Saturday, 30 June 2012

(I Should Be A) Communist by This Many Boyfriends

This Many Boyfriends
(I Should Be A) Communist
Angular Records

I had an interesting conversation with my line manager at work the other day, when we should have been discussing my none existent aspirations for career development. It was, you won’t be surprised to hear, about music. He was telling me how much he was looking forward to seeing Coldplay at the weekend. Before having the chance to stifle my frowns and sniggers, he pre-empted me.

“I know it’s not cool but I just like the songs. I’m no music snob, I just like a good tune and I think they’re great.”

And you know what? Fair enough I thought. I guess I am a musical snob and if Chris Martin and Co. makes his time in our shit job easier: fair enough. But then he asked me about how I go about reviewing music. “Isn’t it just your opinion? How can you really say what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ music?”

And I thought that was interesting because I quickly realised a lot of it is about instinct. I told him how I don’t look at genre, at the melody or the musicianship but try and see behind it. I look for the intent and the purpose of it. The ethics and the honesty. Because I care about music as a whole, as an artform. And to me, cynical and trend based stuff works against that.

He kinda got it. We found a great comparison in that he really likes motorbikes. LOVES em. And he gets really annoyed in these big Hollywood films when they have the wrong engine noise dubbed over or people do stuff that just isn’t possible. As a lover of bikes he feels it devalues the whole idea of what he loves. We’d found a connection.

This Many Boyfriends are a great example of looking beyond all the signifiers and just knowing a thing is exactly as it should be, on its most instinctual level. Driven by love and passion and joyful abandonment, they are a band that I only really got live before, but this record goes someway to redressing that balance. Produced by Ryan Jarman, it is a sparse, bouncing slice of IndiePop and its most life affirmingly simple. It transports me to seeing The Jesus And Mary Chain in New York a few years back for its reverberating, circling hints at greater things, yet never lost in any form of pretension. It’s a bizarre tonal mix of being spontaneous and well crafted, like a perfectly mic’d up take of the first time they ever ran through the song in their lives. The freshness is there and shines through.

Title aside, the lead track is a carefree rumination upon the minor but life consuming concerns young carefree people have, and how the simple things in life are the greatest. B-side How Is This Even A Job? has Morrissey esqe shrugs towards employment in the face of being in a band. Both songs barely scrape two minutes, which is perfect. Honesty in absolute.

So if Coldplay appreciation can be held up as the 101 of an opposition to musical snobbery then This Many Boyfriends are my Exhibit A for the case of a musical purity. This isn’t the best song I’ve ever heard, nor the best production, best musicianship or the best lyrics. But it just feels completely right which to me is a much more beautiful and delicate thing.

Dean Freeman

Friday, 29 June 2012

Indietracks 2012 Preview

Indietracks Festival
July 6th -8th
Midlands Railway, Ripley

It goes without saying that Indietracks is one of Rhubarb Bomb’s favourite festivals of the last few years. It’s the perfect mix of down to earth, honest to god love of music and twee, quirky, fun times in a totally laid back atmosphere. It’s a little gem and I fear repeating myself, for Indietracks doesn’t vastly change from year to year. It does what it does very well, and 2012 looks to continue that trend.

To potential newcomers, here’s the thing. The festival takes place in the grounds of a railway museum. So you have a stage on a grass hill with steam trains piled up behind it. One stage is in an old train shed (so pretty big). Another stage is in a crazy corrugated iron chapel (some of the best shows I’ve seen have been on them pews) and another is actually ON a train, which cruises up and down the line whilst the bands play.

The day is always jam packed full of things going on and the atmosphere on site is unbeatable. It is relatively small compared to some outdoor festivals, but this completely works in its favour. Friends are made, with other festival goers and bands alike. It also has one of the best merch tents I’ve seen at a festival with all manner of ace Indie labels flogging bits and pieces. Indietracks as a whole is a little bubble, where you can forget about the outside world and smile your weekend away.

That’s the general gist. As for 2012, what do we have? They have teamed up with Slumberland Records to bring you a very personal and rather splendid collection of IndiePop bands. There’s a fair crossover with our own Long Division, which is perhaps where our attraction to it lies, including The Vaselines, ABC Club, Standard Fare, Evans The Death, This Many Boyfriends and White Town. We’ve also got Veronica Falls with a fair bit of buzz around them. But more than anything, experience has shown me that Indietracks is one of the best festivals around to find your brand new favourite band, someone you didn’t even know existed and whose entire back catalogue you end up buying right there and then.

Weekend tickets are £67 (including unlimited steam rides!). So what else do you get for that? Well, there are plenty of typically twee opportunities to kill some time through the day, including round table discussions from various DIY Indie dignitaries, demonstrations on how to make bunting, decorate cakes, make superhero capes and the yearly Indiepop quiz.

There’s no reason that Indietracks will not be the roaring success it has been the last two years we’ve visited. With a slightly slower, more relaxed pace than many festivals, it is a joyous experience, even for people not completely obsessed with Indiepop. In fact, if you’re less than an expert on Indiepop goings on, it’s the perfect way to submerge yourself in a completely new musical world. You won’t regret it.

