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Great Escape 2018: Day 2 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 6th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It was good to take a breather with my friends the Orielles because I was about to embark on the hardest walking period lined up in my Great Escape 2018 schedule. Thanks to Google Maps, the walks I took were more picturesque and slightly less bad than I had expected. Discovering a leafy, pedestrian-only lane on the way to the Green Door Store made walking up and back down down to the sea a total of four times made me forgot how much my feet were burning. Almost.

I was eager to see Declan Welsh and the Decadent West in action. While there’s been a proliferation of politically-minded punk bands in England, if the same thing is happening in Scotland, I’ve clearly missed it. Like my good friend Matt Abbott, East Kilbride’s Welsh is a poet at heart, having taken up the causes of socialism and supporting Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Just as one might expect, he began their set alone with a poem dripping with emotion and vitriol. Welsh later made the audience laugh with his best attempts in Spanish language delivered with a Scottish accent before he and his band launched into ‘No Pasaran’. Introducing the LGBT and sexual liberation anthem ‘Do What You Want’ as “a sex-positive song”, Welsh sent the audience into a bit of an amusing tizzy, the tune beginning slowly before becoming a wailing guitar number.

Declan Welsh and the Decadent West Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

Coincidentally, the next act I would see was also Scottish. I noticed this year’s Great Escape Festival was largely devoid of electronic acts. If this trend continues, it makes me less likely to attend in the future. ONR. (pronounced “honour”), Robert Shields with this band, was on the top of my list of acts to see at SXSW 2018 (see preview here), so when he cancelled his band’s appearances last minute, disappointment doesn’t even begin to cover it. When I saw ONR. added to the BBC Introducing bill Friday night, it felt like a reprieve. Back down at the Old Ship Hotel, a mass exodus from its upstairs Paginini Ballroom followed the set by the showcase opener Leicestershire soul singer Mahalia, spilling out onto Ship Street. Yes, I arrived too early. No way was I going to miss this.

The disappointment of ONR.’s absence in Austin was wiped away, evaporated by the powerful spectacle of this very performance Friday night. Having seen The 1975 here in 2013, right before they hit it big, it’s an important venue to me, a place where British acts play before they become musical giants. You’re inside the Old Ship Hotel, a Grade II-listed building built in 1559, watching a band perform on what is probably a centuries-old stage but with 21st century equipment and lighting. For the bands, it must be like performing in an old church, history speaking from its walls and feeling history being made while onstage. Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but it does feel extraordinarily different to see a band here than any other place in Brighton.

ONR Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

Under a dizzying light display, Shields followed his bandmates out on stage to deliver a commanding performance worthy of the bombastic pop hits he’s written under the ONR. name. The power of the beats and synth-driven instrumentation matched Shields’ booming vocals. 2017 debut single ‘Jericho’ is a masterclass in how to write a pop song: slow burn them with a verse, then knock ‘em up over with the muscle of the chorus. The ONR. set closed out with ‘Five Years Time’, with its anthemic, thunderous choruses. BBC Introducing describes them playing their newest single ‘American Gods’ at the recent Biggest Weekend as “stadium-ready rock”: whatever you want to call it, this is massive stuff. ONR. are currently in America, due to play shows supporting Mondo Cozmo and their own headline shows on both of our coasts over the next fortnight: all the details are through here.

Sticking with the Scottish theme and buoyed by the energy of the ONR. set, your intrepid music editor went back up the hill and back to the Green Door Store for Rascalton, another one of my festival tips. Their style of high-octane, melodic guitar punk was just the ticket, ‘Lust’ being an example of a less than 3-minute long tour de force. Seeing three Scottish acts calling Glasgow (or close) home back to back, it’s heartening to see that there’s no Glasgow ‘scene’ or specific sound, but rather musicians who are committed to writing music their way and aren’t bound by what the often clueless pundits back down in London think is hip now. I’m going to guess one of the band member’s mams was down front, wailing, dancing and waving her arms about and, well, if you can’t get excited about your son’s band doing well, you’re clearly doing it wrong.

