Victory at Sea: Festival Review 


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This August Bank Holiday I attended Victorious Festival in Southsea, Portsmouth. Boasting a heavyweight line-up at a remarkably modest price; I enjoyed a belated birthday weekend of Britpop and beer. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Despite a variety of festivals under my belt — from the juggernauts of Glastonbury and Reading to much smaller, cheaper affairs — this was my first year at the seaside. And with a number of my favourite artists on the bill, coupled with the promise of a shower and a clean bed every night, I entered with an open mind.

What I found was rather exciting. Victorious offers something of a mediation. A sweet-spot between the larger festivals that I’ve become increasingly jaded with something far more accessible — if not inherently more enjoyable. Big names, a cheap ticket and an interesting site to boot? It seems almost too good to be true.


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2000 Trees Festival 2015 (Review)


Written for The Boar’s website: theboar.org/2015/08/03/festival-review-2000-trees-9th-11th-july/

All photos are my intellectual property. Please ask permission before using.


The self-proclaimed home of ‘New & Underground Bands’ is something of a rare card in the UK festival scene. Situated amidst the Gloucestershire countryside, 2000 Trees boasts a handful of live acts over three days — all for around ninety quid a ticket. Given this price tag and its modest five-thousand head capacity; Trees offers a viable alternative to the ‘mainstream’ festival experience. But whatever it lacks for in size and prestige, it makes up for in atmosphere and organisation. 2000 Trees does something different — offering an intimate weekend when festivals only seem to be expanding — but it does so remarkably well.

  Of course, articulating the magic of a music festival is much like reviewing a holiday: there are simply too many variables affecting ones experience. Admittedly, everyone will have had a different time and music, by its very nature, is divisive. To criticise a set because of an unappealing artist would be poor journalistic form. Likewise, capturing the spontaneity of the festival — such as its bizarre fancy dress contest (with a theme of ‘literal interpretations of band names’) — is almost impossible to put into words. But there are a number of things that are unanimously brilliant about 2000 Trees. Largely, it forgoes many of the pitfalls that bigger festivals suffer from. Smaller stages means closer camp-sites, less walking and generally a more relaxed weekend. Travelling between bands takes an average of five minutes — a far-cry from Glastonbury’s colossal arena — and I myself pitched mere seconds from a stage. (The Cave). There is also no arena system, which means you can drink your own booze, and the patronising airport-grade security of larger festivals is thankfully abandoned. I won’t pretend that the toilets were ideal, but there is a lot going for this smaller set-up. Its Big Lebowski themed bar is relatively cheap: offering a wealth of locally sourced beers alongside the Dude’s favourite beverage,The White Russian. And its clientele is equally as refreshing, with everyone from the UKHC scene to small families considered welcome. It is, by and large, the friendliest festival crowd I have ever experienced. Where strangers merge campsites and sing together. Where the GCSE-celebrates urinating on your tent are replaced by punk enthusiasts debating the greatest Ruben LP. Everyone is seemingly bound by a mutual love for music, but without the rowdiness that plagues so many other festivals.

The line-up is also fairly unique. Headlined by pop-rockers Deaf Havana and Alkaline Trio; 2000 Trees prides itself on a range of punk, hardcore and fan-favourites. Each year it asks festival goers who they would like to see play and they endeavour to satisfy that demand. It would be short-sighted to say there is something for everyone — this is not a typical pop festival — but it knows its demographic well. Contrarily, it simultaneously manages to appeal to those who dislike festivals — the queuing, the bad food and the nasty festival clichés are nowhere to be seen. But the heart of Trees is found away from the main stages; in the accidental discoveries, the new bands and the Tree-clad stage known as the Forest Sessions. It’s also the secret gigs and the the camp site bandstands that set Trees apart from the rest. With that said, personal highlights included Thursday-night headliners, The Subways, celebrating the 10th anniversary of their seminal Young For Eternity. If one should begin how intending to go on on — then their set certainly set the benchmark. Post-rockers Arcane Roots and And So I Watch You From Afar also blew the proverbial roof off their respective stages, showcasing Trees’ diversity towards the heavier side of things. Scottish anthemic rock was also well received, with The Xcerts and Idlewild providing the perfect beer-clutching soundtrack for a main stage crowd.IMG_4109

On reflection, 2000 Trees attains a wonderful blend of music and people. The silent-disco(s) that follow the headline acts encapsulates this and is something of a microcosm of the festival itself. There are various channels, from indie sing-alongs to hardcore breakdowns. It knows its audience and, much like the approach to the main line-up, it satisfies the demand it creates. It doesn’t take itself too seriously either — something that is evident across the whole site during the weekend. It’s pure, undulated fun. Which is immeasurably contagious.

Above all else, it is the spirit at 2000 Trees that makes it so appealing. When a power-cut hit Alkaline Trio’s [rain-soaked] headline set, there was not anger directed at the band or organisers. If anything, there was genuine sympathy. A general sentiment of ‘Oh, I hope this doesn’t give Trees bad press!’, was reiterated around me. Bassist Dan Andriano attempted to serenade the front row with an acoustic guitar: clearly grateful for their patience. There is a real sense of solidarity between the artist and the audience and less of the us/them dichotomy that larger, staler, festivals seem to inspire. Bands can be found at the bar and watching other artists. They seem to enjoy the festival as much as the audience, taking photos with fans and often staying for the majority of weekend. There is something wonderfully endearing about a frontman telling the crowd that he has blown off work to play the festival. [Tellison, Friday Afternoon]. Frankly, 2000 Trees isn’t about the paycheque or the BBC coverage… because there isn’t any. It’s about something that existed before festivals became the musical equivalent of a Ibiza holiday and an excuse to plug your latest record. It’s something more organic, more meaningful. It’s live music in its purest form.

