smilefest2012

Johnny Foreigner // Pirate Video Company // Nine Miles South // UNIT 7th March

      Wednesday night’s only SMILE gig began with the band Nine Miles South, filling Unit’s upstairs with their brand of Yank-influenced rock. Anybody who listened to them would be surprised to hear that they hail from Guildford, as their music wouldn’t go amiss on a Texan classic-rock radio station. The music is riff-heavy, with guitar solos displaying an impressive level of musicality, and vocals that contain that distinctive American ‘twang’ all make for a sound that is unusual for an underground act, but is still very familiar, with strong comparisons to bands such as Black Stone Cherry.

      What happens when you mix together jarring riffs, distorted bass tones, manic drumbeats and belted vocals? You get Pirate Video Company. Upon first glance, tonight’s second act look like an ordinary indie band, but looks are deceiving, because as soon as the hardcore indie rock’n’roll hits, audience members are left not quite sure what it is that is happening right before them. With the audience members standing a few metres away from the stage, instead of asking them politely to move forward, Max Cleworth utilises the space, throwing himself around violently as he belts with the anger of an army of repressed teenagers. The band some how manages to combine several music elements that remind you both of a lot of things, and nothing in particular at the same time. It’s obvious that each member of this band has brought their own influences to the band, and together they create something that is truly unique.

      Johnny Foreigners set began in a charmingly unusual manner, with the interval music being faded out, and then suddenly, from somewhere within the room an audience member, began singing. - “Sleep walk the Reeperbahn, the soberest photographs”. - This audience member was none other than Alexei Berrow; the bands lead vocalist and guitarist. He was soon joined by the voice of Bass player Kelly Southern, singing delicate vocals from the other side of the room - “So somewhere there’s a party that you’re not invited too”. - As they both showcased their vocal ability; filling the room with their voices, they join drummer Jr Elvis Washington on stage.

      What followed was nothing short of incendiary. During Thursday’s edition of ‘In Da Tub’, when asked why Johnny Foreigner was booked for the show, promoter Ollie Lewis simply replied ‘I love them’, and it’s easy to see why. The bands music consisted of a tight mix of technical yet emotive guitar playing, basslines that provided a smooth backline to the complex riffs, rapid drumbeats, and simplistic synths that filled out the sound when it needed that little something extra. All of this combined with three-piece vocal harmonies made for a sound that a 5-piece band would be proud to achieve, let alone a 3-piece. Johnny Foreigners nearly hour-long set was punctuated with deliberately awkward banter, merchandise sales pitches and ended with Alexei dropping his guitar to the ground, upsetting his guitar rig in the process and causing the gig to end in a mass of feedback, making for quite the crescendo. For a show they admitted “felt like a bit of a rehearsal”, they gave it their all, and commended the promoters of the show for forking out the cash to book them.

      All in all, Nine Miles South displayed the technical skills and musicality of the night, while Pirate Video Company tore it up with deliberate anger, spirit and a whole lot of energy. Followed by this was Johnny Foreigner, managing to combine a high-level of musicianship with a tenor of feeling to a blistering effect.


All images from last-night’s Johnny Foreigner show are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/behindthesmile/sets/72157629174300606/

Hearts Under Fire // Nikson // Ideawake // Liam Bane // Avondale House 1st March

Nothing about tonight particularly exclaims ‘SMILE’. The posters for tonight are absent of any mention of the event, the bands certainly had no idea about the event, and most of the audience members were there as ritual for Thursday night RPS show. So we take it with a pinch of salt that this is a 'grand opening’, and prefer to think of it as an entrée for the approaching week. Perhaps it was an anxiety or desperation to get things underway that led to tonight being bundled in with the rest of SMILE, but those oblivious to the event would have felt no better educated by the time they have left.

