Words & photos - Liam McEvoy
After a few days of torrential rain in West Yorkshire the sun was back shining, and The War on Drugs called in to The Piece Hall in Halifax and played a fantastic set to a packed venue continuing the great series of gigs the Piece Hall is hosting this summer.
The Philadelphia based rock band kicked the show of with their classic track Pain taken from the 2017 album A Deeper Understanding. The expansive rock ballad got the crowd in the mood from the off.
The War on Drugs were in fine form as they kept the energy in the venue high with tracks like Oceans of Darkness and Victim both taken from their newest 2022 album I don’t Live Here Anymore.
The band continued with a number of tracks from across their extensive back catalogue with strangest things and the classic track Red Eyes being particular highlights seeing the crowd sing along in great voice.
The War on drugs who clearly masters of their craft performing a stellar version of Warren Zevon’s 1980 classic Play it All Night Long.
To close out the show they played a number of tracks from their back catalogue like Come to The City and Under the pressure before rounding off with two more tracks from the newest album, I don’t live Here Anymore and Occasional Rain. The crowd were left wanting more and that band delivered with a brilliant cover of The Waterboys Strange Boat bringing the sow to an end in supreme style.
The War on drugs are midway through their I Don’t Live Here Anymore tour and are clearly a finely tuned musical machine they are performing at Glastonbury this weekend so this should give everyone a chance to get a small taste of what this band can do live.
2. Oceans of darkness
3. An Ocean in Between the Waves
4. I Don’t Wanna Wait
6. Strangest Thing
7. Harmonia’s Dream
8. Red Eyes
9. In Chains
10. Play it All Night Long (Warren Zevon Cover)
11. Living Proof
12. Come to The City
13. Eyes to The Wind
14. Under The Pressure
15. I Don’t Live Here Anymore
16. Occasional Rain
Words - John McEvoy
It may be hard to believe this but The Piece Hall in Halifax is in serious danger of becoming one of the best live venues in the country!
Set in central Halifax the once dilapidated attraction is now home to an eclectic selection of bars and shops with a magnificent central ‘piazza’, an on a warm summers night, you would be seriously pushed to find a nice setting for the summer season of gigs that have been set up by Cuffe and Taylor who themselves are rapidly becoming one of the major players in gigs and festivals.
And so, on a warm summers night, Halifax welcomed a man who probably needs little introduction. Front man of The Police and a hugely successful solo career, Sting took to the stage just before 9:00pm as part of his global ‘My Songs’ tour. A kind of retrospective of career highlights.
Tonight there was no messing about either, with opening tracks ‘Message In A Bottle’ and Englishman In New York’ he had the capacity crowd in the palm of his hand from the off.
Looking ridiculously fit and healthy for a man of 71 (yes really!) he prowled the stage constantly and it was clear that both he and the band were thoroughly enjoying themselves.
At one point he said that he had to apologise as this was the first time that he’d been to Halifax and in common with many of the other bands who’ve been there this summer, he commented on how beautiful this venue was.
It could be argued that his solo career has somewhat eclipsed his time with The Police, 11 Grammys for example would certainly suggest this, but this was a set that was liberally sprinkled with Police tracks. Maybe it’s me but the roars of approval seemed just a little louder for these throughout the set.
‘Walking On The Moon’ and the brilliant ‘So Lonely’ sounded as good as ever and despite the advancing years Stings voice was as strong as it always has been over the last 40 plus years.
Set closer was of course ‘Every Breath You Take’ which people still think is a love song. Nope it aint, it’s actually got quite sinister undertones, but let’s not spoil peoples illusions!
The obligatory encore was of course ‘Roxanne’ with the now traditional jazzy noodling interlude along with a call and response. Curiously the final song was ‘Fragile’ which of itself is a fine tune, but it was unusual to end a gig on a low tempo!
That notwithstanding, this was one of the genuine highlights of the series of gigs at The Piece Hall,and if they can attract someone of the stature of Sting, then who knows who’ll be playing there in 2024!
Message In A Bottle
Englishman In New York
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
Fields Of Gold
Brand New Day
Heavy Cloud No Rain
Shape Of My Heart
Why Should I Cry For You
All This Time
Walking on The Moon
King Of Pain
Every Breath you Take
Words - James Fortune-Clubb
The double bill of The Cult supported by The Mission at Piece Hall Halifax – on the face of it the goth rock double bill dream ticket and there was certainly an enthusiastic crowd and a palpable sense of expectation and excitement for last night’s goth fest.
Pre and between set music consisted of a the not entirely unexpected fare of The Cure, Bauhaus, Killing Joke et al – all lapped up by the fast-gathering crowd, all adding to the anticipation and atmosphere.
First up was Lili Refrain – an Italian solo artist recording since 2007, with 5 albums already to her credit. Striking both visually – face paint, ritualistic, shamanic, stylised performance and aurally, Refrain builds her music on live loops, everything from cow bells to drums, guitar and synth.
What she creates are striking songs/pieces, which are dark, cinematic, multi-layered and powerful. Key here is Refrain’s voice, strong, distinctive and seemingly spanning several octaves – think a darker doomier Liz Fraser.
On paper this might not entice, but in a live setting like tonight – the whole effect is deeply impressive and extremely captivating. Whilst Lili Refrain’s music would no doubt be well received at the Batcave (seminal goth club of the early 1980s) and was certainly shown a lot of love from the goth rock crowd tonight, there’s nothing retro about her sound which feels fresh and somehow current.
I haven’t heard any of Lili Refrain’s albums, so don’t know how well her music translates to a purely listening experience, but live certainly – excellent.
Not long before The Mission take to the stage, surfing the crest of a dark wave of goth expectation – Wayne Hussey launches into the first song ‘Tower of Strength’ initially solo, before the rest of the band join him on stage. Hussey has the appearance now of a goth elder statesman, singing and playing his 12 string as you’d expect – with his decades of experience as front man of The Mission.
Although The Mission are ostensibly still making albums (their most recent being 2016’s ‘Another Fall From Grace’) tonight’s set is dominated unsurprisingly by songs from their mid/late 80’s and early 90’s heyday.
Every song is received by the enthusiastic crowd as an old friend and each is sung along with, giving the majority of the set an anthemic nature.
Whilst tonight’s set did build as it went along – a later highlight being their 1990 classic ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ and was obviously eagerly devoured by the fan heavy crowd, it just didn’t have the excitement that I would perhaps have expected.
Whilst Hussey et al are clearly seasoned and more than competent performers – it all felt somewhat workaday, two dimensional to the point of verging on pedestrian. So – solid, competent, well executed – but ultimately and sadly underwhelming.
As a slight aside, Hussey seemed initially to be struggling with the bright sunshine despite sunglasses (definitely needed and not a goth affectation) as the sun was to the back of the crowd – illuminating the stage and in typical and/or ironic goth fashion commented – “I think I prefer it when it’s raining”.
Another break and another play of proto goth classic ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead’ by Bauhaus - in all its nine-minute glory sets the scene.
And before we know it preparations for the mighty Cult are underway…
And with it being The Cult, or more specifically Ian Astbury – this involves the singers carpet being very specifically positioned and affixed behind the mike stand, along with one of the guitar techs wafting huge bundles of incense over the stage prior to the arrival of the band, presumably to set the scene and mood – although how effective a generous wafting of incense (even that quantity) can be in an outdoor setting is I guess a moot point?
Astbury silliness aside, The Cult are soon upon us – Astbury prowling the stage in readiness for the onslaught and Billy Duffy casually assuming rock god stance, they launch straight into fan favourite ‘Rise’ and the crowd are with them right from the off.
As with The Mission, tonight’s set is dominated by their golden years, with cuts from The Cult’s triumvirate of biggest 80s albums – ‘Love, Electric’ and ‘Sonic Temple’ – although there is a scattering of tracks from throughout their long career, including two from latest offering 2022’s ‘Under The Midnight Sun’.
It’s great that The Cult are still making new music and good that they want to play some tonight, unfortunately they’re inevitably unfamiliar to the majority of the crowd, which does mean a momentary loss of momentum. This is however immediately remedied with the time-honoured tradition of returning to more familiar material.
