Monday, 28 May 2012

An amazing day for album releases!

Good grief, a quick check to see what was out today and found this lot;

2:54 – '2:54'
Alt-J – 'An Awesome Wave'

Amore – 'Stand Together'
Architects – 'Daybreaker'
Citizens – 'Here We Are'
Colourbox – 'Colourbox'
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – 'Here'
El-P – 'Cancer For Cure'
Exlovers – 'Moth'
Grand Magus – 'The Hunt'
Kill Devil Hill – 'Kill Devil Hill
Joan Armatrading – 'Starlight'
Joey Ramone – 'Ya Know'
Julia Stone – 'By The Horns'
Marcus Millar – 'Renaissance'
The Murder Of My Sweet – 'Bye Bye Lullaby'
Paloma Faith – 'Fall To Grace'
The Pond – 'The Pond'
Public Image Ltd – 'This Is PiL'
Regina Spektor – 'What We Saw From The Cheap Seats'
Scissor Sisters – 'Magic Hour'

Sigur Ros – 'Valtari'
Ultravox – 'Brilliant'
Viking Skull – 'Cursed By The Sword'

I'll definitely be having a listen to the highlighted stuff as soon as Spotify wakes up!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Great Escape - Day Three

As Friday began, so did Saturday, in Wetherspoon's for a full on breakfast. I cannot imagine a trip to The Great Escape now with a bed and breakfast hotel, thereby missing their greasy goodness.
Day three of the festival turned out to have the best lunchtime shows with the most frustrating evening...

Our first venue of the day was The Warren. The Warren isn't simply an ironic name, it really was a maze to try and find, beginning with us turning the wrong way out of the pub and being halfway to the clock tower before we noticed. Having said that, it was a really gorgeous venue, a pretty garden in a courtyard, with a marquee erected to provide a temporary bar. There was a massive picture of a rabbit on a wall leading Nat to comment that it was just like something out of Alice in Wonderland. It was the nicest morning of the weekend, really quite warm and the courtyard was a suntrap, it was a shame to have to go inside to the pitch black to see the bands!

It was a Scottish showcase, the first band of the day was Paws. I had had Paws recommended to me by Jamie Skelton, however when I told him we had gone to see them and it was on his head if they were rubbish, he soon backtracked and claimed he'd only seen them under the influence of T in the Park... He needn't have been concerned though, they were very good. They are a 3 piece from Glasgow, lo-fi verging on punk but with a fair bit of melody. I have a feeling I may have missed them opening for Yuck in Leeds, which is a bloody shame...

They were followed by Bwani Junction. Nat knew of these and pushed for us to stay for them. I'm very glad we did as they were excellent. I will be listening to their album "Fully Cocked" soon. They put me in mind of Vampire Weekend although I am fully prepared to believe that they will only remind me of Vampire Weekend, nobody else... There are some Afro Caribbean influences, which I concede are thousands of miles away from where the Cape Cod band take theirs.

Now, we had a shift on to get to the next set, way over to Blind Tiger in a little less than half an hour to see the excellent Hooded Fang. I thought Mark and I were going to be the last two allowed in and as I looked back up the road, there was no sign of Chantal and Nat. I felt bad briefly but then remembered that we were only late because Chantal had left her bag in The Warren and we spent precious minutes fannying around getting it picked up! I did feel bad for Nat though, it wasn't her fault! It was ok though, they did both get in. Hooded Fang were a band that I really wanted to see, Canadian's with a couple of terrific albums under their belt, most songs coming in at well under 3 minutes. I didn't think that the sound was that good in Blind Tiger today but that might just have been that the vibe was a little understated in comparison to Django Django. They benefit from one of my favourite sights in music, a female bass player, they move so much freer than, say, John Deacon... Have a listen to "ESP", not a true representation of their sound but a belting good song.

From here, it went a but tits up. Across the road for a pint in the King and Queens then down to a beachfront bar to meet the rest of the gang and of course no trip to the coast would be complete without a chippy tea from a chippy recommended by my cousin Helen, Cheers Hels!

