Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Leeds Festival (Sunday) Review

Leeds Festival
Bramham Park
Sunday 28th August 2011

I last attended Leeds Festival in 2005 and since then I feel I have broadened my horizons in regards to what I expect from the festival experience. As such, it felt strange to be returning after such a long time, much like returning to your primary school and seeing the tiny chairs and tables, the climbing frames that once seemed so towering. I used to buzz off this?

Which I don’t mean to sound condescending in anyway. In opposition to my simile, Leeds Fest is the festival that towers over all others, seeing as many as 65,000 people over its 3 days (or so they say). Sophistication, nuance, subtlety; look elsewhere. This is about a sense of event.

But due to my previous experiences, which form a collage in my mind of burning burger vans, refugee style camping, toilets erupting and overflowing and lots of ‘lads’ getting pissed with their backs to the bands, I felt some apprehension. But excitement too, like that first day at school.

And I was pleased to see things had improved. Organisation for start was greatly improved. I mean, ok, you don’t go to the festival to admire the signing on the M62, but the contempt with which punters once seemed to be held was all but gone and I felt welcomed to the site, thus improving my anticipation. The only annoyance was that our camera was deemed ‘too professional’ by the stewards and wasn’t allowed in. Frustrating to then spend a lot of the time stood behind people with iPhones raised as we watched the bands.

The site was in decent shape despite the downpours over the previous days. It was busy in there, but manageable. I quickly became aware of being much older than most of the people around me. I have to admit, the main reason I was here was for Pulp, but with a sense of curiosity, we explored.

The number of stages is impressive, the NME tent is fucking huge, bigger than most festival main stages. The comedy tent was new to Leeds Fest for me, amusingly called the ‘Alternative Tent’. The compere did his job well and got people sat down and squashed in and I felt a million miles from the bussle outside. I never thought a comedy tent would work at Leeds, due to inevitable drunks and hecklers. But it did and offered the alternative it claimed to be. Jimmy McGhie opened up with a mixed set, veering from what I feared would be a whole set of crude overacting and for the sake of it swearing to a section on being too English and reserved. Parts worked, and I began to understand him more when he revealed his need to hide behind voices (hence the sways in his comedy). His approach wasn’t revolutionary but was hard to dislike, winning the mostly young crowd over. And I was pleased his deconstruction of the vacuous culture of ‘T4’ was so rapturously received. There’s hope for the young yet.

Mark Watson followed in his breathless, relentless style that simulates a man unable to think something without saying it out loud. Again, he is a nice guy expressing things we all kind of think and know, but taking them one step further. Hang on, isn’t that ALL comedy? Yeah, but Watson shares a mad warmth that comes across well in the tent, though I would say the set was slightly too long. That would perhaps be down to the fact he was reusing some material from a few years before when I saw him in Wakefield. It’s not to his detriment; it actually made it clear that what appear to random interjections and stream of consciousness are all pre-scripted and it made me appreciate his method of storytelling more for it.

There wasn’t much on the bill that took my fancy. The Kills disappointed on the NME stage. Funnily enough, I’d not seen them since they played at Magna for Pulp’s ‘Last Ever Gig’. The large stage didn’t suit them. The beats were too quiet and the dirty guitar riffs became repetitive far too soon. It was a shame because Alison Mosshart looked fantastic and when she joined in on guitar, a greater dynamism was found. We left early to catch the end of Madness on the main stage who were a wonder, filling that perfect mid afternoon ‘feel good’ slot. I was impressed to see them play an array of either Ska classics or new stuff (I couldn’t tell which) including ‘Out Of Space’ that The Prodigy sampled – sorry, don’t know who did that originally. Then they dropped a run of classic singles, House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love etc and the already jolly main stage crowd came to life. They were dancing all the way to the back. Festivals are about great moments like that.

Elsewhere, we tried to see as many unknown bands as possible. This was severely restricted by the fact that there were no programmes or timetables available anywhere on site. This really pissed me off. I didn’t know what time ANYTHING was on. Why were there no provisions made for the Sunday only day crowd? So, I saw a fair few bands but I’ve no idea who they were. And as these were generally up and coming bands it annoys me even more that I can’t tell you who they are.

