Archive for March, 2011

Will Haddow Fest stumble and fall?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Organising HADDOW FEST, the multi-venue festival landing on Edinburgh’s doorstep this weekend, must be a nightmare since there are more than 100 acts appearing and 10 venues to juggle – The Picture House, Liquid Room, Bongo Club, The Caves, Electric Circus, Maggies Chamber, Whistlebinkies, Banshee Labyrinth and The Store.

There are worrying signs the promoters may have bitten off more than they can chew.

The entire event was pushed back a week from March 26/27 to April 2/3 after the first batch of early-bird tickets had sold out. Just a fortnight ago, headliners Razorlight were moved from the Corn Exchange to the Picture House “to keep everything more central”. If that was indeed the genuine explanation (and not, say, because slower-than-anticipated ticket sales made it more sensible to switch it to somewhere with half the capacity), you do wonder why they picked a location 3.5 miles outside of town in the first place given the one-ticket-does-all-venues nature of Haddow Fest.

While non-priority (i.e. no guarantee of entry to see Razorlight) day tickets are on sale at £25, the organisers haven’t been shy in promoting discounted £15 tickets, which are available to anyone who makes a request by emailing as well as to students. Another telling sign that all is not quite going according to plan is that tickets for the Razorlight gig alone recently went on sale, which would seem to defeat the purpose of calling it a multi-venue festival.

The most bizarre story of all, though, is that local band We See Lights are scheduled to appear at Maggies Chamber on Sunday from 4.45pm-5.15pm despite never having been asked to play. They directed this message to @Haddowfest on Twitter last night: “I know in Wayne’s World they said “booked them’ and they will come…” but you ain’t booked Wsl but you have us down as playing!”

Putting all those logistical problems aside, the festival does have some fine Scottish talent on show, such as the ever-enjoyable live spectacle that is Broken Records (Sunday, 3.45pm, The Caves), The Dykeenies (Saturday, 7pm, Bongo Club), The Pop Cop favourites Sebastian Dangerfield (Sunday, 5.35pm, Maggies Chamber) and Little Eskimos (Sunday, 4.15pm, Banshee Labyrinth), talented newcomer Michael Cassidy (Sunday, The Caves, 1pm) and Strawberry Ocean Sea (Saturday, Maggies Chamber, 9.40pm) who have a Glasvegas-meets-British Sea Power sound that could serve them well.

There’s also no doubting Razorlight (Sunday, 9.30pm, Picture House) are heavyweight headliners, but the bill probably could have done with a few more medium-sized bands. Hopefully the organisers can get over the teething troubles and make Haddow Fest a recurring feature in Edinburgh’s annual music calendar.

Download full running order: Saturday / Sunday

Razorlight – Stumble And Fall

Broken Records – The Crumbling Wall

The Dykeenies – Sounds Of The City

King Charles – Love Lust

Strawberry Ocean Sea – Today’s The Day

Michael Cassidy – Everybody’s Scared

Little Eskimos – Would You Think About It?

* Check out Little Eskimos’ live appearance on The Pop Cop’s Subcity radio show last weekend here.

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Give me one reason why this band aren’t famous

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Photo: Takeshi Suga

There are two schools of thought when it comes to predicting which qualities a band needs to make it. (To avoid getting bogged down in a first-paragraph debate, let’s define this as popular enough to make music for a living.)

A. A combination of factors coming together: employing a well-connected manager / being championed by influential people / spending more time on the road than an escaped prisoner / establishing a sizeable fanbase / picking the right band name / sporting twattish haircuts.

B. The more romantic theory, which says a band will become successful (even if they have none of A) as long as they make Great Music.

I’ve always subscribed to B since my all-time favourite records were made by artists who have enjoyed fruitful careers. However, one band and one album is making me doubt the validity of this perspective more than any other.

ENDOR, both the name of the band and their 2010 debut album, is such a complete, angelic, smart, melodic proposition. The more I listen to their extraordinary record, the more I question why they’re not widely regarded as one of the finest acts Scotland has produced… unless A really does hold true since Endor don’t employ a well-connected manager, aren’t championed by influential people, don’t spend more time on the road than an escaped prisoner, haven’t established a sizeable fanbase, didn’t pick the right band name and don’t sporting twattish haircuts.

Listening to their album is an abundantly fulfilling and continually rewarding undertaking. The faster songs remind me of a more harmonious Pavement, especially All Your More Buoyant Thoughts and Without The Help Of Sparks, while their immaculate indie-rock ballads wouldn’t look out of place on an REM greatest hits compilation. The acoustic Chapel Doors, in particular, possesses the same unquantifiable simplicity that makes a song like Fake Plastic Trees so special.

