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Deer Shed Festival 2018: Saturday Roundup

 
By on Monday, 6th August 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Most years at Deer Shed, it’s possible to detect a secret theme influencing the band selection. We’ve had lady bands, we’ve had Celtic, and following on from Leeds’ Mush yesterday, this year we have a plethora of Northern English bands: Yorkshire’s North and West, Wearside, and Tyneside are all represented. From this fact, combined with the utter off-the-scale brilliance of how Saturday would pan out, we can deduce that that region of the UK is producing some of the country’s, if not the world’s, finest bands.

An embryonic SLUG were at Deer Shed 2015, but this year sees Ian Black’s outfit demonstrating how far we’ve all come since then. His backing band aren’t Field Music any more, for instance, but rather a bunch of chaps dressed up as a barbershop quartet for some odd reason. They’re promoting second album ‘Higgledypiggledy’, which continues in the same obscurantist funk vein as their first. Ian Black is wearing a nun’s habit, making him a rather unlikely spectacle, but there’s nothing sacred about the sinful Devil’s music they’re knocking out. Oldies like ‘Cockeyed Rabbit’ and ‘Greasy Mind’ are now familiar sing-alongs, and when it all crescendos with a young chap plucked from the crowd to knock out a casual solo on Black’s guitar there’s the realisation that, rather than just an offshoot from the Sunderland scene, SLUG are rapidly redefining it.

SLUG-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Boy Azooga are the first of today’s brace of Heavenly signings and play the majority of their début ‘1, 2, Kung Fu!’ Main man Davey Newington is on bass, gazing zen-like from the stage, as his band alternately knock out laid-back melodies on ‘Jerry’, urgent riffs on ‘Loner Boogie’, and psych-tinged mellotron lines on ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’. Seemingly appearing from nowhere to be the band on everyone’s lips right this second, Welsh act Boy Azooga manage to be indefinable and familiar; retro yet of the zeitgeist; a melting pot, yet unique. Quite some achievement, and an astute booking.

Boy Azooga-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Remember that feeling you get when stuck in traffic? Even when there’s no particular deadline, the tension rises, tempers fray, radiators overheat. AK/DK arrive from Blue Dot Festival with literally no minutes to spare, and the ensuing breathtaking display of groove-led mentalism surely is thanks in no small part to the traffic-related adrenaline coursing through their systems.

AK/DK Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

‘Morphology’ is a song perfect for the moment: a driving synth line and keening, distorted samples, all pushed along by AK/DK’s double drum kit attack, creates a febrile atmosphere, the audience expressing their relief and release that the band finally made it. And they are repaid by banger after banger. There’s sweat everywhere, both on stage and off, the drums are whacked with ever increasing ferocity (there’s big chunks out of the edge of one of the cymbals), the analogue sequencer in the background ticks its clock-face LEDs in metronomic rhythm, an electronic heart propelling ecstatic human souls. Exhausting, exhilarating, exponential.

Let’s revisit 2013, shall we? A little corner of the internet (yes, it was us) was insistent that an obscure band of 15-year-olds from Halifax could well be the next big thing. How did we put it? “If they’re this good this young, how good will they be in a few years time?” Now we know the answer. The Orielles are extremely good indeed. There’s some shoegaze in their sound, maybe a bit of Sleeper in Esme Hand-Halford’s lazily-enunciated vocals, walls of chorused guitar, and little synthy details atop like hundreds and thousands. The songs are expertly arranged, the faux-naïve component parts slotting together to create weird yet accessible garage nuggets.

The Orielles-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

‘Old Stuff, New Glass’ is enhanced with bongos and yelps all over the place, ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ opens with a Beatles-esque contrapuntal dance between keys and bass, continues into a pogoing off-beat middle section, and goes properly berserk towards the end of its eight eventful minutes. Henry Wade is growing into a proper guitar anti-hero in the vein of Graham Coxon, his on-stage persona is a masterclass in deadpan humour. It bears saying again: “If they’re this good this young, how good will they be in a few years time?”

