Tag Archives: Reviews

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

NEW ALBUM ‘STRENGTH OF A WOMAN’ SETS MARY J. BLIGE FREE FROM DRUGS, DIVORCE AND HER CHEATING PROTÉGÉ

Soul singer Mary J. Blige is back with a new 2017 album Strength Of A Woman. Released on April 28, Strength Of A Woman is a powerful and emotional record that deals with hard hitting topics, and it is Blige’s first releases since 2014’s The London Sessions. According to Vulture, Strength Of A Woman is essentially Mary J. Blige’s “divorce record.”

Read More here

Bowling for Soup – O2 Bournemouth 12 Feb 2016

Friday night saw me head off to Bournemouth O2 Academy for an evenings entertainment that I confidently predict will not be bettered this year.  Bowling For Soup,  The Dolly Rots, Lacey and MC Lars put on a very special evening of pop-punk entertainment.  Here are a handful of my photographs from the evening.  I will be putting a full review on louder Than War later today.  Be sure to check it out.

Some Days Just Drive You Nuts – Music PR

For a considerable time now I have avoided using my blog as a platform for a good rant but sometimes a good rant is needed!

As an independent blogger focused on the music business I take a genuine joy from helping to spread the word about music that I connect with.  I hope that by sharing my almost exclusively positive thoughts on music that I help hard working artists in whatever small way I can.

Although I also write on a number of other platforms I do not get paid for these reviews.  I do it for the love of music and to help others in whatever way I can.  I am open about the fact that my blogging has lead to my getting paid to write elsewhere and whilst my writing is almost exclusively about music or musicians there it isn’t the sort of platform that does reviews.  My paid writing focuses on trending news and pop culture stories.

Over the past few years I have built up great contacts with a wide range of artists and their PR companies.  I have been lucky enough to attend some major events and have been able to photograph and interview a lot of fairly high profile artists.  I am grateful for the opportunity to do so and really enjoy my ‘work.’

There are however a couple of things that really piss me off and both relate to PR companies.  The first thing is just pain rudeness.  If I apply attend a show as a photographer through an artists PR company then I don’t think it is too much to ask to have my messages replied to.  If the press list is full or you don’t think the publications I write for are high profile enough then just send a two line message turning down my request.  It takes 30 seconds and being refused is no big deal.  Being kept hanging or being ignored is annoying, it’s rude and it’s unnecessary.

The second thing is a bigger issue.  At present I get between 50 and 100 messages a week from PR companies offering interviews, albums to review or gigs to attend to photograph and review.  This is wonderful and of course I am flattered.  Sadly as a one man independent I can’t meet every request that comes my way.

As a rule I only review things that connects with me in some way.  Generally I like to review stuff released by people I know personally or by bands I like.  I also like to discover new stuff so if a release from a PR looks interesting I will usually give things a listen and if I like it I will review it.

A few weeks ago i was approached by a PR company who asked me if I would be interested in interviewing their bands.  Naturally I wanted to have a look at the roster and to check out the bands to see if it would be my thing.  I couldn’t find the PR companies website or any social media presence!  I went back to them asking where I could find them.  they wrote back saying they don’t have any because they prefer to “spend their money promoting their artists in the most effective way possible.”

They sent me a message with links to three bands Facebook and bandcamp pages but nothing else and asked me to submit a list of questions for e-mail interviews.  They also became a little pushy to the point where yesterday they sent me a message demanding a same day response.  They got their response.  I said I wasn’t interested and took the time to write a message explaining why.

The very least I expect from a PR company is a “one sheet” explaining a bit about the band, their music and an idea as to what bands they are similar to.  I don’t expect to have to spend a load of time researching the band before I can even have an idea as to whether or not I am going to like their music.

What this company were actually asking is that I do their job for them, free of charge of course.  Well I have news for you.  You need to get a grip.  What exactly are your clients paying you for?  The very least you can do is to help me to help you.  If you are not prepared to put a bit of effort in then why the hell should I.

