By:Larm 2016 - Saturday Review

After staying out until 3am dancing to all manner of funk and soul in Mono, I’m actually surprised I’m capable of running ten miles early on Saturday. I decide to run to Sognsvann Lake and take in some beautiful views and its frozen lake. After running four miles straight up hill that is. It’s fair to say I wish I checked the course profile before starting! I get the tram back rather than slalom down and watch some Premier League football - there's quite a few Man City fans in Oslo for no apparent reason it seems - before starting the final night of By:Larm. It’s flown by.

 

Saturday. The Prettiots. Mono

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Saturday night starts exactly the way Friday finished, with US trio The Prettiots and in Mono. The stage here is much smaller and intimate than last night's, the chemistry between the band is apparent throughout and their personality shines through as the crowd lap up their witty, youthful, self-deprecating tales of high school woes wrapped up in pretty harmonies and boundless energy.  

Holly Macve. St Edmunds Chruch

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To church next, for a quite brilliant run of acts at St Edmunds.

This is the first time I’ve seen Holly Macve after posting about her here last year with the stop you in your tracks demo "The Corner Of My Mind". The performance matches her and the venue, bewitching. A picture of timeless beauty as over the next half an hour Holly transports the listener with her mystical, darkly hued atmosphere. Her voice is incredible, a devastating tone that quavers slowly, deliberately around twanging country melodies and later against striking keys as Holly makes use of the venue’s piano. Let's finish with a cliché, If you were looking up the definition of gorgeous, you’d probably find a picture of this set.

Siv Jakobsen. St Edmunds Chruch

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I’m not sure there is much else I can say about Siv Jakobsen. Her show at Mono two days earlier (which I wrote more comprehensively about here) wins my ‘show of the festival’ award because it’s the first time I get to experience Siv backed by a string quartet. The environment here at St Edmunds is much more suitable and the result is beguiling. I’m often closing my eyes to take in every exquisite note.

The good news is that on my on return home Siv announces a set of UK dates (dates over on GFP to save me typing!), I cannot imagine them being as incredible as these two backed by this string quarter but you should go and see her nonetheless. This is real talent.

I'm posting an exquisite new remix (you probably know I don't like remixes) of one my favourite tracks from her EP, The Lingering, "Bullet". This though is beautiful, it's Siv of course, but it's sparse, crystallize and the ending has strings which makes you want to release your every inner feeling. It sums up these two sets just lovely.  

Monica Heldal. St Edmunds Chruch

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I leave the church after Siv to go to the bathroom – it’s the finer details – and there is a massive queue to get back in, so I miss perhaps a track of Monica Heldal before I’m finally back inside and have a view near the back of the exquisite venue. The acoustics are great though and I’m intoxicated once more as Monica weaves through tracks taken from Boy to the North and her forthcoming follow-up.

Both the familiar and the new are divine with her pure vocals entwined around intricate guitar melodies. It’s the same duo set up I’d seen Monica play last year in London, apparently the day before her show was with a full band. The church setting though calls for simplicity and the result is magical.

Emma Acs. Revolver

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Just around the corner in Revolver is Emma Acs. I actually head here because it’s right next to the church, my schedule has a gap in it and I’m intrigued about the act that followed Emma (I actually left after two songs of them – naming no names!). She is a complete unknown to me but quickly has me shuffling near the front of the small stage for a better view – Norwegian men are tall and seemingly like to be front and centre!

The show is nothing short of a revelation, as I put on my Twitter account, a bonkers, nostalgic psyche, alt-pop sound filled with cascading instrumentation and off-kilter vocals – it’s haphazard, messy and brilliant. The six of them on stage (I think) are packed in close because of the small stage but they are having fun. A lot of fun. Emma the most. She reminds me of Bowie’s Ziggy with her red hair, piercing stares and never still exuberance. She threatens to spill into the audience on more than an occasion, its infectious, smile-inducing and I’m wondering quite how I’d never heard of Emma Acs until this very moment.

When I get back to the UK I work out why, sure you can get a few tracks on Youtube and Soundcloud but there is nothing officially available here from the Copenhagen artist. I hope it’s part of a scheme for a launch here at a later date, this is the sort bat-shit, brilliantly crazy pop that is ready made for British audiences. Listen to “Magnetic Field” if you don’t believe me. A vinyl has been ordered! 

Alice Boman. Rockefeller

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Later at Rockefeller it’s Alice Boman, I’d earlier expressed concerns about the venue placing to my friend. 'Alice should be playing in a church or small venue and not at half midnight on Saturday night in a huge venue' I said (to be fair she did play the church the day before but I was elsewhere) and when just Alice comes out to play a solo version of “Waiting” I am further worried but then I take a glance behind and there is sizable crowd and on the whole they pay Alice the credit she deserves and don’t turn into the rowdy rabble that you’d expect in the UK.

Soon a full band joins Alice and they play tracks taken from her two EP’s and some new ones from a release we’ll hopefully hear about soon.  Sure it would be better in the aforementioned venue, her sparse and intimate music is suitable to dimly-lit, flickering venues and not million pound light shows but she pulls it off creditably and provides a pleasant ending to my inaugural By:Larm.

In quick summation, a rather apt photo. See you next you Oslo?

By:Larm 2016 - Wednesday & Thursday Review

Over the next couple of blog posts I will write about the favourite acts I saw during the four-day festival By:Larm held annually in Oslo, Norway. This was my first trip to Norway and obviously the festival and I'm already hooked.

I'll briefly start at the end by saying By:Larm was an absolutely fantastic way to experience new Scandinavian music and that Oslo was a fantastic city (bloody expensive mind, everything you hear about it is true – 7 pound beers – ouch to my wallet!). Thankfully the flights and accommodation were relatively cheap. 

