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SXSW 2019: Focus Wales and Seazoo, Matt Maltese, Jealous of the Birds, and Grace Carter and Sam Fender at BBC Introducing – 13th March 2019 (Wednesday, part 3)

 
By on Tuesday, 26th March 2019 at 3:00 pm
 

No SXSW would be complete without visits to your favourite country showcases and houses and seeing friends. For a second year running, Focus Wales put on a networking mixer on Wednesday night, this time at one of my favourite venues in Austin, Swan Dive, its stage bordered by white fencing like a perfect slice of Americana. There must be a good joke that all good mixers bring in the Irish and the Scots, but it’s also very true. I also wanted to hang around for as long as I could to see Wrexham, North Wales band Seazoo play as the showcase’s opener. In my Bands to Watch on them at the end of last month, I wrote about discovering their self-described “psych indie pop”. But there’s much more to this band than any boxes they or anyone else could put them in.


While many bands exist and continue on today on a foundation of long-held friendships, you get the sense from watching the band members of Seazoo that long after their instruments are packed away, they will actually go and get drinks at the pub together. (Indeed, I appear to have been invited to visit them in Wrexham the next time I’m relatively close, in Liverpool for Sound City.) The gangly, bespectacled Ben Trow, who fronts the band, is a more obviously humourous frontman than Jarvis Cocker. I was first confused by what he meant by introducing “the best baby head player”. That is, until I got a closer look at what Llinos Griffiths was playing: a head of a doll with metal switches on its surface that evidently are part of Seazoo’s musical success. The super poppy ‘Shoreline’ started the Focus Wales night with flair, as it was impossible not to get drawn in by the infectious earworm. Check out their debut album ‘Trunks’, you won’t be disappointed.

From the slap-happy sunny tunes of Seazoo, I departed for the uphill battle (literally) to Central Presbyterian Church and decidedly more subdued music. Matt Maltese was a last-minute addition to the SXSW 2019 bill; his announcing of his appearances leading to my many squeals. He is the 21st century heir apparent to the late Leonard Cohen and the ever declining in favour Morrissey. Accompanying his voice with only a piano or guitar, consummate crooner Maltese wowed an appreciative seated audience at the church with tunes from his debut album from last year, ‘Bad Contestant’ (review here), out now on Atlantic Records. Like Morrissey and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, he has a rapier-like wit. He quipped that two of the songs in his set were based on unfortunate love triangles he found himself a party in and that he would recommend others to participate in love triangles of their own. (Guffaw.) Despite forgetting his guitar tuner, he was able to crowdsource a mobile phone with the infinitely well-named GuitarTuna app while also continuing his droll stage banter.


I hope he doesn’t mind me comparing his delivery style to Barry Manilow: only so many piano-playing singers have the gift of warmth in their voices, a lustrous quality that makes the pain of heartbreak that much easier to swallow. The languid nature of ‘Less and Less’ is the perfect foil for the chronicling of falling out of love with someone, while the more jaunty, happy chord-filled ‘Guilty’ is the full-scale admittance of his repeated returning to a selfish lover because he just can’t extricate himself from her. While his was not one of the most energetic sets I saw at SXSW this year, it was a great reminder that there is something for everyone at this festival, including the brooding introvert within me that just wants to revisit the strong feelings of love and heartbreak through osmosis.

The next act seemed to have made it their mission to bring brightness back into the church. Before coming out to Austin, I saw that Naomi Hamilton, aka Jealous of the Birds, had chosen to wear a fun purple tartan suit for their set on the Output Belfast boat party on Tuesday. She graced the church in the same outfit, while her bandmates were dressed less ostentatiously but still on theme in black watch tartan trousers. Gotta love a coordinated band! ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’, which I previously saw Hamilton perform solo supporting The Divine Comedy in Birmingham in November 2017, had many more wonderful layers presented by her and her band.


Cracking jokes about having not yet burst into flames while in a house of worship is just one indicator that this is not the same Hamilton TGTF has covered in previous years. Her sound has evolved from ‘breaking’ into the indie world with ‘Goji Berry Sunset’ on BBC 6 Music 3 years ago that I saw performed live at Dublin Tengu at Hard Working Class Heroes in 2016. On most recent EP ‘Wisdom Teeth’, the dissonant guitar licks of ‘Blue Eyes’ throw you off for a moment before you surrender to its wild nature. Even better, Hamilton has described as a celebration of “femininity and strong women feeling empowered”. If you haven’t seen the music video for it, you simply must.

