and lack of crushes is a joy to experience only a few weeks after Glastonbury.

My only wish (other than a magic credit card for all the good booze and food on offer) would for tents that don’t have posts right in front of the centre of the stage, and zero tolerance for steel prince/princess trollies that blight this beautiful place – children love festivals, strap them to you, let them run, or hold their hands and walk. People will love you for it.

Words and pictures by Matt Turner

Editors note: Friends of the site, The Jangle Brothers (who may include this editor), DJ’d a woodland silent disco set at the Larmer Tree festival on the Saturday night. They are available for weddings, discos, parties, festivals etc. etc.

Silent Disco

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Splendour Festival 2019 Review

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Splendour Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 23 July 2019 by Joe

The day started off threatening biblical downpours. It eventually turned by mid afternoon into Benidorm.

This was the latest and largest Splendour Festival during its take over of the lustrous grounds of Wollaton Hall.

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The red deer were away. The Hall closed. All that was left was to arrange a big pop party with 25,000 inebriated guests.

The Rifles brought the riffs. The Specials brought the ska. The Manic Street Preachers brought the memories.

With a full supporting cast it proved to be a grand day out. Split over two main stages and a number of smaller stages the entertainment had something for everyone. With lots of Nottingham talent on show it proved to be a big success, even showcasing some potentially very big hitters for the future.

Re Teu for example is someone to look out for. A flamboyant singer and guitarist who proved to be an early afternoon ray of sunshine. This was in The Courtyard,which used to be the old stables.

Velvet Blush

Quite what the horses would have made of the blues rock stylings of 94 Gunships is hard to gauge. The band were great but my tip for the top were Nottingham’s Velvet Blush  – playing some fantastic dirty rock n roll and fronted by a vocalist with a sweet voice and an equally sweet white guitar.

With hints of 1990s grunge it was hardly surprising that when we spoke to them afterwards we discovered they were big fans of Sonic Youth and The Breeders. I wanted to tell them I had seen both but they probably weren’t even born when I did.

A rush over to the Confetti stage saw The Rifles dishing out some retro mod rock. Better by far was ex Fine Young Cannables vocalist Roland Gift. He’s still the posessor of one of the most distinctive voices in pop and it was great to hear a live version of the old Elvis hit, Suspicious Minds.

IMG_9896 (2)

Now who doesn’t love a bit of anthemic ? The Splendour in Nottingham day’s fix came from Slow Readers Club. Think Editors , Simple Minds, New Order and you’re nearly there. I Saw Ghosts was the highlight of an extremely enjoyable and energising set.

Some brilliantly observed comedy from Roger Monkhouse on the Splendour Festival comedy stage was followed by more insanity on the Fringe Stage with a half an hour in the company of Mrs Green, who is basically a bloke with a beard dressed up as your gran (and on acid) singing cover versions. Not exactly cutting edge but we loved him.

Mrs Green

Mrs Green

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man was extremly popular and delivered a robust Splendour Festival set but it was the sensational double header of The Specials and Manic Street Preachers, both welcomed like gods, that really hit the spot.

Rag 'n' Bone Man

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

Saffiyah Khan you might remember taking on the EDL. She came on half way through at Splendour Festival and whilst the band played some mighty dub sounds she walked into the huge crowd, talking all the time, a lot of people seemed bemused by this act, I though it was like some kind of living art installation, it was brave but extremely tense at the same time.

The Specials paced their set very nicely, refusing too pander to the audiences need to hear their biggest hits as soon as they hit the stage.  We got a more restrained flow of tunes such as Man at C and Stereotypes, Nightclub, A message to you Rudy and an immense  version of The Lunatics Have Taken over the Asylum (Boris are you listening?), then a rush to the finish line with timeless classics Gangsters and Much Too young.

The Specials

The Specials

As for the Manic Street Preachers, what can you say? Welsh national treasures who from critically lambasted begingings have now become part of our much loved rock furniture. They punched a hole  in the festival with some proper full on rock and roll. I never thought I’d ever hear You Love Us live ever again. How wrong I was. It was both rip and roaring. Richy would have been proud.

Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers

So watch out for Velvet Blush, My Pet Fauxes and fresh from his Glastonbury appearance local artist Rob Green.