Dean Freeman

*You can also download a 51 track compilation of bands playing at this years festival from HERE, with funds going to the Midland Railway where the festival is held.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

South Of The Border - "Spiders"

Barnsley resident Matt Rhodie keeps Rhubarb Bomb up to date with the freshest sounds from that most foreign of lands, South Yorkshire…

Spiders are a three piece band from Sheffield. Their latest release, Subtle Difference, available now through their website and iTunes, sees them follow up on the success of their last release Ambitions of a Huckster’s Daughter which has received 10,000 views since April. They have form in this area though: last year Where Does This Leave Us Now’s live video achieved over 60,000 views, and it’s all DIY, no deal, self-taught, self-recorded.

The lads - two brothers and a bezzie mate - have played together for a while now and seem to be striking a rich vein of form in terms of recorded output and live shows; they are playing classic British indie pop tunes in a stylish, modern fashion while wearing some interesting jumpers!

Their set list has included an excellent cover of Boys Don’t Cry for a while now and, in terms of their sound, that seems as good an indication as any of their influences; frontman Rob Tingle’s distinctive vocals and jangling guitar work on this track create a melodic diversion from the moody, muscular rhythm section powered by brother Adam’s drumming and completed by bassist Nick Monk. Their tunes harness catchy riffs and intelligent vocals and hitch them to a sense of post punk restlessness, they positively ooze potential and it seems that something big could be just around the corner.

There are opportunities to catch them live coming up and I recommend you seek them out at Tramlines, the free Sheffield city centre festival where they are playing at Beg, Borrow, Steal on July 20th and the Leadmill on the 21st. Before that, they visit the big city to play the Dublin Castle in Camden on the 1st July. Where next? Who can say…

Matt Rhodie

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Day Three by Jamiesaysmile Review

Geek Pie Records

Day Three is a four track release from this one-man outfit from Wakefield. Jamiesaysmile is the alterego of West Yorkshire writer/producer Dan Hayes and this release on the underground DIY label Geek Pie Records is his first attempt at a proper release

What you get here is a free EP which showcases what the project is all about: complex but accessible pop anthems that start small then build into wider, more expansive soundscapes. This is indie with an eye on the mainstream and I for one hope he can transfer the promise contained here into a live show, because this feels like part of the cure for what ails popular music at the moment. Remember, pop does not have to be populist!

The key here for me  is the transition between moods and dynamics; when the overdrive kicks in and mutates the guitars from twangy to crashing or the vocals move from reflective to downright sad, Jamiesaysmile captures a sound all of his own.

Get the download, keep your eyes and ears open, enjoy!

Matt Rhodie

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Standing At The Sky's Edge by Richard Hawley Review

Richard Hawley
Standing at the Sky's Edge

Standing at the Sky's Edge is Hawley's seventh studio album to date, and with it he leaves behind his legacy of croonerisms and softer instrumentation in exchange for a sonic boom laden, guitar heavy wall-of-sound, all the while further showcasing his astounding ability for penning a good tune.

Hawley's back catalogue of work spans right back to the early '90s as guitarist for britpop group Longpigs and as one-time string slinger for Pulp which then led to a slew of session work spawning a portfolio of work for acts as varied and established as Nancy Sinatra, Elbow, Shirley Bassey, Hank Marvin and, erm, All Saints (Hawley played guitar on their bizarre cover of Red Hot Chilli Pepper's adage to heroin addiction Under The Bridge). All the while RH was working on his own material, consistently putting out a series of well received solo records, but it wasn't until 2005 album Coles Corner was released that Hawley began to garner some well deserved attention in the form of a Mercury Music Prize nomination, eventually losing out to fellow Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys' debut (upon receiving the award 'Monkeys frontman Alex Turner famously exclaimed "Someone call 999, Richard Hawley's been robbed!"). Since then Hawley has followed up Coles Corner with a series of critically acclaimed albums establishing himself as one of the country's finest singer/songwriters.

Renowned for adopting the stylistic sensibilities of the crooners of old, with a healthy doff of the cap to rock 'n' roll, rockabilly and the sweeping strings and twanging baritone guitar of Ennio Moricone, Standing at the Sky's Edge manages to break away effortlessly from what we've come to expect from Hawley, yet somehow retains an indefinable essence of all of those albums that came before it. The first thing that jumps out is the over abundance of guitar on this record. On previous output Hawley's guitar work has served as an accompaniment to his incomparable voice, often playing second fiddle (no pun intended) to those sweeping strings and delicate piano lines, but this time around the amps are bigger, the solos are longer and more often than not the fuzz pedals don't have an off switch. This is most appropriately apparent on album opener She Brings The Sunlight. Opening with ambient guitar noodling and the distant vibrato of Eastern inflected strings the mood is quickly shattered by a monolithic, gonad kicking guitar smash. Upon first listening, these juggernaut like open chords put me in mind of one band: Oasis. Thankfully after repeated listens my mind has been put to rest in the knowledge that although not a million miles away from the horrifically prolific output of THAT band, those Mancunian f*ckwits could never sound THIS GOOD. From this point on, it's quickly evident that these comparisons are immediately redundant.