And then to Komedia to see the mighty Howler and the omnilistened Alabama Shakes. Like fuck we did. The one session that all 10 or so wanted to see but as we approached the venue, shortly after opening, the queue was already sizeable. We spent a good hour, queueing, barely moving. Some smug fucker came down the line to give us regular, tedious updates of how only 15 people had left the venue in the last hour and how we will never get in. The Dunkirk spirit pulled us through for a while but eventually we decided to sack it off, the group splitting once more into it's smaller factions. I knew it would be busy. The album has been pretty massive, they were just on Jools, the Corn Exchange line up was fairly underwhelming and Rev and The Makers had cried off with a stubbed toe or something, so there was going to be lots of displaced people and loads that just wanted to see them. I still believed that we had got there in plenty of time though. We found out later that people were still queuing 10 minutes before the scheduled end to the gig!

After a period of moping, including an cracking pint in The Victory we decided to go to bizarrely named Sticky Mike's Frog Bar to see Admiral Fallow. We would have seen them earlier in the day had we not seen Hooded Fang and while I really really wanted to see Howler and Alabama Shakes, I was pleased to be seeing Admiral Fallow. Their new album "Tree Bursts In Snow" has just been released and is a terrific listen. I love the way the male and female voice work together, just wish she'd smile a bit more! We were absolutely treated to an a capella version of "Four Bulbs", captivating and moving. By now, I was well and truly over my earlier disappointment!

Briefly. There was more to come. We reconvened with Mark after a quick one in the Waggon and Horses and tried to see We Are Augustines. Again, we got nowhere near.

I was determined not to let my main memory of this year's festival be one of disappointment. It was part of the reason for getting it into blog, to go back and remember all the great stuff. Yeah, Alabama Shakes probably should have been in The Corn Exchange and We Are Augustines was a bit gutting but it was still a bloody great festival.

I saw 22 bands in 13 different venues, 6 of them I'd not been in before. With my ticket price, it worked out at around 2 quid a band. That is some value! We'd had good weather, good banter and ace beer. I managed to stay, amazingly, hangover free. I had been more sensible than previous years but not at the detriment of having fun. We had done it on a better budget than ever before with 4 in the car and sharing hotel rooms for once. In summary, it was fucking ace and I can't wait for next year!

And to top it off, Mark got back to the hotel room, several hours after the sun came up with tales of an attempted bumming...

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Great Escape - Day Two

Friday began as every great day should - with a full cooked breakfast at Weatherspoons. This was the first TGE Friday I have managed to complete a breakfast and for that I was very grateful...

A now customary trip to Brighton's amazing Lego store followed, to get the cheapest toy I could get away with for my first born and to gawp at the Lego Death Star (seriously amazing, if you have a spare four hundred quid...) and from there we were off to The Haunt...

The Haunt was a new venue for me this year, an oddly shaped room with a stage in the back of a hotel I think, seafront anyway. We were here to see Avalanche City, a New Zealand band that I didn't know anything of except for their song "Love Love Love", which predictably, I love, lov..well you get the rest...The band, as I understand, started as the solo project of Dave Baxter, we saw them as a three piece, with one of the band playing about 42 different instruments across their set. She may well have been the hardest working band member we saw all weekend. I really enjoyed their performance and will definitely have a listen to "Our New Life Above The Ground", their debut album. Following this set we had the longest trip in the shortest time, across to The Green Door Store to see Jonquil.

I was absolutely determined to see Jonquil. They suffered the unfortunate "Thursday 22:00" clash but we knew we had this lunchtime chance to see them. That being said, I was still convinced that everyone at the festival would be watching them as not much else was on. I had been to The Green Door Store last year, it was the venue where I saw the amazing Rachel Sermanni. It is a strange place, under the train lines and has two rooms, a bar area and another room, both similar sizes. We were more than happy to find that they had Banana Bread beer in the fridges, although not at The Brudenell's friendly Northern prices...

