Doing It To Death, Funk So Thick You Can’t Catch Your Breath
I think the Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul festival set an unfair standard for itself last year with Mothership Weekend. That was without question the best multi-day music festival that I’ve ever been to. 2013 wasn’t, but it was great fun nevertheless.
I will post some brief notes (refer here for more thorough details) in yet another attempt to wean myself back into writing about things. I have to have something in my life, after all.
Quick thoughts relating to the weekend as a whole:
~ I know I’ve said it a thousand times before, but Moseley Park is gorgeous. Really now – it’s an absolutely lovely place to hold a shindig (now there’s a word regarding which I don’t want to look up the etymology. It’s never going to be as good as the images that it suggests). It was particularly nice to look up at the leaves in the trees contrasting with the bright blue sky. I actually went back the following week, since it had an open day. That was really good, actually – getting to see the bits that you don’t see at the festival.
~ God-dang it was hot.
~ The “where you can sit with chairs/keep this bit clear so we’ve got a walkway through the middle” policies were pretty chaotic. Either have a rule or don’t – having your stewards enforce it only for parts of the day just gets on everyone’s wick. Things had largely (largely) settled down by Sunday, but the Saturday on/off/on/off nonsense was a textbook example of how to get on the nerves of absolutely everyone involved. I felt sorry for that girl with the sunlounger.
~ What the funk was going on with all that cotton blossom-y stuff flying about the place? Absolutely ludicrous amounts of fluff blew our way from somewhere beyond the stage, particularly on Sunday. I and everyone else there must have inhaled a good couple of binbags worth. Some spots around the other side of the lake the following week looked like it have been snowing. I’m just glad it wasn’t particularly pollon-ish.
~ I nipped into The Prince Of Wales before things began on Friday. It genuinely is as nice a pub as people say if you can catch it when it isn’t ridiculously busy.
~ I don’t think I’ll ever understand the entire groups of people who come and pay no mind to the music at all. It’s a lot to spend for a day out in the park.
~ A bee landed on my leg to die. Dunno what this says about me. Or my leg.
Quick thoughts relating to the bands I liked more than “yeah, they were quite good I suppose”. If my nonsense gets ahead of me then take note that these are the ones that I particularly liked:
~ Alternative Dubstep Orchestra – Now this lot seem to play loads of gigs at the Hare & Hounds, but I’d never seen them before myself. The sound was pretty messy, but they didn’t let that stop them. I suppose I’d describe them as sounding like old Massive Attack with added WUBWUBWUB. They’re exactly the sort of band that will get called ‘cinematic’ over and over again until it gets boring – nowhere more so than on their great cover of “Walk On By”, which sounded like a sepia tinged romance picture (I don’t know if there actually were such films) dropping into a tense dubstep-soundtracked gangster picture (I don’t know if there actually are such films) and then jumping back out again.
~ Hiatus Kaiyote – Oh my life I couldn’t see her magnificent earings from where I was sitting! That does seem slightly surprising now, given that they look as though they could be seen from space, but I suppose it serves me right for sitting in a chair and not being right up there in the of thick of things. Earings aside, I also loved this slightly off-kilter take on your OKPlayer style of soul – a high energy version of Erykah/Jill Scott. They’re probably going to be extremely famous sooner or later.
~ Troumaca – This is the third time I’ve seen Troumaca and I like them a lot, but I don’t think I’ve really written about them before. So… you know how you read about Vampire Weekend before you ever heard them and you saw the phrase “calypso punk” and you got all excited because it sounded like The Greatest Thing That Had Ever Been and and and and and and then you actually heard them and found yourself really disappointed because they were a bog-standard melodic rock band with a faint tiny hint of twinkly guitar? Well, Troumaca aren’t calypso punk either, but they still somehow seem to be the antithesis of that particular let-down. A depth-charge-bass-infused brand of indie-dance overlaid with summer-Caribbean-vibes and I dare say other-things-with-hyphens-in-the-middle too.
~ Stubborn Heart – I couldn’t call it much of a performance, as such, but they definitely sounded good. Anguished vox floated over ghostly fuzz to create something somewhere between “menacing” and “Angst-o-Rama”. In a good way.
~ Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Band of the day for me and many others (they seemed to be viewed as de facto headliners by many, actually). They made me think of the Youngblood Brass Band, only all ‘party’ rather than ‘angry’. High energy! And a sousaphone! I do love a sousaphone. And I quite like high energy too. Amazingly, the audience call-and-response bits that went on forever didn’t ruin things.
~ Yesking – There is always one. I can guaran-damn-tee you that at any of these multi-day music festival thingermerjiggers there will always be one – a band about whom I recall the fact that I liked them, but about whom I cannot remember why or even what they were like. Yesking were reggae-ish, I am certain of that. I know that I enjoyed them. Beyond this you are on your own.