The album's title track is a blues indebted slow burner, that lumbers it's heavy footed way along to find more of those huge guitars Hawley's been hiding away, all the while channeling the ghost of Johnny Cash in his understated vocal. Time Will Bring You Winter recalls the psychedelic production that made it's way back into favour in the early-‘90s. Shimmering effects laden guitars? Check. Vocal echo? Check? Harmony heavy chorus? All present and correct, and pretty damn good too. The effects spill over into the first upbeat foot stomper on this record, Down In The Woods, guitars ablaze with Hawley proclaiming "Won't you follow me down? Down into the woods. Won't you follow me down? Come back feeling good."

Hawley's balladry shows it's face once again on Seek It, his dry northern wit showing through in his lyrics: "I had a dream and you were in it, we got naked, can't remember what happened next. It was weird." whilst a minimal electronic beat and guitar effects carry the whole thing along creating a warm cocoon of six-stringed goodness. Similarly Don't Stare At The Sun keeps things easy going, chronicling a day out flying kites with his son whilst, upon Hawley's own admission at a recent gig, still pretty stoned.

The Wood Collier's Grave recalls some of Chris Isaak's more downbeat moments from his 1989 album Heart Shaped World with it's heady, reverb soaked vocal and ‘50s tremolo guitar. Leave Your Body Behind You is the album's first single and the fuzz boxes are back on as Hawley and co rip through a shuffled, descending riff culminating in a tangled mess of feedback, reversed guitars, and dying synths. Album closer, Before, almost predictably drops right back down again, to a sparse arrangement centering around Hawley's vocal until the three minute mark when it all rips loose again, exploring every avenue ventured down on the record so far and cramming it into a loud, abrasive, psychedelic meandering breakdown, slowly fizzling out to allow Hawley's vocal some focus one last time. The album quietly leaves us as it started, with the quiet whisper of fingers on guitar strings and thankfully a resounding feeling of resolution.

With Standing At The Sky's Edge, Richard Hawley has proven that he can turn his hand to pretty much anything stylistically and still manage to walk away sounding like no-one else. Placing this record alongside his previous long player, the easy-listening Truelove's Gutter, seems from the outset as though they are the products of two alarmingly different souls, and perhaps that is what is so brilliant and refreshing about this latest offering of Hawley's output. Rather than resting on his laurels, Hawley continues to evolve as a writer, a performer and as an artist at a time when the majority of bands either rely on the success of an established sound, or merely rehash what happens to be currently popular, which is a depressing state to be in. So, with that in mind, be thankful there are still troubadours out there like Richard Hawley.

Harry Rhodes

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Runaround Kids Interview

The next leg of Runaround Kids’ ambitious plans for 2012 begin at the end of the month with a short Irish tour to promote their upcoming split 12” with new to Rhubarb Bomb band We Are Losers. Bassist Jack Winn has promised this new venture will be documented for us – each tour bus break down, each band member comatose – in a tour diary for our next issue. For now, he speaks about how the tour and the split release came about.

How did you go about organising a tour in Ireland – a place you perhaps don't have the contacts you do more locally?

Myself and Gavin from We Are Losers have been talking online since both our bands played Live At Leeds and Leeds Festival last year, and doing a tour together has been something we've talked about for over a year now, I reckon. All the booking and press for the tour has been sorted on their side. The wonderful Rob Dee (Philophobia Music) is going to be driving us around in a people carrier, and we're staying on people's floors and flats in venues. In all honesty, I'm not 100% on where we're staying but I'm sure it'll be fine.

Will it be the longest you've been on the road? Is that a kind of lifestyle you enjoy / crave?

Work and logistics often mean we don't really ever leave home for too long when we're in England, so maybe the longest is only three or four days. Personally I love it; we end up staying friends from school who have scattered around the country, or people I've met when I've travelled to gigs. The worst situation we've had, I think, was when we ended up staying in Bethnal Green when it was feeling particularly rioty. But that was a bit of an exception.

Tell me about We Are Losers and the split release.

We Are Losers are an ace four-piece from Kildare/Dublin. They started off as noisy, electronic stuff, and ended up becoming this summery, catchy-as-fuck pop band. Their song Cheerleader has been stuck in my head since around July last year. The Narcissist was one of the early electronic ones, and we covered it with powerchords and loads of shouting, it's such a fun song to play.

The record is a 12" vinyl with three songs each side, two each and then another of us covering each other. They've done a great acoustic version of Can't Lose Lover. We've also got a comic we've done to go with our first song on the record, Drinking History, which is going to be coming with the record for people who bought the bundle with the You'd Feel The Same T's, as well as being on sale while we're on tour. We Are Losers' songs are amazing.

