BBC Introducing Guernsey: August 2015 – Gregory Harrison in session and Stone Em All

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Click here to listen to the show

Being broadcast the day before the 2015 Vale Earth Fair on the August edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I spoke to one of the newer members of the Earth Fair Collective, Gregory Harrison, who is running the festival’s Busking Stage this year and played a special live session for the show.

I also spoke to Robert Hotton and Lee Oliver the lead vocalist and lead guitarist, and creative driving forces, of heavy metallers Stone Em All who have just released their new EP, Villains.

The show is available to listen to for a month on the BBC iPlayer or to download on the BBC iPlayer Radio App.

Tracklist

And here’s a video Guernsey Gigs made with Gregory Harrison for his version of Ray Lamontagne’s song Like Rock ‘n’ Roll and Radio:

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The Recks and Buffalo Huddleston – The North Show – 26/08/15

The Recks

The Recks

Over recent years Guernsey’s traditional summer shows have taken an increased interest in local music with The Space Pirates of Rocquaine having become something of fixture of both The Rocquaine Regatta and The West Show (though not this year).

The North Show, home of the island’s Battle of Flowers, has been no different and that reached something of a new peak in 2015 as The Recks and Buffalo Huddleston, two of the island’s hottest bands, provided the musical entertainment on the first evening of the event.

After having a look around the show’s produce tents – these were originally shows celebrating local produce, be it fruit and veg, flowers, baking or arts & crafts, and that is still a big part of the annual events – I headed over to the beer tent where the make shift stage had been constructed and Buffalo Huddleston were getting ready.

As they began their set, in four-piece mode as has become tradition, the tent filled up quickly with people headed in from the muddy field. It wasn’t long before people began moving gently to the band’s laid back sounds and, while it took a while for the feeling to spread further back in the tent, it seemed everyone eventually got into the laid back swing of things.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

After the laid back start, with band leader Mike Meinke as focus, MC Jull-z completed the line up for long time favourite Chillin’ and his manner of connecting with and working the crowd soon drew people further forward and got more dancing and grooving along.

Particularly impressive tonight was the amount of the audience singing the songs back, while we had seen this in Sark and at Chaos, this audience, at first glance, seemed as if they may be less familiar with the band’s work, but clearly this was not the case and shows Buffalo Huddleston’s wide appeal.

Ending on new crowd favourite Mr. Cloud, someone they say they met at a recent visit to Boomtown Fair, the band improvised around some didgeridoo mic problems without missing a beat and were soon called back for an encore which came in the form of a slowed down, dub style version of Chillin’ that was received with further enthusiasm from the audience.

The Recks

The Recks

Following Buffalo Huddleston, and fresh from playing two sets at Boomtown Fair (one at half past two in the morning!), The Recks fired off in a high gear and, save for some problems with a mandolin which was soon ‘enthusiastically’ discarded, got into high energy mode very quickly.

Unfortunately after only four songs they had to stop for the laser show out in the main arena that was hampered slightly by the drizzly, windy weather.

With the laser show done, The Recks were back and kicked off again with single Lovers In The Night, which we’ve not heard in some time. From there the energy went up and up with the crowd lapping up the band’s unique genre blending sounds.

Richey of The Recks

Richey goes climbing

Following some expert guitar strap ‘McGuyering’, frontman Richey Powers seemed to be somewhat frustrated as he headed up the lighting rig and then off stage during new upbeat reggae-ish song I Might Not Be Pretty But I Still Need Love translating his frustration (at what is anyone’s guess) into a powerful energetic performance.

With the set being rounded off by the double whammy of Porcupine and Valentine the Sark based quintet were called back for an encore which left everyone heading out into the muddy field on a high that, in the end, certainly felt more like a Saturday night than a Wednesday in a wet field and just goes to show that original music in Guernsey can transcend traditional venues and connect with a wide audience.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey Summer Special – 23/08/15

The Recks at BBC Guernsey 2

The Recks in session

Click here to listen to the show

For a special edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey in August 2015 I took a look back at some highlights of the live sessions featured on the show so far this year.

