Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Live & Local - some dates for the diary

It seems that I haven't written so much about musical things taking place in Frome lately, so it is time for an update on some future events. For another view of the town I recommend this blog highly - Frome With A View.
Here, however, are some musical happenings that I am really looking forward to:

  • Acoustic+ returns after its customary summer recess on 28 September and this is with its 10th Anniversary edition that features all four of the acts that performed at the first! For more on that aspect see here. It is at the Cheese & Grain, as usual, but the ticket price is the £1 of the original (donations are much encouraged).
  • Sunday 21 October - The first Frome Blues Festival, organised by Seahorse Productions that is behind the Frome Folk Festival (of which see below). This is also at the Cheese & Grain.
  • Saturday 24 November - Sean Lakeman and Kathyrn Roberts. They were just amazing at Frome Folk Festival 2012 but this time are appearing at Rook Lane Chapel.
  • Saturday/Sunday 17/18 February - Frome Folk Festival 2013, the second edition of this event. An announcement of the firsts acts and artists who will be appearing is coming very soon and tickets are already on sale both locally, from the Cheese and Grain Box Office, and also through well known on-line sellers; these latter tend, however, to add a booking fee. If you want, and of course only if you can sensibly do so, the cheapest way is almost always to pay in cash at the Cheese & Grain box office. It offers real-time on-line ticketing, so there is no waiting and wondering if and when they will turn up in the mail. There is no booking fee either, for cash purchases. On the other hand it is up to you not to misplace them!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Deer Shed Festival 3 - New Music 2012 - Part 23

You might have suspected that this was coming. Festivals for me are, as much as anything else, a chance to go and catch up with some new artists that either I have never heard live or sometimes that I have never even heard about. This first trio of acts all fall into the former category and they all featured on the Saturday. I present them simply in the order in which I saw them play:
First off, and indeed the first music artist to perform at Deer Shed 3 on the Saturday, was North Yorkshire's own Pip Mountjoy on the (Far from the) Lake Stage. The stage was thus re-named as it had finally been erected far from where it was originally intended to be, owing to the very wet conditions prevailing before the festival took place.

She accompanied herself on acoustic guitar and played most of the six tracks from her début EP 'Louisiana', which I have already mentioned here and also included a couple of very recently written new songs that were extremely promising, not least the one that she introduced with some obvious reluctance and embarrassment, yet to considerable acclaim thereafter. I had already bought the EP digitally but as it is now available hand-made, including the sewn CD sleeve and CD-R, I bought a real one for £4 and here it is. 
These are now also available on-line, also for £4 (p & p extra) from her website.
She is off travelling, something that features in many of her songs and may impact on the availability of the CD, but returns to the UK for a tour in October/November 2012. 
This next, who played on the main stage at 3.40pm, is a trio of sisters from Hertfordshire who perform under the title of 'The Staves'.
This, their three-track 'Mexico EP' from 2011 has already appeared in the side-bar of this blog but here they are live and acapella.

And in standard mode - this is Mexico from the aforementioned EP.
The Staves release their début album in autumn 2012, hence the new music category. 

The final act of today's trio is in fact the only one to have released an album so far. That is Leeds' five-piece Ellen and The Escapades and I have mentioned their 2012 début album 'All The Crooked Scenes'. In fact it is a great example of what I like to do...
I was idly listening to Amazing Radio a couple of months ago and, having no previous knowledge of the band at all, a track from it came on. I didn't even attempt to listen to any other tracks on it: I just ordered the album from the band's website, all the more so because I found that for little extra cost I could have it on gate-fold vinyl. It arrived very swiftly and it certainly didn't disappoint.
My next mission was to see this band live and Deer Shed Festival soon came to the rescue as Ellen & The Escapades headlined the Lake Stage on Saturday evening and here is something from that set.
Ellen Smith has a way with song-writing and a voice that matches it perfectly.
You could just possibly compare her to Amy Macdonald at her very best but, more than anything else, it makes me think that backed up by such an amazing band she both writes and sings songs that are the modern equivalent of Lowry paintings but never quite so modern as to alienate those who know the originals.
That is an astonishing achievement.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Deer Shed Festival 3 - one week on

