Category Archives: review

Synch 2009, Technopolis, Athens, Greece, 12-13 June

Entrance

Contrary to the image that I’d had in my head, Technopolis, the venue for Synch Festival, wasn’t the techno equivalent of the Acropolis. I wanted the building to be made of glowstick pillars with great philosophers debating the most important techno related questions of all time. But learning comes from experience.

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Instead, located in an old gasworks, Synch boasts a small but perfectly aligned line-up of intelligent dance or indie music with a groove. It’s been running for around 7 years but perhaps hasn’t become as well known as, say, Sonar because – like the African Botticellian ladies in the publicity material – it’s happy with its shape and size.

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On Friday night, we arrive at the venue after cadging a lift with Ebony Bones; the band are far from a chatty mood in the mini bus, so we don’t say a word. I check out Jazzanova then wander around the corner to see my ‘new mates.’ Despite their statuesque disposition in the mini bus, Ebony Bones came to life on stage. The two singers bouncing around in a flurry of rainbow colours accompanied by a backing band of Hoxtonites.

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I queue up for beer tokens and spend the evening familiarizing myself with Mythos – a Hellenic beer brewed in the region. It was reasonably well priced at 3 Euros, although the size of said beverage magically depleted throughout the night – despite costing the same.

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I rush back to the main stage to catch Florence And The Machine. Lead singer Florence Welch is enjoying herself – bashing drums and singing with bombast. Florence tells us this is the biggest crowd she’s ever played for and is so excited she climbs the stage rigging.

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Florence finishes with a superb version of The Source’s You’ve Got The Love.

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This marks the shift from indie into dance at Synch Festival and after watching Tortoise’s high velocity jazzy drum breaks we head over to Friendly Fires whose well honed set makes everyone boogie. Lead singer, Ed Macfarlane wiggles his hips in white jeans like a modern day Mick Jagger. Then entertainment goes indoors and the DJs come out to play.

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Puppetmasterz are very silly, playing hip hop tracks behind a big curtain whilst paper mache Muppets sing and swear along.

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They’re followed by the Fozzie Bear of Hot Chip: Joe Goddard who plays a hearty electro set.

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Across the courtyard 3 Chairs: Theo Parrish, Marcellus Pittman and Rick Wilhite are having their own five hour block party with more than a few Detroit classics plus the odd dumb track thrown in to stop all the chin strokers taking it too seriously.

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After spending a thoroughly pleasant Saturday on the ancient Acropolis, I head towards the Technopolis. Matthew Herbert puts us in the swing of things with his Big Band tunes sampled and looped back.

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In one track he uses the tearing noise of The Daily Mail and for the finale of The Audience he records… the audience.

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I leave the festival and head to a nearby café for some tasty Greek food; feta based dishes, calamari and half bottle of Ouzo later,

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I’m in the VIP area drinking free booze before steaming backstage to see Squarepusher, who plays a storming set of speedy slap bass tracks alongside drummer Alex Thomas. Sometimes the man’s mind blowing rate can divide an audience but he wins them over tonight and the crowd want more. Frustratingly Squarepusher is made to finish on time despite the other bands overrunning by 20 minutes.

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The beer kicks in and the night whizzes by in a blur I see A Mountain Of One, from a cast iron draw bridge, Biomass induces nodding stupor in the auditorium, I spend twenty minutes staring at an art installation on insect flight. The eighties boogie dancing fever kicks with Hudson Mohawke, plus some craziness from Shit Robot, with Fennesz and a final Belgian mash-up from Aeroplane.

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I stumble back on the metro as the sun rises. As I watch Athens’ rosy fingered dawn stroke the streets from my hotel balcony, that nagging feeling of detachment begins to form. Another busload putters past on it’s way to the Acropolis again and I remember my experience at the top of the city in the baking heat the previous day. My thoughts move to the weekend’s activity: the mindblowing music I’ve seen and the friendly interesting people I’ve met. Synch doesn’t need a deep philosophy, the experience is truly tangible.

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Coachella, Indio CA, 19-21 April 2009

Received wisdom has always told us that the English like queuing but based on our first impressions of this Californian festival, Americans seem to quietly accept them too. Thankfully some still break the rules.

Coachella Indio Roadblock

It took us two hours to get out of LA, then another two and a half hours waiting in traffic in the small town of Indio, then we queued for press passes, then camping passes, including a queue for a camping bag search – which is as rigorous as the airport check. As we’re shepherded into a strictly regulated space by a ‘campsite counsellor’ we’re feeling a bit penned in.

Coachella drinking area

We queue for the festival, and realise we have to get in another line for an ID wristband so we can buy alcohol. Then, due to licensing laws we have to drink in a fenced off area. From our cage we can see Franz Ferdinand in the distance, but we’re more impressed by the green verdant grass beneath our feet, the lush green polo ground rebelling against the hot desert sun.

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N.A.S.A. smash the soundsystem with a mash-up of hip-hop party anthems which, like their excellent debut album, included great cameos including Fat Lip.

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We head back to another cage for a drink and listen to Leonard Cohen. We break out for Hallelujah which finishes as Morrissey hits the main stage. As a former LA resident, Morrissey seems to have taken on-board his former home town latent rebellion tactic of complaining. First he’s fed up with the sound on stage, then he’s thrown by the smell of burgers wafting across the field. “I can smell burning flesh and I hope it’s human,” announces the renowned vegetarian before launching into a version of Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others. The sight of Morrissey dry retching the words will haunt me for some time.

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Morrissey was also probably upset to be supporting Paul McCartney but Macca blew him away. Okay, the new material mid-section wasn’t what everyone was there for (although tracks from The Fireman stood out). And the set hasn’t really changed in the four years since I last saw him – starting with Jet, finishing with a literally incendiary Live And Let Die – but it clocked in at two and a half hours crammed with classics. The three staged encores with fireworks brought the field to its knees with the combined mite of Helter Skelter and Day In The Life. A well executed exercise seems to be the way to beat the system.

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After being forced from our tents by the scorching Saturday sun we enter the arena in time to catch a bit of Drop The Lime but midday raving is a tough one. We’re drawn to Helios Jive because at The Do Lab stage you’re artificially rained on by an array of sprinklers and water guns.

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We walk back to the cage for more beer drinking and chilli- cheese-fries, our festival staple. The first band we freely watch is Michael Franti And Spearhead who got us jumping and dancing as the temperature finally began to drop.

