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Preview: Deer Shed Festival 2013 (Part 2)

 
By on Thursday, 27th June 2013 at 9:00 am
 

We’ve already previewed the extensive small- and big-kid friendly activities available at Deer Shed Festival 2013, but what of the music? Featuring full 2 days of music (Friday evening, Saturday all day, and Sunday afternoon), and a smattering of stages, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill enormo-fest, and is all the better for it. The entire card is quality, but here we run down some of the highlights of Deer Shed 2013’s music offering…

Friday night sees a clash-tastic triumvirate of triumphant talent. Edinburgh festival favourites Tubular Bells For Two take over the In The Dock stage all night – for those who haven’t heard, TBFT are Aussies Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts, who have taken it upon themselves to recreate Mike Oldfield’s multi-layered masterpiece Tubular Bells in its entirety, complete with a home-made set of the eponymous melodic percussion. An inspired booking, and a rare opportunity to catch TBFT in the fresh air.

Gaz Coombes proved with his diverse work with Supergrass that he’s one of the finest songwriters of his generation; his solo album ‘Here Come The Bombs’ superbly reinforced that reputation. He’s just put out a new double-A single: ‘One of These Days’ is a typically bittersweet string-enhanced 4 minutes of slow-burning goodness, marking an intriguing move into gentle electronica stylings; ‘Break the Silence’ is a more upbeat synth-led stomper with hints of Supergrass’ superb 2004 orphan release ‘Kiss Of Life’. Which all bodes well for the second album which is rumoured for imminent release.

In a fairer world, Gaz Coombes would be the highlight of the evening. But if Coombes’ star is still developing, Edwyn Collins’ is a full-on supernova. There’s no need to go over the old ground of his medical history (if you need the details, see here), suffice to say that Collins’ personal story is as remarkable as his music. His 2010 LP ‘Losing Sleep’ gathered my Writer’s Choice for a Mercury nomination that year; this year’s release ‘Understated’ continues his output of smart pop-soul, hinting obliquely at his trials, but mostly simply affirming the human condition in matchless, witty style. A true legend, revered warmly by industry and fans alike, and a great way to wrap up Friday night at Deer Shed.

Saturday afternoon is folky and soulful. Tynesiders and Craig Charles favourites Smoove and Turrell (John Turrell is the male voice of Charles’ Fantasy Funk Band) are perfectly timed to get the crowd into a groove; Zervas and Pepper soundtrack dreams of shimmering open plains and dusty roadhouses; To Kill a King purvey that keening, yearning folk-rock sound that has such broad appeal these days that will surely make them a highlight of the day for many.

Elsewhere, Spring Offensive bring their suave Oxonianisms to the In The Dock Stage. If you like atmospheric, emotive guitar music, and wish you had seen Radiohead live before they released ‘The Bends’, the Spring Offensive are not to be missed. Neither are The Phantom Band, whose sound genuinely defies classification. There’s detailed multi-movemented arrangements, pepperings of atonality, a touch of ‘Green’-era R.E.M., and even the hint of properly heavy guitars on occasion. Very difficult to describe, which means that they’re very clever indeed. Worth being acquainted with beforehand, but will reward the effort live.

Darwin Deez has a lot to live up to – the punditry casually bandy around names like Beck, Prince, and Hendrix whenever he’s mentioned. Yes, Deez displays a loose, carefree obscurantism that Beck would be familiar with, but there’s little evidence of the epic sweep of Prince, or indeed of Hendrix’s Stratocaster majesty. Perhaps his live show will answer the doubters. But most excitingly of all, Saturday night finds The House of Love on the main stage. Surely the most underrated band of the pre-Britpop era, The House of Love’s self-titled meisterwerk contains future echoes of The Stone Roses, James, and both Oasis and Blur, and without whose influence British pop music would surely have taken a different, and undoubtedly inferior, path. Despite such achievements, in comparison with their peers they remain relative unknowns, with founding member Guy Chadwick carving a second career fitting sash windows. The story of the band is no less remarkable than their music, featuring personal acrimony, heavy drug use, mental problems, countless spin-off side projects, and the inevitable ritual burning of banknotes – enough to fill a decent book, one would imagine. Will The House of Love find their final redemption in their reformation and release of new material? Will Deer Shed be where it all finally comes together? One waits with bated breath.

