The sun beat down upon the beautiful streets of Nottingham as hordes of scantily-clad teenagers, sporting piercings aplenty and tattoos in abundance. With a plethora of flesh on show, these skipped giddily towards Nottingham’s rock central, Hit the Deck Festival 2013.
Billed as the UK’s premier indoor festival, the artists are shared among seven venues all within walking distance of each other. It’s still in its infancy, with yesterday’s events being the third time the festival has hit Nottingham. If hardcore, punk and metal are your genres of choice, then Hit the Deck presented a veritable orgy of talent from the UK and abroad to feast your teeth into, from experimental instrumental acts to some pop-punk for the young at heart.
After interviewing a number of lovely bands, with a special mention to the utterly mad Dingus Khan who were interviewed on top of a 16-storey parking garage and partially in a lift, the bands were set upon!
First up were female quartet Evarose, whose energy in Rock City’s sweaty basement was infectious from the off. There is nothing quite as contagious as the energy of a band that is obviously enjoying themselves immensely. The smile plastered across the bassist’s face was testament to this. They may not have been playing the big stages, but they committed themselves 100% to the task ahead of them, which was of course winning the festival audience who had stumbled upon them. The lead vocalist was an abundance of the pop-punky jumpiness you expect from a band like this, and whilst her vocal range let her down slightly, it did seem a case of practice will see these girls come good. (7/10)
In the Rescue Rooms directly afterwards, instrumental five-piece Maybeshewill set upon a bit of mindbuggery with their noodling solos and occasionally heavy breakdowns/beatdowns (take your pick). The crowd were either encapsulated, or thoroughly baffled by the band, as the crowd stood permanently affixed, only breaking their statuesque poses to mark the end of a song with a round of applause.
Instrumental music provides the quizzical question to punters, of ‘where do you look?’ Whilst most bands have a focal point, a frontman of some kind, with Maybeshewill your eyes dart around each members instruments. The set though was tight and enjoyable if you could get your head around the lack of vocals and in an understated fashion they slowly won over the pedestrian crowd. (7/10)
From something understated, to something thoroughly over the top in the form of Attack Attack! was the next move, as the American post-hardcore outfit bounded onto the stage with the exuberance of a group of puppies. Cute and cuddly like puppies? Not exactly! With the groups mix of hardcore bass riffs and techno interludes driving the assembled masses of Rock City into a bopping, bouncing frenzy of flailing flesh and roaring fans.
The mix is eclectic, and works somewhat sparingly, but as the set goes on, the rather formulaic song construction wears slightly thin on my cynical (and very large) ears. However, as a live act, the band exude confidence and frontman Phil Druyor proves to be a bastion of charm, energy and everything a band like Attack Attack! need. (6/10)
Following up from the aural assault of Attack Attack! are one of the most hotly tipped bands on the bill: Essex band We Are the Ocean who, forgive the pun, are riding the crest of a wave after the success of hugely-catchy tracks like ‘The Waiting Room’, ‘Bleed’ and ‘The Road’. WATO are the kind of no frills rock and roll act that I just can’t fail to enjoy.
Heart on their sleeve choruses and an aversion to wonky time signatures which sees some brilliantly catchy tunes roared from the Rock City main stage. The UK has their very own Gaslight Anthem, and with the reception they received from the crowd as evidence, they will be hearing a lot more of WATO’s charming tunage. (8/10)
After a brief interlude for some of the most delectable cookies I’ve ever had the pleasure to consume it was time for a healthy dose of pop-punk tomfoolery with We are the in Crowd. NOT WE ARE IN THE CROWD, as this annoys them greatly. Trust me.
