Thursday, 30 June 2011
To Dare Is To Do
This is a new compilation from Wakefield label Philophobia Music. It contains 2 tracks each by Above Us The Waves, Gary Gore & EE Viles and Daniel Lancaster. All those bands appeared in various forms on the excellent full length PHOP comp ‘Under The Bus Station Clock’ last year. With a lot of high profile releases from its more well known bands (Runaround Kids, The Spills, Piskie Sits etc) since then, Philophobia wanted to celebrate its lesser known stars too.
To Do Is To Dare has pleasingly old skool PHOP packaging, a handmade cardboard sleeve that folds out to reveal 3 separate mini CDs (you know those proper small ones, about 3” in diameter?). It’s a pointless but brilliant touch that makes things like this worth buying. But what of the music?
First up is Above Us The Waves who’s self released EP ‘A Gene’ was well received last year. They are the most ‘typical’ band here in relation to the label. Those with a vague interest in Wakefield sounds will know what to expect here, fuzzed up guitars, energetic, spritely stuff. Those with a greater interest will see the difference here, less slacker, less poppy, more rickety and runaway; wirey and fractured. There’s a strong sense of authenticity here; AUTW have a seriousness, a dark streak that a lot of their peers avoid. Not that this isn’t enjoyable; the lumbering crescendos of ‘X-Ray Eyes’ in particular are moving and certainly point to much future potential.
Gary Gore & EE Viles is a collaboration between Junior Swimsuit and Swords, as last heard on the aforementioned PHOP Comp. It continues the labels occasional foray into electronica. Both tracks have a really great, individual sound. It’s light and airey, bringing to mind some elements of The Postal Service or the playful side of Aphex Twin. That’s not a reference I like to use; it’s what people fall back on who don’t understand the subtleties of this kind of thing. But it’s accurate here as this is Electronica from the minds of Indie kids and it fits it is so full of melody as opposed to groove or momentum. It also reminds me a little of ‘Worrywort’ by Radiohead but again, that just shows my own limited field of knowledge.
The first track, ‘Decades Erased’ is vocal free, allowing the alternating melodies to take lead. It’s interesting that it’s a collaboration; it feels like a robot duet, with lines coming and going, moving in and out of focus. It works well. The second has a heavily altered vocal hook which adds some variation. Both tracks take a long time to sink in, full of invention and leaps through strange territories of inverted logic, but are equally accessible and dreamlike, so completely worth the effort.
The last double hit is from former Lapel (Philophobia’s first band) Daniel Lancaster who has been rather quiet since the bands split some years back. However, here we have a pair of astoundingly confident tracks of acoustic based pop, with a full band backing. There are great production touches all over the place but it never feels overly showy. The songs at the heart of all this are strong and it’ll be interesting to see what happens when they are played live. Like all the tasters here, it bodes well for the future.
This whole EP is a success as it gives enough to raise interest in these lesser known talents yet also leaves me wanting more, from all of them. I like the awkwardness of it too – that it’s on 3 different CDs. What, I got to get up AND CHANGE THE CD to hear the different bands? Yes you do. That’s the kind of hardcore fan that Philophobia is here for. Course you can always download it if that sounds like too much effort.
Sonic The Hedgehog celebrated his 20th birthday this week. As a child I was very much a Sega convert, though I think even then I knew Mario was much better. But the fast and direct, simplistic gameplay was what made the series such a success and the deviation from it what made later Sonic games completely suck (along with the 3rd Dimension).
Having recently played through the original run (Sonic 1-3 + Sonic & Knuckles) once more on the Xbox Arcade the thing that struck me most was Sonic’s arch nemesis; Dr Robotnik. Sonic now seems very much of his time, not quite a ‘Poochie’
but very much a constructed mascot with irritating early 90’s ‘cool’ and ‘attitude’. Whereas Dr Robotnik is a villain in the classic sense – stupendously ambitious and bombastic and laughably flawed. Much as it is fun to deconstruct 80’s action films, so it goes with Robotnik; as you travel deeper into the world he so desperately wants to conquer, we see the massive contradictions in his approach to defeat Sonic. No, I’m not taking this too seriously.
Whilst Sonic, upon its release in 1991, revolutionised what could be done with a 16bit console, the games are unsurprisingly simple now. But therein lies the charm and the first game in particular still stands up to scrutiny. Simple characters, with obvious motivation placed in imaginative environments – that is what made these early games great and why Nintendo still rules with its run of Mario titles. Despite leaps and bounds in technology, a lot of games still deal with the same simplistic characters and stories – but with the pretension of being proper art. I’m playing GTA IV at the moment and though whilst it is undoubtedly a magnificent achievement, I’m not feeling engaged at all. If you just ‘copy’ the real world, is that being creative? And if all your stories are taken from popular film… and shown via cut scene, is that a step forward?
So there is an appeal to the old skool villain, with simple wants and ridiculously complex ways to get them. It’s overblown and laughable and that’s what makes it fun. So in homage to simpler times I’m going to take a look at the major contradiction at the heart of Robotnik and what makes him fun; his massive intellect and the scale of his achievements against the fact he can’t stop a hedgehog that can run quite fast.
First up: Dr Robotnik is smart. With an IQ of 300 you would expect him to have no trouble defeating Sonic. The origin goes that he was the kindly Doctor Kintobor who actually helped develop the shoes that allow Sonic the run so fast. But after a nasty incident he became utterly evil and intent on destroying… everything. His skills with mechanics in particular are a feature of the Sonic games. He has managed to enslave the entire population of Mobius in metallic robots. He has built huge flying warships and even a space station called the ‘Death Egg’. He built a Metal version of Sonic that was even faster than Sonic himself. Some of the zones Sonic visits are factories the size of cities built with the aim of producing robots to destroy sonic. He has even developed TIME TRAVEL. This guy is really, really smart.
So it’s odd that when you actually meet him in the games he can seem, well – a bit stupid. With all that knowledge and experience you would perhaps expect him to have some pretty dastardly schemes up his sleeve. Or at least be a bit more prepared. But no, on playing through the series again, it becomes apparent he’s not quite as smart as we’re led to believe. Here are my favourite appearances, as end of level boss, naturally.
The Car of Death !
Emerald Hill Zone – Sonic 2
After suffering embarrassing defeat in Sonic 1, you would expect Robotnik to come out fighting. Just to show whose boss, y’know. So, in the 12 months he had to plot, what does he dream up? A Car with a spike on the front. And how does he employ this mischievous vehicle? He drives… side to side… very slowly. One of the things about Sonic, other than being fast is that he can jump. Robotnik has clearly forgotten this and has to suffer the embarrassment of getting bopped on the head over and over again. Almost half heartedly, with one hit left he will fire off the spike from the front of the car, but it’s too late. What a waste of time
Spikey Balls of Death!
Starlight Zone – Sonic 1
Here, in classic villain style, Robotnik supplies the tools of his own demise. He clearly didn’t think this through. The basic idea is ok – drop exploding spike balls onto Sonic’s head. That’s a good starting point. Also, fly the ship at a height Sonic cannot reach. Awesome. Now where to hold this battle? How about by some see-saws? And instead of trying to hit Sonic, why not load the spike balls onto the seesaws, thus enabling them to be sprung back up towards the ship? Hmmm, what was that IQ again? What was basically a sound and despicable idea has become and accident waiting to happen, and once again, with little effort, Robotnik is defeated. Back to the drawing board!
Hill Top Zone – Sonic 2
It’s fair to say that constant defeat will damage your confidence. In The Hill Top Zone Robotnik has done a lot right. He’s picked a perilous environment for Sonic, who has to negotiate sheer drops and volatile lava. By the end, Sonic will undoubtedly be pretty knackered – the perfect time to strike. And Robotnik may have a real bastard of a contraption to take him down – but no-one has ever found out. Because, due to what can only be apprehension, Robotnik starts the encounter by popping his head out of the lava for a little look around. No weapons, no movement, just a cheeky nosey round. What was he expecting to see?! Result: another piece of machinery obliterated.
Laser (of death!)
Flying Battery Zone – Sonic & Knuckles
By the 4th game Robotnik had improved. Here was a fool proof plan. Simply trap Sonic (or Tails…) between 2 impenetrable force fields. Then have a laser shoot at him, whilst the gap closes in. Even better, Robotnik gets to stand at the side, chuckling manically. Simple and to the point. Only he is let down by shoddy workmanship (as is often the case). After 6 or 7 blasts the laser, intended to take out Sonic actually ends up blowing up the room and letting him escape. It’s TOO POWERFUL. Oh Robotnik!
