Book Club – David Byrne: How Music Works

With so many great books about and by musicians on the shelves, it’s difficult to gauge which ones will make the read as compelling as the music. Here, Ryan Bell reviews one of his favourites…

David Byrne: How Music Works

David Byrne’s How Music Works is much like his music. Whether it’s his solo work, his collaborative recordings with Brian Eno or St Vincent, or as the frontman for influential art-rock group Talking Heads, he is a consistent creator of music that is ambitious and intelligent yet enjoyable, and his foray into the world of music literature is no different.

Similar to the genre fusions found in the music of Talking Heads, Byrne chooses not to craft a by the numbers autobiography, instead he flirts between the role of rock raconteur, music history professor and pop culture sociologist, amalgamating observations, anecdotes, ideas and concepts gathered from his thirty plus years in the music business. Whilst this could result in the book becoming arrogant or rambling, his writing style is informative yet conversational, with a great sense of “believe me, I’ve seen it and done it” authenticity and an enthusiasm that can rarely be doubted, leading How Music Works to be a surprising breath of fresh air to read.

This can also be attributed to the nonlinear structure of the book, with each chapter focusing on a different musical talking point such as technology, collaborations, live performances, etc. Byrne states in the preface that he feels there is still a certain rhythm to the book, though acknowledges the merit of allowing for reader permitted chapter hopping, appealing to those readers with a shorter attention span. David Byrne writes attractively throughout, however I am such a reader, and the option to jump to learning about the recording of Remain in Light over Byrne’s thoughts on music industry finances, without the result of a jumbled narrative, was refreshing. 

Naturally, you would pick up the book because of the name attached, Byrne has made a career out of being one of pop music’s most revered auteurs, and some of the most enjoyable parts of How Music Works come from his success in pairing his music history research with his own personal observations. Reading about the televangelists who inspired the Talking Heads hit Once in a Lifetime, or his time spent watching Japanese theatre for the infamous “big suit” from the legendary Stop Making Sense live shows is enthralling, particularly after witnessing his spectacular American Utopia show, which only wet the appetite to learn where he gathers his inspirations from.

As well as these, Byrne is fascinated by the wider context of how shapes sound, how geography and performance and listening spaces can affect and influence the sonic nature. He describes the uneven wall, scattered furniture pieces and low ceiling that gave legendary punk club CBGB a “remarkably good sound” and how the percussive character of African tribe music would have turned to “sonic mush” in the stone walled gothic cathedrals of the west in the middle ages.

The book is typical of Byrne, as whilst other rock/pop musicians might opt for the sexy warts ‘n’ all page turner, his eyes and ears are tuned, almost academically, towards the physics and working parts behind music’s past, present and future. Knowing that some might scoff at the idea that by doing so he is ridding the art of its enjoyment, he insightfully remarks in the preface that “knowing how the body works doesn’t take away from the pleasure of living”.

There is a wide range of ground covered in How Music Works, which at times can leave it feeling a little uneven and scattered, but it’s rarely pretentious, he never gives the impression he is writing about anything for any reason other than it fascinates him. Its structure is particularly suited for travel reads or coffee table pick-me-ups, with his knack for great pop song writing translating into cushioning the trickier moments with anecdotes and titbits, and the musical wanderlust shown throughout his career making his search for the mechanics of sound eclectic and colourful.

Words and photo by Ryan

16th May 2019

Portsmouth Psych Fest

Portsmouth Psych Fest, The Wedgewood Rooms, 4th May 2019

Making a welcome return this weekend, Portsmouth Psych Fest stormed into its third year with an event packed with another amazing array of artists. Throughout Saturday, eighteen acts played across the main stage in The Wedgewood Rooms and its more compact counterpart in the Edge of the Wedge, hosted by local collective Calamity Cratediggers. Kicking things off at the Edge, Fat Earthers, The Howlers and Number 9 gave us a glimpse into how diverse the day was going to be, from psych-punk to desert rock to 60s’ infused psychedelia all in the first few hours.

Over on the main stage, Drusila impressed once again with their unapologetically 80s’ tinged electronic dance tracks – big things ahead for this local duo surely.

With the room transformed by vibrant liquid colour projections from visual artist Inner Strings and psych mascots in the form of graffitied mannequins by street artist My Dog Sighs, the scene was set for poetry-fused guitar tunes from Freya Beer, melodic indie-pop from Mystic Peach and the unlikely but irrepressibly fun blend of Cumbian psych provided by Los Bitchos.

Back at the Edge, Japanese Television were a joy to hear and see, the self-proclaimed space surfers proving that lyrics aren’t always a necessity. Sleep Eaters continued the momentum, a great live band bringing Americana flavoured garage to the table, followed by post-punk four piece Egyptian Blue.

Space age psych up next from Brisbane’s Nice Biscuit, just about managing to squeeze everyone onto the stage, easily managing to impress.

Picking up the pace, Brighton’s GURU produced the most animated set of the day with plenty of crowd interaction and discordant tunes galore.

Over on the main stage, Black Country, New Road gave a more sombre performance pulsated by dark set vocals, before the costumed krautrock-influenced beats of Snapped Ankles lightened the mood and continued the mystery behind the woolly headed noise-lords.

