Sunday, 14 June 2015

Death Cab For Cutie in London

Last week, amidst a hectic work and festival schedule, my girlfriend Emily and I headed to London to see one of Emily's all time favourite bands, Death Cab For Cutie. Emily has loved the band for years, but has never seen them live. We so nearly saw them at Boston Calling last May [read here], when we were visiting the States for a week. Sadly it was raining so torrentially when Death Cab were due to play that we had to leave before they took the stage.

death cab london

We parked at Westfield London, which is conveniently located around a 10-minute walk away from the venue, which was the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire. We stopped for dinner at Wahaca at the Westfield centre, which is one of our favourite restaurants. After filling up on some incredible Mexican street food, we walked to the venue and arrived nice and early, bagging ourselves a good spot neat the front.

The support band were We Were Promised Jet Packs, who I had heard of, but never listened to. We really enjoyed them and will add them to the list of other awesome Scottish bands that we like, including Twin Atlantic, Glasvegas and Biffy Clyro. Fairly unusually, We Were Promised Jet Packs had four guitarists, along with a drummer. They multiple layers of guitar and vocals with a Scottish twang created a very cool sound. I'm listening to them on Spotify right now as I type this.

Death Cab For Cutie arrived on stage at 9pm and played for nearly two hours, which was awesome, as many headline gigs are closer to an hour. It was a fantastic gig, the highlight being a beautiful solo acoustic rendition of I Will Follow You Into The Dark by front man Ben Gibbard. The band are very well polished and have a lovely stage presence. Emily absolutely loved seeing one of her all time favourite bands and I left as a solid fan, having gone to the gig knowing only a couple of songs. I hope they tour the UK again soon :)

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Common People Festival 2015

A few months ago, we were excited to see the announcement of Common People, a two-day, non-camping festival on Southampton Common. I was born in Southampton and my sister Sarah and her husband Max still live there. We looked forward to being able to enjoy a festival and be able to walk a pretty short distance back to their house, to enjoy home comforts!

common people southampton

Common People had a lot to live up to, as it it run by the same people behind Bestival and Camp Bestival. I've been to Bestival twice and it really is a very special festival, with a huge amount of work put into creativity and generally creating an exciting and special atmosphere.

Perhaps we were expecting a bit too much, as this was essentially just a day time festival with no camping, but Common People was definitely not as awesome as we had hoped.  The main issue was the queues for everything. There were very long queues for the toilets [even queuing for urinals!], along with huge bar and food queues. We queued for 50-minutes for food and have friends who queued for over 90-minutes. There was just a big shortage of all facilities for the amount of people there, which was disappointing. This also lead to waiting around for friends all day, as our friends wanted to go to the loo / bar / get food and ended up taking forever to queue and get back. By the time they found us, someone else wants to go somewhere and you sort of end up in an endless cycle of waiting. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly no stranger to festivals and events and I know there will be some queues, but these queues were exceptionally long.

festival art

We booked tickets before seeing the line up, which ended up being quite alternative. There were a few acts we were keen to see, but it mostly wasn't necessarily our favourite music. We enjoyed a very audibly and visually awesome show from Saturday night headliner Fatboy Slim, who incorporated a choir into his DJ set, which was pretty special. Jaguar Skills had the crowd bouncing earlier in the day, with one of his trademark mash-up sets. I've not seen Jaguar Skills for a couple of years and I think he's got even more awesome with time! Jaguar Skills was followed by DJ Yoda, who I've wanted to see for years. DJ Yoda was a bit disappointing, with the party atmosphere quickly sliding away and many of the crowd dispersing or sitting back down. 

Overall, Common People was a nice event to take place on Southampton Common and a great way for local people to experience a festival without a lot of the hassle that can go with it. I'd recommend you give it a visit next year if you're local to Southampton, but it won't be on my calendar next year.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Live Music in Cheltenham

It's taken me a little while to catch up on my blog posts, but I wanted to write a short post about a great weekend of live music in Cheltenham, three weeks ago. My girlfriend Emily and I bought tickets ages ago to see Beans On Toast at the Frog & Fiddle in Cheltenham, along with Nizlopi playing at the same venue the following night. We're trying to see much more gigs this year, as we've been a bit slack at that over the last couple of years. It's great to get out there and see live music and it's especially when it's in your home town, at your favourite pub!

frog cheltenham

We've seen Beans On Toast perform at festivals several times and have also seen him before at the Frog & Fiddle a couple of years ago too. He's an incredible and charismatic performer, with a great stage presence and lots of funny stories to tell. I could listen to Beans chat away for hours and his songs are just as entertaining too. I think the thing that's so great about him is that he speaks very honestly and I agree with pretty much everything he sings and talks about. His music is about sex, drugs, rock and roll and politics and everything in between. It's very hard to describe his music, so I'd hugely recommend you check out his videos below and go and see him live if you get the chance.

