Sunday, 14 October 2018

Reading Festival 2018

Reading Festival feels like such a distant memory, now that festival season is officially over and outside is cold and crisp and covered in falling leaves. This was my first ever Reading festival and I gotta say, straight off the bat, I'm so in love with it. Out of all the ones I've done, in Ireland, the U.S. and now the U.K., this one is by far my favourite - and for such Old Person reasons too. It's just really well organised, there are dozens and dozens of different food trucks and toilets and everything and the simple joy of not having to queue makes the whole experience ten times better. Security were wonderful too, even through dealing with Lil Pump's onstage temper tantrums (more on that later lol).

But Ciara, you cry, forget all that shit - what about the bands?

Well, let's get into it.

Obvious highlights first: Waterparks (duh - also our ninth and final show of this year excuse me for a second while I cry) Going from seeing them play to less than seventy people in a tiny club in Switzerland in the spring to the huge main stage crowd at Reading made me feel like a proud mom; Fall Out Boy headlining (despite a few sound issues and a slightly unenthusiastic crowd towards the back, they're still excellent and I will fight anyone who says otherwise) - particularly Patrick's really weird Elton John impression during his verse in Save Rock and Roll. I'm still not sure if that was intentional or what was going on but it was... something.

The Regrettes played between Big Shaq and Waterparks on Friday (you can see us standing at the barrier during Big Shaq's set on the BBC feed, because where else would you be at 11am on a Friday). The Californian quartet absolutely killed it - I've rarely seen a lead singer with half as much charisma and cool like Lydia Night, and she's literally only seventeen. The Regrettes are definitely going places, watch this space.

We caught the gist of Bring Me The Horizon's secret set from the queue for the Waterparks meet and greet - new track Mantra sounded fucking wonderful, as did That's The Spirit highlights Happy Song and Throne. I also finally got to see Icelandic trio Dream Wife - seeing singer Rakel Mjoll pure screaming out the lines in F.U.U. was incredible. We caught a few seconds of Dua Lipa's Blow Your Mind (Mwah) en route to Rex Orange County - which was a lovely and wholesome time (read all about his recent Vicar St show). I love love love hearing Loving Is Easy live, coupled with a crowd-wide singalong and colourful confetti falling everywhere, it's so magical and nice.

We skipped out on Travis Scott to cram into an already wedged tent, safe from the rain, to watch The Used, who despite being really, really late, were still excellent. Pretty Handsome Awkward just went OFF and I loved every second. Singer Bert McCracken also recited some Shakespeare and had everyone circle-pit to it, which just about sums up the whole experience.

Saturday meant two things for us: Brockhampton and Panic! At The Disco (the real Saturday night headliners, sorry Kendrick). In our wait for Brockhampton at the barrier of the BBC Radio One stage, we watched Australian band West Thebarton, Chase Atlantic and Mabel - Playboi Carti was supposed to play but called in sick that day, giving Brockhampton a whole hour set. I have literally never experienced anything like the crowds at Brockhampton shows. I've witnessed Bring Me The Horizon pits as a young'un, and thought I'd had the life squished out of me at The Blackout shows back in the day, but this is on a whole other level. My life flashed before my eyes several times at that barrier, and five security guards came up to me at different points to ask if I wanted to be taken out, but I persevered (it was all for Boogie at the very end to be honest, and it's always worth it). Don't get me wrong, Brockhampton are great live, and I've never experienced a crowd with as much adoration for the artist performing for them. At least not like this.

I ticked so many bands and bops off my teenage bucketlist over the course of Reading weekend - some of which being seeing The Used play PHA and The Taste of Ink, as well as going sick to Sum 41 during In Too Deep and most importantly, Fat Lip - but Panic! At The Disco blew all of these out of the water. I mean, Brendon Urie really is That Bitch. The charisma, the glamour, the vocals, ugh. It was so wonderful from start to finish - even though the set was largely songs from their latest album, Pray For The Wicked and other recent bops I hadn't heard of, it was still a wonderful experience. I haven't stopped listening to PFTW since - Hey Look Ma I Made It and Dancing's Not A Crime in particular. We got treated to classic bops like Nine In The Afternoon (played on a giant golden piano, nonetheless) and of course, I Write Sins Not Tragedies. I can't believe in the year of our Lord 2018 I've finally become a Panic! stan, at the ripe old age of 23, but they were that good. An incredibly theatrical and wholesome experience (especially when Brendon pranced about in a Pride flag and sang Girls/Girls/Boys, my heart!)

It absolutely pissed rain Saturday night and all Sunday morning, so we only showed up to the muddy arena late Sunday evening for Hippo Campus, and then The Vaccines - who were so bloody excellent, and definitely one of my favourites of the weekend. All In White was a particular highlight but new bops Your Love Is My Favourite Band and I Can't Quit went down a treat too. They're just an all round excellent band, y'know?

