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Deer Shed Festival 2014: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 31st July 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

On Saturday the 26th of July, on the occasion of its fifth birthday, Deer Shed Festival finally came of age. I mean no disrespect to Villagers or Darwin Deez, but Johnny Marr is the perfect climax to Saturday night at Deer Shed. He drew a crowd to Baldersby Park’s gently sloping natural auditorium unmatched in both size and enthusiasm than in any previous year. By virtue of writing the music to countless songs that soundtracked the lives of the adults in the crowd when they were young, free, and unencumbered by the offspring who were variously marauding around the site in frenzied glee or asleep in their arms despite the noise, for an hour or so they gave Marr their undivided attention and appreciation as he reeled off one classic after another.

Even though perhaps not as much a household name as his Smithsian lyricist and singer, by virtue of avoiding the latter’s rum pronouncements on vegetarianism, race, and sexuality, and sticking to what he does best – playing decent music – Marr succeeds in a similar, but much larger fashion, to that which Gaz Coombes did the previous year. A combination of life-affirming back catalogue hits, each of which instantly evoke dusty memories of life past, together with new material that easily stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the older stuff, is a recipe for success at Deer Shed Festival. Thusly are memories of the future made.

But Deer Shed Festival is far from being just the Johnny Marr show, and the adventure commenced the previous sultry afternoon. For those that don’t know, Deer Shed festival is held in North Yorkshire, just off the A1 on the way to Thirsk, in the beautiful grounds of Baldersby Park. The unwritten rule of Deer Shed: bring the kids. Even though the music is as good as anywhere, the real focus is on giving children a good time throughout the weekend, so if you’ve an aversion to the little blighters, look elsewhere. If you need an event where the kids are kept amused as Dad moshes down the front, Deer Shed is for you.

After a less-than-arduous 5-minute walk from car park to campsite, silently congratulating oneself for attending an event of a sensible acreage, and a bout of fumbling with canvas and string in the baking hot sunshine, refreshment and musical entertainment are less desired than demanded. Teleman were welcome succour. Comprising three of the admired Pete and the Pirates but swapping jaunty guitars for more considered electronica-enhanced melodies, they mix Erasure’s way with a dramatic synth-pop arc with Belle and Sebastian’s observational twee. All We Are eased the main stage into the late afternoon sunshine with the gentle ebb and flow of their gently atmospheric, shoegaze-influenced pop. Contenders for “The xx imitators of the Year” award, along with Woman’s Hour.

PINS are impeccable now. Watching them transform from a rickety band of noiseniks just a couple of years ago into today’s whirlwind of glamour and red lipstick is a life-affirming experience. They combine the power of 1970s New York glam-punk rock with an overlaid sweetness of melody and delicacy of touch comparable with any Supremes classic. While the phrase “girl band” has loaded connotations of manufactured, shallow pop nonsense, bands like PINS are doing their best to reclaim it for groups of talented musicians who just happen to be women. Whether or not there’s any great feminist insight is open to debate, but nevertheless, theirs was one of the performances of the weekend.

Next comes the only major misstep of programming of the whole weekend. Just as the sun starts to think about lazily drifting towards the horizon, and the main stage crowd are tucking into their evening meal of organic houmous and vintage prosecco, along come Toy to blast away the early evening reverie. On record, TOY are more considered, melodic, and song-focused, but live they come across as an incessant wall of noise; they’ve got three guitars and they’re going to turn it them all up to 11. ‘Join the Dots’, the title track from their début album, is a case in point – its climax of multi-layered guitars, phased into the next universe, is an undoubtedly viscerally thrilling piece of music, but perhaps not enjoyable if it disturbs little Johnny’s digestion and makes the whole family go scrabbling around for the ear defenders.

