I am proud to announce that ‘With Just A Hint Of Mayhem’ has gone international, well the following is a review of a rather outstanding gig I attended while on a business trip to the Big Apple. Which makes it the first non UK gig reviewed on this site. I am also really delighted that it features the barnstorming Pumarosa, one of the finest British bands around. But before I get to them let me tell you about the support band Homebody from Greenfield, Massachusetts. Ethereal and otherworldly singer Haley Morgan may have been created by someone splicing DNA from Bjork and Patti Smith with a sprinkle of Toyah Wilcox. At times she comes across like Kate Bush on speed, but in a very good way. Haley’s outfit was very ‘out there’ and appeared to have been created from net curtain or wedding veil material. The soundscape is provided by Eric Hnatow and it evokes the very early releases of the Human League. Eric maintains a stoic and serious face rocking like a bald Ron Mael off of Sparks. They have some first-rate tunes and frankly how could you not love a song such as “Tits To The Sky”?
As for Pumarosa, well this is the third time I have seen them in the last 90 days; firstly at the Latitude Festival in July, the Leeds Festival in August and now in New York in October. I know that the band have supported Glass Animals on some US dates in the past, but I am not sure if this US headline visit (which also includes dates in Mexico) constitutes their first shows in their own right across the pond. But they sure as hell played Brooklyn like it was their first US headline show. Baby’s Allright is not an enormous venue (capacity 280) and it wasn’t totally full, although I reckon there may have been in excess of 150 people there, maybe even 180. Pumarosa blew the house down from the moment they hit the stage. To hear them play the soaring, immense tune that is “Priestess” live is rapidly becoming a spiritual experience. Tonight was no exception and I was captivated with the amount of locals in the audience that clearly knew a lot about the band as evidenced by them singing along and dancing for the whole set.
In previous reviews I have likened this band to Siouxse Sioux, Kate Bush and early Roxy Music (particularly given the occasional burst of Andy Mackayesque saxophone) but it is blatantly obvious that they are much more than that. Pumarosa are thrillingly original in performance, style and flair, their stage presence shows polish, elegance, grit and bravura. I have been listening to their glorious debut album ‘The Witch’ since I first saw them in July and while “Priestess” remains my favourite song in the words of Blink182 this album is most definitely ‘All Killer No Filler’. I absolutely adore “Lion’s Den”, a song which becomes far more than the sum of its supremely good parts when played live. Closer “Snake” rocked like a demon on speed and left us all wanting more. In my opinion Pumarosa are one of the best British bands on the scene at the moment and they are on the cusp of what I hope will be monumental success. I expect to see them higher up the festival bills in the UK next year and if they have not headlined a stage at Reading/ Leeds Festival by 2020 I promise to print this post out and eat it. If you have not yet encountered Pumarosa then do everything in your power to change that as soon as possible. You will not be disappointed!
Public service announcement. The Pumarosa pictures (obviously apart from the poster) were taken using my little mobile and the Homebody picture was taken by my friend and colleague Erik Futtrup 🙂 All videos were sourced from Youtube.
Click here to read my review of day 3 of the 2017 Leeds Festival on the Hype Media site. I would like to thank the lovely gang at the Hype Media for giving me the opportunity to be there! Words by me and pictures by rock photographer extraordinaire John Hayhurst of snapagig. Except for the Marshall Mathers picture, that one was a lucky find.
So after such a great first Latitude for me last year I was back for another one with what could well be the last gang in town. Yes that tent corral of ours was and is the business. Festivals are often good when you’re on your own but that enjoyment is blown to 3D Imax level when you’re with a bunch of great people as I was in Suffolk!
