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Deer Shed Festival 2014: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 11th August 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Camping with kids at festivals is rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. Despite running around all day, playing swingball in fits of glee, they rarely fall asleep anywhere near normal bedtime yet paradoxically wake at the crack of dawn, as the first glow of sunlight forces its way through increasingly stuffy canvas. Which would explain the weary expressions on the faces of parents in the queues for coffee and bacon sandwiches early Saturday morning at Deer Shed festival. Plenty simply hadn’t bothered to get dressed, waiting in line in pyjamas and Crocs for the calories and caffeine which would finally drag them into the realm of the waking.

As good a place as any to eat breakfast was the Big Top tent, with Paul Cookson and Stan Cullimore for company. Stan used to be in The Housemartins, so he can play the ukulele and now sings songs for kids rather than blather on about how good Hull is. Paul Cookson used to be a teacher, so knows how to handle a crowd of over-excited children, and trades in performance poetry when not accompanying Cullimore on the ukulele. He has one particularly memorable routine in which he impersonates his teenage daughter’s head-shaking, hand-waving putdowns: “Wha-eva, major loser!” Elsewhere, the Stan sings a song about the virtues or otherwise of his musical partner’s digestive system, which of course brings the house down. A great way to banish the cobwebs.

Leeds’ Post War Glamour Girls do a good job of convincing people to buy their début album ‘Pink Fur’. Its scuzzy, incessant grooves infected with gothic despair are ironically just the ticket to really launch into Saturday PM. The shadow of Nick Cave hangs heavy over them; indeed, the male-female interplay recalls Cave and Minogue at their most lugubrious. After all that, how bad can one’s life be in comparison? Dublin’s Raglans do exactly what you might expect of a few likely lads equipped with guitars from Ireland’s party city. Upbeat, jolly ditties, delivered with irrepressible enthusiasm. Their song entitled ‘White Lightning’ might raise queasy memories of last night’s cider-induced hangover, but apart from that, they deserve full marks for kicking the Main Stage into life.

With nothing of interest to follow on the Main Stage, it’s to the comedy tent to witness Wes Zaharuk (yet another name misspelled in the programme). His brand of shambolic, power tool-assisted slapstick comedy has the power to have an audience in tears of laughter in short order, and gives any manner of ideas for mayhem to errant toddlers. A whole toilet roll is unravelled in someone’s face using some sort of power blower, and a lucky lady gets to feed Wes a banana. From behind. Without looking. It’s unclear how he gets away with it, but give praise to the god of slapstick that he does.

Happyness are the perfect mid-afternoon tent band. Their chilled-out obscurantist rock proves how effective the power trio lineup can still be. Their songs have a deceptive superficial simplicity in which hides all manner of clever guitar work and surrealist lyrical content. ‘Refrigerate Her’, anyone? The irony of their name versus their faux-glum onstage banter doesn’t go unnoticed, either. With their début album now released, Happyness deserve increasing recognition for their West-Coast-by-way-of-South-London vibes – and they’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately Catfish and the Bottlemen are indisposed, so Bleech play for the second time in 2 days. Which means that We Were Evergreen’s upcoming claim to Deer Shed fame – that they’d be the first act to play the main stage twice – is cruelly usurped by fate at the last possible moment. Which makes it even more inexplicable when the compere introduces “We Are Evergreen [sic], the first band ever to play the Main Stage twice!” just after Bleech had finished playing their second Main Stage set. Evergreen’s name had been misspelled throughout the catalogue and lanyard – one would imagine that a band that had played before would have better name recognition than the others, but apparently not. Anyway, a bit of a low point, credibility-wise.

