Festival Preview: What To Expect From All Points East

The festival market is HUGE. There are hundreds to choose from in the UK alone. So, taking a huge leap and starting a brand new one in the current landscape is a risky decision. How do you stand out?

Well, it helps to be backed by the organisers of Coachella, and to slot in at a venue that’s been part of the scene for a while. All Points East will take place in London’s Victoria Park this weekend, and it’s being pitched as a fest for discerning music fans.

It arrives complete with claims of the best sound the park has ever heard, along with the obligatory fairground rides and hipster street food vans. But the real answer to standing out? Same as it ever was. Get the right line up.

On paper, the All Points East bill is forward-thinking, eclectic, and most of all cool. Just like you, right? First up, comeback kings LCD Soundsystem take over the East Stage on Friday night. Last September saw the release of their critically acclaimed comeback ‘American Dream’, the first new material from the Brooklyn dance-punks since their 2011 Madison Square Garden sign off.

Frontman James Murphy will be hitting the decks throughout the weekend too, with his side project Despacio – a collaboration with David and Stephen Dewaele of Soulwax and 2manydjs.

The Saturday night headliners showcase smooth laid back beats, distinctive vocals, flawless productions skills and even a Mercury Prize – it could only be the XX. The idea will very much be to lose yourself in a concoction of Jamie XX, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s vocal plaits, delicate reverb and ambient backgrounds.

Sunday’s headliner might be one of the most eclectic singers of a generation, and one of the few genuine legends we have left. Björk will draw a line under things with colourful art-pop and avant-garde everything. There’s a decent gender balance on the bill – no, it ain’t a 50/50 split, we’re a long way off that yet – but it is far more diverse than some.

Across the weekend, expect to see performances from genre-spanning giants like Sampha, the international-pop-band-of-the-moment Superorganism, the returning shimmering indie band Friendly Fires, as well as the hugely popular Lorde, Father John Misty, Glass Animals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Stefflon Don, Soulwax… you get the picture.

Thankfully, there isn’t too much overlap in terms of stage clashes – a sticking point often met with disappointment from die-hard festival-goers. On this bill, the most difficult decision you’ll make will be between Flying Lotus 3D and Father John, or Rex Orange County and Laura Misch.  

Possibly one of the most interesting parts of All Points East is the accompanying side shows. They make the festival feel like more of a sprawl, with an eclectic list of big names set to step in. On June 1, indie types Catfish and the Bottlemen like will be joined by fellow indie types Blossoms and the Hunna, while the National take over on Saturday June 2 with their biggest headline show to date.

Support there comes from from the War On Drugs, Public Service Broadcasting, This Is The Kit and loads more, while Nick Cave and some particular Bad Seeds close the entire event – after sets from none other than Patti Smith, St. Vincent and Courtney Barnett – on June 3.

All Points East is an interesting proposition. It could be big, judging from the organisers and stellar line up. By the time Björk is done with us, it might be one of those events that elicits a response of jealousy and awe from your mates.

But it if it sounds like an overload of great bands all in one go, you’re also possibly on the money. Like most festivals it’ll likely be chaotic, expensive, and difficult to see past the tall guy in front of you while Matt Berninger does his thing or the many colours of Beck pass you by.

These are the risks, but early suggestions are that All Points East will hand you some of the best around on a historical-park-shaped platter.

 

When? May 25 – June 3

Where? Victoria Park, London

How much? £39.95 – £169.95

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Good Bands, Cool Stuff: Big Scary Monsters’ Cardiff Pop Up

After the success of their previous event in London last year, Big Scary Monsters are bringing their pop up to Cardiff for the first time. From April 11-16, residents of the Welsh capital can expect to see Duke Street Arcade filled with merch, beer, and lots of music. There will be an array of performances across the five day event, seeing the likes of Jamie Lenman and Sorority Noise’s Cameron Boucher take to the stage for exclusive acoustic sets.

Founded almost 20 years ago in Oxford by Kevin Douch, BSM has become one of the most important players in UK alternative music. Whether they’re championing the weird world of math rock or bringing the brightest lights of US emo over for a bit of a look around, they’ve helped to shape the scene that they operate in.

