Archive for August, 2006

Gig Review: Summer Sundae Weekender, Day Three, 13th August 2006

Redcarsgofaster at Summer Sundae 2006The torrential downpour of Saturday night/Sunday morning relented in time for us to pack up the tent, put everything in the car and make our way back to the festival site. It was still quite early and the rain was on and off so upstairs in De Montfort Hall we found a small corner where a screen had been set up and Ice Age was playing, presumably for the benefit of the many young children attending the festival, though the only people watching were adults, the kids probably hungover after a wild night of freedom having been abandoned by their parents in favour of The Proclaimers and The Blockheads the previous evening.

Local bands were opening the hall and the Main Stage on the Sunday, the first of these were Firebrand, an all-girl rock trio who stood out from the current glut of dull all-girl rock bands by virtue of the fact that they had some decent tunes and they eschewed power chords in favour of lithe, melodic guitar lines courtesy of their stringbean of a lead singer. On the Main Stage Redcarsgofaster were very energetic and boasted some terrific guitar work and a demented bass player but didn’t really bring anything new to the discordant indie-rock table.

The Long Blondes were a bit indie-by-numbers and didn’t make much of an impression while M. Craft in the hall was/were so dull that both JustHipper and I fell asleep in our seats. We went our separate ways after that, JustHipper foolishly choosing Morning Runner over Camera Obscura in the Jim Beam Risiing tent. Camera Obscura had had problems at Copenhagen airport and most of their equipment was still in Denmark which means they had to borrow all of their equipment from other bands or from the Sheehans Music stall next door to the tent. I got there early so had a great spot at the front and watched the increasingly frustrating efforts of Kenny McKeeve to get his (probably borrowed) effects board to work. He eventually gave up the ghost and plugged straight into his amp. They got started about 10 minutes late as a result of the chaos and Traceyanne was her usual self-deprecating self, apologising in advance for what was going to be a dreadful gig. She was wrong of course and the band put in a superb, if truncated, set the highlight of which was single of 2006 “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” where the signature organ intro was turned to mud by the default organ sound on Carey’s borrowed synth, much to the amusement of band and audience alike.

MC Lord Magrao of Guillemots at Summer Sundae 2006I headed back to the Main Stage and managed to catch most of José González‘s set, arriving just in time for the wonderful “Heartbeats”. I thought it might be a quiet set but I’ve never heard an acoustic guitar turned up so loud: it filled the field. I’m not too familiar with José’s own material but it sounded pretty good to me though not as good as his covers, three of which ended the set, the last of these, Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, bringing me out in goosebumps.

I met back up with JustHipper down the front for Guillemots who didn’t seem to work as well in the festival setting. The two times we’ve seen them before they played quite long and mesmeric sets which gave them time to explore and improvise. Here they had barely an hour, punctuated by some technical gremlins early on that gave rise to one of Fyfe’s improvisations about said gremlins. They sounded great when they got going and “Trains To Brazil” and “Made Up Love Song #43” got great responses from the crowd while the customary closer “Sao Paulo” sounded suitably epic in the outdoors.

After Guillemots we rushed back inside where The Boy Least Likely To has just started. There was a party atmoshere in the hall as the band played the most upbeat and joyous set of the weekend thus far. They’re still hawking their Best Party Ever long player and we only got one new song but they were on fine form with the usual cake throwing antics of the keyboard player, Jof’s self-deprecating humour causing much mirth between songs and a fine cover of George Michael’s “Faith” going down a storm.

Belle And Sebastian at Summer Sundae 2006We missed Stephen Fretwell on the Main Stage and The Buzzcocks in the hall, the latter apparently packed to the rafters with the one in/one out system back in operation. Instead we filled up on food and coffee in anticipation of the trip back to Manchester after headliners Belle And Sebastian. The last couple of times we’ve seen Belle And Sebastian they’ve been a bit disappointing thanks to the low volume of the PA and the high volume of chatterers. No worries this time as the sound was perfect and the crowd was captivated by a stunning performance from the Scottish indie-popsters. Stuart Murdoch’s transformation from unwilling frontman to consummate showman is complete as he strutted about the stage, clearly enjoying being the centre of attention, pulling a girl out of the crowd to dance with during “Jonathan David” and getting mascara applied by another audience member at the start of an excellent “Lord Anthony”. The stage was positively swimming with musicians, including a string section, as the band played as upbeat and summery a set as you could have wished for and included “Expectations” and “Electronic Renaissance” from Tigermilk as well as glorious versions of “If She Wants Me”, “Dirty Dream Number Two” and “White Collar Boy” which closed the main set. The best was saved for the encores with “Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie” (a personal fave of mine) giving way to a joyous “Boy With The Arab Strap” and a sumptuous “Sleep The Clock Around” rounding off a great festival weekend.

And that was it for Summer Sundae 2006, certainly the most civilised and well-organised festival we’ve been to and with a cracking line-up to boot. It’s odds on that we’ll be back next year.

You can see all our photos from Summer Sundae 2006 on our Flickr page.

Posted by The Ledge on 28th August 2006 at 1:58 pm | comments (1)
File under Festival Reviews,Reviews.

