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Glastonbury Festival 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

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Glastonbury Festival 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

Posted on 29 June 2015 by Joe

“Why aren’t you playing the Pyramid Stage,” shouted a heckler at Billy Bragg’s headline set at The Leftfield tent on Friday. Bragg’s response, to remind him of the event’s varied 100 plus stages, was obvious but too often forgotten by those at home watching on TV.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

In the spirit of Bragg’s comments this article will take you away from the 50,000 strong crowds of the Pyramid and Other stages to focus on those smaller venues, which this year offered a world of prog rock, punk legends, French eccentricity, young stars of the future and even Ron Mael from Sparks having a laugh and a dance.

Friday

As with last year the tented William’s Green stage continues to impress with the most eclectic and interesting line up. Opening on Friday was Declan McKenna, the winner of this year’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition. As a judge in the competition I was keen to see how this teenager, who has already garnered Radio 1 airplay, would tackle the festival crowd.

Declan McKenna

Declan McKenna

Turns out McKenna performed like an old pro, with his guitar and vocal looping allowing the tracks to build up before turning into perfect pop, in particular his best song Brazil. He even threw a beach ball into the crowd to gee up the weary Friday morning crowd as he proved he was certainly not intimidated.

Canada’s The Burning Hell sound like a cross between Camper Van Beethoven and King Missile, were full of laughs, have been going for a decade and have seven albums already. I’d never heard of them until Friday afternoon at William’s Green, where they completely won me over with tracks such as Nostalgia. How have they passed me by?

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Over at The Park stage and once again away from any TV cameras King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, the seven strong psychedelic Australian act, were putting on one of the best sets of the day. They are surely destined for larger stages on this evidence for future festivals, especially thanks to singer Stu Mackenzie tongue wagging and guitar noodling.

Heavenly Records are 25 years old this year and William’s Green snapped up their latest crop of acts for the rest of the afternoon. Hooton Tennis Club are for those that adore the likes of Teenage Fanclub, but it was Stealing Sheep who stole the show. Although their second album, which dominated their set, doesn’t have the same quality of songs as their debut this Liverpool trio’s great stage presence and sense of fun makes the tracks far better live. Roping in Dutch Uncles singer Duncan Wallis to sing with them for a track was also great to see.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep

Rain can really scupper plans at Glastonbury. It can also reveal some surprises. As I ducked for cover at the Acoustic Tent during a late afternoon shower I made a new discovery – rock ‘n’ roller JD McPherson, who was one of Rolling Stone’s artist to watch in 2012 for good reason. His was a blistering proper rock ‘n’ roll set. Speaking of which the TV cameras missed a trick in not popping by the Acoustic Stage after JD McPherson to catch the legend that is Wilko Johnson.

Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson

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

Back at the Leftfield for the end of my night Billy Bragg was doing more than putting hecklers in their place. On the day the US Supreme Coast legalised gay marriage his version of Sexuality took on an extra special meaning. He never fails to deliver as a live performer and the hits came tumbling out on his now regular Friday night Leftfield set.

Saturday

At the foot of The Park area lies the tiny Bimble Inn, which proved a great venue for emerging singer songwriters and folk artists over the weekend. Kezia, from Falmouth was among the best I saw here. It took me a while to pinpoint who she reminded me of, as I searched for female singer songwriters to compare her to. Turns out it wasn’t a woman at all, but Sufjan Stevens. She must surely be a fan, with her whispering vocals and introspective lyrics showing another hidden talent at the festival this weekend.

Kezia

Kezia

A few years back I saw Giant Sand in the giant foyer venue at one of ATP’s festivals at Mineheads Butlins. It was a poor choice of venue for Howe Gelb and co’s sultry brand of American indie rock. The blazing, and I mean proper blazing sunshine, of the dusty Park was far better. Here joined by JB Meijers and Ilse DeLange from The Common Linnets Gelb took in a perfect festival set, mixing old and new as well as slow and fast paced reminders of their trailblazing 1980s indie rock roots, including a great version of their 1985 track Tumble ‘n’ Tear to end. The TV cameras turned up for this one and rightly so.

Giant Sand

Giant Sand

On my way back over to William’s Green I passed a couple of more smaller venues with interesting acts. Just a Couple of Mums, the Sussex based, energetic feather-duster waving DJ pair were putting in a stonking set at Spike’s Bar, while at the Fluffy Rock Café youngster (and I mean youngster as in primary school age) Tom Smith, was dazzling the crowd. Often little kids can’t sing, but we smile and nod in appreciation anyway. That’s not the case with Tom, he can actually sing and play really well. One of the festival’s youngest stars.

Tom Smith

Tom Smith

Performance of the day, perhaps the weekend, was La Femme, from Paris. I already knew their eccentric surf dance pop tracks from their excellent debut album Psycho Tropical Brazil and live they are nothing short of incredible. At their William’s Green set there was crowd surfing, crazy dancing and wonderful banter. This is a fun party band and I urge you to see them if they play near year.

La Femme

La Femme

To round off my day Father John Misty was putting in a rock star performance, running into the crowd and rolling all over the stage. Passionate performance barely touches on describing how good he was.

