Friday, 23 July 2010

Liam O'Kane - Voice Of The Equal

This is an EP I have been looking forward to getting hold of as Liam O’Kane’s debut album ‘Happy Days Sad Songs’ was one of my favorite records of last year. This EP is the first release on Off Cut Records which is a label founded by Liam earlier this year.

After the forst listen of the EP the first thing I noticed was this EP was a progression on from the first record which although fantastic crept closer to a full band sound this EP is unmistakably a solo recording. The sound Liam has is original and refreshing the acoustic ska/ reggae he plays takes influence from artists such as Babar Luck, Vic Ruggiero and Chris Murray in small parts.

Lyrically the record tackles life, love and politics in a mature clever fashion, with every word being backed up by Liam’s incredible vocal style and unquestionable passion. The powerful vocals add real emphasis to title track ‘Voice Of The Equal’ with a more tender side exposed on ‘In Music Lost’, which tells the stories of musical inspiration throughout Liam’s life.

The mature sound present in both the music and vocals creates an EP that flows nicely between tracks and my only complaint is that it’s only 5 tracks long. If the development continues between this recording and the next at the same level it has previously the next recording from Liam O’Kane will be phenomenal as I would place this EP and the debut album on a must have list.

Over all this record is a mature piece of work from a young artist who deserves to be successful from his solo work as he is one of the most exciting acts around. This EP is perfect for summer and will bring a hint of sunshine even to a rainy day, more importantly you should support the DIY scene in this country and in particular independent record labels such as Off Cut Records.

Mike Scott and Ben Childs Split EP

This is a record that got me truly excited both artists used to be in bands I was inspired by in my younger years (Mike sang for Phineaus Gage and Ben was one of the founding members of Sonic Boom Six) so to hear what their solo work sounded like was going to be a treat.

This excitement was not wasted as from the first few bars of  Ben’s opening track of the album you can tell you are going to be in for a treat. I was surprised to hear the large folk influence within Ben’s six tracks but it totally works the addition of violin and banjo in parts creates an authentic folk feel. This folk influence combines beautifully with elements of reggae, which mostly come through from distinctive vocals and political and personal lyrics.

This first half of the split is perfect for summer and the general cheery musical style suit Child’s voice superbly. There are moments of raw emotion, passion and completely danceable passages overall this is the perfect showcase for what this artist can and will continue to do. Each track flows faultlessly into the next making this piece of work incredible for both individual tracks and  as an entire record. 

If New-Folk is the future of alternative music expect Ben to be at the fore front of the genre as it develops. These are the first six songs to be released by Ben Childs and to be completely honest they blew me away with a mixture of surprise and pure joy. If this is to be the style that solo work keeps to I will very much look forward to hearing what’s next.

Ben’s half of the split is beautifully balanced out with the more pessimistic style of Mike Scott who presents acoustic punk rock in a passionate honest style. Mike’s snarling vocals are backed by raw acoustic guitar and occasional backing vocals. Mike’s lyrics are political throughout his six tracks, two of which are perfectly selected covers (The Connells  and Propaghandi). Mike’s observational lyrics are inspiring and depressing in equal measure, his reverse political analysis makes it impossible not to continue thinking after listening to each track.

The honesty projected through lyrics and Mikes voice create an enchanting six tracks that seem to float by in a matter of moments. The balance of songs is again near perfect showing an incredible amount of thought has gone into song selection, the track listing flows smoothly and creates a varying array of emotion throughout giving this EP a real sense of longevity.

Although Mike Scott has a completely different approach to acoustic music to that of Ban Childs this creates a split, which is a thing of beauty and wonder. The contrasted styles fit together beautifully and this record has been a regular on my CD player and Ipod in the last month or so and I can see it staying there for a long time. I can only recommend that you go and buy this record and support this countries DIY scene.     

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Out Of Step Presents Hold Your Horse Is with Even Atlas, Carl White and Bad Apes

As Bad Apes took the stage they burst into a thirty-minute set consisting of the most eclectic shoegaze surf noise around. The intensity that this three-piece produce is a sight to behold, making them fascinating to see play live. Since the last time I saw the band they have developed a far more vocal lead approach without loosing out on any of the experimental noise; this development in sound has made the band far more accessible to an audience without loosing any of the alternative sounds they have built a strong live reputation locally from. The speed in which these guys are developing their sound is astonishing and I’m looking forward to seeing them again to find out how their sound develops further.