Festival Review: V, Day One, Saturday August 19, 2006

On Friday morning I wasn’t going to V. You see, in 2004 we’d been for the day to see The Strokes and the Pixies. We bought the tickets when those had been the only 2 acts announced for the day. Subsequently they didn’t add anything else worth seeing. So we spent a fortune to see what turned out to be 45 minutes of decent music. 45 minutes you ask? Well, the Strokes sucked harder than a band has ever sucked to that many people. And we swore off V forever. For the sheer blandness of it. But there I was on Friday morning with the offer of a ticket from Bricking Chick and if I said no, then she was on her own all weekend. It would have been mean not to go, right?

So, despite predictions of vile weather, and despite V being generally the shite cousin of every other large music festival, I dutifully packed up my stuff and we headed off, rather later than we should have, on Saturday morning. This was mistake number one. See, being the last one into a festival to camp is bad at the best of times cause you have to troll around looking for a spot for your tent. It’s doubly bad when they’ve oversold the camping and the stewards are actually turning people with camping tickets away. It did not help that you had to drag all your gear from the carparks to the arena to get a wristband before you could backtrack to the campsite to get in. Luckily, Bricking Chick and I look honest and harmless, we managed to get into a campsite without wristbands. And we managed to find a spot amongst a group of men with about 5 tents between them. They turned out to be dead friendly, but we were worried for a while there when they chose to make friends with us by showing us their genitals.

Then came getting into the site. Some people were having water and food taken off them. I got through without a bag search. I think they just thought I was a hunchback because in the heavy rain I had my rucksack under my rain poncho. Once inside the search began for beer tokens and a programme. We couldn’t find anyone selling programs. The queues for the beer tokens were outrageous, 100 or 200 people in each line. It took an hour to find a merchandise stand to get a programme where I was charged £10. This is gripe number 2 really. It was £120 for a ticket + camping including the service charges. Then they charged an additional £7 to park the car. Then if we actually wanted to know who was on where and when we had to pay another £10. Nice eh?

We worked out that Richard Hawley was about to begin in the JJB Arena so we decided to wait until the queues for beer tokens had subsided a bit and headed over there. Now, I adore Richard Hawley, but we noticed at Summer Sundae that he was starting to repeat stories. By V, I could have repeated them for him. He sounded ok, but ran through the all-too-familiar set including “Cole’s Corner,” “The Ocean,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” and “Something Is…” using the same jokes in between, including the one about being “pulled off.” It was nice, but it would have been nicer if it were newer.

After Richard Hawley, we decided to brave the queues for beer. I got some food, Bricking Chick bought a bunch of tokens and then we queued a second time for alcohol. As the heavens had opened up onto us, we decided to head back over to the JJB and see what Imogen Heap sounded like, as we had no idea and there was nothing else on we wanted to see. Boy was that a mistake because she was a bland combination of Dido and dancy trip-hop garbage. Ugh it sucked. I tuned it out very quickly and we sat near the back and chatted instead and planned out the rest of our day. Typically, it worked out that everything I wanted to see clashed. So I could either watch all of Morrissey and all of Rufus Wainwright or watch The Dears and part of Moz. As Rufus was the selling point for me that day really, I had to forego the wonderful live show The Dears surely put on. It was less obvious for Bricking Chick who didn’t like any of those bands. I suggested she watch The Cooper Temple Clause while I was seeing Moz, and she said she’d wait and see how she felt.

Next we headed over to watch James Dean Bradfield on the Channel 4 stage. He didn’t disappoint. I mean that in the sense that he sounded like he was singing Manic Street Preachers songs. He even threw in a couple, although, sadly, not the good ones. His solo stuff was okay, if a bit reminiscent of the last 2 Manics albums, and he is always good on stage. He even gave us his rendition of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” in honour of the downpour which had stopped but then started up again. The crowd around me spent much of the set going “When is he going to play some Manics stuff? Maybe ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’!” Ahh well.

Next up was chatting to drunk men, queuing for the toilets (minimum wait time for a portaloo on Saturday: 30 minutes. Sort it out Virgin!) and getting food. Food which, I might add, required a bank loan to afford. It was outrageously expensive. £2.50 for chips. £4.50 for a potato. Some stands were charging more. People were reporting having to pay £7 for a burger and chips off a burger van. Outrageous. They really need to make these things affordable. Most of the people who go would also like to have a proper holiday rather than having to make 2 days in a muddy field in the rain their only real time away in a year.

Then, oh yay oh yay oh yay, it was time for the marvel that is Rufus Wainwright! Now, I’d wanted to see him back in Novemeber when he was in Manchester but didn’t have the money for the ticket so I was very very excited about this. I managed to get myself to the barrier, I could sort of see, but it was in front of a speaker. The view was limited. But who cares because he sounded perfect! It was him, a guitar, a piano, and for a couple of songs, his sister Lucy. He didn’t play everything I wanted, but “The Art Teacher” and “Vibrate” and “Gay Messiah” all sounded magnificent. Plus, his rendition of “Hallelujah” was phenomenal and everyone I spoke to later that evening either said it was a festival highlight or kicked themselves for missing it. I was, however, highly amused when, after Rufus said he fancied the singer Jack Johnson, two guys stood behind me exclaimed, “Is Rufus Wainwright gay!?” Like, umm….oh never mind. In any case, he was charming and dapper and his voice was gorgeous. I cannot wait for a new album and hopefully being able to see him in a proper venue with a full band. At some point Bricking Chick had enough and left me for the beer tent, saying she’d meet me before Morrissey. I felt bad, I knew it wouldn’t be her thing. It’s a shame there wasn’t anything else she’d have preferred.