Duffy’s guitar playing is as solid, exciting and powerful rock guitar as you will hear anywhere and Astbury – still has the voice, the onstage antics (there’s much tambourine throwing, catching, kicking and breaking apart) and the presence needed for band of this stature.
The rhythm section (including long time drummer John Tempesta) are more than solid, providing the bedrock and driving force behind Duffy’s powerhouse guitar and Astbury’s distinctive and underrated voice. Not entirely sure how much the keyboards added though – they seemed barely audible from where I was.
Fourteen songs later, the goth rock crowd by this time completely on fire, they finish perhaps unsurprisingly with the classic ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ before returning with a great two song encore of ‘Peace Dog’ and ‘Love Removal Machine’.
What comes through tonight, is that despite their initial post punk, proto goth early 80’s Bradford beginnings and regardless of Astbury’s quasi goth, gypsy, cowboy, pirate-esque flirtations and affectations over the years – what The Cult really excel at, is simply being a truly great hard rock band, not grunge, not metal, not thrash – just good old hard rock and in the best possible way.
The last and only other time I’ve been to see The Cult was in Bradford in 1994 on one of those ‘farewell tours’ (well we’ve all got bills to pay and egos to feed I guess) and wondered how they would fare nearly 30 years later. The answer is simple – they were great, they can still do it and then some.
Words & photos - Liam McEvoy
After a torrential downpour and thunderstorms over West Yorkshire, the skies mercifully cleared and The Lumineers called in to The Piece Hall in Halifax on their Brightside tour in the latest of a series of great summer gigs at the venue.
Coming on to the stage and starting very strong they opened with the title track from their latest album BRIGHTSIDE before singer, guitarist and cofounder of The Lumineers Wesley Schultz came down the large runway to play fan favourites Cleopatra and Ho Hey, where he was joined by the rest of the band.
The strong start to the set really set the tone for the entire show as the band played hit after hit from across their four studio albums including Flowers in Your Hair, WHERE WE ARE, Charlie Boy and Gloria. The band didn’t pull any punches and played all of their biggest tracks which had the crowd dancing and singing from start to finish.
The Lumineers closed their set in much the same way as they opened, playing some of the best tracks including Ophelia, Salt and the Sea before closing with Big Parade before leaving the stage which left the crowd definitely wanting more.
It wasn’t long until The Lumineers obliged, returning to the stage to deliver a beautiful rendition of Donna, the opening track from their 2019 album III. This was followed by tracks from their newest album, REMINGTON and REPRISE before Stubborn Love which closed the set in supreme style.
On their visit to Halifax they delivered a set that that the appreciative crowd loved and if you get the chance to see them on the remainder of the tour you will certainty not be disappointed.
3. Ho Hey
5. A.M. RADIO
6. Dead Sea
7. Flowers in Your Hair
8. WHERE WE ARE
9. My Cell
10. Slow It Down
11. Charlie Boy
12. NEVER REALLY MINE
14. Sleep on the Floor
16. Leader of the Landslide
17. Salt and the Sea
18. Big Parade
23. Stubborn Love
Words & photos - John McEvoy
And so it was kids that after fifty (yes 50!) years, rock gods Kiss have finally decided that they don’t want to wear make-up anymore , and have embarked on their lengthy ‘End Of The Road’ farewell tour across the entire planet.
The tour initially kicked off back in 2019, but was delayed thanks to Covid and here in 2023, they’re on the final stages of the European leg of the tour before concluding it in Australia and the US.
Tonight, it was the turn of Manchester to witness the never subtle antics of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer.
I’ll be honest from the off here by saying that this was a band that never really came across my radar very often, but what I will say is that if you want a spectacular light show, with enough pyrotechnics and explosions to start a war and a general Spinal Tap over the top ‘ness’, then Kiss deliver in spade loads, and I loved every minute of it.
Given that during their 50 career they’ve released over 20 albums, it would be fair to say that they have a rather extensive back catalogue to choose from, but as this is billed as the farewell tour, they of course went straight for the jugular with all their huge tunes.
‘Detroit Rock City’ and ‘Shout It Out Loud’ meant they set off at 100mph and frankly there was no letting up on the pace throughout.
The near capacity crowd at the arena loved every minute of it, and it was testament to this band to see that the makeup of the crowd had all age groups there including a healthy dose of younger kids who have likely only just discovered the band.
What was immediately apparent also was that the band were thoroughly enjoying themselves on stage, and they had loads of interaction with the audience, and of course Gene Simmons was doing his trademark ‘tongue out’ pose at every given opportunity.
Technically age certainly hasn’t diminished them either and there were bucket loads of epic guitar solos, but the one thing you can’t avoid with this band is the sheer magnitude of their visuals.
There aren’t many bands around who indulge in flame throwing, taking flights over the audience and deliver truly epic indoor firework displays. In the hands of the wrong band, this could come across as being cheesy and over the top. But the thing is, this is what Kiss do, this is what Kiss have always done, and frankly no one does it better (Sorry Carly!)
If this really is going to be their last ever tour, then I for one am glad that I got to see them. However, I’m just going to put this out there, they did a Farewell tour in 2001, but it turned out that it wasn’t really a farewell.
Will the ‘End Of The Road’ tour really be just that?
Don’t be surprised if not. Judging by tonight’s performance they just might decide to do it all again.
Oh and by the way, I wouldn’t mind a 1% take of their merch sales!!
Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
Heavens On Fire
I Love It Loud
Lick It Up
Calling Dr Love
God Of Thunder
I Was Made For Lovin’ You
Words & photos - John McEvoy
A beautiful summers evening in Leeds saw the masses convene on the Millennium Square to listen to the sermon delivered by one Steven Patrick Morrissey, and what a sermon it was.
The former front man of The Smiths, possibly one of THE most influential bands of the last 40 plus years proved that time is no enemy, in fact like a fine wine, Morrissey seems to be getting better with age.
But first up tonight it was the hugely popular The Lottery Winners and although they only had a 30 minute slot, it’s clear why there is a real buzz about this band and there’s a good reason that their most recent album ‘Anxiety Replacement Therapy’ reached No 1 in the album charts.
Originally formed in 2008, it seems that finally people have picked up on this band and rightly they are beginning to reap their well-deserved rewards, and with a charismatic frontman in the guise of Thom Rylance, the future looks very bright for them.
Unusually tonight there were two bands as support, and next up it was the Manchester band Slow Readers Club who several albums into their career since they started in 2009 have carved themselves a healthy niche within the busy indie rock genre and they went down a treat with the Leeds crowd.
Next up it was the man himself, Morrissey continues to perplex, annoy, intrigue and delight people in his current guise and recent utterings, but there’s one thing you can’t dispute, he was and possibly still is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation.
Those of us who were old enough to see The Smiths in their glory in the early to mid 80’s were lucky enough to witness a band who still to the day are revered in huge numbers, and since the demise of The Smiths he has gone on to deliver 13 albums with his new album ‘Without Music The World Dies’ scheduled for release sometime later this year.
It would I think be fair to say that his solo musings have received a mix response throughout the years, but to be fair, how often do you ever get an album al all killers and no fillers?
Tonight of the 18 tracks he played, there was a healthy mix of both Smiths and solo tunes, but there is no mistaking that the best responses he and his accomplished band got was when the distinctive Marr chords boomed out and opening track ‘How Soon Is Now’ immediately set the tone for the night.
Of course Morrissey being Morrissey there were often moments when he chatted with the audience, often making oblique references. Particularly when he said that ‘It was now impossible for him to release music in England because he spoke the truth’ Read into that what you will.
But of course this has often been the charm of Morrissey, trawl back through the old interviews with him, particularly with the NME in the 80’s and you’ll see what I mean.
Musically his voice shows no sign of aging, and he sounded as good as I’ve ever heard him over the last almost 40 years.
My own personal highlight was his version of ‘Please Please’ which would be without doubt in my top 10 tunes of all time and still sounded as good as ever. Although annoyingly it would seem that some of the audience maybe didn’t feel the same way and proceeded to talk VERY LOUDLY.
Note: Why do people pay a fortune for tickets, and then proceed to talk throughout the entire gig?
That aside, it was a real treat to see the man is still at the top of his game, is still not afraid to challenge, provoke and as far as I’m concerned, is the writer of some of the greatest tunes to have ever graced Gods green earth.
