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Live Review: Friendly Fires with Wise Blood at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 26th May 2011

 
By on Tuesday, 31st May 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Friendly Fires. They were the first band that I seriously covered as a blogger (before this show I’d seen them 5 times and only once ever in DC, even having to trek out as far as their headlining appearance at Dot to Dot 2009 in Nottingham to see them), so they hold a special place in my heart. When I heard they were returning to DC, I wanted to see them to give ‘Pala’ the benefit of the doubt (because I didn’t love it like their debut album – read my review here).

First though, we had to sit (er, stand impatiently) through Wise Blood. Problem: unless the backing instrumentation is danceable, rap leaves me cold. We still don’t have the foggiest idea why a rapper was chosen for the opener. The only thing I can figure: Friendly Fires didn’t dare compete with another dance band, especially since they hadn’t been to many of the towns on the tour, including DC, in 2 years and were unsure how they’d be received. The somewhat ironic thing about rapper Chris Laufman was that his backing band (a guy on sequencers and a Macbook, and another on drums) sounded absolutely amazing when Laufman took a break offstage and let them do their thing. I was also put off by Laufman’s repeated New York City bashing; you say Washington is better than NYC once, it sounds sincere. You say it too many times, it sounds ingratiating.

Soon after Laufman departed, the floor and balcony started to fill up. Obviously, everyone was there for Friendly Fires: either they’d seen the band before, or they had heard how great they were live. The guy in front of me in the queue before the show was from Manchester and had been waiting in his spot since noon. Hardcore. They were definitely worth the wait, even in 26C+ degree heat. Oh man. Before I started writing this, I wondered how I was going to even put my experience into words. Friendly Fires are in the business of wowing their audience. They are consummate performers; they make you happy, they make you dance, they make your heart race.

‘Lovesick’ opened the excellent set, Ed Macfarlane breaking out his now world-famous dance moves and even jumping over the barrier to join the crowd and dance with them. (He did this so many times, I lost count. At least this time, to my knowledge, Ed Mac didn’t get groped; you see, DC crowds respect musicians.) While the singles new (‘Live Those Days Tonight’) and old (‘Jump in the Pool’, ‘Paris’, ‘Skeleton Boy’) predictably garnered the most excited response, the new songs like ‘Blue Cassette’, ‘Chimes’ (with its breathless desire-filled chorus “I want you more, I can’t help but want you more / I can’t stop chasing your love”) and ‘Show Me Lights’ (my personal favourite from ‘Pala’) didn’t disappoint.

I was unsure of what song they could end with since they already played ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ and ‘Paris’ before the encore. Then Friendly Fires brought out ‘Kiss of Life’, the song that should have clued us in on what was up ahead for these St. Albans boys. Just…wow. Now I’m trying to decide if I should attend their second Brixton Academy date just announced last Friday…I mean, what better way to spend your birthday than with the boys that bring the carnival to town every time they play for you?

More photos and set list behind the cut.

Continue reading Live Review: Friendly Fires with Wise Blood at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 26th May 2011

 

Interview: Edd Gibson and Jack Savidge of Friendly Fires

 
By on Tuesday, 31st May 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

Friendly Fires began their North American campaign last week, stopping in Washington for the second date of their tour. I was able to grab Edd Gibson (guitar; above left) and Jack Savidge (drums; above right) for a brief chat backstage at the 9:30 Club before their show in DC Thursday night (review to follow at 2 PM today at this link) to talk a bit about the wonderful world of sampling (not the dodgy way, the Friendly Fires way), the early reception of ‘Pala’, a social gaffe with Muse and more. I also get a North American news exclusive. Read the whole interview below.

So ‘Pala’ just came out here in America 2 days ago (24 May). The cover is really colourful. Tell us how you decided on the cover.
Jack Savidge (drummer): The full saga is that…basically we decided to call the album ‘Pala’ after having the written the song, Ed (Macfarlane; Friendly Fires’ lead singer, synth player and bassist) had written the lyrics and come up with the concept from Island (the Aldous Huxley novel). Then we went round through tons of…
Edd Gibson (guitar): …like nice-looking photos, just nothing that grabs you.
Jack: Yeah, a bit bland-y…kind of…
Edd: Like a kind of Kings of Leon-style, that shore and palm tree (of ‘Come Around Sundown’), that kind of nonsense.
Jack: And none of it was really working. I dunno, and then we’d been through tons and tons of tedious meetings about it. And then Ed said, “there are parrots on this island. Why don’t we put a parrot on the front cover? A massive fucking parrot.” So then we searched to find a good parrot photo from anywhere on the Web, trawling all over the place. And then Phil (Morais), he’s our manager, one of his friends is a photographer. He linked us up to that set of photos that were done by this guy called Sølve Sundsbø. He’s a fashion photographer. These are from his private collection, and it’s like a whole series of photos and action shots of this very vivid parrot.
Edd: And also film, so we’ve used other shots and some of the film. We’ve been able to use Solvay’s projector on the back, so he’s really helped us have a proper concept.
Oh, are we going to see some of that tonight, then?
Jack: You’re not going to see some of that tonight.
Edd: We couldn’t afford to take our lighting guy (on this tour)…
Jack: …but absolutely, I think next time when we come back in the autumn…we’ll definitely have him with us.
(in a whisper) …ooh, you’re going to be back in the autumn?
Edd: Hell yeah. That’s an exclusive!
Jack: I think that’s been announced?

