Tag Archives: The War On Drugs

T in the Park 2015 (Friday)

Leaving perhaps too early, in an eager attempt not to miss some of the sparkling bands that are opening stages, we find ourselves at the site a good two hours before anyone is set to take any stage.

The drive up is fairly comfortable, taking no longer than a straight 75-minutes, after the daily Greggs breakfast stop off.

However, actually finding the entrance to the site once parked up wasn’t so easy; a lack of signs pointing to day entrance and camping entrance have a host of people confused, and while there are three people telling you how to park your car, the closer you get to the festival site the rarer the people to acquire directions; regardless, after a few misdirections, we find the media accreditation tent, get our passes and are escorted by a few familiar faces across the festival site to the media area.

Walking through the site, it’s noticeably smaller than before; obviously a pleasure for our legs, but would this cause potential sound overflows or a lot of congestion? We wouldn’t know til later.

After a glance at the full bill I had myself penciled in for never visiting the Main Stage during the entire festival, however after chatting at the media bit, I bump into a few folk am taken there first thing for the first band to grace T in the Park at Strathallan – Prides.

Admittedly I’ve never been a fan; their mainstream teasing brand of electronic indie always felt a touch of beige side, regardless the band pour a lot of energy into their set and please a lot of early comers.

Leaving a couple of songs in I wander over to the King Tut’s Tent to catch a bit of darling indie folk singer-songwriter Lucy Rose and am charmed to drift in to cover of Taylor Swift belter ‘Bad Blood’.

Rose’s sweet sound is a nice way to start proceedings, the set is filled with hovering synths, clap-along intros and sultry vocals and acts as a delightful start to a festival, which would see some soaring highs and some major lulls.

Opening up Transmission (which would become BBC Introducing for the other two days) are The Beaches, and after and after a quick glance at their stuff prior to the festival they were definitely one’s I had pegged to see.

The Toronto girls draw a reasonable crowd for their early slot, admittedly there are a few sneery looking guys seemingly only here to ogle the girls, but that aside the four-piece blast through a fun filled set of fem rock dressed like they’re just heading on court at Wimbledon.

Dirty synths and pop hooks combine at great volume and are delivered with a real swagger, which surely means these girls have more balls than the barrage of soppy indie boy bands that feature on this stage for the most of the day.

Back at Tut’s and The Twilight Sad are about to come on; I’d gone through a phase where they ceased to excite me, but after a return to form with last year’s album and the memories of some truly engrossing and emphatic live shows I’m encouraged that they might be able to blast our ears off early doors at T.

However, despite James Graham’s lost in the moment, gesturing and their powerful atmospherics, there’s something missing from there set; volume.

Yes, this is potentially the quietest set The Twilight Sad have ever played, and you get the feeling it’s not by choice; still a show at the Barras later in the year should draw both a bigger crowd and more of a return to form.

Another act scheduled to play the Barras later in the year is over at the Radio 1 Stage, but Fuse ODG is a different prospect altogether and it seems fitting that the sun rises over T in the Park for the first time during his fun-filled, Afro enthused pop set.

Yeah it’s chart friendly stuff, but it’s filled with joy, addictiveness and good (terrible) banter, as the chirpy singer revels in leading the biggest crowd I’ve witnessed yet in massive sing-alongs of tracks like ‘Million Pound Girl’ and ‘Antenna’.

It’s all positive vibes in these early days, before the more rowdy acts come on and the alcohol starts to take full effect, so Fuse goes down a treat; a massive dance-along to ‘Dangerous Love’ is enough to plaster a smile on your face as the sun retreats behind the clouds again.

The centre piece of the day comes back in the Tut’s tent and starts with the enthralling Jessie Ware, the sound is blasting to much higher level than it was earlier in the day as the bass reverberates through the huge tent to the sonic daze of ‘Champagne Kisses’.

Ware’s soulful hooks come across clear as she struts the stage commanding the growing crowd with her engulfing presence.

