Bandwagon noun (pl. bandwagons) 1. A large wagon used to carry a band of musicians in a parade.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Soph's Summer Festival Forecast

 Happy chappies at T in The Park

With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration and the London Olympics, this summer is already set to be full of buzz. But let’s not forget the cracking array of music festivals on offer to us over the next few months.

For starters, 2nd- 4th June brings us Dot To Dot, the UK’s only touring festival, at a bargain price of £20 for the day. The festival will grace Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester with its presence, so travel distance is no excuse for steering clear. Dot To Dot hosts stages for hotly tipped new acts like Pond, as well as the more well known like Willy Mason. If you’re keen to find some new fresh bands to add to your summer tunes playlist this is the place to find them.

One of the most exciting summer weekends to look forward to is RockNess, held in Inverness (north Scotland) on 8–10th June. Rated NME’s ‘Best Small Festival 2012’, it’s set to be a stormer with headliners Mumford & Sons, DeadMau5 and Biffy Clyro. Recent additions to the line up include Ash and The Pigeon Detectives who join other big acts like Noah & The Whale, Ed Sheeran and Friendly Fires. The comedy line up will give us the giggles with saucy Scotsman Daniel Sloss and Ozzy comedy rocker Tim Minchin amongst a long list of others. There will also be some interactive touches to the festival with a Big Love Inflatable Church so that the Romeos and Juliets of RockNess can renew their vows. The inflatable church will even host a Glaswegian couple’s actual wedding. RockNess is currently running a competition for aspiring DJs to win a slot at the festival by uploading a club mix to Soundcloud. Even if the heavens unleash hailstorms, happy times will be had by all.

70,000 campers will be setting up tents on 6–8th July in Scottish town Balado at T in the Park. The main stage will see Snow Patrol, The Stone Roses, and Kasabian stimulate the crowds. US rapper Nicki Minaj, fierce Florence + The Machine and Calvin Harris, whose third studio album is due to be released this summer, add to the juicy line-up. The festival’s highly regarded Slam Tent will open a day earlier this year so that superstar DJs can drop their rumbling beats an extra night. Fitting in with the Scottish surroundings will be the Ceilidh Tent, sure to get everyone’s wellies tip-tapping around and Fancy Dress Friday will return for a fifth year to add a splash of colour just in case the heavens erupt with rain.

Bon Iver, Elbow, and Paul Weller will take to the main stage at Latitude (12–15th July) in Suffolk. Crowds will also be pleased by the calming melodies of Ben Howard, endearing charm of Laura Marling and Metronomy’s comforting beats. The masses will surely be drawn by a Sunday midday performance from Rufus Wainwright.

BoomTown (9–12th August) in Winchester offers us huge musical diversity and what seems to be an earthier, more alternative vibe. A jungle of acts including Alborosie, Tanya Stephens and Natty will feature on the UK’s biggest reggae festival stage. Quirky mutated vehicles will tour the grounds of BoomTown including a Police Rave Unit that projects a full sound and light show, an adapted military vehicle known as ‘The Armadillo’ and the fire-snorting beast ‘Lrry 1’ who has the heart of a citroen 2CV keeping him alive. Skatejams, circus performers, and dance offs will add to the huge amount of entertainment on offer.

Set at a picturesque country estate in the Northamptonshire countryside is Shambala (23rd-27thAugust). This festival is guaranteed to introduce crowds to hidden musical gems, and will appeal to those fond of the arts thanks to its inclusion of cabaret, theatre, art installations and nationally acclaimed poetry. This year the theme for Shambala’s Fancy Dress Carnival is ‘Celebration’. Families will be particular fans of the festival with hands-on workshops like the Wild Bush Camp, and a Random Workshop Tent for more off-the-wall classes (knit-your-own-breasts featured there last year…).

September’s Bestival (6–9th) ends the festival season smashingly with headliner Stevie Wonder. Bestival-goers are guaranteed a right jolly jape with a Silly Sportsday in line with the Olympics. After an oath swearing ceremony, contestants will try their luck in a Chariots of Fire SlowMo race and ‘Jaffa’-lin throwing. Comedy from Jimmy Carr, music from New Order, The xx and Sigur Ros, and activities like Morris Dancing, a Roller Disco and Wall of Death will keep everyone smiling. The Ambient Forest’s tree-tops will act as a ceiling to brand new performance stage, The Amphitheatre. Here, Rob da Bank will thrill cinema fans with a live re-scoring of the 1930s film King Kong. Bestival’s twinning with Serbia’s Exit Festival (12–15th July) will mean that artists, audiences and expertise are shared. A competition will give 10 lucky entrants the chance to win a trip to the twin festival.

Whatever your plans for the summer, it would be silly not to soak up the sun at one of these fun-loving festivals. If the performances from music knockouts like Bon Iver, The xx, and soul legend Stevie Wonder aren’t enough to get you pumped up, the variety of crazy add-ons to these festivals should be.


