Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Low Anthem - EOTR 2010 - Part 5

As it was at the End Of The Road 2009, so it was at the End Of The Road 2010.
While they hail from Providence RI, the band seems to have adopted Larmer Tree Gardens as their second home and they are seemingly busier, and certainly better, than ever. They appeared, often in part and/or with others, in many places and many guises.

These pictures are simply The Low Anthem using instruments as is their voluble wont.

A particularly notable other was former Low Anthem band-member Daniel Lefkowitz, who also performed his own live material in a separate set: there is clearly no hard feeling on either side and that is amply attested by the production credits on his forthcoming début solo album.

In addition to such obvious favourites as 'Charlie Darwin', 'Ticket Taker' and 'To The Ghosts Who Write History Books', they performed a rousing version of  'This God Damn House', a song that he wrote when he was a member of the band.
Equally interesting were the songs-as-yet-unreleased. In part at least, and this is no secret it would seem, destined for the forthcoming third album. I thought that they sounded good.
Far be it from me to even try and second-guess what the album might sound like - The Low Anthem is far too talented and unpredictable for that - but on the other hand I'd wager that whatever it turns out to be I'll like it nonetheless.

Monday, September 20, 2010

With Blasphemy So Heartfelt - EOTR 2010 - Part 4

When, some six months ago, I was reading the growing list of confirmed artists for End Of The Road 2010 (EOTR 2010) this was yet another from the US that made me wonder, and then realize, just how music of this genre is experiencing a surge in popularity here in the UK.  I had intended to get the album 'With Blasphemy So Heartfelt' but for one reason or another it slipped my mind.
Once I saw the full running order of acts, just a few weeks ago, it leapt back into my consciousness but rather than buy the album I determined to see her perform live first.  This was in direct contrast to Caitlin Rose, for example, as I had bought 'Own Side Now' a few weeks before EOTR.  In retrospect I don't think it makes much difference - I enjoyed both artists live and also like both the albums - though the perspective, and perhaps expectation, is subtly different if one hears an artist live before hearing anything that they have recorded.
One thing to mention: this is not remotely uplifting song writing. She actually said her own music makes her sad and that she wasn't born to write cheerful songs.  
That it not to say that one should only listen to them at times of euphoria; indeed they might then seem a little out of place. They could, however, find a welcome in the heart of anyone feeling down-on-their-luck for whatever reason.
The slogan on her cap very succinctly carries the theme.

The sense of loss, and sometimes loneliness, was enhanced by the fact that what you see above is the whole set-up.  The drum kit is a merely a reminder of that which had come before - the atmospheric and warm folk-electronica of the aptly-named five-piece Fuzzy Lights that I had also seen. The contrast was a good example of just how an artist can set the tone for the performance and hence the audience.

She performed the whole set accompanying herself on acoustic guitar.  It was some experience and one that is difficult to describe - often brittle and confessional but never something irretrievably depressive. I can only imagine that it is a fine line to tread.  You might say that this is something calculated, even manufactured, but my inclination is to think that it is nothing of the kind.  If I'm wrong then so be it; an even more remarkable achievement would be to feign it so convincingly.

She also revealed that she had just completed the recording of her second record 'Tell Me' due sometime in early spring 2011 if all goes according to plan, and that has to be worth the anticipation. I have seen a fair number of live performances in 2010 and I'm fortunate in that many of them have been very good indeed.  When, in a couple of months time, I try making choices about the most impressive of those that I have seen this is one that will certainly still be in my mind.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smoke Fairies - EOTR 2010 - Part 3

Note added November 10. 2010:

UK tour dates in January & early February 2010 now on sale.

Now call me obsessive if you like - I know that I can deal with it - and as regular readers might well have noticed 'Smoke Fairies' have appeared in my posts on several occasions over the last few years.  I had seen them live two or three times before, most recently in the Film & Music tent at Latitude 2009, but this was their first time at EOTR. They were on The Garden Stage at 14:15 on a glorious, sunny Sunday afternoon.  The day's proceedings had been commenced by Rough Trade artist Dylan LeBlanc, who was also excellent.
Me, watching you, watching Dylan LeBlanc...
Surreal it is --- probably only EOTR lends itself to this.

Jessica Davies and Katharine Blamire met on their first day at secondary school in Eastbourne and soon discovered a shared love of music. Since then it has taken them to places as far afield as New Orleans for extended periods - Jessica now frequently plays slide guitar as a result I suspect (as she is doing in the image below) - which adds much to their sound and Vancouver and it all shows on the album Through Low Light and Trees.

