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Laura Gibson and friends – Leicester Musician (August 26, 2017)

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Laura Gibson and friends – Leicester Musician (August 26, 2017)

Posted on 29 August 2017 by John Haylock

There are many notable Gibsons.

Guy Gibson the second world war dambusters hero, Debbie Gibson the 1980s American pop starlet, the cherry red Gibson SG guitar as popularised by Tony Mcphee once of early seventies power trio The Groundhogs and there’s also William Gibson visionary science fiction author.

Here’s another for the list, Laura Gibson, a singer-songwriter of considerable talent.

Laura Gibson

Laura Gibson

This Gibson hails from way out west in Oregon and now fresh from last weekend’s appearance at The Greenman Festival she is in the small convivial confines of the Leicester Musician – a great little boozer and the place where we saw a devastating set years ago from John Grant with Midlake before the accolades and awards.

Laura is now signed to groovy hip label City Slang and she’s on her third album. The latest is called Empire Builder, which references her journey on a train of that name and is sadly not a searing indictment of colonial Britain in the 1800s.

The album itself contains some beautifully executed accompaniments. But tonight she is performing solo. Just her with an acoustic guitar, some wine and a hushed crowd sitting at candle lit tables. It’s all very atmospheric, apart from me rustling a packet of Mini- Cheddars every five minutes (sorry Laura).

The album is played almost in its entirety and in the same running order. On the second number she delightfully apologises for repeatedly using the word damn in Damn sure! As if anyone in Leicester would be offended!

Not Harmless, the title track, The Search for Dark Lake and The Last One whizz by in a blur of concise and absolute beauty.

Two Kids is so catchy and upbeat you could almost see it as a chartbound single.

When Five and Thirty makes an appearance I automatically elevate this gig to one of the best of the year. The dictionary definition of ‘pure’ goes as follows…flawless, perfect, genuine, authentic, undiluted, real and actual. Gibson’s vocals elicit all these emotions.

She even drops in a John Prine cover Everyone Wants To Feel Like You, which was sublime.

As for Louis, well you could have heard a pin drop (or a mini Cheddar ).

Supporting tonight were Les Hayden, a long-haired lad who looked not unlike a young Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree and sporting a Slayer t shirt. He played all his own compositions, and very nice they were to. The best one, Witches, contained the oft neglected word “apex” which won him over in my eyes.

We also enjoyed Melanie Page from just up the road, Loughborough. Playing some lovely guitar with flamenco flourishes and singing her lovely songs with a kind of Joni Mitchell phrasing. It was all jolly good stuff and both are recommended listening.

Tell Laura I love her.

Words by John Haylock and picture by Arthur Hughes

For more information about Laura Gibson, visit here website here.

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The Flaming Lips and Friends – Birmingham 02 Academy (Aug 12, 2017)

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The Flaming Lips and Friends – Birmingham 02 Academy (Aug 12, 2017)

Posted on 14 August 2017 by John Haylock

It has been at least two months since my last dispatch from the Flaming Lips tour, so this latest review is well overdue!

On that occasion it was a mad night in Manchester, tonight a visit to the not very car friendly Birmingham (whose city motto appears to be ‘road closed’) is called for.

The astrological signs were perfect.

Virgo was in Uranus, there was a lunatic in the Whitehouse and it was the height of the hemorrhoids meteor shower. The conditions were ripe for some psychedelic shenanigans with The Flaming Lips.

Bearded Jesus lookalike and all round groovy guy, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, is treated like the messiah.

“We love you,” shout the faithful as he prepares the band for orbital insertion. The stage is set for another acid pantomime – where’s the evil giant pink robot? He’s behind you!

The keyboard intro for the opening number, Race for the Prize, now surpasses the five minute mark as it builds the tension. We space cadets are ready and primed then BAM! The academy explodes into a multi coloured explosion of light and confetti as this track kicks off the gig in a blitz of ecstatic sing-a-long joy.

IMG_6179

For the next ninety minutes we scream like teenage girls at a Beatles gig. We laugh at the budget unicorn as it makes its wobbly way around the crowd, Wayne astride it laughing and singing.

Wayne gets in the inflatable hamster ball for a cover of Bowies Space Oddity. Two giant eyeballs on legs go-go dance either side of the stage and we sing happy birthday to a girl called May. I then witness J Wilgoose from Public Service Broadcasting hanging off the balcony laughing and shouting down at Coyne on the unicorn.

I look around and a girl who has never seen them before is grinning from ear to ear, a complete stranger kisses me during A Spoonful Weighs A Ton, and How? from the new album reduces me to an air punching crying lunatic.

Wayne Coyne

Wayne Coyne

It’s all in a days work for these guys. But every time it’s special and unique – an almost spiritual occasion and the camaraderie at a Flaming Lips gig is like nothing I have ever witnessed.

You will leave with new Facebook friends, a camera full of wonderful memories and a feeling of optimism that verges on the obscene.

Then they do Do You Realize. As the massed happy throng sing this desolate yet beautiful song at the top of their knackered voices the band send out telepathic vibes of universal love to send us on our way. They then disappear back to whatever planet they come from.

The Flaming Lips ‘ support tonight came from Amber Run (don’t worry, not the Home Secretary Amber Rudd), who are a Nottingham band of fine distinction.

They play epic rock tunes that would make Springsteen jealous and have a frontman in Joe Keough who looks like Neil Young circa Tonight’s the Night. He sings like a fucked up angel and is quite the best vocalist I’ve heard for ages.

Their tunes are memorable and the execution riveting.

