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Kendal Calling 2014: Day 1 Roundup

By on Monday, 18th August 2014 at 2:00 pm

Kendal Calling 2014 was wet, windy and wild, but that didn’t stop it being one of the finest weekends of the festival calendar.

Anyone considering a trip to the Lake District at any time of the year would be well advised to anticipate bad weather, as Kendal Calling 2014 demonstrated all too well. At times, revellers were treated to a rendition of the classic “four seasons in one day”: heavy rain, followed by strong winds, then a glimpse of blue sky and sunshine before the rain returned again. Rinse and repeat.

Some people had grokked that it was raining and muddy and wore wellies and raincoats. Others appeared not to notice, sporting flimsy trainers and T-shirts that were soon overwhelmed by the weather. Those who were either already insane or induced to be so by the party atmosphere positively relished the conditions, to the extent of indulging in mud-diving, mud-fighting and indeed, mud-hugging. On this evidence, anyone who tells you rain spoils a festival needs to have a rethink.

In between the mud-love there happened to be some music. Kendal has within its modestly-sized site a plethora of stages: the commercial-biased Main Stage, the new indie bands on the Calling Out stage, the pretty Woodlands stage, in addition to hosting longtime external collaborators Chai Wallahs and Riot Jazz. The compact nature of the site – you’re never more than 10 minutes away from the other side – means it carries a significant advantage over mega-festivals where it feels like one spends most of the day trudging from one far-flung stage to the next.

The big news this year was the opening of the main arena on Thursday night, for the benefit of those who paid a bit extra for early entry. And who better to get the place rocking than everyone’s favourite funk ‘n’ soul (and friend to TGTF) DJ Craig Charles? In truth, technically, he’s no better than the chap in your local boozer spinning the silver discs of a Saturday night – there’s little attempt at anything fancy like beatmatching – but what Charles lacks in technical skill he far more than makes up for with sheer unbridled enthusiasm, standing up on the desk, exhorting the crowd into further frenzies of funk-induced revelry, his set heavy with classic soul and climaxing with a Dimitri From Paris’ remix of Michael Jackson’s ‘I Want You Back’ by which time a random gaggle of lucky punters had been invited up on stage, dancing with DJ Charles in various states of inebriation and undress. The party had well and truly started.

Kendal’s campsites are true melting pots of those brave souls who risk staying up beyond the witching hour to for the simple pleasures of shared song and story… and beer and whisky. If you don’t want to be kept awake by a tone-deaf rendition of ‘Wonderwall’ at 3 AM, then the quiet camping area is a must. Never fear, your correspondent was on hand to ensure that at the very least the guitar was properly tuned – no mean feat at such a late hour. After so much anticipation, Friday morning couldn’t dawn soon enough, and after such a fine prelude, it had finally arrived.

Stay tuned for more coverage from Martin on this year’s Kendal Calling coming soon on TGTF.


Deer Shed Festival 2014: Day 3 Roundup

By on Friday, 15th August 2014 at 2:00 pm

No review of Deer Shed would be complete without mentioning the various extra-musical activities available for the under-16s. And where to begin? Perhaps on Sunday, when the musical offerings are relatively modest, to help the crowd wind down, and to let the kids’ activities, rather than the adults’, prevail. There was shaker-making (sadly not to the soundtrack of Oasis’ ‘Shakermaker’), badge-making and flag-making. There was a real-life yellow submarine, which hosted any number of interactive workshops. There was actual jousting, on horseback and everything. There was a beach. For the older ones, there were electronics projects, Minecraft, soldering for girls and the mildly disturbing Tedroids. There was hula hooping, swingball and lots and lots of bubbles. Best of all, the famous enormous cardboard boxes were there to age-independent glee, hand-decorated and constructed into elaborate, surreal, child-sized cities. It’s impossible to imagine a more perfect child-friendly festival experience. And by virtue of the new-for-2014 Obelisk stage and bar, subtly located in a nook behind the kids’ tents, Dad can sneak off for a quick premium ale without too much fuss.

As Sunday drew to a close, and tired children napped in homebound cars, thoughts turned to Deer Shed’s short but happy history, and where it might go in the future. The site has been subtly rearranged every year, but seems to be settling in its current format for now. There’s no doubt that the essential details have been resolved – the stage names and locations, the excellent food outlets, the plentiful camping areas – all satisfyingly top quality. The big question for this writer is – where will the music policy head in the future? The good news is Deer Shed has its finger firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist, unfailingly booking acts just as their careers are taking off, so it’s as good a place as any to work out who next year’s big names will be as any.

