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Small, intimate festivals are as common as poorly thought out Ed Sheeran being named most important act in black and urban music jokes.
They’re quite literally ten a penny. If that penny was actually £150…
So finding a festival which has sprung from the humblest beginnings, with a purpose and a drive that is simply the sheer love of music is relatively pleasing. 2000 Trees is a festival with an immense amount of heart and started by six mates who became disillusioned with the mainstream festival circuit. They were sick to death of the over-inflated ticket prices, the overzealous commercialism and the alienated feel they left with. With a Glastonbury ticket setting you back £210, with the addition of some nonsensical booking fee that is rising at a rate comparable to the rise of Isis, it’s understandable that some people would become disillusioned. But instead of moaning about it, the lads got together in 2007 and started 2000 Trees Festival at Upcote Farm.
In its eighth year, the festival opened its doors to a maximum 5,000 people to keep things at an intimate level, and with the mantra to showcase the best in new, unsigned and underground UK bands. This year was no exception. Thursday was for the early birds and those who had cunningly booked the time off work shortly after 2000 Trees 2013 closed the gates.
For those lucky enough to have pitched up at glorious Upcote Farm on the Thursday, like myself, you would have been treated to the talents of Bristol singer/songwriter Oxygen Thief and Reading’s Ben Marwood. These acts were playing on Trees’ second stage, which a few years ago was named by fans of the festival as The Cave. The first band I got to lay eyes upon after snaking along Gloucestershire’s whirling winding country roads were Johnny Foreigner, who provided the kind of aural assault that my mind needed to forget about all the speed cameras I’d raced past with no regard for country lane speed limits.
The following 45 minutes preceded to be a jarring wave of punk-y energy, interspersed with the odd yelp from Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern. After twelve songs, all dripping with the anti-establishment edge the band are going for Berrow cut a figure as the sweatiest man in the South of England. Possibly even the world. Berrow held no quarters as he threw himself entirely into the feel of the festival: from set-opener ‘You Can Do Better’ to the final screeches of ‘The Coast Was Always Clear’, it was a glut of anarchic energy from onstage, which is bound to get the band noticed in the next year.
For Berrow and co.’s unreserved abundance of dynamism on stage, he was rewarded with a warm seal of approval and what certainly will add up to an invite back to the farm at a more popular slot. (8/10) They rarely forget a friend here at Trees.
Johnny Foreigner’s set focussed on a sense of anarchy, whirling the crowd into a frenzy. Gnarwolves capitalised on the palpable energy throbbing from within The Cave. The first mosh pits of the weekend were extremely kind during their set, with kids pussy-footing around, bouncing up and down with wide smiles plastered across their faces. When Gnarwolves stepped up, it signalled the end of this for the foreseeable future. Elbows were flying and every man with one of those stupid bushy hipster beards immediately threw themselves into the fray to try an impress the nearest girl in short denim shorts with a display of testosterone and violence. No, Gnarwolves playing did not induce time travel, it’s just what happens when a cool skate-punk band starts roaring about how ‘Smoking Kills’.
What the Brighton based three-piece did induce, apart from the first primal displays of viciousness of the festival, was a few roaring singalongs and a big hype around one off the up and coming talents of the scene at the moment. Not only do they have a wicked cool name, but in The Cave they displayed some big tunes with a lot of pop-punk heart and just enough nautical references to differentiate them from less brutal bands like Four Year Strong. Congrats lads, now lose the gash beards. (8/10)
Headlining the Thursday evening entertainment was Dan Le Sac (pictured at top) vs. Scroobius Pip. Quick breakdown: despite the vs. in the title, nobody had a fight. Which is a shame, as I think ole Scroob could probably have the midget DJ that is Dan Le Sac, for then he’d earn twice the money (available for representation soon).
The set was a change of pace from the previous two acts though, as there was neither a guitar nor a drum kit in site. Just a man with a comical shark hat on his head (Mr. Le Sac) and a taller gentleman with one of those hipster beards – but he had one before everyone did – so he can get away with that one. I was expecting a really lively set, as Scroobius has cut a name for himself as a superb showman -the British answer to Aesop Rock or Andre 300’. Instead, it was a bit flat.
The set relied on at least a modicum of the audience knowing the lyrics to more than just one of his songs, to give it all a bit more life. With this not being the case, Scroobius ended up cutting a rather lonely figure bouncing around the small stage, as Dan Le Sac laid down the beats. For the songs where there was a bit of a call and repeat, Scroobius’ showmanship shone through and he gave the farm another taste (he headlined 2 years ago) of the kind of live show people have become accustomed to from the Essex-made rapper. (6/10)
As Dan Le Sac skipped off stage the festivities for the evening did not end there. Unless you were one of those boring old farts who almost went to bed like me.
Around the campsites – from Camp Reuben to Camp Turner – small guerrilla-style acoustic stages came to life. Singalongs ensued and even the smallest, least well-known singer-songwriter drew in sizable crowds, and enough to get a fun vibe going on. The highlight for me was on 2000 Trees’ central busking stage, where Patrick Craig delivered a collection of songs with an immense sense of heart. It was no surprise that a crowd of nearly 300 people huddled around in the small stage in the cold, as Craig passed round an empty Coke bottle full of wine. There was an immense of community right there, and the kind of vibe (god, I hate that word, but it’s the only one for the job) that epitomised what 2000 Trees is all about.
Stay tuned for more of John’s 2000 Trees coverage on TGTF soon.
The first half of John’s Sonisphere 2014 review is here.
On a scout around the site, I stumbled upon the opening few bars of what looked like shaping up to be a storming set from The Bronx. Firstly, I’ve got tremendous respect for a band with the credentials they have, doing their own soundchecks. Small things, but, they weren’t being divas. It’s just cool, OK?
When they indicated they were finishing the tuning and the ‘CHECK, CHECK, CHECKING’, they immediately stormed into ‘Kill My Friends’ with a kind of aggression that turned the sweaty confines of the Bohemia Tent into an altogether more hostile environment. The tent was the perfect environment for their set (or from at least what I saw of it), as it allowed frontman Matt Caughthran to get really up close and personal with the crowd. However, if Caughthran got up close and personal with the now extremely unwashed masses of Sonisphere, then Trash Talk frontman Lee Spielman went that one step further.
The generation gap (and tolerance gap) between bands and their respective fans for acts like Trash Talk and The Bronx comparatively to their older compatriots Metallica and Mastodon was epitomised perfectly throughout Trash Talk’s set. Spielman and co.’s unique brand of vitriolic punk is abrasive and primarily there to offend and shock. So to go along with it, it seems only right that Trash Talk’s live set was a whirlwind of aggression, party drug references and moshing. For the entire set, I was stood next to two 50-year old(ish) metal veterans with Metallica and Iron Maiden logos emblazoned on their t-shirts. During the short bursts of rage-filled lyrics, a look of confusion and puzzlement came over the two gentlemen, as the frontman and bassist threw themselves around the stage in a frenzy. Trash Talk are at the forefront of a new brand of stoner metal, where the live shows are characterised by big, brash displays of bile and vitriol, a far cry from the showmanship of Bruce Dickinson and James Hetfield, but still impressive, if not relatively abrasive.
For most of the set Spielman spent his time amongst the crowd. The masses of snapback clad ‘yoofs’ swinging their arms and elbows around and rarely making any connection with anything but thin air. Trash Talk as a band were summed up perfectly by Spielman himself early on in the set: “Short, succinct and to the point”. With most of their songs played out at around 1-minute long, he wasn’t wrong. The circle pits were the most ferocious of the festival, as Spielman ventured far enough back to find me cowering near the sound desk.
Look, I got ‘all up in his grill’:
It was this sense of incredible crowd participation and the ceaseless energy of the band that made this set one of the highlights of the day for me. Whether their own brand of party-punk would go down well on the main stage at a festival is one thing. But in a crowded tent, Spielman bent the crowd to his will superbly. Which warmed me up for something I’ve been waiting around 6 years for.
Glastonbury the weekend previous was a huge milestone for the band. Arguably, the claims they had to ‘prove themselves’ at Glastonbury were completely ridiculous. They’re fucking Metallica and they’ve sold more albums than bloody Arcade Fire and Kasabian combined. Plus, name me a person who doesn’t lose all their shit during ‘Enter Sandman’ and I will go and buy a hat, then eat said hat. They answered the critics, sure. But, in doing so, they produced one of Glastonbury’s finest sets, ladened with as many singalong classics that any Chris Martin or Bono could bring.
So returning to a festival where the band will quite literally lauded as gods was going to hardly be daunting for Ulrich, Hetfield, Hammett, and Trujillo. To spice up their most recent tour and give them an excuse to globetrot without another album, Metallica are touring under the banner of ‘By Request’. Meaning we, the peasantry, get to pick the set. That means one thing. The set won’t be littered with random tracks from the deep, dark depths of ‘Death Magnetic’. Instead, it’ll be jam-packed to the brim with hit after hit.
