Saturday 20 July 2013

Splendour Festival, Wollaton Park, Nottingham

Today we feel we ought to support our local music festival, the splendorous Splendour which is held within spitting distance of our humble abode, on Wollaton Park. There are just about enough decent bands to pull us in this year, maybe, hopefully...

The first thing we encounter is of course the splendorously huge queue to get in. So we once again use the seriously underhand tactic of going around to the unpublicised Derby Road entrance where there is no queue at all. For a mere ten minute walk, it’s well worth the detour.

Once inside, we dip into Jack Savoretti, Rob Green, Nina Nesbitt and Georgie Rose on assorted stages without being captivated by any of them. The real ale bar holds our attention much more readily despite the double queuing system. You queue once for tokens and then queue again for drinks. Yes you could queue just the once and stock up on tokens but then when the decent beer runs out you’re stuck with some very expensive pieces of paper or a can of Tuborg.

To be fair, the bar seems to be better stocked this year and therefore likely to make it beyond 2pm before it runs dry unlike in 2011. Sadly, the Splendour Ale by Castle Rock brewery is one of the first to go and before I get chance to have any. L’s seemed rather nice.

In fact we manage three trips to the bar before it looks likely that a fourth bout of double queuing would indeed end up with a Tuborg being thrust into our hands. So we don’t bother.

Back to the bands and Loughborough’s Park Bench Society raise things above the mundane for a while. Both with their catchy name and their first song, which is something a bit different but they don't really take it on from there. Their name conjures up something stripped down and simple but they are far from that with all sorts of instruments in the mix.

Good name though, much better than being named after a person like most of the performers today and I offer my apologies to the Injured Birds who we didn’t get to see. Splendour legends Dog Is Dead have a good name. Will the band appearing at their fifth Splendour out of six ignite the day?

Not for us really. Instead we settle down on the grass in front of the J├Ągermeister stage for the best name of the lot, Kagoule. Although I know nothing about them, I don't understand why the field isn't packed for such name greatness.

We are rewarded, as they turn out to be the best so far and they’re from Nottingham too but I guess I’m just a sucker for that sort of Post-Punk/Grunge sound.

After Kagoule, we take a wander around, admiring all the face and leg painting which seems to be popular. All the girls are covered in handprints, while the boys have had it smeared on with a trowel. I dare not comment on what sort of message this sends out, or on who’s doing the painting.

We wind our way back to the main stage, stepping over the hundreds of people who are now sprawled out in front of it or rather in front of the big screens. The majority of these people seem to have simply transferred their front rooms and their usual TV habits to Wollaton Park for the day. Not sure if that usually includes such a long wait for a toilet.

The big screens are being fed by new television start-up Notts TV, who are filming everything. Their channel starts broadcasting on Freeview Channel 8 in April next year.

Right now on stage is KT Tunstall, who I’ve always thought perhaps I ought to like but I don’t. Back at the J├Ągermeister it’s time for Peter Hook & The Light, one of the reasons I’m here.

After opening with three terrific Joy Division songs, Hooky goes all electronic. Now I have been all for his Joy Division revival sets but moving on to New Order, I think puts him onto much dodgier ground.

Despite being a former and founding member of the band, I still feel its New Order's job to play New Order's music whilst they still exist. Then again, if they're not going to revisit some of their lost classics, such as the glorious ‘Everything's Gone Green’, then Hooky might as well and tonight he does. The resurrection of ‘Fine Time’ though, we could probably have done without.

The ground is far less firm though when he includes New Order set regulars such as ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, ‘586’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Your Silent Face’. Particularly ‘Your Silent Face’ which is a Bernie Sumner lyrical classic, it’s not quite the same with Hooky singing it.

He signs off with New Order’s finest ever ‘Temptation’ and probably gives it its best rendition ever before the closing predictability of New Order’s biggest hit ‘Blue Monday’. The whole set is morally wrong but an exceptionally good guilty pleasure.

