Tag Archive | "The Fall"

Bearded Theory 2017 Preview

Tags: ,

Bearded Theory 2017 Preview

Posted on 07 March 2017 by John Haylock

Bearded Theory returns to the festival calendar this year with The Fall, Seasick Steve and Madness among the acts performing.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 17.35.15

Taking place in the grounds of Catton Hall, near Burton on Trent this four day festival is staged between May 25 and 28.

Now in its tenth year the main Pallet stage features Skunk Annansie alongside Seasick Steve and Madness as headliners.

Others performing include Welsh rockers The Alarm, New Model Army and Alabama 3.

Ska legends The Selector, as well as Glasvegas also appear on this main stage,

The Fall are among the pick of the other stages. Mark E Smith’s troops perform on Saturday on The Woodland Stage.

The Fall's Mark E Smith

The Fall’s Mark E Smith, pic by Joe Lepper

The Magical Sounds stage features Megadog Soundsystem on the Friday and on Saturday Transglobal Underground will headline.

In addition, there’s a large kids’ area and a cabaret stage.

For those arriving on the opening Thursday Dreadzone and Don Letts are among those playing.

For the fifth year running we will once again be visiting the event, which last year featured an excellent set from Public Image Limited.

The year before The Buzzcocks were among many highlights.

For more information, including ticket details, visit the Bearded Theory website here.

by John Haylock

Share

Comments (0)

Green Man Festival – Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons (August 20 -23, 2015)

Tags: , , , , ,

Green Man Festival – Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons (August 20 -23, 2015)

Posted on 25 August 2015 by Joe

Heeding the advice of  The Pet Shop Boys we Go West toward beautiful Wales, the land of the chronic vowel syndrome, crap sheep jokes and where drizzle is the default weather setting. To be precise we are off to the Brecon Beacons, where the charming Green Man Festival shelters beneath the green skirted panoramic grandeur of The Black Mountain.

Now celebrating an incredible 13th year, the word is out and this annual freakfest is now one of the must go to festivals on the circuit. As ever, we worry about the weather and the possible consequences of trenchfoot, the withdrawal charges from the onsite cash machines and the possible names for our pub quiz team on the Saturday.

Mud
On previous memorable occasions at this festival I’ve seen grown men weep (well me anyway) at startling performances from the likes of Roy Harper, The Archie Bronson Outfit, Flaming Lips, Teeth of theSsea, Josh T Pearson and numerous others. This year’s line up once again boasts some of the most mouth watering and highly anticipated acts of any current festival doing the rounds in 2015.

Friday

We could go see some groovy French underground movie, or go for a ride on the big wheel, or go see a trio of Manchester students wearing Fugazi t-shirts playing Bonnie Tyler covers on instruments they’ve made themselves out of some lamb shit, three Pringle tubes and a stolen hairdryer in the Far Out tent, but instead we somewhat predictably go to the beer tasting where Pete Brown is giving an illustrated talk on  the flavours of various beers and which particular band suits that drink, it’s just an intellectual excuse for a piss up  in a big tent basically.

Bill Ryder Jones

Bill Ryder Jones

Eventually the sun tentatively pokes it’s head out from behind the clouds to see what all the fuss is about and accompanied by some fine rum we soundtrack our day with ex Coral chap Bill Ryder Jones, who takes us into some dark corners with a set of beguilingly heartfelt songs.

We hardly have time to catch our breath before Villagers mesmerise the crowd with their subtle, captivating musicianship, it’s a lesson in restraint and beauty. The tracks from the new album Darling Arithmetic proving to be every bit as good live as any of their previous offerings.

Over in the Walled Garden a small frail guy turns out to be Tom Robinson, the former post-punk rebel with a brain and possessor of a small back catalogue of singles and albums mainly from the early eighties. More recently he’s the tastefinder general on Radio 6. He and his band played a short greatest hits set, including Martin, Glad to be Gay, the lovely lost classic War Baby and obviously 2 4 6 8 motorway.

Desperately in need of a fix of scrunchy, drugged-up, fucked up British trippyness we  make  an ascent on the slight incline that leads up to the ‘it does what its says on the tin’ Far Out tent.

Villagers

Villagers

Up first a wonky performance from Leeds finest sons Hookworms, but bettered by far by a slightly underwhelming  (to start with anyway) show from Temples, hesitancy soon gave way to collective euphoria as those tracks on their debut album Sun Structures twitched into life and the monster awoke, leaving this journo duly impressed.

Afterwards a leisurely stroll, presumably on a Welsh ley line brought us to the epicentre of some serious rock action. Strand of Oaks, a four piece, two of whom looked like ex-members of Eels and the other two looked like rejects from both Metallica and Creed, but it just proved that you must never judge a band on appearance alone.

To look at them you might think it was going Iron Maiden bound, fortunately not, instead they played a blinder of a set, full of tough, bluesy riffs, and lovely lead guitar but with really honest lyrics about life, the universe and everything. Vocals courtesy of American Timothy Showalter who looks like  the soundman for  Slayer but was tremendously self effacing , polite and almost tearful at the warmth of the crowd’s response. Its difficult to catagorise them, but if you like rock songs that come from the heart and have potency, deal with  realities and with no reference to dragons or crazy chicks, you’ll love them.

Hot chips for supper, then bed. Only to be kept awake until 4 am by the drum and bass (but mostly bass) shenanigans in the next field.

Saturday

Still no rain! But my goodness what a great day for discovering new music. Hooton Tennis Club is by anybody’s standards a crap name, a proper name for a band is Amon Duul 2 or Acid Mothers Temple or One Direction. What were they thinking ? But they more than compensate for their shit name with some seriously wobbly tunes that pitch somewhere Pavement and Teenage Fanclub.

Does anybody here remember Teenage Fanclub’s Everything Flows? Hooton Tennis Club kinda like that vibe but ready to head into the ditchat any moment. Their two great closing numbers Jasper and Always Coming Back To You were top notch.

The Fall's Mark E Smith

The Fall’s Mark E Smith

A minor detour over to the talking shop marquee where The Fall’s Mark E Smith was being interviewed by a Mojo magazine writer. It proved to be both hilarious and sad, at various points he went off on one about God, Johnny Vegas and even a conspiracy about crisps. After 30 minutes of inane questions sent in by Mojo readers he was clearly getting restless and he said let’s have some questions from the audience, but before that happened he just casually got up and walked off. More of him later.

As the day drew to a close there was a flurry of limping and note taking, wherever you went great stuff was happening. On the Mountain Stage Charles Bradley turned in an extraordinary set of soul and funk based fun, coming on like some latter day James  Brown, preaching fire and brimstone and extolling the virtues of ‘Lurve’. It’s not an act I ever expected to see at Greenman, a totally off the wall booking and it was killer.

