Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Dancing in the forest: Latitude Festval, 18-21 July 2019.

Warning: This blog mentions alcoholic brand names but, for balance, I slag them off for their steep prices.

Festivals aren't just about the bands. Although I have a list of 22 very good acts (see below) from this year's Latitude, I want to write about the dancing. This isn’t about the magnificent dancing in front of bands. There’s a woman who goes every year and she has a very distinctive style of dancing. This year I plucked up the courage and told her that her dancing is amazing. What the world needs now is more dancing people like her.


Carling Export bar 
No – this is about places like the Carling Export bar – a pop-up wooden thing that has a disco. And what a disco. At any time until 2am you can find yourself dancing next to an 87-year-old man, or someone my age who is also wearing fairy lights and a torch, or a three year-old girl and her parents. The dance floor is often packed. This year we also danced around the bar itself on several occasions. We danced up to the bar. And danced out again having handed over £6.50 for a pint. 


Gin bar boogie
And then there’s the Tanqueray gin bar where we ourselves started the disco. The music was really like going back to the 1970s and passers by were left bemused as we got up and boogied. I’d only had one gin. Well, they were £9 a pop. So the emphasis is on the music rather than the booze. But what a disco. 

A few years ago, Mumford and Sons played and refused to let anyone else perform whilst they were on. To escape this festival version of Enver Hoxha's Albania we danced in the Export Bar but also in the Alcove, a tent near the campsite. It was better than a gig. And, hopefully, something that Mumford and Sons would have completely disapproved of. 


Ketel bar disco 
But this year the best disco was the Ketel Vodka stand. In the Faraway Forest area of Latitude, I pointed it out to my brother-in-law - and that we should go down there - and on the spur of the moment we did. And, with another £9 in sucked into the coffers, we danced to some amazing music. I was totally happy and completely aware that you don’t get to do this in daily life. It’s a festival and this was a special time. 

So, when I got back and people asked me who the best bands were, I was tempted to say it was actually the discos that seem to spring up without warning all over the Latitude site. At those prices, you're not going to get smashed but you will hear a smash hit remixed by a talented impromptu disco DJ. 
Latitude 18-21 July 2019. Bands seen in order of merit
  1. Julia Jacklin
  2. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard
  3. Martha
  4. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
  5. Local Honeys
  6. Parcels
  7. Nadine Shah
  8. Neneh Cherry
  9. Squid
  10. Teleman
  11. Everything Everything
  12. Futureheads
  13. Teskey Brothers
  14. Anna Calvi
  15. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
  16. Japanese House
  17. Snapped Ankles
  18. Cat Power
  19. Elder Island
  20. Fur
  21. Jenny Lewis
  22. Khruangbin.


Saturday, 13 July 2019

No dicking about. Mattiel: Earth, Dalston, 12 July 2019

21.59. That's the time Mattiel came off stage. After the encore. They ripped through their songs like they'd read the curfew notes wrong - and finished an hour early. 

But I love that. Too many bands, with only two albums to their name, fill, pad and do cover versions. But Mattiel - the band is called after the surname of lead singer Mattiel Brown - gave it up without feeling like they had to go on longer than needs be. 

And I've often talked about things like stage presence and reacting with the crowd. Mattiel Brown has natural stage presence. Gig buddy Steve reckoned she might have skipped a bit too much but I say that anything that gets someone around a stage and stops them being a 'shoe-gazer' is OK in my book. 

The two albums, 'Mattiel' and 'Satis Factory’ - the latter released last month - are certainly worth a listen. I think Mattiel's worked hard to cut out the cliches in the lyrics and the band have developed a distinctive sound. But it also sounds like it's straight out of Atlanta, Georgia. And we got to hear it in Dalston. 

After the gig, she came to the back of the hall and signed merchandise. I think she'll soon be too big and famous to do that. And so, last night, we were the lucky ones.  


Monday, 23 July 2018

The Killers 0 - Intimacy 2. Trojan Sound System: Latitude Festival, 14 July 2018

Fifty years young 
What is it with me and the Killers? In 2010 I needed the loo at the V Festival and came back to find I'd lost my friend in the crowd waiting to see the band. Festival-tired, I retired to the big tent for a rest. And I found myself watching Peter Doherty put on an intimate, fantastic performance; made all the sweeter by the fact that I'd stumbled over it. 

Fast forward to Latitude 2018 and it was impossible to get to see the stage where the Killers were obviously killing it. So I went with instinct and turned up to see an act called Trojan Sound System. Except there were only four of us in the tent. There were 40,000 watching the Killers. But soon the reggae started and three guys came to the microphones and began. Ten minutes later the tent had gone from four punters to 400. 

Trojan effort 

I'd stumbled again. My plans to go back to the Killers were scuppered as these guys put on such a great show to celebrate 50 years of the Trojan record label. Wikipedia says: 'Trojan was instrumental in introducing reggae to a global audience and by 1970 had secured a series of major UK chart hits.'