When I emerged from the JJB Arena looking for my friend it was dark but thankfully not raining. Not seeing her, I sent a text saying Moz was on in 2 minutes and I was heading for the Main Stage, assuming she’d head over to see Razorlight or the Cooper Temple Clause and that she wouldn’t let my drink go to waste. I got to the Main Stage just as Morrissey’s intro music of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” began to play and a cheer erupted. I made my way deep into the crowd, where I could see the screens as, much to my delight, Morrissey and band appeared and launched into a rousing version of “Panic.” Yay, they changed the setlist! It was still heavily geared towards Ringleaders of the Tormentors, but “We’ll Let You Know” returned, and he did “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and “Girlfriend in a Coma.” He sounded marvellous. And he was selling downloads of his new single, recorded live on the spot for “In the Future When All’s Well.” The crowd was celebratory, dancing and singing and I had a boogie with a friendly bloke who kept balancing a water bottle on his shaven head. I tracked down Bricking Chick as well, near the sound desk, watching Morrissey and hating every second of it. She apparently couldn’t remember who was on where so thought she’d give the Mozfather a chance, so at least she could say she tried. She gets points for that. And for still having the drink she’d got me, untouched. So, after Morrissey finished the evening with “How Soon Is Now” and lots of screams from the crowd, we trekked back to our tents for an hour or so’s chat and fun with our neighbours until the pouring rain drove everyone inside and to sleep.

Posted by JustHipper on 28th August 2006 at 1:37 pm | comments (1)
File under Festival Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Goer of the Week, Part 6

I think I cursed us by saying that we’d had a good run of gigs because tonight, I don’t know where to begin. Should it be with the groupie who had 5′ of space in front of her but chose to dance on top of me, leaving me pressed against a post at the Night & Day? Should it be the former drummer of Manchester no-hopers, Exit 52, who practically stood on The Ledge and waited for The Ledge to move?

Actually, no.

This particular post is reserved for the drunk bloke who fights with girls.

Yes. You heard me right. The 6′ tall man who starts fights with girls over a foot smaller than him.

Yeah, so during the Aliens first song, the nice woman who had been stood to my right gets thrust out of the way. This is the woman who’d moved to make room for my tiny self and who’d been giving origami pigeons to the guy from Lone Pigeon while he was setting up his gear. She got pushed out of the way and suddenly this tall drunken lout is elbowing me in the side, moshing in what was certainly not a mosh put and pulling my hair! I shoved back. He shoved back harder. I told him he was hurting me. He didn’t care. He said he was having fun and I could go to hell. He kept talking to me, I couldn’t hear much of it. He pushed harder. I pushed back. The guy on the other side of him started screaming at him. He ignored that guy and kept pushing me and shouting in my ear and jumping. The Ledge shouted at him. He ignored the Ledge. The people on the other side of me got annoyed, they were getting pushed cause I was getting pushed into them, and the talking was pissing them off. They were nice to me about it though, they could see it was not my fault. It was actually so bad that at one point I seriously considered using the empty Corona bottle I was holding. I thought I might have to. He was being that aggressive.

Luckily, this was the point at which the couple on my right pulled me across to their right and the bloke stepped in to sort the problem. He shrugged and said “There’s always one, and that one is always next to me,” just before he grabbed the drunken lout and started screaming at him. They had words, possibly ineffective ones, and eventually the drunkard just walked off.

The thing is, I felt a bit bad, all this fuss, because, quite frankly, the Aliens were shite. If I’d known that to begin with I wouldn’t have been at the front. We’d probably have left after iLikeTRAINS. Ahh well.

So here it is folks, I’m not sure what to say about this one but here’s my best go:
1) Personal space. If there’s room, try to honour people’s personal space. Be aware of that person behind you and give them room when you can. Don’t stand on someone as a means of getting them to move, they were there first. Find somewhere else to stand that isn’t on someone’s feet or head.

2) Umm…don’t be a dick. Don’t hurt people. Don’t elbow and pull hair. Don’t talk into someone’s ear when they’re watching the band. Don’t shove people out of the way. Don’t pretend it’s a fight when it’s a gig. If someone says you’re hurting them it’s because you are, so stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing that’s causing physical pain!

Posted by JustHipper on 28th August 2006 at 11:41 am | comments (1)
File under Gig-goer of the Week.

Gig Review: Summer Sundae Weekender, Day Two, 12th August 2006

Arriving on site early on Saturday we were disappointed to find that Oxfam’s offer of free tea and coffee to campers did not mean that we would be sitting in comfy leather armchairs at sturdy wooden tables sipping lattés and Earl Grey while reading The Guardian but rather it involved standing outside the tent in the chilly wind sipping a small plastic cup of Nescafé Fair Trade instant coffee with no milk because they had run out. A couple of hours and beers later and we repaired to the main stage to watch local band Don’s Mobile Barbers‘ amiable chugging indie rock. They were likened to Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev in the programme but with just two members, one on drums, the other guitar/vox, and the occasional cameo from a friend with a synth, they had no chance of matching the sonic ambition of those two bands. There was a definite American indie influence in their songs and their set made for a good, relaxed start to the day. Oh, if only the sun would shine.