Just when you think it’s safe to assume you’ve seen the performance of the day, along come Avalanche Party. Their own description is “feral garage-punk from the Yorkshire Moors”, which is a difficult description to disagree with, except inasmuch as it doesn’t really go far enough. If this is punk, it’s space-age, widescreen, conceptual, melodic punk. If it’s garage, this one is packed to the gills with cans of petrol with the lids off, a V8 motor rumbling in the corner, one discarded cigarette end away from catastrophe, the air heavy with the scent of fear.

Avalanche Party-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Recent single ‘I’m So Wet’ is a lazy, sexy groove, something Serge Gainsbourg might fantasise about, before running away in terror at the multi-layered screaming crescendo. ‘Solid Gold’ just kicks off and never lets up the pressure for a second. The climax of ‘Revolution’ is a triumph of four-to-the-floor heavy riffing, bare-chested Jordan Bell screaming as if his life depended on it. Like the ritual sacrifice of a lamb atop a heather-strewn heath, Avalanche Party are raw, visceral, glamorous, dangerous, sweaty, bloody and unforgettable.

Phew. Like the best underground scenester venue, Deer Shed has just treated us to a masterclass in superlative new music: five brilliant acts hot off the press, the world at their feet. Things have to calm down at some point, and it takes the folky, downtempo acoustica of This Is The Kit to do so. Warm Digits (below) are the second brilliant electronica band of the day, and with the appearance of Field Music’s Peter Brewis are a great example of what beauty happens when Newcastle and Sunderland put aside their rivalries for just a little while.

Warm Digits-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Gaz Coombes (below) is his usual superb self, retro and zeitgeist wrapped into one man, and Goldfrapp were the big name with the big show. Some controversial souls found themselves preferring another dose of Hyde Park Brass. Truth be told, for this reviewer the undercard had completely walloped the headliners into semi-irrelevance. What a Saturday.

SLUG-Deer Shed 2018 01 Saturday-2190

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: UK singer/songwriters showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Friday, 9th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

The list of solo singer/songwriters showcasing at SXSW 2018 is predictably lengthy. Festivals lend themselves easily to the traveling troubadour types: setting up shop with a single person and instrument is easier than carting a full band’s worth of gear around town to play show after show. However, the singer/songwriter genre is becoming increasingly diffuse, as its definition expands to include a wide array of different instrumental and vocal sounds.

The singer/songwriter acts representing the UK at SXSW this year are broad in their stylistic scope, from unassuming acoustic balladeers to rising mainstream pop stars to eclectic avant garde musicians. Many of the acts on this year’s list are artists we at TGTF have covered extensively in the past, including Frank Turner (pictured at top) and Lucy Rose, but there are a number of new-to-us acts on the bill as well. We’ve covered a fair few of those in our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch features, including Jade Bird, ONR, Rhys Lewis, Chloe Foy, Allman Brown, C. Macleod, and Sam Fender. Read below for a brief rundown of the remaining UK singer/songwriters heading across the pond to SXSW 2018.

Christopher Rees – We featured Welsh singer Christopher Rees in the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013, but haven’t heard much from him since that time. He heads to Austin this year with a new Americana album called ‘The Nashville Songs’ in tow. Take a listen to the chilling single ‘I Shiver’, just below.

Dan Bettridge – As we previously mentioned, Bettridge missed out on SXSW 2017, due to visa issues which his management has discussed in detail here. Bettridge will release his debut solo LP ‘Asking for Trouble’ later this year. Along with Rees, Bettridge will be proudly waving the Welsh flag in Austin.

Dan Lyons – Margate alt-pop singer Dan Lyons has spent the past four years primarily as a drummer, but he’s now stepping into the spotlight as a solo songwriter. His single ‘Big Moon’ was released at the end of February on Shaker Records.

The Dunwells – While obviously not a solo act, Leeds rock duo The Dunwells have nevertheless been classified as singer/songwriters at this year’s SXSW. They released a new EP called ‘Colour My Mind’ back in December, which included the track ‘Diamonds’, playing just below.

