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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?

 

Live Gig Videos: Van Susans’ two Ollys perform ‘Bricks Not Sticks or Straw’ and ‘The Road’ for Leefest’s Garden Sessions

 
By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

Leefest will take place this year on 29-30 June and it’s a nonprofit music festival that takes place annually in a small working farm just 15 minutes south of London in Bromley. The festival has their own series of taped acoustic performances called ‘The Garden Sessions’.

Local heroes Van Susans – or rather the two Ollys, singer/songwriter Andrews and keyboardist Groome – performed two songs acoustically. ‘Bricks Not Sticks or Straw’ was the band’s single that came out in March, and ‘The Road’ is a track off their upcoming debut album ‘Paused in the Moment’, to be released this summer on Beatnik Geek Records. Watch the stripped back performances below, it’s very different than their usual six-piece lineup.

Stay tuned for a review of the band’s appearance at Liverpool’s Cavern Club at this year’s International Pop Overthrow last Saturday, it’s coming up on the site soon.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS-y1ctsjIg[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8pKrl2HzSI[/youtube]

 

Great Escape 2012: Initial impressions, tips and bands from the first afternoon – 10th May 2012

 
By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

I arrived to the Great Escape 2012 a day early to sort my delegates badge ahead of time – an indubitably good idea, as I could swan in the next day to the press centre and pass the delegates queue – but my introduction to Brighton on Wednesday the 9th was, unfortunately, a wet one. The National Express coach from Heathrow dropped me off at the very wet seafront, with no shelter whatsoever. Let me tell you, dragging a large suitcase while rain and wind is lashing about in every direction is not a fun time. But I was in town for the Great Escape, and you do what you must. Wednesday night was saved as I ‘accidentally’ ran into Mike Bradford, local blogger and of the Recommender fame, and we had a drink in the Prince Albert by the train station. Later on, I got a text from my friends Johnny and Larry from the AU Review (nice chaps I’d met at SXSW) and we had an exceedingly gorgeous Indian near the seafront. So not all was lost. I was just tired of being…damp. I’d left Washington in the middle of a storm. I was aching for sunshine. (Which I later got…)

Thursday proved to be another difficult day weather-wise, as the rain gods appeared unwilling to cooperate. Still, I was determined to make the best of it, even if I kept getting lost in the rambling streets with dead ends all over Brighton. I missed a morning panel session but I think it was fate that I happened to walk by the front of the Corn Exchange just as Zulu Winter, my new band friends from SXSW, pulled up in their van, and they all took turns giving me a hug and asked how things were going. There’s something to be said for being recognised months after you’ve met a group of guys who no doubt meet hundreds of people at gigs every night, and that something is a very nice feeling of validation.

Still, I had yet to get my feet wet (no pun intended) at the Great Escape, so first on my colour-coded schedule was Francois and the Atlas Mountains at the Prince Albert. Thanks to yesterday’s drink with Mike, I knew where I needed to go. I thought okay, it’s Thursday, and it’s early. If I show up 15 minutes ahead of schedule, I’ll be fine, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I made my way up the staircase to the main performance area to find people already jam-packed in front of the stage. I doubt the man who was supposed to be keeping tabs on the number of people allowed up was actually counting, as he kept encouraging women such as myself to squeeze in further. As someone who gets extremely claustrophobic (even on airplanes), this made for a very worrisome situation. Worse, their roadie kept coming through the crowd with the final pieces of their gear (of which they had quite a lot), pushing himself and the gear rather (in)conveniently past me, so I had no choice but to practically squish myself into another woman who’d come upstairs around the same time as I did. This happens all the time to me in airports, train stations, really anywhere there is a massive crowd: I think people must decide, “over there, there’s a small, slight Oriental girl, go round her, she’ll be no problem, that’s the plan!” and trust me, it is not a good feeling. Still looking for that tall, strong English bodyguard boyfriend type if anyone’s offering…

With punters sardined into the small place, the band said hello and started in the 6music-playlisted ‘Les Plus Beaux’, which sounded great. The band even had choreographed arm and hand movements when they weren’t playing their instruments. Bless. It was one of the most adorable moments of my Great Escape. I got through one more song with the Frenchies before deciding I had leave to get some air. Also, I figured it was better to let some desperate music lovers hanging out on the stairs a chance to see some of the action before it was all over. But I would like to see them again sometime. Just without less bodies pushed up against me.

It was time to go back down the hill and head for a venue near the seafront. However, on my way down, I stopped for a time to see Slow Down, Molasses, a Canadian band that by all accounts went down very well with the folks assembled at the Hub, the one large outdoor venue at the Great Escape, sitting squarely in the middle of Jubilee Square. This would be the place where the wristbandless and young parents would bring their sprogs all weekend, and to me embodied the true spirit of the Great Escape: even though I had a badge, I found generally speaking the places where wristband punters and badge holders stood together in harmony were a better experience. Because you shouldn’t have to put a price on music.