Following my time at Central Presbyterian, just like in the afternoon, I faced another daunting queue at the British Music Embassy for the BBC Introducing / PRS Foundation showcase. Onstage at the time was Grace Carter, a pop singer/songwriter from Brighton whose had a recent meteoric rise thanks to the attention of artists like Dua Lipa and Lana Del Rey. One of her most arresting singles, ‘Why Her Not Me’, documents the heart-wrenching realisation Carter came to when she learned from her single mother than her biological father wasn’t in her life because he chose to stay with the other family he had. While this isn’t the kind of music I’d normally choose to listen to, I can respect her ability to open up her personal life in her music.

Sam Fender returned to Austin and oddly enough, the same exact showcase at the British Music Embassy as SXSW 2018 and at the same time slot. The Geordie had a spectacular year in the meantime, his lyrics espousing social consciousness and the plight of young people today hitting a nerve and making him a critical darling and a must-see at festivals, including the inaugural edition of This is Tomorrow. There was a bittersweet poignancy as he and his band performed ‘Dead Boys’ on the brightly lit Latitude 30 stage, as if the song being performed was to honour those young men we’ve lost through suicide but also shame the society who failed them. 2019 single ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, in contrast, shows his knack for writing a melodious rock song, as well as his impressive vocal range. Having woken up at 4 AM, I called it an early night (and before midnight, shocker!) to be ready for what Thursday would bring.


 

SXSW 2019: Balún, Elder Island, The Dunts, The Joy Formidable and Sway – 13th March 2019 (Wednesday, part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 26th March 2019 at 1:00 pm
 

An often criminally overlooked part of SXSW are the Radio Day and International Day stages on the 4th floor of the convention center. If you have ever attended SXSW as a badge-carrying delegate, I am sure you have walked by these rooms and never considered stopping to catch any of the bands. There was no contest which band on these stages had the most fan turnout on these two stage. That award goes to ‘90s giants Broken Social Scene, who appeared Friday afternoon and had a queue of fans going down the length of the convention center long before they even took the stage – I implore you to stop by in future iterations of SXSW to catch up-and-coming talent.

Two of the Bands to Watch I previewed before heading to Austin had prominent slots on the International Day stage, which in theory freed me up from trying to see them in the crush at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 later in the week. (You’ll see how that panned out later.) First, though, I found myself with some free time and a free Coke from the press lounge, so I ducked in to see Balún gracing the KCRW and NPR-sponsored Alt Latino showcase at the Radio Day stage. They are based in Brooklyn (insert your favourite indie band joke about Brooklyn here) but are originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. They were the perfect pick-me-up to jolt me into life after my 4 AM wake-up call.

The glasses-wearing, synth-driven indie group with unusual-to-rock instruments such as accordion and violin have managed to successfully marry the digital age with their Caribbean roots. ‘Prisma Tropical’, their second studio album released late last year, is Balún’s expression of their self-described dreambow genre. Rhythmically unmistakeably Latino and with frontwoman Angélica Negrón’s ethereal vocals, this is a group doing the Latin American diaspora in America proud and making music that keeps them connected to the country they felt they had to leave in order to access different opportunities.

Following Balún, it was a quick mosey to the International Day stage where Elder Island were just setting up. The Bristolian trio are part of the proud current wave of emerging artists keen on pushing the envelope beyond the traditional genres of independent music. Their debut album, the self-released ‘The Omnitone Sound’, came out last month, a beguiling mix of Katy Sargent’s r&b-inflected lead vocals and cello, guitars, synths and beats probably best exemplified by the driving ‘You and I’. 2 PM might not be ideal for a show more appropriate for a dark club filled with bodies bumping, but Elder Island did a great job in bringing that feeling to the room, eliciting more than a few instances of chair-dancing. You can read my past Bands to Watch feature through this link.

