Vale Earth Fair John Peel Tribute Night 2016

DJ list

The list of DJs

Every year since his death in 2004 the Vale Earth Fair have staged an event paying tribute to DJ John Peel. Peel’s work on BBC Radio 1 (and elsewhere) gained a reputation for discovering and breaking new and eclectic music spanning styles from world folk to grindcore and it has taken the BBC Music Introducing network of presenters, producers and radio shows to even attempt to replicate his work (for which I feel very privileged to be a part).

The Vale Earth Fair’s event tries to do some justice to this by offering anyone with an interest in music in Guernsey to have a 15 minute DJ set over the course of an evening as near to the anniversary of Peel’s death as possible – the 2016 edition took place at the Thomas De La Rue in St Peter Port on Friday 21st October.

19 ‘DJs’ took up the opportunity and provided one of the most enjoyable nights of non-live music I can remember. Being selected by a random draw there was no sense of ‘programming’ the event and anything could have set next to anything else, in a manner Peel often employed (whether intentionally or not) and I think its safe to say that everyone present will have heard something they hadn’t heard before.

What this meant as well was that if a particular DJ wasn’t playing anything to your taste it wouldn’t be long until someone else was on the decks (though of course there’d be no guarantee of them playing anything you might like either).

Graham DJing

Graham from Tantale on the decks

That said, across the whole night I really can’t think of any sets that weren’t at least enjoyable on some level, even those that included what sounded like recordings of morris dancers or entirely cheesy pop.

Across such a varied night its hard to pick highlights but there were a few moments that really stood out, particularly some Napalm Death from DJ Vauvert Underground and a nice noisy number I forget the name of towards the end of Miss San Frandisco’s set. Also Jawbone guitarist Lee following Public Enemy with Bonnie Tyler was quite a moment as was Josh from The Secret Smiles and Clameur De Haro cracking out System of a Down’s Chop Suey, a song which has particular nostalgia following my days DJing at Aberystwyth RocSoc.

With many different methods used to select the tracks played, some played sets of songs they hadn’t heard until the day before, others went for classics and some seemed (thankfully) intent on pricking the potentially pompous vibe of an evening of musos playing for musos, I based my set on what I’ve been listening to recently spanning doom-ish metal to punk ’n’ roll via garage rock.

Tom DJing

My turn

In the end this all did a great job of providing a fine nights entertainment and, to my mind, did a decent job of paying tribute to such a great champion of new music (though there could have been more of a few styles, but the lack of ‘programming’ is one of the events charms) and it continued the Vale Earth Fair’s own 40th birthday celebrations as we head into the autumn/winter gigging season.

My setlist

For those who might be interested this is what I played (click on them to have a listen):

Photos courtesy of Vale Earth Fair

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PUNiK – F**k Yeah!!

PUNiK - Fuck Yeah!!I first properly encountered Japanese punk four-piece PUNiK when they headlined the first night the 2016 Chaos weekend and they made an instant impression. Their debut album, Fuck Yeah!! does just the same as it delivers intense, energetic blasts of no frills punk rock in twelve tight packages.

P.U.N.i.K!! starts the disc off as it means to continue with an assault of trebly, buzzing guitars, snappy, rumbling bass and ferocious drums, all with the band hollering over the top.

From there its much of the same, and all the stronger for it, as frontman Tagu rants in a mix of Japanese and broken English with bass man Nigel’s gruffer vocals providing a strong backing, while Makoto’s lead guitar provides some suitably manic solos and Osamu’s drums never let up.

Throughout about the only intelligible English words are (arguably) unprintable in most reputable publications but set the scene and really tell you all you need to know with ‘Fuck you its rock ’n’ roll’ (in Fuck’N’Roller!!) and ‘Got no money, got no future’ (in Punk Bomb!!) being two of the more choice moments.

