Torteval Scarecrow Festival 2017

Ernie the scarecrow

Ernie the scarecrow

This is a slightly strange one as it feels a bit like a travel blog more than anything else though I only travelled five or six miles from home, to Guernsey’s most south-westerly parish, for the 14th annual Torteval Scarecrow Festival.

For clarity I’ll add that, in many ways, Torteval is something of a home away from home for me being the parish where my grandparents have lived for more than half a century and where I spent a fair amount of my childhood exploring its lanes and fields. 

For those who don’t know Torteval is generally regarded as Guernsey’s most country parish and, while that means it has some of the island’s best and most varied scenery from rolling green fields and hills, to dramatic cliffs, to a couple of the most picturesque beaches you’ll find anywhere, it also means it has come in for more than its share of ridicule over the years.

What the Scarecrow Festival seems to have done, fairly brilliantly, is take some of this and combine it into a celebratory and slightly surreal weekend that at its best moments marries an old-fashioned country show with a streak of dark satire that I’ve not seen anywhere else locally, along with a lot of good fun.

Torteval Church under scaffolding

Torteval Church under scaffolding

The event begins in the shadow of the parish’s church, a rather unique structure with a round spire that provides a real central landmark for the community (though it’s currently covered by scaffolding).

This field feels like it could be the central part of a small country show anywhere with a tea tent (and bar), book stall, bric-a-brac, vintage cars, of a sort, and of course a raffle (to be drawn at an indeterminate point later in the afternoon) all run by people from the area.

As I arrived, shortly after lunch, this area was packed with people soaking in the atmosphere and sun and meeting up with friends in a way that, despite the trappings of modernity, felt like it would have been the same whether it was 2017, 1957 or 1927.

Heading out into the lanes for the trail of scarecrows (or les babouains, to use the Guernsey French name) this feeling largely persists, in general if not maybe in the specific details of the entries.

The scarecrows themselves are all in competition for a range of prizes and, with 51 official entries this year, it’s fair to say competition is fairly stiff.

Winning entry Trumplestiltskin

Winning entry Trumplestiltskin

I’ll get to some of the more striking entries shortly but it’s clear right away that there is a real mix of subjects being tackled in varyingly elaborate ways with just a glance at the guide map suggesting this with names ranging from Teddy Bear’s Picnic to Jonah & The Whale to Trumplestilskin

The trail itself is a relatively gentle stroll through the parish’s back lanes with only one particularly treacherous hill for which a diversion is well signposted and, while a little more circuitous, means you don’t miss any of the entries. The other bonus of this is that, with it closed to traffic it makes walking the lanes far more relaxing than normal and allows everyone to go at their own pace.

The scarecrows themselves are, of course, the main attraction and didn’t disappoint. For me the highlights came with the more political and darker edged entries which stared out by the church with Warning! Do Not Climb The Scaffolding laid out like something from an episode of CSI.

Warning Do Not Climb The Scaffolding

Warning! Do Not Climb The Scaffolding

A strong theme this year was the current President of the USA with many and varied effigies of ‘The Donald’ dotted around the lanes with varying takes on his time in office so far.

English politics wasn’t far behind with a spooky looking Jeremy Corbin lurking in the trees at one point and, in my favourite entry, an interactive Theresa May running through the Fields of Wheat, complete with a specially recorded soundtrack that you can listen to by clicking here.

The most locally controversial and political entry went by the name of Emilie and was a rather pointed comment on one of the newer members of the States assembly who, it’s fair to say, has ruffled some feathers since the last election.

With more lighthearted entries including a Star Wars themed entry and what felt like a slightly outdated reference to the late 90s Budweiser frog commercials it’s safe to say the whole event is a mixed bag but the effort that goes in to the entries is hugely impressive.

Fields of Wheat

Fields of Wheat

This makes it something genuinely unique that combines a lot of traditional countryside type things with a modern, and in many cases almost post-modern, twist to make a perfect way to spend an afternoon either with a family or friends in what is an event that genuinely has something for everyone.

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CJ Wildheart – Blood

CJ Wildheart - Blood - album artworkOver the last few years CJ Wildheart has broken away from the band that has given him his ‘surname’, as well as the band’s he’s been a member of outside of that, to create material that is genuinely his.

