Monday, 6 September 2021

Some Words On: Bad Pond Festival 2021


Yesterday, I went to Bad Pond Festival in Brighton 2021. It was something I bought a ticket for when the first line up was announcement, and that line up largely remained intact (the final poster is above). I went because I saw Conjurer and Svalbard on the original poster and, liking both of those bands, I was interested in going, but I wanted to listen to the others on the line up. I then spent about a week with the first announced line up by the end of it, had purchased a ticket and booked a hotel. When the above line up was finalised, it meant a couple of the bands I was looking forward to seeing had to drop off, which of course was a shame, but I was delighted that Phoxjaw had been added (I was going to book a ticket to their headline run which sadly got scrapped due to the world being on fire). It was a shame that Bitch Falcon and Late Night Venture both couldn't play - I suspect things like this will become more common until the world opens up properly again. 

The festival was at the Concorde 2 in Brighton - a venue I have a lot of love for on the few times I have visited. I was intrigued how the second stage would work in terms of numbers coming in to see the festival (the second stage was in the bar of the venue, which is a decent size bar for a venue of C2's size, but obviously not as big as the main room). Yesterday as well was a massive (and I do mean massive) motorbike festival on the same road as the festival. I'm not really a motorbike guy, but it was incredible to see that many bikes. There was a food van outside, which I didn't avail myself of because I wasn't sure if you were allowed to leave the venue to come and go as you please - when I left, I saw people leaving the venue just to get fresh air and/or smoke, so that answered that question (and I felt a bit silly not eating and therefore being hungry as the day wore on, no matter though!)

Originally the day was scheduled to run from 1-10pm, which is a long old day in a gig venue if you are there from the off, which I figured I would be. The stage times got announced the day before and it was actually an even longer day, with the first band (Lambrini Girls) being on at 12.30, and the headliner Delta Sleep starting at 10.30pm and finishing an hour later. I had planned to get there as early as possible and stay until the end, but my arrival was slightly delayed due to some shenanigans at the hotel (checked in and given a room that hadn't been cleaned). I also left early because by 10pm, I was done. It probably wasn't the smartest of moves to spend the day prior on a long walk around that London, but that is what happened, and by the end of Conjurer's set, I was ready to leave. Sorry Delta Sleep! 

Anyway, I arrived during Sugar Horse's set, so now seems an appropriate time to talk about the bands. 

Sugar Horse - Enjoyed what I heard of them. I only think I heard two songs in full, which is a shame. 

A-Tota-So - First of two bands on the second stage that I would see. The bar did get a bit cramped as their set started. I liked what I heard. They were the first of the instrumental bands that played that day, which I mention because I don't think I've ever gone out of my way to listen to many instrumental bands in my time, A-Tota-So are an example of why I should. 

False Advertising - Some technical problems were present during the set, but it thankfully didn't ruin it. I very much enjoyed their set. 

FES - The final band on the second stage, and much like False Advertising before them, I very much enjoyed their set. During this set, someone with a very small baby stood next to me, which was unexpected. Equally as unexpected was the person on the other side of me playing peakaboo with the baby. From what I could gather, the baby seemed to be enjoying it! 

Intechnicolour - Intechnicolour were one of the bands that I knew when I first saw the original line up (due to being on, and then having their album reviewed on the Riot Act podcast). Not to sound too much like a broken record, but this was another set that I really enjoyed. 

Projector - Projector had an excellent set. I really liked what I heard from them. Their own material sounded great, and they covered a song by Pixies - I mean what is not to like?! 

Vasa - Vasa were the second of three instrumental bands I saw at this festival, and much like A-Tota-So, they proved to me why I should listen to more instrumental music. I thought they were great. 

Phoxjaw - I'm not sure what happened at the beginning of their set, but it seemed to be delayed due to some sound issues. Anyway, when they got started, they were ace. 

Alpha Male Tea Party - The final of the instrumental bands that I saw, and they were probably my favourite of the three. They were superb. 

Svalbard - The penultimate band of the day for me and one of the best for sure - their set was superb. I am very much looking forward to their headline run in November now - their latest album When I Die, Will I Get Better? was one of my favourite albums from last year, so it was great seeing some of it live. 

Conjurer - I knew Conjurer were good live, having seen them play the 4th stage at Download Festival in 2019, but this seemed so much better (once the initial technical issues were overcome). The new song they opened with sounded immense, so I am looking forward to hearing a new album/EP when it comes. 

As I said earlier in the post, I was very much ready to leave after Conjurer. I was in a fair bit of pain and was tired. I feared if I sat down at that point (as I had done in between all the sets after Intechnicolour) that there was a strong chance I might fall to sleep - which is probably a good time to call it quits really. It was really was a top quality day though, and well worth all the effort required to go. I would 100% go to another of these events if one happens (if I like the line up, of course), though I would definitely not go on a hefty walk the day before next time! Some of the photos I took I collated into one post on Instagram here

In writing this, I've just seen that the 2022 edition of the festival is set for Sunday 1st May 2022, and is on sale now. I'll keep an eye to see who gets announced for it. I find it hard to imagine the 2021 line up will be topped, but I am of course happy to be wrong! 

Monday, 30 August 2021

Some Words On: Victorious Festival 2021




The weekend just gone was Victorious Festival, which is based in my home town. I bought a weekend ticket during the first round of early birds after the first band announcement, as there were quite a few acts I'd be happy to see. I personally tend to lean towards the heavier side of music more often than not, but there was plenty on the bill I would hopefully enjoy.