He had the tightest band since Prince was last in town and did a number called Confusion that sounded like a cross between Purple Haze and Ball of Confusion by The Temptations, it was electrifying. Praise the lord and pass the rum.

Songhoy Blues

Songhoy Blues

The far out tent then scored a hat trick of quality acts. Songhoy Blues play North African blues with an electro undercurrent and made the audience levitate with happiness. 4,000 people bouncing around a red and yellow tent off their tits on pure unadulterated joy is something once seen, never forgotten.

Then came The Fall, with Mark E Smith shambling on like a geriatric Casper from the greatest film ever made ‘Kes’, a disheveled little bloke screaming his head off into two microphones for an hour. In that time not one word is discernible but the tunes were recognisable courtesy of  the ultra tight band he’s got at the moment. Playing mainly stuff from the new album Sub Lingual Tablet, tracks such as Facebook Troll and Off to Venice With The Girls shifted along nicely, we even got White Lightning and best of all Mr Pharmacist.

It is heartening to see nineties shoegazers Slowdive finally get the recognition they deserve. Reforming in 2014 they have since garnered praise and won new fans of their dreamy, swirling miasma of sound and with Rachel Goswell’s pretty vocals to the fore and Neil Halstead’s treated guitars swooshing around your head at 1am, it’s the best thing ever. Catch the Breeze was a standout as was the final number Golden Hair, with its strobe strafing lightshow, which was not unlike a trip into the stargate in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
At 3am we were found in a bar miming along to Ce La Vie by Bewitched. But that’s our secret ok. So shut it.

Sunday

Rain made its long overdue appearance on Sunday morning. It was heavy and prolonged, a bit like my trip to the toilet. But it eventually subsided to merely ‘torrential’ (the rain that is) and by early afternoon the sun was coming out again.

Once again Mr Greenman provided much in the way of musical nourishment, ex Boo Radleys’ Martin Carr was cool but the day belonged to Meic Stevens, this unassuming elderly little guy is something of a Welsh legend. At one point he was rubbishly referred to as the ‘Welsh Bob Dylan’, as he was a highly politicised 1960s folk singer, turned on by the likes of Big Bill Broonzy and all those other blues dudes.

Meic Stevens

Meic Stevens

On he came to the stage, now aged 73, looking slightly bemused that anyone in their right mind would ask him to play at Greeman. By the third number I was welling up, under the circumstances his playing  was brilliant and his voice tremendously moving, this despite having treatment for throat cancer recently where the doctors told him that he may never talk again, never mind sing. How wrong they were. He spoke of his times hanging out with John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Donovan and even Paul Simon. His set was living history with acoustic knobs on.

You can’t go to Greenman without a visit to Einstein’s Garden, a scientific playground for the inquisitive child, curated by a motley crew of university boffins, students and doctors, who each specialise in turning science into ‘interesting’ .

Matthew E White

Matthew E White

So we popped into The Science in Star Wars  show and how it could provide answers to the Fermi paradox, which is basically the question – where are the aliens?

Thinking Matthew E White would be yet another intense, beardy man straight off the conveyor belt of tortured American artists I was preparing to go see Touch of Evil in the Cinedrome, when he did the best version of Velvet  Underground’s White Light White Heat ever.  Then he got the Deep Throat Choir on stage, all 5,879 of them to do rousing backing.

Last year Public Service Broadcasting played to 300 people in the Walled Garden this year ten times as many came to the Far Out tent to see them as they continue to ride a wave of well deserved popularity. Wigglesworth and co have fleshed out their duo status to ‘band’, and it  works really nicely. They effortlessly weave the old with new, a nice touch was the shitty, home-made Sputnik orbiting satellite that rose unconvincingly during the opening space based toons from their latest offering.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

At this point my notes run out, as does my short term memory. A combination of lamb kebab overload, the lack of Savlon and too many beers with funny names took their toll and I collapsed in a babbling heap in the back of an ethnic carbon-free sandal store. When I woke up  I was back home in bed with my little Noddy and dreaming of Charlotte Church dressed as Big Bill Broozy with a tube of Savlon  and what looks like my brain in a petri dish.We must do this again sometime.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

Share

Comments (0)

Top Ten Books About Music – Updated

Tags: , , , , ,

Top Ten Books About Music – Updated

Posted on 27 September 2012 by Joe

There’s plenty of rubbish books about music out there. Hatchet jobs, cobbling together a potted history of a band that adds nothing to understanding their music. But once in a while a real gem comes along, offering a different, sometimes personal take on the music industry. Here’s ten of the best music books around that are not only a good read but offer the reader the chance to really get to know the subject matter.

1. Lester Bangs – Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung


Lester Bangs is a legend among music writers, portrayed by Phillip Seymour-Hoffman in the film Almost Famous and died tragically at the age of 33 in 1982. For some he is one of America’ best writers, it just so happens that he wrote music reviews in the likes of Rolling Stone rather than novels.

Perhaps his best trait is that he wrote about how music made him feel, rather than whether it will be a hit. Among the highlights here are his review of a Barry White gig recounting the grotesque caped image of ‘bulbosity’ wandering around murmuring about “lurve” in a hundred different ways. His time with The Clash on tour in 1977 is another high point, as is his arguments with Lou Reed and thoughts on John Lennon’s death. “Did you see all those people standing in the street in front of the Dakota apartment where Lennon lived singing “Hey Jude”? What do you think the real — cynical, sneeringly sarcastic, witheringly witty and iconoclastic – John Lennon would have said about that?” This excellent collection of Bangs work is a must for all music fans.

2. Rob Young – Electric Eden 

What started off as a look at the explosion of folk rock bands in the late 1960s and early 1970s soon turned into an epic exploration of UK folk music taking in the  Victorian era through to the modern day; from Vaughn Williams to David Sylvian and Holtz to Talk Talk. While the musical forms of folk music differ, all those featured in this weighty tome have the same attribute in common; a desire to find Albion in music.

It is the golden era of folk that Young started to explore that still dominates this book, but by turning the very notion of folk music on its head and spanning multiple generations of musicians Young has created one of the most absorbing, clever and inspiring books about British music.

3. John Peel – Margrave of the Marshes

John Peel died while writing his autobiography. He’d barely got started, reaching about 1960 and the beginning of his life as a DJ in the US. His widow Sheila takes over the story from there and what follows is as much about the couple as the DJ and the history of alternative music over the last 40 years.

Even though the bulk of the book is told from Sheila’s view, it is pure Peel. She knew his thoughts on the future of British radio and music better than anyone. There’s some great stuff here. The couple’s friendship and fall out with Marc Bolan and the later years when Peel started recording his show at home. The anecdote about the many members of Belle and Sebastian performing across the house for one of the legendary Peel sessions is particularly endearing.

