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Back in April, Selkirk alt-rockers Frightened Rabbit released their excellent fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’. After a brief handful of live dates in the UK, the band immediately turned their attention to the American side of the pond, embarking on a late spring/early summer U.S. tour that brought them to Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom last Friday night.
Supporting Frightened Rabbit on this American tour are New York rock band Caveman, who are officially a quartet, but performed with six members on stage here at the Crescent Ballroom. The expanded lineup allowed them to fully flesh out their warm, atmospheric song arrangements for a pleasantly vibrant and engaging opening set. Frontman Matthew Iwanusa announced standout track ‘Human’ as part of the band’s upcoming record ‘Otero War’, and it immediately made me think that the new album would be well worth a listen. Also appearing on both Caveman’s live set list and their new album is anthemic track ‘Never Going Back’, for which the band just released the following sci-fi themed video.
Frightened Rabbit’s own recent album release might be described as “triumphant”, after the rather muted vibe of their fourth album ‘Pedestrian Verse’. On stage, they took immediate advantage of this triumph, opening their headline set with a blistering rendition of current single ‘Get Out’ and maintaining the high energy level through older tracks ‘Holy’ and ‘The Modern Leper’. The band started off sounding remarkably tight and energetic, especially compared to the last time I’d seen them live. I had been completely nonplussed by their rather sloppy performance at that sparsely attended show in Birmingham, Alabama back in 2013, when guitarist Gordon Skene was still in the lineup. On this night in Phoenix, however, frontman Scott Hutchison and his bandmates, most notably new guitarist Simon Liddell, who replaced Skene and fit seamlessly into the current live arrangement, seemed exponentially more confident and relaxed.
One of the set’s early highlights, the introspective new album track ’I Wish I Was Sober’, was also one of its slower moments, but Hutchison and company didn’t let their momentum ebb for long. I was excited to hear my personal favourite Frightened Rabbit song ‘Living in Colour’, which got the crowd bouncing along to Grant Hutchison’s formidable four-to-the-floor drum beat. And though ‘Things’, from 2010 release ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’, has not been a particular favourite of mine, it was surprisingly effective in this night’s set, combining the full complement of instrumental effects in the band’s five-man lineup with a striking visual lighting display.
A few hardcore Frightened Rabbit fans in the crowd shouted requests for songs from the band’s 2006 debut album ‘Sing the Greys’, and though the band touched on every other album in their repertoire, Scott Hutchison confessed that he didn’t remember how to play all of those early songs. He also declined a rather incongruous request for ‘Poke’ at a high energy point in the middle of the set, calling that song “probably the biggest downer I ever wrote” (which is quite a distinction in his collection, it must be said). Instead, the band wisely stayed with their ever-growing list of established fan favourites, including ‘Pedestrian Verse’ track ‘State Hospital’ and its new album sequel-of-sorts, ‘Lump Street’.
Frightened Rabbit rounded off the set proper with three of their liveliest tunes, racing through storming versions of ‘Nothing Like You’ and the acoustic-flavoured ‘Old Old Fashioned’ before frontman Hutchison invited the crowd to sing along with the familiar and admittedly vulgar ‘Keep Yourself Warm’. Having brought my younger brother with me to the show, I found it a little awkward at first to shout out those particular lyrics, but it occurred to me that Hutchison himself does the very same thing in every show with his little brother Grant on the drum kit behind him, and so I carried on. The rest of the crowd clearly loved joining in on the chorus, and the Scottish five-piece left the stage to thunderous applause at the end of the song.
Scott Hutchison returned to the stage alone to open the encore with a poignant solo performance of ‘Die Like a Rich Boy’, which might have been an effective closer in its own right, but the band had other ideas. Hutchison’s colleagues returned to the stage to play their popular hit song ‘The Woodpile’ and a delightfully theatrical version of ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’, which featured multi-instrumentalist Billy Kennedy on percussion and cemented the band’s brilliant live impression.
Caveman’s new album ‘Otero War’ is due out on the 17th of June via Cinematic Music Group. They will continue playing support on Frightened Rabbit’s American tour with West Coast dates through the 27th of May. Frightened Rabbit will play the Sasquatch Festival in Washington State on the 29th of May before heading back across the pond for a list of summer festival appearances, including T in the Park and Latitude. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of Frightened Rabbit is collected right back here.
Caveman and Frightened Rabbit set lists:
Hometown pride is a wonderful thing. It turns a standard rock show into an emotional and memorable experience that generally resides in both the band and fans’ history as a date to remember. For the case of Cambridge-based band Lonely The Brave, Friday night’s show at Cambridge Corn Exchange was their largest hometown show to date and also the album release show for ‘Things Will Matter’, their staggeringly powerful second album.
Being sure to emphasise that this is a party rather than your run-of-the-mill affair, we have not one but three support acts: The Staycations and Swedish Death Candy kick the proceedings off before Scottish four-piece Fatherson would take to the stage. The crowd started building rapidly to catch this band who are on a quick trip to the top with their heartfelt and anthemic rock sound, and they simply did not disappoint.
When it came to Lonely The Brave’s turn on stage, the atmosphere in the room changed from expectant to vivacious. With the knowledge that the evening was being filmed for potential future release, there was obviously going to be a general anticipatory factor thrown in to both the performance and set, and they more than delivered.
Singer David Jakes, who suffers from anxiety, was more confident than ever before. Consisting of majority Cantabrigians such as myself, as well as the hardest of the core fans (shoutout to the Belgian superfan who’s travelled and seen the band in multiple countries), the swell of pride that came over the crowd when the thunderous ‘Radar’ began was unmeasurable. Being one of the harder tracks from ‘Things Will Matter’, it was a tremendously strong start, with an atmosphere of utter power and control over the audience. Things definitely didn’t digress in the slightest as the set continued, with the majority of the set made up of choices that exuberated the sheer ferocity that this band can attack with. We were even treated to cuts from the redux version of their debut album ‘The Day’s War’. ‘Science’, in particular, held strong ground with its crescendo breaking to new euphoric heights.
One omission from the setlist that was surprising was single ‘Trick of the Light’, though a 50/50 balance of both albums fit the billing well, and the band can’t be said they favour one album over the other. The pride the band takes in its songs is contagious. Emotive and soaring, Jakes uses the canvas laid out by his bandmates to reveal his inner struggles both mentally and physically. The strength it takes for anyone to unveil this is admirable, let alone to a room filled with friends, family and fans.
It was the final three songs where the evening hit its peak. ‘The Day’s War’ cut ‘Black ‘Saucers’ saw the crowd whipped into a frenzy, leaving no shoe undanced. Continuing into ‘Rattlesnakes’ and finishing with fan favourite ‘The Blue, The Green’, this final triple threat proved to just cement what everyone in the room knew already. Lonely the Brave are an unstoppable force that is gaining more momentum on a daily basis, soon to be turned into a juggernaut of melodic and deep-end qualities.
Cambridge is a town known for its academia and scholars, but for the 1,500 people in the Corn Exchange this evening, Lonely the Brave are the only thing from this town that matters, and rightly so. The band continue their English tour through to Friday of this week.
Parts 1 and 2 of Steven’s review of Leicester’s Handmade Festival 2016 posted earlier this week. Check out parts 1 and 2 here and here.