Sunday

Ron Sexsmith is celebrating two decades of music this year. How he has evaded me all this time remains a mystery. Those that saw his Acoustic Tent afternoon were treated to a career spanning set from early tracks like Strawberry Blonde and There’s a Rhythm to the more recent Getaway Car. Crowd pleasers for fans and newbies like me alike.

Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith

Success has consistently evaded The Bevis Frond, as its mainstay and frontman Nick Saloman tells his audience. He’s at the stage now in his career where he’s just happy that people want to hear him, however small the crowd. Saloman though has every right to expect more, not only are his songs great but his guitar playing is superb. Billed as prog rock, he’s more than that after pretty much laying down the blue print for Dinosaur Jr and grunge in the 1980s. Highpoints included Saloman bringing out his electric-sitar guitar for some complex noodling mid way through.

The Bevis Frond

The Bevis Frond

Saloman and co loved every second of playing, even in front of a half full William’s Green due in part to the blazing sunshine outside. Meanwhile, The Phantom Band, who followed, looked like they’d rather be anywhere else. During a subdued performance dominated by their excellent latest album Strange Friend they looked like band going through the motions, yearning to be out in the sun with everyone else.

The Fall are both brilliant and terrible all at once. Mark E Smith shouting and mumbling over a pounding rhythm section thanks to the addition of an extra drummer in recent years. Its hypnotic and wonderful, but as ever Smith seeks to create tension, twiddling the knobs and instruments of his drone musicians, as he wanders around stage picking up random mics to shout into.

The Fall

The Fall

Nowadays Smith’s drones, including wife Eleni on keyboards, are used to this part of the act and smile through it. They say play the hits, nothing but the hits at festivals. The Fall ignore this though with their recent album dominating the set and nothing older than 2003’s Sparta FC for those craving something recognisable.

Another Manchester punk legendary act Buzzcocks are surprisingly playing at Glastonbury for the first time in their 39-year history. They have plenty of hits, and in stark contrast to The Fall play pretty much all of them as they rattle through Noise Annoys, Promises, Ever Fallen In Love and many more. Singer Pete Shelley still sounds great and although larger of build and greyer of hair still has that boyish glint in his eye.

Buzzcocks

Buzzcocks

Buzzcocks’ Guitarist Steve Diggle was in full rock star mode, and even walked on clutching a bottle of Moet. He clearly loves every minute of playing live and spent the set going through the full list of rock guitarist clichés with his foot on monitor and arm aloft after each chord. It was great though, the guy’s happy and his constant winks and smiles at the audience made you realise that underneath that rock pomposity is a lovely bloke.

For my final act of Glastonbury I ventured over to the half full John Peel Stage to see FFS, aka Franz Ferdinand with Sparks. They were competing with the Chemical Brothers and The Who after all, but this didn’t stop them putting on a great set as they ripped through each other’s hits and showcased their remarkable and fun debut album from this year.

FFS

FFS

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.”

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

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Glastonbury 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

Posted on 02 June 2015 by Joe

Shock revelation of the day – Glastonbury is so much more than the BBC coverage and the main Pyramid stage line up. So for all you Kanye West haters with tickets in your hand why not pop over to some of the event’s many and varied small stages.

We’ve had a scan through the full line up, which was released this week, and  have come up with our pick of the small stage acts. As with last year William’s Green continues to impress, especially as it hosts this year’s 25th anniversary of Heavenly Records. We also have some old punks, the best of Somerset’s local bands and one of the best indie bands around at the Leftfield.

Stealing Sheep

William’s Green, 4:30pm Friday

We first saw this Liverpool trio supporting Field Music in Bristol three years ago. They play as part of the Heavenly Records contingent, at what has become one of our favourite small venues at the Festival, and are one of the best live acts we have seen. Blending folk, indie and 1960s surf music they are not to be missed.

Declan McKenna

William’s Green, 10:45am Friday

The deserved winner of this year’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition opens proceedings at the William’s Green stage. Be sure to get up early to see why this teenager won the world’s toughest Battle of the Bands competition.

La Femme

William’s Green, 5:30pm Saturday

From France, via California, this stunning live act blend electro-pop and are another in our list to borrow from 1960s surf culture. Their 2013 album Psycho Tropical Berlin was one of our albums of the year for good reason.

The Phantom Band

William’s Green, 6pm Sunday

Their 2014 album Strange Friend was their best to date and proved why they are one of Scotland’s best bands as they merge rock and electronica effortlessly. Get there early at 5pm to see legendary prog rockers The Bevis Frond beforehand. Both great bookings for William’s Green.

Martha

Leftfeld, 6pm Friday

At Indietracks a couple of years ago Martha was the most talked about band there and for good reason. They are injecting some much needed energy into an increasingly introspective UK indie scene. Billy Bragg and co, who curate this stage, certainly know their indie music. An impressive booking.

Buzzcocks

Leftfield, 9pm Sunday

Leftfield again impresses and has bagged the legendary punk act Buzzcocks. With guitarist Steve Diggle still playing like a 17-year-old on stage and Pete Shelley’s timeless lyrics of love this looks like one not to be missed.

Nick Parker & the False Alarms and Flipron

Nick Parker and the False Alarms Avalon Café, 7:30pm Friday

Flipron, Avalon Cafe 1:30am Saturday and Bandstand 7:30pm Sunday

Nick Parker and the False Alarms

Nick Parker and the False Alarms

Two of Somerset’s best live acts are back again at Glastonbury, which once again is showing a strong commitment to promoting local talent. While Parker and crew focus on bittersweet folk rock  tales of love and life, Flipron will be showcasing their trademark brand of whirly-gig hipster new wave (note: actual genre may not exist).

