Norman Jay

Leah Hamer || July 17th

MBE. Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. To obtain this title, you’ve got to be pretty special, wouldn’t you agree? Well DJing extraordinaire Norman Jay, MBE, is just that and more. A man that revolutionised the underground club scene and brought funk, disco and soul to the quiet streets of the UK, all whilst he was a teenager. From spawning Kiss FM to building the Good Times Sound System to being the first ever British DJ to be honoured with a feature film, as shown at the Cannes Film Festival, in a career spanning decades- Norman Jay has used his time on earth wisely. Now he continues to spread the soul with his treasured club nights and festival sets. Ahead of his performance at Camp Bestival, REBEL caught a few words with the legend.

On an early Monday morning, a weary Norman answers the phone and admits immediately to feeling a little worse for wear. He coughs and splutters, ‘It’s been a mad weekend.’ He laughs and explains a very worthy reason for his hangover, ‘I’m just recovering from doing a massive benefit for the victims of Grenfell Tower…A lot of money was raised and it was a great atmosphere. So many people came to give their time for free and a lot of the victims’ families came as well so it was quite emotional.’

Norman’s time is a precious commodity these days and during this time of year, it is taken up vastly by his almighty festival schedule. ‘Boy I’m looking forward to the Liverpool International Music Festival, I haven’t been back to Liverpool in a while and when I’m up there, the crowds have always shown me a lot of love. There are so many other DJs they could have chosen for it and to be on their radar is amazing. Then there’s House of Common with Madness at Clapham Common, Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival, Camp Bestival…there’s so many I can’t keep track.’

As an artist, Norman Jay is in high demand constantly due to his world renowned festival sets that consistently have tents overflowing. ‘Clubs are great but you’re limited. There are only so many things you can do within the confines of a club. Whereas a festival that’s outside, there’s a variety of people there that might not necessarily be into what you’re playing, but they’ll come and try it out anyway. It’s more of a challenge and you can give more variety.’

As international star as well as on the home front, there is no question in Norman’s mind as to which nation is the king of the festival. ‘Britain is the best,’ He laughs. ‘No disrespect to those abroad but the only thing they have over us is the weather. They have guaranteed sunshine in Europe or Australia or New Zealand. But nothing comes close to playing in front of a home crowd. Even in the mud, in the rain, when it’s freezing cold- the Brits are a race apart from anyone else.’

As a born and bred Londoner, Norman has a big place in his heart for the capital’s music scene. ‘We don’t have many festivals but they’re great in London. I’ll be at Lovebox, which is London’s premiere festival, then Notting Hill Carnival is amazing- I don’t play there anymore but it’s just special.’ Notting Hill Carnival is a pivotal event in Norman’s career, as it was always his childhood ambition to play there- and his dream has been made reality multiple times now throughout the space of his career.

Yet despite decades in the business, Norman is still pinching himself over the opportunities he is offered. On the 22nd July at Manchester’s Albert Hall, Norman will be appearing at Soul Town, alongside his childhood heroes Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Colin Curtis and Russ Winstanley. ‘I have no idea what it’s going to be like but I can’t wait. I’m quite in awe of playing on that bill. To be fair, I might not even play- I might just leave those guys to it, I’m more than happy to just listen to them.’ He laughs.

Despite his fame and royal title, Norman shies away from the hustle and bustle of celebrity life and remains modest about his achievements. As Colin Curtis was his hero growing up, Norman is humbled to think that he too is a hero to many, ‘It’s an honour to be seen like that to some, yet as I’m not in the limelight, it is very surreal to think that.’

As someone who has experience waves of musical changes throughout the generations, Norman is a wise commentator on today’s current climate. ‘People don’t party like they used to, that’s for sure.’ He chuckles, ‘But I just think it’s going in a new direction with grime and artists like Stormzy who are great for the new wave of dance music. More and more people are going out and enjoying live music than ever before, you can see that with the popularity of festivals. Yet it is absurd to me that in this age more and more clubs are closing down despite more people going out. It’s a real shame.’

With the knowledge that musicians today are up against thousands of competitors with the same technology and the same hurdles ahead of them, Norman’s advice to young hopefuls is simple, ‘Success doesn’t come at the push of a button. It is a lot of hard work, it was then, and it is now.’

Norman Jay MBE will be appearing at Camp Bestival from the 27-30th July.


Bethan Shuff

The first time I saw The Enemy was at Keele SU back in 2012, so it was really lovely to see Tom Clarke return to the venue at which I fell in love with his music. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Enemy’s first album We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, Tom is touring with an acoustic set of the album in its entirety and it was something special.

Opening the bill was local lads The Torch with a stripped back set in comparison to their usual indie rock. Harry Poole swapped his kit for a Cajon drum box, Josh Woody armed with an acoustic guitar and Owen Hodgkinson with his electric. The lads played a laidback set, adapting well to their new acoustic set up, frontman Owen as confident as always chatting away with the audience, talking about the first time he saw The Enemy, supporting Oasis. The Torch played a cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, an old classic with their own slant, as well as adapting their own tracks like fan-favourite, Riot At The Ritz, the band’s first single back in October 2015. Owen thanked his bandmates as they left the stage before going on to talk about the last time he saw The Enemy, supporting The Libertines, and so closed the set with a cover of The Libertine’s – Can’t Stand Me Now on his own.

