Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Review // Beacons Festival

I've been lucky enough to review Beacons Festival the past two years, this being my third, the angels at Crack and I Like Press allowing me to return for a weekend of raving, losing half of my life in a field, sampling some very nice ales and- of course-a whole load of babes and amazing sets. You can scroll down or click over here to catch it!
Review // Beacons Festival
Über hip gatherings on the capital’s durable green spaces. East Anglican, poetry-heavy weekenders that the Dads go crazy for. Surreal boutique festivals with mind-blowing stage productions. It feels like the UK festival market is more competitive than ever, doesn’t it? Beacons, which is in its third year and is set in the idyllic Yorkshire Dales, looks as if it could snatch the driving seat from many of its larger, more corporate contemporaries due to an amazing line-up and its presence in the conversations of many young music obsessives all year round. 
 Our weekend started on Thursday evening, with us immediately learning that there’s no better ice breaker between fresh-faced Northern folk than with the hilarious concept that is hip-hop karaoke. The contestants ranged from a mother joined by an infant wobbling under the weight of their rainbow-coloured earmuffs, to the local neighbourhood G giving Forgot About Dre his best shot.
Evidence of the demand for hip-hop acts at UK festivals emerged on Friday, with Irish rapper Rejjie Snow gathering an audience while performing tracks from his Rejovich EP alongside prospective album teasers. Action Bronson’s headline set on the Noisey stage drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. And as the Queens rapper delivered on-point, animated renditions of witty Blue Chips 2 tracks 'Silverado' and the Tequila-nabbing 'Pepe Lopez' to a rapturous response, the decision to host NYC’s biggest man in one of the smaller Noisey tent led to anxieties about safety, with photographers opting to climb the stage rigging rather than shoot in a spewing pit.
 Switching over to Daniel Avery’s three-hour mission on the Resident Advisor stage, the Drone Logic highlights and stand-out techno stompers such as Ondo Fudd’s 'Coup d’Etat' forbid the audience to stay still. Phantasy head Erol Alkan also swung by to blow-up the stage a day later, with the gnarly essence of Randomer’s 'Huh' calling us into a bottomless pool of uninterrupted bangers, as the acidic tinge of 'A Hold On Love' – transformed with a female vocal not present on his original Illumination EP – closed the tent in dramatic ecstasy. Under his Daphni alias, Dan Snaith also spoiled us with the track of the summer – the extended mix of 'Can’t Do Without You', which we heard played out five times over the course of the weekend.
Serving up performances from Joy Orbison, Wayward and Boiler Room’s Tasker, the Red Bull stage – which was complete with bar, couches and was housed in a converted shipping container – allowed DJs to veer away from structure thanks to its intimacy. Reduced to just one member for their Sunday set, Psychemagik treated the multiplying audience to both slow-burning (yet brilliantly housed-up) versions of Fleetwood Mac’s' Dreams' and 'Everywhere' which were made with the intention to light-up these kind of festival fields. As Hurricane Bertha blew in from the Pennines, Have you ever kissed the sunshine on Ditongo’s 'Walk Between The Rain' was contrasted with rumbles of thunder coming out of the speakers, bringing the air-punches high to the sky.
 As Sunday’s storm progressed, both the Argyll and East Leeds FM stages were cordoned off, and with the punk don of dance Andrew Weatherall’s ‘Love From Outer Space’ project being cut short, morale was dipping by the evening. Ever the professionals when the show must go on, the team rescheduled Cate Le Bon as Neneh Cherry braved the biblical mud with her Rocket Number Nine band. Cherry’s defiant enthusiasm saw her take the to fangirl side-of-stage position at Darkside – who followed and closed the festival in spectacular fashion for 2014.
And what about the culinary highlights? There was a whiskey tasting over lunch with blue-haired waiters, all shoe-less, that turned out to be surprisingly educational – not to mention tasty. Then there was the fabulous Dough Boys and Patty Smith eateries that had tongues wagging all weekend and county street food from the best vendors in the region. Add a When-In-Yorkshire Tea Room complete with homemade cake, reggae in a blanketed corner and the chance to have your tipple in actual china, and you realise that these little luxuries really go a long way. Installing interactive art to support the independents including fresh, digital projections from Manchester’s Mary Naylor also illuminated the after-hours chills straight out of our bones.
 No matter how much we wish we could stop a classified hurricane dampening our parade, Beacons is one hell of a classy hangout. And despite being in its infancy, the line-up alone confirms that this festival has established itself as the staple of many Northern – and Southern – music fans’ summer.

Words by Yours Truly // Images by Tom Joy & Giles Smith X

Friday, 1 August 2014

Review // Theo Parrish @ The Ritz

My first post in an age, I'm sorry! In between all the madness that is currently my life, I was lucky enough to catch Theo Parrish's live show in Manchester, a fortnight ago, with my review up now on the award-winning 405's website. Isn't that nice? Click here to read, or scroll down for the unedited version... 
Review // Theo Parrish @ The Ritz
Following an exclusive album playback of his anticipated release ‘American Intelligence’, Detroit luminaire Theo Parrish, proves the only way to better a jazz-laden dish of electronic indulgence, is when a prestigious squad joins their selector. Oh and a decent back catalogue helps, of course. A favoured face on the club scene, Theo’s first first live shows in a decade led to a mass turnout at Manchester’s Ritz, a high-energy crowd readied for the transition of projects- usually sacred to the studio or club- in an immersive, hypnotic live experience. 
As dancers bound out onto the stage; brass, keys, guitars encasing them, the energy levels soar as a funk led introduction, effortlessly sets the tone. Sporting the furthest thing from uniform, including a bucket hat in one case, the performers taking centre stage dazzle with their moves and solos, ‘Walking Thru The Sky’s acid-jazz, fluently layering in. Vocalist Ideeya’s notes project far and wide, gleaming and demanding attention, before drum snaps crack in, each member of the troupe indisputably given to the beat. 
As personally a huge fan of Theo’s Sound Signature productions, when favourites like ‘Chemistry’ are performed well-seasoned, with synths full of body and sticky sweet croons, deviating away from the electronic-led original to a jazz jumped adaptation, is anything but sour and a welcome variation. Of course there are more prominent keys and a digital basis with the likes of ‘Control’, but taking a route more smooth, more brooding, makes it less explicitly sexy than the accompanying fan videos of the track found on YouTube, and allows itself air to breathe, the odd improvisational flurry maintaining a specifically rich tone, rather than something more rigid. 
With a blistering drum solo ahead of ‘Solitary Flight’ and formidable popping and locking to ‘Going Through Changes’, it’s easy to understand why London’s seated Barbican venue was chosen to house the same performance on this mini UK tour, with so much to also visually stimulate, the whole thing omitting an essence of a relaxed and comfortable- but excellent- enactment. This years Pièce de résistance ‘Footwork’, proves itself a worthy inclusion alongside his extensively impressive inventory, hi-hats shimmying in and then, that bass! Oh so unforgiving, oh so infectious. 
A superbly well executed live show doesn’t mean that Theo is hanging up his headphones any time soon, and as disciples to the House of Parrish, you’d forget it was his name atop the posters emblazoned across the building out front, each performer, musician and dancer, bold in their duties. Just don’t leave us waiting another decade, to sample the silky-soul setting of such an astonishing live show, and judging by the strong-hold applause and hollering as everyone erupted out onto the streets come 11pm, It's a unanimous contemplation that leaves me believing I'm not the only one...

Words by Yours Truly X