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SXSW 2018: Friday afternoon at the Full Irish Breakfast and British Music Embassy – 16th March 2018 (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2018 at 11:00 am
 

During the week at SXSW, those of us who have day jobs outside of the music industry must check in on occasion on what pays the bills. While I was stuck in our hotel dealing with emails and loose ends, Carrie left early to make our now annual visit to the BMI brunch, so stay tuned for her coverage on the artists who played there at the Four Seasons this year. After getting things in order, I hopped over to B.D. Riley’s for the annual Full Irish Breakfast sponsored by Music From Ireland and First Music Connect, both great friends to TGTF. To my happiness, the place was already full up at noon, requiring quite a bit of jostling and patience to get a bartender’s attention and to find a spot where you could lay out your complimentary breakfast.

Accompanying the free food – with white pudding this year, yes! – were plenty of Irish-born talent raring to go, going nicely with the green décor B.D. Riley’s had already set out ahead of St. Patrick’s Day the next day. Joshua Burnside and his band, who wowed us on the Output Belfast boat ride Tuesday morning, began the day of festivities at the Irish pub. Looking tan in the face (or was that sunburn?), he looked relaxed performing his sixth and final performance in Austin in front of a room of Texan strangers.

Joshua Burnside Friday at SXSW 2018

It’s no wonder why his album ‘Ephrata’ won the Northern Ireland Music Prize in 2017. Burnside’s unique usage of world music influences while maintaining an inherent Irishness through the lilt of his gorgeous voice made the LP released last year unlike anything else. The crowd approved of Burnside and his band’s early yet wonderfully spirited set. A particularly lovely moment was when Burnside went part acoustic for his single from last year, the politically charged and very Northern Irish ‘Red and White Blues’. While its poignant meaning may have been lost on the audience he played it to, the combination of his strong voice accompanied only by acoustic guitar had a quiet beauty, before the rest of his band joined in for added oomph.

The Lost Brothers are Irish, yes. But if you looked at them on the street with their cowboy hats and acoustic guitars, you’d swear they were Americans born and raised in the Wild West. No strangers to SXSW, B.D. Riley’s or Austin for that matter, they took to the stage at the pub with their usual performance aplomb. Whether performing on a boat or in a venue on dry land, the Lost Brothers are the consummate professionals.

The Lost Brothers Friday at SXSW 2018

They arrived in Texas with their latest album effort ‘Halfway Towards a Healing’, recorded in Arizona, and the critical acclaim it has received so far, all deserved. (Read my glowing review of the LP through here.) ‘Echoes in the Wind’, the lead single from the album, came across as effortless, as did more recent single, the sweet, yet humourous ‘More Than I Can Comprehend’ (promo video here).

The third act at the Full Irish breakfast was also ready to put his last SXSW 2018 appearance in the can. Cork’s Talos, who closed out the Music From Ireland showcase at the Velveeta Room the evening previous, was back out with his band and alongside the blinding sunshine streaming in from 6th Street. It was a good thing for musicians from abroad and music fans alike to hide inside B.D. Riley’s for the afternoon: for the first time that week, the mercury reached over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 32 degrees Celsius plus). The sunny afternoon provided contrast to their performance Thursday night, though the sun or heat didn’t dampen their enthusiasm or Eoin French’s falsetto.

Talos Friday at SXSW 2018

Friday was the only afternoon at SXSW 2018 I had some free time to spend at the British Music Embassy. And it was a good day for it, as a slice of sticky toffee cheesecake and a bloody Mary awaited me at Latitude 30. I arrived just as most visitors were finishing up their lunch and ready for the first act, The RPMs. Brighton’s brightest prospect in the pop/rock stakes began the afternoon at the Embassy with gusto, blasting out their upbeat tunes with vigour.

