Archive for the 'Festival Reviews' Category

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 (90)
File under all tomorrows parties,atp,dodos,Festival Reviews,Flying Nun,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 (34)
File under all tomorrows parties,camera obscura,Festival Reviews,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 (110)
File under all tomorrows parties,broken social scene,Festival Reviews.

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 (9)
File under atp,End of the Road,Festival Reviews,mp3,t in the park.

Leeds Festival: Saturday 23rd August 2008

I know I said last year that I would probably never go back to Leeds Festival, but I tend to break these promises – I’ve been back to V as well since I swore I wouldn’t give them any more of my cash. This is not going to be so much a review, as an epic anti-touting rant, however, as I’d like to tell people about the adventure Bricking Chick and I had yesterday (although I do promise to mention the bands), especially having just read an article in The Guardian talking about how many people have been ripped off this summer by “ticket resellers.”

Bricking Chick had an amazing time watching Rage Against the Machine at T in the Park last month. I was with her at the time and I certainly did not expect them to be as mind-bogglingly brilliant as they were. I really can’t bear guitar show-offs playing long solos but we were both truly mesmerised by Tom Morello. So, she told me she wanted to try and get into Leeds for the day to see Rage again. I figured, if nothing else, it would be amusing to go along and see what happened. So we set off from Manchester about 11:30am with a 5 year old and an 8 year old strapped in the back – they can get in for free, they love festivals – they went to V last year for the weekend – and we figured having two kids along would possibly help our chances – only  a mean person would disappoint a child.

The Indie Credential vs. The Leeds Ticket Touts

The road between the M1 and Bramham Park was strangely empty – usually queues stretch miles back at that time of day, but despite this, the first tout we encountered on the road wanted £120/ticket. We laughed when he told us – our reaction annoyed him. We had no intention of paying over face value as there was, quite literally, nothing else on the bill we were interested in seeing (I’d have happily watched Henry Rollins but I knew we’d never get there in time.) The tout told us that the only chance of getting a face value ticket would be turning up at 9pm, if he still had any. We told him that would suit us, and drove off.

The second set of touts we encountered looked about 15 and they wanted £100/ticket. I suspect if anybody had fake tickets it was these kids because they were desperate to appear “connected” with the other touts up and down that road, to give themselves some legitimacy. We told them “no way” and drove off. We thought we might find some people with spares at the site itself, and you never know if the box office will have a few returns on the day – people whose cards have been refused or unusued promotional tickets or whatever. I’ve never managed to get one like that before, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend staking a weekend on the possibility, but I’ve spoken to people who’ve got lucky.

the third set of touts was back up to £120/ticket and did not seem impressed with us not even considering the price. Then we came across a van in a lay-by. There was a gnarled-looking old guy who looked as crooked as they come, and he had a rather drunk mate and two young women selling cameras and umbrellas out of the van. He was actually as nice as could be as he told us he’d just sold out of tickets but he might be able to get his hand on some wristbands – if his mate had managed to steal any from the office on the site he’d be happy to walk us in himself with the wristbands, charge us £25 each on the other side and then take the wristbands back out to reuse. We waited while he tried to get hold of his friend.

As he kept phoning the other mobile, which was engaged, he was very forthright about the fact that he sold the tickets he had at the high price of £120 because it was business. He was unapologetic and if somebody’s stupid enough to drive all the way there and pay that, then fair enough – as long as he’s getting tickets off people on the way in who couldn’t get rid of their spares. I’ve bought off guys outside gigs a few times over the years. Sometimes you pay too much and sometimes you get the tickets under face value. It evens out. It’s not like the big businesses online these days who make thousands by getting in between fans and tickets.

How do touts get all those tickets anyway?

What bothered us was how he actually seemed to get most of his tickets. For starters it seems that they have a cleaner’s uniform so they can get onto the festival site – he was bragging about doing this at T in the Park – go into the festival offices pretending to clean and then steal any tickets and wristbands they find lying around. They got hundreds at T, but had so far only managed to get a few at Leeds and Reading. If people wonder where tickets go this is your answer. Touts steal them straight out of the organisers’ offices – somebody must be aware of this and they need to take more care. They’re letting thieves escalate the touting problem. He also was bragging about getting 8 Weekend tickets off a coach driver in 2007. The coach driver had been finding dropped tickets after depositing busloads of eager fans. He sold all 8 to our new friend for £100 total. So 8 kids didn’t get in last year because a greedy coach driver didn’t hand the tickets into lost and found – he sold them to a tout – who then resold them at £200+ a ticket.

This tout though took a liking to us. Bricking Chick gave him a cigarette, he felt sorry for the kids so he did try and get some wristbands, unfortunately the friend in question was actually at Creamfields so he said he couldn’t help us. He did recommend we try our luck in the car parks where we might find somebody with a spare, and he also said that occasionally they have returns. We might get lucky. So we did try the car parks, and, as you can see, we did get lucky – we managed to acquire a pair of tickets at face value and got inside.

