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Preview: NXNE 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 17th June 2014 at 9:00 am
 

Header: Press photo, J. Spaceman of Spiritualized, via Press Here

North by Northeast Festival, aka NXNE, is Canada’s version of Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) and is billed in the press as “the most anticipated summer music event in Canada”. The Music and Interactive portions of the festival begin tomorrow in Toronto and run through the weekend, but the event has already begun celebrating its 20th year with the opening of the Film portion on the 13th of June, the Art portion on the 16th and the Comedy portion on the 17th.

While Canadian and American acts dominate the Music lineup, there are also several British and international acts to be found on the docket. The usual alternative, electronic and singer/songwriter genres are represented, along with a handful of acts that fall outside those boxes. Music festival headliners include alt rock divas St Vincent and tUnE-yArDs, Brooklyn noise pop artists Sleigh Bells and British space rockers Spiritualized (pictured at top).

Austin-based acts Alejandro Escovedo and Spoon feature prominently in the lineup, as well as a long list of alumni from this year’s SXSW festival, such as buzz band Future Islands, Odonis Odonis, and Speedy Ortiz. Macaulay Culkin’s band, The Pizza Underground, who played SXSW and made a memorable appearance at the Dot To Dot Festival earlier this year, will cross genres between Music and Comedy. Curiously, several antipodean acts are featured on the bill in Toronto as well, including singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett, rocker Kirin J Callinan and alt pop group The Kite String Tangle.

Prominent UK bookings include electronic acts Fuck Buttons, Evian Christ, Golden Teacher and Welsh experimentalist Until The Ribbon Breaks. The always swollen singer/songwriter category is represented by Dan Croll, Jackson Nova, Laurel, Tom Robinson and Tom the Lion. Alt rockers Kins and Camera and hip hop artists Ikes and Kobi Onyame round out the UK contingent, along with two Scottish acts, Edinburgh roots band The Black Diamond Express and traditional folk group Trembling Bells.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/J56ba8xesms[/youtube]

Three notable female acts on TGTF’s peripheral radar are Tei Shi, Rachel Ries, and Glasser, the latter of whom editor Mary saw opening for Elbow back in 2011 (read that review here). Rachel Ries is a singer/songwriter from the American Midwest who recently opened for The Young Folk on part of their recent English tour. Vancouver R&B artist Tei Shi was featured on Glass Animals’ ‘Gooey’ EP (reviewed here) and will tour with them next month in America.

While the NXNE Music Festival might not quite reach the dizzy heights of its sister festival SXSW, its heavy focus on Canadian musicians along with its bill of hotly tipped international acts make it a can’t-miss event for music fans in and around Toronto. The Music portion of the festival takes over downtown Toronto for 5 days starting tomorrow, the 18th of June.

 

End of the Road 2011: Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 14th September 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Whether deliberate or not, every day at a festival seems to take on a theme of its own, and somehow this phenomenon seemed more pronounced at End of the Road Festival this year at Larmer Tree Gardens on the border between North Dorset and Wiltshire. Friday was ladies’ day, no doubt about it, with some old codgers thrown in for good measure; not a young man in sight. Against all September odds, Friday morning brought blazing sunshine: the only appropriate response was a trip to the Garden Stage. With its gently sloping natural auditorium, vegetation-tasselled stage, meandering peacocks, and an original 19th century Romantic ‘acoustic stage’ adjacent to the modern replacement, it’s strong contender for the most beautiful stage on the festival circuit.

There could be no act more appropriate for a sit down on some warm grass than the Secret Sisters, equipped as they are with so much Georgian bonhomie that you can almost taste the apple pie. Their love for all things Hank, expressed in old-time country harmonies and slow-burning ballads, sets the tone for the next few hours: laid-back, sultry Americana, and a few new, original pieces which hint at plenty of burgeoning songwriting ability. Caitlin Rose continues the Americana theme with her songwriterly country songs, a bit like a Nashville KT Tunstall. Equipped with a smooth, precise backing band, as the set develops Rose’s diva-ish tendencies become more apparent, digging deep into emotional strands and at moments coming across as a guitar-wielding Dolly replacement.

