2017: The Garage Flower’s Year In Review

What a year it has been, from start to finish we’ve been treated to some amazing albums, some once in a lifetime gigs and discovered some new music that will take us far beyond the turn of the year. As with every year, we close 2017 with a look back on the biggest moments in music from where The Garage Flower stood.

Click on the links throughout the piece to open up individual articles about some of the events mentioned, and click here to go to TGF’s Spotify playlist of 2017 while you read!

The turn of the year saw the release of ‘I See You’, the long-awaited return of The XX. It was to be, in the end, many people’s favourite album of the entire year. Single ‘On Hold’ also featured in a lot of selections for one of the tracks of the year. The Shimmer Band were also on fire in January, the release of ‘Jacknife and The Death Call‘ ahead of their upcoming tour was met with huge support on social media. Their support slot with Cabbage at EBGBS may feel like a lifetime ago, but it was a night of complete chaos. The lads from Mosley spent their night topless, inches away from a crowd being sent into delirium by their now extensive catalogue of power-to-the-people anthems.

Photo by Fi, @dirtyroknroller

Also in February was a couple of gigs on the continent, my red passport took me to Sauze d’Oulx in Italy where The Soup entertained the final night of a skiing holiday and also to Copenhagen where Ryan Koriya was in town as part of his tour around Europe. Back on home shores, The Amazons were making noise and came North from Reading to play in Liverpool’s Buyers Club, supported by Oldham band Cupids who I was to see headline Night and Day in Manchester later in the year.

March saw Circa Waves return with a new album, ‘Different Creatures’ made its way around the country including an intimate stop-off in Liverpool’s HMV where I got the chance to ask them an important question, you’ll have to click the link for that one. Their homecoming gig at Liverpool’s Guild of Students later was a less intimate affair but had the same local feel.

Another asset to the city came in the same month, Pirate Studios have brought a new studio concept that works on the basis of freedom and expression, it was fitting therefore that This Feeling and Dave McCabe helped open the facility with a night of entertainment. But the band that caught my eye that night, in the small confines of a studio down a corridor were Hello Operator. Now, these lads were the real deal.

In April, that Cupids date I spoke of earlier came around, but not until after a surprising Facebook post to announce that they’d be parting ways as a band. To those outside of the social media loop, of course, this came as thoroughly disappointing news, and the whole evening was on the side of anti-climax until a final few songs earned a rapturous farewell. Not every gig is an emotional outpour, but this was a strange night.

I had the pleasure of spending Record Store Day in Carlisle’s Vinyl Cafe, a record store that was limited in its allowance but managed to attract plenty of people in a queue in the early hours of the morning. I got hold of what I wanted, including a bright pink press of The Courteeners‘ The 17th Single, I was happy to watch the rest of the punters rummage around for their prizes while listening to local bands perform in-store such as Hardwicke Circus, pushing their ‘Social Music EP’ to apparent success. 2017 for them would culminate in a headline show in The Brickyard, watch this space for them building upon that.

Everyone knows breaks in revision are important, so why not head to watch DMA’S for one? Simply put, it was one of the best live performances I’ve seen in a long time, and the reaction of a delighted crowd makes you forget they’re 17,000 miles from home and from Sydney, not St. Helens. The support band, The Bohos, I’d bump into again sooner than I thought.

Those Friday/Saturday gig weekends are always nice, but over the years two bands who have been at the top of my most played are The Cribs and The View. Friday afternoon saw me skip out of my last exam of the year and to Manchester Academy to see the Wakefield band tear the roof off it. I bunked in Tom’s room that night (thanks, mate), and after breakfast in The Koffee Pot headed back onto Merseyside where The View were to equally de-roof Hangar 34. Two bands touring albums from a nostalgic angle, both sounding brand new.

Now it’s the end of May, we’re in big gig territory. We’re also in General Election territory. Until the appearance of a particular Jeremy Corbyn it was unlikely Jon McClure of Reverend and The Makers would be seen inviting a politician onto the stage of Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park stadium. But lo and behold, Mr Corbyn’s voice propelled from a solitary microphone, it was only until after the event upon seeing the international attention given to the appearance that I and many others were to realise it was not only one of the biggest fusions of politics, music and youth culture in British political history but also a sign from a Labour perspective that maybe, just maybe, something was stirring. The Coral followed Rev, but it was The Libertines‘ night, though, even if they couldn’t resist a few chords of ‘Seven Nation Army’, you know the drill.

Music had never been closer to politics, it was a signifier of a rise in interest, but also in May it was to signify an occasion of catastrophic loss and of desperate tragedy. On the evening of 22nd May 2017, just after 10.30pm, an explosive device was detonated in the foyer of the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people following a performance from Ariana Grande. Manchester mourned, and the country with it, no more than the music communities so similar to those rooted in the city. Minute’s silence fell, hotels and spare rooms sheltered, flowers filled squares across the country, tattoos inked, songs sung.