Concluding proceedings at the Edge of the Wedge, Scalping provided some heavy techno-punk before handing over to the grittily wonderful world of Glasgow’s Sweaty Palms, an intriguing melee of cowboy hats, garage guitars and saxophone worthy of any stage headliner.

The last two acts on the Wedgewood Rooms stage completed the eclectic mix. Brooding shoegaze over industrialised visuals from The KVB followed by an energy filled set from indie rockers Yak brought the festival to a suitably intense close.

Joining the legion of psych fests up and down the country, Portsmouth has firmly staked its place amongst the more established events. The line ups every year so far have been solid from start to finish. When tickets go on sale for next year there’s really no need to wait for announcements on who’s playing; just buy one and thank yourself later.

Keep up to speed with Portsmouth Psych Fest here

Words and photos by Siobhan 

7th May 2019

Suede at Brighton Dome

Suede / BC Camplight, Brighton Dome, 23rd April 2019

Suede… the story behind the band’s rise, fall and emphatic comeback has been told many times. Still, there’s an intrigue as to what they might do next. With latest album The Blue Hour released last year and a huge tour underway, one thing’s for sure – Suede are far from done yet.

Opening support on this tour has largely come from the much lauded BC Camplight. The man behind the tunes and the piano is US born singer-songwriter Brian Christinzio; his tale of starting a new life in the UK, gaining a record deal then being deported before winning back his right to live here sounds like a fine set of lyrical fantasy but in this case is all true. Having had to pull a couple of dates through illness, it was good to see him back and well, providing an eclectic start to the evening with tracks from his latest album Deportation Blues.

The anticipation for Suede’s arrival on stage is met with a suitably atmospheric outpouring of smoke and dramatic lighting, from which the band emerge to the strains of haunting new track As One. The capacity crowd, many of whom have been there since doors, are rewarded with an ample dosage of songs spanning an incredible 30 years. It’s not long before some older material surfaces in the set – We Are The Pigs and So Young reminders that there is a back catalogue here worthy of its place in the music history books. As a frontman, Brett Anderson appears to have fallen into Neverland as his endless energy and off stage excursions seem no less enthusiastic then they ever were.

Anderson gives a thank you to the crowd, rightly noting that without a great crowd it’s hard to have a great gig. And the respect is clearly mutual; there are moments where he talks to the audience or during stripped back songs (Everything Will Flow / Europe Is Our Playground) that you could hear a pin drop, no background chat, no need, still it’s a welcome change to the annoying conversational hum that often accompanies performers. But then Suede have never been your average band. Oddly labelled with the Britpop tag in the early days, their refusal to conform has seen them become something of an institution on their own terms, an institution that puts on a show to be remembered as it turns out.  After a quick break, the band return to finish the evening with a huge singalong to The Beautiful Ones followed by closing track Life Is Golden, a track that Anderson says he wrote for his son but which it is likely everyone there is happy to take as a message for themselves. From the start, Suede were something a bit different, something a bit special. Turns out they still are.

Click here for remaining tour dates and all things Suede related

More from BC Camplight here

Words and photos by Siobhan

25th April 2019

Tugboat Captain at The Green Door Store

Tugboat Captain / Ciel / Probably Oslo / Bébe, The Green Door Store Brighton, 10th April 2019

What to do on a cold Wednesday night by the sea? This week at least, the answer was pretty simple. Bringing optimistic melodies and a bassoon of impressive proportions, Tugboat Captain arrived in town taking their DIY tour to top local DIY venue, The Green Door Store. Headlining a four act line up, the multi vocals and instruments spread across the band brought a refreshing dose of charm and catchy tunes to the floor.

First on, Brighton’s Bébe offered up gentle pop refrains and managed to squeeze all seven members onto the stage, pulling in a good crowd.

Next up, Probably Oslo quickly pulled everyone back in from the bar, upping the tempo with a set full of indie tunes and chats with the audience.

The penultimate act, Ciel, gave a beautiful performance with the purest vocals from Dutch artist Michelle Hindricks. Bringing to mind the likes of Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, definitely a band to look out for.

And so to Tugboat Captain. With a great turnout for a midweek gig, they seemed completely at ease and in sync with each other and the crowd, latest single Be Strong, Smoke Less proving both popular and a fine opportunity for high kicks. An early broken bass string could have been the spanner in the works but Nat from Probably Oslo came to the rescue with a substitute and, in time honoured fashion, the show went on. It’s clear to see that Tugboat Captain’s hard work is paying off – a great night with a lovely atmosphere. If you’re quick there’s still time to see them at The Smokehouse in Ipswich tonight and The Victoria in London tomorrow.

Links to all bands here:
Tugboat Captain    Ciel    Probably Oslo   Bebe

Words and photos by Siobhan

12th April 2019

 

The Slow Readers Club at The Haunt

The Slow Readers Club / BRIDGES / Greenness, The Haunt Brighton, 9th April 2019

With 3 albums under their belt and an ever growing following, it’s surprising that this is The Slow Readers Club’s first year as a full time band. They’re certainly making the most of their new situation, currently working their way through a massive 48 day tour, arriving last night at The Haunt in Brighton.

Opening set from Brighton based duo Greenness offered a welcome antidote to the wind and rain outside, hypnotic electro acoustic tunes creating a relaxed atmosphere with a whiff of Massive Attack / The Sugarcubes. Check out their new EP Cyclicity for more.