4.Simon Reynolds – Rip It Up and Start Again

While Lester Bangs writes about how music makes him feel Reynolds takes another tact, how music is influenced by and influences society. This is his take on that largely unwritten part of music history 1978 to 1984. The over analysed punk of 1976 to 1977 is just the beginning for him and the story is particularly insightful of John Lydon’s musical influences, reggae and even prog rock that was so despised by the early punks.

Across the book, there are thoughts on Devo, Pere Ubu, Magazine and others. Often it is tales of missed opportunities, of pretension and of artists failing to live up to expectation like Vic Goddard of Subway Sect and Howard Devoto of Magazine.

5. Dave Simpson – The Fallen


The Fall fan and journalist Simpson’s attempt to track down all 50 plus members and ex members of the band almost ends up destroying his life. It’s a tough job, which he miraculously pretty much achieves. What emerges is a bizarre picture of life working for and with Fall frontman Mark E Smith, which at times, according to Simpson’s book, is like working in a Victorian factory, with Smith as the mill-owner.

Simpson even gets to interview the man himself  but it is the memories of the more recent members plus the infamous fight on stage in New York where Smith ended up sacking the entire band that  are among the true highlights.

6. Luke Haines  – Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part In It’s Downfall.

As lead singer with the Auteurs Haines’ reluctantly found himself part of the heady time of Britpop in the mid 1990s. This stunningly written and above all funny look back of that time is full of vicious musings about those around him. For us at Neonfiller we particularly  like the recurring appearance of Noel Gallagher, who annoyingly for Haines turns out to be a nice bloke despite his “mindless northern bluff”.

Others to get a tongue lashing including Radiohead’s Thom Yorke – “that most heinous of creatures, a heavy rock outfit, fright-wig and all” and Blur – “those habitual bandwagon jumpers”.  It’s the classic tale of a nearly man of modern music, who while convinced of his own genius is painfully aware of his own failings.

7. Chris Twomey – Chalkhills and Children

The story of XTC is one of the most interesting in modern music. The band of friends from Swindon, driven by the songwriting genius of Andy Partridge, who are to this day one of the UK’s most beloved bands despite never reaching the commercial success their talents deserved.

Poor management and business decisions coupled with Partridge’s crippling stage fright, which prevented them from touring from 1982 just when their album English Settlement and its global hit single Sense Working Overtime were about to propel them to the big time. They soldiered on for another 18 years producing critically acclaimed albums but sinking further into a Kafka-eque music business hole that included going on strike from their label Virgin. All of this is told wonderfully by Chris Twomey who interviews the band, their producers and those that know them. Most of the band’s members still live in Swindon making them the George Bailey of modern music, full of talent and wonder but never able to leave the town their grew up in.

8. Julian Cope – Head On

Head On is the story of Julian Cope’s discovery of the Liverpool punk scene and his subsequent adventures as an (almost) pop star with The Teardrop Explodes. His drug-fuelled adventures with the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, Bill Drummond and David Balfe (the subject of Blur’s ‘Country House’) are hilarious and often astonishing. Cope proves to be a very accomplished writer and his honest account of his own, very flawed, personality make this book a compulsive read.  The book now comes packed with the sequel, Repossessed, a worthy if more downbeat successor.

9. Bill Drummond – 45

45 is the age that Drummond reached when he decided to write this series of memoirs, it is also the speed of a 7-inch single. The bulk of the memoir tells of his days as a man who was obsessed with nothing more than the pursuit of a hit single.

Drummond is a witty writer, and his life has been interesting enough to make these tales into real page-turners. The best bits are the descriptions of his time with the KLF and the K Foundation as they attempted ever more outrageous stunts. There’s a real sense of sadness as Drummond looks back and is filled with real doubts about what he has achieved.

10. James Greer  – Guided by Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll

Guided By Voices are the ultimately indie-rock act. They have produced dozens of albums, recorded many of them (quite literally) in a garage and have a strong cult following. They have also been a fairly insular act, not touring for many years and rarely appearing in interviews. Pollard himself being far too busy writing and recording to do much else.

Greer has a unique insight into the band being both a fan and also one of the revolving cast of players in the bands 21-year existence. He is also a music journalist and his writing on the band is of a very high quality.

The book deals with Pollard as a songwriter and also the band as a group of friends who meet and drink in a garage in Dayton Ohio. The stories jumping backwards and forwards between the bands final tour and their inception when Pollard was a 30-something school teacher are consistently engaging and have a pleasant, personal feel.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

Editors Note: This is an updated version of a list that first appeared in Neon Filler in 2009. Since then we’ve realised we should have included Chris Twomey’s Chalkhills and Children due to it being such a compelling  tale of a band that never quite fulfilled their potential. We have also since read Rob Young’s Electric Eden. This fascinating look at British folk music is a deserved new edition to the list. 

Share

Comments (0)

Jeff Mangum Curated ATP, Minehead (March 9-11, 2012)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Jeff Mangum Curated ATP, Minehead (March 9-11, 2012)

Posted on 15 March 2012 by Joe

Neonfiller’s last jaunt to a three day All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival, the holiday camp based event with a guest curator, was two years ago.

The curator that time was Pavement and the event sold out swiftly. In marked contrast latest curator Elephant 6 collective founding member and Neutral Milk Hotel man Jeff Mangum has struggled to attract similar crowds, with the ATP website rather forlornly continuing to advertise tickets for sale right up until the event.

The event has also attracted a small amount of controversy for those that did buy tickets, after ATP postponed it from its original December date without any explanation. For some this move has left a bitter taste. Sure, the rescheduled line up has some added crowd pleasers such as Magnetic Fields, but gone are The Mountain Goats, as well as Fleet Foxes, Superchunk and Panda Bear (strangely all mammal based acts). Also for some, transport costs cannot be refunded and a small minority couldn’t make the new dates.

Despite these problems,  a pretty decent line up has been left and one that certainly addresses the lack of variety of Pavement’s guitar rock focused event.

In terms of musical diversity for me it was the best ATP three day event I’d attended, but in terms of organisation it was far from slick, particularly on the Sunday when scheduling problems and ATP’s decision to forego the main pavilion stage for the event left many exasperated.

Friday

With the Pavilion stage gone the Centre Stage becomes the focal point, with the cowboy themed pub Crazy Horse and nightclub Reds taking smaller stage duties.

It’s a change that works well in respect of creating a more intimate live experience, but falls down flat when the bulk of the 4,000 attendees want to see an act. For the likes of Mangum himself long queues formed and there were a minority who were left seething after missing both his sets, but more of that later.

Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise were first up in the Centre stage, with its sticky carpets under foot and smell of hot dogs gently congealing on their stand by the loos. Their set turned out to be one of the highlights of the event, with the orchestra comprising around a dozen of the Elephant 6 Collective’s most notable names including Olivia Tremor Control’s Will Cullen Hart, and John Fernandez, Julian Koster of The Music Tapes and Neutral Milk Hotel, The Gerbils’ Scott Spillane and Andrew Reiger of Elf Power.

