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Festival Review: The Great Escape // Brighton, England // 18 May 2013 // Day 3: Classic Plastic, Superfood, Za!, Concrete Knives, Dan Croll, Chvrches and Tribes

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Ok, so after Day 1 and Day 2 summary of The Great Escape let me shoot out Day 3 before my memory gets fuzzy.

So today’s convention was based on DIY artists and yet again this session was eloquently kicked off by Chris Cooke of CMU who did a beginners crash course through the industry from an artist/manager’s perspective. The discussion quickly emphasized two points: firstly that DIY is wrongly named and shouldn’t be done all by yourself but by slowly acquiring the correct team to help you reach your goal and secondly DIY is serious hard work. We then heard from artist both in the start, middle and end of their career on how they did it – special highlight was hearing stories from Billy Bragg and Jake Shillingfor.

However the biggest highlight of the day was going to the A&R panel where we heard from legendary talent scouts; Jack Shankly (Domino/Weird World), Jos Watkin (Parlophone), Korda Marshall (Infectious Music), but most importantly the almighty legend that is Seymour Stein of Sire Records. I sat just in front of Seymour, and hearing him retell his stories about he signed Depeche Mode, The Smiths and Madonna.

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I then caught an impromptu gorilla gig done out of a shop/apartment onto the street by Brighton’s very own Classic Plastic. The four boys produce a beautifully patriotic indie Brit pop sound, so good that cyclists stopped in the middle of the road and blocked cars. A perfect way to enjoy the sun coming down on a perfect Brighton late afternoon.

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Then onto to the evening gigs. It all started with Superfood at Audio. They are quite a rocking band which has a ‘band crush’ from Peace so that get them plenty of attention. They are fun but not completely my cup of tea because I do really enjoy the vocalist – and for me that kills the sound. Still check them out.

Then I went upstairs to Za! – and well that was quite an experience which I hadn’t been prepared for. Za! (and they fully deserve the exclamation mark in their name) are a two piece band claiming the genre of Post World Music. To give you an idea here is the description on their site:

This multilayer supersonic-orchestra combines African beats, noise, math rock, vocal-loops, free jazz, analogue electronics, sounds from the shepherds of Tuva, Balinese polyrhythms, Mauritanian trip hop, Dadaism, distortion, dance and drones – “POST WORLDMUSIC” may be the name of this danceable hybrid. 

Well yes if you think that’s crazy you got nothing on their performance. The concert was at Above Audio – and while we all waited for them inside – all of a sudden sounds come from outside. The two Barcelona-born musicians started playing outside on the patio. PAPA DUPAU on the trumpet and SPAZZFRICA EHD with two drum sticks hitting anything he could to make a beat – floor, wall, doors, rotating door – you name it, he was banging it. This grand entrance took a few minutes as they built up the intensity as they made their way to the stage. Then came synth, shouting, drums, guitar all into this crazy mad almost tribal music. Things became more and more crazy as the songs went on. In the end I reached that strange place where I wasn’t actually sure whether I liked it or not. But it was certainly interesting and full of energy.

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Then back down just to catch a small amount of Concrete Knives. At first I thought they were from Brighton as the crowd was going crazy – turned out they are a French band. The five piece band is fantastically fun performers with matching joyful easy go lucky songs. And they had the crowd screaming and shouting for an encore (which of course they were denied under such a tight schedule). So if you looking for a fun day out – go watch them in concert and sing along to their tunes.

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Then came Dan Croll – who has been featured before on Song of the Day before. Looking as Harry Potterish as ever, his voice was fantastic, his accompanying guitarist very impressive and the songs were brought to life well. However about ¾ in I did not feel the need to stay and left before the finale to try make to Chvrches nice and early.

And thank goodness I did – the queue was kms long for the normal passes – luckily with my delegate pass I managed to get in to the jam packed Digital only having missed a few songs. Chvrches, who I have also featured on Song of the Day, were a favourite of the festival for good reason. Lauren Mayberry is so incredibly cute and tiny and looked even more harmless due to the fact that she had her arm in a cast. She looked like a porcelain doll; however even though her voice is correspondingly high in pitch it surprises in power. She sang crisp vocals to the electro pop beats beautifully produced Iain Cook and Martin Doherty who also accompanied her voice all merged together into easily digestible yet complex sounds. The venue had Sci-Fi inspired green lights that made the whole concert seem extraterrestrial. Lauren complained they freaked her out; she also complained her hair elastic was squishing her brain – we all just melted at every adorable word that came out her mouth. This band will definitely go far. We all hold our breath for a full LP.

