Category Archives: Live

Happy 20th Birthday Reading ’95

This blog post is dedicated to anyone who has ever had an asthma attack at a festival.

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I know that it’s easy to over exaggerate the importance of past events when writing blog posts about days gone by, but, bare with me, because I feel that what happened 20 years ago this August bank holiday weekend can easily be classed as a milestone event in my own personal musical history. And with that, justifies having a whole blog post dedicated to its memory. It seems weird to say, as if it can’t quite possibly be true, that this weekend marks exactly 20 years since I first attended the Reading Festival. Reading ’95 was the first time I had ever been to a ‘proper’ gig where big and famous bands were playing, so as of this weekend I can say that I’ve been going to see live bands for 20 years now. An incredible amount of mind-blowing things have happened in the decades since and it all started with that one life changing weekend.

 

I imagine that most people get misty eyed about the decade they lived their teenage years through and I’m no different. For me, the 90’s was amazing time. The last decade before the internet and mobile phones took over, a time when high streets were still packed with shops that were open, kids could play in the streets and you would watch TV shows when the TV scheduler’s dictated you should watch them. It was also a time when bands and music really mattered. For example, a whole week in the summer of 1995 the news focussed on whether it would be Oasis or Blur who would score the number 1 position in the singles chart that week. I couldn’t even tell you if there is a singles chart anymore let alone name the pop combo who sits on top of it at the moment.
In the July of 1995 I turned 15. At the time I had long greasy hair, played guitar in a band called Toothpaste and had a group of friends at school who everyone else there referred to as the ‘Grunge Club’. Music was all that really mattered to me at the time. I hated school, for the most part, but I had a cool group of like-minded friends there for whom music was everything. We wore Doc Marten’s, had band names scrawled across our school bags and spent our lunch times practicing Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Stiltskin covers.

That year had already been a turning point, our bands had started to try to play gigs in public and not just at school and we were allowed out in the evenings more and more. We would spend these at shows where slightly older teenagers would play slightly better covers than we could (my favourite local band, Flannel, could do a near perfect version of ‘mayonnaise’ that would blow my teenage socks off) or drinking sickening amounts of White Lightning cider at the beach. As part of our work experience fortnight our school had paid for us to spend a day at a recording studio to record songs we had written to form part of our Music GCSE coursework. That day cemented our obsession with playing music, we felt like rock stars to walk away with a cassette with our songs on it. We repaid this privilege that the school had bestowed on us by playing a cover of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing in the name’ at the end of year school music competition which ended with a group of us being suspended from school for the last couple of days of the summer term.

Despite the amount of trouble I had gotten in at home for this misdemeanour, and to my great surprise, my parents agreed to allow me to go with a small group of friends to the 1995 Reading Festival. I had been going on about going since my best friend at the time had been to the festival in 1994 and when I had seen the line up announcement in Kerrang a few months before it was due to take place I quadrupled my efforts. I repeatedly emphasised how this was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to see all my favourite bands in one place and in the end they said yes and gave me the money and permission to go.

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This will tell you how different things were back then. To obtain my ticket my parents had given me the cash, I caught the bus in to Canterbury and walked hurriedly to Richards Records believing everyone would know I was carrying more money than I ever had before. I entered the shop, asked for one weekend camping ticket for the Reading Festival and put my £65(!!!) on the counter, the man produced a book of tickets, tore one out and handed it over. I carefully put this in my wallet and headed straight to get the bus home. The thought of being able to go in to a record shop and buy a ticket over the counter a few weeks before the event seems so alien now.

There was a group of 5 of us that were lucky enough to go that year, all of us 15 and for me, at least, it was the first time I was allowed to travel away from home unaccompanied overnight. The sense of freedom was both liberating and maybe a bit overwhelming. I’d gotten the train to London plenty of times before that point, so everything seemed pretty normal until the point. When we boarded the 2nd train to take us to Reading I started to realise that pretty much everyone in the carriage was going to the same place. Then on exiting the train station at Reading and seeing the mass of people who were all heading in the same direction and for the same reason, it hit me that this was really happening. The first sight of the main stage in the distance as you head along the road to the festival site got me really excited, I think it’s safe to say that night I got a little carried away.

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The Thursday night at the Reading Festival gives you no option but to go crazy. The bands don’t start until the next day, you’ve set up your tent, had a walk in to town for supplies and something to eat, played ‘Bollocks’ a fair amount, so then you’re there in a massive field with thousands of young people all wanting to party. So that’s what we did. My memory of that night is pretty vague, I remember sitting in my tent with one of my friends and starting off a 2 litre bottle of cider but from then on it gets hazy. I have a vague memory of being in some strangers tent laughing but apart from that the only thing I can really remember was stumbling into my own tent, throwing up on my sleeping bag, turning it over and then getting in it and going to sleep. It must’ve been quite an eventful night because in the morning I had a massive headache and as I sat outside my tent to eat some cereal I’d bought with me all these people, whom I have no idea who they were, kept saying hi to me and knew my name.

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Absolutely ruined in my tent

There wasn’t a lot of time to wallow in a hangover as there were bands to go and see. Being allowed in to the arena for the first time of the weekend is always a fun feeling. You’re finally allowed to see the stages up close with the promise of bands about to come out, plus there are cleaner toilets here at opening time than there are in the campsite and usually better food options. Although by the Saturday I was usually relying on the salvation army to supply the rest of my weekend’s sustenance, soup and a roll for a quid is all you need to survive. That Friday in 1995 I made my way straight to the front row centre to take up my place for the day. Being naïve I thought I’d stay here all day, not realising that pretty soon the weight of thousands of people pushing up against you is pretty hard to take. It worked out ok for a good while that afternoon though. And at one point, when I felt really sick after the first band had played, I seemed to be in the best place as the barrier provided a nice buffer between the vomit and the rest of the crowd and I. Plus a nice security guard was on hand to give me many cups of cold water to try to hydrate.

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The main stage lineup on the Friday is something etched in my mind and will probably stay with me forever. Even though I was mainly there for the bands playing later in the day, I really enjoyed every band that played that day which is rare with festival lineups. China Drum isn’t a band I would ever go on to buy any albums of but they’ll always be the first proper band I ever saw live. They did a great job of kicking the festival off with their inflatable Newky brown bottles and Kate Bush covers. I pretty much fell in love with Juliana Hatfield from the time she took to the stage, back home I would go on to buy her records and ‘Only Everything’ still gets regular plays to this day and evoking memories of that summer every time. Deus were good fun, it’s always enjoyable when you’re watching a band you barely know at a festival and they play a song you both recognise and like too. ‘Suds and Soda’ was definite highlight and I can still picture them playing it in the sunshine that day.

I was a bit disappointed with Beck, not because he wasn’t good , he was the opposite in fact but because when I’d seen him perform ‘Loser’ on Top of the Pops a few months earlier his backing band had all been really old people. I thought they just must be his band and was a bit gutted when these young guys in backwards baseball caps walked onstage and started playing. Not that it put me off though, I really like Beck and he was great that afternoon playing all the hits from ‘Mellow Gold’.

