Friday, 29 July 2011

Great Festivals: Kuipersfest 2009

What makes a great festival experience? One element that I feel is often overlooked is the sense of adventure, the experience of the new and unusual. Of course, it is all relative. When I was 17 and went to Leeds Festival for the first time, it was incredibly new and unusual . A free pass for the weekend, as much beer as I could carry, as much music as my ears could take. It was probably the first time I ever put up a tent and I marvelled at these cans that contained an ‘All Day Breakfast’. It was the early days of the 21st century and anything seemed possible.

Attending that particular festival 5 years running saw a steady decline in my enjoyment of it. It was a combination of many factors; familiarity, overcrowding, changing tastes. But also the fact that it wasn’t new anymore. Ok, the trip from Wakefield to Leeds wasn’t exactly a step into the great unknown, but it was the first step in a life of festivals. I was just bored of taking the same step over and over again.

Since my last Leeds Festival experience in 2005 I have sampled from the vast and constantly growing platter of festival ‘experiances’ on offer. I marvelled at the Leeds Fest Carbon Copy V Festival and flew to an airfield in Poland for Opener. I sat in a rainy, abandoned forest in Windermere for Fell Foot and relaxed in a Railway Museum for Indietracks. Latitude, Rough Beats, Live @ Leeds… the variations continue on and on. But what about that sense of adventure? Many festivals now market themselves as ‘an experience’; simply putting on bands in a field is not enough nowadays. Alex James is organising ‘Harvest’, a food and music festival. Where you can watch KT Tunstall whilst eating his finest homemade cheese. Latitude itself offers Theatre, Comedy, Poetry, Literature, Film, TV, KNITTING WORKSHOPS amongst many others to keep you busy through the day.

Yet it all takes place within a very safe and very controlled environment. Of course, we are thrilled that there are toilets that actually work. And food that won’t kill you.All good advancements. But how long before a festival essentially becomes a home from home? Latitude already has an onsite restaurant that has ‘proper plates and cutlery’. There were sofa’s in the tents to sit on. You couldn’t see the stage but you could watch it on the big screen, like you were in your own front room. If you missed a band, Sky had a tent where you could sit (on a sofa) and watch them. There was a little shop down the road where you could get a morning newspaper.

Yes, Latitude is different in this manner, but these extra touches which actually make ‘the experience’ more enjoyable will soon become the norm, with festivals battling to give and ‘all round package’ that appeals to the mass middle class interest in festivals. I’m not glorifying the dirt and squalor. I approve of everything that Latitude and its equivalents do to make my weekend more enjoyable. It’s just so bloody safe. There’s nothing unique in the homogenised Festival Republic experience, there’s no story to tell.

In Summer 2009 I went to the most interesting and unique festival I have ever come across. The bands were all completely unknown. It had no facilities whatsoever (not even running water or electricity). It took 2 and a half days to get there. But all those factors added up to something quite amazing and an ‘experience’ I will remember for the rest of my life. In summer 2009 I went to Kuiperfest.

My friend and folky chap The Passing Fancy had visited the year before and spoke of this strange but wonderful festival perched on the edge of a valley, amongst the olive groves of sun scorched Spain. I don’t recall when we decided we had to go. I kind of get these things in my head and they just happen without me realising. After driving to Munich and back a couple of years before I had an urge to make the drive to Calciete, the nearest town, about an hour outside Barcelona. This, coupled with the Passing Fancy’s fear of flying, cemented it – we would make the trip in my 3 door, 1 litre Corsa.

Day 1 saw myself, Mr Passing Fancy and Jayno take the relatively easy trip from Wakefield to London. There we picked up the 4th member of our team – Rich. As well as Mr Fancy and myself having separate gigs booked, Passing was also performing a piece of theatre, for which I was providing the soundtrack. So, amongst the tents, bags, sleeping bags and beers we also had the set of the play and 2 acoustic guitars. Every nook and cranny of my tiny Corsa was filled. There was no room to stretch or move. Very much the proverbial sardines in a can.

Day 2 saw us hit the Channel Tunnel and enter France. The weather was glorious as we sped south, our spirits high despite the crushed conditions. We put on our comp CD’s and chatted away. We stopped at massive aircraft hanger super stores and picked out ham and cheese for dinner, the sandwiches I had made the previous day now a gooey, sweaty mess in our travelling hotbox. To avoid Toll roads we took smaller A Roads, then found ourselves worryingly short of fuel. Which meant Rich and I had to grapple with our limited French to find a petrol station. “Er… Voiture… Gasoline?” The kind locals drew us a map. However, the majority of the day was spent on the Motorway, which wasn’t the most exciting drive. But by the time we hit Bordeaux around 10pm it was great to think of the progress we had made.

Day 3 saw us awake in the beautiful French city and take in croissants by the river. The only regret was that we did not have time to explore. With some trepidation we got back into the car, now more chaotic and restricting than ever. Not to worry; by days end we would be at Kuiperfest.

By dinnertime we had hit the Pyrenees, the huge mountains that separate France and Spain. This is what these longs drives are about. We wound our way up and through and down. After 10 minutes in a cool, shady tunnel we emerged in Espana. Looking out over the barren, sandy vista’s felt amazing. After some low moments in France, with Rich especially succumbing to Cabin Fever, we felt good again.

Our last experience of civilisation was a stop for food in Alcaniz. After that we hit the endless desert roads. For hours we drove through a nothing landscape, empty ghost towns surrounded by craters and dust. As light began to fade, so did our spirits. The journey had been amazing. But we had reached the line now. We needed to arrive.

The roads became smaller and more winding. The venue for the festival does not exist on Google. I don’t use Sat Navs, but it wouldn’t have been on there either. We missed the dust track the first time, but doubled back. We weren’t sure, but a sign pointing to an old church was the clue we needed. 15 minutes down the bumpiest, dustiest dirt track eventually brought us to our destination. As the sun vanished completely, our tents were up. It was too dark to take in our surroundings but we didn’t care; someone had got us an ice cool beer and that was all that mattered. 56 hours, 1200+ miles later, we were here.

The next day we were able to explore the site. The only buildings were the house of organiser Jon Bon Figlio (his real name), which was off bounds to punters, a shack the size of a garden shed, which was the bar and a row of hand built toilets, the fourth wall of which was missing, meaning you had a view of the beautiful valleywhilst you befouled it.

Water was brought in from the town in bottles. No electricity was required. Breakfast, Dinner and Tea were cooked out of the back of a camper van. They rung a bell when it was ready and for a couple of euros you could have fresh salads and scrambled egg on toast. There were no fences on site, no barriers, not even a designated camping area. Find a spot amongst the olives trees, preferably with a chance of shade early morning and you are set.

