The Pig Hotel, Pensford, a few miles west of Bath, is one of a small chain of boutique hotels in the South of England. Through the summer months most locations host a live music event under the 'Smoked & Uncut' banner.
It is an imaginative attempt to showcase original and contemporary artists in a wonderful setting. This particular event was right up our street as favourites Teleman were on the bill topped by singer-songwriter with god-like status in my eyes Ed Harcourt.
We made the festival the centrepiece of the weekend and stayed the weekend at the hotel. So as we enjoyed a leisurely Sunday breakfast in the conservatory we were able to see the festival being set up before our eyes. The spacious lawn was populated with straw bales which lent itself beautifully for a picnic-style music afternoon. With just 650 tickets on sale there was plenty of space, arguably a little too much space as the tendency for folk to place themselves at the back (some behind the small tented sound desk) meant there were no people up close to the stage. The only exception was toward the end of the Teleman set when the band encouraged a few people forward, so I was able to jump around for their set closer 'Not In Control'
A nod to the catering. This is a top-quality hotel and restaurant and the festival fare followed suit: a variety of alcoholic beverages including some decent real ale plus a selection of fresh cooked food from pizzas, flat-breads to barbecued mini-skewers with dips. A voucher system was in operation. With vouchers (=1 pint) at £5 each it puts it on the expensive side. But accepting that, it's good to see establishments like this provide an entree to families to the wonder of listening to a variety of music in the sunshine.
Given the family-centric nature of the day the live music lasted from 12.30 to 6.00 pm, followed by DJs for an hour. In that time we enjoyed:
Carousels & Limousines - guitars to get the afternoon off to a rocking start
The Drystones - a guitar and fiddle duo playing lively tunes with overtones of The Unthanks/Bellowhead. A virtue of this genre is that it got a few people to their feet. New song 'Green Trees' came to an abrupt end - with fiddle player, Alex, explaining that guitar player, Ford, had broken a string. They then went into a final assault of a medley of songs with Ford demonstrating his prowess on a number of variously-sized penny whistles. Impressive and entertaining in equal measure.
Brother From Another - an acoustic duo that performed a few covers under a canvas at the side of the lawn. I didn't have high hopes as they went into their opener 'I Wanna Be like You' from The Jungle Book, but they redeemed themselves with some George Benson and Hendrix material later in their brief set.
Sinnober - a folk/indie band with Danish roots but now located in Somerset. Great melodies and a very tight live performance with songs covering multiple styles including an unmistakable Zutons sound in 'Lucky 13'. The only slight disappointment was that they terminated 'Hollywood Lies' without the guitar solo that brings this song to a conclusion on their eponymous debut CD.
Teleman - their debut album 'Breakfast' was in my 2014 top-3. Nevertheless it was good to see them breaking away from those tunes. More than half their set was 'new' material including recent single 'Strange Combination'. Not a major shift from the winning formula and unique sound of their first offering but 'Dusseldorf' and 'Glory Hallelujah' are underpinned with a slightly heavier piano sound. '23 Floors Up' from 'Breakfast' was a set highlight.
Ed Harcourt - played a set sprinkled with many of his better known numbers 'Apple Of My Eye', 'I've Become Misguided', 'Born In The Seventies', 'This Ones For You'. At one point he clambered from the stage cutting a pied piper-like figure with children draped round his neck as he delivered a number a cappella (in Spanish). Another brief sortie across the lawn accompanied the beginning of set-closer 'Until Tomorrow Then' delivered with the now familiar RCA microphone and the usual Harcourt panache
If anybody is looking for a small, family-friendly festival, look no further. Truck has been going for 18 years and is a well-established item in the local Oxfordshire calendar. Located on a farm near Dicot it is easily accessible for anybody in the South.
It falls on the same weekend as Latitude so quite understandably as far as the bill is concerned Truck cannot boast the riches of the Suffolk-based event, but at £80 for a weekend ticket, value-for-money cannot be faulted (and the kids are free).
This was the first time we had taken small children to a festival (a four and ten-year old) but with plenty of adult company the band-watching was not compromised too much. And there is certainly more than enough to keep the little ones amused in the form of circus classes, painting and fairground attractions.
