Friday, 30 June 2017

'...It is the aftermath of fever'

Some pieces take longer than others. 

As regular readers will know, I likened my recent (ish) experience of writing a chapter on women, punk and fanzines for a book on punk and fanzines to pulling teeth: Painful, long winded, with lots of agonising, re-doing, picking at it...

By contrast, the piece I have just had published on The F-Word, on the theme of women and music festivals, was written in a sort of feverish state last weekend. All credit to F-Word music editor, Jo Whitehead, for turning it around so quickly.

The sequence of events goes like this:

On Thursday 22nd June, I was half listening to the World Service while cooking my tea when they suddenly started talking about Glastonbury. No one I like is playing Glastonbury this year (or, indeed, ever seems to really, by and large...) so I wasn't really listening, until it became apparent that this was going to be a report on the lack of women playing music festivals, and I found myself listening, wearily at first, then angrily.

I seethed for about 24 hours afterwards, I think, then re-listened to the news bulletin in question on iplayer, did some further reading, and went to bed on Friday night feeling a bit more thoughtful about it. But still, ultimately, annoyed.

I got up for work at 7am on Saturday morning, had my breakfast, and as I ate, I began to get an idea for a piece about the whole issue of women and music festivals. I have to leave for work at 8:15am on Saturdays, which is a lie in for me because the 191 doesn't run on Saturdays so it's the 192 and they run more regularly. Anyway, this meant that I had exactly 15 minutes between 8am and 8:15am to plan the piece, which I did. In full. I then grabbed my stuff and legged it to the bus stop.

When I got home from work at just before 6pm, I sat down with the plan, read through it, switched my laptop on and wrote...

At about 8ish it occurred to me that I'd better have some tea. At 10 ish I remembered I was meant to have a shower. At midnight I thought 'I'd better go to bed now'.

I did sleep, but I was awake again by about 7am and up again, working on it, by about 8am. I eventually left it alone at about 10am in order to go into Manchester to buy the Gothic Tropic album at Piccadilly Records.

Then I had to go to the launderette and do the Co-Op leg of the food shop, then back home, work on the piece some more, do something else, work on the piece some more...

I finally stepped away from it at about half 11pm on Sunday night, having gone off on all sorts of weird and wonderful tangents throughout the day, many of which I subsequently excised around 11 ish just before I submitted it.

My final thought as I switched off the light and lay down in bed was: "There's an awful lot of Florence + The Machine in it. Will that be a problem?" I've been worrying about this a lot since, but now that the piece is up, I'm less worried. Because I know that I was using the band as an exampler and that I was writing in critical mode, not fan mode, and as such, I think it works.

It's not normally my style to write an opinion piece, or a j'accuse, and I don't think that the finished piece is one, as such, but it's much more of an opinion piece than I would usually write. Which I was uneasy about at first, but less so now. I was also uneasy because I'm not a festival veteran: As I wrote in my review of British Summer Time last year, my formative gig going years were spent at All Dayers, not Festivals. But, this is perhaps not so much of a problem as you might think, in that it allows me to take an outsider view on matters.

(Florence + The Machine, Ship To Wreck, live at British Summer Time 2016)

In recent years I've got very into a style of journalism that perhaps isn't traditional music journalism because it borrows from other areas, like economics, and which is generally less myth making and more dispassionate. I think the BBC report that inspired all of this falls into that category, and the articles from The Economist I've mentioned in my piece do as well. The Guardian, in it's reports on the industry side of the music business, also does interesting and enjoyable reportage and debate in this line.

As I see the piece up online, I am reminded, as I have been at intervals all week, of Paddy McAloon's 'I Trawl The Megahertz', a sort of stream of consciousness piece set to music, epic in scope. There is a pause at one point, a lull, in which the narrater, having expressed something close to mania just beforehand, concludes that the disillusionment that follows is 'The aftermath of fever'.

I hope that won't be the case. I have a lot of music to write about at the moment, if only because there are so many great albums out, but I'm not sure how those pieces will emerge yet, or when. I just know they will.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Georgia - Feel It (Official Video)

And the sound of young London, keeping at it, doing good. I think that this might be the song she opened her set at British Summertime with last year: The one that frightened the lounging hipsters.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Gothic Tropic - How Life Works

Aside from Honeyblood, Gothic Tropic were the only other band I saw at the Manchester leg of Dot to Dot, and they did not disappoint.