This article was previously seen on The Bubble on 27th April 2012

Thursday, 5 April 2012

This week I'm listening to...Xavier Rudd

This week I'm listening to...
Xavier Rudd

He's an Australian multi-instrumentalist with an acoustic-folk vibe, but incorporates reggae, blues and funk into his music. He plays the yaki (or didgeridoo to us), and has included Aboriginal vocals in a few of his tracks. 

In three words:
Soulful, earthy, worldly.

Surfing and being an active campaigner for Aboriginal rights & conservation.

Bet you didn't know...
He was awarded World's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity in 2007.

You must hear:
Let Me Be, Come Let Go, and Messages.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Lovely Lucy Rose

Here's a Beatnik session with Lucy Rose (upcoming folk singer) from last September performing 'All I've Got'. Last week she was supporting Noah and the Whale on tour, and today she's recording her album. According to her Twitter, she's chosen the village hall as a recording venue - I love the homely feel she gives off. Just like Daughter, Lucy Rose is beginning to secure widespread popularity from an audience who are keen to fully embrace spotlit females.

I'm hoping to grab an interview with her when I review Dot To Dot Festival in Manchester on 4th June. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Album Review: Theo Jackson, Jericho

Theo Jackson, upcoming jazz songwriter, singer and pianist (and past Durham University student), cites Jean-Paul Sartre’s words on his website: “Jazz is like a banana…it must be consumed on the spot”. Having experienced Theo’s live album launch at Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club, I would have to agree. Hugely gripped by the high-energy performance on the night, I bought a copy of his album Jericho. This was a bit of a mistake. However much I want it to, the recorded album just doesn’t work. Although Theo believes that jazz is best up-close and personal, he notes, “making records has become a major part of a jazz musician’s career”.

In fairness to Theo, the more I listen to the album, the more I like it. The Spanish guitar plucking, catchy drumbeats, smooth chord sequences, and soulful sax playing combine to create a really chilled vibe. It’s the vocals I’m not so sure about. The album’s starter piece, “Excuse Me”, can be praised for its engaging instrumental build-ups, but the vocal line is cheesy and feels out of place. Even the thought-provoking lyrics (“These abacus beads are worn from counting my own fault lines”) don’t redeem it. Perhaps we should blame the “contemporary musicians” that Theo claims inspired this number. But then again, perhaps not… The American edge to Theo’s vocals becomes increasingly irritating as the album goes on, and the strain that can be heard in his voice on occasion makes me feel uncomfortable.

The only song that I prefer the album recording of is “I Won’t Care”. This track allows us to breathe for a moment since it omits bass and guitar, leaving us with a dreamy mix of piano, vocals and sax. The softness of this ballad comes across nicely and when Theo uses his soft upper tones it is a delight to the ears. The album features a number of other easy listening tunes such as “Another Day Of Rain” and “Tired”, but the album lacks the pizzazz we would expect to hear from a young, upcoming jazz musician. Tracks like “Summer Sands” lose the vibrancy they are capable of in a live performance, but at least the variety of styles and time signatures within the album holds our interest. Intermissions of scatting (as in “Fairytale”) are also welcome.

Although I think Theo Jackson’s album functions best as background music for a dinner party, I would encourage any jazz fan to go and listen to him (and his sensational band) in the flesh.


This album review was previously seen on The Bubble on 5th March 2012

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Radio Music Society is nearly with us!

Radio Song - Esperanza Spalding

Having seen Esperanza Spalding at the Barbican performing her 2010 album 'Chamber Music Society', I am thrilled that more people are cottoning on to her brilliance. She released her music video for new single 'Radio Song' last week, which gives much promise to the soon-to-be-released album Radio Music Society. The tune's striking, funked up bass line, warm percussion and silky vocals provoke my shoulders to go all salsa on me. The lyrics of the catchy chorus certainly speak the truth: "This song's the one / You can't help singing along, even though you never heard it". 

A Bonus DVD demonstrating Esperanza's inspiration for each track through eleven conceptual videos shot across the world will also be available. One such is 'Black Gold', which premiered during Black History Month. Esperanza points out that the song's function is to encourage black pride in young boys, reminiscing, "I remember meetings when I was in elementary school about being strong as young black women, and I don't think the boys had those meetings. This song is meant to speak to those young men". 

The footage already online is a virtual fruit bowl, bursting with rich flavours and colours. And although she has jazz pumping through her veins, Esperanza asserts she has "tried to put together a program of music that speaks to the non-jazz listener, but can still provoke a viable foundation for my jazz heroes to express themselves". My ears are ready and waiting in anticipation of the rest of the album...


Here's an entertaining interview with her on The Guardian from a few days back: