Ealing and its jazz and blues festivals have been a summertime fixture over the years at beautiful Walpole Park. I’ve attended the last two Blues festivals (2013 here) but this time round we rolled up for the final Jazz day. I wonder if the organisers have a pact with the weather gods? Each time I’ve been to Ealing’s summer festivals, it has been warm and mostly sunny.

Ealing Jazz

Ealing JazzThe organisers have found a winning formula and each year just do some minor tweaks – after all, why mess with something that works? There’s a generous-sized bar (complete with pianist and double bass entertaining the clientele later in the afternoon), two large music tents, set at either end of the ‘arena’, almost enough (clean) portaloos to service Glastonbury, and plenty of merchandise for those who are fond of a spot of festival shopping. Food stalls punch somewhat above the festival’s weight, which is no bad thing. Vast portions of jerk chicken sizzle on a grill, Moroccan tagines bubble away, there’s the French La Grande Bouffe with its giant pans of wine infused creamy potato, and delicious salted chocolate brownies at the cappuccino stall are hard to resist.

We sat and watched Sarah Tandy and the Watertight Group with the expressive trombone player Tom White joining them. They had gathered a huge crowd in the main tent; the sound was relayed by speakers to the crowd picnicking on the grass outside. Later we were entranced by the sinuous Latin rhythms of Geoff Castle’s and Paz Reunion Band who particularly suited the occasion. They have been together, in various forms, over many years and it was intriguing to find out that their guitarist Ed Speight played with Ian Dury and on Tubular Bells.

Ealing jazz festival

Tom White joins Sarah Tandy

The other joyful performance of the day was a roving band who made their way around the festival site carnival style – Dick Cook and the Jambalaya Parade Band. Their New Orleans style jazz was utterly infectious and they got several members of the crowd dancing.

jazz band



WHO: Ealing Jazz Festival
WHEN: June 23-27, 2014
WHERE: Walpole Park, Ealing, London
TICKETS: £5 per day



Dolly Parton had offered to rescue a dog found at Glastonbury, discovered cowering in a tent by the cleaner-uppers. The lurcher was too old to travel so would not have been able to be rehomed in the States – but the owners have now come forward to reclaim the poor creature.

I am a bit mystified by all this. Dogs are banned from the majority of festivals. Did the owners, who aren’t English, maybe not understand this rule? What did the dog do for the festival’s entirety, sit in a tent while its owners went off to enjoy themselves each day?

Anyway, they have claimed her back and despite the charity who were looking after her understandably being concerned, they’ve had to hand her over to the owners.

I’ve arrived home from festivals without my jacket, sunglasses… any number of random items, but a dog? Anyone who can do this I feel doesn’t deserve to own the animal.

What looks at first like a heartwarming tale of owners reunited with their pet, plus a celeb to add a touch of glamour, is actually a sad tale of an abandoned dog left shivering in a tent amongst the detritus of Glastonbury.

So, The Bedroom Hour’s debut album, Hinterland is finally here. The band were posting regular updates on its progress and successfully crowd funded to help with its release (read here). I’m feeling that same sensation when a good friend has just had a baby  – you’ve been there for the announcement, cooed over the fuzzy scan photo, and now here it is, in its glorious vocal reality.



Hinterland’s cover shot first appeared on The Bedroom Hour’s cool new website, which they unveiled a couple of months ago. It’s a dramatic, moody view of London under a thunderous sky in which your eye travels from the glittery Shard and financial district/tourist centre to its outlying sprawl, its whole suffused with something dark. I’m reminded of JG Ballard’s novel Kingdom Come, an unease, a dislocation, London the Hinterland. The image is accompanied by Ocean – an intriguing instrumental track, layered and dense, which oozes with tension.

Continuing on a watery theme is Sea without Water… one of my favourite Bedroom Hour songs, a dreamy, wistful ballad with a strong hook and pleasingly retro sounding rippling guitar by Rob Payne. It’s the perfect vehicle for Stuart Drummond’s emotion-drenched vocals which are allowed to soar as the song reaches its final few bars. And it’s the one you will find easiest to sing along with after a few drinks. The next number, Nocturnal is another powerful number: there’s the guitar intro which ripples and soars, and the strong chorus, Stuart’s lyrics bemoaning love lost, ‘sleep through the day, just to get away from the thought of you with someone…

Heart will Haunt is a song familiar to fans. The song paces itself with a slow build, a master of restraint that takes two steps forward and one step back. Its percussive start leads into Stu’s vocals with the guitars weaving in, Andy Copper’s bassline beautifully holding it together. I always feel that this song has to tread a fine line to keep the vocal delivery controlled, which Stuart manages successfully, but there’s the potential in the wrong hands for this number to sound overblown.

