WEEKLY UPDATES (with some special editions in between)



July 27, 2011

Amy Winehouse: 1983 - 2011

My first thoughts when I learned of, Amy Winehouse’s death on Saturday whilst sitting on a beach in Long Island, NY were utter sadness, but not shock. Having unfortunately watched the disturbing videos of what turned out to be her last live show in Serbia, it was clear that despite still having an amazing voice, she was at the lowest ebb of her various addictions. It begs the question - Why didn’t her corner throw in the white towel on that occasion and countless others prior? If that Serbian show was a boxing match, the towel would have been thrown in before the first round was over. Stars and celebs are often used and abused by their ‘friends’, ‘family’ and ‘management’ (see Hendrix, Pressley and countless others as evidence). The only element of shock that I had was that this tragedy hadn’t happened sooner…there was a sense of inevitability that, Winehouse would meet her end in tragic circumstances sometime soon. Indeed, a good friend of mine who previously worked with ‘Blender’ magazine once told me the story of an interview/photo shoot that he and some other colleagues conducted in 2007. On that occasion, she turned up with her entourage several hours late and out of her mind on a cocktail of substances. She was constantly falling asleep throughout before she perked up every twenty minutes or so (having taken a hit of something in the bathroom). The writers and photographers had three or four minutes of questions/shooting before the next obvious crash and revisit to the bathroom to whereby she could ‘fix herself up’. Following this incident, my friend suggested that she would be dead in 12 months. Thankfully he was wrong, Winehouse extended her life a little longer than that, but sadly not too much longer.   

I am generally not a fan of female vocalists, but, Winehouse soon joined the exclusive list (Tracy Chapman, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Adele, Aretha Franklin) when I heard her second album, released in 2006, ‘Back to Black’ for the first time. This diminutive, sleek singer from the north of London was soulful, sexy, sultry and strong and the sound absolutely blew me away.   

Winehouse found success and fame at the tender age of 20 with her debut album 'Frank' in 2003. This was nominated for the Mercury Prize and went on to go triple platinum in the UK. It was however, 'Back To Black' which elevated, Winehouse to global success. This in all truth was the first I had heard of the north London artist and singles such as 'Rehab', 'You Know I'm No Good' and 'Love Is A Losing Game' made, Winehouse an instant hit across the world. 'Back To Black' became an eight times platinum hit in the UK and double platinum in the US. Not to mention a meager five Grammy's that were awarded the following year. The, Mark Ronson produced, 'Zutons' song, 'Valerie' is also more than a notable mention.

Winehouse's battle with substance abuse were, as expected, very well documented. From self-harm and depression to eating disorders and hard drug abuse...they were part of the package. She had several spells in rehabilitation as she tried to kick the habits. The British tabloids led their merry dance (as they usually do). Her friendship with, 'Libertines' front man and heroine addict, Pete Doherty made the front pages when they filmed themselves playing with a litter of baby mice.

Last month, Winehouse cancelled her European tour after a hard to watch gig in Belgrade, Serbia where she appeared too drug and intoxicated to perform.  For those who booed her at this performance, I find it hard to comprehend. When you buy tickets to the circus, you expect a clown. The photos and performances of early, Winehouse on, 'Frank' and, 'Back to Black' portray a serene, settled and full of vitality, Winehouse. Sadly her success was ultimately her peril and the talented young lady with a world in front of her joined what the American press call the '27 club'.

I was touched by the words of Winehouse’s father, Mitch at her funeral when he said that his daughter had overcome her addition to drugs and was "trying hard" to conquer her problems with alcohol, saying that she had "just completed three weeks of abstinence" and that she was keen to get sober, telling him: "Dad I've had enough, I can't stand the look on your and the family's faces any more." She won't have to face those she loves with shame any more. One can only hope that she died peacefully and with a smile on her face. The music she left behind will certainly live for a very long time and put smiles on the faces of millions across the globe.

 (I have been completely turned off and critical of NME's writing and musical stance over the past few years, but it has to be said, this is a superb cover)


Some tributes on Amy:
Lady Gaga: 'Amy changed pop music forever, I remember knowing there was hope, and feeling not alone because of her. She lived jazz, she lived the blues.'
Sir Elton John: called her ‘a seminal artist’, adding: ‘She was one of the greatest artists this country has ever produced.’

Lily Allen: ‘It’s just beyond sad, there’s nothing else to say. She was such a lost soul, may she rest in peace.’

Kelly Osbourne: ‘I can’t even breath right now I’m crying so hard I just lost one of my best friends. I love you for ever Amy and will never forget the real you!’

Baby Spice, Emma Bunton: ‘Such sad news about Amy Winehouse. My thoughts are with her family.’

Radio DJ Fearne Cotton: ‘Amy was a special girl. The saddest news.’

Billy Bragg: 'It's not the age that Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Cobain and Amy have in common - it's drug abuse, sadly #27club.'
Sara Cox: ‘Oh no. Was hoping it wasn’t true. RIP Amy. Just such a massive waste. Our thoughts are with her family.’ 

