Festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, can be read through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Video of the Moment #2440: LIFE

 
By on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

If you believe meteorologists and not the mercury readings, summer is over and it’s supposedly autumn now. If you’re like me and need a bit of a knock around the head to keep yourself going as we march towards winter, LIFE have just the thing for you tonight. ‘Sugar God’, taken from the Hull rockers’ debut album ‘Popular Music’ that dropped in May (my review of it here) now has its own promo video. It stars frontman Mez and basically feels like it’s taking you through the various stages of a night out (stop looking away, you know them, I know you do) as seen through the backseat of a BMW and er, outside of it. Filmed by the band’s friend and trusted photographer Josh Moore, it may make you feel better when you’re having a debauchery-filled night out. Or not? Watch the video for ‘Sugar God’ below. To read all of our coverage here on TGTF on LIFE, including reports on their appearances at SXSW 2017, go here.

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 2 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

After the first night of shows Tuesday at BIGSOUND 2017, Wednesday came and it was time to be serious and attend some conference sessions. I began my day with the Stay Woke, Stay Punk, Stay Relevant session starring a panel of managers and bookers of punk artists and events. Based on the fact that this session even existed, there must be a popular misconception that punk artists are immune, or at least not bothered intellectually at all by the same financial problems experienced by artists of other genres.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The panelists were asked whether they’d be willing to put their artists’ faces on a Coca-Cola can to get sponsorship dollars. While there were some laughs, the unanimous response across the board was yes if the artists themselves decided for themselves they wanted to sign on the dotted line. Los Angeles band This Will Destroy You turning down a potentially lucrative and high-profile tv sync with Walmart is a good example that all bands, not just punk ones, have the opportunity and wherewithal in themselves to stand by their principles. [NB: Walmart has been hit out by musicians in the past for the wares they sell, including Sheryl Crow in 1996 in ‘Love is a Good Thing’.]

Stay Woke, Stay Punk, Stay Relevant panel

Warped festival’s decision to kick The Dickies off their tour after the band’s frontman made misogynist comments to a female punter was also unanimously agreed on, reflecting the changing tide in how women are treated both in the music industry and as fans demanding safe spaces. On a slightly different note on the same topic, Melbourne metalcore rockers Drown This City received what they perceived as unwelcome attention when it was revealed that they were one of only two acts at UNIFY festival in 2016. While they were encouraged by various outlets to speak on their unique position at UNIFY, frontwoman Alex Reade passed on all of these opportunities, preferring to be judged by their music alone instead of the words they might have said on a soapbox.

In terms of things directly applicable to TGTF, Hayley Connelly of UK company Little Press explained a time when she had to convince a now established punk act to do an interview with a grass roots punk outlet who had championed them before they had ‘made it’. Having been denied press with acts we have helped on the way up, I can certainly relate to the story and appreciate that some PRs like Hayley understand and support what us little guys do.

You might be wondering why I would attend a session called ‘The Growing Asian Market’. The last time I was in Australia, I was here for the ARIAs and attended the first-ever Masterclass as part of the inaugural ARIA Week. In case somehow you never thought about this, Asia is looked upon as an easier market to break and gain experience from for Australian artists. A big part of this is simply geography: have you ever looked at how expensive plane tickets from Oz to North America or Europe are? As an American with roots in China and Taiwan, I wanted to hear just how different the music scenes and industries in Asia were and how difficult they were to crack.

Unlike the Western markets we’re used to, gigs and tours are driven by demand by Asian fans to see artists, not album releases. Also, social media is an even bigger king in Asia: with the speed of media being spread around by young fans, it’s easy to go viral in a certain country or region if you’re considered a hot commodity. Knowing these tips are important keys in being successful in marketing artists and their shows in Asia. It makes sense, too, that similar approaches can be used in markets such as Melbourne, where large student populations made up of temporarily transplanted Asians act similarly to the way they do at home. The past success of Asia Pop Fest in Melbourne proves this. One wonders if similar efforts to spread Asian music should be done in cities with large Asian student populations like Sheffield and in an exchange program of sorts so artists from both countries can benefits. [NB: Later Wednesday afternoon, I also attended a session on blockchain and how it assists artists in receiving the royalties they deserve. Rather than make a mistake in explaining what some of these companies do, I suggest you follow Jaxsta, Paperchain and Zimbrii on Twitter and follow along.]

