Ask yourself if there’s anything more wonderful than watching a group of mums find their feet at a gig, watching a union of faces that would never normally mix – because that was the case this weekend, when Clash made it to Manchester to check out the first BBC 6 Music Festival.
Four years after the digital radio network was threatened with closure, leading to a very public protest to the contrary from its loyal audience, listener figures have doubled. And that’s something to celebrate given 6’s somewhat niche public perception, beside the younger DJs and audience of Radio 1.
This is the first time 6 has taken the step into the festival market, following in the footsteps of Radio 1’s Big Weekend, albeit on a much more modest scale. It’s surprising that it’s taken 6 this long to go live in this fashion – with its array of music-loving DJs, not to mention its listener base, its brand is one that makes sense in the festival market.
The festival – held at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse on February 28 and March 1 – attracts 5,000 people, making it a sell-out at the first time of asking. And the diversity of its bill is indicative of the eclecticism of the station: as punters are packed into the main room, dancing around to Kelis, a healthy crowd has gathered in Room Two to witness the ongoing solo evolution of Doves’ Jimi Goodwin.
It’s not just the main musical performances that make up the 6 Music Festival – it also presents a series of fringe screenings, talks and Q&As, including Creation founder Alan McGee in conversation with journalist John Robb about such topics as the Factory Records days. There are rising talents to check out beside the well-known names: Luke Sital-Singh and Outfit two acts to feature on the first day with bright futures ahead of them.
First day headliners in Room Two, The Horrors show us why they’ve always been a hot name on festival bills, as frontman Faris Badwan (pictured) and company sweep across the stage with luscious melodies from their back catalogue, as well as a selection of new material from the band’s forthcoming fourth LP, ‘Luminous’. These new songs mark a return to the synth-heavy sounds of 2009’s ‘Primary Colours’, albeit with a more optimistic lyrical slant, full of compassionate visions into the singer’s love life.
Over on the Silent Disco stage, Derrick May’s anything but uncomfortable with the strange, noiseless atmosphere – not the most common environment within which to catch the famed Chicago house DJ and producer, more accustomed to filling the main rooms of clubs worldwide. He’s in a headline role, but earlier on day one it’s a rather more primal force, Derbyshire brothers Drenge, that brings the event most vividly to life.
Following Kelis, Midlake are joined on stage by John Grant – but they’re up againstMetronomy in Room Two, and the Brits steal away the festival’s younger attendees. Midlake’s brand of melancholic indie-folk might’ve been a better bet for the smaller of the main music spaces, but nevertheless they prove a fine warm-up for the headliner of the day.
Damon Albarn previews a sterling array of new tunes from his debut solo record proper, ‘Everyday Robots’ – which it’s taken him almost 20 years to make, stunningly – including one incredible-sounding tune inspired by an orphaned baby elephant the Blur singer met in Tanzania. The other new material sounds good too, if a little offbeat for a sold-out industrial warehouse space. Damon’s set at Latitude later this year feels like it will better suit these soft, subtle melodies and the big imagery of his vocals.
6 Music do something wonderful for British broadcasting – and this weekend only proves that the fans were right on this one when they fought to save the station four years ago.
(Sidenote: I wrote this when I was 18, and feeling pretty bitter)
In 2013 the Princes Trust revealed it’s annual Youth Index, a study into the lives of young people, analysing their feelings, confidence and ambitions. It hit the headlines that one in 10 young people were struggling to cope with everyday life.
At the heart of all this negativity is a battle for employment, self-esteem and a sense of feeling, giving them the aspirations to feel like they are a part of a bigger picture. But, in a climate where newspapers are filled with the destructive, overtly negative, or the over-reciprocated story of the media junkie who made a business out of building his own brand, there’s a social pressure on young people to make a change, inspire, succeed and leave a trace. Or, at the other side of the scale, they find a means to stop themselves being the victim of another cold killing – caught up by the man on man mentality that permeates the streets of every major city in the UK.
One in five of those interviewed were unemployed, one in six were considered a ‘neet’ – ‘not in education, employment or training’ to those who don’t have the suffer the gross mislabelling that leaves those young people feeling divided from the rest of society.
But that’s hard, and a minor problem when compared to the job climate many young people are entering into. Further division between the well educated, and those that suffer problems in education mean there’s an inability to access jobs deemed rewarding or aspirational. And anything considered a career is a gross over-statement when you realise that entering into one means six months plus of unpaid internships for corporations where you know your boss is being paid a bonus far beyond that of your parent’s own salary.
Even when you’re in work, rising taxes eat away a majority of your paycheck, while expenditure on travel, food and rent increases year on year. As a London citizen, on minimum wage, many would be lucky to have any money left after paying their landlady and renewing their travelcard for another month of bending over backwards as a sales assistant for snarky, disrespectful customers and overbearing bosses.
It’s any wonder it takes a study to reveal all this to us. It stares at us everyday, through the bitter expressions hidden under the headphones of commuters who get off at Oxford Circus and Stratford, and through to the torment that leaves grief stricken mothers pouring their hearts out to news station cameras. Take this as a plead for understanding.
Why is it we’re abandoning our children’s hopes first? This isn’t an issue or race, class or background, it’s an issue of forgetting to give hope to a generation defaced by the media, politicians and employers.
That need to stratify every event, to analyse, ponder and contextualise every experience is what makes it hard to be alone. Coming down from the buzz of being around people who pre-occupy your mind can be the loneliest space in the world. My greatest admiration goes to those who do not struggle to be alone. I think relationships can be part of a big damnation of that. Like Helen says, being in the constant presence of something and someone brilliant can mean you come to live your life in the space of two minds, and following a break up, it’s often the hardest thing in the world to learn to act as an individual again. At the moment, I feel like it’s my greatest struggle. I went from the happiest I have ever been in my life, to pretty much the lowest state of consciousness I have ever been in. In my lonely state, I needed the ever constant presence of someone else even to feel comfortable. Breaking away from that felt almost impossible. I became far too reliant, precocious, incredibly full of anxiety – and relied on the support network of a friend who I can now probably call my best. I’m not sure i’m comfortable yet in being alone. But there are moments when solitary confinement with the own mind can be incredibly positive.
Nashville, Tennessee in 1922 — change is afoot: from the ground floor of an old working men’s club, a literary movement is building momentum; poetry resounds around the space, and the pitter patter of heated discussion fills the room. These are The Fugitives — a group of poets who became influential teachers of literature, schooling writers to break away from traditional narrative confines.
By turning their backs on conventional storytelling, these literary outlaws evoked the image of the runaway. Fleeing the confines of society and running from the custodial-sentencing powers of the judiciary, this fugitive is beloved by authors the world over. The appeal is seductive, a desire to be free, to live a life without interference from the law, or any grand order… in utopian bliss. Running from border to border, switching from horseback to foot, from automobile to railway, down highways and through mountains, the fugitive resides in myriad settings. Finding a perfect soundtrack to accompany our adventure was never going to be easy.
In this month’s Vision, Futurespace Magazine takes to the outer edges of Switzerland for a conceptual photo story that conjures up the castaway spirit. Armed with a camera in one hand and an iPod in the other, we masterminded a musical selection to soundtrack our runaways’ retreat from society. We envisage the outlaw as earthy and naturalistic so a playlist that captured this essence was vital. Our chosen artists experiment freely with their instruments, playing expressively and even experimentally; suggesting the necessary quicksilver prowess required when on the road.
Keaton Henson is the ultimate castaway musician, an artist who, it’s said, finds more comfort in his own company than that of others. Having released his debut on bandcamp.com, he was plucked from obscurity by a London management company who begged to work with him. You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are is a highlight from Henson’s first record, Dear — its raw, passionate edge and biting lyrics rally our playlist with a deft kickstart.
Low came in as a natural second, with their broken but lilting take on American indie rock melding seamlessly with the abstraction of Henson’s voice. Plastic Cup, from tenth album The Invisible Way, might be a warm, somewhat stifling embrace for diehard fans of their slowcore despondency but it slots in well with our castaway sensibility. Undoubtedly bitter about the society they were forced to leave, our outlaw couple find inspiration in the lyric, “maybe you should go out and write your own damn song…and move on”.
Nashville girl Caitlin Rose has risen from country star to indie hero and, upon signing with Domino in the UK, the singer laid down two spellbinding covers of Arctic Monkeys tracks as a special Record Store Day release. Here Alex Turner’s Piledriver Waltz gets a touch of Tennessee swing in the hands of Rose.
Dave Gerard doesn’t really represent the castaway ideal, in fact this Hertfordshire native couldn’t be further from it. Firmly entrenched in London’s folk scene, he’s released two EPs to date — steadily building a fan base with each. Hesitate’s duelling banjos give it the right tension and tenacity for our soundtrack. A song tipping its hat to human instinct, it tells the tale of two lovers in a broken relationship and their struggle to get things back to how they were before. And for our stranded twosome, alone and on the run, a re-assertion of binding unity is crucial to their journey.
Rhye is perhaps the newest act on this playlist, having risen to acclaim only in the last year — their sun-drenched music ties in neatly with the traveller ethos. The California-based duo captures the grandiose with Open, which aches with feeling and slots in well at a pivotal point in our soundtrack — the precise moment when tone becomes established. The Place is the only R&B track in our selection but Inc. don’t typify other R&B acts – having signed with UK indie label 4AD a number of years ago, although 2013 record No World boasts slow jams that fit well with the zeitgeist. The smooth, soulful yet unmistakably punchy The Place is a track to really drift away to.
King Krule is this lost generation’s outlaw — an undiscovered talent whose south London base provides inspiration, and houses the studio, for his output. Rising to prominence after debut single Out Getting Ribs, Krule is a teller of deep, broken stories of pain and trauma. On 363N63, a nod to his night bus home, his no-wave stylings with a dubstep tinge hark back to adolescence. As you muse on the past, the car winds through the mountains – you’re elevated to a new level of self-discovery and lost to the midnight sun. Trapped in the midnight city, Krule is important to our playlist as his London roots provide context to the fugitive mindset.
And from this point our romantic image of the fugitives takes a turn – the tension that mounted through the first eight tracks sublimates at the crescendo; it’s time to shift gears. Halls’ Sanctuary is a race of buzzing beats and broken synths, as the schizophrenic production takes us towards the outer limits of the desperate runaway dreamscape. This segues into a track by The St. Petersburg Choral Assembly, a collective of music students, past and present, from St Petersburg Conservatory who specialise in Russian choral music. On hearing Quiet Melody a sweeping, elegiac tone fills the canvas; feelings of loneliness emerge as the desire for love, lust and human contact grips the heart.
Suddenly Sigur Ros’ Meo Blóonasir wakes us from our isolation — the scene switches to the cut and run of the chase as Interpol closes in on our outlaws. The pace quickens, hearts race and the car weaves its way through woodland as they try to shake off the cops. It’s down to Explosions In The Sky to take over — First Breath After Coma builds from a slow crescendo up to a mesh of twisting guitars, pounding drums and thick compression. This is the ultimate soundtrack band; using their home state of Texas as a backdrop, they capture narrative with perfect precision. Further…faster, the song peaks at a blistering three full minutes of intense passion that rips slowly away as the fugitives outrun the law.
Broken Social Scene’s somnambulant yet playful take on Puff The Magic Dragon serenades the morning after — having dispensed of the car, our forested heroes emerge from their dug-out to gather wood and plan the ultimate getaway, one that will provide respite from their castaway existence. The final coda sees the outlaws pushing the raft out to sea, safe in the knowledge that there will be a better world out there for them. Fittingly The Symphonic Orchestra’s take on Simon & Garfunkel’s So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright suggests a mood of hope and positivity as the adventure spirit morphs into a fading, tattered image; confined to the recesses of imagination.