Rascalton Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

I didn’t have the luxury of pogoing on my sore feet like her, so it was time to go back down again to the Old Ship, finally getting to see Ten Tonnes. I’d run into him earlier and he’d remembered me earlier from when I interviewed him at the Twix showcase at SXSW 2017. His recent songwriting collaboration with ex-Kaiser Chiefs Nick J. Hodgson on single ‘Lay It On Me’ left me less than enthused on what looks like a more poppy direction.

However, after seeing it live, I think I’m having a change of heart. I watched his fans go absolutely mental, dancing to this very song at the Paginini Ballroom. What do I know, eh? As he and his band performed ‘Silver Heat’ at a frenetic pace, I was transported back to that outdoor stage at Lustre Pearl on the day before the single was released when he performed it alone. The set ended up with the winsome ‘Lucy’ and its “Luc-EE! Oh oh oh oh!”s ringing in my ears. I think I’ll always prefer the more bluesy, rockabilly version of Ethan Barnett, but I will take him and his music however it comes packaged to me,

Ten Tonnes Friday the Great Escape 2018 1

At this point, I’ve been reduced to crawling up the hills of Brighton, this time to make my way to the Hope and Ruin, previously known to me as the Hope. Following queueing outside and watching a belligerent smoker almost get into a fight with one of the bouncers, I’m finally let in. The downstairs area has been turned into a tropical-looking DJ room for the Great Escape, a partly dismantled piano greeting you presumably supposed to pass for high art. Upstairs, I arrived for the last few songs by South Wales post-hardcore (what does that even mean?) band Dream State.

This would be a time when having the knowledge of by either former TGTF rock writers John Fernandez (now at the BBC) or Luke Morton (now at Metal Hammer) would have come in handy. I was reminded reading one time on TWLOHA about how despite the aggro look of the bands and their fans, the hard rock community is, surprisingly, one of inclusion and support. Packed in the room like sardines, you could feel the crowd shift, everyone craning their necks to watch female lead singer CJ roam across the long stage, engaging with fans. While I sincerely wondered how CJ wasn’t ripping her vocal cords as she screamed, her emotion, backed by her bandmantes’ blistering rock was palpable, fans shouting for more. I fully admit screamo and emo et al. aren’t specialties of mine, but any good music critic worth his/her salt knows when they’ve witnessed heart and passion.

Braden and I were reunited when he joined up with me to watch Cassia (see my tip on them prior to Live at Leeds 2018 through here). As mentioned previously, there were PA issues at the Killing Moon and LAB Records showcase at the Hub that day. The Macclesfield band with huge hype already behind them were due to open that showcase. As you might expect, this show at the Hope and Ruin, their only other appearance they had scheduled in Brighton during the Great Escape, was rammed with their fans disappointed in the earlier set.

Cassia Friday the Great Escape 2018

I’m going to guess that if you’ve heard of Macclesfield, it’s probably because of Joy Division or Peter Crouch. Cassia seem poised to change that. I don’t think anyone would associate the North of England with tropical music, so their brand of trop-pop sets them apart from virtually everyone else, save perhaps London’s Kawala, who were also in town for the Great Escape. With no windows to prove we were actually in Brighton, Cassia’s sunny, guitar-driven tunes brought us to an island paradise we didn’t know we needed. Easy to consume light fare ‘Out of Her Mind’ was perfect to end a long day of walking and bands.

For more of my photos from Friday at the Great Escape 2018, go here.

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 2 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 5th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Despite a disappointing end to my Thursday at the Great Escape 2018, at least I got a full night’s rest before launching into Friday in Brighton. My first stop was to the second of two afternoon lineups organised by Horizons / Gorwelion at Latest Music Bar. In the past, you could count on London industry types not making it down to the Great Escape until midday on the Friday and so Thursday and Friday afternoon showcases wouldn’t be so rammed. I think the sun helped out quite a bit both afternoons to get festivalgoers already in town up and at ‘em early, as by the time I got to the venue, a queue had already begun to form down Manchester Street. The queue would further extend all the way down the street and around the corner after I’d left.

My host in Brighton had told me his friends had gotten married in this venue, pretty cool knowledge that this place has seen both celebrations of love and music. Luckily, I made it in just before electronic and dance singer, musician and producer Rachel K. Collier started her set. Remember, she had what I thought was the unenviable task of playing before half past noon on day 2. Instead, to my delight, the crowd was massive and eager for a look-in at the performance by the triple threat from Swansea.

