The Head & the Heart, Manchester, November 6, 2011: How to lose fans and alienate bloggers

the head and the heart live in ManchesterFor those of you who follow me on Twitter, you may have witnessed some or all of an exchange between me and a couple of fans of The Head & the Heart, a band we saw opening for My Morning Jacket last night (6th November).

When we turned up to the venue, The Ledge went to the bar and I wandered down to the front – there was loads of space. Having seen The Head & the Heart at Latitude and found them boring in parts, but with moments of potential, I thought I should give them a second chance. We knew they’d be on early. As early as doors and with maybe 20 people in the Manchester Academy 2 and space at the barrier, a woman immediately started hovering about, bumping into me.

When I turned around, wondering why she felt the need to violate my personal space when she could easily have stood at the barrier elsewhere, she asked who was the opening band.  I told her, and she said “Oh good.” Then she asked who I’d come to see. I pointed out that it was a My Morning Jacket gig and she seemed surprised I wasn’t there for The Head & the Heart – even though 15 seconds earlier she’d seemed unaware they were opening. I told her no, I’d seen them before and found them a bit ‘meh’. The following exchange then ensued:

Woman: Are you American?

Justhipper: Yes.

Woman: Are you from Seattle?!?!

Justhipper: Erm, no.

Woman: Oh. That’s too bad.

Justhipper: I’ve not flown over for this gig, if that’s what you’re asking.

She then turned around and began hanging over an American guy stood to my left.

About this point a host of people turned up, all of whom were wearing matching Head and the Heart fanclub bracelets (admittedly, at first I thought they were MMJ fans and we were going to have an unpleasant 3 hours) and started cloistering around us, talking shite and jostling for position – despite the fact that only about 40 people were in the room at this point. I’m sure some of them were even arguing about who should be allowed to stand closest to the band.

This was, to say the least, somewhat annoying, which is the point that I tweeted about it. I’ve been subjected to the internet fanclubs of a few bands of late, and frankly, it’s really f***ing annoying that they seem to think that use of a band’s website and a few pounds for a newsletter and a membership badge gives them proprietary rights over the band (Hold Steady fanclub, Unified Scene, I’m looking at you! You’ve ruined 3 gigs so far for us with physical violence and talking! At least one long-term fan I know won’t go to Hold Steady gigs anymore because she’s so fed up with dealing with crap from you, the fanbase.)

A few songs into the set and I decided that I had been right about the Head and the Heart, they were a bit boring, somewhat twee, and not worth much more of my attention. I may have tweeted to that effect.

When I got home I found that the band had retweeted me twice – one of the tweets was the one complaining about their fanclub – and this it seems was fuel to the fire of the True Fans. While the band may have done it to be funny, to the rabid and the insane fan, trying to impress with loyalty, this was merely permission to troll me. So now I’ve had 2 fans hassling me all day today – as if this haranguing would do anything to change my mind.

The thing is, although the band may have been taking things in good humour, they’ve mostly just stabbed themselves in the foot, because what they’re doing is encouraging their fanbase to compete for attention by being nasty to critics – whether innocent tweeters expressing an opinion, bloggers or journalists.

They’re suggesting that the way to be a good fan is to take a fascistic view of  anybody expressing a contrary opinion. I’ve seen it before – one need only read any messageboard associated with Suede to see the carnage, bad feeling and general unpleasantness it propogates amongst music fans who should be united over a common interest. It’s hard enough to be a “fan” when other fans constantly question your right to be there – it makes it 10x worse when the band are seen to be suggesting that fanhood requires that extra step of stamping out disbelievers and critics.

What I would say, Head & the Heart, is it’s hard enough being a young indie band struggling to get yourself heard over the din of jaded cynics like me. Maybe you should think hard about the sorts of fans you want and the tone you want to set for them – do you want people who enjoy your music, introduce new listeners, turn up to gigs and dance or people who act like an advancing army, competing for your attention and determined to prove their loyalty by destroying everyone who isn’t in the club? I’d say the latter isn’t going to do much to help you gain new listeners – and they may even put some off.

Posted by JustHipper on 7th November 2011 at 10:23 pm | comments (13)
File under Gig-goer of the Week, gigs, hold steady.

10 Old School Indie Bands You Should Listen To Instead of the Stone Roses

In light of today’s (annual) storm in a teacup about a possible Stone Roses reunion, we’d like to present a list of 10 bands you may have forgotten about (or never heard of) or who we just think are great that we’d rather see than The Stone Roses. We think you should bin your Madchester records and go by something truly underrated and beautiful, like a record by one of these artists: [Read On...] »

Posted by JustHipper on 7th April 2011 at 1:24 pm | comments (24)
File under video, youtube.

ATP Pavement, Day 3, May 17, 2010

Day 3 of ATP began at 8am with the guys in the chalet next door singing along to Flight of the Conchords very loudly (and out of tune). Not quite the morning lie-in I was hoping for, but it at least had us out of bed early enough for The Ledge to watch Neil Young’s Greendale on ATP TV and for me to get my hands on an elusive copy of The Observer – something which usually proves difficult at Butlins.

Tim Chad and Sherry @ ATP 2010 curated by PavementBy early afternoon we were ready for some music so we headed up to Centre Stage for the entirely unironic ’70’s country soft rock stylings of Tim Chad & Sherry, featuring members of Silver Jews and Lambchop. It was, umm, well….what I fear the next My Morning Jacket album is likely to sound like. I hope not. It’s a huge step backwards in the evolution of music and one which makes me think of rednecks in pickup trucks drinking Bud Light in their white string vests in the summer Atlanta heat.

Next up was Wax Fang on the Main Stage. Not knowing what to expect after the brilliance of their version of Purple Rain, I can’t say I was particularly smitten. It seems Wax Fang are a little more interesting as Prince and the Revolution than as themselves. It was perfectly competent anthemic rock – but I don’t find competent anthemic rock all that inspiring. We quickly abandoned it to head upstairs for The 3Ds – one of those Flying Nun bands that The Ledge has been dying to see for about 20 years, and one of the few who had so far eluded him.

The 3Ds @ ATP 2010 curated by PavementI was expecting a jangly Flying Nun band heavily influenced by Sonic Youth. I could hear the jangly guitars, but the Sonic Youth influences were masked by the sheer volume of the sound the 3D’s were making. I was quite amazed that they appeared to be a band comprised of a guy found drinking cider in the park, my 50-something 6th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ruffin, and a guy who failed an audition for The Ramones. They sounded great, however, taking us right back to the great lo-fi, guitar-driven indie rock of the late ’80’s/early ’90’s. They weren’t particularly charismatic, but they have some great, immediately catchy tunes.

After the 3D’s, we headed back downstairs to watch The Dodos, a band we’d enjoyed at the Night & Day about 18 months’ ago, but whose new album we’ve not heard. The previous performance was sat down and very folky. Yesterday they were, despite being an acoustic guitarist, a drummer and a xylophone player, incredibly rocky. The new songs sound very similar, if harder, than the old ones, all slightly off-beat indie pop. I enjoyed ‘Jody’ off their first album, but as we wanted to catch a bit of Boris performing Feedbacker, we departed about halfway through for Centre Stage.

Imagine my dismay when on the way up we spotted the signs for Steve West of Pavement giving a course on stone masonry at the “Bob the Builder Stage.” We were already too late! Pavement had joked about it the previous evening, saying they wanted a masculine masterclass to counteract Kelly Deal’s knitting masterclass from the previous year. We thought it was just a joke. Oh well. Only at ATP…

As for Boris, they were rather boring. I think The Ledge enjoyed the 15 minutes we watched, but I thought they would be a bit less by-the-book post rock. I hate post rock.

The Clean @ ATP 2010 curated by PavementDownstairs we found a good spot to watch The Clean, the other Flying Nun band that The Ledge had been waiting 20 years to see. They were even better than The 3Ds – catchy, immediate and full of smiles and friendly banter. I must admit that here at Indie Credential Towers we have a serious soft spot for post-Smiths, melodic, lo-fi, guitar-driven indie rock and this fits the bill 100%. I always love The Ledge’s old Flying Nun albums and I’m baffled at how The Clean have eluded me for so long. They were perfect!

