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Glastonbury 2011: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 30th June 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

My day at Glastonbury started with a river of mud flowing through and soaking my tent, so as you can imagine, I wanted satisfaction straight off. No testing the water with new talent, I wanted something that would hit the mark from the word go. The Pyramid Stage was the place to go then for TGTF favourites Two Door Cinema Club. who are still riding on the successes of their debut album ‘Tourist History,’ a record which has seen them go from unknowns to a band worthy of appearing third on the biggest stage at Glasto. Two Door’s set started slowly, but as the band grew on confidence the crowd warmed to them. They weren’t helped by the fact that the weather didn’t seem to know which way it was going. However, with great sing-alongs such as ‘Undercover Martyn’, ‘Something Good Can Work’ and ‘What You Know’ they were bound to be a Pyramid Stage hit. And they were.

Moving swiftly on towards the Other Stage to see the Vaccines in their first show of the weekend seemed like the best idea, just as the rain started to pour down. After listening to their debut album ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ (my review of the album here) and enjoying it, I was sure that their set would be a winner. How right I was, from the first notes to their final baritone roar, the Vaccines showed the sizable crowd that had formed why such big things are expected of them. Every song was perfect to the tone, with ‘Wetsuit’ being a particular highlight and adding a real sing-along element to a fantastic set. First single ‘Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ got the crowd shaking in a way that you don’t really expect from a band that only came on at half past 2 in the afternoon. All in all, it was a set that I didn’t really expect to be fantastic but which turned out to be a real highlight.

The Wombats charged onstage resplendent in white suits and ready for one of the best set of sing-alongs the weekend had to offer. Their new record ‘This Modern Glitch’ (review here) is absolutely dripping with summery tunes so the Other Stage at Glastonbury was just calling for them. Opener ‘Our Perfect Disease’ set the tone for a gig which was my personal favourite of the day: the energy was infectious, Norwegian-born bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen charged around the stage like a man possessed. They looked like they were having the time of their lives, even during the sombre ‘Anti-D’ (single review and video here). A lot of the crowd were obviously just waiting for ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ but were obviously surprised by a set that included some of the catchiest songs around at the moment, I mean who can resist singing along to ‘Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)’ when it comes on the radio? I know I can’t!

It was back to the main stage then, to watch the formidable Biffy Clyro (pictured top) in their third from top slot. It seems like Biffy have been touring the Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Only Revolutions’ for a long time now, almost too long. So it was no surprise that the boys from Scotland were not at their best on the Pyramid Stage. What was lacking was hard to pinpoint, but there was an energy that is so integral to them normally that was just missing from the performance. The tunes were there: ‘Mountains’ was epic, ‘Many of Horror’ even more so, yet still it just didn’t feel like the Biffy that I was used to. Whether it is tour fatigue I don’t know, but they just weren’t themselves. The crowd knew it and looked almost confused when Mister Neil and the Johnson brothers pulled out ‘Glitter and Trauma’. It seemed most of the crowd had only really heard ‘Only Revolutions’ and ‘Puzzle.’ A shame…but hey, on their day Biffy are a force. Just not that day.

What could be expected from sub-headliner Morrissey then? An exciting stage show filled with Smiths classics, a touching run through some heartfelt ballads? No, a man past his best crooning all over stage and making hand gestures that make Jack Sparrow look positively sober. What can you say about the ex-Smiths man that hasn’t already been said? He is a legend in his own right but well, it just wasn’t the day for him. His songs sounded lazy and laboured for the most part; he was self-deprecating to the point of telling the audience that he knew nobody cared about him and were just waiting for U2. Who could blame the audience if they were, Morrissey wasn’t just bad on the Pyramid, he was so bad it hurt.