The sad result of secondary ticket agency ticket scams

Sadly, as the aforementioned article in The Guardian says, many people did not get inside, despite having paid for tickets – two or three times above face value. The sad thing is that the stories are so familiar – buy tickets from a company that’s not an authorised seller, tickets are way too expensive, don’t arrive and then you’re told to meet some dodgy guy in a car park. People should do their research. But, frankly, these secondary resellers should be illegal. It should simply be illegal to sell tickets above face value because at least then it could be enforced on the internet. The government should require official sellers like Ticketmaster and Ticketline to take returns – you can return consumer goods for up to 28 days if they’re unused, so why can’t you return event tickets if it’s before the date of the event? They should encourage box offices at venues to take returns – then people could purchase the returned tickets directly. It wouldn’t stop touting outside venues but before the internet those touts were never that bad – and often they do provide a service of sorts. They also weren’t quite so desperate because they had less competition.

In many instances these agencies are preying on people who aren’t seasoned gig-goers and don’t know the difference between legitimate ticket firms like Ticketmaster and See Tickets and these dodgy, fly-by-night resellers. They do look legitimate, they’re easy to find online and they can even fool those who should know better. Just a week ago a co-worker who is a regular gig-goer was shocked at the £70 price of Nick Cave tickets until I told him to try Gigs and Tours cause what he’d found was a reseller. Sadly the government seems uninterested in these scams that take huge amounts of money off innocent victims so yet again the unknowing missed out on a festival they would have loved while myself, the cynic, got inside – simply because I know what I’m doing after years of experience.

The Indie Credential at Leeds Festival 2008 – Rage Against The Machine really do rock!

So, was Leeds 2008 worth the drama? Well, these sorts of days out with Bricking Chick are always worth the drama. Watching two small kids mosh to RATM was well-worth the drama. On the whole though, even though the crowd was miles better than last year and seemed more a traditional Leeds rock crowd, the lineup really let the festival down.

There probably were some new bands I’d have enjoyed but I wasn’t in an exploring  mood, rather preferring instead to sit with a pint in the warmth with my friend and watch the youngsters collect cups and attract stares – it seems that, on the whole, people think it’s pretty cool seeing kids that young on the site – and wish their parents had been willing to drag them to festivals in their formative years. In any case, I thought Florence and the Machine were intriguing – a little bit PJ Harvey, a little bit Evancescence and not at all how I expected. Bricking Chick though they sounded like Kate Nash and was horrified.

Ida Maria was unbelieveably catchy and there was lots of dancing even though we couldn’t see much. I think she beat up her band at the end – I’m going on hearsay for that. I did enjoy the set.

Strangely, I also quite liked Biffy Clyro – although I wish they’d put their shirts on. They had on matching peacock-blue skinny jeans and a lot of energy and their odd brand of emo rock is pretty melodic and not unappealing when accompanied by warm sun and cold beer.

Less appealing were Vampire Weekend – boring, One Night Only – vile and MGMT. At least MGMT have 3 really good songs to erase the rest of the set which is incredibly unexciting. The Wombats were actually a bit better than expected. They sounded like The Futureheads and the songs which aren’t that irritating Bridget Jones one and the hideous novelty “Lets Dance to Joy Division” were actually not appalling – and they were pretty lively on stage. We abandoned their set about 4 songs in though to go get a good spot for the real reason we were there – Rage Against the Machine.

Now, I never really cared much for RATM back in the day. I saw them at Lollapalooza in 1993 in Rhode Island and was so uninterested I couldn’t tell you anything about it – except I know I was there and they were there. I don’t really know any of the songs that well and I don’t own a single RATM album – but they really were stunning at T in the Park. At Leeds however, they were 30 minutes late and a lot more subdued in comparison. Whereas they’d come on stage dressed as Guantanamo prisoners the night before in Reading and had made a very political speech at T, we got no between-song chatter except Zack de la Rocha telling the people down front to move back so nobody got crushed. The crowd were pretty good, singing along most of the way through, even as far back as we were, but the sound was terrible. The wind was blowing the sound down the hill and it was far too quiet for a rock band – for a band like Rage I expect the sound to make my ears bleed.

Now when I say Rage Against the Machine were more subdued than at T in the Park, reader you need to understand that subdued for RATM is still about 100x more energetic than anything else we’ve seen in the last month. They were still bursting with energy and, erm, rage, as they bounced all over the stage, shouting and exhorting the crowd. We jumped about, we taught kids to headbang and, where we knew the words, we sang along (I do at least recognise “Renegades of Funk” and one or two others). With the stunning finish of “Killing in the Name Of” we then departed for the hour-long trek through the typically poorly-laid-out Leeds site and back home.

Bricking Chick is back to Leeds today for The Killers and should be reporting back to us here. The Ledge and I are instead off to see one of our favourte bands of all time, R.E.M. at the Lancashire Cricket Ground and I for one am suitably warmed up for that experience after yesterday and my discovery that I do like crazy long guitar solos and rock-rap music – only 15 years late.

Posted by JustHipper on 24th August 2008 at 11:28 am | comments (8)
File under Festival Reviews,rage against the machine,Rant,Tickets,touting.

Gig Review: A Day At The Races Festival, Moho Live & The Night & Day Café, Manchester, 2nd August 2008

Things didn’t start too well for the inaugural A Day At The Races festival the Saturday before last. After the band that prompted us to buy the tickets in the first place, Frightened Rabbit, pulled out a couple of weeks before in order to play The Big Chill, Elf Power became the band we were really looking forward to seeing. On arriving at Moho Live just after 4pm we found out that they too had pulled out. At least we get to see Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, I thought (the two bands clashed on the schedules), but no, they too had disappeared from the line-up. Schedules were re-arranged and Calvin Johnson’s festival opening set was put back an hour to 5:30pm, giving us an hour’s wait in the bar.