The girls continue showing how its done with dreamy Californian beach-beaters Best Coast a perfect complement to the cloud-free sky. Somewhat more grunged-up than on record, the essence of their sound remains the dreamy vocals of of Bethany Cosentino; if they don’t deliberately set out to sound as if they’re trapped in a ’50s Venice beachfront diner jukebox, then it’s an amazing coincidence. A quick jaunt back to the wonderful Garden Stage for arguably the highlight of the day, tUnE-yArDs. Essentially the solo project of Connecticutian Merrill Garbus, the set revolves around the live recording and layering of looped samples. But this is as far away from the usual singer-songwriter rhythm guitar/solo guitar loop pedal usage as it’s possible to be. Equipped with nothing more than a floor tom, electrified ukelele and extraordinary voice, the songs start with such random yelps and thumps that the listener’s ear can barely credit that anything resembling conventional music will coalesce. But slowly, like the emergence of a baby platypus from its egg, melodies and rhythms that are not only recognisable, but utterly beautiful and compelling, emerge. A masterclass of microtones and almost infinitely small beat fragments, which perhaps explains the strong African flavour of tracks like ‘Bizness’, there’s plenty to keep both the brain and the feet active throughout the set. Garbus is a quite unique voice in modern music, and hopefully she has a long and fruitful career ahead of her.

Some light relief comes in the form of Joan as Police Woman. Somewhat more conventional in terms of arrangement and song structure, with sumptuous organ tone and soulful material, this is a gentle bump to earth after the craziness that has gone before. Possibly too gentle – this would work as a chill-out set but lacks a certain punch to keep the early-evening momentum going. The pause is shortlived, however; Lykke Li (pictured at top) takes the main stage just as a peachy sunset stretches itself over the Dorset sky. Flouncing around the stage clad in a floor-length black leather dressing gown, the Swedish gothic pixie literally turns day into night. With an epic, drum-led sound, and couplets like “I’m your prostitute / you’re gonna get some”, there’s little time to breathe between one climactic coda and the next. By the time ‘Rich Kids Blues’ turns the stage blood-red, the band are pounding drums with all their might, the air thick with drama. The hours of darkness have rarely been more appropriately introduced.

After such a broad spectrum of female excellence, it would be quite reasonable to wonder what else could there possibly be to add? The answer – the grungy, soulful, sexy She Keeps Bees. At times reminiscent of a slower, female-fronted Nirvana; at others the obvious leftfield-rock-chick comparisons are overwhelming. The music is simple, the focus on singer and guitarist Jessica Larrabee, with a brace of guys for guitar and drum embellishment. The owner of a soul voice of enviable depth, the contrast with the pounding drums and lowest-of-lo-fi guitar is captivating. A brave, perfect a capella ‘Bones Are Tired’, knocked off as the guitarist changes a broken string, holds the tent in silent appreciation. A brilliant climax to a superb run of female performers.

At last, a man! He is Gordon Gano, latterly playing with the Ryans, but formerly of seminal 1980s alt-rockers Violent Femmes, and something of a legend in rarefied circles. His new material is still in the garage-rock vein, although leaning more towards Athens rather than Seattle: the songs taking their time and revealing their beauty carefully and deliberately. The modest crowd betrays the fact that Gano is hardly a household name – until he plays ‘Blister in the Sun’, that is. Track one of Violent Femmes’ debut album is one of those rare songs that is immediately familiar and loveable, but hardly anyone knows what it’s called or who it’s by. Gano is clearly fully aware of its power; he closes the set with a version that’s deliberately drawn out for countless choruses. As people pour into the tent for the very last bit of the last song, Gano gets to play just a few bars to the packed crowd he deserves.

Most of the people who should really have been watching Gordon Gano and the Ryans are taking their place for the Fall; Peel-lemmings meeting their fate. A comprehensive assessment of the Fall’s career to date from the evidence of one performance simply isn’t possible or even fair, so won’t be attempted here. On a simply objective level however, tonight’s gig borders on the unlistenable. Mark E. Smith’s utterly incoherent ramblings add nothing to the conventional rock backdrop produced by whichever band he’s managed to cobble together this week. The tension is barely lifted when his wife Eleni Poulou takes lead vocal for whole songs at a time. Either heavily inebriated or the victim of a massive stroke, only the most passionate of fans would know whether his slurred lyrics hold any great insight, and only then purely from memory. Pedigree doth not guarantee relevance, and with John Lydon doing the naughty old frontman thing with far more coherence, clarity, wit, and musical aplomb, on this evidence it’s hard to see the relevance of The Fall.

