Chaos At The Jam – Static Alice, The Doomsday Project, Jawbone and Paz Caminar – The Jamaica Inn – 26/07/14

Static Alice

Static Alice

In what has become something of an annual tradition the Greenman MCC took over The Jamaica Inn for a day of Chaos at the Jam. All afternoon live music was on offer in ‘The Jam’s’ garden with the likes of The Crowman and Chloe Le Page playing while people relaxed in the sun on one of the hottest days of the year so far.

I arrived for the event’s evening session and just caught the last couple of tracks from newcomers Clameur De Haro who were last band outside. Despite some problems with broken strings and the like the band were just as fun as their debut in Sark had suggested and seemed to go down very well.

After a short break while some of the gear was moved inside it was Paz Caminar who started the live, fully electric, music in the Jam’s lounge bar. Being the band’s debut gig I really didn’t know what to expect from Paz Caminar and, as they were setting up and sound checking it still wasn’t clear.

Paz Caminar with LJ

Paz Caminar with LJ

With a set that included a couple of Stooges numbers and some other noisy punk-y things that I’m not sure were covers or originals it’s the sort of music I usually very much enjoy. Unfortunately, with most of the songs it seemed each band member was playing to a different rhythm and, while on the familiar tracks the right riffs were there, none of it seemed to slot together quite right.

Paz Caminar’s most coherent moment came when they were joined on stage by LJ on lead vocals for The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog but even that was at best sloppy.

I was left with the feeling that what Paz Caminar were presenting was the sound of a stereotypical underground punk club, but rather than the likes of those who would break out into international recognition, they had the sound of the, no doubt, many hundreds of bands left forgotten.

Steve of Jawbone

Steve of Jawbone

Jawbone were next up and had the audience engaged from the start as those who’d headed outside during Paz Caminar, made their way back in. Blasting through a set of punk rock spanning The Damned, The Misfits and The Ramones to Alkaline Trio, Rancid and The Vandals, the four-piece certainly brought the fun on what was only their second outing.

While they were far sloppier here than their first gig, all four members also seemed a lot more relaxed and they hit the balance between being relaxed, having fun, and playing the songs.

This meant that a few bum notes were easily forgiven as the crowd sang along and danced away and frontman Steve Scratton really began to interact with the crowd like this kind of music in this kind of venue calls for.

The Doomsday Project had a tough job following Jawbone as the young band play a generally softer take on a similar style to the pop-punk in Jawbone’s set. As they got rolling though things did pick up.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

With a couple of years now under their belt The Doomsday Project have certainly got tighter and their performance has become more rounded, however they are still doing predominantly the same covers they always have. This leads to a bit of a lack of any surprise in their sets and some of the songs seem to not suit the guys playing them – and learning the difference between pronouncing “Zeig Hail” and “Zeig Heil” in Green Day’s Holiday would certainly help to let us know they understand what they’re singing about.

That said, by the end of the set, with a storming cover of Jilted John’s Gordon Is A Moron and an original called Rumours which was about teenage life and actually seemed to see the band adding some reality into their set, they ended on a high which saw them called back for another go at the Jilted John song that had people singing along.

Dom of Static Alice

Dom of Static Alice

Static Alice rounded off the night with a set largely based in party mode with the covers by the likes of AC/DC, Billy Idol and Muse alongside originals that mix the pop-rock vibe of Foo Fighters with a sprinkling of the funky side of the good bits of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, that made for a fine upbeat ending.

While it was so hot on stage (and in the crowd as well) that sweat was literally dripping off the performers, they never slowed up and had the crowd engaged and dancing from the start.

While the audience did dwindle as the set went on, I wouldn’t like to say why for sure, but the stifling conditions must have been a factor, those who stayed inside kept dancing and while the band may not have been their slickest there was still plenty to like as the venue brought to mind something of the sweat soaked walls of past gigs at Chandlers (sadly another venue that’s no longer with us).

Scott and Dom of Static Alice

Scott and Dom of Static Alice

Ending on a cover of Highway To Hell seemed an appropriate send off for the day on several levels and brought to a close the annual tradition of Chaos at the Jam in fine form once again – same again next year I guess!

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: July 2014 – Chaos, Sark Folk Festival and Vale Earth Fair

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

This month’s BBC Introducing Guernsey show, which you can listen to by clicking here, was something of a festival special as I looked back at Chaos 10 and the fifth annual Sark Folk Festival and ahead to the Vale Earth Fair which happens on the August Bank Holiday Weekend.

As well as hearing from organisers, SugarSlam, FlashMob, Buffalo Huddleston, Tim Bishop and Clameur De Haro about the festivals there was new music from several bands including the debut of the new single from Of Empires.

You can listen to the show until the evening of Saturday of Saturday 2nd August via the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Tracklist

If you missed the festivals here’s a couple of highlights videos thanks to Guernsey Gigs:

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Francisco – It’s Not Over Yet

Francisco - It's Not Over Yet coverTo coincide with their final gig young pop-rockers Francisco released their debut EP, It’s Not Over Yet via their Bandcamp page (amongst other places).

For the best part of the last year the band have been on a steady rise with gigs aplenty in most of the venues and pubs on the island that stage live music, from acoustic shows at The Cock and Bull and The Vault to full-scale outings at The Fermain Tavern supporting local acts and visitors, including an appearance alongside The Hoosiers at #Triplestoked.

