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 1990s 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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Green Man 2014 - a preview.

Green Man 2014 is now sold out. I am in anticipation of my first ever visit and to be quite honest the line up looks as though it might present one of the most clashes between stages that I have ever tried to square.
I can even get a readable image of the list into a single screen-full that you can read but still be prepared to scroll and/or zoom.

I'll be busy.
Would I like to chose a pre-festival must see list? Quite frankly, no!
I wouldn't want to do it for just one stage let alone the combination of them. One thing that makes things easier in some ways is that there are quite a few acts that I have seen before. That of course doesn't mean I don't want to see them again, because for the most part I do, but they are something of a known quantity live. On the other hand there is almost no overlap with Truck Festival 2014, which I went to last month or End of the Road 2014 in a fortnight's time

Here as a compromise is a short list, in alphabetical order, of eight acts that I have never seen live before but are on my "list of ones to see". None are appearing at EOTR 2014 unless I'm mistaken. It covers all stages and many of them have appeared in these posts before:
The links were chosen on the basis of what attracted me to seeing them live although this is likely not where I first got that information. I deliberately have not included amongst them anything that I have written. In the case of Joanna Gruesome the link was chosen on the basis of its explanation of the bands formation. It maybe quite the urban myth but who wants the truth to get in the way of a good tale?
There's some variety of music in the list, I think.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 28 - Deena - Rock River

For the most part I find new music for myself, one way or another, but this is one of the rare exceptions.
In keeping with my policy of not reviewing that which I don't care for, you never hear about many of them. I imagine that, had she not sent me a message, I might never have got to hear of Deena and her latest album 'Rock River', or not for some time at the very least. That would have been a shame, and for several different reasons.

The first reason is that I really like it. The second is, to me at least, more interesting. That is to do with what I would have thought, had I heard it for the very first time without any background or context whatsoever.
The answer to that is very simple: New York.

I can't pinpoint exactly what the combination of circumstances is but the album has this written through it in the manner of a stick of rock (a seaside candy, probably peculiar to Britain). Although  usually sold in length, typically 6 - 8 inches it can easily be made into slices...
Blackpool, a seaside resort in Lancashire became famous as an affordable vacation destination for the previously home-bound factory workers in the north west of England from the arrival of the railway in the mid-nineteenth century until cheap flights to Spain became available in the 1970s and then Florida some years later, is perhaps its true home. 
I used to listen to more music like this, or perhaps now I simply listen to more other music too, and it reminded me that I like it. I suspect however that this, to invoke another British food analogy, is something of a Marmite thing - that is to say adore or despise. I like Marmite too.
It is perhaps a consequence of a combination of the way it has with words, literate and self-referencing or reflective. The first feelings I had while listening were of Latitude Festival circa 2007 - 9. Then I tried to work out why. This, although done fitfully I have to admit, has taken a couple of weeks. Here are two LP points of reference that I have come up with and I did see both these artists live at Latitude in that period.

  • Jaymay  ---  Autumn Fallin' (2008)
  • Chairlift  ---   Does You Inspire You (2008)

It would be wrong of me not to mention Regina Spektor here and I her saw her live in this period too. You will suspect that I regard Deena Shoshkes as being in good company and if that means a few people buy some music that they might not otherwise have considered than that is all I can wish for.

I want to listen to her earlier albums now, particularly this one, and so can you:

Monday, August 04, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 27 - The Honeyfire

Unless you have been listening to BCfm tonight you may not know about this.
North Somerset three-piece Wolfhound is no more. No line up changes, just a new name, The Honeyfire and an album of the same name to be released by Jelli Records on 11 December 2014 in the UK and is available to pre-order today.

Not much more to say about this right now except that the new material sounds good. I'll try and sort out those links but, for now, here is the album artwork...

...and the track listing.
  • Road Signs
  • Delusion
  • Dreams
  • Parallel
  • Unheard Voice
  • Wolves
  • Can't You See
  • Underwater
  • Blind Eye
  • Noah
You can't stream songs from the forthcoming album yet but in the meantime try this one, Starlight, released in January 2014. This is the last release by exactly the same trio that changed its collective name from Wolfhound to The Honeyfire yesterday.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 26 - Ward Thomas live in Frome

I have been intending to write about the UK grown country music of twin sisters Ward Thomas (Catherine and Lizzy) for a little while now but the stuff around Truck Festival and those forthcoming has got in the way until now. Right now. The début album 'From Where We Stand' was released on 21 July. 

