5 Of The Best From Electric Picnic 2013

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This time last week there were a lot of tired minds and weary bodies after Electric Picnic. It was a great weekend with plenty of highlights, musical & otherwise. That said, I have yet to find the time to pen anything of consequence about the weekend. No such problem from the every reliable Johnny Feeney, who’s here to share with us his five highlights from the weekend. Huge thanks to Mr. Feeney for taking the time to put together another excellent piece. 

Deap Vally (Cosby Stage, Saturday)

Bizarrely, Deap Vally formed in LA in 2011 after Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards met in a crochet class. Thankfully, their brand of primal, scuzzy blues/garage rock is about as far removed from crochet as is humanly possible. The scantily clad duo, brimming with attitude and oozing sex appeal, open here with the storming, filthy End of the World and don’t let up for the next 45 minutes.

Troy leads on guitars and vocals, banging out huge power riffs and a bellowing wail, with the fiery Edwards hammering away at the drums like a woman possessed whilst also providing backing vocals – their sound is not a million miles away from the White Stripes. Drawing on songs from their excellent debut album Sistrionix, these girls pack a serious punch. Standout tracks include the visceral ‘Make My Own Money’, the downright nasty ‘Walk of Shame’ and ‘Bad for my Body’. Music so brilliantly dirty you feel like you need a wash after it.

Parquet Courts (Cosby Stage, Saturday)

Continuing the veritable feast of garage rock on Cosby Stage on Saturday afternoon, Brooklyn 4-piece Parquet Courts take to the stage and soon have the sizeable crowd spellbound with their spiky tunes. The band are supremely tight and confident and have a fine set of songs to choose from – their debut album Light Up Gold is another album that should rate very highly on this year’s best albums lists.

Guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown swap vocals throughout while the songs are propelled on ably by the rhythm section. As on record, they willingly invite as much feedback off the amps as they can, and as they do during ‘Light Up Gold II’ among others. Other highlights include ‘Master of my Craft’ and ‘Yr No Stoner’. A highly accomplished set. They play Whelan’s in October and that gig is one not to be missed.

Savages (Cosby Stage, Saturday)

There were plenty of quality all-female acts on show over the weekend and Savages, a four-piece London outfit, are another band to fall into that category. They come onto the stage dressed all in black with the lights down (they stay down for the whole show) and their music suits the mood perfectly. They play brooding, dark post-punk from their fine debut album, Silence Yourself, and it’s all really quite hypnotising.

Jehnny Beth is captivating with her haunted vocals and androgynous looks – with her short cropped hair and eccentric dance moves she gives off more than a hint of Ian Curtis. As you would expect with a post-punk band there are some fine bass lines that drive the songs along. There’s thrilling menace to tracks such as ‘She Will’, ‘Husbands’ and ‘City’s Full’. If you like your music dark, then look no further.

John Grant (Rankin’s Wood Stage, Saturday)

John Grant was a personal highlight at EP two years ago and it’s clear from the off here that we’re in the presence of something truly special once again this evening. Grant released his second album, Pale Green Ghosts, earlier this year and with its harsher electronic sound, it’s quite a departure from his tender piano-led debut. Grant, a gentle giant, switches effortlessly between the two albums throughout the performance.

An early set highlight is the delicate ‘Marz’, a delightful song about a sweet shop from his youth. The new songs such as ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ and ‘Black Belt’ sound great with Grant occasionally sitting down to play synthesiser. Good friend Sinéad O’Connor joins him on stage to huge applause to provide backing vocals for the final three songs (she also provides backing vocals on PGG). The epic ‘Glacier’ is magnificent while he closes with ‘The Queen of Denmark’ – a real showstopper and a song so beautiful as to seem scarcely real. Magical.

