Check out our festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
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Kendal Calling 2016 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 10th August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

In the process of researching for this review (by which I mean spending lots of time in various sunny fields listening to a lot of excellent music and chatting to a lot of talented people), I found myself face-to-face with Andy Smith, a founder of and head honcho at Kendal Calling. Considering the number of priceless moments his event has provided me with over the years – countless superb bands seen; friends, belongings, and marbles found, lost, and then found again; memorable impromptu jams and karaoke sessions – one would hope to do better in summing the whole deal up with a blokey “Cool festival, man.”

So, here is my homage to Kendal Calling, and considering I have more time to prepare it, I shall attempt to be more fulsome than the above. 2016 was the safest, most grown up version of Kendal Calling yet, and though there is plenty I miss about what was subtly different to previous years, all things considered this was the best installment yet. Apart from a shower early on the Thursday, the sun shone consistently throughout the weekend, which makes an enormous difference to one’s perception and enjoyment of a festival. Speaking of Thursday, I can remember when the evening’s entertainment for those hardy souls who volunteered for a pre-festival night’s camping was a bonfire and vintage clothing stall. Not so of late, and it fell to The Charlatans to close the main stage on Thursday. Surely one of the most well-known bands in Britain, the survivors of the baggy scene do make a delightful, funky racket, and if familiarity has dampened their ability to seem truly special, their sheer exuberance, not to mention liberal applications of Hammond organ, always makes them a compelling watch.

There’s more to Thursday night than the main stage anyway. After hours, the Chai Wallahs tent takes the strain of thousands of people looking to start their weekend with a bang. I’d managed to misplace the new campsite friends I’d only known a few hours, leaving them to buy beer only to realise that it’s impossible to find anyone again at Kendal if you’re actually looking for them. Best to go with the flow, meet people who fate wants you to meet, and take it from there. I remember speaking to a couple of guys who’d come up from Brighton, pretty much the farthest distance it’s possible to travel from on the mainland, and proof of Kendal’s nationwide reach. In true get-it-out-of-your-system style, late Thursday evening was spent mooching around various camps, joining in impromptu singalongs, mostly of songs written by a certain Mr Gallagher

Kendal Calling 2016 - Too Many Ts-7915

None of which shenanigans prevents a large crowd gathering first thing in the afternoon for the lively flow of Too Many T’s. I’m personally not sure where these guys have sprung from all of a sudden, but they seem to be all over the place, with a brand of witty hip-pop that’s perfect for an afternoon at a festival. They’ve got a lot of decent tunes that don’t seem to have appeared on record yet. Come on lads, you could have some hits on your hands!

Kendal Calling 2016 - The Big Moon-7964

One of the enormous pleasures of Kendal Calling is the undercard in the Calling Out tent, or what should actually be called the New Favourite Bands tent. The Big Moon are four girls from London who make a brilliant racket, perfectly poised between sweetly innocent melodies and flip-the-bird punkiness. There’s such hooks here that even on the first listen to something like ‘Cupid’, it’s impossible not to sing along in raucous joy. Brilliant stuff. And so to our first band of the day that have actually released an album. Hooton Tennis Club betray their Merseyside origins with lazy yet rock-steady beats, some lovely discordant guitar work and jaunty lyrics. Like early Blur crossed with the Lemonheads. And they’ve got an amazingly enthusiastic bass player. Who doesn’t want that?

Kendal Calling 2016 - Hooton Tennis Club-8024

Manchester’s Gideon Conn was a highlight of my festival last year, and he’s back this with a longer set, except he doesn’t seem to know he’s actually got a full hour to showcase his delicately funky looped observational pieces, so his set climaxes about 15 minutes too early. No matter, because all the ingredients are still present and correct. His wordplay is second to none, and despite the sparse arrangements (keyboard, guitar, occasionally at the same time) he really can get a crowd going. Particularly when he ventures over the barrier and sings amongst the crowd. This year he ended up on someone’s shoulders in a particularly wobbly-looking shoulder lift. At least some random out of the crowd didn’t get hold of the microphone again. Despite the confusion there’s still nothing quite like a Gideon Conn set. Or Gideon Conn, for that matter – one is quite enough for this world.

Kendal Calling 2016 - Gideon Conn-8031

Catfish and the Bottlemen are astonishingly popular. I was told countless times by people that they’d bought tickets simply on the strength of their appearance. Van McCann’s words from my chat with him at Kendal a couple of years ago were still ringing in my ears: “I want to be bigger than Oasis.” Well, second on the bill here when Noel himself is headlining (a different day, but still) means that he’s still on the perfect trajectory to achieve his dream. It is difficult to objectively understand exactly what it is that Catfish do that countless bands that have gone before haven’t managed. Perhaps it simply comes down to the charisma of the frontman, because despite how well the songs work on a stage and with a crowd as big as they were blessed with here, what they’re peddling really isn’t anything new. But fair play to them – what next? Breaking America? [Something Oasis never did, did they? – Ed.]

