Record Weekly was established as a safe haven for anti-chart music heads to read about less-well-known releases that are more up their street. So, let it be said that I can almost feel your concern as you read the headline regarding ‘Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2020’. However, there were some really decent acts on the billing of this totally virtual festival — which, by definition, would shake up the norm nicely during this lockdown period. I had a good scroll through the BBC iPlayer highlights webpage and cherrypicked these standout artists…
The trio of LA sisters that make up HAIM played their set from their home studios. They were socially distanced, as per the rules, though appeared to be staying in sync using live streams on phones and laptops as they weren’t together. ‘Now I’m In It’ showed off their tech arsenal with electronic drum kits and keyboards, and it had my toes tapping immediately. ‘The Steps’ saw the guitars come out among an acoustic setup and, by contrast, the latest single, ‘Don’t Wanna’, was a lesson in how to nail solid drum beats and funky chords. They give bass guitars the credit they deserve.
Things got creative from the homes of Blossoms — we’re talking random spritzes of room sprays and taps on cardboard boxes from deliveries during ‘Charlamagne’. All very welcoming and rustic. They then had a change of settings in their separate houses on the edgy indie jam, ‘If You Think This Is Real Life’. Does it get more wholesome and intimate than these sorts of clips? Obviously they squeezed in the ultra-catchy ‘Your Girlfriend’, which demonstrated tuneful sounds to the max. And why wouldn’t you pepper it with a few drumstick taps on a vase? Go on, guys.
‘Tiny Indoor Fireworks’ — sounds like a night in lockdown that’s descended into a row, am I right? This mega-tune brought full instruments, with the three band members blocked off, distorted screen projections in the background. It was much like a promo video for an against-the-grain single, which made it less ‘I’m-in-my-sitting-room’ than I spied from other artists (as kitsch as that still was). The bold, energetic, punchy riffs kept to the classic Biffy style and they topped the whole affair off by smashing through the walled sheets at the end. It’s good to have them back.
Honestly, an alarm bell rings in my head with CONRAD — not because I’m unsure of his talent, but because I’m really not keen on Sam Smith and I can draw some similarities between the two. However, the fierce, powerfully deep vocals of CONRAD are spellbinding. He popped up as a suggested artist to follow on Instagram and, yeah, now I’d say I’m a fan. The feisty electronics that typically back his tracks are borderline pop, for sure, but they complete the package. ‘Blue Blooded’ has been in my head since this morning, so I can certainly identify why he’s tipped for big things.
‘Don’t Forget It (Punk)’ is a mighty superb dose of the indie-meets-alt-rock that The Snuts promise, so it was a smart call to give the listeners what they wanted for this BBC Radio 1 showcase. Their to-be-rearranged Leeds show sold out really fast when it went on sale, though I do hope to see these lads soon. They’ve got more charisma and vivacity than a lot of your sticky-sweet indie bands, which is why they’re up my street and I was pleased that they made the cut for such a mainstream festival.