TGTF will be on a break from 23 November to 5 December. Our festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, can be read through here.

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Live Review: Saint Etienne at U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC – 27th September 2017

 
By on Friday, 29th September 2017 at 1:00 pm
 

There are some bands that you know will always put on a good show. Further, if it’s a band who have survived the test of time, the odds are even better. So naturally, I went into the Saint Etienne show in Washington Wednesday night knowing I was in for a good time. There was a nearly 30-minute delay to their start, despite there being no opening act. Also, I think they made some questionable choices in their set list. Despite all that, Sarah Cracknall and co., which included five additional live members to Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs on synths, put on a show that got their audience grooving. Well, as much as the U Street Music Hall crowd of mostly bespectacled men with varying degrees of baldness could stand. (Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s a very strange feeling to be stuck in a crowd of men, some of whom barely moved for the entire set except to snuffle, take a photo of the gyrating Cracknall with their phones, then resume with almost stony-faced immobility.)

We'rre Actually Very Tired Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne were in town to promote their latest album released in June, their 9th called ‘Home Counties’, a love letter to the commuter towns of London from where they themselves came from. You can read my review of the LP here. Before they got onstage, an impressive array of equipment was already set up, while a series of phrases in English droll wit, in the font on ‘Home Counties’, shuffled on the projection screen behind. “Contains Thematic Elements!” “We’re Actually Very Tired!” But of all of them, “Skilled Musicians With Over Twenty-Five Years Experience!” was my favourite, as if to remind any young whippersnappers in the audience that Saint Etienne had been around the block and could teach them a thing or two.

Saint Etienne Washington September 2017 1

Shortly before 8:30, they went on to rapturous applause from the audience who had been patiently waiting since doors had opened an hour and a half earlier, not to mention 5 years since their last show here. What followed after the pastoral instrumental interlude of ‘Church Pew Furniture Restorer’ was a pretty good mish-mash of old favourites with ‘Home Counties’ tracks mixed in. On ‘Out of My Mind’, you’re reminded how beautiful Cracknall’s voice still is, as well as just how good Stanley and Wiggs are at crafting a pop melody. The song chugs along at the perfect pace for pop to be able to let the lyrics sink in, and Cracknall’s delivery of them is both pleasing in their rhymes and heart-breaking. I nearly cried. The disco beat-thumping ‘Dive’, another track from their latest record, was introduced as the #1 vinyl single in the UK, which seems to suggest quite discerning tastes of the record buying British public, doesn’t it?

Saint Etienne Washington September 2017 2

Played live, songs from 1998’s ‘Good Humor’ and 2012’s ‘Words and Music’ are a good reminder how consistently Saint Etienne have been over the years as an electropop group. ‘Lose That Girl’ and ‘Sylvie’ from “our electro-folk days”, Cracknall quipped, seem simpler than you might have thought before from the records. Then the synth-dense ‘I’ve Got Your Music’ brings you firmly into the 21st century. Not all bands give you the opportunity to yearn for their songs from totally different eras.

I was sure that they would play the minor key wonder ‘Heather’ from the new record in the encore, but they chose to play ‘Train Drivers in Eyeliner’ instead. (I also wondered what happened with ‘You’re in a Bad Way’, as it too was omitted.) My train drivers are welcome to wear whatever makeup they so choose but as I described in my album review, it’s a strange duck indeed. The sweeping ‘Take It All In’, of a similar speed and played in the earlier in the set, is a far better choice to showcase Cracknall’s voice. Still, all was not lost: ‘He’s on the Phone’ brought things back up tempo to close the night on a high.

Saint Etienne Washington September 2017 3

After the cut: Saint Etienne’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Saint Etienne at U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC – 27th September 2017

 

Video of the Moment #2444: Ryan Vail

 
By on Thursday, 28th September 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Northern Irish electronic producer and artist Ryan Vail is releasing a new single tomorrow on Quiet Arch. To celebrate the release, he’s unveiled a promo video to accompany ‘Shadows’. In the song, Vail quietly asks, “Do you ever feel how I feel? / Will you ever be the one for me?”, before the tempo ramps up. This is a gentle, uncluttered take on electronica, beautiful in its minimalist beats. In the video, Vail utilises a mysterious diamond hanging in the sky that a woman becomes fixated on, and to the point that she seems possessed. Not unlike infatuation, eh? Watch the promo for ‘Shadows’ below. To read what we’ve written on Ryan Vail in the past, including our coverage of him at SXSW 2017, go here.

