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End of the Road 2011: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 19th September 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

The sunshine liked Friday at End of the Road so much it showed up for the Saturday too. Geordie songstress Beth Jeans Houghton doesn’t really need the sun, having instead an impressively large band, but at least it helps remind everyone that they’re not back in rainy Newcastle. Superb recent release ‘Dodecahedrons’ makes a welcome appearance with its glockenspiel and airy, Kate Bush-inspired vocal present and correct. Epic Danes Treefight for Sunlight take their ’70s soft rock influences to the logical conclusion: rather than being simply influenced by Kate Bush, they go one better and perform a cover of ‘Wuthering Heights’, with an astonishing note-perfect falsetto vocal from their male singer. Like a magic trick in slow motion, it seems so simple when performed before your very eyes, but the senses still reel from the magnificence of it all. The song of the weekend, no question.

One of the attractions of End of the Road is the compact site – no more than a few dozen steps from the main stage and you’re in a surprisingly full Big Top tent, sampling the Anglostralian delights of merry poppers Allo Darlin’. Her voice an exact cross between Beth Orton and Louise Wener, banjo-wielding frontwoman Elizabeth Morris’s naive, wide-eyed charms hold the audience in enthusiastic rapture. The songs need to be careful to avoid Kate Nash banality, but mostly fulfill the brief of jolly, domestic tales of a girl’s love and adventure. If the reception here is anything to go by, we’ll be hearing a lot more from Allo Darlin’.

A sandwich and a sit down sees Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan and his string and horn backing band take the main stage. A modernist folkster in the Damien Rice vein, familiarity might lead to a greater appreciation of the material. Some impressive scratchy string action from the cellist, though. A premiere gig is a rare treat; Sam Genders admits to being more than a bit nervous on the occasion of Diagrams’ first live performance. He needn’t have worried. It’s difficult to imagine a more endearing, joyful and musically rewarding 45 minutes. Diagrams’ eclectic, back-of-the-cupboard sound is truly uplifting, and Genders’ understated command of his band and the audience shows a maturity and experience that he would undoubtedly modestly deny. From funky little riffs, a mixture of electric and acoustic drums, parping horns, and the noisy breakdown in ‘Hill’ which had the audience whooping in approval, there’s never a dull moment – what we all secretly wanted Tunng to be all along. By the time the famously cheapskate but wondrously effective audience-inflated balloon shower kicks off at the end of the set, it’s mission accomplished for Genders. And he got to drink his years-old emergency vodka.

There’s something to be said for the experienced frontman of a well-regarded band using downtime to put together his own desert-island backing group and slowly letting the world know he exists in his own right. Gruff Rhys has been quietly doing this for years, and on today’s evidence he’s got it down to a fine art. A masterclass of mature guitar pop, there’s classic after classic here, including the brilliantly catchy and uplifting ‘Ni Yw Y Byd’, its six key changes and unbelievably catchy melody getting everyone singing along. Ah yes, there’s loads of Welsh language stuff, but when they’re such powerful earworms as these, suddenly we’re all fluent in the dialects of the valleys.

ATP-endorsed Wooden Shjips come with a nailed-on buzz from the sub-zero areas of the blogosphere, and with frontman Ripley Johnson’s impressively-coiffed facial hair demanding so much attention, how can the music compete? Kicking off EOTR’s shoegaze strand, the Shjips manage to make that dullest of genres listenable, and at moments actually exciting. Yes, there’s just one chord for minutes on end a lot of the time, as the songs meander towards some sort of meaningful conclusion, but the arrangements do have lovely touches of ambience, noise, and backwards guitar that hold the interest and, I admit, sound really cool in a head-nodding, stoner kind of way, man. But we’re only into early evening, and too much off this will have everyone drifting off into a trance. For aficionados only.

