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Beat-Herder 2015 Preview: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Tuesday, 14th July 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: Beat-Herder Festival 2015 is completely sold out, so beware of dodgy resellers. Information provided in this post is current at the time of posting but we encourage you to visit the official Beat-Herder Web site and keep up to date on their Twitter for news on the event as it happens.

Beat-Herder Festival 2015 starts up this Friday, the 17th of July, in Sawley, Lancashire. We ran a contest for a pair of weekend tickets earlier this month, and now I’ve been asked to provide my best bets for the 3-day event. And without further adieu…

The Lancashire Hotpots
It’s not really a Lancs event with The Lancashire Hotpots. The Merseyside comedy man will be sure to raise a smile with their Northern wit and catchy tunes.

The Lancashire Hotpots will be performing Sunday on the main Beat-Herder stage.

Leftfield
Some have argued that Leftfield isn’t really Leftfield anymore with the absence of founding member Paul Daley. What cannot be denied is ‘Alternative Light Source’, the act’s first album in 16 years that was released in June, has already made a huge impression on the record-buying public, handily cracking the top 10 of the UK albums chart despite such a long absence. From Neil Barnes, you should expect nothing but bangers.

Leftfield will be headlining the main Beat-Herder stage Sunday night.

Mr. Scruff
He’s a very funny, tea-drinking guy from Manchester who stumbled into his own eclectic style DJaying from what else, his own eclectic influences ranging from “(in order of appearance) Blues, 2 Tone, Ska, Nasty pop music, Electro, Hip Hop, Soul, House, Funk, Jazz, Reggae”. I think it goes without saying that his will be a very enjoyable set to experience.

Mr. Scruff will be performing at Toil Trees on Sunday.

Only Real (pictured at top)
Continuing on with the theme of artists not taking themselves too seriously, Niall Galvin aka Only Real will be bringing his sunny ‘Jerk at the End of the Line’ tunes to Beat-Herder. Hopefully the vibes will get the natives to dance as they did at SXSW 2015.

Only Real will be performing at the Jagerhaus (date / time TBA).

Stealing Sheep
Having released their synth-heavy second album ‘Not Real’ in April, the all-girl trio from Liverpool are no doubt raring to unleash their newest tunes on a sympathetically Northern crowd. Let’s hope they bring along their coloured nylons!

Stealing Sheep will be performing at the Jagerhaus (date / time TBA).

 

Kendal Calling 2014: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Monday, 15th September 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

All of Martin’s coverage of Kendal Calling 2014 is this way.

After Suede at Kendal Calling 2014, it’s time for Mr Scruff to funk the night away. The very definition of ubiquitous, the unassuming, ginger-bearded figure of Scruff is in real danger of becoming one of those strange beasts – the Super-DJ. Presumably only his down-to-Earth Mancunian work ethic prevents him from descending into David Guetta-style hedonism, a tendency encapsulated by his enthusiasm for a nice cup of tea.

The genius of Scruff’s performance can be summed up in three words: take your time. When thought of on the scale of an individual song, his build-ups give gentle but persistent encouragement. Each 2-, 4-, and 8-bar loop carry subtle variations: very rarely is anything repeated verbatim. The same attention to detail can be heard on the wider scale of a whole set: there’s an underlying breakbeat backbone to pretty much everything that he does, overlaid with various magpie samples and synth melodies.

There are occasional acid house tropes, like on 2011’s ‘Wobble Control’, where he threatens to throw caution to the wind and take refuge in cliché, but never does the temptation manifest itself into anything as common as a four-to-the-floor beat: he remains focussed on the funk throughout. The only criticism to be levelled at Scruff is that he’s a bit of a tease – because he’s so good at buildups, he won’t let himself really come to a climax, which as you can imagine can be somewhat frustrating. Indeed, some of his set tonight is dull to the point of becoming muzak. Only the ever-present childlike cartoon visuals provide something for the brain to do whilst the feet move as instructed by the beat, without any intervention of the intellect. Having said that, Scruff is the consummate professional and can be relied upon to get a tent jigging around like mad things, so perhaps repetition is indeed the essence of dance music. Who knew?

Etches are the lovechild of an electronica band and a conventional guitar-led indie outfit. Their songs are complex, structurally unconventional and melodically oblique. Being based in Liverpool, there’s naturally a hint of psych buried deep within their sound, all of which combines to birth a song like ‘The Charm Offensive’, which soars through the ether like a deranged seagull. The highlight of their set is a slowcore version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, which is quietly astonishing.