Their pop up will celebrate some of the names currently on the roster – from both sides of the Atlantic – while there will also be rare records, signed stuff, test pressings and even some free shit and giveaways to get your hands on. But get down quick – they’re not likely to stick around for long.

Orchards – April 12 @ 6pm

Describing themselves as a ‘glitter gateway drug’, alt-pop quartet Orchards are a breath of fresh air. The Brighton-based band have recently signed to BSM and will be playing at the likes of ArcTanGent, Truck and the Great Escape festivals thus summer. Their upbeat sound will bring a refreshing twist as they support Tiny Moving Parts on tour this April.

Jamie Lenman – April 14 @ 5pm

After taking a break following the split of his influential rock band Reuben and pursuing a thrash metal/folk direction, Jamie Lenman has stepped back into the post-hardcore scene. He recently reached the top of the iTunes Rock charts with single Mississippi and has since released a new album, ‘Devolver’. He will be playing an acoustic set at the pop up and signing records.

Nervus – April 15 @ 2pm

Nervus’s new album ‘Everything Dies’ details Em Foster’s struggle with the issues of non-acceptance in society by discussing gender dysphoria and addiction. The band give a voice to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who has ever faced prejudice and their catchy songs make them sound good doing it, too. Recording every instrument (minus drums) in the comfort of Em’s bedroom, the four-piece have produced a great album with an even greater message. They will be performing before Slaughter Beach, Dog at the event.

Slaughter Beach, Dog – April 15 @ 3pm

Slaughter Beach, Dog began as a product of Modern Baseball singer Jake Ewald’s writer’s block. The solo project documented the tales of fictional characters from a fictional town, titled, you guessed it, Slaughter Beach. But now he is taking the reins again. His recent album ‘Birdie’ takes inspiration from John K. Samson, creating a folkier acoustic sound which details Ewald’s progression as an artist. He will be bringing the sound to Wales for the first time at the BSM pop up.

Cameron Boucher – April 16 @ 5pm

Member of Sorority Noise and Old Gray, Cameron Boucher is supporting the Wonder Years on Sorority Noise’s last tour before their hiatus. He will be taking a brief break to perform an acoustic set at the pop up on its closing day.

Big Scary Monsters’ pop up event will run from April 11-16. For more information head to http://www.bsmrocks.com/popup.

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Steelhouse of Fun: Why The South Wales Rock Fest is a Hidden Gem

Steelhouse is set to return this weekend for its seventh staging and, while the Welsh classic rock festival has built up a loyal following over the years, along with a fistful of good reviews, to some extent it remains one of the calendar’s best-kept secrets.

Taking place on a remote Ebbw Vale farm (which quite literally sits atop a mountain), the first thing that grabs your attention as you make your way up the ridge is that you’re surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in Wales. The site is built by a 50-strong crew of volunteers – known as the Steelhouse Family – who give up their time to head up weeks in advance to set things up. In a region that is starved of live music events, this level of dedication is vital.

The community spirit echoes throughout the weekend, which counts for a lot if you’re unlucky with the uglier side of Welsh weather. The biblical rainfall of 2015, for example, still sends a cold shiver down my spine. To give you an idea of what it looked like, metal legend Doro Pesch had to be carried to the stage by one of the crew as conditions underfoot were so treacherous backstage. The prices aren’t as horrific as you would expect to see at mainstream UK festivals either. Broadly speaking, the food and booze is locally sourced.

The festival has drawn many cornerstones of rock music to its unique surroundings – including UFO, Thunder, Europe, Dee Snider, Michael Schenker, Doro and Black Star Riders – while also offering a platform for the genre’s newcomers. Steelhouse’s appeal comes from throwing together the nostalgic thrill of the timeless classics while also supporting the fresh blood that will keep rock music alive.

That’s an invaluable commitment, especially during a time when many small music venues are under threat from developers. These stages are pretty big and there are plenty of eyes trained on acts just cutting their teeth or waiting to take the next step. Take, for instance, RavenEye’s performance last year.

