Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 33 - Caitlin Rose - Gemini Moon

I certainly wasn't planning on writing a post this evening. Then again you never know what might happen. Some things, many things indeed, I could happily have just left to my current manaña instinct. This simply isn't one of them. This is exactly what I needed to hear.

If I haven't worked out the lyric before I go to bed then I shall be somewhat disappointed with myself.
This is supposedly just a demo recording. If that is true, or even if not quite so given the premise of the song and the tease that she is, then the third album should be quite something.

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 32 - Charlie Rose - Stowaways

I just got to hear this, it is released next week, and I think it to be the kind of music that suits the mellow days of early autumn.

Charlie Rose is something of a musical journeyman but also a recording member of the act Arc Iris, which I have already mentioned several times this year. That is, along with my increasing focus on Americana music in all its forms, how I came to hear of this his début LP.
You can listen to it too, then please consider buying. I will be doing so.

I haven't got to the point of choosing any favourites but the impression I have is that this is something I like as a whole, and that is never a bad start.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 31 - Jennifer Crook - Carnforth Station

Two thoughts immediately come to mind as I write this and neither is directly about the LP itself, so here it is. It is released in the UK tomorrow, 15 September 2014.

The first of them is that I'm not especially given to siding with  The Daily Telegraph but in this case I must do so, and wholeheartedly. I too have been bowled over; I have had the album for a couple of months now and it is not going anywhere far away from my playlist. The second is that it is, indeed, probably better suited to the lengthening nights and cooler days of autumn.
She has said that she was unaware of the Noël Coward 'Brief Encounter' connection with Carnforth. To be fair the lyric makes no direct reference to that story whatsoever - it is more about the locomotives and stock stranded adjacent, seemingly in limbo, and the passengers that they might have carried. I'd like to think that this is true - it seems better that way.
Be that as it may it is an astonishing album and, with the time of list-making getting ever closer, I very much doubt that that of the aforementioned newspaper will be the only one on which it appears.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 30 - Girlpool

I thought it time that some new music appeared here after a welter of festival related posts. This turned out to be too good to waste any time in sharing. It is the short but not entirely sweet 'Jane' by Los Angeles based duo Girlpool, comprising Cleo Tucker (guitar) and Harmony Tividad (bass) and both of them on vocals, now signed to UK label Wichita.

The EP Girlpool is released in November.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

End Of The Road 2014 - something old, something new

One thing that I have left unmentioned thus far is the 'limited programme' provided on Thursday evening. It was instituted a few years ago for the then small proportion of festival attendees that arrived on Thursday afternoon. All indications suggest that this fraction is rising year by year, probably exponentially.
This all took place on the Tipi stage and comprised four acts from 6:15pm. The last, and easily the pick of them, was Ezra Furman. He also played the Garden Stage Friday evening (which I did not see, but apparently excellent too.)
Here he is on the smaller stage on Thursday evening. The easiest way to categorize him is to say that I can't. I think that this might be key to his seemingly burgeoning appeal. He would have it that he has made greater inroads in the UK than in his native USA (originally from Illinois). It's rock albeit of a more-or-less pop persuasion, it is certainly camp (his band is The Boyfriends), it is clever and knowingly so, but surely we have seen all those things combined before?

That is probably true but if we took that approach more widely then we would have nothing left to listen to. NOTHING. AT. ALL. The majority of the tracks came from his 2013 LP 'Year Of No Returning'. The point is that it was everything it should be; unpredictable (not least the self-deprecating asides), sometimes challenging but above all it was hugely enjoyable. What's not to like?

In some ways the next artist tells, through his songs and his career, an equally unlikely story. From an icon of the UK folk-rock boom in the late 1960s to, more than four decades later, being held in the highest regard, in the US as much as in the UK, as one of the totems of the Americana/roots explosion. Richard Thompson made his recording début as a founder member of Fairport Convention in 1967.
His latest LP 'Acoustic Classics' (2014) is less a greatest hits, though of course they are, but more an attempt to regain his own songs that in many cases are now better known by many people via the cover versions of others. He played this set on the Garden stage, Sunday evening solo and acoustic except for the finale for which he was joined by his daughter and son in law.