My sister Sarah and her husband Max came to visit for the weekend and came to the gig with us too. They're also big Beans On Toast fans. We arrived early and watched one support act, who was nice enough. Then a chap called Benjamin Folke Thomas took the stage and got our attention straight away. He played some fantastic folk songs, with a very strange and interesting stage presence, along with some great little stories to tell in between, including tales from his native county of Sweden. Sarah and Max text a couple of friends the following morning and arranged to go and see the same gig again two days later at The Joiners in Southampton, as they loved Benjamin and Beans so much!

Our friends Hannah and Dan also joined us for the gig, and a couple of drinks turned into a few jagerbombs and going 'out out' to the Two Pigs for some dancing, for the first time in a long time. The following day we were feeling rather worse for wear and Emily and I managed to drag ourselves to the Frog in the evening in time to see Nizlopi perform.

I discovered Nizlopi many years ago, when the JCB Song was a big tune on the radio. I checked out some of their other music and my sister really got into them too. I've wanted to see them live for years, but haven't had the chance, so was really pleased that they were playing at the Frog. They were quite different live to how I expected, with way more of an interesting performance than I  imagined and a great fusion of different music styles. This included some beatboxing and faux rap, along with a great energy that I didn't expect from a band which I always thought of as being quite folky. I'd love to see them again, so I hope they tour near my home town again soon!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Wychwood Festival 2015

Last weekend was my sixth weekend at the annual Wychwood Festival, where I manage the awesome Headphone Disco show each night in the Big Top. This has always been our first festival on the calendar each year and is a lovely way to ease ourselves back into a busy season of running festival shows! Wychwood Festival also happens to be held in my home town, at Cheltenham Racecourse, only a couple of miles from my front door. It's lovely to be able to work at and enjoy a festival and then go back to your own bed each night! 

wychwood festival

Every year there's at least one other big Headphone Disco show that falls on the same weekend, as this year was no exception. I travelled down to DJ at a big show at the University of Surrey in Guilford on the Friday night, whilst we also had a show at Bath Spa University. Rolling back into bed at 6am on Saturday morning after a long drive meant I was very tired for the weekend, but thankfully I was able to enjoy free coffee backstage to see me though until the early hours! 

cheltenham festival

This year I didn't get to see too much of the festival, as I had a lot of other work to be doing, but I did get to enjoy some of UB40 and the Proclaimers and caught up with lots of friends who were also working at or visiting the festival. 

headphone disco

I'm very lucky to work with a great team of people, including DJs Josh Lovatt, Kelz and Peter who kept the crowd singing and dancing away until the early hours on each of the three nights, along with a great team of headphone distributors, who are super enthusiastic, even when the temperature drops as the night goes on. 

Next up is Download Festival in a few days time, where once again we will raise the roof on the Side Splitter tent on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with up to 2,000 festivalgoers rocking with us at any one time :)

wychwood stage

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Kayaking in Cirencester

I've just got back home after a lovely day out in the sunshine with friends in the Cotswold Water Park, in Cirencester. The weather has been rubbish for ages, so it was nice to enjoy some warm weather for a change and have a BBQ by a lake.

cotswold water park

My friend Pob has visited the same lake recently, where Cotswold Water Park Hire operate, with a great jetty area and lots of kayaks, rowing boats and paddle boards to hire. I was lucky enough to paddle in one of Pob's two kayaks, so we just had to pay a small launch fee each, to use the lake.

picnic area cirencester

I've been kayaking a few times and was really impressed with how clean and well kept the lake and grounds were. The facilities were fairly basic, with gazebos for changing rooms and a couple of portaloos, but you don't need anything fancier than that for a quick paddle! 

There were a couple of stag and hen groups leaving as we arrived and there were a few families there. It's definitely a great place to chill out with friends on a sunny day and fairly cheap way to have a fun day out too.

kayak hire cotswolds