While the release of this EP and last week’s gig seem to mark an end for Francisco, at least three of the band’s members hinted this may not be the end of their working together, but, as with many bands their age, disbanding heading off island to the UK seems to be their immediate future, but if there is more to come, it could well be worth keeping an eye out for.

My review of It’s Not Over Yet was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 26th July 2014:

Francisco - Its Not Over Yet review scan - 26:07:14You can listen to the EP on YouTube here:

 

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Francisco’s Swan Song with St Apolline’s and One Mind To Lose – Fermain Tavern – 19/07/14

Francisco

Francisco

On Saturday 19th July 2014 Francisco played their last ever show, while at the same time releasing their debut EP, It’s Not Over Yet (available via their bandcamp page).

Also on the bill at The Fermain Tavern were semi-acoustic three-piece St. Apolline’s and rock covers band One Mind To Lose.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 24th July.

Francisco last gig review 24:07:14 scanAnd here’s a video the band posted the day after their final gig capturing some moments from the past year or so that they’ve been together:

 

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Flashmob

Flashmob ep coverThe Channel Islands have quite a heritage of heavy metal over the last three decades. From Vengeance and Nemesis to Byzanthian Neckbeard and Whitechapel Murders, the locally seen styles have spanned pretty much everything that’s been heard on the international scene.

Jersey’s Flashmob have entered that fray with live shows and, more specifically here, the release of a self titled three-track single/EP.

From the off its clear we are at the pop-ier end of the heavy metal genre with obvious touchstones leaping from the speakers in the form of more recent Motley Crue and Buckcherry with a bit of the full on hard rock of Airbourne thrown into the mix too. This gives the whole EP, much like their live shows, a real sense of positivity and fun while they rail against the everyday world around them, but don’t let it get them down.

Jay Du Heaume and Harry Sutton at Chaos 10

Jay Du Heaume and Harry Sutton at Chaos 10

Opening track Get Off My Back is actually the disc’s weakest, but it does set the scene in terms of its tone. Combining glam metal guitars with, what I might call, ‘office metal’ lyrics that really do suggest this band may have their tongues in their cheeks but, to paraphrase them, don’t take any bullshit.

While the music across the three tracks is fairly spot on, Harry Sutton’s vocals are a bit rough and ready in places but combine with the naïve charm of the sentiment to work well in context and, as the disc goes on everything improves.

The best track of the set is probably Rebels Without A Brain which seems to rally against many who might, at first glance, seem to be the bands own audience. While this is a brave subject to tackle, the band certainly seem to come out on the winning side to me as they decry clone individualism and celebrate genuinely being yourself, whatever that may be, in the face of the “I’m more metal than you, look at the patches on my jacket” types.

FlashMob at Chaos 10

FlashMob at Chaos 10

Final track Lying Through Your Teeth is good and solid, if fairly run of the mill, and continues the single’s overall vibe of “boys just want to have fun” without the drama and hassle provided by those who don’t.

As is to be expected Flashmob’s debut is far from deep and, while it has a couple of simple messages to impart they are done so in a fun way that is far from po-faced which, combined with some cracking guitar work from Jay Du Heaume and Andy Harris – and let’s be honest big guitars is where this kind of cock-rock really focuses – makes for a solid release with a lot of potential lurking in the background.

You get hold of the single/EP through iTunes by clicking here.

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A night of punk, indie and grunge – The Fermain Tavern – 12/07/14

To The Woods and Plumb

To The Woods and Plumb

After a couple of weekends of festivals it was back to more conventional gig going as The Paper Street Soap Company (aka The Black Vote’s Andy Duchemin and not anything to do with Tyler Durden) staged a night of punk rock, hard indie and grunge-y sounds at The Fermain Tavern.

First to take to the stage were Jawbone, playing their debut show to a public audience. Mixing punk rock covers from the likes of Misfits, Ramones, Alkaline Trio and The Damned, the four-piece raced through their set at true punk rock pace with buzzing power chords and plenty of shout along choruses, even if many in the crowd weren’t actually shouting back yet.

Guitarist Lee Burton (formerly of Spat and more recently one of The Black Vote’s past bass players) was clearly enjoying being back on stage and holding his Gretsch after a long while off and, despite a broken foot, put on a great performance while Dan Keltie did his best Mike Dirnt on the bass.

Jawbone

Jawbone

For singer Steve Scraton and drummer Alex Morton-Childs though this was, to my knowledge, their first ever public show and the nerves did come across a couple of times. For a first outing though, this was a great set and it was nice to hear some different songs getting covered, particularly the likes of Roots Radicals, Neat Neat Neat and Bonzo Goes To Bitburg – The Doomsday Project this was not!

While I have enjoyed The Black Vote in the past, recent gigs have seen them become increasingly hard to like on stage and here they were slurred and sloppy even by their own previously ‘impressive’ standards. While Andy Duchemin’s vocals can sometimes be punchy and somewhat visceral they were loose and indecipherable here, while Cam Le Page’s guitar quickly descended into messy noise from which it never really recovered.

