Just over a year ago we left Glastonbury broken, exhausted and covered in rank, sickly sweet smelling mud. We’d also had our drink spiked during Pulp’s big moment and as a direct consequence we proceeded to bellow the “Theme from Wallace and Gromit” on loop for well over an hour, ( worryingly THIS also happened!!) Of course such behaviour is almost required at Glastonbury, we’d been to our dark place and found it was inhabited by stop motion plasticine figures! After such a harrowing experience we resolved to retire gracefully from music events that required us to lay under canvas and endure positively medieval toileting facilities (apparently, according to the pine-nut and sun- dried tomato brigade, if you haven’t rolled around in other peoples excrement you really haven’t truly lived the “authentic festival experience.”) And so with all that in mind we decided to attend the much more civilised and fast growing City cenetred urban music festivals which have been gaining in popularity over recent years. And so hot on the heels of Liverpool Sound City we found ourselves travelling up the M62 to the Manchester leg of the three day Dot To Dot festival.
The first band we caught had that rather awkward early slot in a small industrial basement that would quite possibly have given Josef Fritzel nightmares. Local lads Embers, came highly recommended from our Amazing Radio chum Shell Zenner, and after a brief twitter exchange with the band, we decided they sounded well worth the early start. They didn’t disappoint despite the venues frankly incongruous set up. Had perhaps MC Escher smoked a crack pipe with Salvador Dali and designed the “stage” which featured the drummer and guitarist, hidden behind a huge concrete pillar on a raised platform whilst the singer/keyboard player and bassist inhabited a different weather system way down below ? The band also stated they couldn’t hear their own instruments and there was a feeling that being the first act they were being used as guinea pigs by sound engineers more used to putting on mini raves than real bands! Despite all of these obstacles they produced a blistering performance full of menace, filling the basement with dark brooding musical thunder. Think Joy Division meets early Bunnymen meets The Sisters Of Mercy (sans ridiculously overblown bombastic production). We’ll certainly be checking them out when they get to play a venue on their own terms using their own equipment.
THIS MANY BOYFRIENDS.
The Dot To Dot bill had a number of bands that have been previously featured on the VPME and we were rather looking forward to seeing Mary Epworth, who we’d previously missed at Liverpool Sound City. And we still are, as alas there was no sign of Mary who had apparently cancelled at the last minute. So it was on to see This Many Boyfriends over at the Ritz, whose latest single “I Should Be A Communist” we featured almost two years ago( HERE -alongside a then little known singer named Lana Del Rey.) Their set was rather disappointing as the venues sound system appeared to do them no favours and their energetic, spiky set came across as rather muddied, shouty and lacking in variety. It would, we’re sure, have gone down somewhat better with inebriated late night revellers rather than ambling mid afternoon browsers.
Another band on the bill we’ve previously featured was Milk Maid (interview HERE), a band formed by Martin Cohen when he was enjoying an indefinite hiatus from Nine Black Alps. They tore up the small venue (the Zoo) with LOUD crunching grungy guitars and melodies recalling the early stalwarts of Creation Records.
We continued on our magical Mancunian quest in search of musical goodness returning to the Ritz for the much vaunted Patterns, they have some wonderfully emotive songs in their canon (check out “Induction” below), the audience were certainly enamoured, but again the sound at the Ritz seemed to be somewhat lack lustre, lacking depth and clarity. However we’re pretty sure Patterns will be a name on many people’s tip lists come the end of 2012.
Back to Soundcontrol for Wonder Villains a band we’d caught live very briefly some 18 months ago supporting New Young Pony Club(more horse stories later) We’d also reviewed their single, the perky pop beast that is “Ferrari” describing it as sounding rather “like Fight Like Apes battering the ever loving shit out of B*Witched ” They produced a set full of fun, vigour and infused with sort of youthful exuberance that made us recall that we too were young once with hopes, with dreams.. … ;)
After seeing 2:54 in Liverpool a few weeks back, we decided you can’t get enough of a good thing and so we hauled our sorry ass up to Sound Control’s loft to take in the Thurlow sisters oeuvre once more. The venue was already packed, but with the aid of our magical photo pass we were able to cunningly secrete ourselves in a photo pit of Lilliputian dimensions with barely room to hold your camera aloft for fear of smacking the band in the face with your lens. 2:54 were solid if not totally inspiring, fusing Curve with Warpaint and to be fair we didn’t catch the whole set, despite it being late afternoon things were warming up nicely as we left. As is the way with festivals there are the inevitable clashes and we had a date with Margate’s own black rebel motorcycle club, Two Wounded Birds.
TWO WOUNDED BIRDS.
To dismiss Two Wounded Birds as jejune revivalists is to miss the point, and to overlook the genuine depth of emotion and natural sense of melody that front dude, guitarist and songwriter Johnny Danger crams into his songs. Their debut album has proved there is much more substance to Two Wounded Birds than many may have given them credit for, and although they may resemble a psycho-billy biker gang from hell who have kidnapped a young Debbie Harry forcing her to play bass as if her life depended on it, they are actually all nice folks ;) . A great set which was over far too quickly and which featured the world’s tallest punk in the audience pogoing away like a man who’d lost his shoes only to find himself standing on a floor covered with hot coals and broken glass.
Here’s their brand new hot off the press video too!!
