The Space Pirates of Rocquaine – Vraic And Roll

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine - Vraic and RollWith their show-stealer of a performance at the 2016 Sark Folk Festival, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine released their second full length album, Vraic & Roll.

Pulling together a number of songs that have become live favourites over the last couple of years, since the release of their debut Vraic & Ruin, the record tells tales of Guernsey combining history and legend with a good dose of poetic licence.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 16th July 2016 and you can read it below.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine - Vraic and Roll review 16:07:16

The album artwork is by Guernsey based artist and designer Helen Arnold and you can find out more about her work on her website.

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Sark Folk Festival – 1, 2, 3 July 2016 – Extended Review

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Now into its seventh year the Sark Folk Festival continued its huge success on the weekend of 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 2016 after tickets officially sold out in less than half an hour the previous November.

With that in mind there was clearly a lot of expectation for the festival and with all accommodation and transport to Sark packed for the days around there was a real buzz on the island from my arrival on Thursday 30th June.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th July and you can see a full set of my photos from each day of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my extended review is below the cutting.

Sark Folk Festival review - 09:07:16

Extended Review

Claire Rakich

Claire Rakich

Day 1

After some wet and foggy weather put paid to the usual outdoor party and open music session at the Bel Air on Thursday night, this year’s Sark Folk Festival didn’t really get going until the festival gates opened on Friday afternoon.

In the past its been the Alligande Stage that has been home to the festival’s first acts but, in something of a sign of their new, more equal position, it was the smaller stages that heard the first music this year, in their new home of an amazing ‘double teepee’ style tent in the festival’s second field.

Under this new canvas long time festival performer Claire Rakich was first to step onto Les Burons stage with a mix of acoustic guitar and unaccompanied songs.

In these intimate surroundings Rakich’s voice was captivating and at its best when unadorned by accompaniment as she shifted from lighthearted and fun songs to genuinely haunting moments all delivered with a relaxed self-deprecating confidence that started the festival on an evocative high.

On the bigger stages a full strength, eight-piece, version of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers opened proceedings on the Vermerette Stage. With so many instruments in play this could have been a sonic disaster but credit to the sound team for getting a great sound and the Skillet Lickers for playing their rag-time street busking blues very well.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

While many kept a bit of a distance in the already busy tent this was a great upbeat way to start things as the band played off one another excellently with Clem Brouard and Shacks leading the way, and they even had a washboard player today!

The more Americana end of folk continued on the Alligande stage with JD & Folk delivering a set of country-folk standards that were well performed if a bit flat after the somewhat manic energy of the Skillet Lickers.

Continuing their run of festival dates after Chaos the previous weekend and Dark Hollow the week before that, Blue Mountains returned to their spiritual home on Les Burons stage.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Unfortunately for much of the set Colleen Irven’s vocals were a little lost in the mix which lost the performance some of its power. The band was still highly enjoyable though, and delivered a wide set of songs ending with an excellent pure acoustic moment on the floor of the tent, in amongst the large crowd they’d drawn down the field.

One thing the Sark Folk Festival has always done is stretch the limits of the definition of folk and roots music and far as it can go and this year’s prime example of that were Guernsey alt-rock, indie, crew Wondergeist.

Despite the slightly out-of-place style, the laid back sounds the band made were spot on for the early evening slot and, had the sun been beating down like we all wished it were, I think they would have made even more of a mark. Nonetheless, with the tent packed – mostly it seemed for the music and not to avoid the weather – Wondergeist were a nice change of pace amongst the more acoustic and stripped back sounds on offer.

Robert J. Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

With people already standing while the band set up (and a few shouts for them to sit down by those seated further back) it was clear Robert J. Hunter and his band brought some expectation along with them – not surprising following last year’s excellent set here.

From the off they didn’t disappoint as they blasted out their brand of dirty blues, albeit in slightly more acoustic form than usual, with Hunter continuing to show why he has gained the reputation he has. With the tent packed this may not have been quite the stand out set last year’s was but it was still a highlight of the first day of the festival.

Dallahan brought things back down a little with set of much more traditional, mid-tempo folk that had an upbeat quality to it. The quintet played off each other very well, demonstrating a real musical chemistry, that, from about the half-way mark, started to get to the audience who began to get a little more lively.

Mad Dog Mcrea

Mad Dog Mcrea

There was no choice but to be lively to the infectious hybrid-folk sounds of Mad Dog Mcrea. With huge energy coming from the band they added a bit of a rock beat to their folky sounds that reminded me of Gogol Bordello in places (especially when they broke into Start Wearing Purple during their encore).

With the whole tent bouncing along to songs about pirates, unfortunate goldfish and more, the six-piece band’s folk ’n’ roll sounds provided my highlight of the first day.

The upbeat sounds only continued to round off the night with Monster Ceilidh Band who had the Alligande Stage tent packed to bursting and, mostly, dancing along throughout. Before I get to the band I feel the need to mention the line of people staunchly sitting in their plastic chairs in the midst of the tightly packed crowd. They may have been wanting to make a point about people standing up earlier, or simply not wanting to move, but it seemed they could easily have become a danger to themselves or others had the crowd surged in any direction as they are wont to do at events like this, anyway i digress….

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band mixed live dance rhythms with traditional sounding ceilidh (Scottish and Irish dancing) tunes in another kind of hybrid-folk. For the first half of the set I was a bit worried this would all become a bit same-y to my untrained ear, but as it went on the band varied and mixed the sounds up with elements of drum ’n’ bass to keep it varied, interesting and above all huge, culminating in a tune dedicated their drum ’n’ bass hero Andy C.

With two encores called for and delivered Monster Ceilidh Band rounded off the first day of the festival on a high and with the sort of crowd that we’re used to seeing for the typically more busy Saturday night.

My photos from the first day of the festival

Day 2

Singing circle

Singing circle

With more than 12 hours of music on offer the second day of Sark Folk Festival could be compared to the musical equivalent of a marathon so its nice that it got going in relaxed form with an informal circle singing group in the open air before the music on the stages began.

Sark’s own harbour master, Peter Gabriel Byrne, and his band were first on stage with some light acoustic balladry that continued the relaxed ‘early’ feel. As is to be expected the rotating cast of musicians from Sark is limited but former Recks trumpeter Ash Jarman and others showed a real variety to their playing as they made appearances across the weekend.

Getting together seemingly once a year in an official capacity Whose Shoes are always a bit of a treat and this year was no exception. Led by Dave Etherington, this year celebrating his birthday and literally heading directly from his tent to the stage, his loose vibe leading the band makes for a hugely enjoyable style of busking blues.

Whose Shoes

Whose Shoes

With insistent, upbeat rhythms throughout and Sarah Van Vlymen’s violin providing some nice leads there were many highlights but renditions of Like A Hobo, Whiskey Train, It Gets There Slow and encore of original song Loose Lips were some fine early highlights of the day.

After much travelling and working on her debut album Guernsey singer songwriter Nessi Gomes made her Sark Folk Festival debut on the Tintageu Stage with a set of captivating, classical guitar accompanied, songs. Her enchanting voice and guitar playing had those in the tent and gathered on the slope outside in rapt silence making for another moment like only this festival can deliver.

As the cliché goes, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Clameur De Haro marked their third birthday on the Vermerette Stage by launching into a folked up take on Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild.

Clameur De Haro

Shifty’s stage dive

Its impossible not to have a good time when this band are playing and they got people dancing early on in the day and had the tent packed for a set that included everything from a guest appearance by Deputy John Gollop to a stage dive from cajon player Shifty making for a show guaranteed to make you smile and have tunes stuck in your head for days to come.

Back on more of an even keel Jerseyman Kevin Pallot brought the Saturday afternoon back to a slightly more relaxed feel with his three-piece band. The trio delivered a selection of rhythmically powerful folk pop that had something to say and showed another side of this regular festival performer’s work away from the past full band material I’ve heard.

The Laird's Chair

The Laird’s Chair

In the slot reserved in the past for The Barley Dogs, their spiritual successor The Laird’s Chair made their Sark Folk Festival debut. Taking on the more traditional folk side of what the Barley’s did the quartet struggled a little with a broken fiddle string early on but recovered to deliver a fine set of songs and tunes.

Despite battling some issues with onstage feedback (a regular occurrence on the Alligande stage it seemed) the Gren Bartley Band delivered a set of nice relaxed pop-y folk music that was nice and easy to listen to but never really seemed to go anywhere.

A regular fixture at the festival The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie had a good-sized crowd down at the Tintageu Stage. Starting with a few of their more folky songs which show an often overlooked depth to Crowman’s writing, it wasn’t long before the garage side of the self-described ‘garage-folk’ sound started to come through but the audience revelled in all of it, singing along to the likes of The Robert Johnson Resurrection Blues with gusto.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

With a crowd already gathered while they were setting up, festival regulars The Space Pirates of Rocquaine had even more to bring to their performance this year as they were marking the release of their second album, Vraic & Roll. With Lisa ‘Rocqchick’ Vidamour in full on ‘rock star mode’ throughout, the band delivered what is probably their best set to date mixing the energy of last year’s show stealing closing set with slightly more considered playing to hit a sweet spot between the two.

Along with Lisa a standout point was the power Moxie’s drumming brings to the band that has transformed them somewhat into a more definitely folk-rock act that has real cross generational appeal. With the crowd clapping and singing along highlights came with the likes of Cruex Mahy, Prosperity and Folk Everything amongst others culminating in an encore of Mr Le Goupillot all making for possibly the performance of the festival.

O'Hooley and Tidow

O’Hooley and Tidow

Due to the timings on the Vermerette and Alligande stage having slipped a bit I was only able to catch a small section of O’Hooley & Tidow’s performance but it sounded as excellent as we have come to expect from these regular visitors. With genuinely touching and impassioned moments alongside songs like their ode to small Yorkshire breweries, Summat’s Brewin’ , the duo who span folk and anarchy are truly worth seeking out.

As I headed down to the teepee stages Gregory Harrison was in full swing in front of a large crowd with his soulful bluesy songs coming across as well as I’ve ever heard and getting a very positive reception. This led to an encore in the form of a timely rendition of John Martyn’s I Don’t Want To Know About Evil with an amazing sing along.

Burg with Becky

Burg with Becky

Having been away for a few years (aside from visits with his garage rock band The Electric Shakes) Burg, AKA Steve Lynch, made his return to the Sark Folk Festival with new band members AJ (gob irons and backing vocals) and Olly (upright bass) in tow. Building on Burg’s stripped back americana/country/folk sound the trio delivered some slow and loose grooves that would be perfect for a hot day but also fit surprisingly well on this chilly summer night.

