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The Windmill, Brixton
Good Friday, 14th April 2017
3pm till late

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Gig Review

Mikal Cronin, Laura J Martin, Richard Hawley, Father John Misty, Slow Club, Martin Carthy and more
No Direction Home, Sunday Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire

Article written by Various Writers - Jul 6, 2012

Father John Misty
As we shed layers with the appearance of the unfamiliar sun, I overhear people still grumbling about the “hello Sheffield” comment from Django Django on Friday (even though it’s less than 20 miles away, it’s another county/ culture/ civilisation). After an orgasmic organic ice cream, we see classically trained harpist Serafina Steer. She looks and sings like a princess but her songs are full of middle class banalities, a sort of Joanna Newsom scripted by Joanna Trollope. Sunday is Sheffield day with Nat Johnson and the Figureheads, who include Emma Kupa from Standard Fare on keyboards. Now that the sun’s out, there’s a dance-inducing buzz to the band as they hurtle through a bouncy set of classy indiepop that continues to prove there’s life after Monkey Swallows The Universe. Nat has a winning line in banter as well as shoes, although those dancing heels aren’t going to do her much good in the mudpit directly outside the tent.

Martin Carthy
Martin Carthy is 71 but acts 17, with his pirate earring and his easy chatter. He influenced Paul Simon and Bob Dylan and plays traditional folk in a vivid way, preceding each song with the story of how he found it and what it means. But it’s a labour of love for him and us as his style is informative and interpretive rather than didactic, bringing tunes alive as people’s music rather than mouldering in a museum of song. His interpretation of Adam McNaughtan’s ‘Oor Hamlet’ is both delivered brilliantly and in a way that would engage the most Shakespeare-phobic teenager. He was awarded an MBE in 1998, but he’s really a national treasure. And Father John Misty is shaping up to be an American one. Josh Tillman, sometime drummer with Fleet Foxes, is solo this time, playing his 70s rock-inspired songs but without any of the druggy solipsism that accompanied such performances in the 70s. He sings about -or rather sends up - musicians and ego without showing ego himself. And as he warms up, he gets funnier (usually at his own expense) and his songs work their way under your skin - 'Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings' being a highlight.

Slow Club
Not much fey folk but full-on folky pop from Charles and Rebecca of Slow Club, mainly because they’re a four piece, boosted by the presence of guitarist Steve Black, aka Sweet Baboo, who has already turned up once this weekend playing bass with Euros Childs. The bigger band format suits the original duo, giving Rebecca the freedom to play drums, guitar or just sing and to be the sort of manic frontwoman the band has always needed. It’s a lovely set and just hearing a Steve Black guitar solo ring out to introduce another frantic folk song dispels any memory that Slow Club were ever in the twee set. It probably seemed a good idea to pair the Unthanks with gold medal winners The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band but all it induces is a dreary wave of nostalgia. It starts on the wrong foot with a song about losing your racing pigeon and, though ‘The Trimdon Grange Disaster’ is moving, the whole show feels like the sort of ‘trapped folk’ that folk music had to escape from, like a preservation railway carefully maintained for posterity with lashings of authentic period grime. Did I say they were giving out free whippets…?

Richard Hawley
Richard Hawley is wheeled Cobain-style onto the stage with a broken leg and sits on a drum stool in front of his music notes (“these are my ‘Dumbo’s fucking feather’”, he growls, to explain their value) but it doesn't hinder him either playing or drinking (thanks to the ladies in the cider bus he’s able to quaff draughts of warm cider as he twangs an array of his handsome guitars). The opener ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ is dedicated as ever to “those bastards in Parliament” but he’s otherwise lyrically romantic; for a sweary-talking, hard-looking, grumpy-sounding teddy boy he’s really just a soppy Northern lad at heart, especially when talking about his wife. His songs are angry and passionate, and driven by a sense of nostalgia for music and community, with which the No Direction Home audience seem to be in perfect sympathy. (by Ged M)

Sunshine! The mud is baking and the atmosphere building nicely – after two days of rain you can almost hear the sighs of relief from the Great Unshowered as day three gets underway. There were a handful of Sunday day tickets made available via the Richard Hawley fanclub and it’s clear from the sudden surge in classy quiffs that this contingent have already started to arrive.

