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Bingley Music Live 2014

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Bingley Music Live 2014
Myrtle Park, Bingley
29th – 31st August 2014

One of the best weekends of the year, family atmosphere, great music, warm beer – it’s Bingley time!

Bingley always seems like an unlikely place to hold a music festival. For those scrabbling for their atlases it’s on the River Aire, just north of Bradford, with a skyline that bears witness to both its roots as a mill town and its status as the home of the Bradford and Bingley Building Society whose epic brutalist head office squats like a brown concrete toad in the town centre. It also boasts a curious tower with a pergola on top which looks like it could have been the inspiration for the hiding places in Assassin’s Creed.

Bingley Music Live, sponsored by Bradford Council and held annually at Myrtle Park is a proper old fashioned pop festival which since 2008 has offered three days (originally two) of quality music at ridiculously good value prices. There are no pretensions to high art here. It isn’t full of bearded hipsters or street performers reciting fragments of Shakespeare at bemused passers by or aging hippies or crazy retro people with staring eyes, it’s just families looking for a great day out listening to music in the company of their children and some warm beer.

Image gallery

QRO review and images

R’n’B

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This year’s line up was a little more chart orientated then previously which meant doing a bit of research in advance (no bad thing for us aging photographers desperately trying to be down with the kids) but the crowds loved it all, or almost all anyway.

My previous experiences with contemporary R’n’B had led me to think that it chiefly consisted of a man pretending to be working some sort of sound desk while another man (or woman) shouted “Come on now (insert name of venue here) make some noise” and then jumping up and down in a very silly way and clapping. For extra emphasis the phrase could be varied by the addition of adjectives, for example “Come on now (insert name of venue here) make some fucking noise”. For even more emphasis the jumping and clapping could be made very silly indeed.

Excellent sets from MNEK, Jess Glynne and Chloe Howl went some way towards dispelling that view although there were outbreaks of clappy, shouty dancey stuff at other times through the weekend, but I won’t dwell on them. There was a lot of great music on offer and I’ll concentrate on that instead.

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Discoveries of the weekend

The Strypes have been blazing a trail through the music scene for the past couple of years and gathering reviews so good that I’d started getting a bit suspicious and thinking that they couldn’t possibly be that wonderful, but of course they are that wonderful. I had intended to listen for ten minutes and then go take some photos on the other stage but I didn’t because their reinvented 60s rock pop just grabs you. Judging by the squeals in the crowd it works on girls too. It doesn’t matter who you say they remind you of because they’ve clearly done their homework and they sound like a whole generation but it’s between The Who and the Beatles and Bo Diddley and The Yardbirds and all the rest. Hailing from Cavan in Northern Ireland they are simply ridiculously good and they’re all younger than my car.

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Less well known as yet but equally good was Emma Garrett and her band on the top stage. In a fortnight when I have spent hours listening to my Kate Bush albums and seen St Vincent live at Leeds the last thing I expected on the small stage at Bingley was a female vocal that threatened to make them other two seem just a little bit ordinary. Emma has been compared to both the aforementioned singers and to Florence Welch and lots of others and she can mix rock, soul, jazz and folk into one song with just a hint of musical theatre showmanship and it sounds just perfect. Check out her SoundCloud immediately.

And an outside pick. It’s not often anyone gets booed at Bingley but Etta Bond appeared to misjudge what was required from her at a family festival and delivered a set loaded with sexual detail and other varieties of bad language and the crowd hated her and let her know about it. That’s Yorkshire for ya. Her performance and on stage demeanour didn’t do her any favours either – whether it was the fault of the sound system or whatever she sounded as flat as a pancake. Since getting home I’ve spent a couple of hours listening to her stuff and she’s a talented writer and performer who I’ve no doubt we’ll hear more of in future and in fairness to her the booking people might have figured out that a woman who tweets as C.U.N.T. is probably not going to go down well with the mums and dads.

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Old friends of the weekend

Not friends in the sense that I’ve been round their house for tea or anything but among the bands that I was already familiar with there were two standouts.