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 3 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 28th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

My schedule for my last night at BIGSOUND 2017 ended up being mostly changed last minute. Deciding that I wanted to mix things up a bit, I started at the venue that was farthest north, The New Globe Theatre. The name of the place sounds more highbrow than the band from Melbourne I was there to see. Post-hardcore group Deadlights opened the venue for the night with ferocity. While electronic might be getting more attention on radio in these parts, it’s clear with fellow Melburnians Belle Haven who I saw Tuesday night and Sydneysiders Polaris that Australia that the hard rock scene is alive and well and worthy of attention too.

Deadlights Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

I got the sense that Brisbane girl duo OKBADLANDS had been riding on a wave of hype and wanted to see if the hype was deserved. Kate Gurren and Sally Latter and their live band were playing the upstairs Mane Stage at the Woolly Mammoth. Their combination of percussion with pop and r&b sensibility were a much easier listen than the onslaught on show at the Deadlights set just before. I like the fact that the sound of OKBADLANDS isn’t obvious for a two-girl act. That is, they don’t play the cloyingly too precious pop that seems to always show up on mainstream radio, yet it’s all too easy to get pulled in to their rhythmically engaging tunes.

https://flic.kr/p/YZFxti]OKBADLANDS Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

Having some time before my next act, I decided to duck into The Zoo and see who was playing. Do you remember a band called Kins? I sure do. I remember seeing their name on The Great Escape grid for a few years in a row, and now it all makes sense. Turns out they were originally from Australia. Their drummer, Alex Knight, now has his own solo career as singer/songwriter Brightness. He released his debut album in June. His gentle brand of indie rock reminiscent of Sweet Baboo seemed too small for a venue as big as this. Then again, if someone like Conor Oberst can play bigger venues, maybe Knight’s day for that just hasn’t come yet.

Brightness Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

I had somehow avoided Oh Hello! and the triple j showcases there all week. I wasn’t doing it on purpose, it just so happened the acts I wanted to see weren’t playing there. As I had hoped to hit every BIGSOUND venue, I stopped in to get a feel for the place and to snap some photos of the talent. Or at least that was the idea. Young singer/songwriter Ruby Fields, whose popularity has blown up just this year, no doubt on the back of triple j’s support, was on stage and in front of a packed club. See the photo below, that was the closest I could get to the front. Don’t doubt the power of triple j’s reach: the Australian radio station most popular with the young’uns, equivalent to BBC Radio 1, brought in hordes simply because they curated this showcase. Here’s to hoping that she’ll appear at SXSW 2018 and I can see her in a venue where I’m not gasping for air and having a panic attack. We shared this adorable exchange on Twitter; I appreciate her appreciation for me trying to get in there and do my job.


Ruby Fields crowd shot at BIGSOUND 2017

Time for a much more relaxed environment, The Empire Hotel. Thomas Calder, who I had seen in Sydney 5 years ago previous as the frontman of The Trouble with Templeton, a band we’ve written a fair bit on. He now performs under the moniker Daggy Man. As one might expect from a singer/songwriter performing alone, his songs are stories from his life or observations on life. While he didn’t have anywhere near the same size of audience as Ruby Fields, he’s got very vocal, devoted fans, some of whom sat cross-legged on the floor to listen to their god dexterously play his guitar and emote through his softly sung vocals. Maybe the Conor Oberst comparison I used earlier applies better here?

Daggy Man Thursday night at BIGSOUND 2017

 

Video of the Moment #2443: Belle and Sebastian

 
By on Wednesday, 27th September 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

I haven’t visited Scotland 3 years, and I have just watched a video that makes me think I should plan a visit soon. Stuart Murdoch and Belle and Sebastian have a new single ‘We Were Beautiful’, their first new music since their last album’s release. It follows 2015’s ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’, out now on Matador Records. Directed by Blair Young, it’s described on YouTube as “Life experienced at different speeds as the city wakes up over a Saturday morning. Filmed throughout Glasgow, from Crookston in the south-west, through the City Centre to Easterhouse and Cranhill.” It’s such a nice, positive video, showing the real lives of Glaswegians as they enjoy your lives with their families and their city. Watch it below. For much more on Belle and Sebastian here on TGTF, use this link.

 

BIGSOUND 2017: Day 3 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 27th September 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

The conference portion of BIGSOUND 2017 had an admirable, multiprong approach to addressing the gender divide in the global music business. On a general level, they made a concerted effort to include plenty of female panelists in their sessions. Specifically, they offered a session on Thursday (repeated on Friday) called No More Manels! Public Speaking for Women in the Music Industry, led by Alison Wenham, CEO of Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) and advocate for women to be confident in this male-dominated business. (On Tuesday, to open BIGSOUND, a Women in Music mixer at Eleven rooftop bar as a nice networking event. Another session I attended on Wednesday, Hook-Ups: Gender and Music, had less focus than Wenham’s session and I found it less useful.)

