Category Archives: punk

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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SALAD DAYS: A DECADE OF PUNK IN WASHINGTON, DC (1980-1990) IN WESTGATE!!

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Hello.

I had taken a little break from writing this blog for a while, but it ended up being a lot longer than I had planned. Partly because of time, mostly though because I had nothing that I felt excited enough to write about. I am trying to get things going again and first up I wanna tell you about something exciting that is happening locally.

It is a great honour to announce that Is this thing on? blog is presenting a screening of the new documentary ‘Salad Days: A decade of punk in Washington, DC’ at the Carlton Cinema in Westgate-on-sea, Kent. The screening will take place on the 7th of July, 2015 and tickets cost £7 plus booking fee and are available via the link below. The screen only holds 54 seats so space is extremely limited and is likely to sell out quick. The film starts at 8pm and is being shown as part of a UK screening tour which has showings throughout the country, so if our screening is nowhere near you don’t despair.

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The film focuses on the infamous hardcore scene in Washington, DC that blossomed throughout the 1980s. In the words of the press release:

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) is a documentary film that examines the early DIY punk scene in the Nation’s Capital. It was a decade when seminal bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Void, Faith, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, Fugazi, and others released their own records and booked their own shows—without major record label constraints or mainstream media scrutiny. Contextually, it was a cultural watershed that predated the alternative music explosion of the 1990s (and the industry’s subsequent implosion). Thirty years later, DC’s original DIY punk spirit serves as a reminder of the hopefulness of youth, the power of community and the strength of conviction.

The film has had rave reviews and it promises to be a really fun night. Hope you can make it!!

Buy tickets HERE

Go to the Facebook event page for our screening HERE

Go to the Facebook event page for the whole screening tour HERE

Go to the official Salad Days website HERE

And check out the trailer below!

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The week. 30/11/14

Hello. Welcome back. First off, let me just apologise for not posting anything for what seems like an eternity. The main reason for this being a lack of free time to write, kids have been poorly/had chicken pox which all takes its toll. Other reasons I’ll go into in a moment. But I wanted to start by saying, after much consideration, I’ve decided to adopt a different approach to writing this blog. The old way just wasn’t productive enough.

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So, what I’ve come up with is this, The Week. Every week, usually on a Sunday, I’ll post a summary of what’s happened in the week. Music I’ve been listening to, gigs that have happened, comments on news and announcements that you may have missed in the preceding 7 days. As the old adage goes, a week is a long time in emo, or words to that effect. So instead of waiting to write lengthy reviews etc.. and falling behind this will be a great way to stay up to date. It’ll give me the chance to write about more things too, music/gigs/news I may not have found time to write 1000 words about will find space here. I’ll still write proper reviews, do interviews and post all the usual stuff you’d see here before. This will just be a positive addition to all that to keep regularly updated and in touch with everyone.

That’s the boring bit out-of-the-way so now we can crack on, thanks for you patience!!

First up, I just wanna take you back to the start of the month when Is This Thing On? staged its second gig of the year/all time. It was an honour to welcome Reiziger to the West Track studios practice space in Canterbury for an amazing show. I have been a fan of Reiziger since the late 90s, when I first listened to them as a teenager in my friend’s bedroom I couldn’t have imagined that 16ish years later I would finally get to see them play live and that they would be dedicating my favourite Reiziger song (Waitingday) to my 10-year-old son Louis, who I had working the door that night. They were the nicest guys and received a warm welcome from the West Track faithful.

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REIZIGER

 
This was the 4th show in 4 weeks at this tiny, DIY, space and was a great example of how the local music scene in East Kent is becoming as vibrant again as it ever was. The whole night was packed with excellent bands who didn’t disappoint one bit. 2 of my favourite local bands kicked things off, Kind Eyes brought the riffs and Pax Indigo packed in the emotion before Kinshot, who had made the drive down from London just in time, blasted everyone away with noise and energy. What a night!!

