What a year it’s been- both good and bad- politically, personally and, most importantly, musically. It’s been mad! We’ve seen the deaths of some of the world’s most influential and iconic artists, seen unity through music as the outcome to some rather extraordinary political events (*cough* Brexit*cough* Trump) and we’ve seen some of the biggest reunions (no sign of Oasis though) and a handful of big band break-ups, too (no, I’m not over The Maccabees yet).
Overall, 2016 was a great little year. This year I was lucky enough to see 155 live music sets (a mixture of festival sets, support acts, concerts and experiences), go to two big festivals and two day festivals (and I saw an errr eclectic mix of things, from Adele to Die Antwoord, which was the worst hour of my life and an hour of my life that I’ll never get back), attend 17 concerts (including three brilliant Banquet Record shows), got surprised by the lovely Kaiser Chiefs for a BBC show and went on tour for a week with Black Grape. I’m so, so grateful for all of these things and couldn’t have been luckier really. I’ve enjoyed sharing (most of) these experiences on here and I’m very (very) sorry I’ve been so bad at blogging over the last few months.
I’ve had a few highlights this year. At the start of the year I saw Wolf Alice play the Brighton Dome and it’s one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen- besides being pulled out and examined by the St. Johns Ambulance people (who were very surprised I’d never had my blood pressure taken before and all stood round watching to celebrate the momentous occasion). My sister abandoned me with her coat and went off into ‘the pit’ whilst I stood by myself at the front and to the side and I was able to enjoy it on my own, which was incredible. Sometimes watching bands on your own can be brilliant. Wolf Alice’s debut album, My Love is Cool, was by far one of the best albums of 2015 and it was an album which shaped my summer and latter part of 2015, so I was very excited to (finally) see the band play in concert. There were no frilly gimmicks, flashy set designs or ‘auto tune’ type singing. It was just good live music.
Another huge highlight for me was Radio 1’s Big Weekend. When I got the tickets I was so excited because a) it was free and b) I knew The 1975 would be there. There was only one catch- it was in Exeter. I remember listening to Radio 1 one morning before college and pulling up in a side road to hear who was announced for the day and, fortunately, it was literally all of my favourite bands (from Wolf Alice to Catfish to Biffy Clyro). Exeter is a beautiful city and I don’t know if it’s through association or purely just it’s beauty (and Harry’s restaurant), but Powderham Castle couldn’t have been more fitting a place for a festival. It was a field, overlooked by a huge castle and a guest area and on the cusp of the coast, with two main stages, lots of families filled with people of all ages and rows of fast food stalls. It was the hottest day probably ever (or not, that may be a slight exaggeration) and everyone (absolutely everyone) was excited about Coldplay, obviously. The day was incredible (and free!!!!!!) and I could go into great detail about all the best acts (but I’ll spare you of that because I’ve already written about it), but by far the greatest act of the day was Coldplay. Now, I liked Coldplay as much as the next person. I knew “the odd song” (it were all yellow and that) and was adamant that I hated Coldplay because my dad likes them and because it was “cool” to not like them or whatever. Their set was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. It was full of hits that everyone knew, plenty of fireworks (note: you can win a crowd over with fireworks and confetti, see Coldplay) and a tribute to the late Prince. Chris Martin grew up in Exeter and so made the set extra special and it was that family atmosphere that made it great. We stood behind a family and it was great to see the love of music spread through three generations. The son, who was with his friends and must’ve been about 20, was stood with his arm around his dad belting the lyrics out to ‘Fix You’ and other classics and it was so touching. I’ve since seen Coldplay twice since then (at Wembley Stadium and headlining Glastonbury and neither have topped Exeter) and if you’d have told me a year ago that I’d have done that I’d never have believed you. Yes, I probably am turning into my dad.
I was also lucky enough to go on tour with 90s band Black Grape for a week in Scotland and the North (not that Scotland isn’t the North, in fact Scotland is very North) which was absolutely incredible. It was quite eye opening though, but has inspired me to pursue a career in the music industry. I can’t quite believe I did it though. Off the back of it there was some hyper-productive, euphoric feeling and everything seemed somewhat brilliant and severely underwhelming for a while. A lot of people I spoke to whilst there thought it was the coolest work experience ever and I agree. Even at the time I couldn’t quite believe it. I was extremely lucky and very, very grateful for the experience and insight into the industry. Mad. You don’t get to do something like that everyday… Although some do and I’m eternally jealous.