PUNiK at Chaos


Stand Up!! breaks things up a bit with a slightly slower, more bass driven feel, before Hello!! gives the album its one ‘conventional single’ type track that, if you’re looking for a more accessible example of what PUNiK can do, is a spot on piece of pop-rock run through a scuzzy punk ’n’ roll filter.

The production sounds just the right side of four enthusiastic drunk men in a room with some microphones, evoking a sound familiar to anyone who’s listened to their share of DIY music from the 1970s and 80s while the songs at times echo The Damned, The Ramones and Sex Pistols in the best of ways.

While the energy and power of PUNiK is certainly best experienced live, Fuck Yeah!! captures the band’s gang like spirit making for a record that is a raw and filthy pleasure.

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Punk Night at the Tav – The Fermain Tavern – 08/10/16

Short Was Found

Short Was Found

With five bands on the bill, one of whom was marking the release of their debut album and another was making their non-festival Guernsey debut, it was a busy night at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 8th October 2016, celebrating punk rock in many forms.

First up was Silas The Assyrian Assassin who did exactly what we’ve come to expect armed with his acoustic guitar, an always impressive streak of cynical vitriol and some undeniably questionable jokes. As always the set came to life when Silas was playing off heckles from the audience, while his ability to ignore taboos and work this into songs is reminiscent of NoFX’s Fat Mike.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas’ best moments tonight came with his songs dealing with society and politics such as Trust Fund Anarchist and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while the set began to ramble by the end, it was a good start to proceedings – if you like that kind of thing.

Burning At Both Ends changed the atmosphere considerably with their brand of pop punk which was as solid and tight as they come – in fact their performance here made me wonder if it was maybe a bit too precise.

Despite this their songs are undeniably great examples of their style and, as the set went on, their energy increased, particularly following slower number What If Someday They’re Not There.

With this the audience began to get more invested and the energy began to flow both ways as in the best performances rounding off their set on a high and making a great case for picking up their newly released self-titled debut album.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

From one extreme to the other, energy is never something that Jawbone have to worry about while precision seems to not really be something that matters to them so much, and tonight was no different as they ripped through a set of punk classics and originals in their usual, no frills, style.

Back to their full strength line up is when they are at their best and are one of the most fun bands playing in Guernsey today, and they proved this here.

Their original songs bring to mind a mix of NoFX, Rancid and Jersey punks Bulletproof as highlighted in what guitarist Lee described as ‘A love song between myself and the Tory government’.



Rounding the set off with The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg along with Silas on guest vocals marked an energetic and fun highlight and brought to mind punk gigs of years past with songs delivered in sloppy fashion but with real passion.

With the energy up Honest Crooks kept it going and continued the old punk gig spirit with their ska and reggae infused sound.

Particularly notable early in the set was bass player Cheese being handed increasing numbers of shirts and jackets and continuing to play despite his arms being largely immobile as he overheated under the stage lights.

Back to the music and it was exactly what we’ve come to expect from the trio with tight songs delivered with energy and fun designed to fill a dance floor – and that’s just what they did.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks with Lee and Dan

As the set went on they were joined by Lee from Jawbone for a particularly heartfelt take on Rancid’s Fall Back Down before his bandmate Dan joined them for kazoo and Bez like dancing duties on Gentlemen’s Dub Club’s High Grade.

With midnight fast approaching the atmosphere in The Tav dropped somewhat, as it tends to at this time, as people headed to town while Short Was Found were setting up. None the less the band launched into a loud and furious assault of a set mixing hardcore and metal with straight up punk rock.

Frontman James Pallot delivered with a forceful conviction as always and former Bulletproof rhythm duo Lee and Darren were tight as ever with Darren’s drumming speed and intensity particularly standing out.

Short Was Found

James of Short Was Found

As the set went on the small audience came and went and, while the thrashy guitar solos provided something of a diversion it was hard for the short sharp shock approach from the start of the set to not become a bit repetitive which combined with the lower energy in the room to make for a slightly disappointing climax, but this was far from the fault of the guys on stage giving it their all.

