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Kendal Calling 2016 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 10th August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

In the process of researching for this review (by which I mean spending lots of time in various sunny fields listening to a lot of excellent music and chatting to a lot of talented people), I found myself face-to-face with Andy Smith, a founder of and head honcho at Kendal Calling. Considering the number of priceless moments his event has provided me with over the years – countless superb bands seen; friends, belongings, and marbles found, lost, and then found again; memorable impromptu jams and karaoke sessions – one would hope to do better in summing the whole deal up with a blokey “Cool festival, man.”

So, here is my homage to Kendal Calling, and considering I have more time to prepare it, I shall attempt to be more fulsome than the above. 2016 was the safest, most grown up version of Kendal Calling yet, and though there is plenty I miss about what was subtly different to previous years, all things considered this was the best installment yet. Apart from a shower early on the Thursday, the sun shone consistently throughout the weekend, which makes an enormous difference to one’s perception and enjoyment of a festival. Speaking of Thursday, I can remember when the evening’s entertainment for those hardy souls who volunteered for a pre-festival night’s camping was a bonfire and vintage clothing stall. Not so of late, and it fell to The Charlatans to close the main stage on Thursday. Surely one of the most well-known bands in Britain, the survivors of the baggy scene do make a delightful, funky racket, and if familiarity has dampened their ability to seem truly special, their sheer exuberance, not to mention liberal applications of Hammond organ, always makes them a compelling watch.

There’s more to Thursday night than the main stage anyway. After hours, the Chai Wallahs tent takes the strain of thousands of people looking to start their weekend with a bang. I’d managed to misplace the new campsite friends I’d only known a few hours, leaving them to buy beer only to realise that it’s impossible to find anyone again at Kendal if you’re actually looking for them. Best to go with the flow, meet people who fate wants you to meet, and take it from there. I remember speaking to a couple of guys who’d come up from Brighton, pretty much the farthest distance it’s possible to travel from on the mainland, and proof of Kendal’s nationwide reach. In true get-it-out-of-your-system style, late Thursday evening was spent mooching around various camps, joining in impromptu singalongs, mostly of songs written by a certain Mr Gallagher

Kendal Calling 2016 - Too Many Ts-7915

None of which shenanigans prevents a large crowd gathering first thing in the afternoon for the lively flow of Too Many T’s. I’m personally not sure where these guys have sprung from all of a sudden, but they seem to be all over the place, with a brand of witty hip-pop that’s perfect for an afternoon at a festival. They’ve got a lot of decent tunes that don’t seem to have appeared on record yet. Come on lads, you could have some hits on your hands!

Kendal Calling 2016 - The Big Moon-7964

One of the enormous pleasures of Kendal Calling is the undercard in the Calling Out tent, or what should actually be called the New Favourite Bands tent. The Big Moon are four girls from London who make a brilliant racket, perfectly poised between sweetly innocent melodies and flip-the-bird punkiness. There’s such hooks here that even on the first listen to something like ‘Cupid’, it’s impossible not to sing along in raucous joy. Brilliant stuff. And so to our first band of the day that have actually released an album. Hooton Tennis Club betray their Merseyside origins with lazy yet rock-steady beats, some lovely discordant guitar work and jaunty lyrics. Like early Blur crossed with the Lemonheads. And they’ve got an amazingly enthusiastic bass player. Who doesn’t want that?

Kendal Calling 2016 - Hooton Tennis Club-8024

Manchester’s Gideon Conn was a highlight of my festival last year, and he’s back this with a longer set, except he doesn’t seem to know he’s actually got a full hour to showcase his delicately funky looped observational pieces, so his set climaxes about 15 minutes too early. No matter, because all the ingredients are still present and correct. His wordplay is second to none, and despite the sparse arrangements (keyboard, guitar, occasionally at the same time) he really can get a crowd going. Particularly when he ventures over the barrier and sings amongst the crowd. This year he ended up on someone’s shoulders in a particularly wobbly-looking shoulder lift. At least some random out of the crowd didn’t get hold of the microphone again. Despite the confusion there’s still nothing quite like a Gideon Conn set. Or Gideon Conn, for that matter – one is quite enough for this world.