Indeed after going a while without listening to Ware’s music I’m pleasantly surprised how familiar and fresh it all sounds; the lush vibes of ‘Tough Love’ wash over the crowd, while the powerful and pounding ballad ‘Wildest Moments’ brings to an end potentially the most sonically impressive show of the entire weekend.

A wee catch up with some friends finds me, to my dismay, back at the Main Stage where Hozier are being incredibly dull and seem to be stealing Proclaimers intros; whether Gorgon City or Duke Dumont would have been better choices is questionable, still the latter has managed to fill the 20 000 capacity Tut’s Tent as I wander back to the media arena to get a wee beverage in before Hot Chip.

They bring a power of a crowd too, and deservedly so, they’re one of the most consistently good bands of the last decade and delivery another fun filled set, which unfortunately for the second time in this year doesn’t feature standout ‘Boy From School’.

Still, the set is wall-to-wall classics and full of fun sing-alongs and plenty of cowbell, more than keeping the beat flowing, after Duke Dumont had the tent in an almost sauna like sweat box state.

Regardless of how great the set is the crowd, who have come in there masses, never seem to hit their stride, indeed I overhear a punter behind me state: “Am I missing something? This is bangin’, why’s it not mental?”

This comes immediately before the moment most of the crowd are waiting for, ‘Over and Over’, indeed their most popular track goes down a treat as the crowd give their first attempt at that hideous chant (you know the one) that has become synonymous with this festival.

One of the highlights of the festival comes at the end of their set as they cruise into their wondrously ceiling gazing, sing-along cover of Springsteen classic ‘Dancing In The Dark’, which has the group I’m with buzzing; however a glance round the tent shows a lot of blank faces, and as the band move into a bit of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ it becomes increasingly apparent how young and lacking a musical education most the crowd here actually are.

Back over at Radio 1 and The War On Drugs is about take the stage, somewhat bizarrely sandwiched between Afrojack and David Guetta and the crowd is pretty sparse for an act going on second last at the festival’s second stage.

Regardless Adam Granduciel and co. manage to captivate the small crowd for an extended period with, despite a battered looking jacket and seemingly having ages ten years since the last time I saw him; it’s hard to describe Granduciel’s voice without the obvious Dylan reference, but so intense and formidable are his songs that this isn’t their defining feature.

Still, this is in no way the best place to see this band; the masses at T don’t seem to know who Springsteen is, so why would they come see a former member of Kurt Vile’s band play when they have Fat Boy Slim, being old in a completely different way, or the world’s most depressing pop star… ever, Sam Smith, to chose from; even if their last album was one of the best of last year.

People just don’t seem to be interested, and Granduciel seems either oblivious to or completely ignoring the fact that his band stick out something awful on this bill, and as the set gets closer to the end the crowd starts to fill up with those awaiting Guetta, who seem frustrated by the lack of generic start/stop chart wielding dance tunes; Sia’s not even going to be there… Jeez!

I end my day back at the Transmission Stage and for what has the potential to be one of the best sets of the weekend and Hector Bizerk don’t let down.

Louie struts the stage like a man possessed, spilling out non giving rhymes before sneering “Scotland how’re you doin’?” to a crowd that is on every beat; it’s not totally rammed and the sound could be a whole lot better, but that’s what we’ve come to expect when good band’s play T.

Indeed, there’s a casual cheeky swagger in the bucket hat sporting MC as he cuts up the stage giving it a confident “ready T?” before bursting into old number ‘Bury The Hatchet’.

Hector have become a full blown experience since the duo seemingly blew Scottish hip-hop wide open with a huge amount of hard work and 2012’s excellent Drums. Rap. Yes..

Now they play with a full band, yet Audrey Tait’s ever present drumming still stands out as the driving force of the full on Hector assault, except when she takes acoustic guitar duties later on sporting one of the most amusing t-shirt’s you’ll see all weekend.