Then came the moment that Glastonbury goers and music fans around the world had been waiting for almost a year and a half: U2’s headline slot on the Pyramid Stage. The mainstream media billed Bono as looking nervous and timid in his performance on the Pyramid Stage. How wrong they were. From the moment Bono, the Edge and co. hit the stage, there was no stopping the great rock ‘n’ roll behemoth that areU2. Only two songs from ‘No Line on the Horizon’ meant a set full of classics where the Irish superstars could afford to skip tunes like ‘City of Blinding Lights’. The show from start to finish was nothing short of fantastic, a band playing one of the best sets of their lives in front of a packed audience. They pulled all the stops out for this one – the most spectacular of all, a live link with the International Space Station. Awe-inspiring, classic U2.

 

Live Gig Video: Janelle Monae at West Holts Stage, Glastonbury 2011

 
By on Wednesday, 29th June 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

American funk singer Janelle Monae put on one of the most talked about performances at Glasto this year. Indeed, her album sales went up nearly 5000% after the weekend, according to NME. Watch her and her band perform the energetic track ‘Tightrope’ below.

 

Live Gig Video: Queens of the Stone Age at Other Stage, Glastonbury 2011

 
By on Tuesday, 28th June 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Besides a protest of U2’s tax status, one of the biggest controversies of this year’s Glasto (depending on who you talk to!) is Radio1 Zane Lowe’s supposed snubbing of an invitation to see Beyonce headline the Pyramid Stage Sunday night. (The Guardian explains it all here, complete with video clip.)

While it may not have been Lowe’s finest moment to laugh loudly at fellow BBC radio presenter / Glasto correspondent Lauren Laverne she asked what he thought of her performance, I like to think it took some guts to say, “you know what? I’m not going to see Beyonce. I’m going to see who I want to see, and that band just happens to be Queens of the Stone Age.” Judging by the BBC video below of ‘No One Knows’, this was an excellent choice.

 

Live Gig Video: Stornoway’s Surprise Appearance at BBC Introducing Stage, Glastonbury 2011

 
By on Monday, 27th June 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

One of TGTF’s favourite bands, Oxford’s Stornoway, made a surprise appearance at the BBC Introducing Stage this weekend at Glasto. They played gorgeous versions of ‘Watching Birds’ and ‘Fuel Up’ for Stuart Maconie’s 6music show that you can watch below, courtesy of the BBC.

 

In the Post #73: Bjork – Crystalline

 
By on Monday, 27th June 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

I recall my first “run-in” with Bjork vividly, back in the mid-’90s. My brother, who had just purchased his first car (or should I say massive four-by-four), wanted to show it off and take little sister for a spin. After what felt like climbing a small mountain, I finally situated myself and he pulled out onto the road. “You gotta listen to this!” he said excitedly, popping a homemade CD into a then-fancy, car-specific CD player, cranking up the volume. (Yes kids, there once was a time when most cars were only outfitted with cassette tape players, so this was pretty exciting.) In those days, even with my limited knowledge of music outside of the British Invasion, I was pretty picky when it came to music. So at the time, being assaulted by strange music and an equally strange-sounding woman singing, all I could think of was, “what is this?” and “why in god’s name is my brother listening to this?” And so this was my introduction to Bjork’s ‘Debut’.

I still don’t get the appeal of this kooky Icelandic songstress – and to be honest, I’ve never had the suspicious “why were you going through a Bjork phase back then?” conversation with my brother – but she always manages to grab the limelight whenever she’s got something exciting in the pipeline. And yes, this summer she’s got everyone hot and bothered with her upcoming 3-week residency at Manchester’s Campfield Market Hall during the city’s annual International Festival, which includes seven live “previews” of her new music / art / technology (did someone say iPad app?) project, ‘Biophilia’. While she might not be my cup of tea, I can appreciate her originality and commitment to be true to herself. Take for example this “gameleste”, a new instrument Bjork had made for this project that is supposed to sound like a full musical ensemble from Thailand but is operated like an organ. How this is supposed to look and sound? Watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-7vRl7EEfo[/youtube]