After the excitement of Saturday night, Sunday is wind-down day. The Unthanks bring to life the North-East’s history of heavy industry and hard living with ‘Songs From The Shipyards’, and band-of-the-moment Public Service Broadcasting (who we caught last month in Newcastle) offer a similarly historical yet rather more lighthearted take on this island’s history with their audiovisual tour-de-force. On the main stage, we have chilled-out ambience from AlascA, knowing ensemble wittiness from Moulettes, and the acoustic finale belongs to the avuncular King Creosote, who has a challenge on his hands to match the vertical, punch- and love-drunk ambience of last year’s Cherry Ghost set.

If it had escaped your notice, this is just part of what’s on offer at Deer Shed Festival this year. Take a look at my Part 1 for a roundup of the crazy catalogue of activities to lose yourself in. Tier three tickets are still available from from the official Web site – but probably not for much longer!

 

Preview: Deer Shed Festival 2013 (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 11th June 2013 at 9:00 am
 

There comes a time in every festival-goer’s life when the spectre of having to give up the annual pilgrimage to the grassy land of song, cider, and occasional sunshine looms large, most likely due to the arrival of those little bundles of joy we call children. 2012 was the year your correspondent faced this sorry fate – and conquered it. Determined to share the joys of the unpredictable, oft mud-laden fields of dream with a young chap barely 6 months old, the discovery of the sublime Deer Shed festival was as if a sign from Dionysus himself. Nestled in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, Deer Shed prides itself on two virtues – of providing a modest yet perfectly-curated bill of music for adults, and laying on a multitude of activities for children which mean they have as much, if not more fun, as their elders.

Now in its fourth year, taking place 19-21 July in Baldersby, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, this year Deer Shed takes Machines as its theme – all manner of self-propelling man-made apparatus are due to make an appearance. Led by modern mad scientist Paul Granjon, the objective is to improvise with a group of volunteers and a pile of obsolete electronics to build an interactive construct of some kind. Not to mention the invasion of “Thingies” – small, mobile robots with a hint of canine (and a tail) will be mingling and entertaining, and no doubt slightly scaring the kids. There’s a real life Scrapheap Challenge to build a boat, the results of which will be tested on the lake on Sunday. Add in a Minecraft party held on a LAN of Raspberry Pis, programming workshops, learning to solder, meccano, nano quadcopters and the opportunity to play a theremin, there’s ample opportunity to unleash your inner geek.

And that’s just in the Machines tent. There’s another entire strand of workshops to get the creative juices flowing – and it all gets very Blue Peter here. Take your pick from making a robot mask out of a giant roll-mat, making a mini dog out of a date-stamp casing, or a superstructure from screw-together water pipes. For the boys – water bottle rockets, and for the girls – friendship bracelet making. Or do it the other way round if you fancy. Make a windmill, a badge, or a balloon powered car, but don’t forget to learn how to play the ukulele with the pUKEs (last seen at Liverpool Sound City).

And that’s just the activities for kids (and big kids, we should add). There’s a whole lineup of fantastic music over three days – at Deer Shed Friday is an evening warm-up session, Saturday is an all-day marathon of goodness, and it bears repetition here that last year’s Sunday afternoon was the most chilled-out wind-down this correspondent has witnessed, anywhere, ever. The creative activities themselves and beautiful camping space would be enough to justify the entry price alone, but of course there’s far more to Deer Shed than that. Check back in for part two of our Deer Shed preview, where we run down the music and comedy lineup – trust us, there’s some unmissable stuff going on.

If you’ve already made up your mind that Deer Shed is your cup of family tea, then tickets are available at the bargain price of £89 plus booking fee, with children only £25, and under-6s free of charge. Buy them here. Still not convinced? Read Martin’s reviews of Deer Shed Festival 2012 part 1 and part 2.

 

Beacons Festival 2012 Review (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 29th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Part 1 of Martin’s review of Beacons 2012 can be read here.

What more can be written about Wild Beasts’ ability to headline? Their double-headed fantasia redefines the potential of a modern group of musicians. The risk of repetition is one worth bearing in order to quote a phrase written about their headline performance at Constellations in Leeds last November: “To see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.” To which I would add, the material is so familiar now that the crowd effortlessly sing along pretty much all the way through. Which seems natural, until you ponder the meaning of such lyrical masterpieces such as “I was thrilled as I was appalled / Courting him in fisticuffing waltz”; words worthy of Raffles the Gentleman Thug himself. The world of performing arts waits with baited breath the arrival of a fourth Wild Beasts album.