My friend, who I talked into coming with me last October/November when I had the urge to book tickets after seeing the initial line-up, said it reminded him of The Great Escape about five or six years ago and that analogy is spot on. It's smaller, more compact, less commercial, less crowded (over the weekend there was only one show I wanted to get into that I didn't and that was in a 95 person capacity venue that I turned up-to just as it was starting, so it's hardly surprising) and incredibly high in quality, diverse artists. There's no male-centric lines-up here and By:Larm revels in its buzzing, positive atmosphere and its focus on exciting new music (although, boy, Norwegian men are tall!). 

Wednesday. Virgin Suicide. Pokalen

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For me at least, Virgin Suicide were head and shoulders above are any other act playing on Wednesday evening, the launch event for the festival held at Vulkan and its neighbouring Pokalen.

It's impossible for me to write about the Copenhagen band without referring immediately to Suede, the unmistakable tone of the vocal, the shimmering, jangling guitars, that blight sing-along choruses, it all reminds me of them in their swaggering pomp. Clear, energetic pop that brought a smile and dance to all listening down the front.

I'd not heard of the band before but the UK, it seems, is already taking notice of the band with them receiving The Guardian new band of the week (and an amusing review which said very much what I said last Wednesday) just days later. don't be surprised to hear a lot more from this promising young band.

Thursday. Siv Jakobsen. Mono

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I have to be careful here, I'm probably posting about Siv Jakobsen more than is justifiably allowed and I wouldn't be surprised if I received a knock at my door from the police with a restraining order any time soon! That said however, oh my fucking god, this show is incredible. What a way to start the festival officially. 

I'd seen Siv play before last year at The Great Escape in Brighton (twice in fact) playing solo acoustically and that was beautiful but the addition of a gorgeous string quartet and impeccable keys add a dimension to the tracks, primarily taken from last year's The Lingering EP that simply took my breath away. 

I'll be honest and say I was worried when I walked inside the venue and saw a darkened spit and sawdust sort of place, the sort you'd expect to be hosting rock acts but the second Siv and band start playing I forget all about that and am instantly transported to somewhere magical. The sensation was similar to that I had when I saw Broken Twin in Copenhagen a fortnight ago, it makes you want to close your eyes, soak in every emotion and hug the person nearest. You will be glad to know I managed to restrain myself!

The half-hour set disappears almost in the blink of an eye and I'm left longing so much more (I do see Siv again on Saturday -  so that will be me writing about her again soon then!).  Highlights are difficult to pick, "Bullet" is one of my favourites from the release and the strings here were especially well-placed, swooning and seductive it pulls on every heartstring and "How We Used To Love" will remain one of those songs that touches me every time I hear it. There's a new track and it stands up brilliantly with a stronger, more forceful vocal that is reminiscent of Laura Marling on Once I Was An Eagle, it hints at even more exciting future ahead, as if we needed that.

Unnveig Aas. Verkstedet

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I've heard the name said a handful of times now and I still have absolutely zero idea how to pronounce Unnveig Aas but I can safely say that I was blown away by their set and this coming directly after the incredible show I'd seen at Mono just before.

I obviously have blogged about Unnveig Aas so I was familiar with her material but still, I wasn't expecting her live sound to be quite so vast and grand, with a pedal steel, a super tight band and a completely unexpected commanding stage presence I was truly reminded of the Country gallop of Caitlin Rose and you should know how much I love Caitlin... 

The music fluctuated from bounce to croon giving plenty of time for toe-tapping rhythms before soothing with gorgeous ballads as Unnveig stared wide-eyed into the crowd and danced in unison with her exemplary band. It was something to saviour and sitting back here in the UK now and knowing what I know about what I saw, I regret not seeing her other show on the Saturday. For sure, those that did were in for a treat.

Ary. Rockefeller

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I keep thinking Ary is one of the hyped Scandinavian artists at the minute and this years Aurora, well after seeing her twice live over the weekend in By:Larm I'm removing the Aurora comparisons. The sound really isn't that similar...

Ary is more experimental and exotic, the synths and beats are firmly placed high in the mix (perhaps too high at times) and she comes backed by two male backing singers - the first time I've seen them since Hurts years ago (do they still have a solo male backing singer?). Anyway, the result, especially on the incredible "Telescope" is nothing short of exceptional and the crowd in the packed venue respond accordingly as Ary shows herself to be a natural in front of a huge audience, swaying and smiling in equal measures as her tracks show why she's destined to spend much more time in the limelight during 2016.

Dagny. Rockefeller

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If I was unsure how good Dagny was after hearing just one track, now I know for sure, she is set to be an absolute star. Sure the familiarity of "Backbeat" is undoubtedly the set highlight but the material played during her half-hour set stands firm around it and I, for one, am fully appreciative of the tight backing band she employs around her. A traditional four piece set up that adds sheen and gloss to her ready made pop aesthetics.

Track after track is filled with glistening pop melody complete with a clever, infectious style and lyrics and it's apparent to all in the room, even more so after "Backbeat" sends the crowd in rapturous applause that Dagny will soon have room after room singing along to her every word (once further tracks are released of course).

Dolores Haze. Verkstedet

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The undisputed never heard before highlight of Thursday and probably the entire festival are Swedish quartet Dolores Haze. It wasn't until after their set that I turn into their Facebook and see that nine my friends already like them, clearly I'm just late to the party. But what a party it is.

The set is filled with hard hitting drums, grungy riffs, punchy bass-lines and brattish vocals that hiss and delight in equal measure. Sure it's punky attitude that we've all heard before but something sets the quartet apart. The feisty energy and enthusiasm throughout the well rehearsed set is the sort that you can only get soaked up within and soon I'm nodding my head in agreement to each distorted guitar line and squealing vocal yelp.

There's more mellow moments too but the cover of Peaches "Fuck the Pain Away" sums up the set, growling with intensity that is raw and certainly divisive but for those who sign-up it guarantees a fun, frenetic experience. I'm completely sold and plans are made to see them again the next day. 

As you can tell, Thursday at By:Larm was really quite spectacular. 

