I must be getting older cause the years keep flying by, and it’s time for Desertfest London yet again, having just about recovered from the last one. Just kidding, I’m totally recovered from that one, but still slightly sleep deprived from last weekend’s Roadburn festival – anyway, enough about myself and my speedy or not so speedy recoveries.

This weekend, as every other year, Camden will be infiltrated with mostly longhaired, although not limited to, music and beer enthusiasts ready to shout along to some of their favourite bands before let’s admit it, getting hammered at the Black Heart and The Dev until 3am before when it’s time to, venture to Woody Grill for lifesaving kebabs that will prepare them, myself included, to do the same thing all over the following day – and then again, the day after that.

Covering last years festival I started out incredibly professional with pen and paper in my bag for professional notes to go in my professional daily recaps I’d be getting up at 8am the following mornings to write, and earplugs because we only get one pair of ears and we must look after them. Four hours into the festival I’d had about eighteen pints, lost an earplug, and a single puff of a cigarette that definitely wasn’t a cigarette and sent me on a magical mystery tour for about 3 hours, making me run away at an incredibly slow pace from my friends to watch various bands in the dark on my own, all while feeling uncomfortable about the way my arms were attached and hanging down the side of my body and accidentally brushing unknowing by-passers.

Radio Moscow, Desertfest Antwerp 2017

This year I’ll be kickstarting my festival nice and early on the Friday when London noise connoisseurs Swedish Death Candy takes the Black Heart stage at 2.45pm. I’ve seen ‘em a million times before, but they continue to deliver impeccable live performances every time, so I wouldn’t wanna miss them. Following that, I’ll be making my way to The Dev for Orange ambassadors Lionize where guitarist Nate will brighten the place up in his all gold outfit, which will most likely be the only all gold outfit at the entire festival. After that, we’ve got Orange ambassador Anthony Meier taking the stage at Underworld, which might just be my favourite venue in all of London, with his band Radio Moscow, and I’m pretty sure will be one of the festival highlights as they blew the roof off as headliners at last year’s Desertfest Antwerp. When Radio Moscow ends, I’ve got half an hour to make my way to KOKO where the kings of Gothenburg and 70s revival rock Graveyard will be headlining the night, with bassist Truls Mörck flaunting his AD200 (Product placement, advert, shameless name drop etc.)

Saturday I might as well set camp at Electric Ballroom with bands such as Church of Misery, Weedeater and High on Fire playing. London, lock up your ladies cause who knows what’ll happen when a shirtless Matt Pike plays his first note through his stack of turned up to eleven Orange amps taking everyone on the train to vibration station – the entire Roundhouse will be speaking in tongues not knowing what hit ‘em, most likely all in a haze of, uhm, Willie Nelson scented incense. ‘Incense’.

Church of Misery, Desertfest Antwerp 2017

Then there’s Sunday, the grand finale which already had a pretty damn strong lineup since day one, until they about a month or so ago threw in King Buffalo which will be headlining the Black Heart at 9pm, Elder playing Roundhouse at 4.30pm, a band that simply just blew me away when I saw them for the second time last August, having added a second guitarist/keyboard player to their line-up, as well as adding a second headliner for the day which is none other than Hawkwind. Hawkwind. H A W K W I N D. ‘Hawkwind live at the Roundhouse’, kinda rings a bell, doesn’t it? The legendary kings and pretty much inventors of space rock will be taking the stage at 7.50pm, and that really is a show I don’t wanna miss. I met Phil Campbell last year, and he told me Hawkwind live was ‘the scariest fuckin’ thing he’d ever seen.’ Fair, that was in the 70s when they had a topless Stacia on stage surrounded by some of the trippiest visuals the world had ever seen at that point, but surely even decades down the line Hawkwind are destined to provide you with a night you’ll late forget. Let’s not forget Monolord who just finished touring with Black Label Society where the played London’s infamous Royal Albert Hall, and will be taking their caffeine fuelled doom to yet another iconic London venue as they open up the Roundhouse at 3pm.

Monolord, Desertfest Antwerp 2017

Between all of this, running between shows, catching up with friends from near and afar and drinking lukewarm, flat beer that I’ve held in my hand for far too long, I’ll also be conducting artist interviews and keeping Instagram a float, keeping you guys up to date with the mayhem and the madness going down in Camden town.


