Charlottefield, The Duke Spirit, The Research, My Latest Novel, and Jacob's StoriesEdit this event
- British Sea Power »
- Charlottefield »
- The Duke Spirit »
- The Research »
- My Latest Novel »
- Jacob's Stories »
**British Sea Power** don’t ‘do’ summer, clearly. Blessed with curating this, the first annual Fort Rox mini-festival on a scheduled day in mid-August, the quartet seemed to have opted for an entirely miserable bunch to soundtrack the majestic walls of Newhaven Fort. On paper, the bands selected offer baroque drone, post-hardcore screamo, doom-tinged pop, hard-ass folk, sleazy rock and, of course, British Sea Power themselves, a thoroughly odd bunch regardless. All in disparate all, it’s enough to make the sun bugger off entirely.
It obliges immediately. Greeting the masses on entry is a light drizzle which seems to send the crowd into that British tendency, to behave as if it’s raining when in fact it isn’t - hoodies are drawn, scarves are wrapped, complaining commences and tea sells out. From the prospect of a paradoxical collision of melancholy and sun rays, British Sea Power now has the crowd mentality to match their tastes. How _do_ they do it?
First onto the desert-dry stage is **Jacob’s Stories**, the moniker of Brighton artist Stuart Lee. Somewhat resembling Dave Gorman, Lee’s baroque, looping drone-pop settles quickly; flashes of a smile and his wry humour serve to engage a fresh audience in a way the avant-garde rarely does. It also helps that his music, while moving and brimming with woe, is also so very danceable – bass-drum kicks and swerving violin lines make him more Moody For A Shaking Booty than Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, his oft-compared Casio-wielding griever. You could do much worse than purchase his debut album, _Fledgling_.
The second of the three Brighton bands, **Charlottefield**, are a different package altogether. Placing their feet in all kinds of hardcore camps, they’re enough to disperse all but the longer-haired fellows. Those who remain however are treated to a mighty display from what is surely one of the UK’s premier hardcore bands; head banging to every chord change, legs swaying to each bass note, their brief gusto on stage _will_ be remembered by those who made their way to the front during the simultaneous exodus.
Not entirely convinced by their recorded output, **The Research** is a band I still invest a large amount of interest in. Despondent lovesickness and Casio balladeering is usually a winner with me but I always had questions, and one in particular: do they _really_ mean it? As they take to their (sometimes amusingly) marked swivel seats, are they _for real_? A mere thirty seconds into _‘The Way You Used To Smile’_ and the compact trio have my heart whole - the charm exuded from their songs, stage presence and banter will be powering small towns if this performance can be replicated. Comfortable amongst each other, there’s a playfulness and vulnerability to the threesome born from a bypassing of pretentiousness in favour of unabashed, flawed humanism. The Research is over, and the experiment? An unequivocal success.
Funnily enough, it’s the antithesis of playfulness and vulnerability that makes **My Latest Novel** so completely enrapturing. On stage, their regimental line-up is choreography for the fucked-off generation - feet stamping and vigorous enchanting melodies come from the soul of each member; if you don’t enjoy it, at the very least you can’t look away from it. This is overtly aggressive Scottish post-rock/folk with every lethal edge unsullied by pop conventionality. And Chris Deveney looks like Syd Barrett, a bonus I believe.
Blondie-fixated **The Duke Spirit** fill the last slot before our hosts take to the stage, filling the slot an appropriate description of their disappointingly lacklustre performance. I have no problem with bands continuing to play music that’s no longer ‘in’ – alluring three-chord punk in this case – but when it’s done so lifelessly, the manning of a sinking ship seems ever more redundant. It’s probably to do with lead singer Leila Moss’ hands – either in a fist, or pointing, or rubbing her index finger and thumb, there’s very little parallel with regards to the lyrics. She could take pointers from The Research, charming the crowd as they did with brief, unassuming smiles and light jokes... Have I said I liked The Research?
Indie-gods, nature lovers and part-time meteorologists, British Sea Power (having already orchestrated a wonderful line-up) bless the stage last, triumphant hosts making a brazen final toast. A virgin to their live show and indifferent to their work, even I find it hard not to get caught up in the hysteria in the crowd made tangible by the almost press-release-worthy quotes surrounding me: _“I can’t wait for BSP!”_, _“I saw ‘em last year - best gig of my life”_ and _“What a band! What a fucking band!”_ It’s just a shame that I don’t see the charm - at all.
I see they have stage presence, I see their live show is energetic. I get that they’re a band doing something very different but none of it touches me whatsoever - surely the fact I remember Stuart Lee coming on stage in a bear costume more than anything is more than indicative of that. Powerful, unique and excitable, they nevertheless compel a weary crowd leaving me, in a way, akin to being left out of a clique. Oh well.
Amongst a field of highly talented artists, today belongs to The Research and their maturation, a warning of longevity and sustained quality. Viewed by myself from afar, questions of their credentials floating around my head, a chance meeting in a fort in Newhaven has me for life. It’s like one of their song lyrics itself…
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