The next is an example of how live music plays out in other ways to that which is recorded. The LP 'Rain Plans', by Israel Nash, has been recommended to me more times than I am inclined to count yet still languished in the "saved for later" section of my on-line cart and I never committed to purchasing it. That situation was very conveniently resolved. Without any on-line dealings!
Israel Nash, Tipi stage, Friday evening, End Of The Road 2014.

When Futur Primitif appeared on the Garden stage on Sunday morning there were plenty of comments concerning his new, jacketed visage and that was quite understandable. 
I'm happy to say that he retains his maverick streak but only the early birds amongst us, and we were quite numerous, really got to see it (during the sound check). Any which way the songs are so good.

Monday, September 08, 2014

End Of The Road 2014 - more highlights

Over the last day or two I have pondered whether to try and theme my further thoughts on End Of The Road 2014 by genre, chronology or stage. In the end I concluded that such divisions were largely immaterial. What really matters is this - more of the acts that I really liked. There are plenty of them and therefore this might cover two posts in time.
To start with is Lau, whose members I have all seen playing live at least once but never together as such. The link above reads like a textbook exercise in hyperbole until, that is, you see it happen live. Here they are, Garden stage, Saturday afternoon.

This is of course one reason that, in the ten years Lau has existed, it has taken away the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for 'Best Band' four times, most recently in 2013.
Whilst on the subject of quality, another thing to note is that of the printed EOTR festival programme; it is absolutely worth the price (£6) and that is nothing new. The writing, the editorial style and the layout are top notch. The only mistake I noticed was that it said that Cate Le Bon's performance, again on the Garden stage on Saturday, was her EOTR début: it wasn't, she played the same stage in 2010 but no matter.
That was before the release of her first full LP 'Me Oh My' and she was clearly someone to watch. 'Cyrk' was then followed by her latest, 'Mug Museum', and she just gets better and better. More importantly people both here and in the US (she now divides her time between Wales and California) are starting to take notice.

Someone very accustomed to both the Garden and Tipi stages at EOTR is Jocie Adams. That was however with Rhode Island indie stalwarts The Low Anthem. This was her first EOTR outing fronting her own band Arc Iris here as a four-piece and which, as her tradition dictates, played both stages on Friday.
Lunch time, Friday, on a rather breezy Garden stage.
All four in the frame. Tipi stage at the very end of Friday evening.

On the basis of this you might be thinking that I never even visited the Big Top stage. It is true that in comparison with previous years I spent very little time there but one of the few occasions was to catch part of the Pink Mountaintops set.

It is probably true that I spent less time at the Woods stage than in previous years, though I have already mentioned Jenny Lewis playing there. For all my pre-planning I always end up reinventing much of my schedule on-the-hoof and I will continue to do so. This next band was not, pre-festival, particularly on my radar. It just goes to show how very wrong I can be...
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Woods stage, Friday evening.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Three to see twice - Green Man and End Of The Road 2014

I mentioned this earlier in the week. Now, having caught up with sleep and the pictures, I'm no longer in la la land. Well mostly I'm not; to be quite honest a part of me is still at EOTR 2014!
I made a deliberate policy of seeing three acts that I saw at Green Man all over again, just a fortnight later, at EOTR. The three are Samantha Crain, The Rails and Alice Boman. The curious thing is that all appeared on the Walled Garden Stage at Green Man and on The Tipi Stage at EOTR but, in the latter case one each day. I intend to illustrate this post with pictures I took at both festivals.

When it comes to the stage the Walled Garden wins over the Tipi for its outdoor ambience, but when it comes down to the bottom line it is the band that really matters. I had high expectations of The Rails before I saw them live for the first time at Green Man. They blew me away then --- and then they did it all over again, only more so, last Sunday afternoon. 'Fair Warning' (2014) is the début album and it more than delivers on the promise.

