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Deer Shed Festival 2018: Saturday Roundup

 
By on Monday, 6th August 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Most years at Deer Shed, it’s possible to detect a secret theme influencing the band selection. We’ve had lady bands, we’ve had Celtic, and following on from Leeds’ Mush yesterday, this year we have a plethora of Northern English bands: Yorkshire’s North and West, Wearside, and Tyneside are all represented. From this fact, combined with the utter off-the-scale brilliance of how Saturday would pan out, we can deduce that that region of the UK is producing some of the country’s, if not the world’s, finest bands.

An embryonic SLUG were at Deer Shed 2015, but this year sees Ian Black’s outfit demonstrating how far we’ve all come since then. His backing band aren’t Field Music any more, for instance, but rather a bunch of chaps dressed up as a barbershop quartet for some odd reason. They’re promoting second album ‘Higgledypiggledy’, which continues in the same obscurantist funk vein as their first. Ian Black is wearing a nun’s habit, making him a rather unlikely spectacle, but there’s nothing sacred about the sinful Devil’s music they’re knocking out. Oldies like ‘Cockeyed Rabbit’ and ‘Greasy Mind’ are now familiar sing-alongs, and when it all crescendos with a young chap plucked from the crowd to knock out a casual solo on Black’s guitar there’s the realisation that, rather than just an offshoot from the Sunderland scene, SLUG are rapidly redefining it.

SLUG-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Boy Azooga are the first of today’s brace of Heavenly signings and play the majority of their début ‘1, 2, Kung Fu!’ Main man Davey Newington is on bass, gazing zen-like from the stage, as his band alternately knock out laid-back melodies on ‘Jerry’, urgent riffs on ‘Loner Boogie’, and psych-tinged mellotron lines on ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’. Seemingly appearing from nowhere to be the band on everyone’s lips right this second, Welsh act Boy Azooga manage to be indefinable and familiar; retro yet of the zeitgeist; a melting pot, yet unique. Quite some achievement, and an astute booking.

Boy Azooga-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Remember that feeling you get when stuck in traffic? Even when there’s no particular deadline, the tension rises, tempers fray, radiators overheat. AK/DK arrive from Blue Dot Festival with literally no minutes to spare, and the ensuing breathtaking display of groove-led mentalism surely is thanks in no small part to the traffic-related adrenaline coursing through their systems.

AK/DK Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

‘Morphology’ is a song perfect for the moment: a driving synth line and keening, distorted samples, all pushed along by AK/DK’s double drum kit attack, creates a febrile atmosphere, the audience expressing their relief and release that the band finally made it. And they are repaid by banger after banger. There’s sweat everywhere, both on stage and off, the drums are whacked with ever increasing ferocity (there’s big chunks out of the edge of one of the cymbals), the analogue sequencer in the background ticks its clock-face LEDs in metronomic rhythm, an electronic heart propelling ecstatic human souls. Exhausting, exhilarating, exponential.

Let’s revisit 2013, shall we? A little corner of the internet (yes, it was us) was insistent that an obscure band of 15-year-olds from Halifax could well be the next big thing. How did we put it? “If they’re this good this young, how good will they be in a few years time?” Now we know the answer. The Orielles are extremely good indeed. There’s some shoegaze in their sound, maybe a bit of Sleeper in Esme Hand-Halford’s lazily-enunciated vocals, walls of chorused guitar, and little synthy details atop like hundreds and thousands. The songs are expertly arranged, the faux-naïve component parts slotting together to create weird yet accessible garage nuggets.

The Orielles-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

‘Old Stuff, New Glass’ is enhanced with bongos and yelps all over the place, ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’ opens with a Beatles-esque contrapuntal dance between keys and bass, continues into a pogoing off-beat middle section, and goes properly berserk towards the end of its eight eventful minutes. Henry Wade is growing into a proper guitar anti-hero in the vein of Graham Coxon, his on-stage persona is a masterclass in deadpan humour. It bears saying again: “If they’re this good this young, how good will they be in a few years time?”

Just when you think it’s safe to assume you’ve seen the performance of the day, along come Avalanche Party. Their own description is “feral garage-punk from the Yorkshire Moors”, which is a difficult description to disagree with, except inasmuch as it doesn’t really go far enough. If this is punk, it’s space-age, widescreen, conceptual, melodic punk. If it’s garage, this one is packed to the gills with cans of petrol with the lids off, a V8 motor rumbling in the corner, one discarded cigarette end away from catastrophe, the air heavy with the scent of fear.