Calvin Johnson @ A Day At The RacesCalvin Johnson, formerly of Beat Happening, played solo acoustic and unamplified to a decent sized crowd of early birds, not taking the stage but playing on the floor of the venue in front of the stage as the crowd formed an intimate semi-circle around him. He was clearly unphased by this set up and regaled us with the occasional amusing anecdote and found time for a few songs, none of which I recognised – I only own one Beat Happening album – but all of which were pretty good and in a folksy singer-songwritery vein, with his rather wonderful deep croon often overpowering his scratchy guitar work.

David Thomas Broughton @ A Day At The RacesThe non-appearance of SKWBN gave us the chance to see David Thomas Broughton for the first time after he had been drafted in as a replacement, presumably at short notice. So, we headed off to the Night & Day only to find that they weren’t letting people in, even though it was 6pm and Broughton was on at 6:30, and there were a few people already inside. About 40 people waited for half an hour to get in, during which time there was a brief, but heavy, downpour. Once inside, the unassuming Broughton treated us to a highly entertaining half hour of oddball folkiness, building up improvised atonal loops and offering pleasingly nasal old school English folk vocals, when he wasn’t banging his head against the microphone or wandering into the crowd and scaring the locals.

It was at this point that JustHipper, who had been feeling pretty ill for the previous few days, decided to throw in the towel and make her way home to a warm sofa and last week’s “Gossip Girl”. This strangely coincided with the point at which I really started to enjoy the evening. Long-time John Peel favourites Bearsuit were great fun in their superhero costumes, their vibrant Welsh indiepop coming in somewhere between Gorkys Zygotic Mynci and Los Campesinos, but certainly much better than the latter who where so disappointing at T In The Park recently that I had absolutely no intention of catching their set at this event.

Jeffrey Lewis @ A Day At The RacesNext, Ólafur Arnalds‘ blend of chamber music and electronica was frankly a little boring so I set off early back at Moho Live to see Jeffrey Lewis, who put in perhaps the outstanding set of the day. It was the first time that I’d seen him but I kind of knew what to expect – repetitive hooks, dense, funny lyrics – and he certainly delivered the goods. New song “I Preferred Herman Dune With Two Brothers In The Band” set the standard – and sounded not unlike something Herman Dune themselves would write – while “Back When I Was 4” and his cover of Crass’ “Big A, Little A” were also great, though not as good as the excellent “Creepiing Brain” which had Lewis flicking through a huge comic book as the song went along, unravelling the story in graphic as well as musical form.

Múm @ A Day At The RacesI arrived back at the now sweltering Night & Day in time to catch Adem put in a stellar cover of Low’s “Laser Beam” and, though I’d never had any intention of catching any of his set, found myself a little disappointed that he’d clashed with Jeffrey Lewis.

Then it was off for a quick kebab before returning to see Icelandic popsters Múm end the day’s proceeding with a wonderfully feelgood set of summery electronica. If I say they fell somewhere between Sigur Rós and Stereolab then JustHipper won’t feel the slightest tinge of regret on missing most of the day, though I have a sneaking feeling that she’d have really liked them. Anyway, though things didn’t look too promising at the outset, A Day At The Races turned out to be a thoroughly good outing.

Video: Bearsuit – Foxy Boxer, from their set at the Night & Day

Posted by The Ledge on 12th August 2008 at 11:01 pm | comments (5)
File under Festival Reviews,Gig Reviews,john peel bands,night & day,Reviews,video,youtube.

Gig Review: ATP curated by Explosions In The Sky, Butlins Minehead, 16th-18th May 2008

Ok, let’s get this over with. We’ve kind of lost our blogging mojo for the minute but ATP deserves at least some sort of write up.

This was our third year running at ATP and yet again it was a cracking weekend. Any negative comments you may have read further down the page were really minor quibbles and did not affect our enjoyment of proceedings one jot, mainly because we got to see Battles on the Sunday night after an act of generosity that came completely out of the blue. More of later, if I remember.

Dinosaur Jr, Centre Stage, ATPWe arrived. It was raining. We got the chalet next door to the one we got last year. We headed for Centre Stage to catch the festival’s opening band, The Constantines, and their solid, blue collar indie rock went down very well. The singer gave himself a haircut during the gig. Not sure why. Japanese post-rockers Mono were up next on the same stage were loud and completely unspectacular, but not a bad warm up for Dinosaur Jr, playing the first of their two Centre Stage sets. We thought we had a good spot at the front until they wheeled on J Mascis’ four Marshall stacks that were to form a cocoon around the aging slacker legend. I moved to get a better view while JustHipper made do with catching glimpses of the great man when he approached the mic to sing. It was a great set dominated, not surprisingly, by Mascis’ searing guitar work. There was a good range of material on offer from set highlight “Forget The Swan” through to MTV breakthrough “Feel The Pain”, but there was slight disappointment at the end when the encore suggested on Mascis’ huge setlist (at least 3 pages of A4 with really big lettering – Mascis must be almost blind as well as almost deaf) didn’t materialise.