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Then off to the last performance of the night – Tribes – who I have already written about twice since the concert. They are really the perfection of a four piece indie rock band – great energetic English sound, fantastic charm and a beat to make you jump. The room was packed, the people were jumping and the samples of the new album were phenomenal only to be released two days later.

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And that was that. Twelve o’clock struck and the carriages turned back to a pumpkin. The Great Escape was over. I dragged what remained of my limbs to my hotel to rest what was a fabulous 3 day adventure. Only 356 days to go to the next one.

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Festival Review: The Great Escape // Brighton, England // 17 May 2013 // Day 2: Andreya Triana, MØ, almost the Allah-Las and Mikal Cronin

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Ok so following from our last post, here is Day 2 of The Great Escape.

The day kicked off again by Chris Cooke of CMU who again wrapped up the changes in the music industry but taking an angle on what it means for artist and artist manager. He then did a panel with, amongst others, Brian Message (of ATC management also known as my idol) and Paul Hitchman (of the just released Kobalt Label services). Brian started by echoing Chris’ enthusiasm for the opportunities that are created due to the industry being in a state of flux and how this allows creativity and brilliance to float to the top. Him and Paul then discussed the successful launch of Nick Cave’s latest album. Exciting time for any creative entrepreneurs – amen to that.

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The rest of the day continued to focus on marketing services available to artist, how blogs fit into marketing for bands, tips on how to get gigs. Other highlight was the launch of Music Glue (DTC for music, merchandise and tickets) and Momentum Music Fund (funding for new artists).

Then after a very kind invite to a music industry dinner where I met many very friendly key players in the industry we moved on (a little late) to some more gigs.

First up was Andreya Triana who lives in Brighton so gathered a rather packed audience in Audio. With her up on stage alone with no instrument backing all focus was obviously on her voice – which of course is superb. The best description to me would be grated honey. There is beautiful contrast in the tone of it.

Then off we went to the Queen’s Hotel to catch , who I wrote about last week. It was pity she played in such an awkward venue (the basement of a hotel) because she really tried to create a tremendous atmosphere – dancing like crazy and throwing her self on the floor and all that jazz. To me it was slightly awkward in that environment. None the less she was brilliant. However my angle of the stage was less than ideal for photo taking.

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Then I headed to the Dome Studio to watch the Allah-Las. This was possibly the saddest part of the festival, because even being 30 minutes early I only got in as they finished the set. I was sad to say the least but it turned out to be a good thing as landed up sticking around for Mikal Cronin who were the find of the night.  What energy and wonderful sound. Mikal is the songwriter and singer but he has a whole band playing with him and they rocked me into jumping for 30 minutes straight. It reminded me a lot of Best Coast – it has that Americana west coast feel – they key sound is actually the drums (which for once was played by a lady!). His second album is called MCII and was released just this month. I can highly recommend.

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The queue for the Klaxons was never ending so we retreated to the Queens Hotel for some more networking.
And that was the end of Day 2.

Festival Review: The Great Escape // Brighton, England // 16 May 2013 // Day 1: Wolf Alice, Childhood, Everything Everything, How To Dress Well, Blue Hawaii, On an On

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I am just back from a magical 3 days in Brighton, having attended The Great Escape. My legs are sore, my body tired but my face is smiling and so are my ears. The Great Escape, often referred to England’s SXSW, is not only three days of exposing +300 of the best new up-and-coming artists from Europe but also a coinciding 3 day of music industry convention. It’s hard work to wake up for 10h30 start of non-stop keynote speakers, panels, interviews, networking and hot industry launches all ending at 5pm and then off to the gigs you go – dozens of options scattered over more than 30 venues around Brighton (thank goodness Brighton is rather small).

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It’s very different to any other festival I have ever been to, as it’s more about exposing the bands than it is about putting on a show – 30 minutes – high pressure – tight changing times – no encore. But it’s a wonderful atmosphere and everyone attending is fully into the music. And the talent is very very high although still young and fresh. There are however three big headline shows at The Dome: BASTILLE, BILLY BRAGG and EVERYTHING EVERYTHING.

The convention is a once off opportunity to hear key players in the music industry talk about where the music industry is going, have interesting panel discussions, give tips on how to break a new band and analyse the future of music. There are also plenty of chances to network and everyone’s barriers seem to be down and people are open and available to everyone they meet.

If you are working or wanting to work in the music industry this is an absolute must event and worth every penny and then some more you put in it.

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A lot happened in 3 days so I’ll try give you some highlights and break it up into three posts so its digestible.

Convention was beautifully opened my Chris Cooke, Editor of CMU (highly recommended free daily read) who is also in charge of all convention, with the ten big stories that have happened over the last year (Streaming services, digital, crowd sourcing, first year of ‘growth’ to name a few). Each day at a focus on one topic and today was about Data and Discovery. It was amazing to see how many tech platforms (Songdrop, Last.FM, Shazam, This Is My Jam, Pledge Music, Music Glue) offer in depth information about fans and listeners and all types of cool info. I also liked that all the music techies weren’t too deep in the data obsession, and all advised that the worst thing to do is to get addicted to data watching with no action behind it.

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The day ended with Everything Everything interviewed by Xfm’s John Kennedy. The interview started slow but as the band relaxed and the questions got more real we witnessed a very down to earth band. Joking about excitement over buying a new couch from Ikea and using a new vacuum cleaner to jokes about the worst band names they had ever been in and how Alex was only accepted in the band after he put up with Johanthan’s spontaneous toilet paper rolls attacks. They also explained their music: how they wanted to be a band that could like both Radiohead and Destiny’s Child. Jonathan Higgs, the singer of the band, discussed his need to create complex song construction and very rapid and detailed lyrics (which he impressively sings mostly in falsetto – let’s see how long his vocal chords last). He talks about the need to get all those words out and that he normally finds these lyrics while being surrounded by nature back home in a tiny village of Gisland. And that was a nice light way to end the convention for the day.

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Then to the gigs, first catch of the day: Wolf Alice at Coalition who I featured early this week.  The acoustics were so bad on the first song I nearly walked out, but thank goodness that I stayed – because the songs to come blew me away. The boys love to rock it out while Ellie Roswell looks both strangely innocent and dangerous at the same time, but definitely starving. She has a piercing voice and knows how to use the beauty of light and shade.

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Then I stuck around for Childhood, and I am sorry to say I wasn’t really impressed. There is a lot of hype about them being THE new indie rock band to rule England, and they did land the supporting act for the Palma Violets (who are also being hyped up to do the same). And to be fair – the sound it’s all there. Everything I would normally need to like a band. But something special is missing and a band that fails to make me move is a band that fails full stop. The lead singer even has an afro, but that could not make up for the fact that they are missing some magic. So I’m sorry to say I walked out of this one but feel free to give it a good listen yourself.

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Then off I went to see Everything Everything, which was a strange atmosphere really. Don’t get me wrong Jonathan has a voice of an angel and deserve that ridiculously over used cliché and the boys are good. But I guess I’m getting more and more jaded by pop music as I entrench myself in the indieness and I saw the gaps and simplicity of the music – which can be a good thing but this time I’m not sure I liked it all that much. Funny thing is I did enjoy it, but I’m just not sure if I really appreciated it.

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Then I ran to see How To Dress Well, in some hidden venue which was very difficult to find which I then had to queue outside of all of which lead to me in bad mood. I managed to catch just the last song but what an experience that was. Tom Krell explained how this song was about his brother, and that he had once been told off by a fan who said that he couldn’t sing such bad things. He proclaimed he didn’t care and he knew lots of people could relate. And so he stepped away from the mike, asks us not to film it as he hasn’t had enough time  to warm up his voice, and silent hits. He starts to sing acapella right from the heart, and everyone is hit, frozen, we can’t move but stare at him. His voice fills with pain and his eyes are closed with what must be flash backs. And he sings I dream of killing him so we can be friends and people start to get teary eye. The song is called Blue and said to be on a soon to be third album. There is a bad video here from another time he did it so you can get an idea of the amazingness we all experienced.

Then Blue Hawaii comes on – a girl/guy duo from Quebec. It’s made up of Raphaelle Standell-Preston who blows you away with her vocals while Alex “Agor” Cowan plays with all his knobs, bits and buttons to create accompaniment as they loop and loop again. Once the sound erupts you understand why the name is the right pick, it’s warm and happy like Hawaii but blue for all the electronic mechanics in it. Very enjoyable find.

