Taylor Swift Reputation Tour – Wembley Stadium

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Confession: I’m a very big Taylor Swift fan and I have been for quite a few years, confession number 2: I wasn’t the biggest fan of her last album Reputation...at least I thought I wasn’t until I saw the songs performed live last Saturday night and it all sort of made sense.

There’s something about going to a concert at a stadium that feels just that little bit more epic than going to even the biggest arena show, yes sure the stage is miles away but the atmosphere is contagious and even the biggest Swift cynic would have found it hard not to get carried away with it.

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Before Taylor took to the stage and after Charli XCX and Camila Cabello had warmed up the crowd the giant screens on each side of the stage played clips of her meeting fans at her Reputation listening parties (in her own house/s no less), she does love her fans does Tay Tay. Then the lady herself appeared to huge cheers from the 70,000 strong adoring crowd and kicked things off with ‘Ready For It?’ we were all given light-up wristbands on the way in and they flashed with various colour changes the whole way through the show. The majority of the set was made up of songs from Reputation, the album with much darker themes than Swifts previous ones delivered so much more live than on record, with the production and stage sets enhancing the songs perfectly. Taylor switched between the main stage and two smaller stages in the middle of the crowd, as well as ‘flying’ over the crowd in a snake skeleton during ‘Bad Blood’. Then there were the countless outfit changes into various sequin cat-suits and the huge blow up cobra snakes popping up from the stages, making the whole thing a spectacular theatrical experience for the audience.

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While the old Taylor may be “dead” as she proclaimed on ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, she can still be resurrected occasionally as proved during a medley of ‘Style’, ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong With Me’, where we got to relive the country/pop Taylor for a few minutes.

The most unexpected moment of the night came when she took to the piano and started playing ‘Angels’ only for Robbie Williams to pop up through the stage, we’d been speculating before the show who her special guest may be after Niall ‘One Direction’ Horan joined her the night before but I definitely wasn’t expecting Robbie, it was the perfect choice though and watching Taylor grinning up at him from her piano as the crowd erupted with excitement was a genuinely lovely moment!

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One of the hightlights from Reputation was ‘Getaway Car’, another song that came to life in a live setting, then there was the brilliant ‘Blank Space’ which I think is still one of her best songs. The colourful, fun, dance/sing-along of ‘Shake It Off’ complete with confetti cannons was another euphoric moment and ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ finishes off the night in joyous fashion.

I’m always going to have a softer spot for ‘Red’ and ‘1989’ than for Reputation but I am in no doubt that Taylor Swift is at the top of her game when it comes to being the perfect pop star!…now when is that greatest hits tour going to be?

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Photos by Carly Blake @cblakeyo

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Dot to Dot Festival 2018 – Manchester

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A bank holiday weekend in May is never quite complete without a little trip to one of the many mini festivals taking place around the UK…well it’s not for me anyway! In previous years I’ve either been at Sound City in Liverpool or Dot to Dot and this year I returned to the latter for a day and night out in Manchester.

 

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Dot to Dot is one of the best metropolitan festivals in the UK and takes over the music venues of three cities on three consecutive days of the late May bank holiday weekend, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham. I’ve seen some great bands in previous years including Peace, Mystery Jets and Wolf Alice, and the festival can boast about helping the likes of Florence and The Machine and Ed Sheeran no less, so I know it’s always a good place to catch the next big thing before they become, well the next big thing!

I have to be honest this year I was struggling a little bit in the run up to the festival as I’ve been a bit out of the loop in terms of new music and just having a few brief listens to some of the artists playing meant that there wasn’t much that grabbed my attention immediately. Sometimes that can be the best way though as you end up stumbling across a band that’s completely new to you, and best case scenario? it’s one that you like and want to see again!

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I had heard a little bit of Brighton band (now based in Manchester) Chappaqua Wrestling before the weekend so I popped to see them at Jimmy’s bar in the Northern Quarter, I quite liked their sound which is very summery and quite easy listening, but I definitely feel as though I need to see them again before making a decision if it’s my thing as some of their songs were a bit too same-y.

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Fontaines D.C. are a band that I keep hearing lots about, a couple of friends had seen them at The Great Escape festival and recommended so I was intrigued to check them out, they were playing early evening at Night and Day Café and it was a really good crowd that were obviously also keen to see them! I loved how they were just so different from a lot of the new bands around at the moment with a real punky, gritty sound. I also love that the front man’s Dublin accent comes through so clearly, their single ‘Chequeless Reckless’ hasn’t left my head since and I want to see them again!…also respect to the guitarist who was sporting a ‘repeal’ sweater so extra points there.

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At the back room of Gullivers pub locally based band The Elephant Trees were playing a small acoustic set, it wasn’t on my list of things to see but after chatting to someone outside I was persuaded to give them a go. Their singer Martha had a brilliant voice that seemed to stop everyone in their tracks, seeing as it was an acoustic set I would like to see them again with a full band to get the full sound but definitely ones to keep an eye on.

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I almost felt a little bit like I had failed on my mission to see loads and loads of bands at Dot to Dot this year, by the time I got into the swing of things there were a lot of schedule clashes but having thought about it since, sometimes that old quality over quantity saying rings true and speaking of quality the festival once again managed to book a top headliner in The Horrors. I may be biased as I’ve been a fan since their days of smearing black face-paint on the audience (yes that happened) and singing about Jack the Ripper, which happened a good eleven years ago now.

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Over the course of five albums they have managed to transform themselves from a goth-rock fad to one of the UK’s best live bands with a back catalogue full of great songs. The Albert Hall was also the perfect venue for The Horrors with its stained glass windows and just general gothic/churchy vibes, their strobe light show and minimal yet theatrical live performance is one that never fails to impress. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day at Dot to Dot than with a little dance to The Horrors take on disco as they play ‘Something to Remember Me By’…

…it wasn’t quite the end though as after the live bands finished The Horrors were keen to carry on the party by taking their records over to Band on The Wall back in the Northern Quarter and treating us to a DJ set from bassist Rhys Webb, where I had a little chat with them about those facepaint days.

Thank you Dot to Dot for once again putting on such an excellent day of new bands and old favourites!…I’m already looking forward to seeing what’s in store for next year and seeing which names from this year make it big.

Gill x

Dot to Dot Festival 2018 Preview

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I’m going to be heading up to Manchester for Dot to Dot festival soon, having missed it last year I’m looking forward to spending the day back at one of the best Metropolitan festivals in the UK.

Now in it’s 13th year Dot to Dot takes place in three cities – Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May, the festival hosts a long list of established artists as well as showcasing some of the best emerging talent from both the UK and overseas.

This year The Horrors have been picked to headline and on Friday night they will close the Manchester day with a set at the cities Albert Hall. With five albums and a well-loved back catalogue since they emerged in 2006, they’ve proved to be one of the countries best live bands and are sure to live up to expectations when they close the festival in each city.

Returning higher up the bill after playing Dot to Dot in 2016 are Manchester’s very own Pale Waves who since signing to the Dirty Hit label and working with label mates and fellow Mancunians The 1975 have gained a notable following, they’ll no doubt draw one of the largest crowds with their set taking place at the Albert Hall just before The Horrors.

Up and coming Chappaqua Wrestling are another Manchester based band – although originally from Brighton – the two best mates have a summery Beach Boys-style sound that on the first few listens remind me of The Magic Gang, while Dublin garage rock/punk band Fontaines DC seem to be creating a buzz so could be ones to watch out for.

A few other names on my list to check out include; Yowl, Bad Sounds, Fizzy Blood, Turnover and Dead!….although I usually find with Dot to Dot and other city festivals  sometimes its good to just see what you stumble upon as you pop into different venues, you never know when you might find your new favourite band!

You can still get tickets for Dot to Dot by clicking the link here – Tickets

 

A trip down 90s pop band memory lane at Now That’s a Festival

Anyone that knows me will know that my guilty pleasure is 90s popstars (ok, I don’t feel guilty about it at all) so when I was offered the chance to check out this years Now That’s a Festival I jumped at the chance. I mean let’s face it a line-up that features S Club, Dane Bowers, Blazin’ Squad, 911, B*Witched, Damage and Blue is a line-up that speaks to my 12 year old self (and my 33 year old self to be honest).