Next we caught the last two songs of dutch band Gem in the Jim Beam Rising Tent. They were fairly conventional Britrock in the vein of Libertines and Razorlight but it was good to see such energetic performers stirring up the crowd early in the day. Then we headed for the first time into De Montfort Hall to see Howling Bells play their bluesy indie rock to an enthusiastic crowd. Our own enthusiasm was overcome by a requirement to eat about five songs in so we headed outside where we watched the first two songs of Tuung‘s tunefully oddball folk, which sounded quite intriguing and we would have stayed longer but we wanted to get a good place in the hall for Brakes. Brakes cannot fail in these circumstances. How can the casual observer not be won over by the likes of “All Night Disco Party”, “Ring A Ding Ding Ding” and the magnificent “Porcupine Or Pineapple?”? One of the joys of this performance was the reaction to the likes of “Hi, How Are You” or “Cheney”, which got played twice in a row, the second time a “Leicester Remix”, from the many watching who had never heard the band before. Brakes should really have played the Main Stage, which is where we headed after they’d finished to dig a little Young Knives. Only a couple of songs, mind, and they didn’t sound as good as they had the week before during their excellent D:Percussion set. So back inside it was for Isobel Campbell, only upstairs this time for comfy seats to rest our weary legs. With the legendary Eugene Kelly, of Vaselines, Captain America and Eugenious fame, deputising for Mark Lanegan it meant that much of the material would be culled from the Mercury nominatedBallad Of The Broken Seas long player, and it didn’t sound too bad with the title track and “Deus Ibi Est” particularly good though Kelly’s vocals certainly lacked the edge of Lanegan’s. Again we departed mid-set, but with good reason…

¡Forward, Russia! at Summer Sundae 2006I didn’t think that ¡Forward, Russia! could be as breathlessly exciting playing to a large festival crowd as they are in small, sweaty clubs, but they were. It was a stunning performance by the Leeds quartet that had me so engrossed that the 45 minutes seemed to pass in no time and at the end I barely had any idea what they had played (admittedly I still have problems matching the number to the tune) . They started it all with “Thirteen”, that I know, and they definitely played “Twelve”, “Nine” and an amazing “Sixteen” but it all seemed to by in a blur as if I’d been hypnotised by Tom Woodhead’s manic dancing. I totally missed Steve Lamacq’s crowd surfing, though JustHipper was on the ball on that one. At the end Tom leapt from the stage and dived into the audience, still singing, and emerged with blood pouring from his nose. The crowd was in raptures. It feels like ¡Forward, Russia! have arrived.

After the excitement of ¡F, R! we settled back to watch Nouvelle Vague do their cool french thang over familiar songs, many of which I grew up with in the 1980s. Opening with a sultry “The Killing Moon” they made their way through a languid “Blue Monday”, a hilarious “Too Drunk To Fuck”, a gloomy “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and a quite superb “A Forest” only to end with “Love Will Tear Us Apart, which, let’s face it, no one should ever attempt to cover, though everyone does.

Calexico at Summer Sundae 2006Staying at the Main Stage, a pared down Calexico were on fine form as usual. With “All Systems Red” and “Letter To Bowie Knife” – the best two tracks off the excellent Garden Ruin – dispensed with early on, Burns, Convertino and co. treated us to smooth as silk versions of favourites like “Stray” and “Sunken Waltz” as well as “Alone Again Or”, dedicated to Arthur Lee and John Peel, and the superb latino groove of “Güero Canelo”. It wasn’t the best performance I’ve seen from them – I prefer them with a bigger band and a bit more mariachi – but it was still highly entertaining.

The rest of the evening was spent in the hall on another ’80s nostalgia trip (for me, at least). Thanks to various relatives of mine from an older generation I was very familiar with work by The Proclaimers and Ian Dury And The Blockheads while growing up. Though I had little affinity for the former, I learnt most of the swear words I know from the latter’s New Boots And Panties long player. It was one in/one out for The Proclaimers but we managed to get seats upstairs after a short wait. It was an incredible atmosphere as most of the oldies at the festival (and there were many, me included) had left their kids behind and packed into the heaving venue. We only saw the last 20 minutes but I recognised “Sunshine On Leith” and of course “500 Miles (I’m Gonna Be)” which had about 2000 people singing along and made you wonder why the hell they weren’t playing the Main Stage.

The crowd thinned out a little for The Blockheads who were replacing X-Press 2 on the bill after they had pulled out through illness. The late Ian Dury was replaced on vocals by comedian, DJ, TV guy Phill Jupitus and he did a pretty good job. It was a good set which began with “Wake Up And Make Love To Me” and took in Dury classics like “Clevor Trever”, “Billericay Dickie”, “What A Waste”, “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll” and, of course, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”. Unfortunately the band took it upon themselves to play a couple of recently penned numbers which saw Jupitus relegated to showing off his dubious percussion skills as Derek The Draw took over the vocals and the drummer got to play some solos. One drum solo in a gig is one too many; two is unforgivable. Norman Watt-Roy’s incredible bass playing must get a mention, however. There, I mentioned it. Anyway, an entertaining evening was rounded off with an excellent “Reasons To Be Cheerful Pt. 3” and we were further delighted to find that we had avoided much of the torrential rain that fell during Gomez’s set on the Main Stage.

