Friday, 17 September 2010

So long, farewell

The time has come to say goodbye. After nearly year in the world of new music blogging the final curtain is falling on this blog. It’s been a fun experience, but alas I no longer have time to maintain it.

But if nothing else I have a great record (excuse the pun) of a year in music. Starting off with the amazing performances at last year’s Bestival, including by Seasick Steve. And then there was the rather disappointing Kraftwerk, but let’s move swiftly on from that one…

The release of Sign No More by Mumford & Sons was greeted with a mixed reception by the media, but it didn’t stop their tunes exploding across the airwaves. Over the past year it’s featured on everything from the World Cup to BBC1’s Secret Britain (three times no less!).

In January the sound of 2010 was greeted by scepticism by some, including myself. The one shining light in the line-up for me was Delphic. However the best news about that list of predictions has been that Daisy Dares hasn’t taken off as much as anticipated.

Spring brought highlights in the form of amazing gigs from Grizzly Bear and Beach House. But our smiles were then crushed with the awful news that BBC 6 Music faced closure (now saved – hooray!). Meanwhile a very wet Camden Crawl brought a small ray of sunshine in the form of Gaggle.

And then I went and wrote a review of Lady Gaga - not something I ever imagined I’d do on this blog!

So that’s it for now but fear not, I will still be very much alive on the blogosphere. If ethical fashion is your thing, then come and visit me on my new blog. I’ll be waxing lyrical there about all things environmental in the world of textiles. And I promise not to bang on about Lilly Allen’s panties any more!


Thursday, 26 August 2010

One self proclaimed ‘genius’ who very might well be just that.

Earlier this year Alexis Petridis played a track from a little known artist called Perfume Genius on the Guardian Music Weekly’s Single’s Club. I was instantly hooked, and went off to find out more.

Disappointingly there was little out there to discover at the time, however several months later Perfume Genius was back in The Guardian. This time with a track called The Drum. Blissed out harmonies float over a simple piano melody in about as striped down a track as you can get. Yet it is absolutely magical.

The video too is spell-binding. It reminds me of the cartoons you’d get before the main feature in the good old days when you got value for money at the cinema. Maybe it’s the nostalgic quality that gets me (I’m sure Professor Indie would have an anthropological answer for me) but I absolutely love it.

Perfumed Genius has an album out, which disappointingly doesn’t feature this track. Yet there are many other gems in there waiting to be mined. I would say this is one to watch for 2011, but I’m usually always wrong about things other people pick up on. What can I say – some people recognise true genius while others listen to Scouting for Girls.

Friday, 23 July 2010

That's not the portaloos you can smell - it's the festival organiser's greed

Festivals are great, aren’t they. You get to sit out in the sun, listen to great music and enjoy the company of your friends.

Yet over the past few years festivals have been getting more commercial. Of course they have to make money to survive, I understand that. But sometimes I do feel like Alex in a Clockwork Orange, strapped into a chair with my eyes wired open, while advertisers try and brainwash me.

The Heineken International Festival of Benicasim is probably the worst – four days with nothing to drink but Heineken. The Hard Rock Calling gigs in Hyde Park are similarly bad, banning all outside food or drink, including water. Of course you expect this from some festivals, but one place I didn’t think I’d see it was Field Day, the new music festival in Victoria Park (London).

I’ve wanted to go to Field Day for some time now, but for one reason or another I’ve missed it. This year I made sure it was in the diary early on, and eagerly bought tickets. It’s the perfect festival for me – new music, just a short distance from my house, with the chance to hear new bands and also enjoy some old favourites. A nice day in the sun, with friends, great music, fine wines and good food. It’s the perfect Saturday afternoon.

Except it appears that the fine wines and good food part is off the menu as Field Day have banned any outside food or drink. The drink thing I can kind of understand – glass bottles can be dangerous. But why food? There is only one reason I can see – an agreement with the food stall holders to ensure maximum profit.

It might seem a minor point, but it niggles me, especially as they have a lovely page on their website claiming to be ‘green’. Well I tell you one way to be green – let people bring their own food. Home cooked food tends to have less packaging, uses less energy to prepare, and if you’re buying organic (or growing your own) is less damaging to the immediate environment.

So I asked Field Day on Twitter for a response to why they are doing this, but they ignored me. I threatened to come with sausages smuggled down my pants, but they still ignored me. I said all I wanted to do was have a nice picnic with my friends, but still they ignored me. I’ll tell you, there’s a pretty sour taste in my mouth at the moment, which has nothing to do with the bottle of cheap wine I drank last night.

I’ve spoken to other people about the no food and drink issues at other festival and I know I’m not alone on this. If you think it’s time for change too, then why not tweet Field Day with your thoughts. You can find them @fielddaylondon

Friday, 2 July 2010

Glastonbury: Geeks, mods and Aussies

I always feel a bit sad on Sunday knowing it is the last day. And despite being one of the best line ups of the weekend, this Sunday felt no different. Even the sweet tones of Frightened Rabbit on the Other Stage couldn’t quite cheer me up, despite being a really great performance. In the end it was The Hold Steady who got me out of my funk. I’m not a particularly a fan of the band, but their energy and enthusiasm was so massive you can’t help but smile. I also have a bit of a soft spot for nerdy front men. You know, the ones that probably got bullied in school and really shouldn’t be fronting a band. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip tops that chart, but Craig Finn from The Hold Steady comes a close second. His beautiful dad dancing was brilliant and had everyone smiling and dancing along.

