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T in the Park 2016: Saturday Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 27th July 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Following the festival’s disastrous relocation to Strathallan Castle last year, the organisers of T in the Park were keen to reassure fans that this year’s event on the castle grounds would be different. However, by Friday morning, news had surfaced of two deaths and the theft of a cash machine from the main arena, so I was feeling apprehensive before I even arrived. While I was not present in 2015 to comment on how much the layout or travel to and from the festival has been improved, I felt there was still issues. The unnecessary walk from where we arrived to the actual entrance was lengthy and needless, as I was not searched once on the way. However, I was excited to have finally arrived to see what Tin the Park was really all about.

I headed straight towards the BBC Introducing stage. I have always found that despite their boasting of a huge array of global stars, it is often the smaller tents that contain the hidden gems of festivals. I spent quite a lot of my day going in and out of this tent, discovering a few acts that I can imagine will be huge in the coming months.

Scottish native singer/songwriter and lead singer Charlotte Brimner of Be Charlotte, exhibited a captivating combination of raw hip-hop talent, combined with a beautiful and enthralling singing voice. Probably the heaviest band of the festival, Northern Ireland-based four-piece Making Monsters gave an exhilarating performance. Lead singer Emma Gallagher’s explosive vocal and presence onstage is something to be marvelled at, as she moves with ease from deep guttural growls to soaring melodies.

Winner of the illustrious Brits Critics’ Choice and BBC Sound of 2016 polls Jack Garratt has had an impressive year. Taking to the main stage at T in the Park, his mash-up version of Justin Timberlake and Craig David’s ‘Senorita / 7 Days’ was a highlight of his set, making both songs his own while also showing his endless flair for crafting songs. His performance was impeccable, a faultless act by a raw troubadour talent and an electronic magician. Moving around the stage with vigour, he moves with ease from each instrument including drums and guitar as he has evidently mastered more than one craft.

Rapper Tinie Tempah pulled what seemed to be the largest crowd daytime on Saturday, playing smash hits such as ‘Pass Out’ to a very excitable crowd. Having previously seen Tinie perform with a full band, I found it disappointing that the rapper was only backed by a DJ for his performance at T in the Park. While it was an extremely enjoyable performance, I felt something was lacking in the form of a band accompaniment which could have added to his performance. Despite this, the audience hung on the rapper’s every word, proving he’s the perfect midday act to set the tone for Day 2 at the festival.

It was about half way through the day that Biblical-style rain descended upon the festival, making this year’s T in the Park one of the muddiest festivals I have ever attended. The grounds became so bad that it was difficult to make my way across to other stages and at one point, I even wrapped my feet in plastic bags. After hiding from the rain for what seemed forever, underneath anything that would cover me, I made my way towards the other side of festival. Playing the Radio 1 stage ahead of the release of their sixth album were the Kaiser Chiefs, who proved that they are still able to pull a huge crowd. After the last few weeks of political unrest and in the wake of Brexit, the band’s song ‘Angry Mob’ gave fresh resonance to the lyrics, the crowd singing along ecstatically.

I decided to stay around the Radio 1 stage for the rest of the night, as the thought of wading through the now knee-deep mud to see someone press play on the decks was unappealing. The mesmerising set of Manchester alt-rockers The 1975 (pictured at top) made for a superior alternative headline set. Lead singer Matt Healy tells the crowd that this is the first time the group have ever been asked to headline a stage at a festival, so this is a special event.

Their hit ‘Love Me’, the song that launched their new record, erupts with its smooth and Prince-esque funk. You get a real sense of a band who have fully bloomed from pop obscurity into arguably the biggest band of the year, something which is magnified by the audience’s reaction of seeing it live. The hypnotic staging with its colourful light show, alongside Healy’s undeniable presence, makes for the perfect combination. Drawing their set to a close with an encore of ‘Chocolate’, ‘The Sound’ and ‘Girls’, the band finished their set – and Saturday at T in the Park – on a high.

 

SXSW 2016: Tuesday night’s DIY Presents showcase at Hype Hotel – 15th March 2016

 
By on Friday, 25th March 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

The Tuesday night of SXSW 2016 found me queueing on East 5th Street (east of the interstate) for the DIY Magazine stage at Hype Hotel. The street outside the venue was packed with punters headed for either the highly anticipated Hype Hotel showcase or the equally popular Fader Fort event just across the street. I waited in line for over an hour before finally getting into Hype Hotel, just as hotly-tipped American duo Diet Cig struck their first guitar chord and drumroll.