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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25 Incredible Gigs (1979 – 2013)

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25 Incredible Gigs (1979 – 2013)

Posted on 09 September 2013 by Joe

What makes a great gig? We are looking to compile a list of your best ever gigs via the comment box in this article and to get you thinking our contributors have taken a stroll down memory lane to revisit some of their favourite concerts.

Flaming Lips, Greenman 2010

The Flaming Lips’ explosive Greenman 2010 set. Pic by Arthur Hughes

For some of our writers a great gig is simply being in the right place at the right time, when a band at the peak of their powers performs at a stellar venue. For others it is one of their first tastes of live music, while for others it has been seeing musical history being made. Judging by the responses from our writers going to see the The Flaming Lips, almost anywhere and at any time, is also a sure sign of a gig’s greatness.  So stand up, get your lighter and mobile phone out and settle into a feast of great gig memories. Look forward to reading about your gigs.

Joy Division, Assembly Rooms, Derby, October 1979

Joy Division were the support for The Buzzcocks and played in semi darkness, four stark immobile Mancunian stick insects. It was loud, brutal and threatening, then Ian started doing his mad dancing during She’s Lost Control; some people laughed, we hated them for laughing as for us here was something new. As Shadowplay echoed around this architectural monstrosity we looked at each other and realized punk was over, something had eaten its corpse and was spitting out blood, Ian was dying for us and nobody had noticed. (John Haylock)

Fugazi, Zap Club, Brighton, November 1989

Back in the late 1980s the now closed down Zap Club regularly booked up and coming alternative bands from the US. The legendary and superb bands I saw at this sweaty damp venue, nestled into the old fisherman’s arches on the seafront, included Mudhoney, The Lemonheads, Rollins Band, Teenage Fanclub and Hole. But for me the best of the bunch was Fugazi. I was tucked up just to the side at the front of the packed venue, half on the stage as lead singers Ian Mackaye and Guy Piciotto, together with the precision rhythm section of Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, powered the band through a remarkable set. The timing was shortly after their first EP Margin Walker had come out and before 1990’s Repeater. Breathless, exciting and superb. (Joe Lepper)

Fugazi

Fugazi

Faith No More, Reading Festival, August 1990

In many ways this wasn’t an ideal gig. Sat between Nick Cave and The Cramps on the bill Faith No More were a bit of an oddity. The 1990s were also the decade when Reading was at it’s least “Rock”, it was the most “indie” of all the festivals during this period. The sound quality was also terrible, something that Reading was often guilty of, and a bootleg cassette I picked up some years later sounded pretty terrible. But it was my first real full-on festival rock experience and it seemed pretty wonderful at the time. The band arrived on stage to billowing smoke and an orchestral soundtrack (2001 perhaps?) before launching into a breakneck version of ‘From Out of Nowhere’. They rocked, they sneered (a snatch of New Kids on the Block in the middle of ‘We Care A Lot’) and front-man Mike Patton (replete in a kilt) scaled the stage scaffold. That was how to do it, something that The Pixies failed to emulate with a phoned in headline slot on The Sunday. They clearly already wanted to call it a day. (Dorian Rogers)

Nirvana, Astoria, London, October 1990

Friends at university told me that Nirvana were the next big thing. They played me Bleach, their only album at the time, and I was quite impressed even if it did sound like a Mudhoney rip off act. Turns out my friends were right, live they were sensational and across the 19-strong set Bleach’s tracks and Cobain’s vocals were filled with a passion I hadn’t grasped before. We were also treated to two new songs, Lithium and In Bloom, both destined for their forthcoming album, 1991’s Nevermind, which catapulted them to legend status. This was one of those great, ‘I was there’ moments in music history. (Joe Lepper)

Nirvana

Nirvana

Julian Cope, The Event, Brighton, September 1995

This gig happened at a point where Cope’s popularity (he had a top 40 hit with ‘Try,Try’Try’ from his then latest album 20 Mothers)  was slightly out of kilter with his overall trajectory, having been dropped by Island a few years earlier. It may have been at the beginning of the end for Cope as a popular recording artist, but it was an exemplary live performance. Three sets were played that night involving 39 songs in total, the first being heavily drawn from his most recent albums and including a host of excellent cuts from Peggy Suicide. After this the band left the stage and Cope treated us to a set of solo acoustic numbers, chatting jovially and taking requests from the audience. And as is this wasn’t enough the band returned to the stage and treated us to a full greatest hits set featuring his best known songs both solo and with the Teardrop Explodes. Everything sounded great and at that moment he seemed like the best live performer in the world. (Dorian Rogers)

Neil Young, Phoenix Festival, Warwickshire, July 1997

After an eternity of soundchecking and with a minimum of fuss Young tore into Hey, Hey, My My. It was akin to being in the eye of a screaming tornado of sound and unbelievably it got better with Sedan Delivery, Why Do I Keep Fucking Up, Cinnamon Girl and Down by the River all having their entrails ripped open and fed through sixty thousand watts of amplification. It was guitarmageddon in a cowboy hat as he carried on, nailing acoustic versions of Sugar Mountain, Heart of Gold and Needle and the Damage Done. Forty six  bottles of Evian water later I remember encores consisting of Like a Hurricane, Dangerbird, Rockin’ in the Free World and of course Cortez the Killer. My review in a word – legend. In another – goosebumps. (John Haylock)