The RPMs Friday 4 at SXSW 2018

Although he must have been boiling in his leopard print jacket, lead singer Jack Valero was a great frontman, flashing a winsome smile and showing a youthful exuberance. Under the better lighting of and with the better sound system of Latitude 30, they shone, and plenty of Americans who hadn’t heard of them until that moment started taking notes. I know, because a bunch of people came up to me and asked me to spell their name and for help finding their Facebook. Ha. I was glad to be of service.

Next up on the bill was Natalie Findlay, the Manchester songstress who scorched former writer Martin’s eyes and ears at Liverpool Sound City 2013. Since those days, she’s morphed like a chameleon many times, never staying put in one specific genre. In an otherwise all-male lineup, it was nice to introduce some good ol’ fashioned girl power into the mix and remind the Americans in attendance that there’s great female talent coming out of Britain, too.

Findlay Friday at SXSW 2018

Flyte’s closeup has been a long time coming. We’ve been writing about them for quite a long time; they nabbed the #5 spot in a reader’s poll here at TGTF at the end of 2013. Last year, they released their long-awaited debut album ‘The Loved Ones’, the culmination of years of hard graft. Performing songs from it live in Austin must have tasted so sweet.

Flyte Friday 2 at SXSW 2018

The group from London sounded decidedly different from the acts before them, with a Beatles-esque indie rock edge. While I thought it was unnecessary for them to do a cover (Alvvays’ ‘Marry Me, Archie’), Americans next to me swayed their head to Flyte’s version, stoked in their unexpected selection. Unexpectedly, I found myself at the bar and next to an unlikely fan, or so I thought: folk pop singer/songwriter Lucy Rose stood spellbound watching them play, only stopping to occasionally note to her drinking companion how great Flyte were. Couldn’t have had a nice endorsement, eh?

Dance funk purveyors Le Galaxie were the perfect choice to close out the Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s. Led by well-bearded frontman Michael Pope and performing with ex-Fight Like Apes MayKay on occasional vocals, they turned the Irish pub in the late afternoon into an enthralling disco, the thumping of their catchiest tunes reverberating in every molecule in the place.

Le Galaxie Friday at SXSW 2018

I last saw them in the basement of Audio in Brighton (now Patterns) at The Great Escape 2015. Times may have changed but some things stay the same, and thankfully, Le Galaxie is in the latter. It may not have been 5 o’clock yet in Austin, but it was 5 o’clock somewhere, and punters had no problem shaking a tail feather to their songs.

 

Video of the Moment #2458: Findlay

 
By on Tuesday, 24th October 2017 at 6:00 pm
 

Header photo by Daisy Walker

Stockport songstress Findlay has come a long way from her performance at Liverpool Sound City 2013. Just prior to her appearance at SXSW 2017, she released her debut album ‘Forgotten Pleasures’ on BMG / The End Records. Natalie explains the premise of the tune: “This song is about the overwhelming obsession that comes with unrequited love. When you love someone so much you become manic and it’s the only thing you can think about. I think love like that comes along so infrequently you have to jump on it and pray for the best outcome. I’ve been lucky enough to have the love I put out come back to me this time but I’ve been on the wrong side of it too many times… I guess this song is a homage to all the ones who got away.” Filmed by rising star director Ben Charles Edwards, watch its accompanying video to ‘Monomania’ below. To read all of our past coverage here on TGTF on Findlay, go here.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Northern England artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Wednesday, 1st March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

For so many years and continuing on to this day, the North of England has always been a hot bed for new musical talent. Today’s installment of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017. will introduce you to 12 acts from ‘oop norf’, some may you have already heard of or heard on the radio, some you may have not. Except where noted, the summaries below were written by our Northern Irish correspondent based in Derry, Adam McCourt, who also went to uni in Leeds. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

