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Tuesday
Jul072015

Glastonbury Festival 2015 Review

Glastonbury Festival 2015 Review 
By Harry Upton


This is it, the big daddy of them all. Ever since I could comprehend what a music festival was, I have been working towards this moment. All of the festivals I have been to over the past 15 years have just been pre-parties to prepare me for this. I am here! I'm at Glastonbury!

Since the first Glastonbury in 1970, the event has evolved and grown, now taking over more than 900 acres in Somerset, South West England. The site is huge! With several smaller festivals joining together to make up over 100 stages, hundreds of food stalls and bars, 180,000 punters plus countless artists, guests and crew.

Monday
I arranged to arrive nice and early on the Monday evening and with the sun out I was looking forward to finding the piece of grass that I would call home for the next week. The three hour journey from London featured an unexpected highlight when we passed Stone Henge (this tourist had to stop and take a sneaky pic!). After parting ways with my ride share pals at the festival gates I loaded myself up with tent, bag and booze (who knew it was B.Y.O!) and wandered into the festival. Within minutes I pass the infamous Pyramid stage and stop to take in the beauty of the site pre-people and pre-mud! Finding my camping area behind the stage I quickly set about erecting my tent and checking in to pick up my accreditation. A quiet night is in order as I can't see many more opportunities for sleep in the coming days.

 

Tuesday
Tuesday provided me with a great opportunity to explore the site in full before the majority of people arrived. One thing that struck me as I ventured from stage-to-stage was how much effort is put into the production! Arcadia, Silver Hayes, Shangri-La, Block 9, Unfairground, The Glade, The Common and the Park, all of these areas featured amazing stage set ups and art installations. Although the official program of music wasn't due to start until tomorrow, by the time night fell there was plenty to keep the thousands of us early-birds entertained. I enjoyed a few pints and some funk tunes in the Tow and Hitch bar before calling it a night.
Wednesday
Wednesday morning at 8am is when the gates officially open and within a matter of hours the rolling green hills were covered with tents, all of the stalls and bars were now open and the festival was in full swing! I took the opportunity to purchase an additional pillow from one of the many camping stores on site (turns out compact travel pillows just don't cut it) before making my way to the Common to check out some acts. But first I was treated to a tour of the local area by the Common's site manager, again the production levels were top notch with lots of pyrotechnics and one stage located behind a waterfall! I interacted with the roving street performers and indulged in a couple more pints before winding up at the Rum Shack. I got a good dose of hip-hop from the resident DJ's here - think Biggie, LL, Tribe Called Quest - and a couple of rums brought up the end of day 3.

Thursday
Work on Thursday meant I didn't venture too many acts until the late evening, checking out Circoloco on the Blues stage and J.e.S.u.S. at Sonic. Tomorrow was when the big stages started so I was happy with the acts I had managed to catch and decided it best to retire to my tent and recharge.

 

Friday
Bacon and egg sandwich in hand, I started at the Gully stage watching some traditional New Zealand Maori performances by Manaia. They invited a special guest onto the stage to partake in the ceremony, Michael Eavis - founder of Glastonbury. He said a few words and I felt like I had been officially welcomed to the festival by the main man himself. What a great start to a massive day of music!

The afternoon (and the day in fact) belonged to Mary J Blige. Although I was not a massive fan before her show, I braved the rain and joined around 100,000 others at the Pyramid stage for the mid-afternoon set. I must admit, when seeing acts who are entering the “vintage” stage of their career, you do fear that their best days are behind them. This is certainly not the case with Mary J! She commanded the massive crowd like a pro and everyone soon forgot about the miserable weather. Her vocals, dancing and overall stage presence were something to behold, and the emotional rendition of ‘No More Drama’ in which she wound up belting out the final lyrics while down on the stage floor was one of the highlights of the whole festival. At the end of this number she needed a minute, telling the crowd “y’all gonna make me cry!” but it wasn’t long before we were back dancing again and the set came to a climatic end, as we knew it would, with ‘Family Affair.
 
Before arriving at Glastonbury, I had heard stories about how impossible it was to ‘stage-hop’ at such a massive event and this evening I intended to test out my stage-hopping skills with back to back sets scattered over four stages. Not to blow my own horn, but I pulled it off and took in sets from Australia’s own Flight Facilities (who had a very successful Glastonbury debut), SBTRKT, Caribou and Mark Ronson in the space of three hours! Another highlight of the festival was the very special rendition of ‘Uptown Funk’ that we were treated to with Boy George, Mary J Blige, George Clinton and Grandmaster Flash joining Mr Ronson on stage.
Saturday
Saturday night presented a very tough clash with Kanye West on the Pyramid stage at the same time as George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at West Holts. However, after my successful stage-hop from the evening prior I decided to ‘try’ and catch them both.