The BBC Introducing stage seemed to be a success and it’s a great asset to the whole Leeds Fest setup. The only band I can name that I saw was Spector who initially impressed with their swagger and big tight sound. But over the set they turned slowly into The Killers, which was awful. If they can reign it in, they might be able to head off on the tangent we all wished Brandon Flowers and co had taken after Hot Fuss, instead of the self aggrandising shitbags they turned into.

The variation of the bands, though nameless was great. I saw a reggae band play a Nirvana set (I saw Lithium, Polly, Sliver & Dive) some kind of Post Hardcore, Folk Pop… aw you know the genres. With the aid of a programme or a general direction, I could have had a ball. You guys know I’m a sucker for organisation, and that was piss poor Leeds Fest.

Nevermind. The evening drew in and I gratefully avoided The Strokes completely. Pulp arrived and played a similar set to the one at Hyde Park earlier in the summer, with the additions of Razzamatazz and Pencil Skirt. It was a different experience from towards the back of the crowd, but Jarvis was, once again, on fine form. All his Vouge-esqe moves, his seeming inability to not make love to every square inch of the stage. It was triumphant, absolutely. And being the second time I’d seen them, it gave me chance to appreciate the rest of the band too, especially Russell’s much missed wandering violin adding an air of sinister malevolence, as if to prove it wasn’t just a populist showcase or a dip in nostalgia.

Jarvis acknowledged the cold evening and they tried their best to keep everyone moving, but the appearance of Bar Italia towards the end was a slowy too far as my feet sank into the mud, my toes frozen rigid. Naturally they finished with Common People. Much greater than the last time I saw them play it at Leeds Fest when they were clearly sick of it. Whatever issues they had back then are gone now. You could feel them savour every moment.

So in a bizarre conclusion to my earlier references to the past, to childhood, to school, I end Leeds Festival - where I have felt very much an adult to my fellow festival goers - bopping around to band I adored through my mid to late teens. It wasn’t til the next day that I ‘got’ what had happened. As a reviewer and general analytical person I often focus too much on the details (how much were the pints? What was the person to square inch of space ratio? How much fun am I having expressed as a percentage?) whereas festivals aren’t about that. Leeds Fest wasn’t the best festival of the year FOR ME. But for some of the kids here it will have been life changing. Leeds was the first festival I went to in 2001 and here I am, still going to festivals. It’s for the young people who don’t give a shit about ANYTHING except having a good time and seeing some bands. Just because my expectations mature and grow doesn’t mean Leeds Fest should.

I kind of accept it for what it is now and if it gets these kids into the whole experience, I’m glad it exists. Being that it is marketed at youngsters, I feel there could be more measures to make it safe – but suddenly the over the top security measures I find so intrusive MAKE SENSE. It’s to do just that.

I still wouldn’t camp there. And it is still massively overpriced (Bus back to Leeds £4.50, Pint £4.20, day ticket £90). The line up this year was varied, but didn’t contain much that interested me. Unlike those kids, I’m harder to please and far too cynical. But, it’s a good thing. Leeds fest is a good thing again.

Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Issue 2.2 Launch Night

The next Issue of Rhubarb Bomb will be released on September 24th at a launch party taking place in Chantry Chapel, Wakefield. Chantry Chapel is over 650 years old and resides on a bridge over the river Calder. It’s a beautiful venue for intimate, memorable gigs and something in Wakefield to be proud of.

There will be sets from St Gregory Orange, playing tracks from their hotly anticipated 2nd album, The Spills, whose debut has just been completed, will be playing stripped down versions from that and Siobhan Reilly, heading down from Glasgow will be debuting some of her fine new folk compositions. More bands will follow.

Entry to the chapel is £5. That’s a little more than you would usually pay for a gig, but the event is also bring your own booze, so overall you will be able to have a cheap night. On top of that, there will be a free raffle, some free cakes (feel free to bring your own to share too) and a CD Compilation exchange. Burn a disc at home, do a fancy sleeve and pop it in the Mix Cd box, taking someone else’s at random. See what you come away with! The gig is open to all ages too.