My next stop was to catch The Dunts at the British Music Embassy. As was true all week, the afternoon showcases proved to be a better bet in my mind than their evening ones, and the queues to get in were proof of this. For my money, Glasgow is one of the more interesting centres for new music these days. It has been able to support an incredible range of genres and artists who can all coexist and support each other with nonexistent infighting. Must be the water or the Tennent’s. The Scottish punks, along with their band best friends Rascalton, were unable to secure funding to travel to SXSW 2019 through normal channels, so in typical ingenious Scottish fashion, they came up with limited edition swag including a black Dunts football-style shirt to sell their fans to help finance their trip. (We’re all too late for that shirt, I’m afraid. Damn it.)

Their efforts appear to have paid off. On a 25 degree C spring day that might have led some Texans astray after the awful winter they had, locals and industry jam-packed Latitude 30 to welcome them. ‘Self Proclaimed Council Punk’ isn’t just an EP title, it’s a state of mind. None of their songs overstay their welcome: the intent appears to be to play loud and fast, with barely a breath in between for themsevles or whoever is watching them. This is not music for the faint-hearted. The feeling of two fingers’ immediacy is inescapable. No matter how old you are, you will leave a Dunts gig feeling more alive than you have in a long time.

I spent a brief interlude down on Rainey Street to check out some of the craziness during daylight hours. The armadillo-mobile was out again as last year but had to share the streets with a couple on stilts dressed like flamingoes. I like pink, but you’re never gonna get me to wear a pink bird on my head. Clive Bar was turned into a temporary carnival sponsored by Showtime, with a balloon artist, photo booth and popcorn and cotton candy vendor. Walking back into the centre of town with a large tuft of delicious, s’mores-flavoured cotton candy in hand felt like winning. I returned, making the mistake that I could just walk in for the Joy Formidable’s set at the British Music Embassy. Whoops.

Really, though, my job is done when a band I’ve written about a lot has filled a venue to heaving, right? As is usual with Latitude 30 during SXSW, the windows were flung open, affording us poor souls who couldn’t get in the opportunity to hear ‘The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade’ even if we couldn’t be in the same room with them. Hearing the final track of ‘The Big Roar’ reminds me of a time in my life when I got my heart broken. This song was my salvation, telling me with absolute certainty that one day I’d stop wanting to kick the guy and instead wish him well with the rest of his life with the woman he eventually chose over me. As the Welsh band’s wall of sound reverberated far beyond the confines of Latitude 30, I felt happy how far I’ve come to that moment and thankful I had friends who got me out of that dark place.

To set myself up for a night of running around the city to be preceded by drinks with the Focus Wales crew, I decided to get dinner at Stella San Jac. The restaurant attached to the Westin has become a firm favourite of mine for food and drink while in Austin. At the bar, I ordered what now will probably be my usual there, the fried avocado salad. Don’t knock it until you try it. I was expecting a low-profile supper, served by some very cute bartenders. What I didn’t expect was being sat next to a man drinking a bartender-recommended tipple. He looked familiar but in an effort to play it cool in case it wasn’t who I thought it was, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked sotto voce.

What ensued was a delightfully impromptu conversation about social media with the uber cool Sway Calloway, who I first came across as a hip-hop correspondent on MTV nearly 2 decades ago. Nowadays, Sway is the coolest of the cool cats, taking his own background as a rapper and radio experience and continuing to be a force of pop culture on his Sirius XM radio show Sway in the Morning. The verdict of our conversation? Neither of us will ever be as great with social media as kids are, but that’s okay. I was reminded of Lance Bass’ talk earlier that day where he talked about the importance of being authentic. If a old fogey like me being old school is wrong, then I don’t want to be right!

 

SXSW 2019: the return to Austin and David Byrne vs. Lance Bass – 13th March 2019 (Wednesday, part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 26th March 2019 at 11:00 am
 

Reflecting on my eighth SXSW in a row, there are some things about the Music portion of SXSW that are self-evident. One of those things is that there is no good or bad time to arrive for the music festival. Regardless when you choose to touch down in Austin, there are going to be things you have missed, but there will be plenty more amazing things to come. Covering the event alone for TGTF this year, my decision to arrive on Wednesday was primarily a financial one: I stayed in the thick of it, on a hotel on East 4th Street for 4 days, trading number of days for location.