Fly Straight And Always Wear Sensible Shoes is definitely my favourite Endor song, though, and has several moments of genius scattered throughout it – there’s the interlude of handclaps at 3:17, the bursts of harmonica, and the irresistible chorus which finds David McGinty (known universally as Jarv for reasons I’ve yet to discover) singing the lyrics as a two-way conversation between a girl and a guy, with their opposing points of view broken up by a subtle backing vocal of, “He comes back with…”.

McGinty’s songwriting varies between poetically abstract and intensely personal and poignant, the latter to the fore on Two Lovers (“Two lovers holding hands make our love look dead”), a lament which has a sudden mid-song tempo shift led by a brief flurry of a cappella and then a dreamy piano/guitar instrumental at 2:00 – it’s probably my favourite bit on the entire record and gets me every time.

If you don’t already have Endor in your life, you really are missing out.

March 31, Captain’s Rest, Glasgow (tickets) – supported by Randolph’s Leap, Esperi and Amber Wilson

Endor – Chapel Doors

Endor – Hold On

Hold On was their first single, released via Say Dirty Records back in 2006 and long sold out. Their second single, We Live In Doors, is still available on iTunes.

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Spare me the public displays of disaffection

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a youngish man extensively involved in Scotland’s underground music scene who let slip that he went through a major Coldplay phase, an admission which was delivered with a heavy dose of hesitancy.

The conversation made me wonder why some music fans feel embarrassed about liking certain bands… and I came to the conclusion that journalists are much to blame. Every day I encounter snide, condescending remarks from writers with a strange impulse to publicly announce which bands do not fit into their bubble of existence and expect their readers to fall into line.

Take this excerpt from an article published by The Fly magazine last year, in which the introduction to an interview with Two Door Cinema Club is centred around the author’s dislike of a completely different band:

For two years the nation’s perception of indie bands such as TDCC changed. No longer were they the cool, gun-slinging icons of rock’n’roll aspiration. They had become boring, saturated and generic… released songs about backfiring at discos… these guys just were not cool. It’s a shame, because it means genuinely promising bands such as the Northern Ireland three-piece are tarred with the same brush as… “The Wombats?!” splutters guitarist Sam Halliday from across the table, “no, no way.” If it’s any consolation, offers The Fly, sitting opposite in a Leicester Square boozer, you’re a far more credible, not to mention better, version.

Successful people are easy targets, which might explain why Mumford & Sons-bashing seems a particularly favoured past-time for rock critics at the moment. This is a band who, a fortnight after playing at the Grammys with Bob Dylan and finding themselves at No.2 in the American album charts, kept a two-year-old promise to return to the Scottish Highlands for a tour, braving snow blizzards and horizontal sleet in the process.

So why all the resentment towards them? Given that Mumford & Sons are still only one album old, such outpourings of bitterness can’t be motivated by a deterioration in their music output or accusations of ‘selling out’. According to those I know who have had personal dealings with them, they aren’t a bunch of cocks either.

However, they have become very famous and thus, it would seem, ripe for bad-mouthing from critics who wouldn’t have the spine to express similar sentiments about lower-profile musicians (who, you never know, might actually benefit from some constructive criticism).

The GuardianThe unanimous approval which greeted Jon Savage’s recent pithy description of Mumford & Sons as “Tory rock-lite” was a measure of the antipathy which currently hangs over these waistcoat-wearing pseudo-troubadours.

Music journalists aren’t the only ones guilty of telling other people who they should be ashamed to like.

I was a big fan of Mogwai back when they were releasing genre-defining albums such as Ten Rapid, Young Team and Come On Die Young. I remember getting sucked into their ‘Blur: are shite’ campaign but, looking back, I now realise it wasn’t about anything other than blatant music snobbery. It certainly couldn’t be described as a David versus Goliath battle given Blur’s refusal to dignify this one-way rivalry with a public response.

If you think well-known musicians are immune to such criticisms, consider this exchange. Earlier this month, the man behind terrific Scottish music blog Favourite Son got more than he bargained for after tweeting this message to his followers:
guy from starsailor can’t get a visa for SXSW either. maybe they do kno sumfin bout music after all + wil let WH in #witheredhandforsxsw

Within 10 minutes, James Walsh tweeted back his own public reply:
Why do you have to insult me? You’ve probably not heard anything I’ve done in the last 2 years at least. Uncalled for

To wrap things up, allow me to introduce you to Carly Connor, a teenager from Easterhouse in Glasgow under the same management as Paolo Nutini and recently signed to Atlantic Records.

Her song Ca$h is a rasping, modern twist on the Motown sound, a sort of Amy Winehouse/Duffy hybrid. It will inevitably be a hit and make Carly a household name, so enjoy it while you can before someone tries to make any pleasure you feel a guilty one.

Please don’t misinterpret this post as a paean to the joys of mainstream music. I just think that if a fan’s feelings for an artist or a group are a source of personal embarrassment, it should be because the quality of their music has gone downhill, not because he or she has succumbed to the influence of those who are trying to make their mind up for them.

Carly Connor – Ca$h (clip)

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