The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days is the second album from Plymouth Shoegaze / electronic project Winterlight. The project was originally a solo endeavor started by Tim Ingham back in the mid-oughts but now sees his daughter Isabel taking on bass guitar duties.
This new album is the culmination of nearly seven years of on and off creative spurts, false starts, and second guesses reflecting the turmoil hinted at in the album’s title. Yet those that follow Winterlight know Tim’s been making music pretty much all along and releasing occasional demos via his SoundCloud page. This lengthy process has yielded one resounding result: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days has all the Winterlight earmarks: divine organs, thoughtfully constructed drums, the occasional electronic flourish, and immaculately soaring guitars. While Ingham considers Winterlight to be Post-Pop, and for the most part the duo still brings those melodies to the table in spades, there are some unique changes happening under the surface in the album’s bookends that move way beyond simple ear candy. This shows The Inghams are starting to take risks while still staying true to the original vision for the project.
The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days is out March 16th on CD, 180 gram Transparent Green vinyl, and 180 gram ultra clear with green splatter vinyl. You can pre-order the record HERE.
But if you’re anxious to hear the new music before it’s officially released, you can get an exclusive listen of the album here first!
– Canadian workingman, visionary, agendaless poet Ken Babstock who joined this cocktail of Canadian poetic influences for me in 2007 during Nick Mount’s legendary class “Literature for our Time” at U of Toronto.
1: Toronto once had the coolest radio station in all the land.The song, by one of our own greats, one of the first greats to remain Canadian to the core and forever (geographically and ethically) was later covered by British Modern Rockers Catherine Wheel at a time when our own radio programming was, for a while, highly in tune with a robust 90s Canadian Alternative music scene from coast to coast that lived as large in our esteem as the British greats and the American gems. This anthem became a renewed cry for a renewed time, and was turned up on car radio dials on a weekly basis for years. In fact, it most certainly still is. (“The Spirit of Radio”: By Rush and later Catherine Wheel)
2: It’s a worthy national pastime to give a lot of very deep devotion to hockey. It’s also ok for some females to never give a fuck about hockey.Our deep emotional reserves of love for hockey (or our memories of sitting in the rooms next to fans and discussing other things in female heart to hearts) are also entwined with family memory, loss, ideas of heroism, and awe for The Greatest Generation and the greats who flew in wars in a world we can barely imagine. We’d like to introduce our many non-Canadian friends to our own Canadian Shield, you don’t need a plane, The Forever great Tragically Hip.(‘Bill Barilko’/ “50 Mission Cap“; “Fireworks” -The Tragically Hip)
3: The only thing that can make a divorce feel even worse is that loveless meeting in “The Hortons”. The ubiquitous Canadian coffee chain, at some point American owned and increasingly loveless, a convenient plastic wasteland that cooks like an angry stepmother, was founded by a hockey player and the chain was once a bastion of his memorabilia, wider hockey culture and of true Canadiana. It’s now more often to be used as a roadside site of convenience for brief, bitter meetings. So, perfect. (“Vancouver Divorce”, Gord Downie)
4:“Live through this and you won’t look back.” can really save your broken heart, if not your life. “Because when there’s nothing left to burn, you’ve got to set yourself on fire”. (Stars, on the sublimely Morrissey-esque titled “Your Ex-lover is Dead“. Two ex-lovers sing to each other their sides of the story in a brief, beautiful, symphonic piece of art that is still good years later when it does not remind you of your own mini-death they helped you through. A very interesting and exciting Canadian band.
5:The less celebrated east end of Toronto has Rock ‘n Roll significance, and of the many fleeting bars that come and go in a major city, The Lowest of the Low picked the exact perfect one to sing about. The Only still stands and is a casual, comfortable, rich local institution. The Carlaw Bridge is alright too. (“Rosy and Grey”The Lowest of the Low)
6: Toronto’s airport code is YYZ and is committed to youthful memory long before we get our passports via a rock anthem. (“YYZ”, Rush) Citizens born after about 1960 most likely have this song running through their minds the first time they step on a plane and outta here, feeling finally glamorous and Neil Peart cool.
