Monday, August 4, 2014

Knee Deep '14: My Top 5 Acts

Well, as promised, I spent my weekend at the Knee Deep Festival in Cornwall. It was only two days long, but they managed to pack a lot of great bands (most of whom were completely new to me) into relatively little time. Here's a countdown of my five favourite acts from across the weekend; Scriber, the band I was there to play drums for, are obviously disqualified from the running, lest this competition descend into farce.

5.  Sweet Baboo
I wasn't particularly kind about Sweet Baboo's album when I reviewed it last September, but I found him far more enjoyable in the flesh. Songs like C'mon Let's Mosh! sounded slightly cloying on record, but the stripped-back acoustic guitar versions that made up Baboo's live set were perfect for a hot summer's afternoon. Stephen Black is an oddly engaging stage presence too - the stories he told around the songs (about nagging his wife to buy him a motorhome, for example) really brought the set to life, and his slightly shy demeanour belies his killer deadpan wit.

4. Team Me
This Norwegian outfit are kind of like the Arcade Fire, only...happy. Their whole set was one big burst of enthusiasm and distinctly Scandinavian joy, with six or so people making noise onstage while everybody else clapped along. Great fun, although their name is a bit difficult to say - you need a big glottal stop before the word 'me' or it just sounds like 'teemy', which isn't even a word.

3. Beaty Heart
It's always a good sign when you stop playing a song and the audience keeps singing it. Beaty Heart's Seafood was a contender for song of the festival - I'm sure I wasn't the only person who struggled to get it out of my head that evening - and the rest of their songs were every bit as silly and infectious as the big hit that they closed with,

2. Kate Tempest
I've mentioned before that I'm not a big rap buff, but even the wimpiest of indie kids would have been bowled over by Kate Tempest. She rapped profanely about how we should get off our fuckin' arses and do something with our shit lives, and while she may not have been the very best act of the weekend (they're coming up in a sec), hers was the set that made Knee Deep feel like something massive, instead of a tiny little two-dayer in Liskeard.

1. Flamingods
I could have seen Flamingods at Knee Deep 2013, but I stupidly decided to go to bed instead of staying awake to catch their set. This was a mistake, as everyone told me at the time, and I was determined not to repeat my error at this year's festival.

In fact, I was right down the front for the band's headline set on Friday night, and I had an absolute hoot. Their sound is bonkers, incorporating elements of world music, dance, and straight-up rock to create a very heady brew indeed. Beaty Heart joined them onstage at the end, too, which was fun.

Many bands told us to dance this past weekend, but Flamingods were one of the only bands who got it without asking.

Honourable Mention: Patrick Wolf
I won't try to argue that Patrick Wolf's set was among the weekend's best - it was a catastrophe of Spinal Tap proportions, and it would be unfair to evict Sweet Baboo or Team Me from my Top 5 for that.

But, by gum, did I enjoy watching it. Wolf was onstage for about an hour, in which time he completed about five songs (by my count - others will claim that it was even fewer). The remaining time was spent tuning his many instruments, forgetting the words, battling with uncooperative technology, and apologising profusely for the high-calibre shambles that was unfolding before our very eyes. This, apparently, was PW's first show for quite some time, and it really showed - you've never seen anything more under-rehearsed.

And yet I don't think I've ever been more emotionally invested in a gig. What with all the slip-ups and technical difficulties, every right note seemed like a big win, and every full song was a glorious triumph. The songs that we did hear were actually very good anyway (I now have every intention of making a long-overdue foray into the Wolf oeuvre), but they were all the more impressive for the way in which they rose, phoenix-like, from the flaming mess that was the set at large. Highly enjoyable, against all odds.

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That's my review of the weekend - now let's hear yours. If you were at Knee Deep 2014, feel free to tell me which bands YOU enjoyed watching in the comments. Or on Facebook, if you'd prefer.

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