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Update: The Great Escape 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 5th March 2014 at 9:00 am
 

A whacking great 150 new acts have been announced for The Great Escape 2014 this year. The UK’s answer to South By Southwest is situated on the calming, classic British seaside town of Brighton from the 8th until the 10th of May.

Joining Kelis, Royal Blood and Charli XCX on the line-up is first and foremost Mercury Prize nominee Jon Hopkins, whose inimitable take on melodic electronica has seen him work with Imogen Heap and Brian Eno. Breaking out and going solo, we have The Strokes’ guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., who whilst being well known for the exploits of ‘Last Nite’ exploits, is attempting to cut his teeth as a lone performer – what a place to pick up fans TGE is, eh?

One of my picks, of the newly added acts to the bill has to be BBC Sound of 2014 darling George Ezra. His bluesy-melodic pop shows a maturity well past his age, and to hear ‘Do You Hear the Rain’ in a small venue is sure to have the hairs on the back of your neck, not just standing to attention, but saluting and giving a little ‘Ten Hut’ as well.

Close to our hearts at There Goes The Fear is another one of the new additions: Jimi Goodwin, who is best known as the frontman of Doves, he’s another one who only recently has decided to walk the walk of a solo artist, and Brighton seems as good a place as any to see how he is managing on his own.

Other highlights on the bill now are Scots Casual Sex, who will be showcasing at SXSW 2014 before coming out to Brighton, new-age folkers Dry the River, Go Wolf and rap collective Ratking. And last but certainly not least, Wild Beasts will be making a triumphant return to Brighton to headline at the Dome on Friday night, supported by These New Puritans.

To buy tickets and get more information on the Great Escape 2014, visit their official Web site. You can also read John’s original festival announcement here.

 

Beacons Festival 2012 Review (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 29th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Part 1 of Martin’s review of Beacons 2012 can be read here.

What more can be written about Wild Beasts’ ability to headline? Their double-headed fantasia redefines the potential of a modern group of musicians. The risk of repetition is one worth bearing in order to quote a phrase written about their headline performance at Constellations in Leeds last November: “To see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.” To which I would add, the material is so familiar now that the crowd effortlessly sing along pretty much all the way through. Which seems natural, until you ponder the meaning of such lyrical masterpieces such as “I was thrilled as I was appalled / Courting him in fisticuffing waltz”; words worthy of Raffles the Gentleman Thug himself. The world of performing arts waits with baited breath the arrival of a fourth Wild Beasts album.

As these things are wont to do, Sunday dawns even later with the kind of melancholy that only pervades the final morning of a weekend-long shindig. What finer prescription for such malaise than a swift dose of Frankie and the Heartstrings? As my erudite companion opined, if these guys had been around 10 years ago, they’d have cleaned up, what with their jaunty melodies, whip-smart pop arrangements and a classic frontman in Frankie Francis. Their frequent appearances on the festival scene are considerable consolation.

There is no photograph of The Wave Pictures because they were so good I couldn’t drag my attention away from them to fiddle with a camera. Operating for an impressive 14 years, time has not dulled their appeal; quite the opposite: the trio are telepathic in their delivery. Whether it’s that, the clarity of the ideas contained within the casually-delivered lyrics, or perhaps the guitar which spans basic root chords and then veers off into advanced soloing in the blink of the eye, or most likely a superb blend of all three, something really clicks with these guys. Singer David Tattersall can’t help the smile creeping across his child’s face, as if he’s heard the secret of the world – and everything’s going to be OK. Like the day of meeting someone who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, no doubt there will be many more performances by The Wave Pictures – but nothing beats the first time.

From which planet is Willis Earl Beal? Certainly he has a considerably other-worldly manner which suggests someone not quite 100% Earthling. The intensity of his performance does nothing to dissuade this notion. Accompanied by a reel-to-reel tape machine, Beal prowls the stage, howling complex, inscrutable notions to primordial beats. He wraps up by removing his thick leather belt and whacking his chair by way of improvised percussion, before swaggering offstage. He didn’t actually say, “Take me to your leader”, but one has the impression that’s what he’s thinking. [I’m not sure what to make of him either, but he is a protege of Richard Russell’s, so on that alone, he comes well recommended, doesn’t he? – Ed.]

I have it on good authority that Patrick Wolf, on grand piano and violin-as-held-like-a-guitar delivered his arch-pop with aplomb, and that Toots and the Maytals wrapped things up with – what else! – a reggae conga. And that was that. The end.

This is Beacons’ first year as Beacons – those in the know will have attended a smaller but no less vibrant event on roughly the same site called Moorfest from which Beacons has grown; yet more will have been as bitterly disappointed as the organisers were when last year’s event was cancelled due to apocalyptic flooding. Thusly, Beacons 2012 represents the culmination of many years of hopes, dreams, and the odd scary moment – the product of such a recipe was an event which had no airs or graces at all in its delivery: it simply put on top-quality entertainment in a decent bit of the countryside, and invited the punters themselves to be its beating heart.