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More mariachi kicks and mellowness comes from Calexico as the sky turns red and we move into a tent to catch a bit of living legend Booker T.

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Despite a welcome cover of Outkast’s Hey Yah it’s a bit wine-loungey, so after Green Onions we move to Fleet Foxes. They’re wonderfully mellow and beardy but a toilet break dictates that I miss the end of the set to pop to the restrooms and have the vibe obliterated by James bloody Morrison singing Wonderful World.

MIA dictator

On the main stage, DJ Blaqstarr introduces M.I.A. who steps up to a dictator-style press podium flanked by an army of neon clad dancers. The dancers then start throwing loads of luminous accessories into the crowd and M.I.A. helps them. “My lawyer says if I throw these at you you’ll sue me, but fuck it” she shouts as she throws out large day-glo horns in an attempt to educate the LA crowd about the world outside America. Her truly rebellious move comes when she invites the audience up on stage. My favourite moment is as a security guard is manhandling one punter off stage, he turns around to see 30 other ravers filling the stage.

MIA stage invasion

We try and finish the night with Chemical Brothers DJ set but it seems like everyone has the same idea, so we watch Flying Lotus in the dome before we realise we can listen to his doom laden dubstep from our tent over a bottle of contraband wine we managed to sneak in. Outlaws.

Flying Lotus

Sunday began with an extremely active set by Friendly Fires but temperature-wise this is the hottest day yet so we have to retreat to a cage for our daily ration of beer and chilli fries. We stayed in the shade (having some interesting chats with friendly locals) and saw Lupe Fiasco, Lykke Li and an impressive set from Peter Bjorn And John. Their new album is great and a show of confidence is playing Young Folks midway through the set with no real loss of punters.

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As the sun once more eased Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ provide another impressive set particularly as lead singer Karen O shimmers in a mirrored ball dress.

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The setting sun this time belongs to the heliocentric Paul Weller which is topped by a an appearance of Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr for A Town Called Malice.

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It does justify the rumour that the Smiths were reforming for the festival but it does make you wonder why he didn’t guest appear with Morrissey on Friday? My Bloody Valentine bring on the drone which drowns out the terrordrome of Public Enemy who perform Nation Of Millions… in its entirety.

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We finish the night with The Cure who are possibly influenced by the Valentine’s and play a free form endless dirge which is mostly hit-free. From our over-heated beer-frazzled and still jetlagged state in the cage it has the effect of sending us to sleep. And not even the truly subversive effects of Throbbing Gristle can keep us up. We finish off our illegal wine and quietly shuffle to bed, defeated.

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Bestival 5-7 Sept 2008

Bestival has basked in Indian sunshine for the last few years – but this year it bathed in mud. However, the acres of brown ooze didn’t dampen the festival’s spirits. People happily stomped around, grinning in their sailor hats.

Pendulum puts the main stage into swing on Friday night, live drum‘n’bass tearing through the field with impressive force from the drummer’s frenetic tub thumping. The rain competes with the BPM’s – so refuge is sought in Santogold. She certainly looks the part, flanked by her empowered Public Enemy styled ladies but the experience is underwhelming. The beats are fat and the tunes are instantly recognisable but in contrast to Pendulum’s full force it feels like a flimsy set up.

A torrential downpour would have suited My Bloody Valentine but the clouds are blown away by the band’s increased amp-age. Through swathes of Kevin Shields’ feedback, a delicate tenderness breaks through. They stick to the classics sparing the audience from last tour’s full earplug requiring volume and the alienating 45 minutes-of-formless-noise.

Jeffrey Lewis cancels on Saturday, which moves all main stage events forwards. Instead of skiffle siblings Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, dan le sac vs Scroobius Pip play. According to Scroobius, this is their first large stage set, and they don’t really fill it. One novelty-hit single doesn’t sustain the crowds and instead of falling on a strong back catalogue, they play a lame cover of Sugababes’ Push The Button.

Gary Numan on the other hand, performs a dramatic live set, which draws on his expansive 20-year history. Strands of synth-pop, Goth, electro and rock are all expertly woven together while Numan’s eyeliner dramatically dribbles down his face.

Gilles Peterson gets people shuffling and sets the tone for the rest of the afternoon with his sunshine filled Brazilian beats in the gratefully warming Bollywood tent. Later on, old-timer DJ Derek rolls out classic reggae ska. And South Rakkas Crew followed by A-Trak drag the tent into depths of bass line with enough classic dance-track remixes to keep everyone happy.

The Specials are easily one of the best performances of the festival. The boys run around the stage dancing to, Too Much Too Young, Monkey Man and Gangsters whilst Terry Hall looks on with his trademark glum reticence.

Hot Chip are also a highlight, hitting the stage dressed as Knight’s armour. They perform their pumping tracks, expertly mega-mixed together before dipping into their tender love songs towards the end.

Winehouse turns up 45 minutes late and is worryingly thin and thoughtless. She scats through her songs like Vic Reeves in the style of his club singer.

Sunday is a better day weather wise and the optimism shines through. Beardy auteur Sebastian Tellier’s louche crooning lounge lizard act is transformed into 80’s pop-rocker when he picks up a flying V guitar. Baaba Maal is infectiously celebratory afterwards with two African dancers giving it their all and more percussive beats than you can shake a stick at.

The afternoon is marked by a few cheerful bouts of sunshine as we take a trip up the hill to witness Misty’s Big Adventure crammed into a bandstand. Local band known to many, The Bees finish proceedings on the main stage, and their wonderfully romantic The Sky Holds The Sun left us pining for a summer that never was.


Shambala 22-24 August 2008

Whilst other festivals taste the credit crunch, Shambala gnaws on a locally sourced oat based, fair-trade chocolate topped, cereal bars. And very tasty it is too.

August Bank holiday often leaves you spoilt for choice but for the last couple of years the only sensible option for me has been Shambala festival. More than Glastonbury, this festival has become a Mecca for me and my friends to come together, get suitably intoxicated, have memorable and lasting experiences, and massive amounts of fun.

It fits that the rest of my review shouldn’t be a generic band shuffle – but rather a holistic, personal and mashed up set of dispatches from the festival field.

Landing
We land in the car park. Ushered into our space by a team of the most efficient and friendly parking attendants I’ve ever experienced. We walk in fully laden to the check-in desk which is, literally, a check-in desk, run by Shamair. Air Hostesses check our tickets, give us a drink and sell us a programme. We’re slightly freaked out when they ask us to run our baggage through the X-Ray machine, as we’ve already stocked up in duty free. But we needn’t have worried, Roses (our new neighbour who offers us a hot toddy as we set up camp), says it’s really funny. She’s meeting her friend at the gate to make sure she gets X-Ray’d too.