A new issue is a big thing for us, we work hard on getting them together. Rhubarb Bomb is free and everyone who puts it together works for free because they believe in the fanzine ideal. We like organising these launch nights as it’s a real opportunity for people to get together and do something a little different. We would love to see you down there and have you support Rhubarb Bomb, Wakefield Live Music and general Good Stuff.



Facebook Event HERE

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Cat That Walks Alone - 'Evans Throne' Review

The Cat That Walks Alone
Evans Throne
Allign Romance

The Cat That Walks Alone is the title of one man band Cameron Laing who has experience writing for ‘various major label artists’. Which of course turns me off immediately. Yes, for no good reason, but hey, I’m reviewing it and I’m just being honest.

The sound here is some kind of dense folk pop with an impressive propulsion and sense of momentumn evident throughout. Synths and beating drums open things up and the song is built around the chord progression of a thousand 80’s Indie Pop songs, though most of all ‘The Streets Have No Name’ is brought to mind. This is where I kind of feel the ‘songwriter’ aspect coming through – ‘yes it’s predictable chords, but look what he does with it’. Well, to a point, the voices in my head are correct; the levels and layers of instrumentation and melody are smart and very well done, as is the clean and upfront production. But nothing new here.

The short, sharp title track leads into B-side ‘Love Will Always Come’ which is a much gentler creature (you can imagine it now right – picking guitars and fat piano chords?), predictably so. Except it kicks in half way through with what a friend of mine would call ‘disco’ beat. Distant horns swirl in and it’s pretty affecting, more homely and honest.

It’s these moments of surprise that work best on this single. In many ways it feels too much like they’ve thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at it; an approach which on the whole works, but I’m not convinced the songs underneath are strong enough and perhaps the thing most lacking is a strong personality behind it. Cameron’s voice has a sweet C86 tone to it, perhaps too laid back for the full on folk rock attempted here. Technically, the whole package is faultless but I feel I’m lacking something to hook onto. Still, could imagine hearing it on Radio 2, so maybe I’m not the fish it is trying to lure.

Dean Freeman

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Two Trick Horse "S/T" Review

Two Trick Horse

They may purport to only have two tricks, but the duo of Stephen Livesey and Sam Coyle offer us three tracks on this demo. That one of those is an instrumental means that we don’t get too much lyrical insight, a shame given that they cite David Peace’s novels as an influence. Opening track “Kensington Gore” charges out of the blocks, repeating the line “This is a dream”, which given that Peace’s novels frequently blur the lines between reality and dreamlike sequences (Well they’re usually nightmarish!) seems appropriate. They then slow things down, introducing a slightly Sabbath-y air of menace (Think “Electric Funeral”) to the proceedings, which works well.

Instrumental track “Horsepower” reminds me of Therapy?, particularly their pre-“Troublegum” work. Placing it bang in the middle of the running order does seem curious though, as it does rob the release of what little momentum had been built up. Closing track “Assassination Summer”, as with all the songs, was recorded in December of 2010, yet its title, which is repeated frequently, and the opening lines, can’t help but bring to mind the recent shootings in Norway. Musically it is upbeat hardcore, along the lines of sadly short lived Dutch band Razor Crusade (Must dig out “Infinite Water” for a listen), although Livesey’s vocals lack the level of intensity that would befit such subject matter.

As a demo there’s definite promise, the production sound is not overly polished, coming across more like a rehearsal tape (I swear the sound at the start of the CD is a tape recorder button being pressed), which if I’m honest suits the stripped down material.

Andrew Whittaker

Lorenza Woods "S/T" Review

Lorenza Woods

Lorenza Woods may be an unfamiliar name to readers of the Bomb, but if you’re a Wakefield based music lover I suspect you will have come across some of the band’s members down the years. Significantly three quarters of their line-up (Guitarist Mik Crone, bassist Trevor Nicholls and drummer Matt Larkin) were previously in the long running K.O. Kaine. With Adam Phillips departing in late 2010 they opted to change their name before recruiting a vocalist.