Point of Go by Jonquil is an album I have probably listened to more than any other this year and if you haven't heard "It's My Part" you really should. An Oxford band, they are an odd looking bunch but they sound really fresh, for me a bit like Django Django, who I'll touch on later. We had double trumpets, some wicked jangly guitars and the amazing voice of Hugo Manuel. Anybody that gets the chance should go see them on the UK tour they've just started. If I had banked more credits, I would definitely be trying to see them in York on the 22nd...

Things took a turn for the weird when we did the very short stroll over the road to The Prince Albert. We didn't really have anything planned so just went to the nearest gig, which just happened to be Furguson. As it happened, I was pleased to be going as the partners of the festival were Catalan Sounds, so it felt right to be seeing at least one act from the region.
On the evidence of this set, however, the Catalan people will just be known internationally for their football for a while longer, I can't imagine the cacophony of noise they made travelling too well just now. A 5 piece band, hunched over a variety of pieces of electronic equipment, they sound like how I imagine a Dalek shagging K9 would sound. The ale was good in there though and we stayed for another after the band relieved our ears by finishing.

The sun was out by now, evidenced by Mark's trot back to the hotel to get his shades so we went to Coalition for the most expensive round of the weekend. Poor Chantal. Literally, after that. It was a quick visit however, as Nat had given us the head's up on some mates of hers that were playing just along the coast at Life Bar, Heart Ships. I had never heard of them. They were very interesting, I have nothing really to compare them too but their songs did seem to include a bit of chanting and some great guitar work. Probably worth going back to and having another listen if for no other reason that they seemed really different.

Another piece of motoring required, to get to Queen's hotel to see North Eastern heroes Mammal Club. I have been watching this lot for a while but not managed to get to a gig, so was happy to make it in in time to catch them. They are only a 3 piece but make the noise of so many more and really intricate music at that. Have a listen to "Otter", it's great.

Buffet pizza and a quick visit to our usual cup final haunt Kings and Queens, it was time to hole ourselves up in Blind Tiger, for Weird Dreams, Δ (Alt J) and Django Django. This was a hotly anticipated show and so we were always going to try to get in early. Well that was the plan but instead of watching the queue from the King and Queens sun-drenched courtyard, I got distracted by some lycra clad lovelies and by the time I looked again, there was a sizeable line. Getting quite despondent as we waited outside, listening to French Films through the door, we were delighted when they finished and loads of people came out. No problems getting in here, in fact, Nat and Chantal took up positions on the edge of the stage and were not to be seen for the rest of the night, except for Chantal's steadily more glowing face through the crowd in front of us every so often. It would have made for a cheaper night for Mark and I but the truth is, I had shoved so much pizza, pasta and yes, salad down my neck that I had no room for ale.

I would love to give a concise account of Weird Dreams set, I really like "Holding Nails" but I literally cannot remember one thing about them...

Next up Δ (Alt J) were on. I was really looking forward to seeing them but to be honest, I found them boring. Maybe I hyped them too much in my own mind, maybe I didn't research them fully but it left me wanting more. Luckily more came in the shape of Django Django. I don't know what I expected them to look like but it wasn't this. No matter, it was the music I was here for and boy did they deliver. Predictably, "Default" was the song that had the crowd going nuts but the whole set was accomplished and tight. If you haven't heard their self titled album "Django Django", firstly, where have you been and secondly, listen to it, right now. The venue was rammed, sweaty, bouncing and really fucking happy. Oh, and Tom Gray from Gomez was there too.

I really made the effort to go to the Corn Exchange to watch Dry The River but after a few songs I just wasn't feeling it. They are a great band , no doubt but it was a long day and so we pissed off to The Mash Tun, naughtily leaving Nat behind to watch DTR on her own with no battery in her phone. Luckily she found us after and she too could appreciate the fucking awful service in the Mash Tun by a load of work shy bastards that were more interested in dancing and chatting with each other than actually performing their primary function, giving beer to people. 

