Anglesey

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A little adventure, 19/08/16 to 21/08/16.

North Wales has become something of an annual August pilgrimage now. Didn’t actually take many pics of note (mainly because I’ve taken bundles before) and because the weather was, frankly, a bit crap.

But it was a chance to visit Anglesey for the first time, which was as beautiful as you would expect, and where the clouds cleared just long enough for a nice shot.

BoomTown Fair 2016

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A little adventure, 11/08/16 to 14/08/16.

My second year at BoomTown (year one ici), made all the sweeter by the fact, A. I was/am covering it, and B. I didn’t have my wallet nicked on the first night.

Musical highlights; Ozric Tentacles, Les Yeux D’la Tête, Craig Charles, The Destroyers, The Orb, The Correspondents, Alfresco Disco, Leftfield.

Honourable mention to the amazing rockabilly band we saw on some tiny little outdoor stage in Chinatown who totally blew us away in the 15 minutes we were there. Just wish I could remember their name…

Other highlights; Losing the plot while throwing some shapes at Robotika, Tribe of Frog and before the amazing Bang Hai Palace, meeting and getting a random polaroid with George the Festival Horse (with a special shout out to the chap who gave me his pair of kaleidoscopic glasses which utterly changed my life during Leftfield’s set), seeing justice dispensed in Wild West, and just because he was so good he deserves mentioning twice; CRAIG CHARLES. I mean, he even did a mash up of Man of Constant Sorrow. ‘Dat Rockt.

Anyhoo, here are just a few of the best pics I took during the weekend. I’m no photographer, but I was chuffed with a few of these.

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Top Oh Dear

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Okay, that’s official the worst headline I’ve ever written. But nevermind.

This week, me, and my Get Surrey colleagues Michael Pearson and Georgina Townshend, were revealed as the new hosts of Top Gear.

Yes, really.

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Well, actually, no – not really. Let me explain.

Top Gear has long been shot at Dunsfold Park, just a few minutes drive down the road from our office in Guildford. We loosely cover developments on the show, particlarly filming of the new-look shot post Clarkson, Hammond and May.

And after a bit of badgering, the team down at Dunsfold Park were kind enough to invite us down to experience a bit of the Top Gear magic for ourselves, namely, an Ariel Atom driving experience for Michael while Georgie went out for a spin with The Stig.

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Me? Well the honour fell to me to set a laptime on behalf of Get Surrey and become, for one lap only, the star in a reasonably priced car.

On what Clarkson and co might call a ‘mildly moist’ track, my instructor guided me round a practice lap in the track’s Kia Cee’d and with just that single lap under my belt, I gave it the beans.

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The result – a stirling, dare I say it so myself, 1:52:17 on what my instructor later upgrated to a ‘very wet’ track. Not bad, not bad at all.

Get Surrey; slower than Jonathan Ross and Nick Robinson, but faster than Louie Spence. Bonza.

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You can watch Get Surrey’s full episode of Top Gear here.

Guitardead

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Remember when the Arctic Monkeys came along and ‘saved’ guitar music back in 2005?

No, me neither. In fact, I don’t recall there being a time, certainly in the early 00s, when it was ever in need of a saviour, especially after it allegedly was ‘saved’ only a few years earlier by The Libertines.

I distinctly recall going to my Nan’s after school twice a week (she had Sky) and watching a seemingly endless conveyor belt of great guitar bands come and go.

Kinesis, Hell Is For Heroes, Nine Black Alps, Brand New, Yourcodenameis:Milo, Serafin, Cave In, Amplifier, Oceansize, The Datsuns, InMe, Grand Volume, Idlewild, Million Dead, Slaves To Gravity, The Music, Death From Above 1979, Pure Reason Revolution, Zico Chain, Secret Machines, Sucioperro, The Vines. To name but a few of my favourites.

Hell, I’ll even chuck bands like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Interpol, Editors, The Strokes, Kings Of Leon and The Sunshine Underground in the mix too, at the more commercially acceptable end of the spectrum in that ‘alt-indie’ grey area.

These were halcyon times. Two hours of MTV2 followed by Gonzo, before Zane Lowe became an insufferable sycophant, skivving off school of an afternoon to skim through albums I had literally no money for at Martian Records in Taunton (sadly now gone). I saw Million Dead perform an acoustic set there once. Oh what happened to you Frank Turner?

But with the benefit of hindsight, you’d be forgiven for thinking the guitar, at least in mainstream circles, had been outlawed until Doherty, Barât, Turner and co got their mitts on one.

