I love 6 Music. I love the eclectic mix of music they play. I love the DJ’s who all seem very down to earth and totally passionate about the music that they play. I love the friendly vibe of the station and how well they interact with their listeners via social media. I love some of the new friends I have met via Twitter through our mutual love of 6 Music. I love the fact that every day I am introduced or re-introduced to artists both old and new, signed and unsigned who make really great music. And for the past few weeks I’ve been mainly loving the fact that 6 Music had chosen to host its very first 6 Music festival near me and that I had been fortunate enough to get tickets for both days. The closer we got to the event the more I was also wishing that I had applied for fringe tickets as well but with so many people disappointed at not getting tickets for either day it just felt greedy to apply for them as well.
So as you can probably gather from the above I was very excited about this event and then just 3 days before disaster struck. Out running, I somehow managed to sprain my foot and by the next day I was hobbling badly. Emergency Rest, Ice, Elevation and Compression measures were deployed because there was no way I was missing out on this. By the Friday I could walk just about and set about listening to 6 Music to get me in the mood for the event. My first two highlights of the weekend happened before I even left the house. The first was the surprise Elbow session from their Salford Studio on the lovely Lauren Laverne’s show. The new songs sounded fantastic especially New York Morning which seems certain to join their canon of wonderfully evocative songs about city life but hearing Lippy Kids performed so beautifully was all kinds of spine tingling, goosebumpy, wonderfulness which I know reduced more than one of my Twitter friends to tears. The second highlight came when Midlake were being interviewed in the afternoon. They started talking about a special guest and when they were describing him it seemed like they might just be talking about the genius that is John Grant and sure enough they were. Once I stopped squealing in a way that really wasn’t very dignified I was ready to leave the house already safe in the knowledge that this was going to be a very good Friday. We picked up our friend who is also properly obsessed with John Grant so we chatted excitedly about the news that he would be performing and looked at the line up trying to make choices about who we would like to see in advance.
Outside the venue I bought one of the lanyards that came with the running times for the day. Both of the stages were using the same running times so not easy to catch a bit of both sets like you sometimes can at festivals with staggered starting times so the agony of choice was going to be even worse particularly as some of my favourite acts were clashing directly with each other such as Haim vs Drenge and Kelis vs Jimi Goodwin and on Saturday The Staves vs Nick Mulvey and the worst clash for me Bombay Bicycle Club vs Jagwar Ma. Once we got inside we took a bit of time to get our bearings. I had never been to Victoria Warehouse where the festival was being held but I would certainly go back there. I love seeing old industrial buildings being brought back to life with a totally different purpose from their original use mainly because I like old building and hate seeing them laid to waste or even worse torn down. Stage One was beautifully decorated in a way that reminded me of the BBC’s Glastonbury set with beautiful lamps and trees on the stage. It looked really atmospheric and created a beautiful vibe.
The second stage was more neon lights and was a lot smaller. It also quickly became apparent that as a short person I would struggle to see anything on that stage and it wouldn’t be as easy to find resting points and this did dictate a lot of our decision-making when it came to what to see over the 2 days as the injury meant I probably didn’t flit between stages as much as I may otherwise have done.
Best photo I could manage of Stage 2 and this was courtesy of my tall friend – That’s Drenge on stage.
By the time we had finished looking around both the first bands were halfway through their first set. I heard more of BIRD and I was impressed with them. I believe they are off supporting Rodriguez on tour. I’ll definitely be listening to more of them in future and hopefully will catch them again live soon. We stayed at Stage One for Luke Sital-Singh mainly because I really liked a couple of songs of his I had heard on 6 Music. I was glad we did he has a beautiful voice and his set was great. If you haven’t heard of him I’d definitely suggest you check him out. Nothing Stays The Same and Fail For You were the tracks I’d heard before the set and they were really special live. I think I can predict big things for him this year and I have no doubt he’ll pick up lots of new fans if he performs like this in the festival circuit over the Summer.
