Rachel Malloch picks her favourite tracks for the TT Playlist:
Rachel Malloch – @RachelVillavox
“Football and music, as vital to some as fresh air in our lungs and a healthy heartbeat! Following on from the impressive musical influences and choices of Sam Swann and Dom Roman, I was eager to lay down some of my own, a pick n’ mix of styles and genres from the festival years, a time when youthful exuberance, an ability to function without sleep or merely having the extra finances to spend on a weekend pitching up a tent in a vastly populated field surrounded by total strangers, inflated priced beer tents, food bars and stage platforms with NASA sized amps in search of new sounds from headliners who would disappoint against discovering some (then) obscure newcomers who would delight.
While some have gone onto conquer the music industry, others are still plying their melodic trade remaining under the mainstream radar, and one or two just waiting for that right place right time break. I’ve been to so many festivals over the years, from Reading monsters of rock, to Cambridge folk, an incongruous music event at Pendennis Castle Cornwall with the variance of Bjorn Again Abba tribute and ancient rhymes of The Medieval Baebes, Glastonbury, Cream Festival, a bonkers drum n’ bass event on Plymouth hoe, Beautiful Days, Chagstock, Britney at Brighton Pride, Birmingham, London, Newcastle………travelled far and wide around the UK to see them all. Stumbling on new sounds and artists though, that’s the satisfying bit”.
Cherry Ghost – Here come the Romans
Like a lot of music in life, very often it’s a band you stumble upon at a festival. And like all good bands that become firm favourites, there’s not a bad song in ‘em. I’ve seen Cherry Ghost several times, but the first chance meeting was at the Summer Sundae festival at Du Montford Hall in Leicester. Immediately struck by their catchy guitar hooks as much as I was struck by lead vocalist Simon Aldred’s lilting strength in vocals and their big sound orchestration. This is a peach of a song from the ‘Thirst for Romance‘ debut album. I’ve seen them several times since, festivals and locally at venues The Cavern and Phoenix, Exeter. 4 albums to date, I’m happy to see and hear them still going strong.
Howling Bells – Setting Sun
Another band arising from the Summer Sundae festival, a band whose members are all originally from Oz before relocating to London, and band fronted by the enchanting lead vocals and rhythm guitar of Juanita Stein. They continue to tour and more recently Stein has ventured into the solo artist world with an album in the pipeline. A heavy driving guitar sound, a sweet vocal and an example in point that you don’t have to make The Guardian top bands poll to be a corker band, Australian or otherwise!
Camera Obscura – Hey Lloyd I’m ready to be Heartbroken
A bold statement it may be, but I think this is one of the finest pop songs ever recorded. A Scottish band hailing from Glasgow, founded by the lady with the understated vocals and clever lyrical writing Tracyanne Campbell with melodic support from the stylish Carey Lander on backing vocals, keyboards and percussion, the 5 piece Camera Obscura were regulars on the festival circuit and smaller UK venues before the illness and untimely passing of Cary Lander halted their march and their creativity. Tracyanne and Danny Coughlan have recently recorded an album simplyas duo Tracyanne & Danny. I got to see Camera Obscura at the End of the Road festival Dorset, their set coincided with a warm sunny Saturday afternoon in early September. They looked stroppy as hell, and their mean, moody and mardy stance was mesmeric! I have followed their progress since, with echoes of the 1960 girl group sound and hints of early Blondie and much like Ms Harry in her heyday an effortless vocal style.
John Grant – Glacier
Another ‘stumbled upon’ artist, the End of the Road festival was all about getting to see Joan as Police Woman, but in the gothic botanical surroundings of a stage set next to a crumbling Victorian summerhouse appeared John Grant, with piano keyboard and a supporting band. We can all relate to 90 minutes of sheer unadulterated joy on a football pitch, this was that transposed to the stage, a bombardment of the senses, beautiful soaring vocals and angry bitter songs delivered so tenderly and empathically. The whole set was mesmeric, with songs so heartfelt and personal that not even 2 chaps sat nearby dressed as Clangers could distract. John Grant talks openly about his alcoholism, drug taking, being HIV positive, his troubled childhood and isolated religious upbringing in Colorado, hard-hitting songs vanquishing his demons delivered angelically. I’ve since seen him perform in Bristol, Bath and Exeter. Everybody needs his music in their life.
The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist
Indefinable. Indescribable. Their videos are incomprehensible. And like any Torquay United supporter, crazy and the coconut! I got to see their set at Victoria Park London, the Applecart Festival, and much like their more familiar peers Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx, these DJs from Australia produce a barrage of sound, sampling, hypnotic beats and some crazy visuals! A classic piece of lunacy for the senses!
Peggy Sue – Fossils
Another band I stopped to listen to while meandering around the Applecart Festival in London and whom I was immediately struck by their bluesy originality, their strength of vocals from the lead singer and guitarist and the rich harmonies by fellow guitarist. A 4-piece guitar driven band with thumping percussion, this track prompted me to grab a copy of cd Fossils and other Phantoms after their set, signed by lead singer Katy. As far as I know this Brighton-based band are still going strong.
BAD – E=MC2
The template to the Avalanches sound, certainly not new or upcoming when I saw them. Mick Jones had branched away from punk pioneering with the Clash and ventured into experimental pop with his concept Big Audio Dynamite and it all came together in this one track. I’m a Beautiful Days festival stalwart of 10 years and counting, I was there ostensibly for Primal Scream, so it was a real honour to see the Clash legend performing with his new band.
