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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 17th May 2012 at 6:00 pm
Fancy taking a ride round the city with Ben Howard, then catching some exclusive footage of him performing with his band at Shepherds Bush? You can both with his new video for ‘Only Love’, which you can watch below.
Howard has an extensive UK/Irish tour lined up for November, kicking off at the Brighton Dome on the 2nd of November; see the dates below. Support for the tour will be Willy Mason, who played alongside Howard at Communion’s SXSW showcase in Austin at the St. David’s Historic Sanctuary church in March.
Saturday 2nd November 2012 – Brighton Dome
Sunday 3rd November 2012 – Plymouth Pavilions
Monday 4th November 2012 – Cardiff University (Great Hall)
Tuesday 5th November 2012 – Bristol Colston Hall
Thursday 7th November 2012 – Dublin Olympia
Saturday 9th November 2012 – Belfast Mandela Hall
Sunday 10th November 2012 – Glasgow O2 Academy
Monday 12th November 2012 – Manchester Apollo
Wednesday 14th November 2012 – Leeds O2 Academy
Friday 16th November 2012 – Newcastle O2 Academy
Saturday 17th November 2012 – Aberdeen Music Hall
Monday 19th November 2012 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Tuesday 20th November 2012 – Lincoln Engine Shed
Wednesday 21th November 2012 – Leicester O2 Academy
Thursday 22nd November 2012 – Nottingham Rock City
Saturday 24th November 2012 – Birmingham O2 Academy
Sunday 25th November 2012 – Bournemouth O2 Academy
Monday 26th November 2012 – Southampton Guild Hall
Wednesday 28th November 2012 – London O2 Brixton Academy
London-based five-piece Dry the River are garnering all sorts of plaudits for their debut long-player Shallow Bed. Combining gentle, meadowy folk with grandiose post-rock wig-outs, seasoned with a peppery gothic tang, their sound simultaneously nods to decades past, whilst achieving a fresh slant on a number of styles which were in danger of becoming parodies of themselves. In an attempt to convey their sound in writing, all sorts of comparisons have been made, chiefly to contemporary populist folk revivalists Mumford and Sons; much the same point can be made by comparing a Big Mac to rare roast rib of beef.
Even at first glance of the band in the flesh, it is apparent that superficial comparisons to the Mumford mummy’s boys fall wide of the mark. There’s not a mandolin or waistcoat in sight; what there is is heavy tattoos, skinny jeans, and an AC/DC t-shirt. Singer Peter Liddle, barefoot and flame-haired, accommodates within his slight frame a voice which in its throaty delicacy displays an uncanny similarity to Jeff Buckley. The electric guitar undulates from gently overdriven picking to frantic power chords. There’s harmony vocals, a particularly animated bassist with an impressive beard, and as is becoming increasingly common these days, a violin.
Most importantly, there are songs – excellent ones at that. The set list is pretty much the entirety of ‘Shallow Bed’ (Luke’s review of the album can be read here) with the running order rearranged. Each piece is as strong as the last; the one-hour set doesn’t sag in the middle as is the risk with young bands. The songs kick in with memorable aphorisms, progress at a fine pace and never outstay their welcome. Impressively, the arrangements are both more delicate and yet carry more impact than on record. From the gentle guitar plucking and intertwining violin of ‘Shaker Hymns’, via the sweeping finale of ‘Weights and Measures’, to the mentalist noise that concludes ‘Lion’s Den’, the material works even better shorn of production fripperies, with the simplest of presentations. Most of these songs are proper pop tunes: ‘History Book’ for example, beautifully arranged and carrying quite some punch in its guitars, remains accessible and catchy as a frisbee.
They come back for one more song – the only one left that they haven’t played – and leave to rapturous applause from a genuinely appreciative sold-out crowd. A less manufactured-looking band it’s difficult to imagine, but if one had to combine several demographics – mum-friendly folk-pop, chewy chunks of teenage moshing, a touch of ’60s psychedelia, dashed with Stonehenge mysticism – this would be the result. A fascinating band who look to have a good year in front of them.
Dry the River are scheduled to play at 23.45 on the Friday (11 May) at the Corn Exchange at this year’s Great Escape.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 1st May 2012 at 11:00 am
Friends from Brooklyn is one of the hottest indie bands on the planet at the moment, and we’ve blagged a pair of tickets for one lucky reader and a guest to see them in Newcastle (Sunday 6th May), Birmingham (Saturday 12th May) or Bristol (Monday 14th May), winner’s choice. Now you’re wondering to yourself, how do I win these tickets? Read on my friend…
Fill out the form below with the following information: your name, your email address (we’ll use this to contact you if you’ve won) and which gig you want to win tickets for. Then answer this question correctly: What London label are the band signed to? Be sure to get your entries in by 12 noon this Friday, the 4th of May. We’ll choose our lucky winner from all the correct entries and award him/her with tickets for the gig of their choice.
This contest is now closed. The winner will be contacted soon by email.
If you want to buy tickets to any of the gigs on their May UK tour, you can use this Live Nation link to buy them for some of the gigs.
