Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Juffage is a one man multi-tasker: playing guitar AND hitting a floor tom for one song, sitting at a drum-kit AND playing a keyboard the next. There's looping of sounds, passages of crackling feedback and walking amongst the audience too. Keeping experimental sounds playfully rickety and on the move: a great start to Sunday at A Carefully Planned Festival.

Ten years in, I finally get to see Norwich pop-shriekers Bearsuit live. Promising lots of their new songs their set is disrupted by sound problems ("It's like you've come to our bedroom...") and re-worked due to a faulty keyboard: "just the hits then". Despite the interrupted flow and the frequent apologies, when playing the quintet were impressively forceful. By the last two songs they sounded like an unstoppable art-punk force of nature. Unapologetically ace but sadly over too soon.

Lynx Africa, the trio formed by Mat Riviere, Jam On Bread and Grace from The Middle Ones, update Young Marble Giants and Velvet Underground & Nico minimalism with an over-amped, ramshackle noise. There’s a fierce concentration from the three as they move between ukulele, floor tom and keyboard (perched on stackable metal-frame chair) but then a glorious abandon to the insistent rhythms and repeated patterns of each frazzled song. Excellent stuff.

Temple Songs have come a fair old way since I encountered them on debut self-released long-player "15 Bygones". The melodic 60s pop clatter is still intact but live as a four-piece there’s less fuzzy abstraction and a harder lofi edge. And Jolan Lewis remains ridiculously prolific – I’m not sure I recognised a single song from that 14 track album - which isn’t even nine months old – in this 30 minute set.

Dad Rocks! is dedicating songs to everyone at Kraak: ‘Battle Hymn Of The Fox Father’ to the parents of touring partners Tall Ships “for doing such a good job in raising them”, ‘Major Labels’ to the Manchester duo who made a fan-video version of the song, and ‘Pants’ to his son "who I miss terribly". Snævar Njáll Albertsson: surely one of the nicest guys in music but also a genius song-writer. He manages to find humour and poignancy in the hum-drum and domestic and turn it into life-affirming beauty. Dad Rocks! claims the band are all full of colds and on their last legs, the music tells a different, healthier story: a sublime performance with trumpet, violin and double-bass accompaniment.

The Dad Rocks! Set List: Weapons / Downaging / Funemployment / Take Care / Major Labels / Battle Hymn Of The Fox Father / Nothing Keeps Up / Pants

I’d had the briefest listens to O Messy Life’s “The Quarter Life Crisis Of Conan” before today. It reminded me of a mellow Wolf Parade with all the kinks taken out or the more countrified moments of Bright Eyes with less angst. Live the Newcastle-based five-piece shed the country-rock leanings for something more emphatic and darker... “this one’s about suicide pacts”. Time now to check out their other releases.

Alasdair Roberts is performing solo at 2022NQ to a rapt, seated audience. It is almost like a huddle of acolytes before the master folklorist taking the faithful through an unearthing and re-working of historic Scots music. Sadly not everyone in the room is captivated, with the sound of noisy talking from the bar and back of the room invading the space. Well the chattering asses missed out, these songs ancient and modern (including some from his new album due in January 2013) were worthy of patient attention.

This was my first encounter with Two Wings and I couldn’t make my mind up about them. The Glasgow five-piece had the stiff formality of Trembling Bells in their more trad folk-rock moments but then switched to songs with a more soulful or country-rock feel. I was continually wrong-footed by each turn they took. And then their final song was a basement-roof-raising fury with throat-shaking (literally) intensity and pounding drums.

We Are The Physics are not my usual cup of Red Bell but the Glaswegian punks – skinny jeans, thick glasses, utility wear outfits – were great fun “we’re sorry to interrupt your day...but we promise it will be over QUICKLY”. Rapid-fire riffing interrupted with start-stop jerking movements and poses together with a winning sense of the ridiculous followed at break-neck pace.

We Are The Physics would prove to be the last band I saw at A Carefully Planned Festival but showed one of the delights of this two day event: the size and breadth of the programming meant there was plenty of room for discovery. With minimal links to band pages on their website in advance or no form of programme other than a schedule available (for a £10 weekend ticket that might be asking too much), it created a level-playing field which forced you to try to something new, often based just on the band name or the proximity to the act you'd just seen.

A few years back two Northern Quarter multi-site music festivals ended up competing head-to-head: which was more grassroots, which represented Manchester’s independent Northern Quarter best, which showcased new bands more effectively. It wasn’t very a grown up or dignified spat. And it's questionable whether they had the goods to back up their respective arguments. After Carefully Planned All-Dayers and now in its second year, A Carefully Planned Festival has occupied this role (and the slot left vacant by In The City) quietly, unassumingly and with a adept focus on great, great music. Carefully planned, cleverly executed, effortlessly delivered with care: all in all, an excellent weekend. I’m eager for next year’s event already.

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