The Sunday of Handmade 2016 held particular importance for the city of Leicester. Entering anywhere within a 15-mile radius of the city, you would find yourself presented with an inordinate, but very much deserved, amount of Leicester City FC regalia, for they were soon to, but not on this day, make football history. This of course would have been detrimental in some aspect to the day’s proceedings at Handmade, since a festival of this size relies heavily on local cultural interest. However, there are also those outsiders, like myself, who make the pilgrimage and spread the word via numerous blogs, social networking posts and other ramblings. On a rare historical occasion such as this, when even non-diehard football fans are intrigued and excited by it, there will inevitably be a drop in attendance. The final day didn’t carry the same weight in atmosphere as the Saturday nor the Friday. The lineup itself wasn’t overtly weak but the bands that had that cultist draw such as Lonely The Brave, We Are Scientists or Deaf Havana were missing from this final day, bar Los Campesinos! (pictured at top), who saw the largest reception with their “landfill indie” hark back.
Easily the set of the day, and unfortunately it was one of the earlier ones so the crowd wasn’t as large as it should’ve been, was Johnny Lloyd. The ex-Tribes frontman who’s in the midst of excitement ahead of releasing his debut solo EP ‘Dreamland’, has returned with extraordinarily deep songs that utilise haunting, soft melodies and raucous crescendos to create a beautiful juxtaposition.
Other highlight sets from the day included Oscar, whose strong baritone vocals richly cover his often poppy, but at times focused and dramatic indie. Seeing Oscar on the main stage before heading once again down to the lower levels to witness USA Nails throughly annihilate any further thoughts of natural hearing, is an experience that just fortifies the uniqueness behind Handmade.
Of the minor downsides, and there really are only small, unavoidable ones, the largest of these was food outlets. Three tents on the patio area by the entrance, for a 3-day, mostly all-day festival, doesn’t leave much choice for hungry festival-goers. However due to the festival’s fairly central location, there was the option of making the 10-minute walk to a main road with further choices available. As this is a music site and not food, I shan’t go into detail on the food itself, but rest assured it was all fantastic.
With 2016 being the largest year to date for the Handmade Festival, 2017 is set to be even greater. I highly suggest you take a weekend out of your lives and make the trip to Leicester. You’ll find something new to fall in love with, be it a Jurassic Park-themed punk band or a simple photograph on one of the many displays around the venue. Either way, it’s fresh and exciting, and there’s no chance of being stuck on a muddy hill as you watch your tent slide away.
If you missed Steven’s review of Leicester’s Handmade Festival 2016 that covered the bands he caught on Friday, you can catch up right back this way.
Now that the event had settled into full swing, the Saturday of Handmade Fest came along like Christmas morning. Beginning earlier at 3 PM, the second day of the festival kicked off with a band so ridiculous in concept yet perfect in execution, missing them was simply not an option. Jurassic Pop solely write songs based around the Jurassic Park franchise, going as far as to have their bass player wear a velociraptor head. The songs were rifftastically solid, especially the rendition of ‘All That She Wants’ by Ace of Base, adapted so that the velociraptors from the scene where Robert Muldoon, the Jurassic Park gamekeeper, dies with the infamous last words “clever girl…”, are the focal point of the lyrics. (Though the band state they wrote it first—jokingly, of course—we don’t want any affidavits created from this article, please).
Taking to the stage in the allowed 15-minute time afterward, Happy Accidents were a surprising breath of fresh, chipper, air. Bouncing around like sweet-filled children, they brought the second day, which had thick grey clouds looming over it, into a metaphorical rainbow-laden field filled with fast, poppy punk music and smiles.
Sadly, I missed Cleft, who according to numerous people I spoke to, were one of the bands of the weekend. I did however manage to catch OhBoy!, who were phenomenal in every sense. Their powerful show matching the strength of their songs, the future is definitely going to be bright for this stellar band. The main talk of the entire weekend though were the later slots on this fine evening, kicking off with Cambridge’s own Lonely the Brave, who gave one of their most powerful performances I’ve seen to date, with their new songs creating a fierce, undertow to the already epic songs from their debut. After their set finished, the majority of the crowd, in the typical sheep fashion of this small festival, flowed down to The Scholar Bar where we awaited Scottish pop punk band The Xcerts. You got the sense that a lot of the crowd had been waiting to see the raw emotion and power of The Xcerts for a very long time, and the atmosphere in the room reflected this perfectly.