 

It was during the next band, Teenage Fanclub, though that being in the front row had become unsustainable. The crowd had swelled in size and the pressure felt by being squashed against the barrier, coupled with being at the point where all the crowd surfers landed meant I could stay there no longer. I had desperately wanted to be in the front row for Hole but I couldn’t hack it and shouted for a security guard to pull me out of the crowd. I felt comforted by the fact that I must’ve got some pretty decent photo’s that day from my front row vantage point but even more frustratingly my camera jammed later on that day. I made the rookie error of opening the back which exposed the film and with it wiped every photo I had taken. There was no bringing them back, they were all lost and I feel annoyed to this day just thinking about it.

The next 3 days formed the main basis of why it was that I was so desperate to go that year. Just the mere thought of watching Hole, Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins all in the same evening sent me into hysterics. I was besotted with all 3 of those bands at the time, spending many hours in my bedroom at home playing my guitar along to their CDs whilst staring at their posters on my wall, fantasising that one day they would ask me to join them onstage.

By the time Hole had taken to the stage I was in the much more appropriate place in the crowd of towards the front but to the left. It is still my go to place to stand during shows and it worked out well then too. Not only did I have a great view of the band, I also narrowly missed a section of the crowd that seemed to just fall to the ground whilst pogo-ing to ‘Violet’. I was blown away by seeing Courtney Love in the flesh, I was used to seeing her all the time on MTV and in magazines but here she was screaming in to a microphone just a few feet away. My love for her at the time had been impacted partly by how much my Dad hated her. Not to sound too much like a stereotypical teenager but when Hole were on Top of the Pops to play ‘Doll Parts’, my Dad spent the entirety of the song spewing forth anti-Love vitriol based on how talentless he thought she was. For some reason this made him really angry and this hardened my pro-Love stance. To be fair, he may have had a point and my opinion of Courtney Love has certainly changed over time but back then I couldn’t disagree more and seeing Hole play live that day was one of the most exciting times I had as a teenager.

As a 15-year-old I think I was the perfect audience for Green Day’s set. Not only was it packed with all the hits from ‘Dookie’ but sandwiched in between this was loads of jokes, swearing and audience interaction. Being told by Billie Joe Armstrong to , as part of thousands of people watching, yell ‘Fuck off you Yankee cunts’ at the band felt like the coolest thing ever. The energy didn’t let up for the whole time they were onstage and they even treated us to a new song, ‘Geek stink breath’, which makes me feel really old to say now.

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Talking of new songs, most bands headlining festivals would limit the amount of new material in their sets to appease the crowd. But then most bands aren’t Smashing Pumpkins. And considering those new songs happened to be some of the best songs on ‘Mellon Collie…’ you can understand why they wanted to play them. It was amazing to hear songs like ‘Zero’ and ‘Bullet with butterfly wings’ for the first time in this setting, especially as I would never see Smashing Pumpkins play again having gone off them by the time ‘Adore’ was released. Plus they played my favourite SP song, ‘Geek USA’, just after I’d bumped into my friends in the crowd, one of whom let me watch from upon his shoulders. That moment really topped off an incredible day, my hangover had gone, Billy Corgan had a full head of hair and all was good in the world.

The next day though, things went downhill. Having been asthmatic since I was 6 years old I had done the sensible thing by packing my inhaler. However, no one had warned me how dusty it would be at the festival site and what an adverse reaction I would have to this. In those days the emergency inhaler I carried around with me was really old-fashioned. It required a caplet to be inserted into the bottom of the inhaler, which you would then twist back and forth before breathing it all in. The case I took had the space to carry 8 caplets which you could take up to once every 4 hours as required. In a normal summer I’d probably use my inhaler 5 times tops, it’s always been mild asthma that I suffered from. By the Saturday morning that weekend, I was down to my last caplet. I sat in my tent about to take it when my friend Gee piped up with the classic line, ‘Al, are you sure you wanna use it now, we’ve got Skunk Anansie later!’. However much I wanted to join him in the mosh pit for ‘Selling Jesus’ and all the rest, I was struggling to breathe and needed the momentary relief the Ventolin would provide. Shortly after this I followed my friend’s advice and took myself off to the medical tent in the hope that they would prescribe me some more medicine. This started a long tradition of visiting the medical tent at the Reading Festival. In total I’ve been to the festival 6 times and only have only avoided requiring medical assistance on one of those times, and that’s only because 1996 was a rainy mud fest so it was nowhere near as dusty.

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My friends

Luckily the medical team there saw what a bad way I was in and ordered me a new inhaler, it would take until the next day to arrive so they hooked me up to a nebulizer in the meantime. This got me through the rest of that day, a day that was nowhere near as jam-packed with bands that I wanted to see as the previous day had been.

I made it back in to the arena to watch Skunk Anansie, I didn’t risk getting stuck right into the middle but enjoyed them from my new favourite position to the left. They were a definite highlight of an afternoon that also included watching Tricky and the Boo Radleys out of sheer laziness of not wanting to move from where I had chosen to lay down near the sound booth at the main stage. After a second visit to the medical team later that evening, I headed over to the Melody Maker tent for the first and only time of the weekend, ignoring Paul Weller as I passed the main stage and found myself a decent position for the Foo Fighters.

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The Boo Radleys from afar

The Foo Fighters performance at Reading that year is the stuff of legend. Having booked the band before the release of their self titled album, the organisers had taken a bit of a punt on putting them on the second stage. Little did they know that approx. 20,000 people would try to fit themselves in a tent that could barely hold a third of that. People were climbing the scaffolding holding the tent up and sitting on the fences at the side of the tent. Because of this Dave Grohl had to repeatedly tell people to get down otherwise the organisers were threatening to pull the plug on their set. If only everyone had known that all they needed to do was to get down early and patiently stand through Echobelly’s set to get a good space in the crowd. Maybe the thought of that was too much for some to bear, I never liked Echobelly and they seemed to drag on for an awfully long amount of time but the lure of the Foo Fighters to my 15-year-old self was worth it. And it paid off because when they took to the stage I had a great view of the band and enough space around me to not feel the pressure of the crowd. They tore straight in to ‘Winnebago’ and didn’t look back. Although the atmosphere in the tent that night was pretty electric, I really wasn’t well. By the time they launched in to ‘Weenie Beenie’, which was about halfway through their set, I needed to get a drink and sit down. It took me forever to reach the outside of the tent as the crowd seemed to go on forever but I could still hear them as I reached a refreshment stand, bought a coke and sat down. They sounded amazing and I regret not seeing it through to the end, at the time though all I wanted to do was go back to my tent and try to get some sleep. I made my way back, pausing for a couple of minutes to watch Bjork be great from afar on the main stage.

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This is Foo Fighters, honestly it is. Not that you can tell

I still felt really rough on the Sunday morning, I don’t know whether this is the case for most festivals but Reading is really not the place to be if you suffer badly from a mix of hay fever and asthma. Luckily though there was some good news though when the arena opened that afternoon. My new inhaler had arrived at the medical tent, going to get it meant missing Pennywise and NOFX on the main stage but that was a small price to pay to be able to breathe again. My spirits were instantly lifted, even to the point where I was able to join in a water fight with a friend in the arena.