Hearing Reiger sing the Elf Power tracks such as Spiral Stairs was one of many highlights for me. Another highlight was the tracks Spillane took the lead on, including the Gerbils’ Glue. This large, beaded man leading the collective from the stage for a set finale into the crowd, complete with equally large bright white sousaphone, was another sight I’ll never forget.

Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise

This movement into the crowd also served to engage the acts with the audience, a key feature of these curated events. It was an ethos Spillane and Koster took to their heart throughout the weekend, cropping up in the audience and on stage with the acts frequently. With Mangum staying behind the scenes they become the public faces of Elephant 6, a task they excelled at.

The only down point was that all did not seem right with Olivia Tremor Control man Will Cullen Hart, who stood at the side nervously banging a tambourine and his guitar with a drum stick, but once again, more of that later.

Over to Crazy Horse next to be greeted by another hot dog stand and its still unpleasant aroma and a living legend of English eccentricity Robyn Hitchcock, here playing his classic 1984 album I Often Dream of Trains. For those unaware of the album its typical Hitchcock full of whimsy and childlike thoughts but with a dark underbelly as he takes the listener across London suburbs, old tram lines, psychological theory, loneliness and growing old. Each track in the set, where he was accompanied by Terry Edwards, Tim Keegan and backing vocals from female duo Something Beginning with L, was performed perfectly, with warmth and humour. With his banter during the first half  in French, the second back to ‘his normal voice,’ his eccentricity credentials remain strong.

Back to the Centre Stage a little before Jeff Mangum was due on stage proved a shrewd move. After we arrived we hear later that a long queue had appeared and many couldn’t even get in. ATP did their best, bless. They provided those in the queue, who must have been seething with priority wristbands to ensure they were first in for his second set on the Sunday evening.

Those that missed out look away now. He was freakin’ awesome. Armed with his powerful distinct voice, an acoustic guitar, and the occasional accompaniment from an Elephant 6 collective he put in a festival rousing set focused around Neutral Milk Hotel’s classic album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. The packed Centre stage crowd was transfixed as Two Headed Boy, King of Carrot Flowers Part I and others rattled by. My highlights due to Mangum’s sheer intensity were Oh Comely, King of Carrot Flowers Part 2-3 and Two Headed Boy Part 2. Powerful stuff from the heart.

His holiness has spoken

We have no pictures. Lord Jeff of Mangum requests none are taken. That’s fair enough, its nice to see a gig without phones waving madly everywhere and made it a better experience. My only gripe was the heavy wording of the posters; a little harsh when the good-natured crowd would have complied anyway and would happily stopped their crappy filming if asked.

Young Marble Giants, back over at Crazy Horse, proved a little disappointing. It wasn’t their fault really. They are cursed by producing one of the most intimate and simple albums of the last half a century with their 1979 album Colassal Youth.  Its not a get up and go album and while warm and beautiful on my headphones while dog walking, its tracks just don’t have the same feel on stage. I still love the album and their performance was still friendly and engaging.

Mark E Smith, looking like the bastard grandfather of Senator Palpatine and Alex Higgins,  was in no mood to play second fiddle to Mangum over at the Centre Stage and conducted The Fall through one of the best performances I’ve seen by this act over the years. I had feared the worst as his band of drones, including his wife Elani on keyboards, has been with him for a few years now and he usually tires of them after a while.

The Fall

The middle aged Fall fans went nuts for it, with Mark E Smith smirking down at the unfortunate crowd surfers helped over the barrier by security like an evil  mill owner watching his workers collapse from exhaustion. Dominated by recent albums highlights included Theme from Sparta FC and Imperial Wax Solvent’s I’ve been duped, which is sung by Elani.

I’d been looking forward to Thurston Moore. His Beck produced latest album Demolished Thoughts beautifully mixed his trademark melodies with low key acoustic guitar and a string section. Tonight, though, he was in a funny old mood, a little grouchy and without Beck to call a halt to his guitar noodling Moore was left to essentially go off on one too many times. The crowd thinned noticeably during his self indulgent performance, in which tracks from his 1995 solo album Psychic Hearts not his recent album proved among rare high points, especially the title track and Patti Smith Math Scratch.

Thurzzzzton Moore

The first day has been a hectic one with most of my favourites coming at me thick and fast. If it was any other act I’d have gone to bed by the time Thurston Moore had finished shortly after 1am but Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are no ordinary act. I first saw them at the first ATP style event, Belle and Sebastian’s Bowlie Weekender in 1999 at Camber Sands so I was keen to see if they’d changed.

They hadn’t, still relentless, still belting it out like the dirty rock and roll outfit they always were. Spencer in tight PVC trousers and occasional Theremin flourish shamed the largely middle agers that remained with their energy. High points included live standards 2kindsalove and Bell bottoms, with its intro sandwiched in among the many cries of “bluuuuzz exploshion.” Marvellous, even if I had to have a little sit down as the clock approached 2am.

Saturday

Ever wanted to stand up for an a hour and a half watching a Russian film, seemingly about goat farming, while two people occasionally play Eastern European music? Well, nor did most of those that witnessed Hawk and a Hacksaw perform along to Russian film maker Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors in Crazy Horse early in the afternoon.

The venue was constantly packed, but few seem to stay for more than 15 minutes, before their legs started aching. This was the first of many scheduling blunders. There’s a reason films are shown in cinemas with seats and not cowboy themed pubs, which I hope ATP learn from.

Boredoms

The afternoon in the Centre Stage was dominated by Boredoms the Japanese experimental drumming collective, who at times have had as many as 88 drummers. This time round their leader, called Eye, was surrounded by just the five drummers, a large number of guitarists and a couple of totem poles of welded together electric guitars, which he hit with what looked like an old curtain pole.

It was amazing; with the drumming becoming hypnotic and taking the packed crowd to church to melt their faces. The entire hour and half set was too much for me, my brain was starting to evaporate, but I have to admit they are one mother of a band.

As the afternoon was drawing to a close what proved to be my favourite segment of the weekend was starting at Centre stage, with Elephant 6’s most accessible, mainstream act The Apples in Stereo, followed by harpist Joanna Newsom, then Low, who produced one of my albums of 2011 C’mon.

The Apples in Stereo more than delivered to a crowd that was thinned of the middle aged punks and replaced with some bookish men but mostly women. These are the Apples demographic, something not lost on Robert Schneider as he introduces the final two songs Dance Floor, from 2010’s Travellers in Space and Time, and Ruby as “the first is about physics, the second about a girl.” New Magnetic Wonder’s tracks dominated a set that still managed to span their entire career. I challenge anyone to hear Travellers in Space and Time’s Dignified Dignitaries and not at least tap toes and nod a waifish head.