While Burg’s playing and delivery was, as ever, second to none, AJ played his harmonica like I’ve not seen before with real dynamics from the sound of a steam train down to haunting atmospherics and for the one song he took lead vocals, a rendition of Coming Home originally by Dallas Green, many heralded him as one of the best voices of the weekend. The trio were join by Becky Hamilton on fiddle for a couple of songs just adding more to the southern vibes and with the crowd singing along in the intimate tent it made for my standout performance of the weekend.

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson with Ash

Hat Fitz and Cara with Ash

For the second night in a row the Alligande Stage tent was standing room only as people packed in to catch another returning act, Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson. The Australian/Irish duo played a set of their more upbeat bluesy material that came with a presence that filled the tent and a huge amount of onstage chemistry that helped the already great songs sound even better.

Fitz was amazing to watch from a playing perspective as his guitar seemed to be an extension of himself while Cara had a similar connection with her drums but then added to it with washboard, flute and whistle while both wailed out soulful heartfelt vocals as well. With enough dynamic across the set to keep it hugely engrossing they invited Ash Jarman on stage for final track Power and a much called for encore that rounded off the second day of the Festival on possibly its all round highest point to date.

My photos from the second day of the festival

Day 3

Scotts John

Scotts John

After such a full on Saturday the final day of the Sark Folk Festival is, for the most part, a far more relaxed affair and it started off with a small crowd who’d braved the morning rain listening to Guernsey folk stalwart Scotts John.

Coming from the 60s new folk tradition John tells stories with his songs that are always worth hearing highlighted here by his song Sark, written in his native Glasgow in 1977, after his first visit to the island, its amazing it’s now getting played back on the island that inspired it.

Sark’s own folk band, Big Sheep, started to liven things up a bit on the Alligande Stage. Led by local shepherd Dave and his ever revolving group of musicians, including former Recks Barney and Ash and Jess of The Space Pirates, they mixed original tunes and songs with numbers by the likes of Joni Mitchell and The Levellers.

Big Sheep

Big Sheep

Across the set they built the energy and if you focussed on stage you could forget the weather outside and be transported to a nicely relaxed, sunny summer’s day. While a bit scrappy in places as they aren’t a full time band they still play well together and it wouldn’t be Sark Folk Festival without them.

Having travelled from Shetland Ross Couper and Tom Oakes started out by trying to get their audience on their feet but realised it was going to take a bit more work, so dived into a set of lively instrumental tunes on guitar and fiddle. After a while a few did start to get to their feet and it was clear that this pleased the duo, but either way their music was great clap along stuff backed up by some excellent chat between songs that perfectly suited the relaxed atmosphere.

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

While The Vraic Gatherers played their usual Sunday afternoon set on the Vermerette Stage the Alligande side of the tent was quickly filling up in anticipation of the final band of the weekend, Buffalo Huddleston.

With violinist Becky Hamilton back the band mixed things up somewhat starting out with the original trio of Becky, Sarah Van Vlymen and Mike Meinke delivering a few of their early songs before being joined by the rest of the band. This gave the set a nice build that the audience rode into a frenzy singing and dancing along for over an hour.

With most of the songs being sung back at the band the amazing popularity of Buffalo Huddleston was evident and fantastic to see for a band from the islands playing their own music.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

As I headed back to the harbour I could hear the band’s encore across the valley and closer Sunrise sounded huge with the crowd’s singing audible as well, rounding off what had been a great festival on an insurmountable high – I don’t envy the organisers trying to top this festival next year!

My photos from the third day of the festival

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Absolutely Fabulous The Movie poster25 years or so ago, at the height of her powers, Jennifer Saunders unleashed her PR guru character Edina ‘Eddie’ Monsoon on the world, alongside perpetual hanger-on Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), in BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. Now, following a few one-off specials since the original TV show ended in 1996, the show has transferred to the big screen following in the footsteps of seemingly every British sitcom from Dad’s Army and On The Busses to The Inbetweeners with predictably mixed results.

The story, what there is of it, revolves around Eddie accidentally killing supermodel Kate Moss and going on the run with Patsy to the south of France. What this really provides is a framework on which to loosely hang a series of jokes and set pieces that have a feeling of ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’, rather than the well judged jokes and moments Saunders’ work on TV is more known for.

That’s not to say it isn’t funny as it has some great moments both harking back to the TV series and poking fun at the ever-increasing cult of modern celebrity.

On top of this though, and I guess as part of it, more than anything the film feels like an excuse to parade celebrity cameos across the screen. So we get Kate Moss, bigger cameo style parts for Lulu and Emma Bunton (gamely playing along) and a host of others no doubt including some I didn’t get. Standouts of these come in the form Jean-Paul Gaultier, Barry Humphries (twice, sort of) and Jeremy Paxman – a list which sums up something of the sublime to the ridiculous nature of the whole movie.

Eddie (Suanders) and Patsy (Lumley)

Eddie (Suanders) and Patsy (Lumley)

As the film goes on the plot becomes even more flimsy so that rather than reaching a conclusion it just sort of stops, following a montage of what conveniently happened and something that seems to be aping the classical denouement of Some Like It Hot but totally missing the mark. It feels as if after 90 minutes the writer, editor and director just decided they’d had enough and it was going to finish.

