For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of the Great Escape 2013, go here.
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By Mary Chang
on Friday, 5th October 2012 at 2:00 pm
Technically, until this week, Two Door Cinema Club have not played in Washington DC proper in nearly 2 years. (And at that time in January 2010, they only sold out 9:30 Club with the help of Tokyo Police Club fans, who I learned don’t really overlap with Two Door fans.) That all changed when they played back to back shows at our most famous club venue. This time, the first show announced sold out quickly because of Two Door’s name, and to make it all the more sweeter, the DC market was the first one to sell out (requiring a second date to satisfy hungry fans), the first market in this North American tour to do so. These facts were not lost on Two Door, who thanked the fans later in the show Tuesday night for having supported them through the very beginning.
Historically speaking, DC was one of the first places they ever gigged in America, in spring 2010, supporting the then-massive Phoenix.) Tuesday night, the first of the two sold out shows, was a far cry from those early beginnings as an unknown Irish band. Girls in the queue with me, having never seen the band perform before, squealed with the prospect of finally seeing the boys live. Once inside, I made new friends. Once it was time for them to go on, the venue was rammed of course, but everyone respected each other. I even was able to step into the pit to take photos and come back to the spot down the front that I had secured when doors open. That never happens. Maybe I was just lucky, but I felt the vibe was entirely different than the show we’d seen in Baltimore in June.
But first were two supports. Guards, a New York City trio with two touring band members, have a huge sound and great pop/rock melodies. I liked most of their set; when rocking out hard, they resembled Band of Skulls, and when they were pop, they could have matched the Postelles. They even had a song that sounded so California surf pop, in a way that went far beyond Best Coast’s abilities. I Tweeted, that I thought they had better and a hell lot catchier songs than Foster the People. That was until they went proggy on me, with squealing guitars, fog that engulfed not just the stage they were on but the first couple rows of the stalls and outros that seemed to go on forever (and that’s not a compliment). They have an album coming out next February that will be worth to keep an ear out for; time will tell which way (pop/rock or prog) they will go.
The second support was indie darlings Friends, who I skipped at the Great Escape because 1) I didn’t feel like queueing for their show with Niki and the Dove at Horatio’s but 2) I really didn’t feel like trekking down Brighton Pier to get in said queue. I’m glad I didn’t bother. I realise there are quite a few fans of them reading TGTF, but they aren’t my thing at all. I forget where I read it, but someone once said regarding their band’s appearances at UK festivals that Friends live felt like Samantha Urbani’s personal band. That’s exactly how their whole setup felt like (which did no favours for the rest of the band, who on the whole had the bouncy, rhythmic sound that works well to warm up crowds for a headliner). For those of us who remember Madonna in her ‘Like a Virgin’ phase, Urbani was doing her best conjure up that ghost of Madonna’s past. Wearing a very tight and somewhat revealing black dress, she squealed and moaned her way through their set in what I considered a pretty unladylike fashion.
My guess is that the majority of the audience were minors; that’s not the audience you should be asking as a singer to join you in some “heavy breathing”, eh? The oohing she was doing in ‘Mind Control’ sounded like she was having a private sexual moment. There must be something to their production, because her voice was much more pointed than I remembered from record. The instrumentation was great, but I thought that they were going to be much better (for one, there was this strange muddled buzzing sound, which I guessed was a bass issue), since they have been hyped since their early plays on 6music. My conclusion: they’re overrated. And apparently no-one in the audience had any idea who they were, because it looked like I was the only person who knew the words to ‘I’m His Girl’ (er, thanks Lammo). Tom liked their album ‘Manifest!’, but live, they weren’t for me.