If Etches have a hint of psych, The Lucid Dream have it running through their veins and printed through their marrow like a stick of paisley Blackpool rock. 2011’s ‘Heartbreak Girl’ is a noisy, scally cousin to Pink Floyd’s ‘See Emily Play’, with speed-ups and slow-downs galore and an utterly incomprehensible arrangement. Fast-forward to 2013’s ‘Songs of Lies and Deceit’, on which the folk-tinged lunacy gives way to full-on electric guitar stomp, absolutely swimming in reverb, echo and delay. Mark Emmerson swaggers around the stage like Liam Gallagher does in his own lucid dreams, when he imagines he’s actually cool and popular again. A somewhat bizarre melodica interlude notwithstanding (is there any less rock ‘n’ roll instrument than the melodica?) The Lucid Dream are perhaps the find of the weekend. A set of world-class psychedelia from a bunch of Cumbrian scallys – who’d a thunk it?

Perhaps I’m biased due to the Northeast roots of Gallery Circus, but by crikey they make a brilliant, cerebrally-challenging racket. To pigeonhole them as yet another novelty bassless duo would be in itself baseless; perhaps due to their being twins, Daniel and Graeme Ross have a psychic awareness of what the other is about to play, which means they are one of the most telepathically sharp bands one could hope to see. Their own songs are superb – from the patchwork virtuoso hard rock of ‘Supercell’, to the illegally funky white soul of ‘Club House Killer’, they know how to write a tune – and they know how to cover one too. Climaxing with a rendition of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ could be a recipe for disaster, given the regard in which the original classic is held – needless to say their cover is superb, respectful and note-perfect. They are well deserving of their BBC Introducing at Glastonbury shout this year – on this evidence, the first of many.

Razorlight were present and correct. An uncomfortable moment at the beginning of the set notwithstanding (Johnny Borrell’s guitar developed a fault in the first song and he spent the rest of it flouncing grumpily, directing evil stares at soundman and guitar tech alike), they sounded decent, looked every inch the sharp rock ‘n’ roll band, and nobody can deny the merits of their back catalogue. Quite what relevance they carry beyond being their own tribute band remains to be seen – Kendal does have a penchant for greatest hits sets – but Borrell remains a compelling frontman, and the crowd seemed to lap it up.

Most British nu-folk-rock is a load of old twaddle. See Amber Run in the first part of this review for further details. So how refreshing it is to come across a band who manage to combine a stringed instrument that isn’t a guitar into a coherence that doesn’t rely on discredited, worn-out tropes. The Mispers have a lovely driving sound peppered with elements of genuine English folk music. There’s a smart young lady playing a fiddle, the chap singing manages to pull off wearing nothing but a waistcoat, there’s electronica bubbling under the surface, and some decent electric guitar when circumstances demand it. 2014 single ‘Brother’ is a perfect case in point. A lithe violin figure frames a musing on family which builds to a firm climax without relying on the tired and tiresome quiet-loud-quiet structure (as parodied so brilliantly by Dion Beary in his ‘Every Mumford And Sons Song Basically’ video). The Mispers prove that folk-rock can be done properly, and, basically, prove how right I’ve been all along. Ha. Thanks, The Mispers.

And then Evil Blizzard arrived and the review must draw to a close at this point. No matter how many fireworks or dancing monkeys might appear later on in the festival, there’s no point in even describing them – in comparison with Evil Blizzard, they are nary a footnote in musical history, a pale imitation of what can truly be achieved with fancy dress, latex face masks and four bass players. If it was about the music, one could say something like, “‘Clones’ combines Rocket From The Crypt’s ‘On a Rope’ guitar riff, Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ key change and John Lydon’s Public Image Limited plaintive, detuned vocal howl to generate an ear-pounding four minutes of chaos.” But Evil Blizzard aren’t really about the music as such, in the same way that what you hear at a rave isn’t something you’d take away and sit down on your sofa and listen to with a nice cup of tea. It all only makes sense in context, with the perspective of appropriate surroundings, and more importantly, in the presence of other audience members, if only to remind oneself that what you’re experiencing isn’t some particularly cruel hallucination, a flashback from the previous night’s “adult disco”.

There’s no point in trying to describe what the band look like – words cannot adequately convey the psychological discomfort that their appearance engenders. They stand, staring, mute, firing chaos from their basses, challenging the audience to stay and imbibe rather than run and cry. The heavens open; the blizzard arrives. “Evil” masks are distributed, which is when things become further surreal. Children don the masks – we are surrounded by tiny, faceless, black-eyed beings, foreheads “Evil”-emblazoned, where just moments before there was a gaggle of carefree children playing in the mud. Some somehow end up onstage, invited to pluck bass guitars, and are then held aloft, in a celebration of the essential innocence of children, even when they are surrounded and encouraged by such ambiguous chaos.