The Fall @ ATP 2010 curated by PavementFinally came the day’s headliner, The Fall, always an interesting, if somewhat difficult live act. I’d only seen The Fall once before when they were an hour late on stage and a complete shambles live. It was a terrible gig which hadn’t made me want to see them a second time. However, I’d heard some reports of great recent gigs, so we decided to give it a go and were not disappointed. Although we only recognised one song, Festive 50 winner ‘Theme from Sparta F.C.,’  the driving, repetitive guitars and keyboards kept us mesmerised, despite the lack of familiarity. Mark E. Smith and band tore through the 70 minute set without pause and a rapt, but subdued crowd, at least where we were standing.

Our final set of the weekend was a brief trip back up to Centre Stage to watch The Raincoats who sounded pretty much like I expected – quirky, friendly post-punk female pop songs which, at least to me, seem to be a huge influence on Fiery Furnaces. We were so exhausted by this point, however, that we abandoned the set for a pizza, a glass of wine and our beds, wary of the long drive in the morning.

So, another May, another triumphant ATP and one that has left me extremely excited for our return for Bowlie 2 in December.

Wax Fang perform ‘Take Me With U’ at ATP

Posted by JustHipper on 17th May 2010 at 6:05 pm | comments (17)
File under Festival Reviews, Flying Nun, all tomorrows parties, atp, dodos, john peel bands.

ATP Curated by Pavement, Day 2, May 15, 2010

Pavement mosaicDay 2 of ATP started well with Horse Guard Parade kicking things off at Centre Stage with a track that could have been written by Calexico (and a lead singer who, from where we were sitting, looked the spitting image of Joey Burns). They played a mixture of country-tinged indie and straightforward indie which was in places extremely catchy and in places extremely dull. I wandered off about 4 songs in, slightly bored, to find a WiFi connection, and returned for the final track, an upbeat number, that I wouldn’t mind hearing again. This is not much of a description, I realise, but beyond the initial Calexico-esque moment, which was great, there wasn’t much that stood out.

After Horse Guard Parade finished I wandered up to Reds Bar to catch the start of Wax Fang performing Prince’s Purple Rain in its entirety. Although clearly just a comedic curiosity, as a member of that generation to whom that film was a formative moment, I thought I had to see at least a few tracks. Wax Fang did not disappoint. They got dressed up in frilly shirts and stupid wigs and pulled poses for the first four songs, the singer hamming it up for the front row in a long, gold coat, before breaking character to point out that they did feel a little silly, and to ask the crowd to please come check out their proper set on Sunday. This certainly softened me towards them as it had been hard to tell whether they were pretentious hipsters being deadly serious or just musicians having a laugh. Knowing it was the latter certainly made the whole thing palatable. Nonetheless, I love The Drones’ live show far too much to have missed it, so I sloped off a verse into “Darling Nikki.”

The Drones at ATP PavementBack down at Centre Stage The Ledge informed me I’d missed “Jezebel,” always a highlight, but as I made it down in time for “Shark Fin Blues” I’m more than happy. The Drones were very much on-form, tearing through a set comprised mostly of tracks from Wait Long by the River and Havilah. They do a great job of starting slowly before building each song to a raging, fiery climax like hellfire being rained down on their enemies.

After The Drones, The Ledge went back to the chalet to watch part of the FA Cup while I went and watched a bit of Blitzen Trapper on the Main Stage. Their laid-back country tunes were justthe thing to enjoy while sitting at the back of the Skyline Pavilion with a drink, but I found myself distracted after about 20 minutes and I abandoned it to join The Ledge (and get some lunch).

Fiery Furnaces at ATP PavementWe made it back up to the Main Stage in time for Fiery Furnaces with whom I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve seen them live when I thought they were amazing, but I find their albums hard-going, mainly because the songs musically sound like they start in the middle and go nowhere. It’s ok for about 5 minutes but eventually becomes infuriating. They were very much on form yesterday, however, and I’m sure I even heard a couple of actual choruses and middle eights. The Ledge dragged me away (not that I took much persuading) to go watch Mark Eitzel.

Mark Eitzel at ATP PavementNow, I’m no fan of American Music Club (The Ledge loves them) and as a result I’d never listened to any Mark Eitzel solo material, so I was surprised to discovered he’s very much a cabaret-style crooner. He was playing with 2 guys with whom he’s currently working in Brighton, and he was on great comedy form, telling tall tales about his life as a Butlins’ performer. Not knowing much about him, it was at times hard to separate the fictional parts of his tales about each song from the fact, but it was highly entertaining, nonetheless. Each song had a story to accompany, which made the musical renditions more immediate, helped along by the fact that he has a really engaging and warm voice. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the set, and despite my lack of familiarity with the songs, was glued to his performance for the full hour.

