Tag: Leeds Festival

A tribute to Keith Flint

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I don’t quite know how to process this. It has been announced this morning that Keith Flint, the unmistakeable singer in the Prodigy, has passed away.

The Penguin has tears in his eyes. The Prodigy are a band of almost unrivalled brilliance in my mind. One of the greatest live acts in the world; a band who helped to make dance music pre-eminent in the album and singles charts, as well as headlining festivals around the world. The blend of energy, rock, punk, dance – of various forms – and yet more energy appealed to fans of so many types of music.

I remember my mum buying Fat of the Land. It’s never great when your parents are cooler than you – well, one of them at least, my dad stopped following popular culture in 1977 – and whenever she drove home you’d hear her long before you saw her, so loud was the album blaring out. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. It was a seminal album for lots of people, but for me it was a gateway into a world I never wanted to end.

The first festival I ever went to was Leeds Festival in 2002. The Friday night had three major acts playing, with the Offspring and Guns and Roses either side of the Prodigy. I think about that set every week. The band were struggling at the time, having toured for years and struggling to get on. But for a 16 year old fan seeing them for the first time, it was absolutely magical. The energy. I’ve never seen a crowd bounce in unison for so long. The tunes. The bass. It was unforgettable.

Maxim would scream ‘where the fuck is Leeds?’ and we’d go crazy in response. Keith Flint would swagger around the stage, delivering the words to songs that were now part of our DNA. I don’t know if any manager looking to put a band together would ever think of bringing those three men in the same room; but their chemistry was undeniable. They leave a live crowd reeling, but desperately wanting more. It was absolutely addictive.

Which may explain why I’ve been back to see them so many times. I’ve lost count of the exact number, somewhere around ten. My first solo trip to London in 2004 involved watching them at Brixton Academy. There was the hilarious time they headlined the second stage at V Festival and – according to the rumour that went around – refused to go on stage unless the volume was turned up. The main stage headliners the Scissor Sisters had to apologise for the bass that kept wafting across. That was the gig where I’d said I was going to take it easy; then the riff to Their Law started and I was on the third row by the end of the first song. I’ve had my phone stolen at one of their gigs, and didn’t notice because the crowd were bouncing so much. You always came away with sore ribs and legs, but smiling from ear to ear.

Flint was not the music man. On some Prodigy albums he wasn’t even involved in the recording. But he was the heart and the ethos of the band. The stage got a little more electric when he came on. He embodied the attitude of the band and it was his face that became synonymous with their mainstream success and number 1 singles.

I’m so very sad right now that I won’t get to experience it again. But I’m so very grateful for what he did. He made a young kid from Yorkshire fall in love with whatever he did. And I hope he knows how much I – and so many others – appreciate that.

Ramblings: peak excitement levels for new albums from The Twilight Sad, Foals and the return of Bombay Bicycle Club

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One of the exciting things about January is that every music publication gets to run two lists, the new(ish)/lesser known artists they think will be big in the year ahead and the list of more established artists that are set to release new material and albums in the coming year.

In truth, the ‘breakthrough star’ lists seem to be losing a lot of their appeal and ‘guaranteed hit’ status (pure speculation on my part, but I’d guess this decline is through a combination of how we consume music nowadays and how social media has changed how we interact with and receive information from artists directly. Plus there’s about a million of those lists now, which inherently makes them less impactful).

Similarly the album lists are often preempted by the – now very early – announcements of major festival headliners (case in point, I was discussing albums coming up with a friend the other day and he said ‘Tame Impala are headlining Coachella, so I assume they’ve got something new coming out’)

Bu leaving that aside, I could barely hide my excitement when I went through the list(s) of acts with new material this year. Two acts I really admire (The Twilight Sad and James Blake) are releasing new material on Friday. The year’s not even three weeks old and we’re getting stuff from critically acclaimed and adored artists.

The Twilight Sad 

I’m particularly looking forward to The Twilight Sad release, partly as they made my favourite song of last year but mostly because I think they suit the LP format beautifully and rarely make a wrong step on their albums.

They have done a phenomenal job on Twitter creating a buzz for the release. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band create momentum and excitement in such an organic way; they and their fans are building up to Friday as a real key milestone for an underrated band. And the initial reviews certainly seem to indicate that the buzz is worth it.

Foals

The band I was originally going to centre this post around is the mighty Foals. They went big on a teaser last week for their new material that had rock and indie fans everywhere salivating. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is the name of the new album, and it will come in two parts, one in March and the other in the autumn. They must have a lot of faith in the albums to give it that title, it’s a reviewers dream to have something like that if an album – particularly a double album – isn’t very good… 

I’ve been a fan of Foals since I first heard 2008 single Cassius on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show. They sounded unusual and brilliant, and their singles became highlights whenever they were released. But the other side of the coin was that they seemed a sloppy live band. I remember watching them on TV (it was probably a Glastonbury set) and it sounded pretty rough. Yet their albums seemed to continue getting stronger, and I thought 2015’s What Went Down was a very good album – with a monster single of the same name – that was widely overlooked.

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In fact I thought they were ready for big festival slots, they were a band who had honed their live set into something wonderful – I saw them at Wembley Arena and they were absolutely fantastic – and they had enough big songs to justify top billing. Yet the big festivals didn’t quite agree. Glastonbury put them on the Pyramid stage below Muse, which I think was very much the wrong way round. Leeds and Reading did give them a headline slot, but as co-headliners alongside Disclosure. Certainly not a bad set of slots, but they deserved to be up there on their own.

And now we come to their new album(s), and I’m at peak excitement levels. The little teaser they’ve put out is impressive, and I keep my fingers crossed that this is the album that lands them on the top of the British music scene.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Speaking of fantastic bands, I lost my shit yesterday when I saw the news that Bombay Bicycle Club are back together and making new music. They were one of my favourite bands in the world when they went on hiatus (I saw their last tour three times) and I think music has missed their contributions. Seeing that they’re back together was my favourite moment of 2019 so far.

Until next time ….

Track of the day: Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER

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Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER

Billie Eilish is one of the most exciting young pop artists on the planet. Ever since I heard the fantastically morbid Bellache in 2017 I’ve been captivated by her records, and she rarely disappoints. Her 2018 releases were pretty much all excellent in different ways; be it the menacing you should see me in a crown or the heartbreaking when the party’s over, which was always going to feature in my top 50 of 2018.

Now she’s back with WHEN I WAS OLDER, a song inspired by Alfonso Cuaron’s 2018 film Roma. And with it, she unsurprisingly retains her kite-mark standard for excellence.

With its eery distorted vocals and minimalistic electronic production, it has a haunting tone that is really hard to shake off.

Eilish is due to play the main stage at the Leeds and Reading festivals later this year and if her output remains at this quality, it’s not difficult to envision her being one of – if not the – biggest pop stars in the world very soon.

Ramblings: On Field Day, Films, Foals and Black Foxxes

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No sooner am I done getting excited about getting tickets to see Run The Jewels than Field Day release the awesome news that RTJ will be closing the main stage on the 3rd June.

Field Day is an interesting festival; every year the lineup feels a little obscure and unfamiliar but they have a tremendous habit of sensing where music is going, rather than celebrating where it is right now. Last year’s festival was unbelievably wet and muddy, but sets by the Black Madonna, Bicep, Yeasayer, Four Tet, John Grant and Jackmaster were too good for any weather problems to leave me feeling anything other than elated.

This year they’ve consolidated the festival into one day, and the line up largely has that familiar ‘music to be discovered’ feel. I’m a big fan of Haelos and Run The Jewels, and I’m looking forward to Clams Casino, Moderat and Algerian rockers Imarhan. But the great thing about Field Day is the trust you can have in the bookers; whatever stage you end up watching you’ll be seeing something interesting and fresh.

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January seems to be the season for festival lineup announcements. I saw Leeds & Reading Festival(s) post on Twitter today that they’re due to announce some acts this week, SW4 have announced Deadmau5 – in addition to the recent revelation that Pendulum will be reforming – as headliners and Citadel today announced Foals in a UK festival exclusive. I’m not sure I’ll be able to avoid the lure of Foals…

Onto domestic matters and I’m delighted that Antonia and George have made their debuts on the site. Antonia’s excellent review of Manchester by the Sea can be found here and George has the world of LPs covered; It’s Album Time will be a regular feature and kicks off with Bonobo’s Migration here.

Astral Penguins will – initially – primarily be a music blog, but I’d love it to become a place where those who love culture and want to read thoughtful opinions and passion about different fields can visit. George and Antonia bring with them lifetimes of passion and knowledge and it is my pleasure to give them an outlet.

Finally I got a Songkick notification today telling me that Black Foxxes are supporting You Me At Six at their forthcoming Alexandra Palace gig. I’m a big fan of BF and had the pleasure of seeing them last year. Their debut album was one of the most assured and interesting first releases of 2016 and I’m delighted that they’re getting the opportunity to play to a wider audience. Good luck to them.

I’ll be back this evening with a Track of the Day and tomorrow we’re debuting a new feature on cover songs. Until later…

Mark