By:Larm 2016 Preview - Ten Acts to See

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I'm very much looking forward to my maiden trip to Norway next week. The reason is simple, By:Larm 2016 has a quite incredible line-up of talent. I’m excited to see lots of acts I’ve never seen before and a few I have amongst some no doubt new, spur of the moment discoveries in venues and a City that is new to me but looks sensational. The festival runs from 2nd – 5th March around Oslo and I’m hoping beer comes priced reasonably!

I'm sure I'll get my fill of sights in too - a boat trip on Oslo Fjord and Sognsvann Lake are my current essential trips (if you can do them in freezing conditions that is - the forecast is set as cold and snow!). As a newbie it would be great to know of any treats that I must do during my four days in Oslo so if you’ve visited Oslo before please let me know of anything.

The rest of this post will list ten acts I have down to check-out at the festival next week. Most will come as no surprise to long-time readers of this blog. I could easily have listen more too such is the depth of the line-up. There's a few unavoidable clashes ahead! 

If you've any further recommendations, shout-out below. Hopefully see you in Oslo?!

ARY - FACEBOOK

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Thu, March 3, 10:30 PM > 11:00 PM

·         Drømmeteltet

Sat, March 5, 1:30 AM > 2:00 AM

Ary, surely a potential future star armed with an intriguing, show-stopping vocal and music that could just as easily fill a dance-floor as a late-night neon-lit drive. Her gorgeous, icy and emotive vocal will no doubt see her billed as this years Aurora (including by me) but if you listen to “Telescope” you can truly sense the magic, a glistening glow of shimmering, atmospheric bliss. I can’t wait to sample it and more live.

MONICA HELDAL - FACEBOOK

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Thu, March 3, 8:30 PM > 9:00 PM

·         St. Edmunds Church

Sat, March 5, 10:00 PM > 10:30 PM

One of the acts I’ve seen before in London, Monica Heldal has this style of guitar playing and vocal that will totally enchant you. Her voice is filled with an exquisite tone and delivers emotion by the gallon, her tracks vary from country-leaning folk to rocking blues riffs with flourishing instrumentation and the result is simply devine. Her playing in a church promises to be a must-see. 

DAGNY - FACEBOOK

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Thu, March 3, 11:30 PM > 12:00 AM

·         Drømmeteltet

Fri, March 4, 10:30 PM > 11:00 PM

Dagny’s debut single "Backbeat” catapulted her to the attention of many blogs around the world, a ridiculously infectious pop song full of vibrant, upbeat melody, captivating vocals and youthful exuberance. 

PALE HONEY - FACEBOOK

·         Mono

Thu, March 3, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Fri, March 4, 8:30 PM > 9:00 PM

Last years’ Youth was Pale Honey’s debut album and after missing a couple of London shows I’m looking forward to breaking my live duck in Oslo. That release was a collision of part introspective darkness and propulsive (yet minimal) pop melody that draws you into a dreamy, idyllic world before hitting you with the odd thud of abrasive noise. That’s exactly my sort of thing.

SUSANNA - FACEBOOK

St. Edmunds Church

Fri, March 4, 7:00 PM > 7:30 PM

I’d not heard of Susanna before a few weeks ago and the track “Burning Sea” (although she has a comprehensive discography behind her). The track is the first heard from her forthcoming LP Triangle but I love what I heard straight away, wrapping me up in a similar sense of foreboding darkness to Anna Von Hausswolff (well the track does start with the line ‘I belong to the darkness’) as droning keys and howling instrumentation collide with Susanna’s crystalline vocal. If it’s all this good, consider me smitten.

SIV JAKOBSEN - FACEBOOK

·         Mono

Thu, March 3, 6:00 PM > 6:30 PM

·         St. Edmunds Church

Sat, March 5, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

Siv Jakobsen, as I’ve documented here before, was one my favourite discoveries of 2015 and the Norwegian singer-songwriter's track "How We Used to Love" one of my favourite tracks of the year, easily one of most beautiful, affecting tracks of recent time. Each carefully placed space and each finger-plucked melody adds to its emotional power, complete with bruised vocal and strings drenched in sadness, the result brings tingles each and every time I hear it – and that’s been often this year.

On her seven track EP The Lingering Siv has clearly taken influence from the beautiful yet chilly landscapes that surround her home, a sparse yet natural beauty and intimacy that pulls you deep into a magical world of romanticism and memories that you never want to leave. 

EERA - FACEBOOK

·         Revolver

Thu, March 3, 9:30 PM > 10:00 PM

·         NRK P3 Sentrum Scene

Fri, March 4, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

EERA is the new project of Anna Lena (formerly recording under the name Anna Lena and the Orchids) who re-imagines herself with "White Water", a track which is both familiar and new to fans of her earlier project and one that offers a bewitching introduction to newcomers.

Anna is blessed with an evocative, haunting vocal that seeps into your consciousness, natural and melancholic it slowly unwinds amongst chugging guitars, steady percussion and beautifully poetic lyrics. Nothing too much seems to have changed, that's until we reach the end of the verse and searing guitars transport the listener to St Vincent territory before calming once more, this bubbling flow continues until the tracks conclusion offering a confident, polished introduction to an artist whose time to step out of the shadows has surely come.

CHINAH - FACEBOOK

·         Gamla

Fri, March 4, 9:30 PM > 10:00 PM

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Sat, March 5, 9:30 PM > 10:00 PM

I’m absolute sucker for glistening, cinematic electro pop filled with a gorgeous vocal and that’s exactly what you can expect from Copenhagen’s Chinah. "We Go Back" is speckled with smouldering vocals and glittery, restrained synth pop melody that harks straight from the eighties. It's irresistible too, add kaleidoscopic guitar licks and retro keyboards to sweetly alluring choruses and the result is this smooth, nostalgic triumph. 

ALICE BOMAN - FACEBOOK

·         St. Edmunds Church

Fri, March 4, 9:00 PM > 9:30 PM

·         Rockefeller presented by BI

Sat, March 5, 12:30 AM > 1:00 AM

Alice Boman is one of those artists I seem to feature here every time she releases a new track, if you press play on any one of her tracks you'll soon understand why. Her voice is a killer. Alice’s music heads straight for the heart. Her two EP’s far offering stark and fragile piano-led ballads full of haunting, echoey atmosphere and Alice's sweetly-hushed vocals, the result is an intimate, bare-boned experience capable of bringing you close to tears.