After his set we decided we were going to do our only set flitting of the day. Drenge vs Haim was a tough one. I’d seen Drenge already supporting Peace at the end of last year. I’d really enjoyed them then. My husband was less convinced calling them an impressive noise but noise none the less. However, prior to seeing them I had heard their album a few times whereas he hadn’t and since last seeing them he had said he actually liked a few of their songs. Our friend was curious about them as well. I really like Haim as well and in fact am going to see them today so I wanted to catch a bit of both and the boys decided they would join me. We watched the first four songs of Drenge before moving on. I’m glad I got to see Bloodsports live again. They really do create an impressive noise for just two people on stage but it is more than just noise. I think they are a grower band rather than immediately impact though so if you gave them a listen before and you weren’t sure persevere they are worth it. Haim were also really good. We only caught the last few songs but it certainly whet my appetite for tonight’s gig. They put great energy into their live performances and they do great vocal harmonies. I won’t talk to much more about them as they have their own full review coming up after tonight.
We decided we were going to stay with Stage One for the rest of the night mainly because we wanted to get a good spot for Midlake (and John Grant) and because it was so much easier to see what was going on. We were kind of divided on Kelis. I was curious to see her. My husband and I had seen her many, many years ago (2001) supporting U2 on their Elevation tour. I’d really liked her but my husband hated her. I remember buying Kaleidoscope on the back of that performance and Caught Out There is an essential listen for me when I’m in a bad mood. It really helps to get the anger out! However, since that time apart from the hits that have had lots of radio airplay I’d not really kept up with her career that much since that time but she had co-hosted the last hour of Lauren Laverne’s show on the Monday before the festival and she had really impressed me with her conversation and musical choices. Our friend was curious to see her and didn’t really know Jimi Goodwin who was on the other stage. It’s safe to say my husband would have been happier at the other stage but he appreciated the benefits of trying to get a good spot for the later acts that he did want to see. I’m telling you all this information because I think it is important when it comes to my review of Kelis‘ set.
Before the set I was most excited about seeing Lauren Laverne who is my favourite DJ
None of us were by any means super fans of this lady, but we sure are now. From the moment Kelis stepped out onto that stage she proceeded to give a masterclass in how to do a short festival set. Her set was just 45 minutes long, but what a 45 minutes. She looked like she was channeling the look of Diana Ross but the spirit of Nina Simone by singing a spine tingling version of Feeling Good in three parts throughout the set. She ensure she included most of her hits (Millionaire, Trick Me, Milkshake, Acapella) albeit in shortened form whilst also showcasing her new songs which sounded amazing especially Jerk Ribs. I assume she had put lots of work into rehearsing that set because it was pretty much perfect. The pacing was fantastic, the way she transitioned between slower and faster songs. If you are in a band and are about to do a festival go to 6 Music’s website and watch that set before you do. I don’t know if I have ever been so blown away by a short festival set in my life. It feels appropriate to be posting this review on International Women’s Day because this woman absolutely nailed it. As soon as her set finished we all just turned to each other and said we are going to go and see her when she next tours. She is amazing and we were all a little bit in love with her after our brief 45 minute affair. My husband has for the past week been singing Acapella non stop. He’s adding it to his running playlist as well. And the amazing bit is she didn’t even do Caught Out There.
Kelis shows everybody how it’s done. I didn’t even mention she’s a cordon bleu trained chef as well hence the Food album! Talk about a multi-talented lady.
The only unfortunate side effect of Kelis’ set was that during it somebody who walked past me and with the precision of a ninja kicked my sprained foot in the epicentre of its pain, so I was really starting to struggle with standing. As a result of this, we decided to try to head right for the front to give me the barrier to hang onto for the remaining 2 acts. Being at the very front at a gig is not something I do very often but I didn’t think Midlake or Damon Albarn would create too riotous a crowd. It does give you an interesting perspective on things particularly as our position was to the side so we could see people at the side of the stage watching like Kelis and John Grant. Midlake had some sort of technical problem with an amp at the start of the set as well which I probably wouldn’t even have noticed if I had been further back. I’m a bit of a latecomer to Midlake only becoming aware of them through John Grant when in fact it was them that catapulted him back into the spotlight and helping him get the recognition he so richly deserves by co-producing and playing on his debut solo album Queen Of Denmark. This is the first time I’ve seen them live and I am really impressed. The vocals are beautiful, again some lovely harmonies.