After Mark Eitzel, I followed The Ledge down to Camera Obscura, thinking I’d probably be irritated and bored with their soulless, sub-par attempts to be Belle & Sebastian and could abandon it to watch Boris before I reached the point where I was tempted to jump on stage and start smashing the equipment. I somehow ended up watching the whole set (mainly because we managed to walk right up to the front and realised we were in a great place to watch Pavement, so didn’t want to move).

Camera Obscura at ATP PavementCamera Obscura are a band that completely lack charisma, stage presence and any form of animation while performing. When you marry this with the fact that they have 2 decent songs – “Hey, Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” and “French Navy” and the rest of their catalogue consists of songs that want to sound exactly like those two songs but only end up being poor cousins, then you can understand when I say that watching Camera Obscura play live is very much what I imagine being dead feels like. When you watch them for a full hour, you start to understand what being dead for all eternity feels like.

They did, eventually, finish, and thank goodness, because even though I’ve never been a particular fan of Pavement, I did after 17 years, finally understand why everyone else I know is. The only other time I saw Pavement live was at Leeds Festival in 1999, shortly before they broke up and it was boring and lumpen and although The Ledge had me listening a bit to Brighten the Corners, I stopped listening to them after that day. Yesterday’s performance was entirely the polar opposite of that first experience, the band were so full of excitement, it was like watching a bunch of teenagers on stage for the first time.

PavementStephen Malkmus struck rock star poses, playing guitar over his head, behind his back, swinging his guitar up in the air, jumping. Bob Nastanovich was hilarious – not only does he have one of the best screams in rock, but his between-song banter was both funny and surreal (dude, Yorkshire is a county, not a city!). Spiral Stairs didn’t stop grinning through the whole thing. ‘Cut Your Hair’ took me back to the mid-nineties, the crowd singing along to ‘Stereo’ was inspiring, ‘Range Life’ and ‘Gold Soundz’ were perfect and I’ve still got ‘Silence Kit’ in my head this morning. They were rockier and catchier than I’d ever noticed (and I have played the back catalogue through a few times) and I will now be forced to get to know Pavement a whole lot better. The 2 hour set deserves its own write-up, so I’ll leave that to The Ledge to do later.

Finally,we managed to stay awake long enough to watch Atlas Sound at Centre Stage. Bradford Cox was on fine form for his birthday and was both melodic and hypnotic, regaling the crowd with stories about playing guitar behind the Kroger near where he grew up and his trip to A&E in Minehead last weekend after an asthma attack. Unfortunately, I was so tired by this point, much of it washed over me so much more description than that is impossible, though he did play a rather lovely cover of Pavement’s “We Dance” that outshone the version we’d heard just a couple of hours earlier.

Once again I spent a day watching bands with whom I’m only a little familiar or simply have never found entertaining before and thoroughly enjoyed them all (well, almost all). I find myself looking forward today to a lot of Flying Nun (ATP! When are you going to get Flying Nun to curate a weekend? You know it would be amazing!) and Mark E. Smith. Sounds like it’ll be the perfect end to what has been a classic ATP so far.

Posted by JustHipper on 16th May 2010 at 1:17 pm | comments (6)
File under Festival Reviews, all tomorrows parties, camera obscura, mark eitzel.

ATP Festival Curated by Pavement, Day 1, May 14, 2010

Before I begin, I’d like to apologise for the lack of pictures. Butlins seems to think Flickr is an adult site and won’t let us access it to upload any photos. We’ll try and get that sorted if we have a gap in the music!

The Ledge, in particular, has been anticipating our 5th trip to All Tomorrow’s Parties in Minehead because Pavement are one of his favourite bands of all-time. He loves Pavement so much that he decided we were going have heard only that Pavement were curating. As I’m somewhat less keen on Pavement, he should count himself lucky that the final lineup turned out to be so good.

