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Live Reviews

Seasick Steve

Norwich Arts Centre

Wednesday 21st July 2021

Seasick Steve Norwich Arts Centre

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SEASICK STEVE – NORWICH ARTS CENTRE – LIVE REVIEW

It has been a devastating 16 months for humanity. Every country, every community and every industry has suffered profound and unprecedented loss. The fact remains that we are far from free, the p word is still ongoing and we must be careful.

There is however hope, just a glimmer that some form of normality or dare we say a “new normal” could be possible. The music industry has been decimated over the past year or so, but it is the music industry now that is offering us hope.

We recently attended the Download Pilot Festival and saw a preview of how live music can return. There was testing involved, masks in certain situations, extra sanitisation and a sense of community that only live music brings.

Read our review of Download Pilot Festival

Now it is time to head indoors again. The Music Venue Trust has always done an incredible job, but that has been amplified by the events of the last year or so. The organisation has now teamed up with The National Lottery to help to #ReviveLive.

They aim to help the return of music fans to music venues across the country and ticket holders can bring a Lottery playing friend in for free. Tonight feels special for so many reasons. The first gig back would always be special but by putting an act the size of Seasick Steve into the intimate surrounds of the beautiful Norwich Arts Centre only ramps the feeling right up!

Entry is smooth, fans have been encouraged to take Lateral Flow tests, there is hand sanitizer aplenty and masks are encouraged in certain areas. Attendees are respectful of each other and of the significance of the evening.

Read our review of ‘Lo! Soul’ from Roddy Woomble

The atmosphere truly is special, and it is a special talent here to entertain us. With no support, Seasick Steve and his trusted companion on drums enter the stage at half past eight just after an emotional welcome from the venue director.

Seasick Steve is a captivating artist at the best of times, but tonight he truly has the audience in the palm of his hand. Despite lingering fears of being part of a gathering and despite the intense heat inside the venue, there is nowhere else you’d want to be.

Fans are regaled with tales of Steve’s life and serenaded with his signature blues numbers. The likes of ‘Roy’s Gang’, ‘Walkin’ Man’, ‘Barracuda ’68’ and ‘Dark’ are highlights before Seasick Steve sends fans home with ‘Thunderbird’ after nearly two beautiful hours.

It’s an incredible feeling to be able to head out into the night, sweaty and reminiscing on a stunning evening of music once again. It’s an experience that has been missing for too long, but it is back.

There are a plethora of dates and artists performing this series of MVT shows. Do yourself and your local venue a favour, grab a ticket, take a test and enjoy the return of live music!

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Live Reviews

Download Pilot Festival 2021

Donington Park

Friday 18th – Sunday 20th June 2021

Download Pilot Festival Poster

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DOWNLOAD PILOT FESTIVAL 2021 – LIVE REVIEW

The live music industry is built on togetherness, built on shared experience and built on the power of emotion. The last 18 months have been highly emotional for all the wrong reasons. Together the world has shared an experience that has terrified and devastated us.

The events of the last 18 months have taken an incomprehensible toll on humanity. The pandemic has destroyed lives and livelihoods. The live music industry was obliterated overnight. The people that make the spectacles that we enjoy happen were forgotten about.

While the world attempts to peek through the curtains at a “new normal”, the live music industry is left waiting. Waiting for support, waiting for proper guidance, waiting for a chance. Well, just four weeks ago that chance arrived.

A Government trial event to test the viability of the return of packed festivals and events you say? Spring into action the incredible people behind the scenes who make the live music industry work! In a short period of time, heaven and earth have been moved and here we are at Download Festival.

A much smaller, makeshift, Pilot version of Download Festival at the hallowed grounds of Donington Park. 10,000 people in a field, no social distancing, no masks, no inhibitions.

Credit goes to all involved for creating an event of that scale on such short notice, and to all the acts playing with no preparation. As the gates open, one thing is for sure, the fans want this, no, the fans needs this.

The reality of the situation is that the organisers could have put an old man playing the spoons on stage and the fans would have lapped it up. The opportunity after all that everybody has been through to witness live music is cathartic.

DOWNLOAD PILOT FESTIVAL – FRIDAY

The fact that this may be the most exciting Download Festival line-up of all time only helps to amplify the anticipation as fans gather in the tented second stage for Death Blooms. Almost every person on site crams in to witness that first taste of live music in far too long.

The band make the most of the atmosphere with a storming set that sees the audience let go of all remaining inhibitions. I doubt the majority of those in the tent knew of the band in advance, but they certainly left with a memory that will last forever.

For this special event there are just two stages. Next to the tent is the outdoor main stage which opens with a raucous set from Hot Milk. Kicking off with their latest single ‘I Just Wanna Know What Happens When I’m Dead’ the band show the crowd just what they’ve been missing.

Listen to ‘I Just Wanna Know What Happens When I’m Dead’ from Hot Milk on our Spotify Hot List!

There is no need to worry about those dreaded clashes at Download Pilot Festival. That’s because the acts on the two stages alternate, allowing the music starved fans the opportunity to watch every single band if they so wish to.

Every band this weekend gets a good sized crowd and a warm reception with it, especially the early bands on Friday. Malevolence are next to grace the second stage and assist the audience in releasing their pent up energy with a heavy hitting set.

A repercussion of the pandemic has been the amazing new albums that have been released without the showcase of the live setting. One such album is ‘Glue’ from Boston Manor. That wrong is righted next however as the band storm the main stage and air the likes of ‘Everything Is Ordinary’.

An early standout performance from the band sees them mix new and old with ‘England’s Dreaming’, ‘Laika’ and ‘Halo’ eliciting some of the first full blown sing-a-long moments of the weekend.