If you sat down and thought about it for a bit, you could tell this was an early, perhaps even naïve, event – the main arena had a vast central space with nothing in it (where was the eponymous beacon?), I found programmes for sale on the last day at the back of a tent, and stuff like signage was a bit hit and miss. But by ‘eck and by gum, what am I blathering about? It’s refreshing to experience a festival that puts all its effort into the essentials, even if that means the details are a bit rough around the edges. Details can be bought, but good taste in music cannot: for that reason, Beacons deserves to flourish. And with every ticket for 2012 sold out, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Not even the weather.

 

Preview: Beacons Festival 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 19th June 2012 at 9:30 am
 

Beacons Festival lives! After a hugely disappointing cancellation last year due to apocalyptic flooding, Beacons is back in August 2012 with, if anything, an even more exciting offer than before. With arguably one of the finest musical lineups around, a beautiful setting in the Yorkshire Dales, and plenty of peripheral activities for drinkers (real ale! cider! craft beers!), thrill-seekers (vintage fairground rides!) and families (bedtime stories!) alike, there’s something for just about everyone.

Musically, the headliners are very different, but all superb. Friday is headlined by Roots Manuva, the ever-present bard of urban culture. Now onto his fifth LP, ‘4everevolution’, if there is a modern counterpoint to Toots’ Jamaican vibes, then it’s Rodney Smith’s uncomfortable flow of consciousness, documenting the trials of modern life one rhyme at a time.

Saturday’s Wild Beasts (pictured at top) should need no introduction to readers of this blog. With superb material drawn from their companion albums ‘Two Dancers’ and ‘Smother’, the band are at the top of their live game right now. Having just given a breathtaking performance at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, there is every expectation that their visit to Beacons will be just as exemplary. A great opportunity to see the best British live act of the moment at the height of their powers.

Quite different, but just as wonderful, is the prospect of Jamaican Reggae legends Toots and the Maytals wrapping up the festival in tropical style on Sunday evening. Part of the musical firmament since the glory days of reggae in the 1960s, they remain just as relevant today. With a long and influential history, not to mention an astonishing 31 Jamaican number one hits, they helped change popular music forever (The Clash’s cover of Toots track ‘Pressure Drop’ predated the seminal reggae influences revealed in London Calling), have a list of famous collaborators as long as a rasta’s dreads (Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, er… Shaggy) and contributed the brilliant cover of ‘Let Down’ to the Radiodread album. In this jubilee year, Toots and the Maytals are reggae royalty.

The undercard is no less impressive. Let’s pick a few highlights… representing the North East are ornithological experinstrumentalists B>E>A>K, flamboyant indie-popsters Frankie and the Heartstrings, and the beautiful, yearning sounds of Lanterns on the Lake. And to pick a number of personal favourites, The Wave Pictures, Peaking Lights, Clock Opera, Admiral Fallow, Outfit, Japandroids… a veritable feast of fabness.

One not to be missed, then. See you there.

Beacons Festival takes place at Funkirk Estate, Skipton, in the stunning Yorkshire Dales, 17th-19th August. Weekend tickets are priced at £84.50 or a £44.50 deposit can be put down now. For more ticket options and to buy your tickets, visit the official Beacons Festival Web site.

 

Wild Beasts / March 2012 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 1st December 2011 at 9:30 am
 

Wild Beasts have announced a tour of the UK for March. Tickets are available now.

Sunday 11th March 2012 – Coventry Warwick University
Monday 12th March 2012 – Norwich Waterfront
Tuesday 13th March 2012 – Colchester Arts Centre
Wednesday 14th March 2012 – Falmouth Pavilion
Friday 16th March 2012 – Cardiff Coal Exchange

 

Constellations Festival Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd November 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Just when you thought the festival season was over, that it was safe to hang up any notion of seeing in one sitting a full working day’s worth of bands until next year, along comes Constellations to sweep away the November blues. (The 12th of November, to be exact.) In the style popularised by ATP’s Butlins jaunts, this is a single-venue indoors one-dayer, using the fantastic facilities at Leeds University as a base for a five-room shindig. At this stage in the year one might be wary of repetition; and whilst there are some acts here that are familiar faces from the summer festival circuit, the promoters have certainly managed to keep Constellations’ lineup fresh and intriguing.

Which is exactly how one could describe Liverpool’s Outfit. A widescreen, spacey, synth-led five-piece, having only formed in January this year, their sound is maturing nicely: surely their anonymity is destined to be short-lived. Recent release ‘Two Islands’ and its impatient vocal intertwining with keening guitar neatly sums up their sound: angstwave if you will. More please.

Féted boy-girl duo Big Deal bring their somnambulant ditties to the alcohol-free Riley Smith room; their octave harmony style being very much the sound of 2011. Hardly likely to make the listener keel over with excitement, or break an ankle pogoing, nevertheless there is a subtle beauty on offer. It’s just that, as we will discover later, boy-girl duos are capable of so much more these days.

