[Blog] New Single: Seperations (Produced by Stakker)

A couple of months ago myself and a mate of mine Richard Baldwin, who produces and writes under the aliases Stakker, The Soviet Union and Belville (check out his tunes here), had our first jam, which immediately produced some promising sounds and ideas. We’d previously bonded at a party over a shared interest in old-school audio hardware, and learning that Richard owned not one but two mint condition Roland 808 drum-machines, I knew I had to get together and see what our minds could create.

I was slightly nervous at first to be jamming with such an experience musician, but we kicked straight into it and gelled quickly over some 808 pattern experiments. Quickly laying a beat into Ableton, I scrapped previous verses that I had brought to the jam, and wrote something on the spot to fit the sparse, mid-80s dark electro vibes that Richard was cultivating. Taking some ideas from previous incomplete verses, discussing the refugee crisis, I initially went down the route of the partying-at-the-end-of-the-world theme, that  I had previously explored in End Times. We sat on this rough initial draft for a month or so, having a few jams in between to remix tracks and hang out. Then, after the EU referendum decision, I decided it was appropriate to pick up this jam again and lay something down while the topic and inspiration is fresh. The upcoming US election adds another level of perverse inspiration behind the content of this track.

What we’ve come up with is called Separations, and I’m pretty proud of it. This is the first time I’ve finished a track for my ongoing solo rap project over a beat made not by myself. It felt particularly collaborative due to Richard taking particular interest in how I was delivering the vocals, honing it on specific line delivery as well as the tone of whole verses. We tracked all the vocals in about 3 hours, split up with pizza and cider, and I think the extra production input has taking the track up a notch. It’s still loose, there’s some improv at the end which Richard and I decided to keep in, and there’s a few vocal flubs we’ve kept in there for the hell of it. Stop it sounding too laboured or whatever.

I hope you’ll dig the message of the track – don’t want to be too preachy, but taking influence from political rappers of the past, this is all about unity in the face of the divisions placed upon us by the media, politics and negative rhetoric . Check the track out above, or on bandcamp.

Hamish Gavin and Richard Baldwin Stakker recording Separations

Dicking around at the recording sessions

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[Journal] Back To Metal or: Looking Back On Being a Teenage Metalhead

Our tastes change depending on who we are at any given time. When we’re kids, we often lean towards pop and friendly or gimmicky dance music, as this is what appeals to us. Or in our younger days, we listen to whatever our parents are into. As we grow up, we become more aware of cultural trends happening around us, and try to keep up with them, for the sake of being one with the crowd, to bond with our peers through shared cultural knowledge. When we hit our teens, some of us want to distance ourselves further from the mainstream, and look for periphery or outsider art that doesn’t so much appeal to those still following the mainstream. For recent generations, perhaps that means diving deeper into movements such as rap or metal, or at least that is what it meant for me, as well as searching for cinema not so accepted by my teachers or parents, horror and art-house for example.

Your experiences might be different, as I’m looking at this from a reasonably personal perspective. But metal for me formed a defining part of my teen years, from 14 upwards, I found myself listening to increasingly heavier music, out of enjoyment and also to know about something and be a part of a cultural movement outside what was predominantly taking place within popular groups in my home town. Sport and pop music never really had enduring appeal. I was preoccupied by the mainstream in my tween years, and although I found the Beastie Boys and felt pretty proud discovering such cool artists before the rest of my peers, I would soon turn my back on them, based on one nasty interview they have in New Zealand in 2005. That was before a concert I would want so much to go to but never had a chance, their headlining performance at the Big Day Out. When they acted like bored assholes, in an interview with Clarke Gayford on ex-NZ music channel C4 – my genre loyalties would be prompted to change.

They may have been having a bad day, and I would eventually forgive them (rediscovering them in 2007 upon the release of The Mix Up), but in the interim, metal would fill the gap of my teenage obsessions, and a love of dance and rap would soon be replaced by obsessive support for the heavy – Megadeth, Pantera, Death, Carcass, Mayhem, Slayer, Immortal, Cryptopsy, Metallica, Sepultura, Metallica and Black Sabbath amongst others. The chug, the growl, the double kick, aggressive lyrical delivery and the overly long song structure would become my new musical guide.

