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Monday
Aug222016

L-Fresh The Lion and Sampa The Great @ Darwin Festival 2016

When two powerhouse Aussie hip hop artists’ a dropped on a bill together, I instantly knew that the night was going to be a killer. 

The Darwin Festival has been getting bigger and bigger, encouraging and showcasing local talent. A festival that clearly believes in supporting its own musicians which is why I was so excited to be a part of it.  

The festival itself is spread out throughout the whole city, it’s where Darwin really comes to light. People around are happy and cheerful, the decor and stunning lights definitely create a beautiful atmosphere. As I walked throughout he gates of the Lighthouse, I was so eager to see what Darwin thought of hip hop. 


The crowd was eagerly awaiting for the Sampa the Great, whilst known to many Sydney-siders it was clear that Darwin was not familiar with this little pocket rocket. With her energy and flawless raps, it didn’t take long for the crowd to get up on their feet and start nodding their heads to the great. It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Sampa perform, but she has definitely kicked up her game with her lyrical skills and stage performance. Her style demands attention, and the crowd is more then willing to give it to her. It wasn’t long until the crowd started getting involved and for the Queens to stand up and support her. 

When Sampa steps off the stage it is clear that the crowd were there for L-Fresh The Lion. His hype-woman Mirrah jumps on stage and quickly gets us in the mood. Her bouncing energy and happiness shines through and it isn’t long until L-Fresh himself pops out. 

L-Fresh comes out rapping and taking over the stage like he owns it. He’s just like reading a book, each song he plays is like reading a chapter in a book. Both revealing, entertaining and making you want more. His heritage and multiculturalism is what brings out the best in L-Fresh, watching the crowd follow his moves and statements with such understanding and respect. Uniting his fans and family together. 

Darwin Festival really stood up, it’s a city that is so culturally diverse and understanding it’s not long until people from all over Australia will be coming to the town to just see the festival come to life. 

Tuesday
Aug092016

NY's A+A drop debut album LivingRooms.

(New York, NY) R&B pop duo, A+A, release their debut project, LivingRooms.

R&B Pop duo A+A’s latest album provides cohesive synths alongside uplifting pop hooks, the perfect album for neo-soul and hip hop lovers alike. The vocals of front-man Andrew Diaz emit an epic fusion of Frank Ocean with just a pinch of Miguel’s Wildheart approach.


Diaz and Anward Sawyer (A+A) have been belting out  tunes together since the two met in a recording studio Sawyer used to own. It’s evident these boys inhale music, the duo’s latest drop offers up more variety than a discount store in Collingwood. As I listened over an evening brew, I feared greeting the usual one-dimensional pop record; though not long after the opening track“Believe in Good Girls”, a song which delivers an overly healthy dose of bass and synth, the boys take listeners by surprise with a down to earth folk ballad entitled “Manhattan”. 

 

Highlight: There goes my heart.
Lowlight: Voicemail Intro - Livingrooms
 

 

[Click Here] For A+A's Soundcloud.

Written by Bree Stewart.

Wednesday
Jul272016

Nozstock: The Hidden Valley 2016 Festival Review

Crowd at Orchard Stage for Jurassic 5 - Photo credit: Clare Leach

American Pickers is a guilty pleasure of mine, the TV show of two American guys driving the back roads and looking for vintage gold. Perhaps I have watched it a bit too often but in many ways, my first trip to Nozstock: The Hidden Valley seemed to share some similarities to the show. Before you judge me, hear me out.

Departing London on a certified scorcher of a day in late July, we bundled ourselves, a tent and some festival supplies into a borrowed Ford Focus and hit the road. Our chosen soundtrack for this road trip was a triple CD entitled 'RnB Throw Backs!' Wow, we must have oozed cool as we made our way through the outer suburbs, windows down and Ja Rule at top volume. 

After getting through the famous London traffic, we soon found ourselves in lush English countryside and made our way onto small and windy roads, past quaint villages and farms. There may have been something wrong with the navigator, as our 3 hour journey to Bromyard turned into just over 5. Either way, the drive was just a precursor to the main event and we were relieved to enter the festival site around 6:30pm.

Now this is where my parallel analogy between Nozstock and American Pickers come's into play. The festival site is beautiful, and I feel like I have found an untouched festival treasure on this farm. There is a realness about this place that many of today's festivals have lost in the search for commercial gain. It's not too big, and it's easy to get around. Where you might expect a huge Red Bull tent there is an arts n crafts area and instead of Smirnoff branded bars everywhere, there are hand-built permanent structures and hand-painted signs. I imagine festival founder Noz to be like one of the collectors you meet during the show, treating this as his collection and carefully selecting items to add to his collection over the years. Nozstock started as a small gathering for farmer Noz and his music loving friends. It has grown organically and is now a full family affair, with his children taking on some of the responsibilities of managing the event. 

