Monday, 31 August 2015

REVIEW: Leeds Festival Friday, 28/09/2015

Safety In Sound were lucky enough to be invited to friday of Leeds Festival by the lovely folk at Relentless Energy - check them out over at 

The festival business is a funny old one isn't it? Some years you can barely move for enormous acts, sell out hot tickets and 'omg were you there?!' breakout sets, and other years, it feels like bookers are scrabbling around to find enough artists to go around. With guitar music having an 'off' couple of years and reformations thin on the ground, it seems that lots of events have been struggling from a lack of true headline size artists.

I will be honest and say that this is the first year in about five where the line up for Reading & Leeds hasn't had me scrambling for my debit card, but when Relentless Energy were kind enough to invite me to join them on Friday of the festival, I thought I'd give it a go, especially considering that I now live down the road and could be in bed by 11pm. Rock and indeed, roll. With a day of old indie favourites ahead, little did I know that I was about to witness one of the best rappers of our generation...

But first, The Skints (NME/ Radio 1). A support slot staple, we at SIS have seen them play many a time, but something about today's set was a whole lot more exciting. Well practiced from their years on the road, they were an excellent booking for this awkward hour of the day, where people want great music but are still a little too hungover for anything too challenging. with multi-instrumentalist Marcia holding down the melodies, frontperson duties were left to cheeky guitarist Joshua Waters Rudge, who's likeable chat beckoned in those loitering at the corners of the tent.

With the rain coming down we stuck around for Ghostpoet (NME/Radio 1), another festival staple. With a set that seemed to avoid most of the more famous cuts from mercury nominated breakout Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, the tracks weren't necessarily familiar to all, but the performance was better for it - a much more streamlined affair that made it almost impossible to pigeonhole the singer into one genre. Four years in, he's playing like a mainstage artist, building momentum into the peak of 'Liiines'.

Cheesy chips and a drink in hand, we take a seat in the sunshine to watch The Gaslight Anthem (mainstage). We promptly learn why they are a band who have just announced a hiatus - their set is so paint-by-numbers and joyless that one suspects their members and entirely bored and exhausted of being a band. Hopefully after a short break they can retain their vigour - if the size of the crowd is anything to go by, their brand of Americana rock clearly draws a devoted audience.

Luckily our faith is restored almost instantly by The Cribs (mainstage), who prove themselves to be the band of the day 30 seconds into their set. In the face of an industry that forces artists to iron off their edges or risk fleeting success, you can't help but admire an outfit that are still going after all these years without compromising anything. They sound razor sharp, treating the audience to both the joyous ('Our Bovine Public', 'Mirror Kissers') and the introspective - 'Be Safe' sound bigger here on the mainstage than it ever has before. They also win the prize for best merchandise of the day - achingly cool 70s ringer tees that have us handing over £20 notes faster than Ryan Jarman can scale a speaker stack.

Having performed an exceptional and emotional headline set in the NME/ Radio 1 tent last time they were here, today's foray on the mainstage seems a little average from The Maccabees, forced to cram their spacious set into a tighter half hour. However, there is no denying that they revel in sunshine - 'Wall of Arms', 'Precious Time' and a rare outing of 'Latchmere' all feel right in the warm evening air, and a romantic slowed down intro to newbie 'Something Like Happiness' draws a speck of dust to the eye. That's right, dust - we're absolutely not crying.

Fairing better is Jamie T (mainstage), who dedicates 'Back In The Game' to his friends who have just played before him. He seems on good form - speaking little but smiling widely, ditching his guitar during '368' to engage full rap mode, winning over a few naysayers on the barrier who are clearly only here for one artist who's name begins with K and ends in rick. That said, it's the new material that goes down the best - while 'Sheila' and 'Sticks 'N' Stones' get a huge reception, it is 'Rabbit Hole' and 'Zombie' that tempt the flares out into the night sky.

After trying (and failing miserably) to squeeze back inside the NME tent, it becomes apparent that Years and Years are this years hottest ticket. It's easy to see why - lead singer Olly Alexander might not always be perfectly in tune, but his boundless energy is infectious and the songs are begging for a singalong - 'Desire' was probably audible from space.

Proof that a brave booking can pay you back in dividends, by the time we return to the mainstage that crowd has positively quadrupled in time for Kendrick Lamar. And rightfully so, his largely freestyled set and sincere words of thankyou are utterly infectious, howled back at him for the likes of 'Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe' and 'Fuckin Problem'. We're treated to some older jams too - 'Poetic Justice' draws a mass singalong as does 'Backseat Freestyle', a mission statement if we ever heard one.

However, before we declare equality rightfully achieved and pack off home, we notice a few upsetting details - a handful of gleeful youths sporting blackface bob around in the front row, native American headdresses littered amongst the crowd. Racism is alive and well in Leeds, but when he launches into 'Alright', we can at least take comfort from the moshpit that swells around us, black kids piggybacking white ones, white kids holding out hands to help black kids back up...we've got a long way to go, but we've come a long way also. Reading & Leeds may have been critiqued for it's lack of genre, gender and ethnic diversity, but the fact that hoards leave before anyone has even uttered 'The Libertines' speaks for itself. Walking evidence that taking a risk can work, one can hope that 2016's festival landscape may take a few more risks.

Friday, 28 August 2015

TV PREVIEW: Relentless Ultra Soundchain Present Foals

As you are reading this, Safety In Sound will be donning my wellies and heading off to Leeds Festival! While we won’t be camping out this year, we will be taking in all the sights, sounds and smells (mainly from the portaloos) of Friday – expect to see us down the front for the hilariously good main run of The Maccabees, Jamie T and Kendrick Lamar.