What really holds the film together are the performances, Saunders as Eddie is as ridiculous as you’d expect and, while it feels a little over the top when scaled up it, is what made the character. Lumley as Patsy is pitch perfect throughout, treading a line of ridiculousness excellently, even when the material may not live up to it, and is, in many ways the movie’s standout.

Away from the leads the usual cast of supporting characters return with Julie Sawalha’s Saffie carrying on where she left off in the series as if no time had passed, while Bubble (Jane Horrocks), Mother (June Whitfield) and newcomer Lola, Saffie’s daughter (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) all play their parts well even if I felt there was space for more, particularly from Whitfield who was always a standout of the TV series.

Patsy, Lola (Donaldson-Holness) and Eddie

Patsy, Lola (Donaldson-Holness) and Eddie

What this all leads to is a film that feels like its got enough ideas for a TV episode but stretched out to 90 minutes while still looking a bit too much like a TV show in places and, while far from the worst movie based on a British TV sitcom, never quite lives up to its source material – and that Kylie version of The Band’s This Wheel’s On Fire over the closing moments is awful.

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The Wildhearts – Never Outdrunk, Never Outsung: P.H.U.Q. Live

The Wildhearts - Never Outdrunk, Never Outsung: PHUQ Live2015 marked the 20th anniversary of The Wildhearts second full length album, P.H.U.Q., and the British rock four-piece marked that with a tour playing the album in its entirety (as released anyway) to packed houses of clamouring fans. During the tour they recorded a live version of the album which has now been released via lead man Ginger’s ongoing Round Records campaign on Pledgemusic.

If you’re a fan of the band (as I am, otherwise why would I have pledged) you’ll know P.H.U.Q. is, arguably, the band at their creative peak, though much of this was stifled by record company interference, a huge intake of drugs and much infighting. Quite which of these had the biggest effect is probably up for discussion but I’ll side with Ginger and say it was EastWest Records that caused the most problems, causing what could have been a double CD epic to be compressed somewhat into what was finally released. None-the-less the album contains some of the bands most recognisable and long-lasting songs.

Kicking off with the double pop-rock blast of I Want To Go Where The People Go and V-Day, played at super speed and with enough punch to fell a concrete elephant, Never Outdrunk, Never Outsung starts as it means to go on with the band clear of mind and body and preaching to the very much converted.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

After these we get a bit of chat from Ginger sounding as relaxed as he ever has on stage before the first fully captured sing-a-long moment of the record on Just In Lust. Having been at the London leg of the tour I can confirm that every word was sung along by the crowd but of course, on the record we want to hear the band too and the balance between the two is spot on. So, the sing along passages are there in all their glory while in some places the crowd is a quiet background to Ginger and CJ’s always excellent harmonies – oh! and CJ’s guitar is perfectly audible throughout (in joke of the die hards there).

As it goes on the likes of Jonesing For Jones and In Lily’s Garden channel The Beatles’ more psychedelic moments through an arena rock filter while Caprice, Woah Shit, You Got Through and Naivety Play get the balance of The Wildheart’s trademark punk/metal/rock hybrid sound to a tee. All this combines to make this possibly the definitive sounding version of this record in many ways, though it would hardly be for me to say that, but this may well become my ‘go to’ version of P.H.U.Q. going forward.

As expected from The Wildhearts it has its expletive drenched moments (due to some of their content I find it sadly obvious this band never broke the mainstream, but I wouldn’t have it any other way) with the semi-spontaneous sing along Up Yer Arse Ya Fuckin’ Cunt, and this all helps to capture the atmosphere of the show and celebratory feel that it had in person.

CJ and Ginger Wildheart

CJ and Ginger

Culminating with a football terrace-like sing along on Getting It the main record ends, like its studio counterpart, on a scream of ‘Shut Up’ cutting to appropriate silence.

At this point I’m not sure on the final physical commercial release track list but, on the digital Pledgemusic version, after a brief silence the sound of the crowd fades back up with them singing traditional encore call of Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me before the band launch back into something of a greatest hits shuffle, 5 song mini-set.

Here even the band fully join in the celebratory tone of the whole thing with Ginger encouraging lighters to be waved during the middle part of Weekend and Stormy In The North, Karma In The South coming across with a far more rock ’n’ roll spirit than it’s studio version. This is all closed off with 29x The Pain, a song that started life as a b-side but has become both the band and Ginger’s anthem celebrating the music that inspired The Wildhearts making for a fine set closer whenever it gets played, especially with The Duck Song sneaking in in its wake and undercutting any potential po-faced-ness with outstandingly silly fun.

Wildhearts 2015

The Wildhearts, circa 2015

While its hard to be entirely impartial here I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable live albums I’ve heard as it captures not only the music excellently, but also as much of the atmosphere and spirit of the event as well as it possibly could.

Put it on, turn it up, close your eyes and sing along as if you were there – so when’s the Fishing For Luckies or Endless, Nameless tour?

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Chaos 12: 24, 25, 26 June 2016 – Extended Review

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK at Chaos

For the 12th year in a row the Greenman MCC took over a few fields at top of Pleinmont in Guernsey for Chaos; a weekend of, in their word, ‘bikes, beer and bands’, of course my focus is always on the bands side of things.