So how do you view this album compared to your first (‘Friendly Fires’, 2008) in terms of how you wrote and recorded?
Jack: I dunno. I don’t think we consciously approached it any different from the first album. I think we did…most times we set ourselves to write something, we end up coming to it in a roundabout way, with different kinds of formulas of writing. Yeah, I don’t think anything consciously was that different. [looks at Edd] What do you think?
Edd: When you look back, you realise what the actual actions that took place. Some songs we started differently and different methods we never tried before. Before (on the previous album), there weren’t chats like, “right, now it’s time to chop this whole song up and get little samples, and make a hook from that and play on top of that”.
Jack: But I suppose that’s one of the things we did explore more on this album is sampling. You can sort of hear that on…’Live Those Days (Tonight)’, ‘Blue Cassette’…
Edd: ‘Chimes’, ‘Hurting’…you name ‘em.
Jack: ‘Pala’ has plenty of them. I dunno, it’s kind of like…sampling is always exciting. Even though you can get in trouble over it, as obviously we haven’t ever found! [Jack grins, Edd laughs] But with someone else’s pieces of music, you get weird flecks of inspiration you would never come across yourself. That’s not to, sort of, big up stealing other people’s music. But there’s just something amazing [in sampling] you could never get out of it.
Edd: You could never write it a specific sound from a pinpoint chop of a whole song. It’s an element of chance of whether it will work. It’s quite fun, making this collage and then actually seeing, stepping back to look at the drawing again.
It’s like taking the best bits of other things and making something better.
Jack: Yeah, kind of. That’s not to say we’re doing the sampling in the way that I guess…
Edd: …Black Eyed Peas…
Jack: Black Eyed Peas, where you take the whole chorus. It’s more of little touches. I think there are ways to do it which are artistic and there are ways to take people’s music and totally rip them off. [I laugh]

So how many shows have you done with the new material so far? The two that come to me are the two London show this month (May 2011), XOYO and Heaven. I had friends who went to see you and they all said the lighting was amazing, the sound was amazing. How has the reception been? Essentially, the album’s just come out, so you haven’t toured the album that long.
Edd: We toured some of the songs even before we completed the album. We did two shows in America (in February 2011), an Australian tour and Tokyo. But since it’s actually came out, we’ve been to Europe – Belgium, Berlin and Amsterdam. They really seem to “get” it now. It’s been clicking and people have been responding to us far better than they ever did.
That’s great.
Edd: You can already tell people have listened to the record and not just the singles, so it’s good that people are already finding their favourites.

Speaking of when you previewed the songs, last summer you opened for Muse in Italy. Now what was that like?
Jack: [chuckles] It’s kind of weird, because you’re playing in broad daylight. And there’s more people than you’ve ever seen in front of you…
Was it in a football stadium?
Jack: Yes, San Siro in Milan. [Watch video #2 on this previous Video of the Moment post. – Ed.]
Edd: It’s like a fortress in the middle of Milan.
Jack: Everyone’s really static. You know, they’re obviously all there to see Muse.
Edd: We grabbed the opportunity, because Italy’s a notoriously tough place to be able to play. Most people don’t actually tour over there, unless they’re guaranteed a certain level response, like Muse. It was fun, because we got to meet Kasabian, who are fucking awesome.
Jack: Yeah, they’re really, really fun! Their band is okay, but as people, they’re fucking really fun.