But it wasn’t all about sessions. The number of lunchtime and afternoon parties during BIGSOUND were astonishing, and upsetting if you were disappointed you had to miss any of them. Cattleyard Promotions offered up a BBQ at Ric’s Big Backyard and naturally, they had artists lined up to serenade those noshing sausages on the barbie (sorry, had to go there) and partaking in the free beer. The first act on fit perfectly into my afternoon: the elusive Didirri, whose Laruche showcase the previous night was the place to be. Is the lanky, long-haired singer/songwriter the next Hozier or Ed Sheeran?

Didirri Wednesday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

Maybe not exactly, but it’s obvious his lovelorn tales turned into song are easily relatable. If ever in the future he recounts a story about showing up repeatedly at a girl’s door like a lovesick puppy, only to find she’s been sleeping with other men and he couldn’t get the hint, I’d guess BIGSOUND 2017 was one of the first places he ever told the story publicly. I think we all root for the underdog and the downtrodden, so even though it seemed like a bit of a ploy to get the audience on his side, it worked like a charm. I expect Didirri to pop up to play shows in America and the UK soon enough.

Annie Bass Wednesday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

Annie Bass (solo, above) and Tia Gostelow (with a band) followed Didirri. Maybe it was the burning skin sensation I was feeling, standing in Ric’s backyard , but I wondered if either of these acts would have worked better in evening club settings. The voice of Sydneysider Bass got lost in the outdoor setting, as it was no match for her electronic soundscapes that took the lion’s share of attention front and centre. The country twang of tunes by Mackay, Queenland’s Gostelow and her band, while jaunty, wasn’t my cup of tea either. Imagine a young Stevie Nicks, but with dreamy and not rocky backing.


Tia Gostelow Wednesday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

I’m including a photo of RVG (Romy Vager Group) from Melbourne at an unofficial showcase at Bloodhound Bar later in the day, as there’s a lot of buzz behind them. Apparently they are a big deal in Melbourne. I honestly didn’t know anything about the group when I decided to go see them, but I’ll do some more research. In the meantime, read this interview with their frontwoman.

RVG Wednesday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

 

Album Review: David Ramirez – We’re Not Going Anywhere

 
By on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

David Ramirez WNGA album coverWhen I first listened to Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez, I found myself inexplicably torn. The song was ‘Harder to Lie’, from his 2015 album ‘Fables’, and I recoiled from its unflinching lyrical honesty and Ramirez’ brutally emotional delivery, even as I was drawn to the poignant vocal harmonies and wailing slide guitar. Upon collecting myself, my immediate thought was, “I’m not sure if I want to hear that again, or if I never, ever want to hear that again.”

My curiosity overcame my hesitation and I did some further listening to David Ramirez. His back catalogue comprises three full length LPs and a handful of EPs, all self-released and self-produced, and all with a perversely haphazard feel to them. Ramirez’ new fourth album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, sounds sharply focused in comparison. The songwriting is tighter and more concise, and the instrumentation is both more expansive and more deliberate, perhaps owing to production by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive). But Ramirez hasn’t strayed from his country-blues style, nor has he abandoned the raw emotionality that has become his trademark.

Perhaps the best example of Ramirez’ unique sentimentality on the new album is early single ‘Time’. Its lyrical and musical effects play off of each other brilliantly, conveying a paradoxically clear sense of the dazed apathy caused by time passing without measure or purpose. By contrast, ‘Watching from a Distance’ is the album’s most straightforward single, with a strong vocal chorus and verse lyrics that are simple in tone but pregnant with existential angst: “just ‘cos we can’t speak / doesn’t mean you’re not on my mind / like a ghost / like the moon / like a God / like the truth”.