Those sing-a-long moments continue with Holding Absence on the second stage as they get to unleash tracks from their sensational album ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’. ‘Afterlife’ in particular is a contender for song of the weekend as the band present their credentials for superstardom!

Read our review of ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’ from Holding Absence

The Friday action continues with two bands with extremely dedicated fanbases. Neck Deep get the main stage bouncing before Sleep Token captivate the second stage.

It is then down to Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes to bring the first day to a close on the main stage. Always an unstoppable force of nature on stage, the band make the most of the platform to make a statement. That statement says that this band is ready to headline the regular event.

With a setlist spanning their three albums, the band even treat fans to a selection of new tracks including the catchy ‘My Town’. There are guest appearances from Joe Talbot, Cassyette and Lynks, there is a giant circle pit around the sound tower and there is even a cover of ‘Ace of Spades’.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes saw an opportunity to headline a festival, to headline the first festival back, and they grabbed it with both hands. This was one of those sets that will be talked about forevermore!

Listen to ‘My Town’ from Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes on our Spotify Hot List!

After hours entertainment comes from a silent disco as the hastily arranged festival shows the skills and creativity of the music industry. You have to stand back and admire the achievement of those involved to create an event on this scale in the time given.

DOWNLOAD PILOT FESTIVAL – SATURDAY

On to Saturday now and the musical delights continue as Lotus Eater, Conjurer, As Everything Unfolds and Bleed From Within blow the cobwebs of the early morning audience.

Next two young bands with big futures introduce themselves to festival audiences. Both The Hara on the second stage and Wargasm on the main stage elicit strong reactions from those watching.

Listen to ‘Your Patron Saints’ from Wargasm on our Spotify Hot List!

After a solid showing from Tigercub, one of the veteran acts of the weekend, A, school the up and coming bands on how to engage an audience. An age appropriate walking circle pit being a nice change of pace in the midst of a hectic weekend. Finishing with ‘Nothing’, A show why they are the perfect festival band.

Two things become apparent as the weekend progresses. When dissecting the hastily put together line-up, the quality of British rock music is put in the spotlight and it more than holds its own. Secondly a good deal of that talent is female. Vukovi and Yonaka both deliver set of the weekend contenders next.

Listen to ‘Seize the Power’ from Yonaka on our Spotify Hot List!

Those Damn Crows, Twin Atlantic and Stone Broken all put in crowd pleasing performances before While She Sleeps attract and entertain a huge crowd on the main stage.

Soon though it’s time for the scorecard for band of the weekend to be thrown out the window. Creeper are able to deliver an out of body experience as they headline the second stage. There are goosebump raising moments galore as the band turn the festival into their own theatre of oral and visual magnificence.

Listen to ‘Midnight’ from Creeper on our Spotify Hot List!

It is then left to Enter Shikari to bring the Saturday night party and they don’t disappoint. If there was ever a band born to get you moving it’s Enter Shikari. They do just that as they also get to showcase newer songs live for the first time.

‘satellites**’, ‘{ The Dreamer’s Hotel }’ and ‘THE GREAT UNKNOWN’ fit in perfectly with classics like ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’, ‘Juggernauts’ and ‘Mothership’. Much like Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and Creeper, you can see the special treatment Enter Shikari have given this opportunity and that makes for a stunning spectacle.

DOWNLOAD PILOT FESTIVAL – SUNDAY

Come Sunday you’d imagine fatigue would be setting in. All this action after so many barren months, you could forgive the crowd for tiring and the festival atmosphere sapping. Instead energy is pumped in by bands such as Static Dress, Saint Agnes, Cassyette and Employed To Serve.

The fans reciprocate said energy as they continue to let loose to Chubby and the Gang, Loathe and Higher Power. The passion and pure joy of both fans and musicians to be at a festival is at times overwhelming. This event was destined to be an emotive affair but even through that emotion the quality of the music on offer shines.

Next on the main stage is Lonely The Brave complete with change in singer. A set mixed with fan favourites and new tracks from ‘The Hope List’ shows the band are still an exciting prospect. Can the band now finally take that next step? On their showing here, yes they can!

Read our review of ‘The Hope List’ from Lonely The Brave

For those fans catching every band the pace is relentless and it’s to the second stage next for Jamie Lenman. Lenman powers through a sublime set that gets the crowd moving and features another appearance from Wargasm.

The quirky goodness of Elvana attracts a huge crowd to the main stage as the festival heads towards its climax. The band show just why they are perhaps the perfect Sunday afternoon festival act as they get the crowd singing along to every word.

Massive Wagons are able to take the second stage by storm before a sadly technically challenged The Wildhearts limp off stage. The Wildhearts are a top quality band and the issues with their sound perhaps show the effects of an enforced hiatus for musicians and crew members alike.

It’s on that note that once again praise must be heaped on the organisers, the crew members, the festival staff and yes the bands for making this event such a success. That is only amplified by the incredibly short timescale.

Realistically this has been a once in a lifetime event (we hope). Download Pilot Festival as an event is excellent and would be a great addition to the main Download Festival. It’s the atmosphere and camaraderie however that makes this festival so special.

We are down then to the final four bands, the final acts before reality is set to strike again. Up first on the second stage are Trash Boat who get the tent bouncing, especially with a stunning cover of Linkin Park classic ‘Given Up’.

If there is a perfect festival band it’s Skindred. Put them on any stage in any slot and they will attract a huge crowd. With a sub-headline slot on the main stage, the field is full as Benji Webbe and co put in a seamless lesson in crowd engagement.

The final act on the second stage is also no stranger to the festival scene. Although Frank Turner has played Download Festival in the past, even he acknowledges he may not be the typical Download act. Nobody cares though, as he puts in a typically euphoric performance.