Edd: And we got to chat to the Muse drummer, which probably shouldn’t have happened. [Jack guffaws loudly]
Dom Howard? Why, what happened?
Edd: I just embarrassed myself.
Jack: Edd asked him…well, he embarrassed himself, really.
Edd: Yeah, that’s the spirit! Well, I was pissed and stoned and didn’t get to watch the show, because I was too busy gasping on my knees. And I’d heard they had this huge sort of UFO that would descend on the audience.
I’ve heard about this…I haven’t seen it…
Edd: So I went to say hello and thank him for choosing us (as support), all of that afterwards, after the show. So I asked, “what happens to the UFO, then?” And he went on to explain how it gets deflated and packed away in a flight case and put on the bus…I obviously know that’s what’s going to happen with it. I meant, “during your show, what happens to it?” I didn’t say that! I was just, “hmm…”
Jack: Like, “ooh, yeah!”
Totally anticlimactic answer.
Edd: But to be honest, I shouldn’t have asked him. I should have just said, “I obviously saw the show. It was fantastic!”
Jack: “My favourite bit was when the UFO exploded!”
Edd: “Yeah, that alien was dead on!” [everyone laughs]
Jack: “And then the bass player came out with antennas on his head, whoa!”
Edd: “Hats off to you guys!”

Another big show you guys recently was playing the sold-out Brighton Dome at the Great Escape 2 weeks ago. So, how was that? Had you played the Dome before?
Jack: Yeah yeah, we have. It’s a really amazing venue. I think it had loads of National Lottery money injected into it, as it’s got amazing lighting rigs…
Edd: And downstairs, all the dressing rooms are signposted “Choir’s Room” or “Soloist’s Room”. It’s clearly designed for people of a level far above our own.
Jack: For pantomimes. And musicals and stuff like that. But yeah, it was good. I dunno, it was our first really big headlining gig in a long time.
And for the new album.
Jack: Yeah. I think it probably wasn’t as good as last night (at Webster Hall in New York City), but it was all right.
Edd: Yeah, we sounded better.

Yeah, tell me how last night went.
Jack: Last night was great. It was fantastic. I think that was my favourite gig for ages.
You’d played there before, right?
Edd: Yeah, we’d played there before with the xx. [They’re referring to the Nylon Winter tour of 2009; we covered the Boston leg here. – Ed.]
Jack: Yeah, last night, the crowd was really…they had exactly the right attitude. There was no curiosity about it…
I think it may be because ‘Pala’ is a really good summer album and we’re just getting into summer over here in North America. And actually, we’ve had a very rough winter in the East. So I think tonight will be good as well because Washington got hit hard with the cold this winter too. Today was the first 90 F (26 C) day of the entire year so far…
Edd: Oh really? We seem to be taking it (the heat) with us, in all honesty.
Yeah, you’re taking the sunshine to everybody!
Edd: The XOYO show was the first really hot day in the UK as well. We’ve been playing a lot of shows quite early on through no choice of our own, like put before a club night. But last night was a headlining show of our own, and we didn’t get on until half past 10. I think it shows, when it gets closer to the midnight hour the people are more lively.
Jack: Maybe there is something. Maybe it has to do with climate? We should do an experiment…

TGTF would like to give special thanks to Catherine and Martyn for helping sort this interview.

 

(Great Escape 2011!) Live Review: Brother and Bones at Brighton Komedia – 13th May 2011

 
By on Friday, 27th May 2011 at 11:00 am
 

It’s 1:30 in the afternoon, and the weather outside is screaming, “don’t go to that smelly underground venue!” Go to the beach, sit on the pier with an ice cream, watch another street gig, anything but go underground! No, I say: the show must go on!

What a decision that was, for one of the best bands I was able to see at this year’s Great Escape. Beneath Komedia, Cornwall based five-piece Brother and Bones were about to begin their set to a crowd of sweaty music patrons. The atmosphere is one of going into the unknown; here stands a band where there has been quite a bit of buzz about them but not really anyone knows what they sound like.

Well, they were about to find out that a band fronted by an acoustic guitar can be as formidable as anything around. Opener ‘Here Comes the Storm’ is a slow building roarer of a track and already the crowd are on tenterhooks. That’s only the start if it though, then the stomping began. My, could they make a noise with their feet, imagine Mumford and Sons‘ ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ on steroids and played at 11, then you are probably about halfway to realising the noise these boys made.

The dual percussion attack coupled with their epic bass grooves made for some seriously exciting tracks populating the middle of their set, including personal favourite ‘Back to Shore’ and ‘Skin and Bone.’ Brother and Bones are a band difficult to pin down. Their West Country roots point them towards a more folky feeling, but they simply rock too hard to be pinned down as a country act. The sound like a mix as the festival curators say between Mumford and Sons and The Dead Weather. While I agree, I also want to add that well, I think these boys could be better and bigger than both.

