Wednesday, 13 August 2014

10 Acts to be excited about at Reading and Leeds

Just one week to go until the musical event of the year! Whilst most of the bloggersphere may be hung up on Glasto, Reading and Leeds has always been my holy pilgrimage. Reading was my first major festival ever in 2009, but having moved up to University in 2011, I began to pledge allegiance to Leeds Fest, and haven't looked back. The site is great, the people are lovely and this year especially, they have absolutely nailed a booking selection which appeals to all fans of indie, alternative and even hip-hop. Here is the top ten bands I'm be clamouring down the front for.

1)Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (Mainstage Leeds Friday)
Bit of a SIS curveball, but I can't wait to see how this goes down on the mainstage in front of a Blink 182 crowd. It sounds like a odd comparison, but the independent champions of commercial hip hop certainly have the tunes to back them up and will probably encite singalongs not too dissimilar to the ones which will greet the likes of 'All The Small Things' and 'I Miss You.' Although now: 'I'm gonna pop some tags...'

2)Paramore (Headlining Leeds Saturday)
As a long term fan of the Tennessee quartet, I can't wait to see them own the headline slot which won me several bets with friends this year. Having worked their way up steadily, they have more than earnt the position and with Hayley Williams having cancelled several shows recently in order to be in tip-top vocal condition for R&L, I'm expecting big things.

3)Gerard Way (NME/ BBC Radio 1 Tent, Leeds Saturday)
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have an exclusive! Whilst My Chemical Romance may have headlined back in 2011, Gerard Way has now gone solo and R&L mark his first ever shows. That's right, ever. The perfect opportunity to sample new material and see whether he has the potential to make it alone.

4)Vampire Weekend (Mainstage, Leeds Saturday)
Last time I witnessed Vampire Weekend at Reading, they literally brought the sun out - if you're having weather problems, this is the band to book. Destined for headliner status one day very soon, I've not seen them play since their debut record so cannot wait to howl along to 'Diane Young' at the top of my Tuborg-fuelled voice.

5)Royal Blood (NME/BBC Radio 1 Tent, Leeds Sunday)
This years hype band du jour, Royal Blood are surely going to be this years band who people are fighting to fit in the tent for. They sure do make a lot of racket on record, so this will be the ultimate test to see if they can recreate the raucousness live. 

6)The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (Festival Republic Stage, Leeds Friday)
A new SIS favourite, I unfortunately missed TPOBPAH at Beacons Festival last weekend, so their set in the Festival Republic tent will hopefully be an intimate affair for all those shoegazers out there who love pretty melodies. If you're not a fan yet, you should be.

7)Arctic Monkeys (Headlining Leeds Sunday)
But of course - surely it would be rude not to? The undisputed Kings of a Festival, Arctic Monkeys were my first ever Reading headline band so I am more than looking forward to that hit of nostalgia coupled with the undoubtable energy that will come from a northern home crowd. Yorkshire, Yorkshire...

8)Danny Brown (BBC Radio 1Xtra, Leeds Friday)
My R&L experience wouldn't be quite the same if it wasn't for a trip to the dance and hip hop stages, and my must-see for this year is definitely Danny Brown. With 2013 record 'Old' receiving a fair bit of rotation in our HQ, he's bound to bring the party no matter the weather.

9)Queens Of The Stone Age (Mainstage, Leeds Saturday)
For the simple reason that I need to clarify my slightly embarrassing crush on Josh Homme, I will be down the front for QOTSA. I jest - I'm also ridiculously excited to see up close just how they manage to play that breakdown in 'No One Knows' quite so fast, and as a band I've never seen live but have heard so much about, I reckon they might well be my weekend highlight.

10) That elusive secret slot...
Reading & Leeds is famous for sneaking in a cheeky unbilled act to the weekend, (Greenday anyone?) and with promises of an arena sized act, I'm not sure what to think. Could it be Mumford & Sons? Kasabian? Could all of my wordly dreams come true and it be Kanye West or Drake?! There's only one way to find out...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

GUEST POST: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly in five songs

A bit of a new one today on Safety In Sound, but one I am utterly honoured to host and hopefully continue with other acts in the future. Back in 2006 when SIS was nothing but a notebook hidden in the bottom of my bedside drawer rather than a place on the internet, a periodical for me to pretentiously pass judgement on bands in the hope that it would be discovered and I would be signed up as NME's youngest ever editor (only half a joke), the one cd that experienced constant rotation on my pastel blue original iPod mini was 'Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager' by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. The electronic take on traditional acoustic folkiness seemed somewhat revolutionary to 13 year old me, and has been a record I have come back to many times since. 