What tonight did prove though was that punk rock is as much a varied force to be reckoned now as it ever was and, while I might be a bit biased, it offers something for pretty much anyone from fun high energy danceable sounds to socio-political vitriol all in an uproarious musical package.

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

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Introducing Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

A couple of weekends ago those gathered at The Fermain Tavern were introduced to a new band with riff after riff after m-f’ing riff (to steal a phrase from The Wildhearts) – that band are the excellently named Granite Wolf.

You can read my review of that show here

Made up of a group of familiar musicians from the last decade of heavy music in Guernsey, including members of Brutus Stonefist, She Haunts The Roads and To The Woods, the band combine a sense of friendship and fun with crushing metalcore sounds.

I caught up with them after their gig for an interview that was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 8th October 2016.

Granite Wolf interview scan - 08/10/16

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Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Sherlock: The Abominable BrideSince 2010 Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have regularly neglected their duties on the revived Doctor Who to revive another great figure of British popular culture, Sherlock Holmes, creating three series of genuine crossover event television (I had a look at series two here). At Christmas 2015 this reached something of a cross roads with Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, an apparently stand alone, one-off, special taking the action from the modern-day back to its original Victorian setting.

The plot takes us back to Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson’s (Martin Freeman) first meeting, in this case in the subterranean morgue of ‘St Bart’s’ hospital, circa 1880 something, before fast forwarding to a point following the duo’s famed adventures as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So we get references to these tales, most obviously The Hound of The Baskervilles and more telling to the plot The Final Problem.

It’s in these opening sequences that the story first stumbles as the apparent need to cram in references to both Conan Doyle and Moffat and Gatiss’ own version feel somewhat heavy-handed making it harder to get immersed in both the world and the story. Once this settles down though the tale of ghostly murder does pick up and get rolling, most notably from the meeting with Mycroft (Gatiss) onwards.

The Abominable Bride

The titular bride (Natasha O’Keeffe)

As it goes on an uneasy feeling falls over the whole thing and it isn’t too long before the reasons for this become obvious and this is another slight stumble as the story is clearly trying to do two things at once. On the obvious front it wants to progress the over arching story that started back in 2010, while on the other it is trying to be a compelling mystery in its own right. This leaves the middle section very uneven and while the period setting is fun it never quite rings true.

From there it largely gives up on the period plot and the modern-day one is the focus once more leading, in a way, to some interesting situations (both fun and serious) concluding on something of a loose cliffhanger teasing ahead toward the next series (currently set for early 2017).

Performance and production wise the whole thing is as top-notch as one would expect, in fact Sherlock is consistently one of the best looking and well made BBC productions I can remember, and the Victorian period is particularly well rendered with interesting little flourishes of telegrams and newspaper cuttings echoing the text messages and online news reports of the modern-day tales.

Watson (Freeman) and Holmes (Cumberbatch)

Watson (Freeman) and Holmes (Cumberbatch)

In the end then The Abominable Bride is a mixed bag of a tale that isn’t as stand alone as I had hoped but works well within the larger context and has got me suitably excited for what’s to come. I couldn’t however help but feel I’d like to see this team tackle some of the original stories in the original setting as I think they could make them just as good and engrossing as their modern variations and breath a new life into them away from the more running and fighting Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. versions.

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Lifejacket, SugarSlam and Granite Wolf – The Fermain Tavern – 24/09/16

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

After a summer packed with festivals and outdoor music events around the islands live music headed back indoors on the last weekend of September 2016 as The Fermain Tavern kicked off its ‘Awesome Autumn’ with the first Sound Guernsey gig of the new school year for under-18s on the Friday and Lifejacket, SugarSlam and new band Granite Wolf on Saturday 24th.

Starting the season with a new band seemed particularly fitting and as soon as Granite Wolf hit the stage it was clear we were in for a treat. Comprised of former members of Brutus Stonefist, She Haunts The Roads and To The Woods there was a fair suspicion of what we could expect and no one was let done as the five-piece delivered a collection of punishing hardcore driven metal.