SARA HARTMAN - FACEBOOK

Drømmeteltet

Fri, March 4, 11:30 PM > 12:00 AM

Sara Hartman, a Berlin-based, US-born singer-songwriter hits the ground running on her immaculate single “Monster Lead Me Home”, a flawless piano-pop gem which propels rich, powerful vocals and sparkling instrumentation to results that excite for the teenagers’ future ahead.

The Great Escape 2015 - Saturday Review

Glorious sunshine welcomes the final day of The Great Escape Festival 2015, it's a welcome bonus as I head to The Black Lion for the first show of the day just before midday.

There's a strong London contingent waiting to see the trio Fever Dream and they aren't about to be disappointed. The band rip straight through an eight strong set taken from their recently released debut full-length Moyamoya, their energetic set is a joy to watch from beginning to last, balancing noise and distortion with texture and melody (unlike what I'd heard the night before) as a relentless rhythm section hypnotises around Adey's taut vocals. 

The crowd aren't going anywhere fast as next comes Russian shoegazers and Fever Dream label-mates Pinkshinyultrablast. They wheel in the biggest amp I have ever seen and standing near the front I am worried I'm about to have my head taken off.

The vocalist is having technical difficulties with reverb control but that aside you'd never have known, it's a delicious set of dense guitarscapes, an abundance of fuzz and power yet there's more than MBV revivalists here, with some glittery, tropical shimmers and skittering electronics on display. It's a wonderful balance of power and beauty and I'm left with a tough decision of whether to see them again later (I decide not to because I see they have a London show announced for later in the year).

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Jagaara play to a packed house over at Dome Studio, it's a short but perfectly formed set, a mixture of the sublime and delicious. Jane has the most beautiful of lead voices and their songs are brilliant but the trio are performing without a live drummer that I really think will elevate their sound (it's the second time I've seen them and both times without - I'm not sure if it is a conscious decision or they are in-between drummers). Closing song "Marble Arch" showcases where I believe their strengths are, entwining pop and rock with fiery rhythms and soaring emotion. I look forward to hearing more expansion in due course.

Next I take a choice on whim, after yesterday's disasters I'm hesitant and hoping my luck has changed, it takes about thirty seconds to realise it has.

Belguim's Intergalactic Lovers are brilliant, they remind me of Metric without the synths, a scintillating, sparkling power pop band will a compelling lead vocalist and energetic guitar rich melodies. I'm wondering quite how I'd never heard of them until this point (subsequent research shows very few people in the UK seemingly have - that's got to change). Soaring emotion, innovative and uplifting and I cannot get enough of the wonderful lead vocals. A new band to follow is found.

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Back at The Black Lion and I manage to take in all of the late running Flowers show, the last time I saw the London based trio they were supporting Fear of Men so it's a nice touch that Jess from the band is standing front row singing all the words to the opening track.

The set is wonderful, Flowers emit this sense of charm that few bands can match and the venue is quiet as the crowd's hearts melt to Rachel's endearing vocals, the band effortlessly switch betwen riotous fuzz pop and minimal swoon pop in the blink of an eye. It's gorgeous.

Me and my friend take an extra beer in the venue before I rush around the corner to Cafe Marwood for round two of Siv Jakobsen. I needn't have rushed so much because it's running twenty minutes late. I take the chance to get a much needed caffeine boost and head upstairs.

Siv plays the exact same set as yesterday, I don't mind one bit. The location is perhaps more suited to intimate folk and although Siv is suffering with the side effects of the high pollen, you'd never know as her set is just as spectacular as the first. I find out the next day is Norway's national day and by the end I'm already looking forward to her return to these shores.

After I rush up to North Laines (a venue/pub with its own on-site microbrewery - as amazing as it sounds). I was hoping to catch some of She Drew The Gun but I arrive too late and instead I wait around for Sväva.

What follows is the most unfortunate moment of the weekend, the band had traveled from Holland for a few UK shows including this one, they are two songs into a set that's impressing, drawing shimmering guitarscapes and dreamy vocals and most impressively, they'd managed to draw a crowd from the on-looking pub-goers and then, with no warning whatsoever the power goes out.

I'm not completely sure what happens or who was organising what but the end result is the bands set is pulled. It's extremely harsh on them. Personally I couldn't see the problem with letting them return (the delay was about 15 minutes and the venue was running to schedule). The crowd disappeared when the power went and there were no announcements as to what was happening so it's perhaps equally harsh on Adna who follows on stage. She's bedazzles with wizardry behind the stage managing to control keys, laptop, guitar all whilst singing her haunted hymns, there's spacious melancholy in the way she plays and it would be great to see her return with a full band to let her concentrate on the guitar and vocals. 

Into the evening Novella play at Brighthelm. I've seen them play probably ten times now but this is the first time since they've expanded to a quintet and since the release of their debut Land. They play a wonderfully hypnotic 35 minute set that comes to life around relentless kraut-rock guitar rhythms and pulsating beats, swirling effortlessly around  crystallised vocals with the poppier choruses of "Something Must Change" a real highlight. It's certainly not going to be the last time I see the band, nor feature them here.

Saturday evening's schedule was bare for me, I'd spent a while trying to find someone new/interesting to see and perhaps mainly because a friend was there already plump for Komedia Studio Bar and a South African (sorry I knew this, I was just being stupid) band I'd never heard of Al Bairre (pronounced Al Bear which sounds even better).

The decision is probably the best one I make all weekend. The bands live show is incredible. The band are beyond infectious, they give it their absolute all and this unbounded enthusiasm and energy rubs off on the packed crowd inducing a Saturday night boogie and huge applause between tracks. Al Bairre are a genre-hopping mix of indie-pop character and electric violin/cello.  It's dense, bouncy and brilliant. The cover of the weekend occurs half way through their set with a riotous version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". The band don't stop for a single second, jumping around stage, swapping instruments and vocal duties and smiling, it seems they were having just as much fun as the audience. 