If you wanna join the madness and share the fun, head over to Desertfest London’s website and get your hands on a or two ticket before they’re all completely gone – see ya there!

With over 300 aspiring acts hoping to be the lucky winners of this year’s Firestone Battle of the Bands, it was narrowed down to the top three who made it to the finals at newly built BIMM Birmingham. A quick recap to remind us all about the finalists; we had Welsh pop-rock band Fire Fences who despite their age had already played a sold out show at LA’s legendary The Viper Room and have one of their tracks picked for the new NASCAR Heat II video game, rapper EL-Emcee who’s been making countless tracks from his bedroom back in Ipswich and the heaviest band of the lot, Bristol’s Nuns of the Tundra. 

As we arrive to the freshly painted BIMM, all the acts are patiently waiting for sound check, dress rehearsals and their time to shine – streamed live for the world to watch. I mingle around and chat to the bands to see how they’re feeling, and how they’ve been preparing for the finals.  

Nuns of the Tundra:  

We’ve been working on ways to make the songs more interesting, and changed one of them around to give it a massive and dramatic ending. We also played a gig last night, almost like a rehearsal gig where we asked everyone for feedback on what they liked, but also what needed to be improved and could be done better. We’ll be playing two quite different songs as well to show versatility. We’ve been working towards the final, but we’re also in the process of writing new material and speaking to different producers, so whether we win or not we’ll still venture back into the studio. 

 

EL-Emcee:  

I’m very excited to play, really looking forward to it. I was expecting it to be a lot more nerve wrecking, and had it been last year I know it would have been, but I’m feeling quite relaxed. When I first entered the competition I didn’t really think that much of it. I gave it a go not expecting to hear back as it’s ‘Battle of the Bands’, and I’m not a band, so it did catch me by surprise when I all of a sudden got an email saying I’d made it through! It’s pretty mad to be honest. Obviously with me being a rapper competing against two guitar-based bands, I’ll be bringing a different vibe to the competition, and I hope that will work to my advantage. I’ve just been doing my regular thing leading up to the finals – I’ve been making music seriously for about four years now, and I’d say another eight before that just doing bits of pieces of lyrics and poetry, and I’ve got a tight group I work with who produces beats for me, although I’m looking at trying to do that myself. 

 

Fire Fences:  

We’re feeling excited about tonight, and even if we don’t make it to the top this is just another exciting thing to add onto the list of amazing stuff we’ve had happen to us. A few years back, we were lucky enough to record over in the States and play a sold out show at The Viper Room in LA. At the time we were under 21 and not old enough to drink or even be inside the venue, so we were literally stood outside on the sidewalk with our instruments until someone came and told us it was time to play. We set up, and when the curtains opened it was absolutely packed. It was incredible, and we feel like we’ve learnt a lot from that experience. We really love playing live, and we feel like that is our strength. We will try to treat tonight just as any other gig; go on, play, and have fun. It’s nice to be part of a final where all the bands are so different and great in their own way. The feedback we got after entering the competition was so great as well. You could tell that they had really taken their time to actually listen to and almost analyse our music, which made us feel even better about making it through as we were recognised for exactly what we were. 

 


Eventually it’s time for dress rehearsals and a quick run through of everything that’s about to happen. Abbie McCarthy from BBC Radio 1 is the host for the evening and starts out interviewing the judges which includes Orange’s European A&R rep Daniel Darby. A video of each band that was used during the public votes is showed before their performance, and they all get two songs each before they’re over in the hot seat with Abbie to share their thoughts on their performance and the competition. Shortly after, family and friends start to arrive adding some extra tension and excitement to it all, and the countdown till we go live begins. 

6pm sharp it all kicks off, and first out is Nuns of the Tundra, the heaviest act of the night. They start out with the bass-based ‘Dead in the Desert’, followed by ‘Minds’s Eye’ which they’ve re-worked for the evening and given a dramatic ending. Second man out is EL-Emcee who appears to be the natural entertainer, interacting with the camera and audience while showing off his incredible songwriting skills. Last but not least, is Welsh Fire Fences, who by the looks of it are probably the youngest of the lot. They start off loud and proud then mellows it down for the second song, both described as ‘anthems’ by Abbie McCarthy.

With all acts being so good at what they do, they judges are left with a tough decision to make. Minutes which must feel like months for the contestants pass by, and they can finally announce that this year’s winner of Firestone Battle of the Bands is Fire Fences!