As the crowd disperses, there are rumours of nightly forest discos, of secret performances and other curious goings-on. But after nearly 12 hours of music, and a quick sit down to White Denim’s jazzy, hazy rock, it’s clear that sleep is the only option. After all, tomorrow will bring a brand new theme all of its own.

 

PIAS Label Love #1: Martin’s Top Ten Tracks to Buy in Digital Format

 
By on Wednesday, 10th August 2011 at 11:00 am
 

Editor’s note: This commentary by Martin is the first in a series by the writers of TGTF in response to the horrific and heartwrenching loss of thousands upon thousands of physical pieces of music by fire in the London riots earlier this week. This article by the Guardian provides a comprehensive list of the independent record labels affected by the SONYDADC warehouse fire, as well as current releases that already have known physical stocking problems including Arctic Monkeys‘ new 7″ single ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ (from the band’s recent album release, Suck It and See’ [review by Skint and Demoralised‘s Matt Abbott here]) and Charlie Simpson’s debut album ‘Young Pilgrim’ to be released on Monday (reviewed by John on Monday). You can still purchase digital downloads, and we wholeheartedly encourage you to support your favourite indie labels by giving your support, however many quid you can afford to part with. And with that, I’ll let Martin take it from here…

For those not living in London, limited to experiencing the shocking riots through the familiar, two-dimensional 24-hour rolling TV news prism, events can seem distant, remote, almost virtual. Our eyes are desensitised through countless dramatisations of fire, explosions and death on film that they cannot distinguish the real thing when they see it. It takes an element of the personal to break through the fourth wall and generate real empathy. Those of us with family members in London will already have felt this through emotionally-charged, first-hand accounts of the destructive rage of the paradoxically consumonihilist rioters. Their inchoate actions have very little to say about current politics, and are far too extreme to be a reaction against a few less pennies in the welfare pot. This is the stench of entitlement culture, of spoiled children and ignorant parents destroying what others have built; they have never achieved anything themselves and therefore are unaware of the value of things.

However, there is a silver lining: these people are identifying themselves. Their selfish worldview is laid bare, as are the lengths to which they will go to in its cause. They cannot now be ignored, and those who previously denied their existence are forced to discard their blinkers. For those music fans without any other connection with the capital, the news that the PIAS warehouse was torched in the melee, destroying vast quantities of media, provides that personal connection, that emotional reaction of disbelief and loss that is required to understand the extent of the destruction. The PIAS distribution list is a roll call of the finest independent labels in the country – imagining the excellence in the music which has gone up in smoke, and the effort required to produce it, is enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Good people must fight back. Those in London can give the rioters a literal bloody nose or knock a few teeth out. But those that must watch from afar can do something to offset the loss some of our favourite labels have experienced – buy a few quids’ worth of MP3s from the labels who have lost so much potential income overnight. Given the variety of PIAS’ clients, there are thousands of tracks to choose from: there literally is something for everyone. But in case the last few days’ events have suppressed your mojo, permit me to suggest 10 apposite tracks from the labels concerned. Buy these, buy something else, but please buy something. It’s a small gesture that says, “creativity will always beat destruction. It just doesn’t look that way all the time.”

Tune-Yards – ‘Gangsta’ (Beggars Banquet / 4AD) – buy it from iTunes here
Anna Calvi – ‘Blackout’ (Domino) – buy it from Domino Records here | read single review here
The Lords of Altamont – ‘Let’s Burn’ (Fargo)
Theoretical Girl – ‘Red Mist’ (Memphis Industries) – buy it from Memphis Industries here
Dan Sartain – ‘Bad Things Will Happen’ (One Little Indian) – buy it from iTunes here
The Besnard Lakes – ‘And This is What We Call Progress’ (Jagjaguwar) – buy it from Jagjaguwar here
Mr Oizo – ‘Monday Massacre’ (F Com) – buy it from iTunes here
Maps – ‘Everything is Shattering’ (Mute) – buy it from iTunes here
Stateless – ‘I’m on Fire’ (Ninja Tune) – buy it from Ninja Tune here
Aphex Twin – ‘Windowlicker’ (Warp) – buy it from Warp Records here

 
 
 

About Us

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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