Owing to some prior family commitments the wonderful Catwoman and I had to leave early on Sunday, but we crammed a lot in during the rest of our stay. The excitement even included someone trying to break into our very modest (ok that might not be true) tent. But that is a story for another day. Proceedings kicked off for us on the evening of Thursday 13th July when we attended a pop up comedy event in the Faraway Forest ( does that sound like something out of Enid Blyton to you? It does to me. But trust me it definitely was not Blyton. The title was Brexit: The Game Show. It wasn’t exactly the kind of light entertainment TV game show we are used to in the UK, but it was a chance to rip apart a number of Tory arseholes such as Boris, Gove, Hunt, IDS and on top of that, the wonderful Mr Dacre of the Daily Heil. I was actually chosen to be a contestant and I would love to tell you that I performed really well, only that would be a lie, I was a bit crap. But for me the show was very funny at first and tailed off towards the end.
For or first full day at the festival on Saturday 14th July I aimed to cram in as much music as I possibly could which was around 18 different acts, but obviously that did not include a full set from all of them. First up I was lucky enough to catch a one song sound check on the Lake Stage from Bessie Turner. Oh boy does this lady have talent and a magnificent voice. After that chance encounter it was off to the BBC Music Stage for Julia Jacklin. She has a collection of smart, catchy and sassy songs that evoke the spirit of Roseanne Cash but with more of a rock feel to them. Her “Cold Caller” has the making of a bluesy laid back classic. After a few songs from Julia it was time to dash over to the Obelisk Arena. Have you ever dabbled in ‘what if’ scenarios? Well what if Siouxse Sioux had fronted early Roxy Music and that band had been influenced by Kate Bush and great dance music? Well in my opinion that would give you the stunning band that is Pumarosa. I was mesmerised by them and stayed for their whole set which for me reached its zenith with the towering “Priestess”. How do you follow that? Not very easily, but the Coral did a great job next. They are old hands at this and they have grown into the perfect band to grace any festival afternoon.
After some early 2000s reminiscing with the Coral I wandered over to the BBC Music Stage for Japanese House. Now this band are purveyors of the finest kind of electro pop. A splendid band indeed. A short hop to the Lake Stage followed this where I was lucky enough to witness a full set from Essex band Superglu. They are a refreshingly talented and somewhat brilliant pop punk outfit. They were clearly having a lot of fun on stage and so were us lucky lot in the audience. Their riff laden, hook heavy songs will stay in your head for ages after hearing them. In fact “Diving Bell” is still with me! Can anyone tell me whether Billy Bragg was at Latitude? If he wasn’t then the bloke taking a pee next to me looked remarkably like him, but for me there is a certain line of etiquette which means I wouldn’t strike up a conversation with a stranger at the urinals, even if said stranger might have actually been William Bloke a.k.a. the Bard of Barking. Back to the BBC Music Stage now for the Radio Dept who give you classy, chilled rock music with a message and this is all underlayed with a powerful dance feel. These Swedes will go far and if you like New Order I reckon that you will love the Radio Dept.
Back to the Lake Stage next for the Dead Pretties which is a name that I love. But they are neither dead and sorry guys but nor are they pretty. However this London band hit you with a powerful assault of punky garage rock. I caught the final few songs from the Mystery Jets at the Obelisk Arena and that was enough for me to confirm that they are still bloody good. I stayed at the Obelisk Arena a.k.a the Main Stage for the stupendous, pulsating and infectious rhythms of Tinariwen who take world music to a truly stellar level. I kept pretty fit by dashing from stage to stage and next I found myself back at the BBC Music Stage for Beth Orton who drew the biggest crowd of the day to that stage at that point in proceedings. Beth’s die-hard fans were clearly pleased with her performance but for me it lacked a degree of personality. My first visit to the BBC Introducing Stage gave me a chance to see Be Good from Oxford. They hit us with some light, bright and funky tunes which the audience lapped up. I think I detected a bit of Foster The People in their party vibe too. I graced the Lake Stage with another visit next for Shame and I must say that there is no Shame with this band whose songs are heavy, punky rock from London with some very clever lyrics. They also claim to have topped the charts in Bosnia. Not many artists can truly carry off the ‘gimme your hands’ crucifixion pose but Shame’s lead singer pulls it off in style. I hope that there is a slot for them at Reading/ Leeds, they would totally smash it!
