Last week, we drove to Bristol for a gig (Ministry/Chelsea Wolfe); Bristol is one of those iconic English places we had never been to; it is fast becoming the place to be if you are an urban creative as London is rapidly losing its legendary uniqueness to the gods of global soullessness.
We spent only a few (very hot) hours in the city centre and didn't really do any research beforehand (only locating an overpriced central car park and the venue), but our wanders took us to some brilliant places, and we will go back for more, as we think Bristol would be a great trading place for Matt ArtPix and Arcane Publishing in the near future. We are planning some exploration of the city for later this year!
Below are a few pictures from the day (we didn't take that many, we were too hot!). And no pictures of the gig, as none of the ones I took are any good - blame the dry ice and the lighting!
Thanks to this gig, I have discovered another favourite musician (I have some many...): Chelsea Wolfe - a Southern Gothic, doom-metal drenched version of another favourite of mine (and Dorset girl) PJ Harvey (who started it all, of course!) - her music is enthralling.
We spent most of last week preparing for our third Bridport Vintage Market at the fantastic Arts and Vintage Quarter in St Michael's Trading Estate in Bridport. We were looking forward to it so very much as it would be our first proper market of the tourist season and we were impatient about showing off all our brand new stock! It was also important for us to show our support to the artists of the St Michael's estate whose studios were devastated by a catastrophic fire a few weeks ago, a major blow to this creative community already under lethal threat from housing developers.
Unfortunately, after weeks of dry and sunny weather, the rain came back at the weekend and we decided to not risk our stock in the high winds and downpour. As we have another event booked on the day of the next Bridport Vintage Market, we won't be back before 30th September (whether permitting!). Booh!
We are now in the process of booking INDOOR events for this autumn/winter!
On August 11th, I will be at the Bridport Book Fest which will take place at the Salt House and Fisherman's Green in West Bay. I will be spooking everyone out with my elaborate displays, one for each book! This will be an experiment as I have never done this before! (I will post some hints on here in the next few days!).
And of course, we still have our lovely unit at The Customs House in West Bay, packed full of vintage and retro items, art and books!
We have also started to think about organising our own events down here in Dorset... Watch this space!
The venue of tonight's gig, The Cobblestones, is precariously hanging on tight on a busy street corner in the Somerset town of Bridgwater - maybe in more than one way. We were horrified to discover that opposite the traditional-looking pub, a corporate monstrosity is being built and could potentially threaten this great little music venue catering for alternative musical tastes: the four star "Mercure Bridgwater Hotel", complete with fancy celebrity chef restaurant. Really? Having spent a few hours around the town and seen the amount of empty, boarded up buildings with a "For Sale" sign attached to them, I wouldn't have thought that Bridgwater was the best place for that kind of venture - or at least the developers could have taken over one of the old buildings (which are lovely, by the way... So much potential!). With live music venues closing up and down country because of newly-built housing developments, I wouldn't give The Cobblestones many chances. I do hope that I am wrong and that it will be allowed to carry on making a racket for many years to come.
At the back of the pub, one can find a great courtyard garden leading to the entrance of the small function room/music venue. We were immediately greeted by a super cute dog with a Batman collar and the news that the first support band would not be playing after all (which is a great shame as they sounded like our kind of thing!)
One of the best things about my years as a music journalist in London was the opportunity to go to many gigs for free and discover a lot of great (and not so great) bands - Flag Promotions' Showcase nights were a good example of that. Now, of course, having moved to Dorset and having to drive long distances to see the kind of live music that interests me, I am not as ready to take as many risks.
But on Friday, I was really looking forward to seeing the support bands (in the end the support band).
The Devon-based The Pretty Fragile didn't disappoint: they looked good and played genuinely interesting and intriguing music. It gives you a little thrill to see a band who dares to experiment with the industrial music format; their tracks are the opposite of formulaic: you never know what's round the corner; each song finds a way to surprise you, changing its pace and atmosphere, switching from massive metal riffs to carefully crafted electro sounds - and not an Apple laptop in sight! Charismatic singer Paul Abrey stops playing his guitar to add some delicate piano notes or to create some pulsing electronic sounds. We Are Obscene could come straight from the Marilyn Manson back catalogue whilst Virus makes a NIN fan like myself smile broadly; I also sometimes caught myself thinking of the dark claustrophobia of Leisur Hive's music. And usually, I don't "do" covers at all, thinking that people really should leave original songs alone, BUT I positively adore TPF's version of Garbage's #1 Crush - and I do think it is actually much better (and way creepier) than the original (I did think it was one of the band's original songs). It always makes me happy to discover a new band I really like, and I will definitely try to catch The Pretty Fragile live again as they are (almost) neighbours!