Diet Cig internal

Descending on Austin from New York, Diet Cig were the subject of much chatter in the queue outside the venue, and once I saw them on stage, I realized why. Frontwoman Alex Luciano introduced her bandmate Noah Bowman with the witty one-liner “this is your mom’s new boyfriend,” setting a deliberately not-so-serious tone for the evening’s festivities. The bratty lyrics to Diet Cig’s early tracks ‘Sleep Talk’ and ‘Dinner Date’ struck a chord with everyone’s inner teenaged self, and Luciano’s punchline “it’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt”, seemed remarkably appropriate to her vivacious but wildly irreverent personality. The stage at Hype Hotel at first seemed too large for the pair’s single guitar and drum kit, but as it turned out, Luciano was quite a spirited guitarist, running and jumping around the stage (dare I say it? even ironically?) like a high school cheerleader.

Partybaby internal

Even fresher on the music scene than relative newcomers Diet Cig, Los Angeles band PARTYBABY proved themselves straightaway as an act to be reckoned with. Comprising veteran musicians Noah Gersh and Jamie Schefman, the band premiered their defiant first single ‘Everything’s All Right’ just last summer, and they quickly followed it up with the equally pugnacious ‘Your Old Man’. Gersh and Schefman already have a full album prepared for release, and they chugged through their setlist at a frenetic pace. Despite the obvious aggression in their music, PARTYBABY were clearly determined to party as hard as they rocked, and the Hype Hotel crowd on Tuesday night seemed fully in favour of that idea.

Hinds

After a brief DJ set by Bleached, Spanish band-of-the-moment Hinds swept breathlessly onto the stage, appearing to be dressed for a slumber party rather than a gig. Co-lead singer Carlotta Cosials mentioned that the band had only gotten to town half an hour before their set, so perhaps their attire could be excused on those grounds. However, a slumber party theme isn’t entirely inappropriate to Hinds’ lo-fi and free-wheeling style, and despite their somewhat disheveled appearance, Hinds sounded much more polished than when I heard them at the British Music Embassy last year.  The ladies certainly appeared to enjoy their all-too-brief moment on stage as they raced through a set comprising tracks from their recent debut album ‘Leave Me Alone’.

Pumarosa internal 2

London synth-rock band Pumarosa played an equally short but sweet set, after apparently sorting through some sound issues before they were able to begin. Their playlist included ‘Lion’s Den’, which saw frontwoman Isabel Munoz-Newsome bowing her guitar strings with a fuzzy mallet, and the dramatic breakthrough dance hit ‘Priestess’, which has quickly become a personal favourite track of mine.  It might well have set everyone in the room into motion, except that we were all completely mesmerised by Munoz-Newsome’s own interpretive movements on the stage.

Jack Garratt

Pumarosa were followed by another British act, electro singer/songwriter Jack Garratt, whose Mercury Prize-nominated, Brit Award winning reputation had evidently preceded him to Hype Hotel. Having gained a fair few followers at SXSW 2015, Garratt played a blinding set on the Tuesday night that was in sharp contrast to the more muted tone I had heard from him on last year’s Communion showcase. His enthusiastic reception has been well and truly earned over the course of a year, and I was most pleased to see him having this kind of success on American shores so quickly upon the release of his debut album ‘Phase’.

Empress Of

The headline act of the DIY Presents showcase was American synth-based artist Empress Of, who is better known off stage as Lorely Rodriguez. Much like the electronic sound of Jack Garratt before her, Empress Of’s quirky dance pop belies the emotional depth of her lyrics, creating songs that are at the same time cerebral and intuitively visceral. Her show on the Tuesday night drew largely from her 2015 debut LP ‘Me’, and apropos to the album’s shimmery synths and ethereal vocals, this late night (er, early morning) set was swathed in hazy blue stage lighting, which cast a markedly chill vibe over the night’s final stretch.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: Jack Garratt – Phase

 
By on Tuesday, 22nd March 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Jack Garratt Phase album coverJack Garratt has had quite a year. Being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, winning the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice Award and only now releasing his debut record, the future is definitely looking strong for the British artist, but does the debut record live up to the hype? There is absolutely no doubting that Garratt has one of the more exciting sounds around currently, which could be considered either a good or bad thing, depending on who you are. By blending electronic music and heartache like it’s going out of fashion, he’s honed his craft, and the multi-instrumentalist has delivered an almost solid debut. Of course, electronic music and synthesisers aren’t for everybody, but Garratt tackles both subjects with approachability and little offence.

Opener ‘Coalesce (Synesthesia, Pt. II)’ is a welcomed foray into his world that divulges a serious passion for love and a drop that just about wakes the living dead. This ethos doesn’t quite carry through to ‘Breathe Life’, where things are slightly more reserved and revolve around more radio-friendly sounds, being solely piano and beat driven. The way Garratt morphs sounds into one another is impressive, being a one man band so to speak you’d expect there to be a capacity to the creativity, but this is definitely not so and especially shown in how he arranges and composes.

