Thursday, August 30, 2012

MoFo a go go...

Right, just a few hours until the annual Moseley FolkFestival and if you haven’t got your tickets yet you’d be wise to buy ‘em today as it’s likely to sell out...especially as the weather forecast is SUN, SUN, SUN! Whoop! As ever it’s a cracking bill (check out Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny for instance) with some proper legends headlining each night. Friday sees Echo and the Bunnymen...

...Saturday Mr Roy Harper steps up to the crease...

...and on Sunday it’s Alan Partridge’s favourite folk rockers Steeleye Span...

...Gaude-frickin-te. Hell yeah! Looking forward to seeing Goodnight Lenin again too...ain’t this just lovely?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Return of the Semi Regular New Music Roundup...

Yo! Yes it’s been a while since I did some of these but the dog ate my homework, my head fell off and my body was abducted by aliens who anally probed me for several weeks. True story. Right, first up time for some sludgy indiedrone from 2:54 with their new single Sugar. It’s a bit like a goth version of Long Blondes (remember them?).

Okay, this is a little odd but odd’s good right? Prince Rama (a band...not a real Prince) have recorded an album featuring 10 imaginary bands that were wiped out in an imaginary apocalypse. Okay...whatever the back story this first single’s a fine piece of distorted garage pop that sounds like it was recorded in an abandoned church hall on a gettoblaster.

Being a dapper chap myself, well as dapper as you can be when you shop exclusively from charity shops, any band called How To Dress Well gets my attention. This is a lovely low key cover of Janet Jackson’s Again. One for those Sunday morning snuggles with the one you love...or the one you’ve woken up with after a night on the lash in Wetherspoons...the choice is yours.

Okay, where do you stand on singing taxidermy? Watch this video from The Erratic Man if you’re undecided. The song itself is an instantly hummable piece of Summer time feel good music...the video’s as creepy as it. Ooooooh...just noticed that The Erratic Man is actually Bnann, lead singer of much underrated electrorockers The Infadels. Cooooool.

Some songs you just know you’re going to love from the first second or two. Coming across like a demented Strokes Pravada’s Someone Else is one of those tracks. Spunky!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Byrne baby Byrne...

David Byrne's like one of those comets that pops into vision every once in a blue moon making people go "ooooh" and "aahhhhh" a lot before disappearing back into the dark abyss. Bless him. His latest appearance sees him team up with St.Vincent for this little beauty, Who, a brass peppered slightly exotic slice of oddball pop that harks back to Byrne's glory days. There's an album (Love This Giant...out September 11th) in the wings too. Halley-lujah!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What the folk?! It's Moseley Folk time again...

Unbelievably it's nearly time for the annual Moseley Folk Festival, an event I traditionally associate with the end of summer. Given that we've not had a sodding summer this year it's kind of crept up on me. There's yet another cracking bill this year though with legends Steeleye Span and Roy Harper neatly ticking the folk box and...oh deep joy...Echo & the Bunnymen and JULIAN COPE fulfilling the demented geniuses category. Cope in particular will be unmissable. What kind of set he delivers will depend on his mood, the stars, the mushrooms...suffice to say he's unlikely to do the greatest hits though. Expect the unexpected. Be good if he plays this little beauty though...

Moseley Folk is on 31st August, 1st and 2nd September. Tickets right here, right now. Oh...and here's the full bill too!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

V Festival, Weston Park – Saturday 18th/Sunday 19th August 2012

Day One

Old ‘90s indie bands never die...they just end up on the V festival bill. Yes, nestled in amongst the rap chaps and X Factor rejects there was enough to keep the mums and dads happy, with the icing on the beanie hat being the undisputed kings of indie comebacks Stone Roses. Day one kicked off with perennial festival favourites Dodgy and despite suffering from some niggling sound problems (which intermittently plagued the 4Music Stage all weekend) Staying Out For The Summer succeeded in moistening the eyes of many a 40 something bloke reliving their youth (whilst kids, Kylie and Brooklyn were busy necking the red wine box back in the tent no doubt).

She may have avoided getting showered in piss (a fate that befell poor Cher Lloyd) but Tulisa Contostavlos is another of those artists who divides opinion. “This is my favourite part of the set” she shouted halfway through “The end?” screamed back some quick witted individual (Alan Sugar perhaps?) in the crowd. To be fair she took it reasonably well but it was probably the most entertaining bit of a pretty bland show.