After a tortuous half-hour waiting, the house lights went down again, and a couple dance tracks were played to pump up the crowd as the early stages of lighting began. The band then bounded onstage to thunderous applause, launching into current single ‘Sleep Alone’. This was the first time I’d witnessed ‘Cigarettes in the Theatre’ not being the opening track, and this is just as good, if not a better choice to begin with. The set went from one strength to another, traversing both ‘Tourist History’ and recently released ‘Beacon’ to great effect. While ‘I Can Talk’ and other stalwarts from the debut album garnered expected massive responses from the fans, new songs ‘Settle’, showing off these specially made lit boxes onstage, and ‘Someday’, with its funky bass line and frenetic guitar parts, went down brilliantly. You’d never have known ‘Costume Party’ was a non-album track, as it practically blew the roof off the place.
I got a huge lump in my throat when it came time for ‘Next Year’. I wasn’t sure if they’d play it, but I am so glad they did, even if I did feel like crying. For me, that’s the song that whenever I hear it reminds me that these boys that were new to the world I met 2 years ago fully understand the gravity of their situation, their success. It is a song about choices you make when you become a full time musician; they miss their family and friends and can’t guarantee where they are going to be for special occasions, because a musician’s life is hard with all the touring. Knowing that I have seen them five times now means that they have given up five different nights of their lives to make five different nights in my life amazing. I have followed them around, having seen them play in a small club in Philadelphia that wasn’t filled at all to this, two sold out nights at the 9:30. All that hard worked paid off for them. And I couldn’t be happier.
Cheers Two Door Cinema Club. My friends, you made it a night to remember. You know that you will always be welcome here. DC will always have your back.
After the cut: Two Door Cinema Club’s set list.
Two Door Cinema Club Set List:
Do You Want It All?
This is the Life
You’re Not Stubborn
I Can Talk
Something Good Can Work
Eat That Up, It’s Good for You
Come Back Home
What You Know
Chase and Status were an act who I always saw as a bit of a ‘Pendulum lite’, but with the formers now disbanded and forgotten, it seems only right that the heirs to the festival drum and bass throne can now step up and grasp the opportunity.
And they did, playing a hit-laden set dripping with their signature electronic hooks to close out Saturday at Jersey Live 2012. The MCs whipped up the crowd into a frenzy, with mosh pits breaking out all over the relatively small crowd. They’re no longer DJs; they’re a full-on festival band, more then capable of turning a placid muddy field into a swirling, sweaty arena of noise.
To top of their festival credentials they even tore through roaring cover of Rage Against the Machine’s protest anthem ‘Killing in the Name Of’. The roof (or lack of thereof, so maybe the clouds…) was suitably raised.
The Sunday was more for the golden oldies in us, with legendary acts like Primal Scream, The Stranglers and Noel Gallagher gracing the Main Stage.
The short skirted booze swilling teens disappeared to be replaced by an army of mid-life crisis mums doing that embarrassing dance which you only normally find at those awkward family gatherings that never end well.
The first notable act of the day though were New Yorkers Friends, who are riding on the popularity wave of their Lucky Number debut album ‘Manifest!’ And obviously revelling in every minute of it.
The crowd at Jersey Live weren’t interested though, as their rollicking set was met by little more than sombre applause and the even more offensive sitting on rugs and drinking of Pimms.
Singles ‘Friend Crush’ and ‘I’m His Girl’ were fantastic in their delivery, but the mid-afternoon crowd were simply uninterested, it seems. Kudos to the band for pulling out the stops though, as even with the poor reception, the band gave it their all. (7/10)
The Stranglers provoked an altogether different reaction, with a wave of nostalgia coming over the stoic Jersey Live crowd. Baz Warne fronted the band and was simply awesome, even if at times he did come across more akin to a drunk, embarrassing dad crooning at a wedding.
The hits were all there though, in their aged splendour and fans young and old alike joined forces in their approval of these legends of the scene. (8/10)
Next up the big guns came out, Primal Scream, who are witnessing some sort revival, so much so that they supported the Stone Roses at Heaton Park. Bobby Gillespie marauded around the stage with youthful swagger, looking more like a 21st century Mick Jagger than the ageing rock icon.
They smashed through the highlights of their bulging back-catalogue. Gillespie was the highlight of the show though; he ran the stage with his rock and roll personality and certainly got the crowds rocks off.
To close the festival though, we went from born again legend to bonafide legend, in the form of Noel Gallagher. We can talk about his High Flying Birds, but this set was all about the man himself.
He strolled on stage; resplendent in his long coat at proceeded to show Jersey the set of their lives. He was cool, calm and collected. He even engaged in a bit of banter with the fans, rebuking a fan in a vest for asking for a Liam song. Why bother? He’s music royalty, sit back and enjoy the ride.
As for the spider he brought along in his guitar case… Best to ignore that.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 9th August 2012 at 10:00 am
What happens when you cross the Friends (pictured above) hit ‘I’m His Girl’ with Jay-Z‘s ‘Encore’? This bootleg combo ‘Jay’s Girl’. Listen to and download the song below. Is it great, or are you shaking your head? Let us know in the comments.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 21st June 2012 at 4:00 pm
Brooklyn ‘it’ band Friends took the time out of their busy schedule in Brighton at this year’s Great Escape to perform the hit that broke them, ‘I’m His Girl’, for Bands in Transit. Not sure what is going on with Stephanie Urbani’s, um, style of dress, but watch it below and form your own opinion.
The band just released their debut album, ‘Manifest!’, on Lucky Number, and you can read Tom’s review of the album here.
By Tom Mughal
on Tuesday, 12th June 2012 at 12:00 pm
It’s hard not to re-read the album cover of ‘Manifest!’ to check that you’re not listening to a new record from The Go! Team. But don’t worry, your eyes do not deceive you. Percussion-centric and bassline-heavy, Friends‘ debut album is a distorted guitar or two away from being straight from The Go! Team cutting room floor.
The New York-based 5-piece band have already gathered significant praise for their indie/funk/punk/disco/pop music, the variety in genre reflective of how different the band members’ backgrounds are; born in different parts of the United States, they came together in an apartment in Brooklyn. ‘Manifest!’ is made up of indie vocals, funk percussion, punk distortion, disco synths and the catchiness of a pop track. It’s a mix that works surprisingly well, carefully avoiding sounding like several musicians have rehearsed separately then come together for the day to record an album.
Throughout the 12 tracks, one think that becomes apparent is the talents of Connecticut-born singer Samantha Urbani. Her vocals are the thing that sets the group apart from The Go! Team. With instrumentals as strong as they are on ‘Manifest!’, Urbani does a fantastic job of keeping up with the rest of the band and doesn’t once seem overwhelmed by the percussion. I would liken her voice to Katie White’s vocals in The Tings Tings but, you know… good.
All the tracks on the album blend well together too, rather than coming across as an album of singles. Friends’ debut has definitely lived up to the massive hype that the band has accumulated in the previous months, including the lead-out track on ‘Manifest!,’ ‘Mind Control’ (previous Video of the Moment here), being named ‘The Hottest Record In The World’ by Zane Lowe. It’s a deserved title for what I believe to be the stand-out track on the album. Curiously placed at the end of the record, at nearly 5 minutes long, it is the longest song of all 12. With plenty of hand claps, “yeahs” and a beautifully repetitive bassline, ‘Mind Control’ takes its influences from ’70s funk, and it’s just a brilliant end to a great album.
‘Manifest!’ is a wonderful debut from Friends, one that lives up to the hype, and more. Listening to it gives me the same sensation I got back in 2008 when I was obsessed with Vampire Weekend‘s debut. Overall, an album full of interesting bass lines, refreshing vocals and not to mention more percussion than you can shake a vibra-slap at.
Friends’ debut ‘Manifest!’ is out now on Lucky Number.