Taking place in Dagenham’s central park the pop extravaganza returned for its second year after last year’s event was headlined by Peter Andre. The gates opened up at 1pm on Saturday afternoon with a few local acts  taking to the stage to start proceedings including Tony Roberts, a BBC Let It Shine finalist and The Voice Kids winner Jess Folley, the latter having SUCH a powerful voice for a 13 year old!

IMG_6191Unfortunately we managed to miss Dane Bowers and S Club (sob) due to being slightly delayed navigating across north and east London so it was down to Blazin’ Squad to kick things off for us. Making a comeback after Marcel’s appearance on Love Island Blazin’ Squad (well 5 of them) gave us a glimpse of what to expect when they take to the stage at Koko in October, their set was short and sweet with them performing just three songs, although to be honest I’m not sure many people could remember more than that, their last song ‘Crossroads’ provided one of the biggest singalong moments of the afternoon of course!

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One of my favourite performances was from R&B group Damage, I saw them a  few years ago on ITV’s Boyband Big Reunion tour and remember thinking then they were really good live and if they came along today they’d probably be really popular! On Saturday they played some newer songs as well as the singles ‘Ghetto Romance’ ‘Forever’ ‘Love II Love’ and their cover of ‘Wonderful Tonight’ before doing a little medley of some of their favourite songs including Tinie Tempah’s ‘Pass Out’ and So Solid Crew’s ’21 Seconds’. We managed to grab them for a quick hello after they had come off stage and they were the loveliest guys! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future gigs.

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After a little wander around the festival site in the sunshine it was time to see 911, the pop trio showed us that they are still capable of back-flipping across the stage during Bodyshakin’ 20 years (eeek) after its release! and judging by the amount of people rushing to the fence to meet them after they came off stage they still have a very loyal fan-base!

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The double denim was no where to be seen but B*Witched provided us all with plenty of singalong opportunities during their performance with songs such as Blame it on The Weatherman, Jesse Hold On and of course C’est La Vie which they remixed with Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl (well if two songs were ever supposed to be mixed it was definitely these!)

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The day went by in a flash and we would have happily remained in our 90s pop bubble long into the night but alas, there was a curfew so the time came for headliners Blue to take to the stage. They were on top form, sounding (and looking!) great, the crowd sang along to every word of ‘All Rise’, ‘Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word’ and final song of the evening ‘One Love’.

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It would have been good to have the stage times posted online a day or two before just to know the order of the performances but that would only be a minor criticism! Overall I thought Now That’s a Festival was really well organised, all the security we came across during the day were helpful and friendly. There were a good number of food stalls to choose from and the queues for the bar and toilets didn’t get too big! The atmosphere was fun and friendly throughout the day with everybody just there for a big pop party…which is exactly what we got! 🙂

Now That’s a Festival is returning to Dagenham in August next year with the legendary Dru Hill and BlackStreet on the line-up, find out more and buy (early bird) tickets here!

 

Photos by Hayley Goodsell

 

Festival diary: Latitude

It’s been a full on (and sometimes emotional) few weeks in terms of music related things for me, there was The Maccabees farewell’s in Manchester and London, a few days later a trip to Hyde Park to see longtime faves Kings of Leon, followed the day after by the Grenfell fire benefit gig at Bush Hall.

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Continuing on the gig wave I spent last weekend at Suffolk’s (my home county) biggest festival, Latitude, it was my fifth year in a row which I guess means I really like it there. As always I met up with friends from London and we headed to the cottage we’ve stayed at for the past few years – festival-ing in style no less – which makes it feel like a holiday as well as a festival. It’s been a strange year or so for me with leaving London, trying to spend more time working on my own business and trying not to spend too much cash in the meantime, so because of all this I made the decision to give up my Glastonbury ticket, NEVER an easy thing to do but it just didn’t feel right for me to go this year. So when the opportunity to go back to Latitude came up I jumped at the chance.