Oasis, Cardiff International Arena, December 1997

My first ever gig – this is where it all began. The excitement, anticipation and the immortal feeling of being 15 years old and experiencing your musical idols for the very first time. I remember hearing ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ over the loudspeaker before the large curtain at the front of the stage suddenly opened and the band launched into ‘Be Here Now.’ The volume of those guitars hit me in the chest like a sledgehammer (in the best way possible) and, with that, I was born as an Oasis fan, gig goer and music fan for life. (Scott Hammond)

The Flaming Lips – Various, 1999-2012

Bowlie Weekender, Camber Sands, April 1999 – On the main stage were Divine Comedy, on the smaller stage were The Flaming Lips. Their album Soft Bulletin had just come out and I’d only heard the name not the music before. But as soon as lead singer Wayne Coyne took to the stage, bashing away at a giant gong with his giant personality and tiny, passionate voice, I knew this was no ordinary live band and the Divine Comedy could do one. The Flaming Lips didn’t even need animal costumes and giant space balls back then to be great. (Joe Lepper)

The Flaming Lips, Greenman 2010, pic by Arthur Hughes

The Flaming Lips, Greenman 2010, pic by Arthur Hughes

Bristol Academy, January 2003 – My 18th Birthday night saw a busload of mates journey to see The Flaming Lips at the peak of their powers. Peerless pop conducted by Wayne Coyne’s all-engrossing showmanship. (Matthew Nicholson)

Greenman Festival, Wales, August 2010 -They were totally mindmeltingly awesomeballs. The grandiose epicness of the music married to the everything but the kitchen sink pyrotechnics of a stage show was so out there it would have put the big bang to shame. The power of live music to make you love this beautiful world, this, ladies and gentlemen is what it’s all about. (John Haylock)

Primavera Sound, Porto, June 2012 -I was excited when they were announced as part of the Primavera Sound festival lineup in Porto, but wasn’t prepared for the utter elation I felt seeing them live for the first time. They’re one of the best live acts ever – the colours, the spectacle, the songs – it all makes for a surreal, psychedelic explosion of music, complete with dancing girls and glitter cannons. I defy anyone to come away from a Lips gig feeling anything but on top of the world. (Patrica Turk)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Bowlie Weekender, Camber Sands, April 1999

This is my second entry from this excellent festival, which was curated by Belle and Sebastian and kick started the All Tomorrow’s Parties events. Watching Jon Spencer’s trio for the first time  made me feel like a 1950s, Tennessee teenager at an early  Elvis gig.  I’d heard of Spencer’s band, I heard the odd track on CD, but nothing could prepare me for the incredible performance of dirty rock ‘n’ roll from this incredible front man, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins. To this day the most exciting live act I’ve ever seen.  (Joe Lepper)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Radiohead, South Park, Oxford, July 2001

A wet homecoming night in which my favourite band headed a stupendous line-up (Humphrey Littleton, Sigur Ros, Supergrass, Beck) and delivered a heavyweight set of alt-rock anthems. (Matthew Nicholson)

Guided By Voices, ULU London, September 2003

This was the last time that Guided By Voices played in England, and possibly the only time that I’ll ever get to see them play. Bob Pollard’s famous hatred of travelling and their aborted ATP show in 2012 give little hope of a UK gig any time soon. Many people are stuck on the “classic” line-up of the band, but this gig featured the twin guitars of Doug Gillard and Nate Farley and they sounded pretty amazing to me. Blasting through a set that drew heavily from the then-current Earthquake Glue album we were treated to dozens of oddities and classics with fan favourites ‘Game of Pricks’, ‘I Am A Scientist’ and ‘Echos Myron’ getting a  particularly enthusiastic reception. This is a band that works hard playing a huge set (around 45 songs on this occassion) with an encore that lasted longer than some acts entire back catalogue. Legendary. (Dorian Rogers)

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices

Roger Waters, Hyde Park, London, July 2007

As with many 16 year old teenage boys, desperate for intellectual stimulation and strange sensations, I was drawn to the minimalist soundscapes and sixth form philosophy of Pink Floyd. Listening to Dark Side of the Moon while staring at the ceiling and broodily muttering about the evils of Money was heaven to a tubby pubescent teenager with few social skills and no girlfriend. Seeing Roger Waters make a rare performance of the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon at this central London park, arms wrapped around fellow Floyd Fanatics, was made all the more luscious as the moon came out and he sang the final refrains. (Conal Dougan)

Monsters of Folk, Cardiff Coal Exchange, November 2009

An intimate gig in front of a seated audience, the supergroup played for a whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes. Playing the MOF album in its entirety along with a panoply of Bright Eyes, M Ward and My Morning Jacket tunes, I couldn’t quite believe I was bearing witness to two of my all-time musical heroes (Conor Oberst and Ward) on stage in this tiny space in Cardiff Bay. Costing less than £15 a ticket and with only 300 people in attendance, I truly blessed the world for its lack of taste. (Scott Hammond)