My friends and I planted ourselves in front of the main stage again that afternoon and that’s where we stayed for the rest of the day. Blind Melon did a good enough job of easing me back in watching bands play, ‘No Rain’ being both a pleasant soundtrack to lazing in the sunshine and an apt description of the dust fest Reading had turned in too. They were nothing, however, compared to what was to come next. I loved White Zombie at the time, ‘Astro Creep 2000…’ being an album I would listen to repeatedly and they didn’t disappoint. I even stood up and moved nearer to the stage for them, which considering the circumstances was a great honour. I still remember being confused though at one point when Rob Zombie was telling the assembled masses how great it had been to play Donington the day before and asked if anyone had been there, a huge roar went up in the crowd as if to say ‘YES!’. Bloody liars. I don’t know why that has stayed with me but it seemed to get under my skin.

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This could be anyone

Babes in Toyland and Buffalo Tom continued that afternoon’s great entertainment but both were blown away by Mudhoney who were truly awesome.

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Mudhoney

By the time they were done, my friends and I decided it was high time we got some dinner and go for a walk. Looking back this was an awful idea as it meant missing most of Pavement. If I had known what a massive fan of Pavement I would become then I would’ve stayed put. Luckily I would get to see them properly a few years later but that was still a dumb thing to do. I wanted to make sure to make sure I was refreshed and ready for the next band so at the time it made sense. For up next were Soundgarden.

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Soundgarden

In my eyes Soundgarden were legends and a huge reason for me to attend the festival that year. To this day their performance that glorious summer evening continues to be one of the most disappointing musical experiences of my life. They were dreadful. They sounded weak, they looked bored, there was zero energy and I was gutted. Being 15 and watching big bands for the first time I must’ve been someone who was easily impressed, I’d much rather be able to enjoy something and was nothing like as cynical as I can be now. So, they must’ve been pretty awful for me to feel that way then. They completely bored me and were the only band that I had wanted to see to do so that whole weekend.

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Neil Young

I stuck around for the whole set though because I wanted a good spot in the crowd to see my absolute heroes. Up next were PEARL JAM!! Well, kind of. It was actually Neil Young, but this was ‘Mirrorball’ era Neil Young so it meant Pearl Jam, minus Eddie Vedder, were his backing band. It was a great thrill to see Neil Young, who I’d come to like by proxy of being a massive Pearl Jam fan, but an even greater thrill to see Jeff Ament, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard on that stage that night. I didn’t last, however. About an hour in there was nebulizer in the medical tent calling out my name and I needed its help to breathe once more. And that’s where I stayed until the bands had all finished.

The next morning I was glad to be going home. That Monday morning trudge to Reading train station is never fun, it is amusing to get back in to London to change trains and realise you are amongst normal people again though. You wear the festival stench with pride as you get back in to normality. I felt instantly well again once I was back home and just wanted to stuff my face and tell everyone I knew what an amazing weekend I had just had.

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The following week’s issue

My friend Gee and I talked about Reading constantly for months after, there wasn’t a school day that went past without it being mentioned. we kept our Reading festival wristbands on until they eventually fell off at around Christmas time. Our stories of the weekend must have had an impact on our friends as come Reading 1996 there was a massive group of at least 20 of us that went. A few years later my friend Gee had Reading 1995 tattooed on his wrist where his wristband had once laid such was the impact that weekend had on our impressionable 15-year-old selves.

I felt rough, but it was worth it!

The festival seems so different now, I haven’t been since 2003 and even then it had started to lose that magic and charm it once had. Overbearing corporate sponsorship, strict security firms patrolling the camp site, the addition of Leeds and the main stage moving further and further away from the crowd have all taken the shine away. But then I guess that Reading isn’t meant for someone in their mid thirties who likes home comforts more and more. It has a youthful energy to it, a spirit that won’t stand being fobbed off and will bottle second-rate performers. I really hope teenagers that go this year for the first or second time get something like that same experience we had back in 1995. It was life changing, I’ll never forget it and still dream one day that, however unlikely, I’ll be able to be in a band that plays the festival. Obviously, as long as there is a nebulizer on stand by at the side of the stage.

Thanks for reading

Get in touch. ittoblog@gmail.com, facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or @alex_itto on twitter.

 

 

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THE VAN PELT CAME TO LONDON, I WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN

This blog post wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had worked it out in my head completely different, in my head there was a happy ending. But things haven’t gone to plan, so, instead of Is This Thing on? Blogs 100th post being one of celebration, it is now one of utter disappointment and frustration.

Today, (16/08/2014), was supposed to be spent at the Excel centre in London at All Tomorrow’s Parties Jabberwocky festival, you may have seen (not that you could really miss) the fact that the festival was cancelled just 3 days before it was due to take place. I had bought my ticket earlier this year in March, primarily because of one band, The Van Pelt.

I couldn’t quite believe the poster for the event when I first saw it. It was a great line up with plenty of other bands that I would be really excited to see play live (Cloud Nothings, Metz, Pissed Jeans etc..), but the fact that the Van Pelt were named on there too made my jaw hit the ground. In fact, I was so surprised to see their name on the bill that I had to google them to make sure it was really THE Van Pelt playing and not some indie upstarts who had stolen their band name. As soon as I had confirmed enough to satisfy my suspicions that it was actually them, I bought my ticket. The price for the day ticket that I was about to purchase was a nice surprise too, £38.50 for the day! I would have been willing and was expecting to pay more, I bet I wasn’t the only one who thought this. At the time I thought I was getting a bargain, in hindsight it seems like a big error of judgement on behalf of the promoters.

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After weeks of exchanging excited texts and messages with friends who were going and telling anyone who would listen that I was going, it came as a shock to find out ATP were pulling the plug. Jabberwocky was cancelled. Initial disbelief quickly turned to anger and frustration, which was mainly aimed at ATP themselves. How could this happen? How could they operate with this level of incompetency?? Why hadn’t this decision been made weeks ago?? The line up was stellar, unrivalled by other festivals this year so how could they fail to deliver?????!!!

What followed the statement from ATP was really bizarre to be caught in the middle of. The fallout from the announcement went in 2 directions, a massive argument about who was responsible to refund everyone and also a mad dash to find out if the bands booked to play Jabberwocky would still be coming over and playing somewhere. Pretty quickly a facebook group and website started up with the sole purpose to salvage something from this weekend. With the cancellation of the event being so close to the date it was supposed to take place, it made sense that most of the bands would already have their travel arrangements in place and were either in the UK or on their way here. If bands are coming then let’s get them shows to play and get them an audience to attend. When I joined the Jabberwocky fallout rumours Facebook group it was already a few hundred people strong and it was thrilling to see what was happening. The members of this group were disappointed ticket holders taking things into their own hands, sharing information about whatever they could find out trying to ensure that even if the event was cancelled, we weren’t about to miss out. The number of members of this group grew with lightning speed and didn’t take long to realise that things weren’t going to work out well.

