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Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited along to probably the most famous recording studios in the world. Abbey Road opened up both of its main studios for the red carpet premiere of ‘Epic’, a short film by Ridley Scott Associates, Channel 4, American Express and Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. The evening started swimmingly with a champagne reception in the wonderful studio 2. Canapés came thick and fast, we decided the chili beef ones and the mini fish and chips were the most desirable by far. For the record; if anyone ever offers you a mozzarella risotto ball….avoid it at all costs! It was great to spend some proper time in such a fantastic room seeped in so much musical history, you can imagine any superstar from the past 40 years walking down the staircase from the control room at any second.
Once we’d had 40 minutes’ gorging time, it was time to head into studio 1 for the screening of ‘Epic’. Rick Edwards off the TV and the film’s director, Toby Dye, introduced the film. The film started from a project called ‘My Live Story’ to uncover the best music experience. Members of the public were asked to go out and film an ‘experience’ at a live gig of their choice, then 21 finalists were chosen, and their pieces were featured in the film. If I’m totally honest the film was a bit of an anti-climax and it had undertones of corporate brand experience throughout. Unless I fell asleep for the majority of the film (which I didn’t) hardly any of the footage seemed to make the final cut of ‘Epic’. There were some great stories unearthed: one guy who proposed to his girlfriend onstage at Wembley Stadium, and another guy who hopped onstage and played drums for Paramore, but a very limited amount of this footage was in the film, which I found strange. I mean, the film looked great and was put together well; it just needed some more substance I thought. Once the film finished, DJ Ali B spun some tunes whilst the stage was set for Mark Ronson and his Business Intl.
After a few more glasses of ‘plonk’, it was time for Mark Ronson to hit the stage. The most exciting aspect of this gig for me was the expectation of top notch sound, being at Abbey Road and all! The band came onstage looking pensive, almost uncomfortable I thought. I put it down to the crowd maybe being smaller than they are used to playing to. All of Mark Ronson’s branding was in place and the stage looked pretty cool, although I did think at times it looked a bit like Dracula with his disciples of drummers.
Ronson opened with an instrumental track from the new album, ‘Record Collection’. I didn’t care so much for this rendition but it was a nice way to start the show. Next was the cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, which went down an absolute storm. Different to the earlier funked out, brass-influenced version Ronson used to perform, this had an altogether lo-fi and dancehall vibe to it. The drum sound was fantastic, and Abbey Road started to come to life.
Continue reading Live Review and Film: ‘My Life Story’ and Mark Ronson and the Business Intl at London Abbey Road – 25th November 2010
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 26th November 2010 at 11:00 am
So what’s on telly tonight, you’re asking? ‘Gavin and Stacey’ star and sometimes indie DJ Mat Horne stops in for a chat on tonight’s episode of MTV Gonzo. Remember his background as a comedian when he says, “I had to pester the Maccabees for 3 years straight for them to put me in their video”. Miles Kane, one-half of the Last Shadow Puppets but now solo, also comes by to discuss all things rock ‘n’ roll with Alexa. Two of the hottest and most buzzed about bands, Warpaint and Mona, are profiled.
We get a peek of the new video from Beady Eye – you know, that band that was Oasis once upon a time. And hang tight until the end of the programme, because Mystery Jets perform their awesome current single, ‘Show Me the Light’. Definitely don’t miss this episode of Gonzo.
Watch this week’s MTV Gonzo tonight at 7 pm on MTV Rocks, with a repeat at 9 pm on MTV.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 24th November 2010 at 2:00 pm
Words by Jason Thomas
Photos by Thomas Roundell Greene
So last Thursday I ventured into the cold London night, as We Are Scientists had invited me to a special showcase at Village Underground, in deepest darkest Shoreditch, East London. The gig was part of their ‘American Barbarians’ UK tour. My best mate Tom was given photography duties for the night, so you have him to thank for the snaps, though I was the one who got a sore arm filming a video of ‘Chick Lit’ (which, sadly, wasn’t up to our exacting standards for posting on TGTF). This was one of two We Are Scientists gigs of the evening. The latter, which I couldn’t obtain passes for, was a ‘Little Noise Session’ for Mencap at Union Chapel in Islington, with support from the Kooks and Example. Next time lads, next time!
Tonight’s gig at Village Underground was the band showing their support for UK charity Live Unltd International, an organisation built upon rewarding young entrepreneurs with funding for community based projects related to music, sport and the arts. The room was set with an automated rodeo bull, coconut shy, its own tin pan alley and a few scantily clad glamour girls. Come to think of it, where’s the pictures of them, Tom? That’s the problem with married photographers! I was originally expecting to review a ‘full’ live gig from ‘We Are Scientists’, but upon arrival I realised this was not the case; air drums sound and look pony by the way! Acoustic it is, to the bar then. After draining a couple of beers from the ‘one per industry bar’ (they really should keep better tabs on us) and devouring an enormous spit-roast pig sandwich, it was time for the band to take to the stage.
