The Electric Shakes, Gay Army and Ray & The Guns – The Fermain Tavern – 03/10/15

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

Rock ‘n’ roll and garage was out in full force last weekend as Thee Jenerators delivered a stripped back, chaotic and powerful performance at the De La Rue on Friday followed, on Saturday, by the return to the island of Bournemouth’s The Electric Shakes at The Fermain Tavern.

The night started out with Ray & The Guns kicking off their set with a spirited take on Imelda May’s Psycho. Now without a trumpet player it gives some of the songs a bit of a different feel, but one that for the most part, works well and brings out their rock ‘n’ roll vibe much more, especially as they segued into Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac.

After a storming outing at The Vault in August, here the five-piece were a bit less energetic, though that may be down to opening the show to an interested but not as enthusiastic audience. As the set went on the energy picked up a bit, with a particular highlight being their take on Please Don’t Touch (previously made famous by Motorhead & Girlschool and originally by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates).

Ray and the Guns

Rosie and Nick of Ray and the Guns

As always Nick Dodd was understatedly excellent on guitar and his playing, described by one gig goer as having the style of “stoner rockabilly”, was a highlight and linchpin of the band’s sound, while Rosie Allsopp’s punkier streak added a nice vocal counterpoint Rachael Cumberland-Dodd’s more traditional style.

Much like the aforementioned show at The Vault, also on the bill here were the recently revived Gay Army. Once again frontman Rolls Reilly was all over the stage and dancefloor, and doing his best to get the crowd engaged, but it just seemed to have the effect of keeping them back in the shadows – though they seemed content to stay there anyway.

While as tight as they ever are Gay Army’s performance lacked something of the intensity their style of post-punk/indie requires and it left things feeling a bit weak and at times reminiscent of the less inspiring bits of U2’s oeuvre.

Gay Army

Gay Army

This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for a band renowned for their dangerous, edgy performances it was something of a disappointment.

Later in the set Cut The Wire did start to show more of Gay Army’s usual style but it was too little too late and, while a technically solid performance, it didn’t reach the heights of the two other outings since their revival.

Following well-received shows both at The Tav and on the main stage at Chaos earlier in the year, The Electric Shakes have been on something of a roll with great outings on their visits to Guernsey thus far.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

If there’s one word to describe their performance here though, the only one I could go with is ‘LOUD!’

Unfortunately a side effect of the sheer force of volume was that it all became a bit muddy which drained the songs of some of their power.

Despite that the three-piece gave it their all on stage with bass player Eric being a particularly energetic standout.

While the dancefloor was busy most seemed content to stand and watch with only a handful getting moving and much of the rest of the venue emptying out.

As the set went on we got treated to a lot of new material alongside songs from the band’s self-titled debut record and it certainly seemed that the new numbers have the same kind of retro-rock ‘n’ roll appeal as the more familiar tracks.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

Highlights of the set were Stereotypical Girls and The Doctor and the new song debuted in the encore that had great bouncy ‘pogo’ potential but unfortunately in the face of a wall of ear-splitting volume few got moving to it.

While again well received and well delivered I could only feel that, much like with Gay Army, something of the power and energy I’ve enjoyed of The Electric Shakes in the past got lost in translation somewhere on this occasion.

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

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The Rocky Horror Show Live – 17/09/15

rocky horror live posterIn mid-September 2015 The Rocky Horror Show was mid run at The Playhouse theatre in London.

Having been a fan of the show since I first saw the movie in my teens I was hugely excited when I found out there was a live screening of the show happening at Guernsey’s Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts.

Despite not having any suitable fancy dress I went along with a couple of friends and we had a great time along with the others who’d come along making for a not full, but busy enough, theatre.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 3rd October and you can read an extended edition below the clipping.

Rocky Horror Show Live review scan - 03:10:15

Extended review

Richard O'Brien

Richard O’Brien

42 years into its life (and believe me, it is a life) Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show continues to go from strength to strength and this was very much in evidence as many fans, along with a few ‘virgins’, headed into the auditorium at the Princess Royal Centre for the Performing Arts for a special live screening of the latest incarnation of the show from the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End.