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Kind Eyes

 

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Pax Indigo

 

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Kinshot

 

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Louis the doorman

 

Staying locally, this week saw the exciting opening of Kent’s newest and also best record shop. After months of hard work and persistence our good friends and all round best guys, George and Nat, took their burgeoning record label, Hot Salvation, and have expanded in to a beautiful shop set in the confines of an old hotel on Folkestone’s Rendezvous street. It’s a great space, selling both new and second-hand records from a myriad of genres, including massive punk/hardcore and alternative sections. Not only this they are also serving top quality coffee and a section that stocks beautifully designed home and lifestyle products from the likes of Naked Lunge and Donna Wilson.

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Hot Salvation

 

Had it not been for Christmas coming up my wife Hannah and I would’ve spent a small fortune, which is something we’ll definitely be doing there in the coming months but apart from picking up a few Christmas presents and downing some delicious coffee I treated myself to the new Fugazi release, ‘First Demo’. It was one of many brand new Dischord records on offer in store and I just couldn’t resist. More on that record next week. In the meantime get to Folkestone and see the shop for yourself, failing that they also have a nice looking webstore up and running, check it out HERE

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‘First Demo’

 

Another reason for me falling behind on this blog is a big feeling of late that the latest wave of emo, that I’ve written so much about for the last 3 years, is coming to an abrupt end. There have been so many dud releases this year (Dads/You Blew It/Somos) that I’ve found myself listening more and more to older bands and getting less and less excited about what’s happening right now. The latest nail in the coffin is the really disappointing new record from Pianos Become The Teeth. It seems really weird and depressing to even have to write that sentence after all the amazingly positive things that I’ve written about them in the past. You can’t take anything away from their, until now, faultless back catalogue and the experience of seeing them live for the first time when they played my hometown of Margate,  which ranks highly amongst the best gigs I’ve ever attended.

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‘Keep You’

But, ‘Keep You’, their latest album released via Epitaph last month is just a bit….well, boring. There are some nice enough songs and Kyle Durfey’s voice still sounds as haunting as ever, but 5 songs in to the record you’re still waiting for something to happen, something to kick in and it just never does. The power they once had is all lost, the drums that were once hit so hard they made my chest hurt watching them live just plod along and it all just gets lost going nowhere. Massive, massive shame.

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Did you get an American Football ticket? You can’t have possibly missed the news that the band are making their way to the UK for the first time next May. What was originally announced as 3 dates but expanded to more after the original tickets sold out within 20 minutes. Which is crazy!! I’ll see you in London on the 2nd night if you’re there.

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To sign off this week I will leave you with the fact the Pearl Jam’s classic 3rd album ‘Vitalogy’ turned 20 years old this week. It is still one of my favourite records of all time and I’ve had a great time revisiting the first 4 PJ records this week on my drives to work. Here is them playing ‘Not For You’ on Saturday Night Live in 1994.

Thanks for reading. Stay in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto, ittoblog@gmail.com

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Review: Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

Band – Joyce Manor

Album – Never Hungover Again

Label -Epitaph

By Lewie Peckham

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One of the most divisive arguments that follows Torrence, California indie-punks Joyce Manor around is about the shortness of most of their recorded output. Some listeners feel cheated that many of the bands songs rarely exceed the 2 minute mark and albums can be finished in as much time as it takes to watch an episode of Seinfeld (or insert any U.S sitcom in its place..you get the idea). The other side of this debate is that Joyce Manor are the masters of concise punk rock songwriting, trimming the fat of their songs until perfect blasts of hook-laden Indie/Emo/Punk/Whatever you want to call it remain.

Never Hungover Again lasts for about 19 minutes (give or take a couple of seconds) but in that time Joyce Manor have found enough space to make their most musically ambitious album yet. The usual hallmarks of their sound remain, Barry Johnson’s impassioned vocals over gritty Pinkerton-era Weezer and Jawbreaker guitars and Guided By Voices melodic exuberance, but now with added instrumental depth and influences excavated from outside their usual sound.