Posted by The Ledge on 23rd August 2006 at 4:37 pm | comments (5)
File under Festival Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Goer of the Week, part 5: Festival Campsite Etiquette

I’m going to interject before The Ledge finishes his Summer Sundae reviews, as he’s been too busy with Fantasy Football to bother. We’ve had a pretty good run of shows, actually, so I’ve not been inspired to one of these, but there was this guy on the campsite at Summer Sundae who deserves a special mention.

Now, I’m a really light sleeper and as a result, I don’t always do well at festivals. I could not cope at Glastonbury in 1999 because we were camped next to a group of speed freaks who had decided if they were not sleeping then nobody else should. I didn’t try the whole camping thing again until last year when we decided driving back and forth between Leeds and home was just too exhausting. We took our airbed. I took earplugs. I prepared myself for late nights drinking with people on the campsite and we had a blast. I did not sleep well, I was wrecked for the whole next week (I do need a good 8 hours to be human), but I had a great time. But it wasn’t that loud. It wasn’t that loud in that the noise was more of a general din that could be tuned out than one horrid booming voice right next to me.

T in the Park worked out well because we didn’t get our tent up til about 3am when most everyone had gone in, and then it was raining so hard on the Saturday that nobody could sit outside and so just went to bed. Plus we weren’t camping on the festival site, so it was sparse.

So, 2 for 2 in recent years yeah? Yeah. Third time lucky it seems.

Now, Summer Sundae is an unusual festival. It’s small, it’s indie, and it’s geared at families and an older crowd. It’s also in a residential area. The campsites are in a local college and the local university and they regulate the number of tents. They also ask for a “silent” campsite between 11pm and 9am. It’s written on the ticket. It’s written in the newsletters they start sending you regularly when you buy a ticket. It was repeated a few times from the stage during the course of the day. There’s a good reason for this – if it’s noisy, the people in the houses next door to the site will get a bit irritated and the festival won’t get licensed again. Plus there were loads of kids about, and who wants to be at a festival with tired, cranky kids? Let the kids sleep!

Now, I was looking forward to this. Imagine, a festival where I might get a decent night’s sleep! Heaven! Umm..almost.

Night number 1. After a few drinks I was dead to the world until about 2am when I had to get up and take myself to the toilets. Halfway across the field I heard a guitar. In a silent field, I mean totally silent, some asshat was playing a guitar and singing. Badly. Like it was sub-James Blunt bad. At 2am. Everyone else was asleep. Luckily he soon shut up because I’d probably have fixated on it and not gotten back to sleep.

Night number 2. We get back to the tent and behind us a group of middle-aged cockney men had set up tent. One of them had the loudest voice ever which was coupled with the filthiest mouth ever. Luckily he shut up when I climbed out of my tent, shone my light on him to see where the effing and blinding was coming from and then made a loud remark to The Ledge about filthy mouths around kids. Rude on my part, I know, but every other word involved the act of copulation. The moment he went quiet(er) we could hear the guitarist again. Only this time he was trying to play the blues. Badly. Like, very badly.

Here’s the thing: What on earth goes through the head of someone who’s been asked to be quiet on the campsite by the organisers (I assume they meant try and keep it down to normal speaking voices), who decides to bring his guitar, play it as loud as he can around 1,000 people who were trying to sleep and think anyone wanted to hear it. Were girls flocking over there and offering themselves to him? I mean, he was really really really bad. He really should have been too embarassed to sing in front of people, yet he was forcing the hideous sound of his off-key caterwauling on hundreds upon hundreds of strangers. Did he think a record exec might be around and just pop over to his tent and offer him a record deal? Seriously? What goes through the head of an extremely amateur musician in a field full of sleeping people?

So here’s some festival campsite etiquette for you:
If you are a shite guitarist and/or a shite singer, leave it at home. And if you must, don’t wait until the entire campsite goes quiet to serenade people. At least do it when all the other noise will drown the sound of your hideous voice out!

Posted by JustHipper on 21st August 2006 at 9:02 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig-goer of the Week.

Gig Review: Summer Sundae Weekender, Day One, 11th August 2006

Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family at Summer Sundae 2006This was our first time at Summer Sundae, having been attracted by the cheap price of a ticket, the excellent line up and the even better word of mouth. Let it be said that we weren’t disappointed. In fact, Summer Sundae 2006 surpassed all expectations and there’s every chance that the event will become a regular occurence on the Indie Credential calendar.

We arrived on Thursday night, set up tent in the friendly Regent’s College campsite, ate at a local Thai restaurant and repaired to camp for a beer and chocolate digestive nightcap. A typical festival evening then. The weather on Friday was in its default festival setting: cloudy, cold winds, the sun occasionally gracing us with its presence. After food and some beer we found ourselves in the Jim Beam tent watching Now who, if the programme notes were to be believed, should really have sounded a bit like Stereolab. They didn’t and after two songs we left for a walk round the very entertaining Polly’s Garden and then visited the Real Ale tent where young men with beards poured beer into the silver tankards of middle aged men with beards. Eventually we saw our first full set of the weekend, Liam Frost And The Slowdown Family on the Main Stage. Although I’d never heard any of their stuff before they certainly lived up to expectations after JustHipper had raved about them at D:Percussion the previous weekend. Frost’s brand of energetic modern folk was a cut above most of the singer/songwriter fare on offer these days and his excellent rapport with the crowd and with his own mandolin player, who joked how one day Liam might be able to afford to buy him a bigger guitar, made for a thoroughly entertaining half hour.

