What Went Down During Foals’ Reading Headline Set On Friday

Believe it or not, a few years ago Foals were playing to tiny crowds up and down the country. That’s hard to imagine after seeing their first headline performance at Reading Festival this weekend.

Singer Yannis opens with a swagger, proclaiming “We’re gonna have a f-ing special night tonight,” before launching into a pounding rendition of ‘Snake Oil’, seemed designed purely to silence those who claim Foals aren’t ready to be a headline band. It works.

This is an incredibly tight set. It’s clear the band has gone all out on this show, the pyrotechnics giving ‘Inhaler’ even more punch than the song already has. Yet balancing the stadium feel is Yannis’ trademark crowd interaction. He’s flirting with us, telling everybody “You look real pretty out there” and somehow keeping both of his shoes while crowd surfing.

It’s not all pounding riffs though. ‘Spanish Sahara’ provides a welcome break for the sweaty, sunburnt crowds and an opportunity for a sea of people to clamber onto each other’s shoulders for a better look, or at least a chance at appearing on the big screen.

The encore is even more special, with ‘Cassius’ given an airing after a five-year break, showing the band embracing the songs that made them popular. For classic closer ‘Two Steps, Twice’, drummer Jack is joined by Guy Lawrence from co-headliners Disclosure, with a final blast from two massive confetti cannons. A celebratory end to a triumphant headline slot.

Originally published as part of NME/University of Reading’s Reading Festival coverage at: http://readinglive.nme.com/

“We Make Disco Turd”: Sweetmates Live at Green Door Store, 23rd September 2016

“We Make Disco Turd”: Sweetmates Live at Green Door Store, 23rd September 2016

Fresh off of the back of their appearance on the soundtrack to Hollywood film “Nerve”, Sweetmates played a free (and extremely hot) set at Brighton’s Green Door Store.

Although an indie guitar outfit at first glance, keys player/producer Dec’s electronic input moves the band away from the genre into pretty much uncharted territory. The resurgence of house and electronic music in the past few years has clearly had an impact on the band, but an otherwise traditional setup of Guitar/Vocals/Bass/Drums helps to ground them. Sweetmates are a live band with an electric twist, not a DJ act that has decided to incorporate some instruments to help their live show.

Second track ‘I Tried To Be Your Girl’ is a highlight, but the band are all smiles and questionable dance moves throughout the night. Sweetmates clearly love to play, and it’s this passion coupled with some absolutely incredible music that makes their live show such a pleasure to watch. A new track is debuted mid-set, with singer and guitarist Sam apologising for the lack of name, saying: “We only wrote this yesterday.” Bassist Callum chips in with a suggested title, and ‘Woof’ is duly given a live baptism.

Sweetmates really aren’t like anyone else out there, blending driving electronic beats with a shamelessly pop-indie live sound to create something that’s not only unique, but also very, very good. Check them out on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sweetmates, you won’t regret it.

Review-The Rocking Horse Club at Green Door Store, Brighton-5th August 2016

Review-The Rocking Horse Club at Green Door Store, Brighton-5th August 2016

The Green Door Store is a small, dark venue, and The Rocking Horse Club are the kind of band that thrive in small, dark venues, wearing flannel shirts and playing grunge like it never went out of fashion. Not that this is a bad thing, with the grunge sound being given a handful of amphetamines and told to get on with it, resulting in a combination of screaming guitars and noise that’s enough to convert even the most disinterested of audiences. The group’s songwriting is a perfect complement to this, with the vocals actually audible above the reverb (other bands take note, it’s nice to be able to hear the lyrics sometimes) and the lyrics sounding like pages out of an angsty teenager’s diary, although I don’t think I could write quite as well when I was 15, so I assume the band haven’t been raiding kids memory boxes for inspiration. Special mention has to go to their tribute to Abba, the original pioneers of hard rock I’m sure you’d have to agree.

This sound is helped along by the stage presence of the band, especially bassist Vicky, who took front and centre and gave off the feeling that even if nobody had bothered turning up, she’d still be loving every second of it. It’s nice for a band to be such a complete package, rather than the vocalist standing centre stage and expecting everyone else to fall in behind them and hell, even the drummer was visible, so you can tell they’re serious about band equality.