A quick word on the Covid stuff, seeing as it caused one of the 2020 headliners to not appear at the 2021 event and one of the 2021 Castle Stage headliners to pull out. You had to show a Covid pass to get into the event (along with a ticket, obviously). This was barely an issue for me, as I’m double vaccinated and do lateral flow tests fairly regularly. I entered at a fairly quiet time on Friday  and only saw one conversation about someone having a lack of a Covid pass, but the staff were great with dealing with that from what I saw. Not sure how that would work with a massive entry queue mind. Other than that, and some (very watery) hand sanitiser about the site (and a vaccination station) - you’d be forgiven for thinking the pandemic had ended. By the end of the weekend, it was a case of walking in the arena with the Covid pass visible on my phone, but no-one appeared to be actually asking for it. 


I’ve seen some comments about various organisation issues with the festival this time round, and can only write from my own experiences. The toilet queues at times have been crazy. Friday certainly seemed to be the worst day for them, and I wonder if they might in the future consider opening the toilet block by the Castle Stage just to alleviate the queues a little bit. I live up the road from the festival so this isn’t an issue for me (and, being male, I can use the urinals which barely involve a queue). I would have thought an event of this size would have a bare minimum of toilets required based on anticipated tickets sold, and then you would hope they wouldn’t stick to the absolute minimum. I think more is needed, and I would hope this will be addressed for 2022.

To the bands


Friday:


Terrorvision - Brilliant way to start my festival, absolutely loads of fun. Saw them twice on the Britrock Must Be Destroyed tour, and thought they were superb, and this was more of the same. First time seeing them playing Tequila, which was cool. My only gripe was that they didn’t play Discotheque Wreck, which is my favourite song of theirs - that is a very small gripe though. 



Peter Hook and the Light - Good fun. 40 minutes featuring the best of New Order and Joy Division, what’s not to like? I mean, if you don’t like either of those bands, this set wouldn’t have been for you. I like a bit of each though so this was good for me. 



Feeder - Technical problems plagued this set unfortunately. They were really good despite this and got some (predictably) loud singalongs. It was the first time I’d seen Feeder in a long time (13 years, I think), and it was nice to see them again. 



The Kooks - I enjoyed their set more than I was expecting to. I was there thinking I knew 2 of their songs, and it turns out I know 4. Despite not knowing a lot of it, it was good. 



Madness - In truth, this was a bit of a disappointment for me. It had gotten fairly cold by the time they were due to come on (I appreciate this could be my fault I was cold due to having no jacket/hoodie and was wearing shorts). The stage music stopped, and all the lights went off the stage...and then there was what felt like a 10 minute wait with nothing happening. Even then it still took a long time for them to come on and get started. One Step Beyond is always a great way to start a set, but I thought it was a bit quiet - something which persisted throughout. The next song was Embarrassment, and I think Suggs got it a bit wrong as it appeared to end abruptly. It was okay after this, possibly still a bit quiet and a bit slow but fine. Suggs definitely forgot the words to Wings of a Dove, and there appeared to be a live band debate as to whether they should do it again, plus combined with singing happy birthday to the saxophonist/singer’s daughter. After Driving In My Car, there was a period of the set which contained songs I didn’t know, and seemed a bit slow again. At this point, I was cold and bored, so decided to make my way towards the back to leave. They did a bit of a best of, and that was fun but I was ready to leave at this point. 3rd time seeing them and probably the worst of the 3, which is a shame. I bumped into an old friend on Saturday who said how much she enjoyed the set...so maybe it was just me? 



Saturday:


Turns out I am out of practice being on my feet for so much of a day, as the aches were real. I revisited my original plan for the day and decided on a paired back plan. The plan was to cycle to the festival and head into the arena for about 1pm and get a spot by the Common Stage for Craig David Presents TS5, then come home and chill out for a bit, then cycle back for Frank Turner. Best laid plans and all that. The Common stage times changed, so Bloxx were moved to be on before Craig David. I’m not sure what happened here - not sure if Craig David got stuck in traffic and Bloxx were already on site or...well no point in really speculating because it happened. Not knowing any of Bloxx, I decided to go and grab a beer before heading to watch them - in and of itself was a slight headache as I went to a cafe on site, which I only found out when trying to leave that you had to remain in the cafe grounds to drink alcohol purchased there. Not sure why but whatever - not exactly a hardship to sit outside a cafe in the sun drinking a can of Staggeringly Good.


Bloxx - As said, I don’t know any of Bloxx’s music so I took a spot to the side of the stage and had a sit, and then lie down to listen. I liked their music, and it was nice background music to lie down on the common to. Enjoyed their set.



Craig David Presents TS5 - The reason I was there some hours early. No idea what the TS5 bit was going to be, but it turned out to be Craig David being his own DJ while remixing songs and singing (not sure if that is what he always did back in the day, and this was just a rebrand). Anyway, his set was quality. Hearing his songs from Born To Do It was ace (also, in typing this and googling the album title to make sure I got it right, I saw it was released 21 years ago and now I am sad). Craig David is perfect for a festival when the sun is out (festival depending, obviously - I reckon it would be a laugh seeing him in the middle of the day at Wacken but probably wouldn’t go down well). He closed his set with 7 Days, which was just a great way to close a great set. One of the highlights of the festival for sure. 




This is when I took a break and popped back home. The two main reasons for going home (ignoring my being old and wanting to sit on my couch!) were to get my bike lights and to pick up a hoodie for when it got a bit colder in the evening, and I successfully forgot to pick up a hoodie...ho hum. The good news was that when I headed back to the arena, there was barely a queue to get in. This meant I was in the arena for the end of Morcheeba and able to grab a beer before taking a spot for Frank Turner. 


Morcheeba - I don’t have a whole lot to say as I only caught their last song, but their last song was Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day, and that song is ace, so I’m happy to have seen them play it.


