State Magazine » Live Review Music news, reviews, photos, features, films. Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:43:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Premieres and podcasts from Ireland's foremost music site. State Magazine yes State Magazine (State Magazine) Music news, reviews, photos, features, films. State Magazine Ed Sheeran – Croke Park, Dublin - "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it...." Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:08:58 +0000 So this is what the mainstream looks like. While charts and record sales may be a nebulous concept, pick your way through the streets leading to GAA headquarters and you get a sense how a platinum album translates in real life. Which means virtually the same as any other large scale Irish show – be it the Script, U2, One Direction, even Bruce Springsteen (and we wouldn’t be surprised if most of the hats and flags balanced on wonky tables everywhere read Garth rather than Ed a year or so ago). The fact that it’s Ed Sheeran that they’ve come to see is still a strange one though. From open mic nights and grime collaborations to studied musicianship and as many shows as he could find to play, he’s not your typical global megastar.

Nor is he your typical stadium act. This is basically the same kind of show as you’ll have seen at any point in his career – one scruffy bloke, a couple of acoustic guitars and an array of loop pedals (exactly the same set up that we saw in a local pub the other night, in fact). It’s a very dressed up version, for sure, but the success of the night still rests on one pair of shoulders. The task has been beyond others before (see 1D here last summer) and, in truth, Sheeran isn’t really up to it either.

The best you can probably expect from shows like this is a big opening, grand finale and a couple of key moments in-between. We don’t really get the first part and those mid set highs are a little short on the ground too. While his dedication to the one man band cause is to be admired, it often fails to cut through in the great outdoors – robbing the songs of a much needed punch. ‘Bloodstream’ manages to connect though, as does the ‘Don’t’ / ‘No Diggity’ / ‘Nina’ medley, and for a while it looks like this might work. Even his Hobbit soundtrack contribution ‘I See Fire’ sounds pretty good.

What the show really needs though is a spot of crowd pleasing and so, for the second night running, Kodaline pop up to wild applause. Clearly another act that the mainstream have taken to their hearts, for us the comparison just makes Sheeran more of a cherishable anomaly. While he stands there grinning with his mop of dishevelled ginger hair, his Irish guests preen and pose their way through the deathly dull ‘All I Want’. At least Glenn Hansard is more on his wavelength, although we could have done without the pub singalong of ‘The Auld Triangle’ and ‘Molly Malone’ – especially when Friday night had seen more restrained readings of ‘Raglan Road’ and ‘The Parting Glass’.

The encore is a swift, stops pulling blast through ‘I Need You, You Don’t Need Me’ and ‘Sing’ that sees the stadium finally explode into life, but – like so many moments in the music industry – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. For all his “isn’t this amazing” chat, you suspect that Ed Sheeran was just as happy playing in Whelans during the week, or at his two unannounced slots (including Other Voices) at Latitude Festival the weekend before. It’s part of what makes him such an intriguing artist, hats and flags or no hats and flags. With his own label on the way and creative freedom surely on the table, he could well have his cake and eat it.

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Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks – Sugar Club, Dublin - " couldn't ask for a more evocative pairing" Fri, 17 Jul 2015 11:28:53 +0000 As the main man in the acid-fried Brian Jonestown Massacre, Anton Newcombe was a cult figure. He was three parts genius, one part relic, two parts victim of his own volition. As the lead name in Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks (we have no idea why, Parks is the star of the show) he is a band-leader and main songwriter but as a pair they are everything you want them to be – sleazy, fucked-up, detached – all the cool things Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and Keith Moon were in the ’60s and ’70s. Specifically those four because as you watch Newcombe and Parks on stage you couldn’t ask for a more evocative pairing where matters of – and I hate this – “cool” are concerned. Eugh.

Anyway, they arrive onstage just after 9pm and after some Mark E. Smith tinkering with everybody’s rigs the gig begins. The most overused cliché in music journalism is probably ‘launched into’. That didn’t happen. Newcombe and Parks don’t launch into anything, they saunter, fall, stagger and roll into songs. Their album, I Declare Nothing, having just been released, provides the entirety of the set’s content and not one of the songs sounds like it could be launched, such is the acoustic, dry, crackling groove each one creates. They don’t ever sound as if they could be launched above 4 feet but they each house the power to completely grab you and shroud you like a straight-jacket. Heads bobbing, shoulders swaying, Parks growling like a caged beast and the crowd are locked in. The only time Newcombe opens his mouth is to sing the odd backing vocal or to talk to the 4-piece band (6 including the front paring) but Tess Parks has no problem with the crowd. “Come on, friends. Drink, dance, join us” she implores to the Sugar Club. The crowd slowly leave their waited-tables and shuffle to the front of the venue which in turn brings out the very best in the band. As the feedback screams at you and the organ whirls into life Parks’ voice becomes the load-bearing pillar at the centre of each song and for anybody unaware of who she was before now, well, we’re not going to forget it any time soon.

As for Anton Newcombe, it would appear that he has finally found a band he can be part of. He WAS the Brian Jonestown Massacre, he gave birth to bands who became bigger than his and saw the Dandy Warhols not just steal his thunder, more club him across the head with his own guitar and steal his soul. Finally he has fulfilled the potential everybody saw in him and doesn’t look like he’s killing himself to achieve the most meager inch of ground. He still looks, tetchy, that’s not going to change, but his calm, assured and dare we say it contented demeanour would suggest that this union with Tess Parks could be the most fruitful of his career. He is a throwback in all the right ways and music needs people like Anton Newcombe so let’s be grateful that we have the actual Anton Newcombe.

Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks photographed for State by Kieran Frost.

Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks, Sugar Club by Kieran Frost Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks, Sugar Club by Kieran Frost Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks, Sugar Club by Kieran Frost Anton Newcombe & Tess Parks, Sugar Club by Kieran Frost ]]> 1
Noel Gallagher – Live At The Marquee, Cork - A fitting tribute Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:25:45 +0000 At 8 pm, support act The Academic shuffle on to stage. These four young men from Mullingar have a proven talent for songwriting and having seen them on several occasions we can honestly say it’s a pleasure to see them back in The Marquee; the last occasion having supported the Pixies.

The kick drum is loud enough to rattle organs while lead singer Craig Fitzgerald soars above the crowd, his vocals reverberating around the Marquee. Debut single ‘Different’ was an obvious highlight but lesser known tracks like ‘Bear Claws’ provide an ample reaction. Say what you want about the youth and vigour of these lads but our money is on their hooks – before last night we wouldn’t have been able to sing any song, but as soon as that first chorus finishes it seems as though you’ve been singing it for years.

And, after what seems like an eternity listening to playback, the lights dim and the Mancunian rock-legend takes to the stage accompanied by his High Flying Birds. Opening with two tracks from their debut, Noel barely glances at the audience as he plays through ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’ and ‘Everybody’s On The Run’.

For many, Noel Gallagher is a memory of more vibrant times for rock music and the industry. Gauging the age of the audience, it’s easy to see that not only are they of the Oasis era but that many are still caught in the time machine; nevertheless, the ageing legion know every word to every track. ‘Lock All The Doors’ is NGHFB’s latest single and was apparently over 20 years in the making; “This song was never released by Oasis, but the chorus is so fucking brilliant I never gave up on it” Noel told NME. It’s abundantly clear that Gallagher’s success resides not in his performance but in his penmanship – having written some of the best anthems of the last 30 years, it’s only reasonable to assume he would continue to do so after Oasis and Chasing Yesterday is a fine example of that.

‘In The Heat Of The Moment’, ‘Riverman’ and ‘The Mexican’ are all hard-hitting tracks which are interlaced between a generous offering of Oasis classics. “I assume we’re all Oasis fans here?” Noel asks as the opening chords of ‘Fade Away’ are played. At times it’s hard to tell whether the frontman is really enjoying himself or just going through the motions and whilst stopping between several songs to chat with the front row, one occasion sees a ‘local comedian’ ask “Where’s Liam?” Quick as a whip, the frontman retorts, “Liam’s at home lookin’ at himself in the mirror…unfortunately he’s still not as big a c*nt as you are. Imagine that, imagine being a bigger c*nt than that kid. That blows my mind.” The interaction knocks him off-balance as he proceeds to introduce ‘Dream On’ as ‘The Importance of Being Idle’, but we’ll forgive him this time. 

The crowd reach the height of frenzy for those sing-along tracks which could never be omitted, ‘Champagne Supernova’, ‘Whatever’ and an encore of ‘The Masterplan’ allow us to take vocal control as the rain beats upon the tent outside. The penultimate track of the evening an encore of  ‘AKA…What A Life’ is followed with a final word of gratitude, “it’s been an absolute pleasure playing here, thank you all very much.”

It’s his last words that really show the pride imbued in the music he has created. “Are you ready for our last song? It’s the best one anyway…” and with that, the opening bars of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ ring through the Marquee for what is undoubtedly the biggest Karaoke moment we’ve heard all year in the venue; a fitting tribute to the big top that has given us an amazing run of live music.

It’s been an outstanding year for Live At The Marquee and will undoubtedly be capitalised upon next year but what really struck us was the affinity a lot of bands hold for Cork. It would be easy to claim all those who played were the usual platitudinal, location sycophants but that’s dispelled when you hear the likes of Glen Hansard harking back to his days in Nancy Spains and Sir Henry’s or Noel Gallagher’s memories of Pairc Ui Chaoimh. It’s clear that Cork is a city many artists respect, and, looking forward we’re spoiled for choice with Sounds from a Safe Harbour, Folk Fest and the famous Jazz Festival all arriving in the coming months.

Noel Gallagher photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen

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Nick Oliveri – Voodoo Lounge, Dublin - " understated yet invigorating kick-start to the week." Thu, 16 Jul 2015 10:30:36 +0000 The man with the most envied shriek in the music business, Nick Oliveri has always been something of a force of nature. It is now 11 years since the former bassist’s controversial exit from international rock superstars Queens Of The Stone Age, and while his old band are continuing to sell out arenas worldwide, Oliveri seems content strutting his stuff on the club circuit.

“My version of acoustic is Death Acoustic!” he bellows as he makes his entrance to an austere Voodoo Lounge stage, announcing his acoustic show based around the live album of the same name. Fully aware of his musical limitations, something he willingly admits to at the start of his set, Oliveri makes full use of his volatile stage presence and incomparable vocal barrages; he jokingly refers to being a “bit coarse” at one point, to bring an otherwise sparse one-man show to life.

Fans of Josh Homme may be loathe to admit, but Oliveri was very much the driving force behind a large percentage of the early QOTSA and Kyuss material, an actuality he demonstrates as he bludgeons his way through acoustic renditions of  ‘Green Machine’, ‘Autopilot’, ‘Another Love song’, ‘….Millionaire’ and ‘Gonna Leave You’, a song he sardonically reminds us he wrote about his ex-wife (the less said about that the better). A willing crowd pleaser, Oliveri probably goes a step too far with the pleasantries by inviting everyone on stage to assist him with Rated R favourite ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ – something that probably sounded better in his head than what actually proceeded – but nonetheless manages to keep the audience amused with his frequent quips about drugs, alcohol and girls.

While emphatic performances of ‘The Bloody Hammer’ and new record ‘The Doors Invented Rock n Roll’ keep the fires burning, the gig noticeably lulls as the novelty wears off, the audience beginning to get the impression they’re at a low-key, if extremely vociferous, acoustic tribute act as opposed to a rock concert. Thankfully though, he livens up proceedings before the end with boisterous renditions of The Ramones’ ‘Endless Vacation’ and G.G. Allin’s fittingly sleazy ‘Outlaw Scumfuc’, providing him with ample opportunity to unleash his trademark unhinged aggression.

Following a facetious introduction of his non-existent band, Oliveri’s “encore” (although he never actually leaves the stage) sees him taking audience requests prior to breaking into his own ‘Four Corners’, KYUS classic ‘Love Has Passed Me By’, and ‘Eccentric Man’ by The Groundhogs. A muddled conclusion maybe, but the crowd seem content they’ve gotten what they came for – an understated yet invigorating kick-start to the week.