Every month on the show I feature a Guernsey artist live in session, usually playing stripped back acoustic versions of their songs. So far this year BBC Introducing Guernsey has featured everything from pop-punk to electronic soundscapes alongside sessions originally broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and recorded on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury Festival.

To be featured on BBC Introducing, in Guernsey or anywhere else around the UK, upload your music through the Introducing ‘Uploader’ tool.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

The show is available to listen to online for a month by clicking here or you can download it on the BBC iPlayer Radio App.

Tracklist

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Stone Em All EP and Launch show – The Vault – 15/08/15

Stone Em All

Stone Em All

After a number of years bringing metal to Guernsey stages Stone Em All launched their second EP, Villains, with a special show at The Vault on Saturday 15th August 2015.

At the show support came from groovy hard rockers Lord Vapour who seem to be playing most weekend’s this somewhere.

My review of both the show and the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd August and you can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Stone Em All and Lord Vapour and EP review scan - 22:08:15

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Yes! by Daniel Bryan and Craig Tello

Yes! by Daniel BryanEver since Mick Foley hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list with his autobiography, Have A Nice Day, it has been de rigueur for popular professional wrestlers to tell their life stories in print.

These range from the excellent, the aforementioned Foley book and Ric Flair’s To Be The Man to the reputedly garbage, Chyna’s If They Only Knew, and now former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan (aka ‘American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson) has added his to the mix in the form of Yes! My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania (a companion to a recent DVD box set).

The most noticeable thing about this particular autobiography is its format. While a majority of it is Bryan (I’ll go with his WWE name as it’s a WWE book) telling us his story, each chapter starts with a section from WWE.com writer Craig Tello focusing on the days leading up to Wrestlemania 30, undeniably the protagonist’s biggest moment in ‘sports entertainment’.

Tello’s sections have a few interesting moments, particularly in relation to Bryan’s training (focusing on legit kickboxing and MMA based work) and his attempts to maintain a near vegan diet, though they often veer into somewhat ‘celebrity’ territory which isn’t so much where my interest lies.

Bryan Danielson and Jushin 'Thunder' Liger

Bryan Danielson and Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger

Bryan’s sections however are far more interesting. Tracking his life from school in Aberdeen, Washington (the same town that gave us Kurt Cobain, fact fans) through his early interest in pro-wrestling to training, his run as ‘King of the Indies’ and on to becoming a WWE ‘Superstar’.

Throughout his story the already modest and likeable wrestler comes across even more so and it is clear that from a young age he was a genuine and huge fan of pro-wrestling. He tells of taking in everything he could from the monsters of the then WWF to the early technical and cruiserweight style performers that gave him his real inspiration.

As a fan of wrestling seeing this side of Bryan and hearing his insight into the wrestling I grew up watching is genuinely fascinating, as is seeing his love grow into his journey into the industry as he clearly shared many of the same thoughts as me (and no doubt many others).

Danielson and McGuinness

Danielson and McGuinness

As the book goes on we get an insight into his training and his time wrestling on the ‘indies’ travelling from Texas and California to Japan, England and Germany and each brings out some fascinating and entertaining stories. While a lot of these stories are similar to ones told by Chris Jericho in his book, Bryan gives us a very different perspective on them that feels much more down to earth.

Across all of this Bryan isn’t afraid to discuss wrestling as the entertainment it is, which gives another interesting angle on things as he speaks about it from both an athletic context (and with a hard-hitting, intense, style like Bryan’s athleticism is key) but also the pre-determined elements. Most interesting in this regard is a short section talking about his rivalry with Nigel McGuinness and the problem with concussions that continue to affect both men and a section about performing at British holiday camps.

Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 30

Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 30

As we get up to his WWE run Bryan isn’t afraid to address some of the issues he’s had and reflect on how their translation onto TV is one of the things that elevated him to the level of appearing in the main event of Wrestlemania.

Alongside this his stories of some of his fellow performers have given me a new respect for some of them that has rarely come across on TV and, in the case of William Regal, has just increased my respect and appreciation for his work.

