comfort and debauchery

END OF THE ROAD 2017

This past weekend I did something completely unrelated to theatre. I went to a music festival. After Edinburgh, this was a gift and a sanctuary of hedonism and tents. It wasn’t perfect, nothing is, but it was a rest for my weary heart. It reminded me why I love music, especially live music, and why I love the people who watch it. No one is really there to be cynical, because what’s the point? You’d just go see another gig. It reminded me why I love writing about music. It’s a mixture of joy, escapism, spectacle, and romance.

I have made this post fun and interactive! There’s a playlist to go alongside your reading. It features some of my favourite artists from the weekend, and I’ll talk about all of them on the post, so you can get a feel for what and who I saw.

It’s embedded and everything. So fancy.

Before I start, I will also be mentioning someone called Tilly during this post (which as you might’ve already guessed, is going to be quite long). She is one of my most lefty right-on pals. As well as being caring, incredibly intelligent, and totally funny (in the least arrogant way possible), she is also just great fun and lets me dance my silly little heart out. I love her a lot and so should you. It was also her birthday over the weekend, so that’s fun too. Here is a little picture for reference:

21392774_10210059468310564_2127495368_o

Tilly and I arrive with high spirits and also actual spirits, hidden in our bag. Turns out they didn’t need to be hidden as this was the most relaxed festival I have ever attended. We were allowed to bring whatever we wanted from the campsite onto the festival grounds. This meant no buying expensive beers and overpriced shots and especially no binge drinking shitty wine at 3pm, which is SUCH a rarity in any festival now. The stages are small, adorned with green leaves and wooden signs. Everything looks like it was made by a woman draped in scarves, probably in her back garden. I went to another festival in America earlier this year, and the screens beside the stage were as wide and as high as the stage itself (which was massive). Here there are no screens at all and yet really good sight lines. End of the Road is tucked away in Larmer Tree Gardens, just outside of Salisbury. It’s known as music’s best-kept secret. It could be a country fair, with its cruelty-free alpaca jumper stall and ‘Vegan Junk Food’ line stretching far beyond any other beside it. The crowd is divided into families/older fest goers, and young things like us. Think lots of boys with nose piercing and dungarees, lots of girls with pink hair and cardigans. Everyone was beautiful. The first two days are perfect. The temperature is hot, but not so hot that I wanted to sweat my entire skin off. Tilly and I switch between floating dresses and high waisted trousers, but always accompanied by glitter.

First day, first gig. We had a little bit of inside information and had heard that Mac Demarco, the Canadian born indie rock star, would be secretly interviewed for a podcast on the Comedy stage at 1pm on Friday. We arrived there at 12, to find the longest queue in the world waiting for us. Clearly not that secret. No matter though, Tilly and I are intrepid women so we ran down to the front of a huge grassy slope to a sit in front of a very small stage. Mac did indeed arrive at 1, and was incredibly charming. His demeanour was soft and he almost recoiled from the crowd at times. He played ‘This Old Dog’, off his new record, and ‘Still Together’, an older song from 2, his second album. His stripped back acoustic guitar matched his retreating personality. He was apologetic of some bum notes, laughing with us at the long, high wails of ‘Still Together’. Afterwards, we met him and obviously both froze, because what do you say to the coolest guy ever?

We leave a little flustered but just totally happy. End of the Road was kind to us in the early hours of that first day. Later, we see Parquet Courts and Real Estate in a double bill on the main stage. Both indie folk bands have a weird appeal that made us stay. Real Estate are a band I’ve known about for a while, but have never really appreciated. ‘Talking Backwards’ is a song from my Vampire Weekend days and it was actually excellent live. Martin Courtney has a bashful smile that guides him through each song; lilting twangs bumble along into catchy choruses. They seem quietly happy to be there, grateful of our dancing and the sunset. Alex Bleeker, who looks like a cool and charasmatic dad, leads us in a unified farewell to the sun as it sets over the trees. These songs are like coronas; crisp and light. You don’t feel too heady afterwards.

