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, 13th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
CMJ (yes, those crazy people that put on the New York City-based music festival of the same name every October) sponsored a really fab showcase the Saturday night of this year’s Great Escape 2013 starring some great bands, including Young Kato and the 1975. Enjoy videos on us from both of these bands – Young Kato’s ‘Something Real’ and the 1975′s ‘Milk’ – below.
My full coverage of the night can be read here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 12th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
I reported in on To Kill a King‘s rousing set at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar on the Friday night of the Great Escape 2013 here, ahead of their appearance the following night at Brighton Dome with headliner and personal matesBastille. If you missed either performance, you’re in luck. First, watch Ralph Pelleymounter play the title track of their debut album ‘Cannibals with Cutlery’. Then, enjoy the full band performing ‘Choices’. Enjoy!
There comes a time in every festival-goer’s life when the spectre of having to give up the annual pilgrimage to the grassy land of song, cider, and occasional sunshine looms large, most likely due to the arrival of those little bundles of joy we call children. 2012 was the year your correspondent faced this sorry fate – and conquered it. Determined to share the joys of the unpredictable, oft mud-laden fields of dream with a young chap barely 6 months old, the discovery of the sublime Deer Shed festival was as if a sign from Dionysus himself. Nestled in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, Deer Shed prides itself on two virtues – of providing a modest yet perfectly-curated bill of music for adults, and laying on a multitude of activities for children which mean they have as much, if not more fun, as their elders.
Now in its fourth year, taking place 19-21 July in Baldersby, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, this year Deer Shed takes Machines as its theme – all manner of self-propelling man-made apparatus are due to make an appearance. Led by modern mad scientist Paul Granjon, the objective is to improvise with a group of volunteers and a pile of obsolete electronics to build an interactive construct of some kind. Not to mention the invasion of “Thingies” – small, mobile robots with a hint of canine (and a tail) will be mingling and entertaining, and no doubt slightly scaring the kids. There’s a real life Scrapheap Challenge to build a boat, the results of which will be tested on the lake on Sunday. Add in a Minecraft party held on a LAN of Raspberry Pis, programming workshops, learning to solder, meccano, nano quadcopters and the opportunity to play a theremin, there’s ample opportunity to unleash your inner geek.
And that’s just in the Machines tent. There’s another entire strand of workshops to get the creative juices flowing – and it all gets very Blue Peter here. Take your pick from making a robot mask out of a giant roll-mat, making a mini dog out of a date-stamp casing, or a superstructure from screw-together water pipes. For the boys – water bottle rockets, and for the girls – friendship bracelet making. Or do it the other way round if you fancy. Make a windmill, a badge, or a balloon powered car, but don’t forget to learn how to play the ukulele with the pUKEs (last seen at Liverpool Sound City).
And that’s just the activities for kids (and big kids, we should add). There’s a whole lineup of fantastic music over three days – at Deer Shed Friday is an evening warm-up session, Saturday is an all-day marathon of goodness, and it bears repetition here that last year’s Sunday afternoon was the most chilled-out wind-down this correspondent has witnessed, anywhere, ever. The creative activities themselves and beautiful camping space would be enough to justify the entry price alone, but of course there’s far more to Deer Shed than that. Check back in for part two of our Deer Shed preview, where we run down the music and comedy lineup – trust us, there’s some unmissable stuff going on.
If you’ve already made up your mind that Deer Shed is your cup of family tea, then tickets are available at the bargain price of £89 plus booking fee, with children only £25, and under-6s free of charge. Buy them here. Still not convinced? Read Martin’s reviews of Deer Shed Festival 2012 part 1 and part 2.
Evolution Emerging is very much the North East’s version of something like Liverpool Sound City: a showcase of the very best up-and-coming artists from Tyneside, Wearside, Cumbria and Yorkshire, sprinkled with a few more familiar names who treat it as a homecoming celebration, having made that all-important move towards the mainstream over the preceding 12 months. Arranged and facilitated by that shining beacon of regional artist development, Generator, Evo Emerging is possibly the most important evening in the North East musical calendar, held at several boutique venues scattered about the Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle’s creative and cultural hub. What follows is a flavour of what went down this year.