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The Frames – Live At The Marquee, Cork - Keeping the dream alive Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:19:48 +0000 Celebrating 25 years as a band is quite a milestone but to do so in front of three sold-out audiences who can recite your lyrics verbatim even more-so. Standing in the audience for The Frames at Live at The Marquee is a sight to behold. Having performed twice last week at Iveagh Gardens, this is not only their last hurrah for celebration but also one of the last concerts to be held this year at the Cork summer festival.

Opening with slow burner ‘Dream Awake’ from Burn The Maps, the crowd build in anticipation as the band transition to the heavy hitting chorus and are welcomed by the sold out Cork audience with a rousing applause. Wasting no time, Hansard immediately starts ‘God Bless Mom’ [Cork, as he sang it] and packs the track with as many references to the accent and the likes of Montenotte to amuse the natives. Over the course of the next 2 hours, the crowd easily overpower The Frames in volume as they bellow lyrics back at the band.

Classics like ‘7 Day Mile’, ‘Angel At My Table’, ‘Lay Me Down’ and ‘Rent Day Blues’ all result in Hansard retiring from the microphone as the chorus’ echoe through the marquee. In fact, there are few songs which aren’t fan favourites; The Frames take very good care of their legion and having seen them on several occasions, we’re confident that their set list for Live at the Marquee is one of the strongest ever. The most famous, ‘Revelate’, ‘Pavement Tune’ and ‘Fitzcarraldo’ all come at the halfway mark of the evening before Colm Mac Con Iomaire and his violin take to the front of the stage to perform a moving instrumental piece using a loop pedal to build upon a beautiful melody – nicely accenting the performance as a whole.

When The Frames return, Glen introduces a face few may have seen on stage before; it’s that of Irish director and original bassist, John Carney. Having originally played on Another Love Song, Carney went on to write and direct ‘Bachelors Walk’ and ‘Once’ to name a few. Walking on stage, guitar in hand, Carney still has a sense of rhythm for the songs he helped hone and does a good job with ‘The Dancer’ and ‘Before You Go’ from their debut album before the group transition into ‘Star Star’ and ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’. The night ends with a performance of Mic Christopher’s ‘Hey Day’, dedicated to the late friend of Hansard, and is followed by a rousing encore of The Auld Triangle.

One of the biggest factors of The Frames success is their love of music as a form of expression – and not only the need to keep that form alive but to share it and repeat it. There’s a certain sense of romance seldom seen from other Irish bands which reiterates that The Frames are an Irish treasure. I once heard that Glen Hansard had a dream that a great Irish library burned to the ground; he woke up the next morning to learn that Liam Clancy had died. Whether it’s true or not, it’s that wonderful charm and cultural pride embedded in The Frames which has seen them through this last 25 years and no doubt will get them through the next.

The Frames photographed at the Marquee Cork by Peter O’Hanlon

]]> 0 St Vincent – Iveagh Gardens, Dublin - "This generation’s Bowie is here...." Mon, 13 Jul 2015 20:05:11 +0000 It rains, the sound is bad and it’s full of scenesters. That’s the mantra of the increasingly vocal sector besmirching the name of outdoor gigs. A glance up at the soupy broth replacing the summer sky this evening, a part of you wants to agree and leave the oasis of Iveagh Gardens to see who’s playing the front bar in Whelans. But you don’t. You wait because this generation’s Bowie is here. Her and Danish support act Mew will seduce and electrify, your heart tells you. The rain will be an inconsequential spittle. There will be no place for that tedious “rain failed to dampen spirits” line here. And maybe, this time, you’ll be right.

It seems to be going to plan as Mew go about their business with all the efficiency and cleanliness you’d expect from four chiselled Scandinavians. Studio-quality renditions of ‘Am I Wry’, ‘Special’ and the helixing vocals of ‘The Zookeeper’s Boy’ all sound the result of a ‘play’ button somewhere backstage, they are so faithful. Alas, this is just a simple combination of good live mixing and hardened gig-fitness. It’s usually our preference to have the non-album colours come across in the live scenario but today it feels somehow fitting for these poppiest proponents of prog-rock.

As crowds go, Mew’s “small but attentive” lot are swelled by St Vincent’s “hipsterfied all-sorts”, many of whom are initially too cool to fully lose it when Annie Clark slinks on stage like the second coming of Ziggy Stardust. This doesn’t last, however, and it’s only a couple of songs in before they’ve been beguiled by Anni-B Parson’s android choreography, the insistent throb of Clark’s immaculate three piece backing band or the centrifugal force of the entire shebang – Clark herself.

Let’s take a moment to digest what we have before us because it’s a rare and exotic species indeed. The electro-pixie look of the 2014 leg of this tour has been ditched and in its wake comes something that is equal parts Joan Jett, Edward Scissorhands and Catwoman. There is an oozing, vampish sexual arsenal behind every footstep but it is when she’s in the throes of another crunching, unruly guitar workout or rolling down the rear-stage riser that you begin to suspect a proper enigma has crash-landed on earth.

Opener ‘Birth In Reverse’ is a robotic ballet of tick-tocking shimmies with guitarist/keyboardist Toko Yasuda. Clark is bathed in golds, purples and blues as she takes to the riser for the widescreen sway of ‘Prince Johnny’, and it is from up here, statuesque before the congregation, that ‘Cheerleader’’s languid climaxes see the air above the audience get punched. ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ shows off a guitar tone as distinctive as any Josh Homme or Jack White. Listen carefully and you’ll hear State and thousands of others sighing.

Yes, it’s been a splendid coup indeed for the outdoor concert experience. By the time of the encore, State has learned of a new-born child that was recently named after this goddess of cool. And there, up on the stage, we continue to watch entranced as Clark is wheeled out on a psychiatrist’s lounger for ‘The Party’. We hope they never find a cure for her.

St Vincent photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko. Find Hilary on Twitter @HAWhiteK

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Chic — Iveagh Gardens, Dublin - Summer was here... Mon, 13 Jul 2015 16:27:53 +0000 Continuing this season’s run of shows at the Iveagh Gardens, it was the turn of Chic featuring Nile Rodgers tonight. This time round they are doing two shows, with the second down in the Marquee in Cork, fresh from a run of dates in the UK. Very much a feel good atmosphere pervaded the gardens, with the intimate surroundings giving the feeling of a band setting up to play in your admittedly grand back yard. Chic & Nile Rodgers are a regular on these shores, so much so that it’s a wonder Rodgers doesn’t apply for some sort of residency. The Irish love this band and it’s easy to see why, it’s possible to go to an entire Summer of Irish weddings and hear nothing but Chic & Nile Rodgers written / produced / performed songs. That’s a bit of an exaggeration but not much of one. Rodgers could probably make a run for the presidency and do quite well.

The rain thankfully holds off, it makes a half-hearted attempt to dampen the spirits of revelers before the show but is roundly ignored and takes its business elsewhere. A relaxed Nile Rodgers strolls nonchalantly onto the stage a good 2-3 minutes before the band, holding what looks like a video camera, exchanging pleasantries with the crowd. Finally the band arrive, striking in white, and take up their positions and the official announcement is made.

Straight out of the traps Rodger’s guitar shimmers through the brass section as the band launches into an avalanche of disco favourites. Kicking off with ‘Everybody Dance’ they’re straight into ‘Dance Dance Dance’. The band settle into the evening with some extended soloing on ‘I Want Your Love. The next two hours is a showcase of Nile Rodgers and Chic’s 40 odd years in music, with Sister Sledge and Diana Ross firm favourites in the Chic stable. They even make Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ listenable, no mean feat…

The band are in great form and Rodgers, well known for his love of performing, is clearly enjoying himself. This is a man who’s reaction on being told he had aggressive prostate cancer in 2010, was to walk out the door and do a string of shows in Italy before discussing his options with his doctor. Thankfully cancer free since 2013, a fact he alluded to later in the show, he upped his work rate considerably, most recently displaying his guitar chops on Daft Punks mega-hit ‘Get Lucky’, demonstrating that he’s not just a relic from yesteryear but still a potent force in contemporary music.

A Slightly reworked ‘Get Lucky’ itself comes late in the show to a rapturous reception. Rodger’s makes a good fist of Stevie Ray Vaughans guitar parts in ‘Lets Dance’, with soulful vocals provided by Chic’s newest member, the drummer Biscuit. The show hits its concluding notes with a low key start to the song everybody thinks of when they think Chic, ‘Le Freak’, concluding with a rendition of ‘Good Times’. Indeed it was.

Chic at Iveagh Gardens were photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko

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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 4, Saturday - Reached such heights Sun, 12 Jul 2015 13:42:08 +0000 It’s hard to know if the human is built for four days at this level of festival-going. Day and night after day and night, Roskilde served up some seriously good music and in such an atmosphere (and the fortunate great weather) that you don’t want any day to end. All other Roskilde festivals we’ve been to ended on Sunday but this year the festival has moved back a day leaving Saturday as the closing day, and also leaving Saturday night as a big one instead of the Sundays of old where you scarpered after the main act.

The festival also prides itself on engaging beyond the music. As previously mentioned there is community engagement out in the campsites and on-site everything from recycling to food is considered. Many amazing food establishments have set up here including Michelin star Thai food from Kiin Kiin, which had one of the longer lines but an €8 dinner from them was well worth the wait.

Their art zone too is so far beyond the washing-machine-pyramid nonsense of other festivals. Maser created an area last year and this year there are some beautiful structures to escape the festival in/on and, our favourite, The Human Library. You show up during the day and look through the catalogue of human books – people that frequently end up stigmatised or prejudiced for various reasons. You can decide to check out a ‘book’ if available and so you end up having 30 mins to talk to a muslim woman, a stripper, a wheelchair-bound man; all manner of people, etc. who form this library and are available there on site. It’s a stunning way of getting one-on-one answers to questions you might never normally ask.

We leave the library for the comfort of Warm Graves, a Leipzig trio who we discovered on the official festival Spotify playlist. 1pm is an early start on the fourth day but the sun is keeping us awake anyhow, so, fed and well-watered we slip into echoey pop cast in many shades of grey. It’s a dark but nicely paced start to things and while the singer strains too much to shout-sing live, this is not the case on record. They close with ‘Rouleaux’ and it rises into a pounding peak with the keys player standing up on his stool and the drummer attempting to puncture his skins. It brings us out in a grin and we air drum our way out of the tent when it’s all over.

Girl Band show no mercy to the delicate when they bring the noise to Pavillion in the hot mid-afternoon. The tent slowly gets busier, Dara Kiely’s droll delivery and screaming and tearing at his shirt just sucking them in. Discordant on the surface over more complex beats, it’s tough to keep focussed on it at this hour and we require a few momentary trips out into the air for some mental space. They make it somewhat more comfortable via ‘Lawman’ and we happily leave it there with some time to cruise by Whomadewho’s huge show in the Arena tent – an array of searchlights across the stage and the in-tent atmosphere is fairly electric. When Danes get a chance to play a festival they probably all grew up with they always seem to bring an extra wallop to their shows, so it’s always a pleasure to watch these ‘local’ bands and the reactions they get.

There’s a sizeable crowd out to see the sizeable Nicki Minaj sing and touch herself in equal measure. A white cloth-covered riser pushes the four dancers and Minaj to the front – almost like their space on the stage was an afterthought. With the musicians almost hidden, back, up and above them, it’s a stage show that looks like they’re playing in front of the gear of the next act. Assuming Minaj was singing live, her voice was in great form but she has none of the connection of Florence or Pharrell, instead relying on attitude rather than stagecraft which just doesn’t carry today.

To more humble situations we continue over to just one man, an array of pianos and a pair of shorts. Nils Frahm is uber polite and promises to bring us a beefier set to suit the setting. The also-polite crowd could have sat through much more of his down-the-rabbit-hole piano solo work but boosted electronic versions of his work is stuff to get lost in and his final descent to cutting loose at the grand piano is a perfect whirlpool to throw the heart and mind into.

We’re tormented that we won’t have time to get to see Clark on the yet-to-visit Apollo stage out in the campsite but the big gun is rolling on stage soon. Last year we had the Stones so a Beatle makes perfect sense to peak this year’s festival. Thus Sir Paul McCartney takes to the stage with ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ to begin what would be a 39-song epic performance.

We watch the beginning from afar, seated with drink in hand but as it hits ‘The Long and Winding Road’ we have to get closer, working our way to a group of friends in the middle of the field. It’s certainly thrilling seeing him perform Beatles songs with a band at the top of their game – as you’d expect – and it turns even better when he sings ‘Blackbird’ alone and the floor beneath him rises up. As he ascends, a digital waterfall flows down the sides of the square risen section. The theme and melody of the song make it almost anthemic and the place is silent. His between-song banter is amusing and somewhat cheesy, yet uncloaked in any pomp that one of the planet’s longest serving genuine pop stars could possibly carry.

There’s a beautiful intro about his relationship with John Lennon before ‘Here Today’. ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Something’ (“let’s hear it for George!”) and on we go as it gets dark and our group of friends are all together for the first time in the whole festival. People are fetching drinks from the bars and returning laden. ‘Band on the Run’, ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’ (cue brilliant Kremlin anecdotes), then ‘Let it Be’. Affecting from any angle, it takes us back to learning it in primary school. And then, as we’re in our wistful reverie, “When you were young and your heart was an open book…”. This is the one WE want. Focussed on the stage, just a few lights on the band under the night sky and “say live and let… die” BOOM – the stage explodes in a ball of fire. BOOM. Side stage next. BOOM. BOOM. Stage again. And then, when the song breaks proper, every firework in Europe fires from high over the speakers, a borealis of pop and fizz. And calm for that bit. And then it happens all over again. Like a hundred funfairs distilled into three minutes for a kid raised on Sean Connery Bond films whose first single was ‘Pipes of Peace’ and it makes for a tattoo’d moment on the back of four days of long-form festival joy.

And no better a cigarette after such explosions as ‘Hey Jude’. You and your pals, all together in a field with 80,000 others and a Beatle. We sing our fking lungs out.

This rush of new energy can be given a home in a few various tents still running. We walk on air to the Arena stage to see Africa Express run through an endless supply of musicians, on-the-spot collaborations and Damon Albarn appearing and reappearing. First Aid Kit are on as we arrive, and Trentemøller brings a killer song to life on stage. Albarn is treating the stage like the best smoky musicians-after-hours hang-out club. There’s some interesting stuff popping up but because it’s so sprawling we feel our one hour there is enough. Especially when our watch tells us that though our own Kodaline are closing the Avalon stage, we would make our first foray to the campsite’s Apollo stage to close our year with Jamie XX.

The stage was a glorified inflatable pumpkin in years before but this year it’s a huge, gleaming cube of light, with a mirrorball beaming out across the arena. The space is bracketed in bars and food stands and we have some restorative pizza while watching from afar. Many electronic acts rebuild their tracks live to almost imperceptible differences but Mr. Smith is weaving all sorts of electronic strands throughout. Tracks from his new album get slowly interspersed with other music and nothing ever quite lands on its recorded sound. It’s live remixing of a sort, but in it you can follow the threads of tracks in and out and in again and it’s captivating.

In this technically off-site bastion, the atmosphere amongst the final hours of the festival is amazing. People are swapping cigarettes for the last of the beers (well, the bars are still open as it nears 4am). People you pass one or twice each Roskilde are now chatting to you and dragging you by the hand deeper into the crowd to meet their friends. Then in the balmy air with a brand new instant crew, a thread with Romy XX’s voice on it flicks in and out and when it eventually turns into ‘Loud Places’ it feels like we’ve been crop dusted in MDMA. No finer 4am-in-a-festival-field song has been released this year. Bass in the ribcage. Palms to the stars and that one cigarette you allow yourself a year hanging from your mouth, and, by coincidence, a fireworks show behind us from the main stage as Danish rapper Suspekt finishes. Despite all the stimulants it’s this moment of community and music that’s the finest in the world. Jamie XX is grinning and we’re embracing in the fields. It’s even bigger than what Roskilde call their ‘Orange Feeling’. McCartney would surely approve. It’s probably love.

Exhausted, we have to cross the site to get home. At the same time Damon Albarn is being escorted off stage. Who could blame him not wanting to leave Roskilde? We pass our regular bar, Stauning, and as we prepare to pass, a vision of an Irishman we know appears at the bar and so it is that yes, there IS time for one more. We sit and dissect and laugh about the days and the moment we’re in. The sun comes up and with cocktails STILL emerging from behind the 5am bar, we pop on the sunglasses and make that final 200m walk to home with all the colour and the spin filling our heads.

Paul McCartney photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen.

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The Libertines — 3Arena, Dublin - Exquisitely ramshackle. Fri, 10 Jul 2015 23:22:02 +0000 The two most striking things about the Libertines‘ return to Ireland are the leap in quality – from half-arsed vagabonds to exquisitely ramshackle – and the adoration of the capacity crowd. In the first instance, these lads never claimed to be Pink Floyd; they play fast and loose and very, very intensely. There are mistakes and meandering chops but they seem to be brought about in the spur of the moment rather than by design. Getting carried away with it is par for the course. Secondly, their whole existence seemed to be a litany of disasters and the odd glimpse of what makes them special. From Peter Doherty’s self-destruction to the squabbling between band-mates, people identified with this and held up their rakish charm like lighters in the air at a Sting concert. So with all of that in mind, a slightly skeptical State is fully expecting to come, bear witness to the theatrics and sneak out before somebody gets sick or falls off stage.

Within ten minutes it’s clear what this band is all about, there is nothing but energy coming from the stage, no vomit and no flailing bodies. Gary Powell’s drumming is the very definition of powerhouse – there is nothing but sheer force behind that kit and so it will be for the next ninety minutes. John Hassall doesn’t put a foot wrong but hardly sets the world alight. Carl Barât and Peter Doherty, however, make such heady aesthetic soup that you cannot take your eyes off them for fear of missing something. Doherty’s lurching frame shambling from side to side as Barât stands, knees pointing inwards, twitching like a schoolboy needing a piss. It doesn’t sound great but the ever present twang and clatter of their guitars, along with the Cockney rabble voices, well, you get the picture. They look and sound every inch the Libertines they’ve named themselves after.

Their set is a fairly comprehensive overview of their patchy career, ‘The Delaney’, ‘Time For Heroes’ and ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ all feature early and sound great. As cups of beer go flying overhead provide the only distraction from the stage, the frantic heaving of the crowd starts to resemble a pulsating heart. ‘What Katie Did’ and ‘Boys in the Band’ come spewing from the speakers like flares and as somebody somehow managed to squeeze a marriage proposal onto the setlist before ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, how apt! Shane MacGowan, briefly, appears on stage to introduce the band’s encore and gets a deserving reaction from the crowd, and we get to hear one of the tracks from their upcoming album, Anthems for Doomed Youth. Generally speaking this is all you’re ever likely to get from the Libertines. Fully charged with pathos, venom and energy, their songs sound excellent. Wherever they’ve found this new vigour, let us hope that the well never runs dry and having witnessed them at their lowest, and now their peak, there is truly no comparison. They may still be barely cohesive, but that’s the beauty, exquisitely ramshackle indeed.

The Libertines photographed by Paulo Nuno.

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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 3, Friday - On the third day we rose again Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:52:32 +0000 It’s full daylight bright when we wake at 6am but the sandman allows us to drift off again ’til a more respectable hour; one which skips us past Kronos Quartet’s midday slot. It’s now over 48 hours since we have literally seen a cloud, the dusty site clean again after its nighttime overhaul. It’s not just on-site that the festival experience is happening – camping is mostly done in named and themed areas and many are off-the-cuff as groups of friends set up tents around a pagoda, others are more organised like the Dream City user-driven creative camp. Here you are asked to contribute to elevate the experience of the festival. You propose, and give time to your camp’s project, use the powertools and equipment there and build something for the rest of the camp to enjoy. This attitude lifts camps out of a mass of badly-placed-tents-as-sleeping-units-for-drinkers and creates mini communities. It’s this sense of community which brings many out to pitch tents for days before the official gates open.

With the sun high and a cold sugary soda in our hands we give our morning to the previously unseen. We arrive at Pavilion to listen to Broken Twin’s mellow, orchestrated songs. We get a phone call and walk outside the tent to take it, where we stumble into an old friend. Next thing there are three of us sitting outside the tent on a blanket, with sunscreen, and the ideal mellowness of Majke Voss Romme’s torch songs washing out. The band are tight and raise her recorded bedroom-quiet songs to pounding heartbreakers, curing fears and ills.

Next door in Avalon Susanne Sundfør’s synth pop, and voice especially, is sliced from the DNA of the ’80s and veers easily into goose-bump, soprano highs. Kwabs then offers a different type of church as his confident soul slowly fills the tent and you’d easily be forgiven for not knowing if it was a Friday or a Sunday.

The gravitational pull of Kendrick Lamar is so great that bodies are flocking from all over the site and the camps to the main Orange Stage. He’s telling us all he’s going to bring us the best party, and everyone is chilled enough to roll along with this and it’s SO easy to get into a good mood here. In bright daylight he can’t rely on a stageshow to carry this, nor does he. As we skirt the outside of the packed main site, everyone to the distant wooden bleachers is grinning and bouncing. Relentlessly lifting the spirits, an indelible moment is watching about 70,000 arms bounce to ‘Money Tree’ in the evening sun.

His show was such a belter that two acts in distant tent stages refused to go on until he was over. Gretchen Peters began 30 mins late and loud enough to make us wonder what the problem was. A very accessible brand of country, each song deserves its own True Detective intro sequence to soundtrack. ‘Blackbirds’ is a standout discovery before we move next tent over to first cast our eyes upon Einstürzende Neubauten. Gothic in the same field as Cave and his Bad Seeds, and industrial – quite literally as a bucket empties metal shards down upon the stage from three metres up. Intense and fairly captivating, it fought valiantly against the heat of this scorched summer day.

The last time Disclosure played Roskilde two years ago it was a highlight, playing late on the inflatable Apollo stage out in the campsites. This year they have the main stage to themselves and this may be where some cracks are showing. They have the punch of sound, and certainly possess the catalogue for this vast main arena, but they are playing the self-same show. Two fun brothers triggering all their tracks rather than playing much was great the first time but they have added nothing but a very tall riser. Where’s the bigger show these guys can certainly afford to bring? No guest vocals, every one a sample, and the animated singing faces can’t connect on the same level as a live vocal. When you are this big, and you’re playing one of Europe’s biggest festivals maybe look at bringing a live angle to bear in the music, and for Christ’s sake just buy Hannah Reid a plane ticket. We’d go crazy for that! Help us lose our minds, lads.

At this point in the day, in the ‘weekend’ (it’s still only Friday) you can really feel the strain of the constant moving and standing from your heels up to your backside and short of going home to bed (paha) it’s best to sit in a bar, or on a bench tracking down a late meal and a never ending supply of cocktails or cold ones (bars stay open till 4am, Irish festival goers take note. Clearly the Danes can be trusted to drink responsibly).

But like all good cars, when the red light goes on, the tank isn’t really empty. Not with the sun raising our endorphins all day. And we are tempted to get a look at Mew, a massive band in Denmark but splashing only a little internationally. No-one loves their own like the Danes and it’s a serious spirit lifter to see the wide Orange Stage area covered to the corners, and finally under a night sky. Guitar driven pop at a very high level, you’re sucked into the glowing mood of the band as they bathe in this massive showing. Jonas Bjerre is a baby-faced frontman, his gormless look and big eyes balanced with a powerful high voice. Every light is utilised, every song carried up and out and you couldn’t feel any more at one with the Danish people if you woke up with a mermaid.