And so it was, that after the sermon according to the Morrissey was duly delivered, his disciples made off into the night to spread the word.
If you’re quick you just might be able to catch him on the remaining dates of this current tour.
I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.
How Soon Is Now
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This one before
Irish Blood, English Heart
Girlfriend In A Coma
I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
I Wish You Lonely
Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings
The Night Pop Dropped
Half A Person
Everyday Is Like Sunday
Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
Jack The Ripper
Sweet And Tender Hooligan
Words & photos - Liam McEvoy
A decade after the release of the all-conquering debut album Bad Blood, Bastille are playing a select few shows to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the album and chose to call in to Leeds Millennium Square during the Sounds of the City series of gigs to play their debut album in full to the Leeds Crowd as well as a few other select tracks.
Before they took to the stage, Irish singer-songwriter Orla Gartland was support and her unique sound and style along with brilliant hooks and catchy tracks had the crowd dancing from the start, and warmed them up perfectly for the main event.
After a short video documenting the bands history, Bastille took to the stage and opened with the track that really kicked things off for the band, Pompeii.
It was clear from the outset that front man Dan Smith was having some technical difficulties with his earpiece and it seems this continued throughout the show; however, he did not let this stop him as the band performed the next two tracks from the debut album Things We Lost in the Fire and the title track Bad Blood before another video interlude.
When the band reached the rack Flaws Dan Smith came down into the crowd and took a walk around the entirety of millennium square before joining fellow band member back on stage to play the final few tracks from the album finishing with Weight of Living, Pt. I.
After finishing the entirety of the debut album Bastille then played a selection of tracks from their other albums starting with Good Grief and WHAT YOU GONNA DO???
IT was then into party mode playing their collaboration track with Marshmello, Happier, before their own version of a dance track Million Pieces. They then closed he show with their brilliant cover of ‘Of the Night’ and a track taken from their newest album Shut Off the Lights which had the crowd dancing to the very end.
Ten Years since the release of the debut album Bad Blood, and Bastille have gone from strength to strength, and this was a brilliant celebration of not only the album but of their ten years together.
2. Things We Lost in the Fire
3. Bad Blood
Interlude 1 – Changing the Tire
5. These Streets
6. Weight of Living, Pt II
Interlude 2 – The Tattoo
Interlude 3 – Hangovers
10. Daniel in the Den
11. Laura Palmer
Interlude 4 – Get Home
12. Get Home
13. Weight of Living, Pt. 1
14. Good Grief
15. WHAT YOU GONNA DO???
16. The Draw
17. Send Them Off!
19. Million Pieces
20. Of The Night
21. Shut Off the Lights
Words & photos - John McEvoy
Earlier in the day, the rain absolutely battered down in Leeds, and we expected to be absolutely drenched by. The time Chic took to the stage at the magnificent Leeds Millennium Square venue.
We needn’t have worried, this was after all the ultimate good time band and of course the sun shone as Nile Rodgers and Chic took to the stage to host a huge outdoor party.
Anyone who has any interest at all in dance music will surely be aware of just how influential this band has been with their first 2 albums ‘Chic’ and ‘C’est Chic’ released in 77 and 78 respectively often cited as some of the finest examples of dance music to date.
Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards between them created that distinctive Chic sound that is still universally loved, has been sampled to death and their influence can still be heard in new releases to this day.
Sadly Bernie Edwards passed away in ’96, but he is certainly not forgotten by Nile Rodgers.
Indeed throughout the gig he was mentioned several times and featured heavily in the video backdrops throughout the evening. Bizarrely Edwards was voted the 53rd best bass player back in 2017, but in my opinion if these charts are to serve any valid purpose then frankly he should have been much higher. Take a listen to those first two album and you will see what I mean.
Equally Nile Rodgers created that distinctive funky/choppy guitar sound, and quite rightly he has received numerous accolades not only for his own music, but also the production work he did with luminaries such as David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran and Daft Punk to name just a few.
Tonight it would be fair to say that Chic weren’t going to mess about, they hit the stage running with ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Everybody Dance’ firing the crowd up instantly.
Accompanied by a ‘tight as a drum’ band and singers Kimberly Davis and Audrey Martells this was an evening guaranteed to put a smile on the most cynical. It really is impossible not to enjoy a live performance of this band.
Being closely aligned with Sister Sledge naturally ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ was just one of the many highlights of the evening, and personally I thought their version of the Daft Punk track ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ which apparently was the first time they’ve played it live, was utterly sublime.
What struck me was just how much the whole band enjoyed themselves, often when on a long tour, bands sometimes 'dial it in’ but tonight this wasn’t the case.
As is becoming traditional with Chic now, as the set closer ‘Good Times/Rappers Delight kicked in, members of the audience were asked to come up on stage to dance with the band. A potential nightmare for security I know, but they didn’t have to worry. Everyone really did just want to have a ‘Good Time’ and all too soon, the set was over.
I’m lucky as I get to cover a lot of gigs for Wall Of Sound, but I can safely say that this is certainly up there for me as one of THE gigs of the year so far.
Guaranteed to put a smile on your face and get your feet moving, Nile Rodgers and Chic are a band that you really should go see at least once.
Dance Dance Dance
I Want Your Love
I’m Coming Out
He’s the Greatest Dancer
We Are Family
Like A Virgin
Lose Yourself To Dance
Soup For One/Lady
Lost In Music
My Forbidden Lover
Love Like This
Good Times/Rappers Delight
Words & photos - James Fortune Clubb
So off we go on the now annual pilgrimage to Bluedot festival of music and science - based at the UNESCO world heritage Jodrell Bank site in leafy Cheshire. It's a stunning location with the truly iconic Lovell Telescope dish as a backdrop.
Bluedot is now well established on the mid sized festival circuit, from it's embryonic 'Live at Jodrell Bank' beginnings in 2011 with Flaming Lips et al - to the first actual Bluedot branded festival in 2016.
As well providing the chance to catch the up and coming, the well established and legendary acts in full flight, Bluedot has much to offer on the science front as well - with a range of talks from leading academics, activities and stalls etc.
The festival provides all the usual fare and supporting facilities that you'd expect, an excellent range of food and drink outlets, yoga, massages and normally (because it's Bluedot) The Clangers - although they do seem to be conspicuous by their absence this year unfortunately.
As far as stages go - there's the Lovell (main stage) Orbit (second stage - tent based) and Nebula (tent based small third stage).
And so to the music.
Arrived Thursday afternoon for the traditionally orchestral first night opener - this year we're in the camper van, so a whole new festival experience.
There's a great atmosphere building, with some hopefully excellent music ahead of us, despite poor weather predictions. Today has a chilled out abd relaxed vibe - the sun is shining and it's perfect festival weather...for now.
Bluedot has a reconfigured site layout which is intended to provide easier flow of festival goers and better sight lines to the main stage - although so far I can see little evidence of either and am not clear what has been gained.
This year's orchestral opener is renowned composer Max Richter with the BBC concert orchestra. There are initial short pieces courtesy of Isobel Waller-Bridge (TV and film soundtrack composer - e.g. Fleabag, Black Mirror etc.) who provides a suitably stirring and longing piece by turns epic and cinematic.
Next up is Coby Sey- London based musician and songwriter. This is more uncompromising and challenging. It's certainly avant garde, unexpected and unpredictable. The intensity is palpable and effective.
Max Richter (German-British composer) - plays two pieces:
'Recomposed' is a reworking of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, it - featured the astonishing and utterly breathtaking violin playing of Mari Samuelsen, an absolute thrill to watch.
'Voices' featuring Tilda Swinton (narration) Grace Davidson (soprano) and Mari Samuelsen (violin) - it's based on the Universal Declaration of Human Right. Voices is a powerful and multi layered piece, building throughout and the crowd are clearly very moved - it's a memorable experience.
The BBC Concert Orchestra providing the orchestral backdrop for all, play immaculately and powerfully throughout.
We wake to the aftermath of torrential overnight rain and the start of 'the mud' - although the weather stays dry throughout Friday and the sun shines again
'Miss Grit' NY based musician has the unenviable first spot on main stage. It's meandering average electropop, competent but sadly forgettable.