Rachel K Collier Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

Despite the early time, Collier and her long-time percussionist Rhii brought a party atmosphere to Latest with their big beats and tropical outfits, making it feel more like we were in Ibiza than in Brighton. Their energy was infectious, with Collier even getting the audience to sing along with her. ‘Paper Tiger’, which was chosen for an FA Wales advert earlier in the spring, went down a treat, as did catchy new single ‘Darkshade’, both of them showing off Collier’s brilliant vocals. By the end of the performance, it wasn’t even 1 yet and I was already sweaty! I got to chat with the lovely Rachel at SXSW 2018 and you can read my two-part interview feature through here.

Rachel K Collier Friday the Great Escape 2018 4

The Swiss Music Export party was being held at Bau Wow, and while loads of foreign languages were being spoken (fun fact: Switzerland has four official languages) and there was nice spread of food and drink for delegates, I was there for the music. I had stopped into Bau Wow to see another one of my Great Escape-tipped acts, CRIMER. Sound problems my blogger friends reported the previous night had thankfully been resolved. Judging from his sound, the artist from Zurich is well informed on British New Wave, and it’s not hard to hear his influences of Depeche Mode and even ‘90s boy bands.

CRIMER Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

It was a surreal moment as CRIMER performed his biggest hit (300K streams on Spotify) ‘Brotherlove’, the entire crowd singing along and dancing. If you closed your eyes, you would have thought you’d been transported back to the ‘80s. His live bandmate had a keytar, seriously. The indefatigable artist sang jumped around the stage in a white turtleneck and smart trousers, while imploring to the audience to go wild between songs. In this small room in the early afternoon filled with perspiration and good vibes, you realised you were witnessing something special.

Another problem with the sunshine, if you want to call it a problem, was that there were so many people out and about in Brighton, it was like playing a game of urban Frogger trying to get where you needed to go. On my way back up from the seaside, I’d intended to make it to Jubilee Square to see Jealous of the Birds. I previously saw Naomi Campbell and her self-described ‘grandma-chic’-dressed solo set when she supported The Divine Comedy last November in Birmingham. This was my opportunity to see her again with a full band since their appearance at Dublin Tengu at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016. (Carrie had seen them several times 6 months later at SXSW 2017.) It was not meant to be, as just as like Boy Azooga the day before, I arrived too late.

I wish to note here that as mentioned in my first previous of The Great Escape 2018, there were several venues by the seaside new to this edition of the event. This year, oddly or not, famed seaside rock venue Concorde 2 was not utilised, but The Beach venues were not far off from it. Many friends who ventured down to the Beach said that unless you planned a significant amount of time to see bands there to make it worth it (translation: at least two acts and/or 2 hours), it wasn’t worth the walk down, only to have to walk back up. Another band who were on my list of tipped bands for both Live at Leeds 2018 and the Great Escape were Kent’s Lady Bird, whose both appearances in Brighton clashed with other acts on my schedule. While I was disappointed to have missed them, their signing to Slaves’ own Girl Fight Records suggests they’ll be seeing American shores soon enough.

As mentioned in my Friday evening roundup, it’s often hard to find time to get a bite to eat at The Great Escape. Early morning breakfast fortification is key, but when you can stop long enough for table food service, you stop. This was the thinking behind hosting the first ever TGTF Free Clinic for Artists and Writers at the Earth and Stars, a gastropub that caters to coeliacs, vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike. London booker and former TGTF contributor Braden Fletcher and I hosted the event, giving advice to and answering questions from the artists who stopped by. We also partaked on the gluten-free fish and chips, which were delicious. Although turnout wasn’t as high as we’d hoped (we were up against both the PRS Foundation and Killing Moon mixers), I was happy to make some new contacts and friends.