Main support came from Joe Doleman, joining Tom for the full tour, a 20-year-old solo acoustic artist from Leamington Spa. He opened his set with a soulful and catchy track entitled Nervous, followed by the heart-warming and elegant Learning To Fly. Joe told us all of his first ever gig six years ago, aged 14, and how he covered Whistle for the Choir by The Fratellis, and so he graced Keele SU with the same track and the crowd joined him in singing the beautiful cover. After successful audience participation, Joe taught us some lyrics to one of his own tracks so the audience could sing his final track from the set with him. With a spring in his step and dancing with every note, Joe is a charismatic and enthusiastic soul with a strong stage presence and huge voice; it’s easy to compare male solo artists to the likes of Ed Sheeran or James Bay, but Joe stands out from these comparisons.

As James – Sit Down played over the speakers, everyone knew it was nearly time for Tom to take to the stage, as it’s a song that always found itself slotted into an Enemy setlist. Tom, alongside keys player Howard and bassist Gaz, took confidently to the stage as they opened with a raunchy acoustic version of Aggro, which maintained the power and angst of the original. 10 years of We’ll Live and Die In These Towns, an album which holds so much sentimental value and nostalgia for indie music lovers, was transformed into a stunning acoustic set in front of just 200 lucky fans. Howard’s keys was a beautiful addition to the set, especially in tracks like Happy Birthday Jane and We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, to which ‘Now, this song is about, is about, is about you’ was chanted by the audience as Tom stood with a beaming smile on his face.

Tom tells the crowd of how, when adapting the album to an acoustic set, they began to look at a particular track and were stumped. ‘It can’t be fucking done. There’s no chance, no way.’ They couldn’t turn such a huge indie rock anthem into an acoustic track. It was the first track written as The Enemy and was now Tom’s favourite acoustic adaption. 40 Days and 40 Nights. Tom began playing the opening chords before stopping and laughing. ‘It sounds a lot nicer if you tune your guitar first!’ Whilst having his guitar swapped, we were formally introduced to Gaz and Howard; Tom said they’d been ripping Howard the whole tour, calling him Susan and all sorts, ‘but tonight I’m just going to let you know he’s a talented bastard.’ And that he is.
‘I want to play you something off the second album. It never worked with the full band and I don’t think they ever really liked it, but I fucking loved it.’ Tom was 100% down-to-earth and honest in the entire set, talking about his music from the heart and matching the stripped back tracks he was playing. He sung Sing When You’re In Love with so much power, I wondered how his lungs didn’t pack in. 

Everyone knew there was just one song left off the album that was yet to be played. This song. And so the crowd chanted and chanted as they had done before We’ll Live and Die in These Towns. ‘It’s coming’ Tom laughed ‘but first I want to play a song for you that’s been there in my darkest hours’, he said before covering The Drugs Don’t Work by The Verve, another track that has often found itself in The Enemy’s live shows.

Tom had one last thing to say before gracing us with This Song. ‘Next year’s not a 10 year anniversary, it’s not an anniversary of anything and there’s no good reason for us to do it again next year other than we just fucking want to. If we’re going to do this Stoke, the only way there’s any point is if I write some new stuff; and the only way I’m going to write some new stuff is if you lot want me to. If you do, I’m fucking there and I’m gonna be here every year.’ So, there we have it, it’s official that there’s absolutely no stopping Tom Clarke from creating masterpiece after masterpiece and returning to Stoke again and again. He went on to dedicate This Song to Brian Wheatley, the man who gave him his first ever job, and the crowd sung it with him loud and proud. In an eruption of applause, Gaz and Howard left the stage and Tom began to leave before stopping at the keys, looking at the audience and playing us one last snippet of This Song on them.

Keele saw a beautiful show celebrating The Enemy’s first album’s 10th anniversary, but I have to say I can’t wait to see what Tom produces in the future.

Queens Of The Stone Age New Single Reviewed

John MacLeod || May 21st

It doesn't seem five minutes since, on a piping hot May afternoon, I was sitting in my drummer's car and excitedly playing her 'My God Is The Sun', the first single from Queens Of The Stone Age's then-forthcoming album '…Like Clockwork'.  Turns out, though, it was 2013.  And now here we are, during a similar heat wave four years later, and QOTSA have just put out the first single from their now-forthcoming album 'Villains', entitled 'The Way You Used To Do'.

This song is everything it should be - slick, melodic, loaded with mean riffs & tight drums.  Josh Homme's vocals are dialled to "Sweet" for this particular outing, but we all know he can belt it out when the need arises.  He doesn't need to here though, subtlety is the watchword.

It's a love song, definitely, and there's an almost rockabilly feel to it, but there are moments (both lyrically and musically) that twist it from a 'traditional' paean to romance, for example "Is love mental disease or lucky fever dream? / Fine with either…" and the eerie moment where all the music cuts out save for the sound of a pulsing heartbeat underneath the lyric "So lay your hands across my beating heart…". The narrator of this song seems to be unconvinced as to whether or not love is wholly positive ("Jump like an arsonist to a perfect match / Burned alive…" suggests an act of self-immolation, quite accurately, in all fairness), but is absolutely sold on his life choices, regardless.

So what do we think this means for 'Villains'?  One thing QOTSA has always done is evolved, they've never stayed in the same place too long.  There is a clear path of development from their self-titled debut to now.  2013's magnificent '…Like Clockwork' gave birth a new sound for QOTSA, along with lyrical themes that had never been explored by them, in light of Homme's near-death experiences during routine surgery, and this record was emotionally darker, more vulnerable, and more somber than their previous outings.  During the making of it, they lost long-time drummer Joey Castillo, and gained The Mars Volta's Jon Theodore ('Villains' will be his first full recorded expedition with the band).  Homme had gone so far as to describe '…Like Clockwork' as the beginning of "QOTSA Phase 2".