The swells of gorgeous synths that appear in sublime highlight ‘Falling in love again’ recall the wistfulness of The Psychedelic Furs and the dual guitar lines that arrive in the middle of ‘Schley’ could have been lifted from seminal Ohio art-punks Pere Ubu’s most accessible record (1989’s Cloudland). It’s a testament to Joyce Manors songs that these nods to their record collection never throw the album off track or leave it scrambling to get back on its path. It’s the subtle compliments that make you realise that you are hearing something very special.

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There are still the usual blasts of pop-punk that will appeal to even the most casual fan of the band. The lovelorn ‘Victoria’ and self-deprecation of ‘Heart Tattoo’ are glorious, fuzzy gems that once again are the best examples of Joyce Manors sharp, concise song craft. The ambiguous amped-up Smiths riffage of ‘In The Army Now’ and Jangle-pop of ‘Heated Swimming Pool’ show the different and exiting musical paths the band may choose on future releases and how adept they are at incorporating these into Joyce Manors existing sound. Never Hungover Again is probably one of the most rewarding listens of 2014 and will, quite rightly, find itself lavished with repeated listens and justified acclaim.

Proving that there is still life in a genre that can sometimes feel stodgy and overladen with mediocre bands, Joyce Manor are one of the better examples of what heartfelt, interesting music can be made within the shortest bursts of noise.

Thanks for reading. Get in touch. ittoblog@gmail.com, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter – @alex_itto, @BonersaurJR

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INTERVIEW: HUMAN HANDS

If there is going to be one band that defines the emo underground in the UK this year it will be Human Hands, if you have just one listen to their debut full length, self titled LP you’ll know exactly why that is true. It is an incredibly beautiful and powerful record and with plenty of other releases and tours planned for this year I thought an interview with the band was well in order. So here it is! (Ps the interview was conducted just before the release of the record so a couple of the questions are slightly out of date, but don’t let that spoil your enjoyment)

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Is This Thing On? – Hello. You’re on the cusp of releasing your debut full length record, can you tell us a bit about the background to the record?

Chaz: It has been in the works for ages now. We hatched a plan with Andy sncl at a basement gig in Manchester over 2 and a half years ago now, so yeh, it’s taken a while, but I think it benefited from that time and space. We recorded it at the end of May 2013 at JT Soars (aka Wine Vibes)in Nottingham.
Clyde: It has had a slow gestation, but that has mostly due to me moving away and touring rather than writing whenever I was back. When we got to it, it came together pretty quickly.
Rob: I can’t add much, I reckon we practiced most of the songs when playing shows! When we’re all together I think we’d rather play gigs wherever we can, so writing sometimes takes a back seat. Although it’s taken so long to surface, I think that we’re all really happy with the end result.

ITTO? – What themes does the record tackle? Is there a running theme throughout?

Chaz: Don’t think there is a particular theme that runs throughout. Most of the lyrics are about the bullshit I see in everyday life.

ITTO? – Listening through your back catalogue there seems to have been a real progression in sound, from the urgent to the epic. Is it just a matter of circumstance that it’s taken you this long to put out a full length or was it that you wanted to wait until the band was ready, sound wise?

Chaz: Mainly a matter of circumstances I guess (Clyde now lives in Iceland), but I’m glad we took a little more time with it. I think in regards to progressions in sound, when we started I think we just wanted to make something fast and noisy. I think from the first 7” we started slowing things down a bit, and have taken that ‘sound’ from there, I guess.
Clyde: There wasn’t really too much of plan. We just started writing that way. When we started it was to do a band in the vein of Swing Kids, Assfactor 4 and The Red Scare. As a consequence we came into it initially with more aggressive material to work on…in time I think we’ve settled into something a little more natural to us.
Rob: I would say circumstance. I think that we play much more comfortably together now and the LP has benefited from maturity, distance etc.