Arctic Monkeys (Main Stage, Sunday)

Arctic Monkeys have built up a potent arsenal of classic songs since they burst on to the scene as fresh-faced youths back in 2006 and they’re not afraid to use the weapons at their disposal, which is in full evidence at the main stage on Sunday evening. A huge crowd have gathered and are given a real treat as Alex Turner and co rattle confidently through their set while a very rowdy main stage crowd jump around and sing along with reckless abandon. I’d be amazed if there weren’t dozens of personal items lost and bones broken by the crowd up the front.

Opening with super new track ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, the band then swagger through classic songs such as ‘Brianstorm’, ‘Dancing Shoes’, ‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Old Yellow Bricks’ while Stradbally laps it all up. The combination of ‘Pretty Visitors’, ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ and ‘Do Me A Favour’ is particularly brilliant mid-show before Alex swaps his electric guitar for an acoustic one and plays a lovely rendition of ‘Cornerstone’. The tempo picks up again for the finale with ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and ‘R U Mine?’ before the band leave the stage. For the inevitable encore, the opening lines of ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ sends an already elated crowd into a frenzy, the weekend’s high point, before the band closes with the stunning ‘505’. A masterclass in headlining a festival and an absolute triumph.

Electric Picnic 2013: Irish Acts Mixtape

The wait is almost over. Electric Picnic 2013 is almost upon us, with just days separating us and a weekend of  green fields, blue skies, sunshine and great music (who said I wasn’t an optimist?).

One of the Picnic’s big pluses is, in my humble opinion, sprinkled among all the international acts are plenty of top notch homegrown acts too. There is a fine array of local talent on show over the weekend; The Mighty Stef, Raglans, Adultrock, The Lost Brothers, The Dead Heavys & Lethal Dialect to name but a few. In an attempt to provide a flavour of what to expect from some of the Irish acts playing this year, I decided to put together a wee mixtape (I use both terms rather loosely). You can download the mix and listen to it before going, or on the way to EP – you know the kind of thing. Or you can ignore it entirely, that’s your prerogative. 

The tracklisting with stage times/days is after the jump. All the stage times for this weekend’s festival (so far) are available for the ever reliable GoldenPlec too. 

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Acts Announced for Hard Working Class Heroes 2013

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Hard Working Class Heroes have announced the acts lined up to play the annual festival later this year, taking place from Thursday 3rd – Saturday 5th October in various venues in Dublin. 

At first glance, Anderson, Biggles Flys Again, Spies, Ships, Reid, Silverbacks, Tandem Felix & Lasertom all stand out. But, with a hundred or so acts playing, there are bound to be plenty of hidden gems in there too. Earlybird weekend tickets are €35 (ending August 23rd). Normal priced tickets will be €45 for weekend tickets or €20 for nightly tickets. Get your tickets online from here

There’s a full list of acts playing after the jump, with links to their Breaking Tunes page so you can gander at their music ahead of HWCH.

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Knockanstockan 2013 Review

This summer I’ve managed to make it to the sum total of zero festivals and not for the want of trying. Knockanstockan was one of the festivals I hadn’t been to before and had hoped to get along to. Frustratingly, like so many other festivals this year, other commitments conspired to prevent me from attending. Thankfully Johnny Feeney was on hand to take my place, his thoughts on the weekend are below.  A  big thanks to Johnny for the review & the photo is via The Daily Shift.

Knockanstockan had been recommended to me by various different parties over the years but it’s been a festival I’ve always contrived to miss for one reason or another. Thankfully I managed to make it down this year and, boy, was I impressed. It was a true pleasure from start to finish.

A relaxed, chilled out vibe was prevalent throughout the weekend with no trouble or aggro at all. There were plenty of hippies in attendance so peace and love was the order of the weekend. Security (volunteers mostly) were easy going and friendly without a power trip in sight. The setting was easily the most spectacular I’ve seen at a festival – standing at the main stage you have the Blessington lakes in front of you, turn around and you have the Wicklow mountains looming large over you. Quite breath-taking.

A truly non-commercial festival, revellers were free to bring in cans from the campsite into the main arena all weekend. If you were properly prepared and brought food as well, you could realistically spend the whole weekend down there without having to take out your wallet once. As it was, there were a few bars scattered around the place selling pints of beer and cider and a decent variety of moderately-priced food stalls. Various workshops, holistic treatments and hot tubs were available and there seemed to be plenty to do for kids.