The book ends, as the title suggests with the events around Wrestlemania 30 which, a year and a bit on, leaves a bit of a bitter after taste due to what came next.

Ultimately though this is a solid, if slightly on the short side, story of true fan living a dream and all the time that comes with the feeling that isn’t just the party line but is the actual truth of the situation – something often hard to find in the strange world of professional wrestling.

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Gay Army come out firing with Ray And The Guns – The Vault – 14/08/15

Gay Army

Gay Army

Three years since their last outing there was a general air of anticipation at The Vault as Gay Army returned to the stage in support of Ray & The Guns.

While known in the past for their synth-laden indie, their last gig, at Spoonfest in 2012, saw Gay Army stripped back to a four-piece guitar driven post-punk/indie rock format and that is the line up that took to the newly enlarged stage here.

As soon as the music hit frontman Rolls Reilly was an intense and energetic presence. Spending as much time off stage as on he was literally getting into the faces of the crowd and doing his best to get them engaged. As the set went on a few did get moving, but otherwise every song was greeted with warm cheers and applause.

Rolls of Gay Army

Rolls of Gay Army

The four-piece format of the band gave things a harder edged indie rock vibe that combined elements of the noisier, feedback driven, end of the genre with a sense of the 80s bands that pioneered the sounds.

This was particularly noticeable in Jo Reeve’s guitar, while Jay Allen’s dance-infused beats kept an upbeat side going underpinned by Ian Allsopp’s genuinely powerful bass work.

The set ended with a wall of feedback and applause as many hailed it something of a landmark outing for the band and certainly everyone seemed to be of the opinion that they hope it’s not three years before we see them again.

Following the indie rock roar of Gay Army, Ray & The Guns responded by adding further power to their classic rock ‘n’ roll which made for the best performance I’ve ever seen them give.

Ray and the Guns

Ray and the Guns

Throughout the set Nick Dodd’s (dubbed Guernsey’s ‘professor of rock ‘n’ roll’ by one gig-goer) Telecaster cut through the sound much more clearly than in the past and he seemed to be pushing the overdrive on it just a little more than usual as well.

Alongside this Rachael Cumberland-Dodd and Rosie Allsopp both seemed to be adding a bit more attitude and bite to their vocal delivery which brought more of that sense of rock ‘n’ roll danger to the band than I have seen in the past.

This new energy translated through to the crowd, many of who got dancing, quickly filling what passes for a dancefloor here and, as they rounded off their set, many were calling for more.

Rosie and Rachael of Ray and the Guns

Rosie and Rachael of Ray and the Guns

This performance showed Ray & The Guns adding themselves to growing list of bands delivering powerful, uncomplicated, rock ‘n’ roll in and around the islands and the Channel, alongside the likes of Thee Jenerators, The Cryptics and The Electric Shakes.

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

The review was published (along with an interview by Colin Leach) in The Guernsey Press on 29th August 2015:

Gay Army and Ray and The Guns grab - 29:08:15

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Black Swan

Black Swan posterFrom its opening scene, a dream sequence with a hint of foreshadowing, its clear that despite featuring star names likes Natalie Portman and Winnona Ryder, Black Swan isn’t your run of the mill movie in any sense.

Throughout the film one word springs to mind in all aspects of its style, claustrophobia. From the tight close ups on the actors faces to the narrow corridors of the theatre to the small pokey flat Portman’s Nina shares with her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), director Darren Aaronofsky gives you the sense for there is no escape either for us or for his Swan Queen.

While the claustrophobia and sense of unease are there from the off, things otherwise seem to get going in relatively ‘straight’ fashion as we are taken into the famously intense life of an up and coming ballerina taking on her first lead role a production of Swan Lake. In this it feels like a companion piece to Aaronofsky’s previous picture, The Wrestler, but looking a new performer rather than a veteran – as it progresses however Black Swan becomes something very much other.

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Natalie Portman

Throughout its first hour we get hints that all is not as it seems; flashes of a dual Nina on a subway and in the street, hallucinations of blood and the beginnings of a streak of almost body horror. This half of the movie increases gradually in intensity as Nina explores the duality of the Swan Queen role where she must be the pure and innocent white swan but also embody the darker black swan.