'The Way You Used To Do' sounds revitalised and less battle-scarred than songs from '…Like Clockwork', and to me this indicates a return to the party of albums past, but still with an eye on the darker sounds of their last record.  Their continued relationship with artist Boneface is indicative of this (his artwork seemed to capture the tone of '…Like Clockwork'), as is the unusual soundscape that fades in at the song's final two or three seconds.  This is a development of the "QOTSA Phase 2" that Josh Homme talked about in 2013.

There's a possibility that we may even see a bit of political commentary on the album, as the band were very vocal in putting out a not-quite-complimentary statement after the election win of Donald Trump last year (in full here:, and song titles such as 'Head Like A Haunted House', 'The Evil Has Landed', or 'Villains Of Circumstance' could be quite pointedly aimed at The 'Fascist Clown Penis' In Chief.  This is entirely conjecture, of course, but it could be quite amazing if we were about to witness the first ever QOTSA protest record…

TL;DR: I love the new song, and I like where this is going.



This is a man with a very busy summer....

"Everything these days is very summercentric. It seems to be quite dead in January, then as soon as the sun comes out it goes mental. This busy summer schedule becomes normal and I kinda just expect it now. I have a lot of different shows I do, so I can do something different everywhere."

"I enjoy all of the festivals, but I guess the best for me are Glastonbury and Bestival that kinda bookend the summer festival season, so it's a really nice way to start and end the process."

But with such a busy schedule, do these busier performers actually get to experience the festivals?

"It really depends on the festival and who I'm with. Sometimes I'm by myself, somethimes with friends and sometimes with other artists I know. For example I'm playing the Friday at Glastonbury this year, but then have to be back in London for two shows on Saturday, so really I can enjoy Friday and that'll be it."

Yoda's sets at Glastonbury this year sum up what this amazing event is all about....smaller hidden gems the average festival goer would never find, but are in abundance here...

"I'm doing sets at Funkingham Palace (The Get Down DJ Set) and The Stranger Things AV Set at The Gas Tower (a new stage at Glasto this year). Because Glastonbury's so huge and I've done it for like the last 15 years or something, I've never played in the same place twice and I like it that way. I wouldn't like to go back and just do the same thing. This Gas Tower for example has this huge 360 degree AV screen which means we can project The Stranger Things AV set in a different way, not just on one screen, which will be really cool actually."

The diversity of this DJ's shows are well known and well loved...

"Each of my summer shows can be different. Sometimes I'm booked in to do a straight DJ set, but a lot of the time these days people want a specific theme and because I play every kind of music I like it that way too as it keeps things interesting and fresh for me."

"That being said, at the core of it all I'm still a hip-hop DJ and those techniques of a hip-hop DJ are at the centre of everything I do. But for me, the reason for all of this diverse stuff I get into is because I've been doing it for a long time. Along time ago I was happy to be DJing in a club on a Friday night and make people dance, but now I wanna keep it moving and keep it interesting. I think my attention span is quite short and that comes accross in the way I DJ as well...sometimes I'll only play about 10 seconds of a song and then move on to the next."

"I just love collaborating and collaborating with unexpected people and just seeing where else I can take DJing and turntables that are outside of the regular places you would expect."

....and this is a DJ with some very unusual projects in his back pocket....BBC Radio 4 mash-up...yes, the shipping forecast and The Archers hit the turntables; the History of Gaming; DJ meets quite wonderful, but very strange Marching Band....

"One of the ways I really like to work is to be given a very tight theme and a focus, and like I say, because I play every type of music sometimes it's very overwelming to look at all music and say "Where do I start?". So I like to do these mixes that are themed and many times people will approach me and say, well can you do a mix up of just this kinda stuff. So Radio 4 approached me when they were celebrating their anniversary and asked if I could do a best of Radio 4 mix. I was like totally, I listen to Radio 4 a bit."

"The History of Gaming is one of my AV Shows and I'm doing that one a couple of times this summer. I go through the history of computer games, starting with Pac-Man and Pong and work my way up to the games of today. All of the music relates to the games and all of the games are on the screen. It's a really fun one to do."

"Now, the Trans Siberian March Band...I got to see them perfoming in Brighton ad they were so crazy! They were dressed up in crazy clothes and although they are really a Balkan Brass Band, they were playing covers of songs. So I got chatting to one of them and we decided it would be a really cool thing for us to collaborate. We did a whole year of shows where we worked out a way for them to do cover versions of the kinda songs that I play and it ended up being really, really good fun."

When asked about what he likes to listen to himself, that incredible diversity comes through again.

"I'm as likely to be listening to Country & Western as film music as hip-hop. But right at the favourite TV programme of all time is Twin Peaks and there's a new season of that out now and that music is what I listen to!"

Finally, Yoda imparted one last piece of knowledge to us...and if you're ever in a postition to book this wonderful DJ for a show, listen up...."What is the one must have item on your Rider?"

"I ask for a rare and exotic breakfast cereal! One of my small obsessions is breakfast cereals and I collect rare and limited addition ones."

So promoters....Cornflakes ain't gonna cut it with DJ Yoda!

