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Kenneth McMurtrie

Kenneth McMurtrie

Beaches Brew 2014, Hana Bi, Marina Di Ravenna

Beaches Brew is now in its third year and, like last month's Threadfest event in Bradford, is a free festival. Albeit on a beach in Italy rather than in a wet West Yorkshire city.

A small concern, in terms of location and the overall number of acts on the bill, it nevertheless aims high with the level of bands it attracts (a feature of all the summer shows being put on at the venue by Bronson Productions it seems). This year's headliners being Lee Ranaldo & The Dust, Suuns and Neutral Milk Hotel.

What let things down a bit this time around, however, was the rather sparse information on the event website. Stronger advice to stay by the venue rather than in the town of Ravenna itself would have been of use, as well as a proper paragraph about the local buses (of the three mentioned the 60 no longer seems to run and the latest one for a return to town is only at 22:00, making it impossible to see the later bands if you have catch that).

Still, after taking the site's information at face value, I hopped on a bus on the first night (a Tuesday, oddly enough) and arrived in good time to catch Speedy Ortiz opening up the show. Pleased to be playing their first show in Italy their set included such numbers as 'Basketball' and 'Cloud' and they were pleasingly louder and edgier than expected from their recorded work. Disappears were up next and, other minor faults aside, it was clear that with each night's show needing to end by midnight there was to be no messing about in terms of getting bands on stage on time. Theirs was a solid set with no flab as they aimed to fit in as many tracks as possible in their 45 minute or so slot. Pond were to play third on the bill & were one of the bands I was keenest to see but by that point the final 75 bus of the night was due so they and Lee Ranaldo's performances had to be missed.

Determined to see the whole of Wednesday night's bill & with a Twitter appeal for a lift meeting with no luck a bike was obtained and the 20 mile round-trip undertaken that way. With no stage times available openers Be Forest ended up being missed & so Dutch trio Hallo Venray ended up becoming tonight's first entertainers. Bringing to mind bands such as Redd Kross these veterans of Holland's indie rock scene attracted a good pre-sunset crowd with 'Simple' and 'Leather On My Soul' (the title track from their current album) amongst others. Swearing At Motorists soon followed, bringing a shift of tempo with their guitar & drums blend of blues & garage lending them a two man JSBX feel. Playing "a bunch of sad and angry songs" the pair overcame a lack of vocals in the monitors and a lack of beer to deliver a fun performance that included singer Dave Doughman stagediving in between songs from across the band's 20 year career. 

Wednesday's penultimate band were relative youngsters Cloud Nothings so the tempo was cranked up a further notch as they powered through selections from current album Here And Nowhere Else and its three predecessors. the crowd were well warmed up by this point in the night and the speed of the songs they were now getting to hear caused them to form a small mosh pit and indulge in some crowd surfing whilst I found myself concentrating on drummer Jayson Gerycz and his windmill-like pulverising of his kit. Closing out with something like a ten minute plus track the crowd were very sorry to see them go. Tonight's final act were Suuns so things onstage calmed down somewhat although the crowd were as appreciative as ever, clearly having eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Montreal quartet to the stage. '2020' got an early outing in the set and from then on the audience were putty in the band's hands. A thoroughly good night of free entertainment and my lack of any bike lights thankfully didn't get me killed as I pedaled back to base. 

That was though my final involvement with Beaches Brew this time around. A lift fell through the following night, taxis weren't a cheap option and the cycle was easy enough one night but not something to be repeated so soon. I'll make the trip back in 2015 and can on the whole recommend that you do too but camp over the road from Hana Bi or get a room close by otherwise, if you're not driving, the free entertainment could become as expensive as any other festival which kind of defeats the purpose.

Many thanks to Roberta for being a great host and for the loan of the bicycle.    

The Hazey Janes - Language Of Faint Theory

Album number four from The Hazey Janes finds them reunited with the production team behind debut Hotel Radio - Paco Loco and John Agnello. As an antidote to the hectic worldwide touring the band has undertaken since the release of 2011 album The Winter That Was they took themselves off to the south west of Spain to make these recordings. 

Opening track 'Iwan' brought both Marillion and Tony Christie to mind for me, the former for the bulk of the musical element and the latter for the crooneresque vocals. By the time the guitar solo arrives near the three minute mark you might be wondering if they're setting themselves up to be the new Texas. Thankfully track two 'The Fathom Line' has a bit more oomph about it and is far more interesting in terms of chord changes, solos & what have you.

'In Shadows Under Trees' swaps the previous soft rock for competent country playing. Soaring, heart-tugging vocal lines are backed by lap steel plenty of complimentary backing oohs and aahs. Emotionally though, like the musical pace of the work up to this point, things don't get beyond second gear.

When the band veer into Teenage Fanclub-like territory on 'If Ever There Is Gladness' things start to look up as the tune nips along and the mildly melancholic note is pitched just right to get through that chink in your emotional armour. 'The Genesis' takes a more muscular, power pop line but by now the near total lack of hooks throughout the album is beginning to really tell. Sure they can comfortably write songs in a number of styles (add mild psychedelia with '(I'm) Telescoping') but that starts to smack of bandwaggoning a la The Soup Dragons.

Hearing any of the few better tracks on the album in isolation wouldn't adequately prepare you for the overall rather plodding and bland fare that makes up the bulk of it. Safe is I think the word I'm after as polished doesn't necessarily mean something's bad or unadventurous. I've unfortunately no access to my review of The Winter That Was but, whilst I've not listened to it in the intervening years, I'm pretty sure it was an album that promised more in terms of future works than has been delivered. 

Language Of Faint Theory is available from iTunes here, direct from Armellodie Records here and from Amazon

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