Archive | June, 2017

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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Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark

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Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark

Posted on 22 June 2017 by Sarah Robertson

After an agonising three-year wait, Royal Blood’s second album How did we get so dark has finally launched with pundits predicting it will grab the number one spot in the official album charts this Friday.

It was August 2014 when the Brighton duo exploded onto the UK music scene with their self-titled debut album also topping the charts, the fastest selling rock album for three years.

And how long the agony but how great the ecstasy of reassurance that this band is at the mere dawn of their (hopefully) extremely well-deserved long career.

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This ten track 35-minute album blasts off with the shattering power of an intergalactic rocket. A series of stripped-down anthems move swiftly into a suite of catchy melodic tracks, reminding us that Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher are masters of the instruments that normally sit towards the back of the stage – drums and bass.

It’s impossible to identify stand-out tracks on such a stand-out album. The more commercially appealing riffs such as How did we get so dark, Lights out and I only lie when I love you have been stacked at the beginning, but there’s no filler material here with the rest of the album combining erupting crescendos and gritty thrash, with lyrics characterised by romantic chagrin.

Royal Blood have stuck to formula with this album, which continues along similar lines to their debut and there’s clearly more than enough creative talent between these two men to carry that off with aplomb. How did we get so dark relies on quality writing and presentation alone, there’s no fancy technical studio intervention trying to make it something it isn’t. Kerr and Thatcher are a phenomenal complement to the UK-music scene and I just hope I don’t have to wait three more years for the next instalment.

Royal Blood plays the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury on Friday at 5.45pm.

By Sarah Robertson

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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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The Southern Tenant – The Horror of the Right

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The Southern Tenant – The Horror of the Right

Posted on 16 June 2017 by Joe

Those pesky left wing kids may have put the brakes on a Conservative landslide in this month’s general election but the forces of right-wing evil are not beaten yet.

Over in the US Donald Trump continues his crusade against the left, the media, Muslims and the Constitution itself.

Back in the UK the left’s party poppers are also on hold, as they await details of an arrangement being brokered between the minority Tory government and the UK’s very own Republic of Gilead – Northern Ireland’s DUP.

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With abortion laws, gay rights still at risk The Horror of the Right, an early 1980s style synth sci-fi/horror soundtrack version of Scottish folk/bluegrass act Southern Tenant Folk Union’s The Chuck Norris Project, still captures the zeitgeist well.

Before delving into the bleeps and squelches of this release let’s backtrack a little to that previous movie star theme 2015 album. Its central premise was to take the titles of right wing action star Norris’ movies to tackle issues such as the emerging alt-right, US gun laws and racism. It worked and treat and so too does this.

Since Trump was elected I’ve found myself drawn increasingly to early 1980s punk music, with that era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher encapsulated by the likes of the Dead Kennedys. This album, which evokes the gloriously ominous soundtracks of John Carpenter, can now be added to that list of retro themed reactions to the new, emerging right.

Even the title, The Horror of the Right, is a nod to that era, based on a 1981 b-movie set in the year 2020 about a world dominated by an evil business corporation intent on crippling the working classes for good.

Among highlights are the versions of The President’s Men and Delta Force, which both conjure up particularly frightening visions of a right wing takeover.

Called Southern Tenant, this synth off shoot of comprises STFU’s Pat McGarvey, along with Steve Ironside, to create a genuine sounding 1980s horror soundtrack as well as a musical backing of our current, still troubled times.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about The Horror of the Right visit here.

To hear a stream of the album visit here.

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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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Darren Hayman  – Thankful Villages Volume 2

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Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages Volume 2

Posted on 12 June 2017 by Joe

Darren Hayman ’s love letter to English rural life continues with a second volume of his Thankful Villages series.

As a reminder, a thankful village is one where all residents those who went off to fight in the First World War incredibly came back alive. There are around 50 UK wide and former Hefner man Darren Hayman has set himself the task of visiting and dedicating a track to them all.

Darren Hayman - Thankful Villages Vol 2

Some are spoken word, with the villagers themselves telling tales of war and village life. Some are instrumentals, some with a full band feel. There’s electronica, folk, pop and sometimes just the sound of creaking trees, gates bashing in the wind and birds singing.

While the first volume stuck more rigidly to the original theme of war through a focus on village churches, this second outing takes on themes of rivers, ageing and death, meaning events other than the Great War take precedence. This includes the tragedy of a 1974 factory explosion, that killed all the workers inside but miraculously no one in the local village of Flixborough. The first hand account of survivors Derek and his son is extremely powerful.

