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

Saturday, 23 June 2012

RockNess Review

Reporting for The Bubble at RockNess

Being someone who gets queasy from travelling, I am not looking forward to the next five hours. Especially when the train guard at Durham Station glances at my ticket saying, “Another one with a long journey ahead”… But once aboard the carriage, the lush green fields and glistening sea I whizz past pleasantly surprise me.

I chat my way through most of the ride with my two best buds and wind up at Inverness in north Scotland at 8pm. The town centre is super-cute and the river that weaves through it is stunning. We check in to a dainty little B&B and after a good night’s sleep (and a quick booze trip to Tesco) we hop in a taxi to the festival site.

Once there, I’m amazed to be pitching my tent a two minute dawdle from a view of Loch Ness, surrounded by mountains. It might be foggy but this is marvellous. The afternoon draws on and I’m gallivanting around the festival site. I wander past a huge inflatable church where I’m greeted by a hyper middle-aged nutter. She invites me to get married in full bridal threads (at a price). I decline but six men dressed as monkeys are gathered at a nearby picnic bench awaiting entry to the disco-charged place of worship.

Onwards I potter and I’m seeing blindfolded space-hopping competitions hosted by twenty-somethings in pink boiler suits. “I only want to see you fanny bashing that space hopper” the lass with the fluorescent mic exclaims. Perhaps placed strategically nearby in case of Tigger-type injuries is a Welfare tent. Free condoms, tea, drug advice and even beds to nap on are available inside this haven. I bear this in mind and head off to catch some music.

­Realising it’s two minutes from Mystery Jets’ slot on main stage I hurry over and manage to get a comfy spot close to the front. The bass is so powerful it makes my nose vibrate. They play a mix of old and new songs and I catch up with them afterwards in their dressing room. The boys tell me they’d be “a lighter shade of pale” if they were a colour and when they get writer’s block they “smash it with a sledge hammer”.

Mystery Jets DJ Set
I spend the rest of my day at the Red Bull Studios Live festival stage, where DJ sets from Mystery Jets, Hudson Mohawk, Friendly Fires and Kobi Onyame (amongst others) will take place over the weekend. Carefree and cocktail in hand, I dance the afternoon away with my chums. Passers-by are beckoned in by feel-good remixes of numbers like Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ as well as gritty hip-hop mixes and drum & bass. I catch Mumford & Sons on the main stage, head back to my tent and nod off feeling content.

I’m awoken in the early hours, heart racing, by a clamour at the foyer of my tent followed by a ‘Sorry’ in a thick Scottish accent. A minute later the chap, who's clearly had one too many, is struggling to eject his bottom from my now crumpled porch. The next morning I wake to find that Loch Ness has effectively leaked into our dwelling. I double-take and the puddles are a pinkish red… The Skittles vodka I carefully concocted two days ago has seeped onto my mate’s bag. The poor thing is so drenched it’s paralytic! But it’s all in the festival spirit and after a swift cleanse of the tent we head off to the GoldenVoice Arena.

Comedian Daniel Sloss performs his usual spiel about being bad in bed and is followed by the man we’ve all been waiting for: Tim Minchin. I’m right at the front and his devilish eyes twinkle in the darkness. As he spits out his lyrics and pounds his right leg up and down we are gobsmacked by his talent. He’s seemingly smug with himself when he conducts the crowd to repeat the phrase ‘moose semen’ after him. “Ed f****** Sheeran didn’t say f****** moose semen did he!?” Minchin bellows. Fittingly he goes on to sing Prejudice, his slapstick tune about anti-gingerism. By the end of his set we’re full of cheer.

The adorable Fyfe Dangerfield from Guillemots

Guillemots are next on my to-see list and Fyfe Dangerfield’s singing is expressive as ever. The multi-national group play some wonderful tracks from new album Hello Land! - the first of four albums to be released this year. When Fyfe exits the stage he tells me they haven’t played on stage for a while so he’s not confident it went well but I assure him they went down a treat. We have a lovely conversation and it’s clear he’s a really nice guy. “You can’t pay too much attention to thinking about what people want from you ‘cos you get lost”, he tells me.

I’m now a very hungry caterpillar so I nosh some noodles on the hillside looking down at the main stage. DJ Fresh Live is playing – prime background music for a chilled pit stop. A cover of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ wildly stimulates the crowd. As darkness falls, a sea of glow-in-the-dark mouse ears makes its way to the main stage. Deadmau5 appears on a tall podium and for two hours he orchestrates an explosive rave.

Northeast-bred boys Little Comets

Sunday morning, and the final day of RockNess has arrived to my dismay. Little Comets are on main stage and they really impress the fans and first-time listeners with their upbeat indie ear-pleasers like One Night In October and Joanna. “We’re guna play quite a soft sad song (Violence Is Out Tonight) now but it’s Sunday afternoon so it should work” lead singer Robert utters. It’s beautiful and gets a big thumbs up from me for its catchy beat. Today is already a winner as far as I’m concerned.