In 2016 I started the year by listening to a lot of The 1975 (a band who I listened to a lot throughout the year). In fact, for a good month the only thing I listened to was The 1975’s new album and nothing else (on repeat). I was infatuated by The Last Shadow Puppet’s ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ in April and also Adele’s ‘When We Were Young’. I spent a lot of my summer listening to artists like Coldplay, Jess Glynne, Twenty One Pilots (unexpectedly) and Blossoms. I spent August listening to a lot of Blaenvaon, too, who I love. I managed to see them support Sundara Karma at the start of the year and again at Reading Festival (well… Some of it… haaaaaaaa). I spent pretty much all of September listening to Mystery Jets and only Mystery Jets, having seen them at Always the Sun festival, and they’re a band I love a lot, especially now (Twenty One is a banger of an album). In October I found a new love for Declan McKenna (a newly turned 18 year-old, up and coming artist who creates the most wonderful indie-rock tunes and has the greatest Twitter). In November I listened to a lot of Black Grape before and after I went on tour with them and the only thing that could break that endless cycle were the Scottish rock Gods that are Biffy Clyro. I also listened to a lot of Brit-pop and 80s/90s indie-rock/alternative music towards the end of the year with bands like Oasis, Blur, The Stone Roses, The Cure, The Smiths and Pulp at the top of my playlists. I felt like when I got back I was one of those “they don’t make bands like this anymore!” people, which was a bit of a nightmare.
2016 has sadly been laced with huge losses. At the beginning of the year, in January, we lost David Bowie. Bowie was one of- if not the most- influential artists ever, through music, style and art. He and his music shaped the industry and had a huge impact on music culture as a whole. It pushed and bent boundaries and he didn’t seem to care, something which seems to lack in today’s music industry. Bowie influenced a lot of today’s artists, too, and the world would’ve been a different place without him (and worse for it). I admire Bowie a lot. I’m also beginning to think he held together the fabric of the Earth because it only went downhill since then. We’ve lost Prince, Leonard Cohen and George Michael amongst others since then and it’s been tragic. Of course, there was also the loss of up and coming band Viola Beach, who had great potential and I whole heartedly believe that they could’ve gone far. I think that it’s sad their music got the recognition it deserved through this heart breaking accident, but amazing that people have been able to enjoy their incredible music despite the tragic circumstances. I hope this encourages people to go out and explore the new music that’s out and about because there’s a lot of it and it’s brilliant.
At the start of the year I wrote a list of all the bands and artists I thought would be ones to watch in 2016 and it’s safe to say I think they’ve all done pretty well. Rat Boy- despite not releasing an album like I thought he would- continues to tour, played allll the festivals and is preparing to (actually) release an album next year, which I think will be called Scum. Sundara Karma have had a brilliant year this year, too, and release their debut album, Youth is Only Fun in Retrospect, next week! They’re probably going to do a Blossoms next year so I’d keep an eye on them, as I expect to see them everywhere next year. The Japanese House have toured pretty much globally with The 1975 (including two UK tours) and continue to dazzle with their laid-back vibe. Black Honey went on to support Catfish and the Bottlemen in April and are fabulously brilliant. They also seem to brush shoulders with some of the biggest names in the indie music industry, like Slaves and Wolf Alice. The Sherlocks continue to tour and tour and tour. I anticipate an album from them next year, too. They’ve just been signed as well and it’s so deserved. Finally, Blossoms. What haven’t Blossoms done this year? They had the highest selling debut album of the year for starters. They’ve toured non-stop and played pretty much every festival you can name. They’re one of my favourite bands and it’s been brilliant to watch them grow. They tour the UK on another sold out tour next Spring.
Last year I predicted I’d see The 1975 five times this year and I’m not much good at Reading Festival predictions either, so I’m not sure how good these predictions will be. I hope to continue writing on this blog and dedicate more time to it. I’ve slipped a lot at the end of this year (which irritates me) because I’ve been busy with A-levels, work experience and life in general. I hope to keep going to concerts and festivals, keep discovering new artists and get some more experience in the industry. Whilst we’re at it, I predict an Arctic Monkeys album for November next year (we can dream) and that it’ll be great.
Thank you for sticking with this blog for the last year despite how rubbish I’ve been at posting. I hope you have the happiest of new years and here’s to 2017!