While Robot and before that Mable (named after his favourite chicken… and why not) began to explore a palette away from The Wildhearts it’s with his latest offering, Blood, that it really feels he’s found himself in his music.

Released and funded once again through Pledgemusic probably means most of his die-hard fans have already brought and downloaded the album, but there is plenty in it for more that just those dedicated few to like.

For a fair chunk of the record the sound is the fine mix of power pop rhythms and melodies married to the crunching, metallic, riffery we’ve come to expect.

In this CJ clearly references his namesake band but there’s very much a feeling to it that this is his version of that sound away from Ginger’s often more experimental leanings.

So, while we don’t get the abrupt tempo changes and extended sequences that The Wildhearts often headed into, we do get songs that you can bounce along to just as well – for those who are familiar with the band, I found some strong references in the sounds made by SugarSlam.

CJ Wildheart

CJ Wildheart

As well as this though there are songs where CJ goes into the heaviest territory he has explored yet.

Here we get intense riffs and rhythms, combined with CJ’s generally slightly cleaner style of heavy vocals – this isn’t shouting and screaming metal but still has a heavier and more abrasive edge than elsewhere.

At their heaviest moment it hints that CJ might have a side, like his former bandmate, that could lead to something like the lighter Mutation moments but in the context of this record he never fully commits to that (it would be somewhat out-of-place if he did).

While the sounds are a development on what we’ve come to expect from CJ it is in some of the subjects he deals with and the way he delivers the vocals that it feels things have really developed. Obviously all his songs have always come from his point of view in the past, but on Blood it’s the first time I got the feeling of CJ getting really personal in his lyrics.

CJ Wildheart - Blood artworkThis can be heard across the whole album but it is maybe most obvious on Fifty Percent Indian.

It’s not for me to say whether this is based on CJ’s own experiences or not but it has a strong ring of truth in the delivery that both grounds it in his experience growing up and living in England and also places it within a wider current sociopolitical discourse growing from the ongoing immigration, Brexit, etc debate.

Once again with Blood CJ Wildheart has created a strong set of songs that further remove him from his history with The Wildhearts while continuing to build on the strong sense of pop-rock that were that bands call sign, particularly during his times with the band, making for his strongest solo outing to date that has plenty on offer for both long-term fans and people on the look out for something new.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian posterThroughout his career it’s fair to say Luc Besson has often had the same criticism levelled against his work, that it is more style than substance. While his work is often visually high concept, in the likes of Leon aka The Professional and (more relevant here) The Fifth Element he has created films that are engrossing, energetic, eccentric but, above all, enjoyable… And now has come Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Fairly quickly this looks like it might inhabit similar territory to The Fifth Element as we are rapidly sent from the first meeting in space between the US and Soviets to the creation of Alpha, an enormous space station inhabited by species from around the galaxy heading off to explore the cosmos.

We also witness what at first appears to be an unrelated planetary apocalypse of a fairly psychedelic race’s home world getting destroyed by mysterious star ships leaving only handful of survivors.

We then meet our two leads, Dane DeHaan’s Valerian and Cara Delevingne’s Laureline, members of the military that controls Alpha on a mission to recover a mysterious artefact, while indulging in some of the most chemistry free romantic entanglements ever committed to celluloid.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne in Valerian

Delevingne and DeHaan

From there the story is fairly episodic, giving the impression that Besson has taken a selection of ideas from the source comics and thrown them all into the movie script whether they fit or not.

This is particularly noticeable when the lead pair encounter an apparently xenophobic race who like a tasty human brain and, improbably, pop star Rhianna crops up to save the day for about five minutes and is then never mentioned again (its hard to avoid the feel of misjudged ‘stunt casting’ at this point).

Along with the slightly too episodic nature of the plot (the whole planetary apocalypse thing is present throughout but only really comes into focus again in the very end, by which point you’ll be at least one step ahead of everyone on-screen) the characters and performances have no sense of consistency or believability.

Rhianna in Valerian

Rhianna doing her best Sally Bowles

Now, I’m a fan of sci-fi so it’s not because of the setting or anything like that, but rather because they change entirely almost scene to scene giving particularly the leads and the main villain an almost schizophrenic edge that makes them impossible to get along with, care about or anything else.