Blur, Glastonbury Festival, July  2009

Watching a reformed band  on the heritage rock scene can offer be a sad experience. Not so when Blur decided to reform for a run of gigs that included a show stopping set at Glastonbury. They played everything you hoped they would but it was Tender that provided the real spine tingling moment and, indeed, the mass singalong. (Matthew Nicholson)

 

Pulp Brixton Academy, London, September 2011

Growing up in Australia, Pulp were a band that I thought I’d never get to see live. But then, as so many do, they reformed and toured. They’re the songs from my teenage years and seeing Jarvis up close and personal was a girlhood dream come true. Nothing compares to hearing and seeing your old-time favourites performed live and it was a terrific moment of past-and-present excitement all rolled into one. Jarvis is still my hero. I even have his face on my tea mug. I’m 30. (Patricia Turk)

Pulp

Pulp, Brixton Academy, 2011. Pic by Patricia Turk

Field Music and Stealing Sheep, The Fleece, Bristol, February 2012

Sometimes gigs are just perfect in every way from venue to support to crowd to stage banter. Field Music’s musical talent is well known on record, but live their mixture of King Crimson prog rock with the jerky pop of XTC is even more incredible. Here they were on top form, rattling out 23 tracks, from their back catalogue and to promote their then latest album Plumb.  They were funny  as well in between songs and just about the most engaging band you’ll ever see. To top it all the support act, Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, left the packed crowd at this legendary venue in awe with their blend of folk, hippy chic and surf rock. The best support act I have ever and probably will ever see. (Joe Lepper)

Field Music, The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Field Music, The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Django Django, Bestival, Isle of Wight, September 2012

The highlight of an astounding festival, featuring knock-out gigs by De La Soul, Stevie Wonder and The XX, was a small tent performance by Django Django. With the speaker volume tempered to make later headline acts more of a spectacle, the crowd was pulled ever closer to the stage to be immersed in their folktronica rhythms. The crowd joined to become a single amorphous beast, embracing each other to shift body weight and crouch for the peak of Default. Jazz fags and rum punches were merrily shared with trucker women and inebriated Glaswegians as the best weekend of my life got off to the perfect start. (Conal Dougan)

First Aid Kit, Moles, Bath, September 2012

Enjoying a pre-gig pint in a quiet pub adjacent to Moles, I suddenly saw the young Swedish sisters emerge from a neighbouring building and casually walk towards the venue completely without regard from anyone passing by. It was almost like they weren’t brilliantly talented, precocious songwriting prodigies or something. I got to the door, handed over my £10 ticket and was astonished to find that the 220 capacity venue hadn’t yet sold out. I then found my standing space just 10 feet away from  Klara, Johanna and those gorgeous vocal harmonies. (Scott Hammond)

First Aid Kit, 2012

First Aid Kit, circa 2012. Pic by Joe Lepper

Tame Impala, Primavera Festival, Barcelona, May 2013

Primavera Festival is renowned for its outstanding sound quality above its atmosphere, with main stage headline sets sounding intimate and personal. Upon arriving early on the first day, however, we really were treated to an intimate gig, with Tame Impala rehearsing their full set to only a handful of us. Frontman Kevin Parker’s remark that “we thought there would be more of you here” came just before we were escorted out by a security team, embarrassed from mistakenly letting us in early. The brilliant set they played later that night to a huge crowd, the balmy sea breeze flowing through Parker’s hair as the band waded through their psychedelic back catalogue, was made all the more magical by having seen them rehearse for our sole pleasure. (Conal Dougan)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Glastonbury Festival, June 2013

Nestled about 20 people back from the main Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2013 on a Sunday evening I was expecting to be impressed by Nick Cave but not completely blown away by his brilliance. Across his hour long set he provided a masterclass in live performance. The whole experience was made even better by his scheduling just before the Folk-lite of Mumford and Sons. Their eager young fans being beaten back verbally by Cave’s middle aged hardcore fans was great to see. The poor Mumford dears that sneaked through were left open mouthed as Cave showed them how live music should be played. And as if that wasn’t enough,  during Stagger Lee  Cave moved into the crowd and serenaded a female fan dressed entirely in white, who appeared atop a pair of shoulders like Kylie’s ghost rising out of the swamp. (Joe Lepper)

Nick Cave, crowd schmoozing at Glastonbury, 2013.

Nick Cave crowd schmoozing at Glastonbury, 2013. Pic by Joe Lepper

The National, Roundhouse, London, June 2013

When a snap show at the Roundhouse was announced I was more than prepared to spend an hour and half in an online queue to see one of my most favourite bands in one my most favourite venues. It was everything I wanted it to be. The National are a special band of super talented musicians, led by an extraordinary voice in Matt Berninger. The songs are emotional, intelligent and epic, and the gig was intense, driven, amazing. There’s nothing like being part of an audience that adores the band they’re seeing. Spectacular. (Patricia Turk)

Melody’s Echo Chamber, Greenman Festival, August 2013

Propelled by Melody Prochet’s ethereal floaty vocals, the band add crunch and added freak out, I stood there entranced like a good looking deer in the headlights of a pop car, that is until I got so carried away during Crystallized that I became a danger to passing aircraft. They swept me up in a whirling vortex of sound that I keep playing back in my mind like some antiquated reel to reel tape recorder. A week after this gig and I wanted to see them again and again, I want to go to every gig, become an uber fan, have Melody’s poster on my wall. (John Haylock)

Remember to tell us about your favourite gigs in the comment box below.