The Black Vote

The Black Vote

Kieran Smale did a good job of giving the whole thing a solid rhythm, at least, but, what used to be fun and felt like something the audience was in on, has become boring and all but cleared the room – but I guess that’s part of what makes punk music what it is, sometimes its great and sometimes it just all falls apart, and I know which camp this set fell into…

Jersey’s Hank Chinaski made their Fermain Tavern debut next and, as the set started things seemed promising with a very energetic frontman and a sound mixing parts of emo-core, grunge and the punkier end of indie. As things went on though it became clear that the band really only had one sound and the frontman’s energy, rather than being directed at the audience (who came and went across the set) was directed at a camera set up to record the show.

Hank Chinaski

Hank Chinaski

While there were moments where there seemed to be something interesting going on in Hank Chinaski’s sound it was lost behind a wall of noise and what felt like over-thought posturing and posing that failed to engage many of the audience – though a pit of five or six people did kick off briefly during one song, it soon dissipated and a screamy cover of a Nirvana track just really didn’t work.

Making their first live appearance this year Lifejacket started out their set with a few bass amp problems and something of their previous power and bile missing.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

As the set went on though, and a few more headed down the front, after seemingly deciding to escape the venue during or after Hank Chinaski, the viciousness of Andy Sauvage’s vocals began to comeback while all three musicians’ (Claire Mockett on drums and John McCarthy on bass) power started to grow again.

With a new song in the mix that continued their trend of pop-tinged hard indie Lifejacket once again showed they are band worth keeping an eye on and, despite a broken bass guitar string that led to an impromptu rendition of Andy’s cult favourite Shit Myself For Love, they continued to up the ante to the end of the set, with Brains, Meanwhile In Hollywood and their take on Mclusky’s Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues ending things on a high, and the crowd had started to be drawn back in by this point as well.

To The Woods

To The Woods

Having fast become headliner material over the last couple of months, To The Woods hit the stage with good intentions and, while they too had some amp problems, this time on the guitar side of the stage, it wasn’t long before they were powering through their set.

While they were far sloppier here than their last few outings, with frontman Bobby Battle almost destroying both Dan Garnham’s drums and half the crowd in his over exuberance, they still managed to hold things together and once again demonstrate a real unreconstructed ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ vibe to their grunge-y indie.

As the set went on, and the Breda flowed further, things got even sloppier but To The Woods just about held it together and put in a great fun performance topped off by a guest appearance from SugarSlam’s Plumb on extra guitar and vocals for This Is Rock ‘N’ Roll that ended on the night on a fun, upbeat, high.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

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Sark Folk Festival 2014 – 4, 5, 6th July 2014

The sun shone on Friday afternoon

The sun shone on Friday afternoon

The fifth annual Sark Folk Festival took place over the weekend of 4th, 5th and 6th July 2014 and, as with previous years it acted as a great way to discover new music while also seeing some show stealing performances from some of my local favourites.

As has become traditional things really got going the night before the festival as many festival goers, volunteers and organisers descended on The Bel Air Tavern for a big session with music (and the astonishingly priced drinks) flowing freely around both the inside bar and the outside patio and garden.

Whether you’re a player or not this open session is hugely enjoyable and something unique, in my experience, to Sark Folk Festival as everyone comes together to celebrate music on any instrument that comes to hand, I even had a quick go on a banjo!

Day One

Tim Bishop

Tim Bishop

As ever Sark Folk Festival gets going at a leisurely pace with the site opening just after lunchtime on the first day, giving people more time to get their boat over and camping pitch sorted without missing any of the acts.

First up on the Alligande Stage (the festival’s largest) was Tim Bishop. In a slot usually reserved for the some of the elder-statesmen of Guernsey’s folk scene, Tim is a relative newcomer, but it was clear why he was chosen to play this one this year.

Since I last saw Tim perform he has grown in confidence on stage and has taken on something of a very tame Neil Young in the style of his vocals (in Young’s folkier moments, at least). Tim set the scene for much of what was to come across the weekend and seemed to go down well with those who had made their way to the site for opening time.

As with every festival its impossible to see every act, and in particularly with Sark’s two double stages the music and performance was literally non-stop all weekend, so the next act I caught was Megson on the Vermerette Stage.

Megson

Megson

With their Teeside accents being the first regional UK accents of the weekend their heartfelt story songs gained an extra meaning as their low-key but evocative performance transported me into the stories and the meanings of them in the way that folk music really seems to have a particular knack of doing.

The first full-scale band of the weekend were The Will Pound Band who played a selection of jigs and reels and the like (if I’ve got my terminology correct) which with a later slot could easily have had people up and dancing.

As it was they played to a busy, but relaxed, tent of festivalgoers who certainly appreciated their youthful take on a traditional folk sound.

The first local band of the weekend came in the form of The Space Pirates of Rocquaine. With a reputation for impressive performances here in the past they had a lot to live up to and didn’t disappoint.

The Space Pirates Of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates Of Rocquaine

With new songs along with the old classics they had the tent full, and I don’t think that was because of the rain that had begun to fall, going by the audience reaction.

While the arguably bigger names, and certainly the bigger scale bands, were featured on the Alligande and Vermerette Stages, one thing that has always made Sark Folk Festival the special festival it is are the more intimate performances on the Tintageu and Les Burons Stages in the festival site’s lower field.

A venue with, usually, one of the best views from any festival site over Breqhou, Jethou, Herm and Guernsey – though by the time Burg took to the stage much of this was obscured by rain and fog.