The baby’s-head theremin is unveiled, the lead singer prowling amongst the crowd, inviting them to stroke it, and, inevitably, to lick the baby’s bare scalp – several ladies are happy to oblige, to a soundtrack of increasingly pained squeals from the baby. Bass guitars are offered around; the music climaxes; the frontman wanders off into the crowd to steal someone’s drink. Eventually the 20-minute ‘Whalebomb’ draws to a stumbling denouement; everyone slowly emerges from their bad dream, as if suddenly being woken from hypnotism, or stumbling to the end of a particularly bad trip. And for the select few who had braved the Evil Blizzard at Kendal Calling 2014, nothing would ever be quite the same again.

 

Mr. Scruff / October 2012 English Tour

 
By on Wednesday, 11th July 2012 at 9:30 am
 

Manchester DJ legend and tea shop owner Mr. Scruff have announced a couple of dates in October where he will be DJaying in England. Tickets are on sale now.

Luke interviewed the man in February, and you can read that q&a here.

Saturday 6th October 2012 – Manchester Band on the Wall
Thursday 18th October 2012 – Norwich UEA
Friday 19th October 2012 – Oxford O2 Academy
Saturday 20th October 2012 – London Koko
Sunday 21st October 2012 – Brighton Digital

 

(Valentine’s Day Special!) Interview: Mr. Scruff

 
By on Tuesday, 14th February 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: Love can be found in a cup of…well, keep reading this interview Luke did with someone very special and you shall discover the answer…

Andrew Carthy, aka Mr Scruff, first broke into the UK DJ scene in 1994 and has since become a favourite of clubbers around the world. With six studio albums under his belt and another slated for later this year, I caught up with Scruff for a quick chat about music and cups of tea.

As a DJ who has been a part of the UK music scene for over 10 years, what is the biggest change you’ve noticed?
Generally, most DJs have stopped playing vinyl, although I still do. Clubbers are getting younger, but in reality that is just me getting older. Also, an acceptance of dubstep has made club audiences more comfortable dancing to slow music, which is great!

Do you have any favourite new artists?
Floating Points, Illum Sphere, Krystal Klear, Fatima and Michael Kiwanuka.

You’re associated with the Manchester dance music scene, what do you think makes Manchester so significant?
Manchester has a large student population, and many people who come to study end up staying and starting up record labels, bands or club nights. Combine this with a very active local music scene, and bad weather (so people stay indoors and make music) and you have a lot going on!

The majority of your artwork is colourful and cartoonish in style, what is your biggest influence?
Kids’ TV from the ’70s. Sesame Street, Bod, The Clangers and similar stuff with a distinct, simple style and a great sense of humour.

You have your own online tea company, how did that idea come about?
The tea thing first came into being in 2000 when my Manchester residency ‘Keep it Unreal’ moved to the Music Box. Its foyer entrance often used to house a second room of music that seemed perfect for hosting a tea shop. The feedback was very positive and it seems that I am not the only one who enjoys drinking tea in nightclubs! We decided to give all the money raised each month to charity. We then took the tea shop on tour whenever I play a ‘Keep it Unreal’ date in the UK, as well as hosting a teepee at the some UK festivals. About five years ago, we were selling so much tea that we decided to set up our own tea company Make Us A Brew.

What’s the secret to a perfect cup of tea?
Some people ask me about the teabag on a spoon technique, which I learnt from Peter Parker of Fingathing. Here is the full breakdown of the method for making black tea in a mug with a teabag.

1. Boil the kettle with fresh water – no reboiling!

2. Warm the mug. You can do this by pouring in a little warm water from the kettle while it is boiling, swishing it around and emptying it. This will help keep your brew warm for longer, essential for forgetful types like myself!

3. Pour milk into the cup. If this offends you, you can add it later.

4. Take a spoon – tablespoons are best, but a teaspoon will do.

5. Place the teabag on the spoon, and hold it horizontally over the mug.

6. When the kettle has boiled, hold it over the teabag and pour as slowly as possible from as high as possible, without making the water splash upwards off the teabag. If you are doing this correctly, you will see little bubbles in the teabag, which is a sign of the oxygen in the boiling water doing its job.

7. When the cup is full, add the milk if you have not done so, and examine your brew. If your tea is the correct colour (mine is a kind of brick red/malty brown) then you can discard the teabag. If it is not strong enough for your taste, then delicately lower the teabag onto the top of the tea and slip the spoon out from under it. Leave it there until the brew is strong enough and gently remove the bag with the spoon. There is no need to stir the bag or squash it in any way – tease the flavour out!

8. Add sugar/salt/cheese/pickle to taste.

9. Sit down and enjoy your brew!

10. Repeat from stage 1.

You haven’t released an album since 2009, do you have plans for another LP release?
Yes, I have nearly finished the next LP. It should be released later this year on Ninja Tune.

