Jamaican jubilation, tricky films, Aaliyah’s legacy + more

Hello all!

Ahh I’m back after a fantastic week in Croatia and then trying to recover from it all. I was covering Soundwave for my friends over at Live, will be linking to that as soon as it is out… *inserts amazing picture to fight off British humidity and rain*

It was great to come back to the UK in time for the Olympics although unfortunately I didn’t make it to any events in person. I did go down to the Holland Heineken House for MTV Sticky which was cool though, more to follow…

ANYHOW, now over to some very important Jamaican business!! Marlow’s Mellow Mood relaxation drink (sort of the opposite of an energy drink and gosh it’s so tasty, especially the green tea and honey variety, not an endorsement but a true testimonial!!) has come to the UK, and they kindly sponsored a fantastic regeneration event on 29th July at Bob Marley Way. Artists new (Devlin, Lady Leshurr, Maverick Sabre and up and coming sonsgtress Aruba Red) and old (Soul II Soul) performed, there were some scantily clad dancers with super cool feather headdresses and I got to eat curry goat for the first time in months! Win! It was a great day despite heavy rain.

Being Jamaican (or half haha) has never been cooler thanks to the recent Olympic triumphs of Bolt, Blake et al. and 50 years of independence. Next weekend there’s going to be another event at Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar called the “Relaxation Generation Mini-Festival” which looks awesome and tickets in advance are just a fiver; unfortunately I’ll be away in the British countryside otherwise I’d be right there…there are live DJs all day until 3am and they have all kinds of artists from Dynamite MC (jungle to hip hop) to Natty (roots and reggae artist with excellent dreads) to legendary MC Rodney P. Anyway, more info is here!

At the Marley Way event I met Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella who was in attendance along with brother Julian. She is a jack of all trades but, as is so rare she is also a master of them, too. She not only sings (duh!), but also manages the family charity (who knew that the Marley family owned a charity with the iconic name 1Love) and does heaps more including designing those very fetching kits which the aforementioned Jamaican athletes wore at the London games. She even wrote a children’s book… Here is my interview with her (the most difficult thing to transcribe ever thanks to”Jammin” being blared out behind us):

Hannah J Davies: You used to be in the [80s and 90s band] Melody Makers with your brothers and sisters…when will we be hearing more from you and them?

Cedella Marley: Hopefully next year we’ll do some type of reunion.

HJD: Do you miss the era when that was your main focus now that you’re doing a lot of other things

CM: No, not really, I mean I have three kids now so having time to spend with them is something I cherish…but its time for me to get back on the road!

HJD: Are they getting a bit older now?

CM: *Puts on a Jamaican accent* yeah mon! They can babysit each other…

HJD: Would you like it if they followed you, their famous grandfather and the rest of the family into the music business?

CM: I would love for my kids to be doctors and lawyers, but if they get into music that’s good…but I’ve always reminded them that no matter what, always have a back-up plan. The business has changed, it’s the not the same. You really don’t have to have talent to be a number one artist, so always have a back-up plan.

HJD: Who on the music scene now do you think is really talented, who isn’t just autotuned?

CM: That girl from over here [London], Adele…I like her

HJD: Do you think you could do a collaboration with her?

CM: Oh, definitely! I could do something really wicked with her.

HJD: Adele if you’re reading this… you also run the Tuff Gong record label as well, what’s an average day running that like?

CM: It has to do a lot with distribution, we’re not the kind of the company that signs artists simply because like I said the business has changed, you don’t need a record company anymore to become a great artist. You can put out your own record on iTunes and make a lot more money, so we’re really on the distribution end. It’s hectic but its good….

HJD: So its not kind of at the front, the a&r

CM: no, I gave that up…especially with our [reggae] music its just harder to develop young artists because a number 1 single and they get an ego. And I cant handle egos….and its like *makes disgusted noise*…it doesn’t deserve my time

HJD: Did you discover anybody in the past?

CM: I had this one really cool artist whose name was Ivan, and I think he went on to tour with The Wailers for a while, so we have some really cool talent out there.