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Glastonbury Festival 2013 Preview – The Best Acts To Watch Out For

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Glastonbury Festival 2013 Preview – The Best Acts To Watch Out For

Posted on 04 June 2013 by Joe

The choice of music at the Glastonbury Festival can be bewildering: from the well known Pyramid Stage, which forms the bulk of the BBC TV coverage, to the smaller stages and bar venues.  To help out we’ve compiled our list of the key bands to watch out for, many of which have already impressed us live. It’s worth noting that the BBC Introducing tent line up had not yet been announced at the time of publishing and we urge you to check out that stage as well to find your new favourite band. It was one of our favourite locations when the festival was last held in 2011.

Dinosaur Jr

The Park Stage is shaping up to be one of our favourite line ups this year especially with indie rock veterans Dinosaur Jr making the Friday line up. Don’t expect witty stage banter from the maudlin J Mascis and the band but do expect some of the best guitar soloing and all round fret noodling you will ever hear.

Django Django

Django Django will have fond memories of Glastonbury having played the BBC Introducing Stage long before the release of their critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album in 2012. Back with a Friday evening Park Stage slot they are now highly experienced at delivering a stunning festival set with their idiosyncratic take on the notion of indie pop.

Tame Impala

They played twice at Glastonbury 2011 but mud and life conspired to ensure we missed them both times. Not this time as we will ensure we see this Australian act’s very modern take on psychedelic rock. Their Friday, Other Stage slot shows the wide appeal for their two stunning albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism.

Portishead

We champion local acts in our key areas of Brighton and the south west of England and they don’t come bigger for us than Bristol’s Portishead. Back from a hiatus in 2008 with the stunning album Third they are one of the most innovative acts in the UK and not to be missed live when they grace The Other Stage on Friday night.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg at Glastonbury Festival 2011

Billy Bragg at Glastonbury Festival 2011

At the last Glastonbury festival in 2011 Bragg was headlining and organising the Leftfield stage. He proved once again what a consummate festival act he is. Armed with just his guitar, voice and wise words he provided this reviewer with shelter from the rain and one of the highlights from the festival. He’s back again at the same venue on the Friday night, this time with a full band. As an indication of how high his star is once again rising he has also bagged a Saturday afternoon Pyramid Stage slot, where he will bring his songs about love and a politics  to a wider TV audience.

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

This year we were among the judges of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition (ETC) which was won by this north east of England  folk act. They quite simply stole the show at the finals of the competition with their haunting, stunning interpretation of English folk. Their prize is to open proceedings on Saturday at the Acoustic Stage, one of the most warm spirited venues at the festival.

Calexico


Another of our favourite acts is Arizona band Calexico, who put in a superb festival set at Pavement’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2010. Expect to be dazzled by their excellent blending of indie rock and mariachi music as they play tracks from the past and last year’s excellent album Algiers  at the Park Stage on the Saturday night.

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit at Bristol O2 Academy, 2012.

First Aid Kit at Bristol O2 Academy, 2012.

If you want stunning vocals from tiny Swedish women then look no further than sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, aka First Aid Kit. We caught their set at Bristol’s 02  Academy last year and were struck with the power of their vocal talents. Their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s America is not to be missed should it make their set. It is an indication of how far they’ve come since we first saw them in a pub in Brighton many years ago that they now have a Sunday afternoon Pyramid Stage slot.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep at The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Stealing Sheep at The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

The best support band we have ever seen. A packed Fleece in Bristol was left in awe last year when they supported Field Music. Now they headline in their own right and are firm favourites on the UK festival scene with their wholly original merging of indie folk bizarrely reimagined as a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Their Sunday afternoon slot at the Park Stage is well deserved after a busy year for this Liverpool band.

Matthew E White

Matthew E White at Thekla, Bristol, 2013

Matthew E White at Thekla, Bristol, 2013

Matthew E White skips across genres effortlessly, from gospel to funk to soul to country to rock. The eclectic West Holts is therefore the perfect venue for him to showcase tracks from his debut album Big Inner. We caught his set at Bristol’s Thekla this year and were left impressed not only with the quality of the music but his witty and engaging stage banter. Not to be missed when he takes to the stage on Sunday afternoon.

Phoenix

One of the best pop acts around. Following the success of 2009’s superb album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix they are back in 2013 with the release of Bankrupt! With a Sunday headline slot on the John Peel stage this French band will be primed to show Glastonbury how guitar pop should be played.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Pyramid Stage line up is arguably the most impressive it has been in years, offering a great mix of old and new artists. Last time we attended in 2011 we managed to avoid the stage entirely. This time we’ll be regulars at the venue with Sunday’s set by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds among those not to be missed. They and Cave in particular have still got it as a recording and live act all these years on. A true legend. Just watch the clip above and brace yourselves for amazement.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

 

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Top Ten Acts To Watch Out For In 2013

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Top Ten Acts To Watch Out For In 2013

Posted on 04 December 2012 by Joe

Each year we give our run down of ten acts that have caught our attention over the last few months and are set for bigger things in the coming year. These are artists that we’ve either seen as emerging artists at festivals or as support acts, or those that have released teasingly good singles and EPs during 2012. Some are old stagers, some are brand spanking new bands. To be boastful for a moment, we  have a pretty good track record with our lists, with the likes of Tigercats in our bands to watch out for in 2012 list  more than delivering this year with the release of their album Isle of Dogs. Tigercats also played at our Oxjam gig in October among a raft of gigs across the UK, France and Spain. Even when we mess up we just about get it right, our top act to watch out for in 2011 Django Django ended up spending most of that year in the studio, but did eventually become a huge success in 2012 to spare our blushes.