ITTO? – The two songs off the new record you have up on bandcamp at the mo showcase a really lush, gorgeous sound. Did you spend a lot of time getting the sound right or is that more down to who you worked with?

Chaz: We recorded with our friend Phil (who has recorded everything for us except the demo and split tapes with verme and deergear). We took a fair bit of time getting sound right, and then recorded everything live. I think it’s a combination of recording in a bigger room (JT soar venue) and Phil getting better and better at recording bands, and us taking a little bit more time with stuff. That said we recorded 11 songs in 2 days.
Rob: I think because we have been consistent with who we’ve recorded most of our material with, it gets easier and improves each time.

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ITTO? – Can you tell us about the artwork for the record? I’m always wary of asking people into music if they like football because you can get some really dodgy looks but are you guys football fans?

Chaz: The cover is just a collage piece I’d been working on for ages and thought would look good as a cover. I spend far too much of my energy getting upset by football, supporting Villa and the mighty Stratford Town.
Clyde: I’m not a football fan, but anything that helps get our songs sung on the terraces is good with me….
Rob: I’m a West Brom fan and watch Stratford when I’m not at work.

ITTO? – What have you been listening to recently and has that had any influence on the album at all?

Chaz: Some records I have been enjoying recently are; Flesh World – S/T MLP, Saccharine Trust – Worldbroken LP, Can – Lost Tapes LP, No – Great Space MLP, V/A – Enjoy The Experience LP, Robbie Basho – Seal Of The Blue Lotus LP, V/A – Classroom Projects LP, Madlib – Rock Konducta LP, Peter Gutteridge – Pure 2 X LP. Can’t remember what I was playing lots when we recorded the lp, but like to think everything comes through in some way.
Clyde: I need to get that No MLP. I’ve been blasting the Party of Helicopter’s Abracadaver recently. Also, Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov, Ulver – Messe i.x–vi.x, Springsteen’s Born To Run. Eagerly awaiting the release of Carpe Noctem’s album on vinyl too. Not too many of these had an influence on the album.
Rob: I’m listening to a lot of Iron Lung, Asthenia, Grand Detour, Moloch, Jeru the Damaja, Disciples of Christ and Yaphet Kotto at the moment.

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ITTO? – I wasn’t the only one in the crowd at About Time 2 being completely blown away, how was that show for you and can you really feed off the energy of an audience even though they aren’t going nuts or screaming the lyrics in your face?

Chaz: That gig was great, and was pretty terrifying playing to that many people. I think most people watching us tend to feel tense or bored, so it was a pleasant change.
Clyde: The show was nerve-wracking for me as it was the first time I’d had to do lead vocals on a song. Overall though, it felt pretty together. It was a big crowd, but we had enough friends in the audience to make us feel comfortable. And it’s always good to know a crowd is digging.
Rob: Yeah both About Time gigs have been amazing. It was great to be asked to play again, and I think we held a crowd, which is always good.

ITTO? – It’s a real credit to the state of music in the UK that you can have an incredibly popular all dayer that is predominantly all UK bands. What do you think about the state of underground music in the uk at the moment?

Chaz: Yeh, it was a great day. UK is great at the moment for new music particularly punk and hardcore.
Clyde: Entirely. There are so many good bands out there at the moment from all across the spectrum. I think all of us have been into this music for a long time, and I’m not sure that I’ve personally ever experienced it this thriving.
Rob: I think the UK is doing awesome things at the moment. A lot of new, good bands are appearing all the time, from all over the country, which is great.

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ITTO? – What are your plans for when the record is released? Any touring plans yet?

Chaz: Yeh, there will be a small UK tour with Carson Wells in April and then a Euro/UK tour in the summer at some point. Following the LP there will also be split 7”s with Mars to Stay and Carson Wells and a 5 way split 10” with Manku Kapak, Asthenia, Nebraska and Duct Hearts.
Clyde: Pretty much that. Maybe another UK tour later in the year if we can afford it…

ITTO? – (Corny last interview question) If you could play with any band from history, alive or defunct, who would it be and why?