Sadly we missed All Saints at Splendour Festival, as  I was on my hands and knees looking for my lost beer tokens. It was the best day out at Wollaton Park since I stole a deer last year. (I’m joking…it was a giraffe)

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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New Order – Bristol Harbourside (July 18, 2019)

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New Order – Bristol Harbourside (July 18, 2019)

Posted on 19 July 2019 by Joe

New Order frontman Bernard Sumner was in unusually chatty mood during his band’s 17-track long set in the stunning settings of Bristol harbourside.

Flanked by the surprisingly pictureque crescent of the Lloyds Banking Group offices to one side and the river Avon on the other,  Sumner thanked ‘Bristol’, mentioned that the weather is great. He also laughed that the next in this this open air series of gigs was going to ‘piss down’ tomorrow, and, well, actually that’s pretty much it. But for him on stage that’s pretty chatty.

New Order 1

New Order are almost the full orginal line up these days. Sumner with his precision perfect riffs. There’s drummer Stephen Morris , part drumming android, part human, and keyboardist and pop heart of the band Gillian Gilbert.

There’s no Peter Hook of course, who back catalogues New Order and their predecessor group Joy Division with his own band these days. But could New Order be better for his departure?

The tracks from their most recent, Hook-less, album Music Complete are indeed superb, as good as their ’80s hey-day. Also with a ‘normal’ bassist live it allows the tracks to come alive and not bogged down by too many intricate five strong bass melodies.

Tuttle Frutti, Restless, Plastic and Singularity were the four Music Complete tracks that were seamlessly part of their mainly greatest hits set.

This also included a mammoth five Joy Division tracks, to the delight of the very many 50-plus men in Unknown Pleasures t-shirts present.

Sumner always seemed a reluctant frontman in New Order’s early days as the band emerged from Joy Division following the suicide of frontman Ian Curtis.

New Order 2

Here though he seemed to revel in New Order’s tribute to these great, late-1970s tracks.

She’s Lost Control, Shadowplay and Transmission early on in the set were beautiful, especially to hear Sumner and Morris recereating note for note and beat for beat the originals. The added keyboards filled it out well too.

The next Joy Division wave came at the end with two tracks from Closer, Decades and Love Will Tear Us Apart. The latter is actually now a festival sized sing-a-long of a track these days.

In between the old and new it was time for New Order’s top tracks to shine. Bizarre Love Triable, True Faith, Perfect Kiss, Blue Monday and Temptation were particularly good. Listening to a crowd ‘wooh-wooh’-ing and get the wrong eye colour sing-a-longs in Temptation was among many highlights.

Meanwhile Your Silent Face was, like the Joy Division covers, was a surprise treat.

Without Hook there’s no Elegia or Age of Consent, two highlights from the last time I saw them live, at the Reading Festival in 1989. But did it really matter? Watching them embrace their Joy Division past so readily, churn out their hits and showcase their fine recent work was more than enough.

A special mention also goes to the two blokes in the Lloyds offices watching in awe from their prime view, only to stop when another man came to talk to them. At least they got to enjoy most of the set.

By Joe Lepper

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Tallinn Music Week 2019 Review

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Tallinn Music Week 2019 Review

Posted on 18 July 2019 by Marc Argent

We love Estonia and we love going back to it’s capital Tallinn for a dip in to the Baltic music scene. This year was our third consecutive visit to Tallinn Music Week and once again we’ve unearthed some muscial gems for your consideration.

Anna Kaneelina

Anna Kaneelina

Anna Kaneelina

Tallinn-based singer-songwriter Anna Pärnoja’s (wife of Neon Filler favourite Erki Pärnoja) unique brand of resonating pop was possibly the biggest surprise highlight of Tallin Music Week 2019, where she mesemerised crowds at the F-Hoone Muust Saal on the Saturday night. Her bewitching vocals coupled with expansive and dark soundscapes are reminiscent of the Florence Welch, PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi. We struggled to get in to the tiny venue but managed to enjoy the entire show side of stage as her spellbinding show captivated the room. We were also treated to an appearance from her husband Erki on guitars which added some wonderful new layers to her live show.

Molchat Doma

Molchat Doma

Molchat Doma

Molchat Doma frontman Yegor Shkutko has a touch of the (Future Islands) Samuel T. Herring’s about him and with his band sounding like a combination of Joy Division and Depeche Mode you can start to imagine their live show. A unique Post-soviet punk band from Belarus their music reeks of 80s punk with a darker edge that borders on industrial. Their minimalist drum machines and unsettling electronica gave the crowd in Kivi Paber Kaarid restaurant an unforgettable taste of a punk era that seems almost long forgotten.