All We Are – pop / Liverpool
Liverpudlian trio All We Are describe themselves on Facebook as “The Bee Gees on diazepam”. The description is not far off, as they showcase similarities in vocal textures and harmonies, but with more downtempo and wavy grooves. Although they are based in Liverpool, none of the members actually hail from there. Bassist Guro Gikling is from Norway, Rich O’Flynn from Ireland is on drums and Luis Santos from Brazil plays guitar, making them probably the most multinational band to attend SXSW from this side of the Atlantic. Their self-titled debut album, released back in 2015, is available now. FFO: Warpaint, Wild Beasts, Django Django [As of 21/2, this act is no longer listed on the SXSW Music Festival schedule.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s6Sx4POl3k[/youtube]

Autobahn – punk / Leeds
Five-piece post-punk outfit from Leeds, Autobahn are Northern and proud of it. From depressing song titles to their screechy guitar tones, Autobahn’s music depicts the gloomy industrialisation of Northern England almost perfectly. Autobahn’s debut album ‘Dissemble’ was released in the summer of 2015 and contains all of the above, as well as Johnson’s honest lyrics and droning vocal melodies. [Their Facebook suggests a new album is done and dusted. We wait with baited breath. – Ed.] FFO: Joy Division, Bauhaus [As of 21/2, this act is no longer listed on the SXSW Music Festival schedule.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D7XJ5HXXQs[/youtube]

False Advertising – rock / Manchester
False Advertising (pictured at top) are a self-proclaimed “twisted power-grunge” trio from Manchester. The female-fronted band create a perfect blend of dreamy guitar melodies and equally light-hearted vocal melodies against fuzzy guitar tones and a driving rhythm section. Fronted by Jen Hingley on guitar and vocals, backed by Josh Sellers on bass and Chris Warr on drums, their self-titled debut album was released in September 2015, and an EP titled ‘Brainless’ followed in 2016. FFO: Cheatahs, Nirvana

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNIyVEXC47Y[/youtube]

Findlay – blues / pop / London via Manchester
You can take the girl out of the North, but you can’t take the North out of the girl. Case in point: Natalie Rose Findlay, who goes by her surname just like fellow Mancunian-born Morrissey, doesn’t really give a monkey’s. We’ve seen her charismatic performances at festivals before, and we imagine her rough around the edges style, in line with the ever-burgeoning lo-fi rock scene both in America and the UK, will be just the ticket in Austin. FFO: The Kills, PJ Harvey (Mary Chang)

To read our past coverage of Findlay here on TGTF, go here.

Fizzy Blood – punk / Leeds
Since forming in 2014, Heavy rock five-piece from Leeds Fizzy Blood have made major strides with their huge in-your-face riffs, melodic vocal melodies and insanely energetic live shows. They released their debut EP ‘Feast’ on 22nd of June 2015 and have since amassed under their belt a vast number of international shows and tours alongside acts such as Allusondrugs, Sun Club, The Virginmarys and punk icons The Dead Kennedys, as well as appearing at top UK festivals Download, Live at Leeds and Sound City. FFO: Queens of the Stone Age, Allusondrugs, Pulled Apart By Horses

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlhuzoMmL4s[/youtube]

Her’s – pop / Liverpool
Outsiders from outsider towns, Stephen Fitzpatrick from Barrow in Furness and Audun Laading from Kristiansand, Norway, met whilst at university in Liverpool. They instantly connected over a “love of peculiar, sardonic humour and wide eyed observations”, according to their Facebook bio. Hmm. Any way you slice it, the duo present a loveable blend of dream pop that seems to transport any listener to the seaside towns from which they individually hail from. FFO: Mac Demarco, Beach Boys

LIFE – punk / Hull
Considering all the crap that’s happening in the world today, sometimes you need a release valve. You need music you can listen to, to get your aggressions out. LIFE, hailing from the East Yorkshire riverside town whose most famous musical export has been The Housemartins, are clearly here to put Hull back on the British rock map. Incisive lyrics backed by punishing rock guitars? Yes, please. Oh, and if you needed any convincing, they also wrote a protest song unveiled on the day of that Cheeto’s inauguration. Check. FFO: The Clash, their recent tourmates Slaves (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh62UUMBtQE[/youtube]