‘Festival Boy’ predictably goes down a treat, as does much of the set, which includes a rousing chant along to ‘Rust Cohle’, some powerful freesystling that references choosing them before Kasabian and Guetta and all out fun cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2’.

Tonight Hector absolutely killed it; they’ve gone and booted in out the park; ladies and gentlemen the T is o’er the fence!

SaturdaySunday

More Photos

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Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Bill Gray

The War On Drugs at ABC, 8/11/14

What was your most anticipated gig in recent years? You know that artist whose album you simply don’t tire of listening to? I’m deeply conflicted about how to answer the above question as I’ve seen some crackers this year, Kate Bush, Prince and Hall and Oates to name a few, but in all honesty it would have to be The War On Drugs.

Lost In The Dream has been a lot of folk’s choice of album of the year also and it seems I wasn’t the only one sharing the sentiment as I witnessed a desperate scramble for tickets earlier on in the day.

I even escorted a friend from East to West in a dash for a ticket (thanks to Gerry’s lady Trisha for the escort on a horrible stereotypical rain filled Glasgow night).

The band arrives on stage to a paradigmatic Glasgow reception and immediately set their stall out by performing ‘Burning’.

Halfway through the song it is glaringly evident the band are in tour stride, the easeful ensemble eradicating any doubts about their live credentials.

Despite the lyrical introspection, insecurity and obsessiveness, a reoccurring theme in Lost In The Dream, the band strut through the track while unleashing a sonic armada.

Delving into the back catalogue is risky when the crowd is anticipating the full Lost In The Dream album, but ‘Arms Like Boulders’ maintains the bands intense, vociferous and amiable presence.

Adam Granduciel may have taken his vocal inspiration and delivery from Dylan, but live he prefers a profound delicacy that can’t be emulated.

‘Under The Pressure’ and ‘In Reverse’ are up next and are met by exuberance from an already enthralled crowd.

These tracks showcase the band’s laconic and meticulous rhythm section, David Hartley on bass is unemotional and fastidious and Charlie Hall drums like a jet engine, sucking in the bands energy and propelling them forward with an indefatigable peremptory rhythm.

I am sure that I was not the only one in the crowd left feeling incredulous at the array of aptitude and technique conveyed.

The crowd is docile (especially for Glasgow) but equally fixated and mesmerised by the band, and the set highlight was about to be unleashed.

‘Disappearing’ pursues ‘An Ocean in Between The Waves’ in a ‘have-the-band-read-my-mind’ sort of ideal, if anyone thinks there’s a finer pairing of contrasting songs recorded/played live, well Sir/Madame, you are a prevaricator and a charlatan.

The band smashes these songs out with a deserved apt energy, granduciel poking his feet at the plethora of pedals and effects at his disposal.

My only criticism of the whole gig is that there is a slight sound malfunction during ‘Disappearing’ where the guitar solo is not audible, aside from that, the mastery of these songs live outweighs any negative semblance.

Robbie Bennett is more apparent on the keyboard during those numbers and plays with a sentient and emotive calm, every note teeming with honesty and poignancy.

To stop this review descending into War and Peace I would like you, the reader, to be involved in the first ever presumptuous review.

I would like you to presume that every song played at this gig was amazing and played perfectly with a heartfelt emotion that, as much as I try to convey this using my words, can’t be believed unless it is seen.

‘Suffering’ – amazing. ‘Come To The City’ – amazing. You catching my drift?

The set was littered with songs from their back catalogue and it’s a testament to the band that they don’t stand out when compared to the new material.

The encore consists of tour favourite ‘Baby Missiles’, a George Harrison cover, ‘Beware Of Darkness’, and ‘Your Love Is Calling My Name’, which was executed as deftly and adroit as the rest of the set.

The crowd are mesmerised throughout and despite not being as boisterous as normal certainly never appeared restless.

I think they were just as emotionally stunned and drained as me, roll on February when these chaps are back in Scotland.

More Photos

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Words: Andrew Melrose
Photos: Angela Canavan

Primavera Sound, Barcelona, 30/5/14

With being a somewhat Primavera veteran, at least compared to my contributors attending the festival this year, I decided to let them take the writing and actually cut loose and enjoy myself, well why change what happens every year – the wear and tear of a 7am finish and the seemingly constant drilling around Barcelona fair takes it out of you.

Anyway this year Nick Ramsey took over reviewing duties to give you a newbie’s view on the festival, however we did manage to see a whole plethora of different acts, due to the constant array of clashes the festival throws up (more a nod to the festival’s constant impeccable line up rather than poor organisation), so I decided to input some of my own takes on the festival, those will be the one’s in bold– so here goes:

Again I head down earlier than my counterpart but not as early as I’d wanted missing Mas Ysa, John Grant and Julia Holter in the process, still Loop aren’t a band I was prepared to miss and the band that stole the show at the final ever ATP in November return to ATP Stage and deliver a powerhouse display in the early evening torrential rain, it’s doesn’t go down quite as well on a rain soaked daylight of Barcelona, but it’s still a strong start to possibly the weakest day of the festival.

Massachusetts rockers Speedy Ortiz don’t really translate too well on the festival stage, I really enjoyed last year’s Major Arcana and recent EP Real Hair was a nice progression but their sound is much better suited to smaller, more intimate settings and their vibe is somewhat lost in the open setting of the Pitchfork stage.

Catching Dr. John and The Nite Trippers at the Ray-Ban stage is a bit of an off putting, I genuinely hope he’s saying “find a solution” and not what it sounded like, so I pop along to catch the end of Speedy Ortiz myself and will look forward to seeing them in basement in the near future.

Playing to what genuinely feels like a hometown crowd given the number of Scottish accents everywhere, The Twilight Sad tear through a triumphant set of hits from all of their records, including a particularly intense ‘I Became A Prostitute’.

Frontman James Graham looks and sounds genuinely emotional as he thanks the crowd for coming, looking close to tears as the band began build up to their cathartic closer ‘Three Seconds of Dead Air’; the finest Scottish performance of the weekend, The Twilight Sad leave their contemporaries in the dust

Slowdive are probably the best band I saw all weekend, after going on hiatus almost twenty years ago, it must be surreal to playing to such a huge audience as a part of your comeback shows.

The sound production is pretty much perfect and the band plays an array of material, including tracks from seminal album Soulvaki; we really hope this isn’t the last of their comeback shows, as their set is nothing short of incredible.

I catch about half of the Pixies and am really disappointed, I suppose they are something of a mismatch in terms of line-up, particularly now that Kim Deal is no longer with the band; they seem like something of a parody of themselves and their set comes across as pretty lazy and lifeless, a real shame.

On the other hand, The National are a band in their absolute prime, playing a two hour headlining set, the band pour out an emotional rollercoaster of material, including songs from last year’s AOTY, for me and many others ‘Trouble Will Find Me’.

Matt Berninger is on form and the crowd is electric, particular highlights include ’Graceless’, ‘Conversation 16’ and ‘This is The Last Time’, cameos from Justin Vernon and The Walkmen make this truly a set to remember.

I decided to opt out of both Pixies and The National cos well Rave Child has covered them both live before and the journey over to the Heineken and Sony stages is a bit of a buzz kill and because after midnight and it’s my birthday and The War On Drugs are on at the Pitchfork Stage delivering an enlightening lo-fi set of enchanting indie rock.

Darkside are arguably the highlight of the night, after Slowdive that is, and Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington don’t fail at flairing up the dancing at the Ray-Ban stage, and the delivery gets right on the beat rather than the slow building behemoth we witnessed at The Art School in March.

The massive circular mirror does however make a welcome return and gives the Barcelona crowd a spectacle to look at as the duo get us in the spirit to finishing the night with the dub filled SBTRKT at the chilly ATP stage, the high octane foot mover that is Factory Floor and the destructive techno of continentals favourite Laurent Garnier.