Frank Turner (Duo Show) - I don’t think anyone that knows me will be shocked to learn that I loved this set. The 45 minutes just flew by, with the set containing a good mix of his back catalogue. The set closed with I Still Believe, which inspired probably one of the biggest singalongs of the set (though there were quite a few) and featured a brief cameo from Jess Guise on harmonica. Just like Craig David earlier in the day, this set will be another one of the highlights of the festival for me. This set was also neat for me as I’ve seen Frank live with The Sleeping Souls and on his own, but this was the first time in person watching a duo show (I saw a live stream duo show during one of the lockdowns). 




Blossoms - So after being fairly close to the front for Frank Turner, I moved off to the side for Blossoms as I’m not overly familiar with their music. I enjoyed what I heard. I didn’t stick around for the whole set as I decided to get a bite to eat (second visit to the South African vegan curry stall). While I was queuing, I heard them do what sounded to these ears as a very good cover of Rolling Stones - Miss You. Not sure if it is something they usually do live, but it sounded good to me. Nice nod to Charlie Watts, who recently passed away, as well. 



Reef - I had planned on seeing more of Reef, but I joined what looked like a short beer queue and my word, it took an age to get served! I think I was there for the last four songs, which meant missing seeing them play Place Your Hands, which is a shame. They closed their set with two Duran Duran covers, with a member of Duran Duran on stage, which was unexpected - cool though. 



The Fratellis - I really enjoyed this set. I started watching it from a spot on the hill on Castle Field, which was fine but it seemed a bit quiet (I was quite far from the stage, to be fair) so after a couple of songs I walked into the crowd proper which was much better. I’ve not listened to much Fratellis after Costello Music, but this set made me want to do so. I loved their cover of Yes Sir, I Can Boogie (originally by Baccara) as well as the cover which closed the set, Runaround Sue (originally by Dion). My highlights, possibly unsurprisingly, were Whistle For The Choir and Chelsea Dagger - the latter inspiring one of the biggest singalongs/dance alongs I saw since Baggy Trousers the night before. I’d only seen them once before, and this performance was significantly better. 



Manic Street Preachers - Manics late addition to the bill to replace Richard Ashcroft was, in my view, an upgrade. I very much liked their set. It was peppered with songs I love, which obviously is a good thing. They did an Echo & the Bunnymen cover (Bring On The Dancing Horses) - I’ve never really listened to them but the Manics cover of the song was good. The real surprise on the covers front was a cover of Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses, and a very nice surprise it was as well. The set closed with A Design For Life, a belter of a song to sign off an excellent set. 




Sunday:


I woke up less achy on Sunday, which was a plus, but still a bit achy, so decided to again slightly alter my plan and remove a few of the bands that were in my plan just to fill gaps. 


Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - I was really surprised, pleased but surprised, to see Pigs x7 booked for the Common stage. Victorious isn’t exactly known for heavy music - there was a side stage a few years ago with a few heavy bands on, and I assumed when Pigs x7 had been announced, there would be another one, but not to be. When it was revealed they’d be on the Common stage, I thought the reaction to them might not be positive but I am pleased to report I was very wrong. There were a few people around me who walked off, but almost everyone else seemed to enjoy it to varying degrees. I did not anticipate seeing a circle pit at Victorious, that’s for sure. For me, I thought it was great. 



I then took my leave to head home. It was definitely worth the effort to come into the arena for Pigs x7. There wasn’t much of a queue to get in as I was leaving, and this remained the case when I returned. It was a much quieter day all round really. 


Miles Kane - Miles Kane is the first of a few acts I saw for the rest of the day that I didn’t know much about. I thought the set was really good. As an indicator of how little I know, only when writing this did I look up the set list for a bit of a memory jog and saw that Miles and band played two of The Last Shadow Puppets songs (and that Miles is in that band with Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys, among others). There were some very loud singalongs to some of these songs, particularly the last two of Come Closer and Don’t Forget Who You Are. 



After Miles Kane, I decided to go get a bite to eat and drink before heading over to the Castle Stage for Melanie C. Once I’d eaten, I realised I could go back to the Common stage again and watch about 15 minutes of Fontaines D.C, so that’s what I did. 


Fontaines D.C - I stayed for about 3 songs, and thought the band were decent. Glad I went to catch a little bit of their set. 



Melanie C - “We’re fucking out out!” This set was a lot of fun and very good as well. I’m not massively familiar with some of Melanie’s solo material (I know some of it) but everything played was good. The singalongs for the two Spice Girls songs played (2 Become 1 and Who Do You Think You Are) were very loud, some of the loudest I witnessed over the weekend for sure, and indeed they were also loud for some of Mel’s solo material as well.



Supergrass - Much like Miles Kane, I didn’t know much at all about Supergrass really (I knew Alright and Caught By The Fuzz going in). Despite that, I really enjoyed this set. Of course, the songs I knew were the highlights for me (and the singalong for Alright was huge), but it was all really good.



Royal Blood - I knew before Royal Blood started that I wasn’t going to stick around for the full set due to wanting to see Beans On Toast, so I stayed for the first 4 songs, and was in and around the Common stage area for the next 3 songs. From what I heard, they were really good. As I was walking off to the acoustic stage, I did wonder if I had made an error by leaving. Maybe I did, but what I saw was excellent



Beans On Toast - Maybe it was an error to leave Royal Blood early, but it definitely wasn’t an error choosing to see Beans on Toast. This was a great set full of singalongs and positivity. It was just an excellent way to close out the festival. Towards the end of the set, Beans went out into the crowd to sing two of the last songs which was fun. 



And that, as they say, is that. I had a really good time over the 3 days and am glad to have got a weekend ticket. Before the festival, when the first bands were announced, I was sceptical about it going ahead due to the pandemic. I’m so glad I was wrong about this. I would usually sign off a festival review by saying I’ll be back next year or will think about it. Victorious is one of those strange festivals that tries to cater to a lot of people and, pandemic aside, I haven’t been since 2016 (though I would have gone in 2017 if I didn’t have alternative plans). As long as I live in Portsmouth, I will always consider going to Victorious. As for 2022, I wonder, if the world is more back to normal next year (and there isn’t a need for a Covid pass), if the festival will invite Ian Brown and Richard Ashcroft back (or if those bridges have been burned). There were a few acts that were due to play in 2020 that didn’t/couldn’t play in 2021, so I wonder if they will also be invited back (looking over those acts, none of them overly excite me). I don’t know who I’d want to play - I have an eclectic music taste, but I tend to favour rock/metal music and that tends not to appear at Victorious, very often at least (typing this the day after Pigs x7 played and Royal Blood have just closed out the festival, but they are by far the heaviest headliner to date). It won’t happen for 2022 (due to the Hella Mega tour), but I think Weezer would go down really well at Victorious. Possibly headlining the Castle stage or sub-headlining the Common stage - they’d be great. Selfishly, I would love to see Ginger Wildheart and The Sinners get booked to play - I think they’d work well as they appear to be a bit more laid back than The Wildhearts. As for 2022 though, I really don’t know what to expect. As said though, I will always consider going if the line up has enough to appeal to me. 


Final thought - I think it can be a bit boring when people say they have an eclectic music taste (like I just did above). That said, I did have to chuckle to myself while watching Melanie C sing Who Do You Think You Are, because I realised a week on (all being well of course), I’ll be in a small room in Brighton watching Conjurer or Svalbard (give them a listen, they are a touch different to Mel C). Life comes at you fast. 


Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Joey

Yesterday (as I write this) I saw the very sad news that Joey Jordison, the founding drummer of Slipknot, has passed away aged 46. This news has certainly bummed me out as a fan of Slipknot (despite it being the case that Joey hadn't been in the band for some time). In my mind, I always assumed at some point, he would be invited back, even if it was just as a guest at some live shows or in the studio if not a full member. I never really got into any of his other bands, though this is definitely a case of me not trying to, rather than me trying to and not liking them.


It made me reflect a little bit on my relationship as a fan of Slipknot, and the times I saw Slipknot with him in the band. My first exposure to Slipknot was flicking through the music channels and seeing the video to Wait and Bleed. At this point in my life, I hadn’t really started listening to rock music of any kind (other than what was on the radio when I was in the car with my parents), and I was very much still in the phase of life where I was judging bands and their fans (in this instance, the “goths”) with no real knowledge behind my opinions - I believe the most accurate way to describe this was that I was a prick (I have previously tried to defend how I was then, but there is little point as I was most definitely in the wrong). Anyway, I think this was just before I started listening to Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. I didn’t know anything about this band, but this video captivated me. I might be remembering this wrong, but I recall not following this up for some time afterwards. I was still some way from realising my then-behaviour was moronic, but when I had realised this and looked to rectify it, Slipknot were one of the bands I went back to and realised they had a lot of good music. I didn’t immediately like everything, but a lot grew on me quickly. I seem to recall another music video, this time for Left Behind, particularly striking. I also found My Plague a song I particularly liked as an angsty teenager. 


I really wanted to see them when they sub-headlined Download 2005 - the Sunday was System of a Down, Slipknot and Slayer (a decent way to end a day at a festival, that). All my friends at the time went to Reading festival that year, and I didn’t have the means to attend Download anyway, so this was a non-starter. I was then meant to see them for the first time sub-headlining Reading 2008, but they had to withdraw due to Joey breaking his ankle. My memory of that situation was breaking the news to a friend who was spending that whole weekend at Reading (I was only there for the day), and everyone felt quite sad about it. I had a ticket to see them twice on their December 2008, but I ended up selling one of them as I couldn’t afford the travel to go twice. I saw them for the first time at Hammersmith Apollo supported by Machine Head and Children of Bodom and just loved it. The next time I saw them was on their first tour following the passing of Paul Gray at Sonisphere 2011. The show was incredible and you could certainly feel that it was an emotional one. The final time I would have seen Slipknot with Joey in the band was very fleeting. At Download 2013, they clashed directly with Black Stone Cherry who were headlining the second stage, and I opted to watch the beginning and end of Slipknot’s set, and all of Black Stone Cherry. I don’t really remember much of Slipknot’s set other than thinking the end was amazing. That was the summer of 2013, and by December 2013, Joey Jordison had left/been fired from Slipknot.


As I said above, I always thought he would be invited back, somehow/someway, but this wasn’t the case and now, sadly, never will be. Rest in Power Joey Jordison. 46 is no age at all. 


Saturday, 24 July 2021

And We're Live

The last time I wrote, I gave an excuse as to why I don’t write more often - that excuse being that I honestly can’t be bothered in most cases. That remains the case, as actually there have been a few things recently that would have been worth writing something about, but I just haven’t. One common theme, pre-Covid at least and once during, for this blog is now about music and the gigs I go to. Obviously during the pandemic, opportunities for me to go to gigs have been few and far between. It is something that I’ve missed very much, but I don’t think I realised how much until recently. In the last month-ish, I’ve been to 3 gigs. Two of these gigs were socially distant affairs and one was as standard as a gig as you can imagine. I thought about writing three separate reviews of each gig, but instead settled on writing a blog covering all three of them. So without further ado, these are the gigs. 

Beans On Toast (Socially Distant). Saturday 12th June (Matinee) - The Clapham Grand, London. 

Briefly, Beans On Toast’s music is something I only properly discovered during lockdown and working at home. I decided once to listen to his then complete discography in a day or two, and I found that for the most part, I very much enjoyed it. I decided it would be cool to see him live at some point, and then this opportunity came up, and I decided to go. 

