Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Polyphonic Spree. Live at Lunar Festival Review.

I was confused at first as I was wondering what the group of people all dressed in white robes were doing in the field rather than on the stage. While it has been said many times that the Polyphonic Spree resemble a cult.  Yet it's the fans who are the cult, not the band. Having said that though, from the moment Tim DeLaughter cut the "Brummie Moon" banner he appeared to be a man with a bit of a messiah complex. Not a Kanye West style egotistical complex though, in fact... I think he might actually be Jesus.
He certainly knows how to lead a band and entertain the crowd, he's not the best singer but few frontmen carry such charisma and genuine love for what they do, it takes a true larger than life figure to stand out in front of a 20 piece band but he pulls it off easily.
As you may know The Spree's music is all about positivity, I feel a bit silly now thinking back to myself trying to sing along to the words, the lyrics are pretty silly. A lot of the songs came from the bands début, although I loved a recent song 'Hold Yourself up'. It's a slightly darker, more electronic song, that I feel needs to be come an indie rock anthem.
Hearing the Polyphonic spree live compared with a normal four piece band is kind of like the difference between watching Gone with the Wind on a 1970's television to watching it on a massive cinema screen.
At times this feels overwhelming, some songs could have been played just as well by a 4 piece band, and don't need the bombast. Yet they can use this to become an incredible covers band, almost as  a way of admitting that they never had many hits they played pitch perfect covers of  Wings 'Live and Let Die' and Supertramp's 'Dreamer'. Not long after The Spree were finishing with their own songs, 'Soldier Girl' and 'Light and day'. But not before Tim told us a few anecdotes. Namely that the bands dressing room is right by the men's loo's and that the back up girls all saw our dicks, and a strangely moving story of how a guy at the 'Meat Shack' stand was making his last burger of the day for himself, but decided to give it to Tim instead. He hugged this guy from the front of the stage later.
Another amazing moment was when Tim went into the crowd and told us all to sink down, and carried on singing his song as we all crouched down next to him.
Tim Delaughter made it such a personal show that it really didn't seem a bit deal being able to meet him afterwards. He's the same on and off stage, laid back,  friendly and funny. He hugged my dad when he said it was "just like woodstock" and shook my hand when I said it was my first festival.

Tim was right when he said that you couldn't get this line up anywhere in the world, in fact there's a chance that the Spree may headline again now.  After one gig I've gained a love for the Polyphonic Spree that won't go away any time soon.

Thank you Nick Drake, thank you thank you thank you...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Live at Lunar Festival review

In case you didn't know Arthur Brown  is a legend. He is the man who bridged the line between trippy 60's psychedelic and 1970's shock rock and is now cited as an inspiration for the likes of alice cooper, Marylin Manson Etc Etc. you should also know his Hit 'Fire'*. More on that later.
I saw him casully meeting fans while on the way to the stage, in gull psychedelic warpaint and long flowing red gowns. Arthur played with a band who, collectively are about the same age he is, including  an awesome girl playing on guitar a man in a black hooded gown playing organs that sounded just like something out of the 1960's. it's rather amazing just how talented this band is. throughout the set it showed that Arthur has a great relationship with his band. He teased the guy on keys by pulling his keyboard off him and playfully fighting over the keyboard with him.
What is also surprising is how well his voice has held up. For a man in his 70's his voice still holds a huge power.  Maybe not hitting the high notes so much but the has the kind of bellow that can fill a room.
Things were made all the more exciting by the exotic dancer.  In fact that could have been a show on it's own. The obvious problem is that Arthur Brown only ever had the one hit, it would be rather unfair to call him a one hit wonder, but if he is then he's the greatest one hit wonder of them all. His newer material from his most recent record made up for it. With Arthur making damning socio-political statements about technology and it's effect on the way we live. what was also surprising is that it was all a lot more laid back than you might expect. it was almost jazzy, organ lead music at times rather than the hard rock psych' I was thinking of.
Arthur made a highlight the show by casually walking off stage and walking around the field singing the songs  as people kept a distance but also all whipped out their cameras to get a shot of him with his audience. Arthur headed back to the stage to perform a little monologue, a very surreal yet hilarious story of his mother telling him that One day you will headline a festival in Birmingham .... and you will say in a deep and commanding voice I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE! AND I BRING YOU.... FIRE!

