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Great Escape 2012: Final thoughts and Day 3 Evening Roundup – 12th May 2012

 
By on Thursday, 31st May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

After a happy meetup with my NYC PR friend Marni and some finger food from the final press reception of this year’s Great Escape, I was on my own again. As a wheat allergy sufferer, finding food to go can be a bit of a challenge; for example, pasties aren’t too good for my body, and neither are sandwiches. I can have an occasional hamburger bun, but I try to avoid bread and pasta where I can. Knowing I had hours ahead of me for my last night at the festival, I decided to duck into the Yo Sushi! across the street from the Hub that I’d been eyeing for days. After a particularly unsuccessful time – I guess Brighton’s locals aren’t fans of raw fish, as I only managed 2 plates of salmon sushi after sitting there for 40 minutes – I up and went. Gutted.

My evening had to be restructured entirely on the announcement that Reverend and the Makers would no longer be supporting Africa Express Soundsystem, so to this day I still have yet to set foot and cover a show in the Dome. Next year. I had a difficult choices to make: I sadly had to give a pass to Perfume Genius at St. Mary’s Church because there was no way I’d get back up to the Pavilion Theatre and get in successfully for Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny, a band I’d circled in red early on as a must see. Then there was some confusion in my mind who I should see before then. In a fit of slight desperation, I started reading the band descriptions in my now dog-eared schedule book for some guidance. I’d heard of Fanzine and thought maybe going to see Novella the band before them, might be interesting. Maybe. “Encountering drone and dream-pop with the same glassy-eyed nonchalance, London trio Novella may seem dazed, but their grass-roots credentials prove they’re far from confused.” They had also graced the Dome prior to Maximo Park’s appearance on Thursday night, so I thought, hmm, that’s a plan.

The Audio sign was relatively easy to find. I breathed a sigh of relief. However, a mix of drunk stag party participants spilling out on the pavement and actual festival goers made for bewilderment requiring me to ask the two bald guys out front for help. I don’t know what is up with most of the bouncers that work the Great Escape, but geez, when a woman comes and asks you a question nicely, is it so hard to answer truthfully and without nastiness or sarcasm? I got another “there’s no way in hell you’re getting in there” kind of response. Then I asked about Above Audio. “Oh, you can go right in there. There’s no queue.” Now you’re talking my language.

Funnily enough, Above Audio was where my mate Ed and his mates had gathered. “You’re not going to like this very much,” he commented about the first act up and Brighton locals Regal Safari. He meant because they’re chillwave, and this is true, I’m not a fan of that genre. But perhaps it was all the alcohol that was flowing, but I quite enjoyed their style of dance music so much I could feel my feet, though sore, still itching to move to the beat. After the set, my friends soon departed but I wasn’t alone for long.

Suddenly it was Blog Up all over again when Shell Zenner, Mike Bradford of the Recommender, Robin of Breaking More Waves and I found ourselves in the same patch of club space. Seriously, given the number of shows happening at that very moment in Brighton, what are the odds? (Also, how do we NOT have a single photo?!?) We exchanged advice and moans of conflicts remaining for our weekends and at Robin’s advice, I stayed for Gold and Youth, a Canadian band Paul Lester has compared to Depeche Mode. They’re an electronic band but in the ‘80s sense that seems to be a nostalgic bent a lot of bands are trying to ape. Not sure if I agree with their label Arts and Crafts’ description of “neo-noir Los Angeles, cinematic haze and midnight solitudes”. But there is a definite dark, brooding nature that history has shown works extremely well with industrial synth action going hand to hand with great songwriting, and if this one performance is anything to go by, I think this band – now augmented with a female singer and bassist! – will be going places. Watch some live videp of the band below. (Sorry for the guy who was walking back and forth in front of the camera; that was their roadie and I was already taking my chances standing on the stage…that said, I have to say that I love the fact that in most UK venues, you can video as much as you please. Not the way with American venues…)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQaxepsYXqk[/youtube]

I am sure it is quite ironic, seeing that I’m an American, that I’ve not seen Howler live before. However, I shouldn’t have even bothered to head to Komedia, as it felt like the whole of Brighton descended on that very venue’s upstairs for Alabama Shakes. (Zzz.) Should I tell you what the bouncer there said to me? I should. (Incidentally, he is the same bouncer that took a horrible photo of me with the Crookes that morning and demanded 5 quid for his trouble. Very funny.) I asked where Komedia upstairs was. “You’re not getting in, it’s one in, one out now.” (Please keep in mind that I had arrived an hour before Howler was due on stage, and nearly 3 hours before Alabama Shakes’ set time.) I asked if this was the line he was giving every single punter who asked (insinuating he was just putting out false information). He gave a stern look. “No, I’ve been saying that all night to compensate for my small penis.” And there you have it, folks.