At a time when festivals become increasingly more commercial, expensive and less about the music — 2000 Trees brings everything back into perspective. Good people and great artists is all you really need. Of course, you’re not going to see Arctic Monkeys or Muse, but for the money you get something far more memorable. A site small enough to walk between acts. A crowd friendly enough to bond strangers. A festival that is so well organised that the stage times are staggered to minimise clashes. 2000 Trees encapsulates everything I love about live music. It even revitalises my faith in people. It’s a music festival… in the most platonic sense of the term. A celebration of music — and those who love music. And it’s quite easily the best weekend of the year.

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Ollie Ship [@OllieShip]

Live Review: Nine Inch Nails – Birmingham LG Arena (18/5/2014)


Edited article for The Boar available here:

http://theboar.org/2014/09/14/live-review-nine-inch-nails/

 All photos are my intellectual property. Please ask permission before use.


It’s been 5 years since Trent Reznor and co conquered a British arena; and they unsurprisingly stretched Birmingham LG’s 16,000 people capacity. Fans new and old gathered from as early as 5pm; dressed in the colourful attire you’d expect from an industrial-metal show. (or rather, the lack of…) But the range of washed out tour shirts proved an overwhelming point – Trent Reznor has been playing this game for over 25 years now.  


Nine Inch Nails are perhaps most famous for their work in the 1990s; with The Downward Spiral  (1994) regularly cited as one of the most influential records of the decade. However, for an act that could easily fill arenas by playing ‘the classics’, Trent Reznor advocates a real dedication towards reinventing his live act. Albeit through recruiting new members or investing in stage production, Nails’ have earned a reputation for innovating their stage show. In fact, just last summer the band lashed out at Reading and Leeds Festival for refusing their elaborate lighting rig. It seems that the UK would have to wait another year before giving Nails’ a platform that could truly accommodate them.

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The show itself opened with a spotlight on Reznor, in a minimalist rendition ofMe I’m Not’. The other band members progressively joined him, in a pattern that was allegedly inspired by The Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense tour. However, having just toured America as an eight-piece, it was somewhat disconcerting to count just three people join him on stage. 

But there was nothing underwhelming about this show. After a strobe-drivenCopy of A’ and an exuberant remark about not playing another ‘fucking festival’;  it was clear that this was a refined and polished live act. In turn, with a flurry of exotic lights during ‘March Of The Pigs’, Trent Reznor’s secret weapon was now in full swing. A mechanical screen covered the stage and sat behind, or in front of those performing. Images accompanied the music and masked those on stage; becoming one of the most immersive live act I’ve ever witnessed. The dynamics this presented were unparalleled. Screens of white noise and distortion obscured the band during breakdowns, only to be pulled back like a futuristic theatrical curtain.

This was most notable during the performance of ‘Eraser’. Uncomfortable images of insects covered the screen during its slow introduction, but were dispersed as the drum kicked in and Ilan Rubin was revealed from behind the metal sheet. This promoted the rest of the band to join in, and the crowd were engaged both visually and sonically. Frankly, these kind of theatrics are what are inspiring about live music on this scale. Trent has taken the essence of his music and projected in a way that exceeds what the audience expectant, when in all honestly, he doesn’t have to play anything more than the music.

IMG_4772In fact, for a band that is comprised of only one official member, there was a remarkable lack of ego displayed too. Whilst invariably, Trent Reznor is the crowd focal point, his band were impressively tight and professional. Ilan Rubin effortless glided between drums and synths, and occasionally picked up the bass and electric guitar. Robin Finck and Alessandro Cortini also swapped instruments; each facing a synth whilst guitars hung from their necks. It seems Trent has hired four likeminded musicians to cary his live act with him. There was no showboating or excessive guitar soloing, nor any of the usual rock star bullshit of bands (and stages) this size. Nine Inch Nails were an act, a collective unit, and above else; an experience.

Likewise, the setlist was equally as choreographed. Songs like Sanctified from 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine book-ended with tracks form 2013’s Hesitation Marks; covering as much as their catalogue as possible. (This certainly didn’t feel like a ‘plug the new album tour’ – *ahem* – Smashing Pumpkins at Wembley last year) Fans also received over-looked album tracks such as ‘The Great Destroyer’ and ‘Piggy’; something that is often missed in larger arena shows. Nevertheless, there was a distinctive scarcity of 1999’s The Fragile. Whilst this is likely the most divisive record within the Nine Inch Nails catalogue, the ripping guitars of ‘The Day The World Went Away’ proved that Trent Reznor’s darkest moments were undoubtedly, his best. Their finale was, unsurprisingly, the closest thing to a ‘greatest hits’ for Nails’. A back to back performance of ‘The Hand That Feeds’ and ‘Head Like A Hole’ ignited the crowd for one last time.  The band then returned for gut-wrenching performance of ‘Hurt’ in the encore; which sparked the cliche cigarette lighter waving that only certain songs provoke.

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Whilst I ultimately find it difficult reviewing something as subjective as live music; and no doubt I would’ve be satisfied with just hearing the songs, the experience that Trent Reznor and co have conjured is truly awe-inspiring. It is refreshing, immersive and it pushes the limit in what live acts should be doing in light of their ever inflated ticket prices. Nine Inch Nails set the benchmark incredibly high for live shows, and you’ll be hard pressed to see Reznor fading away any time soon.

★★★★★