Cold Specks
Early on the Lake Stage is Cold Specks, aka Al Spx, whose soulful, powerful vocals enthral from start to finish. Blending gospel and goth blues around brooding arrangements, Spx and her impressive backing musicians do not disappoint. With a debut album entitled ‘I Predict a Graceful Expulsion’, you’d be forgiven for expecting an hour of strict seriousness but Spx isn’t immune to humour; at one point she treats us all to an amusing a cappella rendition of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme tune. Every song here has an emotional pull, but it’s when the band broaden their sonic palette as wide (or as aggressively) as possible such as on the slow-building, string-led ‘Winter Solstice’ or the booming ‘Steady’ that the truly stomach-twisting moments occur. Superb.

Time to celebrate one of the festival’s best moments so far; time to finally enjoy some sunshine; time for an Ice-cream.

The Wave Pictures are next up on the Lake Stage; these days their gigs are a whole other beast from the quirky-pop song displays of a few years back – now the tunes are beefier but far too often also victims of guitar solo madness. The guilty man (David Tattersall) is an absurdly gifted guitarist but his antics undermine all that’s charming about the band, with the lyrics especially being ill-suited to such prolonged self-indulgence. When they kindly respond to a request for ‘Long Island’ they thankfully remain faithful to the recorded version’s structure and as a result it’s the set’s highlight. How about restricting Tattersall to, say, two solos per show? Let the negotiations begin.

Another visit to the ice-cream vendor is the only sensible alternative and with such an expansive site there are plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the sunny afternoon away from the Tattersall noodling. As this seems to be the view shared by most revellers it doesn’t do The Crookes any favours, who arrive onstage to a sparsely populated Dust Bowl; however, they still get those in attendance dancing away in sweaty delight as the band serve up a thoroughly bouncy forty minutes of entertainment with their pleasant, jangly guitar-pop.

Time for a beer, and while yesterday’s Sheffield collection sadly disappeared too rapidly there are still a few Leeds barrels to enjoy (the scrumptious Best a definite highlight). The beer break was well timed as the affectation on display from Zulu Winter would prove too disturbing for a sober mind. The electro-indie Londoners have enjoyed a very successful year thus far but today they deliver almost nothing but triumphalism with suffocating intensity - five individuals desperately vying for the most attention at the expense of a cohesive band performance.

Laura J Martin
Across this weekend the Boathouse Stage (or the Flying Boat Society) has played host to a multitude of fascinating - and some downright odd - performers but has often been passed over in favour of what’s occurring on the other two stages. This couldn’t be allowed to continue; especially as Laura J Martin is next up and the pint-sized flutist is on dazzling form tonight. Seeing how Martin creates the likes of the beguiling ‘Fire Horse’ through a series of beats and flute loops is something from which no music fan should ever tire. Her rather theatrical delivery only adds to the playfulness of the tunes and therefore it’s great to see many children in the crowd looking so utterly engrossed; as an introduction to the world of music it’s the perfect variety - magical and fun.

Mikal Cronin
Broken bones must secure you an extra large rider or something - Richard Hawley performed tonight in a wheelchair with his leg in plaster and the bass player in Mikal Cronin’s band has just limped onto the Dust Bowl stage with his foot crudely wrapped in a makeshift bandage (he earlier crushed said foot with the corner of his bass amp). This is the last act of the Festival and it turns out to be the best finale anyone could’ve wished for. The likes of ‘Apathy’ and ‘Gone’, already great tunes, are given an extra injection of merriment in a live environment while Cronin’s vocals are more ardent throughout. They also find time to throw in a couple of great covers – Guided by Voices’ ‘Teenage FBI’ and Wreckless Eric’s ‘Whole Wide World’. The band’s guitarist is apparently making a mock-documentary of sorts and this, the climatic chapter, is supposed to end with a disastrous gig – he proceeds to ask a packed Dust Bowl to stop partying for a moment and jeer the band instead (while he films them). One band member tells the audience, rather unwisely, to “maybe throw things too”.... cue a torrent of crap landing on stage. A thrilling, loud, and hilarious end to No Direction Home #1. (by Pete W)

For more pictures of the festival, go here.


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Foxtails Brigade "Far Away and Long Ago"
North By North "Pistoletta"
Die Liga der gewöhnlichen Gentlemen "Nach dem Spiel"
Theatre Royal "The Days Grow Hotter"
Oliver Gottwald "Freunde fürs Leben"
Heart/Dancer "Outro"
Clowwns "Idiot Bouncing"
Double Denim "Wide Open"
Flout "Rainchecks"
The Scenes "City Of White Blankets"


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