A revelation. The band play in London tomorrow. If you can go - you must (details). 

The next band fail to ignite me after that and I make the decision to end my weekend with a few quiet beers and a sit down. I'm near to where Maccabees are playing and it's extremely busy outside. Then just like that The Great Escape comes and goes for another year, yet another success and a brilliant weekend is had by (pretty much, I'm sure there are a few grumblers around) all. Of course it is not without problems and some that are the same every year (the app is rubbish, changing information is slow to filter through, the text service is a waste of time etc) but The Great Escape is generally a high quality, well organised event that showcases the depth of new music talent across UK and the world, you cannot ask more than that for the £40 ticket price I paid. See you next year TGE.


The Great Escape 2015 - Friday Review

Friday starts (as did all three of my mornings) with an all you can eat breakfast to set me up for the day. The sun was out early but by the time I'm ready to leave my hotel it's cloudy and chilly, still it's a step up from Thursday's rain (it's so much nicer to be at a festival and have a real bed and a shower each morning!).

I make my way to Paganini Ballroom to see an artist I've never heard before Sasha Siem, her show is well received by a midday crowd. It's the sort of set that's impossible to take your eye off, a genre-hopping combination of Bjork styled eccentricity, varying between grandiose chamber pop where violin, keys and guitar collide in a dizzying spell and sparser, more beautiful moments, it's the latter that I find most rewarding, I am partial to a bit of gorgeous melancholy after all.

Through one of Brighton's narrow passages next to Shipwrights Yard where I first take in a short, sweet set by Portsmouth singer-songwriter Jerry Williams (all the sets here are just twenty minutes). She looks impossibly young and her set is infinitely charming, her sweet voice carries nostalgic (that's to old boys like myself, to Jerry they are current) tales of teenage love and boys checking out girls from behind their sunglasses. 

Next in the same venue it's a band I'd never come across before, Secret Company. They aren't my usual thing and their drummer is seemingly nursing the mother of all hangovers but I'm impressed by their polished alt/indie pop sheen, delivering a set full of guitar driven melodies and undeniably charismatic vocals, I can see them doing well once their EP comes out later in the year.  

Afterwards is a little unexpected bonus with a previous unannounced set from Brighton's own Dog In The Snow, it's good to finally hear "Africa" live for myself. The duo's set combines sparse, tranquil electronics, rhythmic guitar riffs and ethereal vocals to delicious effect, I keep hoping it's going the brooding intensity is going to explode but perhaps it's a little early in the afternoon for that.

A short hop across the road to Sticky Mikes for a not very well advertised set by one of the pre-festival hyped acts Bully.

The quartet, apparently tired from an early morning travel from Cardiff show absolutely no sign of fatigue in a blisteringly intense show. The highlight of the weekend (to this point) is a half hour set full of tracks that will make up their debut album (due in June) and includes the aforementioned "Trying" and "I Remember". Bully are a formidable force live with much of my attention focusing on the simply incredible lead guitarist whom spends much of the set perched down delivering a head-spinning display of guitar mastery amongst pummelling beats and Alicia's raw, growling vocals. The audience feel the thrill too, a non-stop, brutal set of quick, sharp grunge-pop. Awesome.

I'm undecided whether to catch Aurora performing at SpiegelPub next but decide I'll catch her later and instead follow my friend to The Fishbowl to catch Dios Mio, with a pint of the fine Brighton IPA in hand I watch the quartet deliver a strong performance of their sweeping alt-pop.

There's ringing layers of dreamy guitar swirls carried by a  powerful rhythm section and Helena's gorgeously soft vocal, it draws you in and when two new tracks are played near the end it's soon clear that Dios Mio will soon be building upon the foundations we've heard so far.

One of the acts I was most excited to hear follows, my live debut of Siv Jakobsen (I learn I've been pronouncing her name wrong, it's softer than sieve).

Ever wondered what a Britney Spears song would sound like through the eyes of softening melancholy? Well if you were in the audience you'd now know (the answer is awesome). Most of the set is taken from Siv's forthcoming EP The Lingering, an apt title for the spell she weaves with her incredible vocal and acoustic guitar.

"Caroline" leaves you drenched in a state of familiar longing yet one that's comforting too as haunting tones cover you like a warming blanket (just as the second IPA does). There's a more suitably genre-matching cover of Joni's "River" to end the set in majestic fashion and I'm already penning in a repeat dose when Siv performs again tomorrow. There's also a funny moment during an impromptu tuning Q&A when someone asks Siv 'What is the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow?' (with thanks to Monty Python) and Siv only hears Swallow. I'll leave that there though as this isn't an 18+ website!...

There's a gap in the schedule next and I meet with some friends for a chin wag and some dinner before starting the evening session at The Mesmerist.

So good is Sophie Jamieson these days that half an hour disappears in an instant with a trio of new tracks hinting that her next EP may surpass her last, the quartet deliver a masterclass in spacious, exquisite songcraft with Sophie's voice leaving you hanging on her ever word. It's great to see a full band set as the last couple of times I've seen Sophie she had been solo acoustic (I use acoustic loosely, the guitar these days is firmly electric). I quickly say hello to Sophie at the end and it's only when I'm on the way out that I realise there was no "Waterloo", "Stain" or "Other". A note to festival bookers, if you are booking Sophie Jamieson, she needs at least 45 minutes!

I didn't want any repeat of Coalition shut-out today so I'm inside the venue early to see Aurora. Early enough to find Robin from Breaking More Waves (again) and catch Beach Baby, it's not particularly my thing but the band are decent and the last song "No Mind No Money" is catchy enough to ear them some radio airplay and appeal to fans of sun-drenched slacker pop. 

Aurora is worth the festival admission price alone. I've talked about her wide-eyed glare and hand-shape movements when I reviewed her track "Runaway", in the flesh they are even more pronounced. Her stage presence belie's her still teenage years. She transfixes you with her stares and dances and makes you swoon with her incredible personality.