I think you had to be of a certain age because when they played Night Nurse by Gregory Isaacs - and the three singers did their own interpretation - we all knew all the words and the little tent was heaving with nostalgia. And then the same happened with Dawn Penn's No, No, No. I had such a fantastic time, all on my own. 

Discovery

In 2000 I bought a few Trojan box sets and remember, all that summer, only listening to reggae, to the exclusion of everything else. I love some of the songs that the box sets introduced me to, for instance, Bangarang by Lester Sterling and Stranger Cole. 

But back to the gig and the Dad dancing was pretty bad. I include myself in this because I'm no dancer at the best of times; but when attempting to bop to the Trojan beat...well I'm glad that people were using their phones to video the Killers and not us. Yet it didn't matter. A man near me, probably in his late 60s, was doing a very-unreggae-ish Highland Fling. And the really cool security guard who came along and made all the right movements (He was younger but I suspect that he was feeling nostalgia for his parents' record collection) - he didn't care we couldn't move right. 

Listen up 

The lead singer kept getting the DJ to stop and wind the records back to the start because he wanted to keep telling us that there was love in the tent, on the anniversary of Trojan's birth.  And it's made me want to listen to lots more reggae. Who knows: perhaps I'll spend the rest of the summer listening to only reggae.  

I'm excited about the next time the Killers headline a festival. I'd love to see them, but suspect I might get distracted by something more intimate and memorable that I stumble across. 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Pied Piper of cover bands. The Scratch Band: Water Rats, 21 April 2018

The Scratch Band belting out another winner
The thing is: I used to work with the lead singer, Pamela. I'm so glad I didn't have to write a review where I had to - rather embarrassingly - report that her band 'were OK.' So, I declare an interest. But I also declare that I'm interested...


Because they were fantastic. They aren't just a run-of-the-mill covers band. OK; content-wise, they play out diverse numbers from yesteryear (Martha and the Muffins) and nowadays (Noel Gallagher). But lead singer Pamela's great in a party / wedding scenario because it's like she gets under your skin and you have to start dancing. Like the Pied Piper of covers bands. 

In  these reviews I know I keep banging on about stage presence and the importance of 'talking between the tracks' but Pamela is so good at that - and at getting the crowd going. The band had birthday guests dancing from the start. There was no time to take a breath. 

So if you want to book in a band for your event then think about the Scratch Band. And declare an interest...

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

At the height of their talent. Fleet Foxes: Latitude Festival, 16 July 2017

Some friends and I were lucky enough to see Fleet Foxes in Berlin in 2009. In a small venue. They had nice long beards and even longer pauses between tracks, with drummer Josh Tillman (now Father John Misty) cracking jokes. I loved it because it was perfect for a small, intimate stage with one album under their belts.

Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes
In 2017, they're on their third album, they have smaller beards, Tillman has gone and singer Robin Pecknold has been to college. And all of those experiences seem to have only served to send them to the stratospheric level of festival headliners. This was their territory 100%. 

They have purpose and are at the height of their talent right now. They kept a punishing schedule going, mostly segueing between songs for an hour and a half. Fleet Foxes have turned into a slick machine that sees the band completely in control and in total sync with each other, with spell-binding stage presence. Standing there watching and listening to the harmonies on Mykonos is one of the gig moments of my life. 

Wonderful. And we were lucky enough to be there.  

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

£10 for all this simplicity? Samantha Crain: Lexington, Angel - 4 April 2017

Is it me or am I starting to crave the simple things in life? Like doing something spontaneous and booking a gig ticket with two days to go? Like it costing £10. Like the fact that the stage times were already on the venue's website two days before showtime. Or like the burger and fries purchased downstairs before the gig. Like the small audience in an intimate setting. All of that's great but to top it off Samantha Crain was talented, side-splittingly witty, interesting, endearing and entertaining. You had to be there. Luckily I was - with gig-buddy-Steve. Samantha Crain has a bunch of songs that come to life when performed live; one (Red Sky, Blue Mountain) is sung in her native American Choctaw tongue, a language taught to her by her grandmother. And on top of that we had a bit of room around us because we weren't crushed in like you usually are. And we got home quickly. A perfect evening. And oh so simple. It was so easy to enjoy so much talent. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

Hang on - Is it 1969? Hidden Charms: Dingwalls, Camden - 2 February 2017

Yes in 1969 and Hidden Charms in 2017

I was five or six when the post-summer-of-love and pre-progressive-rock thing happened: it was called psychedelia. So I missed out, but here we were in 2017 with a bunch of twenty-somethings moshing away to a band of what I can only describe as beautiful hippies. Long hair, friendly, talented. Hidden Charms have a natural stage presence and I'm sure when they have a longer repertoire they will be a big band. That's if enough youngsters are willing to embrace the psychedelic. The first thing I did on the bus home was to watch Yes on YouTube perform 'Beyond and Before' from 1969. It was as if I'd just watched them live in Camden as well.