 

Moving on to the event itself though, taking to the stage first was Liam Bane, a West Country folk performer sporting a small green military cap. With exception to his most well received number about masturbation, Bane’s songs spoke of bitterness and nostalgia for his West Country roots, with a trembling vocal style similar to that of Bombay Bicycle Club’s lead singer. His repore with the crowd was entertaining to all who listened in which it was clear that Bane was an individual, very much comfortable within this intimate environment.

 

An almost immediate second to the stage were Ideawake, who sadly produced a very unimaginative, tired display of riff heavy classic rock, with formulaic guitar solos and the occasional comical falsetto vocal harmony. I had the feeling that the group had been quarantined since their last performance at the U16’s battle of the bands competition and although well rehearsed had not been exposed to anything different to what are the usual tastes of a young juvenile.  Nothing unique could be said about the group in which a spark was never ignited to send the crowd into a frenzy. Instead they just lost interest.

 

Hungarian Pop Punkers Nikson completed the support with a selection of songs that could fit quite easily into the closing scene of any American Pie movie, a sound heard more and more since those who grew older with that music fail to grow up. This isn’t to say they don’t do it with credibility, as they do. Aggression was struck with every chord, guitars smashed on stage floors, drumsticks were thrown in the direction of band member and every 18 to 20something in the crowd was filled with a reminiscent teen spirit. Although abruptly ended, finished the set to a rapturous applause with the guitarist reminding all, that ‘We are Nikson……. from f***ing Hungary!’

 

 Hungarian Pop Punkers Nikson rocking the stage

The venue is its fullest yet as Hearts Under Fire earned their headlining slot with their solid well executed punk rock. The all girl four piece appeared to have more valiance and spunk than any of their predecessors that appeared earlier, rocking the stage quite literally with the microphones escaping stands and set lists flying all over the place as a result of their energetic live performance, completed with foot-stomps, high kicks and head-banging. Fronted by bassist and vocalist Mary O'Regan, the band showed a great camaraderie throughout their set, very much enjoying the music they are producing, and rightly so! Last night the attendees may have left Avondale House none the wiser on SMILE, but at least they left smiling after a spirited set from Hearts Under Fire.


Ballsy spirit from Surrey’s Hearts Under Fire

View all the images from last night’s show @ http://bit.ly/HeartsUnderFireAvondale

Bryony Marie-Fry // Tom James // The Art House 3rd March

Walking into The Art House cafe you would be forgiven for thinking that you have just entered a local coffee shop in the heart of New York City; Southampton’s own ‘Central Perk’ if you will. There was a relaxed, intimate atmosphere with an overall sense of calm and tranquility emanating from the audience. Although not filled to capacity, there was a decent turn out, consisting of bohemian types who were both responsive and appreciative of the artists.

Kicking off the festivities in the upstairs room was Tom James, an extremely talented musician who’s impressive style is quite clearly influenced by the likes of John Butler, Newton Faulkner and Jason Mraz . This is not to say he is merely a carbon copy as he manages to take these influences, mix them up and create something which is his own. The audience seemed to be in awe of the intricate guitar parts, captivated by the young man’s emotive voice and intelligent lyrics. 'To The Bone’ was a particular highlight of the set, with his soft and resonant voice demonstrating his unique vocal ability. The fast paced verses have you hanging onto his every word, before being drawn in by the incredibly catchy chorus. Not only is he a talented guitarist, but shifting seamlessly between upbeat, life-affirming, and slow, melancholy, he proves to his audience that he is a very well rounded artist, as they respond with a round of applause and a rousing cheer after each song. Between songs, Tom seemed at ease in his environment and although not particularly talkative, exuded a quiet confidence, in keeping with the atmosphere of the venue. The only down side to this altogether amazing set was that it just didn’t last long enough.