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Then the last run of the day – back to Coalition by the beach – to see On an On. And what a finish. This three piece band is Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci and Ryne Estwing, who had been performing together for the last few years with the indie group Scattered Trees and sometime last year decided to break away and do their own thing and bring us this beautiful electric dream pop. And thank goodness for this. I can’t find much about them right now as their site is down. But I love them. I bought their LP Give In and I am playing it now on repeat.

And that is day 1 done.

Concert Review: Yeah Yeah Yeas//Alexandra Palace//London, UK//4 May 2013

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Hello kids,

Well it’s really been a while since I did a concert review so excuse me as I am feeling a little rusty.

I woke up Saturday morning to a very sore throat and panic as the realization hit me that I may miss the long-awaited I’ll Be Your Mirror festival curated by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Luckily after some serious sleeping and medication I pulled myself away from my bed and headed to the mansion on a hill that is Alexandra Palace.

Taking the bus up the hill, I couldn’t help but smile as I was greeted by a most perfect sunset of fluorescent pink and purple light exploding through the cracks of the clouds – a strange mirror of the extreme colours of the new album cover just released last month Mosquito.

Enter Palace, past the massive palm trees that are planted INSIDE and survive due to the glass ceilings and to the front of the stage I go awaiting for the start of the show.

And a show it was. The crowds tighten up, the lights dim, and the atmosphere builds and then screams as the three YYY lighten up on the backboard. Karen – O enters the stage glittering from head to toe. She looks like a shiny Elvis/wizard of Oz inspired monkey/mad hatter creature. Sparkly top hat, sparkly eyes, massive glasses, sparkly jacket, sparkly western style pants and then some black wings attached to her back. All you can do is look at her. Which is fine to the rather shy Brian Chase and Nick Zinner clad in black from head to toe.

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They open with the new single Sacrilege and although I’m ecstatic at the sound of this brilliant single live – however I just can’t help but be disappointed at the lack of a gospel choir breaking onto stage to accompany the chorus. Oh well next time. Karen –O’s voice quality makes up for it just fine, with major diversity from almost shrill cutting sounds to beautifully ballad delivery, she does it all. Although to my taste sometimes a tiny bit too soft (dear Mr sound engineer pump her volume up!).

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That led us right into Karen’s first spitting water into the air (her new favourite trick which she repeated several times) and then changing glasses into Mosquito-inspired one to naturally get into Mosquito the one song I do not enjoy on the album but had its place live. The shrillness was subdued and it served the purpose of mood setting. The costume changes continued throughout the show, hat off, wings off, famous-personally-tailored-leather-jacket on which at the end was swapped for a red cape. Karen really looked like a character from a rodeo – I was just waiting for her to rip her what seemed like strip pants off – but alas not.

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The show was a good mix of light and shade, with some slower songs (Despair) and some good old upbeats crowd jumpers (Bang, Zero, Y Control, Miles Away) and whatever you want to call Soft Shock (just brilliance of a song). The light and shade was taken to the literate sense for Under The Earth (my favourite from the new album) where the lights dimmed down and Karen sported a head lights which she used to discover the crowd.

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We had more than just the songs to keep us entertained – there was also a giant eye ball bouncing around which the crowd adored and caused massive booing when it was confiscated from us after nearly taking out the drummer. As well as occasionally canons of Y shapped glitter. And of course with the luxury of being at the front of the crowd: massive mosh pit activity, feet stomping, song shouting, survival clinging, crowd surfing disasters and drunken girls singing to the wrong song. I love concerts in London.

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All of this came to a necessary fake end on Heads Will Roll (another favourite). But of course the crowd screamed for more. And back on they came with the famous Maps while everyone sang along. And then their favourite close Date with the Night from their very first album.

Karen ended the show using the mike first to pull across her throat, then using it as a sword to puncture her heart and then finally several rounds of her spinning above her head (the rodeo western feel continues) and banging it across the stage. A quite literal bang to a show.

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And finally with Brian’s 5 second of fame as he got off his drum set and shyly bowed down with his long wavy hair at the audience and Nick took a couple of photos of the audience.