Whether they ever contemplated retaining the K.O. Kaine moniker I’m not sure, but replacing Adam with Sarah Green (Not the Blue Peter presenter of the 80’s!) surely forced their hand. I can think of only one precedent of a metal band replacing a male singer with a female and going onto bigger things whist retaining their name, Swedes Arch Enemy. Their demos with Angela Gossow fooled many people into thinking that her vocals were in fact those of former Carcass frontman Jeff Walker. Whilst Green can unleash an equally fearsome roar at times, she often employs a clean style, which for me doesn’t always sit comfortably with the music.

What of that music? Well a recent piece on the band in the Wakefield Express hinted that they are looking to hark back to the sound of local bands such as Pylon, Milloy and Wrinkle; but that this release was comprised of K.O. Kaine music that never saw the light of day. What could be said is that they hark back to the time said bands made their mark, the late nineties and early noughties. Opening track “This Part’s For You” kicks in with a riff very much in the mould of Atlanta, Georgia’s finest rap-metal export, Stuck Mojo circa 1996’s “Pigwalk”. Later there’s a groove the size of that state that closes out the song which brings to mind the not so fine nu-metal band Coal Chamber. When Sarah is at her most aggressive, spitting out lyrics with an almost rapped delivery the deceased Wakefield band that most readily springs to mind is Crone and Larkin’s pre-K.O. Kaine outfit, Freak K.O., who were also female fronted (Confused yet!). This is the sound of the band operating in familiar territory, but there are hints of them stretching their wings into more melodic areas.

For much of “Outside In Fading Out” the band continue to trigger memories of the late nineties, especially the Tarrie B fronted Tura Satana. Although the mid-section serves as a breathing space, allowing Green’s clean vocals to take centre stage before Mik Crone displays his shredding skills with a suitably OTT solo. For me the contrasting styles don’t quite gel on this track, coming across as somewhat contrived. Thankfully “Non Believers” steers away from this approach, sticking almost exclusively to a commercial goth-metal sound ala Lacuna Coil et al. Although at nearly six-minutes in length it could outstay its welcome for some. At just over four minutes “Soldier Boy” continues along these lines with greater success, Green’s almost operatic wail being tempered by some subtler guitar work from Crone and an undercurrent of keyboards.

With the more commercial leaning of the final two tracks it almost feels like a game of two halves (Tracks 1-3 and 4-5). Clearly Lorenza Woods are still honing their sound and I do wonder if defining themselves with a physical release at this early stage might later be something of a millstone around their necks. As I alluded to earlier their present sound brings up a lot of memories of bands that I listened to in the past and if I wanted a nostalgia trip I’d more than likely dig out something by Clawfinger, Kill II This or Lacuna Coil rather than reach for this. But if those sounds still rock your boat you’d be advised to head down to the dark waters depicted on the cover.

Andrew Whittaker

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Glass Caves "S/T" - Record Review

The Glass Caves
Self Released

This four-track release throws up some interesting questions. On the basis of the second ditty, err “Ditty Do”; The Glass Caves clearly have it in them to pen a catchy tune. It very much reminds me of James and if I’m honest I could easily imagine the Mancunian legends performing it to large crowds where it would go down a storm. Whether its writers have the potential to reach out to such an audience is debatable and to play Devil’s advocate for one moment I wonder if a young band would rather a more established act become better known for performing their songs?

“Rose With A Fever” follows, flirting with some Latino sounds, and there’s a powerful surge towards the end of the song when they pull out the big guns (Well a huge synth!) which makes for an impressive hook. Elsewhere though the blend of synths and guitars is less successful, opening track “Red Lies” throws several shapes, but is ultimately just a little too awkward for its own good. Thankfully the final track “Crystal Black” holds up its end of the bargain, with a strong, simple chorus and a slight air of a Mancunian influenced swagger.

So one crowd pleaser and two other decent cuts, if “Ditty Do” were the lead track I think this would make an excellent three track single. But as it stands it is certainly a promising effort.