*

I went home and, weirdly enough, my mum was playing a Bob Marley CD. He really is an icon and despite my lack of knowledge on his life (am yet to watch the Kevin Macdonald documentary released earlier this year), the event left me intrigued…and assured that his legacy is in the right hands*.

*for more on less fitting legacies, read on…

Books: constantly being stretched beyond their screen potential?

        The film industry: a fanfare of artistic vision and dirty tricks, hidden behind a Spielberg-shaped, Black Orchid-scented miasma. Also responsible for sexing up its bookish cousin, the novel.

From Holmes to Bond to Gatsby to Holmes again to erm, Potter, novels have provided cinema with exciting source material for decades, however it seems of late that the film industry has manipulated this bond to create a new technique for parting punters from their pounds. Forget sequels, prequels, remakes (that includes foreign ones), series reboots and re-releases. Forget trying to get blood out of the (philosopher’s) stone with more Harry Potter movies (there were seven books after all, eight seems just about reasonable…), there’s a new cinematic trend: splitting-books-into-so-many-films-you-lose-count (SBISMFYLC)

Twilight: Breaking Dawn (756 pages) is a perfect case in point. It seems logical on the face of it; part one of the film version due for release in November is 117 minutes long. Here are some unscientific calculations: assuming the second part is 117 minutes too, we now have 234 minutes to cover this near 800 page book…except that movie scripts are about 250 pages each. Double this and we now have 500 pages of script. 234 divided by 500 gives us approximately 0.5 minutes per page. Luckily this is the perfect amount of screentime needed for 500 pages of script…it just doesn’t explain why we needed two lots of 250 in the first place.
In the world of SBISMFYLC, however, slow-moving plots, K-Stew’s awkward eye rolling, sexual tension that extends off-screen and an oh-so-current soundtrack combine to make a second part feasible. 2010’s Eclipse had tunes from Cee-Lo and Vampire Weekend, so expect minutes to be whiled away with wolf pack v vampire battles to the sound of the upcoming Ashanti album.

Oh Kristen, you shouldn’t have cheated on Rob…your awkward moments are about to get SO much longer thanks to a cheap cinematic trick

The Hobbit is probably a more serious case of SBISMFYLC, however. Lord of The Rings was a trilogy because there was enough material to make three standalone films in that tome. The Hobbit, conversely, is less complex and hardly resembles a doorstop at just over 300 pages. How will it fare as three separate outings? Will there be an entire, string-laden montage devoted to Bilbo bringing cakes and ale and chicken up from his larder? The trailer looks stunning but the point remains…do we really need a Tolkien-themed case of SBISMFYLC? Ditto the final Hunger Games film, Mockingjay, which will be split into two films in 2014 and 2015. Imagine that…what would, for example Shawshank, have been if  Andy (Tim Robbins) had been tooled with a toothpick instead of a rock hammer for 60 minutes of literal tunnel vision? Will we ever return to the days of one instalment wonders, or have excessive book adaptations lost their dignity as they bolster Hollywood’s coffers?

A fan’s love won’t take care of Aaliyah’s legacy

A 14 year old can fall in love with the entrancing music of a the beautiful singer uplit by the bright bulbs of celebdom.

Like many artists before her, Aaliyah will release her next album from beyond the grave. The r’n’b singer, who died in 2001 left behind unreleased material, which will form a posthumous album. Drake, a man who never met Aaliyah when she was alive, has been named as the producer. It’s such a shame in my opinion that the Blackground record label (founded by Aaliyah’s uncle) have recruited Drake over her friends and collaborators Missy Elliott and Timbaland. These are the people along with her immediate family who have the insight to make the right decisions without focusing on the PR aspect of any future release.

Here’s the 411 on Drake’s strange ‘relationship’with Aaliyah: he sampled her music on many occasions including his new track ‘Enough Said’; he has a picture of her on an earpiece he wears for concerts and has tattoos dedicated to her – including a portrait of her – as well as mentioning her in as many interviews as possible.