At the other end of the populist scale, a band heading straight for the mainstream are Wild Beasts (pictured at top), whose cerebral, off-kilter, arty rock seems to be making an impression on everyone except the Mercury Prize judges. The acres of dimming, firelit sky framing the stage serves only to enhance the emotional impact of this masterful performance. Accessible yet intelligent, with multiple vocalists delivering catchy yet complex melodies, a season of festival performances have honed these Cumbrians’ set to a sharp, effective distillate of virtues. The Coldplay you’re allowed to like.

It would seem churlish to ask for any further excellence tonight, but next up are Leeds’s Spectrals, looking for all the world on day release from sixth-form college, almost stealing the “band of the day” prize from their more experienced peers. Quite how Louis Jones has had the time to ingest ’50s hula bop, ’60s Spectoresque epic pop, ’70s prog-psych, and 90s baggy, let alone learn how to meld it together in a set which would be impressive coming from someone twice his age, is quite beyond me. Some of the sounds here are simply glorious, exemplified by ‘I Ran with Love But I Couldn’t Keep Up’, with its langourous tone and regretful lyrics – truly a modern classic.

So it’s with light hearts and a spring in the step that we head to headliners Okkervil River. But only moments into their bong-eared desecration of ‘Sloop John B’, it’s apparent that something’s not quite right. Whether it’s the material not really being strong enough, or Will Sheff’s try-hard handclaps and incongruous shape throwing, something doesn’t quite ring true. Clearly aiming for a slice of Arcade Fire’s demographic, someone should whisper in their ear, bombast doth not a good song make. And goodness knows, one Arcade Fire is enough for any lifetime. A slight disappointment, but quickly forgotten with the discovery of the forest disco, logically enough housed in a wooden shjip, suspended within the boughs. Playing a selection of vintage rock, soul, and funk, for those who have the energy, and can avoid a poke in the eye from wayward tree branches, there’s no better way to spend the small hours of a September Saturday.

 

End of the Road 2011: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 14th September 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Whether deliberate or not, every day at a festival seems to take on a theme of its own, and somehow this phenomenon seemed more pronounced at End of the Road Festival this year at Larmer Tree Gardens on the border between North Dorset and Wiltshire. Friday was ladies’ day, no doubt about it, with some old codgers thrown in for good measure; not a young man in sight. Against all September odds, Friday morning brought blazing sunshine: the only appropriate response was a trip to the Garden Stage. With its gently sloping natural auditorium, vegetation-tasselled stage, meandering peacocks, and an original 19th century Romantic ‘acoustic stage’ adjacent to the modern replacement, it’s strong contender for the most beautiful stage on the festival circuit.

There could be no act more appropriate for a sit down on some warm grass than the Secret Sisters, equipped as they are with so much Georgian bonhomie that you can almost taste the apple pie. Their love for all things Hank, expressed in old-time country harmonies and slow-burning ballads, sets the tone for the next few hours: laid-back, sultry Americana, and a few new, original pieces which hint at plenty of burgeoning songwriting ability. Caitlin Rose continues the Americana theme with her songwriterly country songs, a bit like a Nashville KT Tunstall. Equipped with a smooth, precise backing band, as the set develops Rose’s diva-ish tendencies become more apparent, digging deep into emotional strands and at moments coming across as a guitar-wielding Dolly replacement.

The girls continue showing how its done with dreamy Californian beach-beaters Best Coast a perfect complement to the cloud-free sky. Somewhat more grunged-up than on record, the essence of their sound remains the dreamy vocals of of Bethany Cosentino; if they don’t deliberately set out to sound as if they’re trapped in a ’50s Venice beachfront diner jukebox, then it’s an amazing coincidence. A quick jaunt back to the wonderful Garden Stage for arguably the highlight of the day, tUnE-yArDs. Essentially the solo project of Connecticutian Merrill Garbus, the set revolves around the live recording and layering of looped samples. But this is as far away from the usual singer-songwriter rhythm guitar/solo guitar loop pedal usage as it’s possible to be. Equipped with nothing more than a floor tom, electrified ukelele and extraordinary voice, the songs start with such random yelps and thumps that the listener’s ear can barely credit that anything resembling conventional music will coalesce. But slowly, like the emergence of a baby platypus from its egg, melodies and rhythms that are not only recognisable, but utterly beautiful and compelling, emerge. A masterclass of microtones and almost infinitely small beat fragments, which perhaps explains the strong African flavour of tracks like ‘Bizness’, there’s plenty to keep both the brain and the feet active throughout the set. Garbus is a quite unique voice in modern music, and hopefully she has a long and fruitful career ahead of her.