Next up on the Main Stage was Richard Hawley. We love Richard Hawley round our way and knew he would deliver but were worried that he might tone down his between song banter to an audience that included many many young kids. Fortunately he didn’t but having seen him a couple of times in the past year the banter sounded a little too familiar, like sitting through the same stand up routine for the third time. The songs were familiar but majestic as always, the sweeping melancholy of “Something Is…” giving way to a beguiling version of “The Ocean” with Hawley’s impassioned guitar work making it one of the highlights of the weekend.

Guy Garvey of Elbow at Summer Sundae 2006We skipped Delays, save for one song that JustHipper insisted that we hear, which was dull and it had started to rain so we drank and ate more and waited for Elbow, who were headlining a festival for the first time. And they were well up for it from the opening “Station Approach”, with its glorious mantra about the lure of the hometown, through to the wired version of “Newborn” that closed the set they played with more passion and more confidence than I’d ever seen in them before . Genial frontman Guy Garvey was on fine form, both vocally and in engaging the crowd between songs, joking before “Leaders Of The Free World” that there are some terrible things going on in the world at the moment “and I don’t mean Cud reforming”. Well, I laughed, while JustHipper asked who the hell Cud were. Though there was no “Powder Blue” or “Scattered Black And Whites” there were plenty of spine-tingling moments on offer. “McGreggor”, with Garvey pounding away on a kettle drum, was chilling, the equal of anything off Leaders, “Forget Myself” brought an anthemic close to the main set while “The Stops”, played in the encores, was a revelation taken out of the context of the album. If this performance was anything to go by it won’t be long before Elbow are headlining bigger festivals than this.

All our pics from Summer Sundae 2006 can be found on our Flickr page.

Posted by The Ledge on 17th August 2006 at 5:51 pm | comments (5)
File under Festival Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: D:Percussion Festival, Manchester, August 5, 2006

Polytechnic at D:PercussionAnother gig, another late review. We really need to make a point of reviewing one “festival” before heading off to a second but oh well. D:Percussion. It nearly didn’t happen, apparently, but the press that resulted from this near-failure seemed to have brought everyone in Manchester out on a gloomy day to stand about in Castlefield and watch bands. There were more stages this year than in the past, and more bands that looked interesting too. But, as a result of The Ledge (and, literally, everyone else I know) being out of town, I didn’t end up heading over until 4:30pm as I didn’t fancy 10 hours of solitude. I managed to get myself to the main stage in time for Polytechnic. For the second time in a week they put on a blinder, charming the crowd with their excitable blend of ecclectic, keyboard tinged American-sounding indie guitar melodies.

Having never actually heard him play before, I decided to watch Liam Frost & the Slowdown Family as I’d heard nothing but good about him. I was expecting some nice acoustic singer-songwriter tunes. What I got was a full band playing lovely, sweet catchy melodies and a troubadour of a singer. He was immediately infectious and I really enjoyed his set – enough that we made a point of watching him at Summer Sundae as well. I’m sorry I didn’t get down to the Night & Day when he played his residency last spring as it may have been the last chance to see him in such intimate surroundings if Saturday’s performance was anything to go by.

The Pipettes at D:PercussionNext up were The Pipettes who I had yet to hear, despite their having captured the hearts of indie boys across the nation. I was expecting a 60’s style super-cool vocal group. What I got was 3 women who looked more like girls in matching Topshop polka-dot dresses doing bad choreography. I can’t even comment on their talents because I couldn’t hear the vocals, which I thought was odd seeing as how the sound was perfect for every other band I saw. It was only them. I know sometimes this happens when a singer does not trust their ability to sing live, they drown the vocals out deliberately. I suspect this is the case with the Pipettes, who frankly, from the backing melodies, sounded pretty much like any other girl group on the block, were hardly that charismatic and really seemed only to be separated from the likes of Girls Aloud and Sugababes by their attempt at retro style.

The Longcut at D:PercussionThe Ledge finally joined me about the time that The Young Knives took the stage, all skinny ties and energy, playing their angular guitar pop with a great deal of emphatic desperation, like they were worried it was going out of fashion. At times they sound like The Futureheads and at others like Clor, but they write solid songs, have a lot of charisma on stage and are genuinely interesting and likeable. Sadly, though, unlike the last time, there was no break dancing. But we enjoyed them nonetheless and are looking forward to the release of their album later this month.

Castlefield Arena during D:PercussionFinally, we watched The Longcut who The Ledge insists we saw at D:Percussion back in 2004, but who I appear to have gotten confused with the unbelievably boring Longview and who I did not remember at all. I should have remembered them because they were great. They played a blend of indie dance which reminded me a little of The Beta Band and a little of Primal Scream but had none of the oddness of the former and not quite as much stage presense as the latter but which was very satisfying as the sun came out and went down on a Saturday evening. The crowd loved it and they threw a lot of enthusiasm into their songs. I think I should remember them now, and I wouldn’t mind hearing them on record because I very much liked what I heard.