Kendal Calling 2016 - Gideon Conn-8031

Catfish and the Bottlemen are astonishingly popular. I was told countless times by people that they’d bought tickets simply on the strength of their appearance. Van McCann’s words from my chat with him at Kendal a couple of years ago were still ringing in my ears: “I want to be bigger than Oasis.” Well, second on the bill here when Noel himself is headlining (a different day, but still) means that he’s still on the perfect trajectory to achieve his dream. It is difficult to objectively understand exactly what it is that Catfish do that countless bands that have gone before haven’t managed. Perhaps it simply comes down to the charisma of the frontman, because despite how well the songs work on a stage and with a crowd as big as they were blessed with here, what they’re peddling really isn’t anything new. But fair play to them – what next? Breaking America? [Something Oasis never did, did they? – Ed.]

Kendal Calling 2016 - Catfish 2-7290050

Rudimental put on a good show. They’re a big dance band, totally professional, and remind me of Basement Jaxx‘s set on the Friday a couple of years ago. It’s really what the first night of a festival needs: big beats, big tunes, more of which you recognise than you might think, and a really good show. So you wouldn’t think it’s possible for an act to follow that? Step forward the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble, led by violinist Joe Broughton. Who, if they haven’t got the prize for the most number of folk musicians on a single stage, really do deserve an honourable mention. A performance of the most remarkable power, primarily down to the sober dedication of the players – faced with a midnight crowd of hyped-up revellers, no mean feat. Their repertoire is varied, but it’s when they really let rip that their true power is unveiled. Bows fly unhinged across strings, a cajon is thwacked within an inch of its life, even the harp player throws a few shapes. There are even a couple of electric guitarists hidden in the middle somewhere, completely disguised by the swarm of instruments around them. This is traditional folk given an enormous shot in the arm. Exactly what it needs. A truly remarkable experience.

Kendal Calling 2016 - Conservertoire Folk Ensemble-7290060

 

LeeFest Presents: The Neverland 2016 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 5th August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

When you think of Neverland, you consider the following synonymous: timelessness, youthful vigour and a certain transcendence. In the middle of a forest in Kent, near Edenbridge, Neverland became a reality through the help of Lee and his homegrown festival Leefest 2016. Though the weather was not quite ideal upon first landing, it was far from an issue. The moment you wandered into the main arena, it was clear the only thing that would stop a good time being had would be those adult thoughts that should’ve been, at this point, relegated to the outside world. Neverland’s sole purpose over these 3 days was to be a vehicle for your removal from society and instead to provide you a good time.

Split into three main sections, The Neverwoods (main arena), Mermaids Lagoon (rave central) and Skull Ridge (rock city), you were never far from some form of entertainment. The introductory day, Thursday, saw the smallest of the lineup but definitely the strongest. With only Tootles Circus, your average festival tent, operating as a stage, all four acts were nice and accessible. Peluche and Loyle Carner eased the gaining crowd in, but it was the main attractions of Everything Everything and Ghostpoet (pictured at top) who garnered in the big numbers. With Everything Everything, they perfectly stoked the crowd’s fire and brought their unique blend of rapturous choruses and genre bending music. Conversely, Ghostpoet gave the tent a dark atmosphere with his blend of hip-hop-cum-rock-assault.

Friday brought forth the first full day affair, with Peluche once again kicking proceedings off, but this time on the main stage, aka the ‘Bangerang’ stage. The overall setup of the main arena was easily navigated but with the two stages being centrally located, sound spill was inevitable. Fortunately this didn’t happen frequently, though it’s a dangerous game to play. Highlights from the second day included Corey Fox-Fardell and his brand of songwriter electro melding, which was a particularly pleasant listen whilst grazing in front of the Bangerang stage. Little Simz proved why she is one to watch in the UK hip-hop game, leading the enthusiastic crowd through numerous chants as she dominated the beats surrounding her. In a similar fashion, Roots Manuva brought domineering and commanding beats that just reinforced the entire notion behind LeeFest: you can be who you want, and listen to what you want, as long as you have a good time. Rockers, hip-hoppers and the like were all moving and shaking to the sounds that flowed from the Bangerang stage.

Current London-based pop troubadour Oscar provided his blend of melodic darling instrumentation and baritone vocals. One thing’s for sure, you can’t not have a good time at an Oscar show, no matter the crowd size or venue. Dinosaur Pile-Up sat on top of the kingdom of chaos and noise after a headlining set at the Hook Rock stage in the Skull Ridge. It’s was a venue reminiscent of small clubs, where the noise cascades from all orifices and you’re able to lose yourself in the darkness amongst your other perspiring peers. Barrelling through their grunge/punk hybrid hits, the volume was overbearing at the front. We recommend you watch from a safe distance if you’re stupid enough to forget ear protection (a particular note to self).