Phosphorescent, Reds Stage, ATPThen it was off to the Skyline Pavilion where curators Explosions In The Sky made their one and only appearance, their great conceit for the weekend being a complete lack of activity on the other two stages while they were on. Now I, unlike JustHipper, like a bit of post-rock now and then but I’m not massively familiar with the Explosions’ back catalogue and found myself unable to really get into it and giving up after about half an hour. It would have been nice to have something else to go and see but instead it was Burger King and beer and the DJs in the Crazy Horse. Before long we were in the Reds bar watching The Octopus Project from afar as JustHipper complained that she was “all post-rocked out”. So was I, but they sounded a bit more interesting and varied than the curators. I’d heard enough of Phosphorescent to know that I desperately wanted to catch their set and, although I was practically dead on my feet at this stage and my companion made it through just one song before hauling herself off to bed, I stuck it out and was rewarded with a quite brilliant set of atmospheric folksy blues with plenty of excellent vocal looping from Matthew Houck (turns out it’s just one guy). I made a mental note to rush out and buy his latest album. Three weeks later and I still haven’t; but I will.

Okkervil River, Skyline Pavillion, ATPSaturday morning began with the discovery of The Yacht Club’s buffet breakfast: £5.99 and you won’t have to eat again until teatime, though I think it lasted me through to 10pm on both Saturday and Sunday. After a game of pool I stayed in the Sports Bar to keep up my record of having watched every FA Cup final since 1976 while JustHipper enjoyed A Hawk And A Hacksaw on the Pavilion stage. Portsmouth’s victory was followed by what was probably the set of the weekend, for me, by Okkervil River whose ramshackle intensity translated brilliantly to the big stage. They seemed so much tighter and more focused than the couple of times I’ve seen them in club venues and they sounded positively epic, easily filling the huge space and no doubt gaining a number of new followers in the process. The electrifying “Black” and the gorgeous “A Girl In Port” were the undoubted highlights with Will Sheff in terrifically manic form, though the addition to the line-up of The Wrens’ Charles Bissell, albeit temporary, is a masterstroke, his taut, masterly guitar work perhaps the catalyst for their improved performance.

Next we had the first real clash of the weekend with And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead playing the Centre Stage while Iron And Wine played the Skyline Pavilion. Having seen Iron And Wine in Manchester a couple of days before we opted for Trail Of Dead, usually an uncompromising live proposition though they have certainly lost their way with their last two albums. A couple of the oldies sounded great but the rest failed to hold our interest so we returned to the Pavillion to catch the last 20 minutes or so of Iron And Wine which seemed to consist of just one song: the 3 hour version of “The Shepherd’s Dog” that had got many peoples backs up, including ours, at the Manchester gig. Iron And Wine in extended folk jam mode is not much fun at all.

The National, Skyline Pavillion, ATPA Boxer-centric set from The National rounded off proceedings on the Pavilion Stage. It was captivating stuff and it was great to see them playing to such a large and enthusiastic crowd. The normally reserved Matt Berninger even ventured to the barrier for some Bono-style audience-milking. The Boxer songs sound so much better live, retaining the dark atmospherics of the record but when they break loose, like in the closing stages of “Start A War”, they take you places that the album doesn’t quite manage.

I can’t say I remember too much about Western Keys on the Reds Stage later that night, except that I quite enjoyed them. Poised somewhere between indie rock and Americana, they had pedal steel duelling with Charles Bissell’s taut, angular guitar work. I hope that Bissell guy was on double time. It was midnight and we were, again, dead on our feet. Battles would have to wait for tomorrow night.

Jens Lekman, Skyline Pavillion, ATPSunday started with the breath of fresh air that is Jens Lekman. For me at least: JustHipper’s dislike of the Swedish pop maestro is legendary and she sensibly stayed well clear. With the bright sunshine filtering through the canopy of the Pavilion Stage and plenty of festival goers weary from the exploits of the past two days, it was the perfect conditions for Jens and his female-heavy backing band to spread some joy and blow away some of the cobwebs. The joyous “The Opposite Of Hallelujah”, with its excellent segue into “Give Me Just A Little More Time”, and the lengthy, ever-expanding story-song of “A Postcard To Nina” were memorable moments and Jens will have undoubtedly won over a few more fans. Not JustHipper, though, who I met up with to watch Polvo on the Centre Stage. We’d not really heard any Polvo before – they’d just reformed after about 10 years – and though they played perfectly serviceable ’90s indie rock, we decided to make our way back to the Pavilion Stage half way through to watch the last half hour of Beach House, whose laid-back dreamy pop was much more accommodating.

De La Soul, Skyline Pavillion, ATPI stuck around for Silver Jews while JustHipper made her way back to the Centre Stage to get some Atlas Sounds that almost sent her to sleep. The Joos were wonderful with David Berman on fine form, freed from guitar duties and able to prowl the stage at his leisure. Cuts from the new “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea” nestled comfortably alongside older classics such as “Trains Across The Sea” and “Smith And Jones Forever”. Berman entertained the crowd by reading out conflicting articles from an Irish farming newspaper. Seriously. Next it was back to the Centre Stage to see if seeing Animal Collective live would induce some sort of epiphany and I would suddenly realise what all the fuss is about. Nope, it’s never going to happen. Animal Collective bore me to tears. Back at the Pavilion Stage De La Soul were entertaining a sizeable crowd and were great fun until we started to realise that they were overrunning and that Broken Social Scene’s set would probably be curtailed as a result. In the end they incurred our wrath by being 30 minutes late getting off the stage, although I found out later that they were 30 minutes late coming on, so not entirely their fault. Broken Social Scene, Skyline Pavillion, ATPBroken Social Scene were certainly worth the wait, cranking out superb versions of “7/4 Shoreline” and “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement” early on and then getting an (inevitable) cameo from J Mascis, along with members of Explosions and The National, among others, for a tremendous “Backed Out On The…”. There was a strange hushed singalong for “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl” with the ever-enthusiastic Amy Millan leading proceedings while the closing “Major Label Debut” was a great way to finish things off. They may have only played for just over an hour but it was a wholely edifying set.