Menace Beach – alt-rock / Leeds
Menace Beach are an alt-rock act from Leeds, mainly made up of core members Ryan Needham and Liza Violet; the rest is somewhat of a revolving line-up. Menace Beach’s debut album ‘Ratworld’ was released in January 2015, which was followed up by the ‘Super Transporterreum’ EP in the same year and last month’s ‘Lemon Memory’, reviewed by our Rebecca here. FFO: Pulled Apart By Horses, The Jesus and Mary Chain [As of 21/2, this act is no longer listed on the SXSW Music Festival schedule.]

Read all of our past coverage on TGTF on Menace Beach through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8wHP56Dyzo[/youtube]

She Drew the Gun – singer/songwriter / The Wirral
From the banks of the Mersey in a small peninsula called The Wirral is where fuzz pop four-piece She Drew the Gun reside. Formed and fronted by singer/songwriter Louisa Roach, the band offer dark, fuzz-filled pop topped with delightful and emotive vocals. She Drew the Gun have received continuous support from BBC Radio 6 Music after their debut album ‘Memories of the Future’ was named ‘Album of the Day’ upon its release last April 2016. FFO: Big Deal, Julia Jacklin, Lucy Rose

Trudy and the Romance – pop / Liverpool
This Liverpool trio were formerly known as simply ‘Trudy’ and ‘Trudy Sings The Blues’ before settling on the poetic Trudy and the Romance. Oliver Taylor (vocals/guitar), Lewis Rollinson (bass) and Brad Mullins (drums) together produce raucous, guitar-driven indie pop with Hollywood-tinged vocal melodies that will simultaneously tug on the heartstrings and tap on the funny bone. FFO: Mac DeMarco, Tame Impala, Beach Boys [As of 21/2, this act is no longer listed on the SXSW Music Festival schedule.]

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

VANT – protest rock/punk / London via Seaham
London via Seaham band VANT have been slaving away in the industry since their formation in 2014. The protest rock group, led by Mattie Vant, have garnered attention after appearing as support for Royal Blood, as well as touring with DIY Magazine’s NEU tour. They’ve already hit a dizzying array of festivals, including Dot to Dot, Reading and Leeds, Glastonbury, 2000 Trees and Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, as well as racked up plays of their numerous singles anointed as Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record in the World’. Their debut album ‘Dumb Blood’ is out now; you can read our Steven’s review of last year’s ‘Karma Seeker’ EP through here. FFO: Otherkin, Palma Violets

Read our past coverage on VANT here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coeO8HWHjoc[/youtube]

The Vryll Society – rock / Liverpool
Expect the unexpected from The Vryll Society. With a sound that touches on different facets of classic, psychedelic and prog rock, the Liverpudlian quintet present a body of work sure to keep any listener on their toes. Fuzz-infused rock led mainly by the rhythm section of Lloyd Shearer on bass and Benjamin Robinson on drums with lots of decorative guitar flourishes from Ryan Ellis and Lewis McGuinness, all topped by Michael Ellis’ catchy, melodic vocals, The Vryll Society stimulate both the mind and soul with their music. FFO: Tame Impala, The Wytches, Honeyblood

Read our past coverage on TGTF on The Vyrll Society through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxDXcg8rx3E[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1950: Findlay

 
By on Thursday, 5th November 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

When I received the press release for Natalie Findlay‘s new video and saw the press shot her PR had included, I did a double take. Snacking on an enormous lollipop, I wondered, has she completely reinvented herself into a pop princess? Reading on, I realised the whole video for ‘Junk Food’ is meant to be a satirical jab at a recent “Are You Beach Body Ready?” advertising campaign from Protein World this past summer. From the lovely lady’s own mouth:

The main point of inspiration for the track is to mock the societal pressures we all face to look a certain way, consume a certain way and turn a blind eye the negative impacts our behaviour has on each other and the planet.