After Bad Apes had warmed the audience’s ears up it was the turn of London based two-piece Carl White to take the stage. This band made Bad Apes experimental sound look regular in comparison to their intellectual mixture of instrumental math, prog noise. Every track developed in peaks and troughs and again this band were enchanting to watch and hear. The depth of sound and general volume was incredible, especially for two people. My personal highlight of the set was ‘You and Me’ a song that felt like a journey through a relationship, with moments of tender beauty followed by brutal noise.

Even Atlas were third up and managed to again raise the noise levels in the room with their individual post hardcore punk sounds. They played a balanced set with an equal number of instrumental tracks to tracks with vocals, both delivered at a rapid pace. Vocally the band lean towards At The Drive-In or the later incarnation Sparta but musically Even Atlas could draw comparison from a vast array of great bands all combined into a raucous sound. The stage presence of this three-piece was created with a mixture between confidence, bravado and exuberance making them a pleasure to watch. The progression shown throughout the set and particularly in the new song they played was very interesting, and again, like Bad Apes I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for this band.

As headliners Hold Your Horse Is took the stage they increased the temperature in the room considerably as the audience gathered to see what the hype was about. In recent months there has been a lot written and discussed about Hold Your Horse Is and it is safe to say they will not be playing small shows like this one for long. Their style mixes post punk with hardcore, and many other elements, to create an individual, easily recognisable sound when this is combined with an intense live show it is very easy to see where the hype has been generated.

As the band rattled through their set at an astonishing pace there were moments of anger and brutality paired with complex guitar and drum lines and the occasional moment of tender beauty. The main thing the band put across throughout the set was how much they were enjoying playing live; from the first note they were throwing themselves around the stage before coming to a premature end on the floor of the venue. Tonight’s set was genuinely one of the most exciting sets I have seen all year and I can’t wait until Hold Your Horse Is are back in the midlands again. I can wholeheartedly recommend downloading something by the band, there is a free single on their website at the moment and if you want to go further I would look no further than the ‘Everyone Runs Faster With A Knife’ EP.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

2000Trees Festival 2010

Big Thanks to Aaron Miller for the illustration for more of his creative genius please visit

This weekend saw one of the regular highlights of my year take place; 2000Trees is a small festival, which takes place on the outskirts of Cheltenham. The festival has a strong focus on environmental responsibility and is proud to be a small, affordable festival. This year was the first time it had sold out, and this happened months before the festival started. This was unsurprising considering the incredible line up the organisers had tirelessly worked on to put on over the three stages.

The first thing that struck me on arriving at the site early on Thursday afternoon was how busy the car park was already. As soon as we found somewhere to pitch our tents I was taken by the fantastic views of rolling Cotswold hills that surround the festival site which make a great change from the less picturesque sites at larger events. As Thursday nights festivities began unfortunately so did the heavy rain and high winds, which slightly dampened spirits and clothing. Thursday night saw an interesting array of acts grace the small Leaf Lounge stage and a collection of comedians take the stage at the Greenhouse. 

Highlights included sheltering from the rain whilst laughing at Bob & Jim’s entertaining pop songs composed of filthy hilarious lyrics, tapping my feet to Sixnationstate and their fusion gypsy sound and the incredible voice, dramatic folk and unpronounceable name of Wojtek Godzisz. Admittedly I should have seen more but by the time tents were packed and catching up was done we did well to fit anything in.

Waking up on Friday to a teasingly thin layer of cloud could not have made me happier, as the rest of the camp slowly arrived the anticipation of Friday’s acts started to develop. When heading to the Leaf Lounge for the first act of the day, the little known but now much loved David Goo Variety Band, rain clouds began to develop but inside the sunny eclectic musical mix of David and his band created a perfect escape from the worsening weather.  The band had the entire crowd won over after a few songs and had the whole tent dancing. This band was the perfect way to start a festival afternoon.

The next act of note was Men Diamler one man who I always look forward to seeing perform. He balances traditional folk with blues and occasional bursts of almost operatic singing. His live performance always involves serenading the audience and today was no exception. His mesmerising live performance captivated the audience who filled the intimate Greenhouse stage.