Friends
Shambala makes you feel like everyone is connected; and I don’t mean this in a far out hippy manner. Emerging in 1999, the festival has grown from a group of five friends and word has very much travelled by mouth ever since. Okay so the internet has obviously helped but the best recommendation still comes from your mates. This doesn’t mean Shambala is any way elitist – any suggestion of a closed circle is negated by complete strangers’ friendliness.

Kids
As my new friend Brett points out on Sunday night “Kids run this place.” I reckon he’s right, they almost definitely seem to equal, if not outnumber, the adults. And actually they’re the ones hurtling around absorbing the atmosphere, whilst their parents are onto their third hash cake. For the most part it’s a delight; the advantage of a kids friendly festival is you look at everything with their wonder. Just one small gripe is when that energy becomes exhausted. The Sunday morning tantrum was a new experience for me, parents at close quarters had to tell Reuben off for hitting Agnathea. And Toby was just “bored.”

Woodland Wilderness
My abiding memory is of a star shape sculpture handing from the trees, extending from each of its five digits (which eerily resemble skeleton fingers) are ropes which you pull and it makes an otherworldly noise and sets off a series of flashing lights. We’re all standing by tugging away at the ropes when a girl comes along and puts her entire body weight into the sculpture and snaps it. She runs off and the lights stop working.

Music
Shambala isn’t a music festival, in fact in many ways I don’t care for bands these days. There’s too many of them, and chances are by the time it gets to August I’ve seen who I’ve wanted to see – and a fair few I don’t care for, too many times (Roisin Murphy robot walks to mind). So Friday’s musical entertainment was provided by a reassuringly retro knees-up from The Beat. But it’s more about making a party than snuggling up to old favourites. Half the crowd cheers when they ask who’s from Birmingham. Half the crowd cheers when nine piece Bristol band Substatic ask the same with regards to their city. There are plenty of great DJs in the smaller tents including Birmingham’s Boogie Dave and Different Drummer’s Adam Regan with Bristol’s Jon Kennard and even Smith And Mighty in the Dome. One slight complaint with S&M is that it descends into Bassline House, to which DJ Rubbish and Cassette Boy are also guilty. It seems that some DJs want to prove themselves to the kids. One sound which is also ubiquitous but much more welcome is that of world music – from the Israeli funk of The Apples, the newly African infused Nizlopi to the catchy Ghanian rhythms of Hélélé to the sweet vocals of Jamaica’s Horace Andy. Closing act Smerin’s Anti-social Club are actually anything but anti-social and they seem to cover a bit of everything and invite some friends who performed throughout the weekend to see us off.

Art
On Saturday morning we wander over to see the commissioned graffiti. Bristol’s Sickboy has made a massive 3D version of one of his signature mushrooms. Birmingham’s Beat 13 and Glen Anderson’s piece are suitably psychedelic. And South Africa’s Faith 47 pulls up a thought provoking message.

Rebel Soul
By the Rebel Soul tent I’m reading a board on British atrocities throughout the decades when I fall into a conversation with a pleasant chap. We chat the usual “Bush is a wanker” and slowly fit the conversation to our own lives. He finishes with “I always love Shambala you always go home and think life can actually be better.”

The Moment
It’s Saturday night. We’ve found a café, a solid structure that resembles a Victorian restaurant with a sense of festival. Upstairs a covered area over-looking a good stretch of the site, on the hill in the distance psychedelic lights are being projected off the stately home which overlooks the festival. In front of house is a lake with people relaxing on a man made beach. In front of us people are huddled around small tree trunks a carpenter has carved so they burn from the inside. The café doesn’t sell booze except with a meal but we’ve managed to buy a liquor hot chocolate. We hear a round of applause and look down to see about 30 fire lanterns being released to the stars.


The Big Chill 1 – 3 August 2008

Not surprisingly after fourteen years of multiplying chills you pretty much know what to expect of this festival. There’s the consistent line-up full of regulars and the crowds of usual suspects – from pleasant family folk, to relaxed hippies and lots of Antipodeans – all served with the perennial dollop of sunshine.

However, when we set up camp on Friday evening it’s absolutely chucking it down. Not only have I prepared hideously for the festival by forgetting my waterproofs we’ve also forgotten the tent pegs. I erect the dome and my girlfriend dives in, leaving me to sneak around our neighbours’ tents and surreptitiously steal pegs. You don’t need guy ropes at a festival anyway. Although I have to admit a pang of guilt when I pull up a peg from a toddler’s miniature tent.

The rain stops and we head over The Big Hill and descend upon the site. It’s fair to say without headliners The Orb, the history of chill-out would be very different indeed and despite a new album release their set reclines back on the old comfy favourites. The inevitable edited down version of epic The Blue Room and Little Fluffy Clouds are played out accompanied by a set of retina searing psychedelic visuals.

After taking in the site and having a boogie to Greg Wilson at the Rizla stage along with a touch of Luke Vibert in the dance tent, we head up to the Art Trail for further visuals . We first see Juneau Projects’ installation, which to all intents and purposes is essentially a big jamming session inviting festival guests onto the stage for some rock antics. We wander elsewhere and get our AV fix, watching footage of horses clomp around a deserted Victorian building. Soothing even if we haven’t managed to grasp what it’s about.

Saturday kicks off with the much hyped new talent of Lykke Li. Armed with a drumstick to bash along with the drummer, the Swedish pop princess delivers some infectiously catchy nuggets to bring on the boogie in the afternoon sun.

Along with seemingly the entire festival crowd, we head down for Bill Bailey at the Big Chill Nights. We arrive in the field and can’t get close to the tent let alone inside it. Instead we listen to the set relayed via the onsite radio station. Bill provides a solid festival set aping Jay Z’s Wonderwall entrance before playing some new parodies and some firm sing-a-long favourites.

Beth Orton makes a welcome return after a self imposed baby-hiatus. Accompanied by a guitarist and occasional violinist (who resembles an Electric Dylan), Beth delicately and timidly picks her way through her back catalogue.