This was my first live stream screening and it was a bit strange going in to a theatre for not quite a live stage show, but not quite a film.

With a few members of the audience in costume (though none seemed to have been brave enough to dress as Frank N. Furter) and all with a sense of general enthusiasm, there was a good atmosphere from the start, as we were welcomed by ‘Bake Offs’ Mel Geidroyc’ on the screen and given a bit of an intro to just what the show is.

Added to this was a brief interview with O’Brien explaining that this was a special charity event for Amnesty International with a host of guest star narrators (a part usually currently filled by the creator themself).

David Bedella

David Bedella

The show itself was ingeniously staged with a lot of manual prop and scenery work all brilliantly melded into the run of the show with high-tech ‘west end’ stage wizardry also present but not distracting from the performances as often seems to happen with some of the bigger shows.

With such a well-loved and well-known show (particularly thanks to its film version) anyone stepping into the roles of Brad, Janet, Frank, Riff, Magenta, Colombia, et al would have their work cut out but all did a great job. For the most part they stayed away from totally aping the movie bringing something of their own to the performance while keeping enough of what made previous versions of the show so popular.

Particularly impressive was David Bedella as Frank N. Furter who combined aspects of Tim Curry’s iconic performance with an extra knowing level and a bit more of the ‘serious actor in a b-movie’ style intended by O’Brien. On top of this, appearances by Stephen Fry, Adrian Edmonson, Anthony Head and (somewhat bizarrely) Emma Bunton as the narrator (or Criminologist) added something extra, with Fry in particular being a stand out and playing up the audience’s ‘partici….pation’ (sorry I couldn’t resist).

Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty

Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty

Audience participation is a big part of the Rocky Horror experience and, while the Guernsey crowd was a little on the quiet side, those in the theatre in London were more than game and added an extra level of laughs to the original script with what has become a series of traditional, often lewd, heckles.

The actors played along with these excellently and lead to a few moments of corpse-ing that the actors took in their stride and were enjoyed by all on and off stage.

In seeing the show live the climax took on something of a bigger meaning as the ‘floor show’ descends into chaos and Bedella delivered a particularly impressive, at points even moving, rendition of Frank’s torch song I’m Going Home.

Dominic Andersen

Dominic Andersen

For the curtain call Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite were reprised and at this point the Guernsey audience joined their London compatriots in the ‘Transylvanian folk dance’ and, while it felt slightly odd clapping a screen, it felt like part of the whole experience.

And a great experience it was, for both the initiated and the virgins Rocky Horror Show Live was the perfect mix of fun, great performances and some cracking ‘teenaged, three-chord, rock ‘n’ roll’ all in the name of a good cause.


A week later I took the chance of a free night in London to go and see the show ‘in the flesh’ and was not disappointed. The cast delivered a performance with the same energy and enthusiasm that made it feel that they loved this show as much as the audience, many of whom were in costume, even in the dress circle.

O’Brien was particularly impressive as the narrator throughout playing off the crowd with a dry style.

Kristian Lavercombe and Bedella

Kristian Lavercombe and Bedella

The whole show had the feeling of being somewhere between a stage musical and a rock ‘n’ roll concert with every character and song receiving wild applause and appreciation while the audience participation took on something of a life of its own with the cast revelling in this somewhat unconventional West End musical that seemed to allow the performers the chance to cut loose much more than others might.

While seeing a screening was great, I would recommend anyone who likes a fun show packed with positivity to catch this live when it tours and if you’ve not seen it, track it down, either live or as the film as its message is one I think everyone could do with hearing and living by.

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The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – Not Your Typical Victorians

Not Your Typical Victorians album coverOn paper The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing could easily be perceived as something of a novelty. Combining the now somewhat hipster associated style of steampunk (though this four-piece is far from hipster) with songs about Victorian inventors, aristocrats and life in general and delivered while wearing suitably pseudo-Victorian costumes and featuring a man playing the saw.