For all the column inches devoted to the Arctic Monkeys, they expertly rode the crest of an extremely popular wave, fuelled by the growth of social media. Their transition from My Space to Twitter and Facebook came at precisely the right time. Suddenly, they commanded an audience unlike any before – one (literally) at their fingertips. It’s hard to overstate the effect social media had on music at that time. It was seismic.

Sadly, for all those acts that came before though, they created a scene that was doomed, not to failure, but to obscurity.

There were flashes. Get Free by The Vines was massive. So was Take The Long Road by The Music and Gloria by Brand New.

I recall reading NME around that time too, blithely waxing and waning as popular opinion shifted. That said, had it not been for NME (even in spite of its endless Libertines cover features), I would never have discovered just about my favourite band of all time – Amplifier. It’s remarkable in retrospect they even got the half column they did in some end of year ‘riff round-up’. The song was The Consultancy if you were wondering. Go listen to it. It sounds like a guitar turning itself inside out.

Nostalgia’s an unhealthy obsession, especially when you’re still only in your mid-20s, but hearing Crushed Like Fruit by InMe will always transport me back to my Nan’s living room.

Actually, guitar music is still going great guns right now. 10 years later, the mantle has been assumed by Arcane Roots, Baroness, Marmozets, Battles, Black Peaks, Brontide, Future Of The Left, Drenge, Wolf Alice, Foals, Royal Blood, Vennart, Pulled Apart By Horses, Tame Impala, Turbowolf. Go. Listen. Devour.

Here are nine great songs from a sadly forgotten era:

Kinesis – This Dead End (2003)
Unmistakably influenced by Matt Bellamy of Muse’s guitar histrionics, This Dead End is over-the-top in every way, from the absolutely filthy distortion on the guitars to the ridiculous solo and enormous chorus.

Idlewild – A Modern Way Of Letting Go (2002)
Two and a half minutes of sheer unrelenting fury, propelled by a riff that could splice through universes. Very much a song to listen to first thing in the morning.

The Music – The Dance (2002)
The Dance sets the tone for The Music’s self-titled debut. Swirling, psychedelic waves of guitar build and build and build into rhythmic motifs thanks to one of the tightest rhythm sections you’ll ever hear. Oh, and the ending is somewhere approaching what I’d expect the end of the world to sound like.

InMe – Underdose (2003)
Another band clearly influenced by Origin-era Muse, Underdose is built around a simple riff that is as jaunty as it is buccaneering, while a then teenage Dave McPherson switches effortlessly from his impossibly deep teenage roar to cut-glass falsetto.

Secret Machines – First Wave Intact (2004)
I saw Secret Machines on a boat in Bristol. They closed with this track. A 10-minute twisted mélange of blues, rock and roll and psychedelia. For a song with just one distinct beat or groove, 10 minutes has never felt so short. We couldn’t stop idly strumming that very beat for weeks.

Cave In – Anchor (2003)
Like the aforementioned A Modern Way Of Letting Go by Idlewild, Anchor is a three-minute relentless assault on the senses. There is no break, no let up, no flab. Just a barely contained wall of noise with a chorus to die for.

Nine Black Alps – Not Everyone (2005)
It had to be this or Ironside. Not Everyone though features Nine Black Alps singer Sam Forrest at his most ferocious. With more than a nod to Nirvana, Not Everyone channels the angst of every 20-something outcast.

Amplifier – The Consultancy (2004)
This is by no means my favourite Amplifier song – but it is the song that perhaps had the greatest impact on my taste in music at the time. I was a huge Muse fan back then (when they were at their peak) but The Consultancy was the first song I heard around that time that gave me the same thrill as when I first heard the riff in New Born. It was just SO big.

Oceansize – Catalyst (2003)
Again, by no means my favourite Oceansize song. However, when those squally wails of guitar give way to that interlocking riff (which pans left to right if you listen to it on headphones) and finally explodes into another cataclysmic riff, Catalyst becomes simply mesmerising.

And another six from right now:

Marmozets – Born Young And Free
Arcane Roots – Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected
Wolf Alice – You’re A Germ
Black Peaks – Set In Stone
Drenge – Running Wild
Brontide – Knives

See EU later

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Today, a lot of people are saying they’ve ‘got their country back’; I really can’t help but feel that I’ve lost mine.

On Thursday, the UK voted by a small majority to leave the European Union. The final result was around 52% to 48% in favour of leave.

The leave vote was mainly concentrated among older generations. The ‘youth’, myself included, voted to remain. <insert Steve Buscemi ‘kids’ meme here>.

I’ve long said I identify first and foremost as someone from Somerset. I’m proud of my county, its culture, heritage and parochial chutzpah. Oh, and the cider.