I’ve only heard track 6, Sapphires recently, and it’s a beauty, a vocal-lead number suffused with emotion, with an anthemic chorus.

TBhThings get more rocky and upbeat on track 9 I See Suns, with gorgeously sexy bass underpinning the track. The bluesy quality of Stuart’s voice really shines and I love the euphoric burst of keyboard. It’s good to see the band flirt with their music a bit more and explore their upbeat side. It would be interesting if someone could do a dance remix.

Title track Hinterland occupies the penultimate position  – the yin to first track Ocean’s yang – and it has that lush, multi-layered, dreamy quality of the opener.

The album closes with A Map Made from my Bones, which I first heard at the band’s appearance att Paradise at Kensal Rise. I was looking forward to hearing it again and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s a strong bass line from which the song launches into a wall-of-sound arena-filling intensity with a plaintive guitar riff hat complements Stuart’s vocals.

Wishing you guys all the best tonight in Manchester!!

Hinterland will be available on iTunes from July 14, order here

The album launch party is on Saturday 12th July at Night and Day cafe, Manchester



Below is an earlier video of the band:






Arcade Fire

If Lord of the Rings had a stage…

The hottest day of the year turned into a beautiful evening, and at Hyde Park, Arcade Fire gave a truly inspired performance. No doubt the band were making sure that this, their last night of the successful Reflektor tour, would be one for us, and them, to remember.

Win Butler was more engaging, and more humorous, than I was expecting – such as his opening line ‘For perhaps the last time – Arcade Fire’ – well, I hope that’s a joke. They opened with Normal Person, following with Rebellion (Lies). The high point for me was the glorious Intervention. Naturally the set was peppered with numbers from Reflektor, such as my favourite, We Exist. From The Suburbs they played Rococo. Regine Chassagne radiated warmth and energy, shimmering in a gold ‘reflektor’ dress.

Arcade Fire

The concert wasn’t all superlatives, though this wasn’t the fault of Arcade Fire. The venue doesn’t score highly with me – or with plenty of others as I’ve discovered. Hyde Park just isn’t the most viewer-friendly location to see a band. For anyone my height, 5ft, it’s tricky being able to see anything other than the screens unless you stand quite a long way from the stage, at which point you don’t feel quite so engaged with the performance, and are battling to hear the band against the talkers around you.

The ticketing raised some eyebrows: a company I work for secured a deal to offer tickets for BST for £2.50 each, quite a reduction from £66, so that was a pleasant surprise. Naturally the offer went viral and it is to the ticket company’s credit that they honoured everyone who applied. But it was difficult to get away from people just chatting away loudly to their friends, paying no attention to the band. If I ever get to be in charge of Hyde Park gigs I’ll divide the arena into two: those who want to listen to the band, and those who want to talk and take selfies. Or maybe I just need to lighten up.

Fingers crossed Arcade Fire will be back in the studio before long, and return to the U to tour their new album.


WHO: Arcade Fire, Jake Bugg, Wild Beasts, Future Islands
WHEN: July 3, 2014
WHERE: Hyde Park, London




There’s so much going on over the summer at the South Bank – or Southbank Centre, as it’s now renamed. On this night alone there’s raw, dirty blues from The Amazing Snakeheads and a comeback set from Edwyn Collins. I’m off to see Trentemøller. The last time I saw the Danish electro multi instrumentalist was at 2am in a field at Big Chill in 2008, where a rapt audience stood silently, thrilled to their introspective and enveloping sound, in particular Moan, and its accompanying heartbreaking video of Laika the dog who was sent into space.

Southbank beach

The “beach” at Southbank


From the Festival Hall, a sunny eve at Southbank

Trentemøller are appearing as part of James Lavelle-curated Meltdown Festival. Anders Trentemøller is now touring with a band, straddling both electro and indie camps. As it turns out, he feels more electro than indie. On stage, the band remain fairly aloof. For the opening numbers they resemble a row of iPod-advert silhouettes against the cold spotlights, occasionally Ander’s hand punching the air. As the set warms up, the band become more visible, and the two female members, vocalist and guitarist, gradually take over as the focal point. The visuals consist of four lanterns, set against what might be blinds… a peek into a world beyond, or an inward-looking gaze.


Any vague concerns I had about the Royal Festival Hall’s suitability for their performance are banished; Trentemøller’s complex soundscapes fill the generous auditorium, waves of sound seeming to bounce off the walls. The auditorium is about three quarters full, with everyone seated, until suddenly, by some invisible signal, there’s a polite stampede as those in the rear stalls move near the front to dance.