Tried to get in to see Rita Ora but the Arena Stage, housed under a huge tent, was full. Whoever decided that sticking stages under huge great tents were a good idea at summer festivals wants shooting. If the sun’s out who the hell wants to be in a dark, sweaty hole eh? If it rains the place becomes a fetid mass of damp humanity slopping about in mud and piss. Yes, piss again. It was pretty much impossible to avoid it at V this year. Everywhere you looked there were men and women gushing like geysers...if that doesn’t top up the old water table I don’t know what will. Unbelievably this even went on IN the tents, right where people chose to sit just moments later. Glastonbury seems to have clamped down on this kind of animalistic behaviour but V almost seems to revel in it...literally. By day two getting to the official men’s outdoor urinals (as opposed to the unofficial other words everywhere) involved slipping and sliding through a thick gloopy mess that you just knew wasn’t caused by the rain. The toilet arrangements for the girls seemed woefully inadequate with the queues leading many to just squat and go, often with friends desperately attempting to form makeshift screens out of coats. Whilst we’re on the subject of piss as if it wasn’t grim enough for people to do it wherever they felt like many seemed inspired to collect it in cardboard pint cups or plastic water bottles and then lob it into the crowd. This isn’t a new thing of course but it seems to be getting worse, particularly at some festivals.  V was the worst I’ve ever seen in 20 odd years. If you stood anywhere near the front for some sets you stood a reasonable chance of copping something, my moment came just as Maverick Sabre finished playing. Nice. There’s no mistaking the warm salty taste and pungent aroma of some bloke’s (I presume it was a bloke) piss on your lips, in your hair, in your eyes, slowly dribbling down the back of your neck. The solution? Immediate removal of the penis for anyone caught doing it. I’m SERIOUS by the way. Cut ‘em off and nail ‘em to a tree as a warning to anyone else who thinks it’s acceptable to piss in a cup and throw it at people. Put it this way...they wouldn’t do it twice.

Anyway, there was actually some music going on too believe it or not. Olly Murs is rapidly staking his claim as an all round family entertainer, just cool enough to appeal to the pop kids but innocuous enough to get the granny vote too. Dance With Me is the kind of tune that could quite happily play in a retirement home, whilst his On My Cloud/I Need A Dollar mash up plays to his lite soul pop strengths. Irresistibly likeable.

Shed Seven may be just a Britpop footnote but they were responsible for some of that era’s best tunes in Getting Better and Going For Gold. The star of the show was the band’s lead singer Rick Witter though, Britpop’s Peter Kay. “We thought t’Olympics would be a cash cow for us with Going For Gold. Didn’t hear it once! Gary Kemp owes us money” he opined before playing it. The band then launched into a rather ace Britpop version of Spandau Ballet’s Gold. “That’ll do Kemp’s bank balance no harm ‘eh?”.  He was on great form, “If you’re here to see that Nicki Minaj she’s cancelled. Ha! Sticky Minge we call up where I’m from...STICKY MINGE. Ha!” The set ended with a surprisingly poignant Chasing Rainbows, sung along with gusto by the 40 something blokes who suddenly seemed to realise that they weren’t 20 anymore.

Going back in time even further Madness have now become a national institution, arguably the one band that sums up what it is to be British more than any other. Ever. As the clouds suddenly broke the band came on, launched into One Step Beyond and produced one of the best sets of the weekend. Embarrassment, House Of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House, It Must Be Love...pure pop gold. Nice to hear Bed and Breakfast Man again and respect due to the band for taking the time to raise the whole Pussy Riot issue...the only artists I heard do this all weekend.

And back further still to Sir Tom Jones. Thankfully freed from the painfully embarrassing spectacle of The Voice Sir Tom is back doing what he does best, belting ‘em out. Great to hear one or two gospel numbers which really suited him but pick of the less well known stuff was Cohen’s Tower Of Song, one man looking back on his life. “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” could’ve been written for Jones. Bringing on the big guns Green Green Grass of Home and Delilah got the crowds singing, with the latter giving us all the chance to provide our own Ha Ha Has. During a sexy Leave Your Hat On the cameras panned across the audience alighting on a bloke on his mate’s shoulders who...yep, you’ve guessed it...was stark bollock naked apart from his hat. Genius. Not sure I’d want a bloke’s sweaty balls slapped around my neck but each to his own. A big, bold, brassy run through Kiss saw the Jones flash his belly to wild whoops from ladies of a certain age and throughout the set the dude just seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. Amazing. The chants of Tom, Tom, Tom as he left the stage went on and on...if only the set had. A true masterclass in showmanship.

