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Deer Shed Festival 2013: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 25th July 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Right in the middle of his Saturday night headline set at Deer Shed Festival 2013, Darwin Deez brought his band to the front of the stage, and all four men lined up in silence. Then a metronomic electro beat kicked in, and they began to move. Initially, just an arm would go up in response to a recorded note. Then each dancer took on a musical motif as his own, limbs locked in time with the music, until they were a blur of moving body parts, aligned in rhythm but diverse in motion, as if the internal workings of a wristwatch. It spiralled from there: in pairs, each couple chiding the other – using nothing but the power of dance – to even higher levels of highly-skilled yet light-hearted boogie-banter. It was a moment that summed up the entire ethos of Deer Shed Festival: do something fun; do it well; do it with the unselfconscious devotion of a child. And if it involves putting a cardboard box on one’s head and pretending to be a robot, so much the better.

Rewind a day or so, and the famously clement Deer Shed weather made putting up a tent both a pleasure and a chore – baking hot sunshine is perfect when the work of tent-erection is over, cold beer in hand, but slightly less enjoyable whilst in the process of whacking tent pegs into baked-hard ground. Still, it beats rain in any form, and Deer Shed still has a 100% record for no significant rain at any of the four events so far, a record which leaves many festivals blushing with envy. The site itself was significantly rearranged this year, cleverly making use of Baldersby Park’s natural bowl-shaped amphitheatre, although this sadly leaves the eponymous Shed outside the arena, looking very much unloved and forlorn. Perhaps it could be brought into use for… ooh, I don’t know… housing deer for the weekend?

Gaz Coombes Deer Shed 2013

No sooner was the tent upstanding then it was time for music. First up was Gaz Coombes, late of Supergrass, and what a superb opening gambit he turned out to be. His recent work, as chronicled in long-player ‘Here Comes the Bombs’, was very much in evidence, as expected, as was heartbreaking recent single ‘One Of These Days’. Songs such as the sub-3-minute stomper ‘Whore’, and the more circumspect, spacey almost-prog of ‘Universal Cinema’, were rapturously received by a crowd who appeared initially not to know quite what to expect.

What they got was a spectacular performance from a well-drilled and vastly experienced practitioner of alternative guitar-pop. A lady or two might have swooned at the sight of his impressively-sideburned visage. Imagine the delight of the crowd when treated to an acoustic interlude of a couple of Supergrass numbers, including the divine ‘Moving’, which excels when given a stripped back treatment. Then imagine that delight transforming into headbanging ecstasy when the very last song turns out to be the storming ‘Richard III’ from Supergrass’ sophomore release. Not a brow was left unsweaty. (5/5)

Edwyn Collins Deer Shed 2013

By chance, a member of our entourage is acquainted with a good friend of Edwyn Collins, and from him has learned how devastating the double cerebral haemorrhage and subsequent complications Collins suffered in 2005 actually were. Thusly, we’re under no illusions about how impressive it is that he’s here at all. Which makes reviewing his performance a little tricky. Collins himself isn’t overly mobile, his right side clearly considerably weakened. He sits on an amplifier throughout and plays no instrument. He has an odd way of speaking – in short, sharp facts rather than conversational sentences. His speech is slurred. Yet here he is, confidently headlining. It cannot be overestimated how significant an achievement that is, and a tribute to Collins’ efforts of rehabilitation. Such sentiment is largely irrelevant, however, in the context of musical criticism. And whilst on the surface this could be a difficult listen – a bald reading of some relatively obscure songs from a man who slurs his words and is liberal in his approach to perfect pitch – anyone with even a casual familiarity with his work will appreciate the resonance of this performance as a whole.