Burg

Burg

Now a visiting artist to our islands, Burg made his name in Guernsey and his large following filled the Tintageu Stage for his first public performance in the islands in quite some time.

His set tonight was a mix of earnest but largely uplifting songs of life and the road and a few more lighthearted drinking songs that fitted the mood of the festival perfectly, and with a song dedicated to the “Shh-ers” of festivals past (who I assume were watching Martin Carthy) and the announcement of a new EP on the horizon, his twanging guitar and sweet Americana vocals went down a storm.

With excellent vocal harmonies at their centre The Ryan O’Reilly Band, a three-piece of guitar, Dobro and drums, came across like a street band who’d made the transition to the stage without loosing any of the immediacy they’d have needed as buskers.

The Ryan O'Reilly Band

The Ryan O’Reilly Band

They were my first new discovery of the weekend that really struck a chord with their country-ish folk that had a swaying positivity to it, despite some of the subject matter and they presented a modern folk vibe with songs of London’s streets today.

Having largely missed her solo performance here a couple of years ago I was excited to see Lucy Ward tonight, especially with a full band in tow.

Lucy presented a set of folk as a kind of cheeky cabaret with nods and winks aplenty, hinting at the often-overlooked side of the double meanings in many folk songs, and Lucy herself being a bubbly and exuberant front-woman who clicked with the large audience with ease.

The Lucy Ward Band

The Lucy Ward Band

With some rabble rousing political moments in the mix and a band who were all clearly excellent on each of their instruments, Lucy provided a set that, for me, was a highlight of the first day.

The first night of the festival was rounded off by The Willows, another act making their return to the festival. Despite a few sound issues that rendered the Dobro silent the band played some very good folk music very well it wasn’t until half way through the set that the band picked up the energy of their songs to begin to match the general mood in the tent.

While they played very well, and their was clearly a portion of the audience who really enjoyed The Willows set, for me, and many I spoke to afterwards, it was a little low-key for the end of the night.

Day Two

As the first day of the festival with a damp walk back through dark lanes to the campsite, so the second day began with a damp walk back through the Dixcart valley to the festival site by the Coupee.

First on stage were Stalk The Lantern so, being part of the band, I can’t such much other than we had fun and were grateful for the chance to play and fo all the good feedback we received throughout the day.

Ukuladeez

Ukuladeez

After we came off stage I was able to catch a few songs of Ukuladeez set and, much like at their album launch, they showed how they’ve developed as a band. Backed today by Tantale’s Graham Duerden on drums, they had a bit more power behind their sound and the crowd seemed to be very much enjoying it.

Over on the Tintageu Stage, Haddo were performing and, for a duo, provided a really big sound using stomps to create a rhythm and providing enough music with violin, accordion and voice to give the idea of a much larger sound. With a set of personable folk songs and some excellent clog dancing, they provided one of the hidden gems of the weekend.

Clameur De Haro

Clameur De Haro

Not only were Clameur De Haro making their Sark Folk Festival debut, they were also making their public debut, with a set on the Vermerette Stage.

With some really good fun, upbeat originals songs, along with bluegrass-ish versions of Supernaut, Back In Black and others of their ilk they were a bit of a novelty anomaly, but a very entertaining one that went down a storm. And let’s be honest, any band with a song who’s only lyric is “Leeroy, where’s my horse?” is bound to raise a smile.

While Sark’s own Big Sheep had the tent packed for their set on the Alligande Stage, Guernsey duo Blue Mountains were playing down on Les Burons bringing the audience a selection of traditional songs and more modern numbers all with their own sensibility which went down very well with those sheltering from the fog and rain that was yet to disperse as promised.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

After their set at Chaos 10 the previous weekend that saw them hit an astonishing high I wondered if Buffalo Huddleston could live up to that here. With the tent packed and a real sense of anticipation for them, if anything the six-piece excelled themselves even more here.

With the front half of the largest tent all up and moving from the off this was certainly the best I have seen from Buffalo Huddleston and by far the best reaction I’ve seen them receive, and every clap, whoop and cheer was thoroughly deserved.

Buffalo Huddleston's crowd

Buffalo Huddleston’s crowd

While today may be Becky Hamilton’s last performance with the band, all the members seemed to use that to make the show extra special and provide one of the festival’s major highlights – for the second weekend in a row.

The high energy performances continued next with The Barley Dogs who also playing something of a set of their careers with huge energy to another packed out crowd, despite the face that the weather was starting to make a turn for the better outside.

The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie have become something of a fixture on the Tintageu Stage and so their was a big crowd at the smaller stage for their set. The duo did their usual thing at Sark Folk Festival of pulling out all the stops and delivering a supremely confident, anarchic and enjoyable set of their, self-described, garage-folk.

The Crowman and the Fiddling Pixie

The Crowman and the Fiddling Pixie

With a broken stomp box the sound crew made the decision to simply put a mic near The Crowman’s foot which added and extra kick to their performance and this got a few dancing and many more clapping along while the Pixie provided something of a stabilising effect to keep The Crowman on the rails as things teetered on the edge of all out chaos.

Jackie Oates was next up on the Alligande Stage and, while she had a truly amazing voice, her performance was a bit too low-key after what had come before, though, as always its nice to hear such talented performers.

Ten Toe Hobo

Ten Toe Hobo

Down on Les Burons Stage things were a bit more upbeat again as Ten Toe Hobo, aka Dave Etherington, made his annual appearance. Backed tonight by Rob Gregson on bass and Sarah Van Vlymen on fiddle this was something of a mini Whose Shoes gig really and as usual it was a great set of songs delivered in one of the most warmly communal atmospheres I experienced all weekend, complete with volunteer Calum teaching a youngster circus tricks as the set rolled on.

While Dave’s voice was a little worse for wear (two weekends at festivals will do that to you, I speak from experience) it really just served to add a bit of extra grit in places and once he warmed up it was certainly not as noticeable and the combination of his songs of busking life combined with the first appearance of the sun in the part of 30 hours really raised the spirits.

Breabach

Breabach

Breabach made their return to the Sark Folk Festival next over on the Vermerette Stage and provided an upbeat and dance-y, yet still traditional sounding, set of tunes for the still packed tent. While they were musically as good as I remember, being stuck near the back of the tent meant I didn’t get to experience the full power of their performance as well as those at the front, but it was still an enjoyable set all the same.

Fay Heild and The Hurricane Party were Saturday’s headliners on the Alligande Stage and despite having a great voice, they had trouble engaging with the crowd, many of whom were, once again, looking for something more upbeat and this caused the crowd to thin considerably as the set went on.

Fay Hield

Fay Hield

It’s a shame when this happens and it’s hard to predict what the crowd will be wanting when the bands are booked and the line up organised, but it seems, for many, myself included, this years headliners were a bit too low-key – though I know others in the crowd liked this element this year as, in their opinion, it made it more a celebration of folk music.

Day Three

The third day of the Sark Folk Festival always starts a little earlier to try to fit as much in as possible before the mid-afternoon finish that allows festivalgoers to get back to the harbour in time for the evening boats, this year it was Jersey’s Kevin Pallot (and a couple of his band The Pinnacles) who had the job of starting the day at 10:30.

Pallot has been playing for a few years with past sets at the Vale Earth Fair and the like and his rich soulful voice and acoustic guitar created a great sound to start the day that was serious but heartfelt and absorbing and he even managed to get something of a singalong going despite the early hour.

Part way through the set he was joined by a couple of his backing band on bass and percussion which lifted the sound somewhat and, with the crowd interaction growing, created another fine communal music moment. A special mention has to go to percussionist Blondie whose use of a Cajon and Djembe really brought both instruments unique sounds to life.

The Recks

The Recks

The relaxed atmosphere was pretty swiftly shattered next as Sark’s own, The Recks, hit the Alligande Stage like they had a point to prove. While their first song was a little slower paced than usual, the second song got the whole tent, which was already packed, on their feet and the energy began to reverberate between the band and the crowd and things were flowing.

The Recks set tonight was tighter and more coherent than their last show I caught and provided a real highlight, not just of the Sunday, but of the whole weekend.

Hard though it was to believe (and I was there) the energy got even higher next as CC Smugglers took to the Vermerette Stage. Combining country and folk sounds with a bit of the spirit of the honkey tonk and skiffle, the six-piece band may have been sweating off a heavy night but it really didn’t show as they had the crowd up and moving from the start and frontman Richie Prynne had them in the palm of his hand for the best part of an hour.

CC Smugglers

CC Smugglers

With the crowd already frantic things got even crazier for CC Smugglers’ encore as they unplugged and headed out into the centre of the tent to round off their set packed in the centre of the crowd and again added to that feeling that we are all part of this festival together that makes it so unique.

The penultimate act of the weekend, as has become something of a tradition, was The Vraic Gatherers and Friends. Essentially comprised of the festival committee and a few others they play a selection of traditional and original songs and tunes in a largely informal, semi-improvisational, fashion the set really acts as a chance for the organisers to let their hair down a bit and thank everyone who put time and effort into making the festival a success, and I have to echo their sentiments here as it remains one of the most well run festivals I’ve ever attended.

The John Wesley Stone

The John Wesley Stone

Following last year’s festival closing set from Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson was never going to be easy but, I think Guernsey country stompers The John Wesley Stone, may well have done it.

While it was all go from the start it didn’t take long for that erstwhile Crowman, Hillbill, to drop his guitar and double bass and head off more into his Lux Interior channeling, Thee Jenerators fronting, rock ‘n’ roll territory heading off into the crowd several times to dance, sing and drink with them, while he spent the rest of the time running and stomping around the stage like this was some kind of long distance race on a very small track.

The rest of the band went with this entirely with Shacks taking the reigns to steer them as much as possible, Jimmy being as energetic as he could while held comparatively in place by his guitar, mandolin or double bass and Tater keeping the beat fast and steady at the back.

English Bob

English Bob

As well as Hillbill’s antics the real highlight of the set for me came in the form of recently recruited fiddle player English Bob (aka Gregory Harrison) who here had some real opportunities to shine and rock the fiddle like I’ve never really seen anyone do and making some excellent noises with it while imbuing the instrument with some real rock ‘n’ roll emotion.

OK, so it may have been about as far from folk as the Sark Folk Festival is ever likely to get, but that didn’t stop the crowd becoming unglued and some of them even joining the band on stage for gang style backing vocals as the volunteers working at the back decided now was chance and got to dancing on the bar.