The festival is held over two days, Friday & Saturday, so a big plus that it only requires a single day off work. A small frustration that the camping doesn’t open until Friday morning, so after queuing to get into the car-park the tent-pitching and setting up was followed by an immediate launch into the bands which frustratingly meant we missed a couple of bands on our agenda..
I suspect the festival has grown a little over the years. On previous visits the car park was easily accessible and extremely close to the camping. This year the car park was further away and it took us longer to get in, and an hour to get out on Sunday morning. But these are trifles relative to the joy this small event provides.
The main stage area “Truck Stage” is an open space. Second venue “Market stage’ is a moderately sized big top. Third stage is a barn – an excellent location to showcase the ‘heavier’ bands on the bill like Pulled Apart By Horses, Slaves, Bo Ningen, Eagulls.There were also three further stages so plenty of choice throughout the weekend.
Spring King (Truck stage) - unusually the leader of this guitar band is the drummer but all four band members contribute to the vocals. Sweeping choruses make their song highly accessible, though they were occasionally a little too close to boy-band territory for my liking. The bass player broke his e-string In the first number and, failing to live up to their name 'Nothing But Thieves' lent them a replacement.
Bloody Knees (Barn) - guitar band; clearly a favourite of the Oxford kids as they got an early afternoon mosh-pit going
Cut Ribbons (Palm City stage) - a 5-strong line up including a female bass player. Lo-fi pop, great preparation for afternoon slumbering.
The Bohicas (Truck stage) - Guitar band who had to overcome a power-out mid-set. The drummer manfully tried to fill the gap with a drum solo.
Neon Waltz (Market Stage) - Refreshing to see a lead vocalist not encumbered with an instrument. He is supported by two guitars, bass, drums and keys. Hailing from the outer reaches of Scotland, the keys-man interestingly has his keyboard draped in a Spanish flag emblazoned with the name and logo 'XV Brigada Internacional' a multi-national brigade that battled to quell the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Well-crafted indie tunes delivered with conviction. Best discovery of the day.
Sunset Sons (Market Stage) - lead vocalist plays keys with guitar bass and drums in support. Drew a large crowd to the tent. Tattoos, Ponytails and long curly locks gave the look of a band that was going to give in yer face rock so it was a little disappointing that their set comprised fairly unremarkable, gentle indie tunes.
Eagulls (Barn) - great sound for this first-class Leeds band. Within their thirty-minute they gave plenty of airing to their excellent debut album plus new song 'Life In Reverse'. A very lively audience with crowd-surfers young and old.
Clean Bandit (Truck stage) - a superbly polished act. Their dance-funk tunes have mass audience appeal. Some hits thrown in too!
Darwin Deez (Market Stage) - Truly a one-off. Darwin and his band provide entertainment of the first order combining quirky pop, dance-routines and audience participation all meandering into prog rock refrains. Got the tent bouncing from the very start of the set that included songs old and new, including 'Time Machine' from forthcoming album 'Double Down' out in August; also the excellent Chelsea’s Hotel from 2nd album ‘Songs For Imaginative People’ . As if the crowd needed to be delighted any more than they already were, the encore was concluded with ‘Radar Detector’. Best set of the weekend.
The Charlatans (Truck stage) - Tim Burgess once again delivers a sublime performance with timeless Charlatans classics peppered with songs from their brilliantly-crafted 2015 album ‘Modern Nature’
Safe To Swim (Market Stage) - Guitars with very imaginative keyboard refrains. Summery tunes morphing into excellent grungy guitar outros reminiscent of Idlewild
New Desert Blues (Truck stage) - Mature guitar songs from this Hampshire-based six-piece. Not frightened to vary the pace. Slower song ‘Summer Skin’ had shades of Arctic Monkeys.
Allusondrugs (Market Stage) - taking the stage when the sun was at it's most intense this was the hottest the tent got all weekend. So highly appropriate that the drummer and vocalist should be bare-chested with impressive tattoo work on show. Conversely the rhythm guitarist sported a shirt and woolly cardigan, but didn't lack for movement for all that. This was in yer face punk-edged songs. Friends of Pulled Apart by Horses, their closing number could have been a PABH song.
