For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of the Great Escape 2013, go here.
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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 21st June 2012 at 4:00 pm
Brooklyn ‘it’ band Friends took the time out of their busy schedule in Brighton at this year’s Great Escape to perform the hit that broke them, ‘I’m His Girl’, for Bands in Transit. Not sure what is going on with Stephanie Urbani’s, um, style of dress, but watch it below and form your own opinion.
The band just released their debut album, ‘Manifest!’, on Lucky Number, and you can read Tom’s review of the album here.
Last weekend was the all-out metal mudfest known as Download Festival. A hundred thousand rock and rollers invaded the hallowed ground of Donington Park for 3 days of the best hard rock and metal bands in the world. TGTF was there in full waterproof regalia to throw horns and throw down with the masses, but what did we actually learn from this experience?
On Wednesday it rained. On Thursday it rained even more. This meant come Friday afternoon when the gates for the arena were due to be open tens of thousands of cold and pissed off metallers were left queuing for hours because areas of the arena simply weren’t safe. This led to the cancellation of Rise to Remain and Cancer Bats from main stage.
Billy Talent are gents
In a true act of bromanship, Billy Talent helped out fellow Canadians Cancer Bats by letting them play ‘Hail Destroyer’ to a crowd who were still annoyed at the cancellation of the noisemongers. Luckily in the evening Cancer Bats were given a slot in one of the tents which apparently kicked major arse.
Machine Head rule the circle pits
Not only are Machine Head one of the best metal bands touring today, they managed to start a total of 29 circle pits at one point – which is a record for Download Festival.
The Prodigy are metal
Not in their sound, obviously, but the pits were still opening and the crowd going berserk for the almost 2-hour set. And what’s more metal than flares and smoke bombs going off in a mosh pit surrounded by 70,000 people?
A Game of Thrones is cool
As is the same every year, you can text in messages to the big screen for everyone to see. One of the most popular this year was “Winter is coming”, which (for those who don’t know) is the motto of the Stark family in A Game Of Thrones.
Skyrim is cool
Another favourite for the big screen was ‘I used to [insert random task here], until I took an arrow to the knee’. A parody of one of the stock lines used in conversation in Skyrim.
People still love 300
It’s a chant that’s been following festivals around for years. Someone shouts “Spartans! What is your profession?” and everyone in a 10 metre radius responds with “Aaaooh! Aaaooh! Aaaooh!” Clever, right?
People love wrestling
WWE, not actual Olympic-style wrestling. Chants of “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!…” were rife throughout camp sites and the arena in relation of WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan. Similarly the odd chants of “Let’s go Cena!” and “Cena sucks!” could be heard.
Saxon still rule
This is just a fact. It doesn’t matter how old they are or how long it’s been since they had any notable success, Saxon have been tearing it up for years and still drew a massive crowd at midday. Middle-aged men with long hair dressed in denim and leather is what Download is all about.
Everyone loves boobs
Another trait synonymous with Download is the ‘boobcam’. Whenever a girl climbs onto someone’s shoulders the crowd camera will pan to them and more often than not the girl will bear her breasts to the cheering of all men present. During Steel Panther the boob-o-meter was off the scale. Constant unveiling of chests throughout the entire 50-minute set until all the teenage boys were left dazed and confused. A lot of bands were formed that night because kids want to grow up to be Steel Panther.
Bands love balls
A tactic that both Metallica and Black Label Society adopted was to drop balls on the crowd emblazoned with the band name. Not the most metal thing over the weekend, but it did look cool.
Backwards is the new forwards
Metallica played their legendary Black Album in it’s entirety to close the Saturday of Download. But decided to play it backwards instead of the correct order, meaning fairweather fans had to endure the whole record before finally getting to ‘Enter Sandman’.
It’s not just metal fans
During the rock karaoke on Wednesday night there was a version of a Florence and the Machine song. Then that night a group of acoustic guitar-loving guys were singing Kings Of Leon. Not cool.