July 25, 2011

Album Review: PORTUGAL. THE MAN - In The Mountain In The Cloud

Like many of the bands I choose to write about, ‘Portugal. The Man’ was a band that I was first introduced to at SXSW in Austin on March of this year. Upon going to see, ‘TV on The Radio’ at Stubbs, ‘Portugal. The Man’ took the stage and was the one band on the performance list that I hadn’t heard anything of. Of that particular performance, I wrote – “Vibrant, refreshing and energetic. Loved what I saw of this act …need to find out more. This was soulful with profound beats and a great indie vibe. Looks like he’s partaking in a European tour at the moment, but will be sure to check him out on June 3rd at Webster Hall. Rating 8/10.” 

I was in Vegas for a stag night (bachelor party) that particular weekend so missed the June 3rd show, but I am delighted to say that I just picked up tickets for the 20th October show at Terminal 5 in NYC. I did however “find out more” in purchasing some and listening to most of their extensive repertoire which now sits at seven albums which have been churned out in the space of six years.

On April 9, ‘Portugal. The Man’ announced, ‘The Satanic Satanist’, which was released on July 21, 2009. ‘The Satanic Satanist’ is themed around memories and stories from lead singer, John Gourley's growing up in the state of Alaska. The album was recorded with the help of record producer Paul Q. Kolderie of Pixies and Radiohead fame, and it was the band's first time recording an album with pre-production. The band released the first video from 'The Satanic Satanist' for the track, 'Do You' on September 17, 2009. One of my favourites from this album.

‘Portugal. The Man’ is best described as a psychedelic rock band. This kind of sound is something that I have been listening to more frequently than before. The catalyst for which is generally, ‘The Black Angels’ and the likes. Indeed, I've been reverting back to some, Hendrix, Zeppelin and The Doors as a direct result. 

Originally from Wasilla, Alaska, the group released their first two albums with Fearless Records as well as material on their own through indie label, Equal Vision Records prior to signing to Atlantic Records in 2010. Under, Atlantic Records label, they have released, ‘American Ghetto’ and recent offering, ‘In the Mountain in the Cloud’. 

At SXSW this year, the band debut a song titled, ‘Senseless’. They followed this in April by releasing one 30 second clip per week from their new album, 'In the Mountain in the Cloud' via their YouTube channel. The songs were, 'Once Was One', 'All Your Light (Times Like These)' and, 'So American'. 'In the Mountain in the Cloud' is mixed by Grammy winner, Andy Wallace. Wallace has most notably mixed 'Rush', 'System of a Down', 'Nirvana' and 'Paul McCartney' among others…not a bad crowd to be associated with.

The new album was released on July 19. ‘So American’ kicks the album off with soft keys, deep thoughts and quaint guitar harmonies. “who wrote the rules? Who broke the rules?” in the chorus sounds class. ‘Floating’ which follows is classic, ‘Portugal. The Man’ with the distortion and psychedelic guitar that epitomises this band.

‘Got It All’ is possibly my favourite song on the album…in fact, it straight up is. This tune is rocking and catchy with a bit of strings going on in the peak of the chorus - “shake shake shake the night away”. Some heavy syntheziser follows on, ‘Senseless’ which is a trippy, darker little tune. ‘Head Is A Flame’ is a little more chilled than what we’ve heard to date on this album and the guitar riffs sound like something from, ‘What’s the Story, Morning Glory?’...perhaps a, 'Don't Look Back in Anger' feel.

‘You Carried Us’ is a slow little burner that is a decent track, but doesn't really come to much in my mind. That said, the lyrics are pretty strong. ‘Everything You See’ is something that I instantly feel some affection for. Not only due to the horns that get us started on this track, but the reference to, 'The Beatles', ‘Rubber Soul’. I love the effects…really clever and a great job by the aforementioned, Andy Wallace.

‘All Your Light’ is up there with, ‘Got It All’ in terms of top tracks from the album. It begins deep, down, dark and dirty and continues in the same vein throughout. It’s a little bit, ‘Queen’ in parts and particularly the intro. The backup singing sounds like, David Bowie of the 80’s or perhaps a little Marc Bolan. Again, I’m fine with that.

'Once Was One' is along the lines of what we heard in previous album, 'American Ghetto'. Indeed this album already feels like a continuation of that album. The transition is seamless. 'Share With Me The Sun' puts me in mind of bands i really got in to last year in, 'Passion Pit' and, 'Phoenix'. Probably the high pitched vocals of lead man, Gourley.

'Sleep Forever' ties up the album beautifully. As titled, a sleepy little number. I love the strings on this one.

It can be daunting for an indie band like, 'Portugal. The Man' to sign to a major record label. Expectations are heightened, and more often than not, a simple, palatable sound is favoured over something a little more complex with real depth. 'In the Mountain in the Cloud' fortunately avoids such dilemma. It’s encouraging to know that, 'Portugal. The Man' has not lost sight of their music despite their successes. Likewise, refreshing to know that their new home at, Atlantic Records may prove to be one that embraces the creative vision the band has become known for. Rating 7.5

So American
Got it All 

July 19, 2011

THE BLACK ANGELS – Mercury Lounge, NY – 18th July 2011

If you have read any of my blog at all, you will have come to realise that I am a big fan of this Austin band, 'The Black Angels'. Indeed, they formed a large part of the inspiration to start writing this blog. Having seen them play SXSW twice in two nights in Austin, this week I had the pleasure of seeing them play twice in two nights in NYC. More extraordinary in that both events were absolutely free. The first event was at the South Street Seaport where the band headlined the inaugural 4Knots Festival (full review here - As detailed, my vantage point in terms of visibility was amazing, but not so good in terms of sound. 