Granite Wolf’s short but intense set was perfect for the style of music that, if you’re not a fan, can be somewhat repetitive, though the grooves in the heaviness kept me engaged throughout.

James and Robert of Granite Wolf

James and Robert of Granite Wolf

While frontman Tom Domaille wasn’t quite as upfront as he was in his Brutus Stonefist days his voice was exactly we’ve come to expect while his brother Robert on bass and drummer Dan Garnham provided a visual focus as well as that groove. Mark Mercier and James Ogier on guitars delivered riff after riff in the manner that was always this troupe’s trademark in their past incarnations.

There may still be work to be done with the ‘performance’ aspect, but, for a debut outing, Granite Wolf put on a fine show and kicked off the night with a real blast in every sense.

After high-profile sets at Chaos and The Gathering the more intimate confines of The Fermain Tavern brought out a different aspect of SugarSlam with a more relaxed and fun feeling to their performance but all the while, of course, led by their excellently pitched grunge flavoured power-pop rock.

They kicked off their set in high gear and, despite a bit of a mid-set guitar problem, didn’t look back.



Drawing on a collection of songs that spans more than 20 years they all sounded fresh from the likes of Crank and Psychobabble from their mid-90s debut to State (released earlier this year), it all fell together seamlessly and the band were as tight as they come.

There was some brand new material in the set tonight as well, and mention of a new EP in the (hopefully) near future, and that fitted in just as well. SugarSlam certainly fall into the top bracket of bands gigging in Guernsey and certainly deserve a far bigger audience (though there was a decent crowd for them tonight).

Rounding off the set with crowd pleasing covers of Guns ’n’ Roses It’s So Easy and The Sacred Hearts Adorable (a song The Slams seem to have adopted) closed their already very good set on a high.



After more choice, if slightly incongruous, pop selections from DJ Vauvert Underground, Lifejacket took to the stage and delivered the most engaging and enthusiastic set I’ve seen from them in a while.

The band have spent the last few years slowly building a dedicated fan base and that was in evidence tonight as it was clear most in attendance were totally engaged giving the band a kind of cult flavour that fits well with their general demeanour.

With new twists on older songs and some brand new material alongside Andy Sauvage (guitar, vocals), John McCarthy (bass) and Claire Moxie (drums) had the sense of a band in the midst of an evolution taking the best of what’s come before and building on it.

Claire and John of Lifejacket

Claire and John of Lifejacket

While clearly still very much Lifejacket, the new songs added more dynamic to the set and alongside a frantically paced take of crowd favourite Brains made for a hugely satisfying experience that left the crowd calling for more.

As a way to kick off the new season at the Tav I would be hard pressed to find a better choice for Guernsey’s premier music venue celebrating three rather different but complimentary rock bands that highlight the diversity of new, live music available on the island.

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: September 2016 – Citizen-X in session, Vale Earth Fair recap and autumn preview

Citizen-X on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Citizen-X in the studio

Click here to listen to the show

After a summer packed with festivals (I made it to four but there were plenty more) the September 2016 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey looked back at the Vale Earth Fair’s 40th anniversary event while looking ahead to new music coming up as we move in autumn.

As well as that Citizen-X joined me for a live session and interview telling us about his unique approach to making music as well as playing this year’s Jersey Live festival along with The Peace Tent at Chaos and other events over the summer.

The show is available to listen to for 30 days through the BBC iPlayer Radio App or by clicking here.


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All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

All Things Must Pass posterOn a visit to London as a teenager I remember heading into a record store on Piccadilly Circus with distinctive red and yellow signs, Tower Records. In my naivety I assumed this was a one-off store as it didn’t feel like part of a major chain like the HMV and Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street did.

Of course I now know better and, in his Kickstarter funded documentary All Things Must Pass, Colin Hanks recounts the story of Tower Records from its inception in Sacramento in 1960 to its demise in 2006 and beyond.