Oil Ocean Zone – Sonic 2
The great villains never learn. They never sit down, evaluate what went wrong and build on those lessons learnt. They run on pure instinct, manic enthusiasm. So, sadly, only 2 zones after making himself a sitting duck at Hill Top, Robotnik designs another ship that lies in wait, this time in the oil ocean. Ok, he sends up a shooty laser thing. But, perhaps due to the fact he is hiding in jet black oil, he has to pop his head up and see what’s going on. Hey, maybe Sonic is dead this time?! He has to check. Only to find, no he’s not and, oh dear and now Robotnik is defenceless. Isn’t there an easier way to do this?
Routines (Death by Boredom)
Launch Pad Zone – Sonic 3
I remember being very disappointed as a child with Sonic 3 as I completed it in one day. Playing through again made me realise it wasn’t completely because I was a freakishly good games player for a 10 year old, but that it was perhaps due to the rubbish ‘last’ boss, Robotniks final stand. Perhaps it was due to Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles being designed as one game then split later in development, but the last boss is pants.
After battling through the launch base of Robotniks latest ‘Death Egg’, Sonic manages to grab hold as it takes off, ending up on a small platform underneath the ship. Robotnik appears in a strange ship that fires – you guessed it – LASERS. He’s not put much thought in as they are piss easy to avoid. He also follows the same routine over and over. Left, Right, Left Right. Use your imagination man! After you defeat that contraption he comes back at you with… a giant pair of grabbing hands! Wow. He is easily dispatched, and inexplicably, defeating his tiny ship ends up destroying the entire Death Egg, which Sonic & Knuckles shows us to be the size of city or a planet or something. How did that happen?! To be fair, makes about as much sense as a lucky shot down an exhaust port taking out a space station the size of a moon, so maybe it’s homage.
Robotnik has wildly insane ideas – the majority of which actually come together. But he constantly bottles it at the last moment. Perhaps he’s more a behind the scenes type guy. Perhaps confrontation troubles him. In fairness, later in the series he did actually succeed in killing Sonic – as a franchise that is – with the insane scheme of trapping sonic inside a massive pinball machine. Thus Sonic Spinball was born. And when things couldn’t get any worse – Sonic 3D. It’s crazy to think that Sonic 3D and Goldeneye on the N64 were released less than a year apart.
So there you go, a stupid trip down memory lane in memory of old skool evil. Robotnik, we salute you.
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
What was the inspiration for creating Indietracks?
There wasn't really any inspiration, it was something that happened by chance, and if anything it was born out of laziness. After endless travelling around the country to shows I thought why not have the bands come to me?
What is your background; are you a musical type branching into business or a business man branching into music festivals?
Just a railway enthusiast who enjoys music!
With so many festivals taking place, especially smaller, niche festivals, how important is it for a festival to have a USP?
Don't know if we have a USP anywhere, is it something we should have? I guess I should investigate. Is it something that connects to a computer like a USB?
Indietracks has carved itself a rather ‘Twee / Indiepop’ space in the market. Do you think smaller niche festivals are the future, as opposed to massive events like Leeds Festival that try to please all the people all the time?
But we all have different tastes, the majority of the population have a broader musical taste and so bigger festivals suit them. There's always been niche events, blues festivals, country and western shows etc so we're not really starting anything new really.
It may seem a strange question, but how important is the actual music at a music festival? It seems that Indietracks works as hard to provide an exciting and comfortable atmosphere as it does on its lineup.
We don't really work hard to provide that atmosphere, it just happens. The audience brings it with them, it's just the nature of indiepop people. The music is important to us and we work hard to provide a balanced bill of old and new, big and small from home and abroad. But I know what you mean, the music isn't that important to some of the audience who'll spend a lot of the time not watching bands but just enjoy being there with so many like minded people.
Is previous business / organisational experience essential in organising a festival?
Seems not since I didn't have any, common sense should be all you need, you can seek out all the info you need quite easily. I tackled it by thinking what would I like/expect if I was to turn up at an event like this?
This year I have organised my first large scale festival. Is it normal to have sleepless nights worrying about the tiniest of details?!
Yep. All part of the fun!
With the current economic situation I am treating festivals such as Indietracks as my ‘holidays’ this year. Do you think that is a common view and has it helped you ride the financial storm at all?
Well it'd be a pleasing thought if people thought it was more important to give up proper holidays in favour of indietracks, but not sure how widespread it is.
Do you find the pressure of selling X amount of tickets, signing contracts and negotiating fees diminishes your love of the music and festivals in general?
Yes, dealing with booking agents and the commercialisation of the industry sucks, all they're interested in is how much money they can screw out of you. We have a capacity smaller (1,000) than regular touring venues, yet mention the word festival and all they see is pound signs in front of their eyes.
What has your proudest moment thus far been?
Getting Team Indietracks to tackle all the organisation, leaving me with just interviews to do :)
Indietracks was Rhubarb Bomb's festival of 2010:
More info on this years lineup (including Edwyn Collins!) can be found here:
I guess it really hit me what Long Division could achieve when my brother and I handed out several hundred flyers at Belle & Sebastian’s Leeds gig exactly one week prior to the start of the festival. Rather than simply ignoring my attempts to thrust a yellow postcard into their hands, the majority of folk seemed genuinely interested, with several exclaiming “The Wedding Present!” By the time I’d got back to my car and drove past the Academy’s doors they weren’t all lining the pavement either.
Friday night at Long Division kicked off rather appropriately with One Day, After School… playing upstairs at The Hop. Easily the tightest performance I can recall from this current line-up, had I not brought my trusty earplugs the powerful bass drum could easily have robbed me of my hearing at the weekend’s outset.
The Bambinos followed with an engaging set. Their cause certainly helped by a charismatic front-man whose frequent hand gestures recall prime Jarvis Cocker.
Maybe it was the always excellent Blackberry Cascade (4.8%) courtesy of Saltaire Brewery taking effect, but the punkier leanings of Leeds’ Eagulls simply did not connect with me. It didn’t help that The Hop’s upstairs windows allowed the last of the sun’s rays to lift my mood higher. A band more suited to darker, danker surroundings I feel
Shrag on the other hand perfectly suited to getting the party-mood I was in ahead of the rest of the weekend. In places they put in me in mind of one-time Wakefield four-piece The Picnic Solution, thankfully they appear to have more staying power than said quartet. And despite a lengthy journey up from Brighton they seemed genuinely pleased to be in Wakefield and to be associated with Long Division.
Somehow the fuzzy feeling in my head on Saturday morning never manifested itself as a full-blown hangover. This meant that I was back in The Hop in time for Protectors lunchtime set. Despite the relatively early timeslot, a pre-gig chat with bassist Matthew Parkes and drummer Tim Bradley revealed that the trio were more than happy with the turn-out.
Their set was an early highlight of the day, with the infectious “Honeymoon” and “Catwalk” getting my head nodding in approval. Whilst banter revolving around such subjects as “Which Lynx scent most resembles body odour?” (Africa seemed to be a popular contender) showcased the band’s sense of humour.
A short walk across the road to Mustangs to catch Napoleon IIIrd and consume half of the worst pint of lager shandy I’ve ever tasted (It was still a little too early for full-blown alcohol.) was in contrast to the preceding set something of a disappointment. A faulty projector and some slightly unforgiving acoustics were not conducive to vintage Napoleon and the mooted backing band he’s assembled equates to a live drummer. To be honest this is no bad thing as it meant there was little to distract from watching Napoleon manipulate his various instruments and samplers (One of which appeared to resemble the ‘Gold-Run’ from Blockbusters) and for avid Napoleon watchers Mustangs offered some excellent vantage points.
Following that my day went further downhill, although only in the geographical sense, as I ventured down Market Street to The Graziers (Or The Craziers as I like to dub it post midnight) to take in acoustic performances by Pylon and The Brown Hound James Band.
When I associate musical performances with The Graziers the first thing that comes to mind is karaoke or ‘Cowaoke’ as the posters advertising the post Long Division entertainment proclaimed. The reality was therefore a pleasant surprise. The vibe, aided by the extremely reasonably priced barbeque in the beer garden (Very tasty Hot Dog £1), was akin to the Love Of The Game all-dayers that used to take place at the much missed Jockey.
Pylon’s set saw Chris Charlton making his second appearance of the day. Coming so soon after Protectors he could have been forgiven for being knackered, if he was it never showed. However, despite the two Chris’ (Charlton was joined by bassist Chris Bonner) best efforts, a group, who I shall refer to as the ‘Graziers Girls’, were vying for the crowds ears at the same time as the onstage duo. Sadly, the Graziers Girls, with their admittedly impressive lung power (No microphones required!), frequently drowned out acoustic versions of songs such as “Says Al” with their discussions on the merits of Skittle flavoured vodka and shouts of ‘Tom!’
