TGTF will be on a break from 1-11 October while editor Mary is at HWCH 2016 in Dublin.
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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.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 19th July 2016 at 5:00 pm
Back in April, TGTF favourites Van Susans revealed the promo video for ‘Seagulls’, a tearjerker in the form of a montage of frontman Olly Andrews’ own family home movies. (We profiled it as a previous Video of the Moment back here.) They recently recorded a new live version of the single for Ont’ Sofa, who like Sofar Sounds prefer for their artists to perform in an intimate setting such as a living room, hence their name. In this particular video, Van Susans are playing in Stereo 92, a bar in Stoke Newington, in the northwest part of the London Borough of Hackney. Watch the emotional performance below. For much more of Van Susans on TGTF, follow this link.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 11th July 2016 at 4:00 pm
Soul singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka will be releasing his second album this Friday. It’s the follow-up to his 2012 long player ‘Home Again’, released the same year Kiwanuka won the BBC Sound of 2012 poll. So it’s little wonder that the media and fans have been chomping at the bit for his new record. In celebration of the impending release, Kiwanuka has revealed this new live video of him and his band in session at the famed RAK Studios in the St. John’s Wood area of central London. In it, they perform ‘Cold Little Heart’, a cut from the new album. Kiwanuka says of the writing of this particular track:
‘Cold Little Heart’ was the first song I wrote for this album and it helped direct where the music was going. It’s really influenced by classic 60s and 70s British guitar bands like The Who and Pink Floyd, as well as by a lot of soul music, particularly songs like ‘Walk On By’ by Isaac Hayes. Those songs build really slowly and sometimes a vocal wont come in until 5 or 6 minutes but you don’t realise you’ve been sitting and listening for that long because all the instruments are so enticing and so beautifully arranged that they grab your attention and it doesn’t matter that you’re waiting until the vocals come in.
‘Love & Hate’ will be available starting this Friday, the 15th of July, on Polydor Records. For more articles on Michael Kiwanuka on TGTF, go here.
Last Wednesday night a pair of veteran American bands, California’s Rogue Wave and North Carolina-based Floating Action, graced the stage at downtown Tucson’s Rialto Theater. I’ve been to the Rialto several times now, but I’ve never seen it set up in the half-seated, half-standing arrangement that greeted me on this night. The rows of seats in the back of the auditorium were convenient for fans who didn’t want to stand near the stage, but they also made the theater a bit cosier for these smaller bands whose devoted fans didn’t quite fill the Rialto’s 1,400-person capacity.
Asheville, North Carolina’s Floating Action are normally a quartet, but they were represented in Tucson by only two of their usual number, singer and frontman Seth Kauffman and guitarist Drew Heller. The band self-released a new double album titled ‘Hold Your Fire’ earlier this year, and ahead of playing one of the new songs, Kauffman won over the local crowd by relating that the album’s vinyl was distributed by Tucson-based specialty label People In a Position to Know. ‘Hold Your Fire’ comprises a rather amazing 21 tracks, including ‘Don’t You Wanna Be Ready?’, ‘Split the Bill’ and title track ‘Hold Your Fire’, all of which appeared on Floating Action’s set list at the Rialto on the night. Punters in the crowd were audibly disappointed when Kauffman announced the final song of their engaging opening set, with someone pleading aloud for “two more!”. In the end we only got one, another new track called ‘Real Enough’, but Kauffman and Heller had already sealed a positive impression of Floating Action.
As it turned out, Floating Action probably could have played another set in the time we waited for headline act Rogue Wave to take the stage. The Rialto was quiet for more than half an hour between sets, before the stage crew even came back to make their final arrangements. I’m not sure what the delay might have been, but the five members of Rogue Wave were met with enthusiastic applause when they finally did appear, easing into their set with the aptly-titled track ‘Take It Slow’.