With two stages with music across three days the arrangement was the same as the last few years and featured a range of artists from the Channel Islands and beyond including some familiar faces and some newcomers including the likes of PUNiK, The Hyena Kill, SugarSlam, Falenizza Horsepower and more.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on 2nd July 2016 and you can read an extended version below, you can also see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos review - 02:07:16

Extended Review

Day 1

For the 12th year in a row the usually rugged landscape of Guernsey’s most southwesterly point again welcomed the Greenman MCC for their Chaos weekend music festival and bike show. With the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing up over the cliffs, conditions couldn’t have been much better as I got to the site on Friday afternoon and headed to The Peace Tent, where the live music traditionally begins.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

With the tent decorated in its usual psychedelic way a notable addition this year was a cardboard cut out of Elvis who would join all the weekend’s acts on stage starting with Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Delivering probably his most fluid and enjoyable set to date Silas (aka longtime Guernsey punk frontman Andy Duchemin) combined some pointed acoustic songs with some jokes, most of which couldn’t be published here but raised some laughs.

Musically the likes of Slacktavist, Trust Fund Anarchist and others aim extremely pointed barbs at the failings of modern society and, coming as Facebook and Twitter were flooded with the post-Brexit backlash, felt all the more suitable. Along with these we got the usual twisted take on Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, The Hokey Cokey through a filter of The Smiths and a demonstration of Duchemin’s psychic abilities which were uncanny.

The acoustic sounds continued with A Clockwork Langoustine, featuring Stace Blondel and Dan Haggarty – both formerly of Mechanical Lobster (you can see what they did there). The duo delivered a great selection of 90s alt-rock and metal classics from the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Danzig along with a few songs by their previous band, almost unrecognisable without the industrial metal trappings. The whole thing was hugely enjoyable and was the first time I’ve heard Blondel’s impressive voice used properly in a long time while Haggarty’s acoustic lead work was spot on.

The OK at Chaos

The OK

With The Peace Tent already in full swing the main/beer tent stage – this year dubbed The War Stage – got going with pop-rock four-piece The OK. Playing their last show it was clear the quartet were out to have some fun and it made for one of the most relaxed performances I’ve seen from them and drew one of the bigger crowds I’ve seen for an opening act here. While it may not have been a blistering start, their songs were solid enough and started warming up the growing crowd well.

If things weren’t going full-tilt before, To The Woods soon changed that as they launched into what felt like an uncharacteristically early set. Warming up over the first few songs it wasn’t long before their loud and ‘lairy’ grunge rock was firing on all cylinders with Fire, a song that had a few singing along.

To The Woods at Chaos

To The Woods

With Bobby Battle’s between song chat toned down slightly this was To The Woods back to the form that made their reputation over recent years and it was great to see. While there was still plenty of Bobby’s unique presence to go round, it allowed the songs a chance to stand out again, kicking off the first mosh of the weekend and culminating powerfully with Hit The Switch and Jack Attack.

Having made their return to the stage on Wednesday night at The Fermain Tavern, Guernsey’s hardcore veterans Insurrection blasted into their set with a wall of powerful noise. Bringing a shot of bleak nihilism and rage, in a surprisingly good-natured looking package, the five-piece continue to grow in power as they mixed songs from their 1980s heyday with material from their reformation EP and brand new tracks.

With lyrics like ‘human race a waste of life’ and the beast and imp dynamic of front duo Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp, Insurrection were blastingly visceral and again the political talk of the day seemed to add yet more relevance to their impassioned music.

Honest Crooks at Chaos

Honest Crooks

Back in The Peace Tent and a very different side of punk rock was on display as Honest Crooks were making an early claim for set of the weekend with the tent packed and skanking. The trio have really hit a new level in the last couple of months and topped it again here.

Having made their first visit to the island last November, Manchester duo The Hyena Kill were clearly very excited to be back as they continued to bring the noise to The War Stage with a set of thunderously heavy metal-tinged rock.

Delivering the Reuben-esque (not in the painting sense) music with passion and power, their sound, created with a guitar and drums, was as loud as they come but surprisingly pure and precise and, to me, were everything Royal Blood had promised by failed to deliver.

The Hyena Kill at Chaos

The Hyena Kill

The onstage chemistry between Steven Dobb (guitar) and Lorna Blundell (drums) was huge and their energy infectious and deserved to whip the crowd into a brutal mosh, however as seems rather common in Guernsey audiences, this failed to quite take off despite the clear love being shown.

Having failed to wow me 12 months ago, Brit metallers Stormbringer were back once again. While more entertaining than my memory suggested and featuring a frontman with some genuine stage presence, not to mention all the right posturing, their brand of power metal infused retro-thrash just felt a bit too safe, particularly after the strength of The Hyena Kill. The highlight of their set came in the form of a cover of Talking Heads Psycho Killer that, if a bit derivative, was pretty fun.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

Derivative and safe are certainly not words that could have anything to do with the first day headliners, Japanese punk quartet PUNiK. Forgoing a proper soundcheck to launch into their set, they provided what, in the festival’s 12 year existence, may be its first taste of real musical chaos.

Combining noise, energy and passion in equal measure this was something the likes of which I’d not seen on our fair shores before and the crowd was as into as the band throughout bringing a real sense of the democratising nature of punk rock as it felt like we were really all in it together. Tagu made for an impressive frontman, playing nonstop despite breaking a string during their first song, while Makoto was a great punk lead guitarist.

