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Preview: Home Gathering 2016

By on Wednesday, 31st August 2016 at 10:00 am

After the success of its first year, Home Gathering is set to return with one of Tyneside’s most celebrated bands, The Unthanks. As last year, the band will oversee and curate the festival across two of Newcastle’s most historic sites on Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th of September. The Unthanks have long held ambitions of running their own festival one day, and after the triumph of their first Gathering last year, the festival has continued to grow and is set to be even bigger in 2016.

The Mercury Prize-nominated Tyneside band were thrilled to have some Newcastle’s finest acts such as Hyde & Beast and Richard Dawson on their first bill. Describing Home Gathering as a festival of everything they like, Adrian McNally of The Unthanks says this event is “Not just music, our favourite local beers and food artisans, stalls with local artists and makers. We’ll have a hand in every detail to ensure that despite our own largely miserable music, it will be a party from start to finish!” The magnificent Richard Hawley will headline the Friday night, supported by The Young’uns, winners of Best Band at the BBC Folk awards for the last 2 years running. Richard Hawley’s eighth studio album released last year, ‘Hollow Meadows’, has received national acclaim.

Saturday will see London three-piece Kitty, Daisy & Lewis take to the stage. The sibling-led band, renowned for their love of everything vintage, are signed to Radio 1 presenter Rob da Banks’ label Sunday Best, have opened for massive acts such as Coldplay and Jools Holland. Finally taking centre stage themselves, The Unthanks will headline the Saturday night with their award-winning brand of English folk firmly celebrating their North East roots. In the decade between Rachel Unthank and the acclaimed debut Winterset’s ‘Cruel Sister’ and The Unthanks’ eighth record and BBC Folk Award-winning ‘Mount the Air’, the band have achieved a lot. After touring Africa with Damon Albarn and being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank have always done things their own way. Bringing their own unique blend of award- winning jazz and folk to the stage will ensure a show the audience will not forget.

Improving on from last year, the atmospheric post-industrial Boiler Shop, which will be used as the main venue, has been expanded vastly. Adding a lot of indoor toilets, a bigger bar and relocating the artisan food sellers outside, in a bid to reduce the background noise suffered by quieter artists last time. Furthermore, for more intimate shows, there will also be performances at the beautiful Mining Institute just around the corner. The festival will also play host to spoken word poet Liz Berry, folk royalty in the form of Marry Waterson and fearless musical maidens The Moulettes. There will also be an exceptional airing of Steve Reich’s Different Trains, which will be performed by the Liverpool String Quartet.

McNally says further of the festival: “The line-up not only reflects our tastes but our influences too. We don’t think music fans will find a more varied bill and we hope, most of all, you’ll like something you weren’t expecting to. Having covered a lot of musical ground ourselves as The Unthanks, we know we are very lucky to have an open-minded and venturesome audience, ready to trust and join us on our journeys. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it’ll be like the weather – if you don’t like it, just wait a few minutes.”

To purchase day or weekend tickets to Home Gathering Festival 2016, go here.


Preview: Deer Shed Festival 2015

By on Wednesday, 15th April 2015 at 11:00 am

British Summer Time is here! And naturally one’s mind wanders to the sunlit uplands of the heady festival days just around the corner. You can almost smell them. One of TGTF’s favourite summer shindigs is Deer Shed Festival (24-26 July at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire), a parent-and-kid-friendly affair held in a beautiful corner of North Yorkshire. 2015 sees their 6th birthday; every year so far has seen a bigger and bolder event, and this one promises to be no different.

Let’s dispense with Friday first. The main stage on Friday night is the traditional slot where the organisers put their musical heroes (last year it was British Sea Power) and the trend continues in 2015 with Billy Bragg topping the bill. Whilst perhaps not quite the booty-shaking climax to the opening night that some might want, his latest studio collection ‘Tooth & Nail’ is an agreeable Americana-tinged affair that goes a bit easier than usual on his trademark socialist rhetoric, so he might manage to unite rather than divide the crowd. Stranger things have happened. For those who want a bit of genuine Americana rather than the lefty Cockney version, the Felice Brothers are up before Bragg, transforming North Yorkshire into a temporary outpost of the Catskills with their Dylan-esque ramshackle blues folk.