How do you find playing to crowds outside Wakefield and Leeds

Naturally, it's a bit hit and miss in places we haven't played as much. But Wakefield, and most Leeds gigs, almost feel a bit 'safe' for me. The main concern with gigging further out is whether people will be there, but I think we'll be okay with We Are Losers in tow in Ireland. There's always going to be a couple of total disaster gigs, but no-one's there, so no-one needs to know about them. It's all just part of getting better known outside of the 'local' bubble. When it goes right, it's amazing.

How do you George and Rob get on when on tour? Who has the most annoying habits?

We get on great most of the time, through a heavy diet of somewhat eclectic mix CDs, unrepeatable jokes and service station stops. They do fall asleep all the time when we're travelling, and Rob Dee will often drive us, so I'm the one who has to make sure he's awake and we're not about to go flying off a motorway at 5am. Keep Rob fed and George with a cig and you're laughing. They're two of the easiest people to get on with in the world. But if you don't feed them or their addictions, you're in for trouble.

What are the dates and venues of the tour?

We're in Dublin at the Twisted Pepper on the 27th June, Bourke's Bar in Limerick on the 28th, and Roisin Dubh (still don't know how to pronounce it) in Galway on the 29th! And our record is out 9th July.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 18 June 2012

Limetree Festival Preview

Limetree Festival
August 24th - 36th
Masham, North Yorkshire

One of the main headaches of running our own festival, Long Division, is the inevitability of clashing with other festivals. It’s an unescapable fact of festival promoting and you just have to deal with it, basically. There will always be good stuff happening – and plenty of mediocre – but if you believe in what you are doing, I believe it’ll all be just fine.

Still, I don’t know if I would have the out and out balls to square up to Leeds Festival: the mother of the corporate, “more is more” mentality experience. But that’s exactly what Limetree Festival in Masham is doing.

As per my reintroduction last year to the festival that started my grand journey of the fields and airstrips of Europe, I don’t have a problem with Leeds Festival at all. But it’s great to have an alternative, and Limetree stands in contrast in almost everyway.

Masham itself is in North Yorkshire, near Ripon and is a stunningly beautiful area. Upon my first visit, I couldn’t help but recall the village from Hot Fuzz: impossibly idyllic, with its village square, war memorials and quaint shops. Assuming it isn’t covertly run by a group of hooded and murderous Masons, it’s pretty damn perfect.

Now in its fifth year, Limetree itself is a non-profit Social Enterprise that proudly claims to be “A Return To How Festivals Used To Be”. How does it do this? The focus seems to be on comfort, passion and a friendly atmosphere. There are an array of stages covering all manner of more ‘niche’ tastes (as, ironically, seems to be the growing trend in festivals these days) such as Poetry, Spoken Word and Jazz whilst a huge effort has clearly been made to accommodate those with young children, with special areas for them too. Although I am thankful I will likely never have to deal with such horrors, it is a massive plus point not just for those with young ‘uns but for the rest of us; this level of thought and empathy is key in creating a successful festival.

And what about the bands? Well, it’s a funny old mix that works because a) it doesn’t have the same old names you see scattered across 95% of festival lineups and b) is well crafted. There is a mix of Funk and Breakbeat DJs, complimented by electronic pioneers Utah Saints, alongside fey and laidback solo artists such as Hannah Trigwell, Jon Gomm and Jilly Riley and more energetic, rock orientated stuff, albeit with a seemingly danceable, riotous vibe, perfectly exampled by the sublime Middleman.

So, a weekend in a field… but not. Tickets for the weekend are £85 for an adult of £35 for the day. I guess something like Leeds Festival is about the rush, the buzz of being part of a massive group of people singing along to The Foo Fighters or cramming as many bands / pints into the day as you can. Limetree is clearly not this, but a brilliant holiday, an escape, a battery recharge, a smile on your face, a chilled beer sat on the grass in the sun. I’m really looking forward to seeing if it matches up to my expectations.

Dean Freeman

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Beacons Festival Preview

If you read our festival of the year type roundup in Issue 2.2, you will have seen that we reckoned Beacons was set to clear up in 2011. The combo of cult AND fun artists, local stuff and supreme attention to detail seemed to have it in the bag. But disaster struck and the event was cancelled due to some rather terrible flooding. How to respond? Well, it would seem the organisers have taken everything they had lined up for last year and trebled it. Like some alternate universe where last year’s went supremely well, sold out and they decided to totally go to town on it. To do that off the back of a disaster like last year is brave, courageous and – for us punters – an absolute godsend. 2012 looks amazing.

Situated up in beautiful North Yorkshire, near Skipton (and thankfully now on higher ground) Beacons festival aims to take the kind of Leeds based cool that seems alien / intriguing to small city dwellers such as myself and transport it into the countryside. This means interesting asides such Vintage Clothes Stalls, make-your-own-zine events, talks & debates, guerrilla theatre and spoken word sessions providing an alternative to simply putting a stage in a field. There are more DJs than some festivals dare have main artists and the general impression is that we can expect a busy, vibrant, inclusive site, which I am well into these days.