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I scoured the page for news of a Van Pelt replacement show. It was quite nice to find out that this was a hot topic of conversation. People seemed desperate to see The Van Pelt, a lot more so than the other bands and combining this with the knowledge that they were already in Europe meant that a replacement show was inevitable. Taking my eye off the ball for a brief moment made me miss the announcement that they were going to play with Metz at The Shacklewell Arms for free. By the time I clicked on the link for the free tickets I wasn’t surprised to see they were all gone. As it turned out, they were taken off the bill for this show and rumours flung round that ATP had used a contractual obligation to not let them play (something which ATP have said is completely false). Instead they were now going to play on the Friday night at the Ace hotel at the cost of £11 a ticket. It wasn’t just the fact that by the time I found out about this that it had sold out that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It felt like my opportunity to see a band I thought I would never get to see play live had been snatched away from me. I had secured my place at the festival to see the Van Pelt 5 months ago and now they were going to play exclusively for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, some of whom you just know weren’t original Jabberwocky ticket holders.

Meanwhile, a very public argument had started regarding who was responsible to refund everyone who had bought a ticket. In the original ATP statement they advised punters that a full refund would be given from the point of sale, for many of us it was Dash tickets. Dash Tickets were very quick to respond to my email and to state publicly that they would not be responsible for the refunds as they had only offered software for ATP to use to sell tickets and that all money brought in from ticket sales had already been passed to ATP. Dash also wanted it known that they were looking at taking legal action against ATP for the handling of this. When Dash emailed me they included some terms and conditions that looked to prove that they would not ever be responsible for refunds, ATP have since come out to say that these terms and conditions were changed without their prior knowledge after the tickets went on sale and that they had not received any money from Dash for over 2 months.

Like most of the other disappointed ticket holders I vented my frustrations on various social media platforms and vowed to never buy tickets for an ATP event again. Since their last statement I have calmed down a bit and now don’t really know what to think and who, if anyone, to blame. ATP seem pretty genuine, even if they do have past form in allegedly not paying out and mishandling events. It’s not really in my nature to hate independent companies trying to organise really interesting events in the current economic climate. To be fair as well to ATP they have continued to release statements with advice about refunds, my last email from Dash had the heading ‘Your request has been deemed solved’. Things will probably blow over for them and I hope they do so. Look at Hevy fest for example, last year they were the complete laughing-stock of the festival circuit after cancelling last years festival because, even though they had been selling tickets for a number of months, they had never actually secured a venue for the festival. A lot of anger and hate was directed at them but as I type this, Hevy 2014 is taking place. People put their faith in them and seem to have been rewarded with 2 days punk and metal bands.

(The second statement from ATP can be read HERE)

As it turned out, The Van Pelt did play the show at the Shacklewell Arms this afternoon that had been originally announced the day after the festival was cancelled. So that’s twice they played in London within 24 hours and I was nowhere to be seen. Apparently the shows were insane. A friend of mine managed to get into the Friday night show and said the atmosphere inside the venue was ‘bordering on mania’, and the set was filled with classics such as ‘The Speeding Train’, ‘ABCD’s of Facism’ and ‘Yamato (where people really die)’. My friend said that on ‘Yamato…’ ‘the crowd sung the “aaaaah” backing vocals and the band seemed to love that!’ It sounds like it was an amazing show to be at.

The Van Pelt are a really special band, I have never once listened to them and not found something new or interesting about their songs and the way they sound. Their original two albums haven’t dated whatsoever. And their “new” record, ‘The Imaginary Third’, which was released on the Spanish label La Castanya earlier this year to coincide with record store day, sounds as current and relevant as anything else I’ve heard this year. I say new, the album was recorded when the band were originally together in the late 90’s and is made up of 5 songs that ended up on the Lapse’s first record and the ‘Speeding Train’ 7″. They are a band I first got into as a teenager that I haven’t stopped listening to now long in to my thirties. A band I thought I would never get the chance to see play live and now, as it turns out, seems to be correct. Although there is a rumour they might come back next year, they mentioned on a reply to a comment I left on one of their Instagram pictures that they were at least considering it. I can at least hold on to this hope.

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If they don’t my only encounter with Chris Leo (singer/guitarist The Van Pelt), as mentioned a couple of years back on this blog, will be when he shouted at me because beer got spilled on his amp at a The Lapse show in Germany. At least I have the memory of that night though, and a funny story I can always bore my children with.

The Van Pelt playing ‘Yamato (where people really die) in 1996

Thanks for reading.

Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com xx

 

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ABOUT TIME 2, PECKHAM, NOV 16TH 2013

This is not a review in the traditional sense as I wasn’t able to stay for the whole day but I really wanted to write something about how good an experience attending About Time 2 was. Family commitments meant that staying the whole day wasn’t an option but having missed out on About Time last year I wanted to make sure I was there for as much as I could this time round and thanks to my incredibly supportive wife, Hannah, this was possible. It’s a real shame to have missed Joan of Arc and Joanna Gruesome but I’m so happy I got to spend most of the rest of the day there.

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About Time 2, the sequel to About Time, was a one day DIY festival that boasted the UK’s best emo/indie/experimental bands (as well as Italy’s finest screamo band, but we’ll come back to that in a mo). All dayer’s have provided me with some of my favourite gig going memories from the Hot Water Music all dayer at the Garage that also featured Discount, Spy vs Spy and the Autumn Year to the Converge all dayer that took place in a Scout hut in Canterbury and also featured November Coming Fire and the Break In. About Time 2 can now stand proudly with these memories as it was an incredibly enjoyable and exciting day of crazily good music. Like most live reviews I write I have to start by apologising for turning up late, I will always endeavour to get to shows on time but sometimes it’s completely out of my control. The reason this time was the task of getting Hannah and all our 4 kids to her best friends house in Peckham safely before I could head over to the show. I think we did pretty well to get there when we did but it did mean that I missed the first the first 3 bands and turned up just as Playlounge were playing their last notes. So apologies to Healing Powers, Mars to Stay and COP for not being there early enough to watch you play, from what I’ve read online you were all pretty, pretty good.

My comrade for the day was my good friend of many years, Tim. Tim is a music obsessive and some time DJ with incredibly eclectic taste taking in everything from Rockabilly to shoegaze but has never witnessed an “emo” show before. He was very excited to be coming and as he’s read this blog and knows just how passionate I am, he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was going to be interesting to see if he would be into any of the bands and what he’d make of the day as a whole, I jokingly told him that I imagine the next time I see him he’ll be sporting the plaid shirt with back pack look and complaining about all this revival rubbish and who knows, could happen because he seemed to as much fun there as I did.

The first band we saw were my good friends band Cosmic Thoughts, who had attracted a decent sized crowd upstairs on the second stage. Their off kilter, synth heavy, arty indie rock with straight up thumping bass lines and persistently infectious drum rhythms got a good percentage of the crowd shaking their hips. Like I’ve said before keep an eye out for these guys as they’ve definitely got an amazing record inside them waiting to burst out at some point in the future.