Download - Black Veil Brides

Black Veil Brides: Download Festival – interview and live review

Based in Hollywood, California Black Veil brides have gained an enviable reputation for their live performances and paid a flying visit to the UK to attend the Kerrang awards and to play headline support to Marilyn Manson on Downloads Zippo Encore stage.  I caught up with Jake and Ashley before their show to check out what the hype is all about.

Black Veil Brides have been around since 2006 but their career really took off when they released their debut album,  We Stitch These Wounds, in 2010.  Black Veil Brides were influenced by the likes of Kiss, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson and like those bands their use of make-up, leather and long hair allows them to add visual impact to their stage persona.  Over the past six years or so Black Veil Brides performances have become legendary.

Download - Black Veil Brides

Despite four albums in five years and almost constant touring I must confess that Black Veil Brides had largely passed me by, something I was determined to put right at Download.

It was great to see Black Veil Brides looking relaxed backstage as they wandered around chatting to the press and having their photographs taken.  Ashley and Jake told me that were “delighted to be back at Download.  It is a fantastic festival and we really enjoy playing here.”  Well except for the weather of course. “The weather sucks” they said.

Sadly Black Veil Brides were unable to catch any of the other bands at Download. They explained that “we just flew in for the [Kerrang] awards show and the show tonight, we have to leave right after the show as we have an early flight back to  the states.”

I asked what fans could expect from tonights performance and was told “expect some fireworks.  We just won best live band at the Kerrang awards and we are going to show Download just why we won.”  The guys seemed taken aback when I asked if they had enjoyed the award show.  “Are you kidding?  We won best live band” Jake said with a laugh.

I asked what Black Veil Brides had coming up in the near future and they told me that their “Alive and Burning DVD was due out in July.”  Jake said “we are really excited about it, we played a preview to fans in a theatre and they acted just like they do at our shows, so we think fans are really going to love it.”

Download - Black Veil Brides

Black Veil Brides told me that they are still touring their eponymous fourth album and are really enjoying being on the road.  The reaction from fans has been fantastic and they are really happy with the album.  Black Veil Brides are back on the road on the Vans Warped tour which runs right through to August and pays a visit to the UK in October.

It was clear that Black Veil Brides are tight, happy in each others company and that comes across in their creative process.  “We all bring something to the process” they said.  “Sometimes we will kick off with a riff, other times it might be a vocal harmony.  There is really no set process or formula.  One of us brings an idea, sometimes it doesn’t go anywhere and never becomes a song.  other times we will build a skeleton and then embellish it to make it into a Black Veil Brides song.  It has to be something that works for the band.”

Jake and Ashley told me that everyone in the band writes music so they all add to the process, but that process is different every time.  I asked if that meant there could be solo projects at some time in the future.  They don’t rule out solo projects but emphasised that they are really happy doing what they do in Black Veil Brides.

Download - Black Veil Brides

On stage the tightness the band share is apparent from the off.  There seems to be an almost telepathic understanding between the members of the band.  They swap positions on stage, they come together and move apart in an endless energetic dance that is utterly enthralling.  Amazingly in a 45 minute set Black Veil Brides managed to play at least one song from each of their albums.  They even found time to debut “Crown Of Thorns.”

Andy Biersack is an incredible front man, he is a real Tour de Force, an energetic, enthusiastic and engaging presence throughout the set.  His piercing blue eyes seem to pick out members of the audience and he connects with them, I have no doubt that this connection is part of what makes Black Veil Brides an excellent live band.

The pyrotechnics onstage, combined with the demonic backdrop and an engaging frontman held the crowd enthralled from the opening notes of “Faithless” to the closing notes of “In The End.”  This was a terrific live performance from a band who right at the top of their game.  It is of no surprise at all that they won the Kerrang award for best live band.  It may have been the first time I have seen Black Veil Brides live, but it sure as hell won’t be the last time.

~

Black Veil Brides are on the internet here.  They are on Facebook and they Tweet as @blackveilbrides.