Our pilot on our flight from Baltimore landed us admirably through choppy, bumpy turbulence (cue motion sickness, nearly) and before our scheduled arrival time. Despite this, it took longer to get my badge this year, longer than I could ever remember it taking in past years. The badge pickup area was noticeably much smaller and with less staff than in previous years, though everyone I interacted with was in good spirits and helpful. By the time all was said and done, it was 1 PM, halfway through the two SXSW Conference sessions I’d noted on my schedule: David Byrne and his Reasons for Being Cheerful keynote at the Hilton or Lance Bass in the convention center, both of which I previewed here. Knowing that Byrne’s keynote would likely be videotaped and available to everyone later – I was right, you can watch it in the embed below – I decided to go with the *NSYNC star instead.

A music journo choosing Lance Bass over David Byrne probably sounds like a major mistake. Bass was in town for the premiere of The Boy Band Con, a YouTube documentary he coproduced on Lou Pearlman, the boy band impresario who launched the careers of *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, O-Town and many others but who was ultimately brought down by the American legal system when his fraud and racketeering activities were brought to light. Check out the film trailer below. It’s interesting to learn than it was Bass who was able to get so many past professional singer associates of Pearlman’s to participate in the documentary, winning them over by explaining that the film would be about their stories as it would be about the man who ultimately swindled them.

I was a massive boyband fan back in the day. The other day, an *NSYNC song came on Sirius XM radio in my car (‘God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You’, if you wanted to know) and I was shocked I still knew all the words. For a good portion of my formative years, while I dealt with some family and health issues, music was the only world available to me that I could escape into. I still have all the hand gestures and dance moves to ‘Bye Bye Bye’ memorised. I’d watch the kids go crazy over their favourite bands on TRL on MTV here in America and for that hour the show was on, I could pretend I was like everybody else. It sounds cliched, but when you’re young and you feel like a total misfit, any sense of belonging is welcome. Thinking along those lines, it is incredibly sad that at the same time that while his band brought joy and inclusion to their fans, all the while Lance Bass had to hide who he was and for so many years.

I suppose it’s no surprise that his sexuality was a major point during his conversation with Homophilia podcast hosts Dave Holmes and Matt McConkey. Despite years of discomfort and “playing a character” who wasn’t who he was at all, Bass is now comfortable in his own skin and an advocate for the LGBT community. He spoke of the time he proposed to his now husband Michael Turchin in what he thought would be a beautiful place to make a romantic overture in New Orleans. Unfortunately, the mood was broken by an overzealous fan who apparently wouldn’t go away and completely missed the fact that they were in the middle of something.


photo of Lance Bass from his Facebook page

Although I was only in attendance for the second half of the session, I’d argue that I probably saw the better half. Audience members took turns at the mike on the floor. A young gay man from Mississippi thanked Bass for his visibility, saying that having him as a role model gave him the confidence to be himself. (Who brought the onions?) A female fan asked what Bass thought of social media and if he wished it had been around when *NSYNC hit it big. He described as a double-edged sword. He was glad that it hadn’t been around because anything stupid they did would have instantly spread like wildfire, and he insisted that it would have been something said or done by his bandmate (and resident big mouth) Joey Fatone who would have probably caused the most problems, which elicited huge laughs. On the flipside, Bass said that if social media had been around, he would probably have over a million followers on Twitter by now, which would make promoting any of his work that much easier.

Another thought-provoking question Bass was asked was about his stance on religion, specifically given the fact that he was raised Southern Baptist in rural Mississippi. He said he still considers himself a Christian and called out the mainstream Christian church for being “fake Christians”, which I took to mean their ultra-conservative beliefs that have excluded and shunned the LGBT community. While I think we all expected such a response from a worldwide-known celebrity whose family and fans support him, it drives home how poisonous the massive divide in American Christianity on the issue of sexual orientation, among many other close-minded beliefs and teachings, really is. When will we as a nation, and as part of the global community, rise above these differences and embrace them as part of what truly makes America great?

I feel sure that Bass’ faith is behind his ability to have forgiven Pearlman after all that he did to him and *NSYNC. Lance Bass has moved well past what might have led to a dark ending for him, instead living his authentic life and being a true role model of what it looks like after you overcome adversity.

 

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

 

Deer Shed Festival 2018: Friday Roundup

 
By on Monday, 30th July 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

No sooner had we arrived on site at Deer Shed 9, son one, having attended a Deer Shed every one of his 7 years, declared he had his first wobbly tooth. And so we add another ‘first’ to the many that Deer Shed has provided over the years. Every parent will share the excitement tinged with a pang of sadness that this momentous moment brings. It represents the end of the first stage of childhood. With the arrival of the new denticulus, they will never again look the same. Yet no parent would wish their offspring to remain permanently young. To fulfill their potential, they must grow up. One’s only wish is that they retain what makes them truly themselves as they do so.