Where the film does succeed is in its visuals, I don’t think there’s a single shot without some visual effect and in some cases entire scenes are entirely CGI but fit in with the live action elements (for the most part) excellently and the production design and costumes look, in their way, excellent (though what’s with Rhianna’s Cabaret moment?).

While the script and dialogue are never great it is in the closing scenes, where one might expect something to tidy up the various threads, it all just descends to into what is at best laughable and worst cringeworthy and, while it can be credited for not having a standard city destroying battle in its final act, what it does have just falls flat so, while the ending feels like it should be the beginning of the adventures of Valerien and Laureline, I honestly hope they are lost in space (though part of me was hoping for Roger Moore-era James Bond like final pay off gag).

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School of Popular Music and Guernsey Gigs Summer Show – The Fermain Tavern – 04/08/17

The Lemmings

The Lemmings

For the last few years Guernsey’s School of Popular Music (SOPM) have held a week-long summer school where they put youngsters together in ‘bands’ and, with the help of the school’s teachers, put a set together to busk in town on the Thursday before performing for friends, family and well wishers at The Fermain Tavern on the Friday evening.

As with last year the event then continued with a group of more experienced bands organised by Guernsey Gigs.

Once again the bands pulled together by SOPM were very impressive given their ages and mixed experiences with each one of the eight having at least one highlight moment.

Avocado Geff

Avocado Geff

The Lemmings started the night off with some pop punk before what looked like the youngest band of the night, Thee Unloaders, delivered the a truly unique version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Clash of the Bloosers and the improbably named Squidward On A Chair both went down well with the crowd before Avocado Geff (featuring The Violet Diversion’s Kiya) delivered some grunge-tinged acoustic songs with Kiya continuing to stake her claim as a true up and coming front woman.

Purple Paradox and World On Fire featured some of the best moments, particularly on the latter band’s version of Sweet Child O’ Mine before Lady And The Tramps closed the first part of the event with some semi-acoustic songs.

The second part of the night when, unfortunately, due to the awkwardness of Guernsey’s licensing laws anyone under 18 had to leave, began with relative newcomers, The Buried Kings.

The Buried Kings

The Buried Kings

Made up of Elliot, Harvey and Steve Falla they are something of a family band, but, I’m pleased to say, that while that sounds like a rather naff concept that isn’t what they were.

Taking Elliot’s style of blues and adding in a nice dose of modern folk, with the inclusion of Harvey’s mandolin and Steve’s double bass, made for a broad and deep sound with all three providing vocals as well.

More lighthearted than Elliot’s solo material many of the songs contain Guernsey and Sark references including Bec Du Nez (the cider rather than the place) which sounded like something of a family favourite tipple.

While they had a few technical issues with the upright bass it wasn’t enough to entirely detract from the overall performance which was a fine way to start the evening, even if the crowd was woefully small.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

Its been quite a while since Lifejacket have graced a stage and it showed during their first few songs as they seemed to struggle to find their usual intensity.

By the time they got to the celebrity baiting Meanwhile In Hollywood though they hit their stride and the last half of their set was heading back to their past form.

A few new songs showed that, while they sticking to the same formula of powerfully hard indie rock, strongly inspired by the likes of Mclusky, they are developing it in their own ways with different rhythms slipping in behind the barked vocals.

While this wasn’t their most slick outing, with a set at the Vale Earth Fair coming up I hope we get to see more of them and hear more new material soon.

Gay Army

Gay Army

Another band who haven’t been seen in a while are, Gay Army. Despite this they were as darkly intense as ever as frontman Rolls prowled the Tav’s dance floor while Jo, Ian and Jay owned the stage with the swirling wall of dark disco noise that has become their trademark.

Rolls once again showed that he is genuinely one of the island’s most charismatic frontmen whether playing to 5 or 500 people (I’ll let you guess which number tonight’s audience was closer to) and with tracks like Cracked Amerika sounding enormous Gay Army proved they’ve lost none of their power over the years.

Blasting into a set with a raft of songs from their early days Thee Jenerators seemed reinvigorated playing the back to basics trashy garage songs that made their name. As the set went on newer songs came too with the same energy driving them.

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

While it was one of their more physically restrained sets until the very end, possibly down to the sadly small audience, the band were more relaxed than I’ve seen them in a while.

