Category Archives: Gig Reviews

Great Escape Review: Saturday

I started my Saturday off at the Fishbowl with O. Chapman. It was lovely and chilled, I would have loved a sofa and a hot drink to go perfectly with his music!

My evening began in Coalition, with Aiden Grimshaw. This is a bit of a weird one for me. A couple of years ago Aiden was on the X Factor. He was dark and moody and not very ‘popstar’ ish, and so got booted off. Anyway, in my opinion he was and still is the best ever X Factor contestant. A couple of weeks back he released a new song online which was to be his first single. I didn’t like it and I still don’t. But I went to see him because I wanted to see what else he had to offer. Unfortunately it was much of the same. Kinda dark dancey pop music. A LOT of people are gonna love it, I can see it appealing to critics and 18 year old clubbers alike. It’s just not for me. He’s a good performer though, still moody but I like that. I wish the new songs showed off his voice a bit more, because that boy can sing.

After that I did the same thing I did on Friday and decided to spend my night waiting for a ‘buzz band’. Tonight was Alabama Shakes. I arrived over 2 hours before they were meant to go on stage and the queue was right down the street. Everyone predicted this was going to be busy and they were right. Thank god for my delegate pass, I got in pretty quickly.

The evening was presented by Rough Trade records, so I had a feeling it was going to be good. On the way in I walked past Nick Cave so not a bad start. Nick and a whole lot of other people, were all at the show to see Palma Violets. A brand new band from London, who have apparently already been signed to Rough Trade despite having nothing recorded online, except a very shabby video. There set was insanely good for such a young band. The songs are proper pop songs, the sort you find on 80’s film soundtracks. The lead singers voice is low and beautiful and the whole atmosphere of the band is wild and electric. The audience responded and it was an incredible gig which the band seemed very grateful of. If Palma Violets aren’t huge this time next year then i’ll eat my words.

Howler were up next which was a bit average, not bad, but nothing special. And then for the mighty mighty Alabama Shakes. I had seen them before but I think this performance was actually better. Brittany Howard puts her heart and soul into every word she sings and it comes across amazingly. When this band play live it’s like the whole world shakes. The day before I had been to a talk where Michael Eavis and Rob Da Bank were talking about who the next big festival headliners are and Alabama Shakes are certainly in the running for that title in my books. One of the best live bands to emerge in years. And an amazing way to end the Great Escape 2012.

See you next year?

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Great Escape Review: Friday

My day started with Martha Paton. I’d never heard her music before and a friend recommended her so I went a lot. The main thing that stood out to me about Martha is her songwriting which is very strong for someone so young. She has a beautiful voice too, I was most impressed and it was such a lovely way to start the day.

After Thursday’s Friends disaster, I realised that if I wanted to see a hype band I was going to get there really early, otherwise I just wasn’t going to get in. So I decided that I definitely wanted to go and see Grimes, and so although she was on at 9, I arrived at 7. I quite like this way of working as you get to see a number of bands that you otherwise wouldn’t have and it sometimes turns out to be a nice surprise.

All night Digital was presented by M for Montreal and Brooklyn Vegan. So it was basically really cool and really good American and Canadian bands. My Best Fiend played first. I really enjoyed their set, heavy psych-grunge-rock with great melodies. The next band I had never heard of before and were called Half Moon Run and were utterly brilliant. It was a very unusual sound, holding elements of rock, dream folk and electronica. The songs were great and I think the whole crowd were totally into their set.

Next up, Grimes. Basically, she blew my mind a little bit. She spent the set jumping around, still singing and playing brilliantly. She was joined on stage by two Japanese backing dancers who basically were fairly shambolic dancers but just added to the high energy set. It was incredible, if you can catch her live this summer she is a must see. Probably my favourite gig of the year so far.

After Grimes I didn’t really wanna do anything except for watch Grimes again, but unfortunately she wasn’t playing again, so I headed to Horatio’s for another ‘buzz band’, Wild Belle. I love their sound and she is a really fantastic singer, their are elements of Amy Winehouse in her voice. They were good live but they need a bit more spark. The songs are excellent though and one song towards the end of the set was sung by Elliot, and although his voice is not as strong as his sisters, the song was so well written I hope it makes the record.

My night ended with Lianne La Havas. Unfortunately the crowd were a bit chatty, I think it was too late at night for such a quiet gig. She was lovely and ‘Lost & Found’ was absolutely stunning, by far the highlight of the set.

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Great Escape Review: Thursday

Great Escape has become of my musts every festival season. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see loads of new bands and discover Brighton which is a wonderful city. The festival is a little like the British version of SXSW. Lots of venues, lots of showcases, lots of amazing bands just before they break, and lots of industry folk. Last year my ‘band of the festival’ was Cloud Control. After seeing them three times in one day, it lead to a long romance with their debut album ‘Bliss Release’ throughout the whole of the summer. I also saw incredible performances from Anna Calvi and Olfar Arnolds. And yet again, this year was no exception for amazing talent.