Incarnate playing Oamaru's Penguin Club, 2007

Incarnate playing Oamaru’s Penguin Club, 2007

Local New Zealand metal bands would also form a huge part of my metal education and influence. Playing alongside stellar bands such as Christpuncher, El Schlong, 8 Foot Sativa, Tainted, Overlord, Nuns With Guns, Injection Of Death – some from Dunedin, some from around NZ, would only cement my desire to become a better metal musician and be more a part of the community. I was drumming with my high school friends in a band Incarnate (separate schools, but similar friends and ages) and I was prompted to double kick faster and faster, and learn more complex beats and fills, through competition with the peers around me. Gigging together, with friendly competition and rivalry, these high school and university gig days were some of the best times of my life.

After tour photo - Osmium, Sinate, Incarnate, Flesh Gates & Menaesa

After tour photo – Osmium, Sinate, Incarnate, Flesh Gates & Menaesa

Time moved on, I changed cities, and perhaps moved away from metal. Rap re-entered my life, and in a turn of events I still find hilarious even as I delicately pursue it, I’m now an aspiring solo and group rapper writer and producer. Metal is still in my life, as I sporadically meet my friends for gigs and festivals, but mainstream, indie and rock is back to being a more dominant part of my life. I’m no longer trying to prove myself to a community, or gain respect in one genre or subculture. I’m following whatever I like at whatever given time, although still arguably somewhat being under the thumb of trends and phases.

The last month I’ve moved back to a metal phase, interspersed with other genres, but returned to much loved groups such as Baroness, Black Sabbath, and Immortal (whose live DVD is a brilliant lesson in live metal theatrics) as well as diving into bands I’ve previously ignored (as I write this I’m listening and loving Meshuggah’s  “I”) – particularly Gojira, who I find are a brilliant mix of progressive and melodic elements with traditional metal brutality. The whale pick scrapes they’ve pioneered add an addictive element to their death and sometimes even nu-metal influenced chugs. Their lyrical content is on point as well, drawing from philosophical as well as literary influences and also environmental concerns. I love a band that has a heart and cares about topical themes, and Gojira further prove a metal band can be intelligent and as heavy as the heaviest substance on earth, in line with philosophically minded metal bands like Death or Cynic. I will see Gojira live in June at Download Festival, with some friends adventuring over to the UK from New Zealand. I look forward to this greatly.

Drumming at Refuel 2009

Drumming at Refuel 2009

Tastes can change, and I’m lucky to be friends with many different people with tastes ranging from the hardcore dance fanatics, to the indie rock purists. I focus on music because this is what I know, but equally, many of my friends are just as much die-hard about sport or gaming. Our interests and obsessions take many twists and turns, but it’s comforting to know something solid that I loved in a past life, such as metal, as an interest and a community – just will not die.

Thoughts on David Bowie (Rest In Peace, 1947 – 2016)

David Bowie means a lot of things to a lot of people. This is obvious with the outpouring of memorials all over social media. This morning when I woke up, upon picking up my phone the first thing I saw was someone changing their Facebook profile to Bowie’s iconic image of Ziggy Stardust. I scrolled down a little further, to see the news of his passing from Pitchfork. Unable or unwilling to react to the news immediately, I slept for another hour, dreaming of Bowie, to be awoken by my BBC Radio 6 alarm setting with tributes from on air. At least in London, mainstream media today has been almost solely and rightfully focused on Bowie’s life and influence, and so too have my friends, as I spent much of the day reading their dedications.

The sheer amount of regular people and famous fans alike that expressing sadness at his passing speaks of the man’s importance to popular culture. There is barely a strand of modern music that Bowie did not play some part in innovating in his 70s peak. His work never diminished, even if his audience became at times more niche. Being the androgynous role model that he was, his music spoke to people regardless of gender, generation and race. As I write this I am down at an impromptu memorial to Bowie which has broken out in his birth suburb of Brixton in London. Stretching from a Bowie mural and reaching down to Brixton Oval, thousands of people have congregated, laying flowers, painting faces (and statues) with the Stardust bolt and with singalongs rampantly breaking out aided with the P.A. equipment of local residents. It’s a Bowie block party and a mini-festival, with all kinds of misfits and music fans gathered together.

bowie brixton

There’s probably a lot of reasons why Bowie means so much to so many. Most obviously is the music. Generations have grown up with songs like Space Oddity, Life On Mars, Ziggy Stardust, Heroes, Ashes to Ashes and Lets Dance sound-tracking our lives. His ability to innovate and defy expectations has made him a critical favourite, where his pop sensibilities have equally kept him commercially relevant. Most inspiring to me though, is Bowie’s approach to his own career. His frequent and fearless approach to changing up his style and identity provides a guide to how the rest of us mere mortals can too approach change in our lives. Musicians often get stuck repeating the same formulas, so too do the rest of us in regards to careers or habits. Bowie’s legacy is one of disregard to conformity – if one idea has exhausted it’s potential, move on to a new career in a new town. Just as Bowie dropped glam rock for funk at the height of his popularity, or pop for a return to his rock roots in the late 80s, we too can apply this mindset to more everyday situations. If a job or relationship isn’t working out right, moving on and reinventing is always an option. Even if Bowie makes changing your style cooler and more effortless than a great many of us ever could.

