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By Mary Chang
on Monday, 13th February 2017 at 4:00 pm
Oxford’s wonky pop maestros Glass Animals have become quite the phenomenon in the States. So much that they spend more time over here then they do at home. Before Christmas of last year, they participated in a special local radio station 94.7’s holiday soiree, where the below video was filmed. ‘Pork Soda’ appears on the band’s sophomore effort on Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone label, Caroline International (UK) and Harvest Records (US), ‘How to Be a Human Being’, which was released last summer. (You can read my review of the long player through here.) Using an actual pineapple for percussion instead of the instrument equivalent provides a surreal moment, but I think the inanity of this got lost on the crowd, who were totally eating up the performance. Watch it below. For more of our coverage of Glass Animals, pretty much before anyone else starting back at SXSW 2014, go here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 18th January 2017 at 4:00 pm
Blaenavon shared with us some good news last autumn. The East Hampshire trio who have been building on well-deserved live hype announced that they had signed to Canvasback / Atlantic Records. To usher in 2017, they have even more good news! Their debut album,’That’s Your Lot’, will be out on the 7th of April.
To celebrate this great news, they’ve shared a travel diary of sorts by director Francesca Consarino of their time last autumn in New York City, where they played two packed out shows to new, adoring American fans. It’s set to ‘Orthodox Man’, the first single announced from the upcoming LP out this spring. Watch the video below. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Blaenavon, who appeared at SXSW 2016, use this link.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 17th January 2017 at 4:00 pm
London via Newcastle protest band VANT are just chomping at the bit for their opportunity to wow punters at SXSW 2017 in March. Don’t believe me? Read my interview with their frontman Mattie Vant from November through here. For those of you (and myself) who have not have the wonderful opportunity to see the group perform live, either at a regular headline show, or at their homecoming show back at Newcastle Cluny in early November for last autumn’s edition of Dr. Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING tour, they’ve got something special for us.
In December, they performed at London Scala in the north of the city. It’s a pretty cool venue to start out with, so any live video shared from the place would look very cool anyway. However, they didn’t stop there. Through stylised editing of the actual performance as if a moving scrapbook, as well as coverage of their fans queueing outside and enjoying the show once inside, this video comes across as high-energy documentation of the band’s blistering live performance experience. Watch it below. Stay tuned of our coverage of VANT when we’re out in Austin. To read through our growing back catalogue of coverage on VANT, follow this link.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 23rd December 2016 at 11:00 am
I saw an ‘interesting’ Christmas card on a friend’s office door earlier this week. The sentiment inside the card referred to the “tumultuous” year we’ve had, with an additional note about looking forward to better things in 2017. To be honest, given the sheer volume of craziness in the last 12 months, it seemed an irresponsible act of a music editor to post her top albums and shows of the year, as if 2016 was like any other year in the past. This article to close out the year is not meant to be a scathing assessment of what has happened. Instead, the words below are meant to encourage reflection during this holiday season, during that usually otherwise ‘sweet spot’ of festive days before we say goodbye to the current year and usher in a new one.
The passing of David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen and countless other luminaries in the music world
A mathematician would argue that given the law of averages and the passage of time, for every year that passes, we’re going to lose more of our favourite artists. That makes sense, right? But 2016 saw the passing of what seemed to be the most ridiculous number of singers and musicians in popular music ever. Just ask @PigeonJon.
Votes for Brexit (warning, about to get partisan)
Politically, 2016 delivered a one-two punch to the idealistic types in Britain and America. The majority of blighty voted to leave the EU, opening the door to Brexit becoming a reality sooner than later. As most/all of you know, I don’t live in and never have lived in Britain, so it might sound strange for an American to come out so negatively against a political decision made on British shores. If you were like me and studied any sort of isolationism policy in history class in school, you know what happens when a single major country in the world tries to cut itself out of the business matters of the rest of the world.
To paraphrase the many thoughts in my head, just consider this one point with respect to the British music industry: if bands cannot afford the travel and visa costs to leave Britain and enter another European country (seriously, just forget America for the sake of this argument), they’ve lost out on a major revenue stream, not to mention the priceless exposure they would get from the touring opportunity. I’ve considered the fact that for us Americans, it may well become de rigueur to travel to the UK to see our favourite British bands or else never see them live ever again.
That’s the most fatalistic vision of the future, but it could become very real. As we all know, for most bands, touring is their bread and butter and let’s face it, the future looks bleak. As for our president elect (I can’t even bring myself to type out his name), I have contemplated too many times what havoc he could wreak on the entire world, so I’m just going to leave that there.
Skepta winning the 2016 Mercury Prize (finally, some positivity!)