Chaz: Sabbath at any point during the first four lps.
Clyde: Can’t believe the others haven’t already predicted my response. Slayer.
Rob: Minor Threat, I think.

ITTO? – Human Hands, thank you!!

To buy Human Hands self titled LP click HERE
Or to stream/download it click HERE

Thanks for reading. As always, get in touch on here or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, on twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com

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REVIEW: ACID FAST – RABID MOON

Band – Acid Fast

Album – Rabid Moon

Label – Protagonist/Adagio 830

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I have a very good friend who also writes a blog about music, when he comes round my house I tend to bore him to death by showing him whatever new records I’ve recently acquired or downloaded. Our tastes have grown apart over the last few years and most of what I say falls on deaf ears but when I showed him the album sleeve for ‘Rabid Moon’ by Acid Fast he was completely fascinated and more than intrigued. I know where he’s coming from, my first encounter with Acid Fast was seeing this album artwork and my first thought was that I must listen to this ASAP. I had no idea, really, what to expect but those dogs look so ferocious that it was drawing me in. I put the record on and was completely sold on the band from the off.

Acid Fast are satisfying a need for a type of music I hadn’t realised I was hungry for. A lot of what I had been listening to recently was angry, moody and introspective but this was loud, upbeat and outgoing. But Acid Fast are a rock’n’roll band and this is a rock’n’roll record. Big thumping indie punk anthems with excellent duel vocals and more hooks than a cloakroom. Everything is loud, overly distorted and, as I said, big! Especially the melodies that capture your attention on each of the killer tracks and keep your interest right to the end. Acid Fast come from Oakland, CA and feature ex members of the band Big Kids which is a big reminder to me to go back and listen to Big Kids more.

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Maybe there are plenty of bands playing this Superchunk-esque, grand, indie punk sound but not many that I’ve encountered. Perhaps Joanna Gruesome but that’s all I can think of. Maybe I should lift my head up, turn of the depressing stuff more often if this is the kind of result I can expect. I doubt many bands will make an album this instantly excellent this year mind.

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Oh and my friend who I mentioned at the start who was intrigued by the artwork, just checked with him and he still hasn’t listened to it!?!?? But you’re not reading his blog so pay no attention and trust me when I say you need to buy this record!!!!!

You can buy the record from Protaganist HERE

Again, thanks for reading. Get in touch: Facebook – www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com

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IS THIS THING ON’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 2 (No’s 10-1)

Previously on ‘Is this thing on?’s top 20 records of 2013:

20 – Tancred – S/T
19 – Pity Sex – Feast Of Love
18 – Touché Amoré – Is Survived By
17 – Wild Moth – Over, Again
16 – Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore
15 – Sed Non Satiata – Mappô
14 – State Faults – Resonate/Desperate
13 – Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness
12 – The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever
11 – Nai Harvest – Whatever

To read more on no’s 20 to 11 click HERE

So, as promised, here is the top ten. Thanks so much for reading and sharing and everything this year, it’s been awesome!!!!

10 – Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It

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This album seemed to come out so long ago that I had to check it was definitely eligible for this list. One of the early indicators that 2013 was going to be another superb year for good music, this album is full of top quality emo noodling and more hooks than a fishing tackle shop.

9 – California X – California X

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I spent an evening in the summer browsing through the ‘related artists’ section on spotify looking for something I may have missed and stumbled across California X. A couple of days later my best friend is sat in my lounge telling me that they’re playing in Canterbury a week later, a very happy coincidence indeed because that show was amazing. They well and truly blew us all away and the album has become a firm favourite ever since. Summery grunge with massive riffs giving some credibility to a drop d tuning!!