Headliners of the night were fellow East Anglians Deaf Havana (pictured at top), who, also road testing new material, created an explosive atmosphere which was fuelled by the crowd’s response to their heartfelt and angst ridden material. Overall, Saturday proved to be the strongest of the 3 days of the festival, with Sunday proving slightly weaker through no fault of the festival’s own. It cannot be stated enough that festivals such as Handmade are important in not only developing the cultural scene of whatever city they happen to be in, but they also give bands who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity to play in an environment like this, or to get the exposure that would give them even one more fan that will fuel their passions. Moving past that slight digression, we will enter the final day of Handmade 2016 in part 3 of my review, which will appear on TGTF tomorrow.
If you missed the first installment of Rebecca’s roundup of Live at Leeds 2016, you can catch up on it right back here.
Following Mystery Jets at the Academy, I arrived early for Clean Cut Kid’s set at Leeds University Union and caught their soundcheck, which consisted of a stripped back version of ‘Vitamin C’, showcasing Evelyn and Mike Halls’ impeccable vocals. The crowd had already built up before the end of the soundcheck, and I’d bumped into a couple of people on my way in who were looking for the stage and excited to catch the band in action. The set was bookended with the band’s two most popular tracks, opening with ‘Runaway’ and closing with ‘Vitamin C’. From start to finish, it was an indie-pop filled half hour of fun, bright guitar hooks and vibrant vocals, and there was an abundance of dancing, clapping and singing along from the crowd.
I caught Catholic Action at Nation of Shopkeepers, the kooky bunting-trimmed venue in the city’s centre. Catholic Action are one of those bands who sound good on record, and even better live. Their upbeat, pop/indie blend was well suited to Nation of Shopkeepers, which was probably my favourite venue of all that I was able to visit on the day. A friend of mine recently described the band as a “Scottish Weezer”, and after hearing them perform, I can’t say that I disagree. Their set was a standout for me on the day, from the jingling guitars to the clap-inspiring drumbeats and crisp vocals.
Back over at the Brudenell Social Club I arrived partway through Vitamin‘s set. The dreamy indie pop quartet are Leeds locals and were in full-flow by the time I arrived, having drawn in a medium-sized but enthusiastic crowd. Lead singer Jared Laville was decked out in a double denim stonewashed ensemble and was charismatically wooing the crowd. During the final song of the set, the band’s latest single ‘Waterfall’, Laville descended into the crowd, with people reaching out to touch him like he was the messiah of dream pop.
After Vitamin was Anteros on the Games Room stage across the hall at Brudenell. As with The Velveteens earlier in the day, it took a while for the crowd to build and required prompting from lead singer Laura Hayden to bring the crowd forward. Hayden was vibrant and commanded attention, standing before the crowd with just a microphone in her hand, occasionally bashing a drum. The whole band looked like they were having a great time. Stand out tracks were ‘Breakfast’, the band’s latest single, and their previous singles ‘Fade to Grey’ and self-titled ‘Anteros’, which is such an excellent track and sounds even better live, showing off Hayden’s brilliant voice. The band has created an iridescent variety of wistful indie-pop that’s just edgy enough to avoid being too sweet. Their performance was another standout for me, but I can’t help thinking that they might have benefitted from a stage closer to the city centre that would have drawn in a larger crowd.
The first and only other time I’ve seen We Are Scientists live was in 2010 on the NME stage at Leeds Festival, so I was determined to make it back to Leeds University Union to catch them before I had to leave. I made it to the Union in order to get a decent spot on the stairs, which in hindsight wasn’t the best idea as I was constantly bumped into by people trying to make their way up and down the staircase, struggling against the tide of people that had also decided on the same viewing spot as myself. But the struggle was worth it. From the minute Keith Murray and Chris Cain walked on stage they built up a cheeky back and forth between each other and the audience, with Cain immediately going over to the audience at this side of the stage and shaking hands with members of the audience.
We Are Scientists opened with ‘The Scene is Dead’, before following up with other hits such as ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ and ‘I Don’t Bite’, and ‘Buckle’, the first single from their latest album ‘Helter Seltzer’, released in April. I had to leave shortly after, but I was happy to have experienced the 20 minutes or so in the band’s presence, which was the cherry on top of an already great day.
If the only music festival you’ve been to (and this is potentially more aimed to UK readers than U.S. fans) consists of standing in a muddy field in wellington boots or becoming heavily inebriated while trundling to the next stage to see a mildly hyped-up indie band, then an indoor festival, or metro-festival, is a highly different experience. Leicester’s 4th annual Handmade Festival took place on the May bank holiday with the stated goal of gathering “the best new and forward thinking music, comedy, art, film, performance and photography and bring(ing) it all together for one weekend”.
When I first arrived at the University of Leicester on the Friday, the welcoming sign of ‘H A N D M A D E’ spelt out up the stairs in large plastic letters beckoned festival-goers into the venue and gave a great indication as to how the festival sees itself: welcoming and with a hint of non-seriousness. Being a completely independent venture, Handmade is unique in that it prides itself on being a place to discover brand new things, and this is most prominent in its musical lineup. The headliners themselves are tenured enough in the industry to draw a crowd, particularly We Are Scientists (pictured at top), Deaf Havana and Lonely the Brave, who jointly win the award for “Largest T-Shirt Representation”. With these crowds drawn in, it was up to the acts beforehand, both local and national, to cement the weekend, and this they did.
On Friday, we were given the choice of either Lacura or Estrons, two bands that cover the rock spectrum nicely, with Lacura taking on the dreamscape, ease-you-in side of things and Estrons taking the face grabbing route. With both sets comfortably and officially kicking things off, the small crowd that had gathered at this early stage of the festival soon ventured to the weekend’s main stage, Academy 2, to witness Ash Mammal. This was the first sign that it would be easy to find your new favourite or soon-to-be favourite band here. Ash Mammal brought a raucous set, reminiscent of early Placebo and not easily forgotten.
An important aspect to mention before heading into any more detail on the weekend is the venue layout. In total there were three main stages for music, not including the smaller stages in the venue landing area. The main stages were the aforementioned Academy 2, the Academy 3, which was found by venturing down into the basement of the complex and through a labyrinth of corridors into a seeming ex-dance studio, and also The Scholar Bar. The initial trial of finding your way around the complex was confusing, but after one trip around the available open areas, it turned out to be a well-laid out routing that consisted of a multi-layered circle. Getting lost was a fool’s errand, and a mistake only made once.
The rest of Friday’s highlights included Black Honey, who are already gaining a serious amount of traction and for good reason. They combine blues-tinged, reverb-heavy rock with a frontwoman who has the sultry and confident attitude of Debbie Harry, Alison Mosshart and Cherie Curie combined. Sheffield’s 65daysofstatic brought an electronic turn to the proceedings with a light show and tunes to make a strong enough statement that should also aide their current hype. By far the biggest highlight of the day was punk band Pretty Vicious in The Scholar Bar, a tiny venue that already made the softer acts seem edgier than you would believe. Pretty Vicious brought out their re-birth of British punk and showed us exactly how they’ve managed to score a major label deal. Snotty, abrasive with purely fantastic riffs, they’re enough to give the Sex Pistols a run for their money.
Headliners We Are Scientists proved why they’re still going strong in the game after over a decade, a solid set full of the massive hits that first put them in the spotlight, peppered with newer songs which sounded just as strong. The show itself did feel like a watered down version of an atypical We Are Scientists event, at times feeling rushed. However, having taken to the stage 15 minutes late this was potentially an executed measure to get through all of the crowd pleasers.
Stay tuned to TGTF for parts 2 and 3 of Steven’s roundup of Handmade Festival 2016, which will follow in the coming days.
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