While basking in the new found glory of their victory, we had a brief chat with the 2 runners up, Nuns of the Tundra who still were high in spirits and ready to take on some new recording, and EL-Emcee, who said he’ll keep writing and get producing, and perform wherever and whenever he can. When we finally managed to get a little piece of Fire Fences who were the centre of everyone’s attention, they couldn’t be happier about the outcome and head to the studio to record new music. We’ll be staying in touch with the winners, so watch this space for updates to see where they venture off to next. 

This upcoming Thursday, 14th December, sees the final of 2017’s Firestone Battle of the Bands. The public votes have closed, and the top three that made it to the final are Welsh four-piece Fire Fences, London-based rapper EL-Emcee and Malvern’s Nuns of the Tundra. One of the things we’re very excited about this year is that we’ve managed to cover a lot of ground and sound with this year’s bands and artist, from indie and rock ’n’ roll to hip hop and rap.

Fire Fences:

Fire Fences, who can be compared to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy have had some incredible things happen to them during their four years as a band, from being invited out to LA in 2015 to record and play a sold out show at the legendary Viper Room, to being picked as one of the top ten UK unsigned bands in 2017 by Rising Sounds. This allowed them to record their single ‘Weather’ which has been chosen to be featured in the new NASCAR Heat II Video Game. The guys have made it clear that they’re in the music game for the thrill of it, and that the successes the band have seen so far have only been an added bonus. If they don’t make it in the end? Well, they’ll still be going at it at 60, as long as they’re still enjoying it.

EL-Emcee:

EL-Emcee is the only solo artist that’s made it to this year’s final, and also the only hip hop act in the top three. The Ipswich and London-based rapper, who’s real name is Lloyd Millwood, has been making tracks and beats under the alias EL-Emcee for years now, and records everything at home in his bedroom. For EL-Emcee, hip hop has become a way to express feelings, opinions and thoughts, and he’s already got hundreds of tracks under his belt. He is always still striving to learn, and adapt better to his soul, and will always find a way to stand out among the competition.

“Spreading Mind, Heart, Soul, to the world. Let our voices serve our purpose. Whether we become Pacs or Killer Mikes.”
-EL-Emcee

Nuns of the Tundra:

“Dirty desert rock from the unlikely tranquil town of Malvern. Nuns will make it their holy mission to get you moving.”
– From Nuns of the Tundra’s Soundcloud

Nuns of the Tundra will be the heaviest band on the bill for this year’s Firestone Battle of the Bands final, floating somewhere between Royal Blood and Queens of the Stone Age with their alternative indie psychedelic rock. Nuns of the Tundra have used their social media and SoundCloud to build up a following and reach new audiences, and love seeing people’s faces light up in excitement at gigs and shows.


As you can see, this diversity’s key, and it’ll be extra hard to pick a winner this year as all of the finalists are so good in their own field. The Birmingham final will be live streamed on Firestone’s Facebook, so tune in there from just before 6pm Thursday night to cheer your favourite to the top!

First day on the road with Radio Moscow and I’m currently on the verge of dying from alcohol poisoning and bad decisions.

Kicking it all off, they played a sold out show at London’s Borderline last night supported by the legendary Groundhogs, and I must say, having the Groundhogs supporting you is pretty damn cool – and pretty damn brave as those guys can tear shit up and have been doing so for decades, even before any of the Moscow dudes were born. It was my third time ever seeing Groundhogs, and needless to say, they left big boots to fill. Luckily, Radio Moscow are pretty damn great too and had every mind in there blown within the first song. It was my first time ever seeing them, and I’m stoked I get to see them again tonight. And tomorrow. And Thursday. Then twice again in October. That’s right, no getting rid of me now for these dudes.

Following last night’s gig I spilled an entire bottle of ranch over myself backstage before venturing next door to the dingiest dive bar of them all, Crobar. A place you go to lose your dignity, memory and personal belongings, and it might not come as a surprise that it’s all a bit of a blur after that. Cans of red stripe, hotel hallway vending machine bags of crisps, listening to Dirty Tricks and falling asleep on the floor. So far I think I’ve made a great impression on everyone, and it’s going really great.

Most of today has been spent in the van feeling horrendously hungover, with the highlight of the day being a pit stop at some pub in Kent which hosts Freddie Mercury, Michael Bublé, Elvis, and of course – white Tina Turner tribute nights. Next level entertainment right there, so I shall be returning once I’m sick and tired of this San Diego psych rock and in the mood for an upgrade.