For some reason at points throughout the last decade, I’d found myself imagining what a world without Bowie would be like. Before the release of his 2013 album The Next Day, it seemed like that could come anytime, given his almost complete withdrawal from public appearances and projects. I wanted to believe, that if any of our classic rock idols, Bowie would be the invincible one (he certainly seemed the most otherworldly). With the release of Blackstar last week, it seemed like that might be true. Bowie had seemed healthy albeit a bit wizened in the last few music videos, and he seemed to have lost no energy, finding time to write and stage an off-Broadway sequel to The Man Who Fell To Earth sound-tracked by his music. I had spent this weekend internalizing the new album, which I found to be slighter but more completely realized than The Next Day. Blackstar’s jazzy and sprawling first half put the album up there with the most experimental of Bowie’s musical efforts, although the 2nd half featured a couple of classic ballads, finishing with the touching, I Can’t Give Everything Away. Sounding like Strangers When We Meet, with Low-era production and a haunting harmonica riff, it could be one of Bowie’s best songs of the last twenty years. Before this morning, I had neglected to register the many references to death within that song, and on the album. Such as this lyric from the title track Blackstar, where he appears to be acknowledging his end, and passing the torch somewhat;

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

I’m sure there will be many more artists that come close to Bowie’s level of success and many that imitate his chameleon approach to a music career, but I doubt that a torch can really be passed. Bowie’s passing for me signifies an end to a particular era of culture. Although some stars of 1960s and 70s music remain active, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and The Rolling Stones to name some, Bowie’s passing seems significant in reminding how finite this era of music really is. Culturally, this is a loss up there in impact with the loss of John Lennon, Michael Jackon, Freddie Mercury and Elvis. Bowie’s loss has reminded me that these legends won’t be around forever, and neither will we. Rock music, as permanent a movement as it may seem, is a passing thing, as mortal as we are. But rather than seeing this finality as grim, we can look positively to all that Bowie has laid out for us. We may not be able to carry his torch, but we can at least take inspiration from this most ambitious, creative, trendsetting and alive of artists.

I would like to end with this sentiment from Twitter user Dean Podesta, who I think said it quite well;

Live Review: Chvrches (Alexander Palace, London, 2015)

 

I was slightly cynical before attending Chvrches largest London headline show to date, having previously seen them play Laneway in Auckland in 2014, where they had been promoted to headliner after Lorde dropped out. At the time they didn’t quite seem headline material, even for an indie festival such as Laneway, and a minimal stage set up and technical issues in my eyes confirmed this to be the case. With their latest album, Every Open Eye being a strong follow up to The Bones Of What You Believe, and their fan-base only growing in size and dedication, it seemed there were enough reasons in the lead up to the Alexander Palace show to believe that Chvrches now have what it takes.

Alexander Palace, with it’s standing capacity of 7,300 is not a small venue. Chvrches has sold this out, which is perhaps an indication of their rising popularity. The audience was eclectic, not being dominated by teenagers or indie kids, but with a suitable proportion it seemed of over 40 year olds and casual concert goers, of both genders. Gangs of lads could be spotted as could many couples, choosing this band for the soundtrack to their courtship. It seems Chvrches are a band that crosses demographics.

The opening acts were equally eclectic, with Australian indie-EDM cross-over act Mansionair opening proceedings. There drummer was particularly notable, backing up layers of melodic synths and reverb heavy chords with jazzy rhythms and the expected drum machine sample. It was a fairly chilled beginning, before Four Tet took the stage with his intoxicating progressive house vibes, encouraging some welcome movement throughout the steadily growing crowd. It is perhaps notable to mention that the show ran like clock-work, with Chvrches taking to the stage exactly on their 9pm listed time.

