Category Archives: Live Music

Download 2018: The Rock Festival That Sets The Standard For All Others

This time last week I was driving home from Download Festival 2018 reflecting on a weekend of great music, and on the funeral of my 35-year-old nephew who was to be cremated just two days later.

There is something about Download.  Few would argue that Donington Park in Leicestershire has become the spiritual home of rock music.  The place reeks of history, name a great rock band and the chances are that they have played Download.  The atmosphere is fantastic, a mixture of fun, craziness, and a love of music that binds the many thousands of fans together.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Guns N’ Roses.  Hands up, I have never been a huge fan, Axl Roses’ reputation for being a total twat prevented me from really connecting with their music.  As soon as it was announced that Guns N’ Roses were reuniting for a tour, it was obvious that a headline slot for Download was inevitable.  I think I was more excited about this show than for any band I have ever seen.

 

So what did we get? Well Guns N’ Roses certainly didn’t shortchange the biggest crowd I have ever seen at Download.  They played a set of 28 songs in a show that lasted close to 3.5 hours.  The band even took the stage two minutes early!  What followed was a masterclass in how to delve into a large back catalog to create an interesting and varied setlist.  Of course, the old favorites like Paradise City, Mr. Brownstone, and Sweet Child O’ Mine were present, so too the famous covers like Live and Let Die, and Knockin on Heavens Door.  In fact, we had a total of nine covers in the set with songs by Soundgarden, The Who, and Pink Floyd getting an outing.

download-2

This was rock royalty in every sense of the word.  So how was the show?

In truth, I thought it was a mixed bag.  Despite the huge numbers in attendance Axl Rose didn’t really interact with the crowd, at least over the course of the first two hours.  I felt that the atmosphere was strangely flat, though I wasn’t in the middle of the massive crowd.  Guns N Roses followed Black Stone Cherry, Thunder, The Temperance Movement, The Struts and Monster Truck on the main stage lineup.  I missed The Temperance Movement, but each of the other bands whipped the crowd into a frenzy, so I think Axl’s more aloof persona added to my feeling that things were a bit flat.

Axl sounded great.  I think he struggled to hit the notes on some of the songs, my friends disagreed. I must admit that I was a little taken aback to see Axl Rose make more costume changes than Beyonce!  Slash was a little self-indulgent at times but the band was as tight as a camels backside in a sandstorm.  Overall, I am thrilled that I finally got to see Guns N’ Roses.

I must mention The Struts and Thunder because for very different reasons they both blew me away.  Thunder passed me by first time around, and they last played at Donington in 1990.  They were just fabulous.  Good old-fashioned headbanging rock music that had the crowd bouncing for their entire set.  Definitely one of the highlights of a brilliant weekend for me.

I last saw The Struts at Reading a couple of years ago and I did wonder how they would go down with an audience of metalheads.  The answer, they went down a storm.  Struts frontman Luke Spiller, could be the love child of Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins from The Darkness.  He has that same flamboyance, the outrageous styling, and boy can he work a crowd.

My favorite moments on Friday’s line up came on the Avalanche stage, this year hosted and curated by Kerrang Radio.  Stray From The Path and Stick To Your Guns absolutely shredded the huge tent.  I simply don’t understand why both of these bands are not bigger than they are.  The sheer rawness and energy blow me away every time I see them.

Over on the main stage, Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold were simply brilliant.  BFMV have a new album in the offing and I talked about it with Matt and Jason before the show, watch out for that in the next few days.  Avenged Sevenfold always turn in a great show, and this was no exception.  They are worthy headliners for Download and are always worth watching.

Bullet For My Valentine-26

If I’m honest I found the Sunday lineup at this year’s Download a little uninspiring.  Of course many will disagree, but Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osborne on the main stage just wasn’t my cup of tea.  Manson’s stage persona and music have never really connected with me, and I was so disappointed with Ozzy’s performance with Black Sabbath at 2016’s “Drownload,” that I decided to give his show a miss for fear of tarnishing the memory of a true icon in metal music.

That left me free to wander and to just soak up the festival vibe.  The evergreen Rise Against and the rapidly improving Milk Teeth were my highlights of the day.  Across a brilliant weekend of rock music, and aside from the frankly ridiculous prices for merchandise, food, and drink at this year’s Download, my one lowlight also came on Sunday.

