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Monthly Archives: May 2017

Music festivals

Man-bags

In 2015, Manchester’s Parklife risked alienating some of its style-conscious male punters by banning man-bags from the festival – a move that proved controversial, with some even branding it discriminatory against gay men, as reported by The Independent. Others wondered how they were expected to carry their belongings. Were satchels allowed? Bum bags? Stripey corner shop carrier bags? Utility gilets? What about men carrying women’s handbags?

Initially the reasons for the ban were unclear. Were the festival attempting to dictate male fashions? In a way, yes. In an interview last year with Complex, festival founder Sacha Lord-Marchionne explained why he’d banned man-bags from club series The Warehouse Project, which he also runs: “I noticed about three years ago… there was a certain genre of music that was attracting a crowd that I didn’t particularly like because they were quite moody… It became a little bit intimidating because there were in these big groups of lads and I looked at them and thought, ‘What have they got in common?’ They all wore man-bags… So I decided we were going to ban man-bags, and in the space of four weeks, we got rid of those bad elements.” Hence the ban was extended to Parklife, and remains in place today.

Hula hoops

Although they remain popular in Glastonbury’s Healing Fields, the humble hula hoop is another item to be banned from Coachella. It’s probably for the best – anyone hula-ing at a festival is wasting precious energy required for moshing, toilet-queuing and pushing their car out of the mud at the end.

Presumably, though, they’d make an exception for Grace Jones…

Show times

V Festival blundered this year when the Birmingham Mail noticed that “show times” appeared on their list of prohibited items. This raised the spectre of security confiscating clashfinder printouts, thus forcing people to purchase the official programme in order to find out when Jonas Blue is on. Thankfully, organisers quickly saw sense and amended the list to read “unofficial merchandise or lanyards”, emphasising that all show times would be available on their free app.

Pacifiers

Surely festivals are scary enough for babies without over-zealous security guards confiscating their dummies? Hang on… it seems this rule is aimed strictly at the over-18s, who are the only people allowed to attend Ultra festival, where pacifiers are banned. In which case, fair enough. Nobody wants to turn around in the techno tent at 3am to see a fellow raver dressed like an adult baby.

Feather boas

As festivals have introduced more glam and burlesque elements on top of the traditional rock’n’rave fare, so feather boas have become a common sight. But American festivals such as Shambhala have cracked down on this trend, arguing – reasonably – that they are an environmental hazard. “These items tend to fall apart very easily and the synthetic feathers are very difficult to clean up,” explains Shambhala’s FAQ page. “Any garbage that can’t be picked up by us is usually eaten by the cows, so please leave your feather boas at home.” Shirley Bassey wasn’t likely to play anyway.

Film as pop stars

Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis

Fans remain divided about the merits of the film to this day. Brad Shade, commenting on the passing of another rock legend, said: “RIP Chuck Berry. Jerry Lee Lewis will be the last man standing. He’s survived everything, even the biopic with Dennis Quaid.”

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner

Fans are so devoted to the film that several claimed not to know Angela Bassett wasn’t actually Tina Turner until years later. Chelsea Sims said, “Angela Bassett as Tina Turner is one of the greatest biopics ever”, while LeToya Henry noted, “For years Angela Bassett & Laurence Fishburne were Ike & Tina Turner because they acted so well in those parts & they don’t resemble at all!”

 Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

Typical comments range from the considerate to the downright livid. Urban Fervorsummed up the views of those who felt she was never right for the role, saying, “Still mad at Zoe Saldana for that Nina Simone biopic. The blame isn’t solely on her shoulders of course. It was a good gig to win. But…” While Baenerys didn’t even think she did a good job: “What insulted me so much about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone like more than not looking a thing like her, she didn’t embody her!”

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash

In Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon tell the story of Johnny Cash’s ascent to stardom, the decline of his first marriage and his near-ruinous addictions. Unlike Val Kilmer or Jamie Foxx, Joaquin does not bear a strong facial resemblance to his subject, although his singing voice was good enough to pass muster, so he sang live versions of Cash songs where needed.