Next on and upping the indie guitar quota, BRIDGES have been filling the support slot for the last week and look to have picked up some new fans who clearly recognised their material. A well fitting choice whose energy and humour set things up nicely for the main event. Latest single Amor is out now.

And so, as the strobe lights kick in to the sound of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love under The Haunt’s huge glitterball, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d turned up on 70s’ disco night. However, as the members of The Slow Readers Club take to the stage things come crashing up to date with the writhing pulse of Lunatic, an instant crowd pleaser. Next up is Lives Never Known – reminiscent of John Foxx’s Europe After the Rain, it continues a steady stream of singles and album tracks spanning The Readers’ career so far.

The band are a long way from their home town of Manchester but it doesn’t seem to matter where they play, they take an army of loyal fans with them. Having seen them play festivals at both ends of the country in Glasgow and Portsmouth, I can attest to the fact that the chants of ‘READERS! READERS!’ never dim wherever they are. There are people in the crowd who are following them around on as many dates as they possibly can, seeing their favourite band and catching up with friends old and new at the same time.

As the songs continue through the popular Supernatural, Start Again and Lost Boys to closing track On The TV, there is no let up in enthusiasm and the crowd respond in kind. It’s a clever juxtaposition created between hard hitting lyrics and ridiculously catchy riffs that make this a band to take notice of. The Slow Readers Club have always sounded like they were made to fill arenas and have a fan base dedicated enough to make sure they don’t regret that decision to make this their full time career. Catch them while you can.

Check out Greenness and BRIDGES and get the latest news on releases and live dates from The Slow Readers Club

Word and photos by Siobhan

IDLES at Brighton Dome

IDLES / Crows, Brighton Dome, 29th March 2019

Some years ago, with a bit of time to kill at a festival, I wandered into a marquee to see what was going on. Even pre-IDLES’ mania, the band clearly had a strong following. Joe gave a shout out to ‘our bassist who can’t be here tonight’ and the crowd started chanting ‘Dev! Dev! Dev!’ It was loud, chaotic, late in the day and, not knowing who they were or any of their names, I thought they were yelling ‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ A bit taken aback that this seemed like a shout of joy, I wondered what I’d stumbled into. It turned out that joyful shouting was pretty appropriate as things became clearer and I came out at the end with a chance encounter having turned into a festival highlight.

Fast forward to March 2017 and an army of people trying to find tickets for their sold out show at 100 capacity venue The Albert in Brighton, coinciding with but presumably booked way before the release of Brutalism. A night to remember, new fans picked up along the way and the start of widespread acclaim for the five piece now described by The Guardian as ‘Britain’s most necessary band’. It’s to their credit and fits with their ethics that their sold out show at Brighton Dome was booked with the same promoter and drew the same crowd (just with about 1700 of their friends joining in this time).

Opening up on the night, Crows made their second trip to Brighton in a week. Giving a formidable performance as always, their songs filled with brooding darkness had the crowd onside straight away. The support slots on this tour will doubtless open them up to a new audience and, with their long awaited debut album Silver Tongues picking up positive reviews and plaudits, perhaps it’s finally time for Crows to get the wider recognition they deserve.

With the instantly recognisable percussion and bass of Colossus filling the room, IDLES took to the stage to a huge welcome roar. If anyone had concerns that the band couldn’t scale up the usual chaos and interaction of their shows they would have been kicked straight into touch. The larger venue served only to magnify what’s gone before; a wider stage for Joe to pace, longer guitar leads to allow the forays into the crowd to go further, a bigger crowd to surf. Second up, Well Done lightened the mood and had the Dome jumping and singing along in full voice.

With no let up in pace and energy from the band or the crowd, we were treated to tracks old and new; Mother, Never Fight a Man with a Perm, Exeter and Samaritans all firm favourites and each sounding great. Despite the continuous mosh pit and conveyor belt of surfers, the atmosphere was good-humoured and offered up a bit of much needed positivity in a climate where oppression has been all too prevalent lately.

Where IDLES go from here is anyone’s guess. Right now they are more than holding their own as their reputation and following continue to soar and things don’t look like slowing down any time soon. Defining IDLES sound and ethos isn’t easy but their album titles do a decent job – Brutalism and Joy as an Act Of Resistance sum them up pretty well. Another step on the upward journey of chaos, another night to remember. Well done indeed.

See what else IDLES and Crows are getting up to here

Words and photos by Siobhan

1st April 2019

 

Calva Louise at The Prince Albert

Calva Louise / Kid Kapichi / Short People, The Prince Albert, Brighton, 13th March 2019

In Brighton for the last night of their UK tour and fresh from the shouts of acclaim for their debut album Rhinoceros, Calva Louise had a crowd full of anticipation squeezed into The Prince Albert.

Local support from Short People got the evening off to a solid start. Fronted by Rich Fownes (ex Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster / Clever Thing), their mix of rock and folk-punk eased us nicely into a memorable night in the making.

Kid Kapichi have been the main support throughout this tour which, conveniently for them, ended up pretty close to their home town of Hastings. Bringing along their own army of fans, their set was an absolute stand out ball of noise from start to finish. It’s a confident headliner that picks a band who are this good live to play before them. Firmly on the would love to see again list.