First up are Blank Maps in the Cluny. Theirs is an uplifting sound, with soaring guitars and gently keening vocals, perfect for a summer’s evening, being reminiscent of the balearic influences that swept through guitar music a couple of years ago. Think Friendly Fires, with at times a bit more stadium rock, at others a more ambient, chill out vibe. It’s a shame they’re performing indoors tonight; they’d be perfect playing from the balcony of a beachfront bar as the sun drifts below the sea’s horizon, before the disco really kicks off into the early hours. Lovely stuff.
Agerskow, aka Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter Kate Edwards, fronts a sparsely-instrumented three-piece that trade in gentle, confessional ditties that sound a lot like Hem, which is a perfectly good thing. On record there’s cello everywhere; tonight the sound is very simple, letting songs like recent release ‘This Train Terminates’ sigh their modest evocation. Edwards’ voice is lovely, falling somewhere between American country twang and pristine English-rose folk – as striking as her looks. Influences appear numerous; like a complex glass of red, there’s several flavours at once: Joni Mitchell is there, along with the aforementioned Hem, overlaid with the redoubtable Linda Thompson. A fine list of influences then – and it would seem Agerskow has the voice and the songs to compete with the best of them.
Mickey Moran Parker is a fresh-faced chap who purveys a decent slice of urban soul, aided by a crazy-haired producer dude, and some live instrumentation. He’s got a decent voice – although in the interests of full disclosure he sounds just that bit more in tune on record than live, and tuning is all-important in this genre which relies so heavily on a strong vocal performance. For some reason all I kept thinking was he’d go a long way on the X Factor, which I’m sure isn’t a thought that has escaped the man himself. But credit that (for now!) he’s ploughing an independent furrow. For although white soul might not be everyone’s cup of tea, this is a very competent example of it, broaching the credibility gap between chart-bothering pop and more underground urban stylings. Competent stuff, and Moran has plenty of time to refine his sound and persona.
Goy Boy McIlroy take the prize for best set of the evening, not in small part down to an astonishing, fourth-wall-smashing performance from singer David Saunders (see what I mean here). Not content with the ample stage down at The Tyne, he and his enormously long microphone cable wander through the unsuspecting audience, gyrating, falling over, and generally acting like a rock ‘n’ roll frontman should, but rarely, do. The music is self-confessed alt-blues, with a hard, snare-skin-puncturing edge. It’s difficult to fathom what Saunders is on about, but he gives a spellbinding performance when he’s on about it. What is possible to determine is the gothic atmosphere, the dirty riffs, and more than a splash of unexpected camp. Well worth checking out online, before experiencing the ear-bleeding live show.
Richard Smith’s slow-burning balladry is a welcome rest for the ears after the cacophany of the previous set. Although it’s not a particularly quiet affair, featuring as it does three guitars and expertly-thumped drums from Hyde & Beast’s Neil Hyde. Things certainly are much more deep and cerebral though; Smith manages to conjure a distinctive, desolate soundscape, his languorous vocals and washes of reverbed guitars evoking backwoods loneliness, occasionally blossoming into Editors-style tightly-wound rock riffing. Recent track ‘The Water’ sums up his style perfectly, commencing with an elegant acoustic guitar riff against a murmuring backdrop, perfectly framing Smith’s baritone musings, until finally unfurling a gently driving end coda, like the first shoots of spring after a particularly chilly winter. Lovely mature songwriting, excellently executed.
