Tag: Scala

Ramblings: on VANT & Radio 1

logomakr_6gasea

Back in July 2015 I heard my first VANT track; The Answer immediately stood out from a lot of the guitar music around at the time. With it’s extended intro, swagger and politically-charged lyrics I was immediately intrigued by this band I hadn’t previously heard off.

Based purely on the strength of that single I went to see them a couple of weeks later. There was a lot to be impressed by. They had several other cracking tunes in their locker, they were great fun live and – perhaps most strikingly – they connected with the very young fans there in a very special way (including a stage invasion).

I’ve followed them very closely from then on and have seen them twice since; the first was the night after the Bataclan terrorist attack. It was a strange night to go to a gig; the first time I’ve ever checked where the emergency exits are… just in case. Yet all three bands that played that night – FIDLAR, Bully and VANT – paid tribute in their own way, and I was so incredibly pleased I went. It felt like a collective show of defiance; that life will go on.

The last time I saw them was late last year at Scala, at the gig where they filmed the – re-released single – Do You Know Me? video. I was struck that night by how much they’d improved; how they really owned the stage and controlled the pace; a difficult skill for new(er) bands to learn and master.

On Friday they release their debut album – Dumb Blonde – and there’s a tour to go with it in the next few months. Alas they’re playing London on the same night I’m going to see The XX so I thought I’d have to miss out on seeing them again. However I’ve won some tickets to a BBC Introducing gig tonight at the Roundhouse, headlined by VANT, so I’m really looking forward to hearing the new material.

VANT have received a lot of Radio 1 support in the past eighteen months and it’s a reminder of what Radio 1 can do when it is at its best. They had the double whammy of Zane Lowe’s departure – along with a number of producers – and an enforced shift towards  their target audience, which really left them floundering, and they have more often than not responded in the worst possible ways on how to move forward.

Patronising young people and trying to make everything ‘cool’ is not a successful strategy; Radio 1 should remember that generations of young people kept coming back to Radio 1 because it played and supported the best music and employed people who were passionate about music. A quick glance at the daytime ‘DJ’s’ might point to why Radio 1 is struggling.

VANT are a politically charged band that are connecting with young people and Radio 1 has played a massive part in that. So – ahead of Friday’s album release – tonight should be a celebration of their relationship together and hopefully the first of many album release celebrations for the lads ‘from Planet Earth’.

 

Ramblings: on Zak Abel and being back on track

 

logomakr_6gasea

Well the blog is back on track after my week of illness. The A List is done, the Bonus List introduced and the This Week Playlist posted. George posted a review of Cloud Nothings’s Life Without Sound last night and Antonia is back with her At The Movies column later today. Plus there’s a Track of the Day coming up at 0930.

Onto non-blog matters, I’m pretty happy as I’m off to my first gig of the year tonight, seeing Zak Abel at one of his two sold out shows at London’s Scala.

I first heard Zak Abel’s stunning soul voice on Sam Sumthin – which I only found out yesterday was produced by Kaytranada – back in 2015. It’s a voice that’ll please many audiences and belies his young age. Given that he’s a self-taught pianist and guitarist, and was also pretty good at table tennis, he also seems like a pretty determined man.

He also writes cracking pop songs. Say Sumthin was one of the best I’ve heard in years, an instant classic. And he’s followed it up with Everybody Needs Love and Unstable since.

His debut album- Only When We’re Naked – is due out in March and I’m looking forward to hearing some of the new material tonight. This will be my fourth time seeing him live, and every performance has improved on the last. He has an infectious charm on stage, his band are super tight and I fully expect him to be playing much bigger venues soon.

One of the things l’ll keep coming back to on this blog (because it’s something I care a lot about) is supporting young acts – particularly British acts – and the need to ensure they aren’t rushed. A few years ago it became a habit for acts to have a couple of singles or a debut album and to be playing Brixton Academy; it was sad watching them fall flat on their face due to a lack of material and a lack of stage experience.

Zak Abel has done it the proper way. He’s been gigging consistently for the past few years and knows how to work an audience. The first time I saw him was at the Oslo in Hackney, he was the second act on stage with a bill of four; it was perhaps an indication that he was destined for bigger things when half of the audience walked out after he’d finished.

Last year I saw him play the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, where he tore the place up – Drake One Dance cover and all – and was joined on stage for a duet by Paloma Faith. I had the rather strange experience of being stood next to Paloma Faith for a large chunk of that gig; but it does mean I can say with certainty that she was enjoying herself.

To reaffirm that he hasn’t been an overnight success, he was featured on the Radio 1Xtra Hot for 2015 List, a list that also featured Little Simz, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Raury, Stormzy, Lion Babe, which is a pretty strong list. Yet its interesting that you could easily hear his stuff on 1Xtra, Radio 1, Radio 2, XFM or any of the shit big commercial radio stations. He has a sound – and a quality – that could easily see him become Britain’s next big pop export.

So I’m looking forward to tonight very much and in anticipation below is Zak Abel’s new video for Unstable.

Until later,

Mark