You can catch DJ Yoda at a number of festivals this summer. But, as Glasto is sold out we recommend.... or





The biggest date in the rock and metal calendar took place as 80,000 people descended on the hollowed grounds of Donington ParkLeicestershire across the weekend for the 15thannual Download Festival. Rock royalty, Aerosmith gave fans a memorable final UK show,System Of A Down returned for an electric headline performance, and Biffy Clyro didn’t fail to take their place as rightful Download Festival headliners.

With the sun shining throughout the weekend and the improved site greener than ever, the crowd once again made Download Festival the most unmissable event in the festival calendar. With 300 metres of new drainage added (the height of the Shard in London), new traffic routes and increased security measures, Download fans were able to enjoy every moment of the festival to the fullest.

Fans arriving on Wednesday took full advantage of The Village and campsites, providing the ultimate experience for Download festival-goers. From the Wall of Death to the Side Splitter comedy tent, silent disco, cinema, multiple food stands and even a full supermarket, the festival atmosphere was incomparable.

The first full day of music on Friday saw Prophets Of Rage (featuring members of Cyprus Hill, Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy) deliver mammoth performances of their respective band’s politically charged hits, also paying tribute to their "fallen comrade", Chris Cornell. Pop-punk royalty Good Charlotte thrilled by performing their classic pop punk anthems before second stage headliners Sum 41 provided huge servings of nostalgia, ending their set with classics ‘In Too Deep’ and ‘Fat Lip’.  Sleeping With Sirens made their Download debut with a storming headline set at The Avalanche Stage, which was this year hosted by Fresh Blood’s Alex Baker. The crowd went wild for Machine Gun Kelly’s injection of rock-infused hip-hop, whilst metal legends Exodus fired on all cylinders as they brought The Dogtooth Stage to a close, with a ferocious set of unhinged thrash for the history books.

System Of A Down made their welcome return to the sacred grounds of Donington with a festival masterclass. The 31-song strong set, saw the Armenian innovators delve into their immense catalogue of rock club anthems such ‘Chop Suey’, ‘BYOB’ and ‘Toxicity’. The crowd was whipped into a final frenzy as they closed with ‘Sugar’, reminding the world how truly unique they are.

Saturday’s epic line up saw Of Mice & Men bring a triumphant set to the Main Stage, with bassist Aaron Pauley stepping forward into the limelight as new frontman. UK horror-punk upstarts Creeper ticked off their bucket list with an amazing Main Stage debut ahead of their idols and punk legends AFI, who graced the Download stage for the first time. Pop-punk heroes Simple Plan brought the fun as Saturday’s Avalanche Stage headliners, whilst ex-Murderdolls frontman Wednesday 13 laid waste to The Dogtooth Stage. Horror-rock legendRob Zombie turned the Zippo Encore Stage into his trademark twisted carnival with a spectacularly visual show and massive hits such as ‘Dragula’, ‘Superbeast’ and ‘Living Dead Girl’.

Biffy Clyro claimed their well-earned place atop the festival bill on Saturday. The Scottish rock titans rattled through a set of modern rock classics including ‘Many Of Horror’, ’Black Chandelier’ and ‘The Captain’ – as well as some deep cuts – with the crowd singing every word back to them. Simon Neil prepared the crowd for Aerosmith by leading a sing-along of‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ before launching into their finale of ‘Stinging Belle’ with a pyrotechnic show to make Rammstein jealous.

Throughout the weekend, WWE NXT provided non-stop high impact action in their full size wrestling arena. Capacity crowds were amazed with displays of skill, athleticism and high flying manoeuvres as the most electrifying names in sports entertainment delivered the full NXT experience to Donington Park. The knockout moment of the weekend came from a loved up festival-goer as she proposed to her boyfriend in the NXT Arena, with the engagement ring in an X-Box themed container. They are now happily engaged following the couple’s first Download Festival together.

Sunday was wrestled into submission as WWE Hall of Fame legend Chris Jericho opened the Main Stage with an electrifying set as frontman of Fozzy. Glam superstars Steel Panther hit the stage with their tongues firmly in cheek, delivering a trademark debaucherous live show. Crowds roared through sets by In Flames, DevilDriver, The King Blues and Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics. Hard Rock Juggernauts Alter Bridge, led by the legendary Myles Kennedy gave an immense performance setting the stage perfectly for Sunday night’s mind-blowing headliners.

‘America’s Great Rock Band’ Aerosmith took to the Download Festival Main Stage on Sunday evening for their final ever UK appearance. Having received worldwide praise on their ‘Aero-Verdeci Baby!’ tour, the audience were treated to an unbelievable show laden with mega-hits ‘Love In An Elevator’ and ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’, followed by the whole of Donington Park singing along to the epic ‘Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ before closing with‘Walk This Way’. Liv Tyler looked on as Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton and Brad Whitford brought the 15th edition of Download to a close in true style.

Highlights of the 15th Download Festival will be broadcast on SKY ARTS on 23 and 24 June from 9pm – midnight.


Leah Hamer

‘I’ve spent a lot of time with my cat. She’s called Lily. I’m a dog man really but I’m into cats now. So I do that a lot. I Instagram her a lot. I cook food a lot. Then I write songs for the rest of the day. It’s pretty intense…’  

That was how the lead singer of indie-rock band Circa Waves, Kieran Shudall, responded to the question- what have you been up to? 