Kendal Calling 2016 - Catfish 2-7290050

Rudimental put on a good show. They’re a big dance band, totally professional, and remind me of Basement Jaxx‘s set on the Friday a couple of years ago. It’s really what the first night of a festival needs: big beats, big tunes, more of which you recognise than you might think, and a really good show. So you wouldn’t think it’s possible for an act to follow that? Step forward the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, led by violinist Joe Broughton. Who, if they haven’t got the prize for the most number of folk musicians on a single stage, really do deserve an honourable mention. A performance of the most remarkable power, primarily down to the sober dedication of the players – faced with a midnight crowd of hyped-up revellers, no mean feat. Their repertoire is varied, but it’s when they really let rip that their true power is unveiled. Bows fly unhinged across strings, a cajon is thwacked within an inch of its life, even the harp player throws a few shapes. There are even a couple of electric guitarists hidden in the middle somewhere, completely disguised by the swarm of instruments around them. This is traditional folk given an enormous shot in the arm. Exactly what it needs. A truly remarkable experience.

Kendal Calling 2016 - Conservertoire Folk Ensemble-7290060

 

Liverpool Sound City 2016 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 13th June 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Liverpool is a city drenched in musical history and culture. If you weren’t aware of this by now, maybe check out The Beatles. They’re pretty good. So obviously it makes perfect sense to host a music festival here. Rather than find a large park or field to hold said festival, the creators of Sound City have decided to utilise the plethora of empty and abandoned dock yards, which by all accounts is a stroke of genius. It gives it a unique environment that other festivals just can’t. By having the festival on such an exposed setting you are potentially setting yourself up for failure with the weather, especially in the North West of England. However, this year at Sound City, the sun was in full attendance for the weekend.

The first day was a veritable festival of the unknown and known. As much of an oxymoron as that sounds, Sound City 2016’s lineup was clearly meant to bring fans of the larger bands – who made up only a small percentage of the total bill – and expose them to local acts and those from further afield. Walking around the docklands, you were invited into a number of tents and stages. Considering the size of the land which this event takes place on, it isn’t hard to imagine that such a situation could be mildly overwhelming. Sound bleed was also an issue, particularly amongst the smaller stages. Of course, when you have such a small amount of real estate to play with this is also expected. But it is rather awkward in the grand scheme of things.

Whilst perusing the grounds, it was the acts that actually didn’t have a stage per se who were more eye-catching. A group of musicians in the midst of a somewhat spontaneous jam session near a tent reminded you of the true meaning behind festivals such as Sound City. It’s to enjoy the moment and capture whatever arises, be it a sea of fans ready for a band (Saturday night’s headliners Catfish and the Bottlemen) or those just interested in fuelling each other’s minds.

The evening boasted a strong lineup: as mentioned previously, each band would draw roughly the same crowd, giving the main stage an extra thick layer of hangers-on and day-waiters. When Band of Skulls took to the stage, the sun was blindingly beautiful, and the heat had done its job of giving a party-filled and relaxed atmosphere. Well that, coupled with the abundance of alcohol. Cracking through a selection of hits, both old and new, they created a wall of movement that really kicked the evening off. Personally, I think Band of Skulls have the potential of being headliners, though with Catfish’s current trajectory, putting the Southampton rockers on well before them was hardly surprising.

Brum’s Sleaford Mods took to the stage next with as much anger and angst as you can imagine, further feeding the frenzy. Finally, it was time for the much-anticipated set from Llandudno-born Catfish and The Bottlemen. The instantaneous reaction that happened with the first notes was one of severe chaos and revelry. Bottles of questionable liquid flew through the air and refused to hit the ground until the last notes rang out. The set itself was a roaring success, but the abundance of their fans at the festival – this, once again, isn’t a negative toward the band – within its small boundaries, didn’t leave much room for the usual conglomeration of music fans and artists alike. A strange feeling for what is meant to be a music industry showcase at the end of the day.

The second day of the festival had more promise, though it had its own trials to face of a different matter. Another blistering day meant that the atmosphere was once again joyous, but the diversity in the headliners brought a more eclectic mixture of personalities to the crowd, giving Sound City on Sunday a much more traditional festival appearance in terms of punters. With pretty much more of the same during the day – a stream of throbbing crowds, a collection of sounds melding in the air and unknown music fun – it was proof that the foundations of Sound City were set in this formulaic way.