It’s not that they’re a bad band. Far from it. In fact, along with Temples, they’re one of the most convincing neo-psych bands in the country right now. But in this instance it’s a case of right band, wrong stage. Various overheard grumbles pay testament, including the old classic, “it’s just noise!” A considerable chunk of the Deer Shed crowd rock up to the main stage auditorium in the morning with their camping chairs and stay there all day, so in a way have little choice as to what they are made to listen to. Whatever is on the main stage influences the enjoyment of the entire site, and the Friday evening slot needs to be something less challenging, a little funkier, to properly match the mood of the audience.

A band on the correct stage are Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – they play the tented Lodge stage, so aural participation is distinctly optional – but certainly recommended. Pip’s gently political and moderately sweary diatribes (“that last song had an MF in it, sorry parents!”) combined with Sac’s dubstep-flavoured soundtrack excites many audience members into a display of such extrovert dad-dancing that any child would be excruciatingly embarrassed. The atmosphere in the tent is genuinely charged with enthusiasm; Deer Shed’s first foray into urban/rap/hip-hop is superbly received. More please. In common with several other acts, Pip seems genuinely pleased to have such a diverse range of ages in the audience – officially the most people on shoulders ever at one of their gigs, as children are raised aloft to experience “the man with his head on upside down”.

The main stage headliner is British Sea Power, but inevitably for many parents their slot coincided with trying to settle one or more very excited children to sleep. They sounded great from the campsite. When eventually the kids are settled, the last attraction of Friday is the genius that is Darius Battiwalla accompanying a silent film: this year, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. It was intended to be The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari but had to be changed for licensing reasons, which would have suited the time travel theme far better, and also the patience of the crowd: Caligari is a mere 67 minutes long, whereas Hunchback is over 2 hours. Whilst I’d happily listen to Battiwalla play over a cornflake advert, that’s a long time to spend watching Lon Cheney gurning, and by the time the film’s impenetrable plot reached its climax, the audience were variously physically uncomfortable or sound asleep. It’s surprising how loud a small boy’s snores can be in the auditorium of a silent film!

Stay tuned for more of Martin’s coverage of Deer Shed coming soon on TGTF.

 

2000 Trees Festival 2014 Roundup: Day 1

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd July 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Small, intimate festivals are as common as poorly thought out Ed Sheeran being named most important act in black and urban music jokes.

They’re quite literally ten a penny. If that penny was actually £150…

So finding a festival which has sprung from the humblest beginnings, with a purpose and a drive that is simply the sheer love of music is relatively pleasing. 2000 Trees is a festival with an immense amount of heart and started by six mates who became disillusioned with the mainstream festival circuit. They were sick to death of the over-inflated ticket prices, the overzealous commercialism and the alienated feel they left with. With a Glastonbury ticket setting you back £210, with the addition of some nonsensical booking fee that is rising at a rate comparable to the rise of Isis, it’s understandable that some people would become disillusioned. But instead of moaning about it, the lads got together in 2007 and started 2000 Trees Festival at Upcote Farm.

In its eighth year, the festival opened its doors to a maximum 5,000 people to keep things at an intimate level, and with the mantra to showcase the best in new, unsigned and underground UK bands. This year was no exception. Thursday was for the early birds and those who had cunningly booked the time off work shortly after 2000 Trees 2013 closed the gates.

For those lucky enough to have pitched up at glorious Upcote Farm on the Thursday, like myself, you would have been treated to the talents of Bristol singer/songwriter Oxygen Thief and Reading’s Ben Marwood. These acts were playing on Trees’ second stage, which a few years ago was named by fans of the festival as The Cave. The first band I got to lay eyes upon after snaking along Gloucestershire’s whirling winding country roads were Johnny Foreigner, who provided the kind of aural assault that my mind needed to forget about all the speed cameras I’d raced past with no regard for country lane speed limits.

The following 45 minutes preceded to be a jarring wave of punk-y energy, interspersed with the odd yelp from Alexei Berrow and Kelly Southern. After twelve songs, all dripping with the anti-establishment edge the band are going for Berrow cut a figure as the sweatiest man in the South of England. Possibly even the world. Berrow held no quarters as he threw himself entirely into the feel of the festival: from set-opener ‘You Can Do Better’ to the final screeches of ‘The Coast Was Always Clear’, it was a glut of anarchic energy from onstage, which is bound to get the band noticed in the next year.