The lineup itself looks pretty special. There are some big names who we all know and probably love: Roots Manuva, Wild Beasts, Ghost Poet, Patrick Wolf, Willy Mason. Errors are a big call for me. I’ve not had chance to catch them since they released their stupendously well received new album. Cloud Nothings too are a huge buzz band I’ve not caught yet. The Wave Pictures are incredibly low on the running order too – it’s testament to a varied lineup that has clearly been created by dedicated and passionate music lovers.

Course, they can’t help but have a dig at Wakefield: the bio for Imp is jokingly unable to think of any more but two other Wakefield bands. Cheers guys!

Slack content writing aside, it looks like a winner to us. As an obvious aficionado of the City based festival this year, it takes more to impress me with an outdoor one. Beacons seems to have the quality lower down the bill, akin to Live At Leeds, where you feel you could check out a band you’ve never heard and they’ll be great. The top end suggest a mix up upbeat rural partying and sunset accompanied whimsy, which sounds lovely. At £85 for a weekend ticket, it’s a serious undertaking, but it’s clearly still value for money. It’s a great overall package.

That ‘festival of the year’ poll I mentioned was instead won by Latitude. I mourned giving it to such a big name, but the fact was it did so much right, so much for other festivals to learn from. Beacons feels like it could be a more homely, more affordable, slightly more secret Latitude. But with the buzz around this year’s event, hopefully it’ll only be the latter that doesn’t remain so.

Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

My Long Division by Andrew Micklethwaite

To say I was looking forward to Long Division 2012 is a grand understatement. Having been part of the event crew at the inaugural festival last year, I volunteered my services as early as I could for this year's model, but it soon became apparent that if I tied myself to one venue for the whole day, I would miss so much good music, and maybe one or two surprises. So, as the days whittled away, and Blacklisters and The Hounds Below pulled their slots at The Hop, I decided to buy a ticket and write about what I had seen instead. This is my account of one of the most satisfying Saturdays I ever had.

Piskie Sits are one of the opening turns of Long Division 2012 that spans nine venues, and they are on familiar territory again, playing the ridiculously-named Guerilla Rooms (that’s ‘upstairs at The Hop’ to regular Wakey gig-goers). It helps that the wristband exchange is a matter of yards away, as the band tear a feedback-shaped hole as an opening salvo, a steady stream of bodies filter into the venue. Two songs into the set and a glance over my shoulder reveals that the Sits finally have the audience they have deserved in their hometown for such a long time. The hardcore is here, but thankfully it is outnumbered by faces not seen before, and they like what they hear. Three songs in, the band offers its newest recording ‘Waiting For the Dance of Death’  – you can find it on the Rhubarb Bomb book/CD combo – and by then the venue is half-full. The band responds to this hitherto unknown ‘upstairs at The Hop’ attention by ripping through five songs in fourteen minutes with nary a pause for breath. And then, sensing that maybe things are moving too fast, frontman Craig greets the crowd, genuinely humbled by the number of nodding heads and tapping feet in front of him. There’s a quiet, collective ‘Aww’ from the front row, and then as a final flurry, the hit that never was, ‘Churp Churp’ is despatched at a furious pace, followed by a deep dip into the back catalogue as the band finishes as it began, with a howl prompted by guitarist Harry’s pedal board and into ‘Big Fat Mouth’. Two and a half minutes later, they are gone. To say they are well-received today is a huge understatement. They thoroughly deserved the attention and the reception.

By 1PM, there are only a handful of venues actually hosting live music – the bigger venues will open up in the middle of the afternoon – so a trip to Henry Boons to see Vinyl Party is your author’s preferred option. In a previous guise (they used to be called Touching Cloth!) they played the midweekers 14+ gigs at The Hop and proved to be one of the more able turns. Age has not dimmed their ability to proffer a fair old smattering of tunes either. Their sound has certainly matured: a couple of years ago, their time machine seemed to be stuck in 1984/85. There was a hint of that Ron Johnson Records sound about them*. Throw in some Nightingales and Stump at a push…that’s what they sounded like then. Today, they remind me of the Sound of Young Scotland circa 1981*, Josef K with a splash of Orange Juice, two (sometimes three) guitars not exactly battling it out to be heard, more weaving their ways around each other. It’s a very impressive performance for a band barely out of their teens.  (*ask your dad. Or uncles).

A short walk to The Orangery is next, and the first of a few revelations for me today in the form of Fever Dream. I have to confess I had not heard of them before the line-up for Long Division was announced, and all I had to go on was the recommendation of a friend who had heard one ‘right good’ track by them. Thanks to Mike from – where else - Barnsley for that.  Anyway, a three-piece of guitar, bass and drums is all you really need to rock a little, isn’t it? Well, Fever Dream rolls too, in a kind of rickety old wooden rollercoaster way. The ladies in the rhythm section provide a bedrock of sorts for the singer/guitarist’s screaming outbursts and positively shoegazey strummings. It’s a weirdly compelling hybrid…it’s also simple journalistic laziness to suggest that any reference to all-female rhythm sections should mention The Raincoats and their studiedly untutored approach to playing. If that’s so, I’m a lazy journalist, because there is definitely something of the first two Raincoats LPs in Fever Dream’s sometimes overly-shrill sound. Not a bad thing by any means.

