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

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

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Live Review: Bear’s Den with Gill Landry at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland – 20th January 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 25th January 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

My first live review of 2017 took me north to Portland, Oregon, where the cold and rainy weather was a shock to my system, coming from the fairly mild winter we’ve had at home in Tucson. However, Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge proved to be a cozy place to catch a show, with a lovely log-cabin themed bar and restaurant upstairs and a small, but sonically spectacular, music venue nestled below. As it turned out, the venue’s crisp, clear sound was perfectly suited to the new FM-radio rock-leaning sound of last Friday evening’s headline act, London alt-folk duo Bear’s Den.

Gill Landry

Bear’s Den were preceded on the Doug Fir Lounge stage by singer/songwriter Gill Landry, with whom they had shared a bond years earlier on Communion Music’s Austin to Boston tour. Formerly a member of the Americana collective Old Crow Medicine Show, Landry also has three solo albums under his belt. The most recent of those is a self-titled LP released in 2015, which, interestingly, includes a duet with Laura Marling called ‘Take This Body’.

Landry started his set with a couple of relatively uptempo numbers, even dedicating one song to the newly inaugurated American president (in a less-than-complimentary fashion, it must be said). But it soon became clear that Landry’s catalogue of bluesy folk rock leans to the self-described “tender” side, and the chatter of the still-gathering Doug Fir Lounge audience became a bit of a distraction from his subdued and somber acoustic balladry. Those of us near the front of the stage, though, got the full effect of Landry’s warm baritone in feminine muse-inspired songs like ‘Emily’ and Old Crow Medicine Show cover ‘Genevieve’.

The restless crowd had filled to capacity by the time Bear’s Den made their dramatic entrance to the stage, opening with the first two tracks from their recent album ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’. Officially pared down from a trio to a duo consisting of Andrew Davie and Kev Jones, the band presented here as a six-piece, and their arrangements of the new songs were immediately lush and full, true to the recorded album versions.

Davie Jones photo
The band made a subtle change of course mid-set with an interlude of older songs, including a pair of tracks from their 2014 album ‘Islands’. ‘Stubborn Beast’ was a particular treat, as it’s been a mainstay of the band’s repertoire for several years now. (We at TGTF featured this live version of it back in 2011.) Also thrown in for good measure was the poignant ‘Don’t Let the Sun Steal You Away’, which I hadn’t heard since the band released it on their EP ‘Without/Within’ back in 2013.

Naturally, Bear’s Den’s newer songs dominated the setlist, with ‘Roses on a Breeze’ and ‘Dew on the Vine’ making an especially strong impact. But Davie and Jones also took full advantage of their four touring members in expansive live orchestrations of ‘The Love that We Stole’ and ‘When You Break’, which fit seamlessly into their recently modernised sonic milieu. Their drummer and keyboard player even pulled double duty on several songs, taking on brass arrangements in addition to their primary instruments.

brass photo

After closing the set proper with a singalong chorus in ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’, Bear’s Den played a generous four-song encore, starting with ‘Napoleon’. Davie and Jones briefly descended into the crowd, along with touring bandmate Christof, for a fully acoustic rendering of ‘Gabriel’, then returned to the stage for a well-chosen cover of ‘Paul’s Song’, originally by M. Ward, in reference to the pervasive “Portland rain.” Cementing their warm reception in chilly Portland, the band closed with their instantly recognisable alternative radio hit ‘Agape’.

Friday evening marked Bear’s Den’s third appearance at the Doug Fir Lounge, but their first time selling it out, and they were clearly quite pleased by their audience’s positive response. The attention is well-deserved for a band who have spent most of the past five years on the road, cultivating and evolving their sound, whilst never losing track of the quality musicianship and songwriting that got them started in the first place. Bear’s Den are a band very decisively coming into their own, and this live performance bore full witness to their confidence and capability. A pure joy to behold.

Bear’s Den will be on tour in North America through mid-February. They will play a run of live dates in Ireland and the UK later this spring; you can find the details for those shows right back here. TGTF’s archived past coverage of Bear’s Den is through here.

After the cut: Bear’s Den’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Bear’s Den with Gill Landry at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland – 20th January 2017

 

Bear’s Den / March and April 2017 UK/Irish Tour

 
By on Thursday, 27th October 2016 at 8:00 am
 

Alt-folk duo Bear’s Den are evidently finding success with their second LP ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, out now on Communion / Caroline International. The pair have yet to embark on their sold out November tour of the UK, but they have already unveiled a new list of headline dates for early 2017. The new tour announcement was accompanied by the band’s latest promo video for ‘Dew on the Vine’, which we featured earlier this week as our Video of the Moment #2208.  At the bottom of this page, below the tour date listing, you’ll find their previous video for album track ‘Emeralds’.

Tickets for the following shows will be on sale starting today, Thursday the 27th of October, at 10 AM. A full listing of Bear’s Den’s worldwide tour dates, including another round of North American shows in January and February 2017, can be found on their official Facebook.  TGTF’s previous coverage of Bear’s Den is collected back this way.

Sunday 19th March 2017 – Dublin Whelan’s
Monday 20th March 2017 – Belfast Limelight 2
Wednesday 22nd March 2017 – Exeter Lemon Grove
Thursday 23rd March 2017 – Oxford Academy
Friday 24th March 2017 – Cardiff Tramshed
Sunday 26th March 2017 – Sheffield Leadmill
Monday 27th March 2017 – Newcastle Riverside
Wednesday 29th March 2017 – Glasgow Academy
Thursday 30th March 2017 – Manchester Apollo
Friday 31st March 2017 – Nottingham Rock City
Sunday 2nd April 2017 – Leeds Academy
Monday 3rd April 2017 – Southampton Guildhall
Wednesday 5th April 2017 – London Hammersmith Apollo

 

Video of the Moment #2208: Bear’s Den

 
By on Tuesday, 25th October 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

Header photo by Phil Knott

Dynamic West London duo Andrew Davie and Kev Jones, known collectively as Bear’s Den, have just revealed the new video for ‘Dew on the Vine’, which was one of my favourite tracks on their recent album ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’. Though the song itself is as emotionally intense as the rest of the album, it would appear that Bear’s Den are going for a somewhat lighter tone with this promo video. Director Louis Bhose has set the music to soundtrack a cutthroat table tennis tournament fashioned à la ‘Fight Club’, with formidable competitors named “Fierce Vanda” (dressed in a panda costume) and “Switchblade”, among others. Shocking under-the-table antics ensue, and in the end Bear’s Den are left to band together (pun intended) against the odds.

On a different note, it feels somehow remiss not to mention the film noir style video for Bear’s Den’s excellent previous single ‘Emeralds’, which you can view here. TGTF’s full coverage of Bear’s Den is collected right back here.

 

Album Review: Bear’s Den – Red Earth & Pouring Rain

 
By on Friday, 22nd July 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

"BearsLondon neo-folk artists Bear’s Den have spent their fair share of time on the road in their 5-year history. TGTF’s own first feature on the band, way back in 2011, found them playing for the now-defunct project Bands in Transit. They subsequently joined Mumford and Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover tour and Communion Music’s Austin to Boston tour, as well as making two appearances at the SXSW music festival and playing worldwide headline dates around their debut album ‘Islands’, released back in 2014.

Now, just under 2 years on from that first LP, the band’s relentless toil and travel has resulted in a breathtaking new album, titled ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’. In the process of making the record, Bear’s Den have slimmed down from a trio to a duo, with the amicable departure of Joey Haynes in February of this year. “Being on the road so much pushes friendships to the limit and really affects your relationships outside of it. You get extreme highs and lows,” remarks lead singer Andrew Davie.

Bear’s Den have also streamlined their sonic identity, finding inspiration in the FM radio soundtracks of road trips past – Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Bruce Springsteen – as well as current artists like The National and Sufjan Stevens. “We spent a lot of time on the road and that music really fitted our head space,” Davie explains. “It felt like the natural musical progression.” Davie’s bandmate Kev Jones continues that train of thought: ”We wanted to make a great album for driving at night. There’s a technical level to that, matching the sounds to Davie’s lyrics, but thematically, a good metaphor for the mood is the idea of driving forwards while looking in the rear view mirror. A sense of contrary motion.”

The album starts with a quick hit of adrenaline in its anxious title track ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’. The song could depict either a desperate escape or a pleading return as Davie sings, “please don’t pin all your dreams on me / you can count on me to fuck up everything”, but the blindly repeating chorus “don’t you remember, love? / don’t you remember anything?” propels the song, regardless of its ambiguous direction. Sharp guitar riffs and anxious pulsing rhythms maintain the album’s restless momentum through the emotional crossroads of ‘Emeralds’ and ‘Dew Upon the Vine’. Both songs combine the familiar folk element of Davie’s Romantic-style lyrical imagery (“though the morning light will burn away / all the fog that night creates / there’ll still be a trace of our love left behind / in the dew upon the vine”) with sleek, synth-laced instrumental arrangements and angular vocal harmonies to create a darker, more visceral soundscape than what we heard on the diffuse and dreamy ‘Islands’.

The choruses throughout ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’ aren’t so much catchy as acutely gripping. The excruciating refrain “somewhere deep down I still believe / you’ll always be / the love of my life” punctuates the off-kilter rhythm and stream-of-consciousness lyrics in ‘Roses on a Breeze’. The introspective and acoustic-flavoured ‘New Jerusalem’ entwines and circles around itself in the lines “love is just a word you thought you heard / all it means is never, never say never, no / don’t give up on me yet / can you learn to forgive all that you learned to forget?”. ‘Greenwoods Bethlehem’ has a similar acoustic tone, but a jarring dynamic change in its chorus marks the thematic contrast between sweet memories and bitter present reality.

Memory is a central theme on the album, and it stands out particularly in a pair of intense mid-album tracks. ‘Love Can’t Stand Alone’ is a painful childhood recollection of loss that finds Davie channeling Springsteen to astounding effect in the lines “I prayed for the day my prayers would end / but nothing ever came that was heaven sent”. Lead single ‘Auld Wives’ is equally dramatic and emotionally effective, with a haunting keyboard melody and deep chugging guitar rhythms underscoring the anguish of losing a loved one to dementia.

Heavy and formidable track ‘Fortress’ features some of Davie’s most striking and convincingly sung lyrics, “I’m calling the blame / won’t you let me own it . . . a coward might call it a conscience / and a liar might call it the truth”. Current single ‘Gabriel’ is instrumentally lighter and warmer, but its lyrics are deeply introspective, and its exquisite vocal harmonies keenly illustrate their duality and sharp internal conflict.

Album closer ‘Napoleon’ makes skillful use of lyrical analogy and musical device to portray the uncertainty and pain of childhood with an emotionally destructive parent. The song’s melodic counterpoint, march-like drums and regal brass lend a rather ironic sense of optimism as Davie compares an alcoholic father to the eponymous and ill-fated French Emperor in his opening lines “I still see you there / a tall glass of Napoleon and an off-white leather chair” and his closing refrain “we’ve only got one shot now, Napoleon / it’s not too late to mend what we’ve broken”.

While time spent on the road has clearly given Bear’s Den the opportunity to reflect upon relationships and ponder past memories, it has also provided them the means and motivation to refine and even redefine their sound. Davie and Jones have jump-started their alt-folk lyricism and atmospheric musicality with a bolder, darker dynamic and a more technically focused, purposeful approach to their songwriting. Sonically compelling and emotionally evocative, ’Red Earth & Pouring Rain’ is, quite frankly, a stunning success.

9.5/10

‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, the sophomore album from Bear’s Den, is due for release on Friday the 22nd of July via Communion / Caroline International. They will play headline dates in the UK this November in support of the album; you can find the details here. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of Bear’s Den is conveniently collected here.

 

Single Review: Bear’s Den – Auld Wives

 
By on Wednesday, 22nd June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Bear’s Den singer and lyricist Andrew Davie has never been one to shy away from tackling heavy themes in his songwriting. The songs on the band’s debut album ‘Islands’ dealt with subject matter ranging from platonic love and illusions of afterlife to strained parent-child relationships and bitter romantic break-ups. In ‘Auld Wives’, the first single from Bear’s Den’s upcoming second LP, Davie picks up exactly where he left off, with a song about the heartbreaking process of slowly losing a loved one to dementia.

The song’s title comes from a Scottish landmark near the home of Davie’s grandparents, the rock formation known as Auld Wives’ Lifts. “No one knows how they got there,” explains Davie, “and there are faces carved into the rocks. There’s all sorts of folk tales around them.” The song ‘Auld Wives’ is about Davie’s grandfather, who lived near the Lifts. “He developed Alzheimer’s in his old age. Knowing someone, and them not knowing you any more, is a difficult thing to go through. Auld Wives became this way of talking about it, of venting about that feeling.”

In the absence of former bandmate Joey Haynes, who left Bear’s Den on friendly terms, Davie and multi-instrumentalist Kev Jones appear to have drastically streamlined the expansive alt-folk character of the original trio. While their foundational melodic structures and vocal harmonies still serve to realise Davie’s evocative lyrical imagery, ‘Auld Wives’ has a distinctly edgy, more synthetic overall sound and a noticeably darker tone quality in the orchestration that what we’ve heard from Bear’s Den in the past. The equally powerful video for ‘Auld Wives’, which you can view just below, masterfully captures Davie’s poignant lyrics and the palpable dramatic tension of the musical arrangement.

8.5/10

‘Auld Wives’ is the first single from Bear’s Den’s forthcoming second album ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, due out on the 22nd of July via Communion / Caroline International. Bear’s Den will play a run of live dates in the UK this November; you can find the details here. TGTF’s complete previous coverage of Bear’s Den is this way.

 

Bear’s Den / November 2016 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 6th April 2016 at 8:00 am
 

Having apparently pared down their roster from three members to two, alt-folk duo Bear’s Den have announced details of their upcoming new LP ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, along with a list of autumn tour dates in the UK. The new album, titled ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’, was recorded in Wales with Ian Grimble once again at the production helm and is due for release on the 22nd of July. No music from the album has been made available yet, but the band have offered up a tantalisingly brief teaser clip, which you can view at the bottom of the page.

Bear’s Den will give a small but lucky group of fans an early preview of the album with an already sold-out show at London ICA on the 7th of June. Tickets for the following November dates will be available starting today, Wednesday the 6th of April, at 9 AM. You can find TGTF’s previous coverage of Bear’s Den right back this way.

Tuesday 1st November 2016 – Brighton Dome
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 – Birmingham Institute
Thursday 3rd November 2016 – Glasgow ABC
Friday 4th November 2016 – Manchester Albert Hall
Saturday 5th November 2016 – Norwich UEA
Tuesday 8th November 2016 – London Brixton Academy
Wednesday 9th November 2016 – Bristol Academy

 
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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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