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Guernsey Festival 2012: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 5th July 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Words by Hannah Saul

The island of Guernsey is generally a very quiet, historical place, but for one weekend every summer, the tranquil island says goodbye to the monotony of island life and welcomes families and music lovers alike to grab their wellies and head over to the Rabbit Warren, the location of Guernsey Festival. The festival is in its second year and has already played host to bands heavyweights Primal Scream, Frank Turner and The Gaslight Anthem.

While islanders jumped at the chance to have the festival experience on their doorstep and flocked in their hundreds to go and see the acts without having to spend extra money on flights, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any interest from the mainland. Days before the festival kicks off, local ferry company Condor becomes frantically busy trying to fit all the serious festival-goers onboard and bring them to the sunny island. Whether they appreciate the mud-soaked, beer-swilling return passengers is, well, another matter entirely.

Despite being a native islander, this was my first year going, and I went with high expectations. I was stoked to see great acts like Hadouken, that hairy, hairy King Charles, Macy Gray, Kassidy, The Charlatans and The Kaiser Chiefs. The weekend was looking to be pretty spectacular, and that is exactly what it was.

I started the Saturday by going to see the young talent of local band and also my very good friends China Aster, who played on the stage known as The Other Stage or the Center Circle Stage. China Aster kicked off the festival nicely, singing songs off their newly released, self-titled EP. Although it was still quite early in the morning, they managed to grab quite a lot of interest. Josh Moore’s voice floated in to the (slightly too strong) breeze, allowing the melodic guitars to build that proper boutique festival vibe.

Next, it was time to see I Am Tich. After doing the rounds at Glastonbury, T in the Park, Oxegen and V Festival last year, she was asked to play Guernsey Festival’s Main Stage, performing a mix of covers and original songs. Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of her set but arrived to hear her sing a cover of fun.’s ‘We Are Young’. Her powerful voice made up for the fact that she looked diminutive standing on the stage by herself, and her bubbly character put a smile on everyone’s faces. However, I felt that the constant promotion of herself knocked the performance down a little, but that could just be me.

Next on my festival agenda was to check out Jersey singer Kevin Pallot. He has managed to bring together some of Jersey’s best session artists to create his backing band The Pinnacles and together they played a selection of rich folk music including song ‘The Waving Fields’. Pallot’s deep voice melted into the music, creating a warm sound, which mirrored the already improving weather perfectly.

I felt that after Pallot’s performance, I had a great opportunity to go and check out the VIP tent before King Charles was expected on the Main Stage. I had images of champagne, nice comfy chairs and lovely clean loos. Oh boy, how wrong was I. I pushed through crowds of people trying to spot if there was anyone famous inside the tent, and once inside, my face dropped. The VIP tent looked like something out of a wedding celebration:r bight lights, loud music and loads of very drunk people dancing around. Not only this, but the so-called luxury loos had no running water and there was no sanitizer on offer, unlike the main toilets. My verdict: the VIP tent is not worth nearly £90 extra for a ticket.

Although I had heard of King Charles (pictured at top), I wasn’t too familiar with his work. But my brother and sister had recommended that I go to see him, and I did. Stepping into the audience, I was hit by a mix of furious guitar solos and upbeat keyboard not too dissimilar to that of Vampire Weekend. There was something quite tropical about it, and the audience certainly agreed. As His Majesty played songs of his new album, ‘Love Blood’, he certainly got me grooving.

After a quick chat with Hadouken!, I rushed to the Main Stage to catch them playing. Performing a mix of new and old tracks, the younger audience members found it was their time to shine and came out of their shells (with the help of some illicitly smuggled in booze) and danced to their set. It was loud, it was powerful, let’s face it…it was a festival. It was great and exactly what the day needed to kick it up a gear.

Next it was on to the dance tent. There was a great mix of DJs; Brandon Block was spinning when I went along. I have to say, however, he seems to attract a very young group of teenagers who wanted their first taste of the nightclub experience, so I didn’t hang around for long. Besides, I wanted to drag my boyfriend along to Macy Gray.