Now, Now Friday the Great Escape 2018

Our bellies satiated, it was time to pick up some more music. At Braden’s recommendation, we headed back down to the seaside to the aforementioned Killing Moon and LAB Records free Alternative Escape showcase at the Hub. Plagued by PA issues, it wasn’t surprising to see when we arrived that Minneapolis synthpop band Now, Now decided to leave the venue entirely to do an acoustic set on the beach. Band and a large group of onlookers cross-legged on the pebbles of the Brighton seaside were quite a sight to behold. Despite going without amplification and keys and interruption from revelers’ peripheral noise, massive keyboard-driven hit ‘Yours’ sounded like a completely different animal than what’s on record. Isolated, the gentle voice of neon pink-haired KC Dalager sounded magical and made for an only-at-The-Great-Escape experience.

My plan to knock out both Brisbane’s Hatchie and SXSW 2017 alum Ten Tonnes off my list meant actually getting into both the Arch and Coalition for their Clash magazine and Music Week showcase-opening sets there, respectively, that night. I found that I faced the same soundboard placement at Hatchie’s show that I encountered at whenyoung Thursday night. Yeah, not getting in…


We hosted our own stage at Coalition at The Great Escape 2011, so I know it’s not that big of a place. The queue went all the way down the block. Groan. Crestfallen, I walked away from the door trying to decide my next move when I spied an all-too happy sunglassed young man in denim. Couldn’t be… No, it was indeed Henry Wade of The Orielles, who we’ve supported for many years at TGTF. I hadn’t seen their crew play since CMW 2016 and in case you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that they released their debut album ‘Silver Dollar Moment’ in February on Heavenly Recordings. Sitting on the beach, drinking beer with dear friends, was priceless.

British bands and music industry folks talk about how much fun they have at SXSW, but I seem to have much more fun at UK events like The Great Escape. I run into and catch up with old friends who live over here as if no time has passed at all. Due to clashes, I didn’t get to see The Orielles play live in Brighton, but judging from the reception they’ve been receiving everywhere following the release of their debut, my presence at their shows is no longer really needed. With Heavenly behind them, they’re well on their way.

For more of my photos from Friday at the Great Escape 2018, go here.

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Monday, 4th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Before I headed out to blighty, I joked to my blogger friends that I didn’t think I would be eating dinner any night at The Great Escape 2018. Why? Each night, I had bands on my schedule starting as early as 6 PM. I thought, hm, maybe everyone will be too busy drinking in a pub with their mates or on the beach that the 6 PM shows won’t be busy. WRONG! London via Limerick pop trio whenyoung were playing to a massive crowd at the Haunt, one of the lesser-known venues of The Great Escape. The closest I could get to the stage for this London in Stereo showcase was standing next to the soundboard in the back. Their female-fronted guitar pop was just the thing for many punters in Brighton to start their Thursday night with, many moving and grooving in the Haunt to the band’s infectious melodies. Check out whenyoung’s newest single ‘Heaven on Earth’, released 2 Fridays ago.


There wasn’t far for me to go for my next stop. I’d advise against visiting the gender neutral bathroom stalls at the Arch (like walking into a pitch-black room, seriously) but the venue was serviceable enough for the Clash magazine showcase. Don’t be confused that there are no actual females in the all-male Sea Girls. The Londoners are a band favourite of NME and Huw Stephens of Radio 1 and judging from their merch, they refuse to take themselves seriously (‘Indie Landfill’ is not a phrase from the end of the Noughties I’ve not heard bandied around these days). Like whenyoung before them, they’re firmly in the pop camp, but Sea Girls swing back and forth between anthemic pop and muscular pop/rock. I have to admit that because my musical taste has been going towards the more weird and unusual lately, I wasn’t wowed by their performance, but I can see that with a little luck and the great songs they’ve written so far, they have the potential to gain a massive following very quickly. Watch this space.

Sea Girls Thursday The Great Escape 2018

As I’ve probably mentioned in past Great Escape reports, Brighton is a hilly place. I don’t care how well you think you’ve organised your schedule. At some point, you’re going to have to walk from the lowest point of the seaside back up to the Brighton train station at the top of the hill. (Incidentally, I did this back and forth several times Friday night because, well, sometimes, needs must.) To make things easier on myself, I took it easy up the hill to arrive at the Green Door Store for the last few songs of New York’s Bodega at the Upset magazine showcase. As one might rightly expect, American bands are big draws at a festival like The Great Escape, and there were plenty of folks in the main room at the Green Door, plus those who spilled out into the bar area before it. Knowing that Austin Brown of Parquet Courts produced their upcoming debut album to be released this summer should give you some idea of Bodega’s punky, devil-may-care kind of music. Not my thing, but they might be yours.

