Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Live review - The Middle East/ Temper Trap, Somerset House, 12.07.2010

It was the night that the Aussies came to Somerset House and both the crowd and the bands, The Temper Trap and support band The Middle East, seemed to get a kick out of being at one of London’s prettiest venues.

Part of a run of outdoor gigs called the Summer Series, this years bill included Air, The Mystery Jets, Florence + The Machine, The XX , and The Divine Comedy. The outdoor setting, in the courtyard of Somerset House, did add a bit of extra magic to the proceedings as well as some nice acoustics, which were particularly good to the impressive vocal talents of both The Temper Trap and The Middle East.

The Middle East had the harder task as they are still relatively unknown in the UK but it didn’t take them long to win over the crowd of Temper Trap fans with their wistful, acoustic, indie folk sound.

A band of six talented musicians, they are not afraid of adding layer after layer of instrumentation including banjos, flutes, and accordions to the mix leading to really beautiful melodies and truly dreamy songs.

By the time The Middle East got to ‘The Darkest Side’, one of the best from their eight track 2008 album, ‘The Recordings of The Middle East’, the crowd had stopped their conversations altogether to listen to the guys and girl on stage fingerpick and sing — in perfect harmony, of course, — their way through another song.

The band also played a couple of promising-sounding new songs but their most famous song, ‘Blood’ (above) was kept until last supplying another fantastic showcase of their poetic lyrics, mesmerising melodies, and proof that The Middle East are definitely worth looking out for.

Then The Temper Trap took to the stage to a rapturous response from the crowd, which continued throughout their hour-long set.

Starting with ‘Rest’, the group of four stormed through some of their hits from debut album ‘Conditions’, the audience of fans with them all the way, singing along and clapping in all the right places.

New song, ‘Right Here’, went down a storm — slower-paced but still with that great force of energy that is largely down to lead singer Dougy Mandagi’s amazing voice, it left fans whispering to each other that they “can’t wait for the new record”.

‘Fader’ soon got everyone shouting along again, providing a reminder that Temper Trap have already managed to create some great pop songs in their short existence.

Lead singer, Mandagi, has clearly picked up a few crowd-pleasing tricks too — tipping water over the drum he was smashing the heck out of during an epic version of ‘Drum Song’, it sprayed up, hitting the lights and wowing the already spellbound crowd.

Of course, ‘Sweet Disposition’ was the finale, and the crowd really kicked into life when that guitar riff started up, even the rain that immediately started spitting down couldn’t dampen that level of audience enthusiasm.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Interview - Jessica Dance, accessories designer and all-round creative-type person

This interview was originally done for fab lifestyle site Running In Heels.

Despite only just graduating from The Arts University College Bournemouth, Jessica Dance, 22, has already had success with two quirky jewellery and accessories collections. Her latest, called 'Couture Creatures', is available to buy from Kabiri. She was awarded winner of this years Per Aquum Creative Marketing prize at London Graduate Fashion Week and her delightful blog is well worth a visit if you'd like to see what else this creative star of the future is up to.

Have you always wanted to be a designer?

No… I wanted to be a vet when I was 6, but that was short lived. I think I have always known I would not work in a 9-5 job, my overactive imagination meant that I would definitely work in the creative industry.

How did you get to where you are today and would you do anything differently?

Persistence! And always being confident in my work, my work is an acquired taste so it’s so important to really believe in what I am creating.

How did you get started as a designer?

I studied fashion at university. When I started uni I had no idea what I wanted to do. I didn't find my place of study inspirational and I felt I didn't fall into this category of 'fashion'. My way of working seemed to confuse people. I created my own little world; in my mind handmade rabbits lunching in the garden with a picnic set was humorous, endearing and exciting; and that to me was a fashion shoot, is it not? There were quite a few people who advised against my way of working, however being stubborn and probably a bit naive I shunned this advice and this drove me to work harder and inspired me to design my own collection.

How would you describe your overall aesthetic?

My props and accessories are very often playful. I love tactility so my pieces take on a three-dimensional form, inviting people to touch and interact with them. I always make my props and accessories by hand and I always make them myself. I suppose I'm a bit of a perfectionist but I think this is reflected in the overall quality and personality of the finished pieces.

Couture Creatures from Rob Francis on Vimeo.


Fantasy stories and vintage craft books.

Do you feel British or European?

British, I love old fashioned English eccentricity and….tea.

Who are you listening to at the moment?


Jewellery trend for this season?

Tactility, handmade and a return to time consuming craft.

What couldn't you live without?

That’s difficult it’s a tie between animals or all-in-one suits.

Dream purchase?

Electric blue silk, Kenzo Jumpsuit.

Favourite movie?

My favourite film seems to change from month to month…. My current one has to be Fantastic Mr Fox. The attention to detail is meticulously perfect.

One piece of jewellery every girl should own?

Everyone needs to own a little Happet brooch from my current Couture Creatures collection!

Favourite European city and why?

Poland, I love all the little cellar bars and interesting shops.

Desert island book?

Fluffy by Simone Lia.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I never really know where I will be in 5 days let alone 5 years…. I like to think I'll be working in my own studio making ridiculous props and accessories for a variety of projects from music videos to fashion shows.

Can you run in heels?

No I can barely walk in them. But I own vast amounts.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Festival review - Glastonbury

Published over at amazing Amelia's Magazine, here. Laura Marling by Natasha Thompson

There is no denying
Glastonbury 2010 was a really special one. So if, like me, you are still feeling a touch of the post-festival blues read on and let us reminisce about some of the musical moments that made this years festival truly great.