However, various online hints suggest that the curators enjoy their guitar music, particularly around the punk/new-wave spectrum, and whilst those genres are an essential part of festival programming, this year seemed more guitar-oriented than last, and that’s perhaps something of a shame. Sac ‘n’ Pip demonstrated that there’s a powerful appetite for a bit of urban music in the Yorkshire countryside, so more of that please. There’s loads of scope for more country, dance-funk, electronica and after-hours ambient. And not to mention that Saturday night headliner… I wonder what Jarvis Cocker is doing this time next year?

And sticking with the Js, why not Just Jack, Jon Allen and John Shuttleworth? Keep the guitar bands in the tents, and funk up the main stage. The truth is, however, Deer Shed could stick on a couple of buskers for half the bill (or, goodness forfend, The Lancashire Hotpots) and still people would flock to it. Because there’s something about the atmosphere, the site and the families, which remains unmatched anywhere in festivaldom. And I’m willing to wager that for 99% of the audience at Deer Shed, that’s what keeps them coming back year after year. Here’s to Deer Shed’s 6th birthday.


Deer Shed Festival 2014: Day 2 Roundup

By on Monday, 11th August 2014 at 2:00 pm

Camping with kids at festivals is rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. Despite running around all day, playing swingball in fits of glee, they rarely fall asleep anywhere near normal bedtime yet paradoxically wake at the crack of dawn, as the first glow of sunlight forces its way through increasingly stuffy canvas. Which would explain the weary expressions on the faces of parents in the queues for coffee and bacon sandwiches early Saturday morning at Deer Shed festival. Plenty simply hadn’t bothered to get dressed, waiting in line in pyjamas and Crocs for the calories and caffeine which would finally drag them into the realm of the waking.

As good a place as any to eat breakfast was the Big Top tent, with Paul Cookson and Stan Cullimore for company. Stan used to be in The Housemartins, so he can play the ukulele and now sings songs for kids rather than blather on about how good Hull is. Paul Cookson used to be a teacher, so knows how to handle a crowd of over-excited children, and trades in performance poetry when not accompanying Cullimore on the ukulele. He has one particularly memorable routine in which he impersonates his teenage daughter’s head-shaking, hand-waving putdowns: “Wha-eva, major loser!” Elsewhere, the Stan sings a song about the virtues or otherwise of his musical partner’s digestive system, which of course brings the house down. A great way to banish the cobwebs.

Leeds’ Post War Glamour Girls do a good job of convincing people to buy their début album ‘Pink Fur’. Its scuzzy, incessant grooves infected with gothic despair are ironically just the ticket to really launch into Saturday PM. The shadow of Nick Cave hangs heavy over them; indeed, the male-female interplay recalls Cave and Minogue at their most lugubrious. After all that, how bad can one’s life be in comparison? Dublin’s Raglans do exactly what you might expect of a few likely lads equipped with guitars from Ireland’s party city. Upbeat, jolly ditties, delivered with irrepressible enthusiasm. Their song entitled ‘White Lightning’ might raise queasy memories of last night’s cider-induced hangover, but apart from that, they deserve full marks for kicking the Main Stage into life.

With nothing of interest to follow on the Main Stage, it’s to the comedy tent to witness Wes Zaharuk (yet another name misspelled in the programme). His brand of shambolic, power tool-assisted slapstick comedy has the power to have an audience in tears of laughter in short order, and gives any manner of ideas for mayhem to errant toddlers. A whole toilet roll is unravelled in someone’s face using some sort of power blower, and a lucky lady gets to feed Wes a banana. From behind. Without looking. It’s unclear how he gets away with it, but give praise to the god of slapstick that he does.

Happyness are the perfect mid-afternoon tent band. Their chilled-out obscurantist rock proves how effective the power trio lineup can still be. Their songs have a deceptive superficial simplicity in which hides all manner of clever guitar work and surrealist lyrical content. ‘Refrigerate Her’, anyone? The irony of their name versus their faux-glum onstage banter doesn’t go unnoticed, either. With their début album now released, Happyness deserve increasing recognition for their West-Coast-by-way-of-South-London vibes – and they’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately Catfish and the Bottlemen are indisposed, so Bleech play for the second time in 2 days. Which means that We Were Evergreen’s upcoming claim to Deer Shed fame – that they’d be the first act to play the main stage twice – is cruelly usurped by fate at the last possible moment. Which makes it even more inexplicable when the compere introduces “We Are Evergreen [sic], the first band ever to play the Main Stage twice!” just after Bleech had finished playing their second Main Stage set. Evergreen’s name had been misspelled throughout the catalogue and lanyard – one would imagine that a band that had played before would have better name recognition than the others, but apparently not. Anyway, a bit of a low point, credibility-wise.