Throughout though the focal point was Guernseyman Nigel, making his first visit to the island in 23 years he was all over the stage and at points was clearly genuinely moved by the reaction to this band of misfits from the other side of the world.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK and friends

The highlight of their set came with Hello!! that sounded like something The Wildhearts could have come up with in their heyday and with stage invasions and everything not nailed down going flying they closed off the first day of Chaos with an expletive laden highlight in the festival’s history.

Day 2

After such a performance the night before it was probably fitting that the second day of Chaos started in a fairly hardcore vein with a new Jersey band, Short Was Found, on The War Stage. Featuring the rhythm section of Bulletproof along with two other familiar faces from Jersey’s music scene they delivered fast and tight punk rock with guitar solos thrown in making for an interesting mix that clearly had an effect on those still recovering from past excesses.

Clameur De Haro at Chaos

Clameur De Haro

The hangovers were soothed somewhat by the upbeat, folky fun of Clameur De Haro who set the scene by opening with their hillbilly take on Black Sabbath’s Supernaut. With one of the biggest audiences I’ve seen this early on a Saturday the band were on top form with all the members sharing out vocals duties more than in the past giving the whole thing a wider sound.

With their own infectiously catchy songs alongside classic rock covers, including a particularly good take on Paradise City that drew a great response (especially from the members of Jersey’s Flashmob), the Clams showed they can be just as welcome on the main stage here as at the Sark Folk Festival – one of few bands able to claim that.

Comprised of a few familiar faces from Guernsey’s music scene, including Adam Powell on guitar and former Goldfish Don’t Bounce guitarist Iain Baxter on bass, Blacksmith made their debut here. As expected from the members they played in a tight and polished fashion, delivering some solid heavy rock that was fine but felt a little disconnected and emotionless.

Lord Vapour at Chaos

Lord Vapour

Having highlighted Saturday afternoon in The Peace Tent last year Lord Vapour looked to do the same on The War Stage and, if not as exceptional as 12 months ago, did exactly what they do – delivering slabs of groovy stoner rock – and did it well. The main stage PA allowed the band to sound genuinely massive and their bluesy rock showed its crossover appeal in this location as well.

With new tracks in the set, including one inspired by sci-fi novel Dune (always likely to win me over) along with the older ones the highlight came with their final song, Sugar Tits, that rounded things off well before the bike show saw the music take a break.

While things were getting rocking on the main stage, The Peace Tent stuck with some more relaxed acoustic sounds to start its Saturday with Neale Packham, a folk trio led by James Dumbelton and Blue Mountains keeping things varied but light for those gathered on the sofas and floor.

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

While the bike show was going on in the main field, complete with awards in various categories and the obligatory burnout competition, its was time for some fun and games in The Peace Tent. These things combine to give Chaos the thing that makes it unique and more than just a gathering in a field for some music.

Another past Saturday afternoon Peace Tent stand out, Brunt, hit The War Stage after the bike show and proceeded to flatten all who stood before them with a wall of volume.

Within that though was a clarity that allowed all three members more intricate moments to be heard, particularly the more subtle, melodic sections of Ave Thompson’s lead guitar work that came with a real deftness of touch on his Les Paul.

Brunt at Chaos

Brunt

The trio barely engaged with the audience and rarely even stopped between tunes, but in this case it suited the music perfectly as a large number of heads nodded along.

After the fun and games things started to get rocking in The Peace Tent with The Swallows. The first half of their set was a little distracted thanks to the array of children they’d brought with them but once it settled down the five-piece have some great alt-rock power.

Lisa Vidamour and Rachael Cumberland-Dodd are a spot on front duo for this kind of thing as they ran through covers of the likes of Pixies and The Breeders and set the scene for the rockier things to come.

Science of Eight Limbs at Chaos

Science of Eight Limbs

The peace was well and truly shattered next as Science of Eight Limbs took to The Peace Tent stage. Much like The Hyena Kill they took what Royal Blood brought to the charts and did something far more interesting and powerful with it, in this case combining a rock/metal hybrid sound with funky rhythms and impressive intricacies.

While extremely technical and precise in places the UK duo’s performance and chemistry was effortless and got what I think may be The Peace Tent’s first fully fledged mosh pit going and left many confounded with the range of noise and sound produced by just two people making for one of the sets of the weekend.

With broken voices and soon broken strings, SugarSlam brought the party atmosphere to The War Stage with a set of their characteristic grungy power-pop-rock.

 SugarSlam with Flashmob at Chaos

SugarSlam with Flashmob

Having been working with the crew all weekend frontman Plumb was clearly riding a wave of energy to propel him through the set that was excellently backed up by the rest of the band, along with Jay and Harry from Flashmob for a run at Guns ’N’ Roses’ It’s So Easy.

Playing with power and punch that made them feel like headliners they delivered a storming version of The Stooges Be Your Dog dedicated to PUNiK.

Back in the other field The Peace Tent was packed as Buffalo Huddleston once again provided a high point of music and atmosphere as has become their trademark.

The rock continued on The War Stage with Peppered Ant Legs running through their gamut of hard rock classics. Delivered with plenty of fun and flair, even if Danny Joyce’s bass playing was a bit suspect in places, but they certainly found their groove for a great run at Black Sabbath’s Faeries Wear Boots.