At one point Joe mentions they were on the point of packing it all in, seeing no money and no girls they contemplated calling it a day but judging by the crowds vociferous and appreciative reaction this should be considered a criminal act.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

As for Public Service Broadcasting, what can you say about a band who have been into space, piloted a Spitfire climbed a mountain and now descended into a Welsh mine. The band is now fleshed out with an extra guitarist and three guys on brass, one of whom thinks he’s in the James Brown band.

They look like teachers in a 1970s school staff room, All suits and ties, but they really rock. With a simple but effective back projection of images and cracking, albeit difficult to pigeonhole, tunes they are a must see/must hear innovative live experience.

Right, now how do we get back on the M6?

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Glastonbury Festival 2017

Glastonbury Festival 2017

Posted on 27 June 2017 by Joe

Last year’s Glastonbury Festival was typified by Brexit fears and mud, lots and lots of mud. It was draining at times, both physically and mentally.

Thankfully, this time around it was a different story, with a post general election sense of hope replacing despair and lovely dry grass replacing ankle deep sludge.

Glastonbury 2017 feel good factor

Glastonbury Festival 2017 feel good factor

Already some, including  Glastonbury Festival organiser Emily Eavis, are referring to it as the best  yet. We are inclined to agree, especially as there seemed to be more going on this year too, to add to the good mood and weather.

New areas had popped up, including Cineramageddon, a Johnny Depp approved post apocalyptic drive-in cinema. Another was the punk and hardcore metal focused Truth Stage, defiantly nestled in the dance area, Shangri-La.

Surprise and high quality guest slots also sprang up, with Elbow taking The Park stage by storm on Friday evening and The Killers doing likewise on Sunday afternoon at the John Peel Stage.

Jeremy Corbyn Sand Sculpture

It was also the year of Jeremy Corbyn, with the Labour leader attracting one of the Pyramid Stage’s biggest ever crowds, while reciting Percy Shelley (yes, this all actually happened). His face was on masks and t-shirts and even a sand sculpture with the veteran campaigner astride a giant fox, ready to give chase to Theresa May through a field of wheat.

Here we take a look back at some of the best acts we saw at some of the site’s many venues.

As with all our Glastonbury reviews, we focus more heavily on the smaller stages away from the main television coverage.

William’s Green

Our favourite venue on was on top form, once again showcasing quality emerging talent, including those destined for larger stages in future years.

Las Kellies

Las Kellies

Among the William’s Green highlights were a Friday afternoon set from Argentinian trio Las Kellies, who sound like a garage punk version of seminal Athens band Pylon, backing their distorted riffs with smart, danceable bass lines and rhythms, on tracks such as Mind Your Own Business.

On just after were The Pictish Trail, aka Johnny Lynch from the Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides. Here with full band, this plump, bearded glitter faced singer excelled as a frontman, with his psychedelic, euphoric pop pulling in the crowds.

The Pictish Trail

The Pictish Trail

Dutch Uncles were another highpoint of the William’s Green line up and proving to be the best party band in the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport. Here to showcase their latest album Big Balloon, lead singer Duncan Wallis is a joy to watch, with his frantic dancing and soulful vocals.

Dutch Uncles

Dutch Uncles

The Big Moon, a critically acclaimed quartet on Saturday’s bill already sound and look too big for Williams Green. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on The Park, John Peel or even the Other Stage next time. Here they rattled through a strong set of tracks from their debut album Love in the 4th Dimension, which was released in April.

The Big Moon

The Big Moon

The last time we saw Thurston Moore perform, he  was one grumpy git. It was at an ATP Festival in Minehead after the release of his solo album Demolished Thoughts and he spent the whole set complaining about the sound and looking miserable.

Whether it was the sunshine, lack of mud, or Corbyn himself, but at this year’s Glastonbury Festival the former Sonic Youth man was in fine fettle. Making up for lost time he has plenty of stage bantz these days and smiled throughout, through his trademark long hair. Another factor in his good mood may be the fast paced incendiary content of his new album Rock n Roll Consciousness, which sounded great live.

Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman

We managed to grab a couple more William’s Green acts on the Sunday, both equally impressive. Sub Pop artist Marika Hackman from Hampshire has an excellent album out this year, called I’m Not Your Man, which veers between grunge, folk and pop.

Live though she was far more on the grunge side, but with the voice of an angel. It was an enticing combination that provided yet another high point on this stage. A definite star of the future.

The Veils

The Veils

The Veils have been going for around 16 years. Why have we never seen them live before?  Their programme billing of ‘a savage collision of Bowie, Nick Cave and Nine Inch Nails’, is spot on, with frontman Finn Andrews definitely of the Cave school of impassioned down and dirty tales of horror. It is no surprise that Andrews features in the new series of Twin Peaks. A Lynchian act that seems criminally underrated.

The Park

The Park seemed to have significantly upped its game this year. Situated up the hill near the iconic Glastonbury Festival sign it can struggle to pull the crowds.

Not so this year.

As well as Elbow’s good natured and heart warming surprise set the venue also hosted what may have been the festival’s best stage headliner – The Flaming Lips.

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

With a Glastonbury Festival friendly set of hits, most notably those from their peak pop album Yoshimi and the Pink Robots (2002), frontman Wayne Coyne was on exceptional form. Like a psychedelic faerie prince he relied on his full repertoir of showmanship – blasting the crowd with explosions of glitter and balloons, rolling around in a giant ball across the crowd and even riding a giant unicorn at one point.

