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6 Music Festival 2015 on Tyneside: Sunday Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

To catch up on the first half of Martin’s review of Sunday at the 6 Music Festival 2015, click here.

An event should never be defined by its headliners – and for such a prestigious event, it could be argued that 6 Music weren’t too bothered about the halo effect of an international superstar topping the bill. Headlining the dark ‘n’ moody dance room (usually known as the Northern Rock Foundation Hall) was Daniel Avery, whose set provoked some discussion. Specifically, what do dance music producers actually *do* live? He presses the odd button, tweaks the odd knob, but mostly spends his time gyrating with his headphones over one ear. The plinth is arranged so we punters can’t see what equipment he’s got or what he’s doing, so one has to assume he’s booted up a MacBook Air and just pressed play. Musically, it’s inventive stuff, both danceable and listenable, but I’d like a bit more of a live performance.

One thing’s for sure, people really love The Charlatans. When I say people, I mean the middle-class-of-a-certain-age that occupy Hall One tonight. Surely nobody in 1990 would have predicted that they would become one of the country’s most durable and sought-after live acts. Perhaps it’s their dogged tenacity that people like; their sound hasn’t really developed beyond the baggy themes that they’ve purveyed for the past 25 years. Tim Burgess is becoming a bit of an icon, despite only a moderately interesting voice and his unusual hinting-at-transvesticism shock of blonde hair and oversized cardigan. Or maybe it’s the ever-present Hammond organ that’s the secret to their success. It’s difficult to argue that The Charlatans are as important a band and the Blurs, Suedes and Stone Roses of this world, but they could certainly teach their contemporaries a thing or two about persistence, and it’s paid off in their well-received headline show tonight.

A quick glance at The Maccabees is enough to know they’re not going to outdo The Charlatans in the indie-rock stakes, and so it falls to Teleman to be unlikely winner of the ‘Headliner of the Day’ award. Their subtle, Krautrock-influenced songs are tinged with wide-eyed innocence, not to say the ghost of Sparks, and they manage to end up in a brilliant crescendo courtesy of an extended version of ‘I’m Not in Control’. Teleman have a refreshing, shiny newness to them that neither The Charlatans’ greatest hits set nor The Maccabees’ laddish jollity can compete with. It is perhaps surprising that 6 Music went with such safe, established headliners (Teleman excepted, of course), as the absence of Jon Hopkins was sorely felt. (Get well soon!)

I’ve been somewhat critical of the Sage Gateshead in the past: for being too uptight, too high-brow, and too authoritarian to really enjoy a night out there. But tonight, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s ironic that the combination of two deeply establishment entities should actually give rise to an event as comparatively anarchic as tonight, but that is what happened. In the year of her 10th birthday, Sage let her hair down – and it was beautiful. The most obvious example of which is the never-before-seen removal of the seats in Hall One, which your faithful correspondent accurately predicted would happen in a Tweet to the Sage – they were naturally tight-lipped about it in advance, of course, but it shows how much clout the BBC had over how the evening was run, and the Sage management deserve a huge amount of credit for taking the leap of faith and going along with it.

Tonight proved what power for simultaneous multi-disciplinary performance Sage has until now kept hidden beneath her taffeta. I’m prepared to stand corrected, but tonight was the first time that pints were thrown and spliffs were smoked in the Sage. A small victory for people with souls. The door staff even seemed to let their hair down a little and go with the relaxed atmosphere. Not entirely though: I got told off for standing on a step. It’s ironic that it should be the BBC, one of the biggest, most tarnished, most confused bureaucracies that the world has ever seen (let’s not forget that in a uniquely misguided spasm of dithering the powers that be came very close to shutting down 6 Music itself) that should encourage Sage to effectively shed her staid overclothes and teach her how to have a good time. At the age of 10.

Or perhaps that’s the one thing that the BBC’s good at, I forget. At any rate, whether through an honest desire to bring good music and the spotlight of publicity to the regions, or alternatively a desperate attempt to inject some much-needed credibility and goodwill into an ailing institution, this was a brilliantly-conceived and superbly-executed weekend that only a churl would see as anything less than a roaring success. Where next? Nottingham, Glasgow, Bristol? They’re going to have to work hard to top Tyneside.