Midlake – Created a beautiful sonic landscape
They have a really full sound and each individual musician sounded spot on. They also display an impressive array of beards which seems to be something of a pre-requisite for most men at the moment. As I’m not that familiar with their work I most enjoy the hits that I’ve heard on 6 Music a lot like Antiphon, Roscoe and The Old And The Young and of course their performance with John Grant which is a track from Queen Of Denmark called Sigourney Weaver which is a great track that highlights his fantastic songwriting ability. Who else could write a song that includes the lines:
‘I feel just like Winona Ryder
In that movie about vampires
And she couldn’t get that accent right
Neither could that other guy’
Sing off and Beard off commences!
As huge a John Grant fan as I am (and I clearly am!) I did think it was a little bit disrespectful to Midlake that some people were shouting out for him between songs particularly when they are very clearly very accomplished performers and musicians in their own right. Midlake won best tribute to 6 Music of the entire weekend. It is not overstating in this day and age to say that a station like 6 Music is probably responsible for keeping a fair few musicians in a job. Without the platform they give them some of these artists might not find their audience and would end up doing jobs outside of music, and for us music lovers the world would certainly be a poorer place. Listening back to their set online afterwards it has been even more enjoyable as I get more familiar with their songs.
The final act of the night was Damon Albarn. There is not much I can say about him that has not already been said. The man is a musical genius producing some amazing songs with Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad And The Queen, Bobby Womack, Africa Express etc. He was here to showcase his new solo album Everyday Robots. His new band The Heavy Seas are a stylish group and very talented musicians. I was quite shocked at how nervous Damon appeared. You imagine a musician as experienced as him has long since vanquished any sign of nerves but when he first appeared he looked quite frightened. After a good reception to the first few songs he visibly relaxed. I actually thought it was quite sweet to see that he still cared enough about his audience to be nervous. Unsurprisingly the new album seems much more introspective. I really like Everyday Robots but the album is definitely going to be a grower. The stand out tracks on the night were Tomorrow Comes Today and Mr Tembo (because how can you not love a song about a baby elephant!) I was also really pleased to hear my favourite Gorillaz track On Melancholy Hill played. I think once I’ve heard the album in full and listened to it more I could go back and enjoy the performance even more.
Damon Albarn with his drummer Pauli
I understand and totally respect why he didn’t play any of his big Blur hits opting to only play a B-side called All Your Life but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I wish he had put maybe one or two of those wonderful songs in from a purely selfish perspective. My musical coming of age years were the britpop years. I was at University from 94-97 but I was at University in Aberystwyth (not a destination for the big bands of the day) and was a very impoverished student at that time so as much as I loved all those bands I never got to see many of them play live. I’ve now seen Damon live twice, (first time being Gorillaz at Glastonbury in 2010) and I’ve still never heard the songs that soundtracked my Uni years and ignited my love of music. Oh well guess I’ll have to keep hoping for another Blur reunion! Despite the lack of the hits I really enjoyed the performance and left the venue hobbling but buzzing and looking forward to Day two.
I’m still catching up on the footage online from the fringe and the things I missed on Stage two so I’m very glad that the BBC have put it all online for everybody to enjoy. I will post my review of Day 2 soon as well but for now If you haven’t already checked it out then do yourself a favour and head over to the BBC 6 Musical Festival website and watch some of the performances. You can do so on the following link. http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e8gmxj/videos/p01t2lby#p01t4k45 and in case I have made it clear enough so far I’d suggest you celebrate International Women’s Day by starting with Kelis.