Landlord Records

The Perfumed Garden at BeatHerder 2014

My fourth BeatHerder and accompanying review in a row… Again I am writing it while the festival is still on, as I recharge for work tomorrow. I’m involved in putting on the Perfumed Garden dome so have again spent most of my time there - for more info, photos etc, request to join “The Perfumed Garden @The Beat-Herder Festival” group on facebook.

After an absurdly protracted journey in which I somehow got lost and ended up driving around a housing estate in Preston, getting in on the Friday became easier yet again this year. I pretty much just parked up, walked straight up to the ticket office & walked in, a massive improvement on some of the lengthy hassles of a few years back. Car parking issues seem to have completely evaporated in fact, no need to chase stickers or escape from being blocked in or from mud. The closest I got to any hassle with the car was some dollybirds doing their hair in my car’s windows while perching their tinnies on its roof (caught in the act!).

The Perfumed Garden opened with a variety of Cowbell DJs, although I seemed to miss all of them apart from Ed Mahon, who was playing some nice house stuff as I came in. As promised, Pimm’s was provided for the occasion by Kath. Amiable Ed then stuck around while Stee Bowden laid down his usual extremely accessible selection of house, disco etc, before the appearance of Blackpool’s Davos. I won’t say too much about what he does as it’ll spoil it for if you bump into him at any point (and it looks like he is having a busy year), but the tent was as packed as it has been since System 7 a couple of years ago and I felt pretty proud to have had some part in arranging to get him on.

As usual, I had several wanders around on Friday night with my pal & Sonic Chefs DJing partner CP, but saw such brief snippets of most things that it is hardly worth mentioning anyone in particular, except to say that I finally (briefly) met On The Wire’s Steve Barker in the Bushrocker reggae tent. We also stayed in the beautiful pocket-sized Hotel California for a few from someone I only just remembered today had also impressed me at Solfest last year, Ben-Jamin (see previous post). On this occasion he seemed to be playing some rather nice baile funk. I’m sure that if you surveyed the whole site, you would find a bit of every genre going, but with Stumblefunk having been hidden so far back in a (quite nice) corner (very near us ironically) that I didn’t even find it on Friday night, the myriad variations of bass-heavy music that I personally favour over house, electro, breaks, techno etc seemed to have been marginalised this time, so it was nice to catch at least a smidge of something so different. Although opinions differ on the PG team, the tiny bit of Jagwar Ma that I saw on the main stage didn’t seem much better than they were the other week with Kasabian (see previous post). As ever, there were so many ‘attractions’ that I didn’t even find them all (barn? Underground vodka bar?), but as last year with The Fortress, this year’s main addition was a whole new arena, the Ring. Surrounded by a circular turf wall, the sound was pretty magnificent and the feeling reasonably intimate despite the fair size. I dropped in a few times over the weekend but unfortunately didn’t catch much music there that I thought really justified all the major effort that must have gone into it, although I believe my friend’s band Drum Machine enjoyed themselves playing there. Apparently they were only going to do The Fortress last year, which seems insane considering what a good venue it is. It returned to loom over the field we were in again though, spewing out the site’s more pounding grooves (but still no happy hardcore, gabba etc, I don’t think!). It looks wonderful and my encounter with their Sunday morning soundcheck when near-empty proved how hefty the system was in there, but it did look a little curiously flat at times when I was passing, ravers more bobbling than raving while soaking enough of the sound up that it didn’t seem quite as overpowering as you might expect. Although the festival was sold out and (certainly on Friday) there were people everywhere, the addition of new major venues does seem to also lead to some of the mid-size venues reeling a bit, with Stumblefunk definitely not getting quite the line-ups of previous years (although maybe becoming more of a local concern, cultivating talent in what they do from the area instead of just buying names in). Trailer Trash also seemed a little low-key on some of my brief visits this time, although I didn’t make it up there much as we are right down the other end of the site nowadays. I was meant to be talking to John in The Snug about playing some records in there but didn’t locate him on any of my trips past. I am gutted that I didn’t realise until this evening (skimming my Solfest review from last year) that one of the DJs I missed at The Snug’s name (Tim Hamblin) was familiar because of how much I liked his stuff in Dogs In Space previously. I must do better!

In amongst all my Friday wanderings, I didn’t have my full attention on Wales’ finest, DJ Fluffylovebubble & Jon The Bop, back in the Perfumed Garden, but everything I heard as I was in and out was lovely. We then had our headliners, Mountain Of Love, who are a classic festy-style band although somehow quite distinctive in the way they blend their reggae-influenced sounds. They later turned out to be nice to have a chat to in our new green room (of which more in a bit), while Waka’s sound was drifting in from the dome. Waka provided the delightful oil wheels etc that lit up the dome over the weekend and it was nice to catch bits of what he was doing having somehow missed him last year. Somehow less intense and more melodic than I was expecting but well danceable and popular. A little tipsy by this late hour, I then took on my time-honoured duty of sleeping in the dome for security purposes…for all of three hours.