Ears suitably battered by Fever Dream’s explosive set, it’s back to The Hop for Glasgow’s PAWS, another highly recommended turn, and another revelation. Another three-piece, Paws quite frankly look like a trio of young men who really shouldn’t be hanging together. A non-descript drummer, bassist who’s dressed like he’s bound for Henley-on-Thames, never mind Wakefield, and a singer who looks like Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, more of which in a bit. As with the Piskie Sits’ set earlier in the same venue, over the course of 30 minutes, more people filter through the door as Paws whip up a veritable storm. Regulars at The Hop will know that the sound system is something that can floor you on a good night/day, right? Sound man for the day, Tom, and the band combine to almost defy gravity at times (can sound really defy gravity? Maybe not, but there were times like it felt like it could). The speed and intensity of Paws’ performance is astonishing. At the start of their set, there were just twice as many of us in the audience as there was on stage, and they still went at it like they were playing to a sell-out crowd. By the finish – mashed up cymbals, shredded vocal chords and all – Paws had a small but rapt audience maybe convinced that the Grunge revival was really on. The singer screamed like Mark Arm, the songs were played at a furious pace, and for the first time since the Piskies graced the same stage a couple of hours previous, milkman-friendly tunes you can whistle, albeit in a ramalama punk rock fashion.

Next up, Hookworms at the Town Hall. I’ve seen the Leeds five-piece a couple of times already in the last year or so, and both times have come away mightily impressed, the mesmeric, motorik sounds they make enhanced by the dimly-lit venues they obviously prefer. But Hookworms in the daytime? In the splendour of the Town Hall? That’s a tough gig, and ultimately one that they can’t quite handle. Or more specifically, the frontman can’t handle. Even before a note is played, things don’t bode well as event staff are asked to close ALL the curtains in the venue to shut out the daylight. When this proves to be impossible (look at the size of those drapes at the back!!) the singer’s mardy mood escalates as the band is told to get on with its set by the resident sound engineer. As they ease into its first song, things look good. Hell, by the time they are in full rhythmic flow, everything out front sounds good, but there is obviously something very wrong up on stage. Amid much frantic gesturing and scowling from the man at the front (he’d probably run a mile from the description ‘frontman’) the set goes on in Hookworms’ inimitable hypnotic style, but just four songs in, it’s all over. Whether it’s a combination of drapery malfunction, monitor problems, or just plain old mardiness, his waving arms indicate the end of the set, prompting half applause and half catcalls from a fair-sized crowd. Hookworms is mood music for sure, but this was just bad mood music and an opportunity wasted.

After the aural assault of the early afternoon, Hookworms’ premature exit gives me a chance to pootle down to see Treecreeper at the Theatre Royal. Again, having seen Treecreeper before, I kinda know what to expect. Hypnotic in the way that Hookworms are not, Adam Killip and friends slow things down to a shuffle, and it’s not just a respite, it’s a pleasure. Treecreeper’s music feels like a warm embrace, a good friend’s arm around you, and a sound akin to the first half dozen Neil Young/Crazy Horse albums rolled into one. They look – and hopefully feel – right at home in this splendid theatre, as the twin guitars gently distort around one another, and the bass and drums keep that tight, walking rhythm. Songs seem to go on forever, but this is a good thing, people. Treecreeper’s Juniper LP is a thing of beauty, but to really appreciate them, see them live.

In contrast to Treecreeper's comparitive caressing of the ear, Wet Nuns are on back at the Town Hall, and the Sheffield duo is doing its damndest to splinter the wood panelling on the walls that surround a large and appreciative audience, already enervated by a teatime Runaround Kids set. Wet Nuns are as odd a looking pair as their name suggests: a silk Nudie-shirted singer/guitarist, and an extravagantly-bearded drummer who, from a distance, looks like he's wearing a paisley shirt, but on closer inspection isn't wearing a shirt at all. For just two men, they make a hell of a noise, a sound that prompts my companions to mention Keys and Stripes of the Black and White variety, and yes, they have a point. But Wet Nuns are more than that, as they prove with a set of sleazy rock offerings that teeter on the acceptable side of metal. The illustrated man behind the traps hits as heavy as John Bonham as the singer/guitarist makes like a guitar army, alternately shredding and picking and squealing and yelling. The Wood-panelled splendour of the hall has probably never seen the likes of this before, and I swear if they had run over their allotted time, those splinters may well have appeared for real.