MegaDave is bigger than post-hardcore
One of the most exciting reunions in the past year has been the return of post-hardcore pioneers Refused. Unfortunately, despite the buzz around the reunion and their legions of fans, the clash with Megadeth meant they didn’t receive the crowd they deserved. Catch them on tour!
Some things never change
Along with the aforementioned ‘Spartans!’ chant, it’s ‘Buttscratcher!’ that is still the festival favourite. Heard shouted at random over the entire weekend, as well as being texted to the big screen, it’s outlasted previous spontaneous exclamations such as ‘Timmy!’ and ‘Loud noises!’ Hopefully there’ll be something new next year.
Black Sabbath are the best metal band ever
That’s all you need to know. They destroyed Donington on the final day to what could have been the biggest crowd of the weekend. Ozzy, Tony and Geezer still have it. A very metal and very emotional performance.
The Queen has been on the throne for yet another year. This means we all get to go to festivals all weekend and no sooner had Bushstock, Field Day and the Applecart shut their dampened stalls had the Queen of Hoxton opened its doors for a day of frivolities in the name of breast cancer charity Coppafeel and Festifeel.
Dog is Dead: Image by Paul Hudson
The day starts early with a bright atmosphere in the dark basement as Dog is Dead take to the stage. It’s been a busy weekend for the group but they show no signs of fatigue and kick off the festival in winning style. Showing off both their sun-soaked tracks (fan favourite ‘Glockenspiel Song’ is a highlight) as well as their deeper side on set closer ‘Teenage Daughter’ shows they’re real contenders for act of the summer.
Following this come the disappointing ska meets indie Yes Sir Boss. TGTF hopes they have day jobs. In stark contrast to this however, one lady who we hope doesn’t is rising star Kyla La Grange. Exuding both grace and grunge at the same time, the stylish singer shows she’s far more than an image with a short set of dark pop tracks from her forthcoming debut record. Her set is over far too quickly though, so TGTF goes for a wander about site.
Laid out across three floors, the Queen of Hoxton is a peculiar yet logical place to put a festival. Today there’s a photobooth, popcorn, a huge barbeque and roof garden added to the bar and club aesthetic. A ukulele band roams about playing poorly enacted covers of ’80s tracks. It’s basically a normal festival in a bar! As with all good festivals, Newton Faulkner is present and his set on the roof garden is an enjoyable one. Completely unplugged, Faulkner teaches the crowd surrounding him lines and the tracks build from there. As such, he doesn’t get time to play many, but it’s certainly something to behold whilst the weather holds out.
It’s then back into the darkness for Slow Club. Having two records and preparing a third should make for an interesting set, but when you weight your half hour with zero tracks from the widely celebrated debut and sound shaky on the three new tracks given an outing, it makes for little short of disappointment. Still, ‘Two Cousins’ is always a highlight, so at least it’s not all a letdown.
Slow Club: Image by Paul Hudson
You get used to adjustments after a while but Lianne La Havas’ set being moved into the main bar (in which everyone moves between upstairs and downstairs, also, to the bar) was baffling to say the least, but once those having conversations were shushed and a microphone was found for Havas, her gorgeous tones shone through. The endearing nature of the young singer-songwriter took those assembled into a hushed admiration and the 20minute set ends with smiles all round, none more than Lianne herself.
Then it’s back up into the daunting clouds of the rooftop for two completely unplugged sets. First Jamie N Commons mixes his own material with covers from the likes of Pink Floyd, creating an atmosphere that brings people from the outskirts to sitting on the Astroturf infront of the London troubadour. Second comes one of the strangest, yet most enjoyable few minutes of the weekend as Angus Stone and his band take to the benches and play in a half hushed, half stunned silence. It would have felt like a lullaby had everyone not been stood up. Whatever it was, it was appreciated.