For a WATIC virgin I was in shock as the American five-piece proceeded to pull tune after tune out of their pockets, whipping the packed room of tweens and teenyboppers into a flurried mass of squealing. Each member of the band brought boundless vitality to the stage, whilst Jordan Eckes vocals soared across the wide expanse of Rock City with ease, before set closer ‘Rumor Mill’ produced easily the biggest and most positive reaction of the day’s proceedings. (8/10)
Next up were a band whom are bound to cause chaos wherever they go and I for one feel for their tour manager. Pure Love, fronted by ex-Gallows troublemaker Frank Carter, the Rescue Rooms was literally torn to bits as the rampaging lead singer leapt into the crowd and made his way to the bar for a vodka Coke.
If that wasn’t enough, lead guitarist and ex-Suicide File axe man Jim Carroll managed two crowd surfs whilst still slamming riffs out during the first two songs. With chaos ensuing, it seemed only right that Frank took proceedings to an even odder stage by putting the bands drum kit in the crowd and orchestrating a swirling circle pit around it. Whilst the theatrics made it an engrossing set, the tunes ensured that this was the set of the festival hands down. Carter remains the emphatic draw he was in his time at Gallows, and I can only see Pure Love going from strength to strength. (9.5/10)
To close the night are the champions of lad rock, kings of (dare I say it) swag and purveyors of some of the most memorable tunes you’ll hear this year and the next! Don Broco look every bit rocks answer to The Ordinary Boys, only not shit, with frontman Rob Damiani resplendent in a Fred Perry polo shirt and with his biceps almost tearing through it.
They open with a belter, in the form of ‘Priorities’, and from then on the tone is set. Damiani struts across the stage with a trademark elegance and swag (god, I said it again). The hits are flying out at break neck pace and even a rather laboured break for the bands fabled push-up patrol, for which they have t-shirts, does not interrupt proceedings. Again, it may be clichéd, but there are BIG things for these boys in the future. They are polite, extremely likable and bloody good looking to boot. What they want to do really is up to them, from the reception they received. (9/10)
It’s just under a month until Brighton’s bars, clubs and venues get invaded by a host of giddy A & R reps, jubilant journalists and the best new bands the scene can offer at the moment.
The Great Escape 2013 is promising to be the biggest event of its kind in the UK and is already known as the British version of SXSW. That’s an accolade that can’t be sniffed at in any way; they may not have Dave Grohl as a main speaker, but The Great Escape convention runs alongside the festival proper and will once again host a variety of insightful industry talks, panel debates, targeted networking sessions and keynote interviews for industry professionals and music business fans.
Two of the hottest acts pitching up on the South Coast are originally from the area and will definitely be putting on some of the best shows of the festival: Tall Ships‘ album ‘Everything Touching’ is one of my stand-outs of the last 6 months and after this 2013 BRIT Awards Critic’s Choice win, Tom Odell is tipped by everyone and their gran to be stratospheric.
New additions to the bill include one of my favourite interviewees in working at TGTF, the witty Hackney hailing wordsmith Mikill Pane, who will be playing Coalition on the Saturday. (Read the interview here.) You may have heard of his track ‘Little Lady’ with Ed Sheeran, which features on Ed’s No. 5 Collaborations Project. Nina Nesbitt will also be bringing some of her fanatic Nesbians to the Brighton shores.
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 16th April 2013 at 4:00 pm
Our friends and TGTF favourites Two Door Cinema Club did the rounds last weekend at Coachella., At the Fuse VEVO house, the band stopped in for this acoustic performance of ‘Next Year’. I had a giggle seeing which song they played, as ‘Next Year’ is currently on regular rotation on the Weather Channel’s Local on the 8s where I live. (There obviously must be some Two Door fans in their programming group!)
2012 had it all, didn’t it? London 2012, the Diamond Jubilee, James fucking Bond returning in a blaze of balls-out guts and glory and some great music to boot (we’re ignoring Muse’s Olympic song ‘Survival’, don’t worry).
Had it all though? Every classic British summer needs something, and 2012 was drastically missing it: that cornucopia of eccentricity and old-school values, Glastonbury. Where were Mssrs. Eavis squared, where was the Pyramid Stage, where was Worthy Farm? Healing, nursing its wounds. In preparation for a shindig 26-30 June 2013 that’ll remind the British populace of the importance of the institution that is the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.
To make it a year to remember, though, one thing is certain. That the bands they are going to have must have that clout that makes punters stand erect and to attention. Enter Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, a year after the Rolling Stones‘ 50th anniversary. They’ve never played the legendary Pyramid Stage and it seems that finally the Eavises have gotten their way and secured easily one of the biggest draws that the music industry has to offer.
Joining them atop the almighty Pyramid are a band who have already set tongues a wagging once with their Glastonbury exploits. We are of course talking about the Arctic Monkeys (pictured at top), who are now four albums strong and flaunting their new-found maturity. The most surprising and probably most controversial bill-topper is the biggest marmite act around at the moment: The USA-smashing Mumford and Sons, riding high on the crest of the wave of success of last year’s ‘Babel’, and wading through the swathes of critical approval.
But with Glastonbury, you know it isn’t all about the headliners, with over 1,000 artists appearing across a multitude of stages over the weekend. Arctic Monkeys not floating ya boat? Check out The Smashing Pumpkins instead. Pyramid Stage too mainstream for you? Portishead will be bringing their trip hop stylings to the farm in a set surely not to be missed at any cost.
By Mary Chang on Friday, 5th April 2013 at 1:00 pm
So after spending a full week in Austin for SXSW 2013, I thought it would be nice to do a summary post to reflect on the experience the second time around…
My SXSW by the numbers:
I saw 41 different bands/acts in total, some multiple times. The bands I saw the most were the Crookes and Kodaline, both 3 times.
I managed an average of 5 hours of sleep per night. Not really all that bad. I learned from last year to make sure I got as much rest as possible.
I saw shows at 8 venues that I’d not previously stepped foot in.
I rode a pedicab 3 times (versus zero times in 2012) and all the drivers were amazing. Note to all attendees: pay these people a little bit more – they’re hiking you up hills and over long distances while sweating their arses off in the Austin heat. A special mention goes out to Andrew who drove me all the way home Thursday night after I’d just about given up on finding a taxi and was ready to cry. He was a total sweetheart!
Unforgettable (good) moments of the week:
Learning that David Baldwin of the Dig is affectionately nicknamed “Baldy”, but it has nothing to do with the status of his hair follicles.
Accidentally running into Rhydian Dafydd of the Joy Formidable at a sushi bar and having lunch together to talk about the industry and such. I found out he’s a Dutch Uncles fan!
Dropping my jumper by accident at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room Wednesday night after already resituating myself at its rooftop, then getting forced by security to go all the way up, down and around to retrieve it. Lucky I don’t have a walking impediment.
A crazy drunk bloke tried to pick me up on Cesar Chavez Street when I was trying to hail a taxi Thursday night. He said he was going to follow me home. I eventually somehow lost him when we ran into a group of people and I ran. It was terrifying at the time, but now I can laugh about it.
Best quotes of the week:
“Thanks for interviewing us. You’re probably the prettiest person to ever interview us. We usually get interviewed by ugly dudes.” – Emile Mosseri of the Dig after this interview by the river outside Stubb’s. They said they want to start a new side project called “Poppa Squat”. I don’t know if they were joking.
“Mary, Mary. You’ve been disowned!” / “But…a 5-string. You can play Korn on that guitar!” – George Waite / Tom Dakin of the Crookes to me the same night, after, perhaps a little too proudly, I showed off a picture of my 5-string ESP. We did some rechristening of guitars in Austin and he’s still yet to provide me a new name for mine.
By Mary Chang on Thursday, 4th April 2013 at 2:00 pm
If you are still standing after 4 straight days of punishing your body with running around, gigs and libations at SXSW and are no worse for wear, then you deserve a gold star. I’ll be the first to admit, Friday night…er, in the wee hours of Saturday morning I didn’t crawl into bed until about 6 AM after a very enjoyable night of dancing and boozing, having been taken out as a very special guest by some boys in a band I’m fond of. Ahem. I won’t embarrass by naming them but they know who they are, and if you are reading this my friends, that was truly one of the most fun nights of my life. Cheers for that. I owe you one when you make your first triumphant visit to DC.
I had such a good time on Friday night and gosh darn it, it was my last full day in Austin on Saturday the 16th, and I was going to give myself the gift of a nice lie-in. I had been invited to see Dan Croll at noon, but my argument was that he was going to be at Liverpool Sound City where we’re having a stage and I’d have a chance to see him then, and since he now has an American record contract (so I heard?) I will see him on this side of the pond eventually anyway.
I had made a promise to Larry and Johnny of our friends the AU Review to check out the Aussie BBQ this year, since I didn’t have time in 2012, so I stopped into Maggie Mae’s, where I was overwhelmed with all the Australian talent that was going to be showcased across the three stages there. I used to think the Brits were the only country to have an awe-inspiring presence at SXSW, but Australia makes good work of taking up the entire last day of the festival to showcase their country’s musical best. See all of the AU Review’s excellent coverage of this year’s Aussie BBQ, as well as previous years, through this link.
After popping my head in to say hello to Larry between his very busy schedule of video interviews, I went looking for Johnny, who was tasked to take photos of bands on all three stages. When I couldn’t find him, I went downstairs to enjoy a bit of Bearhug, an alt-rock band from Sydney. Kind of slacker rock / Lemonheads sounding. Then I went upstairs to catch a bit of indie band the Rubens, who I saw at the triplej Unearthed night at the Oxford Art Factory during ARIA Week in Sydney last November. I was hoping to see if I would change my mind on them, given that they were playing in an entirely different environment. Nope. ‘My Gun’ still sounds cheesy and a poor man’s Oasis. Sorry, guys.
After a brief catch-up, some laughs and hugs and wishes for each other for safe travels home, I was off to my next destination. Emails had flitted back and forth in my inbox the previous night before and after I caught some shut eye, and suddenly I found myself being invited to see a couple different bands at a free showcase on Sixth Street. As fate should have it, all three of the bands happened to be playing at the same exact showcase being put on by Captiva Records, a music promotion and indie record label based locally in San Marcos, Texas, taking place on the Rooftop at 6th. I am not sure who decided which bands would play on their afternoon shows that went on all week, as at least on Satruday there was no emcee present or anyone who looked like he or she was running the show. Whoever it was though, he/she did an impeccable job of choosing some great artists to play, especially on the Saturday.
I was proud of myself that I arrived in good time before I really needed to be there. What I found when I arrived was Australian singer Kitty Clementine, who self-proclaims to be a “big mouth wee belter from down under” on her Web site. Her outfit was vaguely Mad Max apocalypse meets Lady Gaga, which I suppose was appropriate as she found herself using the raised platform in this outdoor atrium-cum-rooftop, writhing against one of the tent poles. I’m no feminist but just…ugh. Please don’t. It makes me take you even less seriously. Her vocal styling was like she was trying to be Amy Winehouse, but Amy has nothing to worry about: it felt like an imitation, and not a great one at that.The guys in attendance appeared to appreciate the sexual writhing around though, with some of the bands I knew joking that they should include some pole dancing routines in their sets. (Just for the record, it didn’t happen. Phew.)
The next band was Kent’s Story Books, who if you recall, I saw on the Wednesday night Communion showcase at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop and then interviewed three of the band on Thursday at Blackheart. The show at night was miles away from this last hurrah for the band, playing in the sunshine. I guess you could say that the Austin sunshine is something magical indeed. Their keyboardist Andrew was even wearing sunglasses for the entire set. (Well, almost. Afterwards he said, “I tried, but they kept slipping off my face”. And it’s the trying that counts.) ‘Simple Kids’, from their debut EP ‘To Be a Hunter’ on Communion to be released on the 29th of April, is a melancholy number about young love and how Kris Harris insists, “stay close to your troubles, don’t let them interfere/ with your sense of wonder, ’til it disappears”. Which is what being young and falling in love is all about, right? I think though in Story Books’ case, what got punters into the band was the reckless abandon in which Harris and guitarist Jack Tarrant banged on their guitars. No, sir. This is not just a folk band. Cross those words out and write underneath “rocking out band with folk tendencies”. That’s more accurate.
