Grizzly Bear Review:Monday June 28, 2010
Memoryhouse opened proceedings in the Serpentine gardens for what is shaping up to be three days of blistering sunshine and music to match the summertime vibes.
Female vocalist Denise Nouvion takes centre stage, flanked by neo-classical composer Evan Abeele and live band member Adrian Vieni on guitars. Their breezy honeycoated sound hazily echoing forth from the bandstand. Soothing slide solos gently build to the programed drum beats, whilst the audience chill in the sunshine, watching on in mutual appreciation.
Next up, the one man band that is Magic Arm. Opening to a vague guitar plucking verse reminiscent of last night's Hyde Park headline acts Lady Madonna, only shuffling to a beat of his own.
Once in full flow and backing tracks intact he begins to find his feet. Beats, organ, bass all come alive topped off by some very intelligent wordplay. Technical difficulties aside, Magic Arm's trickery is something to watch out for in the future and to end on wired and stripped down cover of LCD Soundsystem's 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House', well, there's no disputing his genius.
It may be out of the sun's reach but Efterklang manage to bring a ray of light into the main arena. Strobes twinkle brightly behind these seven rough cut Scandinavian figures as they conjure blissful moments of beauty from start to finish.
Whether dipping into their highly undervalued catalogue, as they did with Step Aside or playing from recent album 'Magic Chairs', they sound great. The aforementioned song continuously building with every chord struck, pulling the reigns before becoming overindulgent, a trait more bands should take note of.
Raincoats sounds magnificent as ever. Coming on like a more danceable '15 Steps' by Radiohead to begin with before we find that it's the missing link between 'Funeral' and 'Neon Bible' (I swore I wouldn't make an Arcade Fire reference, but they are really that good).
Hands aloft from the crowd as the band leave the stage only for Casper Clausen to return for a final farewell photograph of the clapping and whooping audience.
Here We Go Magic
Back over to the bandstand for two timers Here We Go Magic, who play their second show in a row on the same stage, these guys really do love Hyde Park. And Hyde Park loves them, going by the instantaneous shuffle of feet from the main arena to the gardens.
Five piece Secretly Canadian newcomers are currently riding the crest of the wave of critical acclaim for their new album. Luke Temple created Here We Go Magic initially as an outlet for his own musical experiments, before the Brooklyn expanded to incorporate a full band. The quintet brought a new life to the melodies from their self-titled release, adding strength and instrumental aggression with repeated, trancelike riffs and simple lyrics, built on with blips of psychedelic pizzazz and quickly spit background vocals.
Oh, and the female bassist remind you anything? A certain Robert Palmer video? We'll say no more, only that this bassist has talent.
Without a moment to pause for thought you can hear rumblings from the main stage. And with that, Grizzly Bear are on.
The night, though, belongs to Grizzly Bear: lights, sound, performance, all on a different plane entirely.
They may have crashed the mainstream charts but have done so without compromising a unique aural sensibility and tonight that sound is pushed even further. Doo-wop harmonies skirt in and around staccato chords, bedrocked by Christopher Bear's pulverising drumming.
The Grizzly guys three part harmonies may touch on the Fleet Foxes moniker they've been burdened with, but it's a sound all of their own, more indebted to Crosby, Stills and Nash. Albeit without that tache and more time on their side.
The band approach their music with a precision and clarity and look like they love doing it. Highlights from the set include 'Yellow House's 'On a Neck, On a Spit' and standout Knife, both resonating beautifully around the hushed silence of the tent. An exceptionally swoon some electric version of 'Little Brother', 'Colorado' and cross over single 'Two Weeks'.
Patti Smith Review:Tuesday June 29, 2010
As everyone settled in for the evening two of Serpentine, chilled drinks matched by a similarly chilled atmosphere, Eliza Doolittle took to the stage, with a certain youthful bounce in her step.
