NME tour has intriguing line-up

Simon ParkinThe NME Awards Tour is frequently a barometer of where music is right now, but this year's line-up is a diverse mix of old and new without any dominant style. SIMON PARKIN argues it has hidden depths.More about Shockwaves NME Awards TourMore about Shockwaves NME Awards TourSimon Parkin

The NME Awards Tour is frequently a barometer of where music is right now, but this year's line-up is a diverse mix of old and new without any dominant style. SIMON PARKIN suggests it has hidden depths.

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Having been graced by everyone from Coldplay to Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys to The Killers, the line-up of the annual NME Shockwaves NME Awards Tour has a habit of catapulting bands to stardom.

Either that or the promoters have crafty knack of spotting artists who are obviously months away from a major breakthrough to put on the bill.

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Whichever way it works - and it's worth noting there are as many who've disappeared without trace as hit the big time, Campag Velocet anyone? - the four band line-ups are always a barometer of what's setting pulses racing at the cutting edge of music - or least music you'll see in the NME.

Last year the big news was that, after years of domination, indie guitar bands were out. The 2009 bill was the most diverse in years, boasting not a single conventional guitar band.

Instead it was graced by Florence and the Machine, dance-funk exponents Friendly Fires, post-punk influenced synth merchants White Lies and most conventional - loosely speaking - Glasvegas.

In contrast his year's line-up, on paper at least, looks less adventurous and not that new either. Headliners Brighton indie quintet the Maccabees released their debut single in 2005, while its almost three years since the NME dubbed Bombay Bicycle Club 'the hottest band to come from London for quite some time'.

However while both can dubbed indie guitar outfits, they're actually less straightforward than that can sounds. The Maccabees, who are re-releasing their second album, Wall of Arms, with extra tracks, have most recently collaborated with Roots Manuva on the moody single Empty Vessels. And the effervescent fuzz and heart-wrenchingly urgent choruses of Bombay Bicycle Club are far from straightforward indie rock too.

Add to that electro-rock duo The Big Pink, whose debut album A Brief History of Love mixes gritty beats, droning guitars, abstract effects and dreamy vocals, and hip New Yorkers The Drums, who debut single Let's Go Surfing has New Order-style melodic bass and a seriously infectious melody, and you've got a line-up that is far from intriguing that it first appears.

t Shockwaves NME Awards Tour is at the UEA on February 10. Return tickets only. 01603 508050. More details: www.nme.com/awards

INTERVIEW: Orlando Weeks and Felix White, The Maccabees

t How does it feel to be headlining the NME Shockwaves Awards Tour?

Orlando: It feels like quite a responsibility, when we're rehearsing. Because it's such a good lineup, so you have to play well, But it's going to be a good way to round off the Wall Of Arms record and make sense of that. But yeah, it's just kind of important that we don't let the night down.

t NME called you the best new band in Britain a few years ago. How have things changed for you since then?

Felix: Well…we're still good…it's a difficult thing to answer. I'm not sure we were the best band in Britain at that time.

Orlando: Well, we're not that new anymore. The hot tips have gone cold, but apart from that we're pretty much exactly the same. We still rehearse in the same place for the same amount of time, we still get frustrated by the same things.

t What's the most extravagant thing you've ever requested on your rider?

Felix: Actually, we got asked that question the other day and Hugo sent a list of like 150 things, the most blunt email. I got really into mangoes a couple of years ago. So that was important. And we get avocadoes, because apparently it's the vegetable or fruit or whatever, that you can live for the longest on.

Orlando: I don't think we've ever asked for anything expensive. This time around we've asked the people at the venues to make us a mix CD of obscure party songs from across the world.

t If you could tour with any band from past or present who would it be?

Felix: It would be fun touring with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but as a band, you'd just get the shit kicked out of you every night. He'd be like, setting his guitar on fire and wailing away and stuff, and we'd be like 'Hello! Plink, plink, plink'. So probably not them.

Orlando: We'd get shown up ridiculously, but going on tour with The Band would be pretty amazing. Everyone in the band would probably say that, I think.

t You've not got a female member and don't use synthesisers, have you felt out of step with the big trend of the past couple of years?

Lots of bands struggle to keep people's attention when they have so much choice these days but I don't feel there's any particular injustice there. It all comes down to writing good songs.

More about Shockwaves NME Awards TourMore about Shockwaves NME Awards Tour