Joan as Police Woman – Eternal Flame
I’ve seen Joan Wasser and her incarnation Joan as Police Woman many, many times. Some artists remain a mainstay in the gig-going diary and this super talented New Yorker and her sound feels like a friend who never lets you down. Beautiful arrangements, quirky lyrics, velvet caramel latte vocals and multi-instrumental genius, easily the most hard-working musician in the business who tours relentlessly and clearly enjoys a strong fanbase following in the UK. My first encounter was at Du Montford Hall Summer Sundae Festival and the litmus paper was lit. Bristol, London, Exeter, Birmingham, I’ve put in some road trip air miles to see her and marvel at her greatness.
Public Service Broadcasting – Spitfire
Much like Big Audio Dynamite and The Avalanches, concept band PSB rely on a theme; be it war, the USA versus USSR space programme, the 1980s miner’s strike and social unrest, ground-breaking samples of newsreels from pathe, the bbc, overseas reports, with a layered facet of instruments, strong percussion, an industrial edge, heavy synthesiser and visual storytelling with a tijuana brass in the equation for good measure! The War Room an EP that includes this stunning track, to the triumphant Race for Space and Every Valley, most recently recording an EP inspired by the construction to tragedy of the Titanic on the White Star Liner album.
I attended the Oktoberfest beer festival at Exeter castle grounds and Public Service Broadcasting were present. I was initially only there for the beer but soon became enraptured by their sound and visual dynamics. I’ve since seen them at Beautiful Days, Exeter Cathedral and one of my all time favourite gigs at Boscombe 02, Bournemouth, a birthday gift (thanks Amy!) set in an old Victorian theatre that has been restored but has kept the art deco balconies and railings, a beautiful venue with amazing acoustic surrounding sound. PSB are continuing to plough a totally original furrow in pop/rock culture.
The Kaizens – Loser
I first saw the Kaizens as a support act to Toploader at the Palace Theatre, Paignton so while not in a festival setting, the premise of ‘stumbling upon’ applies. While I was never a huge Toploader fan, I saw they were playing locally and decided to grab a 2 for 1 deal from those lovely Palace Theatre folk. Cheap at half the price! In support, up stepped 4 lads, all floppy hair, amplifier feedback, full of enthusiasm and wide-eyed determination, thrashing guitars, addictive beats and a lead singer with the most beautiful soaraway vocal range and a timeless look reminiscent of late 80s indie bands the Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths. They impressed so much that I was disappointed when their 30 minutes set came to an end.
I’ve since seen them most recently at the B-Mad Festival Paignton in the ‘other’ tent and they were superb. Yellow by Coldplay may be a stalwart of cover songs by many but given the vocal strength of lead singer Tom and the musicianship of this young band, powerful stuff! There’s a nostalgic throw back sound to 90s Britpop guitar bands with an 80s new romantic edge, but with their own material comes refreshing originality too. Hypnotic percussion and some killer basslines from TT contributor Sam, there’s something reassuring about discovering The Kaizens; the fact that I can still tap into new exuberant music even at my age for starters. As sure as Torquay United will get back into the league these 4 lads will break into that Guardian Top 50 bands poll.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST..
Finally, nothing stumbling upon about these artists. The 2 moments in my festival lifetime that can still wash over me today, that warm nostalgia and appreciation of 2 performers, one being Amy Winehouse at Glastonbury 2007 at the height of her Back to Black pomp and angst, the vagaries of her addictions yet to completely overwhelm her, and a frail and aged Nina Simone propped up behind a piano at Bishopstock Exeter in 2000.
Nina Simone – Wild is the Wind
Bishopstock Festival, 2000; a now defunct festival that ran for a couple of years in the idyllic setting of Bishop’s Court in Clyst St Mary under the header of a Blues and Folk festival. When a work colleague offered complimentary tickets I couldn’t refuse. This short lived festival boasted artists as revered as Van Morrison, Peter Green, John Hammond, Mavis Staples, Steve Earl and ol’ Jools Holland with his band, it’s no wonder then that the local ambitious organisers sadly couldn’t sustain it. Nina tho, advancing years and in failing health, she still gave a powerful vocal performance and even found time to heckle the crowd, conducting us with an African fly swat! I still draw gasps of envy from friends when I say that I got to see Nina Simone. Age shall not wither a true legend of music and I still get an electric current of goose pimples whenever I reminisce her performance of this classic song. It has been performed since it’s 1950s release by everyone from David Bowie to Billy Mackenzie. This experience wasn’t a stumbled upon moment, more a never wanting it to end occurrence.
Amy Winehouse – Stronger than Me
Glastonbury, Friday 22nd June 2007 pyramid stage. A downpour had just subsided and as poetic as you’d hope for, the sun came out. Amy Winehouse appeared, trademark beehive, all self conscious smiles and glances at the crowd and her band then back at the crowd, a pint glass of what looked like red wine her prop. Undoubtedly she was merry on the vino, but this was La Winehouse in a good place, a happy lady, and this made us all feel relieved. So much media pulp had been abound that she was unreliable and could pull her appearance slot were dispelled. It was a power de force performance, pitch perfect vocal range, jovial, witty, some covers thrown in, the Frank album songs received as well as the clamour for her Back to Black songs.
This was for me momentous and a moment I was completely caught in. I still look back at that June afternoon at a muddy Glastonbury 13 years ago with a smile as big as Amy’s. While Nina Simone lived a 100 lives of anguish and addiction, she was a survivor. Amy Winehouse wasn’t to be so lucky. But this was a wonderful set performed to perfection by a quite incredible artist.