Monday, 9 September 2019

Confessional Festival Day 2 - Blackburn Holy Trinity Church - 7th September 2019 (International Teachers Of Pop / Red Rum Club / White Room / Working Men's Club / The Ruby Tuesdays / Kyogen / Déjà Vega / Loose Articles / Northern Sports Club)


Day two of Confessional Festival was more of a marathon than a sprint with nine acts on in an eight hour showcase of some of the best and most exciting new bands around in the disused Holy Trinity Church on the outskirts of Blackburn. Saturday's impressive line-up included headliners International Teachers Of Pop, Red Rum Club, White Room, Working Men's Club, The Ruby Tuesdays, Kyogen, Déjà Vega, Loose Articles and Northern Sports Club.


Northern Sports Club were the first band we caught at three o'clock. Intrigued by Millie's stripped-back performance at the Museum a month or so back, her voice sounds equally impressive in this bigger space and with much more backing to work with which allows her to show much more of her range. There's none of the "skilful rapping" that the compere promised in his intro, but that was perhaps a good thing as it would have felt out of place. Their penultimate song The Jam was the best of their half-hour set, a strong groove running through it that allowed Millie's voice to really shine through the middle.


Loose Articles are still in their infacy, but have already started to grow their reputation with sets like today's. Natalie and Tre are contrasting front women, the former's voice jumping around all over the place, her face etched in the emotion of what she's singing compared to Tre's more reserved demeanour but no less expressive voice - and Erin on lead guitar and Louise on drums provide the backbone of these songs about pubs, karaoke, snakes and equality of the sexes.

Snake is a sniping rant at someone who's done them wrong, Money For Booze speaks of living on the breadline but finding money to go out and drink whilst Dirty Dicks recalls Natalie's first pub that served her back in Halifax at the age of fifteen that's fallen victim to gentrification with the brilliant put-down "Dirty Dicks, you're not The Royal Oak." Lethal Weapon takes aim at those who put them down in the music business because they're women - "I am equal, I am lethal" Natalie snarls at the misogynists. They don't have anything recorded or released as yet, but when they do they'll start moving up bills like this.


Déjà Vega's position also feels like a false one given they've just sold out a February 2020 show at the Deaf Institute in Manchester and they go about proving that with a thirty minute onslaught of raw unadultered power that has the pews shaking. Whilst Jack shreds his guitar whilst barking out the words to the songs like a man possessed, Mike and Tom's demeanour is much more reserved, but they're every bit as essential to the impressive unit they've become and the unstoppable momentum that is gathering around their forthcoming much-delayed and significantly revised debut album.

Older songs like Eyes Of Steel and Mr Powder merge seamlessly with new ones like Spitting Gas and Who We Are as one of the most prolific writers have to shoehorn songs into their limited time. They don't however discard The Test, their ten-minute crescendo that brings their set to a furious conclusion, veering one way then diverting off at a crossroads, guitars screeching, drums careering one way then taking the song off in the other. There's no band coming close to replicating this - and finally it seems like they're starting to get their rewards.


Kyogen are next up and they're a real contrast to what's just gone before them - just one guitar (although Kyoko takes it off for one song half way through her set) and a set of synths, which Daniel plays almost oblivious to a room of people around him, create a much more mellow vibe although the sound they create is quite intense in its own way. They describe themselves as electronic / dark / sad / dreampop / japanese / shoegaze and there's elements of all of them in the set which despite the cavernous space and sunlight streaming in still has the desired effect.


Local band The Ruby Tuesdays are next up standing in for the indisposed Ryan Jarvis and they've brought a few people with them despite their late notice addition. Their songs pack a mighty punch, big swaggering tunes that wear their influences on their sleeves with pride, but which possess enough of their own personality to make them stand apart. Singles Second Coming, Who You Running From and their set-closing debut Messiah Complex are anthemic monsters that are delivered with a cocksure assured confidence in Tucker's vocals whilst they describe The Other Side Of The Fence as "funky" as they push the boundaries of their sound. 


