❥ I am now in NW Spain to get better at Spanish and breaking my selfie ban. The skirt cost five euros on sale at Zara which – aside from surviving absinthe – is my biggest achievement of the year so far.
Here’s the first bit of graffiti I found in Spain, on the back of the toilet door in the bus station. After no sleep for a full twenty four hours it seemed intensely poetic. “We’re the Eiffel Tower lit up on the 14th of February”. Oh, it was a little piece of Paris, I thought, as I finally got to have a wee after my near three-hour coach journey. Alas, it turned out to be a lyric from a song by some sub-Jonas Brothers Spanish boyband called Melocos (and here I was thinking it was a 17th century poet). Will be interesting to see what other musical offerings I can find out here, preferably not scrawled in the bog.
Anyhow, here’s what I did in the latter part of 2013 whilst living in Montmartre/Pigalle and finding out about life under various guises (student, journo, translator , professional hide and seek champion, actual twenty-one year old human being etc).
❥ Rock En Seine Festival. SEEN TRENT REZNOR LIVE ☑
Phoenix were amazing, although on home turf in France I suppose the crazy reaction was no surprise. They are France’s great indie hope and Bankrupt was amongst the best releases of the year. Likewise Laura Mvula, although she didn’t draw a large crowd 😦
❥ Bought my fave albums of the year (Shulamith by Poliça and Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze) from a great record store called Balades Sonores in Paris’ 9th arrondissement – will 2014 be the year I properly get into vinyl?! Started shopping in a little vintage store with great music which made me appreciate the Stones more.
❥ Gained an obsession with bullet points and Boursin, and went to Disneyland where I realised that the golden age of Disney is definitely over.
I walk past an Elton John poster on our way into the Olympia. Now there’s an artist you can rely on to still be standing! (shitty pun very much intended) As for Jake Bugg…in ten years time will he just morph into a morose version of Frank Turner? Or will he age backwards, headlining Glastonbury 2024 as a five year old child? Whilst I jest, so much of THE BUGG FACTOR comes from his age (19). Weirdly, the French promoters have decided to almost fetishise this – three days after the release of his second album they’ve billed him as a “British Justin Bieber”, which as well as being hilariously inaccurate is quite offensive to pauvre Jake who is rather established in his own right. Once he starts playing, however, his age just isn’t relevant. A few things get a little loss with a French crowd, notably new track “Two Fingers”, which historically wasn’t really the Gaellic insult of choice. The crowd here flick their peace signs at Jake like wannabe harijuku girls in accidentally benign fashion.
Shangri La, that aforementioned second album, means lots of new material, with lead single “Lightening Bolt” getting a great reaction. Ultimately though it’s tracks from his debut album like “I Can Taste It” that get the best reception. Has he already peaked? Unlikely, but if he wants to hang onto fans the media and PR machine which surrounds him should start focusing on his pitch-perfect voice and quality songwriting, not the fact that he would definitely get ID-ed buying vodka at Sainsbury’s.
❥ Suede at La Cigale, Paris, 11/11/13 (part of Les Inrockuptibles Fest).
Ever drunk slightly warm Heineken in a room full of people double your age? When the room in question is La Cigale and Paris-loving Britpop pioneers Suede are playing and the cups have Debbie Harry’s face on them it’s quite enjoyable. Temples are support, not that their Seventies-inspired look/sound is given much attention. (Toy, moody band du jour and recently hyped on BBC 6 music by Brett Anderson himself, would have possibly been a better choice).
Suede kick off with Still Life from Dog Star Man – it’s weird hearing it without the strings but poignant nonetheless. Next up are two tracks from 2013 ‘comeback’ Bloodsports: Barriers and It Starts and Ends with You. Still unmistakably Suede, but nicely matured like good cheese or wine or Brett himself, who has the same magnetic quality but a little more wisened. Trash, from my favourite Suede album – Coming Up – is riotous as ever, the crowd joining a sweaty Bretty for anthemic chanting on the chorus. Animal Nitrate is next. This song encapsulates Suede – the band, the brand – at that crucial moment where everything grew from in 1993. It’s as dark and ambiguous as it must have been at time (I’m not too sure however, being in the new wave of Suede fans and having been born in 1992).
They dash from the old – We Are The Pigs – straight back to the new, but nothing ever feels jarring or outdated. The Drowners – one of my favourite Suede songs from their debut feels so powerful and hopeless, with Brett ensconced by fans in a rather surreal scene (see below) yet also detached from everything around him.
Back to the future for more Bloodsports before a few classics that no quality Suede set would be without: So Young and Beautiful Ones. The latter is my all-time Suede fave track and singing along, wildly off key, was the highlight of the night. A little encore ending in acoustic mode rounds off an amazing set from a band who somehow are both effortlessly nostalgic and always, erm, In Fashion.
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
W 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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
– 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.