While not the one hour legend that was last year’s Friday night kip, waking at 7am to torrential rain after falling asleep at 4am to the beginnings of torrential rain was not the ideal way to set myself up for the Saturday. In fact, although the rain marred much of Saturday, the festival guys really do seem to have worked a lot on drainage since the mudfest of a couple of years ago (or indeed the one back in the noughties). Barring the usual mess in the middle where the top field meets the main field and the Trailer Trash entrance and the Toil Trees being a little squelchy, it was impressively firm for the rest of the time I was there. As a result of my brief sleep and mild thick head, I spent most of Saturday staying close to home base, even missing the single thing I was going to make a point of going to see (Raikes Parade). The most I saw outside of the PG dome was a few numbers in passing back and forth from Chain Ska Brassika on the main stage (perfectly decent but more notable for their silly name than anything else). You’ll be pleased to know that ABC still sounded like ABC from inside the crew area toilets behind the main stage as well!

Our day started with Chris Boylan playing some quite nice classc-style chillout stuff and Rick T providing a more out-there take on the same theme. We then got a treat in the form of a short but sweet live set from the 8-bit and K-pop-influenced, luridly dressed Tirikilatops. Hard to describe without seeing, they perhaps wouldn’t look out of place doing music on some zonked kid’s programme like Yo Gabba Gabba. Hadn’t been completely sold on the recorded stuff so far, but it makes (non)sense live. Playing at Blackpool Catholic Club on Monday 28th July – don’t miss it!

Red Tin Dave played some appropriately-themed songs for the downpour before Two Man Ting. By then, I was orbiting my main resting place for the day, our new green room. Having hosted a few names the last couple of years, PG head honcho John Tree asked for a bit more space for workers to camp behind the dome and a green room tent so our guests weren’t sat out the back on palettes before their sets. We ended up with a virtual football pitch to wander around in (astounding considering we were essentially balanced either side of a ditch a couple of years back) and with a green room that rather than being the tiny little circular snug I was expecting was in fact big enough to seat the best part of a dozen easily plus oodles of equipment. From bust to boom. This was very handy for me, being as I could hardly open my eyes for most of Saturday after my brief nights’ sleep, but does leave me feeling a bit odd about my new perspective on the festival. As with any other festival, different garishly-coloured wristbands get you into different areas. This year, for instance, I was casually given one that meant that for the first time I could nonchalantly cut across the middle of the site (past the usually notoriously difficult to visit organisers’ area), without security as much as saying a word to me (getting in there to do jobs for the dome is usually like an encounter with the Spanish Inquisition). However, when I politely offered to help Earthdoctor carry his stuff up to the main stage for him to DJ there (and I have played on the main stage, early doors, many years back), he said there was no way they’d let me in because there was some other colour writsband required. Indeed, I eventually this time saw pinned up somewhere a key showing a veritable rainbow of wristband colours for all manner of access. The reason I mention all this is that some people very clearly spend half the festival squirrelled away in private areas, away from the hoi polloi, relaxing but not really seeing very much. The addition of our very own area to do this sort of thing in meant that several of our main acts actually stayed, hung out and camped with us (unthinkable before and very pleasant) (and us meaning all of us, not just the ones who could squeeze in), and that we could loll around even when the dome was at its busiest. It does however ends up like being on the best camping holiday ever, with your bezzie mates, instead of being at a festival. We still got plenty of people in, but all the people you were expecting to see in the dome watching and listening were out the back chatting and listening. I would imagine anyone who bothers reading this will wonder why I would remark on such a well-trodden aspect of the music world, but I must admit it was new on me, not at all unpleasant but a bit strange somehow. This desirable addition may also have helped contribute to the relative profusion of undesirables roaming around our area uninvited this year (who would have wanted to stumble about in a ditch, a couple of years back?). There have always been a certain amount of casualties at the festival, but the state of some of the brain-drained characters this year was a bit tedious, especially with some of them taking it upon themselves to fiddle about in the sound booth, try out the stage mics, climb up the side of the dome (!) and escape by smashing down fencing panels and running away!