Apples in Stereo

Joanna Newsom is one hell of a performer, with her cat-like, haunting voice, compelling lyrics, stunning harp playing and occasional piano for the more Tori Amos like numbers.  A spell binding hour with 2010’s Have One on Me almost, just almost bringing a tear to this hardened music reviewers eye.

Low ended up being and remaining my highpoint. Intense doesn’t begin to describe the way lead singer and guitarist Alan Sparhawk approaches a live set. The slow, precise and very American sounding tracks from C’mon proved the best, but I can’t think of a single track that didn’t leave me transfixed, and its worth noting that Sparhawk was one of the rare artists I heard to even mention the outside world, with his lament on the situation in Syria.

One of his few smiles came as he invited the crowd to go jogging with him the next day. Given the way he approaches performing those that attended were in for an intense experience.

Low

Penultimate band for me were hardcore punk veterans Scratch Acid. Formed in 1980s Austin they released only an album and a couple EPs before disbanding. Singer David Yow and guitarist David Wm. Sims are better known for forming cult band The Jesus Lizard. Wm. Sims and drummer Rey Washam also joined Steve Albini’s Rapeman briefly, giving them further legend status. Yow joked that they had been called old men at the airport.

As if to poke two fingers at those who look at their age before enthusiasm he launched into one almighty set of crowd surfing. It was the most energetic show of the night and special praise must go to Headline Security staff for their good natured approach to the granddads on stage and the audience whizzing past their heads. Yow singing (or rather screaming) lovingly into the ear of one smirking but highly professional security guy was another image I’ll never forget. Not bad for a bunch of old geezers.

Last band of the night for me only lasted a song. I decided to pop over to Reds where ATP were curating proceedings. While Mangum has assembled a truly eclectic bunch he had failed to include many young acts. This is where ATP could have stepped in to showcase some new, young talent. Sadly with Demdike Stare they provided neither youth nor talent. Essentially its two blokes on DJ decks making sounds like a vacuum cleaner while crappy video images hurtle by. What a mess and what a waste of a slot where a young talented band could have played.

Sunday

American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), improbably but effectively joined by Julian Koster on saw, kicked off the day at Crazy Horse, performing a few modern classical pieces as a string quartet. The highpoint was Gavin Bryar’s moving Jesus Blood Bever Failed Me Yet where the strings build up around a loop of a homeless old man’s moving, crazy words of hope and despair. I never thought I’d spend my time in a cowboy themed pub listening to classical music for an hour but I’m so glad I did. This was exactly what Mangum’s ATP was about, broadening the musical palette. A fine and different addition to the bill.

American Contemporary Music Ensemble

Sadly during the rest of Sunday afternoon time was spent either swimming, eating, twiddling thumbs and wondering what qualifications the  ATP schedulers had. For some reason they had the bright idea of providing no musical alternatives to a second mind melting set by Boredoms all afternoon. Sure there was a pub quiz and some talks in the cinema, but like many there I came to see music and they could have provided at least one alternative act for those who didn’t want their mind melted twice in one weekend.

It wasn’t until 4.30 that another band got to the stage, in the form of North Carolina indie folk outfit Lost in the Trees. Quite a queue of people had formed for their Crazy Horse set, more than their light and average sound would ordinarily have got. While a little boring, at least they were a band, so I was thankful for small mercies.

Next up over at Reds was another scheduling error, one that is admitted by ATP with hindsight. While the Magic Band were on at Centre Stage some bright spark at ATP decided to put legendary Elephant  6 outfit Olivia Tremor Control on at the smaller Reds stage. We got there early but it soon became packed and many outside were unable to get in throughout their set.

Here’s what Jamie Summers at ATP PR headquarters had to say:

“As you saw with the Olivia Tremor Control show they had a bit of a queue when The Magic Band were playing upstairs to a less full venue – but The Magic Band can sell out venues more than twice the size of the OTC in London so this stuff is very hard to predict but we think on the whole we get it right.”

I may be unfair, but I think they should have realised that for an audience of Mangum and Elephant 6 fans they are of course going to want to see OTC rather than the Magic Band, no hindsight needed with that one.

Ironically though those unable to get in didn’t miss out. Olivia Tremor Control were quite frankly a mess. Ok, so some might argue that’s the point of this experimental outfit. I concede they are little loose on record, but for me the joy of an album such as Dusk at Cubist Castle is the controlled Bealtes-esque pop songs that emerge from the bleeps and whirrs. Live though they were just uncoordinated. Part of the issue was Will Cullen Hart, who a few years back was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

He was clearly not happy with how it was going, getting more nervous and agitated as the songs progressed. I felt for the guy, especially as he left the stage at one point unannounced leaving the rest of the band to shrug and give each other panicked and confused looks. I got the impression it took all his bravery to carry on and we wish him all the best for the undoubted tough times ahead.

Versus

Versus, the 1990s indie rock trio who reformed recently, followed the chaos of Olivia Tremor Control at Reds with a punchy, well-worked set that showed why they are revered by so many bands today. I’ll certainly be looking out for their 2010 album On the Ones and Threes, which featured heavily during their entertaining set.

Magnetic Fields have gone back to synths for their latest album Love at the Bottom of the Sea, but leave them at home when touring. Over at the Centre Stage they instead opted for traditional acoustic instruments, a move that gives a different and in some cases improved take on their latest tracks such as I’ve Run Away to Join the Fairies.

Band leader Stephin Merritt, who was dressed more for a day out at the allotment, in coat, scarf and hat than an hour’s set under hot lights, was on good form tonight, even putting his own unique stamp on the type of stage craft Scratch Acid excel at by hurling a tea bag into the audience.

Highpoints included Plant White Roses, from Merritt’s 2011 Obscurities release and No One Will Ever Love You from the band’s never to be bettered 69 Love Songs.

There’s always tough decisions to be made at festivals and while the whimsy of Magnetic Fields was enjoyable I was keen to see Tall Firs as well, so ducked out half way through their set to head over to Crazy Horse.

Tall Firs

Turned out to be a great move with the Tall Firs duo of Dave Mies and Aaron Mullan putting the in the performance I’d hoped to see Thurston Moore do. Their songs sound a little Sonic Youth like, unsurprisingly given they were once on Moore’s Escstatic Peace! label before moving to ATP recently. Just Mies and Mullan and distortion free electric guitars they come across as something like a hungover Kings of Convenience as they showcased tracks from their latest album Out of It and Into It.

I’d hoped to end the festival watching Mangum’s second set. I was left disappointed, but not as much as those that missed him twice. Those with priority wristbands, handed out to those stuck in the queue the first time around, were allowed in first, which was nice, but there was clearly a contingent who hadn’t got these wristbands and once again a queue of people missed out. Solutions could have been to have the pavilion stage available, or at very least to have another act on at the same time over at Crazy Horse. Sadly though with just DJs or the cinema for an alternative I decided against spending my final few hours at the festival queuing and so ended my festival.