Simon Stanley Ward (Great Western Saloon stage) – my first visit to this stage, with a facade of a western saloon. Stupidly I was surprised they actually had a bar in there (!) so it seemed rude not to avail oneself of a pint of Hobgoblin. Despite the tin roof this was the coolest (temperature-wise) drinking establishment on the site. As for the music, this was a deviation into Country & Western territory but with strong sprinklings of humour evidenced by the best opening lyric to a rockabilly song I’ve ever heard: 'I went to a psycho hydro-therapy class....'. Showed the band not taking themselves too seriously; and again on closing number, winning best song title of the weekend: 'I wish I was Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park'. Simon mentioned he had CDs for sale but only had 5 left – this set was great fun but I must confess I made a mental note that if I found myself in the queue I would make sure I was at least six back.
Magic Gang (Market Stage) - Highly competent at what they do. What they do is anthemic indie songs which border on Simon Cowell manufactured, mass-appeal tunes. Perfect example, mid-set song 'Only In My Dreams', a saccharine-fuelled pop song. This band is getting a great deal of acclaim in the credible music press and today there were a lot of people who knew their stuff to the point where the local kids were moshing to it. My concern is if this is the direction indie music is heading this is (for me) the wrong direction.
Rat Boy (Market Stage) - unlike the previous band this band feels 'real'. A hybrid of Streets, Billy Bragg, King Blues, Jehst. Brilliantly constructed songs with a highly relevant topical edge. Jordan Cardy is clearly the main man but he had the grace to announce his band (guitar, bass, drums) as 'We are Ratboy'. For the final song ‘Sign On’ he invited a stage invasion - only partially successful on account of the well-drilled Security Crew.
Peasants King (Palm City stage) Lead vocal, 2nd vocal (plus tambourine/bass drum), bass, 2 guitars, drums. Loud and proud, high-intensity rock. Suffice to say, forthcoming single 'Give A Little Love' is far removed from similarly named tune from The Osmonds. This band are from South Wales - perhaps it's the Celtic routes that put me in mind of a many Scottish bands that deliver superb songs with a dark bass-drum foundation.
Rae Morris (Market Stage) - with a band comprising 2 guitars and female drummer. Her early 2015 album passed me by - most definitely an oversight on my part. Superb songs. Whole band smiling all the way through, loving the love they were getting from the crowd
Public Service Broadcasting (Truck stage) - I love this band but tonight was a disappointment. 2-3 years ago at an early PSB show at The Haunt, Brighton (a Sea Power club night) their makeshift projector broke down leading me to comment (partly in jest) 'Public Service Broadcasting are nothing without the films'. Tonight the backdrop and now traditional stacked-up retro TV sets were devoid of film, showing just the static PSB logo. Sorry to say that the songs lose their charm without the supporting visual footage. 'Letters for the rich, Letters for the poor, the shop at the corner and the girl next door’ seemed a little hollow without the images of the rushing train. I am no technical expert but I can't believe it can be that difficult to display the films, as a minimum on the backdrop screens? My sadness is I love this band and all the stuff they've done, but I suspect anybody watching for the first time wouldn't warm to them on this performance.
Temples (Truck stage) - having seen them perform an excellent set in Holland a few weeks ago, today seemed a little like going through the motions. But the set was lifted to a brilliant height when they played a new song, which sounded like early Floyd
Basement Jaxx (Truck stage) – with kiddies tucked up in the truck, lovely to enjoy this band with a warming whisky in hand
It was another great Glastonbury. Shared this year with Joe and Ian (and of course a mere 175,000 others).
We set out at 6:30am on Wednesday morning so that we could camp at Pennard Hill Ground. That’s my favourite camping area between The Park and Greenfields and not far from many of the stages, not far from beer and not far from good food. However, it took 2 hours to get into the site via gate D and so we had to opt for South Park 2 field on the west of The Park. Still a good location though. We spent a lazy afternoon drinking Brothers cider on the West Holts ground after which it's our annual fix of Goan Fish Curry from the West Holts field.
Thursday was a beautiful sunny day with our morning spent on the lounging fields above the Park where this year they’ve built a bar serving real ales! Didn’t think the Park could get any better but I was wrong! Listened to a few bands on at The Bandstand.