Anyone that’s been to Latitude before will know how lovely it is, the lakeside setting is so pretty and the forest provides plenty of hidden stages and happenings! It’s also super easy to run between all stages because everything is so close – great for people like me who lose their sense of direction easily or are trying to cram in 4 different bands in the space of 2 hours.

After picking up our wristbands on Thursday evening we had a wander around the site and took ourselves off to the restaurant by the lake run by East London’s Blixen, because when you’re at one of the most civilised festivals in the country why not eat steak off proper plates and enjoy a cocktail!? (nicest cocktail ever btw)

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I’m always keen to hear new music and check out bands I haven’t seen before, however I am also pretty happy when loads of bands I’ve loved forever appear on  a festival line-up and Latitude did not disappoint this year. The Coral, The Horrors and Mystery Jets made sure I spent most of Friday afternoon/evening at the main stage reliving the early-mid 2000s. Then Friday night delivered one of, if not the best, festival headline set I’ve seen for quite a few years from The 1975, the energy was INCREDIBLE and in Matty Healy they have the perfect pop/rockstar. After seeing them on the Lake Stage in 2013 it was great to see them back as headliners and absolutely win at doing so.

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Saturday delivered plenty of good things too including a Willy Mason acoustic performance on the tiny SOLAS stage which was hidden away in the forest. It was the perfect setting and felt like one of those special festival moments, having a chat with the man himself after made it even more special. Another trip down nostalgia lane happened early on Saturday evening with a set by Two Door Cinema Club, I had sort of forgotten just how many tunes they had and the fact that they are the perfect sunny afternoon festival band! It was great to see Chicago boys Twin Peaks again after missing their last date in London, they played an awesome set at the Sunrise Arena on Saturday night.

I headed up to the main stage to watch Mumford and Sons on my own (none of the group I was with are fans!). They may not be everybody’s cup of tea but the set reminded me how much I used to love them and the crowd singing back every word to them was quite an emotional moment! I headed to SOLAS after Mumfords to meet up with everyone and to watch Parcels – the Aussie bands midnight set ended up being one of my favourite moments of the weekend and a band I will definitely see live again, despite our weary feet/legs they managed to keep us dancing for the whole time they were on stage. I cannot recommend checking them out enough!

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Sunday afternoon came around far too quickly and featured the chilled sounds of Matt Maltese on the Lake Stage followed by a rare Latitude rain shower and Public Service Broadcasting at the main arena. Sunday also saw a bit of clash situation which involved me running around watching little bits of Childhood, Loyle Carner and The Magic Gang on three different stages, as mentioned earlier that’s why it’s so great the stages are all relatively close! Fleet Foxes were the main stage headliners on Sunday night but I headed to the Sunrise to watch Temples and once again did that thing of forgetting how much I loved them. After a quick half hour dance to BBC music headliner Fatboy Slim we reluctantly wave goodbye for another year. Latitude you remain firmly at the top of my festival list.

Head to the bottom of this post for a list of everyone I saw!

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In no particular order!

  1. The 1975 
  2. Mystery Jets 
  3. Two Door Cinema Club
  4. Afrikan Boy
  5. Sløtface
  6. HMLTD
  7. Parcels
  8. Life
  9. Honeyblood
  10. Formation
  11. Mumford and Sons
  12. Twin Peaks 
  13. Willy Mason
  14. The Magic Gang
  15. Matt Maltese 
  16. The Horrors
  17. The Divine Comedy 
  18. Loyle Carner
  19. Childhood
  20. The Coral 
  21. Temples 
  22. Fatboy Slim
  23. Dan Croll
  24. Strong Asian Mothers
  25. Sh!t Theatre – Dollywould

 

 

 

 

 

The Maccabees – a farewell

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The Maccabees first came into my life in 2006, it was my first year living in London and my friend who was in a band and ran a club-night introduced me to them. I first listened to them via MySpace, the way I discovered almost every band back then. I can’t actually remember the first time I saw them –  I think it was at Camden Barfly – but I do know I fell in love with them instantly. The energy they had on stage was so infectious and songs like X-Ray, Bicycles and Latchmere just seemed to capture it so perfectly, They looked a bit awkward and ‘uncool’,