'The Rails' Tipi stage, Sunday afternoon, End Of The Road 2014.

As regards photography, well for all that I am learning faster than I thought I might, it is very much a case of simply handling the cards one is dealt as best one can: everything changes, every time.
One thing that few people seemed to disagree about, at either festival, is the perfection of Alice Boman's vocals. She may not yet be an artist that people buy festival tickets on the strength of but either that time will come or perhaps equally importantly, the strength in depth of the offering will.
Alice Boman, Walled Garden Stage, Green Man 2014, Friday afternoon, squinting into the sun.
Alice Boman, Tipi Stage, EOTR 2014, 10:40 pm Friday.
Here she is selling and signing CDs thereafter. She got through most of that box come the end of the line.

Last but certainly not least, and with more released recordings than either of the aforementioned, this is Samantha Crain from Shawnee, Oklahoma.
Tipi Stage, End of The Road 2014, early Sunday evening.

Samantha Crain, Walled Garden Stage,  Sunday afternoon, Green Man 2014.

Three acts from different countries, UK, Sweden and the US respectively, that exemplify the increasing strength in depth of the folk-roots revival in recent times.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

End Of The Road 2014 - Part 2

Shortly before I headed off to the idyll that is Larmer Tree Gardens and the venue for End of The Road I posted a "must see" list of eight acts that does not include any of the three, mentioned in my post yesterday, that I saw at both Green Man 2014 and EOTR 2014. This is how I got on with that. I saw the complete sets of seven out of eight; the exception was Pink Mountaintops and largely because of a time (and day!) scheduling change, but I still saw a few songs in the Big Top tent on Friday.
Lily and Madeleine opened proceedings on The Garden stage on Saturday morning.

They played songs from the forthcoming second LP 'Fumes' and, from what I was able to tell when talking to people during the weekend, gained a whole load of new fans too.

On Saturday evening Marissa Nadler took to the Tipi stage, the smallest of the four main music stages. She has been on my list of "ones to see" for an age, or so it seems, and never more so than since the release of her most recent LP 'July' in February 2014.
This is her seventh studio album in a run that started with 'Ballads of Living and Dying' in 2004. It is the first to have a UK release on Bella Union. Regular readers will be well aware of the importance that I attach to this.

Much the same could be said of Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep since the 2012 début LP 'Into The Diamond Sun'. I mentioned the dragon yesterday.
Stealing Sheep playing The Garden Stage on a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon. The songs are short, sharply conceived and based for the most part around a percussive format. In the moment it was hard to imagine anything more perfect.  
Stealing Sheep, Tipi Stage, early Monday morning.
Until that is Stealing Sheep became one of very few acts I have seen play two live sets within twelve hours. It is things like this and, more than one might realise, the people you meet that make festivals very special.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

End Of The Road 2014

I'm back home and, unlike yesterday, no longer dog-tired. I have started to think about it all with some clarity and also, this helps with the foregoing, view it through the perspective of the pictures that I took throughout the weekend.

Was my sixth consecutive EOTR adventure up to the standards of the previous five?
Well. Let's put it this way; I am clearly not alone in my opinion. I have my 'Early Bird' ticket for EOTR 2015 (4 - 6 September). They went on sale this morning (2 September) at 9am BST and by 6pm BST more than two-thirds of those available had already sold! It will be some months before we know the identity of a single act to play then but my view is that if I can't trust the EOTR team to deliver then there is no longer any trust to be found.

It is going to take me much of the rest of this week to complete this self-debrief process. Here are a couple of pictures to kick things off. 
Jenny Lewis, Woods stage, late Friday afternoon.

The Stealing Sheep dragon, Tipi stage, 1am Monday.