That evening Heavenly Records were hosting at the Crow's Nest, the tiny venue at the top of the Park hill with Eaves, The Voyeurs and Toy. Toy sounded superb as always with their pulsating psychedelic riffs.
Friday started with The Charlatans as special guests on the Other Stage belting out their anthems. Then it was off to the John Peel tent for Hinds, 4 Spanish girls enthusiastically dishing out pop rock numbers.
Everything Everything had the crowd bouncing on the Other Stage and told us “best week in our fu**ing lives”. Alabama Shakes were superb on the Pyramid Stage. The rain couldn’t dampen the powerful sound of Brittany & band's version of soulful rock. After which Mary J Blige gave an inspired performance.
The sun came out for Motorhead who were up next. Classic heavy rock experienced (and a first for me) from the front rail of the Pyramid Stage with a constant flow of crowd surfers passing over my head!
Then for some gentle chill-out sounds from King Creosote who was performing songs from his recent album 'With Love from Scotland'. Magic! All this just left enough time to catch Caribou at West Holts. Their electronica sounds were so good.
We all met up at the Somerset Cider bar before Florence and the Machine headlining on the Pyramid. We were half way up the field for the show but even from there, her performance was superb and her stamina was awesome. She well deserved that headline slot.
Glastonbury never sleeps so it’s off to my favourite chill out bar at the back of the stonemasons tent in Greenfields. You can rest up in their armchairs sampling their real ale before heading back out into the night to NYC Download in Block 9.
This is the club with a facade of a ruined New York tenement block with a yellow cab imbedded in the second floor. It’s crowded hot and sweaty with great vintage club music. It’s the kind of thing that makes Glastonbury so special. At dawn it's time for some Chai in the tipi field served by a Tibetan from a log fire before heading back to camp for some kip.
Saturday started at the Park with the sweet young voice of Flo Morrissey, followed by Eves and the fine acoustic guitar songs of Joseph Lyons and his band. Then the 2 Cuban sisters that are Ibeyi were also on at the Park stage but I struggled to dial into their sounds. Maybe a smaller indoor venue would suit better.
Giant Sand was in 8 piece legendary band mode on the Park stage. They started slow and bluesy with Howe Gelb’s gravely low voice. They then ramped the set up and five guitars were rocking by the end. After that Gaz Coombes, the former Supergrass front man produced some excellent songs old and new with his band to a hands-aloft crowd.
Leaving behind the Park Stage I headed for some pop from Paloma Faith. Again into the front area of the Pyramid Stage I witnessed her ‘show’ from close quarters. She is such a great performer and the three backing singers in her band were superb.
Pharrell Williams was next up. The songs and the dancers were all great and packed with that feel-good factor that is the song 'Happy', one of those great festival sing along anthems.
I wasn’t going to stay for Kanye West but we were so near the front of the stage I decided to hang on. That was a mistake! I’m not a lover of rap so found it tedious! Just him on the stage (mostly) and moving slowly under yellow lights. I was trapped and had to stay until the end. Even the appearance of Justin Vernon did not rescue the situation.
Eventually freed myself and met up with Joe at the Crow's Nest for a late night gig from Django Django. The small tent was full by the time we got there so we sat outside with a beer. Couldn’t appreciate the set because of the sound coming up the hill from below. The view of the Glastonbury lights and the fireballs from Arcadia were superb however but not enough to rescue the night.
Sunday was another very good day, I had wanted to catch the excellent Songhoy Blues on the Pyramid Stage but the Dalai Lama beckoned! He spoke from a Tibetan timber stage in the stone circle field. It was an inspiring speech covering such subjects as war, ISIS, religion, poverty, happiness, care of the earth and music (which he doesn’t rate!), afterwards time for a beer or two at my favourite Greenfields bar.
Then to the Pyramid stage for another brilliant performance from Patti Smith performing her classic album 'Horses'. She was joined mid set by the Dalai Lama who said a few words, but he didn’t play in the band (see above). Patti finished her set with My Generation and a nod to the Who complete with amp feedback and guitar string breaking!