You really can’t follow that up with anything else, so I asked how the capacity for the Komedia’s Studio Bar. Wordlessly, he pointed his bald head in the direction of the door. I have no idea why Komedia downstairs doesn’t put on shows at night – they have the space, so they should, why not? – but after getting a little lost (admittedly still buzzed from the cider imbibed at Above Audio) I finally made it to catch the last couple songs of JD McPherson, who is best described as a white man having a go at being Little Richard and succeeding. After the disappointment of not getting into Howler, this was an impressive find and unlike anything I expected to hear at the Great Escape this year. I imagined this must have been the way the Beatles felt when they first heard ‘Tutti Frutti’. Watch his video for ‘North Side Gal’ below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZGn4LncY0g[/youtube]

I gave up the illusion I was getting close enough to take photos; the bar was packed full of sweaty revelers who hooted their approval for their new god. It might not have been the most inventive or original music at the festival, but who cares when you’ve got a whole room of very happy people? I was situated in the back, next to a group of girls in cute dresses and flower headband contraptions that must have taken forever to arrange. When I inquired – successfully – if they were part of a hen party and went on to declare my admiration for their outfits, I got hugs all around. Apparently they had not been treated well by the festival punters they’d spoken to, who had all declared that they were there specifically to get pissed. Their spokeswoman quickly clarified to me that it was the bride to be’s request that her hen do take place around the Great Escape because music is so important to her. That’s it. You’ve all been informed. When I’m getting married, I’m having my hen do around a music festival. That’s the way to do it!

Seeing that I had been thwarted on getting in on the venue Howler was playing way before the fact, I decided it was probably best if I stopped swanning about and headed to the Pavilion Theatre, where I would stay for the night. Not really sure how queues work for this place; maybe they counted everyone in the downstairs bar in the capacity? I arrived at the Club Uncut stage with the room half full, people sitting cross-legged on the floor while Hans Chew played. Jazz and blues are not my forte, unless there’s a definite rock ‘n’ roll edge to it (see JD McPherson above), and while he and his guitarist sounded well matched, I wasn’t feeling it.

I had another band to sit through, but “sit through” is the wrong phrase to use, because they actually got me up and hopping. Solar Bears, a Irish electronic duo, brought the beats and had me and my new friends (friends who actually enjoyed Django Django the night before and were being respectful and not shouting at each other!) and I were dancing up a storm. Yes, there were people being stupid and sitting on the floor still, but man, it was their loss. Apparently film scores and soundtracks play a big part in their musical upbringing, but I enjoyed what I considered a quite dynamic and fun electronic music experience.

Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny. Ooh. I don’t think I was adequately prepared. I was disappointed they weren’t dressed up in multi-coloured outfits. But Beth herself explained to the audience that they had just come back from a tour of Europe and were exhausted, and she was wearing a t-shirt that belonged to a bandmate and after a cursory nasal check, announced that it smelled. (Er…TMI.) When people say a woman’s voice sounds like a songbird, I usually am let down when I finally hear the woman and find she sounds nothing like a bird. Beth Jeans Houghton doesn’t sound like a bird but her operatic tones give any bird on a tree near you a run of its money. On paper, you’d think that her style of singing wouldn’t work in the pop environment, and that’s where you would be wrong. But listen to a bit of the live performance of below and decide for yourself.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BsOa7GiSgA[/youtube]

EMA followed with a down and dirty, grungey sound. And she had props! What looked like a hollowed out mirrorball hung from Erika M. Anderson’s mike stand. And for ‘Angelo’, she festooned herself with strings of lit Christmas lights; if you don’t believe me, watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWF6OvwOQuk[/youtube]

And that’s how my Great Escape ended, hanging with new friends and checking out a band I knew little about. Both things are what this festival was about. And I feel incredibly lucky I got to experience it this year, see 21 bands, and interview the Crookes. I feel quite isolated and alone in Washington, so something very special about the Great Escape was that it gave me the chance to meet so many bloggers and people involved in the music business in the welcoming realm of UK music that it gives me a fuzzy feeling just thinking about it. Same time, next year? Make mine a Kopparberg pear cider and I’ll see you down the front.

 

(Great Escape 2012 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #792: Howler

 
By on Friday, 11th May 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

Howler has a new video for ‘This One’s Different’, their current single off their album ‘America Give Up’. Read guest reviewer Matt Abbott of Skint and Demoralised’s review of the album here. This video isn’t for the faint of heart (there is copious amounts of fake blood), so if that turns you off, skip this one.