I have decided to split my Great Escape review into three parts, basically there is just too much to write about! So I will start with the first day of the festival…

My Thursday started with Passenger, busking on the street. Brighton is alive and thriving in culture even if you don’t have a wristband. You can walk round the city and see lots of talent for free and Passenger is a great example of this. Despite being huge in Australia, he is still busking, and he attracted a big crowd with his beautiful performance despite the rain. I then headed to The Loft where I caught the last of an Emma Louise song, which sounded lovely and then for Giovanna, which was quite frankly the oddest thing I saw all weekend. She genre hopped between piano ballads, trip-hop and erm, accordion drum and bass. She also treated to the audience to some running on the spot with added air punches and bum shaking. It was unusual to say the least.

Oliver Tank next at the Australian showcase, which was outside and it was unfortunately raining. His music would have perfectly suited a chilled day in the sun, but it was very nice anyway. I then headed for Komedia where a big crowd had gathered to see 18 year old Jake Bugg. He is one hell of a songwriter. Melodies that could be confidently compared to Oasis and Dylan. It will be so interesting to see him develop as a songwriter, I hope his label do the right thing with that young talent. Next up I wanted to see Friends as Horatios, which is a venue at the end of Brighton pier. Unfortunately when I got there is was full and there was no hope of getting in so I went to the church where I waited for Hannah Cohen.

I also saw Hannah the night before at Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston which was her debut UK show. It was beautiful beyond words. Her band were incredible and the venue was so perfect. Her performance at the Unitarian church was also pretty flawless. She didn’t have her amazing band with her, just her with Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) on piano. It was heartbreakingly beautiful. I am so in love with her music.

I then caught a couple of Gross Magic songs which sounded epic. I love his sound, I think it’s one of the best things to come from British guitar bands in a long time (except maybe from a band which I will mention later). Finally my night ends with Mystery Jets. I have seen them several times before but unfortunately this time the set was unfortunately a little flat.

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Festival Review: Camden Crawl 2012

My favourite time of year is the summer, festival season. Not only is it warmer (maybe not the case this weekend though), but I have no work to do, and I get to spend a large chunk of my days wandering round new and interesting places seeing bands bands bands. Couldn’t really ask for much more now could we!?

This year my festival season started 2 days ago at the infamous Camden Crawl. The festival takes place over two days and it is your typical multi-venue type festival where you run around venues trying to catch as many bands as you can. Thankfully, I am quite familiar with Camden and knew the whereabouts of a lot of the venues so the usual getting lost part wasn’t an issue. I had a whole host of bands to see on my list, and I got to see quite a few of them and also quite a few of unexpected surprises.

My weekend began in the lovely St. Michaels Church with Evi Vine. It’s always a huge advantage to me when festivals like this have church venues. Most of St. Michaels was being used for a record and comic fair so the music happened in a tiny cubicle in the corner. It was a busy turn out for Evi and I ended up peaking my head through an arch. Still, she was lovely and ghostly and a great start to the festival.

I then walked to the Colonel Fawcett which is a little hidden. I turned up at 3:30 to watch the Hall of Mirrors, but to my surprise walked into an empty room and Eliza Doolittle was sound checking. The whole day at the Colonel Fawcett was an ATC Management showcase. The day started with Eliza and then hosted a whole range of new ATC Management acts. The room is beautiful, light and airy and well decorated unlike most venues so I decided to stay even though i’ve never been a big Eliza fan. However, she completely blew me away. She played an acoustic set, just her guitarist and her flawless pitch perfect voice. She has a kooky, sweet attitude, coming across to the audience as a genuinely nice, talented person. She played a couple of her hits’ and I think everyone in the room was genuinely impressed.

I decided to spend the rest of my day there, I liked the fact that no one knew who was going to get up on stage next and everyone that did seemed to be amazing. Next on were Belgium duo Oh Burgundy. It was only their second live show ever, and they did a pretty brilliant job. Their music is ghostly and softly beautiful. It’s folk but it’s got a alternative edge to it, particularly  in the drum machine lines. It will be interesting to see where they take their sound, they could appeal to a lot of Bon Iver fans for sure.

Next up were the band who I actually turned up to see, The Hall of Mirrors. The band who I have previously featured as a New Treat are fronted by the 60’s loving Jessica Winter. She dresses like Twiggy and her voice has all the quirks of Kate Bush. Plus the songs are quirky and catchy. The standout of their set was ‘Bittersweet Love’ when Jessica left the safety of her keyboard and become a proper Florence-like front woman. The end of the song she speaks over the band singing the chorus and it was quite marvellous.