Saturday 5th May 2012 – Live at Leeds
Sunday 6th May 2012 – Newcastle Digital
Monday 7th May 2012 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Tuesday 8th May 2012 – Manchester Academy 3
Wednesday 9th May 2012 – London Scala
Thursday 10th May 2012 – Brighton Horatios (NME Radar showcase at Great Escape)
Friday 11th May 2012 – Brighton Haunt (The Agency showcase Great Escape)
Saturday 12th May 2012 – Birmingham Academy 2
Monday 14th May 2012 – Bristol Thekla
Oxford has form when it comes to birthing important bands: from influential noisegaze pioneers Ride, through the sadly defunct Supergrass, always in the kitchen at the Britpop party, to Radiohead, who not content with redefining the scope of modern rock several times, have seen fit to bless the world with a number of excellent solo works. Recently, revivalist dance-pop BBC Introducing favourites Fixers and math-rock futurists Foals have been upholding the reputation of the city of the dreaming spires.
Tonight sees the latest in this distinguished bloodline of musicians hit Newcastle. Spring Offensive have released but a handful of tracks; they are still at the beginning of their career, so any claims of belonging to the pantheon of Oxfordian greatness must be tempered with the chance that they might split up, get bored, or fall pregnant before anything of any particular note happens. But…let’s hope not.
In town to promote their second single, ‘Worry Fill My Heart’ (live video below), TGTF caught up with them over a coke in the incongruous environs of Newcastle’s only American-style burger joint, on a mission to find out a thing or two about Spring Offensive.
We learn that the drummer is called Pelham. That they met at school and live together in Oxford. That they count appropriately underground acts Menomena and Silver Mt. Zion in their influences, along with Cumbrian darlings Wild Beasts. Some of their songs deal with being dissatisfied with you’re doing with your life. They’re nervous people, easily frightened. They’re named after the Wilfred Owen war poem, which they were asked to recite live on German radio. They dress as they do (part war evacuee, part ’70s dad, fashion by charity shop consent) so people can’t judge them on their appearance. Or, heaven forfend, accuse them of being Foals fanboys.
They are a superb live band. The Oxford sound is present and correct – there’s a bit of white-boy funk, edgy mathy bits, anthemic choruses – but thankfully all filtered through a clear personality of their own. They have a talent for arrangements, and not just of the quiet-loud-quiet version, either – the songs ebb and flow with the oily fluidity of a calm midnight sea. This is the genuine soundtrack to how the Titanic really sank – gently, undemonstratively, imperceptibly sinking into inky black, all the while a quiet, unspoken unease hanging in the air. There’s lashings of deckhand vocal harmonies; in one memorable moment, the band leave the stage and play with acoustic guitar and voices only. It’s a brave insight into their capabilities; shorn of amplification the effect is if anything even more emotionally powerful.
They haven’t always dressed as they do now – somewhere in the last twelve months the band ditched the checked shirts, stripy t-shirts and skinny jeans for frayed cardigans, woollen tank tops, and beige slacks. Whether this is a genuinely spontaneous rejection of fashion, or a cleverly-worked decision, their sartoriality suits both demeanour and sound perfectly. The very epitome of Dave Gilmour’s famous ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ lyric, “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way”, the whole package evokes a post-war shabbiness, of desolate Anglian marshes interspersed with the skeletons of abandoned hangars: an atmosphere of bleakness punctuated by the hope of regeneration. Simultaneously, they speak to the contemporary retail park mole, the burger flipper, the call centre operative: is this all life has to offer? Could things have been better sixty years ago? Is modern life indeed rubbish? These are the most important questions a band can ask; it falls to Spring Offensive to ask them.
Spring Offensive will appear on the Friday (18 May) of Liverpool Sound City, time and place TBA.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 18th April 2012 at 9:00 am
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls have announced a massive tour for winter 2012. Tickets go on sale this Friday (20 April) at 9 AM.
He’s such a nice guy, he even switched the Norwich gig to be at the UEA so the show would be all ages. What a gent!
Sunday 11th November 2012 – Nottingham Rock City
Monday 12th November 2012 – Leeds Academy
Tuesday 13th November 2012 – Liverpool Academy
Wednesday 14th November 2012 – Swansea Brangwyn Hall
Thursday 15th November 2012 – Reading Hexagon
Saturday 17th November 2012 – Newcastle Academy
Sunday 18th November 2012 – Edinburgh Picture House
Monday 19th November 2012 – Sheffield Academy
Tuesday 20th November 2012 – Norwich UEA
Thursday 22nd November 2012 – Margate Winter Gardens
Friday 23rd November 2012 – Wolverhampton Civic Hall
Saturday 24th November 2012 – Leamington Spa Assembly
Sunday 25th November 2012 – Lincoln Engine Shed
Monday 26th November 2012 – Oxford Academy
Wednesday 28th November 2012 – Brighton Corn Exchange
Thursday 29th November 2012 – Southampton Guildhall
Friday 30th November 2012 – Cornwall Truro Hall
Saturday 1st December 2012 – Bath Pavilion
Air Cav have long been fêted by Manchester’s in-the-know commentators as one to watch. Yet despite plugging away since 2006, it was only at the tail-end of last year that the world finally got to hear the assertive beauty of long-awaited debut album ‘Don’t Look Indoors’. A clever blend of shoegaze, folk stylings courtesy of Sophie Nield’s pretty violin work, and never far away from the raucousness of punk, Air Cav are quite a unique proposition on record. TGTF caught up with them in advance of the penultimate date of their short national tour, to chat about the gestation of their album, the state of the Manchester scene, and being the musical equivalent of the city of Hull.