As these things are wont to do, Sunday dawns even later with the kind of melancholy that only pervades the final morning of a weekend-long shindig. What finer prescription for such malaise than a swift dose of Frankie and the Heartstrings? As my erudite companion opined, if these guys had been around 10 years ago, they’d have cleaned up, what with their jaunty melodies, whip-smart pop arrangements and a classic frontman in Frankie Francis. Their frequent appearances on the festival scene are considerable consolation.

There is no photograph of The Wave Pictures because they were so good I couldn’t drag my attention away from them to fiddle with a camera. Operating for an impressive 14 years, time has not dulled their appeal; quite the opposite: the trio are telepathic in their delivery. Whether it’s that, the clarity of the ideas contained within the casually-delivered lyrics, or perhaps the guitar which spans basic root chords and then veers off into advanced soloing in the blink of the eye, or most likely a superb blend of all three, something really clicks with these guys. Singer David Tattersall can’t help the smile creeping across his child’s face, as if he’s heard the secret of the world – and everything’s going to be OK. Like the day of meeting someone who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, no doubt there will be many more performances by The Wave Pictures – but nothing beats the first time.

From which planet is Willis Earl Beal? Certainly he has a considerably other-worldly manner which suggests someone not quite 100% Earthling. The intensity of his performance does nothing to dissuade this notion. Accompanied by a reel-to-reel tape machine, Beal prowls the stage, howling complex, inscrutable notions to primordial beats. He wraps up by removing his thick leather belt and whacking his chair by way of improvised percussion, before swaggering offstage. He didn’t actually say, “Take me to your leader”, but one has the impression that’s what he’s thinking. [I’m not sure what to make of him either, but he is a protege of Richard Russell’s, so on that alone, he comes well recommended, doesn’t he? – Ed.]

I have it on good authority that Patrick Wolf, on grand piano and violin-as-held-like-a-guitar delivered his arch-pop with aplomb, and that Toots and the Maytals wrapped things up with – what else! – a reggae conga. And that was that. The end.

This is Beacons’ first year as Beacons – those in the know will have attended a smaller but no less vibrant event on roughly the same site called Moorfest from which Beacons has grown; yet more will have been as bitterly disappointed as the organisers were when last year’s event was cancelled due to apocalyptic flooding. Thusly, Beacons 2012 represents the culmination of many years of hopes, dreams, and the odd scary moment – the product of such a recipe was an event which had no airs or graces at all in its delivery: it simply put on top-quality entertainment in a decent bit of the countryside, and invited the punters themselves to be its beating heart.

If you sat down and thought about it for a bit, you could tell this was an early, perhaps even naïve, event – the main arena had a vast central space with nothing in it (where was the eponymous beacon?), I found programmes for sale on the last day at the back of a tent, and stuff like signage was a bit hit and miss. But by ‘eck and by gum, what am I blathering about? It’s refreshing to experience a festival that puts all its effort into the essentials, even if that means the details are a bit rough around the edges. Details can be bought, but good taste in music cannot: for that reason, Beacons deserves to flourish. And with every ticket for 2012 sold out, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Not even the weather.

 

Beacons Festival 2012 Review (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 28th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

There’s nothing quite as much that embodies the soul of festivalling than a humble handful of tents in a muddy field, preferably in a salt-of-the-Earth part of the world like North Yorkshire. Which, thank one’s lucky stars, is exactly what was offered by Beacons 2012 in Skipton. Certainly there were fringe events aplenty, and no less than three inflatable structures on which the young, or even perhaps the young at heart, could variously bounce and slide. But for those of a more musical bent, the sheer quantity and quality of angry, soulful, cerebral, and simply downright deafening music on offer was too much to resist. So, with practicalities out of the way first (food – adequate; beer – plentiful and cheap; cocktails – strong and immaculately-made; camping and toilets – well, at least there were some), let’s move onto the music.

Friday looked like belonging to the smaller Noisey/Vice stage, packed with trendy guitar-toting freaks from dawn ‘til dusk. But first up was Veronica Falls on the main Stool Pigeon stage. Their faux-naïf guitar jangle was helped by the natural reverb of the tent; the girl-boy vocals of James Hoare and Roxanne Clifford a natural, distinctive pairing, easing the crowd into the weekend. ‘Right Side Of My Brain’ features the word “beacon” in its lyrics. Neat, huh?

Pins must make all the bands who struggle around the circuit for years, never making it big, green with envy. Lucky if they’re into double figures in terms of live shows, and only the odd limited edition tape to call a release, their influence in terms of pixel inches belies their young status. And in all honesty, they deserve it. The four ladies look great, the sound is warehouse-bare and won’t win any awards for virtuosity, but there’s plenty of edge and aloof attitude – exactly as it should be.