In light of Sam Duckworth's decision to retire the project with an extensive UK tour (full dates and tickets here), I thought that the most fitting tribute would be direct from the man himself. And so, a few emails later, Mr Duckworth was kind enough to share with me his favourite five songs from the past 8 years of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. Over to you Sam! 

1) Chronicles of a bohemian teenager: Part 1

'I had to start with this really, its been a staple of pretty much every set I have done since it was written in 2005. A song written in my days of megabus and train touring, after a particularly long stint of visits to Oxford, in particular to one house "188" and a group of friends who made this period of time so much fun. This song was my first release (a 10" split with Dave House) to get radio play and one that really helped to kick start the journey. There have been many "ba ba ba" moments over the years, but ones that stick in particular are the first time we played reading in 2006, the Astoria on my 21st birthday and on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Strange to think that a song I wrote after a house party would strike a chord in the way this song did. Its been a significant part of the Get Cape journey and will be the moment, each night of the tour, that the finality really sinks in.' 

2) All Of This Is Yours (Feat Baaba Maal)

'I'll never forget recording Baaba's vocal for this song, it wasn't so much a case of the hairs standing on end, but every fibre of my being feeling the power of his incredible voice. I was very touched that Baaba agreed to sing and play guitar on one of my songs, after meeting him at Africa Express in Nigeria. He is a legend for his music and his work in Africa in fighting for justice and rights for all in his continent. One of my favourite GCWCF tracks and a shame that it'll never get to be performed live in its full glory.' 

3) Collapsing Cities (Feat Shy Fx)

'A similar thought process on this one. I've always loved drum and bass, as evidenced on the previous 2 Get Cape LPs and spent most of 2007 and 2008 casually name dropping Shy FX in interviews in the hope someone would show him. Thankfully this worked and out came Collapsing Cities. I had written this song with shy in mind, as there is no one who comes close, in my opinion, to bringing the more party carnival elements into drum and bass, as well as Shy does. It was also the start of a friendship that consistently challenges and inspires me. I'm really chuffed that he will be closing our final show at the forum, maybe its time to play this live with the man himself and the horn section in tow...'

4) Call Me Ishmael

'I recently had the honour of playing this song at a Wedding for my friends Rob and Ali. I was surprised to be asked as I had never seen the romance in this song before. This song was written with the hope that it would encourage people to remember that work is not the centre and life can be much richer when you celebrate the things you love in the best way you can, by giving them the time they deserve. Over the years I've been touched to hear that this song has been an inspiration and a cornerstone in peoples relationships, the highest honour that can be bestowed to any song. Also the cause of the hardest video shoot I've done, but also one of the best. 7 hours on my hands and knees crawling through mud, whilst trying to have a facial expression other than confusion and pain was tough, but I think it turned out ok!'

The Real McCoy

'This is a song about the etymology behind the expression the Real McCoy. There was a loose enough link to fulfil a dream and make a pro wrestling video, which was expertly created by Luke Snellin with help from TNA wrestling. Produced by Jason Perry, this was the first single to an album that felt like the shackles were off. "Maps" got lost a little, due to my falling seriously ill soon after its release and it was a real shame. The tour setting up the album was the most fun I'd had in years and it feels some moments, this being the best example, were Get Cape at its most fun, but also not being totally throwaway lyrically.' 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Review: 2000 Trees, Cheltenham, 10-12 July

When a farmer called Michael Eavis laid the foundations for the musical gathering that would come to be known as Glastonbury, he wasn’t dreaming in dollar signs. Instead, peace, love and community was firmly on the agenda, uniting people through a shared love of music, good vibes and escape from the rat race.

Whilst Glastonbury has grown beyond recognition into a juggernaut of worldwide media scrutiny, just down the road there is a little event in Gloucestershire that embodies that initial spirit. Blessed with the most beautiful of british weather and ethnic, gender and age diversity that would make any equal opportunities officer proud, 2000 Trees turned 8 in 2014, displaying it’s burgeoning longevity with a wave of independent alternative acts that catered to most tastes.

Arriving to the easily navigable site on the Thursday, it became instantly clear that logistically speaking at least, Trees is one of Britain’s finest festivals. Toilet facilities were spotless (and remained pretty much that way the whole three days), catering was plentiful, varied and affordable, and the site was small enough to walk end to end in less than half an hour. Best of all, it wasn’t likely to outstay it’s welcome – with all music taking place between Thursday and Saturday, Sunday was reserved for travelling home, making it a much easier experience on the wallet, the weekday worker and the serious hangover owner.

But enough about the boring stuff – you want to hear about the music right? Oh, go on then:


Kickstarting proceedings on Thursday night was Bristol’s very own Oxygen Thief, bolstered from Barry Dolan’s acoustic-metal solo efforts into a full live band.  Their chunky, chugging meaty metallicness is satisfying and surprising, like a caloric microwave ready meal of awesomeness shoved in the oven with a spoon baked in the middle. The crowd go wild it, the moshpits swirl and the image of a less hipster Pulled Apart By Horses fills brains. Definitely a strong start. 