Which of course lead  to a terrific performance of one of the best songs ever written.

This great gig was not over however, as Arthur once again left the stage backed by a brass band, the whole lunar crew, the guys in animal masks to the tune of DUHH DAHH DUR DUR DUU DUR DURR DUR DUR...

He walked right into the centre of the campfire (Now cordoned off) and, in a rather pagan ceremony, lit the wooden effigy of a bird playing guitar alight.

Who better to light the fire than the God of Hellfire himself?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tir Na Nog. Live at Lunar Festival Review

 Until i had been to the Lunar Festival  my only knowledge of tir Na Nog  had come from my dad. Even while we were watching them getting started he just said that it was agreeable gentle folk music. This was a pretty apt description for the first song. Two old Irish blokes playing delicate wistful folk music that they wrote in the 1970's. When their Professor Snape lookalike singer announced that their next song was something he'd written in 1968. I was expecting the same. I was wrong, he pressed a button on a black box* next to him, and funky, funky beats started playing. These cult 1970's Folkers had updated their sound, to the 1990's. Which luckily for them could not be cooler at the moment. The following songs would have sounded in place on a Happy Mondays or Stone Roses album. okay I know this sounds rather strange,  no one else there was probably thinking these things, but it was what came to mind for me.
This was of course made even better by the fact that these guys have been playing together for near 40 years. and it shows. Their singer's style of guitar playing is hugely accomplished and fast, but never showy. 
of course the bands other member showed off his guitar skills, as well as playing bongos here and there. They also mentioned how much of a lovely day It had been, being able to catch up with Donovan and pay their respects to Nick Drake. All in this beautiful setting. And we really do have the Late Nick Drake for inspiring all this, this festival is his tribute and it makes for a fitting one.

Overall Tir Na Nog played a short set, that was short on showmanship or audience interaction. but the quality of the playing and the shock of what I saw compared with what I was expecting meant I left the tent on a high. Tir Na Nog had started the nights entertainment. Things from this point on were only going to get better.

*I feel like in some way that this was cheating, but in this case I'll have to let him off 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lunar Festival Review (Part Two)

Scott Matthews
By Midday the sun was at it's highest. Scott Matthews provided a perfectly fitting soundtrack to the afternoon nap. I can't say much about the Ivor Novello songwriter's set because I was napping, but I do remember enjoying the bluesy edge to his songs.  I probably should have been paying attention to
 what was probably some very personal and beautiful songs, but I wanted a nap. Josh Pye on the Northern Sky stage complimented this laid back vibe.
Chicken Bone John gave me and a few others a lesson on a few of his own handmade Cigar Box guitars. he makes these guitars himself and sells them for the reasonable price of £80.  They are beautiful things so it was great to get a lesson  on one. Even if only he got an amp and in 10 minutes there was only a few basics to learn, but in truth it was just nice seeing a master of the blues play, telling jokes and making his short lesson one of the most enjoyable parts of the day.
The next band on the main stage were brummie experimentalists Pram, who were uh, experimental.  It was interesting and unique music yet it didn't really stay with me I get the cult appeal of the band but for me something was lacking.
Jabba Cartel
Not long after did the rain decide to come out with sudden torrential downpour, forcing hundreds to run for the nearest tent, the guy playing in the catering tent couldn't believe his luck as an audience opf about 100 suddenly came in to watch his set. Once the rain had cleared slightly  I decided to brave the elements and check out Jabba Cartel. A group whose "Uncanny blend of acoustic drum and bass trip-hop latin folk Cuban raga techno rhythms" (What ever that means) made for a refreshing and interesting distraction while i waited for the sun to come out. They definitely sound very latin for a band from Leamington Spa, while they are all amazing musicians, and they have a really cool bloke playing bongos.
I missed a lot of The Destroyers set (as I was buying food from a guy who had appeared on the Great British Bake-Off) but what I saw of it was awesome. There was an amazing energy to them that had got just about everyone dancing, you couldn't help but go mad for it. The sight of a man playing a violin and wearing a gold lame waistcoat while rolling on the mud next to a group of people in full Polyphonic Spree robes will stay with me forever.
Dirty Old Folkers
The Northern sky Stage Tent was totally packed. sneaking inside was pretty difficult with so many people trying to get a glimpse of  'Dirty Old Folkers' playing. Featuring the Grim Reaper, a Panda and two nuns on back up vocals. The Folkers made for a funny and hugely enjoyable set. Featuring songs about Birmingham, Spanking the Monkey, and a brilliant section of famous songs reworked with new lyrics about The Lord Of the Rings. Audience participation made for a big part of this gig. During the LOTR montage the frontman got two swords and when he waved the lightsaber at the blokes they'd be orcs and shout 'OHHH' when he'd point his 'Pink Sword' at the ladies they'd be Elves and shout 'ooohhhh! Brilliant stuff.
Irish Folkies Tir Na Nog were surprisingly awesome as the headliners for the Northern Sky Stage, So awesome that i'm going to write on them separately.  One of my only complaints is that i got a little bored while trying to get as far away as possible from The Magic Band waiting for Tir Na Nog to play. By this point i'd already been to the vintage tents around 3 times. Next year I hope that more alternatives are included if such divisive acts are at the top of the bill.