Next up 'Noelle' - solo artist electroclash, Kraftwerk-esque vocal distortion. This feels like the wrong audience, the wrong time of day (poor scheduling) it's underwhelming and at times cacophonous but not in the right kind of way.
'Attawalpa' - is a London based South American multi instrumentalist with supporting band. It's soulful and laid back, there's elements of post-punk and new wave. There's effective use of violin, cello and I'll wager the best triangle work of the festival?
Back to the main stage for 'TC and the Groove Family' (terrible name) - are a 10 piece band of great musicians and as the name would suggest, they provide a groovy blend of jazz, funk etc. The band are obviously enjoying themselves and it's infectious, the crowd are clearly appreciative
Organisational hiccups due to the overnight deluge of rain means the start of acts on the second stage was delayed for an hour - thus meant no 'Picture Parlour' (promising new band single) for me - not with Gina Birch (Raincoats leading light) clashing on the main stage. According to security - "everything about this festival is delayed" I do wonder?
Having already seen one band - "first gig outside London" and "first festival gig" - I do ponder whether Bluedot have saved money on lower down the bill acts to secure criwd pulling headliners?
So to Gina Birch - this is great, it's a healthy dose of shouty dubby post punk dub with inevitable hints of The Raincoats. It's more than 30 years since I saw The Raincoats and it's great to see Gina Birch in such good form.
'Creep Show' are next - so called electronic supergroup comprising John Grant (Wrangler) Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) et al - there's hints of Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, Air etc and the. Combination of Grant and Malli.
Mallinder is excellent.
'Gwenno' Solid performance - although for me perhaps more 'listening' than 'watching' music?
Back to the main stage, Nubyia Garcia and band - sax, keys, double bass, drums are a tight unit, delivering sax led jazz with a dub reggae vibe, it's great.
Next 'Beak' - Geoff Barrow (Portishead) trio - there are definitely elements of Barrow's more established band and it's intense and captivating. There's much chat with the audience which provides light relief and is appreciated.
So to the Friday night headliner Roisin Murphy - formerly one half of Moloko, more recently queen of electro pop. We're down at the front to enjoy the glamour, the disco beats, even the costume changes - Murphy is most certainly worthy and a great day two headliner.
On our way back to the warmth of the camper van, we pass the tent where Leftfield are doing what Leftfield do best and the beats sounds great, but we don't have the energy for any more today.
Another overnight deluge of rain has really completed the quagmiring of the site, it's difficult to get around now - but on we go, there's beer to be drunk and music to be heard.
'Carpet' - Springsteen-esque songs, but feels sadly quite karaoke.
'Night Bus' - have obviously spent much time listening to the 'Cocteau Twins' and 'The Banshees - but have sadly not come up with anything suitably engaging.
As is traditionally at Bluedot 'Henge' - electronic, cosmic pop rock (with added humour) play the main stage again along with dancing Tarigrades obviously. Lot's of fun, but once you've seen them two or three times, the humour does start to wear a bit thin.
'Pictish Trail' - from the Isle of Eigg (population 120) are great and deliver a definite breath of fresh air. I was aware of PT but never heard any of their music, which is very diverse and difficult to classify, great energy and recommended.
Next 'TVAM' - much hyped by BBC 6 Music feel very generic and unfortunately unexciting.
'Tinariwen' fron the Saharan region of Mali give us pioneering brand of desert blues - but it doesn't work for me and doesn't captivate as perhaps I'd anticipated.
'Belief' are similarly underwhelming - they're competent are delivering old school beats, but nothing else.
Hallelujah for 'The Go! Team' indie rock pop band from Brighton of some 20 years plus standing and somehow I've never manage to pick up on in all those years. They're a positive festival highlight for me and I suspect others - the songs, the energy, the delivery, the excitement - it's a brilliant mix and the atmosphere is added to by the rain waterfalling outside from the roof of the Orbit tent where we're watching 'The Go! Team'
Back outside in the heavy rain to the main stage to watch headliners 'Pavement' - renowned and influential American lo-fi indie rock pioneers. In effect - they do what they do very well and definitely 'give good Pavement' and it feels like a strong performance - there's much anticipation as this is their only UK date of 2023, but it's really difficult in these conditions to fully appreciate and enjoy their set, which is a great shame. Even the guest appearance by Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai fame feels of little interest in these trying conditions.
More rain has rendered the site a complete bog and the organisers have wisely told day ticket holders to stay away (no admittance given) as the site can no longer cope, despite all attempts to keep the sludge at bay.
But we're still here and the music plays on...
Manchester based of American origin - 'B C Camplight' opens proceedings and it's good, it's fun, somehow music pulls us out of the muddy doledrums yet again. There's an element of Billy Joel to 'B C Camplight' - but today that's okay
Next up - another definite festival highlight, it's the 'Radiophonic Workshop' the band born out of the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which was led by legendary Delia Derbyshire and provided the original Dr Who theme music. The band as an entity have been going now for 10+ years and were performing a live premier of 'Dawn of The Drs' as the name suggests, overwhelmingly but not exclusively Dr Who based music.
It's a long performance, but utterly brilliant. Hints of Public Service Broadcasting, Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, even Pink Floyd - but lest we forget - these guys were the originators.
Next 'CKTRL' on the main stage - meandering and drifting clarinet, which just felt like wrong place, wrong time, wrong weather and rather odd main stage scheduling.
Time to wake up with 'Big Joanie' London based black feminist punk trio, who were great, although perhaps not quite as raucous ir as punk as perhaps I was expecting and hoping for - great nonetheless.
'Holodrum' - were a great late afternoon bonus and previously unknown to me, drawn from members of various Leeds based bands and counting in their number Yard Act's Sam Shipstone. This is however not a one trick Yard Act side project, it's very much a product of the whole band – impressive stuff and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
'Young Fathers' on the main stage - the subsequently Mercury Music Prize nominated, alternative hip-hop, indie rock Scottish based band. It's an uncompromising, intense, high energy, full on and impressive performance and one that will I suspect prove to be memorable in the long term.
Finally, despite the rain, the mud, the sludge, the exhaustion and the difficulty getting from one part of the site to another, even travelling short distances is now a challenge...but we're here for the legendary and iconic (overused phrases but not in this instance) and the really quite late, Grace Jones.
But it's worth the wait and all the effort - Grace Jones is amazing, the band are great, her voice sounds as strong as ever, her performance is as you'd expect - much (swift) changing of costumes, high drama acted out through the songs we wanted to hear - pull up to the bumper, demolition man, private life et al and before we know it, Grace Jones has left the building.
There's an end of festival party hosted by Annie Mac - which sounds great, but there's simply no energy left, exhaustion has set in and it's time for home.
Despite conditions, it's been a fantastic festival, so much great music (new and old) and I haven't even mentioned the science based talks that we went to, nor the Deep Space Disco, nor the human jukebox, nor the space parade, nor the great beer and food that we enjoyed.
Roll on Bluedot 2024! (Assuming that the site can recover by then).
Words & photos - Neil Milner
Deer Shed is a family friendly festival established in 2010. With so many children here, the atmosphere is pleasant and friendly. Most of the artists who play love it and repeatedly say so.
My wife and I have been coming for a few years, and whilst it evolves, being family-friendly underpins what it is.
There’s all kinds of activities kids take part in such as tree climbing, wild swimming, in-situ banging together of wood pallets, all things the government would shake its fist at, are actively encouraged here. There’s art and science, kayaking and a sports arena, so much for kids to do and take part in. It’s great to observe.
Music and comedy form most of the entertainment and are spread across four stages. Musical highlights from 2023 are set out below.
Friday had mostly a jazz vibe exemplified by Steam Down. However, Dream Wife provided a punky pop counterbalance. The audience loved it and watching I felt lead singer Rakel Mjöll is a star waiting to happen as she owned the stage.
If watching a six times World snooker champion perform with a former member of the Cardiacs is on your musical bucket list, then The Utopia Strong is the band for you. Steve Davies, on analogue modular synthesiser, along with Kavus Torabi and Michael J.York made a delightful progressive ambient electronic noise.