The UK headline tour in support of it started here in Frome tonight. I have just got back home. Frome is not Nashville and this, in the Cheese and Grain, was not The Grand Ole Opry but whoever set up the lighting tonight thought that it was and all credit to them. The set was wonderful. Yes, this is country music and yes, I did write that. Do not adjust your eyes and ears.
In that vein, with the harsh lighting, here they are. Live. In Frome. Tonight.

Before going further:
Support artist was Jess Roberts, about which I know next to nothing except to say that I would like to hear more. Once again a demonstration of my conviction that support artists really do matter. 

The real question is why are Ward Thomas being hailed as the act that, finally, will make UK country music something that inspires more than snide remarks and muffled giggles? More than that, be taken seriously in America too.
If this were Wikipedia it would require me to provide a reference. I hope that the comments of The Times Culture Supplement will suffice. It is not the clearest of images to read but here it is. The interesting thing I think, is not only that it was written and appeared when it did, but in so much detail. A short note in an "also consider" column would have been the best to be expected until fairly recently.

I have to say that any misgivings I had evaporated in seconds.

Friday, August 01, 2014

August and onward.

A one day festival (Behind The Castle) in June. A two day festival (Truck) in July. 
That was just the warm up. In two weeks time I shall be resident in Powys, Wales at Green Man Festival and it will be my first ever visit, which is exciting. Two weeks later comes my annual pilgrimage, since 2009 at least, to End Of The Road (EOTR). There are so many more... this weekend is the 50th Cambridge Folk Festival  and 21-5th August is the 50th Towersey Folk Festival. In an ideal world I would have quite happily gone to all of these and many more too. I have to say that one that has piqued my interest for a couple of years now, although it is in distant south Suffolk, is Maverick Festival. I could list many more that have caught my eye but seven links in the first paragraph is way more than enough. It is time to focus on those that I am going to and what I might wish from them.
It might be leavened with shorter posts on new music.

I'm thinking that this post is something I shall add to over the weekend and it will be thoughts about the acts that I want to see most at Green Man or EOTR and why. 
Reviews such as this certainly don't hurt. Ezra Furman is playing EOTR. Never seen him live nor heard his music that I am aware of.
I'll tell you one, from EOTR, that is right at the top of my list - Richard Thompson. I don't need to justify that.

In my eight years of festival attendance the changing balance is to be struck between artists that I have heard before and those new to me. As my recent posts concerning Truck 2014 may have made clear, my liking for seeing new artists, or ones that are merely new to me live or otherwise, remains undiminished. There is now a new category too - artists in new acts/guises. Maybe that is where, probably tomorrow, I shall start this discussion. I have two in particular in mind right now and, echoing the recent comments of Robin Seamer at Breaking More Waves, I have also been thinking about those end-of -year lists too. I rather suspect that the début albums by both will feature on mine.
Here is an observation that is just mine: in 2007 I started my end of year reviews with EPs and mini albums because that was easy. The weren't many and fewer still that I felt worthy of mention and I said then that I had felt it was a dying format. I suspect that in fact I had caught it just reviving from its death throes. It is true that much of this has to due with the ascendency of digital music but that is only part of the Lazarus story. Even in 2007 EPs were starting to appear on vinyl, 7", 10" and 12", and the story continues to grow to the present. This is a more recent, but you would not guess it, example of a single:

It was released physically only on cassette tape.

I could tell you about more worthwhile EPs from the first six months of 2014 than from 2007-9 in total. I don't think, for one moment, that this is simply because I am better informed, although I am. It is much more significant than that.

What this post does lack is photographs but that is an interesting demonstration of a cascade of consequence.
When I started to blog a problem soon became apparent - I needed more original stuff to write about. The obvious answer to that was to go to festivals. Festivals are about live music, which is an intrinsically visual medium too, so I needed pictures of what I saw and heard.