Sunday, April 13, 2014

the final of glastonbury's emerging talent competition is a thing that happened.

SO last weekend we went to sunny Glastonbury. We were lost! Or horribly early! Either way somebody made a fairly severe administrative error.

Whilst we were there though we stumbled across the final of Glastonbury festival's Emerging Talent Competition. We'll recap: thousands of excellent acts entered (well I mean, not all of them are excellent obviously. The odds of that happening are reasonably remote. Let's say the standard was 91% excellent) and the best eight were invited to play this final at Pilton Working Man's Club.

With so many entrants, it stands to reason that after all that whittling down we would be left with eight reasonably high quality acts by the end doesn't it. And having now seen them all live, I can confirm this previously deduced fact to be true! Take the winners M+A for example, a Friendly Fires-esque band that will hopefully bring the carnival atmosphere to many more festival stages to come. Watch one of their funky little numbers just below these words I typed that you're just finishing reading now:

ALSO you should note the two runners up, which must have made the judge's final decision damn near impossible, the cruel scamps:

ALSO FINALLY there's these other competitors. If you're thinking "oh I've watched three videos, the standard can't possibly remain so high for the rest of the finalists" then you'd totally be wrong.

Maybe if you were following @glastofest on Twitter you'd get to see each video as it's released. That would be a quite nice thing to have happen wouldn't it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

burning man 2013: The drowned in sound review

I've been feeling pretty ready for my big trip to Burning Man. We're driving thorough the Nevada desert (perfect soundtrack discovered: the Chromatics album), and I'm wowing my recently introduced campmates with some piece of Burning Man knowledge I've previously picked up. 'I'll be honest with you guys, I've already been doing a lot of reading up about this music festival', I say, allowing a smug smile to briefly dart across my face.

'Well, don't call it a music festival, for a start', snaps back the reply.

As is often quoted, 'Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind', but allow me to attempt the basics: Burning Man is a truly vast arts and community festival, a seven day experiment in radical self-reliance held on a swelteringly hot ancient lake bed in the Nevada desert.

Burning Man, or 'home', as regulars warmly refer to it, sits far apart from the rest of the US's festival scene, so amongst many attendees there's a reluctance to even call the event a festival. Europeans, however, are much more likely to find familiarity is the diverse range of art, entertainment, talks and quirky side attractions that make up Burning Man, so let's call the event what it is: a festival.

There is much to separate it from its major festival stablemates, however. Firstly, I'm not an attendee at this festival, I'm a participant. Our 13-strong group has put together the theme camp Barechested Baristas, and every afternoon we are barechested - men and women, alas - serving our delicious iced coffees to the Burning Man masses.

Significantly, all this delightful caffeine is offered free of charge. No money is permitted at Burning Man, the festival instead employing what it calls a gifting economy. It takes me a while to not get this confused with an exchange economy. In an exchange economy, I give you a delicious iced coffee (you gain something), but you give me an item or money in exchange (you lose something). It's a win-lose scenario. In a gift economy, I give you iced coffee (you gain something), and I feel a really warm glow in my heart for doing so (I gain something). It's a win-win scenario. Replicating this across seven days, and 70,000 people means you've got an awful lot of winning going on, and across the festival site people tend to exist within a permanent bubble of happiness. Certainly, long time 'Burners' I talk to throughout the week say they started enjoying the festival exponentially more once they became participants. An incomprehensible thing about Burning Man is the people who will spend all year, and significant portions of their income, on, say, the art car they're bringing to Burning Man. Or the people that design and build one of the 250+ officially recognised artworks dotted across the site. Or simply the people that will just drop a shit ton of money on running a free bar all week.

Not that a week in the desert is all love and hugs, mind. Setting up our camp (kitchen, dome lounge, giant shade structure to house all our tents) and ensuring it can withstand the harshest of desert sandstorms takes a full day of hard graft, during which I massively endear myself to my new campmates by crashing out asleep three hours before everything is finished. Throughout the day, the amount of people screaming with excitement because they've spotted friends from previous years is astounding.