Tom James

Next up is Bryony Marie-Fry who took up headline duties after The Widowmaker had to pull out at the last minute due to illness. It was obvious that she was slightly uncomfortable with the idea of headlining, looking slightly out of her depth. However, once she began to play, an immediate transformation could be seen, changing from a shy, unassuming girl to a confident, self-assured singer-songwriter. The opening song was a dedication to a friend who had died five years previous and her sense of loss was palpable as she sang with everything she had, and with pure emotion. Her sound was unique, incorporating folk with indie and even a bit of country, as she sang bitter sweet lyrics about love and loss. The set as a whole did seem to lack a bit of variety, with songs sounding all too familiar at times, and if not for a stunning rendition of Bon Iver’s 'Skinny Love’, may have fallen slightly short of the mark. Although, not as technically proficient as Tom James, she performed to an extremely high standard, singing with just as much passion and talent, and received an equally positive reaction from the audience, who were left wanting more.

Bryony Marie-Fry

The show then, was a success, and although it could have been let down by the last minute cancellation of the headline band, it never felt lacking, as the remaining artists more than made up for it in their outstanding quality. It would be great to see more shows taking place in interesting, unique venues such as The Art House as they offer something different with the warm, welcoming atmosphere and staff who seem to genuinely care more about music and arts than they do about making a profit.

Smile In The Square// Guildhall Square 10th March

It was the grand finale, the concluding spectacle and the glorious ending to what has been arguably the best Smile Fest yet! I am of course talking about last Saturday’s ‘Smile in the Square’, an afternoon full of entertainment, with 10 bands gracing the bouncy castle stage along with Orange Room DJ’s and the music circle.

The day as a whole ran very smoothly, as more and more people threw off their shirts jumpers and hoodies to lay relaxed on the guildhall grass as the day went on. The sun and gentle breeze also proved a great catalyst for the event’s success, which encouraged many to re-live the festival experience be it through dancing or relaxing. The event started with a selection of acoustic acts including the openers The Kaleurs, country solo artist Kathryn Anderson and Charissa, who managed to uniquely transform a number of pop covers into a more folk genre format. After a succession of soothing light hearted performances it was then followed by the more upbeat Oliver who matched the increasing temperatures with their kooky funk numbers that were for most people, the afternoon’s highlight.

More bands including the bluesy Alice Avenue, the classic rock outfit 7th Revolution and others then also took to the stage before the eccentric and electric Fly Frankie Fly really brought the audience to life. The pinked up Frankie in his headband and shorts soon went head to head with a topless ‘Bez’ like character (minus the maraca’s) who pulled out a variety of sensational grooves which captivated the audience, forced out video cameras and brought the audience closer to the barrier. A competitive dance off that could rival the disco scenes of Saturday Night Fever followed and created a more energetic atmosphere.

 Fly Frankie Fly Dance-Off

Cardinals then closed the event with their dreamy set of slow hits, which sounded similar to Athlete and a host of other melodic indie bands that reigned in the mid 2000’s. The group lacked the same charisma or ignited performance as their predecessor but their overall sound worked quite nicely once dusk arrived. The comedy compeers Ben Shannon and Daryl Edge who provided jokes, sketches and wrestling in between changeovers throughout the day then introduced Chris Anderton and Martin James to the stage once Cardinals had finished. The pair and founders of SMILE then praised the organisers of this brilliant event as well as a list of thankyou’s and compliments to everyone else involved. It is likely that the pair will now go off to prepare for a bigger and better SMILE 2013 however it must be noted that the standards and expectations are now set even more higher than before.

Photos from the day are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/behindthesmile/sets/72157629553761339/

Guest Lecture With Zoe Ball // 9th March

Zoe Ball currently reigns as one of the most familiar presenters on both television and radio. Famous for her work on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show and her presenting of the 90’s kids show ‘Live and Kicking’, Ball came down for a chat on the sofa, interviewed by fellow Media queen Briggy Smale.

Entering the JM Theatre in her glittering flower patterned jacket, Zoe began the talk by encouraging the audience to carry out different projects related to their desired field of work. She put emphasis on the fact that the more material you produce, the more impressive it will look for potential employers, either for paid work or for placement. She followed this by crediting the infrastructure of the BBC and their teaching process from an early stage, pinpointing this as the best company to get involved in.