Trentemøller’s work precedes the whole Scandinavian TV drama explosion, but they share a moody, dark outlook, and I can envision Take Me Into your Skin as the soundtrack for another series of The Killing, if Sarah Lund could be realistically brought back. Or unrealistically. Please bring her back, I don’t think us fans will care how.

It’s interesting to hear Ander’s hyper-polished productions live, but some of the subtlety is drowned out, noticeably so on Moan. Trentemøller play several numbers from Lost (2013), the last album, such as Candy Tongue which is wonderfully suffused with an air of menace. Shades of Marble, an earlier composition, builds up tension with its multi-layered Tarantino-esque feel. Since last night, I’ve been on Trentemøller overload, and am captivated and enthralled again by the compositions, their power, fluidity, pacing and tension. However, with the ‘distance’ they maintain between themselves and the audience, and the power that their recorded music delivers, I’m just not sure how much this live performance has added to their appeal.


WHO: Trentemøller plus support, part of Meltdown festival at the southbank centre
WHEN: June 17, 2014
WHERE: The Royal Festival Hall, London

Festival updates and half price festival tickets… head over to Music News

Yorkshire has never been shy of blowing its own trumpet. “God’s own county” (country?) and all that, as its citizens never tire of reminding us. So it was fairly inevitable that the first stage of the Tour de France happening on God’s own doorstep – Leeds to be more precise – would herald an extravaganza of cultural, creative and in some instances slightly barmy events. To add to the heady celebrations, the famous French two-wheel slogfest is now being welcomed with  – yes – its very own festival. Competitors will pedal close by the festival site, perfectly positioned for cheering them on, their progress to be charted on big screens on site. Originally conceived by the village of Muker which is on the cycle trail, this festival vision was realised by Leeds company Wilder, and so King of the Mountains, with its added ‘pop up’ cachet, came into being. The location just happens to be a valley of scenic perfection at the foot of Buttertubs Pass.

So King of the Mountains – this grand vision for the Grand Depart, is set to be a three-day music and arts event, with the actual Tour de France passing through Swaledale Valleyl on Saturday 5th July.

A sloe walk up Occupation lane

This valley will soon host a festival…


Live performance, culture and food from Yorkshire and beyond are the orders of the weekend. Headlining King of the Mountains are Dry the River (pictured below), who have just taken a year out to record their new album. Also appearing are Huw Stephens (DJ) and Paul Thomas Saunders. Sky Larkin, To Kill A King, Kyla La Grange. Also Leeds band Post War Glamour Girls, and Cottonwoolf.

Dry The River

Dry the River will be headlining…

Yorkshire food will a big feature and Gourmet Gigs is hoping for those giant Yorkshire Puds, containing a hefty portion of roast dinner and gravy – hopefully KoTM won’t go too ‘artisan’ on us and overlook such delicious staples. Naturally there will be some local Yorkshire Dales ales for sampling. This is a family festival, so expect plenty for children, plus Tour De Cinema, camping, cycle and car parks as well as huge screens to watch all the 2-wheel action. Activities include Farming Demonstrations and Sheep Judging.





Events leading up to the Tour de France have been inspiring and well-supported. Take for instance the astonishing Grand Departs, by iMove Arts and Hebden Bridge Piano Festival, an event which launched the Yorkshire Festival, 100 day celebration of arts and culture sponsored by Yorkshire Water. For this performance, a  team of cyclists pulled a piano, complete with a rotating troupe of pianists playing specially composed music, up the six miles of Cragg Vale, staring at Mytholmroyd in the Calder Valley. Large crowds and fair weather helped turn the four-hour strenuous piano pulling event into a huge success, ensuring coverage on the BBC news and the One Show. Click here. iMove Yorkshire also performed The Second Breath in Leeds, covered here

The Grand Depart

The Grand Depart. Photo Tim Smith

More recently, another moving performance happened called Ghost Peloton. Taking place in Leeds under cover of darkness, the performance melded cycling and dance, as cyclists travelled the now-deserted grounds of Leeds’ Tetley brewery, their outfits illuminated with coloured lights. It created mesmerising patterns and a magical presence. 



 Everything looks sparkly and fresh at Bearded Theory‘s new venue at Catton Hall. The grass is lush, green and springy. The main stage stands at one end of the remarkably flat new site, with a dance tent and the more intimate Tornado Town tent just far enough away to be out of earshot, while a secret stage lies hidden in a clearing in the woods. What better way to start proceedings than with a Thali at Ghandi’s Flipflop for £8 and a celebratory raspberry cider.