Never mind though, as Arthur Brown and particularly The Polyphonic Spree made it an unforgettable night

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lunar Festival review. (Part One)

From the moment I stepped past the gates I loved The Lunar Festival. In fact even just driving down there, through gorgeous countryside, the kind which hasn't changed since Nick Drake lived there, While listening to his album Pink Moon, was special. The moment I stepped past those gates was like being transported to Glastonbury Festival in the early 70's. Two small fields filled with food, vintage clothes, music and workshops. I could hear over the PA that Donovan was still hanging about and that people could go to the signing tent to meet him.  I'm not really a fan of Donovan, so I headed over to watch The Grafham Water Sailing Club Who were ace.
Misty's Big Adventure.
Marshmallow palace
What I loved about the festival was how well it was organised, each programme came with a timetable. There was half an hour between each set on each stage but each set started one after the other on each stage. This meant that you'd get half an hour to do whatever you wanted in between music a lot of the time, or an hour or so if you didn't care for the tunes on either stage. I Certainly didn't care for Misty's Big Adventure'. I'd met a family of 4 who'd loved Grafham and came to the fest to see this band.  having been fans for many years. But I just didn't get it. A blend of Ska, Jazz, indie rock, a guy wearing a suit made of blue gloves, a singer who goes by the name of 'Blue Vulva' and fuck knows what else? no thanks.
Happily the vintage tents made a nice distraction. I also checked out new indie rock hopefuls, Marshmallow Palace*  I enjoyed their music but didn't love it. They sound a little bit like Interpol. Hats off to them though, playing in a muddy tent and arriving in their own small van, doing rock n roll the old school way.

While the music (I had seen) had been a little disappointing the food certainly wasn't. I don't think a single stand there had not won an award or appeared on TV at some point. I spent £60 at this festival, a fraction of that went on Purity Ales, and utterly delicious food. Another highlight of the day was getting an old vinyl record and paying £4 to swirl paint all over it and turn it into a rather psychedelic clock, and hanging around the campfire in the midday sun and discussing the artistic merit of what I'd created, with a friendly stranger. There is a real clear theme with the Lunar Festival of encouraging people to be less reliant on technology and money, and gain practical skills for themselves such as leather crafting and blacksmithing**
Lanterns on the Lake were one of the best acts I got to see.  what surprised me
was that their blend of folk and rock is amazingly un-twee.  They used violin and a violin bow on a guitar to create a  brooding atmosphere. The dark and well crafted songs Lanterns on the Lake produce are a welcome alternative to the likes of Mumford and Sons.

