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Live Gig Video: Royal Blood play ‘Little Monster’ on the Main Stage at Reading 2015 (Saturday)

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd September 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

As an American music editor who loves UK music, it’s sometimes unreal to me that I get the opportunity to see British bands who have already generated huge buzz back in blighty in tiny little places. Last summer I saw Royal Blood play a a packed out 200-capacity DC9. And now they’re throwing the entire viewing population of a massive festival like Reading 2015 into a frenzy? Incredible. Watch the hard rocking duo perform their single ‘Little Monster’ last Saturday at Richfield Avenue below.

Want to read more about Royal Blood on TGTF? Right this way.

If you live in the UK, until the 29th of September you have access to over 40 full sets of action from Reading/Leeds 2015 through the BBC’s Web site for the festival weekend. For full details, go here. If you like outside the UK, you’ll be able to enjoy selected highlights from the weekend on BBC’s YouTube channel, including coverage from the BBC Introducing stage.

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Live Gig Video: alt-J perform ‘Left Hand Free’ at the Main Stage at Reading 2015 (Friday)

 
By on Tuesday, 1st September 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

My my, how the mighty alt-J have risen. If you don’t believe me, check out their Main Stage appearance at Reading last Friday, performing the incredibly catchy ‘Left Hand Free’, from their sophomore album ‘This is All Yours’ released in autumn 2014, embedded below.

To watch the promo video for ‘Left Hand Free’ that debuted last summer, head here. Want more on alt-J on TGTF? Right this way.

If you live in the UK, until the 29th of September you have access to over 40 full sets of action from Reading/Leeds 2015 through the BBC’s Web site for the festival weekend. For full details, go here. If you like outside the UK, you’ll be able to enjoy selected highlights from the weekend on BBC’s YouTube channel, including coverage from the BBC Introducing stage.

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Live Gig Video: Disclosure and Kwabs perform ‘Willing & Able’ at Wild Life

 
By on Wednesday, 26th August 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

To say I’m excited about Disclosure‘s second album ‘Caracal’, the follow-up to the 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Settle’, is an understatement. They previously revealed ‘Holding On’ featuring Gregory Porter, as well as some bits to ‘Omen’ starring the vocal talents of one Grammy-winning Sam Smith. Here’s yet another tasty morsel that was served up to some lucky fans live but is now available for all to enjoy.

Back in June, the Lawrence brothers and their fellow 2013 Mercury Prize nominees Rudimental took the plunge with a new music festival, Wild Life, which from all accounts went down a storm. A surprise appearance by r&b singer Kwabs paved the way fir this performance of ‘Willing & Able’, also set to appear on ‘Caracal’. Have a watch of its soulful goodness all unfolding below.

‘Caracal’ will drop the 25th of September on PMR and Island. For past coverage of Disclosure on TGTF, go here my friend.

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Deer Shed Festival 2015 Review (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 12th August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

To catch up on part 1 of Martin’s coverage of Deer Shed Festival 2015, head this way.

Saturday at Deer Shed Festival belongs to the kids. The workshops are in full flow, the bizarre moving sculptures are operated to the verge of destruction, and the bubble man does well to escape being trampled to death by a million over-excited feet. As if seen through the eyes of a 3-year-old child, this is what we did: “We went first to the craft and singing tent. We made a bug out of pipe cleaners and some foam. We watched the singing but didn’t join in because we were shy. We found a table with some ink stamps and played with those, including stamping our own arm. We met a friendly but slightly scary man who taught us how to make a really good paper aeroplane. Daddy helped me make it. Then we stood on top of a really high platform and threw the aeroplane down to Mummy. It flew really well!

“We watched some older children make computer-controlled Lego robots that moved by themselves. They looked very exciting! I’ll play with those myself when I’m a bit older. Daddy helped me cut out some cardboard fins that we stuck to a bottle of water to make a rocket. Then a man put it on a launcher, pumped it up and we counted down from 10. When everyone shouted “Lift-off!” I pressed the button and my rocket shot into the air and landed on the roof of the tent! It was the best rocket of all! I’ve still got it in my bedroom.

“We saw a big table full of metal toys that Daddy said was Meccano, and we bolted some bits together to make a flying helicopter chair. Then we played with the bubbles that the bubble lady made. She could make lots of bubbles all at the same time! Then Daddy bought me a bubble saxophone so I could make my own bubbles. Then we were all very tired so we went for a sit down.” Phew. There’s some great stuff for all ages, and particularly for the older kids the wackier sideshows – like the battle game that uses a measure of brain activity to move a ball back and forth – seem particularly unique. And I’d single out Andy Chipling and his expert method of folding a paper aeroplane for giving this particular big kid a skill that I’d always wanted to refine but never been able to. Ten minutes well spent!

At Deer Shed, it’s folly to make a long list of ‘must-see’ bands. Who you can actually get to see very much depends on circumstances, rather than forward planning. One or two of our group ‘saw’ no bands in the conventional sense: there was plenty of music in the background, but they had the good grace to be guided by the needs of their kids, rather than chasing down the music. Having said that, this is how some of the bands went down on Saturday.

In the Lodge stage it was Celtic day. The Pictish Trail is Johnny Lynch, who hails from Eigg and lulls us all into a false sense of security by making his first few numbers gentle acoustic ditties. Which had me reading my programme with incredulity: “This is supposed to have electronica in it!” All good things come to those who wait, however, as all of sudden Johnny breaks out the drum machine and wild synth sounds: add in a dose of surrealist humour and all is well with the world.

Hinds are brilliant on the main stage. The four Madrid girls create dreamy garage songs perfect for languid singalongs…if anyone knew the words. Actually, ‘Davey Crockett’ is pretty simple to sing. And play, by the sounds of its three chords. This sort of thing is widely called lo-fi, although that relates more to the relaxed vibe than any reflection on their sound quality. A lovely slice of sunny Spanish insouciance. All Tvvins are a Dublin trio who make spacey slices of bass-heavy electro-pop. The guitarists comprehensive pedal board tells its own story – the guitar work is heavy on the delay, rapid strums generating a wide soundscape that brings to mind another Edge-y son of Ireland’s fair city. Superb toe-tapping stuff.

It’s tradition not to have rain at Deer Shed, but tradition went out of the window this year as the heavens opened mid-afternoon. Given that two of the stages were under cover meant that, if anything, more people got to see more music. But what of the main stage? If there was any band that could entice punters out from under canvas to have a boggy boogie, it’s Dutch Uncles, and they don’t disappoint. If there’s a sharper band this side of the equator, I’d like to hear them. Duncan Wallis’ remarkable body moves never fail to impress, and he does well to throw them given the increasingly slippery stage. Those that braved the rain were rewarded a couple of songs in with a break in the cloud, waterproofs steaming in the sunshine. I can’t be far off double figures seeing Dutch Uncles now, and every time it feels like a treat. Their music is fractal-like: no matter how familiar one thinks one is with it, each repeat listen reveals further hidden details, whether they be time signature changes, details of instrumentation, or lyrical insights. A fine achievement.

Damien Dempsey‘s none-more-Irish passionate delivery is the discovery of the festival for me, for three very important reasons: 1. You know exactly what he’s saying, at all time. 2. He talks about stuff that is relevant, and real, to everyone who has to suffer the human condition. 3. He means – properly means – every word he sings. He stridently complains about the historical treatment of the Irish (and half the rest of the world) on ‘Colony’; you might not agree with his interpretation of history, but you can’t deny how effective a cheerleader he is for the dispossessed. ‘Serious’ paints a brilliantly-acted picture of a malicious drug dealer trying to convince an innocent to sample his wares in a seedy Irish pub using a narration with a spectacular Dublin accent. Really powerful stuff, with hints of two Bobs – Geldof’s uncompromising attitude and Dylan’s storytelling passion.