Buzzing on a beautifully full day, cloaked in still-balmy evening air, you can’t just go home you know? Much safer to sit it out with friends until you can safely go home in daylight and if someone puts a Nina Bang cocktail from Stauning Bar in front of you well so be it.

Mew photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen. 

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AC/DC – Aviva Stadium, Dublin - Hells Bells Mon, 06 Jul 2015 08:45:58 +0000 As the Juggernaut that is the AC/DC Rock or Bust tour rolls into Dublin it can only mean one, two, four things; bells, cannons, inflatable dolls and rock hard riffery. On one of the finest evenings of the year the faithful make their way to the Aviva Stadium in anticipation of what is surely a highlight of the rock calendar.

It’s been an interesting and no doubt turbulent few years for AC/DC; one which saw the retirement of Malcolm Young due to the onset of serious illness, years of hard living having finally and sadly caught up with him. More bizarrely, ex-drummer Phil Rudd found himself in front of the beak in New Zealand for apparently, eh, being too hardcore, let’s say. The most serious charge against him having since been dropped, the ongoing legal issues have meant that AC/DC are touring with their drummer from the early ’90s, Chris Slade, with the Young brothers’ nephew Stevie Young replacing Malcolm and long-time bassist Cliff Williams completing the line-up.

But while Malcolm, described as the businessman of the band and the main riff-writer once held sway at the backline, front of house has nearly always been about Angus Young and Brian Johnson. Exploding onto the stage in front of a line of Marshall stacks, Angus, still in his school uniform and Johnson, still with a voice like a disused quarry, open with an ecstatically received performance of the title track of last year’s album Rock Or Bust.

From here on it’s a selection of mainly classics with some newer songs thrown in for good measure. The seminal ‘Back in Black’ comes early in the set. Thirty minutes and 6 songs in the band hit their stride with ‘Thunderstruck’ and fully settle into delivering a rock master-class. They can do no wrong as they pump out undeniable classic after classic, ‘High Voltage’, ‘Hells Bells’ accompanied, as always, by a huge bell hanging from the stage roof. It’s notable that on this occasion Johnson declined to swing from the bell, perhaps in deference to his 67 years. Angus delivers a somewhat shortened but still blistering face-melter on ‘Let There Be Rock, although thankfully he’s dropped the striptease from the act. The band bow out for the evening with ‘For Those About To Rock’, complete with cannons firing. If this is to be their final performance, they’ve gone out with an unholy bang.

AC/DC and Vintage Trouble photographed by Paulo Nuno.


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Neil Diamond — 3Arena, Dublin - "You can keep Jesus Christ. That was Neil Diamond... truly the 'King of the Jews" - Alan Partridge Sun, 05 Jul 2015 10:27:30 +0000 You can say what you want about Neil Diamond but you can’t deny that there’s a little bit of class underneath all that sequinned, hair-sprayed cheese. From his thinning grey hair down to his soft-shoe shuffle, pumps the blood of a showman and after what must be tens of thousands of live shows he still wants you to feel his appreciation. But there is still a lot of cheese to get through, that’s not going to change.

‘Forever in Blue Jeans’, ‘America’, ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘The Art of Love’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’, ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon’, and ‘Hello Again’ are the hits and he plays them. They are good and so they should be, anything less would have been unthinkable and let’s be honest, for the average non-devotee of the Brooklyn crooner there would be no other reason to see him live. His voice is unmistakable and now irrevocably moulded by time. He is 74 years old after-all (“all this screaming from women makes me feel like I’m 70 again”, well played, sir) but he isn’t here to win over any new fans or set the world on fire, he’s here to wheel out the classics and give us the chance to sing along freely and passionately. The video montages during ‘Brooklyn Roads’ and ‘Coming to America’ are diced and spliced home movies depicting a very young Diamond playing with his parents and sibling and tell the tale of his family’s migration to the US. As the reel catches up with real time, a greying, older, more contemplative vision of him is shown. It portrays Diamond in a light you might not actually have considered previously and the measure of poignancy it gives the songs is not to be discounted. Underneath all the schmaltz you’ll see the life of an extraordinary songwriter and do not be surprised if it alters how you’ll hear his music.

He might not be everybody’s cup of tea, and there is probably an element of sneery disregard for a man you can imagine your Grandmother saying something like “he’s very nice” about. But he still records new music and it still sounds like Neil Diamond, so you have to ask yourself what’s wrong with him hamming it up for his audience? What’s wrong with enjoying these songs which are undeniable classics? Sure if Fleetwood Mac, The Who and AC/DC can shamelessly engage their shtick at their age, why can’t Neil Diamond? Afterall, he is possibly the only artist ever to have his work covered by both Elvis and The Fonz.

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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 2, Thursday - Ladies' day Sat, 04 Jul 2015 12:32:02 +0000 We kept a lid on it the previous night so our heads are good but our legs are already feeling the effects of a walking/standing routine. Yet today is a marathon of good things. We spend the morning sitting, sipping some Danish fizzy orange and watch our friends drink their newly invented cold press iced Irish coffee, which is surprisingly drinkable at 2pm. The skies are still cloudless and with the weather climbing into the mid-to high 20s we are keeping whiskey off the menu for the moment.

Taking a punt on one song we heard, we land over to the small Gloria stage. An intimate room, it hasn’t quite gotten as sweaty as it can do and Ezra Furman also takes a little warming up. From Chicago, his croaky, high voice and giggly theatrics bring a little of vaudeville to, say, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Lipsticked and skinny, in a little red dress, he does settle into the show as he rolls through the long set. The sound is big and brassy thanks to a rock-solid band and a saxophone powerhouse beside him, a buff fellow with shocking pink hair. It’s cheery, and somewhat carnivalesque in its indie slant and like a waterslide into the day. Plus his ‘My Zero’, the song that tempted us there, is storming.

As smartly attired, yet in the more traditional rock star’s black suit, Father John Misty goes straight from nothing to feverish in the Avalon tent – a place bejewelled with huge squares of rigging and lights which we’d see at full effect later in the day. The sound is as close to perfect, a big warm enveloping thing. Misty is similar. He’s straight into the crowd from the off. On his knees for half of it. He’s up on the drum kit too, and faultlessly bringing the wide, rammed tent into his room.

Outside there’s a cold beer to be rescued from the many queueless Tuborg bars and as we cross the main field it’s Ryan Adams filling that gap in the day when traditionally only mad dogs and Englishmen stand out under the unrelenting sun. It’s either a breeze or Adams balmy rock but we have a chilled moment of pause, leaning on a barrier with with ‘Come Pick Me Up’ washing around us.

It’s six and as the day slightly cools St. Vincent’s stage awaits, with close to 13,000 people in the Arena. Our favourite festival tent anywhere, when you hit it right here you feel it all the way to the back of your neck. Annie Clark is sight for sore eyes, she appears in a perforated black cat suit, white guitar and a look you could set your watch by. She rules this guitar like a monarch and within minutes has shredded all the mornings music to pieces. She floats about the stage on heels, like a perfected android. She knows all about show, yet is above a cheap thrill and so far beyond a rock gig. Completely given over to her, she clambers onto a security guards shoulders before taking in a tour of the front row with guitar – picking up inflatable headwear on the way before having a feint at the closing. Insert row of heart emoji here.

But the heart was to be fed more. First of the Irish interest was Soak in Gloria’s cosy setting. There’s lines and lines out the entrances, a few fellas with a tricolour disappointed at not getting in. Inside, the place is packed and the polite Danes are at their best. But though Soak’s songs have that gentleness to them, the expert live band set-up and meatier sound of the new album. Through a great venue sound and lights, Bridie just captivates and from ‘Blud’ onwards everyone is rapt. ‘B a noBody’ is shivery. We’re flushing and smiling too and it plays out so well, this full tent in the middle of Denmark’s rock festival and everyone swooning to Soak.

Florence Welch knows how to dress for the weather (white linen) and also has her festival crowd-pleasing down to a T. Some of ‘Lungs’ big hits make early appearances on the main Orange stage and she’s another one straight into the pit, and the crowd. Maybe it’s a way of getting out from under the hot lights but whatever it was it spurned a thousand selfie-with Instagram posts from the Danish front row. From the extrovert to the introvert, Mike Hadreas has before hidden behind his piano, sitting low on stages but now he it bringing a bolder Perfume Genius to the fore and he’s standing tall. Still, he twists his mic lead nervously and you can’t tell if his facial expressions are because of feedback or his inner on-stage demons. All this is overcome throughout, to an audience both jocks, nerds and the middle ground of young, pretty Danes relaxing in the sun just outside the tent. (Lots of references from the stages about the attractiveness of the gen pop today.) Hadreas coaxes a cheerier festival feeling from his often heart-wrenching songs, and it was ‘Hood’ whose pounding peaks and bare-piano drops encapsulated it, warm and strong.

Back in Pavillion and Jungle have use a curtain to cover the stage pre-show. Packed back to the tent pegs there’s a we’re-ready-to-dance-now excitement around. When it openes and they pour into ‘Platoon’ it’s a party. The huge lighting rig is a stunning array of searchlights and all manner of beams on chase patterns that you could dance to on their own. It’s the palms-up hour of the day, every single corner of the tent dancing – modesty is nearly always the first to leave – and when ‘Busy Earnin’’ brings its inevitable peak you can feel a tent of endorphins kick right in.

At least the three lads with rather more success and money than you might expect put that cash back into a stage show and hiring the best lighting engineer you can get. Muse have what looks like the best rock show. They have the biggest confetti bombs and even throw out huge black balloons to bounce about the crowd. They are still a bit ‘everybody now’ in parts and have stuck to a tight formula from day one but your eyes won’t be bored. Plus, that kid inside State that still puts up band posters gets a sort of Cirque-du-Soleil-with-guitars thrill out of ‘Starlight’ and ‘Time is Running Out’, bombastic and loud across the vast site.

A true test of the kind of person you are appears when you face Die Antwoord. We were fascinated but very, very scared. They make Slipknot look like a kids party. Displaying true tattooed commitment to his concept, Ninja appears in a yellow animal suit, tying it off to reveal his torso, inked like DeNiro in Cape Fear. Yolandi is up and down the stepped DJ desk where their cartoonishly deformed dj mans the music. It’s seriously polarising but there’s tens of thousands along for the ride at the Orange stage. No Muse-like come-all-ye action here, you’re in constant threat of Yolandi physically hurting you and Ninja providing the coup de grace. They certainly bring their hardcore take on fear through harsh-accented hip-hop-of-sorts to the main stage expanses, though it might be a bit too conceptual to engage with. Still, you can’t deny the fun of ‘Rich Bitch’ etc. and the theatre at work behind it.

Out of nowhere our second wind comes just in time for the last call. Spilling into Arena we’re off to catch Hot Chip close down Thursday, which at 2am on this packed day is just what we need. It’s a Hot Chip Dance Classics set. Over an hour of dancing, everyone in amazing form. The band are cannoning out the hits ‘Over and Over’, ‘One Life Stand’, ‘Ready for the Floor’. Their touring drummer Sarah Jones is a fulcrum, and the happiest sight, smiling from under her baseball cap and raising the beats of the more tempered songs up a level. Nothing lest than the perfect closing act, they never drop the ball and for next level joy to box off the night, it’s a cover of Springsteen’s ’Dancing in the Dark’. We are set up for either tents or more cocktails, common sense and carpe diems and after a show, and a day, like that – who could be sensible.