I got there far too early, so I strolled around Clapham for a bit, though not too far from the venue.Due to the staggered entry, I didn’t have to queue and was in the venue pretty quickly. The rules were masks on when walking around the venue, but could come off when you were in your seat. Drinks could be ordered to the seat via an app, which I did once and was pretty straightforward. I thought the staff I encountered were all great. In terms of the upper balcony seating, the instruction was to sit on any bench, but to keep 2 metres away from people as best as possible. This wasn’t a challenge really. 

On to the gig itself, it was opened by a solo act called Tensheds. I enjoyed his set - more than once it made me think of a stripped back Bruce Springsteen at a piano/keyboard, which in my mind is a compliment. I’ve since gone back and listened to his music on Spotify and enjoyed it, so I’m sure I will listen again. Beans On Toast was the main event and it was just ace. He played a number of his songs that I love, which certainly helped matters. There was a really cool moment where he played a song from one of this new albums that he wrote about a former teacher (positive song!) and the teacher was in the audience. There was also a nice moment where his young daughter came on stage to dance to one of his songs (about her). 

I was slightly worried about going, because doing so would involve the first train to London since the end of 2019 (I think when I went in 2020, it was by car or coach) and, as well, it wasn’t as if Covid had just gone away. I hoped the gig would make it worthwhile though, and I can say without hesitation that it did. It was the first gig since the test event at the Kings Theatre in September, and the first non-test event since March 2020, and it was a really good first experience. And, I got home early enough to do a food shop on my way home (I was still fucked the next day mind...that’s probably an age thing though!)

Fleetingwood Mac (Socially Distant). Saturday 17th July (Matinee) - Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth. 

Fleetwood Mac are a band who I’ve never really listened to their albums, but in my view should be in any conversation about bands with the best “best of” compilation albums. Additionally, I’d heard nothing but good things about Fleetingwood Mac as a tribute band, so as an opportunity to see them came up, and at my favourite local venue, I decided to grab a ticket. Firstly, a massive thumbs up to the Wedgewood Rooms - I booked three tickets, a 1 person bubble ticket for me, and a 2 person bubble ticket for 2 friends, and the venue clocked this and put us on a 4 person table together, rather than splitting us up to two separate tables for two. I was very pleased with how that worked out. Again, drinks were ordered via an app and this was a painless process.

The support act were called The Hill Brothers, and I very much enjoyed their stripped down interpretations on some songs I really like, White Stripes Seven Nation Army immediately springs to mind from their set, as well as a cover of a song from The Black Keys (I want to say Gold On The Ceiling but my memory might be failing me now). Fleetingwood Mac themselves were excellent. As above, I had only heard good things about them, so went in with high expectations and they were comfortably met and then some. They are an excellent tribute band, and I will definitely see them again (all being well, December!). 

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls - Grand Aid 3. Monday 19th July - The Clapham Grand, London. 

When this gig was announced for “freedom day”, I found myself wanting to go, but anticipating it would sell out immediately, I decided initially to not bother getting a ticket. I have a ticket to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls as part of Lost Evenings festival in September, and a ticket to see Beans On Toast (main support) in December on a headline run (not mentioning, as I did earlier in this post, that I had just recently been to a Beans headline show). However, when it didn’t sell out immediately, I looked to see if I could get the day after off work, and I could. I then found a cheap hotel room round the corner from the venue and decided to take the plunge. I was nervous in the build up to the gig, which I think is fair enough considering it was to be the first full capacity show I’d have been to since March 2020. I wore a Frank Turner shirt from the “Get Better” range, which out of context could be taken as insensitive during a global pandemic, considering it says “Not Dead Yet” on the front. However, the only comments I had about it (to me, at least) were positive. One note is that the show was a Revive Live show in conjunction with the National Lottery, which meant I could bring a friend for free, however I got my ticket at short notice and the 1 person I asked said they couldn’t make it, which was a shame. I kept my mask on, as I wasn’t sure what the situation would be, and I would guess less than 5% of the crowd had them on. Mentioning this isn’t me being critical, but I was surprised at how few people did. 

I arrived as Ciara Haidar was performing via satellite, which was cool. I couldn’t really hear much of her music as people around me were talking. What I heard sounded good though. Next up was Gerry Del Guercio from SixNationState. I didn’t know any of his stuff, but I enjoyed his set. There was a moment during his set which was cool, as he covered Oasis - Half The World Away, and that was the first singalong of the night - I have missed singalongs! Beans On Toast was next and that was ace as well. It felt very different to the show I saw at the same venue a month earlier, though were you to ask me why, I would struggle. He played a few songs I really like, and some new songs which sound good as well. Essentially, what I’m saying is I enjoyed the set, and there are no complaints from me. 

After a wait that felt like eternity (whereas in actual fact, it was about 30 minutes), Frank and the band came on stage and launched into Get Better and 1933 (which seemed to have an extra bit of venom behind it...can’t imagine why). From the off, every song was accompanied with a big singalong by the crowd, which every so often I would just pause and take in. It was a high energy gig all throughout, which was cool. I think the only time it slightly dipped was when a new song (Punches) was being played for the first time as a full band, which makes sense. There was a moment later on (in my mind, I want to say between the two solo songs in the set, but I might be wrong) where it appeared Frank was very emotional about the whole experience, which is entirely fair enough. The second of the two solo songs was The Ballad of Me and My Friends, a song which is usually well received anyway, but on this night it appeared the reaction it got was something else. The encore of Frank’s set, and the end of the night was a solo rendition of Balthazar, Impresario, and then the full band coming back out for Recovery, I Still Believe (a short video of one of the singalongs for this song can be found here) and Four Simple Words. It certainly will be in the conversation, should I ever have one, about the best times I’ve seen Frank Turner live, that is for sure. I put on social media that the gig was genuinely life-affirming, and nearly a week on from writing that, I completely stand by that. I left the venue with a massive grin on my face. 