The sense of quiet was amazing. There were maybe 150 people at the festival, spread liberally across the stepped ridges. Myself and Mr Fancy went to rehearse our sets and walked for 20 minutes round the rim of the valley, far from the campers. Our guitars had warped in the heat and we could not get them in tune, but had a go anyway. On our return we were told everyone could hear us perfectly, such was the peace that engulfed the festival.

The music, as well as some theatre and stand up comedy took place in an area that had nothing to distinguish it, bar a little wooden log a performer could sit on. Performances went on late in to the night. The audience there were the most appreciative I’ve ever seen, with even the most generic singer songwriter material being met with understanding silence and handsome applause.

The heat was intense, much greater than I could usually deal with, but the fact there was nothing to do but relax made it bearable. Sometime I would go sit in the car TO COOL DOWN. One time I nodded off with my feet up on the dashboard and for the rest of the festival I had sunburnt ankles. Nothing else, just the ankles. To help cool off, the organisers ran minibus trips to a nearby river each day. Nothing to do there but get wet and try and catch fish and it was wonderful.

On the 2nd day we craved SOMETHING and drove to the nearby town 45 minutes away. We looked round and ate some tapas and returned to the tent. 2 friends, Sam and Cherry had joined us, by the more conventional means of an airplane and we just sat around, talked and watched some artists do their thing. The play went down well and Mr Fancy and I enjoyed our sets. We saw some absolutely terrible Shakespeare and a bonkers piece of performance that featured a man dressed as a giant vagina and two guys with water pistols as Penises. But it was more about the sense that the 6 of us had made it all this way, to the absolute back of beyond. Not for a festival that was advertised, that will get Guardian and BBC approval or that you could search out on E-Festivals and buy a ticket. Something truly alternative and unknown, a literal trip into the unknown with 100 people from different corners of Europe that will never meet again. That was what made Kuiperfest so amazing and why it will always stick with me.

At the end of the weekend Mr Fancy, Sam and Cherry headed over to Barcelona for a few days. Rich ended up staying in Spain for the summer, working his way around. Jayno and I drove the 1200 miles back, passing through Andorra, Avalon and Lille. By some fluke we had got a 5 star hotel in Andorra for 40 euros a night. The sight of us arriving in the reception, 4 days of unwashed living hanging upon us must have raised an eyebrow. I thought I’d got a real healthy tan until I got in the shower and realised it was about an inch of dust clinging to me.

It’s rare to get ‘experiences’ in life like that and the more festivals are marketed as such, the less likely they will be in achieving what they claim to offer. I hear of the amazing secret areas of Glastonbury, the ‘real’ festival but I expect they are not really secret, just not of interest to the U2 / Coldplay / Beyonce adoring mass market it is now sets its sights on. The community element is alive and well though, especially in the smaller niche festivals and outside of adventure, that is another key element to a successful and enjoyable festival. This year I am heading back to Leeds Festival and whilst I won’t be camping (that is an ‘adventure’ I am not willing to under take ever again) I am interested to see if that sense of involvement and togetherness exists at all, especially during Pulp’s headline slot. Yet I know that it can’t ever be anymore than a good day out – the true experiences take a lot more searching out, are more elusive and all the better for it when you find them.

Dean Freeman

Photographs: Richard Cole

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Long Division Video

Check out this short montage of shots from Long Division put together by Matt Sidebottom. It kicks off with Darwin Deez bigging up the festival then cuts to loads of different bands. Can you spot yourself in the crowd?!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Long Division Retrospective

I can barely believe it is only 6 weeks since Long Division took place in Wakefield. Not because of some seismic shift in the makeup of our fine city, a blossoming culture of artistic ambition and civic pride. Just that it seems like some fevered dream now. Perhaps like all unuexpected success; did it really happen?

We are saying farewell to Long Division 2010 with a night of celebration at The Hop, Wakefield this coming Wednesday (July 27th). Headlining are the wonderful ‘Let’s Wrestle’ who were THIS CLOSE to being on the LD lineup itself. Supporting are Piskie Sits and hotly tipped young band Vinyl Party. Alongside this, the official Long Division photographers will be displaying their best shots for you to peruse. Each print will be a one-off, framed and available to purchase on the night, with all money going to our brilliant and hard working (and generous!) team who worked their socks off all weekend for the love of it.

There was a hope we would have a film to show on the evening also. This may or may not take place. Hopefully we’ll at least have some live footage to show whilst you enjoy a pint. It’ll be your last chance to get your hands on Long Division Merch and we may even have an announcement regarding next year.

And, most importantly, it’s FREE in. LD is nothing if not cheap.

Hope to see you there. We would love to hear your ideas for next year, as well as feedback from this year.

Dean Freeman

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Podcast Episode Six Released

The new Rhubarb Bomb Podcast is now available to download for free through iTunes. We’ve changed the format slightly, making them a little shorter but with the intention of releasing one a month.

Episode 6 looks ahead at what is coming up in August, which includes an interview with Runaround Kids bassist Jack Winn ahead of their album launch and a track from that very record. We also look at upcoming festivals, including Indietracks and Beacons and the bands RB is looking forward to most. The podcast includes a range of music, from a band’s first ever demo to tunes from more established artists. The change basically gives us the chance to play the records we are into asap, and for you to check out what’s been impressing RB

The next podcast will come at the end of August. If you have information regarding events you want us to mention please email us at and, as ever, if you want us to review your record, with the possibility of it getting played on the next podcast, head to the website for the address.

Thanks, and spread the word!

Dean Freeman

Friday, 22 July 2011

Mondo Cane - 'Do It' Review

Mondo Cane
Do It
Self Released

Back in Issue 1.2 of The Rhubarb Bomb’s physical format I remarked that Mondo Cane shared their name with one of Mike Patton’s many musical projects when reviewing their “Guaranteed Personality” EP. I suppose they deserve some kudos for sticking to their guns and keeping the name, despite the competition. It’s not only the name they’ve retained since that last release, the title track showcases a familiar quiet/loud song structure, with fuzzbox a plenty. “Popular View” is more evenly paced, but relies on the same dynamics. At two tracks long “Do It” is a useful reminder of this band. I’m not sure I’d want to hear a full album along the same lines, some greater experimentation would be welcome, but if you’re already a fan of the band I’ve no doubt this one’s for you.

Andy Whittaker

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Redwood Thinkers - 'Fade So Simple' Review

Redwood Thinkers
Fade So Simple

Summer’s here, which means that not only is it festival season, but there are also all manner of villages galas, summer fetes and such like. Yours truly was in attendance at one such event recently, a beer festival in aid of my old scout pack (I’m guessing Redwood Thinkers enjoy the odd alcoholic beverage as they thoughtfully included a bottle opener / key ring with this CD.) where for the majority of the day we sat outside, enjoying the weather and a range of brews. As the sun set and temperatures dropped we headed inside the scout-hut where we continued to enjoy a range of brews! An acoustic duo played a set in the corner of the venue, although I suspect if you’d asked any of my fellow drinkers what they thought of them they’d probably have replied “What band!” I can easily imagine Redwood Thinkers playing similar events and garnering a such a reaction.