The first band of the day, appearing on Centre Stage, were Avi Buffalo, from Long Beach, as they kept telling us, and who appear to be taking a lot of cues from The Shins. Where the songs tended towards upbeat, harmonic indie-pop with Delgadoes-esque harmonies they were fantastic. They dragged and meandered a bit on the slower songs, however. Basically, where the female keyboard player was singing, the songs were great, where she wasn’t, they were a bit boring. The single, ‘What’s in it For’, which Mark Riley has been playing on 6 Music, is an absolute delight. Although their stage presence was a bit muted, I’d put this down to the fact that they look about 18, are on their first trip to the UK and are clearly still finding their feet. The good bits of the set were good enough that I’d certainly check out an album.

Next up was Surfer Blood on the main stage. Surfer Blood are one of those American west-coast, jangly surfer bands currently emerging alongside The Drums, Vivien Girls, Dum Dum Girls, Girls, Veronica Falls, etc. These guys, however, a clearly a cut above most of the others. The songs were immediate, the band were clearly having a blast and it didn’t take long for them to get the crowd humming along. The one ‘dark’ number was, musically at least, anything but, as the songs danced along quite merrily to lovely, light, folky guitar hooks and keyboards played by a guy with an immense afro which didn’t stop moving up and down through the whole set. I thought they were absolutely brilliant and in a just world, these guys will find themselves with the festival singalong hit of the summer.

Following shortly on was Calexico, also on the main stage. The last time we saw Calexico was in Liverpool over 3 years ago. They didn’t tour the last album, so we weren’t sure what sort of set we would get. It turned out to be a mixture of more recent tracks, as well as a few classics including “The Crystal Frontier,” “Woven Birds” and “Not Even Stevie Nicks”, which even The Ledge enjoyed, despite disliking that track intensely, and which they blended with “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – something I’m sure they did the last time we saw it as well. There were far more straightforward rock songs in the set than expected, and the few mariachi-style tracks, including the classic ‘Minas de Cobre’, were welcome, and as high-spirited as ever. The finish of their cover of “Alone Again Or” was the perfect end to an excellent return.

Finally, Broken Social Scene delivered a fantastic, energetic performance made up of mostly new material. As I’ve only heard the new album once, on the drive down, I couldn’t provide song titles, however, the new songs are far more immediate and a lot more direct than the tracks from the previous, eponymous, album. Highlights of the set were new track ‘All is All’ sung by Lisa Lobsinger, ‘7/4 Shoreline’, one of my all time BSS favourites ‘Superconnected’, ‘Cause=Time’ and ‘Fire Eye’d Boy.’ The band were even briefly joined by Spiral Stairs on backing vocals and mad dancing. In fact, the only downer on the performance were 2 girls who insisted on talking through the entire show, except when they were shouting along to the trumpet parts or singing the wrong lyrics at the top of their lungs. Broken Social Scene are always a force to be reckoned with live, the joyful delivery and the on-stage chaos are always uplifting and as always, the 75 minute show just didn’t seem long enough.

After BSS finished we rushed up to Centre Stage to try and watch Mission of Burma deliver their ’80’s punk classics, but frankly, after about 15 minutes of the P.A. Cutting in and out and the songs sounding pretty much identical, we decamped for some food. I went back to the chalet to sleep and The Ledge went to watch Wooden Shjips – who he said generated a giant mosh pit and were very good, ending the set with a brilliant cover of Snapper’s ‘Buddy’, the first, but surely not the last, Flying Nun classic of the weekend.

Posted by JustHipper on 15th May 2010 at 1:33 pm | comments (10)
File under Festival Reviews, all tomorrows parties, broken social scene.

Bloggerpalooza Rocks the Manchester Blog Awards 2009

That’s right folks, Bloggerpalooza is back, this time to make sure that the good folks attending the Manchester Blog Awards ceremony at Band on the Wall on 21st October will have some good tunes in between readings and awards. That is to say, a few local DJ’s, as organised by the Cahoona boys, have brought a motley crüe (ha ha, see what I did there?) of local MP3 bloggers together to play some songs for you.

You’ll be treated to the (not so) smooth DJ stylings of:

We might even treat you to an airing of “Girls Girls Girls.” We also might not.

If you can’t make it down on the night, we’re told the whole thing will be webcast so you can give us a listen anyway. More details when we have them.

Posted by JustHipper on 19th October 2009 at 9:58 pm | comments (20)
File under News, bloggerpalooza.