Exitmusic are gothy and elegant, lyrical metaphors of steaming marshland echoing their dusky sound. Lead singer Aleksa Palladino, taking time out from being directed by Martin Scorsese, ebbs and moans like she’s emitting some delicate musical secret. Their arch pretension does suffer slightly from the 10 minutes of awkward soundchecking, and indeed by taking place on a mid afternoon in Leeds. In the middle of a rusty, abandoned Russian airfield, or somewhere woody, twilight and damp, this would be perfect.

Dutch Uncles look perfectly at home on this generously-proportioned stage, their mathy style beefed up to generate a rather wonderful combination of conventional rock and jagged, dissonant, jazz-tinged ephemera. A rather unexpected highlight is singer Duncan Wallis’ unconventional dancing style – his weird, wired leg movements bring an unexpected lightness to what could conceivably be a rather cerebral performance.

Onto one of the highlights of the day: Summer Camp. Elizabeth Sankey makes the most of her opportunity to play diva with her mini-dress and shocking red lipstick; there’s an subtle yet disturbing element of menace about her performance – don’t get too close, chaps! Her musical partner, Jeremy Walmsley, in loud Hawaiian shirt and giant myopic specs, decorates the backing tracks with synth and electric guitar, whilst a live drummer adds impact to the rhythm section. They rip through recent release ‘Welcome To Condale’ (review here), gem after gem of ’80s-tinged pop falling out of the speakers, the warm and confident interplay between Sankey and Walmsley a joy to behold. A loop of classic brat-pack films plays behind; Molly Ringwald would surely approve.

Givers, ironically, are given a short half-hour set, and boy, do they make the most of it. A superb combination of traditional Americana, neo-bombast in the style of Arcade Fire, and a sprinkling of African-influenced funkiness, this is a jolly and likeable set from a similarly-blessed band. One gets the impression that they could play for twice as long and keep the listener enthralled. It’s no surprise that a band from Louisiana should have absorbed the broad church of influences which characterises New Orleans, but to package it within short, catchy, warm-hearted pop songs like ‘Up Up Up’ is a superb achievement. Long may they continue to give.

Stephen Malkmus has been around the block a few times, and seems to be mellowing in his old age. Gone are the angular obscurantism of previous project Pavement, in comes a more relaxed approach, characterised by tongue-in-cheek heavy-rotation single Senator. This is still quintessential American garage rock, but the sharp edges have been shaved off; live, the songs are allowed to meander and develop by themselves, rather than being obsessively honed. There’s palpable disappointment when, seemingly too early, Malkmus announces the last song – what soon becomes apparent is that this song is a long, meandering jam, which lasts well over ten minutes. There’s the niggling doubt that Malkmus is slightly treading water with this project that the long, jammy ending to the set does nothing to dispel.

Vessels specialise in that slow, meandering wall-of-droning-guitars sound that has stood Mogwai in such good stead over the years. Doubtless there are plenty of differences between what and why each band does, but the suspicion is that it would take many hours of listening to elicit them. When the sets are this short, and we’re all standing up indoors rather than lounging on a sunny patch of grass, something a little more immediate is called for. Luckily, Yuck are up next, with their noisy indie pop; somewhat heavier than on record, they still maintain their melodic sparkle, and are starting to look like proper contenders.

Wild Beasts, however, live in an entirely different league of expectation. With the stage full of expensive, delectable guitars and a brace of gourmet keyboards, the performance oozes class from the very start. The duality of the vocal styles of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming astonishes even more than on record; Thorpe’s edgy, vibratoed falsetto a uniquely expressive instrument, unsettlingly incongruous coming out of a bearded man’s throat, Fleming’s velvet baritone adding depth and complimenting the flamboyance of the arrangements. The band have a great depth to their catalogue, and whilst material from Smother dominates, older tracks from Two Dancers sound just as vital. This is a thrilling band, utterly original, and reassuringly complex in all they do. The dials are set to just the correct amount of archness, weight, cerebrality, funk, and indeed camp, an expertly-judged blend of virtue akin to a fine Scotch whisky. It is reassurance to all those that fear the X-Factorisation of music has taken hold, that the denominator is inescapably locked at common: to see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.

And to finally wrap things up, the Big Pink, whose music is about as subtle as their name. Essentially an early-90s tribute act, there’s a bit a shoegaze, a bit of acid house and a bit of baggy in their sound. Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell have all the right credentials, and with single Dominos on Radio 1’s A-list, the future looks bright, except for one thing: their live show tonight is dull. Furze thrashes a Stratocaster and practices his thousand-yard stare, the rest of the music is sample and synth based, too layered to make out any individual contributions or melodies. I spend most of the gig watching the enthralling female drummer, who appears not to be the regular Akiko Matsura, but is great all the same. Something of a disappointment right at the end then, but there’s been so much good stuff through the day that a slightly damp squib of an ending can be wholeheartedly forgiven. A great opportunity to stock up on new bands right at the end of the season… and plenty of inspiration for stocking fillers!

 

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.

 
 
 

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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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