Security throughout the event were definitely earning their paycheck, though in some aspects they were overly prominent in the wrong areas, which had a mildly negative effect on the more inebriated revellers, shall we say. This is always a touchy subject: generally, if a drunk person is annoyed or angered, the situation worsens in a lot of aspects. There was nothing too untoward at the festival, but security’s handling of situations could’ve been a bit less rash. Anyway, back to the music.

The Dandy Warhols brought their late ‘90s sound to the joyous crowd, with the biggest reaction, predictably, for their smash hit ‘Bohemian Like You’. Their sound was perfect for the afternoon, being one that is drenched in memories of past years, while also being able to appeal to a fresh audience. Local lads Circa Waves brought this to the next level by giving a performance that fully engaged the audience, while ensuring that the level they’ve reached as a band is maintained through a consistent and heavy barrage of tracks that just garner in strength. Circa Waves are a force that just won’t let up, and this force just fed the crowd into a frenzy. Bear in mind this is a crowd mostly consisting of Liverpudlians, awaiting their hometown heroes’ comeback show.

And this is where The Coral (pictured at top) come in to play. With a set that was interrupted by a power cut across the entire festival, the Coral’s time onstage never really managed to take off as it had for the bands before them. There was still a certain magic to the set, but with an interruption that was out of the hands of the band onstage, it’s a hard thing to come back from. Obvious hit ‘Dreaming Of You’ punched the set back into life, but by this point it was too late and the end was nigh. Considering this was a hometown show, the set felt flat. The result? It felt like there was no recognition of the moment’s massive occasion that was clearly a draw for so many within the crowd.

Sound City is a complex little beast. Its purpose is to draw in professionals and punters alike, almost in a The Great Escape manner. But somehow this year’s atmosphere felt confused. It wasn’t sure where it sat, which ultimately left a peculiar feeling in the air. Hopefully next year’s festival builds upon this year positively and comes back stronger than ever. The foundations are certainly there, and since the waters of Liverpool don’t see the sights they once used to, the reuse of the abandoned docks is certainly a fantastic idea.

 

Album Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Ride

 
By on Monday, 6th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by Aine Cronin-McCartneyCatfish and the Bottlemen The Ride album cover

Nothing seems to be able to stop the rise and rise of the Catfish and the Bottlemen at the moment. After the release of their debut album ‘The Balcony’ in 2014, the group have had a spectacularly successful time since. Their ascent from obscurity into the illustrious position they now hold in the mainstream music sphere has been astonishing. Catfish and the Bottlemen’s second album ‘The Ride’ was released as a surprise on the 27th of May. It follows a 2015 filled by an abundance of festival slots and sold out shows across the UK. These taken together likely helped them secure British Breakthrough Act at the 2016 Brit Awards despite doubts from some critics.

While musically very similar to their first release, ‘The Ride’ epitomises everything that is good about British indie rock: certainly a revived and revitalised genre, and far from being dead. The self-confessed crowd pleasers, spoke ahead of the release of their second album with frontman and lead singer Van McCann explaining to NME, “I feel like everybody started thinking too outside the box, trying to be arty and different. We wanted to stay inside the box.” For many, this sort of proclamation would have them give up music altogether. As McCann says, simplicity is the key to the masses. Along with their meat and potatoes philosophy towards their music, the Bottlemen have amassed a very dedicated following. Their appeal with their no nonsense approach has perhaps been the secret to the Bottlemen’s success and the phenomenon of their influence.

Staying true to writing what he knows, a lot of McCann’s lyrics revolve around a lot of recurring motifs that were very present in ‘The Balcony’, including girls, relationships, touring and parties. Opening song ‘7’ expands a stripped-back guitar into a strong acoustic bridge. This gives way to what could almost be described as the quintessential Bottlemen chorus with its soaring refrain, showing the band have a steady understanding of the subtleties of arena-sized rock. The Bottlemen’s secret weapon that comes in the form of frontman Van McCann oozes such a natural confidence, and while his lyrics are not as profound as some, they are laden with vivid imagery that make a connection with their audience.

‘Oxygen’ is an up-tempo track that exudes with pulsating appeal, its soaring chorus quite reminiscent of songs by Oasis when they were in their prime. Having always been very vocal for their love and affinity for the Mancunian band, plus procuring Dave Sardy as their producer, meant that such comparisons were inevitable. But that does not necessarily make for a bad thing. There has been seemingly large void to fill for a while, with no UK band being able to leave an impression on the music scene that Oasis once occupied. Perhaps Catfish and the Bottlemen are the band to do so.

Songs ‘Heathrow’ and ‘Glasgow’ are the only songs that break up the continuance of anthemic rock throughout the album, providing a very welcome disruption. ‘Heathrow’ certainly feels like an attempt to imitate a self-confessional styled acoustic number. It manages to create an ominous atmosphere while emphasising McCann’s ability as a vocalist, making it one of the album’s standout songs. In comparison, ‘Glasgow’ fails to hit the mark with its desperately one-dimensional and simplistic guitar playing and unremarkable vocals.