The rain continued when I headed down to Volks on Madeira Drive, making an egregious mistake. The showcase had been moved not cancelled, but stupidly the staff at Volks weren’t aware of the change so I just assumed I would not be seeing Savoir Adore or be doing the previously arranged interview with them. (It had moved to the Loft, which in hindsight I probably could have made if I’d organised myself better, but I was too wiped, my phone was giving me trouble, and I was just frustrated with myself and the weather.) By then, jetlag and exhaustion was kicking in and thanks to a jammed O2 network and no service near the water, my mobile battery was dying.

Time to get a mango slushie, eat a salad I’d purchased the day before, rest for a moment and recharge myself and my phone. My phone is the wrong word for the time, as our Gateshead writer Martin had loaned me a spare iPhone of his and never working with one before, there was a steep learning curve, including how to turn off an nonexistent cafe wifi connection. At one point the phone wasn’t responding to any network and I was texting both him and fellow Great Escape fest-goer Braden with a nervous tic because I thought I’d broken it! (The phone eventually righted itself and over the weekend, I became a passable iPhone user, thank goodness.) Note: if you’re supposed to meet anyone in Brighton for the Great Escape, get mobile numbers. You might not be able to check your email at all, depending on where you are. I would have Tweeted far more if my phone didn’t keep doing that circle-y thing in the corner as it tried to reach the Twitter Web site.

I got a frantic text from Johnny of the AU Review, reporting that the rain was chucking it down at the Sounds of Australia stage at the Hub, and that I should probably take my time getting there to see Husky. I’d fallen in love with ‘Forever So’, their debut album on Sub Pop, that I’d organised an interview with them post-gig as well. Eventually I had to leave my dry haven at the café and head up the hill.

Yeah, that hill. No-one tells you how bad this hill can be, if you’re trying to run back and forth between venues. In a way, it’s similar to Roskilde in the sense that you should expect to queue for your favourite – and the more hotly-tipped – acts, and you should never assume there will be room for you. In that respect, the Hub and this Australian showcase – the rain notwithstanding – was a great place to see bands all weekend. Halfway into their set, the rain gods relented, leading to the band to end their set with the truly lovely and evocative ‘The Woods’ (video clip below), followed by ‘History’s Door’ (the latter of which you can download from the widget at the end of this post). Their sound is a thoroughly palatable blend of harmonies ala Fleet Foxes and the nonbluegrassy, too happy, peppy, indie folk elements of Mumford and Sons, you know, before they became megastars.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkWzDt3Wbws[/youtube]

Afterwards, Gideon and Husky himself were kind enough to take time out of their afternoon here in Brighton – which turned out to be the same day they arrived in England! – for a brief chat we had in Jubilee Library about their music and the Melbourne music scene, which you can view here. But by then it was time for a snack, a change of clothes (remember, I’d gotten thoroughly soaked!), and time to refocus for my first night at the Great Escape.

 

Live at Leeds 2012: Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

With the festival season beckoning, the seasonal weather up north has brightened up as some of the brightest upcoming stars look to start their summer crawl on Saturday the 5th of May at Live at Leeds, the same weekend as Camden Crawl and ahead of other upcoming major city festivals. With this 1-day line-up arguably looking stronger than the London weekend this year, it’s difficult to see why you wouldn’t drop up for the day, especially with so many bustling venues in the Leeds city centre within a short walking distance.

Beginning TGTF’s day in the city are Manchester dance band Swiss Lips. Whilst the venue may be difficult to navigate, that may be because it’s rammed in the early afternoon. With indie hit ‘U Got the Power’ having given them some heat, the crowd stay for their infectious breed of ‘sexy pop’ and the band are sure to make some friends with their upcoming debut record.

After this, it’s the atmospheric, but not hugely entertaining iLikeTrains at the O2 Academy. Later, Niki and the Dove also suffer the same fate with a great sound that’s not really matched up front in entertainment. Luckily, there’s so much to see at Live at Leeds that you can never be bored for long. Opening up the Met Uni are Bastille. Their recent mixtape has proved popular with the hundreds that have quickly assembled, and away from their own electropop, the tender vocals of Bastille are the highlight, especially in the cover of City High’s ‘What Would You Do’.

Back at the O2 Academy, Spector flounce about the stage with overly polished indie rock. There’s potential here but the act never really materialises to greater things in the songs, being much more annoying than hoped in the process. This leads to TGTF seeing the end of a powerful Dan Mangan set in Holy Trinity Church followed by a packed show from Lucy Rose. The young singer/songwriter’s music fits perfectly in these surroundings and even the more energetic songs such as ‘Red Face’ sound fitting to her increasingly confident set. With a band behind her, Rose has depth to match her stunning voice and the crowd agree, shh-ing anyone that talks, even in between songs. There’s a muted singalong early on to ‘Middle of the Bed’ and throughout the set there’s a real quality to Lucy Rose’s set that shines in this church. As soon as it starts though, it seems to be over and it’s quickly down to the Cockpit for part one of tonight’s two headliners.