The following day, I cycle out (protip: bring a bike. Light it and lock it. Two of our seven bikes get stolen over the course of the week) to the entrance gates for some further participation: I am volunteering for a four hour greeter shift in the midday heat, welcoming everybody 'home', initiating first time attendees in a way that I won't detail here (but suffice to say that we were pleasingly encouraged to make it up as we went along), and generally being the kind of cheerful irritant that would wind people up so much in London.

Ahh yes, that place. We socialise people hard in London. No talking to strangers, looking at people on public transport, being friendly in shops, or acting in any way cheerful or upbeat about the day ahead. Stepping from this into Burning Man's focus on radical inclusion and immediacy, where you welcome all strangers with a hug and your immediate trust, is a jarring gear change, and one that that I do not successfully make in just one day. It's the image people that haven't been to Glastonbury imagine for that event. Out here, it's real.

The bewildering number of side attractions across the site only adds to the overwhelming feel of the event. Amongst all the art installations, theme camps, talks, sound camps, workshops, and various unannounced oddities ('Armpit Smelling Booth', anyone?) waiting to be discovered, there's a lot of spiritual workshops, yoga classes, and quirky installations to choose from. Plenty of sex, too. BDSM in particular seems to be having a popular year, and we are camped next to the 200-person 'Poly Paradise' camp. They run the 'Human Carcass Wash', where you cup your soapy hand, and wash a load of naked bodies, before in turn getting to be the person to have a load of cupped hands wash your naked body.

I presume the 'Skyping With Grandma' event will be just as fun as any of that. Run by a "human powered internet cafe", I get condescending advice, bunion complaints, and technological incompetence from a real life grandma (20-something male in a wig, holding a cardboard cut-out of a screen). The folk running 'Write Your Future Self A Letter', meanwhile, allow you to do just that, and they promise to mail it to you 1, 2, 5 or 10 years later

Always fancying myself as the next Example, I also give Haiku Rap Battles a go. As the only person going to the effort to write down their haikus before taking to the stage, I'm confident the crowd with respond with hearty cheers and lols. What I get instead is silence, with the odd pocket of confused laughter.

All the cycling and finely spread entertainment means you never get the swirling, immovable crowds that your average Glastonbury goer regularly does battle with. It's not the only difference. Glastonbury for a few years now has tried, with little success, to impart a 'Leave No Trace' message. Here, the message gets through, and to a startling extent. Nothing - not so much as a flick of cigarette ash - is dropped on the playa floor.

Music wise, Burning Man shows signs of beginning an upward trajectory, and things have apparently improved after a couple of years of what is described to me as 'Skrillex every five minutes'. The overwhelming music trend seems to be bass music, mind, and it occasionally takes a fair effort to find a music camp that deviates from this norm.

Over the course of the week, the one DJ I make an effort to find out the name of is Stylust Beats, who plays Camp Question Mark on Friday night. Rather than a teeth grinding 60 minute set of pure trap music on offer across so much of Black Rock City, he successfully weaves the more inventive material the genre has to offer around the kind of party playlist that would set any clubnight alight. It's one of the best atmospheres all week.

I spy an afternoon talk called 'Sex, Drugs and Electronic Music', which sounds like a combination that could catch on doesn't it. Arriving late, the speaker is asking the audience 'How many people here believe we are birthing a new world?' Oh. Okay. Half the audience raise their hands. Right. Faintly hope I'm at the wrong talk? There's plenty of discussion about consent (which I am all for, incidentally. Just putting that out there), a little about sensible use of drugs, and nothing whatsoever about electronic music.

The speaker begins an exercise: we are to stand, wander around, and when she says stop, we are to immediately connect with the person nearest us. I 'connect' with another man, also as it happens, visiting from South London. We are instructed to share with each other our hope for the world. 'Creativity' he enthusiatically offers up. 'The basic goodness of the human heart', I manage to come up with, whilst successfully keeping a straight face. He seems satisfied and engaged by this answer. We are then told to share our medicine for the world with each other. 'Kindness' he quite reasonably suggests. 'Errr, the basic goodness of the human heart...?' I return with. This is deemed a satisfactory answer, although there's some acknowledgement that we're both essentially saying the same thing. He hugs me, and we're allowed to return to our places. There's some further talk about how 'we need to reclaim the solidarity of our connections', and 'let our emotions flow freely down through our bodies and into the earth', before we are finally free to go.