Her extraordinarily pretty face belies a strong voice and an edgy attitude, which effortlessly translate into her songs. Accompanied by her three-piece band, she sinks into the second song of the night, her debut single 'Rollerblades' from the eponymous EP, a mid-tempo number which shows off her captivatingly jazzy voice. During the lively 'Go Home', Eliza actively courts the audience with a flirtatious “cha-cha-cha”, to which everyone gladly respond to. The retro styling of 'Pack Up', Eliza’s new release, bring the proceedings to an upbeat end as she is joined onstage by a soul vocalist, capping off an outstanding performance.
The Boy Who Trapped the Sun
Just enough time to grab a drink before we were treated to the appearance of Colin MacLeod, the enigmatic one man band behind The Boy Who Trapped The Sun moniker.
Colin’s quiet entrance and humble introduction seemed to be indicative of his musical style – simple, yet packing one hell of an emotional punch. In the time it took to perform one song, The Boy had captivated all by the raw emotion in his voice, the beautiful guitar crescendo climaxing just as the wind picked up, creating, as the man himself noted, his very own special effects. 'Katy', his current single, proved the highlight and made one feel that Colin is truly on the cusp of greatness. The wonderfully heartfelt intonations in his voice meandered between sad and hopeful in equal measure, bringing an atmospheric quality to the set.
Fionn Regan kicks off with a trio of Rock n' Roll tunes of the utmost quality. He may have taken a new direction with 2010s ‘The Shadow Of An Empire’ but this dusty southern path led him smack bang in the middle of Blues central via Dylan on ‘Highway 61’. The new ground that he is treading is shows he is wise beyond his years, like a reinvigorated man on a mission to prove he has more in his satchel than his Mercury Music Prize nominated debut.
The unrelenting bluesy riffage of 'Genocide Matinee' is a vehicle for Regan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'-style stream of consciousness lyrics, lines like "Strip me bare like the scapegoat, the primate praised the public vote" being rendered all the more visceral for the rapidity with which they roll off Regan's tongue.
Each track from this high-octane ramshackle set is being dragged kicking and screaming through Nashville county into the new decade.
As strobe lights burst and organs fade we come to the end of the road. Fionn reminds us of his poetic beauty. Acoustic guitar hugged to his chest, he parts with the melancholy ‘Be Good Or Be Gone’.
Back to the Bandstand and Dawn Kinnard greets us with a wistful look in her eyes. You can sense this girl is going to be a little different.
The broken-up body stance seamlessly compliments the off-kilter vocals which emerge from Dawn in seemingly random yet rhythmic spurts. As she softly repeats “Do you like to be all by yourself?” and answers her own question in the affirmative, you get a sense of inextricable bond between musician and the wonderful loneliness of the creative process. She sings as if to herself, in a husky delta-blues voice, reliving the experiences that she later put into lyrics. Dawn introduces her song 'Queen Of The World' as a “grandiose delusion” – not so, for this talented young woman, who the audience surely felt was the queen of the evening, at the very least.
Patti Smith and her band
Punk rock's poet laureate, Patti Smith ranks among the most influential female rock and rollers of all time. Ambitious, unconventional, and challenging, Smith's music was hailed as the most exciting fusion of rock and poetry since Bob Dylan's heyday, and it sounds just as fresh now as it did back then.
You could sense the anticipation from the crowd before she came on. And Patti shows her appreciation at every opportunity, waving to the crowd and pausing between songs to regale stories from her past.
Confidence oozes from every pore during Money, her stage presence proving she deserves her status as A Poetic Punk Pioneer more now than ever.
She may not have the Mick Jagger lips, but she sure has the swagger, the bands intelligent rework of The Rolling Stones ‘Play With Fire’ sizzles with conviction. To find out that they'd only rehearsed the song for tonight’s performance.
As Patti divulges her admiration for the sadly departed Tim Carroll - "her generations greatest poet" - 'For The People Who Died' morbidly but rather aptly is dedicated to him, even though he stole one of her guitarists years ago. 5-piece Patti And Her Band show more passion and desire to please every single body in her grasp than such legends usually adhere to.
Biggest cheer of the night goes to ‘Because The Night’. Simply stunning. ‘We Got The Power’ has everyone singing in unison for the chorus.
After possibly the shortest stage exit ever, the band are back for an encore of, would you believe it, Lou Reed's ‘Perfect Day’. Subject matter aside, it's surely one of the most perfect pieces of music to conclude the night.