Mark Le Gallez lead them in a non-stop garage rock blast highlighted by the best rendition I remember hearing of I Hate You So Much along with classics like Mystery Man and Burn Down The House to close the night on an energetic, if disappointingly barely witnessed, high.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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GLOW

Netflix Glow posterNetflix latest hit ‘own brand’ series is something of an odd fish. While their Marvel series and Better Call Saul obviously come from established franchises and others are fairly solidly angled genre pieces, GLOW seems to throw things together and hope something entertaining comes out the other end and, to a degree, it does.

Based on the story of the mid 1980s GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling promotion/show it presents a fictionalised version of the lead up to their first television taping from initial auditions to broadcast, similar to the documentary GLOW: The Story Of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (also currently available on Netflix in the UK).

To make it into a drama the series focuses on one of the ladies, the apparently totally fictional Ruth (Alison Brie) a struggling actress in LA who stumbles into the wrestling show. Around her are the cast of wrestlers-to-be (including her former best friend, Betty Gilpin as Debbie) and the producer and director duo of Bash (Chris Lowell) and Sam (Marc Maron), the latter of whom becomes a kind of second lead.

To make this work the main thread of the story takes on a soap opera style, possibly also in a kind of reference to soap opera-like nature of wrestling storylines, which for me is a slightly odd construct but it works for the most part to keeps things rolling along in its half hour per show format.

GLOW - Alison Brie

Alison Brie as Ruth

Along with this though two other aspects collide in a way that makes it often a little on the unbalanced side.

The first, that certainly runs throughout, is the comedic side provided by Maron.

At its best this leads to some genuinely funny moments at which points Maron’s dry delivery is wonderful, but elsewhere it feels a little too much like he is hijacking proceedings with a very different style to the rest of the show, either way he is one of the highlights.

At the other end of the spectrum there are a few moments where the story gets a bit too serious which jars with the otherwise lighthearted tone, this particularly comes with an accidental pregnancy and abortion plot line that just doesn’t sit quite right and feels just dropped in to make up time.

Aside from this it is, for the most past, a light and colourful show a little like the one it is telling the story of (though with a far higher budget).

GLOW - Marc Maron

Marc Maron as Sam

Of course as a fan of wrestling there’s one crucial aspect that would make or break the show for me and that is its depiction of what NJPW calls ‘The King Of Sports’ (I know…). Thankfully in this it does a great job.

From the start its clear things are going in the right direction as not only does Johnny Mundo (aka John Morrison aka John Hennigan) appear as a wrestling coach but one of the regular cast is played by the artist formerly known as Kharma in WWE or Awesome/Amazing Kong elsewhere, Kia Stevens (and in a nice touch the gym is named ‘Chavo’s’ in tribute to that famed member of the Guererro family some of whom were involved with the original GLOW training).

GLOW cast

The GLOW girls

As the show goes on more pro-wrestlers cameo, notably Carlito Colon and the artist formerly known as Brodus Clay in WWE, and at no point is the actual in ring work made a joke of with a reasonable nod given to the effort required given the broader context of the show and these ladies pull off some moves that would never have been seen in the mid-80s outside of Lucha Libre.

With the series culminating, as one might expect for such a show, with an apparently triumphant first screening, GLOW is far from a classic but there’s enough to enjoy in a lighthearted guilty pleasure kind of way, particularly with its nostalgia heavy 80s soundtrack and style, and, while I’m not sure how much fuel there is for a second series, I wouldn’t be disappointed to see it go on.

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Zone 1: The Guernsey Comic Book Anthology

Zone 1 coverIn 2015 the Guernsey Literary Festival expanded its programme to incorporate ‘graphic novels’ for the first time with a focus on the islands links to a revelling of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs in that form.

As part of that a workshop was held with the writer and artist who adapted Hugo’s novel, David Hine and Mark Stafford, and they inspired a group of writers and artists to put together the first comic book anthology from the island, Zone 1, which was released through Black Moor Press in mid-2017.

Prey by Mikal Dyas

Prey by Mikal Dyas

Consisting of six short stories, they vary in tone and style about as broadly as is possible without heading directly into superhero territory and are by turns darkly disturbing, interestingly poignant or just downright baffling.

Prey by Theo Leworthy and Mikal Dyas

The first story has the feel of a bad dream as we join a father and son on a hunting trip that goes wrong.