(Part Two is coming up shortly)

 *Which sounds like something from Adventure Time
** I have no idea whether these are the correct terms 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Grafham Water Sailing Club (Live at Lunar Festival, 8/6/14)

The Lunar Festival  was my first ever visit to any festival. Situated in the heart of Tamworth in Arden, and surrounded by beautiful countryside in tribute to the late, great Nick Drake who lived there, me and my dads visit to the Lunar festival was a day I'll never forget. I initially wanted to go because it was local and because I wanted to see British Sea Power, as well as other new bands such as Temples, Toy and Money. Unfortunately all the up coming acts I'd wanted to see were on other days, except for The Grafham Water Sailing Club. All I really knew about them were that they were experimental and that having met one of them last year, they are lovely guys, as the mid day sun was shining brightly, the site opened and Grafham started the days events. I was right up at the front, standing on mud still sticky front the night before. What initially struck me about the 4 lads dressed in black is that they are not very experimental at all. Experimental is a term I might sometimes use to describe a band with little structure but there was no sense of this with GWSC.  Their music is not too far off from The XX. There's a similar sense of minimalism and dark atmosphere, but the pounding drums, weird little keyboard melodies, careful use of sampling and guitar set them apart from sounding too similar. In fact The Grafham Water Sailing Club' are pretty much in a class of their own. Its a very unique sound they have, and watching them live you can really see the effort they put into making it. 4 guys playing different instruments, and sort of combining the sounds. 'The Butcher of Barcelona' marked the point where it really got exciting for me, as this constant minimalist groove that ran through the songs went on and on an on, while the rest of the band played around it.  It might be that the vibes were a little dark for such a hippie friendly field.  but this didn't stop those who saw the set from saying it was awesome, everyone I spoke to after the set loved it. while the hippies dancing away at the front seemed  to enjoy it too.
Despite being the first band on the Grafham Water Sailing club were my favourite band of the festival, at least until Arthur Brown came on.


A whole round up of the festival and separate blogs on some of the artists are  to follow.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

ALLUSONDRUGS (Live at TALK) 4/6/14

Are ALLUSONDRUGS* on drugs? yes, probably. If this gig is anything to go by, despite playing to only a handful of punters they treated this show as if it was wembley. The energy levels coming off these guys from the start were incredible. They were jumping around, falling over each other, running about and just making it an amazing show to watch and be a part of.  There are huge riffs and choruses in each song, yet the whole tone is so raw, so gnarly, after seeing that chaotic live show I've thought about calling them Britain's answer to 'The Orwells'. Yet there is a psychedelic tint to the bands sound that sets them apart from just being a grungey punk rock band. They've been compared to bands as diverse as Queens of the Stone Age and Elliot Smith, although when i mentioned bands such as The Orwells, they hadn't heard of them. Oh and they actually have good songs! I bought a copy of their new single 'Nervous' from the bands Kurt Cobain** lookalike singer (probably not a coincidence) and he told me to play it until i break it. I've already played it more than most ep's i've picked up from gigs. Nervous is actually a pretty catchy tune, with lyrics that speak of anxiety. While the b-side 'Handicapped' is even heavier and faster. Yet the demo version of 'Nervous' shows another side to the band. Not far off from Nirvana recordings such as 'Polly' or 'Something in the way'. It has a warm scratchy quality to the sound, and the stripped back approach lends an air of vulnerability to the lyrics.
Afterwards i bought one of their t shirts out of a cardboard box at the back of their battered old white van while one of them got changed. The name might stop them from being played on the radio, but i think any band with this much dedication to their craft, can and maybe will make it big. These guys are doing rock n roll the old school way, building hype through awesome live gigs across the country rather than through internet hype. ALLUSONDRUGS are my new favourite band. They will be yours too.

*The name is pronounced 'All Us on Drugs' not 'alice on drugs or allisson drugs as i initially thought.
**Imagine meeting Kurt Cobain and finding that he has a very strong yorkshire accent, thats what this guy is like.