What wasn’t a low point was We Were Evergreen’s actual set. Fortunately, the Parisian three-piece multi-instrumentalists can remember their own name and what to play. They’ve taken their time releasing their début album ‘Towards’, but the wait has been worth it. They’re complete antithesis of a guitar band: yes, they have a Telecaster and a ukulele, but they work in deference to the song, instead of the song being an incidental excuse for six-stringed excess. It’s impossible to overstate the songwriting efficiency that goes into a song like ‘False Start’: its funkiness is off the scale, there’s hooks galore, and the whole thing hangs in the air with a citric freshness of style for which merely being Gallic isn’t sufficient explanation. The closer ‘Belong’ has a climax of such theatrical intensity that it leaves the crowd in raptures of applause. There isn’t enough time in universe to get bored with it. We Were Evergreen deserve widespread acclaim, as do Deer Shed for hosting them twice – let’s hope they get their name right third time around.

Summer Camp play the “In the Dock” stage, which is a tent, but they surely would have worked just as well on the main stage, such is the power of their funkily intense pop music. Indeed, Summer Camp are perhaps the perfect intelligent pop band, with just the right blend of sugary melodies, acerbic observational lyrics, and a decent slug of wig-out when they’re really powering on. There’s some cuts from their recent ‘Beyond Clueless’ semi-soundtrack album, but the greatest acclaim is reserved for their back-catalogue classics – ‘Better Off Without You’ from ‘Welcome To Condale’ is received like an old friend. Elizabeth Sankey is a woodland diva, her tremulous soprano lending an air of dignity to the acerbic lyrics, whilst Jeremy Walmsley’s ’80s retro grooves ensure that any joints that may have become stiff in the evening breeze are well-loosened in anticipation of our headliner.

And so we come to Johnny Marr. In part 1 it was already established that Mr Marr is the most successful Deer Shed headliner ever, and outlined the reasons for it. Suffice to say that to these ears, seeing Marr live is actually superior to seeing the Smiths in their pomp: Marr’s voice is adequate but nothing spectacular, which leaves the music and songs space to breathe – the whole isn’t dominated by a preening diva flouncing around. Having said that, Marr is a surprisingly good mimic, his tone and inflection an impressive imitation of Morrissey’s, and indeed Neil Tennant’s for that matter. He played a decent mixture of solo songs, Smiths classics, one or two from Electronic, and a fine rendition of ‘I Fought The Law’. The enormous crowd gave a rapturous welcome, and even though this was surely a modest crowd by Marr standards, it was perhaps one of the most appreciative. It turns out an elder statesman headliner is perfect for the of-a-certain-age Deer Shed demographic. The mind boggles as to where this could lead – there’s no dearth of ex-singers or guitarists from respected bands which were active over the last two or three decades, any of which would be a perfect fit for Baldersby Park. More on this topic in part 3…

Keep it here on TGTF for the conclusion of Martin’s time at Deer Shed Festival 2014 coming soon.


2000 Trees Festival 2014 Roundup: Day 3 (Saturday) – Part 2

By on Friday, 8th August 2014 at 2:00 pm

The first half of John’s Saturday coverage of 2000 Trees 2014 is here.

During Blitz Kids’ set earlier in the day, gradually the Main Stage arena was populated by people in fancy dress. The theme for the weekend was ‘The Box Set’. So we’re talking, Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Jon Snow, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin and Doctor Who. You get the picture.

The prizes were for the best individual fancy dress costume and the best group one. Now, my favourite group costume was undoubtedly a group of people with black painted beards and moustaches. They had black feathery long cloaks and carried staffs. I’m hearing you; they were most definitely Brothers of the Knight’s Watch. Surely in this year of Game of Thrones’ Mania, they couldn’t be anything else!? WRONG.

This cast of ten were dressed as Raven, the children’s game show host from the TV show Raven. Ya know, that TV show that was on a good 5 years ago and nobody has the foggiest clue what it is anymore. That. What made it even funnier is that NOBODY had any idea what Raven was and kept on saying they were Brothers of the Knight’s Watch, which just added to their frustration. Add to that the fact that it was hotter than Satan’s armpit, and they were wearing full leather and feather costumes, and you had a concoction for sweatiness.

In the end, despite their efforts, the Ravens didn’t win. They were defeated by six people who had quite literally come as box sets: seasons one to six of Lost. A stellar effort if you ask me. In the individual category, the winner was a Game of Thrones-ite, somebody dressed as Rob Snow, pre-Red Wedding…

Luckily, he was in the tent next to us too.

Its little annual quirks like this – the fancy dress competition and things like Camp Turner and Reuben – which make 2000 Trees a festival like no other. It’s got an unmatchable sense of personality and from the moment you step on the fields of Upcote Farm, it’s obvious that the people who came together to run the festival, were people who really give a shit about music festivals. What makes it even more spectacular is that the festival seems to attract people who are willing to get in on this utopic ideology. The best example of this was probably found just after the fancy dress contest, when I was walking away from the Main Stage in-between Blitz Kids and Canterbury for a drink.

The floor was completely clear. Not a fleck of rubbish on the ground – no cups, no wooden cutlery, no discarded noodles. Just freshly trodden on grass with the occasional welly print. On the final day of a festival, it’s frankly unheard of outside of Upcote Farm for this to be the case. Small things that make a big difference in my eyes.

Back to the bands and next up on the Main Stage were Canterbury. A group of four lads who obviously were very well liked by their head teacher at school, seeing as that could be the only way they’ve been let out of school so early. Either that, or god forbid they’d actually finished school? No way, they looked like they’d barely hit puberty!

Now I’ve heard a few of their songs on Spotify and been impressed, as they were catchy and seemed like a solid guitar band. Unfortunately, their set at 2000 Trees was underwhelming; even with lukewarm expectations, it was instantly forgettable, like a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist. (4/10)

After such a mediocre set on the Main Stage I made my first pilgrimage (300 yard walk) to The Axiom, which serves as 2000 Trees’ third stage. The last time I was lucky enough to bear witness to the ferocity of The Virginmarys was at Reading Festival last year.

Bizarrely, while on the Axiom Stage, the band were wearing almost identical outfits to the ones I saw them wear at Reading. Weird, I know. My first thought was, I hope they’ve been washed, before the threesome tore into their opening barrage. Their set was a breathtaking mix of catchy faux-Americana guitar music and frantic riffs that captivated the ever-growing crowd from the first moment.

Young girls of around 15 were dancing with their flower crowns in their hair, while aged retainers with Virginmarys t-shirts head-banged frantically over the railings at the front of the crowd. Drummer Danny Dolan dominated the stage with his enormous form at the back of the troupe, pummelling the kit like a man possessed and getting to his feet to completely punish the skins with his sticks.

Ally Dickaty’s rasping tones are the perfect front to this incredibly genuine Macclesfield rock band, and their debut album ‘King of Conflict’ is undoubtedly just the beginning of a very special journey for the band, one that continued in tremendous form at 2000 Trees, marking them out as one of the best acts of the weekend. (9/10)

After a brief food related interlude we returned to the fray for something the 2000 Trees audience have been waiting for, for possibly 7 years. Every year when Trees ask their numerous forums and social media outlets who should play at the festival, the cry is for a Reuben reunion. The cult-following of the 2000 Trees faithful is so powerful, so fanatic that there’s even a camp named after the now-deceased gods of underground post-hardcore.

While the band do still remain in a state of indefinite hiatus, the fact Jamie Lenman, the moustachioed frontman of the band, was gearing up for his appearance on The Cave was enough to pack the tent out, so that bodies were overflowing into the campsites. On record, Lenman’s eclectic mix of hardcore screams and then a separate album of lightly woven lovelorn ballads is admittedly a bit bizarre. However, live and with an audience worshipping his every breath, fart and most-likely bowel movements, it was always going to be a triumphant Upcote Farm debut for Lenman.

The crowd hung on every last syllable uttered by the moustachioed troubadour, whether he was screaming himself hoarse or spinning another ballad the he held the crowd within the palm of his hand from start to finish, standing on stage in his dungarees, sweating buckets in the warm red lights that illuminated The Cave. (9/10)

Closing the day’s festivities and the entire event, were the enigmatic Frightened Rabbit, a band who I don’t pretend to know anything about, apart from the fact they’re Scottish. With the serene settings and the great oak overlooking the stage, the band unleashed a set almost tailor-made for this faux-hippy festival. Part folk, part rock and with lead singer Scott Hutchison obviously humbled by the warm reception he received from the 2000 Trees crowd they brought the proverbial curtain down with enigmatic style. (8/10)


2000 Trees Festival 2014 Roundup: Day 3 (Saturday) – Part 1

By on Thursday, 7th August 2014 at 2:00 pm

John’s other coverage of 2000 Trees in 2014 is here.

The final day of music at any festival is a catastrophe of decisions – do you pack up early so you can cheese it as soon as the final band of the day leaves the stage? Or perhaps you get so wasted that your friend is forced into driving the first leg away, while you nap and slowly wee yourself in the back seat? Or maybe you have a sober day, sleep in your tent and sneak of in the early hours of the morning so you don’t have to say goodbye to the associated band of brothers you’ve collected around your pitch?

I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s enough to drive a sane man completely off his rocker in a bad way. With the proverbial dilemma whirling around my head, I decided the best way to banish the thoughts to my head was with some loud music.

Opening the Main Stage for the Saturday were Essex six-piece The Dead Formats – a band I hadn’t heard of, but ended up being pleasantly surprised by. I’m always suspicious of a band that turns out with dual vocalists; my mind always goes immediately to the image of two guys with equally inadequate vocal ranges, battling against each other and in the end sounding like a bit of a mess.

Luckily, The Dead Formats had two incredibly talented geezers behind the microphone and immediately made an impact with their ‘80s punk inspired tunes. They’re a band still finding their feet on a big stage, as every member looked palpably nervous with the prospect of playing to such a wide expanse. They grew into the set though and eventually had people shaking off their early morning grogginess at the front of the pit. (7/10)

Regrettably after a strong opening, I moved back to The Cave to check out the highly fancied, but inexplicably named &U&I. The Birmingham-born threesome had little to endear them to the crowd from the beginning. The songs were entirely forgettable and tended to blend horribly into one after their 30-minute set had concluded, in a flurry of riffs and yelps. (4/10)

It was a move from surprising disappointment, to astonishing shock when I came back to the Main Stage to get a look at Nathan Connolly of Snow Patrol fame and his new supergroup Little Matador (pictured at top at another gig in 2013). On stage they look like a group of grizzled veterans, not in an Expendables 3 way, but in the way you’d want a supergroup to be. They had an air of control over the crowd from the start, without really doing much at all.

Connolly has immense stage presence and immediately commanded the gathering crowd to his will, blasting out some groovy, almost sleaze-rock. There was no rubbish in their set, no waste, no gimmicks. Just a group of grizzled rock troupers with guitars, bass and drums going hell-bent for leather to give the crowd something to bang their head to. I hope they don’t get swept away in the whole “he was in Snow Patrol, so they cannot be truly rock” argument, because nothing is further from the truth. Arguably, Connolly’s experience in the band has honed him into the man who dominated the Main Stage at Upcote Farm. (8/10)

With Kids in Glass Houses bowing out this year and having played 2000 Trees the day before, there is an opening in the UK for a lively pop-punky You Me at Six lite. Enter Blitz Kids, the heirs apparent to the throne that the Kids will be vacating in October. They’ve got all the needed credentials as a group of four good-looking young lads in baggy vests, gallivanting around the stage like nobody’s business!

They’ve got the tunes to back up the look, though: set closer ‘On My Own’ provoked one of the biggest mass sing-alongs of the weekend, whilst ‘Never Die’ inspired an excitable reaction from the gathered group of teenage girls and young blokes with poorly finished sleeve tattoos. Frontman Jono Yates has got some great on-stage banter to back up his excellent form on Twitter, and mid-way through Saturday, they pulled out one of the sets of the weekend. On Facebook they describe themselves as “4 best mates making music for the love of it”, and the set they pulled out certainly made it look like that. These boys are going to get very big very quickly – perhaps the Kids in Glass Houses’ throne isn’t big enough? (8/10)

Stay tuned for the conclusion of John’s coverage of 2000 Trees – including results of the fancy dress contest! – tomorrow.


Live Gig Video: Glass Animals perform ‘Black Mambo’ at London Meltdown Festival

By on Wednesday, 6th August 2014 at 4:00 pm

Glass Animals were one of the bands chosen to perform at this year’s Meltdown Festival, curated in 2014 by UNKLE‘s James Lavelle. The annual event in London takes place at the Southbank Centre and back in June, the Oxford band’s appearance had the distinction of having the most jungle-y backdrop of their career so far, with indoor lush vegetation to set the mood, along with the usual requisite fog and strobes seen at their shows.

Although they had to cut their set short due to parts of the ceiling coming down in the middle of their set (personally, I suspect the vibrations from the bass line of ‘Toes’ from their debut album ‘Zaba’ to have been the culprit), their performance of ‘Black Mambo’ from the night of 18 June has been committed to video, as shared by American entertainment magazine Entertainment Weekly yesterday. (They’re doing pretty well stateside.) Watch the letterbox-y presentation, filmed by Georgio Testi, below.

Catch Glass Animals on tour in the UK in October.

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