My evening began with Sly and the Family stone (minus Sly of course) at the West Holts stage. Funk was certainly on the menu for tonight and The Family Stone know how to cook it. The groove was constant and mesmorising as the 10 piece wound their way through classic after classic. ‘Family Affair’ was a definite highlight (déjà vu?). Up next was George Clinton, a real hero of mine, and one of my all time favourite live acts, but at the other side of the field, Kanye had already started.. He had received a lot of bad press in the lead up to Glastonbury, with petitions going around to get him kicked off the bill. I had to go and see for myself what his set would be like, plus I knew Parliament Funkadelic would be playing for hours. So I bit the bullet and maneuvered to the Pyramid as quickly as I could. On the way there, I couldn’t help but notice a large number of people coming the other way (not a great sign). I arrived to see quite a quiet crowd by the Pyramids standards and a backlit silhouette of Kanye on stage. He hasn’t hired a stand in has he? Where’s his DJ or the band I was hoping for? Is that just a backing track? I thought. But after witnessing some pretty appalling versions of ‘All of the lights’ and ‘Touch the Sky’ including his signature cherry picker ride, I had to admit defeat and accept that this was in fact Kanye, but on a really really bad day. No time to dwell on it, I ran back to the West Holts stage, where the whole place was heaving with heavy funk. Catching regular set highlights ‘Flashlight’ and ‘We Want the Funk’ I was delighted with my decision to return to witness the godfather of funk yet again. 
Sunday
Feeling a bit dusty as I rose on Sunday, I took the opportunity to check out 7-piece hip hop collective Doomtree on the nearby Sonic stage before venturing to The Park stage to take in the view (below) and catch a set by a man I had heard so much about in recent weeks, Jack Garratt. His one man band style show was an excellent way to kick start my final day on Worthy Farm. The bass heavy beats and soulful vocals work so well in the sunshine, which was thankfully on its way back to us today.
The next name I had circled on the timetable was the one and only Lionel Richie. As the first act announced for this years Glastonbury, he had become somewhat of a cult figure for punters from all walks of life. There were at least a dozen flags featuring the Commodores singers’ face and thousands of t-shirts sporting “Hello.. is it me you’re looking for?.” Attracting the biggest crowd of the weekend (close to 200,000), Lionel was visibly excited to “finally” be at the festival. Swapping between the piano and the front of the stage, Lionel treated us to non-stop hits for his extended set. ‘Brick House’, ‘Dancing on the ceiling’ and ‘All night long’ whipped the crowd into a singalong frenzy, while ‘Say you, Say me’, ‘Three times a lady’ and ‘Hello’ left the star astounded at the accuracy at which the crowd could sing the words right back to him. His set had everything, including a peer pressured skull of what looked to be cranberry juice. Kanye could learn a thing or two from this old pro.


A-Skills and Krafty Kuts kept the party going in The Glade with a banging set of hip hop, trap, throwbacks and party jams but all too soon it was time for the grand finale at the big spider on the hill – Arcadia – with 2ManyDJ’s, flames, lasers and dancers.

Packing up my tent the following umm.. afternoon I was so pleased to have finally experienced the biggest field festival in the world. Hopefully I'll be back again next year!

 

Sunday
Jun212015

B Wise & Friends @ The Spectrum Review

As I watched B Wise take to the stage at the Spectrum on Saturday night I couldn’t be more prouder of the scene. There’s a new generation of hip hop happening in Australia right before our eyes. When he stepped on stage he admits he was worried about the turn-out, but as soon as he realises that the crowd who is there is there to see him rise, he quickly gets into performance mode and blows us all away. 

The crowd moved with him, raised their hands up with so much energy and belief in him it only makes him perform harder. His flow becomes so natural and with audience participation is a must, the small intimate crowd gives him all they've got. Legendary Hau was the first guest to come onto stage, providing us with a preview of what we can expect from his upcoming Kill.I.Am tour.  

B Wise encapsulates what the hip hop scene is missing, with pure talent, confidence and the ability to draw the crowd, it won’t be long until we see B Wise rising and putting Australia on the map.

Monday
Jun012015

Alphamama @ LazyBones Marrickville Review 

There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing an artist who intertwines music with performing arts. Alphamama’s performance at LazyBones in Marrickville, was vocally and visually stimulating. 

The opening performance took us on a beautiful love story journey, with two performers at the front with an abstracting dance, hypnotising the audience. 

The audience was in awe, stunned by Alphamama’s vocals, and taken away with the complexity of the performance. Throughout her tracks, audience participation was the key ingredient to the night. Her vibes and artistic characteristics reminded me of Yoko Ono, when she asked the audience to undress her and then dress her with their clothes. 

As the night progressed, Alphamama finally dropped her single ‘Spit Me Out,’ a track which captivates the power of a women and filled with emotions. 

Whilst the audience wasn’t entirely taken aback by her artistry, those who were there to experience the magic were excited to be involved and appreciate her music.  