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The house lights went down and the Glasgow band emerged, with singer Lauren Mayberry’s presence causing the expected shrieks of excitement from their especially female fan-base. Wasting no time, Mayberry danced about the stage, leaping up on the fold-back’s and seemed a much more confident front-woman than at Laneway two years earlier. Opening track Never Ending Circles has some of the best hooks off the new album and provided an energetic opener. Her two bandmates, Martin Doherty and Iain Cook, were largely stuck on their podiums of synthesizers and samples, although 41 year old Cook occasionally left his podium to add live bass. Doherty gets turn front of stage later for a lead vocal cameo, with Mayberry showing her percussions skills, her drumming cameos being somewhat of a highlight.

The two massive screen’s either side of the band focused on Mayberry, making her a seem larger than life presence, in spite of her relatively slight real life stature.  These screens also provided a glimpse into what was taking place behind Doherty and Cook’s podiums, giving evidence that they were in fact playing their synthesizers live – not just queuing backing tracks as could easily be assumed. The stage design has gone up a notch as well, though remaining understated, with three screens of colourful animations and an arena-sized lighting rig providing a visual accompaniment to the music. These production values are expected for a band of this size, but in my eyes greatly improved the shows sense of spectacle compared to that minimal Laneway performance. They are now suited to a venue the size of Alexander Palace, without completely giving themselves over to the excesses of mainstream pop live productions.

Although Chvrches are fast rising the ranks of indie fame, they continue to approach their pop career with modesty. This determination to stay down to earth shows itself particularly in Mayberry’s on stage persona, herself admitting during between song banter that she could never be a Motley Crue-type, crowd pleasing front-woman. Although asking the crowd later if they were having a great time, referencing the earlier self-deprecating banter, the crowd in turn responded with cheers, showing that if Mayberry was every to fully embrace the role of a rock performer, she would well have the capability. But perhaps Chvrches reluctance to embrace the fake side of rock and pop is what draws their fanbase towards them. At other points in the concert, Mayberry talked of her fear of becoming another headline, in light of recent onstage events becoming tabloid fodder. Regardless of what the journalists chose to write, the bands authenticity in songwriting and performance remains endearing  and I think it is a large part of their appeal.

Most importantly, Chvrches have the hits, blitzing through big singalong moments such as Gun and We Sink off the first album, with new singles Empty Threat, Leave A Trace and Clearest Blue already being some of the biggest moments. Vocals are always impressive and the performance quality near identical to what is heard on the album (a good or bad thing depending on your appreciation of improvisation). Ending with the tender Afterglow, before signature anthem The Mother We Share, Chvrches prove they more than have the songwriting skills to be major headlining act. Compared to recent concerts I’ve attended of this genre which seemed slightly underwhelming, Purity Ring being one example, Chvrches are staking their claim as a major electronic pop live draw-card, and they have the evidence to prove it.

chvrches alexander palace

A Season Of Firsts part V: First day in London and it’s a toilet-less Blur

The ‘A Season Of Firsts’ series of blogs is me accounting my experience of relocating from New Zealand to the United Kingdom to work and travel.

Bags gatwick hamish gavin

Unwrapping the bags at Gatwick

On the 20th of June, 7am in the morning, I arrived in London. That’s over a month ago, so any thoughts I’ll be sharing on this iconic city will be from the mindset of the jaded recent arrival, rather than the completely naive and fresh London immigrant.

London has very few public toilets. This was my first major revelation about the place, and one that would strongly taint my initial first impressions of the city. Making my way from Gatwick to a hostel in a suburb I had no idea about, dealing with the underground for the first time, trying to use Google Maps and orientate myself with a 24 KG pack on my back; this was all hard enough. Let alone with a full bladder, and seemingly no way of emptying it. I skipped the toilets at Gatwick assuming I would easily be able to find one on the way. This is one of the largest cities in the world after all. The only one to be found at London Bridge Underground Station required coins, and I didn’t yet have any Great Britain Pounds to my name. There was none to be found at my next stop of Rotherhithe either. This is now a good hour and a half after I boarded the express train from Gatwick into the city. London looked nice, but I’d not yet seen any major landmarks yet, just suburbs of brick houses and a grey-ish sky. It was beginning to seem a particularly anti-climatic entrance to the city, but one that in it’s own way was quintessentially London.

capark thames

My introduction to London

I didn’t make it all the way to the Hostel, I had to dive into the first bushy area I could find and illegally relieve myself, making the most of the one of the conveniences of the male gender. Now able to think straight, I soon found my hostel and proceeded to the next mission of getting some Pounds in hand. Turns out withdrawing money from a New Zealand Debit Card was an equally frustrating endeavor, with the ATM in the hostel spitting my card back at me without handing over any paper. Off I went to find the nearest Barclay’s which were apparently fee-less. I got lost, ended up at a small Thameside mall, and gave in to the first ATM I saw. I would soon find out that there was no avoiding bank charges when withdrawing from an overseas account in the UK. So advice for anyone traveling soon; take all the cash with you.