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And that was that. The wizard of Oz journey had ended and instead of some ruby shoes all we had left was some sparkly Y glitter.

Concert Review: The XX//Salle Metropole//Lausanne, Switzerland//1 December 2012

So it is no secret to anyone that I adore The XX. I have given them out several times as song of the day and I even wrote a special long review of their new album because I enjoyed it so much. I also reviewed their performance at Open’er Festival. However both times that I have seen them has been a festival (the other time was Primavera 3.5 years ago). So it was good to finally catch them at their own dedicated show.

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The concert was held at Salle Metropole in Lausanne. It was my first time there and I was quite surprised that they had invited the XX. The venue is reserved for big shows (Cirque du Soleil) and classical concerts. I was expecting more a venue like Les Docks for this type of band. But I think that after the huge success of their first album, serious money was pumped into their second tour and they probably needed a venue with high technical offering to fully maximize all their equipment.

The venue foyer is beautiful, there are three levels and large circular holes in the middle of each of them with a massive light. It really gives a grand theatre Titanic-era glow to the place. It’s one of those venues with a standing floor and a seated upper level for concerts, just like Olympia (Paris). And to be fair although I struggle with the task of sitting during a concert, the XX is a type of concert some people may feel more comfortable sitting to enjoy.

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The show started in a beautiful gloomy atmosphere with a thin black curtain covering them and a white visual being projected onto it. However a close claustrophobic faint situation unfortunately made me miss the first two songs so I cannot comment more.  Anyways two minutes to gulp some water, take in some fresh air and I’m back in to find a pretty vibing crowd for Switzerland standards. People are cheering the band and I’m impressed that we managed a semi enthusiastic crowd. The first song to really strike me is Our Song, the last one off their new album Co-exist.

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That is a secret favourite of mine. It really accentuates how raw and vulnerable Romy and Oliver make themselves when they sing from the very bottom of their body. It also highlights just how much they are the masters of minimalism. I’m sure I’ve written this several times but this band really makes every single song so incredibly perfect, clear, and impactful. They are also the kings of control. Songs start generally slow, speed up, beat up, build up, crescendo but never quite get out of control or break loose. It may be this beautiful restraint that gives The XX their signature sound. That and the BOOMING base that they love to abuse so that the entire ceiling, lights and every bone in your body vibrates.

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Just like in Open’er this show accentuates is just how much Jamie Smith (known as Jamie XX) has grown and how important his contribution is to the group has become. Not only did Jamie create the majority of the beats LIVE on the millions of machines and instruments he had layered out behind the two vocalists/guitarists, he also mixed and interlinked song to song in a completely original way. This made it possible to really feel we were living a unique experience as songs were tweaked; their tempo and accents mixed up and stitched into each other, keeping the audience on their toes.

On a few songs (Reunion, Swept Away) Jamie finally literally got the limelight he deserved when a huge spot lit up above him to bring clarity to his important contribution. I was hypnotized by his fingers moving all over some magic buttons during Hearts Skipped a Beat. However I was shocked he did not come centre stage at the end to partake in a proper bow.

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Although Jamie received more attention than in the past, the star of the show was Oliver. His confidence has grown immensely from when I first saw him, just after the release of their first album. He struts backwards and forwards on the stage, throws his body in different angles, and continues to have his signature way of playing his bass guitar: in a very swinging flowing motion almost creating an eight as he strums the strings. His voice is as powerful yet clear as ever. However although Romy nailed every single guitar solo to the split second and mesmerized us all with the vulnerability in her voice, she hid in the shadows in this performance.

But the most amazing addition to the show was by far the LIGHTING. WOW. To begin with the XX’s music is naturally mystical, their look is dark and mysterious and even listening to them in my room takes me to another magical land. But boy did they maximize this with the lighting. At first very simple and gloomy: mainly black and white. The engineers know not to underestimate the power of shadows. They then added three very powerful ‘windmill’ type of lights cutting the stage horizontally and made us standing crowd feel like we were in a dark marsh. The light then turn vertically and created waves of light that Oliver danced through. Very effective. Slowly they introduced colours. First a sunset ray feel, then some very powerful green rays that broke on the singers head. It really felt like being on a different planet.