Elle Exxe – This Scottish pop singer is no stranger to SXSW or to the pages of TGTF. She recently teamed with MAC Cosmetics to promote her latest single ‘Catapult’; watch her exotic visuals in the promo video just below.

Emme Woods – Another Scottish songwriter, Woods’ singing voice belies her youthful 22 years of age. The level of musical sophistication in her single ‘I’ve Been Running’ is also well-beyond what you might expect of a musician so young. Check out the PledgeMusic campaign for her debut EP just through here.

Frank Turner – We’ve covered the indefatigable Mr. Turner and his merry band of Sleeping Souls extensively here at TGTF, including a lovely interview at SXSW 2015. This year, Turner is showcasing his forthcoming seventh studio LP ‘Be More Kind’, due out on the 4th of May via Polydor/ Xtra Mile. We’ll be looking forward to hearing the new songs at SXSW; in the meantime, you can take a listen to the album’s title track just below.

Gaz Coombes – Another artist we’ve featured in live coverage on TGTF, alt-rock songwriter and former Supergrass member Gaz Coombes will travel to Austin with a set of new songs from his forthcoming LP ‘World’s Strongest Man’, due out on the 4th of May.

Harry Pane – This Northamptonshire indie folk singer broke onto the music scene in 2015 and released two EPs, ‘Changing’ and ‘The Wild Winds’, in the following 2 years. He comes to SXSW 2018 with a pair of new singles, ‘Here We Stay’ and ‘Beautiful Life’. Listen to the latter just below.

Hilang Child – Hilang Child is the stage name of half-Welsh, half-Indonesian dream pop songwriter Ed Riman. Currently based in London, Hilang Child has recently signed on with Bella Union for the release of his debut LP, which will include the calmly introspective new single ‘Growing Things’.

Jerry Williams –  This 22-year-old Portsmouth alt-pop songstress has already captured the attention of BBC Radio 1 in the UK and KCRW in America. She has recently collaborated with fashion brand Topshop to market her new single ‘Grab Life’, ahead of her scheduled appearance on the BBC Introducing showcase on the Tuesday night of SXSW.

Jonny 8 Track – Brighton’s Jonny Aitken, aka Jonny 8 Track, is the first UK signing to Austin record label Chicken Ranch Records. His back catalogue includes ‘All America Taught Me’ from back in 2013.

Joshua Burnside – We covered this Northern Irish avant/experimental songwriter last year around the release of his debut album ‘Ephrata’, which won the 2017 Northern Irish Music Prize. Just below, check out the Ryan Vail remix of album track ‘Blood Drive’.

Lion – London alt-rock singer/songwriter Beth Lowen became known as Lion due to the rough and raspy tone of her singing voice. She’s so fresh on the scene that she has yet to officially release any music, and her SXSW 2018 bio links to an amateur video of a live performance at Shepherd’s Bush Empire from back in 2016.

Lucy Rose – We recently featured Rose’s new single ‘All That Fear’ as our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2801. Rose will be showcasing that single along with her recent album ‘Something’s Changing’ at SXSW. She is also scheduled to speak in a panel session titled ‘It’s a Fan’s World: The Life of Superfans’ on Friday the 16th of March.

Lucy Spraggan – You might remember Manchester songwriter Lucy Spraggan as a former X Factor contestant from back in 2012. Just last year, she released her fourth studio album ‘I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing’, on her own label CTRL Records. The LP features the track ‘Fight For It’, streaming just below.

Nilüfer Yanya – This youthful West London songwriter brings a unique sense of irony and bemused detachment to what might otherwise be dismissed as standard indie pop. Her breakthrough single ‘Baby Luv’ is out now on Blue Flowers/ATO Records.

Nina Nesbitt – It’s been a day or two since we heard from Scottish pop songstress Nina Nesbitt, but she is heading to Austin with a potential new album in the works. No details have been shared as of yet, but Nesbitt did recently release a new single written in Nashville, ‘Somebody Special’.

Non Canon – Bristol alt-folk songwriter Non Canon takes his stage name from the idea that “anything described as ‘Non Canon’ exists apart from the story we know and love. A concurrent storyline, a different perspective, the world we experience through someone else’s eyes; familiar but insightful for its new dimension.” He comes to Austin as part of the Xtra Mile Recordings troupe; the label released his debut LP back in 2016.