Yes it was this glorious; endless blue sky on Sunday afternoon. This is the Woods stage about 16:45. Deer Tick was still playing but I was on a mission. The Tipi stage and a little project that had only occurred to me after I had got back from Green Man Festival. 
What if... ?
Two festivals a fortnight apart, the same three acts, all playing on the same stage at each festival. It was technically possible, that much I had worked out. The rest was down to fâte and my ability to harness it. I have only myself to blame.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Green Man 2014 (again) and an End Of The Road preview...

Right. Just over 36 hours until it is time to head out again for another long weekend of festival fun at End of The Road 2014. At the moment the weather is looking reasonable, and importantly the remnants of Hurricane Cristobel shouldn't play a part in the proceedings. I'm hoping for more of the same meteorological good fortune that accompanied my trip to Green Man 2014 the weekend before last. We shall see.
I shall start with a picture of the band that were first support on the Mountain Stage on Friday evening and that I first saw live on the Garden Stage at EOTR 2013.

Daughter, or here just Elena Tonra thereof, Mountain Stage, Green Man Festival 2014.

So then, what's cooking at End of The Road 2014 and what do I particularly want to see?
Let's start with just eight of them that I want to see live for the very first time. Here listed alphabetically:
I chose the particular links to each above based on those that I feel best explain my reason for wanting to see the act or artist live.
There are plenty that I would be delighted to hear again, including two or three from just two weeks back, and many more besides. As my recent post about First Aid Kit mentioned it is interesting to see just how artists develop of the space of a few years. This is another example of that. It is third time I have seen her live and while she was good then she has really grown in stature and confidence. I was blown away the second time, at EOTR .
Anna Calvi - Mountain Stage late Sunday afternoon, Green Man 2014.

Sometimes it takes a lot longer for me to to catch up live. Blue Roses - Blue Roses was one of my favourite albums of 2009. I even wrote about it in January of that year. It has taken more than five years to see her play live, now under her own name, Laura Groves. She played the Walled Garden Stage and it was a perfect foil on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Luck had it that conveniently scheduled not to clash with the above.
Laura Groves, Walled Garden Stage, Sunday, Green Man 2014.
Astonishing though the Mountain Stage is, the Walled Garden Stage is as good as any with the possible exception of The Garden Stage at EOTR. If you know me then you will realise that this is high praise indeed.
This consideration has made me decide that, if I get around to it [before this coming weekend], then the next post will be about Green Man other than the music - the ambience, facilities and all other things that make a festival more than just the line-up. If I don't write it before I return from End of The Road 2014 then maybe my detention homework will be a compare and contrast assignment!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 29 - Lily & Madeleine - Fumes

It is rare that I write two posts in one day and rarer still that I try and write two concurrently but needs must. You could invoke the 'First Aid Kit' factor here, and that would be quite reasonable. Again two sisters, Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz, but this time from Indianapolis.
The comparisons are interesting - both were spotted and signed by small independent labels, in the case of Lily & Madeleine that is Asthmatic Kitty Records, and seemingly the work ethic comes with that too. They are playing at End Of The Road 2014 on Saturday and needless to say are on my must-see list (of which more soon).

This is in anticipation of the release of their second LP 'Fumes ' on 27 October in the UK. It is worth mentioning that the first, the eponymous 'Lily & Madeleine' was released only last year, 26 October, and was preceded by EP 'Weight of The Globe' just a very few months earlier. This ambition is indeed part of their mission - to release three LPs in three years.

Green Man 2014 - Part 3 - other things and other stages

The rather nebulous title of this post tells a story. I haven't quite decided on the direction of this post really but, with End Of The Road 2014 less than a week away, I feel the need to put keyboard to screen. If it is a bit rambling then I'm not really going to apologise. Festivals are like that anyway. It is part of the charm.
Like some others, Glastonbury most notably, Green Man holds a competition to seek out new talent. It clearly has some traction because this year there were around five-hundred entrants. The prize is an opening slot on the Mountain Stage on Saturday morning. The winners were London based duo Wildest Dreams.