Ah Tom. Boris Becker / Jensen Button lookalike ‘Tom’ was something of a star, taking up not only the tambourine shaped gauntlet thrown down by Chris Charlton during Pylon’s set, but popping up again to provide some excellent vocals during The Brown Hound James Band’s brief set. I seem to recall Matthew Broadbent performing five songs under his Brown Hound guise. The set length, coupled with a degree of nonchalance creeping into his performance left me wondering how much of this gig was on autopilot. There was certainly something missing to mark this out as a classic performance.
Thankfully my first trip of the day to the Town Hall recharged my batteries and blood alcohol levels. I’d steered clear of the beer for the early part of the day, but with several friends meeting us at the Town Hall who obviously had a thirst for a few beverages it was time to hit the bar. Despite only catching the end of Fonda 500 ’s set I’d say it was the catalyst for the day’s proceedings to kick into top gear.
Mi Mye were certainly up there with the best of the line-up. Front man Jamie Lockhart, a.k.a. the “Scottish Bruce Springsteen” has such an infectious stage presence that he didn’t really need to trash the turquoise electric accordion at the end of their set, but fair play to him nonetheless for bringing a sense of rock ‘n’ roll to the interior of the Town Hall.
There now followed a debate amongst my group of friends as to whether to stay at the Town Hall and watch The Birthday Kiss featuring former Research drummer Sarah, brave Mustangs which was bound to be heaving for the much hyped Darwin Deez or return to The Hop to catch The Kate Jackson band.
All but one of us opted for The Kate Jackson Band (My cousin rated The Birthday Kiss by the way.) and we were greeted by the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen upstairs at The Hop. Still at least I was able to get in without any problem through the door at the back of the room, following Jackson’s performance the queue for Los Campesinos! rapidly snaked into the courtyard.
Back to Jackson though, she’s not the first former Long Blonde to set foot on The Hop’s stage, bassist Reenie Hollis’ Bon Bon Club graced the stage late in 2009 with their set of covers. To be honest said band came across as a bit of harmless fun, Jackson on the other hand seems deadly serious. Having bided her time she has come back with a sound which is a million miles away from The Long Blondes’ “Couples”. I found myself comparing one song to Chris Issacs “Wicked Game” crossed with The Cult’s “Rain” and another to No Doubt. I’m sure those descriptions may put some fans of Jackson’s previous band right off, but there’s no denying her powerful voice suits the material perfectly. Jackson has seemingly toughened up, which suggests she is in this for the long haul and I for one look forward to hearing her first solo effort.
Having being impressed by the atmosphere at the Town Hall earlier we decide to board the return ‘beer train’ there (It’s safe to say the alcohol was starting to take affect) for I Like Trains. The decision was largely based on the fact that my brother had bumped into a girl earlier in the day that had travelled over from France to take in their performance. We reasoned that such dedication was all the recommendation needed to check them out and they didn’t disappoint.
I Like Trains come across like a latter-day Anathema fronted by The Editor’s Tom Smith and their performance had a majesty which seemed tailor made for the Town Hall’s confines. The crowd were certainly getting into it, in the case of one Wakefield councillor perhaps a little too much as he proceeded to spill his pint over my brother’s girlfriend!
With the Town Hall now winding down I grasped the chance to take in some of Emmy The Great at arguably the jewel in Long Division’s venue crown, Wakefield Cathedral. In the past I was in the audience for the recording of Radio Leeds’ Christmas Carol service here, but this was the first time I have seen a musical performance in the Cathedral free of religious connotations. The acoustics were superb and when she was playing Emmy proved she was an appropriate choice to perform in such a venue. Between songs her banter was somewhat curious, I assume ‘the mall’ she mentioned was The Ridings and I’m sure she swore at least once, but The Rhubarb Bomb got a shout out so I’m not complaining.
Having taken in all the venues with the exception of Henry Boons (Which had closed its’ doors at 17:15) I felt a quick glance in Mustangs to see the start of The Wedding Present ’s set was the logical next step. The dance-floor was heaving and all the prime viewing spots were already taken by the time the band hit the stage and a show of hands complete with wristbands for a photo opportunity confirmed the inaugural Long Division’s success. With this being the case I left Mustangs to take in a few songs by local lad and fellow fringe curator Matt Abbott’s Skint & Demoralised.
As I walked down Bank Street with my girlfriend discussing the days events I don’t mind admitting I got a bit of a lump in my throat and somewhat teary eyed. My day was nearly over, but what a day it had been, everything I had seen and heard made me proud to be a resident of The Merrie City of Wakefield. I think the only thing that could have improved the day would have been hearing Abbott sing “I love this city”, but with work beckoning at 5am I didn’t get to find out if he aired said song.
Sunday may well be a day of rest for sensible folk, but I’d already done 8 hours of my ‘day job’ prior to heading to The Bull & Fairhouse where I was putting on five bands as part of Long Division’s Sunday Fringe.
In all honesty I’d little idea what a curator was supposed to do and Joe from Diamond Studios had already got the P.A. sorted by the time I arrived, so I busied myself with writing out beer tokens for four of the bands. This ate up enough time for me to then be in a position to dash up to The Hop to see if I could blag anything from Dean to help make the event a success. Fortunately he had one of the back-drops spare from the day before and once secured over the Fairhouse’s window it was the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’.
Soon enough I was stepping onstage, in the capacity of curator, to introduce Frozen Flame. A young band from Leeds who have yet to sit their GCSEs let alone spend beer tokens (I furnished them all with a Long Division t-shirt instead), their level of talent left the audience extremely impressed. With a sound that hinted at Faith No More and Incubus they eased the crowd into what would at times be quite a heavy evening.
On paper Biolab 666 were the heaviest band on the bill, with drummer Sharif ‘Diz’ Dyson having performed with a vast array of death and black metal bands down the years. They are very much his baby and he was proud of the fact that his current outfit may raise an eyebrow in local circles. Granted there is a fair share of blast beats and growls, but they are very much a groove orientated machine, albeit one who were clearly too extreme for some in attendance who left during their performance.
I was heartened to see a few familiar faces when I took to the stage with Red Riding Quartet but still wondered if we would also prove a little too heavy for some individuals. I needn’t have worried. By the third song, “Kelly”, the audience had already chanted “Wakefield, Wakefield, Wakefield…” (I thought that only happened at Cribs gigs!) after I engaged in a bit of banter with a gentleman wearing a Castleford Tigers shirt and enthusiastically sang along to sections of said song. It’s only taken me fifteen years but it seems I’ve finally written a decent vocal hook!
I was conscious of the fact that I had devised a running order for the evening and it would have been a tad hypocritical if it had all gone to pot thanks to us. However, some vocal encouragement from Goggle Eyed Psycho, who were playing after us, led to Long Division getting two exclusives: a brand new Red Riding Quartet song and our first full-length nine song set.
Goggle Eyed Psycho had not only graciously allowed us to extend our set but they had also agreed to perform an acoustic set especially for Long Division and it was a privilege to hear these stripped down versions of their material. Front man Dyl McPrice even donned a rather fetching blonde wig in honour of this being a ‘Fringe’ gig.
Headliners Clown also went that extra mile for the evening, in the case of drummer Gareth Heeley some 170 miles by train from Edinburgh to make it back to Wakefield. The band has been in existence since the mid-nineties, albeit with a different line-up, and their experience shows as they deliver the goods with consummate ease.
It may have been a case of beginners luck, but the buzz I got from being involved with Long Division, even on a relatively small scale, means I’m already looking forward to the prospect of 2012.
All Photography Jon Pinder, except Napoleon IIIrd by Jayne Woodhead
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
I Want You
Robot Needs Home
I Am In Love are a shiny brand new band from Leicestershire who only formed about 6 months ago and this is their debut single. According to the press release it has ‘imminent Daytime Radio 1 Airplay’ – how have they managed that so quick?! Though, to be fair, RB is a little behind schedule with its reviews, maybe it is all over daytime Radio 1 right now, I’d never know.
Initial impressions are that they heard Darwin Deez when he broke last year and thought ‘we’ll have a piece of that’. It opens with a sweet, slightly retro programmed beat and some delicate electric strums. The vocal is slightly dreamy too, but doesn’t have that NYC slacker drawl. It makes up for it in POWER. By the chorus we are joined by some vaguely Ladytron-esque synth noises followed by some Errors-like guitar stabs. As the song progresses the band’s admitted Bloc Party influence comes through. The song builds with the constant threat of bursting into a full on 4/4 stomper. Instead, they keep it interesting, creating layers of melody with a hint of melancholy holding it together, as per the best BP songs.
The Radio 1 mention initially made me very suspicious of some manufactured project but I’ve got to say I like this enough to keep an eye on the bands developments. The saddest thing is that both B-Sides are remixes, so I’m left with no further clues as to what the band are all about. That said, the 2nd remix (The Rise and Demise of John Remix) is very sweet, a mix of Blade Runner synth and 80’s piano balladering.