Those that shunned Radiohead on the Pyramid Stage at the same time to catch this set were richly rewarded.

Hamilton Leithauser

Hamilton Leithauser

Hamilton Leithauser’s massive voice, and I mean properly massive voice, was another high point in the Park’s line up. Showcasing tracks from his impressive latest album I Had A Dream That You Were Mine, which was recorded with former Vampire Weekender Rostram, he dazzled in the Friday afternoon sun, delivering a fine set of shouty lullabies to perfection.

1,000 Times and The Bride’s Dad, about a determined father inviting himself to his estranged daughter’s wedding, were among the highlights.

John Peel Stage

The John Peel Stage had sort of lost its way over the last couple of years for us. The acts seemed to increasingly veer away from the Peel ethos of being interesting, to more a venue for acts that  produce a sort of bland power-ballad indie rock.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

This year’s Glastonbury Festival though it seemed that a bit more effort had been made to mix that up a bit with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard providing one of its high points.

Peel – the early 1970s Peel at any rate – would surely approve as with a psychedelic backdrop the hardworking Australian act rattled through their extensive back catalogue, that includes an incredible 11 albums since forming six years ago.

Highpoints were the Nanogon Infinity segment, with Gamma Knife and People Vultures sounding excellent. Complete with lead singer Stu McaKenzie gurning and guitar noodling a plenty they also impressed with a fantastic finish featuring The River, a highpoint from their jazz influenced 2015 album Quarters.

Appearing on the same Sunday afternoon were Sundara Karma, a posh bunch of ex-public school boys from Berkshire who use smart riffs and hooks to ensure they avoid accusations of being bland.

While they safely avoid blandness musically they did provide the lamest call to arms in the history of rock, when lead singer Oscar Pollack said – “If you don’t like something, say something about it, but in a nice way.”  I’m guessing he wasn’t part of the debating society back at the posh knob Oratory School where they met.

Real Estate

Real Estate

Real Estate also took to the stage on The Sunday and impressed us with their neat guitar interplay and REM like songs. They are a band that are far better live than on record, where they can sound a little lifeless, so it was great to catch their set.

The Acoustic Stage

Another favourite venue of ours at the Glastonbury Festival is the Acoustic Stage, a huge tent covered in giant red drapes and with one of the best sound teams on site. The crowd is a little older than the rest of the site, many of the acts are too, but it’s a great place to see some legends as well as new up and coming folk and roots acts.

Among the stalwarts were Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who rattled through a Squeeze greatest hits set with aplomb. Their vocal harmonies, (Chris the low one, Glenn on high notes), is one of the best in popular music. Glenn’s guitar skills, here on acoustic and clean Fender Telecaster are also astonishing- intricate but never showy. Hearing Up the Junction in this format was a particular treat.

Difford and Tilbrook

Difford and Tilbrook

The Magic Numbers were another that graced the Acoustic Stage well, showcasing tracks from their forthcoming album on the Sunda as well as playing the crowd pleasers through their career and finishing on a sublime cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.

The Truth Stage

The Dead Kennedys may be without their original singer, Jello Biafra. But it doesn’t matter these days as, on the evidence of their Saturday night headline slot at The Trust Stage, in frontman Ron Skip Greer they have a superb replacement. He’s theatrical like Biafra, full of political swagger, but doesn’t impersonate him. Grear is his own man and the Dead Kennedys legacy is in good hands.

The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys

The rest though is the same, with drummer DH Peligro, who has been with the band since 1981, original bassist Klaus Floride and original guitarist East Bay Ray, all performing like it was back when they started.

To hear Ray’s abrasive surf riffs in person was a joy for us old punk fans. But it wasn’t just fogies like us there – what was great was how many young people were watching them. It was a joy to see how their music – which is as apt now in an age of Trump and May as it was in the Reagan/Thatcher era – chimes with a new generation.

The Other and Pyramid Stages

A sign of a good Glastonbury Festival for us is that we enjoy the smaller stages and larger ones alike. Among the Other Stage highpoints were The Pretenders cobweb busting opening set on late Friday morning. Unlike the dire rock dirge and shouty hoarse vocal performance of their contemporaries Blondie in this slot a few years back The Pretenders were superb.

The Pretenders

The Pretenders

Not only are their new tracks pretty good, especially the title track of 2016’s Alone, but Hynde’s voice is pitch perfect. In addition the band were true to their roots, with Martin Chambers ,who joined in 1978, on drums and their guitarist and bassist sounding as near as they could to the late James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon. Mystery Achievement, a lesser known track from their first album, was among many highlights.

British Sea Power were another good booking for the Other Stage, complete with dancing bears.

British Sea Power

British Sea Power

Meanwhile, on the Pyramid Stage Barry Gibb‘s Bee Gees catalogue provided the perfect soundtrack to a sunny Sunday afternoon, complete with flashmob disco dancing security staff. The veteran seemed genuinely amazed and touched to receive such acclaim. If anyone was at this gig and hated it then they must be dead inside. Heartwarming.

The National almost, just almost provided gig of the weekend, with lead singer Matt Berninger doing his best to mirror Nick Cave’s incredible Glastonbury Festival Pyramid performance of a few years back.

While The National’s was a powerful and passionate set of a headliner of the future, the passion and angst  seemed a little forced in places, especially the oh-so deliberately visible wine swigging and snipes at the band members from Berninger, in particular aimed at Bryce Dessner, who he accused of having too much camera attention.