The View, you remember the View right? The band that did that song about jeans. Yeah, the View; they’re next down in the basement. The lighthearted join the ‘lads’ in the crowded space as the Scottish rockers power through 45 minutes without blinking. It’s energetic, but they’ve long lost their appeal. They didn’t even do that one song that everyone knows about jeans! That said, hearing a few hundred singing “the one I love the most has turned into a junkie” brought back some nostalgia in ’5 Rebecca’.
Just like that, the weekend’s over. The Milk headline but fail to ignite as most people have already left. It’s been the strangest festival TGTF has ever been to, but that’s probably the appeal. Well done Coppafeel, Festifeel 2012 was a success.
Beacons Festival lives! After a hugely disappointing cancellation last year due to apocalyptic flooding, Beacons is back in August 2012 with, if anything, an even more exciting offer than before. With arguably one of the finest musical lineups around, a beautiful setting in the Yorkshire Dales, and plenty of peripheral activities for drinkers (real ale! cider! craft beers!), thrill-seekers (vintage fairground rides!) and families (bedtime stories!) alike, there’s something for just about everyone.
Musically, the headliners are very different, but all superb. Friday is headlined by Roots Manuva, the ever-present bard of urban culture. Now onto his fifth LP, ’4everevolution’, if there is a modern counterpoint to Toots’ Jamaican vibes, then it’s Rodney Smith’s uncomfortable flow of consciousness, documenting the trials of modern life one rhyme at a time.
Saturday’s Wild Beasts (pictured at top) should need no introduction to readers of this blog. With superb material drawn from their companion albums ‘Two Dancers’ and ‘Smother’, the band are at the top of their live game right now. Having just given a breathtaking performance at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, there is every expectation that their visit to Beacons will be just as exemplary. A great opportunity to see the best British live act of the moment at the height of their powers.
Quite different, but just as wonderful, is the prospect of Jamaican Reggae legends Toots and the Maytals wrapping up the festival in tropical style on Sunday evening. Part of the musical firmament since the glory days of reggae in the 1960s, they remain just as relevant today. With a long and influential history, not to mention an astonishing 31 Jamaican number one hits, they helped change popular music forever (The Clash’s cover of Toots track ‘Pressure Drop’ predated the seminal reggae influences revealed in London Calling), have a list of famous collaborators as long as a rasta’s dreads (Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, er… Shaggy) and contributed the brilliant cover of ‘Let Down’ to the Radiodread album. In this jubilee year, Toots and the Maytals are reggae royalty.
The undercard is no less impressive. Let’s pick a few highlights… representing the North East are ornithological experinstrumentalists B>E>A>K, flamboyant indie-popsters Frankie and the Heartstrings, and the beautiful, yearning sounds of Lanterns on the Lake. And to pick a number of personal favourites, The Wave Pictures, Peaking Lights, Clock Opera, Admiral Fallow, Outfit, Japandroids… a veritable feast of fabness.
One not to be missed, then. See you there.
Beacons Festival takes place at Funkirk Estate, Skipton, in the stunning Yorkshire Dales, 17th-19th August. Weekend tickets are priced at £84.50 or a £44.50 deposit can be put down now. For more ticket options and to buy your tickets, visit the official Beacons Festival Web site.
Even before reaching the site, day two of Evolution feels like a more relaxed, comfortable affair. The crowds of youngsters hanging around the Sage, pre-loading on Frosty Jack before they enter the main arena where alcohol is unavailable to them on age grounds, seem pretty chilled-out. Casually ambling past the caravan that supplies comfortable seats and buckets for 14-year-olds to vomit into, the sun is sparkling off the waters of the Tyne, and one can forgive the odd pre-majority punter being escorted from the premises flanked by two burly men, being unable to walk themselves.
So – to the music. Delayed by bank holiday public transport, your correspondent is late for Spector, who are sorely missed. Nevertheless, a chance presents itself to catch up with the UMT stage: Newcastle music development service Generator’s Urban Music Training department get their own stage at Evo, and who should be up next but the winsome Amy Holford, who TGTF spoke to at Evo Emerging just a few nights before. What an excellent opportunity to work out whether she should be upgraded from a “maybe” to a “HIT!” The answer is… not yet. She is in possession of a stunningly powerful soul voice, burnished and brassy, but sadly accompanied by a somewhat less impressive clangy acoustic guitar, and material which undoubtedly means a great deal to her personally, but is unlikely to really light the blue touchpaper when it comes to making the step to a higher division, comprising as it does moans about inadequate ex-boyfriends. Given some decent backing and material, Amy will be a winner, no doubt about it.
Jessie Ware is up next on the main stage. I hope Amy saw her performance, as it proves how a decent, yet still minimalist band can showcase a lovely soulful vocal so much more effectively than a naked acoustic guitar. Ware’s electronic-urban-with-touches-of-dubstep material, such as the sumptuous ‘Running’, does suffer from unfamiliarity, but she is an endearing stage presence, and finishing off with recent single ‘110%’ is a wise if inevitable move. With impeccable credentials (collaborating with SBTRKT is never going to hurt anyone’s career), Ware is going to keep punting for the big time.
Oh, Band Of Skulls, thou heavy saviour of the day. Instead of a fanfare to announce the Queen’s longevity, BoS have brought a brace of beautiful Gretches, both of which are put to powerful use during the set of the weekend for this correspondent; ‘Sweet Sour’ catches the mood of the newly-revealed June sun, glinting off guitar hardware and polishing the dirty harmonies and unashamedly gritty riffs. Their talent is to take just the right elements of contemporary rock – power trio, female bassist, no perms – and match it with decent – nay, pop – songwriting. There’s hints of Stones, Cream, Stripes… and they’re all the better for it. Having displayed an intriguingly contemporary career path – digital-only releases, greater success as TV and advert soundtracks than as a formal chart act – BoS deserve close attention.
From the sublime to the… well, Evolution’s lineup is nothing if not eclectic. Rizzle Kicks, an urban duo from Brighton, come across as a likeable, non-sweary Odd Future, but with only two MCs. Or maybe that’s just because of the shorts. With song titles like ‘Mama Do The Hump’ they’re never going to be taken seriously, but it’s good, juvenile fun.
Onto the serious business – Noah and the Whale’s records seem to mature like fine wines with age. Tiny subtleties in lyrical content and musical delivery appear like little jewels on close inspection, and to their credit a similar level of attention to detail is paid in tonight’s performance. Clearly a deeply professional band, they go through their very deliberate motions with utmost sincerity. And the material genuinely unites the disparate crowd – there are so many well-known NatW songs it would be churlish to list them here – but after such an awkward weekend, everyone can relax and join in the simple pleasure of spelling out three short words for chorus after chorus.
Some people bought tickets for the whole weekend just to see deadmau5. His techno-wizardry is a sight to behold, his monolithic transformation of the stage as otherworldly as the permanent mouse head he wears, intermittently lit up into a disturbing rictus grin; as if Mickey were lain on a morgue slab. It’s impossible to sum up the set in terms of songs; this is effectively a live club set, and the churning crowd love it. Thankfully, there is little point in crushing to the front of the stage – Mau5’s podium is so high that a deeper viewpoint gives a better view of both him and his light show. Powerful stuff, and everyone lets off whatever steam they have left, before staggering in the vain direction of the taxi queue.
And thus with a sparkling rodent’s siren call Evolution Festival 2012 draws to a close. It’s a difficult event to strongly recommend to anyone on its merits – if you’re young enough to want to go, you’re too young to properly enjoy the music, and if you want to see the music you’re too old to enjoy the festival. A challenging sell, then, but the concept of a decent annual music event on the banks of the Tyne is such a strong one that I get the feeling that it will be around for some time to come.
