Reading Festival 2012 review in pictures

3 Sep

1. Foo Fighters

We got to see Dave Grohl’s mum, child and a retiring BBC sound engineer during the Sunday headline slot alongside a nod to Kurt and Reading Festival itself. Pointing and growling with intent at the audience Grohl said “I’ve fucking been here, I’ve done this”, 20 years on from the landmark Nirvana gig at the festival.


2. The Cure

A 53 year old man in make-up and the loudest bass of the weekend played a poignant 2 and a half hour set to the smallest headline crowd of the weekend but it didn’t matter – the audience roar made up for the missing fans.

3. Angels and Airwaves

Blink 182 main man Tom DeLonge continued to bring his ‘new’ band to Reading, years after being bottled for the new direction and then returning with Blink 182 in 2010. DeLonge mentions a new film is in the works, judging the audience nervously. “Why’s he throwing shit? It’s cool to do something a bit different” said DeLonge, leading his cast of supergroup members (Nine Inch Nails, 30 Seconds to Mars) into a short set of brilliant emo-indie anthems.

4. The Kaiser Chiefs

Last month, the The Kaiser Chiefs played to 46 European video game journalists in soho on behalf of Microsoft. Weeks later, Ricky Wilson was on the back of a Vespa singing Pinball Wizard in front of The Who at the Olympics closing ceremony. Reading Festival saw the band drop the ball, revealing a tired group of blokes forced out of restirement to plug the premature Greatest Hits album.

5. The Black Keys

While bands constructed of Eton alumni channeled Shoreditch hairdresser chic and endless whirls of meaningless shoegaze, The Black Keys brought anthemic rock to Reading with all the punch of Jack White covering AC/DC.

6. Paramore

A rapid fire set of singles which saw Hayley Williams run around the stage like Freddie Mercury before declaring her love for The Cure, the DNA beneath the Twilight friendly rock. Still, the departure of original members hasn’t hampered Hayley Williams or guitarist Taylor York. Paramore tunes might be designed for teenagers but, really, rock this catchy is universal, whether you can admit it or not. Inviting an audience member to sing the last song was a mistake though – few modern rock stars have the unsinkable confidence of Hayley Williams.

7. Graham Coxon

Blistering on a high from playing Hyde Park with the other members of Blur earlier in the month, Coxon sparkles and actually speaks when acting as the front man. “You’re miles away – fucking rubbish!” says Coxon when seeing the security barriers. The geek that riffs, the struggling Miles Kane could learn an awful lot from Coxon…

8. The Gaslight Anthem

When you’re famous, successful and friends with Bruce Springsteen, not much can scare you. Apart from the biggest crowd of your life, that is. The entire band never stopped smiling at the huge crowd in front of them.

9. Crystal Castles

When you drink enough Jack Daniels, you’re allowed to spend half of the gig in the crowd, scream and behave like a Tim Burton synth nightmare.

10. You Me At Six

Squeaky clean rock following a template of Busted, Fightstar and McFly – anthems and eye candy for the ladies. And this naked man.

Album review: Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto

23 Oct

I used to think Chris Martin was a soft student spokesperson for a new wave of indie music at the end of the nineties. Full of smiles, jokes and flawless interviews, he seemed to be the antithesis of everything Liam Gallagher stood for. I thought he had removed the rebellious heart and soul of rock and roll and stuck a giant Habitat display cushion in its place and I hated him for it.

I was, of course, jealous. I grew up in the same city as Chris Martin and watched the rise and rise of Coldplay through breakthrough album Parachutes, a collection of songs I initially dismissed as break up songs for middle class girls and bed wetting boys. A year later, I realised what a landmark album Parachutes was and every Coldplay album since has needed intense listening to decipher the euphoric layers of piano, strings and guitars that sit on top of simple, confessional lyrics that you can instantly get behind. X&Y may have been a Coldplay album which playfully sampled Kraftwerk and flirted with pop but Mylo Xyloto starts dancing on the way to the stage and waves a banner which reads ‘TUNE!’ before the music starts.

Mylo Xyloto arrives in blur of synth, beats and trippy tunes which are so pop, it’s like walking into G.A.Y when you meant to pop into Starbucks. It’s the biggest change for Coldplay in a decade and debut single Every Teardrop is A Waterfall is so catchy, it finally gives Chris Martin a valid reason to pogo around the stage and pause to shag his piano in time to the strobe lighting. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall is a sparkling European rave with squealing riffs and widescreen lyrics about cathedrals and waterfalls. It is to pop what Grammy-winning Clocks was to rock, twisting the epic dial to 11. The new Coldplay uniform of day glo basketball boots and paint splattered jeans reminds us of Jeremy Clarkson shopping in Shoreditch with Gok Wan but we can get over this because Coldplay have never been fashion icons to anyone.