Andrew Whittaker

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Indietracks 2011 Review

As followers of the RB Podcasts may be aware, I have enthused about Indietracks a hell of a lot over the past 12 months. The mix of DIY quirkiness and the genuinely friendly nature of the festival made it a winner for me last year. But as I said the other day, the NEW and the UNKNOWN are big aspects of what makes a festival for me. Would it be as good again?

For those late to the party, Indietracks is a small (about 1000 people) festival set within the grounds of Midlands Railway Museum. There’s an outdoor stage in front of a grassy area, an indoor stage in an old railway shed, a small stage in a corrugated iron chapel and various other small stages including a moving steam train and impromptu sets in the merch tent. It’s a lovely, compact setting with great views of the countryside all around.

Last year the first band I saw was The Hillifields whom I had never come across before but set a great standard of unknown gems for the rest of the weekend. This year, just the same, we came across Tiny Fireflies, a guitar / synth 2 piece that also feature in Very Truly Yours and many other bands. The sparse but warm interplay between the pair was wonderful, the minimal beats bouncing off the rail shed walls. A great start, though the aspect by which it set the standard for the festival was actually in the incestuous nature of the line up. According to the programme pretty much every band consists of members from at least 4 other bands whilst simultaneously playing in 3 different bands on the day. The first band on the Sunday were trying to soundcheck but their keyboardist was busy soundchecking on the other stage!

All of which suggests the kind of inclusive atmosphere of the festival. Also impressive is how far and wide many of the bands have travelled, with many bands from America and Scandinavia in particular. New York born Jeffrey Lewis was an absolute highlight, performing an electrifying set with his 4 piece backing band.

Man, he looked like he was having fun, his rambunctious anti folk giving an admittedly needed jolt of excitement amongst the occasionally pedestrian jingle jangle from the main stage. A cover of Sonic Youth’s 100% pleased the crowd as did a Tom Petty cover. Would have happily watched it all over again.

Edwyn Collins and Herman Dune were the headliners this year. Edwyn was a disappointment, though not through fault of his own. There were generator problems over on the main stage and he was switched to the shed last minute. Basically I couldn’t get in. The sounds wafting out were good, a tight band in place around him. After his brain haemorrhage I kind of presumed he was just ‘better’ now, but he seemed to struggle with his between song speech and clearly has a long way to go, so massive respect that he is out here on tour, entertaining the crowds and singing more than competently. Just a shame I couldn’t see anything, but ‘Rip It Up’ sounded good.

As for Herman Dune, well I didn’t get to see the whole set as my good lady Jayno had finally succumbed to a massive bout of flu and we had to head back to the tent. I liked what I heard though, surprisingly muscular with some parts coming off like ‘Spencer Percival’ by I Like Trains and, as I walked down the country lane to the campsite, the distant sound of a cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Dirty Boots’. Dammit!

Elsewhere Indietracks has always been a good one for finding little nuggets of greatness. Victoria & Jacob, though previously known to RB have progressed nicely and threw a blinder in the chapel. Both with sets of Korgs and various samplers, the sound is full of layers but relaxed and laid back, Victoria’s vocals guiding the tracks to blissful highs. Afterwards, Heroes of the Mexican Independence Movement featured someone from Fonda 500 as well as loads of other guys from other bands. They were ramshackle but amusingly so (in the right way) and packed a fair few decent tunes.

Just Handshakes (We’re British) offered something slightly more lively than the MOR Indiepop on the main stage and their sound seemed to suit the open field, bathed in sunlight. Berlin Brides played some interesting and loud electro pop, a perfect mid afternoon wake up call.

White Town (of ‘one hit wonder’ fame with Your Woman in 1997) is a massive Indietracks fan and usually pops up somewhere. This year he did a short acoustic set in the Merch tent which was lovely, his delicate songs pleasingly honest and down to earth. His calm, hushed tones transformed the tent into a little haven for 15 minutes and he even played ‘the only hit I ever had, or ever will’ which was great for people like myself, not so familiar with his other work. A lovely moment.

Later in the tent I mistakenly (drunkenly) misread the handwritten sign stating what i thought said 'RM Hubbert' from Chemikal Underground was playing. Instead I got MJ Hibbett but thankfully he was great, with some spot on singalong stuff with some clever points being made about artistic credibility vs mass appeal plus a lovely cover of 'Boom Shake Shake Shake The Room' by The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff.

These little unexpected moments are what Indietracks are about but this year didn’t quite have the magic of last year. I think this is likely because I am not a massive fan of Indie Pop. Hang on, I know it’s an Indie Pop festival. But last year had great crossover appeal, especially the Day 1 run of Standard Fare, Slow Club, Shrag and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. It seemed this year that the gaps were filled with rather generic offerings instead, the names of which, like the music, washed over me at the time.

Of course, it’s par for the course with a niche festival such as this. Bigger fans of the genre will have likely lapped it up. It wasn’t even a big problem, as that kind of thing is ideal when sitting on the grass with an afternnon cider. The festival had enough of those ‘ooo that’s cool’ moments but not enough ‘Wow!’ moments to match last year.

However, it’s great to see the festival is as strong as ever in terms of its individuality and commitment to providing an interesting and involving weekend. The tables in the merch tent, buckling under the weight of homemade record sleeves and DIY labels treasure troves of stock, with the labels and band members stood proudly behind them told me all I needed to know about Indietracks – that the scene is alive and well and events like this are core to keeping them alive. For that alone, Indietracks, I salute you.

Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ash @ The Duchess, York, 25th July

I THINK I last saw Ash on their Free All Angels Tour and Snow Patrol were touring, back in the days when the SP live show featured some one on Decks and Beats. Christ, I’m showing my age aren’t I?

Well not really, for, as Ash perfectly prove, age is a state of mind. Frontman Tim Wheeler is but 34 yet Ash have a hugely enviable back catalogue behind them with many years still ahead. It’s 10 years since I saw them and in that time they’ve released ‘heavy’ album Meltdown, lost Charlotte Hatherley, released ‘final’ album Twilight of the Innocents’ and released a single ever fortnight for a year in their A-Z Series. In many ways they’ve ridden the changes of the industry pretty well and now have the dual benefits of being seen as legends whilst still being young and vital enough to roll with the times and make music that still matters.

All of which left me slightly surprised they were playing a venue the size of The Duchess in York. Surprised but excited. The Duchess is an old fashioned venue in the proper sense; underground, low ceilings, painted black artex walls and a LOUD sound system. Ash came onto the stage to a backing track that may have been a Bladerunner cut. Tim Wheeler, blessed with eternal youth sports a huge grin. Bassist Mark Hamilton, typically serious, is wearing a lovely vintage haircut of grungey curls, circa 1995. As the Tie Fighter SFX that opens ‘Lose Control’, the opening song from their debut ‘1977’ hits the crowd like we’re in a wind tunnel, I can tell we are in for a great night.

The first half of the set is very 1977 heavy, with ‘Girl From Mars’ coming 2nd in the set, closely followed by the classics ‘OhYeah’, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Kung Fu’. Tracks from the mini album ‘Trailer’ that proceeded ‘1977’ also make an appearance, yet they are all aired with the conviction of that band I saw 10 years ago, which is impressive in itself.

There’s not too much from the Hatherley era, though towards the end we get ‘Shining Light’ and the encore closes with ‘Burn Baby Burn’. The pure pop power of these undisputed classics does make it hard for the newer songs, especially the more experimental A-Z tracks to fit in. But most of it does. They play the instrumental ‘Sky Burial’ which is a good 8 minutes long, a massive sense of relief from the band that they managed to get all the way through. It’s a lull in the set certainly, but works as a mid set break and it’s pleasing to see something new, stopping the whole affair from becoming an exercise in nostalgia.

The enjoyment the band appear to be taking in this more intimate of gigs is clear to see. Wheeler, with coming up to 20 years experience in a band is still modest and a little shy with his between song banter and the whole event makes me feel part of something rather sweet. It’s also one of those moments where you check yourself, and realign your expectations; Ash are STILL brilliant. I always knew it, but this great gig was the little reminder I needed. To think I’d forgotten makes me feel rather ashamed. Must be the old age I guess.

Dean Freeman