Ever wondered what the music in a cinema adaptation of The Catcher In The Rye would sound like? Wonder no longer – The Retrospective Soundtrack Players have got you covered.  The best concept act I’ve encountered in a while, they take modern literary classics and lyricizing them with toe-tapping glee. Who knows what they’ll tackle next, but I’m sure a Game of Thrones concept double LP would sell craploads of hipster vinyl in Rough Trade.

Chants of ‘mainstage’ pull Trees veteran Ben Marwood to the stage, sneaking in a shoutout to fellow festival act Sam Duckworth before lambasting him for stealing his sound in the brilliant 'Questions Marks'. A cover of The Postal Service's 'The District Sleeps Alone Tonight' is designed for a singalong, but the crowds don’t need convincing – almost every word of Marwood’s set is bellowed back at him leaving him looking rather teary, although that could just be the labyrinthitis the singer-songwriter has been struggling with for the past few weeks. What a trooper.

The evening takes a small dip in the form of Johnny Foreigner, forever referred to as the spiritual sisters of Los Campesinos! However, whilst Los Camp have grown from hipster duckling into alternative swan, JoFo seems stubbornly ensconsced in 2007 twee-core, and their set suffers at their lack of versatility.

The same however can’t be said for Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, who rollerskate through genres grabbing hooks here there and everywhere likes some sort of bizarre trollydash. Their set leaves me feeling very, very old – I constantly find myself teetering on the verge of doing a little boogie, before just catching myself and realizing I’m not quite that drunk yet. It’s a curious sensation, but a something of a letdown nonetheless – luckily for me a wander over to the buskers stage sees a party I'm much more comfortable with an increasingly rowdy rendition of Hey Ya by Ben ‘Andre 3000’ Marwood and Barry ‘Big Boi’ Dolan of Oxygen Thief. Only at 2000 Trees.

Blood Red Shoes, by Jenessa Williams

Kids In Glass Houses by Jenessa Williams


One of 2000 Trees best assets, the BBC Introducing sessions gives early risers an excuse to discover some new music, all from the comfort of sun-warmed hay bale.  

Damian Syall of The St Pierre Snake Invasion is first up and clearly nervous,  but he promptly reveals himself to be a wonderful lyricist: ‘The Great Procrastinator’ speaks to anyone who’s ever watched more than one episode of Jeremy kyle in a day because they can’t bothered to get off the sofa.

Fresh from their second year at the Bristol institute of modern music, Rozelle look like the sort of gang you wishes you were cool enough to hang out with at sixth form. They sound like it too – a super professional, wonderfully harmonized offering from young talents audibly influenced by Daughter and Lucy Rose. Keep an eye on ‘free’ – it’s headed to a radio A-list near you. An early play for discovery of the weekend.

Wrapping up Introducing proceedings for the day and flanked by a violinist and various others, Oliver Wilde is very self aware to the point of coming off a little pretentious . No wonder he’s made the sought after BBC 6music slot – his Doves/ Elbowesque sound is sleepily comforting, like the lure of a mattress after three days of slumbering on the cold hardness of a tent without a rollmat. Nice, but could perhaps do with a little  less ego.

After a dulcet start to the day, we’re shocked into life by leeds gang Brawlers on the Axiom Stage, celebrating their first ever festival set and first birthday as a band with serious gusto – high kicks, evil eyeing of the crowd and making a wonderful sonic mess, spilling their neon bright pop punk into the audience to down its drinks and jostle its girlfriends. They possess an incredible gleeful guitarist, the biggest earworm lyric of the festival (‘I’m A Worthless Piece of Shit’) and they admit with little to no shame that they love Oasis. What’s not to like?

The same no nonsense attitude can be found across the field during Cerebral Ballzy, who copious songs ‘about a girl from New York City’ are all the more menacing for frontman Honor Tituses winning but slightly devilishly smile permeating the back of the tent – hell, you could probably see that grin from space. For whatever reason, it fails to capture imaginations. Maybe it’s just the heat of the day but the crowd seems to grow smaller and small with each song, until the pit becomes a sort of pitiful semi circle and the moshers peter out. Never underestimate the ability 26-degree heat has to kill people’s energy.

The same indifference haunts Kids In Glass Houses, who appear to get off to a slow start. The plethora of bearded late 20-somethings and trendy parents is far from their usual crowd for KIGH, but some excellent frontmanship during the emo-tastic riffery of ‘Youngblood’ finally sees some fans ‘let it out’. Singer Aled Phillips clearly possesses quite the set of pipes, but his frustration at the crowd is obvious and when he makes his thankyou's to ‘the first and last 2000 trees we’ll ever play’ at the end of the set, we suspect he means it, regardless of the bands imminent split.