Providing insights into the production of radio and the playlist selection process was then also covered by the special guest speaker. She criticised some stations for not allowing DJ’s to have the influence on the music selected, holding it partly responsible for the difficulty for underground bands to break through.

The session as a whole was filled with helpful tips to succeed in the media world, shocking celebrity revelations courtesy of Briggy and a few curious insights into the production of TV and Radio. The audience were very appreciative of the knowledge Zoe provided which really justified the awarding of a fellowship to her at the end of the talk. 

Guest Lecture With Alabama 3 // 9th March

Yesterday afternoon, JM315 gave way to the legendary Country/Techno outfit Alabama 3. The two members who by alias are best known as Larry Love and Rock Freebase fed the audience with their view points, their music and their tales which were all delivered in a very rock ‘n’ roll political spirit.

The duo started off, by discussing their unique sound, a fascinating blend of Country and Techno, commenting on how so many Country purists were offended because of their numerous drug references. They went on to discuss genre conventions and how they broke them with their rave related lyrical themes and incorporation of dance sub genres.

They moved on, with a continuous debate about illegally downloading, with the pair expressing their surprised agreement of downloading for free. They stated that ‘If you can download it, download it, if you can file share, file share but if you buy it you are a donut!’justifying these remarks from saying how they believe it helps to sell the bigger picture and how it can provide more revenue in the form of merchandise sales and gigging.

Arguably the band’s biggest accomplishment has been the penning of the track ‘Woke Up This Morning’, the entrance theme for the popular US drama The Sopranos. They exclaimed of their pride from being a part of the series, which came about from a David Chase (Sopranos Creator) phone call who at first, ‘thought we were 3 young black kids from the Bronx’. On topic, Larry also informed us of a Kellogg’s offer for the track who wanted to use the song for an upcoming commercial, with the lyrics re-worded to sing ‘Woke up this morning, had myself some bran’. They kindly refused.

The guys went on to finish with a strong four-song set with songs off their new album that could be regarded as fine pieces of political satire and social commentary. The song about last summer’s London Riots was a personal highlight.

Brother & Bones // Oliver // Simon Says // Made By Giants // Avondale House 8th March

Reviewed previously by Behind The Smile, from a Joiners show just two days earlier, Made By Giants start off tonight’s show at Avondale House with music which is perhaps better suited in the afternoon with a cappuccino, than a night-time live music venue. Their music is pretty and relaxing, and they are good at what they do, but they don’t give the impression of musicians that are trying to achieve too much. The acoustic duo’s final song, a cover of Foo Fighter’s “My Hero” isn’t the most imaginative of song covers, and it fails to rouse much of a reaction from the restless and growing crowd at Avondale, who are perhaps wanting something louder.

Not many bands can write seemingly nonsense songs about subject matters like peanut butter jelly and still maintain their integrity, but Simon Says manage to pull it off with their brand of infectious reggae. A fun-loving band that left the more uninhibited members of the audience smiling, Simon Says made their way through a lively set, showing themselves to be completely at ease with the audience between songs and encourage sing-along’s during, and it is clear with the amount of audience members singing along, that a number of people have seen them before. While this is a promising sign that shows they are building up a fan base, they should not forget to refresh their well-rehearsed set before they begin to show signs of becoming stale.

 Simon Says

The penultimate act of the night (and the second who have been previously reviewed by us), Oliver, step up to the plate next with a sound that can be described best as calypso infused pop. This is a band that would be best listened to sitting on a beach in Jamaica, sipping on cocktails. Lead by the soulful voice of Bonnie Elizabeth, the band remains tight throughout, as the bassist holds down the rhythm with some skillfully crafted walking bass lines. Their catchy vocal melodies grab the audience’s attention throughout the set, and as the band vacate the stage, the songs are still ringing in the ears of the crowd.