Comet is Coming headlined the main stage. Their mainly funky jazz flavours were loud, dramatic, and danceable. There wasn’t much variation in what they did, but it was extremely enjoyable.
Saturday was the kind of day that your great-grandparents told us they fought in the wars for. It was totally blissful, allowing you to briefly escape reality.
I love Pale Blue Eyes, but they initially looked low on energy, before picking up as their set developed.
James Yorkston and Nina Persson (The Cardigans) performed songs from their album ‘The Great White Sea Eagle providing a perfectly pleasant Saturday afternoon experience.
Gaz Coombes just gets festivals and knows how to win a crowd over. He keeps it simple and fun playing songs the audience will love, even if they don’t always know them.
I love the intricate rhythms and folksy-rock melodies of This is the Kit. Lead singer Kate Stables engages well with the crowd, wishing almost everyone a happy birthday, and encouraging a Mexican wave. Band member Rozi Plain also played an enjoyable solo set earlier in the day.
Headliners Public Service Broadcasting were phenomenal. All band members, including the guest dancing brass section, dressed in dazzling white uniforms. They played their classic combination of public information samples with electronica and engaging dance rhythms. The late rain shower tried but failed to dampen the fun and excitement.
We started Sunday slowly by watching the Sunday paper review and then The Lovely Eggs, well predominantly lead singer Holly Ross, talk about loving books and setting up a club to prove it. Band mate and partner David Blackwell pleaded how reading is a heavy investment of time, but still manages it occasionally.
Back to the music and Leeds based band English Teacher’s strong and engaging attitude and stage presence captured the audience. The Plastic Mermaids’ many band members and brim-full of ideas was art-pop with a dose of shoegazing thrown in.
I’ve seen Gwenno Mererid Saunders and her band play two excellent gigs at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, and so it was great to see them perform just as well at Deer Shed. ‘Jynn-amontya’, (Cornish for computer), was breath-taking, and with ‘Eus Keus?’ they managed to get the crowd singing about the need for cheese.
Holy Ghosts may as well have said, ‘Let’s Indie like it’s 1985’. Sarah Records would have warmly welcomed them into their roster. I gave the Big Moon a fair hearing, but quickly a wide berth. Just not for me I’m afraid.
BCUC from South Africa were phenomenal and a big hit with the audience. Rhythmically heavy, they had the crowd eating out from the palms of their hands. Every festival needs a moment like this, especially when the rain starts.
The Delgados closed the event, and despite the rain, this was my moment of the festival. Newly reformed, I was a big fan when they were first around. They always felt to me like a perfectly formed Indie Chamber Orchestra, replete with gorgeous songs and beautiful melodies.
How apt then they performed here with an actual chamber orchestra along with other musicians to enhance their songs to even higher majestic levels. My eyes were moist when they performed ‘Coming in from the Cold’, amongst many others, and it was nothing to do with the heavy rain.
The weather did limit the numbers watching them. But we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, (and sisters); For we today that shed our blood with me shall be my brother, (or sister); Be they ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle their condition: And people in Yorkshire now a-bed shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, and hold their man (or woman) hoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought, (well, watched really), with us upon The Delgados’ day.
Word & Photos - John McEvoy
Ever since the Bradford council in their usual incompetent manner washed their hands of running the annual Bingley Weekender, it fell to Bingley Rugby Club to step into the breech and run what has become a hugely popular event in West Yorks.
From the off, I must congratulate the club on once again putting on this festival and providing an eclectic and lively line up this year, which for the first time stretched over 4 days.
Usually proceedings start on the Friday, but this year saw the first acts kick start the event on the Thursday with the Happy Mondays headlining. However, before them, it was good to see the reformed Boo Radleys back on stage, and clearly a 20 plus year break appears to have done them no harm, at all. In fact their newly released album ‘Eight’ has received critical acclaim from all quarters and the future looks very rosy for this band.
Naturally as it was high summer, it rained, (heavily at times) but this didn’t deter the hardy crowd from enjoying themselves and just as the latest downpour stopped, The Happy Mondays took to the stage, firstly with Rowetta, then of course probably the most famous stage invader ever Bez, bounded on stage doing, well, what Bex does. Finally, Shaun Ryder appeared and then it was straight into ‘Kinky Afro’.
Despite several band changes over the years, the Mondays are still a great live band, have a strong back catalogue and are still worth seeing if you ever get the chance.
Onto Friday and this proved to be busiest day of the weekend with Noel Gallagher headlining.
It was great to see how Andrew Cushin is developing into a genuinely great musician and clearly his latest tour of America has really give him the opportunity to hone his live performance and the addition of a full band allowed him to deliver a solid performance.
Manchester band Afflecks Palace were new to me but their Stone Roses influenced indie rock was well received and are a band that are going places.
It had been a while since I’ve seen Jake Bugg, and again, having taken some time away, his Dylanesque delivery was well received by the appreciative audience.
Highlight of the day was in the shape of Kate Nash who these days spends much of her time working in theatre and TV, and I found her brash slightly punky delivery with a rap overlay quite refreshing even though it’s a well-covered genre.
It would be wrong me of me not to mention that as this was the busiest day of the weekend, there were reported issues of long delays at the bars that were scattered throughout the venue, but to the credit of the rugby club this matter was quickly addressed and resolved in readiness for Saturday.
Saturday brought a dire weather forecast but thankfully the threatened deluge largely kept away.
Festivals of course are nothing without a crowd, and they once again excelled themselves again this year, with ingenious fancy dress outfits, and of course the ‘must have’ summer accessory, a bucket hat!!
It’s quite often a kiss of death for a band to go on early in the afternoon at a festival, but there is always an exception to every rule and the Lancashire Hotpots are a fine example of this are their humorous comedy songs had the crowd, dancing, doing the conga, and of course raving!!
It’s quite difficult to describe this band other than to say, they deliver a set, which is clever, extremely funny and I defy you not to have smile on your face when you hear them deliver such classics as ‘Eggs, Sausage, Chips & Beans’. More power to them!!
It was good to see Sleeper back again and their 17 year ‘hiatus’ seems to have done them no harm at all with Louise Wener still very much front, with a band delivering Indie Rock in their own unique and charismatic style.
The Cribs continued the Indie Rock vibe of the day with twins Gary and Ryan Jarman delivering a typical powerhouse set being local boys (well Wakefield) they were well received.
After seeking out refreshments, next up on the main stage were the former NME darlings Razorlight, with frontman Johnny Borrell still delivering the goods and it struck me just how many great songs they had actually written, and their unique mix of rock with a slight dance feel was top drawer for me at least.
Ian Brown (yes THE Ian Brown) was the headline act and I’m not going to say anything about this, other than Karaoke is not a good idea.
As someone who loves the Stone Roses and his solo material it was quite hard to watch this.
I’ll say no more!!
Sunday came, the sun shone, and frankly The Lottery Winners undoubtedly stole the show.
I’ll stick my neck out here and say that it’s only a matter of time before this band are deservedly headlining a festival, and in front man Thom Rylance they genuinely have a star in the making. But let’s not forget the rest of the band in the shape of Robert Lally, Katie Lloyd and Joe Singleton who together make up one of the most exciting bands currently around. Formed back in 2011 this band have paid their dues and then some, and they really were THE band of the weekend for me.
Whilst the weather was kind, local band New Model Army showed just how good they were and still are in front of a huge number of devoted fans. Respect to the lady who spent much of the set standing on the shoulders of two volunteers as well.
Was also good the see The Zutons again, who in common with many other bands now seem to be enjoying a new lease of life and of course the version of ‘Valerie’ (yes they wrote it, and not Amy Winehouse) was as always the highlight of their set.
Penultimate act of weekend James Bay and his unique blend of American/Folk/Pop mix was in many ways a nice change in genres and whilst his profile may be as high as it may have been in previous years, the Bingley audience really enjoyed his set.
Travis brought the weekends proceedings to a close, some thought that this was a lowkey ending to the 4 days, but this is a band who have honed their craft over a 30 plus year career and opening their set with ‘Sing’ was a smart move on their part and immediately got the crowd on their side.
Resplendent in a pink suit, front man Fran Healy led the band through all their biggest tunes and Bingley was only too happy to sing along with them all the way.
Obviously ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me’ was the set closer which judging by the events of the previous 3 days was entirely appropriate!!