Only Girl – South East London pop-soul artist Ellen Murphy, known on stage as Only Girl, has recently released a personally poignant new single titled ‘Mountain’, which deals with her husband Jamie McKechnie’s assault and traumatic brain injury, suffered back in 2011. Murphy says of the track, “I wanted the video for ‘Mountain’ to really convey Jamie’s journey through recovery since he suffered the brain injury. I think his story is so inspiring and shows how he really fought for his life against all the odds.” She speaks of her husband as the inspiration for the song: “If I could focus myself on climbing this mountain alongside Jamie, I could force myself to stay strong for him.”

Pete Molinari – Veteran folk and blues songwriter Pete Molinari is one of the few artists appearing at SXSW with nothing new on offer in terms of recorded music. He is set to play the We Are Hear Records showcase on the Tuesday night, alongside the aforementioned Lion.

Will Varley – This Kent singer/songwriter and Xtra Mile Recordings artist will bring his brilliant new album ‘Spirit of Minnie’ to Austin this year, on the heels of an American tour with label mates and fellow SXSW 2018 artists Skinny Lister. We featured the video for album track ‘Seven Days’ back in January; you can listen below to the gentle but poignant ‘Let it Slide’.

Please note that all information we bring you about SXSW 2018 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

 

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.

 

Live Gig Video: Gaz Coombes shares self-directed live and tour video for reworked ‘Matador (Da Capo)’ ahead of new EP

 
By on Wednesday, 29th July 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

It seems to be the month for reworkings. Following on from Matthew E. White‘s redone ‘Visions’ that Carrie wrote about on Monday, today we have Gaz Coombes having a go of it.

He’s reworked and extended the title track from him album released earlier this year and called the effort ‘Matador (Da Capo)’. It features on the new ‘Matador (Da Capo)’ EP, which will be released on the 18th of September on Hot Fruit Recordings / Caroline International. Just for you collectors, the limited edition EP will be numbered and be on coloured 12″ heavyweight vinyl. The reworking will be accompanied by a demo of the track, a new instrumental called ‘4 Track Loop’ and two live recordings of ‘Buffalo’ and ‘To the Wire’ (both from the album ‘Matador’) at Coombes’ recent show at Brighton Old Market.

Ahead of the EP’s release, you can settle in and watch Coombes performing the reworked ‘Matador (Da Capo)’ in the below live and tour video that he himself directed. Enjoy.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2015: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 12th June 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo by Niall Lea

For more of John’s coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2015, read his day 1 and day 2 round-ups.

As people finally got used to the bizarre layout of the new look of this year’s Liverpool Sound City, the third day had crept up. Brains were frazzled from the night before by the orgy for the senses served up by The Flaming Lips. Revellers who had crept into the city centre to keep the party going after the Lips now had hangovers galore from day 2’s festivities, so the bars were still looking bereft of people on Sunday.

As for the bars, I’ve never seen a festival better prepared. The area was about as long as the similar installations at Reading and Leeds Festivals staffed by just as many luminous vest clad volunteers. Problem was, with just a fraction of the expected clientele walking through, the facilities looked hilariously empty for most of the day. Additionally, planning that saw pints pre-poured for quick service, meant that during the dearth of customers, pints were sitting poured in the baking midday sun. Definitely a decision to review, methinks. Nobody wants a warm pint of Strongbow on the third day of festival if they’re paying through the nose for it.

Aside from logistical issues and the numerous punters moaning and groaning about the health of their legs after an hour long trudge back to their hotel in the city centre, the festival site was a hub of activity on the final day, with the corporate sponsorship’s Red Bull-mobile blasting out crap drum ‘n’ bass remixes of classic tracks as you entered the festival It was a reminder that although until quite recently, the festival had a DIY feeling, everyone has to sell their souls in the end to the corporate monsters. Still, you could be at Creamfields, and count your lucky stars you’re not there.