After the acoustic beauty of Men Diamler I headed to the main stage for the brutal musical assault that is Pulled Apart By Horses. My single note reads INTENSE and that is a true reflection on how good the band were to watch. From the first song this four-piece completely blew the audience away with their individual blend of modern hardcore paired with an energetic live performance. At times the security guards were left to despair as the singer disappeared into the crowd whilst the guitarist climbed the amp stacks to jump off. As the performance progressed the audience were either throwing themselves around in the mosh pit or watching in pure amazement.

The rest of the afternoon and early evening were spent anticipating Frank Turner’s headline slot whilst enjoying a few acts I wasn’t familiar with. In particular Beans On Toast and his urban story telling stood out for me, his stories of love, drugs and loss were enchanting to watch and the added dry wit defiantly inspired me to get hold of one of his records as soon as possible. Future Of The Left Took The Stage just as I was passing and their raucous post hardcore style enticed me towards the main stage to watch their energetic set.

For me after this the two instrumental acts (Errors followed by Metronomy) were perfect for listening to from the campsite; with a beer and conversation they were both creating great varied sounds and although I did check both of them out to see what the live performance added, I was happier to have a quiet few beers and get ready for Frank Turner.

So as the headline slot approached and the crowd began to gather, the atmosphere began to build and build as Frank took the stage I think even he was blown away by the reaction of the crowd. His set was of course solid and had the crowd singing and dancing along from the first to last note of every song. His on stage demeanour was humble and appreciative and fully represented his reputation for being one of the nicest men in music. He apologised numerous times for having to cancel his headline set last year and promised to come and play his ‘favourite festival’ every year they will have him.

As the set progressed through songs from the much loved first three records and the most recent album ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ which seems to divide opinion. As it has been every time I have seen Frank Turner play, the most memorable moment during the set was a heart wrenching rendition of ‘Long Live The Queen’ which left many audience members in tears and the rest fighting them back so as not to loose face.

As the set came to a close the crowd requested an encore in an ear splitting fashion that sounded like it could have been heard from space. After playing a cover of the ‘Out Door Type’ a song Frank learned at the festival the first time he played, he finished on ‘The Ballad Of Me and My Friends’ without having to sing a single word as the audience did this for him. This was a moment I will never forget, as the emotion coming from the crowd was beautiful.

As I headed to the bar for a couple of drinks I was greeted by a surprise stage created within the merch tent for Istartedthefirerecords, boasting live music until 2am. There were intimate performances from Jim Lockey and a host of others but the bulk of the performance time was taken by Thrill Collins a band who play individual covers of mostly nineties pop songs. This is the perfect band to listen to play late into the night and with every song the desire to dance along to them was almost unbearable.

Saturday started with Thrill Collins cover of ‘Mysterious Girl’ going through my head before we went down to see Wolverhampton based Carlos and The Jackal, a band boasting 3 different guitar pitches, which at times created an incredible sound equal in beauty and complexity and at times was so complex it became slightly confusing. With this minor criticism aside they are definitely a band with bags of potential and I will look forward to hearing them again.

Next up was Left Side Brain who mixed harmonies with energetic hard rocks riffs, the kind of band that either blow your hangover out of your head or make it feel ten times worse.  Three Trapped Tigers were one of the many bands I was looking forward to seeing at the beginning, and despite being late due to the guitarist taking a knock on the head from some lighting they did not disappoint one bit. Their complex brand of instrumental electronica was almost impossible to keep up with. Ever changing beat patterns and musical genres made watching people dance particularly entertaining. They are a band whose style is so individual that describing them with words is almost impossible you have to see them, or at least hear them, to make a full judgement. 

Following on from Three Trapped Tigers was going to be a challenge, but Manchester fusionists Sonic Boom Six were the perfect choice to do so. They had the crowd dancing before they had played their first song and the crowd did not stop until they left the stage. As one of the bands that created my love for music when I was a teenager I was disappointed there were no tracks from the first record ‘Sounds To Consume’ but with their ever developing musical style it was impossible not to enjoy their set.  

After being blown away by Three Trapped Tigers and SB6 I was ready to relax and found Jim Lockey playing a rare solo set the perfect option. He tackled mostly tracks from his debut record which made a refreshing change and perfectly suited his solo performance. To finish his set he debuted a track so new it didn’t have a name featuring members from his istartedthefire record label who will be recording under the name Falcons.