One gig I do remember very well from 2006 is when they played in the upstairs room at Paradiso in Amsterdam during the London Calling festival, I just remember thinking it was so exciting that loads of bands I’d been watching in London for the past few months were all in Amsterdam and we’d get to spend a weekend watching them. Then there was Reading Festival in 2007 when they played the NME tent the same day as Jamie T and The Klaxons, that was probably the biggest crowd I’d watched them in and the atmosphere was incredible. Alongside the likes of Good Shoes, Jamie T, Jack Peñate and Mystery Jets, The Maccabees were always firm indie disco favourites at nights like Frog at The Astoria, Metro or the Barfly, you were either likely to be dancing to one of their songs or bumping into someone from one of the bands watching their mates.

I watched them at every opportunity I could in London and also often ended up meeting up with friends in different cities for their gigs. During one tour in 2009 we went to see them in Manchester one night and Leeds the next and ended up drinking with them after the gigs both nights. In Leeds I remember doing tequila shots with Hugo and Felix and even though I’d said hi to them before a couple of times it was that night I realised just how awesome, fun and friendly they all were. It’s probably a night so many of their fans shared with The Maccabees over the years in different cities/countries, they always had time for a chat/drink and made everybody feel like part of The Maccabees gang.

The love affair continued and gradually I was introduced – via Twitter (or mostly Mat Horne’s Twitter) – to a whole other bunch of people with a shared love of The Maccabees, many of whom are now some of the best friends I’ve made in London. In 2012 just after they’d released Given To The Wild I went back to Amsterdam to watch them headline at the Paradiso. To see them their again after that first London Calling gig back in 2006 was really special and it’s still one of my favourite memories.

From tiny, sweaty venues to headlining Latitude Festival last summer with a number one album, I’m so grateful that I got to share so many memories with them over the past 11 years. There are other bands I love and there are other gigs that have and will be amazing but I can’t imagine another band changing my life quite the way this one has.

Thank you The Maccabees x

A few photos from over the years & the farewell gigs:

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Latitude 2017 Festival Preview

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On Friday Latitude festival added to their already impressive line-up by announcing that Leon Bridges, Mystery Jets and The Coral will be joining the other acts on the bill when the festival returns to Henham Park near Southwold this July. I’ve been lucky enough to be at Latitude for the past 4 years and it’s always one my highlights of the summer – even more lovely that it takes place in my home county of Suffolk!

The main headliners this year are The 1975, Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes with the Mumford lads curating the whole day on Saturday as part of their Gentlemen Of The Road takeovers – their only stopover in the UK no less. For The 1975 it’s their first big festival headline slot, I saw them play in 2013 on the Lake Stage so it will be great to see them back topping the bill. For Fleet Foxes it is a return to the festival circuit and a UK exclusive appearance.

Other acts added last week include The Jesus and Mary Chain, Beth Orton, Childhood, Flyte, Simian Mobile Disco, Jaguar Skills as well as a special lakeside performance by soprano Katherine Jenkins on the Sunday.

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Latitude is one of the biggest events on Suffolk’s calendar and provides the perfect sized event for those looking for a festival that attracts the big names but retains a family friendly atmosphere. The organisers have managed to expand the capacity over recent years without making it feel over-crowded – it’s one of the best festivals I have been to, not only in terms of the line-ups but also for organisation and providing plenty of space and facilities – important when you don’t want to spend half your day in the loo queue right?!

The lake-side setting always provides a stunning location too with the chance to take a dip if the weather behaves enough to make you want to strip off. Keep an eye on the lake when the sun goes down too as there are always beautiful light shows taking place!

A few of the other acts on the line-up are John Cale, Lucy Rose, Goldfrapp, Placebo, Jack Garratt and Loyle Carner, the two that I’m really excited about seeing are Chicago band Twin Peaks and The Horrors.

