SXSW 2013 coverage
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Great Escape 2013 coverage
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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
Saturday afternoon at the Great Escape 2013 I was at a loss of who to see next and I basically just scoured the programme for a band I’d never heard of and took a chance with it.
The band I ended up seeing at the Canada House showcase (yes, I saw bands other than British ones!) at the Blind Tiger was Winnipeg, Canada’s Boats, who turned out to be the quirkiest band at the Great Escape this year I would have never had the chance of knowing about if I hadn’t taken that risk. I suppose all bands from Canada who aren’t from the major cities of Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal have the cross to bear that they’ll always be deemed outsiders, but in this song called ‘Advice on Bears’, Boats seems to take this all in stride. You can read the full report of my day 3 afternoon here.
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!
The phrase the ‘Nicest Man in Rock’ is bandied around quite liberally these days; Dave Grohl seems to have held onto the title the longest, but I am here to petition you that this accolade, that all makers of mosh pine for (not actually true) belongs to another individual, a certain Andrew Groves (@AndrewRoots) of Arcane Roots. Now, Andrew is but one-third of the beast that are Arcane Roots, with Adam Burton (@RootsBurton) and Daryl Atkins (@gunsandwolves) completing the line-up on bass and drums respectively.
Upon meeting Andrew, I’m not met by a battle weary rock-diva at the end of a triumphant set at Concorde 2; I’m instead met by a personable gentleman in a faux-tweed jacket, impeccably groomed and reaching my way with a welcoming hand in the cold Brighton air. I’m led towards Andrew and the band’s secluded tour bus for a brief chat before the entire Roots posse go in search of some famous fish and chips on the seaside. It’s a welcome reward for a band that seem to have taken everyone with a shock, after the release of their debut record ‘Blood and Chemistry’ and as they begin to make inroads on the mainstream rock circuit a la Biffy Clyro et al. (But more on them later.)
So where did Arcane Roots come from, I ask Andrew as we sit nestled in the tour bus, next to the band’s copies of comic book films Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim?
“Well, it wasn’t a name that came out of anything particularly relevant, or serendipitous, instead it was quite a manufactured process. We first came up with Arcane because we thought it sounded like a good name for a band! Then we went through what we thought would sound good with Arcane, so Arcane this, Arcane that, something Arcane and so on until we landed on Roots and it just worked.”
After meeting a lot of bands and hearing of even more artists who have now grown to loathe their name that they foolishly branded themselves as they first picked up a Fender, perhaps this way of going about it is more organic. Mr. Grohl gave Foo Fighters their name after “Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over both the European and Pacific Theatre of Operations”. And the ‘Nicest Man in Rock’ has grown to loathe the name, saying it’s a stupid name for a band.
Now, with Arcane Roots still in their rock infancy in comparison to such a behemoth of the music world, it’s not a surprise that the band have no qualms with the title they gave themselves less than half a decade ago at the band’s inception.
With the three-piece garnering positive criticism from the Kerrang!s and the Rocksounds of this world, it seems that it is a name that the rock community should get used to hearing. Especially if you add to that that their new record ‘Blood and Chemistry’ is arguable one of the strongest and most consistently brilliant rock albums of 2013.
So how did the album come together? Andrew admits that it was a less than organic process again: “Going into the studio was incredibly stressful for the main part of it! It was our first album and we put a lot of time and thought, probably even too much time and thought into everything we do, so just trying to decide what we wanted to be as a band, as it had been 2 years since we had put something out and we’ve been playing it a lot and we are at kind of a gateway deciding what kind of band we wanted to be, so it was kind of the hardest part everything coming together with the label, so it was mega stressful, right up until the last minute.
“We spent a month rehearsing and it was the three of us, just rehearsing in a room, as that is what the band is. We just woke up and made a new song every day, and really enjoyed ourselves, as it is nice to wake up and just create something.
“Putting it together was a very mathematical process though, so I would kind of feel like, ooh I want a 2 and a half minute song here, and this song would be good as number three or four on the record, but in the end it tells a kind of story, which is what we were going for.”
The record as I mentioned has been receiving positive reviews all around the blogosphere, and for good reason. It’s clever, and as Andrew mentioned intelligently, put together as well. While it has more hooks than a fishing port on market day, and riffs sharper than the aforementioned hooks!
So they’ve got a massive record and Andrew is going to take a lot of beating to be surpassed as my ‘Nicest Man in Rock’, I mean take it from one of his contemporaries, Itch, formerly of The King Blues. When posed with the question what is the band like to tour with? His response: “They’re just so nice, almost too nice! Because it makes me look even worse, so in the nicest way you’re hoping that they fuck up a bit or do something really bad so we end up looking less like dicks.” So it seems that even while the ‘lads are on tour’ they still behave immaculately, professionally and make friends along the way. Even if said friends wouldn’t mind them trashing a hotel room, or something equally rockstarish.
I was lucky enough to catch the band twice in as many weeks at two festivals, Liverpool Sound City at Screenadelica and again at the Great Escape 2013 at Concorde 2. After the Great Escape show, Andrew admitted that festivals can be a mixed bag: “They’re more stressful than normal shows, they are pretty like frantic kind of get on and go and you have 2 minutes to check, so hopefully everything works out all right. No sound check, just get on, people are moving stuff everywhere and stressing out, so it’s always nice when you just get on and the sound engineers are pretty on it.
“It was nice to see a nice crowd had come out to see us, as we didn’t play Brighton on our most recent tour. So it was nice to see people singing along and rocking out! I like to see people enjoying it, and every time we play anywhere across the country, it’s nice to see even one person singing along, as it just makes you seem more at home and in a way amongst friends. It’s a more relaxing experience, at least.”
So after a triumphant set at Concorde 2, Arcane Roots set off, in search of their fish and chip supper and the further success that seems almost guaranteed for the band. I left with a sense that I’d met the heir to Grohl’s throne, perhaps not in a musical sense, but definitely in the niceness stakes, Mr. Groves is up there with the kings.
Nina Nesbitt‘s star is flying high these days, so what a coup that John got a chance to chat with the lovely lady in Brighton during the Great Escape, in a very VEVO-themed tent. “Nesbians”? And John challenges Nina to a very, very sour sweet challenge. Who comes out on top? Watch the video below to find out…
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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