As it turned out, exactly the same sentiments could be held about Deer Shed’s growth in 2018. Instead of a new tooth, they have a new field: what luck that a second natural amphitheatre exists to the north of the site, and many an experienced Deer Shedder was to be found wandering around confusedly in the vicinity of where the main stage, big top and helter-skelter used to be, it slowly dawning that that silver edifice in the distance near the car park was, in fact, the newly-relocated main stage.

Sadly, that meant a number of dearly-held Deer Shed locales simply ceased to be. The Obelisk tent and its associated gate is no more, perhaps due to its rather exuberant dampness in the rain last year. Those of us who tend to camp on that side of the festival had a lot further to walk to get to the main stage. And there was no point in strolling alongside the lake, because there was no access to the festival that way, either. There was a lot more fencing directing people hither and yon, whereas previously the arena was just one big circle and you could pretty much go where you pleased. The reward for such palaver was a 25% increase in space for the same number of people.

So. We mourn the loss of Deer Shed’s baby teeth…. Done. Let’s see what their new gnashers are made of.

Hyde Park Brass are first up, and also almost the last. They’re intertwined around this year’s festival like ivy around a tree. Here they were in the tiny pallet stage, and slightly more subdued than they would be on latter days. Pop brass is becoming more of a thing these days, and HPB remind me a fair bit of the incredible Riot Jazz Brass Band of Kendal Calling fame. Every good brass ensemble needs a festival residency, and these guys are no exception.

If you close your eyes – and forget they’re from Leeds – Mush are Lou Reed fronting Pavement. Their 10-minute epic ‘Alternative Facts’ has a slacker undertow with punky icing, and when lead singer Dan’s not speaking in tongues, he’s all wry humour and casual delivery. Single ‘Comment Section Creeps’, of which a limited edition 7” is sadly sold out, is a cutting social commentary on the dehumanising liberty of posting on the internet anonymously. Probably.

Mush Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-1597

whenyoung are a trio from Dublin whose uptempo 3-minute pop nuggets hint at the time just before Britpop became a dirty word, yet shot through with a slew of Edge-isms in the guitar work. ‘Heaven on Earth’ has a boxy, chorused tone evoking U2’s earliest, New-Wave influenced work, and ‘Pretty Pure’ has the classic tropes of dotted delay and infinitely sustaining guitar notes. There’s an innocence in Aoife Power’s sweet vocals, not to mention a generous helping of fellow countrywomen Sinead O’Connor and Dolores O’Riordan, so it’s only half a surprise when they launch into a note-perfect rendition of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’. Touching, appropriate, bittersweet.

whenyoung at Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-1700

It doesn’t take long to realise that if this weekend’s bands are anything like the quality of HMLTD, we’re in for a veritable treat indeed. Clad in all manner of leather, fishnet, tartan and makeup, their stage presence is off the scale, and the music not far behind. 2017 single ‘To The Door’ is like The Stooges covering one of Ennio Morricone’s more outré spaghetti western themes, but with a dubstep coda. Eh? ‘Satan, Luella, & I’ evokes a she-devil, a proposition, and gore but is lyrically optimistic and life-affirming. What?! For all their aesthetic outrageousness, which cribs heavily from theatrical Eighties’ glam like Adam Ant, there’s an underlying understanding of songwriting which gives the entire package credibility. Properly breathtaking.

HMLTD Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (portrait)-1877

Drenge have matured nicely since I last saw them at Live at Leeds in 2014. Then just a brotherly two-piece, now they have both a bassist and a chap on ‘things’. They pull off a headline set with skill and good grace, and even have a laugh at wearing comedy air tanks consistent with Deer Shed’s ‘Making Waves’ theme. Material like ‘Bloodsports’ has lost none of its power through familiarity, and new single “Before the War Begins” reveals a simple, honest clarity of purpose reminiscent of the Manics at their best. Completely devoid of histrionics, clad plainly in comparison with the extravagance of an HMLTD, they nevertheless still pack a devastating punch.