On this occasion they also had pedal-steel guitar, bass and drums to accompany them.  Some that I talked to afterwards were of the opinion that it distracted from their fundamental sound; I appreciate where they are coming from but my own opinion is that it worked out quite well on a larger stage.

     Through Low Light and Trees, the album, is simply fantastic: a perfect foil for fall.

North-eastern folk - EOTR - Part 2

I saw a trio of acts that fall in to this general category last weekend and of them I have already mentioned 'Lanterns On The Lake' briefly.  The other two were arguably more traditional even if much of the material was new or at least recent.
I saw a very small part of 'The Unthanks' set at Latitude 2010 and was banking on seeing the full set at EOTR 2010.  This avoided clashes between artists I wanted to catch at Latitude and also it struck me that the Garden Stage at EOTR would be a more suitable setting than the Obelisk Stage at Latitude.  I was lucky - the weather was glorious last Saturday afternoon - in that I made exactly the right decision back in July.

This performance was indubitably one of the highlights of the weekend for me.
 It wasn't a weekend short of highlights, that is for certain.
In some ways they are iconic as regards the popularity of music that is folk and folk-influenced; something which currently commands currency on both sides of the Atlantic.  It is all part of a fascinating dichotomy in music today.

Here is a thought: I doubt that few of the crowd watching this were anything other than quite conversant with music from the likes of Eminem, Lady GaGa and Scissor Sisters -  yet they could also sing 'Here's The Tender Coming' back to The Unthanks when invited to do so.
Last, but certainly not least, Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell performed in the Tipi Tent earlier the same afternoon and I was very glad that I caught that set too.  This set was very well attended, as indeed were all those that I attended in the two smaller venues.  This explains why both the Tipi and Local stages have been significantly enhanced in capacity since EOTR 2009.

Lucy Farrell & Jonny Kearney, Tipi Stage, EOTR 2010, on Saturday afternoon.

EOTR is the kind of place where, should you wish, you can chat (with hitherto complete strangers) about musical influences, chord progressions and signature time changes and no-one will think it strange at all.  Equally improbably, can you imagine GaGa performing in muddy wellies that look as though they might be in daily and not just festival-only use?  It must have been a fashion statement as waterproof footwear was happily quite unnecessary at EOTR 2010.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Acoustic+ 17 September 2010

Time to stand back from EOTR and the festival scene for at least this one post.  Frome has a very active music environment of its own and one of the planks of that is an (approximately) monthly event called Acoustic+.  The event takes place in the Cheese & Grain, a converted former market building in the centre of town, and typically consists of four artists (not always acoustic, it has to be said) each playing for 35 - 40 minutes.  Entry is £4; the venue has a café (until 9pm) and a bar serving Milk Street Brewery's splendid beer (all evening).  For those of you lucky enough to be at End Of The Road 2010 (EOTR) last weekend you might already have discovered that as 'Funky Monkey' and 'Cobble Wobble', both Milk Street brews, featured in The Black Crow's (rather successful) first beer festival!
Anyway, the music at Acoustic+ is pretty varied and yesterday evening was launched by a set from Mpe-asem.

The band members are local but the music, and the instruments, most certainly are not.  This music, presumably originally intended for dancing, was entirely acoustic, instrumental and percussive. Some of it was original, some unashamedly derivative, but all of it based on the traditional music and instruments of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.  If you thought xylophones were simple instruments, for use at elementary school, these require a major re-examination of that concept!  The microphones are not close to them and it does not matter - they are loud in their own, un-amplified, being, which is important as in their traditional environment there would be no external amplification.  Beneath the bars are dried gourds, with holes cut in them, that act as sound boxes.  If I had a little more foresight then I would have asked to take a picture or two of the underside of these instruments when they were being carried off stage. Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing!?

Next, and this shows how Acoustic+ functions in a telling way, was Bristolian singer-songwriter Daisy Chapman.  She did her set solo - just singing accompanied by herself on electric keyboard - but she also used a trick.
The trick in question - and she did it very subtly - is to record oneself live and then loop it as backing. In a wider sphere, and notable as she is just about to release her third album, KT Tunstall is particularly good at this, often using multiple loops at the same time.
In a way something I wrote is coming back to haunt me: luckily only in a good way. I said that some songs are almost too dangerous/sacred for a cover version.  I am absolutely delighted to have been wrong - and twice in just five days - and this time it was Daisy Chapman's cover of Rihanna's 'Umbrella', with judicious use of the above-mentioned effects!