With an encore or two The John Wesley Stone helped the fifth Sark Folk Festival end on a massive high and their were tears and cheers as another festival came to an end but many were already talking of next years which is set to get going on Friday July 3rd 2015 with tickets going on sale in early November and I for one can’t wait!

You can see my photos from the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page, or by click here for Day One, here for Day Two and here for Day Three.

Guernsey Gigs also put together this video with music by Robert J. Hunter:

Some of my photos were also used in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 1oth July along with Alex Warlow’s review:

Sark Folk Festival cutting - 10/07/14

 

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Chaos 10 – 27, 28, 29th June 2014

Therapy?

Therapy?

For the 10th year in a row there was Chaos at Pleinmont over the weekend of 27th, 28th and 29th June 2014.

Bands from the UK and Channel Islands mingled with bikers and fans from around Europe with headliners coming in the form of Therapy?, Nemesis and Rat Salad on the main stage and BLAKALASKA, The Recks and Ukuladeez in The Peace Tent.

You can see a full set of my photos from the weekend on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page:

Photos of Day One

Photos of Day Two

Photos of Day Three

My review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th July and below is an extended version:

Chaos 10 review pic - 05:07:14

Extended Review

Bikes at Chaos 10For the 10th, and possibly final, year the Greenman MCC took over a couple of fields at Pleinmont to celebrate all things to do with bikes, bands and beer. Here though I’ll mostly be focusing on the bands but there were certainly plenty of the other two there as well.

Day One

As seems to have become tradition the music started out with acoustic acts in The Peace Tent on the Friday afternoon. Having become almost its own mini-festival within Chaos, The Peace Tent this year was once again expanded with a mix of acoustic acts, bands, DJs and various other performances, all within the slightly wonky confines of the psychedelically decorated tent, and first on stage was Silas The Assyrian Assassin.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

I can only assume it’s a kind of roguish charm that allows Silas to get away with some of the material he does as, in some other festivals, some of this stuff may well get him barred, but this afternoon the crowd seemed to be mostly laughing along to the wildly inappropriate humour contained with the acoustic dark punk and indie, and, let’s be honest, your unlikely to hear anyone else turn The Hokey Cokey into miserablist indie.

Over on the main stage things got going with Coastal Fire Dept. playing what I think is only their second full-scale gig. Since that first gig they showed that they had consolidated their sound somewhat into something very 90s with hints of Radiohead, Pixies and Nirvana.

While they were certainly a tighter band than at their last outing they did little to transmit off the stage, though connecting with the crowd as first band up on such a big stage, is certainly an unenviable task.

The first of the weekend’s visiting acts came in form of Jersey metallers FlashMob. In the past I hadn’t been too impressed by this bunch of young power-pop-metal-glamsters, but here they seemed to have found their sound. Certainly the big stage and sound works well for their brash posturing ‘cock-rock’ style and it’s always great to see younger bands doing well.

FlashMob

FlashMob

Could they be the future successors to Nemesis? If they keep on like this, I think they’ve got a shot – and they certainly win the prize for best publicity of the weekend as you could barely go 30 seconds without seeing someone in one of their t-shirts.

Following their show stealing set here last year was never going to be an easy task and, unfortunately, SugarSlam didn’t quite manage it. That said, despite a few slightly sluggish moments, they still played a good set, and its nice seeing original drummer Brett back in the band as well.

With old songs, new songs and a couple of their classic covers, including an always appreciated run of Sonic Youth’s Sugar Kane, once this new line up (it was also guitarist Lofty’s second gig with them) settles down I think there’s going to be some more great stuff coming from SugarSlam.

[spunge]

[spunge]

Regular visitors [Spunge] were up next and were their usual upbeat selves from the off which got the crowd going almost instantly.

With circle pits and sing-a-alongs, [Spunge] once again showed why they have the reputation they do as they celebrate their 20th anniversary and, while this show wasn’t as raucous as last year’s full on stage invasion, its clear that these boys are local favourites and showed they seem incapable of playing a bad gig.

The biggest band of the weekend were headlining the Friday night this year and it was clear as the tent got even busier that there was a real anticipation for Therapy? with fans from the UK and Finland making the trip to see them. Kicking off with Trigger Inside set the scene well and over an hour and a half they tore through a set of their unique mix of punk and metal (with a liberal sprinkling of pop) that spanned their entire career.

Andy Cairns of Therapy?

Andy Cairns of Therapy?

If I’m honest there were times where the sound got a bit lost in the sheer volume and tone of Andy Cairns’ double Marshall stacked guitars, but despite this the set was massively enjoyable with Cairns being much more of a jocular, bantering showman between songs than I expected and name checking several of the local acts which certainly won them even more respect from the crowd than they already had.

Ending with an epic encore, including the likes of Knives and Screamager along with a rocked up Diane and a run of Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law, dedicated to all the bikers, Therapy? proved why they are the so renowned even 20 years since their supposed commercial prime and they show no signs of slowing down.

Day Two

Rick Jones

Rick Jones

As the music began on Saturday lunchtime its clear there were many fuzzy heads and aching bodies shambling around the field so it was nice of the organisers to start off with something a bit more relaxed in the form of Rick Jones and his acoustic guitar.