If Real Estate are a light beer, Mac Demarco and his headlining set is the Jameson whiskey he swigs in between songs. Tilly says Jameson whisky is ‘top class’, and so is Mac’s set. He swaggers on stage with his band and he opens with ‘On a Level’ from his latest record, arguably a much more mature collection than his previous works. Somehow a crowd of sweaty teenagers find they can jump around to Steely Dan style guitar and crooning lyrics. It’s pretty great. His stage persona is like a different person to the shy guy we saw in the afternoon earlier that day. He is more drunk, more sweaty, more carefree. He covers ‘A Thousand Miles’ but only repeats the first line; Making my way downtown, over and over. It’s sarcastic, ironic, cynical. Everything End of the Road isn’t. But it works, and his genuine love for his craft is glimpsed in songs like ‘The Stars Keep on Calling My Name’ and ‘A Heart Like Hers’. There is a generosity in his performance, as he accepts a cigarette from a fan, as he talks about Kiki (his long time true love), as he praises EOTR for its kindness, as he crowd-surfs across the crowd and all the way to Pond. That takes a certain kind of trust and love and irony to let your fans do that. He loses a shoe along the way. It’s fairly brilliant, really.

We reach Pond. That is, me, Tilly, Mac, and the whole of his crowd reach Pond all at the same time. Still on a high from Mac’s set and after-set-surf we get quickly absorbed in Pond’s psychedelic durational indie-rock. A band that has titles like ‘Man, It Feels Like Space Again’ and ‘30000 Megatrons’ have got to be incredibly annoying, right? Well, they aren’t. They’re again pretty humbled and have the best light show of the whole festival. It’s funky and dirty under your nails, clouded by Tame Impala-ish riffs.

First up on Day Two is Moses Sumney. A recommendation from my dad and an excellent one at that. Sumney is iconic; dressed in reflective sunglasses and high waisted linen. He quips that he’s going to play more ‘sad, boring songs, sorry’. We don’t mind. His set is intricate and experimental. He sings a lot about death and recycling. It’s giving and also very private. We are allowed glimpses into his process and his humour, but it is soon masked by his loop pedal chords and piercing vocals. Tilly says he’s like Bon Iver, but way better. She’s right of course. He is way better, and he hasn’t even released his first album yet.

Then we head to Alvvays, a high school sweetheart Canadian band, and it’s pronounced ‘always’ by the way. We got it wrong, too. Their set is so cute. We dance along to lyrics about Canadian streets and prom queens and matrimonial harmony. I haven’t been able to get ‘Party Police’ out of my head. It’s the one on the playlist, so do be warned before you listen, that it will probably be stuck on a loop. Also, it’s where the title of the post comes from (sort of).

You don’t have to leave, you could just stay here with me
Forget all the party police, we can find comfort in debauchery

So I thought Friday couldn’t be topped. We met Mac DeMarco like HOW could that be topped?

Turns out it totally could be. We head back to the stage where we saw Moses Sumney and settle ourselves into the third row for Car Seat Headrest. Fronted by Will Toledo (who had released eleven(!) full length albums on band camp before being picked up by a record label) Car Seat Headrest are an oxymoronic cocktail. The lyrics drip with pretentious authenticity and the music is both incredibly inventive and soulful, as well just being angry noise a lot of the time. Over the past year, I have listened to their album most. It has stuck with me and I’m not really sure why? It’s just very good. The song ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ is my favourite and it was like a spiritual experience when I saw it live. Everyone around me loved that band as much as I did, and we let them know. We danced and pushed and shouted and laughed in the night.