Is their friction real or put on? Either way it didn’t help their performance. Having said that Fake Empire, from their album Boxer, and the tracks from High Violet sounded superb.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Top Ten Glastonbury Festival Gigs (2011-2016)

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Top Ten Glastonbury Festival Gigs (2011-2016)

Posted on 19 June 2017 by Joe

With five Glastonbury Festivals, from 2011 to 2016, under our belt we decided to have a look back at some of our favourite gigs over that time. Feel free to mention your favourite Glastonbury performance in the comment section below or let us know if you also saw any of these acts.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Pyramid Stage 2013

Cave and co were scheduled before trustafarian folksters Mumford and Sons on the Pyramid Stage. The Bad Seeds promptly took ownership of the iconic main stage and presented the waistcoat wearing fops with one of the festival’s greatest ever ‘follow that, arseholes’ sets.

Resplendent in silk black suit and paisley shirt Cave provided a master class in how to perform at a festival. Each soft moment perfectly placed among the dangerous, violent lyrics and tales of murder that Cave has excelled at throughout his career. The brooding epic Jubilee Street became an instant live favourite, as were older classics such as Mercy Seat and a spellbinding encore of Red Right Hand.

The real highpoint though was Stagger Lee, as Cave embarked on one of two attempts to crowd surf/schmooze. As he screamed at those he made contact with about all the things he was going to do to poor Billy Dilly in the song suddenly this pre-Raphaelite looking women appeared. She kept resolute eye contact with Cave throughout as he ended up singing directly to her. This kind of thing is cheesy when someone like Bono does it, but not when Cave gives it a go. As far as I’m aware the U2 singer has never looked into an audience member’s eyes, held her hands and screamed “I’m going to fuck Billy Dilly up his motherfucking ass.”

Billy Bragg

Leftfield Stage 2016

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg, Glastonbury 2016

I often go to Bragg’s regular Friday night set at this stage that he helps curate but this set, just hours after the shocking Brexit vote outcome was announced, was by far the best.

The crowd’s roar after hits like Milkman of Human Kindness and Sexuality was “just what I needed”, he said, after the day’s testing events. We needed it too. Even Bragg admitted towards the end that this had been one of his best ever gigs and certainly it was the busiest I’ve ever seen the Leftfield in five years as a regular.

There Is A Power In A Union sing-a-long was intense with its added topicality and New England was dutifully rousing. Activism was duly recharged.

St Vincent

Park Stage, 2014

St Vincent

St Vincent, Glastonbury 2016

St Vincent provided one of the most astounding show of 2014’s event. Dressed in gold and black she moved around the stage like a android doll who has just discovered rebellion. Coordinated dancing, theatrics and two of the most insane crowd surfing moments I’ve witnessed were incredible on their own and that’s without mentioning the superb music and her sensational guitar playing.

Your Lips Are Red and a tender version of Prince Johnny were among many highlights of an incredible masterclass in performance and music.

John Grant

John Peel Stage 2016

John Grant

John Grant, Glastonbury 2016

Poor John had flu but this somehow made his performance at the John Peel stage better, with the crowd urged to sing-along and wave their arms around to keep him going. He has come along way as a performer since I last saw him at Glastonbury at the Park Stage in 2014 and he is now a proper diva, albeit one in a country and western shirt and a massive beard.

Queen of Denmark, Greatest Mother Fucker were highlights but Glacier blew the whole gig apart with its emotional brilliance.

Pentangle

Acoustic Stage 2011

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

Pentangle, Glastonbury 2011

Reformed for this special gig at the Acoustic stage, folk super group Pentangle excelled during a set that  featured the full original line up of guitarists Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, singer Jacqui McShee, drummer Terry Cox and bassist Danny Thompson. For a folk fan like me this was a very special occasion.

Even though they’d barely rehearsed together the old magic was still there. Watching Renbourn weave his intricate guitar playing around Jansch’s riffs and Thompson and Cox’s jazz folk rhythms was one of my favourite musical moments at the 2011 festival. They seemed delighted to be there as they swept though tracks such as ‘Hunting Song’, ‘Bruton Town’, ‘House Carpenter’ and ‘Cruel Sister’. This was an experience to cherish.

Tragically it was also the last chance to see Jansch, who sadly passed away just two months later. Renbourne is also no longer with us and the loss of these two pioneers of British folk music makes this chance to have seen them even more special.

Ron Sexsmith

Acoustic Stage 2015

Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith, Glastonbury 2015

Ron Sexsmith appeared in 2015 to celebrate two decades of music, but up until his engaging set his music had completely evaded me somehow. Through a career spanning set, including Strawberry Blonde and There’s a Rhythm to the more recent Getaway Car, he had me hooked. For a week later I was still humming these tracks, that I had only heard once – that’s how good a song writer he is.

La Femme

William’s Green Stage 2015

La Femme

La Femme, Glastonbury 2015

Another sensational performance at the 2015 event was Parisian eccentric surf-dance-you name it-pop act La Femme. At their William’s Green set there was crowd surfing, crazy dancing and wonderful banter. This is a fun party band who were on top form as they showcased tracks from their just released debut album Psycho Tropical Brazil.

Wilko Johnson

Acoustic Stage 2015

Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson, Glastonbury 2015

Like a crazed bird Johnson made a mockery of the cancer that the previous year threatened to take his life, as he weaved around stage, machine gun-chording the audience with his trademark Fender telecaster. He and his regular bassist Norman Watt-Roy are a sheer joy to watch.