Some light relief comes in the form of Joan as Police Woman. Somewhat more conventional in terms of arrangement and song structure, with sumptuous organ tone and soulful material, this is a gentle bump to earth after the craziness that has gone before. Possibly too gentle – this would work as a chill-out set but lacks a certain punch to keep the early-evening momentum going. The pause is shortlived, however; Lykke Li (pictured at top) takes the main stage just as a peachy sunset stretches itself over the Dorset sky. Flouncing around the stage clad in a floor-length black leather dressing gown, the Swedish gothic pixie literally turns day into night. With an epic, drum-led sound, and couplets like “I’m your prostitute / you’re gonna get some”, there’s little time to breathe between one climactic coda and the next. By the time ‘Rich Kids Blues’ turns the stage blood-red, the band are pounding drums with all their might, the air thick with drama. The hours of darkness have rarely been more appropriately introduced.

After such a broad spectrum of female excellence, it would be quite reasonable to wonder what else could there possibly be to add? The answer – the grungy, soulful, sexy She Keeps Bees. At times reminiscent of a slower, female-fronted Nirvana; at others the obvious leftfield-rock-chick comparisons are overwhelming. The music is simple, the focus on singer and guitarist Jessica Larrabee, with a brace of guys for guitar and drum embellishment. The owner of a soul voice of enviable depth, the contrast with the pounding drums and lowest-of-lo-fi guitar is captivating. A brave, perfect a capella ‘Bones Are Tired’, knocked off as the guitarist changes a broken string, holds the tent in silent appreciation. A brilliant climax to a superb run of female performers.

At last, a man! He is Gordon Gano, latterly playing with the Ryans, but formerly of seminal 1980s alt-rockers Violent Femmes, and something of a legend in rarefied circles. His new material is still in the garage-rock vein, although leaning more towards Athens rather than Seattle: the songs taking their time and revealing their beauty carefully and deliberately. The modest crowd betrays the fact that Gano is hardly a household name – until he plays ‘Blister in the Sun’, that is. Track one of Violent Femmes’ debut album is one of those rare songs that is immediately familiar and loveable, but hardly anyone knows what it’s called or who it’s by. Gano is clearly fully aware of its power; he closes the set with a version that’s deliberately drawn out for countless choruses. As people pour into the tent for the very last bit of the last song, Gano gets to play just a few bars to the packed crowd he deserves.

Most of the people who should really have been watching Gordon Gano and the Ryans are taking their place for the Fall; Peel-lemmings meeting their fate. A comprehensive assessment of the Fall’s career to date from the evidence of one performance simply isn’t possible or even fair, so won’t be attempted here. On a simply objective level however, tonight’s gig borders on the unlistenable. Mark E. Smith’s utterly incoherent ramblings add nothing to the conventional rock backdrop produced by whichever band he’s managed to cobble together this week. The tension is barely lifted when his wife Eleni Poulou takes lead vocal for whole songs at a time. Either heavily inebriated or the victim of a massive stroke, only the most passionate of fans would know whether his slurred lyrics hold any great insight, and only then purely from memory. Pedigree doth not guarantee relevance, and with John Lydon doing the naughty old frontman thing with far more coherence, clarity, wit, and musical aplomb, on this evidence it’s hard to see the relevance of The Fall.