Gross Magic are somewhat more confusing. Their release ‘Teen Jamz’, whilst noisy in places, carries a ’70s glam-rock subtlety that appears almost entirely lost in the live performance, which is a deafening electric guitar onslought overlaid by a reed-thin voice. What is clear is that single Sam McGarrigle is desperate to transport himself back to 1990 Seattle and ingratiate himself with that scene – backwards baseball cap, half-mast pyjama bottoms, shuffling gait, faux-Transatlantic accent – he should fit right in.

Roots Manuva need no introduction. Rodney Smith’s lithe, languid, baritone flow has been leading the way in thoughtful urban music for years now. Tonight he pulls out all the stops – three MCs, full band, tight as a conga skin. There’s such a concentration of ideas that you really have to know the material or pay extremely close attention to the lyrics to fully appreciate – and when a tent is as jumping as this, that’s a tall order.

If anyone was wondering, from first-hand experience the main arena closed at 3 AM…but the tiny open-mic shack was still inviting weary musicians to knock out a song or two into the wee small hours. Just the thing to ease fragile heads into action on Saturday morning were conceptual electro-folksters The Magnetic North [pictured at top and appearing to be what Erland and the Carnival get up to on their day off, plus a female singer. – Ed.] Their magnum opus is Orkney Symphony, an aural tour of the northern Scottish island. And truly magnificent it is live too, the midday timing belying the subtle beauty on offer both in the music, and in the opinion of my male companion, also their auburn-haired lead singer.

Cass McCombs brings a touch of chilled Americana to proceedings. In fact, a touch too chilled – one gets the impression there’s some serious talent up there on stage; Cass has a lovely delivery and some great material – but they play it very cool. Which is all very well in the early afternoon drizzle, but one is left with the impression that one of those vintage Telecasters just wants to let rip into a 2-minute solo.

If you like noisy Welsh socialists making a racket, Future of the Left are for you. Musically as subtle as a brick to the head, and on first listen just as enjoyable, there is commendable anger and surprising depth of ideas on offer here. At times a touch too keen to rely on tired tropes like the North-South divide and knocking capitalism and Americans to really move the game on, but at others there’s a nice touch of working-class surrealism – like The Manics covering Eric Idle.

Ghostpoet is snapping at the heels of Roots Manuva, and quite rightly so. Musically more down tempo and glitchy, vocally he’s right up there with Mr. Smith, in terms of delivery and flow. There’s more considered storytelling going on here, there’s more space for the rhymes to breathe, and he seems to be creating the lion’s share of the music right there on a few synths. Romantic, grounded in day-to-day life, this is a deeply relevant and even moving set.

Stay tuned for the second half of Martin’s review of Beacons Festival 2012 appearing on TGTF tomorrow.

 

Preview: Beacons Festival 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 19th June 2012 at 9:30 am
 

Beacons Festival lives! After a hugely disappointing cancellation last year due to apocalyptic flooding, Beacons is back in August 2012 with, if anything, an even more exciting offer than before. With arguably one of the finest musical lineups around, a beautiful setting in the Yorkshire Dales, and plenty of peripheral activities for drinkers (real ale! cider! craft beers!), thrill-seekers (vintage fairground rides!) and families (bedtime stories!) alike, there’s something for just about everyone.

Musically, the headliners are very different, but all superb. Friday is headlined by Roots Manuva, the ever-present bard of urban culture. Now onto his fifth LP, ‘4everevolution’, if there is a modern counterpoint to Toots’ Jamaican vibes, then it’s Rodney Smith’s uncomfortable flow of consciousness, documenting the trials of modern life one rhyme at a time.

Saturday’s Wild Beasts (pictured at top) should need no introduction to readers of this blog. With superb material drawn from their companion albums ‘Two Dancers’ and ‘Smother’, the band are at the top of their live game right now. Having just given a breathtaking performance at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, there is every expectation that their visit to Beacons will be just as exemplary. A great opportunity to see the best British live act of the moment at the height of their powers.

Quite different, but just as wonderful, is the prospect of Jamaican Reggae legends Toots and the Maytals wrapping up the festival in tropical style on Sunday evening. Part of the musical firmament since the glory days of reggae in the 1960s, they remain just as relevant today. With a long and influential history, not to mention an astonishing 31 Jamaican number one hits, they helped change popular music forever (The Clash’s cover of Toots track ‘Pressure Drop’ predated the seminal reggae influences revealed in London Calling), have a list of famous collaborators as long as a rasta’s dreads (Willie Nelson, Keith Richards, er… Shaggy) and contributed the brilliant cover of ‘Let Down’ to the Radiodread album. In this jubilee year, Toots and the Maytals are reggae royalty.