The front of the queue half way through Mangum's Sunday set

Here’s how ATP’s PR man Jamie explains the Sunday queuing situation to us:

Everybody who was in the queue by the time the doors opened got in, it was only people who arrived and joined the back of it 5 mins or so before he started playing who may have missed out, and very few at that. Basically everyone who really wanted to see Jeff saw him, and many did twice. If it had been a big problem I’d have been expecting angry people at the production office and lots of angry emails, but the feedback as a whole has been overwhelmingly positive.

The problem is that on twitter there was plenty of criticism and exasperation. @roadtojoie (Alie Brett) for example who said at 11.20pm, a good 50 minutes after Mangum was due on, “Queue for Jeff Mangum has defeated me.” Another was @mikewinship who simply said “Sunday night queues = vibe killer.”

Also Jamie’s response is contradictory; he admits those who joined the queue before he started playing missed out yet says “basically, everyone who really wanted to see Jeff saw him, and many did twice.”

It was a disappointing end to what was on the whole a good festival. I loved staying with friends in a chalet,  watching exciting and unusual bands  including some of my favourite acts. But for me to go to ATP again I’m going to need far more assurances that a) the event will not be postponed b) I’ll not spend time queuing in vain to see the main attraction. I hope ATP learns some lessons from Sunday’s mistakes in particular.

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (5)

Top 100 Albums (50-41)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Top 100 Albums (50-41)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

There are some albums here you will have seen on similar lists before. But we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. We hope you enjoy this fifth instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

50. Built To Spill – Keep it like a secret

Signing for a major label proved no bad thing for  Built to Spill. With some extra cash behind them this US band were clearly able to spend a lot of time getting their beautiful sprawling  guitar arrangements just right. On this 1999 album, which was their second for Warner Brothers, everything came together perfectly. Quality sprawling guitar sounds from frontman Doug Martsch coming at you from each speaker, brilliant hooks and all still with an alternative and independent edge, despite having the major label machine behind them. ‘Sidewalk’ is our standout on this collection of tight-as-you-like tracks as is the prog-rock-esque ‘Time Trap’. Other highlights are  ‘Carry the Zero’ and ‘Center of the Universe’, which were released as EPs.

49. The Kinks – Are The Village Green Preservation Society

This has proved to be the most contentious inclusion in our chart so far. The Kinks were a huge pop music success, one of the biggest acts of the 1960s, so what place do they have in an indie/alternative music chart? The hugely nostalgic Village Green Preservation Society sank like a stone on release in 1968 and didn’t spawn any hit singles. In contrast to this it has been a hugely influential album for alternative acts in the last 20 years. Album standout ‘Big Sky’ has been covered by Yo La Tengo as well as The Blue Aeroplanes, but the influence of the album goes further than that. It set the blueprint for a certain kind of Britishness that can be heard in albums by Madness, XTC, The Jam and Blur. Musically it is as inventive as anything that Ray Davies has produced through his career and the brilliant set of songs explains why this is the album of choice for Kink’s fans today.

48. The Fall – Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall


Picking an album by The Fall, out of the 27 released so far, was another tough choice in compiling our list. 1990’s Extricate has a special place in our hearts, as do more recent releases like  2010’s Your Future Our Clutter. But we’ve decided to narrow it down an era where we  first discovered them. An era in the mid 1980s, when thanks to the inclusion of leader Mark E Smith’s pop savvy wife Brix on guitar and production from John Leckie, they began achieving rare commercial and mainstream success. Ladies and gentleman we are proud to present 1984’s The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall. While the original vinyl version, with tracks such as the wonderful and bit frightening Lay of the Land, is great on its own the cassette and CD versions expanded the album further.  The inclusion of singles such as No Bulbs and C.R.E.E.P in these formats fit seamlessly among the album tracks and make this a great introduction to the band.

47. Calexico – Feast of Wire

Calexico were formed by the rhythm section from Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand and have produced a set of excellent albums mixing dusty border country with Mariachi sounds. Feast of Wire shows them upping the ante and has seen them described as the Tex-Mex Radiohead. There aren’t many similarities in the sound, but they do show a similar level of ambition and a desire to try out new sounds on the album. Waltz, country, jazz, electronica and, on ‘Not Even Stevie Nicks’, MOR pop all get an outing on the album and Morricone is clearly an influence on the arrangements. Despite the wealth of ideas and sounds it holds together perfectly as an album and stands as a high point in Calexico’s recording career.

46. Pretenders – Pretenders


After producing the Pretenders’ first single ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ in 1979 Nick Lowe decided against working with them again. He thought the new wave UK band fronted by American Chrissie Hynde, “wasn’t going anywhere”. Chris Thomas took over production duties for the band’s self titled debut and Lowe was proved woefully wrong as it achieved a Top 10 in the US Billboard charts and number one in the UK in 1980. Its success and inclusion in this list is not just because of great singles like ‘Brass in Pocket’, but also for its  ability to embrace a range of styles while sticking firmly to the band’s punk and new wave influences. From the reggae ‘Private Life’, to the hooky ‘The Wait’ through to the soulful ‘Lovers of Today’, this stunning debut’s variety is breathtaking.

45. The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen

The Afghan Whigs time on the Sub Pop label and their penchant for R&B covers left them with the tag of being the early 90s token soul-grunge act. This label fails to take account of what an excellent rock and roll band they were, especially on their third album Gentlemen. Greg Dulli’s snarling vocals and dark lyrics fit perfectly with his bands punchy playing and the surprisingly ungrungey  production which Dulli handled himself. The album spawned three excellent singles ‘Gentelmen’, ‘Debonair’ and ‘What Jail Is Like’ all deserved to bring the band to a bigger audience but they and the album sold in modest numbers. In amongst the loud guitars and bluster is the beautifully sung (by Macy Mays) ‘My Curse’ which is the album’s standout track.

44.  Fugazi – Repeater


This first full length album from Fugazi shows the Washington DC band continue their mission to shelve their hardcore punk origins and search for new musical directions. Still with a punk heart through the vocals of singers ex Minor Threat frontman Ian Mackaye and former Rites of Spring member Guy Piciotto, the heartbeat of the band was the jazz rhythms of bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty, who combined expertly with Mackaye’s dampened guitar style. On Repeater Piciotto gained a greater influence on the music as the band experimented more with guitar feedback.  Repeater remains the best full album by the band. Tracks like ‘Merchandise’ and ‘Turnover’ are among the immediate highlights, but the subtlety of styles on tracks like ‘Brendan #1’ show a band at their peak enjoying breaking down the traditional barriers of straight edge and hardcore punk. Repeater sold in its hundreds of thousands, but the band resolutely shunned major label interest, carried on playing in small venues and stuck with Mackaye’s Dischord label throughout.

