Tuesday, August 31, 2010

London to Leeds Festival

Catching one of the many regular National Express bus services to Leeds from London, I faced a four and a half hour trip, but considering the 14hr flights we have become accustom to, this was nothing. 

Arriving at Leeds Coach Station I experienced my first dumb tourist moment – got into a cab and told the driver where I needed to go. He said it’s not far so he would cut me deal, not turn on the meter and I could just pay 5 pounds. Well stupid me for agreeing to trust him because not only did he take me to the wrong hotel but the amount he charged me was much more that it should have been. Jerk.

Eventually go to the RIGHT hotel around 2pm, checked in and arranged to meet with Dan to head into the festival. For 17 pounds we got an unlimited bus pass that took us too and from Leeds Festival as much as we wished, bearing in mind that the last buses leave at 1am (something I forgot to factor in on my final night). 

Check points getting in to the festival were brief, only two in fact - one leading to the campsite that checked bags for glass bottles and our arms for wrist bands, and the latter heading into the festival grounds, supposedly checking bags and persons for any other grog. With the amount of people going though this section the searches were not thorough and almost every second person got drinks in. Brilliant – saved some dosh there!

Friday’s weather was pleasant, although the masses had prepared with wellies and raincoats on the off chance the sky would turn. The layout of the festival was well planned and getting from main stage to the other areas was a breeze. Bars were plenty as were the food outlets, offering a simular selection to Latitude with just as steep prices…but you get that at every festival.
Musically your options were
Leeds Mainstage – headline acts
NME/ Radio 1 stage
Dance/Lockup stage/ Cinema 

The Alternative stage – occasionally offering comedians and entertainment of the sort 

Festival Republic Stage – the company that runs many of the festivals over here
BBC introducing stage – supporting up and coming local talent. Many band who play here go on to play the bigger stages in a few more years

Festival fashions were a bit of a mixed bag. Many chicks seem to just layer things on to keep warm (side from the ones getting around in denim shorts) but still manage to look good. Guys on the other hand were less capable of pulling it off and trackies and hoodies were a popular option. I keep forgetting that on this side of the world most festivals are all ages – it makes for a more energetic crowed but also more immature and idiotic. Mainly referring to the cups of piss that get thrown through the crowd by little dick heads who think it’s funny. If your manning a spot for your favourite band and you have been there for hours – guys feel free to piss in a bottle and drop it, hey chicks would too if we could. But there is no need to throw it forward. You would see it hit someone and they would wipe the wetness and smell it – sometimes it was only cider and the look of relief on the faces was apparent. Either way I’m thankfully I never got hit.

We have been told the vibe is way different to Reading and of coarse everyone here says Leeds crowd is better - friendlier and more chilled out. I have to say the people were a lot of fun, very welcoming and easy going. I’ll get back to you on the vibe difference if I ever get to do Reading.

Enough dribble… now for the music…. (still on its way)
Bec Clark

After Hours - Piccadilly Party

The blogs from the festival itself are still on the way so for now Im just giving you guys a few vids...

Piccadilly party was a sick little DJ booth and dance floor that kept the campsite going until 6am. This little gem was located outside the festival grounds but right in near all the campers. Here is a peak at what it looked like...


Bec Clark

Sunday Night Riots

 Just a bit of footage from the final night at Leeds Festival. We had been warned about the Sunday night riots...

People lighting tents on fire, blowing up aerosol cans in the flames, ripping down other peoples tents (final bit of footage in the vid below, little hard to see) and just destroying everything in sight! A guy I met on the ride back to London who told me of a tent being set alight last year with someone still inside!

The first bit of footage is the only the start, it was still day light and things had already been burnt to the ground 

It was hectic and I have to say also a little scary at times. Walking around with my new camera around my neck a number of people even said to me they were surprised I lasted the whole night with that thing and hadn't been mugged for it.... shiiiiit

We even witnessed metal bins getting launched down massive hills, one of which hit some chick in the head. Our friends went to get medics because for the first 5 minutes she lay on the ground hardly moving. We think she was alright shortly after....


The Aftermath

Bec Clark

Fuji Rock to Tokyo: Scissoring the Sisters Part 1.

My feet are soaked, my raincoat is so wet it's no longer waterproof, as I stand at the foot hills of the Nigita mountain ranges patiently waiting for the Scissor Sisters to begin Fuji Rock Festival’s final performance. In an instance, the stage is alive as a multitude of lights dart across the natural arena, lighting up a 30ft backdrop of Mapplethorpe’s famous derriere. The opening and title track from the Scissor Sisters’ latest album Night WorK explodes into the crowd preparing us for some high energy and uber flamboyant entertainment. 

As I watch lead singer Jake Shears prance gregariously around the stage in nothing but his underpants, while vocalist Anna Matronic banters flirtatiously with the audience about boobs, butts, and blowjobs. I hesitate for a split second about the upcoming interview I have with them in Tokyo. However, that hesitation vanishes as the keys to ‘Laura’ kick in and the ten thousand Japanese punters in front of me start dancing. It seems the dance for the night is a synchronised Fuji Rock 2 step. Moving side to side and some more, I recognise other tracks from their debut album, Scissor Sisters; their break through songs ‘Take Your Mama’, and ‘Comfortably Numb’ are well received while Shears and Matronic paddle each other on stage. Soon after, I hear the song that introduced me to the Sisters, ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ from their sophomore album Ta-Da, and move out from under the trees to join the rest of the punters on lower ground. Embracing the rain and the Fuji Rock Mountain Spirits (as MGMT called it the night before), I take off my yellow plastic rain cap and give the Fuji Rock 2 step all I have. The set continues with Shears, Matronic, Del Marquis (Lead Guitar/Bass), Babydaddy (Multi-instrumentalist) and Randy Reel (Drums) all performing an enthralling and theatrical set. Finishing the night with ‘Invisible Light’ and ‘Filthy/Gorgeous’ the Scissor Sisters not only held the entire crowd in the rain at 12am, but kept them dancing until the early hours of the next morning.

As I prepare notes on the way to Tokyo, I start making comparisons between last night’s gig, and the previous time I saw the Scissor Sisters, closing Splendour in the Grass 2006. Personally I thought they were both great sets, and both great festivals; however it would be interesting to hear their opinions and experiences of the major festivals around the world. Having only sampled a handful of festivals worldwide, my conversation regarding the idiosyncrasies of the majors is somewhat limited. My favourite for all those who have visited Roskilde Festival is the common discussion of the liberal attitude of the Danes themselves. There is only one festival in the world where fence space is limited for peeing because it’s filled with blonde bombshells squatting, Calsberg in hand; or Australia’s Big Day Out where bogans feel empowered by removing their shirts to expose their sacred constellation tattoo. Being a punter who usually stays in a half strung tent it might be good to get an artist’s perspective on how the rest of the Fests roll. 


Fuji Rock 両者日 (Day Two)

Fuji Rock:  The Saga Continues 

With not many bands on my agenda for day two, I was able to slow the pace down, chill, and absorb the Fuji surroundings.  However, waking up in the early afternoon was a little too chilled and resulted in a frantic morning start.

So with a late start to the day, I was forced to sacrifice showers and cleanliness so I could run past the World Restaurant arena (where you can find an array of earthly delights from Jamaican Jerk Chicken, to a French Croque-monsieur) to grab the bare essentials for the day; First stop, The Karma bar for a couple of bloody marries; Second Stop, the favourite takoyaki stall for some Japanese Octopus Balls (but don’t let the name put you off... they are amazing). 

From there I jumped on the Dragondola, the world’s longest cable car, which took me to the mountain peaks of the Naeba resort.  On the nervous ride I had thrilling 360 degree views of the festival, and was welcomed by a Fuji Rocker screaming insanities at the car from aside the mountain.  At the top of the pristine peak lay a small stage called Silent Breeze, where DJ's spun ambient sounds while fire twirlers twirled, and Japanese hippies danced contently amongst the skies. After a quick beer and shuffle, I realised it was time to make my way back down the hill and head to the Red Marquee to catch the end of the 22-20s (which was so impressive it made me wish I saw the whole show).

With only a few hours to go until one of my Fuji Festival favourites, Roxy Music, I made my way to the Green Stage to watch Creedence Clearwater Revival’s, John Fogerty.  Strumming out some classic Creedence sing alongs, including Fortunate Sun, and Who’ll Stop The Rain, Fogerty also covered songs by Little Richard, and Roy Orbison.  Fogerty’s vibrant set (to my surprise) resulted in thousands of punters filling the mountains with muffled harmonies, while swinging each other from arm to arm.  

Next up on the Green Stage was one of the two bands that played a critical part in my decision to travel across the Pacific to Fuji Rock. Roxy Music played close to a 2 hour set, with a band and back up singers that filled the main stage.  Unfortunately for Brian Ferry, the audience was only half full, and dressed in industrial wet weather apparel to combat the pouring rain. They played over an hour of their hits from albums Avalon, Flesh + Blood, and Manifesto, with an abundance of monotonous 80’s sax solos, which lead to contemplations of bailing to the White Stage to catch the second half of Zac de la Rocha (Rage Against The Machine) and Jon Theodore’s (The Mars Volta) latest project One Day As A Lion. However, luckily for this Art Rocker want-to-be, the last 30 minutes contained exactly what I came for, with Ferry busting out hits such as Virginia Plain, Do The Strand, and Love Is the Drug, making up for the previous part of the set.

To finish the night I ventured over to watch the White Stage’s closing artist, MGMT.  This appeared not to be a unique choice, as it seemed the entirety of the festival was heading in the same direction creating a painfully slow bottleneck between the two stages.  Normally a 5 minute walk; it probably would have made more sense to put Brian on the White and MGMT on the Green, no?  Besides the torturous traffic jam, MGMT were looking the part with their retro 70s linen attire, and haircuts to match.  In comparison to the apathetic show I saw at Roskilde music festival in 2008, I thought they played an entertaining set.  All the essential tracks from Orcacular Spectacular sat nicely juxtaposed to the psych-pop singles featured on Congratulations; which Benjamin Goldwasser attributed to the “mountain spirits” of Fuji Rock.

 Even though the crowd was perceived to be predominantly Orcacular Spectacular fans, the band put on an awesome show playing a balanced variety of old and new.  The band finished the set with a sparkler infused rendition of ‘Kids’, and frontman Andrew VanWyngarden announcing Fuji Rock is MGMTs “favourite festival we’ve ever played”. 


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

London Continues To Grow On Me, This City Is Amazing.

Nights out have been interesting. Most pubs shut their doors at around eleven and you are immediately reminded you’re not in OZ. Once pubs are out of the equation, you are now left with a few bar/clubs. And heading into the city in the hope of finding an uber cool bar purely by chance has proven less than successful. Without local knowledge, my friend Lauren and I ended up at some horrible night club in Soho. As with most of the bars in this area it was a sausage sizzle but for all the wrong reasons. This wasn’t a gay bar and our only other idea of why the ladies’ to gents’ ratio was so messed up was that chicks KNOW to avoid this club.

Cracking on in search of a new venue resulted in us wandering past the many quirky sights and sounds of this vibrant city. People watching her is brilliant, the most unusual of characters are sure to appear and at night they really do seem to come out of the woodwork. This unsuccessful new venue hunt led us past a fire station, the doors were open and the pole was insight, clearly an invitation to sneak in and try and slide down this thing. Getting up to slide down was a non event – not in this state anyway. Surprisingly the firemen at the station didn’t kick us out and we even got a mini tour.

Tubes stop at midnight so getting home via busses or over priced Taxis are your only options. Safety says taxi but budget said bus. Bus we did. 

Portobello Rd markets are an absolute must if you are here on a Saturday. Offering everything from antiques, collectables, clothing (modern and vintage) to food, jewel and art, these markets are almost as good a Camden and are only 5 minutes walk from Notting Hill Gate Station (or 15 min from our hotel). The crowds are pretty massive but if you take your time, meandering at a leisurely pace you won’t find it too unbearable. The markets themselves run for several blocks and really do have some nice little bargains. I do however recommend taking a break and sitting down at one of the restaurants along the way. Soph and I chose to do one side, break for lunch, then tackle the next. Also along this road is a Cupcake store called Hummingbird that had been referred two us by a number of different people saying the Red Velvet is a must. It was crazy fluffy and really quite lush.

With its own little section, the Portobello Rd Art Markets were a highlight of our sojourn. Situated amongst a street art exhibition, many of the works had been painted by the art dealers who were selling copies or t-shirts of the works that are painted the wall

. I picked myself up a neat little canvas of this piece…. 

Saturday night I opted for a road trip to Portsmouth and a house party with friends. The combination of jet lag + booze resulted in me passing out and inevitably becoming a human canvas.  Just you wait Laura Bell, Just you wait!

If you haven’t been to London, let me warn you, the tubes can get really hot and stuffy, especially when you’re layered with clothing necessary for the dreary English weather. Battling the tubes with a killer hang over just didn’t appeal to me so I stayed another night out away from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke.  