Care has been taken in the creation of everything you see on the site and that same level of care is expected by the visitors. As we pitch our tent, crack the first beers and watch the sunset while listening to the buzz of the festival from a-far, I instantly think I am going to like this place.
 

Friday Night

First on the agenda for this evening is Slamboree, who have already started their set on the Orchard Stage. This is our first real look at the main stage in action and with it's natural amphitheater hill there are plenty of great vantage points. Slamboree is a 15-strong dance music outfit, mixing musicians and visual artists to make for a unique live offering. Their high energy circus-style performance sounds like Scissor Sisters throwing a dance party with Rage Against the Machine and is a perfect introduction to the weekend.

The CoppiceAlthough the site is small, there is plenty to see, so we decided to follow the advice of some fellow festival goers and visit the Coppice, Bull Pen and Cubicle stages. Coppice is a particularly stunning stage, just down the hill from the main arena. Located within an ultraviolet glade, the Coppice houses psy-trance DJ's and some incredible theming and lights. The trees above are lit with lasers, projections and disco balls and the people beneath are just as colourful. We spend half an hour or so taking it all in before continuing our journey to the Bull Pen.

The Bull Pen and Cubicle are actually working areas of the farm for the majority of the year. What usually houses chickens, now houses some UK garage, drum and bass and grime. Again, the production on these stages is amazing. The DJ in the Bull Pen pokes his head out of the window of an eye, while the lighting rig in the Cubicle gives Daft Punks pyramid a run for it's money.

A little too early and a little too weary to fully immerse ourselves in the rave going on at these smaller stages, we returned to the main arena via the bar where local beers are available on tap and there is quite an extensive list of cocktails, all at reasonable prices. 

Beers-in-toe, it's off to the Garden Stage next for UK Jungle and drum and bass pioneer Goldie. What was that I said about too early to rave? Must have just been me, as soon as Goldie and his hype-MC take to the stage, the place erupts! I didn't get to experience the birth of jungle and drum n bass first time around, but the excitement is still there 25 years on! And although jungle is not my first choice of music, you can't help but enjoy this set, with a cheeky golden smile from behind the decks.

One of the beauties of Nozstock is the proximity of each stage. We leave the Garden Stage at 11.30 and it is literally a 30 second walk to Orchard Stage to catch headliners for the night Gentlemans Dub Club. These guys are pure fun! The definition of a festival act, the 9 members of the band fill the large stage and get the crowd grooving with brass filled dub and reggae. Jonathon Scratchley is a captivating front man and guides the punters through singalong choruses. Highlights of the set include 'Highgrade' and 'Music is the Girl I Love'. 

Gentlemans Dub Club

We bid the main stage goodnight and decide to venture back to the tent via The Garden of Eden. This area houses more small stages and as we wander through we are waved into a white tent by several people in white lab coats. Momentarily distracted by 'DJ Indian Man' who is playing inside, we are instructed to take a seat in a wheelchair, place a mask over our face and put headphones on. At this stage of the evening, we are completely happy to comply and follow the steps as directed. Finally, we are asked to look into large tubes which contain a small screen at the end and mirrors along the length of the tube. The result is an interactive kaleidoscope art installation - very cool.

After sharing a shot of Sambuca with the obviously qualified doctors we finish the night at The Cabinet of Lost Secrets. A venue that really makes you work hard to find it. Inside is another small bar and stage. Joining about 8 others we groove to the music before finally making our way to the tent for some much deserved rest. 

Saturday

Art and Entertainment at Every Turn - Photo Credit: Liam FurneauxYears of attending festivals has made me quite a good camper and the blow up mattress and earplugs ensured a relatively good night sleep. One thing that is inevitable though, is the sun turning your tent into a hothouse. So we woke when the heat became too much to bare at about 8.30am. 

Opting for a baby wipe shower, closely followed by a bacon sandwich, we got ready for a big day of music! The sun drenched the farm site and as we walked through, coffees in hand, I noticed a bit more of the theming. Nozstock's tagline is ‘Wonders of The Ancient World’ and there is Egyptian, Greek and Babylon inspired art throughout the site. 

First act of the day is Desert Boots at the Garden Stage, who ease us into the day with some soulful funk. We also catch one-man music making machine Gold Thing at the Bandstand, who has us in awe as he effortlessly loops keys, guitar and drums to build chilled out beats from scratch.

Feeling a bit more warmed up and ready for the day, it's time for the first beers so we duck back to our campsite and pick up the drinks that are still (just) nicely chilled in the esky. And just in time too, blues rock trio Smokin' Durrys take to the main stage and make sure everyone is awake with their driving drums and guitar. It's another beautiful summers day and as we arrive back in the arena some artists stroll through with large puppets of cranes, owls and what I think is a Camel. We take a seat on one of the abandoned couches, enjoy the sunshine and stick around for some folk, blues and soul from Foreign Affairs. 