I don’t think the Hold Steady are a bad band, it’s just that America rock isn’t really to my tastes. For those reasons I wasn’t massively keen on going to see Slash, but I was talked into it. I have to admit that in the end I was glad I went. After I got over the awful rock clichés (lead singer’s arm round Slash cos their proper bro-friends) I did actually start to enjoy myself. There were some good sing-alongs to the G&R classics, and even the newer stuff was tolerable.

At the end of the day though, I will always be more of a mod than a rocker, and I was definitely down for my main man Ray Davis. The performance of You Really Got Me with a full choir backing was one of those spine tingling moments. This was only beaten by Davis dedicating See My friend to Pete Quaife, who died last week. As the choir sang the legend was clearly choked up, and a lump formed in my own throat.

Choosing which headline act to see was a tough one on Sunday. Stevie Wonder is a legend, but I had one of my best ever Glastonbury moments to Orbital in 1994. However the winner had to be Empire of the Sun, who I have been waiting for nearly two years to see. I was so excited that I had to question whether the band could possibly live up to my own hype.

As the lights dimmed, the crowd roared and then the stage was filled with smoke. Luke Steele burst out of the mist, wearing a crown of swords, and picked up his guitar. From the moment he hit those first few chords I was completely captivated. It was stage theatrics at its best, with dancers dressed up as swordfish, and giant pink guitars with neon lights. The show was so slick it could put KY jelly out of business. As a first UK performance it was a stunner and as soon as it was over I wanted to go back an hour and live through it all again. When someone invents that time machine I promise you I will.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Glastonbury: which tribe are you?

Glastonbury has definitely got more commercial. Forty years ago you wouldn’t have seen Sony and Orange down there. And you certainly wouldn’t have seen stag and hen dos with those ridiculous matching t-shirts. That said, I’m not completely against commercialisation. I’m quite a fan of the Chill ‘n’ Charge tent, and with the exception of the arrogant drunks, I think a more diverse crowd adds character to the festival.

Take Delphic, for example, who played the John Peel tent on Saturday. They were slick and professional, and full of energy, but for some reason they just didn’t do it for me. I was surprised by my reaction as I always thought, listening to the album, that they would be amazing live. Like Orbital circa 1994. But as I watched the two teenage girls scream and shout in front of me, I wondered whether I was just a bit old for it all. Trying to recapture that moment 15 years ago is a bit futile and best left to the kids.

Over on the Other Stage the National were playing to a much older audience. In fact many of the people there had kids with them. I’m not against people taking kids to festivals – the children’s area and circus arenas are excellent for the little people. However I really don’t think in front of one of the main stages is the right place for them. Not only is it filthy and damaging to their hearing, but most of them looked bored out of their minds, not to mention hot.

Heading over to the Pyramid stage the Scissor Sisters were just finishing their show and introduced to yet another type of Glastonbury fan –the older woman. They were having a wail of a time, with a mass crowd dance routine going on. You couldn’t help get caught up in it. I wouldn’t call myself a massive Scissor Sister’s fan, but I do think they put on a good live show.

As the Scissor Sister’s left, the audience of older women was replaced by large groups of young lads lining up for Muse. I was initially a bit apprehensive about being surrounded by them, but they were actually, with the exception of one or two, good natured. As the Cornish boys entered stage they went wild, and the first few songs were accompanies by bad singing and pogo-ing. Then Muse started playing some slow songs, and stuff from their new album (which let’s face it, is a bit mediocre), and interest started to wane. People began talking amongst themselves, and it seemed Bellamy and the boys had lost the crowd. A couple of favourites, like Starlight, brought people back round again, but the original energy seemed to have been lost.

I also have to voice my disappointment in the special guest appearance of The Edge. Guest appearances can be brilliant, but sometimes they just feel like they are just doing them for the sake of it. I don’t think The Edge was a good match. I’ve talked before about my dislike of the hype around The Edge, and standing there next to Matt Bellamy it just seemed a bit of a joke. Bellamy is a virtuoso guitar player, where as The Edge just uses a lot of effects pedals. Why was I supposed to be impressed that someone with less talent had come on stage to play with this brilliant band? It was all lost on me.

I'm not sure what tribe I fit in exactly, but as far as I'm concerned they're all welcome as long as they, in the words of Wayne Coyne, be nice to each other.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Glastonbury: It's not all sunburn and Stevie Wonder

When the traditional media (bleh) cover Glastonbury it always obsesses about the mud, like it was something new or different. The reality is that it’s neither of those things, nor is it particularly interesting in the grand scheme of things. It’s like standing in front of the Coliseum saying it could do with a lick of paint.

This year the media were deprived of the mud - cue endless discussion about sunburn. Once that had run out of steam, and they actually got round to some reviews, it was the same handful of bands: Gorillaz; Muse; Pet Shop Boys; Scissor Sisters and Stevie Wonder. In protest against the pandering to the masses, I have decided to resurrect my waning blog and give a more alternative view of the festival, celebrating what it does best – diversity of music.

The weekend was kicked off with a very likeable Rolf Harris, doing all the favourites to an excitable crowd. Harris isn’t a great artist, or musician, but he was one hell of an entertainer, and hats off to him for that.

Over on the Other stage The Courteners churned out a range indistinguishable indie tunes. It felt like 2005 all over again and I soon zoned out. Next please…

Sanctuary was found in The Park, one of the best areas of the festival. With its fairground-like viewing tower, and delicious cream teas at the Tree House Café, The Park has an other worldliness about it. To add to its deliciousness, Steve Mason was performing. However excitement turned to disappointment as a rather dull performance ensued, the blame for which I mainly put on the surly looking session musicians. So obviously we know they’re session musicians, but for 45 minutes we need to believe they are as passionate about the music as we are, not just wondering when they’ll get their pay cheque. It would also have helped if one of them could sing so they didn’t have to resort to a backing track for the vocal harmonies. All in all a bit lack lustre, and not worthy of Mason’s great talent.

Fortunately disappointment was remedied by Mumford & Sons at the John Peel stage. As the crowds spilled out of the sides of the tent the look of awe on the band’s face was priceless. It’s refreshing in this age of cool and ego to see some genuine emotion from a band, and gratitude towards the fans that put them there. And Mumford & Sons repaid their debt with an explosive performance that would lurch from the raw heart breaking emotion of Winter Winds, to a good old fashion hoe-down and sing-along of Sign No More. The pace and energy of their set left barely time to breath, and before we knew it everything was over. But we were left with grins as wide as that of the bands, and a glorious feeling that we had been part of, and helped create, one of the best moments of their life.

As night fell it was off to the Pyramid stage for the Gorillaz. However the crowds were so huge it was impossible to get in so we went back to The Other stage to see the Flaming Lips. And how glad I was that we did! To think I could have missed out on giant bubbles, massive gongs, dancing girls, organ-tans and giant bugs. The spectacle was brought to an end with a beautiful rendition of Do You Realise?. As the first day of this wonderful festival came to a close, Coyne’s lyrics took on a new meaning, and a lump formed in my throat.

It's hard to make the good things last/You realize the sun doesn't go down/It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Camden Crawl Day 2 - finally the sun came out

Despite the hangovers we made an early start on Camden Crawl Day 2. I would highly recommend dragging yourself out of bed for the daytime programme as it is bloody good fun. There was some brilliant improv comedy at the Theatre Technis and stand-up courtsey of The Fix at the Camden Head. But it was Musical Bingo that really brought us out of our post-alcohol gloom. Big respect to Jess Indeedy and the crew for the lunch time fun.

As the evening drew closer it was time for band action. We headed over to the Electric Ballroom to see Midnight Jungernauts. We were a bit anoyed that the band were late on stage, and even more anoyed when they turned out not to be from Australia, have any guitars, or even be men. Oh dear, we were were at the wrong venue! We decided to stay anyway which probably turned out to be our smartest move of the entire festival.

The band we got to see was Gaggle. They're a 20 piece all girl choir that came on stage dressed like something out of Lord of the Flies. They delighted the crowd with pop songs that were both technically astounding and brilliantly funny. Their cover of Marina and the Diamonds', Mowgli's Road was a definate high, but I Like Cigarettes was a close second. They won Camden Crawl's Emerging Talent Show, and rightly so. The only question I had was why hasn't anyone thought of this before. Girl Power has never been so cool.

Next on the agenda was Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster at Koko. Although it wasn't the sort of music that I would ever buy, or even listen to at home, it was one hell of a gig. Guy McKnight is an amazing front man, working the crowd into a frenzy by crawling around on the stage on all fours and then launching into press ups. The audience were made up of some real die hard fans, and then others, like me, who were just enjoying the spectacle.

Back to The Underworld next for Surfer Blood. For all the joy that Koko brings me as a live music venue, the Underworld comes along and takes away again. Cramped and hot, with a view of the back of someone's head, it wasn't much of a live music experience. It's hard to concentrate on the band performing (somewhere) in front of you in such a miserable environment. Pass on that then and move on to the next.

Gang of Four were on at the Electric Ballroom so despite, not knowing much about the band we decided to give them a try. I'm not sure what to say, except the experience was a bit Spinal Tap. From the dad dancing, to staring out the crowd, the whole thing was a bit comical. Or maybe it was just the end of a long, alcohol influenced day. Either way, I couldn't really take them seriously.

The plan had been to stay on for Dan Le Sac vs Scroubius Pip, but sadly we were too tired, so decided to catch the last tube home. If anyone saw it, let me know what it was long as you reassure me it was rubbish. I wouldn't want to think I'd mised anything!