This is incredibly hard to write and not for the reasons that over the last five years and some I have become used to. I've even gotten somewhat inured to the fact that I write as a Briton (if never a great one) to a potential audience of millions. All that was put in to perspective yesterday - with the opening of the 30th Modern Olympiad in London. We, as host Nation, were never planning to upstage the sheer scale of the equivalent event at Beijing 2008, nor did we ever think that we might try to do so in budget, scale or pale imitation.
Britain just had to do it the only way it knows, which is what defines us - a wonderful mix of contradictory things that everyone but almost nobody - myself included - really properly understands and a certain penchant for comedy and self-deprecation.
It involved a lot of music, both old and new, but none of that from Deer Shed Festival 3 that I'm planning to mention now. It does however prompt me to mention that for every well known artist featured yesterday there are plenty more who aspire to gain our attention and are worthy of doing so. Aspiring athletes do not start at the Olympic Games, just as aspiring musicians do not headline Glastonbury, but they are there at the smaller festivals and local venues every week of every year. One thing that has made changes for them, and it was featured by the appearance of Sir Tim Berners-Lee at yesterday's event, is the internet. Without it I might not yet have even heard about these artists that I saw performing live at Deer Shed Festival 3: Think about what that really means.

As it always was, it only needs a little sunshine to get us in a party mood but a bar also helps too. Without the internet I would not be writing this and you, wherever you might be, would not be reading it. Yet, for all that, the reason that almost six-thousand of us were gathered there at all was for the entertainment - modern music,  live and strictly non-digital primarily, but also that most human of desires that is like-minded comradeship.
The sun first made an appearance on Friday evening when Belfast five-piece Cashier No. 9 were playing on the main stage.
I have seen this band live before, at Truck Festival 2011, and I was impressed then. I still am and they appear again at EOTR 2012, as part of the 15th anniversary of Bella Union Records on the Friday.
The very first act to play at Deer Shed Festival 3 was Leeds' Moody Gowns on the tented 'In The Dock Stage'. Not exactly the least abrasive of welcomes, perhaps...
...on the other hand a worthy welcome to the orthogonal world that is a good festival.

Friday, July 27, 2012

End of the Road Festival 2012

Before I comment further on my trip to North Yorkshire for Deer Shed Festival 3 last weekend here is a little shout-out for the next festival that I shall be attending (unless that is I add another in the intervening five weeks). I mention it because tickets are fast running out, indeed those in some categories already have done so.

I'll comment on my desires, and the possible conflicts between them, soon.
This does not even mention the unmentionable - the secret performances for which EOTR is rightly famous and those of you who were at NDH 2012 might also have discovered.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Deer Shed Festival 3 - The future is the young.

If the title of the post is true, and I believe it to be so, then for all the changes in the music industry things don't look too bad for the future of live, acoustic music. Gary Stewart and his supremely adaptable band on the (Far from the) Lake Stage, Saturday lunchtime.

The adults, in all probability, were enjoying it even more.

New Music 2012 - Part 22 - The Haunted Man

Before starting on the music that I saw and heard live at Deer Shed Festival 3 this past weekend it is time to mention this; the third album from the artist whose first, Fur and Gold, was the inadvertent genesis of this particular blog!


1. Lilies
2. All Your Gold
3. Horses of the Sun
4. Oh Yeah
5. Laura
6. Winter Fields
7. The Haunted Man
8. Marilyn
9. A Wall
10. Rest Your Head
11. Deep Sea Diver

The Haunted Man is released early-autumn (October 15 in the UK) and it will be available on vinyl. After Two Suns, which she shared with her alter ego Pearl, I wonder what it will reveal. Natasha Khan has been an influence on more new artists since her 2006 début album than she may care to admit. That is one thing that I learned this weekend.
I'm just wondering when someone will first ask me to comment on the 'best albums of 2012'. It hasn't happened yet...
I have, for my part, a few in mind already.

To see her upcoming live set at Bestival 2012, Isle of Wight, UK see here:

17:25 BST (UST +1)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 21 - Record Store Day 2012

One blog that I always follow is Too Much Music (is a good thing)
Here's an item, a Record Store Day 2012 limited edition 7", that we came to discuss only very recently: It is, basically, Alex Turner's lyrical sensibilities filtered through Caitlin Rose's astonishing avidity for making cover versions her own.