For Berrow and co.’s unreserved abundance of dynamism on stage, he was rewarded with a warm seal of approval and what certainly will add up to an invite back to the farm at a more popular slot. (8/10) They rarely forget a friend here at Trees.

Johnny Foreigner’s set focussed on a sense of anarchy, whirling the crowd into a frenzy. Gnarwolves capitalised on the palpable energy throbbing from within The Cave. The first mosh pits of the weekend were extremely kind during their set, with kids pussy-footing around, bouncing up and down with wide smiles plastered across their faces. When Gnarwolves stepped up, it signalled the end of this for the foreseeable future. Elbows were flying and every man with one of those stupid bushy hipster beards immediately threw themselves into the fray to try an impress the nearest girl in short denim shorts with a display of testosterone and violence. No, Gnarwolves playing did not induce time travel, it’s just what happens when a cool skate-punk band starts roaring about how ‘Smoking Kills’.

What the Brighton based three-piece did induce, apart from the first primal displays of viciousness of the festival, was a few roaring singalongs and a big hype around one off the up and coming talents of the scene at the moment. Not only do they have a wicked cool name, but in The Cave they displayed some big tunes with a lot of pop-punk heart and just enough nautical references to differentiate them from less brutal bands like Four Year Strong. Congrats lads, now lose the gash beards. (8/10)

Headlining the Thursday evening entertainment was Dan Le Sac (pictured at top) vs. Scroobius Pip. Quick breakdown: despite the vs. in the title, nobody had a fight. Which is a shame, as I think ole Scroob could probably have the midget DJ that is Dan Le Sac, for then he’d earn twice the money (available for representation soon).

The set was a change of pace from the previous two acts though, as there was neither a guitar nor a drum kit in site. Just a man with a comical shark hat on his head (Mr. Le Sac) and a taller gentleman with one of those hipster beards – but he had one before everyone did – so he can get away with that one. I was expecting a really lively set, as Scroobius has cut a name for himself as a superb showman -the British answer to Aesop Rock or Andre 300’. Instead, it was a bit flat.

The set relied on at least a modicum of the audience knowing the lyrics to more than just one of his songs, to give it all a bit more life. With this not being the case, Scroobius ended up cutting a rather lonely figure bouncing around the small stage, as Dan Le Sac laid down the beats. For the songs where there was a bit of a call and repeat, Scroobius’ showmanship shone through and he gave the farm another taste (he headlined 2 years ago) of the kind of live show people have become accustomed to from the Essex-made rapper. (6/10)

As Dan Le Sac skipped off stage the festivities for the evening did not end there. Unless you were one of those boring old farts who almost went to bed like me.

Around the campsites – from Camp Reuben to Camp Turner – small guerrilla-style acoustic stages came to life. Singalongs ensued and even the smallest, least well-known singer-songwriter drew in sizable crowds, and enough to get a fun vibe going on. The highlight for me was on 2000 Trees’ central busking stage, where Patrick Craig delivered a collection of songs with an immense sense of heart. It was no surprise that a crowd of nearly 300 people huddled around in the small stage in the cold, as Craig passed round an empty Coke bottle full of wine. There was an immense of community right there, and the kind of vibe (god, I hate that word, but it’s the only one for the job) that epitomised what 2000 Trees is all about.

Stay tuned for more of John’s 2000 Trees coverage on TGTF soon.

 

Preview: 2000 Trees Festival 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 4th March 2014 at 9:00 am
 

Prepare to embrace mother earth: I’m talking grabbing her by the grass skirt, jumping in a big muddy puddle and rolling around until you smell a bit compost-y. Sound like your cup of herbal tea? Get yourself heading down south then, to the land of propa’ cider, tractors and a host of other rural clichés – as 2000 Trees (10-12 July) returns to Upcote Farm in Cheltenham.