Back at the 4Music Stage Frank Turner continued his mission to become a more tuneful Billy Bragg with his own brand of folk punk songs of protest and reflection whilst over in the half full Arena Stage tent The Human League’s Phil Oakey remained one of the coolest pop stars in history. So cool in fact that he wore a suit and overcoat at first, even in the stifling heat. Now that’s cool. Despite many of their big hits being 30 years old this stuff still seems fresh, from Love Action’s sparse synth stylings to the wonky pop of Fascination, and 2010’s single Night People shows that they’re still capable of pulling it out the bag. The League have had several eras, from the experimental  Being Boiled phase, through to global pop stardom, the wilderness years, a comeback with the surprisingly strong Tell Me When and on to their current status as mid afternoon festival crowd pleasers. Phil and the girls seem happy enough with this but given the frankly euphoric reaction that Don’t You Want Me inspired you can’t help feeling that they deserved more than being stuck in a stinky tent at 6.15. The sight and sound of hundreds of people streaming back out into the sun singing the chorus in unison was one of the weekend’s best moments.

For anyone under the age of 20 Tinie Tempah’s the man of the moment though, although clearly Pass Out’s the best thing he’s done by a mile so far. Ho ho ho-ing like it’s Christmas he whipped the huge audience up, getting them to take off their t-shirts and twirl them in the air. It was an impressive visual but nothing else he did seemed to warrant the hype.

Noah and the Whale have seemingly taken a huge steer from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with several tracks bearing that band’s distinctive soul. L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N in particular is a dead ringer for Petty’s Don’t Come Around Here No More. That’s no bad thing and the band’s laid back summer time vibe neatly suited the blazing sun. Yes, sun. It’s a miracle.

With one of LMFAO laid up with a bad back the recently reformed Happy Mondays seemed a better bet and despite Shaun Ryder looking like a man who’s been found under a pile of rubbish at the back of the pub the whole set was a gloriously messy celebration. Vocally Rowetta holds the whole thing together but Shaun’s remarkably lucid, even if he does have an annoying habit of dropping the f word into every track, reinventing 24 Hour Party People as 24 Hour Fucking Party People.  Suggs made a surprise appearance for Step On, doing his best Bez impersonation, not hard to do as it still consists of dancing like a stoned puppet. “We’re good buddies now” drawled Shaun “it’s not just the money!” Bless ‘em. Whilst they’re responsible for pissing their fortunes down the drain (ruining Factory Records in the process) they deserve a happy ending, if only for the epic tunes. Hallelujah indeed.

That just left time for The Killers who’ve been quietly amassing their own set of epics for a decade now. Brandon Flowers was dressed in a leather jacket and sporting the kind of haircut that makes him look like a 50s teenager, which is pretty appropriate given the more straightforward rock n’roll feel of their latest single Runaways, a Springteenian blue collar anthem.  There’s a neat touch of Orbison creeping into Brandon’s vocals too, that slightly operatic, emotionally deep feel that lends every lyric extra weight. New track Atomic Bomb repeats the trick as someone in the crowd lights a flare covering the audience in an atmospherically eerie red glow. Makes a change from piss I suppose.

It’s the big singles that really hit the festival spot though with Somebody Told Me, Smile, Mr Brightside and All These Things That I’ve Done (featuring one of the most iconic lyrics of the last decade or so “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” which I even saw tattooed on one lady’s back) all uniting 50 odd thousand people. They’re a class act these days, one of the few genuine rock bands around and a crowd pleasing cover of Don’t Look Back In Anger went down a storm.

Day Two

Here comes the rain, still it wouldn’t be a festival without getting soaked at least once would it eh? Thankfully it didn’t deter a decent number of people from turning up to watch The Proclaimers. “Anyone want some factor 50?” asked Charlie...or was it Craig...I can’t tell. Comedy genius. They may be the geekiest looking popstars since Buddy Holly but there’s a rare kind of blunt romanticism to their songs with I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)managing to survive its recent comedy makeover to remain strangely affecting.
More Britpop flashbacks with Inspiral Carpets’ Farfisa powered hits. Now fronted by original vocalist Stephen Holt, replacing the recently departed Tom Hingley (who sang most of the band’s biggest tunes) they run though anthem to poverty and hopelessness This Is How It Feels, as timely today as it was back in the recession hit early 90s. That distinctive organ sound always marked them out as something a little different and I’d kind of forgotten how great Dragging Me Down and Saturn 5 sounded.  Low vocals spoilt things a bit but a storming version of I Want You redressed the balance. 

Random Impulse is a new name to me but his mix of rap n’rock made him a refreshing change from his more sample heavy beat obsessed peers.  Pick of the set, Best Party Ever, came across like Arctic Monkeys sharing a bottle of Jagermeister with Dizzee Rascal. Deserved to be heard by a lot more people...I’m guessing he soon will be.

