Top 7 festival bands playing the UK this summer

Me and Max at Reading 2006
Festivals can do horrible things to your face…

For the first time in 13 years, I’m not going to a music festival this summer.

So for those of you lucky enough to be heading for the mud, crowds and euphoria, I thought I’d indulge in a listicle and recommend a few bands to catch if you possibly can.

To narrow down my list to a top seven, I’ve only included bands that I’ve seen at two or more festivals, proving that their brilliance wasn’t a one-off.

Without further ado, let’s dive in:

Elbow

True festival veterans, Guy Garvey and his cohorts never fail to hit the mark, whether that’s tugging at the heartstrings (Real Life) or slapping you in the face with a gigantic riff (Grounds For Divorce). Come for One Day Like This, but stick around for Lippy Kids.

Playing: Kendal Calling

The Hives

The quintessential festival band, The Hives’ brand of unashamed punk rock can make even the most respectable festival goer rush to the front and lose their dignity. Unhinged rabble-rouser ‘Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist serves as the ideal frontman to orchestrate the madness.

Playing: Calling Festival

Manchester Orchestra

Fast-rising American quintet Manchester Orchestra don’t look like festival heroes, especially hermit-like lead singer Andy Hull. But it is the sheer force of their music that makes them unmissable, from the shape-shifting dynamics of Shake It Out to the irresistible singalong of Pensacola.

Playing: Reading Festival

Muse

Going to a festival is an expensive experience, so you want to know that at least some of your money has gone on stage theatrics. Muse have this down to a fine art and are constantly upping the ante, but best of all their music is so bombastic as to make all this theatricality seem totally justified.

Playing: Download

Gogol Bordello

Festivals are a great place to discover a new style of music and with a Gogol Bordello show you can discover half a dozen genres in half an hour. The self-proclaimed gypsy punks tackle a wide variety of styles with unerring gusto and sets often end with frontman Eugene Hutz crowd-surfing on a bass drum.

Playing: Boom Town Fair

Dry The River

Forget Mumford & Sons headlining Leeds Festival, the real folk rock event of the summer will be Dry The River’s appearance at the multi-venue Live at Leeds Festival. From chest-out singalongs to extended outros, a DTR show has it all and Lion’s Den is ultimate set finisher.

Playing: Live at Leeds Festival

Foo Fighters

I’ve saved the most obvious choice to last, but I couldn’t ignore the recent news that Dave Grohl and his band of merry men are headlining the UK’s biggest festival for the first time in 17 years. If you already have a ticket, you’d be a fool to miss what will surely be a monumental headline set from a truly peerless live band.

Playing: Glastonbury

 

Anyone I’ve missed off? Let me know in the comments…

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65daysofstatic review for Songkick.com

65daysofstatic liveI’ve been a fan of Songkick for a few years now and now it seems this online music diary is now branching out into band reviews.

The latest Songkick competition invites music fans to review their favourite live band in no less than 200 words. If you submit your review before 31 July, you could win $500 of festival vouchers.

Still buzzing from the fantastic eighth edition of 2000 Trees, I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring, so here’s my review of the 65daysofstatic live experience:

“For many a rock fan 65daysofstatic have been the gateway drug to instrumental music and their live show plays a big part in that. Whether they are mid-way through a festival line-up, headlining their own show, or a humble support act (as they have been for Hundred Reasons and The Cure), they always create a memorable atmosphere.

The crowd is always hugely involved and it’s well worth getting down towards the front to experience the full force of noise when the bassline kicks in.

Their music is by turns ethereal and rave-inducing, with their 2010 album ‘We Were Exploding Anyway‘ acting as the touchstone of their career. ‘Go Complex’ is a particular live favourite with a dramatic shift in dynamics from the electronic intro to the hard rock outro.

But it is the more drawn out slow-building tracks that leave the most enduring impression, and the full ten-minute version of ‘Tiger Girl’ is an experience worthy of gracing any festival mainstage.