Established in 2007, the organisers’ mantra was to ensure they didn’t become everything they had grown to hate – this being the corporate commercial entities which they believed most modern festivals had become – the corporate sponsorships and ‘supposed soullessness’ of most major UK festivals. To do so they’ve kept their event true to its now deeply dug roots:
• Maximum 5,000 people
• Locally produced food and drink
• Friendly atmosphere
• A commitment to stay get as close to carbon neutrality as is humanly possible.

With these cornerstones of the festival set, the rest of the weekend is of course focussed on the best live bands available – with every act being personally approved and vetted by the bookings team before being added to the bill. The fruits of this stringent and possibly unique selection process are an eclectic mix, bringing to Cheltenham some of the most exciting live acts doing the rounds at the moment, from a plethora of genres, folk to funk, rock to rap.

Such is the nature of 2000 Trees line-up, that if you were to put a poster up on the wall, throw a dart at the line-up then throw it again, the artist or band it lands on would bear no similarity to the other. While some festivals may target a specific genre a la Download, Sonisphere, etc., 2000 Trees really does cater for most.

Highlights of the bill have to be led by Public Service Broadcasting (pictured at top) – a band whose live show is best described as an aural assault of post-rock goodness, with smatterings of wartime announcements and Chemical Brothers-ish synths.

Since Trees’ inception, Upcote Farm has been a clamour for a Reuben reunion and a performance from the boys – since that doesn’t seem like it’s coming around the corner anytime soon – ex-Reuben man Jamie Lenman will have to do. Bringing with him an almost cult following, his new groove metal album ‘Muscle Memory’ fully showcases the artists immense creativity and eccentricity.

Prog-rockers Tall Ships are also on the bill and are an act not to be missed. Mixing a huge heavy sound with a distinctly minimalist approach, and in this creating a truly unique live experience. One of my favourites Arcane Roots will be appearing across the weekend too, alongside a favourite at the festival – Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – I mean, who won’t lose all of their shit to ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, yeah?

To book tickets and get all the nitty gritty details, visit the official 2000 Trees Web site.

 

Live at Leeds 2012: Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

With the festival season beckoning, the seasonal weather up north has brightened up as some of the brightest upcoming stars look to start their summer crawl on Saturday the 5th of May at Live at Leeds, the same weekend as Camden Crawl and ahead of other upcoming major city festivals. With this 1-day line-up arguably looking stronger than the London weekend this year, it’s difficult to see why you wouldn’t drop up for the day, especially with so many bustling venues in the Leeds city centre within a short walking distance.

Beginning TGTF’s day in the city are Manchester dance band Swiss Lips. Whilst the venue may be difficult to navigate, that may be because it’s rammed in the early afternoon. With indie hit ‘U Got the Power’ having given them some heat, the crowd stay for their infectious breed of ‘sexy pop’ and the band are sure to make some friends with their upcoming debut record.

After this, it’s the atmospheric, but not hugely entertaining iLikeTrains at the O2 Academy. Later, Niki and the Dove also suffer the same fate with a great sound that’s not really matched up front in entertainment. Luckily, there’s so much to see at Live at Leeds that you can never be bored for long. Opening up the Met Uni are Bastille. Their recent mixtape has proved popular with the hundreds that have quickly assembled, and away from their own electropop, the tender vocals of Bastille are the highlight, especially in the cover of City High’s ‘What Would You Do’.

Back at the O2 Academy, Spector flounce about the stage with overly polished indie rock. There’s potential here but the act never really materialises to greater things in the songs, being much more annoying than hoped in the process. This leads to TGTF seeing the end of a powerful Dan Mangan set in Holy Trinity Church followed by a packed show from Lucy Rose. The young singer/songwriter’s music fits perfectly in these surroundings and even the more energetic songs such as ‘Red Face’ sound fitting to her increasingly confident set. With a band behind her, Rose has depth to match her stunning voice and the crowd agree, shh-ing anyone that talks, even in between songs. There’s a muted singalong early on to ‘Middle of the Bed’ and throughout the set there’s a real quality to Lucy Rose’s set that shines in this church. As soon as it starts though, it seems to be over and it’s quickly down to the Cockpit for part one of tonight’s two headliners.