“Fade So Simple” is on one-hand an impeccably performed and produced effort, on the other it’s such an ‘easy-listen’ that it actually began to irritate me. In fact I nearly flung it out of my car window when the song “No-one Looks Happy In Cars” came on. As someone who cycles to work quite regularly and then proceeds to monitor the North East’s motorways for 8 hours plus I would agree that a lot of motorists look pretty glum. However, I had been enjoying that days drive until that point (Mental note, I should have stuck to the Turbonegro CD I’d been listening to previously!) Somewhat bizarrely the next song, “Falling Down”, starts with the words “Take a car”, talk about mixed messages!

Having established that “Fade So Simple” does not make for good driving music I then attempted to listen to the album whilst doing the dishes. Suffice to say I didn’t make it all the way through. It took something approaching masochism for me to finally sit through all ten tracks in one sitting (During a coach trip with my earphones in to block out the driver’s skipping CD!). There are hints of Kate Bush in Kezia Roberts’ vocals, but her frequent repetition of vague emotional sentiments such as “But no one can deny this feeling, this feeling, this feeling etc” during “This Feeling” and “So nice to meet you, so nice to meet you, etc” on “Burnt” would have had me checking if the needle was stuck had I been listening to this on vinyl. I would say that “Chemical”, with male vocals akin to Eddie Vedder and a whiff of ‘grunge-lite’ is one of the few songs that doesn’t rile me. Closing final track “Worship The World” with a ‘funky’ bass workout, organ flourish and drum solo, seemingly in an effort to showcase the musician’s talents one last time, however, set my blood boiling again!

In the interests of professionalism I have listened to the album again whilst typing these words, an experience which has left me desiring a nice cold beer to relax with, now where did I put that bottle opener?

Andrew Whittaker

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Latitude Festival 2011

Latitude Festival
July 15th – 17th

My festival life began at Temple Newsam in 2001. Since then, I have been to a number of what I call ‘big’ festivals; Leeds many more times, plus V and Opener in Poland. But for the last few years I’ve avoided them and gone for the smaller ones. The individual touches appeal to me, the attention to detail, the less corporate, money driven aspect. Space to relax and unwind, socialise and not feel as if it’s an effort to have a good time. With 40,000 people expected to turn up, Latitude was a return to those large scale events I’d long avoided but, with all the positive things I’d heard about it, I hoped it wouldn’t be a return to being shepherded round a field like cattle, from one atypical indie band to another.

It was almost a whole weekend we were there. We got there teatime Friday, the long journey from Wakefield smooth enough. We had to leave Sunday teatime so we sadly missed headliners Eels whom I were looking forward to immensely. But in between I saw enough music, theatre, comedy and much more to make the journey worthwhile. On top of that, the care put into the festival was a joy to experience.

The Friday was spent exploring the site, which is huge but totally manageable. It seems bigger than it is because there are so many little corners with things going on. There are the usual large stages for music, alongside tents in decreasing size for Comedy, Literature, Theatre, Poetry, Caberet and then further stages in the woods, by the lake – basically anywhere they can squeeze something in. In the best way though, it all fits into the environment with natural ease. Even when busy, walking around is never a problem or a crush, and though they could do with more seating, if the weather is fine you can always find a spot of grass to perch on and chill out. God – doesn’t sound like much to ask does it? But after Leeds fest horrors, it came as a massive relief.

Friday wasn’t the best days line up for me, so I didn’t mind spending the time wandering around. I caught some of Paloma Faith on the main stage. I didn’t / don’t know anything about her, bar kooky appearances on Never Mind The Buzzcocks but she was pretty good, perfectly matching the bright sunny vibes cast across the main field. The National popped up later. Everyone loves The National it seems. I’ve never had chance to hear them and I don’t especially think this was the best way to do it. From what I gather they are a bit of a grower. The sound was impressive, but they kind of sounded like a really slow Interpol to my untrained ears. With a bit of gentle Elbow grandness. No point me describing them here anyway, because no doubt, unlike me, you’ve actually heard their records.

Elsewhere I caught David O Doherty, again who I had seen on Never Mind The Buzzcocks (more on that soon) over in the comedy tent. Before arriving the Comedy Tent looked like the hottest ticket to me. When I arrived the place was rammed, but it wasn’t a big deal to sit outside on the grass with a pint and watch on the big screen. He was the headliner for the day – weirdly comedy headliners go on at 6:30pm at Latitude. I reckon it’s to counter drunken heckles. He was great though, I enjoyed his little Casio keyboard tunes and his take on Irishness which was far less clich├ęd than it sounds now.

Among the many tents was a ‘Film & Music’ tent which earlier in the day had hosted an onstage interview with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. We popped down to watch the Beastie Boys Short Film ‘Fight For Your Right: Revisited’. We caught the end of some terrible female singer whose only trick was to lead with her breasts in a swanky ballroom gown whilst singing covers (of what I forget now). Programme says ‘Camille o’Sullivan’ and perhaps it is just unfortunate I saw her after Paloma who does seem genuine in her individuality whereas Camille certainly did not. However, once gone, we dashed to the front of the tent to get a good view on the massive screen behind the stage. Then REALLY STUPIDLY they started playing it on the screens at the side of the stage only. Except the volume was so quiet we didn’t notice for 5 minutes. We were so far forward we couldn’t see. So we just left. It was annoying that they bigged it up in the programme and then just played it whilst soundmen pottered around the stage for a switch over of bands.

Finally on Friday we caught some theatre. My well informed theatre friend informed me this was £25 a ticket on the westend (or whatever) and we should definitely take a look. Bare with me here as this takes some explaining. Basically, amongst all the stalls and stages they had built a hotel. Called the ‘Electric Hotel’. It was 4 storeys high and was all windows down one side, with blinds across. We’d seen it through the day and wondered what on earth it was. Performances took place at night. You were given some headphones and invited to sit in front of the hotel – on the grass, whilst people walked around – and watch. When it began, the hotel lit up. The blinds pulled back and we could see people in different parts of the hotel; some in their rooms, some in corridors, some in the bar on the top floor having a drink. Through our headphones we could hear different things that were going on. Never any speech, but foot steps, music, atmosphere. It was pretty amazing – footsteps of a maid walking around and knocking on doors, obviously pre-recorded were synced up with the actors brilliantly. It was amazing just to look at and the voyeuristic nature of it made it intriguing at the same time.