And that was it, after 4 days, 3 stages, dozens of bands and hit and miss weather, we were done and dusted for 2023.
As I mentioned at the top of this review, Bingley Rugby Club should be applauded once again for putting an event of this scale on. I know an awful of work goes into organising an event like this, and inevitably issues do arise, but credit where credits due. Solutions were quickly put in place to remedy this, and I think it would be fair to say that Bingley Weekender 2023 was once again a great success.
Bring on 2024!!
Words & photos - Callum Appleby
Mesmerising Belgian band Slow Crush opened proceeding’s, conjuring up their unique blend of shoegaze, doom, grunge and post rock. A true masterclass in refusing to be defined to a genre.
Rather feelings of escapism, weightlessness and tranquillity seep throughout the intimate wall of the 400-capacity venue as Reve floats around the room. Playing tracks from 2018 pacesetter Aurora and the 2021 follow up Hush captivated the entranced crowd.
Deafheaven take to the stage and open with Black Brick to an ecstatic crowd. Filling the room full of energy, the vocals from George Clarke perfectly complement the skilful guitar of Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra with Chris Johnson dominating the base. Daniel Tracey masterfully drums one of Deafheavens faster offerings.
The set continues with Deafheaven playing material from the universally acclaimed album Sunbather. In Blur and Great Mass of Colour from the newest release Infinite Granite slide beautifully between Sunbather and Worthless Animal. George Clarke patrolling, taunting, and composing the crowd to near ecstasy.
Mombasa from Infinite Granite finishes the set showing how Deafheaven can’t be confined to a genre. Shoegaze, black metal, post rock, black gaze, Deafheaven transcends all of these in their own unique cacophony of vibration. Mombasa shimmers into existence offering a floaty introduction that dances around the packed venue, a sense of calm before crashing into a raging torrent of Deafheaven at their very best.
A sense of calm patrolled the room as the band left the stage, only to swiftly return for the encore, announcing new music on its way. Brought to the water sees the crowd thrashing with sheer joy before 6 minutes of Dream House launching the crowd into a shimmering haze of crowd surfing before simmering for a moment as the song suspends in mid-air like the sweaty haze around the room before crashing down like a nuclear bomb reigniting the ferocity around the room.
A true masterclass was on show tonight in Leeds from one of the most innovative and important bands in music today. Deafheaven continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, and their live shows are a must-see for anyone seeking calm in the eye of the storm.
Words & photos - Liam McEvoy
As festival season comes to an end, Bramham Park as always played host to some of the world’s biggest artists for one last blow out before the great British summer draws to a close.
Leeds festival 2023 was once again an epic weekend full of incredible acts to satisfy any music lover. With both huge international artists and the very best up and coming acts Leeds Festival 2023 really had something for everyone.
Despite the dismal forecast the Friday of Leeds Festival dawned bright and sunny and was the perfect weather for excellent live music. After setting up camp the first artist on the agenda was Joesef. The Glasgow born singer who has garnered much acclaim following the release of his debut album at the beginning of the year, delivered a fantastic set that despite his early set time had the significant crowd dancing from start to finish.
After a well-earned rest it was time to head back back out into the festival to catch Don Broco on the main stage west. A band that has gained a significant and dedicated following, and it’s easy to see why. They delivered a brilliant set and seeing hundreds of people swing their T-shirts over their heads for the closing track T-Shirt Song was a true spectacle.
It was then time to head up to the Festival Republic stage to catch the Berlin based band Giant Rooks. Performing for the first time at Leeds Festival, they delivered a superb set that had the crowd dancing throughout.
From rock and indi to dance, there is truly something for everyone at Leeds festival and next up it was Becky Hill. She delivered a set packed with modern dance anthems this was a performance that had the massive crowd bouncing from start to finish.
After Becky Hill it was time for the first of the two headliners. Imagine Dragons delivered a fantastic set playing some of their biggest hits and with confetti cannons galore. Whilst this would usually be a tough act to follow it wasn’t a problem for Billie Eilish whoi closed out the day. This was a set with hit after hit this was the perfect way to end the first day.
Day two once again began with bright sunny weather and with more incredible acts performing there was no time to waste. Himalayas were up first on the Festival Republic stage. The Cardiff four piece performed a storming set that had the early crowds rocking and opened the Saturday in great style.
Next up Was Frankie Beetlestone on the BBC Introducing stage. This is an artist that is already making waves in the music world, having already toured with the likes of Tom Grennan. Franke Beetlestone performed to a sizable crowd and is definitely an artist to keep an eye on for the future.
Next up was the LA based alt-indi singer songwriter Jesse Jo Stark. Playing for the first time at Leeds festival Jesse prowled the stage and performed an accomplished set that show why she has such a great following.
Back on the main stage west it was time for the fantastic You Me at Six. The indie rock band founded way back in 2004 sound as good as they ever did despite front man Josh Fanceschi struggling with his vocals. The band delivered a set full of their biggest hits and actively encouraged crowd surfing which made for a great sight.
Then it was back over to the turn trip over to the Festival Republic stage to catch Normandy make the tent bounce with their incredible riffs and fantastic vocals, before heading over to the Radio 1 Xtra stage to catch Meekz play the headline spot on that stage. Meekz performed a blistering set that had the packed out tent bouncing from start to finish.
To close the day Saturday Was the two time Brit award winner Sam Fender. Anyone who was at Leeds Festival on Saturday couldn’t fail to notice the significant number of Newcastle United football shirts at the venue all in support of the Geordie who commanded the headline spot and performed an accomplished and well received set.
The final day of the festival began and unfortunately the weather that had been so kind Friday and Saturday turned and the heavens opened. Whilst it was nothing compared to what was experienced at Creamfields it was enough for the raincoats and ponchos to emerge. Thankfully the downpour was short lived, and the final day of the festival proceeded without any further rain.
Sunday was time to head over to the dance tent with Caity Baser kicking things off with her brand of upbeat dance music. It was then time for a quick interlude to catch High Vis in on the festival republic stage before heading back to the dance tent to catch TIBASKO and Jaguar who kept the party vibe going.
There was then time to catch fresh faced rapper JBEE play to a massive audience in the Radio 1 Xtra tent before heading over to the Festival Republic stage to catch what was potentially the surprise act of the weekend from Joey Valence & Brae. The Pennsylvania rap due came bursting onto the stage and delivered a phenomenal set full of energy. This duo take inspiration from early 90’s hip hop and have a sound that is akin to the Beastie Boys.
It was then time for the first of the two Mainstage headliners The 1975. Ten years on from the release of their debut album the band used the headline set to celebrate that album playing it in full before moving onto some of their biggest tunes from their other albums. Part way through the set front man Matty Healy paid Tribute to Lewis Capaldi who The 1975 were filling in for following Capaldi taking a break from performing.
After The 1975 there was just time to head back over to the festival republic to catch the enigmatic Sleep Token. The anonymous band formed back in 2016 have gained a cult following over recent years and gave a blistering set that rock fans were sure to love.
After Sleep token it was time for the final act of the weekend, and it doesn’t come much bigger than The Killers. The Band played all of their biggest tracks from across their two decades of music. Frontman Brandon Flowers expertly controlled the crowd and of course there was only one track that could end the festival. Hearing tens of thousands yelling along to Mr Brightside was certainly an experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Leeds Festival 2023 was yet again an incredible weekend full of some of the biggest acts on the planet and the best emerging talent. With the weather just about holding out for the duration of the weekend it was a brilliant way to mark the end of both festival season and the summer.
We’re already looking forward to 2024!!
Words & photos - Neil Milner
Krankenhaus is a joy. It’s a micro-festival organised by English indie rock band Sea Power and is held at Muncaster Castle and its stunningly beautiful surroundings, near Ravenglass in the Western Lake district.
The Victorian art critic John Ruskin described the views from Muncaster as a “Gateway to Paradise”, words echoed by Jan Wilkinson during Sea Power’s closing set. The views looking over Eskdale Valley are staggering and remind you there is a permanent, noble, contrary position to the ongoing idiocy perpetually generating many modern headlines.
The festival cleverly utilises the castle and its environment.