Furniture and Things
To Be Good
Glory and Growth
All Those Arrows
By nature of being close to the action, a good proportion of bands showcasing at SXSW every year happen to be Texan bands. Such was the case with the band up after Story Books, called In the Works. Later that night, I had a run-in with one band members’ parents on 7th Street; his mum recognised me from the venue, asked me why I was photographing all the bands, then asked me (putting it mildly) to write nice things about him on here. Er…
Okay, so here’s my entirely unbiased opinion on this band after hearing them play. Point #1: I don’t know how long they’ve been together or have known each other, but it doesn’t engender much confidence if when you’re playing SXSW, you have to make a point to acknowledge that your next song “is an original”. This made me think most of their arsenal is made up of covers. Huh? Point #2: I didn’t find anything particularly exciting or noteworthy about their set. They’ve also got a vague country/western twangy vibe, which generally doesn’t go down well with me. The good news though is, the band are still in university and have plenty of time to find their sound – or rather a unique sound that will set them apart from any other American band from Anytown, USA. I wish them luck.
And then for the third time in 24 hours, it was again Crookes time. It was their fifth and final show of this SXSW and well, it’s like they say: go big or go home. Guitarist Tom Dakin and singer/bassist George Waite were dressed in colourful shirts they’d purchased in Austin; Tom’s, with a tropical flower theme, was most appropriate for playing a gig under the gaze of late afternoon sun. Out the gate they played ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ with so much gusto, it probably caused this neck ligament accident reported a couple days ago on Twitter. On behalf of America, I wholly apologise to the band and the whole of England for any injury caused by SXSW. But it was a wild week of shows, wasn’t it? Trust me, I know. I almost got impaled by George’s wayward mike stand. Last year I had a close call with one of Cashier No. 9‘s guitars.
I’ve questioned the wisdom of posting a video of mine of them playing ‘Backstreet Lovers’ because you can hear me singing along a little bit too loudly. There is also a lot of arms and legs flailing from the vocal Crookes’ American fan contingent described previously in Friday night’s review. Our crowd’s singing along was even more evident during the Crookes’ foray onto the atrium platform to perform ‘The Cooler King’, with Tom quipping and pointing at all of us, “you’re our official back-up section!” But what was more important was the amount of cheering and hollering the band got not from us, but from people who had just a half-hour before had never heard of the Crookes before. Maybe this best exemplifies why SXSW is like Christmas to music lovers: keep your ears open, take a chance on a band playing in the sun on a rooftop, and you might just have stumbled on your new favourite band.
Where Did Our Love Go
Maybe In the Dark
The Cooler King (on top of the atrium riser!)
After the sweat-athon that was the Crookes’ set, there was a brief changeover before the Ghosts, who became the last band I would see at SXSW. They’re a project that was started by Alex Starling, who was a supposed “secret” fourth member of the all too short-lived Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, who disbanded following their singer Charles Haddon’s tragic suicide at 2010′s Pukkelpop in Belgium. Out of tragedy, Starling didn’t wallow in his sorrow long. He regrouped, joined forces with drummer Ian Palmer, then headed west to North America to pick up some additional band members.
There’s a roughness, a hardness to their sound, relying on guitars, synths and drums to make something like single ‘Everything Will Do’, with sections loud and punishing like Led Zeppelin’s height of grandeur, interspersed only slightly softer moments. At other times, they’re definitely channeling the most fun aspects of ’80s New Wave dance (have a listen to ‘Underrated’), and as a connoisseur of that era, I can appreciate this fully. It’s definitely a unique style, and I’m glad it just so happened that I got to see them at the conclusion of my SXSW 2013 experience.