Black Futures Thursday The Great Escape 2018
apologies for the quality of this photo; clearly, it’s not my best work, and it didn’t help that it was nearly pitch black during Black Futures’ performance

London duo Black Futures describe themselves on their Facebook as “A no-holds-barred aural assault of Anarchic Electro Psych Punk Noise that is something like Death From Above and the Chemical Brothers’ bastard offspring”. Their recorded sound was intriguing enough for this hard rock and electronic fan to tip them in a preview of Live at Leeds 2018 and The Great Escape. Synths and guitars aplenty arrived on stage, while their mask and hazmat suit-dressed non-musical companions stood guard down front. Naturally, the spectacle caused the audience’s anticipation for the band to build. Programmed beats came in first, then the wailing guitars. Then, a ferocious scream from one of the guys on stage. You didn’t know if you should shake a tail feather or headbang. Me? I opted for the latter.

]Mansionair Thursday The Great Escape 2018

The main problem with the Green Door Store, which has been true every time I’ve visited, is that the place is like being inside a pressure cooker: hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. The upstairs venue space of the nearby Prince Albert is probably the only place worse for someone with claustrophobia, while the Hope and Ruin (formerly the Hope) offers the same level of discomfort. In order to take a breath, I dove for the exit, able to take in the precious fresh air all the way on my walk to Komedia. I couldn’t help myself: I just had to pop in to see Mansionair at one of their many appearances in Britain over the last 6 months. Even though I only saw them play two songs during their set at the ATC Live showcase, it was crystal clear from their closing with single ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’ that they were a huge hit with the Great Escape crowd, their arms to-ing and fro-ing in time to frontman Jack Froggatt’s directions from the stage. The sexiness and baby-making potential of Mansionair’s sound wasn’t lost on punters, as I uncomfortably stood amongst lip-locking couples.

Back down closer to the seaside, I stopped in to the basement venue of the Walrus for another act I tipped ahead of Live at Leeds 2018. Who Zapatilla is remains a mystery, his identity cloaked both literally and figuratively. While listening to his music on Spotify made his music seem dancier, the few songs I witnessed live Thursday evening were more subdued and less engaging than I’d hoped.

Zapatilla Thursday The Great Escape 2018

Feeling less than energised from Zapatilla’s set, I thought I might change gears completely and end my night with a bit of singer/songwriter Blanco White. As Carrie wrote previously, Englishman Josh Edwards’ project is infused with Latin-American influences. By the time I figured out where the Unitarian Church was behind all the construction work, I sadly learned the intimate, all-seated venue where I’d previously seen a magical set by Marika Hackman was one in, one out. So much for planning. Feeling slightly defeated, I decided to call it a night.

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 31st May 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It can’t be emphasised enough that the festival gods really smiled down on The Great Escape 2018 earlier this month. While in Washington, DC, my friends back home were suffering under torrential rains, I was by the sea in picture-perfect Brighton and never once did I have to break out the brolly. (Wasn’t so lucky the following Friday in Newcastle.) For anyone who has been soaked to the bone during The Great Escape in past years, you understand how this year’s impossibly good weather was incredible luck.

While the sunny skies did wonders for everyone’s mood and probably helped the sales of off-licence, takeaway liquor, friend and former writer Braden and I mused if the good weather could have adversely affected foot traffic and turnout to the both the official Great Escape and its sister event The Alternative Escape. As the weekend wore on, it seemed that with the long queues and huge crowds everywhere I went, there were plenty of music lovers in town to make this concern feel nonexistent. You’d have thought performances priot to the noon hour would be sparsely attended, but you would be wrong. Must be that early May sunrise in England!

Model Society Thursday The Great Escape The Alternative Escape 2018

London’s Model Society were already in full swing by the time I arrived at East Street Tap, host of the End of the Trail Records / Amazing Radio showcase. John and I knew this place in its previous incarnation as The Fishbowl. Their energy so early in the day was admirable, but I didn’t hear anything particularly exciting that would set their music apart from their indie peers. I was waiting for the act who would follow, Dan Lyons, who performed with a full band Saturday night at SXSW 2018.