Working Men's Club have had two 6 Music playlisted singles in Bad Blood and Teeth, but could justifiably be described as in a state of flux as Giulia has left so there's two new members and a new approach that relies more heavily on drum machines and programming. It doesn't take anything away from the intensity of the set though. Syd, now the sole vocalist, is angry with the world and articulately sets about righting wrongs on Cook A Coffee and those two singles completely

He's completely lost in the music and the moment whilst his bandmates play on oblivious to the agigated demeanour of their front man who strips off his top half way through the set. It's just as well he's so focused on the song because he'd have probably laid the guy to waste stood three feet in front of him with his back turned "having a conversation" in the middle of the set. During Teeth he does come out into the crowd, eyeballing one guy, totally in the moment of the performance. Change has been forced on them by the personnel alterations, but on the basis of this performance, it's likely only to be a bump in the road rather than a detour.


Five-piece popsters White Room from Brighton are up next. They come from the same lineage as Pulp and World of Twist, drawing on the influences of Bowie/Roxy. Their brand of electro pop goes down well with the crowd. Singer Jake Smallwood sports the weekend’s best suit and is a real star. They dedicate Cannibal Song to the legend that is John Hall. Slightly darker than their other material, it features great vocal interplay between Jake and bassist Josie. White Room are a breath of fresh air and the new material they aired tonight suggests there is much more to come.


Liverpool’s Red Rum Club follow. Playing almost all of their 2018 album Matador, their big anthems such as T.V. Said So are a huge hit with the crowd. Front man Fran Doran has charm by the bucketload and he owns the stage. There’s no let up in their show and each and every track sounds like a single.

Hung Up and Calexico are delivered at a frantic pace, beautifully augmented by Joe on trumpet. As the set concludes, just about everyone in the crowd is on top of pews or on the shoulders of another reveller as they finish the set with the monster tune Would You Rather Be Lonely? If anyone present wasn’t convinced by Red Rum Club beforehand, then they certainly were by the end. A triumphant performance.


Hotly tipped headliners International Teachers of Pop brought the two day festival to a fitting close. Their mix of pop/disco/electro is the perfect way to end the festival, with everyone getting lost in their grooves. There’s something for everyone here with tracks like Age Of The Train sounding like a cross between ABBA and Kraftwerk. Their hour long set ensures the euphoric festival crowd leave happy.

That brings to a close an impressive two days of Confessional Festival. Plenty of other events could learn a lot from this - the light and sound set-up is exemplary, the compere and poet Matt Abbott a great host, everything runs on time and to plan, the beer is cheap, high quality and plentiful and the food is far superior to the usual nasty fare you get at most festivals. There's a huge attention to detail in the decking out of the hall in the rainforest theme. The line-up, curated by the festival's organiser Pete Eastwood and Nicola Simcox from Good Ears, caught many of the country's emerging bands ahead of the cycle and Pete deserves eternal credit for his obsession in bringing live music to Blackburn.

International Teachers Of Pop are on Facebook and Twitter. They play London Lexington (October 12).

Red Rum Club are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Sheffield O2 Academy (September 26), Preston The Ferret (27), Liverpool O2 Academy (28), Birmingham O2 Academy (29), Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (October 1), London Lexington (2), Nottingham Rock City Beta (3), Northampton The Black Prince (4), Oxford O2 Academy (6), Norwich Waterfront (7), Hull The New Adelphi (8), Aberdeen Drummond's (9), Glasgow King Tut's Wah Wah Hut (10), Middlesbrough Twisterella Festival (12), Manchester Neighbourhood Festival (12) and Leeds Live At Leeds One To Watch (November 23).

White Room's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter. They play London Camden Assembly (October 4).

Working Men's Club are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester Yes (September 19), Warrington Live Bars (October 11), Newcastle Cluny (13), Leeds Brudenell Social Club (16), York Fulford Arms (17), Hull Polar Bear (18), Oxford Ritual Union (19), Brighton Latest Music Bar (22), Southampton Heartbreakers (23), Guildford Boileroom (25), Manchester Yes (26), Glasgow Broadcast (27), Birmingham Hare And Hounds (28), Bristol Louisiana (31), Preston The Ferret (November 1), Sheffield Record Junkee (2), Norwich Waterfront (7), Reading Purple Turtle (8), Paris Supersonic (16), Manchester Yes (22) and Nottingham Bodega (28).

The Ruby Tuesdays are on Facebook and Twitter.

Kyogen can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Déjà Vega are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester Gullivers (October 4), Liverpool Jimmy's (November 30) and Manchester Deaf Institute (February 29).

Loose Articles are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester Deaf Institute Stay Fresh Festival (September 28).

Northern Sports Club's website can be found here and they are on Facebook.
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