While the story is fairly simple, the artwork amplifies it into truly horrific territory and, while it never quite comes entirely into focus as a whole, it finishes in a shockingly memorable moment that feels like it wants to say something but isn’t really sure what.

Heavenly Body by Hugh Rose

Heavenly Body by Hugh Rose

Heavenly Body by Hugh Rose

One of the nicest things about this collection is that it doesn’t lean heavily on being from Guernsey with this really being the only story with a suggestion of a local link, though not dealt with in the way it often is, as it is a tale of evacuated children during the Second World War.

The artwork is simple but evocative with an oddly playful sense despite the potentially serious nature of the story. The whole thing ends on a lighthearted note to defuse the situation that does a good job of bringing a child’s sense of wonder to a potentially rather different tale.

Meek The Mighty by Kit Gilson

Meek The Mighty by Kit Gilson

Mighty Are The Meek by Colin Ferbrache and Kit Gillson

While only brief, the highlight of Mighty Are The Meek are the cartoonish goblin designs of Kit Gillson. If you follow Kit on Instagram you might be familiar with his cartoon designs and they look great here.

Unfortunately beyond this the strip feels a little too much like an unfinished sketch but the ‘to be continued…’ at the end offers the suggestion that it could grow into quite a charming, comic strip style, piece.

Fimbulwinter by Llewellyn Van Eeden

While Llewelyn Van Eeden’s tale drops us into one of the most complete settings and slickest looking art of the anthology, as a whole it feels a little too clichéd as it tells what feels like the first part of a story focussing on a fairly stereotypical Norse blacksmith and his village.

Fimbulwinter by Llewellyn Van Eeden

Fimbulwinter by Llewellyn Van Eeden

While I could see it developing nicely with a few hints of mystery, based on this the characters feel a little too stock and the art while smooth and sleek, doesn’t stand out as well as the other pieces.

Urbane Paria by Adam Gillson

While this painted story starts out in mysterious fashion with what sounds like a gruesome death it soon becomes a little lost and confused.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the artwork, while interesting and expressive in one sense, does little to help provide character or a consistent setting and the whole thing veers a little too far from the standard comic book or murder mystery conventions to properly work.

The Race For The Black Gate by Russell Wicks

The Race For The Black Gate by Russell Wicks

The Race For The Black Gate by Jonathan Dawe and Russell Wicks

Probably the most conventional tale in the collection comes with the last, though even then it throws its own spin on things.

With something of a hard-boiled, murder mystery aspect combined with a paranormal element, the basic story and the shadowy cartoon artwork combine to create the collection’s most complete feeling piece.

With enough detail revealed to draw the reader in it leaves things on a mysterious cliffhanger that I hope means there’s Zone 2 on the way to continue the tale. 


Urbane Paria by Adam Gillson

Urbane Paria by Adam Gillson

While Zone 1 is, expectedly, a mixed bag, there’s a lot to enjoy from striking visuals to intriguing stories to various attempts to subvert comic convention and, while a few may miss the mark and come off as trying a little too hard to be clever for the sake of it, there’s certainly enough to recommend to fans of comics beyond the Marvel and DC mainstream and I hope it isn’t just a one-off.

Note: apologies to the artists for the slightly ropey reproduction of the images but I couldn’t find any online

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Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager

The Captains - Star Trek The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager

Captains Picard, Sisko and Janeway

Around the time JJ Abrams semi-reboot of Star Trek was released, back in 2009, I set out on my own ‘on-going mission’ to rewatch (or in some cases watch for the first time) the entirety of the Star Trek TV and film canon.

I’ve already posted reviews of a few of the films (The Wrath of Kahn, First Contact and Insurrection) but here I’m going to focus on what is, for me, the main run of the TV show from the launch of The Next Generation in the mid 80s to the climax of Voyager in the late 90s.

Of course none of these could exist without Gene Roddenberry’s original 1960s show which was certainly groundbreaking in several ways but sadly petered off rather swiftly leading to its cancellation after just three of its five years.

Its success on syndicated repeats though kept the ideas it espoused alive and, following an animated series and the launch of the film series in the late 70s, led to the idea of the series’ first not quite reboot, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek The Next Generation core crew

Star Trek: The Next Generation crew

While the idea is a little clichéd now (and was even then) ‘TNG‘ set its stall as a real development from the off with bigger budgets and bigger ideas permeating its seven seasons.