Elsewhere on Friday, sandwiching precocious obscurantist Kiran Leonard are two luminaries of the North-East scene. SLUG, aka sometime Field Music bassist Ian Black, brings his impossible-to-pigeonhole noise to the Lodge stage, backed by his old band. Headlining said stage is Du Blonde, the new project from Deer Shed alumnus Beth Jeans Houghton. Shooting for the same spiky-guitar-femme niche as PJ Harvey, Du Blonde’s début single ‘Black Flag’ is a riot of aggressively-picked bass guitar, mentalist drumming and Houghton’s seductive, teasing vocals. Regular readers will know how highly we rate the clever pop of Diagrams, and how much this blog owes to Doves, two of whom pop up on the In The Dock stage in their new incarnation Black Rivers… not to mention the wonderfully catchy Dan Croll. In summary, the lineup of Friday at Deer Shed looks like a very fine thing indeed.

Saturday is the busy day at Deer Shed. We’ll get to the music in due course, but let’s take a minute to have a look at what else is on offer. The singular genius of Deer Shed is that the grown-ups have plenty of time to take in some quality music because there’s so much going on to keep the kids amused in the meantime. For instance, the Science tent goes from strength to strength, its offerings best summed up in tantalising one-word titbits: Wrekshop, Robogals, Madlab, Meccano, CHaOS, soldering, Ableton, Starlab, forensics, Mindflex, rockets, cannon, helicopters, circuits, stargazing, trebuchet, Minecraft. Plenty of opportunities for one’s offspring to shoot themselves off into the perhaps-not-quite-metaphorical stratosphere of practical science.

The workshop offerings are also expanded further from last year. Little ones can make a plethora of cute and surprisingly durable novelties – pet clouds, bird puppets, juggling balls, flying finger puppets, pipe-cleaner insects, balloon bassoons (whatever they are?!), air guitars, shakers (I can personally vouch for the utility and longevity of Deer Shed shakers, particularly in the hands of 1-year-olds), and the perennial favourite of clay modelling. Kids looking for more of a thrill aren’t left out – they can try their hand at That Game On Broomsticks (you know the one!), magic, den building, bushcraft, DJing, ukulele, punk poetry, capoeira, both Bollywood and street dance, hula, circus, slacklining, yoga, and finally, musical tots. Phew. Without exaggeration, Saturday’s activities for kids are worth the price of admission by themselves.

While the kids are off enjoying themselves, the serious business of musical appreciation will be happening at the other end of the field. The Lodge Stage goes Celtic for the day – Scotland is represented by The Pictish Trail and enduring nu-folk collaborator James Yorkston, and Ireland’s luminaries are songbird Lisa O’Neill, electronic duo All Tvvins and the intriguing Damien Dempsey. Apparently a household name in his native land, political singer/songwriter Dempsey has been musically active for 15 years and his recent “Best Of…” collection spans over 40 tracks: impressive for a man largely unheard of in the UK. Ireland likes their earnest troubadours (remember David Gray’s early days?), and Dempsey is cut from that very cloth. A casual rifle through his back catalogue reveals nothing that stands out from the morass apart from an unusual vocal delivery and the odd moment of fiddle-di-dee, but perhaps his live show will reveal his Celtic charms to a wider audience.

The bill-topping Main Stage trifecta are TGTF stalwarts Dutch Uncles, Villagers with their second appearance at Deer Shed, and John Grant (pictured at top) and his painfully elegant confessionals. Again, hardly the discotastic climax one may have wished for (TGTF’s prayers for Jarvis Cocker remain unanswered), and Grant has a hard task to follow given Johnny Marr’s rip-roaring set in 2014, but he’s a genuine talent, if not yet a household name. Best of luck, John. Perhaps the Obelisk stage might serve up some hoe-down goodness – and with Holy Moly and the Crackers, Buffalo Skinners, The Hummingbirds and the brilliant Teessiders Cattle and Cane on hand, that’s more than likely.