As the Countdown music hit the speakers, it was time for Calva Louise to show why they’ve gained a glowing reputation on the live circuit. With a pretty accurate prophecy, they hit straight into I’m Gonna Do Well, energy levels set to max from the outset. Sounding like Bis with Topper Headon on drums, their brand of indie-punk is refreshingly feel-good.

As the packed room got hotter and hotter, Jess stated that the temperature reminded her of home in South America; that didn’t stop her from jumping off the stage to join the party taking place in the audience. On or off stage, the trio were totally engaging and created a brilliant atmosphere with loads of reaction and reciprocation from the crowd.

Finishing up with the punchy Getting Closer, the set appeared to be over but the chants of ‘one more song’ received an unexpected rendition of Eleanor, despite being past curfew and with instruments already unplugged – clearly not a pre-planned encore but much appreciated anyway. We live in an age where social media can elevate a band’s status beyond its capabilities but, in the case of Calva Louise, you’d very much better believe the hype.

Check out more from  Calva Louise,  Kid Kapichi and Short People

Words and photos by Siobhan

18th March 2019

She Drew The Gun at Patterns

She Drew The Gun / Man & The Echo, Patterns Brighton, 8th March 2019

Straight from a support slot for The Coral, She Drew The Gun have been selling out gigs across the UK on a headline tour of their own. If their final night in Brighton on Friday was anything to go by, they’ll need to be booking bigger venues for the next one.

First up, Man & The Echo warmed up an already busy crowd with a set full of soulful reflections on modern life. Sounding something like The Style Council might have if they’d been pulled into shape by Richard Hawley and generally been a bit less concerned with striped blazers, the four piece entertained with some strong tracks, things notably stepping up a gear with latest single A Capable Man, well worth a listen.

The brainchild of Louisa Roach, She Drew The Gun are currently touring as a very complimentary five piece. Kicking straight into recent singles Resister and Something For The Pain, the band began their journey through the myriad of genres and musical influences that make up their discography. With hints of Elastica and Republica pulsating through the more upbeat tracks, there is a much deeper, darker tone to Between Stars, reminiscent of Portishead mixed with spoken word, not a phrase you get to use often. 

Louisa’s vocals are compelling, the lyrics full of powerful social comment and the tunes infectious, a stroll through indie, melodic psych pop and poetry with just a hint of country thrown in for good measure. She Drew The Gun thoroughly deserved the capacity crowd, catch them if you can before they head off into the stratosphere, rising stars for sure.

She Drew The Gun website
Man & The Echo website

Words and photos by Siobhan

11th March 2019

Allusinlove at Komedia Studio

Allusinlove / Mantra / Grymm, Komedia Studio Brighton, 13th Feb 2019

With new music and a new name, Allusondrugs are no longer and Allusinlove have very much taken over. With fresh songs shared back in November, the band are currently working their way through a string of dates across the UK before heading to Europe. On Wednesday night they hit the stage at Brighton’s Komedia Studio, grunge rock still at their core but with a more accessible edge, latest single All Good People translating into an instant live anthem. Excellent openers for the evening came from locals Grymm and London’s Mantra, both pulling in a good crowd and making a strong case for getting along early for the support bands.

Check out our gig gallery below…

Allusinlove

Grymm

Mantra

Allusinlove

Click through for the latest from Allusinlove, Grymm and Mantra

Words and photos by Siobhan

15th February 2019

New Music – Good Cop Bad Cop

Good Cop Bad Cop – Silk and Leather

Put together Milburn vocalist Joe Carnall with Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and you might expect a guitar driven, full on indie outpouring. But the Sheffield pair have some surprises up their sleeves…

Taking a different musical path, Joe has moved towards electronica, his vocals sounding smoother against a synth backdrop. He has written and played all instruments excluding drums on Silk & Leather, the noteworthy debut single from new project Good Cop Bad Cop. With demos complete, he sent them across to Matt thinking he ‘would be into it’ which resulted in the two working together and Matt producing the record in his home studio in the Hollywood Hills, a stark contrast to its birthplace in South Yorkshire.

With Milburn’s last album Time produced by Bill Ryder-Jones, Joe is no stranger to artist production and this new venture confirms that Matt’s skills range way beyond the drum kit. He explains this new string to his bow: ‘I’ve become progressively more interested in production over the years but have perhaps never been brave enough to take the first steps; Joe’s project seemed like the perfect place to start’. Joe describes the experience saying, ‘It was great for both of us as we could afford to make mistakes without a huge bill to pay at the end. It really was just two old friends spending time together and making music in a glorified garage’.

From what is presumably a glorified garage like no other, the pair have come up with something reminiscent of 80s’ synth pop with a current twist and the forthcoming self-titled album will surely be highly anticipated by fans and the industry alike.

Tickets for upcoming tour dates have largely sold out despite having only been announced a few days ago but look out for spares or returns for the following locations in April:

13th – Glasgow King Tut’s
15th – Manchester Yes
16th – Leeds Belgrave Hall
18th – London Hoxton Hall
19th – Sheffield Crookes Social Club
21st – Nottingham Bodega
22nd – Bristol Thekla

Watch the video for Silk & Leather now – you can receive an instant download of the single when you pre-order the album here; you can also see an exclusive Q&A with Joe and Matt – the album release date is scheduled for 29th March 2019

Don’t miss out on updates from Good Cop Bad Cop on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Words by Siobhan

Promo photo via Lucid Online PR

8th February 2019

 

Independent Venue Week – Tim Burgess

Tim Burgess and The Anytime Minutes / The Silver Field / Average Sex, St Paul’s Worthing, 1st Feb 2019

The past week has seen gigs arranged in over 200 independent venues right across the UK from Inverness to the Isle of Wight. It’s been a chance to catch new and established artists in some unlikely places and the news that Tim Burgess was coming to town, to play at a local arts centre in a converted chapel, definitely took a few residents by surprise in the seaside town of Worthing.