After Fenny from On The Wire graced the tent with a typically esoteric selection of tunes, we were treated to The Family Elan, who also had a nice natter with us in the lolling around area after laying down some psyched-out bazouki rock just the right side of prog. Tooley accompanied our natter with some of his serious funk collection. Mrs Cakehead were on fire this year, claiming loads of new converts, repositioning old favourites over new riddims and building something unique out of chaos. I then did my spot with CP. It was too early to pack the dome out with anything other than the most straight-forward of music, but we gradually built a bit of a crowd and some people who looked like they might even become fans, going back over twenty years of our favourites and other random tunes, moving from reggae through all manner of electronic genres and back again and most enjoyably playing some ethnic techno stuff (for want of a better word) that you would have thought (correctly) would go down well at a festival like this and yet never seems to get played there and also playing out quite a number of tunes that we’ve always really liked but may never have found quite the right time to play out before. The ever-reliable Ennio Maccaroni then soundtracked our nattering with Rich & Nicola, two great old friends and relatives of one of the organisers, who I’ve been attempting to meet at the festival since something like 2008 but never seemed to succeed in doing so until now. My serious sleeping bag green room dozing action began in earnest during the Colman Brothers, which was a shame as these headliners are highly accomplished jazz players and what I could manage to stay standing to watch was being lapped up by a discerning audience in what in some ways was the quintessential Perfumed Garden headline booking to date. Earthdoctor groovesomely soundtracked more dozing on my part but I did get in to see some bits of John Tree, who had the room packed for his finishing set. John goes to a lot of trouble to work out exactly what records he is going to feature in sets like this and it does show. He has obsessions with things like how a record grooves and while I wouldn’t go strong on a lot of his selections for home listening, they really work in this sort of situation.

Four hours’ sleep is better than three, so I felt like a new man this morning, although my unavoidable Mondays at work always mean Sundays involve a drive back and hence no light ales. After our usual drum circle and the usual unusual DJ set from Kate Fear, we had the return of Veronneau. This act based in the States have ties to John Tree from way back, so it was nice to see him adding some percussion to their extremely delicate and light Latin jazz. After a bit more of Red Tin and helping bring Gideon Conn’s gear down I found myself loading my own gear up and too tired to walk back down to the dome so driving off mid-afternoon for some rest.

So another festival where (compare with other reviews) I was pretty useless after the first day. A combination of work-related body clock syndrome and the aforementioned security shifts, which I’m going to have to give up after four years if I am to muster enthusiasm for next year. I think any return would also need to involve a promise to myself not to spend too long in the green room. While the festival production goes from strength to strength and I  didn’t really see enough of the other tents to make a proper judgement, I do also feel like too many of the DJs across the site this time seemed to be trading in fairly predictable, if effective, trad genres of dance music and that some of the more forward-thinking stuff from the likes of Hyperdub and Planet Mu wouldn’t go amiss in amongst all the hackneyed builds, well-worn samples and production that glitters while imagination falters. The sell-out crowd were more than happy with it though!

From the Wire mag…

From the Wire mag…

Still got a few copies of this Astral Social Club single from last year left, with some minor involvement from myself. Cheap but can also do (decent) trades

Kasabian Live in Leicester, 21/6/14

My sister-in-law was kind enough to buy me and my girlfriend Su tickets for Christmas to attend this enormo-gig with her and her husband. Su and her sister like them but I can’t say I’ve ever been over-struck, although I always enjoy the occasional concert like this to compare to all the stuff I’m more usually found at. An absurd amount of effort must go into things like this, even just on the part of the crowd. We alone were driven down from Blackpool to Derby, with our dog, by Su’s parents, so that they could babysit my sister-in-law’s children while we hauled picnic-type stuff out to the train station (via a drink outside a nice little pub advertising itself as something like “Derby’s rock n roll pub”). Everyone everywhere seemed connected to the gig in some way.

I used to go to Leicester semi-regularly but it was some years since I’d been to the centre. Pausing to show respect to one of the best record shops in the country (Ultima Thule, now gone and turned into a Tesco!), we muddled across to New Walk, which I’d somehow completely missed in the past and which is probably rather lovely except that on this particular day, as with the main road, it was uncomfortably filled with Kasabian’s main fanbase, a depressing clone army of Oasis/Loaded lads. The crowd was summed up later in the day at the weeing wall on-site, where I do not think my eyes deceived me when I say that one lad leant down to wash his face and drink from the urine of one of his pals: the nexus between lad culture and speciality fetishes was thus crossed in the middle of an enormous park in Leicester, in broad daylight.

By the time we got to the rubbish tip that was once the outer ring of Victoria Park, it was clear that this day was in some ways going to fill the position of representing my own personal Death of Indie. It has been a long, slow death, begun by Britpop and with ‘indie’ made absurd as a genre tag by the fact that most of the bigger bands aren’t even on indie labels let alone independently spirited, but I’ve seen enough decent new ones stagger through over the years to keep some sort of residual interest going. If this was what passed as an indie gig now though, I was out. I don’t really get Kasabian as a big gig band either. I’ve now attended a good few gigs with Su by bands who have ascended to that stadium/park gig level, but U2 and Coldplay always seemed to have something grander on their minds anyway and REM were thrillingly close to how I imagine they would be in a toilet venue yet stocked with material that could conquer all comers. What exactly is it that puts Kasabian on that level (the gig crowd is 50,000-strong)? Is it all that filling-Oasis’-boots stuff? Is it that (like Coldplay), they flirt with dance music just enough to broaden their appeal to any tin-eared passer-by? Either way, The Jesus & Mary Chain and the Fieldmice would surely forge an unlikely pact in order to set fire to Kasabian’s tour bus (what was that old Helen Love lyric about Bush? “He couldn’t believe those long-haired boys could make that uptempo, toe-tapping, happy song!”). They would probably then shoot themselves in the head after hearing the band do that hoary old disco ‘ooo ooo’ chant later in the day.

The support act I was most looking forward to was beatboxer Beardyman, but it must have been him getting a rousing cheer while we stuffed sandwiches down our throats on the rubbish tip, so the first music we got to see was Jagwar Ma. We didn’t actually realise anyone was playing live for ages. Their tepid but not unpleasant bar music got little reaction and the specks on stage were obscured by the absurdly large sound tent set up to cunningly conceal the stage from where we were sat at the time, sipping tentatively from the assortment of outrageously priced beers procured admittedly very swiftly from the insanely large queue at the bar tent. We were sat on the floor because, inexplicably, we weren’t allowed to take in the seats my sister-in-law had brought along (although other people seemed to have brought theirs in). Giant merchandise stalls squatted nearby, with extortionately expensive clothing branded for the band but, after curious enquiry, absolutely no music whatsoever, which sort of summed things up.

We then got a Rudimental DJ set. This lot have largely passed by me and listening to their own material at home now, I can see why. In fact they were in some ways my favourite musical part of the day, throwing together a grab bag of tunes including Pharoahe Monch’s Simon Says and Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, plus lashings and lashings of crossover drum & bass. This was enthusiastically lapped up by the half of the crowd at the stage end but was somewhat neutered for the rest (including myself) by the traditional and childish low volume employed at these sort of events for support acts. Although I thought they were alright, I was left feeling the organisers had missed a trick here. If Kasabian wanted some drum & bass on and bearing in mind that quite clearly no-one at all was here for anyone other than Kasabian, who were doing a homecoming gig (so it wouldn’t affect ticket sales), I felt like they could have done the decent thing and got on DJ SS, one of the best musicians to come out of the city, whose career has spanned the entire rave era and who has doubtless played a few rave crowds of this sort of size in his time. Jibbed for upstarts.

Kasabian eventually appeared. We knew when they would appear down to the second because they are labouring the CD length-derived title of their new record, here employed as a countdown. The conceit returned again and again throughout the set: clever but redolent of a complete lack of spontaneity. The sisters were very happy with the lengthy set. I wasn’t completely turned off by it, although they are more Beta Band than Happy Mondays. Backing musicians were bolted on pointlessly, as if to prove the band deserved the big stage. The ‘banter’ between songs was truly mundane. A tune I believe to be called Processed Beats pinched from the Harlem Shuffle and Grandmaster Flash in the most leaden of attempts to validate their electro-rock rep.

Then towards the end it lifted somehow. They finished the main set with the expected Fire, probably my favourite of theirs, a massive hit and clearly a favourite across the entire crowd as well. They had been singing along right from the start, but Fire got an immense reaction. The NME has already picked up on how successful the encore was, and I would wholeheartedly concur with them. My memory is a little hazy, but I think before one of their better and more genuinely funky numbers, Vlad The Impaler, the singer had by far his most inspired moment of the night, introducing it with the words “Fantazia crew!”. I’m sure this rave reference would have been lost on most, but you could imagine he’d been waiting all his life to be on a stage big enough to come out with that before a piece of music big enough to justify it. It was a sorta hauntological moment that made me laugh out loud. The band hadn’t seemed to know how to finish songs properly, pieces peetering out apologetically, so I was half-expecting them to then show full dance credentials by finishing with a tape of some rave favourite but they went one better by then unexpectedly launching into a very uplifting cover of Fatboy Slim’s Praise You. I would have thought that was it, but this then morphed into their excellent early hit LSF, which I’d completely forgotten about and which vindicated the whole affair. By the time we’d staggered down to the train station to stand around for ages, corralled by police owing to train delays, I was bawling out footie-style chants with the rest. Fooled again! Phil Smith

"The Art of Noises as musically attuned has not yet reached that stage of development which renders it tolerable without effort to the conventionally musical ear. And it may never reach that stage!" - The Coliseum on hosting the Futurists’ music performance, 1914