Not that it's all hippies at Burning Man. There's ravers, California's high fashion set, your nerdy music fan, a few jock types, loads of over 40s, and many of the greats of Silicon Valley are in attendance. You still occasionally come across the type of person you'd never want at a festival though. One member of our camp, Jessy, is walking her bike along the road one afternoon when a guy cycles past her and, with a confidence in his own hilarity sadly not matched by his material, shouts at her 'you're supposed to ride it'. Jessy somewhat understandably dislikes this. He cycles on in front of her, before suddenly losing his balance, falling off his bike, and collapsing in a heap. Jessy calmly walks her bike past him, turns around, and calls back 'you're supposed to ride it'.
Also not fitting the Burning Man stereotype are the brilliant, vicious rockers that put on the Mad Max inspired Thunderdome. Inside, they suspend two contestants in harnesses, pull them back, then fire them at each other armed with pugil sticks, whilst the baying crowd erupts. The weaponry is virtually inconsequential - the rules seem to be anything goes. On one occasion two young female festival-goers are fighting and the bout ends with one manically rallying the crowd whilst treating her opponent as a human surfboard. On several occasions battles end with blood splatted on the sand below. Throughout, the audience watch not just around the Thunderdome, but climb up the structure from all sides, in order to gain the chance of seeing each battle commence.

It's one of the things that is most remarkable about Burning Man: a pleasing disregard for health and safety legislation. Several times throughout the week you may find your group dancing late at night atop some shimmering art work, and you will think 'one wrong move here, and I am a seriously injured festival-goer'. Your safety is your own responsibility, a point somewhat hammered home by the fact that the back of your festival ticket states that ticket holders voluntarily assume all liability in the case of their own death whilst at the event.

Which, in such a harsh environment, means that every attendee must practice what the festival calls radical self-reliance. You take entire responsibility for your own well being. Everybody is more than welcome to climb that 30 foot ladder, then carefully climb up on top of the roof to be able to lie back and stare over Black Rock City, but if you put a foot wrong and fall to the ground, you've only got yourself to blame. Radical self-reliance also means that everybody must bring every single thing they may need to survive for a week in the desert environment along to the festival with them, including for example, 1.5 gallons of water per person, per day.

Feeling all too settled by midweek, I drink far too much on Wednesday night, and fail to take responsibility for my own safety. Whilst at a nearby camp to our own, I am unable to work out where I am, unable to make it home, and oddly unwilling to seek help for the matter. I wake up hours later in a separate camp, without memory of how I got there, or my bag. I have failed to practice radical self-reliance. The bag's contents include my UK passport, and five days of notes for this article. I spend 90 minutes searching nearby camps without luck. Each day I queue at Lost & Found to ask if it's been handed in. It never is.

I consider myself to be reasonably knowledgeable about dance music, but scanning the lineup before the festival, there appears to be just three DJs I have heard of: Paul Oakenfold, Seth Troxler, and Elite Force, and I'm not really sure how I've heard of Elite Force. This is perhaps unsurprising - it's down to the non-profit sound camps to try and book big names, and a couple of the major camps don't show up this year. Any veteran will tell you this is not the point of Burning Man, however. And for the kind of music fan that usually spends the whole of, say, Glastonbury darting all over the site like a headless chicken, the opportunity to spend an aimless week in the desert is an appreciated one.

There are unannounced sets, mind, and Diplo shows up as both a solo DJ ('superb', reportedly) and in his Major Lazer guise ('awful', reportedly). Paul Oakenfold is the only appointment we keep all week, though. 45 minutes into the set however, and it's all seeming a little pedestrian. It's at this point that a rumour spreads around our group that he cancelled at the last minute. We have no idea if we're dancing to a perfectly serviceable unknown trance DJ, or a somewhat unimaginative Oakenfold set. Either way, we leave. In the early hours of the morning, friends who stayed announce Oakenfold later showed up, and played a blinding set. I'm fairly gutted. They are in a jubilant mood. Later on that afternoon, I'm told that no, Oakenfold never did show up. Then I'm just confused. I still have no idea what happened.