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This came to a climax and the end of the first part when a curtain was lifted to reveal a huge X at the back of the stage. The crowd cheered like mad. Then the band disappeared off the stage as the huge X filled up with smoke. Surprisingly enough they came back up for an encore (something I have never seen them do) to the relief of the screaming crowd. The encore was long 5 maybe 6 songs and by the end of the show they must have played nearly every song on the two albums. Oliver continued to assure us in his calm, near depressed voice that they were very happy to be here with us. Although it’s hard to feel it in his spoken voice, we all heard it in their singing, in their instruments, in their presence and in the atmosphere created that they had generously and sincerely gave us a little part of their magical far away land.

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Concert Review: Julia Stone//The Rocking Chair//Vevey//11 October 2012

Charming.

That’s the one word I would use to describe last night’s concert. I would recommend Julia Stone as the official definition for this adjective on Wikipedia. Or something of that type.

Let’s start from the beginning. First the venue: The Rocking Chair in Vevey. Vevey?!? I hear you ask. That’s right. This beautiful ghost town does occasionally do more than reminisce about the good old days of Charlie Chaplin and act as a Pleasantville for Nestle employees.

Earlier this year it hosted the wonderful Nox Orae festival which I raved about a lot. And again it had the pleasure of hosting the grace of Julia Stone. It’s a small intimate room but they seem to manage to get some serious gems. And I am sucker for small intimate concerts so did me just fine.

Anyways, so the concert started with the supporting act named Paul Thomas Saunders. At first as he peacefully strum his guitar and sang to a slow sad song accompanied by his blond bangs shy vocal companion the first thing I thought is, he’s got a great clear voice. But then to be honest it all just merged into one very depressive 30 minutes all about heartbreak and disaster and the girls which he use to like when he was 16 (when he seems only to be 17). It really peaked when I was starting to think that slitting my wrist was what he was trying to get me to do and he began a song with lyrics along the lines of: today is a good day my father died today. I realized at this point it’s too much for me. There was no variety, it was all very sad and with only a guitar to add something to the atmosphere and it all ended up being flat.

Hopefully as he grows up he’ll learn to develop his talent with a little more light and shade and depth.

Now onto Julia. Oh darling Julia. I had seen her about a year ago with her brother Angus at D!Club in Lausanne (you might know their famous Big Jet Plane, which surprisingly enough she did not sing). And they had been such a sweet duo. Angus, brilliant and shy and Julia skipping around the stage and melting everyone’s heart with her endearing personal stories and adorable geek style giggle. Even though they sang a couple songs together it was clear already back then that they were more two solo acts using each other for a boost and companionship. So it was no surprise when Julia started touring on her own this year.

Nothing much has changed, Julia is still as cute as ever. However the added sound of a 3 piece band behind her is really powerful and complementary (especially the piano – although I have a bias). She starts with a sweet charming song and then second up ahead is what I came to watch. She sang Blood buzz Ohio, a cover of The National. As I hold The National on a very high pedestal (and so does the general Indie public) I would be very wary of trying to cover the song. But she definitely does it justice and does what every good cover tries to achieve: she makes it her own, it’s different, it’s new, it’s original. And she delivers it oh so powerfully.

Talking of covers she also does her famous Greece cover of You’re the One that I want that is oh so cool. She also does a solo on the piano of one of her older song called Chocolates & Cigarettes that really shows of her raw talent. Her voice and her on the piano, amazing. Another highlight was the wonderful Let’s Forget All the Things That We Say and It’s all Okay.

I am once again amazed that her voice has such a distinct tone and resonance. Sometimes it seems that Julia’s voice is a cave and the sound echoes first in her mouth and then through the whole place. She makes it looks so easy to careless sing and put on a beautiful melodious show but every now and again she breaks from her sweet, innocent cartoon voice and really BELTS it out. And that’s when you realize just how much power and control her voice has and shivers go up my back.

She also still has her adorably sincere love stories. Julia doesn’t stop at bewildering our ears with each song, she steals our heart  in the breaks with her oh so honest and charming failed love stories. They mainly revolve around her feeling very strongly for a guy (lucky bastard in my opinion) which leads her to write a song for him. Then he either doesn’t understand it’s about him and sends her back a random song, or his new girlfriend shows up as she is about to perform it to him. Poor thing. However she so refreshingly admits and basks in her imperfection and embarrassing moments which is so rare in stars and singers these day, all interjected with her loud, uncontrollably geeky humor that we all can’t help but fall in love with her.