What wasn’t a low point was We Were Evergreen’s actual set. Fortunately, the Parisian three-piece multi-instrumentalists can remember their own name and what to play. They’ve taken their time releasing their début album ‘Towards’, but the wait has been worth it. They’re complete antithesis of a guitar band: yes, they have a Telecaster and a ukulele, but they work in deference to the song, instead of the song being an incidental excuse for six-stringed excess. It’s impossible to overstate the songwriting efficiency that goes into a song like ‘False Start’: its funkiness is off the scale, there’s hooks galore, and the whole thing hangs in the air with a citric freshness of style for which merely being Gallic isn’t sufficient explanation. The closer ‘Belong’ has a climax of such theatrical intensity that it leaves the crowd in raptures of applause. There isn’t enough time in universe to get bored with it. We Were Evergreen deserve widespread acclaim, as do Deer Shed for hosting them twice – let’s hope they get their name right third time around.

Summer Camp play the “In the Dock” stage, which is a tent, but they surely would have worked just as well on the main stage, such is the power of their funkily intense pop music. Indeed, Summer Camp are perhaps the perfect intelligent pop band, with just the right blend of sugary melodies, acerbic observational lyrics, and a decent slug of wig-out when they’re really powering on. There’s some cuts from their recent ‘Beyond Clueless’ semi-soundtrack album, but the greatest acclaim is reserved for their back-catalogue classics – ‘Better Off Without You’ from ‘Welcome To Condale’ is received like an old friend. Elizabeth Sankey is a woodland diva, her tremulous soprano lending an air of dignity to the acerbic lyrics, whilst Jeremy Walmsley’s ’80s retro grooves ensure that any joints that may have become stiff in the evening breeze are well-loosened in anticipation of our headliner.

And so we come to Johnny Marr. In part 1 it was already established that Mr Marr is the most successful Deer Shed headliner ever, and outlined the reasons for it. Suffice to say that to these ears, seeing Marr live is actually superior to seeing the Smiths in their pomp: Marr’s voice is adequate but nothing spectacular, which leaves the music and songs space to breathe – the whole isn’t dominated by a preening diva flouncing around. Having said that, Marr is a surprisingly good mimic, his tone and inflection an impressive imitation of Morrissey’s, and indeed Neil Tennant’s for that matter. He played a decent mixture of solo songs, Smiths classics, one or two from Electronic, and a fine rendition of ‘I Fought The Law’. The enormous crowd gave a rapturous welcome, and even though this was surely a modest crowd by Marr standards, it was perhaps one of the most appreciative. It turns out an elder statesman headliner is perfect for the of-a-certain-age Deer Shed demographic. The mind boggles as to where this could lead – there’s no dearth of ex-singers or guitarists from respected bands which were active over the last two or three decades, any of which would be a perfect fit for Baldersby Park. More on this topic in part 3…

Keep it here on TGTF for the conclusion of Martin’s time at Deer Shed Festival 2014 coming soon.

 

Reading 2012: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 31st August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

What rhymes with ‘shredding’?

Not Leeds, Glastonbury, Creamfields or Latitude, that’s for sure.

The rumours were traversing the Twitter/blogosphere all week preceding Reading Festival and at 11 in the morning, it turned from rumour into fact. Green Day (pictured above) arrived on the NME and Radio 1 Stage and from that moment, no matter what happened in the next 24 hours, the day was theirs.

The three American boys, led by the imperious Billie Joe Armstrong, burst on stage, the crowd arrayed before them erupted. Grown men cried, teenage girls swooned and ‘Welcome to Paradise’ rang out across the sprawling mass of bodies in front of the punk superstars. With a back catalogue as enormous as theirs, it was no surprise that their set was a long one, with over 20 songs from their entire 2 and a half decade long career played.

Frontman Billie Joe commanded the troops like a first class general, leading the crowd in a number of “whoops” and “hey ohs!”, which intertwined with the collection of hit after hit that Green Day played. New track ‘Oh Love’ was met with the same adoration as stalwarts like ‘St. Jimmy’ (which was played at a speed of the likes that would not be seen at the festival all weekend).