Battles, Centre Stage, ATPIt remained for us to grab a pizza and then join the queue for Battles on the Centre Stage. In a farcical move, people who had got to the Centre Stage early to be sure of getting to see the band, were cleared out of the venue after Lichens’ set finished and had no option but to join the back of a very long queue to get back in. Most of them probably didn’t. In another twist, people who got turned away from Battles’ performance the previous night were given blue wristbands and allowed to the front of this queue. Fair enough, but where were our wristbands? We didn’t try to get in last night but surely we should have had preference above anyone who did see the band’s first set. Then, just as we were bemoaning the whole shambles, a girl appeared out of nowhere and asked if we wanted a couple of blue wristbands that she had spare. Thus, we made our way to the front of the queue and into the venue, taking up a decent spot at the barrier. We would have probably got in anyway but that girl really made our weekend. Anyway, Battles were quite incredible and enjoyed perhaps the most enthusiastic crowd of the weekend, which wasn’t bad for the early hours of a Monday morning. How they do what they do, I don’t know. Their set was a mass of complex loops, samples, vocal trickery, live guitars and incredibly tight and energetic drums. It was a great end to another great ATP weekend, and I’m sure we’ll be back for more next year.

Dinosaur Jr – Forget The Swan

Phosphorescent – Cocaine Lights

Okkervil River – Black

The National – Start A War

Jens Lekman – The Opposite Of Hallelujah

Silver Jews – Suffering Jukebox

Leeds Festival – Ain’t What It Used To Be!

The Leeds Festival CrowdI’ve been an avid festival-goer since about 1992 when the local college radio station, WRAS, held a one-day event at Lakewood Amphitheatre in Atlanta. On the bill were The Soup Dragons, The Connells, +Live+, Material Issue and Arrested Development, among others. I was 18 years old and it was fantastic – a day of live music in the sun with loads of other teenagers and college students. The following summer, I attended my first Lollapalooza at an airfield in Rhode Island. We watched Rage Against the Machine, Fishbone, Alice in Chains and Primus. The Verve were also on the bill but we were queuing for the carpark at the time. It was 100,000 grunge kids getting off their faces, moshing and having fun.

Since I’ve been in the UK – 10 years next month – I’ve been to every major festival, excepting Download, and some of the smaller ones too, and I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. Each one has its own personality, its own quirks and its own unique vibe and fanbase. Glastonbury, my least favourite, truth be told, has the reputation of a hippie lovefest. In reality it’s loads of yuppies getting off their faces so badly they can’t tell how anti-social they are, but it’s unique and the music is amazing, even if most people aren’t really there for the bands. T in the Park is like the Scottish Glastonbury, it’s everything I expected from Glastonbury from the happy, outgoing, friendly crowds, to the range of bands across all the stages, to the laid-back attitude. V is like a festival-lite. It’s a festival for folk who don’t rough it, who listen to MOR stations like Virgin and it’s corporate and full of bands that 30-somethings play at dinner parties. Occasionally they outdo themselves, like when they booked the Pixies and NERD on the mainstage one year, but even though it’s incredibly corporate and the music is distinctly average, it’s also laid back and I have, usually, enjoyed it. Guilfest is the hippie family festival. The acts are folky, older and the crowd are middle-aged, but the year I went it was well organised and the bands were okay. Summer Sundae is more of a folky and world music place, with rock bands included. Sponsored by 6 Music, it has a wide range of acts, a family vibe and people are definitely there for the music. All Tomorrow’s Parties is indie heaven. By indie, of course, I mean old school indie where the bands are actually on indie labels, not merely guys with guitars who’ve been on the cover of the NME. It’s indie snobbery at it’s finest, where you talk to people about the obscure stuff on the bill that they love and you’ve never heard of, and you compare gig stories. Reading, and later Leeds, is, or used to be, somewhere in between ATP, Download and T. It was the rock, metal and indie festival for music lovers. Used to be.

In prior years when we went to Leeds Festival – and we’ve been all but about 2 years since it started – it was an ecclectic audience of young emo/skater kids in hoodies with chains attached to their baggy trousers, aging, grey-haired rockers and goths and old school indie types like The Ledge and myself. It was a proper rock festival and even if the three groups didn’t necessarily mix happily, we all had our stages and bands and could look on at the other lots, slightly bemused. Leeds was a festival that put acts like The Moldy Peaches, Whale, Pavement and Eels on the main stage. One year we watched Sparklehorse in a tent while the sounds of Ice T spilled over from next door. We’ve seen Guided By Voices, Stereolab, Richard Hawley, Arab Strap, The Shins, Adam Green, Clor, Evan Dando, Frank Black and the Catholics and others over the years. It was a festival where if it was metal day on the main stage, you could count on seeing unusual and ecclectic indie acts in the tents that you’d been meaning to check out for months, if not years. It was great. We would buy our tickets based on a couple of main stage acts and tent headliners and wait for the joys of the smaller stages to be announced. This year, in fact, we did the same, thrilled at the prospect of Interpol, The Arcade Fire, Smashing Pumpkins and The Shins. Apart from The Hold Steady being added a month later, as expected, that was as good as it got.