Several of the songs on ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ make reference to the current American political and social atmosphere. Opening track ‘Twins’ alludes to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, its title referring to New York City’s fallen Twin Towers. Lyrically, the song is almost an astonishingly simple reflection on how the country has changed in the intervening 16 years, with paired couplet questions “where were you when we lost the twins? / where were you when fear settled in?” framing the wistful echo of the chorus “there she goes . . . goodbye America, America, America . . .”

Later on the album, ‘Stone Age’ invokes ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, and Ramirez’ voice seethes with anger in the lines “I’m having trouble seeing colors in the dawn’s early light / no more red, no more blue, all I’m seeing is white”. Amazingly, the recorded version of this track captures the full impact of Ramirez’ live performance of the song in Phoenix last November, when the shock of the 2016 American presidential election was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Ramirez’ country roots are most evident in ‘Good Heart’, where he adopts the character of a jaded barfly hardened against love, and ‘People Call Who They Wanna Talk To’, which emphasises his Texas drawl and the twang of the steel guitar. ‘Telephone Lovers’, in turn, explores the challenge of maintaining intimacy in a long-distance romance. The desperate refrain “you’re too far away” also harkened back to last November, when the song took that lyric as its working title.

The album closes with a pair of touching and more personal tracks. ‘Eliza Jane’ was inspired by Ramirez’ own great-grandmother, whose story was passed down to him by his mother, and whose narrative weaves inextricably into his own. Closing track ‘I’m Not Going Anywhere’ reflects the pair of women pictured in the album artwork, a mother-and-daughter pair of breast cancer survivors celebrating life on their own terms. Ramirez’ singing voice is at its level best here, both in terms of expressivity and technique, in his delivery of the lines “when you shake hands with grace and pass through the pearly gates / well then, find you the nearest neon sign / then, mama, you’ll see I was right / I’m not going anywhere”.

David Ramirez’s earlier music is somewhat unapproachable, his stubborn defiance proving to be both a fiery inspiration and a bit of an obstacle. But he seems to have softened slightly with ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, despite its recalcitrant title. He describes the songs as being about “fear, and how instead of benefitting us, it sends us spiraling out of control.” My strongest impression is that the new album sees Ramirez overcoming his own artistic fear, and finding clarity in the process.

8.5/10

David Ramirez’ fourth studio album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ is available now via Sweetworld / Thirty Tigers. TGTF’s full previous coverage of David Ramirez is right back here.

 

Video of the Moment #2439: Perfume Genius

 
By on Thursday, 21st September 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Mike Hadreas, better known by his stage name Perfume Genius, asked his fans to help him out with his newest music video. Following the release of his newest album ‘No Shape’ earlier this year, he gave them the challenge of videoing themselves dancing to the energetic’Wreath’ from the new LP. Taking loads of these entries and splicing them together with ‘Wreath’ playing in the background led to the finished product below. It’s a celebration of life and happiness, men and women and everyone in between, having a good time. And that’s what we all want, right? Watch the life-affirming music video for ‘Wreath’ from Perfume Genius below. For more on Hadreas’ project covered here on TGTF, use this link.

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 1 Roundup (Part 3)

 
By on Thursday, 21st September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

In the South East region of Queensland, Brisbane is the centre of the universe during BIGSOUND 2017, of course. There were loads of acts from the city but there were those from lesser-known towns, too. Apparently unbeknownst to me until I arrived, it turns out Queensland is cowboy country in Australia. Rockhampton, a city known for beef production from the more northerly region of Fitzroy, has spawned the band Pandamic who were to be the last band I’d see at The Zoo. I’m sure it helps their profile that they’re signed to Aussie stars Dune Rats’ own Ratbag Records. Although they class themselves as punks, there’s a honky tonk flavour crossed with pop to their music that made them sound entirely different from everyone else I heard at BIGSOUND.