The final day started off in stereotypical British style, with grey clouds and intermittent rain, but this didn’t affect the atmosphere. Hannah Lou Clark was a particular highlight: sans band, she used both her pure talents and an iPod to create a wonderfully relaxed and charming environment. Everybody’s favourite indie twosome We Are Scientists provided a particularly raucous set that included singer Keith Murray venturing deep into the crowd during ‘Textbook’, where he proceeded to enlist the help of a particularly fluorescent orange Poseidon who was amongst the crowd. Following these shenanigans was current electro-indie darling Shura, having released her debut album ‘Nothing’s Real’ in July. Delivering a captivating set that never failed to both strike you emotively and melodically, the biggest draw of Shura live is the fact she is clearly there because of the sheer love and devotion for her art. She knows what she likes to dance to and fortunately, we do too.

Originally announced to take place on the Thursday, after a mishap with the programs and the cat being let out of the bag early, the not-so-secret secret set from Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes Saturday evening was the perfect climax to this weekend of escapism and release. The pure fury that comes with any Frank Carter show is cathartic enough to make sure you leave with a weightlessness, one that can only be achieved by taking part in both a circle pit and storming the stage, two things this fortunate writer was seen doing.

After all is said and done, the aforementioned sole purpose of LeeFest was achieved. With pirates and lost boys running around shooting each other with water pistols and climbing aboard the decorative dens around the stages, it was impossible to not get lost in the affair. A festival that catered to both families and those of all ages looking to simply cut loose, the promise this event holds is even grander than its current fasthon. Considering this was Leefest’s largest year yet, the sky’s the limit. And with the lead lost boy at the helm, LeeFest could very well be a major player for years to come.

 

Live Gig Video: Titus Andronicus share full concert film of live album ‘S+@DIUM ROCK: FIVE NIGHTS AT THE OPERA’

 
By on Thursday, 4th August 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

A year and a week ago, New Jersey rockers Titus Andronicus played a 5-night series of sold out shows at the iconic Brooklyn venue Shea Stadium. The live album taken from recordings from the gig series have now been released on Merge Records as ‘S+@DIUM ROCK: FIVE NIGHTS AT THE OPERA’. To celebrate this momentous release and to provide video accompaniment to the audio experience, the band have also released a full concert film with footage taken from these shows. The live experience has been dutifully “captured in such vivid detail” so that “devotees can relive their favourite concert memories from the comfort of their own homes.” Makes sense to me. Enjoy the full film below. For more on Titus Andronicus on TGTF, right this way, ladies and gents.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owfVuC56iPE[/youtube]

 

Live Gig Videos: Heyrocco play ‘It’s Always Something New’ and ‘Yeah’ at a South Carolinan bar

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd August 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

Hey man! Heyrocco is an American trio from South Carolina who might sound familiar to you, especially if you’re a regular reader of our live reviews here. I saw them last year, supporting Philadelphia’s Cold Fronts. They were quite memorable. I mean, how can you forget a band whose frontman is dressed up in a hot dog suit?

The band have an EP out now, ‘Waiting for Cool’, described on the press release as “a collection of 6 Weezer-when-they’re-on-form like alt-rock numbers”. Piqued your interest yet? ‘Yeah’ is a track from the new EP, and the trio – simply known as Nate, Cool and Taco – have recorded video of them performing the track, filmed at a popular neighbourhood haunt in downtown Charleston called The Royal American. Also included below is a live recording from ‘It’s Always Something New’ from the same live session. Enjoy both below. The ‘Waiting for Cool’ EP from Heyrocco is out now from Vital Music Group in the UK and Europe and Dine Alone Records in the rest of the world.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxRQinSUJAo[/youtube]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgNJPO8p4pk[/youtube]

 

Deer Shed Festival 2016 Review (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Go here to start at the beginning of Martin’s review of Deer Shed 2016.