Alex Kelman

Alex Kelman

Ever get that feeling when you first hear a piece of music and somehow it feels like you’ve been enjoying it all your life? You think it must be a cover of some old favourite and then you realise it’s brand new but somehow comfortingly familiar. Well Alex Kelman had us at ‘Rain’. Perhaps it’s the swirling, jangling ‘New Order-eque’ guitars or the beautiful female vocal lines that do it. Little known Siberian Alex Kelman performed twice at Tallinn Music Week 2019 and we were lucky enough to catch his warm up show at the Puant Bookshop where he performed Rain, alongside some of his new material comprising a wonderful blend of synths, guitar and captivating guest vocals.

Duo ruut

Duo Ruut are one of Estonia’s hottest prospects of 2019, after winning the 2018 Noorteband (Youth Band) competition last November. This win propelled the folk duo to a sea of festival bookings for 2019, the first being at this year’s Tallinn Music Week (TMW).

We first saw them playing in a telephone shop (yes this is the kind of venue you get at Tallin Music Week). The thing that first struck us was the beautifully symbiotic relationship between the female duo, as one carried the instrument they play (the Kannel – you might have to google this one) in to the venue and the other tuned it.

When it came to the time to perform they sat facing one another (like inuit throat singers). The large instrument across both their laps. They proceeded to both play the instrument at once, by a variety of plucking, using a drumstick, bow, and patting (Ben Howard styley). Instrumentally on its own this would be beautiful and innovative folk, but when the mesmerising vocals were added it left us enchanted.

The last song in their Tallinn Music Week set was “Tuule sõnad”, which means words of the wind perfectly encapsulated, not only them, but Estonia as a nation. A love of the past, traditions, culture, but also the innovativeness of the country, it’s people and hope for the future.

Puulup

The venue (Leila Bar) looked as if it hadn’t changed since the 1990’s, and the clientele upon our arrival, the same. As the hipsters, who normally proceeded to follow the festivals every step, were suddenly met by grandma’s enjoying a relaxing afternoon cup of tea.

When the two middle aged gentlemen (who make up Puulup) hit the stage you could be forgiven for thinking the clientele would match the music that was about to come, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

The duo, once dressed like a hasidic jew on his way home from the synagogue and the other not too dissimilar to Keith Harris, defined their style as Zombie folk. And, you can’t disagree when their songs included a love song about a wind turbine.

When you imagine that this was topped of with accompanying dance moves, you can understand why they were the first band of the weekend we saw (and on day three) that a crowd actively demanded an encore from.

Tautumeitas

Imagine the Corrs, but there are half a dozen of them, and there is no Jim in sight. And you will already have a good idea of the group. Not only visually were they as mesmerising as the Corrs in their traditional Latvian costumes, but musically too. Each playing one or more instruments (don’t worry, these included the violin).

The six women could well be likened to sirens that have attracted many sailors to their deaths over the centuries. And when singing the song Tautumeitas (yes the same as their name), which means a woman of marriageable age, it would have been very easy to have been drawn into their spell. And, we certainly were 😉

Words and pictures by Marc Argent.

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Joan as police woman – Nottingham Glee Club, 27 June 2019

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Joan as police woman – Nottingham Glee Club, 27 June 2019

Posted on 03 July 2019 by John Haylock

Thankfully it appears that Joan as police woman aka Joan Wasser, is finally getting the attention of the wider public. Long overdue it is too.

She currently has a career spanning three album compilation out at the moment called, very cleverly,  Joananthology.

Joan as a police woman

Joan as police woman

For over two decades this talented artist has beguiled listeners with a series of beautifully crafted albums. She creates songs with astute lyrics and often insidiously catchy tunes. Also she’s a contemporary soul singer with more attitude than you can shake an old Al Green shaped stick at.

Last year we caught her at the Greenman Festival where she shone like a small star in the Welsh drizzle. But tonight we’re in Nottingham’s lovely Glee Club for an intimate solo show.

Rollercoaster of a career

Joan as police woman has had a rollercoaster of a career. She started playing violin and piano for The Dambuilders, Black Beetle and Those Bastard Souls.

In addition, she found herself circulating in exalted musical circles with such luminaries as Jeff Buckley, Anthony and the Johnsons, Elliot Smith, Rufus Wainwright, Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse, David Sylvian and a list of artists as long as the long black dress she was wearing tonight. She went solo in 2004 and hasn’t looked back since.

