Category Archives: performance

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

 

 

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Cappadox Festival – Cappadocia, Turkey

Let’s be totally honest here, Cappadox festival is not what we in the UK have come to define as our usual festival experience.  Cappadox is so much more, something that combines music, art, culture and wellbeing and sets it against one of the most incredible natural environments on our little planet.

I was up and around early this morning, a 6am start is certainly not something you experience too often at a UK festival, if you are up at that time it is because you haven’t been to bed yet.  As I stumbled bleary eyed from bed and opened the curtains of my hotel room I was greeted by the sight of dozens of hot-air balloons rising gently into the dawn light with the mountains as a backdrop, it was a breathtaking experience.


I started my day photographing a pranamaya class, a form of energising breathing that left the participants positively glowing, energised and relaxed.  Cappadox has. A lot of these types of exercises going on and it really is a huge part of the festival experience.

After breakfast we headed off for a walk in Love Valley, a stunningly beautiful experience.  The area is so green and natural, the soft rock has been used to carve out cave houses, animals shelters and even pigeon coops that are used to collect dung to fertilise the land.  The landscape is quite unlike anything I have ever seen the scale is breathtaking and yet the walk is a reasonably gentle one, well within the capabilities of anyone of moderate fitness.  

As the walk nears its end you come upon a meadow where you are able to sit and rest, enjoy a drink and some fresh fruit whilst listening to local musicians playing a concert for your enjoyment, the steep walls of the valley adding an acoustic backdrop that can only be described as stunning.  It is this kind of little surprise that makes Cappadox a totally unique experience.


Our afternoon was spent at the Goreme Valley open air museum, the primary features being literally dozens of Christian churches and burial grounds carved into the soft rock.  It really allows you to reflect on Turkey’s history as the meeting point of the Eastern and Western worlds.  The sheers scale of the endeavour that must have gone into carving out these places of worship 1,000 years ago is mind-blowing. 

This evening sees us headed out to enjoy some music and a gastronomic experience so watch this space for further updates.

The Glass Child

Every so often you come across a story that reaches deep down into your soul.  Charlotte Eriksson’s story is one of those.  I came across Charlotte’s story when she started to follow me on Twitter.  I clicked on her profile and saw that she is a musician.  As a result I followed her back as I do for the majority of musicians I come across.  I then went and had a look at her website and listened to some tracks on her Sound-cloud site.  What can I say, I was immediately hooked.  Check it out you will be too.  You can download an acoustic version of her album “I’d like to remain a mystery” here for free!! It would be nice to make a donation if you like it.  I did!  I will be reviewing the album in more detail in the next few days.

The paragraphs below tell Charlottes story in her own words.  It is a story that is all too familiar.  The story of a really talented artist trying to earn a living from her art.  This sort of artist is the perfect antidote to the dreadful dirge we are constantly force fed by the likes of Simon Cowell! the-GlassChild2

The story of The Glass Child, Charlotte Eriksson, is one of those you usually see on movies. Only 18 years old she left everything she had and knew, family and friends, and moved to London to dedicate her life to her music and art. A vague dream about reaching out with her music became an everlasting journey about fighting for your right to build a life on your own terms, learning what it means to be an artist and how to make an impact, now with over 29,000 dedicated followers and fans with her on her journey through her social sites like Twitter and Tumblr.

Forward four years and she has started her own record label Broken Glass Records, released 5 EPs, released her critically acclaimed debut full-length ‘I’d Like To Remain A Mystery’ in February 2013, had her single ”I Will Lead You Home” reaching #2 on the Swedish Itunes-chart, was names Breakthrough Indie Artist Of The Year by Lemonade Magazine, and been played on major radio such as BBC6 (UK), Sveriges Radio (Sweden) and 3FM (Netherlands). In April 2013 she also independently published her first book “Empty Roads and Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps”, telling the story about leaving, searching and going after your dream. The book was beautifully received and has been widely praised both by her fanbase and by a new literary crowd of writers and readers.

Charlotte is a wandering soul and after spending a year in England with nothing but a guitar and a will to search for something more, playing wherever she could play and crashing at fans’ floors, she has now spent a year in Berlin, Germany. A year of wandering, growing and rediscovering in the new city resulted in what is slowly becoming the biggest journey and achievement of her life so far; a new album, created and funded together with her dedicated following through PledgeMusic. Her Pledge Music Campaign (launched June, 2014) reached 100% within four hours, and after 40 days ended at 249% funded.

“It’s bigger this time. I’m wiser this time. This is not about the final physical product, like a CD. This is about the impact those songs can have inside someone. My mission is to seek those who need to hear those words and melodies and stories, and if I can touch one soul out there and make them feel like they belong, then I will be happy.”

The new album ”I Must Be Gone And Live, Or Stay And Die” will be released October 21, 2014,
with the first single off the album,”The Fall” out worldwide September 2nd.

”I wanted to turn my life into my art. My very existence into a poem. This is my story – it’s been a beautiful fight. It still is.”

Check out a video of The Glass Child’s latest single – The Fall.  It sent shivers down my spine!