The real key to his performance is in the eyes. Flitting between haughty and haunted, Phoenix played Cash as a man trying to better himself despite his demons, a performance that fits with the public perception the great man. Or as Dave Reed on Twitter recently wrote: “Ever since I watched Walk the Line I just imagine Johnny Cash as Joaquin Phoenix, no matter how many pictures I see of the real Johnny Cash.”

John Cusack as Brian Wilson

Love & Mercy is an odd film. It depicts Brian Wilson in two important stages of his life. There’s the 1960s boy genius (played hauntingly by Paul Dano) – composing Good Vibrations and God Only Knows in the studio for The Beach Boys and being tormented by his father Murray – and there’s the eccentric 1980s former rock star, attempting to regain his mental health while under the controlling influence of his therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy.

John Cusack plays Wilson in his later years, and the disconnect between his version of Brian and Paul Dano’s is one that fans have struggled with, especially since the 1960s scenes of Brian in the studio are vivid and exciting. Sam Hill said, “Watching Love and Mercy. A film of two halves. Paul Dano utterly convincing as Brian Wilson. John Cusack utterly unconvincing”, while Joel Carrol added, “Watched that Brian Wilson movie where there were cool flashbacks, and then he turned into John Cusack for some reason…”

Love messages hidden in pop songs

Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Renowned as something of a serial kiss-and-not-quite-teller, Taylor Swift has many songs rumoured to be about old flames. One of the best, though, is this love-hate number, believed by fans to be about her relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal (telltale clues in the video, they claim, include a scene in which the actor playing Taylor’s ex gives her his scarf to wear – Swift had been pictured wearing Gyllenhaal’s scarf in public – and a bracelet similar to one gifted to her by Gyllenhaal).

Although the power of the on-off infatuation is clear, it doesn’t paint a flattering picture: “I’m really gonna miss you picking fights and me / Falling for it screaming that I’m right and you / Would hide away and find your piece of mind / With some indie record that’s much cooler than mine.”

Swift told USA Today that the song was about an ex who “made me feel like I wasn’t as good or as relevant as these hipster bands he listened to… So I made a song that I knew would absolutely drive him crazy when he heard it on the radio. Not only would it hopefully be played a lot, so that he’d have to hear it, but it’s the opposite of the kind of music that he was trying to make me feel inferior to.”

Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl

Highlight of a hundred 80s teen movie nostalgia playlists, Rick Springfield’s air-punching anthem actually takes inspiration from a real-life forbidden crush, only the friend in question was named Gary, not Jessie. In fact, he wasn’t much of a friend – he was an acquaintance that Springfield briefly met while they were both, along with Gary’s girlfriend, taking a stained-glass-making class in Pasadena, California.

“I was completely turned on to his girlfriend, but she was just not interested,” Springfield told Songfacts. “So I had a lot of sexual angst, and I went home and wrote a song about it… He was getting it and I wasn’t, and it was really tearing me up. And sexual angst is an amazing motivator to write a song.”

All that pent-up frustration gave Springfield a global hit. After a few weeks the couple moved out of his life, never to be heard of again, despite his subsequent attempts to contact them.

Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart

Some of the most intriguing secret declarations come in songs written for another artist to sing. So it is with Feargal Sharkey’s 80s monster hit, which was written by Lone Justice singer Maria McKee (of Show Me Heaven fame). The soul-tinged, synthy number, full of gentle naivety, was written about the then-19-year-old McKee’s relationship with Benmont Tench, keyboard player with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tench also wrote a song for Sharkey’s debut album, which follows directly on from A Good Heart, striking a slightly less warm note, to say the least: “How does it feel / To make a grown man wanna die?” It was a persistent rumour that Tench’s song detailed his side of the story, but he’s since denied it was about his relationship with McKee.

Crosby, Stills & Nash – Guinnevere / Lady of the Island

The 70s LA singer-songwriter scene was notoriously incestuous and self-referential. There are particularly juicy examples on the debut album by folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, which opens with Stephen Stills’s Judy Blue Eyes, a suite of songs dedicated to his soon to be ex-girlfriend, folk singer Judy Collins. Even more interesting, though, are Guinnevere and Lady of the Island, sung by David Crosbyand Graham Nash respectively about the same woman – Joni Mitchell. Mitchell had dated Crosby for a while in 1967, but when ex-Hollie Graham Nash moved to the US in 1969, she moved him into her house almost immediately. As such, Crosby’s song is more elegiac, a reflection on loves lost (“She turns her gaze down the slope to the harbour where I lay anchored / Turned out to be such a short day”), whereas Nash’s song reflects intensely on new intimacy: “The brownness of your body in the fire glow / Except the places where the sun refused to go / Our bodies were a perfect fit in afterglow we lay.”

 

The weirdest excuses for gig cancellations

Pigeon strike

A large venue, of the sort that plays host to rock concerts, is apparently a haven for pigeons, who will often roost in the upper scaffolding, and then fly around while the band performs. And where there are pigeons, there will undoubtedly be pigeon droppings. Often venues will bring in specialist pest controllers to deal with their infestation, but clearly this was not the case in St Louis in 2010, when Kings of Leonbassist Jared Followill found himself the target of a particular flock of feathered menaces.

After a couple of splatters landed on his clothes during the first two songs, he was hit on the face, close to his mouth, and the band elected to call a halt to their set for health and hygiene reasons.

 Getting bored of your own music

Highlights of Iggy Azalea’s set at 1Xtra Live 2013

There must come a point for any performer when it feels like they need to change gear a bit, take a break, refresh their sound and absorb a few different influences. Perhaps the worst time to make that decision is just before a major US tour, as Iggy Azalea did in 2015, cancelling the entire jaunt and claiming she wanted to stop “singing the same songs”.

After apologising to fans on social media, she later gave an interview with Seventeen magazine, saying: “I feel like I’m at the end of an era now. To go on a tour in late September and to stay in that mindset of what I’d envisioned for that tour, I feel like that would stifle me…

“It’s not easy to decide that the best thing to do is cancel a tour, but that’s the best thing for me. I don’t want to disappoint my fans. I feel really bad. It was a tough decision to make, but it was the best thing.”

 Kissing Alex Jones

Lionel Richie on surviving the music industry

There’s a cautionary tale here for all celebrities who push their luck. The One Show’s Alex Jones recalled how a meeting with Lionel Richie ended badly for him, thanks to a bug she’d picked up shortly before his arrival. She explained to the Sun: “I’m not ill very often but I remember the norovirus was rife at the time and I started to feel very dodgy.

“I had a day off but then I probably went back into work a day too early so I was still infectious. After Lionel and I had just finished our chat on the show, I went to give him a kiss on the cheek and he went in for the lips. He caught the norovirus off me and had to cancel two of his tour dates. I did feel a bit guilty but, essentially, don’t be so forward Lionel! If he’d gone for the cheek, he would have been fine.”

Wishing the Dalai Lama a happy birthday

Maroon 5 had been booked to play two shows in Shanghai and Beijing in 2015, but found that both concerts had been cancelled suddenly, with no clear reason as to why. On further investigation, a (since deleted) tweet by the band’s keyboard player Jesse Carmichael appears to have angered both Chinese fans and the authorities, after he said that he “sang happy birthday to his holiness” the Dalai Lama.

This was interpreted as a political act, as the religious leader has been exiled from his native Tibet since 1959. And it’s not the first time musicians have found their invites to perform in China rescinded on similar grounds. Noel Gallagher and Linkin Parkboth had prospective Chinese concerts cancelled after showing their support for the Free Tibet movement.