Bestival

Ah, Bestival. Probably my favorite festival of the year. Run by Radio 1 DJ and Record Label boss, Rob da Bank. It year has it’s own theme, and on the Saturday there’s the fancy dress competition. Robbie has a good knack at choosing acts, and although, when they’re announced it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, by Sunday night, everyone has had a fantastic time.

On of the bonuses about Bestival, is that as well as being a music festival it put just as much effort and time to be a literary festival, film festival, silent disco and cabaret club. In a field. This means that even if the music isn’t to your liking (which is in itself a challenge, since the festival has over 20 stages) you can always spend a morning doing some yoga, and afternoon listening to some poetry, and an evening playing ping-pong in an ultra-violet shipping container.

Right. Onto some bands.

Fine Lines

The Bandstand stage is usually commandeered by local bands. On Thursday night the stage was graced with Fine Lines, a folky, rock band, with haunting vocals and intricate melodies. They were a superb band to watch on a Thursday night.


La Roux

Everyone was very excited about La Roux, performing in the big top late on Thursday night. In truth, I wasn’t too fussed about seeing her. However, I’m very glad I did. She had a great stage persona, talking to the crowd, getting them hyped up. I felt the night could have gone either way. La Roux appeared on stage in a shirt and full length chinos, which was a refreshing change from all the crop-tops and short short skirts we’re so used to seeing on 4Music.


Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Ok, so now we’re getting into some emotional territory. Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip are were one of my favorite bands. So you can imagine how I felt when they announced this was to be their last gig. Actually, I was fine with that. See, they had a three album deal with Sunday Best (Rob da Bank’s label), and they’ve produced three fantastic albums. I’m actually quite happy they’ve decided to quite while they’re ahead. It means we’re left with 3 album’s worth of songs, and 7 years of memories. (Or ya’know, release a multitude of bad records, and then sell their soul to popular talent show. I’m looking at you Ricky Wilson. Such a waste. Such a terrible waste). Rob himself introduced them in the Big Top on Sunday afternoon, which was unusual, and he made a speech about how great they were and blah blah blah, which was lovely. Their set was, as per usual, astounding. (Though I may be a bit biased). Pip posses a rare talent to switch from dark, harrowing lyrics during the songs to throw jokes at both Dan and the audience.


London Grammar

Though I like their music, a lot of it’s quite hard to dance to. Hannah Reid has a cracking voice, which means there’s always the danger that it will be 45 minutes of us watching her hit very difficult notes very well. And although that’s better than a poke with a sharp stick, we could get the same effect by spending £5.99 on a CD and listening to them that way. Unfortunately, I found that was pretty much what happened. People around me seem to enjoy it though, and I can’t say she’s not talented. But the whole show ended up with people looking up at four people on stage, in silence – much like this (credit goes to beeb & Glastonbury for that vid) – because no one has the self confidence to sing along – waiting for them to end. I’m glad I’ve seen them, but I feel no desire to see them again. I mean, Reid didn’t even take her coat off. Very little movement.


Foals

I’m going to end this on a positive. Foals. After all the dance-y bands, disco music, and singers with laptops, it was nice to see some people with actual guitars. The Foals know how to play a crowd. They came out, covered in glitter and those fantastic gold leggings. They started with ‘My number‘, getting everyone to dance the cold away. They managed to get everyone singing, to their less well known tracks. Defiantly Festival material.

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Isle of Wight Festival

The Isle of Wight Festival has been dubbed ‘the crappy mainstream festival on the island’ – mainly by me and my friends. However, it being run by John Giddings, and the amount of money it makes means it can afford to have some high-class acts. (Whether they go for them or pick a Top 40s band with 3 singles is another matter)

Unfortunately, due to ill health, I only managed get to the festival on the Saturday, and went home after the headline act. But, what a headline act. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were fantastic. I don’t care if you’re a fan or not. They can do a live show. (To be fair, they have had the practice…touring for some 39 years)

I will start with the bands on before them, starting with John Newman. To be honest, I wasn’t much of a fan before I saw him, and he’s by no means my favorite artist now. But, I do harbor more respect for him. He’s a charismatic individual, managing to get the crowd on his side, including many of the adults (and by adults I mean people that were only waiting to see the specials) He also has ample of talent, which is always useful. The fact he had a brass section on stage was a bonus.

The next band to come on where indie hit makers The 1975. I had seem a part of their set the year before at Bestival, and was fairly unimpressed. When Matt Healy (lead guitar/vocals) came on stage, he looked like he thought the 70,000+ crowd we there solely for him. Which, is fair enough, a large portion probably were. However, he barely acknowledged the crowd. The band came on, played their set, and left. The seem to be having ego-issues fairly early on in their career, which is never a good sign.

After a feet-achingly long time, the Specials made an appearance. They have been around for a long time, and it shows. Not only in  their faces, but also in how they play the audience and get them dancing. As far as Ska goes, Madness, in my personal opinion, do out-rank them, but that’s not to say they aren’t good.

Then came the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had seen them a couple of years ago when they were doing an arena tour, and wasn’t too impressed. They were good, but avoided playing many of their hits, focusing on their newest album (at the time I’m with you) This was fair enough, as they were on an album tour, but it would have been nice to here one or two hits. They set at the Isle of Wight festival was completely different. Yes, they played all the hits, all the songs the crowd wanted, but they also just jammed on stage. It was like watching them practice for a gig. It was lovely to see Flea, Chad and Anthony mess around on stage. Flea came back on for the encore doing a hand stand. How many bass players do that?

The Correspondents – Jazz cafe

Now we come onto a band I have seen a number of times.

The specific gig I’m writing about was in February this year at the Jazz Cafe in Camden. Which is a lovely little venue, really good for small intimate gigs. To make the venue work the people on stage really have to work hard to engage the audience, and can’t be frightened to get a little bit too close. (To be honest, at a venue the size of the Jazz Cafe they really have no choice)

The Correspondents released their second album earlier this year. I am a huge fan of them, and loved their first album. It’s full of ‘electro-swing’ numbers, sampling music (done masterfully by part 2 of 2 in the duo, Chucks) from the 30s,  and mashing it with his own beats. After hearing the 9 tracks on the first album (titled: What’s happened to Soho?) I longed for more. They did have a couple more songs (no longer played at live sets) from an EP entitled Rouge, which I recommend you have a listen to.

The Correspondents are famous for their live gigs. They are a band focused on the here and now, the live performance rather than recording an album. Their debut album was only recorded (I’m sure) because the MC(?) lead vocalist(?) Mr.Bruce, had broken his ankle.

I, like many of their fans, saw them while waiting for another show (they were the in-between act on mainstage at Bestival in 2009) and was completely blown away. Mr.Bruce is very charismatic, which is surprising, given the energy he puts into his performance – read: he dances. Like a nutter. But, ya’know, in a good way.

After being stuck with a limited amount of live shows and the same nine songs I was very happy to hear that they had finished recording their album, and were going to tour it. (They are the kind of band that tour 24/7, except when they’re making an album, obviously).

They live streamed the album when it was released, which was a couple of days before the show. I listened to it, and, in all honesty, was uninspired. It sounded quite samey, and nothing really jumped out at me – except the line ‘I’ve got the keys to the devils lighthouse’ from ‘the devils Lighthouse’. To be fair, I wasn’t giving it my full attention, but first impressions count.

Anyway, I was still pretty excited about the gig, they always managed to put on a good show. As soon as they came on stage they played the first track off the new album (What did I do), and immediately, I knew I had made the wrong judgement on the album. They played almost the whole album, with some of their older stuff as well, and it was fantastic. I would now site The devils lighthouse as being my least favorite, though it’s still up there. The song I enjoyed most, and still enjoy is ‘Puppet Loosely Strung’ – weirdly the title track of the album. I don’t often like the title track.

In summary, it was an amazing gig, the energy in the tiny room was brilliant, the crowd were into it, Mr.Bruce was practically bouncing off the walls, and the music was both lyrically and musically enticing.

*A note on the photos: I’m particularly proud of these, I’m not great a getting clear photos when the subject is – to quote the man himself -‘dancing like a loon’. But I have to say after seeing them 7...8...9 times I’ve managed to leave last few gigs with some half decent photos*

The photos included are from the Jazz cafe in Feb 2014, and Bestival in Sept 2013.

Imagine Dragons – Brixton O2

WARNING: Another old gig review.

So Imagine Dragons got pretty big last year, what with this, which, I’ll admit, is a good song. Got all the elements of a good pop hit, which is probably why it did so well.

Anyway, veering off point a little. So. The Brixton O2 Academy. As I’m sure you know O2 have a number of venues under their name – not least the O2 Arena in Greenwich. The Brixton O2 was the first of the smaller O2 venue I’ve been to. The venue itself is quite nice. The drinks are overpriced and staff were helpful but tense, though I guess that comes with the gig. The best feature about the venue is that the floor is sloped towards the stage, which is a brilliant idea, and works wonderfully. Brixton itself is quite easy to get to, and after the show there is no shortage of cheap fast food places.

Imagine Dragons had two supports, which isn’t unusual in a venue that size, specially when the bands are on a major label. Their support acts were Eliza and the Bear, a very typical indie/rock band. They did support AWOLNATION before their Imagine Dragons slot, which only strengthens my theory that the two bands are different versions of each other, but in a good way. Eliza and the Bear are doing pretty well, supporting Chlöe Howl, Bipolar Sunshine, and having their own set at the Isle of Wight festival earlier this year.

The second support act were Grouplove, Fronted by Blue-haired Christian Zucconi (Though when he played his hair looked a little bit green, giving him a Ledger-esque Joker look). They a fairly talented bunch, however, they have a typical indie-kid vibe about them. They’re taking fashion from the hipsters, and giving it the masses (ya’know, like Ubran outfitters). Which is fine, because we’re not worried about their style, but about their music. Unfortunately, it’s the same case. If they had released an album four or five years ago, I’m sure they’d be dominating the whole scene by now. The audience loved it, (they were mainly 14-18yr olds with wayfares and baggy shirts). However, I felt like their music had a stale indie-pop taste to it.

And so onto the main act. Imagine Dragons were technically very good. Their music sounded good, but it was NOT how it sounded on the CD, which is always nice when you’ve paid £20 to go and see them live. They only have one album out, so the setlist was fairly predictable, though they added a few b-sides and covers to mix it up, (including With or Without You – U2 and Song 2 – Blur) which was nice. Despite all this, the show had a very polished feel to it. When I go to a gig I want raw excitement, I want to feel the adrenaline radiating from the stage. To be fair, an Imagine Dragons was not the place to go for this.

All in all, good gig. Good music, nice to dance to. Not something to get very excited about.

(Also, I’m very sorry, these photos aren’t my best. I’m gunna blame the blue light, my lil’ camera can’t handle it)