Drenge Deer Shed 2018 01 Friday (landscape)-2076

And that’s it for Friday. There were DJs until half 2 next to the excellent bar, TGTF needed all possible energy to prepare for Saturday. More tomorrow.

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 3 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Friday, 8th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

I slipped out of the Prince Albert, allowed another one of Rebecca Taylor’s fans to scoot in where I’d been, and returned to the Hope and Ruin for music far meatier at the This Feeling showcase. I didn’t plan it like this, but they would be the second of three acts I’d see from Sheffield Saturday night. If you’ve done any reading on Sheffield at all, you’ll know its name comes from the River Sheaf that runs through the city. So I had a hunch even before I opened the biography on hard rockers SHEAFS where they were from. Delivered with a sneer, minor key anthem ‘This is Not a Protest’ is a foot-stomper, while ‘Mind Pollution’, encouraging not a revolt but a bigger revolution, is another laced with ‘tude. Forget the Sherlocks, SHEAFS have just pushed them out of the way.

SHEAFS Saturday the Great Escape 2018

I returned to the Old Ship for Charles Watson gigging at the Moshi Moshi Records evening showcase. Like Rebecca Taylor, he’s trying to carve an identity for himself that’s separate from the one he held in Slow Club. On his debut ‘Now That I’m a River’, Watson’s sound is decidedly more similar to that of his songwriting in his previous band, sounding at times like a throwback to ‘70s Americana, complete with the echoes. Imagine Burt Bacharach going folk, or the Eagles with less rock. It seems like a lot of artists are reaching backwards in time for inspiration. It begs the question, has the singer/songwriter genre gone has far forward as it possibly can and the only option left to keep things somewhat interesting is to go backward?

Charles Watson Saturday the Great Escape 2018

To get some air and to see some more music, I walked a short distance down Ship Street to the Walrus to check out a band far from home. ShadowParty are a group that formed in Boston and includes members of New Order and Devo. I’m embarrassed to say I had no clue who they were. Perhaps the knowledge of their existence spread quickly across New Order and Devo’s respective fandoms, filling this basement venue? I wasn’t terribly impressed by the part of their performance I caught (equipment overload for one, but that might not have been their fault but the festival’s for putting them in such a small place), but I’m guessing from the news posts from early May that they’re still in very early days of performing live together. Feel good first single ‘Celebrate’ was unveiled on the 1st of May, the first taster ahead of the release of their debut album on the 27th of May on Mute Records.

Shadowparty Saturday the Great Escape 2018

It was back to the Old Ship for the piece de resistance in my Great Escape 2018. Going through my reports from past editions of this festival, I had completely forgotten, or possibly blocked out my getting shut out of Teleman’s set at the Green Door Store 5 years ago. I know at the moment was I was mad as a wet hen and probably wanting to cry. They’re unequivocally one of my favourite bands of all time. As that old chestnut goes, “Patience, grasshopper.” The following year, I got to see them play songs from ‘Breakfast’ at two shows, one in New York Midtown and one in Brooklyn (RIP, Glasslands). Now, 4 years on from there, I’d get to see them at the Paginini Ballroom. The only way their performance could have been any better: if they’d been allowed to play both ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Brilliant Sanity’ in their entirety.

On this trip, I had to fill in some of my less knowledgeable British musician friends that three-fourths of Teleman used to be in another amazing band called Pete and the Pirates. That conversion took place quite a long time ago now, and with two whole albums under their belt, I kind of expected more of those songs to be in their set. Fair do’s that they’d want to put older material to bed and play the songs they’re currently most excited about, but also massively courageous to fill their performance with songs unlikely to be firm favourites except to maybe their most ardent social media followers.

Teleman Saturday the Great Escape 2018 1

Single ‘Cactus’, which will appear on their upcoming third studio album ‘Family of Aliens’, is plenty catchy, but I think it’ll take some growing on me before it joins the heady ranks of my favourites from ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Brilliant Sanity’. For those of us who have memorised the latter, we were rewarded with ‘Fall in Time’ and ‘Dusseldorf’, the latter capping off a plenty bouncy and enjoyable set building anticipation towards the new album’s release and their upcoming tour to take place in the autumn. I’ve been invited to a curry dinner and to jump on a boat with them (long story for another time); we’ll see if I make it back to dear old blighty for that then. Cross your fingers and toes for me.

TGTF’s Great Escape 2018 coverage, that’s a wrap!

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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