 St. Vincent photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen


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Roskilde Festival 2015 – Day 1, Wednesday - Mr Blue Sky Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:22:46 +0000 The corner of Europe’s heatwave is perfectly timed to brush off the west side of Denmark, throwing perfect blue skies over the festival site as we approach. A lucky weekend, the festival is now synonymous with good weather but you won’t beat mid-20’s and cloudless. This year, the festival has been been pulled back to run Wed – Sat instead of the Thurs – Sun of previous years. It means one more day to take off work for the salaried wanting to go, but means nothing to the tens of thousands of fresh graduates who have been queuing over last weekend to just get onto the campsite on Monday.

Giving an ear to the official Spotify playlist for the festival last week, we liked the sound of locals Communions and walked through the warm site to the furthest stage – Pavillion – to let them open our long weekend. Picking up every ’90s trope from Slowdive to Chapterhouse, it’s a combination that works fairly well, if a bit unfiltered and while the songs they write are anthemic to some extent, they do fall a little flat without recognisability.

Perhaps we need King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard to psych us into this sprawling festival. Long, almost endless wig-outs from the off from four or more guitars licking away. The Australians just disappeared into a swirling sea straight out of the traps and while there were some already-swirling young Danes lost in it completely, we were cheered but had yet to click in. We first saw them in a cinema in wintery Iceland and were overjoyed, but in the early evening heat we left them for the reliability of a burger and beer nearby and were happy listening to them on the breeze instead. We did a walk-past Noel Gallagher who was mid-‘Masterplan’ – yet these days it’s hardly enough to steer you into the tent with so much else on offer.

An unfortunate clash was what we faced next, as we were keen to see both Honningbarna and Pharrell. The State team split and as one half was approaching the Norwegians there looked to be some security issue. The stage was full of audience members and one was climbing high up the rigging on one side. On closer inspection it was frontman Edvard Valberg doing the climbing and the crowd were being beckoned up by the band. When he descended and grabbed his cello, the band burst into action and the whole stage just went loo-la. These guys have never let us down and will deserve statues built in their honour some day.

Meanwhile, the perfect summer high is pouring out from the Orange stage. Pharrell, with his polite, take-home-to-your-mother attitude, has tapped into the rich seam of gold at Roskilde. While he hasn’t brought a Dubai-sized stage show, he has brought dancers having fun, a small stage invasion of boys, a large stage invasion of pretty ladies and he covers enough ground to look everyone in the whites of their eyes – shouting-out to the back and sides and bringing everyone into the party. There’s a burst of ‘Milkshake’, of ‘Hot in Herre’, and there’s the throwback party favourite of N*E*R*D’s ‘Lapdance’. But if you want to even imagine the extent of the summery lift that he brought in the second part, just feast on the idea of ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ falling into ‘Hollaback Girl’ through ’Drop It Like It’s Hot’, ‘Blurred Lines’, ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Happy’ and a confetti gattling-gun fired up and over the tens of thousands.

While this was happening the War on Drugs were giving a fairly intense show but through sound so muddy that you could barely recognise the beginning of songs, and the guitar lick at the break of ‘In Reverse’ was completely lost. Having seen them three times now, we stood there while Pharrell was painting colours across the site, somewhat sad at our decision to move. As so often at festivals, where choice and FOMO will eat you up, it’s better the devil you have never seen before. Still and all, it’s hard to feel anything but warm and fuzzy as the bars bustle till the early hours, and you feel that it’s only at Roskilde where you’ll meet a Dane, with a mother from Belfast, who looks for all the world like a white Forrest Whittaker. It’s never boring here, that’s certain.

Pharrell photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen.

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Northside Festival – Aarhus, Denmark - Review and gallery from Denmark's fast-growing sustainable music festival. Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:01:09 +0000 It’s Friday, the first day of State’s third year at Northside and we’re blessed with sun, no wind and 20 degrees. And, the music program isn’t bad either.  With circles around names like José Gonzales, Death Cab for Cutie, Mø, FKA Twigs, Alt-J and Grace Jones for tonight, the final piece of this puzzle is a pint – seeing how Northside is one of the more “grown-up” festivals. Organic beers, cocktail bars, wine bars, a champagne and oyster bar; we’re certainly enjoying the upper echelons of festival-going.

Last year, Ry X featured as the opening act and it seems the festival is repeating the soft beginning with a quiet and beautiful performance courtesy of Swedish singer José Gonzalez, followed by Danish pop & soul singer Barbara Moleko (a replacement for Earl Sweatshirt who cancelled at the last minute). Later in the afternoon we make a beeline for Death Cab For Cutie in the Blue Stage to give us an able mix of old and new material.

And so, tanked up on our very “grown-up”, craft-brewery organic beer and a famed Northside burger in hand, we decide between Alt-J and FKA Twigs who are tragically scheduled at the same time. We decide on the latter, who after a few hiccups, enters the stage in a transparent, white gown beset with a dramatic green cape. FKA Twigs’ fragile falsetto works seductively, making for a beautiful contrast to the heavy bass driven beats that spur her on. With ‘Video Girl’ and her sensual dancing we’re transfixed and intrigued after just two tracks, but after the fifth we’re firmly in the palm of her hand.

State are soon in for a similar experience as we head for Grace Jones (67 and performing topless, go Grace!). Wearing nothing bar high-pants and white striped body-paint, Jones’ performance immediately tows the line between concert and sideshow, but she persists with the party mentality and eventually we’ve joined her in the festivities. Her charm and eclectic style are hard to resist as we dance to her smoky, heavily-partied out vocals; she gives us the gory details with her tales of a wild-lifestyle lived between songs.

Jones rounds off our evening accordingly, and given our “mature” festival etiquette, it’s off to the hotel for a lovely wash, a lovely sleep in a real bed and a fresh start to the day that lies ahead.  No camping for State at Northside, we’ll have you know.  We awake on Saturday to find the gorgeous weather has abandoned us and for the rest of the day the rain comes’a’pouring.  Fortunately, we’ve come prepared in our rubber boots, knit-sweaters and raincoats and it’s a pleasure to see a lot of young, up-and-coming Danish bands like Broken Twin, S!vas, Scarlet Pleasure and The Minds of 99 filling the stage on this gloomy afternoon.

Again though, we’re plagued by the scheduling dilemma. Antony and the Johnsons on the main stage or Wolf Alice on the smaller P6 Beat stage? We follow our hearts to Antony and the Johnsons who are accompanied by the local Aarhus symphonic orchestra. It makes for a poignant experience as the rain becomes a befitting backdrop for Antony Hegarty’s melancholia-drenched songs, although, we’re needing a pick me up by the time he’s finished and what could be better than some Icelandic house from GusGus and the legendary Underworld to finish off Saturday with serious techno?  Not a lot. 

Sunday, and the last day of the festival, we’re immediately met by Trash-Talkers (charity volunteers who help in keeping the refuse to a minumum).   It’s all part of Northside’s strong, sustainable ethic that a lot of other festivals would do well to take heed of.  We’re enthused for today’s music program and thankfully it’s a packed schedule with all manner of genres. Soul, folk, alternative-rock, blues-rock, electronic, pop and the classic singer-songwriter vibe all see the stage throughout the day.

Firstly, American soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones give us the perfect start to Sunday and we soon forget the miserable weather of the previous day.  In Denmark they talk a lot about the weather, so State are happy to report that it didn’t rain, but was a little colder.  We’re not advocating a new career path, but we just like to make sure you know the facts. The weather facts. On a different note, it’s time for John Grant and it’s clear he has a lot of love for Denmark.  He’s vocal about it between tracks and clearly glad to be here; presumably as much as we are given Grant’s warm and energetic performances of his epic and melodic ballads before a rapturous rendition of ‘Pale Green Ghosts’.

In a similar vein, Matthew E White plays for 40 minutes with his band and focuses on latest release Fresh Blood, albeit with the same kind of stripped-back sensibility we saw with Grant.  It’s a compact performance and the joy White and band obviously take in performing is infectious.

Alas, our perfect Sunday start doesn’t quite survive in the afternoon and we’re a little bit disappointed at the performances by George Ezra and Calexico.  We have a lot of time for these guys, but something just doesn’t click today and Ezra doesn’t quite live up to the hype that surrounds him while Calexico appear quite sullen – there’s a certain enthusiasm lacking on and in front of the stage.

Maybe it was us, maybe it was the three-day hangovers kicking in early, but we’re looking for revival and it isn’t until the last act of the day that we’re reinvigorated.  It is, of course, up to the Black Keys and it does, of course, work.  Their dirty, blues-rock sound is straight out of the garage and they do it so perfectly that our recovery is nothing short of miraculous.  Frankly, it was the best possible ending to a fantastic Northside Festival 2015, but it wasn’t the best Northside we’ve been to.  There’s always room for improvement and State are confident Northside will do so as we look forward to returning next year.


MØ - Johanne Teglgård Olsen© Wu-Tang Clan - foto- Johanne Teglgård Olsen© Matthew E. White - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard Calexico - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard The Minds Of 99 - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard copy The Jesus And Mary Chain - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard The Minds Of 99 - Photograph Peter Kirkegaard GeorgeEzra_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-3 ScarletPleasure_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-3 Alt-J_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-9 antony and the johnsons --- Photo Morten Rygaard© BenHoward_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-5 benhoward2_copyright_stinerasmussen E_GeorgeEzra_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-5 Interpol - ©Thorsten Iversen - 1 Interpol - ©Thorsten Iversen - 6 John Grant - ©Thorsten Iversen - 3 Jose Gonzales_Photo_AnnaTarpKlode©-1-6 Placebo - ©Thorsten Iversen - 3 S!vas - ©Thorsten Iversen - 6 S!vas - Publikum - ©Thorsten Iversen - 1 Seasick Steve - ©Thorsten Iversen - 3 Seasick Steve - Publikum - ©Thorsten Iversen - 4 The Black Keys - ©Thorsten Iversen - 4 Underworld - Jonatan Nothlev ©_2 Wolf Alice ny. Bea Brix © Wolf Alice ny. Fotograf Bea Brix © ]]> 0
Taylor Swift – 3Arena, Dublin - The new queen of pop touches the sky Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:05:37 +0000 “You are watching the greatest living pop star on the planet”. Taylor Swift doesn’t actually utter those words tonight, as a second night in Dublin brings the European leg of her 1989 World Tour to a close, but you would forgive her for any feelings of satisfaction. Six years after her big night at the VMAs was brought crashing down, the narrative of last weekend is one that few could have imagined. While she was wowing the masses at London’s Hyde Park, down the road a certain rapper was collapsing under the weight of his ego. It’s symbolic of the way her career has exploded since the release of 1989 last year, a commercial leap and turn around in public and critical opinion that would have been hard to imagine during the days of ‘Trouble’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’.

Spend a night in her company and it’s easy to see why. This is not just one of the best pop shows we’ve probably ever been too, not just one of the best arena experiences but one of the best gigs period. A spectacular in every sense of the word, it’s an all singing, all dancing extravaganza and, while such an approach has become the norm at this end of the musical spectrum, none have managed to do it with such charm or style. The opening sensory blitz of ‘Welcome To New York’ out of the way (complete with each audience member’s flashing wristband going haywire), it’s only three numbers before the first of the big hitters arrives in the form of ‘Blank Space’, the walkway that cuts through the venue allowing Swift the opportunity to get up close in personal with the majority of the crowd at some point. It’s followed by a dark, brooding tune that sounds familiar, even if we can’t place it at first. Then the “cold hard ground” lyric kicks in and you realise that it’s ‘Trouble’, reimagined in a Marilyn Manson fashion that is utterly fabulous.

The message is clear, the Taylor that you thought you knew is gone and she might not ever be coming back. She states as much by taking ‘Love Story’ and updating it to fit the 1989 palette, electronic pop where once was country. A good song’s a good song though, and the new version is a winner. As is this new, improved Taylor Swift. She neatly sidesteps any of the off stage issues that have arisen over the years to talk to her adoring audience about more personal matters. As sweet as they come, you almost believe her when she says that she recognises some of the faces from Instagram and online chats, and that she knew they just had to finish the European tour in Dublin, Ireland (nothing to do with standard touring logistics then), the monologues given an even more schmaltzy feel by the cheesy backing keyboards that accompany them. Any more weighty issues are left to the recurring video messages from a series of high profile friends – some people we’ve never heard of plus really quite witty interjections from Haim, Lena Dunham and Cara Delevigne – about how great their celebrity pal is.

