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Part 1 of Martin’s review of Beacons 2012 can be read here.
What more can be written about Wild Beasts’ ability to headline? Their double-headed fantasia redefines the potential of a modern group of musicians. The risk of repetition is one worth bearing in order to quote a phrase written about their headline performance at Constellations in Leeds last November: “To see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.” To which I would add, the material is so familiar now that the crowd effortlessly sing along pretty much all the way through. Which seems natural, until you ponder the meaning of such lyrical masterpieces such as “I was thrilled as I was appalled / Courting him in fisticuffing waltz”; words worthy of Raffles the Gentleman Thug himself. The world of performing arts waits with baited breath the arrival of a fourth Wild Beasts album.
As these things are wont to do, Sunday dawns even later with the kind of melancholy that only pervades the final morning of a weekend-long shindig. What finer prescription for such malaise than a swift dose of Frankie and the Heartstrings? As my erudite companion opined, if these guys had been around 10 years ago, they’d have cleaned up, what with their jaunty melodies, whip-smart pop arrangements and a classic frontman in Frankie Francis. Their frequent appearances on the festival scene are considerable consolation.
There is no photograph of The Wave Pictures because they were so good I couldn’t drag my attention away from them to fiddle with a camera. Operating for an impressive 14 years, time has not dulled their appeal; quite the opposite: the trio are telepathic in their delivery. Whether it’s that, the clarity of the ideas contained within the casually-delivered lyrics, or perhaps the guitar which spans basic root chords and then veers off into advanced soloing in the blink of the eye, or most likely a superb blend of all three, something really clicks with these guys. Singer David Tattersall can’t help the smile creeping across his child’s face, as if he’s heard the secret of the world – and everything’s going to be OK. Like the day of meeting someone who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, no doubt there will be many more performances by The Wave Pictures – but nothing beats the first time.
From which planet is Willis Earl Beal? Certainly he has a considerably other-worldly manner which suggests someone not quite 100% Earthling. The intensity of his performance does nothing to dissuade this notion. Accompanied by a reel-to-reel tape machine, Beal prowls the stage, howling complex, inscrutable notions to primordial beats. He wraps up by removing his thick leather belt and whacking his chair by way of improvised percussion, before swaggering offstage. He didn’t actually say, “Take me to your leader”, but one has the impression that’s what he’s thinking. [I’m not sure what to make of him either, but he is a protege of Richard Russell’s, so on that alone, he comes well recommended, doesn’t he? – Ed.]
I have it on good authority that Patrick Wolf, on grand piano and violin-as-held-like-a-guitar delivered his arch-pop with aplomb, and that Toots and the Maytals wrapped things up with – what else! – a reggae conga. And that was that. The end.
This is Beacons’ first year as Beacons – those in the know will have attended a smaller but no less vibrant event on roughly the same site called Moorfest from which Beacons has grown; yet more will have been as bitterly disappointed as the organisers were when last year’s event was cancelled due to apocalyptic flooding. Thusly, Beacons 2012 represents the culmination of many years of hopes, dreams, and the odd scary moment – the product of such a recipe was an event which had no airs or graces at all in its delivery: it simply put on top-quality entertainment in a decent bit of the countryside, and invited the punters themselves to be its beating heart.
If you sat down and thought about it for a bit, you could tell this was an early, perhaps even naïve, event – the main arena had a vast central space with nothing in it (where was the eponymous beacon?), I found programmes for sale on the last day at the back of a tent, and stuff like signage was a bit hit and miss. But by ‘eck and by gum, what am I blathering about? It’s refreshing to experience a festival that puts all its effort into the essentials, even if that means the details are a bit rough around the edges. Details can be bought, but good taste in music cannot: for that reason, Beacons deserves to flourish. And with every ticket for 2012 sold out, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Not even the weather.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 28th October 2011 at 11:00 am
Frankie and the Heartstrings have been spreading their love everywhere, including most recently Australia and Asia, and they’re set to play a show at Liverpool Mojo on 13 November, then support the Vaccines on a tour of the UK in the rest of November into early December (full list of dates on their official Web site). No rest for the weary. They have, however, stopped long enough to write and record a new single, the cheekily titled ‘Everybody Looks Better (in the Right Light)’.
Produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler, it has the same herky-jerky-type energy that we’ve come to associate with Frankie and the Heartstrings based on their previous singles (‘Hunger’, ‘Tender’ [Video of the Moment here], ‘Ungrateful’ [Video of the Moment here]). It’s a mode we know and love when it comes to Frankie and co., and I find it faultless: there’s no hiding behind someone else’s production ideas. What you see is what you get. I understand that there are people who can’t stand this band and their sound, but if you require overproduction, fancy schmancy bells and whistles and more style over substance in your music, then this isn’t the sort of thing you would be keen on anyway. Enjoy your autotune and fake eyelashes. Far, far away from me, please.
The ‘Everybody Looks Better (in the Right Light)’ single from Frankie and the Heartstrings will be released on the 28th of November on the band’s own Pop Sex Ltd label. Its b-side will be ‘The Way That You Kiss’, produced by Ryan Jarman of the Cribs.