Because at Creamfields, you certainly wouldn’t be treated to the psychedelic grooves of Moon King, who graced the abandoned warehouse of The Baltic Stage around mid-afternoon as the shroud of grey cloud disappeared from over the site. The Canadian duo of Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde exuded energy and all male eyes were transfixed to the baseball cap-cladded shredder providing the trademark ‘buzz-saw’ guitars, as Benjamin did his best Justin Hayward-Young impression, with about 50% of the balls and swagger of the former. (7/10)

Houdini Dax came highly recommended to me, and with a packed out Cavern Stage to greet me as I arrived, it was obvious I wasn’t alone in hearing of the charms of the Welsh three-piece. From start to finish, the boys exuded an infectious energy to the relatively lethargic crowd, and with a few charming smiles and sing-alongs, they laced the kind of hooks you’ll be humming for days, going down as stern favourites for day 3. Their set closed with ‘Get Your Goo On’: in title it sounds utterly ridiculous, but the song brought a lively 30 minutes to a close with a bit of swagger, some Beach Boys-style call and repeat and at least a 100 new likes on Facebook post set! (9/10)

From melt in your mouth harmonies to a complete disaster was sadly what awaited me with Clarence Clarity. The highly-rated Londoners would probably go down great at a smoky acid-house/post-dub night in Brixton. But, after the splendid chords of Houdini Dax, the semi-glitter pop mash-ups they served in the warehouse ended up sounding like an utter sonic catastrophe. The reverb screamed around the enclosed space and within minutes those without earplugs were vacating the area for something less audibly offensive.

They’ve done their best to sound like a 21st century turn on Outkast, but in doing, so it’s just ended up as a bit of a mess,with Eastern influences mashed crudely into your run-of-the-mill British drum ‘n’ bass. Perhaps this sound would work in a different setting and at another time – but as a prelude to Gaz Coombes, Peace and Belle and Sebastian at about 6 o’clock with the sun still shining, they simply jarred and sounded like a mess. (4/10)

Calming things down on The Atlantic Stage were the gentle tones of Bill Ryder-Jones who cut a lonely figure in the middle of the vast stage. He has all the hallmarks of any 18 year-old music fans crush, with sweeping good looks and swishy hair, plus a moody expression cut upon his face permanently. Sadly, Bill was nothing special at Liverpool Sound City, pumping out a couple of mediocre covers, some staggeringly uninventive, along with three chord originals and all at a pace that sent me daydreaming into thoughts about what delectable burger van food I could chomp on and whether the Premiership season had finished yet. With time I’m sure he’ll find his sound, as his songwriting seemed to hold up, but for now he just felt very vanilla on a day which could have done with some rum and raisin. (5/10)

Now while I was trying to escape Clarence Clarity’s sonic bombardment, I bumped into a young German girl who asked me for tips on who would blow her mind (aside from the obvious), to which I replied the next act on the Cargo Stage, “Findlay is nothing short of phenomenal every time I see her”.

Of course, by doing this, I inevitably delivered the kiss of death to her set.

For an act that normally struts about the stage with an incredible swagger and presence, I was shocked when she delivered a terribly staccato performance, bereft of showmanship and craft. Instead, it just felt like another day at the office. The fierce Debbie Harry-lite figure of Findlay had been neutered and stayed locked behind a set of oversize sunglasses. Whether it was a poorly-thought-out change of tact, to go from ferocious female aggressor to a sultry parlour singer grated on me. Because for the main part, barring from a rousing rendition of ‘On and Off’, she delivered a pedestrian performance stripped of the trademark character I’d promised to my new friend from Central Europe. In fact, it was so disappointing out the corner of my eye I saw the very Fraulein make for the exit after three songs. (6/10) Probably to get a good space for the next band on The Atlantic Stage…