As for now, we’ve just arrived in Hastings to find the venue being on the second floor, and had to load in a bunch of amps up through three flights of stairs, and as you all know, Orange amps are good as gold, but god damn heavy as led. Still, spirits are high, and as I type the guys are setting up and getting ready to soundcheck. Tomorrow we’re at The Exchange in Bristol, followed by The Castle and Falcon in Birmingham on Thursday, and I’m hoping for lifts and no condiment spillage.

This Blog piece was written by Sam Hafferty. Orange is a supporter of Miami Girl’s Rock Camp.

Hi! I’m Sam Hafferty. 2016 Camper, 2017 Assistant Director at Miami Girl’s Rock Camp (MGRC). This would sound like a HUGE transition anywhere else, but those who know the MGRC environment and philosophies, know that this camp is not like anywhere else. Even though I was put in a more mentally (and physically) challenging position in carrying out my duties as a volunteer, I found the overall experience to be far more enjoyable and educational than difficult in any sense of the word. My overall time at camp over the past 2 years has created a combination of education, service, and emotional support fueled equally by every single person involved during camp week.

I remember when I first heard about a girl’s rock camp starting in Miami. I was 16 and very interested in my local DIY cultural communities. I knew that I was eligible to join camp in its first year, but was too thrown off by the fact that I might be the oldest camper. I now understand that at MGRC, It doesn’t matter if you are 7 or 70, you are still treated with as much support and love as the next person. After seeing how great the first year looked on social media, I decided I didn’t care if I was going to be the oldest camper anymore, and signed up in 2016. By the end of my first day of camp, all of my misconceptions and worries were forgotten, I was surrounded by people who cared about my comfort and upheld the ideals of positive relationships with one another.

At Miami Girl’s Rock Camp, I had made real connections and friendships with my peers and mentors. Many of whom I kept in touch with year-round. My experience as a camper opened up new possibilities for me to encourage positivity and creativity in all aspects of my life. After performing in the MGRC showcase as a newfound bass player, I was motivated to start a band outside of camp with some friends. My first post-MGRC performance was actually thanks to one of the directors of camp, Emile Milgrim, who invited us to play in her section of my favorite local gathering, the International Noise Conference! After that first performance, I felt confident enough to go out and proactively seek shows to play with my band all around the city!

Leading up to this summer’s camp week, I was excited to play a very different role. I performed a wide variety of tasks, from roadie work to administrative work to small counseling roles. I had a chance to see the behind the scenes of all aspects of running camp. Even though I was equally as active and stimulated going through camp week as a volunteer as when a camper, I had the added benefit of observation. I was able to truly recognize the transformation campers go through from all of the amazing experiences at camp. Whisperers become screaming singers and individualists flourished in a collaborative setting. In short, reflecting over my experiences as both a camper and volunteer at MGRC has taught me that this camp is equally magical, educational, and refreshing to all parties involved.

#zombie shred @thecranberries w/ @orangeamplifiers #mgrc2017 #thecranberries 🤘🏻

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2016 was a cracking year for east London music promoter Fluffer who’s notoriously known for their ‘Fluffer pit parties’ where the concept is simple; Band in the middle, and crowd 360. The idea behind the pit parties is to take the gig back to the fans and break the barriers between the band and the audience.

With a string of pit parties in secret warehouse locations, they ended it all with a bang at east London venue Shapes in Hackney Wick, featuring bands such as HECK, Bo Ningen and the Black Lips. After taking a bit of a break, Fluffer Pit Parties are back with a vengeance and bunch of killer pit parties coming up, the next one being headlined by none other than Californian dream team duo Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards, in the form of Deap Vally.

The two piece who originally met at a crochet class (how every rock band starts out, right…?) in San Fernando Valley California back in 2011, have since then toured excessively in the UK and Europe as well as the US, with bands and artists such as Marilyn Manson, Red Hot Chili Pepper, Wolfmother, Garbage and Blondie –  to name a few. Not to mention, releasing two albums with their 2013 debut «Sistrionix», followed by 2016’s «Femejism».