The man behind Tower was Russ Solomon and here he is the linchpin of the story, as it seems he was of the company, appearing in a series of interviews tracing the company’s history and coming across as a kind of spiritual guru of the record retail business.

Other members of staff who joined the company in this early years as it grew from Sacramento to San Francisco and the Los Angeles are also interviewed building up this image of Solomon. In a lot of cases this kind of reverence for, essentially, a businessman would feel somewhat contrived but here I was left with the sense that actually Solomon was all he comes across as, including some dubious financial decisions during the companies rapid expansion in the 1980s and 90s.

Russ Solomon, circa 1970s

Russ Solomon, circa 1970s

The story that Solomon began is portrayed here as a kind if last hurrah for the American Dream and again this comes across with a refreshing lack of cynicism, giving the feeling that Tower really was the a local music store on an international scale.

A collection of archive photos and videos of the store’s various early locations, particularly its original location in Sacramento and the San Francisco ‘superstore’ at Columbus and Bay (now somewhat depressingly a Wallgreen’s chain pharmacy), really help build this image of ‘classic America’.

These shots of the old stores are a fascinating view back into the heyday of the record store with vinyl stacked floor to ceiling and flying off the shelves.

The original Tower Records

The original Tower Records

In its telling the film is relatively run of the mill with a collection of talking heads telling the story with the help of some well-chosen archive footage and some celebrity extras (here including former staff member Dave Grohl, they let him keep his hair style, and the self-proclaimed man who spent more than anyone else at Tower Records, Elton John, who seems genuinely emotional about his memories of buying seemingly every album ever).

What elevates it though is the sense of genuine feeling that comes through, particularly when the companies first 30 years are being discussed by the staff, who tell stories of all night parties and just how the gap between customers and staff was all but non-existent as the stores acted as meeting places and community centres for music lovers in their respective towns and cities.

As the film continues into the 90s Tower Records appears to act as a microcosm of the problems facing the record industry with cultural changes around music listening habits being poorly handled, though it’s refreshing to see many of the original Tower team embracing new ways of listening while the issues these caused and poor handling is levelled at the ‘industry’ not Tower or its guru who, well into his 70s here, seems just as positive and enthusiastic as when the store first opened.

Tower Records on Sunset Strip

Tower Records on Sunset Strip

This sense of positivity and enthusiasm pervades the film until the credits role, despite the collapse and closure of Tower Records in 2006, making what could be a nostalgic but ultimately melancholy story become something uplifting and celebratory of what may be a largely lost era but one that still means a lot to many.

And it’s always good to remember the slogan adopted from their expansion in Japan… No Music, No Life.

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Hey! Hello! – Hey! Hello! Too! (Take 2)

Hey! Hello! Too! cover artIf you’re a regular reader of my posts you may be getting a sense of deja vu going by the title of this as, a few months ago, I posted a review of the original and subsequently deleted version of Hey! Hello! Too! just before it was pulled from Ginger Wildhearts’ latest Pledgemusic campaign following the shock departure of lead vocalist Hollis from the band.

Following her departure the band auditioned a host of potential new vocalists and this version of Hey! Hello! Too! (which is more than just a straight re-release with different vocals) features a selection of those performers; Emily Lee, Givvi Flynn, Cat Southall, Laila K, Eloise Kerry, Vicky Jackson and Christina Maynard along with the band Ginger assembled previously Ai (drums), Toshi (bass), The Rev (guitar) and of course Mr. Wildheart himself (guitar and vocals).

From the off its clear this is a different album from that lost version and that the band have continued to develop so while the storming pop rock that marked Hey! Hello!’s debut remains this is a very different beast.

Hey! Hello! Ginger, Toshi, Ai, The Rev

Ginger, Toshi, Ai and The Rev

Throughout the album has a sheen of pop production that really suits Ginger’s songs and the band’s performance while excellently counterpointing the more punky and metallic edges that always come through in his writing.