Frank Turner – Westlands, Yeovil, Somerset

As the UK summer draws to an end and the festival season is almost over my mind has turned to booking indoor gigs to ensure that I get my regular fix of musical delight.  As I browsed the local gig listings I felt depression set in.  Dorset you see is something of a musical black hole.  There is a very lively ‘local’ music scene but there seems to be a reluctance from anyone of any note to visit our lovely County.  You get the odd decent band at the Electric Palace in Bridport but it seems that no-one wants to play in Poole and very few play Bournemouth.0006 Frank Turner_wm

As I looked a little further afield I happened upon a listing for Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Westlands in Yeovil.  I was surprised to see that 2 weeks before the gig there were still tickets available.  I sent a quick text to my son to see if he wanted to go and duly booked the tickets.  So late Saturday afternoon saw us jump in the car for the 60 minute drive to Yeovil.

We arrived at Westlands in plenty of time as we had to collect our tickets from the venue.  I was less that impressed with the building which looked like a 1970’s built sports centre and in my experience that normally equates to poor acoustics and dreadful sound, an impression that was thankfully dispelled later.  After picking up our tickets we jumped back in the car and headed to a nearby pub for some food and drink.0004 Frank Turner_wm

We headed back to Westlands arriving to find the venue still fairly quiet so we wandered in finding a place centre stage just a couple of rows back from the barrier.  I had anticipated the support, ‘Koo Koo Kangaroo’ starting at 7.30 but had a 40 minute wait to the 8pm start.  What can you say about the support well they are different that is for sure.  They are a bit like a cross between Jane Fonda and Ice -T.  They use a rap style backing track to sing silly songs and get the crowd dancing in an exercise video style.  Sounds hideous right?  I must admit when they started my son and I just looked at each other in disbelief and said OMFG!!  After a song or two though I couldn’t help smiling and after about 15 minutes we were joining in, laughing and smiling.  Ok lets be honest the musical credibility (in my book) was at best questionable but these guys were tremendous fun and they certainly warmed the crowd up.

One of the things I really like about Frank Turner is that he is very supportive in giving other acts a break on his tours.  He was at the side of the stage watching Koo Koo Kangeroo, smiling, laughing and singing along as he drank his pre-show tea.0005 Frank Turner_wm

It has been interesting to note how Franks fan base has developed over the last few years.  The crowd at a FT & the Sleeping Souls gig is far removed from what you would see at a Million Dead or Mongol Horde Gig.  At least 50% of the crowd are teenage girls but to be fair they are clearly into the music, there is none of the shouting and screaming that you might see at a ‘boy band’ concert.  Well almost none, there was one twenty something who insisted on shouting “We love you Frank”, and “We’ve got your hat Frank” throughout the show.  Sad really.

Turner and his band took to the stage at exactly 9pm and opened with ‘Try this at home’ from 2009’s ‘Poetry of the deed’.  The band worked through ten songs from across Turners back catalogue before Frank played three songs solo.  One of these was a new song ‘little Aphrodite’ written for a girl Frank said he was in love with but who didn’t love him back.  The second solo song for me provided one of the highlights of the night with ‘Must try harder’ from ‘sleep is for the week’.  Turner said he thinks he had only played it live once before and he did struggle with it a little at times.  He missed the chords on one occasion and forgot the words during the second verse.  I like this approach though, how much better is it for fans to hear a rarely played song than to hear exactly the same list of songs at every show on a tour, an approach taken far too often by far too many artists.  I would much rather see an artist stretching themselves and getting it wrong than playing by numbers.  In my book yet another reason to admire Turners approach to the music business.0003 Frank Turner_wm

Turner is an artist who really respects his fans.  He always tries to find time for them and has built a great relationship with them.  This is based on mutual trust.  Last night he played four new songs during the set.  He asked people not to video them as they were still a work in progress but he went on to say that he did not want security to interfere if people were taking pictures or videoing anything else.  It seemed to me that taking this approach meant that most people respected his wishes.

Over the course of the evening we were treated to a very strong set with 5 or 6 songs from each of ‘Tape Deck heart’, ‘England keep my bones’ and ‘Love, Ire & Song’.    There were many highlights and songs like ‘Prufrock’, Losing Days’, ‘Long live the queen’ & ‘Plain Sailing weather’ are now staples in the set.   ‘St Christopher is coming home’, ‘Wessex Boy’ and ‘Peggy sang the Blues’ were personal highlights but I think the audience enjoyed every song and they sang and danced their way through the whole set.  I love it when artists I love cover songs by other artists I love.   Tonight Frank did a brilliant version of Springsteens ‘Thunder Road’ as the first of four encore songs.  Sadly most of the audience were probably not even born when ‘Born to run’ was released and didn’t know the song.  Franks younger fans should download ‘Born to run’ and ‘Born in the USA’.  They are timeless albums, groundbreaking and as relevant today as they were on their release.  It must also be said that a Springsteen gig is a never to be forgotten experience, he is a peerless live performer and even though he is now over 60 years old he was still doing 4 hour shows in 2012.0002 Frank Turner_wm

All great shows leave the audience wanting more and after Thunder Road we were treated to a trio of anthemic songs in ‘Prufrock’, ‘I still believe’ and of course ‘Four simple words’.  In all we were treated to a total of 24 songs and at the close I was drenched in sweat from head to toe.  I was exhausted, elated and extremely grateful that I had been able to attend a superb gig by an artist who is right at the top of his game.  I look forward to the new album and the tour that will inevitably follow.

Nb.  The photos used to illustrate this article are from Franks Larmer Tree festival Show in July.  I didn’t take my camera last night as I wasn’t sure on the venues policy and I just wanted to enjoy the show 😉