What I’m getting at here is that Rocking horse club sound like Nirvana would have done if they’d had a serious speed habit and slightly less tragedy, and if that doesn’t convince you to give them a listen I don’t know what will (but seriously, do give them a listen).

You can check them out on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/the-rocking-horse-club

They’re also on Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and exist in real life, what a treat.

Review-Strange Cages at The Globe, Brighton- 5th August 2016

Review-Strange Cages at The Globe, Brighton- 5th August 2016

Does anyone remember garage punk? Strange Cages do, and they’re determined to bring it kicking and screaming into the modern era, or at least into the basement of a Brighton pub. The basic formula seems to be as follows: Rescue the remains of some surf music that’s been in a fatal car crash, inject it with enough reverb and fuzz to kill a horse and watch the reanimated corpse play some of the finest music around today, preferably whilst jammed into a sweaty backroom drinking a pint of the cheapest beer available.

The show was their EP launch as well as their bassist’s last show, meaning the trio were on form and determined to give the crowd something to remember, tearing through an album length set and somehow not passing out from the heat, even as singer Charlie’s eyeliner ran down his face and his hair got progressively slicker with each passing song. The sound takes nods from the sleaze of people like The Cramps, The Stooges and Nick Cave, and this diverse range of influences result in a uniquely menacing sound, especially in an era where the only chance you’ll have to see Iggy Pop or Nick Cave is with 5000 other people, not in the grimy basements they’re designed for, and definitely not in a bar where the beer’s only 3 quid and the “marble” on the toilet walls is actually thin plastic with various fist holes in it.

Strange Cages are pretty damned good, although they probably wouldn’t work in a well-lit venue, or even a clean one. They seem to have dragged themselves straight out of the primordial ooze of a 1950s horror movie, and whilst I’m not sure exactly which swamp they came from, I hope they stick around.

You can listen to them on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/strange-cages

You can also find them on Facebook and they have an EP out on Spotify (fancy, I know).

Keeping the faith: a brief history of Northern Soul

As part of this year’s Guy Garvey curated Meltdown festival, Manchester Northern Soul night Different Strokes will be setting up shop on Friday the 17th June for a one off night of 60s and 70s Soul classics in the Royal Festival Hall’s Clore Ballroom. Whilst I’m sure we’ve all got a hazy image of cartwheels and the Motown sound, what follows is a brief history of Northern Soul and why you should be excited about the chance to keep the faith at the Southbank centre this summer.

The story of Northern Soul starts, rather bizarrely, in Covent Garden, at a shop called Soul City. Owner and journalist Dave Godin coined the term to refer to the smoother, Motown influenced sound that customers from the North of England were interested in buying, as opposed to the funkier and more modern Soul being released at the time. This interest in Motown influenced styles was originally concentrated at the now famous all-nighter events at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, which imported large quantities of obscure Soul records from the USA and played them from 11pm on Saturday night through to 7am on Sunday morning to an ever growing crowd of enthusiasts from across the North of England and the Midlands.

Whilst the Twisted Wheel shut in 1971, other clubs stepped in to take its place, including the Golden Torch in Stoke, Blackpool Mecca and Wigan Casino, ensuring that the legions of Northern Soul fans weren’t left out in the cold with nothing to do come the weekend. Wigan Casino was the largest of the Northern Soul venues in the mid-1970s, but was forced to play more and more songs that weren’t considered Northern Soul by purists as the supply of obscure records that were actually any good dried up, leading many to fear the death of the movement was imminent.

Thankfully however they were proven wrong, and whilst the Wigan Casino closed in 1981 Northern Soul refused to die, and there are regular reunions and all-nighters across the North of England, although it still never really managed to penetrate into the South of the country, leaving Guy Garvey to give it the final nudge into London so that us Southerners can finally find out what we’ve been missing. So if you like having fun, are open to a bit of classic American Soul that you might not have heard before, and don’t mind dodging the occasional cartwheeling Northerner, the Different Strokes night might just be for you.

For examples of the kind of music that will be played, check out a few of these Northern Soul staples:

Frank Wilson: Do I Love You (Indeed I do)

This was the last track ever played at The Wigan Casino, and is so rare that a copy sold for over £25,000 in 2009.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkpenzFNbpk

Dobie Gray: Out On The Floor

This 1966 recording became a UK hit in 1975 and was ranked the 2nd most popular Northern Soul track by DJ Kev Roberts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8-GC_vkAKw

Yvonne Baker: You Didn’t Say A Word

And finally the best James Bond Theme that never was, recorded by Yvonne Baker, former member of Doo-Wop group The Sensations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIp0gPBVgxs

Originally published on the Southbank Centre blog as part of the Meltdown Festival Young Journalists scheme.

Review-Lift to Experience at Meltdown Festival 2016

Review-Lift to Experience at Meltdown Festival 2016

The internet, two presidents, Tinder, Grinder, Facebook, drone warfare, Isis and the Arab spring. That’s what singer Josh Pearson reckons have come into existence in the 15 years since three piece Texan band Lift to Experience last played, although by his own admission that’s by no means an exhaustive list.

The band sound great, picking up right where they left off a decade and a half ago, which for the uninitiated is the sound a shoe gaze band would put out if they had spent years reading the Bible cover to cover and lived in the deep south of America. All swirling riffs and reverb, the wall of noise that the band put out seems completely impenetrable, aside from the moments when Pearson’s biblical vocals part it like the Red Sea, seeming to leave an eerie silence in their wake before the waves come crashing down once more.

Pearson joked at one point that the reason they couldn’t play their whole album was because they hadn’t had enough time to practice, but they still managed to squeeze in the beginnings of a new song in the encore, which was accurately described by the band as “fucking sexy” and got a crowd response bordering on hysterical (they have been kept waiting for quite a while after all). Basically Lift to Experience put on an absolutely stellar show, and I’d urge anyone given the chance to take the bands advice and “follow them into Texas and the promised land”.

Originally published on the Southbank Centre blog as part of the Meltdown Festival Young Journalists scheme.

Album Review: Kano “Made in the Manor”-Grime Grows Up

Album Review: Kano “Made in the Manor”-Grime Grows Up
Grime’s recent revival seemed for a long time to have passed Kano by, with nothing heard from the writer of “P’s and Q’s” long after Stormzy had appeared seemingly from nowhere, JME had released his most successful album to date and Skepta and Lethal Bizzle had dragged Grime from Room 2 into the spotlight with “Shutdown” and “Fester Skank” respectively.
 
“Made in the Manor” is Kano’s answer to the question posed by his absence, and by and large it’s a very satisfying answer indeed. From the opening Track “Hail”, with its ominous backing track and driving bass, through to standout track “3 Wheel-ups” featuring stellar verses from Giggs and Wiley, it seems like Kano has lost none of his ability or aggression during his time away. The album does tail off slightly in the middle, with slower songs like “Little Sis” and “Deep Blues” featuring Damon Albarn blunting the raw energy of the opening salvo, before switching back to the original fury on the bonus tracks “Garageskankfreestyle” and “Flow of the Year” featuring JME. The middle portion is packed full of meaning and is obviously deeply personal to Kano, but musically it just doesn’t work quite as well as the more ‘traditional’ and aggressive Grime tracks at the beginning and end of the album, and would perhaps work better if it wasn’t sandwiched in between said tracks.
 
Part of Kano seems happy to revel in the lifestyle of the Grime superstar, with the line “Pussy and rum, that’s a rider for real OG’s” on “3 Wheel-ups” clearly showing that poetry doesn’t have to be meaningful to sound great. On the other hand “Made in the Manor” is more introspective than Grime has ever been before and songs like “Deep Blues” show that Kano isn’t scared to provide a critical look at his childhood and the violence and death that came with it. Just don’t expect the songs that grapple with these issues to be as catchy or danceable as others on the album and you’ll appreciate them a lot more, even if they do make the album feel more than a little bit schizophrenic.
Overall “Made in the Manor” is as much a trip down memory lane as it is a brand new album, with call-backs like “back when Lethal Bizzle was Lethal B” and references to D Double E and “Doin’ it Again” by Skepta being a clear nod to Grime’s heritage and the original artists that are taking part in the current revival. This sense of nostalgia goes further than the Grime scene however, with constant references to London and its history, from Reggie Kray to jellied eels and wagon wheels, showing that no matter how many US rappers are signed to BBK and how many American tours artists like Skepta go on, Grime is still a peculiarly and proudly British phenomenon, one that was born in London and Made in the Manor.