Each morning there is a programme of talks within the castle and adjacent buildings. The festival ticket entitles you to visit the castle, watch owl displays, and much more. For the more adventurous there are walking opportunities in the neighbouring breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. For a reduced price you can even travel on the L’al Ratty steam train running from Ravenglass to Dalegarth.
It is dog friendly, with competitions spicing things up. Broadcaster Shaun Keaveny had the unenviable task of judging which dog looks most like David Bowie, or which was best at playing dead.
Music starts in the early afternoon, and performers play at the Home Farm Barn. It’s an incredible place that accommodates a stage, hundreds of festival goers, and privacy for minor celebrities.
My 2023 Krankenhaus experience began with Sex Swing who were rhythmic, primeval, and uncompromising. The DSM IV were neo-goth on steroids. Hugely entertaining with monster anthems and a Yosser Hughes lookalike lead singer.
Babar Ali and H. Hawkline were both highly skilled and capable but slightly monotonous to my ears.
It’s hard for me to be objective about Bodega as I don’t get or like them. It all sounded adept, but they seem self-consciously arty and pretentious and tonight self-important enough to eat into their own allocated time with a prolonged soundcheck. They work well together are tight and got on with it once they started. But I remained indifferent.
Deerhoof are a band I’ve heard but don’t really know. They were tremendous and played whilst an Armageddon storm was taking place outdoors. All Deerhoof musicians are individually brilliant. Greg Saunier the drummer, with his minimalist set-up, was sensational. Collectively they are a great outfit and appear to work as democracy. They finished with My Purple Past containing a sublime riff. I’ve now become somewhat obsessed with them since this triumph.
It’s a counterfactual point, but maybe former British poet laureates would have been enticed to attend and perform at this brilliant festival. With Simon Armitage it’s a given he’ll be here.
This was his second successive appearance, and he was just as captivating and brilliant this year as last. Reading from his book Never Good With Horses, which is essentially song lyrics from his various musical enterprises, he informed, educated, entertained, and as a bonus amused with his witty observations. My favourite was one about business speak language.
I saw Rozi Plain play a solo set earlier in the summer, so having a band fills out their sound, making it uncannily like This is the Kit, who she is also part of. Jeffrey Lewis is a perennial indie legend. Along with his band The Voltage he played many songs, some written during Covid, and they seemed slightly confessional.
The Lovely Eggs were loud and brilliant, but is it ever any different with them? They are exceptional at engaging the audience whilst simultaneously trying to deafen them.
Sea Power Krankenhaus sets are a celebration decorating their stage with foliage to demonstrate that.
On Saturday they included Two Fingers, a magnificent tribute to Jan and Hamilton Wilkinson’s father. It’s remarkable how this new song sounds as though it’s been part of their set for years. Closing numbers Lately / Rock in A descended into enjoyable chaos when first guitarist Martin Noble and then Jan crowd surfed and were joined by the re-emerging Sea Power dancing bears. A memorably hectic end.
The Go Team headlined, playing old and new songs. They are a mixture of indie, pop, rap, funk, electro. It’s a blistering listen and watch and they throw everything into their performances. Ninja is an underrated rapper and has the energy of someone half her age. I’d be hobbling home on crutches if I did any of the onstage moves she did. A marvellous end to a fabulous day.
Graceful gentleman punk John Robb, (The Membranes and Goldblade), started the day talking with music journalist Simon Price in the Castle Drawing room about his new book The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth. I enjoy watching thoughtful, considered, interesting conversation, especially when it involves John Robb.
The music started for me with Hayden Thorpe. I love his countertenor vocal style featured in both his solo work and his time with Wild Beasts. Here he was performing songs from a forthcoming record with Jack McNeill, a musical reworking of Robert Macfarlane’s book Ness. It sounded beautiful, and so is something I’m eagerly anticipating when released.
Haress delivered a pleasant, Sunday afternoon self-indulgent prog, and Personal Trainer followed with a more punk, indie and funk sound. Their songs had strong pop sensibilities.
The Utopia Strong provided musical backdrop to the regular festival Cosmic Bingo, before continuing with their own recital. I’m getting used to seeing Steve Davies, Kavus Torabi and Michael J.York play their splendid somnambulistic stage set, hypnotically reeling you in.
Now that most were relaxed and at peace, on came Japanese four-piece Bo Ningen blasting their way through a short set playing a brilliantly discomforting racket. It felt like a melting pot assault of Hawkwind, Butthole Surfers and Loop. It was a constant assault with no let up, and hallelujah to that!
Hamish Hawk has a distinctive baritone vocal, which he used to glorious affect during this engaging, energetic performance.
Fresh from huge shows with Blur, it seemed surreal seeing Graham Coxon performing with The Waeve at Krankenhaus. It’s a collaboration with Rose Elinor Dougall. I must confess that I didn’t know about this project. However, tonight I heard lush, rich classic pop song structures with a dash of eclecticism thrown in, and subsequently have listened many times to their astonishing eponymous album debut released earlier this year.
Gwenno have their solid, summer festival setlist, which includes the spectacular An Stevel Nowydh, with its Fleetwood Mac sounding melodic vocal outro.
Sea Power closed the festival playing their third album Do You Like Rock Music? They were joined again by their dancing bears during classics No Lucifer and Waving Flags. The festival positivity kept flowing right through to the end. After the final song ended, the audience hushed, then wildly celebrated after Thomas White, Sea Power’s new drummer accepted a marriage proposal from their partner.
Thanks to Sea Power and Muncaster Castle for this cultural highpoint.
Long may you continue.
Words & photos - John McEvoy
Recently we caught Wild Rivers at the Brudenell in Leeds during their current mini UK tour, and I have to confess that I hadn’t actually heard anything from this Canadian folk/indie band before.
Clearly, I was in the minority as the place was packed to the rafters!
Originally made up of duo Devan Glover and Khalid Yassein, tonight saw them with a full band, and their easy-going Radio 2 friendly sound went down an absolute treat with the crowd.
Devan Glover mentioned that she had spent a year in Leeds during her Uni days which naturally endeared her immediately to the fine people of Leeds!!
Glover and Yasseins voices harmonised beautifully throughout their set, and for some reason their sound reminded me of Taylor Swifts vocals (this is intended to be a compliment be they way!).
They easily switched between laid back acoustic style to genuine earworm up-tempo tracks that were real crowd pleasers.
All in all, this was one of those nights where I wasn’t too sure what to expect but came away pleasantly surprised at just how good this band are. Their harmonies, and quality tunes clearly hit the mark with a lot of people, and they just might have enough to stand out in what is a very busy market place genre wise.
Watch this space!...
Reviewed by Neil Milner
I’m puzzled as to why Welsh alternative rock band The Joy Formidable are not more well known.
Tonight reinforced that sense of puzzlement, but they appear to have reached a point where they are comfortable with where they are at.
They comprise of founding members Rhiannon "Ritzy" Bryan, (lead vocals, guitar), and Rhydian Dafydd Davies, (bass, vocals), with Matthew James Thomas, (drums, percussion).
A powerful, incendiary start with no comments or audience engagement for four songs, but then by the final four songs, making up the encore, they are having full blown conversations with themselves and the audience, which extended their showtime by around 15 minutes.
There were discussions on how many times they had played in Leeds, dubious contracts with venues, (not with the Wardrobe they strongly emphasised), how Silent Treatment from their second album Wolf’s Law nearly ended the band, (Rhiannon hates it, Rhydian doesn’t), etc.
Most songs came from their three most well-known records, The Big Roar, Wolf’s Law, and Into the Blue. They pack a mighty punch with powerful riffs and a sound somewhere between heavy metal and pop punk but softened by Rhiannon’s melancholic and melodic vocal.
This is emphasised on This Ladder is Ours, Wolf’s Law’s opening track. It’s like a benign punch in the face. Yes, that’s an oxymoron, and we all know there really isn’t such a thing. But I need a convincing simile, and so that will do. My sense of puzzlement extends to not understanding why this song isn’t a regular indie-night staple.
Whirring from debut album The Big Roar, and now featured on the soundtrack of the videogame Hi-Fi Rush, is their most popular song. It was powerfully played and enthusiastically received. But that could be my view of the whole set.
They have done acoustic only shows, and some in the audience requested acoustic versions of their songs. The band weren’t overly prepared for this, but complied with Silent Treatment, Radio of Lips and I Don’t Want to See You Like This. This is where they went from the earlier tight rock band no nonsense discipline, to going off-piste, and although I’m not used to that now, I enjoyed the spontaneity they showed.
Enjoying their music was always a given.
Words & photos - Levi Tubman
The stage is laid out for a typical band, mic in the middle, guitar, and bass amps and unusually for an electronic biased band, a drum kit sitting at the back. While bands normally choose between live and electronic drums but that’s not enough for Dreadzone who say screw the norm and give you both, as they take the stage with founding member Greg “Dread” Roberts grinning from behind his kit like the proverbial kid at Christmas.
After a brief tease of their hit “Little Britain”, House Of Dread starts up, the electronic backing track with samples and drums, deep smooth low frequency beats but just when you expect it to drop there’s a count of 4 and Greg comes in on the live kit, sharp snapping snare and crisp metallic cymbals the complete inverse providing a solid wall of beats, with Leo’s bass rumbling and grooving away underneath with Dreads son Blake taking up guitar with riffs and melody’s peppering the tracks, it’s not a sound you’re going to forget for a long while.
In front of the band is a sea of swaying bodies and arms, everyone’s touched by the music and the beat, the whole crowd in sync as if rehearsed, they’ve brought a true nightclub atmosphere to the Brudenell, a venue that’s perfectly suited to them, it’s dark warm and intimate, working through their back catalogue, some fast some slow, with Earl 16’s smooth relaxed voice introducing the tracks with memories and stories from the bands past.
They fuse all their elements perfectly and have something for everyone, somehow turning the whole venue into the dance floor, be it high energy dance numbers or slow and easy, there’s not a single still body down in the lower pit.
As they start to bring the set to the close the finish with what the audience want, Little Britain and Captain Dread, high octane melodic wonders that steps everything up a notch, now no one is still. All through the lower pit, the outer ring, people stood at the bar, with their backs to the band ordering drinks are bouncing up and down hands in the air. I’ve never seen everyone dancing before, people coming out of the toilets moving just as much as the crowd up against the stage.
They say smell is the greatest aid to memory but just a few bars into the first song, I’m back 26 years, hearing them for the first time in the sixth form common room and being enthralled. Sure other artists do what they do, but no one like this.
There’s a reason the tour is 30 Years Of Dread, it was a phenomenal night of music, proving again you don’t need an arena to have one of the best gigs, they’re not a band that can be stopped, no one wants them to stop least of all themselves.
Words & photos - John McEvoy
Where do we start with Deacon Blue? They’re a band that seem to have been around forever (indeed they formed almost 40 years ago), and yet based on the performance I witnessed at the Leeds arena, they seem to have lost none of their freshness and sheer joy at delivering an epic 27 track gig, which the near capacity crowd loved every minute of.
In a change from the usual gig format, there was no traditional support. Instead, the band spend the first 50 minutes plus covering their huge back log acoustic style, and they clearly enjoyed this format.
Ricky Ross immediately created an almost intimate atmosphere (no mean feat in an arena) with the appreciative audience regaling us with little anecdotes and stories in between tracks and the acoustic approach breathed new life into well know Deacon Blue classics
‘Chocolate Girl’ in particular, was a standout track for me in the first part of this gig and the harmonies between himself and his wife Lorraine McIntosh still sounded as good as ever.
Having a back catalogue of 11 albums to choose from gives them plenty of scope, but this tour is as it says on the tin, The Very Best Of Deacon Blue, and they did just that.
The second half of the gig saw them return in the traditional band format and they proceeded to run through all the crowd favourites. Personally, I’ve always liked ‘When Will You Make My Phone Ring’ and they cleverly segued from this into a brief version The Delfonics ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind’ and closed out by returning to ‘Phone Ring’.
‘Real Gone Kid’ of course got the seated crowd up on their feet, and from there it was a straight race to the finish with of course ‘Dignity’ and ‘Fergus Sings The Blues’ included in the encore.
Whilst this band have been around for a while, it was interesting to see they are still attracting new followers based on the Sunday crowd and whilst they may be not be quite prolific in terms of new material, they are still a big box office draw and it’s well worth catching their set if they come to a town near you in the future!
· Acoustic set
· Wages Day
· A New House
· In Our Room
· Chocolate Girl
· Cover From The Sky
· Every Time You Sleep
· I Will And I Won’t
· Queen Of The New Year
· All Over The World
Full Band set
· The Hipsters
· A Walk In The Woods
· Wages Day
· Bethlehem Begins
· Your Swaying Arms
· Your Town
· Love & Regret
· When Will You My Phone Ring/Didn’t I Blow Your Mind
· Bethlehems Gate
· Twist And Shout
· Real Gone Kid
· The Believers
· That’s What We Can Do
· Peace Will Come
· Fergus Sings The Blues
· Keep Me In Your Heart
Words & photos - Levi Tubman
A few weeks ago I reviewed JAW’s ep for Wall Of Sound “If It Wasn't For My Friends” and I finished off by saying “based on these 5 tracks I’d highly recommend you check them out” So taking my advice I took myself down to the Brudenell to see them live.
Now while it’s not the biggest venue by far, its testament to the band and their following to fill out the venue at 10PM on a Monday evening, the weekends been and gone, it’s the first day back at work, or looking at the crowd, UNI, they’ve still come out in droves, amped up by opening bands Swim wear and Slow Team the crowd is already singing and dancing along to the music between bands.
The crowd where still cheering by the time the band had started into their first track, Stay In, a fan favourite, like a few of their songs, it has quiet sections where the vocals are really at the front, and you can hear the audience singing along sometimes overpowering, a small group down the front, eyes closed head tilted back lips following word for word, JAWS are truly preaching to the choir tonight.
A band that lets their music speak for them, frontman Connor is quiet and sometimes restrained. Often looking down or off to a corner, almost slightly shy of the crowd, happily talking between songs, soon as the music starts he lets his warm voice and lyrics do the work, powering through the band they maintain the delicacy of their records, then there’s the drums.
At the back, drummer Eddy feels to be at a different gig, high energy frantic fills, punctuated by loud heavy snare, with the kick drum thumping in your chest, it really works against the quieter vocals and guitar, the harder he hit the more he smiled.
On the edge of the mainstream genre, JAWS take on Indie Pop stands out with a Dream pop edge, unusual melodies and vocals really come though on their live performance, something I was worried about after listening to their latest EP but they pull it off perfectly.
Between every song fans call out favourite tracks, singing along from start to finish and it's clear that this band have both eh following and talent for far they have the following and talent to go far.
Watch this space!...
Words & photos - Levi Tubman
The Johannesburg born, Doncaster raised singer song writer is quiet and unassuming as he takes the stage, with a few words to his drummer and keyboard player and a nod to the audience he launches into his first song, a nice catchy riff backed up by the rest of the band, it’s enjoyable, feet are tapping, heads nodding, and then he sings.
A beautiful rich soulful voice, a voice of someone a lot older, that sounds full of experience and years. I wasn’texpecting such tone and power, and you can feel the effect on the crowd. His vocals can feel a little hidden away on recordings, sometimes intentionally distorted but it can’t be hidden on the stage.
There’s a number of tracks throughout the evening where all the music stops and it’s just Pelembe’s raw voice and the crowd is silent. Loud and rich through the speakers I’m scared to take a photo in case I break the spell, you can see the emotion on his face, I take the shot and the click of the shutter rings out and people all around me turn to look, when the bands not playing the room is silent and they do not want a disturbance.
Against the quiet of the slower songs there’s upbeat and fast numbers with samples and electronic sounds mixed with tight and sometimes hectic drumming, while the keyboard player moves between the two synths ranging from screaming high notes down to deep analogue bass lines, the bands tight with the other two members contributing heavily to the sound, rather than just there to back up Pelembe.
He’s a political artist, with a lot to say and a platform to voice it.
His music and energy have a raw feel verging on angry at times, more he’s trying to tame the words as they leave his mouth than singing them. Don’t go to see him expecting a light-hearted dance and chat, go to hear a talented serious musician who’s there to share his art and message.