It’s always a nice treat to hear a band’s songs played acoustic, and the lads didn’t let the party down. All crowded around one microphone they rattled through past hits and new tunes alike for thirty minutes, to the delight of competition winners, charity founders and ‘beered up’ industry wigs alike. Highlight for me, and the stand-out tune of the night was ‘After Hours’ (“time means nothing”) probably one of the band’s best-known tracks to date. The band were their usual jovial selves and complimented the party atmosphere of the night well; jostling over the mic, ducking in and out for harmonies, narrowly avoiding a lonely shaker, which was only doing its job I hasten to add. I was surprised at how well the songs came across in this format, but hats off to the three of them, I really enjoyed the set.
The band were whisked off stage and on to their second gig of the night, and it was left to Nihal from Radio 1 to fill the arches beneath Shoreditch tube station with audible pleasures. After spending a few minutes mincing about to dubstep, we decided it was time to take our nigh on thirty frames back into the horizontal drizzle of the London streets, to reflect on the nights activities over a pint of Badger. And that’s when the inevitable happened; sitting in the pub garden we were accosted by a particularly rude and unsavoury character offering substances concocted by a totally different sort of scientist than the three we had just so recently witnessed….we knew we were in East London! We quickly left by the way, exactly the way we had come in.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 19th November 2010 at 11:00 am
On tonight’s episode of MTV Gonzo, Alexa welcomes a legendary rocker…and possible future legends. Slash, formerly of Guns ‘n’ Roses but now a successful solo artist in his own right, visits the Gonzo studio. We’re not sure what prompted the following quote – “it’s not about the lines I use on groupies, its the lines they have to use on me” – but this particular statement has certainly got me curious! Sleigh Bells, a noise pop duo from Brooklyn, New York, also make an appearance. No doubt you have heard their song ‘Infinity Guitars’ and been wowed by the instrumental cacophony. Judging by the blogosphere blowing up with nothing but kudos for this act, they very well could be on their way to becoming legendary. Continuing the electropop theme, London’s Is Tropical come in to introduce themselves.
The Drums, going on tour starting next Tuesday in London are featured in the Gonzo Video of the Week. And Oxford’s Foals give their commentary on a director’s cut of their new video for ‘Blue Blood’. Sounds like a good night to stay in and watch telly.
Watch this week’s MTV Gonzo tonight at 7 pm on MTV Rocks, with a repeat at 9 pm on MTV.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 16th November 2010 at 2:00 pm
Although I’ve attended many dances in the Black Cat Backstage space (capacity: 200 people) I’ve never actually seen a show there, because the times I was scheduled to see a band play on the downstairs stage, the gig had been upgraded to the upstairs (Brakes and the Twilight Sad, and Passion Pit, as two examples). I can definitely say after seeing the Joy Formidable play there Thursday night, it is indeed the place to see bands in Washington. They were one of the first bands we featured in our MP3 of the Day section, and I remember thinking, wow, they sound amazing on record. What are they like live? You will find out as you read on.
The Joy Formidable were preceded by two excellent support bands. The Dig was the first to go on, and you may recall me writing about before as they opened for Editors on their North American tour in February. Good ol’ American rock the way nature intended. I agreed with a new friend I met (a woman who has been following me around on the DC gig circuit, or possibly the other way around!) that the New York City quartet sounded much, much tighter at this appearance than the previous time I caught them.
They started with ‘Carry Me Home’, and their energy just built and built as their set progressed until they ended with ‘I Just Wanna Talk to You’, where guitarist David Baldwin and bassist Emile Mosseri duet in a snarly yet sexy fashion. ‘Already Gone’, a track we gave away in February, is an example of how great they are: Mosseri’s engaging lyrics, seriously good guitar riffs, wicked bass lines, atmospheric keys, awesome drumming. Note to A&R men: to be honest, I don’t know how they have not been discovered by a UK label yet.
GROUPLOVE was the second support act. While I hadn’t heard any of their music before this show, their having supported Two Door Cinema Club on their recent autumn North American tour was good enough as any endorsement to me. They sound vaguely surf pop, which may be attributed to band member Andrew Wessen being an actual professional surfer and guitarist; but interestingly, the harmonies and passion they display onstage make them far and away much better than most of the bands of that genre out there now. ‘Gold Coast’ featured industrial clanking that made it a more sultrier number than the more upbeat ones, but it provided an interesting contrast in song styles. The band members themselves jump around on stage for songs like ‘Colours’, so it’s clear they are having a ball, and you can’t help but smile watching them play and hearing their harmonies.