I am not the type to be nostalgic about things but I cannot deny that Supher's Spray album corresponds to a very special time for me, and I still listen to it regularly (excellent exercise CD, it does get those muscles moving and that heart racing!). The album was part of the soundtrack to my life in North London and its raw edges, getting into the capital's alternative scenes, starting writing for alternative music and culture magazines, hanging out in Camden Market, looking for CDs and gig tickets at Resurrection Records and listening to bands in dark music venues...
Original members Rob Holliday (whom we've seen on live guitar or bass duties over the years with The Prodigy, Keith Flint's Flint, Marilyn Manson and The Mission (!)) and Monti have been joined by two awesome musicians, Davey and Andy - and they played a blazing set - even though one of the speakers was broken. Honestly, how good was it to hear tracks such as Problem, One of Us, or You Ruined Everything live again? The tracks just got under your skin, and were uncompromising in their rawness. Even better, the new tracks, Used and Take a Long Hard Look, out of the forthcoming album, sounded fantastic. Rob Holliday and his bandmates, used to playing in front of thousands, still threw themselves in the performance and sent us home buzzing.
Sulpher are playing the Ministry after-show party at the Electrowerkz on 21st July and also the Black Celebration festival in October, so try and catch them at either of those...
And yes, they've done it again!
On 1st and 2nd June, something strange and wonderful stirred in a quiet corner of the Dorset countryside... Cars and campers full of interesting-looking creatures converged towards a field on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, only a few miles away from the famous and romantic ruins of Corfe Castle.
I am talking, of course, of Alice's Wicked Tea Party festival!
This blog should have been put together and posted on here three weeks ago, but real life took over immediately after the event and since then, I haven't had any time to spend at my desk working either on my books or on the pictures I took at the festival. I have barely been online and now have a lot to catch up on... and still not enough time!
I am not a music journalist anymore and therefore, this is not a review; This blog will be mostly made of pictures (but I am not a photographer, so they are not perfect!), although I have tried to introduce my favourite acts...
I have lifted a few lines from the bands' own websites/social media pages and these are indicated with quotation marks!
Needless to say, Matt ArtPix and I were honoured to be part of this event and congratulations have to once again go to Shaun Histed-Todd and his team who have worked tirelessly to make this happen.
And we hope to return for the AWTP 2019!
This was the fourth edition of the festival, and the second in their new home at Knolle Farm on Soldiers Road.
It was also the second time we attended the festival as both punters (on the Friday) and traders (on the Saturday).
Go HERE to read a report from AWTP 2017.
Matt ArtPix and I (as Arcane Publishing) had made sure our stall and the goodies we had for sale were suited to an alternative festival, and may I say that our stall did look good!
Thank you to all the people who came to have a look, chatted with us and purchased a few things!
Once again, this edition of the festival did exactly what it said on the tin: it was a good-humoured, well-run and friendly grassroots festival ran by and for fans of alternative musics (see the emphasis on the plural here).
Colourful, loud and bonkers, this is a DIY, independent festival which deserves to grow in reputation as it is one of those rare things: it brings together many music genres under one banner, something that in these days of divisive and bitchy identity politics - even within the arguably dwindling numbers of alternative "scenes" - is more than welcome.
Much like everyone else, I did have my favourites - bands I was thrilled to see at the festival. But I also enjoyed challenging myself and watching acts I would never have been to see play. Every single band looked like they enjoyed performing for us at AWTP - and most came a long way to do so - and for that, we can only be grateful and hope all the musicians enjoyed their time in our beautiful county.
Since moving to Dorset in January 2017, I have missed going to gigs - but one has to make choices in life! - and I do believe it is important to encourage bands to play outside of their usual territory (ie London and other big cities).
"Enough!", you tell me. What about the BANDS?
Here goes... (click on the pictures for the galleries)
Civilian Zen - an excellent band, with a big touch of Killing Joke...
Another band we really enjoyed and didn't know: Jellly (a self-proclaimed "Psy-glam" band...)
BrotherZ Grimm - a fusion of Slipknot and [insert rap band - sorry, I don't know any!]. They call their music Crypt-Hop/Grim rap/Horrorcore - and who are we to object?
The Wattingers were returning to AWTP and still were not able to show their background videos - this is a shame as we were able to see them when the band supported The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing in Exeter a few months ago (a gig I didn't report on as none of my pictures were good enough!). Those videos really are great little works of art, meticulously put together, and really add to the whole performance and to the band's USP.
I was absolutely thrilled to see Belle Scar added to the festival line-up. I had seen her live at the Hope and Anchor in London a few years ago, when she was still performing as Geeta and had been blown away (see report HERE).
She brought sophistication, elegance and a huge dollop of artistic professionalism to our little corner of Dorset. I always think it takes immense guts to perform your own material all on your own (you cannot hide/find comfort in numbers as when you are in a band) and Belle Scar is indeed one of those troupers who believe the show must go on, even if your stand collapses from under you (she finished a song propping up the stand with her knee!) and your laptop falls off the stool it was (precariously) perched on. Belle gave an astonishing performance which stopped everyone in their tracks - she really wowed all present with her fiery performance and her gorgeous electro songs. The visceral a-capella ending was mesmerising and left the audience well and truly stunned.