New uniform aside, adding modern pop flourishes to the Coldplay template sounds terrifying. On paper, Coldplay going pop prompts fears of a Chris Martin fronting a Genesis style tribute band, waving glow sticks above a Yankee baseball cap propelled by a giant bottle of fair trade poppers while Jay Z moonwalks in time to Yellow. Thankfully the reality is different. We’ve been given pop that isn’t fronted by Biebers, Chipmunks or Playboy models at a foam party and pop that’s so easy to love, it will enter your iPod as easily as your dad’s Christmas stocking.

The Mylo Xyloto style of pop is fresh and original and hasn’t been overshadowed by the presence of Rihanna who guests on Princess of China and, free of auto tuned tweaks, sounds like a natural siren against a wall of synths. There’s snatches of samples you might expect Kanye West to offer Jay Z on a plate but for every hip hop sample, there’s a Coldplay chorus or cascading orchestra of pop which always takes centre stage, creating a strand of pop DNA undiscovered by Swedish dance producers, Lady Gaga or Calvin Harris.

At times, even the riffs on Mylo Xyloto go a bit pop: Major Minus begins as an aggressive acoustic strum before the whoop and thrust dance-rock fusion of Primal Scream arrives, evolving into shimmering U2 guitars. It’s the song that stunned Glastonbury 2011 and pissed on the fire that fellow headliner Bono tried to create for U2.

For all the epic and wholesale gobbling of the pop pill, it’s not all stadium bands that are influences on Mylo Xyloto. There’s short nods towards The Gossip’s brand of electrostatic lesbo stomp rock, Charlie Brown contains traces of The Gaslight Anthem and Up With The Birds sounds like a prayer which could have been made by any unsigned indie band. Hurts like Heaven starts with the frantic skip and finger clicks of Vampire Weekend or Jack Penate before hollow lyrics and a confusion of oriental riffs and familiar Coldplay chord structures turn sour. It’s a combo that falls flat next to the headline pop anthems which make up most of the album. Paradise is custom built for stadiums and festivals and sits on the face of traditional Coldplay acoustic songs, smothering the fragile, Parachutes-era Us Against The World.

Coldplay are always going to have an equal mix of lovers and haters but Mylo Xyloto is a great album. Surprisingly, Mylo Xyloto manages to bring back pop to everyone and isn’t fronted by auto tuned, factory farmed jailbait on an endlessly repeating X Factor conveyor belt. Coldplay have elbowed their way into the pop party and shared the love, producing original pop classics which, whatever your view of the band, deserves applause and, maybe, just maybe, a token wave of a glow stick.

Soundtracks Festival: Dalston to New Cross, Barbarella and House Party Massacare

18 Sep

Rock & Folk magazine unearthed in Paris

24 Jun

Rockhack visited Paris last week and discovered vintage rock magazines, the likes of which you have never seen before. Ladies and gents, we give you Rock & Folk from 1979…

Keith Richards as Al- Qaeda Liam Gallagher?

Yes, that's Freddie Mercury signing a bum

Bose ads didn't always look great...

Music magazines used to carry ads for instruments rather than hair gel in 1979

Tape porn for audio enthusiasts

Look at that effect on the poster. Crazy colours, non?

Keith was never great at passport photos

This is how you dance to get the sex

This is what speakers used to look like, before iPod docks

Hi-Fi was a serious (and big) business

A 1979 Hi-Fi resembled a recording studio...

UK music festivals explained in a sentence

17 Apr

glastonbury tickets

Glastonbury Festival: 180,000 Guardian readers visit a 24 hour agricultural playground full of organic cider, scousers, sniffer dogs, Oxfam volunteers on pills and the best and worst music in the world.

Reading Festival & Leeds Festival: 90,000 emo infused fratboys, classic rockers and chunky trainered metal rapists stalk a debauched clusterfuck of freshers and rock and roll wannabes sharing a giant bottle of poppers.

V Festival (Chelmsford): 90,000 festival virgins go wild in a sponsored wonderland of Essex slags queueing to see Pixie Lott or buy a Bounty  while Dave Grohl does a secret acoustic set.

Isle of Wight Festival: 90,000 semi-naked cock-swinging locals, antipodean jester hats and sunburned mid-life crisisers go all hedonistic disco and start the world’s biggest stag/hen party to help the council combat inbreeding via mainland sperm/egg donors.