On third album, Not Your Typical Victorians, they manage, for the most part, to transcend novelty and have created a dark, brooding, extreme metal tinged, steampunk record that not only has its literal basis in Victorian themes and iconography, but could also be seen as a reflection of today – oh! and despite all this it’s still fun as well.

After their now traditional introduction that gives a feel of travelling back in time (with at least two former Doctors included) the opening title track is very much what we’ve come to expect from the awkwardly abbreviated TMTWNBBFN – thrashy punk music and back and forth call and response vocals from frontman Andy Heintz and guitarist Andrew O’Neill.

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For NothingFrom there though A Clean Sweep (child labour), Turned Out Nice Again (pollution), Miner (horrific working conditions down the mines), Third Class Coffin (class divisions) and How I Became An Orphan (general conditions of working class life), take things in a much more serious direction dealing with the sort of issues Dickens tried to highlight in his work.

But, as you can see, most of these have links with current society in one way or another – though whether this current political side is the intent of the band I’m not sure but its something that has been laced through their previous albums (to a lesser extent) as well.

Within all of this is a blackly comic nod and a wink (not surprising considering O’Neill’s other career) makes tales of sweeps dying up chimneys and freak shows the likes of which housed The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick (The Worst Sideshow Ever) genuinely funny as well as being good songs and far more digestible than they might otherwise be if they were delivered entirely seriously.

Album boxset

Album boxset – complete with chocolate and gin

Musically the album develops TMTWNBBFN’s sound with O’Neill’s extreme metal influences particularly coming to the fore. Alongside punk-metal sounds that have been their consistent stock in trade thus far, there are accomplished black and death metal moments coming from O’Neill’s guitar as Heintz and O’Neill’s vocals at times head into more extreme areas as well.

Steampunk has never been a genre with a consistent sound but certainly here it goes into heavier places than I’ve heard from any other bands in the past.

With Not Your Typical Victorians The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have taken quite a step forward in terms of being a serious musical act, but keeping what made their past records so enjoyable intact while managing to neatly sidestep novelty pigeonholing by being entirely their own thing and true to that. In that regard, while musically entirely different, they stand alongside another steampunk favourite of mine, The Crowman – well, that and songs about drink.

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The Wildhearts, Baby Chaos and Hey Hello – Shepherds Bush Empire – 25/09/15

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

Six years to the week since I last saw them, and at the same venue, I eagerly headed into the Shepherds Bush Empire to help The Wildhearts (and around 2,000 fans and friends) celebrate the 20th anniversary of their much-acclaimed second album – P.H.U.Q.

Before that though, with the venue already nice and busy, Wildhearts’ frontman Ginger’s newest band, Hey! Hello! started things off with their mix of spiky, punky guitars with pop harmonies.

Featuring a new line up since the release of their debut album the sound remained exactly what you’d expect and it seemed to me Hollis J was far more suited to the rock show setting than her predecessor with a voice to match.

While Hollis was whipping the crowd into a frenzy, bass player Toshi was all over the stage and Ginger, while comparatively static, was clearly having a great time as many in the crowd sang the words back to this new band.

Hollis of Hey! Hello!

Hollis of Hey! Hello!

The set predominantly drew on their first album, but a few new songs showed there is plenty more to come, including the announcement of a new album.

Ending the short but sweet set on Swimwear many in the audience were calling for more and it seems Ginger has once again hit on a magic musical formula redefining just what pop-rock can mean in a world of bland mediocrity.

Second support on the tour were a band who first toured with The Wildhearts back in the mid-90s but called it a day in the late-90s, Baby Chaos.

Back together, and with a new album, the Scottish quartet delivered a sound firmly placed in that much overlooked time for British rock that married elements of Therapy? and Placebo with a truck load of thunderous riffs.

Baby Chaos

Baby Chaos

While clearly a bit more accustomed to smaller venues than this big old concert hall, the band’s huge sound more than filled the space and their genuine enthusiasm for being back on stage was infectious winning many new fans (myself included) while delighting their die-hard followers and excellently setting the stage for what was to come.