All the way from Berlin came The Unkindness of Ravens - "Stripped down low slung electro rock with soul"
Returning as well were the politically engaged punk band The Blunders.
Bully Bones - "brand-new-retro rock’n’roll"
What an utter joy to see the magnificent The Urban Voodoo Machine live once again! For whatever reason, the last time I saw them was far too long ago... TUVM is one of those bands you are always aware of if you live in London and know your alternative music stuff - they have been part of the London music scene for a long time indeed!
They do know how to put on a show - and what a show! Their timing is perfect, their musicianship is second to none, they look fabulous (all dressed in black and red, my favourite colours!)...
TUVM is not "just" a band, it's a whole show: TUVM is a seriously classy act, a fabulously deviant dark cabaret who plays "Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop’n’Stroll".
The audience just couldn't get enough of them! The ultimate festival band...
It is a bit of a shame that the hyper-colourful Tokyo Taboo played on a poorly-lit stage. The exuberant London band is an interesting proposition: shiny and multicoloured pop-punk with attitude.
Pussycat and The Dirty Johnsons headlined last year and generously came back this year, as ever giving the perfect rock'n'roll performance.
What a privilege it was to have the stupendous The Membranes at AWTP! The band, fronted by the super-energetic and charismatic John Robb (yes, the journalist, broadcaster, founder of the Louder Than War website and co-curator of the Louder Than Words literary festival among many other things...) came to pay us a visit in deepest Dorset!
If you haven't yet listened to their latest album Dark matter/Dark Energy, then I urge your to do so... You'll be transported into... well... space! The band gave a great performance, even though the stage was plunged in near-darkness - a great shame as Mr Robb's performance is always a sight to behold - he never stands still, a real live wire - alert, lean and mean, giving his all to the performance... Inspiring!
On the Saturday, we were rather busy with our stall and therefore didn't spend as much time watching the bands.
I had two performances I didn't want to miss on my list - Flesh Tetris and Grooving in Green. Thankfully, both bands played in the barn where our stall was located, and therefore we didn't miss any of their performances!
First up were Spitting Feathers - "Glunk rock at its finest"
Holy Faction - Post punk
I knew I had seen the members of Korsunnuz before... Indeed, three members of the band used to be in Killing Miranda, a band I've seen play in London a few times! A drastic change of look has occurred since...
Your Mum - "dirty underground rock with layers of grunge, desert and hard rock, orchestrated by a hybrid of heavy rock and tropical beats"
Down From Above - "electronica-driven alternative rock"
Flesh Tetris might be, in their own words, "Retro SciFi Eurotrash" and play "pop music for unpopular people", but there is no escaping the musical credentials of all its members, whom I have seen play in various bands over the years - most recently, we had the pleasure to see once again frontman Andy and drummer Jez with their fantastic band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing (a worthy headliner for next year's AWTP?). Flesh Tetris is first of all a group of musician friends coming together to have a great time; they look incredibly good and cool, do not take themselves seriously but still give a fab performance. Incredibly enjoyable!
The multicoloured and super-dynamic punk band PollyPikPocketz was returning to AWTP!
We carried on the theme of high-octane performances and interesting colour schemes with Splink
The Invisible Operatic Company of Tibet was the psychedelic band of the festival...
Leg Puppy gave us some satirical electro-punk...
I do wish I could see Where The Night Fall in a dark venue - somehow, this feels more appropriate to their gorgeous soundscapes.
The arrival in sunny Dorset of a group of fellow black-clad individuals signalled that Grooving in Green had made it to our field! After the hyper-colourful shenanigans earlier in the day, the beautiful dark sounds of GIG were soothing and atmospheric. Singer Tron made an engaging frontman with his unusual voice and self-deprecating attitude. It was also great to see Simon Rippin there, a real veteran of the Gothic scene whom we have seen play countless times with NFD, Red Sun Revival and the superb (and personal favourite) The Eden House.
Their set was professional and sobering, a welcome enclave of sweeping darkness among the madness of the festival!
Nottingham's Luxury Stranger carried the torch for classy songwriting and perfectly executed post-punk/cold wave songs. Singer Simon York does have the most extraordinary voice!
The Black Bullets were the purveyors of OTT rock'n'roll attitude...
So far, one of my favourite music genre hadn't been represented at AWTP this year: industrial.
Hurray then for Clusterfuck who made a mean industrial racket and propelled us into a warped, hellish and grotesque universe (a perfect and very apt perversion of Alice In Wonderland).
They really sent everyone stomping and dancing, and they were an excellent choice of headliner to close the festival on an intense high!
A few pictures from around the festival site:
I think therefore I write.
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