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Great Escape 2018: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 31st May 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It can’t be emphasised enough that the festival gods really smiled down on The Great Escape 2018 earlier this month. While in Washington, DC, my friends back home were suffering under torrential rains, I was by the sea in picture-perfect Brighton and never once did I have to break out the brolly. (Wasn’t so lucky the following Friday in Newcastle.) For anyone who has been soaked to the bone during The Great Escape in past years, you understand how this year’s impossibly good weather was incredible luck.

While the sunny skies did wonders for everyone’s mood and probably helped the sales of off-licence, takeaway liquor, friend and former writer Braden and I mused if the good weather could have adversely affected foot traffic and turnout to the both the official Great Escape and its sister event The Alternative Escape. As the weekend wore on, it seemed that with the long queues and huge crowds everywhere I went, there were plenty of music lovers in town to make this concern feel nonexistent. You’d have thought performances priot to the noon hour would be sparsely attended, but you would be wrong. Must be that early May sunrise in England!

Model Society Thursday The Great Escape The Alternative Escape 2018

London’s Model Society were already in full swing by the time I arrived at East Street Tap, host of the End of the Trail Records / Amazing Radio showcase. John and I knew this place in its previous incarnation as The Fishbowl. Their energy so early in the day was admirable, but I didn’t hear anything particularly exciting that would set their music apart from their indie peers. I was waiting for the act who would follow, Dan Lyons, who performed with a full band Saturday night at SXSW 2018.

Dan Lyons Thursday The Great Escape The Alternative Escape 2018

Lyons advertised it as a stripped back set, to be accompanied only by his guitar and his backing singer, bandmate and partner Freya. While his set in Austin came across as full-bodied blues, this barer version of Dan Lyons live was an entirely different experience. ‘Special People’ delivered in a deadpan makes you wonder how serious Lyons is being about people watching, or if he’s simply being cheeky. We were also treated to his upcoming single ‘Gargoyle’, which is currently only listenable if you happen to tune into a radio programme playing it. Everyone else, you’ll have to wait until it drops on the 22nd of June.

I thought I had gotten a good jumpstart on the acts following my in-person coverage of BIGSOUND 2017 in Australia last September and SXSW 2018 in March. But I can say now that I feel like there’s so much that I missed on at The Great Escape this year. There was the ever-present issue of clashes, of course, but the lack of separate lines for wristband and badge holders at many venues meant press could show up at a venue, only to be disappointed. Like at BIGSOUND 2017, I was thwarted again from seeing Hatchie properly on Thursday afternoon, but my personal setback could be viewed in a positive way: Sounds Australia’s Sound Gallery, taking up both the main Komedia venue space and its Studio Bar, were rammed all afternoon.

Hollow Coves Thursday The Great Escape 2018

When I made it back up to the Laines from East Street, I was only able to get into the Studio Bar. But with some luck, I managed to get reasonably close up to Hollow Coves. They’re a folk duo whose members are from Brisbane and The Gold Coast. This is a case where looks can be deceiving: they kind of look like smiley, yet unassuming builders. One of them is actually a carpenter, so I wasn’t that far off. At their simplest, I’d describe them as ethereal folk but interestingly, they also use synths on some tracks, taking folk songcraft and pairing it with electronic beats for a more 21st century flavour. I can get behind that! Their gorgeous music, including songs ‘Coastline’ and ‘Home’, took me back to my visit to Brisbane last year, when I took in the city’s very California-like climate and beauty.

On the other side of the Old Steine Gardens and back down closer to the sea is the Latest Music Bar, which hosted the Horizons / Gorwelion showcases Thursday and Friday afternoon. Even with rushing after an interview with Hollow Coves, I couldn’t make it in time before hyped Welsh act Boy Azooga finished. Drat. Cutting any further losses, I headed down to Patterns, Fender UK’s venue for the entire Great Escape, for a unique afternoon.