As the crowd disperses, there are rumours of nightly forest discos, of secret performances and other curious goings-on. But after nearly 12 hours of music, and a quick sit down to White Denim’s jazzy, hazy rock, it’s clear that sleep is the only option. After all, tomorrow will bring a brand new theme all of its own.

 

Live Review: The Script with Hot Chelle Rae at DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, DC – 1st September 2011

 
By on Friday, 9th September 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Bands that play at DAR Constitution Hall are a big deal. They don’t play this massive venue, a mere stone’s throw from the Capitol building, because they sold only a couple thousand records. This is the big time. So last Thursday, I was lucky enough to get the call to cover the Script playing a gig there, rescheduled from a previous date from June that was postponed due to illness. This was the first gig that I have covered whilst standing atop an unsheltered platform with no railing. I’m afraid of heights, so my stomach was in knots. As as I looked down, I saw all the thousands of fans below me looking like ants, and then when I switched to look forward, the gigantic hanging speakers were in front of me. And this was when I realised I had forgotten my earplugs. (Stupid. I did manage to get them later before I had to scramble onto this platform again for the headliner.) It was too late to do anything though: Hot Chelle Rae came onstage to thunderous applause.

I don’t think HCR has gotten much press in the UK, but I imagine the time for that is coming very soon. They’re signed to Jive Records in America, which pretty much indicates their target fanbase (Backstreet Boys were a flagship signing back in the ’90s, to give you some perspective). Their songs are mainstream and get played on top 40 radio stations here. (See: ‘Tonight, Tonight’, their cover of Katy Perry‘s ‘Teenage Dream’.) Not really my thing, but I have to admit some of their songs are really catchy, just a bit devoid of heart. The Script made a wise decision in choosing them for support; maybe it’s just because I don’t go to a lot of shows where the majority of punters are preteen or teen and the next biggest thing on their mind is the Jonas Brothers, but there was a level of adorableness watching girls frantically searching for guitar picks in the dark being thrown by guys with tattoos up and down their arms.

But I was there for the Script. Having seen them once before in a club atmosphere last November, I wanted to see how they would adapt to an auditorium-type venue. I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, all shows at Constitution Hall are massive and grand, but when you’ve made it to that stage and can sell thousands of tickets for a show, you’ve earned the right to put on a show like this. Lasers, all types of coloured lighting and a Jumbotron-like screen on the back of the stage to benefit the people sitting far up and very far away are all part and parcel of these kinds of shows.

A drawback to a large show is that often, the band loses the interaction and intimacy possible in smaller venues; however, singer/piano man Danny O’Donoghue took what he was given and made even the huge hall seem smaller, starting up singalongs and making the audience scream and laugh. Sometimes at the same time. While they played their first single ever, ‘We Cry’, O’Donoghue jumped into the crowd during the extended outro, and sticking his microphone in front of various fans and imploring them to sing with him: there were some cringe-worthy moments to be had, as it was made abundantly clear that some of the Script’s fans are tone-deaf. (Ouch.)

But that’s okay. I’m sure each and every one of those fans at that very moment they shared with their favourite band, that was a moment they would remember forever. When they played ‘Breakeven’ and left the stage before the encore, I was stunned. What can they play to top that, I asked myself. The answer came back as a percussion-led version of ‘This = Love’, followed by their most recent and mega single ‘For the First Time’. Brilliant. They have two albums’ worth of material, it would have been lovely to hear far more than we did. But for what time we did have with the Script, it was perfect. My own regret is that I’m sure the next time they come to town, they’ll be playing outdoor stadiums.

After the cut: setlists and more photos.
Continue reading Live Review: The Script with Hot Chelle Rae at DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, DC – 1st September 2011

 

Review: Mercury Prize 2011

 
By on Thursday, 8th September 2011 at 5:30 pm
 

In case you missed them, we wrote previously on this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist and our writers weighed on who they thought should win and who should have received a nod from this year’s nomination committee.

Just prior to the shortlist being announced, it was strong, talented representatives of “the fairer sex” who topped the bookies’ top bets: Adele and PJ Harvey were neck and neck as the odds on favourite. These two lovely ladies continued to be strong favourites throughout the weeks leading up to the event in London hosted by Jools Holland this past Tuesday night. On the evening, Adele did not join her nominee compadres on the red carpet, nor did she perform on the Grosvenor Hotel stage due to illness. Ms. Adkins did, however, made everyone laugh with her humourous fake acceptance speech. Speaking of the faux acceptance speeches, after a rousing performance of ‘The Bay’, Joseph Mount of Metronomy said with a grin, “this is nice that the first album that you hear from us is about the place where I’m from. And I hope you visit Devon!” Bless. (To be fair, it’s nice that Devon will now be known for something other than their cows and Muse.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cn6n7zMcVOY[/youtube]

6music reported that Guy Garvey of Elbow (the 2008 Mercury winner for ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’) was self-deprecating as usual, saying he wished their “little friends” Everything Everything would prove to be the winner. Speaking of the double-named band, they took the bold step of performing a non-single, album track from ‘Man Alive’, ‘Tin (the Manhole)’, when it was their turn to wow the dinner audience at the Grosvenor. But ultimately, it was PJ Harvey who came out on top, with her album ‘Let England Shake’ winning the top honours. With this win, she becomes the first act ever to win the Mercury Prize twice (she won exactly 10 years ago, in 2011 for her ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’). You can watch her live performance of ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ from Tuesday night below. Congratulations Polly Jean!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77HnyHlfHNQ[/youtube]

 

Mercury Prize 2011: TGTF Writer’s Choice

 
By on Monday, 5th September 2011 at 11:00 am
 

Tomorrow night, Tuesday the 6th of September in London, the winner of the 2011 Mercury Prize will be crowned. I’ve asked each of our writers to choose which album they think should win this year’s honour, as well as which album they think was criminally absent from the 2011 shortlist. And without further adieu…

Mary Chang, Editor (hometown/current location: Washington, DC, USA)
Who should win: Everything Everything‘Man Alive’ (Geffen). To be honest, I was pretty underwowed by the nominees announced for this year. As much as I love Elbow, I don’t think ‘build a rocket, boys!’ was all that great. If Adele wins with ’21’, it’ll be a dark day in Mercury Prize history: in the past, the honour has usually been given to an ‘outsider’ artist that could use the promotion, and with how ever many million records Adele has already sold, it’s not like she needs more to line her pockets. In contrast, Everything Everything’s debut album released last summer was a breath of fresh air to the British music market: a cross between pop, rock and hip hop that they proved with their inimitable talent could be converted into an orchestral force to be reckoned with.

Who should have been nominated: Dutch Uncles‘Cadenza’ (Memphis Industries). If I’m going to go with an album that I believe is in the same league with ‘Man Alive’, then it’s got to be this debut from the Marple band. It just doesn’t sound anything like anyone else, except maybe Field Music. Duncan Wallis’s voice is so distinct and somehow it works perfectly against the math rock/pop dissonant instrumentation. Keep an eye on these guys.

John Fernandez (hometown: Guernsey, UK)
Who should win: Katy B – ‘On A Mission’ (Rinse/Columbia). It was a close tie between Londoner Katy B and Mancunians Elbow. But on sheer merit alone I believe Katy B has to win this award, she has produced one of the most inventive dubstep collaboration records in recent history. While avoiding the pigeonhole of mainstream dub-pop (Chase and Status) and stayed true to her roots. ‘On A Mission’ is full of charm, hooks and has a fantastic rhythm to it, no other album on the list in my opinion can match it, and while it may fall into the ‘too mainstream’ trap, I believe this could be the surprise winner.

Who should have been nominated: Hurts – ‘Happiness’ (RCA/Sony). Hurts do one thing, and that is divide opinion. Are they just a well dressed boyband or are they interesting synthpop? One this is certain though: ‘Happiness’ is a well produced monster of a record, so it astounds me that it isn’t on the Mercury Prize short list. The lyrics are as polished as their shoes on stage and you can’t fault them on inventiveness: they tour and record with an opera singer (OK, so Muse produced a symphony, so what?)

Braden Fletcher (Northern Monkey, Southern Student, UK)
Who should win: Ghostpoet – ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ (Brownswood). To say that Ghostpoet is a dark horse in the Mercury prize isn’t so much an understatement as it was when the nominations were announced. As if waiting for his name to come up on the list, the MC has been relentlessly promoting and touring his debut effort in the last 2 months. He has good reason to as ‘Peanut Butter Blues…’ is one of the most competent albums of its genre to appear in Britain since the rise of the Streets. Ghostpoet barely adheres to the same rulebook as Skinner but the similarities are there. Both tell it how they see it without reserve and both are some of the most relevant artists around today. Give a listen through the Midlands man’s record and you’ll understand why Mike Skinner is counted upon his high profile fanbase. ‘Survive It’ is a grand piece of abstract rap that makes Tinie Tempah look like a school boy whilst ‘Us Against Whatever’ encapsulates James Blake-esque beats with a stunning set of lyrics. Ghostpoet for me, is the obvious choice for people who don’t like to choose and a solid enough record to actually be noticed.

Who should have been nominated: Maybeshewill – ‘I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone’ (Function). Post-rock is such a hugely under valued genre of late. With the only real recognition going towards Texas group Explosions in the Sky, the talent of Maybeshewill is going hugely unnoticed. The Leicester band’s first two efforts feature some of the most relevant monologues in recent history amidst a well constructed soundscape and this, their third record maintains the high bar the group set themselves. Managing to be all of powerful, loud, moving and well refined at almost all times, ‘I Was Here For a Moment…’ is exactly the kind of mastery that should have warranted a Mercury Prize, if for no more than the entire genre being continuously overlooked.

Luke Morton, (hometown: Lincoln, UK; current location: London, UK)
Who should win: Everything Everything‘Man Alive’ (Geffen). One of my favourite albums of 2010 and they can deliver the goods live as well. The electro-indie synthwork and the soaring vocals are what give Everything Everything the edge over so many other bands in their field who simply fade into the ether. ‘Man Alive’ is jam-packed with danceable tunes, whether it’s the infectious ‘Photoshop Handsome’ or the majestic singalong of ‘MY KZ UR BF’, ‘Man Alive’ has so much to offer – surprisingly versatile yet accessible for a debut album.

Who should have been nominated: The King Blues‘Punk & Poetry’ (Transmission). Probably my favourite British album of 2011 so far, the King Blues’ third LP is their finest work to date and should have received some recognition from Mercury. Their politically-charged, emotive, passionate LP ‘Punk & Poetry’ brings many elements to the table – primarily through Itch’s lyrics. ‘The Future’s Not What It Used to Be’ and ‘Set the World on Fire’ are fantastic examples of the frustration the band (and a lot of the general public) feel about the country. Whereas album closer ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’ showcases the band’s sombre/sensitive side as Itch regales the listener with the story of meeting his partner and having his first child. There’s so much to take away from this album and it’s a real shame that despite the punk movement still going strong in the UK, no attention has been paid to it again in the awards dedicated to British music.

Martin Sharman (current location: Gateshead, UK)
Who should win: Anna Calvi – ‘Anna Calvi’ (Domino). Variously fêted and slated, Calvi’s debut may initially be overlooked as faux-Harvey, and with PJ on the list again this year seems an unlikely choice to win. However, good though ‘Let England Shake’ is, at this stage in her career Harvey needs the Mercury less than they need her, having the freedom to explore her talents with ever more directional work. Calvi is surely the heiress-in-waiting, her debut treading the fine line between artifice and splendour delicately well, and giving Harvey a run for her money in the drama stakes. Even without the Mercury’s fondness for debut albums, Calvi is surely the one to beat.