7: We have our own versions of opera, our own little Les Miserables, and they are full of our own tragic poetics, cultural critiques, and empathy: (“38 Years Old”, “Wheat Kings” by The Hip, whose bounty is endless, and who (you heard it here first) will undoubtedly be on college and university curriculums in the next half decade, keeping kids awake, shaking them awake unlike the history/culture classes before. The Frontier narrative, Canadian identity and the very bounds of songwriting and music have changed forever thanks to this one band. The Tragically Hip)
8: It is normal and right to feel sad when you are a kid of a subdivision.The sentiment of this song is akin to Morrissey’s own cry on a distant shore: “So in my bedroom in those ugly new houses, I dance my legs down to the knees…” (he sings in The Smiths’ “Paint A Vulgar Picture”, one of his very best lines of so many). (“Subdivisions” Rush)
9: And Canada as Canada: Our nation, so often used in film for generic American backdrops (i.e. racetracks) and its most major, well known cities (Chicago, New York) has a complex relationship to this camouflaging ability and its imprint on our own young national identity. We used to be proud of it, just to be allowed to stand behind the cordon and smell the hairspray of those visiting royals. As our country grew, as Gord and the boys taught us, there was something twisted in that, and our own identity, those spaces used like Colonial missions then left again were probably a lot more interesting than some shitty American film. This is akin to a revolutionary statement, and a nation grew up in response to it, by metres instead of centimeters. (“Blow at High Dough” The Tragically Hip) *Longtime concert-going fans of The Hip will remember this song as a moment of Downie’s now legendary way of going off book, as the line “some kinda Elvis thing” has turned over the years into pop culture or topical references of the day or the mood that day, as in: “some Matthew Broderick thing“.
10: Leamington, Ontario will always figure in our cultural history and will never be the same, nor will our beloved ketchup. (“The Ketchup Song” Stompin’ Tom Connors; and his entire, rich catalog for that matter…) Some of us are even strange and romantic enough about our land to put this on our wedding CDs. “(Good news: serious business and serious cultural importance are sometimes intertwined and sung as in the era of folk protest. Connors was a genius.) ” There was a guy from PEI they used to call Podato/He met this young Leamington Ontario Tomato/But he had eyes for other girls & she was a little mushy/So they said well let’s get wed there’s no sense bein fussy/ Baked sized french fries-how they love Tomatoes/So dress em up with Heinz Ketchup-(Ketchup luvs Potatoes)”
11: The Horseshoe Tavern’s iconic checkerboard floors must never, ever go into landfill but must be landmarked & preserved someday.(“Bobcaygeon“, The Tragically Hip) This song, one of the Hip’s most accessible and representative of their broader work as folklorists, is about many things: the northern idyllic wilderness and cool lakes and the need to return and tolerate life in cities to make our living; the duality of living in both types of places at once, the untold miles and the drudgery of work and expectation, and the movement between spaces and feelings. “Bobcaygeon” has, naturally, become a wilderness trip (or even tourist near north lake) unofficial anthem since its release, assaulting the stillness and ears of innocent wildlife via drunken revelers, as so much of The Hip’s music has become a staple of “CCR” – Canadian Cottage Rock.
12: The Spoons’ “Romantic Traffic” video put us on the transit map. This early entry into the world of music videos is a brilliant piece of documentary and pop narrative about the city of Toronto finding its voice to declare its musicians, its people, and its public transit system as something artistic, cool, and even romantic. Has any Canadian band ever been more attractive than these four friends/loves/bandmates? Canadian kids of the 80s saw this video untold times on our new Nation’s Music Station, Muchmusic, which was always better than MTV and was gritty and rough and tumble and earnest just like we were/are. Canadian kids dreamed of the big city, the subway station and how damn romantic it was via guerrilla video techniques (whoever did this band’s videos was utterly visionary and sweated creativity) and got to see both the beautiful, video ready band and the ordinary folks that pass through the scenes like the rest of us. Making us kids all cooler than our 1984 haircuts, shoulderpads braces and mint green stirrup pants (just me?) ought to make possible. As cool as the iconic other video of the age shot in Toronto,THE (muthaflippin) REFLEX by 1984’s Golden Gods Duran Duran (!!!) The Spoons are still active, too!
13: But we are still wild at heart. When you are raised, as we are here, on the ‘Wilderness Narrative’ and 18th Century poetry from the rocking chair to university, and that history is still just a century or less from our own collective memories, you can turn stories of bears hibernating into heartbreaking, metaphor rich, art: the kind of thing that makes one think about the fate of our wilderness and wild animals, as well as our own baser natures and instinctive needs. Oh and let’s not forget to read prayers from some old book to pass the time under the ground. Stunning, stark, clean, like a forest creek, our poetry can be. (“Moving Pictures Silent Films” See also “Your Rocky Spine” which is novelistic and sweeping in scope by Great Lake Swimmers.)
14: There is one song that will always best any attempt at a Titanic or other Nautical Museum. And will rock you and shock you into grabbing a hold of your own survival, by god. (“Nautical Disaster” The Tragically Hip)
15: There is a stellar band, Metric, perfectly named for our system of measurement that ought to be as big as all the bigs, except they’re not bloated, preachy or cheesy, and are even led by a female rocker who writes with the best poets of this age. They deserve “Stadium Love“, y’all. They serve as fine music and cultural critics as well as delivering a great show. “Wanna make a bet/We’ll be neck and neck/Taking off the gloves/Spider Vs Bat/Tiger Vs Rat/Rabbit Vs Dove/Wanna make a bet/Odds are neck and neck/Taking off the gloves/ Every living thing
Pushed into the ring/ Fight it out/ To wow the crowd/ Guess you thought/ You could just watch/No one’s getting out/Without stadium love” (See also “White Gold“, “Dead Disco” “Gimme Sympathy“.)
16/17:Now, musical Anglophiles that we will forever be, this must include a quick turn to some notable artists from the U.K. who’ve written about Canada in their work. This big country affects visiting musicians much the same way it does our own writers: there’s always the forest and the water just out of the periphery, as present in “Forest and the Sands” by Camera Obscura, who sing about “that river in Toronto” as part of a romantic memory. And the backdrop of language (national/official or otherwise) and complex politics that are slow moving, iceberg-like monolithic issues rather than newsy or flashy talking points here become matters of the heart, part of the nightly table setting, and are occasionally ripened for metaphor and a lovely strum, such as in this rare B-side from ‘The Bard of Barking”, England’s Billy Bragg, a song once sought out and sent for by air mail in a limited edition to Canadian fans, in sheer delight and awe at seeing a distant hero and workingman poet find poetry in our driest stories, and in us. And create…this? And so we sat up and started reading the newspaper too. (“Ontario, Quebec and Me” Billy Bragg)
18: “There is a town in north Ontario/With dream comfort memory to spare/And in my mind I still need a place to go/All my changes were there. /Blue, blue windows behind the stars/Yellow moon on the rise/Big birds flying across the sky/Throwing shadows on our eyes/Leave us/ Helpless, Helpless, Helpless, Helpless…“ Neil Young / Crosby Stills Nash & Young.
19. This: 80s Toronto Synth Pop greats Platinum Blonde covered by one of the new centuries’ most interesting Toronto creations, Crystal Castles “featuring” Robert Smith, who really leads the vocal to astounding effect. All can be proud of this little piece of Cure x Canadiana. As are we.
And no matter what Bryan Adams tried to claim, he never bought any six-string at any “five-and-dime”. It’s doubtful there was ever a “momma” or her porch to stand on. That was an uber- successful stab at writing pure, Springsteen-drenched, Americana.
(Wherever I’ve linked and not linked music or video files please seek out or purchase through official sources and support musicians. Thank you!)
Jacqueline Howell was a lyric site before the lyric sites existed.
We write about music worthy of obsession and cultural readings and that hold up, or more likely, expand in beauty over time like an impossibly tall weeping willow above a perfect public terrace. Blame Canada.
Ezra Furman has been just a little busy of late. The singer/songwriter and seriously original performer, supported by his versatile and seamless backing band, the deliciously christened “Boyfriends” has been dazzling audiences across the US (plus one Toronto stop) en route to the UK and Europe for sold out, well-received shows on a head-spinning schedule over the course of the fall touring the new album “Perpetual Motion People”. The titles are evocative: “Can I Sleep in Your Brain” “Body Was Made” “Lousy Connection” and cue a talented wordsmith and wit who does not disappoint.
We were lucky enough to catch Furman on the Toronto stop, which happened to be during a very historic national weekend: the eve of the biggest and most passionately discussed federal election in a decade. Each of the artists on the bill that night made reference to the news of the day, which unusually, captured the spirit and focus of the young, the apathetic middle aged, as well as the seasoned voter. Ezra weighed in too, on this, his first visit to Hogtown. Picking up on the energy of the nation and the room, he stepped forward to offer to run for Prime Minister. By the end of the show, I think it would have been a landslide win for the American.