Franz Ferdinand and Sparks

John Peel Stage 2015

FFS

FFS, Glastonbury 2015

For my final act of Glastonbury 2015 I ventured over to the half full John Peel Stage to see Franz Ferdinand with Sparks, who were competing with the Chemical Brothers and The Who. This didn’t stop them putting on one of this year’s best sets as they ripped through each other’s hits and showcased their remarkable and fun joint album from 2015.

Highlights included Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael’s endearing acting during the splendidly ironic Collaborations Don’t Work. Top moment though was the surprise sight of Ron Mael emerging from behind his keyboard to laugh and dance for a quick 30 second mesmerising burst of pop history. Not bad dancing skills for a man for whom John Lennon once said “bloody hell, its Hitler on TV.

Ok Go

John Peel Stage 2011

Ok Go

Ok Go, Glastonbury 2011

I love a band that makes a bit of an effort and Ok Go certainly do that. Known for their inventive videos this US pop rock are equally impressive live. With each member dressed in a bright coloured suit,  I was left impressed with both their showmanship and song writing.

Squeeze are the nearest comparison as OK Go  as put in for me the performance of the 2011 festival, featuring great versions of ‘Here it Goes Again’ (the one with the treadmill video) as well as ‘This Too Shall Pass’ and ‘Sky Scrapers’ from their then most recent album Of The Blue Colour of the Sky. It was a masterclass in audience engagement too, with a member of the crowd joining them on guitar duty.

Words and photos by Joe Lepper

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Download Festival – Donington Park (June 2017)

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Download Festival – Donington Park (June 2017)

Posted on 13 June 2017 by Joe

The gods of Valhalla spoke to us in a fevered dream. Come to the 15th annual Download Festival they said (formally Monsters of rock) the spiritual home of denim, leather and very loud guitars.

Bring beer, Ginsters pasties and Ibuprofen, they added, and follow signs for the Highway to Hell (it’s just off the A453).

Dr Who has been a bit crap lately so how could we refuse?

Download

Breakfasting to the good news that May and her Tory shower had gotten a good mauling the previous evening we made ready for our first foray into the arena of METAL.

First to impress at Download Festival were Sabaton who delivered a great set in what was turning out to be a hot sunny afternoon. Yes, I said sunny, surely this can’t be right? There should be rain or at least some annoying drizzle, but no, the sun had indeed got his hat on (and his ear protectors in).

Mastodon increased the noize and ground out a bone crunching mix of progtastic metal at industrial levels of volume, mainly showcasing their new opus Emperor of Sand.

As an aside, the introduction a few years ago of gentlemen’s wee wee blocks is a great help when you’re consuming your bodyweight in ale. But the sight of some enterprising ladies trying to use them because they couldn’t wait to queue for the ladies was quite surreal, some actually managing this feat with varying degrees of damp success.

Meanwhile back on the Download Festival stages, in the Dogtooth tent were God Damn, who invited us to smash into each other with gay abandon. Do try to do this at least once in your life readers as it’s big, clever and character building. Trying to stay vertical as men built slightly larger than Hodor take great delight in trying to kill you was different to say the least, and something I think Suzanne Vega should perhaps encourage on her next tour.

Airbourne

After more beer it was back to the Download Festival main stage for Five Finger Death Punch, a tremendous set that drew a great reception from the horde.

Elsewhere, there was a fellah who does the best pie and chips on Earth situated OVER THERE.

Back to the music and Good Charlotte have a huge following of kids who sing every song, word for word. Still crap though.

More relevant and arse kicking were Prophets of Rage, who at one point paid tribute to their recently fallen comrade Chris Cornell.

To take the weight off our battered feet we watched some wrestling, choreographed fakery that never the less inspires cries of “kill him kill him” from the family oriented audience. We duly picked up some tips there that were to come in handy sooner than we imagined.

Headliners System Of A Down were incredible, despite the sound being a little harsh at first before settling into the comforting recoil of an artillery barrage. The band had the horde going batshit and by now it was hard to resist and we gradually got sucked into the maelstrom.

Accepting an invite from some drunken squaddies ,whilst ignoring the advice given by Bill Bryson about drunk soldiers reviewer Timo found himself at ground-zero mentalist mosh pit central. We never expected to see him alive ever again as he launched into the foray, pausing only to adjust his glasses in his sporran just as Chop Suey started.

We all roared along with its passionate chorus, Timo meanwhile disappeared from sight as his kilt and bollocks went skyward.

If you’ve never been in a mosh pit cauldron its probably safe to say it’s no country for old men, it’s as near as you’ll get to medieval combat as possible without donning chain mail and sporting a warhammer.

It was like a battle in Game of Thrones but with cups of piss instead of flaming arrows. Next year I vow we’re going to Cropedy, it’s safer and dryer. Timo was eventually found by the way in one piece.

Download Festival on the Saturday was by general consensus the weakest day, although Rob Zombie proved to be immense fun. Biffy Clyro though are not headline material, I have to admit we were in a minority on this.

A day of chips, beer, looking at cheap metal related tat on stalls, run by middle aged wife swappers and wannabe Alan Sugars smoking tiny spliffs followed. We also made friends with European heavy metal fans with very little command of the English language (a lot like us really).

Anathema

Anathema

Still no biblical deluge as Sunday rises from the strewn bedclothes of hangover hell, so we meander over to watch the tremendously intense Anathema, who just get better and better.

They are such an underrated band who in the space of ten years have gone from dirty sludge rock to an aero dynamically atmospheric and genuinely moving rock band. How can you not love a band whose first utterance on stage is ‘fuck the Tories’?