~ Dubcherry – Really giving it that 90s trip-hop bit (for all of the large numbers of different things that “that 90s trip-hop bit” could refer to, which is impressive on its own). Bonus Russpoints for a William Bell sample.
~ Bluebeat Arkestra – The more I think about it the more I start to think that “Massive Attack circa ‘Blue Lines’” was a bit of an unspoken theme for this festival. Beautifully atmospheric, anyway, with a nice bit of variation to the sounds they used.
~ The Haggis Horns – The properest of proper funk.
~ The Atlantic Players – I nipped up to the bar (which is unlike me) to see The Atlantic Players doing one of the festival’s very few musical performances outside of the two big stages (possibly the only one?). Their southern soul larks are just retro homage/pastiche obviously, and lord knows I’ll be rolling my eyes enough about that when it comes to a certain headlining band at Moseley Folk, but then again I am what is referred to by those in the trade as “a hypocrite”. I think The Atlantic Players are great fun. It’s a shame that I couldn’t see all of their set, but I popped back down for…
~ Smoove & Turrell – The ‘that voice cannot possibly come out of that body” feeling is actually marginally dulled when you see them live, believe it or not. More proper funk, anyway. Possibly not quite as proper as The Haggis Horns but nevertheless, your feet will not fail you now.
~ Jess Roberts & The Silver Rays – Garage soul’n’roll that will move your urge to testify. They were even a bit Led Zep-ish on that there last track, too (apparently some sort of download single but they have it on yow’repipe an’all). Good semi-synchronised dance moves and (early on) the best use of tinfoil for stagewear since Chrome Hoof.
~ Craig Charles – Awooga! (Why yes that did take me ages to think up, thank you for asking).
~ Candi Staton – Ah come on now, it’s Candi Staton. This is possibly a heretical statement in some circles, but I do prefer her disco bits to her r’n’b/southern soul bits. Young hearts ran free, naturally. The first few bass note notes of “You Got The Love” inspired precisely the Pavlov’s pooch response that you’d expect, in me and everyone else.
~ Jazzlines Ensemble – A gorgeous trad-jazz-y way to gently start the Sunday.
~ Gogo Penguin – Hawwwww yuss. Hard-drivin’ piano-led rockin’ jazz business. The type of thing that perhaps I wish I’d seen a tiny bit more of at this festival, sortofkindamaybe. EST and The Neil Cowley Trio sounded like the most apt comparisons to me, but that probably tells you more about my limited frame of reference for this type o’thing than it does about anything else.
~ Richard Foote’s Young Pilgrims – Sousaphone! Although that looked liked a… plastic?.. sousaphone. I honestly don’t know what to make of this and would appreciate it if someone told me I was mistaken. I am no instrumental purist by any possible means, but you have to have at least one or two constants in your life.
~ Soul II Soul – Ah come on now, it’s Soul II Soul. I am a self-acknowledged utterly rubbish judge when it comes to the “who is the most famous” game, but I was nevertheless legitimately amazed that Soul II Soul weren’t headlining one of the days (presumably they were playing somewhere else on the Friday). This was maybe not a greatest set ever that (I can now admit that maybe) perhaps I was foolishly kinda-wanting-without-admitting-to-myself, but ace nevertheless. Back To Life, for crying out loud: officially and formally one of the best songs yet made. They’re at Brum Town Hall on the 15th of November if you want more.
~ Lokkhi Terra – Bangla-Afro-Cuban seems like a thing to aspire to. Let’s have ‘em collaborate with Zoe Rahman who played last year! Their version of “Itchycoo Park” might have taken the ‘best cover of the festival’ award were it not for the “Walk On By” above or some of the quasi-covers below.
~ Chic Or ‘Chic feat. Nile Rogers’ if you really feel the particular need – Ah come on now, it’s Chic. Oh mercy this was fun. The best set of the festival (and my money had been on Soul II Soul). They were helped by the fact that Mr Rogers produced more or less everything that released in the 80s that wasn’t hardcore punk (yes, I’ve finally given up – if everyone else in the world is going to persist in saying “if I hadn’t heard of it then it didn’t exist” then I’m going to do so as well. Fuck, as they say, y’all) and so they had more than their own selection of awesome songs to be carrying on with. Of all things, Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” (sung by this band here’s drummer, so note well all you squares with drummerist preconceptions) was the one that reeeeeaaaally blew the park’s metaphorical roof off. I was told that these are the Good Times. It was easy to believe it whilst they were playing.
See you soon for Moseley Folk, then? Let’s try to avoid letting Ocean Colour Flippin’ Scene worrying us too much.