Trespassers William @ Sacred Trinity Church, Salford, 07-10-09

I’ve been wanting to see Trespassers William live for three years now, at least – since The Ledge first downloaded “Lie in the Sound” from their stunning Different Stars album. This gig at Sacred Trinity was the first opportunity and what a great venue for it too! With the high celings, ornate decor and stunning acoustics, the atmosphere would certainly be the perfect way to experience their soft, mournful, shoegazer folk.

First on was Operations – basically Kip from Napoleon Dynamite with a guitar and an effects pedal. He played a chord and then used his effects pedal to string it out forever, changing volume and adding weird, well, effects. They weren’t songs. They were chords and a guy monkeying around. The Ledge commented that it was the sort of thing he used to do in his bedroom when he got his first guitar to see what sounds the effects pedal would make. To call it boring doesn’t do it justice. The “songs” were so monotonous and uninteresting that they could make the dead rise from the grave to find somewhere else to entomb themselves.

Glissando came next and were far more agreeable, playing incredibly slow folky tunes which I enjoyed at first, but lost my interest after while. I’d probably have enjoyed them more if I weren’t anticipating the main act.

Trespassers William were everything I hoped they’d be – quiet, pensive, beautiful – and they left far too soon. With a 30 minute set which consisted of around 7 songs, they managed to sneak in my two favourites – “Different Stars” and “Lie in the Sound” as well as a breathtaking cover of “Videotape” by Radiohead with Glissando providing additional instrumentation and backing vocals and a couple of new songs which were lovely, but failed to surprise (not that this was a bad thing). Singer, Anna-Lynne explained that the band was soldiering on despite both her and guitarist Matt being rather unwell, which may explain the short set.

Overall, although I wish they’d played longer, I can’t complain too much as the gig was exactly what we wanted when we bought the tickets. Trespassers William came to Manchester and played their lovely music for us in a church.

Trespassers William – Different Stars

Video: Trespassers William, “Lie in the Sound” at Sacred Trinity Church, Salford

Video: Trespassers William, “Videotape” at Sacred Trinity Church, Salford

Posted by JustHipper on 11th October 2009 at 3:48 pm | comments (70)
File under Gig Reviews, female singers, sacred trinity church, video.

2009 Festival Roundup: ATP vs. T in the Park vs. End of the Road

Look ma, it’s a post!

We’ve been pretty quiet this year, in part because we’ve just been very busy, but also because we haven’t really been all that inspired by anything – since Pains of Being Pure at Heart, that is. We have, however, just been to 3 of the most disparate festivals we possibly could have attended, all of which were good and bad for incredibly different reasons, and I thought it might be nice to provide some vague assessment of the pros and cons of the lot.

The Frogs at ATP 2009The Breeders-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties was our fourth visit to that festival so we knew what to expect – that is to say, wonderful indie-snobbery, comfortable tiny chalets, overpriced alcohol and bar staff who apologise for the red wine not being chilled, and lots of interesting-sounding bands we’ve never heard of on at unsociable hours of the morning. This year the lineup was particularly tasty – The Breeders, Throwing Muses, Teenage Fanclub, Bon Iver, Kimya Dawson, Deerhunter, Times New Viking, Shellac…all of whom failed to disappoint. Less exciting were Wire and Gang of Four (The Ledge disagrees about Gang of Four) – two bands we love but who I found uninspiring live. We’ve always enjoyed more of the obscure bands at ATP than we’ve disliked and this year was no different with brilliant sets coming from Whispertown 2000, The Frogs, Dianogah and Melt Banana.

The best thing about ATP and the thing which will keep us going back in future is, in fact, these gems of discovery as well as the ability to check out bands we’ve heard about, maybe know one song but whose albums we’d probably never buy – Melt Banana being a perfect example – and getting to experience their unusual and entertaining live sets. It also helps that it’s possible to get a decent night’s sleep without worrying about someone torching your tent….