While the first few seasons are somewhat hobbled by some of Roddenberry’s more 60s ideals; there’s still a strong streak of the originals idea of a strapping Star Fleet officer having his end away with exotic aliens, they do hint at the greater development beyond.

The opening episodes, Encounter At Farpoint, strongly indicate a lot of this with new life form, Q (John De Lancie for the entire run), putting the human race on trial and exploring morality and ethics in a very obvious way that, as it goes on, becomes a slightly more subtly handled linchpin of the ongoing franchise.

While this is a bit of a one-off at first, as the series’ goes on and we get past the rather two-dimensional introduction to new races like the Ferengi, and on wider television we move into the era or Twin Peaks and The X-Files, things start to coalesce with deeper ideas being investigated in the traditional hard sci-if way of finding things in the future setting to reflect the current world and current ideas.

USS Enterprise-D

USS Enterprise-D

Along with this it introduces some characters who have become not just staples of the Star Trek world but, in some cases, have slipped into broader popular culture.

Of course there’s the crew, led by Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard, who’s phrase ‘make it so’ has entered the pop culture sphere as has the actor who would go on to become Professor X for much of the X-Men film franchise. Another notable character who has crossed over a little is the android crewman, Data (Brent Spiner) and, latterly, Wil Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher.

To my mind though the most important thing TNG gave us was one of the new ‘species’ it introduced, The Borg. Playing on particularly timely obsessions with technology, in many ways they prefigure the likes of The Matrix by a good decade and develop as the show goes on into one of TV’s most interesting villains and continue to develop into one of the main antagonists of Voyager.

Borg

An early example of a Borg drone

As TNG goes on it also develops from a standard ‘monster of the week’ style format into a broader storytelling context that grows into a universe building piece.

In its final episodes this allows it all to come full circle, back to elements introduced in the opening Q story making for a generally satisfying climax before the Enterprise-D crew headed onto the silver screen.

What the universe building also led into was the expansion of the franchise into other series, first Deep Space Nine and then Voyager.

In some ways ‘DS9‘ continues in the style of TNG with standalone episodes making the bulk of the first couple of seasons, but even then there are much more obvious overarching themes at play and heading into different directions than TNG dealt with.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine crew

Deep Space Nine crew

This is particularly focussed around the aftermath of war, foreign policy & diplomacy and religion due to its setting in the recently liberated Bajoran system following a lengthy occupation by the Cardassian Empire.

While all of these are dealt with in a way that still suits early evening prime time TV, DS9 does take things a step further than TNG as it goes on and actual war breaks out, taking up the bulk of the last few seasons in a largely ongoing story (with occasional asides).

In this it gets increasingly ‘dark’ (for wont of a better word) with lead characters even dying a long way into the run in very effective fashion and with the aftermath of this dealt with in surprising depth.

It’s during this that the already impressive practical special effects begin to dabble with CGI and, while rudimentary by today’s standards, it opens up the storytelling into more action oriented territory which is something Star Trek as a whole often lacked.

Deep Space Nine

Deep Space Nine

Thankfully it does this without losing the story or the ideas as has become a problem with over heavy CGI sci-fi since, including, sadly the last couple of Trek films, particularly Star Trek Beyond

While it’s often considered the lesser series, Voyager continues much of this and, in one sense, with the most ambitious concept of all as it launches its crew to the other side of the galaxy and traces their attempts to get home.

Across its seven seasons Voyager does have its wobbles and maybe a few too many moments of apparent luck and coincidentally bumping into past characters that doesn’t fit the epic trek of the ongoing story but, in between it has some of the more interesting stand alone stories as the conceit removes much of the galactic baggage that had built up across TNG and DS9.

Star Trek Voyager crew

Voyager crew

Of course it would be remiss to not also mention that it gives the Trek universe its first female lead in the form of Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) who grows and develops into probably at least an equal to DS9‘s Captian Sisko (Avery Brooks) – I’ll be honest no one is going to best Kirk or Picard.

The last few seasons again provide the highlights as The Borg loom larger and again CGI is used to create things more inventive than a parade of humans with forehead prosthetics (though there are still plenty of them), like Species 8472 who for TV at the time are quite a feat of animation.