Anna Calvi Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

I mentioned in my Deer Shed preview that this year there were a notable number of female performers, and Anna Calvi‘s set completed my Saturday triumvirate. Hers is an intense sound: led by dominating Telecaster work and architectural voice, Calvi is a true guitar hero to both girls and boys alike. Speaking of which, Richard Hawley can play a note or two as well. His was a proper headlining performance, bringing out one vintage guitar after another: Gibson ES-335, gold top Les Paul with Bigsby and a stunning, enormous green Gretsch. This was near enough the perfect headlining performance, reminiscent of Johnny Marr‘s similarly triumphant show a couple of years before. Hawley has meandered through a number of styles over his long solo career, including pastoral acoustica, but tonight he was doing what he’s best at: being a guitar hero. It’s easy to forget that before becoming a frontman Hawley was primarily a guitarist, and all his impressive chops were on display tonight. His songs are epic, powerful things, dominated by his sublime guitar work, and solos that take one on a journey into the cosmos. As the centrepiece of the festival, there couldn’t have been a better choice.


Richard Hawley Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

As for the kids, they had an absolute blast. The science tent was where it was at for the 4-and-a-half year old, making a flying buggy from some plastic Meccano, learning how to plant seeds, making his own pin badge, and – a better father-and-son activity it’s difficult to imagine – ripping apart the innards of a defunct laser printer with side-cutters and pliers. “This is a circuit board, those are capacitors… now destroy it with tools!” The theme this year was movies, so there were plenty of themed activities for the older ones to have a crack at, including making your own film set from a cardboard box and lolly sticks, and being tutored on how to make Gromit out of plasticine by Aardman Animations themselves. The activities are too numerous to list here, as the list of delights goes on and on. The mechanoid that filled its wader boots with air and let it out through a car horn was a particular hit. A new addition for 2016 was the sports field in front of Baldersby’s manor house: something for everyone, including proper football, a brilliant slacklining course, various yoga and keep-fit activities and a dedicated skate park. Yes, a dedicated skate park. Is there anything they haven’t thought of?


Martin's son at Deer Shed 2016

The beauty of Deer Shed is that, even though some of the kids activities are familiar year-on-year, as one’s kids grow up, they prefer to do different stuff every time. The festival grows up with the kids, an annual treat that they wouldn’t miss for the world. And Deer Shed did seem to grow up this year – there were more random sideshows and “happenings” than ever before. The Leeds Brass Band were a particular highlight, marching through the arena with gusto, occasionally stopping for a quick blast of ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This’, as an impromptu, grooving crowd gathered underneath the sunny skies.

On Sunday, Beth Orton was unlucky enough to play the only rain-sodden set of the day, the damp conditions hampering what would otherwise have been a collection of wonderfully chilled-out songs, ranging from 20-year-old classics to new ones from her latest release ‘Kidsticks’. But really, Sunday belonged to the final performance of the entire festival from Holy Moly and the Crackers. As befits a closing set, theirs was a raucous, whisky-sodden blast through their sea shanty-inspired gypsy-folk tunes, frontman Conrad the perfect mischievous ringleader. The tent was jumping from the first moment to the last, their expanded band thrashing out a cacophony of off-beat rhythms and trombone blasts. Wherever there’s Holy Moly, a party can’t be far away. And that was it. Ears ringing, we set off to collapse a damp tent, with perhaps one or two tear-dampened eyes to go along with it.

Well done, Deer Shed. I was a bit harsh about 2015, but this year was the best yet, by a considerable margin. The music policy, always good, got the headliners right (big indie band Friday, a proper legend Saturday), and the undercard was a delight to behold. There’s loads I haven’t mentioned, including the eclectic Big Top lineup, as well as some excellent comedy, but, as they say, there’s not the space to tell it all. All I can add is, if you’ve got kids and you love music, come to Deer Shed and find out what goes on there – I challenge you not to be surprised and delighted. Or else I’ll come round to your house and do the washing up for a year. In 2016, Deer Shed Festival was back. With a capital bang.

 

Deer Shed Festival 2016 Review (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 1st August 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Right. Let’s get something straight right from the start. Deer Shed 2016 was essentially perfect: a wondrous box of delights for young, middle and old alike. Whilst the event has evolved over the years, if someone said, “Freeze. This is perfect. Don’t change anything,” I doubt there would be any complaints. The camping is spacious and quiet. The toilets are clean and useable. The food is utterly delicious. The bar is well-run and well-stocked (some of us still mourn the loss of Ilkley’s Mary Jane, however). The crowds are beautiful and well-behaved… well, at least the kids are. Oh, and someone must have paid the weather bill because the sun shone nearly all the time.