Dan Lyons Thursday The Great Escape The Alternative Escape 2018

Lyons advertised it as a stripped back set, to be accompanied only by his guitar and his backing singer, bandmate and partner Freya. While his set in Austin came across as full-bodied blues, this barer version of Dan Lyons live was an entirely different experience. ‘Special People’ delivered in a deadpan makes you wonder how serious Lyons is being about people watching, or if he’s simply being cheeky. We were also treated to his upcoming single ‘Gargoyle’, which is currently only listenable if you happen to tune into a radio programme playing it. Everyone else, you’ll have to wait until it drops on the 22nd of June.

I thought I had gotten a good jumpstart on the acts following my in-person coverage of BIGSOUND 2017 in Australia last September and SXSW 2018 in March. But I can say now that I feel like there’s so much that I missed on at The Great Escape this year. There was the ever-present issue of clashes, of course, but the lack of separate lines for wristband and badge holders at many venues meant press could show up at a venue, only to be disappointed. Like at BIGSOUND 2017, I was thwarted again from seeing Hatchie properly on Thursday afternoon, but my personal setback could be viewed in a positive way: Sounds Australia’s Sound Gallery, taking up both the main Komedia venue space and its Studio Bar, were rammed all afternoon.

Hollow Coves Thursday The Great Escape 2018

When I made it back up to the Laines from East Street, I was only able to get into the Studio Bar. But with some luck, I managed to get reasonably close up to Hollow Coves. They’re a folk duo whose members are from Brisbane and The Gold Coast. This is a case where looks can be deceiving: they kind of look like smiley, yet unassuming builders. One of them is actually a carpenter, so I wasn’t that far off. At their simplest, I’d describe them as ethereal folk but interestingly, they also use synths on some tracks, taking folk songcraft and pairing it with electronic beats for a more 21st century flavour. I can get behind that! Their gorgeous music, including songs ‘Coastline’ and ‘Home’, took me back to my visit to Brisbane last year, when I took in the city’s very California-like climate and beauty.

On the other side of the Old Steine Gardens and back down closer to the sea is the Latest Music Bar, which hosted the Horizons / Gorwelion showcases Thursday and Friday afternoon. Even with rushing after an interview with Hollow Coves, I couldn’t make it in time before hyped Welsh act Boy Azooga finished. Drat. Cutting any further losses, I headed down to Patterns, Fender UK’s venue for the entire Great Escape, for a unique afternoon.

Declan McKenna Thursday The Great Escape 2018

Young but politically astute singer/songwriter Declan McKenna had been announced as the stage’s opening special guest shortly before the start of the festival, and his fans filling the Marine Parade venue were super excited as he and a female guitarist live bandmate began with single ‘Humongous’. Despite McKenna’s relative live inexperience, he seemed entirely at ease, his stage patter between songs hilarious. “I can’t play ‘Brazil’ now!” he hissed to the punters shouting for his World Cup-themed hit. “Everyone would leave!” Collective laughter. He ran through several other songs from his debut ‘What Do You Think About the Car?’, including ‘Paracetamol’, ‘The Kids Don’t Want to Come Home’ and ‘Make Me Your Queen’, before launching into the inevitable set closer.

Some of the crowd dispersed after McKenna finished, their spots to replaced to, shall we say, a much older crowd for BBC 6 Music’s Shaun Keaveny’s interview with legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. I knew this would be an opportunity for Marr to peddle the Fender Jaguar he helped design with the guitar company: at one point, Marr insisted to the crowd that you don’t need so many guitars, his guitar is so great, you only need the one. Hmm, right…I’ll get back to you on that.

Johnny Marr and Shaun Keaveny Thursday The Great Escape 2018

I was happily surprised that the conversation didn’t de-evolve into a boring, gear head kind of talk only accessible to real guitarists. Instead, Keaveny’s humour coupled with Marr’s down to earth nature made for a comfortable interview for both, Marr entertaining us with unexpected guitar interludes that any Smiths fan worth his salt would recognise, including the intro to ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ and the dreamy, yet mournful passes in ‘Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me’, the latter that he revealed was his favourite Smiths riff of all, written alone on a tour bus, missing his girlfriend.