After quick snatches of Gabrielle Aplin’s soaring vocals and self penned folky stuff and Childish Gambino’s   tongue in cheek rap (I presume the predictable “nigga” this, “blow job” that schtick is a piss take?) The Charlatans step in for Dappy who’s probably in detention for crimes against fashion, music, name it. Tim Burgess is channelling his inner Kurt Cobain today, sporting a messy bleached haircut and stripy t-shirt but performance wise its business as usual with One To Another launching a thousand pints and The Only One I Know making the 40-somethings all misty eyed.

Maverick Sabre’s a curious proposition. Soul, R&B,’s a confusing mix at times and like Plan B he seems to want to be a jack of all trades...and you know where that leaves you.  The full on dubstep section of the show seemed to get the biggest reaction but that says more about the crowd than the quality of the music to be honest. The more soulful stuff seems better but it’s a little laboured and you can’t help feeling that he’s taken one or two tips from the late, lamented Ms Winehouse.

After wiping the piss from my chops access to the Arena Stage was once again denied. This time the Ting Tings were the big draw. I did manage to hear Shut Up and Let Me Go and My Sharona...whoops...sorry...I mean That’s Not My Name. Did The Knack ever sue them for ripping them off? No? Amazing. What Katie lacks in vocal ability she makes up for in enthusiasm as evidenced by the big bass drum / cowbell beating section of the show. More energy than the Duracell Bunny.

Brit School graduates Rizzle Kicks seem to have come from nowhere to be everywhere, mainly thanks to the insanely catchy Mama Do The Hump. Perhaps it ain’t surprising to learn that Fatboy Slim produced it but he’s only partially responsible for their success. They’re kind of a pair of 21st Century Fresh Princes, just good fun pop with enough of an edge to hook in the cooler kids. An appearance by Ed Sheeran during set closer Dreamers sent the crown into some kind of frenzy. Mental.

Who put on the best show of the weekend? The Gossip’s Beth Ditto. No question. Boy that girl got soul. Dressed in a little black dress (well...maybe not that little) she blew the roof off the Arena Stage, playing all of the band’s more punky hits as well as the poppier recent stuff like the synth driven Move In The Right Direction. Part Janis Joplin, part Mama Cass she owned the crowd like no one else. Someone threw a bottle on stage and she picked it up “Is this a tampon for me?” The crowd cheered. Shoving it...well...where the sun don’t shine she countered with “It’ll be full of faeces and piss by the end of the gig so you’re doing me a favour”. Whether it was by the time she lobbed it back at the culprit I couldn’t quite make out but that’s how you deal with this shit. Beneath the fun though Ditto has one of the best, most powerful voices in pop right now, a fact best demonstrated on Standing In The Way Of Control, an anthem for the disaffected. It was an earshredding performance, sung back by the audience with just as much passion. Best set of the weekend.

Outside Noel was busy proving who was the more talented of the Gallagher brothers, as if this was in any doubt. His solo stuff is head and (standing on the) shoulders (of giants) above most of Oasis’ latter material and it can only be a matter of time before Liam does the sensible thing. Noel’s not averse to playing Oasis tracks now either – Half The World Away was a particular crowd pleaser – so he’d better hurry up. I’ve never been a huge fan (yep, I’m a Blur boy) so Friendly Fires seemed a better draw. Incredibly the 4Music Stage field was half empty, a real shame as their 80s tinged pop should be perfect festival fodder.  If they were pissed off with the relatively poor turnout they didn’t show it. They’re one of those bands where you know quite a few of the tunes but weren’t sure who did them. The ones that are new to you seem like old friends and there’s a pleasing variety of influences in there – from the tribalistic Yeasayer-ish Kiss of Life through to the disco samba of Paris - that keeps the set fresher than a wet wipe. Recent single Hurting is a glorious 80s style funk soul workout with a touch of Daft Punk in the mix and Hawaiian Air is every bit as blissful as it sounds. Lead singer Ed dances like a man possessed (maybe he’s just trying to avoid the pools of piss?) and the whole show was a grin inducing, butt shaking treat.