The crowd are not just treated to the set staples but also to new song ‘The Gathering’ and heavier version of ‘Little Changes’. There are sing-a-longs aplenty as Turner does what he does best and that is entertain!

Check out The Full Pelt Music Podcast with guest Frank Turner!

That just leaves Bullet For My Valentine to close out Download Pilot Festival. A festival which we wish was never needed but are so glad that it happened. Bullet For My Valentine are long time Download favourites and they deliver an apt conclusion to the event.

We are treated to a unique take on ‘Run To The Hills’ from Iron Maiden complete with a perplexing vocal contribution fron Benji Webbe. We get new material in the form of ‘Knives’ and of course we get favourites such as ‘Scream Aim Fire’ and ‘Tears Don’t Fall’.

‘Waking The Demon’ is the final song to ring around Donington Park, and we can only hope and pray that this event can wake the demon that is the festival scene. The fans may have been lab rats, but what a stunning lab it was! Thank you Download Pilot Festival for such a cathartic weekend.

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Read our review of ‘Bodies’ from AFI

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Features

Why We Need To Fix Our #BrokenRecord Industry

Why We Need To Fix Our #BrokenRecord Industry
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

We look at why we need to fix our #BrokenRecord Industry to ensure fair payment of artists from music streaming platforms.

What makes a #BrokenRecord Industry?

The music industry has been changing greatly in recent years and that evolution has now been exasperated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With the industry shaken to its core by the restrictions resulting from the virus, there is perhaps no better time than now to take action to secure a healthy and prosperous future for this vital industry.

Music is of course vital to so many; both those that work within the industry and the customers that rely on the industry. I recently wrote about the relationship between music and my mental health in my blog ‘Mental Health, Music and Me’, and it’s true that for many people this industry is essential to their happiness and positive mental health. It is therefore imperative that this industry is allowed to thrive.

The industry however is far from perfect and many existing issues have been highlighted further by the pandemic. I have always split the music industry in two. I have written about the struggles of the Live Music Industry in my blog ‘Why We Need To #SaveOurVenues’, so in this feature I’ll be focusing on the other side, the Record Industry.

The coronavirus pandemic has of course been a horrific and sobering time for everyone and every industry. The collapse of the live music industry due to various restrictions has had many disastrous consequences on the overall music industry.

I have also written however about the few positives that have arisen from this unprecedented situation. In a creative and innovative industry, many have turned to livestreaming to reach their audiences. I explored the positives and negatives of this evolution in my blog ‘Livestreams: Good or Bad for the Music Industry’.

Another positive to come from everybody having to stay at home, is that they have had more time to listen to music. The resurrection of Vinyl continued with sales growing for a 13th consecutive year and music streaming continuing to rise in popularity. It is the negative side of this positive however that has given rise to the #BrokenRecord movement and that is what we will explore in this article.

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The way that we consume music has changed drastically over the past decade or so. The beginnings of the digital age saw the rise of illegal file-sharing where fans found they were able to swap and share digital versions of the music that they loved.

The problem with this activity was that it completely eliminated the artist from the process of music consumption by the end user, and of course the price point of zero meant that artists saw no profit from this medium.

The knock-on effect of this was the drastic decline in the purchase of physical media such as CD’s. Of course the sales of Vinyl had already almost completely diminished, and the less said about Mini-Disks the better!

In order to combat illegal free downloading of music, the industry reluctantly brought into the concept of legal paid downloads; iTunes being the go to name at the beginning. Over the pursuant years we would see many contenders emerge for both downloading music and a new concept – streaming music.

Interestingly we would also see a kick back against digital music with the resurrection and continued resurgence of Vinyl!

A global leader in the streaming of music is Spotify. This is a company that initially felt like a swear word, their platform felt too good to be true and many will have questioned the legality of it, because if something feels too good to be true, usually it is!

Fast forward to now and Spotify is accepted into homes across the world and is for millions of the people the platform of choice for music consumption.

The benefits of streaming are numerous for both fans and artists. Having entire libraries of music at the touch of a button helps fans find new acts and helps artists reach new audiences. There is however one major downside that needs to be addressed.

So, with the ongoing pandemic allowing more people more time to listen to their favourite artist, or perhaps find their new favourite artist, let’s ask a few questions regarding music streaming. Picture this – you are sat working from home and have been listening to your favourite new album on repeat, how much money do you think that said artist has just earned?

#BrokenRecord campaign founder Tom Gray shared the below table showing the rates of pay by the various streaming platforms.

Streaming payout data shared by #BrokenRecord founder Tom Gray

So, if that album you listened to has 10 tracks and you listen to it 5 times today on Spotify. Your consumption will pay 14p. Now consider that if you brought that album on CD you’d probably have spent roughly £8.

My next question is where do you think this money goes? How much would you expect the artist who wrote, performed and recorded the music to receive? Let’s explore the issues that exist when paying streaming royalties.

Physical Terms in a Digital World

Let’s consider that the artist in question is signed to a large record company. Their standard deal which they signed will likely be a Recoupment Deal. With this deal the artist will effectively have to repay all costs and expenses associated with the making of the album. Realistically this means they cannot earn royalties until they have repaid the overall cost of the album, until then all profits go to the record company.

Remember that this debt is repaid only from the artist’s percentage of the royalty. It can therefore take years for a relatively successful artist to see any earnings from their own music. You may ask why would artists sign such deals, but ask yourself how many artists have a degree in economics? Consider that even if they have three deals in front of them to choose from, they will likely all include this clause, and the alternative is no deal and likely no album.