On Sunday I headed to the famous Brick Lane with Soph to check out the many curry houses people rave about. On the weekends the street is apparently alive with Indian waiters hassling you for your business and offering some pretty sweet deals if you choose their restaurant. We were enticed by free drinks and extra entrées, the sign out the front saying ‘2009/2010 Curry Chef of the year’ may have also helped.  The food was rich with amazing flavours and was quite cheap for the amount you get. It was enough to keep you stuffed to the gills until dinner.

Further up Brick Lane the curry houses become fewer and vintage fashion shops, bars and art galleries take over street sides. The vibe at this end is a lot like Sydney’s Newtown and the OP shopping here is crazy. Taking a minor detour up Cheshire St we visited Beyond Retro – a vintage clothing store for men and women that is the size of a warehouse. This place was so big and so, so wicked, I was perplexed as to where to start. I will most defiantly be revisiting here before I leave. Snapping up a few bargains and knocking off some birthday shopping (for family back home) I have damaged my wallet and will be keeping quite low key for the next few days in London before LEEDS!!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Belakiss live @ "West Rocks" in Shepherd's bush

Belakiss are an edgy experimental rock band from north west London that I've been listening to for a while now. When I heard they were playing a club night just down the road in Shepherd's Bush I jumped at the chance to go see them perform live.  It was a great opportunity not only to listen to their set but also hear what they've been up to for the last two years since I saw them last.

They've had a distracting few months with a number of line up changes in the band (they lost previous guitarist Harry Appleby and have recently taken on new drummer Mark Wyss) but they're finally back on solid ground returning to the live gigging scene.

They have a very unique line up which consists of two front men, Ruari Meehan and Benjamin Sheldrick, who are supported by the harmonised vocal backings of bassist Tatia Starkey. Songwriting duties are largely shared between Rurari and Ben with Tatia also adding her influence into the music arrangement and compositions. While their sound harks back to experimental 70s rock their trilogy of unique styles really comes together well to form a forward thinking yet enjoyable listening experience.

Benjamin Sheldrick (left) Tatia Starkey (center) Rurari Meehan (right) and Mark Wyss (below)

Recently the band have gone back into songwriting mode and are currently workshopping a number of new tracks to be released. You can grab a sneak peak of their recent demo "Run Red" which is available on their Myspace page and Website. Their next scheduled performance is the 11th of September at the Wilmington Arms in London so add yourself to the band's Facebook group page so you can stay posted.

Check out the video below of Belakiss performing live last night!

Post, pictures and video by StereoDan

Shoreditch street art

So we've made it all the way to the other side of the world and are settled in London. There's been plenty of time to wander around and catch up with old friends. This time round I've decided to just go with the flow and not really try to plan things too much. I spent yesterday wandering around the streets of Shoreditch which is well known as an artistic hot spot. Plenty of fantastic street art to be seen and of course trendy fashion shops and uber cool bars and cafes.

Post by StereoDan

Friday, August 20, 2010

London Day 1

Sight seeing in London…Yeah OK so I cheated, took the easy way out and jumped on one of those open top bus tours, but at least I can say I have seen the main attractions. I know where everything is and I can use the rest of my time hear seeing and doing what I want to do. No more of that nagging obligation to see something just because it’s famous.

The bus tours are a pretty neat way of doing things. You pre pay for your ticket that cost 25pound, lasts for 24hrs and allows you to hop and off at any of the designated stops. You can see as much or as little as you like. With six different routes, some offering much more than others, it takes the better part of a day to get though everything. If you decide to get off and meander around for yourself, you’re looking and a really loooong day.

My day looked a little like this:

Marble Arch – Oxford St – Regent St – Piccadilly Circus and Eros Statue – Trafalgar Square – Big Ben – Houses of Parliament – London Eye – Justice Courts – St Pauls Cathedral –The Monument – London Bridge – HMAS Belfast – Tower Bridge – Tower of London – The Globe – Westminster Pier – Westminster Abbey – Buckingham Palace.

Change Routes

British Museum (were I got off, looked around and was lucky enough to see the Rosetta Stone – a ancient Egyptian slab of granite that pretty much became the key to interpreting ancient Hieroglyphics) – Albert Hall – Albert Memorial – Natural History Museum – Victoria and Albert Museum (had a look around again. Some works of Raphael including Christs Charge to Peter *below*...

...a Grace Kelly and fashion exhibition and a really schweeet modern design and style exhibition) – walk to Harrods for some shopping and ate lunch in their spectacular food halls – stroll through Hyde park – dinner with friends.

post by Bec Clark