'The only thing worse than attending a Doctor Who party at Burning Man, is publicly admitting it', a friend tells me. So I opt to only go for an hour. The tasty, strong sonic screwdriver cocktails are freeflowing. Three girls come dressed as sexy TARDISes. A guy asks one 'are you bigger on the inside?' 'Yes, and available for public use!', she cheerfully retorts. We also grab a drink at the Dead Celebrity's Champagne Disco, where you are encouraged to dress as your favourite dead celebrity, and enjoy all the drinks they can't any more. The 'Critical Tits' bikeride, meanwhile, sees a couple of thousand women take a topless cycle on mass around the playa. I think I can say with confidence that it's the most amount of topless women I've ever seen within a five minute period.

I spot a session called 'Speed Counselling', which sounds like good fun. In a speed dating format, you'll have five minutes to co-council with someone before DING!, the bell rings and you're on to the next person. What a nice afternoon activity that will be! What a fun format! I arrive, and settle in. The event is certainly busy. We are encouraged to really go for it and make the most of the opportunity, and to seek a moment of immediate resolution. I council five people, and then are counselled by five. And obviously, it is the exact fucking opposite of fun. I have to talk about emotions! For a full 25 minutes! I'm male and live in England, the most I've ever spoken about emotions is for three seconds in hospital in 2006 when a doctor asked me if my arm was still hurting. Even then three seconds seemed a little indulgent. Here though, everybody is sharing very deeply felt problems and emotions. There's one hell of a lot of people in tears (all except one guy, who spends his five minutes telling me about the psychology book he's about to have published, and is agonising over whether to put a photo of himself on the front cover or not). It's traumatic, but it's also a brilliant hour. I leave a nervous wreck.

All through the week there's a sense of escalation. The festival always feels like it's building to a climax. On Tuesday, paragliders can be seen descending on the festival, before landing amongst passers by on the wide open playa. I witness one land, and the nearest person to him immediately runs up, puts a beer in his hand, and promptly walks off again. On Wednesday and Thursday the same paragliders have grown long colourful ribbon tails as they cascade down from the sky. By Friday night their tails have become fireworks leaving a trail behind in the sky.

All this escalation is building to one thing. With no main stage to speak of, Burning Man feels like it doesn't have a focal point to concentrate your mind - or media attention - on. Instead, the festival offers a thousand different stories happening simultaneously across the site. A thousand moments of awe, pain, laughs being shared, or perhaps lives being changed. The exception to this rule is the final night. The whole festival gathers around the iconic Man that sits at the centre of the site, to watch as he is finally, spectacularly burnt. Much of what overwhelms about this experience is perhaps because, after everybody here has had such an intense, yet disparate week from each other, the whole festival is finally together as one. It certainly provides a more exciting climax to a festival then, say, Mumford & Sons headlining your final night.

Burning Man is one hell of an ordeal. There were certainly lows, but there was also countless highs. Its beauty, its weirdness, its vibrancy, and its constant, unfaltering welcome. It's truly a unique way to spend a week. Name me a better festival.

This article originally appeared on here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

the top 10 albums and songs of 2013

2013 was probably my favourite year for music since I started doing these countdown things. There's been so much great stuff around. Hopefully what follows goes some way to demonstrating that.
Note: As usual, an artist can only appear in the top 10 singles list or albums list, not both.

Top 10 Albums of 2013

1. Kanye West - Yeezus
2. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of The City
3. James Blake - Overgrown
4. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
5. Arctic Monkeys - AM
6. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
7. Janelle MonĂ¡e - The Electric Lady
8. Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
9. Four Tet - Beautiful Rewind
10. Matthew E. White - Big Inner

You can also hear a sample track from each album as a Youtube playlist. It's a fairly abrasive listen I suppose.

Top 10 Songs of 2013

1. Chase & Status - Lost & Not Found
2. Stylo G - Soundbwoy
3. Chris Malinchak - So Good To Me
4. Justin Timberlake - Mirrors
5. Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance
6. Sia (ft. The Weeknd & Diplo) - Elastic Heart
7. Duck Sauce - It's You
8. MS MR - Hurricane (CHVRCHES remix)
9. Eminem - Rap God
10. Nils Frahm - Says

You can also hear all ten songs as a Youtube playlist. It's quite a poppy selection.