Guilfest: 25,000 people join an awkward beer festival where failed bands go to die and dead bands come to life among comedy tents and middle class children getting face-painted.

Bestival: 30,000 muddy Match.comers and gays enter the last chance saloon for 6Music types who like to dress up as dolphins and dance to Flaming Lips songs, aged 42.

Beach Break Live: 18,000 students plus 2000 thirtysomething cradle-snatchers get together for a Fisher Price festival where you fuck in fancy dress in time to Calvin Harris and get rippped to the tits on Red Bull and Maltesers.

Download: 100,000 Subway sandwich producers ditch the Xbox and go to a field to seek daylight, tattoos, pale breasted virgins and a Fred Durst autograph.

Glade: 5000 drug dealers from Clapham attempt to cover their ticket costs by selling fake E to each other in the dark.

T in the Park: 80,000 Scotsmen cook crack and drink whisky in tents made out of Morrissons bags while Kasabian play to tourists in the rain.

End of The Road Festival: 5000 Ryan Adams fans gather to hear country music, bitch about their jobs, discuss the books they studied at university and ask people to attend their pub gig next week.

Beautiful Days: 12, 000 crusties attend a job seekers jamboree curated by The Levellers, designed to shift the annual crop of weed grown in neighbouring garden centres in Devon.

The Big Chill: 30,000 public relations lice consume carrot batons, Elderflower Presse mixed with vodka and bad cocaine in a bid to network and expense booze provided to music bloggers looking to penetrate them backwards.

All Tomorrow’s Parties: 5000 creatives head to Butlins for a festival with walls rather than tents and chin-stroking rather than sex while hungover Britpoppers weep to the sounds of Belle and Sebastian.

Jersey Live: 10,000 islanders attend the imaginatively named festival in a bid to rob slack-jawed bakers doing air guitar to Paul Weller.

Latitude: 25,000 introverted indie kids attend a budget Glastonbury so their girlfriends can listen to Paolo Nutini and get drunk enough to administer a titwank before bed – may contain thieves.

Buy tickets

My first White Stripes gig (in Denver)

3 Feb

The news that The White Stripes have split is, like their career, entirely against the trends and flow of the music industry.

At a time when dozens of reforming indie favourites are back in the game and admit it’s just for the money, the best American rock band to come alive in the noughties have quietly called it a day and politely ended a decade of adoration from fans, critics and the Italian football team who used the tune of Seven Nation Army to accompany their 2006 World Cup chant.

When I first heard The White Stripes, I naturally wanted to see them live, if only to see how Jack White made those noises with his guitar. The bluesy punk explosion was short, addictive and full of the the shrieking air guitar moments that only ancient bands like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin could muster.

The White Stripes sounded retro but had twisted the rock band template and proved that a duo could create a sound as loud and exciting as any five-piece. Jack and Meg together always reminded me of two people playing with sound like early hip-hop amateurs, adding rap over rough ghetto blaster beats. The ad-hoc drumming and improv riffs was as roughly hewn as any Brooklyn rapper working with a bag of mixtapes and a mic.

Jack and his mythical selection of guitar pedals, DIY guitars and distortion trickery was a new sound, fuzzed over and stripped to basics to showcase his talent and homage to classic blues guitarists.

In my quest to see The White Stripes live, I was ready to see them at Reading Festival in 2003 after smaller venue tickets sold out in minutes. Sadly, Jack broke one of his fingers and pulled the gig but The White Stripes had released landmark album Elephant, which – looking back – was my favorite album of the decade. Releasing the indie fanboy, I decided that a broken finger wasn’t going to get in the way of me seeing The White Stripes. I investigated flights to America where the tour was still going ahead and flew out to Denver to see The White Stripes for the first time on 19th September 2003.

I remember the date because I was given a rare print commissioned for the gig by an artist in San Francisco. Like Jack’s fascination with the glamour and appreciation of vinyl, the free print (see below) was an example of unique, home made merchandise, a world apart from familiar hoodies with any band logo printed in bold. Naturally, the print is framed and living on my bedroom wall.

The gig itself was at the Fillmore Auditorium, a 3,500 capacity  hall which used to be an ice rink. The venue was draped in red curtains and dim white lights, like a vampiric ballroom.  Before the show, I visited a music shop near the venue and found fans openly drinking bottles of beer while flicking through records and buying vintage rock tee shirts. “I just wanna see Jack White play guitar, that’s all. He’s the best” said a tipsy, skinny fan who was destined for the moshpit. But were there moshpits at Jack White gigs? Were moshpits even allowed in Denver, which seemed to be a couple of decades behind the rest of the world?