Far from sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

In a sticky dressing room in Keele University’s Student Union, ahead of their gig at Woodstoke, Kieran greeted me with a warm hug and charming scouse accent. He laughed as he recalled how his me-time had been spent in the past few weeks that Circa Waves had been taking time off to enjoy a well-deserved break from band life. With his busy schedule being taken up with his cat and eating food, Kieran has been apart from his fellow band mates Sam Rourke, Colin Jones and Joe Falconer who have all become Southern traitors of late. 

‘They’ve all fucked off to London and I still live in Liverpool. I think they’ve seen each other but I stick to my Northern roots. Represent. Stick to the scousers.’ He says with a sly smile. ‘But to be fair after being on tour for so long, time apart is much needed.’ Especially for what the band has in store for the rest of the year, which is hectic to say the least. 

‘We’ve got an American tour for a few weeks, then it will be festival season- so we’ve got Glastonbury- which will be amazing, Reading and Leeds, some more European festivals. Then we’re in Japan, South Korea, Mexico, then back to America. It’s non-stop. But that’s the way we like it.’ 

After forming back in 2013, if the members of Circa Waves didn’t like to be busy- they’d be in a lot of trouble by now. After the success of their debut album, Young Chasers, the band became over-night stars and their success has led to the recent release of the newest album, Different Creatures, just a few short months ago. Yet Kieran is already thinking of new music. 
‘I’m always writing to be honest. I’ve probably written another record. But I want to figure out what is all about and not rush it too much. Hopefully we’ll release something by the end of the year or early next year.’ 

As the core writer, Kieran spends most of his time capturing melodies on his iPhone the second he gets an idea. ‘I’ve got about a billion terrible ideas on my phone.’ Yet he is always searching for those special tracks. ‘I like the big songs. I’m really into pop writing and anything that can make a huge collection of people sing along. I get a big kick off that, opposed to the quieter album tracks which are great but I’m about the reaction. I like to see how a song goes from being played in your living room to having 30,000 people singing it. I look for those songs. But they don’t come that often.’ 

On this sweltering summers evening, Circa Waves are always identified as being a summers band due to their hit track, T-Shirt Weather, so this makes tonight an entirely suitable gig for them. ‘The first album always goes down well at a gig like this. But the second album is a lot darker, somehow though they intertwine quite strangely and it works.’ 

Although they have been moving away from the happy, cheeky business of Young Chasers, towards a darker feel in Different Creatures, the transition has not been deliberate. ‘We are naturally steering away from the pop stuff but if I write song like Fossils or T-Shirt Weather again I’m not going to discount it. It’s just what I’m writing at the time. Now I’m writing an in-between of the two albums- a happy medium so it will be interesting to see what comes out. It’s not happy or sad…it’s aggressively euphoric.’ 

Throughout his time as a songwriter Kieran has loved to write pop music in an unobvious way, ‘I don’t go out to please fans but I love bands like The Beatles, The Killers and Kings of Leon who write pop songs in a rock way. The best songs are always genuine and have heart to them because people can tell when it’s false. So I try to keep it real…God, I sound old telling you to keep it real.’ He laughs. 

And with that old school advice, Kieran left to prepare for the Keele Ballroom stage, where a crowd of greasy fans awaited their performance at Woodstoke. 



Maximo Park @ Albert Hall Manchester 19.5.17

Bethan Shuff

The Albert Hall is a beautiful music venue; stained glass windows, high ceiling and a huge organ as the stage backdrop with stunning acoustics. No venue would have been a better choice for Maximo Park’s sold out Manchester show.

The only support act, on at 8:00, was Pins; a Mancunian five-piece, all female rock band that walked on stage with attitude and confidence. Their stage presence and appearance, all half-matching in black, mesh and leather, oozed sass and screamed fierce, but not as fierce as their fiery feministic tracks. Armed with their own quirky instruments, representing a little part of their personality, the girls laid down killer riffs on top of addictive drums, added to by dreamy synth tones and tambourine. With two microphones, singer Faith Holgate was able to switch between vocals drowned in reverb, and others in a spacey delay, joined by an ensemble of harmonies from the rest of the band. Pins are a voice of empowerment for women, with tracks like ‘Bad Thing’ singing ‘everyone says we’re no good; we don’t do what we should,’ and ‘Girls Like US’ having strong, girl-power messages. The world definitely needs more all-female rock bands like Pins, challenging the stereotype of the ‘girl-band’.

With six studio albums under their belt, it’s a wonder how Maximo Park whittle their catalogue down to just 20 songs for a set list. Well actually, the band had tailored set lists for each leg of the tour, mixing up their tracks so that each venue got its own unique show. Opening the set were two tracks from their brand new album Risk To Exist released last month, ‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This’ and the title track ‘Risk To Exist’. Paul is a frontman and a half, dressed in a blue tailored suit with matching hat, a leopard print shirt, a mint green belt, red socks and black and white brogues, anyone else would have looked ridiculous – but not Paul Smith. With each movement made choreographed to perfection, he showed us what showmanship is really about. The last time I saw Maximo Park perform, Paul had recently had an operation on his eye and was donning some sunglasses saying he wasn’t trying to be Bono, but he shouldn’t have been gigging at all. It was brilliant to see him back at 100% and able to give it his all, throwing in the first of many scissor kicks during the first three tracks.

Sneaked into the set were some hot-topic political numbers from the latest album like Respond to the Feeling and Work and Wait, as well as The National Health, taken from their The National Health album. I can’t help but think that Paul was urging a message to the people regarding the upcoming election in playing these tracks. The tracks included lyrics like ‘What’s left for you if everybody is turning right?’ and ‘The right-wing views have been getting me down’.
Slowing it down momentarily, catching his breath from the robot dancing which he has mastered an made to look cool, Paul commented on the beauty of the Albert Hall before going on to say that they’re a romantic band, about to play a romantic song about falling in love with someone during a thunderstorm. A gorgeous performance of a track the band rarely play live ‘Questing, Not Coasting’ was played and the atmosphere in the room was just brimming. 