What possibly hampers Voyager somewhat is that many of the ideas it explores are just retreads of what we’ve seen before, with new aspects in most cases but it still has a little too much of a hint of repetition, particularly with first the holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo) then former Borg Seven Of Nine’s (Jeri Ryan) explorations of humanity more than echoing TNG’s Data.

Voyager

Voyager

The other thing that feels a shame is that the series ends rather abruptly and, while it satisfies part of the main story, it feels there was more to tell and wrap up before coming to an end.

While it’s obvious that TNG is the superior of the three series in many ways they all have their share of merits and, on my personal ‘trek’ it was the concluding part of DS9 and much of Voyager that provided many highlights, possibly because I had seen them less than TNG.

Along with this though they stand as some of the foundations of the TV renaissance of recent years (along with The X-Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and others) that has led to the likes of Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones and the Marvel Netflix shows with wider concepts and ongoing stories becoming the main focus of TV rather than the more easily disposable medium it had previously been.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: July 2017 – Chaos, Sark Folk Festival and more

Vice and Track Not Found at the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Vice and Track Not Found

Click here to listen to the show

On the July 2017 edition of BBC Introducing in Guernsey we had a festival special of a show with more besides.

For my look back at Chaos Voodoo 13 I spoke to the winners and runners-up of the Chaos/Sound Guernsey Battle of the Bands, VICE and track not found, while hearing music from some of the weekend’s highlight acts.

I also heard from some of the artists who played the Sark Folk Festival including Burg & The Back Porch BandJoe Corbin and Ukuladeez.

On top of that mura masa told us about releasing his self-titled debut album with a special signing at Guernsey’s HMV store and I had a brief look ahead to next month’s Vale Earth Fair.

You can listen to the show by clicking here.

Tracklist

And here’s a new video from The Recks that also came out this month, as a little bonus bit:

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Vale Earth Fair Fundraiser – The Fermain Tavern – 22/07/17

Rentoclean at The Fermain Tavern

Rentoclean

Every year The Vale Earth Fair gears up for their summer festival with a series of fundraisers but this year, they come with a slight difference, as the collective are raising money for a new van and have even set up a crowd funding campaign to help.

With that in mind they presented a night of live music at The Fermain Tavern headlined by the return Rentoclean, a band who, a couple of years ago, had a strong reputation as the band to book if you wanted a party.

With only a handful gathered around tables at the back of the venue Jacques Evans started off the night with a set of reggae tinged acoustic balladry. While he’s always shown a raw talent on both acoustic and electric guitar Evans’ set here showed he has begun to pull it together into something more coherent.

Jacques Evans at The Fermain Tavern

Jacques Evans

Gone are the extended jams of old, replaced with a series of enjoyable, if slightly melancholy, love songs, alongside a few customary reggae covers that are always going to go down well with the Earth Fair crowd (even if they are slightly lost on me).

In addition to this Jacques employed some strategic use of a loop pedal to augment the solo acoustic guitar sound in a way that some who some who rely on the trickery of the loop pedal would do well to learn from (Ed Sheeran and acolytes, I’m looking at you).

An instrumental track later in the set did lose the focus somewhat as its mix of loop work and intricate Spanish style playing led Jacques to become a little too self-absorbed on stage but otherwise he provided a good warm up for the evening.

Lord Vapour at The Fermain Tavern

Lord Vapour

For the second night in a row Lord Vapour took to the Tav’s stage (before heading into town for a later session at The Vault, making it a three gig weekend) and for the second night they brought the impressive, heavy grooves.

They may have been in slightly loser mode than the previous night but still held it together well with new songs providing some highlight moments along with subtly titled set closer, Sugartits. While the audience weren’t as receptive as the youngsters at Sound the band seemed more relaxed making for a highly enjoyable set.

With the audience still rather on the small side and content to stay at the back of the room Citizen-X took to the stage for an audio/visual experience like no other in the island.

Those at the back probably missed the visual side of the show thanks to the location of the projector, but for those who bothered to head forward we were treated to one of the good Citizen’s best performances yet.

Citizen-X at The Fermain Tavern

Citizen-X

With new tracks alongside older ones it was clear he has added a darker tone to his electronic sounds, with creepily surreal imagery to match and the two far more in sync and smoothly presented than in the past.