The second show was a 'secret' late night show at the Mercury Lounge. Despite it taking place on a school night and doors opening at 11.30pm, I had to go (Mrs. ScoAustin thought I had finally lost my mind). Upon attaining my wrist band and making my way inside, it was just under an hour before the band took the stage. Having reviewed the bands live act several times in the past few months, there is little more to add. Therefore I take the uncommon approach of beginning with the set list and going on to describe some of the highlights.
Set List:

Black Grease
Entrance Song
The Prodigal Sun
Young Men Dead
Mission District
You On The Run
Bloodhounds On My Trail
Better Off Alone
Haunting at 1300 McKinley
The Sniper
You in Color
Posphene Dream
Science Killer
Bad Vibrations
Snake In The Grass

From the moment that lead guitar, Christian Bland kicked in with his intro to, 'Black Grease', to the last beat of the drum on closer, 'Ronettes', it's fair to say I was transfixed. This venue to my mind is the best in NYC. It's simply a cool place to go and see music. With a comfortable bar leading to an intimate space in the back which holds a capacity of no more than 350, the sound in this music mecca is sublime. 

Clearly, Maas and his cronies are heavily inspired by, 'Velvet Underground', a song from whom gave these Austin rockers their name. 'The Black Angels' music is probably best described as mellow, trippy, garage rock/psychedelia. A bit of a mouthful, but that's how I perceive them. Some might say they are effectively a, 'Velvet Underground' tribute band, though I think that slightly unfair and that, 'The Black Angels' that I have seen and listen to frequently deserve plaudits on their own merits. Sets that I have seen share a wide range from across the bands three albums, of which I struggle to argue which is strongest. At a push, I'm going with their debut, 'Passover'.

The forth track on this set, 'Young Men Dead' sends chills down my spine every time with it's "run for the hills, pick up your feet and let's go" chorus expertly and quiveringly delivered by, Maas. A couple of tracks on with, 'Mission District', Ballie on drums and, Hunt on bass strike some dark vibes on this aggressive little track in which, Maas culminates with, "you only see one way".
Maas takes front and centre in songs like, 'Better Off Alone' and, 'Science Killer'. He is completely in his zone throughout the show, cap covering his eyes and at some points, almost his mouth. In the first of the two songs, he kicks of with a heartfelt cry of, "I feel so low", whilst in the latter, he shakes those maracas to fantastic effect while humming and hawing about "Feelings...hmmmmm". The mood of this band collectively works and results in some wonderful tunes encompassing blues, rock, grunge and psychedelia. 

Concluding with a chilled, yet drum and bass heavy, 'Ronettes', the band walk off the front of the stage (to the crowds delight and surprise), through the thoroughly satisfied masses and I assume in to their VIP lounge.

I simply can't say or get enough of, 'The Black Angels' right now. Despite this late show which spanned from 12.30am - 2am on a Tuesday morning resulting in a bitter toil for me at work later the same day, I would do it all again tomorrow given the chance. The impact of the tiredness got nowhere near the feeling of ecstasy and sheer delight at seeing this band once more in an epic NY venue. They are at the top of their game right now and their sound is right down my street. Rating 9.5/10 

July 17, 2011

THE BLACK ANGELS (4Knots Festival) – South Street Seaport, NY – 16th July 2011

‘The Siren Music Festival’ was an annual event run by NY newspaper, The Village Voice and held in Brooklyn's Coney Island from 2001-2010. Following a successful 10-year run, the event was discontinued and replaced by this, the ‘4Knots Music Festival’ at South Street Seaport. I only made it down to the Seaport at around 5pm, so my music entertainment was restricted to a couple of, ‘Davilla 666’ tracks, an energetic, ‘Titus Andronicus’ set and then the stars of the show and someone high up current playlist, ‘The Black Angels’.  If you read my previous review from April, it’s no secret I like these guys (and girl) -

This review may run a little shorter and be less detailed than others. The truth of the matter is that I thought the balcony of UNO overlooking the stage would offer a great vantage point and that we would have some food and drinks during the gig. This was all fairly true, only the sound from the elevated position parallel with the stage was far from ideal. Mrs. ScoAustin did the business with the camera though, so this might become more of a review in pictures than a written one.

Alex Maas takes the stage with customary low set cap and maybe not so familiar, dark bug eyed glasses. This is an outdoor venue and despite no glaring sunshine, he is the front man of, The Black Angels, so that's fine. It’s a lively start with, ‘Bloodhounds on My Trail’ which is fast and furious with a lot of screeching and steel guitar. Its solid blues fused with some psychedelic rock undertones.


