Archive for June, 2011

June 22, 2011

iTunes to live stream London festival worldwide

Apple will continue the live digital revolution by broadcasting select performances of its upcoming festival, held at the Roundhouse Theatre, London, for the whole of July.  A dizzying array of artists feature, 62 in all, including; Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Paul Simon, Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Moby, Linkin Park and many more.  The shows will be streamed to all Apple devices in HD through the new app, iTunes live.   

Surely this is just the start of a whole host of multi-platform digital streaming?  The public demand for festivals has increased tenfold over the last decade, allied to the fact that digital has finally given us the technology to tap into this under-exploited market.  The major digital players have been slow to form partnerships with the main festival promoters allowing TV broadcasters to corner the market, particularly in Europe.  This weekend Glastonbury Festival will be transmitted to a UK audience only, through the public service broadcaster, BBC.  The sheer investment of BBC’s public purse, including over 400 staff and a budget that’s close to the £2 million mark suggest that they regard it as TV gold and an extremely important event in the countries calendar.

Earlier this year Google teamed up with Coachella Festival for live streaming of the three-day event on YouTube, which offered excellent coverage and will surely spark the momentum for the impending live digital movement. This latest announcement from Apple confirms that the digital giants are starting to wake up to the vast possibilities of the cash cow of  the live music scene, although they could have a bitter fight on their hands with the TV broadcasters ready to dig their heals in, especially for the prestige events.

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June 6, 2011

Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See

Heralded as one of the greatest bands of their generation, the Arctic Monkeys have increasingly felt the heavy weight of expectation and the burden of the zeitgeist.  So much that they have gone out of their way to avoid any fan delusions or media typecast, last month Alex Turner rejected the mantle of ‘Voice of a generation’ in an interview with The Observer, while mischievously self-referencing their dilemma with cryptic album titles!

Of course they’re not the first band to find themselves labeled as the avatars of British indie-rock.  25 years ago The Smiths were adored with equal rapture and reverence after releasing The Queen is Dead.  Ironically this latest Arctic’s album offers similar comparison with Morrissey’s work, though not that of The Smiths.  The retro dense production, feed-back driven guitar lines and over all nostalgia recalls Morrissey in his solo years.  Although most of the 60’s romantic pop sound borrows more from fellow Sheffield troubadour Richard Hawley and Turner’s own project, The Last of the Shadow Puppets.

Interestingly the Arctic’s have chosen to divert their career path to a safer, more secure destination than on their previous desert rock album, Humbug, with the exception of terrible lead single, Brick to Brick, with its lumpen rock.  This is never more apparent than with Turner’s songwriting.  Once a quick-tongued commentator on life’s youthful pursuits, he’s now tuned his songwriting craft to a romantic bent, less swagger, more waltz, ‘Makes me want to blow the candles out/Just to see if you glow in the dark’.  By focusing on abstract wordplay, rather than acerbic wit, he’s managed to become frustratingly conformist.  You suspect he’s capable of more challenging subjects, but chooses career security over hostility!  Nevertheless, at times, he still paints sharp and funny imagery, ‘Your rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock/ And those other girls are just post-mix lemonade’. Similar to his mentor, James Skelly from The Coral, he’s fine tuned his vocals to a rich and plaintive timbre.

It’s The Coral who the Arctic’s first nod their influence cap too, with the album beginning with the 60’s Mersey beat of ‘She’s Thunderstorms’, ‘Black Treacle’ and ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala‘, all distorted jangles and soaring choruses.  And it’s this mid-tempo guitar pop that the band settle into, switching to a sound and environment that feels much more natural than the heavy, murky riffs of Humbug.  At times the musicianship shows mastery and maturity.  Of course there are moments of stoner rock, red herring single, ‘Brick to Brick’, the ordinary ‘Library Pictures‘ & ‘All of my own stunts‘ and the riff – baiting ‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’.  

It’s the album finale where the Arctic’s display their undoubted talent.  Titular song ‘Suck it and see’ is a wonderfully crafted pop song, and like its northern touchstones, Morrissey and Hawley, it sways and invigorates. ‘That’s were you’re wrong‘ swings like an indie anthem of yore, The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen compressed into 4 minutes of unbridled joy.  This is a sign of what might have been, where the song writing flair soars to impressive heights, unfortunately the majority of the album is shackled by conformity and fails to get out of the Monkey’s default setting.

June 4, 2011

Queens of the Stone Age ask fans to vote for set list

Queens of the Stone Age have asked fans to pick their favourite songs, for their headlining set at Glastonbury this month.  This inventive and inclusive idea gives fans the option to vote online for the songs they wish to be played at the festival, through BBC Radio 1’s DJ, Zane Lowe, and his website;   www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/zanelowe .

This type of digital interaction is an effective and fun way of including fans into the social dynamics of the band. The technology is there, why not use it?   It also challenges the band to rehearse and play songs they may have not played for a long time, or ever!  Generally most people who vote on these type of fan base platforms are the serious fans, not necessarily the casual festivalite, so the results will be interesting.  Imagine a set without Know one knows or Feel good hit of the summer?  I suspect if that is the outcome Homme will manipulate the set list to suit the occasion!  Even so it still represents fan interaction and that can only be a good thing.  After all, if it wasn’t for them they wouldn’t be headlining Glastonbury!