Avalanche Party-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Recent single ‘I’m So Wet’ is a lazy, sexy groove, something Serge Gainsbourg might fantasise about, before running away in terror at the multi-layered screaming crescendo. ‘Solid Gold’ just kicks off and never lets up the pressure for a second. The climax of ‘Revolution’ is a triumph of four-to-the-floor heavy riffing, bare-chested Jordan Bell screaming as if his life depended on it. Like the ritual sacrifice of a lamb atop a heather-strewn heath, Avalanche Party are raw, visceral, glamorous, dangerous, sweaty, bloody and unforgettable.

Phew. Like the best underground scenester venue, Deer Shed has just treated us to a masterclass in superlative new music: five brilliant acts hot off the press, the world at their feet. Things have to calm down at some point, and it takes the folky, downtempo acoustica of This Is The Kit to do so. Warm Digits (below) are the second brilliant electronica band of the day, and with the appearance of Field Music’s Peter Brewis are a great example of what beauty happens when Newcastle and Sunderland put aside their rivalries for just a little while.

Warm Digits-Deer Shed 2018 Saturday

Gaz Coombes (below) is his usual superb self, retro and zeitgeist wrapped into one man, and Goldfrapp were the big name with the big show. Some controversial souls found themselves preferring another dose of Hyde Park Brass. Truth be told, for this reviewer the undercard had completely walloped the headliners into semi-irrelevance. What a Saturday.

SLUG-Deer Shed 2018 01 Saturday-2190

 

Live Review: Us Vs. Them curated by Field Music at Leeds Brudenell Social Club – 2nd December 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 6th December 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds is one of those mythical places that you have likely heard of due to its connection to Wakefield’s finest the Cribs. But unless you live in Yorkshire and/or have attended Live at Leeds over the years, you’ve probably never visited the place. That’s the boat I was in until last Saturday, when for a second year running the venue, in coordination with Futuresound Events, put on a Us Vs. Them festival showcase curated by the most prolific musicians of the North East, Field Music. (Last year’s was curated by Welsh band Los Campesinos!) TGTF have been long-time supporters of the Brewises and since it so happened I was in the vicinity of Leeds (er, sort of…it’s a long story, ha) and the lineup was indeed pretty amazing, I thought it was my editor duty to stop in.

The Cornshed Sisters (Tyne and Wear)
They’re folky, they’re poppy and they have connections to Field Music, which make them a convenient addition to this evening’s bill. The ukulele-playing Jennie Brewis is Peter Brewis’ wife, and Liz Corney plays keyboards and sings backup in Field Music. As you might expect for women from the North East, they are women with minds of their own and they have wit, judging from jokes about their live drummer Ian Black, who fronts his own band SLUG (keep on reading this review), and a dinosaur. I won’t spoil the latter for you, you can ask them yourselves when you see them live; it’s toilet humour, but remarkably high-brow toilet humour.

The Cornshed Sisters Us vs Them 2

Anyway, right, back to the music. I arrived at the Community Room after they’d already begun, a crowd listening to them in rapt attention. Their second album ‘Honey and Tar’, was released in early November, and is filled with catchy tunes and important meaning. ‘Jobs for the Boys’ was introduced as “one of the misogynists”; its peerless four-part harmonies superbly infectious for reasonably weight subject matter. The mostly a cappella ‘Sunday Best / Small Spaces’ is a welcome treat, its second half led by Jennie Brewis conveying something so simple – being in close confines with a loved one – beautifully. It always feels odd to me to hear Americana folk somewhere outside of my country, but the Cornshed Sisters do it so well.

SLUG (Sunderland)
Inside one Mr. Ian Black of Sunderland lives a truly depraved mind. Who else would come up with a song entitled ‘Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped in Plastic’? But let’s leave that gem for a moment. The far more important thing to note about Black and his band is their commitment to rock, rocking out and doing so in a way that is off the wall mad. And it’s absolutely brilliant. Whether it had to do with him throwing off his glasses and running to the Main Stage like the crazy ginger he is, or if he was just having a bad night, guitar problems delayed SLUG’s set.

SLUG Us vs Them 1

In exchange for the delay, his drummer played a pretty rad solo with funny interjections about the location of the cowbell in his kit while Black was stuck trying to tune several different guitars. When the boho-looking band finally got started, a good chunk of their playing time had already evaporated, leaving the group to play out their set with‘Cockeyed Rabbit…’ and the sleazy, percussion-driven ‘Greasy Mind’ and ‘Running to Get Past Your Heart’. (Seriously, how has a SLUG song *not* managed to appear on a Wes Anderson film yet?) The best I can do is to describe them as a certain sweet convergence of pomposity, squealing guitars and buzzy percussion. If you know anything about Field Music and their North East friends, they are unpredictable and don’t do anything linearly. And just as I saw at The Great Escape 2015, SLUG’s music is always fantastic.