The venue is at full capacity for tonight’s headliner Brother & Bones, and there is an atmosphere of anticipation throughout the venue. The addition of a second drum kit meant that anyone who had not already heard of the London-based 5 piece were left expecting something exceptional. - and exceptional it was. With the full force of a nuclear bomb to the face, Brother & Bones deliver a blistering half-hour set filled with perfectly synchronised, stomping beats from the two drummers. Impressive guitar work, rhythmic bass, excellent dynamics and folky vocal harmonies combine to create their patented sound. With an airtight set, well crafted songs, and a sound that leaves an audience breathless, Brother & Bones are a fine example of the talent that is coming out of the British music scene.

Brother & Bones

All images of the night are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/behindthesmile/sets/72157629183607494/

Guest Lecture With Colin Lester // 8th March

Colin Lester was in JM315 today to give a guest lecture on what it takes to be an artist manager. With a repertoire which includes artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Craig David and Travis, Colin Lester is more than qualified to impart his wisdom on a room full of students wishing to make a name for themselves in the industry.

The lecture began with a showing of a Youtube video, depicting him screaming and shouting at someone about Bo Selecta’s effect on Craig David’s branding. The purpose of this video was made clear as he proceeded to ask the question: “what does this video say about me?”, to which one audience member responded: “it shows passion”. This is something that Colin Lester was keen to emphasise over and over throughout the lecture, saying that a passion for what you are doing is essential to being successful in the music industry.  

Over the hour, Colin spoke of a number of topics concerning the issues within the music industry. He was a strong supporter of record labels, saying that although many artists complain about them, they essentially offer a lot of money for very little return on the artist’s part. He also stated that sometimes being successful can be purely down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. For example, at Glastonbury festival in 1999, during Travis’s performance, it started raining heavily just as the band sang the first few lines of their hit ‘why does it always rain on me?’ As soon as the song finished, the rain cleared and the sun began to shine again. This was broadcast across the U.K, getting people talking about the band, which boosted their sales from tens of thousands, to millions.

He also spoke of reality T.V artists, using the analogy of ‘fast food’ – in other words, they can offer a short-term income but the majority of them are only a temporary ‘quick fix’. The importance of developing artists was also stated, as Colin spoke of the significance of producing a long-term relationship between artist and consumer. The reasoning is that a consumer will always support an artist that they are familiar with, resulting in more income for the manager in the long term.

Too many interesting topics were raised during the lecture for this short report to do it justice, but the following is a list of what we feel were the most important points of the lecture for any aspiring artist managers:

1.     Be passionate about what you are doing.

2.     Make sure you choose a strong artist that you have absolute confidence in.

3.     Success comes from the artist; without the artist the manager is nothing.

4.     The artist that you back needs to have an endearing personality.

5.     Connections within the industry are indispensable.

6.     Do what you feel is right and the money will follow.

7.     Be persistent; constantly find new ways to keep your artist in the public eye.

8.     As an artist manager, you need to be passionate, have belief, earn a strong  reputation, and maintain your integrity.

Quote of the day also goes to Colin with these final words of wisdom:

‘there’s one simple letter between s*** and hit!’

The Blackout Interview with James McMahon // 8th March.

It has been a great week so far for Smile 2012, and Thursday saw the first of the guest speakers. The stage and sofas were set and a packed audience were ready to watch former Solent lecturer and now editor of Kerrang! Magazine James Mcmahon interview the successful Welsh rock band The Blackout. 

The Blackout have always been a band to work hard, and stick to what they believe in, and this is something which Gavin and Sean began by discussing with James. They drew a picture of their home town Merthyr Tydfil, and spoke of how the band formed back when they were in school. This led onto the discussion of influences, where Limp Bizkit and similar nu metal acts were mentioned. The band have since gone on to tour with many of their idols including Linkin Park and also Limp Bizkit, with Sean and Gavin mentioning that it’s still ‘living the dream’ to be playing shows of that scale. It was at this point Sean mentioned how lucky he was to be making a living from something he loved doing, however the words ‘no money’ were mentioned frequently, which is a shame to hear from a band of that scale. 