Phew. I will say, however, that if you’re like me and get squeamish watching anything considered gross, you might want to look away at this video. If you want to risk it, have a gander of the new single’s promo below.

A new album from Findlay and her band is expected in 2016. For all past coverage of Findlay on TGTF, including John and Martin‘s contrasting opinions of her performances this summer at Liverpool Sound City and last year Kendal Calling, respectively, head this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0nwA5GPrkw[/youtube]

 

Liverpool Sound City 2015: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 12th June 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo by Niall Lea

For more of John’s coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2015, read his day 1 and day 2 round-ups.

As people finally got used to the bizarre layout of the new look of this year’s Liverpool Sound City, the third day had crept up. Brains were frazzled from the night before by the orgy for the senses served up by The Flaming Lips. Revellers who had crept into the city centre to keep the party going after the Lips now had hangovers galore from day 2’s festivities, so the bars were still looking bereft of people on Sunday.

As for the bars, I’ve never seen a festival better prepared. The area was about as long as the similar installations at Reading and Leeds Festivals staffed by just as many luminous vest clad volunteers. Problem was, with just a fraction of the expected clientele walking through, the facilities looked hilariously empty for most of the day. Additionally, planning that saw pints pre-poured for quick service, meant that during the dearth of customers, pints were sitting poured in the baking midday sun. Definitely a decision to review, methinks. Nobody wants a warm pint of Strongbow on the third day of festival if they’re paying through the nose for it.

Aside from logistical issues and the numerous punters moaning and groaning about the health of their legs after an hour long trudge back to their hotel in the city centre, the festival site was a hub of activity on the final day, with the corporate sponsorship’s Red Bull-mobile blasting out crap drum ‘n’ bass remixes of classic tracks as you entered the festival It was a reminder that although until quite recently, the festival had a DIY feeling, everyone has to sell their souls in the end to the corporate monsters. Still, you could be at Creamfields, and count your lucky stars you’re not there.

Because at Creamfields, you certainly wouldn’t be treated to the psychedelic grooves of Moon King, who graced the abandoned warehouse of The Baltic Stage around mid-afternoon as the shroud of grey cloud disappeared from over the site. The Canadian duo of Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde exuded energy and all male eyes were transfixed to the baseball cap-cladded shredder providing the trademark ‘buzz-saw’ guitars, as Benjamin did his best Justin Hayward-Young impression, with about 50% of the balls and swagger of the former. (7/10)

Houdini Dax came highly recommended to me, and with a packed out Cavern Stage to greet me as I arrived, it was obvious I wasn’t alone in hearing of the charms of the Welsh three-piece. From start to finish, the boys exuded an infectious energy to the relatively lethargic crowd, and with a few charming smiles and sing-alongs, they laced the kind of hooks you’ll be humming for days, going down as stern favourites for day 3. Their set closed with ‘Get Your Goo On’: in title it sounds utterly ridiculous, but the song brought a lively 30 minutes to a close with a bit of swagger, some Beach Boys-style call and repeat and at least a 100 new likes on Facebook post set! (9/10)

From melt in your mouth harmonies to a complete disaster was sadly what awaited me with Clarence Clarity. The highly-rated Londoners would probably go down great at a smoky acid-house/post-dub night in Brixton. But, after the splendid chords of Houdini Dax, the semi-glitter pop mash-ups they served in the warehouse ended up sounding like an utter sonic catastrophe. The reverb screamed around the enclosed space and within minutes those without earplugs were vacating the area for something less audibly offensive.