For some reason, my phone refused to let me subscribe to the Great Escape text service, and without adequate O2 coverage, I hadn’t had a chance in hell to load the official festival app. In hindsight, either of these may have informed me that the entire Island Records showcase at the Loft featuring Lower Than Atlantis, King Charles (my main interest in this stage, after Tom’s hilarious phone interview with the man) and Tribes had been cancelled. But as I learned over this weekend, it pays to have a plan B. And a plan C and D if you can manage it.
The next closest venue with a band I wanted to see was the Haunt, with Pixie Geldof’s band Violet. During my entire time in Brighton I had nothing but good encounters with punters, except for at this venue. It was supposed to be Avalanche City onstage when I arrived at the venue but seeing that I couldn’t see nor hear very well what was happening up front, I gingerly made my way forward in an attempt to get closer to take at least one photo.
Having been inconvenienced with light shoving and pats on the back indicating someone wanted to go past me in a club for nearly all of my adult life, I was taken aback by one punter’s admittedly semi-drunk but all the same nasty complaint, “are you going to stand there all night?” If you were wondering, there were large spaces in front and back of him (he was standing by the bar) and I had hoped that standing in front of him would encourage him to move back a bit to allow me to get a decent line of sight. Fat chance. What’s even stupider was he left right after the band finished. As the saying goes, “it takes a lot more effort to be nasty than to be nice”, and after having one preferred showcase cancelled that night, I was feeling a bit grumpy and I didn’t need further aggravation.
As the sea of festival-goers parted, I made my way to the front to situate myself in a good position to photograph. Good thing I did this early: who knows if it’s because she’s Bob Geldof’s daughter or people actually wanted to see if she was any good, but I witnessed the largest assemblage of photographers seeing Violet, so much it felt more like a flurry of paparazzi with the continual bursts of flash than a meet-up of run of the mill gig photographers. Whatever happened to, “first three songs, no flash”? Even I observe those rules. Grumble. Thank goodness most of them left after the first three songs; you can tell who’s there for merely professional and not actual music-loving reasons because they bolt even before the third song in is finished.
I suppose I’ve benefited from not having grown up with gossip about Geldof’s daughters and their lives, so I went into this with no personal opinion of her and the knowledge that Luke had seen her at a Guardian New Band of the Day show in April and said she was pretty good. If you were wondering, the girl’s got chops and has a spectacular voice. She opened her set with the single ‘Y.O.U.’, a slow-burning, sultry number, but it’s songs like ‘What You Gave Me’ (video below) that exhibit the soulfulness of Pixie’s voice. Given time and more experience, I think she could become one of the most compelling voices of her generation.
She exudes the sexiness of Marilyn Monroe, yet dressing demurely in a white top and an iridescent long (and not short – shocking!) skirt, indicating respect to both the festival and her audience. Like many of the random revelers I’d see over my time in Brighton, she could have worn a skimpy clubber’s type outfit – one that would have been spread round the internet like wildfire – and yet she didn’t’. It’s a shame in this case that most people will probably not bother to listen to her, thinking that she must only be getting the limelight because of her family. And if you are one of those types, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Forget who her father is and follow the talent. Good on her.
One band that was on everyone’s lips all weekend was Niki and the Dove, who were scheduled to play at Horatio’s on Brighton Pier at a NME-sponsored showcase. (Note: they ended up cancelling their appearance at Liverpool Sound City due to illness, so I never got a chance to see them. Which is okay because I’m not really a fan of their sound based on the recordings I’ve heard.) Friends, an equally hot commodity but has always sounded to me too much like a Phenomenal Handclap Band imitator, were slated to perform before them. However, I’d been advised by long-time Great Escape gig-goers that if I planned to making the trip down the pier, I’d never get back up the hill in time for anything else. Seeing that it was still raining, and the wind had now picked up, the idea of standing on Brighton Pier, especially in a long delegates queue, wasn’t at all appealing. From debriefings from fellow bloggers, it sounds like I missed a great show. But you’ve got to make tough choices sometime…
Thanks to not being able to check my email, I completely missed the confirmation on Maximo Park press passes for their performance at the Dome, so I decided to switch gears again and head to Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar for New Look, followed by the guys I’d serendipitously seen earlier, Zulu Winter. New Look, not to be confused with the high street womens’ clothing shop, is a Toronto husband and wife team who make an engaging brand of electropop. In the currently crowded electronic market, they came up with their own genre, ‘futurepop’, which incorporates unashamed ‘80s synth stylings (can you say ‘keytar’?) with r&b and dubstep. Interestingly, I saw quite a few couples watching the couple onstage, dressed in matching outfits of white dress shirts and black trousers, grooving with their loved ones to the good beats. Verdict: while they sound pretty good, they risk being forgettable.