It was an afternoon of in your face intensity what with Ministry, Sweden’s Opeth, Clutch and finally the legendary Slayer – who are a force of nature, a tsunami of brutality, a volcano of hate, the Marmite of metal.

What can you say about Steel Panther?

Adult content, spinal tap poodle rock pastiche merchants should cover it. They were so funny, but so not PC, they have one track minds and are all the better for it. Not for the easily offended so we won’t go into graphic detail as some of the ladies might get giddy or faint.

Aerosmith obviously drew the biggest crowd, and considering they are all about three hundred years old still give good rock action. Frontman Steven Tyler now looks like a melted spitting image puppet but the ladeez in the crowd seemed to be quite enamoured with him (or his bank balance) nevertheless.

This was billed as their last ever UK appearance and they went down an absolute storm as they tore through a glittering back catalogue of geriatric Stones copyist rock-lite in a blur of scarves, bangles, painted nails and skin tightening techniques.

Love in an Elevator, Janie’s Got a Gun, a nice nod to their blues influences with a cover of Peter Green’s classic Oh Well, all with Joe Perry firing off some tasty riffage throughout.

Two hours of hits and near misses, Walk this Way, Let the Music do the Talking, Dream On and of course Dude Looks like a Lady. Phew.

This year featured a hugely improved site layout, security personnel with a sense of humour and more inflatable cocks than I care to remember.

Rock on Download Festival , rock on.

Words by John Haylock and Timo Griffin, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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Michael Rother – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (April 25, 2017)

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Michael Rother – Nottingham Rescue Rooms (April 25, 2017)

Posted on 27 April 2017 by John Haylock

Together with the late Klaus Dinger ( 1946-2008 ), Michael Rother was one half of one of the most influential German rock groups Neu!.

I use the words rock and group in their loosest most flexible definition. Guitars and drums were involved but used in such a way as to severely undermine the strict confines of normality and indeed the listeners’ reality.

Prior to this Michael Rother and Dinger were briefly members of a formative Kraftwerk, that’s one hell of a CV… and it’s only 1974.

Michael Rother

Michael Rother

Under the guise of Neu! the duo utilised primitive electronica and studio experimentation to create puzzling and often exhilarating vistas of new sound. Together with fellow German musicians Can, these intrepid explorers put a landmine under pop and created a new uneasy listening. Their combined influential shadow still looms over much of contemporary music – a remarkable unintended consequence of music created over four decades ago.

Post Neu! Michael also involved himself with equally adventurous fellows, Harmonia, Cluster Brian Eno and Conny Plank and since then a regular feed of solo works, reflecting a more melodic side and latterly many eagerly consumed tour dates – one of which was at the fabulous Greenman Festival last August. His set there proved to be a belter. I should know, half my brain is still there.

Hence the anticipation levels on seeing him again were rather high. Certainly not looking his advanced years Rother is a self-effacing, grinning presence behind his silver laptop, commanding proceedings with  precision, his trademark treated guitar soaring above pulsating, pre-generated programmed rhythms.

The band comprise of an additional guitarist, the youngster of the trio, Franz Bargmann, and a most amazing drummer, Hanse Lampe, whose stamina and sheer devotion to the beating heart of this music is mesmeric. When they all kick in you can’t help but be swallowed up by the hypnotic swathes of joyous beats, especially when synced to the grainy multi-coloured slightly surreal imagery on the back projection.

In a ninety minute all instrumental set they rarely slowed down the pace. It was all busy busy.

Standouts were Watussi from the first Harmonia album and Flammende herzen from his debut solo album in 1977 , which Michael explained was only the second time they had played this one live.

Of course no one would have let him out of the building unless he played the two classic Neu! tracks Hallogallo and the incredible Negativland,which were duly nailed to perfection. Those motorik beats just pummeled the senses into submission. At one point ,after a particularly strenuous guitar solo, Rother screams ‘I’ve got blisters on my fingers’!

An absolutely tremendous evening of electronica from a visionary musician.

by John Haylock

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2017 Finals

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2017 Finals

Posted on 25 April 2017 by Joe

Each year at the live finals for the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition particular themes emerge, which give a good indicator into the current thinking of festival bookers and music journalists.

At last year’s event attitude proved the winning theme, with She Drew the Gun’s ability to speak to a generation of young people earning the top prize, of a £5,000 PRS Foundation talent development grant and a main stage slot.

The previous year it was melody that shone through, being delivered by teenager Declan McKenna, whose track Brazil has arguably never been bettered in the competition’s history for sheer pop savvyness. Within months he was signed by Columbia and will be appearing at this year’s festival, for the third time in his fledgling career.

This year it was all about singing talent with all eight acts showcasing top vocal gymnastics.

Josh Barry

Josh Barry

In the end the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition judges, including Michael and Emily Eavis, Glastonbury stage bookers and music business professionals, went for the act with the biggest voice of them all, Josh Barry, a soul singer from London who has been a stalwart of the underground dance scene for a number of years and once even auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent.

His was an incredibly passionate live performance and on a night of tonsil based excellence his victory was inevitable. He will own whichever main stage he is allocated and make good use of his £5,000 PRS prize.

Young Yizzy

Young Yizzy

In terms of unearthing original talent,  Young Yizzy and Flohio were worthy runners up. These London based young MCs are already gathering critical acclaim and the teenage Young Yizzy is one of the UK’s emerging grime stars. He was a close second to Barry in terms of working a crowd, with a stage invasion at the end of his two track set a highlight of the night.