A total pro who knows exactly where the cameras are at all times and what smile or sideways glance, the doubts that maybe she’s just a cog in this well oiled machine are banished as she strides down the – now elevated – walkway strumming an acoustic guitar, she delivers a solo acoustic version of Red’s ‘Holy Ground’ that is as powerful as it is simple, reminiscent of her marvellous Civil Wars collaboration and a hint that the old, Nashville Taylor still lurks somewhere. Then she name checks Imogen Heap before ‘Clean’ and jumps onto a keyboard for the aforementioned ‘Love Story’.

From then on in, it’s gold all the way. ‘Bad Blood’ gives way to a metal version of ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, led by the singer on electric guitar against a ‘Seven Nation Army’ aping video projection. Then it’s another costume change and behind the piano to point out that those who criticise her writing style for being “basic” (as bitter as she gets), a wistfully epic ‘Wildest Dreams’, a mighty sprint through ‘Out Of The Woods’, another video testimony and then, inevitably, the whole room getting onto its feet for ‘Shake It Off’, the singer and dancers hoofing it up old style as the walkway spins in the air and the confetti tumbles from the roof.

A few weeks ago, when we discussed Swift and the rest of the pop pack on the State podcast, the opinion was that there would never be another artist who – in terms of longevity – could put together a career to match the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen. As we wake the next morning to find our wristband still glowing, a tangible reminder of the night before, you have to wonder if Taylor Swift might be the exception that proves the rule.

Taylor Swift photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko. See more here.

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Manu Chao — The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham - Crowd control Mon, 29 Jun 2015 20:32:39 +0000 Quite where to begin with Manu Chao is a mystery. For the thousands of manic, boisterous fans in the grounds of IMMA on Saturday night you can only start and end with his music. At no point do the hardcore at the front of the crowd stop jumping and and at no point does he stop encouraging them. Some music transcends lyrical meaning and without daring to decipher Chao’s words of wisdom – State doesn’t speak Spanish that well, we’ll freely admit – we can only imagine that it was something special going on. King of the Bongo somehow seems like a cheap title for a man this revered.

The punk element is every bit as prevalent in the little Spanish Frenchman’s music. His family history is remarkable and only a fool could overlook that tonight is more shouty and Communist-tinged than Joe Strummer and Karl Marx in a fist-fight with the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Chao and his band pack a serious punch and their Latin inspired sound only highlights the contrast in musical styles they have on their palette; a little trill here, salsa there, merengue to follow. Blood and thunder after that. Arriving onstage at precisely 8.30, the little revolutionary is all fists in the air, neck veins popping, spittle flying and eyes bulging as he generates near-mass hysteria. “Fuck off, rain”, even the weather get’s a talking to.

His hype man looks like your Da on holidays and is doing everything in his power to get people whipped into a storm. He doesn’t have to try hard and he settles back into his day-job as keyboardist as the flags come out. Cuba, Spain, Catalonia, Ireland, Argentina, Che Guevara and Gonzo from the Muppets all represented in a space no bigger than 10 square meters. We should all bring more flags to outdoor gigs. Flags and cheery camaraderie. The band are great, as are the songs, but the crowd are a thing of wonder and you just can’t ignore it. It’s a silly thing, but it’s still a thing nonetheless.

Anyway, ‘King of the Bongo’, ‘Radio Bemba’ and ‘Clandestino’ were joyous to the point of spiritual. Wrapping up after nigh-on two straight hours of manic jumping and bellowing, Manu Chao is a folk-hero of legendary proportions.

Manu Chao photographed for State by Leah Carroll

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Tony Visconti & Woody Woodmansey – The Olympia Theatre, Dublin - "...the bedrock on which the binary stars of glam rock and Bowie’s career were built." Sun, 28 Jun 2015 12:33:10 +0000 Firstly, for the uninitiated, Tony Visconti is not a nut laden biscuit that you might take with your espresso during some down-time in Rome and Woody Woodmansey is not an alliteratively named mascot for one of Ireland’s largest chain of DIY stores.  Rather, Visconti is a producer of legendary, near mythic status. He has guided and cajoled artists such as T-Rex, Thin Lizzy, Boomtown Rats, Iggy Pop, Sparks, Morrissey, Manic Street Preachers, Adam Ant and extensively so with rock’s greatest chameleon, David Bowie. Woody Woodmansey was tub-thumper-in-chief with the The Spiders From Mars, having worked with Bowie until Ziggy, sated after making love to his ego, had to break up the band in a very public manner onstage at the Hammersmith Odeon back in ’73.

At first glance, The Man Who Sold the World, tonight’s focus, seems like an odd choice to be the album from Bowie’s capricious back catalogue to be brought to life by Visconti and Woodmansey.  Hunk Dory or The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars may be more representative of what is deemed quintessential Bowie.  And ‘TMWSTW’, outside of Nirvana’s rendition of the eponymous track on MTV’s Unplugged series back in ’94 (Jesus was it really that long ago?) is often overlooked and consigned to Bowies back pages.  But ‘TMWSTW’, as well as being the first time Visconti, Woodsy and Bowie worked together, was also the bedrock on which the binary stars of glam rock and Bowie’s career were built.

Its dark dystopian themes pre-shadow Bowie’s descent into coked out paranoia. The music’s rough guitar and futuristic sounding moog herald the end of both Bowie’s and society’s dalliance with ’60s psychedelia and the wide-eyed naivety of hippy idealism as the drabness of an Orwellian future looms. Bowie and Britain move from the pastoral to the machine, as the bovver-booted boys get ready to kick the Birkenstocks brigade to touch; the harshness of the music forewarns us of the impending shadow that will cloak most of that generation’s youth.

Tonight, the band is introduced by another survivor of that scene of scenes, the venerable BP Fallon. Beep’s beat-like verbosity and introductions aside and it’s down to business.  The 10 piece band, fronted by Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) dutifully plays TMWSTW in its entirety and in its original sequence.

There’s no escaping the fact that there’s no Bowie here and that without him the music has lost some of its edge. Additionally, and let’s not forget that other demi-god of the glam-era, Mick Ronson is also permanently absent since his untimely death in ’93. Again the grit and glam of his playing is missed but James Stevenson (GenX, The Cult) and Paul Cuddeford (Ian Hunter, Bob Geldof) are able to conjure enough sorcery to summon Ronson up in spirit.

The assembled performers, despite hailing from very diverse backgrounds both sonically and chronologically are incredibly tight and do the album justice. Their playing breathes life anew into the celebrated opus and Gregory’s vocals and performance do Bowie’s original justice. Thankfully, Gregory doesn’t go down the “tonight Matthew, I’m Ziggy Stardust” route, instead he makes the performance his own, adding shades of Bowie’s distinctive intonation and twang when appropriate.

Album set highlights include the triple edged guitar attack of ‘Black Country Rock’ (3 men to replace Ronson – sounds about right) and an absolutely triumphant version of the titular track during which Gregory’s vocal does indeed shine with starlight. Post TMWSTW set the band continue to delve into Ziggy’s back catalogue and cover ‘Five Years’, ‘Moonage Daydream’ and the crowd pleasing, football terrace sing-along of ‘All the Young Dudes’. ‘Lady Stardust’ sung by Ms. Lisa Ronson (Mick’s daughter) is a low point as she belts it out wedding singer style more akin to an X-Factor audition than one begetting Ziggy’s paean to fellow starman, Marc Bolan. Ms. Ronson also takes centre stage to duet with Gregory on ‘Watch That Man’, another low ensues and the pair’s performance has more ham packed into it than a Michelin starred pork terrine. It looks and sounds like an undercooked Meat Loaf of both the culinary and musical variety.

But all is not lost. Back on terra firma and with the nepotistic turns cast to one side, we’re treated to another sterling vocal performance for ‘Life on Mars’ and a rip roaring ‘Ziggy Stardust’ followed by ‘Changes’ that has the auditorium on their feet before the band depart the stage with Gregory promising a few more tunes if we shout loud enough and we duly oblige. The inevitable encore climaxes with the white-hot heat of ‘Suffragette City’ – wham, bam, thank you mam indeed!

There were many highlights tonight. The band’s changes through the ‘Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud/All The Young Dudes/Oh You Pretty Things’ were simply stunning as the piece segued from song to song with each of the band working as one to make the mercurial changes seemless.  Glenn Gregory is a fine custodian of the Bowie flame too – just the right amounts of humility, showmanship and pastiche ensured that we were spared a karaoke Ziggy-by-numbers.

Mr. Woodmansey has put in a decent shift behind the kit and we begin to wonder if someone has slipped him a little something as he’s been going all night. His performance is faultless, never missing a beat and putting his all into every snare crack or roll on the toms. In contrast, Visconti looked on, slightly bemused and detached from proceedings and apart from a few snippets of chat his presence barely registered.

Throughout his career Bowie has been all about the shock of the new, attempting to define and shape the zeitgeist and I’m not sure how this amble down memory lane sits with that. Rather than looking backwards with our rosies on, Bowie would have us staring into the bright, burning sun of the future. Tonight’s show is just that; it’s a show and by its very nature has its limitations but what saves it from being a mindless old jolly down memory lane is quality. The quality of the music and the quality of the musicians assembled to perform it and tonight that’s enough.

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The Who – 3Arena, Dublin - "Although now 71 and 70 respectively, Daltrey and Townshend show no signs of slowing down..." Sat, 27 Jun 2015 12:54:56 +0000 If only every legendary act from the 60s and 70s – I’m speaking about you Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin – appeased their fans in the same way The Who are doing with their Hits 50! tour. Imagine Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason letting bygones be bygones and heading out for one last global Floyd trek? Or Plant and Page ringing up John Paul Jones to see if he’s on board for one last extended hurrah for old times’ sake? It’s not too much to ask, is it? So The Who – albeit now down to frontman Roger Daltrey and sardonic guitar genius Pete Townshend, along with a host of session musicians – deserve enormous credit for doing just that. Townshend described this tour as all about the “hits, picks, mixes and misses” but in truth it’s an unashamed (mostly) greatest hits show with all the bells and whistles.

The first six songs of the night – ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘The Seeker’, ‘Who Are You’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’, ‘I Can See For Miles’ and the blistering proto-punk of ‘My Generation’ – are confirmatory of the huge impact the band have had on popular culture. They sound tight, lean and note-perfect. Although now 71 and 70 respectively, Daltrey and Townshend show no signs of slowing down despite Daltrey’s claims that this tour is the “long goodbye.” The frontman’s howl is still firmly intact and Townshend’s signature windmill slamming of his guitar strings is present and correct. Both men are in remarkably fine fettle. Momentum is lost somewhat in the mid section of the show, which may be down to what Townshend referred to as the “misses”, especially during the rock-opera precursor ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ but at least we have the slick hi-def big-screen visuals to keep us entertained – all psychedelic collages, ghostly close-ups of deceased members John Entwistle and Keith Moon and shots of the band in their clean-cut heyday.

It’s interesting to watch the interplay between Daltrey and Townshend too; the likeable Daltrey convivial and chatty throughout, his yin to Townshend’s tortured-intellectual yang but Townshend grows more talkative as the night draws to a close, with lengthy introductions to the craft behind his songs and a final proclamation that Dublin is the “best city in the best country with the best people in the world.” Saying this after the celebratory home run of ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ leaves the punters suitably satiated as they file out into a humid night on Dublin’s north wall quay. For a band that ironically once stated they hoped to die before they got old, tonight they played with such youthful zeal that this farewell tour might prove somewhat premature. Let’s hope so.