43. The Auteurs – New Wave

The Auteurs were closely linked with Suede and the emerging Brit-pop scene when New Wave was released in 1993. Anyone who has read lead Auteur Luke Haines’ hilarious memoirs ‘Bad Vibes’ will know that he was too arrogant, mean spirited and unstable to play the game and become the star that he believed he should be. New Wave was nominated for the Mercury prize and was one of the best records released that year. Haines was right about one thing, he is a superb songwriter and the album is brilliant track after brilliant track. ‘Show Girl’, ‘Don’t Trust The Stars’, ‘Starstruck’, ‘How Could I Be Wrong’ and ‘Idiot Brother’ are all examples of great melody and interesting insightful lyric writing. Haines would record several other great albums, but his first effort stands as the best.

42. Pulp – His n Hers


Pulp spent most of the ’80s in obscurity, gradually building up critical acclaim but never quite achieving success. With the release of their fourth album His ‘n’ Hers in 1994 that all changed. This is one of the great breakthrough albums of all time as tracks such as ‘Lipgloss’ and ‘Joyriders’  brought them to a huge mainstream audience and the band started to emerge as the key act  of the Britpop explosion. By their next album Different Class, with singles such as ‘Common People, Pulp’s popularity had gone stratospheric. But it is here on His ‘n’ Hers where for us they were at their peak. This is both musically and lyrically through the bittersweet and at times downright funny storytelling of frontman Jarvis Cocker. This is especially the case with our standout track on this album ‘Babies’.

41. Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted

Recorded by two Californian Fall fans Stephen Malkmus and Scott ‘Spiral Stairs’ Kannberg (with the help of anarchic drummer/engineer Gary Young) Slanted and Enchanted was the debut album by a band that would come to be one of the most important American acts of the 1990s. It is a lo-fi album, scratchy abrasive and hissy, but a collection of great songs sits behind the static. With songs like ‘Summer Babe’, ‘Trigger Cut’ and ‘Here’ (an oft covered classic) it demonstrated the quirky pop skills that would become a feature of their albums, but it also retained the esoteric charms of their early singles.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

Share

Comments (8)

Beirut to Headline the End of the Road Festival

Tags: , , ,

Beirut to Headline the End of the Road Festival

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Dorian

Beirut have been named as the first headliner for this years End of the Road festival.

The event, held at Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, was one of the highlights of Neon Filler’s year in 2010. Read the full review here.

Beirut

Beirut

Beirut, lead by multi-instrumentalist Zach Condon, have released three critically acclaimed albums influenced by pop music and Eastern European Gypsy styles.

The End of the Road Festival 2010

The End of the Road Festival 2010

Other artists already confirmed for the festival include The Fall, Midlake, Gruff Rhys and former Violent Femmes front-man Gordon Gano. The full list of artists confiormed so far is below:

Beirut

Bo Ningen
Bob Log III
Cass McCombs
Doug Paisley
Dry The River
Gordon Gano & the Ryans
Gruff Rhys
James Yorkston
Joan As Policewoman
John Grant
Jolie Holland
Josh T Pearson
La Sera
Lanterns on the Lake
Lightning Dust
Micah P Hinson
Midlake
Mountain Man
Perfume Genius
The Deadly Syndrome
The Fall
The Walkmen
Timber Timbre
Treefight for Sunlight
Twin Shadow
tUnE-yArDs
Wild Beasts
Willy Mason
Wooden Shjips
Woods
Young Man

More details of the festival can be found at http://www.endoftheroadfestival.com/.

Share

Comments (0)

ATP Festival Curated By Pavement – Minehead, UK. May 2010

Tags: , , , , , , ,

ATP Festival Curated By Pavement – Minehead, UK. May 2010

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Joe

ATP is among the most remarkable of festivals. Since it started around a decade a go its crucial difference is that a specific band often  gets to choose the line up.

This tends to give it a greater sense of ownership for the band that curates and  for their fans, who get a greater insight into their tastes and influences. The holiday resort settings, of comfy chalets rather than tents and muddy fields, also help.

This time around it’s the turn of Pavement to curate an ATP event, at Butlins in the British seaside resort of  Minehead. Reunited for a nostalgia tour after going their separate ways in 1999, the band that was influenced by and have influenced so many has come up with a  line-up dominated by US guitar rock and punk legends, with the odd curveball thrown in.

Friday

Opening the festival in the late afternoon was Avi Buffalo, signed to Sub Pop, barely out of their teens and over here from their native California to promote their recently released debut self titled album. They’ve pulled the short straw getting to open the event as many are still arriving. They didn’t care, just pleased to be there. A short engaging set on the smaller Centre Stage was full of tracks from their debut album and ended on a high with ‘Remember Last Time’. The guitar solo on that track is as much a thing of beauty live as it is on the record.

Main stage opener Surfer Blood (pictured above) is another up and coming new band, this time from Florida. Triumph of the geeks was how my friend described this motley bunch of fat, thin, weedy, bad jumper wearing young things that packed a real punch. Lead singer bellowing out tracks such as ‘Take It Easy’ from their debut Astro Coast as well as a new song, ‘I’m Not Ready’, which was full of their familiar catchy riffs. “Ever witnessed the pinnacle of a career,” says bassist Brian Black to lead singer John Paul Pitt in a self deprecating way. They know they are privileged to be here. What new band wouldn’t want Pavement’s seal of approval?

Calexico (pictured below) decided to play a set that they see is best suited to the rock festival audience, with a focus on many of the more conventional guitar lead songs from their catalogue. This was a mistake as it is the more atmospheric acoustic tunes that would have set them apart from the other ATP acts.

Nevertheless they are a very slick band, most of the group being in demand session musicians, and they produce a note perfect sound. Highlights include the mariachi blast of ‘Crystal Frontier’ and their covers of Love’s ‘Alone Again Or’ and The Minutemen’s ‘Corona’.

In sharp contrast at the same time on the Centre Stage was The Walkmen. Lead singer Hamilton Leithhauser has a voice to rival ACDC’s Brian Johnson and tonight they put in a killer performance. A minor bass amp explosion put them off their stride three songs in but only slightly. Showcased tonight were some new tracks off the new album, due out this summer, which sound in a similar vein as their excellent 2008 album You and I. ‘New Year’ from that album is now as big a crowd pleaser as ‘The Rat’, and both were among the highlights of a powerful, passionate set.