Anybody looking for a more general review can find the 52 best songs of the year in my 2013 mixtape on Spotify here:

Archive fans, meanwhile can also look up my top 10 albums from 2012, 20112010, 20092008 and 2007, and the singles countdowns from 2012, 20112010,200920082007 and 2006. SEASONS GREETINGS xxx

Sunday, July 21, 2013

who is still about in glastonbury's stone circle at 1:37pm monday afternoon? let's find out.

On Sunday the main stages at Glastonbury finish at the reasonable time of 11:15pm. After that, those that are so inclined can find any number of smaller clubs, stages and installations littered throughout the festival, at which they can party through the night.

It’s tradition, though, to gather at the Stone Circle at roughly 5am to watch the sunrise over the entire site. It’s a particularly nice tradition on a Sunday, as a delightful way to round off a weekend.

Of course, any sensible person would send themselves off to bed shortly after, with a happy hippie spring in their step, ready to return to the regular world when they wake up. What, though, of the people who stay at the stone circle? Of the folk that are still there when most people have already packed up and left the site?

I trek back to said Stone Circle at 1:37pm Monday afternoon to find out. I meet Michelle and Noah at 1:42pm at the top of the hill overlooking the field. She introduces herself, saying “I’ve just been swinging from the ancient tree by the ancient dragon. It was pretty mystical.” They ask me where I’ve been, and I say asleep for the last three hours. They’re naturally warm, and curious: “What’s sleep like? How does it make your brain feel?” Noah asks. They tell me they last slept two days ago. “I kind of feel like the less sleep, the more you can get on the wavelength of these people who are feeling pretty groggy themselves.”

What have they been doing up until now? “All love, and joy, and prancing and dancing and romancing” Michelle says. “This place is like a medieval village, and the sky is so beautiful”, offers Noah. “The skyyyyyyyy” Michelle agrees. What time would you like to stay awake until? “Until we bleed. Although he’s already bled.” What’s been their favourite moment of the festival? Everything. EVERYTHING!”, Michelle screams. “Probably a hogroast”, offers Noah.

Sensing I’ve brought him down slightly, I leave Michelle and Noah to further contemplate his hog roast.

I find Abby and her friends, who have been sitting inside the Stone Circle since 3am. What’s been going on up here for the last ten hours? “Little mobile music machines. 30 transvestites from New York. There were some drums, and then a women got involved with her flute, and that was ridiculously good.”

How long would you like to stay in the Stone Circle for? “Forever, probably, would be really good.” She pauses. “If they had a shower, toilet and tea making facilities.”

Fearing I may be about to bring Abby down slightly, I exit and find a friendly, close-knit couple called Cirus and Louise. Louise immediately asks me “Would you like a drop of red spring water from the mouth of the lion?” I decline, but by way of explanation, she offers, in full poetic flow...
“There are seven sacred springs of Avalon,
that rise from the land that we stand upon
Each a different medicine with its own special magic,
we can bring miracle healing from remissions of the tragic
For underneath the ground on which we stand,
are the meridians of the planet, the dragon lines,
the ley lines, linking the world up. To Stoke.”

This gets a deservedly big round of applause, even though I’m a bit confused about the Stoke bit.

What happened in the Stone Circle tonight? “Lots. Mainly good vibrations.” offers Cirus. They then show me their purple Good Vibe Ray Gun, which makes a spaceship sound. “There’s been a lot of love, and happiness and enjoyment” Cirus adds, perhaps unhappy with his first answer. They then use their Good Vibe Ray Gun to shoot some good vibes into my heart. “I am so, so, so in love with my partner”, Cirus adds, by now looking Louise in the eyes. Did you guys meet at Glastonbury? “No, no we’ve known each other forever”, Cirus says, a little ambiguously. “We’ve been bimbling around the site in the most amazing way. Not using a fucking festival guide, and not having an idea of what’s coming next. Just enjoying the fucking moment for what it is” “It’s not about getting what you want, it’s about wanting what you get”, they add in well-rehearsed unison.

So what’s their favourite thing about Glastonbury? “The connection between everyone.” Cirus says. “Good vibes, good vibes” Louise adds, before shooting me with the Good Vibe Ray Gun again. “For everybody to be in the same place and to hug each other, and be on the same level, which is love and peace. Everyone can just be in love with each other. We can all just live on the land, like this, for our whole lives, and not have to live in cities.” So how long have you guys been together? “It’s only been since sunrise”, says Noah. “But it’s definitely forever.” “It’s definitely been forever”, Louise adds. I wish them well, knowing that I couldn’t possibly bring their mood down. Perhaps because my heart has been successfully filled with good vibes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

campaign to get a street in king's cross named 'muldoon avenue'.