Despite only popping along for the day in conjunction with Relentless (who were kind enough to provide our pass – kudos!), we’ll be making sure we’re at the NME/Radio 1 tent early, in time for that now-legendary secret slot. I’m not a betting girl, but with cryptic clues about ‘wild horses’ in place, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised by an appearance from Oxford’s very own, Foals. With their latest record out today (insert ‘holla hands’ emoji), it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce the world to ‘What Went Down’ in glorious fashion – I’ve always thought Foals to be at their best when they’ve live.

If you’re not lucky enough to be heading to Reading or Leeds this year, don’t despair. Foals will be taking part in a brand new TV show on MTV tonight: Relentless Ultra Present Soundchain. Offering up the chance to get behind the music, they’ll be playing live tracks and chatting to presenter Nick Grimshaw about their path to success, their musical upbringings and the various incarnations that led them to where they are today… Car Bomb Dating, anyone?

Relentless were kind enough to provide me some transcript for the show, so make sure you tune in to MTV Music at 11pm for the likes of this….

Nick Grimshaw: When was it you guys actually met for the first time?

Jack Bevan: Well I had left a band when I was about 16/17 and…

Yannis Phillipakis: Called…?

Jack Bevan: We won’t go into that…

Nick Grimshaw: Called? We need it for the documentary!

Yannis Phillipakis: Car Bomb Dating.

Jack Bevan: It was a… we were a punk band…

Nick Grimshaw: And guys that’s all we’ve got time for!


Nick Grimshaw: Car Bomb Dating?!

Jack Bevan: We were pioneers of tech punk in the Oxfordshire area in 2002-2003


Jack Bevan: But… so I left, and I posted an advert saying ‘Drummer looking for band, likes Don Caballero, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada…’ and like 12 other obscure bands…And Yannis…(NB. CAN’T CLEAR ANY OF THESE)

Yannis Philipakis: That advert was up there for a while…

Jack Bevan: Yeah It was collecting tumbleweed… And Yannis replied and sent me a mixtape which he’d made on his stereo and a written letter. And I just kind of liked that…

Yannis: It showed effort right? I was courting you…

Nick: Yeah there’s some romance to that! It’s a nice story

Yannis: That band was called The Edmund Fitzgerald, and it was like really really proggy, geeky, really complicated guitar stuff… Deeply unsexy.

Jack: The crowd was entirely made up of people stroking beards or imaginary beards if they couldn’t grow beards. So I think when that kind of disintegrated we wanted to do the opposite…

Nick: So that was like a conscious thought?

Yannis: Yeah. The beginning of Foals was like, we wanted to have fun, and write short, simple songs that were like our idea of pop music…

Nick: What was the biggest sacrifice that you have had to make for the sake of Foals?

Yannis: Well I think there’s probably a few things. One thing is definitely an element of sanity goes out the window if you’re making music for as long as we’ve been doing it. Touring you definitely sacrifice a large portion of your liver and probably your general health. And also you do sacrifice I think to some extent personal relationships.

Jack: You do have just a different lifestyle, all your friends are married and had babies and stuff, and that’s something…

Nick: And you’re at the NME awards… Waheyyy!
Yannis: And we’re still pratting around, having shots on a Monday night. Not complaining.

Friday, 21 August 2015

On Song: Alessia Cara 'Here'

"Since my friends are here, I just came to kick it/ But really I would rather be at home all by myself/ Not in this room with people who don't even care about my well being/I don't dance, don't ask, I don't need a boyfriend/ So you can, go back, please enjoy your party/ I'll be here"

Being a 20-something millenial is hard. Bombarded by celebrity culture, FOMO and social media pressure, it's a constant battle to live a live that makes you happy without feeling like you're somehow doing it wrong. Like you're somehow not giving enough. Couple this with the pressure to instagram our every walking minute, climb the ladder of a stellar career while maintaing an exciting social life but of course be mindful of our ticking fertility clocks, and it's no wonder that instances of major depression and anxiety appears to be so rife amongst our generation. We simply cannot have it all.

We're expected to have stable partners to share our pinterest-worthy homes, and yet we're also frowned upon for not going out and 'enjoying our young years'. We're told to open savings accounts and get proper jobs, and yet travel and spontaneity is imperative. 'Nobody ever remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep' they say, or so goes the tumblr witticism. By why are the youth of today so widely criticised for having the sort of fun that doesn't require the cover of darkness?

It's a conflict so perfectly explored by 'Here', the debut single by Toronto's Alessia Cara. Sprawling over a classic Portishead sample, her wordly-wise approach to making music strongly echoes that of how it felt to discover Lorde and 'Royals', written at just 15 but with the celebrity culture completely tapped. At 19 years of age, Cara defy the stereotypical norms of what it means to be young, and the fact that there's a lot more to life than bad house parties. 

For everyone who enjoys a good drink but draw the line at drugs, for all those whose social anxiety forces them to be aware of their own limits at all times, for those who know to leave when the lights come on...heck, even for those who prefer bars and conversation to clubs and grinding sessions - 'Here' is a badge of validity. It's not a song that preaches or tells others that what they're doing is wrong; Cara has no problem with people living their lives, she simply asks for there to be enough room for people to be themselves: 

'And I know you mean only the best and your intentions aren't to bother me/ but honestly I'd rather be somewhere with my people/ we can kick it and just listen to some music with a message...So pardon my manners, I hope you'll understand that I'll be here'

'Here' is a song I wished I'd had in my University years - smart, incisive and a whole lot cooler than half the shit being played at these so-called 'hip' parties that 'went off' last night. It's the antidote to EDM, the cure for crunk, and it's gloriously badass for it. Nobody may remember the nights they got plenty of sleep, but nobody wants to remember every hangover either.