Running his own independent label, O Genesis Recordings, Tim has long been a vocal supporter of smaller venues and emerging artists, curating new music on Tim Peaks stages at festivals nationally. On this occasion he brought with him the fantastically energetic Average Sex (who later became his backing band as The Anytime Minutes) and The Silver Field, whose enchanting debut album Rooms has just been released on O Genesis. In an intimate setting with no gap between the stage and the crowd, Tim showcased an eclectic mix of his solo work – and a cover of Culture Club’s Time (Clock of the Heart) – and was his usual charming self, chatting to audience members between songs. The surroundings at St Paul’s make an impressive backdrop with many of the church’s original features still in place. Now run as a cafe and multi arts centre it has become a vibrant hub of the local community but needs ongoing support to maintain its offer as so many local venues do. IVW provides just one such opportunity. This is how it works…

‘Independent Venue Week is a 7 day celebration of small music venues around the country and a nod to the people that own, run and work in them, week in, week out. These venues give artists their first experience of playing live in front of an audience and for fans, somewhere to get up close to artists that one day, may well be playing stadiums and festival main stages. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England in the UK and also the wider music industry and brands globally, Independent Venue Week brings together these venues along with breaking and established artists, promoters, labels, media, bloggers and tastemakers to create a nationwide series of gigs. These venues are the backbone of the live music scene in their country and Independent Venue Week wants to recognise all that they have done to create some of the most memorable nights of the past so they can continue to do the same in the future.’

(Independent Venue Week website)

Simple really, it’s free for venues to take part, they get to keep 100% of ticket sales, can put on one or more shows in the week and get support from regional IVW reps and volunteers to promote and run their events.

The last year has proved that grassroots venues are still at huge risk of closure with Bristol’s Thekla under threat and Brighton neighbours Sticky Mike’s and The Globe both clearing their stages for the final time – just a few casualties amongst a host of others struggling to survive. Independent Venue Week offers a helping hand to all those who remain open with the hope that the ethos behind it will last all year.

For a packed crowd in Worthing, Friday night was a great reason to brave the freezing weather and get involved in a brilliant, unexpected line up of live music. Tim, come back soon and bring your friends, we’d love to see you all again.

You can find out more about Independent Venue Week, what went on and the application process on their website (UK and US each have their own week of celebrations)

Click through for more on O Genesis Recordings, Average Sex and The Silver Field

Words and photos by Siobhan

4th February 2019

 

 

Icebreaker Festival

Icebreaker Festival, Portsmouth, 25th-26th Jan 2019

Billed as ‘The South’s largest unsigned metropolitan music festival’ Icebreaker has become a staple in the winter festival calendar. Chasing away the January blues, this weekend saw over 150 artists play over 2 days in venues along Albert Road and Elm Grove in Southsea, leading to the much loved and established Wedgewood Rooms. As well as providing a host of stages large and small, there was a real community feel and the event clearly brought visitors and business into the local area.

The beauty of Icebreaker is not just in the number of acts to choose from but the diverse range of genres and music. With a lot of festivals it’s easy to go and see the bands you already know and love and maybe catch a few new ones too. At Icebreaker it’s equally easy to change that ratio; see a few favourites then take in as many new names as you can. And be left in no doubt that unsigned doesn’t mean there’s less quality around.

It’s impossible to see everyone but here’s how my Saturday played out. Despite being early in the day, The Vitrines opened Edge of the Wedge with bags of indie energy; down the road at Emporium Bar, Something Leather showcased their hauntingly gothic melodies and Currls kept everybody smiling with some soul-tinged new wave at Lord John Russell.

My first visit of the day to the Wedgewood Rooms was for BBC Introducing favourites Drusila, a two piece with a love of synth and some infectious tunes. It was a pleasure to see them perform and to slow things down later with an engaging acoustic set from Me and the Moon at The Wine Vaults.

Over at The Fat Fox there was a whole heap of reasons to stick around; a reminder from Heebie Jeebies that there aren’t enough saxophones about, suitably psychedelic lighting and much 60s style partying for Number 9 and plenty to please those looking for heavier riffs and fierce drumming from Violet Mud and You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons.

One of my favourite sets of the day came from The Howlers, currently gaining acclaim across the country with their raw psych rock performances. Pending live dates will be well worth checking out.

Back at the Wedgewood Rooms / Edge Of the Wedge – kudos to FLOWVERS (header photo) for having their own mosh pit at a packed main stage as well as being the pit for punk duo Bird Shoes’ next door in the Edge. Brother Deep completed a trio of local bands all getting a great reception and winning over new fans in the process.

