December 28th 2016
2016 has been a relatively quiet year for me on the gig front. Now that I’m comfortably past the mid-point of my twenties and beyond the wide-eyed enthusiasm and boundless energy of youth, I often struggle to find the motivation to make the standard 2-3 hour round-trip up to London and back – especially since I’ve been to literally hundreds of shows over the last seven years, and seen the vast majority of my favourite bands on numerous occasions already. The unrestrained excitement I felt in my late teens and early twenties now battles a lethargic sense of routine, and I sometimes even find myself wearily checking the time at gigs, eager for the night to reach an end so I can head home and get to bed. The experience is still enjoyable, but these days it takes something truly special to inspire me, recapture the magic and ultimately justify the excursion. Financial restrictions are also a significant factor; as ticket prices seem to climb while my disposable income becomes increasingly limited, going to every show that interests me is simply no longer affordable anyway, and the overall result is that I’m becoming much more selective about which to attend. Nevertheless, I’m fortunate enough to have been present for plenty of incredible concerts this year, some of which actually rank among the greatest I’ve ever witnessed – the following are my ten favourites of 2016.
November 27th 2016
While some festivals are dependably loyal a particular style, Reading and Leeds take a slightly different approach and shift focus with the times, striving to capture the zeitgeist of the moment by booking the hottest acts from the trendiest sub-genres and build a perpetually modern line-up every year. Revisiting past bills is like looking into a musical time capsule – the festivals in the 1990s centred on Britpop and alternative rock, but the early 2000s saw nu-metal and hard rock enter the fray, then came a wave of indie and emo a few years later, and more recently dance and grime has become increasingly prevalent.
November 18th 2016
In a world where magic and monsters lurk in the shadows of human society, there is also the Slayer – one lone girl bestowed with superpowers and destined to fight back against the forces of darkness. Upon the death of each Slayer, the powers and duties are passed on to a new girl; Californian teenager Buffy Summers is the latest to inherit this burden, reluctantly accepting her fate as she battles evil alongside paternal mentor Rupert Giles, and best friends Xander Harris and Willow Rosenberg. Known as the Scooby Gang, together they face demons – both literal and metaphorical – and protect the world from apocalyptic threats, while simultaneously enduring the pressures, adversities and tribulations of everyday life.
November 3rd 2016
I’m lost in a dark field, surrounded by tens of thousands of eager rock fans with a towering stage looming out of the black ahead of us. Suddenly the sound of an air raid siren transforms the anxious buzz of the crowd into a jubilant roar and four figures appear, each clad in bright orange prison jumpsuits with black bags obscuring their heads. The whole place erupts into an exhilarating frenzy of jumping, dancing and moshing as Rage Against The Machine launch into their storming performance at Reading Festival 2008, and I’m left awestruck by my first encounter with a festival headliner. In fact, the entirety of my debut festival weekend was unforgettable, establishing a lasting devotion and inspiring a significant element of my lifestyle and identity ever since.
October 26th 2016
Ever since I was born at a weight of over ten pounds, I’ve been bigger than the average person. At junior school I was known as Flubber (after the eponymous bouncing, jiggling ball of goo from the 1997 film), and I reigned as the permanent champion in the heavyweight division of our lunchtime wrestling federation due to limited competition because so few others were hefty enough to qualify. As a teenager, I would cook up and scoff down huge meat-filled omelettes with friends after school, or buy bags of chocolate-filled doughnuts with any spare change we could scrape together. We even pioneered the infamous ‘Mars Bar Challenge’, in which challengers would attempt to consume four king-size Mars bars – ludicrously containing over fifteen-hundred calories in total – in as quick a time as possible. As you may have guessed, my record went unbeaten (technically, at least – the only person to beat me threw up afterwards, disqualifying his effort).
October 20th 2016
Ever since my first time back in 2008, the annual pilgrimage to various music festivals for a weekend of amazing bands, fun people and all-round great times has been a defining element of my life. There really isn’t any time of year that I don’t have festivals in the back of my mind, but the upcoming couple of months is a notably exciting time – second only to the summer, of course – as promoters begin to reveal the line-ups for next years events and the hype train starts building momentum.
October 14th 2016
WARNING: the following review contains spoilers.
I bought my PS3 on the very day Guns Of The Patriots was released in 2008, and seven years later I did exactly the same thing with my PS4 and The Phantom Pain. Seven years of patiently waiting, replaying through the previous games again and again, until the last piece of the puzzle – the missing link that would bridge the gap between the Big Boss and Solid Snake eras to bring the epic saga full circle – was finally released. Unfortunately, this is not the game we received. Instead, The Phantom Pain is a devastatingly disappointing mess of irrelevant and unfinished plot, weak storytelling and dull characters, mixed with lifeless maps, repetitive missions and a distinct lack of just about everything that typically makes Metal Gear Solid games so great.