 

With a lot of festival performances, the best things come when you least expect them. And that completely applies to the next performance. A shy, pretty girl got on stage and sat behind a piano. I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t even know her name. But what she gave left everyone in stunned silence. Her voice is soft yet confident, with a soft of Lianne La Havas tone. The songs sound like what would happen if Daughter covered Adele. Pop, but dark and wonderful. I have since found out that her name is Laura Mvula, and she unfortunately has nothing online, but watch out for that name.

After a long afternoon at the Colonel Fawcett, the next place I headed to was Heroes, to see Boy Friend, who were one of my must sees of the weekend. I arrived at 7pm when they were meant to go on stage. Unfortunately due to sound issues and bad organisation, they didn’t end up starting until 8:15, which meant I missed my next band. It was a shame because when they did start, the sound was so bad it was pretty unbearable, so I left after three songs. It definitely wasn’t the fault of the band though, who were clearly also frustrated by the situation. I hope to catch them another time in better circumstances.

My day ended with Veronica Falls. I had a couple of bands I wanted to see at the same time but chose Veronica Falls because I hadn’t seen them before and felt like something new and interesting. I absolutely made the right choice. They were excellent. Grungy, girlie, catchy pop at it’s finest. The band all looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves and I think the whole audience did too. A fine, fine end to the day.

Sunday started at 7pm in Koko with Niki & the Dove. My original plan was to go and see The Barr Brothers, but I had already seen them that same week and since my Saturday was best when filled with surprises, I headed to Koko. It was yet another great surprise and a pat on the back to myself for making the right choice. I had always been a bit sceptical about them, I like the sound but I wasn’t sure if the songs were strong enough. They proved that not only do they have some incredible club-worthy pop hits, but they also have incredible stage presence. Front woman Malin Dahlström jumped and twirled around the stage in a Bat for Lashes kinda way, while her band were impressively tight. The last song they played stood out for me the most, turns out it is called Tomorrow and is the first track from their debut album which is out next Monday. I walked in unsure about them, and left a definite fan.

Then back to Heroes for the For Folk’s Sake stage. Surely, the same venue couldn’t be late two days in a row? But yes, I walked in at 8:05pm, when Lucy Rose was meant to be getting on stage and actually found a young man pressing a lot of buttons to make some kind of dance music. Not exactly what I was expected but I stook it out and about an hour later, Lucy Rose finally came on. I’ve seen her several times before, both solo and with a band but she definitely sounded more impressive yesterday. She has built her lovely pretty folk songs into a big strong sound, separating her from the Laura Marling comparisons. She is currently in the process of recording her debut album and I think it’s gonna be rather good.

Cashier No. 9 were next. The Irish psychedelic rockers who are signed to Bella Union played well but didn’t really grab my attention. So I headed off, the end of my first festival of the season. Bring on the rest!

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Festival Review: Bestival 2011

This year, Bestival was one of my must-do festivals. Not only does Breaking More Waves always go on about how great it is, but so have several other people. I had heard it described as a mini-Glastonbury, and as a Glastonbury-obsessed person, the concept seemed quite exciting. The line-up was a mixture of wonderfulness and weirdness, but I think that was the intention. Headlined by Bjork, The Cure and Pendulum and also featuring performances from PJ Harvey, Brian Wilson, Primal Scream and the Village People, I think the best way to describe Bestival is in fact, weird and wonderful!

The site is quite big, and it can take a while to walk around but the closeness of the main stages makes it quite easy to get around. As well as a huge amount of stages, there is also a Roller Disco, Toboggan Run, Ambient Forrest, Bollywood, a club in a treehouse, and a huge amount of other entertainment on offer. It is obvious as soon as you step on site that this is much more than just a music festival.

My musical highlight of the festival was undoubtedly Primal Scream. I loved their set at Benicassim but this was on another level. A completely incredible live band, and perfect for festivals. I would very much like the Screamadelica tour to continue forever and ever but as it probably won’t, you really should catch it while you can!

Other highlights came from the wonderful PJ Harvey, Brian Wilson who got the whole of the main stage audience singing and dancing, and the Cure who despite playing for almost a lifetime, proved that they really are worthy of the people standing around me, crying in amazement of Robert Smith. Kitty, Daisy and Lewis and Caitlin Rose were also great.

Another highlight was the classic album listenings they were running in the little cinema at the top of Tomorrows World. A number of albums had listenings, including Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album. On the Sunday morning I went to catch the Amy Winehouse Back to Black listening. As well as listening to the album on top quality vinyl equipment, as it is meant to be heard, they also had producer who worked with Amy to speak about his experience with her which was fascinating. It was little things like this which made Bestival for me.

Despite the rubbish weather, Bestival was my second favorite festival ever (after, of course, Glastonbury) and if anyone is looking for a Glastonbury alternative next year, Bestival is the way to go.