There’s also an interview with a grave recorder in Maplebeck, who has a lovely exchange with Darren Hayman where they both struggle to decipher one particularly eroded gravestone to ensure whoever lies beneath is not forgotten.

There’s a bloke doing something eccentric with vegetables on Colwinston and the shifting importance of the river to those living in Cromwell seems like a vital oral history tale demanding to be preserved.

Combined the tracks have a radio documentary feel to it rather than an album, but there’s still some decent pop here too, most notably the Ray Davies inspired ode to village life, Woodend. In addition Fairport Convention’s Judy Dyble drops by to sing on Upper Slaughter.

As a village dweller and in particular one in Somerset, which appears to be the most thankful county judging by its presence across the two volumes, this latest volume offers, in the main a faithful depiction of our life.

The keen sense of environment, of community, of religion and the changing economy over time, is all there, nestled among the churchyards and fields.

However, it can feel a little too picture postcard-like in places and comes across exclusively as a history project rather than its intended focus of using rural settings to inspire Hayman in music and other art forms.

This is particularly the case on this volume, which with a focus on ageing is understandably dominated by the voices of the elderly and discussion of the past.

Prior to an update and intervention from Darren Hayman, this review had lamented the lack of young voices so far in this Arts Council funded series.

Turns out this is all in hand with volume three set for release in 2018 and with a focus on village schools and the young.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Darren Hayman  – Thankful Villages Volume 2 click here.

UPDATE: This review has been updated to ensure we clarify that this volume is themed around death, ageing and rivers and that the young get their turn on volume three. Happy to clarify that.

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

Posted on 05 June 2017 by Dorian

Indietracks is one of the highlights of our musical calendar, and 2017 doesn’t look like it is going to buck the trend of friendly vibes, steam trains, owls and great music that we have come to expect over the years.

We have written about the festival many times in the past, so go here if you want a flavour of what to expect.

Indietracks 2017

The bands on the bill this year are the typical mix of new and old with some familiar faces alongside festival debutantes offering up a really strong line-up across the three days. The Tuts, The Wave Pictures and Endersbys Room have all been Neon Filler favourites at previous festivals, and there are dozens of acts we are less familiar with playing over the weekend.

Darren Hayman played a great set here last year and he is back again with Emma Kupa playing as the Hayman Kupa Band. Kupa is very busy over the weekend also appearing in Mammoth Penguins and Friends as well as being one of the festival organisers.

There are plenty of new bands to discover over the weekend with Luby Sparks, ME REX and Milk Crimes all having formed in the last couple of years. There are veterans playing too, with The Orchids and Milky Wimpshake adding a few years to the bill and Monkey Swallows The Universe reuniting 10 years since they last released an album.

Indietracks 2017 line up

(Clockwise) Cate Le Bon, The Tuts, The Wave Pictures, Monkey Swallows The Universe

The headliners are strong this with Martha bringing some lively North East power-pop to the stage on the Friday night, and Cate Le Bon closing the festival on the Sunday night with her distinctive “Television meets John Cale”  approach to songwriting.

It is The Wedding Present on the Saturday night that are the pick of the bunch for me, even though they are a band I get the opportunity to see in my home town several times a year. I remember picking up their debut album, George Best, 30 years ago aged just 15 and it remains one of my favourite records to this day. This is a band that, with their appearance on the legendary C86 cassette, helped to define what indie-guitar-pop was. David Gedge may be the only consistent member of the band, but his weary tales sound pretty good to this day, and their most recent release Going Going was one of their best.

Me and Gedge

Me and David Gedge in 2012

We spoke to some of the Indietracks team (Nat Hudson, Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen, Andy Hudson and Emma Kupa) to find out a bit more detail on what makes the festival tick.

Lots of festivals have come and gone over the years, with small festivals often disappearing. Indietracks is in its 11th year. What do you think is the secret to the festival’s success?

Beck: Without a doubt, I think it’s the atmosphere and community spirit. The festival has such a lovely, relaxed and friendly vibe and I’ve made so many friends there over the years. I can’t wait until July to catch up with everybody again!

Nat: I think it’s the friendly, relaxed atmosphere and the sense of community. A lot of Indietracks goers come back every year, and it’s always wonderful to see so many friendly, familiar faces as well as new ones. I also think our mix of established and up and coming bands also attracts people – Indietracks is always a good opportunity to discover your next favourite band!