'Mission District' is started eloquently by female drummer, Stephanie Bailey who hits out with a deliberate and precise drum stroke. Deep bass on this track accompanying a tambourine equipped, Maas.  It’s very much a case of what you hear is what you see with this band. ‘Yellow Elevator’ and ‘Manipulation’ follows with a lot of distortion. Not sure how much is due to my poor vantage point or the techniques of the various band members. The latter of the two songs, begins with lead guitarist, Kyle Hunt in a trippy and deep fashion before being accompanied by the snarling, Maas.

‘You On the Run’ begins with an, Alex Maas howl and continues with tidy vocals and shrills that the front man carries off in majestic fashion. ‘The Sniper’ which follows always put me in mind of the scene in, ‘Pulp Fiction’ when Vincent and Mia get up to dance. It’s the highlight of this particular show thus far. ‘Black Grease’ has a pumping bass. Only this week, the opening lyrics to this really struck a chord with me (Mrs ScoAustin may not like that, but I'm sure she'll appreciate nonetheless).

‘The First Vietnamese War’ intros with a sweet little organ solo which, Maas continues to tinker with throughout the song. This distortion and medaling continues in ‘Bad Vibrations’ in which I love the opening lyrics.  There’s a lot of tampering and pouncing on pedals by, Maas and, Hunt. ‘Young Men Dead’ was certainly familiar to this boisterous young crowd. It's my personal favourite from the band. Heavy, dark, lyrically pleasing and the vocals are perfect.  Maas explained that upon hearing Velvet Underground for the first time, he thought, “This is insane. This is so much more dark and ominous than The Beatles”. It’s clear from this song and the bands general theme that he follows similar music principals to the Underground.

‘Entrance Song’ is next up and starts with the lyrics "Rolling fast down I-35…supersonic overdrive". Love it. Album title track, ‘Phosphene Dream’ is up next. This slows things down a little bit with, Bailey getting something of a rest on this one…certainly at the beginning of the track. "I Feel so low" is the whale that gets 'Better Off Alone' underway. Solid on this performance and among my early favourite songs from this band.
Following a quick chant of “one more song” from an entranced audience, a brief encore was provided. ‘The Sniper at The Gates of Heaven’ is a title that tells you all you need to know about this one. Again pretty dark lyrics and murmurs from Maas. "Wake up wake up wake up!" roared at its peak. ‘Empire’ concludes the 1 hour 10 minute set kicking in with "Oh the Emperor's calling". Love this beat and the continual spits and snarls from, Maas. The lead guitar plays a mean riff on this one.
I don’t feel that I can provide an accurate rating of this show, such was the poor sound at my early vantage point. Only on the last few tracks did we get down to ground level where the sound quality was markedly better. I can only assume that the people in the crowd seeing them for the first time were as impressed and encapsulated as I was when I first saw this amazing band at SXSW in March. With a free show at The Mercury Lounge late tomorrow night, I am tempted to go down and take another look and listen.

Set List:
Bloodhounds on My Trail
Mission District
Yellow Elevator
You on the Run
Black Grease
The First Vietnamese War
Bad Vibrations
Young Men Dead
Entrance Song
Phosphene Dream
Better Off Alone


The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven

July 10, 2011

GHOSTS OF EDEN – Mercury Lounge, NY – 8th July 2011

I reviewed Ghosts of Eden (GoE) a few months ago ( when they played an unfamiliar and slightly peculiar venue near Times Square called, Klub 45. Despite that venue being okay, GoE are far better than that. Over the past year or so, the band has been pushing their music and is probably one of the hardest working bands around. There were weekends when GoE would play a couple of live shows in PA on the Friday night before trekking back to NY and playing shows at various venues on the Saturday and Sunday…no easy task when the band members have jobs to hold down as well as WAGS and family members to devote time to. While recording their new album, they took something of a break from the live performances and on this showing, it has only benefited them.

My choice venue for live music in New York is, Mercury Lounge, so I was absolutely thrilled to hear that GoE had secured the venue for their record launch of, ‘Something Kinetic’…and they sold it out. Having released a four song EP, ‘Ignorance and Lies’ early last year, GoE had a two tier approach to this show playing the oldies first before delighting the crowd with the sounds of their new album.

As the clock neared midnight, lead man, Pino strolled on from stage left on his lonesome, strapped on his guitar and started with an unruffled solo before other band members, Rich (lead), Benny (drums), and Miles (bass) accompanied. An area where, Pino has improved markedly over the past few years is definitely his strength and depth in vocals. They were simply majestic on this opener, ‘Heartbreak Crutch’.
It wasn’t until the second track that I realized something was missing from GoE…Benny was not adorned in his signature NY Yankees this evening (fine by me as I prefer the NY Mets). The beat rolled on though and in, ‘Capsize’ a Tommy gun beat with crunching guitar alongside works very well indeed. Pino undertook some crowd control on this one asking each side of the room to accompany on the “woah woah oh woah-oh oh" chorus promising gifts for the winners. He played the politician in the end by throwing GoE t-shirts and copies of the new album to both sides of the audience and explained that given that the band are still unsigned, they can't piss people off.