And so we come to the pinnacle of the entire festival, John Grant: in his own catty way, one of the least appropriate headliners for a child-friendly festival this side of Marilyn Manson. The entirety of sweary solo début ‘Queen of Denmark’ is devoted to documenting his drug, alcohol and homosexual relationship problems. Granted, this isn’t your usual bargain-bin autobiography, illustrated as it is with beautiful piano playing and lucid wordplay, but still. Thank goodness my kids are too young to pick up on lines like “I’ll sell your Grandma on the street to buy crack”, “that little ass of yours looks just like food”, or crowd favourite “I casually mention that I pissed in your coffee”. What’s that man singing about, Daddy?

What people want as their reward after spending £200 to drag the kids around a field all day is to stand, sit or lie down together in the darkness to something that they know, can sing along to, and can feel good about, preferably something that reminds them of the fun they had in the years BK. Not some lonely chap complaining about his boyfriend’s inadequacies, regardless of how eloquently those sentiments are expressed. After Johnny Marr‘s triumph last year, the hope was that future years would essentially duplicate the pattern for well-regarded contemporary indie band on Friday for men of a certain age, big name from the parents’ past on Saturday for everyone. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Whilst there will have been true fans of both headliners in the crowd, neither were the unifying force that one would ideally want, which is a bit of a shame.

Deer Shed isn’t even close to being all about the music. But the music is an integral part of the experience (and the price), otherwise we’d just take the kids to scout camp and sit around rubbing sticks together and singing Kumbaya. Of course it’s a little churlish to criticise an event that gets so much right, but the headliners have such a dominant influence over the feel of the whole event, who plays at the top of the bill really matters. Having said all that, in 2015 Deer Shed joined the big time – in common with the vastly bigger festivals we all know about, regardless of the headliners, people flock to Deer Shed because they love the vibe, they love the company, and they love the setting – chilled out, friendly, and beautiful. What more could you ask for?

 

Kendal Calling 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Friday, 7th August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Missed part 1 of Martin’s coverage of day 1 at Kendal Calling 2015? No worries. It’s right here.

Something a little closer to home is Hyde and Beast, the retro-mellow-rock outfit of Wearside provenance. If you’d have told me the the Futureheads‘ drummer would create a side project that could rival the excellence of his main band I’d have laughed in the face of your folly, but today’s incarnation of H ‘n’ B is the finest I’ve seen and easily the equal of its forebear. Replete with horn section and many guitars they casually invoke the mellower side of ’70s glam rock, and, if you squint your ears, a hint of the country influence of The Eagles and Lynyrd Skynryd for good measure, all filtered through the Sunderland prism of unexpected arrangements and jazz chords pressed into action for less hifalutin purposes. Dave Hyde looks quite the dapper part as co-frontman, and it all serves to reinforce the fact that, in music like in football, Sunderland are beating Newcastle regularly these days.

After a long wait, it’s my first time seeing Flyte, and they don’t disappoint. The London four-piece look as if a gentle breeze might knock them down, but no bed-wetters are these: in addition to their finely-crafted ’80s-tinged pop songs, they really rock out. Delicacy and power in equal measure? Just the ticket.

Daniel Waples plays the hang drum, a relatively obscure percussive instrument which serves up rhythm, bass and melody just by hitting it, at which Waples is very good indeed. With a sparse violin accompaniment, and later some overlaid spoken-word from KP Kev the Poet, it’s an admirably funky set even before you consider the primary instrument.

Cocos Lovers, also in the Chai Wallahs tent, come highly-praised, and indeed they meld folk and world music in a very clever way. Their tunes are jolly vignettes with a gentle undertow of melancholy, violin and acoustic guitar often paired with Johnny Cash’s trademark train rhythm. Decent enough, but their considerable reputation preceded them, and I was perhaps expecting something more spectacular.