For some reason, we were drawn to the name Normanton Street so they were next on the list. I'd never seen them before, so wasn't too sure what to expect but as we arrived at the Garden Stage I was excited to find out. The four piece, hailing from Brighton, were superb in the early afternoon sun. They grooved like a funk band, delivered verses like a hip hop group, had powerful soulful vocals like a pop superstar and even found a way of harmonising the female vocals with the rap. This music is good for your soul and you could tell they were having a great time playing it too. From our vantage spot under a shady tree, the dance floor slowly filled as they moved through their set. Key tracks that I will be revisiting were ‘Angelene' and 'Take Time' which could well be a future festival anthem. I'm so glad we chose to watch their set as it turned out to be a personal highlight of the weekend! 

We took a break from music to explore more of the Arts n Crafts area and the Comedy tent, grabbed some more food and drinks, then returned to the Garden Stage for Anchorsong. I first discovered his music a couple of months ago at an Mo Kolours gig. He is an incredibly talented producer, with a distinctive sunshine twang to his keys and African-inspired rhythm, he uses a sampler and keyboard to recreate his tracks live. The sounds he makes bring a smile to your face and you can't help but like this guy, when he introduces himself as "I'm Anchorsong from Japan, if you like my music let me know, okay?" and people flock to the floor to show their appreciation. 'Flamingos' is a set highlight.

Fancy dressers - Photo credit: Gareth Dalley

Shortly after some Thai Food, it is time for Hot 8 Brass Band on the Orchard Stage. If you haven't already, make sure you go see these guys live. They bring great energy to their performance and I feel like it's one big house party happening on stage and we've all been invited. Brass filled covers of songs like 'Sexual Healing' and 'Ghost Town' should be enough to convince you.

It wouldn't be a festival without an edgy-arts tent and at Nozstock, this crown goes to The Bantam of The Opera. Featuring a variety of cabaret style acts across the weekend, our one venture into the venue came this evening and it sure was a memorable one. The performer on stage got naked and proceeded to light a firework placed precariously in their butt, all to the backing track of 'No Business like Show Business'. Art is anything you can get away with.

After this brief interlude, it was straight back to the music and we just had enough time to pop down to The Coppice for a dose of techno, and a run through the maze of fire before returning to the Orchard Stage for the moment we had all been waiting for.

Jurassic 5 are one of my all time favourite groups and I couldn't wait to see them live for the third time. We arrived at the stage nice and early and took up a prime location just in front of the sound tent. The hill was full of people but everyone was pretty respectful of personal space and we ended up with quite a good amount of dancing room. The stage was set with the now infamous over-sized J5 turntable in the centre, DJ Cut Chemist set up on the left and DJ Nu-Mark set up on the right. Keeping us waiting just a little bit after the scheduled start time of 11:15pm, I notice the crew on stage shining a torch at the FOH operator to signal.. it is time.

The two DJs take to the stage and the crowd gets loud. One by one Soup (aka Daakir), Mark 7, Chali 2na and Akil the MC join the party and the place goes crazy! They get straight to it, doing a medley of tracks spanning their three albums. The energy is great, the delivery is spot on and this fan, for one, is ecstatic. The four MC's work so well together, backing up others lyrics to bring that familiar punch, adding in impromptu dances and actions to match, and throwing to each other from verse to verse as they cross the stage. There are several fans like me in the crowd, doing our best to join in on the lyrics, but there is many more probably witnessing true hip hop for the first time! The whirlwind of tunes lasts about 20 minutes before the group break it down and allow their master DJs to show us all what they can do.

After battling from their booths, DJ Nu-Mark steps it up a notch, walking out from behind the decks with a portable drum pad hanging around his neck. He plays a few bars to get our attention before creating a beat right there on the spot. Not to be outdone, Cut Chemist steps up with a portable turntable, fashioned into a guitar. He plays it as such, scratching his way through guitar sounds until a recognisable tune 'Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water' surfaces. Nu-Mark swaps his drum pad for a vest of vinyls containing different samples and the two join forces to create the song. Cut then swaps his vinyl turntable guitar for a CDJ guitar and they bring out the anthem 'Dead Prez - (Bigger than) Hip Hop' utilising the over-sized turntable on stage for the lyrics. 

The DJ’s return to their positions behind the decks and J5 are back with tracks such as 'Concrete Schoolyard', 'Quality Control', 'High Fidelity' and 'Red Hot' in a hit-laden set. The group even throw in some choreographed moves for good measure, including Chali 2na instructing the crowd to ride their invisible motor cycles during 'A Day at the Races'. The encore was of course one of the highlights of the set, ending on the huge tune 'What's Golden' and after a solid 90 or so minutes it was all over. Happy but exhausted we called it a night.