But that only goes so far. Beyond our borders, I am not an Englishman or a Brit, I am a European, I identify as a citizen of Europe.

The EU is a remarkable union, the biggest and most successful political and economic union the world has ever seen, one that has largely ensured peace in Europe for more than 70 years.

Of course, it’s not perfect; nothing is. But I feel the frustration that has led to this decision has been misdirected. People went to the polls yesterday to give politics (and politicians) a kicking. I don’t blame them.

But the EU was the wrong target for this frustration. The EU hasn’t ground the NHS into the dust. The EU hasn’t failed to build sufficient housing to meet demand and the new schools we need. The EU didn’t fail to chase corrupt firms for their billions in unpaid taxes (which, you know, could have fixed the NHS in a heartbeat). The EU hasn’t persisted with a voting system where millions of votes are, in essence, worthless. The ills this country bear are firmly rooted in Westminster, at the very heart of our parliamentary democracy, not Brussels.

I’m 27. Just. It is my generation who will live with the consequences of this vote, a vote which was decided by two generations unlikely to feel the shockwaves.

Generation millenial will live longer than any generation to date. We will retire later than any generation to date – and we will pay the most to support, sustain and care for the generation that sealed this vote.

Today, I feel bereft.

There is one positive though. Thursday was the day the ‘youth’ of this country woke up and sent a very clear message to our government. Some 70% of young people voted to remain in the EU, a huge (albeit ultimately worthless) mandate and one future governments will need to be wary of – and will need to appease.

We are the future of this country, and we did not vote for this.

UPDATE (3.30pm): These two quotes have been doing the rounds today in various think-pieces and on social media. I don’t know who said/wrote them, I don’t even know if they are attributable to a real person, but they sum up my feelings fairly succinctly.

“The younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.”

And…

“A generation given everything: free education, golden pensions, social mobility, have voted to strip my generation’s future.”

Note: I am sure there are many conscientous, forward-thinking, reasonable members of my parents’ baby boomer generation just as disappointed as I am with the result of the referendum. But the numbers stack up. Sorry.

Band of Skulls, The Boileroom

Jake Darling
Jake Darling

“This is the start of a new era,” says Band of Skulls frontman Russell Marsden.

It’s Thursday night at The Boileroom and Guildford’s getting loose. It feels like a Friday – this is going to be good.

Up on stage though, things are far from loose. Band of Skulls’ mercilessly tight grooves mingle with all the ferocity of Queens Of The Stone Age yet the simplicity of AC/DC.

Notes are never spare, stray or squandered, beats are as prickly as they punchy – “on point”, one might say.

It’s all the more remarkable then this is the very first night of Band of Skulls’ “new era”.

LP4 “By Default” drops on May 27 and tonight’s typically intimate, sweaty show at The Boileroom is, unsurprisingly, a sell-out.

This is a band both used to, and destined to continue, selling out considerably bigger venues, a band for whom critical acclaim was never lavished, but hard-earned – and richly deserved.

“We’re going to try and play as much as we can for you guys,” chimes Marsden, a broad smile on his face, only partially masked by his immaculately straight brown hair.

Jake Darling
Jake Darling

The band, completed by bassist Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward, visibly itch to cut straight to the new material they’re clearly so eager to share. They waste no time in doing so.

Title track of sorts, In Love by Default, builds slowly but logically from small flecks of reverb-soaked guitar to a thunderous, wailing refrain driven by Richardson’s yelps of “Yeah, Yeah, YEAH!”, The Boileroom all the while bathed in stark blue light.

Album opener Black Magic, by comparison, is a gloriously straight-forward affair, a bruising stomper and bona fide fan favourite in the making.

This is gutsy blues fare, picking up from where the likes of The Black Keys lost their way and Tame Impala deviated.

In total, the band air seven of By Default’s 12 tracks. The songs are rough, ready and raw, not yet weary from months on the road. Perhaps the most immediate of them is Killer, the first official release from By Default.

It’s a dirty number, propelled by Marsden and Richardson’s interlocking fretwork and a vitriolic chorus of “Killer, Killer, KILLER!”.

The crowd have done their homework though; they holler every word straight back at the band. One punter, meanwhile, repeatedly asks Richardson to marry him – he gets a smile and a raised fist in his direction.

Old favourites punctuate the band’s hour-long set. Ikwia gives Marsden a chance to show off his chops while Sweet Sour brings to mind Angus Young in all his schoolboy pomp.

Jake Darling
Jake Darling

2014’s “Himalayan” is represented by its eponymous title track and the gonzo Hoochie Coochie, an oh-so brief flashback to Wolfmother’s cocksure schtick.