Over on the main stage, reason number two for attendance, Squeeze disappoint. I’m not really sure what I was expecting. Perhaps the energy of the last time I saw them in the late 1980’s when they were undergoing a bit of a reinvention but they’re a bit dull really, playing a set of reworked 70’s classics which I suppose the audience demands and a few new songs.

We amble off to see rising local star Harleighblu on the Courtyard stage, which on first impressions looks packed. Until we realise that most of the people are in the toilet queue. Well, it’s one way of getting a captive audience. She's pleasant but again not really our type, so we return to Squeeze.

I haven’t seen Maximo Park for a while. After a sensational first album they’ve been in a bit of a decline since, struggling to reproduce the originality of their early stuff and shedding fans like me as a result.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder though and they are very very good tonight. It helps that Paul Smith has heaps of the originality that some of their later material lacks. He remains a very engaging and entertaining front man, even when he’s not astride the speaker stack. There is evidence also tonight that their latest record 2012’s ‘The National Health’ is a return to form as such. Perhaps I should buy it.

Despite that it’s the old classics such as ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Going Missing’ that impress the most. Meaning that Smith and co probably shade Hook for the performance of the night.

Afterwards it’s a choice of a long wait for the loo or the main stage where Cliftonite Jake Bugg is the first home-grown musician to headline the festival. When I was last here two years ago, he played the courtyard stage and we missed him, so it’s a bit of a delayed rendezvous. If he smiles we’ll stay, if not we’re off home to use our own queueless facilities.

Three very similar songs and no smile later we’re leaving. Sorry Jake.

Friday 12 July 2013

British Sea Power, The Venue, Derby

Tonight British Sea Power at the Venue in Derby, which I think is just an overnight stopover on their way up to Scotland to play T in the Park tomorrow. It's a long way from Brighton you know. It’s our gain and I suppose you’ve got to pay your hotel bills somehow.

First up a Nirvana-esk (maybe) two piece support band who mumbled rather a lot, both when singing and conversing with the crowd, to the extent that nobody actually caught their name. Which surely removes any point of them actually playing? I think lacking this type of basic stage craft might hinder their career somewhat.

They are purely guitar and drums, with the drummer hitting his kit so hard that it displaces the carefully arranged BSP foliage off the wall.

At times they sound a bit like the Ramones, several men short. At other times they sound more Billy and Charlotte from the Subways and they seem to get progressively more dirgeful as they go along but overall I do actually I like his voice. They perhaps just need to lighten up a bit.

With them gone, it’s time to re-affix the foliage and hand out water to the crowd. It's hot in the venue tonight, stupidly hot, I bet they'll be no bear suits this evening. The heat also forces me to buy an alcoholic beverage in order to keep cool. There isn’t much choice and I instantly regret it.

Then the band take to the stage, possibly their prettiest stage yet.

There are no great surprises in the set, sadly, but some decent oldies are rotated in tonight. ‘Something Wicked’, ‘Oh Larsen B’ and ‘Fear of Drowning’ make welcome appearances alongside a fair smattering from the new ‘Machineries of Joy’ album, as you would expect. .

Four tracks in and the stage is awash with the sound of barking. Which is a nice touch, particularly with the RSPCA next door, as they move into ‘Loving Animals’ and a five track ‘Hamilton segment’. Although it doesn’t start well with a broken guitar that takes some time to replace, as the roadie seems to have trouble decoding what Hamilton’s furious waving of the injured instrument actually means. 

BSP’s travelling support have been bouncing throughout, despite the heat, and they up their game for ‘No Lucifer’ bringing bemused looks from the locals. Looks that get even more bemused when I am proved wrong about it being too hot for bears and Bipolar bear appears amongst the mosh during ‘Waving Flags’. Even amidst normal temperatures this sort of thing doesn’t happen that often in Derby.

After disappearing, possibly to ring out his suit and for session in an oxygen tent, Bipolar is back for the encore and indulges in a spot of crowd surfing to ‘Carrion’. Then the brown bear appears too, guitarist Noble is off in the crowd hanging from the roof supports and Yan is doing handstands on the stage. Just a normal night out with BSP then.