After this we were at the Park Stage to hear The Staves who gave a great performance of their folk rock harmonies with added Justin Vernon. Alas Kanye didn't show this time. This was followed by some more rocking from the excellent Fat White Family
Next it's back to the Other Stage for the happy sound of Belle & Sebastian in the evening sunshine. All the classic numbers from this large and very musical band complete with the usual dancers from the crowd invited up for 'The Boy with the Arab Strap'.
Back to the Park Stage again (good exercise) for some classic garage punk rock from The Fall after which Goat hit the stage. Goat are a Swedish psychedelic, mask wearing trance inducing band with some exotic dancing added in. They are superb!
Then it's down to the final headliner of the festival on the Park Stage, Ryan Adams who never fails to deliver. This time it's a storming rocking set and the perfect ending to another perfect Glastonbury.
But wait, earlier I said I couldn’t go to Songhoy Blues because they clashed with the Dalai Lama, well guess what! They turned up for a secret gig after Ryan at the Crow's Nest. We danced to their late night set of rock rhythms before a last pint on the top of the Park hill and a last view of the Arcadia fireballs lighting up the night sky.
Our first venture to a non-UK festival and pleased to report a first-class experience.
The event was located on a Leisure/Safari Park just over the Dutch border from Belgium, a 3 hour drive from Calais. Entry to the campsite was not allowed until Friday so we travelled Thursday and stayed in a hotel at nearby Tilbourg; otherwise a middle-of-the night departure would have been required. Not a large festival, about 15,000 people which included weekend campers, weekenders staying in chalets on the park, and day visitors. First impressions were extremely favourable as the camping was just a 10-minute wheel-barrow push from the car park. The festival site was a 20 minute walk from the camp-site so nipping back to the tent during the day wasn't really an option, but this sounded better than some of the chalets which we heard were up to 45 minutes' walk away.
The main stage was on a man-made beach by a lake named, in typical direct Dutch style, 'Stage One' with the others being 'Stage Two', a sizeable big-top, 'Three' and 'Five' (smaller tents) and 'Four' an area a couple of minutes away that hosted DJ sets most of the time. Such was the quality of bands on the bill we didn't venture there at all.
This festival is well organised and the most noteworthy aspect is the chip that is part of the festival wristband. This needs to be loaded up with cash and is the only means of payment for drink, food, merch or records. This leads to minimal waiting. Even if there was a queue at the bar it moved exceedingly quickly as no cash or tokens were changing hands. One tip for any future visitors however, the chip cannot be loaded with Visa/Mastercard, just a local NL 'maestro/PIN' card. This gave us our one stressful moment of the weekend as we had to load all our cash onto our chip on day one and spend an hour Saturday morning driving 5 miles to Tilbourg to locate an ATM.
As regards catering, the standard beer on offer was 'Juliper', available in small (250 cl) or large (440cl) servings. It was interesting to observe the differing drinking habits. While I walked around most of the weekend clutching a large beer in true 'brit abroad' style, most of the locals (including groups of lads) were drinking beer in the smaller 250cl portions. After a day on Juliper I was craving some real ale or 'The Cider Bus' but the closest available here was a small selection of craft beers available on the jetty bar stretching over the lake.
We had been drawn to this festival by the excellent line up, but one experience to recount: Sunday afternoon we had fantastic band after fantastic band including (on the bounce with no time in between) new band Gengahr, 2014 favourites Alvvays and the fantastic Mew. So having been taken to such a high I truly thought the Royal Blood set later on would be a perfunctory viewing of this much hyped band - but it took us to a yet further high, a reminder why we do this stuff.
And so to the bands:
Metz (Stage Two) - Raucous guitar tunes from Canada
Drenge (One) - This band have matured over the last 18 months, and whilst still technically a two-piece brothers Eoin and Rory were today accompanied a third band member adding a further guitar. Shades of Parquet Courts guitars and clever lyrics grounded in Arctic Monkeys style. My favourite was ' When I put the kettle on, you put heavy metal on'
Fidlar (Two) - As we entered the tent we both wondered how come so many people in Netherlands had heard of her. As the lights went down it became amusingly evident to us this was not Stockport-based songstress Finlay ! No, this was a quite different proposition. Fidlar are a guitar band from California but were greeted like local heroes with moshing and crowd-surfing from the off. Dressed for the beach. Emo tunes spattered with heavy guitar riffs.