Who should have been nominated: Edwyn Collins – ‘Losing Sleep’ (Heavenly Records). Collins’ backstory of recovery from a debilitating brain haemorrhage that left him unable to play his collection of beloved vintage guitars isn’t enough to win him a Mercury nomination. But this superb collection of guitar-pop gems certainly should have been. This is as touching, joyous and assertive as anything on the list this year, Collins’ compelling, slightly slurred vocal a candid reflection on his condition and subsequent readjustment. And this wouldn’t have simply been Collins’ award: the list of collaborators reads like a roll-call of the great and the good in British guitar music. A true pop survivor and deserving of a nod this year.

 

Preview: Split Festival 2011

 
By on Friday, 2nd September 2011 at 11:00 am
 

The fourth Split Festival returns to the Ashbrooke Sports Club in Sunderland on 17th and 18th September. The two-day festival, curated by Sunderland’s own Futureheads, boasts a fine slice of local talent, whilst offering enough international acts to keep even the most jaded festival-goer awake. At the time of writing, tickets are still available at the bargain price of £35 for the full weekend.

For any enthusiast of the vibrant Northeast scene, or fans of its melodic, harmonised sound, the goodies on offer at Split are second to none. Saturday features the sparkly, newly-minted Vinyl Jacket from Northumberland, Sunderland’s ornithological instrumentalists B>E>A>K, the delicate and dramatic Newcastle-bred but L.A. enthusiast Beth Jeans Houghton, and a rare chance to catch Jarrow’s poppy guitarslingers Little Comets. Saturday’s talent from further afield includes 80s widescreeners Spector, the mathy Dutch Uncles, and straight-ahead indie veterans the Rifles, whose new album is due out just a couple of days later. Then there’s a chance to see how the Mystery Jets’ new material is coming along, before headliners the Drums (pictured above) give a masterclass in deceptively simple, melodic New York thought-pop, showcasing new album ‘Portamento’ released the same week.

There’s a distinctly punky edge to Sunday’s line-up: Sunderland’s vintage punk rockers Leatherface, active for over 20 years, are still capable of ear-bleeding intensity, after whom the Dauntless Elite, Dinosaur Pile-Up and the King Blues create a triptych of melodic noise that should satisfy all but the most hardcore of punk fans. Bringing light to the shade are the sunny Tomahawks For Targets from Newcastle, Sunderland’s superb, trippy Hyde & Beast, featuring both a Futurehead and a Golden Virgin, and the jangly Ganglians with their dreamy Sacramento psych-rock. A homecoming gig for pop ‘n’ rollers Frankie and the Heartstrings is worth wearing a quiff for, before headliners the Charlatans put on the granddad shirts and baggy jumpers and shake it like it’s 1990.

If that feast of musical goodness wasn’t enough, there’s a literal feast on offer, with Masterchef finalist Stacie Stewart cooking up a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in honour of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, which, rhymingly enough, was written in Sunderland. Not to mention the superb Fringe Tent, with Beth Orton headlining the Saturday, or Sunday’s enviable comedy line-up. A veritable treat for a modest price – even Geordies must be tempted to cross the river for it.

General Admission tickets are available for Saturday, Sunday and the whole weekend. Prices are £25.00 for a day ticket and £40.00 for a weekend ticket (booking and postage fees apply). There is an additional VIP ticket option called ‘Friends of Split’, giving you access to the festival on either Saturday, Sunday or the whole weekend plus access to the ‘Friends of Split’ area where there will be a dedicated bar service with local Real ales, lagers and spirits and a luxury seating area, you will also receive some Split branded merchandise including a ‘Friends of Split’ t-shirt. Prices for Friends of Split tickets are £44.00 for a day ticket and £71.50 for a weekend ticket (inclusive of booking fees, postage fees apply). For more information, visit the official Split Festival Web site.

 
 
 

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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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