I decided to calm things down next by meeting my beautiful wife Catherine (a.k.a Catwoman) at the Speakeasy stage which is effectively a combined literature and poetry stage. Who was the bozo who decided to replace the Poetry Stage with a Carlsberg bar that looked to me like the Ikea staff canteen? But mini rant over I was at the Speakeasy to see Lol Tolhurst off of the Cure interviewed by Pete Paphides. Lol has recently published his memoirs entitled Cured. Lol is an excellent raconteur and frankly he might have done just as well without Pete Paphides who I felt had a bit of an off day. Obviously I bought the book and queued to get it signed, but disappointingly when I got home I spotted that Lol had dedicated it to Phil! Lol that is not my name, so I guess that I might have to doctor it a little. Incidentally John Robb did exactly the same a few years ago at the Harrogate Festival! The next attraction on the Lake Stage were the band that it is impossible to pigeonhole. the mighty, eclectic Cabbage. When I saw them at the Leeds Festival last year they were beautifully shambolic. They have come such a long way since then and I reckon they will headline a major festival within the next three years, what do you think? They might not necessarily look punk, but they ooze punk attitude and swagger. Before heading back to our aforementioned very modest tent I managed to catch the first few songs from Obelisk Arena headliners the 1975. They truly are a brilliant band who are totally sure of themselves and very deserving of a headline slot. Did I overdo it with all that dashing from stage to stage? Well yes I probably did!
When I woke up on Saturday morning I kind of knew that maybe I had overdone things the previous day and later that morning I was close to passing out, but I soldiered on as long as I could. The act of the day for me was at the Sunrise Stage at at midday on Saturday and it was one that I had bean looking forward to for a long while. It was the wonderful chap that is Beans On Toast. He is a mate of Frank Turner’s and is far more political than Frank. But I loved his set, just Beans and his acoustic, great songs, smart lyrics and an incredible rapport with the audience. You want love songs? You want protest songs? Beans On Toast has them both in abundance. He is a wonderful storyteller and raconteur. next I was off to the BBC Music stage for some fine Scandinavian songs which have the power to move mind, body and soul. The artist is Skott a Scandinavian singer songwriter who grew up in a forest commune. I stayed in the BBC tent for Karen Elson, multi talented supermodel and singer songwriter. Her folkily styled songs supported by a fabulous sprinkling of harp are like nectar for the ears. I was keen to dash over to the Obelisk Stage to catch at least some of the charming and talented Lucy Rose’s set. It feels like she has been with us forever and I do mean that in a good way. She has a mind for great melodies and lyrics and she has the voice of an angel. What more could you want?
After that I wandered across the site for my first and only visit of the day to the Speakeasy for Global Pillage hosted by Deborah Frances-White and guests. It is a new comedy panel show which has been available as a podcast for a while. It takes a look at our strange human customs and idioms from across the globe. Personally I found it a bit too try hard and nowhere near as funny as I had hoped. I managed to catch some of the Idles set on the Lake Stage. If you like nerve shredding punk that has the power to make your ears bleed then you will love them. I certainly did. After the Idles I needed a bit of a come down and on the same stage I found that with the spectacularly chilled Saint Sister. There may not be a finer way to wind down and chill right now than this band. Dreamy harmonies and hooks with a great nod to the 1960s. I also caught some of the Lemon Twigs set in the BBC Music tent. It is pretty damned hard to believe that these two are still teenagers. Incredibly talented and clearly fans of harmonic rock and pop. That was the last act I saw at Latitude 2017 as unfortunately prior commitments meant that we had to head home on Sunday morning. But the acoustics at the campsite were so good that I was able to hear most of Leon Bridges amazing set and that made me wish that I had stayed in the arena. I also heard the whole Mumford and Sons set and I remain not a big fan of them, I find them somewhat bland. Although the stuff that they have done with Baaba Maal is bloody good. Anyway I would love to hear of your hits and misses from Latitude. I can certainly promise that I will be back here next year too!
I think I enjoy camping, and camping it up as well, obviously! The lack of a shower over this whole weekend was not something I looked forward to, but one lives with it and let’s face it, it is very much a first world problem. After another delightful breakfast with the gang we set off to the main site where I started the day with a delicious Dirty Chai. If you haven’t read my previous posts I should point out that this is nothing perverted, it is simply a Chai Latte with on or two shots of Espresso added to it. Many of us kicked the day off in the Literature tent for an overview of ‘The Life Project’ by Helen Pearson. It is about a study that began in 1946 that included all the babies born in a particular week in March and staying in touch with them to understand their development throughout the years. The exercise was repeated every twelve years with two notable exceptions; 1982 and 2016. The reasons for those gaps in the study seem largely to be the Thatcher government and current austerity measures respectively. Nonetheless this remains the biggest study of its kind ever.
Oh wait? Did I not tell you that Latitude has pink sheep? (Photo courtesy of my delightful, delovely wife Catwoman a.k.a Catherine)
After that I thought I needed a musical interlude so I wandered off to the Sunshine Arena for Pumarosa. They delivered a very festival friendly summer sound. A kind of dreamy hypno-trance. Is that a new combo genre? I really don’t know. But if you want a reference point I found them musically reminiscent of the Beloved. Pumarosa’s lead vocalist is a supremely talented singer and a musical whirling dervish to boot. I look forward to seeing this band again some time. Being British the next thing I did was very stereotypical. I saw a queue near the Alcove stage and joined it thinking I was lining up to go into the Alcove. However I was wrong I was one of the lucky folk to visit the DIY Den for a brilliant acoustic set from the singer and mainstay of Frightened Rabbit. A really intimate set, I loved it and I think I might have become a Frightened Rabbit fan as a result.
I popped into the Comedy tent next where I caught a proper laugh out loud Aussie comedienne, Felicity Ward. But it was time for more music after that so I dashed across to the BBC 6 Music stage where I was hoping to see Ratboy, however the programme timings were wrong so I missed him. I did see the DMAs though who were bloody good. They offer a sunny indie pop sound with some great earworms in their sing along choruses. Back to the Sunrise Arena which I do believe is my favourite stage. Here I saw The Very Best. Now if you call your band The Very Best you either have to be very confident in your abilities or stupidly arrogant. This lot are most definitely not stupidly arrogant. Are they as good as their name suggests? Definitely and possibly even a bit better. They are made up of Swedish, British and Malawian musicians and as a result they take the best of Swedish Pop, the best of African music and they mix it up with an inherent ability to party. They handled a brief loss of sound immensely well with a quick switch to acoustic delivery. I loved their song “We Okay” which in my opinion deserves to become a festival anthem.
I made my first visit to the BBC Introducing stage after that to catch an excellent set from Vincent Burke a highly recommend friend of Barbara (one of our festival gang). He even got a decent round of applause for his sound check. I loved his songs and he has a great voice. He seemed a little nervous but clearly won the crowd over. I doubt that anyone walked away from his set disappointed, I certainly didn’t. His songs are terrific. “He Paid To Have Himself Murdered”is a truly excellent and quirky story song. He also has a truly moving protest song in “Remembrance Day”. It feels like Vincent comes from a long line of great British singer songwriters from Cat Stevens, through Clifford T Ward, Billy Bragg and many more. Next it was a must see for me in the Film and Music tent. This is one that I had really been looking forward to. Cassette Boy vs. DJ Rubbish, a comedy disco that was clever, topical, political, entertaining and truly bloody hilarious. I danced solidly for more than an hour. Can Latitude ever top this? I doubt it. All together now “all the dinner ladies, all the dinner ladies”.
Rob Auton’s Sleep Show was a highly rated event in the Poetry tent. It certainly succeeded in sending me to sleep. Th first few minutes were okay, but after that it was like watching paint dry. Thankfully there was still the Cabaret stage to come. This time for a fabulous set from Johnny Woo – The Glory. This was alternative, comedy entertainment at its best, especially the death of Princess Diana sketch. So the further demise of Diana it was time for the sun to set on another excellent day at Latitude and back to our tent corral for cheese and wine. Yes this is a truly brilliant festival, albeit a tad middle class!