Klangstaf (Three) - Wandering to Stage 3 for the first time we came across this local Netherlands band. 4-piece with drummer side-on plus guitar, bass and keys. Verve-sounding tunes with prominent keys. The fact they were a local band didn't stop people talking so their delicately crafted tunes got a little lost.
Yak (Five) - 3-piece indie guitar band with occasional keys thrown in. Jim Morrison meets The Strokes. Announced their last song after just 30 minutes and went into a superb 8-minute chaotic number replete with drum solos, PA kicking and guitars strewn on the floor. Marvellous
Eagulls (Five) - Good to see them do some new songs 'Stab In The Dark', 'Opaque' and 'Life In Reverse' which appear to signal a slight mellowing in their style. The prominent nature of George Mitchell's vocal requires the sound balance to be spot on which sadly it wasn't today (at least from where we were standing at the front).
Chet Faker (Two) - Drew a large and enthusiastic crowd for his rehashed classics
The Tallest Man On Earth (One) - this is the moniker for Swedish singer songwriter Kristian Matsson. Sounding like the love-child of Bob Dylan and Hamilton Leithauser..... with some Sam Duckworth guitar action thrown in. Despite hailing from Sweden I'm sure he announced this his first time in Europe (??). He was accompanied by a band but the 2-3 songs he did on his own were somehow more engaging.
The Libertines (One) - Of the three headliners this weekend (the others were Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Alt-J). The Libs delivered the most vibrant top-of-the bill show by far. Libs shows are a stroll down nostalgia lane but the chemistry between Carl and Pete is truly wonderful to behold. With many music media column inches being devoted to their forthcoming new album they gave a sneak peak by playing single Gunga Din. A defining band of the indie-age; great to see them on such good form.
Rhodes (Three) - A wonderful sound. Hearing David Rhodes' vocal I suspect the jury would be out as to whether it was male or female. He was complemented with a four-strong band on drums, guitar, bass and keys (with occasional Cello). Spine-tingling songs. Album is coming out late August - let's hope the production gives these songs an indie feel rather than a 'James Blunt' veneer. I believe this will be a defining point as to whether this excellent artiste falls into Radio 2 mainstream or 6Music quality.
Sue The Night (One) - Suus de Groots gave a wonderful performance with a 5-strong band in support. Did a quirky version of Heart Of Glass
Fickle Friends (Three) - Female lead (also played keys). Poppy songs given a thumping edge through the prominent bass and drums. Got the crowd jumping at the end with a Caribou-sounding number (coincidentally called 'Swim')
Temples (One) - A wonderful band, should be sub-titled 'The Young Persons Guide To The 1970s'. Apart from the young indie dude on drums the three front-line band members have the look of rock icons: John Lennon, Ian Hunter, Dave Hill (of Slade, but with black hair). Their set swings between jangly guitars, 70's style guitar solos (on new song 'Volcano') accompanied by lyrics early Genesis fans would warm to. If their look doesn't lay down their RnR credentials their songs certainly do
Of Mice And Men (One) - British Sea Power playing Lanterns On The Lake covers
Death Cab For Cutie - I can't make out whether DCFC sound like everyone else or whether everyone else sounds like DCFC ? A great set from this highly accomplished US indie band. Closing song 'I Need You So Much Closer' filled the tent with stunning sounds
Follakzoid (Five) - we were drawn in out of curiosity after hearing a few bars. This band from Chile was Kraftwerk doing Bellowhead. Certain factions of the Dutch audience were going mental. Each song lasted 8-10 minutes with chord changes 5 minutes apart. The repetition was mesmerising.... to a point. I was waiting for the moment it all fell into place - but it didn't. As I left during the closing number I turned to a guy wildly bopping around and said ' You Dutch like some f***ing weird shit'. He smiled broadly, nodding in agreement and high-fiveing. [Aren't festivals just wonderful !]
Balthazar (One) - Wonderful to see this Belgian 5-piece playing such a big stage. Veering between indie tunes and prog-rock time-signatures, the guitar playing was excellent throughout
Boxed In (Three) - horrifyingly appeared to be in the Keane mould in their first song, but quickly threw off any comparison as they moved into a quality dancey number for their second tune. The sound got darker during the following tracks including ' Say It All'. New number 'Searchers' reverted to a mainstream feel but plenty on show here to suggest this band could go far.