My first day in London was therefore suitable un-restful. That afternoon, on my return to the hostel I would receive a message from a friend. Blur were playing Hyde Park that afternoon, so it was off to that. Being unaware of the time it takes to travel throughout London, and lacking in any sense of direction I gave up on trying to navigate the tubes and instead booked an Uber. Probably the best decision I made my first day in London, as the Uber got me right to Bethnal Green Station early. I met up with my friends and was able to head to Hyde Park together, right on time to see all the support acts. I wasn’t too tired at this stage; I had slept enough on the plane from Dubai to London, but I was completely overwhelmed by having finally made it to the British metropolis I had been anticipating for sometime. Being overwhelmed I was unable to truly appreciate seeing Blur live, or appreciate what it was like to actually be standing in Hyde Park. In fact, it didn’t seem that special. Turns out Hyde Park is just another park, which happened to have a large stage situated upon in, and a lot of people milling around listening to music.

blur hyde park hamish gavin

We’ve made it to a concert

It may not have the wisest idea to go to a large music festival the day of arrival in a completely foreign city twenty four hours from home. But regardless, Blur were amazing, and maybe one day I’ll see them when I’m not confused – and truth be told, slightly drunk. The ciders were flowing, the exchanging of dollars for pounds were taking place, and my slightly hedonistic first Great Britain summer was had begun. How else do you spend your time in London, then spend all your money on music, arts, performances and substances? I should add, before I sound too jaded, that Blur at Hyde Park was a great concert that well lived up to expectations. The set-list was huge, the new songs sounded great side by side with the old classics and they even made time for fan favorites like Stereotypes. But the whole thing was a bit of a.. fog. Too much entertainment, too soon.

blur hyde park

It was all a Blur

It would not be long until I would have a job yet again. Applying for positions before arrival turned out to be a wise option, and within days of touching down I would have my first interview. Finding a flat was not easy, and for someone looking to keep costs to a minimum I soon learned I would have to settle. London is no place for indecision and my problem solving skills were immediately tested. Savings would not last long, and as I sit writing this, I’m wracked with doubt about how I’m going to avoid expensive meals and drinking sessions yet still remain social. Still another month to go until that first paycheck comes.

If you take anything from my experience, it’s to be prepared. For the bank charges and for the lack of toilets. Learn from my mistakes – use the Airport toilet before you hop on the train to the city. London is a hard enough city without having to deal with a bursting bladder and no options to empty it.

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Disregarding the puns – Blur are awesome

Glastonbury 2015 blog: Saturday, Sunday and Summary

Intro – Revolution and Religion at Glastonbury

I’ve now returned from the cultural fantasy land and endurance test that is Glastonbury. Back in the real world, and two days after the majority of festival goers have left worthy farm, I’m now tasked with summarising the last days of experience at this most iconic of music festivals.

dalai lama glastonbury

The first few days I had managed to cover from the scene but due to the packed timetables of Saturday and Sunday I decided to take a break writing and completely immerse myself in the proceedings. Over the course of those days I witnessed some of the most unique performances I’d ever seen. I saw both Kanye West and Dalai Lama with a 12 hour timespan and as you can imagine, both were hugely memorable and yet had widely juxtaposed messages. The ego-fuelled spectacle of Kanye, which I and many other fans absolutely loved, was contrasted by the humility and compassion of Dalai Lama. The Buddhist leader, celebrating his 80th birthday, spoke to a crowd of twenty thousand or so about the need for better education, the importance of compassion and even of the inability of music to provide true contentment. The Dalai Lama instead told us he felt music was no different a sensorial experience to touch or taste, no different than the fleeting pleasure we get from eating a cake or having sex. He also encouraged people to believe that the next generation could create change. I thought delivering this kind of grounded message to a field full of pleasure seeking festival goers was sobering and appropriate.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama appeared again during Patti Smith’s awe inspiring set on Sunday, possibly the best set of the weekend, and bestowed upon Smith a white scarf that must have had some significance. We all sang Happy Birthday to His Holiness and a cake was brought out to him which he cut. He looked as if he was disappointed to have not eaten a piece as the cake was wheeled away from him. The rest of Smith’s set was a full blown punk riot, with Patti ripping through an extended version of Horses and Gloria, tripping over on stage in her fury, and recovering by telling the crowd “I am a fucking animal!” Smith’s dialogue between songs was in line with sentiment shared by Pussy Riot and the Dalai Lama – one of freedom, from government and corporations and that change IS possible. In spite of what others tell us. This rebellious sentiment didn’t feel contrived, it felt inspiring. Maybe we were only at a hedonistic music festival, but I can only dream that some of this revolutionary talk will help open the perspectives of some on the audience and watching at home.