Falenizza Horsepower at Chaos

Falenizza Horsepower

With a bass stack set up either side of the drum riser it was time for another two-piece to take the stage and once again deliver something loud and powerful. Jersey’s Falenizza Horsepower provided great swathes of sonic experience mixing bass, vocal and guitar loops with powerful drums to build and create huge songs that filled the big tent.

While often overlooked Dave Spars vocals are a rich component of the songs that combine elements of indie, rock, metal and doom in one unique package that was backed up by a great light show here and seemed to go down a storm with the big crowd.

With intro music from A Clockwork Orange, Kill II This launched into their set of industrial-tinged metal and put in a strong performance.

Kill 2 This at Chaos

Kill 2 This

Simon Gordon, a familiar face from his days in Thousand Points Of Hate, is a great frontman reaching out and connecting to the crowd along with guitarist Mark Mynett.

With a lot of sequenced backing sounds it gave the whole thing a very big feel but with that came a certain artificiality which, coming after Falenizza Horsepower and the previous night’s realist flurry of PUNiK, made it hard for me to connect with a set that felt well delivered if, ultimately, somewhat generic.

Day 3

As is traditional the final day of Chaos got going with Cramps O’Clock, an hour of music from the cult psychobilly band as DJ’d by myself, followed by some suitable silliness from Peace Tent pilot, Stretchy Stuff.

Jo and Friends at Chaos

Jo and Friends

In a slightly more normal fashion Jo Marsh and friends started the live music on The War Stage.

Delivering some nice soft rock to start the day the hastily assembled band did a decent job (particularly young drummer Toby Beasley also seen in Cosmic Fish) and started the more mellow day as it meant to go on.

After the high energy set last night Mike Meinke of Buffalo Huddleston was back in his stripped back form as Buff Hudd who continued the chilled but upbeat vibes with his guitar and didgeridoo. Stripped of all accoutrement really shows Meinke’s skill at playing and songwriting and Jull-Z joining him for a few songs kept the vibes flowing.

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

The live music in The Peace Tent was equally chilled out to start the day with Lisa Murfitt providing some dark folky sounds both a capella and with a piano. She was also joined by young singer Kiya for a couple of songs who impressed as well.

The volume returned to The War Stage with punk rockers Jawbone. As is their way the set was suitably chaotic throughout with bass player Dan Keltie off out into the crowd and guitarist/vocalist Lee Burton spitting his vocals out with a mix of power and fun.

Previous frontman Steve Scratton joined them onstage for a few songs at the end that were the tightest Jawbone sounded today. Throughout though it was a great fun wake up call for a Sunday afternoon highlighted with their take on Men At Work’s Land Down Under and The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg.

Jawbone at Chaos

Jawbone

With another break in the music on the main stage for some games in the field involving motorbikes, tug o’ war and possibly the most extreme eating contest Chaos has yet seen, things carried on in The Peace Tent with the bluesy, jazzy sounds of Carrie & The Turtlenecks.

The trio were nice and relaxed and had a real sense of fun to their performance, though Carrie seemed oddly distracted by an earlier coffee spill. Despite that she showed a good strong voice which was backed up by some great guitar, clarinet, saxophone and harmonica that offered a completely different sound to everything else on offer this weekend.

After some more slightly surreal games The Ukuladeez took to the stage and continued the relaxed vibes of the day, upping the energy a bit and chatting with the audience, as well as helping Stretchy celebrate a surprise birthday.

Tantale at Chaos

Tantale

The evening session on The War Stage got going with Tantale upping the rocky sounds alongside their psychedelic influences. This was the tightest and most focussed I’ve seen them in a while which once again showed how good a band they can be when it all comes together for them.

Only playing rarely these day, Crazy Babies hit the stage with power as they tore through a set of Ozzy Osbourne songs.

Frontman Stace Blondel was clearly in highly energetic mode, having been told he wasn’t allowed to climb the stage rigging he decided to spend most of the set out on the floor with the audience which really brought them into the set and got everyone involved.

Crazy Babies at Chaos

Crazy Babies

Back on stage the rest of the band were the tightest I remember seeing them in sometime and, as ever, Scorch was highly impressive with his Randy Rhodes style licks on lead guitar all making for a hugely fun set that was perfect to reenergise the Sunday evening crowd.

With the energy back up Static Alice launched into their set and a good-sized crowd gathered considering the late hour on the final day.

While they were musically as tight as ever the pop-rock four-piece seemed to be out to have fun even more than usual which led to a great performance with Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais all using the whole stage.

Static Alice at Chaos

Static Alice with Jay from FlashMob

Jay from Flashmob was back on stage once again to add extra guitar to Black Cadillac Man and Static Alice showed something I’ve not seen from them before as they demonstrated they are possibly the only rock band in the island capable of pulling off a truly populist headlining set of this nature.

With an encore of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell they closed out Chaos 12 on a high which, in all, was one of the most all round enjoyable editions of the festival I have attended.

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Lord Vapour – Mill Street Blues

Lord Vapour - Mill Street Blues coverHaving taken Guernsey’s live music by storm over the past 12 months, including show stealing sets at Chaos 2015 and while supporting The Recks at The Fermain Tavern, stoner rock three-piece Lord Vapour headed into the studio over the winter to record their debut, Mill Street Blues.

