A Carefully Planned Few Hours - 'ACP Festival #6'
'This is a song about a girl from Sweden called Emma who really f**ked me over...'. Jamie Cameron from 'The Last Dinosaur seems like a fairly placid laid back type of guy. The Castle Hotel is probably the most intimate venue you can get, but 'The Last Dinosaur' has already ramped up the intimacy levels (if intimacy can be ramped up...) by positioning a chair on the floor in front of the tiny stage so that the audience is just that little bit closer. '...F**k you, F**k you Emma', his sudden outburst of apparent genuine hostility towards Emma from Sweden is made all the more personal by the closeness of the surroundings.
But his short set at 'A Carefully Planned Festival' demonstrated in 25 minutes why this festival is as good an opportunity as you will get to see such a variety of talented musicians at such close quarters. And it's all done in such a friendly atmosphere - musicians mingle with music lovers, volunteers steward the doors to each of the 9 venues and the whole experience is totally positive from start to finish.
Besides Emma from Sweden, there is no real Nordic relevance to me writing about 'ACP Festival', but I still want to do so. Some of our Nordic readers are kind enough to ask me sometimes about the UK music scene, and this gives a good flavour of what's happening outside the UK mainstream - and these are also artists that deserve far more recognition too, similarly to the likes of Sara Forslund, The Stillwalkers and Ceasetone back in the Nordic countries.
Anyway I apologise firstly for not being able to report on the Nordic Acts who performed after my last train back to the Midlands, and I deliberately didn't take notes so sorry if I've got any specifics wrong, but all the bands below are worth checking out further if you haven't come across them:
Entering The Night and Day Cafe early afternoon, my concern for Alfresco Love Sounds was that they'd be performing to just a few people with their early slot, but thankfully a small welcoming group gathered in front of the stage. Tom Ward's creation were great live, a lovely mix of the subtlety that I've listened to on the album (entitled Alfresco Love Sounds), but also powerful climaxes - this is really clever music and my appreciation for his album is now even greater. They played a couple of tracks from the new (second) album, which is due fairly soon, and I have no doubt that will be completely splendid. https://soundcloud.com/alfrescolovesounds
Back at The Castle Hotel, RoBoTaLiEn is on stage, and it's an utterly astonishing performance from the one man band, who uses loop pedals with layered guitars, harmonies and beatboxing to slowly build incredible songs up - similar I guess to Danish songwriter Il Tempo Gigante, although the style is different. The lyrics meanwhile are brilliant and I loved 'The Tiring Days of Mr Sunshine' in particular. RoBoTaLiEn are a must see live performance act, but his recorded work is pretty fine too. https://www.facebook.com/robotandalien/
I love 'The Last Dinosaur' album 'Hooray! For Happiness' (now a few years old) so was looking forward to his solo set at The Castle Hotel, and happily wedged myself on a side wall armed with a pint. Jamie Cameron is one of these musicians who almost apologetically gets his guitar out, apparently lacking in confidence, but transforms once he starts and manages to open with a new song that he wrote just 2 days previously. His songwriting feels so natural and there is a simple delicacy about his performance I really like, whilst his semi whispered lyrics are intense and persuasive. Loving The Castle Hotel environment as I do, this was always going to be a highlight of the day . Thankfully a new album seems to be on the way and we will do our best to find some tenuous Nordic connection in order to feature it.... and try not to mention Emma from Sweden too much either. (https://www.facebook.com/thelastdinosauruk/)
By the time I'd grabbed a bite to eat Esper Scout were on upstairs in Gullivers, relentlessly blazing their way through a series of tracks in style. Clearly a band that have played together for a few years, they have a natural energy about them and they seem to take the crowd with them too. Stand out track remains the one that I'd had on a playlist for a while now, which is 'Gaps in the Border Fence', and which they concluded their set with on Sunday. https://esperscout.bandcamp.com/
Arriving early at The Mint Lounge, my interests were immediately aroused by an array of musical instruments scattered around the stage. For those that don't know them yet, Glass Ankle are a 5 piece band from around Manchester led by the personable Greg Jackson, supported by, amongst others, a multi-talented Sax / Flute / Guitarist / Keyboard player and a totally laid back percussionist / vocalist. At the heart of their Folk Shoegaze Electronica influenced music is excellent songwriting, strong melodies, lovely harmonies and the range of different instruments provide a lovely rich texture to their sound. I loved their 30 minute set, not only because of their music, but the constant smiles and positive vibes coming from the stage. Originally I had planned to sneak out to get to see another band towards the end of the set, but I stayed until the very end - Glass Ankle are a class musical act. https://glassankle.com/
Back at The Night and Day Cafe, Math Rock influenced Orchards are just starting a blistering set. This is a band with a real presence on stage, and vocalist Lucy Evers is impressive with her vocals particularly outstanding live. Watching from the side of the stage I'm able to witness some virtuoso guitar playing as well as some glitter jeans courtesy of Evers.
I knew very little about LEG. but the one track I'd heard online I liked enough to ensure I got to the Soup Kitchen early, and refamiliarise myself with the lovely basement surroundings. LEG. are another 5 piece band, this time from Bristol, and they describe themselves as 'Experimental Pop', which along with the one track I'd heard, sounded promising. Furthermore on their Facebook page they list some great bands as influences, the not nordic Nordic Giants, Mew, Bjork and Sigur Ros (no Major Parkinson sadly, but they'll discover them soon enough... just start with Songs from a Solitary Home and go from there... ). So to describe LEG, well they somehow manage to combine 'I See Rivers' style sweet folky harmonies with the cleverest driving rhythmic guitar, bass and drums combination, and the overall effect live is utterly sensational. This was the performance of the day for me, and so unexpected too. https://www.facebook.com/leglegleguk/
There was just enough time to head back for a bit of Jo Rose, but I knew I had to head sharpish for the train station. I can't emphasise enough just how good 'A Carefully Planned' festival is. Its run by people who love music, have endless knowledge, enthusiasm and energy - and have a real ability to take people all in the same direction. It's pretty inspiring stuff, and we should all try and learn something from what they've achieved - and book the weekend into our diary for next year....