Spectacle certainly wasn’t lacking at Twisted Tubes, a brass collective from Manchester. Kendal Calling is big on pop-brass bands, with particularly stiff competition from the Riot Jazz Brass Band, but Twisted Tubes are a little different – yes, they do the pop covers stuff, but they’ve got a chap that can do a bit of urban-style singing too, so they come across like there’s a proper originals band there wanting to break free. Plus, there’s nothing more exhilarating than a load of brass at full chat – you simply can’t have enough of it.

Since I last saw them, Temples have developed into a proper main stage band, their driving and droning psychedelia and enormous hair filling the main arena with a strong fug of ’70s nostalgia. I’m pretty sure there was liberal use of backing tracks, but I’ll forgive them that because it suits their larger-than life persona: these guys really are living the hippy dream, with their expensive vintage guitars (note the singer’s particularly nice heavily-checked Gretsch) and authentic vintage clothes as much of a draw as their music itself.

Laura Doggett is an otherworldly presence – barefoot, dressed in black underwear and lacy dressing gown, by turns she fiercely emotes during songs, and giggles between them. Her ditties swing between glitch-folk and more conventional indie-folk epics, all overlaid with her dusky tones, like Florence Welch’s really weird younger sister. Quite astonishingly powerful in full flow, there’s a witchy quality about her that’s at times genuinely unsettling, but didn’t stem the tide of marriage proposals from the large, refreshed crowd. None of which she accepted, funnily enough.

Antimatador are an urban funk-soul collective from the South West, and seemed a little perturbed to be playing to a rather modest crowd in the Chai Wallahs tent after such a long drive. Certainly few of the festivals new, younger fanbase appear to want to spend time there, presumably in lieu of a spot of face-chewing in the Glow tent. Anyway, Antimatador’s epic, funky journeys were well worth the trip, in my opinion, especially since they had a spot of actual vinyl mixing and scratching: a rare treat these days.

I think even the man himself would be prepared to admit that this wasn’t a classic Gaz Coombes set. It seemed there were a couple of technical hitches, and the Calling Out tent has a really tight time schedule, so perhaps he wasn’t feeling at full emotive flow when he took to the stage. That elusive element of specialness wasn’t quite there somehow. Despite that, his material just gets better and better, so even an average reading of his songs is still something rather special. He continues to mature as a songwriter, and given the strength of his back catalogue, it’s easily possible to make the case that Coombes is top of the Britpop songwriters, still just as relevant now as he was 20 years ago. Quite some feat.

Slamboree’s music wouldn’t necessarily be top of my desert island discs playlist, but by the good lord of rock they give an impressive show. Their larger-than-life vocalist Kathika Rabbit deserves special mention for being the most impressive female rapper I’m ever likely to see. She acts as mistress of ceremonies while chaos ensues around her in the form of – as they call it – “Pyro Circus Dub Rave”. I can’t do better than that description, frankly, only add that it doesn’t quite describe the alternately glamorous and ghoulish characters that come and go on stage. In the interests of not giving away spoilers I won’t say any more. Suffice to say, it’s an unforgettable way to round off a very long first day at Kendal Calling 2015.

 

Kendal Calling 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 6th August 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Before we review this year’s Kendal Calling 2015, we must spare a moment to remember Christian Pay, the unfortunate soul who lost his life at the festival in the early hours of Friday morning. Four others are ill in hospital, two critically, after taking substances they thought would help them have a good time. Few of us can honestly say that we haven’t at some point put something of unknown provenance in our bodies, the safety of which could not be guaranteed. Most of the time we get away with it but in this case the outcome was the worst one imaginable. The pain that his family and friends must be feeling is simply indescribable in words. For what it’s worth, my, and no doubt our readership’s, thoughts and prayers are with you.