Or they were Wildest Dreams when they won. Last Saturday they announced, during the set, that they were now simply Wyldest. The implication is that the dream had been realised. In accord with my policy concerning opening acts (Wildest) Dreams were right there on my must-see list.
Essentially a dream-pop (not a bad word in my lexicon) duo, this a big stage to fill. I have to say that during sound check Zoe Mead (vocals, synth, loops and occasionally guitar) and Holly Mullineaux (guitar, vocals) looked pretty nervous. They pulled it off perfectly - all the more remarkable when they announced "this is one of our older songs, it was written in June". The band only formed in April 2014.

Until now I have not transported to the tented 'Far Out' stage although it was where I spent all of Thursday evening. This provided, amongst other things, my first chance to see The Waterboys live. When I worked in Bristol in the early 1990 Waterboys cassettes, along with The Levellers (see here), were an integral part of the soundtrack in the lab!
Early on a sunny Sunday afternoon I made a pre-planned visit to the darkness of the Far Out stage. Samaris was the reason - it was like Christmas and Iceland winning Eurovision combined.  This is not as silly as it might seem - I have been aware of Samaris for some time, indeed here, and that was just another addition to the Green Man line-up that convinced me of its virtue. I was aware as a result of the 2011 self-released EP Hljóma Þú.
The three-piece combine total electronica with clarinet and vocals and it works. It simply would not work on an outdoor stage in daylight, however. That, at least in part, is why I think it could take Eurovision to pieces. All the songs are sung in Icelandic, which sounds beautiful incidentally, and means any lyrical concerns are entirely self-limiting.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Once upon a time...

With this blog fast approaching its eighth birthday, which is old for such things and solo-written ones in particular, it has set me thinking.
I started to attend festivals because of it. I needed stuff to write about. At that point I realised that I needed pictures too, and I wasn't going to rely on promotional ones, so I therefore I needed to take my own. I bought a Fuji F20 compact - I still have it and I still use it - and off we both went to Latitude Festival 2007.  To be quite honest, while the camping and stuff was well in hand, I hadn't quite thought out the music side of things properly. I didn't keep track of what I had seen and it proved very difficult to piece it together afterwards. OK - you learn from mistakes like that. You also learn a lot more from just being there, trying to do what you want to do, and talking to people. The best thing about going to a festival alone is that it forces you to talk to strangers; they are the only friends you have. On the other hand you have no obligation to pander their particular agenda or they to yours for that matter.
By 2008 I had basic control of most of that and, in 2009, made my first foray to End Of The Road Festival in Dorset. This became a favourite and not just because it is only 35 miles drive from home. It was love at first sight. By this time I had started to do advance planning, almost military style, of what I wanted to see and how to go about it. As usual there are plenty of last-minute changes and even SNAFU events.
The result of one of them turned out like this. I got to see an act I had never heard of and hadn't planned to see. Afterwards 
I said they could be big. My interlocutor said that that they would be forgotten within a year.
Klara (R) and Johanna Söderberg, First Aid Kit, on the Tipi Stage, End of The Road 2009. Five years (and three albums) later this is the first time I have used this photograph. There were perhaps 150 people watching them play then. Here they are last Sunday - playing to ten thousand, maybe even more than that, at Green Man Festival 2014.

Any which way it was comfortably the biggest crowd of the festival. Tickets for the UK dates of the forthcoming autumn headline tour are all but gone too. Less than fifty remain for the gig at The Royal Albert Hall, London, on 24 September. By the time you read this they will probably all be gone.
That applies to End Of The Road Festival 2014 too - the final tickets went this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Green Man 2014 - Mountain Stage - Saturday

My approach to choosing acts to see at festivals is, as you may have gathered, somewhat esoteric. I rarely consider main stage headlines when determining ticket purchase and have a penchant for the small stages and artists at the bottom of the running order...
Well that was true of my first trip to Green Man Festival too. I did however do something I have never done before (I'm not really sure why, it was not a prefigured plan) - that was to see all nine acts on the main 'Mountain Stage' on Saturday in entirety.