This seems to have become a traditional slot for Rick and it’s always good to hear him play his set of suitably gritty but laid back songs. He rounded his set off with a couple of highlights in Seal’s Kiss From A Rose and his storming take on Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road.

The relaxed laid back air was soon shattered though as To The Woods hit the stage with their traditional cry of “Brrrrap-brrrap-brap!” and launched into their grungey set.

To The Woods and friends

To The Woods and friends

They did start out a little slow today as they seemed to be joining the masses in the fuzzy head feeling, but by the half way mark they were back on all cylinders and they went on to prove that even since they were booked they’ve upped their game to a higher level than being opening band.

Being joined on stage for Is This Rock ‘N’ Roll by producer James Le Huray and SugarSlam’s Plumb added a nice moment that bolstered an already good set into something of a show stealer.

Static Alice were up next and showed just how slick a pop-rock act they’ve become over the last few months and they really did their best to use the size of the stage for all its worth. Dom has an unreconstructed power to her voice that can still sometimes go a little too far but is becoming part of the bands’ signature sound that went down well with the crowd who were still a bit subdued but were getting into it from a relaxed position.

Bobby Didcott of Stone 'Em All

Bobby Didcott of Stone ‘Em All

While Jo and Lydia played some hastily reworked shark themed numbers in The Peace Tent (you probably had to be there…), Stone ‘Em All hit the main stage as the day’s first all out metal band. Compared to when I last saw them play Stone ‘Em All came across like a new band, guitarists Bobby Didcott and Lee Oliver were both excellent with solo and harmonic lead parts aping all the best metal and new drummer Alex Charlwood brought a new power to the rhythm section.

Despite a serious cold frontman Robert Hotton even managed a good performance and actually sounded better in his current under the weather state than I had heard from him in the past. I will freely admit to not always being a fan of Stone ‘Em All, but on the power of this show they might still be capable of winning me over.

Jersey’s Bulletproof have become stalwarts of Chaos over the years, having played, by their count, eight or nine of the ten festivals to date, and on the strength of their set here it was clear to see why. They were raging from the start and their ska infused hardcore never let up. Though the crowd was relatively small for them they were hugely enthusiastic and you’re rarely likely to ever find as true and tight a band playing a venue this size anywhere else.

Back in The Peace Tent Robert J. Hunter was bringing his soulful indie-blues to the show and wowing the chilled out crowd as he showed just how his time gigging regularly in London has helped his performance grow.

Mitch of Brunt

Mitch of Brunt

Instrumental stoner-doom three-piece Brunt were up next on the main stage and, while they are not a band to transmit masses of personality from the stage, playing through such a big PA system meant their sound was crushingly huge and this was more than enough to keep the crowd enthralled and draw more in.

Brunt debuted a couple of new songs, including some with occasional vocals that showed a new side for drummer Mitch, who did his best to evoke Sabbath-era Ozzy Osbourne with some extra growls. I still the think the atmosphere of The Peace Tent suits more alternative bands like Brunt, but their sound today could not be argued with!

The Recks

The Recks

Jersey’s Pirate Party Brigade lifted the energy of the main stage next with their gypsy-ish punk-y party sounds while a band with whom their share certainly similarities, The Recks, began yet another packed show-stealer of a set in The Peace Tent.

A year on from their debut performance at last year’s Chaos, Byzanthian Neckbeard arrived here with a purpose as they are launching their debut album, From The Clutches Of Oblivion, and preparing for their performance at Bloodstock festival and they didn’t disappoint. While they’ve always had a good sound they seem to have pulled it all together much more now with the guitars working together in a more satisfying way and in general they were the tightest I’ve seen them.

Dano of Byzanthian Neckbeard

Dano of Byzanthian Neckbeard

This didn’t go unnoticed with the crowd who they had headbanging and, with a style that can often seem impenetrably heavy, they even drew more of a crowd as the set went on. With big things on the horizon, it seemed Byzanthian Neckbeard are stepping up their game to meet the challenge.

Demise of Sanity were up next and after the depth of sound and power behind Byzanthian Neckbeard they were something of an anti-climax. While they did a good job on delivering their thrash metal which spanned eras from classic to more modern style stuff, it didn’t quite live up to the expectation of their position on the bill.

With rumours flying that this might be their last show ever, Nemesis were highly anticipated tonight. Things didn’t start too well as, after a protracted 50 minutes spent setting up they then had two lengthy pieces of entrance music before launching in Master Commander. It wasn’t long though before this was forgotten and the over arching fun that power metal can provide was infecting the whole tent.

Nemesis

Nemesis

If I’m honest before tonight, on the basis of recent outings, I’d been a bit skeptical, and its easy to sneer at songs about swords and dragons and the like, but here Nemesis did what they do best – ridiculous, well-played, enthusiastically delivered and received, all out metal. Certainly things were more Spinal Tap than Iron Maiden for most of the set but it was very hard to not just go with the flow and enjoy it.

With confirmation that this is the last time we will see Nemesis for at least a number of years, it was a good send off for the band and rounded off Chaos 10’s biggest day in fine style.

Day Three

Oliver Wade

Oliver Wade

After the Peace Tent tradition of Cramps O’Clock (an hour of non-stop tunes by the psychobilly quartet) the last day of Chaos 10’s music was started by young performer Oliver Wade.