I won’t repeat what I wrote in September following grime’s huge victory at the annual awarding of the Mercury Prize, you can read that here. What I will say is, it feels like we’re all stood on top of a massive tectonic plate and have been doing so all year, and the earth is shifting beneath us. Change has come and will continue coming. There will be major losses, but there will also be major gains. We needed a win for humanity this year, and Skepta’s win – and one of his sources of inspiration, his very excited mum! – was a bright spot amid the repeated, seemingly unrelenting sorrows we were faced with this year.
Things aren’t ever going to be the same, and we can’t expect them to be so. But we won’t be downtrodden forever. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Thebes wasn’t destroyed in a day either. We can use this time during the holidays for quiet reflection and remind ourselves that even in darkness, we can think, plan and act. Please, please remember that.
I will leave you with some lyrics from the ‘on hiatus’ Keane that I’ve turned to many times this year. I needed them to keep me going, to remind myself that not all hope was lost. Hope is always there. Just sometimes you need to dig deeper in yourself to find it.
“I’ve been knocked down but I won’t be broken, I won’t be broken
My spirit’s reeling, but my arms are open, I won’t be broken”
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 2nd December 2016 at 4:00 pm
The purposeful controversy-causing London-based band VANT performed on the 12th of November at Newcastle Cluny. It was one in a series of shows on Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING autumn tour, which also starred twin brother dance duo Formation and Hackney MC Paigey Cakey. (A live performance by Formation from October at the Scandinavian Church in Liverpool on this tour can be watched here.) Today, we’ve got live video of VANT performing single ‘Peace & Love’ in frontman Mattie Vant’s childhood backyard of the North East. Watch the politically conscious band in all their live glory below. For more on the group here on TGTF, including a Q&A with him ahead of this appearance in the Toon, follow this link.
Austin-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez passed through Phoenix before the American Thanksgiving holiday, making his second appearance here in just over a year. If you’re a regular TGTF reader, you might remember my review of his previous show in the same venue, downtown Phoenix’s Valley Bar. On that occasion, Ramirez was accompanied by a full band and special guest Liza Anne, but by design, this gig was quite a different event.
Ramirez is playing completely solo on his current tour, without either a backing band or a support act. Dubbed the ‘Bootleg Tour 2016’, these shows also involve the element of live recordings, which are being distributed via download to all ticketholders within a few days of the show they attend. The souvenir recording is a unique and intriguing digital age concept, and it became even more appealing as we in the audience discovered, much to our delight, that Ramirez had a few yet-to-be-released songs up his sleeve.
Without an opening act to warm up the crowd, Ramirez began the night somewhat unceremoniously by simply walking on stage, saying a quick greeting and starting to play. He opened with a sequence of old favourite songs, starting with ‘I Think I Like You’ from his 2011 ‘Strangetown’ EP before turning to his more popular 2015 album release ‘Fables’. ‘How Do You Get ‘Em Back’ and ‘Communion’ were apparently more familiar to the punters gathered near the stage, and Ramirez’s set quickly gained momentum. Despite his own admission to feeling a bit under the weather, the grit and raw power of his singing voice held up admirably to the stripped back song arrangements presented here, especially in the bitterly poignant ‘Harder to Lie’.
Of the new songs in the set, ‘Too Far Away’ grabbed my attention straightaway, with the coincidentally relevant lyrics “Well, I’m coming to London, gonna bring you back to Texas / you’ll have your first Thanksgiving and you’ll meet the parents.” Like so many of Ramirez’s songs, this one has a bittersweet twist, which he immediately counteracted with the dry cynicism and dark blues edge of another new track, titled ‘Stone Age’.
In the end, Ramirez played quite a lengthy set, 22 songs in total, including the unreleased tracks and a remarkably fitting cover of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’. He seemed to take advantage of the relative success of last year’s ‘Fables’, interspersing songs from that album with older releases that might not have been as well known. It must be said that Ramirez’s acoustic version of ‘The Bad Days’, from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’ was exquisitely effective whether his audience knew it already or not, and he indulged a shouted request for ‘Fires’, which dates back to his 2009 album ‘American Soil’.
Though I missed the backing vocals I was accustomed to hearing in the full band arrangements of several familiar tracks, Ramirez’s voice and acoustic guitar were equally compelling on their own, especially in a small, intimate venue like the Valley Bar. And if his new songs see the light of day, so to speak, it will be interesting to listen back to the bootleg recording and compare the fully arranged studio versions to these stripped back preliminary performances. Ramirez’s Bootleg Tour 2016 continues through the end of December; you can find the remaining dates listed here.
David Ramirez is currently listed as a showcasing artist for SXSW 2017, which will take place in his hometown of Austin next March. As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. To keep abreast of David Ramirez’s upcoming plans, we recommend that you keep an eye on his official Facebook. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, you can consult the festival’s official schedule here.
After the cut: David Ramirez’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016
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