Days later, while a city was still coming to terms with the events that shattered countless lives, it was my turn to see my favourite band, my turn to get on the train with my mates and sing a set word for word. For that, I can only direct you towards the words that I found immediately after the gig, which you can find here. Of all the times I’ve seen The Courteeners, a band that defined my teenage years and beyond, no more had I appreciated it than then.

“During the week, at one of the many moments of memorial in the city, a group of people broke out into a rendition of an iconic Mancunian track. It is Old Trafford’s turn to sing Don’t Look Back In Anger, the sound of 50,000 voices can be heard across the city. I have watched videos of the cover countless times since Saturday, and my eyes have blurred every time. Truthfully, it was only then, upon looking 360 degrees that I realised how vital it is that music stands tall in the most heartbreaking of situations.”

In 2013, when The Courteeners filled Castlefield Bowl for 2 nights, it seemed completely unrealistic that they’d draw 50,000 fans to Old Trafford Cricket Ground, and the gig itself saw a band at the peak of their powers. That weekend wasn’t over, either, the first festival of the year I’d be part of was Liverpool Sound City, albeit for one day only. Cabbage, Milburn, The Shimmer Band, an in conversation and acoustic set from Tim Burgess, and that’s just a handful of names from that day. Liverpool is a city bursting with musical activity and Sound City is one of those events that bring together all things great about Merseyside. The Kooks closed Sunday night, confetti swirled over the docks and another musical weekend was over.

June. The big guns were out, The Stone Roses were fuelling rumours of another split following their Wembley, Belfast and Glasgow gigs. Liam Gallagher was back, too, and he announced winter dates in the UK following his debut solo album. It was that Hampden Park gig where I’d see The Stone Roses for a once unprecedented 4th time, one quote would live long in the memory from that night. Matched with Mani’s clear emotion, Ian Brown left the stage after saying the immortal words, “Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened.” And that, to all in attendance, was that. Was this to be the end of The Stone Roses, who knows? I speculated.

Another festival, this time from my sofa, as Ed Sheeran headlined Glastonbury. A strange concept beforehand, underwhelming, perhaps. To give him more credit, it’s more likely he’s just not quite suited to it. His chart domination in 2017, though, is his long-lasting mark on the year in music. Glasto was to have a year out, for the best, probably.

That was me home for the summer, in the main, and a visit to one of my favourite places in the world was to follow in July after I’d scraped together a few pennies. Benicassim; the sun, sea, sand and spectacular music of one of Europe’s best festivals. I gave out a few tips, still appropriate if you’re heading there in 2018. When I previewed, I still didn’t imagine it would be quite as good as it really was. If you’ve not been, it’s difficult to describe the atmosphere. It’s a week-long celebration of music, attended in the most by those from the UK who’d probably have seen most of the bands locally before. I mean, one week I’m seeing The View a couple of miles from my Liverpool flat and the next we’re rendezvousing in sunny Spain. Blossoms did a cover of ‘Last Christmas’, Stormzy impressed me big time, LG was back, Biffy Clyro were topless and top-notch and 10 to 1, Monday morning, how do Kasabian sound? Find out in my review.

In amongst the bright lights of huge festivals, flights and having €0,50 cans of lager as cushions, there was plenty going on back home. I interviewed that support band from a few months back, The Bohos, ahead of their headline show in Liverpool’s O2 Academy.

From one festival to another, the Beni blues had just kicked in before it was Kendal Calling‘s turn to take over. The little local festival that attracts people from across the country. The highlights? Where to start, a Charlatans and Verve supergroup set at Tim Peaks? Dave Haslam‘s DJ set featuring Tony Walsh‘s famous Manchester poem? Brian Wilson? The list goes on, you can read more and watch some videos of Kendal Calling 2017 here.

On a personal level, KC17 marked a major step forward for The Garage Flower and I, the band who’d made the walls of Liverpool’s EBGBS sweat in January were to be interviewed by myself ahead of their set on Friday night. We spoke of their new EP featuring one of my favourite tracks of the year, ‘A Network Betrayal’, politics, the House Party stage and in their words, “how the fuck can a band called Cabbage play at Old Trafford”. It was a pleasure to talk to them, and their set later in the day was typically rowdy and typically brilliant.

Here are 10 Things I loved about Kendal Calling this year.

August, and no Leeds Festival for me this year, but plenty in terms of releases to keep me excited. The Cribs, in particular, with 24-7 Rock Star Shit and the announcement of a residencies tour. I caught up with my mate George Lyons about his career and TGF started a Fantasy Football League, why not?