Tonight we get an emotional, riveting and often visceral solo performance.

She takes to the stage after fire alarms had inadvertently been set off by presumably the storm front of dry ice that wouldn’t have been out of place at a Metallica gig.

To loud applause she silently takes her seat at a grand piano and dives straight into my absolute favourite song of hers, To be lonely, it just destroys me –  a love song so sad that you know from that mournful melody it will probably end in heartache, and man, there’s a lot of heartache in the room tonight, most of it coming from the stage.

How can she follow that ? With ease and aplomb, she continues with an entrancing and sublime Wonderful.

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There is still no acknowledgement of the audience, but eventually as she makes her way to her pink Telecaster and is more forthcoming. A humble soul of few words she lets the music do the talking.

So she gracefully flits between piano and guitar, which she plays with tenderness and ease. We get What a World, Human Condition, The Magic and one of the best covers I’ve ever heard – Kiss by Prince. It’s just amazing how she turns this classic into a lyrically ambiguous sexy mantra.

There was lovely touch as she came on for the encore. Tom Rose, her label manager and all round good guy, is a massive Forest fan and seeing as though this was his hometown he had customised a red and white Forest top which Joan came back on wearing. On the back it read Joan APW and underneath was the number eight. Now quite what the eight signified I don’t know, but I like to think it refers to the eight million people who will no doubt go to see her next year. Make sure you’re one of them .

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Glastonbury Festival 2019 – Small Stages Review

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Glastonbury Festival 2019 – Small Stages Review

Posted on 02 July 2019 by Joe

This year’s Glastonbury Festival was all about the sunshine. With no rain or mud the site was full of smiles. Getting about from stage to stage was far simpler. This gave us a good chance to investigate the small stages, that are often away from the glare of the television cameras. They also feature some of the event’s up and coming stars and established acts alike.

Here’s some of our highlights:

William’s Green Stage

Once again this small venue excelled at promoting new and emerging acts, with Amyl and Sniffers, from Australia among the best. Performing on the Friday, lead singer Any Taylor was almost upstaged by the mullets of the rest of the band. Not quite though as she snarled through tracks such as Cup of Destiny. Three minute punk pop songs across the board meant their set flew by.

Amyl and the Sniffers

Amyl and the Sniffers

Speaking of snarling through tracks, Irish punk quintet Fontaines DC were busy at the event with gigs at various venues. We were lucky to catch their fiery show at William’s Green which showed they have ready made Festival favourites already, despite being one of the event’s newest acts. Too Real and Boys in the Better Land in particular sounded great. Worth noting that in lead singer Grian Chatten they have a great frontman who patrols the stage frantically, with more than a note of Joy Division’s late great Ian Curtis about him. It was like he was in another place at times – a very angry place indeed.

Fontaines DC

Fontaines DC

Snapped Ankles are another new act to offer a surprising Festival highlight show. Looking like Hall and Oats in the wilderness, dressed as trees and forest creatures they looked the part. The music of frantic dance rock appealed too. In terms of stage prescence they nailed it.

Snapped Ankles

Snapped Ankles

Special mention goes to Sundara Karma who I last saw in the larger John Peel stage during a fairly lacklustre set. Here they were harder, faster and better. A treat for the small crowd assembled.

Sundara Karma at William's Green

Sundara Karma at William’s Green

Avalon Stage

Tucked away near the south-east corner of the festival site is the Avalon Stage, which offered up some impressive sets from festival regulars and those making a return. Steeleye Span were among those we saw, with a mix of original and new members, churning out a back catalogue of fine folk rock, especially Alison Gross, about witches.

Steeleye Span

Steeleye Span

Our highlight was Morcheeba, who were playing for the first time at the Glastonbury Festival since 2003. Often seen as the lesser cousin of the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead they should surely be seen alongside such trip hop greats, with our favourite set of the festival. Hits from Big Calm were the crowd’s favourites, as was an impressive version of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance.

Morcheeba

Morcheeba

The Acoustic Stage

Another venue primed for the wandering music fan is the Acoustic Stage. It features one of the best acoustics at the site and an eclectic line up with the likes of Hawkwind and Keane on stage. Here we’ll mention a couple of our favourites, with Grace Petrie putting in a great performance elevated over the years from some of the site’s smallest venues to the luxury if the Acoustic Stage. She’s a self confessed protest singer and like Billy Bragg she combines songs of politics well with other themes of love and growing up. Black Tie, her ode to her teenage self, was among many highlights.

Gracie Petrie

Grace Petrie

Rodney Brannigan had a great band in tow for his bluesy rock set but it was his solo meanderings featuring instrumentals played on not one, but two guitars that most impressed. The secret is in the sustain.

Rodney Brannigan

Rodney Brannigan

The John Peel Stage

This is as big as this review will get stage wise. Our highlights included an early Saturday afternoon set from Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition winner of 2016 She Drew the Gun. Since scooping the top prize they have used the accolade well, building up their sound and stage prescence. Now complete with backing vocals and light show they get better each time we see them, with tracks from latest release particularly suited to a larger venue. Their version of the Beloved’s Sweet Harmony becoming a steady crowd favourite too.

She Drew the Gun

She Drew the Gun

Low’s light show at this year’s Glastonbury Festival also impressed as the US trio performed their brand of slowcore alternative rock splendidly. While they make good use of feedback the sweet vocals of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are what makes them so mesmerising live.

Low

Low

Its worth noting that the first two bands each day at the John Peel Stage are filmed by local film students, which was among the snippets of behind the scenes festival news we heard during the event.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2019 Finals

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2019 Finals

Posted on 29 April 2019 by Dorian

After a two-year gap to let the fields and staff re-energise, Glastonbury Festival is stretching its legs and travelling its unhurried route towards the end of June. The Pyramid stage is clad; resale tickets have sold out (in the customary few minutes);  and the live finals of  the Emerging Talent Competition has awarded its £5,000 PRS Foundation grant and its coveted main stage slot at arguably the world’s most famous music festival.

Roma Palace

Roma Palace

The Emerging Talent line-up is always diverse and rarely puts a foot wrong providing great performances.  The variety makes getting into the judges heads tricky, but if there is a trend in recent years we have seen more MCs in the final, without any yet breaking through to win top spot.

Like the last event, in 2017, when Josh Barry’s vocal performance enticed the judges’ ears, this year they went for another stand-out singer. However the judges: Michael and Emily Eavis, representatives from the PRS, Glastonbury’s seasoned bookers, plus BBC Radio’s Huw Stephens – favoured a more melodic voice this time around, with Marie White clinching enough votes to take top spot with her two bitter-sweet compositions.

Aided by songs that suited the slightly subdued crowd that comes with an early start, Marie coped well with being first up. Tracey Chapman comparisons were made as part of her introduction, and her performance was authentic and moving. The tone and delivery of the second song ‘Out of time’ bears comparison with one of Adele’s tales of heartache and longing.

My personal on-the-night favourites were LIINES and Che Lingo. LIINES are in the middle of supporting Sleaford Mods, and are surely making fans with their challenging post-punk bursts. Extra points to them for rocking the “double-black Gene Vincent for the new millennium” look.  Che LIngo didn’t disappoint, he was charismatic and confidently owned that stage. At times he picked up the baton that Dizzy Rascal dropped a while back, and “Same Energy” had attitude to spare and unexpected layers that touched on A Tribe Called Quest.

The two representatives from the West Country are both well equipped to fill bigger venues. Iiola followed Marie White with another powerful vocal performance. The song ‘Sickly Sweet’ has a chorus to stick in the head and got the crowd bobbing; whilst Bristol’s Swimming Girls – the first band to fill the stage – added some polish and indie pop/rock to the night. They have some Simple Minds pomp and singer / bassist Vanessa has a distinctive delivery, a healthy sneer, and a hint of Ciccone. Clearly experienced and gig-ready, their sound is waiting for an anthem to take hold.

Whilst remaining totally unbiased, the first Neon Filler pick to make it through the final – Roma Palace – did themselves enormous credit. Their infectious guitar-led indie had echoes of Blossoms early outings, and entwined influences from beyond the shores of their current Brighton home.

Everyone is a winner on a night like this so Yamaya and Shunaji – get honourable mentions for their respective afrobeat fusion and jazz-influenced hip-hop outings. Both these acts chose to showcase just one song in their sets which left me, and possibly the judges, wanting to hear more to get a more rounded view of their repertoire.

Another good night to see some of the musical talent from across the nation and I for one will look up at least four of the acts at the main festival in June. Still no Hip Hop / MC winner though, but Flohio from the 2017 final is proving that just getting to the final can be enough to herald a growing career.

Words and pictures by Matt Turner

For more information about the competition and live final click here.

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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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