LevellersBeautiful Days Festival 2016

Live Review

Beautiful Days is far more than just another festival, another staging post on the summer muddy merry ground of high decibel events.

This is one of those last corners were stuff matters and below the merry bonhomie there is still a rare idealism and hope Ina time of cynicism and contempt.

Band wise is also as strong a s ever and here are a few we caught up with.

The RPM’s

Plying a skiffle rush, tune laden and guitar driven indie, the RPM’S sound like a perfect quintessential English guitar band. Cherry picking all the best moment from generations of pop they have the intensity and energy of punk, the sharp and angular of mod and the eternal love of the guitar of indie. They are as sharp as their singer’s rather dandy and perfect mud defying white winklepickers and their sprightly energy and great songs create a great reaction, even when they are on first on on a hungover Saturday lunch time slot.

UK Feds
Swaggering, choppped sleeve rock n roll merchants, UK Feds steam rolled their way through a swaggering rock n roll set that got many people talking over the weekend. The eternal flame of the rock and the roll has defied death so many times and the band’s greasy rush and energized assault on the form sees them set up to make a big impact in the next year. The Redditch based band also criss cross their songs with a ska influence and are tight after a recent tour supporting Adam Ant.

Lanterns On The Lake

Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake are Bella Union label stalwarts with all the best elixir that fine label offers. That kind of highly intelligent, atmospheric, post indie like their peers peers, such as, Explosions In The Sky and Sigur Ros – that kind of mystique laden indie pop with added violin drones that still works in the surprisingly sunny afternoon.

Back in the mix Reef were once a ubiquitous fixture in the post Britpop years – a kind of rocking cousin to the guitar party that took over the airwaves in the glory days of Brit indie. Older and in the case of their bassist, with a stunning long grey beard and wild man in the mountain shock of grey hair, Reef still deliver a swaggering good rock n roll show with the aplomb of their heroes Free. They were never fashionable and that plays in their favour – they can do what they like now without being trapped by expectations and know how to put on a great rock n roll show and have a powerful behind the beat groove that is addictive.

The Proclaimers are one of those bands that are easily brushed aside by the hip narrative but if you have never seen them live then you really should. The perfect harmony vocals of the time stood still and unchanged brothers is something else to hear. They say that the harmony of the human voice is one of the most golden sounds to the human ear and the Proclaimers make this a main feature of their sound and with a back catalogue of hits especially on the big numbers like 500 miles and the strangely affecting Letter From America, the band are triumphant and create a perfect sing song and a punkish atmosphere.
Flight Brigade

Like some kind of twist on the early Arcade Fire, Flight Brigade take the old and make it new. Ollie Baines vocals are coloured by wife Miriam’s perfect harmonies that make their folk tinged indie soar before the band’s innate love of heavier and darker music gives them an intriguing ooomph.

Every year there is a curveball band on the main stage – and they don’t get much more curveball than Oh My God! It’s The Church, who do that Pentecostal pastiche and add a showbiz glam and Aretha Franklin style vocal to a set that is transfixing to watch in its colorful and hilarious madness – like Alabama Three with added glitz and soul power the band pastiche the Deep South sermons and turn them into show biz gold.

Fresh from their album hitting the top 5 in Germany, Rag n Bone Man has combined his longtime passion for the blues with elements of soul, jazz and Folk. He hlas established a ferocious live reputation through guitar wielding solo performances or. Or as the resident vocalist of rap’s Rum Committee, marrying a Seasick Steve style lived in voice with a rolling hypnotic neo hip hop groove.

Mariachi El Bronx
Sometimes in rock n roll the music has to match the outfits and when Mariachi El Bronx hit the stage dressed up in perfect mariachi duds you kinda know that they are going to deliver something quite special. The band who are the alter ego of noisy post hardcore LA band The Bronx, started as an amusing side project dealing out mariachi takes on their music and have evolved into a fully fledged band of their own.

Mariachi is a great music and like all people’s music marry melancholy and euphoria perfectly and the band run with this is a set that smoothly moves from ballads to more upbeat tequila drenched anthems.

The Coral have returned after a hiatus like nothing has changed – the band still deal out that skiffle indie with the a dollop of that wheezing sixties stained perfection like The Seeds in the late end of that mythical. It’s that organ driving, lysergic whine that is the perfect counterpoint the perfect rasping vocals and a set stuffed full of timeless garage rock classics.

The Levellers
It’s their party of course and everyone is invited and as the festivals builds up to its climax and the big field fills out it’s time for the annual celebration. WIth tacks culled from all corners of their career , the band have an intense and historical back catalogue that has sound tracked people’s lives to dig into. History is there to plunder and like high decibel pirates they are in there with their cutlasses aloft and no-one asks any questions because these songs remain great.

Where they sit in the current shiny pop world or in the grim post politics of these times is a separate question – how can anyone be relevant in these fractured and fractious times and songs . What were once were anthems for their generation have become familiar and warm enveloping embraces – an arm in arm celebration of a more idealistic time when community and caring and great music all went hand in hand.

The Levellers are still the focus of this vibe and remain musically defiant to a world going mad, the future may see them attempt to address this cracked new world and they still have the musical skills and energy to make the veteran stage, the late Roman Empire stage, of their carrier really mean as much as their imperial phase.

In the mean time they can still roll out the good times like the impossible glue that holds together the flying members of punk rock, the battered standard of the counter culture and the warm and cosy tendrils and ideals of the hippies and the deep rooted folk traditions of our green and pleasant land with a joy and communal grin that is always empowering to listen to.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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