Declan McKenna Thursday The Great Escape 2018

Young but politically astute singer/songwriter Declan McKenna had been announced as the stage’s opening special guest shortly before the start of the festival, and his fans filling the Marine Parade venue were super excited as he and a female guitarist live bandmate began with single ‘Humongous’. Despite McKenna’s relative live inexperience, he seemed entirely at ease, his stage patter between songs hilarious. “I can’t play ‘Brazil’ now!” he hissed to the punters shouting for his World Cup-themed hit. “Everyone would leave!” Collective laughter. He ran through several other songs from his debut ‘What Do You Think About the Car?’, including ‘Paracetamol’, ‘The Kids Don’t Want to Come Home’ and ‘Make Me Your Queen’, before launching into the inevitable set closer.

Some of the crowd dispersed after McKenna finished, their spots to replaced to, shall we say, a much older crowd for BBC 6 Music’s Shaun Keaveny’s interview with legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. I knew this would be an opportunity for Marr to peddle the Fender Jaguar he helped design with the guitar company: at one point, Marr insisted to the crowd that you don’t need so many guitars, his guitar is so great, you only need the one. Hmm, right…I’ll get back to you on that.

Johnny Marr and Shaun Keaveny Thursday The Great Escape 2018

I was happily surprised that the conversation didn’t de-evolve into a boring, gear head kind of talk only accessible to real guitarists. Instead, Keaveny’s humour coupled with Marr’s down to earth nature made for a comfortable interview for both, Marr entertaining us with unexpected guitar interludes that any Smiths fan worth his salt would recognise, including the intro to ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ and the dreamy, yet mournful passes in ‘Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me’, the latter that he revealed was his favourite Smiths riff of all, written alone on a tour bus, missing his girlfriend.

He described writing melodies on a guitar as “It’s like chasing an angel”. What a beautiful, beautiful image to give us. I’d describe Johnny Marr as having a quiet peace around him: he’s obviously one of the 20th century’s greatest musical heroes, but he’s not throwing his weight around or feels the need to be showy. He’s content with where he is in life and he’s happy making music with “the best electronic machine” to write pop music on. Being that contented and happy: something we can all aspire to.

 

Johnny Marr / October 2015 UK Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 15th July 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Mancunian guitar god Johnny Marr has announced a new headline UK tour for October 2015. In the middle of the tour on Saturday the 10th of October, Marr also makes an appearance at the Rockaway Beach Festival in Bognor Regis. Tickets go on sale this Friday, the 17th of July, at 9 AM and will be priced £24 each before fees, except for in Manchester (£25 before fees).

Sunday 4th October 2015 – Oxford Academy
Monday 5th October 2015 – Birmingham Institute
Wednesday 7th October 2015 – Manchester Albert Hall
Sunday 11th October 2015 – Newcastle University
Monday 13th October 2015 – Inverness Ironworks
Tuesday 14th October 2015 – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms

 

Video of the Moment #1831: Johnny Marr

 
By on Sunday, 21st June 2015 at 10:00 am
 

Johnny Marr‘s music videos aren’t really all that inventive. In his latest promo for ‘Candidate’, appearing on Marr’s second album ‘Playland’ released in autumn 2014, he and his band are seen banging the track out in the studio, headphones on and alternating between silly and serious looks. Watch the video below.

Past TGTF coverage of the living legend, including Martin’s report on his arresting performance headlining Deer Shed 2014 last summer, can be found here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nr9OxMDE68[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1721: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

 
By on Saturday, 17th January 2015 at 10:00 am
 

‘Ballad of the Mighty I’ is the latest Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds track to be released, and this one’s mighty special, no pun intended: the song stars the guitar-playing talents of another Mancunian legend, Johnny Marr. I don’t know if I can handle the level of coolness on the stage in this video. Can you? Wait for it, there’s also a humourous moment at the end too. Watch the promo below.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ second album ‘Chasing Yesterday’ is released on the 2nd of March on Sour Mash Records.

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

 

Video of the Moment #1695: Johnny Marr

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd December 2014 at 6:06 pm
 

Johnny Marr‘s latest video is another showcase for what the man does best. That’s right. Playing his guitar. Except this time it’s in an intimate club setting for current single ‘Dynamo’, off his second solo album ‘Playland’. Watch it below.