Nadine Shah takes the headline slot in the Cluny 2 for what appears to be something of a homecoming for her: she’s been playing a few dates across the country to crowds of variable numbers, on the way berating Mancunians who think they’re from the north (“It’s just the north Midlands, right?”. It’s her first gig since The Great Escape, and she seems pleased finally to be playing to a partisan crowd. Shah’s performance is highly emotionally-charged – whilst there’s seemingly nothing particularly happy in her songbook (sample song titles: ‘Cry Me A River’, ‘Dreary Town’, ‘Aching Bones’), it’s an engrossing spectacle to see her dispense with each nugget of bitter wrath in her beautifully highly-strung South Tyneside contralto. As is common with musicians from coastal towns, around Shah’s work hangs the salty tang of the sea shanty, and the careworn drama of an out-of-season seaside resort. She’s about to release her début album, produced by no less a luminary than Ben Hillier, so she’s just getting started with her career proper, and we can assume we’ll be hearing far more of her unique delivery. A beautifully unsettling end to a night of superb music.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 5th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
Dublin’s Kodaline made three appearances at the Great Escape 2013, including this jam-packed one at Audio on the Friday afternoon. We’ve got videos of the band performing ‘All Comes Down’ and ‘Perfect World’ for you to enjoy below.
In case you missed you, listen to my interview with frontman Steve Garrigan at the Great Escape here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 4th June 2013 at 2:00 pm
I’ve now done SXSW, Sound City and the Great Escape all in the same year, in both 2012 and 2013. Each comes with its own perks and challenges, but I think the one underlying thing that ties all three of these events together is the mental exhaustion, on top of the physical you already put your body through. Admittedly, I knew John and I had to leave the flat at 7 in the morning on Sunday to catch our trains to go back north (Sheffield for me, Lincoln for John), so that terrible thought weighed heavily on my mind while I tried to sort just how exactly I was going to work my Saturday night. Before I’d left America, I had grand plans to crisscross Brighton up and down on the final evening, but by the time I’d actually reached day 3 (and over two weeks in Britain), my mind was saying no way to that.
After getting shut out of the Zanzibar a fortnight earlier in Liverpool during Sound City, I made the conscious choice and made good on my promise to Matthew Healy of the 1975 that we would cover them at one of the two festivals in May. Directly before them on the CMJ-sponsored showcase bill at the Paganini Ballroom at the Old Ship Hotel were China Rats, who I’d seen at SXSW 2013 at the PRS for Music / Kilimanjaro showcase on Friday night with the Ruen Brothers and the Crookes, and Young Kato, who I’d written a Bands to Watch piece on last summer but had not seen live yet.
It sounds a bit textbook and far too easy to decide to stay in one place for nearly an entire evening, but it turned out to be the right decision in the long run for me, because as John described in his Saturday report, the place was later oversubscribed and full up with people that probably should not have been let in. This was pretty annoying, since I as editor was the one to make sure John was on the press guestlist for the Paginini Ballroom and I know it wasn’t the press office’s fault either. To be honest, I still feel very bad about John missing the 1975, because I’d seen them twice before and John still hadn’t. I offered to give up my spot and told John to tell the bouncer I was coming down if it meant he could come back up, but like the professional he is, John said no and decided to head up to the Dome to catch the fuss surrounding Bastille instead.
I don’t know if they were feeling especially confident, or because it wasn’t so hot, or it had to do with playing in England. But China Rats looked and sounded 100x better in Brighton than they did in Austin. It wasn’t even the crowd so much that lent to this atmosphere; as you can probably guess, most people who had arrived early were primarily there to stake their places for the 1975, who were to be followed closely behind with late night programming of Tribes. No, there was just something about them that when they played, you could tell they meant business. ‘Nip It in the Bud’ was loud, raucous and just pure fun. The “ai yi yi yis” of ‘To Be Like I’ reminded of the early Beatles, and in an entirely good way.
Cheltenham sextet Young Kato look primed for Radio 1 exposure. Talking to other punters, I’m pretty sure no-one there had any idea who they were, so I knew they had their work cut out for them. To be honest, I was a little worried; they are all so young, how are they going to take it if the audience doesn’t like them? I shouldn’t have worried. Their single from last summer, ‘Drink, Dance, Play’, has a tribal beat-themed second half; it’s like they took the best bits of Bastille and put it into an indie pop song, which can only be a good thing, and the crowd just ate it up.
The anthemic ‘Lights’ is another great singalong, I’m seriously wondering why they haven’t been picked up for more airplay. I thought for such a young band, they sound remarkably polished and it was nice validation after hearing them on recording and writing a feature on them to discover that they’re excellent live. After watching them, I silently thanked myself for choosing the Paganini Ballroom for that night.
And then came the piece de resistance for the night, who everyone was waiting for, the 1975. Oh my. I already knew I was going to enjoy this, but I didn’t know how much I was going to enjoy it. They only played seven songs, but they had so much energy and the crowd assembled was so ready for this, there was only one way this could go: all the way up. The crowd jumped up and down to the infectious beats and you could feel the room literally shifting from side to side from all the bodies bouncing. I didn’t expect him to but Matt Healy did see me down the front during ‘Girls’ and smiled widely at me. He knew this performance was huge and they were having the times of their lives playing this grand ballroom. I’m sure it’s a moment they will always remember, and I was glad that I’d made a special effort to be there.
The only blemish was towards the end, when I felt a sudden breeze behind me. That’s not right; the ballroom is rammed and there was a massive wall of people behind me. What’s going on? I looked back to see that a circle of people had parted and backed off while two blokes, probably heavily intoxicated, were going at it with each other. Bouncers quickly got involved and it was clear both men were hot-headed, one of them giving the bouncer that was holding him a murderous look. Whoa. My first experience with violence at the Great Escape, and luckily, it looked like no one was seriously injured. It was a good thing it was over soon after that, as the crowd dispersed quickly once their set was over and I think everyone in there needed some air.
You and I
My last port of call for the Great Escape 2013 was to be all the way up the hill back towards the train station. I knew there was no way in hell I’d be able to leg it quickly enough to catch Teleman‘s set, so I flagged down a taxi driver to take me. Unfortunately I must have wasted at least 10 minutes yelling at the taxi driver because at first he refused to take me (grrrr). There was a taxi van in front of him, but it was full of a band’s gear and with my patience being tried, as nicely as I could I explained that the van was currently not in service. Finally, he let me in and drove me to the Green Door Store.
Then began the most infuriating moment for me at this year’s festival. I was desperate to see Teleman so I’d requested guestlist for the venue, figuring I’d have a better shot at this venue than some of the others. I get to security and tell the bloke there I’m on the press guestlist, and he decides to give me lip, claiming there is no guestlist. I hadn’t come all that way up to the Green Door Store to be denied entry. I insisted that I was on the guest list, I was press, and that was legitimately supposed to be there. Finally, he decides to pull out a ripped piece of paper out of his pocket, looks my name up, and what do you know, I’m on there and suddenly I’m allowed in. ::facepalm::
Not that this really did much good. Through the arguing with the taxi driver and the bouncer, I’d missed the first half of the set, and there was so much pushing and shoving inside the venue, I couldn’t get any closer to the stage than the brick archway leading into the main room. A funny moment was hearing someone say to their girlfriend, “can we get any closer?” and to turn and see it was Stephen Black of Sweet Baboo saying it; he’d played that same stage earlier in the evening We had a brief moment to say hello, so that was unexpected and nice.
I wasn’t a fan of all the pushing, especially from the very tall men with pints in their hands, obviously not caring that the group of girls I was with, all much shorter and unable to see anything, would have appreciated some graciousness. Occasionally, when punters would leave the main room and come back out through the archway, I could see the outlines of Tommy Sanders and band briefly. I could hear the notes of ‘Cristina’ but couldn’t really enjoy it. I recalled 2 years ago when I’d seen Pete and the Pirates up close in Islington’s Buffalo Bar a week before my birthday. One day, Teleman, I’ll see you up close and personal too. Just you wait.
The next morning, somehow John and I got out of our respective beds. I remember fighting my suitcase to get it shut so we could leave Brighton on time and make our connections in London. I nearly forgot my purse on the kitchen table. (Thank god we hadn’t dropped the keys through the letter slot yet.) But the Great Escape and our time in Brighton was over, and for me, it was time to switch gears…to be reunited with friends in Sheffield.
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