Subject matter doesn’t particularly stray from love and forlornness, which is a shame because not enough young artists who are in a position to be able to represent a generation like Garratt simply don’t. The voice of the generation represented by artists like Garratt could quite rightly be known as the drunken and heartbroken as this seems to be the general topic they edge towards. That’s not to say these lyrical subjects aren’t important but when an artist like Garratt, who is chosen by awarding bodies as a representation of British music, it almost seems a bit trivial.

Back onto the subject of the actual musical content of the album: it could almost be considered electronic soul. The rhythm of most of the tracks flows with ease, only occasionally hitting a whirlpool that disrupts it, something that can be found on ‘Surprise Yourself’. It turns away from the majority of the album being perfectly executed suddenly into a mash of soaring pop vocals and instrumentation befit to an X Factor winner. Along the line of the vocals, Garratt has a soft and calming ability that can suddenly break into a completely different cadence and emit roars, something that aids the power within his performance.

Overall, the record is a starting point that he should be absolutely proud of but by no means does this mean he should be finished honing his craft. There is much room for improvement in regards to the consistency of his sound. Experimentation is absolutely key in delivering a fresh sound, something to keep the listeners engaged. But floating between differing genres as the canvas for your sound winds up doing the opposite and encourages different reactions that don’t always fit together.

6/10

‘Phase’ is out now on Universal / Island Records. For past coverage of TGTF on Jack Garratt, go here. Stay tuned for Carrie’s coverage of Garratt at the Hype Hotel Tuesday at SXSW 2016 to post on TGTF soon.

 

Mumford and Sons / November and December 2015 UK and Irish Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 1st September 2015 at 8:00 am
 

During the encore of their Friday night headline set at Reading Festival, folk rock favourites Mumford and Sons took the opportunity to announce an 11-date arena tour of the UK and Ireland. The newly unveiled live dates will include a two-night run at London O2 on the 9th and 10th of December before the tour closes in Glasgow on the 13th. The support slot for all dates except the 10th of December will be played by Jack Garratt.

Mumford and Sons released their album ‘Wilder Mind’ earlier this year on Island/Glassnote. TGTF’s previous coverage of Mumford and Sons, including two singles from ‘Wilder Mind’, can be found right back here. Tickets for the following shows will be available for general sale this coming Friday, the 4th of September, at 9 AM.

Saturday 28th November 2015 – Nottingham Arena
Sunday 29th November 2015 – Sheffield Arena
Monday 30th November 2015 – Birmingham Arena
Wednesday 2nd December 2015 – Dublin 3Arena
Saturday 5th December 2015 – Cardiff Arena
Sunday 6th December 2015 – Manchester Arena
Monday 7th December 2015 – Liverpool Echo
Wednesday 9th December 2015 – London O2
Thursday 10th December 2015 – London O2
Saturday 12th December 2015 – Leeds Arena
Sunday 13th December 2015 – Glasgow SSE Hydro

 

SXSW 2015: Friday night’s Communion Music showcase at St. David’s Episcopal Church – 20th March 2015

 
By on Friday, 10th April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

After the madcap hustle and bustle of the full Irish breakfast at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, I was ready for something a little more relaxing to finish my Friday night at SXSW 2015. And since it was still raining, I was happy to settle in for the night in the warmth of St. David’s Episcopal Church for the Communion Music showcase. I had attended the 2014 Communion showcase at St. David’s and was amazed by the talent on display there, including Bear’s Den and Hozier, so though I wasn’t familiar with all of the artists on the 2015 lineup, I eagerly anticipated another night of incredible music. Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed.

Tove Styrke at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

The night’s first artist was Swedish songwriter Tove Styrke, whose spunky, hook-heavy pop style came as a bit of a surprise in the context of the St. David’s chancel. She was energetic and engaging, and her songs would surely have had her audience dancing if we hadn’t been respectfully seated in pews. I recently heard her single ‘Borderline’ playing on the radio here in America, which leads me to assume that she had a positive SXSW experience in terms of gaining exposure, and I will happily count myself among her new fans.

Laura Marling at Communion St. David's 20 March 2015

In a bit of fortuitous timing, I had caught Laura Marling’s set at the BBC Barbecue on Thursday, and after that brief taste of songs from her new album ‘Short Movie’, I was interested to see her play again at St. David’s. Her set at the Communion showcase was a bit rough around the edges, with a notable lyric flub during (of course) ‘David’ that sent her into a fit of giggles, but I was mainly impressed with her storytelling on stage, both in her incredibly sharp new songs and her mild-mannered banter in between them. Balancing her powerful lyrics with music that was by turns delicately pensive and fiercely emotional, Marling proved once again that she is a force to be reckoned with on the singer/songwriter scene.

Foreign Fields at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

Next on the docket was a band I hadn’t heard of before, but who will definitely be on my radar from this point forward. Nashville duo Foreign Fields were perhaps an obvious choice for the Communion showcase, with sumptuously orchestrated melodies and lush vocal harmonies, but in this case the obvious choice was also a wise one. Foreign Fields’ music was both as complex and as pastoral as their name would imply, particularly current single ‘I Have Your Weapons’.