Then we run to Father John Misty. Tilly hates him. She has hated him ever since I played his second record in our dorm at school in December of 2015. She was determined to see Ty Segall instead. But I drag to the first half an hour of Misty, promising she will at least be able to laugh at him. Once she sees how hard I scream when he comes out on stage, she decides we should stay. I lost my voice during this set. FJM is such an asshole. His stage personality oozes cynicism and the gloating misogyny that follows some of his lyrics make me want to hate him. But all rational thought leaves my brain when his songs start. I know every single word and it annoys everyone around me. Tilly loves this and joins in when she can (luckily she doesn’t have the same obsessive personality I do and everyone around us was a little bit less annoyed with her). He begins the set with tracks from his third album, ‘Pure Comedy’, where he tries to distil modern hopelessness with cackling irony. He wades so deep in sarcasm in those songs that it seems like he is stuck there, and can’t return to the humour and love of Fear Fun or maybe even I Love You, Honeybear. However, as much as these songs frustrate me, I still sing along. Then he finally gets onto songs like ‘Nancy From Now On’, and ‘Strange Encounter’. He thrusts his skinny body around the stage and throws his sweaty hair about. As ironic as Josh Tillman wants to be, his sets still give people unadulterated joy.

Third day. So. Much. Rain. Like, So Much.

We take shelter in the Tipi tent, it is warm and comfortable and has some lovely folk bands hiding away. We arrive to see the end of Allison Crutchfield and the Fizz, afterwards taking a nap on the woven flooring. It smells damp mostly, so that’s a little unpleasant but we get over it because we’re pretty damp too. Next up, Spook School. They are an incredible queer punky indie band. Tilly and I dance harder with every song. They sing about being non-binary, about abusive relationships, and about bisexuality. It’s clever, anarchic pop and we dance so hard. It’s so much fun.

We move outside, to see Perfume Genius, another incredible queer artist. Mike Hadreas is a sexy, leather trouser wearing, beautifully and unashamedly camp performer. His elegance and intensity is matched by the sharp skills of his band. We watch as he pulls himself in and out of shapes around the stage, contorting himself to fit different patterns and move outside of defined rhythms. His voice is beautiful and clear, cutting through the rain to the back of the crowded garden.

And that’s it really. It was a weekend of indulgence and pleasure and beer. There were only around 9000 people there. We saw all the same people at the same gigs, including two very young girls with very good music taste, who liked being on the barrier no matter the consequences. I find myself reaching back to certain moments. To the mornings of sausage and egg baps, to the shared laughs between artists and crowds, to humbled smiles from smaller artists given big stages, to the free plate of roast potatoes drowned in gravy. It was really fun to write this long and indulgent post about something I really love, even if no one reads it. Festivals feel like a place where I can let go of everything else, and just kind of enjoy having no real concept of time except to see the next set, and not eating real food for a couple of days, or sleeping in a real bed. It’s a pocket of nowhere and it’s taken down when we leave. It’s a small imagined community of sound and creation and I love it. I felt like this one wasn’t too capitalist either.

Thanks Tilly. Thanks End of the Road. Thanks Mac and Josh.

I’ll now go back to my blankets of hibernation.

X

Advertisements

Emerge Festival Day Two

The Community Project and The Privileged 

The second day of the Emerge festival at Warwick Arts Centre in the middle of Coventry has finished. We have seen The Community Project and The Privileged. We are exhausted and drained – we are questioning and being questioned. I’m not going to pretend that I can write a perfect summary of this evening, but instead I hope to give a small insight into what was created and what occurred. This evening became rather centred around political debate and I don’t want to pretend I know all the answers to the questions we were asking, or that I even know which side of the debate I’m on.

We began with a formal discussion. We sat in a circle in front of a panel of academics and creatives and discussed the question; ‘What implications does an assembly of people have in political, social and cultural contexts?’ Chaired by Dr Rachel King, the panel and some of the audience, discussed what it means to be a community and an assembly. Can an assembly be a threat? Is one temporary and the other permanent? Should we create binaries for terms which are in themselves so dependent on a context, on the people in them? The ideas that were flying around about who defines a community and when does a group of people change from an assembly to a community had particular poignancy with the two shows last night. As well the notion that an assembly of people is inherently threatening, and are we willing to accept the risks of being within that assemblance of people?

