Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thoughts of Festivals - Latitude 2011 again.

I decided to continue the theme. Almost as soon as I posted the previous one I was already half hoping that someone will convince me to change my mind.
Here are some more photos from Latitude 2011, starting on the main Obelisk Stage again and then working through the others.

Wanda Jackson covering Amy Winehouse's 'You Know I'm No Good'.
That it has a clock in it as rather strange: in her introduction to the song Jackson spoke of her concern for Ms. Winehouse's health.  Almost exactly a week later it was announced that she was dead.
Isobel Campbell again, on the same stage that her former band Belle and Sebastian had headlined on the Saturday in 2010.
A highlight for me this year, and not just because it is tented and out of the rain, was the Word Arena; they had done a pretty good job of picking the acts for this and they were very varied, which formed the basis of the post about Festival Variety in late July. Here are a couple more pictures from the Saturday.
I have only ever seen a few acts that come from New Zealand performing live. Ladyhawke (second album eagerly awaited) and Otago's Ruby Suns being two that come to mind. This is the lead vocalist of the third one...
Alisa Xayalith of The Naked and Famous during a volcanic set.
As the rain continued to fall some good old-fashioned party spirit was needed and what better to conjure that than Bellowhead?  Complete with a fiddle-duel.
That is the two larger stages done, at least for now, with the Lake Stage and Sunrise Arena to follow soon.

Thoughts on Festivals, 2011 and onwards

Going to festivals is in fact an unexpected bonus that accrued from deciding to start this blog. Put simply it finally gave me the impetus to do something I had long wanted to do, which was to see and hear much more live music. In that time I have spent the equivalent of a month camping and experiencing outdoor festivals and I am in no mind to give it up now, indeed I already have tickets for two such in 2012. It all started with Latitude in 2007 and, after five years I will, more likely than not, give it a miss next year in order to try something else instead.  Here are a few more photos from the Obelisk Stage that I took at Latitude this July and in this case of artists that are well established.

KT Tunstall 
Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
I thought that both these sets were astonishing, so that is not an issue that I have with Latitude, but I do think that they are in danger of letting the music suffer in the pursuit of the big picture.  This is going to become ever harder on the smaller stages where the bespoke, often more nimble, festivals are able to compete very successfully indeed.
Lykke Li, on The Word Stage at Latitude 2011.
This was very good too but, while I didn't see it owing to a clash, I was reliably informed by others, who saw both this and also her subsequent performance at EOTR 2011, that the latter was even better. One might argue that after six years Latitude is maturing with its core audience. I started late in this, at least in the age game, and new music still excites me more than ever. EOTR was also on its sixth edition in 2011 and it just got better.
You can probably see my line of thought here and, with no Glastonbury in 2012 either, it will be interesting to see how the whole dynamic alters.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sleepless nights and new music...

The perhaps strange title of this post is less so to me. I have so much to write about and have listened to so much at festivals over the summer that it is now almost an inevitability. Some of this struck me whilst I was listening to the radio this last week: all full of students off to university for the first time and pondering the possibilities and pitfalls of Freshers' Week.
It made me think: that seems like a different life now. I tried to think what music I was listening to then. Not much I suspect, and even less that bears remembering let alone sharing with you. That was just short of 28 years ago!
More interesting perhaps is what, now twice-as-old-plus-a-decade-for-good-measure, I then imagined I might be listening to now. I don't think it ever crossed my mind...
One thing that I CERTAINLY never imagined is that I would be here, just now, writing this! Look at it another way - this was the time when CD players were as rare as rocking-horse shit and, once one had invested that money (and we are looking at near £1000 in actual cash then), there was precious little available to play on it and that which there was was mostly classical music.
Since then a great deal has happened, in music as in everything else. In these uncertain times it bears repeating that music has remained a steady companion. Of course it has changed but that is why it endures. I have changed too.
I still hate the person who lived above me in my first-year halls and went away for the weekend leaving Culture Club's 'Colour By Numbers' on continuous-play on their cassette player (remember those?). Even now, if I hear Karma Chameleon, I get flashbacks...
Forgiven but not forgotten. Musically things, mostly, got better after that and it might be time for some reminiscences. There is something about autumn and music for me. They just seem to go well together.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Acoustic+, Frome, September 16, 2011

After a summer recess, following the Frome Festival, the event returned to the Cheese & Grain Friday last.  The turn out was very encouraging and the audience was to hear some great music.