Now consider that 14p that the band just earned from your days binge listening. It may take years before the actual artist starts earning that 14p once all recoupment is complete; and when they do there are other issues!

The biggest issue being that the record company owns the rights to the music and therefore the band will only get on average 20% of that 14p. So 2.8p. This band happens to be a standard four-piece band and therefore that 2.8p needs to be split between the singer, guitarist, bassist and drummer. Oh and the producer.

Not to mention other possible deductions. It may shock you to know that under the terms of many contracts artists still have to pay a 10% deduction for breakages! That’s literal physically broken albums… even when digital!

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#BrokenRecord

Clearly these old contracts don’t fit with the digital age and it’s always going to be the artist that loses out. That is why Tom Gray founded the #Broken Record campaign to challenge these inequalities. It should be said that nobody is arguing that Mick Jagger needs another house or Paul McCartney another car.

This campaign is designed to fight for justice and equality for the acts of the future. Hopefully you have been surprised at how little your favourite artist earns from you listening to their music on streaming platforms. You’d probably be shocked to find out that many musicians that you follow are likely living very close to the breadline. Many artists you picture living lavish lifestyles are actually struggling to pay their rent this month.

This situation has only been intensified by the coronavirus pandemic.

Reliance on Live Music

Many artists these days rely heavily on the live side of the music industry. Playing gigs, tours and festivals is how most acts will now earn the majority of their money. This is a complete 180 switch from yesteryear. Before the digital revolution of the record industry, artists toured to raise awareness of their new albums. Nowadays artists release albums to raise awareness of their tours!

Then 2020 hit and removed that income stream, leaving many artists to survive solely on income from physical and digital sales. But whilst the vinyl renaissance may help a little, the fact is CD sales continue to fall off a cliff edge and many artists are left to survive on streaming alone. Therein lies the huge problem facing the music industry right now – how, when and perhaps if it will recover.

Even if we ignore the unfairness in the discussion around streaming revenue, what we have right now are artists and crew that can’t afford to live, to pay rent or perhaps buy food. Again I don’t envisage Elton John looking down the back of the sofa for spare change, we are talking about the emerging talent of the future, the acts of years gone by who have seen dwindling success and importantly those considering starting their careers. These are the individuals having to change course, take jobs in other sectors to pay the rent and support their families. These are the individuals that may never return to the music industry!

Even when the pandemic finally goes away and life can resume, we have the looming shadow of Brexit. Whilst that is another blog topic altogether, bands are going to struggle to afford to tour beyond the UK due to new restrictions and costs.

So, for the music industry we love and rely on to emerge from this pandemic intact we need to take action.

What needs to be done?

In reality there isn’t a lot the average music fan can do. We need action from the industry and likely that will need intervention from Government. Fans can of course support their favourite artists, buying music, merchandise and tickets. Fans can also sign relevant petitions and highlight the issue by supporting the #BrokenRecord campaign.

The changes being requested by artists aren’t necessarily ground breaking. What they are asking for in basic terms is just equal pay for equal work. To be treated with respect, decency and fairness; for their efforts and their art to be valued reasonably.

That shouldn’t be hard for fans to accept. Imagine a shop worker only being given 20% of their days wage, with their manager, supervisor and company all taking the rest. Imagine they are then further deducted the costs of their uniform and the equipment they use. That wouldn’t be fair would it?

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Possible Solutions

As already mentioned, a high level thorough review and restructure of artist’s payments from streaming is required. Options that may provide possible solutions include the likes of Equitable Remuneration (ER for short!) and User-Centric Models.

Part of this discussion will form around the question of how streaming of music should be classified. Is the music purchased, rented, or is it equitable to radio airplay? Artists currently are paid via ER for radio airplay and this method is split 50/50 and therefore can be fairly summarised as equal pay for equal work.

One of the most common ways to consume music from the likes of Spotify is to use Playlists such as our own ‘Hot List’. Spotify even label these as radio such as their Artist Radio functions. So would it be reasonable to class streams in the same category as radio airplay?

As we come to a close, I want you to once again go back to our earlier analogy. Having binged that new album whilst working from home, how would you like your money to be distributed. If this month that artist was the only artist you listened to, and you pay for your Spotify, who do you think your subscription money should go to?

At present it would be added to the overall pot and divided between all artists on the platform. Would you think it would be fairer if all your subscription money was divided just between the artists that you personally listened to this month, in our case just that one band? This would be the case if streaming platforms moved to a User-Centric Model.

There are many questions here and I won’t pretend to have all the answers. What is clear is that something needs to change and that change has never been more necessary. With the combined wreckage of the pandemic and Brexit upon us, artists can’t rely solely on the Live side of the music industry. The Record Industry must act now.

The light has been shone on this issue and all stakeholders must step up and take action to fix our #BrokenRecord Industry!

Be sure to help spread the word and raise awareness of the #BrokenRecord campaign. You can share this article by clicking the icons below!

The #BrokenRecord campaign is the creation of Tom Gray, be sure to follow Tom on Twitter for the latest updates on the campaign! When discussing the subject remember to use the hashtag #BrokenRecord.

Categories
Features

The Year in Review 2020

Photo by Expect Best from Pexels

Full Pelt Music looks back on 2020 for our Year in Review

What a year to pick to review. It’s been a year like no other and not for good reasons.

On a personal level as detailed within my first blog, ‘The Reluctant Blogger’, I was made redundant from a job I loved, just before Christmas and during a global pandemic! Not nice, but realistically I wouldn’t be writing this blog on this website if that hadn’t happened! The decision to return to writing about music also allowed me to take a look at the relationship between music and my mental health in ‘Mental Health, Music and Me’.