In a stroke of bad luck for Rogue Wave, it became apparent very quickly that one of the downstage lights hadn’t been adjusted properly during the lengthy intermission. The spotlight that had been centered on Floating Action’s Kauffman during his seated opening set was left to shine directly on Rogue Wave frontman Zach Schwartz’s crotch throughout the headline set, which made taking photos tricky, but more importantly distracted from his ability to engage the audience. Schwartz’s face was cloaked in shadow whenever he was singing or speaking into his microphone, and when he stepped back from the mic, his back was often turned so that he could interact with his bandmates.
Lighting issues aside, the band’s smooth, spontaneous interaction was one of the outstanding positive aspects of their performance. Despite the near constant flux of Rogue Wave’s lineup over their 14-year history and a lengthy recent absence from touring, this particular iteration of the group appeared tight and well-rehearsed, and familiar enough with each other to be relaxed and confident. Schwartz’s between-songs banter was minimal, and the band’s set list was jam-packed with catchy songs from their new album ‘Delusions of Grand Fur’.
The set started very promisingly with four tracks from the new LP, but things became a bit murky for Rogue Wave when they delved into their older tunes in the middle of the set. Schwartz’s singing voice is light and pleasant, but unfortunately for the band’s live sound, it doesn’t quite cut through the heavily-textured instrumental arrangements enough to make a strong impact. For those in the crowd who already knew the songs (and it must be said that there were quite a large number of familiar fans), this wasn’t an issue, but those of us new to Rogue Wave found no readily accessible lyrical hook to anchor us in the band’s swirling sea of haphazard psych rock guitar riffs. In that disorienting context, new album track ‘California Bride’ shone like a beacon of light near the end of the set proper.
To the delight of the longtime fans in the crowd, Rogue Wave closed their set with rousing performances of two popular tracks, ‘Lake Michigan’ and ‘Harmonium’. Both songs appear on the band’s 2007 album ‘Asleep at Heaven’s Gate’, but ‘Lake Michigan’ was featured more recently on the soundtrack for the film remake of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’. The band took a brief pause after ‘Harmonium’ before treating their followers to an energetic three-track encore, ultimately finishing the night with an extended version of ‘California’.
Floating Action will play a handful of live dates in North Carolina this summer, including the All Go West Music Festival on the 25th of June and Asheville’s RiverLink in August. Rogue Wave will play the final shows of their current West Coast tour with Seattle-based band Hibou, wrapping up in Portland, Oregon on Saturday the 25th of June. They are scheduled to appear at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in their native Northern California on the 6th of August and will open for the New Pornographers in Sacramento on the 20th of August. Rogue Wave’s new album ‘Delusions of Grand Fur’ is out now via Easy Sound Recording Company.
After the cut: Floating Action and Rogue Wave set lists
Floating Action set list
Fate of the World
Don’t You Wanna Be Ready?
No Surprise There
Split the Bill
Hold Your Fire
Rogue Wave set list
Take It Slow
Look At Me
Salesman At the Day of the Parade
What Is Left to Solve
Publish My Love
Like I Needed
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 14th June 2016 at 2:00 pm
Sure, I might be thousands of miles away from something happening. But when you hear a band in Australia has been selling out tour dates left and right and well outside their home base city, you’d be a fool of a music editor not to sit up and take notice. Last year, the Sydney-based rock five-piece Gang of Youths – lead vocalist and guitarist David Leaupepe, lead guitarist Joji Malani, guitarist/keyboardist Jung Kim, bassist Max Dunn and drummer Donnie Borzestowski – released their multi-ARIA-nominated debut album ‘The Positions’. From there, they’ve cemented a fan following that, based on the fan reaction in DC Friday night, has reached far beyond Oz.
The opener for their early DC9 to usher in the weekend was StereoRiots. They’re a local indie rock band with a weighty synth presence. Lead vocalist and guitarist Wahid Hashime has a unique voice, somewhere between the comically fun pop of Rivers Cuomo and the shouty extended style adopted by Rod Stewart. If you think about this in your head, combining his voice with synths is pretty unusual, and not what you might expect as a headliner for Gang of Youths. Still, their set was an enjoyable one. Full of energy and fun vibes, the young band were eager to get the audience on their side.
A good friend from Sydney had clued me in to Gang of Youths’ Springsteen vibes. Normally, such a pronouncement would lead me to inwardly groan; that kind of music is Carrie’s specialty, not mine. However, the superlatives going around this band have been numerous enough to interest me enough to see them. As I was sat downstairs waiting for the 2nd floor venue portion of DC9 to open up, I could hear the band soundchecking. Yup, definitely Springsteen…
Frontman David Leaupepe is a man who has been through a lot and he hasn’t even made it to the quarter of a century mark yet. According to this article from Rolling Stone Australia, Gang of Youths began initially as a cathartic, artistic exercise for Leaupepe to exorcise his personal demons: a crumbling marriage, his wife’s cancer treatment and a spiral downward into alcoholism. Luckily for Leaupepe, he had friends Dunn, Kim and Malani to make music with, giving him an outlet and the resulting window into a young life marred trials and tragedy has now resonated with so many Aussies.
Three years ago this month, Leaupepe tried to kill himself, and the incident is chronicled in their song ‘Magnolia’. Although these days he may be making jokes about suicide, boy, can he emote – through that growly, Boss-like powerful voice of his – to express that period of his life that caused him so much pain. Funny, silly, and yet offering up a frequent arse wiggle, Leaupepe is also a charismatic frontman, with his curls naturally conjuring up the heydays of Michael Hutchence. A solo moment on ‘Knuckle White Dry’, recounting a difficult car ride back from hospital, was another set highlight.
While the early set time for this DC9 show did Gang of Youths no favours – they would have had a bigger crowd if their set time had moved at least 2 hours later – those who chose to turn up for the gig were obviously massive fans. They were singing and shouting along to Leaupepe’s words on ‘The Positions’, fists in the air. Even though most bands these days are made up of folks who were friends first, there is something different with these guys who haven’t really been together all that long in the grand scheme of things. They play as one tight unit on song like ‘Vital Signs’ and ‘Poison Drum’, clearly enjoying each other’s company. It wasn’t hard to imagine from their performance Friday night that with the right promotion here and in the UK, Gang of Youths could be the next biggest Australian rock success story. One day soon, all their hard work and sacrifice will be worth it.
Soul singer Michael Kiwanuka has kept very busy recently, promoting his forthcoming second album ‘Love & Hate’ with a series of live sessions for television and radio. Back on the 31st of May, Kiwanuka took the stage on ‘Later…with Jools Holland’ to give a bold performance of his new track ‘Black Man in a White World’, accompanied by a full band and gospel chorus. Kiwanuka’s soulful refrain was punctuated by rhythmic handclaps and insistent guitar riffs that combined with dramatic stage effects to create a forceful visual and sonic impact.
The very next day, Kiwanuka made an appearance in the BBC Radio 1Xtra Live Lounge where he presented a significantly more delicate acoustic performance of Prince’s ‘Sometimes It Snows in April’. In contrast to the above performance of ‘Black Man in a White World’, Kiwanuka’s bandmates in the Live Lounge contribute only gentle percussion and soft harmony vocals, and the relative stillness of the shadowy studio amplifies the effect of Kiwanuka’s stark interpretation.
Finally, on the 7th of June, Kiwanuka played a live studio session for BBC 6 Music with Lauren Laverne, where he performed his hypnotic new album track ‘Father’s Child’. Video of the BBC 6 Music session is available here, for a limited time.
Michael Kiwanuka’s second album ‘Love & Hate’ is due for release on the 15th of July via Polydor. If you missed it, you can take a look back at Kiwanuka’s official video for ‘Black Man in a White World’, along with his list of October tour dates, right here. Our full collection of coverage on Michael Kiwanuka is this way.