The third track of the evening was, Eliot Ness which for my money is the best song on, ‘Ignorance and Lies’. From the well composed opening riff from, Rich to the tender and beautifully delivered lyrics from, Pino, this song is on the more chilled side, but incredibly enjoyable. When I looked over to Mrs. ScoAustin, I found her singing her little heart my surprise and great delight, she knows every word. ‘Even Violence’ continues with a slightly calmer, but still energetic of the GoE repertoire, and the performance was on its way to being the bands best yet with the fervent late night crowd in raptures.

The next track, The Black (which doesn’t appear on either the EP or the new album) was dedicated to drummer, Benny who “changed the face of the band” in the words of the lead man, Pino. The track has an almost Latin guitar theme and drumbeat. It sounded a little bit Led Zeppelin in the live arena and one I really enjoyed in the set (and the acoustic version I later found - below).

We then switch to the new stuff at the heart of this GoE record launch. In the same order as the tracks appear on the album, ‘K.M.A.’ gets us started with a dark and heavy sound that reminds me of, Foo Fighters, QOTSA and Them Crooked Vultures. Some great bass and lead guitar on this track and the consistency of Benny on drums and Tom on vocals is a joy to behold.
‘Halo’ is possibly my favourite track from, ‘Something Kinetic’. It is a pure rock song with anger and aggression at the fore, “she likes to get around, she likes to get around” and a “more, more, more” from, Pino that puts me in mind of one of my early rock Gods (that I’m willing to admit and share), Billy Idol. This really is down my street.

I have always been fond of, ‘Dear Mary’ which begins with a really great riff by lead guitar, Rich. As I said in the last review, this riff has me casting my mind back to Fleetwood Mac’s, ‘The Chain’ and Rolling Stones, ‘Gimme Shelter’. Pino with the aid of a harmonizing, Benny delivers a wonderful chorus culminating in “stones are way too hard”. ‘Sell My Skin’ is next up with a booming bass from, Miles and hosting the smart, catchy guitar riffs that have become somewhat synonymous with GoE. It’s easy to fathom that bands like, ‘Smashing Pumpkins’ and ‘Pearl Jam’ are among the bands influences. 
‘Unraveled’ is another very solid rock song with a ballad like feel in the middle, “as days go by, I feel so tired, not good enough for you, I sink my teeth right in to you”. This one is delivered with raw emotion and again, the Mercury Lounge crowd is showing their appreciation. The frenetic and fabulous live performance comes to a close with, ‘In Motion’which explodes to life with vigor and loud guitar from the trio of guitarists. It’s effervescent and again has the audience in ecstasy.

'Ghosts of Eden' do not need to prove that they have solid songs, but I think they were keen to show a music Mecca that is, Mercury Lounge that they are up to the challenge. This was by far the best GoE performance I have seen and the band looked more than comfortable in everything they did and played. They are confident in their talents and so they should be. The Mercury Lounge can be an unforgiving place if performances are not deemed up to par, but GoE left a buzz in the place and people left with a smile on their face and ‘Something Kinetic’ in their pocket. Do yourself a favour and go and buy this hard working rock bands well produced 6 track album…you will not be disappointed. Rating 8.5/10

Again, the band was kind enough to give me some words on their experience of the Mercury Lounge record launch:

“First off, it was surreal hearing over 250 people chant "GoE". There was definitely a sense of accomplishment because we have worked so hard over the past few months getting our record done and working on our live show. Many of our fans who have seen us several times before told us it was our best show. That kind of feedback definitely makes us feel like we're on the right track. We always knew we had strong songs but never had enough down time to build upon our performance and make it more of an experience for the crowd. We took a few months off from playing shows while making the new record so that we could do just that and I think it showed on Friday night. We're extremely humbled by the turnout…although we knew that we were close to selling the show beforehand, we didn't concern ourselves with that. To find out we had sold out the Mercury Lounge afterwards was incredible. We're just glad everyone had fun and that fans, especially new fans, wanted our music. Hopefully this is just the beginning.”

Set List:
Heartbreak Crutch
Eliot Ness
Even Violence
The Black
Dear Mary
Sell My Skin
In Motion

* hear more on their website - 

July 6, 2011

T in the Park – Balado, Kinross-shire, Scotland July 8-10 2011: Is it the best music festival in the world?

I have been meaning to preview Scotland’s premier music festival, ‘T in the Park’ for some time, but the days ran away from me over the past few weeks. Only today did I realise that it takes place this weekend, so there’s no time like the present to get cracking with the preview.

‘T in the Park’ is a major Scottish music festival that has been held annually since 1994. It is named after main sponsor and Scottish brewing company, ‘Tennents’ (the lager, in my opinion, is horrible). It was originally held in Strathclyde Park, Glasgow, however has been held in Balado, near Kinross in Perthshire since 1997. Originally a two day festival, T in the Park has become a three day event (due to popular demand) since 2007. This year’s showcase kicks of this Friday (July 8th) and features Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, and Foo Fighters as Main Stage headliners. That’s just a taste of what’s available at this multi stage laden event that covers each and every music genre, the established act too bands still seeking a record deal and musical representation from the world over.