Nashville 1922: The author’s work is done. The Fugitives file out of the working men’s club, safe in the knowledge that their legacy will be preserved in time.
I spent most of this summer working at festivals - half with the intention of somehow learning about their styles of production, half as a blag to get me past the gates and watching some cool bands. In the end, though, I ended up learning a hell of a lot. For example, that Emily Eavis is rather partial to a pavlova, and that Secret Garden Party’s secret is really that it just replicates the same spirit of accepting the mad and wonderful that brought such a collaboration of bonkers ideas to Worthy Farm back in the late-70’s, right at the time it’s expansion turned it into not only a commercial enterprise but a home for those that just seem bewildering in the normal confines of society. Anyway, here’s where i made it too and few articles I gone done and did this summer. Have a browse, have a read and go and explore some of the side projects -
See you in a field next year.
The day before Field Day me and the crew set to be working on the box office and in the press tent did a site visit. During which we were forced into a marquee to avoid the rain that was tearing apart the entire site. We were terrified. Luckily, the next day the sun returned in sterling form and everything ran without a hitch. So a personal thanks goes to Mimi at Eat Your Own Ears, who did a ridiculously amazing job, on her first year in press for the festival. BIG UP.
I got the unbelievable chance to go meet a few of the team about a year on a ridiculously ambitious hitchike to the festival site, which somehow ended up with me working shifts in the press tent. Besides that, here’s what I wrote about the world’s best party:
Oh and for the best commentary of this year’s festival - go look at VICE The Guardian - or alternatively, the in-house Glastonbury Free Press newspaper they built and printed on site this year.
Two years down the line, me and a crew of 30 or so other volunteer staff - all aged between 18 and 24 - helped put together the second Brainchild Festival. Having last year occupied a site just north of London, this year we moved down to Canterbury to bring King Krule, Filthy Boy, Benin City and a whole host of other young talent to a audience that’s strapped for cash. Tickets were £50. For that, we had tie-dying t-shirt workshops, 13 hour jam sessions, live theatre and spoken word, and a self-run bar that meant cheap pints all weekend. See, young people aren’t half bad when they get ambitious? Plans revealed for next year, soon.
Thanks to Nick Bateson of SGP’s great press team, I was at my second garden party. It was wonderful as ever. The highlights? Faithless and their fire show they proceeded, the beautiful addition of a brand-spanking new lake, and SGP’s just full-blown charisma in putting on one of the best parties of the summer. Words supplied to LOBF:
It was my 19th birthday weekend, I was off to go on a mad one, and it turned out Boomtown was the perfect place for that. I’ll admit, the review I did for Artrocker’s a bit dull, as the festival itself is slightly mind-blowing - but it’s the mess heads that come to it that make it questionable.
Thanks to Will Slater of The 405, I made it to my first Green Man. It was absolutely staggering and I couldn’t find the words to do it justice, but go have a look at the bountifully brilliant Merlin Jobst’s words on it instead.
Warning: also features photos of four boys in their underpants in a river.
With half the crew who were behind Brainchild Festival on the planning team - this little festival was well worth a trip south for. Operating under a completely unreleased line-up - that was until the day - the whole seemed to bring some fresh energy into putting a small festival. It’s well a worth going next year. One thing I learnt? Ghostpoet is most definitely worth more late night festival bookings next year..
It was my third year at Bestival thanks to Bruce Hay and the wonderful crew at Get Involved - and blimey has the place stepped up in that time. After the first year I went I wrote about it as being radical, life-changing and a brilliant example of a young festival maturing into an older skin. In the preview I below, I unrightfully questioned whether it could keep it’s integrity. It could - new site redevelopments, new areas, and new bookings made it a spectacular weekend. On the list for next year.