After The Longcut finished, we decided to call it an evening and headed down to The Ox for a nightcap. This year’s D:percussion appeared to be a blinding success, and I probably should have got myself down there earlier to see Snowfight in the City Centre amongst a few others. But hopefully, with the £2 entry fee clearly making up for the cash shortfall this year, and with the massive turnout, next year’s festival will be back again bigger and better.

For more D:Percussion Photos follow the link to Flickr.

Posted by JustHipper on 14th August 2006 at 4:27 pm | comments (3)
File under Festival Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Tom Verlaine, Night & Day Café, 31st July 2006

Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip at the Night & DayIt’s very rare that I go to a gig where most people there are older than me but this was the case last week when legendary Television guitarist Tom Verlaine came to town. Unusually for the Night & Day there were tables set out right in front of the stage presumably to lend the venue the more refined atmosphere of a jazz club although it could well have been to fill out the empty space as it seemed that many of the £18 tickets went unsold. The tables would also allow some of the older members of the audience to get through the gig without keeling over, while the rest of us crowded round the cronies trying to get as good a view as possible.

Verlaine obviously didn’t appreciate the view we were getting too much and on arriving onstage insisted that most of the stage lights were turned off leaving just a spotlight each for him and guitarist Jimmy Rip, his sole companion on stage. There was also a curt “put the camera away, buddy” from Verlaine as he settled down to play, though this didn’t deter the snappers once the gig was under way. Ignoring some very polite calls for “Guiding Light”, the two players plugged in their electric guitars and proceeded to play a long, slow, beautiful, atmospheric intro to “The Day On You”, probably the best track on the new album Songs And Other Things. It was a very promising start to the gig and the song, despite being pared down somewhat, still managed to retain its Sonic Youthfulness with Verlaine’s relaxed vocals sitting comfortably amid the crystalline guitars.

It’s fair to say that many people were there to see and hear Verlaine play his guitar and those people will have felt handsomely rewarded at the end of the night as he put on a masterful display ably backed by Jimmy Rip playing rhythm guitar with a swagger rarely seen. Yes, I wanted to see Verlaine’s expert guitar work at close quarters but I was also interested in hearing songs from Verlaine’s frequently brilliant solo back catalogue and as I’ve seen Television a couple of times before I wasn’t too interested in hearing “Marquee Moon” unless Richard Lloyd was up there with him. In this respect I wasn’t disappointed as the duo played through a good and varied selection taking in most of Verlaine’s solo albums. However, my main niggle with the performance was Verlaine’s vocals. The taut, wired delivery of much of his work was completely absent from the performance, replaced by a sterile, lazy mumbling. It’s as if he has absolutely no confidence in his vocal abilities and is holding back on us, afraid of what might happen if he let himself go. Maybe he was just toning things down because of the rather intimate setting and sparse instrumentation but whatever the reason, it certainly detracted from many of the songs. “Souvenir From A Dream”, invigorating on record, slid by without incident (bar some stellar guitar work, naturally) , while “Words From The Front” fell over during it’s chorus where the word “blind!”, which should have been piercing our heart and curdling our blood, fell forlornly off key from Verlaine’s lips. Some of it did work, however: “Let Go The Mansion” was warm and melodic compared to its icy cold recorded version and new tracks like “The Earth Is In The Sky” and the encore of “Nice Actress” were sung with a little more vigour than the rest. Fittingly the sole instrumental played, described as their “biker tune”, was one of the highlights while the two Television tracks were a little disappointing. “Little Johnny Jewel” was reimagined as a cross between “Riders On The Storm” and “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” but didn’t really work while “Prove It” was rather limply executed.

Overall, despite my grievances, I enjoyed the evening. It’s not often you get to watch you guitar heros do their stuff at such close quarters but I just wish that Tom would spend a bit more time on his vocal arrangements and start to believe in himself as a singer. He’s obviously quite a shy bloke – he barely said a word all evening – but if he can sing like that in the studio then he should make an effort to reproduce that on stage.

Posted by The Ledge on 9th August 2006 at 10:57 pm | comments (1)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Polytechnic, Salford Islington Mill, July 29, 2006

Islington MillWe’d been very curious about Islington Mill, a new gig venue in Salford, near the Cathedral, a stone’s throw from an estate and supposedly full of artists’ studios, rehersal rooms and recording studios, etc. We thought it must be a flashy new up-and-coming venue. We were not quite prepared for the unfurnished basement dump with wires and pipes everywhere, a dirt and concrete floor, a bar constructed of a couple of tables laden with cases of beer and cheap vodka and mixers and no electricity save the stage lighting, and that includes inside the toilets. Now, I’ve been to some grotty gig venues, and some strange ones. This one may come out top in both those categories. It was weirder than watching from the shore as Big Country performed on a barge on a man-made pond outside a shopping mall in Boston, MA. It was weirder than watching my friend’s decidedly non-Straight Edge band perform at a Straight Edge gig in the basement of a church in Chicago, IL. It was weirder than watching Morrissey perform in what appeared to be a school gym in Chester, or, to be fair, actually watching him perform in a school gym in Waltham, MA. It was grottier than Lupo’s in Providence, RI. Grottier than The Point in Atlanta, GA, grottier than The Roadhouse here in Manchester. It was even grottier than Rock City in Nottingham, which still holds the title of the second worst gig venue in the world (the first being the Liverpool Academy, as described in our Calla review). It was, shall we say, a massive dump. But, it had fairly good acoustics and was atmospheric and not altogether bad as a place to launch a single, as Polytechnic soon proved.