8 – Lemuria – The Distance Is So Big

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A mark, for me, of how catchy a record is is if, after a couple of hours of playing it, my kids are still singing along. And that happened a lot with this brilliant album by Lemuria. I was a big fan of their last album but I think they excelled themselves with ‘The Distance Is So Big’, indie emo rock of the highest quality.

7 – Reiziger – Kodiak Station

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Just when I thought the whole ‘reunion’ thing had peaked one of my favourite 90’s emo bands returned and with a new album to boot. It had never occurred to me that Reiziger might make new music, I was so excited to get ‘Kodiak Station’ and even more excited to find out that it’s really, really good. It may sound a million miles from the ‘Don’t Bind My Hands’ EP but it is unmistakably Reiziger, now with a more polished production to their discordant, indie gems.

6 – Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

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‘Weird Sister’ is raw, lo-fi, indie punk at its best care of Cardiff’s finest, the brilliantly named, Joanna Gruesome. This is a debut album that marks the band out as one of the most exciting new bands to come out of the UK this year, I’m still gutted that I had to leave ‘About Time 2’ before they came on because I bet they’re awesome live.

5 – State Lines – For The Boats

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If it’s quality songwriting and anthem after anthem that you’re after then look no further than State Lines. A nod to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ here, a fantastic Hip Hop intro there and a whole record packed full of straight up, indie punk rock with vocals delivered like an emo Tim Armstrong are what you’ll find on ‘For The Boats’. And trust me when I say that you’ll want to listen to this record time and time again!!!

4 – Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual

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After all these years an Appleseed Cast record is always something to get hyped up about and all the more so when the record is as good as ‘Illumination Ritual’. The current line up have injected energy and a new creativity to the band, making a memorable record with plenty to enjoy. Seeing them play most of these songs live, back in October, also heightened my love for this record too. They were brilliant, if you used to love this band and haven’t thought to check this album out yet, what the hell are you waiting for?? Do it now!!

3 – Football, Etc. – Audible

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Football, Etc spoil us rotten, not only do they tour the UK with admirable regularity, they also release music of the highest quality on a very consistent basis. I love their last record, ‘The Draft’, but ‘Audible’ certainly feels like a step up. It seems like they’ve got a new found confidence as a band now which has increased the quality of the songwriting and delivery. ‘Audible’ comes across as a band that are having immense amounts of fun playing as a complete unit, Football, Etc have definitely found their feet. Amazing stuff!!

2 – Foxing – The Albatross

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I did try to review ‘The Albatross’ a few weeks back but ended up going out on a more personal tangent (you can read that by clicking HERE) so I should probably say some more things about the record here. But what else is there to say apart from the fact that ‘The Albatross’ is an earth shatteringly beautiful album that will take you on an exhausting journey through a range of emotions but still leaves you wanting more. I can’t think of another band that has made such an impact on this emo scene in such a short space of time as Foxing have, they thoroughly deserve all the plaudits and I had thought that no other band would come close to usurping my number one album this year but with ‘The Albatross’, Foxing came damn close to doing just that. Absolutely incredible.

1 – Crash Of Rhinos – Knots

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If you’ve read this blog or spoken to me this year at all then it’ll come as no surprise to you that Crash Of Rhinos genius record, ‘Knots’, is my album of the year for 2013. This is the record that I’ve been waiting years for, the kind of record I had thought would never be made again, emo/post hardcore at its incredible best. Crash Of Rhinos make no point of trying to hide their influences but manage to push things forward to make, what is not, an album that is trying to revive the past but a completely modern and relevant emo record. ‘Knots’ is five accomplished musicians at the very top of their game coming together to make magic. To top things off they’re also a brilliant live band, they really can do no wrong. If for some reason you haven’t heard this record yet the click HERE to go to their bandcamp page where ‘Knots’ is currently available for free, you have no excuse and you definitely will not be disappointed. WELL DONE CRASH OF RHINOS, YOU’RE NUMBER ONE!!!!

Thanks for reading!! Get in touch here or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, on twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com

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