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Swanfest Review 2-4th July 2010

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Swanfest Review 2-4th July 2010

Swanfest 2010


The now infamous Swanfest is a necessary milestone for any local or indeed internationally-acclaimed (Dutch) band with a keen eye for personal advancement, and 2010 was no exception. Swanfest took place from Friday 2nd – 4th July in case you’re wondering what dates to shove in the iphone calendar for 2011, and was in the words of skipper and manager of the Swan Damian; “the busiest I think the pub’s ever been” on the opening (and free) night. Indeed security at one point were employing a 1-in-1-out tariff with a queue of plebs stretching down King Street gazing longingly in through the windows. Credit to the staff is due for that Friday night before any words are spent on musical excellence, as it was incredibly packed but maintained a great atmosphere.

The Swan itself is a music-orientated, Jaeger-slamming, informal and nonchalant pub that exudes diversity; often described as a “studenty” or “quirky” pub by many peers, it transcends this categorisation if you frequent it more than two or three times. It is more of a pub where an 18 year old may arrive to sheepishly buy his/her first pint, or the average Joe will meet weekly with Dave for an intense game of Downfall or Buckaroo, or similarly a place where regulars converge on the pool table for the majority of an evening. It’s the sort of place where for the three consecutive evenings that Swanfest reigned, a middle aged man can do the stereotypical “Dad dance” while his wife and everyone else in the vicinity looks past him with either a calm acceptance of or zealous indifference to his fancy footwork. It’s not a place to take oneself too seriously, all in all.

To the festival then. Friday evening kicked off with That Band From Holland, an esoteric rabble of buccaneers travelling from afar to deliver sounds that can’t really be categorised. If you imagine theme tunes for the following occurrences you’ll still be nowhere near defining them; Tim Burton’s mind while casually browsing for nothing in particular, Magnitogorsk holding a Tetris tournament for peasant workers, and an intoxicated road trip through Prypiat. Mixing chilled out keys, a bit of brass and even some glockenspiel, these guys are truly cross-generic and about as appealing as the very concept of a Tiglon.

These Ghosts then proceeded to bring their ethereal vibe to the pub, which reminds one very much of the kind of music Coldplay would write if they were forced to create the entirety of their next album while permanently based on Disneyworld’s Space Mountain. As a band their popularity is constantly bubbling to the surface of the national underground music scene, demonstrated by the release of their debut album on the 2nd August and their recent and well received slot at the highly regarded Latitude festival. Creating an indie sound but definitely with something a bit more original intertwined, they played a set that broke the evening in and invigorated the crowds that had flocked to their beer-y shepherds at King Street.

As more bodies flooded into the pub, possibly in anticipation of the next act, it became difficult to move; highlighting both the Swan’s popularity and 2010 Swanfest’s local pulling power. Millionaires By Morning took to the stage, and the septuplet proceeded to lay down the fusion of funk, soul and hip hop that is both their recognisable sound and the flagship of the pub’s Rapsploitation nights. Brimming with informal attitude, the guys put on a show that commands the large crowd with sing-alongs, cultural references from TV shows such as the Chapelle show, and a sense of humour about the whole thing. The appeal of MBM is that they don’t encourage living in the now as such, but tell you to keep an eye out for the opportunity to. A great set with the pub set to burst created a communal atmosphere that left quite a few people looking drained and/or possibly intoxicated in the aftermath.

No matter however, as the amicable and pleasant harmonies of The B. Goodes were readily available to round off the evening in style. Incorporating a Beatles cover into their warm wind down to the evening, the B. Goodes finish up with a refreshing summer sound reminiscent of the 50’s. Tongue in cheek and humourous in their deliverance of music harking back to days of dodgy shirts and teenage rebellion, they do however retain an etiquette which can’t help but claw a smile. Facial hair that you just want to play air-keyboard on, great vocals and a touch of good old rock n’ roll rounded of the busiest premier night of a Swanfest to date.