Kings of the indie singalong The Cribs looked every bit the seasoned pros they are compared to some of the green-behind-the-ears acts gracing every one of the stages over the weekend. They easily drew the biggest crowd of the day so far, being probably one of the most recognisable names on the bill, and it’s probably to no surprise as well. Quite easily the three-piece could have turned up, delivered the hits and been on their way with a big smile on their faces – cash in pocket – job done. But instead they threw every bit of themselves into it, to the delight of the Liverpudlian crowd. The three-piece choral harmonies were great and really lifted the entire set, whilst the new poppier material lifted what could have been a bog-standard Cribs set to something far more. (7/10)

In fact, it was the perfect preface to former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes, the penultimate act on The Atlantic Stage. As expected, there were no frills and bells like the night before. No gimmicky matching jackets like Everything Everything and The Vaccines, despite Coombes definitely putting a bid in for Best Dressed Man at the festival with his attire. Instead, one of Britpop’s finest men on stage, guitar in hand, was trying his hand at going solo to good results.

Now, while his second solo album ‘Matador’ may have only debuted at number 18 in the Official UK Albums chart, in circles like Liverpool Sound City he was always going to get far more respect and credence than at another festival. Effortlessly cool and with the gently soaring masterpiece that is ‘Detroit’ in Coombes’ arsenal, he commanded the slowly fading light surrounding The Atlantic Stage. Although there were rumblings of ‘is he going to play ‘Alright’?’, in the crowd after a few of his originals, everyone seemed to settle down to enjoy a true legend of his era going out on his own. (8/10)

From one legend, to another. Belle and Sebastian carry with them the baggage of being cult stars. In fact, it’s difficult to find somebody these days that enjoys alternative music who DOESN’T name an experience watching Stuart Murdoch and co. as one of the crowning moments in their musical history. I waited with trepidation, as I’ve never GOT Belle and Sebastian; they’ve just never managed to excite me in the way I want music to. It’s all just felt like wallpaper–jazzy elevator music to me.

The group of Glaswegians manage to captivate the crowd, myself included, with their phenomenally deep songwriting. ‘Nobody’s Empire’ is a personal highlight, as Murdoch’s intensity is poured into every single lyric, as if he was living the experience right there in front of the crowd. It wasn’t the spectacular of colour The Flaming Lips served up, or the singalong, lad-rock frenzy of The Vaccines. But in their own way, Belle and Sebastian delivered one of the most soulful, warm and encapsulating sets of the weekend. (8/10)

So what did I learn this weekend? Delving into the unknown on highly-tipped acts like The Serpent Power and Clarence Clarity can sometimes be a dangerous endeavour, which can lead to your willy being commented upon on social media alongside pictures of genitals being sent to you. But bands like Houdini Dax, The People and the Poet and Hollysiz can come from left-field sources and end up being the highlights of the festival. That’s the joy of events like Liverpool Sound City and The Great Escape: while you can walk in on some absolute duds, it’s unlikely you’ll have a weekend of it with the sheer glut of musical talent on show. Just work on the stage layout guys, or The People and the Poet won’t be back…

 

6 Music Festival 2015 on Tyneside: Sunday Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 2nd March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Sunday the 22nd of February saw the final event of the weekend-long extravaganza of music that was the 6 Music Festival 2015, held on Tyneside. The venue was the usually prim and proper Sage Gateshead, which had been entirely taken over by the BBC, and, as a consequence, saw rather a transformation… of which more later.

But first, to the music. British Sea Power were the opening act in the enormous Hall One, with what amounted to an amuse bouche of a set, a bare four songs long, showcasing their art-rock sound in a the magnificent space. Coincidentally, the festival had chosen as their aesthetic theme that of foliage and trees – the stage was flanked by two towering baobabs – that perfectly matched BSP’s usual ivy-entwined microphone stands. ‘Waving Flags’ was immense as usual, and the electric-guitar-’n’-violin-combo in instrumental ‘The Great Skua’ was a gently evocative way to ease into the mood of the evening. Whilst it’s difficult to argue that BSP are capable of evincing hot-blooded passion, they are as bleakly majestic as a grey North Sea swell, and a fine live proposition.