Sunday is traditionally wind-down day, but this is the first year that Sunday night camping is available, which I must confess feels a little against the relaxed Deer Shed ethos. However, surely those that stay will be treated to a handful of very exclusive sets in the evening. The highlight of Sunday afternoon afternoon headliners The Unthanks, who have revealed themselves to be amongst the country’s finest folk practitioners with their latest collection ‘Mount the Air’. Their last appearance at Deer Shed was a triumph and they’re sure to repeat that feat in 2015.

If there’s any event that proves having kids means having even more fun at festivals than you did before, then it’s this. They’ve not put a foot wrong in the last 5 years, and there’s every reason that 2015 should be bigger and better than ever. Tickets are selling fast, so get your skates on, and see you in Baldersby!


Album Review: The Unthanks – Mount the Air

By on Thursday, 19th February 2015 at 12:00 pm

A journey through The Unthanks’ back catalogue reveals work of steadily increasing maturity, and that process continues on ‘Mount the Air’, their eighth studio album. Those patiently wishing for the end of the 4-year hiatus since ‘Last’ will surely not think their wait has been in vain, for this is a truly groundbreaking record. For the first time, all five core members are involved in the writing process: astonishingly, it’s the first time the eponymous sisters have contributed to the penning of the music they portray with such sincere emotion. On a practical level, the record was self-recorded and self-released, a brave step which speaks of the confidence the group have in it. Well-placed confidence, as it turns out.

A treatise could be written about the 10-minute title track alone. A big-band folk-jazz epic, ‘Mount the Air’ is a fairytale dream of love, of shedding the restrictions of the human form in a search for one’s soul mate. It almost goes without saying that the level of musicianship is superb: there’s a piercing trumpet part throughout, various bowed and blown ensembles… and then we get to the voices. Becky Unthank is first, her dusky voice at once humble yet passionate; Rachel has a clearer, more conventional, tone, and takes the second verse. Both different, distinctive, neither superior to the other. Either could be the voice of God’s wife – or indeed God herself. Perhaps it’s too much to say that, like looking at the infinite expanse of stars in a clear night sky, one can almost perceive in their voices the meaning of the Universe. But there’s certainly something elemental going on here, which transcends notes on a page or bits on a disc.

‘Madam’ is a touching courtship which switches imperceptibly between male and female perspectives, judging neither but exposing their distinctive frailties, desires and fears. There’s a dramatic crescendo of brass, hinting of their collaboration with the Brighouse and Rastrick band, which vies with Niopha Keegan’s violin for emotional impact.

‘Died for Love’ concludes the opening act with a companion-piece to ‘Madam’; this time death rears its ugly head, this time as the corollary, an uneasy bedfellow to love. Before I go any further, listeners of a tender disposition should be warned: these are powerful songs, overflowing with a deep emotion rarely confronted in our daily, shallow lives. One’s own emotional response cannot be accurately predicted, but when listening to The Unthanks’ music one should always be prepared for tears. And so it is on ‘Died for Love’. Quite apart from the unbearably sad narrative, the string-laden denouement is quite spectacular.

‘Flutter’ gives welcome respite. Featuring an original lyric and melody from Becky Unthank, there are clear hints of Portishead’s electric piano and syncopated drum work, and a lightness of touch that explains its popularity on the radio. It’s a welcome respite from the emotional content of the rest of the album, and a helpful introduction to the band’s work for beginners.

Continuing the bird-related themes, ‘Magpie’ is a sparse reading of Dave Dodds’ enduring traditional tale of the eponymous egg-stealer; the fact that it’s an oblique North-East sporting reference presumably doesn’t do any harm. The expansion of the well-known “one for sorrow” refrain into a proper song performed by a trio of two Unthanks and Keegan is a minimalist triumph.

Up next is the album’s other epic, ‘Foundling’. Adrian McNally was commissioned by Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital in London a couple of years before, but put it off due to time pressures, presumably due to the arrival of children. Which makes the content of this mournful waltz even more touching. The recurrent theme of delicate trumpet is present, to lift what is another 10 minutes of heart-rending folk storytelling. It segues into ‘Last Lullaby’, which appropriates a verse from The Beatles’ ‘Golden Slumbers’, then adds more lyrics which could easily have been part of the original. Lennon and McCartney surely get a writing credit here.

The Unthanks surely deserve to be considered one of the most important acts of the crossover folk scene. Their work is deeply rooted in English folk, but is simultaneously accessible to a broad audience. And a good thing too, as this collection demonstrates, this is some of the most beautiful and touching music being made today. Evoking pathos through their deeply touching storytelling, there’s more tightly-packed emotion here than many artists manage in a career. As a writer based in the North East I’m surely biased, but the region, and indeed the world, are lucky to have The Unthanks to keep alive its deep traditions of folk music and stories. Long may they endure.


Now out on their own RabbleRouser Music label, ‘Mount the Air’ is the Unthanks‘ newest album. The sisters begin a new UK tour later this month, starting Saturday the 21st of February in Southampton; all the details are this way.


The Unthanks / February and March 2015 UK/Irish Tour

By on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 at 9:00 am

Tyneside folk duo The Unthanks will set off on a lengthy tour of the UK and Ireland next month in support of their forthcoming album ‘Mount the Air’. The self-released album was recorded over 2 years’ time in Northumberland and is the first new recorded material from The Unthanks in 4 years. Sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank will scaffold their formidable vocal talents on this tour with a full 10-piece instrumental ensemble. Tickets for the following shows are available now.

On Monday, TGTF posted the Unthanks‘ new video for single ‘Flutter’; watch it here.

Saturday 21st February 2015 – Southampton Turner Sims
Sunday 22nd February 2015 – Exeter Corn Exchange
Tuesday 24th February 2015 – Yeovil Octagon Theatre
Wednesday 25th February 2015 – Bristol Colston Hall
Thursday 26th February 2015 – Cardiff St. George’s Hall
Friday 27th February 2015 – Nottingham Albert Hall
Saturday 28th February 2015 – Sheffield City Hall
Sunday 1st March 2015 – Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Tuesday 3rd March 2015 – Bury St. Edmunds Apex
Wednesday 4th March 2015 – Brighton Dome
Thursday 5th March 2015 – Ashford Revelation St Mary’s
Friday 6th March 2015 – Norwich Open
Saturday 7th March 2015 – London Roundhouse
Sunday 8th March 2015 – Warwick Arts Centre
Tuesday 10th March 2015 – Leeds Irish Centre
Wednesday 11th March 2015 – Manchester Ritz
Thursday 12th March 2015 – Dublin National Concert Hall
Friday 13th March 2015 – Belfast Empire
Saturday 14th March 2015 – Newcastle City Hall
Thursday 19th March 2015 – Middlesbrough Town Hall
Friday 20th March 2015 – Edinburgh Queens Hall


Video of the Moment #1723: The Unthanks

By on Monday, 19th January 2015 at 6:00 pm

Northumberland female folk duo The Unthanks will be releasing ‘Mount the Air’, their new album, on the 9th of February on their own RabbleRouser Music label. We posted the animated promo for the LP’s title track, conceived and drawn by famed Nick Murray Willis, back in November, and now the North East ladies have got a brand new visual to show off to everyone.

The ever dreamy ‘Flutter’, the second single to come from ‘Mount the Air’, is accompanied by a beautifully shot black and white of the song being performed by the Unthanks and additional musicians. Watch the gorgeous presentation below.



Video of the Moment #1676: The Unthanks

By on Thursday, 13th November 2014 at 6:00 pm

Female folk duo The Unthanks have just revealed this week a new single and the title track to their forthcoming new album ‘Mount the Air’. Despite being courted by labels, the pair have decided to self-release their new LP on their own RabbleRouser Music label on the 9th of February 2015. The single will be released on the 8th of December.

The promo video for the title track of the upcoming album is the work of acclaimed animator Nick Murray Willis; he also worked with the ladies on a visual for ‘Lost’ in 2011, which saw the artist earn him a place on the BAFTA judging panel. Watch the animated clip for ‘Mount the Air’ below.



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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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