Shambala

After years of hearing from lots of people I love and respect that Shambala is the ‘perfect festival’ we spent this August bank holiday having our own Adventures in Utopia.

Taking the shuttle bus down to the site was encouraging as it seemed to be full of interesting lovely people, which is always a good sign. As we approached I got my first burst of full on excitement. Although I had been vaguely looking forward to this, I hadn’t gotten properly excited until we were actually walking in. You can really see the efforts that the organisers have put in just walking up, it really feels like a lot of love, thought and attention have gone into it.

First impressions were of glorious sunshine, people meandering about all looking genuinely pleased to see everyone and anyone and lots of glitter and dressing up. You walk through pools of live music, bass and engaging conversations. It feels like as soon as you get on site everyone’s barriers just drop and we can all revert back to being the friendly lovely creatures we all should be.

I managed to kill my phone battery before we arrived (HOW??) so used a disposable camera. My logic being that if/when I lost it it wouldn’t be as painful or expensive as losing my DSLR.

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On our first night we poked our heads in to the Wandering Word tent and found John Fairhurst playing – bloody brilliant as per.

The next day was glorious and we really explored the site. We found a tent filled with board games and couches, so Matt of course sat down to play chess. For 3 hours. There is a real nice family feel to the festival with lots of stuff for kids to do. I think the fact that there are so many kids and families means people are on better behavior. Nothing like a child’s youthful glow to make you pause before racking up a line.

We also stumbled across the People’s Front Room and saw a wicked sick band called Toyface – Completely captivating and strangely comforting for content that at points managed to upset me. So yeah, that was delightfully confusing.

Eska also really impressed and we grabbed an EP. Clever and brilliantly put together, these guys were amazing.

Night time is always a little more blurry but at some point we definitely ended up at the top of a tree in the woods with Walk. We met a lovely girl who looked like she had collapsed on the floor, it turned out she was just having a very intense trip. We stayed with her and found her friends. Having someone insist that they can see your love dancing between your eyes is always enjoyable to be near, even if they do think that we’re currently in Kyoto. Karma decided to full on reward us and we ended up getting free whiskies at the bar, seeing some amazing bands we wouldn’t have, bumping into a friend from Matt’s studio who was DJing and generally having an incredible night.

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Sunday was a bit of a struggle, a highlight definitely included being in the Social Club with some friends listening to Captain Hotknives. Classic one liners and getting group of children screaming ‘I hate babies!’ – hilarious and warming. The Social Club also were responsible for the cutest thing I saw over the weekend which was a line of kids learning to beat box.  We then rounded the whole thing off with some good old Honeyfeet. I have already expressed my love for them here so will keep my gushing to a minimum but it was a special way to end the whole thing.

Everyone was on a really similar wavelength and I felt so free and accepted there. To the point where sometimes I’m on the tube now in London genuinely sad that life cannot be Shambala everyday. What I took from it though is that it is possible to create and build Utopia ourselves, everyday. Especially when we collectivize and treat each other with love and kindness. Usually after a festival I’m completely wiped out but after I got home I actually felt invigorated and full of positivity. I don’t know about ‘perfect’ festival, but better would be difficult.

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Woodburner @ Dalston Eastern Curve Garden

Last night we spent a warm August evening at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden for Woodburner.
The previous Woodburner events we have attended have been at Chats Palace in Homerton, the music quality is always brilliant. First time at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and it is the perfect setting for this time of year. The garden is nicely designed with a wooden pavilion and seating scattered amongst the flowerbeds. The whole event was really nicely done and really made me appreciate the fact it was summertime. Everything was beautiful; the music, environment and people.
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There was also amazing pizza. Seriously good. A big queue and we had to wait over an hour, but it was actually worth it when it got here.

Felix Hagan was first to play. I was a bit gutted to miss some of his performance but what I did hear was a quality musician and clever writer.

I did catch Swallow and the Wolf who treated the floor-seated audience to a lovely set. A two piece based in London, I’ll definitely be seeking them out again – their performance felt oddly intimate. Both comforting and refreshing, I’m keen to hear more.

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Very beautiful sounds, you can get their 3-track EP Fire in the following places:

i-tunes – http://goo.gl/3NoOxz
youtube – http://goo.gl/P0CoAd
spotify – http://goo.gl/Oq0AMJ

Next up was Shyfinger! It was a welcome surprise for us to see some familiar faces, although Matt now claims that there is a direct correlation between my proximity to people I know from Manchester and how Northern my voice is. It was my first time seeing Ellis and Biff in this particular incarnation, Shyfinger are dangerously strong – as to be bloody expected.

Here is a video of them for your ears and eyes to feast upon! It was recorded as part of the Sessions of March (a killer project created by some of my favourite people as part of a cause close to my heart).

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a wicked space for Woodburner and they are there every Tuesday for the rest of the summer – check out the line ups here and get yourself over!

Have a listen to – Parshmaune

With the sad news that PITP would not be going ahead this year, I have been revisiting some of the bands from last years fundraisers and the festival. If the festival itself cannot happen then let’s try and celebrate the music that goes into it.