If you are lucky and involved enough in your music scene, willing to spend freely and are discerning and diligent, you may be able to earn one revolutionary moment in the live scene per year. It may be when you finally see the universally underrated guitar god who wrote the soundtrack of your entire youth before you. It may be when you see the gorgeous, singular, band you’ve been listening to for decades and find that outside of the compressed format you’ve let become the norm of home “audio” they are earth-shattering and life-changing- hiding your tears because the music live has the power to, as one YouTube commenter said “make you see how beautiful the world could be.”
Finding that kick in new artists who are unknown to you is a much rarer thing. There needs to be a bit of, I’m sorry, but kismet. You have to be there to hear the words and music, and be able to tune out all the noise around you (and in you). But that’s exactly what happened upon seeing Ezra Furman. We’ve hesitated to write as it seems futile, beside the point. In this world, you really have to be there. But you can be there.
Ezra is a slight figure and it was a small and densely packed stage during which the course of an hour or so, both the man and the stage and the feelings swelled to the size of a stadium. So this is what “they” talk about when they talk about that long gone-you’ll never get to know-era of early 70’s punk & glam. Of those that leave it all on the stage, that are born to perform and to share their art and that defy the cynical age of unreality and digital nonsense in which we’ve allowed ourselves to, not live, but, rather exist. This must be why Iggy’s gigs are still legendary, why The Ramones still shimmer, untouchable even as ignorant children defile their greatest of all the great logos, why we still mourn Joe Strummer so sincerely to this day. What makes Lou’s stature grow even after his passing, as the Velvets are cast into priceless platinum. This is what my beloved John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig was trying to shake us all into remembering in 2001. What many of us stoics spend years in dingy clubs losing our hearing, paying our dues by the import bottle to hope to find. We are romantics, you see. Treasure-hunters. Behind our detached big city eyes, we are aching to lose this ridiculous false front. And so we do.
Ezra falls, stepping into a gap on the small stage, then, turning the tables on any discomfort or embarrassment of falling, climbs into the hole. Disappears behind a monitor seamlessly like the kid who always won at hide and seek. But the song, and his singing, continues. Here, his band drops their chilled out facade ever-so-slightly, for the only time. They are used to Ezra’s wildness and rawness, they are his boyfriends who will catch him when he falls, even if he takes down a keyboard on the way. The saxophone player’s eyebrow raises and one eye drops to the place we last saw Ezra, for a few beats. It’s touching and it’s real. Aside from the band, only the front rows even know this has happened. By now, Furman has already sung about going down deep into the ocean, about wanting, and longing, and has shared with us identity questions that the best artists communicate as questions each one of us who are alive ought to ask, even outside of all the gender bias or norms we’ve been told to aspire to (and within those questions). Here is your hero, all my freaks and geeks and queers of all types. And he’s real.
A lot of the musical comparisons are lacking (or fail totally) as each are themselves total individuals (as is Ezra Furman) so I’ll tip a hat to my literature student roots and those who tread there instead and tell you that what I saw most of all was an artist with the ability to embody the Trickster of Magical Realism, which is really the modern variant of all of that legacy of musical creativity of eras before. Trying to capture the moment of the Furman gig the following day, I wrote, bombastically, “Nothing written or photographed or recorded can ever be worth one damn vs what happened in that room, in the often small, intimate rooms where real magic happens once in a great while but for what it’s worth, I happened to have a brilliant photographer with me, and Iggy Pop is a fan of this music.” I stand by my still-high on the experience Facebook post.
Ezra Furman is a true artist who uses the too often messy and exploitative world of public social media rather well and cordially but sparingly which is not easy for younger artists to do (Ezra is 29). Being reserved in this medium is a welcome throwback that is rather a bold move for younger artists. It is also essential, it seems to me, for an artist’s growth to be able to keep as much private space as possible, to leave us wanting more, and not have their walls so encroached. In turn, we owe it to him to fly that flag in the way we would have only a decade ago and certainly, would have done instinctively in decades past. Without picking the man, the human, the art, or even the love to pieces, but to leave some mystery there, to wait, to line up, to see the gig, to lay back and let the album wash over you, and to let it all (and the artist) breathe. You can see and feel this music right now in all sorts of interesting, intimate, usual spaces. As it’s meant to be for those who got there first. Music like this is one of the most encouraging and inspiring things to come along in a decade, alongside (but not at all musically like) The Strokes, The White Stripes, Sufjan Stevens, The National, Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett, and all the other originals in bold names or small type who’ve given you lightening bolts of hope. Breathe. Feel. Love. Give.
Ezra Furman (& the Boyfriends) are touring through the US & many key cities Europe through March 2016. Catch them if you can.
An Interview with Ezra Furman
Step On Magazine:What were you listening to this year?
Ezra Furman: So much. Sparklehorse, Cat Power, tUnE-yArDs, Fiona Apple, Kendrick Lamar, Sufjan Stevens, Low Cut Connie, Krill, Tristen, the Misfits, Nina Simone, the Mountain Goats, Titus Andronicus. Endless list. Those are just what came to mind immediately.
SO:What are your highlights of the year?
EF: We put out an album that I’m really proud of. It’s called Perpetual Motion People. We also played some really great shows. I wrote some good songs that I’m eager to share with you.
A lot of great albums came out this year. Krill, Sufjan Stevens and Kendrick Lamar all put out stunning work.
SO: What’s ahead for for your projects in the next six months?
EF: The book series 33 and a third just accepted my proposal to write a book about the album Transformer by Lou Reed. I’m really excited to write it. It will be over a year until it comes out but I’ll be hard at work.
We’ve also got a little bit of new music—not a whole album, just a little—we’re almost ready to release it. We’re still figuring it out. I’m hoping it comes out in the next six months.
SO: Do you have a prediction for 2016?
EF: I predict the end of all war and poverty.
SO: What is your perfect Sunday?
EF: I just got off of a really long tour, so right now my answer is just staying at home and listening to music and making food and being happy.
SO: What do you do on tour with 4 hours off in a new city?
EF: I love walking around in an area I know nothing about. It’s kind of stupid because I could probably do more with my time if I looked things up and got recommendations of where to go. But I just love being a little bit lost and not knowing what I might come across. I love being an outsider full of wonder in a new place.
SO: What are you reading (when you get 30 minutes to yourself?)
EF: I’ve been trying to read Swann’s Way by Proust. It’s really hard and I might not finish but it’s so good. I also read the weekly Torah portion all the time. And I’m working my way through the whole Hebrew Bible, getting to the lesser known parts, checking out the B-sides.
By Jacqueline Howell. With very special thanks to Ezra Furman.
Shiiine On Weekender –Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015.
Day 2: Friday
With no less than 40 band and DJ slots on 5 stages from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. as the festival opened wide, Shiiine On staff had their work cut out for them for Day 2. Yet it seemed to kick off seamlessly. Of the several ways to pace oneself for a long day of festival-going, we Canadians went the sleep in /sleep it off, start later and close it down route.
Everyone worries and wonders over set time conflicts, a fan dilemma that is not always handled with care by those in charge or ideal given Artiste availability. Here is one of the ways that Shiiine excelled and showed that as cool as they are, they are also thoughtful. Conflicts were very minimal and set times were practical. There was also a great deal of attention paid to flow and a class DJ’s ear applied to the overall timing of the weekend with respect to what people need when: The DJs in between live music gigs and late into the night were the caffeinated kick that made tired brains get overruled by happy feet (many of them Adidas clad).
Friday’s offerings started with main stage shows by Kustombuilt and the reunited Thousand Yard Stare, whose announcement on the bill had some of the most excited online comments in the lead up to the festival. This gig definitely was a special draw for their fans who’ve missed them, and did not disappoint. They were followed up by Milltown Brothers, the very cool Space, and The Farm who are the pure best merchants of the early Northern sound: chunky bass lines, issue songs that are danceable, and effortless cool. The Farm are bearers of this music’s history and were in top form including solid a cover of Bankrobber by The Clash, hits Groovy Train and epic sing along All Together Now where strangers danced and embraced each other, eyes wide. And we all are, All Together Now, in a brief respite from a dead zone of music and culture, art forms that we thought were eternal in our youth. All this was capped off by the closing set by Inspiral Carpets who were stellar and a perfect choice to end Friday. They brought down the house to a chorus of Moos. No sign of Noel Gallagher popping round to haul gear for them for old times’ sake, though we kept an eye out.