Leon Bridges at Communion St Davids 20 March 2015

I was also unfamiliar with the next artist, American soul singer Leon Bridges, but judging from the number of people who streamed into the sanctuary before and during his set, his reputation had preceded him to Austin. Accompanied by a full band including brass and a pair of female backup singers, Bridges treated us to a gospel-tinged sermon on the retro artistry of Motown, starting with a track called ‘Better Man’ before touching on popular single ‘Coming Home’. Bridges was suave on-stage, and his songs were laced with a smooth r&b style that swiftly warmed the room on this cold and rainy evening.

James Bay at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

If you’ve been reading TGTF regularly in the past few months, you’ll already be acquainted with Hitchin’s hatted prodigy James Bay. I had seen Bay on tour with Hozier here in America last autumn, and I remarked on the similar career trajectory the two songwriters have taken in my recent review of Bay’s album ‘Chaos and the Calm’. Bay took the opportunity here at the Communion showcase to whet our appetites for the new album, which was released the following Monday, and to further fan the flames sparked by his soaring hit single ‘Hold Back The River’.

Jack Garratt at Communion St David's 20 March 2015

As I’ve remarked previously in my SXSW 2015 coverage, the last artist on a showcase is often left to perform for a dwindling audience, especially at night shows where the final slot actually begins in the wee hours of the following morning. Such was the case for Jack Garratt, and once again it was a shame that so many people left without hearing him play. I had thought that his electronic style might be an oddity for the Communion show, but as he progressed through his set, it became very clear that Garratt is, at heart, a singer/songwriter who happens to base his music on electronic instrumentation rather than the typical acoustic foundation. He deftly played keyboard, guitar and percussion to accompany his own singing, and I left at the end of his set feeling both delightfully impressed by his skill and sad for the people who had missed out. You can find previous TGTF coverage of Jack Garratt, including his upcoming UK tour dates, right here.

Communion Music continues to highlight a fine array of up and coming artists, and their showcase at St. David’s once again proved to be a popular Friday night choice. In the past, the show has been open to the public, but this year the audience was restricted to official SXSW badges and wristbands. That decision was most likely prompted by increased attendance, and though many disappointed punters were turned away this year, it’s nice to see Communion artists receiving such well-deserved attention.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #347: Jack Garratt

 
By on Friday, 13th March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo from the BBC’s Jack Garratt archive at Reading and Leeds 2014

Amongst the British Music Embassy SXSW 2015 showcases in Austin, BBC Introducing and the PRS Foundation will be hosting a 22-year old already creating some serious waves.

In a previous life, Jack Garratt might have been considered a ‘one-man band’. The term following him around at the moment tends to be ‘multi-instrumentalist’ or ‘bedroom producer’ however; both terms which go far beyond underselling him. With James Blake and The xx comparisons already being drawn, his electronic influences have gathered many new fans since he served up an impressive debut EP, ‘Remnants’, and a breathtaking Reading and Leeds set, during 2014.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMsNrqpf2Bo[/youtube]

The bearded songsmith has been hitting all the aural sweet spots on this rise. Take the soft backbeats of his early track ‘Worry’; 9 months on since its Soundcloud debut and the slick beats, bluesy vocals and angular synths have been streamed over 1 million times. On his other early material (try ‘Water’), his ambitious use of sound and texture is also evident, the shimmering electro-bass hooks justifiably seizing your attention, along with the sharp chimes of jazz keys.

Garratt has already spent his time refining and developing this sound mind you, and is just as capable at experimenting away from these catchier, radio-friendly moments. He meshes his soulfulness with a chilling atmosphere on ‘The Love You’re Given’, as warm r&b influences and his mesmerising vocals come together with refreshing ease on the slow-burning ballad. For all the heartfelt beauty this produces, his production skills come to the fore with the howling energy that the closing chorus hits you with, as a colourful and contrasting blur of synths dramatically engulfing you.

On what will be one of his first trips to America, Garratt is likely be humbled by any crowd who turn out for him at SXSW. The truth is that really, if you miss him and his talented live expose in building up songs from single beats to the potent waves of energy that his music culminates in, you’ll be missing a truly game-changing young artist who’s headed for stages in front of thousands in the very near future.

Jack Garratt appears as part of the BBC Introducing and PRS Showcase on Wednesday the 18th of March at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30; read more about the night in Mary’s preview here. Catch him at the following appearances:

Wednesday 18/3 – British Music Embassy / BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation @ Latitude 30, 11 PM
Thursday 19/3 – New Shapes @ Red Eyed Fly, 4:45 PM
Friday 20/3 – Communion @ St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, 12:45 AM

 
 
 

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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. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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