Right, finally on to the third of the most eagerly anticipated reunions of the last 20 years...on wanders Ian Brown with these poetic words...”Hello, we’re Stone Roses”.  They are too. This is the original line up, not the ’96 version that rapidly dissolved in a hail of critical disdain. This is the band that recorded one of the most definitive indie albums of all time, a record that still seems magical over two decades later. There’s a huge crowd, although a reasonable number of people seem to have plumped for a DJ called David Guetta over on the 4Music Stage. Their loss. This incarnation of the Roses is the widescreen, HD version in full surround sound. Whilst Ian Brown’s vocals may occasionally be a little off (although much improved and nowhere near as dodgy as some reviewers have made out) the real heart and soul of the band are the duo of guitarist John Squire and drummer Alan ‘Reni’ Wren. In fact at times this evening it was almost the John and Al show, with Squire spinning off into guitar string melting solos before giving way to Reni’s loose limbed but precision groove drumming. Opening with I Wanna Be Adored the band played pretty much all of the first classic album and a few tracks from the perhaps unfairly maligned follow up. Predictably the crowd loved it, hell some of them had waited their whole lives for this moment. I’m not sure whether everyone appreciated the solos but the musos would’ve lapped ‘em up. Freed from its vinyl shackles Fools Gold threatened to go on forever, with Squire weaving in a brief snatch of The Beatles’ We Can Work It Out into one of his solos...a good omen for the future perhaps? Can they...dare they...record anything new? If the Roses are to continue they’ll have to. Squire’s on fire right now, arguably one of the best guitarists in the world and judging by his wild solos he ain’t going to be content to just roll out the hits forever. No matter how lucrative it might be. Waste this talent and he’d be the biggest fool of all.

So that was V 2012 then, an odd festival in many ways, more notable for piss than anything else judging by the popularity of an internet video showing some fat bloke sliding through the mud and straight into the path of a ‘lady’ urinating in full view of the crowd (255,000 views and counting).

It lacks the history and vibe of Glastonbury, the coolness of Reading/Leeds and the uniqueness of the more boutique style events like the glorious Wilderness Festival. Violence broke out in my campsite on Sunday night...incredibly it was piss related again (someone threw a pint of piss at a group who were partying ‘enthusiastically’) but it was quickly quashed. You can’t blame the festival for morons. On the plus side the ‘arena’ area’s pretty compact so you can move between stages relatively quickly (crowds permitting) but on the minus side it...well...just lacks soul. If all you’re looking for is a basic festival experience ‘urine’ luck. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Traps – Your Headland

Birmingham’s very own The Traps have just released this little beauty, a laid back slice of lo fi with just a hint of surf twang spice (yep, she’s one of the little known Spice Girls). If you’re quick you can download it for free via their website too! Bargain. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wilderness Festival, Charlbury – 10th-12th August 2012

Day One

The great outdoors. Dontcha just love it? The trees, the birds, wild flowers...yes, that’s all very well but you can only enjoy nature’s wonders for so long right? That’s where the Wilderness Festival comes in. Set in some of the most beautiful countryside England’s got to offer it’s a three day orgy (not literally...although I did see one young couple getting jiggy behind a tree) of food, music, theatre, cinema, debate, cricket, foraging, skinny dipping...all of which is still wonderfully free of the big name BRANDING that sucks the heart and soul out of so many other festivals. Last year saw its glorious debut and for the follow up the organisers ramped up the magic even further, inviting Mr Wayne Hemmingway’s vintage festival to the party too.

I’m not generally one for getting up on stage but somehow thanks to the Wilderness spirit within five minutes of arriving on site I ended up on stage with Aussie oddball Mal Webb. For some inexplicable reason I decided to start quoting William Wordsworth in a throaty rasp which Mal recorded, mixed and rapped over, getting me to add a series of other ‘sounds’ that he looped as a backing track. I’m always in awe of anyone who can do this kind of thing live and how the hell he got a tune out of my deranged touretting I’ll never know.

King Charles (who does a pretty good job of looking like his namesake) got the Friday afternoon crowd in the mood with his own brand of classy sing-along pop. It was his imaginative reboot of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire that provided one of the first great moments of the weekend though, with several thousand festival goers belting out the chorus in the sunshine. Yes...sunshine. Somehow beating the odds this year the whole weekend was pretty much wall to wall sunshine. Miraculous.

One of the joys of great festivals is the mix of people you get to meet and day one bought random encounters with a guy doing a Ph.D in medieval Italian literature at a beer tasting in the Real Ale tent ( beer), his girlfriend who writes a fashion column for the Aussie equivalent of Cosmo, artist Emma Tooth and her film director hubbie Owen etc etc etc. Wilderness is an overwhelmingly friendly place in fact and for three days there wasn’t even a hint of trouble. Not one bit. Which, given the fact that festival goers are generally a well ‘refreshed’ bunch, is pretty incredible really.