Emma Pollock (Glasgow)

Emma Pollock Us vs Them 2

Ex-Delgados Emma Pollock has a funny story about being invited to perform at this festival. She explained she herself had curated an event to celebrate Kate Bush and that the Brewis brothers attended the event when it was being put on in Glasgow this past spring. Great minds and all that, eh? Performing only with her voice and guitar and accompanied by a keyboardist, her performance was a stark contrast to the boisterousness of the Cornshed Sisters earlier. Lights of red and blue swathed Pollock in an eerie glow, her voice strong, yet haunting, providing the most wintry-feeling set I saw all night.

C Duncan (Glasgow)
A month prior to this, I saw C Duncan open as a one-man act for Elbow at the 9:30 Club and was already wowed with what he could do solo. Here, finally, was my big chance to see Chris Duncan with a full band. As you might expect, the bigger setup leads to a far more robust and exciting sound than is achievable with a one-man band, even with a laptop and synths available at a touch of a button.

C Duncan Us vs Them 1

This is probably most obvious with the joining of three male voices in perfect harmonies on ‘Say’ and ‘Like You Do’. While an appreciation of choral music is of course not a prerequisite to liking C Duncan’s music, having witnessed evensong the evening before at York Minster was a good reminder of Duncan’s achievements recording and tweaking versions of his own voice for an ethereal choir sound on record, as well as organizing the live performance of his music. The innocent, dreamlike qualities of ‘Do I Hear’ from his second album ‘The Midnight Sun’ come through on the oozy, woozy lyrics, as Duncan waxes philosophical on the early halcyon days of a relationship. Ever fallen in love? This song, like many of C Duncan’s orchestrations, makes your heart swell. It’s wonderful to be invited into this special world, with a sweeping grandeur you can be a part of. It makes me want to stretch my arms out and throw them around, er…Paris?

Warm Digits (Newcastle)
Time for something heart pumping and in a different way. North East duo Warm Digits, fine purveyors of wonky dance beats, with the guest vocals of such luminaries at Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell on ‘Growth of Raindrops’ and Field Music themselves. They were exactly what the doctor ordered on a chilly night in Leeds, turning the Community Room at the Brudenell into a Berlin discotheque. By the time I arrived, the room was packed and I wasn’t going to push my way to the front. People weren’t exactly bumping and grinding to their music at the back; more heads appeared to be craning to see the projections of cartoony images and splashy big words in bold colours behind the pair. Hopefully there was more actual action down the front?

Dutch Uncles (Manchester via Marple)

Dutch Uncles Us vs Them 1

Now on to the prolific group from the other side of the Pennines, Dutch Uncles. Songwriter Robin Richards just keeps going like the Energizer Bunny, having scored a documentary on the Chernobyl disaster-ravaged city of Pripyat last year and spent time in Caernarfon, Wales in an artist residency there. The band themselves released their fifth album early this year, ‘Big Balloon’, so they’ve got plenty to pick and choose from in their back catalogue. The bubblegummy ‘Oh Yeah’ might suggest this LP is their most accessible yet.

But not to worry, there are still plenty of weird time signatures and bops in all directions on ‘Hiccup’, impressively aggressive live. They pulled out the frenetic ‘Flexxin’ from 2011’s ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’, and it sounded as good as it did way back then. The Main Stage floor was packed out again, no doubt by people who had seen Dutch Uncles loads of times before and were eating up Duncan Wallis’ amusing stage patter and what appeared to be drummer Andy Proudfoot’s smashing impromptu rendition of Semisonic’s ‘Secret Smile’. Something tells me a good number of these folks saw them at Leeds Town Hall at Live at Leeds 2015 (I didn’t; you can thank the Cribs for that).

To conclude…
Annoyingly, in order to catch a train and to rest a wonky, swollen foot that I must have twisted the day before in York, I entirely missed Field Music’s own set. The one comfort I have, and you should have too, if you were not present Saturday night, is that the band from Sunderland have UK tour dates in March and May 2018, so you’ve got your chance in the new year. In case you have been living under a rock, they recently revealed ‘Count It Up’, the first taster to seventh album ‘Open Here’ due out the 9th of February 2018 on Memphis Industries, and you can bop your head to the highly political, supposedly ‘Material Girl’-inspired track below.