Musicwise, I didn’t know a large proportion of the bands so it was basically pot luck for me as I wandered from stage to stage for parts of it. The Barley Mob on the main stage in the sunshine on Saturday afternoon had the place skanking with their infectious reggae tunes. Mikey and the Scallywags followed with some stomping, country-tinged rock’n’roll (Joke of the weekend came from Mikey: “How many hippies does it take to screw in a light bulb?” “None. They screw in a dirty sleeping bag!”)

Limerick band The Hip-Neck Blues Collective playing in the Faerie Field were the first nice surprise of the weekend. As their name suggests, their sound mashes hip-hop, folk, country and blues together into a wonderfully, weird sound. They did a rendition of a highly profane Tupac song – possibly ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ – where they were talking about fucking bitches and wives while there were young kids in attendance throughout the crowd. Hilarious, and none of the parents seemed at all concerned or even batted an eyelid.

Dublin/Poland/Lithuania/Ukraine band, Mutefish, surely have to be labelled the legends of the weekend. Having been visibly partying hard all weekend in the campsite and the main arena, they managed to pull themselves together to deliver a rousing set of trad-rock fusion to a raucous main stage. Easily the highlight of the Saturday.

Punch Face Champions were next up on the Faerie Field stage. With a band name like that you’d hardly expect gentle folk music and these guys certainly didn’t disappoint – blaring out excellent, instrumental post-rock in the same vein as And So I Watch You From Afar. Later on, Sound of System Breakdown impressed with their highly danceable, pulsating synth-rock and should be worth checking out in the future.

Sunday certainly felt like a tamer day with noticeably smaller crowds and intermittent rain, with a lot of people seemingly burnt out after partying hard into the wee hours of the previous two days/nights. Zaska on the main stage were great, playing some really groovy funk-rock. Newbridge/Kildare band King Modo played the Dimestore stage, delivering a bewildering performance of their understated, psychedelic indie. Singer/songwriter Cat Dowling performed to a rather pitifully small crowd at the Faerie Field, drawing mainly from her recently released new album, The Believer. Her set was tender but beautiful.

Limerick rockers Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters really caught my eye on the main stage on Sunday evening.  Theirs is a full-on rock sound while their lead singer has a captivating, booming voice. They reminded me somewhat of Interpol and I enjoyed these guys a lot. Electronic whizz kid Daithí graced the Electrolyte stage with his usual array of looping fiddles and house beats and always gives one hell of a live show, here included.

Act of the weekend for me were Attention Bébé on the Faerie Field stage, who I stumbled into completely by accident. The 16-piece band blasted out jazzed up versions of classic 90s tunes such as dance tracks Zombie Nation, Free From Desire and 2 Unlimited’s No Limits. The place was packed and the crowd and band were giving it their all, as everyone began to get in party mood again. There were also some fantastic mass singalongs for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air opening credit music and Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. Super fun and a perfect way to finish off a superb weekend.

Hard Working Class Heroes 2012 | A Brief Preview

While not without it’s criticisms (what the fuck doesn’t?) there is nothing to brighten up the onset of a dreary Irish winter than Hard Working Class Hereos. Now in it’s tenth year, HWCH, has introduced me and many others to a lot of great new Irish artists and bands year on year. 

Anyway HWCH returns to Dublin tonight & runs till Saturday with shows taking place in The Button Factory, The Mercantile, The Grand Social, Meeting House Square, Twisted Pepper and The Workman’s Club. While I wholeheartedly suggest people venture into uncharted territory in the hope of new musical discoveries, I still have a number of suggestions.