Live songs like new single ‘Don’t Forget to Pray’ have massive hooks that would appeal to the masses however with a paltry 4,000+ views on YouTube, I ask myself, will their name get out there? I for one hope so. Gigs like this are hard to find they come around once every few years, where you find a band you instantly fall in love with and you can’t stop playing their songs. This was one of those gigs for me, so I implore you, if you do anything this year apart from avoiding the rapture, watch this band.

 

(Great Escape 2011!) Live Review: Dinosaur Pile-Up at Brighton Jam – 13th May 2011

 
By on Thursday, 26th May 2011 at 1:00 pm
 

The 200-capacity Jam has been described as almost like watching a gig through a letterbox. But for a punter who is 6 foot 5 inches like me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of venues to watch the gig in. Dinosaur Pile-Up though don’t write easy watching music; they write heavy, grungy, seriously hardcore tunes. Songs that you don’t want to stand still and watch. No: these are songs that you want to jump up and down too, songs that you want to charge into the mosh pit, beer in hand, and cause some serious damage too.

So at quarter to ten on the Friday of the Great Escape, Dinosaur Pile-Up entered the stage and chaos ensued. As the Leeds three piece powered through their 30-minute long set, the crowd got more and more rowdy, until at last during the band’s last song, the crowd invaded the stage and joined their newfound heroes on stage. The energy of this band though is infectious; tunes like ‘Traynor’ brought the crowd to boiling point and really showed the Jam some serious modern day grunge. Their influences were obviously Nirvana, in their song writing and their music, but what band of this generation can say they are not influenced by Dave Grohl’s old band and is that really a bad thing?

 

(Great Escape 2011!) Live Review: Dog is Dead at Jubilee Square (Relentless street gig) – 13th May 2011

 
By on Thursday, 26th May 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

Nottingham five-piece Dog is Dead were only told an hour and a half hours before the gig that they would be playing at the Relentless stage in Jubilee Square. Their sound was one that was perfectly suited to the outdoor setting: the beautiful folk-inspired melodies drifted brilliantly over Jubilee Square as the sunshine grew brighter around us. Their harmonies really gave some added oomph to their occasionally flat sound, but tune ‘I Get Used to It’ redeemed the band.

The band joked about marketing Relentless since they were on the stage; however, their occasional banter didn’t distract from a good little surprise set by a band who could easily with a few more catchy tunes really take off. This 15-minute set highlighted lead singer Joss Van Wilder’s strength when constructing catchy indie pop tunes. Their tunes have already attracted some real interest from Huw Stephens and Steve Lamacq, so who knows – we could be hearing a lot more of these boys very soon.

 

(Great Escape 2011!) Live Review: Frank Turner at Brighton Coalition – 12th May 2011

 
By on Thursday, 26th May 2011 at 11:00 am
 

We’ve heard it all before: he’s the hardest working man in modern day rock ‘n’ roll. he did 24 gigs in 24 hours. Oh and surprise, surprise: everyone’s favourite punk rocking troubadour, Frank Turner, was at it again, running around Brighton at this year’s Great Escape.

Before his evening set at Coalition, Frank had already been in conversation in front of an audience for the professional networking portion of the Great Escape at the Queens Hotel and had spoken in HMV. And before that he had travelled down from Edinburgh. The man just doesn’t stop.

His set in Coalition though was different to his normal shows where he is normally backed by a band. Today he cut a lonely figure on the stage: just him and his guitar in front of the crammed room full of fanatics. His arrival was to rapturous cheers and the crowd had obviously been waiting for only one thing, the first chord from that acoustic guitar.

He opened with live favourite ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He was Famous’, and immediately the crowd was his. Every word was mirrored by the approximately 300 people in the venue, me included. His ‘backing singers’ were there with him for every song, even the unreleased ones from his new record ‘England Keep My Bones,’ which he gave 2 songs on the record an outing, the already well known ‘I Am Disappeared’ and ‘The English Curse.’

The latter was probably the most interesting moment in the set, as the ‘backing singers’ as he called the crowd fell silent. The intensity of this a capella song is difficult to describe, but nevertheless for those 3 minutes, the audience were under his spell and they were going nowhere. Apart from the new material, Frank delivered arguably one if the strongest sets I have ever seen him play, with or without his band. Old and new songs were received with cheers and whistles and Mr. Turner did all he could to show the Coalition audience a great time.

It’s sure to say that Frank Turner if he can keep delivering sets as good as this one will soon be creeping up that running order at festivals. He is an act who never fails to deliver, to new and old fans alike. What’s next then for Frank? Well bar his new record, he has festival slots all over Europe to look forward to. So if he’s coming to a field near you, take my advice, this man makes brilliant music and you ‘want’ to listen to it.

 
 
 

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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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