While the set did seem constrained by time, as ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ was interrupted midway through the intro, the band did still manage a set to go down as one of the Reading Festival’s classics. ‘American Idiot’ was screamed back at the band by every single member of the crowd; such is the admiration for the band. A classic set in all ways. (10/10)

The unenviable task of following up Green Day fell to Post War Glamour Girls and in the impossible task, the Leeds-based rockers sadly didn’t provide much excitement. But in all fairness, they were following up Green Day, and it was barely even lunchtime. Credit to the band, they came on and they gave it their all. (5/10)

A trip to the Main Stage was in order next, to see Brighton-based duo Blood Red Shoes, performing for the first time on Reading’s Main Stage. The band were anything but overwhelmed by the situation, though Steven Ansell powered away on drums while Laura Mary-Carter proved an outstanding talent with her soaring vocals, which intertwined with ‘Ansell’s.’

The highlight of the set was near their set’s close as the band played ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’. However, it should be noted that opener ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’ which appears on the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack was definitely an impressive performance. The two members of the band may have looked small in their expansive surroundings, but they made the stage their own with their mix of garage-y, bluesy indie rock and roll. I can only see them playing higher up the bill next time around. (7/10)

Back to the NME Stage I went to see Scottish heroes Twin Atlantic, in a set which was likely to be described as a bit like Biffy Clyro. What a lazy comparison. Yes, they are Scottish, whoop dee dee, so are Frightened Rabbit, but they don’t get followed by comparisons to Simon Neil’s band of rock titans, do they?

Twin Atlantic deserve plaudits of their own and on the strength of the set they played; I won’t be the only person giving them. As their brand of radio-friendly, visceral guitar music is exactly what any festival needs to pour some life into it. ‘Free’ was roared to the heady heights of the NME/Radio 1 Stage, while ‘Make a Beast of Myself’ brought on the same kind of sing-along that Green Day provoked earlier that morning. (8/10)

Staying on the NME/Radio 1 Stage, next up were one of the breakthrough acts of the past 12 months, Dry the River, who brought their hauntingly poignant brand of indie-folk mash-up to Reading.

For a band that sounds so outstanding on record it’s safe to say, hearing them live was rather disappointing. The performance seemed labored, as if every track was as difficult for frontman Peter Liddle as passing a kidney stone. ‘No Rest’ offered a glimpse of the kind of quality that this band can produce, sounding like a less energetic, but more honest Mumford and Sons. But overall, this festival may be one to forget and move on from, as this band can and will be so much better then they were on Saturday. (5/10)

From a somber set in the tent, to a riotous screaming collision of genres on the Main Stage I moved to see Enter Shikari, a band who are so eponymous with Reading Festival, I’m surprised they haven’t been booked as the house band yet. Their new album delves even more into the politically charged work they have been creating of late. So ‘IMPORTANT’ political nonsense aside, they provide entertainment in its droves.

Classic ‘Sorry You’re Not a Winner’ is roared from the stage by Rou Reynolds, while new track ‘Arguing with Thermometers’ is greeted with a singalong of huge proportions. They may not have matched the sheer mentallness of 2 years ago, but their set went down well. (7/10)

I moved from British DIY stars, to Canadian punk troubadours next, in the form of Billy Talent. A band that certainly brought the tunes, but sadly the performance did nothing to match them. Often all you could hear was frontman Benjamin Kowalewicz wailing down the microphone incomprehensively. Set closer ‘Red Flag’ brought a riotous reaction, but in a formulaic set with very little merit to it, it all felt just a little bit contrived. Come up with something new, Billy. Then we’ll talk. (4/10)

To close the day there was another choice to be made. At the Drive In or Kasabian. A choice which I now regret, not for musical reasons, but for the fact that the former of the two has announced that their gig on Tuesday 28th August will be there last as a band.

As you can tell then, I saw Kasabian. Hardcore legends aside (At the Drive In) the Leicestershire based lad-rockers served up a set of unashamed arrogance and brilliance.

Tom Meighan swaggered around the stage like he owned it and for those two hours he absolutely did. The hits were reeled out at breakneck pace and each one was greeted with the adulation such a spectacular performance deserved. The band was fantastic, from start to finish with set closer ‘Fire’ bringing an end to a set which should quite rightly go down as one of the band and even Reading Festival’s best. (10/10)

 
 
 

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