The other stages were each different: but generally the larger ones were great night clubs with multiple levels, ample seating and kick-ass sound, light and video systems. And were nice and loud. Electronic/Dance pioneers The Orb who brought ambient house to the world were one of the key bookings that bridged the experience from evening to late night (1:00 a.m.) in a PACKED huge dance stage on the first very full day. For those looking for a chance of pace/vicarious living that still suited perfectly, there were great film screenings all weekend including the legendary, perfect Trainspotting.
Some of the artists and many DJs moved from room to room, helping to define the groove that carried everyone through the days like a happy, nodding, shuffling wave. These included Space Monkeys, The Spitting Pips, and DJs Will Nicol, Terry Farley, Gareth Crilly, and Dave Booth who took a devoted crowd to church from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m. New Order songs were played here that would be played by the man Hooky himself in less than a day: both versions succeeded in hitting us right where we live, as eternal as this music is. And some Sympathy for the Devil was mixed in to boot.
Thursday’s house party vibe was replaced with a full house at Butlin’s, but never too full to have a little room to dance. Bars were ample and well-staffed, and anyway, you could go around with your own pitcher of cider, beer or whatever pleased you. Even if that might be 6 straws for 6 sharers in a pitcher of something slushy and toxic looking. If you were friendly, you would never go thirsty, as we found. Rounds were bought at lightning speed. Rounds are still owed! Lively talk carried on over loud music. Many lost their voices and may have entered boardrooms today in far corners of the U.K. bearing this mark of the Shiiine class of 2015 like some kind of (non-violent) Fight Club.
By Friday music heads were all easing into the unreal fact that this whole vibe was not a moment or for the life of a good couple of tunes but an energy that quickly filled the place and all of us with something lasting and contagious, both necessary and well earned by all involved. It was a team sport we could all chant to with no rivalries or regional tensions. Canadians slipped in discreetly (we think). We are officially ruined for festivals now that do not have cohesive line ups that excite us, so that’s it for the bulk of North America.
From DJs, the steady throb of music of Pulp, Stone Roses, New Order, Underworld and James and the sudden vastness of a new world utterly free of and insulated from bad music and celeb “news” was stunning. The lack of rigamarole and hassle that we’ve become used to at other festivals, the tension that is too much like work, was a fading bad dream. We realized moment to moment as the crushing boredom, irritation or strain to smile never came, that we’d been taught to accept piss poor service, overcrowding and inadequate beer offerings for top dollar from the cynical, the handcuffed and those with questionable taste and sense at other festivals for too long, where we counted on one or two bands to not just entertain us, but miraculously make all that other stuff go away for an hour. And by god if they failed in that alchemy, 30 people will tweet nastiness about it. We can never go back down that slope again. This Shiiine, theirs and ours that we have all found and really, are rediscovering right out in the daylight here, is something actually organic, actually surprising, unprecedented, focused and pure, the good stuff, not stepped on.
More to come. The assault of happiness, ease of enjoyment and the pace that promised no days off and a firm resolve to sleep “later” (still too wired anyway) along with the big gigs ahead meant that Saturday and Sunday were only going to get crazier, more surreal, and more like everything Shaun Ryder threatened and promised a night with him would contain…
Words by Jacqueline Howell, photos by Dave MacIntyre.
With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender & North Country Boys.
Shiiine On Weekender – Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015.
Festivals can be a dicey and exhausting proposition. A gamble. You can give up precious vacation days, sleep and significant funds to end up muddy and rained out, surrounded by wilted flower crowns and bands who are too sincere or not sincere enough. Your heart aches as YOUR heroes have been housed at the Siberia Stage while mediocre artists with baffling connections and nothing to say hog the main stage, revealing the dire state of modern music and its shadowy industries. Fans who’ve waited for hours at the barrier end up getting their well-earned view blotted out by distracting photographers. There always seem to be too many media types, spreading their entitled and jaded vibes over the highest and driest ground, openly indifferent and tweeting their ingratitude.
And then there was Shiiine.
For months we looked at that black on yellow poster. We discussed it often, eyes glowing, with the other biggest Happy Mondays fan in town, a man who’s kept the music and the love alive for many thousands of punters in these parts as a DJ, Chef & True Blue British-Canadian as much as anybody can claim to have done in the cities in the U.K. and U.S. and Canada that remember AND more importantly, keep it alive. What was for sure just another pipe dream to attend this insanely good weekend became a solid plan through memoir-worthy hustle and twists of fate and fortune that have become so regular that we can’t tell anyone, for it might break the spell.
Minehead is impossibly quaint and enjoyable, even in November. People play crazy golf and arcade amusements through a light drizzle, and pubs are packed with solid Footie fans representing on a Saturday midday and memorable lunches that go til 4:00. Just up the way is Butlin’s, which affords travellers a year round resort experience under a massive tent that defies any weather concerns like several fingers extended (maybe 3?) they’ve got this down to an art form, and it proves to be the perfect site for this festival.
The three day event was extended into Thursday, so overstuffed was it with goodness. This night (like Sunday 2:00 a.m.) would be only for the hardcore and it was there, at what would become the venue’s cozy “local”- Jumpin’ Jaks- or as someone called it “a really great house party” that we met them all. Lifelong friends or just for the moment? It matters not- it was very special indeed. We made fast friends with the quite reasonable hands down winner and unfortunate recipient of the only shoving match we saw all weekend, because you always back the one in the Johnny Fucking Marr T-Shirt. Always.
We were greeted warmly as “The Canadians” by the organizers/wizards behind this weekender, James and Steve, during one of the only moments they had to breathe, and then settled in for a long and lager drenched night of great live music and DJ sets leading to the kind of singalongs Canadians can only dream of. Keep it Social DJs gave us all a chance to be Jarvis Cocker yelling “Do You Remember the First Time?!” and let us revisit so many 80’s and 90’s musical highs that would define the weekend in between gigs and set the tone perfectly. Sulk did the first of two sets of the weekend and were just great, bringing necessary swagger and fire to their set. The Sunshine Underground is not to be missed, look for them if you can see them. And The Twang was much anticipated by many and closed out the live portion of the night. In all cases these bands played sets that were both long and lively, and the posted rule of no drinks on the packed dance floor was routinely ignored. In case that wasn’t enough of a starter, Mike Joyce (ex of The Smiths) brought us all home with a two hour DJ set in between friendly chatter and photos with fans. We were carried to bed on a wave of euphoria that would last all weekend. And that was before we tasted our first local pasty.
Daily Festival reports with full gig reviews and live photo galleries of over 20 bands to follow in the next couple of days.
Including: Happy Mondays, The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Peter Hook and The Light, Stereo MC’s, 808 State, The Wedding Present, The Farm, Lo Fidelity Allstars plus many more.
With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender, North Country Boys, and Butlin’s Live Music Weekends.
Words by Jacqueline Howell Photos by Dave MacIntyre.
More original Basquiat coverage from the AGO show and more original photography:
MOST OF MY HEROES DON’T APPEAR ON NO STAMPS
“It is most definitely, always, a tragedy when someone dies young, and by young, we mean 27 or 40. It is always a tragedy to lose an artist of any age who has much to say and has barely been heard yet, even as the outward markers of success suggest a phenomenon. It is a terrible loss, forever in the bones and nerves and heart and the brain we understand so little about, to lose someone we love. Someone we barely knew. Someone who changed the shape of the world, the space-time continuum, whether our mother, our friend, or Jean-Michel Basquiat.” READ HERE
BASQUIAT, MADONNA, POP JUNK FOOD, AND ART GOLD
“Basquiat calls her out: copyright, cartoon, junk food, while elsewhere, 2015, super-human, clean-living Madonna goes on and on in the world collecting titles of the ultra –rich and less culturally relevant ex-artists and never was-es: “philanthropist” “record producer” the always entertaining “Business Woman” and the truly frightening “Mogul”. READ HERE
BASQUIAT: ENDLESS FASCINATION (NOW’S THE TIME @ AGO: REVIEW)
“You may be amazed, “fascinated”, even, that these works with their decidedly large swatches of blacked over areas and startling darkness will make you laugh with understanding, with recognition, and the joy this feeling creates, something only possible here and now before him. It’s not about death any more than any honest art is about death. It’s not gloomy. It could even be the most alive thing you’ve ever seen. Absolutely death-defying.” READ HERE