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After looking a look about, taking things in and catching up with some “internet friends” it was time to see one of the bands I was most excited about seeing, Carson Wells. With this set Carson Wells really set the bar high for all the other bands still to come later, amazingly tight and powerful post hardcore of the highest quality with some great banter thrown in between songs. If you think their LP is great (and it is) it really comes alive when they play live, I was blown away which ain’t bad for a band playing at 2 in the afternoon.

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We then caught the end of Blood Sport’s set, their fresh faced, experimental, Afro beats really caught Tim’s eye and ears for that matter. Then, due to a play being performed in the building, there was an extended break which we capitalised on by finding a greasy spoon cafe who dealt out very generous portions. After filling up all the bacon, eggs, beans and sausages we could manage (or liver in Tim’s case) we were back at the Bussey building hungry for some more live treats.

What greeted us next were We Came Out Like Tigers and a packed room of punters. Probably the best band on the bill to welcome in the evening, the sun had gone down and now the walls were full of a light display which gave their set an added eeriness to the the violin led screamo onslaught. Tim mentioned to me that this was the first moment of the day that it felt like we were part of something that was happening, witnessing an underground scene coming alive. And from here on in it was just band after band like clockwork over two stages. Having seen a band upstairs you would head downstairs to find a band waiting to play, no time wasted and this all added to the overall excitement of the day.

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I made sure that Tim and I were down the front in good time for the next band because I could sense something special was about to happen. Human Hands took to the stage and proved me right, I’d said earlier in the day that this was the band I was most excited about seeing and hoped Tim would see why. After their first song he leaned in to me and declared that what he’d just heard was “delicious!”, I couldn’t have put it any better myself. The room was absolutely packed and the atmosphere was more than electric as Human Hands delivered the performance of the day. Passionate and intense emo in the greatest 90s sense ending with the guitarist angrily throwing his guitar down and leaving a crowd with its collective jaws on the floor. Absolutely perfect!!

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How the hell do you follow that?? Well a change of tone and back upstairs to see Well Wisher get the party well and truly started with their energetic, hook laden emo rock. A great reception greeted them from a crowd that was lapping up what was on offer.

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Things were just getting better and better and this didn’t stop as we headed back downstairs. Plaids were next on the main stage, the crowd was ready and hungry and got exactly what they wanted from a band that is really coming into their own. Plaids worked the crowd to perfection with their shouty emocore not letting the ball drop for a millisecond. There was no way that they would be the weak link in an evening full of the best bands you could see in a day.

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The same could be said of the next band, the final band of the second stage Nai Harvest. A poor position dampened my enjoyment somewhat of their set which is a real shame as they sounded great. Opening with new songs at a festival is always a risky move but they seemed to pull it off and repaid the audiences commitment with some classics from their full length.

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The final band of the day for Tim and I were Italy’s finest, Raein. I’d missed their UK tour at the start of the year which I was very annoyed about and was so happy when it was announced that they’d be playing About Time 2. With the fact that we had to leave after Raein had played meant we were treating these guys like headliners, a role they fulfilled completely. Everything was right, their guitar tone, energy, passion and all else besides made their near hour long set pass by in no time at all. Finishing up with some older songs that sent the front half of the crowd in to a frenzy of flailing arms and with that came the first crowd surfers of the day, rising from the pit. A perfect end.

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And with that we left to go home, tired and extremely happy. Tim’s request to make sure we go again next year confirmed to me that he’d had as good a time as I had. We both agreed that Human Hands stole the show but aside from that it had, all in all, been a really incredible day with every band bringing their a-game. Zine & not heard/barely regal records/HOU project know how to throw a party, London you should count yourselves very lucky!!

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THE APPLESEED CAST LIVE IN CANTERBURY, OCT 2013

I’m not one for school reunions, I don’t really wanna be stuck in a room with people whose friend requests I’ve ignored on Facebook saying things like “Do you remember when we were at school and it was shit?”. When it was announced a few months ago that The Appleseed Cast were going to play Canterbury it felt like a bit of a school reunion but in the best possible way. Appleseed Cast are a really special band, who are much-loved by most of the local scene we had here back in the day. They played up the road in Margate 3 times between 1999 and 2002, these shows had such an impact they are still talked about to this day, the news that they were playing here again created a buzz of excitement with the old faithful across many social media outlets. It felt a lot like the old days, just with added technology and part of what made this autumn night in Canterbury so special was this reunion of sorts. Old friends, exchanging stories and having a laugh brought together by the love of a legendary band that played such a big part of our scene.

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I have to apologise to Cascade who opened the show as I turned up just as they were packing their equipment away, gigs seem to come with so many support bands these days and despite my best efforts I just can’t get there early enough. I’m sure they did a stellar job of opening up, if they were half as good as the next band, Cosmic Thoughts, then that would certainly be the case because they were superb. Mixing artful indie rock with beats that make you want to shake your behind definitely got the proceedings off to a great start. Cosmic Thoughts have been recording recently and I’ll make sure to post a link as soon as they have something available.

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Moose Blood were next up and received a great reception from their home town crowd. It’s only been a year since they played their first live show and they have come so far since, crazy to think what they may achieve in the next 12 months. Theirs was a concise set of songs that demand people to sing along to and many in the crowd were glad to oblige. The final support band of the night were Appleseed Cast’s touring support for across Europe, June Miller. Their engrossing post rock set the tone perfectly for what was about to come. June Miller produced a beautiful sound and their set was delivered with plenty of heart, even included some audience participation towards the end too which is always a nice touch.

It was then time for The Appleseed Cast and my excitement levels were through the roof. Bramleys, the venue for the show, is a really intimate wine bar with a low ceiling and vintage lamps providing mood lighting, It’s the perfect setting for seeing Appleseed Cast play again. The show was sold out and the assembled crowd had drawn in making a tight semi-circle around the band and they didn’t disappoint us one bit. The Appleseed Cast has always been a band with a consistently changing line up and now is no different. Their current line up, which was the line up for their latest album ‘Illumination Ritual’ fronted by the only remaining founding member Chris Crisci, have an amazingly youthful energy about them. The Appleseed cast have been around for about 15 years now and although there have been gaps in between records they’ve never split up although they may have changed quite a bit. This current line up seem to work really well together and although anyone watching my bad old man emo dancing will say that I was most active and excited during the older songs, it was the new material from ‘Illumination Ritual’ where they sounded at their best.
Apparently ‘Illumination Ritual’ came together in same way a Mike Leigh film does, hours of improvisation from the band as a whole honed in to the actual songs by Crisci, the band’s leader. It really works for them and the album is an incredible success, my favourite Appleseed Cast album since the formidable ‘Low Level Owl’ double epic. This writing style seems to have brought the band together as a live force, the interplay between the superb drums and bass on songs like ‘Cathedral Rings’ is spot on and leaves a lot of scope for the two guitarists to play with on top.