With a pure and vulnerable sound to both his voice and guitar Oliver’s performance was a good chilled out way to start the day as most in The Peace Tent occupied the sofas with a cup of coffee or ‘hair of the dog’ to try to get back into the festival spirit.

As a new performer Oliver didn’t project off stage very much but that is something that will come in time and he did a good job of carrying on with his soulful songs despite a Wendy House walking its way across the tent in front of him, and I look forward to seeing what more Oliver has to offer as he goes forward.

Chilled out acoustic things were also starting things off on the main stage with Damo of Fly Casual. Damo is another performer who’s become something of a regular and always puts on a good performance with banter with the crowd and 90s style acoustic indie songs being a great way to start the day.

The OK

The OK

He was followed by The Ok who seemed ill-at-ease on such a large stage. All four members of the band are clearly perfectly capable on their chosen instruments but today they all seemed very rigid in their performance, which sucked a lot of the energy from the songs and left me thinking there’s more to the band than they are currently letting out.

Buffalo Huddleston are a band who have gone from strength to strength since last summer and I think they reached their highest high here. Playing at a slightly faster pace than usual, which matched the mood in the tent, the recently added bass and drums clicked right in with the violins, guitar and vocals to create one of the most musically satisfying moments of the weekend, if not the year.

Mike and Becky of Buffalo Huddleston

Mike and Becky of Buffalo Huddleston

By the end of the set people were up and dancing and the tent was the busiest I remember seeing it on a Sunday at Chaos marking this as possibly the strongest contender for set of the weekend.

While the tug-o-war and spicy pizza competition were going on elsewhere Tonight The Skies kept things chilled out in The Peace Tent. As ever Hollie Martorella proved why her voice is so well commented on and their selection of songs from their debut release are now familiar and went down very well. The highlight of their set for me though was a new number inspired by Nine Inch Nails which took their airy sound and added some distortion to make something new and interesting but still clearly Tonight The Skies.

After the fun and games The Cryptics brought a much-needed upbeat garage rock injection to the main stage as they fuzzed and strutted their way through a set of songs that sound fresh and lively but true of their inspiration in the late 60s.

The Cryptics

The Cryptics

While garage doesn’t always work on a big PA it really did here and with a bunch of songs that get lodged in your head The Cryptics showed themselves to be something of an uncelebrated gem of the Channel Islands scene – Kick Out The Jams, indeed!

Two years since they last played together Whose Shoes stepped onto The Peace Tent stage and ran through a set of frontman Dave Etherington’s standard troubadour style numbers like they’d never been apart. It’s always a treat to hear them play and with original number Loose Lips (Sink Ships) getting the biggest reaction of the set shows they are clearly and rightly well-remembered. Ending on Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning was also a brilliantly fitting end to their set for Chaos.

My time in The Peace Tent was rounded off with a rather special set from Becky Hamilton and friends. Becky’s sets have become something of a Sunday tradition in The Peace Tent and this year the stage was filled with people playing everything from guitars and drums to washboards, cowbells and toy pianos, all making for something of a fun and special set for everyone involved and the likes of which only The Peace Tent is really capable of providing.

Skid Rue

Skid Rue

80s glam covers were order of the day next with Skid Rue (though they don’t do any Skid Row songs) and while their set was sloppy it was great fun – and sloppy fun sounds about right for a set of Motley Crue, Guns N Roses and the like. Stace was, as ever, his usual exuberant frontman self – though he didn’t try and climb the scaffold around the stage this year!

The sloppiness continued with Chaos 10’s last band, but in less of a fun way, as a clearly ‘worse for wear’ Rat Salad took to the stage to pay tribute to Black Sabbath. While there were moments of clarity in the mix and the singer did a mean Ozzy impersonation vocally, it was a bit too loose and left Chaos on a bit a low point.

That said the weekend as a whole was one of the best Chaos weekends to date and if this is to be the last big festival they put on it would be a fine way to go out – but let’s hope that’s not the case and we get more Chaos next year!

Thanks to Plumb and Guernsey Gigs for the videos.

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Byzanthian Neckbeard – From The Clutches Of Oblivion

Byzanthian Neckbeard - From The Clutches Of Oblivion album coverWith a storming set at Chaos 10 now under their belts and a slot secured on the bill of Bloodstock, Byzanthian Neckbeard have unleashed their debut album, From The Clutches Of Oblivion, on the world.

Mixing doom with a bit of death, thrash and black metal the four piece have only been playing together a little over a year but have already made their mark on music in Guernsey with some great shows.

You can get hold of From The Clutches Of Oblivion on Byzanthian Neckbeard’s Bandcamp page and there is talk of them putting out a physical version of the record in the future as well.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 28th June 2014:

Byzanthian Neckbeard album review scan - 28:06:14

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The Recks and To The Woods – The Fermain Tavern – 20/06/14

To The Woods

To The Woods

On Friday 20th June 2014 Sark based psychedelic indie-folk band The Recks made their return from the Isle of Wight festival to headline once more at The Fermain Tavern.

Supporting them were grunge rockers To The Woods who’ve recently been working on their debut album and have been going from strength to strength on the live front for the last couple of months.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 28th June 2014:

The Recks and To The Woods scan - 28:06:14And you can check out the video from The Recks debut single, Lovers In Night, below:

 

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