Firstly The Selecter who, legal difficulties with rivals having been dealt with are now entitled to use that name. They have original vocalists Pauline Black and Arthur Gaps Hendrickson and they delivered a set that sounded as streetwise and energetic as if it was a teenage tribute band and not the real thing at all, finishing with On My Radio and Too Much Pressure/Pressure Drop – one of the major highlights of the weekend.

As were the opening songs of the set by The South. It’s no secret that I have a fondness for elegantly witty pop and at their best The Beautiful South could deliver that in spades. They are now fronted by Alison Wheeler and Dave Hemingway and I had everything planned so I could catch the whole of their set but difficulties with the sound meant that I only got the first few songs, (which sounded wonderful). They’re on tour this autumn however so watch this space.

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Headliners

Friday night saw Shed Seven make the journey all the way from York for a set of their greatest hits that served to remind us that even if the whole Britpop thing is now seen as a cultural disaster on an epic scale there were good bands around at the time who never quite got the recognition they deserved. Shed Seven were a lot smarter than some of their more illustrious contemporaries and the dry wit of frontman Rick Witters was much in evidence during their set. They also played the most energetic set of the weekend and no sooner had they taken the stage than Witter’s natural exuberance saw him almost disappear into the crowd over the barriers. Their set featured classics like Dolphin, Disco Down and Rainbows as well as a storming cover of Born To Run, a song by former rock god and now Butlin’s redcoat Bruce Springsteen.

It was the turn of rnb to take centre stage on Saturday with Example heading the bill. There’s not much point in me pretending to comment on his set except to say that the multitude loved it, there was lots of audience participation – “Come on now Bingley make some noise, jump, clap – and it culminated in a spectacular light show.

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Rounding off the weekend were Sunday night’s headliners The Pet Shop Boys who brought their Electric World Tour show to the Bingley stage complete with spectacular lights, a whole stage projection screen, dancing orange minotaurs (my favourite flavour of minotaur as it happens), massive feathered power shoulders, projection beds (really), and pzazz and razzamatazz than you can shake the z key on your keyboard at. It was a show that walked the finest of lines between superlative showmanship and embarrassing nonsense and always stayed exactly on the right side. If any greatest hits were missing I didn’t notice and nobody seemed to care and the explosion of confetti that accompanied It’s A Sin brought the festival to a fittingly spectacular close.

Same time next year?

Yes please.

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Mark Lanegan: Leeds – live review

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Mark Lanegan
Leeds College Of Music
3rd November 2013

A night of gravel voiced alt country blues in leeds with Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood

It’s an unusual arrangement for a convert venue, The Leeds College of Music. After climbing several flights of stairs I expected to be somewhere up in the gods looking down on the performers on a distant stage way down below. To enter the auditorium on the same level as the performance area, (there’s no raised stage), came as a bit of a shock. It’s a very serious venue too, plain and austere with high ceiling and white walls and as it happened that was well suited to an evening with Mark Lanegan, supported by Duke Garwood and Lyenn, which at times resembled a recital as much as a gig and was none the worse for that.

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If there was any doubt that the focus was on the music and not the personalities of the performers it was dispelled from the outset by some of the darkest lighting I’ve ever seen at a gig. A handful of red spots high up in the rigging, a couple of scarlet leds on the stage and that was it. It would be nice to be poetic, given the sombre tone of the material, and say that the stage looked as though it was drenched in blood but in fact what it resembled most was a performance at the bottom of a tank of cherryade.

QRO review and images

Opener for the night was Lyenn whose songs, performed with guitar, are fragile things, referencing folk motifs and they heyday of prog. He may have been an unknown quantity to most of the audience at the start and have ended his set with a song which seemed to consist mostly of shouting but he had certainly won people over by the end of his short set and there were plenty of people checking out his stuff at the merch desk afterwards.