I wandered past the Zippo stage to check out Body Count Featuring Ice T.  I really like bands like Enter Shikari who are adding elements of Rap and Hip Hop into rock music, Truth be told I quite enjoyed Body Count’s music.  What I didn’t like was Ice T bringing a two-year-old girl onto the stage and telling her that “if anyone ever fucks with you, tell them your uncle Ice will shoot them in the fucking face.”

download-3

Whilst I welcome the positive influences different musical genres can bring to the world of rock, you can keep the negative influences so often associated with Rap and Hip Hop.  You can keep the misogyny, the allusion to gun violence and all the negativity to yourself thanks.

Finally, even the weather cooperated to make Download 2018 a memorable occasion.  A dry weekend makes for a much more enjoyable festival, same again next year please Mr. Copping.

 

 

Advertisements

Bearded Theory Review – An Eclectic Feast

If you caught my earlier piece about Bearded Theory festival you will be aware that I missed Thursdays music because of issues getting onto the site.  When we had torrential rain overnight and woke to rain and clouds that seemed to have settled about 6-feet above the van roof, I suspected that we were in for a pretty grim day.

I need not have worried, as things improved as lunchtime approached.  We set off for the arena looking forward to a day of music and catching up with friends.  As always, my first port of call is the Something Else Tea Tent.  No one is closer to new talent emerging on the grassroots scene than Gail, so it is always worth checking out what she has on offer.  Expect new talent, old favourites, and the odd main stage band dropping in to play an acoustic set.

I guess, in many ways, Les Carter epitomises all three of the above.  It was Les who provided my best moment of the entire weekend.  Get this, Les Carter, a man who headlined Glastonbury in 1992, playing an acoustic cover of Bobby Blue’s hit song, Dancing on a Saturday Night, in front of a couple of hundred people in the Something Else Tea Tent.  There it is, Bearded Theory, in a nutshell, you never know what you are going to get, it’s not unlike Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.  I’m almost certain that Les enjoys performing on the Grass Roots scene more than he ever did getting banned from Glastonbury 🙂

friday-18

Mind you, it’s not like we were stuck for bands elsewhere.  I thought Friday’s lineup was as excellent as it was eclectic.  I kicked off with a bit of high energy punk rock from a longtime friend of Bearded Theory.  John Robb and the Membranes played an insanely good set on the Woodland stage.  It was certainly Manchester’s day on that stage because I thought Manchester outfit Pins were absolutely sublime.  These girls rock and they have that outward confident swagger that suggests they are destined for big things.  Let’s face it, anyone who sends Iggy Pop a demo and asks him to do a voice over can hardly be accused of allowing themselves to be constrained by a lack of ambition.

friday-21

Over on the main stage folk favourites, Show of Hands played their usual hugely entertaining show.  They may have been around for a while, but they are none the worse for their longevity.  My biggest surprise of the day came from Sleeper.  Of course, I know the name, but for a band who have eight top-40 singles and 3 top 10 albums to their name, I know little about them.  That’s about to change, I thought they were absolutely superb on the day.

I had a huge decision to make later on Friday evening.  Jesus Jones on the Woodland Stage or Jesus & Mary Chain and Blossoms on the main stage.  In the end, I decided on the latter, chiefly because I was a huge Jesus & Mary Chain fan back in the day, and because I wanted to photograph the rapidly progressing Blossoms.

friday-25

In truth, Jesus & Mary Chain’s set largely passed me by.  I can’t put my finger on why, but I just couldn’t get into it.  Blossoms were a different story.  Being honest, I thought to book a band like Blossoms was a great decision by the festival.  Like many, I would be content to see the Levellers and New Model Army every year, but bands like Blossoms are the future.  Granted they don’t have the political edge of bands like those aforementioned, but they played a great set and I thought they were worthy headliners for a festival of this size.

That rounds up Friday for you folks, tune in later for Saturday & Sunday.

 

Bearded Theory 2018 – Triumph In Adversity! (Part 1)

At last!  After what seemed to be the longest Winter ever, the UK summer festival season is underway.  Those who have read my previous views on this festival will know that Bearded Theory is a real favourite of mine, the dates for next year are already in my diary.  That said, there were a few problems at this years festival, so let’s deal with those right away.

Getting onto the site this year was quite simply a nightmare.  It took me over four hours to travel the last four miles from the A38 to the site.  Not good, not good at all.  The queues were dreadful and the situation was exacerbated after arriving on the site and meeting an incredibly rude, aggressive and officious campsite security supervisor who refused to let me park my van in an empty spot and sent me to the overflow crew field instead.  This meant a 40-minute walk to the site, no fun when carrying all of my camera equipment.  I realise that staff are stressed when things go wrong, but there is no need for aggression towards festival fans.