Acts appearing in the opening years at Strathclyde Park included Primal Scream, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill, The Prodigy, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Alanis Morissette, Black Grape, Supergrass, Radiohead, Beck, Pulp, The Foo Fighters, Teenage Fanclub, and, No Doubt. Since moving to Balado in 1997 the festival has expanded in size with a even more diverse range of bands - The Killers, Kings of Leon, Travis, Texas, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Garbage, Moby, Iggy Pop, Stereophonics, R.E.M., The Proclaimers, Idlewild, Muse, Razorlight, The Polyphonic Spree, The Specials, The Chemical Brothers and Kasabian. In modern times, ‘T in the Park’ has shared much of its lineup with Oxegen (festival that takes place on the same weekend in County Kildare, Ireland). Acts generally play T in the Park one day and Oxegen the next, or vice versa.

I won’t proclaim to be a huge music festival attendee and indeed have only been to a few of the many huge festivals that take place around the world e.g. Glastonbury, Coachella, SXSW, Bonnaroo, Roskilde, The Leeds and Reading Festival, Fuji Rock, LOLLAPALOOZA, The V Festival, Austin City Limits etc. The success and enjoyment of, T in the Park is, like most outdoor music festivals, heavily dependent on the weather. I have attended, T in the Park in baking sunshine, pouring rain and somewhere in between and can confirm that weather plays a huge part.  That said the event organisers have really pulled out the stops in bringing the world’s finest music talents to the wee country that is Scotland and providing epic entertainment to the 85,000 strong who attend.

Main Stage Headliners:

2002   Oasis                 The Chemical Brothers
2003   R.E.M                 Coldplay
2004   The Darkness      The Strokes
2005   Green Day          Foo Fighters
2006   Red Hot Chili Peppers        The Who
2007   Arctic Monkeys       The Killers   Snow Patrol
2008   The Verve         Rage Against the Machine       R.E.M
2009   Kings of Leon   The Killers        Blur
2010   Muse              Eminem                 Kasabian
2011   Arctic Monkeys     Coldplay       Foo Fighters            
Clearly the main stage represents the cream of the crop…the band of the moment if you will, but as I mentioned, the genres represented run the gamut -

To the contenders and a brief overview. Note: these views are clearly subjective, but to my mind, these are the others deemed ‘best festivals around the world’.

‘Glastonbury’ has been on the calendar since dairy farmer Michael Eavis first held a free-two day festival on his farm in 1970. Since then, it's been the festival in England for seeing the biggest and best bands in the world. It may also be the muddiest in the world. Heavy rain, most prominently in 1997, turns Glastonbury into a muddy fest. Pretty much everyone from Radiohead to Jay-Z have headlined this festival, and with more than 700 acts each year, there is something for everyone. This year's headliners included U2, Coldplay and Beyonce. Apparently there is no festival next year…not back until 2013.

The Godfather of European summer festivals, ‘Roskilde’ has been going strong since 1971. This is no small feat given it was started by two Danish high school kids. Headliners recently included Kanye West, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Faith No More, The Mars Volta, Pet Shop Boys, and Nine Inch Nails. NIN’s 2 hour performance was by all accounts, epic.

‘Coachella’ is the hands down winner for best US festival in the minds of many. The weather is pretty much guaranteed to be blistering hot in the daytime and uncompromisingly cold by night. This doesn’t distract the paying hordes with 50,000 tickets for each day and more than 20,000 people on a campground. In 2009 Airborne Toxic Event, TV on the Radio, and, The Killers played alongside festival forefathers such as Leonard Cohen, The Cure, and Paul McCartney.

‘South By Southwest’ is both a film and music festival held in Austin, Texas for a week in March of each year. The event has taken place each year since 1987 and has grown to become the premiere annual festival for new and rising recording acts. Members of the music industry looking for the next big thing crowd the streets and clubs of Austin with 6th street being the hub. More than 2,000 registered bands playing a vast variety of venues in a three day period is simply incredible.  

‘Bonnaroo’ Music and Arts Festival is a four day event held 60 miles outside of Nashville, Tennessee. It began in 2002 and has rapidly grown to be one of the country's premier festivals. Traditionally, the focus has been jam bands with a notable sprinkling of bluegrass, folk, alternative rock and pop. In recent years the lineup has branched out somewhat and now also includes hip hop and R&B artists as key components of the festival. I recall seeing Kings of Leon put in an amazing performance there in 2004 (on TV) and have been an avid follower since.

The best music event that I have attended was most certainly the catalyst to this blog, SXSW in Austin, Texas earlier this year. That said I am not sure if I consider it in the same division as those above. SXSW is just so unique…it’s basically bar hopping and seeing great quality live music everywhere you go. The others mentioned are held in large fields over a three day period and host bands on a number of stages/tents. At the end of the day, I would love to have the opportunity to attend all of these festivals one day, but if I had to settle for, ‘T in the Park’, I would have no complaints. The acts are strong year after year, the organisation is brilliant and the predominantly Scottish crowds are, for the most part, absolutely ecstatic to have such a wealth of top notch bands on their doorstep. If you get the opportunity, go to ‘T in the Park’.  