The second half of the movie ramps this up with the nightmare and fantasy sequences increasing and, for a good portion, it’s never entirely clear where reality ends and Nina’s mental inner life begins.

As Nina, Portman is astonishing, maintaining an intensity throughout that is essential and becoming entirely lost in the role as it explores not only the obvious performance process but also the transition from adolescence to adulthood alongside an almost Argento level of surreal horror. Particularly impressive is the way she is filmed and we see the physical nuances of her performance in greater detail than many films show.

Darren Aaronofsky and Natalie Portman on set of Black Swan

Darren Aaronofsky and Natalie Portman on set

Mirroring her are a cameoing Winona Ryder as Ruth, the dancer she is replacing as lead, and Mila Kunis as Lily, the new dancer seemingly looking to already usurp Nina’s position. Kunis in particular delivers another good, if smaller, performance that again leaves audiences guessing as to exactly what they may be seeing for most of the film.

Black Swan’s third act ups the intensity further and the already impressive dance sequences, shot on steadicam and maintaining the close up feel, draw even tighter as we literally get on stage with Nina and can see every nuance of her emotion through the opening performance as the horror aspect comes even further to the fore.

In its dying moments Black Swan leaves us with a sense of ambiguity it sets up in its opening and is something I particularly enjoy in films. While, for the most part, this looks like a film set in ‘the real world’ there are things that suggest this is a fantasy entirely set in a reality of its own creation. The likes of Marvel are often credited with feats of universe creation but what really impresses is when a film tells its own story in a world merely half a step away from ours and I feel that is what is going on here.

Mila Kunis in Black Swan

Mila Kunis

No explanations are offered and the audience is left with a stand-alone story that does what it does and bends convention of genre and filmmaking itself to create something unique that crosses the boundaries of art and entertainment. Its something I see in the work of Kubrick and here from Aaronofsky and makes for a film that while intense, dark and at points brutal, is also entertaining, engaging and genuinely impressive on every level.

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The Recks tour the islands – The Fermain Tavern – 07/08/15

Richey Powers of The Recks

Richey Powers of The Recks

In preparation for their set at Boomtown Fair 2015 The Recks played a trio of shows around the Channel Islands with support from various local acts and German guitarist, MarKuz.

Things started out at The Mermaid in Sark on Thursday 6th August and wound up at The Watersplash in Jersey with The Pirate Party Brigade on the 8th but in between they put on a show what they called their ‘spiritual home’ The Fermain Tavern with support from Brit-style indie band The Secret Smiles and psychedelic hard rockers Lord Vapour.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 15th August and you can read that below. You can also see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

The Recks, Secret Smiles, Lord Vapour, Markuz review scan - 15:08:15Guernsey Gigs were on hand as well and got a few videos of the show:

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The Surfin’ Birds – Self-Titled

The Surfin' BirdsHailing from Weymouth (seemingly by way of Detroit) The Surfin’ Birds self-titled debut LP runs the gamut of retro rock ‘n’ roll over 11 tracks.

The trio have been plying their trade on the live circuit for a few years and have a few EPs under their belt all of which has very much culminated in this record which draws their various sounds and influences together.

Things open with a pair of fuzzy garage rockers, She’s Twisted and Baby I’m A Man, that evoke a certain Stooge-y something and set a firm foundation for what’s to follow.

As the disc rolls on, I was listening on CD but really this feels like it should be on vinyl, we get more fuzzy rock, rubbing shoulders with twangy instrumentals and semi-psychobilly moments.

Paul Sharod of The Surfin' Birds

Paul Sharod at The Vale Earth Fair

The instrumentals are a nice change of pace to most of what I’m used to hearing and the three main instruments share time in the lead position to great effect, though of course its Paul Sharod’s guitar that takes pride of place.

Setting them apart from other Dick Dale wannabes is a psychedelic edge that is present across the whole record and changes thing up just enough to make it the band’s own.