Zulu Winter followed shortly thereafter. I should probably mention here that Sticky Mike’s performance space is a basement with badly placed support poles and a low ceiling. Not only is it difficult to see if you’re standing in the wrong place, it’s quite claustrophobic and I can’t even imagine being down there if you’re very tall. The stage is also pretty small; Zulu Winter comprises five band members and keyboardist Dom and his many synths had to be placed off the stage because there wasn’t enough room for all of them. That said, if you’re up front like I was, there is no problem. I’m sure singer Will Daunt will never forget this performance, as a large Norwegian made his presence known by shouting, rather annoyingly I might add, for ‘Silver Tongue’ about 3 times between every song.
Considering they hadn’t even released their debut ‘Language’ yet (it was due to be out on PIAS the following Monday the 14th of May), they played a fun, energetic and well-received set that was not at all hampered by bassist Iain Lock’s foot injury, forcing him to get and off stage on crutches. What a trooper. Below is the opening song of their set, ‘Key to My Heart’. (If you’re wondering, the crazy Norwegian’s hooting can be heard at the end of the video.) Keep an eye on these guys; if the album does well, they could be the next big British indie pop band.
Part of the original plan was to see Mystery Jets at the Corn Exchange, so I trudged back up the hill with renewed purpose. When I inquired about the delegates queue, I was told sternly, “there’s only one line [for everyone, with wristbands or badges]. And it’s one in, one out.” I pressed further on why oh why there wasn’t a delegates queue, I was met with stony silence. I saw the queue going around the building and down the block past the Dome. Not getting in there then. I got into the queue for the Pavilion Theatre in an attempt to get in for Django Django and found myself directly in front of Mike Bradford of the Recommender (it’s amazing how many times you accidentally run into everyone at this festival!), who asked staff what the probability of us getting into the venue that night was. It wasn’t looking good. Instead of getting frustrated, Mike suggested we head down to Sticky Mike’s to round off our evening with some drinks, followed by a performance by White Arrows. If a fellow blogger recommends it, you can’t turn it down.
Oh, White Arrows. The lead guitarist looked stoned as he clicked his pair of claves together. I guess that’s okay, considering “the blackest ‘white’ band”, described by the Owl Mag as making a “psychostropical” sound, were throwing down very tropical yet electronic and funky beats. ‘Coming and Going’ is a good example as any of their jangly guitars paired with a danceable and powerful backbeat. Was it really past 1 AM? Didn’t feel like it.
2 AM is probably a good time for bed but somehow I found myself at the very crowded Queens Hotel lobby, surrounded by loud and pissed delegates from all over. Having not eaten anything solid since the afternoon, I also was the proud holder of a large cone of fish and chips procured from the boardwalk, Despite getting frosty looks from hotel security for having brought outside food in, I shared my fish with a very hungry CMU rep who was grateful for some food. That was my attempt to solidify American and English relations for the evening. I said goodbye to my new friends and tucked myself into bed at about, oh, 4 AM? 4 hours of sleep ahead of me? Eep. Well, it’s like Blaine Harrison says in the Mystery Jets song ‘Dreaming of Another World’: “sleep is for the dead”. Right?