There’s never a dull moment at a Maximo Park gig, be it Paul’s dancing or Lukas trying to stand on his keyboard; you never can guess what’s coming next. Paul got a megaphone out during Going Missing to create some funky no-pedal-can-do-this effect as well as an Axl Rose-esque shimmy that appears to be ‘unintentional but inevitable’ as he sung What Equals Love. It was the last night of the show, and it was being filmed by a camera crew. Paul talked about how the fans are the reason the band are still playing music and was incredibly down-to-earth as he addressed the audience that had completely packed out the floor and circle of Albert Hall. 

Momentarily off-stage, the roars from the crowd grew louder and louder until Maximo Park returned to the stage for their last encore of the tour with By The Monument, a track ‘about having fun; it could be about taking your clothes off, but it’s mainly about being alive next year’: Apply Some Pressure, and finally another track from the new album called Get High.

Paul Smith was the last to walk off the stage as he continued to just look out into the audience grinning from ear to ear after the final exhilarating set of an incredible tour celebrating the release of their new and exciting music. Maximo Park are on a roll, and there’s absolutely no stopping them.

The Ordinary Boys at The Exchange

Leah Hamer // May 16th

Kicking off proceedings for the evening, were popular indie quartet, The Gurus, who took on their opening slot with their usual might and reverence. With quick, slick licks from Jamie Ball on lead, to cool, relatable lyrics from frontman Jimmy Hackley, their whole persona as a band is always a crowd-pleaser. With well-established tracks like Flashing Lights and Gravel in their arsenal, they don’t need to do too much more than rock up and play these days. After the gig came the news that The Gurus will be taking a break from performing until the foreseeable future, in order to focus on creating another blinding set-list for our listening pleasure.

Next up were the rebranded and revived, Camens, formerly known as LazyEye. With a mid-noughties, indie-pop sound reminiscent of The Wombats and The Pigeon Detectives, they have that charming, cheeky sensibility which always goes down well with an audience. A set-list filled with observational, quirky lyrics and catchy hooks meant that the minds of fans leaving the basement of The Exchange, were circling with the choruses of Camens. Their latest single, Boys Will Stray, was the primary culprit of this, with is dashing melody and energetic feel. After that performance, it’s clear the boys are back with an unstoppable ferocity and desire to storm the scene once again.

Ennio Morricone’s foreboding theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly thundered through the venue, as a hearty crowd of fans sardined themselves into the prime position in front of the stage. All eagerly stared to the left to try and catch a glimpse of The Ordinary Boys, preening themselves at the side of the stage. The mob fell into a roar, as the band rolled onto the stage and frontman, Preston, greeted everyone with his usual cocky charm.

One song in and chaos had already been inflicted, as the drummer smashed through his kit in an instant to the panic of the roadies. Fortunately, all was fixed in time for one out of the two singles that everyone was desperate for, Talk Talk Talk. The iconic riff churned as the crowd began to chant, mimicking the laddish voice of Preston.

As a band who have had a quiet career since their mid-noughties heyday and as a character with a reputation, Preston and the rest of The Ordinary Boys, made this part of their act and found humour in a subject that most bands would shy away from. Before playing tracks from their self-title latest album, they laughed- ‘We’re a lazy band…we put out an album but we forgot to promote it…so you won’t know any of this.’ As some lairy lads in the crowd begged for the track, Seaside, they commented again- ‘When we were young and successful, we used to have trumpets in this song…but since we’re no longer young or successful…we need you to be our trumpets.’ It was this banter and laughter, muddled up with the nostalgic riffs and barmy attitude that created such a lively atmosphere.

After their fake exit in preparation for the encore (Preston remarked, ‘We’re meant be going off stage but I’m just going hide behind my amp instead’), the crowd prepared for that ultimate indie anthem to blare out of their speakers, Boys Will Be Boys. Preston dived into the crowd and left the singing up to us, which was an easy task. Drinks flying, sweat pouring, a horde high on youthful memories and the era of The Ordinary Boys

The Hubbards- Just Touch

Leah Hamer || April 13th

The Hubbards have already proven to be an on-trend band by engaging in that pop-grunge fashion which is so vividly circulating in both the underground and chart scene, as championed by the likes of JAWS, Blossoms and Darlia. With mammoth support slots with bands like The Pigeon Detectives and Augustines, it is no wonder that they’re being closely watched by BBC Radio 1 and 6Music.

After the success of their debut EP, Cold Cut, The Hubbards return with their new single Just Touch, released through Scruff of the Neck Records.  

An opening riff with a sprinkling of similarity to Interpol’s Slow Hands, kicks off the track before the hazy, distinct vocals of Reuben Driver merge in. A memorable, spacey hook intrudes- I just wanna say, I don’t like your boyfriend, and its later varied repetition is just as charming- I just wanna say, I don’t like your girlfriend.

An upbeat chorus is revealed with a building set of crashing drums and the screeching collision of distorted guitars, all surrounding the intoxicating vocals, before the verse pattern re-emerges. In a mirroring effect, the track ends with the same riff and effects before its sharp descent into silence.