The Vaccines (One) - A notable aspect was the large mosh-pit behind the tented sound desk. You couldn't see the stage from there (and the band wouldn't have been able to see them!). Great to see a bunch of people enjoying music for music's sake. New songs are clearly moving into the anthemic/stadium-filling direction but sounded good for all that.
Hookworms (Five) - A moody sound. Vocals/keys with two guitars, bass and drums. Highlights of the set were when the guitars got into a frenzy against the back-drop of the thumping beat.
Kindness (Five) – Best set of the weekend and unquestionably the niftiest footwork. This show was a real performance with Adam Bainbridge directing the show (as well as the off-stage huddle/pump-up in the wings beforehand). Fantastic female vocals (two of em), smiley guitarist and drummer - all leading to a show with pinpoint precision and unrehearsed feel in equal measure, with each song culminating in chaotic drumming. At one point Adam handed a cowbell and drumstick into the crowd - the couple in front of me who grabbed it soon got bored so passed it back - so I was delighted to accompany a couple of tunes from the floor. (Well it sounded in time to me ..... ! )
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - we caught the last three songs, a really good number off the album followed by the single (which I'm not keen on) and then Don't Look Back In Anger. The crowd seemed fairly muted but burst into life for the final number.
Pretty Vicious (Two) - Everything about this band is brilliant: their Youthfulness, their band-name, their swagger, their maturity of performance, their songs. Excellent rockin tunes throughout the set. Not in the 'Metz, North American-rock' style but 100% in the UK-indie sound reminiscent of Sex Pistols/ Ramones / Strokes / Libertines (and yes I acknowledge two of those are American) but this is a British, vibrant indie sound with a genuine punk edge.
Marmozets (One) – Kerrang favourites from West Yorkshire, comfortably gracing the main stage. Didn’t draw a particularly big crowd but most of them were going wild. I guess you either love em or you hate em.
Wolf Alice (Two) - London-based indie guitar band, being watched by Pretty Vicious from the side of the stage. Lead vocalist Ellie Rowsell's piercing voice fills the tent. Their set builds and builds to a wonderful climax. We met the band later that day in the pop-up record shop - were able to tell them that amongst our forthcoming tickets we have two gigs at Southampton Guildhall: Wolf Alice and Bob Dylan, so they're in good company !
Gengahr (Five) - another band I was excited to see having caught them supporting The Maccabees on recent tour. They sound even better live than on their excellent album, A Dream Outside, recently released
Mew (Two) - I was surprised to see this fantastic Danish band on so early, renowned for giving good value for money, I was curious to see how they would structure a set lasting just 45 minutes. Suffice to say it was brilliant - liberally peppered with songs from their excellent recent release '+/-'. (Satellites, Witness, Water Slides) dovetailed with favourites from their three earlier albums. For the first time in my many excursions to see this band they didn't play Comforting Sounds, the usual set-closer; just as well as that would have taken 10 valuable minutes from this stunning set.
Alvvays (Five) - fantastic Canadian band led by beguiling vocalist Mollie Rankin. Their eponymous 2014 album was my favourite of the year so great to see them airing their tuneful songs live. Taking to the stage in the now familiar Arrival (by Abba) they proceeded to deliver a wonderful set containing three new songs too
Swim Deep (Three) - a rather odd experience. This band was not announced on the programme and we wandered in as they went into their first number not knowing who they were. I vaguely recognised the band but couldn't pinpoint them. So here we were judging the tunes on merit with no pre-conceived ideas and no influence from hype. The male vocalist had a deep speaking voice but sang mostly falsetto. Indie tunes, some verging on an emo sound but mostly guitar/keyboard based melodies. By mid set we had worked out this was a British band and this was reaffirmed near the end of the set as Wolf Alice walked in. They eventually announced their band name as they went into the last song. A refreshing experience and highly enjoyable set.
