My first chunk of time away from work for a while gave me distance from the daily same old and run away escapisms to get back to a bit of writing and a good slice of exploring music.
Here is a sum of my musical findings through last week, with the kickoff event on Bank Holiday Monday at Dot to Dot festival, Manchester. Prenders and myself found ourselves there on a half baked whim after umming and ahhing about what we should do on the forced fun weekend. We didn’t arrive until the bands of the day were in full swing and had missed Clock Opera, but the type of mood we were in was evident as neither of us cared and I’d been drinking fruli for old time’s sake. We started at Sound Control with a band called Pure Love, an English-American rock act (who I’d never heard of before) formed in 2011 by former Gallows front man Frank Carter. They proved a fitting way to start the day with the stage scrapped in light of the dance floor, and the microphone cable contorted in a rock out. Next up Cloud Nothings – simply awesome. Only playing a short set, but included the 8 minute track Wasted Days as they filled out the sweat fest of Sound Control. I proceeded to have an amusing accident walking on stage whilst Wavves were playing, as I tried to get back from the toilets via the wrong staircase. Next stop the Ritz where I found an early game over, whilst The Drums were in full swing. Baileys tipped me over the edge on the sticky sprung floored venue and after the amount I’d consumed since midday.
Friday last week saw the visit to festival début No Direction Home, set in the heart of Welbeck Abbey (near Sherwood Forest). A twee fest that hosts along with tunes: a Post Office Service who’s workers cycle around delivering mail to your friends by description; The Long Lost Picture Show – a cinema with a giant bedded floor; bird making master classes and Artisan food and drink. The festival fell a bit on the rainy side, but because of the small scale it was easy to navigate from tent to tent and stay relatively dry and extremely merry.
Band highlights on the Friday included Boat to Row who were the first group to kick off my shindig in The Electric Dustbowl. Onto Django Django fun, where I had a good laugh and a dancaroo to their awesome debut album. Dirty Three and The Low Anthem speak for themselves as being always splendid – highlighted as the rain subsided to the backdrop of Welbeck Abbey. The real highlight of the evening was sexy Austra, the Canadian electro outfit. I missed Austra at last year’s EOTR festival as they were playing when Bob Log III was on – a difficult predicament. They were pure danceatronic.
Woke up feeling relatively fresh after having a giant pile of friends dancing the night away to tunes in the Dustbowl after the live music had stopped. The music of Saturday did not find me till later that day – I was entrapped making a bird which I’m yet to complete. I successfully missed Liz Green once again, she sounded lovely from the birdy tent though. The first act I properly saw that day was Beth Jeans Houghton who I didn’t like from Green Man all those years ago when she was supposedly cherry picked from the crowd to join Devendra Banhart on stage. Moving swiftly from the 22 year old Geordie to David Thomas Broughton who always provides a good tune and comedy value. Other Lives happened and were awesome, I could see the drink was taking its toll though as I kept shouting at every song “This is the one I like!”. They were followed by Gryff Rhys and as far as I’m concerned this was expert scheduling.
“And though I look for inspiration . . . Lion… Still my favourite combinations”.
Onto Andrew Bird who was lovely, but instead of mesmerising in the loops and percussion I found myself wandering the forest with Ames and going down to the boat stage to dance to cheesey pop. We reliably sobered ourselves up for a second crack of the whip with The Pyramids. All else remains a bit of a blur, but I know hot cider happened as the pictures say so.
Sunday fresh and early to watch The Iron Giant – a really cool animation with a bizarrely cast Vin Diesel as the Giant’s voice. Perked up and ready for round ???. Bloody Mary and a lovely bit of Trembling Bells. Next up Cold Specks, but I got them confused with the band I really liked who were on later. The Wave Pictures were in a perfect slot at 3pm in the now basking Summer Sun. Tiredness and booze crept upon so I ventured wandering to drink water. Slow Club at 6pm roused me and then we had mammoth presence at The Unthanks with Bighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, as over 30 of them were on stage. A quick bit of Spectrals then the awesome Richard Hawley as the headline act for the evening. With glitter on our faces and a hot cider in my gullet we ventured to The Electric Dustbowl for Mikal Cronin. An excellent round-up of acts for the first No Direction Home.
I will have seen more bands than I remember and have many more than just music highlights, including Jon Ronson’s talk and reading from The Psychopath Test, which is winging its way from Amazon to me as I write. The memories of sitting round the tents and talking merrily with the gaggle about our memories of life, pile-ons in the Dustbowl, drawings in sketchbooks, hugs, giggles and Hardcore IPA being drunk out of a Carling can. Festivals don’t come much better than having a quality group of loveliness and a well thought through event.
After the weekend was rounded up and the tent was placed back in our mop bucket, we had what might seem like the end of the road . . . a gig to see Sunn O))). This proved the perfect way to combat the fatigue and lack lustre feel a festival end. I stood near the speaker with ear plugs in and fell into a trance, whilst the members of Sunn O))) proceeded to drone and drink four bottles of wine on stage. By the end of the gig my feet were throbbing and I couldn’t hear, but it was an awesome way to end the week of tunage and reconnect with thoughts and feeling.
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