Marr has been a busy man this year, playing numerous festivals and this autumn’s North American tour (read my words about the first date in DC here).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKSiQeT3FjA[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Johnny Marr at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 9th November 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 11th November 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo by TGTF Head Photographer Martin Sharman at Deer Shed Festival 2014

Guitar god and all around musical legend Johnny Marr just released his second solo album ‘Playland’ in October. Despite his solo work that began earnestly in recent years and all of his work from 1987 on, playing in and contributing to numerous other bands’ art, the shadow of being in the Smiths, what made him a household name and still revered 30 years on, still follows him around. Luckily for the Smiths devoted, he has no problem returning to a treasure trove of a back catalogue that he himself had an integral part in creating. His show Sunday night at the 9:30 Club, the first date on a massive North American tour that does not let up until mid-December, proved that unlike many other artists of his age that don’t like particularly like returning to their roots, Marr can and will. And with the widest of grins too.

This is not to say that the entire set in DC was filled with retreads of another bygone era. Songs from both ‘Playland’ and its predecessor ‘The Messenger’ (though, oddly not the 2013 LP’s title track, which I was had been hoping for and expecting) were proffered to an eager audience. ‘Easy Money’, the radio-friendly hit from the new album that has been making the rounds, is appropriately loud, fast and guitar-jangly to cause mayhem. Same goes for ‘Boys Get Straight’, whose name you can have for a price on blue coloured t-shirts being sold at the merch stand: Marr himself models the shirt later on in the show. (You couldn’t ask for any better product placement.) Synths buzz to usher in ‘Back in the Box’ and spark it to life, resulting in another set standout.

The evening was not without surprises. Marr rolled out an astoundingly brilliant version of ‘Getting Away With It’, the single from late ’80s supergroup Electronic that he formed with New Order’s Bernard Sumner after he quit the Smiths (watch the two of them perform the song at Live at Jodrell Bank in 2013 in this previous Live Gig Video). And for a truly left field moment, a cover of ‘Lust for Life’ came roaring through the amps during the encore. It’s not if the Washington crowd Sunday night needed a psyching up moment, but I suppose in other markets where the audience assembled is less excited, this might be a moment to re-energise them. Initially when the heavy beats started, I honestly thought this might be one of Marr’s new songs that just happened to sound like the Iggy Pop song. Until he began to sing.

‘Dynamo’, the album’s third track and newest single, is saved for the encore, though its title could have easily doubled as Marr’s nickname for the evening: the man is like Gumby come to life. Jumping onto speakers and pointing to folks in the rafters, showboating with his guitar to pause every so often in a serious stance right in front of fans who look like they’re about to faint, pogoing up and down in place in his smart burgundy trainers while – wait for it – not missing a note on his guitar, the man does it all. If there is any criticism to make, it’s for something that Marr can’t help: the vocals on the Smiths songs, while good, just don’t have the magic of Steven Patrick Morrissey’s. Having seen Morrissey so many times live singing these songs, I got a lump in my throat watching these songs – their songs – being performed without him. I am still hopeful that one day we might see the two of them on a stage together again.

There is, however, one thing that Johnny Marr will always remain supremely untouchable on: his way with a guitar. He alternated between two guitars all night – a blue Fender Jaguar and a black one whose make I could not catch – and the man was on fire all night. Some particularly excited punters spent the entire evening punching the air as their god was shredding before them. There are few that can hold an audience as massive as at the 9:30 in such rapt attention, and you would be wise to not forget this. And how could you really, as he bends backward and raises his guitar horizontal over his head to finish ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ while every single person in the club chants the lyrics back to him? Word on the street is that Marr will appear – with his guitar, of course – on Noel Gallagher’s upcoming album ‘Chasing Yesterday’, due out in March 2015. My argument is, if Marr can put up with one cantankerous aging musician from Manchester, he can put up with another. Fingers crossed.

After the cut: Johnny Marr’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Johnny Marr at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 9th November 2014

 
 
 

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

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