Solemnity turns to anger when one considers the turn of events that has led to this tragedy. I am utterly sick of hearing of people being regularly harmed and sometimes killed in the pursuit of chemically-enhanced happiness. Anyone who takes a legal drug – caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, prescription medication – has access to a quality-controlled supply of goods from a responsible retailer at a reasonable cost. Indeed, alcohol enthusiasts are particularly well-served, even though said drug turns a significant number of those that use it into slurring, staggering, incontinent, occasionally violent, husks. Those who choose something other than drink to help their party experience along are forced to buy from the black market, with all the risk that entails. Our drugs policy is killing our children. If you accept that people will always take drugs, and that legislation is largely ineffective at stopping them, then prohibition is revealed for the folly it is and always has been. Nobody should have to die in the quest for a good time. In this writer’s opinion, MDMA and cannabis should be licensed for public consumption. If that had been the case, Christian Pay would have spent a night full of love on Friday, rather than everyone who knew him enduring a lifetime of pain.

This year saw the biggest and best Thursday night ever at Kendal Calling – a superb way to celebrate the festival’s tenth birthday. Yes, there were some teething troubles getting so many Thursday visitors onto the site – those who turned up early queued for 3 hours or more. Personally, I drove over after work, encountered no traffic at all as always, and parked directly opposite the festival entrance. Depending on where you’re prepared to camp, Kendal Calling has surely the shortest car-to-tent distance of any comparably-sized festival, a bonus when all you want to do is get the tent up, crack a beer, and listen to the first band of the weekend.

James headlined the Thursday night party, and were a superb choice. Where their compatriots have faded away, against all the odds James are still looking and sounding both fresh and expertly sharp after a quarter-century of practice. They’re not necessarily relevant to everyone (the teenagers camping around me had blank looks when I mentioned I was going to see James – “Who’s he?”), and I must make the personal confession that I thought they were finished after 2001’s ‘Pleased to Meet You’, but that’s my fault, not theirs. After all this time, they’ve mastered the art of the teasing slow-burn buildup, both on the micro level of a song – ‘Sit Down’ being a case in point, the whole thing reimagined as an admirably restrained ballad – and the macro level of a whole set. There’s no two ways about it, a great headlining band.

The alternative was the equally compelling Future Dub Project in the always-reliable oasis of hot comestibles Chai Wallahs. Their sound melds reggae rhythms and electronica, a male rapper and a superb female singer.

Friday saw rain of the kind that is commonplace for Kendal. Wet, dreary, mudogenic. Judging by the vast number of sodden-brown appendages that used to be sneakers, not all of the crowd have grokked that Wellington boots are essential festival accessories. Ah, the folly of youth. The beauty of Kendal Calling is that, in contrast to some of the nation’s bigger events, all the stages are but a matter of minutes stagger away from each other, so one can see a year’s worth of bands in a single weekend. At least you can on Friday, when the spirit is keen and the legs fresh.

Louis Berry is a Scouse rock ‘n’ roller – one can infer from his reference to ‘Her Majesty’s pleasure’ that he may have been something of a naughty boy in the past – but he’s clearly discovered the redemptive power of music. Being blessed with a veritable roar of a voice, he and his sharp band seem perfectly at home on the big stage, the songs drip with Liverpudlian heritage (La’s, Cast, er… The Beatles) and do the massed ranks of Merseysiders proud.

Rhain is a startling discovery, her modest Bristolian twang belying a genuinely world-class singing voice, as if Björk, Kate Bush and Kiri te Kanawa were reimagined as a bundle of flapperish trustafarian kook. She accompanies herself with a bit of minimalist piano, but it’s really her voice that steals the show, as powerful as an opera singer one minute, squeaky and coy the next, all delivered with such disarming modesty that endears one to her even more. I didn’t hear a finer or more notable voice all weekend.

Having been reliably informed by my considerably younger camping buddies that Fuse ODG is the next big thing, then I had to pay him a visit. It’s dancehall, Jim, but not as we know it – self-nominated as the sound of ‘new Africa’, Fuse himself is a singer and rapper, and he’s got a decent band with female harmony backing and a big Notting Hill sound system blasting out the tunes. Exciting enough, and apparently he’s the most successful Ghanaian singer on iTunes, but I must confess this sounds much like all the other dancehall-inspired pop I’ve ever heard.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music 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 idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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