Tuesday, 22 September 2009

NME-Europe Live: B Side Festival

Having had a full week to recover from the Lemon Pop outing, NME-E was firing on all cylinders and raring to go for the 5th B-Side Festival in Molina de Segura (Murcia).

Despite being a relatively new event, the organisers have been able to boast some top acts in previous years - Echo & The Bunnymen, The Charlatans, The Happy Mondays or Nada Surf, amongst others. The current climate meant that this year's line up might have appeared slightly more low key at first glance, however any discerning music lover would find it hard to argue that the bill was intriguing, proven by the fact that anticipated sales doubled last year's figures. In fact, the final attendance, which I'd estimate at around 7-8,000 is a marked improvement on previous years.

So, was it worth my while? Musically, yes, but some of the organisation was shocking (more of that later).

Arriving about mid-way through Elvis Perkins' set, the American's eccentric country twang was an ideal invitation to visit the hotdog stand. No disrespect, Elvis, but your sound wasn't gonna fire me up.

Ketchup stains removed, we graced the crowd with our presence as the first of the night's big acts took stage; The Rakes. Now, regulars to NME-E know that I was not exactly impressed by the Londoners' third album released earlier this year (if you haven't already, check out the review here) so I was unsure of what to expect. I'm pleased to say that The Rakes are a top live act and made me remember why I took a fancy to them a few years back.

A real presence on stage, an OUTSTANDING range of vocals from Alan Donohoe - why doesn't he do that on the album? - and an upbeat tempo from the guitars to keep the foot tapping throughout, made the hour-long set, which included a mix of tracks from 'Klang' and the classics which first put The Rakes on the map - '22 Grand Job' or 'We Are Animals' -, a thoroughly enjoyable affair. The final track '1989' was a fitting finale and the B Side festival was officially up and running.

Next up were new national indie heroes, Vetusta Morla, who are coming to the end of what's been a mammoth 18 months for them. Having floundered around for 10 years without making much of a noise, 'Un Dia En El Mundo' has transformed them into THE Spanish band of the moment and they are thriving on it! It was obvious that a vast majority of the crowd had come just to see them and the atmosphere as they broke into opening track 'Autocrítica' was already electric. From then on things only got better.

This lot have got it all; a brilliant vocalist, a wide variety of sounds, melodies which pick you up, toss you around and then give you a hug - you could already appreciate that on the album. Judging by this performance they also possess the ability to adapt and improve tracks for a live show - in particular with 'La Marea' and 'Valiente' (see video), whilst personal favourite 'La Cuadritura Del Circulo' (one of my favourite tracks of 2008 - read more about that here), the final track of the set quite simply blew me away. The new tracks they previewed also sounded promising so the future is looking good for Vetusta Morla.

Having reached a high point in the evening so early on you almost had to feel a bit sorry for Cycle, the fourth act to take the stage. Most of us needed a breather (for that read beer) after Vetusta Morla's invigorating performance and the horrendously understaffed bar (6 on one bar and 3 on another, which closed at 1am!) meant that most of us were stuck at there for pretty much the whole of Cycle's set. As it turns out, the last 15 minutes, which included crowd favourite 'Confusion' and new hit 'You Talk Too Much' were the highlight, the general feeling being that their sound was too brash and samey - appreciated by the hardcore fans, but less so by the public at large.

Coming to terms with the fact that the liquid refreshment had come to an end for the night, I was now fully focused on the headline band, French electro-rockers , here to promote their recent release 'Futurino'.

Rinôçérôse have got everything you need to put on a good electronica show; 3 electric guitars and a drummer! (oh yeah and little synth). Add a mind-boggling light show and a well-worked wardrobe and the end result is a host of really rocking tracks aided by vocal collaborations from Mark Gardener and the outrageously eccentric Jessie Chaton (think Freddie Mercury on speed). The masses were soon woken from their Cycle hangovers with the ramblasting new hits 'Head Like A Volcano', 'Where You From?', and 'Touch Me' (with the aforementioned Chaton bouncing around the stage like a headless chicken). With the classics 'Music Kills Me' or the ever popular 'La Guitaristic House Organisation' and you found it difficult to not adore these guys' funky beats.

And now a bit of an NME-E exclusive. I managed to persuade France's 'plus chic' rocknrolla, 'Patou' Carrié (va va voom) to talk to us a little about their second B-Side experience. Here's what she had to say:

NME-E: So, you're back in Molina. What made you return?
PC: We came back because we love the boss of the festival. He saw us in Benicassim this summer and likes the Futurino show so he invited us to play on his festival. That’s why we came back. We definitely think that it was better than the first time.

NME-E: No 'Time Machine' (my favourite from the new release). What were you trying to achieve out there?
PC: On stage we try to play all the classics that people love to hear, like 'La Guitaristic House Organisation', 'Music Kills Me', 'Le Rock Summer' or 'Bitch'. But, we also want play our favourite new songs from Futurino.

Of course, we can’t play all of them because of the guests singers. For example, we can’t play 'Time Machine' because Ninja (the Go Team singer) is not available at the moment. Even though we would love to play that song live, We can’t!

NME-E: What did you think of the crowd's reaction. things seemed a litle flat during the Cycle set, how did you feel on stage?
PC: The crowd reaction was not exactly the same as when we usually play in spain. And honestly, it was not our best show in spain because we had some technical problem which disrupted us on stage. You know, a gig is a kind of magic, you can quickly lose control. However, when we looked back on YouTube at some of songs we had played, the public was definitely ok and the show was powerful.

When we saw Cycle on stage, the reaction of the public was also a bit flat (anyway it was a really good show, they're our favourite Spanish band).

Indeed the show was powerful. Check out the video of 'Music Kills Me' below to see what I mean. And it was nice to see these guys giving Cycle some support.

A parting word from Patou, "In French there is a famous proverb which says “jamais 2 sans 3”, so i’m sure we'll come back to the B-Side festival and next time it will be the best ever!"

A MASSIVE thank you for Patou for taking the time to speak to us. NME-E is honoured.

Anyway, back to the gig. After bidding a fond au revoir to our French friends at just on 3.30am NME-E decided it was time to call it a day, meaning local boys The Leadings will have to be featured another day (sorry boys). All in all a good night out and great value for money; 15€ to see 3 or 4 (depending on your review of Cycle) top bands is my idea of a good deal. Top performances from The Rakes, Vetusta Morla and easily outweighed the negatives the organisation needs to sort out before next year.

NME-Europe requests improvement in the following:
1) Access by car. It's terrible! There is practically no signposting at all - it was easy to find the Christening celebration nearby - and when there was some, it was misleading - did anyone else go crazy looking for a mysterious roundabout and end up doing a u-turn at the petrol station?

2) The bar. Come on, a barstaff to cater for a 10th of the people who were there is taking the piss. Charge us 2€ more each and employ more people - christ, there's enough on the dole at the moment) and make sure there's a supply of drinks to go beyond midnight - on top of it all you weren't allowed out of the stadium before 1am, an attempt to keep all consumption on site, yet there was nothing left to consume!).

Still, it was a good night out. Time for me to catch up on some sleep!