For the world it has been a year of pain, struggle and despair. From the fires of Australia to the flooding of the UK early in the year and now again just before Christmas; there has been no restpite in the year of the coronavirus. Unprecedented is the word of the year, but with Brexit and the ongoing pandemic looming large, the word for next year is probably uncertain.

Everybody has struggled this year, personally and professionally. This struggle is not limited to the music industry but our industry has struggled greatly. The live side of the industry is built on bringing people together and of course that has not been possible since March. The recorded side of the industry has also struggled with delays in recording, producing and distributing.

Recovery for the grassroots of the industry is far from guaranteed. The stark and sad reality is that many musicians and hard working crew members will have needed to have sought alternative employment and the actuality here is that many will never return to the music industry. The fact is many government schemes setup to alleviate the financial pressures on individuals and businesses simply bypassed these people.

Unfortunately the pandemic has also hastened the plight of many grassroots, independent music venues.  We have sadly already lost many venues and there are still many more at imminent risk of permanent closure. We have written extensively about the issues surrounding our industry in our blog ‘Why We Need To #SaveOurVenues’, and we encourage you to get involved in the initiatives highlighted.

This is of course a creative and innovative industry and through struggle we evolve. Much like the loss of my own job bred this website, the loss of touring and live shows has seen the evolution of the livestream. Many musicians have embraced technology and sought new ways to engage with their audiences. We have looked at the rise of this phenomenon in our blog ‘Livestreams: Good or Bad for the Music Industry’.

When looking back on 2020 in the future, the memories will fill everybody with dread. There has however been some fantastic musical highlights despite everything else. We recently revealed our Album of the Year in our ‘2020 Album of the Year’ blog; and the Top 20 list was highly competitive.

2020 has produced some incredible music and that’s where we are going to focus this end of year review. In order to celebrate the successes of a very difficult year we going to look at the following awards – Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Gig of the Year, Festival of the Year and Artist of the Year!

Album of the Year

As mentioned we recently listed our Top 20 Albums of the Year here. This was a highly competitive list as 2020 saw some truly phenomenal releases.

Full Pelt Music’s Top 20 Albums of 2020

We said “It has been a crazy year, and this list has been heavily influenced by that. As mentioned the top of this list is massively impacted by new music I heard during the height of the initial lockdown. ‘Ultra Mono’ was an album that I was already extremely excited to hear; and the stream of songs released during Lockdown only served to raise that excitement to a fever pitch.

Thankfully IDLES didn’t disappoint and when the album arrived it was a pure masterpiece. It shows a natural progression on the bands first two records and grows the bands sound. It still captures what made us all fall in love with the band but by incorporating new elements into the bands sound the album shows that IDLES are no one trick pony.

Above all other releases this year and those that feature in this list, this was the album that we needed this year. In a year where we have all been knocked down one way or another, IDLES and ‘Ultra Mono’ has been a call to arms, to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and keep going.”

WINNER: ‘Ultra Mono’ by IDLES

The Contenders: ‘A Hero’s Death’ by Fontaines D.C., ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’ by Bring Me The Horizon, ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ by Enter Shikari, ‘A Celebration of Endings’ by Biffy Clyro, and ‘Sex, Death & the Infinite Void’ by Creeper

Single of the Year

It’s been a good year for both Bring Me The Horizon and Yungblud, with both releasing stunning new records. Yungblud recently hit the number one spot with ‘weird!’ which we reviewed here, and Bring Me The Horizon silenced their doubters with ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’ which we reviewed here.

It shouldn’t therefore be so much of a surprise that their collaboration together is our standout single of the year. Accompanied by an over the top video, ‘Obey’ is a rip roaring tale of corruption and brainwashing, so perfectly fitting for 2020!

WINNER: ‘Obey’ by Bring Me The Horizon feat. Yungblud

‘Obey’ – Bring Me The Horizon feat. Yungblud

The Contenders: ‘Model Village’ by IDLES, ‘Space’ by Biffy Clyro, ‘Trouble’s Coming’ by Royal Blood, and ‘Protect The Land’ by System Of A Down

Gig of the Year

I was lucky enough to catch some fantastic shows early in the year, you know BC (before Covid!), and Stereophonics, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Kaiser Chiefs and Fontaines D.C. all deserve special mention.

For my Gig of the Year however I’m again looking to the Covid era.

When life has drastically changed and you’ve been deprived of the opportunity to do something you love, you learn to savour those moments more. For me, as somebody that in 2019 attended some 93 gigs, the loss of live music was devastating. Of course, many people have endured much worse in 2020, particularly at the height of the initial national lockdown; for me however, I was just desperate for live music.

The opportunity to watch real, live music again thankfully emerged (if only for a short time) at the end of summer. Frank Turner lives by the moto “Always on Tour”, and he wasn’t going to let a global pandemic get in the way. An innovative location for a socially distanced gig was Nottingham Arboretum, basically a bandstand in a park. The result was a stunning if unusual setting for a gig which came to life when night fell and Turner serenaded the sold out crowd with his biggest hits.

A great supporting cast including Tash Bird, Holly Carter and Beans On Toast helped to make this show one to remember. The musicianship on show was fantastic, as was the togetherness and gratefulness of an audience desperate to once again forget life’s stresses and enjoy an evening of music. It was a powerful evening that brought tears to many an eye, and that’s why it wins our Gig of the Year award.