Weekend tickets priced €45 and nightly tickets are €20 (+ fees). Here’s the full schedule

Thursday:

SertOne (Meeting House Square | 9:20-9:50):

With out doubt one of Ireland’s most promising talents; prodigious, prolific & easily one of my favourites. SertOne’s latest EP, Shapes In The Sky, (his fifth release in just over a year & a half) demonstrated every bit of this brilliance. Armed with an astonishing array of head-nodding beats and slick samples he takes us on a journey through a subterranean world of 8 bit sounds, beats and a hip-hop influenced grooves. The live show is every bit a winner too, this Portadown-born producer is surely destined for great things.

Spies (The Grand Social | 10:30-11:00):

Dublin based five piece indie band specialize in an epic kind of indie, dramatic almost & full of feeling, emotion. If you were looking  for comparable acts it would be somewhere between Interpol and The National. Both times I’ve caught Spies’ live show, I didn’t leave disappointed.

Friday:

Kid Karate (Meeting House Square| 8:40-9:10):

Dublin ragged rock/punk duo Kid Karate are long time favourites round these parts. Over the past two year’s they’ve become such a formidable force. As a live band, few come anywhere close to their shows of gritty riff-laden rock n roll, or in terms of volume and energy. The have an unearthly knack for scuzzy rock n roll jam filled with furious riffage and thunderous drums, not to mention throat zapping vocals. Kid Karate’s debut album will soon be upon us, this is one show not to be missed!

Ghost Estates (Meeting House Square| 10:00-10:30):

Ghost Estates have already carved out their place on Ireland’s musical landscape. With three songwriters in the band, stylistically it’s diverse, taking in a mix of new wavey sounds, reach for the sky guitar anthems and straight up indie rock. This amalgam has seen them arrive at their own distinct sound of hazy electronica edged indie which send a shiver down the spine. It is said two heads are better than one, well, judging by Ghost Estates’ debut, three are certainly better than two. There self-titled debut is the best Irish indie album in a long, long time!

Saturday:

Conor Mason (The Grand Social | 7:50-8:20):

With three albums under his belt, Mason has now found his space on the musical landscape, not dissimilar to that occupied by luminaries Matthew Jay or Elliott Smith. His latest album, Standstill, is a masterpiece in song writing, flowing gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. His music is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy. One definitely not to be missed.

The Mighty Stef (Meeting House Square | 10:40-11.10):

Consistently one of the most impressive Irish musicians over the past few years, three great albums, the last of which was ambitious  and brilliant projects yet. A fiery folk-punk attitude and a predilection for the darker side of life have always permeated his songs but of late, some more uplifting nuances are coming through. Live, The Mighty Stef is different class, he approaches every show with the same intensity and dedication, punters are never left short changed.

There’s plenty more on show too. I hope to swing by and see, if possible that is; Biggles Flys Again, The Casanova Wave, White Collar Boy, Faws, Heritage Centre, CLU, Solar Bears, REID, Girl Band, Jogging, The Depravtions & We Cut Corners.

Electric Picnic 2012 | Sunday

Johnny Feeney concludes his round-up of last weekends’ Electric Picnic with his view on Sunday (his thoughts on Day 1 are here and day 2 here). A huge thanks to Johnny for taking the time to do this, I for one have enjoyed reading them & I’m sure I’m not alone.

The sun was out in force on Sunday and there were a lot of lost-looking souls around the place after two hard days of partying, some of whom I met decided to go home early, but with the influx of day-ticketers Sunday certainly felt like it had the biggest crowds of the weekend.

The first act I caught was Dublin electronic duo Forrests in the Little Big Tent. Their dreamy, ambient electronica first came to my attention only a few weeks back so I figured this would be a nice way to ease myself into the day. Their music comprises of layers and layers of sounds on top of not-too-heavy beats and is extremely easy on the ear and introspective for a nice piece of escapism. Very enjoyable and I shall look forward to more from these.

Dublin Gospel Choir are something of an institution at the Picnic who I’d always contrived to miss because of their early Sunday main stage time slot but I made the effort to catch them this year and I’m glad I did. They specialised in gospel versions of crowd-pleasers such as Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’, Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’ and the Killers’ ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’. There was a big crowd for this with most just sitting down and relaxing in the sun while taking in the performance.

Mmoths AKA Jack Colleran, like Forrests before him, is a skilled proponent of blissful, ambient electronica and his set in the Little Big Tent offered up his usual high-quality tunes heavy on dreamy synths and sounds. This is music to get lost in rather than dance to and if that’s your thing, look no further.

I was very excited about seeing Of Monsters and Men and it was clear by the packed Crawdaddy Stage that I wasn’t the only one. Opening with the joyous ‘Dirty Paws’, this was unbridled feel-good indie-folk from the off. The ubiquitous radio hit ‘Little Talks’ was always going to get the biggest reaction from the crowd but highlights for me included the slowburning ‘Lakehouse’,  ‘King and Lionheart’ and the sensational closer ‘Six Weeks’. The band seem to be as astonished as everyone else with their meteoric rise and this was obvious when singer Nanna got the crowd to sing her father a happy birthday over her phone and the drummer took pictures of the crowd on his camera at the end. Delightful.  

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, the alias of dance producer Orlando Higginbotham, tore Little Big Tent apart from the get-go. This was the set of the weekend where everything just came together perfectly. Included were a pumped crowd dancing like lunatics, outrageously entertaining female dancers and Higginbotham switching vocals with his female vocalist and dropping top-class dance tracks such as ‘Tapes & Money’, ‘American Dream, Pt II’, ‘Household Goods’ and ‘Stronger’. The album Trouble is definitely worth checking out. Head and shoulders above anything else I saw over the weekend.

Next up were Lanterns on the Lake in the Cosby Stage. Playing to quite a small crowd, this was very slow, quiet, dainty folk-pop and didn’t particularly grab the attention. I was quite taken with last year’s debut album, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, but felt this wasn’t the right setting for them. 

Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan is every inch the star. Here, dressed elegantly in black evening dress and high-heels, she delivered an incredible performance. The older, more otherworldly material such as ‘Horse & I’ and ‘What’s A Girl To Do’ sounded great while the new songs left me excited for the upcoming album The Haunted Men. However it’s the more delicate piano-led songs that amazed most here. New song ‘Laura’ is just gorgeous while the impossibly beautiful ‘Siren Song’ tugged at my heart strings and left me fighting back the tears.

Festival favourites Hot Chip never fail to get the party started and here was no different as they closed the Electric Arena in style. Heirs apparent to the sadly departed LCD Soundsystem, they belted out classic tracks such as ‘Over and Over’, ‘Ready For the Floor’ and ‘One Night Stand’ while the ground underneath the heaving, dancing crowd shook. A great way to end what has been a great festival.

Electric Picnic 2012 | Saturday

While I was otherwise engaged at the weekend, my frequent gig-going accomplice and all round good guy Johnny Feeney was at Electric Picnic. Without further ado, here’s  what happened on Saturday (his thoughts on Day 1 are here).

Opening proceedings on Saturday on the main stage were the Trinity Orchestra playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I don’t think there could have been a more perfect start to the day. In pleasant weather with the sun still deciding whether to come out or not, the sizeable crowd were treated to grandiose, sweeping renditions of Floyd classics such as ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Money’ and ‘Us and Them’. The showstopper for me was ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ – there was a serious set of lungs on the female vocalist for this one. As if all this wasn’t enough, for encore we were treated to a dose of funk with some Stevie Wonder songs including ‘Superstition’ and ‘Sir Duke’. Heavenly.

Next up was the performance of Tieranniesaur on the Cosby Stage. Annie Tierney and co really know how to put on a party with catchy songs such as ‘Sketch’ and ‘Here Be Monsters’, funky percussion that’s heavy on the cowbells and groovy basslines. If you haven’t seen this band live yet, you’re really missing out. 

Quite by accident I caught Róisín O playing the Bamboo Stage in Body & Soul. They grabbed my attention while I was passing and they were doing a boisterous cover of Florence & the Machine’s ‘Dog Days Are Over’. My interest piqued, I stayed for a few songs after and was impressed with what I saw of their country-flecked rock. They release their debut album The Secret Life of Blue later this month and it should be worth keeping an eye out for that.