The whole concept blew me away and I was startled… for about 15 minutes. Then I started to get a bit annoyed. After 30 minutes I was furious and had to leave (the performance was 60 minutes). Why? Because, after creating the most amazing set I’ve ever seen – BUILDING A HOTEL IN A FIELD! – and one of the best concepts ever… nothing happened. They pulled one of the most convoluted tricks in theatre and started looping things. Ah yes, she’s going in that room like she did last time. That’s ok if things change, but literally it was the same. I’m sure if I stayed for the whole thing something would have happened. But I was so angry at the director for being so lazy with something that was potentially the greatest thing I’d ever seen. All I wanted was some kind of story. What a waste.

I awoke Saturday morning to the sound of a million frozen peas being unloaded upon my tent. The weatherman had been correct – torrential downpour. In my anger the previous night – at not being able to get the stove working to cook up a burger – I had rampaged the tent ever so slightly; I awoke to find my waterproof inside out… in a puddle. What a moron.

Despite this we got into the arena nice and early to start queuing for what I hoped would be one of the best parts of the weekend – a live edition of Never Mind The Buzzcocks in the comedy tent, with Noel Fielding, Phil Jupitus and yesterdays David O Doherty. We stood in the rain, in the mass of people waiting to get at the tent for nearly 40 minutes. The gates opened, a mad rush, a crushed herd of punters head for the tent. We end up about 2 feet from the tent with no view whatsoever. We head round the side but no luck. We stand there in the pouring rain under the umbrella for 10 minutes and then decide it’s not worth it. We can’t see a thing and it is pissing it down. Because of the overnight conditions people are now standing on the periphery of the comedy tent; if it had been dry we’d have been able to sit down and still see. We walk back to the tent and hear roars of appreciation way back at our campsite.

Missing things due to the crowds was a big problem at Latitude. Now I’m home and can think I would put it down to me not going to a big festival for a few years. I’m out of the habit of getting down early for a good spot. I’m used to just turning up now. Things didn’t run to time very well either, meaning well laid plans for the day were disrupted and acts missed. I was most gutted to miss Tim Key, the only thing I gave a shit about in the poetry tent – it was rammed full. I missed a piece of theatre by Whippets Productions due to it starting early. By the end I didn’t even bother trying to see Dylan Moran, Mark Watson, Adam Buxton, Mark Lamaar, Ralph Fiennes and loads more because I knew I would have to get their an hour early to secure a spot. The rain forced a lot of people into shows they didn’t even care about which made it all the more frustrating.

Of course another point here is that in the real world I consider my tastes fairly niche. People I work with probably haven’t heard of Ian Curtis, let alone Tim Key so I almost expect these places to be empty. But at Latitude my ‘secret interests’ are mainstream in a lot of cases. The guy off Charlie Brookers Screenwipe? Oh please! Etc.

Saturday was a good day though, despite the awful weather. At the comedy tent we caught the end of Robin Ince, who I have a fair bit of time for. We had to watch from outside, but slowly worked our way under the cover of the tent, inch by inch. I was disappointed with Robin though. A lot of the comedians seemed to at least mention families in someway, at least acknowledging the family friendly environment. But Robin did that awful thing of telling stories about the ‘hilarious’ things his kid does. At first it seemed he would do it in a self aware and ironic manner. But he didn’t, he just told stories about the time his kid said that inappropriate thing or did something silly. With the swarms of children mingling around and the dedicated kids area I started to worry I was at the wrong festival.

Perseverance at the comedy tents led to better things though. A one-two of Doc Brown and Jon Richardson really got things going. Doc Brown is a rapper turned stand up. He too starts with a bit of child related stuff, but then drops into a rap about how English rappers are unable to brag about where they come from like their American counterparts – due to their inate Englishness. Hence a rap about getting 3 shirts for a fiver down at Primark and driving a Ford fiesta. The act comes alive after this and he periodically drops into a rap, with backing track to back up his points. It’s great – funny but talented too. I like the fact he comes from a different background to most comedians I’ve seen. He’s friendly , approachable and knowledgable and his rap upbringing has given him a really interesting, and amusing outlook on life. Great stuff.

Jon Richardson pops up on stage IMMEDIATELY after due to things running behind. He’s quite a well known face on television now, popping up on various panel shows. I saw him at The Hop in Wakefield a couple of year back and had enjoyed it but it’s great to see that a) he has improved massively since then and b) has not become ‘accessible’ after being on telly. He’s more neurotic than ever, focusing on his OCD when on tour, when at festivals and how it stops him forming any type of meaningful relationship. It works because I believe he is actually like that. I see a bit of myself in his attitudes of finding disgust in almost everything but he takes it past what would be a logical conclusion for most people. And from there floweth the comedy. He’s really smart but down to earth. As he says himself; ‘With most comedians you leave thinking, hey, he’s going to do alright for himself. With me, it’s more like ‘Is he gonna be ok? Should I be worried’. Excellent.
Due to not being able to get into a few tents, as mentioned, a fair bit of Saturday was spent on the main stage. The rain, that had not stopped for about 7 hours, subsided slightly for Seasick Steve. I don’t understand Seasick Steve. I am heavily opposed to Country, Folk, Blues… seemingly every influence he has ever had. But I think he’s amazing. I think it’s because you know he is for real and he is clearly loving every second. He is joined on stage by a drummer and by the former Led Zeppelin bassist. I don’t own any of his records but I enjoy every second, so much passion and good humour. He wheels out a procession of unlikely looking homemade guitars, including one with just one string. The band jam for some sections, clearly loving every second. Despite the rain returning it feels like the whole field is stomping away. At the end he takes about 5 minutes to leave the stage, reluctant to leave the appreciative crowd behind.

As The Cribs hit the stage the sun appears from behind a cloud. They are probably the most un-Latitude band on the bill. We manage to get to about the 10th row without having to so much as say ‘excuse me’. Not because there isn’t a crowd, but because it’s a different type of crowd. Someone stands on my friends toe during an energetic number. They turn round and apologise. Wow.

But the set itself is sublime. Ryan is wearing a bright pink wig. They storm straight into ‘Cheat On Me’, a touring guitarist now filling in for Marr. They don’t miss him one bit. It takes a couple of songs for the crowd to get going. At first the Jarman’s seem terribly out of place. But then the circle pits start and the gig comes to life. Ryan tells the crowd they woke up in Great Yarmouth that morning in the pouring rain and didn’t expect anything from today, but they really enjoying it. The majority of the tracks seem to be from ‘Men Needs, Womens Needs, Whatever’ alongside generous helpings from the other albums and what appear to be a couple of newbies, which seem to be full of the usual melodic delights. They play ‘Be Safe’ which is brilliant, Lee Ranaldo shown on the big screens, adding his spoken word.

2nd last song is ‘Mens Needs’ and as they launch into ‘City of Bugs’ from the most recent album I begin to think they should have ended a song earlier. But I am so wrong. I never fully got into ‘Ignore the Ignorant’ and presume the run through will be a bit tired, anitclimatic. But live it comes to life like I would never expect and it proves to be a thrilling conclusion.