As soon as the opening bars of The Wildhearts‘ I Wanna Go Where The People Go rang out from Ginger and CJ’s guitars the positive atmosphere in the Shepherds Bush Empire jumped even further and didn’t let up for the next hour and three-quarters.

On record P.H.U.Q. is a tour-de-force album that spans styles and moods somewhat like a mid-90s, cocaine fuelled, Abbey Road-era Beatles record with a chip on its shoulder. Live it took on something of a new aspect as every track became a kind of celebration with everyone in the venue, from the band on stage to those in the upper circle, and even astonishingly hard-working roadie Dunc, getting in on the action of singing, dancing and reveling in a unique and classic set of songs.

CJ Wildheart

CJ Wildheart

One of the things I love about The Wildhearts is the sense of unpredictability they bring with them, any fan of the band can tell you stories of gigs that have descended into a kind of chaos as well as shows that have reached a special kind of height.

Thankfully this one was of the latter and is probably the best outing I’ve experienced from the band. The first half of the set was a run through of P.H.U.Q. with highlights coming in the opener, Baby Strange, Nita Nitro, Jonesing For Jones, Whoa Shit You Got Through, Be My Drug and Getting It with the audience’s singing and interaction being as much a part of the show as the band’s performance on stage.

After a brief break the band were back tearing through a set of ‘hits’ from their other albums spanning everything from Don’t Be Happy Just Worry to Chutzpah and once again every song was a mass singalong.

Ginger and Dunc

Ginger and Dunc

With Anthem from Endless, Nameless getting a rare a well received outing alongside crowd-pleasers like Weekend and Geordie In Wonderland the whole thing reached a climax with Ginger’s homage to his heroes 29x The Pain (complete with Ritch Battersby leaving his place behind the drums for ‘the duck song’) as sheer positivity flowed through the whole place as we headed out into the night.

As a celebration goes no show has quite reached the level of pure enjoyment for me that this one did tonight, in fact I’d put it up with the best music events I’ve been to (alongside Rancid at Brixton in 1996). It showed that, for a band who’ve been together for the best part of three decades, they can still put on a high energy show that connects with an audience and, while looking back, it didn’t feel like a simple nostalgia show.

So, Fishing For Luckies in two years then?

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Neil Innes, Ushti Baba and Buffalo Huddleston – The Fermain Tavern – 19/09/15

Neil Innes at The Fermain Tavern

Neil Innes

For this year’s Guernsey Literary Festival music event, following on from the like of Attila The Stockbroker, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Ruts DC in the past, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band founder and general musical surrealist Neil Innes played The Fermain Tavern along with Bristol’s Ushti Baba and Guernsey’s own Buffalo Huddleston.

The show formed part of the wider festival that saw various guests including Will Self, Jack Straw and Helen Lederer giving talks and readings around the island.

You can see a gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 26th September.

Neil Innes, Buffalo Huddleston, Ushti Baba review - 26:09:15

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2015 – Elliot Falla Session and Vale Earth Fair Review

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla in session

Click here to listen to the show

With the 2015 summer festival season coming to an end for the September edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I looked back on the islands’ longest running festival, the Vale Earth Fair.

We spoke to Of Empires, To The Woods and main stage compere Grant Sharkey and had music from Lifejacket, Thee Jenerators and Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons as well.

As well as that Elliot Falla came into the studio to record an acoustic session and tell me about his debut EP.

You can download to the show for the next four weeks on the BBC iPlayer Radio App or stream it through the iPlayer website but clicking here.


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Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor

I don’t normally do reviews of individual episodes of a series but I’m making an exception in this case as, not only am I a huge fan of Doctor Who (historically at least), but this new season has something of a ‘make or break’ feel for me.

To put that into some context, I found the last season (8 by the new timeline), the first to feature Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, more than a bit disappointing.

With the exception of the Missy revelation there is little from it that has stuck in my mind a year later and I was left with the feeling that with this and Sherlock show runner Stephen Moffat may have taken on more than one man could deal with, leading to Doctor Who becoming somewhat like high profile fan fiction.