10. Owl and Mouse

Owl and Mouse, a four piece from London, fronted by Australian born songwriter Hannah Botting are self confessed lovers of “ukuleles and bittersweet pop songs”. They came to our attention on a set of free Christmas releases by Fika Records last December in which their tender track Sandwich Day was the perfect way to showcase Botting’s intimate, beautiful vocal style.

During 2013 they have plans for a UK tour during June and July and possibly some European dates too.  A split 7” picture disc single featuring their track Canvas Bags is due for release in January and you can catch them at the Hangover Lounge, at the Lexington on January 6, 2013, where they will be launching the release. An album release is also a possibility during 2013. Hannah says: “We’ve been at Soup studios with Giles (Barrett) from Tigercats and have enough material for an Album which we’re determined to release in 2013.”

Their five track EP, called EP One, is available for just £1 here. Incredible value.

9. Evans the Death

The summery indie pop spirit of the mid 1980s courses through the veins of this London band, which released their self titled debut in 2012.  Cut them and they bleed Shop Assistants and Mighty Lemon Drops. We just missed out on reviewing the album through time constraints, but are making amends now by recommending them for 2013, when they attempt to take the next step in their career by impressing the great and the good at the South By South West annual music meat fest.

Signed to Slumberland in the US and Fortuna Pop over here they already have two respected labels of the indie pop world to promote them and further their credentials as one of the UK’s most interesting new bands. Fans of Allo Darlin and Veronica Falls will find a lot to like in their music and we’ve been particularly impressed with the vocal talents of Evans the Death singer Katherine Whitaker.

8.Southern Tenant Folk Union

One of our favourites since the release of their last album Pencaitland. While broadly speaking this is a bluegrass act, they exhibit a range of influnces from soul to cinematic music to indie rock that gives them a real edge. Those that like Miserable Rich and Leisure Society will have a lot to like here and 2013 looks set to be a busy year with the release of their album ‘Hello Cold Goodbye Sun’ and a string of dates planned. This is set to be an excellent follow up to their previous album Pencaitland, which was among our highlights of 2011.

We caught their live set in Frome last year (pictured above) and urge you to go and see them when they play near you. Superb music that adds further depth to the vibrant British folk and roots scene.

To hear tracks from Hello Cold Goodbye Sun check out their soundcloud page.

7.Soccer 96

Brighton drums and keyboards duo Soccer 96 make some of the best low budget electronic music around. Powerful and catchy hooks that adorned their self titled debut album impressed us this year and during 2012 they were named as one of BBC 6 Music presenter Steve Lamacq’s ‘new favourite bands.’ They are primed for more live shows during 2013 to build on the good publicity they’ve already received during 2012.  This includes a show at The Green Door Store in their hometown in March with Can singer Damo Suzuki and members of Sons of Noel and Adrian.

They are also in the studio working with producer Dan Swift on some new tracks which, accordng to the duo,  “promises to be a real step up production wise” A second album release is pencilled in for 2013 and a  collaboration with Stereolab’s Joe Watson is also on the cards next year for the duo, who go by the pseudonyms Danalogue and Betamax to hammer home their back to basics approach to electronic music. As our review said of their debut album “The drums are heavy and the analogue synths pleasingly squelchy and bassy, with 8-bit style squeaks and beeps adding retro texture.”

6.Fever Dream

Fever dream play music you can lose yourself in. It’s what some might call showgaze, others call indie rock and they call “dark, fuzzy menacing music that blurs the line from noisy new wave to angular post punk.”

We were first introduced to them via 2011’s Vostok 5 compilation CD about space flight and since then they’ve released a self titled EP, which they will continue to promote during 2013.   They are back in the studio this month to record some new tracks. As Adey from the band tells us: “If we can scrape ten or so songs together, I’m sure we’ll call it an album.”

They played the Long Division and Land of Kings festivals during 2012 and more festival appearances during 2013 are sure to follow. Adey adds: “As we’ve only played one foreign gig so far – in a toilet, in Berlin – it would be good to spread our wings and creative juices all over the World, so if anyone fancies inviting us to play abroad we’ll jump at the chance.”

Fever Dream’s Soundcloud page can be found here.

5.Ralegh Long

This London based singer songwriter’s EP of piano ballads The Gift left us really impressed in 2012. There’s more to come in 2013 with a follow up EP planned, plus the possibility of a full band record. Heavily influenced by the likes of Bill Fay and John Howard his songwriting is full of subtleties few others can match.

Long is an emerging talent that you should keep an eye out for in the gig listing, where he tours with his band Primary 3 as well as solo, as well as the new release sections. Among our favourite of his tracks is Elizabeth from The Gift.