She is visibly taken aback by the huge, huge cheers that her breathtaking songs receive (the cheers and screams only grow throughout the set) and she seems to be genuinely enjoying herself too. It's magical. This is pop music right here, not what you see on television. She deserves all the success she is going to get, I just hope when I see her again in a year or two's time, that her unique charm and excitement is still there (the nerves won't be, this is just the start). The moment of The Great Escape 2015 and I leave possibly the happiest I've been at an individual TGE gig since I walked out of Josh T Pearson back in 2011.

I head over to The Haunt next, The Vaccines are secret headliners and I know it's going to be busy so I arrive early and abandon plans to see Monica Heldal (I'm unsure I'd get in to her venue too, Soak played directly after her, I assume it was extremely busy). I'm early enough to be inside within ten minutes to see The Big Moon (a band I've been meaning to cover here for about two months now). Perhaps too early because I have to endure one and a half sets beforehand. The first band are playing a guitar solo to rival Brian May. It's self-indulgent and it's shit. When they finally get going they play an acceptable form of 60's leaning psych-stoner rock.

The next band are worse, much worse. The only highlight of which is when the set comes to an abrupt end. The guitarist decides it's a good idea to stage dive into the crowd, the crowd disagree and it ends with him crashing onto the floor. He jumps back on stage and goes off in a huff, the rest of the band finish playing on follow him off. I'm happier to be hearing the entirety of Prince's 1999 played in between. 

The Big Moon redeem the last hour, you can hear the melody and rhythm for a start, it's better than that though, a triumphant set that's rudely interrupted when an amp stops working. I already know how good a guitar player Soph is but the rest of the band are great too with recent single "Sucker" providing a real sing-along moment (along with a cover of Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger"). It's hard to know just how many of the packed crowd were here for them but it's certain at the sets end that The Big Moon have made some new friends.

I head to Brighthelm. I know it's a mistake soon after. The first band are proficient but not what I need and I sit down awaiting some friends. We all then witness a band who make The Darkness seem original. I'm intrigued at the start because the singer sound-checks his mic by singing Queen's "Dreamer's Ball". That's where it ended for me. A big crowd love it though and the band probably draw the biggest mosh-pit I saw all weekend. Proof if it were ever needed that one man's meat is another man's poison.  The last band playing are just noise, any hint of melody and vocal lost amongst (I believe on purpose) a quagmire of feedback and noise. I quickly escape to the safety of my room.

It turns out to be a pretty meh ending to a great day. Those earlier highlights though far outweigh any negativity, especially that incredible performance from Aurora. 

The Great Escape 2015 - Thursday Review

It doesn't seem like all that long ago since we were talking about whom to see at The Great Escape yet here I am sitting at my desk after returning home from the festival earlier this afternoon. Three days and just over thirty bands later I'm sitting content and surprisingly spritely, I went to bed at half two yesterday so it's probably just the adrenaline after three wonderful days of music. The Great Escape is a weekend that reinforces your love of music and (99%) of the people involved in music. Music people are decent people, as my random conversations and chats with friends old and new testify.

Anyway, casting my mind to Thursday midday and I arrive into Brighton to rain, horrific rain. It's absolutely sheeting down and I instantly am regretting my decision to bring just one pair of shoes and one hoody because they are drenched by the time I've checked into my hotel with the friend I'm staying with. We both go to the wristband exchange (the organisation is seemingly much better this year and we are in and out within minutes).

We decide to start The Great Escape 2015 and Komedia. The first act of my festival are Flyying Colours, a band I should have seen on Monday but wimped out of going to (to save my energy for TGE apparently). The set is short, only four songs in length but it is also brilliant, giving a sharp, explosive introduction to a dizzying shoegaze sound where searing guitar abuse is pared with luscious dual vocals, it's intoxicating stuff. Instantly a few of my friends change future weekend plans to see them again.

Next over at Patterns it's running an hour late and reeks of paint because frankly the place is still a building yard, I imagine the delay was because the health and safety officer was making them cover up a few exposed wires. The room (formerly Audio) does look better and bigger now though. I'm here as the new timing fits in nicely for my future plans but I do catch Violet Skies and meet Robin from Breaking More Waves for the first time of the weekend - my staple gig buddy where our tastes meet. Violet has a wonderful voice, soaring effortless and pure above restrained drums and keys, it's smooth R&B/pop which is made for radio play. 

The more elegant and carpeted Paganini Ballroom is my next stop (that's got to be a royal pain in the arse to clean after a gig) for one of my pre-festival highlights Aldous Harding. Her show lives up to billing, majestic finger plucked acoustic and timeless vocal, it's a deep beacon of emotion and the hushed silence in the room sums up how intoxicating the live experience is. What I wasn't expecting beforehand was the in-between stage banter, full of dry wit and sarcasm nor the cover that ended the set. After spending half an hour perched on a stool delivering semi-whispered, dark-folk tales of doomed relationships Aldous stands up and a cappella blasts of Edith Piaf's "Non, Je ne regrette rien". Stunning.

We've made the decision to head the mile or so up the road to head to The Joker next. A decision that me and my friend instantly regret when we walk into an empty room instead of seeing Britain whom were advertised as playing. We had around for about twenty minutes but nothing is going on (the not so frequently talked about joys of an unofficial showcase) and instead go across the road to Bleach. 

Curxes are the draw and they start their set late thanks to technical gremlins. As a non music techie I don't hear anything wrong with how the now expanded trio sound as they deliver a belting half hour set of material taken from their newly released debut album Verxes. I'm particularly taken to the dance-floor pop swagger of recent single "What You Want" (of course this is Curxes we are talking about, so it's a mutated form) and the addition of live drums is a complete win, pummelling beats are the perfect accompaniment to their sound. I'm suitably impressed.