As Kids In Glass Houses’s time as a band comes to an end, it appears that four albums in, Blood Red Shoes are just getting started. Gone are the days when the Brighton two-piece were an indie curiosity – they’re a bona fide rock band. Their set comes without major frills but it’s impressive nonetheless, ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better' sounding as fresh as it did all those years ago.

However, if you want longevity, no band on the 2000 trees bill this tear delivers a set as flawlessly immersive as The Bronx, whose frontman Matt Caughthran arrives on stage sporting full tiger facepaint courtesy of one of the traders art stalls. They drop more MF bombs than Gordon Ramsey on a particularly mad one, but their energy is infectious, refusing to let up for the duration of their set.  ‘They put us out here in the woods, they paint us like tigers, how the fuck do they expect us not to act like animals? Ladies and Gentlemen, lets act like fucking animals’ Caughthran bawls. Lauching himself  into the crowd, he runs to the back of the tent (still singing), wrestles a fan and generally looks as if he having the most amazing time. Animal indeed. 

Tall Ships by Jenessa Williams


Saturday starts again the broiling heat of the BBC introducing stage, described by one passing band as being like ‘waking up in a kiln.’ Luckily Ranger Camero are the perfect sunshine accompaniment with their fantastic track ‘Breeze’, that sees Rich Wilks hit his RnB vocal stride. It’s the sort of liquid cool that should have the head honchos at Radio 1 spilling their frappes all over their notes at playlist meetings.

Dinstinctly unsummery is Lonely Tourist, who plays the part of ‘Angry Glaswegian Abroad’ well. He undertakes the challenge to write a song about 2000 Trees in half an hour with good spirit; ‘I Like Camping As Long As It’s In A Hotel’ is full of dour humour that irresistibly evokes memories of The Beautiful South. If you like your music humorously cynical, this guy is for you.

Although one of their tracks appears to have pinched it’s main melody from ‘Come On Eileen’, Blitz Kids are definitely a modern rock act in the same vein as You Me At Six or Young Guns. They fare much better than Kids In Glass Houses did the day before, thanking the crowd repeatedly and generally performing like a band destined to rise out of the doldrums of toilet circuit rock. Their songs aren’t half bad either – ‘On My Own’ is a memorable offering that visibly converts casual listeners into fans.

Having driven 17 hours to be here, one might expect Dad Rocks to be more than a little lethargic. Quite the opposite – they seem genuinely chuffed to be a band that Trees broke their ‘only UK acts’ booking rule for, drawing a massive crowd. Using the staging as percussion, their off-kilter, gloriously uncool but distinctly loveable brand of rousing folk rock is ace, even if ‘funemployment’ does hit a little too close to home for all the new graduates in the audience.

With the sun high in the sky and the sunstroke getting the better of quite a few revelers, The Cadbury Sisters angelic harmonies provide soothing sunblock. With sisterhood on their side, their melodies are almost telepathic in their accuracy, providing a beautiful, full tone, even when they get into the crowd unamplified for a gentle rendition of ‘Lolita’. Forget about Haim – this the family we should all be harping on about.

Last time I witnessed the live Tall Ships show, my boyfriend had quite a few grumbles about their ‘lazy’ use of loop pedals. Said pedals are still present for their Trees set, but their number has grown from 3 to 5 and it appears the new boys are earning their keep by covering some of the intricate instrumentation. ‘Plate Tectonics’ builds with ease before the colossal crash that sees everyone in the crowd scramble for a shot of Ric Phethan’s winning beam. We get more than just epic rock though – ‘Oscar’ and ‘Ode To Ancestors’ both have enough heart to get multiple couples snogging in the front row, and the new song they debut has enough sultriness to keep this Wild Beasts fan happy. And so it transpires: if you fancy a rock band for your wedding, Tall Ships are a good shout.

Wolf Alice continue the rabble in a tent packed to the rafters; seemingly this is the cool place to be for all of the festivals under 30s. And who can blame them? This London outfit is undoubtedly one of the best new bands of 2014. They look pleased to be here and play as such, kicking and snarling their way through instant classics ‘Bros’ and ‘Fluffy’. Oh, and the new track is bloody huge. Welcome to the head table Wolf Alice.

Seen as 2000 Trees fancy dress theme for the day is TV box sets, arriving at Public Service Broadcasting, it at first seems as if the cast of The IT Crowd have wandered onstage and strapped on instruments. But then I sit, expensive festival pad thai in hand, and what ensues is a unique spectacle that leaves me feeling unexplicably teary and homesick. It’s a curious way to end a festival, but a beautiful one nonetheless.