The band have since put out their acclaimed debut, ‘Nova’, on the Frontiers Music label and more recently supported KISS at huge arena shows on the European leg of the glam-rock giants’ KissWorld tour. The Temperance Movement, who got tongues wagging after their performance in 2013, went on to become the guest band for the Rolling Stones in Europe the following year, racking up a couple of impressive LPs along the way.

This year appears to have a nice balance to it, too. Ragga-metal party-starters Skindred look set to deliver a triumphant homecoming set and heavy metal titans Saxon, with their full ‘Eagle’ production in tow, will top the weekend’s proceedings, while California’s Rival Sons, Ontario’s Monster Truck and Last In Line, featuring former members of the original lineup of Dio, are all flying in to play. There’s also Mr. Steve Harris taking time out from some other band to hit the stage with British Lion (the festival also carries the clout of Trooper Beer sponsoring the stage this year, no doubt something to do with a certain bassist).

Then there’s the latest missive from the new wave of British classic rock bands. Inglorious, who recently put out their Kevin Shirley-produced second album, Stonebroken and Broken Witt Rebels, who both made their Download festival debuts this summer, Tequila Mockingbyrd and Jared James Nichols will be out to make an impression. The next big thing is out there. Steelhouse could be where the world finds it.

Steelhouse Festival returns to Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm in Ebbw Vale between July 28 and 30. Head to www.steelhousefestival.com for the full line up and stage times.

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Bright Sparks: The Must See Acts At Cardiff’s DimSŵn Festival

Estrons EP

The wait is nearly over. DimSŵn is this weekend!

The little brother of the annual Sŵn festival, which is turning 10 this year, will see a whole host of up-and-coming acts do their thing in a variety of venues around Cardiff, including Clwb Ifor Bach, 10 Feet Tall, Four Bars, The Moon Club and Undertone, on April 9.

Here are a few acts you really don’t want to miss.

Estrons – Upstairs at Clwb Ifor Bach @ 8.45pm

This Cardiff-based quartet (pictured, main) have been making big waves as of late, and it’s little wonder why. Fronted by the fiery Taliesyn Källström, the band’s brand of no-nonsense alt-rock is something that sounds great through a pair of speakers, but even better from the heights of a stage. Their name means aliens in Welsh, but an invasion of their kind would certainly be welcome.

The Big Moon – Upstairs at Clwb Ifor Bach @ 10.15pm

The Big Moon could well be on their way to the sort of acclaim previously reserved for breakout acts like Haim, with the Londoners possessing the raw materials to perhaps even usurp their American counterparts in the hearts of many. Their recent signing to Fiction Records and new single Cupid are testament to their mastery of melody-driven guitar pop and their ability to deliver a superb performance.

Kiran Leonard – 10 Feet Tall @ 9.15pm

Jeff Buckley, Sufjan Stevens, even Biffy Clyro…these are just a few of the names that spring to mind when you listen to this talented singer-songwriter. His songs range from the serene to the surreal, which means you never know what you’re going to get when you turn up to one of his shows. And that’s just how we like it.

Benedict Benjamin – 10 Feet Tall @ 6.15pm

Self-confessed purveyor of “reverby, dreamy, psychy, folky, rocky, country-y, harmony-y, 60s-y stuff”, Benjamin’s finely-crafted tunes are accessible and suitably enjoyable. Having released his debut LP earlier this year, the singer-songwriter has accrued a fair bit of attention in recent months – not to mention selling out a show at The Islington in London. With that in mind, DimSŵn may be a good chance to catch him before the big time comes knocking.

Jake Isaac – Downstairs at Clwb Ifor Bach @ 5.15pm

Probably one of the more well-known acts to play this year’s DimSŵn, Isaac’s twist on soulful folk really is a treat to see live. His performances are filled with such candour and emotion that it’s near impossible to not be drawn in. If you’re a fan of anything acoustic, Isaac and his trusty guitar are a definite must-see, with his show having been honed during a recent support run with Lucy Rose and a buzz-heavy headline tour.

DimSŵn will take place on April 9. For more information on all the events click here to see the schedule in full. See you there.

 

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