The main stage’s primarily retro lineup kicks off with the superb Leatherats – a band familiar to the festival, whipping up the atmosphere with their dancey, upbeat folk rock led by mad Gandalf lookalike Pete Bailey. Leatherats

In the Tornado Town tent, Funke and the Two Tone Baby, in the form of Dan Turnbull, offers a whirlwind of intense vocals and accomplished lightning speed guitar work. Enthusiasm and energy are paying dividends for this young musician, he announces at the end of his set that he has 29 festival appearances lined up this summer.

As the day turns to evening, Dub Pistols play a perfectly pitched set with singer Barry Ashworth looking particularly chilled and smiley. This is the time of the day to relax and luxuriate in a feel-good moment: admire the sunset, sip a drink, contemplate a dinner you won’t be cooking, and think of the weekend ahead full of joyous music. Looking upwards, that sunset is noticeably absent, the clouds are ominously rolling in, and rain is already pattering onto that gorgeous lush grass. Will a sea of mud ensue? Dancer at Bearded Theory

Dance tent Magical Sounds appears to have been granted a five-star budget for decoration, we admire the impressive Christmas-influenced tableau complete with santa, penguins and mushrooms. On Saturday night, Astralasia’s set is thrilling old-school mystical trance, I Feel Love is a mesmerising, drawn out version which I don’t want to end.

On Saturday, Bearded Theory favourites (and mine) 3 Daft Monkeys, play a good-natured afternoon set, mixing numbers from their latest album Of Stones & Bones, peppered with classics such as Days of the Dance. After having seen them several times before, it’s good to catch them at Bearded Theory –  it is their influence that helped kick the festival into gear at the very start. 3 daft monkeys Bearded Theory


The roll call of retro-Brit bands continues, with Pop Will Eat Itself who inject some relevant political commentary into their impressive set (such as corruption in Brazil pre-World Cup), followed by 90s outfit, The Wonder Stuff. But the night belongs to The Stranglers. It’s a glorious – and long – set, taking in Get a Grip on Yourself, No More Heroes, Peaches, Go Buddy Go, Skindeep, Hanging Around, Always the Sun… The band sound just incredible, remarkably similar to their original recordings, despite those lineup changes. The Stranglers remain a charismatic, powerful, muscular force, that driving bass which gets you somewhere in the guts, the gothic fairground organ, and prowling Baz Warne. The Stranglers

By Sunday the grass is no more, and the sea of mud is a continuous gloopy presence – not that anyone seems to particularly care, in fact nothing dents the mood. It is noticeable that fancy dress Sunday has become more subdued however, and the Magic and Sparkles theme isn’t too much in evidence. Monster Ceilidh Band play an energetic set at the Tornado Tent, playing their rousing mix of ceilidh and drum ‘n’ bass. Early evening, crowds gather at the mud pit in front of the Main Stage for the Blockheads, who run through their classics:  Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Sweet Gene Vincent, What a Waste, Reasons to be Cheerful, Clever Trevor and end with Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick – they dedicate a song to Wilko Johnson, who should have been performing at the festival but is currently recovering from treatment.

dreadzone at Bearded Theory The mighty Dreadzone are on next – they catch the mood just right for a chilled Sunday evening slot before the big headliner UB40. After a few numbers we leave Ali Campbell and the boys, and head over to catch The Orb Soundsystem for a final dance before wending our way homewards.

The Blockheads at Bearded Theory

Chaz Jankel of The Blockheads


Families are always well catered-for at Bearded Theory, the children’s dedicated Angel Gardens providing a wealth of activities all day, there was even a well-orchestrated children’s flashmob to ‘Happy’, in front of the main stage pre-Blockheads. Food stalls provided a diverse range of choice, including zebra burgers, with outlets situated at both ends of the festival site, and a cafe outside the arena too. Moving to a new site was always going to present the organisers with some testing moments, no doubt this was exacerbated by two days of fairly constant rain. The organisers apologised for the toilets, which certainly needed to be cleaned more often, and the car parks could do with more stewards on site. No doubt these issues will be addressed for next year.

Musically, Bearded Theory takes you on a comprehensive – if almost exclusively male – voyage back through the ‘Best of British’ over the last few decades, with plenty of punk, ska, folk and reggae, and a chance for new acts to make an appearance at the smaller tents. It’s hard to think of another festival with quite the same level of friendliness as Bearded Theory; as a ‘brand’ it certainly has found its niche (just hope it keeps up the beards competition), plus it possesses that element which I feel helps no end – a really even spread of ages with everyone getting along together.




Did you go to Bearded Theory this year?



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers

%d bloggers like this: