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.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 8th December 2010 at 3:15 pm
Frankie and the Heartstrings from Sunderland will be touring in February right around the time their debut album, ‘Hunger’, is released on Wichita Recordings (22 February 2011). Tickets are available now.
Saturday 12th February 2011 – Middlesbrough Empire (Metropolis club night)
Tuesday 15th February 2011 – Newcastle Cluny
Wednesday 16th February 2011 – Leeds Cockpit
Thursday 17th February 2011 – Manchester Academy 3
Friday 18th February 2011 – York Fibbers
Saturday 19th February 2011 – Liverpool James E. Brown Room
Monday 21st February 2011 – London Heaven (NME Awards Show with Those Dancing Days and Veronica Falls)
Tuesday 22nd February 2011 – Oxford Cellar
Wednesday 24th February 2011 – Kingston-Upon-Thames New Slang
Thursday 25th February 2011 – Cardiff Dempsey’s
Friday 26th February 2011 – Birmingham Academy 2
Saturday 27th February 2011 – Bristol Fleece
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd November 2010 at 9:30 am
This year, the NME Awards will take place 23 February 2011 at 02 Academy Brixton. In the lead up to the awards show, NME puts on live performances in London’s best gigging venues during the month of February. And yesterday, the music magazine announced the line-ups for the February 2011 shows. Tickets for these shows go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday, 24 November, at 9 AM.
Tuesday 1st February 2011 – Metronomy at London Heaven
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 – Los Campesinos! and Summer Camp at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Thursday 3rd February 2011 – The Duke Spirit at London Heaven
Wednesday 9th February 2011 – Mystery Jets (pictured above) at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Friday 11th February 2011 – White Lies and Crocodiles at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Tuesday 15th February 2011 – The Naked and Famous at London Heaven
Tuesday 15th February 2011 – Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan and Cherry Ghost at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Wednesday 16th February 2011 – Edwyn Collins at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Thursday 17th February 2011 – Miles Kane at London Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
Thursday 17th February 2011 – Noah and the Whale at London Koko
Friday 18th February 2011 – Yuck and Cults at London Bush Hall
Sunday 20th February 2011 – Carl Barat, the Heartbreaks and Foreign Office at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Monday 21st February 2011 – Alex Winston at London New Players Theatre
Monday 21st February 2011 – Mona and Neon Trees at London Garage
Monday 21st February 2011 – Warpaint and Twin Shadow at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Monday 21st February 2011 – Frankie and the Heartstrings and Veronica Falls at London Heaven
Tuesday 22nd February 2011 – Caribou, Factory Floor and Walls at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Tuesday 22nd February 2011 – Les Savy Fav at London Heaven