Jurassic 5

Sunday

An overcast morning allowed for a little more of a sleep in and we miraculously rose without a headache! Still buzzing from J5's performance, we started to pack down our belongings ready for an early getaway today. Commitments back in London meant we couldn't stay another night.

After packing the car, it was another coffee and bacon run before heading to the main stage for another healthy dose of good music for the soul. Adam Scriven, a solo act from Darwin delivered a beautiful set of blues, folk rock and roots utilising harmonicas, acoustic and slide guitar, stomp box, tambourine and of course a didgeridoo. 

Our final act of the festival was Little Brother Eli, a bluesy garage rock outfit hailing from Oxfordshire. Again, something drew us to watch this band. I was quite surprised to find an audio tech I have worked with a number of times taking his place on stage. Turns out he is the slide guitarist for the band! They were a lot of fun, and their single 'This Girl' is going to take them places.

Quite fittingly, as we resigned to the fact that this would be our last moment at Nozstock, the rain began to fall. Thankfully all that was left to do was return to the already packed car and drive back to London. 

Review by Harry Upton.
Wednesday
Jun222016

REVIEW: ROAMING - LOVE AT FIRST SOUND

Written by Bree Stewart 

Amongst the overwhelming amount of moody R&B songs overtaking our cities and watering holes, it’s easy to feel disheartened with the usual OVO drops. Most of which are becoming increasingly accustomed between each release. 

Don’t let that same ‘PartyNextDoor’ hook dishearten you, the beautiful world of streaming has offered up a new breed of alternative R&B for your listening pleasure.

Four days ago Love At First Sound’s newest single, ‘Roaming,’ found its feet online offering listeners a chill outlook on life’s peaks, its epic troughs and the balancing act of love amongst life’s usual chaos.


“This can’t be my midlife crisis I ain't halfway through my life yet…”

A portion of Love’s poetry sets the tone in the single’s first verse. A mellow 4x4 beat married with a gentle synth perfect for a late night city stroll surges beneath a recorded voicemail from assumably Love’s female interest, “I wish I could see you, I wish we could go out to a bar…" the mysterious bae pleaded over the phone line. 

 

Besides the fact that this is the perfect night cap, the song also offers quantity along with quality. In fact most of Love’s Soundcloud singles are immensely lengthy, engaging the listeners in stories rather than just samples. 

Love at First Sound resides somewhere in America, he is a private AF dude whose instagram account that sits firmly locked. The man lets his music speak for him, enjoy the content, perhaps later on we will get to know the playmaker.

Check Love's Soundcloud here. 

Tuesday
Jun142016

Review: Isaiah B Brunt's A moment In Time Album 

Australian Blues artists Isaiah B Brunt's latest long player 'A Moment In Time' is due out early next month and we were lucky enough to listen to a sneak preview copy. Bringing together some of the finest blues players on the American scene (George Porter Jnr of the Meters among them), Isaiah and producer David Stocker are back with a little more funky and up tempo offering. 

Setting Brunt a big task, I put my headphones on and began listening as my megabus pulled out of London's Victoria station for a five hour trip. For those familiar with the joys of a megabus journey, it probably wasn't the best moment in time..

Good Blues always has a way of drawing you in though, and it wasn't long before I forgot my surroundings and got into the groove! As I listened I was reminded of a similar sensation years earlier when hearing some of my old man's favourite albums. There is just something about the blues that sucks you in.

When hearing the opening track 'Still waiting' I was struck by Brunt's distinct vocals and the Australian twang taking on a traditional New Orlean's Blues sound and song structure. Dropping Australian names and places as the album moves along it becomes obvious that Isaiah's lyrics could connect with the everyman back home, yet appeal to the masses in the states. For me, it is still a novelty to hear 'Melbourne' mentioned in this genre of music, which in itself can be seen as a failing by the Australian music scene (or perhaps my own misfortune sheltering away?)

The production throughout is very crisp with sleek breakdowns and burning instrumental breaks. None better than the horns and sax on highlight track 'Lost Jacket Blues'.  Brunt effortlessly intertwines dance floor grooves with more serious moments on more than one occassion, and takes it down a notch for half tempo jam 'Travel Back' before bringing the beat in for 'Party Late All Night' at which point I wish I was enjoying this live with a Whiskey or seven.

As an outside of the Blues scene, I enjoyed the album overall and can imagine fans of the genre will be pleased with the care with which this record was crafted. Hopefully the release will push for the un-earthing of more Australian Blues.

The album launch show will be held at BEDS in Glebe on the 14th July 2016.

Event Details

When: 14th July 2016
Where: BEDS, 36 Glebe Point Road, Glebe Time: 8pm

Links:

Website

Facebook

Written by Harry Upton.