So, there is a chance that I Am In Love are in fact a massive prospect for the future. Their touring schedule has had them round Europe for the last few weeks. I’m hoping I might get to catch them at a festival over the summer to find out whether the rest of their output leans towards wet sentimentality or smart, melodic and rich sound textures hinted at here.
Monday, 27 June 2011
The Animal Farm
Fresh, major chord, mass appeal pop with a large, upfront production. Athletes In Paris are from Newcastle and have supported a range of artists including Frankie & The Heartstrings and The Futureheads. Don’t let that fool you though; yes, they have the requisite regional accent but this about as musically broad as you can feasibly get whilst referring to yourself as ‘Indie Pop’.
The lead track on the single, ‘Borrowed Time’ has Radio 2 written all over it; inoffensive and meaningless bringing to mind sweeping shots of a half attended afternoon festival slots. The production here is clean and hi-fi – they are a T4 band, basically. With the right song they could easily be polluting daytime television, no problem.
This isn’t the right song though. It’s a good starting point for the ambitions they have; the pounding 4/4 beat (a trick repeated on the 2nd track) that gets you moving, the approachable acoustic guitar backed with a slightly chimy / slightly funky guitar. As an antidote to the many lo-fi demos RB receives I didn’t mind it at the start… but it quickly becomes repetitive and doesn’t build to the euphoric crescendo this kind of thing needs to. They try it with that trick in pop songs where they layer up the words from the verse with the words from the chorus at the end. You know that one? Yeah, great. Ultimately, any good vibe from the fresh opening is worn away through repetition and the lack of any edge whatsoever. A tennis ball has more edge than this.
As mentioned, the B-Sides basically remix the same tricks. I can honestly see a certain type of person loving this; if my mention of it ‘not having edge’ makes you huff, then it’ll be right up your street. It’s ‘up’ and fresh-faced, but ultimately it’s summer fluff.
Sunday, 26 June 2011
Meet Me At The Depot / Popman
Riding on a mass of public declarations of love from obscure corners of the internet and Mr Steve Lamacq, this is the third release by the Leeds based band.
Postpunk is the basic touchstone here; this sounds like the music being made in that row of rusting garages in the background of the Joy Division poster on my wall (circa 1979). Due to the frontman’s vocal stylings, The Fall are often the chosen point of reference for TWB. Certainly the subject of ‘Popman’ seems to play that knowing outsider role: ‘I always fancied being a Popman – What?’ but musically the whole thing is a lot more muscular than The Fall ever were, sitting closer to bands like The Buzzcocks.
Which kind of misses the point. All the musical reference points hark back to the late 70’s but this isn’t the work of a backwards looking band. Rather, that era of direct, in your face politicising is simple the most effective for The Wind Up Birds to deliver their message. Like the Manics considered being a Rap act (for about 2 minutes) because at the time Public Enemy were hitting their targets harder than anyone else, the medium by which The Wind Up Birds attack is secondary to the message itself.
In terms of progression from their previous work, it bares closest resemblance to their first single ‘Tyre Fire’ in it’s melodic backing vocals and its retreat to a chorus hook (of kinds) in the almost sweet ‘this is what the angles say’. It doesn’t quite have the aggression I enjoyed on the likes of ‘Good Shop Shut’ or ‘Some Slum Clearances’ and to be fair they are trying something very difficult; intelligent, politicised snapshots of modern life. When that is your aim, the single is your AK47; each one needs to be a red hot, perfectly honed piece of ruinous bile and with Meet Me At The Depot I’m struggling to find that nugget of truth, that life changing quote, that head spinning moment. But its only fault is the weight of expectation.
This is a good single, it’s a good thing and I like it, but I’m finding this particular record hard to LOVE and The Wind Up Birds, like the aforementioned Manics and Fall are the kind of band people WILL love… or show no interest. I recommend you all give The Wind Up Birds a listen because they might be the band you have been searching for your whole life. Whether this is the record of theirs I would hand you is another matter. Instead, it feels like Meet Me At The Depot is part of an ongoing story, a patchwork of WUB tracks, much like The Fall spent years building a catalogue of minor triumphs. So it’s good, but not their best.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
6th June 2011
New York trio Battles came to Leeds on the day they released their second album, Gloss Drop. This made for quite a strange gig at times as most of the crowd were not too familiar with any of the songs that were played.
Also frontman Tyondai Braxton had left the band midway through making the album so there was no material from previous album Mirrored played on the night. Although Braxton didn’t really sing too much he gave the band a focal point which had been replaced by screens at the back which allowed the guest vocalists from Gloss Drop to be there in projected form.
Just before the band enter the stage I look round and the main room is bursting at the seams which surprised me as I had earlier been told that the gig had been nowhere near to selling out. As the band strolled on they said nothing and went straight into album opener Africastle, which builds up slowly before progressing into a good dance rock number.
Battles also allow a lot of room for improvisation which extends most songs and makes things interesting as well as giving each show a unique feel. By the time they play Sweetie & Shag, which features Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, they have definitely got everyone onside with their new material. The track is one of the highlights of the set especially with the bass line that pounds all the way through.
Battles finally get the crowd moving when they play lead single Ice Cream which is easily the most well-known song of the night. They follow this up with more album tracks, beginning with the calypso inspired Dominican Fade which keeps the high pace going. Futuraand Inchworm highlight the bands technical abilities after which they ended with My Machines, featuring Gary Numan, which is the heaviest, and also one of the best moments.
The band then return for a one song encore of Sundome which sounded good but was a bit of a let-down, as the show would definitely have been better without an encore as the band had just played constantly with no pauses for anything except a small mention of their new album. Despite this the gig was really good and the improvisation on songs was really interesting without getting pretentious.
Friday, 24 June 2011
Numbers On My Skin
I often marvel at the array of records I get sent through; especially how they are presented. As I have made clear on several occasions, a little bit of effort goes a long way. A handmade sleeve, the proper sleeve even, a handwritten note; anything other than a CDR will instantly score you a point.
I always thought that was the case until I received ‘Numbers On My Skin’, which features what is most likely the worst record sleeve I have ever seen in my entire life. It physically assaults my eyes as I remove it from the jiffy bag, a pure heart of revulsion, an utterly disgusting example of ‘graphic design’. A closer look tells me a ‘design company’ actually did this. Good Lord. As first impressions go, it’s pretty damn terrible and already Hospital Neon have an uphill battle.
Thankfully a little research into the label releasing it, Bearsuit Records, increases interest; a Scottish Indie Label (the best type) that deals in with music ranging ‘from the cut and paste surrealism of the Japanese/UK duo Kirameki and the experimental pop of Bunny & the Electric Horsemen’ That’s more like it. There’s hope yet.
Hospital Neon appear to be a studio based duo, dealing in appropriately odd, mildly progressive, vaguely soundscapey / ambient pieces. With the gentle, deep drawl of the lead vocals and the irregular backing it brings to mind ‘1. Outside’ era Bowie, a prevailing sense on menace engulfing the EP. It gets better as it goes on, the initial openings sounding like the ‘atmospheric’ button has been pressed on ProTools, giving us some standard reverb, as opposed to any real atmosphere being produced. 2nd track ‘Here in Heaven We Are’ has a hiss that appears a few seconds in that is surely a sign of poor production, so I’m left not sure how serious this is. Is it a bedroom project? Is it someone learning how to use their studio and these are the results?
The 2nd half improves as HN find a comfort zone in layering weird noises within the relative safe confines of a route 1 ‘sinister bassline’ that kind of recounts ‘Tunnel’ by Pulp. ‘Beam me up Scotty, Fuck me up Spock’ he sings.
There is potential here, without a doubt. The amount of ideas, and good ones too, bouncing around is impressive. It just feels a little directionless, though I get the feeling Hospital Neon probably listen to records I’ve never heard of so perhaps I don’t get it. However, probably the best thing about this is the discovery of Bearsuit Records who are the record label mad enough to put it out – and I mean that as a compliment. I can honestly say I’ve never had anything like this fall on my door mat before, for which they must be commended. Just send me a CDR next time, and spare my eyes.
Thursday, 23 June 2011
Runaround Kids, in case you weren’t aware, are from Wakefield and have been spearheading Philophobia Music’s charge towards Alt-Indie DIY label saintdom for about a year now. RKs released their debut EP in August 2009 but it all really came together just 12 months ago when they won the normally Leeds-Centric Futuresound competition to play at the Leeds & Reading Festival. A 7” followed in September and since then they have been busying themselves, along with Spills singer / guitarist Rob Slater on production duties, in creating this, their debut album.