Sadly, my experience was far from unique.  If my festival friends are to believed many shared my experience.  However, let’s remember that the huge majority of security staff were helpful, friendly and polite.

Bearded Theory-15

The net result was that I missed the entire Thursday lineup with the exception of the last couple of songs by headliners, Reverend and the Makers.  It was certainly a disappointing start to the festival.  On Friday, we woke to rain and the awful news that tent thieves had been at work overnight, this is fast becoming a trend at UK festivals, especially on the first night when people are carrying the most cash.

That said, if you think this is going to be a review that focuses on what didn’t go well, let me disavow you of that notion.

There are many reasons why Bearded Theory is my favourite festival of the year, and it’s mostly about the people.

The organisers of Bearded Theory were horrified by the traffic problems, and I am certain that they will do everything in their power to ensure that there is no repeat next year.

Of course, it isn’t just the organisers who make a festival run smoothly.  They are assisted by a huge team who spend days before and after the festival building and breaking down the site.  A special mention must go to the wonderful army of Oxfam stewards.  These selfless souls turn up giving their time, often working long shifts, for no more than free entry to the event.  They work incredibly hard to keep us all safe and to keep things running smoothly.

Bearded Theory-10

Of course, the biggest praise of all should go to those festival fans who turn up intent on having a great weekend.  In their thousands, music fans arrive on site to party, make new friends, and to socialise with other revelers.  Perhaps the best example of the atmosphere at Bearded Theory was the fans reactions to the Thursday night thefts.  Many fans donated to hastily arranged funds collected by the welfare team and by the crew at the Something Else Tea Tent.  Thousands of pounds were donated to help ensure that those who lost everything were able to stay on site and enjoy the festival.

You can’t help but be impressed by the selflessness and generosity of the fans at Bearded Theory.  Likewise, the attention to detail displayed by the entire team.  The festival had campsite helpers who entertained children whilst tents were erected.  There were sign language interpreters on all the stages, new paths had been installed to assist those with mobility problems,

My wife and I walked the camping fields on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, almost unbelievably, as the photos below will show, there wasn’t a single piece of litter to be seen in the campsites.  This was seriously impressive, but it also exemplifies that everyone has a role to play in making a festival and great experience for everyone.

Bearded Theory-7

Lastly, one of the reasons that Bearded Theory is frequently awarded accolades for Best Family Festival is the Bearded Theory School.  Teachers, volunteers, Special Educational Needs teachers combine to provide a fabulous fun and educational experience for the younger festival fan.  This really is the jewel in Bearded Theory’s crown.

To summarise, Bearded Theory had a few issues to deal with over the past weekend, but as they always do, the organisers reacted swiftly, doing everything they possibly could to resolve the problems.  I have no doubt that they will do everything in their power to improve again next year.

It is Bearded Theory’s ability to listen and respond to its customers that sets it apart from most festivals.  It is the determination to get it right that makes Bearded Theory the best festival of its kind in the UK.  Long may it continue!

I will end part 1 of this review here, do watch out for reviews and photographs over the next few days.

 

Camden Roundhouse – IN The Round Concert Announcements

Lambchop, Jaga Jazzist, Lisa Hannigan, Ghetts, Orchestra Baobab, Susheela Raman, Julian Cope, Tiger Lillies and Martha Wainwright with Ed Harcourt in a double-bill make up 2017’s In the Round.

The Roundhouse, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary year, launches its 2017 Music Programme with the return of In the Round, a series of intimate performances set in a rarely seen fully seated concert set up in the iconic main space.