He described writing melodies on a guitar as “It’s like chasing an angel”. What a beautiful, beautiful image to give us. I’d describe Johnny Marr as having a quiet peace around him: he’s obviously one of the 20th century’s greatest musical heroes, but he’s not throwing his weight around or feels the need to be showy. He’s content with where he is in life and he’s happy making music with “the best electronic machine” to write pop music on. Being that contented and happy: something we can all aspire to.

 

Live Review: This is Tomorrow Festival 2018

 
By on Wednesday, 30th May 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo by Dean Hindmarch via This is Tomorrow festival Facebook page

Starting in 2002 and for over a decade, Evolution Festival was a Tyneside event drawing music lovers to Newcastle and Gateshead during the lazy days of a May bank holiday. A few years passed with no appearance of Evolution’s return in sight. It’s unclear to me what the impetus was to create the inaugural This is Tomorrow Festival held last weekend Quayside in Newcastle. But I’d like to believe that following the last edition of Evolution in 2013 and the ensuing festival-less years that followed, festival organisers were simply chomping at the bit to provide another event to bring the music lovers of the North East together again. For 2018, This is Tomorrow was presented as a 2-day event, and I only attended on Friday the 25th. The lineup for Saturday the 26th included headliners Thirty Seconds to Mars, who were supported by locals and TGTF friends Boy Jumps Ship, Don Broco and Marmozets.

This was only my second time in Tyneside, so I made the mistake of taking the Quayside bus too far east. However, even though my trainers got soaked in the pouring rain in the afternoon, I’d argue that this music editor actually benefitted from this mistake, as I heard Everything Everything soundcheck ‘Can’t Do’ as I walked towards the box office. I’m not sure if Sam Fender was actually given a soundcheck, as I watched him dash through the rain, a guitar in each hand, onstage. Proceedings started on time shortly after 5:30 PM, with plenty of fellow locals excited to welcome the BBC Sound of 2018 nominated act and local boy done good to the stage. He began with the self-deprecating ‘Millennial’, then ran through a taut set of politically astute songs belying his relatively young age. I feel pretty lucky that I was able to see him in a club environment in March at SXSW 2018 and then got to see him play to a huge crowd in his hometown. Fender ended his all-too short set with ‘Play God’ and was rewarded with a rousing round of cheers.


Sam Fender This is Tomorrow 2018

For those not in the know, Little Comets were one of the first acts whose studio-recorded music I ever reviewed. For most of their career, they’ve been a three-piece, until relatively recently, when they expanded the core of brothers Rob and Mickey Coles and bassist Matt Hall with Matt Saxon on keyboards and Nathan Greene on drums for 2017 album ‘Worhead’, their fourth. With a pretty big back catalogue, I think it takes a lot of nerve to fill a set list with newer, probably less known tunes instead of relying on old, proven favourites. But if you know anything about Little Comets, they’ve never done anything predictable. Recent single ‘M62’ got an airing with gusto, as did the searing commentary of xenophobia in ‘The Punk is in the Detail’. But longtime Comets fans needn’t have worried: their dear ol’ girls ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Joanna’ were full of bounce as ever, and they closed their set with the ever joy-inducing ‘Dancing Song’. “This one’s for dancing!” That, indeed, it always is.


Little Comets This is Tomorrow 2018

Moving ever closer to the headline set Friday night at This is Tomorrow, the next band up were another TGTF favourite and another band with four studio albums under their belt, Everything Everything. The band originally having formed in Manchester may have lost two of their members to the big smoke, but this hasn’t negatively affected their unique sound one bit. Hard to believe that ‘A Fever Dream’ was released last summer, as its inventive songwriting has firmly been implanted in my mind. While at times I lament the loss of my favourite, earlier masterpieces of theirs like ‘QWERTY Finger’ and ‘Final Form’ to their live show, the inclusion of now perennial showpieces including ‘Kemosabe’ and ‘Regret’ alongside ‘A Fever Dream’ top tracks ‘Night of the Long Knives’ and ‘Desire’. While Sam Fender and Little Comets’ sets before them were enjoyable, Everything Everything’s set seemed to really rile up and excite the crowd right before the main event.