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Their set relied heavily on songs from the new record but that’s not to say that they didn’t play any of the old songs and the ones they did were superb choices. Discussions amongst some of my friends before the show had practically ruled out the possibility that they might play ‘Marigold and Patchwork’ and those predictions were true. I don’t mind really as I have seen them play it before and when they played it the first time they had played Margate it was one of the all time best moments from any show I’d ever been to. They instead chose to play some other definite fan favourites in the way of ‘Steps and Numbers’ and ‘On Reflection’ from Low Level Owl Vol One and ‘Forever longing the golden sunsets’ and ‘Fishing the sky’ from Mare Vitalis. The latter two really made the night for me and it was during one of those a friend of mine grabbed my shoulder and shouted in to my ear that he was so happy, a sentiment that really summed up the whole evening for me.

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A great indicator to how good Appleseed Cast were was when I was stood talking to friends after the show and checked the time, none of us could believe how late it was. Time had stood still that chilly night in old Canterbury town. I spoke to a couple of the band members briefly at the merch table before I left and mentioned that I was wearing the same t-shirt that I had bought from them the first time they played Margate in 1999. They seemed amused by this so I asked Chris Crisci if he remembered playing Margate, those amazing shows that still mean something, and his response was “Sure”. That was enough for me, I left the venue on a massive high with a huge grin on my face, got in my car and listened to ‘Illumination Ritual” full blast all the way home. A truly brilliant night!!

Thanks so much for reading

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27.07.2013 A GOOD DAY TO BE ‘MO

Some days are just destined to be perfect, where everything comes together completely as it should and leaves you feeling as high as a kite about how wonderful life can sometimes be. Some days will stay with you forever, days you’ll find yourself on a dull, wet afternoon in the future daydreaming about, wishing you could be back there. On paper the 27th of July 2013 looked pretty damn good, in reality it was fucking incredible.

Everyone knows how much I love Football, Etc, last year I drove down to Brighton to see them play with Joie De Vivre and was blown away. A few months ago I was lucky enough to interview them for this blog and asked them about future UK tour plans. After we spoke I looked up the dates to make sure I could go and, as luck would have it, realised they were playing London on the 27th of July. My birthday! Yes!! I punched the air with joy at the thought of spending my birthday in London watching one of my favourite bands.

Going to this show was set in stone until a couple of weeks later Braid decided to throw a spanner in the works. I had seen that there was a campaign to get Braid to play in the UK and now it was actually going to happen and happen it was on the 27th of July!! Dilemma time, do I travel to London and spend my birthday watching one of my current favourite bands for the 2nd time or do I go and see one of the most legendary emo bands of all time for the first time playing an absolute classic album in its entirety??? Luckily in the end this was a decision I never had to make thanks to some genius thinking by Tommy/Zine and not heard who were putting on the Football, Etc. show. After an initial idea of making that show a Braid after party it was announced that the Football, Etc show was going to be a matinée and would finish before the Braid show started. And not only that it was going to be in the Buffalo Bar, a venue directly opposite the Garage where Braid were playing. Phew!

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The day finally arrived and after a morning of being spoilt by my wife and kids with a cooked breakfast and a stack of new records I set off on the train to London. Since I started this blog I have made some really good friends on twitter/Facebook etc.. with some lovely, like-minded folk who are all as nuts about emo as I am. My kid, Louis, refers to these people as my ‘e-friends’ and it was them I was going to be spending this day with. Turns out not everyone you meet online is a crazy psycho-sex pest like my mum always warned me they would be, in fact they were really bloody amazing people. We met up, shook hands, acknowledged how extremely hot it was in that there London and off we went for a whole day of ‘mo.

We turned up to the Buffalo Bar just in time to catch the last few moments of Wrestling, a shame really as the seemed really good. Next on were Doe, who despite the setback of having to spend most of their set restringing a guitar whilst listing their favourite paedophiles (you had to be there), played an enjoyable set of grunge pop. The show really kicked in to gear when the next band, Plaids, took to the stage. I was very excited to see this band, I’d heard that they were great live and I was already a fan of their recorded output so in my mind they couldn’t fail and fail they did not. Plaids bring it like any great punk band should, an abundance of energy and quality post-hardcore that really drew the crowd in, which by this time had swollen in size to pack the venue out. Plaids seem to tour a lot so I would highly recommend taking any chance to catch one of their shows.

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By the time Football, Etc took to the stage the venue must’ve been at capacity, I’m judging this by the fact that there were people crowded all the way up the stairs that lead in to the venue and the almost unbearable heat that came from being near the front. The reception they got was every bit as warm and was thoroughly deserved. Football, etc are the definitive indie emo band, a band who seemed to bring with them a new confidence that made them an even better live band than what they were last year. Maybe it was the addition of a new drummer or just the knowledge that they were on the verge of releasing a brilliant new album (an album which I will get round to writing about very soon), that was giving them this air of confidence. Usually a band who plays mainly new material that the majority of the crowd would be unfamiliar with would have a hard time getting the crowd on their side but this didn’t seem to be a problem at all. The fact they looked genuinely happy to be here and even played a song that stated this to be true made it impossible not to love their short but very excellent set. This first show of the day came to an end with Football, etc playing the mighty ‘Safety’. ‘Safety’ is one of the best songs of the last 5 years and live it takes on a whole new life of its own. The reaction from everyone present made the hair on my neck stand tall, the whole place was filled with the noise of a crowd singing in unison to not only the lyrics but also the opening guitar melody. Things got even better when Tommy Royds stormed the stage and gave Mercy from the band no option at all but to partake in some crowd surfing, Bass VI in hand, she was held aloft as the song was coming to its amazing climax and with that the show was finished leaving everyone in attendance suitably blown away.

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This would normally be enough for one day, but after a short break for some dinner we were in line at the Garage ready for the 2nd show of the day to begin. Once in and after eyeing up some more merch we made our way to the front ready to be blown away all over again. Up first on this 2nd show were a band that I’ve spent many an hour writing obscenely nice things about on this blog, Crash Of Rhino’s. If you haven’t read my review of Crash of Rhino’s new album then let me summarise by saying that I pretty much proclaimed it to be the best album of the last 10 years, a statement I still stand by. I had never seen them play live and I was probably more excited than a kid on Christmas morning as I stood waiting for them to come on, when they arrived and started playing ‘Everything Is’ quickly followed by ‘Interiors’ I realised that this was better than Christmas. I was watching one of the best bands this genre we call emo has ever produced and they were absolutely killing it. Crash of Rhino’s are a uniquely special and supremely talented band, they sounded incredibly huge that night and the joy of watching them play, swap instruments and take turns at singing is hard to convey by mere words. I’d show you by performing an illustrative dance but y’know, bad back and all that.

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I did start to wonder in the middle of Crash Of Rhino’s set if Braid had shot themselves in the foot by getting such an amazing band to open for them. But these thoughts were laid to rest as soon as Braid launched in to the opening song off ‘Frame & Canvas’, the classic ‘The New Nathan Detroits’. However good Crash Of Rhino’s were, this was Braid. BRAID!!! ‘Frame & Canvas’ is the stuff of legend, an album that hasn’t dated or lost any of its vast charm in the 15 years since it was released and Braid were here to play in full. As soon as Braid started the crowd were whipped in to a frenzy, pointed fingers were everywhere, every lyric was being screamed back at the band. The energy inside the Garage was palpable, Braid appeared to be really responding to this wave of adulation by giving it their all, in spite of the soaring temperatures. The only thing that nearly spoilt proceedings was some nasty sound issues, horrible feedback from one of the mics marred the end to ‘..Nathan Detroits’. Thankfully this was sorted quite quickly. It was so fantastic to be watching Braid play live at last. I can’t really work out why I hadn’t seen them the first time round and this more than making amends for that.