The set ranges widely over Collins’ long career – the white funk of his Orange Juice period still sounds fresh in ‘What Presence?’, time hasn’t dulled ‘Gorgeous George’’s edge, but it’s the new, post-illness material that’s most impressive. We get a smattering from 2010’s superb Losing Sleep LP, including the Northern Soul-influenced title track and the touchingly romantic ‘In Your Eyes’. But the best bits come from this year’s ‘Understated’. If Collins’ voice is damaged, his ear for a tune is still factory-fresh. There’s a strong autobiographical thread running through his newest songs: ‘31 Years’ and ‘Understated’ are barely-concealed musings on his past, his achievements, and what the future might hold, all bound together with expert songcraft. Bad health may have robbed Collins of his ability to play his cherished guitars, but it has thankfully left his musical brain intact. A performance for connoisseurs, but what it lacked in accessibility it made up for in depth. (4/5)

A particular highlight of last year was Darius Battiwalla’s piano accompaniment to the eerie ‘Nosferatu’. This year, Darius was back with 1925’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. ‘Phantom’ tells the story of Erik, a hideously deformed figure who lives deep in the bowels of an opera house, falls in love with a leading lady, and proceeds to terrorise all those who would stand in his way. A disturbing portrait of manic depression, it contains some genuinely chilling scenes, notably the casual way Erik dispenses with his first underground caller.

The production is astonishing even when viewed with a jaded modern eye – the subterranean lair is a romantic gothic masterpiece, and the restrictions of black and white film are used to its advantage when portraying the inky blackness of water, and by the use of tints to reinforce the emotional context of a scene. Battiwalla’s playing is an absolute joy, so expertly reflecting the on-screen action, one could close one’s eyes and imagine how the story was developing. Beautiful melodic vignettes of disparate theme, pitch and tempo flow together to create a seamless soundtrack, all the more impressive for being played without sheet music. Cinema doesn’t get any better than this. (5/5)

Head on over to Martin’s Flickr for high-res versions of his photos taken at this year’s Deer Shed Festival.

 

Preview: Deer Shed Festival 2013 (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 27th June 2013 at 9:00 am
 

We’ve already previewed the extensive small- and big-kid friendly activities available at Deer Shed Festival 2013, but what of the music? Featuring full 2 days of music (Friday evening, Saturday all day, and Sunday afternoon), and a smattering of stages, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill enormo-fest, and is all the better for it. The entire card is quality, but here we run down some of the highlights of Deer Shed 2013’s music offering…

Friday night sees a clash-tastic triumvirate of triumphant talent. Edinburgh festival favourites Tubular Bells For Two take over the In The Dock stage all night – for those who haven’t heard, TBFT are Aussies Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts, who have taken it upon themselves to recreate Mike Oldfield’s multi-layered masterpiece Tubular Bells in its entirety, complete with a home-made set of the eponymous melodic percussion. An inspired booking, and a rare opportunity to catch TBFT in the fresh air.

Gaz Coombes proved with his diverse work with Supergrass that he’s one of the finest songwriters of his generation; his solo album ‘Here Come The Bombs’ superbly reinforced that reputation. He’s just put out a new double-A single: ‘One of These Days’ is a typically bittersweet string-enhanced 4 minutes of slow-burning goodness, marking an intriguing move into gentle electronica stylings; ‘Break the Silence’ is a more upbeat synth-led stomper with hints of Supergrass’ superb 2004 orphan release ‘Kiss Of Life’. Which all bodes well for the second album which is rumoured for imminent release.

In a fairer world, Gaz Coombes would be the highlight of the evening. But if Coombes’ star is still developing, Edwyn Collins’ is a full-on supernova. There’s no need to go over the old ground of his medical history (if you need the details, see here), suffice to say that Collins’ personal story is as remarkable as his music. His 2010 LP ‘Losing Sleep’ gathered my Writer’s Choice for a Mercury nomination that year; this year’s release ‘Understated’ continues his output of smart pop-soul, hinting obliquely at his trials, but mostly simply affirming the human condition in matchless, witty style. A true legend, revered warmly by industry and fans alike, and a great way to wrap up Friday night at Deer Shed.

Saturday afternoon is folky and soulful. Tynesiders and Craig Charles favourites Smoove and Turrell (John Turrell is the male voice of Charles’ Fantasy Funk Band) are perfectly timed to get the crowd into a groove; Zervas and Pepper soundtrack dreams of shimmering open plains and dusty roadhouses; To Kill a King purvey that keening, yearning folk-rock sound that has such broad appeal these days that will surely make them a highlight of the day for many.

Elsewhere, Spring Offensive bring their suave Oxonianisms to the In The Dock Stage. If you like atmospheric, emotive guitar music, and wish you had seen Radiohead live before they released ‘The Bends’, the Spring Offensive are not to be missed. Neither are The Phantom Band, whose sound genuinely defies classification. There’s detailed multi-movemented arrangements, pepperings of atonality, a touch of ‘Green’-era R.E.M., and even the hint of properly heavy guitars on occasion. Very difficult to describe, which means that they’re very clever indeed. Worth being acquainted with beforehand, but will reward the effort live.

Darwin Deez has a lot to live up to – the punditry casually bandy around names like Beck, Prince, and Hendrix whenever he’s mentioned. Yes, Deez displays a loose, carefree obscurantism that Beck would be familiar with, but there’s little evidence of the epic sweep of Prince, or indeed of Hendrix’s Stratocaster majesty. Perhaps his live show will answer the doubters. But most excitingly of all, Saturday night finds The House of Love on the main stage. Surely the most underrated band of the pre-Britpop era, The House of Love’s self-titled meisterwerk contains future echoes of The Stone Roses, James, and both Oasis and Blur, and without whose influence British pop music would surely have taken a different, and undoubtedly inferior, path. Despite such achievements, in comparison with their peers they remain relative unknowns, with founding member Guy Chadwick carving a second career fitting sash windows. The story of the band is no less remarkable than their music, featuring personal acrimony, heavy drug use, mental problems, countless spin-off side projects, and the inevitable ritual burning of banknotes – enough to fill a decent book, one would imagine. Will The House of Love find their final redemption in their reformation and release of new material? Will Deer Shed be where it all finally comes together? One waits with bated breath.

After the excitement of Saturday night, Sunday is wind-down day. The Unthanks bring to life the North-East’s history of heavy industry and hard living with ‘Songs From The Shipyards’, and band-of-the-moment Public Service Broadcasting (who we caught last month in Newcastle) offer a similarly historical yet rather more lighthearted take on this island’s history with their audiovisual tour-de-force. On the main stage, we have chilled-out ambience from AlascA, knowing ensemble wittiness from Moulettes, and the acoustic finale belongs to the avuncular King Creosote, who has a challenge on his hands to match the vertical, punch- and love-drunk ambience of last year’s Cherry Ghost set.

If it had escaped your notice, this is just part of what’s on offer at Deer Shed Festival this year. Take a look at my Part 1 for a roundup of the crazy catalogue of activities to lose yourself in. Tier three tickets are still available from from the official Web site – but probably not for much longer!

 

Mercury Prize 2011: TGTF Writer’s Choice

 
By on Monday, 5th September 2011 at 11:00 am
 

Tomorrow night, Tuesday the 6th of September in London, the winner of the 2011 Mercury Prize will be crowned. I’ve asked each of our writers to choose which album they think should win this year’s honour, as well as which album they think was criminally absent from the 2011 shortlist. And without further adieu…

Mary Chang, Editor (hometown/current location: Washington, DC, USA)
Who should win: Everything Everything‘Man Alive’ (Geffen). To be honest, I was pretty underwowed by the nominees announced for this year. As much as I love Elbow, I don’t think ‘build a rocket, boys!’ was all that great. If Adele wins with ’21’, it’ll be a dark day in Mercury Prize history: in the past, the honour has usually been given to an ‘outsider’ artist that could use the promotion, and with how ever many million records Adele has already sold, it’s not like she needs more to line her pockets. In contrast, Everything Everything’s debut album released last summer was a breath of fresh air to the British music market: a cross between pop, rock and hip hop that they proved with their inimitable talent could be converted into an orchestral force to be reckoned with.

Who should have been nominated: Dutch Uncles‘Cadenza’ (Memphis Industries). If I’m going to go with an album that I believe is in the same league with ‘Man Alive’, then it’s got to be this debut from the Marple band. It just doesn’t sound anything like anyone else, except maybe Field Music. Duncan Wallis’s voice is so distinct and somehow it works perfectly against the math rock/pop dissonant instrumentation. Keep an eye on these guys.

John Fernandez (hometown: Guernsey, UK)
Who should win: Katy B – ‘On A Mission’ (Rinse/Columbia). It was a close tie between Londoner Katy B and Mancunians Elbow. But on sheer merit alone I believe Katy B has to win this award, she has produced one of the most inventive dubstep collaboration records in recent history. While avoiding the pigeonhole of mainstream dub-pop (Chase and Status) and stayed true to her roots. ‘On A Mission’ is full of charm, hooks and has a fantastic rhythm to it, no other album on the list in my opinion can match it, and while it may fall into the ‘too mainstream’ trap, I believe this could be the surprise winner.

Who should have been nominated: Hurts – ‘Happiness’ (RCA/Sony). Hurts do one thing, and that is divide opinion. Are they just a well dressed boyband or are they interesting synthpop? One this is certain though: ‘Happiness’ is a well produced monster of a record, so it astounds me that it isn’t on the Mercury Prize short list. The lyrics are as polished as their shoes on stage and you can’t fault them on inventiveness: they tour and record with an opera singer (OK, so Muse produced a symphony, so what?)

Braden Fletcher (Northern Monkey, Southern Student, UK)
Who should win: Ghostpoet – ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ (Brownswood). To say that Ghostpoet is a dark horse in the Mercury prize isn’t so much an understatement as it was when the nominations were announced. As if waiting for his name to come up on the list, the MC has been relentlessly promoting and touring his debut effort in the last 2 months. He has good reason to as ‘Peanut Butter Blues…’ is one of the most competent albums of its genre to appear in Britain since the rise of the Streets. Ghostpoet barely adheres to the same rulebook as Skinner but the similarities are there. Both tell it how they see it without reserve and both are some of the most relevant artists around today. Give a listen through the Midlands man’s record and you’ll understand why Mike Skinner is counted upon his high profile fanbase. ‘Survive It’ is a grand piece of abstract rap that makes Tinie Tempah look like a school boy whilst ‘Us Against Whatever’ encapsulates James Blake-esque beats with a stunning set of lyrics. Ghostpoet for me, is the obvious choice for people who don’t like to choose and a solid enough record to actually be noticed.

Who should have been nominated: Maybeshewill – ‘I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone’ (Function). Post-rock is such a hugely under valued genre of late. With the only real recognition going towards Texas group Explosions in the Sky, the talent of Maybeshewill is going hugely unnoticed. The Leicester band’s first two efforts feature some of the most relevant monologues in recent history amidst a well constructed soundscape and this, their third record maintains the high bar the group set themselves. Managing to be all of powerful, loud, moving and well refined at almost all times, ‘I Was Here For a Moment…’ is exactly the kind of mastery that should have warranted a Mercury Prize, if for no more than the entire genre being continuously overlooked.

Luke Morton, (hometown: Lincoln, UK; current location: London, UK)
Who should win: Everything Everything‘Man Alive’ (Geffen). One of my favourite albums of 2010 and they can deliver the goods live as well. The electro-indie synthwork and the soaring vocals are what give Everything Everything the edge over so many other bands in their field who simply fade into the ether. ‘Man Alive’ is jam-packed with danceable tunes, whether it’s the infectious ‘Photoshop Handsome’ or the majestic singalong of ‘MY KZ UR BF’, ‘Man Alive’ has so much to offer – surprisingly versatile yet accessible for a debut album.

Who should have been nominated: The King Blues‘Punk & Poetry’ (Transmission). Probably my favourite British album of 2011 so far, the King Blues’ third LP is their finest work to date and should have received some recognition from Mercury. Their politically-charged, emotive, passionate LP ‘Punk & Poetry’ brings many elements to the table – primarily through Itch’s lyrics. ‘The Future’s Not What It Used to Be’ and ‘Set the World on Fire’ are fantastic examples of the frustration the band (and a lot of the general public) feel about the country. Whereas album closer ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’ showcases the band’s sombre/sensitive side as Itch regales the listener with the story of meeting his partner and having his first child. There’s so much to take away from this album and it’s a real shame that despite the punk movement still going strong in the UK, no attention has been paid to it again in the awards dedicated to British music.

Martin Sharman (current location: Gateshead, UK)
Who should win: Anna Calvi – ‘Anna Calvi’ (Domino). Variously fêted and slated, Calvi’s debut may initially be overlooked as faux-Harvey, and with PJ on the list again this year seems an unlikely choice to win. However, good though ‘Let England Shake’ is, at this stage in her career Harvey needs the Mercury less than they need her, having the freedom to explore her talents with ever more directional work. Calvi is surely the heiress-in-waiting, her debut treading the fine line between artifice and splendour delicately well, and giving Harvey a run for her money in the drama stakes. Even without the Mercury’s fondness for debut albums, Calvi is surely the one to beat.

Who should have been nominated: Edwyn Collins – ‘Losing Sleep’ (Heavenly Records). Collins’ backstory of recovery from a debilitating brain haemorrhage that left him unable to play his collection of beloved vintage guitars isn’t enough to win him a Mercury nomination. But this superb collection of guitar-pop gems certainly should have been. This is as touching, joyous and assertive as anything on the list this year, Collins’ compelling, slightly slurred vocal a candid reflection on his condition and subsequent readjustment. And this wouldn’t have simply been Collins’ award: the list of collaborators reads like a roll-call of the great and the good in British guitar music. A true pop survivor and deserving of a nod this year.

 

Video of the Moment #388: Edwyn Collins (feat. Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy)

 
By on Thursday, 20th January 2011 at 6:00 pm
 

Edwyn Collins released his 7th solo album, ‘Losing Sleep’, last September. It features some notable guest appearances including Johnny Marr (‘Come Tomorrow, Come Today’), the Drums (‘In Your Eyes’) and the track in this video, ‘Do It Again’, starring Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand. I’m glad Collins is back “doing it again”, because he’s showing the youngsters exactly how it’s done. What a toe-tapping, ace tune. Not a fan of Kapranos’s ’70s moustache, though.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgIjWq-Qhzs[/youtube]

‘Losing Sleep’ is available now from Heavenly Records.

 

NME Awards Shows / February 2011

 
By on Tuesday, 23rd November 2010 at 9:30 am
 

This year, the NME Awards will take place 23 February 2011 at 02 Academy Brixton. In the lead up to the awards show, NME puts on live performances in London’s best gigging venues during the month of February. And yesterday, the music magazine announced the line-ups for the February 2011 shows. Tickets for these shows go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday, 24 November, at 9 AM.

Tuesday 1st February 2011 – Metronomy at London Heaven
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 – Los Campesinos! and Summer Camp at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Thursday 3rd February 2011 – The Duke Spirit at London Heaven
Wednesday 9th February 2011 – Mystery Jets (pictured above) at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Friday 11th February 2011 – White Lies and Crocodiles at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Tuesday 15th February 2011 – The Naked and Famous at London Heaven
Tuesday 15th February 2011 – Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan and Cherry Ghost at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Wednesday 16th February 2011 – Edwyn Collins at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Thursday 17th February 2011 – Miles Kane at London Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
Thursday 17th February 2011 – Noah and the Whale at London Koko
Friday 18th February 2011 – Yuck and Cults at London Bush Hall
Sunday 20th February 2011 – Carl Barat, the Heartbreaks and Foreign Office at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Monday 21st February 2011 – Alex Winston at London New Players Theatre
Monday 21st February 2011 – Mona and Neon Trees at London Garage
Monday 21st February 2011 – Warpaint and Twin Shadow at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Monday 21st February 2011 – Frankie and the Heartstrings and Veronica Falls at London Heaven
Tuesday 22nd February 2011 – Caribou, Factory Floor and Walls at London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Tuesday 22nd February 2011 – Les Savy Fav at London Heaven

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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