T In The Park(life)

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Even during my teenage kicks years I was never a natural festival goer. Maybe it’s down the fact that pitching a tent that doesn’t collapse within hours seems to be beyond my capabilities or maybe it’s down to me possessing the kind of pale skin that the average Goth fantasizes about. Certainly being someone who suffers badly from hay fever doesn’t help but mostly I think it’s down to the plain fact that music just sounds better in an enclosed space, preferably smallish, with decent soundcheck beforehand. It does, doesn’t it?

I could list a number of things that I dislike about the average music festival although I wouldn’t quite go along with Edwyn Collins’ ‘Yes, yes, yes, it’s the summer festival, the truly detestable summer festival’ lyric and I even once spent over a week at Stonehenge – a very interesting time albeit I’d struggle to name a single band that I actually enjoyed. I even trooped back the following year and by then – this was 1983 – I’d learned a valuable lesson, which was that a combination of scrumpy cider with magic mushroom tea is best avoided. In fact, it probably makes the Buckfast Challenge seem a sensible idea.

Despite having the reputation of being a hippy dippy festival where everyone wore tie-dyed clothing and discussed ley lines and chakras, Stonehenge was by this point attracting an element that were more Hate and War than Peace and Love. More and more hard drugs were being sold at the festival site and tooled up Hell’s Angels occasionally took great delight in attacking punks – although I never witnessed any aggro myself.

Even with some badass bikers on the rampage, compared to the Loch Lomond Festival of 1980, Stonehenge could probably appear as reasonably harmonious.

Taking place in the Cameron Bear Park, the first Loch Lomond Festival apparently proved pretty successful although I was living dahn south and couldn’t attend. The line-up was impressive and included The Skids, The Stranglers, Dr Feelgood, Buzzcocks and The Boomtown Rats, who opened their set by airing their new single, I Don’t Like Mondays, live for the first time in Britain.

The following year’s festival, which I did attend, will probably be remembered more for the violence that took place on the Saturday rather than for the music, which is a pity because The Only Ones, Stiff Little Fingers and The Jam were all top notch.

Loch Lomond 1980

Throughout the day different factions fought running battles with each other. The Punks fought with the Skins, and the Mods fought with the Punks and the Mods fought with the Skins too, although I forget the exact sequence of the fisticuffs.

Before all that, in an attempt to skip in, my pal climbed a massive wire fence (described the year before in Sounds as ‘impregnable’) only to discover once he’d started his descent down the other side that there were a number of brown bears on the that side of the fence.

It was called Cameron Bear Park for a reason.

He decided to pay in.

Anyway, the atrociously named T in the Park celebrates its 21st birthday over the weekend – the first headliners back in 1994 being Rage Against the Machine and Blur, whose Parklife had only recently been knocked off the top of the British albums chart.

You’ve likely guessed that I won’t be there this time around but there are though a number of acts I would rather fancy seeing; primarily Pixies, Paul Weller, Wilko Johnson, John Cooper Clarke, Call to Mind, Vigo Thieves, Franz Ferdinand, The Stranglers and a couple of bands I’ve recently featured in this here blog, The Moon Kids and The Human League.

Fresh from playing a string of dates across Europe supporting Jack White, this bunch are also playing and will be taking to the BBC Introducing Stage at 8pm on Saturday. This is The Amazing Snakeheads live at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club a few months ago with I’m A Vampire.

Remember folks, anger is an energy.

For more on T in the Park click here.

Eagulls, City Reign & Some Dirty Hyped Blues

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Over the past few months I’ve been listening to some old cassette recordings of John Peel shows from across a range of decades and Eagulls explicitly recall a number of guitar bands that Peelie used to air regularly in the 1980s. Think Killing Joke, The Chameleons, King of the Slums without the abrasive violins or even Joy Division and New Order. In fact, if I’d heard them being played on the radio before I’d known anything about them, I might have guessed that they were an 80s band themselves, who’d recorded a couple of singles and a Radio 1 session and then vanished without trace, only to be rediscovered all this time later.

Eagulls, in case you don’t know, are a Leeds five-piece, who according to Wikipedia, should ‘not to be confused with the American band The Eagles’. As if. They released their eponymous debut album earlier this month and reviews from across the media have generally been very favourable with Drowned in Sound calling them ‘an unstoppable force’ and NME judging the songs as ‘never anything less than vital’. Oh, and they’ve also performed live on Late Night with David Letterman when Bill Murray was a guest.

Dominated by pummelling riffs and shouty lyrics on subjects like drug addiction and being in a dead-end job in an age where the choice for many is between zero hours or no hours at all, the thirty seven minutes of Eagulls left me feeling just a bit bludgeoned but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and if they had been a neglected Peel session band from the 1980s then they’d have been one of the best neglected Peel session bands from the 1980s.

As a whole, though, the album lacks the necessary light and shade that would make me want to play it all the way through on much of a regular basis but Possessed, Amber Veins and this song, Tough Luck, are definitely worth hearing.

If you want to see Eagulls live in Glasgow then hopefully you’re already in possession of a ticket for Franz Ferdinands’ forthcoming sold out show at the Barrowlands on Tuesday (25.03.14) where they’ve been installed as support act. If you’d like to see their recent NPR gig at SXSX click here.

City Reign is another newish act based in the north of England, though on the other side of the Pennines to Eagulls. Formed in Manchester by two relocated Londoners, Chris Bull and Mike Grice, they seem happy away from the metropolis and even sing on This Heart’s Built To Break that ‘London’s just too big’. I bet Tony Wilson would have smiled wryly if he’d had the chance to hear that line.

They’re now one of the most hotly tipped acts in their adopted city and I’m surprised that they’re not already much better known after the release of 2013’s Another Step on their own Car Boot Records.

Eschewing the ever more common route of the digitally produced on a laptop in your bedroom album, City Reign opted for something much more imaginative. Excited by the idea of using the natural and rich reverb of the Sacred Trinity Church in Salford, their producer Sam Jones persuaded them to record Another Step there and the location, with its wooden panels and pews, helped create a very particular resonance that brought a pleasing depth to their sound.

Since then they’ve hidden away and penned some new material and they’ve also shuffled their line-up bringing in two new additions, Duncan Bolton and Ryan Ashton.

If there’s one criticism I have it’s that they sometimes let their admiration for Idlewild burn a little too brightly in their material although, as a whole slew of their songs demonstrate, they certainly know how to write melodic, even anthemic, guitar pop. Here’s the official video for their latest single See What It’s Worth:

And finally, Amphetamine Ballads, the debut album from For Malcontents Only favourites The Amazing Snakeheads, is out on Domino in the middle of April. Apparently, after a hectic start, the second side of the album (it’s out on CD and vinyl) slows down the pace and shows a more reflective side to the Snakeheads – so I might have to rethink my claim of a few months ago when I said that they sounded like Begbie fronting The Birthday Party.

From the album, this is Here It Comes Again:

They’re currently touring in the kind of smallish venues that they’re unlikely to be visiting once the album is massively successful (it can’t fail to be, can it?) and these are the next five dates (more are being announced as I write):

Mar 22 Buskers, Dundee (Free Show)
Mar 28 Broadcast, Glasgow
Mar 30 Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Apr 03 Bethnal Green Working Mens Club, London (Sold Out)
Apr 25 Broadcast, Glasgow

If you are going along to the London gig, make sure you’re in early enough to see support act The Rosy Crucifixion, who are also playing in the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow the weekend before (29.03.14), along with Catholic Action and Asian Babes – whose name I’m led to believe may contravene the Trades Description Act.

Amazing Snakeheads Bethnal Gig El Rancho - The Rosy Crucifixion 

For more on these bands:

Eagulls Official
Eagulls Facebook
City Reign Official
City Reign Facebook
Amazing Snakeheads Facebook
Amazing Snakeheads Twitter
The Rosy Crucifixion Facebook

EDIT: The Roxy Crucifixion? As typos go I did quite like that but now fixed.