So how come it’s taken Air Cav so long since their first single in 2008 to visit Newcastle? Drummer Allan Gaskin takes up the story: “First of all, we took the time to perfect the live show, and learnt how to convert the songs so that they sounded good on record. We self-funded the album by begging, borrowing and stealing studio time. It’s been a long process, but we’re happy with the results, and the album has had a great critical reception. We’ve visited places on this tour that we’ve never seen, zig-zagging up and down the country, and it’s all been very positive.”
Talk turns to the state of the music scene of their native Manchester. Singer and guitarist Chris Nield opines, “Manchester’s all well and good but it’s not the be all and end all. We go down differently in different towns. Even though it’s your home crowd, Manchester can be a hard crowd. I’d rather play places like Oxford last night where the room was packed, than Manchester where it can be arms folded, chins being stroked, trying to impress people.”
Violinist Sophie Parkes concurs: “Manchester can be very trend-conscious. There’s loads of unsigned bands, which sounds really vibrant, but in reality, things can be spread quite thinly and it’s difficult to find like-minded bands to get momentum going.” Chris: “We’ve enjoyed playing with like-minded bands outside Manchester. It freshens you up.”
The obsession with bands reforming to make a quick buck is clearly something Allan takes issue with. “There’s loads of old bands reforming: The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, New Order, Inspiral Carpets… they were even going to wheel out 808 State!”
Oisín (bass): “It’s come at a bad time, just when the scene was moving away from its stereotypical heritage, for years there were new bands trying to copy the old ones, and with these bands reforming it’s happening all over again!”
Chris expands: “If you’ve not got any hype behind you, Manchester’s not interested – it’s as if it needs to be told what to like by a handful of promoters, tastemakers in a way, one or two who really call the shots when it comes to so-called trendy Manchester gigs. If you’re not in with them, then it’s difficult. The “Manchester mafia” phrase gets used quite a lot – but we’re not criticising it too much because we’ve played some of those gigs – we’re in it!”
Sophie: “There are a lot of venues now, which can mean that standards slip because there are a lot of bills to be filled with lots of bands. But it’s not all gloom: we’ve had plenty of support from people like BBC Introducing; we’ve lots to thank them for.”
Well, that’s the music scene on the ground in Manchester put to rights. So how have the band found the rest of the country on this tour? Sophie: “Our favourite city? I enjoyed Oxford, which is my hometown, and Hull was a surprise: we thought it was going to be dead, but we had a great reception, we were signing CDs – I could get used to that! Maybe it’s because Hull’s always been a very independent place and we’ve always been a very independent band – you could call us the Hull of bands!”
And what does the future hold for Air Cav?
Chris wraps things up: “We need to maximise our momentum! We’ll be clever about where we play, and not so long making the second album. We’re flying the flag for DIY, self-release, self touring, which is a great ethos. We’re not waiting for anyone else to do it for us – do it yourself!”
And with that, I leave the band to an all-important pre-gig conflab. Newcastle’s The Watchers are in support; straight out of an early ’70s West Coast acid-drowned summer festival, complete with hazy reverb, distorted vocals, and slow-burning epics that drown in a sea of droning guitar and then come up screaming for air. Yet there are songs buried deep in the bowels of these jams; the band are not just one-trick noiseniks. Watch the Watchers.
And then it’s Air Cav’s debut Newcastle performance. As on record, admirably noisy, delicately ambient, vigourously punky. Chris Nield is Brian Molko and Jarvis Cocker‘s lovechild, his mixture of avuncular Northern chap and piercing, assertive vocals dominate the performance. But this is a band greater than its parts; the rhythm section are tight yet complex, and Sophie Parkes’ violin is one moment an Irish-pub fiddle riff in the middle of ‘A Call to Arms’, the next it provides washes of colour over the more ambient moments in the set; not for nothing do the band claim inspiration from the shoegaze movement. (But doesn’t everyone, these days?)
This is a great set from a band very much hitting their stride. If there’s any criticism it’s not in the delivery. Where is the three-minute punk rollock to go with the more thoughtful, drawn-out material? Where is the power chorus that comes in before a minute is up? The band are clearly capable of invoking a variety of atmospheres – if they add the power single to their repertoire, or simply allow an editor to snip one or two of their current pieces into shape, they would be better placed for world domination. And the freedom of the city of Hull would be one step closer.
More of Martin’s high-res photos can be viewed on his Flickr.