Friday’s main stage headliners Broken Social Scene are veterans of ATP Minehead now, having headlined the Explosions in the Sky curated event two years ago. They are now a different beast.  Leaner and showcasing tracks from their latest album Forgiveness Rock Record. Tracks from the hook laden first half of the album such as ‘Art House Director’, ‘Texico Bitches’ and ‘World  Sick’, went down particularly well. Although Forgiveness Rock Record dominated the gig, the biggest cheers still went out for classics such as ‘Fire Eyed Boy’ and ‘7/4 (Shoreline)’.

Couple of gripes, one being BSS’s Lisa Lobsinger. She follows in the footsteps of previous BSS female vocalists such as Leslie Feist but her voice is far weaker. Drifting on and off stage like Helena Bonham Carter,  she sauntered, whispered and vanished. Not even the glimmer of a smile, in sharp contrast to the energetic displays of BSS mainstay Brandon Canning. The other gripe was frontman Kevin Drew, who had the touch of the Bono about him tonight. “We’re all forced to love,” he glibly declared before ‘Forced To Love’. Er, no were not. Just play the song man and stop talking rubbish.
Special final mention must go to Mission of Burma and Quasi. Although formed originally in 1979 and looking their age MoB played with the energy and excitement of the new bands that started the day. Quasi rounded off the day for us at Neon Filler. They are musos with edge, the rock three piece to beat all three pieces and in drummer Janet Weiss, formerly of Sleater-Kinney, they have one of the stars of the festival.

Saturday

The day of Pavement’s headline performance starts in jovial fashion. Kentucky band Wax Fang, the lovers of the guitar, performed Purple Rain in its entirety  and perfectly with more than a little Prince tongue in cheek on the smaller Red stage.

Meanwhile over at the Centre Stage The Drones were justifying their reputation as one of the best live acts around. Lead singer Gareth Liddiard, who is vocally like an Australian Joe Strummer with a bomb attached to him, powered his way through the set that got better as it went on. Kept going by the rock steady bass and drums, the band allow his guitar work and vocals to shine. Sometimes it goes too far, too over indulgent, but on tracks such as ‘Shark Fin Blues’ all aspects came together perfectly.

Almost in anticipation for Pavement, whose frontman Stephen Malkmus is no stranger to guitar solos, it was a day dominated by the guitar, with Blitzen Trapper following on where The Drones and Wax Fang left off. Blitzen Trapper, from Portland, Oregon, is a strange act. Jack of all genres but masters of none and their  prog rock guitar work sadly became tedious after a while.

In the midst of  the predominantly guitar based acts of the day Mark Eitzel (pictured below) was something of an oasis of calm. Backed by drums and electric piano he presented an act that was more music hall than music festival and it was wonderful.

The consumate entertainer, despite a nervous twitchy disposition, preceded each song with  an entertaining (and often shocking) story. These stories moved from his time working at a Butlins holiday camp, to the death of his mother to his experiences with a heroin addict girlfriend and in the porn industry. Some were tall tales, others were clearly very real and personal.

The set mixed his solo songs with a healthy dose of American Music Club favourites, including ‘Nightwatchman’, ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’ and ‘Patriot’s Heart’. The songs are challenging in content and Eitzel voice is a very powerful instrument, easily the strongest vocalist of the weekend, and the songs have a real emotional impact.

Pavement (pictured above) proved to be the the perfect festival band. The excitement of seeing a reformed legend was matched by the quality of their set. No confrontational artists here, no set made up of new songs ands obscure b-sides. This was a crowd pleasing “hits” set played well with ‘Cut Your Hair’, ‘Stereo’, ‘Summer Babe’ and Spiral Stair’s ‘Two States’ going down particularly well with the crowd.

From the opener ‘Box Elder’ to the final encore track ‘Debris Slide’ the quality of the songs never dipped. It is easy to forget that, for all their slacker reputation, what an accomplished band Pavement were. There is a real variety to their sound, pop hooks, scuzzy no-wave noise, and balls out power chords all make an appearance. And in the soft and thoughtful ‘Here’ they have a candidate song for the great American songbook.

Malkmus is the star of the show, looking no older than he did back in the early 90s. His casual approach to playing the guitar, all loose hands and slinging it over his shoulder, belies his skills. The joker in the pack Bob Nastanovich is also excellent value jumping around, screaming and shouting his way through his vocal parts.

Throughout the weekend you got the sense they enjoyed their role of curators, popping up in the audience at the acts they’d chosen and holding court outside their VIP chalet. Drummer Steve West even treated people to a stone masonary display during the day, his other career outside drumming.

The end to the evening was another rare escape from guitar rock and proved to be the most eclectic segment of the weekend. Over at the Reds stage was the Syrian dance of Omar Souleyman, who worked the crowd into a frenzy while remaining calm and assured himself. Teenage geek tales from an acoustic set by Atlas Sound followed and then it was the turn of the best party band around San

Francisco’s Still Flyin‘. This 12 piece’s blend of West Coast indie music, ska and reggae was another highlight.

Sunday

Tim Chad and Sherry are made up of former Lambchop and Silver Jews members and put in a fun, laid back set blending funk, country and soul at the Centre Stage in the afternoon. But it was up to Wax Fang to continue the weekend’s love affair with the guitar. Top draw musicians, but by day three what the crowed perhaps didn’t want was another guitar solo orientated band, no matter how engaging.

Some of the most exciting bands across the weekend where among the oldest, just like Mission of Burma others such as The Raincoats and The 3Ds were also  class acts.

Terry Reid was also a fine advert for the older generation. Looking and sounding like a London cabbie who’d won the pools in his perma tan and Californian English accent. He’s a soulful, powerful singer, full of passion and showing he is an experienced performer but nowhere near a jaded one.

Then there was veteran Mark E Smith to round off proceedings on the main stage. With his band The Fall (pictured above) as headliners you never know what you will get. Luckily this was among the best Fall performances I’ve seen. Buoyed by what Smith describes as the best band “he’s ever had” and a great new album Your Future Your Clutter, which dominated the set, he was in jovial mood. Opener ‘Our Future Your Clutter Showcase’ was an early indication of just how good this band are. Each came on in turn sounding out the clear, crisp familiar Fall groove, then the man himself shuffled on. Looking 20 years older than his 50 or so years in crisp white shirt, leather jacket and suit trousers.

Smith belted out and mumbled track after track, all from the most recent few albums. Drifting across the stage, trying to put off his latest drones with his queen bee amp twiddling, retuning of instruments and  random mic switching. Creativity through fear and confusion has been his mantra for years. The band looked hardened to it though.

A highlight was the encore. “That’s it” Smith said after a short two song encore including ‘Reformation’. But as the lights went up and people departed he came back on. The look of joy on his face as the tired indie crowd is forced to run back humiliated to hear recent classic Sparta FC for a second encore was a thing of beauty, just like the guitar solo of Avi Buffalo at the start of the weekend.

Words by  Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

We have more pics from the festival at our Facebook page.

Share

Comments (0)

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here

Charts