Later into the evening we call in to see Echo & The Bunnymen who are outstanding. I should know more about them, I know, but they are just one of those bands I know a couple of songs by but don’t own a thing. Judging by the crowd reaction they were playing some classics and as ‘The Killing Moon’ hits I’m there with them 100%. The huge echo-ing sounds round the massive tent is perfect. It’s not often a band you don’t know has such an effect, but I guess they are bloody legends aren’t they, so it’s no surprise.

The bands finish quite early at Latitude (and comedy finishes at 7pm) which leaves you wandering the odder stuff for entertainment. We popped for a pint to the cabaret tent as there was a Stones/Beatles cover band. Course I object massively to that, but I thought as background music for a pint it’d be ok. We found a comfy tree by the tent and sat there listening but ‘No Expectations’ were surprisingly dull, making McCartneys touring band sound like the fucking Sex Pistols. Absolutely by numbers and without an ounce of personality. Shame on them.
The poetry tent had cleared since us missing Tim Key and similarly we sat for a pint with something in the background. The female compere dropped some typically bleak poetry about some kind of relationship bother. Then Nathan Penlington came to the stage. I enjoyed his 10 minute slot, though it raised more questions than anything, the main one being ‘what is poetry?’. He told stories, read some of Uri Gellar’s terrible poetry, did a magic trick and read a poem. It was enjoyable but unusual. Judging by various other acts I saw in passing, plus what I gathered from the programme, spoken word / poetry / rap / reading out loud all seem to blur into one now. I guess part of it is making it accessible to an audience, especially a festival one. It didn’t really convince me to go see poetry live anytime soon, but I’m still glad it was there and given an outlet. In fact a great thing about Latitude is that despite Music having the biggest stage, it feels like all the strands of the arts are treated with them same respect, as well they should.

On the way back to the tent we witnessed something very strange by the lake. We were on our way into the woods, through the crowds, when I saw some giant inflatable Moomin type characters bobbing past, like Sprirted Away characters. We then spotted a person attached to a massive balloon floating our way. Like a trapeze artist they were spinning around as the balloon fell and raised itself up again. I’m talking way up in the sky here, dangerously high. The person lowered themselves down and touched the Moomins one by one and they dissolved to nothing. Then the balloon man flew away. It was awesome, mostly because it was totally unnecessary, but also because if we’d not happened to have been passing at that very moment, we’d have missed it. Well cool.

Which brings me to the little touches that made Latitude so great. As soon as we arrived at the campsite we dumped our stuff and started to unpack the tent. Immediately two volunteers rolled up and offered to help us put it up. 5 minutes later they were on their way and we were in our tent having a beer. The campsite was excellent, though admittedly we were in the guest site. Toilets generally were amongst the best I have seen at a festival including, to the mass amusement of my girlfriend, female urinals. The general campsite had a supermarket selling goods at reasonable prices, including fresh milk, homemade cakes, locally sourced meat and newspapers.

Within the arena the prices were acceptable – about 6/7 quid for a meal, which is steep but the choice was massive and the quality very good. Pints were a reasonable £3.90 for Tuborg or Cider. You had to pay a £3 deposit for a cup which at first seems a bit costly. But it’s actually a genius move – it means there’s no littering and people keep hold of their cups. At the end of the weekend we got our 3 quid back.

The programme was expensive - £9. However, the programme is a 350 book, a proper book with masses of information in and makes a decent souvenir. Though, as the only way to get a timetable, it is a bit much. Perhaps there should be a timetable only option for a few quid.

I found staff to be very helpful. There were a lot of ‘information’ people around to point you in the right direction. People in shops and stalls were friendly too and fitted in with the general easy going atmosphere. I didn’t see any drunken idiots shouting and causing bother. People were drunk, don’t get me wrong. I saw paramedics attending to a few. But there was no fuss. It was a family festival afterall, but I’m glad that the family aspect did not affect the quality of the acts. I heard some right swearing from the comedy arena, but the whole thing was still family friendly. I saw a lot of young girls, 13/14, going around in groups and at some other festivals that would worry me.

Saturday night ended in the woods with a DJ delivering some pumping tunes. Felt real counter-culture. But safe, y’know? Sunday arrived and the weather seemed to be coming round to the festival spirit.

We kicked off with our first bit of theatre – Crunch! The theatre was great, about 500 capacity but it felt very intimate. Crunch! Was a one man show based around the idea of money. ‘Gary’ appeared to be one of those money making, pyramid scheme scammers. He laid out his 5 point plan for a better financial system. He held an auction for an envelope containing an unknown amount of money and someone came out smiling. Using evidence (including a trillion dollar Zimbabwean Bill) he tried to talk the audience round to his philosophy of ‘Richism’. It all built towards a climax that I don’t want to spoil here, but it involved the audience seriously questioning its attitude to money in a most extreme manner.

The show was great because it was unpretentious. It has to be said for a lot of the stuff at Latitude actual – words like ‘Literature’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘Theatre’ scare / bore the shit out of some people, but most of what I saw here was really engaging. The key here was Gary himself. Clearly elements were scripted, but he addressed the audience directly and bounced off their responses. It’s difficult to keep that up over an hour whilst building to a pre-determined climax but he did it with style.

I popped over to the main stage to catch 20 minutes of Kele (of Bloc Party) doing his solo thing. I kinda liked his solo album, or about half of it. Its Galaxy FM dance moves were unexpected certainly, especially as they were tinged with some pretty heavy regret and despair. Would this win over a mid afternoon festival crowd?

Surprisingly, yes. Kele had a proper band with him and seemed in incredibly high spirits. He was battling against the worst downpours of the weekend but was working the crowd like a seasoned professional. Smiling and everything. Maybe I got the guy completely wrong. They played a medley of Boc Party tunes that sounded completely different (Blue Light, The Prayer, One More Chance) but it was his own stuff that stood out. Shame I had to leave before he wrapped things up.

I ended my Latitude with a piece of theatre, a piece developed especially for Latitude between SpyMonkey and Peeplokyus. The latter of those are one of my favourite theatre groups (not that I can name many) having made two of the best pieces of comedy I’ve seen in theatre (Spyski and their version of Hound Of The Baskervilles).

In short it was utterly bonkers, silly beyond what I previously thought were the boundaries of silliness. It was based around the Jekyll and Hyde story and featured a cast of 6 playing multiple characters. It was created to appear under-rehearsed but by happy co-incidence was also under rehearsed. As is often the Peepolokyus way, the actors slip out of character, into the character of the actor and argue on stage. There were some amazingly off the wall moments that you expect from them. Some parts were so over the top slapstick it was beyond belief. But it was piss funny. Basically this was a greatest hits set for theatre, playing to the festival crowd. It wouldn’t work in it’s current state as a touring piece, but as a one off piece I was thrilled and it was a great ending to my Latitude.