The one thing that bothered me about Macy Gray’s performance was why she didn’t headline. Walking up to the Main Stage I could hear her cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and my mouth went dry. She sounded amazing. Her soulful voice matched her Tina Turner-inspired glittery bright pink dress. So looked fantastic! You could also tell that she put a lot of personal input into her performance; it was raw, rich and really, really brilliant. Everyone was singing along and having a wonderful time.

Although next act Maverick Sabre got a good response from the large audience, I just couldn’t get into his performance. It might have been because my feet were hurting from my wellies, which were 3 sizes too small, or the fact that Macy Gray effectively blew Mr. Sabre out of the water. I think the latter reason was more why. He did, however, grab my full attention with his song ‘Let Me Go’. I have to admit that he does have a pretty unique voice, but he just didn’t really interact with the audience. It was a bit of a shame. But in ‘Let Me Go,’ he has a crowd pleaser to end all crowd pleasers.

After a pretty successful day, I began my 15-minute walk home along the seafront. That’s the beauty about the festival: you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere inside the compound, but as soon as you leave you are in the middle of a busy seaside town. Bliss!

 

Great Escape 2012: Day 1 Evening Roundup – 10th May 2012

 
By on Friday, 25th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJCDjwNUUgg[/youtube]

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2qgHQRTk6Y[/youtube]

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK7UPhTj6D8[/youtube]

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?

 

(Great Escape 2012 flavoured!) MP3 of the Day (and more!) #534: King Charles

 
By on Thursday, 3rd May 2012 at 10:00 am
 

King Charles is gearing up for the release of his debut album ‘LoveBlood’, coming up next Monday (7 May). To celebrate the release, he wants all of you to have the track ‘LoveLust’ for free. Get it by liking him on Facebook. Watch the promo for the song below, it’s amazing in its ridiculousness. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him; if you’re unconvinced, read Tom’s interview with him, it’s a hoot.

He’ll be appearing in the flesh at the Great Escape and playing these gigs:
Thursday 10th May, 19.45, The Loft
Saturday 12th May, 22.15, The Warren, Guardian’s New Band of the Day Live showcase

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2vhETBdMxU[/youtube]

 

Interview: King Charles

 
By on Friday, 13th April 2012 at 11:00 am
 

With a European tour recently finished, several singles under his belt and a debut album ready to be released in the very near future, King Charles is a busy man. I spoke to him about Hollywood, Huddersfield, his upcoming record and his rather confusing Wikipedia page…

So you’ve recently finished your tour?
I’m just off tour, been in Paris and been back in the UK for a few months now.

That’s not fair. Can you compare Paris to the UK?
You can compare Paris to the UK, sometimes favourably, sometimes not so favourably!

Where’s your favourite place on the tour that you’ve been?
Huddersfield.

Huddersfield? That’s a really weird choice – why’s that?
(laughs) Yeah, I love Huddersfield so much, it’s so awesome. I don’t know, there’s something about the North of England that really resonates.

I could have had a thousand guesses and I wouldn’t have chosen Huddersfield. So how have the audiences been – have they been all right with you on the tour?
Yeah, it’s been amazing; there’s been some really full and engaging crowds. They’ve really been up for it, especially the Northerners!

In Huddersfield?
(laughs) The whole [population] of Huddersfield are so jokey, I love them!

So, the new album is being released on the 7th of May. I heard you recorded it in Hollywood; what was that like?
Well, I recorded some of it in London at my studio then some of it in Capitol Studios in Hollywood. It was unbelievable; absolutely phenomenal place. The drum sound in that place is second to none, I’ve never heard anything like it. Absolutely ridiculous.

Did you get to take in some of the sights or was it strictly studio time?
Yeah I took in some of the sights, but i don’t really like being a tourist but I guess everyone feels like a tourist in L.A. The best thing was this guy called “The Drum Doctor” who has a massive warehouse full to the brim with drums; the best drums in the world. He’s spent the last 20 years collecting drums and he now has the most legendary drums. One of them was a ‘70s Ludwig which is on most of the album, and the other one was a 1960s crocodile skin drum last played by Stevie Wonder. It was like the best thing ever! As soon as he told me that I was like, “done, bring it!”