Fizzy Blood (Live at TALK) 4/6/14

Fizzy blood are a proper rock and roll band. On the 4th june when I saw them share a bill with Why?said the moon to Earth, Great Uncles and Luminance. They were the only band who had properly gone on tour with the headliners ALLUSONDRUGS. Coming all the way from Leeds to play.
So far they've not even released a single, but they are a fully formed band, made up of members who all have years of experience. They've been played on Radio One and they've got a slot at the Download festival to look forward too when I said that things seemed to be looking good for them to their guitarist, he said he was just glad to have something to do.  Apparently one of them is a medical student, and Fizzy Blood is an actual medical condition.
Rather than just stand on the stage they set their kit up right in front of it. They then proceeded to jump and run about the place like no one was watching. The energy they out into the show was amazing, even if the small group of people who were watching were no where near as active. Not that this bothered the Fizzy Blood that much. They said that they would give their only existing t shirt (owned by the singer from ALLUSONDRUGS) to who ever went craziest, or at least did 'the least awkward head nod'.
Upcoming new single 'January Sun' is a good sign of what to expect from these guys. It's bonkers- mental full throttle Rock N Roll. And I saw plenty of that on this night.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Luminance (Live at TALK) 4/6/14

After Luminance's drummer went up stairs and loudly shouted to us all about how amazing his band is I went down to check them out. Although not before i nabbed a copy of their debut single. A brown envelope with the name stamped on the back and kept together with a red wax seal of the letter l. Sadly my copy was blank, but i've still got to give them full marks for presentation.
 I wasn't too sure what to make of the band at first, they look like a metal band yet the music itself has echoes of shoegaze and progressive rock. They are not too far off from the likes of the Horrors. Though compared with Why? Said the Moon to Earth's set earlier on, this felt like a darker, yet much more tuneful take on the genre. While W? make droning guitar noises Luminance can write decent songs. New single Neo Seoul is proof of that.
The problem is that I absolutely loved Great Uncles, and Luminance were the opposite in many ways. They felt rather charmless next to the upbeat, funny garage rock  i'd seen before.
This isn't really their fault though. I have no doubt that Luminance are a great band but i guess I wasn't really in the mood. Although having said that it was their psych sounds that inspired me to fiddle about with my camera settings, which is why all my shots of the band are very colourful yet blurry, (that one above looks like a 3d film doesn't it?). It took me a while to get into the groove but once i did i enjoyed these guys. though they were not my favorite band of the night.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Great Uncles (Live at TALK) 4/6/14

 After Why? said the Moon to Earth's set it was time to heat things up a bit, Like I have said before two piece rock n roll bands seem to be in fashion right now, yeti don't think Great Uncles will ever be in fashion. The band that they remind me of the most  -'Sex Bob-Omb' don't actually exist. Yet the music these two produce reminds me a lot of the slightly dodgy garage rock bands you see in Scott Pilgrim. Credit is due where it's due, Great Uncles persevere where some bands wouldn't, with a rare stiff upper lip attitude. They had some bad technical difficulties. Their amps, and speakers made them sound like angry robots. But they pulled through, making jokes and coping with the glitches to make the second half of the set much better. Each song is about a minute and a half long, and each one is about some awful yet hilarious event from the singers life. Such songs can be read as satirical comments on consumerism but I don't think they were intended to be. Its obvious that Great Uncles may never headline a festival, or make the cover of your favourite magazine, but I defy you not to love them. check out their single 'regular bar'  here. It's a catchy little tune.

(Note to Great Uncles: I downloaded your song for free because I couldn't be bothered to remember my paypal details, so i hope you accept this free publicity as a payment)


Why? said the Moon to Earth (live at talk 4/6/14)

"Come see Birmingham's token 'gaze band (us) open for some genuine talent (the other bands)" is what W? put on their Facebook to promote their ALLUSONDRUGS support slot, worryingly this isn't that bad an actual description. Last time I saw them at talk it was an event for the launch of their début EP. this time around they were opening and only a handful of people had come along.  W? are a shoegaze band that suit the term better than any other I have seen. They stare at the ground, and the songs are more experimental, instrumental pieces than songs. While they were content to stare into space making this noise, the audience were doing the same. As layers of droning guitar noises came one after another like waves hitting a beach. There is a definite sense of melody in their songs and they all play a real part. The rhythm section of the band play their instruments the same way a guitarist might rather than just keeping time/ filling in the gaps. W? set made for an absorbing one, but not particularly big on crowd participation or showmanship. W? did a decent job of starting off the night, and a pretty great night of live music it was too.