Sunday, 21 July 2013

Thames Valley Bens

Hey buggers bloggers

The countdown is almost complete and the time is almost upon us. I've had my visa interview and I have bought all the bubblewrap Rymans had to stop my guitar being smashed into a zillion pieces in transit. All I need now is my passport back.

Er.. that's quite important, right?

I'm sure it'll turn up soon, allowing me to get in a shiny metal box with wings and be launched through the air at all the miles per hour, and if all goes to plan I'll even spend a couple of days getting some sleep, something which frequently eludes me here in Blighty. Next Friday I'll hook up with FT and his sleepy souls and the dudes from Off With Their Heads, as well as fellow Thames Valley resident Ben Morse, for what is apparently being dubbed The Thames Valley Bens Tour.

Here's the deal: touring the US is expensive. Most British acts who fly to the States do so prepared to lose a lot of money. I am no exception. With that in mind, I'm concentrating more on having a fucking brilliant time than, you know, Breaking America, so if you see me in Poughkeepsie, Portland, Brooklyn, Silver Spring, South Burlington, Ann Arbor or Madison, come say hi, and we'll high five and chat like old friends.

Meanwhile, whilst I wait for life's conundrums to resolve themselves, here's an update on stuff:

2000trees was incredible
Hands up, you knew it would be. We all did. After turning up unprepared to last year's mudfest I was going to wear wellies and a mac in the blazing sun this time around to make a point of my ill preparation, but it was too hot to go through with it. Instead I had an incredible Friday of catching up with people, some of whom I see only once every year or two. I'm definitely camping next year and you can hold me to that.

Here's a video from the set:

Special thanks to Tom Crook who, for the second year in a row, managed to not hit anything whilst driving to and from the festival.

I'm taking my Saigon to the States!
Did I mention this on here before? I am unable to take my now-retired Art & Lutherie to the States because one look at a baggage handler and it would smash itself into ten pieces, so instead the good people of Saigon guitars have given me one to take to the USA with me. This is a big deal for me. People rarely give me free things.

To celebrate, my Thames Valley Bens tag team partner and I went to the University of Reading and stood in a field when it was windy to put it through its paces. Here's the result:

Ugh. So many videos of my face on this page!

And finally.. British shows to end 2013
Upon my return from the States I imagine I will want to do two things:

1) Get some sleep
2) See some of Britain

I know it's not much, and there are a couple of shows still TBC, but here are the British shows which will take me to the end of the year:

August 18th  BRISTOL Mothers Ruin
Sept 14th  SOUTHSEA Xtra Mile Stage @ Southsea Festival [Atrium Bar]
Sept 19th  OXFORD Port Mahon
October 5th  SOUTHAMPTON Bent Brief
Nov 24th  READING Rising Sun Arts Centre [w/Franz Nicolay]
Dec 14th  YORK Black Swan

Also, if you're in the UK and near a radio this week, Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun have made it to the fringes of the Radio 1 playlist. If you hear them on there this week, do drop Radio 1 a congratulatory text for being such good eggs.

Monday, 8 July 2013

great hangs: no longer just good hangs

Just a quick update to let you know that today, the Monday the 8th of the July, is the release day for the brand new Xtra Mile Recordings compilation entitled Great Hangs.

You can get it from iTunes for a mere £2.49 for all twenty-four tracks, which if you don't believe me you can check out for yourself by going clicky-clicky here.

1. Sonic Boom Six - Virus
2. Chris T-T - Idris Lung

3. Dave Hause - Melanin
4. Franz Nicolay - Frankie Stubbs' Tears
5. Crazy Arm - Oh Death/Hell To Pay
6. Frank Turner - Tattoos
7. Ben Marwood - Under Lock & Key
8. Larry & His Flask - Pandemonium
9. Tim Barry - Amen
10. Beans On Toast - Beer & A Burger
11. Vinnie Caruana - To Be Dead & In Love
12. Retrospective Soundtrack Players - Catcher In The Rye
13. Riverboat Gamblers - Comedians
14. The Xcerts - Young (Belane) alt version.
15. Fighting Fiction - The Long and Short of It
16. Mull Historical Society - You Can Get Better
17. Drag The River - History With History
18. Glossary - Heart Full of Wanna
19. Ghouls - Oceans (live)
20. Fighting With Wire - Blackout
21. Mongol Horde - Casual Threats From Weekend Hardmen
22. Future Of The Left - I Am The Least Of Your Problems
23. Straight Lines - Ring The Bells
24. Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun - England's Dead

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Tease me. Please me. 2000Trees me.


Indeed, it's happening. It's finally happening. Late last week, the sun came out, and it has stayed out. It wasn't a day of sun followed by two days of light drizzle, hail or snow. It has been hot, and there has been tennis, and the pub, and all these things together finally herald the arrival of Summer In Britain.

I don't mean "the arrival of summer in Britain this year", either. I mean, this is probably the first proper few days of uninterrupted sunshine during conventional summer months (you remember those? June to August) we've had since, ooh, 1995. Well maybe not, but you get the picture.

All this means that after the washout of 2000Trees last year, albeit the most fun washout ever, I am looking forward especially to this year's festival action. Aside from not getting rained on until your pockets are full of sky juice, here's a list of ten acts to look forward to next weekend, clashes allowing and in no particular order:

1. Oxygen Thief - GreenHouse, Friday
Mr Thief, or Oxygen to his friends, is probably holed up at the moment writing a second album. As well as being one of my best friends, he's also one of the only men to ever successfully wield just an acoustic guitar and still be considered metal. He throws shapes! He rages! He writes two-minute pop songs then crowbars in an obscure breakdown until you forget how the song started! He is not to be missed.

2. Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo - The Leaf Lounge, Friday
& Emily Barker solo - GreenHouse, Friday
Emily Barker and chums rock my world. The melodies are sweet, the music is gentle, and latest album 'Dear River' is on repeat in my ears as of yesterday when I first picked it up. Emily's even kind enough to be pulling a double shift, so catch her at least once.

3. Frank Turner - Main Stage, Friday (headline)
Some dude. Maybe you've heard of him. I hear he's hand-picked ten acts to be on this year's bill, and he's going to close Friday night with a headline show. I'm going to pretend that at least one person reading this blog hasn't heard of Frank Turner, and if that's you, check out his new (fifth) album Tape Deck Heart and opening track/single 'Recovery'. Then see him play.

4. Jim Lockey & the Solemn Sun - Main Stage, Friday
& Jim Lockey solo - GreenHouse, Friday
2000Trees' foremost success story. As far as I'm aware, Jim has played every 2000Trees ever and this year, like Emily, he's giving you two bites of the cherry. His second album proper 'Death' was released on Xtra Mile last year and is wall-to-wall heavy-folk-rock gold. Don't tell Jim that though, he offically hates folk music. Catch him on the main stage with his full band for full effect.

5. Beans On Toast - GreenHouse, Friday
It is hard to sum up the appeal of Beans On Toast without just taking someone to a show he's playing and going "look, SEE? I told you". After going down well in the States with Frank Turner in June, Beans on Toast closes out the GreenHouse on Friday. His Essex vocals are more spoken than sung, and no matter how short his songs are, there's always a chance he'll stop halfway through and do something else, but this just increases the general hilarity and banter of a man who can't be second guessed. No two shows are the same. See him.

6. Fight Like Apes - Leaf Lounge, Saturday
These days they have a home with fun label types Alcopop! (one of the brightest and fan-friendliest UK small labels you could ever wish for, in my opinion) and they've recently been crowd-funding in an attempt to raise money for a third full-length release, so generally it seems like a new dawn for Fight Like Apes. Frontwoman MayKay has more stage presence than is strictly healthy - I really am surprised she has not imploded or exploded or something - but the main strength here lies in the lyrics. There's no time to type any out. Suffice to say their second album was called The Body Of Christ And The Legs Of Tina Turner. Steve Lamacq is a huge fan and, on the record, I am too. Sadly I'm only there on Friday though, so I get to miss this bunch.

7. Hold Your Horse Is - The Cave, Friday
I once saw this band play Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading. It is a tiny room with a capacity of fifty, maybe sixty, tops. The room was half-full, the sound was bouncing around and my ears were bleeding. The band's response? Turn it up louder. Their rock is a jagged rock, razor sharp and not happy until you are crying. See and be impressed or deaf or something like that.

8. Retrospective Soundtrack Players - Main Stage, Friday
In terms of brave ideas for a band, the notion that you should only write albums based around famous works is definitely among the top ten. First of all, you need to convince the people who aren't a fan of the original material that they've been wrong all along, and secondly, you need to convince the people who love the original works that you're good enough to do it justice. It could be carnage, but the RSP somehow make it incredible. Their three-minute numbers capture the strong songwriting of one Kyle Evans, who is not unlike Steven Adams of the Broken Family Band (RIP) and, these days, Singing Adams (wait, they're currently on hiatus). The band also comprise former members of Dawn Chorus (RIP). Shit, check out second RSP album  Catcher In The Rye before they break up or something.

9. Freeze The Atlantic - The Cave, Thursday
Of all the ways to win my heart, here are three:
1) Your band should be formed of ex members of Reuben and Hundred Reasons
2) You should name yourself after one of the best songs of one of the greatest UK bands of all time, Cable.
3) You should sign yourself up to aforementioned Alcopop label
A special treat for those of you with an early camping ticket, catch Freeze The Atlantic on Thursday night, before the gates officially open to the non-special plebs. Can you still say plebs? Anyway, recent single 'Shivering and Dazed' shows with FTA are all about - sugared pop-rock like mama used to make.

10. The Crimea - Main Stage, Friday
The first time I heard The Crimea, it was on John Peel's show in the mid-2000s.
"John", I emailed, "is that Davey Crockett, ex of the Crocketts?".
"Why, yes", he replied, "I think I have some Crocketts CDs somewhere, I must dig them out and have a listen to them over the weekend."
I like to think that he did, and he enjoyed them. I first saw Davey Macmanus fronting The Crocketts when they supported the Stereophonics a long, long time ago. I hated it. One year later when I found some music taste, I hated the Stereophonics and loved The Crocketts. Watch him jerk, watch him spasm, watch him possess the voice of a nutter, who may or may not have informed my own vocal sound in some small way over the years. The life of these guys didn't ever run smoothly. I'm pretty sure I saw Davey appear as a model playing a musician in the Sun's 'Dear Diedre' column once, and that's not even a joke. When the Crocketts gave up, The Crimea arrived with an extra depth to their sound. You know, some pianos and such. Tragedy Rocks was the first album I played when I set up my new stereo in 2005, just like the Crocketts' Great Brain Robbery was the first album I played during my Freshers Week at uni in 2000. This band and this man have formed an important part of me without even realising, and it is with a heavy heart that I learn that this will be one of their final ever shows. Third album Square Moon is released on 29th July on, you guessed it, Alcopop, and they call time with one final show in London on 30th July. Do not miss them.

The last few tickets for 2000Trees are available here, and I hear Xtra Mile might even bust out the swingball.