Sunday 30 April 2017

LIVE: Sofar Sounds Oxford house gig (24/4/17)

As my third (and final) year draws to a close I'll soon be saying goodbye to Oxford and moving back home (though I'm not sure I'll be able to stay away for long!) One of the things that I'll miss the most is the local Sofar Sounds, which I've been going to as a photographer/social media whizz on and off for the duration of my degree, meeting a bunch of incredible people in the crew and seeing lots of great music in unique spaces around Oxford along the way. Before university I was mad about the online Sofar sessions and remember being totally overwhelmed that they wanted me to come along and take photos. Volunteering over the years has made me realise just how lovely the whole Sofar family is, and I'd love to keep attending the shows closer to home, and maybe there's even demand for a Sofar Sounds Peterborough, who knows?! Anyway back to now, and last Monday I caught my final Sofar Oxford for a while as the two May shows clash with other gigs (part of the charm of the local scene is how much there is on offer!) 

The show took us back to the roots of Sofar in a cosy living room in an area of Oxford I hadn't been to before, and up first we had a lively and infectiously positive set from Prague/London based Lake Malawi, who supported the lovely Banfi guys a couple of days later in London. The set was complete with foot stomping, luckily the neighbours below didn't seem to mind! They released their single Surrounded By Light recently with a music video filmed in Cuba, check it out below... 

Next up a Winchester based duo who have been playing together since they were in school and 14, with influences including The Staves and First Aid Kit - not bad role models to aspire to! If I remember right, they said that they had only played one Sofar before back in Winchester, and the video online from that show is actually the track I remember most fondly from their set this week, entitled Tough Love, and it features some beautiful harmonies, take a listen if you enjoy the aforementioned female folksters.

Up next was singer-storyteller Gecko... a little browse on his Facebook page provides this quote from Huw Stephens,  'It made me instantly happy when I heard it', and I think that sums up his set pretty well as he had the audience in stitches for the duration with his clever and hilarious lyrics. A particularly comical and slightly ironic track was iPhone, therefore I am, taking the mick out of our widespread obsession with our mobile phones... ironic due to the fact I was looking after the Twitter and Facebook updates for the show. He's raising funds to record an album, it's reached 100% but you can still pledge at this link for signed CDs and all sorts of perks if you like what you hear below!

Our final set of the evening came from a singer, poet, playwright, activist, American and all round lovely human being, Amy León. Missing her band back in the States she treated us to some gutting and passionate a cappella tracks before inviting Gecko back to the stage to accompany her with some guitar while she improvised a couple of tracks, spurred on by the words retirement and passion, suggested by the audience. Here's a really powerful from Sofar London of a piece called This. 

I think that was my eighteenth Sofar Sounds Oxford show, and what a pleasure it's been to be involved over the last couple of years, I've just counted up and think I've seen nearly 80 performers between those shows. Long may Sofar continue to bring wonderful music to people in such a unique and beautiful way! 

Friday 28 April 2017

ALBUM NEWS: Sivu - 'Sweet Sweet Silent'

I desperately need to work on my final assignment (ah, scary!) but can't resist sharing the new track from the ever wonderful Sivu. Premiered on Clash a few days ago, Lonesome is the follow up to the recent track Childhood House and its combination of stirring strings and delicate vocals are pretty beautiful. The tracks are taken from his upcoming record Sweet Sweet Silent which is set to be released through Square Leg Records on 7th July (pre-order on iTunes here) - the wait is almost over! 

If you want to get a sneak peak of the new tracks (who doesn't?!) then you're in luck as Sivu is off on a UK tour starting with a set at Live at Leeds tomorrow and kicking off properly in Brighton on 3rd May. I'm looking forward to the intimate London gig on 8th May, come and join! All the dates and tickets are on his Songkick page here.

Sunday 23 April 2017

LIVE: Bear's Den for Richer Unsigned at St Giles Church (22/4/17)

Having planned an essay on Friday evening I'd decided on a productive Saturday writing it, however spontaneity got in the way of that after I got lucky in the front row ticket lottery for the current production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic, with a cast lead by Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire. After arriving at the theatre in the absolute nick of time with only a few minutes to spare I was glad I'd made the journey as the pair, supported by a great ensemble cast, put on a brilliant performance - the play admittedly made a lot more sense because I'd seen Hamlet twice recently, I can imagine being fairly confused at parts without having seen it. It was also super exciting to see a big poster for the upcoming Charlie Fink show at the theatre where he'll be performing all the tracks from his upcoming solo album in a production of the same name, Cover My Tracks.

After the play and some time loitering in Waterloo station I decided to head to St Giles in the Fields church in Soho, where a couple of my friends were queuing for a concert headed up by Bear's Den. It was organised by the Richer Sounds offshoot RicherUnsigned, through which the Bear's Den lads have curated a special vinyl of unsigned artists (including Gizmo Varillas) to coincide with Record Store Day. Tickets were given away in a ballot and I hadn't been lucky but decided to go and see my friends in the queue and see if anybody around had a spare, luckily I have friends braver than I am who asked security about returns... the right person overheard and with a few mins to go before doors opened I was on the guestlist, excited and a little (very) hungry.

Bear's Den at St Giles in the Fields Church

Before Bear's Den played for us, we were treated to sets from three artists who feature on the vinyl, first up the band Firewoodisland who already had me intrigued once I saw the accordion on stage - the last couple of times I can recall seeing an accordion are acoustic Jack Savoretti and The Hoosiers concerts - great company to keep, if I do say so... They had brilliant harmonies between the five of them and a stand out track was Mole Hills which I've found a Sofar Sounds London video of below!

Next up we were in familiar waters, with Christof, who plays alongside the Bear's Den lads on guitar/banjo and vocals, performing a set of his solo music. Before he joined the band I was vaguely aware of his solo music and it was great to finally hear him perform tracks from his beautiful Montreal EP. Despite being just one guy I got some real Fleet Foxes vibes from his set and really loved his vocals, and I'm glad to hear that he's going into the studio next month to work on his album. Special mention has to go to his incredibly funny stage chatter about guitar tuning, ping pong and the places he's lived.

Up next were Jim & Sam, who Davie of Bear's Den introduced, telling us that they're on a tour which involves playing a show every day for a year, which started back in November. The guitar and vocals set-up probably helps (in comparison to setting up for a full band show every day) but the tour still earns massive respect! They made me think back fondly on Lewis & Leigh and Joseph & Maia, it's been a good couple of years for boy/girl duos! A fitting title for a track performed in a church, Holy Water refrain 'blame me if you want to, shame me if you need to, stone me but I love her still' aimed at their parents was pretty memorable!

As if all that weren't enough their set was shortly followed by the absolute brilliance of Bear's Den.  Following their huge sold out show to Hammersmith Apollo a couple of weeks ago it was great to see them in such an intimate and beautiful venue, and it was particularly lovely to hear my favourite first album track again, Magdalene, but the whole set was stunning and I'm glad I risked heading to the venue! It was my seventh time seeing them in the space of a year, and the third of those sets to be in a church, which I've concluded is a pretty wonderful space for their music, especially when they played the religiously named Gabriel unplugged among the pews, which my friend recorded and you can watch below!

A day working on an essay turned spontaneously into one of the best days of the year so far - now to focus on the last couple of assignments before finishing third year in a couple of weeks time. Although it wouldn't be right without a handful of gigs... I'm looking forward to my last (boo!) Sofar Sounds Oxford tomorrow night, followed by running the door for Tom Figgins' London gig on Wednesday and Harry Pane's Oxford gig on Sunday. Lots of brilliant music to listen to!

Monday 17 April 2017

WATCH: Seramic release video for 'Same Mistakes'

I find it hard to picture somebody listening to Seramic without wanting to break into dance, much like Marcus Foster himself on stage during one of their performances, so it's great to see yet another dance routine in their latest video for the track Same Mistakes (the follow-up to the I Got You video, complete with synchronised swimming.) It's a cracking track and I am as ever really excited by them, and can't wait for the new EP. Plus they went to Hong Kong to film the video, so you probably owe it to them to watch...

Check out all the Seramic releases so far and sign up to the mailing list here!

Friday 14 April 2017

THEATRE: Hamlet for Free at Almeida Theatre (13/4/17)

OK so it isn't music related (though there was a lot of music) but I feel a huge need to write about my trip to the Almeida Theatre yesterday for Hamlet for Free, a week of free performances of Andrew Scott's Hamlet, as well as a bunch of other events, all free and all for under 25s. Well, the blog is called 'Cool Music And Things' and I've never really been sure what those 'things' were, and as Hamlet himself says - 'The play's the thing.' So here goes!

I caught the play last Wednesday and was ridiculously excited to see it again, particularly as part of this incredible scheme for young people. I don't think I'd be alone in saying that I sometimes feel pretty intimated at a play as a young person, particularly with Shakespeare. I'm an English literature student, I've paid for the ticket and have as much right as any audience member to be there, but there's a misbelief that theatre isn't for young people, a sense that you're being looked down on, a pressure to dress or act in a certain way, and very often stories in the media about young people disrupting the performance by taking photos etc, all working to discourage young people from attending plays. This is why it is so great that initiatives like this exist, encouraging young people to get along to the theatre and see one of their favourite actors do what they do best before their eyes. I'm easily into double figures for plays over the last couple of years but for some younger Sherlock fans this was probably their first time seeing a play - and what a play to start with!

Announced only a few days ago, we were lucky to grab tickets to a special Q&A with Andrew and the theatre's artistic director Rupert Goold in the afternoon. Rupert questioned Andrew about how he first got into acting as a child and his process of preparing for the play both in the months leading up to it, the rehearsals and on the day of a performance. It was entertaining and really interesting to get an insight into these processes, and while I didn't get a chance to ask a question as I always wimp out in these situations, if I had, it would've been about how on earth actors can deal with the emotional toll of performing a play like this every night. The character of Hamlet in particular goes on a crazy emotional rollercoaster and every day he's got to return to the start, and act as if he doesn't know what's to come, I don't think it'll ever not amaze me that actors are able to do that! Some particular highlights of the session were Andrew saying that one thing he'd like to see change about theatre are the prices (another way to freeze out younger theatregoers), that he doesn't subscribe to the idea of 'high art' and believes that a soap opera can have fascinating plots too, and his analogy of Shakespeare's plays as like sheet music, intimidating at first but a process of learning how you'd like to play it as an actor. It was also especially great to hear them celebrating young theatre audiences, with Andrew saying wholeheartedly that the audiences this week had been the best in the run, and that older audiences often seem to think they own Shakespeare, attending with a level of cynicism. 

Andrew Scott in conversation with Rupert Goold
After a little trip to Five Guys (yum) we queued up for a bit as the seats were unallocated, and managed to get on the front row of a little side block of seats. It's a really beautiful and intimate theatre and we were right in the action, with the actors walking down the aisle next to me throughout the performance. The play was four hours long but didn't feel like an endurance as you might imagine, and it was possibly even better than last week's performance - I think (big claim) this might be the best play I've ever seen. Takes quite a lot to top James McCavoy's performance in The Ruling Class but it might just have done that. The cast includes Juliet Stevenson as Gertrude and Jessica Brown Findlay as Ophelia and they were all brilliant, but Andrew's performance in the leading role is on another level, taking the audience along on the character's journey with him and making us laugh, cry, and be a little scared at points

I have to reiterate somebody's compliment in the Q&A that his delivery makes it seem as if he's genuinely saying the words for the first time, and as if no actor before him has said them, his performance is 'fresh and unpredictable' (Evening Standard review). To top off an incredible evening we hung around in what I have to say was a really organised stage door queue (hats off to the theatre security!) and I got to meet Andrew, tell him how amazing it was and grab a hug and a signature - he's a total sweetheart. 

Sadly if you haven't got along to the show yet, its run at Almeida finishes tomorrow, but after being pretty much sold out the whole way through it's transferring to the West End soon, running from the start of June to the start of September at the Harold Pinter Theatre - tickets through ATG here! I'm intrigued to see how the shift from this intimate space where the actors can see the audience, and walk (and sit, at points) amongst them to a much larger theatre changes the play, but I've got every confidence that it'll carry on being just as brilliant and would certainly recommend that you get along to see it if you can. 

Thursday 13 April 2017

LISTEN: Harry Pane releases 'The Wild Winds' EP

It's been out for just under a week and I'm loving the newest EP from Harry Pane The Wild Winds is the follow up to his Changing EP which was one of my favourite releases of 2016! The new EP is opened up by the lead track Fletcher Bay which has been making waves on playlists and radio shows alike over the last few weeks, it's an emotive and soothing tribute to Harry's father. The title track is another slow one, while the middle track Real Souls is sandwiched with two much louder, punchier tracks - my favourite of the lot is probably Old Friend! As a whole, the EP shows off the intricacies of Harry's guitar style, his songwriting and it's a beautiful set of tracks, well worth checking out! Take a listen to his recent performance of Fletcher Bay on London Live below...

Harry is currently touring to promote the EP with a bunch of shows organised through Tigmus and I'm really looking forward  to running the door for his Oxford show at the end of the month. I'm also hoping to catch his set at the next Communion Music club night at Notting Hill Arts Club, it's great to see him on the line-up, alongside the wonderful Marthagunn and a load more upcoming artists!

Check out all of Harry's upcoming shows here and grab a copy of the EP on CD/vinyl through his site here

Wednesday 12 April 2017

LIVE: Alexander Wolfe at Paper Dress Vintage (6/4/17)

I've known about Alexander Wolfe for probably five years now as he's pals with Irwin of The Hoosiers, so it was a total joy to finally catch him live last week, playing a Tigmus/Dharma Records show in Hackney, upstairs at Paper Dress Vintage. Despite almost giving up and coming home when the coach took over half hour to arrive, and the journey from flat to gig taking around three hours (ouch) it was totally worth it, not least because he brought along his beautiful rescue dog Foxy (you'll find tons of cute photos of her on Instagram) who sat on stage in his guitar case for most of the set, totally adorable! Currently working on his new record, Al debuted a bunch of new tracks for the intimate audience, and it was a really beautiful set - a highlight certainly being the track below, I Can't Get To Sleep.

As I arrived late I only caught the end of the opening set from Cunning Folk but was really glad to catch Kevin Pearce after he's been playing a bunch of Tigmus shows over the last few months. He brought some Essex banter to the room, along with some pretty rad guitar effects and new tracks from his upcoming record, a release date for which is coming soon! 

Tuesday 11 April 2017

ALBUM NEWS: Little Mammoths - 'Cargo For The Road'

At the start of the month the lovely Little Mammoths chaps played a vinyl release show at Rough Trade West for their record Phantom Dreams. I was gutted to miss out on the show as I was busy at another great gig in Oxford!  The album has been around online for quite a few months now and it feels like since the release the guys have been posting photos of recording for it's follow up, and I've just received some info about that in my inbox! First, get a taster of the band with this video of one of my favourite tracks of theirs, Get Me Back To Austin, performed at Rough Trade!

Their second record Cargo For The Road is set to be released on 23rd June, backed by an extensive tour around Europe and a bunch of UK festivals, including Glastonbury. Living up to the mammoth name, the band are playing a warm-up for Glastonbury at Michael Eavis' favourite pub the Pilton Working Men's Club on April 29th, playing for (get ready for it....) 8 hours!! The set will involve their entire repertoire of LM tracks as well as covers by all sorts of artists, and having seen them play a 3 hour set I can say that the people of Somerset are in for a treat, AND the proceeds for the gig are going towards WaterAid.

As always, keep up to date with new music and shows through the band's website!

Monday 10 April 2017

WATCH: evanjack re-releases 'Indiana, Rust & Bone'

'A boy with a beard playing music to reflect what a beautiful thing sounds like with a hangover, bleary eyes and a little rough round the edges...' That's how evanjack is described on his Facebook page and I can't argue with that description, and as my recent posts show I'm pretty fond of folk musicians with beards! He's just released the video for a new version of Indiana, Rust & Bone, the title track of his 2016 record, watch below....

You can check out the record Indiana, Rust & Bone on Spotify here!

Saturday 8 April 2017

LIVE: Bear's Den, Seramic and Banfi at Eventim Apollo (5/4/17)

On Wednesday night Bear's Den played their biggest headline show yet to a 5000-strong crowd at London's Eventim Apollo with the incredible Seramic and Banfi, an absolutely incredible line-up. They're a band completely at the top of their game and I'm so glad I was able to make the show, in a quite miraculous turn of events... having booked a ticket for Hamlet at Almeida Theatre a couple of months ago I checked my booking confirmation in the early hours of the morning to discover it was for the matinee, not the evening performance as I had thought. I was lucky to find somebody giving away a ticket for the gig for free and after rushing through central London to meet her, made it on time to the play, which was totally wonderful. Bit of a cliché but Andrew Scott was born to be Hamlet!

Bear's Den performing unplugged at Hammersmith Apollo
Despite the play being four hours long and travelling through the city in rush hour, after queuing for a short while I managed to join my friends in the centre of the barrier. I'm a total advocate of going to gigs alone, but there's also something really special about enjoying an evening of live music with a group of people who you know through liking the band! First up, one of my favourite new (ish) bands Banfi took to the stage, having opened up for the whole Europe/UK tour. It was so great to get to see them again (particularly as I think I'll be missing their final residency show at The Old Blue Last - last free tickets here) and I'm already looking forward to hopefully catching them at a couple of festivals this Summer, and on their own tour in September (dates and tickets all here!) If they're new to you, check out June for Secret Sessions!

Banfi performing at Hammersmith Apollo
Next up were Seramic, part of the reason I was really keen to get along to the London show as they weren't supporting at the show in Oxford a couple of weeks ago. It's pretty difficult to listen to them  at any point and not want to break into dance, but particularly in the live setting as their energy is infectious, especially Marcus' moves! Performing tracks from the Found EP and the recent single Same Mistakes (on Soundcloud) they really got the party started and I can't wait to hear the new EP which should be out over the next month or so. 

Seramic performing at Hammersmith Apollo
Having already been treated to two wonderful performances we were in for even more of a treat as the Bear's Den lads walked out to the Terminator theme, no less... dramatic stuff, kicking off their set with a couple of tracks from last year's Red Earth & Pouring Rain. It was clear we were in for a beautiful evening and the band had the crowd singing in all the right places and giving endless rounds of applause between tracks. The set was a little different from Oxford - much to my delight they played Magdalene, my favourite track from their first record! After joking about dreaming of a world in which bands return to the stage to play some more songs, they did just that and treated us to an unplugged performance of Bad Blood (they didn't brave entering the crowd as in Oxford, though I don't blame them) and a happy birthday sing along to their drummer Jools before finishing up with the big hit, Agape, and the crowd responded with tons more applause.

They finish up their European tour with three shows this week in the Netherlands and Belgium before heading back to London for a Record Store Day show for Richer Unsigned on 22nd April (details here) - if the ticket gods fancy blessing me with a ticket for that show, that'd be great! 

Thursday 6 April 2017

LISTEN: Charlie Fink releases debut solo single 'Firecracker'

It's been a long wait but Charlie Fink today announced details of his debut solo album, Cover My Tracks, which is being released on 2nd June. Charlie has recently written music for the film A Streetcat Named Bob and kid's musical The Lorax since his band Noah & The Whale announced their split just over two years ago. He has today debuted Firecracker from the record, which you can listen to below...

The album has an accompanying theatre production at The Old Vic which will take place for a couple of weeks at the start of June, tickets and album pre-order info all here!

Tuesday 4 April 2017

WATCH: Public Service Broadcasting release video for 'Progress'

What a time to be alive! While 7th July might still be months away, we're on the cusp of a new Public Service Broadcasting record and to whet your appetites, here's the newly released video for the first track from the record, Progress. Directed by previous collaborators Lucy Dawkins and Tom Readdy and produced by Yes Please Productions, the video was filmed in a jet engine testing facility in Suffolk, a nod to the band's beloved track Spitfire from the first record Inform - Educate - Entertain. Much like an essay I'm currently procrastinating by writing this (about Sherry Turkle and the influence of technology on human relationships) the video looks at 'mechanisation and its true place in the 'progress' of humanity', watch below...

The track is taken from upcoming record Every Valley, the theme of which, as the name suggests, is the mining community of South West Wales, though the record more generally is 'set against a backdrop of industrial decline and neglected and abandoned communities across the western world'. I adore this track and can't wait to hear the rest of the record and to see where the theme has taken the band musically. (By the way - if you haven't listened to the first two records, please correct that oversight!)

You can pre-order the new record Every Valley in a range of formats (including a funky indie record store only clear vinyl) and bundles through the band's website here!