To be fair, and I'm not really being so here, Y?4 didn't really do very much for me. I feel a bit like Simon Cowell - minus the pay but at least he is older than me - saying that.  Quite listenable-to? Yes, very much so, just not particularly special. Perhaps that is merely the inevitable result of having seen so much, often rather special, live music in the last ten days?
Nancy Black @ Acoustic+  17 September 2010.
On the other hand this was amazing;  I could pigeon-hole her music influences if I really wanted to do so but, as it happens, I don't feel that it is necessary or helpful.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Misfortunes and Minor Victories - EOTR - Part 1

As I mentioned before I had not intended to comment on End of The Road 2010 until today at the earliest.  That the best laid plans founder is no surprise and, in this case, I'm thrilled by the way it has taken wings.  I wish I could mention everything that made it special for me in just one post but the truth is that I simply can't.  I haven't even looked at more than a third of the pictures that I took yet, but I'll get there!  What I will say is that I will mention the less well known acts as often as the better known ones.
Several people have searched for this one already and the band were particularly unlucky...

Lanterns On The Lake:
Their set, which as they stated at the time was for the largest audience to whom they had ever played, was tragically curtailed part way through the final song when the Tipi Tent (and adjacent facilities) suffered a total power failure.  That said, for as long as it lasted, they were a real stand-out act for me - one of those that made me realise that there is so much more to be heard.  I took pictures and, come the premature end of the set, I bought all three EPs that were available (not the sort of impulse purchase that I succumb to very often)...   Buying music after the first time of hearing can often be something of a mistake; when that hearing is live then it is even more dangerous but I did it anyhow.

This is just the first photo from that set I have got around to dealing with, in terms of  re-sizing etc.
I could however listen to those EPs all day, and all night too.

This is one reason why festivals matter so much, particularly if you are interested in live music: the artists that you know might very well be awesome but some of the ones you don't always are.  It is, all things considered, a lottery: one with a far higher yield than most.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nine hours and gone...

This is what happened when EOTR 2011 'early bird' tickets went on sale this morning. There are some more, at 2010 prices, on offer now but limited again, but does this tell you something about how good EOTR 2010 actually was.  I have a 2011 ticket but I'm still just coming to terms with EOTR 2010 and the acts that I saw. This is just one little piece of the jigsaw.

Saturday: Caitlin Rose live on the Local stage @ EOTR 2010.

On Sunday, co-opted to the Big Top to replace the unavailable Steve Mason, she finished with two songs accompanied only by herself.  The first was her own song 'Shotgun Wedding', from the Dead Flowers EP, and the second was a headlong cover of 'Tomorrow is a Long Time'.  I've mentioned the dangers of cover versions before; played and heard live this Dylan song was a quite remarkable example of how it can be done.

Note added March 8, 2011 (and later):
Caitlin Rose is now confirmed to appear at EOTR 2011, Truck Festival 2011 and Latitude 2011. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

EOTR and The Pirates of Providence...

I wasn't planning to put a finger to the keyboard about EOTR 2010 until Wednesday at the earliest but you, whoever you are,  just got the better of me by asking the right question.
Low Anthem and friends in the Tipi Tent -  and so what's not to like!  My pictures aren't much good but since you asked here is one of them taken early on in the proceedings. 

This is just one of the many things that makes EOTR unique...

Monday, September 06, 2010

Drown Your Heart Again - New Music 2010 - Part 18

This really follows on from my post yesterday.  It is a discovery I made just days ago and somehow it seems a very appropriate one given the topics, as they pertain to my return to festival-going in 2007.
The Strange Death of Liberal England was one of the first bands that, until the moment they walked on stage, I was completely unaware of.
Here they are on the then 'Uncut Stage' at Latitude 2007 on Saturday. Starting in 2010 this is now sponsored by 'Word Magazine' but la plus ça change... 
They were the band that did not speak however - they just sung and played - hence the placards!  I thought over the last year or two that, for all their relevance in 2010 and not least as a rock band, they might have gone the same way as Liberal England.  I'm very glad to report that the Southsea band, it is actually a five-piece then and now, is still going strong.
Forward March! (2007) was a solid production even if it was slightly at odds with the prevailing trends at that time. I'm just thrilled to see that they are back and firing on all guns and I would like to see the band live once again.
The follow up could well prove to be an important step: bad times and good music are often contradictory in the sense that they are complementary.  The album is released (Republic of Music) on CD and d/l on 13 September 2010.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Latitude 2010 → EOTR 2010 → New Music 2010 - Part 17