The Community Project was a show created and performed by students at Warwick University – Clara, Ben, Lilith, and Eduardo with the help of some members of Barrel Organ. It was positively glowing, as shows go, and it made us feel part of something. Both shows tonight had a strong theme of audience involvement – in this first show we felt welcomed and taken under the wing of four individuals. These four people operated within the spheres of various different communities and we were let into just a small part of their worlds. There were jokes that perhaps only Warwick students would understand and stories which only the individuals themselves could understand, or the individual’s families. I think this highlighted a really interesting dynamic about how far we are ourselves and how far we are merely formed by those around us. The audience also felt very much part of a community created in the theatre itself as well. I have a lingering feeling of fondness towards the show and I’m sad it won’t be performed again but maybe that’s better because it means that our small temporary community will stay like that and it won’t and can’t be created again.

The second show of the evening was The Privileged, again created and performed by live artist Jamal Harewood. We sat for a second time in a circle of chairs and faced each other, only this time it wasn’t a panel discussion, it was a polar bear enclosure. We were given a set of instructions to begin in an envelope marked One. It started in a fairly tame manner as you might imagine, but began to deteriorate and became darker as the piece progressed. It’s almost impossible to describe what occurred in the room but it was significant and it was important. .It talked about racial identity in our society so provocatively and brutally. Every performance of this show is different because every temporary community that forms because of it is different and has different rules. It seemed that in a way, we were sitting down and having a very similar discussion to the one we’d had three hours earlier upstairs. Except that things were different because this time it wasn’t theoretical, no matter how much we wanted it to be; it was real. There was a man dressed as a polar bear in the middle of a room of people discussing whether or not it was morally okay to rid him of his polar bear suit. We knew we were being tested – that our limits as humans and our capacity for violence was being challenged (not that changed anything about the situation).

I think it’s important to remember that Jamal describes his show as ‘playful’ and yet I don’t think I have ever felt so deeply affected by a piece of theatre. I didn’t say much when I was in there because I didn’t feel like it was my place. Some part of me said that you don’t have the right to decide what happens to another human being or whether or not he his stripped of his clothing and made vulnerable. I don’t think that makes me any better or worse than anyone else in that room. As I said, I don’t have the answers and I also don’t think there are answers. I simultaneously agreed and profoundly disagreed with every person in that room and I probably wasn’t the only one. It created debate, it tore apart a group of people in their own temporary community. In a way, what was created in the first show was so brutally questioned that I don’t think the two shows will ever be separate again, certainly to me anyway.

Keep talking about it. Don’t let it be something that happened that one time and made you feel sad. And if you haven’t seen The Privileged – go see it.

Also – if you haven’t booked for the final day of Emerge, WHY NOT?! It’s going to be another evening of intensely present theatre so come along if you can. And tell your friends.

Reading Festival 2014

‘Reading and Leeds’ is one of the biggest festivals in Britain, with over 90,000 festival goers piling into both sites on the August Bank Holiday weekend. This was my first festival, and it was definitely a ‘go big or go home’ situation. Before the festival started I was so anxious about not being able to see my favourite bands and missing some really great performances. Of course I didn’t need to worry at all; everyone is so helpful and I felt completely at ease. Although the site is huge, it feels so intimate. One of the best things I found is that it’s totally up to you how involved you are in the festival, whether you want to be deep in the mosh pit or relaxing in the sun you feel immersed wherever you are. The weekend was amazing and totally overwhelming.

reading2

Favourite Stage

The Festival Republic Stage had a great atmosphere and the sound quality was awesome. Some of my favourite bands played there, like Wolf Alice and Drowners and both had great turn outs. It had a huge mixture of different bands and genres which is great, as well as having well known artists and really small artists which made it quite unique. It felt very intimate and it was a fairly small space which is why I think I really liked it.