Four acts, as usual all very good, and the first to play was Ali George. Great guitar song-writing and largely unaccompanied.

The second is one that I have somehow managed to miss on more than one occasion previously. They come from Bristol and are Poppy and Friends.
There is a new EP - Flagged and Born To Be, just released to d/l (and also as a limited CD)...
...almost all of which are not however prone to fraying around the edges.

Next up was Dirk Landish. The album 'Blissful Drunken Blues' should be added to my suggestions for autumnal/fall music (see preceding post) and in this case it is harder to tell from which side of the Atlantic it draws the most inspiration. 
Excellent I thought and seemingly I was far from the only one to think so, at an event that was very well attended. You can listen to much of the album on his site and also buy the album direct from there too.
Last, and thus headlining, were Bakudan. Combining African rhythm with other influences they are fusion beyond pigeon-holing. I saw a bit of Tinariwen (at End Of The Road Festival) a couple of weeks back and I didn't really get that. Perhaps it was just a case of live music overload but, whatever the matter, I found this much more accessible and appealing.
So much so that, rather than choose between these pictures, here are both of them.
All of this for £5.  The next Acoustic+ takes place in the same venue, Cheese & Grain, Frome on October 14, 2011.
Of course you can't wait that long but then you don't have to because Acoustic Moon 2  is barely a week away and also promises a full evening of music for £5.

Not writing much but still listening...

OK. You are probably thinking that after three three-day festivals in six weeks I would, or perhaps should, be posting almost every day. Well. Let's just say it rarely works out quite like that.
It is not that I don't have plenty to write about; quite the opposite as I have heard so much live music that it takes a while for me to think about it all what it meant to me, and how it relates together or doesn't.  I've also been listening to more than a little new music too in the last two months - often just tracks posted as tasters on the internet etc. and while that might further complicate matters in terms of quantity it sometimes provides help in terms of inter-relation. A few of these things will have cropped up as un-linked items on the 'I've Just Listened To...' section on the side-bar, which I have recently moved to near the top as part of an ongoing rearrangement.
I hope to start to get my thoughts on the summer now gone and forthcoming releases trickling out soon but I shall be busy a couple of weekends.
Just a little later:
For the several people who have ended up here looking for 'music for Autumn' and/or 'music for Fall' (something I posted about at the start of summer last year) try this.

I love my house but were it to become detached from its terrace and dragged into the woods I think it might look much like this. I could live with that.
You can currently stream the whole album on Stereogum. It is released on vinyl and CD on October 17, 2011 by, as if I needed to say so, Bella Union.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

EOTR 2011 - Friday from America

Of course there was a wealth of acts from the US appearing over all three days of End Of The Road 2011 but Friday threw up a particularly interesting selection of ones that I really wanted to see performing live representing both coasts and much that comes between. I really enjoyed all of these sets. Here are two of them:

Tipi Stage, early Saturday afternoon - Sarabeth Tucek.
Her second album 'Get Well Soon' was released earlier this summer. I have had her self-titled début since it appeared in 2007 but I have no idea quite how I came to hear of this in the first place. Suffice it to say that it has been listened to consistently ever since. Neither album is really to be described as feel-good music at all, because the tone is too introspective and self-analytical for that. It is however very comforting and, while this might seen an odd thing to say when commenting on a festival performance, perhaps best listened to alone even if alone as part of a crowd and being in a crowd can be a particularly alienating kind of loneliness.
The contrast with the next act could hardly have been more pronounced. In a couple of minutes I walked from the indoor intimacy of the Tipi stage to the glorious afternoon sunshine of the Wood Stage and in doing so I travelled from the preoccupations of the Atlantic north-east to those of the beaches of California.
This was feel-good, beach party music. I swear I could hear the sound of surf by the end of the set.
This is Best Coast. Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno. Wood Stage, Saturday afternoon.
I couldn't convince the others that this was the way forward so I went along regardless. The whole point of music such as this, as I see it, is that it is frivolous and inconsequential fun. The whole set followed this approach, and it was great. In between the songs random chat involving such things as Snacks' thoughts on life - Snacks is Bethany Cosentino's cat, who appears on the 'Crazy For You' album cover and also in numerous band publicity shots, in case you were wondering!
This could all lead to a diffuse, rambling performance. It took me a few songs to work out why it was not so. One person, and only one person, was in charge of this live show and that was the drummer, Ali Koehler.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose

The début album, which also has one of the most astonishingly curious titles of recent times, is finally released on Mute Records on January 24, 2012. If you were not lucky enough to be at EOTR watching this set then let me say something: I had long ago worked out that she was good at what she does but then this was quite something.

Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny....
Live on the Garden Stage at End Of The Road Festival 2011, Saturday 3 September.  This is the third time I have seen the whole band live and it just gets better and better. For 2009/2010 coverage of Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny see 'I Will Return, I Promise'.
It is strange, in a very good kind of way, and I trust Mute Records with that.

If you wonder why that is, go listen to Polly Scattergood's 2009 self-titled début album that was also released by Mute. And, by the way, she's busy with the next one and I can't wait for that either.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

EOTR 2011 - O Canada! (Part 2)

This was the most amazing thing - the band I thought least likely to... Slow Down, Molasses is one I have known about for some time. 'I'm An Old Believer' but that wasn't going to mean that I might get to see them live unless I went to Canada which, expense aside, I would be quite happy to do. Thanks to EOTR I saw them twice. Here they are playing for the second time on the Tipi Stage at, so my camera tells me, 01:50 on Monday morning.

That I hot-footed it from the Garden Stage to the Tipi Stage, making it just in time for their first set, made the perfect start to Sunday. Why the need to do this? Well I just had to see fellow Canadians Lightning Dust too, also for the first time.
  Amber Webber and Joshua Wells are the heart of Lightning Dust.
They are also half of Black Mountain.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

EOTR 2011 - O Canada! (Part 1)

I have a soft spot for a great deal of music that comes out of Canada, in case you haven't already noticed, and I posted to this effect recently.
This last weekend I was spoilt rotten. Here are just two of my highlights in no particular order and more will follow on this topic.
I shall start with Timber Timbre. Their world is one of mist and shadows. They shun publicity and certainly would not be found signing CDs in the Rough Trade pop-up shop. This extends to the live show too so luckily, on a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon, they were ensconced in the perpetual twilight of the Big Top Stage.

It was easy for the lighting guys but the unchanging red glow well suited the music too.
I need the album 'Creep On Creeping On'.

Immediately following them on the same stage was a band whose recent album 'Feel It Break' I have been listening to quite often in the last month or two. The prospect of seeing them live therefore excited me but, from experience, such expectation can prove to be a double-edged sword. This time it was not. The band is Austra, its front-woman Katie Stelmanis.
Rather electro, rather noir in a slightly Gothic but not-at-all-depressing kind of way and utterly spellbinding. If these had been the only memorable performances by Canadian artists that I saw over the weekend I'd have been just fine about it.
It wasn't quite like that.

End Of The Road 2011

OK. I'm back home, have caught up on some of my accumulated sleep deficit, and so it is time to write something.  Just how good was EOTR 2011?
Well, for once, words fail me. Actions speak louder and so I have just bought my ticket for End Of The Road 2012. See you there? This year it was bigger than before, that is certainly true.  I and most of the people that I spoke to that had also attended in previous years concurred that it was actually even better than before.

In the gardens, just before the start of play on Friday.

A few minutes later...  Secret Sisters on the Garden Stage. What's not to like?
Until this year the Garden Stage was the main one, but the new format required a larger one too and that is the Wood Stage.
Much more to come over the next couple of weeks as I'm intending to link this in with more comments about and pictures from the other festivals that I have been to this summer. I also want to overhaul and refresh the contents of the side bar but it all takes time.