Overall I was very impressed with Latitude. I heard there were some issues with the water supply (again…) and a shortage of wood chippings in the main campsite. I didn’t encounter any of this and from what I witnessed staff were on the ball in dealing with the boggy conditions. The festival had the right atmosphere, and though its headliners weren’t as massive as some other festival, the general experience was spot on. If the weather had held, it would have been even greater. As it was, it became a bit of a trial making it around the site. But with lots of new and interesting things to see, I will be surprised if I find a better festival experience this year.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 18 July 2011

Pylon Setlist

Pylon played their last ever gig yesterday at Out Of Spite Festival at The Well in Leeds. At least I presume they did – I had a freebie for Latitude. But after the joyous evening spent at their warm up for that final appearance I don’t feel I missed out – though they will most certainly be missed. Below is a scan of their set list from that Wakefield gig (review HERE) to remind us that as well as writing some of the best tunes ever, they were also incredibly childish… :) Cheers guys x

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Elks / Black Helium Split 7" Review

Oh My Oh My Oh My / Summer Spells
Elks / Black Helium
Death Pop

Ah! The good old fashioned spilt 7”. Right boys, you got one song to impress, you better make it a good one…

Elks, who graced RB’s very own Long Division this year, earning themselves a swarm of converts, open things up. As those at LD will be aware, they play loud, low slung power dirges of brain rattling beauty. My bones were shaking and I was next door. Elks have two albums under their belt; the first was a little more math rock influenced but the last – ‘Boy Wander’, which saw the band become a three piece, was a whole lot more dirtier; a blues influenced beast, a swarm of malevolence. Unsurprisingly after the live show, it’s a route they’ve continued down. Perhaps even more than Boy Wander it’s an accurate reflection of their live show in terms of its swagger and attitude and ball breaking volume. Perhaps it doesn’t quite have the hook a split single benefits from or the dynamics of some of their other tracks; instead, at 2 and a half minutes it just grabs you by the proverbial with one hand and punches you in the gut with the other. But in a nice way, of course. As an advert for what Elks are all about, you couldn’t ask for more

Black Helium are new to RB and with the opening, dirge slow riff of Summer Spells it’s clear why they are sharing a vinyl with Elks. There’s a more atmospheric approach here, with 60’s echo effects all over the vocals and a verse that is part Slint, part Psychedelia influenced early 90’s grunge. It’s a bit unsettling, again in a good way, the chorus breaking the daze of the spun out verse. It’s a chorus but it doesn’t have a hook, instead just volume, a fuzzed out, hellish riff and a wailing vocal that recalls Hawkwind or some similar era reference (probably early Sabbath). The press promised some Daydream Era type guitar interplay – I would liked more of that angle but Black Helium have a knack of bashing out a relentless, grinding riff and coating it in some fine atmospherics that, despite being twice the length of the Elks track, leaves me wanting more.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 11 July 2011

Pylon @ The Hop - Live Review

The Hop, Wakefield
8th July 2011

Last year Rhubarb Bomb ran an article on Pylon under its ‘Lost Bands’ header. The case for the prosecution to them being ‘lost’ was that they never completely fulfilled the potential they seemed to have. They were adored in Wakefield. They were part of a tight collective of amazing musicians and friends who made Wakefield an interesting place to be. They influenced a whole range of bands, as well as record labels, promoters and fanzine writers. But after the release of their debut album (proceeded by two EPs) they split, with a farewell gig pencilled in for Out of Spite Festival, 2007. As often seemed to be the case in those last few years, it fell through. Next week they play that final gig at Out of Spite. But tonight we have the amazing honour of seeing them in Wakefield and, goodness me, I’m excited.

It has been interesting talking about Pylon recently, as RB has on its Long Division Podcasts. I’m just old enough to remember seeing them at what was perhaps their prime during my late teens - the right age to be hooked. But to some of the bands coming through now they are just a name, partly mythical perhaps. So it was pleasing to see a real mix of people in the crowd. Those hot young things and those who remember it the first time round. One of my first gig experiences was seeing Pylon at Players – it was in that same venue around that time I was given a flyer advertising a coach trip to Joseph’s Well, Leeds to see the band that eventually became The Cribs. It’s good to see 2 of the Jarmans down to pay their respects.

Which makes it sound terribly austere. It wasn’t. It was fucking awesome.

Apologies are due to the support acts – I didn’t bother. I was here for one band and one band only. I was right down the front. The band looked a little nervous setting up. Rob Taylor is tootling on his Hammond and that classic sound (to these ears) takes me way back. I can see the setlist at the feet of singer Joe. There’s plenty to get through.

Pylon kick things off and instantly the sound is huge. I think the new PA in The Hop might be slightly too loud. Though to be fair I’m stood RIGHT NEXT TO IT. The sound is immense and the energy instantaneous. They kick off with a couple of earlier EP tracks, ones I’ve not heard for a while. But, somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind lie those words and melodies and I’m singing along. How much useless rubbish rattles around our brains? By the time they launch into ‘Name In Lights’, opener from their debut, the whole room is in rapture. The band are having a great time, there are smiles all round. There’s banter from the crowd and I’m sure I saw the raffle guy from the old ‘For The Love Of The Game’ nights.

About half way through it feels like they’ve played all their songs. But they keep digging out the ‘hits’, every one a gem I’d half forgotten. The pure power of Pylon is in their melodic abilities. Through the ear ringing howl the vocal hooks shine through. Every song over flowing with some shining, optimistic beauty. Because I’ve only had their recorded output to enjoy over the last FIVE YEARS I’d forgotten the power of them as a live band.

There’s something amounting to perfection in these songs, some untouchable glimmer of a singular, complete moment. Standing there I feel like I could actually be watching the best band that has ever existed. Now I know that sounds ridiculous but rather than a comment on their songwriting or WHATEVER, I’m really getting at the ideas of what makes a band ‘great’. Pylon are so unknown in the grand scheme of things but watching them inspires because it backups what you already know; that ‘local’ bands, ‘obscure’ bands, LOST bands can mean the world – and in this case they have the tunes to back it up. Pylon write such amazing, anthemic music they could be huge. But they don’t need to be huge to be amazing. Out of every band playing in the world tonight, Pylon could be the greatest but the only people who will ever know are the 100 or so in this room. That’s a good feeling.

So anyway, yeah, I quite enjoyed myself. I’m glad I got to see them again before they disappear for good. In a week where RB has also seen Pulp come back from the dead, it naturally leads to introspection and the nature of all this band malarkey. But looking back, as much as I love Pulp and they are one of the most important bands EVER to me – I FELT MORE hearing ‘Yo Yo Blue’ than Disco 2000 – because Disco 2000 feels like a point in time, wonderful nostalgia. ‘Yo Yo Blue’ and the rest, have something to give TODAY. I hope they manage to play more shows and even make more records. But the magic they had, and have again tonight, lives on in Wakefield and if that torch continues to be passed on, we have nothing at all to worry about.