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The evening session arrives and I try to get into Coalition to see Lapsley but I knew I'd left it too late after stopping off for a much needed coffee break on the way back down to the seafront from Bleach (I arrive at 19.10 and the queue to get in was already about the capacity of the venue!). I decide to take no chances with my later gig plans and head back up the road (and hill) to Green Door Store. I walk in as Dark Moon are playing and see twenty minutes or so of their rhythm heavy psyche, I'm taken to the gong that the singer delicately shimmers throughout and wish it was given a good and proper whack!

The room is rammed by the end of the set and whilst the next band are setting up I decided to head to the bar and toilet, it's impossible to get back into the room (the planning of the Green Door Store is shocking, a narrow funnel into a much bigger room which seems people stand back and clog up the entire room). In any case I'm glad of that shortly afterwards. The polite way of describing the band that I won't name, you'll be able to look it up easy enough if you are bothered, is NME friendly... Once their set finishes I sneak back to my friends and wait for a band I hadn't seen up until this point Black Honey.

It's a fine, fine way to love a virginity too, Izzy is as good a front as I've seen in recent times, she reminds me of TJF's Ritzy with her intense stares and emotive, powerful vocal. The tracks are as good live too, "Teenager" hits the spot with the lively, mainly local crowd and the cinematic whirl of "Spinning Wheel" set things off in scintillating fashion. There's been an excitement about this band pretty much from day one and live you can figure out just why.

Shortly afterwards PINS come to stage and are back to their normal line-up (bassist Anna had broke her leg in a car accident). It's a brilliant set too, there's the treat of a few older tracks (most excitingly "Luvu4lyf") amongst the glittery sheen on the new songs. "Young Girl" and the bite of "Oh Lord" thrilling most, Faith's icy glare and piercing vocals holding your attention amongst beautiful, energetic guitarscapes. It's over in no time at all, that's always the sign of something that you want more of...

A full circle as I end my day back at Komedia for a band I'd neglected since their surprise reformation earlier this year, Mt. Wolf. It doesn't take me long to learn the mistakes in my way with guest vocals from Only Girl a welcome bonus before a finale of "Hamburg" seals a late winner for highlight of the day. Stirring deep within is an effortless tapestry of restrained, atmospheric instrumentation and heart-melting vocals. I'm swooning on the spot and as I make my way out to the streets with the rest of the audience I'm left wrapped up in a hazy blanket of warming bliss. It is a stunning moment to end a truly top class show. 

It's now sometime around midnight (a little Airborne Toxic Event reference for you) and I'm shattered, my girls had me up at six am and I decide to head back to my hotel instead of following my friend to Brighthelm, in hindsight I made the wrong decision (but I do latterly catch the band that were playing, more on that in Saturday's review). Day one of The Great Escape is quickly over, a mishap in the middle of the day aside, it's been a great start. 

The Great Escape 2015 - Preview (Ten acts to see part two)

This is a continuation of the last post. Part One of my preview of The Great Escape 2015 can be found here.

6. Arctic Lake (Facebook)

Who?
A London based trio who mould minimalist instrumentation to emotive vocals with smouldering results.

Where?
THE JOKER (Alternative Escape)
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 - 1:45PM

Why?
Arctic Lake are honestly one of my favourite new acts and one whom I'm very excited about and "Only Me" is the London based trio's latest track and the follow up to the unbearable beautiful "Limits" (which got playlisted by Radio One no less) and is, there is no other way to say it, absolutely fucking gorgeous.

There's a soul-searching beauty to the restrained vocals of Emma Foster and the flickering atmospheric space of the accompanying instrumentation coexists to perfection. Perfection yes, that's the word to describe "Only Me".

7. Bully (Facebook)

Who?
Bully is a young Nashville four-piece blasting out of the gates with high-powered grunge punk reminiscent of the beginnings of indie rock. The band is fronted by Alicia Bognanno, an audio engineer who has been cutting her teeth on the soundboards of indie clubs and studios in recent years. After opening for the likes of Best Coast, Those Darlins, and Superchunk, Bully is ready to grab their own audience.

Where?
THE HAUNT
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 8:00pm - 8:30pm

Why?
Bully are here to take you back to the 90's (although it's close to the stage when that phrase is incorrect with Internet readership who never experienced it in the first place - argh old age!) with the guitar heavy "Brainfreeze", a fuzzy, infectious addition to the grunge revival with hooks and sugary vocals that certainly hit the sweet spots. 

The other song I came across from the Nashville quartet's self-titled EP is "Milkman", it takes the pace up a dozen more notches, a storming, breathless shrill pop monster that is poppy yet viciously rocking at the same time and wraps up within two minutes. It would be greedy to ask for more than that...

8. Adna (Facebook)

Who?
Swedish born (now Berlin based) Adna, an artist likely to cause your heart go a flutter with haunting songcraft and her beautiful, affecting vocals.

Where?
THE NORTH LAINE (Alternative Escape)
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 - Time Unknown
THE NORTH LAINE (Alternative Escape)
SATURDAY 16th May 2015 - 7:00PM

Why?
"Living" is taken from Adna's second , recently released album Run, Lucifer and immediately it hits hard with an incredible opening verse "I need to get out of my own head, to leave my whole past, get new thoughts, new feelings, a whole new life, I never wanted this one". 

The pained, emotive lyrics are accompanied by an immersive melody where a soft ringing guitar and twinkling piano is joined by a progressive drum heartbeat, already "Living" is highlighting a polished, progressive sound but just then, the chorus hits and bam. The track explodes, blowing you away for good with a soaring, kaleidoscopic power-pop surge. I simply love it.

9. No Joy (Facebook)

Who?
Montreal’s No Joy, who are currently working on material to follow their sophomore LP Wait to Pleasure, are gearing up for an upcoming European tour alongside Cheatahs, including a date at The Great Escape.

The band continues to strike a balance between the blistering walls of noise they’re renowned for, with airy, expansive atmospherics that allow the songs to breathe and the melodies to seep through.  The band, renowned for their juxtaposition of unrest and calm, beauty and chaos, truth and fantasy, in the throes of dimed amps and hair-whipping guitar goddess rock music – remain unwavering as ever.