The next on my list was Sparrow and The Workshop a band who I have seen once before. They are a band that take the new-folk genre and add a completely individual sound to it fusing elements of traditional country, surf punk and shoegaze into an unmistakable and haunting sound. They seemed to mesmerise the crowd from the first to last note and people watched on completely in awe of the complicated harmonies, balanced complex music and dark beauty of the lyrics.   

The night then ended at the main stage with 65Daysofstatic the first of the three last acts. They are a band that have never really gripped me with recordings but within seconds of their live show I was drawn in by the intensity of their stage presence. The band draw comparisons to artists from Mogwai to New Order but there is no one that has a sound that comes close to blending electronica with post rock quite as successfully.

The penultimate act of the weekend were Bombay Bicycle club who were simply disappointing; after all the hype behind them I was expecting something to back this up. It wasn’t that they were a terrible live act I just found them to be mediocre and in the wrong slot on the bill. The sound would have suited sitting in the sun and watching whilst relaxing but the headline slots need to be something a little more impressive in my opinion.

Finally the last band of the whole festival were The Subways who have taken a break to write their next record so have not played many shows this year. There was definitely no danger of them being rusty from not playing as they burst into the most intense opening few tracks. Although not to everyone’s taste the Subways proved to be the perfect end to a festival as they burst through catchy energetic rock songs, which got the crowd going instantly. The stage presence the band has is amazing and the energy and passion they play with is an incredible site. As the set came to a close with Rock `n Roll Queen it was impossible not to dance along with the rest of the audience and start to look forward to next year’s festival.     

Overall, despite growing year on year 2000trees continues to boast the ethics of a small festival and is impossible not to enjoy. I’m sure next year, although it seems impossible to comprehend, will be bigger and better and the cycle will continue year on year.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A look forward to 2000Trees Festival

So this weekend starts on Thursday and sees the fantastic 2000trees festival take place on the outskirts of Cheltenham. This festival is my personal favorite and highlight of the summer for me every year This year is no exception with the best line up the festival has ever had and some big decisions to make on which stage to watch acts on throughout the weekend.

Thursday is going to be an interesting one with me and a select few able to get to the site early to set up camp and enjoy a quiet evening of entertainment with acoustic acts and comedy. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what goes down as every year there are rumors about headliners taking the stage on Thursday to play acoustically (please be Frank turner). I’m sure beers will be drunk and catching up will be done late into the night.

Hopefully Friday morning won’t see too savage a hangover but I have Mountain Dew ready for this eventuality. Friday sees an awesome line up with a whole day of amazing music by the look of the line up starting with David Goo and ending with Frank Turner, in between there will be visits to see Midnight Mile, Shoes and Socks Off, Men Daimler, Chris TT, Beans On Toast, Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun, The Xcerts, Pulled Apart By Horses and Gold Heart Assembly. That list isn’t even everyone I want to see on Friday but again it’s sure to be another heavy night of drinking and catching up with the people not lucky enough to be there on Thursday night.

So on Saturday the 2 day effect on hangovers will kick in and despite probably spending the whole of Friday night wasted I’ll wake up feeling fresh but looking like I’ve gone two days without a proper wash. Saturday sees another day of incredible music I will definitely be seeing Ruth Bewsey, Joe Summer, Sparrow and The Workshop, Kill It Kid, Three Trapped Tigers, Sonic Boom Six, Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, 65Daysofstatic and The Subways. Before submitting myself to the always surreal head phone disco which is sure to confuse as I dance around a field to music that only half the people are dancing to (the others will be dancing to the other channel) again I’m sure Saturday will end in a drunken stupor and long chats about music and anything else that seems very important at the time.

By Sunday the whole thing will be over and I’ll wake up after another night of sleep deprivation pack up the tent and head back home dreaming of the same time next year and wondering who will top the bill.

Every year 2000trees has amazing headliners but it’s the bands you were not yet familiar with that stick longest in the memory. Take last year for example I can’t remember anything about Fightstar (apart from we ate pies whilst watching them) but Imperial Leisure and Dannannackroyd are two of my favorite bands. Maybe that’s not the fairest example due to personal tastes as I did very much enjoy the King Blues and almost every other band.