How similar is the new album to some of the singles that we’ve heard already such as ‘LoveBlood’ [single review here] and ‘Bam Bam’?
Well, there’s three different muses on the album that the songs are about, I think there’s a different style for the songs about each muse.

If I was to say ‘Ivory Road’; who would that be about?
That’s Coco Schiffi.

Who are your three muses?
Coco Schiffi, Lady Percy [previous Video of the Moment here] and Mississippi Isabel.

How do you know these three people?
Well, you know…(laughs) life!

Now could you describe for album in 10 words for those who aren’t aware of you and your material? How would you describe it?
Okay right, 10 words. Love and Blood have to be two of them. Reallife, one word! Lightning. Loss. Definitely Unrequited. Battlefield, that makes 8. God and Time.

How would you define what genre you are? This time I’ll allow more than 10 words.
(laughs) I only need two words this time: glam folk!

Who would you say are your influences?
I started being influenced by folk, but it wasn’t the sound of the music I was influenced by; it was the drive of the folk artists to be bedded in with the people and understanding the identity of them personally as a generation.

If you had to say a specific folk artist, who would it be?
Dylan.

I like to do my research before an interview and an important part of that definitely has to be reading your Wikipedia Page. I don’t know if you’ve been on it but there is a bit where it says “He is greatly influenced by the songwriter Mahatma Gandhi and Alexander Bunker.”
(laughs) What?!

I’m not too sure who Bunker is, so I was hoping you could shed some light on that?
(laughs) This is legendary! Alexander? I don’t know who that is.

You don’t? Well he majorly influences you. As well as Gandhi. Another part of your page states that “Charles has been described as an epic guy, who is too cool for the charts.” How do you feel about that?
I have actually heard that one before. It’s quite hard to comment on – I don’t want to argue with the first part; I want to be an epic guy who is too cool! But you don’t want to be too cool for charts. I’ve definitely got my eye on the charts. Although I have seen that Wikipedia has my name down as Charles Johnston, which is not my name. I don’t want to correct it, I want to see how far it goes. I might edit it myself and give me an interesting middle name.

Enid?
(laughs) Yes! And maybe Mahatma. Charles Enid Mahatma Johnston.

Named after the infamous songwriter, of course! Anyway, what’s your festival circuit looking like this year? Where are you playing?
I’m not 100% sure on all of them, but I know I’m playing Secret Garden Party and Great Escape as well as a few in Paris. Also Positivus Festival in Latvia, which I’m very excited about. It’s so dope that festival; it’s legendary. They treat you so well.

So when you’re touring in Paris and playing festivals there, what are the audiences like? Do they appreciate the lyrics?
I think a lot of my set at the moment is less lyrical; I’m not sure what people focus on the most but at the moment my show is much more showbiz. More showy. I try to be as entertaining as I can.

Are you going to any festivals?
No, no. I play a lot of festivals so when I’m there I want to play. Like being at Glastonbury, all I’m doing is looking at the pyramid stage and being like: “How long? When’s my time? When’s my time?”

What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?
I like to listen to a lot of my buddies’ music. Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, the Vaccines. But I’m also liking Sam Cooke a bit at the moment, some Alice Cooper.

And finally, if you could have written any song already written; which would it have been?
That’s a good question, I think it would have to be ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. ‘Hallelujah’ as well, or maybe ‘The Times They are A-Changin’’. Really wish I wrote that song.

Many thanks to Paul for setting this interview up for us at TGTF.

 

Video of the Moment #755: King Charles

 
By on Wednesday, 4th April 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

King Charles‘ latest video is for the song ‘Lady Percy’ and shows him spending some quality time with a painting in a church. No, really. Then he has grandiose dreams about steel drums. Watch it below.

‘LoveBlood’, King Charles’ debut album, will be released on the 7th of May. Read Tom’s review of the title track / single here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slm3BcOqMlk[/youtube]

 

Live Gig Video: Bands in Transit featuring King Charles

 
By on Thursday, 1st March 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

This afternoon we’ve got for you a video of King Charles performing ‘The Madness of Impending Doom’ live for Bands in Transit. He’s actually a very small man, when he’s stood next to a van. (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme. Honestly.)

Watch the live video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHK8xOc3EjY[/youtube]

 
 
 

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