At 10 tracks, with only one passing the 3 and a half minute mark (by 16 seconds) it’s a brief, blistering affair that cleverly plays to their strengths as a live act. Despite its short, set like length there’s plenty going on here with a lot of thought going into the dynamics and structure. An album is a difficult thing to get right, but essentially they have nailed it first go. There’s a lot of one off breaks, unexpected turns and sudden jolts. It’s full of tricks, but not tricksy, instead revelling in every vital second.
Musically it’s hard to pin point. I hear the DNA of a generation of Wakefield bands pulsing through its edgy pop hooks, post hardcore despair and melodic sprawl. Yet it’s something new. Jack and Rob’s rhythm section could happily sit alongside many Wakefield greats such as Dugong or Pylon, yet it’s George’s idiosyncratic guitar with its impatient approach to dynamics - every note played with a freshness that suggests the joy of invention when you first hit upon a killer riff in your bedroom - that adds the extra spark. As a three piece they compliment one another sublimely and it’s this interaction that keeps your attention to very end.
Highlights are the simplistic but uber catchy ‘Cant Lose Lover’, the best example here of a soundtrack to a youthful summer spent wasting, whilst the stuttering guitar explosions that populate the verse of ‘Cut Yr Losses’ and the joyous crescendo 2 minutes in of ‘Last July’ sees the ADD approach to song length and structure come together with breathtakingly confident brevity. The band has built on the things that made them so interesting in the first place; the duel vocals work fantastically, and the chanted choruses, especially on the unfortunately titled ‘Wont Fuck Her Sober’ (which humorously has perhaps the catchiest chorus of the record) document the passion of youth with great style.
Negative points? Well, though the briefness of the record is no bad thing, it is a shame to hear previous single ‘Falling Into Better Hands’ make a reappearance. Fair enough – it is one of their hookiest tunes and sits on the album perfectly. Just, for the fans who already have the 7”, it’s a bit of a shame. Another newbie would’ve been nice.
As it is, “Linked Arms” is a perfect document of who and what Runaround Kids are right now. You can’t ask more from a debut record. Yet they give more, and despite my comparisons to a live set, this isn’t all noise and bluster; it is a brilliantly paced set of songs. Gentler moments ‘A Way That Works’ and the wistful close of ‘I Tried’ showing a greater emotional spectrum that you would care to expect from a band, collectively, not even in their 20’s yet. I’m too old and cynical but if, in ten years time someone told me that Linked Arms had been the soundtrack to their summer of 2011, spent drinking in parks, skating and starting a band then I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest.
Linked Arms is released August 8th.
The album is launched at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on August 6th
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
I work solid, with no time for a food stop and have to dash around in the car collecting amps and what not as Morsey is still stuck in South Elmsall. I chance upon a relaxed St Gregory Orange at the Flanshaw rehearsal space, laid back after their final band practice as a four piece. Professional worrier Harry Rhodes (also of Piskie Sits) is concerned about dropping his amps and equipment off in various places. I feel bad I can’t help, but I’m well up against it in getting this equipment to The Hop for Shrag to soundcheck; through rush hour too. I like to have control over pretty much everything, with no detail too small, but the last few days I’ve had to prioritise and focus on the big things. Thankfully, Harry manages to sort himself out.
One Day, After School... By Joel Rowbottom
Slow journey to The Hop, then home and back again finds us behind schedule before we’ve started, but soundman, and all round sound guy Jamie Lockhart is on the ball and the opening night gig goes well. My band, One Day, After School… open things up. I wanted to unveil the official Long Division T-shirts by wearing one upon my person for the show, but Morsey isn’t back from his rounds yet (it’s 8pm!) and they are locked away somewhere. The show was fun and I’m surprised we managed to sound at least partially rehearsed given my recent schedule.
Rob Dee in a Tee by Joel Rowbottom
The rest of the night is less ‘work’, but I do get the T-shirts flying out for a bargain £6. Everyone is merry and the sense of excitement is infectious. A lot of the local bands are here tonight and are talking about their plans for the following day. The Bambinos, Eagulls and Shrag are all great and as a normal Friday night, it’d be a success. But I know everyone is keen to see what tomorrow brings.
Shrag by Joel Rowbottom
I take it easy on the booze as I have a long day ahead of me. My friends and girlfriend don’t have the same idea, however and we don’t leave til gone 1am. Having not eaten all day I’m desperate for something. In one of the low points of the last few years of my life I am forced to buy some KFC as the Subway drive through is closed. On a belly full of grease (with a side of chicken) I half sleep through the fear and anticipation.
Saturday 11th June .
It probably says more about the type of employment I have enjoyed in the last 5 years than anything else, but Saturday was the hardest day of ‘work’ I can remember doing, pretty much ever. It was relentless, tiring, trying, and utterly exhausting – but great fun and incredibly rewarding. Pretty much the opposite of my ‘real’ job in almost every way!
6 hours sleep and I’m out of bed for 08:00 to finish the paperwork that was cut short yesterday; I need to compile 43 envelopes, one for each band containing all manner of essential items. No time for breakfast!
I’m down The Hop for about 09:30 to meet the venue rep Helen and her faithful assistant Marc. She is there waiting and I’m incredibly pleased – I need people who are reliable today and thankfully all our reps were amazing. Tom, the sound guy is down already setting things up. Looks like the weather might hold up. I feel fresh and excited and most importantly; prepared.
I head to the Town Hall and I am overwhelmed by how awesome it looks. The light rig is up and it looks beautiful. It’s still a mess in there but StagePro uber tech dude Midi is all over it. StagePro supplied pretty much all our tech stuff for the Saturday and Midi’s job was similar to mine in that he wandered around making sure things were as they should be. Again, being able to rely on someone to look after that was immensely important and Midi and his team were amazing, all day long.
My mum has arrived with my cockney friend Gavin. They have been preparing all manner of meals for the bands we are contractually obliged to provide hot meals for. We’ve commandeered use of the Old Court Room in the Town Hall as an official ‘Dining Room’ in order to reduce pressure on individual venues and to show off part of the Town Hall, give the visiting bands a further positive experience of their time in Wakefield. 5 slow cookers and endless tins of buns / cake / rhubarb crumble loaded in and it’s time to leave.
I get word from Graziers Rep Neil that there is no bass amp down there. In the rush the day before we’d not moved it from The Hop. We’re getting close to opening now. I can’t believe it – where did the last 2 hours go? I carry it down but it’s proper heavy. I’m dragging it for about 10 minutes when thankfully Morsey pulls up in the Ossett Brewery van. I notice with great envy that he is eating a bacon butty. He zooms off to deliver the amp and I return to The Hop to set up wristband exchange.
Co-organiser Sarah is there setting up the tables and gathering everything together. It’s really cool to get the badges, programmes, wristbands and T-Shirts all together for the first time. I check in on The Spills and they are checked and ready to go, but are chasing after their beer rider. It’s 11:30am boys! They reckon it’s just for the nerves…
Sarah informs me that on final ticket counts from all our various outlets we have sold 850 out of 1000 tickets. That’s amazing. 2 weeks before we’d been around 500. My instinct had told me we would move around 200 on the day, now it seemed we may sell out. We considered ways to sell more tickets but we didn’t physically have any more wristbands. In the end we thought, if it sells out everyone (bar those who arrive later) will be delighted. Let’s not stress about it – we promoted the purchase of early bird tickets at £10 (I can’t believe how good value that is, I mean TEN POUNDS?!) so we’ve done all we can.
Myself directing a valued customer by Joel Rowbottom
It’s just passed 11:30 when the ticket exchange opens. I’m thrilled to see people are queuing outside and I feel pretty cool unlocking the door and beckoning people forth. Leading up to the festival I had been pushing for ways to make the opening Spills gig more of an event to encourage people down – T-shirt giveaways, free drinks and an opening speech etc. It never came together, like so many little ideas. I was just so worried that people wouldn’t turn up for the early bands, especially when a big part of the festival was pushing these ace local artists.
The Spills by Jon Pinder
With 15 minutes before The Spills hit the stage at midday the room is pretty empty. But a quick dash to the exchange sees people queuing down the stairs. Helen, keen to run a tight ship beckons The Spills to the stage for 12:00 sharp. I’m beckoned to the stage by singer Rob Slater for a few impromptu words (I can’t remember what I said) and then – LONG DIVISION IS GO! – Thrillingly the room fills up quickly until The Spills rap things up to an almost capacity crowd. It’s worked; people have come out early.
I don’t have time to enjoy it though, or even see a full song. We’re a guitar amp down at The Graziers now for Clandestines and the bass amp we sent down is knackered. Morsey has one at Mustangs they can use. Sarah, now in the van, arrives at The Hop, dropping off the riders and collecting a spare bass amp we stashed at The Hop and heads off to pick up the guitar amp. That incredibly heavy bass amp earlier in the day had clearly spent a precedent; I’m now lugging crates of beer and boxes of food up two flights of stairs to The Hop green room. Still, least The Spills have their beer now!Long Division design dude Adam Hayward arrives at The Hop. Despite working closely together on Long Division and Rhubarb Bomb for months now, we’ve barely seen each other. Sadly, even at our own festival, we do not have time to hang out. It’s good to see Adam buzzing about seeing his ace design work all over town though. Adam heads off to hand out the charity boxes for Mencap that the Co-op has provided whilst I take another phonecall. Seriously, my phone did not stop ringing for the entire day. I’d finally get to stand and watch a band and you could guarantee my phone would ring within 2 minutes.
This time it was Jenn, Town Hall rep saying the drumkit didn’t have a clutch. Such tiny things! But I have to ring round and find one, then find a way of getting it from A to B. The logistics of a multi venue festival like LD are massive and I’m glad we put so much prep in.
The Passing Fancy by Jon Pinder
I head down to The Graziers and catch the last song of The Passing Fancy. Again, I’m thrilled that one of the smaller venues is bustling with people. I almost get a minute to relax but Neil informs me we have yet another problem; Clandestines, on stage in 30 minutes don’t have any smashables for the drumkit. The Passing Fancy only uses a snare and the act after them is a rapper. There are no smashables in the building. Another phonecall, to Joe of The Spills and another run to The Hop and back gets the cymbals there on time. And I actually mean ‘run’. I’m not a runner. I don’t do that kind of thing. It’s 13:00 and my already legs are aching! But on the way up to The Hop I could hear Protectors blaring out of the windows from way across the carpark and it sounded so sweet, like Long Division really was infiltrating the city, brightening it.
Protectors by Jon Pinder
With another menial task complete, I popped down to Henry Boons to catch the last song of Imp. Again, another great crowd. Gary had done a great job in getting the venue prepped and the atmosphere was brilliant for a dinnertime gig.
Clemence Freschard and Stanley Brinks had just arrived on the train and Gary was settling them in upstairs. I go say hello and am surprised to see that the expected buffet isn’t setup. We had arranged to feed all our bands with a mass buffet in the upstairs function room, but it had failed to materialise, as had the bands riders. Mike of Imp was visibly twitching due to lack of free alcohol. What is it with these Wakefield bands?
Some might say it’s not terribly important, getting a buffet set up. Couple of sausage rolls etc. But I think it is, especially for bands who are playing for a small fee. Its something the public has no idea of, but I want Long Division to be a festival artists enjoy, and even looked forward to playing, because they know they will be looked after. Anyone can book a band and hire a PA; it’s stuff like that makes a difference and stuff like that causes the most stress.
I dash up to the Town Hall to help out. I catch 60 seconds of Just Handshakes (We’re British) and once again I feel so proud to see plenty of people in the venue and a laid back atmosphere. Jenn and the Town Hall team are all over the buffet and I had nothing to worry about. Annoyingly, my phone has run out of charge so I take 5 minutes to sit down and let it charge. Whilst there I get a text from Liam, a rep at Boons to inform me the venue has reached capacity for The Lovely Eggs. Amazing – it’s only 14:30! Then I get a call to inform me Queen’s English have pulled out due to some car trouble on the way from London. For a second I’m stressed out. But then I realise it actually gives us more breathing space for Mustangs with turnarounds, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing (although I would have loved to have seen them play).
I head to Mustangs and catch up with Morsey. Things are running well and Napoleon IIIrd is on stage. It’s the first time I get to watch a band for 5 minutes. I stand up on one of the raised balconies and take it all in. With all the mad dashing around I feel I’m outside the festival looking in. All around are people from various sides of Wakefield; Russell, formerly of The Research is there, former Rhubarb Bomb editors, people I haven’t seen out for years. It feels really positive that these people have felt Long Division good enough to make the effort and come out. And Napoleon sounds awesome in Mustangs too. Who would have thought someone so amazing, talented and interesting would ever play in Mustangs? That alone is a great achievement.
In an attempt to avoid the lack of nourishment encountered yesterday, I head to The Green Room café and Jamie makes me an awesome sandwich to takeout. Jamie has been a great support throughout and I’m glad to hear the café has been nice and busy all day. I’m feeling more relaxed as the day seems to be running itself a little more now. Still, this is 3pm and I don’t end up taking a bite of said sandwich til 5:30pm – I simply carry it in my hand allowing it to get sweatier and sweatier.
Freschard by Joel Rowbottom
I spot some friends and accompany them to Boons for Freschard. The buzz on the streets is great. It seems pretty much every person we pass has a LD wristband on. We’ve taken over the city! And not only that; people see my LD T-Shirt and wave and say hello. Such a great atmosphere. I can’t stick around at Boons and am so gutted to miss Freschard as she was one of the people I was looking forward to seeing the most. But the wristband exchange is down to one man and I need to help out.Fresh from Chilli preparation, Gavin is now running the wristband exchange. I get there just after 3pm and there are about 20 wristbands left for sale. Wow. There is still a steady flow of people arriving. I give Liam at Boons a ring and thankfully he agrees to help Gavin out; I’m required to open up the Cathedral at 4pm. Through the wall I can hear Elks making an absolute racket. It sounds amazing, so heavy! Again, I want to go watch but with the surges of ticketsholders arriving I can’t leave the desk, or even take a bite of that sandwich.
A couple of members of Los Campesinos! have arrived early and I have a chat with them. They seem pretty excited about the gig. I wonder what they think of playing in a tiny 200 capacity venue, but they are really positive; ‘It’ll be like the old days’ they say and I’m glad they are feeling relaxed and excited to be playing in Wakefield.
It’s about half 3 when we are down to our last ticket. Me and Gav can’t help but laugh when we turn and see two people walk up the stairs. Inevitably, they both want a ticket. I wonder now whether we could have got away with handing out a guest pass to one of em. The entire guest list never turns up for a gig. But we didn’t want to risk it. As ourselves and the two blokes, with Liverpool accents too, so they I reckoned they had travelled some, were reaching stalemate, a member of Los Campesinos! hanging out nearby chirped up and said he could take one of their guest passes. That was awesome, and the guy was thrilled. But that was it – no more tickets. I put a sign up in the door. Yet people still arrived and literally COULD NOT BELIEVE there were no more tickets. What sells out in Wakefield? Nothing! Yet here it was.
Liam arrives to relieve me and I jog on down to Cathedral, the only venue yet to open. Emmy The Great ’s tourbus is waiting for me, along with about 100 British Legion members. We would have very much liked to have run the Cathedral all day but there’s a special service on (their march down Wood Street had also caused some load in problems at The Town Hall too). Not to complain, it IS the British Legion afterall. But getting times and details confirmed was difficult. Similar to the issue at Henry Boons – we could only use it til 17:00 as they had double booked us with a 21st birthday – it was a little infuriating that people couldn’t grasp the scale of what we were trying to achieve. Do you want a pub FULL of people all day, or 50 people and a soggy buffet for a 21st? Thankfully, the BL were pretty much done when we arrived and in a way it added yet something else to see them all in their uniforms and with their medals. Another positive thing going on.
Midi was in there already getting things set up and Adam had arrived to help me shift the staging. That staging is pretty heavy man. Apparently the proper stage guys can carry one on their shoulder. Not us… We slog the 10 bits of staging into place. I speak to Emmy’s tour manager who is a little concerned we wont be ready to open doors in two hours. That is quite a sharp turnaround to set up and entire stage, lighting rig, PA and do a thorough soundcheck. But I trusted Midi’s judgement that it’d be fine.
Eventually, the Cathedral rider arrived and I went off to set up the Green Room for Emmy. That side of things is not something I’ve really dealt with before. I find that whole rider culture very strange indeed. But you have to keep the Tour Manager and, as such, the band as happy as possible and give them whatever they want. No slight against Emmy’s crew in particular who were all lovely, but some of the requests are just weird. I can’t imagine going around making demands like that. But I think overall with LD we managed to keep everyone happy.
About an hour of setting up later, venue rep Paul (aka The Passing Fancy) turns up to take control. Everything is in place now, the bar is being set up and Emmy is getting ready to soundcheck. I park myself on a pew and finally get to eat my sandwich. I hear that they were queuing out of the door at The Hop for Runaround Kids. Sound like it got really busy there a little earlier than expected.
Crowd for Runaround Kids by Jon Pinder
Sat in the almost empty Cathedral, stopping for the first time that day I begin to take in what’s been going on. That it has happened. It IS happening; that thing we had been working on all that time. I’m in the middle of it and across the city people are having an amazing time. Yet I feel outside of it. I don’t mind that. Facilitating the day gives me enjoyment, but I am wishing now that I would get to see at least one band… just one. And I wish I wasn’t so exhausted.
My next job is to head to The Hop and run it for the rest of the night. Ever since we booked Los Campesinos! for the 200 capacity venue I had been rather concerned about how we would cope there, loading the equipment to stage in a rammed venue and getting the band on and off too. So I decided to place myself up there to help out venue rep Rich (who took over from Helen at teatime) with those difficulties.
Emma Pollock by Jon Pinder
I arrive to hear Emma Pollock ’s sweet sweet sound pouring out over the Hop courtyard. The place is absolutely rammed with people enjoying the weather that has held steady throughout. Upstairs I can’t even get inside. Emma Pollock was probably the band I was most excited about seeing and I can’t even get in! I can hear well enough though and I’m really impressed by the sound quality more than anything – so clear. Rich is there, managing things. He was totally on top of things, so we agreed I’d be around for handovers to help speed things up, but I could wander off if need between. I’m glad Rich was there and that I felt comfortable leaving him. I was too tired to be stressed but it meant if any other problems arose I could deal with them.Adam had joined Gav on the wristband exchange for a bit so I hung with them for a while. Kate Jackson ’s Tour Manager arrived and I had a nice chat with him. He said he was surprised at the venue; he’d expected it to be a bit pokey and scummy but was really pleased! In a roundabout way it was a compliment, and one I heard from a lot of people – the venues (and LD) was much better than they expected and they loved it, which was exactly the reaction what we wanted.
Emma finishes her set and I help unload equipment. I get to speak to her in the green room which was awesome. I’m a massive fan of Chemikal Underground, the record label she co-founded as well as Arab Strap, Mogwai and The Delgados easily rating in my favourite bands ever. I so wish I had had more time to speak to her, but inevitably I didn’t. I had interviewed her on the phone for Rhubarb Bomb a month or so before and we had been talking about the festival. She lives in Glasgow and it’s such an amazing place; I was saying how I sometimes wished I lived up there. She was encouraging me to do so, but also said that it’s a great achievement to make something positive happen in your town, and that LD might be that thing. It was great to see her again, and hear that she was enjoying herself. She said the festival had a real ‘magic’ about it, which was ace. However, been the sad organising type I am, I was as equally happy to know that all my prep for her (hotel room, amp lending, travel directions etc) had come together without a hitch. Though I didn’t get to see her again, she did visit the LD Dining Room where she apparently got to learn about the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ from my mum whilst eating her crumble. Promoting Wakefield until the end!
Kate Jackson by Jon Pinder
With Kate Jackson loaded onto the stage I decided to scarper. 19:00 was the busiest LD time with 5 bands kicking of within 15 minutes. If I hadn’t been working it would have been a hell of a difficult choice. But I decided to head back to the Cathedral to make sure it all came together – but really it was an excuse to see St Gregory Orange. When we secured the Cathedral as a venue they were pretty much the first band I had in mind for it. And for the first time they had expanded to a 4 piece – I really didn’t want to miss this. I think it’s another great thing about LD; the amount of one-offs. What are the chances you will see band X in venue type Z ever again? Perhaps never!
St Gregory Orange by Jayne Woodhead
The front door of the cathedral was ajar allowing me to see St Gregory from about 500 metres away, up Wakefield precinct. The sound was humming across town. So beautiful. There was a healthy crowd. I got to see my girlfriend for only the second time that day. We sat as I managed to watch my first full song of a band the whole day. Bliss…
Then Paul came up to me; I needed to go to the bar right now – someone had been stealing beer. What?! I got to the bar, setup in the tearoom ajoining the old cathedral building. Our security guys were there too. They took the barman back into Cathedral to find the culprits. Turns out the idiots had just grabbed some bottles and ran off… into the cathedral and carried on watching the band. The security sorted them out, but it did annoy me that we were having to turn away genuine music lovers at the wristband exchange, yet these dicks had freedom of the festival. Ah well.I watched the bar whilst security dealt with them and spotted Stanley Brinks (due on after St Greg) and Clemence Freschard wandering around. I knew what they were up to. I dug out Stanley’s one rider item – a bottle of Jameson’s Whisky and called them over. They were so sweet. They’d meant to meet their friends The Wave Pictures but had got lost and didn’t have a phone. So they were just hanging out. Stanley asked me to get some glasses – 3 glasses. We all supped a straight whiskey each. I’m no whiskey drinker without a mixer, but man, my first drink of the day tasted SO GOOD. For the first time, it was like I could taste what people loved in Whisky – it made sense! He offered another, and I really wanted to, but I passed. I was scared it would knock me out and I had a long way to go yet.
With the thieves dealt with (I have to wonder why, of all the places they could have gone, they came to see St Greg at the Cathedral? They were proper larger lout, football fan nobheads. Maybe St G have an as yet untapped potential market for their noise making mischief?) and a guitar and amp sorted out for Brinksy, I head up to Mustangs to catch Darwin Deez. I see David Tattersall and his fellow Wave Pictures on the way looking confused. They are trying to find somewhere for a snack. They’ve just walked from Boons, which sadly means they have walked all the way across the city centre, and passed most of the food places open this time of night. Welcome to Wakey! They can’t be arsed with a restaurant so I direct them to Clemence and Stanley inside.
Darwin Deez by Joel Rowbottom
Inside Mustangs the atmosphere is bang on. I don’t really know much about Darwin’s music. I know there is a lot of hype, which always used to turn me off bands instantly. I still hate The Strokes to this day, and I think that is due to the double whammy of endless NME hype when they arrived and the fact they were moved to the main stage at my first Leeds Fest, meaning Run DMC got their set cut in half (the Strokes set was shit too.) But nowadays I really don’t pay any attention, so I was massively taken aback when I walked in to witness them busting out some synced up dance moves. It was a strange thing to witness; I’d (co) booked this?! But I thought it was great. Everyone around me was really into it. It was FUN, a spectacle. It made me smile uncontrollably and for the first time over the day I really felt that this was something truly unique to Wakefield. Not a man doing silly dances (which most certainly isn’t) but THIS KIND OF THING. Something new and different and quirky. I really buzzed off it.
I would have loved to have stayed but my phone went off again. I can’t remember what it was, but I had to leave. More than any other band that played I wish I could have seen more than 5 minutes of Darwin.I did my now forgotten next errand and then dashed to The Hop. I picked up some Rhubarb Bomb LD issues that Emmy wanted. The interview in there was part of Pledge campaign and she said she would also hand them out at her upcoming gigs. So I went down with a box full and caught two minutes of Stanley Brinks. So quiet but so perfect in the cathedral.
Los Campesinos! by Jon Pinder
Rich returns and I’m ready to shoot off but I bump into Kate Jackson’s Tour Manager again. They’ve not had their hot meal yet and don’t know where to go. Perfect! I’m off the Town Hall and so are they. However we have to wait outside The Jam Inn whilst they finish their pints. Joel emerges from within. He looks as wasted as I feel. He tells me after taking the stage photos he had to crowd surf to get off the stage – this is with a proper expensive camera and equipment bag! What a day.
Kate and her band are supped up and we walk through town. I’d never met Kate before and wasn’t sure what to expect – would she be a bit diva-ish? Far, far from it. She was so bubbly and enthusiastic and really cool; Long Division was only her 3rd gig as ‘Kate Jackson Band’ and she had been thrilled by the reception. She was saying how she would love to get something similar to LD going in her town and was impressed with it all. Once more, I just buzzed that someone was enjoying Wakefield and felt quite pleased with myself – admittedly in part because I was WALKING THROUGH WAKEFIELD WITH KATE JACKSON. Town was still teaming with LD punters. The bouncers on Reflex and Flares seemed a little confused – who are all these people and why aren’t they coming in my shit bar? We were winning.
I Like Trains by Joel Rowbottom
We enter the Town Hall and ascend the regal staircase just as the crowd are dipersing. Bugger, I’d missed ILT. I led Kate and her crew through to the Old Court Room. Darwin and his band were at one table, one of them going back for seconds on the Rhubarb Crumble. I’d not seen my mum all day so gave her a hug, then so did Kate. Good vibes all over Wakefield. The feedback on the hot food had been ace – a member of LC! said it was the best chilli they’d ever had (I don’t know if that is just ‘on tour’ but it’s still good). It was another part of the jigsaw in making LD something special.Somehow my good friend David Cooper had managed to get himself into the backstage area and was chomping on a flapjack, wobbling with intoxication ever so slightly. Alongside not getting to see any bands, not getting to hang with my friends was the other downside to LD, but it meant the world to see them having a good time. And they weren’t out necessarily just to support what I was doing; they were genuinely enjoying it regardless.
I spend the next 45 minutes or so tidying up the Town Hall, which is pretty boring. The reps have done an ace job here, and they get to knock off the remaining chilli and some ciders ILT left behind. They’ve definitely earned it.