No mind, we thought, Leeds is always an interesting festival with a crowd deeply into their music, we’ll go, we’ll watch a few bands, we’ll have fun. And then the rest of the lineup came out. Gone were the vast range of indie bands, replaced by NME favourites. It was as if the bookers could not be arsed, picked up an issue of the NME and booked everything mentioned. Tents and main stage were no different, all the bands were either second rate emo acts or sounded like poor imitations of the very poor Arctic Monkeys and Babyshambles. Oh and Razorshite. Who the fuck booked Razorshite as a headliner? Does anyone really even like them or do they just tolerate them?

Ok, so the bands were a bit shite, but maybe the crowds really are into these acts and we’ve just morphed into the world’s biggest indie snobs and we just don’t get it anymore? Except the Leeds crowd was not the same Leeds crowd. Gone the hairy rockers. Gone the goths. Gone the emo kids with their bad behavior and their love of screamo and metal. In fact, the whole crowd looked like they’d been vomited up by Topshop aged 18-22. And these kids were not at this festival cause of the bands. These kids were at this festival cause Kate Moss says it’s cool. How could we tell? There were far more girls wearing wellies ala Moss at Glastonbury (in subtropical conditions, no less) than there were people wearing band T-shirts. We experienced about 2 crowd singalongs – during The Hold Steady and, oddly, the 1990s. These kids weren’t even drinking! Nope, the campsite was can-free, sans puking kids, sans early morning drunkenness. It was sterile and full of people who simply wanted to be seen – often in matching, specially printed T-shirts announcing “Sal’s Girls at Leeds 2007” or “Lads out and about from Newcastle to Leeds 2007” complete with names on the back. These kids didn’t care if they were in the Carling Tent, the LockUp Stage or the Main Stage – it all sounded the same anyway – all they wanted to do was stand around, look cool and throw their £3.30 pints into the people trying to enjoy the music.

I have never – not even at V – had such a bland and sterile festival experience. There was no, bite, no kick and no sense of real rebellion. This was “indie” as defined by the NME, packaged up by Topshop and sold at £145 a ticket to kids who don’t understand that it’s not rebellion if 80,000 other people are doing it exactly the same way.

Sadly, this lack of atmosphere affected the music as well. Whereas 3 years ago I stood unable to see at the main stage screaming along with the whole crowd to The Hives and Franz Ferdinand, this year, packed in at nearly the same place, the crowd all but talked through The Arcade Fire and Interpol. There was a hint of attitude during the Hold Steady but possibly because the crowd contained the freaks and outcasts who had come for the music and again, the few remaining indie fans danced during Battles, but the tent was only half-full. While we saw a few acts we’d genuinely wanted to see – Devendra Banhart pulling a fan out of the crowd to play a song he’d written was charming; The Hold Steady were as amazing as ever and Tad Kubler’s guitar spin was a seriously great rock moment; Peter, Bjorn & John were brilliant and I need to buy their newest album now; Brakes were as cheery and enjoyable as ever and The Shins had me jumping and singing like a drunken fool – I fear that this will be the last time we attempt a whole weekend at Leeds. There’s too many great boutique festivals now that do have the atmosphere and do challenge festival-goers to broaden their musical horizons.

It is a sad day to see Reading/Leeds sell its soul for a few bucks. Leeds Festival R.I.P. You were a great festival once.

Pavement – We Dance

Guided By Voices – Hot Freaks

Whale – Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe

Posted by JustHipper on 27th August 2007 at 4:38 pm | comments (134)
File under Festival Reviews,Gig-goer of the Week,Rant.

Festival Review: ATP 2007, The Dirty Three Weekend, Day 3: Sunday 29th April 2007

Sunday began with a short walk into Minehead for breakfast and to get the Sunday paper, though finding a copy of The Observer or The Guardian within a five mile radius of an ATP event would require getting up before the sun. On our way back we saw the impeccably dressed Nick Cave ahead of us, seemingly heading towards Splash Waterworld, and we fantasised briefly of seeing the great man thundering down the huge water slides with a big dumb grin on his face. Sadly, he turned right before he got there and disappeared into a row of relatively decadent looking chalets. “We know where you live,” we thought.

A Silver Mt Zion Orchestra @ ATP 2007 (soundcheck)I left JustHipper in the chalet (she had a bit of a cold coming on) to get down to see Papa M who was first on at Centre Stage. On my way there I stopped to watch A Silver Mt Zion Orchestra soundchecking on the main stage and they sounded wonderful, all nine or so of them huddled together in the centre of the vast stage, looking inwards on each other, communicating through nods and smiles as they played through a couple of their numbers to a small but very appreciative audience. I regretted that I wouldn’t be seeing their set later on as I was planning to spend most of the day at Centre Stage.

David Pajo drew a sizable crowd for his Papa M billed set that took in much more material recorded under his PAJO monicker than his actual Papa M stuff. It was just him, his guitar, some bells that he played with his feet and his arsenal of shiny black folk songs and he sounded superb, his rich hushed vocals and unerringly precise guitar picking rendering the songs almost identical to their recorded versions, which, in this case, wasn’t a bad thing.

Mary Margaret O'Hara @ ATP 2007The place cleared out quite a bit for Mary Margaret O’Hara. Seems like the kids (well, anyone under 35) have no idea who this legendary, reclusive, eccentric Canadian songstress is but for me this was the most eagerly awaited set of the weekend – I never expected to ever get the chance to see her live as the world has barely heard a peep from her since she released her classic, and only, album Miss America in the late Eighties. O’Hara came across like your favourite dotty aunt, flitting about the stage, chatting lightheartedly to imaginary friends in the audience, consulting with her band but not seeming to be remotely on the same wavelength as them, or as anyone else in the room. The first song passed without incident, except for the incident where the bass player failed to turn up. The second song was Al Wilson’s “The Snake” and it was sounding heavenly with O’Hara’s vocals seeming to have lost none of their exceptional quality in the last twenty or so years. Up until the second verse, that is, when she completely forgot the words and turned to her guitarist and drummer and imaginary bass player searching for some sort of cue to get her going again. Alas, it was not to be and the song ended abruptly with O’Hara urging us to seek out the Al Wilson version for further enlightenment. The next song she didn’t even get past the first line before her memory deserted her. She made up for it with a slightly hestitant “Body In Trouble”, where she seemed to be fighting to recall some parts but ultimately winning, and a stunning, and full, version of “Dear Darling”, my personal fave from Miss America and a song that was worth any amount of cock-ups and forgotten words. “Year In Song, or “Urine Song” as she introduced it having, probably on purpose, misheard a request from the crowd, fared less well, falling again at the second verse. An impromptu band conference was called. The bass player turned up. For the last song. I honestly thought the band were joking at the start when they were calling out for a bass player. The song was something to do with rainbows and incorporated large part of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and it was brilliant thanks to O’Hara’s incredible vocals. Then she was gone and we were left slightly bemused but quietly satisfied to have witnessed probably the most bizarre set of the weekend.

Joanna Newsom @ ATP 2007The place was jam packed again for Joanna Newsom and she and the Ys Street Band didn’t let anyone down with a set most of which was taken up with Ys material, including a heartstopping “Emily”. There were none of the problems of last year when the incessant chatter from the perimeters caused all sort of feedback problems, instead there was almost reverential silence from an enchanted audience. It was her first set of the afternoon; the second set was to be even better but inbetween her paramour Bill Callahan, or The Artist Formerly Known As Smog, played a set of almost equal brilliance, starting with “Sycamore”, the standout track from his Woke On A Whaleheart long player and running through most of that album as well as the hoary old classic “Cold Blooded Old Times” and the beautiful “Rock Bottom Riser” and “Say Valley Maker” from A River Ain’t Too Much To Love, the latter of which rose magnificantly at its conclusion and made us all forget those tight white jeans Bill was wearing. It all ended on a bit of a downer when the set was cut short with a song left to play leading to disgruntled murmurs from the audience and a silent, abrupt exit from Mr Callahan.

I slipped back out to check out a bit of Nick Cave playing his second set of the weekend at the Skyline Pavilion only to notice a huge queue for the Centre Stage snaking all the way from one end of the Pavilion to the Burger King at the other end. Nick was playing “Love Letter”, damn him, but I knew I’d better get back to the Centre Stage if I was going to catch Ms Newsom’s second offering of the day. Now, there are two entrances to the Centre Stage, one in the Pavilion which is where the queue was, and one just outside the Pavilion on the other side of the Reds entrance. That was the door I’d just come out of and I walked back past the queue, through the Pavilion doors and straight back into the venue. No queue at those doors so why the hell was everyone queueing?

Anyway, Newsom’s set was even better even though she repeated performances of “Bridges And Balloons”, “Emily” and “Sawdust And Diamonds”. She played “Colleen” and a much improved version of “Inflammatory Writ” which was softer than the jarring album version. The Ys Street Band provided a thoughful and restrained accompanyment and the deft arrangements always served to enhance Newsom’s incredible harp playing and vocals, the flurry of fingers punctuated by a squeaked “ha!” during “Colleen” giving me goosebumps. As the set was drawing to a close the unholy racket of Mum Smokes in the Reds bar below leaked into the refined air of Centre Stage but the band soldiered on. “That’s loud” offered Joanna before a mesmerising “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie”, which was anything but and which sent everyone away happy.

The Ducks Of Flamingo GroveI met back up with JustHipper at Reds where we caught the end of Mum Smokes, who weren’t that loud after all, they just had a really deep bass sound. She was enthusing about the Nick Cave/Grinderman performance, about how the great man had been taking requests from people throughout the day and how they’d played “Into Your Arms” which I was pretty gutted about. We watched a bit of The Small Knives‘ quiet acoustic pop before grabbing a pizza and heading back to the chalet, past the two ducks who seemed to be permanent residents of the long strip of grass along Flamingo Grove, certain in the knowledge that we’d be back next year.

Our Flickr photo set of ATP 2007

Here’s JustHipper’s video of Mary Margaret O’Hara doing “Body In Trouble”

PAJO – High Lonesome Moan

Mary Margaret O’Hara – Year In Song

Bill Callahan – Sycamore

Joanna Newsom & The Ys Street Band – Colleen

Posted by The Ledge on 11th May 2007 at 7:15 pm | comments (20)
File under Festival Reviews,mp3,Reviews.