There's a competition afoot to name one of ten new streets in King's Cross. I would like one of these streets to be named 'Muldoon Avenue'. So I have entered the competition.

The competition website states:
We would welcome suggestions that have a strong link to King’s Cross, but other names will be considered. Put simply, we want people to suggest appropriate, interesting and engaging names for the new streets.
All names will have to be consistent with Camden Council’s guidelines on the naming of streets.
 Armed with these instructions, I entered the following reasons why I think a road should be named 'Muldoon Avenue'.

  • Muldoon is an Irish surname. 'Muldoon Avenue' would be a nod to the Irish history in King's Cross, as The Pogues formed in the area. Everybody likes The Pogues.
  • It's my Dad's surname, and I think having a street named after him would make him really proud. Especially as I don't think I can be bothered to give him a grandson, which I think he'd prefer. So you'd really be helping me get out of that one.
  • According to my research, there's only one street in the UK to namecheck the surname; Muldoon Park in Omagh, Northern Ireland. And it's a really really tiny street. This doesn't seem reasonable, as it's quite a good surname isn't it. Plus there are LOADS of streets with Muldoon in their name in the USA. And do you know where's better than the USA? King's Cross.
  • It's my surname as well. I would like a street named after me. It would be mad japes.

    Many thanks in advance,
    Mark Muldoon.

The competition is open until the end of May. If you agree that this is a valid, nay, important campaign, why not give the reasons why you think a street in King's Cross should be named 'Muldoon Avenue' over on the competition website. Thank you for your time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

nottingham’s new tourism campaign in london is the finest advertising i have ever seen

Dear fellow Londoners,

I imagine, like me, you’ve already spent much of 2013 gazing at the bare summer months in your calendar app, painfully aware of how most years this season passes unfilled, each of us lonely and imprisoned in our respective dwelling-houses. Perhaps also like me then, you sensed a great weight lift from your shoulders recently, as posters went up across our city’s transport network (two spotted so far!) showcasing events forthcoming not here, but up the country a little bit, in my home county of Nottinghamshire.

Please, at this juncture, take a moment to admire the above poster. The more astute observers amongst you will by now have realised that it appears to be advertising some manner of medium sized outdoor concert. And so let us linger in order to further admire the impeccable timing of this poster campaign. For as only the canniest of Nottingham’s marketing brains will have noticed, London has been cruelly starved of medium sized music events in recent years. Quality entertainers simply don’t gravitate to this city. The situation has become quite dire, with people being spotted wandering around various London parks, listening to Smooth Radio, and trying to imagine a way of seeing such hits performed by the people that wrote them.

But puzzle no longer, wandering citizens of England’s capital! A plucky city in the North has rushed to our aid. The less cool-headed Londoner might slap their head in embarrassment, that none of their own had hit upon such a winning event formula. Although I know it will take a degree of swallowing our pride to depart our city for Nottinghamshire, I hope my fellow Londoners will be as commendably mature as I am, and join me on that journey.

If that seems impossible, and you tire of gazing North with your thinly veiled jealousy, let us instead examine our advertisement in question with the appropriately mature admiration that it deserves. Alongside the totemic headliners the London music industry have been kicking and screaming in its attempts to book for years – Blondie and Paloma Faith – we see a number of other borderline arrogant claims. Aside from the brash assertion to hold 12 of some fantastical creation called ‘music venues’ (
presumably 11 now), one also notes that apparently, (and please fellow Londoner, steady yourself before reading on) Nottingham has given birth to “one top album artist”.

Well, I can only assume you are also in stunned silence. The only course of action remaining appears to be damage limitation, and so I issue a critical warning to my fellow capital dwellers, not yet versed in the beauty of England’s green and pleasant county: book those train tickets early. Once summer finally rolls around St. Pancras will verge on riotous scenes for the hordes of culture starved capital-dwellers fighting for a place on a train to get to a city where a person has produced a successful album. Let alone
a person as admirably refined as Jake Bugg.