Everything Everything This is Tomorrow 2018

Catfish and the Bottlemen need no introduction, of course. The Welsh rockers, famous for their back-to-back hit-spawning LPs ‘The Balcony’ and ‘The Ride’ were, of course, the biggest draw for the inaugural This is Tomorrow event. The lion’s share of the shoving and pushing of the fans was all for them. While I’m not their target demographic and I consider their sound too rock by the numbers, I can appreciate that their feel good, anthemic sound resonates easily with the youth of today. The enthusiastic screams of delight rippling through the crowd were proof positive that Van McCann and co. came through with a job well done.

The festival wasn’t without its hiccups. Some fans complained they missed the performances they had being waiting for for weeks because the security queues took too long to negotiate. The rain led to widening ‘lakes’ on the festival site that were impossible to jump over, and frustration built as one such lake up front stage left prevented revelers from getting any closer to their heroes. Bottles of wine were being sold at an exorbitant £25, so naturally, I wondered how much a pint of lager or cider would have cost. Few down the front, many who had arrived to queue outside while it was still raining, were willing to brave the arduous expedition to leave the crowd to get an overpriced drink. The crush of bodies down the front eventually became too much for me, so a report about a young man having a panic attack in the midst of the festival was, unfortunately, not surprising to me. The youth of Newcastle have the infamous reputation of not dressing appropriately for cold weather, so it was not surprising to me to see kids in attendance in soaking wet clothes, shivering while the wind blew. My motherly instinct kicked in, and I felt terrible for them.

While no festival can prepare for every eventuality, it’s unfortunate that many will remember this festival for the problems they encountered. The rapid selling out of tickets to the Catfish and the Bottlemen-headlined first day is incredible validation that the music lovers of the North East are excited about an event like this and that future events will be well attended and successful. The This is Tomorrow festival organisers should be proud of this. Let’s hope that they heed all punters’ feedback, whether positive or negative, and use the feedback to make next year’s event even better.

 

In the Post #161: Lokki shares bare rendition of ‘Breathe a Breath of Me’ from ‘Cirrhi’ EP at The Church Studios

 
By on Wednesday, 9th May 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

If Lokki’s tall, skinny frame looks familiar, your eyes are not deceiving you. Drew Macfarlane has been seen the last few years as the man in a tropical shirt and on guitar and keys in Glass Animals. Now he’s stepped out from behind that synth stand and into a solo career. Like Sivu before him, his chosen stage name is Finnish, an alternate spelling of the word for seagull. Macfarlane’s genre with Lokki is in the decidedly more traditional vein of singer/songwriters, not with a guitar in hand but a piano in front of him.

He released his debut EP ‘Cirrhi’ the week after we returned from SXSW 2018. I clearly must have missed it while having my ‘must get my Austin write-ups done’ blinders on. The first song from the EP revealed was ‘I Catch You’, self-described by Macfarlane as “a late night song. Its sound world is like waking up in the early hours of the morning, with music from a sound track drifting through the walls.” The newest from Lokki is a live video of another EP track, ‘Breathe a Breath of Me’. The starkness of the performance at Paul Epworth’s The Church Studios in London – Macfarlane’s voice accompanied simply by piano and a backing singer – heightens all your senses around this beautifully contemplative track.

Taken literally, the title ‘Breathe a Breath of Me’ describes something we all do nearly every moment of every day and all too easily take for granted. The lyrics to the song have been written and are sung with a devotional, spiritual edge with the repeated words “breath a breath of me, my child”. The steady melody builds a feeling of safety and warmth, and Macfarlane’s lyrical treatment expands on what it means to be loved and feel love. At its conclusion, he sings, “I wish that broken years could fix a heart / and make it whole”, the notes of the harmonising vocals acting like the final climactic notes you’d hear in a symphony. While I enjoyed Macfarlane’s contributions to Glass Animals immensely, Lokki looks to be just the right vehicle for him to fully take advantage of his choral and classical training and present his own gifts to the world.

9/10

The ‘Cirrhi’ EP from Lokki is out now on Wolftone. Macfarlane has one show in London announced for next month, at Rosemary Branch Theatre on the 8th of June. Summer festival appearances are expected to be announced in due time.

 
 
 

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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