In the weeks before the 40th Glastonbury there was an anticipation that everyone down on Worthy Farm would be pulling out all the stops. And sure enough, ecstatic festival-goers arrived to a spruced up site; a beautiful patchwork sign spelling Glastonbury surveyed the beauty of the colossal site from its perch on the hill near The Park; a giant wicker man stood proudly in the middle of the stone circle; and a ravetastic new henge made from glowing cubes provided a place for guys and gals of Glastonbury to come and worship in the dance fields. I’m sure there was much much more but all this added to a general impression that Glasto 2010 was going to be bigger, brighter and better than ever before.

Then, of course, something really magical happened, something that no one could have predicted. The sun shined for the entire festival – and boy did it shine! Umbrellas found a novel new purpose in life protecting their owners not from rain but the unrelenting heat of the sun, and wellies remained slumped in dark corners of tents or abandoned by the very optimistic in cars.

As with the extra effort put into everything else, the line up was incredible — too good! Everyday my heart was broken a little as I realised that two, three or four of the bands I would have liked to have seen were on at the same time. The line-up was an eclectic music fan’s (such as myself’s) dream. Neatly summed up, of course, in the festival’s headline acts;
Gorillaz, Muse and Stevie Wonder — three acts big enough to hold their own on the famous Pyramid Stage but definitely diverse in their musical stylings. I’m going to end on Stevie but first to another of his namesakes.

Seasick Steve took to The Pyramid in what felt like one billion degree heat in the middle of the day on Saturday. The cider in my hand was hotter than the sun and doing nothing to quench my thirst but Seasick Steve was all the refreshment that the large crowd who had turned up to see him needed. He’s been on the summer festival circuit for a while now but his stripped-down act, wailing three string guitar, and songs about life on the streets in the USA were still as thrilling as ever. ‘Burning Up’ managed to sum up quite succinctly the general atmosphere among the sea of sweating fans but we all stayed with him despite the heat for his tremendous trademark finale of the ever-accelerating bluesy number ‘Dog House Boogie.’

Then, later that day, Laura Marling’s gig provided one of the most memorable moments of festival. After a blissful and beautiful Saturday afternoon Marling emerged just as the bright ball-like orange sun dipped behind the trees. She said very little but the hush over The Park as everyone stopped to listen to her was such that my friend aimed a “Shhh” at a low flying helicopter above us. Her set was a combination of the now veritable folk standards from the old album such as‘Ghosts’, ‘My Manic and I’ and the countrified ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ and pretty ditties from new album I Speak Because I Can. She began ‘Blackberry Stone’ to whoops of delight from the crowd and by the end of the delicate guitar-based ballad from her latest work Laura had herself a few new fans and a boy at the front had himself a new fiancĂ©. “I don’t know if you saw, but someone just proposed and got a good answer,” Marling told the mesmerised crowd.

Mumford & Sons caused me a fair bit of heartache, an ill-timed arrival meant that I could barely get near the tent. Recently the Mumford boys have pretty much exploded — planting their banjo-touting and harmony-singing selves firmly at the forefront of the British antifolk scene. Their gig at the John Peel Stage was a monument to how popular they have become. The audience and, really endearingly, the band were completely overwhelmed. As their set saw some of the biggest sing- a-longs of the festival it was all the boys could do to steal glances at each other with looks of utter disbelief. The intimacy of their songs and acoustic nature was not lost among the huge crowd though — proving once and for all that these are folkies who really know how to rock. In fact many were left wondering why the boys had been billed for the John Peel and not The Other or West Holts Stages, they definitely proved they can draw a big enough crowd.

Dizzee Rascal, a bit of a festival staple these days, was perhaps one of the only acts who could have drawn me away from the Mumfords. Ever the entertainer he bust out his best hits including ‘Bonkers’, ‘Holiday’, new one ‘Dirty Disco’ and a version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ — all unbeatable at geeing up a cider-fuelled rabble for a night of raging away in the dance fields, Shangri-La, their own tent, or whatever it might be. And, of course, his set wouldn’t have been complete without an appearance from Florence for ‘You Got the Dirty Love’ (her own gig on The Other Stage another massive festival highlight for many). After also appearing withThe xx, Florence actually sung ‘You Got the Love’ three times this Glastonbury. In fact if you watched Florence at her gig and all her guest appearances and then went to see Candi Staton croon her way through her original version, you could have gotten a whole four renditions — I’m not sure that’s ever happened before at Glasto and surely that’s more than enough love for anybody?

But it was Stevie Wonder who stole the show for many, proving that 50 odd years in the business only makes you more of a superstar not a washed-up one. Ripping a keytar to shreds, Wonder promised a night of celebrating Michael Jackson’s life as well as 40 years of Glastonbury. Now, I would never have bought a ticket to see Stevie Wonder play but clearly this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience and anyway, his music holds some pretty serious sway in our house (my Mum requested songs by Stevie to be played out on hospital radio after the births of me and my sister!) But even my friend, who couldn’t claim to be a Stevie Wonder fan — “I don’t know any of the songs, sing one to me!” — soon realised that basically everybody knows Stevie Wonder’s music. His songs are all around us and like some kind of musical oxygen have been seeping into our brains via osmosis since the dawn of time! Stevie unashamedly rattled through the biggest hits of his half century-long career, saving ‘Superstition’ until near the end of his set, unleashing a rapturous response among arguably the biggest crowd of the festival.
Stevie Wonder by Abi Daker

Then the ultimate finale to what has since been reported as the best Glastonbury ever, Stevie’s legendary soul interpretation of Happy Birthday. Glasto founder Michael Eavis was dragged out on stage and serenaded by the superstar — providing the ultimate warm fuzzy feeling in the stomachs of everyone who witnessed it. Even if Eavis’ singing was less than easy on the ears.