The Mighty Boosh are playing the main stage equipped with quick costume changes and plenty of references and in-jokes to the main show. Though maybe I’m too chilled out to really enjoy it.
Back in Big Chill Nights Adam Buxton sums it up succinctly before he gets down to the business of performing a version of his Bug night. “Anyone can do that can’t they? Wear face glitter and sing songs about shit.” We’ve come to see Buxton play interesting and incredibly surreal music promos – but his re-telling of Youtube comments about shoe gazing is the highlight.

Once again in the mood for a live act we march back to the Castle stage for Matthew Herbert’s Big Band. They bombastically blast out future soul jazz standards twisted by Herbert’s many gizmos and he treats us to The Audience at the end of the set.

Ever true to tradition the night is topped with the broken-beat noodling and trademark doodlings of Mr Scruff; and the usual Sunday brunch is supplied by Norman Jay, though sadly this year not served sunny-side up.

Although we miss a set from John Shuttleworth, Graham Fellows’ other alter-ego Jilted John takes once more to the stage after thirty years in retirement. He does have one new song about Kiera Knightley [eat your dinner] which does sound like a slightly more aggressive Shuttleworth track. Jilted is at his best when he’s playing the songs about getting dumped. He closes with Gordon Is A Moron, which annoys Gordon who these days is backing singer in the band!

We meet up with friends at the Cocktail bar and take in some more Jay Z, lovers rock and heavy dub courtesy of Don Letts – listening from the confines of the tent as there’s an extended downpour outside.

The sun’s out again and the afternoon gets back into swing with another female pop auteur in the tangerine tunic’d shape of Camille. Supported by a group of vocally dextrous singers and beatboxers she playfully knocks out a distinctive set resembling a hybrid of Medula era Bjork and Saian Supa Crew. Camille is zanely idiosyncratic and multi-talented – at one point she runs around in a tight circle whilst barking like a dog. As the sun sets we consider seeing Leonard Cohen but decide to head to the Big Chill Nights for some comedy instead.

We catch the end of a superbly twisted set from Tony Law who has a deep knowledge of worldwide accents to draw upon when playing up to national stereo-types. Offsetting the potential right wing element by explaining how easy it is to get a festival crowd on your side – you just have to slag off the Daily Mail. Adam Buxton’s next up performing his Famous Guy and has a difficult act to follow, and although it’s a sign of plenty more material for the character seen on the MeeBOX pilot but unfortunately it doesn’t click tonight. Our final comedy turn comes from Radio 4 regular Mitch Benn who takes us through his satirical repertoire – which he jokes is somewhat strange when it’s no longer in the news.

The festival finishes in style with a unique collaboration between improvisational dance band The Bays and the staggeringly technically proficient The Heritage Orchestra. Tonight, a score is written on stage and projected to the conductor and onto the orchestra’s flat screens whilst The Bays jam alongside them. Throughout the night the musicians breeze through dub, techno, electro, house and finish with a blast of drum and bass. All regular festival motifs, delivered by two solid favourites, are shaken up and re-shaped to sound completely fresh and new. That’s the beauty of The Big Chill, even after fourteen years.


Supersonic Festival, Birmingham, 11-13 July 2008

The sonic yaw of rock from a grounding in heavy metal, pushed through by the driving rhythms of twisted techno and dirty drum’n’bass; falling back on transcendental peace and harmony – still with a niggle of discord…

One characteristic of Brummies is that they’re an eclectic and varied bunch who refuse to follow one direction. The Capsule Girls (Jenny Moore and Lisa Meyer) and their festival Supersonic, certainly epitomise this.

At this three day festival the Custard factory’s bars, courtyards and warehouses are full of so much variety, they all appear to pull together. We’re not talking a corporate homogenous dirge; but an independent constantly shape shifting multi-faceted beast.

Friday

DJ Scotch Egg has invaded the Factory Club for the evening with his brand of Gameboy operated glitchcore. He’s brought with him similar artists from his Osaka town of origin. We find out during the night that part of the reason for getting his mates over is because of the imperative need to get more gigs. The motivation for this it turns out, is because Scotch Egg has to work more if he wants to earn his visa and stay in his current home in Brighton. The room is packed so we pop in and out throughout the night and watch various crazy Japanese bods in varying states of fancy dress playing with various consoles. Creating music which is on one hand a sonic, scattergun delight and on the other, is a mixture of feedback, distortion and trains shunting.

On the ‘drained-pool’ main stage outside, PCM are at full pelt with the place sinking into deep and dark drum’n’bass. PCM are pretty much Friday night regulars at Supersonic and whilst the bar crowd are inside glitching to Drumize we’re having a proper dance. The music is taken to intensity when Karl from Grindcore legends, Bolthrower growls and wretches down the mic.

Meanwhile the Factory Club has given way to Ove Naxx who puts more of a punky spin on things using the female lead singer’s sheer multi-coloured delight. It’s like CSS’s Lovefoxxx but with less sloganeering and more random intensity .

We head outside again in time to catch Dälek. This is the second time they’ve appeared at the festival, though last time the set was cut short when Birmingham City Centre had to be evacuated in post 7/7 paranoia. MC Dälek dominates; supported ably and passionately by muscle bound henchman (like an extra from the film Brick) and programmer Oktopus. MC Dälek’s mesmerising word patter swirls around a sea of fuzz and pulsing beats.

We catch another glimpse of DJ Scotch Egg, on his own for the finale and pop back to DJ Rupture and Jah Dan Blakkamoore but still reeling from Dälek, we decide instead to call it a night.

Saturday

We get down to the Custard Factory to catch a few tracks by The Owl Service. They delivered a touchingly retro-folk set with no electronic add-ons. We drifted off into the Theatre for some 7 inch cinema and listen to a lecture by Nicholas Bullen; wonderfully eloquent former member of Napalm Death. Bullen provides a potted design history of Grindcore aesthetics, explaining how the artwork was connected to the movements position as the bastard son of heavy metal and punk. It was fascinating but the seats were comfortable and the room was the perfect temperature to doze off – despite the images of holocausts and dismembered corpses projected onto the screen.

Efterklang went some way to enlivening me. For the un-initiated, this Danish nine-piece are like a super breed of Sigur Ros with Polyphonic Spree’s clan mentality. At the end of a staggering set of brightness and exuberance, the band leader asks us to go on the Efterklang mini-tour. This involves popping into the Library room and getting a poster, then head to the Theatre (and following a quick nap) watch a film by a band member which was a hyper-visceral remix of Un Chien Andalou and other modernist films.

We grab some food and cake from beneath the archways and then I’m lucky enough to interview MC Dälek. This takes up a fair bit of time and next fellow New Yorkers and friends Battles are on. As MC Dälek points out the band also played here also a couple of years back and now they’re the toast of the math-rock world. It just goes to show how ahead of the curve the Capsule promoters are.

Sunday

The day begins with the epic shoe-gazing of local post-rockers Einstellung. There couldn’t be a bigger contrast for the next act, Max Tundra who walks onto the stage and asks “Do you like roooccckk Supersonic?” before launching into a bizarre blend of homemade R’n’B and fun with electronics. He’s like a more likeable Har Mar Superstar with a semi serious Conchord.

Much of the afternoon is spent in or around Space 2. Which seems to be playing host to sludge rock with a double bill of Spanish doom monsters Orthodox and Asva. I get the point with this gloomy noise but I think you have to be in a certain mood and even a certain age to actually like it. It reminds me of the kind of menacing chords which used to set the scene at the beginning of a rock epic. Except that this is the only element of sludge rock, repeated slowly, for two hours.

Supersonic also installed a set of skate ramps for the weekend and I go and spend some time over there. Having had enough of moving my head to the right and left, I decide to pop down the road to Vivid Gallery and catch the last thirty minutes of an exhibition based on the work by New York sound artists Fluxus. I only really knew about Yoko Ono and smashing pianos before I went to this exhibition, this set of art installations really show the collective’s playfulness and is packed with sparks of ingenuity.

Deciding I’ve drawn more visceral experience than any Sunday supplement could possibly offer, when I get back to The Custard Factory complex to catch Yukio Fujimoto giving lectures on his sound installations in Theatre. Again I’m staggered by his sheer passion for asking people to actually listen to sound. One installation consisted of two drain pipes and a deck chair on a rooftop in Japan. The tubes merely act to distort and amplify the sound around and it’s a delight to hear.

The inquisitive mind still questioning, I hang around for Brian Duffy’s talk. He is the main man behind Modified Toy Orchestra and ZX Spectrum Orchestra. He guides us through a series of circuit bended car boot Speak And Spells and one twisted Hula Barbie.

It’s time to put the preaching into practice with the next highlight, his band ZX Spectrum Orchestra playing on the main stage. Their geekery proves a smash for any retro-bod who wasted their childhood playing Codemaster games.

Our evening closes on Harmonia serving a perfect Sunday night chilled set – they still excite our ears but sooth and calm our mind with tones that heal our frontal lobes.

Supersonic is all senses fulfilled; all perceptions challenged.


Sónar Festival 19, 20, 21 June 2008

Dan Davies goes for a festival but stays for a fiesta.

I don’t care what people say about trench spirit, when it boils down to it, festivals are supposed to be in sunny weather, anything else becomes the worst camping holiday crossed cum-car-boot sale with weirdo’s; while music is made from a mud-filled bin.

Judging by the poor Glasto ticket sales (which I believe has naff all to do with Jay-Z) many people felt the same way; so we’d already decided on our summer festival action plan well in advance and booked a budget flight to Barcelona. Unfortunately, lots of other people had the same idea to go to Sónar too. Two weeks before we set off, I receive confirmation of a three day photo pass for Sónar By Day and none for the night event. Oddly, my actual photographer only gets a one-day pass of her choosing.
Crowd capacity is up at Sónar, which is good news for the curators but for me, some of the festival’s unique character is lost. This year the crowd split into two distinct groups: friendly geeks from all nations; and vacuous hair-cut-knob-heads who took up too much space posing, not dancing. The hair-cuts mostly sunned themselves at Sónar By Day by the main stage – occasionally catching the ‘rave lift’ up to the energy drink sponsored bar for the odd four-four shrug off.

For the rest of us, the many other rooms inside the Contemporary Art Museum (CCCB) in the daytime were fantastic; even the ones that were, in fact, rubbish. The real delight of Sónar By Day is that you can see something genuinely mind blowing, or something that is utterly baffling; my first bafflement left me lost for words. Deciding to take in some art in the main building we were made to leave our bags at reception and traipse up the grand (and long) disabled access ramps of the main museum because the lift doesn’t work.

We reach the top and walk into a dark room. On the left there’s a video installation on the wall of a CCTV standard, seemingly showing people walking in an actual gallery (you know with paintings, people and daylight and other ‘bourgeois’ concepts). On the right there’s set of fence posts with photographs of the artist stuck to the top of each. He’s dressed as Che Guevara with his back to the camera, pissing on a motorbike. In the corner is that very bike, painted red just in case you missed the Cold War references.

In the auditorium there is a selection of excellent short films being screened including Soulwax’s excellent Part Of The Weekend Never Dies and a documentary on the Osaka movement; the main theme for Sónar this year is the link between cinema and art forms.

The other exhibition is a collection of photography and video installations using various films for inspiration. Some of the art genuinely connects with the films, including a particularly impressive one which adopted the style and atmosphere of New York Gangster films and applied them to a pastiche of NY residents. Others are more loosely based – often along the lines of ‘I was taking some photos anyway, and then I watched a film and thought they might be connected in some way.’

A band who merges audio and visual art expertly is Pram, who is part of the Capsule showcase on the Friday. Pram delightfully delve into music constructing a lost soundtrack from Ennio Morricone or 60s English TV shows or spookier 70s arts films. The atmospheric music blends perfectly with their home-made movies which are projected like a cross between The Prisoner and Polanski.

Alongside the Capsule-curated showcase is ZX Spectrum Orchestra, an offshoot of the playful Modified Toy Orchestra. This band use just Spectrum computers and the Beep music programme to make their music. Clive One and Clive Two play tracks whilst pixel art monochrome visuals load up. Clive One glorifies ‘Geek Pride’ and delivers such lines as “We’d like to play our favourite algorithm. I’m sure it’s an algorithm you all know and love…” Particularly impressive is the Red Square film that “Took over a year of programming by Clive Two and takes up as much memory space as an e-mail.” Again, the only disadvantage of this space is that it filled up and was impossible to get in to see Matmos as the venue was at full capacity.

There are mixed reasons why we miss the Ninja showcase on Friday afternoon. Firstly, in a sun frazzled state I assume that the main stage is called ‘the village.’ We watch an amazing band who we think are The Heavy when in fact they are a Spanish band called Konono No.1.
‘These are brilliant!’
‘Yeah, it’s like a two-man Latin carnival.’
‘Where are they from?’
‘Brighton I think…’
Idiot.

We only really take notice when a rubbish Spanish hip-hop band is playing instead of Daedelus. We rush over to the tent at the back of the complex but once again can’t get anywhere near for the coiffure’s throngs.

On the final Sónar By Day we’re a little late arriving and spend a lot of time working on a stall in order to earn a three-day pass for my photographer. We hear rumours that DJ Yoda turned up and Kid Acne wasn’t very good from behind our trestle table. We do get a chance to pootle down to see Pilooski but the set is so minimal that our attention begins to wander.

We were also nursing hangovers from Sónar By Night which started off well with Madness teaching even the heaviest tech-head to pogo. Diplo’s set brought on the party hits expertly splicing soca into Brazilian into MIA in with Nirvana, and Justice upped the rock-stakes to ridiculous levels with their stage full of Marshall amps. There’s a dip in the evening as we listen to the subtle beats of dubstep by the Vodafone dodgems and a touch more minimal techno from Richie Hawtin. A lot of time is spent circling the spacious set of aircraft hanger sized buildings. At about three in the morning we consider cutting our losses, but as we’re heading on out we pass by Frankie Knuckles playing ‘You’re Free’ by Ultra Nate and we have to stay.

Suddenly everything falls into place and over the next few hours we dance between, Frankie Knuckles, 2ManyDJs and a sensational carnival set from Hercules And The Love Affair.

Sónar is not limited by the day and night events. Before and throughout the festival there are club nights and parties in which both line-up and atmosphere rival the event. After Sónar finishes on Saturday night the fringe festival continues. Excited to hear our friends have discovered an ‘amazing’ beach party in the next town, we jump on a tram and glide across the city. We arrive and soon realise we’ve been on this beach four years ago and back then the entire stretch was full of sound-systems, and the largest glitter-ball we’d ever seen. This time the party has been condensed within one bar and pool and admission is 15 euros. We decide not to go in and get the last tram home.

We’ve heard that free parties have been cracked down on in recent years as they’re anti-social. These new parties are more contained and safer but like many other elements of the festival, you feel someone else is cashing in.

On the Monday however, we witness a true fiesta flaunting any UK ideas of health and safety and potential anti-social behavior; had the entirety of Barcelona not turned out for Spain’s summer solstice. As we head down to Barcelonetta and stop off at a bar for tapas, the masses continue to stream towards the beach. We hear fireworks in the square behind us and check them out. We have to squeeze into the square as there’s a steel-pan band at the entrance; people are standing all round the edges. In a tokenistic attempt to keep the crowd back there’s a single barrier with a wax flare on each corner. In the centre of the square people are dressed in overalls with devil horns and Catherine wheels on their heads and trident forks with Roman candles stuck to the end; all causing mischief with fire.

We head down to the beach and it’s packed full of all sorts of people sitting around. Every few seconds someone is firing a rocket out of the sand or throwing a banger at our feet. On the main promenade we walk past a band. One chap is on a kick drum symbol and snare whilst the other is playing didgeridoo. As the beats are brought up to drum’n’bass speed the digde player MC’s down his pipe; they’re called Wild Marmalade.

“That’s the best thing I’ve seen in Barcelona this year!” says my photographer. Though ironically she’s left the camera at home tonight.


Dot To Dot, Bristol, 24th-25th May 2008

Po-faced prima donna performers, bo-ho hopping females and the occasional mega-geek… Dan Davies finds pleasure between the usual dots.

Dot To Dot has rightly or wrongly gathered a reputation as a festival full of Nathan Barleys since it began in Nottingham in 2005. This year the festival added another day on to its calendar in both Nottingham and Bristol and further cemented the Nathan Barley reputation by staging an event in Hoxton – home of the Shoreditch Twat.

Happily, I’m pleased to say the bands I experienced whilst occasionally representing bands that Noel Fielding might be in, were on the whole, stuffed full of talent; despite the event sometimes representing a glam rock fancy dress party.

Saturday is far from ship shape and Bristol fashion as we hardly see anything. The day began with the usual wait around for wristbands followed by a drink on the Thekla. The Thekla is a docked boat, with a sweaty and sea swilled interior that has been spruced up after DHP took over as captain around a year ago. The refurb has also made the deck a smoking area, so this is where we stood whilst we tried to borrow a £5 programme to plot our course through the city. As we found our bearings we could hear the first band OneThousandHertz drilling through the ship’s hull with a double kicker drum pedal. After considering the first band we might want to see is Woodpigeon (largely because of the name) we feel a bit Sonar’d up with the sunshine and the water and decide to go for some tapas.

A selection of delhi nibbles and a bottle of wine later we wander over to the Lousiana. The Louie is another notorious Bristol venue, not just for the number of superb bands that have been caught on the way up in its small upstairs room but also because it has tons of character. The outside is decked out with a richly crafted cast iron balcony, almost as if the whole building lifted from the French Quarter in New Orleans – but there was no chance of seeing the end of Joe Dangerous as despite his nom de plume strict Health And Safety measures were in place and upstairs was full to capacity. Instead we hung out under the balcony appreciating the final afternoon sun and another pint. After realising there wasn’t a chance we’d catch Woodpigeon either, we decided to cut our losses and navigate towards the Academy to see Example.

Everything at the Academy is running a bit slow and the venue isn’t a particularly pleasant place to hang about in, especially in the daytime. Those of you who have a Carling Academy in your city will know its trademark sticky floors, expensive booze served in plastic cups and moody door staff. Nevertheless, it serves a purpose in Dot To Dot by being by easily the largest venue. A particularly difficult venue to fill then, as Example finds when he finally hits the stage. Those of us assembled in the two tiered main room are appreciative. Example is a sharp and confident performer who delivers his comedy laden lyrics with absolute clarity. In fact, we enjoy Example so much he singled us out as “those two know how to party. Look at them – seasoned professionals!”

Once again we head to another venue and this time we see that there’s a Dot To Dot bus we can catch between the points. The rest of the afternoon becomes a blur of booze stops and bands we’ve just missed. We decide to concentrate our efforts on one point: Spritualized at Trinity.
Spritualized are a perfect band for this venue which is now an arts centre but once a church. Tonight is the first chance most of us have got the old electric mainline back after a few years of acoustic and a period of hospitalization for Jason Pierce. There is a hushed silence as Pierce delicately picks through some new tracks (from Songs In A & E) before rocking out to a few old ones with a few gospel singers lifting him out of the dirge. I’d love to say that it was a transcendent moment. But unfortunately to my drunken mind the pull of Santogold was too strong and before I knew it we’d hopped on a bus to the Thekla.

Annoyingly, the pull (and the hype obviously) had dragged in too many. And we couldn’t get onto the boat. Disappointed and drunk we head off the circuit to Woods to refuel and listen to MC Hammer – trying to pretend we’re surrounded by ironic media nodes, not spray tanned office workers.
We abandon the festival completely (totally forgetting Natty) and go to Native where we catch up with the Leisure Allstars. Native has for a few years been the home of Leisure and we have a truly trollied night dancing non-stop with no inhibition or pretence.

Sunday starts with a terrible hangover. With headaches we survey the previous day’s activity and decide that we’re out of synch with the festival. Whereas with others it’s best to throw the programme away and find your own festival, we realise that if you don’t plan the day’s activities and stick rigidly to the timetable you end up sailing but never getting to shore. We resolve to spend the day completely sober and over a Tinto Lounge breakfast read the day’s papers and meticulously plan exactly what we want to see.

We sup an excellent smoothie and pop along to the Thekla to catch The RGBs. I don’t remember an awful lot about them yet I remember thinking that they were pretty good in a competent disco punk way. We stupidly miss Swimming as they’re playing the Fleece and we’d mistakenly got off the bus at the Fiddlers. We don’t realise this mistake until we’re halfway through our pints – of orange juice and lemonade. We head over to Chrome Hoof and the Academy to discover that they’ve been postponed to later at the Fleece. We catch a few seconds of Beat Union at Academy 2 upstairs. This is all we really need to catch. A fairly straight-edge band consisting of a lead guitarist who seems to have employed their dad on drums and their mad uncle (who looks like a cross between Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart) on guitar. After a few minutes of this we walk downstairs to Saul Williams.
I must admit I have a few tracks by Saul and even an album somewhere and I was expecting a laid back New York spoken word cafe vibe. Instead we’re assaulted by some heavy electronic beats some screeching guitar solos and some well informed politico-party rants. With face paints on and a kind of multi-coloured feather headdress that fell apart throughout the performance, Saul delivered a thoroughly thrilling set. The Academy was packed but the lack of involvement from the sombre audience was a bit dispiriting. Saul highlighted this too, claiming that he was expecting a crowd that was up for it as some of his favourite acts: Massive Attack, Tricky, Roni Size and Krust all hailing from Bristol. Saul played a cover of Sunday Bloody Sunday which worked extremely well and thankfully even got a fair sized mosh going for the final track.

We left Saul feeling energised and inspired. I managed to grab the end of Rosie And The Goldbug at the Thelka, which worried me for their co-ordinated stripy look but won me over with infectious groves and a gravely yelpy voice. Then we headed off for some more food before going to the Fleece in time for the postponed Chrome Hoof. Another great little of venue, another truly exciting band. The Hoof come on stage kitted out like golden monks, all eight of them. I’m worried that this may descend into the typical arts school project I’d been dreading from this event. I was proved wrong when singer Lola Olafisoye enters and pulls off a convincing Tina Turner circa River Deep era act. Furthermore she was seemingly possessed by the gyrating electro rhythms that spliced into heavy metal at some points.
We leave a little early to have a peaceful respite with Sarabeth Tucek at the Louie. Though her album is a pleasing Throwing Muses style take on nu-country, tonight she appears a little too stern to win me over, especially in the wake of two mind blowing acts. We decide to give the Thekla one more try with Juiceboxxx.

The name alone should have been a big warning sign for this skinny white and alleged rapper. I mean, Christ… he honestly thinks he is Christ. At the very least he seems to have an Iggy Pop complex. Stripped to the waste with some terrible baggy pink boxers pulled up above his ill fitting faded black jeans he jumps into the audience, forcefully making them clap their hands above their head whilst ranting lyrics Nathan Barley would be proud of “I go out on a Friday night / it feels alright.” As we stare at him from the balcony he rolls on to the stage and foetally wraps himself around the monitor wedge. We leave as he murders an Afrika Bambaataa loop. Heading from the festival buzzing purely on adrenalin and lunacy we realise that we’ve found our Dot To Dot distillation in the nick of time. And we’re thankful we had a more interesting festival in between.


Jamie Lidell Clockwork 2nd May 2008

One of the New Generation of festivals to germinate with decent people and splendid toilets sprouted up last year and flowered. The gig tonight at Clockwork in Bristol was a slight whiff of what to expect from this year’s Bloom Festival in the delightful West Country.

The less said about Clockwork’s toilets the better but everyone from the door staff, to the security guards to the punters, were absolutely lovely. Tonight’s event stays close to its roots by providing us with a bill of pleasingly eclectic electronica. The eccentric Mara Carlyle and the excellent Bonobo both feature – but the main pull is Jamie Lidell.

Though mainstream appeal has always been a step away for Lidell, people who have seen him generally get obsessed with him. Unlike, say, 90% of electronica obsessions it’s not just a man thing either, there’s equally the same amount of women at this gig. This is partly because since the admirable but cerebral Super Collider and the solo album that followed in its wake, Lidell’s journey has been to the centre of soul. This admittedly has been via some admirable beat box show stoppers but nevertheless – everyone loves soul sung well.

The reason for this is clear. Whatever Lidell does, he does with ease. Unlike many who descend into the world of gizmos because they’re lacking in other departments, this simply isn’t true of Lidell. He is a consummate showman. And I’m sure his natty dress sense and rough cut good looks help too. Before we walked back inside I chatted to one girl who mentioned when she last saw him he wore a suit made out of CDs.

I’m quietly happy when Lidell comes on stage that he’s wearing a casual suit jacket and NHS style glasses. He has stepped away from his showman ego and let his newly full size band, among their number Mocky and Chile Gonzalez, add their considerable talents too. Tonight’s set is the only UK live push outside London for his third studio album – modestly named just Jim – and as such, most of the set list is from it. It’s a setup that works extremely well with current single ‘Little Bit Of Feel Good’ getting the gig crowd boogieing. Of course Lidell does become more playful with his desk of gizmos at the side of the table and his beat box segment inevitably gets the biggest cheer. The rest of the band leaves the stage allowing Lidell to unleash all manner of driving techno and funky house with the power of his voice. After an encore he finishes with a evangelical version of Multiply which descends into a funk soul finale replete with stage bows.

We don’t bother with the rest of the night. For us Lidell has absolutely stormed it. We grab a Bloom flyer on the way out. Sadly Lidell isn’t on it this year but we heartedly recommend the festival for this great atmosphere. And if you spot Lidell on any line-ups just go. He’s worth the gate price alone.


English Originals Folk Festival 25-27 April 2008

For many years now St George’s Day has been at best ignored and at worst, an embarrassment. This may be because of a national identity crisis and a fear that encouraging nationalistic events we might be inciting intolerance and racism.

Yet, our neighbouring countries don’t have such a complex and their respective Saint’s days are a reason for national pride and in Ireland’s case, a reason for global consumption of Guinness and worldwide festivities.

However, spurred on by our neighbours’ dialogue of devolvement we’ve been forced to assess our own aspects of national identity. No man spearheads this movement better than the Bard Of Barking, Billy Bragg. With albums like England, Half English and a biography called The Progressive Patriot, Bragg has attempted to wrangle national identity back from the right wing, concentrating on inclusion rather than exclusion.

Bragg kicks off this three day event (which I’d like to think would be longer if the national holiday got pushed through), talking to The Stirrer’s Adrian Goldberg. Here Bragg pulled out the main points I’ve just breezed over in my introduction, expressing his strong beliefs and exemplifying how it fits in with his own identity.

The talk created a strong catalyst for this weekend’s experiment; throwing down a manifesto that asked us to respect our traditions but also question them and take them forwards. The weekend’s events were further justified by being based in Birmingham’s Town Hall. Dormant for around ten years, it was once a great place to hear grand and glorious speeches. Now with a refurb to boot, Birmingham Council have managed to retain the glorious fixtures but renovate the space. The real master stroke was thinking how the venue should be used to make it vibrant and relevant to a modern audience.
Aptly, the so called ‘Folk renaissance man’ Chris Wood was first up with a deep and sonorous voice which proved the acoustic refinement of the venue. Wood effortlessly captivates the audience with songs that are historic in tone with a classic rich-folky voice; and sings strikingly modern lyrics. The Town Hall of my childhood sounded cavernous but through some clever shielding they’ve managed to make it sound close and warm.

Next came the first real surprise of the weekend. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis are teenage siblings who pound out an extremely infectious brand of rockabilly and bluegrass. Bragg was good enough to point out this seeming contradiction in the talk he delivered earlier. Though they are playing quintessentially American rooted music they are British born and their roots based grasp on the genre was an energy stuffed delight. Not only was respect paid to the tradition but it was given raw attitude; encompassing skiffle, dance hall, ska and punk through their songs.

Billy Bragg points out early into his set he should get Marmite as a sponsor as “You either love me or hate me.” Regardless of how you feel about the particularly British by-product of the brewing industry, you can guarantee that everyone who had chosen to spend their Friday night in a town hall weren’t regretting it.

Storming on to ‘World Turned Upside Down’ a traditional tail of one of the first civil uprisings, he was so fired up he broke a guitar string straight off. From then onwards it was a heavy rotation between his two electrics and one acoustic through a smashing set which mixed new with old. The great thing about Billy is that he has a legacy of great songs with new tracks never to be ashamed of. Actually, the paired down live versions with Mr. Bragg either pranging about or serenading have a more lasting appeal than the pop sheen of his new album, Mr. Love And Justice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great album, just live it becomes a firebrand. You might not necessarily agree with everything he preaches but it’s very difficult to not come away from the evening without his rants ringing in your ears. And with three encores and two standing ovations, plainly the audience didn’t want to leave.
Saturday evening was devoted to Rising Folk. An evening of nu-folk gets off to a rocky start in some part due to Sharron Krauss failing to live up to her title of “Folk’s wild child” and partly to do with the elderly usher refusing to let us in until “a suitable break in the performance.” Which seemed to last forever. When we did get in, the overall impression was of a deep and dark depression that two pints of London Pride (’London price more like’) meant it wasn’t my zone. Despite the evening supposedly have a young fresh faced appeal, I felt like I was being gnarled at by curmudgeons.

A kazillion times better were Tunng. The East London group with a lovely Birmingham connection via Static Caravan recordings, were an absolute pleasure to watch. Sam Genders wonderfully full lyrics tempered by Becky Jacobs sweet asides are all brought together sonically with the aid of electronic gizmos and a string of seashells by the bearded rest. They manage to create something delicate and thoroughly modern. Genders quips about half way through that they’re feeling a bit over-whelmed having just “played small sweaty gigs in Germany.” The sound was given true majesty by these wonderful surroundings.

Unfortunately Tunng made Seth Lakeman pale into insignificance by comparison. Even with a strong session band to beef him up he managed to lose his main strength; his fiddle. Playing it sparsely and swapping between that and a cappo’d acoustic guitar made you wish that he’d employ someone to play it. “Kitty Jay” remains the strongest track in his set.

Saturday night ends with our national dish, curry and Sunday begins in the afternoon with a showing of the BBC’s excellent Folk Britannia at the Symphony Hall. To someone like me who only really came to this Folk thing through singer songwriters like Billy Bragg and Kirsty MacColl, later via Beth Orton and folktronica, it’s a great four part series to put everything in its right place.

The main event in the evening helped even further by actually presenting us with the physical manifestation of some of those movers and shakers. Collected together under the title Daughters Of Albion, the all female vocalists united the talents of stalwarts June Tabor and Norma Waterson with Kathryn Williams, Bishi, Lisa Knapp and Lou Rhodes. Backed ably by Martin Carthy, Tim Van Eyken and pulled together by composer Kate St John. One by one they were introduced by the delightfully shambolic Williams. June Tabor was the most reserved but her music inspires reverence whilst Norma Waterson was more like a surrogate folk mother and more playful with it. Lou Rhodes’ voice well known for its bleating drama on Lamb records is mellowed but more empowered under this ensemble set up. Bishi picked up a similarly post-dance tip with her intricate sitar playing and thoughtful lyrics. Lisa Knapp stole the first half by performing a version of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work with the other ladies on back vocals. Truly sublime. Most notable of the second half was Lou Rhodes’ cover of PJ
Harvey’s Down By The Water.

It occurred to me listening to these covers that maybe I was born to listen to folk, I just haven’t really realised it because I didn’t think it belonged to me. Maybe the ultimate lesson of the weekend is that I learnt a bit more about where I’ve come from and where I’m going.