They played to about 50 people (full capacity) in the tiny back room of the Castle Hotel on Oldham Street at 10pm, where the temperature was akin to that of a pizza oven, and they were fantastic. I was reminded of Adult Net; there seemed to be that same sense of clean post punk pop energy and crispness overlaid with California warmth. They are a great live band, very energetic and immersive. The album, Fast or Feast, is just out and it's a pop classic basically. I loved it on the first listen and will be buying it.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Honeyblood - Sea Hearts

As mentioned yesterday, I did see Honeyblood play at Dot to Dot in Manchester at the Albert Hall on 26th May. They were on at 5pm, which is never going to be a great slot because it's just too early for the audience to be really ready for you. The band played really well, and are clearly amazing musicians who make a staggering amount of noise for just two people, but aside from three pockets of teenagers (mainly girls, some boys) going absolutely berserk to it, the audience was somewhat reserved and quiet, there in body but not in spirit. Despite the wider circumstances of what was going on in Manchester that week, I do feel that if the band had been playing in a slightly smaller venue, later on that night, they would have fared better, crowd and venue wise.

That said, they are a band who are well worth checking out live, and on record as well. As much as I love them, I am aware that, were I 17 I would love them a whole lot more because they are made to be loved by teenage girls, who will latch onto them and clutch them to their fevered hearts with an intensity so fierce it will hurt.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Vagabon - " Fear & Force " (Official Video)

I almost saw Vagabon perform at Dot to Dot, but didn't because I was seeing Honeyblood at the Albert Hall immediately before her set at Gullivers. Because of the amount of time it takes to travel between those two venues (the Albert Hall being near Albert Square, Gullivers being on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter) it didn't seem worth trying to catch the end of her set. It was a pity though.

As with No Vacation's 'Mind Fields', this video has a clear narrative arc that draws you in. By coincidence, the subject matter is quite similar too, though the songs are very different and I'm pretty sure they're directed by different film makers.

I'm interested to hear the album.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Miya Folick - Talking with Strangers (HQ)

Miya Folick was featured on the Spotify playlist for Dot to Dot, but wasn't scheduled to play at the Manchester leg of it. As with Kelsey Lu, she has a fantastic voice, and some really strong songs, of which this is one. Well worth keeping an eye out for. Instinct suggests she will also be amazing live.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Avante Black - Drug Money (Official Video)

I almost saw Avante Black at Dot to Dot in Manchester on 26th May but something had gone wrong with the scheduling at Mint Lounge so what I saw in the end was a large chunk of their soundcheck before I gave up and wondered over to Gullivers, where I discovered Overcoats had cancelled.

'Drug Money' is a bit of grower I think, and this could be a Wolf Alice or Pale Honey situation for me: Initially I overlooked them both and took them a bit for granted, only for them to completely blindside me with some really good records. So I think Avante Black will be worth keeping an eye on, just in case.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Overcoats - Leave The Light On

While Hanna and JJ were off on their European tour, they also released a video to accompany their single 'Leave The Light On'. As you would expect, there's lots of excellent dancing.

Unfortunately the band didn't play their UK dates at the Dot to Dot festivals, which is a shame, but perfectly understandable in the circumstances. In the meantime, I have reviewed their excellent album, Young, for The F-Word and you can get a flavour of the live experience by watching their Audiotree live session in Chicago in May. 

The album review was quite hard to write. Not because Young is a difficult album, or hard to write about, but because I found myself writing the review in late May in what was a very traumatic week for Manchester, and for the UK. I don't feel the circumstances in which it was written have overshadowed the review, but they have shaped it, for better or for worse.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

London Grammar - Truth Is a Beautiful Thing (Lyric Video)

From the new album, Truth is a beautiful thing, which is produced by Paul Epworth who did the first two Florence + The Machine albums.

London Grammar are one of those bands who I've dipped in and out of over the past few years. I was a big fan of their early track 'Metal & Dust', and I distinctly remember them playing at Pangaea at Manchester University in 2013. That's remember it happening I mean; I didn't attend. I've been looking forward to the new album as the singles bode well and this one in particular feels very atmospheric, poignant and gorgeous.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Natasha Kmeto - Pour Down (official video)

Because after the events of the past few weeks, and the last twenty four hours, I feel a real sense of catharsis and a need to dance.

Thank you to Elmo, Lord Buckethead and Mr Fishfinger for giving me moments of hilarity in the last twenty four hours.