After the aural assault of Wet Nuns, it's a return to the Theatre Royal, and the less abrasive prospect of St Gregory Orange. St Greg have already played some memorable shows since becoming a live force, both as a duo and as a quartet. Tonight we get the latter, as the foursome deliver a huge, warm wall of sound that reverberates around the stalls. The first voice we hear as things get underway belongs to Leonard Cohen, and a spoken intro stolen from his album Songs of Love and Hate. From then on, it's all about Tim and his ruminations on relationships past, a litany of lyricism that evokes secret meetings, burned-out cigarettes visible in empty beer bottles and stolen record collections. The backing to Tim's observations is a cavernous sound courtesy of two live guitars and bass and an Apple Mac full of minor key maladies (sic). It's not at all as miserable as I'm making out, however. Between songs, smiles and laughs are exchanged between the young men on stage, before they take us back into the abyss for another five minutes at a time. St Greg always sound good, but tonight they surpass themselves. The stalls may still have been reverbarating as the audience took its seat for the next act, but by then, I was gone, knowing that I had witnessed one of the most charismatic and potent bands Wakefield has to offer.

Talking of potent, Two Trick Horse are an absolute blast. I've seen them before, a year ago, when they opened the bill on a sweaty Friday night at The Hop. A duo back last summer (like Wet Nuns, just guitar and drums) the 2012 model is now the music encyclopedia definition of power trio. The venue, the former site of Escobar, is a posh cocktail bar these days, and as the door has been deserted of whoever is supposed to be checking wristbands, there is a more than incongruous mix of punters inside. What the regulars make of things when TTH kick into gear is plain to see: the tiny stage and the immediate perimeter blurs into one as shoulders shake, beer spills and the music pummels. The line is drawn within a minute, as it becomes a case of Us versus Them for at least 45 very loud minutes. The addition of a bassist has beefed up TTH's sound obviously, but this fella plays with such precision and like his life depended on it. Behind the traps, erstwhile Piskie Sits drummer Steve Livesey switches from four-to-the-floor rock behemoth mode to tricky time signatures with the minimum of fuss. On top of this rock solid rhythm section, there is a singer guitarist who looks like 'everyman', but when he plays and sings...he rocks! And he has a scream that can be heard over the rabble which by now has turned Saturday night on Westgate into another potential Channel 4 series on badly behaved herberts. Like fellow Leeds noisemongers Blacklisters, TTH cop from the best of American alternative 80s back pages. If we're being lazy (and it has been a long long day at Long Division) if Blacklisters reference Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard, TTH is more of a speeded-up Laughing Hyenas concern, with a little Rapeman thrown into the mix.

It's an enthralling, deafening show of strength to put the cap on the day. Even as I was waiting in the theatre in the afternoon, enduring the seemingly never-ending soundcheck for The Twilight Sad, I recall thinking to myself, 'I already can't wait for next year!'

Andrew Mickletwaite

Monday, 11 June 2012

A Tale of Two Sat’days, or: What a difference a week makes…

Rhubarb Bomb contributor Matt Rhodie heads from Barnsley to Wakefield to experience Long Division...

Under familiar steel grey skies the Merrie City played host to a fantastic cultural phenomenon; I know that arriving at Kirkgate Station is never the best way to start a visit to Wakefield, but plenty of people saw past the unkind “what a dump” attitude and had a brilliant day out watching a wide range of bands across a brilliant selection of venues all within a five minute walk of each other in the city centre.

The week before had seen Pontefract’s Crooked Ways play host to many of the acts on display today, in a more conventional set up, so I thought it would be interesting to see how they compared…

So, the scores on the doors: let’s start with the line-up.

75 bands is an unbelievable number, but it isn’t just quantity, there was quality across the day with lots of local acts showcasing their talents, some new, some more established. In terms of headline acts, well once again we were kind of spoilt for choice; I chose The Vaselines at Mustangs and was blown away, while other people were buzzing about Herman Dune and Art Brut were early evening winners for others. The point here is choice; usually a one-day festival will focus attention towards the main stage later in the evening, whereas the range of venues meant there was no single focal point. A definite winner.

Value for money: another no-brainer, it cost £15! Fifteen pounds. However you say it, it sounds like a bargain.

What about the novelty factor? Rather than tents in a field, Long Division relies on prime real estate to house their bands; the event centred around The Hop, which housed two stages as did the Town Hall, then there was Henry Boon’s and Velvet with the Theatre Royal and The Orangery adding more history and splendour than you could shake a stick at and, last but not least, Mustangs. This venue had problems late on last year, The Wedding Present’s set was interrupted by over-zealous security staff, but this time The Vaselines were able to crown the day’s events there on a jubilee flag bedecked stage looked after by a security team that was way more slick than last year’s.

The nicest thing for me was being able to have a drink and a bit of barbecue at one venue, then stroll round to see something else and have a chat and a drink at that one, without having to queue for ages or being right at the back, because the number of stages allowed what could have been crowds in one or two venues to move around in smaller bunches to see who they wanted. Brilliant.

Problems? Not one, Wakefield didn’t need the sun to have a good time!

So, my day panned out a bit like this: a later than expected train meant straight to The Hop for the wristband exchange, then upstairs to catch Moody Gowns who put on quite a show for half past one, their energetic and engaging frontman Nathan Moseley offering tomato plants to his rapidly expanding audience!