Of course the interview couldn’t proceed without a mention of the latest Kerrang! Tour, where The Blackout replaced headliners Sum 41 at the last minute outraging a lot of fans. Sean and Gavin spoke about their tongue in cheek approach to the tour, playing games with the fans and creating ironic merchandise. James added that this is one of the reasons for their popularity, the ability to have fun and not take themselves too seriously. 

When the floor was opened up to the audience for questions, Sean and Gavin were asked whether they think many bands get ‘screwed over’ by record labels. Previously in the interview, they mentioned splitting from two labels, Epitaph and Fierce Panda, who they said despite splitting, both treated the band well. They went on to say that labels, independents in particular are struggling as much as the bands are, and most are now taking cuts of merchandise sales and live fees as well as record sales in an attempt to stay afloat. 

This interview was filled with stories about zoo animals and good memories. It did have some interesting content as well though, including the pledge music scheme, and an insight into the mentality needed to push a smaller band to the next level. 

Fly,Frankie,Fly // We Caught The Castle // Stop No Go // 8-Bit Odyssey // Avondale House 5th March

Last night’s show at Avondale House is filled with Southampton’s 18 to 25 demographic, as the pop-punk themed night draws to a shaky beginning with band 8-Bit Odyssey. Pulling out not one, but two covers from the handbook of songs that should never be covered if you want to be taken seriously, their set is one that is still very much in need of polishing. The poor choice of cover songs is made even more disheartening from the fact that their own songs, at parts, have some genuinely interesting concepts and solid song writing, and certain band members do possess some worthy musical talent.

Seeming a lot more comfortable on stage since their last show at the Avondale, as exhibited with their relaxed confidence and unaffected on-stage banter; Stop No Go hit the Avondale stage with their more thought-out brand of pop-punk. Their songs about ‘Boys Misbehaving’ get a positive but unfortunately slightly subdued reaction from the audience, who are perhaps still nursing hangovers from the weekend. Stop No Go, while still in the early stages of being a band, and in need of that extra little bit of polish, are certainly a band that will be bringing out great things in the near future.

Next on the line up is Reading’s own We Caught The Castle, who pick-up the momentum Stop No Go began and roll with it all the way to the bank. Sweet high-pitched vocals from Hollie Elizabeth backed by the heavy instrumentals and vocals from the rest of the band, including the death-calls of Joe Sellers, show the band sprinting away from their pop-punk roots into a sound that is very much their own. With guitars swung around heads, microphones being knocked over and drums struck with such a force that they fall off the back of the stage, it’s a surprise that the whole stage didn’t collapse in on itself.

Tonight’s show has been plagued with sound difficulties and they are unfortunately much more noticeable for headliners Fly,Frankie,Fly. As charismatic frontman Francois ‘Frankie’ Cote graces the stage with his presence, Space Jam theme song pulsating through the speakers, it’s clear from the get-go that the band are there to offer music which is less pop-punk, and more Theatrical-Rave, but with a comparable energy. The volume is kept down to minimise the feedback from the monitors, which is unfortunate as the band are best enjoyed when played loud. Frankie however refuses to let the technical issues get in the way as he gives an entertaining performance, getting in the face of the audience members, while Matt ‘Fly’ on synths and new guitarist Lewis keep up the pace on stage.

Fly Frankie Fly

            Last night’s show at Avondale House, while let down by technical difficulties, still managed to summon a large audience to pack out the venue. Solid material from the bands lead what could have been a stagnant Monday night for SMILE, to one which carried the festival nicely along to Tuesday.

All the Images from last nights show can be found on our flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/behindthesmile/sets/72157629527455019/