Grumpy postscript, for adults only: In all seriousness, the question is – do kids get up to this sort of thing (drinking heavily, staggering around, vomiting, crying, passing out) because they are at Evolution Festival, or would they be doing it anyway on a bank holiday weekend? I don’t care what anyone of the age of 18 or over does; it’s their choice, they’re old enough to suffer the consequences of their actions. But below that age, in theory parental consent is required for this sort of thing. Do parents know what their kids are getting up to? If not, this review should enlighten them. If they do, and consent anyway… I wouldn’t say we’re lost as a society as a consequence, but it’s a pretty worrying sign nonetheless. Personally, I love to drink beer in the pub of an evening with all and sundry, and if it happens as frequently as once a week then that’s just fine by me. But even with a drinking history as long as your arm, I wouldn’t for 1 minute consider downing spirits or chugging strong cider in great quantities at lunchtime as these youngsters seem determined to do. It’s not good for one’s health, and it’s certainly not good for enjoying a bit of music. And in the end, Evolution have to apply for a licence again next year, and a bit more consideration of that fact by their customers, and the parents of their customers, would go a long way to seeing Evolution 2013 being more than just a glint in a promoter’s imagination.
Author’s note: This festival is not meant for me. The admissions policy admits anyone of 14 years of age or over without a chaperone, making this event one of the most significant dates in the social calendar for pre-legal-drinking-age schoolchildren. The fact that there were several bands on the bill that appealed to me seems nothing more than a coincidence in hindsight. So I pray the reader will forgive what may come across as something of a grumpy outlook in the forthcoming prose. I would have loved to have heard the bands properly, but the sound of a thousand squeaky voices dominated. Here we go…
Not long into his first song, headliner Dizzee Rascal halts proceedings to allow several paramedics to safely extract a particularly distressed child from the crowd. Security had spent at least 15 minutes before he took the stage pulling crying children over the fence to safety, whilst commendably providing umpteen cups of water from a dustbin to those youngsters who had spent the interval awaiting his appearance, only to find themselves crushed hard against the barrier as stage time approached. The less mentally able members of the crowd took it upon themselves to throw the generously proffered drinks backwards over their heads, drenching those behind them, and wasting the potential succour that fresh water could have given those who were unprepared for the demands of such a populous event.
At all times the conduct of the security staff remained beyond reproach – they rescued all who were in need, and provided refreshment and comfort to those who decided they were prepared to remain and brave the onslaught. What remains questionable is the target demographic of the event itself. Live music events with large numbers of attendees are usually an adult affair. Allowing 14-year-olds to attend alone, guarantees that substantial numbers within the crowd are emotionally and physically unprepared for the climax of such a busy event. Imagine grown adults being hoisted desperately crying from the barrier of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury, just as the headline act is about to appear – it simply doesn’t happen.
The most drunken and incapable members of the crowd were the youngest. Who on Earth consents to their teenage daughter leaving the house in her underwear with only a bottle of vodka for company is beyond me. Whoever they are, they should read this and hang their heads in shame, for they have knowingly exposed their children to grave risk of injury and distress. In future, this event may consider requiring under-18s to be chaperoned into the main arena. Since the dance-orientated Ballast Hills venue was full from early afternoon, your correspondent cannot comment on conditions there. It may be that that venue was more appropriate for those of a more inexperienced and excitable temperament, being a wide, grassy space, rather than a long, narrow, fenced car park.
All that said, there were some fine musical performances. Miles Kane proved that if the promoters cannot afford the services of Paul Weller or Arctic Monkeys, he can act as a reasonably adequate substitute. His plum tailored suit was a particular highlight.
Maximo Park delivered a set greater than their tenuous grasp on relevance; Paul Smith remains an excellent frontman, despite his band lacking a killer dynamic. Newly-unveiled album title track ‘The National Health’ was a particular highlight. But it falls to Dog is Dead to be the unlikely winner from a very peculiar day of music. Their easygoing jangly guitar pop didn’t harm anyone, nor did it cause a crush, and perfectly served the clearing clouds. And damned with such faint praise is the first of the two days of Newcastle Evolution Festival 2012.
Martin’s musing of day 2 at Evolution will be posted early next week!