With Ladyhawke making her return to the UK with album two, Lianne La Havas stepping up to the headline mark left by Marina and the Diamonds, there’s a lot of talent on display across the headliners of the festival. TGTF’s route is one of a blend of safety and guaranteed fun in the form of the Subways, followed by Scroobius Pip. First up, the Subways rock out a venue half the size of their most recent tour, making the room sweatier than a sauna and more energetic up-front than most football teams. Blending tracks from all three of their diverse records, noughties classics ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ and “Oh Yeah” fit in with the likes of ‘Shake Shake’ and new single ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ as ‘It’s A Party’ turns lead singer Billy Lunn’s trademark stage dive into a venue-long crowdsurf to the back, up onto the sound-desk and then a dive from 10 feet back down and towards the stage (did you follow that, we nearly didn’t). The man’s got balls, and the Subways still rock.

Closing the night with a set starting long past 11, Scroobius Pip executes a well thought out and powerful set of his solo material to the underground venue. Even without B Dolan by his side on tour, Pip’s tracks have venom and everyone present joins in with every lyric from last year’s record. There’s crowd surfing, huge men bashing each other about and one man with an MCA-stolen VW badge on his necklace up front leading the events. It’s a fitting way to end the night, and TGTF can’t help but feel that the right decisions were made. It’s going to be a bright summer for so many of the artists on the bill at Live at Leeds, there’s no doubt about that, but definitely watch out for the likes of Lucy Rose and Swiss Lips, and by no means underestimate those who’ve been around the block.

 

Live Review: Scroobius Pip with B. Dolan at London Koko – 27th February 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 20th March 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

There’s fake blood on the headline act’s hands, real blood on audience members’ faces, champagne being sprayed and the artists on stage are playing a cover of Prince. It’s a Scroobius Pip show of course.

Joined by support act B. Dolan across the tour, the evening started off in equally as boisterous fashion, if not quite as glamorously. B. Dolan brought his incredible show to the stage, complete with noose around his neck and oversized beard. Playing from his catalogue of assorted mixtapes and albums as well as premiering a few new tracks, ‘Film the Police’ slot in with ‘Who Killed Russel Jones’ as the crowd got on board for the Strange Famous rapper. Dolan could easily sell a smaller show to himself on those who love him by the end of this set and an on stage dance battle (yes, you read that right) with a Scroobius Pip lookalike from the crowd (aptly named Noobius Pip) only furthers the adoration of those present.

Without his partner in crime Dan le Sac, Scroobius Pip’s been doing pretty well. Whilst the dance vibe that saw the duo steal the show across festivals in the last few years has been lost, the energy and intelligence that Pip brings is still as apparent as ever. Coming on stage with two electric razors and giving himself a mid-tour trim during ‘Introdiction’ reminds the crowd that whilst the dance battles may be over for now, the originality on display is ever present.  Playing almost entirely and nearly in its entirety, Scroobius Pip’s debut album proper fills Koko with an incredible atmosphere from start to finish. With appearances from B. Dolan, Natasha Fox (for ‘Feel It’, by far the worst track on the record yet still well performed).

Tracks not featured on Pip’s recent solo effort also feature as the spoken word artist come rapper progresses through a lot of dark topic matters whilst still keeping a positive tone on the night. The crowd favourites tonight are ‘Astronaut’, a track about ambition “when I grow up, I want to be an astronaut, anything other than that is an afterthought” and ‘1000 Words’, performed from a comfy looking chair on stage and accompanied by a bottle of rose.

The last track for the night is a pandemonious Prince cover. By the end of it, regardless of your interest in the artist formerly known as… everyone’s moving, sweating and some are even bleeding. It’s been a night to remember for both crowd and musicians and it continues onto the next town. You have to wonder how much Pip can achieve when he teams back up with Le Sac.

 
 
 

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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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