Pandamic Tuesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

From there, it was off to the Foundry on Wickham Street. With its multiple levels, it felt distinctly chic, and what else would you expect from a place considered one of Brisbane’s coolest bars? I was there to see Adrian Mauro, aka Machine Age, a Brissy transplant from the Great Barrier Reef jumping off point of Cairns. As those of you who read my pieces regularly know, one-man bands don’t put me off, I adore them, especially if electronic bands are involved. Live, Mauro is joined by a drummer, which added additional pomp and oomph to his sound.


Machine Age Tuesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

Like fellow BIGSOUND showcasing act Evan Klar, Mauro started his musical career behind the scenes in supporting more conventional rock acts and this project is the realization of his own creativity. Utilising industrial beats like electronic greats like Gary Numan and pairing them with screeches of electric guitar and his own emotional vocals, together it all sounds brilliant.

Turning my attention to the harder side of the festival proceedings, I headed to the unabashed centre of hard rock during this year’s BIGSOUND. Crowbar has a satisfying underground vibe and sporting a wall and a metal barrier that surely had tales to tell. I suppose Melbourne’s Belle Haven could be considered one of the more established acts performing during the festival, having released their second album ‘You, Me, and Everything In Between’ this past summer…er…Australia’s winter.

Belle Haven Tuesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

The band’s energy, shown as they blasted away tunes to their devoted, head-banging fans, was undeniable and infectious. Their set was sweaty and frantic but highly enjoyable. But probably what will stick with me was frontman David De La Hoz’s inspiring words on mental illness and recovery. For those who assume hard rock is simply made to create a racket and devoid of meaning, these words were a reminder that for many, hard rock is a different mode of emotional expression.


Karl S. Williams Tuesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

Taken in by their performance, I lingered longer at Belle Haven’s set than I had originally meant to, which led to me booking it and catching only a few precious bars of locals WAAX at The Brightside’s outdoor stage. At a loose end, I retraced my steps to Laruche, having been shut out of Didirri’s set earlier. Like Belle Haven before him, the long-haired and hatted Karl S. Williams used his particular genre – roots rock – to express his feelings. He brought the house down with a guttural voice any gospel choir would hold close to its bosom. Close your eyes, and you could swear you were on the Mississippi Delta, not Brisbane.

To go further back in time, I stopped in at Black Bear Lodge to satisfy my curiosity of Slow Dancer. Simon Okely is the kind of songwriter you wouldn’t expect to survive in times like these. Perhaps we can blame (bless?) Fremantle, on the other side of Australia near Perth, to allow such an artist like him to blossom? Imagine my surprise finding out from my research on him that he used to play guitar in another Melburnian act I like, the more conventionally indie rock Oh Mercy.


Slow Dancer Tuesday night at BIGSOUND 2017

With Slow Dancer, he’s consciously chosen to a simpler, more retro sound that’s oddly mesmerising because it’s oh so different to everything out there right now. Do I sound like I am repeating myself? Maybe I am, because the acts I wanted to see at BIGSOUND were those not content to sit still in the already drawn up genre boxes and conventional moulds of the music industry. He’s already been picked up on NPR’s radar, so he must be doing something right.

A last minute change in my schedule led me to Golden Vessel’s only BIGSOUND appearance at The TBC Club, which I later learned to be the hot place in town for electronic producers and DJs to cut their teeth on and gain experience early on in their careers. Whether it was a poor sound mix, a too slow tempo, jet lag, something bad I ate or the strange vanilla scent wafting through the air at The TBC – I honestly think it was the latter; what a weird choice for a dance club! – I started to feel nauseous and had to call it a night. Still, 11 bands in the can. Not bad at all for my first night at BIGSOUND 2017.

 

Interview: TENDER

 
By on Thursday, 21st September 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Have you heard about TENDER, the electronic duo from North London? In case they haven’t made it to your radar yet, here are the basics. Singer/songwriter James Cullen begins the sketch, if you will, of a new TENDER song and hashes out the skeleton from which he and Dan Cobb work from. Dan then refines the production and arrangement, moulding each song into a finished product.

