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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Dry The River – Shallow Bed Acoustic (album review)

Dry The River Shallow Bed AcousticNine months ago when Dry The River released their debut album ‘Shallow Bed’, it was met with widespread positive reviews, but a handful of critics accused the folk-rock quartet of somewhat overdoing the production values.

So as if to prove them wrong and show that these songs can stand up on their own two feet without the bells and whistles, the band have decided to release an acoustic version of the album.

It’s an interesting choice for a band with just one album to their name, since some of the most effective acoustic albums (Foo Fighters – ‘Skin and Bones’, Nirvana – ‘Unplugged In New York’) have worked as greatest hits retrospectives.

Despite sticking to the track listing, ‘Shallow Bed (Acoustic)’ sees Dry The River do much more than just unplug the amps. Many of the tracks are cleverly re-arranged with instruments switched and tempos altered.

The recording style has a real ‘live session’ feel to it, so much so that you might expect warm applause to greet the end of each track.

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

Has the Reading and Leeds Festival line-up been leaked again?

UPDATE: The line-up below turned out to be close, but no cigar. The Foo Fighters and Kasabian are indeed headlining, but The Cure are the final bill-toppers. For the full official Reading and Leeds 2012 line-up, click here.

It’s not uncommon for people to post fake Reading festival line-ups on forums and claim that they are genuine. But last year one of them turned out the be the real deal. And now, less than a year later it appears that the same thing has happened to Festival Republic again:

2012 Reading and Leeds Line-up leaked

If this does turn out to be genuine, then I’d say it’s certainly a much stronger line-up than last year’s and without any competition from Glastonbury, tickets should sell out fast. Certainly the return of Green Day for the first time since 2004 should prove a massive draw, particularly with their 9th studio album on its way.

The timing of this leak adds to its credibility, since the date that tickets are going on sale (March 12th) was confirmed yesterday. This would imply that the main bands have already been booked.

However, the organisers must be kicking themselves that they have let this happen two years in a row, which makes you wonder – was this leaked by the same culprit who let the cat out of the bag in 2011? If so, why didn’t they find who it was after last year’s fiasco?

Or indeed, is this series of leaks an intentional ploy to drum up more interest and boost ailing enthusiasm for this festival? After all, Reading and Leeds only sold out after a few months in 2011, as opposed to a few hours in previous years.

On the plus side, Reading organiser Melvin Benn has announced details of a youth apprenticeship scheme for the organisers Festival Republic. Perhaps the first thing he could task his new recruits with is improving online secrecy?

Top 20 Albums of the Year, 2011

For the fifth year running, here are my top 20 Albums of the Year. Follow the links to listen to each one for free on Grooveshark, Spotify or YouTube.

1.) Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!

With quite a considerable weight of expectation on their shoulders after 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid scooped the Mercury Music Prize, to start their follow-up album with an eight-minute epic should win Elbow album of the year on sheer audacity alone. Of course it helps that The Birds is a gently brooding masterpiece, complete with intricate synth riffs and a glorious orchestral crescendo.

Build A Rocket Boys! is the sound of a band finding their groove and loving every minute of it. From the joyous stomp of Neat Little Rows to the tender nostalgia of Lippy Kids, this record sees the Manchester quintet on top form. As if that wasn’t enough, they can pull it off with aplomb on the biggest of stages (see above).

2.) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

A triumphant return from Grohl and co, which only narrowly misses out on the top spot, Wasting Light is possibly the band’s most consistent record since 2001’s There is Nothing Left to Lose. The minute the video for White Limo was released on YouTube, Foos fans knew they were in for an old-school treat. The album more than lives up to this promise; with the tortured I Should Have Known and the anthemic Walk providing a fantastic finale.

3.) Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

The most prolific man in folk turned out another exceptional album this year, as his career continues scaling ever higher peaks. Frank is due to headline Wembley Arena next year and that would seem mildly ludicrous were it not for this collection of colossal songs. With a beefed up full band sound on If Ever I Stray and a few nods to his hardcore past on One Foot Before The Other, the Wessex troubadour is turning into a force to be reckoned with.

4.) Dive Dive – Potential

Better known as the Sleeping Souls (Frank Turner’s backing band) plus singer Jamie Stuart, Dive Dive deserve high acclaim for their long-awaited third album. From the alarm-clock riff to Mr 10% through to the bravely optimistic title track closer, this is an album full of ideas, emotion and unflinching honesty.

5.) Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

It’s hard to believe that Ms Marling is still only 21 years old. Her third record is one of world-weary wisdom, mythology and magic. The expansive soundscape of I Was Just A Card and the brooding lustfulness of The Beast offer plenty of variety. And to top it all off, Sophia is probably the single of the year.

6.) Rival Schools – Pedals

Ten years is a long time to wait for a sophomore record, but thankfully Walter Schreifels et al have rewarded their loyal fans’ patience. Drawing on influences as diverse as Weezer and The Temper Trap, this record is packed full of tunes. My main criticism would be that at just 34 minutes long, it’s too short.

7.) Danananaykroyd – There Is A Way

One of the casualties of 2011, it’s a real shame to lose the Scottish noise punks so soon after releasing their finest album. With producer Ross Robinson at the helm, this was a much more refined effort than their debut and the upbeat swagger of Muscle Memory is well worth a listen.

8.) Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

On the first listen through, I thought this was shaping up to be the album of the year, but then it all goes horribly wrong. The first four tracks of this record are absolutely flawless, with the joyous singalong of Pensacola the standout, but from then onwards the only track worth mentioning is the spectacular title track.

9.) Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

My guilty pleasure of the year sneaks into the top ten. This may be one of the most heavily produced records of the year, but it’s hard to resist the charm of this fantastically well-written album.

10.) The Retrospective Soundtrack Players – Cool Hand Luke

By far the best record of the year to be based on a 1960s prison movie. The execution of this ambitious idea is ropey at times, but the glorious crescendo of Three Escapes and Plastic Jesus 2 bring about a very satisfying finale. Definitely ones to watch in 2012…

11.) City And Colour – Little Hell
12.) I Am The Avalanche – Avalanche United
13.) Funeral For A Friend – Welcome Home Armageddon
14.) Swellers – Good For Me
15.) Incubus – If Not Now, When?
16.) Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
17.) The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
18.) Thrice – Major/Minor
19.) Taking Back Sunday – Taking Back Sunday
20.) Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

 
All in all, 2011 was a brilliant year for new albums, far better than 2010. The respectable efforts from Arctic Monkeys, Blink 182, Twin Atlantic and Sam Duckworth all missed out on the Top 20, although the less said about the fourth Art Brut album, the better… As always, any recommendations and tips for 2012 are most welcome, but for now I’ll leave you with this year’s best video:
 

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…