WINNER: Frank Turner @ Nottingham Arboretum (20/09)

Nottingham Arboretum

The Contenders: Stereophonics @ Kentish Town Forum (21/01), Kaiser Chiefs @ Brighton Centre (30/01), Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes @ Alexandra Palace (15/02), and Fontaines D.C. @ Norwich UEA (24/02)

Festival of the Year

The coronavirus pandemic completely obliterated the 2020 festival season, as early optimism that some festivals would survive was eventually swallowed whole by this horrible virus. With social distancing in place, festivals just were not possible. But didn’t I say that the music industry is the most creative and innovative industry? Whilst some promoters attempted to arrange socially distant shows, tours and festivals, few succeeded; with even Live Nation cancelling a huge programme of drive in shows.

I was lucky enough however to venture to two such festivals at the Norfolk Showground near Norwich. A mixture of entertainment was laid on in a specially designed arena with socially distanced ‘pods’ maintaining the necessary safety measures. Brickfest was a one day festival focussing on covers band with a handful of original acts like headliners Bad Touch thrown in. The day was a huge success given the circumstances, as was our 2020 Festival of the Year – Wild Fields Festival!

Wild Paths Festival debuted in Norwich last year with acts gracing venues across the fine city. This year the event embraced the outside arena and rebranded as Wild Fields Festival over two days was an eclectic line-up on offer. The first day featured great sets from many young artists including Lauran Hibberd, Indoor Pets, Another Sky and headliners Gengahr.

Even through the greatest adversity the power of the arts shines through and Wild Paths was a shining example of how to put on a safe, fun and thoroughly entertaining festival during a global pandemic.

WINNER: Wild Fields Festival

Brickfest at the Norfolk Showground, also host of Wild Fields Festival

The Contenders: Brickfest

Artist of the Year

Our final award is for Artist of the Year. In a such an unprecedented and difficult year this award is going to an act that has considerably contributed to making the year better. Fantastic new music has played a hugely positive role in improving a hard year. With this in mind that means that IDLES, Biffy Clyro, Enter Shikari, Bring Me The Horizon, Fontaines D.C. and Yungblud are all in the running for this award.

Beyond that however real live music when possible has been an even greater high than normal. As such Frank Turner enters the running as an act I somehow managed to catch live this year some four times including the aforementioned Gig of the Year.

But this year is different, new albums and live shows whilst normally the lifeblood of our industry almost feel insignificant when you look at the horrors witnessed across society, both inside and outside the music industry. One saving grace for many this year has been the arrival of the music livestream. A number of those already mentioned have dabbled if not excelled in this activity.

Our winner however has taken this new outlet to heart. They have provided joy and distraction to thousands of people during what must be a record setting number of livestreams. More than that, they have managed to raise an amazing amount of money for a cause I have already championed in this blog. That cause is of course the Save Our Venues campaign and our Artist of the Year is clearly that man again, Frank Turner!

In 2020, Frank Turner has probably played more real shows and more livestreams than anybody else. He has recorded and released new music including collaborations with NOFX and Jon Snodgrass. He has produced the fantastic new Beans On Toast record. He has thoroughly entertained and provided much needed distraction from the real world to thousands; and he has raised an incredible amount of money for charity.

In reality Turner deserves a medal, but what we can give him is our Artist of the Year award!

WINNER: Frank Turner

Artist of the Year – Frank Turner

The Contenders: IDLES, Biffy Clyro, Enter Shikari, Bring Me The Horizon, Fontaines D.C., and Yungblud

2020, a year we will all be hoping to forget very quickly, but there has been some great music released. All focus now however is on 2021 and those vaccinations. We hope that sooner rather than later we will be able to safely gather again in those venues and fields to watch our favourite artists in the flesh.

There will also likely be an avalanche of new music coming our way with artists having been isolated with their creatively for company. Let’s just hope that not every song is about lockdown!

Categories
Live Reviews

FIVE4FIVE FEST

Friday 18th – Saturday 19th December 2020

Five4Five Fest makes triumphant return to help #SaveOurVenues!

Back at the height of the initial national lockdown, a streamed festival entitled Five4Five Fest did two things. It provided much needed entertainment to struggling music fans and raised money for heroic NHS workers.

Now in Lockdown version 364 or something like that, the festival returns to once again provide an escape from the horrors of real life. This time the event is raising money for a cause close to home for music lovers, the Music Venue Trust and the Save Our Venues campaign. We recently wrote about the reasons why this support is desperately needed in our blog Why We Need To #SaveOurVenues.

As with the May event, Five4Five Fest takes place over a Friday and Saturday night with an array of musical talent performing from their homes/garages and this time even a school! The festivities are streamed across multiple channels and at present you can still catch up on demand on Youtube here.

There are probably fewer ‘household’ names on the line-up this time around, but there is no lack in talent. The Friday kicks off with a gentle performance from Paper Mill who include former Lower Than Atlantis guitarist Ben Sansom. There are more sombre moments to follow with both Holiday Oscar and Rob Lynch serenading us with emotionally charged songs including Lynch’s hauntingly festive school assembly set.

There is plenty of rocking to be done too however, with headliners Yonaka particularly bringing the party with the likes of ‘Rockstar’ and ‘F.W.T.B.’. Yonaka are stars and deservedly close the Friday night. To end night one, we are treated by the band to a festive outing of ‘Last Christmas’.

Both nights include afterparty DJ’s for those at home looking to continue the party. In true festival fashion there is also merch available at five4fivefest.com. There are also numerous raffle prizes all raising money for the Save Our Venues campaign.

Onto Saturday and the lineup for day two is certainly louder with the fantastic Haggard Cat blowing away any cobwebs. Nova Twins and Hacktivist both also deliver the goods before a slight change in pace with the brilliant Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

The event is closed out by two fine young bands Normandie and finally Holding Absence. Again both performances provide great entertainment for those watching from home and whet the appetite for the return of live music.