With Ladyhawke making her return to the UK with album two, Lianne La Havas stepping up to the headline mark left by Marina and the Diamonds, there’s a lot of talent on display across the headliners of the festival. TGTF’s route is one of a blend of safety and guaranteed fun in the form of the Subways, followed by Scroobius Pip. First up, the Subways rock out a venue half the size of their most recent tour, making the room sweatier than a sauna and more energetic up-front than most football teams. Blending tracks from all three of their diverse records, noughties classics ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ and “Oh Yeah” fit in with the likes of ‘Shake Shake’ and new single ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ as ‘It’s A Party’ turns lead singer Billy Lunn’s trademark stage dive into a venue-long crowdsurf to the back, up onto the sound-desk and then a dive from 10 feet back down and towards the stage (did you follow that, we nearly didn’t). The man’s got balls, and the Subways still rock.

Closing the night with a set starting long past 11, Scroobius Pip executes a well thought out and powerful set of his solo material to the underground venue. Even without B Dolan by his side on tour, Pip’s tracks have venom and everyone present joins in with every lyric from last year’s record. There’s crowd surfing, huge men bashing each other about and one man with an MCA-stolen VW badge on his necklace up front leading the events. It’s a fitting way to end the night, and TGTF can’t help but feel that the right decisions were made. It’s going to be a bright summer for so many of the artists on the bill at Live at Leeds, there’s no doubt about that, but definitely watch out for the likes of Lucy Rose and Swiss Lips, and by no means underestimate those who’ve been around the block.

 

Live Gig Video: 2/3rds of Trophy Wife performs an acoustic version of ‘Microlite’ for Cock and Bull TV

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd May 2012 at 4:00 pm
 

I bloody love Trophy Wife and am quite depressed I still haven’t seen them live. This live recording of their first single ‘Microlite’ partially makes up for it. Filmed in the leafy environs of St. Kevin’s Park in Dublin when the band were over for the Dublin version of Camden Crawl 2 weekends ago, keyboardist Ben Rimmer takes to the fiddle (seriously!). But I’m not sure how I feel about Jody Prewett in those gigantic hipster spectacles. I approve of the acoustic guitar though. Watch it all go down in the embedded Cock and Bull TV video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8M5OYV_9Ac[/youtube]

 

Live Review: David Ford at Iota, Arlington, VA – 5th May 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 23rd May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

At Iota, a small club outside Washington, DC, a cadre of loyal fans greeted unconventional singer David Ford for a Sunday evening serenade. Hailing from the south of England, Ford came highly recommended to me by another music writer I trust. Even still, I went in cold, knowing not a single thing about this man’s music. Indeed as I was foretold, I was sucked in and converted before the first song was over. ‘Pour a Little Poison’ opened the night with a rollicking, harmonica laced sing along from his latest release ‘Ford 4.2’. More a bard than a balladeer, he continued to offer up raw acoustic folk songs, raucous political tunes, tense ballads, loud multi-looped screamy numbers and some plain old straight up indie rock. The man truly defies categorization.

Armed with just a guitar and a loop pedal (for a few songs, drummer Joey Love joined him on stage) Ford made music that easily filled the room. His voice rasped through the tunes almost hoarse and raw with emotion. Despite his suggestion that his harmonica playing “produced a harsh, raspy sound”, it suited his full throttle delivery. The transitions between solo acoustic numbers, layered, multi-tracked songs, and the added percussionist was effortless and effective, bringing the crowd on a musical journey through his catalog. He created a brilliant balance to the set, as I think relying too heavily on the multi-track element of a loop pedal can be annoying. We were also supremely lucky to learn that the support act had canceled so he was going to be doing two sets that evening. However, he warned us, there was a price, “you have to put up with some songs that I don’t know very well because I wasn’t expecting to do this.” Even though I was not familiar with his songs, if there was a flub of any kind, it was masterfully camouflaged with the tormented beauty of his delivery.

The song ‘It’s the Economy Stupid’ (clearly about…well, you get it) was a request from the crowd and in a quintessentially English moment he quipped, “this is my most potty-mouthed song ever, so if you are offended by bad language, now’s the time for you to…. fuck off.” My favorite lyrics of the night were found in the song ‘Song for the Road’, an aching tribute to the realities of a forever love: “now I don’t lightly use words like forever / but I will love you ‘til the end of today, and in the morning when I remember everything that you are / well I know I’ll fall for you over again.” Ford’s second set started of with the tour de force tune ‘Go to Hell’. The intricacies this man can achieve all on his own had me absolutely transfixed. To get an idea of what it’s like live, you can see him perform this song live in his studio (complete with water jugs and spoons!) below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x29l5eHHoXo[/youtube]

Despite the line “I’ll wear my cynicism like a tattoo”, Ford’s love of music is clear and true. He has made a career out of bucking the system. He refuses to bow to outside industry pressures and continues to make the kind of music he loves and plays it to only the people who want to hear it that way. The chronicled account of a decade of making music his way is available in his book ‘I Choose This: How to Nearly Make It in the Music Industry’. I plan on picking it up since I am thoroughly enthralled with the man and his talent. Anyone who can, should make the effort to see him live. Doing so makes a statement about supporting musicians, something I can get behind 100%.

 
 
 

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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.

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