The band performs at the Great Escape tonight (Friday 11 May) at the NME Radar showcase at Horatio’s at 22.15, and also appear at the Latest Music Bar on Saturday 12 May at 13.15, followed by another performance at the Rough Trade night at Komedia upstairs at 21.00.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bWBdBMffoU[/youtube]

 

Album Review: Howler – Give Up America

 
By on Tuesday, 7th February 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Words by guest reviewer Matt Abbott of Skint and Demoralised

As we all know, there have been an abundance of outstanding debut albums from indie rock bands over the last decade. The lines between a distinctly British musical sound and a distinctly American one were blurred beyond recognition, and the indie world was united in worshipping the heroics of The Strokes, The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and dare, I say it, Razorlight.

So if you’re going to release an album that slips into this bracket in 2012, you’d better have produced something worth listening to. The rest of the music world has abandoned us in favour of a latter-day bastardised version of r&b and the latest dance trend in dubstep, leaving skinny jeans and dingy bars for us hardcore devotees to the indie rock genre.

And whilst the Howler album isn’t particularly inventive or imaginative – in fact, it isn’t really inventive or imaginative whatsoever – it is fun to listen to. If you happened to stumble across these guys at a festival, you’d be guaranteed to have a great time dancing around to their set whether you knew their songs or not. Similarly, if somebody put this album on at a party you’d definitely ask who the band were and track them down online a few days later.

But at the same time, if you were scanning through your music collection looking for inspiration then this album probably wouldn’t jump out at you. This isn’t directly intended as criticism, mind: it doesn’t sound as if that was Howler’s intention when they created this. They don’t appear to be craving critical acclaim or trying to generate a ground-breaking sound. They’re out for a good time, and this album will certainly give you one if you’re in the right mood.

That reason that I referenced Razorlight in the opening paragraph, albeit cautiously, is because this album reminds me of them throughout. Don’t get me wrong, there are other apparent influences as well, but the trademark tones of Razorlight’s early sound is a constant on this record. And if you take a moment to ignore the prancing pretentious knobhead that Johnny Borrell quickly revealed himself to be, those first few Razorlight albums were fun to listen to when they came out. You can’t deny that they had a certain knack for nailing the catchy, atmospheric indie rock tune down to a T.

My personal highlights on this record were opening track ‘Beach Sluts’ – which had won me over by the end of the first chorus and made me want to play it again immediately – and then later on the atmospheric and aptly titled ‘Back of Your Neck’ (watch the video below). I can also see penultimate track ‘Free Drunk’ really growing on me as a defiantly laid-back foot-tapper. Again, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but since when does that stop music being good?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swg9X1LcXm8[/youtube]

If I find myself at a festival this summer that boasts Howler amongst their line-up then I certainly won’t be stumbling across their set; I’ll be going out of my way to catch it. Next time we need an album to stimulate a 4-hour drive in the back of the tour van, this will no doubt be amongst my suggestions. I might not listen to it in 3 or 4 years’ time. But right now it’s a good album, and I definitely recommend buying it. Certainly not a bad start to indie-rock in 2012, anyway!

7/10

‘America Give Up’, the debut album from Howler, is available from Rough Trade now.

 

Howler / January and February 2012 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 14th December 2011 at 9:00 am
 

Minneapolis’s Howler recently opened for the Vaccines on their 2011 winter tour and have been showing up as a band to watch in several media pundits’ 2012 lists. Good news to those who dig them: they will be touching down in Britain in late January and play a series of dates around the country. Their debut album ‘America Give Up’ (errr…?) will be released on the 16th of January on Rough Trade.

You can watch the new video for their song ‘Back of Your Neck’ below.

Monday 23rd January 2012 – Bristol Louisiana
Tuesday 24th January 2012 – Brighton Green Door
Wednesday 25th January 2012 – Southampton Joiners
Thursday 26th January 2012 – London XOYO (New to Q show)
Friday 27th January 2012 – Cardiff Buffalo Bar
Sunday 29th January 2012 – Liverpool Mojo
Monday 30th January 2012 – Manchester Deaf Institute
Tuesday 31st January 2012 – Nottingham Bodega
Wednesday 1st February 2012 – Newcastle Cluny
Friday 3rd February 2012 – Leeds Cockpit
Saturday 4th February 2012 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Sunday 5th February 2012 – Birmingham HMV Institute
Monday 6th February 2012 – London Lexington

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swg9X1LcXm8[/youtube]

 
 
 

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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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