Again, a tough call with headliners at every venue (I spoke to people throughout the day who were all finishing up in different places) but I opted to head back to a now very hot and sweaty Fat Fox for Skinny Milk’s closing set. Quality fuzz punk garage from one of many acts on the day whose sound belied the fact that there were only two of them on stage, a magic pedal board turning the bass into something much more dynamic and distorted. I chose well; the perfect way to end a solid day of being drawn in to see what I could hear from a distance – maybe the best part of any festival.

All in all, Icebreaker offers something different, an easily walkable multi venue festival with lots of choice and an excellent way to spend the weekend discovering new music. It looks likely to keep growing so keep an eye on announcements on their website later in the year to stake your place for 2020.

Words and photos by Siobhan

28th January 2019

 

Rockaway Beach Festival

Rockaway Beach Festival, Bognor Regis, 11th-13th Jan 2019

Rockaway Beach… almost impossible to say without adding rock, rock beforehand. Fast becoming an established player on the UK festival scene as well as a Ramones classic, Rockaway Beach is now in its fourth year, setting up camp without camping at Butlin’s Bognor Regis. Having moved from its original October slot to January, it’s the perfect antidote to the post Christmas lull and brings a plethora of respected acts and attendees to the south coast resort. For 2019 there were daily big name headliners in Maxïmo Park, Gary Numan and Echo and the Bunnymen, along with a multitude of breakthrough acts (in the real sense, not the awards sense). Clever scheduling meant that there was no crossover in stage times so no need to miss any of the live music. The big plus to this is that every set drew a big crowd; it would be ideal if that hadn’t included a faction who were just there to chat to their friends causing an annoying background hum of conversation. However, on the whole the crowds were more vocal in appreciation rather than small talk and all the artists received a really positive reception from the start to finish of each day, something you don’t tend to see at other festivals, particularly on the early slots. At Rockaway Beach, it’s wise to be there for the openers to avoid missing something special; this year kicked off with pop garage and plenty of high jumps from Rapid Tan on Friday, cool electro from Winter Gardens on Saturday and Squid offering up one of the best sets of the weekend and doubtless winning lots of new support on Sunday. Elsewhere, Algiers gave us industrial gospel and Art Brut (a smart substitution for the now defunct Spring King) brought smiles to everyone’s faces with their own brand of punchy punk and tales to match.

For those looking to take a break or recover from their silent disco exploits, traditional holiday camp entertainment was replaced with film screenings (everything from Quadrophenia to ET), DJ sets from Terry Hall and Steve Lamacq, Q&As with Gary Numan and Will Carruthers and enough arcade games to recreate Toy Story over breakfast.

A tough call with so much to choose from but here are some highlights…

Madonnatron – amongst some class acts on day 1, Madonnatron stood out with a wall of ethereal post punk, if there was a Twin Peaks remake they’d be playing at the Roadhouse.

Maxïmo Park – still playing with the same energy levels they started with over a decade ago, the bands’ love of performing is clear. A touching farewell to keyboard player Lukas Wooller before he heads for sunnier climes in Australia, the whole set, all 90 minutes of it, was a party from beginning to end.

Menace Beach – brilliant pop set over dense synths that just seem to get better with every album, great to see them playing live again.

Squid – with an early kick off and a watermelon on the drum kit, Squid woke up the Sunday crowd beautifully, ordered chaos with a New York vibe.

Yassassin – mid-way through day 3 and a welcome wake up with loads of energy and the still present watermelon finally making its way into the crowd, Yassassin have a lot of fun on stage and it’s contagious.

The Filthy Tongues – stalwarts of the Scottish music scene, think Nick Cave does glam rock replacing the glitter with heavy tunes and a fabulous beard. What more could you ask for?

When the summer festival announcements start to come through there’s always a repetition of acts being booked through the same promoters. This kind of takes the edge off discovering new events only to find virtually the same line up at each one. Again, Rockaway Beach sticks out from the crowd here; it’s clear that this is a festival set up around a love of music to showcase acts old and new with no compromise made on talent or innovation. It also demonstrates without doubt to the bigger players that there’s no problem with booking a diverse range of great performers of different genders and genres (don’t know why this is still a thing in 2019 and even needs a mention but it is so it does).

With The Jesus and Mary Chain already announced to headline in 2020, it looks certain that next year’s line up isn’t going to disappoint; worth bearing in mind if your idea of a perfect festival includes an eclectic mix of live music, rows of indoor deckchairs and a roof over your head that doesn’t involve tent pegs. Until next time…

Keep an eye on the Rockaway Beach website for more details about next year’s event as they unfold

Words and photos by Siobhan

15th January 2019

Viva Glasvegas

2008… amongst the throngs of indie guitars and X-Factor forgettables, Glasvegas released their much hyped, self-titled debut album. It was aptly described at the time by BBC Music as ‘like the east end of Glasgow that gave birth to it; rough, raw and epic, it is a stunning wall of sound that strains the rich rockabilly and doowop of the 50s through the raucous brooding rock of The Jesus and Mary Chain to create something timeless’.

For many, discovering the album and the music leading up to it was like the start of a beautiful friendship, only enhanced by the release at the end of the year of A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) – a Christmas record not quite like any other. 10 years on and the reaction to the announcement that the band would play the album in full, initially in their home town at Stag & Dagger Festival and then touring the UK, made it clear just how important Glasvegas and their music have been, and still are.