Laura Marling Review:Thursday July 1, 2010
The enchantingly youthful Alessi may only be 20 but in the few years that she has been performing she has blossomed.
She has a distinctive inflection to her voice that sounds delicately crafted rather than forced. She combines her interesting melodies over simple chord progressions with sophistication.
There's no chance of this ark sinking as Alessi rounds her sweet set off with a great rendition of 6Music favourite 'The Horse', featuring additional vocals from Alessi's guitarist and a beautiful "song about a robot", after giving the crowd the choice between that or a song about a hummingbird.
Sultry Sussex maidens Smoke Fairies are both wistful contemporary folkstrels and full-on 70s throwbacks. Fronted by the blonde and brunette pairing of Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire.
As for the music, they're at their best - on the swamp-blues lurch of 'Frozen Heart', and the captivating 'Living With Ghosts'. Think Fairport Convention twirls, melded with the folkier strands of 'III'-era Led Zeppelin
After the suitably suited outdoors for our airy opening acts, the rather more sombre Fanfarlo suit the atmospherics of the big top tent.
There's the energetic 'The Walls Are Coming Down', R&B influenced melodies of 'Waiting in the Wings' and a bombastic Comets. Creater and lead singer Simon Balthazaar jutters like David Byrne Talking Heads era on 'Venus' accompanied by Leon Beckenham on trumpet and Cathy Lucas on mandolin.
Bringing the mood back down with a string-led opener dedicated to his native Sweden, fading out to the sound of sonar, only resonating from vocal chords not machinery.
Darkness takes hold for a fleeting moment before the Beirut-esque dulcet tones of Simon while the Wurlitzer hyme chords turn the big top tent into the house of lord Balthazaar.
'Fire Escape' is followed by a new song about the street botherers in Dalston called 'On The Wheels'. Finishing on what is possibly their happiest tune of the night, as if it was the moment they had been building to throughout their set. The Cascading string outro becoming an Epic trumpet bursting finale. Fanfarlo are a band who pull off that magical trick of sounding joyful and achingly sad.
Like the mythical sirens, Rosa Slade and Katy Young – the London-born, Brighton-based frontwomen of Peggy Sue – sing with a lilting sweetness that is wholly deceptive, belying the undercurrent of fury in their lyrics, the agitations of their music.
Unlike the sirens, however, they sing not to lure men to destruction but to detail the wrecking of their own hearts. Whether it's Young musing on duplicitous relationships or brooding on how she would spoon with an ex, or Slade struggling to forget the smell of a former lover by slinking downtown, where "I see your face in everyone", the two women appear horribly bruised by love. They combat melancholy with some startlingly abrasive, PJ Harvey-style guitars, giddy whirls of accordion, and a thrilling array of clattering, thundering, sharp and snappy percussion from their show-stealing drummer, Olly Joyce.
Once a shy performer, the teenage Laura Marling might not have been keen on the idea of a giant circus tent packed with staring eyes. Now, still only 20, last night she owned the spotlight, and while her stage banter still bumbles, she commanded a reverent hush that suggested a woman who accepts that entrancing large crowds is her destiny.
She did it without much help. Her small band, including a double bass player and a cellist, started at pace with the violent strum of 'Devil’s Spoke' but soon she was alone, airing unfamiliar new songs on acoustic guitar and somehow still keeping everybody quiet.
It helps that lyrically she is painting ever more striking pictures. One new one, 'Rest On A Bed Of My Bones', was as sparse and haunting as its title. What He Wrote, from her recent second album, depicted a broken love triangle in short, dramatic lines.
A mass whistling solo on 'My Manic' and I eased the tension, as did her good-humoured explanation of why she doesn’t go in for encores. But there is definitely a serious old head under that peroxide hairdo. A couple of vintage covers, Jackson C Frank’s 'Blues Run The Game' and Neil Young’s 'The Needle And The Damage Done', were as bleak as her originals, sung with a pure beauty that merited that massed silence.
Painfully honest and hauntingly beautiful, all were enchanted by Laura's charm.