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Deer Shed Festival 2012 Review (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 2nd August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Part 1 of Martin’s report from Deer Shed Festival 2012 is right this way.

After an extended bedtime story, only Villagers are left. The skies appropriately dark, Conor J O’Brien comes across as an indie Harry Potter, his young, slight frame variously bashing the bejeezus out of a parlour guitar and mourning into his microphone. There’s something distinctly eerie about the band – take the midnight-steam-train harmonies at the end of ‘Ship of Promises’: there’s nothing quite like its collective microtoned dissonance this side of a Steve Reich score; guitar strings are bent out of tune or played deliberately a semitone out, adding to the sense of unease. For a young man, O’Brien has plenty of deep concerns – there’s not much sense of sunlight here, with clanging drums and portentious lyrics – even with the occasional lighter musical moment, the sense of dread isn’t far away. Or maybe it’s the chilly night air making it all seem more dramatic than it actually is.

In any event, Villagers are the perfect warm-up act to one of the unsung highlights of the festival – a midnight showing of the seminal 1922 German vampire film Nosferatu, accompanied by live, improvised piano from virtuoso cinephile Darius Battiwalla. Groundbreaking in many ways, Nosferatu was almost lost to history when all prints were ordered to be destroyed for infringing the copyright of Dracula, upon which its story is based. Luckily, a handful of copies survived, saving the profoundly disturbing lead character (who remains genuinely frightening even in this desensitized era of plentiful gore) from an end more ignominious than that which finally befalls him in the film. The piano accompaniment rises and falls beautifully in tandem with the narrative of the film, Battiwalla note-perfect for almost two hours. A rare treat.

Despite the official theme of Monsters, Deer Shed’s actual theme, on Sunday at least, is ‘chilling out’. Rarely does a festival achieve such an atmosphere of relaxation, with seemingly every guest either lazing in a camping chair or sprawled on a rug under the non-stop sunshine. In tribute to the genius of the programmers, Sunday’s musical menu was perfectly judged for such an atmosphere. French obscuro-popsters We Were Evergreen tantalised with exotic accents and quirky tunes, and were thought by many to be a particular highlight.

Malcolm Middleton’s new act Human Don’t Be Angry was controversially ignored in favour of a spoken-word event – music journalist Dorian Lynskey and Chumbawamba guitarist Boff Whalley discussing the history of protest music. Lynskey was here partly to promote his book on the subject, 33 Revolutions Per Minute – A History Of Protest Songs; nevertheless his analysis was the highlight of the discussion, which proceeded at a leisurely pace, possibly hindered somewhat by the warmth of the tent. The usual suspects of the Sex Pistols and Crass were brought up, David Cameron’s sincerity in claiming he likes The Smiths was called into question (the conclusion was: he probably said that because he actually does like them), and Boff Whalley described how the introduction of fame to a previously obscure band like Chumbawamba changes your career path so much that you end up assaulting the corpulent frame of the Deputy Prime Minister. It was all interesting stuff, and Lynskey clearly knows his subject, but the irony of such a polite conversation about what should be a shouty and emotive topic hung in the air like a swear word on prime-time television.

Leisureliness must have been in the air, because Cherry Ghost popped in a slow-burning set of hits accompanied by guitar and keyboards only. The full band wouldn’t have been appropriate given the horizontal nature of the crowd, but the full power of songs like ‘We Sleep on Stones’ and ‘Mathematics’ were a little lost. Still, a warm performance, and he does have loads of good tunes, so a fittingly chilled-out finale to the weekend.

All that said about the music, vast swathes of the punters couldn’t care less about the performances. For the kids, it was all about getting their picture taken with a man in a skeleton suit, making a cardboard guitar or a clay monster, learning to hula hoop, or simply playing inside a massive cardboard box. No mention here has been made of the numerous kid-friendly activities in the Deer Shed itself – the storytelling, the poetry, the spiders and snakes – because one can’t be two or three places at once. But suffice to say they happened, and from the reactions of the kids who saw them, they were brilliant.

Anything else of note? The food stalls were excellent – with two notable exemplars – the Lamb Bhuna of home-made curry purveyors Sizzle and Spice was, to my mind, the best I’d ever tasted, and the chef agrees, claiming it’s the best curry in the world right now. I’m not well-travelled enough on the subcontinent to be utterly certain of the veracity of that claim, but as someone who spent several years in Bradford, I can verify it’s right up there with the best of them. And Thomas the Bakers of Helmsley rocked up with their deliciously fresh fancy goods, with no festival-style price hikes, making the 60p they charge for a Yorkshire curd tart the bargain of the festival. It’s the little details that matter at Deer Shed – a secret insider informs me that mountains of metal roadways were hired before the festival began to ensure the heavy machinery required to install the tents didn’t mash up the then-boggy ground. But then they were removed so we could all relax on the grass – impressive stuff. And I am bound to say that all the stewards and volunteers were lovely, and the festival couldn’t happen without them. So give yourselves a big round of applause!

In these days of health and safety, and restrictive but genuine concerns about the safety of children when they’re out of sight, it can be very difficult to genuinely relax when the kids are let off the leash. Deer Shed is about as close as it gets to letting the kids run off with impunity, safe in the knowledge that they will return in one piece. There was the odd stressed parent as their charges had failed to return at the alloted time; I hope it’s fair to assume there was a tearful reunion not long after. In summary, Deer Shed comes heartily recommended for the whole family. Some festivals you need a holiday to recover from – Deer Shed is both holiday and festival wrapped up with a sunny smile. I will be back – with more people – next year.

 

Live Review: The Guardian New Band of the Day Live at Camden Barfly – 14th June 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 26th June 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

If you’re an avid fan of new music like us here at TGTF Towers, you’ll surely be aware of the constant problem we face: there’s just too much of it. Scenes are evolving into separate sub sects that inspires another bedroom artist, then someone throws a synth in to make it ‘electro’ or someone starts screaming to make it ‘core’, and before you know it that band you liked last week are no longer new. It’s no easy task to keep up with the ever-moving entity that is new music, but the Guardian’s Paul Lester has been making it his aim to stay on the cutting edge for around 1,300. His New Band of the Day column has taken Guardian Music by storm and led to a live showcase every few months in Camden, tonight is the third show and the line-up is as eclectic as ever.

Starting the evening is a Canadian-cum-German known as Digits. Despite the downstairs room looking like a primary school disco with the early-showers hanging around the edges, Digits’ moody synth-pop provides a welcome mirror image to the busy High Street outside. The honed ambience drags the slowly filling crowd away from their iPhones to watch the stage as Altman bleeps and hushes his way through ‘Because It’s Wrong’ and ‘So Cold’. It’s not get-up-and-dance music, but it’s as clever and passionate as The Weeknd and as dark as Cocteau Twins. With new EP ‘Where Do You Belong?’ out in July, Digits could find he belongs in London more often.

The first band to invite London upstairs tonight are Seasfire. Continuing from Digits’ emotive laments, the bass-laden electro indie kids are more chill-out than rock out. Vocalist Josh Thorn whispers his words delicately akin to Benjamin Francis Leftwich, while the band pull out the hooky, electronic grooves reminiscent of Everything Everything. Ranging from synthesised highs to dubsteppy lows, Seasfire add so many elements yet they reign it in and keep the sound resolutely soft and unique. Although the odd danceable section does make a leap forward the crowd are simply awe of the band about to steal James Blake‘s spotlight.

Back downstairs the Barfly has managed to cram in more people through the door to see the delightfully hippy the Hall Of Mirrors. With band members spilling off the stage, the harmonious six-piece wail like sirens of the sea, attracting weary travellers into their trap of twinkly instrumentals and Kate Bush-like vocals. The psychedelic antics are like a dream sequence inside a children’s music box that can turn nightmarishly ominous in the blink of an eye. Current single ‘Love Child’ is as quirky and offbeat as you could want but tonight’s audience aren’t all fans of the ’60s.

Late additions to the bill We Were Evergreen are welcoming gig-goers into their upstairs room for a half hour of folky fun. The concept of an upstairs/downstairs system seems to confuse some patrons who either appear mid-way through a set each time or remain on one floor throughout the event – missing half the acts in the process. But those who do make the journey to the first floor are treated to a display of ukulele fuelled summery vibes that Theme Park would be proud of. The trio from Paris have won over some fans through crowd-pleasers ‘Second Hand’ and ‘Vintage Car’. Although the combination of Hawaiian strings and kazoos was too much/little for some of the Barfly tonight, the mood has lifted and it’s time to party.

Closing the downstairs portion of the evening is the minimal maestro Bobby Tank.. As is his namesake, he comes rolling into the fray with tremendous force and gusto, levelling all before him. The underlying sound is ambient and full-on electronica, but with a Macbook and a table full of knobs and switches at his disposal, Bobby Tank introduces hints of glitch, 8-bit and dubstep into his deafening arsenal. As he stands alone on stage with the air growing thick with sweat around him, the front row is alive with arm throwers as Tank’s own jazzy moves infect the crowd. There are times where the music could hit harder and beats drop further, but the overall ambience is so catchy and simple it’s like the soundtrack to the flying level of your favourite Mega Drive game. But once the last key note has rung out, it’s back to the first floor for something more sinister than synth.

Headlining tonight’s extravaganza of new noise is the London-based former Cambridge University student, Kyla La Grange (pictured at top). Her enchanting onstage persona is boosted by the ominous purple lighting and mic stand covered in fairy lights – simple but effective. The haunting pop stylings of ‘Walk Through Walls’ and ‘Vampire Smile’ elevate the five-piece above their peers tonight to prove why they’re headlining (it’s an incredible metamorphosis from the last time TGTF saw Kyla). There’s a spooky feeling in the air tonight as Kyla dances around the stage with the suggestion her performance is some sort of séance to the beyond, coupled with her Zola Jesus-esque vocals it’s hypnotic to behold. If you spot these guys on the bill of any festivals you’re at this year, be there.

 

Camden Crawl 2012: Day 1 – Ben’s Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 17th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Music is so deeply hewn in to the tapestry of Camden’s past that even if a rogue bulldozer were to somehow escape the Olympic park and flatten the lot, the Camden faithful would still gather on the detritus (like Kevin Costner in the film Field of Dreams) to watch the ghostly echo of gigs passed. Camden Crawl has managed to do away with wrestling the country/city festival debate that plagues the likes of Hard Rock Calling and SW4 – those who assume the hardware set up should remain universal – by setting up in the across the attics, backrooms and great halls of this cultural nucleus. Since 1995 this festival has showcased the best of the new alternative scene, and this year is set to kick off the festival season with more than 100 artists across 27 venues.

If there’s a better way to kick off a festival than staring down the barrel of two trombones and a trumpet, then I don’t want to know about it. North London eight piece ska punks Imperial Leisure bring a touch of Madness to the opening bout of Camden Crawl 2012 shoehorned, like jostling commuters, on to the wooden floorboards of the archetypal Wheelbarrow pub. As afro sporting singer Denis Smith leers over the baying home crowd, they blast through the likes of ‘Bitter and Twisted’, ‘Landlord’s Daughter’ and ‘Man on the Street’ at a frenetic pace and set an almost unsurpassable benchmark for interaction and tempo.

On the way through the assault course that is tourist dodging up Camden Road to the hallowed turf of the Roundhouse, Hip-Hop Shakespeare have taken to the stage in the cool blue oasis of the Jazz Cafe. With razor sharp wit and tongue, MCs and poets alike take to the stage with the house band to recite their works and challenge the stigma surrounding hip hop as an inferior art form.

At the Roundhouse, the enigmatic Sam Lee has taken charge of the mezzanine and roof space to claim in it in the name of folk for the day. He regales the cross legged crowd with old folk tales before introducing the quintessentially English but bright and almost painfully innocent melodies of Magic Lantern. He then returns with his own modest troupe of eclectic musicians to tell stories and sing, choral and otherwise, to the appreciative gathering. It is an achievement that all festivals should strive for, where for a moment or more people experience the universality of musical and social understanding.

The greyish afternoon sun begins to dip towards the rooftops behind the indoor stage as people are ushered out on to the terrace for Melodica, Melody and Me. Close your eyes and this could be the Champs-Élysées, with people milling and reclining on the steps as the melodica strikes up. Tracks like ‘Hold On’, ‘Ode to Victor Jara’ and ‘Plunge’ are lyrically modern but classic in style, given a Hawaiian twist with the omnipresent (so much so that I’ve already missed a few) ukulele, and despite the dropping temperatures the wax jacket parade has turned out in force.

Pint-size French synthpop three piece We Were Evergreen will surely be one to watch this summer and, having come on in place of Atlantics at the Wheelbarrow earlier in the day, anticipation was growing to see how they would manage a full set at the Roundhouse. Band members Fabienne, Michael and William work independently as masters of their instrument sets – be it guitar and vocal loops, ukulele and banjo, or synth and glockenspiel – to produce a sound with the same good time vibe as the Ting Tings on tracks such as ‘Baby Blue’ or the infectious ‘Eggs’.

Back in the centre of Camden at the Black Head, and Antlered Man are laying down their own crunching brand of hypnotic metal through a loudspeaker to a packed upstairs, whilst round the corner at Underworld post rock instrumentalists Brontide are nailing a precision piece of musical hardware to the largest and loudest crowd yet gathered. In this dingy basement layers build on loop pedals in time with a surge in energy levels, driven by the relentless crash of ex-La Roux drummer Will Bowerman’s sticks.

Hindsight is a wondrous thing, a precious commodity that is lacking as band of the moment Big Pink took to the stage as only second headliners under the shimmering beams of Koko’s mammoth mirror ball. The atmosphere has gained a synaesthetic sheen to match the soundscape of this peculiarly appropriate line up; now the sound has the power to reverberate through chest cavities, and there’s enough dry ice to Beadle’s About a house fire. It is their first time in London, and with material from their acclaimed debut ‘A Brief History of Love’, as well as tracks from 2012 release ‘Future This’ such as ‘Hit the Ground’ and ‘Rubbernecking’, had the audience blown away. And, while lead singer Robbie Furze intermittently sounds like Richard Ashcroft in space, floor filler ‘Dominos’ has every pair of hands up.

Rounding off Saturday of Camden Crawl 2012 are a band who stand out on the bill as somewhat mainstream, even slightly ‘one hit wonder’ for a headline slot. It is an absolute joy to find that the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ saying rings true and that ‘Hounds of Love’ was merely a marketable peak the PR team let puncture the surface of the Futureheads’ (pictured at top) early career. Below is a hulking mass of traditional folk music done as nature intended, through multi-layered harmonies and classic acoustic instrumentation. There is the oldest song in the English language, ‘Sumer Is I’cumen In’ (the one Edward Woodward is chargrilled to in ‘The Wickerman’) and ‘The Machem’ before the crowd start to lose their nerve and begin an unfortunate smattering of boos and (ironically) a capella versions of ‘Hounds of Love’. But, with an a capella album of their very own to flog in the coming months, the Futureheads continue unperturbed and round off the Saturday admirably with a more inventive, acoustic version of their biggest hit. This appeases the now swaying crowd, who leave with both cheers, and murmurs of anticipation for what Sunday could hold.

 
 
 

About Us

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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