So with the sun still shining down on Knebworth Park and after a sneak peak of ‘Glastallica’, the legendary four-piece strode on stage with a swagger unbeknown to any other act. They’ve conquered Glastonbury and they were about to defeat Sonisphere. Opener ‘Battery’ was met by a tirade of air drumming, which ceased about two and a half hours later when the band finally left the stage.
Every song was belted out with passion and the audience returned the favour by echoing every lyric back at them, from ‘Master of Puppets’, to ‘Whisky in the Jar’, which Hetfield admitted was his favourite song to play at the moment. The best reaction was reserved for ‘Enter Sandman’, as the crowd bounced in unison to the riff that has become synonymous with the band. ‘One’ was played out with a grandeur you don’t really expect at any metal show. However, for me it was ruined by some pillock next to me donning an Adolf Hitler moustache and adopting a ‘Sieg Heil’ pose throughout. Not funny in the slightest.
The gimmick for the day was that one of the songs was picked by the crowd – coming out on top by a whisker was ‘…And Justice for All’ and finishing off the set we had a rousing rendition of ‘Seek and Destroy’, which stopped any early leavers dead in their tracks so they could throw their horns in the Saturn Stage’s direction.
At Sonisphere, Metallica arrived with absolutely diddly shit to prove. Somehow though, they left proving something. So did the new guard, under the guise of Trash Talk, showing they can put on a show.
But, when it comes to stadium rock and getting a mammoth crowd going – leave it to the undisputed kings of thrash.
Well played boys. (10/10)
From the moment I arrived there was a definite air of nostalgia around the place. Sonisphere is undeniably a festival for a section of the gig-going public, that is too lethargic and stubborn to embrace the pace of change music is making at the moment. They lament the days ska disappeared (if it ever was) from the mainstream music agenda and don the t-shirts of band who are certainly not playing the festival, but they want you to know ‘THEY CARE!’
Underlining the wistful air of sentimentality were ageing veterans of ska Reel Big Fish. They’re a band who knows how to cater for the longingly nostalgic audience, and that’s by playing nothing but the hits. There was only one song from their newest release ‘Candy Coated Fury’, which consequently got the same kind of reaction from the crowd that you would expect if Aaron Barrett came out onstage dressed as Vladimir Putin and started spouting anti-Ukranian propaganda.
The rest of the set was a journey through the nether regions of the California six-piece’s assorted back catalogue, which finished somewhat triumphantly with their rather enjoyable cover of ‘Take On Me’ by a-ha. They received a lukewarm reaction from the crowd for the majority of their set, barring the final cover which provoked slightly more frivolity. (6/10) But, their inclusion on the line-up is one of the things which confuses me about Sonisphere as a festival.
It’s a metal festival, targeted at the black t-shirt wearing population who choose to grow their hair past their neck, swing it around them like a lasso at random times, seemingly to display their dominance as either the smelliest or sweatiest member of any crowd. So what is a ska band like Reel Big Fish doing there? And what have bands like All Time Low and Weezer been doing hanging around the likes of Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth?
Somehow though, when it works, it works beautifully, as the Dropkick Murphys showed later on the Saturn Stage, emerging after a musical prelude that was almost long enough to rival the theatricality of ‘Glastallica’ the previous week. The run-up doesn’t serve to stifle the flow of the show though, as the seven-piece bound onstage like a bag of excitable puppies let loose in the kitchen when you’re chopping the veg for dinner. They aren’t bloody annoying like those puppies though (I’ve got a thing against dogs at the moment as I think I’m allergic, OK?).
Set opener ‘The Boys Are Back’ is flowing with the kind of good cheer you find at your local pub when it’s Irish night and the beer is flowing. Ken Casey has the pride his music enthuses rolling out of him in droves, whilst vocalist Al Barr looks every bit as mean as ever dressed in the kind of polo shirt and cap you see Frodo Baggins wearing in Green Street before he slogs someone right in the gob.
Barr is a marauding presence, as he paces menacingly along the front of the stage, stirring the crowd into a frenzied whirlpool. It’s singalong anthem after singalong anthem from the Massachusetts homeboys. My personal highlight had to be a rip-roaring cover of the traditional folk number ‘Black Velvet Band’, which was furnished with a gloss of punk bite. The audience was joined in unison for the penultimate tune, as they covered AC/DC’s classic ‘Dirty Deeds Done Cheap’, before skipping of the stage to one of their classics, ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’.
This all proved to me that you didn’t need to be a roaring, denim jacket wearing, Satan-worshiping metal band to fit in at Sonisphere. You were welcomed with open arms as long as your music had a bit of an edge to it. Dropkick Murphys had that in spades and left Knebworth Park as champions, after a rabble-rousing set that William Wallace himself would have been proud of. (10/10)
Sandwiched in between Reel Big Fish and Dropkick Murphys are titans of sludge, Mastodon, who troop through a set with just enough of their classics to justify a good outing for songs from their new record ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’. ‘Chimes at Midnight’, ’High Road’ and ‘The Motherload’ sit unobtrusively next to tracks like ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Blasteroid’, as the band take you away to a starry-skied world with their thudding, yet entirely melodic tunes.
At the helm, Troy Sanders conducted the orchestra of majesty behind him, whilst still grasping the 30,000 strong audience within the palm of his hand, from up high on the Saturn Stage. The titanic melodies that Mastodon have made their trademark over the past decade soared out over the fields of Knebworth, drawing in a considerable crowd. They’re the kind of outfit that the smaller bands who graced the weekend’s line-up can watch slam out a set of huge tunes and give them the will to aspire to play higher on the bill. (8/10)
By comparison on the same Stage, Alice in Chains produced an utterly flaccid performance, devoid of any real showmanship. They bumbled through a set which catered for anyone wanting to hear the hits, as ‘Man in the Box’ and ‘Them Bones’ received an airing. For a band gracing the upper echelons of rock royalty, the crowd could most definitely have expected something more than the dour showing they got from the titans of grunge.
Perhaps with all the line-up changes William DuVall and co. have gone and lost what made them so brilliant to watch. Or maybe the four-piece couldn’t handle the almost unbearable rays of the sun beating down from high upon the Saturn Stage. (5/10)
Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of John’s review of Sonisphere 2014.
Need something abrasive and thoroughly obnoxious to kick you out of that post-England-being-knocked-out-of-the-World-Cup stupor? In search of a wake-up track after those 11 o’clock kick-offs?
Well, prepare yourself for a 22-minute long aural assault of epic proportions. White Lung seem to only have one mode and on their new record ‘Deep Fantasy’, and that is full-on frenetic. Should we be surprised? Well, not really, since this is the Vancouver-based trio’s third full length album – and I use the term full-length with gusto – as at 22 minutes, this is their longest outing yet.
Frontwoman Mish Way on vocals is not shy to announce her credentials as a punked up mix between Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Joan Jett. Whilst Anne-Marie Vassiliou on drums will cast away any memories of lethargic female drummers (Meg White, we’re looking at you dear) – as she’s an absolute livewire on the kit – delving into the kind of tempo you’d expect on a thrash metal record. Kenneth William has the unenviable task of keeping up with these two pace-setters on guitar, and throughout the album he achieves a breakneck pace and new addition Hether Fortune rifles along frantically on the bass.
The record starts in ferocious form with the emotion and drama of ‘Drown with the Monster’ before we’re thrown into arguably the catchiest of this collection of 2 and a bit minute bangers, ‘Down It Goes’. The first two tracks are characteristic of the rest of the album. No time is wasted, there’s no mucking about with effects – it’s a sub-30-minute burst of feminist punk rock assaulting your ear drums in the most visceral of fashions.
Way isn’t afraid to go rampaging into – probably dropkicking them in the soft gooey parts in the process – some deep issues. ‘Snake Jaw’ is almost a lyrical assault on issues with the female body image – the stresses of matters like body dysmorphia and western obsessions with size 0 – all tuned to a thunderous mashing of power chords and heavy percussion.
The only things that trips me up on this album, is that upon each new listen, it occurs to me more and more that this record and the band in general is probably only going to be enjoyed by the journalistas of London and the hardcore punkers. It’s in vogue to be a bit edgy and crack along with the whole ‘90s women’s revolutionary rock scene, e.g., ala Hole and co. The band are obviously extremely merchandisable – this shouldn’t be viewed as a band thing – but it always makes me feel uneasy. Perhaps it’s just me being a cynical hack though? Throughout ‘Deep Fantasy’, from ‘Drown with the Monster’ to ‘In Your Home’, the album does seem incredibly genuine and heartfelt.
‘Deep Fantasy’ is a vital listen for anyone starving from a lack of primeval-punky goodness (just make sure you haven’t got weak eardrums) and with its feminist dusting, it could prove itself to be an even more vital listen.
‘Deep Fantasy’, White Lung’s third album for Domino Records, is out now.
Being miserable is the new cool, guys. Melancholy: the new hip. Dejected and depressed: the new rock ‘n’ roll.
The days of gloom-pop are upon us.