Stepping outside the shop, I bought a ticket from a tout for $20 and saw the venue was enthusiastic but not full. But this was before Spotify and new music spread slowly across America and alternative rock wasn’t high on the agenda for many radio stations. The White Stripes eventually changed radio playlists and MTV too, enlisting original directors and making Kate Moss dance on a pole. This was the near future of course and the Denver gig was part of the tour charge for an album that changed the attitude of American radio by putting classic rock in a blender and replacing pomp with raw passion.

The start of the gig saw Jack White shuffle on to the stage nervously, hiding behind the opening bars of a song. Seconds later, he started to scream before Meg had picked up her sticks. Ball and Biscuit was incredible, as was The Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground. Surrounded by locals, the scene had shades of the bit in Back To The Future where Michael J Fox does that guitar solo to a stunned audience. Comfortable couples looked at each other nervously managing smiles, slowly retreating from the front of  stage assault while the gang I saw in the music shop were stood at the front, drunk and chanting.

Strangely, Meg took to the front of stage to sing her own song, In The Cold, Cold Night. Everyone went to the bar at that point but it didn’t change the buzz in the Fillmore Auditorium. Since Denver, I’ve seen The White Stripes a few times but those gigs didn’t come close to showing me the key change in American rock music I saw happening before my eyes at the Fillmore Auditorium. Yes, I’m gutted that The White Stripes split up but 13 years together and 6 albums is a decent legacy. And, for the record, there was a moshpit in Denver. I’d like to think it was the first one it had ever seen.

Thanks Jack and Meg. We’ll miss you.

Miles Kane: Live at the Barfly

24 Jan
The Last Shadow Puppet takes his solo album on the road. First stop: Camden, 22nd January.

After surfacing as the best mate of Alex Turner, Miles Kane has proved himself to have more in common with the Arctic Monkeys frontman than just a hairdresser.

He’s been the frontman of his own band – The Rascals – and worked with Alex to release his best work as one half of The Last Shadow Puppets. Tonight, Miles Kane is appearing as Miles Kane, testing his first solo album before an April release.

The packed Barfly holds balding Britpoppers and a scattering of Arctic Monkeys fans, discussing whether Alex Turner or perhaps even Noel Gallagher will take to the stage, having recently added vocals to his album in return for Kane playing guitar on the forthcoming Noel solo album. Of course, the problem with riding on the coat tails of friends is that, sooner or later, you’re going to have to prove yourself and that’s why this live solo debut is taking part in a room that holds 200 people – it’s less risky than, say, the Kentish Town Forum. The audience at the Barfly tonight are almost exclusively die-hard indie drunks who have been watching bands in the venue since 3pm.

The last time we saw Miles Kane, he was bouncing around the audience at Blur’s 2009 Hyde Park gig, sharing poppers with Peaches Geldof and Agyness Deyn and playing air guitar. He spoke about how great Blur were, constantly caught up in the guitar solos and choruses, living the moment while The Rascals were going nowhere fast. Friendly, passionate and devoted to music, you can’t help but feel sorry for a man desperately trying to live the life of a rock star while failing to get any success outside of The Last Shadow Puppets or the Shadow of Alex Turner.

Even tonight, Alex Turner’s other half Alexa Chung attracts more attention than the band as she slinks to the back of the bar. The sound of Miles Kane with his new band isn’t that different to The Rascals – urgent, basic melodies full of chroruses which never really engage or prompt a singalong.

Recent track Inhaler is a radio-friendly riff without substance and other songs retread the bluesy garage band stuff that we expect The Coral experimented with when they were at high school. The best thing about Miles Kane solo is his voice but this is drowned out by musicians so enthusiastic, they look like a music class covering their favorite hits. There is a cover tonight, too – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Spread Your Love, a muscular stomp that, in it’s original anthemic form, has enough bass and swagger to blow amps and shatter windows.

Tonight, Spread Your Love sounds like Harry Potter tapping away to Motorhead on Guitar Hero – tinny, high pitched and just wrong.The laddish swagger that Miles Kane talks about just isn’t here tonight, nor are the ‘good looking blokes playing good music’ that he’s fond of saying to the press.

Instead, we get a talented singer struggling to define himself as a frontman and nervous, pale friends as bandmates who kill the attitude that begins to appear towards the end of the night. For someone so obsessed with British guitar heroes of the past, Miles Kane needs to look at creating modern sounds and a better band – even Oasis had to cut friends out of the party at some point.