Details of the Vans Warped Tour can be found here.

All words and photos by Alan Ewart. 

Bearded-Theory

Bearded Theory Festival 21 – 24 May 2015

Bearded Theory festival is a 10k capacity music festival held on a lovely site at Catton Hall in South Derbyshire.  It is a small, relaxed and very friendly festival.

Some of my longtime readers might recall that 2014 was the first time that the festival was held at Catton Hall and as you would expect there were a few teething problems, though to be fair these were largely caused by the truly awful weather we had.

Bearded-TheoryOne of the things that I like so much about this festival is that they acted on all of the feedback they received last year and as a result made the festival even better this year. The team at Bearded Theory are determined that people will have a great time when they come to the festival.

Our party met in a layby a couple of miles from the site and we timed our arrival perfectly, as a result we were the first onto the site.  Our arrival was painless and easy.  The live in vehicle field this year was in a new location, it is huge, flat and well laid out.  I understand that some people had to queue for some time to get onto the site but this wasn’t the case for us.  Our arrival was smooth and easy and we were set up in no time at all.

There were numerous toilets and a shower block in easy reach and the entrance to the arena was just a couple of minutes walk away.  In my experience the toilets were also spotlessly clean, even first thing in the morning.  We were also positioned near to the wonderful woodland stage so if the mood took us we could simply chill out by the van and listen to the music from there.  Ideal!

Bearded-TheoryA word on the woodland stage.  What a wonderful area this is.  It is situated in a little hollow in the woods and at night is lit br fairy lights strung from the tree.  A huge amount of work has been put into this are since last years festival.  This year saw the addition of a beautifully designed stage, a fantastic upgrade to the sound system and the addition of a top eatery with Adele’s superb ‘Nana’s Kitchen’.  This combined with a great line-up of bands ensured that the Woodland stage was a very popuar area indeed.

The festival proper at Bearded Theory starts Friday lunchtime but there is a line-up in one of the big tops.  This years Thursday line up was very good indeed.  Zombie Met Girl opened up and Barsteward Sons of Val Doonican followed up with their usual brand of musical comedy madness.   Levellers frontman Mark Chadwick played a blinding set with a few of his solo project songs but the bulk of his set consisted of festival favourite Levellers songs.

Bearded-Theory3 Daft Monkeys played their usual excellent set of high-octane danceable  folk tunes.  This really is a band that gets better and better.  They have been around for many years but I never fail to be impressed by the energy, enthusiasm and fun they bring to every performance.  I will simply never tire of seeing them.

The evening was rounded off by Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs.  If you have never seen this band you really should.  They are the self styled godfathers of skunk, a crazy mix of punk rock tunes played in a skiffle style with a topping of crazyness.  It all blends to produce an hour of unadulterated festival fun.

Bearded-TheoryUnlike most of our friends we settled for an early night, a decision we were very pleased with come Friday morning.  Bearded Theory is set in a great site for a festival, it is a flat site and fairly compact just a few minutes walk from the camping areas to any of the stages.  It has to be said though that a festival can be a tiring experience as you dash around to see all the acts you want to see, spend a lot of time standing.  Combine that with late nights and lots of alcohol and you know you are going to be pretty tired by the time you get home.

This year Bearded Theory made a massive in their younger customers.  The children’s area was safe, secure and free to parents.  The range of activities was superb and everyone from tot’s to teens were having an amazing time.  The festival even recognised that in order to allow parents to have the full festival experience it might be necessary for the kids to have an extra day off school.

Bearded-1Taking children out of school during term time is becoming increasingly frowned upon so Bearded Theory came up with the perfect solution.  The Bearded Theory school was born.  With lessons based on the national curriculum and centred on the festival experience the school had close to 200 attendees who experienced a fun-filled day of learning overseen by qualified teachers.  To the best of my knowledge this was a first for a UK festival.

Over the next few days I will be posting a review of the music at the festival.  The next post in this series will focus on the first day proper of the festival.