Performances from across the weekend can be found on the BBC iPlayer or via the red button on any digital TV. Massive thanks to Kate and the festival publicity team for sorting out out accreditation.

 

6 Music Festival 2015 on Tyneside: Sunday Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 2nd March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Sunday the 22nd of February saw the final event of the weekend-long extravaganza of music that was the 6 Music Festival 2015, held on Tyneside. The venue was the usually prim and proper Sage Gateshead, which had been entirely taken over by the BBC, and, as a consequence, saw rather a transformation… of which more later.

But first, to the music. British Sea Power were the opening act in the enormous Hall One, with what amounted to an amuse bouche of a set, a bare four songs long, showcasing their art-rock sound in a the magnificent space. Coincidentally, the festival had chosen as their aesthetic theme that of foliage and trees – the stage was flanked by two towering baobabs – that perfectly matched BSP’s usual ivy-entwined microphone stands. ‘Waving Flags’ was immense as usual, and the electric-guitar-’n’-violin-combo in instrumental ‘The Great Skua’ was a gently evocative way to ease into the mood of the evening. Whilst it’s difficult to argue that BSP are capable of evincing hot-blooded passion, they are as bleakly majestic as a grey North Sea swell, and a fine live proposition.

Steve Lamacq introduced Gaz Coombes as “one of the finest songwriters of his generation”, and it’s difficult to argue with him. Not that you’d want to argue with the lovely Steve Lamacq anyway, nor leave him next to an open doorway lest his impossibly slight figure should get blown away in the breeze. Anyway, Coombes did his best to demonstrate how accurate Lamacq’s description was. He’s assembled a great band, so Coombes can stick to electric piano and acoustic guitar, which frees him up to throw some shapes and generally concentrate on being a frontman. He chooses the big hitters from his solo catalogue: the syncopated melodrama of ‘Buffalo’s allows it to be an appropriately assertive opener; ‘One of These Days’, a classic mid-tempo Coombes ballad, has lost nothing of its sheen due to familiarity and still has the capacity to move.

With his expanded band comes an ability to experiment with electronic textures and dance-influenced drum patterns, perhaps aiming to take the mantle of band-frontman-to-solo-artist-with-electronica-pretensions from Thom Yorke, of whom we’ve heard little of late. Latest single ‘20/20’ is a perfect demonstration of the Coombes method: some synthy bits, a driving acoustic guitar riff, and a complex yet accessible arrangement blended together to sound classic and novel all at once. It goes without saying that there’s an enormous, funkily noisy crescendo at the end of the song to wrap up the set. A spectacular performance from a man who is just getting better with age.

Neneh Cherry has a tough act to follow and she, astonishingly, nearly steals the show. Assisted by an Animal-inspired drummer, and just one more chap on synths ‘n’ things, her minimalist backing is all the more powerful for its sparseness, leaving plenty of room for her menacingly soulful voice. Everything she plays is taken from last year’s ‘Blank Project’, a challenging yet rewarding work. ‘Spit Three Times’ touches on depression and superstition, ‘Dossier’ is deliberately swathed in pulsating white noise and ‘Weightless’ flirts with techno in its second movement, before dropping some synthesised power chords like an android Diamond Darrell. Soulful, funky, avant-garde, whilst not herself the definition of ‘new’, her music is as cutting-edge as anything the festival would hear over the weekend.

In my preview of the festival I cautioned that, because there had been so many tickets sold, the Sage would be so packed that lots of people would miss the performance they wanted to see. I was partially correct – Hall One did reach capacity at times, with a glum queue of punters waiting patiently for someone to leave the hall so they could take their place – but overall the place was busy but not overcrowded. The main reason for this was the clever ruse of putting a stage in the main concourse between the two halls, so anyone not in an official auditorium could still see a show. Which brings us to Public Service Broadcasting, who drew a huge crowd to the concourse to hear them unveil new material from sophomore album ‘The Race For Space’ (our editor’s review of the LP is here). Last time I saw PSB they were a two-piece – Wrigglesworth on drums and J. Willgoose Esq. on laptop, synth, banjo, and, well, everything else. Tonight they’ve expanded considerably, adding another two members on “everything else”, and even a three-piece horn section on a couple of songs.