The Joy Formidable went on rather late, but I attribute this to their manager painstakingly anchoring down, with a massive roll of Gaffa tape, all the equipment wires onstage. This proved to be essential, as lead singer / guitarist Ritzy Bryan was all over the place during the set, shredding on her guitar like mad. As I was right up front I almost got my head taken off by her guitar’s neck a couple of times. (Not whinging at all. Just an observation.)
Really, all three of them – Bryan on guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on bass and Matt Thomas on drums – were giving us 500%, this had to be the most energetic performance I’ve ever seen in my life. At one point, Bryan looked overwhelmed by the audience response to their first appearance in our town (widespread, manic moshing); a female punter shouted, “you don’t understand. People never react to bands like this!” Bryan responded with a smile, “you mean it’s like London?” I laughed, thinking about what my friends have said about stoic London gigging crowds.
I’ll always remember Dafydd’s bass lines in ‘Austere’ and ‘Ostrich’, as it gave me such a buzz watching a master at work. Before launching into an exemplary rendition of ‘Whirring’ (ending with Thomas beating his drums so hard and Bryan looking like she was going to smash her guitar into her amp), Bryan said thank you and said they looked forward to playing for us again early next year when they have a full album to tour with. As a blog editor, I’m having to go through all my recollections of gigs throughout the year, trying to nail down what are the best gigs I’ve seen this year. As it’s mid-November, I’m almost positive that this Joy Formidable gig will be #1 on my list. I’m getting chills just thinking about the gig. No doubt I will definitely see them again when they grace Washington with their presence.
Continue reading Live Review: The Joy Formidable with the Dig and Grouplove at Black Cat Backstage, Washington DC – 11th November 2010
In all my years of going to gigs, I don’t think a live show has ever been more heavily recommended to me than Jónsi‘s. As his tour hit cities across America, my friends would come back and tell me how unbelievable it was, and many of them described it as life-changing. I’m delighted to say that the Sigur Rós frontman’s show, the second of two he played in the Nation’s Capital, more than lived up to my expectations. The music was both hauntingly beautiful and inspiringly imaginative. Combining his extraordinary music with gorgeous back-projections (courtesy of 59 Productions) and carefully choreographed lights, it truly was an all-enveloping feast for the senses.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First up, with a stage show that couldn’t be more different, was the trio Mountain Man. Where Jónsi’s set was sensory overload (in the best possible way), Mountain Man was just three women — Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath — stood on stage singing gorgeous, a capella 3-part harmony. If they were feeling fancy, they might even bring out an acoustic guitar. While incredibly simple, their sound is very unique. It is very folksy, but has touches of 1940s-style close vocal harmony. Think of Fleet Foxes mixed with the Puppini Sisters and you’ll get an idea of what I mean. They were well-suited for Jónsi’s audience, who stayed more silent during their songs than I think I’ve ever heard for an opener.
With so little to clear off the stage, the night moved swiftly along to Jónsi’s mind-blowing set. One of the best things about music, and indeed about art in general, is its ability to stir up emotions. In complete awe of the spectacle in front of me, I was at once moved close to tears and made so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling. In fact, days after the gig, I still can’t help getting a stupid grin on my face when I think about it. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than somebody using all of their creativity and talents to express their inner self, reveling in every quirk. And this is exactly what Jónsi does. You get the feeling he turns himself completely inside-out and bares his soul to the audience. Because of this, the gig felt very intimate, even though he rarely spoke to or interacted with the audience. He was mysterious, but not aloof.
Throughout, as on the album ‘Go,’ Jónsi’s characteristic falsetto soars over pounding drums, tinkling bells and strange sounds, expressing a sort of child-like wonder. This makes the costumes even more fitting, as they remind me of children playing dress up. He wore pinstriped pants with a patched, fringed shirt adorned with sequins and feathers. He even put on a feather headdress for the encore. When you combine all of this with the fog and lighting, you get the feeling you’ve walked into a forest glade and stumbled upon a group of woodland fairies — there is truly something magical about it all. If I had to say only one thing about Jónsi’s show, it would be that it’s beautiful — so much so that it makes me feel better about the world just knowing that there is something this beautiful in it. So I urge you to go out and experience the wonder of a Jónsi show for yourself — it’s not something to be missed.
Continue reading Live Review: Jónsi with Mountain Man at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 9th November 2010
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