It’s too big a story for one person to tell so huge thanks go to the following people for sharing their thoughts about the tour, their favourite tracks and their own personal stories:
Becky Jones, Carl Knott, Charlie Smith, Craig, Daniel Angelus, Daniel (Sweden), Daniela (Germany), Graham Stewart, Jean, Matt Clow, Stuart Blair and Tasha.

Stuart: Glasvegas were one of the very first bands I fell in love with. The music that I first heard them play in 2006 is what made me love them – something different from what was going on elsewhere. So much of my 20s was locked into following the band, meeting friends and making some great memories. The band has always treated all their fans with love and kindness. I love Glasvegas and I love the music they produce; this is only second to the amazing fans of the band I now call friends.

Glasgow o2 ABC, Stag & Dagger Festival, 6th May 2018

Daniel: And there I am with my arms in the sky. So happy! Flew from Stockholm as a 40 year present to myself… What a trip! What a night! What a crowd! What a gig! Glasvegas were amazing…

Daddy’s Gone

Charlie: When I first heard the song it hit me like a sledgehammer. My Dad left home when I was a kid, young enough to think it was somehow my fault, old enough to be angry. I didn’t understand it and it didn’t seem like something people talked about. I kept it at bay for years, pretending I didn’t care. When I heard the lyrics all those feelings came back and I cried my heart out. I was amazed that someone had said what I thought out loud and I listened to the song constantly. These days things are good, I see my Dad and we get along ok. I wish we’d worked things out sooner. I’ll always be grateful for feeling like I wasn’t the only one, always grateful for that song.

Leeds Brudenell Social Club, 9th October 2018

Carl: You could tell in the venue there was a build up of excitement from the fans, eagerly waiting to see Glasvegas perform. They did not disappoint! It was the first time I have seen James perform Stabbed, I felt like I was the only person in the room. It was like he was talking to me directly and had a story to tell, and I’m sure everyone else felt as captivated as I did. As usual, Glasvegas were amazing live, the  ending of Ice Cream Van reminding me how much this album means to me, even more so now than when it first got released.

Daniela: Being a big Glasvegas fan since 2008 I was happily surprised they played a full tour again after several years. That’s why I bought tickets for 5 of the shows and I can’t even say which one was my favourite. Being on this tour showed clearly how many people still love the first album and how much it affected them. All the venues were full, people singing along to the songs everywhere. The band played themselves back into their audiences’ hearts and minds and hopefully will continue with a new album next year. I also loved it that they signed the album after most of the gigs and took their time to talk with their fans. Over the years I met many great people through Glasvegas, and coming to Glasgow or coming to one of the shows now feels like coming home for me. My favourite track from the debut album is Flowers and Football Tops; I love how the song builds up, and the lyrics touch me deeply.

Polmont On My Mind

Matt: I  think it’s my favourite track on the album because it breathes the most and you can hear all 4 members playing their part. I always imagine what it would be like with a huge orchestra and choir playing on it. It sounds like it could soundtrack the main scene of a blockbuster film. Daddy’s Gone and Cheating Heart had been everywhere at this point and I’d binged on The Home Tapes as soon as they surfaced. I watched the band for the first time on Valentines Day at Gloucester Guildhall in 2008. The moment the first chord hit I knew it was going to be the track I couldn’t let go of. Rab’s guitar slowly builds through the opening verse, tambourine just low enough in the mix to warn you that something big is coming. 1 minute 12 seconds and those drums come pounding in. Paul’s bass is fuzzy and drives the song along, James’ melody perfectly complimented by the guitar line, the lyrics building those images only certain people can master. It’s one of those you only wish it carried on forever.

Liverpool Arts Club, 10th October 2018

Carl: Friends I have made from following the band travelled down from Glasgow. The goosebumps are still there everytime I hear the  intro of Flowers and Football Tops and I still wish I could help another in the way Geraldine portrays. Glasvegas are just as important now as they were when their first album was released. James’ vocals and lyrics need to be heard by the masses, Rab’s reverb and ability to tell the tale through his powerful guitar performance are mesmerising. Paul and his bass give me the chills in a way I find hard to describe, the deep and dark rain clouds behind every song. And last to mention is Jonna. Seriously, what a drummer!! She is just perfect for this band, her style, her energy, the way she brings the whole show to another level is a talent that the fans appreciate and it showed at the end of every show when she was so well received.

Geraldine

Tasha: I grew up moving from one foster home to another because my behaviour was out of control. Ignored and abused in equal measures, I felt like society didn’t care for me and the feeling was mutual. I’ve suffered with my mental health over the years and hit rock bottom in my late teens, no job, no proper home, no future (as the song goes). By chance, I went along to a drop-in centre with a friend and got talking to a support worker who didn’t seem phased by my hatred for the world and for myself. She let me talk (shout), didn’t judge me, made me feel like maybe my life was actually worth something. With a lot of persuasion and encouragement I went back to studying and for the last 4 years I’ve been mentoring kids in care, trying to turn a horrible experience into something positive. When things were dark, I listened to this song so much. It used to be something to cling on to; now it’s become a poignant reminder of how my life changed because just one person made me think that was possible. I have no doubt that without my ‘Geraldine’ I wouldn’t be here now to tell the tale.