Vocal duties flit between Marsden and Richardson, save for those rare moments when they come together in effortless harmony – to great effect.

Light of the Morning and Diamonds and Pearls bring the band’s main set to a ringing crescendo, the latter complete with one brave crowd surfer writhing atop the seething melée on the floor, steadying himself with a reassuring hand on the ceiling.

As ever, The Boileroom’s “encore problem” is as quaint and endearing as it is bemusing, if only because it makes such delightful mockery of the ludicrous idea an encore in 2016 is any more spontaneous than it is an expectation.

“We’d normally head out for a half [pint] and a fag,” quips Marsden. “But, you know, there’s no way out – so we’ll just play a couple more.”

First up is the aforementioned Killer, but the absolutely bonkers Asleep at the Wheel is a more fitting finale, its frequent and dramatic changes of tempo serving only to further accentuate Marsden’s bellowed refrain of “Cause where we are going is anyone’s guess!”.

With one final flurry of riffs, the trio are done. Marsden strides to the front of the stage and presses himself up against the barrier, proffering his guitar to the audience in recognition of their spirit.

One can only hope it has been as memorable a return for the band as it has been a welcome one for their flock.

James Chapple

Photos by Jake Darling.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 29/04/16.

Bowling For Soup, G Live

www.sophiegarrett.co.uk
www.sophiegarrett.co.uk

Good old Bowling For Soup, the Texan pop-punkers who just wouldn’t let 2002 go – and are still steadfastly refusing to do so if their latest How About Another Round? tour is anything to go by.

“I read an article recently that said pop-punk was DEAD,” muses frontman Jaret Reddick during the band’s typically playful show at Guildford’s G Live on Wednesday night (February 10).

He’s barely changed a jot since the band got together in the mid-90s, save for the paunch – that’s new: “I have to share the fat guy jokes with Chris [Burney, guitarist] now,” he jokes.

“Well we’re here to show pop-punk is NOT dead – it’s just on viagra,” roars Reddick mid-set, launching into a medley of classics from Blink 182, Green Day, New Found Glory and Jimmy Eat World, not to mention a full rendition of Fountains of Wayne mega-hit Stacy’s Mom.

The band’s high-octane show is, however, tempered throughout by their impeccable stage patter – and the fact they have a fully functioning bar up on stage with them.

Indeed, the whole show is set in their very own Ye Olde Soup Inn, complete with darts board and beer kegs that shoot flames 20ft into the air. Cerebral it is not, fun it most definitely is.

www.sophiegarrett.co.uk
www.sophiegarrett.co.uk

While it would be easy to dismiss the band’s puerile musings (expect knob jokes and fart gags) and childish antics (Reddick announces himself by belching into his microphone) as crass, it’s impossible to fault the band’s infectious enthusiasm and lust for performance.

The show has more than a whiff of cabaret about it, which is all-pervasive from opening act Lacey through compere MC Lars, who does his best to get the crowd onboard by rapping Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven (“who’s that rapping, who’s that rapping, who’s that rapping at my chamber door?” – you get the joke) and finally main support The Dollyrots.

The trio bound onstage with all the gusto you would expect of a band who have long been touring partners with the Bowling For Soup guys.

Almost completely hidden behind her faintly ridiculous over-sized bass guitar, diminutive singer Kelly Ogden yelps and wails like a banshee through the band’s short and sweet set alongside partner and guitarist Luis Cabezas.

Introducing a punked-up cover of Melanie’s Brand New Key, Odgen jokes: “In our country, this song is about sex – not farmyard machinery,” referring to The Wurzels’ classic “Combine Harvester” cover. It’s a remarkably acute reference, particularly for an American act.

They make a decent racket though, and even bring their young son River on for a quick word with the Guildford faithful. It’s that kind of show, although River is far more interested in licking the microphone than chatting with the audience.

www.sophiegarrett.co.uk
www.sophiegarrett.co.uk

After another slightly laboured stint by MC Lars, Bowling For Soup – Reddick, Burney, bassist Erik Chandler and drummer Gary Wiseman – take to the stage and tear into The Bitch Song, followed up by Emily – two of the bands biggest hits.

“I know we’re just two songs in, but would you agree Bowling For Soup are already the greatest band you have ever seen?” asks Reddick. G Live largely agrees.

Fan favourite Punk Rock 101 soon follows, sped up what feels like ten times, as does the band’s cover of SR-71’s 1985 and the aforementioned pop-punk medley.

They’re joined by The Dollyrots on Love Ya, Love Ya, Love Ya before closing out their main set with High School Never Ends, culminating in a slightly demented singalong as the crowd bellow the main riff back at them.