Emmy The Great by Joel Rowbottom
I head back to the Cathedral and catch the end of Emmy’s set. There is a strong appreciative crowd and she does a nice line in banter between songs. She bigs up Rhubarb Bomb which is the first I’ve heard of someone doing that, which is good to hear. She’s big into the culture and when she asks if people know it’s a fanzine festival, despite some cheers, I reckon most people don’t.I have my first beer of the day and I finally have to admit it; I’m spent. Wasted. Burnt out. It might not sound much from this write up, but I barely stopped moving all day. Even when I could have, in theory, have chilled, something stopped me. I HAD to be doing something. I think towards the end, I knew if I stopped I might not start again. This is what was happening now.
People flocked out and I got to say hello to a lot of people for the first time. If anyone saw me and I didn’t say much, please don’t think I was being rude. I speak to Emmy briefly, but I have no idea what about. It takes about 45 minutes to clear the stage away and tidy up the green room and bar area. I’m loading out when I get another phonecall – just when I thought it had died off. It’s Andy, rep at Mustangs. ‘We need you to get up here right now. The bouncers have kicked off, people are getting thrown out and we need someone with authority’.
So I ran up. I proper ran. It’s not far, but it knackered me out. I arrived on Westgate to see, alongside its general horrors of police vans, flying bottles and terrible, awful member of the public, a swarm of people outside Mustangs talking to police officers. I speak to one but they don’t really know what’s happening. I go inside and try to find Morsey but cant. The Wedding Present aren’t on stage…It’s chaotic in there. Actually, it’s not really. Most people are calm. But it’s that din of a nightclub with no music on; of 800 people discussing what just happened. But what DID just happen?
At the far side of the club I end up sticking my head out of a backstage door to see a member of the public kicking of with a bouncer – just verbally mind. He seems totally sober and is shouting ‘you are well out of order here, you’ve gone too far’. The bouncers drag him away. This doesn’t seem good.
I find Morsey back at the door and he tells me what has happened. He’d seen the bouncers getting a bit too hands on with people that were simple jumping around. They’d started kicking individuals out and Morsey had tried to tell them to calm it. But it got out of hand and the bouncers laid in big time, dragging swathes of people out. Naturally some of the crowd tried to defend their friends / co gig goers and it got messy. As we stood there we heard word that the security was being evacuated from the premises. Morsey went off to find Sarah and I wandered to the bouncers gathering by the door. One is telling his head of security that someone spit on him. None of this sounds good at all.
With security out of the building, we speak to David Gedge of The Wedding Present, who had to leave the stage whilst this was happening, and he is happy to return. Sarah bravely speaks to the baying crowd and the band return.
The Wedding Present by Joel Rowbottom
I’ve since heard a lot of reports as to what happened. All of them point the finger squarely at the security staff. As Andy has said, a gig like that will police itself. The band were on a raised stage. The crowd, though energetic were not out of control in the slightest. There had been nothing to suggest that the security would have a problem dealing with them. It’s easy to say now that the security were used to dealing with your typical Wakefield weekend crowd and not an Indie gig but really – which one is tougher?
The security team really let Long Division down. The amazing, involving atmosphere of the entire day was broken right there, with the dark, horrible side of Wakefield nightlife rearing its unwelcome and ugly head at the worst possible time. There’s some massive irony there, that we decided to use Mustangs, a club so close to the thing we were trying to offer an alternative to, and it ended up causing such an issue. Some things are out of your control at the end of the day; no amount of planning can stop something like this happening. It’s definitely a lesson learned and aside from the few people who got kicked out / assaulted it didn’t cause a mass effect. It just annoys me endlessly now that almost every single review of the festival has mentioned it in some way and that Long Division has become associated with the very thing it was trying to fight against – brainless, empty, pointless Booze Britain nights ‘up town’. For the people who were there; they will remember that day as an amazing one. But for those that weren’t, who just hear or read about it…With The Wedding Present back on stage I decide to call it a night. I head over to The Hop to meet my friends for Middleman. But I can’t face the noise (though the noise sounds awesome) and instead a couple of us head up the now empty green room. I’ve been in town, working for 14 hours and I just want to sit on a sofa and have a beer. Everyone is being so kind with their compliments and it’s cool to see people partying. I feel bad I don’t have the energy to express how thrilled I am. But I am thrilled, so happy and despite Mustangs; relieved. I wish I could go find some of the bands and go party with them; Elks, Emma Pollock, Wave Pictures, Freschard, Stanley Brinks are all staying at The Graziers and I’d love to go say hello. But we have a few steady ones. Before I go, Morsey, Sarah and I sit on the floor in the now empty upstairs of The Hop. They are as exhausted as me. We try to get out of our ‘work’ frames of mind and relax. We can’t help but talk about next year. It’s a nice moment to get 5 minutes with the two people who had made this happen with me. I grab a pizza and make it to bed about 2am.
Sunday 12th June .
Sunday was always intended to be my day of relaxation. I’d earnt the shed load of beers I was going to get through. That morning I nipped into town to pay Clemence her fee. She was sat in Henry Boons with Stanley. I’d thought they had been on tour, but turns out they just came for the festival, all the way from Berlin. What legends. They’d loved it too. Stanley offered to get me a drink but I had to get back. Maybe I could have stayed looking back now – I still had my ‘must keep moving’ head on. I wish I had, they both seem like such amazing, brilliant but down to earth people.
There were drumkit issues for the Philophobia night at The Hop so I had to go help Rob Dee collect some bits and pieces. Sunday was, of course the fringe festival and I’d cunningly removed any actual responsibility from my hands. After getting everything together we sat in The Hop and watched the charming Jeremiah. I wanted to call in to all the venues so we wandered down to the Bull & Fairhouse where Diamond Studios and Red Riding Quartet had put a few bands together. I got to see Red Riding Quartet themselves, featuring my good friend Andy on vocals. It was a good atmosphere down there, but we shot off for a curry as our visiting friend Rich had a train to catch soon. We ate at Bollywood Lounge, but I don’t really have any memory of the meal. I didn’t the next day, I couldn’t remember what I’d eaten. I was well out of it I think. Including a mad and undocumented Thursday, I had barely slept or eaten in 3 days.
We made it to The Snooty Fox where I gave a massive thank you to Helen and Marc who had run The Hop and were now curating their Punk and Ska night. I called in to see Matt Abbott at Fernandes who was running an acoustic night. The fringe didn’t come together as much as I’d hoped this year, but we rightly had to put our effort into making sure the Saturday worked. I massively appreciate the efforts of all the fringe curators and it is something we will work to develop next year, whilst remembering those people who had faith in us in 2011 (that goes for the whole festival).
Back at The Hop for closing band Above Us The Waves it was good to hear people’s stoires of the weekend. I’d not gone on the mad bender I had expected due to fatigue. But I was looking forward to a day off and a chance to take the whole mad thing in…
Monday 13th June.
…which would have been great, except I wasn’t finished yet. Now, to talk about the Monday here is not really of much interest to anyone. But it’s worth documenting as a record of the amount of work that goes into putting on a festival. I’m not after a medal but whilst people were back at work or nursing hangovers, me and Morsey were STILL at it…
Along with hard grafter Gavin, we got to the Town Hall for about 9am. We had all that staging to load out. Down a flight of stairs, and into a van. Man, it was hard, hard work. Took us a good hour or so of lifting. Waving farewell to Gav, homeward bound to that London, we drove down to South Elmsall to drop it off. Morsey was driving the big Ossett Brewery van and it was quite fun being a van drivers mate, eating a sandwich and a bag of crisps and listening to the radio. It was time for us to buzz and we talked loads about what we wanted to happen next year; secret gigs, different venues, more merchandise, promotion ideas.
By dinnertime we were back at the Cathedral to pick up the staging there. We were both fed up by then but got through it by getting excited about the future and talking about the great feedback we’d had. I know for Morsey especially, Long Division was the culmination of an awful lot of years of hard work promoting gigs in the city and something he had always wanted to do. The excitement got us through lifting those horrible heavy bits of staging.
It was about half 4 by the time we got done. We shook hands and I got myself home for some tea. And it was all done, all those months of thinking, schemeing, problem solving, imagining, worrying, spreadsheeting, bargaining, lifting, cursing, emailing, plotting and not sleeping were gone… until next year…
There are too many people to thank. I hope I have thanked them all in person at some point. Long Division was hard, but it never felt like ‘work’, despite what I’ve said above. Almost everything went to plan and it’s only now, looking back, that I see what a massively ambitious thing it was to attempt. I think the sense of pride we have managed to instill in Wakefield has been one of the most important things and I hope that many new and exciting things will stem from it, be they new bands, record labels, club night, blogs, magazines or just ideas. That’s how this kind of culture grows and how you avoid it becoming stagnant. Thank you to everyone and we shall see you at Long Division 2012 x