We closed out the weekend with Slaves (I just wanted to bop to Cheer Up London, which was great), and left early during the slightly snoozy headline set from Kings of Leon. Well, we gave them roughly half an hour, waiting for a hit or two, and none were forthcoming...

The weekend wasn't without its bum notes (see aforementioned Kings of Leon) - we left The Vaccines during the last song to catch the final few minutes of Lil Pump's set (just for Gucci Gang, because gotta get that Instagram story content, tbh). It turns out, Lil Pump's show down at the BBC Radio One stage was, in fact, an absolute hellfire. The seventeen year old had shown up thirty minutes late to his set, but was insisting on finishing it out regardless of who was set to play after him. I think we witnessed about thirty seconds of actual music, between the rapper trying to scrap with the crowd, the sound techs who tried desperately to cut him off (I'm pretty sure the whole set was being broadcast live on Radio 1) and the security - between calling everyone bitches, f*****s, and threatening to fight anyone who glanced his way, he still found the time to encourage the crowd to chant 'fuck you' to the security team. The whole thing was just gross, and I really don't understand how cancel culture hasn't come for him yet.

Anyway: all that being said, Reading was, for the most part, a great experience and a nice environment (we didn't camp, so we didn't experience all of that madness, thank god). I'd 100% go back if next year's line-up is as sick as this year's. Loads of people complained on Twitter about this year's line-up (but won't they always, says you) but I thought it was a great mix of classic and contemporary, and largely emo and hiphop acts - with a bunch of great female and LGBT artists too, which is good to see.

And on that note: one of the things I absolutely wanted to do this year was to learn how to edit video - thus, I made it my mission to film bits and pieces at Reading this year and lo and behold: the results are now on YouTube for all the world to see. Watch it below, and forgive my slight iPhone shakiness - I did take a lot of these mid-dancing...

What did you think of this year's Reading & Leeds line-up? Have you ever been?

Monday, 1 October 2018

Rex Orange County @ Vicar St, Dublin

Last Sunday night, English singer-songwriter Rex Orange County (real name Alex O’Connor), played a sold out show in one of Dublin’s most iconic, intimate venues, Vicar St.

This was very much a stripped-back show in comparison to his evening set at Reading festival a few weeks ago. I mean, the giant screens, confetti cannons and other gimmicks are great sometimes, but I think only a really talented artist can capture you in the same way with nothing but their band and a simple backdrop. It’s fun to see artists and bands do both, just to see how they fare out.

There were no support acts for this night of Rex’s tour - instead, the twenty year old appeared promptly onstage at half eight, followed by his band, and for an hour, indulged the crowd in his trademark blend of pop meets jazz meets indie-folk, with a little r&b for good measure.

We sat down the back, on the raised seats among the random parents who’d been dragged along, because hey, we’re old now, but also we had a perfect view of the stage in the 1500 cap. room. It turned out to be perfect, because we could just sit and chill and watch the band play their little hearts out during the slower ballads. There’s something really nice about just sitting and really watching a band play, especially when it’s a song you don’t know and you’re getting to hear it and experience it for the first time live, right in front of you. Sometimes it’s just really nice to chill out and get lost in some live music for a while.

We had a few of those lovely moments, and then several moments where the crowd just lost their shit to tracks like Sunflower, and sang as loudly as they possibly could during the refrains of Best Friend. My particular favourites were Apricot Princess and Television / So Far So Good, but above all, there’s really nothing quite like closing out a set with an entire room belting out the words to Loving Is Easy, under the soft pink lighting.

Rex’s show just felt special, I guess. He is a talented musician, and a witty, clever songwriter, but the intimacy of the venue and the pure passion of the crowd in front just added that little something more. I think what was nice about it was that it felt like I was viewing the whole show, from the back, almost as a sort of outsider. Don't get me wrong, I do like his music, and obviously enjoy his shows, but it’s cool to watch the kids who really love his stuff losing their minds to their favourite songs, and watching how he reacts to such joy and love.

Plus I’ve had Loving Is Easy on non-stop loop in my head for the last twenty four hours, which is always a sign of a good show, right?

Monday, 13 August 2018

Live | As It Is @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

In honour of As It Is releasing their new album, The Great Depression, I thought I'd share some photos from our trip to see them in Nottingham at the start of The end of Okay. tour.

I've got a lot of time for As It Is - not only do they write absolute bangers (and I mean literally almost every single song is gold), but they stand for something too, and their position in the music scene right now is undeniably important. The guys are very outspoken on issues like mental health, and work with organisations such as Hope for the Day to spread this message. The okay. album in itself is brutally honest and open about their struggles, which is refreshing and welcome in a music scene that is so male-dominated. 

The show itself - back in early March - was all round excellent. With killer supports like Grayscale, WSTR and Like Pacific, we were already in for a treat, but As It Is knocked it completely out of the park and then some. I'd seen them originally the October before, as the main support on Neck Deep's The Peace and the Panic tour, and got really into their music since then. The okay. album is solid gold - highlights including, but by no means limited to, Until I Return, Pretty Little Distance, The Coast is Where Home Is, and No Way Out. Not to mention their previous album Never Happy, Ever After, with the rock solid bops that are Dial Tones, Speak Soft and Concrete. Their set was excellent from start to finish - they exceeded all my expectations and just brought us a fucking good time, which is what you want, right?

I was lucky enough to catch them on Warped Tour a few weeks ago and hear new bops The Wounded World and The Stigma (Boys Don't Cry) live - TGD's third single, The Fire, The Dark really goes off too (see what I mean when I say they genuinely can't write a bad song?). I'm properly getting into the rest of the album at the minute (I also love the title-track and The Handwritten Letter a lot), and I can't wait to hear some of the new tracks live in the future (hopefully!).  

You can listen to their entire setlist from their Nottingham show on my Spotify below - as well as a few tracks from their supports on the night. Check out The Great Depression too, and finally: if you haven’t yet listened to Grayscale, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

A First and Final Warped Tour

Growing up, Warped Tour was always one of those things I vaguely dreamed about going to, but never thought it would be a reality. It's always been the festival for pop punk and this 'scene', so to speak. Every year we'd watch the line-up roll out and the special magazine features pour in and think just how fucking cool it'd be to have a festival of that size for all the bands we listened to, here at home.

I've always wanted to go to the likes of Reading & Leeds, Download, etc. but they always seemed a possibility, given that they're a quick Ryanair flight away at best. But Warped Tour? Not a chance.

That is, until earlier this year, Warped founder Kevin Lyman announced that the 2018 tour would be the very last, classic cross-country tour. And that's when I knew I'd just have to make the trip. I mean, this is childhood bucket-list type stuff.

We chose two California dates (and made a two week trip around Los Angeles out of it, but more of that in another post): the tour kicked off in Pomona on June 20th, and our second date was to be along the coast in Ventura four days later.

The deal with Warped Tour is - if you're unfamiliar - the stage times (and unfortunate clashes) get announced literally the morning of the show, so the first hour is usually spend sweating in the lengthy queue in and then sweating over the stage times trying to figure out who you're seeing and when (plus thirty degree celsius heat on top of that, thanks Pomona). On day one, most of who we wanted to see were playing after 3pm, so we had a pretty chilled first morning. We watched and chatted with The Maine and As It Is, saw Grayscale, 3OH!3, Real Friends and Knuckle Puck, a few minutes of Tonight Alive, as well as Waterparks' all too brief acoustic set on the Left Foot stage, and ended our evening watching With Confidence at golden hour as the sun set on those hazy Californian hills.

Day two in Ventura was a lot more hectic, but thankfully a lot cooler weather-wise too. We started our morning with Grayscale and chatted with Collin at merch, then John O'Callaghan of The Maine "took us to church" over at the Right Foot stage (it was noon on a Sunday after all). I've never been to one of The Maine's shows before this but I've completely fallen in love with them since Warped - the beauty of the festival, eh? Ventura was also pretty Waterparks heavy - we caught their full set on the Left Foot Stage (no technical difficulties this time around AND we got to hear Rare live for the first time!), then hit up their meet & greet with Can You Hear Me, as well as frontman Awsten Knight's "class" with TEI (I use the term "class" very loosely...). We caught a little bit of Simple Plan, We The Kings, Tonight Alive, and State Champs, chatted with the guys in With Confidence, and ended our Warped Tour experience with All Time Low. Whatever you might think about ATL, you can't argue that they're probably one of the most iconic pop punk bands to come from our generation, and ultimately the perfect band to end our final Warped with!

It will be weird not having Warped Tour around (says she who's been literally twice) - but I guess we grew up with this tour for years (I mean it's literally as old as I am), watching it from (quite) a distance, checking out all the bands on the line-up we didn't already know, and mourning all the sets we'd miss from the ones we did. Warped's been a huge part of this scene and its culture for decades, and has provided an invaluable platform for hundreds of bands in its time, as well as the opportunity for fans to see all their favourites sharing stages, and to even meet some of their heroes.

It sounds corny as hell but going to Warped was an actual childhood dream come true, and just a sick experience all round. So I guess you could say... thnks fr th mmrs? (... sorry)

Next, stop Reading festival!

Check out all my Warped Tour highlights on Spotify below:

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