They’ve done their best to sound like a 21st century turn on Outkast, but in doing, so it’s just ended up as a bit of a mess,with Eastern influences mashed crudely into your run-of-the-mill British drum ‘n’ bass. Perhaps this sound would work in a different setting and at another time – but as a prelude to Gaz Coombes, Peace and Belle and Sebastian at about 6 o’clock with the sun still shining, they simply jarred and sounded like a mess. (4/10)

Calming things down on The Atlantic Stage were the gentle tones of Bill Ryder-Jones who cut a lonely figure in the middle of the vast stage. He has all the hallmarks of any 18 year-old music fans crush, with sweeping good looks and swishy hair, plus a moody expression cut upon his face permanently. Sadly, Bill was nothing special at Liverpool Sound City, pumping out a couple of mediocre covers, some staggeringly uninventive, along with three chord originals and all at a pace that sent me daydreaming into thoughts about what delectable burger van food I could chomp on and whether the Premiership season had finished yet. With time I’m sure he’ll find his sound, as his songwriting seemed to hold up, but for now he just felt very vanilla on a day which could have done with some rum and raisin. (5/10)

Now while I was trying to escape Clarence Clarity’s sonic bombardment, I bumped into a young German girl who asked me for tips on who would blow her mind (aside from the obvious), to which I replied the next act on the Cargo Stage, “Findlay is nothing short of phenomenal every time I see her”.

Of course, by doing this, I inevitably delivered the kiss of death to her set.

For an act that normally struts about the stage with an incredible swagger and presence, I was shocked when she delivered a terribly staccato performance, bereft of showmanship and craft. Instead, it just felt like another day at the office. The fierce Debbie Harry-lite figure of Findlay had been neutered and stayed locked behind a set of oversize sunglasses. Whether it was a poorly-thought-out change of tact, to go from ferocious female aggressor to a sultry parlour singer grated on me. Because for the main part, barring from a rousing rendition of ‘On and Off’, she delivered a pedestrian performance stripped of the trademark character I’d promised to my new friend from Central Europe. In fact, it was so disappointing out the corner of my eye I saw the very Fraulein make for the exit after three songs. (6/10) Probably to get a good space for the next band on The Atlantic Stage…

Kings of the indie singalong The Cribs looked every bit the seasoned pros they are compared to some of the green-behind-the-ears acts gracing every one of the stages over the weekend. They easily drew the biggest crowd of the day so far, being probably one of the most recognisable names on the bill, and it’s probably to no surprise as well. Quite easily the three-piece could have turned up, delivered the hits and been on their way with a big smile on their faces – cash in pocket – job done. But instead they threw every bit of themselves into it, to the delight of the Liverpudlian crowd. The three-piece choral harmonies were great and really lifted the entire set, whilst the new poppier material lifted what could have been a bog-standard Cribs set to something far more. (7/10)

In fact, it was the perfect preface to former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes, the penultimate act on The Atlantic Stage. As expected, there were no frills and bells like the night before. No gimmicky matching jackets like Everything Everything and The Vaccines, despite Coombes definitely putting a bid in for Best Dressed Man at the festival with his attire. Instead, one of Britpop’s finest men on stage, guitar in hand, was trying his hand at going solo to good results.

Now, while his second solo album ‘Matador’ may have only debuted at number 18 in the Official UK Albums chart, in circles like Liverpool Sound City he was always going to get far more respect and credence than at another festival. Effortlessly cool and with the gently soaring masterpiece that is ‘Detroit’ in Coombes’ arsenal, he commanded the slowly fading light surrounding The Atlantic Stage. Although there were rumblings of ‘is he going to play ‘Alright’?’, in the crowd after a few of his originals, everyone seemed to settle down to enjoy a true legend of his era going out on his own. (8/10)

From one legend, to another. Belle and Sebastian carry with them the baggage of being cult stars. In fact, it’s difficult to find somebody these days that enjoys alternative music who DOESN’T name an experience watching Stuart Murdoch and co. as one of the crowning moments in their musical history. I waited with trepidation, as I’ve never GOT Belle and Sebastian; they’ve just never managed to excite me in the way I want music to. It’s all just felt like wallpaper–jazzy elevator music to me.