Saturday
Mar142015

Seth Sentry “Run” Tour @ The Metro, Sydney

As I walk into The Metro of Seth Sentry’s sold-out gig it made me wonder what all the fuss was about. I am a regular at hip-hop gigs here in Sydney and it always surprises me when I go to a show, and see a completely different kind of audience supporting hip-hop. Where do all these people come from? What is it that Seth has that the rappers here don’t? 

Seth bursts onto stage with so much energy and hype that it’s hard not to smile when he comes on. He has that charismatic behaviour about him that makes you just want to move when he moves. Laugh when he laughs, and just not care about anything else. Barely anyone in the house had their feet on the ground for longer than two-seconds.  

The audience was hanging off every word he was rapping, at one stage it felt like hip-hop karaoke. One-by-one the audience will reiterate his lyrics, all with enthusiasm, all with respect.

His DJ, DJ Sizzle is just as part of the show as Seth is. Amping up the show, wearing sick outfits and making the audience move just as much as Seth does. Like batman and robin, DJ Sizzle is more than just the man behind the decks. He also crowd surfed all the way up the stairs and back of The Metro. If that is not an achievement, I am not sure what is.  

As I watched everybody rap along to his latest track “Run,” there wasn’t anyone in the room that didn’t know the words. A rapper who is in his 30’s rapping about his youth to youths. I’m not sure how he makes it work, but he just does. 

As the show comes to an end I finally figured it out. I know why people come out to support him. His energy, his humour, his authenticity, he’s just like everyone else in the room. There has been many occasions where he admits that he makes music for him and his friends, and that’s it. There is no mistake why he’s sells out gigs, it just so happens that these people, his fans, are him. A reflection of him anyway, ones that can sympathise with his lyrics, his music and his personality. 

Thursday
Mar122015

THE BUDOS BAND & THE BOMBAY ROYALE AT ROYAL MELBOURNE ZOO REVIEW

You've got to love the excitement you get when you are entering a new venue for the first time. I recall my first few music festival or night club experiences, entering the doors that you have looked at from afar (and sometimes for hours while lining up) and finally seeing what lies on the inside! While I have been to the Melbourne Zoo a couple of times before, hosting an afro-beat band from New York and Melbourne's own Bollywood royalty certainly makes this night at the zoo special and I get that same feeling of anticipation as I walk through the turnstiles and into the Zoo Twilights area.

There is a reason Melbourne Zoo is one of the most popular zoo's in Australia, and this big kid at heart certainly made the most of the animal exhibits that were open late specially for gig attendees. We visit the Lions, the Giraffes and even get to listen to a zoo talk at the Elephant enclosure. During our brief walk through the exhibits, I notice a couple of familiar faces - members of both Bombay Royale and Budos Band are out and about enjoying the animals.

After filling up on some Jerk Chicken at a nearby food truck (and a few Mountain Goats) we find a spot for our picnic blanket and settle in about 15 metres back from the stage. It's a pleasant Melbourne summer night, not too hot and the venue is slowly filling with music lovers of all ages. One of the great things about these gigs is the space available for punters, they really have set the shows up with picnics in mind and although the clusters of people spread quite a way, everyone has a good vantage point.

The Bombay Royale don't really believe in warming up, they hit the stage with so much energy, it is almost impossible to remain on the picnic blanket! A small dance area quickly forms at the front of the stage. Taking the crowd through some easy to copy dance moves (a hit with the kids at the show) and some catchy sing-a-longs, the 11 piece wind through an all too short 40 minute set, culminating in The Bombay Twist. During the break there is a rush to the merchandise desk and copies of their latest vinyl are snaffled up.

As we await the arrival of The Budos Band it is worth noting the perfect time-slot that headliners of these gigs enjoy - sunset. Prior to the guys taking the stage, the dance floor grows, as does the average hair length of the front row of the audience - where were these hard rock fans hiding until now? The set starts with a funky organ solo, before we are taken literally Into the Fog. The presence these guys have on stage is incredible, all 9 of them, dressed in black.

Their set is filled with deep bass grooves, heavy funk and psychedelic guitar. The new direction of their latest album Burnt Offering, as discussed in our interview with the band (read it here) becomes very apparent, you can definitely hear the band taking afro-soul to a heavier place. In saying that, the horn section still bring the funk and there is no denying the groove taking over the audience. After some cheeky interactions with the audience (the band are amazed to be playing in a zoo, and I dare say at such an early time-slot), the groove builds and tracks are blended into instrumental jams. Although some older tunes Ride Or Die and Black Venom are thrown into the set, this is certainly a chance for the band to show off their latest work, Aphasia is certainly a highlight.

As darkness fills the zoo, the Budos set draws to a close and the audience slowly bring themselves back from the funk expedition they have just been treated to. We pack up our picnic rug and make our way to exit , all the while sharing a silent 'nod' of recognition with the others who witnessed the 'full Budos experience'.

Written by Harry Upton.