2017’s In the Round series is a season of debuts. With most artists performing at the Roundhouse for the first time – only Martha Wainwright has headlined the venue before – and with many, including Martha, performing new material. Hailing from Nashville, music pioneers Lambchop will perform music from their acclaimed musical re-invention Flotus. From Norway Jaga Jazzist will be bringing their unique mix of electronica, rock and jazz, with material from their extensive back catalogue as well as their most recent album, Starfire. From Dublin, Lisa Hannigan will be performing music from her critically acclaimed new album At Swim, arguably her most bewitching to date.  Orchestra Baobab, undoubtedly one of Africa’s supergroups, bring some of the magic of Dakar to the Roundhouse with a sneak preview of their spring 2017 World Circuit album.  Tamil Londoner, Susheela Raman, is known for her exciting collaborations and here she brings the Ghost Gamelan Orchestra from Indonesia to perform music from her forthcoming album, Ghost Gamelan. Ghetts, one of the most prominent figures on the grime scene celebrates the ten year anniversary of his second mixtape, Ghetto Gospel by performing it live in full.  A very special double bill of superlative singer-songwriters Martha Wainwright and Ed Harcourt will perform solo sets before coming together for a one-off collaboration. Anarchic Brechtian street opera trio, The Tiger Lillies, will be presenting for the first time their brand new album, Cold Night in Soho, their first band release in 10 years. Finishing the series in grand style is the extraordinary Julian Cope – who has come to be defined as much by his extra-musical pursuits as his musical output.

julian-cope-in-the-round

As part of the Roundhouse’s work with young people, support acts will all be emerging artists who have progressed their careers through the Paul Hamlyn Roundhouse Studios – where the Roundhouse offers life-changing creative opportunities for thousands of young people each year. They will perform in either the main space or upstairs in Torquil’s Bar.

Thursday 26 January

Lambchop + support

Tickets £17.50 – £27.50 / Doors 7pm

Nashville music pioneers Lambchop are considered one of the most consistently brilliant American groups to have emerged since their breakthrough album Nixon in 2000, with frontman Kurt Wagner one of the most talented singer-songwriters of our age.

lambchop-in-the-round

With a discography revealing 11 albums and a multitude of influences with an ever-shifting group of players, Lambchop have long since shaken off the alt-country label that once defined them.   Their musical signature, quite simply, is the distinctive songwriting, deeply insightful lyrics and the wistful, warm, slightly cracked and often murmured vocals of Wagner.

In November 2016, Lambchop release their twelfth studio album, Flotus (For Love Often Turns Us Still) marking a significant change in direction.  Kurt Wagner has set aside what he has learned over the last 30 years and embarked on a musical adventure exploring modern day R&B, soul, hip-hop and early electronica amongst other genres.  Anchored by the Lambchop hallmark – beautifully nuanced arrangements, quietly powerful and hugely beguiling songs with brilliantly skewed vocals – the result sounds like no one else, yet unmistakably like Lambchop.  Imbued with the magic energy of an artist stumbling upon the thrill of the new, Lambchop’s In the Round performance promises to be a very special show presenting a stunning piece of work, one of the most impressive achievements of Lambchop’s career.

Friday 27 January

Jaga Jazzist + support

Tickets £15 – £20 / Doors 7pm

Jaga Jazzist are one of the most celebrated and influential of the Norwegian post-jazz bands. Part jazz ensemble, part post-rock outfit and part electronica pioneers, they have always been an absurdly difficult band to pigeonhole. Their constant re-invention and restless energy has marked them out as standard-bearers for a new musical sound and one whose music has been a profound influence on both the contemporary jazz and electronica scenes, as well as helping to define a new musical space between the genres. Influenced by artists from Gil Evans to Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine to Tortoise, Oslo 13 to Motorpsycho and Fela Kuti to Steve Reich, Jaga Jazzist have created a sound unlike anyone else. Their live shows, driven by an arsenal of multi-instrumentalists – all leaders and producers in their own right – are marked by a hypnotic intensity that brings their already thrilling music to powerful life. For tonight’s very special performance and Roundhouse debut, expect to hear music from their recent electronica-heavy, Ninja Tune Records release, Starfire, alongside hits from their illustrious back catalogue.

 

“sounds that recall everything from Weather Report to big-band jazz, krautrock, Radiohead or even the Pat Metheny GroupThe Guardian

Saturday 28 January

Lisa Hannigan + support

Tickets £15 – £25 / Doors 7pm

 

Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan first came to light as an angel-voiced, somewhat mysterious figure singing harmonies alongside Damien Rice. When their seven-year collaboration came to an end, Hannigan released her first solo album, Sea Sew (2008), and her sparkling solo career was born. The self-released album was a runaway success, nominated for a Choice award in Ireland and a Mercury Music Prize in the UK. While Sea Sew was a joyous kaleidoscope of love songs, laments, sea shanties and glockenspiels, her second release, Passenger (2011) explored deeper, darker emotions. After touring Passenger for two years, Hannigan found writing her next album very hard. During this difficult period she also lent her voice to the orchestral score of Alfonso Cuaron’s film Gravity, as well as providing the voice of the mermaid in the Oscar-nominated Irish animation Song of the Sea. When The National’s Aaron Dessner contacted her about working together, things began to fall into place and At Swim was released in August 2016. These songs travel even deeper into a darkly magical space where the boundaries between love and death, past and present, grief and happiness, are dissolved, so this intimate show promises to be a truly magical evening.