July 4, 2011

4th of July Feast

On this special day in the USA’s history, I was flying back to NYC from Dublin following a friend’s incredible wedding in his homeland. Following a two hour and thirty minutes delay on the tarmac of Dublin International Airport due to (i) delays at immigration (ii) a baggage discrepancy and (iii) for minor maintenance, I turned to the in-flight entertainment system (iPod not permitted at this point). It also took my mind off the extremely loud and hugely annoying, ‘Murphy’ clan who surrounded us on the flight. I think each of the twenty strong party switched seats during the flight and succeeded in being a pain in the arse for the entirety of the transatlantic trek. The, ‘Aer Lingus’ system had a pretty wide range and provided a great opportunity to catch up on some albums I had yet to hear. This is where it all begun for this ScoAustin blog…in the air typing notes in to an iPhone.

Noah and the Whale - Last Night On Earth

Having seen this English band, ‘Noah and the Whale’ perform a few songs at SXSW a few months ago, I was keen to hear a bit more. Recent album, ‘Last Night On Earth’, the bands third, provided this opportunity. The album starts out with, ‘Life is Life’ which has an electronic sound to it with heavy synth presence. First impressions are that this is of, ‘Killers’ or ‘Arcade Fire’ mind. The following track follows the same suit. ‘Tonight's The Kind Of Night’ perhaps a little more poppy, but still in the electronic category. Fellow London act of the 80’s, ‘Pet Shop Boys’ spring to mind with this anthem-esque sound.

L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. is probably the albums most renowned track and continues to remind me of that 80’s – 90’s sound from the 80's or 90's. Extremely catchy chorus and it’s no wonder this track proved popular. ‘Wild Thing’ which follows is far from wild, in fact it’s very mellow from the outset with somewhat monotone lyrics from front man, Charlie Fink. It’s almost in the spirit of The Crash Test Dummies. Whatever happened to them? I guess they hit the wall. ‘Give It All Back’ follows with some clever xylophone kicking this one off before guitar rolls in. A little more upbeat than the previous track, but some, ‘Enya’ probably would have been as well.

‘Just Me Before We Met’ follows where strings are a constant theme during this quaint little track…probably one of the strongest on the album. It sounds like a something current red hot UK band, ‘The Vaccines’ would put together...the vocals are almost identical to those of, ‘The Vaccines’,
  Justin Young on this track. A brief interlude, ‘Paradise Stars’ follows with piano at the forefront of this minute and a half long melody.

‘Waiting for My Chance to Come’ is another that begins with beautiful string section before resolving in to the more familiar sound of the band. ‘The Line’ is up next with a cool synth riff behind it and smart lyrics to accompany "Is this the line, is this the line, is this the line between heaven and hell? Is this the line where I get up and walk out? Is this the line when you get drunk and you yell?" before, ‘Old Joy’ closes out with heavy key chords before getting a bit, 'Coldplay' and concluding with an almost gospel theme.

All in all, this is decent and listenable, but at the end of the day, pretty uninspiring. I had high hopes having been satisfied by their performance at the legendary, ‘Stubbs’ during SXSW, but this album didn't live up to my expectations.
Will I buy? NO. Rating 5.5/10

Gossip - Music For Men

This is a band that I immediately liked upon hearing single, 'Standing in the Way of Control' on BBC Radio 1 in the summer of 2006. I had somewhat lost track of the band from, Arkansas who formed in, Olympia, WA since then, so was happy to find their recent offering and the bands fourth album aboard this flight.

‘Dimestore Diamond’ is home to a booming bass drum before lead vocalist; Beth Ditto reacquaints us with her strength in vocals. I like the beat to this one. It's been a while since I've listened to 'Gossip', but this is a promising opening. ‘Heavy Cross’ follows and is a song I have definitely heard before somewhere. It blends a pumping beat similar to that of, 'Standing in the Way of Control' from their third, self titled album. It also has searing vocals by, Ditto. This is Gossip at their best.

‘8th Wonder’ has a jamming guitar almost in the form of,’ Foo Fighters’. This is fast and furious and certainly in the ‘drive faster’ section or play list. ‘Love Long Distance’ slows the tempo down a tad. The chime of piano is a theme here and controlled lyrics that we expect of lead girl. ‘Pop Goes The World’ is a bit of a surprise with a samba/reggae intro before the quick-fire lyrics accompany. This track is a little more poppy than rocky.

‘Vertical Rhythm’ has a great little guitar riff throughout with delectable vocals and a lively chorus and then title track, ‘Men In Love’ provides some more adrenalin with something of a rip off of, ‘Chain of Fools’ first sung
 by, Aretha Franklin - "cha...cha, cha, change". ‘For Keeps’ continues with some clever lyrics which are supremely delivered. ‘2012’ provides quality guitar riffs and the familiar crashing drum beats and quivering vocals fuse together well on this track. It is very catchy indeed.

‘Love And Let Love’ is a little more chilled and in fact, puts me in mind of, Annie Lennox and, Dave Stewart of, Eurhythmics’ fame. ‘Four Letter Word’ has heavy synthesizer and a more futuristic sound than the rock/punk we have heard to this point. I prefer the former...electro isn't the bands forte.
‘Spare Me From The Mold’ brings us back to the punk/grunge sound where Gossip excel. Rapid drum beats and equally as quickly delivered lyrics following raw and high velocity guitar works well. We finish with a live version of, ‘Vertical Rhythm’. This sounds good and I will certainly be looking out for the band playing in the big apple.

I was glad to find that, ‘Gossip’ are still around and more so that they still delivering good music. With female vocalists generally not my preference, Ditto offers something a little difference. She's like a female, Billy Idol. This is an enjoyable listen. It’s angry, yet somehow upbeat. The three piece generate a lot of noise and energy and would be well served as driving music.
Will I buy? YES, I most probably will. Rating 7/10

The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

This band is one a friend of mine has been harking on about for quite some time and I'd been meaning to check them out. The band hailing from New Brunswick, New Jersey are influenced by, Bruce Springsteen and, ‘The Replacements’ the first former being obvious after a couple of tracks of this, the bands third album.

American Slang provided a fine opening and within a minute or two reminded me of the west coasters, ‘The Killers’ and particularly the, ‘Hot Fuss’ era. ‘Stay Lucky’ is a cracking tune with fast and firm lyrics and crunching, ‘Kings of Leon’ like guitar. ‘Bring It On’ is certainly a little more gentle and could almost be a song from, ‘The Boss’, ‘Bruce Springsteen’. Lead guitar is key on this one. ‘The Diamond Church Street’ echoes the vocals in the previous track and, Brian Fallon’s love for, Springsteen shines through. It has a kind of jazzy feel to this it with finger snapping and tsk tsk tsk drum beats. ‘The Queen of Lower Chelsea’ follows in a similar vein to the prior couple of songs…its easy listening without being outstanding.

We reach the midpoint with ‘Orphans’ which has the faster beat that I prefer. It's frantic and feel good. ‘Boxer’ which follows has a screeching guitar throughout which works well whereas, ‘Old Haunts’ begins with a sound more familiar before those gritty lyrics of, Fallon explode on to the track.

‘The Spirit of Jazz’ really is a shadow of, Springsteen and the E street band with a hint of folk like sounds similar to, ‘The Airborne Toxic Event’. ‘We Did It When We Were Young’  starts of a little lighter similar in theme like it is in title to, ‘The Killers’, ‘When You Were Young’. ‘She Loves You’ is not quite up there with, ‘The Beatles’ athem, but it's a solid enough track to end this album. Again, it’s more of the folky and ballady variety. Actually a little like, Paul McCartneys, ‘Mull of Kintyre’.

I find The Gaslight Anthem to be decent, but nothing amazing. The music and vibe of the album is reasonable, but it's a little too folky for me and in truth, a bit bland. I wouldn't turn it off if it came on the radio.
Will I buy? NO. Rating 6/10

Cage The Elephant - Thank You Happy Birthday

This another band who have been touted by my music guru friends from the UK and I believe, ‘Cage The Elephant’ have received some fairly lofty praise by the music hordes in the homeland.

‘Always Something’ gets us going and is a lively and promising beginning. I am more than happy with, ‘The Chemical Brothers’ like beat on this track. The delivery of lyrics and somewhat unique vocals from, Matthew Shultz draw me in…a little bit Strokes, a little bit, Jack White. ‘Aberdeen’ happens to be just less than seventy miles from my hometown of Elgin, but it is also the second track on this album. I like this sound. Just good, honest guitar music with powerful vocals. Already seems like this is a good find.

‘Indy Kidz’ is rocking from the outset...a frantic rhythm and heavy bass line. The delivery on this one is similar to that of my favourite Minnesota band, Tapes 'n' Tapes, though this is perhaps a little grungier. ‘Shake Me Down’ slows things down a touch. I have the feeling I have heard this on a TV show or commercial. Again, Shultz displays his vocal abilities. It's the harsh, gritty vocals that are prominent in my music collection. ‘2024’ is a date in the future, but the sound is very 70’s in a Sex Pistols/Clash vein. I simply can't say anything bad about that…its punk rock at its finest.

‘Sell Yourself’ is loud and laddish with the lead man bawling lyrics that put me in mind of Swedish rock/pop group, ‘The Hives’. In stark comparison, ‘Rubber Ball’ is calm and delightful with beautiful harmonies. This could easily be, ‘The Flaming Lips’. It’s delicate, but another string to the bands impressive bows.

‘Right Before My Eyes’ supplies a wonderful catchy little beat. Perhaps a bit poppy compared to what we've heard over the previous several tracks. ‘Around My Head’ is home to more compelling guitar and impressive vocals. The chorus reminds me of the Manchester sounds of the 80s...The Smiths, The Roses, Happy Mondays etc.

Both, ‘Sabertooth Tiger’ and, ‘Japanese Buffalo’ follow grunge punk undertones. More fast and furious beats and screaming lyrics as we roll on to the closer ‘Flow’. Apparently, the band had trouble recording and finding the inspiration to write the lyrics for songs such as this one which is close to eight minutes in length. It's more chilled and a trippy little track with a regimented drum beat.

This band has been on my radar for some time and I am looking forward to hearing a lot more from the, Kentucky indie rockers. I shall certainly be on the lookout for more of, ‘Cage the Elephant’ in NYC.
Will I buy? YES, I most certainly will. Rating 8/10