The group of Glaswegians manage to captivate the crowd, myself included, with their phenomenally deep songwriting. ‘Nobody’s Empire’ is a personal highlight, as Murdoch’s intensity is poured into every single lyric, as if he was living the experience right there in front of the crowd. It wasn’t the spectacular of colour The Flaming Lips served up, or the singalong, lad-rock frenzy of The Vaccines. But in their own way, Belle and Sebastian delivered one of the most soulful, warm and encapsulating sets of the weekend. (8/10)

So what did I learn this weekend? Delving into the unknown on highly-tipped acts like The Serpent Power and Clarence Clarity can sometimes be a dangerous endeavour, which can lead to your willy being commented upon on social media alongside pictures of genitals being sent to you. But bands like Houdini Dax, The People and the Poet and Hollysiz can come from left-field sources and end up being the highlights of the festival. That’s the joy of events like Liverpool Sound City and The Great Escape: while you can walk in on some absolute duds, it’s unlikely you’ll have a weekend of it with the sheer glut of musical talent on show. Just work on the stage layout guys, or The People and the Poet won’t be back…

 

Kendal Calling 2014: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 1st September 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Martin’s Day 1 roundup from
Kendal Calling 2014 is here.

There’s no doubting the scale of The Ramona Flowers‘ ambition – theirs is all big reverb and hanging guitar notes, large-scale emoting and words like “bittersweet”. There’s a common comparison with U2, which is fair enough, but in comparison the Flowers seem a touch lightweight: at least U2 managed to write about politics before moving on to songs which can be played at weddings. ‘Brighter’ is a spacey affair which manages to tick all the boxes of swirly, effected guitar, emo-pained yet meaningless vocal meanderings and a stadium-friendly drum track. Does the world need another bunch of U2 wannabes? Probably not, but the experience is pretty exhilarating while it lasts. Steve Bird is a strong frontman – which basically means he knows how good he looks and plays up to it – and the rest of the band bang out the massive tunes with competence and enthusiasm. If, like Professor Peach, you “like ’em big”, then The Ramona Flowers are where it’s at.

Amber Run (another set, another meaningless two-word band name) belong to that most dreary of genres: Quiet-Loud-Folksy-Rock-With-Big-Crescendos-And-Wide-Eyed-Faux-Innocent-Vocals. Even if this was your very first introduction to the wonders of live rock music, you’d still be forgiven for thinking “is that really it?”. ‘Spark’ has a pointless refrain of “let the light in”, repeated ad nauseum – a defining feature of the QLFRWBCAWEFIV genre. ‘Noah’ has all the other tropes – mildly ironic orchestral baubles (in this case, xylophone) and vowels stretched to the very limits of decency. They’re not as irritating as Eliza and the Bear, although that’s like saying syphilis is preferable to AIDS. Both to be avoided as much as practically possible.

We Were Evergreen do their thing, which is to be very funky and French indeed. We’ve covered them before at Deer Shed Festival (read about this year’s appearance here), so there’s no need to go into detail about their virtues again here, except to say that TGTF had a chat with them afterwards, so watch this space for that.

Thank goodness for Findlay, who can be relied upon to be a proper rock star. There’s more attitude in her slight frame than any number of mopey, reverbed boy bands. ‘Your Sister’ is even more acerbic live, the minimal band (another example of the current superfluosity of bassists) rocking hard to an ancient blues riff over lyrics heavy with innuendo. She breaks out the overdrive microphone for ‘Greasy Love’, which is still a very naughty piece of music, its references to sweaty sex just about as raunchy as rock gets right now, and its music is as dirty as its lyrical content. A new track called ‘Stoned and Alone’ is unleashed with the order, “if you’ve got a spliff, smoke it now!” to the raised eyebrows of security staff; what a rebel. If there’s a girl doing better blues-rock than Findlay right now, call the Guinness Book of Records.