From Pussy Riot holding a militant hostage on top of a war vehicle in front of The Park stage, to Pharrell leading a packed Pyramid audience in a chant championing Freedom, there was a definite liberal and confrontational edge to the festival. Greenpeace and other charities were everywhere. Up in Green Fields, where the original hippy inhabitants of the festival set up camp – you could talk to charities, meet alternative folk, get vegan cooking lessons, do power-ballad yoga and get behind many causes aligned with the festivals green mentality. Everywhere there were signs about not peeing on the land to avoid pollution, taking your tents and rubbish with you and leaving the farm without a trace. It’s sometimes hard to believe that a regular Somerset farmer would let all this happen on this backyard, but it’s probably justified by all the good work the festival has achieved, both raising money and awareness for causes. It’s great that this extends to the artists’ performances, that traditionally rebellious acts like Pussy Riot or Patti Smith champion their own causes, but also mainstream, seemingly corporate acts like Pharrell. Of course, some of this is done for the TV, and when Pharrell looked humbled by the mass singalong of his song Freedom, that was probably just as much due to the intoxication of the audience, and the British lad culture that encourages sing-along chanting, as it was to the crowds reception to the idea of freedom for our brothers of all colours and creeds.

Saturday and Kanye West

At odds with the liberal politics elsewhere, my Saturday was largely taken up with anticipation for Kanye’s set that night. I first took in some of the opportunities Glastonbury holds for the slightly-skilled like myself and headed to Stonebridge Bar in the The Park for Hip Hop Karaoke. Having learnt the whole of Through The Wire by Kanye West, I felt this was the opportunity to give it a go, and to appear in front of an audience at Glastobury. I managed to tick this one off the bucket list, and although I may have gone a bit too hard on the swearing and shouting, the experience seemed a success. Video proof to come.

It was then off to the main stage to camp up for Kanye’s headlining set. Before Kanye, in my attempts to get front row and centre, I enjoyed a set from Burt Bacharach, who turns out has written a lot more classic songs than I realised. Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head seemed perfect for the weekends weather (although it had cleared up at that stage). Paloma Faith followed and was sexy, had a lot of sass and some well-rehearsed dance moves. Then it was time for West. You may ask what all the fuss is about and why someone would be excited to see the man live. I’ve been a fan of his music for a few years now, notably since the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He’s now a Marmite kind of brand, you either love him or hate him, and event though his ego does overshadow the music, he’s got a heck of a lot of good songs and I felt it was going to be a memorable show.

kanye west glastonbury

In the eyes of this fan, he delivered. In the eyes of many other, he probably didn’t. I had expected the pancake lighting rig, having seen it hanging at the top of the pyramid stage earlier. I had also expected him not to bring a typical Glastonbury people-pleasing set, as this is not in his tool-set. I was correct, but he did bring his hits, and from where I was right at the front – surrounded by fellow Kanye super-fans – we had no complaints. Things did get a little unfocused in the middle, mistakes were made during Hold My Liquor by Kanye and guest Justin Vernon, and the guest appearances from Macca and Rihanna for Four Five Seconds never emerged. Kanye attempted that one by himself, which no-doubt was slightly disappointing. But for this fan – no complaints. He dropped rarities like I Wonder, attempted a hilarious karaoke version of Bohemian Rhapsody, and emerged from a crane for Touch The Sky – mimicking his triumphant Coachella set of 2011. It may have been self-indulgent, it probably wasn’t in the spirit of Glastonbury, and it wasn’t the highlight of the weekend. But it was good enough for this fan.

Sunday

Beginning with the relatively secret Dalai Lama’s appearance in the early hours up by the Stone Circle, Sunday had a decidedly more sober vibe compared to Saturday. In terms of substances as well as sounds. The Dalai Lama’s appearance and speech was most probably the highlight of the weekend for me, and well worth getting out of the tent early for. Sunday lunch-time I walked past the dance area on the way back to my tent and caught Minneapolis rap crew and record label Doomtree, who through down a huge hip hop party, leaving the stage altogether and performing in a circle in between their fans. I attempted to learn some lyrics to not look like the most clueless guy in the audience.