OK, so it’s not exactly a brand new concept, seeing as artists have been crooning about how wretched a life they have had. But we’ve hit a new twist – with a new indie-rock sense of pomp, we’ve got a group of doom mongers for the Game of Thrones-obsessed masses. (We’re past the Skins generation, right? That’s not a thing anymore, is it?) Recently, artists like The National, White Lies and Editors have cut a niche for themselves in this territory. Now, stepping up to have a crack at their own take on the movement is Chicago band Empires with their new EP ‘How Good Does It Feel’.
What you’ll find within is 13 minutes and 48 seconds of ’80s inspired indie rock that won’t have you reaching for the tissues, but instead have your head bobbing like a metronomic Churchill. Somehow though, any artist at the moment with a deep resonant tone to their voice, backed up by I suppose what you could call a thudding bass line reminds me of The Vaccines. Upsettingly on this EP, there are no tracks that live up to that kind of billing.
No ‘Wetsuit’s, or ‘Wrecking Ball’s.
The concept, as alluded to earlier isn’t exactly novel or ground-breaking either. But as an EP, it still manages to be rather entertaining throughout. It’s honest and doesn’t allude to being anything other than what it is, by removing all frills and not trying to experiment.
Band members Sean Van Vleet, Tom Conrad, Max Steger and Mike Robinson have stuck to their guns and have a sound which they are comfortable with. The next step is to find that hook, that one tune which breaks the mould – their ‘Wetsuit’. When they crack it, it won’t be long at all before everyone is raving about them.
Empires’ EP ‘How Good Does It Feel’ is out now in America on Chop-Shop/Island.
What’s incredibly refreshing about We Have Band is how they have gone about their relatively brief career without flouting and playing on the fact they have a female in their numbers. It’s not a USP, it’s not a gimmick, and instead Dede Wegg-Prosser is an integral cog in the dance-pop soundscapes which the three-piece have created over the past 4 years in their fantastic remixes and albums. Too many times, I’ve seen an act play off the fact a member is sans-Y chromosome and use it as some sort of unique selling point, to set them out from the crowd. We have Band thankfully are and never have been in danger of becoming a member of that crowd.
The Manchester/London based three-piece have instead earned their indie-disco stripes through two extremely accomplished albums and a hand-full of infectious remixes that have become mainstays at club nights across the nation like Propaganda, cementing their place as 21st century indie-disco stalwarts. Their third full-length release ‘Movements’ has them creeping down a similar path – with a funky, synth driven mix of melancholic pop and lively vocally powered tunes making up the bedrock of the record.
What’s most striking on ‘Movements’ is the impact Darren Bancroft and real-life married couple Thomas and Dede Wegg-Prosser’s three-piece harmonies have – elevating over a samba style drum beat with some funkadelic guitars whizzing behind. Mid-album track ‘No More Time’ is a perfect example of the perfectly intertwined vocal harmonies of all the band members, each bringing their own unique nuances to the mix. From immense harmonies to tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place in a high-paced fitness class – ‘Heart Jump’ delivers an intense disco beat that you could quite realistically be sweating your hangover out at to in spinning class at your local gym.
The eleven song album manages to fit its fair share of foreign influences in, with a dosage of Spanish guitar inspiration the undertone to ‘Every Stone’ near the end of the record, as slowly you’re led on a foot-tappingly pleasant journey. They haven’t gone full Bombay Bicycle Club on this one, with Eastern/Mediterranean influences not dominating proceedings.
But from the start, we are treated to a shimmering indie-disco in ‘Modulate’, one of the album’s standout moments, whilst at the album’s conclusion we are given a stomping-synth underwritten crescendo. Finale ‘Blue’ is a testament to the growth the band have gone through in the past 2 years since their last release, using all the tricks they’ve learnt to create a majestic soaring portrait of doom-inspired synth-pop. It’s almost glorious in its minimalism, fading into nothing.
‘Movements’ is also – as their other records have been – a showcase for the immense musical talent of the group. Taking their hands to a whole whack of synthesizers, numerous percussion devices, and sampling whatever they can grab their hands on, which ranges from space age sound effects in ‘Modulate’ to doom-laden crashes in ‘Blue’, to some kind of retro video game-esque beeped booping in ‘You Only’.
‘Movements’ is a perfectly rounded album for this band, who are now no longer finding their feet and their place in the landscape of indie/dance music and the nebulous ground they stand on. With ‘Movements’ they’re setting their sights on the big leagues and with arguably one of the most summery albums of the fairer months it’s sure to be bursting out of numerous festival PAs, as crowds get their hips-a-shaking.
We Have Band’s third album ‘Movements’ is out now on We Have Band Records / Naive Records. Watch the group’s more recent promo video for the first single from the album, ‘Someone’, below.
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