The Old Market Brighton, 13th October 2018

Becky: After too many years I saw Glasvegas again at The Old Market in Brighton and hearing the debut album in full was every bit as good as I’d hoped for and more. Considering how sad some of the songs are they make so many people so happy. There was even a surprise proposal from the crowd and of course she said yes. I saw some old friends and I met some new friends, my face hurt from smiling, singing and crying all at once. Loved every second.

Go Square Go

Graham: It’s a blistering track full of energy that takes me back to the school gates and when school finished at 4pm. The idea that you had to fight when challenged is spot on, got to keep up your street credibility in Glasgow. James nails the whole idea of saving face during your school days here with the idea that win, lose or draw’s alright, if I don’t fight I can’t go home. The track takes on a whole new life live, it must be amazing for the band to watch the whole crowd chant the lines ‘Here we, here we, here we fucking go…’

Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 18th October 2018

Carl:  It still amazes me how well received anthems such as It’s My Own Cheating Heart and Go Square Go can make a room full of strangers join together as if we all had a part to play in these amazing stories told. Daddy’s Gone provoked emotion from all age ranges within the crowd, with fans crowd surfing and on shoulders to sing the band’s most famous track.

Daniel A: I saw Glasvegas on the 10 year anniversary tour in Nottingham. I was mesmerised by the set and it was a really emotional show. Glasvegas’ music has helped me to understand my inner struggles and matched my desire to be happier. I often believe that the songs that are written are aimed at me as they seem to understand my feelings and experiences. They put into magical words my emotions. Glasvegas will always be a band close to my core and their songs heavily in my heart.

A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)

Graham: Favourite song from the Christmas EP has to be the title track, the way the song builds from being a song of despair and thoughts of death to one of looking forward to the future is quite uplifting. Just the idea and realisation that something so pure and beautiful as a snowflake can fill a person with hope that tomorrow can be better and life indeed has a meaning after all. I like the way the track goes from despair to hopeful in the fall of a snowflake that lands on the face of the character in the song, and feels like a kiss that perhaps signifies a sign from the heavens above that everyone is important,  and life is worth it after all.  A song of hope and new starts that could indeed be the best Christmas message ever.

Daniela: Just the perfect Christmas song for me.

Manchester Gorilla, 22nd October 2018

Jean: What a fab experience and a privilege it was to see Glasvegas on their GV10 tour. A band that never disappoints, that gives a brilliant experience to their fans and a night of raw emotion like no-one else. Also wonderful to meet all the band after, they really appreciate the support of everyone – and thanks for the beer Rab, only someone swiped it while I was looking adoringly at you lot! There’s really no other band like Glasvegas and I love them loads! My favourite track on the Glasvegas album is My Own Cheating Heart, a song of power, passion yet vulnerability which builds to a climax of emotion which washes over you and leaves you wrung out.

Carl: It still is hard to understand how a band who may not follow the normal protocol of others can sell out shows (without an album for 5 years) doing things their own way from the start to now (which I admire). Yet the crowd was like a sponge, absorbing every lyric, every drum beat, bass note and fuzzy guitar as if it was all that mattered, to be there in that moment of time. The album performed live is one of my greatest memories, I played this album repeatedly on a daily basis, until the release of ///Euphoric Heartbreak\\\ in 2011. It was noted that Alan McGee was in the audience, as well as a special mention to ‘Geraldine’ who I have been fortunate enough to meet. She is humble and the song portrays her and the service providers in the best possible light.

Cruel Moon

Daniel A: My favourite song from the Christmas EP is Cruel Moon. It is such a heartbreaking song to listen to that humbles me each and every time I hear it. The song used to be a stark reminder that homelessness could happen to any of us but then in 2012 I actually became homeless for 2 months and the song took on a really personal meaning. Ever since then I play it every year from November onwards.

Jean: Such a beautiful tune and insightful lyrics.

Carl: James sure knows how to evaluate and tell the other side of Christmas we all experience from time to time. The song provokes a reaction inside me that makes me realise how precious life can be.

Stuart: When I heard Cruel Moon it totally changed my mindset. The lyrics are the saddest Christmas song I have ever heard. This had a massive impact on me and made me look at the world differently. Every payday since I heard that I would go and sit and have lunch with someone who was living on the street and listen to them. I felt so lucky to have my family and think that it could be me one day that is living on the street. It’s something that happened due to a lot of things going on that made me think about life and how luck has a massive effect on people. I have been lucky enough to not fall from grace. That song was just right for me to make me change or enforce how I felt.

Glasgow Barrowland, 14th December 2018

Craig: I’ve no idea what the future looks like for Glasvegas but I do know that tonight in Glasgow Barrowlands they made me reflect on so many aspects of the 10 years that’s zipped by in a flash since they released an album that, when the dust settles, will surely be perceived as a seminal and iconic debut. It’s a beautiful record and when played live gets the goosebumps going like all the greats. They also look amazing – The Dalmarnock Velvet Underground. Context-wise they have been incredibly important and integral to certain events in my life that will never be forgotten (good and bad) culminating in why I was there today and how the day played out. Thank you James, Rab, Paul, Jonna and Caroline.

2018… a 10 year anniversary, many miles travelled, friendships made and lives turned around. The songs are still raw and epic and Glasvegas are most definitely still a force to be reckoned with.

Glasvegas website

Photos (from o2 ABC Glasgow – Stag & Dagger, The Old Market Brighton, Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth, Barrowland Glasgow) and additional words by Siobhan

21st December 2018