First up, though, was Neil Burrell, on his own with an electric guitar. He was certainly enthusiastic but was trying way too hard to make his guitar and vocals sound like a whole band. He would have sounded better with a full band. As it was, the lurching between weird vocal effects and loud and soft guitars completely distracted from the songs themselves and I spent most of his set thinking “That would sound better with 3 or four other folk on stage.” That really is what I came away with. I believe he’s playing with The Library Trust in a week’s time so maybe I’ll be able to take more in.

The Answering Machine at Islington Mill, July 2006Following that rather odd performance came The Answering Machine, who are rapidly becoming one of my favourite local acts as they sound exactly like I was really hoping The Strokes second album would sound. Considering how much I love the first Strokes album, that’s a pretty good thing. They back it up with a lot of enthusiasm and intensity on stage. And you really don’t even notice that they use a drum machine instead of a drummer, something Mark Riley had been discussing on 6 Music earlier in the day as he gave their set a plug. Sure enough, he was there watching them, alongside John Robb of Goldblade fame.

The Nightjars took the stage next, proving that I was very very mistaken in my criticisms from when they played with Nephew and Being 747 a few months back. In my defense, it had been a long week of burst water tanks, no heat and lots of alcohol. Tonight though I was keen to discover that they actually play some pretty good garage rock, that they’re energetic to watch on stage, and despite my previous pronouncements they don’t look like a bunch of 16-year-olds fronted by their own dad. Sorry Nightjars. We’ll definitely be coming to see you play again soon.

Polytechnic at Islington Mill, July 2006Finally, the main event. Polytechnic took the stage to quite a lot of mania to celebrate the release of “Pep,” their new single out now on Transgressive. Considering the number of gigs they’ve been playing and the fact they’ve been getting some radio play, we figured they had a pretty strong following. We didn’t know quite how strong. They were introduced with a great deal of aplomb by one very drunk man with a hat and a moustache. Another was dancing around madly in front of me near the front and seemed to know half the crowd. A third, a photographer, snapped pictures continuously throughout the gig. Girls danced and swooned, blokes cheered. It was pretty invigorating. As for the band, they play an oddly American-sounding brand of indie pop, reminding me a bit of the Flaming Lips at times. They’d feel right at home on the pages of Pitchfork amidst the reviews of the likes of The Shins, Mercury Rev, Midlake and The New Pornographers. But while the North American influences are there, this is very much a local band, and you can hear the best of what’s coming out of Britain as well in the melodies and arrangements. Spunky, upbeat guitars and keyboards abounded. It was simply a festival of breezy melody and charm. If Polytechnic don’t make it big in the next 12 months, I’ll be very astounded because they bring together in a very convincing symbiosis the indie sounds of two countries and make it all their own.

For more pictures of Polytechnic at Islington Mill, please follow the link to Flickr.

Posted by JustHipper on 7th August 2006 at 9:50 pm | comments (20)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Islands, Manchester Roadhouse, 23rd July 2006

Another week, another criminally late gig review. Islands were formed after the demise of The Unicorns a couple of years ago by Unicorns members Nick Diamonds and J’aime Tambour. We saw The Unicorns supporting The Decemberists at the Night & Day just before they split and it was one of those classic “let’s just pop into town to see what these bands are like” gigs where we ended up raiding the merchandise table for all the CDs we could lay our grubby little hands on. The Unicorns Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone LP is a skewed indiepop classic and though Islands’ debut Return To The Sea is similar in many respects I have found it extremely difficult to get into. However much I listen to it it seems reluctant to sink in; its song structures so loose and melodies so light that they float right over my head.

Tambour left the band a few weeks ago but there were still seven members on the tiny Roadhouse stage, all dressed in white; a mini-orchestra, no less, with violins, guitars, keyboards, clarinets, bass clarinets, recorders, drum and bass. It didn’t take too long for them to win me over. Many of the songs played were new and bode very well for the next album as they seemed more accessible and certainly less whimsical and more forceful than the stuff on the debut. Maybe this was down to the players whose energy and musical excellence held most of the small crowd in their thrall for the duration of the performance, swapping instruments with ease, turning every song into a minor symphony. I only hope they can harness their wonderful live sound in the studio.

Despite being the headlining band Islands had probably the smallest audience of the night after local openers A Foreign Town (amiable but ultimately dull indie rock) and Azure Glow (even worse than their name suggests) brought along their MySpace friends and family. Islands’ set just got better and better as it went along and even the grandads in the audience began to sit up and take notice as Islands managed to up their game for the final two songs; a delightful “Rough Gem” with its fantastic plucked violin riff and Diamonds assuming keyboard duties was followed by a sublime nine minutes of “Swans (Life After Death)” which ebbed and flowed and was utterly captivating, leaving me beaming from ear to ear as we left the venue.

Posted by The Ledge on 6th August 2006 at 10:50 pm | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.