reading3

Best New Discovery

On Friday, I felt quite chilled so we sat down by the main stage and took in the music. ‘Blood Red Shoes’ were very good, they had a big crowd and a lot of energy for such an early set. I will definitely check out their album, not only because they were really excellent, but also because their lead vocalist was also the drummer, which I have never seen before!

reading008

Best Experience

During Vampire Weekend I met a lovely boy called Andrew who kindly enough offered to lift me up on his shoulders, which I accepted very gratefully. During ‘Cousins’ I had a great view of the stage and it was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. Their whole set was probably my best experience at the festival. It was a fun, quirky atmosphere and my favourite band in the whole world were performing.

reading004

Best Slot

The Kooks and The Horrors had a joint slot in the Radio 1/NME tent before the 1975, which for me was an amazing way to spend two hours. With electric energy and infectious enthusiasm the Kooks had the tent bursting at the seams, and the loudest crowd singalong all weekend. The Horrors had a less of a crowd but their set was by no means smaller. The spectacular light show and exciting guitar riffs lit up the tent, and they had the best ending to a set in one minute I have ever seen.

reading010

Who I Want to See Again

For me, a gig has a very different atmosphere to a festival. At a festival you might get some people who are just there for the experience, and some people who are invested in music and music culture; it’s a lottery in the crowd. At a gig, everyone is there for one specific artist, nearly everyone has heard their music before, and they appreciate the band completely. Keeping this in mind – I would probably want to Peace again, as I would definitely like to see a longer set, but also Jake Bugg, as I feel like somewhere like Alexandra Palace, where he is playing later this year, would be very atmospheric and intimate.

reading006

Unexpected Favourites

I was not expecting to see any bands that massively exceeded my expectations, or at least not in the way this band did. I saw the Drowners in the Festival Republic tent on Sunday and for me it was the best set that day. I was very close to the front, with only a couple of people in front of me, and the band blew me away. Matt Hitt and Co had an effortless stage presence, causing girls to chuck their bras on stage from left to right. Clearly influenced by The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and the best of early brit pop, each catchy and irresistible tune was played in true rock and roll style.

reading007

Best Line Up

The best 3 sequential acts for me happened on Saturday night. Imagine Dragons put on a friendly, enjoyable and feel good show which attracted a huge number of fans. Dan Reynolds, their frontman, seemed genuinely grateful and humbled at the number of fans present, and their enjoyment of the music. In turn, I was happy and excited to be a part of their set, especially when Dan ran down through the crowd, which felt very heartfelt, but also surreal, probably for both him and us. Next up; Jake Bugg. Without fail, listening to Jake Bugg’s music always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach, and at Reading Festival, that familiar feeling was so much better. With a gorgeous summer sunset as his backdrop, Bugg delivered a refreshingly simple and very rewarding set. His stage presence was incredible, but he didn’t seem at all obnoxious or grumpy as he is sometimes shown to be. His setlist was evenly split between his two albums, and he encouraged a whole crowd sing-a-long of ‘Broken’, a very beautiful song for such a magical moment. Then came the big on; those Arctic Monkeys. Swaggering onstage with hair gel by the bucket load; Alex, Matt, Nick and Jamie began an epic headlining set. From the very first riff of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ the crowd were in the palm of their hand; screaming and jumping around, arms flailing in the air. Drawing perhaps the largest and most invested crowd of the whole weekend, the Monkeys delivered classics like ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ and ‘Teddy Picker’ along with a multitude of hits from their bestselling album, AM, as well as the odd Oasis reference thrown in there. Without a doubt, the best set, crowd and atmosphere of the whole three days.

reading009

reading005

reading1

 

I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the weekend any other way and I hope to return to Reading for next year and for many years to come.