The mountain in question is Pen Cerrig-calch, just in case you were wondering.

As this is Wales, who better to open proceedings than Georgia Ruth, the winner of the 2013 Welsh Music Prize, complete with a very modern version of the instrument most widely associated with Wales?
The songs taken from her 2013 LP 'Week of Pines' were as good as I expected; so too were the several new ones that were interspersed between them. She introduced each song bilingually - alternating between Welsh first and English first.

I was not so familiar with the work of all the acts and the next, Zachary Cale, is a case in point but I imagine you can see why I found it arresting.
It was about this time that the idea of seeing the whole caboodle occurred to me. It wasn't just about the music it was about the stage too. Like the 'Garden Stage' at End of The Road, but for different reasons, it is something special. In between times I still managed a few forays to the smaller stages, food stalls and the bar. Next to play Mutual Benefit. It is not a band, it is a fluid collective, except when it is only Jason Lee. Last Saturday it involved a handful of collaborators. My arrival, just as they started, limited my options somewhat.
The really important thing was now I was where I wanted to be for the rest of the afternoon and evening. I already had designs on this.
I make no secret of the fact that the 2014 LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness is headed towards my end of year list. It is not uplifting in a conventional sense.  Live is no different; she has a penchant for playing, when not singing, with her back turned to the audience and that tension is no bad thing either. Taut and compelling in equal measure this is music that requires one to pay full attention.
She was followed by another US female artist that I have wanted to see live for some time now. To my eternal shame I have missed this opportunity at a festival that I have attended at least once.
That artist is Neko Case. It was a splendid juxtaposition. Gone was the tension to be replaced by free-wheeling carelessness; some of the band asides were probably as good, and as well judged, as anything to be heard in the comedy tent. It was also the last date of a fifteen-month world tour. That is stamina.
And there was banjo, and pedal steel - heaven is a sunny Saturday afternoon in south Wales.
(And an interesting contrast with 'Saturday Night in Toledo Ohio'.)

Hamilton Leithauser has worked with more well known acts than I have the time or inclination to mention. I had never really considered what he might have to offer when he was the centre of attention until it was there for me to watch. His début solo album 'Black Hours' might have changed that in time.  Seeing him perform live just expedited the process.
This is one reason, beyond the enjoyment I get from live music, that festivals serve to inform and educate me.
So here I am, as he leaves the stage, 7¼ hours after Georgia Ruth had taken to it, and it is still only early evening. 'Are We There' is the title of the 2014 album by the next artist on that stage.
Sharon Van Etten.
Towards the end of her set she was joined by Hamilton Leithauser for a duet.
And so here they are.
First support was 'The War on Drugs' and, for some reason I seem to have taken something of a time-out on photography here and I can't, for the life of me, remember why that was because I can clearly recall watching and listening. Be that as it may, I seemed to be back for headline act 'Mercury Rev'.
This is an act that I had long managed to avoid seeing live and this time I was determined not only to fail to do so again but also to do it justice. I'm not going to hide my lamp under a bushel here; this was everything I could have hoped for and more. A band that was clearly relishing the moment as much as was the audience. This next might seem a strange choice of picture but it is the one I wanted to use just now. 

Festivals are not all about crowd instinct. Think about that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Green Man 2014 - expect the unexpected

So here I am. Back home and finally awake again.
My first trip to Green Man Festival is replete with memories, thoughts and photos. I haven't even looked through all of the pictures that I took but here are a few, of very different aspects, that I have...

Don't bet against kids. Martha Tilston sound checking. Chai Wallahs stage Sunday morning.
The last time that I saw her play live was at the early 18th century Rook Lane Chapel here in Frome. The folk that invested in that would certainly not have approved of mysticism...

...or pagan imagery for that matter. There is a remedy for all of this.

First Aid Kit. Mountain Stage, Sunday.
This was a world away from the first time that I saw First Aid Kit live - that was in the (then particularly) tiny Tipi stage at End Of The Road Festival 2009.