I lead my mates to see Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. The laid back yet electrifying feel to Orlando Higginbottom’s dance music is killer. We’re in a trance, helped by the flickering strobe lights and on-stage robotic dancers. And that’s not the only dancing of the day – we find ourselves grooving to a different genre of music with Chic feat. Nile Rodgers on main stage. “Do you feel like freaking out?” we’re asked. Yes we do. The disco legends really get us going with big hits Le Freak, Good Times and Everybody Dance. This is the best live performance I’ve ever seen and I’m sure most other on-lookers are thinking the same.

I’m wowed by the weekend.


Article previously seen on The Bubble

Friday, 15 June 2012

Dot To Dot Festival

Headliner Willy Mason

Monday morning of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend and I’ve just wolfed down two sizzling sausages and some cooked tomatoes in true British style. I march to the train station feeling sufficiently fuelled and after a 2.5-hour journey from Durham I step out to Manchester Oxford Road’s Dot To Dot festival.

I find myself on the middle floor of Sound Control, one of festival’s key venues. There’s an underground vibe in this rouged-up dimly lit room. Pipes crawl across the ceiling and maroon pillars make this already intimate space feel smaller.

I start on the middle floor, waiting for 19-year-old singer/songwriter Lewis Watson to appear. The traffic has made him late but once he gets started his Bieber-esque charm rouses the on-looking front-row girls. As he leans into the microphone, lyrics like ‘Why are you kissing me?’ and ‘I have nothing if they take you away’ are sung with soulfulness. He really has a lovely warming voice and I’m beginning to ponder over pinching his woolly beanie but I’m cut off mid-thought by a raging underground growl of sound.

Teenage heart-throb Lewis Watson

I follow it downstairs and join a bunch of mesmerised bystanders. They’re watching a mad monkey, a.k.a. Gabriel Bruce. I feel as though I’m in a Havana style cabaret club – Gabriel is sporting a short-sleeved beach shirt and stands two metres away from two sensual females who swish their hips from side to side. He leaps from the stage towards me and proceeds to feign fellatio on a nearby man. Bizarre, I know, but brilliant. As he exits the stage I grab an interview with him. He tells me that he wants Danny DeVito in his music video and that he celebrated the Jubilee weekend by pretending to be “afloat on the flotilla, bobbing along in a bath of beautiful bubbles”. His imagination is fascinating and his music certainly reflects that.

Triumphant after finding such a gem, I change floors to see what else I can find. I stumble across Wonder Villains, a young pop band bursting with energy from Northern Ireland’s Derry. As they jump about, their vibrant clothing flashes like disco lights. Lead singer Eimear Coyle rocks the punk-pop look with fluorescent pink tights, Cruella DeVil hair and a red-hot bass. The youngsters resemble a modern-day multi-gendered Busted with Irish accents.

Lucy Rose is my next venture, this time at HMV Ritz, an easy one-minute walk from Sound Control. Her frame is smaller than I thought it would be, as she sets up on a tall stage in this bigger venue. She begins with Middle Of The Bed, a definite crowd pleaser. Her soft, sweet voice echoes around the room as the pink and blue gloomy lighting ripples across the stage. This is the first time she’s seen someone wearing her t-shirt in the crowd, she says. She gazes downwards a little too much for my liking when she plays but she looks beautiful during the last two songs when she treats us by lifting her sapphire eyes. Perhaps she’s noticed the big lilac-coated disco ball hanging above us. Her songs are easy listening and her style definitely reflects the laid back feel of tracks she sang on for Bombay Bicycle Club’s albums Flaws and A Different Kind Of Fix.

It’s now nearing 9pm and I’m walking briskly to Zoo where headliner Willy Mason is playing. There’s a dark jungle vibe here, with camouflage material draped from the ceiling. I find myself one metre from him. I can’t believe how close I am to a musician I’ve been a fan of for years and that I have actual real space around me!  This is glorious! That’s the real beauty of this festival. He looks seriously handsome in his black suit and with each song the audience mellows to his level of spirituality. It’s becoming swelteringly hot in here (I see a drop of sweat fall from his forehead) but we’re all so enchanted by what we’re hearing that we hardly notice. He plays an hour’s worth of old songs like Gotta Keep Movin, Save Myself and We Can Be Strong and some great new ones including Restless Fugitive, which is currently free to download. He finishes with Gotta Keep Walking and I flitter towards him as he retreats backstage. He tells me the meaning of life is “to move matter around” in a physical sense but that he’s a very spiritual person. I’m left feeling even more in love with him than I was an hour ago...