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Body & Soul 2015 - Savagely multi-sensory Fri, 26 Jun 2015 10:40:26 +0000 If last year’s Body & Soul was a high watermark for Irish festivals, this year’s event surely wasn’t too far behind. Perhaps a little unfairly losing ‘points’ for intermittent showers between the scorching sun, the organisers would be doing well to do anything about it but what they do control is the setting up of what is clearly the best laid out festival we have. From the spacious and hassle free campsites to the amazing Walled Garden there isn’t much the people behind this beautiful little festival can do to improve it. Furthermore, they have managed to find the one weekend a year when this rainy little rock can be fairly sure it’ll see the sun. Some festivals are bigger, some boast bigger acts, but what Body & Soul has is more character, heart and soul than the rest combined. Arriving on Friday is literally a crapshoot for all involved; arrive early and you’ll beat the traffic but you’ll probably find yourself snaking through a field for some time. Arrive late and you face exactly the opposite, it doesn’t matter though… by the time State arrived (late) and set up shop we had only Talaboman to find before we could fully relax.

The union of John Talabot and Axel Boman is a strange one. Noted for their unorthodox and dark soundscapes, the odd jolt of frenetic euphoria is as alarming as it is joyous. Generally speaking, State leaves EDM to the people who know it best but sometimes you have to just tell it like you see it. A jam-packed tent on the first night of festivities and two savagely innovative, inventive producers making for a remarkable first night. If you managed to squeeze into the tent we’re sure you’ll agree. Sweaty, slightly inebriated and full of joy we spent the remainder of the night in the Absolut Art Bar – a fresh addition to the festival and perfectly designed. The Absolut Art Bar is half under a tent and half under the sky and all centred around a fairy-lit maypole. Shaped like a welcoming harbour, the DJ list – curated by Arveene – was serious enough to be a proper weekend destination in its own right, and yet the sounds were warm and welcoming. It was where we started and would be where we rounded-off the festival – draining the bar of ginger ale and other mixers in the process of dancing the first and last energy of the weekend out (if you didn’t catch the acrobatics display at the maypole on Sunday afternoon you need to make it a priority next year, trust us).

Dragging ourselves away was hard enough but dragging ourselves back into life the next morning was another story altogether. Thankfully, Body & Soul houses some of the best festival food in Ireland. Many of the vendors can be found at many other festivals but there are a few tasty little nuggets to be found if you’re brave enough to think outside the breakfast roll. Revived, and as Saturday’s sun battled with the fitful clouds above, State was back on the horse and heading for Austra. There was a lot of hype surrounding these guys when we first saw them at Forbidden Fruit a couple of years back. They aren’t in any way underwhelming, but compared to their performance at B&S this year they have become some kind of monster. Funky, rhythmic, tight and effortlessly cool, the band are nothing short of jawdropping as the sun finally wins out and shines down on us. Still dancing and producing beautiful harmonies, we can only hope that their festival appearances here keep up the pace they started with as they are well worth taking the time to sit in front of with a cold pint of whatever you’re into. Already, there is a sense of calm around this place that you’ll rarely find elsewhere – part elation, part relaxation and entirely worth celebrating. And, what better way to continue the celebrations than with GOAT. Quite what GOAT are though is something of a mystery. The Swedes have been making waves for some time now and aren’t without their plaudits, but their shady, voodoo and witch doctor shtick possibly masks a stunning band underneath the masks. Ok, their tribal dancing and generally weird stage get-ups are great fun and make for a great spectacle, but when all of that stops there is a group of very accomplished musicians to hear. Their appearance at B&S was already being spoken of in hushed tones on Friday night but when they take to the stage and fire into their set on Saturday evening, pretty much everybody at the Main Stage has new heroes. It doesn’t matter if it was the music or the madness that keeps you here.

When we finally got it together enough to get a wiggle on, we found the perfect match. Sohn sits dark and hooded, front and centre while flanked by two similarly brooding guys who together raise what was a relatively unmemorable album into a pulsing dusky electronic blanket. His voice exists in a cross gender pitch and sounds so solid in the mix. He provides an aural theatre, dropping the sounds and lifting them into a much wider space live than he could on the album; a wall of sound that never gets overbearing, or reliant on volume, just texture to get lost in. As is the programming and artists selection process for Body & Soul, we haven’t long to wait before everything changes once again. The weather, the atmosphere, the crowd – everything seems to morph and adjust to what’s going on at the time. You’ll probably laugh but the impact of Sohn’s music can leave you nearly missing him when he’s gone. Alas, the best way to get over a Sohn performance is to get under a Super Furry Animals one. The return of Wales’ favourite psychedelic export has long been rumoured but die-hard fans were genuinely starting to worry that they’d seen the end of SFA. Between solo albums, collaborations, beer making and tracking fabled Welsh explorers across America, the Furries haven’t released an album or toured since 2009’s less-than-wonderful Light Years / Dark Days. Their performance at B&S is as if they’ve never been away though. Playing songs from right across their life-span, Gruff Rhys and co. are right on the money.’God, Show Me Magic’, ‘Drawing Rings Around The World’ and ‘Mountain People’, not to mention the Power Ranger masks, yeti costumes, theatrics and a brilliant ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ are all present to ensure their place in State’s heart for years to come.

Sunday, as ever, is Sunday. With nowhere to celebrate mass, we instead celebrate the masses and it’s off into the fray for another gawk at the weirdos and hard-core crustys who have made Ballinlough Castle home for the weekend. They may have been slow to life on the last day, but like the sun they came out shining. Five minutes before Kiasmos were due on stage there were about 50 people in the tent but like a warm, electronic tractor beam, the tent was wedged long before the beautiful palms-up peak. Infectious to look at, Arnalds and Rasmussen bob around their desk, expertly pulling together the parts of one of last year’s best albums, plus some newer tracks. It heats up, then it fizzes as our grinning friends all gather at the tent-pole we have agreed to meet at, heads bobbing, arms reaching up. It’s daytime outside but as they finally reach the midnight-peak of ‘Bent’ you wouldn’t trade your spot in here for anywhere in the world. Skyscraping happiness in through the ears to the heart and the grinning muscles. The ridiculously soulful Nightmares on Wax are also here somewhere and, unlike State – we’ll freely admit, are showing no signs of fatigue. George Evelyn has been doing this for over 25 years and looks as if he’s still finding new things to be delighted about as his bleepy, staggered techno diffuses the threat of rain above our heads. A short enough set, by his own standards, but definitely worth finding your way towards if you get the chance again. Anyway, off we go as it’s time again for a wander.

At the far of the Walled Garden in through the forest, is a sail-like canopy over the wanderlust stage. A perfect place to find a bench and sip a beer. We found this moment of calm when seeking out Ambience Affair. So assured, and moved beyond ambient, there’s proper weight in the songs – enough to glue us to our seat. They are still calming – maybe there’s some melancholy in there (or it could be our day-three fear) – but whatever it is they plucked the right heartstrings, and looked up and out and strong from the small stage. It was like they understood this afternoon and this garden and that was worth its weight in gold. Tasked with the job of closing the festival proper, Leftfield make no mistake in showing that they are more than capable. Hidden from view for the most part, the band are literally being begged not to leave as the curfew rolls around. Their apologies only serving to increase the demand. They want it, the crowd wants it but it isn’t to be. Leave them wanting more, the adage goes, and no more prevalent than in instances like this. We’re spent, emotional and severely satisfied with the goings on this weekend, and perhaps gluttons for the punishing regime of festival life, but we’re safe in the knowledge that State will be here again next time around. And the time after that, and after that. We’d be foolish not to.

Additional reporting by Simon Roche.

Body & Soul photographed for State by Leah Carroll

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And So I Watch You From Afar – Mandela Hall, Belfast - And so I watch you from a-near Wed, 24 Jun 2015 14:44:55 +0000 It’s always pleasing when a firm State favourite has found success with so much ease, and with And So I Watch You From Afar, this is most certainly the case and deservedly so.  Having embarked on an extensive and exhaustive tour that included U.S. and European appearances, the North Coast noiseniks have made their triumphant return to home-soil for two shows that are billed as their only Irish dates this year.  Heading along to catch them in The Mandela Hall, we’re safe in the knowledge that this will be a special, if not emotional, experience for band and audience.

Before they step on stage, we’re exposed to Skymas; a sort-of The Prodigy-esque mixed bag of bass guitar, beats and pseudo-political histrionics that grate the ears.  It’s a multi-sensory experience, don’t get us wrong.  The eyes are also subject to a smorgasbord of bizarre stimuli – at once we’re seeing frontman Martin Corrigan’s sweeping arms and celebratory fist-bumps that bring to mind the stage tactics of a magician hyping the crowd, then a repulsive, mutating animation on stage-side screens that is both fascinating and terrifying.  Unfortunately, aside from the macabre cartoons on offer, the best thing preceding ASIWYFA is when Clark’s ‘Tooth Moves’ is played as the band have their technicians set-up.

Still, we’re only here for one reason and that’s to bask in the complex math-rock arrangements of one of the most unique and hard-working bands ever to emerge from this island.  Soon, we’re surrounded by a crowd that fills the venue to capacity and our ears ablaze with whoops and hollers, we’re sure it’s time for our main act.  They emerge, confident captains of their industry to applause and launch whole-heartedly into ‘Run Home’, ensuring that each and every patron is awed and agog at the technicality they bring to their compositions.  Of course, the evening quickly becomes an exercise of virtuosity and sweaty instrumental interplay and we couldn’t be happier.  This is what it’s all about and the fact that it’s a homecoming really ramps up the enthusiasm on both sides of the stage divider.

Rory’s engagement with the audience is peppered with heartfelt sentiment, and he’s talking to us like we’re old friends who’ve been there from the beginning.  It’s obvious many of us have and we’re treated to renditions of ‘7 Billion People All Alive At Once’, ‘A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor’ and an especially commanding version of ‘These Secret Things I Know’ where Ewen (Rory’s younger sibling) joins the brigade of vocals to deliver an outstandingly hard-hitting performance.  Heirs, is of course, the focus of tonight’s show and it’s no wonder considering ASIWYFA have just conquered half of the planet off of the back of it.  Though, there’s little complaining from the full-house who are chanting along to all aspects of tonight’s show regardless of the sparse use of vocals.

As a unit, ASIWYFA are incredibly tight.  Chris Wee’s drumming is furious in its perfection, the duelling guitars from Kennedy and Friers are thoughtfully reliant on octave switching to put their point across and the bass playing is strong with Jonathan Adger standing steadfast for the most part and letting the rhythmic pounding do the talking.  It’s infectious too, seeing the guys take so much enjoyment from each others input to the performance and the energy remains high until the encore.  Sliding off and on stage with swift grace, ASIWYFA return to melt our faces and close on ‘The Voiceless.’  Voiceless they aren’t, for Rory proceeds to thank everybody and anybody that has done them a solid over the past few years and it’s heartwarming to see the genuine gratitude and excitement brought about by the support from fans, families and friends of ASIWYFA.

State are exhausted, drained and extremely satisfied with ASIWYFA’s glorious return to their native stage, but can’t help think that surely this can’t be it for 2015.  It would be a tragedy if it truly was.

And So I Watch You From Afar photographed for State by Kieran Frost

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Mogwai – Olympia Theatre, Dublin - Shutting up and playing the ‘hits’ Mon, 22 Jun 2015 10:46:07 +0000 As his off-stage persona and interview candour suggests, Stuart Braithwaite doesn’t waste his words – indeed, tonight under the roof of the Olympia Theatre, he will barely acknowledge his band’s 20th anniversary and instead offer sincere thanks after almost every song. He is as economical with his words as Mogwai are with their time. Though one punter in State’s earshot expresses mild outrage when Braithwaite teases the curtain call after sixty minutes, it would be churlish to feel short-changed after a busy hour peppered with select cuts from all but one of their eight studio albums. Hell, Braithwaite even briefly morphs into a Scottish Brian Molko for a handful of minutes as he steps up to the mic on the Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1. EP’s blistering ‘Teenage Exorcists’.

Mostly, however, Mogwai shut up and play the ‘hits’. ‘Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home’ opens, snaking its way around the room with hypnotic guile, the calm before an eventual storm that will register as the loudest thing these ears have ever heard live, and they were present when Portishead shook the earth in Stradbally with ‘Machine Gun’ last year. The peak of this noise comes in the middle of ‘Remurdered’ as the giallo soundtrack-worthy synth notes swell so high you wonder if something will give.

Everything stays in place. Tonight’s path is a steady, perfectly-plotted ascent. ‘Killing All The Flies’, ‘Friend Of The Night’ and ‘Christmas Steps’ guide the way, a sense of portent eventually giving way to deep guitar stabs. Braithwaite, as ever onstage, is fascinating to watch, swaying and hunching like he’s been taken over by some greater force of will. He’s good with the odd joke, too. “That’s the first night we’ve ever played three fast songs in a row,” he notes after a hellacious run of ‘San Pedro’, ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’ and the aforementioned ‘Teenage Exorcists’. “Apologies, it will never happen again,” he dryly offers. Before all that, a breathtaking ‘Auto Rock’ threatens to reach out and touch the sky itself.

It’s a strange crowd tonight, alternatively lairy with the requisite whoops, hollers, the odd heckle and the dreaded refrain of ‘one more tune’ yet respectful to the point of solemnity during key hushed moments. Once or twice, the roars from those gathered are as loud as the cacophony emanating from up above. There’s a genuine feeling of awe as the night progresses, the belief that Mogwai can achieve literally anything. Their sonic attack is an unflinching machine. When you think it won’t, it will. When you think it can’t, it does. Each new effort scales a higher peak than the one before it.

‘We’re No Here’ prefaces an encore of ‘How To Be A Werewolf’ and the mesmerising ‘My Father, My King’, a truly epic sign-off that uses repetition as a brutal weapon, swinging and pounding relentlessly, the perfect soundtrack for an imagined scrap between Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Yndi Halda. As State exits onto the street, the closing crunch of distortion and feedback follows, the bright lights, speeding traffic and voices in the distance unable to steal attention. Fitting. Mogwai’s wall of glorious, expertly-crafted noise has expanded admirably over the past two decades. Long may it stand tall.

Mogwai photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko

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Beck – Kilmainham, Dublin - "This is indeed where IT is AT..." Thu, 18 Jun 2015 22:41:47 +0000 On evenings like this it’s easy to be an outdoors music lover. Warm weather, mud free and firm footings, civilized and discerning punters, queue free bars and loos, plus two stellar names of the rock music hierarchy on the bill to entertain us in Kilmainham’s colonial splendour. That brewer of Danish dishwater doesn’t do music festivals but if they did……

First up tonight is that wunderkind of indie guitar heroes, Jonny Greenwood. Outside of his regular 9 to 5 with Radiohead, Jonny has been moonlighting as a writer of movie soundtracks as well as Composer in Residence for the BBC Concert Orchestra. And, it’s this hat Greenwood’s wearing tonight as he, along with the assistance of the London Contemporary Orchestra, delivers a set comprising of the work of other composers as well as his own. Jonny, his ever-luscious silken locks veiling his face, opens with his sitar; exotically droning, resonating and resting lightly on the summer breeze as he opens up proceedings with his self composed ‘Miniture’. Reich’s ‘Electric Counterpoint’ sees him rocking the guitar in a neo-classical minimalist style and this is as close as we’re going to get to seeing any rock shenanigans out of the man tonight. Some folks may be disappointed with this but the gig does what it says on the tin – it’s contemporary classicism, baby – get over it.

Performances like this are usually constrained to the dusty environs of establishments like the NCH so it’s an interesting and brave move to host this outdoors and in a traditional rock setting. It’s an experiment that mostly pays off. Some of the subtleties of the pieces are invariably lost in these unfamiliar surroundings, their fleeting and haunting beauty too fragile to survive the void between stage and audience. However, the sensory juxtaposition of listening to dissonant neo-classical music whilst also enjoying the waft of fried onions drifting over from the burger vans is strangely satisfying.

Kilmainham is basking in the evening sun as Beck takes to the stage with ‘Devils Haircut’. Fresh-in from Tuesday’s show in Cork and testifying to the restorative powers of Dun Laoghaire’s Teddy’s Ice Cream, he slithers and sallies his way across the stage, busting snake-hipped moves as he effortlessly powers thorough a career-spanning and audience-pleasing set. Slicker than an oil spillage, he flits from ‘Think I’m in Love’ to Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ then straight into ‘The New Pollution’ without missing a beat.

Suitably, the sun is offering us its last when Beck hits us with ‘Blue Moon’. Dublin’s Summer sunset providing the perfect backdrop for this warm, dusty sounding modern day classic from last year’s Morning Phase. ‘Heart Is a Drum’ from the same album, also gets an airing. In a career of many highs, Beck’s current work more than holds its own with its older siblings tonight.

We hit a bit of a lull with a flat rendition of ‘Lost Cause’ from Sea Changes but we’re only in the doldrums for a few moments as Beck works through the gears again to bring us back up to speed. After a deliriously raucous ‘Loser’ and the seemingly endless riff of ‘E-Pro’, Beck brings the first act to a close and cordons off the front of the stage with some, no doubt dubiously acquired, Garda Crime Scene tape.

He then goes into full chameleon overdrive in the encore, covering 80’s classics as he introduces the members of the band, then not quite ready for the night’s closing track, he grabs his blues harp and launches into ‘One Foot In The Grave’. His inner dust-bowl farmer sated, Beck closes with ‘Where It’s At’ and this is indeed where IT was AT tonight. Bang on the curfew button of 22:30 and Mr. Hansen has left the building.

Beck has delivered a career spanning set with a genre jumping smorgasbord of styles. Every thing from lo-fi, to country, to hip-hop, to rootsy blues and pop is covered. What underpins and gives this seemingly mish-mash of sounds cohesion is his wit and intelligent song writing and, as I said at the beginning, if that Danish brewer did do festivals they’d be pretty near perfect but they’d also be serving Becks.

Beck photographed for State by Leah Carroll.

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Amanda Palmer – Limelight 1, Belfast - "A violent sort of caring that wrenches the tears from your eyes..." Wed, 17 Jun 2015 09:35:52 +0000 Much like public perception of Amanda Palmer herself, her return to Belfast is a mixture of sophisticated and brash from the start – the neatly lined chairs at odds with the voice from the merchandise area loudly proclaiming “if anyone has a question for Amanda we have a box here”. Questions are for later though, as she appears nonchalantly from the dressing room, only gradually noticed by the audience in a slow-motion Mexican wave of double takes. She’s strumming her ukulele as she promenades down the room and enters crowd territory of the aisle between seat rows when the strum gradually becomes Radiohead’s ‘Creep’. In case we weren’t sure we were allowed to, she tells us we can join in with the chorus that when sang triumphantly celebrates beautiful freaks like Palmer and her fans.

Sections are true wry cabaret, especially the ukulele parts. Soft whispers meet strident vocal blasts and eyebrows are often raised at the audience, eyebrows that tend to be more in control when she’s seated at her piano. As she admits herself though, anyone could learn ukulele in an hour so the extra effort it takes to play the piano is matched with the extra depth of emotion it takes to play those songs. Except, maybe, for ‘Bigger On The Inside’. It’s a strummer, and raises the question if it’s the words or music that makes Amanda Palmer… Amanda Palmer. We’re sure it’s a mixture of both, and if one is lost, then you have nothing. No-one will display emotion at this two-chord extended edit. Until you realise that the sing-song sameyness doesn’t stop you caring about the French child in the lyrics, a violent sort of caring that wrenches the tears from your eyes.

And this is the beauty of Palmer. There’s the unmistakably sexual inhalations before she starts a song. There’s the more than perfect hair, a delicate gold gown covered with an evening jacket. There’s the splayed legs behind the piano, splayed because they have to be, but do they have to be quite so outstretched, cheekbones so icy-sharp and facial expressions so wild? But the living cartoon that she sometimes appears to be – and her performances thrive on this – can also make us feel. A comical ‘Vegemite’ segues into ‘Bed Song’ and all humour is sucked from us. It’s this command of emotions and desire to be heard, presumably, that led to the next string on Palmer’s bow: writing a book. Technically, this is the last show of her The Art Of Asking book tour. But as her merch stall has sold out of books and it emerges that no bookshops in Belfast stock it, focus on the book has ultimately drifted. She brings it back with what we expect to be a cursory mention of the book, a rote reading. A member of the audience blindly picks a page and when Palmer begins to read we wonder if the page was somehow marked because it’s so perfect. A tale of vomiting, abortion regret and husband Neil Gaiman’s childhood.

A gig wouldn’t be a gig without a nod to the future though. This includes a respectful mention for Palmer’s pregnant belly, which limits future plans excitingly. Before baby appears though, plans involve supporting Morrissey and gently mocking him in a kindly, musical way. The main plan that shows there will be music after baby though, revolves around Patreon. Palmer’s previous success with Kickstarter for the Theatre Is Evil album – has led her to set up the platform, in which your financial support gets you free music for life.

The show finishes with ‘Ukulele Anthem’ which is, unsurprisingly, an anthem for the knitters, the ad lovers, the outside-the-boxers. It reminds us – if the rest of the show hadn’t already, which given the pin-drop silence and the hands brushing tears away from eyes it seems it has – that if we’d wondered if we’d outgrown the artist we needed as a teen we can brush that worry away. We’ve grown with Palmer and she’s returned the favour.

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Television — The Academy, Dublin - Why can't all TV be this good? Mon, 15 Jun 2015 20:36:48 +0000 Patti Smith and Television in the space of 10 days, plus Blondie at last year’s Electric Picnic, ostensibly we’re having some kind of CBGB revival. Maybe we’re not, but we’ll take the legendary venue’s most famous acts any time they want to play here regardless. Tom Verlaine and co. are the latest of the ’70s New York stalwarts to play here and provide us with a timely reminder of just how potent punk music can be when look beyond the aggressive, spitting-venom incarnation which seems to make up the prevalent idea of the genre.

Closer to Talking Heads than the Ramones, Television’s intricate arrangements and playing style tonight, as it does every night, veers from jazzy, classical unity to the all-out madness of a garage band rehearsal. A sloppy enough start as the band tune up, give out and eventually get going. ‘Prove It’ is the first to track to really hit home with Verlaine’s pained yelp of a vocal delivery sounding as vibrant as ever. What appears to be a failed attempt to end a hitherto tight ‘Friction’ results in a jam which, rather than detract from the song, improves it immeasurably. Verlaine and the band’s newish (relatively speaking) guitarist Jimmy Rip swapping roles throughout as the song rattles from phrase to phrase with seemingly no end in sight. Believe it or not this is actually riveting stuff, rarely can a band sound so bright and punchy while sounding on the verge of losing it completely.

‘Marquee Moon’ is the inevitable star of the show, however, as the unmistakable guitar part strikes up. There’s a muted cheer from the crowd who probably see such displays as the most un-punk thing in the world. It doesn’t matter, it’s an electrifying intro on record and here, in the flesh, it’s enough to make a grown man – lot’s of grown men – giddy.

An quick break heralds an encore that nobody wants to see end. There is so much life in these songs that you could almost imagine the crowd lapping up the same set twice in a row. Some tasty little drum solos from Billy Ficca – in all seriousness, he didn’t look like he was capable after bouncing his way through the set with with utter disregard for form, now THIS is punk – tie the night together and if this doesn’t put the modern upstarts to shame then they have no right to call themselves musicians. It doesn’t have to be shite to be punk, it can be clever, melodic, simple, intricate, high-fallutin’ and deep. It can be anything you want it to be, but whatever it is, it better be as good as Television.


Television photographed for State by Leah Carroll

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