You’re known for playing 6-hour sets, doesn’t it become quite gruelling as the tour goes on?
Yes, but they are great fun! I tend to cut it down to 5 hours if we are doing a few gigs in a row. We generally travel on a tour bus so we get plenty of sleep, and we always have three hours for a meal before the gig to give myself and the crew time to relax before the night starts.

What records are essential for any of your performances?
My own records. Plus I always have records by Leroy Burgess, Floating Points, Fela Kuti and Theo Parrish in the box.

If the Mayans are correct and the world is going to end this year, what is the last thing you’re going to do?
Be extra nice to people.

Mr. Scruff begins a UK tour this Friday, the 17th of February, including a stop at London Koko on Saturday the 18th. For more information, visit Mr. Scruff’s official Web site.

 

Thirty One – Manchester Charity Compilation to Benefit CALM

 
By on Tuesday, 14th February 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Last year I started writing for a magazine called CALMzine, the publication of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a nonprofit charity that was founded with support from trustee (and of course, someone who looms very large in the story of Manchester’s musical heritage) Tony Wilson in 2006. CALM’s initial intention and continuing campaign has been to help fight the high suicide rate of men under the age of 35 in the UK.

While the campaign, Web site, magazine and online community targets men in this age group, the support system they have in place including a free, anonymous helpline is open to anyone who needs help. CALM began first with a helpline in the Northwest but in late November, they celebrated the launch of their London helpline at a special party at Topman Oxford Street on the 25th of November 2011, an event that I was glad to have the chance to take in firsthand.

Depression and stress are just two things that all of us have in our lives, yet they are main players in that final, desperate decision: when a person chooses to end his/her life. CALM had provided a safe haven for many of those on the brink, for people who are having difficulty coping with real issues in their lives and have nowhere to turn to.

Running these helplines cost money of course, and right now the helplines are open on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from 5 PM to midnight. But here is where you can help: CALM’s goal is to have the helpline open every night of the week. Writer/DJ Dave Haslam has curated for the Factory Foundation a special collection of 31 songs, named aptly ‘Thirty One’. Being that it’s Factory related, you can probably guess where this is going…

Yes, ‘Thirty One’ is a compilation of tunes from some of ours here at TGTF and I’m sure some of your favourite Manchester-based artists. Elbow, busy now with work on making the London Olympics this summer sound good to the world, has provided a UK exclusive: a live version of ‘Lippy Kids’ from Pukkelpop. I Am Kloot, not a stranger to charity works as evidenced by their appearance at the Billie Butterfly Fund show I attended last year, have reworked their track ‘Bigger Wheels’ especially for this release. Everything Everything, who also performed at the Billie Butterfly show, offer up their cover of Gloworm’s ‘Carry Me Home’. (I’m quite interested to hear how that one turned out!) A remix of the Whip‘s ‘Secret Weapon’ is also in this collection; if you recall, their ‘Wired Together’ appeared at #5 on my Top Albums of 2011 list. Other bands we’ve banged on about, including Airship, Bad Lieutenant, Delphic, Dutch Uncles, Mr. Scruff and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds all make appearances on this compilation, plus many more. If the music isn’t enough for you, the album also includes art direction from Peter Saville and special photography by Tom Cockram, who’s done some ace shots of Delphic and Egyptian Hip Hop in the past, so I’m expecting the images included on this to be truly lovely.

Support this very worthy cause by buying this collection here, with all the proceeds going directly to CALM. Varying prices allow for different levels of donation: £10, £20 or £31 (get it?), with your choice of 320kbps MP3, FLAC and Apple Lossless, in fully digital (with instant download) and physical digipaks (released the 12th of March) are available. Limited edition vinyl is on sale at Townsend Records.

More often than not, suicide happens because someone has decided his/her life is hopeless. CALM’s mission is to help people in crisis, and your donation by purchasing this album will help them continue this mission.

 

WIN / Tickets to see Mr. Scruff at London Koko on 18 February

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

We blagged a pair of tickets to a fun evening out in February: a Saturday dance party on the 18th of February at London Koko, courtesy of Mr. Scruff himself. Maybe you worship the ground Andy Carthy walks on. Or maybe you just want an excuse to get out on a cold winter’s night and dance your socks off. Whatever the reason, you can enter to win these tickets by entering our contest below.

Fill out the form that follows with the following information: your name and your email address (we’ll use this to contact you if you’ve won). Then answer this question correctly: What is the name of Mr. Scruff’s tea shop in Manchester? Be sure to get your entries in by 5 PM on Friday the 20th of January. We’ll choose our lucky winner from all the correct entries. Good luck!

This contest is now closed. The winner will be contacted soon.

 
 
 

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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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