All in all, who I did manage to see at the Field Music-curated Us vs. Them in Leeds were great, excellently showcasing some of the best acts, new and old, from the North of England and Scotland. I hope the Brudenell and Futuresound Events continue this annual tradition. Really, who better is there to put together a festival but musicians who actively listen to other musicians and can choose prudently a lineup that their own fans would love to see? For more photos from the festival, visit my Flicker.

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 3 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Friday, 22nd May 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Saturday at the Great Escape 2015, and the final homestretch is in sight. If you haven’t felt broken already, you probably will have woken up the last day with a sore head and wondering why you have put your body through this again for another year. This year at both stages of the Komedia, the festival offered up something new called Great Day Out, for which you could buy tickets for the two matinee lineups outside of the actual Great Escape. I guess it was an option for those only coming into Brighton for the day and wanting a slice (a very small one) just to get a taste of what the festival had to offer.

As laudable this idea was, it was a small nightmare for the door staff to cope with. The kind bouncer I chatted with actually apologised for the situation, explaining that because tickets were being sold for the event taking place in the two performance spaces, they had to limit the count of people inside more than they might normally do. He had the unenviable task of asking everyone in the badge queue who they had intended to see inside. Unfortunately for one very hung over person in our queue, he had no idea what he was queueing for, grabbing his programme from his back pocket and frantically checking who was actually on inside. Oops. When it came my turn, I was prepared. My answer was short and sweet. “Get Inuit.” After promising I was only going to stay in there for them, I was finally let in, albeit mid-set, after stepping into the main room for a bit to see how 2011 Great Escape TGTF stage alum K. Flay was getting on. The crowd were loving her. Good.

Get Inuit @ Komedia Studio Bar (Great Day Out)

Apparently the Pav Tav has a bad reputation among bands for their not so great soundsystem. So after seeing Get Inuit there the night before, I wanted to give them another try in a supposedly aurally better location. Interestingly, I didn’t hear much difference between the two shows, except maybe that the band felt even less inhibited by the situation than they had playing in a pub, the Komedia Studio Bar being a more intimate, lower-ceilinged place.

Get Inuit at the Great Escape 2015

Diving headfirst into a series of tunes that seem incredibly tight for a band that as only just released their first EP this year, their confidence shone through, and compared to the night before at the Pav Tav, it was the music that was front and centre and wildly, crazily enjoyable and not necessarily frontman Jamie Glass’ sometimes groan-worthy stage patter (sorry, Jamie). The punishing rock of ‘I Would’ was peerless, and despite its verbose, ominous title, ‘Coping with Death in a Nutshell’ has an awesomely melodic guitar I still have in my head to this day. Amusingly, a middle-aged American man came up to the band after, exclaiming, “you’re like the love child of Nirvana and Weezer!” I just stepped back and laughed. Huh, really? I don’t hear that at all. But if it leads to a record deal (as I assume it will) then I am all for it.

SLUG @ Dome Studio Theatre (Generator)

Our North East friends at the incredibly supportive to the UK music industry Generator were putting on an afternoon showcase at the Brighton Dome Theatre, and I for one was not going to miss it. Jagaara, whose set I’d seen the tail end of at Live at Leeds 2015, went over extremely well with the punters. But I was here for something…a bit off-kilter. I have always been amazed by the inventiveness and indeed the heart of the music coming out of Sunderland, especially anything touched by brothers David and Peter Brewis, whether it be Field Music, either of their solo projects, and anything in between. Both brothers and other local musicians Andrew Lowther and Rhys Patterson are part of the live backing band of gastropod-named SLUG, aka the project of Sunderland’s Ian Black.

SLUG at the Great Escape 2015

You know you’re in for something special when the frontman of a band appears onstage looking all formal in a suit and a white bowtie, as if he should be performing in front of a philharmonic, not in a venue at the Great Escape 2015. He’s also ginger, so the look goes a long way of softening any thoughts that you’re in for a hard rock onslaught by a real live Viking. That would be boring though. And entirely inappropriate for creative Mackems. A quick read down the tracklisting for Black’s debut album with Memphis Industries released in mid-April, ‘RIPE’, makes it clear this is music that couldn’t be further from the mainstream (‘Grimacing Mask’, ‘Kill Your Darlings’ and ‘Shake Your Loose Teeth’ are especially of note).