Where?
BRIGHTHELM
SATURDAY (AM) 16th May 2015 1:30am - 2:00am

Why?
I can trace my following of No Joy right back to their beginning. A band that I've held in high regard since their debut 7" blew me away back in mid 2010. My love grew with a couple of killer UK shows and a deafening Primavera set the following spring (I've said this before but No Joy are definitely an act to see live). 

Latest track "Everything New" sees the band return in brilliant fashion, the track, the first taken from their third LP More Faithful is absolutely bloody gorgeous.

Here at least, it sees the quartet tone down the fuzz and noise (their live show, in my history, have always been a whirlwind of sonic abuse) in favour of sumptuous melody with entwined dual vocal harmonies floating amongst ringing guitars, fizzing and restrained, graceful and calming, words that are very welcome in the No Joy repertoire if you ask me.

10. Black Honey (Facebook)

Who?
After dreamy opener ‘Sleep Forever’, 60’s psychedelic ‘Teenager’ and grunge rock ‘The Taste’ the band revealed their debut EP with their final hook laden track ‘Bloodlust’ and the first photo of themselves. To celebrate the band played a packed out secret show in their hometown of Brighton. Initially only being known as ’the sweet taste of darkness’ Black Honey have gone on to become an unstoppable force.

Where?
GREEN DOOR STORE
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 9:15pm - 9:45pm

Why?
Local Brighton quartet Black Honey have rightly become UK blog darlings and with recent support shows alongside Superfood and a whole host of festivals to follow, it's seemingly only heading one way. New track "Spinning Wheel" sums up exactly why.

It sees Black Honey add spaghetti western cinematics to their pop-noir assault, from a languid, dusty beginning that recalls Lana the track suddenly bursts into life with typically scintillating energy, there's Tarantino-esque atmosphere throughout with howling vocals, psychedelic jangle guitars and some pretty awesome machine gun drumming. 

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competiton 2015 - My Longlist

Glastonbury Festival Website

I was honoured and happy to be asked to form part of the 40 strong panel of bloggers who help with the judging of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition (head to the official Glastonbury website to read more about the contest). The 2015 edition of which saw more than seven thousand fledgling UK/Ire based acts enter the competition with the aim of winning a main stage slot at the festival (and with an added bonus of a monetary prize for three acts thanks to the PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development).

All entries are shared equally amongst the initial judging panel with the aim of compiling a longlist of 120 acts. The longlist will then be whittled down to a shortlist of 8 artists by judges including Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis, before the live finals at Pilton Working Men’s Club in April to decide the winning act. 

Of my entire judging list not a single act had been previously covered here. A singular statement that goes to highlight the breadth of talent in the UK - Glastonbury ETC is UK/Ire based acts only - and whilst naturally the list is a bit of a mixed bag in terms on my own particular taste there were a great number of exciting acts to discover. 

I managed to whittle my longlist down to twenty quite easily but reducing it to ten was more difficult and then from ten to my final three almost impossible (there were a couple of entries I really wanted to but through but could not) - each blogger gets three selections to form the overall longlist.

On this post I'm going to let you in on my final ten from which my three selections will be published (I won't be telling you which yet, the ten are listen in alphabetical order below). The final longlist and individual top threes (this is just my own judging list remember, so don't worry if you aren't including, there are 39 other judges) will be published on the Glastonbury website in early March.

Good luck to all acts involved:

My Longlist:

Cattle & Cane - Facebook

Cattle & Cane are a North East quintet whom immediately stopped me in my tracks with "Skies", it sees immaculately crafted, deftly shaped sibling harmonies and exquisite instrumentation entwine seamlessly. Imagine this rich, dynamic melody and vocals full of emotion and fragility and you'll come close, guaranteed to leave you with a lump in your throat. "Then You Came Along" is an absolute gem too, bring tissues.

Chris Keight - Twitter

Gentle finger plucked acoustic and softening vocals guide a beautifully intimate track that slowly builds to an urgent, soaring outpouring of emotion in its finale, a track that deserves to be heard by audiences old and new.

Plastic Mermaids - Facebook

Meandering soft psyche pop with a swirling, abstract melody, guaranteed to create some weird, hazy daydreams.

Almost perfect for hearing in a field at a festival then.

Pockets - Facebook

A Galway based quartet who deal in beautifully spacious, slow-motion ambient rock that simmers with brooding intent around intricate instrumentation and a gorgeously controlled, versatile vocal. Both "They Will" and "Alone" enrapture with darkly emotive, immersive soundscapes.

Polar Maps - Facebook

A trio from the Isle of Wight who create easy on the ears guitar pop, complete with nifty arrangements and sing-along chorus you feel like you've been transferred back to your favourite school bands of the mid 90's.

Rachel Clark - Facebook

Rachel Clark is a sixteen year old singer-songwriter whom instantly grabbed my attention with her earworm vocal and the brooding intensity of "Invasion", slowly building from circling guitar patterns with the most rewarding of conclusions.

A name to be heard in the future for sure.

Stina - Facebook

The first thing that you notice with London's Stina is her beautifully rich vocal, melting hearts around gradually swelling instrumentation on the lovely "Call The Guard", a track guaranteed to warm even the coldest of days.

Sula Mae - Facebook

The Google search translation of Mellifluous" is '(of a sound) pleasingly smooth and musical to hear'. I couldn't think of a better way to describe the song of the same name by Sula Mae, a deliciously soft vocal that you wish you could bottle and a beautiful, floating melody, the result is glorious daydreams.

Tekla - Facebook

"The Brightest Lights" sounds like a haunting music box, a lulling, soft beauty that pulls you in to an alternate, serene world.  There's an EP of similarly stark, naked folk portraits that remind me of Serafina Steer's quirky, enticing wonderfulness, Manchester's Telka is quite the discovery.

Tyrants - Facebook

Tyrants are a trio from the Capital who yield an unrepentant combination of old and new rock that brims with tension and drama, creating a raw, unnerving sound that is delivered with screeching riffs and viciously confident vocals.