Monday, 23 April 2018

Preview: Are You Listening? Festival, Reading

This coming weekend is a Reading festival. No, not that one. This one’s called Are You Listening. It’s a multi-venue single wristband entry festival with a USP. That USP is that it’s for a very good local cause. It’s not about making a bucketful of money for its organisers own pockets – it’s about passing that bucket on to Reading Mencap, a local charity that supports children and adults with learning disabilities and autism, as well as their families, providing personalised information, advice and practical support with issues such as housing problems, lack of respite or social care, ill health, hate crime, welfare benefits and special education provision.

“It’s a tough time for small, local charities like ours – with huge cuts to council and other public budgets that historically funded key services for the most vulnerable in Reading. This means we increasingly rely on the support of our local community to keep delivering our critical services. So AYL is a great opportunity for us to reach out to you, tell you about what we do and ask for your support,” says Mandi Smith, Reading Mencap’s Chief Executive.

While Reading Mencap is affiliated to the national Mencap charity, it does not receive any funding from them. This means it relies on the generosity of the local community and fundraising events like AYL to continue its vital work, especially in these challenging times.

Proceeds from each ticket sold go to the charity, as do all donations on the day, as well as money from an art auction and the profits from the Charity Bar in St Laurence’s Church, one of the venues.

This emphasis on music providing a helping hand to vulnerable people in the community is just one way the festival helps. It also provides a platform for local acts, giving them the opportunity to play to bigger crowds than they might normally do. Reading based bands such as The Amazons and Sundara Karma have both benefitted from playing Are You Listening Festival before moving upwards to the national stage and there’s no doubt that events like these benefit the local music scene giving the best artists in the area the opportunity to shine alongside more established bands.

Tickets for Are You Listening always represent excellent value, with super early birds costing just £10 and advance tickets currently on sale at £22.50. There are over sixty musicians and DJ’s playing the eight stages of the event. 

Like any multi-venue festival often the most precious moments of the event are when you stumble across a name you’ve never heard of and are blown away by a performance that you just didn’t expect. However, for those who prefer to plan a little, here are five artists that are on the Breaking More Waves recommended list that may be worth your time. 

Twin Sun - 14.00 Sub 89

Twin Sun is Reading’s Jamie Willcox and Pete Wheeler a DJ / production duo who have now developed into a full live act. They have a strong association with the festival having been involved in it in some capacity, either solo or as a duo every year since its inception. Opening the festival in the early afternoon, they’ll be a treat for those who want to start dancing early. The song below Lilac Light features the vocals of Jen Stearnes who also co-wrote the track and is the lead vocalist of the next artist recommendation.

Saltwater Sun - 16.15 Sub 89

From Twin Sun to another sun – Saltwater Sun. I first came across Saltwater Sun in 2015 at this very festival. Since then they’ve released a string of songs such as Wild, Making Eyes, Now Or Never and The Wire which all picked up significant traction online and on music blogs and websites. If you like classic guitar driven pop with catchy hooks and melodies a plenty, then choose Saltwater Sun’s performance as a stopping / dancing point.

Valeras - 17.15 Sub 89

With a song in their arsenal called Louder it’s probably not that hard to guess that the Reading band formerly known as Area 52, but now known as Veleras, rock. Having just finished a tour with Demob Happy and with forthcoming slots at Live at Leeds and Great Escape, Valeras will be bringing a puposeful swagger to their home town’s stage.

AK/DK - 20.30 St Laurence Church

“Hard hitting drums, devilish synths and vocals that are used to create textures and rhythms as much as melodies mix to create a sound that is in parts psychedelic, motorik, punk and certainly out on an edge of its own.” That’s how AK/DK was described on Breaking More Waves in 2017 when their album was listed in one of my favourites of the year. Imagine that not in a club, but a church. It should be hellishly good.

Warm Digits - 21.45 St Laurence Church

Three albums in and Warm Digits aka Newcastle based Andrew Hodson and Steve Jefferis have arguably released their best album with Wireless World. Featuring guest vocals from Sarah Cracknell (St Etienne) and Field Music (who play Are You Listening immediately after Warm Digits) their music is a relentless and experimental mix of weird funk, driving motoric beats, electronic pulses and guitar noise. Think Fuck Buttons, Delphic, Hookworms and Kraftwerk jamming in a room together if that makes any sense. Like AK/DK before them it’s difficult to guess at this stage how their music will work in a church, but it’s going to be fun learning.

Are You Listening Festival takes place in Reading, Berkshire on the 28th April 2018. You can buy tickets by clicking here.

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