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By ‘Breathe In’ I gave in to the heat and retreated to the back of the venue to get some water and have a bit of a breather. I made the decision to watch the rest of the show from here which I do slightly regret because the atmosphere was a lot less intense at the back. It was so freakishly hot inside the Garage that night that getting some refreshment was probably the right thing to do and I was still able to really enjoy the encore. After Braid had played ‘Frame and canvas’ in its entirety they played a selection of fan favourites like ‘Please Drive Faster’, ‘Forever Got Shorter’ and ‘What a wonderful puddle’ as well as the two songs from the split they recently released with Balance & Composure. This led them on to say that a new album will be on its way, hopefully this will mean another tour too. Fingers crossed.

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What a day!! It will definitely remain one of my highlights of 2013 and a benchmark to measure all future birthdays against. I feel bad for you if you weren’t there, I’d like to say there’ll be days to come that will rival the 27th of July 2013 but I can’t picture there will be many. Just perfect!!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to get in touch on facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

Couldn’t find any videos of the London show but here is a video of Braid playing in Leeds on the same tour

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TIGERS JAW, CANTERBURY 02.08.2013

What an unbelievable week it has been, last Saturday I got to see Braid, Crash Of Rhinos, Football etc and Plaids at two separate back to back shows in London. I will write in-depth about how incredible that day was very soon but first I have to tell you about what happened last night in Canterbury.

I’ve never been to a ‘secret show’ before, I’ve certainly read about them happening but only after the event. I also never really understood how people found out about them, I always put it down to being in the right place at the right time. And that certainly is the case here. I found out that the show might happen about 6 days before as it was a very, very good (and awesome) friend of my wife and I, who is also very close friends of the band, who was putting it on. I surprised myself by keeping it a secret, when you get news like this the first instinct is to tell everyone who might even slightly care but I wanted to keep my word and also I didn’t want to jinx that fact that it might happen as it was still not a certainty until a couple of days before the show.

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The show was announced on the Thursday afternoon, the day before it was due to take place and the reaction was immense. Tigers Jaw mean a lot to a lot of people, earlier this year 3 of the members left the band throwing the whole future of the band up in the air but here they were, about to tour the UK and to kick it off were about to headline a show in a tiny practice studio in Canterbury with a capacity of 50 people. It was really exciting to spread the word and see the reaction the announcement was getting. Some people were in disbelief, some were busy changing plans just so they could get there and some seemed genuinely upset that they had no way of attending. On the walk up to the venue my excitement had reached fever pitch, I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening, had far too many people showed up? Were we gonna be left on the street and not allowed in? Had it all backfired and was no-one there?

The power of Tigers Jaw had pulled through, there was more people there than was first allowed but there was enough space to fit everyone in, the place was going to be packed but no-one was going to miss out. The atmosphere there when we first turned up was amazing, the weather was good, everyone was happy, friends were giving us hugs and the first band were already playing, this was really happening.

First up were Cascade, a new local band who made up for the lack of songs by playing what they had with heart and sincerity. This was their first gig, they are also lined up to play with Appleseed Cast in October, this band knows how to party. I only caught their last 2 songs but that was enough to get my interest up and they are certainly worth checking out. Click HERE to go to their bandcamp page!

Next up were local heroes Moose Blood. Everyone loves Moose Blood, how could you not?? Quality songs that are made for you to sing along to with both hands in the air. Things are really happening for this band, they had already supported Lemuria this week and you could see how excited they were to be here tonight. Their set was short but perfectly formed, they had the crowd singing along by the end and dealt well with the ever-increasing heat inside this tiny room. As the practice space is in a residential area the doors and windows had to be kept shut and the air conditioning could do nothing to battle the heat. Everyone was sweaty but we were all in the same boat so I don’t think anyone really cared. Plus one of the best bands in the world currently playing were about to come on so I was hardly about to start complaining.

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After Moose Blood finished most of the crowd did the sensible thing of leaving to get some much-needed fresh air, my wife Hannah and I decided to stay put and watch Tigers Jaw set up. The two remaining original members of the band are some of the nicest people you’re likely to meet, chatting and having a laugh with them then watching them set up makes you remember why you love this scene so much. Here was a band that my whole family (my kids fucking love this band) have listened to relentlessly for the last couple of years about to play live, right in front of us with no stage, barriers, security, arrogance, attitudes or anything like that. It was as if a friends band had come to play and add that to the already party like atmosphere there was no way we were about to be disappointed.

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We took our place at the very front, the room filled up and Tigers Jaw kicked off with ‘The Sun’, the first track from their legendary self-titled LP. They sounded huge, the remaining air in the venue was immediately taken up by the whole crowd shouting along to every word and it was HOT. You could put this down to it being the middle of summer, a tiny room packed with people and no open windows or doors but I’m going to put it down to Tigers Jaw being on fucking FIRE. As soon as they started I was reminded that this was obviously not a local friends band playing but instead a band worthy of the love and all the praise that people shower them with, they sounded perfect. Which is also amazing considering that this current touring line up had only played for the first time together the day before, they practiced on the Thursday and then for a short while on the Friday before the show but were playing together as if they had been doing it for years. The vacant spaces were being filled by two members of Basement and one from Sainthood Reps and although I’ve never been lucky enough to see Tigers Jaw before it did feel like life was being injected into their live show, every member looked so happy to be playing and that really came across to us in the audience.

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Second, they played on of my favourite Tigers Jaw songs, ‘Distress Signal’, and from here on you could see that it was going to be a kind of ‘greatest hits’ set. Playing a lot of songs from the two full length studio albums but also mixing in a couple of fan favourites from splits and comps and also a brand new song. Yes, that’s right, a BRAND NEW SONG and as vocalist/guitar hero Ben Walsh stated before they played it that it would be from their BRAND NEW ALBUM which will come out at some point soon. This is the best news to hear for people like me who had assumed that the band would be no more after this tour. On first listen to the new song that it’s clear that the new album will be classic Tigers Jaw and it really can’t come out soon enough.

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This is one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, every song was killer, Ben and Brianna’s voices sounded beautiful and the music was loud, just like the crowds vocals that were being hollered back at the band. The band took a short break towards the end of the set to replace a broken snare drum and most of those in attendance took the opportunity to head outside and cool down. After this short break Tigers Jaw finished an incredible night with ‘Plane vs Tank vs Submarine’ followed quickly with ‘I Saw Water’ and the brief fresh air seemed to rejuvenate the crowds voice as they sang along louder than they had all evening. It was a perfect ending to a completely perfect show.