Doctor Who - A mysterious boy

A mysterious boy

In the build up to this season I had found my interest somewhat lacking as the powers that be in BBC’s marketing department seemed to be relying on revealing major plot points as a way of keeping us interested.

Inevitably they have ended up ‘spoilering’ a few key aspects of the story before it even started. So, I came to the new episode, The Magician’s Apprentice, more than a little doubtful.

Starting off with a rather traditional Doctor Who looking setting that could easily have been a quarry in Wales (and I really hope that at least some of it was) the pre-credits sequence managed, in one line that I won’t spoil here, to generate more intrigue than the entire last season combined and had me hooked.

The DoctorFrom there we got some back and forth with companion Clara, back at home on Earth, and UNIT while an inventive looking new kind of creature hunted for the Doctor.

To talk much more of plot details would be something of a spoiler, but suffice to say there was quite a lot to take in that I hope gets at least some kind of explanation as the series goes on.

The middle section of the episode did revert back slightly to some of the directionlessness and gimmickry of the previous season, but that was soon dealt with and the sense of intrigue returned with a further nod to the past, including a brief glimpse of Tom Baker’s Doctor.

Tom Baker's Doctor

Tom Baker’s Doctor faces a dilemma

As the episode drew to a close, on both a big ethical cliffhanger for The Doctor and a wider storyline cliffhanger, I was left with much more positive feelings than I’ve had for the show in a while.

A lot still remains to be seen in how these big set ups are dealt with going forward, and if it all succumbs to the same lack of direction as the last season, but for an opening episode The Magician’s Apprentice had a lot of good points that I hope mean we are in for a more engaging and controlled show again, like Doctor Who can be at its best.

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A summer of music in Guernsey 2015

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

As we head into autumn and all the outdoor music of the events seem to be rounding both nationally and in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, I thought I’d take the chance to look back over a packed summer of shows highlighted by the islands’ three big festivals, but with a lot more besides.


The first big outdoor event took place as spring turned into summer back in May, as Guernsey celebrated the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day. Along with the traditional cavalcade along the St Peter Port seafront and events in all the parishes, live music formed a cornerstone of the event with the Vale Earth Fair putting on their now annual show at The Last Post in St Andrews and the JT Rocks ‘mini-festival’ taking place on North Beach.

The Recks on Liberation Day 2015

The Recks

Being a show of two halves JT Rocks showcased some of the best talent the island has to offer in front of a big audience, with the first half of the event featuring some of the islands’ top original bands in Asylum Seekas, Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks and Static Alice.

The second half of the show, meanwhile, presented two of the top cover bands from Guernsey in Fade2Grey and King Rat & The Soul Cats.

Read more about JT Rocks on Liberation Day here


Moving into June and the annual Arts Sunday event featured a wealth of live music including the first BBC Introducing Guernsey live stage featuring Rentoclean, Buffalo Huddleston, Blue Mountains and Chloe Le Page.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

June was rounded off by the first of the big festivals, Chaos. Taking place in a few fields up at Pleinmont and featuring a broad mix of local and visiting acts.

Though somewhat scaled back this year, Chaos offered something of a return to its old atmosphere alongside the music.

This included headliners Robert J. Hunter, Stormbringer and FlashMob with highlight sets across both the main stage and The Peace Tent from Buffalo Huddleston, To The Woods, The Electric Shakes and Lord Vapour.

Read more about Chaos XI here

The same weekend as Chaos Guernsey’s Robyn Sherwell took to the BBC Introducing Stage at the Glastonbury Festival representing BBC Introducing in Guernsey.


The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

A week after Chaos, July got going with the second big summer show, Sark Folk Festival.

Having sold out in minutes last November there was a huge sense of anticipation and the festival certainly didn’t disappoint with more international acts rubbing shoulders with bands from around the Channel Islands.

Highlights of the folk festival included Robert J. Hunter, The Recks, Buffalo Huddleston, Clameur De Haro and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine while The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers delivered an inspiring, semi-busking, set.