Round 2: over to you Alex.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 20 - Difficult to resist?

Amazing live in the UK last summer.  She Keeps Bees.  Released July 17, 2012 in the US.
'Blue Moon' is a cover version to be filed alongside such veteran songs as 'Ghost Woman Blues' (1928), as re-recorded by Low Anthem on the 2011 album 'Smart Flesh'. Written a little before (1933-4?) it was first recorded in 1935 and, as it happens, is also the unofficial anthem of the supporters of both Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City Association Football clubs. The exact lyric may not be strictly followed but then even the original lyric had at least four re-writes before it first aired as a bona fide single in its own right!
It has been covered many times down the decades, including that by Elvis Presley on his eponymous début album in 1956, something that without doubt contributed to its early adoption into the canon of 'American songs' although both Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were English. It appeared in snippets in the film 'Grease' and again in Glee (season 1) and in many other films, performed by a myriad of artists, in the meanwhile. It was originally written for the purpose of film accompaniment but went through three sets of lyrics before it was actually used in a film release. Both Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart have been known to perform live cover versions of it.
It is, therefore, a true song-survivor.

Monday, July 09, 2012

New Music 2012 - Part 19 - Across the Pond, again.

There has been plenty of coverage concerning the quantity of UK music making it into the higher reaches of the Billboard charts of late: Just don't imagine otherwise --- we are well able to do partisan self-congratulation too.
Here are two that are nothing of the kind, yet also a reflection on trans-Atlantic trends in music that I particularly like at the moment. This first is an album from 2011 which, although you will hardly find it all over radio in the UK, is well liked by those whose taste in music extends to this genre. Without any doubt they are far more numerous than they were not so very long ago and quite unashamedly I count myself amongst them. If you read my meanderings you would likely have realized this some while back.
In general subject matter, although I left specifics obscure, it was the basis of a post entitled 'If you want to torture yourself, beautifully...' that I wrote in May.  Neither am I going to recant words I have written concerning my love of vinyl even at the risk of suffering discrimination as the result of being an insufferable audiophile.
This is a combination of both 'sins'. It is serious, yet witty and varied, and so well done that it has impact for all the right reasons. In all probability you could absolutely detest every song on it; it is that consistent. The truth is, I just don't care.

  RCA 88691-96876-1 (the US 12" 'Record Store Day 2012' gate-fold vinyl LP release).
This next is an even more recent release; Los Angeles' trio-of-sisters Haim with their bud Dash Hutton on percussion. This has seen some play on BBC Radio 1 in the UK and it is dusty, slightly-careworn pop. In some ways, however, it also puts me in mind of me of the output by LA's Warpaint
Good stuff then. It's a 10" vinyl EP available directly via the band's label for its physical release. http://nationalanthem.bigcartel.com/product/haim-forever-ep-10-vinyl.
Updated: July 9, 2012 (22:55 BST or, if you prefer, UTC+1):
It was available until earlier this evening but all 300 vinyl copies have now been sold. The label says that 'a few more' might become available. Hold your breath.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Remember MySpace?

Well it does still exist. Don't forget, in the heat of the moment, that things on the internet do not stay the same for long. Here, derived from a slightly earlier and specific comment today, are my initial thoughts on that:

After the FB debacles concerning firstly the default e-mail address changes to @facebook.com, then the huge fuss surrounding the issue of posts by artists and 'Pay-to-Promote', I would hope that it has now learned some lessons ex vox populi.
You, and other artists whom I want to hear all posts from, are now added to a list that ensures that I do. I also changed my profile e-mail address back to that which I had selected.  FB solely depends on us for its success and, much more recently, its stock-market value too. Facebook could go bust tomorrow for all I care. In such a circumstance I'd be way more concerned about the plight of its employees than that of its shareholders.
We as mere users and willing, if hopefully discriminating, advertising magnets would be back on-line somewhere else within a week or so. We already have other options should we choose to exercise them.
I fully accept that, as a business, it must pay its way but that does not excuse it from the need to explain its policy and ethics in advance and in a way that is transparent and simply understood by its many, diverse users. This has been its Achilles' heel for some time, and the problem does not seem to be reaching any kind of swift resolution.