Some photos of all three gigs can be seen via my Instagram (as well as other stuff when I remember to post stuff there, which isn’t often). 
And, that is that for now. I was tempted to go and see Black Spiders this week just gone, when they were due to play The Joiners in Southampton on Friday night. However, that gig has been postponed for now due to a member of the band getting pinged (something I suspect will be more frequent in the run up to the date on which fully vaccinated people can test and release if they are pinged). My next gig is scheduled to be at that same venue next Wednesday night to see Bob Vylan - I very much like the album We Live Here, so I’m looking forward to the gig as well as going back to The Joiners - my last full capacity gig before the pandemic was there. There is already chat about restrictions coming back in some form, though as is the case with the current lot in office, messaging has been mixed and confusing so who bloody knows. I have a lot of gigs booked for the rest of the year, so I am hopeful I will be able to write an end of year list - fingers crossed that either restrictions aren’t needed, or something can happen to allow gigs to continue going ahead. 

Saturday, 20 February 2021

A(lmost a) Year Indoors

As I write this, it is February 20th 2021, which means in 3 days it will be 11 months since the first lockdown was announced in the United Kingdom as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Admittedly, saying the lockdown was as a result of Covid-19 is probably something I didn't need to write, but thought it worthwhile to provide some form of context, just in case we all forget (laugh out loud). Whenever I renew the domain name linked to this blog, I always promise myself that I will sit down to write more and then inevitably never do. More often than not, it is because I can't be bothered. A small part of it is because, aside from a tweet now and then and quietly having the links on my social media, I don't promote the fact it exists (and so, no-one reads what I write). However most recently my excuse has been there is nothing happening (which I feel is a perfectly valid one). I've considered writing full blogs about new albums I've liked, or books I've read that I've enjoyed, but I always decide against it. The Albums of 2020 post would give an example as to why, just picking something and saying "I like it" isn't exactly enthralling reading (and a bit pointless to write, in my view). 

The point of me writing this now is because I've just completed an update of a spreadsheet I keep, which records what bands I've seen and where I've seen them. A recent update before I bought my Chromebook was to add the years I saw certain bands at festivals. When I purchased the Chromebook, and imported the excel sheet across to my Google Drive, I saw that the comments I had written could now not be edited, and if I wanted to add to them, I would have to reply. This was something I considered a minor annoyance but nothing more. That is until the pandemic started and the only form of live music I was getting came in the form of live streams. Without question, for my tastes at least, the most prolific live streaming artist that I am a fan of is Frank Turner. I asked the question of myself whether I could include the live streams on the list and concluded that I could provided I watched them when they happened (as opposed to a replay of it). How this is all linked is that I was adding the comments on top of the exported comments that were there and it looked ugly as all hell. Given that I am not exactly what you could call busy right now, I decided to re-do the list so it was a fresh list on Google Drive and rewrite all the comments. If you are bored like me, you can look at it here

Doing this was an arduous task, because the list has 817 individual entries on it. I decided as I started to also include, where possible, the year the gigs all took place (to match the festival sets). This isn't always possible (mainly for local band gigs where I don't have tickets, and there are no records online of the gig having ever taken place). but I think the list is as accurate as it can be. The main takeaway from doing it I think is how bad my memory is in terms of thinking when gigs took place. An example of this was me trying to find the year I saw Madness at the O2 Arena. I couldn't find the ticket in my ticket scrapbook, and there were two cleat entries on setlist.fm for Madness gigs at the O2 Arena that I thought either could be plausible - 2014 or 2016. I immediately thought it was 2014, but there was something on the setlist which just didn't look right (that thing being they played My Girl and then immediately played their new sequel for the song, My Girl 2). It was my memory of this that eventually enabled me to pinpoint the gig I went to, and in fact it was actually in 2012 (and sure enough, the ticket was there in my scrapbook, but I didn't think to look that far back). This also happened in reverse as well - I couldn't remember when I saw Stiff Little Fingers in Portsmouth and didn't have the ticket, and setlist.fm again gave options, and at first I chose 2016, which is wrong as it turns out because I saw them in 2019. 

It wasn't the most fun of tasks by any stretch of the imagination, but I am glad it is now done. I did have a few moments of sadness when doing it though because I am still very much missing live music. It is coming up to one year since I went to my last proper gig, a day I imagine I'll be a bit sad on. The chat about when gigs can come back isn't exactly filling me with joy either. That said, I am of the view that everything that needs to stay closed should stay closed until it is safe to open (and the government should support the businesses in this position). I would not be happy if removing restrictions happened too early and shit hit the fan again. I saw some chat the other day about a potential 3rd wave, and yet there are voices in government saying this lockdown needs to be the last one - which isn't exactly reassuring. I guess we'll see what happens. 

Anyway, ramble over. 

Sunday, 6 December 2020

2020: A Year In...Albums

 Normally around this time of year, I would be preparing to write a blog about my favourite gigs of the year. Unfortunately, due to the world being on fire, and gigs (as we knew them) not happening properly in this country since March, I was able to write that blog in April. As I sit here now, that post doesn't need updating. I went to 1 socially distant gig between that blog being posted and me writing this - a test event at the Kings Theatre in Southsea (the band playing were a covers band called The Spoils). I really enjoyed that gig, but unfortunately no others have followed. As a result, I'm not reposting that blog with this socially distant gig added. It looked likely that I might be at one more, which may have caused me to appraise. As it happens, it got cancelled (due to restrictions placed on venues since the end of lockdown). Looking at my diary for 2021 as it currently stands, my next gig is in due to be April 2021 (Idles at the Guildhall in Portsmouth, which they are doing in support of Pie and Vinyl) - as it stands I would be surprised if that goes ahead (unless they have sold enough tickets for it to be a socially distant affair I guess). My diary gets a bit busier, gig wise, after that but I'm not getting overly excited about it until there is some sign these will go ahead. 