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Festival Review: End of the Road 2011

I had huge expectations for End of the Road festival, the perfect line-up, the non-corporate sensibility, the gorgeous setting, the right sort of crowd, would I be disappointed? No. Its every bit as lovely as expected.

For me, End of the Road was completely about the music, I saw so many wonderful sets and came across so many fantastic bands. The additional site features were an extra, but a much enjoyed extra. The Rough Trade Shop was a great idea and had several band signings daily. The woodland area was lit up beautifully with lots of wonderful secrets to be unfolded as you walked through the trees. The atmosphere was peaceful and family friendly, it’s about as far from Reading and Leeds as you can get.

And the music, well, WOW. Joanna Newsom headlined the Sunday night, my main reason for attending the festival and I was completely blown away. She was heavenly and I was so grateful to get the opportunity to see her in that setting. The audience was quiet as a mouse, quite unusual for a 12,000 capacity venue. Joanna played completely solo and I think everyone of those 12,000 people was captivated by her sound. She is such an incredible talent and I shall wait in anticipation for her return to the UK.

Other highlights included, of course, Miss Marling who previewed many tracks from her new (and incredible) album ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ (buy it now!!!). Josh T. Pearson provided humor amongst his 6 minute long break up songs and was a delight to see. Other Lives lived up to the praise I have given there album ‘Tamer Animals’. Willy Mason, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Staves were also all as lovely as ever. My two favorite new finds of the weekend were Dan Mangan and The Mountaineering Club.

Dan Mangan has the voice of Marcus Mumford but possesses a more chilled out country sound than the sons. At the end of the performance, which was on the main stage, he came right into the crowd and got everyone singing along. Truly in the EOTR spirit.

The Mountaineering Club were incredible and I will be writing more about them soon. A sound incredibly unique and voice which couldn’t fit more perfectly, it was one of my favorite performances of the weekend.

Overall, EOTR was a wonderful experience and I glad I got to go and experience what all the hype about the festival is about! They are starting a second festival next year in early June called ‘No Direction Home’ I am very excited about what we can expect from that!

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Festival Review: Benicassim 2011

This years Benicassim line-up was one of the strongest of the festival season. Not only did they have headliners The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire, but also the likes of Mumford and Sons, Portishead, Primal Scream, Elbow, The Streets and many more. For me it was the line-up which completely persuaded me to go. The thought of The Strokes and Arcade Fire at the same festival, a festival by the beach in Spain, seemed too good to be true.

However, after my week at Benicassim I was left feeling disappointed, not by the music, but by the festival itself.

I’ll start my review with the good bits, the music. Over the weekend I didn’t see a single band who disappointed me and left with such an array of highlights. Arcade Fire‘s performance was flawless, the best I have ever seen them. They literally gave the crowd everything and the (disappointingly small) crowd gave them everything back. The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys also gave excellent performances, particularly the latter of the two. Mumford and Sons brought the hoedown to Spain for there last live show for a while as they are now in the studio working on their second album. Primal Scream were incredible, and afterwards I completely understood the Screamadelica obsession so many people had raved about to me.

Other highlights included Julieta Venagas, a Spanish singer/songwriter who attracted a wonderful crowd of singalong Spanish folk. Congotronics Vs Rockers brought a new fusion of Jefferson Airplane and African vibes to the festival. Herman Dune was fantastic, as were Beirut and Noah and the Whale gave the best performance I have seen them do for years. Elbow were fantastic too, Guy Garvey confirming his ‘such a nice guy’ status.

However, despite so many incredible bands, there was something missing from Benicassim; spirit. The festival just has none. The crowd is primarily made up of drunk and rowdy English teenagers, with the occasional actual music fan present. And the festival organised by money grabbers, who in 30 degree heat will confiscate your bottle of water on entry, and make you pay €2.50 for another one. Oh, and €9 for a beer. There is only 3 stages, and most people gather round the almost always packed main stage. There is also a comedy tent, food stalls, over priced bars with a ridiculous tokens system, limited services (the cash machine queue was over an hour long at times) and not much else. Although its overlooking the mountains, the arena is essencial placed in a big carpark.

The campsite is a slight improvement, the showers and sheltering tents is a great idea. The beach is a good half an hour walk away, which is quite deceiving from the marketing which makes it seem like the festival is practically on the beach. One good thing is that they start the music at 6pm and have it run throughout the night, with the headliners going on at about 1am. The heat of the day is so hot it wouldn’t be fun to have to stand and watch bands in.

If in 2012 you are looking for a Glastonbury alternative, I beg you not to choose Benicassim. Glastonbury punters are used to festivals full of spirit, life, alternative culture and eccentric mixes of people and unfortunately Benicassim fails on all these levels. I only hope the future of festivals does not lie in the hands of Vince Power and his money making ‘festival’ instituions. Long live places like Glastonbury and people producing festivals because they love it, not because they want a lot of cash.

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