And so we come to the entertainment. Deer Shed is effectively two festivals in one – a box of delightful activities for kids – stuff so unique that they only get to do it here – and a proper music festival for grown ups. We’ll come to the kids’ stuff in due course, but let’s consider the music first. If you think a festival that welcomes so many children just tags on a few bands to keep the adults half-amused, then think again. I don’t know how they do it, but Deer Shed’s music lineup is second to none. A festival of any size would be proud to come up with such a fresh, forward-looking bill. For a modest spot of land in the North Yorkshire countryside, it’s nothing less than a triumph.

Eagulls Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

By the very nature of Deer Shed, one often has a youngster tugging at one’s sleeve, wanting to go and jump around outside the bubble stall for the hundredth time. The list of missed bands gets longer and longer, but that just makes one even more appreciative of the music one does manage to see. First up for me were Leeds’ Eagulls, whose sound is the natural result of owning several Squier guitars, a floor full of reverb pedals and a record collection largely consisting of the Cure’s more introspective records. I’m not exactly sure what the frontman’s on about, and the whole shebang is based on some purposely obtuse chord progressions. But when it all comes together they create an urgent wash of heady nu gaze that urges you to close your eyes and get swept away.


Eagulls Deer Shed 2016 2 / photo by Martin Sharman

Friday night headliners Everything Everything have made the inevitable, if not a little unsettling, transformation from regular indie band to some sort of futuristic gospel praise outfit. Singer Jonathan Higgs wears ankle-length robes, holds his hands aloft and teases the crowd with his oblique commentary on the state of everything. He even retreats to his own podium at the back of the stage on occasion, cavorting and exclaiming like a greasy televangelist, except with something better to sell than false hope. A quite extraordinary performance: danceable, unforgettable, slightly disturbing. [Should be interesting to see what the Americans make of them on their first headline tour of America that begins this week. – Ed.]

Saturday dawned with the hazy memory of having an impromptu jam session around the piano in the Obelisk tent. Whether real or imaginary, such late-night escapades are soon forgotten in favour of the promise of a sunny day, and plenty to do with it. FEWS shake off the cobwebs with a pre-midday slot of their driving instrumental post-rock. It’s the sort of thing that you can get lost in, labyrinthine melodies hidden within an incessant motorik rhythm section. Teessiders Cattle & Cane give me a little “festival moment”: the weight of a child on one’s shoulders, bopping away in their own little way to a warm-hearted band… such fleeting yet timeless moments of joy make the grind of life worthwhile. TGTF has come across Misty Miller a couple of times before, and she’s never been the same performer twice. Currently in a goth-inspired phase, her rock ‘n’ roll ditties remain as strong as ever, and her passion for reinvention means somewhere along the line she’s sure to hit on a persona that really propels her into the mainstream.

Somehow I managed to get rid of the kids for an hour or so at this point, and found myself in a state of euphoric peace lounging at the back for Emma Pollock‘s set. Hardly a household name, but her former group The Delgados will be familiar to students of Scottish indie bands, and her solo set was an absolute masterclass in grown-up songwriting. One delightful tune after another fell from her guitar, and backed by an excellent band she was an unexpected treat. Her song about dark skygazing was hugely evocative: a more sublime way to close one’s eyes and lay back in the late afternoon sunshine it’s difficult to imagine.


RHAIN Deer Shed 2016 / photo by Martin Sharman

TGTF raved about RHAIN‘s double performance at Kendal Calling last year, and her set in Deer Shed’s Obelisk tent was the stuff that legends are made of. Her voice is nothing less than astonishing, and the rare beauty of her jewelled songs quickly had the tent full to capacity. Her friends Plastic Mermaids, fresh from their own storming set earlier in the day, backed her for a few numbers, but it’s when RHAIN picks some simple piano chords to compliment her extraordinary vocal performance that really showcases what she is capable of. To witness a musician of such powerful talent in such intimate surroundings is a very rare treat; the electric atmosphere and the standing ovation that followed her performance is testament to the intensity of what she is capable. Utterly, utterly wonderful.

Stay tuned: the second half of Martin’s review of Deer Shed 2016 will post here on TGTF tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel.

 
 
 

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