At the start of this month, they released their debut album ‘Modern Addiction’ on Partisan Records. As noted in my review of it, the electronic duo’s first big impression on the general public is “admirable work”. They are currently in North America on a tour to support their new release, having already been on the West Coast of our continent before heading east and playing tonight at Beat Kitchen in Chicago. James and Dan were nice enough to do this interview with me from the road.

Originally from the south coast of England between the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth, it was 3 years ago that TENDER made their way to the big smoke. Both had spent time in guitar bands before, so I asked James if it was difficult to move into electronic from their previous projects. “I think the translation was fairly smooth and organic. With guitars and writing, you’re always trying to make the instrument sound different and new, so stepping over to synthesisers and electronic music was just a progression of that… I think it was just a new avenue for us to express ourselves. The sounds and methods feel new and exciting for us. I really enjoy finding interesting samples that I can cut into the song or make and instrument out of then allow that to dictate the way the rest of the song is written.” It sounds like, too, that their musical influences reflect an affinity for both rock and electronic: “We’ve always been influenced by bands like Air, Tame Impala, Justice, the National, The War on Drugs, plus many more.”

We turn our attention to ‘Modern Addiction’, which felt to me like TENDER were striving for a minimalist approach, reminiscent somewhat to what we first heard from the xx. I was curious about their approach to songcraft. James replied, “Yeah, for sure, that’s the approach we took. When we first started TENDER, we really wanted to craft songs that used just the right amount of instrumentation and layering without overdoing it. As time has progressed, this has changed slightly, but we still very much feel our songs have the room to breathe like they did in the beginning. Using organic bass and drums with some light synths and samples as embellishment, we can allow the vocal to work as an instrument and have the space [it needs].”


TENDER in LA from FB
TENDER and their touring band last week in Los Angeles (from Facebook)

Another interesting thing to note about ‘Modern Addiction’ is while there are clearly songs about various stages in a painful romantic breakup James went through –smartly taking the emotions and focussing them in a constructive and creative direction, I might add – they explore the decidedly more clinical topic of consumerism in their single ‘Machine’. The latter isn’t a common subject in pop music, so I asked James how the two tied together. “We feel the subjects go hand in hand, in the sense that a lot of the songs are love songs. Modern love and relationships are often dictated by technology and the ease of communication, which of course is a good thing, but I feel can lead to throw away relationships and the need for constant approval.” All good points.

As you listen to ‘Modern Addiction’, it’s impossible to escape the deep, often raw emotions in Cullen’s lyrics. Does putting his deepest, darkest thoughts on display keep him awake at night? “I can’t be entirely comfortable”, he admits. “It’s hard to listen back to for me sometimes and feels too personal, but at the same time when writing it, [it] just came out. The process of writing about it is a release and came naturally at the time. Being able to do so also allows me to look back at a moment in my life and remember how I felt.”

While some electronic music can be too cerebral to the masses, ultimately, James and Dan have a simpler message they want to relay to those listening to their new record. Dan says, “Don’t overthink things. The music is about wanting to create an atmosphere that facilitates connections. We want people to feel primitive about the album. Basic instincts of lust and dance are what we’re looking to evoke in people. The lyrics are open to interpretation in many ways for people to fit them around their own world.”

Speaking about their current North American tour, their very first, James is terribly excited. “We love playing the music live and being able to show people a different side of the band. Being able to travel to such great places and meet fantastic new people is one of the biggest motivations for being in music. America is such a diverse place we just can’t wait to see as much of it as possible.” After playing Chicago tonight, TENDER will cross the border once again for a one-off show in Toronto before returning to America for stops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. To get a taste of what they’re like live, check out their live performance filmed at Low Four Studios at the old Granada Studios in Manchester on the day of the release of ‘Modern Addiction’.

 
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About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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