As has become commonplace in Ginger’s work the topics vary wildly but are always delivered with hooks galore and plenty of sing-a-long, bounce-a-long power and the album’s highlights all combine these aspects excellently.

Glass of Champagne, Kids, Loud And Fucking Clear and Let’s Get Emotional are instant standouts but the whole record has the feel that they could all become live favourites and reveal greater depths with more listens.

The final three tracks on the record have something of a slightly different feel with Body Parts (originally recorded for the Albion solo album) coming with Japanese lyrics from, I assume, Toshi and Ai while being none-the-less catchy for it and showing the multi-talented nature of this pan-continental quartet.

Hey Hello - Toshi and The Rev

Toshi and The Rev

Meanwhile its hard not to listen to A History of Lovers and (particularly) Perfect without getting hints that these may, whether intentionally or not, be related to Hey! Hello!’s so far tempestuous relationship with female lead singers, though I won’t speculate on the whys and wherefores knowing just the public history its hard not to associate the two.

In the end Hey! Hello! Too! is a set of 11 great songs with a few that stand out above the pack, even if, as an album, it doesn’t quite hang together as a whole – but that’s a small criticism as every time one of these comes up on shuffle it will be hard to skip and all of them just make me want to see this band live again and bounce and shout along as the lyrics are already worming their way into my head.

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Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me

Against Me! - Shape Shift With Me coverTwo and a half years ago Against Me! launched back onto the international punk scene with Transgender Dysphoria Blues, an album that marked something of a change for the band in many ways. Now, following a live album chronicling the blistering shows they performed in support of that record, they are back with a new full length studio album, Shape Shift With Me.

If Transgender Dysphoria Blues was a direct response to the changes being undergone by both the band and their front woman Laura Jane Grace at the time, Shape Shift With Me builds on this in a way that takes that personally visceral approach and augments it with the hints of pop that had marked White Crosses to create something of a hybrid moving the band forward into what feels like a new era.

Provision L-3 starts the album off in with short, sharp, punk package railing against the changes in politics in the USA (and beyond) in recent years intermingled with the same issues personal to Grace that were the hallmark of the previous record grabbing you by the throat to drag you into the album.

Against Me!

Johansson, Bowman, Grace, Willard

From there it weaves it way through the personal and political, with the two intertwining as the band have always done at their best, it just seems to have an understandable new charge and poignancy.

While all still punk the record shifts stylistically throughout taking in both new and familiar sounds. Haunting, Haunted, Haunts brings the folk punk tinge that made their name to the fore while Dead Rats and Norse Truth add a darker, fuzzier vibe to proceedings and, one of two lead singles, Crash comes with an almost glam-pop vibe that is as astonishing as it is infectious.

While this makes it a stylistic mix, Shape Shift With Me flows together excellently with a general sense of a search for intimacy pervading the record which rings true with much of Grace’s media presence in recent months, but this is far from the Laura Jane Grace show as Transgender Dysphoria Blues, maybe, was. Added to this, the continued use of a more stripped back production style and striking artwork make for a complete package of an album continuing the thematic feel of the last two releases.

Against Me - Laura Jane Grace

Laura Jane Grace on stage

As a band this feels like a new version of Against Me! blasting out at full force with Inge Johansson (bass) and Atom Willard (drums) feeling as much a part of the band now as founder Grace (lead vocal and guitar) and longtime collaborator James Bowman (guitar) giving the whole thing a more cohesive feel adding to the dynamics within the songs, even though they are all the brainchild of Grace.

While not as instantly blisteringly intense as Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Shape Shift With Me moves Against Me! forward and shows they’ve not let their recent brushes with more mainstream recognition, that has come from Grace’s personal situations, effect their musical mission of being a forthright and honest punk rock band. On top of that it all comes with a pace and power that can’t help but give a real sense of positivity to it, despite some of the darker subject matter.

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