With EOTR 2010 just a few days away and Latitude 2010 still quite fresh in my mind, it is time to tackle a few more images, expectations and hopes for the future. If the following is a little unfocussed, or simply downright confusing, then I'm afraid that this is simply an occupational hazard of 'Thoughts on Music'.  It may completely mystify but, even if not a single person reads it, writing it does make things clearer to me and that matters.
There is some overlap between acts that appeared at Latitude and those to appear at EOTR.  I used that to try and minimize conflicts when I wanted to see more than one act that was performing at the same time. Here are three such that I did at least catch some of at Latitude. Someone asked, only a few days ago, for today's thought on Latitude... 
Oh, how I wish I could but writing a daily post still remains something of a distant ambition.  These photos are probably not the best but hopefully they convey at least something of the atmosphere and the musical variety to be found at such festivals...

This was simply perchance - I admit that I had never heard of her before - but that is all part of the wonderful festival experience. It is that moment; when something or someone impinges on your musical conscience for the first time.  I think that she is a late addition to the line-up at EOTR 2010.

The foregoing is not true of this band. Canadian psychrock five-piece 'Black Mountain' are on the cusp of releasing their third LP, Wilderness Heart, and I own and adore the previous two. This one is just a little different --- and no less awesome.

Stormy High.  Black Mountain live @ Latitude 2010, in the Word Arena.

I wasn't really close enough to do this justice but, let me tell you this, Black Mountain rock.  I can't wait to hear them again at EOTR 2010. The LP Wilderness Heart is high on my list of New Music I Want.

While the music is completely different, The Unthanks are another EOTR act that I caught only very briefly on the Obelisk stage at Latitude 2010.

I think a more intimate setting will suit both them and their music to perfection but that they, and many others of folk-influenced persuasion, played the main stage says a whole lot about music today... I can't wait to see the full live set.

That, of course, is not to say that the whole scene was for ageing folk-hippies...  This act is quite the opposite but on the other hand most of the little kids, there with their parents, seemed to find this act absolutely riveting...  It was the second time that I have seen them live - and for all the chaos [and the almost inevitable premature ending] - it was better than the first and only slightly less scary as I was further away from the front than when I saw them on the Sunset Stage at Latitude 2007.

It is strange to say this but, for all the chaos and strife, Crystal Castles has the same kind of attraction that the equally tempestuous and unpredictable Libertines did (and post-Leeds/Reading 2010 now have once again). Live, while it lasts, they are totally magnetic. The album Crystal Castles II (2010) is pretty flawless; what they self-destroy while performing live is really rather haunting when recorded in the studio and never more so than when recorded on vinyl.

The list of UK bands that I have seen/want to see is growing by the day.  Here are another few pictures from Latitude 2010. I have mentioned all these acts before.

Yuck - as well as their album I'm looking forward to their acoustic side-project as Yu(c)k. The band is performing at EOTR 2010 too.

As I am mentioning forthcoming new music I could hardly fail to include 'Without Why', which has now been released.  Rose Elinor Dougall made a good case for it at Latitude.
If you include acts from outside the UK the list is...
to be quite frank, almost endless.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

River Clyde - 6 Day Riot - lyric

River Clyde
The streets of the Gorbals run thick with the tales
Three ladies that hing have seen all that's to be
But the men folk still stride out tall and proud
To the gates of the yard and its whistling call
The riveters are meeting already
With news of the slimming and fears of the cuts
And the only possession I own of some value
Is the labour I am and the labour I love
Oh my pride lies washed up by the Quayside
Will there be one more ride down the River Clyde
Still each morning I walk from our room
To stand in line ticket and name
But friends are sent home now time and again
Left with ghosts and whispers and all they became
Threats and disputes ring from the wireless
And what of those men that take longer than most
As we gather together in crowds at John Brown's
We listen to Reid stood shoulder to shoulder
One more wave to old good friends
As they take their last ride down the River Clyde
Brothers be proud we are respected men
We will fight for our basic rights to work these yards again
Brothers be proud, brothers be proud
We will march heads held high through these yards again
The papers claim victory in our struggle
A triumph for Glasgow, a show of our strength
So why do I find myself on my way here
To tell you my dear the news we both dread

I don't know what I'll tell the kids
As I take my last ride down the River Clyde

Here I am drinking to forget
Here I am desperate to remember
Here I am in Brewers Fayre
Wondering how did I ever get here
How did I ever

This is particularly apposite as Trade Union leader Jimmy Reid, mentioned in the lyric, passed away on August 11, 2010.  Folie à Deux is a very fine album and this is one of the most impressive, and not least for its historical narrative, tracks on it.

To put that verse in perspective here is an image of 'shoulder to shoulder'...

Jimmy Reid addressing 'Upper Clyde Shipbuilders' workers in 1971.

Though industrial relations were generally poor in the UK at that time this episode was rather different.  The workers were not on strike at all; this was a work-in and a disciplined one too.  This is what he said and also what took place:

"We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike. Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying [the consumption of alcohol] because the world is watching us, and it is our responsibility to conduct ourselves with responsibility, and with dignity, and with maturity."

When it comes to narrative songs this is probably about as good as it gets in my recent experience.   In a faintly similar vein, both shipbuilding and protest, is 'Marshall Riley's Army' from the 1978 album 'Back and Fourth' by Lindisfarne. It concerns the Jarrow March (sometimes known at the Jarrow Crusade) in October 1936. If you want the lyric to that then just ask.

For more posts related to '6 Day Riot' see here:

Lyric for Folie à Deux, from the album of the same name:

Lyrics for all tracks on the album '6 Day Riot Have a Plan':

Docket - Caitlin Rose - lyric

Thank you for asking about this just a few hours ago. This evening I was wondering just what should be the subject of something I thought that I would never do: this is my 500th published post on this blog.

Lyrics have, and this surprised me when I first posted some, become an integral and very satisfying part of the whole and I'll try and reply when I can. The proviso is that there will likely be a few mistakes especially when, as is the case with this one, I have done them 'by ear' and in this case from the 10" vinyl version of 'Dead Flowers'.  On the other hand I relish the challenge and I think that I have got better, and certainly faster, at doing it with practice.
This, therefore, is what I think they are and while, not to excuse myself of inaccuracies, here is an observation. Artists do actually vary their lyrics: this can be deliberately such as to customize live performances but it also concerns the lyrics in a CD sleeve and those that are actually to be heard on the CD therein. Cover versions, are, of course, even more prone to such variation...

I got a discount; I got a coupon
It cost ten dollars to get your groove on
I've got a docket in my pocket
It says all I'll ever want is to be free.

I've got a sweet bike, it gets me real far
It doesn't break down, like a sweet car
I've got a docket in my pocket
And speeding down the hill is where I want to be.
I've got a docket in my pocket
It says all I've ever wanted is to be free.
I got a big house, I bought a hi-rise
Women in my block act like Stepford Wives
Well they got pre-nups, acid reflux, Botox
Friday and a headache built for three.
I've got a docket in my pocket
It says all I've ever wanted is to be free.

I got a fresh pack, I got a red BIC
The Surgeon General can suck on my d**k
I've got a docket in my pocket
It says cancer's never catching up to me.
I've got a docket in my pocket
It says all I've ever wanted is to be free.
I got a nice guy and he's got no class
l like his blue eyes, call him trailer trash
But he's got a docket in his pocket
It says all he really wants is to be free.
We've got dockets in our pockets
That say all we've ever wanted is to be free.

I got a discount got a coupon
I'm not paying anyone to get my groove on.
I've got a docket in my pocket
It says no-one controls my destiny.
I've got a docket in my pocket
It says all I'll ever wanted is to be free.

I think that if indulging in karaoke you would get away with this version of the lyric, not that you are going to catch me putting this theory to the test myself!
The 'Dead Flowers' EP, also available on d/l and CD, is well worth having and so is the recent album 'Own Side Now', which is less obviously country than the former. I'd be happy to attempt lyrics for any track from either of them.

As a complete aside:
To whosoever asked for the lyric to 'River Clyde', from the album 'Folie à Deux' by '6 Day Riot' rest assured that I haven't forgotten you. I intend to add that track and indeed the lyrics to all the other songs in the next few days.