PSB are a lot of fun, and considering tonight’s BBC sponsorship, a rather apposite act to have, in their celebration of the very fabric of news coverage, in their worship of the sounds that have conveyed, and in some cases, actually created, the news. And their expanded sound is surely exactly what fans of their debut ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ wanted to hear. The low-key house beats of ‘Gagarin’ tease us into the set; newest single ‘Go!’ is the executive summary of the whole album, complete with “The Eagle has landed” sample. Where the last record dealt largely with the British perspective of World War Two and the decade following, ‘The Race For Space’ is firmly set in 1960s’ USA and USSR. Whilst they’re at it, it might have been interesting to hear PSB take a peek behind the Iron Curtain and explore the motivations for the space race – the Cold War is only obliquely referenced – but perhaps they rightly conclude that nobody ever boogied to a Joseph McCarthy speech, and stick smartly to space noises. Another good piece of work from PSB then, even if the music itself is a mere backdrop to the original fragments of dialogue and film. And, to bring us back to the Sage’s concourse, the sheer spectacle of their live performance filled the hangar-like space defined by the Sage’s exoskeleton like very few others would be capable of.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Martin’s roundup of the Sunday festivities at the Sage Gateshead at the 6 Music Festival on Tyneside, which will post tomorrow.

 

(6 Music Festival flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1735: Villagers

 
By on Wednesday, 4th February 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

This week, Conor J. O’Brien of Villagers has announced details of a third album. ‘Darling Arithmetic’, which follows debut ‘Becoming a Jackal’ and the more experimental ‘{Awayland}’, will be released on the 13th of April on Domino Records. The first taster track from the new LP is ‘Courage’, unveiled as part of this dark, brooding promo in which O’Brien sports a black as night beard; with it, I think he aged about 10 years. Watch the video below.

The Irish band are one of many acts announced last week to perform in Tyneside in 2 weeks the BBC 6 Music Festival; more details on the 3-day event can be found in Martin’s preview here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UsYbProrac[/youtube]

 

Preview: 6 Music Festival 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 9:00 am
 

The 6 Music Festival is back! And it’s coming to my town. For two evenings in February, the coolest place for a music lover to be is Gateshead: the Sage Gateshead on the iconic Newcastle/Gateshead quayside, to be precise. Newcastle gets to kick off the event on the Friday night, hosting an opening party at the O2 Academy, the lineup for which is impressive indeed: Interpol, Mogwai, Sleater-Kinney’s first UK performance for 10 years, and the winner of 6 Music’s album of the year, The War on Drugs. Tickets for this will set you back a mere £25, and considering the bill is essentially four headline-worthy performances, that’s impeccable value. The venue capacity is 2,000, and there’s only 1,800 tickets on offer, so all those lucky enough to procure a ticket will get a decent view.

The whole shebang then moves (just) south of the river to the hip and happening borough of Gateshead, which, as everyone in the know has known for a while now, is a far superior place to live and party than its more famous little brother Newcastle. It’s all happening at the iconic Sage, into which the powers that be are managing to cram four performance spaces into its voluptuous, snail-like curves. I’ll give an alphabetised list at the end of this article, but this writer’s picks of the Saturday night are: Kate Tempest and Eliza Carthy, who will bring two stylistically dissimilar but familiarly connected strands of English folk music together in a unique, and uniquely powerful performance; Gruff Rhys, whose latest project American Interior, documenting Welsh explorer John Evans’ epic journey across the eponymous landscape, will surely feature highly; and The Cribs, whose stamina and endurance are second to none, and are still turning out music worthy of a catalogue which extends back more than a decade.

