Published in BBC Culture February 3, 2020
If we hear at all about Britain’s involvement in slavery, there’s often a slight whiff of self-congratulation – for abolishing it in 1833, 32 years ahead of the US, where the legacy of slavery is still more of an open wound. Less well known, however, is the enormous cost of this decision for the taxpayer – the British government spent £20 million, a staggering 40% of its budget in 1833, to buy freedom for slaves.
Continue reading “How Britain is facing up to its hidden slavery history”
Now in its 17th year, Green Man festival sold out again in record time. But it’s easy to see why revellers loyally return year after year – and it’s not just for the music. Set in one of the most beautiful festival sites in the UK, on the Glanusk estate in south Wales, its outdoor stages are framed by the Black Mountains.
Continue reading “Review: Green Man Festival”
Published in The Independent June 14, 2019
It’s 25 years since the Spice Girls formed, and their reunion tour – minus Victoria Beckham, who gets a dig on “Wannabe” (“Easy V: where is she?”) – has packed out Wembley for three nights.
Continue reading “Review: Spice Girls, Wembley Stadium”
Published in The Independent May 31, 2019
It is 44 years since Patti Smith released her debut album Horses, a volcano of a record that was not just startlingly vivid and assured for a debut but also a genre-busting game changer.
Continue reading “Patti Smith interview: ‘Mozart was a punk rocker’”
Published in the i May 23, 2019
Cate Le Bon has spent just over a decade carving her own musical niche, via surreal lyrics sung in a deep, deadpan voice, angular guitar parts and wonky, ear-snagging melodies. I’m meeting her ostensibly to talk about her fifth album, Reward. Instead, we’re chatting about furniture.
Continue reading “Cate Le Bon: ‘I’d play piano to stop thinking about chairs’”
Published in The Independent February 15, 2019
“To anyone I have ever hurt, however unintentionally, I apologise deeply and unreservedly.” So tweeted Ryan Adams when The New York Times article on the singer-songwriter’s alleged sexual misconduct and manipulative behaviour towards women was published this week. His forthcoming album has been pulled; he’s reportedly being investigated by the FBI over the allegations that he exchanged explicit messages with an underage girl.
Continue reading “The Ryan Adams revelations are all too familiar. Time’s up for the tortured male genius myth”
Published in The New York Times February 3, 2019
The stage filled with women in Princess Diana masks, smashing VHS cassettes with hammers. A dancer wove her way through a bar, muttering about kittens. A figure wrapped in a filthy comforter emerged from a tent, crawling among clubbers dressed in fetish gear.
I wrote about The Yard – London’s only theater-slash-nightclub – for the New York Times. You can read the full piece here.
When you think of LSD, a very specific aesthetic probably leaps to mind: the psychedelic pink-and-orange swirls of the 60s; naked people with flowers in their hair; the shimmer of a sitar. After its psychedelic properties were accidentally discovered in the lab by Albert Hofmann in 1943, the drug was banned in the UK in 1966. LSD is still most strongly associated with hippies who embraced its mind-expanding properties. Continue reading “How LSD influenced Western culture”
When playwright Gary McNair was asked who should provide the music for his new play Square Go, there was only one answer: Frightened Rabbit. He’d been friends with the Scottish indie rock band for years – as well as being a huge fan – and had been waiting for a chance to work with them on the right show. Continue reading “‘It was therapeutic’: How Frightened Rabbit found solace making music for a new play, following the death of Scott Hutchison”
Womad’s great strength is its eclecticism: there are bands from right across the globe, offering glimpses into lesser-known musical traditions from more than 50 countries, or slamming them together in unexpected combinations. Continue reading “Review: WOMAD festival, Charlton Park”