“Hannigan’s soaring vocals never falter” The Observer

Monday 30th January

GHETTS +support

Tickets £12.50 – £15.00 / Doors 7pm

 In 2005, Ghetto, a stormy young artist from East London arrived on the grime scene with explosive, hard hitting lyrics and fast, intricate rhymes.  Originally a member of the notorious grime collective NASTY Crew, the MC rapper soon left to create his own collective, The Movement where he would work alongside artists such as Devlin, Wretch 32, and Schorcher.  Today, he goes under the moniker Ghetts and is regarded as a pioneer of the grime movement; a prominent figure that remains as relevant today as he did over ten years ago.

 

Known for his provocative, volatile style of rap, Ghetts has, since 20015,  released multiple mixtapes that have spawned many underground hits and grime anthems,  yet it was his 2014 debut studio release, ‘Rebel With a Cause’, that saw him smashing into the mainstream earning him three MOBO nominations – Best Male, Best Album and Best Grime Artist.

 

But for this very special show,  Ghetts revisits his second mixtape, 2007’s ‘Ghetto Gospel’ celebrating its ten year anniversary by performing it in full for the very first time.  ‘Ghetto Gospel’ was a far more mellow offering than the harder-edged recordings that preceded and followed it.  Its calmer tones and shift away from the unconcealed rawness of his other material provided a revealing exposé of Ghett’s depth and versatility as an artist.  The album became Ghett’s breakthrough that year and went on to become a grime classic.  Ghetts personally names it as his best body of work.

Tuesday 31st January

Orchestra Baobab + support

Tickets £15 – £25 / Doors 7pm

 

One of Africa’s great iconic bands, Orchestra Baobab create some of the world’s most sublime and truly distinctive music. Formed in 1970, taking their name from the Dakar nightclub where they were resident, they fused Afro-Cuban rhythm and Portuguese Creole melody with Congolese rumba, high life and a whole gamut of local styles, kick starting a musical renaissance in their native Senegal, which turned the capital, Dakar, into one of the world’s most vibrant musical cities. The band released dozens of recordings before disbanding in the mid-80s but it was their neglected 1982 album, Ken Dou Werente – which included many of their most famous songs, ‘Coumba’, ‘Ledi Njemme Mbodj’ and ‘Utru Horas’ – that became a cult-classic, re-released to huge acclaim by World Circuit Records in 1989 under the title Pirate’s Choice. The band reformed in 2001 with encouragement from Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour and the following year released Specialist in All Styles, their first album in nearly 20 years. In 2007 they released Made in Dakar, and now, nine years on, Orchestra Baobab are back in the studio recording their fourth album for World Circuit, which is set for release in Spring 2017.

Wednesday 1 February

Susheela Raman and Ghost Gamelan Orchestra + support

Tickets £15 – £20 / Doors 7pm

 

With a string of acclaimed albums to her name and a mesmerising voice and stage presence, Londoner Susheela Raman has a gift for finding amazing collaborators and for bridging musical worlds. From the many layered Indian and African crossovers on Mercury shortlisted debut Salt Rain to her recent five-star reviewed (Guardian, FT) collaboration with Sufi Qawals, she has forged a unique path. Recently, Raman and guitarist/producer Sam Mills have been in Indonesia delving into the mysteries of Javanese music, guided by maverick ‘contemporary gamelan’ composer Gondrong Gunarto. Susheela’s Ghost Gamelan Orchestra brings together Gondrong and three other crack multi-instrumentalists from the Javanese cultural hub of Surakarta, alongside some top London talent; two percussion maestros, Aref Durvesh (Nitin Sawhney, Jeff Beck, Joss Stone, Sting) and Pirashanna Theverajah (Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar) plus virtuoso cellist and keyboardist Danny Keane (Mulatu Astatke, Bat for Lashes) and on Bass and Bassoon Jerry Meehan (Roxy Music, Robbie Williams and many others).  This show promises a broad range of material, including tracks from her EP celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles Revolver album (released on Believe Digital on 28 October) and from her forthcoming album Ghost Gamelan.