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at T in the ParkIn July we went to T in the Park for what was my fourth year and The Ledge’s second. Sadly, it didn’t remotely live up to previous years due to a poor lineup and a rather threatening atmosphere in the campsite. I’ve been shouting about how great T is for a while now, mainly because of the variety and number of bands on and the friendliness of the people we’ve encountered while there. Sadly, this year both were lacking. Although Nick Cave put on an amazing show and we really enjoyed The Twilight Sad, Elbow, Foals, James, Pet Shop Boys and Squeeze in particular (and, I’m embarrassed to admit, I found myself dancing to Blur as well…), it felt a bit like a nostalgia-fest. Gone was the wonderful Pet Sounds stage and all its indie variety and nothing replaced it – unless you count the tiny Futures stage which had very little to offer beyond Broken Records (clashed with something), Danananananaacroyd (or something like that), and The Twilight Sad. Back at the campsite for the first year I felt unsafe. We had our tent knocked down, we were kept up by people – who didn’t even have camping tickets – walking around shouting about what they could steal from empty tents and someone tried to steal a light from our tent – while we were inside the tent using it! It wasn’t nice and I doubt any of us will be going back again.

T Model Ford at EOTR 2009Finally, we found ourselves drawn to the End of the Road lineup (and the low cost) and we weren’t disappointed. Although I could have done without the extortionate prices on site (and what’s wrong with just selling chips or jacket potatoes? I don’t need an authentic Goan fish curry that costs £8 while I’m running between stages) and I can do without  parents who think bringing 6 year old kids to the barrier for the headline act is a good idea and that the people behind them should just know not to push, overall it was a friendly, well-organised, incredibly clean festival which produced a fair few amazingly intimate performances on secret stages and in smelly tipis. The Hold Steady were good as ever, Neko Case was note-perfect, and has a clear career path into comedy should she ever decide to go that way, Fleet Foxes handled the heckling well, The Leisure Society completely charmed me and I didn’t realise how much I’d missed Hefner til we saw Darren Hayman.  Plus, we got to be extras in a scene for a film about a fake band called Swipe.

Maybe it’s a sign of age (or extreme indie snobbery) that I’m growing increasingly frustrated with and bored by the big festivals in favour of the comfort, civility and ecclecticism of the smaller boutique festivals, but this year the little guys really outdid themselves both line-up wise and in sheer enjoyment.

Video: The Leisure Society covering “Cars” at End of the Road Festival

Video: Scene from Tamara Drewe of Swipe splitting up on stage, filmed from the crowd at End of the Road Festival as the scene was being shot

Posted by JustHipper on 26th September 2009 at 4:37 pm | comments (5)
File under End of the Road, Festival Reviews, atp, mp3, t in the park.

Gig Review: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart @ Chorlton Irish Club, 22nd May 2009

We weren’t in the best of moods when we arrived at Chorlton Irish Club last night thanks to a wrong postcode on Ticketline and vague directions from a local which meant that we spent about half an hour driving through the unfamiliar streets of the South Manchester suburb trying to find the place. It also didn’t help that, from the front, the Irish Club looks small and unassuming. Go round the back, however, and the place is huge with a large car park overlooked by usual hordes of smokers and a long line of punters queuing to get in.

After a long wait at a crowded and understaffed bar (which left me pondering why the hell no one in this country even attempts to achieve the incredible speed and standard of service available in just about every bar in Dublin) we settled down, still slightly disgruntled, to watch Dutch Uncles who, under the circumstances, were like a breath of fresh air, their precision math-rock guitar parts tempered by some wonderfully efficient pop tunes and slightly odd dance moves from the lead singer.

San Francisco’s Love Like Fire were up next and, though they had some nice pop tunes under all that fuzzy guitar, they were slightly disappointing. There’s so much of this type of shoegazey dreampop out there at the moment and Love Like Fire didn’t have anything to set them apart from the crowd.

We first saw The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart supporting The Wedding Present at the Academy 2 late last year and were impressed enough to buy a copy of their excellent debut album there and then. They’ve gained a guitarist since then to thicken their sound (it worked a treat) and to make them appear less geeky (did not work so well) and it was a given that their brand of C86-era fuzzy indie pop would go down well in Manchester but, on the 50th birthday of the man whose band kick-started that era, no one could have predicted what happened next.

The opening song saw one punter barge his way to the front and start dancing like a lunatic while those of us around him stood just far enough out of reach of his flailing limbs. The band sounded immaculate and when “This Love Is Fucking Right” followed the place just went nuts and it seemed like everyone else in the packed venue had followed that one guy’s lead. The next forty minutes or so were a total frenzy of sweat, beer, crowdsurfing and small girls, Justhipper included, spilling over the monitors at the front of the stage as the crowd surged in all directions. It helped that the band front-loaded their set with the choicest, poppiest cuts from their album with the brilliant single “Young Adult Friction” following on from “Fucking Right” and then being followed by “Come Saturday”. The band were genuinely taken aback by the reaction of the crowd, that they weren’t just wrecking havoc for the sake of it: they knew the songs and were singing along.  Singer Kip frequently commented that this was the “best night ever”, and it would be hard for anyone there to disagree with them. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a moshpit of that ferocity and I’d forgotten how much fun it could be as the shoe of a crowdsurfer came down on the back of my head and another pint of beer drenched the back of my t-shirt. I’d mostly forgotten the great sense of communal joy that can rise up from these events.

Something happened in Chorlton last night; something special. Band and audience came together to produce something much greater than the sum of its parts, to create a rare event that came out of the blue and that no one who witnessed will forget for a very long time.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – This Love Is Fucking Right!

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Everything With You

Posted by The Ledge on 23rd May 2009 at 8:24 pm | comments (5)
File under Gig Reviews, Reviews, manchester gigs, mp3.

Gig Review: The Veils @ The Ruby Lounge, Manchester, 21/04/09

Prior to last Saturday, The Ledge hadn’t listened to The Veils at all, but something prompted him to put on Nux Vomica - which I’d told him he would like when I first played it – and he liked it enough to refer to them as his “new favourite band” when I got home on Monday after a weekend away.

As luck would have it, his sudden obsession with The Veils neatly corresponded to a visit by them to Manchester and he wanted to go see them play, despite the fact I had spent the 90 minutes prior to leaving for the gig in a kickboxing class (getting into the house with barely enough time to have a (very) quick wash and to change clothes). Obviously, I went with him, as Finn Andrews has an amazing voice and I can hardly refuse to watch a band clearly influenced by Nick Cave and whose second album (we’ve not heard the new one, Sun Gangs, yet) has moments that also sound like The Drones, another Antipodean band that fascinates me.

We missed both opening bands, had time for a brief chat with a co-worker of The Ledge’s, and then the band were on – to a tiny crowd. I am actually surprised at how few people turned out between the great reviews I’ve read, their cult potential and the obvious Nick Cave influence. It’s a shame really because they deserve to be playing to larger crowds – although the mournful, dark ballads suit a venue like The Ruby Lounge.

Although The Veils are a band, the show was all about Finn Andrews, and this is the band’s second incarnation – as he sacked the musicians who played with him on the first album. Owing to this, calls for “Lavinia”  and “The Leavers Dance,” off The Runaway Found, were refused. He not only swapped guitars between practically every song, he also treated us to some quieter moments on the piano. His soaring voice was done no favours by the sound system in the venue, but as we were close enough to see the sweat on his brow, I can’t doubt the sincerity and earnestness of the performance. What I was surprised about was him chatting between songs – I pictured a dark, introverted, difficult performer, yet he smiled, he kept thanking us and he looked like he was having fun. It is also surprising to find a singer so slight with such a powerful voice.

I’m not going to pretend I recognised even half the songs – even though I should as we’ve got the first 2 albums – but “Advice for Young Mothers to Be” stood out, as did “Not Yet,” introduced as a song about moving out of your parent’s house – surprisingly as I thought it was about coming out.  “Jesus for the Jugular” was as manic and intense as on the album, prompting a lot of guitar chicanery and rock star posing, and “Under the Folding Branches” was touching and beautiful.

The new tracks were not entirely distinguishable from older material, but as we’re still getting to know the older albums here, this was neither unwelcome or disappointing. I quite liked the final song of the night, “Scarecrow,” before which Andrews implored the crowd to be quiet for three minutes through the quiet number. I hadn’t noticed talking behind me – other than a very enthusiastic (and very tall) man to my left trying to tell his friends what he liked best about the band – but perhaps the band had.

I would very much like to get to know Nux Vomica better and to hear Sun Gangs and then see The Veils live again, because I think it would very much enhance the experience because on the evidence I think there’s quite a lot about these songs worth getting to know.

The Veils – Advice for Young Mothers To Be
The Veils – Lavinia

Posted by JustHipper on 23rd April 2009 at 7:00 pm | comments (7)
File under Gig Reviews.