Each festival is defined by its terroir: the land on which it takes place that gives it its atmosphere and reason for being. Where would Glastonbury be without its mythical rumours of ley lines and King Arthur, for instance? At first glance, the city centre of Sunderland wouldn’t be considered prime real estate by festival goers. But Split Festival have found a very accommodating venue in Ashbrooke Sports Club, a cricket and rugby venue with a proud tradition of sport, and a rather fine clubhouse, which is given over for a weekend a year to all manner of musical, comedic and gourmet endeavours. Some of the rugby team even double up as security.
Inevitably a festival on a tiny scale, there’s one large tent, a ‘fringe’ tent, and a food tent, laden with all sorts of edible goodies. The clubhouse is off-limits for regular punters, being reserved for staff, performers and press – and the regular sporting participants and their families, who continue to absorb their rugby league and Premiership football in the bar, even as the racket emanates from the tent below, whilst many a music fan’s Adidas wreak their havoc on the previously hallowed cricket outfield.
Sunderland clearly deserves its own festival; even though there are big national and international names on the bill, the roll-call of local talent is rather impressive, with Saturday’s Vinyl Jacket, B>E>A>K, Beth Jeans Houghton and Little Comets holding up the North-East corner. Beth Orton played a superb, brave solo set in the fringe tent, proving that even shorn of instrumentation, her songs still hold the power to captivate. The Rifles somehow manage to sound like an indie Madness, which is no bad thing when you get your head round it.
The Mystery Jets’ epic, thoughtful set is well-received, Blaine Harrison managing to deliver plenty of excitement despite being sat down throughout the set. The Drums bring a touch of flouncy transatlantic glamour to the affair – sticking to their new material, the set is tense, sparsely arranged, aloof. Something of an acquired taste, and not the most likely choice to bring a crowd to an excited climax on the end of day one, but certainly a class act. (Further, I got a chance to chat with them; you can read my interview with them here.)
On Sunday (day two), Hyde and Beast continue their meteoric ascent with a note-perfect rendition of the best bits of recent album ‘Slow Down’ (review here). Unsurprisingly popular, with the sprinkling of Futureheads in the line-up, the crowd give a justified warm welcome to the downtempo, subtle psychedelia. The only festival I can remember that actually runs ahead of time, Ganglians are off almost as soon as they are supposed to have begun, looking nonplussed about the whole affair.
Dinosaur Pile-Up’s stripped-down, Ash-on-steroids set is slightly incongruous in the late summer sunshine, and there’s a feeling of killing time until the utterly wonderful Frankie and the Heartstrings take the stage.
Arguably the biggest band in Sunderland at present, a truly deserved accolade, practically every song sounds like a hit single, with plenty of that jerky, assertive rhythm that distinguishes a Sunderland band. Frankie himself is a classic frontman, throwing shapes with abandon, the crowd enthralled. An apparently unplanned power cut in the last song couldn’t have been better timed, Frankie whipping the audience into a frenzied chant of “Sunderland!” in the darkness, until persuaded to leave the stage minutes later by a bouncer who himself couldn’t help but hold his fist aloft, proud as punch. Every festival has its ecstatic moment which sums up all that is special about the weekend. This was Split’s.
After such a strong set, the Charlatans had a tough job, and they sort of got away with it by dint of being a professional, well-rehearsed unit, with a popular body of work behind them. Great for fans, but missing something of the connection of the previous act. And after all that, it’s a short hop home. Festivals in cities are something of a rarity, but there’s something to be said for good transport links, and being in bed in time for getting up for work on Monday morning. On this showing, Split 2012 should be an unmissable event.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 20th April 2011 at 6:00 pm
Frankie and the Heartstrings from Sunderland released their debut album, ‘Hunger’, in February. From it comes the next single the band will release, ‘That Postcard’, to drop on 9 May on the band’s own Pop Sex Ltd. The video for the song reminds me of scrapbooking, in a good way – Heartstrings pop up at inopportune moments (out of the ocean, from mountains, etc.) while lead singer Frankie Francis sings to his true love. “Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” – a truly swoonworthy moment.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 25th February 2011 at 11:00 am
Camden Crawl 2011 will be taking place right smack dab up against the royal nuptials, but judging from the line-up, the organisers are taking this in their stride. The initial evening line-up announcement was made earlier this week, with St. Etienne, Toddla T, Hadouken, the Kings Blues and Villagers (pictured above) revealed as headliners. Bands championed by TGTF including Frankie and the Heartstrings, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Johnny Foreigner, Little Comets, cocknbullkid and Dinosaur Pile-Up are also scheduled to appear.
Early bird and VIP weekend tickets are now sold out, but a weekend ticket is available for £63.50 not including booking and transaction fees and Saturday or Sunday single tickets are £39.50 not including booking and transaction fees. They can be purchased online here or at selected HMV stores around the UK, more details here.
For a full listing of the line-up announced so far, click under the cut.
Continue reading Preview: Camden Crawl 2011
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 26th January 2011 at 6:00 pm
In advance of their album of the same name released next month, Sunderland’s “smashing young rock group” Frankie and the Heartstrings have made a new video for ‘Hunger’. A mad, long-haired bloke in a jumper dancing around and a wonky homemade robot in a show that looks suspiciously like ‘Blue Peter’ but is called ‘the Blue Boat’? You have to see it to believe it.
‘Hunger’, the debut album from Frankie and the Heartstrings, will be released on 12 February.