The sad reality is however that many of the venues that these bands will frequent may not be around when music can finally return. They haven’t been properly supported by the government and they desperately need support. The good news is that you can help, by donating to the #SaveOurVenues campaign.

Once again Five4Five Fest has been a massive success and over the two evenings has showcased some amazing young talent. With your support and with hopes of battling this virus raised by recent vaccine announcements, lets hope and pray that soon enough we are able to return to watching these bands in our favourite venues!

You can still watch Five4Five fest and until Monday 27th December 2020, you can still donate, buy merch and enter raffles at five4fivefest.com.

Categories
Magazine

News Report

Monday 7th December – Sunday 13th December 2020

Full Pelt Music – Weekly Music News Report

Slipknot Announce European Summer Tour

Slipknot European Summer Tour Dates

With news of vaccinations we are all hoping that by next summer we will be in a position to safely stand in a muddy field with thousands of strangers. Clearly, a number of promoters feel the same, as this week has seen a string of tour announcements.

Up first were metal titans Slipknot announcing their return to Europe with a list of summer dates including headline shows and festival appearances. There is no sign of any UK dates as of yet, however the band had been set to debut their own Knotfest in the UK before COVID-19 intervened. Fingers crossed!

Tickets for their European dates are available here.

Trivium to return to the UK

Trivium UK Tour

One celebrated metal band that are actually coming across to the UK are the always stunning Trivium. The band will play 4 shows in November 2021 with an impressive supporting bill including Heaven Shall Burn, Tesseract and Fit For An Autopsy.

This is a tour not to be missed and you can grab tickets here.

All Time Low announce 3 headline shows for 2021

All Time Low to play London, Manchester and Glasgow

Another American group heading to the UK is All Time Low. The band has revealed a run of 3 dates in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Tickets for these shows will not hang around long, grab yours here.

Wayward Sons return with new song and UK Tour

Wayward Sons UK Tour Dates

It hasn’t just been American bands announcing tours this week, as British classic rock group Wayward Sons, led by Toby Jepson, have revealed a full UK Tour for November 2021. Tickets are available here.

Alongside the tour announcement, the band also unveiled their new single ‘Even Up The Score’, which you can check out here.

The Pearl Harts deliver new EP ‘Live At The Drive-In’

The Pearl Harts release new live EP

Speaking of new music, we also were treated to a new live EP this week by the fantastic The Pearl Harts. That EP, entitled ‘Live At The Drive-In’ is available here.

You Me At Six unveil Hot Sauce

You Me At Six Hot Sauce!

Finally this week we bring you something a little different. Having recently highlighted the new version of Metallica Monopoly, we bring you another unique Christmas gift idea. If you like You Me At Six and enjoy a little Hot Sauce on your meal, you are most definitely in luck!

That’s because You Me At Six have announced the release of their own Hot Sauce, which you can pick up here. You can also pick up a ticket to catch the band live here.

Categories
Features

Livestreams: Good or Bad for the Live Music Industry?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

With the removal of live music due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, musicians and fans alike have been forced to find new ways of getting their fix. The arts are by their very nature creative, so it should surprise nobody that new avenues to engage the connection between artist and fan evolved very quickly. The jump in popularity of livestreams has been one of the most startling effects of the pandemic restrictions.

Initially at the height of the worldwide lockdown these livestreams were generally through the likes of Facebook Live. Musicians (usually solo) playing to a camera set up somewhere in the home. For some that meant the comfort of their living rooms, for others it meant being strategically located in front of their trophy shelves. Either way it was a basic way for artists to play their songs to their fans when true live music just wasn’t possible.

One of the issues with this method of livestream is that of price. On one hand the fact that they are free for fans to watch is great. It provides a chance for those on low incomes, who may otherwise be unable to afford to see live music, with the ability to see their favourite artists perform. The price point therefore offers artists the opportunity to gain exposure to those who may not normally pay to see them. Then when live music returns, perhaps those individuals will invest in a real show.

On the flipside for artists who have seen their primary income source taken away, giving away their art for free isn’t going to help them pay their next bill. Remember not all musicians are millionaires, and in reality those engaging in livestreams from home are most likely not. Some artists have sought middle ground by continuing for free but asking those that can to donate or purchase merchandise. Whilst this provides a modest income for the artist, it isn’t viable in the long term and most artists feel awkward asking.

So, is there any way to make livestreams financially successful for artists? We are now seeing more and more artists trying their hand at the professional livestream; with easing restrictions allowing full bands to get together and stream a live performance. Filming from actual music venues and often featuring full production, these streams offer a product for consumers to purchase; thus providing a greater source of income to artists.

With many bands incorporating full production values however, we see increases in ticket prices. With prices for some streams now sitting at a similar value to real live shows however, you have to wonder at what point fans may be turned off. Looking at it from the negative point of view, it’s not really live in its truest sense. As a fan, I’m not there. I’m not listening to the actual sound or seeing the real in person artist. I’m not struggling to get a good view or having to buy expensive beer…

…actually, come to think of it, from the positive point of view, I’m not there. I’m not struggling to get a good view or having to buy expensive beer. I do not have to drive or catch the train and when it finishes I can go straight to bed! Of course, different people will see livestreams differently. Even ticketed livestreams give those who might not normally be able to attend the chance to see the show; whether that is due to travel or work commitments. You can watch the livestream anywhere with an internet connection.

There is another stakeholder involved also, and that’s the venue. Venues lying empty due to restrictions can receive a fee to host a livestream, which is good. In reality however, that fee would be a drop in the ocean compared to a real concert and everything that comes with it, such as overpriced beer!