And that was day 2, done and dusted. Back to the hotel to recharge the batteries (literally and metaphorically) and try my hardest not to wake when Mark came through the door. Failed. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Great Escape - Day One

So seeing as I've done this blog, it would be ridiculous to not write about antics last weekend at what I consider to be the UK's best festival, The Great Escape. Whilst other sites attract massive headliners across sprawling fields full of people hammered on overpriced shitty lager and risking life by eating ecoli-burgers, TGE is proud to proclaim itself as Europe's premium festival for new bands, my favourite sort of band. (You will learn, over time that I am a massive contradiction, the Manics are obviously my favourite band, clearly not new...)

This year was the third time I have been. The first thing to note is that no matter how early I plan on setting off on the 260 mile trip down, it is never early enough, I always miss the first couple of bands. And so it came as no surprise that we finally arrived, checked in and got wristbands in time to see our first band at 15:00, a good few hours after things kicked off.

However, Yukon Blonde at The Hope were a great band to kick things off for us. A Canadian band with a couple of albums under their belt, this hairy bunch got things going in a raucous way. The song "Radio" stuck out with a bit of a sing-a-long chorus. Their set finished with some of the crowd remarking that the festival could only go downhill from there, it really was a strong start and I'll definitely try and see them again.

A quick trip to the oft visited Waggon and Horses to catch up with some late arrivals and a couple of pints of Doom Bar and it was off to The Loft to see Ren Harvieu, or so we thought...

For some reason, two Island acts, Ren and Tribes had been pulled from the festival, a real shame as both had been pencilled in to see on Thursday. We were already in The Loft by now and so continued to watch the end of Savior Adore's set, followed by the lovely Nina Nesbitt. Nina is a young solo singer with a guitar. Really pretty and  a crystal clear voice, another to watch out for and perhaps this years Rachel Sermanni. Check out her song, "The Apple Tree".

A break for a buffet curry, early but justified by our breakfast time departure and on for our first trip to the beach, to the Coalition to see The Skints. Briefly disheartened by the queue outside we soon realised it was as the doors had yet to open! The Skints, we were constantly reminded, are from East London and had had their equipment nicked. With their cobbled together gear they did sound really tight, playing their brand of ska/reggae, which wasn't really for me but sounded accomplished. They did have a really annoying vocal effect which thankfully isn't on their latest album. I do much prefer the record to their live show, "Live East, Die Young" was a highlight on Thursday night. It should be pointed out that Marcia from the band is stunningly beautiful and has a voice to match, I much preferred the songs that she took the lead on.

From The Coalition we had the short walk to the last intact pier, and a hike towards France and Horatio's bar. We arrived as La Femme were playing their set which was clearly well supported as we couldn't get anywhere near the place, being held up in the queue outside until they finished. Thankfully we got in once La Femme's fans had cleared off as two acts followed that I was really looking forward to seeing. Well, I say seeing...Horatio's has tables and chairs down the edges and I was certainly going to take advantage of them! 

Peace have been described by the NME as "The new Maccabees". Thank God, as the current ones aren't that great. I have no doubt that they will be popping up at festivals all over this summer and will be well talked about at the end of the year. They were followed by a  band already being talked about everywhere, Friends, from Brooklyn. If truth be told, I got a little bored of their set, not sure they were justifying the hype. "Friend Crush", however, is a right song.

22:00 on Thursday was a time I wasn't looking forward to as there was a 3 way clash of Ben Kweller, Willy Mason and Hannah Cohen. We got around that clash by not going to any of them and also failing to get in to Gaz Coombes, Blind Tiger having a pretty big queue outside. We learned later that once he started the queue entirely disappeared allowing some lucky punters to wonder in. That could have been down to the Blind Tiger's ace smoking policy, if you go for a fag, you may well not get back in!