Wenham gave a kind of toolkit to provide encouragement to women asked to speak on their expertise, whether as standalone speakers or as part of a panel, and underscored the difference between men and women when asked to speak in these capacities. While I didn’t agree with all the negative generalisations she made about men in the business and those overwhelming positive towards women given my own experiences, I could see her talk as being a good starting point, as if a therapy session, for women who have felt particularly downtrodden and marginalised in this industry and simply for the fact of being a woman.

I also attended the What Brexit Means for Your Band session. I think it suffered from lack of attendance due to the concurrent sessions on syncs, the technology of live music and the role of labels. I was attending because I was curious whether Northern Irish duo exmagician’s threat of not touring in America if Trump was elected would occur, not because of what has happened in America but because of the prohibitive cost of British artists touring Europe once hard Brexit takes hold. Of the three panelists, two were from England (one a gig booker and another booking festivals) and the third was Clémence Bizien from Paris, a representative of a promoter from the Continent. Clémence pointed a positive of Brexit that I couldn’t have predicted, because I wouldn’t have thought about it this way: the Brits have been lording over those on the Continent for years, looking down on them, that Brexit might mean the Brits will have to swallow their pride, be nice and not demand as much from their Continental cousins. If you think about this on a wider scale, especially given that BIGSOUND takes place in Australia, a former British colony traditionally looked upon as subordinate to Britain, maybe it would do the British music industry some good to be humbled.

At the Data and the Independent Artist session, I was eager to pick up tips and nuggets of advice that I could pass along to artists we champion here on TGTF. It was interesting to hear that the reach of Facebook Messenger is predicted to be bigger and to replace email as the medium of choice to reach punters before and during festivals and other events. The take home message I got from the session was that there’s plenty of data being collected by labels, streaming services and loads of other entities, but many of these collectors don’t really know what they have or how to use it. The same can be said about artists themselves, and like most things in this business, there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula of collecting and then using data as part of an implemented promotional campaign. Sobering, but the truth.

Braille Face Thursday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

I have to admit that I was losing steam by this point and the thought of returning to my flat to take a nap was very enticing. I somehow soldiered on to see Braille Face for a second time, at an unofficial showcase at Bloodhound Bar. I was rewarded for showing up by getting to see Jordan White perform not only with a violinist as at his Tuesday performance in the basement of The Judith Wright Centre with his drummer and horn-playing friends. For sure, the Bloodhound Bar receives my top marks for best unconventional indoor venue during BIGSOUND where alcohol was also available, ha.

Willaris K. Thursday afternoon at BIGSOUND 2017

I was next on to the best unconventional outdoor venue of the festival, the pop-up stage on Brunswick Street Mall. Well, maybe pop-up stage is the wrong terminology to use. Electronic producer Willaris K., who wowed a crowd of sweaty bodies Wednesday night at Heya Bar, held court from within a tiki-themed caravan. Never in a million years would I imagine I’d see a DJ spinning from such a vehicle, and I probably will never see one like it again. It may sound strange, but the fact that you could sit down, rest your legs and enjoy his detailed soundscapes after 2 days of running after bands was pure bliss. You’re going to have to trust me on this.

 

Video of the Moment #2442: The Dig

 
By on Tuesday, 26th September 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Fresh off touring with Portugal. The Man and Dan Croll, The Dig have just begin a new headline tour of themselves. To celebrate this, they’ve released an animated video for their most recent release. It’s special because it’s a cover of The Kinks’ ‘People Take Pictures of Each Other’, available now. Its promo video, created by James Kerr / Scorpion Dagger, pokes fun and takes full advantage of society’s current preoccupation with selfies.

Why this Kinks song? They explain further: “The best songs tend to feel current in any age. They seem to only get stronger and more relevant as time goes by. The Kinks released ‘People Take Pictures of Each Other’ about 50 years ago, but the line “people take pictures of each other, just to prove that they really existed,” sounds like it could have been written as a commentary on pop culture in 2017. The idea that if it isn’t on social media, it didn’t happen. Ray Davies is the master at writing about this kind of serious subject matter while making it feel playful and lighthearted at the same time. This same mix of humor and serious craftsmanship is what drew us to James Kerr’s stuff. Everything he makes is really funny, but you sense that he’s diving into some pretty intense subject matter at the same time. Taking a stroll through ‘The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society’ recently and hearing this song come on, we were amazed at how current it sounds and felt inspired to create our own version. We wanted it to feel like an extension of some of the sounds and vibes we were experimenting with on our new album ‘Bloodshot Tokyo’, while staying true to the fun and dance-y aspects of the original.”

Watch the video for The Dig’s cover of The Kinks’ ‘People Take Pictures of Each Other’ below. For more on The Dig on TGTF, follow this link.

 
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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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