As well as the music line-up, the good people of Latitude have pulled out all the stops when it comes to the comedy arena too with the likes of Simon Amstell, Katherine Ryan, Joel Dommett and Dom Joly all popping up over the weekend. There really is something for everyone at Latitude with plenty of different areas to wander around including music & film, poetry, theatre and cabaret, it’s always great for discovering your new favourites as well as seeing the big names.

Latitude festival takes place from 13th – 16th July and you can still get your hands on tickets here!

Dot to Dot Festival 2017

Dot to Dot festival is returning at the end of May, taking over the three cities of Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham during the bank holiday weekend. Headliners Sundara Karma are welcomed back after impressing last year and hotly tipped acts such as Louis Berry, Tom Grennan and Swimming Tapes are ones to look out for if you’re heading to Dot to Dot.

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Each city opens up several of it’s best live venues on the day so you can pop in and out and see what takes your fancy! Last year I was at the Manchester one and there was a great atmosphere with a few little street performances during the day, I’ve also been to the Nottingham Dot to Dot which was also awesome…so I assuming the Bristol one is more of the same 😉

I recently wrote a full preview for the website Penny Black Music which you can read here if you want to find out a little bit more about the festival and this years acts.

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Tickets for Dot to Dot are available here for £13.20 (inc. booking fees)

 

 

Preview: Tramlines Festival 2017

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Spread across three days (Fri – Sun) at the end of July and taking place in the city of Sheffield, Tramlines is back this year and it’s looking pretty MEGA. This is the first time it will take place in three of the cities parks rather than at indoor venues which will allow for a bigger capacity and even bigger acts!

Now in it’s eighth year the festival has grown each year and now boasts one of the most exciting line-ups out of all the U.K metropolitan festivals. There’s no camping involved with this one so you’ll either need to have a mate with a sofa or get yourself booked into a hotel – you can find out more about accommodation packages on their website here.

Main stage headliners this year are The Libertines on Friday, All Saints Saturday and Metronomy on Sunday…yes All Saints from the 90s, having caught them on their tour last year and absolutely loving the trip down memory lane I was more than happy to see them appearing on the Tramlines line-up! It’s also great to see The Libertines appearing as headliners at a handful of festivals this summer.

Also rocking up in Sheffield for the weekend are Spring King, The Magic Gang, The Coral, We Are Scientists and Loyle Carner to name just a few of my personal picks!

If all of that isn’t enough to keep you entertained for 3 days there are after-parties taking place every night too, featuring more performances and DJ sets from the likes of Artful Dodger, Faithless, Mike Skinner and Bugzy Malone…Now all we need is the sun to shine on Sheffield in July!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liverpool Sound City 2017 – festival preview

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The Liverpool festival is celebrating its 10th Birthday in May and this time it’s moved location from Bramley Moore dock to a bigger space down the road at Clarence dock. When Sound City first started it took place in multiple city centre venues before the organisers decided in 2015 to move it to Bramley Moore dock to accommodate more people and have a proper festival site, so moving again just two years later seems testament to its growth.

This year sees the festival put on an extra two nights too, starting on the Thursday with The Human League headlining and Friday impressively boasts the only European performance of ‘John Cale presents The Velvet Underground & Nico’…what a start to the bank holiday weekend.

Metronomy head up Saturday night with Slaves and The Kills taking to the main stage before them and indie veterans The Kooks will close the festival on Sunday night with their own anniversary celebration – it’s 10 years since the release of their debut album. The Cribs were recently added as special guests on the Sunday too, and judging by their performance on the main stage in 2015 they should be warmly welcomed back!

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Sound City has always championed emerging talent and this years showcase is no exception with the likes of Swiimers, Crimsons and Violet Youth all appearing on the bill. Bands that have been breaking through recently like The Amazons, The Sherlocks, The Magic Gang and The Shimmer Band have joined the line-up too.

Tim Burgess returns again this year with Tim Peaks Diner where he will be bringing his usual combination of coffee, conversation, signings and special performances.

Sound City takes place from 25th – 28th May (with the Thursday and Friday nights ticketed separately). Make sure you follow @SoundCity for any announcements and to keep updated before the big weekend!