And so we strolled up to the Corn Exchange to make sure we got to see Mystery Jets. Unfortunately that meant we had to endure Gross Magic first. Their sound was pretty ropey and that was as good as it got. I tweeted afterwards "A more woeful din you could not wish to hear", which was kindly retweeted by an artist clearly spending too long searching for himself on twitter and not long enough learning how to fucking play. Apparently he'd lost his voice the day before. Sadly, it appears, it wasn't terminal.

On to the final band of the night, The Mystery Jets. 4 albums in to their career now, it kind of feels odd that they are headlining a New Music festival. However they are a really solid band with great singles and albums that I will be revisiting. My highlight was "Two Doors Down". I saw them in 2006 on the NME tour with Maximo Park, We Are Scientists (both, oddly, playing this new music festival...) and the Arctic Monkeys and I was shocked by how Blaine's disability has affected him. He was born with Spina Bifida and understandably was sat down for the gig. I may be wrong but I don't recall him being as bad when I saw them in Edinburgh. Nat was telling me about his insistence on only playing venues that effectively cater for guests with disabilities which is more than worthy. His condition makes the noise he produces all the more incredible, I was always taught to only sing stood up, allowing the lungs to fill properly etc...

It was an uplifting and polished end to day one. Before going back to the hotel I'm pretty sure I had another couple of Doom Bars in the Waggon and Horses, a perfect finish to a long day.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

New Music and Podcasts

After a conversation I had with my friends on the way home from The Great Escape, I thought I would make my first real blog about some of the podcasts I use to hear new music. For the last 5 years or so, I have continued to have my NME delivered but not even opened the plastic it is wrapped in, I tend to rely on blogs and podcasts to fuel my appetite.

I have an android phone and the app I use to get new podcasts is Google Listen . It is a basic but effective app that I set to search for podcasts hourly and download when I have a WiFi connection. What I really like about this app is that it links in with my Google profile meaning when I am surfing and find something I fancy, I can easily link it to my account using Google Reader and Listen will pick it up and send it straight to my phone

There are several podcasts that I subscribe to. The first I used is the "Tom Robinson Introducing" one from 6music. I came across this searching the BBC podcasts library for their excellent material. This show is taken from music uploaded to the BBC Introducing teams across the UK. Since the latest changes on the station, this show is now basically a mix tape with lots of detail and links on the show's blog page.  It is a shame you don't get to hear Tom on it as his enthusiasm for new artists was great to listen to.

My favourite podcast is the one by Matthew Young from Song, by Toad records. His sweary nature and rants are something to marvel at but he also really likes some great stuff. His show is about an hour long weekly, and is accompanied by a really informative blog. Edinburgh benefits from Song, by Toad gigs and I was disappointed not to have seen him as we both saw Hooded Fang in Blind Tiger, Brighton the other day. 

These two shows come out weekly and are about an hour long.

Coming in, again at about an hour but monthly is Jon Hillcock's New Noise show. John presents all over, recently standing in for someone on 6. His shows really do cater for all tastes, I won't hear something I like every episode but sometimes will hear a gem. I think some of his shows are lifted straight from radio output but don't quote me on that!

Another of my favourites is Our Beat Is Correct. This is nationwide but biased towards the North East. This one has introduced me to bands like Let's By Happiness, Mammal Club, Polarsets, Lanterns On The Lake etc. It kind of comes out on an as and when basis and again around an hour.

I recently had recommended to me the Cloud Sounds podcast. Not listened yet but sure to be decent by the list of bands mentioned!

So there's a few, there are loads more out there I'm sure, feel free to mention your favourite in the comments box!



I thought I might do a blog as sometimes 140 characters on twitter just isn't  enough to get all my thoughts out. Now, I find blogs can be both i) pretentious and ii) dull. I am fairly sure I can manage both of those.

I imagine I will be filling this with lists, top 10s and the like and music, albums I've enjoyed and gigs that I eventually get to go to (parenthood has caused havoc with my gigging schedule). I might blog about sport and stuff what I get up to. 

Equally I might leave it dormant, gathering online dust. I just don't know.

Why do people blog anyway?