While I was in Barcelona, and this time even closer to another tragic terrorist attack, it was announced that the Manchester Arena was to re-open, with a little help from some of the biggest names in UK music. What’s not to say The Clause won’t end up there someday, their single ‘Sixteen‘ impressed me. Noel Gallagher‘s apparent return didn’t, though, and he may be the villain of 2017’s music year.

I was late to the party in September, The National seem to have escaped my attention but this was far from the case when they released their latest album in September. ‘Sleep Well Beast‘ was one of the albums of the year for sure. Another discovery for 2017 were QTY, the New York band styled from The Strokes released their debut album this year.

More Courteeners, this time in form of The Courteeners Disco at the Star and Garter in Manchester, who’d have thought they’d once have sung about the venue, and were now celebrated in it with a dedicated night that only otherwise celebrates the famous ‘Smiths Disco’? Who’d also have thought you could miss a train at half 5 in the morning? But there you go.

This Feeling have a growing presence in Liverpool in particular, and Sheafs headlined a night of theirs at The Zanzibar Club one Friday night in October. But it was one of the supports, Himalayas that really appealed to me. They were all-out, in the crowd, above the crowd, and earned so many new fans that night – I can’t wait for their date at Jimmy’s in Manchester in the New Year.

A week later, and Liam Gallagher released his debut album, ‘As You Were’. The singles had been promising, and those heard in live performances were too – but it was arguably an even bigger success than anyone would’ve though. It was the album of the year, by so many people’s different opinion. I took it track-by-track, here.

I went for something a bit different in October, too, through Getintothis magazine in Liverpool. When The Spectator’s Michael Hann explored the North/South divide in music in this country, it prompted me to get in touch with a few music heads to see what they thought, you can find that here.

You’ve got to have a laugh, too, right? Who better to take the mickey out of that Noel Gallagher and that scissors performance? That’s here.

Liam Fray headed out on an acoustic tour in October and November this year, too. I attended two of these, one in Sheffield on Saturday and Liverpool on Monday. You can never have enough of the guy, or at least I can’t, and it was a unique Courteeners experience, and I finally got a word with him after the set which rounded off a great birthday weekend.

The man himself post-Monday night club.

A post shared by Lewis Ridley (@lewiscufc) on

Another Welsh band, to add to Himalayas, were Trampolene, who released their debut album ‘From Swansea to Hornsey‘. They’re another band in with the This Feeling gang, and all the better for it too. It also made my top 5 albums of the year, and their gig at The Magnet was completely unique – keep on them for spoken word and guitar rock in equal measure.

Furthering the international content on The Garage Flower, I had a word with Bottle Note, from Glasgow… that’s here.

Perhaps my biggest blag of the year came in November, during a visit to the Northern Quarter for Off The Record conference I heard word of a secret Charlatans set to celebrate the launch of their new app. And thus, I was on a mission, striding the backstreets around Oldham St. to find this set, a tip off from a builder led me to a 3rd floor office space, home to the digital company that had created the app. I was in! I didn’t end there either, as I managed to further blag my way into the dressing room (the bosses office) to meet Tim, Mark and Bonehead. A one of a kind day, with a picture to show for it, and an article.

The Charlatans' Mark Collins (left) with Tim Burgess (right) and Getintothis' Lewis Ridley

My only trip to the North East for a gig this year waited until December, what was originally planned as a Shed Seven trip ended up in being combined with a day at the races and all that comes with it, after Buveur D’air had strolled up to win the feature race, Cast did the same in support at the Newcastle O2 Academy. Despite being a set watched from an extensively long bar queue, they set the tone for the night matched by Shed Seven in that they are two bands seemingly evergreen. The Sheds have a new album out, and from the young lad William at the front to the loyalist journeymen that introduced me to so many bands over the years – it was the classics that bounced off the walls. The kind of songs that can take fellas stood nearby from being annoyed you’re bumping into them to arm in arm during ‘Bully Boy’ – it was one of those nights.

Out of nowhere, I ended up at my final gig of the year. Last year that honour went to an outstanding co-gig from The Charlatans and James, this time it went to the one and only Liam Gallagher. It was great to be back in the Manchester Arena, a couple of rows off the front and yards from the man himself. A combination of nostalgic Oasis hits including the pick of the bunch, ‘Be Here Now’ and some of his new material that surfaced in 2017. We’re all better off for having him back, and it was a fitting way to end the year.

I guess all that remains to say, should you have endured this article to the bitter end, is a huge thank you. A thank you to those who have supported The Garage Flower through reading, sharing, on our supporters page and in all the little ways you give me a platform to keep doing what I love.

To Peter and the Getintothis team, to Jonny and the Bido Lito team, to Sarah and The Lowdown Magazine.

To Liverpool Sound City, to This Feeling, to Liverpool John Moores University – 2017 was a cracker, and we took it up a notch, let’s do it again next year?

Lewis x


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