Admiral Fallow at The Deaf Institute

Feeling slightly woozy I wonder across the road to The Deaf Institute, another of Dot To Dot’s endearing venues, to catch the end of Scottish folk band Admiral Fallow’s set. It’s the last night of their lengthy tour and this quirky old-fashioned theatre with parrot wallpaper and a wall covered in retro speakers seems a great final destination. A crowd member shouts to “play something we know”. At this point frontman Louis Abbott gives the best response I have ever heard to a heckler: The Proclaimers’ 5,000 Miles guitar intro followed by a middle finger. The group go on to play a lovely a cappella piece and end on the popular Squealing Pigs.

I’m now shattered and head back to my overnight accommodation where I aim to have a quick pit stop before heading out to dance the night away to Sunless ’97 and The Internet. Apparently forty winks is not enough for me though and I find myself drifting into dreamland. The day has been majestic.


Article previously seen on The Bubble

Photography by Sophie Hicks. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Gabriel Bruce: 'I love to dance'

Plodding down the wide grey steps inside Manchester’s Sound Control venue I feel as though I’m heading into a deserted boiler room. But minutes later I will experience the
most electric underground gremlin attack this dingy room has ever witnessed.

Gabriel Bruce is the culprit here. He springs from one side of the small stage to the other, clinging to the far railings and then leaping off the heightened platform like a wild monkey towards me. He pants, drips sweat from his brow, and brings the microphone towards his lips to produce a low rumbling vocal. His music is chock full of disco beats and booming bass synths. His dance moves are Flashdance-esque with hints of Michael Jackson and he’s accompanied by two sultry girls, whose flapper style skirts sway along in time.

When he exits the stage I catch up with him for an interview while he tokes on a post-show cigarette. He would shake my hand but he’s just slicked back his greased-up hair.

Where are you from?

I grew up in London, my father is Brazilian and my mother is Scottish.  At the moment I live in East London, in Hackney. It’s quite bourgie and gentrified where I live. There’s a coffee shop by my house and I can’t afford the coffee.

Where do you get your influence from? You seem absolutely mad (in a great way).

I like a lot of disco music. I really like Giorgio Maroder and Tom Waits. David Bowie is my favourite though.

Ah, is David Bowie who you get your moves from then?

Uh no, I think that guy had more refined moves, I’m kind of all over the place and I hope that some of it is ok.

To me you seem a bit like a monkey – you catapulted out towards the crowd! If you were one animal what would you be?

Well, a slow loris maybe… I save up my energy for the shows. If you saw me offstage I’m very slow really.

How regularly are you gigging?

We’re playing quite a lot at the moment, doing lots of festivals – Latitude, Hyde Park with Bruce Springstein for the Hyde Rock Calling, and we’re playing a mini festival in France.

You sound like you have a slight twinge in your accent? Slightly American?

Yeh, I think so, I’ve lived all over the place.  I’ve lived in London the most but my voice tends to change a lot depending on the situation. I don’t have much control over it. Sometimes I speak like a child, or like a girl.

In what context do you speak like a child?!

When I’m having intimate moments. I find it very infantilising. I can’t help myself.
Reverting into a child. It’s so scary though. Have you ever had sex? It’s scary!

Tell me about your dancers.

They’re friends of mine, Sabilla and Phoebe. They’re fantastic. Phoebe (the brunette of the girls) works in a pub but she’s a dancer by trade. Sabilla is more of a singer - she sings back up for a bunch of people. George is on the laptop. He’s a master musician in his own right. He’s got a lot of projects.

What music have you got out at the moment?

The only thing online is Family at the moment; you should check it out, it’s amazing! I’ve recorded an album I’ve just finished making. It’s hopefully out soon – it depends on the label (Mercury Records). I’ve been with them about a year now but I’ve only just started doing shows.

If you could have a music video what would it be like?

At the moment I’m obsessed with a particular idea. I really want Danny DeVito to be in my music video. Just me and Danny hanging out, that’s all I want.

It’s the Jubilee weekend, have you done anything to celebrate?

Last night I had a bath with too many bubbles in a Travel Lodge and it was a lovely experience. I pretended that I was afloat on the flotilla, bobbing along in a sea of beautiful bubbles.

Seeing as this is a patriotic weekend, if you could have any song as the national anthem what would it be?

That’s a very big question, that’s a huge question. I feel like I need some time to think.  It’s too hard. It has to be a British song I guess.

George pipes up that some countries’ anthems are fairly violent.

Maybe we could have War Pigs by Black Sabbath. That has the most majestic guitar line I’ve ever heard – it’s unifying!

Me with laptop-man George (left) and Gabriel Bruce (right)

Gabriel Bruce speaking to Sophie Elis at Dot To Dot Festival, Manchester. Monday 4th June 2012. Check out his single 'Sleep Paralysis' here.