Back to the music and Lianne La Havas impressed with Forget, her stabbing 21st Century soul pop classic and ode to an ex-boyfriend. Ouch. Hell hath no fury like a pop star scorned. Feeling in need of more free booze I wandered over to the Ardbeg van for a refreshing whisky or two and a seemingly impromptu tune from rising folk star and custodian of traditional folk gypsy songs Sam Lee. That’s another sign of a great festival, all the other stuff that goes on away from the big stages, and you could honestly spend the whole weekend just checking these out without feeling in the slightest bit short changed.  

Next up and Crystal Fighters well and truly cemented their reputation as one of THE great festival bands du jour before the hardest working woman in showbiz, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings led the crowd through a sweat drenched lesson in dance crazes of the 60s and 70s from the boogaloo to the funky chicken. Boy that lady can shake a tail feather...

Once the main stage shuts down for the night the action moves over to a magical wooded area that’s pretty much a festival of its own. This year Future Cinema – a company dedicated to making cinema going more of a ‘live event’ – had erected a giant movie screen and stage. Friday was Bugsy Malone night and all day a cast of actors had been running all over the site talking all wise guy like ...badda be badda an appetiser to the full on live show, a hour or so of skits, stand up and dance numbers. 

It’s a great idea, breaking down the celluloid wall and adding that little extra that gives you more of a reason to prise your arse off the sofa, away from your flatscreen/surround sound womb and out into the real world again. Away from the cinema there was a roller disco, soul casino and Fat Sam’s unfeasibly glamorous venue with a bar, wooden dance floor, chandeliers and full swing dance band. It was the kind of vision you normally need Class A’s for at a festival...but was really someone had plonked a piece of 1920’s New York slap bang in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside.

The Wilder-best (see what I did there?) – Top 5 Moments From Day One

(1) Mal Webb’s improv rap
(2) Discovering the real ale tent also sold 7.5% scrumpy...oh dear
(3) Random chats with lovely strangers
(4) Crystal Fighters’ set in the sun
(5) The whole Bugsy Malone / speakeasy thang

Day Two

Quite how you could do the ‘downward dog’ after a night in a speakeasy beats me (I was busy attempting to prevent the ‘upward hurl’) but there were a surprisingly large group of yoga students pulling some spine cracking moves at 9am. Having slept on a roll mat that was slightly thinner than tissue paper it was enough for me to walk by this stage. Still this gave me an excuse to sit and watch a cricket match for a while replete with Pimms and free cucumber sarnies for the spectators. This being Wilderness the match was presided over by a cross dressing umpire of course but still, it was recognisably cricket. Sort of.  

Often the first acts of the day at any festival reveal some hidden gems and Oxford’s Alphabeat Backwards – a joyful boy/girl fronted pop band were one such discovery trading in the kind of dance that make you dance like no one’s watching.

There’s so much more to Wilderness than the music though, which is how I found myself munching some wild mint on a foraging walk with Robin Harford. Pretty much all of us think our food comes from some giant factory somewhere...and we’re pretty much right. It does. We eat a minute percentage of the plants that are edible and in just an hour’s wandering Robin pointed out a good half dozen things to masticate (steady now). Perhaps more than anything else this weekend this was the moment when the festival literally lived up to its name. A truly eye opening glimpse of the natural world that most of us never notice.

At just 18 Jake Bugg’s already shaping up to be something special. He’s still young and seems a little nervy at times but there are pleasing touches of Phil Ochs, Paul Simon and underrated Mersey combo The Coral in his music and in the last 12 months or so his tracks have pretty much become a staple on 6 Music’s playlist. A hairs on the back of the neck raising solo run through Country Song and the rockabilly-tinged Trouble Time and new single Taste It all hit the spot proving that this is one festival Bugg that’s well worth catching.
Hopped over to the bandstand for Mahalia’s set, one of those rare singers that make it all seem so effortless with Let The World See the Light’s acoustic soul matching the sun drenched setting. Festival bliss. 

Indie folkers Stornoway provided one of the weekend’s anthems with Free The Battery Human before dedicating I Saw You Blink to the brave souls about to attempt the world’s biggest skinny dip. Yes. We’re back to that infectious festival spirit else would you explain the sight of dozens of people of various shapes and sizes happily ripping off their kit and plunging into the muddy water eh? 

I was tempted for a moment but I was standing behind the dippers and feared that all the blokes could all be hung like racehorses. Imagine brushing past something in the water, grabbing hold of it and yanking it out thinking you’ve just caught a giant eel? Nasty. Foraging for wild food is one thing but chomping on another man’s meat...I’ll draw the line there thank you very much.