The accompanying video is a one-take rolling piece of action, following Reuben’s path inside and out of a half-painted, student house, matching the see-sawing melody of the track with every camera angle.  

You can catch The Hubbards live on April 21st at Rocking Chair, Sheffield or April 28th at Old Blue Last, London. 

Just Touch is out now. 

When The Pigeon Detectives took over The Sugarmill

Bethan Shuff || March 15th

In celebration of their new album, Broken Glances, The Pigeon Detectives returned to The Sugarmill for another round of madness. The album has only been out two weeks, but has had brilliant feedback according to the band. I caught up with Ryan, Oliver and David before the gig to chat about the tour.

Broken Glances is the fifth release from the band, and is a progressive step away from their late 2000s work, guitarist Ryan Wilson pitched why you should buy this album with ‘It’s an album that we wanted to make without any preconceptions of the band. If you like The Pigeon Detectives then it’s a great album to buy for the diversity of it.’ The album is more experimental and mature, evident in the fact that Enemy Lines, from the latest album, is worlds apart from Take Her Back and I’m Not Sorry, but there’s still the charm of The Pigeon Detectives in each track.

The Sugarmill was the eighth pit stop on their jam-packed thirteen date tour, and had taken only one day off. Their Instagram post the previous night had mentioned that they were going to ‘have a night off the booze’, which didn’t go to plan, but David Best (bassist) said that the band have ‘become immune to the powers of alcohol, so we don’t get hangovers… but the shows have been so good that that’s the energy that gets you through.’

‘The tour is the best thing about being in a band’ guitarist, Oliver Main said, ‘touring is never bad, even half sold out gigs – the hour and fifteen minutes you’re on stage. The rest of touring is boring but the hour and fifteen minutes on stage makes up for it.’ With regards to the best part of a live show, there isn’t one; just the fact that not two gigs are the same ‘and that’s the magic of live music.’

I dread to think what goes on in most tour buses, however when asked what the funniest thing that’s happened in their tour bus, The Pigeon Detectives answer is simply: their drummer, Jimmi. ‘When he’s drunk he’s really quite comedic; he’s like a big drunk dummy. You can just mess with him. His eyes go but he’s a really pleasant drunk. The amount of times we’ve been sat in the back of the tour bus and his eyes, ones pointing one way and one’s pointing the other way and he just makes noises and makes us laugh. Jimmi is the funniest thing to happen to us on the tour bus.’

After this tour, the boys are going to wind down and recover for about three weeks before jumping straight back into a busy schedule of festivals like Live at Leeds and some unannounced fests too, and in Autumn there is talks of a 10 Year Anniversary tour for Wait For Me, The Pigeon Detectives first album.

First to step onto the stage of The Sugarmill was The Tiny Minds, opening the bill with a persona that was far from what their name would suggest. I like to watch bands that make you ask questions to yourself, this time my question was ‘why is the frontman (Duncan Foster) wearing a winter hat alongside a summer vest and sunglasses?’ but it was funky and got him noticed, so it worked. The band looked and sounded as though they had just stepped off the Madchester scene, despite being from Hebden Bridge. Their confidence and attitude kicked off what was already looking to be a great night as more and more people arrived.

Franklin, a four-piece from St Albans, were the touring support for The Pigeon Detectives, accompanying the band on 10 of their 13 dates. A punchy and powerful set with some incredibly intricate guitar licks executed by guitarist Brandon Hargrave, considering the fact he’d broken his index finger and couldn’t use it, they were still mastered. Causes was a firm favourite from the set with its building verse and pre-chorus into a spiralling and electric chorus. The band geared everyone up for the headliners between tracks asking if we were ready for The Pigeon Detectives; everyone screamed yes, but they didn’t know what they were letting themselves into and they certainly weren’t ready for what was next.

The Pigeon Detectives kicked off their set with Enemy Lines, and there was a huge buzz from the get-go. As Matt sung Over the top and to enemy lines he comically walked along the balance beam that was the raised front of the stage. Matt is a very agile beast considering he’s literally bouncing from one side of the stage to the next, diving between bits of gear and dancing around; he always lands on his feet – a bit like a cat. This Is An Emergency took us on a nostalgic trip to 2008 and the crowd was mental, and Matt getting more and more energetic as the set went on. How someone has that much energy to jump around and perform as he does for an hour and fifteen minutes is extraordinary. Classic indie anthems like I Found Out , Animal and Keep On Your Dress got everyone singing and dancing, and the new tracks like Lose Control and A Little Bit Alone were laced in between, and whilst very different to the older tracks, they fit in perfectly.

Matt’s energy only got more intense with time, swinging his microphone around and catching it mid-flow to carry on singing the lyrics that everybody knew – however at one point he did nearly take one of the bouncers out with one of the many mics that inevitably broke. By mid-set, everyone was drenched in either sweat, alcohol or the water that was being thrown to and on the crowd. ‘You look like you’re gasping for a drink of water mate’ Matt says as he looks up at the balcony, ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ he laughed as he launched an open bottle of water into the air to be caught above by a thirsty fan.

As Jimmi, Oliver, Ryan and David played the tunes of our childhoods, Matt shoved his mic into his pocket and lunged over the stage and towards the crowd that caught him as he got involved with them, taking people’s phones a filming himself singing and showing them all some love. He made his entry back onto the stage in the form of a fall, styled into a roly-poly, and surprisingly landed back on his feet again. He spoke to the crowd and told us of how Stoke is always the highlight of the tour and told us of the anniversary gigs they’ll be doing later in the year.