The album is certainly delivered with a level of maturity and sophistication that was evidently absent in ‘The Balcony’. There’s a much more deliberate approach to evolving their stadium sized rock sound. The new material has shown the Bottlemen to be much more than initially perceived supplying the masses with stories and tales of everyman’s ride through life. And it’s all neatly packaged with their easy to swallow lyrics that you are sure to hear bellowed at every festival this summer. It is almost impossible to not find yourself being swept along by the undeniably catchy choruses and melodic guitar. This is especially true on songs such as ‘Soundcheck’ (video above), with its rising chorus and brazen self-confidence.

While there are no truly massive standout moments from the new album, ‘The Ride’ will certainly succeed in connecting with audiences and inciting stadium-sized singalongs. Maybe album three will give The Bottlemen the classic hit they are trying so desperately to find?

6/10

‘The Ride’, the sophomore album from Welsh band Catfish and the Bottlemen, is out now on Island Records. For more on the band on TGTF, go here.

 

Catfish and the Bottlemen / November 2016 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 2nd June 2016 at 9:00 am
 

Catfish and the Bottlemen have just announced a new list of tour dates in the UK following last Friday’s release of their sophomore album ‘The Ride’. The band are currently on tour in North America but will return to the UK for a long list of summer festival appearances, including T in the Park and Tramlines in July and Belsonic in August.

Van McCann and company will play live dates in London and Glasgow on their November tour, as well as stopping for a two-night run in Manchester on the 9th and 10th of the month. Tickets for the following shows will go on general sale tomorrow, Friday the 3rd of June, at 10 AM. TGTF’s previous coverage of Catfish and the Bottlemen can be found here.

Saturday 5th November 2016 – Derby Arena
Sunday 6th November 2016 – Bournemouth BIC
Wednesday 9th November 2016 – Manchester Victoria Warehouse
Thursday 10th November 2016 – Manchester Victoria Warehouse
Sunday 13th November 2016 – Glasgow SECC Arena Hall 3
Tuesday 15th November 2016 – London Wembley Arena
Thursday 17th November 2016 – Coventry Ricoh Arena

 

Live Gig Video: watch Catfish and the Bottlemen playing new single ‘7’ in the studio

 
By on Thursday, 5th May 2016 at 4:30 pm
 

Hot on the heels of touring their debut album ‘The Balcony’, Welsh indie rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen have recently announced details of their second full-length album ‘The Ride’, due out on the 27th of May via Island Records. The band introduced the new LP with the promo for album track ‘7’, which will also be released as a single on the 27th of May, available the same day as the new LP.

Intended as a Part 2 of the video for recent single ‘Soundcheck’ (stream it here), the promo for ‘7’ catches Vann McCann (lead vocals/guitar) and his bandmates Johnny Bond (guitar), Benji Blakeaway (bass) and Bob Hall (drums) in studio. The band were presumably hard at work on the new album, which was recorded in Los Angeles with Grammy award-winning producer Dave Sardy, though it seems there might have been a bit of extracurricular activity going on as well.

Surrounding the release of ‘The Ride’, Catfish and the Bottlemen will play sold out shows in Hull on the 14th of May, Northampton on the 21st of May and London on the 23rd and 25th of May. (As of this writing, tickets are still available for their gig at Margate Winter Gardens on Friday the 20th of May.) The band will also appear at Liverpool Sound City on Saturday the 28th of May and at Exeter’s Radio 1 Big Weekend on Sunday the 29th of May. TGTF’s previous coverage of Catfish and the Bottlemen is right back here.

 

Catfish and the Bottlemen / April 2016 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 24th February 2016 at 9:00 am
 

Indie rock phenoms Catfish and the Bottlemen have announced a run of tour dates in April, following the release of their new single ‘Soundcheck’ (streaming just below the tour date listing).  The Brit Awards 2016 have nominated Van McCann and his bandmates for British Breakthrough Act this year, and the band have already announced upcoming festival appearances at Sheffield’s Tramlines and Lollapolooza Berlin.

Tickets for the following UK headline shows will be available starting Friday the 26th of February at 10 AM. All of TGTF’s previous coverage of Catfish and the Bottlemen can be found right back this way.

Monday 4th April 2016 – Glasgow Academy
Friday 8th April 2016 – Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Saturday 9th April 2016 – Doncaster Dome
Monday 11th April 2016 – London Forum Kentish Town
Tuesday 12th April 2016 – Brighton Dome

https://youtu.be/ACLnXD-lxuw
 
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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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