Read more about Sark Folk Festival here

As the month rolled on BLAKALASKA released their debut EP with a show at The Fermain Tavern featuring an astonishing performance by Falenizza Horsepower while the Vale Earth Fair headed down to Rocquaine for their annual stage at the Rocquaine Regatta with Toby Falla, The Space Pirates, Ukuladeez and French visitors Les Matous.


Richey Powers of The Recks

Richey Powers of The Recks

August started out with The Recks completing a mini-tour of the Channel Islands with back-to-back shows in Sark, Guernsey and Jersey as they warmed up for an appearance at Boomtown festival in the UK, following outings earlier in the summer at the Isle of Wight Festival and Jersey’s Folklore.

This was followed by a weekend of big gigs at The Vault with the return of Gay Army one night and Stone Em All launching their new EP with a show alongside Lord Vapour the next.

Guernsey’s annual traditional summer shows also featured a wealth of live music this year including The Recks and Buffalo Huddleston putting in great sets at The North Show.

For the 39th year the Vale Earth Fair took over Vale Castle for the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend to present what was one of the best of their festivals I’ve attended. The main stage was headlined by hip-hop legends Jungle Brothers while my highlights came in the form of Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons, Thee Jenerators, Lifejacket and Of Empires rounding off my 2015 festival season on a real high.

Read more about The Vale Earth Fair here

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons

With other festivals and big shows including Chateau Du Son, Dynamicz, Elevate and Smaashfest, amongst others, 2015 has possibly been the biggest summer yet for music in Guernsey with some big names appearing at all the events.

Once again it seems the summer really belonged to Buffalo Huddleston with storming performances in Sark and at Chaos, as well as at other shows including Jersey’s Folklore festival and packing local pubs like hasn’t been seen in a long time.

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Lifejacket, To The Woods, Paper Saints and Ollie Goddard – The Vault – 12/09/15



While Jersey celebrated Pride and the Proms were playing on the Pier the Leo Club of Guernsey put on a show at The Vault in St Peter Port to raise money for Grow Limited and Guernsey Mind.

First on stage was Ollie Goddard, frontman of indie rockers Coastal Fire Dept., in acoustic solo mode. Playing a selection of ‘covers’ of the band he fronts, along with a Pixies number or two, he played with a sense of conviction that showed these songs come from a very real place.

While most in The Vault seemed content to treat it as background music, those watching and listening were given a good show – but I couldn’t help thinking the songs would be taken to a new level with a full band behind them.

Things took a turn for the poppy as Paper Saints took to the stage. This was my first time catching the band that evolved from the now defunct Party In Paris and, while the have retained the pop vibe, it now comes with a much more synth heavy flavour.

Paper Saints

Paper Saints

With the music lead primarily by Toby Boucher’s keyboard, and with an electronic drum kit and occasional saxophone, it was like taking a trip to the 80s, but unfortunately without the energy of the like of Depeche Mode, Eurythmics or Yazoo.

While the band, for the most part, all delivered their parts well it was hard to escape the slow pace of the songs that led to whole set feeling a bit on the flat side and failed to show any member in their best light. The distraction of a mid-set raffle announcement didn’t really help matters either.

The music couldn’t have been much more different next with To The Woods firing off on their return to the bars of St Peter Port after their performance at the White Hart earlier in the summer. It seemed frontman Bobby Battle was in confrontational mode, despite most of the crowd actually being on his side this time round, and while their were fireworks in the sky outside he brought his own to his band’s performance.

To The Woods

To The Woods

Despite this the band’s usual, positive energy wasn’t far away as Battle relaxed into the set, including a mid song drinks order over the stage-side bar, while James Ogier was even more animated on stage and Dan Garnham looked more like a barely contained drumming animal behind the venue’s much discussed drum screen.

While the audience drifted somewhat (possibly due to the Proms’ fireworks display outside) most returned by the end and even got a brief mosh pit going to round off another storming set in To The Woods’ journey to their upcoming double album release next month.

After another brief charity raffle announcement post-rockers Lifejacket hit the stage with the more focused approach they showed at the Vale Earth Fair still solidly intact. From the start they blitzed through the set with high-speed and huge energy that has always typified their music.