Neither Lanegan nor Duke Garwood the English blues musician with whom he collaborated on this year’s Black Pudding album are given to banter or chit chat with the audience or outlandish showmanship. They both stand very still and deliver their songs with great calm, Lanegan clutching the microphone and stand two handed and arching his body slightly towards it lending him (in a darkened room) a slight resemblance to Jarvis Cocker.

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And the material is portentous and menacing. Dominated by tracks from Black Pudding, the effect accentuated by the darkness of the auditorium, it was powerful stuff. The audience was as silent as the crowd at any classical gig I’ve ever been to, on the edge of their seats at times. At one point I heard a boiled sweet being unwrapped about five rows away and I half expected someone to say shhhh, but they made enough noise between songs to dispel any impression that the gig was in any way a disappointment.

Duke Garwood performed solo, his voice quiet, guitar sometimes bluesy and disorted, sometimes crystal clear, laying delicate fills over deeply reverberative bass notes, songs whose simple melodies recalled Leonard Cohen’s Recent Songs. He picked up a big silver resonator for Manchester Special.

Mark Lanegan opened with five straight songs from Black Pudding, making them each more doom laden and intense than the last, but it was clear that he was enjoying himself, smiling occasionally between lines as he rocked gently at the mike. His voice was at times almost impossibly deep. It is conventional to reference Tom Waits or Nick Cave in this context but it was Kris Kristofferson that came to mind on the night. Cold Molly in particular benefitted from live performance. On the album it’s a fairly light weight number but live and with the addition of some funky bass it was transformed into a powerful and unsettling invocation to an unresponsive mistress.

The band was versatile, with Garwood on saxophone, Lyenn on bass, plus guitar and a cello and violin section that doubled up when occasion demanded on percussion and harmony. The addition of the cello was particularly apt – it added a depth and colour to the music which complemented the roughness of Lanegan’s delivery especially on a gorgeous Phantasmagoria Blues, which together with it’s Blues Funeral partner The Gravedigger’s Song formed the dark heart of the show before a run of covers taken from the recent Imitations album.

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There’s something very appealing about listening to Lanegan singing other people’s songs. With his own material he can compose melodies to suit his own capabilities and limitations but with covers he has to make that bit more effort and lean into the lyric just a little. The traditional Cherry Tree Carol is a simple song onto which Lanegan loaded a great deal of emotional content – it threatened to topple but held up. Mack The Knife was delivered with just guitar accompaniment and fittingly included the rarely performed final verse – “There are some who are in darkness and the others are in light, and you see the ones in brightness, those in darkness drop from sight” but the revelation of the night was You Only Live Twice, the Barry and Bricusse number which has always seemed like the lightest and least significant of Bond themes until Lanegan invested it with a menace and caress that few could have imagined it would be capable of sustaining. It was followed by Solitaire, a deadweight song whose base metal heart even Lanegan could not alchemise into gold.

A version of Satellite Of Love in tribute to Lou Reed followed, made the more poignant for me by the fact that the last time I heard the song performed live, by Reed himself, was in another hall primarily designed for classical music, the Liverpool Philharmonic. That was a great night with Reed an hour late and in a foul mood and furious at the audience for slow hand clapping. “I waited years for you” he said before launching into an unidentifiable twenty minute jam as a punishment for our temerity.

Lanegan’s main set ended with one of the highlights of the night – a bluesy version of OV Wright’s Southern Soul classic On Jesus Program and after leaving the stage briefly he returned with just his guitarist for a fine version of The Screaming Trees’ Halo Of Ashes which drew a huge cheer from an audience who had clearly enjoyed an excellent show.

The Damned: Manchester Apollo – picture review

I regret to say that I was proper poorly at this gig and for a while after. I remember going to two wrong venues, missing the excellent Boss Hoss who I had been looking forward to, just catching the last song of the three shot window for The Damned, who were as spikey as you could wish and just exuded charisma and being pushed back in my seat by the physical force that is Motorhead. Other than that it’s all a bit sketchy. Some pictures I’m quite pleased with though so here they are.

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The Damned are on the web here: officialdamned.com. They are on Facebook and tweet as @damnedtwits