Patti Smith then owned the afternoon, and following that, exhaustion set in. My feet now dying from wearing gumboots and trudging miles across Worthy Farm for days on end, I was forced to leave Alt J’s mainstage set (which I wasn’t a huge fan of regardless) to head back to the campsite to return my so much more comfortable Chuck Taylor’s to my feet. On the way, I got distracted by Belle and Sebastian playing a much better set than the one they delivered at Auckland’s Laneway earlier in the year. I came right in time for I’m A Cuckoo and Another Sunny Day, but left early to complete the shoe mission. Comfortable footwear now acquired, I headed back to the Other Stage to watch a joyous performance of The Boy With The Arab Strap, complete with a pile of stage invading kids.

Sunday was the biggest test of endurance of the weekend. I had managed to sleep throughout the festival, but at this stage fatigue really had set in. I wandered up to The Park and watched a few songs of The Fall, Mark E. Smith delivering the punk grooves to a devoted audience. Unwilling to drink any more cider or consume the last of my Jagermeister, I carried a bottle around and wandered some more, finding a place to nap at the back of FKA Twigs. She sounded good, but I felt it was time to take my place for the headliners. I needed no more entertainment by the time The Who got on stage, so my excitement levels were not high. To my suprise, it was a very entertaining set, peaking with a Tommy medley towards the end. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend appear more youthful than expected and still had some anger left in them, destroying the glass wall that encased drummer Zakk Starsky, due to it causing sound problems. Albums tracks such as Bargain were well received, as were the massive hits of course. Patti Smith’s version of My Generation from earlier possibly topped The Who’s latter version however.

My enthusiasm and energy now returned, I sprinted to The Chemical Brothers, to make it in time for their last song, Block Rocking Beats with some of Do It Again thrown in. The light show seemed incredible and I immediately felt at home. I couldn’t help but think that was headlining set I should have been at. Never-the-less, this is the challenge you are faced with at a festival the scale of Glastonbury, and if your problems are whether or not to see The Who or The Chemical Brothers – they don’t really seem like problems at all.

Summary

Glastonbury is a festival of opposites, partly a great fundraiser for charities and causes and partly a hedonistic, waste producing machine, where millions of pounds are exchanged throughout and millions of pints and bacon buns are consumed. A place for families to watch their favourite bands and have a break in the British country side and a place for teens and lads to drop pills and party in the rave areas until the early hours and beyond. My experience encompassed several of these opposites, with my time divided between relaxing, taking in the ideas and messages being transmitted and at the same time partying hard in my wellies until trench foot set in and I was forced to head back to camp.

I will probably go again, but to be honest once was probably enough. It’s quite an adventure and there is almost too much culture to consume. Within all the hedonism, excess and massive crowds, there’s a good message, one in opposition to the corporate conformity of everyday life to be consumed as well.

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Glastonbury 2015 live blog: Thursday and Friday

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Thursday

12:51
Day two has started with a trek to the only hot showers, over in the greenpeace area, which saw a forty minute wait to get freshened up. The queues will only get bigger for these enviromentally concious showers where one must use the provided organic soap, so baby wipes and rinses by the nearest tap might be the options for hygene for the rest of the festival. The rest of the day has so far been quiet, with a big breakfast consumed from our favourite Summer Cafe and a bit of reading of the Glastonbury Free Press, the festival newspaper printed at a printing press on site.

I missed a few details from yesterdays adventuring in the previous blog. Earlier, I had in fact ran in to Michael Eavis, who joined the Mayor of Pilton to give a speech officially opening the festivities. It was a little unscheduled moment I stumbled upon. Later, our trek up the hill made it only half the way to the stonecircle, as crowds have already gotten rediculous, with baths between stages being excrutiatingly congested. This congestion will apparently be sorted out once the music starts tomorrow, as the crowds will disperse to in front of the stages instead of in the paths between. Up on the hill, we were treated to a display of pyrotechnics and lights, as the Arcadia spider stage kicked into action in a demonstration of its spectacle. Worth googling if you haven’t seen it. Club and bar stages were already kicking off – so even though just Wednesday and the lineup not starting officially until friday, things are already massive. This festival would be great without the bands.

glastonbury other stage 2015

Friday

07:49
The blogging ceased to happen for the rest of yesterday but I thought I’d get one in today before the real hectic rush to catch bands begins. Thursday night saw a mission to catch Drenge play a secret set in Williams Green. Rumour had gone around throughout the day that they were appearing and a substantial crowd had already filled up the tent an hour before the band was due to appear. This would be some of the first major sets of the weekend, with Seafret and Wolf Alice appearing as well. Seafret played a pretty good set first of emotional acoustic indie which warmed things up. When Drenge took the stage, the real crush began, with moshing and circle pits not just from the guys but the gals too. Drenge’s mix of indie melodies with sludgey, downtuned grunge grooves seems to have a bit of cross over appeal. No doubt these guys will be on a larger stage as an official billing next year.