Dean Freeman

Pylon play their last ever gig at Out Of Spite on July 17th

Pylon’s music is available here:

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Action Replay - Burning In Ice Review

Action Replay
Burning In Ice
Hellfire Productions

From 2002 – 2006 ‘Swedish Melodic Death Metal’ were words I frequently typed whilst writing for a previous publication. Judging by “Burning In Ice” title track it would appear Brummies Action Replay have been influenced by said genre and whilst I remain a big fan of bands such as Gothenburg’s In Flames it takes something extra special for new acts plying this sound to turn my head these days. Aimee Flower’s powerful, crystal clear; vocals on this track certainly help Action Replay to stand out from the legions of bands fronted by males of Viking stock. Musically there’s an extremely tasteful solo around the one minute fifty mark from guitarist Matt Draycott, although the ‘breakdown’ which precedes it does sound contrived and somewhat redundant.

Track two “Darkest Days” starts off with some quiet Tool-esque introspection but largely reminds me of ‘German Thrash Metal’ gods Kreator at their least thrashing, circa Endorama, when frankly they couldn’t get arrested over here. Me, I’m quite partial to the darker/slower sound they introduced at the time. Again Flower’s vocals are a million miles away from Mille Petrozza’s harsh tones, although I personally find them a little two polished.

Third track, “Caught Between Us”, allows me to continue our geographical genre lesson, harking back to the early nineties when San Franciscan ‘Bay Area Thrashers’ such as Metallica and Testament started penning ballads. The guitar work here evokes memories of Testament guitarist and sometime Rodrigo Y Gabriela collaborator Alex Skolnick. Skolnick remains an exceptional guitarist whose return to Testament instantly boosted them in the live arena, so when I compare Draycott to him believe me that is a compliment.

“Cut You Down” closes proceedings on an upbeat note. For me it’s the only track where the band sufficiently escapes the shadow of their influences and tries to forge their own identity. Ultimately “Burning In Ice” is a release I would have praised a decade ago, but Action Replay (Apt name given that they seem to be offering condensed highlights of various metal genres at their most commercial) have probably missed the boat, with Italian’s Lacuna Coil having long since taken this kind of female fronted metal to the masses. If you want to hear a British version of them though then this could be for you.

Andrew Whittaker

Friday, 8 July 2011

Indietracks Festival Compilation

Yes yes yes, I know you get sick of RB going on about Indietracks. But for the last time; it’s with good reason! And talking of reasons, here is another one. Indietracks has put together a 40 track compilation featuring bands playing at this years festival. It’s available for download and contains tracks from some of the more well known bands (Herman Dune, Crystal Stilts, an unreleased demo from Jeffery Lewis) as well as lesser known but equally brilliant acts. Of course, the idea is to download it and pop it on in the car on the way. But if you can’t make it to Indietracks for whatever reason (I’ve yet to hear a good one) it’s still well worth a listen.

The Comp is just another of the brilliant little touches that Indietracks excel at and that attention to detail is what makes the festival for me. You can download it from the make do and mend bandcamp

and you can pay what you like. Before you head off and pay nowt for it, bare in mind that all the money goes to the Midland Railway Centre who allow use of their site every year. They need a few pounds to keep themselves going, so give em something… And there is still time to get your tickets: a bargain £65 for the whole weekend. Hope to see you at Indietracks!

Dean Freeman

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Black Moth / XM-3A Split 7" Review

Black Moth/ XM-3A
Split 7”
New Heavy Sounds

It’s slightly disappointing to receive a promo copy of Black Moth and XM-3A’s split 7” (On clear vinyl no less!) on CD, but ultimately it’s the content I’m here to review, not the format.

As with any split release one band is going to triumph over the other and take the plaudits, in this case it’s Black Moth, with their contribution “Spit Out Your Teeth”. It largely reminds me of former Hole and Smashing Pumpkins’ bassist Melissa Auf der Maur’s solo work, with Harriet Hyde’s vocals in particular reminding me of Melissa’s voice with a slight air of L7 creeping in. The lyrics are suitably kooky, hinting at dark, windy nights and black cats. If the line “If you believe me I can’t let you go, I couldn’t let something bad happen to you, you’re safe with me here, so stay with me here and nobody evil of bad will come near.” was sung by a man it would sound laughable, but Harriet delivers it perfectly. With a couple of heads down, balls-out riffs (The one around the three minute mark is suitably Sabbath-esque) upping the ante at just the right time there’s much to suggest that Black Moth’s album, which is slated for an autumn release, will be worth investing in.

XM-3A weigh in with “It’s Possible – Part 1”, which frankly leaves me with no desire to hear “Part 2”. It’s the vocals which kill it dead for me, which to these ears sound like Austin Power’s character Fat Bastard attempting to impersonate Lemmy. And the lyrics, well the line “I go down to the town, I think I’ll take a look. I go into the library, guess I’ll get a book.” just sounds awful. Granted the repetition of the songs main motif “It’s possible, not impossible.” succeeded in burrowing into my brain, that’s not to say I enjoyed the experience. There is a flicker of hope in the music, which with some meaty riffs and a hint of organ reminded me of long lost Brit hopefuls Headswim. Ultimately if you choose to put out one track on a split release though that’s what you’re going to be judged on and on the basis of this four and a half minute track I won’t be scouring the racks for XM-3A’s future releases.

Andrew Whittaker

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Wireless Festival (Pulp) Review

Wireless Festival
Hyde Park, London
3rd July 2011

Wireless Festival was a 3 day festival; RB could only afford to make it for the last day, though with Pulp headlining the final night, was there any real need to waste 2 days waiting for the greatest band ever?

I heard that Aphex Twin were amazing on the Saturday and I regret not getting to be art of that. However, Sunday is where we were and thus the review begins.

I don’t recall going to Hyde Park before. I’m not a big London lover. I can manage 2 days tops, but even then I get a bit stressed by it all. I don’t like busy places, I don’t like things noisy and hot and sweaty and I don’t like the fact that you have to get the tube everywhere, randomly popping up in some suburb not knowing where the hell you are. I also don’t like how expensive it is and the fact it loves itself a bit too much.

HOWEVER. We managed to get a hostel right on Hyde Park for just £20 each a night. We could see The Albert Hall out of our Window. The Natural History Museum was a 3 minute walk. And being in upmarket South Kensington made us feel all fancy. Hyde Park itself was a good venue, it was great to sit in the park and chill before the festival itself started. It also meant you could have a few cheeky beers before hand to save on dollars as once you were in, YOU WERE IN. No re-admissions.