Rather than disappear back stage for a breather ahead of the customary encore, the band instead simply sidle over to their stage bar for a beer and a few shots.

“We’ve solved the encore,” claims Reddick, and he’s right, to an extent, as any Bowling For Soup fan worth their salt could tell you what was coming – a twin sucker-punch of Shut-Up And Smile followed by Girl All The Bad Guys Want, without a shadow of a doubt the band’s finest hour.

www.sophiegarrett.co.uk
www.sophiegarrett.co.uk

It would be churlish to call it an anticlimax in much the same way it would if you didn’t expect Wheatus, for instance, to close out their shows with Teenage Dirtbag.

The first note of Girl… alone sends everyone bananas. Writhing mosh pits seethe with sweaty, smiling Guildfordians while the pyrotechnics lick at the rafters.

It may well have been the finale everyone was expecting, but it’s nonetheless absolutely the right one.

Not much has changed about Bowling For Soup since they rode the wave that was pop-punk the best part of 15 years ago.

They’re fiercely proud of their Texan roots and it’s heartwarming to see the band met with such affection, albeit despite not quite managing to sell-out G Live tonight.

Bowling For Soup certainly achieve what they set out to show. Pop-punk is most definitely not dead; in fact, it doesn’t even need viagra yet.

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 11/02/16

Farewell Starman

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There really is a starman waiting in the sky now.

David Bowie died on Sunday aged 69. He had cancer.

The news was broken on Monday morning on Bowie’s official Facebook page and confirmed by his son Duncan on Twitter.

Already, hundreds of thousands have paid their respects. Millions more around the world will continue to do so in their own way.

Flowers have been laid outside Bowie’s old apartment in Berlin; outside his home in New York; there is even a street party planned tonight just a few hundreds yards away from where Bowie grew up in Brixton.

It comes just days after his 69th birthday, on which he released his 27th studio album Blackstar, and a fortnight after we lost another rock and roll legend – Lemmy – to cancer.

Wishing absolutely no disservice to Lemmy, Bowie was more than just a rock and roll legend. Bowie was simply without parallel.

He wasn’t just ahead of his time throughout his near 50-year career, he was effortlessly ahead of his time. He was utterly unique.

Even on Blackstar, which is every bit the mysterious, challenging, thought-provoking listen you would expect from Bowie, he was still pursuing what was zeitgeist.

Taking the title track alone, the shuffling, skittish, tribal beat is evocative of Thom Yorke; the tension wrought by the fusion of gnarled samples and swirling synths of Burial and Portishead; the otherworldly lyrics of Bowie himself on Space Oddity.

The point being Bowie’s music never suffered from not being of its time. You can hear its wax and wane as the 60s psychedelia flowed into the 70s pomp, via prog and glam, 80s new wave, dance and disco, 90s alternative rock and industrial before eventually winding up somewhere distinctly avant-garde.

It’s hardly surprising when you’ve dabbled in just about everything that could be considered ‘popular music’. And I am by no means a qualified enough Bowie fan to take you through his experiments with jazz and classical music.

I write this listening to Aladdin Sane. I don’t know why I picked Aladdin Sane. I could just as easily have chosen Ziggy Stardust, or Hunky Dory, or The Man Who Sold The World.

There is something chillingly discordant about the chorus, if you can call it that, of Aladdin Sane itself. It makes my hairs stand on end. I consider myself lucky there are probably 20 Bowie albums I still have a lifetime to digest.

Bowie was the soundtrack to many a formative summer holiday – still is in fact.

I was lucky enough to enjoy 20 years of long, hot, sultry summer days in France listening to Queen Bitch, Starman, Ziggy Stardust, The Bewlay Brothers, Changes, and so on.

Like my other great passion, food, music is evocative of memories and emotions I am otherwise unable to access any other way, particularly those associated with childhood. I’m sure many others feel the same.

That’s why I have very much enjoyed digesting other people’s experiences of Bowie. The Guardian, in particular, has done a terrific job today of curating a necessary ourpouring of collective grief and mourning.

Each and every one of these stories is special to just a handful of people, many just to individuals. Scale that for the hundreds of millions of people Bowie’s music has touched across the world and you begin to understand the enormity of his contribution to music and popular culture.

His long-time collaborator and producer Tony Visconti said this today, which I feel is a particularly fitting tribute.

“His death was no different from his life – a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be.

I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”

David Bowie was as much a cultural phenomenon as he was an enigma, and he remained so right to the very end. I have little doubt had he lived another 20 years we would be any the wiser.

Time takes another cigarette.