Tigers Jaw are a really special band and they mean a lot to my family. My youngest son Thurston has severe autism with a speech disorder among other physical disabilities, when it came time to send him to school the infant school Thurston’s 2 older brothers had attended told us in no uncertain terms that they would not be able to cope with him going there. As such, we had to find somewhere else for him get his education and this also meant that he wouldn’t be able to walk with his brothers on the school run. Instead I would have to drive him to his school and it was during these times that he started to really fall in love with Tigers Jaw’s music. Obviously I always play music in the car but Thurston started making it known that there was only one band he’d let me put on. First he called them ‘wooo-ooooo-ooooh’, I figured out what this meant when I would catch him singing to himself in the evening and realised he knew all the words to ‘Never saw it coming’ and his favourite part was the woo-ooo bit. This soon turned into him shouting ‘LIE TO ME’ every time I started the car’s engine up and then I’d see him the rear view mirror singing every word to ‘I saw water’ and ‘Chemicals’ too. He’s never done this any of the other bands I’ve ever played him, there is just something about Tigers Jaw that makes him happy. On Wednesday this week we got to spend some time with Brianna from the band. I don’t think Thurston really put the 2 and 2 together to understand that she was from the band but all the same seemed very fond. Below is a photo of the 2 of them on Margate beach and a video of him singing ‘Never saw it coming’ in his beautiful little voice.

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Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), Brighton 17/11/2012

I haven’t written anything for a couple of weeks and I kind of have an excuse for that. In fact the last thing I posted was an interview with Keith from Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) and if you haven’t already read that then do it now by clicking HERE. Back to the excuse, I’ve been sent a few things for review and this usually takes me some time to get through because I like to listen to something several times before I write about it. I have had the intention to get on and do this but all I’ve been wanting to listen to for the last few weeks has been Empire! Empire! The fact that I was about to go and see the band for the first time had got me just a little bit excited so I decided to sod everything else off and just indulge myself in their back catalogue until the time for the gig came.

I love Brighton, it’s an awesome city and always a great place to see a show. Plus my brother lives there so I can park for free which is a massive bonus. My good friend Paul and I made the 2 hour drive from Thanet down on a chilly and overcast Saturday evening in November and before long we were walking round like a pair of lost tourists trying to seek the venue out. The Green Door Store, as its name suggests, can be identified by its green door, with our combined brain power we worked this out and ventured in to the venue. The signs that this was going to be a great night were already there as soon as we entered as we took an instant liking to the place. It’s a charming venue situated underneath Brighton train station and we got there early so we could see every band on the five band bill.

First up were Summerslam 88, their lively pop punk seemed to go down really well with the early attendees which included the singers mum. My mum never came to any of my gigs, mainly because I never told her when we were playing. She would only have slagged it all off anyway, the guy from Summerslam 88’s mum seemed to really enjoy their set which was nice to see. Second on the bill were Me and Goliath who were extremely impressive, their short set of emotional hardcore reminded me of seeing Suis La Lune the first time. And they were loud, so loud that at one point during a wall of noise in the their last song I even had to take my coat off for fear of passing out. Any more of that and I’d be saying “Woah there fellas!”, luckily it didn’t come to that. Seriously though, I would love to see these guys play again and hopefully will one day. Then it was the turn of Gnarwolves. Judging by onstage banter and crowd reaction I was possibly the only person in the room to have never seen Gnarwolves before. I had read about them though and seen their name all over the place, I now know that this is due to the fact they can write pop punk songs with the best of them and cut it live too. I really liked seeing the crowd swell in size and voice during their set, they did an incredible job of warming everyone up for what was about to come.

Then it was time for The Reptilian to take things to the next level. I took my place at the front and expectations were high due in part to Tommy Royds from the great Zine and not heard, who I’d just met for the first time in the bar, telling me just how awesome they had been a couple of nights previous in London. And he was right. They won the crowd over instantly with their energy, off kilter rhythms and mind-blowing fret tapping. However good I get at the guitar I’ll never be as good as the guy from The Reptilian at fret tapping, I’ve made my peace with this now and can appreciate just how awe inspiringly good he was. The whole band played as tight as any band you’re likely to see and this topped by the fact that they have some really kick arse songs made their set memorable for all the right reasons.

Finally, it was Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)’s turn to play. This was their last night of a 2 week tour of the UK and Ireland and there seemed to be a real party atmosphere in the air as they played through their set. They seemed to be genuinely touched by the response they had gotten over here and repaid us with a set full of some of their best songs. The sound was incredible too all the way through their set, from the sweet interlocking guitars at the start of ‘Turbo Stasis’ to the massive full band rock of ‘Keep what you have built up here’. That second song I mention there whipped the crowd in to a frenzy of vocals and pointed fingers which reminded me of why I love going to see bands play so much. I’ve said this before and I’ll no doubt say this again, I feel so lucky that there are bands like E!E!(IWALE) out there right now playing this sort of music to crowds full of like-minded people. I wouldn’t have believed it possible 7 or 8 years ago when I’d become so jaded that I was starting to think that music was a write off. I can now go and see of my current favourite emo bands and there is a brilliant turn out, amazing atmosphere and a real energy about the scene. This makes me so happy which kind of takes away from the misery of liking emo music but , oh well, I’m sure I’ll get over that.

And if it isn’t enough that Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) are blowing us away already with their beautiful noise they also come with added extras. Because the band has only 2 permanent members (Keith and Cathy) this means that when touring they need to have back up musicians come with them and when said back up musicians include Warren Franklin then that can only be seen as a massive bonus to us fans. Especially when, during the set, he swaps his bass for a guitar and takes up lead vocal duties as the band play his song ‘You get weary’. Warren Franklin’s voice is incredible, hearing his voice live is a real treat and a definite highlight of the night. This treat then continues when Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) go to play their last song. ‘An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral’, the closing song of their full length lp ‘What it takes to move forward’, has to be one of my favourite Empire! Empire! songs and would be my choice as the perfect song for them to play last. So, as they play through the opening bars of the song I start to get excited. This then escalates when I realise Warren Franklin will be singing the gorgeous backing vocals at the end. It’s every bit as perfect as you can imagine and an awesome way to finish their set and their UK tour as a whole.

It was an unforgettable show, it totally lived up to the massive expectations which I had placed upon it. I hope they go home and tell every other band on the Count your lucky stars roster to get themselves over here asap. Although if they do I can say with some certainty that they won’t be recommending American Airlines as a means of transport. Upon arrival in the UK, Keith discovered his Gibson Les Paul had the headstock snapped even though it was in a flight case marked fragile. Luckily, someone lent him a guitar for the tour and even managed to fix his by the last show. You could see how happy Keith was to be playing on his own guitar at last, but this happiness was short-lived because on arrival back in America he found that the same airline had done the same thing to his guitar. There is a lesson here for us all. American Airlines don’t seem to be forthcoming with any sort of apology or compensation so please join the many others already doing so and hassle them on every social media outlet until they agree to do something about it.

Me with Keith and Cathy

Thanks for reading guys!!!

To stream/download songs by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) click HERE

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