Working from home, as I have been doing since March 23rd (which feels like a lifetime ago), has enabled me to listen to a lot more music than I normally would. The only measuring stick for how much music I listened to in a year would be Last.fm, which itself isn't an entirely accurate reflection of how much music I've listened to for a couple of years before this one, as scrobbling between iTunes and Last.fm just stopped for reasons I couldn't figure out. The service claims I listened to just shy of 2,800 songs in 2019, which could be true, but I think it was a lot higher (listening on my iPod or iPhone wasn't recorded all the time, if memory serves). I've looked at what has been recorded this year (which is pretty accurate as all my listening has been, for my sins, via Spotify) and in July I listened to just over 2,000 songs. Every full month I've worked from home, I've listened to over 1,000 songs a month (with most being over 1,500). This blog isn't about my Last.fm page however, it is about some of the albums that have been released this year that I've either played a lot, or ones I've liked and will definitely be going back to. They aren't listed in any sort of order, but the first two that I'll be talking about are by far the albums I've listened to the most this year. 



Code Orange - Underneath

Image credit - Pitchfork


I've had a mixed past with Code Orange, going from not liking them to becoming a fan. The release of Forever helped that, but this album fully confirmed me as a fan of theirs from listen 1. It was one of those albums that I listened to and immediately knew how good it was. I've gone back to it repeatedly this year and it is incredible. It also bucks a personal trend for me, as previously I've spoken about not liking intro tracks, or not understanding the point of them (Slipknot, I'm looking at you). (deeperthanbefore) is the perfect intro track to this album - if this album was a rollercoaster, this would be playing on the first climb before you got shot into the ride proper, but builds up the anticipation for something huge, which Swallowing the Rabbit Whole more than delivers upon. I'm looking back over the track list now to see if I can pick out a favourite song and have decided against - because it changes all the time! 



Run The Jewels - RTJ4. 

Image credit - Pitchfork


I remember when I saw Run The Jewels live at All Points East last year, I went only really knowing 2 or 3 of their songs and thinking they were ace - the main one being Close Your Eyes (and Count To Fuck). After the gig, I went back to Run The Jewels 3 and thought it was great. I still mainly listened to Close Your Eyes, but I had a greater appreciation for them. When RTJ4 came out, the world was reacting to the murder of George Floyd (Killer Mike from Run The Jewels gave an impassioned, powerful speech after the killing as well) and some of the lyrics made people question if it was written in light of that. The fact it was written some time before, referencing previous similar events which were then happening again makes the words even more powerful - Walking in the Snow sticks out in my mind immediately here (the live performance of this during Holy Calamavote was something else). Even without the context of the release, RTJ4 is a superb album. Similar to Underneath, so many of the songs on this album could be my favourite song on the album. This album being as good as it is was a big selling point for me buying a ticket for Riot Fest in Chicago next year. Sitting here now, I find myself thinking it is unlikely it will go ahead (or that I'll be unable to go) - but I have a ticket and if I am able to go, Run The Jewels will absolutely be at the top of the list of bands I have to see (with My Chemical Romance and Pixies in 2nd and 3rd respectively). For what it is worth, if we're in a place where the festival can go ahead, the only reason I can't see myself attending is if I have to self-isolate after arriving in Chicago - I'm going to be there for a week, so if I have to stay in for 2 weeks (hypothetically) then I won't be able to go to the festival. Anyway, this isn't about RTJ4 anymore so I will move on. Belter of an album though! 


Idles - Ultra Mono

Image credit - Bandcamp


Since the release of Joy as an Act of Resistance, I have firmly become an Idles fan. I saw them live the same day as Run The Jewels in London (what a day that was) and have wanted to see them live again ever since (I've got tickets to see them twice in 2021, and am considering getting a ticket to see Pearl Jam where they are currently the main support). I really like this album (I'm not sure if this or Brutalism is my second favourite Idles album) and I think I will grow to like it more the more I listen to it. I'm going to sound like a bit of a broken record, but I'm not able to say which is my favourite song on the album because there are so many to choose from. I'm very much looking forward to seeing some of these songs live (well, I'm looking forward to seeing any song live, but hopefully you get my point). This album is great. I'm not going to do a top 20 list or owt (probably), but I think this would round out the top 3 with the first two albums I've spoken about, more than likely. 



Beans On Toast - Knee Deep In Nostalgia/The Unforeseeable Future

Image credit - IPA Music


















Am I cheating by putting two albums in one entry? Maybe. Does it matter? Probably not. Anyway, these are the newest releases on this list (released just 5 days ago as I type these very words). As it happens, I hadn't got round to actually listening to Beans on Toast until this year. Setlist FM tells me I could have seen him twice previously (once supporting Frank Turner at the Guildhall and once at Victorious Festival). Anyway, I listened to his entire discography (well, albums anyway) earlier this year and really enjoyed a fair bit of what I heard. I heard about these two albums on a live stream he did and was looking forward to them. I can report they are both ace! The MVP of Knee Deep is The Village Disco. I haven't decided what my favourite song from The Unforeseeable Future is yet, but I like both albums. 



Loathe - I Let It In and It Took Everything

Image credit - Pitchfork


I saw Loathe support Employed to Serve in London and was immediately sold on them. I was excited about the album coming out and wasn't let down at all - it is brilliant. I saw them on their headline tour supporting the album, which I've written about in the Gigs of the Year blog linked above. I won't retell the story of why I didn't overly enjoy that gig (not Loathe's fault at all though!). I didn't revisit the album for a little while during this year, but did so when out on a government mandated walk during lock-down and it blew me away all over again. I very much want to see them live again. 






Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Image credit - Pitchfork


I listen to a podcast called Riot Act, on which they review albums (amongst other things, but that is the main part of the show). I recall them saying they were going to talk about this album due to the response it had got. My immediate thought was of her song 'Criminal' and wondering if it would be similar to that song. It very much isn't, by the way. The response to this album has been pretty much universal praise - at the time of Riot Act review, it had a metacritic score of 100. I've just checked and that has tumbled to a score of 98. However, music taste is subjective, so I went in with an open mind. I find it hard to describe why I like it as much as I do, but I really do. 




Deftones - Ohms

Image credit - Pitchfork


I gave Deftones a proper listen a few years ago, wondering if my opinion on them had changed with time (I wasn't a fan after seeing them at Download 2006, and thought I enjoyed their Portsmouth headline show more than that, it didn't win me  over really). That proper listen made me realise I like them a lot more than I thought I did. I did another one of these play-through's while working from home, which was great as well. Ohms however is the first album of theirs that I've listened to when it was new and it blew me away. When all is said and done, I don't think this will be considered their best album, but it is up there for me, and that is saying something considering how long they have been a band. Not sure what the MVP is for this one, but the album is very good all the way through. 



Trivium - What The Dead Men Say

Image credit - Metacritic

It has actually been a while since I've listened to this album, but it is really good. I liked their last release before this one, The Sin and The Sentence, so I was looking forward to this but, honestly, had low expectations. Trivium have had a patchy history with some really great albums and some...less than great albums (I'm looking at you Silence In The Snow). I am pleased to report that I really like this album. I recall discussions of them possibly headlining Download Festival in years gone by, and while I think that is unlikely now, I think this album is good enough to hopefully get them some new fans - I'd love to see them headline a big bill in Wembley Arena touring this album. MVP wise, the title track or Catastrophist for me. 



Haggard Cat - Common Sense Holiday

Image credit - Bandcamp

I saw Haggard Cat supporting InMe earlier this year and they were excellent. They were due to tour in support of this album coming out but the global bastard being the bastard it is, that didn't happen. I would have got a ticket to see them in Guildford had it gone ahead. Anyway, I really liked Challenger, but this is quite a bit better in my opinion, which is good news. 










Biffy Clyro - A Celebration of Endings

Image credit - Metacritic

This album made me completely reappraise my opinion of Biffy Clyro. First things first, this album is excellent. However, my enjoying the album so much made me want to go back and revisit some of their back catalogue to see if I had dismissed it without much thought. On reflection, I still don't really like Ellipsis too much, but I do like Opposites a lot more than I thought I did. And, y'know, Puzzle and Only Revolutions are both incredible. I doubt I would have revisited any of these albums without A Celebration of Endings. So that is cool. As for an MVP - well it is Cop Syrup. There are other good songs on this album but my word, that one is remarkable. 





Svalbard - When I Die, Will I Get Better?

Image credit - Bandcamp

I am relatively new to Svalbard, but listened back to their discography and really liked what I heard, with It's Hard To Have Hope (their then latest release) being my favourite. When I Die, Will I Get Better? has comfortably replaced it as my favourite, but they are both ace albums. Right now, Open Wound is my favourite, but this could change.










Bruce Springsteen - A Letter To You

Image credit - Clash Music

The Boss has released a lot of albums. A lot. I listened to a whole bunch of them earlier this year in the run up to this coming out, and this one is really good. I really like this. Certainly in the conversation of whether it is one of his best since getting back with the E Street Band for me. Another one of those albums with multiple contenders for the MVP slot. Similar to Ohms, it is very good all the way through. 








Marilyn Manson - WE ARE CHAOS

Image credit - Wikipedia

Speaking of a musician with a patchy back catalogue (as I did earlier with Trivium), Manson has released some genuine metal classics and...a few albums now that are a bit bum. There are a number of albums he has released which I would struggle to pull a good EP out of. Manson albums are usually long, too long in some cases. This album is shorter than most of his previous releases and I think it is better for it. It is his best album since The Golden Age of Grotesque - now I appreciate that isn't the highest of bars, but it clears it by some way. If he could follow this up with a good live performance then happy days! This coming out did make me go back to his discography and give it another listen, and yeah some of those bum albums were a slog but there are a few gems in there. This album has a lot of very good songs on it. 


Sharptooth - Transitional Forms

Image credit - Bandcamp

This album is just shy of 30 minutes, and left me wanting more from this band. The MVP for me is the opening track Say Nothing (In the Absence of Content) with a mosh call that makes me smile whenever I hear it. Brilliant stuff. 












Palm Reader - Sleepless

Image credit - Distorted Sound

Palm Reader supported Employed to Serve at the last gig I went to this year. I also saw them supporting Cancer Bats in 2016 and I have enjoyed them both times. Braille was their last release before this one, which I really liked. Sleepless though just sounds huge. If there is any justice, this will get heard by a lot of people. This is a view formed as well after very few listens in the grand scheme of things. I want to listen to it more, and will do so. 








That is where I am going to leave it for now, but there have been lots of great albums released this year, including some more that I need to go back to (for example, I know the new Napalm Death album is excellent because of course it is. However, I have only listened to it once I think, maybe twice). I think I'll be working at home for a while yet so there is a chance to do this. This has been a great year for music though, and the albums above are just some of those I've been listening to this year. 


As it happens, the albums I listened to when writing this all feature in this blog, they are the two new Beans on Toast albums, Idles Ultra Mono and Marilyn Manson We Are Chaos. Lovely.


(p.s - I'm not smart enough to know why the line spacing varies throughout this. It was originally written on a google doc where it was all the same. It remains a mystery)