 

“…wildly original, passionate and dangerous..” The Guardian

 

Thursday 2 February

Martha Wainwright + Ed Harcourt + support

Tickets £15 – £25 / Doors 7pm

 

A beguiling double-bill featuring two extraordinarily gifted singer-songwriters, Martha Wainwright and Ed Harcourt. Each will perform a solo-set – before coming together for a one-off collaboration.

 

With a wonderfully distinctive voice and an arsenal of powerful songs, Martha Wainwright is a profoundly gifted singer-songwriter who first grabbed our attention with the blistering Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole, named by the Sunday Times as one of their ‘songs of the year’ in 2005, a prelude to her breakthrough hit album Martha Wainwright. Further albums highlighted her growing maturity as a song-writer and storyteller of the highest calibre and in 2010 she toured the world promoting her third album, Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, à Paris, a homage to the great Edith Piaf and was received with glowing reviews, leaving audiences captivated by her performance. Fortonight’s show she’ll perform material from her Nov 2016 release, Goodnight City, hailed as her best record yet. This album returns to the rawness of her first release and includes songs by Martha, as well as songs written by her friends and other great songwriters such as Beth Orton, Glen Hansard, her brother Rufus Wainwright, Michael Ondaatje, and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs.

 

Ed Harcourt is a genuine English treasure, with a trove of songs inspired by Carole King, David Bowie, Nina Simone, and Tom Waits, amongst others. Nominated for the 2001 MercuryPrize for his powerful debut album, Here Be Monsters, he has gone on to release seven highly acclaimed albums. He has also found time to collaborate with the likes of Paloma Faith, Beck, Burberry, the Libertines, and Marianne Faithfull, with whom he played at last year’s inaugural In the Round season.  For this show he appears playing a special stripped-back set of songs from his critically celebrated August 2016 release, Furnaces, hailed as his most ambitious and abrasive yet and produced by legendary producer Flood (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey).

 

Friday 3 February

The Tiger Lillies + Support

Tickets £17.50 – £22.50 / Doors 7pm

 

The world of The Tiger Lillies is dark, peculiar and varied, with moments of deep sadness, cruel black humour and immense beauty. Formed in 1989, they remain one of the most unique, provocative and genre-defying bands one could come across. The music produced by this rampageous trio is a mixture of pre-war Berlin cabaret, anarchic opera and gypsy music, echoing the voices of Bertolt Brecht and Jacques Brel. Their songs cover all the dark aspects of life, from prostitution and drug addiction to violence and despair, always infused with a touch of twisted humor and sharp irony.  They have participated in numerous shows all over the world, collaborating with artists of all disciplines: from circus performers to Shakespearean actors, experimental dancers to avant-garde photographers and burlesque puppeteers to classical music ensembles.

 

For this very special show, the band will be performing from their new album of band songs, Cold Night in Soho – their first album in 10 years not to be tied in to one of their theatre shows. Cold Night in Soho is released on 3 February.

 

This delicious dark cabaret is Kurt Weill as scripted by Aleister Crowley, and the execution is impeccable throughout. Phenomenal.”  The Guardian

 

Saturday 4 February

Julian Cope + Support

Tickets £25 – £30 / Doors 7pm

 

As poet, musicologist, historian, archaeologist, occultist, novelist and cultural commentator, Julian Cope has come to be defined as much by his extra-musical pursuits as his musical output. He came to prominence in 1978 as the front man of Teardrop Explodes, a brassy post-punk outfit whose four-year reign as a top-ten chart act notoriously ended, in part, to Cope’s well-documented love of munching acid.  Following a brief period of recovery, Cope embarked on a solo career that has spawned over 20 highly acclaimed recordings and cemented his place as one of the most visionary, supremely eclectic and innovative musicians of our time.

 

Cope’s solo recordings have run the musical gamut from crisp, melodic rock tunes – his 1986 single World Shut Your Mouth became a top 20 hit – to psychedelic funk, electro-acoustic, Krautrock-inspired instrumentals, space-rock, garage-rock, techno and anarcho-punk.  Similarly, a dazzling array of collaborations and esoteric projects have seen him working with drone metal band Sunn O))) alongside his long-standing band, the ostentatious pro-metal power trio, Brain Donor. Lyrically, his songs teem with political content outlining his own personal beliefs on a number of subjects – religion, bigotry corporate greed and environmental destruction. As a writer, Cope has produced six acclaimed books that take in archaeology, musicology, antiquarianism, plus a two-part autobiography and much-lauded books on krautrock and Japanese rock and an ecstatically reviewed novel.