He is evidently infatuated, and wrote this letter to the singer a few years back which I found on the NME website:

Dear Dana (using her middle name rather than addressing her as Aaliyah seems to imply closeness)

I’ve never lost a parent, a friend, or a lover but I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. I remember getting the news that you had passed and it connected with my heart like a clean shot from Muhammad Ali. I was crushed. Not only was I one of your biggest fans but I was truly in love with you. I loved the way you carried yourself, the way you dressed, the confidence with which you addressed passion and relationships in your music. I said to myself that even if we never met, I wanted a woman in my life just like you. I am pained that we will never get to connect now that music ended up being my career path. But you should know, we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world. I hope I make the right life choices so I can end up in heaven where I know you rest your head. I’ll continue to make music in your honor until the day we finally meet. Dinner’s on me!

Love you always and forever,

Drake

Personally, having read this saccharine address, I think Drake should leave her legacy to those who knew her. Using her music on [aforementioned new song] ‘Enough Said’ on which he slags off Chris Brown, swears and makes references to such profound topics as, erm, being rich and Mario Ballotelli seems disrespectful and shallow. Aaliyah didn’t live in 2012, she didn’t live to see the advent of autotune or even the fruition of online music. She wasn’t a Youtube pioneer or someone discovered on MySpace; she didn’t live to see the age of online beef disseminated via Twitter or kids listening to her music on iPods or even iPhones. The world she inhabited wasn’t wholesome, but the relationship between talent and exposure in the music industry has experienced a schism in the intervening time. Her voice and her talent were an oasis of calm, but if she was discovered today would Aaliyah’s music really be allowed to retain its identity or would she be simply writhing around a stage?
Luckily it seems that there is family opposition to this release – enter stage left the singer’s brother Rashad, who posted on her Facebook fanpage to report that ‎”there is no official album being released and supported by the Haughton family”.

There are also rumours on the Facebook page of a biopic (again, an unofficial project which Rashad is opposed to) – it seems that everyone thinks they know what’s best for the late singer.

Drake’s female collaborators normally lack class

Overall, the posthumous material doesn’t need the ego of this noughties fanboy to succeed…although maybe I’ve been too quick to berate him. After all, we all have idols. The difference is that maybe being a celebrity has made Drake feel as though he could intrude into someone’s history to feel connected to them; it’s forced, insalubrious, shallow. It’s the 15 year old mourning the girl off the stereo with friends at school who loved her too or, as would happen if Aaliyah had died in 2012, sending messages into the online ether. Notes about how “crushed” they feel, about how much they “loved” her, pledges and pleas which begin with that same repeated “I” which binds together these fans like a parallel family. The online Winehouse troupe or the grieving Jackson contingent numbering into the millions.

To incite the Xzibit meme, “yo dawg, I know how much you like emotion, so I put an emotion in your emotion so you can emotion whilst you emotion”. If you think this meme is inappropriate in this context, then perhaps I can persuade you to rethink “celeb grief”.

It’s an accessible way of remembering the brevity of life…it won’t ever be the same as a real message from a real friend, it will be loaded with different feelings and all of those simple misinterpretations and theories that fans can hold onto. Hence the popularity of conspiracy theories. As a fan of Elliott Smith I have come across so many bloggers and Tweeters claiming to have proof that he was murdered by his girlfriend Jennifer Chiba; it’s a fantasy propagated by the same people who probably jumped on the Courtney killed Kurt bandwagon, too. It’s comforting, it’s effortless civilian justice made up of gifs and what ifs and fingerpointing and shrines.

“Tim[berland] and I carry Aaliyah with us everyday, like so many of the people who love her. She will always live in our hearts. We have nothing but love and respect for her memory and for her loved ones left behind still grieving her loss. They are always in our prayers.” – that quote comes courtesy of Missy Elliott. Without her or Timberland a teenage Aubrey Graham quite possibly would never have come across Aaliyah Houghton and the album which they wrote and produced for her, “One In A Million”.

The final word goes to US author and journalist Michael Joseph-Gross, who once said that “fandom is less like being in love than like being in love with love.” Whatever Drake’s feelings and intentions, whether he is using Aaliyah as collateral, leverage, a spiritual guide or a marketing tactic…his strange plea of “always and forever” is deluded in the here and now.

HJ

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Benicassim 2011: I Bet You Look Good On The Hispanic Dancefloor

The only monster FIB review in the blogosphere… it’s taken me a while to sit down and write, but now that I’m no longer employed for the summer here you go! Also heading to Underage this Friday with The Fly so keep your eyes peeled. HJ x

hat would make a self-confessed camping virgin travel hundreds of miles to do battle with insects and pop-up tents (or slow cookers, as they should be known)? The 16th outing of FIB, of course. Known simply as Benicassim to most of us lazy Brits, this is one annual festival that isn’t really worth a comparison with the UK circuit. The holiday vibe at the site in Southern Spain is a million miles away from the mud and orienteering of Worthy Farm, and rather than being cooped up like livestock we had a town to explore, beaches to visit, and supermarkets to raid for chorizo, horchata and, erm, deodorant.

Besides the music, there were also film screenings (missed as was at the beach), a fashion show (again, at the beach) and even the chance to take part in university-accredited courses such as music journalism (should’ve left the beach for that one). The main USP of travelling hundreds of miles is that there are warmer climes to enjoy until about 7pm, before returning to the campsite and inducing artificial insomnia via cheap sangria in preparation for the 2am headliners. Lovely organiser Vince Power even chucks in a eight free days of camping. This year, the 4 day event went something like this:

Jueves/Thursday

After a day spent exploring cultural sites (the beach and the supermarket bread aisle, respectively) we headed back for Paolo Nutini’s set on the main (Maravillas) stage. Seemingly tipsy (please don’t sue me for libel!) as he stepped onto stage, the Scottish crooner’s set was not only 1940s OAP but also decidedly DOA. With two multi-platinum albums behind him, the bar was high for Paolo who peaked early with crowd-pleasers ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ and ‘These Streets’. Seemingly going through the motions for the mostly British crowd, he deviated from tried and tested material just once for a quick flirtation with ‘Over and Over’, a Hot Chip cover. Overall, Nutini brought the foot-tapping and limb-shaking music we all expected and delivered it with soul, but there was something repetitive and spent about the set that only a true groupies, sorry fans, could ignore.

Paolo Nutini onstage at FIB (image copyright of Fiberfib)

Drum and bass devotees came together for Chase and Status, who were headlining the Fiberfib.com stage. Touchingly, MC Rage catered for the amnesiacs among us by screaming “Chase and FUCKING Status” between numbers. From the first African-accented word of opener ‘No Problem’, to the Asiatic scarefest Eastern Jam and intermittent commands to ‘bounce’, right through to closing track ‘Fool Yourself’, the pair’s reputation for delivering an energy-packed and unpredictable live experience was sealed. Twenty years on and boasting another Liam, I think we’ve found an act who will become as definitive as The Prodigy (whose seminal hit ‘Firestarter’ still rocked the dance stage during a DJ set some 15 years on…).

Continuing the dubstep mood of Thursday night we went back to the Maravillas for Pendulum, who pleased a mostly Antipodean and British crowd with the material which everyone wanted to hear. Closing with Watercolour from last album Immersion, they declared the crowd to have been “fucking brilliant” (oh we were).

This look is the definitive "our mood swings are more swingy than a swingy thing, like a Pendulum" and explains how one of the worst names ever was conceived

On the Fibclub stage, I caught a negligable amount of Crystal Fighters’ set, which is a shame because watching happy people dance to “we were born to be alone, everybody all alone” would have totally smacked of postmodernist irony and would have made writing a blog so much easier. Still, I’m seeing them later in the year so I can dance/write polemics then.

Viernes/Friday

Friday night was spent exclusively at the Maravillas, where Brandon Flowers, Elbow, The Strokes and Friendly Fires were top of the bill. I chose the showers over Flowers, but three out of four ain’t bad and I heard most of his set from the campsite. Unfortunately for the Killers’ man, the unanimous highpoint was ‘Mr Brightside’ (a track which his band played at last year’s FIB) rather than anything from his own foray into solo artistry, Flamingo.

Illustrative purposes only

Elbow provided  a high point of the weekend, delivering their music with passion as well as a high level concern for the wellbeing of fans that was often absent elsewhere. Whilst kicking, beer-spilling and even cartwheeling in crowds is commonplace, frontman Guy Garvey was having none of it, instructing fans to move back to prevent a crush. Although there was none of the tomfoolery seen at their Glasto performance (backwards Mexican wave, anybody?), tracks like ‘Grounds For Divorce’ and epic closer ‘One Day Like This’ were raw Mancunian slices of indie rock ‘n’roll. The relationship between the North West of England and Eastern Spain is surely back up to par, after fellow Mancs Oasis caused a furor over sound problems  at the fest in 09.

Fresh from work on their latest LP, ‘Angles’, The Strokes had six new tracks in their roster alongside higher octane classics such as ‘Juicebox’ and ‘You Only Live Once’. Their set was well-received, although the loudest cheers were heard (rather predictably) for ‘Last Nite’. Ten years on and its still causing a commotion,  with ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ and ‘Machu Picchu’ falling short of such appreciation. I can only analogise this situation to playing Strokes Top Trumps – would a Julian beat an Albert? Subjective.

Topping off Friday were the boys from Friendly Fires, who lived up to their agreeable moniker. Returning to the festival with a higher profile (the band played the FiberFib.com stage two years ago),  they attracted fans in their droves with their early hours set. Swishing and trying out fancy footwork to ‘Hawaiian Air’, the atmosphere was as magical and jaunty as current album Pala, although much like The Strokes it was an older favourite (‘Paris’) which brought out the best in the crowd. Still, they got to show off their creativity and charm which has ensnared the mainstream and permeated the charts of late, much as they did here  a few days later.

Sábado/Saturday

Saturday was a bit of a blur, probably due to the phrase “uno Heineken por favor”. Hours of beach and a snack or two later, it was time for some cutesy folkpop-by-numbers from ukulele-wiedling Mumford and Sons, who paved the way for Arctic Monkeys, giving Benicassim their all. Mumfords were one of many acts who attempted to engage with the crowds in both Spanish and English (n’aww). Luckily we could rely on the artists in showing gratitude towards the locality which – let’s face it – isn’t always the top priority for us (litter-dropping, beer-swigging) fans…

Anyway, I digress… After a few years out on the road regurgitating their first three records, it was time to bring ‘Suck It And See’ into the mix on the Maravillas. Arriving on stage to the unmistakable sound of ‘You Sexy Thing’ by Hot Chocolate, the band played a catalogue of hits including ‘Brianstorm’, ‘The View From The Afternoon’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ as well as new tracks including ‘Don’t Sit Down Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair’ and ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”. A vibrant and sometimes brooding atmosphere, coupled with chanting of well-known, quasi-misogynist lyrics such as “oh, you know nothing, but I’ll still take you home!” and some RIP-to-romance numbers like ‘505’ (for Alexa?) combined to make an exciting set.

What A Scummy Man: Jk Benicassim loved Alex and his Lego-esque hairdo

Stuggling to stay awake during Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ is a bit like passing out on your own birthday, but unfortunately that was this writer’s fate (do excuse the crap analogy, it was more like passing out on Christmas and being poked in the eyes by stray pine needles). By the time that Bobby Gillespie and co. took to the stage at an ungodly hour to bring us classics like “Movin’ On Up” and “Come Together”, I may or may not have been sitting on the ground, craning my neck like some kind of wounded giraffe. A treat for fans of the Scream boys/Denise Johnson but it was the inclusion of ‘Country Girl’ (from 2006’s Riot City Blues) that brought the set from a retrospective to a collection of modern classics; ultimately it was an epic celebration of the band’s work since their rise to fame/notoriety circa 1991.

Fresh from Kate Moss' star-studded nuptials, Bobby Gillespie goes back to the day job as he poses backstage at FIB (image copyright of Fiberfib)

After the kitsch kerfuffle caused by Fake Blood’s (the Brit DJ best known for ‘I Think I Like It’) set on the Fiberfib.com stage, it was time for bed (how he managed to mix in tacky house classic ‘Get Down’ by Paul Johnson into his most aforesaid hit I have no idea). After that, I have clear memories of losing my torch and the girl in the tent next to us insisted on talking as though she was devising a parody of ‘Homecoming’ by The Teenagers for half of the night.

Domingo/Sunday

Officially burnt, I skipped the sun in favour of reading the official festival programme under a parasol. It was a pretty interesting programme too – a bilingual booklet full of interviews and info on the acts. Shame I hadn’t read it on the first day…

Professor Green took the festival by storm, playing all of his singles with the kind of gusto I haven’t seen him deploy in the daytime. Predictably, everyone besides the most diehard INXS fans went wild for ‘I Need You Tonight’, and the reaction to ‘Jungle’ was huge (two girls in particular, seemingly dressed as spandex cowgirls from the future, complete with Cher Lloyd-style baseball caps and fairylights adorning their jackets appeared to be having some kind of religious expeience). Pro even seamlessly slipped in a cheeky Chase and Status sample (‘Eastern Jam’) on the aforementioned track, turning his ‘Norf Lundun’ sound up to 11. My personal highlight, however, was the plug shout out to Radio 1 before ‘Just Be Good To Green’. Keeping it real (and tethered to the BBC) has never been easier.

Portishead played the Maravillas at 11pm, providing one of the most haunting experiences of the festival. On a darkened stage, surrounded by screens showing the surreal animated videos commissioned for their music, the band played a set which was both uplifting and heartwrenching. Currently staging a comeback, they opened with ‘Silence’, perfect for the festival due to its spoken Spanish first verse. This was followed by a veritable ‘best-of’ including Mysterons, Sour Times and Glory Box. Beth Gibbons gave an inimitable vocal performance throughout, despite the somewhat ‘early’ set time.

(Apologies for sound quality – not my upload)

Closing the festival were Arcade Fire, who played a breathtaking

(just breathing out)

set. The Canadian septet provided the Win-ning (sorry) end to the festivities, reprising hits from across their career. Faster tunes like ‘Ready To Start’ and ‘Keep The Car Running’ were perfect for high energy dancing, with more mellow ones like ‘The Suburbs’ providing a chance to cool off and just sway. The generous group even took the opportunity to raise some funds for (singer Regine’s crisis-stricken home country) Haiti during the show. A two-part encore comprising arena-worthy ‘Wake Up’ and tearjeaker ‘Sprawl II’ was also well received. Whilst this writer can’t speak for all present, I felt invigorated with hope for all mankind, and imbued with peace and love. Sponsored by Heineken.

– My verdict: Go amigo! The upbeat Spanish affair gets a stellar 4/5.

What did I miss?

Anna Calvi – does listening to ‘Suzanne and I’ on the plane count? Kate Bush 2.0 would have been a magical addition to my weekend.

Art Brut – added to the bill at the nth hour, Art Brut weren’t even in the programme. Clumsier than The Libertines and cuter than Pulp (see: stalky ‘ode to luv’ Emily Kane): if only I’d known.

Bombay Bicycle Club – heard most of their set from inside my tent. Still wish I’d been there to hear ‘The Hill’ (insert secret reason for significance here).

Beirut – and the award for the act I am most devastated about missing goes to Zach Condon and co. How can I build a time machine? Answers on a postcard (from Italy) please.

Insider tips:

– Be an earlybird: Act erm ‘pronto’ and get your 2012 ticket for £40 off the normal price (£125 for the 4 day event, 8 day camping included).

– Get a room: A hotel. hostel or apartment is advisable in the heat.

– Become an insomniac in advance: seriously.