One particular favourite from last year is Parshmaune. I first heard of these guys because of Party in the Park and then coincidentally met Zuri (part of the collective) whilst volunteering at a different event.

They are a collective working from London who have been writing and playing together for a while now. Their music is pretty intense, deep jazz foundations with a modern flavour.

They are deliberately ambiguous in how they describe themselves – preferring to do this through an absence of labels and expectations. I like that as it means you have to consider their music without help and if you are the type of person who needs to put things in boxes, you’ll have to build your own.

I find Jazz as a genre intimidating to wrap words around as I lack the nomenclature and knowledge to describe it properly. However in basic terms I can say there is a lot about these guys I like. I like the way that there is no compromising to make it more commercial and no fear of stepping outside prescribed boundaries. I find the video less considered than the music, but to me it makes the music more evocative as it gives me a reference point to latch the music onto. I feel like it expresses my own feelings at living in and travelling through London. There are a lot of complicated thoughts tied in with that, but basically feeling stimulated past saturation and rushed through something beautiful. As you can see from my crude attempts to express that through words it is extra-linguistic!

Please give them some love and attention:

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Have a listen to – Extra Love

Many of my favourite nights have featured this fantastic bunch as the main highlight.

I was born, raised, educated, loved and made in Manchester – and this band are one of the things I miss the most. Their music and performances embody their name, they exude love and passion. When you are at a gig (especially in Manchester…) there is the possibility for the night to develop a bit of an edge to it. These guys blow that kind of negativity out of the room with sheer force of good vibes.

Their songs are fantastically arranged and performed by incredible musicians.

Perfect for summertime gatherings, listen to this:

If you like it, check out these links:

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I found out recently they are coming to London, Hootannany in Brixton on 12th June. GO AND SEE THEM.

 

John Fairhurst + Heymoonshaker @ The Magic Garden

Last Sunday I was a bit gutted to be missing Secret Folk Club up in Manchester but then SOMETHING WONDERFUL HAPPENED!

One of our fellow guardians works for The Magic Garden in Battersea and he let us know about a sick ass gig they had that night.

The Magic Garden is a gorgeous place. It is the only venue in London that I had really wanted to go and visit. This is because of the absolutely banging line ups they seem to consistently have. Some of my favourite bands have played there since I moved to London and it took ages for me to make it over. I first visited in the early evening a few months back for some dinner (they make a killer scotch egg) and then discovered that they have a beautiful outdoor area. What an idiot. The place is called ‘The Magic Garden’ and it hadn’t even occurred to me it meant that there was probably a decent place to go for a cigarette.

This time John Fairhurst is playing. Coincidentally, I think he used to live with some of the Secret Folk Club lot up in Manchester. Even though it’s a school night we decide to mosey on down and see him and this other band that our group seem excited about, Heymoonshaker.

We get in and Heymoonshaker have just started their set.  Fucking incredible. I’ve listened to an album of theirs since and it just does not capture the absolute dirty blues magic that these two birth, build and then bastardise on stage.  It is deep primal blues woven together with beatboxing. It works so well. Watching them on stage fusing two juxtaposed art forms into something with such depth and energy you can understand why the chemistry between them is so strong. Building a sound with such potency must take a lot of effort, and a lot of knocking about together.

This should give you an idea:

John Fairhurst and his band were up next. Before they came on, Heymoonshaker (one of them, both of them?) said ‘We usually like to say we’re a blues band, but we don’t say that when we’re playing on the same bill as these guys…’. I was a bit confused by this, having just had my socks knocked off by them. They were on to something though as John Fairhurst and his band play big boy blues. Gravelly, pulsating and reeking of power.  At the end of their set they were joined by Heymoonshaker and we were all witness to a glorious love in/jam session between the lot of them.

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This picture was taken by John Morgan – check him out here –  johnnycajon.com

Best gig I have been to in a long time. You know when you’re watching a live act and you suddenly get this warm glowing feeling where the music reminds you that you are a spectator of something bigger than yourself? Something beautiful and terrible that can express things inside you that you had never been able to give words to. That this could be the first time and the last time that these sounds, these vibrations are made and you are there to experience them.

Watching those guys jam together made me feel incredibly lucky.

The Secret Folk Club

Residents of Manchester rejoice, the ever wonderful Secret Folk Club is back, and it has moved from the Antwerp Mansion ballroom to Band on the Wall.

When I knew it, the Secret Folk Club was on a Sunday, usually at the end of the month, and for the Mansion staff who had been working their hearts out to house/DnB/jungle, was a beautiful piece of respite. The atmosphere was  relaxed, respectful and attentive – something to be really proud of. Rik Warren, with whisky in hand, bringing up a variety of talented and unique performers. Couches which had spent the week being danced on, having drinks spilled over and slightly smelling of vomit would be eagerly snuggled into and then coveted by those sat on the floor.

Luckily enough, Prof (one of the original Mansion founders) made some recordings of the events which you can listen to here:

Tonight looks to be a strong line up with Jim Adama as well as Ellis Davies and Rik Warren.

If you live in Manchester and you’re into folk/blues make sure you keep an eye out for these events, they’re very special.

Have a listen to – Native Dancer

I love stumbling across a band you had no intention of seeing but who blow you away.  This week I went to see Olivia’s Owls at the Lexington near Kings Cross. I hadn’t heard of the band who followed them, they were incredible.

Native Dancer are a mix of jazz, electro and soul put together beautifully. Their sound comes across to me as being very well thought out, fluid and almost psychedelic .  Performance wise, the whole thing felt full of positive energy and good vibes.

What you get with these guys is well-constructed, kaleidoscopic music and a lead singer who is that magical combination of talent, beauty and charisma. Along with delicious harmonies and synthesizers.

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It is their EP launch on April 9th so if any of you people are about I’d get on that!

An interview with – Mangoseed

Mangoseed first came to my attention whilst I was working at New Cross Inn. I was having a quick listen to all the bands who were playing that week, until I got to Mangoseed – after listening to one track I started hunting about online trying to find everything they had done. I bought their album, Basquiat, and spent the afternoon with it on repeat.

They are one of those genre fusing bands with a sound that is difficult to put into a box allowing them great creative freedom. Their music is deep, passionate and at times has a bit of an edge to it. A mish mash of metal, reggae and funk – they explore different themes and concepts mindfully, it’s intelligent and accessible. Nicholai is the lyricist and lead singer of the group, his words and voice manage to convey fear, love and hope all at the same time. It’s an experience. You combine this with the phenomenal talent of Sam, Carlos and Richard and it explains why every gig I have seen them play at has erupted into a dancing frenzy.

As someone who is proud of where they are from and aware of the violence and love that can infuse a place, Brix-Tone really stood out for me. No holds barred, powerful homage to a hometown containing conflicting ideas of a community that has been pulled apart and then pieced itself together. It kind of demonstrates why I love this band. It is the technical ability, as well as the emotional intelligence, to be able to explore uncomfortable ideas and do it in a way that is evocative and fun. Actually, fun doesn’t come close to cutting it. Their live shows are full blown party emanating from the stage and carrying the whole venue along with them. It feels like a celebration. There is a release from the tension explored.

After hounding them when they did play the venue (sorry guys), I asked them to do an interview with me. They then got their friends at TEA Films to record us doing it. I was a lot more sober the second time round.

Show them some love –

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Have a listen to – Honeyfeet

If you live in Manchester and haven’t seen Honeyfeet live yet you are seriously missing out. I first came across them at Antwerp Mansion on a whisky laced evening a couple of years ago and have been hooked ever since.

The band consists of Rioghnach Connolly, Rik Warren, Gus Fairbairn, Ellis Davies, David Schlechtrimen and Biff Roxby – depending on the night. If you’re lucky some of their other obscenely talented friends join them for a tune. They are currently with Debt Records, a Manchester based label that fully acknowledges the fact that record labels are in part to blame for a lot of the problems with the music industry. Debt Records is also home to some of the band members’ different projects, as well as other artists worth a listen.

Most recently I saw Honeyfeet at the Elgin in London, their performance had its usual effect on me. I find myself torn between wanting to move to the music, and sitting quietly and trying to absorb it all. After a couple of drinks dancing massively won out. Rioghnach’s voice is otherworldly in its range and core, she’s channeling something powerful out of herself and from the crowd. It gets me right in my feelings every time.

The sound is folk, jazz and  blues plaited together to create something that is lively and soulful, there’s a bit of magic about it.

Have a listen –

Party in the Park – New Cross

Party in the Park

This year I was involved with the arranging of the local Party in the Park festival in New Cross’ Fordham Park. The experience was very enjoyable and I met lots of interesting people. I also learnt a lot as it was the first time I was involved at the planning stage of a festival of that size. One of the things I particularly liked about it was meeting so many people from local businesses. When I was in Manchester my job was so demanding I never really got to get outside of that particular bubble. Although New Cross does have a somewhat deserved bad reputation there is a real sense of community, of people being proud of where they are from and looking to help each other out and support each other.

The meetings were held at New Cross Learning, which if you are based in New Cross I do recommend you check out. They are a volunteer run library and provide all sorts of useful resources for local people. They also had very nice biscuits.

After a lot of emails, spreadsheets, cups of tea, stressing out, lists and discussions it somehow got to a few days before the event and set up began.

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I was working on the day of the festival but managed to get out early and have a wander round.  The bands were great, I really enjoyed Rhiannon and the Nightmare’s performance. There was a real mix of people as you can see from the pictures.

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The event has its origins in the Deptford Free Music Festival, which started in 1989 and grew into a massive open air party. A lot of the people who help arrange its modern incarnation have memories of this and so it was quite nostalgic. With south-east London being an absolute hotbed of musical activity, it makes sense to have a free festival that is celebrating the local music scene.

There was a deliberate effort to make this event more family friendly and there were traditional games, storytelling and face painting.

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The Bird’s Nest made their presence known with their own stage, as well as cooking up some of their delicious burgers.

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