Readers’ attention must be alerted to the capacity of the Sage, compared with the number of tickets sold, so they are prepared what they might get for their money. The Sage is essentially a shell within which two separate auditoria exist: the stunning all-seated Hall One (capacity 1,640), and the much smaller, less formal, standing Hall Two (capacity 400). There’s also a small room called the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, capacity 250. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that this is a total capacity of 2290, but ticket sales are set at 3,400 – the capacity of the entire building, not just the auditoria. Apparently the concourse will absorb the overspill, which means over 1,000 people milling about outside trying to get to see the show of their choice, although there will be 6 Music DJs on the concourse as well. Just to reiterate, if every ticket holder wishes to see the big headline performance in the main room, less than half will be able to do so. I am prepared to stand corrected on my numbers, but if I’m right I can see trouble, and overcrowding, ahead. The Sage are notoriously uptight about rules – this isn’t your usual free-and-easy gig venue – so expect short shrift from the stewards if the room is at capacity. Also expect white-collar drinks prices, and with a no readmittance policy, it could turn out to be an expensive evening, with no guarantee of seeing the show of one’s choice, albeit with all the falafel wraps one can eat. Caveat emptor.

As long as post-festival drinks didn’t go on too late at the superb Central Bar across the road from the Sage, Sunday dawns with yet another superb lineup of acts, with a flavour not unlike a Glastonbury Sunday: more left-field choices, perhaps established acts that need a bit of a boost. In that vein, picks from Sunday include the vintage post-punk outfit Wire and the vintage post-soul diva Neneh Cherry. Gaz Coombes will bring the newest of his superb solo work, and Public Service Broadcasting will reveal the direction they’ve chosen for album number two.

In summary, this is an impeccable list of acts for what promises to be an exciting weekend on Tyneside. I haven’t even touched on the 6 Music By Day strand, which is to run in Newcastle’s creative hub, the Ouseburn valley, and include interviews by 6 Music presenters with the musicians who are playing later, performances from bands local to the North East, and a record fair. Our cup runneth over! Given the fact that it’s all only 10 minutes on the bus from my front door, I personally couldn’t be happier. Anyone for an after party?

Bands performing at The 02 Academy Newcastle on Friday 20 February from 5 PM:
– Interpol
– Mogwai, celebrating their 20th anniversary this year
– Sleater-Kinney, their first UK performance in almost 10 years
– The War On Drugs, BRIT 2015 nominees whose 2014 album ‘Lost in the Dream’ was 6 Music’s Album of the Year in 2014

Artists and bands performing at The Sage Gateshead across four stages on Saturday 21 February from 6 PM:
– Hot Chip, performing exclusive brand new material for the first time
– Royal Blood, Mercury Prize 2014 and BRIT 2015 nominees
– The Fall
– Jungle, Mercury Prize 2014 nominees
– Maximo Park, local North East heroes
– Kate Tempest, Mercury Prize 2014 nominee
– Gruff Rhys
– Simian Mobile Disco
– Django Django, performing exclusive new material
– Father John Misty
– Ghostpoet, performing brand new material
– The Cribs, performing brand new material
– Villagers, performing exclusive brand new material for the first time
– Ibibio Sound Machine
– Kate Tempest and Eliza Carthy: performing together in an exclusive 6 Music collaboration
– A Northern Soul Night (from 5-10.30 PM), hosted by 6 Music’s Funk and Soul show presenter Craig Charles, with Richard Searling and Stuart Maconie plus further DJs to be announced soon.

Artists and bands performing at The Sage Gateshead across four stages on Sunday 22 February from 6 PM:
– The Charlatans: performing exclusive brand new material
– Jamie T
– Neneh Cherry
– Jon Hopkins
– British Sea Power
– Gaz Coombes
– Young Fathers, Mercury 2014 winners
– Wire
– The Maccabees, performing exclusive new material
– Glass Animals
– Lonelady, performing brand new material
– King Creosote
– Public Service Broadcasting, performing brand new material
– Unknown Mortal Orchestra, performing brand new material
– Additional DJ sets (from 5-10.30 PM), hosted by 6 Music presenter Nemone, with Richy Ahmed, Daniel Avery, 6 Mix residents Rob da Bank and DJ Yoda, and others to be announced soon.

Tickets for each night of the festival will go on sale at 10 AM across 3 consecutive days: tickets for Friday go on sale on Friday 30 January, priced £25 plus fees; tickets for Saturday 21 February go on sale on Saturday 31 January, priced £35 plus fees; and tickets for Sunday 22 February go on sale on Sunday 1 February, priced £35 plus fees. For more information on the event in Newcastle, visit the BBC 6music Web site. Information on the festival by day will be announced on BBC 6music on Tuesday 3 February.

 
 
 

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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.

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