Later on, after drifting through tides of people on my way back to camp I stumbled on a rock band called Waa Wei playing a killer set in a tent called the La Pussy Parlure. The female singer, perhaps Japanese had an intense presence with glammed out costume design. I stood, hypnotically watching this band I knew nothing about for some time, and also appreciating how cool this little venue was. Just another one of those interesting things you stumble upon in a festival as eclectic as this.

The festival is about to kick off for real today, so I’ve consumed a full english breakfast and a coffee and am plotting my potential schedule for the day. Must sees include Motorhead and Enter Shikari, so it could be a day of the heavy. Pussy Riot is giving a talk at The Park, which could be something not to be missed. The crowds are about to reach their zenith, so my ability to see these acts will depend upon the time it takes to get between stages. We’ll see how I go.

pussy riot glastonbury 2015

11.56
The Charlatans are kicking off the Other Stage with a set of britpop classics I’ve never heard, but there’s good grooves and great stage presence. The massive crowd seems happy in spite of an ominous dark cloud over head that signals the traditional Glastonbury mud will be hear soon. Luckily I’m prepared, carrying with me a plastic poncho obtained from a frozen yoghurt stall at last weeks Blur concert at Hyde Park. My welly’s are back at the camp site, so it’ll mean a trek back later to get prepared, probably before the Motorhead mosh. It’s so far pretty easy to get between stages, I’ve already walked  from the Greenpeace area, where I engaged in some surreal power ballad yoga (videos to come) and had my camera battery charged by some nice hippies in green fields. As I write this I’m sitting in the grass outside The Park stage, waiting for Pussy Riot to give a talk.

14:59
Pussy Riot gave a hilarious talk in support of rebellion on top of a military vehicle in front of The Park stage. A considerable crowd was perplexed and captivated by the presentation. King Gizzard then followed with double drummer assault of riffs and harmonica, a crazy indie rock version of ACDC, straight out of Australia.

alabama shakes glastonbury 2015

23:48
Attempts to write during the day were cut short by an intense day of wandering, getting stuck in the rain, gearing up with weather proof clothing and heading back and forth between stages seeing bands both expected and surprising. It’s been quite a full to be honest, i know that its a cliche to talk about the size of this festival, but it really is huge. After a day of amazing sets and three days of exploring, I’m still discovering new areas. The Arcadia stage has kicked off, a giant spider with moving parts and pyro exploding generously. It’s glowing red eyes peer ominously over the audience, the DJ sits within the spider – and although the music isn’t to my taste, the attention to detail of such areas is impressive.

As for the rest of my first Friday of Glastonbury, most notably the rain came down and with it the mud. With the right perspective you can soldier on, and once the wellys were donned all was fine. Motorhead in the pouring rain was a particular highlight, with Lemmy and co. bringing the speed metal, even though most of the crowd basically only knew Ace of Spades. Moshing in front of the Pyramid Stage was hilarious, the old school double kick and heavy rock riffs a welcome change from the indie jangling which is most prominent elsewhere.

Due to mainstage bands running late I only managed to catch the last song of Run The Jewels, but I did most unexpectadly catch The Libertines on the mainstage. The Libertines filled the gap before Florence And The Machine and proved a great choice – Foo Fighters were probably missed by some watching the live stream online, but at the festival, who was playing barely even mattered. Florence seemed to kick ass on the mainstage but I soon left with new friends met in the Pyramid crowd to see Enter Shikari.

I now walk off, following streams of people trudging through mud, to find a potential last great set before bed, although the day has already been so huge, any more entertainment is superfluous.

Although the bands are great, the highlights of the day have been random interesting conversations with strangers, rather than the bands. The music is the icing on the cake. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, I feel like there are downsides to a festival of this size. It certainly is challenge and if you’re not prepared with the right clothes and equipment, or if you don’t pace yourself, you risk not making the most of what this unique place offers.

Kanye West tomorrow, and hiphop kareoke at Stonebridge Bar in The Park, 4pm. See you there.