As can be expected for Bjork’s first appearances in Britain in over 3 years, the tickets went quickly for the first set of tickets and only the first night’s show (tonight, 27 June) are still available. But if you can’t be in Manc this summer to hear the new music or see the related exhibition, the first track from ‘Biophilia’, ‘Crystalline’, has been proffered ahead of the album. First, it sounds like this gameleste is being used to good effect, which is pretty cool considering everyone and everybody is using the xylophone these days. There are sci-fi synth effects (which I suppose make sense, considering the song is about “crystalising galaxies”) and a minimal drum track going on while the plinky plony gameleste continues on throughout the whole song. Bjork’s voice is staccato at times, more expansive and operatic at others, but more interesting is the last minute of the track, which sounds like power tools let loose in an evil genius’s workshop. Maybe a Flying Lotus vibe too? Overall, it sounds okay, but Bjork’s voice in general gets on my nerves and after a while I’m sure this song would get on my nerves too. However, if you’ve been watching her every move since her days in the Sugarcubes, I imagine you will love this.

7/10

Bjork is scheduled to play seven shows at Campfield Market Hall in Manchester, starting tonight. The other shows (all sold out) are on the 30th June and 3rd, 7th, 10th, 13 and 16th of July.

 

Live Review: Noah and the Whale with Bahamas at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 17th June 2011

 
By on Monday, 20th June 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

In one of the most unexpected moves of the year, London’s Noah and the Whale put an album in 2011 that made some people scratch their heads. They went mainstream pop. With synths! (You can read more about ‘Last Night on Earth’ at my review here.) Even if you’ve seen this band in the past, I can promise you you’ve never seen Noah and the Whale like this. Trust me. And I am so glad I dragged my weary body to their late show at the 9:30 last Friday. (Late show, because Marina and the Diamonds headlined an earlier show at the club and I’d already had my fill of Marina going to see her there last year with Mary Beth.)

The opener was Toronto-based Bahamas, which seems like a strange name for a Canadian singer/songwriter whose material isn’t tropical at all. Turns out Afie Jurvanen is a great folk pop singer, with songs that skirt rockabilly and throwback ’60s (think Roy Orbison on tracks like ‘Ok, Alright, I’m Alive’). The man’s voice is warm, he plays a mean guitar and he sports a quiff that Morrissey would approve of. Playing to underage girls is probably not what he expected when coming to Washington the first time, but he was able to win them over: a pretty good feat in itself. With drummer Jason Tait and two female backing vocalists, he showed the crowd he knows how to write emotional songs as well as ones designed to get people dancing.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for Noah and the Whale’s set. The only other time they’ve played in DC was 2009 at the Black Cat, in front of mostly teenagers and their dates. (Sensing a theme here?) And that was a decidedly lo-fi experience. Fast forward 2 years in time and you’ve got the blazingly bright, loud and energetic Noah and the Whale live experience. As last time, I’m pretty sure I was one of the oldest people in attendance. While the girl next to my left didn’t know any of the songs (err…why are you down the front?), the girls to my mate’s right were squealing and singing along the whole time.

Which is the right reaction, because NATW have hit the big-time. Really. Their new stage show is more designed for festival stages and stadiums, which is not something you would have thought of back in the ‘Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down’ days. ‘Give a Little Love’, which sounds pensive on record, became a guitar grinding behemoth as the set opener. Sweeping songs like ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Love of an Orchestra’ work well with this treatment, as the music swelled and filled every corner of the club.

And something else: Charlie Fink is noticeably happier and more confident than he’s ever been, with witty banter announcing the “romantic part” (‘My Door Is Always Open’, ‘Wild Thing’) and “party portion” of the evening (‘Rocks and Daggers’, ‘Shape of My Heart’, ‘5 Years Time’, ‘Tonight’s the Kind of Night’). Seeing them play so assertively and with so much raw power, the sky’s the limit for these guys. Just goes to show what a little pop magic can do.

After the cut: more photos and set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Noah and the Whale with Bahamas at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 17th June 2011

 
 
 

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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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