Henry Boon’s was next on my list, to take in O’Messy Life; I had been whistling Escape Velocity, their single from last summer, all week and hadn’t seen the announcement that they had pulled out because of David’s thumb injury- get well soon. No disaster though, because I got to see Mark Wynn in their place. Wynn is an affable poet/singer/songwriter who would be the first to point out how naff that sentence is. His songs and delivery grabbed the audience and as he told tale after heart-breaking tale of woe and disappointment he made me wonder just how somebody so young gets so pissed off so soon! Great stuff. We left clutching his CD and poetry book, having bought him a congratulatory drink!

Next, it was a steady stroll to the Town Hall, where we caught the end of Fur Blend’s impressive set, followed by Soulmates Never Die in the Old Courtroom. Lovely songs in lovely surroundings.

By now it was time for food, so we hung out in The Hop’s courtyard and listened to what became a blur of acts including, but not limited to The Do’s, who were excellent. There was a great early evening buzz around the place as we left Stalking Horse’s enthusiastic but poorly attended show in the Theatre Royal to catch Skint & Demoralised in what was effectively a wind tunnel at the side of Velvet, via The Orangery where Crushed Beaks were busy doing their thing. By now, there were little clusters of festival goers passing each other, chatting, smiling and swapping stories. After The Vaselines, we returned to The Hop and drank the night away, which was packed with happy wristband wearers. Well done Long Division, see you next year.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Biting The Hand That Feeds

Long Division festival tries to do many things. One of the most important is attempting to raise the profile of local bands; ones we all know deserve wider recognition of their awesomeness. Equally important, I feel, is instilling a sense of comradeship amongst said bands. Rhubarb Bomb has always tried to be positive in its approach to the matters that plight local bands and to encourage collaboration as opposed to every man or woman for themselves. In a place like Wakefield, I think it’s an essential thing.

Which is why I feel awkward typing this. What will follow is not meant as a vindictive attack and I don’t wish it to sound bitter. But it will alienate a certain group of people by drawing a line in the sand between ‘our’ way and their way. I’m not saying one is better than the other. But I am saying that I am not willing to work with people who chose to act in such stupid and selfish and rather pathetic ways, especially ones that stand against the core aims of Long Division.

On the Saturday of Long Division, it came to my attention that one of the bands that performed for us, that received payment for said performance and also a beer rider decided it was fine for them to travel around the backstage areas of other venues and steal the riders of headlining bands. That band is called Vinyl Party. As best I know it was three members of that band. There were various reports from around the day and obviously I cannot provide absolute proof on everything that occurred. But one occurrence took place at the Theatre, which I was running, and that event is beyond doubt.

I was pretty shocked. The monetary value is, I guess, relatively small. I don’t want the cash back or anything – I’m sure it goes without saying this isn’t about the cash. It baffled me on many levels. It still does. Maybe I’m old now and this is Rock N Roll and I’m being really boring and straight. Well if I am, fine, I can happily live with that. Maybe there will be festivals and fanzines that think that is great. But not Long Division and not Rhubarb Bomb.

I find it so confusing. Because it wasn’t a cheeky grab and run of a beer left on a bar. The theatre had a door code which they somehow got through. The dressing room was through a labyrinth of doors and corridors. So it was pre-meditated (without wanting to sound too serious). But the point is; it wasn’t just some fooling around, a quick thoughtless act.

Beyond stealing from the festival that has paid for you to play, I don’t get the stupidity of stealing from a festival that is organised and run by a) One of the only full time promoters in Wakefield who works at one of the only venues that consistently puts on live music and b) a fanzine that, whilst still being a fanzine, does quite a lot of stuff. Obviously they will now never play The Hop, or Long Division or anything connected with Rhubarb Bomb.

Which is kinda how I talked myself round to writing this. Because I don’t want other people to have the piss taken out of them in the same way that I have. It takes a lot of effort to put something like Long Division together. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you because you have a brain, but they clearly don’t see. The absolute majority of the reward for doing so is in the festival itself. The day, the buzz, the excitement, the pride. This happening didn’t spoil any of that for me. I had a great day. But that band, and anyone else who may conduct themselves in a similar way need rooting out and destroying. I hope they are ashamed of themselves but they’ll probably just laugh at me and think I’m a stuck up nobhead. That’s fine – I can live with that. We just see things in a different way.

And as I pointed out on the Long Division Facebook page recently in relation to bands pulling out of events; bands should work hard on building good relationships with promoters. Most of these people do it for the love and work their arses off for you. Show em some respect. Vinyl Party have stuck up the ultimate two fingers to not just the promoters of Long Division, but every band that played the event and pretty much all of Wakefield. Cheers lads.

So all I can do is make other people who see things like I do aware of what they are like. Sadly for them, after the huge camaraderie of Long Division and the friendly nature of all the bands, venues, punters, volunteers, press and guests, I think A LOT of people are like me and they are in an absolute minority. GOOD.

Vinyl Party: If I have done you a disservice in anyway, please respond.

Dean Freeman