The two piece who is known for their energetic and unapologetic live performances plays blues infused garage rock ’n’ roll, and can bring to mind other bands such as The White Stripes or Bass Drum of Death. Dressed in sequins, tassels, leotards or all of the above combined, front woman Lindsey Troy struts around stage, while drummer Julie Edwards becomes one with the drums; wild hair everywhere as she pushes the bands pulse to the max. As the pit parties are all about the energy, we can totally see why Fluffer’s so excited to have them – we’re super stoked to be involved!

Joining them, will be Denmark’s Baby in Vain and UK band Yassassin, making this a refreshing breath of fresh air in a world that is predominantly male dominated; Three, fierce full female bands taking names, kicking ass and playing rock ’n’ roll – we’ll be there with bells on, and so should you. Get your tickets while you still can, this’ll be a good one.

Get your tickets here.

Orange Amplification is delighted to be sponsoring the 2017 Progressive Music Awards once again. These prestigious awards will be held at The Underglobe on the September 14th. This year, Orange Ambassadors Mastodon, Sólstafir and Rush are nominated for awards.

Mastodon, winners of this year’s Golden God Award for Best Live Band, have earned themselves a reputation as one of the most creative metal bands of a generation. The stunning artwork of their best-selling seventh studio album, Emperor of Sands, has been nominated for Prog Awards 2017 Album Cover Of The Year. In addition, ‘Show Yourself’ the second single from the album and the band’s most commercially successful has been nominated for Video of The Year. Mastodon has just announced their Emperor of Sands tour will be extended with seven UK Shows from December 2nd in Cardiff to the 10th in London.

The music of Icelandic heavy metal band Sólstafir has been described as a unique blend of metal, beautiful melodies with psychedelic moments. They have been nominated for International Band / Artist of the Year at the Prog Awards. Their sixth album Berdreyminn, released in May 2017 is being supported by a UK and European tour throughout June.

 

Rush’s fortieth anniversary edition of their seminal ‘2112’ album has been nominated for Reissue Of The Year, sponsored by Orange Amplification. The re-mastering of this landmark 1976 album adds polish to an already superb example of musical agility. It has Orange Ambassador Geddy Lee’s vocals popping and his iconic bass lines sounding refreshed and rejuvenated. The album may be forty years old, yet 2112 remains as relevant as ever.

To find out more about the Prog Awards, the categories and vote for your favourite Orange Ambassador please go to www.progmagazine.com/awards. To find out more about Orange Amplification, its products and its artists please go to https://orangeamps.com/.

This Saturday, it was time for the annual Stone Free Festival at London’s o2, and new to this years festival, was the Orange Amps stage in the foyer of the arena, providing festival goers with banging tunes from the very first second they set foot in the venue.

THE ORANGE AMPS STAGE
Evil Blizzard: 18.00 – 18.45
Buck & Evans: 17.00 – 17.30
Massive: 16.00 – 16.30
Massive Wagons: 15.00 – 15.30
Death Valley Knights: 14.00 – 14.30
Tequila Mockingbyrd: 13.00 – 13.30
Riff Rath: 12.00 – 12.30

Evil Blizzard delivering a killer set at the Orange Amps stage. When one bassist just won’t cut it…

As far as for the rest of the festival, it saw the likes of bands and artists such as The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Blue Oyster Cult (among others) who played their 1972 self titled debut album in it’s entirety at a sweaty and packed Indigo2.

Blue Oyster Cult at Indigo2 – Photo via Stone Free’s Facebook page

In the main room, we saw performances from 70’s glam rockers Sweet who delivered a whole bunch of bangers such as Ballroom Blitz, Teenage Rampage, Fox on the Run, and Hellraiser. Following Sweet’s performance there was a half an hour break leaving you with just enough time for toilet breaks and running to the bar to buy some pretty expensive pints to spill all over yourself and everyone else while awkwardly trying to parkour your way through the crowd getting back to your seat, before it was time for the headliner of the day, where living legend Mr. Ritchie Blackmore would bring his Rainbow playing the classic rock anthems of both Rainbow and Deep Purple.

Ritchie Blackmore – photo via Stone Free’s Facebook page

Touring Rainbow and Deep Purple songs without Ronnie James Dio and Jon Lord is risky business, but Ritchie Blackmore’s 21st century Rainbow delivered an absolutely incredible performance, playing songs such as I surrender, Man on The Silver Mountain, Mistreated, Child in Time, Black Night and Burn. I go to gigs several nights a week most weeks, and I think it’s safe to say this is one of the best ones I’ve been to in a very, very long time. All hail King Ritchie Blackmore!