Festival Review: ATP 2007, The Dirty Three Weekend, Day 2: Saturday 28th April 2007

Saturday started with more bluesy Aussie rock in the form of Joel Silbersher & The Spot Of Bother, The Spot Of Bother presumably being the two members of The Drones that Joel shared a stage with. Apparently Joel is some kind of post-punk legend in Oz and his set was refreshingly varied and a good way to start the day.

Magnolia Electric Co. @ ATP 2007Disappointingly Magnolia Electric Co. played pretty much the same set on the main stage that they had played on the Centre Stage the day before. The closed atmosphere of the Centre Stage certainly suited them more than the Pavilion where you sensed that the music didn’t quite have the reach to bring in a whole bunch of new admirers, although those already in the know lapped it up. Jason Molina was certainly in fine voice and “Leave The City” and “Memphis Moon” were sublime.

As we waited for Low to take the stage I was anxiously looking up the football results. Leeds were ahead, but so were Hull and it looked like it would go down to the last day of the season. Ipswich equalised and the rest is history. My phone flashed up “full time” just as the band were coming on (it wasn’t actually full time, it was a pitch invasion). Last year we were watching Destroyer at Camber Sands while Leeds were being destroyed by Watford in the play-off final. ATP is not a good festival for Leeds fans.

Low @ ATP 2007The first couple of Low songs ran past in a blur as I struggled to get my head round the fact the Scunthorpe are now in a higher division than us. Fortunately the band were playing a blinder with songs from the new Drums And Guns long player coming across bruised and beautiful thanks to the spellbinding vocals of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. During “Laser Beam” a young guy at the barrier a few feet from me started crying his eyes out and didn’t stop for the rest of the performance. Another Leeds fan, maybe. I don’t know how many people were watching as we were right at the front but there must have been perhaps two or three thousand at least and for a band whose music is so quiet and studied to hold such a large audience in their sway for an hour was a great achievement. The sustained roar of approval for “Pissing” had Sparhawk looking pleasantly bewildered.

Spiritualized Acoustic Mainline weren’t so successful and I spent most of their set feeling bored as Jason Pearce and co. ran through some of the more gospelly numbers from their back catalogue. The cavalry arrived with the final three songs in the form of “Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space”, “I Think I’m In Love” and “Lord, Can You Hear Me” all of which were ace and were worth sitting through the rest of the soporiphic set for.

Grinderman @ ATP 2007Nick Cave is a man on the top of his game and he set about proving it, first with a brilliant set of Bad Seeds numbers followed by the first ever live outing for Grinderman. The band were made up of his Grinderman companions Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos and they treated us to wired versions of “West Country Girl”, “The Weeping Song” and “Deanna” among others. Ellis was again a magnetic presence, playing with the same manic energy that had lit up his Dirty Three set the day before. “Red Right Hand” provided an unlikely crowd singalong while the version of “The Mercy Seat” was almost as good as the one they played at Bridgewater Hall over a year ago.

The Grinderman set was marred by a few technical difficulties that stopped the band from really getting a full head of steam until the end. Cave had to do the “white mice and baboons” intro from opening “Get In On” twice after Warren Ellis’ distortion pedal from hell failed to kick in first time. It was a great performance nonetheless and they were joined by Bobby Gillespie on percussion as they treated us to the entire Grinderman album. There was also the added bonus of the rare sight of Nick Cave playing guitar; nothing fancy, mind, just guttoral chords and the odd one finger melody. He had to get Warren Ellis to tune the thing for him on one occasion and he looked like a kid having his mum tie his shoelaces for him on the first day of school. Amid all the raw testosterone-fuelled rock moves the quiet songs, “Man In The Moon” and “Go Tell The Women” stood up admirably thanks to Nick’s way with a croon and the closing roar of “Love Bomb” brought proceeding son the main stage to a more than satisfactory close for the day.

The Drones @ ATP 2007There was still plenty watch on the other stages for the rest of the evening and having spent almost six hours in the same spot at the main stage it was a relief to finally get back to Centre Stage where we could sit down and watch The Drones, who were in electrifying form. I’ve had trouble getting into their albums but they make much more sense live and they played their bluesy Aussie rock (there seemed to be plenty of bluesy Aussie rock about this weekend) with fire in their bellies. Before the end, but not before a towering version of “Shark Fin Blues”, I decided to slip off to catch some of We Ragazzi in Reds but was slightly disappointed by their energetic mix of scratchy blues guitar and cheesy farfisa organ which should have been great but was merely ok and grew wearying after a while.

Back at Centre Stage I was again battling falling eyelids as I attempted to stay awake long enough to see Einstürzende Neubauten. Nina Nastasia didn’t help the cause, her folksy meanderings barely registering with us despite the assistance of Jim White on drums. When they finally came on it was worth the wait. I’d never heard much of their stuff before and expected them to be a lot more industrial and much less melodic than they actually were. Frontman, and ex-Bad Seed, Blixa Bargeld was on fine form, his deep German baritone bringing back memories of seeing him play “The Weeping Song” with his old band. The most startling aspects of the performance were the myriad forms of percussion employed. Hundreds of steel rods were emptied from a metal box over the percussionists equipment; a rhythm was beaten out on four huge wooden pipes which seemed to be singing out their cadence. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the end but saw enough to regret not having made the effort to listen to them previously.

Low – Pissing

Grinderman – Go Tell The Women

The Drones – Shark Fin Blues

Posted by The Ledge on 9th May 2007 at 10:48 pm | comments (5)
File under Festival Reviews,mp3,Reviews.