Songs of Praise, Swindon – My 12 favourite gigs of 2016 – part 1 (by Dave Franklin)

12376559_918068144947598_1890568069506145317_nI don’t get to go to many gigs that I am not involved in promoting these days, but whilst I am always present in more of a work than a punter capacity, I still get to watch, work and hang out with some wonderful bands and a set of people who are imaginative, affable, mad, crazy, creative, visionary and unlike anyone you’d meet in normal walks of life. With that in mind I thought that I’d pick my top twelve gigs I have been part of this year.

Polar Front, Lionface and Honey Trap – 7th January @ The Victoria

Polar Front are the local success story of the last year from fledging steps towards a sassy melding of R&B grooves with shimmering indie-pop to becoming soundscaping leviathans. Not only do they build massive sonorous dreamscapes and towering sonic cathedral in Sophie Goldsworthy they have the voice to back it up.

Lionface have similar draw dropping qualities, twisted electronic pop, jagged guitars and brooding melodies and one of the most mesmerising performers you will ever witness fronting the musical package.

 Gaz Brookfield and Ben Wain, Nick Parker and George Wilding – 18th February @ The Victoria

 It’s always a fun night when Gaz and his right hand man Ben head back to the town of the formers, formative musical years. Now commanding massive audiences but somehow still able to deliver an honest, often poignant, sometimes just plain fun set that still feels intimate and accessible, that’s one hell of a trick.

Nick Parker is one of my favourite people from this strange musical world to spend time with and just as big a Waterboys fan as me. His set of quirky stories, kitchen sink narratives, and sing-along rhymes defy anyone not to join in.

Opening the night was George Wilding who may look like Nick Drakes drug dealer but whose command of gutter poetry, back street operas and strange urban mythologies are second to none….except Joseph Porter. (Oh, go look him up.)

 SNDubstation and The Hat Club – 18th March @ The Locomotive

 This one was so memorable not only for the class of the bands who both take reggae and ska and blend them into wonderful, euphoric and unique musical shapes but the fact that the venue, normally known for homing a smattering of speed addled, budget lager drinkers who try to ignore and find fault with whatever music was programed that week were invaded by a party crowd who proceed to blow the roof off the place.

 The Black Feathers, Jonny Payne and The Thunder and Phil Cooper – 7th April @ The Victoria

 Anyone who doesn’t like The Black Feathers can’t be my friend. I’m sorry, those are the rules and there is nothing I can do about it. As they wander country, soul and folk musical roads they manage to lay waste any competition via the sublime way their vocals harmonise. The song crafting is great and they have an amazing stage charisma, add to that the fact that they are thoroughly nice people to hang about with and the attraction isn’t hard to see.

Jonny Payne does a neat line in Americana – country, folk, soul and gospel all find their way into the mix and the fact that The Thunder who make up the rhythm section are also two thirds of The Black Hats, one of the first bands I put on in Swindon sparks a few nostalgic conversations.

No one does accessible, acoustic pop like Phil Cooper; imagine Neil Finn with an English accent…and a hat.

 White Lilac, Wasuremono and Neverlnd – 21st April @ The Victoria

 I grew up musically with all the independent labels of the post-punk era and this gig was like a journey back in time. Sadly White Lilac is no more, as far as I’m aware, but like Wasuremono before them they blend post-punk boundary pushing, pastoral dream-pop and shimmering shoegaze into interesting new forms. The headliners take a more raw-edged approach though tempered when needed by some haunting cello lines, their support pulling at more bucolic, and atmospheric strings and garnering strange sounds from an array of retro technology.

Opener Neverlnd take the more commercial approach but still manage to walk that difficult line between radio play and cult status.

 Don Gallardo and Luke Tuchscherer – 8th May @ The Beehive

 We don’t get to put on many gigs at The Beehive but when one of East Nashville’s finest comes looking for a show you beg, borrow or steal to make it happen. Thankfully it only took a phone call.

There is quite a market in this country at the moment for music labelled Roots, Americana, or even British Americana, but when the real thing comes to town you sit up and take notice. You know how the music score of shows like “Nashville” just sound different to anything we produce on this side of the water, well, that makes a good point of reference as some of that music for that show was supplied by Mr G.

That said Luke Tuchscherer is one of our own and not only did he play the perfect support he then jumped on the drums and backed up our colonial cousin.

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10 acts to watch for 2016 – Selected by Ed Dyer

Well, that’s 2015 all wrapped up then, and musically speaking it wasn’t half bad at all. But, what will 2016 bring us? And who will be the artists and bands to watch out for? In an attempt to answer these burning questions I dusted off my crystal ball, muttered some incantations to the musical gods, realised this was all a load of crap and resorted back to good old fashioned gut feeling, common sense and a keen pair of ears to come up with my top ten artists to watch in 2016.

These are those artists who I feel are in the best position to break out of their own local and regional scenes and start making some waves on a more national basis. Generally they are the best of everything I personally have seen and heard in the last 12 months, and also the ones best equipped to break out. So this has been drawn from my own limited pool of experience and has not been influenced by any other sources, taste makers or media, and as I have already said, I have no particular foresight or insider knowledge other than my own instinct, experience and opinion. I have also omitted the bands I work with through Secret Chord Records as we all know they are the best of the best already! I present these in no particular order either; I am not daft enough to hang what reputation I have on one artist above all other. They are just listed in the order they came to me on New Year’s Eve as I sat quietly supping beer and reflecting on the past year.

Continue reading “10 acts to watch for 2016 – Selected by Ed Dyer”

Battle – Lionface (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Lionface_Battle_PRINTLionface tick plenty of boxes no matter which generic direction you approach them from. Rock fans will appreciate the underlying drive and aggression, pop fans will dig the accessibility, one that could easily transfer into chart territory. Add to that subversive industrial dance grooves, dark strands of gothic pomp and twisted electronica and you have a band with broad appeal. I know this from the live show and thankfully all of that on-stage energy and creativity is captured by the e.p.

As the sparse dance grooves of Vampire take us gently by the ear, you realise that this is not a band afraid to explore all the colours of the musical palette, dynamics soar and fall, squiggly electronica dances with full on rock attacks and Kat’s voice transfixes you with its power and clarity, a sonic boom in the eye of the storm. They deliver more conventional rock on Living and glitchy speed fuelled dance on Eclipse, a song that if given to any number of pop divas parading as rock crossover artists would sell in its millions.

No Hope State signs out with the other side of their creative coin. Sultry balladering but still delivered in their own inimitable style showing that even when they take the foot off of the accelerator they still manage to be just as compelling. Whilst many bands stick to the tried and tested formulas and others try too hard to create new templates, Lionface seem to just fuse existing sounds into new shapes, the building blocks are all familiar but the boundaries between genres are no longer a barrier which makes them the perfect band for the post-genre generation.

New Music of The Day: LXXVII – Vampire – Lionface

12063572_884176008336812_4935738555184818518_nDescribed as “Hellraiser meets Scooby Doo” Vampire is the first single from the new EP Battle. It continues the bands quest to embed pop hooks in gothic tinged alt-rock and mix forward thinking, cacophonous electro mayhem with driven classic rock potency and it is a quest that is leading them into some wonderfully inventive places. This is the sound of rock moving forward, losing all the cliches and fusing with whatever possibilities cross their path in this post-genre world.

The results are stunning, aggressive without being blatantly hostile, pop aware without pandering to mainstream sensibilities and dark without resorting to melancholia and self-pitying. The best of all worlds, laying claim to many genres but not quite sitting comfortably in any of them. Perfect.

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