Back at the Cosby Stage the Cast of Cheers were doing what they do best with their super-tight, angular indie rock. The tent was packed to capacity as the Swords four-piece blasted through songs from their debut album, Chariot, and the recently released follow up, Family. It’s always a treat to see these guys live.

Wild Beasts played to a surprisingly small crowd on the main stage for this mid-afternoon slot. I positioned myself to the side at the front near one of the speakers. The sound was once again superb and the bass was actually rather unsettling on the stomach it was that heavy. Nevertheless, this was a solid performance as they ambled through songs such as ‘Albatross’, ‘Loop the Loop’ and ‘Hooting and Howling’, where singer Hayden Thorpe’s ear-piercing falsetto is showcased to its true potential.

Not Squares’ sound has certainly changed since last year’s brilliant Yeah OK. The first half of their set in the Little Big Tent included new songs such as ‘Fall Far’. It’s got a more disco sound with really distorted vocals but it’s still highly danceable and it’ll be really interesting to hear more. Things pick up in the second half as they play the older more gung-ho electronic stuff like ‘Release the Bees’ and the excellent ‘Asylum’ with some of the best live drumming you’re likely to see. Great show.

Richard Hawley is always someone who I would have labelled a crooner but his latest album, Standing at the Sky’s Edge, is a new direction for him and an absolute treat of psychedelic rock. In the Electric Arena he played primarily new songs such as ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’, ‘Down In the Woods’ and ‘Don’t Stare at the Sun’ which all sounded fantastic live. There was also room for older songs such ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours’ and ‘Open Up Your Door’. Gorgeous from start to finish.

I’ve had problems with The Horrors live in the past due to a number of different reasons mainly involving sound issues but I was willing to give them another try at the Crawdaddy Stage. While still not perfect, it was a much better show from them. They have some of the best songs of the last few years in ‘Scarlet Fields’, ‘Sea Within A Sea’ and ‘Still Life’ so it was a pleasure to hear them live and not have them reduced to a squall. The different instruments and synths were discernible throughout although Faris’ vocals were a bit low and hard to hear. The closing ‘Endless Blue’ was superb, a treat of pure space rock which sent me off satisfied.

Baxter Dury drew a rather pathetic crowd to the Cosby Stage but he was competing with the Cure so we can’t give out too much. He released a gem of an album of quirky, lo-fi pop in Happy Soup last year. His cockney-geezer half spoken-half sung tales of everyday life sounded great here with the likes of ‘Hotel Brixton’, ‘Claire’, ‘Afternoon’ and ‘Isabel’ standing out. This deserved a much bigger crowd.

I was a little bit disappointed with Grimes at Forbidden Fruit earlier this summer but once again felt she was worth giving another try. There were no excuses here – a guy helping out on a drum machine (although he seemed only to wave about a fluorescent wand), two male dancers and a packed Cosby Stage. She has the songs such as ‘Genesis’, ‘Nightmusic’, ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Circumambient’ that should really get a crowd going but, as before, there just felt like there was something missing. Halfway through a girl standing beside me turned to me and asked “Does it not get more intense than this?” I replied “No this is it”. “Oh,” she said. That sums it up really. Not bad, just slightly underwhelming.

There was nothing underwhelming about Orbital who delivered a whopper of a closing set on the main stage. A huge crowd going crazy, dazzling visuals and cracking tunes such as ‘Halcyon and On and On’ and ‘Chime’. What more can you ask for? Another triumph from the Hartnoll brothers who were similarly impressive on the late Friday night main stage slot a couple of years back.

 After this it was on to the Salty Dog with me for one more slice of funk from the hard-working Tieranniesaur. The Salty Dog is such a great stage – a pirate ship set into the forest with a band stand, sound system and canopy overhead – and was still going strong at four in the morning. Unfortunately I wasn’t and retired shortly after.