The undercard is no less impressive. Let’s pick a few highlights… representing the North East are ornithological experinstrumentalists B>E>A>K, flamboyant indie-popsters Frankie and the Heartstrings, and the beautiful, yearning sounds of Lanterns on the Lake. And to pick a number of personal favourites, The Wave Pictures, Peaking Lights, Clock Opera, Admiral Fallow, Outfit, Japandroids… a veritable feast of fabness.

One not to be missed, then. See you there.

Beacons Festival takes place at Funkirk Estate, Skipton, in the stunning Yorkshire Dales, 17th-19th August. Weekend tickets are priced at £84.50 or a £44.50 deposit can be put down now. For more ticket options and to buy your tickets, visit the official Beacons Festival Web site.

 

Bingley Music Live: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 6th October 2011 at 5:35 pm
 

Sunday brings a third day of quality music over to Bingley, a place where most artists will admit they’ve never heard of, and only a few have ever played. Bingley Music Live has really brought big name acts out here and made a name for itself over the last few years and as the third day begins, you get a sense that it’s now an established festival that supports both local and up-and-coming acts as well as the all important ticket selling, fan pleasing headliners.

Having not learnt my lesson from yesterday, I was yet again thwarted by public transport on a Sunday afternoon, but I’m informed that Daley was beautiful to witness in the early afternoon sun. As I arrive at the festival, I’m subject to watching Stereo MCs performing what I’m told were their hits. A long time ago, this band might have been enjoyable live, but as it stands they look like the kind of ageing people that would be in the pool at a Butlins, avoiding their family and doing some sort of swimming aerobics whilst their grandchildren frolic about with rubber inflatables. That song where they say “yeah” a lot was bearable though.

Doing their very best to pick up the pace of things come The Sunshine Underground. A nearly band of lad rock, you can’t help but feel that if Oasis had adopted these guys as openers in their last years, TSU might have made a real go of it. Sadly, however, they’re destined to do their best to liven mid-afternoon crowds with their two albums worth of music. ‘Nobody’s Coming to Save You’ makes the crowds bob, yet nothing aside from their nearly hits from the first album makes people move. Shame.

Eliza Doolittle is up next though. Surely the genuine singalongs can start here? Yes! Finally today, you get polite movement and a genuine festival feeling as ‘Skinny Jeans’, ‘Pack Up’ and even a cover of Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’ make everyone start to smile again (‘Runaway’ actually gets a bigger singalong than most of Doolittle’s tracks, but I’m sure she won’t mind). Even the security make a go of it.

The bands on back to back next are a little dissimilar. With Chase and Status playing their final festival of the season later, The Coral take to a stage that they’re really never going to own and with an attitude that doesn’t appear at all enthusiastic. Even the odd summertime classic leaves the crowds questioning their billing. ‘In The Morning’ doesn’t even feature as the set is filled with their most recent album’s tracks. As enjoyable as the record is, it doesn’t translate on stage. Happily, they do at least play ‘Dreaming of You’ and ‘Pass It On’, which gets everyone warmed up just as they leave.

Twenty minutes later, it’s still light and the crowds are restless. With just two albums under their belt and even a few anthems in the making, Chase and Status’s live shows are more sought after than ever. Coming on to rapturous responses they get straight to it with new single ‘No Problem’. Manic dancing ensues and doesn’t stop for as long as the group play. As the sun goes down and darkness takes over Bingley, the band seem to be reinvigorated as collaboration artists appear on the big screens with huge graphic designs and pre-made videos. Urban music with a rock and roll feel has gained itself a huge reputation these days with everyone from Jay-Z to Pendulum using elements of it in their famously huge sets. Chase and Status bring this along as well and probably do it better than Pendulum do. There’s less annoying on stage talk but still enough to get everyone going. Bringing their main set to a close with ‘Fool Yourself’, it builds up and releases what you’d assume was the last piece of energy in everyone that’s been going all weekend long.

Wrong! Coming back out with ‘Blind Faith’ which features a hyped up Liam Bailey creates an atmosphere of completely blissful pandemonium as the backing track soars over the park and sends everyone home running on the last of their adrenaline. Of course there’s another firework show, but tonight has been all about that Chase and Status show. A fitting close to a genuinely fantastic small festival.

 
 
 

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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.

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