So far we have identified both positives and negatives to both types of livestream event. Right now there is no perfect answer, no ideal scenario. Not for fans, artists, venues or the rest of the live industry ecosystem. Ultimately though we aren’t in an ideal scenario, far from it in fact and until real gigs can safely return we need to be creative and find ways to form a connection.

In my recent blog, ‘Mental Health, Music and Me’ I spoke of the need to have a distraction from the real world. Gigs are my distraction, but they are not possible right now. Livestreams therefore present an opportunity to scratch that itch. The same can be said of artists who are missing playing shows.

So, livestreams do serve a purpose and they are a short term solution to a hopefully once in a lifetime problem. But, how do they fit into the future? Are they here to stay? I’m sure we all hope that live music returns sooner rather than later and realistically nothing can recreate the experience of a live concert. I don’t therefore see livestreams as the future of live music, but even in the future they can play a role.

They provide artists with a chance to reach audiences they may otherwise struggle to get to. They provide fans with a chance to experience artists live that they may not regularly get the chance to see. I don’t see livestreams going anywhere anytime soon, especially as technology continues to develop. That however isn’t a bad thing, as long as they don’t become the “new normal”!

Until real live music can safely return our beloved music venues remain in trouble. To find out more you can read my recent blog ‘Why We Need To #SaveOurVenues’.

Categories
Features

Why We Need To #SaveOurVenues

#SaveOurVenues Crowdfunder: click here to donate

If you read my last blog ‘Mental Health, Music and Me’ then you know that I place a great deal of dependence on music, and in particular live music. The live entertainment industry provides a release to millions of people.

There is a famous song that says…

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

Dolly Parton

…and she’s right. Life is tough and we all need something to distract us, or we will go crazy. For some it’s a hobby, for many it is supporting a sporting team and for millions of people its live music.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every person and every industry in varying ways. For the live music industry it has had disastrous consequences. For the vast majority of people employed in this industry there is no option to work from home and little financial support. Whilst some may qualify for furlough, a large group of freelancers and zero hour workers have been forgotten. People are having to change career in order to be able to live and this opens the very real possibility that if/when venues reopen they won’t have the staff to operate.

You may think that is an exaggeration, but consider the specialist skills required to operate the various technical requirements for a live show. It’s the invisible crew behind the scenes that make the shows happen and these skilled workers will be hard to replace. You can find out more by heading to www.wemakeevents.com.

This alone is a major threat to the future of an industry that contributed £5.2 billion to the UK economy in 2018. Sadly even that concern may be irrelevant however, if there are no venues left to host events. Yes, you are right, large venues like the O2 Arena in London are unlikely to disappear, but huge arenas are the tip of the iceberg. The live music industry is cultivated by its grassroots venues.

These largely independent venues provide the foundations of the live industry. If these foundations are rocked hard enough, for long enough, then the whole house will come down. The sad reality is that many of these venues were facing significant challenges prior to the pandemic. That’s why the Music Venue Trust had to be founded in 2014 to support and champion these venues.

Since the first national lockdown took hold, the Music Venue Trust has put in a superhuman effort to help to save these venues. The Music Venue Trust has launched the #SaveOurVenues campaign and they have been at the forefront of fundraising efforts to help to protect our grassroots infrastructure. Well over 500 venues have been recognised as under threat since April, and there are presently 30 venues on the trusts ‘Red List’. Part of a traffic light rating system for venues, ‘Red List’ venues are regarded as at imminent danger of permanent closure.

You can help #SaveOurVenues by donating to the trusts current fundraiser (www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-our-venues-red-list).

Here you can donate either to an individual venue or the overall campaign. These venues need our help, and if we want to be able to head straight to a gig when safe to do so, we need to act now!

So, why do we need to #SaveOurVenues?

As discussed, millions of people rely on these venues for entertainment or employment. These venues are of immense cultural and economic importance, and simply put, if they close they won’t reopen. One of the biggest threats to these venues under normal circumstances is developers buying venues from landlords and building new flats in their place. It can’t be assumed that if a venue closes it will ever reopen and therefore we must protect these cultural landmarks before it’s too late.

If we look at the bigger picture, not all major artists shoot to fame via a TV talent show. Most artists start out playing to virtually nobody in the back room of a pub before slowly climbing the ladder to larger venues. It’s during this time that bands and artists get to hone their craft and earn their stripes. Consider it a rite of passage. Ed Sheeran, Adele, Radiohead, even The Beatles all started their careers in these venues.

The collapse of the affectionately known ‘toilet circuit’ would have catastrophic effects on our future stars. It would stifle many artists before their breakthrough moment. It would also repress an avenue of influence on young people. How many artists were motivated to pursue music after witnessing their favourite artist pass through town?

A very stark fact is that the closure of these venues will have an unfair effect on the lowest earning members of society. We can’t all afford to travel to other cities or pay for high priced tickets. For some, bands passing through local venues is their only opportunity to enjoy live music. To see these venues close could have harmful effects on entire communities.

There are very real, very serious consequences of our venues closing; consequences for people, for businesses and for the entire music industry. The music industry by its very nature is creative and I will look at the rise of livestreams in my next blog; but for this industry to rise and hopefully thrive post-pandemic, we need to #SaveOurVenues!

How can you help?

You can learn more about the issues facing our venues at the following links:

Save Our Venues
Music Venue Trust
Independent Venue Week
We Make Events

You can donate to the cause:

Save Our Venues National Campaign
Save Our Venues Red List

You buy merchandise to support the campaigns:

Save Our Venues Merchandise
We Make Events Merchandise

You can also write to your local MP about the issue:

Write to my MP

Finally, spread the message! Tell your friends and family, head onto Social Media and encourage others to get involved in the campaign and together we can #SaveOurVenues!