Deaf Club features Polly MacKey on vocals and boasts a number of key players from her previous band, but Deaf Club is a radically different beast,( not entirely due to the fact that bassist Paul has lost the daft hat -wooo!) Polly’s voice is still as impressive as ever fusing the warmth of Chrissie Hynde with the de rigueur icy imperiousness of Siouxsie, but it was the bands guitarist Jac Roberts who almost stole the show with some intricate and explosive guitar riffs. More proof that Deaf Club are fast becoming a band to cherish.
KYLA LA GRANGE.
Sadly we missed Rae Morris (again!) but did catch another singer we’ve tipped for big things in the past, Kyla La Grange ( we interviewed her HERE.) Her distinctive, smoky Stevie Nicks meets Marianne Faithful vocals certainly mark her out as something a little different from the myriad of identikit girls with guitars as does having a degree in philosophy. This also means there’s going to be a little bit more existential analysis in her songs than say Rihanna who seems to get over life’s adversities by “rhyming” whilst shaking her bootilicious bootie at men who do her “bad self wrong” as if it’s some sort of magical cure all. ( In fact Rihanna actually seems to have based her entire adult life on erstwhile Viz character “Tommy And His Magic Arse”- catchphrase – “It’s not magic all the time, only when I talk in rhyme’) But we digress, Kyla gave an exceptionally strong performance, and the strength of her new material bodes well for her début album, set to drop very soon!
THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS.
We’ve loved The Hundred In The Hands since their eponymous debut album made it into our top five albums of the year back in 2010 and so when we heard news of their follow up ‘Red Night‘ we publically stated we were as excited as Eric Pickles upon entering a pie shop greedily clutching a 2 for 1 voucher in his fat greasy paw. Similar feelings abounded at Dot to Dot, because we’ve wanted to catch his Brooklyn based (isn’t everyone) duo live for some time, but they only ever seemed to play London when venturing over to Blighty. However it was worth the wait, this was the set of the night as Eleanore Everdell wove her sonorous vocals around haunting synths and on final track “Commotion “ Jason Friedman became a man possessed, exploding into life, clambering onto amps, leaping off them whilst swathing the venue with glorious squalling guitar riffs courtesy of his trusty Rickenbacker 330. A great set and we certainly hope they come back up north very soon!
“A Horse Is a Horse Of Course Of Course…..”
We were rather looking forward to seeing I Break Horses over at the Soundontrol Loft, but we were in for a rude awakening. It took us at least 3 minutes to realise that they had not in fact, decided on a radical and wholly unexpected change of musical direction, but that we had rather foolishly got our musical horses completely mixed up! We were in fact listening to post hardcore hairy, sweatmeisters Pulled Apart By Horses. Very good if you like that sort of thing. Sadly we don’t and didn’t and so we left after three songs, our ears well and truly shredded. It’s horses for courses and equestrian of taste I guess ;)
With midnight drawing ever closer and the very real and present danger of us turning into pumpkins we were clearly flagging and some refuelling was required. Talking of pumpkins, we had an hour to kill so decided to see headliners The Drums. We’ve never been particularly enamoured by this bafflingly popular band replete with tunes as thin as Oliver Twist’s gruel and quite the most ludicrous dance moves this side of a Mr Bean movie, and tonight’s performance did little to change our perceptions. The best we can say is they exist and that they do what they do and are adored by their fans. Apparently they were once called Goat Explosion which somehow seems far more appropriate, suffice to say we didn’t make to through the entire set, preferring to sit outside and stab ourselves in the face with broken glass.
LULU JAMES/SWISS LIPS.
One last hike from the Ritz to Joshua Brookes saw us take in Lulu James, a singer making a real name for herself with what she describes as “21st Century soul.” To our ears it sounded a bit like Grace Jones fused with Gee Morris minus the worryingly cubic bonce and propensity to slap camp chat show hosts around the head. We expect she’ll be massive and although musically it might not quite be our bag there’s no denying she has a great voice, and presence.
Swiss Lips rounded off our Dot To Dot festival with another fine performance showcasing their implausibly catchy, unashamedly full on pop music, from what you might call the indie boy band who look like they may have been formed in “Top Man” ie/ not the usual fey vacuous production line pretty boys who often populate male pop bands. They do with an urban streetwise charm which we’re sure the ladies will be swooning over in coming months. They write their own tunes, play their own instruments and as we’ve stated before “they have more massive hooks than Abu Hamza at a Pirate convention, or New Order’s former bassist at a family reunion in a hall of mirrors” It’s not music imbued with any deep meaning, it’s music to have fun to, to uplift your spirits and there’s nowt wrong with that! They certainly infused us with energy for the drive back down the motorway to scouseland. We’ll have a Q&A with these chaps very soon!
All in all a very agreeable day and the perfect antidote to the conformist lickspittle shite fest that was being held on the same day outside Buckingham Place to celebrate “our quietly glorious “ [sic] Queen being better than us for 60 years. If that tribute, which represented a shameless musical love letter from Gary Barlow to her Imperial Ma’amness practically begging for knighthood left you wondering when exactly the actual fuck did pop music become so darn deferential, so spirit crushingly conservative, then you really should get yourself along to grass roots music festivals like this. You probably won’t find the true spirit of punk or anarchic rebellion, but you will find at the very least, something to make you believe that not everybody is producing inoffensive, bland, musical magnolia. It’s not all about mind numbing music designed to be played on Radio Primark as a cankerous soundtrack for the time when we as a nation “shop for victory,” purchasing shit we don’t need, to keep a government we loathe, in their lofty cocooned ivory towers. Fuck that for a game of soldiers!