A highlight of the darker tinged stuff comes with the slightly knowing Graveyard Groupie that combines the vibe of The Cramps with elements of the more British and European psychobilly movement.

Here we see the Sharod’s lyrics come to the fore with a sense of slightly of kilter fun and a vocal delivery that again apes his heroes while still maintaining enough of himself to make it their own.

What having these three distinct sorts of songs does is allow the band to present a varied but still (somewhat oxymoronically) coherent sound that keeps the listener guessing while still creating a clear sonic identity for the trio.

This coherence is aided by a suitably lo-fi, fuzzy, production job that on some albums would be a bad thing but here is perfect – you can hear everything you need to clearly, but it sounds like a product of the 60s, like something from a weird Sonics session that went a bit wrong (and oh so right).

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

With this record The Surfin’ Birds take the sounds of Dick Dale, The Cramps, The Sonics and The Stooges and ram them all together, head on, to create something that, while based on that description could easily be a mess, is a great rock ‘n’ roll record.

In terms of more mainstream things brings to mind The Hives and stands alongside follow English Channel based acts The Electric Shakes, The Cryptics and Thee Jenerators as proof that garage rock can still be a force to be reckoned with and stand out from a sea of music that often has the look but not the substance.

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The Ukuladeez – Cosmic Tea Party EP

The Ukuladeez - Cosmic Tea PartyWhen they first appeared on the scene a few years ago I will freely admit to dismissing The Ukuladeez as ‘jangly hipster nonsense’. However, with the release of their knowingly lo-fi debut album, The Awesome Adventures of the Girls With the Tiny Guitars, things seemed to begin coming together for them and this continued in the following months with countless gigs at venues as diverse as Guernsey’s Government House, The Peace Tent at Chaos and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Now, having gained a wealth of experience at these gigs and solidifying their line up both physically and sonically with the addition of their trio of ‘Ukulady-boys’, the sextet have released a second record in the form of the five song Cosmic Tea Party EP.

Surrounded by a loose concept, that of the ‘ladeez’ having a tea party and discussing the subjects of the songs, gives the whole thing a vague framework that, while not totally conceptually successful, does add a little something of their character beyond the music which is a big part of their live shows.

Ukuladeez

Mimi and Polly of Ukuladeez

Opener Swinging Brick highlights something that is quite a common theme in The Ukuladeez work as it marries a light-hearted tone with some quite scathing lyrics – and I feel somewhat sorry for whoever the inspiration for this song was.

This is followed by a song with a similar, if slightly more physical, theme, Down On Me, that serves to show The Ukuladeez are not entirely family friendly fare – though everything is kept shrouded nicely in innuendo and euphemism highlighting their collective gift for word play excellently.

Things take a turn for the Pythonesque next with an (initially) more straightforward love song, Brian. Though as it goes on it emerges the subject of the song may not actually be called Brian and the use of chorus and harmony alongside the lead vocals works exceptional well both on a musical level and in getting across the gang like vibe the band put across in their live shows. However there are points here where things teeter on the edge of becoming too quirky for their own good – though thankfully they stay just on the right side of quirk overload.

UkuladeezAn entirely universal subject comes to the fore next in the form of Sunday evening feelings on Antiques Roadshow Blues. Once again laced with the kind of witty word play that has become their calling card this song entirely manages to evoke the feelings of a lazy Sunday evening with the knowledge that is back to work on Monday morning.

Things are rounded off with a slice of pure folky pop in Follow The Sun that, while it’s not dealing with any outright subjects it is always nice to hear a well pitched pop song played with a real sense of fun.

Across the EP The Ukuladeez demonstrate a real maturity in terms of songwriting and arrangement with multiple instruments and harmonies all arranged expertly and captured with excellently by Stretchy Studios. The addition of a dedicated rhythm section as well as flute and violin has also helped elevate the band’s sound and that really helps build things into a complete and highly enjoyable musical package.

With their Cosmic Tea Party, The Ukuladeez have captured a sense of what makes them so popular and enjoyable live and married it with the control afforded on a studio recording to create a fun, relaxed well-played and above all entertaining record.

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