Catfish and the Bottlemen pack the Calling Out tent, punters squelching around in boggy puddles on its periphery, desperate to catch a glimpse of a band that are shaping up to be the next big thing in mainstream rock. The stars were all aligning for their Kendal performance – their album about to drop, it was frontman Van McCann’s birthday, and he’d just exclusively revealed to TGTF that he’d like CATB to be bigger than Oasis. Fair enough. And on the evidence of today, their trajectory is indeed inexorably upwards. Their songs are adventurous yet simple: big choruses, hooky melodies, modestly sweary of lyric yet innocent of eye. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, no novel song arrangements, no obscure instrumentation, just a wall of guitars and an endearing mixture of humility and genuine cool from McCann. Back in March last year, TGTF declared “anyone pondering the future of British guitar music should add Catfish and the Bottlemen to the list”. Come 2014, not only are they on the list, they’re fighting hard to be at the top. Care to bet against them?

With their run of festival performances this summer, Suede have pulled off one of the most profound comebacks in recent memory. Not only are they generally regarded as being, if not quite the inventors of Britpop, then certainly the trailblazers, they have managed to resurrect a career that was in danger of becoming a footnote in pop music history – a blazing start followed by a long tail of increasing mediocrity. No longer. Following their superb comeback 2013 album ‘Bloodsports’, Suede have crafted a live show utterly worthy of a headline slot at any event in the world. Even (whisper it…) Glastonbury. Mumford and Sons? Give me a break.

After an appropriately long wait, a shadowy figure emerged from the depths of the stage to the mournful piano strains of ‘The Next Life’, a hugely brave move in front of a Northern festival crowd known for its rowdy enthusiasm. Impressively, the crowd was hushed and reverent as Brett Anderson knelt, almost foetus-like, his cracked falsetto hypnotising them into silence. A beautiful moment of Kendal history. But in a blink it was gone, replaced by a romp through 20 years of Suede history. They played more than half their debut album but just a single track from opus ‘Dog Man Star’, perhaps reinforcing this author’s opinion that, good though ‘Dog Man Star’ is, it’s ‘Suede’ that is a true pop-rock masterpiece, with the perfect combination of punk, pomp and peroxide, and much more relevant in the live arena.

There’s four tracks from ‘Coming Up,’ demonstrating just how valuable the first Oakes-written Suede album is to their back catalogue. The move to single-word song titles (‘Filmstar’, ‘Lazy’, ‘Trash’) neatly summarises the fresh, efficient, to-the-point Suede 2.0 which emerged from the ashes of the ‘Dog Man Star’ sessions – such songs are remarkably fizzy, electronically-enhanced shocks of guitar pop that still sound fresh and vital today. We also get this writer’s favourite ever Suede song, ‘Killing of a Flash Boy’, never released on a non-compilation album, but a perennial live favourite, a dystopian singalong with a similarly worrying video.

There really isn’t a comparable story in pop to that of Richard Oakes. Plucked from nowhere as a schoolboy with a penchant for playing Suede songs in his bedroom, his mimicry of Bernard Butler was astonishing then, and his ability to write original guitar parts in the true Suede style is nothing short of a musical miracle even now. His recent portliness may not be true to the skinny Suede style of old (Anderson, however, remains as sticklike as ever), but is at least a visual reminder of the years that have passed since his joining. Despite what many longstanding fans may want to believe, Oakes has been in the band almost three times as long as his predecessor, and is the true sound of modern Suede.

The high-water mark for Britpop reunions is arguably Blur’s performance at Glastonbury in 2009, with perhaps an honourable mention for Pulp at Primavera in 2011. The difference here is that Suede aren’t just doing a one-off gig or two, this tour has been going for the best part of a year, featuring several festival appearances. This a proper career reboot, and with a new album slated for 2015, Suede are proving that they’re not happy simply with inventing Britpop. They want to reinvent it too.

More from Martin on Kendall Calling 2014 will be on TGTF soon.

 
 
 

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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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