Their most recent full-length release ‘Wild Light’ has more of a cinematic feel to it, and the light show the band brought on their latest tour was stunning and tightly synchronised (although a little oppressive at times).

As an instrumental band, 65daysofstatic don’t have a traditional frontman, but the guitarists do talk to the crowd between songs and bass player Simon Wright acts as the rabble-rouser in chief, ensuring that the crowd always feels connected to the band despite the lack of vocals.

See them now while their tickets are still cheap – they will change the way you think about instrumental music.”

Baddies – Build (album review)

Baddies, the indie rock back from Southend, EssexEssex four-piece Baddies burst onto the indie-rock scene in 2009 with their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Do The Job’, having made their name by playing more festivals in one summer than any other band in Europe (32, since you asked).

The success of that record was built on classic hard-rock riffs, mindlessly catchy choruses and a staccato vocal style that was almost robotic.

This sound drew favourable comparisons withThe Futureheads and early Queens of the Stone Age. On this, their difficult second album, the band has gone for a more synth-led sound, largely jettisoning the riffs in favour of slow-burning melodies.

On producer duties, in comes Sean Genockey, who has previously worked with the Manic Street Preachers. This new approach doesn’t always hit the mark as directly or consistently as their earlier stuff, but the few tracks where they manage to pull it off are really effective. Think ‘Humbug’-era Arctic Monkeys and you’re not far off.

The yearning for reinvention is made blatantly clear on the first two tracks, as lead singer Michael Webster tells us: “Underneath the surface, I’m not feeling quite the same, I need rewiring” and “I’m going to build my very own man-made man”. From here onwards…

To read the rest of this review on Virgin Red Room, click here.

Setlist fm or Songkick? The dilemma for music fanatics

Given that I have now dedicated this blog entirely to music, it may not surprise you to learn that I am quite the music fan. Scratch that, I am a music obsessive. I have a CD collection over 200 discs strong (carefully alphabetised, natch), I own more band t-shirts than any other type of clothing, and I have been to more gigs than any sane person should be able to remember – only I can, because I have a creepy OCD document for that.

Muse at Reading Festival 2011
Muse at Reading 2011 - Rock yeah!

So if you are like me, or even a little bit like me, you will like love Setlist fm. Maybe you’re already familiar with it?

This site chronicles every gig played by every band ever. Or at least every gig that someone has uploaded a setlist for, and that’s quite a few.

Great aspects of this site include the stats (oh, the stats!) and the geeky annotations (did you know that Muse’s headline set at Reading included a Sweet Child of Mine outro for Hysteria?!).

What’s more, I was particularly interested to find out the other day that you can track particular bands that you are super-obsessed with. So now, I will get e-mail alerts everytime someone uploads a new Frank Turner setlist.

However, whilst perusing the BBC’s excellent footage of Reading and Leeds, I stumbled across what appeared to be a competitor. You see, the BBC’s festival setlists are ‘powered by Songkick‘.

This site offers something that Setlist fm does not: a personalised feed of all the local shows being played over the coming months by bands you like. Almost immediately, my girlfriend warned me that this was the perfect way for me to spend all of my monies, and more, on gig tickets, and indeed using this site requires a bit of willpower to resist going on a spending spree.

You can also sync up Songkick with your iTunes library, Last.fm or Pandora account and it will import all your favourite bands, then show you when and where they are playing next – and how much it will set you back. This is powerful stuff, kids!

setlistfm/songkick logosOther big plus points include the ability to share which gigs you’re going to, or even just thinking of going to, in one click. I did this on Facebook and immediately found out one of my friends happened to be going to the same gig as me later this month.

Also, there’s an iPhone app, if that’s your thing, and you can track individual venues as well as bands, although I’m not entirely sure why you’d want to…

To answer the question at the top of this post, the answer is: use both. The actual setlist aspect of Songkick seems more like an afterthought as they aren’t that easy to reference quickly, so Setlist fm will continue to take priority there.

Setlist fm is great for looking back over the gigs you’ve been to and Songkick is exciting and inspiring for finding out about gigs that are coming up. I wholeheartedly recommend signing up to them both.

iTunes Festival 2011: What have Apple got left to gain?

What two things do Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Foo Fighters, Coldplay and My Chemical Romance all have in common?

Time’s up. The answer is, they are all headlining major UK music festivals this summer and they are all due to play the ridiculously star-studded iTunes Festival next month.

itunes festival 2011 logo

While the iTunes fest has hardly ever been a humble affair (Amy Winehouse and Paul McCartney played in its inaugural year), this year’s line-up is a who’s who of the most popular bands touring in 2011.

Adele, Paul Simon, Linkin Park – it’s like an arms race to outdo all the other festivals and, most ridiculously of all, the whole thing is free.

Not one fan will pay not one penny to see all 62 bands playing for a whole month.

It would be beyond churlish of me to suggest that this is a bad thing, although with the heightened profile of the festival (ITV2 coverage every week etc. etc.), and only 4,000 tickets available each night, it will surely become more and more unlikely to actually win any tickets.

At first, it was clear to see what was in it for Apple. They get their name out there in a massive way, they associate their brand with the biggest and best bands, and each punter is given a lanyard enticing them to download iTunes in exchange for 10 free tracks. But how much longer can they justify laying on such a lavish festival?

Is this year’s line-up a final hurrah? Or will they be back next year with Prince, U2, David Bowie and the Beatles (wouldn’t bet against it!)? Fair play to them for finding space for a few more obscure acts, like Raphael Saadiq, Lang Lang and Swedish House Mafia, but one thing’s for sure – festival organisers up and down the land will be grinding their teeth with envy at this year’s stellar line-up:

July 1st – Paul Simon

July 2nd – Seasick Steve

July 3rd – Manic Street Preachers + Dry the River

July 4th – Linkin Park + Neon Trees

July 5th – Beady Eye

July 6th – Arctic Monkeys + Miles Kane

July 7th – Adele

July 8th – Bruno Mars + Ed Sheeran

July 9th – My Chemical Romance

July 10th – Glasvegas

July 11th – Foo Fighters + Jimmy Eat World

July 12th – The Script + Loick Essien

July 13th – White Lies + The Naked and Famous + Alice Gold

July 15th – Friendly Fires + SBTRKT

July 16th – Jessie J

July 17th – Duran Duran + Ben L’Oncle Soul

July 18th – Raphael Saadiq

July 19th – Rumer + Caitlin Rose

July 20th – Katy B + Jamie Woon

July 21st – The Wanted

July 22nd – Swedish House Mafia

July 23rd – Coldplay

July 24th – Mogwai + Errors

July 25th – Noah & The Whale + Fixers

July 26th – Lang Lang + 2CELLOS

July 27th – Magnetic Man + Alex Clare

July 28th – Chase & Status + Nero

July 29th – Kasabian

July 30th – James Morrison

July 31st – Moby

To throw your hat in the ring for any of these gigs, just head over to the iTunes Festival website. I’ve entered for the past two years and each time I’ve won at least one pair of tickets. Not sure I fancy my chances this year though…

Reading Festival leads the way with deposit scheme

Biffy Clyro on the Main Stage, Reading Festival 2010Exactly one month after being embarrassed by a line-up leak, Reading Festival has launched a deposit scheme to help shift the last of its day and weekend tickets. 

The way the system works is you can reserve your ticket now for a £7 booking fee, with only 25 per cent of the ticket price paid up-front. The remaining balance is then paid in three equal instalments over the next three months.

Some may say they’re just copying Glastonbury, but the key difference is that most of the line-up has been revealed before you commit to pay and the monthly chunks of £48.12 are much more affordable than the £150 lump sum Glastonbury asked for earlier this month.

Also, Reading has a much younger target audience, so it makes sense to offer a staggered way to pay. With the price of festivals going up across the board and punters budgets being stretched tight, this could be the way forward for many UK music fests.

This year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, just in case you haven’t already heard, will be headlined by My Chemical Romance, The Stokes, Pulp and Muse.