In closing, I can only enter a plea to the Gatekeepers of Nottingham: act with greater delicacy in future! Be sensitive to our already blindly jealous eyes! Did NBC advertise their US presidential election coverage across Syria? London life is a daily struggle as it is. I just ask for our plight not to be rubbed in our faces. Many, many thanks, and obviously, see you in June.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

india goes indie at the nh7 weekender - guardian article

This article was originally published on here.

The Raghu Dixit Project  
The big Weekender … The Raghu Dixit Project perform onstage at NH7 in India. Photograph: Stephen Budd

It can be difficult when travelling by train in India to ensure you disembark at the correct city. Especially when it's 5am, and everybody around you is busy giggling at your pronunciation. We're in Pune (pronounced Poo-nay, apparently) for the second year of the NH7 Weekender. India has a smattering of music festivals, but these are mostly traditional events or trance affairs aimed at tourists unable to wait for their Ibiza kicks. NH7 is an attempt to create a Glastonbury, or perhaps more precisely, Lovebox-style event in India.

India's middle class is now estimated at more than 300 million people – that's a lot of folk with disposable income, internet access, and perhaps an interest in exploring non-traditional culture.

"There aren't any Indian festivals that concentrate on non-Bollywood music," NH7 co-organiser Stephen Budd explains. "The view was Indian audiences would never want to go." A few years ago Budd's business partner, Vijay Nair, was struggling to fill a five-band bill in Mumbai, now they're both filling festival schedules. Understandably perhaps, Budd says they faced skepticism. "The industry view was there's not enough interest in things that aren't Bollywood led. [Myself and Vijay] lamented that the only British acts visiting India then were the Stings and Simply Reds of the world, when kids wanted to see Mumford and Sons and Basement Jaxx, but no one was bringing them over."

Fans desperate to see the few western acts playing India have lately encountered a second problem: this year has been disastrous for gig cancellations, including Bryan Adams, Akon and Metallica.

This organisational chaos is something NH7 wants to put right. Arriving on site, the event feels clean and well mapped out, in a country with a reputation for the opposite. We never wait more than 60 seconds for one of the (regularly cleaned) Portaloos. There's a buzz in the air – none of the acts are received poorly. "Has anybody heard of grime music?" London's Riz MC asks the crowd. Three people cheer. But no one is standing still once introductions have been made.

The festival programme advises "getting from one stage to another will require a fair amount of walking". But it took us less than four minutes to get from one end of the site to the other. Not exactly Glastonbury, then.

There's corporate branding. For most of ex-Radio 1 DJ Bobby Friction's set, a vodka logo is dragged around the screen like a four-year-old playing Etch A Sketch. India is a fan of brash marketing, and here it is overwhelming. As are the lineup changes, which seem to occur throughout the day. Thankfully, everybody on site is tweeting so it's easy to keep them updated. And aside from the music, there's plenty going on. There's a convention of 30 tattoo artists on site. Fans can pay for food, drinks and merchandise via an impressive system of RFID cards and micropayments. With the same cards they can also choose to log performances they watch and have the story of their weekend automatically updated on Facebook. Well, that was the idea – the system collapses minutes after the gates open and stays down all weekend.

Indian acts get the biggest reception. The audience for the secret set by Mumbai rockers Zero is easily the most frenzied of the weekend. The mass singalongs when the Raghu Dixit Project play Mysore Se Aayi and Indian Ocean play Bandeh rival the most euphoric Glastonbury moments.

An almighty party closes the festival on Sunday night, as artists from across the bill collaborate on covering western hits (Blur and Metallica ) and Indian folk classics. Finishing with a rave, Indian Ocean singer Rahul Ram freestyles in Hindi over Underworld's Born Slippy. It's a brilliant set to close the festival.

Afterwards, nobody is disappointed. The festival sells all 7,000 tickets for the Saturday and Sunday, and says it has made a profit in its second year, something "unheard of in the UK festival market", claims Budd. "Next year I expect we'll get some really high-end younger artists willing to take the leap. I'd love to see Chase and Status, Dry the River, even the Vaccines come and play with their Indian counterparts." NH7 has certainly proved there is an appetite for it.