Flohio oozed star appeal and like She Drew the Gun, took the mantle of spokesperson for a generation. As a website focused mainly on indie and alternative guitar music the charismatic Flohio took me out of my comfort zone and I loved every minute of it.

Flohio

Flohio

Both Flohio and Young Yizzy scooped £2,500 PRS Foundation grants to help further their careers, which on this evidence, will go from strength to strength.

It sounds patronising and clichéd to say that all eight finalists; also including Lucas & King, Lilith Ai, Silences, WOWH and TYNI, were winners. But as all gain a slot somewhere on the festival bill and have garnered some excellent publicity from reaching the last eight, they have in no way lost out.

As a long list judge for the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition, and regular attendee at these finals, I’m looking forward to the next emerging theme. Although I’ll have to wait two years, as the festival takes a year’s break next year to let the grass at Worthy Farm recover.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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

Visit our Facebook page to see more pictures from the live final.

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Tallinn Music Week 2017 Review

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Tallinn Music Week 2017 Review

Posted on 21 April 2017 by Marc Argent

Earlier this month we dropped by  Tallinn Music Week, the annual event held in venues across the Estonian capital. Here we showcase some of the standout acts and other highlights from this annual event, which is now in its ninth year.

The Standout Acts

 

Dagamba

Latvian power strings quartet Dagamba topped the bill in the Old Town Cinema on Saturday night, during Tallinn Music Week. Taking to the stage several minutes late during an impeccably precise festival, the band cranked up the anticipation and feverish excitement in the audience, before blasting straight into their unique take on classical and contemporary music.

Dagamba

Performing tracks like Prokofiev the Knightrider and a gloriously energised version of the Game Of Thrones theme, Dagamba proved again how to win over new fans and delight existing ones.

Albert af Ekenstam

From hardcore rock bands to instrumental groups and writing songs for others performers Albert af Eckenstam has finally found his rightful place in the music industry. Performing his melancholic songs in a warmup solo performance at Apollo bookstore during Tallinn Music Week, Albert had the support of a full band for his evening show.

Albert Af Ekenstam

Both sets wonderfully showcased his beautifully crafted lyrics, and heartfelt vocals as he continues to build on the deserved success of debut album Ashes.

Erki Pärnoja

Estonia’s very own Erki Pärnoja quite rightly performed more times than anyone else than we cared to notice at this year’s Tallinn Music Week. We managed to catch two of his enthralling instrumental shows which showcased his new LP Efterglow. Erki’s band brought the magic of Efterglow to life on the stage, with it’s undulating soundscapes that sound like the soundtrack to an Estonian Western movie.

Erki

If you’ve ever wondered what a Mogwai, Fleet Foxes and Other Lives supergroup might sound like, then Erki Pärnoja might just be your cup of tea.

Moddi

Norwegian singer and activist Moddi performed songs from his latest album ‘Unsongs’, which is an exploration of banned songs from around the world. Your first instinct would be to think this is restricted to oppressive regimes, but this is not always the case.

Moddi

For example, among his set was a beautiful interpretation of Kate Bush’s Army Dreamers, which was banned by the BBC in 1991 as it was considered inappropriate during the original Gulf War. His final song Oh My Father, I am Joseph was the exception, although brought to court three times for blasphemy, courts in Lebanon cleared the original performer each time. The story and song brought some in the crowd to tears.

Other highlights

 

Mick Pedaja

They say music is special when it takes you to another place. Be it a beautiful summer day or the Mongolian steppe. Mick Pedaja is something different. Songs like Valgeks seem to channel the voice of mother earth herself. His music gives the forests, lakes, bogs and seas a musical voice. When we caught him at Tallinn Music Week his voice was truly breath taking.

Barlast

From the beautiful setting of the Russian Theatre we were blessed to listen to Finnish instrumental group Barlast. In parts it felt like we were at a grand 18th century dance in keeping with the setting. In others such as song Cs-137 we descended to a much darker place more in keeping with a Scorsese thriller.

Úlfur Úlfur

The Adidas clad Icelandic rap duo certainly know how to engage an audience that has no idea what they are saying and can barely see them.

On performing in the botanical gardens palm tree greenhouse they said “It was very moisty. We couldn’t see the crowd. It felt like we were performing to the trees.”

Flamingods

Flamingods are the musical equivalent of the children’s show the magic roundabout. Not only do the exceptionally talented musicians move around the stage swapping instruments with each other (even mid song). Their music and presence gives off that psychedelic 70’s Woodstock vibe.

Flamingods

Special Mentions

 

Siv Jakobsen

Norwegian singer songwriter Siv Jakobsen’s beautifully crafted melancholic songs are like a loving hug for the soul. Her and pianist Einar’s obsession with Britney Spears provided a touch of fun to proceedings too.

Tcheka

Tcheka is one of those artists whose music makes the sun shine and brings warmth even on the coldest of days. With snow and sub-zero temperatures outside he was certainly in the right place.

The Notes

Imagine the trio of embarrassing young reprobrates from Channel 4’s Inbetweeners with musical talent and you would be 90% of the way to describing Estonian three-piece group The Notes. Their perfect harmonies and catchy melodies are noteworthy indeed.

Abirdwhale

A special mention also goes to Abirdwhale (AKA Masato Kakinoki) from Japan. His self made system for creating one-off improvised audiovisual performances might just be one of the most memorable live shows of the entire week

Words by Marc Argent and Mark Taylor.  All photos courtesy of Reti Kokk photography and Tallinn Music Week

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Tallinn Music Week Preview (March 27 – April 2, 2017)

Tallinn Music Week Preview (March 27 – April 2, 2017)

Posted on 22 March 2017 by Marc Argent

We are taking a detour east for our next festival review when we drop by to visit Tallinn Music Week, the annual event held in venues across the Estonian capital.

Now in it’s ninth year, TMW offers a mixture of established artists and emerging talent from Europe and beyond. Here’s a look at five of the acts we are particularly looking forward to seeing.

C Duncan

C Duncan

Mercury nominated Christopher Duncan has already made great strides since his 2015 debut album Architect. We are looking forward to finding out how his lush lo-fi bedroom recordings sound in Tallinn’s Hall of Cauldrons – stripped down piano performance or full ensemble? We shall see.

HOPING TO HEAR: Say

Albert af Ekenstam

Albert af Ekenstam

Swedish singer songwriter Albert af Ekenstam will no doubt pull in the crowds for two performances during TMW. If you were describing his sound to a stranger you’d probably name-drop M.Ward, Mark Kozelek, Bon Iver and Phosphorescent. Fans of Estonian indie favourites Ewert and the Two Dragons will be out in force, hoping Albert will perform Falling, which was co-written by the Swedish singer and features on their album Good Man Down.

HOPING TO HEAR: Walking

DAGAMBA

DAGAMBA

Latvian band DAGAMBA will be making the short trip north to Estonia to blow away audiences with their unique ‘power strings’ performance. Classical instrumentation clashes beautifully with rock, pop and world music.  Discovering DAGAMBA is like discovering you have a third ear.

HOPING TO HEAR: Prokofiev the Knightrider

Flamingods

Flamingods

Flamingods are a five-piece multi-instrumental band from Bahrain and the UK. Their live shows are reknowned for their experimentation and exploration, encompassing a variety of world music styles and cultures. One of their two performances will be at Tallinn’s busy central shopping centre Viru Keskus, where we hope to witness the place come to a standstill and attempt to identify some of the instruments on show.

HOPING TO HEAR: Anya

Mart Avi

c7c44020-f3d9-11e6-9bd5-9ddd5f21d931

There’s no shortage of exciting new Estonian artists at TMW with over 100 homegrown artists performing during the event. Mart Avi’s experimental electronica has already received critical acclaim in his homeland, with his third album sandwiched in second place between David Bowie and Nick Cave releases in last year’s Eesti Ekspress albums of the year. The album Rogue Wave is expected to be showcased on the opening night of Tallinn Music Week. Avi’s eery baritone voice will provide the focal point to Eno-esque soundscapes filled with chopped up samples, horns and droning sirens.

HOPING TO HEAR: Seasons have changed

For more information about Tallinn Music Week visit their website here.

Preview by Marc Argent

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The Oysters 3 – Glee Club, Nottingham (March 12, 2017)

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The Oysters 3 – Glee Club, Nottingham (March 12, 2017)

Posted on 14 March 2017 by Joe

Here is a scary statistic – the Oysterband will be forty this year.

I know, astonishing isn’t it? Our favourite left leaning folk rock band (apart from The Fairports obviously) have been on the scene for four decades.

In that time their line up has remained relatively stable. You’ll not find any Fall like weekly line up shakeups with this band. Yes, they’ve had their fair share of collaborators and fellow folky royalty drop in along the way. June Tabor and Eliza Carthy to name but two.

But always at the core are the crucial three of John Jones, Ian Telfer and Alan Prosser as well as Ray ‘Chopper’ Cooper and Dil Davies, who for this tour are otherwise engaged.

oysters

Their setlist is a rich brew of old and new.

There’s tracks from their earliest days, such as When I’m Up I Can’t Get Down, We Could Leave Right Now and All The Way For This, from the albums Holy Bandits and Deserters, which took the crowd back to the heady days of an emerging and very exciting Cooking Vinyl label.

Then their more recent forays into the minefield of contemporary folk also get an airing, with I Built This House, Uncommercial Song and a corking performance of The Wilderness, in which John Jones’ singing was immense.

The songs in tonight’s show are punctuated by anecdotes, reminiscences, jokes and general banter as the trio take it in turn to chat informally to the audience and offer insights and thoughts regarding each number.

The collective musicianship on display is a joy to behold as Jones’ rich and resonant vocals wring out every ounce of passion on tracks like A River Runs Through and especially on Kay Sutcliffe’s Coal Not Dole, which features the lyrics:

There’ll always be a happy hour

for those with money, jobs and power

they’ll never realise the hurt

they cause to men they treat like dirt

With those incisive and sadly still applicable lines it silences the room. We take a breath, then the whole thing segues perfectly into an incredible Another Quiet Night in England. It was spine chilling in its delivery and execution.

Prosser’s superb fretboard skills are abundant and regularly sublime. He is such an underrated guitarist and as for Telfer’s beautifully evocative violin, he is an undoubted master of his chosen instrument, making it seem an effortless task to evoke such haunting sounds. We almost forgive him for those trousers (red checked bondage trousers, i’ll say no more)

Collectively they all come together to create an acoustically immersive toe tapping time.

Hal An Tow, Diamonds On The Water and Where The World Divides also feature in their repertoire of fantastic songs being played tonight.

With that corny gimmick of a tune you can whistle to and a big sing-a-long chorus, I’m so glad I went tonight. I had forgotten what an absolute bloody joy these guys are live. No matter what permutation of line up they choose to put on the pitch they are a constant Premier League side.

I hope you appreciate how I didn’t mention A Day Trip to Bangor? Oops.

Words by John Haylock, picture by Arthur Hughes.

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