Unfortunately your IP1 music lover couldn’t be there for the Saturday, but I entrust your reading pleasure to the observations of IP1 photographer Jenny O’Neill, who managed to catch a few acts. On her authority, I am led to declare that the mighty Neil Innes or “Seventh Python” brought comedic anthems in true Python style, encouraging sing alongs, dodgy French accents and fake moustaches to boot. Innes worked with Monty Python in the mid 70’s and helped write some euphonies that featured in the TV series as well as being one of the main song writers for “Holy Grail”, dutifully delighting everyone with “Brave Sir Robin” on Saturday.  The Ideals also featured, bringing their own brand of stadium indie smacking of summer to the Swan, and put on a tight and professional performance that maintained the diverse and positive vibe. MEN rounded off the night with their own brand of easy going road-trip punk, concreted in a nonchalantly raging anti-bureaucratic indifference and still finding time to have a laugh. Up-beat vocals, loud guitars and a nice spreading of 80’s synth (the Huey Lewis type that fits and isn’t awkward) make them one of those bands you can just slide in and out of at your leisure. Kind of like sagging into a sleeping bag full of midnight snacks after a hard day of doing exactly what you want. Or that giddy phase of anticipation when the only plans you’ve got are to go out and rock your socks straight into the nearest gutter.

Sunday started late because so many people were still recovering from the hormone explosion of Saturday’s musical banquet, and also Ipswich music day was bigger than Prince Philip’s ears this year. A rather mellowed feeling welcomed punters from 5pm onwards but was duly shattered by Mel Gibson’s Safari. A side project of That Band From Holland, they trekked all the way from upstairs in a bottomless inflatable dinghy, enlightened the crowd with the ultra-snug fit of their hot pants, and promptly promised to “break stuff”. Looking like 118 worshippers, they exploded into a Brant Bjork style opening jam with added coshing from the drums and extra bombast on the trumpet. Sunday was definitely going to ascend into the Swan’s collective grill.  Their tracks included “Horse” – basically a lemming on a space hopper bouncing through “Yes”/”Budgie” album covers, and “Fridge” which featured some unique backing vocals and a nice driving chorus, oddly enough. They wouldn’t sing “Welcome to the Jungle” because they disagree with Bon Jovi, and instead played a plodding and honourable rendition of “In the jungle, the mighty jungle” with an abundance of high pitch singing; blatantly the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now that never was. After a grand exit wailing about Damian’s girlfriend, and an encore of homosexual ballads again focusing on Damian, the band mingles conspicuously back into the empty space in front of the stage and continues to drink. The whole thing reminds one of Taz on crack riding a pair of Powerisers, and can only be described as perhaps the most suitable band on the planet for the entrance lounge of North Korea’s central airport.

The Life and Times Of slowly took to the stage, and instantly manifested an alien guitar sound that sounded like someone had suddenly taught Enya how to rock. The resultant submarine sonar/whale song tone sounded like a heavier Coldplay mixed with a touch of prog metal; the lead guitar never ceased to amaze and repeatedly moulded so intricately with the keys to create a great and seminal sound. Shuffle rhythms give way to atomic choruses full of Satriani-style solos, and a mellow mood barely hides a bitter and emotive set of tracks that would fit a comic montage of an anti-hero’s night life. The crowd receive this highly accomplished quintet very well, and will hopefully be clapping for these guys again sometime soon.

Despite the curious stragglers from Ipswich music day filtering in, the pub was unfortunately quite barren by the time Elephant took the stage, with a long wait between bands. It is however instantly apparent that Belinda Gillett is supplying Swanfest with something very different, and anyone who left should have punched themselves in the funny bone. Acoustic numbers with a focus on confident vocal aptitude is clearly the aim, but her guitar skills mix seamlessly with the amazing lead guitar work as well. Gillett’s voice sounds a bit like if Kate Bush toned it all down a tad and met Mariah Carey, but with a bit more “no bull” and a bit less flaunt. Her vocal range is astounding; a benign and totally somatogenic burst of song which, when seen live, reminds one that vocal prowess such as this away from X-factor and pop charts is just bloody inspiring really. Elephant resultantly put on a moody and melodic set creating an irrevocably dark and almost intimidating feel. The music moves from lounge/chillout into funk/acoustic indie foundations for Gillett’s soaring vocals that switch effortlessly from operatic to a delicate wavering you could poke with a feather, fluctuating with astonishing ease. The guitarist struggles to maintain stage presence, and consequently pulls out a violin bow and gives his guitar a bit of the Page treatment, creating some great sound and a visual spectacle to round off Swanfest 2010. As Damian thanks all the staff and audience, his claim that the Swan is evolving into one of the best pubs in Ipswich isn’t just a pride thing, it’s the nail bending after being hit on the head. A great weekend successfully plants a lot of catchy songs into one’s head and some great memories, let alone some free stuff including badges and t-shirts. I would highly recommend 2011 if you haven’t been yet; try something new, see some great performances and support local music – what’s to lose?

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