Getting in was a problem as the queues were massive, meaning we missed Yuck and all but the end of Metronomy, pretty much the only two bands on the day time bill I cared about. The tailend of Metronomy was excellent though, amazing I saw them in The Hop, Wakefield just a few months before. Admittedly they have intentionally got a hell of a lot more accessible with recent album The English Riveria, but it was the right move. They sound great in the mid afternoon sun.

We find a good spot to perch and sit on the grass. The festival isn’t too busy and there are plenty of spots to sit and drink and chat, near enough to hear the bands, but far enough to be heard over the noise. It makes the best of being in a park basically. Although it is busier by the end, it never gets too busy.

Bands come and go – The Horrors surprise me as I thought I pretty much despised them. I hated them when they arrived but I’d heard good things about the 2nd album. Not enough to listen to it, but from what we get here I’m really impressed, swarming walls of noise with a Primal Scream penchant for dirtiness and euphoria in equal measures. Cool. The Hives, who we are all surprised to hear still exist, arrive next. They are entertaining, front man Howlin' Pelle Almqvist spurting odd and humorous asides between songs. They are exactly as we remember them sounding. Pleasing background music to the pints.

TV on The Radio, another band I never got into, pop up next and again I’m surprised that I’m actually liking what I hear. The sounds are dense and interesting but the atmosphere of the festival, or at least the space around us, is geared more towards socialising and I’m not paying a great deal of notice.

For the first time we leave the main stage and head over to catch Foals. It’s almost as if this festival was made up of bands I’ve heard loads about but know nothing. The tent is full and again the sound is good. But we stand outside and let the fans squash in. Around us are plenty of food stalls, offering plenty of variety. Price wise we are talking £4 a pint and about £6/7 for food. Pretty pricey if it were a northern festival but in London it’s close to a bargain. There are plenty of security staff around, some of them even monitoring the toilet queues to makes sure people don’t jump ahead.

The overall festival vibe surpasses what I expected would be overly corporate. It’s inclusive and, I guess, relatively family friendly. Amusingly, the big screens by the stage between bands show vox pops taken with the crowd and interview sections hosted by a T4 wannabe and Huey from Fun Lovin Criminals. The festival they are showing on screen seems to differ wildly from what I see around me – talks with Skins like teenagers about all the hot boys and girls and getting drunk and Huey spouting like he’s at some California frat beach party. Weird, because the festival was a lot nicer than the image they were seemingly trying to project.

So we caught the last 5 minutes of Grace Jones. I don’t know anything she’s ever done, except play MayDay in ‘A View To A Kill’ and was probably right to assume her music wouldn’t be up my street. But she astounded us all by performing her entire closing number whilst hula hooping non stop. And she weren’t just stood there. She walked around the stage introducing the band. Like she’d forgotten it was there. Then she walked off, hula hoop still going. Nice work.

And so the wait began. For the mighty Pulp. I had had mixed feelings about the reunion. In general I viciously disapprove of band reunions for the sake of it. I’ve seen a couple. I saw The Pixies at Leeds Fest. I had a great time during the gig. But it was wrong, and I knew it (and proved very unpopular when stating it). If they’d got an album out I wouldn’t mind. But we’re still waiting.

With Pulp I was excited because Russell was back. For me that seemed to give it the stamp of approval it needed. And hearing they’d got together due to a mutual friend passing away and them realising life was too short – I can deal with that. I think if anything I perhaps felt a little jealous as I had made the effort to attend their ‘last ever gig’ at Magna in Sheffield which had been amazing. I couldn’t say that anymore.

The festival seems Pulp’s natural home now though. Come on and play the hits… except they don’t have a massive amount of ‘proper hits’. And the excitement of seeing ‘I Spy’, ‘F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E’ and ‘This Is Hardcore’ again, alongside the singalong favourites was the perfect combination of feel good and subversive.

As expected they opened with ‘Do You Remember The First Time’ which seemed slower but more driving than I remember, Jarvis’ opening line of ‘You say you want to go home…’ sounding so strong and alluring – exactly as if the last 17 years had not passed. As ever Jarvis is the greatest thing going here. With this reunion in particular, it all rested on him. The band sound tight and perform efficiently if not without any particular flair (stylish Russell aside). Jarvis is the key. If there had been any sense from him that he was going through the motions it would have fallen apart. But from the very beginning he was back, putting ever ounce of passion and playfulness into his performance.

He introduced every song and it was good to hear him reminisce about his years in London – though very much a northern band, most northerners do forget that it was London that made the band when it counted, or as Jarvis puts it; ‘the clash of Sheffield and London’. Pleasingly they illustrate this with ‘Mile End’ which though played a lot during the Different Class tour I’d not heard live before, only available on the Trainspotting Soundtrack.

The set continues with great song after great song. 9 of the 12 Different Class tracks get an airing, leaving 3 from His N Hers, 1 from This Is Hardcore and 1 from We Love Life and Mile End. I expected more from His N Hers but it seemed they ran out of time, with Jarvis asking the time and then playing Common People. I reckon they wanted to play Lipgloss of Razzamatazz, which would have been amazing and probably preferable to Bar Italia. But, it has to be said, it was a festival and the festival favourites naturally got the best reaction; ‘Disco 2000’ was immense, ‘Something Changed’ got a huge singalong and ‘Babies’ got people bouncing around like it was 1995.

‘I Spy’ was a highlight. Jarvis started on the floor on his back with perverse callings of ‘I’m coming to get you… I know where you are’ as the band built an unnerving wave of sound. He then came down to the audience with a camera and stuck it in their faces, to great comic affect. Once the beat kicked in it thrust into life, much greater than the record. ‘Pink Glove’ had a fantastic propulsion to it as well and it was good that the band had clearly worked on some of the tracks, tighten them up for the festival audience.

There wasn’t a track that didn’t satisfy. ‘This Is Hardcore’, a personal favourite, soared over the park. It was those moments that justified the reunion for me. Such a crazy, conceptual piece of devastating music being fed to the Disco 2000 ‘masses’ was a triumph. It also made me realise that I had mellowed some in the years since Pulp left us in that I happily sit in both of those camps now.

But that was the overriding feeling – it didn’t feel like they had ever left. Officially they never split, but it felt right for those songs to be part of NOW. They didn’t feel like relics, it didn’t even feel like nostalgia. Of course I hope they make another record. But if not, any excuse to get Jarvis back in front of a field full of people is worth it. It’s where he belongs and it makes the world a better place. Jarvis closed the gig by saying ‘see you again, maybe in another 10 years’ but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be sooner than that.

As a festival, it was a good experience; the trip to London with friends felt like enough of an adventure to warrant to cost and it was something new and different. I’d have been less impressed I had just popped to Leeds for the same thing. The atmosphere was good and the organisers seemed to care that you had a good time, though ultimately it is just another corporate festival.

Dean Freeman

Photography by Joel Rowbottom