Back over at the ‘wooded’ area and Wayne Hemmingway’s Vintage posse had taken over from Fat Sam and the gang. The Speakeasy was now transformed into The Torch Club, hosting Natty Congaroo and His Flames of Rhythm. Aye carumba. Cue muchos swinging and jiving, all presided over by Viv The Spiv a guy who plays an authentic blackmarketeer from the 1940’s...think George Cole from the original St Trinian’s movies.

Back over at the main stage instrumental boy / girl guitar duo Rodriguez and Gabriela were doing their thing. There’s no denying their talent but headliners for Saturday night? Hmmmm...not so sure. I like a bit of the old instrumentals as much as the next man but somehow Saturday night says ‘party’ to me and Rod n’Gabs aren’t that kind of band so it was swiftly back over to the Torch Club again for some vintage party music courtesy of Ondrey Havelka and the Melody Makers. Classy. After a mug of tea on the tea bus...literally a vintage London bus serving tea and cake...I just managed to heave myself over to the London Folk Guild tent for the City Shanty Band. Possibly the only London based pop punk shanty band in existence. Granted it’s a niche market but any group that can keep me up at that time of night...well...morning by this point...can’t be bad.

The Wilder-best – Top 5 Moments From Day Two

(1) Robin Harford’s foraging walk...truly inspirational
(2) Jake Bugg
(3) Mahalia on the bandstand
(4) The naked skinny dipping thing
(5) Night time at the Torch Club...impossibly glam for a festival

Day Three

Ouch. My head. That’s what a diet of real ale / scrumpy / red wine and sausage rolls does to you. COFFEE! NEED COFFEE!!!! Happily there’s a coffee tasting session on over at the Thyme tent held by an enthusiastic chap (and champion Barista) called Jose. Delicious...and now I know how to use a cafetiere’s more involved than you think. 

Add hot water first, then the coffee. Stir gently. Pop in the plunger. Let it rest for a minute, then slowly, ever so slowly depress it. Voila. What next? How about some medieval music and a ‘class in merriment’ with Circulus’ main man Michael Tyack over at The Idler Academy?  I was particularly taken by a 17th century folk tune called Mr Black’s Maggot...who says pop’s  a 20th century invention eh? Back to the future with super cute Aussie pop band Sheppard, three siblings (one boy, two girls) and three non siblings. 90’s nostalgia-fest Cheese On Toast and the Beatle-ish summertime singalong Shine My Way were both so instantly addictive that I ended up going to see ‘em again at the bandstand later that day. Never heard of them before but the world needs more quality pop like this right now. When pretty much every track sounds like a hit you know you’re on to a good thing.

I’ll freely admit that most of Sunday’s ‘big acts’ Grant Lee Buffalo, Giant Giant Sand and Wilco had pretty much passed me by over the years (and all of them have been around for a while). I’d neatly filed them all away in a big bag marked ‘pleasant Americana’ and was quite happy to leave them there. Happily each one of them proved to be a real surprise in one way or another. Grant Lee Buffalo’s blue collar Americana recalled Springsteen and Neil Young (maybe with a dash of REM thrown in for good measure) in fine form. They’ve seemingly got two kinds of track, the heads down belting down the highway ones and the curled up in the corner of a scuzzy bar staring at the bottom of a beer glass ones. If that sounds a little dismissive it’s not meant to be. Belting down the highway to a scuzzy bar sounds like my perfect day.

Perhaps living up to their name Giant Giant Sand seem to have a squillion members (well at least 11) which unsurprisingly took quite a while to set up and soundcheck. It was worth the wait though. Fronted by Howe Gelb they come across like a pretty decent alt-country band at first with Gelb’s lo-key half mumbled vocals lulling you gently in before huge great bursts of anthemic noise blew your brains out. Last track of their all too short set stole the best song of the weekend award by an alt-country mile. Carinito’s a sprawling epic that embraces Mexican, classical, hi-life, folk...hell, why not shove everything into the mix eh?  Truly awesome. If this is anything to go by the band’s new album (a double called Tucson) must be a cracker.

Over at the Folk Guild Tent and The Miserable Rich were doing what they do so well, getting audiences all swoony and misty eyed over their magnificent chamber pop. Lead Miserablist James de Malplaquet sounds like a world weary angel making break up anthem and set highlight Let Me Fade simultaneously one of the most heart rending and strangely uplifting songs of the weekend.

Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized divide opinion between those who find it all a little dull, kind of Primal Screm-ish without a pulse...and those who lose themselves in space rock heaven. The bits of the set that I saw didn’t change the camp I belong can draw your own conclusions from that. Ahem.

The last band on the big stage did change my opinions though. I knew of Wilco’s work with Billy Bragg and was kinda expecting a nice chilled out country-ish set so the electronic knob twiddling  and rocking out came as a bit of a surprise. Wilco’s frontman, Jeff Tweedy, is clearly a bit of a musical magpie with the set echoing everyone from The Byrds to Bowie, Costello to the Carpets (Inspiral that is). “This is one of the few festivals we feel comfortable playing” he drawled mid set. It showed to. Admittedly the crowd thinned a little as the set went on, again they’re not the most obvious headline band in the world, but the faithful and newly converted lapped it up.

Back over in Vintage la la land Asian Dub Foundation were soundtracking French film La Haine in another one of Future Cinema’s presentations, followed up with a suitably gritty live slot (rap/spoken word/ a little political polemic), whilst down in a hidden hollow to the side of the Torch Club the hardy were still partying the night away. I’d neglected to head down there on Friday or Saturday night, distracted as I was by all the other stuff going on, but it’s another festival within a festival world down there, hosting late night parties for the beautiful people. Oh so much to see and so little time. That’s my big quibble about Wilderness. It’s just too darn short. You’d need a month there to do it justice. Other festivals may promise a truly unique experience but Wilderness really delivers.

The Wilder-best – Top 5 Moments From Day Three

(1) Easy Jose’s coffee tasting sesh
(2) Sheppard’s sets...both of ‘em. Aussie pop perfection
(3) Giant Giant Sand’s Carinito – tune of the weekend
(4) The Miserable Rich in the Folk Guild Stage...always an emotional experience
(5) The two huge pork baguettes from the Charlbury School stand – a much need pork injection...oh dear...that didn’t sound right...

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Taking Stockhausen

Stockhausen - A Festival Of Light Trailer August 2012 from Head In The Clouds on Vimeo.

Experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen might not seem like the most likely candidate for festival treatment but given his huge influence on the likes of Frank Zappa, The Beatles and Bjork perhaps it's long overdue? The highlight of the whole thing (19th-21st August at various venues across Birmingham) are some performances of Mittwoch aus Licht, an opera so complex that it's never actually been performed before in its entirety. Ever. As it involves a string quartet whizzing across the City in a helicopter (with the music being piped back to the audience) and a...dancing camel (seriously?!)...that's not really a surprise is it? Incredible stuff...

More info from tickets available for breakdancing llamas and tapdancing giraffes. Probably.

Snoop Dogg's dead!

This looks good. Fed up with the birds and bling (hell, aren't we all?) Snoop Doggy Dogg's relocated to Jamaica and gone and made a reggae album. With Diplo. Jah...really. Seemingly he's changed his name to Snoop Lion as well. Er...interesting.

There's a documentary from hipsters' bible Vice Magazine to prove it too. Granted it's not a huge leap to imagine the Dogfather up to his armpits in grade A weed (the clip from the documentary's enough to get most people high) but still, it's good to see one of rap's biggest names doing something a little different for a change eh? Personally I'm looking forward to Public Enemy's new folk direction...

Anyway, here's the new single La La La. Not bad for starters. Give him another sackload of Super Silver Haze and I reckon he'll be there.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Carry on camping...

Got a few camping festivals coming up over the next few weeks so the weather had better buck up. Or else. It's been pretty grim this year but last weekend's Dicky Woodstock festival in Holland takes the biscuit. Cop a load of this video.

Jeez, looks like the end of the world. Happily...and somewhat one was squished.

Hey, it's going to be fine. Wall to wall sunshine from here on in. Trust me...

Monday, August 06, 2012

El Ghost!

You know those cool people who go to cool things then go on about how cool they are leaving you silently crying on the inside about how uncool you are? too. Chillax...shoot me...go on...shoot’s at hand with an event that’s so cool you’ll need thermals. Welcome to El Ghost Fest. There are cool bands – The Courtesy Group is officially the coolest band in the WORLD – a cool location...a recording studio in’s like Hoxton but without the wankers...and it’s a decidedly cool price to get in. A fiver. Short of making it £6.66 a fiver’s pretty cool right? Shit...even the poster’s cool. Cool.

Tickets available in advance from the bands or email one of the organisers ( If you turn up early (granted that’s not the cool thing to do but you can always loiter in the corner chewing gum and reading a little Jean-Paul Satre) you’ll even get a free sampler CD featuring all the bands. Now that’s...altogether