And so we all clap loudly after every song and especially just before the encore to get her back smiling and giggling back on the stage.

We tried a second time to convince her to come back, but didn’t manage.  So no Wasted for me.

And so as we drove back home with her resonating in our ears and pieces of our heart.

Festival Review: Heineken Open'er // Gdynia, Poland // 7 July 2012 // Day 4: Mumford & Sons, Bat for Lashes, The XX, SBTRKT

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So Day 4 all started with me trying out a Polish punk band Cool Kids of Death. Talk about embracing the culture. Rap in polish is a lil difficult to attach yourself too. However they were still fun for a good old jump around in a teenager dominated marsh pit. Unfortunately towards the end of the performance the heavens Opene’ered up and the rain started. What was a few drops quickly turned into a storm with thunder and lighting. Luckily after about 45 minutes of heavy rain it all stopped and the performances manage to continue with a short delay.

Mumford & Sons were up next. And although the opening song was a weak one (I think possibly a new one) they followed it up with their entire top hits one after another and the folk (let’s not say country – I hate country) frolicking was pleasant to say the least. What with the newly formed mud lakes we could all have been jamming in a pig farm.

But I cut that performance short as I had already seen them last year at Primavera and was keen to watch the whole of Bat for Lashes.

And what a good choice that was. Bat for Lashes was the most enchanting performance of the festival. As Natasha Khan came out clothed from head to toe in a heavy patterned long dress and matching headband she looked like a pagan princess. Her stage moves were also very impressive (although completely different to those of Alison) and enchanting. The tent this time transported us to entranced moonlight feel. Her voice is nothing short of perfection – she hit every single of her notes, while rocking back and forward with her arms out like an Egyptian queen. Occasionally shaking some Latino looking shaker. It all felt so natural and intimate that she was giving you a little part of herself without it being much of an effort.

Highlights for me were of course Precilla and Daniel as I am not as familiar with her new album (which of course I will now proceed to get to as the performance was incredible).

And then the grand ending on the main stage: The XX. And it’s really strange what this nothing short of bizarre band could do the crowd. I adore the XX. They were my musical food and fuel and obsession for a good 5 months after their debut album came out. And I can still listen to their album, loving every single song on the album (which is rare) and never getting tired of it.  So impatiently I waited right up close to the stage, surrounded with hard-core (and annoyingly pushy) fans. And as the trio took on the minimal misty stage (they are abusive users of smoke machines) the musical drug started and on it we stayed.

The XX are that weird middle ground. Drawn out sound with a definite beats, but too fast to be slow and too slow to be fast. You are just not quite sure what to do with yourself at their concert. And somehow we were all ok with that. The voices Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim are as clear and piercing in real life as it is on the CD. I am still amazed how hard-core and distant the punkie looking singers/guitarist look and how vulnerable and delicate their voices sound. Don’t judge a voice by its cover. And just like The XX the most breath taking moments are the ones when they sing together and let their voices intermingle.

I was again very pleased to hear some new singles off their much awaited second album. And I am delighted to report they also sound fantastic. So only great things ahead. They have a little more bass/slight electro/mixed feel but fantastic and still as originally sounding as the first album. You can see that Jamie Smith (also doing solo mixing work under the name Jamie XX) is adding a great deal of value to Romy and Oliver.

The crowd was obviously giving the band much love as Oliver repeated several time that he was blown away by the Polish crowd, so happy to be here and sorry it took them so long to come. However no matter how much we howled no encore. I guess it’s just too cliché for them.

As the main show finished we walked back to the tent one last time to catch the Africa meets Electro brilliant mix of SBTRKT. It was a really fun act to end the concert on. We gave our tired legs one more jam session.

And as we finally retreated to the Heineken Lounge and drank our final drafts of the festival and laughed at some memories that had been cemented in the mud and in our hearts we felt a bit surreal about all that had happened and how it was now over. The festival had drawn us into this new world and was necessarily ready to leave it.

But we weren’t the only ones with a bit of nostalgia. Walking back a crowd was forming around what a must of been very drunk guy (either on music or beer but you can figure out which is more likely) who decided to pitch his tent in the middle of the mud puddle in the camping area and angrily kicked around in the muddy water. Whatever floats your boat man.

Music performances of this level does it for me.

Oh and this.