During one of the tracks, Jimmi managed to break his pedal, and Matt joked that he does this every 12 or 13 gigs ‘when he doesn’t feel like he’s getting enough attention’, he joked as the roadie resolved the problem before going straight back into a stellar set. They finished the set with Take Her Back, a well-loved track that everyone knows despite whether or not you actually know the band. The band left the stage briefly before coming back on to talk about the pretence of an encore because ‘we know that you know that we know that we’re coming back on’, finishing the show with I’m Not Gonna Take This and I’m Not Sorry.

The Pigeon Detectives performed one of the most insane, lively shows The Sugarmill has seen, and exhilaration filled the room in an adrenaline haze as mind-boggled fans left the venue utterly speechless.

The Pigeon Detectives Return To The Sugarmill


Leah Hamer || March 9th

The Pigeon Detectives have been blasting our ears with untameable, catchy, indie-pop tunes since 2004. If you don’t hear I Found Out or Take Her Back on a night on the town, have you even been out? But after thirteen years of upbeat, boy meets girl lyrics and bouncy rhythms, the five lads from Leeds have unleashed, Broken Glances- a fresh, mature and experimental album that has sparked the attention of their fans- old and new.

Ahead of their performance at The Sugarmill, Stoke, on Friday 10th March, REBEL spoke to their drummer, Jimmi Naylor, about their growth as a band and how Broken Glances has become his favourite work to date.

On the 24th February, The Pigeon Detectives released their fifth studio album, Broken Glances, a thoughtful collection of harmonious tracks- somewhat different from their usual charming, laddish singles. ‘The album is more concise than albums of previous. Stylistically it's my favourite and has more of a classic album vibe as oppose to an album of songs which all feel like singles. It's sonically more experimental.’ Jimmi states, reflecting on their new approach to music.

After a decade of releasing material, since their first smash hit, Wait For Me, and a four-year gap since their last album, We Met At Sea, it must be difficult to forge new sounds and styles, whilst maintaining true to your original ethos. ‘Some of it came easy and some of it was more difficult.’ Jimmi confesses, ‘I think it was a challenge writing melodies in a more subtle way than we may are used to, but the sound aspect was easy. We were all pretty set on the direction we were going to take so it was just a case of testing lots of guitar FX pedals, amps and outboard effect units to set out what we wanted to achieve. That was a lot of fun.’

Despite the new approach, the reaction has still been overwhelming, as usual. ‘It's been awesome. People have been championing different tracks for different reasons. I think it's enjoyable for lots of different kinds of people: musos who are into really alternative stuff and people who dip in and out of more accessible music.’

To celebrate the albums launch, the five-piece have loaded up the tour bus for another string of UK and international dates, including Stoke-On-Trent’s Sugarmill, this Friday, each stop Jimmi eagerly anticipates, ‘Scotland crowds are always well up for getting lairy and jumping around. Plus we enjoy the big London shows. But we always look forward to playing abroad, Amsterdam and Berlin in particular.’

The band have always prided themselves on their vivacious live performances, and nothing has changed since the first time they stepped onto a stage, ‘We maybe take the live performance a little more seriously than before, but we still play hard after the show and try to take the whole experience in. So we soak up the mad crowds, and the culture of all the different cities we travel to. We know we're not going to be doing this forever!’

Jimmi cannot stress the importance of performing live hard enough, ‘DO NOT neglect your live show!’ Is his strict order to up and coming bands, ‘Play as much as physically possible and continue improving your performance. We made our career out of live shows, it's very rare a band makes a wave off the back of a demo.’ 

As a band that have toured all over the globe endlessly, Jimmi’s favourite memories of life in The Pigeon Detectives remain close to home, ‘My favourite memory has to be the first we played Reading and Leeds Festival. Reading came first; we walked out onto the Carling Stage and the tent was bursting at the seams with people outside trying to get in.’

That was before they even released their first album, so you can imagine what kind of reaction they conjure these days, but for the lucky few that have obtained a ticket to their sold out show at The Sugarmill on Friday 10th March, you’ll see it for yourself.

Brooders Release Debut Mini Album

Leah Hamer || February 13th

Brooders are a charming, young, three-piece grunge band hailing from Leeds, who on February 10th released their self-titled, debut mini album.

Static white noise and trailing drums kicks off the mini LP, with Thrill Killer, before a grizzly riff appears and Adam Bairstow’s nasty vocals appear. Bairstow see-saws between a classical rock voice and a course, vicious scream throughout. Short and snappy- Thrill Killer is a small taste of the angst to come. Followed by Cling which begins with a plucking bass and distorted vocals. It is a softer example of their abilities, or so you initially think. The muted grunge slowly bubbles into an overflowing chemical eruption.

Say Your Prayers allows Bairstow to take the spotlight, with the quiet verses contrasting against the acidic chorus. Yet it is the staggering solos at the end that leave you breathless. Haze has a funky rhythm and a cool attitude, making it an avid choice for their single release. It has charisma and a righteous appreciation for a guitar line.

Blue Eyed Prince is a welcomed mix up- calming and rhythmic- allowing you to appreciate each individual component of Brooders. Then final track Melancholy somehow manages to incorporate every single element of their former tracks, in one pounding celebration.

Daring, dangerous and dirty in places, whilst tranquil and melodic in others- Brooders have mastered the art of versatility in this debut release.

Brooders will next play live on Friday 24th March at the Brundenell Social Club in Leeds.