While one of his tracks made it more explicit, there was a sense of harmony being created from an underlying anarchy and chaos and, while there is still a slightly missing performance element (I’m confounded as to what that could be, mind you), Citizen-X’s show continues to develop into something genuinely fascinating.

After a brief pause for some more reggae, dub and punk sounds from Earth Fair Collective member and regular DJ Rob R, Rentoclean took to the stage and hit the ground running in the manner they always did as tight reggae rhythms with a punk edge filling the Tav.

Unfortunately the small crowd that had gathered earlier seemed to have already started to leave meaning, beyond a handful of enthusiastic fans on the dance floor and another handful lurking at the back, Rentoclean were playing to a nearly empty room.

Rentoclean at The Fermain Tavern

Rentoclean

One of the band’s hallmarks has always been that they are best with a vocal and energetic audience in front of them and as the set went on it wasn’t surprising that things began to drag.

While they remained tight and sharp during the songs, in between they took time to chat with each other more than the audience losing whatever energy may have built up every few minutes and, while they didn’t resort to the extended jams they sometimes have in the past, it still felt like more of a challenge than a show.

While Rentoclean haven’t really changed what they’re doing I can only think that Guernsey audiences have found newer sources for their fun, punky, reggae-ish party music, particularly since the arrival of Honest Crooks and, in a slightly different vein, Buffalo Huddleston, which meant the return of this band wasn’t greeted with the excitement it might have been a few years ago.

On top of that, with the proliferation of live music events around the island, a simple Vale Earth Fair fundraiser no longer attracts the kind of crowds it would have done five or ten years ago making what on paper should have been a great, high energy night, fall a little flat.

You can see more of my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Sound Guernsey School’s Out Party – The Fermain Tavern 21/07/17

Unclassified at The Fermain Tavern

Unclassified

Following on from the Battle of the Bands at Chaos 13, Sound Guernsey’s Summer Of Sound continued with a School’s Out Party at The Fermain Tavern on Friday 21st July with Unclassified, Blakalaska, The Phantom Cosmonaut, Lord Vapour and Kings.

Unclassified opened the show and continued Sound Guernsey’s ethos of giving new bands a place to get gig experienced and showcase their music.

While their performance could do with a bit more power and conviction they got a nice bounce going with their pop rock covers as the set went on and went down well as the night’s audience were arriving. 

Lee of Blakalaska at The Fermain Tavern

Lee of Blakalaska

After quite some time away Blakalaska made a rare appearance next. While they took a couple of songs to get in their groove and for the sound to be levelled out, once they did they were as tight and huge sounding as always.

Going on so early I think did a disservice to a sound that is custom but for late night dancing but they still had the audience interested and got some dancing as the set went on.

While they are perfect on a big stage in the more intimate confines of the Tav they did lack a little connection but it’s always a treat to hear their unique take on dance rock.

After The Phantom Cosmonaut assaulted the crowd with their brand of Strong Style a Rock ‘N’ Roll things got a bit loose and groovy with Lord Vapour.

Joe of Lord Vapour at The Fermain Tavern

Joe of Lord Vapour

With tasty riffs and heaviness aplenty the trio did exactly what we’ve come to expect, taking their songs and jamming them out into that psychedelic space beyond.

With a few new tracks (including one inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune, following in the footsteps of Whitechapel Murders and winning them many bonus points in my book) amongst numbers from their first album they too sounded huge and really got the young audience head banging away and loving it.

With one of the most varied lineups I’ve seen in sometime the night’s headliners continued that trend as Kings launched into a set of polished precision pop.

It was great to hear something so unashamedly energetic and fun and clearly designed to get an audience jumping and singing along, and that they did.

Eli of Kings at The Fermain Tavern

Eli of Kings

Strategic and well done use of samples and backing tracks elevated their sound in a different direction and, along with the pop, there was a constant hint of an edge that kept it interesting and away from becoming too saccharine.

Frontman Eli Crossan had the audience in the palm of his hand throughout with a non-patronising manner and impressive voice, while Casey-Joe Rumens took a massive, arena rock, guitar sound and made it fit in the Tav perfectly closing the night and launching the summer holidays on a high.

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

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