4. Boomgates

If you are in Australia next year we urge you to check out this Melbourne based indie supergroup Boomgates, who are oozing with DIY punk spirit, catchy indie pop hooks and fronted by one of our favourite singers, Brendan Huntley from Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Other members include Teen Archers’ Gus Lord, The Twerps’ Rick Milovanovic, Sean Gionis from Trial Kennedy and Steph Hughes, ex of Children Collide.

They’ve got a raft of gigs planned in Australia during 2013 to continue promoting the release of their 2012 debut album Double Natural and are sure to continue to pick up interest in the US, where Brendan’s stock is high after  a string of Eddy Current Suppression Ring releases on US garage punk label Goner. 2013 will also see them support Wilco during the Australian leg of their tour, which is certain to bring their ramshackle pop to a wider audience.

To here more tracks from their debut album click here.

3.Rotifer

Robert Rotifer has been knocking around the indie and alternative scenes of Europe and England for a while now and with a new album planned for 2013 we sense this will be one of his band’s most successful year’s yet. Now a three piece, Robert has assembled two of the UK’s most experienced  musicians , Death in Vegas’s Ian Button and The Television Personalities’s Mike Stone.

They were our headliner for our October Oxjam gig and have one of the best live guitar sounds around thanks to Rotifer’s playing and Button’s electronic wizardry. Their last album The Hosting Couple, which featured Darren Hayman on bass, was one of our highlights of 2011 and is worth checking out while you wait for their new album.

Rotifer’s Soundcloud page can be found here.

2.Esben and the Witch

Another Brighton band on our list, who are set to release their second album Wash the Sins Not Only The Face on indie heavyweight label Matador in January 2013, followed by a 12 day UK and Europe tour ending on Feb 26 at London’s Scala. Described by NME as “gothic not goth” they are as haunting and unsettling as that description suggests.

While their 2011 debut album received a reasonable response, from what we’ve heard of their latest release it’s set to  bring them to a far wider audience and make 2013 the busiest year yet for the band.

For more information visit their website here.

1.Stealing Sheep

This Liverpool trio with a folk surf feel somewhere between Pentangle and a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack have the accolade of being the best support band we saw all year. They quite simply  blew the crowd away when they supported Field Music on their sell out tour this year. By the end of 2012 their debut  album  Into the Diamond Sun, with great tracks such as Shut Eye, had received similarly excellent reviews and they were headlining shows in their own right.

It’s at 2013 festivals where you should particularly watch out for this band, after a run of successful festival gigs in 2012 garnered them even more attention. Great live band with a wholly original sound. A deserved number one in this list.

For more information about Stealing Sheep visit their website here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, Wales

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Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, Wales

Posted on 24 September 2012 by Joe

Festival number 6 must be one of the last large musical gatherings of a year in which the UK weather dominated and indeed ruined many like minded ventures.

To hold the inaugural Festival number 6 in Wales, which has more rain per day than Rangoon does in its monsoon season, seems like a damp and sodden suicidal  invitation to the rain dogs. Thankfully though the September weather failed to prevent the multitudes from revelling in one of year’s most gloriously surreal weekends of diverse entertainment.

First up let’s talk about the location, Portmeirion, a large sprawling fake Italian village constructed years ago, embedded on the tumbling down to the sea Welsh coastline, made famous globally as the set of cult sixties TV show The Prisoner, with its distinct  houses, towers, verandas and bandstands. It’s an inspired choice of venue for a festival as the village was taken over, the local woods turned into mini raves, the bandstands into tiny venues and the large lawns atop the village holding a huge 7,000 capacity marquee. It was magnificently and meticulously organised.

King Creosote

The line up as well was superb, leaving our jaws agape as we tripped the light fantastic with Spiritualized, got our rocks off with Primal Scream, who in middle age have turned into the leanest of  kick ass rock machines. Their track Loaded never sounded more apt as the sights at the festival went from the sublime to the ridiculous as we witnessed three ladies in twenties bathing suits swimming in a tiny, tiny pool, a semi clad fire dancer doing her stuff to a dubstepped up version of War Pigs, Stuart Maconie interviewing Simon Day, King Creosote and one of our favourite live acts Stealing Sheep stealing our hearts with their skewed sideways folk rockery.

Stealing Sheep

We dined on Brains bitter and Italian fancies, met no VIPS in the VIPs tent and stood slack jawed at the awesomeness of Oldham’s The Whip, who used lights and one of the best sound systems I’ve ever heard all to great effect. We witnessed The Wedding Presents’ David Gedge thrashing out Brassneck, poets both good and bad and…. coming to a large venue near you soon, Tony Law rocking the comedy tent.

On Saturday night I wasn’t the only one moved to tears when a large male voice choir bizarrely covered ‘Blue Monday’ and went on to dedicate ‘You’ll never walk alone’ to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster. It was absolutely incredible. New Order, themselves were also on the bill and continued to reduce grown men to tears. To put it bluntly this was simply one of the best festival I’ve ever been to as the withdrawal symptoms continue. We understand that all being well this could be a fixture in the festival calendar for another three years at least.

Rain gods you cannot defeat us. To paraphrase New Order, we were touched by the hand of god…or it could just have been Prisoner star Patrick Magoohan?

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

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