While the crowd initially drifted again, possibly due to the tonal change, as the set went on they warmed to it while Lifejacket were at their most engaging with Andy Sauvage’s focused, intense delivery backed up by a loose and relaxed John McCarthy on bass and the powerful drums of Claire Mockett.

A brand new song near the end of the set typified all that has become Lifejacket’s sound, showing a band developing strongly but still keeping their essence intact. Set closer Yacht Shoes brought things to an end with a wall of distorted sound all of which seemed to go down very well with both the crowd and the staff of the bar.

Being a charity show of course one of the main aims, as well as showcasing some great music, was to raise some money and over the course of the evening more than £800 was raised for Grow Limited and Guernsey Mind making it a successful night all round and another great example of alternative music getting heard in St Peter Port.

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

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Against Me! – 23 Live Sex Acts

Against Me - 23 Live Sex Acts album coverLive albums come in a few different flavours; there are those that are cynical cash-ins on a band’s moment in the spotlight, those that come when the band seem incapable of recording a new studio album, those that are so overdubbed they may as well be a new studio album and those that are so under produced they are almost unlistenable.

Along with these come the very few that sound like they are genuinely intended to capture a moment and do so in a way raw enough to sound live but also well produced enough to be listenable. On their new live album, 23 Live Sex Acts, Against Me! succeed in delivering something that thankfully falls into this latter camp.

Recorded during the 2014 tour for their critically acclaimed Transgender Dysphoria Blues album at the fabulous named ‘Gritty Clit’ in Kiev, Indiana things start as they mean to go on with an insistent, marching drum beat and an announcement from frontwoman Laura Jane Grace stating, very matter of factly, that its time to “Fuck shit up”.

Laura Jane Grace of Against Me

Laura Jane Grace

This ‘never mind the bollocks’ attitude is something that has typified Grace’s public demeanour for the last couple of years and its great to hear it here. Whether she’s delivering socially and politically powerful songs, clearly having a good time with the crowd or berating the venue security her presence is astonishing, even in simple audio.

On top of this she delivers a (for to the point punk rock) varied vocal performance that is as impassioned as they come and still retains a hint of the more hardcore style the band’s early albums displayed alongside the cleaner tones of more recent material.

She’s ably backed by her right hand man and guitarist James Bowman who’s the only other member to be with the band since their first album and here provides backing vocals and extra guitar sounds that work to deepen the sound of the songs live so they match those on the more production heavy albums and with bassist Inge Johannson vocals add a gang dynamic to proceedings.

Atom Willard of Against Me

Atom Willard

With Johannson’s sped up rock ‘n’ roll bass and Atom Willard’s similarly styled, driving drums, the sound of the band is tight as they come as they deliver a sound that spans pop-punk singalong to distorted noise inflected moments and everything in between.

While the band is as precise as punk rock gets and the songs are one of the finest selections you’ll find, what really makes this album work is its vitality. Throughout the performance is tremendously high energy, as you’d expect, but what really stands out is that the rough edges haven’t been tidied up.

During New Wave, for example, Grace stops the song to challenge security on their attempt to eject someone from the show and, of course, the crowd is on her side, while later on you can hear her voice straining around Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ and How Low both things that on some albums would have been removed or tidied up, but here are left intact and help make the record.

Laura Jane Grace of Against Me

Laura Jane Grace

The set list is a career spanning one and as close to a ‘greatest hits’ set as a band with no chart ‘hits’ could get, while also drawing heavily on the latest album. Highlights include Pints of Guinness Make You Strong, True Trans Soul Rebel, High Pressure Low, Black Me Out and the more considered but hugely powerful set closer The Ocean that comes with a new sense of poignancy following Grace’s more recent life events.

A two song encore rounds of the album in upbeat style, including a well captured mass singalong, completing a set that lives up to the reviews of Against Me’s recent gigs and makes for one of the most honest and enjoyable live records I’ve heard.

Photos by Scott Nathanson at SFL Onstage.

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