The Wedding Present were my introduction to indie pop 30 years ago. What was the point that you realised your love of the music?

Beck: I was a big fan of indiepop bands before I really knew what indiepop was! I found a couple of Field Mice records in a charity shop when I was about 15 and started to realise the wonders of Fortuna Pop after getting into Bearsuit and The Aisler’s Set. I used to run a clubnight in Manchester years ago where we’d play those bands alongside stuff like Dressy Bessy, Helen Love and Hefner. I don’t think I ever really understood that all these seemingly disparate bands fitted together under the umbrella of ‘indiepop’ before I started coming to Indietracks!

Nat: Like Beck, I was a fan of indiepop before I really knew what it was! As a student I was a huge fan of Hefner, Stars of Aviation, Marine Research, Belle and Sebastian and similar bands. I moved to London in 2004, met friends who were into similar music and ended up going to the How Does It Feel To Be Loved? club night. Through that I ended up discovering lots of new and old indiepop bands and eventually became involved with Indietracks.

Jas: Although music was always a big part of my life, I first discovered ‘indiepop’ by attending DIY clubnights and gigs at University. A bunch of my friends were involved with a society called Burn the Jukebox – which encompassed a variety of genres. I was always drawn to the more indie, electro, pop end of this. After University I ended up dating someone in a band, and that has been a great way of discovering bands by attending gigs, and of course that’s how I also discovered Indietracks.

You have some new faces on the Indietracks team this year. What are they bringing to the festival?

Nat: Myself, Andy and Emma Cooper are still part of the organising team, but this year we’ve also welcomed new members Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen and Emma Kupa. They’ve been in bands and have also been involved with organising the Sweet Revenge club night in Manchester and the Cambridge indiepop all-dayer, so have loads of experience of putting on indiepop events! They’re also all regular Indietracks goers, so know the festival and are really keen to help make it the best it can possibly be. We’re so lucky they volunteered to get involved – they’ve done so much of the work this year, and have brought lots of energy and enthusiasm to the team too!

Beck: Along with Jas and Emma, I’ve been a massive fan of Indietracks for years and I think that’s a really useful perspective that we bring to the organising team. We have a good sense of what people really love most about the festival and what new ideas might work well.

If you were put on the spot and had to pick your one must watch act this year who would that be?

Emma: Frankie Cosmos

Nat: Lucky Soul

Andy: Cate Le Bon

Beck: I think I’ll have to pick one of our international bands because you never know when they’ll be back in the UK – I’m really looking forward to Luby Sparks who are travelling all the way from Japan to play for us!

Jas: It’s difficult to pick one, and I often enjoy the smaller bands the most. However, The Wave Pictures have a lot to offer – they are an incredibly versatile band with lots of talent and a large back catalogue.

Words and interview by Dorian Rogers

Indietracks is on from the 28th to the 30th July at the Midlands railway Centre in Derbyshire. Go to www.indietracks.co.uk for more details and to buy tickets.

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Amber Arcades – Cannonball

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Amber Arcades – Cannonball

Posted on 02 June 2017 by Joe

Following on from last year’s album Fading Lines, Annelotte De Graaf (aka Amber Arcades ) has released this excellent five track EP, which we were fortunate to see showcased during her support set for Grandaddy in Bristol in March.

The main draw is second track, the pop savvy It Changes, which has deservedly garnered plenty of radio play.

Amber-Arcades-Cannonball-EP

But there’s plenty more to like here, in particular the opener, a cover of Nick Drake’s Which Will, from his 1972 album Pink Moon. Here it’s given an electric guitar indiepop twist, with a smart drum backing added for good measure.

While these are the two standouts the remaining three tracks, Can’t Say That We Tried, the title track and Wouldn’t Even Know are far above mere filler status, especially the latter,  a duet with ex- The Coral man Bill Ryder-Jones.

What first drew u to De Graaf is her combination of familiar sounds, with her laid back vocals reminding me of The Concrete’s Victoria Bergsman, while the music mixes aspects of The National and a raft of shoegaze acts from the early 1990s. Put them all together though and she sounds completely unique.

Already Amber Arcades is being filed under ‘critical acclaim’ status, it won’t be long before this Heavenly Recording’s artist makes the move from support to headline slots.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

 

For more information visit Amber Arcades website.

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