Royal Blood (One) - this much-hyped Brighton duo are a band that, through force of circumstances, we hadn't see before so they were definitely on our list. But after such an intense afternoon of exciting bands on the smaller stages, we simply felt maxed out as we strolled toward the main stage to watch them. But such is the power of rock n roll to lift us to yet higher levels. Royal Blood delivered on every front: energy, performance, swagger and most notably their superb songs. Their 2014 album is one of those that is crammed so full of great tunes that watching them live you are convinced they've done all their strong material but they continue to deliver great song after great song. As a two piece it would be easy for them to just rock through their album but you get the real feeling they think through their performance which is duly punctuated with goading the crowd, standing on the drum kit and culminating in drummer Ben Thatcher crowd-surfing.
Sohn (Two) - gentle electro tunes that grew and grew. Accompanied with guitar and drums though barely visible through the dry ice. A quality performance.
Alt-J (One) - an excellent set from this accomplished band, playing a varied selection of songs from their two albums. This band always conjure up colourful images in my head so it was interesting to see the screens either side of the stage were in monochrome for the whole set, apart from song Blood Flow when a hint of red was appropriately added. The band lined up as a four across the stage giving a Kraftwerk feel to the performance. Clinically delivered songs in classy style.
To sum up, a well organised event. The ticket price offers excellent value for money though this of course must be offset by the additional travel costs. But overall a festival we would commend to anybody.
What was once Hard Rock Calling over three nights in Hyde Park has found itself as a one day event on Clapham Common with a capacity 10% of the former event. No doubt had ticket sales been higher then the site size itself would have been larger. The Calling Festival this year really was the festival equivalent of an intimate indoor gig. The O2 vs Shepherds Bush Empire perhaps.
The festival had the feel of a one day event all over, catering and bar stock, pretty uninspiring. No Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi this year either, it's Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds headlining the main stage with 2015 breakthrough band Wolf Alice top billing on the second stage.
So, excepting what it is, the day is actually full of cracking bands for your £60. Sundara Karma were our first band of the day on stage 2, A very capable outfit and one to look out for. The first big hitters on the main stage just after 3.15pm was Echo and the Bunnymen who delivered a glorious hit laden 45 minutes in the afternoon sunshine. The next positive was as there were two stages located pretty close to each other, there was only one band on at a time. The timing was actually pristine, as one band left the stage, there was the next one walking onto the other stage.
The Hives are getting older but remain as energetic as ever and get the crowd in audience participation mode from start to finish. James Veck-Gilodi comes across as a very able singer- songwriter on the second stage after which, the very fine, Modest Mouse blast though their set on the main stage with the sun still blazing. Having had their instruments "liberated" according to main man Isaac Brook, the band sounded just great on presumabley borrowed instruments. A quick fire succession of 'Lampshades on Fire' and 'Dashboard' had the crowd jigging and 'Float On' had the crowd jumping.
Bleachers just rocked on the second stage, crowd arms aloft loved it. 7pm and Ryan Adams and the Shining take to the main stage. This is Ryan in Neil Young & Crazy horse mode. All electric, massive amps as stage props and a vintage Dr Pepper vending machine and various animal models and memorabilia make up the stage background. The five piece band is a well oiled machine now and Ryan is in guitar hero electrified mode.
The twelve song set started with a powerful 'Gimme something good' , drifted into the countyesqe 'Let it Ride' then a rocking 'To be Young'.Just with an hour set, the songs came thick and fast, as Ryan pulled his guitar shapes to each. An electrifying sixty minutes!
Gimme Something Good
Let It Ride
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
Stay With Me
Shakedown on 9th Street
This House Is Not For Sale
Peaceful Valley Come Pick Me Up
By the time 8pm arrived, most people seem to be in the queue for toilets, food or beer and that's where most people enjoyed Wolf Alice from. A superb set of high energy rock n roll for 2015 from a band cementing their place in the band of the year spot!
Last band of the day and headliners of "a gig in a big field" as described by the man himself earlier in the week were, Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds. Both albums get a look in and new songs like 'Riverman' and 'Lock All The Doors' are early winners. The set contains half a dozen Oasis songs and an early doors showing for 'Champagne Supernova' had the whole crowd as one singing at the top of their voices. So let's hope these brothers make up one day!
A great day out in London Town, not a festival though so 'Calling' has some soul searching to do before 2016.