Steve Lamacq introduced Gaz Coombes as “one of the finest songwriters of his generation”, and it’s difficult to argue with him. Not that you’d want to argue with the lovely Steve Lamacq anyway, nor leave him next to an open doorway lest his impossibly slight figure should get blown away in the breeze. Anyway, Coombes did his best to demonstrate how accurate Lamacq’s description was. He’s assembled a great band, so Coombes can stick to electric piano and acoustic guitar, which frees him up to throw some shapes and generally concentrate on being a frontman. He chooses the big hitters from his solo catalogue: the syncopated melodrama of ‘Buffalo’s allows it to be an appropriately assertive opener; ‘One of These Days’, a classic mid-tempo Coombes ballad, has lost nothing of its sheen due to familiarity and still has the capacity to move.

With his expanded band comes an ability to experiment with electronic textures and dance-influenced drum patterns, perhaps aiming to take the mantle of band-frontman-to-solo-artist-with-electronica-pretensions from Thom Yorke, of whom we’ve heard little of late. Latest single ‘20/20’ is a perfect demonstration of the Coombes method: some synthy bits, a driving acoustic guitar riff, and a complex yet accessible arrangement blended together to sound classic and novel all at once. It goes without saying that there’s an enormous, funkily noisy crescendo at the end of the song to wrap up the set. A spectacular performance from a man who is just getting better with age.

Neneh Cherry has a tough act to follow and she, astonishingly, nearly steals the show. Assisted by an Animal-inspired drummer, and just one more chap on synths ‘n’ things, her minimalist backing is all the more powerful for its sparseness, leaving plenty of room for her menacingly soulful voice. Everything she plays is taken from last year’s ‘Blank Project’, a challenging yet rewarding work. ‘Spit Three Times’ touches on depression and superstition, ‘Dossier’ is deliberately swathed in pulsating white noise and ‘Weightless’ flirts with techno in its second movement, before dropping some synthesised power chords like an android Diamond Darrell. Soulful, funky, avant-garde, whilst not herself the definition of ‘new’, her music is as cutting-edge as anything the festival would hear over the weekend.

In my preview of the festival I cautioned that, because there had been so many tickets sold, the Sage would be so packed that lots of people would miss the performance they wanted to see. I was partially correct – Hall One did reach capacity at times, with a glum queue of punters waiting patiently for someone to leave the hall so they could take their place – but overall the place was busy but not overcrowded. The main reason for this was the clever ruse of putting a stage in the main concourse between the two halls, so anyone not in an official auditorium could still see a show. Which brings us to Public Service Broadcasting, who drew a huge crowd to the concourse to hear them unveil new material from sophomore album ‘The Race For Space’ (our editor’s review of the LP is here). Last time I saw PSB they were a two-piece – Wrigglesworth on drums and J. Willgoose Esq. on laptop, synth, banjo, and, well, everything else. Tonight they’ve expanded considerably, adding another two members on “everything else”, and even a three-piece horn section on a couple of songs.

PSB are a lot of fun, and considering tonight’s BBC sponsorship, a rather apposite act to have, in their celebration of the very fabric of news coverage, in their worship of the sounds that have conveyed, and in some cases, actually created, the news. And their expanded sound is surely exactly what fans of their debut ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ wanted to hear. The low-key house beats of ‘Gagarin’ tease us into the set; newest single ‘Go!’ is the executive summary of the whole album, complete with “The Eagle has landed” sample. Where the last record dealt largely with the British perspective of World War Two and the decade following, ‘The Race For Space’ is firmly set in 1960s’ USA and USSR. Whilst they’re at it, it might have been interesting to hear PSB take a peek behind the Iron Curtain and explore the motivations for the space race – the Cold War is only obliquely referenced – but perhaps they rightly conclude that nobody ever boogied to a Joseph McCarthy speech, and stick smartly to space noises. Another good piece of work from PSB then, even if the music itself is a mere backdrop to the original fragments of dialogue and film. And, to bring us back to the Sage’s concourse, the sheer spectacle of their live performance filled the hangar-like space defined by the Sage’s exoskeleton like very few others would be capable of.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Martin’s roundup of the Sunday festivities at the Sage Gateshead at the 6 Music Festival on Tyneside, which will post tomorrow.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours 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 no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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