The percussive funk of LP standout track ‘Greasy Mind’ is inescapably catchy, while the almost down and dirty ‘Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped in Plastic’, with the falsettos by Black and his onstage compadres is another earworm that won’t be denied. The live performance, with tambourine, bongos, melodica and empty beer bottles (to be hit, naturally) augmenting the more usual rock band elements, was also hugely entertaining, with Black’s backing band all dressed in black turtlenecks and jeans, like they were a bunch of bohemians flown in from France. My guess that there were either large numbers of exiled North Easters and/or massive fans of SLUG in attendance at the Generator showcase, as the applause and whoops of delight at 3 in the afternoon for the band were as enthusiastic as one might expect for a dance band at midnight at the Great Escape. In any event, the SLUG performance was stunningly brilliant.

Orla Gartland @ Brighthelm Centre (Amazon Student UK)

Having seen Slaves in a sweaty, hilarious show at Coalition Friday night, I needed not to queue up with everyone else for the NME evening showcase at the Corn Exchange for the Kent punks but was now free to do as I pleased. And what would please me more than see one of the brightest stars of young Ireland I had the pleasure of seeing twice at SXSW 2015. Orla Gartland opened the Amazon Student UK show as the Brighthelm Centre, wearing what I think must be her lucky dress, a cute black and white number I recognised from Austin. I can’t imagine this spunky young lady ever being mad or angry. All three times I’ve seen her play now, she’s been this irrepressible ball of energy, like a ginger bolt of sunshine in human form and exactly the boost I needed after what felt like a very long Saturday that was making feel like I was going to cry.

Orla Gartland at the Great Escape 2015

Several punters down the front had trained their cameras on the young Gartland. For the entire show. Then they grabbed her set lists off the stage before I could even blink. Your time has come, Orla. Fanboys are a sure sign of success. Me, I was content snapping a couple of photos but I really just wanted to enjoy the show. Beginning with ‘Souvenirs’, Gartland breezed through an all too short set of her pop gems and as in Austin, she peppered the time with her audience with short stories that made her laugh and indeed, reminded us that she’s a normal young woman…except she leaves her friends’ house parties early when she’s come up with an idea for a new song. Needs must, eh? To close our her set, she played ‘Lonely People’, which has gone massive on Hype Machine, having over 300K plays on Spotify since it was released earlier this year. Positivity begets positivity. And Orla Gartland has nowhere to go but up.

Houdini Dax @ Mesmerist (Alternative Escape / This is Now Agency)

Houdini Dax are a Welsh band I have seen on many a festival list we’ve attended but somehow I never managed to fit them into a schedule (I recall one Liverpool Sound City where I had them written down, but I ended up missing them, not able to arrive in time at the venue). Saturday night in Brighton, I finally got my chance at the This is Now Agency showcase at the Mesmerist, familiar to me as being the locale for past Blog Up get-togethers. I don’t know if the place has been gentrified or what, but I don’t remember people being in line to get bespoke cocktails. The mojito doesn’t sound like something that should be native to Brighton.

After I had settled in at the bar with a Kiwi cider, Houdini Dax started up with their assault on our ears. I totally get now why I was never able to see this band before. I wasn’t ready. Until now. I don’t think I would have appreciated them 2, 3 years ago. You can tell the Cardiff trio’s roots are based in classic guitar bands like the Beatles, which is always a good start, because a good handle on the basics and being able to write a song that is catchy and being memorable are important keys to being successful in this business. But when you listen to them, as the guitar squeals and the bass and drums thump on a track like ‘Good Old Fashioned Maniac’, there it is, the heart and soul of a band who are in it for the right reasons. It is bands like Houdini Dax that make me want to keep going with what I’m doing. Older song ‘Our Boy Billy’ shows the group’s darker, bluesier side and their adeptness for playing in spades.

Houdini Dax at the Great Escape 2015

I’ve read that they’ve been playing together since they were in school, and that tightness as a unit shows when they play live. Even though I didn’t know the songs before I came into the room, I left with the definite feeling that I want to keep an eye on these lads because they’re entertaining live and they’re good songwriters. The band suffered a major setback back in March when their parked van was broken into in Manchester and all their gear was stolen. (Thanks to a grant by the Arts Council of Wales and Horizons / Gorwelion, they were given money to buy a new van. Yay, art councils!) But you’d never have even known anything had happened by the way they attacked their instruments Saturday night. If you have a heart and want to support a band worth supporting, donate what you can to their stolen gear fund here on GoFundMe.

Hold your horses, part 2 of my Saturday coverage of the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.

 
 
 

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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. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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