Live, Cope is an extraordinary and engaging performer; a witty raconteur who dresses, as the Guardian once noted, “like an acid-fried biker”.  Expect an eclectic set of post-punk, psychedelic rock and highlights from Cope’s long musical career.

 

Roundhouse presents In the Round
26 January – 04 February 2017
roundhouse.org.uk

Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road,

London, NW1 8EH

 

Tickets roundhouse.org.uk

0300 6789 222
Booking fees apply – see website for full details

 

 

 

 

Architects – An Open Letter After The Brixton Academy Gig

Dear Architects,

Let me begin by saying that I don’t normally write about a gig where I have been turned down for a photo and review pass.  I cover literally hundreds of bands a year for a number of music magazines so I don’t often get turned down but  I was turned down for last nights gig.

That said, once in a while you are privileged enough to witness an event so extraordinary and, so deeply moving that making no comment would simply be a dereliction of journalistic responsibility.  I witnessed just such an event at last nights Brixton academy show.

In many ways last night was always going to be an extraordinary event.  The Brixton Academy is a legendary venue, the atmosphere at a sold out show incredible.  Your choice of support bands was simply genius.  In Bury Tomorrow and Stick To Your Guns you selected two great bands to support you.  Bands who are not just a great foil for your own music but bands who share your belief that music can change the world.

The message across the evening was a simple one and one shared by all of the bands present, and I include Stray From the Path though they were not playing.  There cannot have been a single person in the 5000 strong audience who don’t agree that music can change the world.  The love and respect in the room, from the audience and from the stage was humbling.  The mosh-pits were brutal, but everyone looked after each other, united in the sheer joy of rebellion and the understanding that we all had 4999 people around us who, for the most part, share our view of the world and our concerns for the future.

 

There can be little doubt that most of us are united in the understanding of Sea Shepherds message “If the seas dies we die too.”  You won’t have found anyone who disagrees about bands selling VIP access tickets.  I have loved Blink-182 for years.  In June they are back in the UK and selling VIP access for up to £505 a head.  Sam was 100% correct when he said this is nothing more than fan exploitation.  Not only will I not be paying for VIP access, my son and I are both saying “fuck you Blink-182.”  We won’t be attending any of the shows as fans and I won’t be covering them in a professional capacity.

Blink-182 are supposed to be punk band, where is the punk ethos in exploiting fans in this way?  Dan from Bury Tomorrow was absolutely right when he said every successful band should be willing to stand by the march stand and high 5 every single person who paid to come and see the show.

In many ways it was humbling to hear Dan say that Architects will never take being able to play their music to their fans for granted.  You know, no-one resents bands like Architects achieving the level of success that they so richly deserve.  Architects have always been true to themselves and, just as importantly true to their fans.  Your success has been well earned and it is a pleasure to have had the opportunity to play an infinitesimally small part in that by buying tickets for your shows, your merchandise and of course your music.

It was really interesting to hear Sam talking about the power of Metalcore music to change the world.  This year should be a clarion call for your generation.  Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and recent announcements that climate change is already touching the upper-limit that we are warned could lead to global catastrophe.  Sam’s call to action is a powerful one.  The current generation “will” change the world he said.  Sam is almost right, the fact is that this generation “must” change the world.

The problem is that your generation faces a system of government and a world economic system that is stacked against you.  You can’t have failed to notice the number of people waving their iPhones in the air last night.  That small symbol of corporate greed is a microcosm of the challenge your generation faces.

We know that almost everyone at last nights show had fire in their bellies for the four hours we shared last night.  Sadly, as we all return to our lives, we will almost all fall back into the consumerism that supports the world order.  We will all be looking to upgrade to the next iPhone model or to buy the next gadget.  Most will return to crappy jobs, happy enough to be exploited by a system that further lines the pockets of the multi-billionaires who exploit the poor and the planets resources to make money they can never spend.

This is a system so corrupt, so disingenuous and yet so “normal” that we rarely give it a second thought.  It is tragic that we don’t just allow the system to fuck us over, we bend over and hand it the lube.  If we are to learn anything from Brexit and Trumps election, it is the fact that people are “sick of this shit.”  Anything, simply anything looks better than what we have now.  Its not true of course.  Brexit and Trump show us that things can get worse.  In our “so-called” democracies we have three choices.  The first two are “bad” and worse.”  The third is the one no-one talks about, real change.

It is easy to sit back and say that nothing I do will change things.  That collective apathy is what blocks real change.  As a youngster during the 1970’s punk rock changed my life.  Growing up in conflict torn Belfast in the 1970’s was no picnic, at 16 I was already on the fringes of paramilitary organisations when Stiff Little Fingers Inflammable Material changed my life.  It gave me the courage to change my life, to leave Belfast behind and to seek a better way.

It was a better route for me, but I really believed punk-rock could change the world.  It failed and sadly I and my generation have failed yours.  Make no mistake we tried.  We got out on the streets, we rioted and we fought.  We even had some small victories.  We managed to overturn the hated Poll Tax but we lost the war.  Through the miners strike and the Wapping dispute we fought hard but we lost. Our defeat meant that a way of life was lost.  We allowed “money” to destroy our ability to organise.

Your battle is far more important that ours, your battle is for the future of humankind.  I am ashamed that my generation has put you in this position, but for the sake the generations to come you must win.  I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that, in todays world, it is perhaps only music that can be the catalyst for change.  Music can unite us.  Bands like Architects, Enter Shikari and The King Blues understand this.  I beg you all to be that catalyst, last night showed that you understand what is at sake.  Never surrender, never give up.  Be the change the world so desperately needs.

Finally I applaud you all for the way you honoured Tom Searle last night.  Both Dan and Sam showed us that life is fragile and fleeting.  I can only imagine how you all felt.  How proud you must have been and yet your hearts must have been breaking you wished that Tom had been able to share such a remarkable moment in your history.  Tom would have been incredibly proud of you all and I am sure that the whole Searle family must have been bursting with both pride and sadness.

I fell incredibly humbled and grateful to have been present to witness such an amazing evening.  I haven’t had the privilege to know any of you personally but I was very proud of you all last night.  I shared the experience with my 18-year-old son, both of us proud to have shed tears and experienced incredible highs right along with you.

Architects, and all of the bands who share your ethos, are the future.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring, for trying and for fighting to change the world.  I wish you every success and victory in the battles to come.

 

Reasons To Be Thankful – Precious Gifts

I started out blogging, mostly about music, less than three years ago. Little did I imagine that a hobby I started as a creative outlet would give me so much pleasure and lead to the making of a huge number of new friends and a second career.

My site now sees around 30K visitors a week and has led to paid work as a writer.  More importantly to me is that i now get numerous requests from artists and musicians asking me to review their work.

I can’t possibly meet all these requests, especially during the summer months, but I am really honoured that people are prepared to put their work into my hands to ask for a review.  An artists work is an extension of their person, every note in every song took thought, creativity and a huge amount of work to create.  An artist trusting me to review their work fairly and objectively is a huge leap of faith.  Every time I listen to a new piece of work I am aware that I have been handed a truly precious gift, a piece of work that someone has poured their all into.

I try very hard to that each piece of work with the respect it deserves.  I listen to an album numerous times before finger meets keyboard and I try to only review things that resonate with me on some level.  If I hate something I recognise that others may love it, I know that my view is not going to be shared by some who read my writing.  It is hard to tell an artist you won’t review their work because you don’t connect with it.

I am so thankful that people like to read my work.  As any musician will tell you it is incredibly difficult to be heard in today’s music industry.  It is equally hard to build an audience for your writing.

That is why it is such an honour to see musicians sharing your posts and reaching out to thank you for a review.

If you want to write about music it takes endeavour but much more importantly it needs total honesty if you are to gain any sort of credibility.

This week is something of a case in point.  I am off to Europe’s best and biggest rock festival, Download, on Thursday.  I have been inundated with requests for interviews and coverage of bands performance at the festival.  Of all the bands I have asked to interview not a single one has turned me down (though I still await two responses).  Those I will be interviewing are amongst the biggest names in rock music and they have agreed to be interviewed by me.

I do realise that bands are keen for any sort of coverage that will help to keep their name out there, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling that I am blessed to be able to do “work” of this nature.

This has been a very very good week.

Something Else Somewhere Else – Photographs Saturday

Hi folks, I hope you are all having a great day.  I thought I would share a few of my photographs from Saturday at last weekends Something Else Somewhere Else festival.

I hope you enjoy them.