Released through NoSlip Records there is a vinyl edition to come when the pressing plants catch up on the recent resurgence of the format, but in the meantime there’s a digital version available through Bandcamp.

My review of the record was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th June 2016, you can read it below…

Lord Vapour album review

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: June 2016 – Arts Sunday look back and festival preview

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Click here to listen to the show

For the June 2016 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I had an even more packed two hours of music from the islands than usual.

Following on from the live stage on Arts Sunday I presented highlights of the acts of that played including Gregory HarrisonThe Rectory Hill Skillet LickersHONEST CROOKSStatic Alice and The Elliot Falla Trio.

As well as that I had a look at some of the bands playing the Sark Folk Festival and new festival, The Gathering, both of which take place over the next few weeks.

On top of that there’s music from BruntJoe Corbin, a brand new one from The Space Pirates of Rocquaine and lots more.

Click here to listen to the show

Tracklist

There was also one track I couldn’t feature on the show but wanted to share, so here it is, this is Movements by Glitched, a Brighton based band featuring Guernsey musician Ollie Denton:

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NXT Bournemouth – Bournemouth International Centre – 16/06/15

NXT view

My view at the show

A couple of days removed from the event this isn’t going to be a definitive blow-by-blow account of NXT’s recent show in Bournemouth, but a bit of a run down and my thoughts on the show.

Arriving at the BIC I wasn’t sure what to expect given my previous experience of live WWE shows was a Monday Night Raw taping at the O2 in 2015, a much larger crowd and, theoretically, broader in scope as ‘sports entertainment’ and prior to that a non-televised show at the Royal Albert Hall in early 1994!

Instantly it was obvious the crowd here was slightly different, more black t-shirts, more males aged 18-35 (thankfully I’m still just in that demographic) and much more ‘serious’ wrestling chat, giving it the feeling of many of live music shows I go to and a bit of a hint of WWE’s (somewhat inexplicably) revered Attitude Era of the late 1990s, just a bit less drunk and raucous.

That said, there were still some families there and, after the men in black t-shirts, the largest contingent was youngsters in purple Bayley t-shirts (and some of the adult men proudly rocking them too). I thought this might make the crowd a bit imbalanced but it didn’t as throughout, from what I could see and hear, everyone was polite and respectful (both in terms of language used and phrases chanted) and clearly out to have a good time, which it seems everyone did, to a huge degree.

Entering the venue’s Windsor Hall and finding my seat, fifth row from ringside and facing the entrance way, I realised I’d struck gold as I had a great view of everything from the ring to the entrance way while also feeling part of the energetic crowd.

Before the show started host and ring announcer Dasha Fuentes headed to ringside to chat with a few fans, it was clear that despite this being near the end of the tour the difference between American and English crowds hadn’t quite sunk in and people were a little more reserved than it seems Fuentes expected but it was still all fun and then, to warm us up for the in-ring action, we got to vote on which classic NXT match to watch highlights of.

With the options being Seth Rollins vs Jinder Mahal, Sami Zayn vs Adrian Neville and Bayley vs Sasha Banks the crowd picked the Bayley/Banks face off from Takeover Brooklyn which just goes to show the way this pair have helped build the reputation of women’s wrestling in WWE and NXT to being on a level with the men’s matches as this is an indisputable classic.

No Way Jose vs Angelo Dawkins

No Way Jose

No Way Jose

With the crowd warmed up the lights went down and we got the WWE TV intros on the big screen, both the ‘Then, Now, Forever’ ident and NXT opening titles which finished setting the mood perfectly before No Way Jose hit the ring and had everyone clapping and singing along to his excellently catchy theme.

Jose is a character I thought I was really not going to like before his debut, dancing gimmicks are very much not my thing, but something about his enthusiasm and the innocence with which it is delivered really works and I was instantly onside with him as babyface and that just grew seeing him live.

His opponent was one of NXT’s roster of unfortunate jobbers, Angelo Dawkins who got little reaction until someone noticed he looks like a low rent version of Attitude Era stalwart D’Lo Brown. From that point on the crowd got on his case about this and he played up to it excellently as a heel should.

The rest of the match was more good fun, all very loose but that’s to be expected in the opening match of a non-televised show and really didn’t spoil things as Jose danced rings around Dawkins before hitting his cobra clutch slam finisher for the win leading to more chanting, dancing and singing and setting the tone nicely.

Bayley & Carmella vs Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss

Bayley

Bayley

As Alexa Bliss made her way to the ring for a tag team match it seemed like we were going to get to see some big names early, and we did as Bliss and Nia Jax (a genuinely imposing presence in person), both greeted to a suitable level of good-natured heat made their way to the ring followed by Carmella, who did her whole Enzo style entrance, and Bayley completely with walking waving inflatable tube men and one of the biggest pops of the night.

Getting to ‘sing-along’ with Carmella was a great moment as we all joined with her ‘My name is…’ schtick complete withe ‘Bada-bing, hottest chick in the ring!’ and just feeling the positivity Bayley brings to the arena is amazing and she is a credit to the WWE. I’ve heard people suggest she could be the female John Cena and on the basis or a response like this I could see her being even more than that and the crowd was all on side in an entirely genuine way.

Bayley and Bliss lock up

Bayley and Bliss lock up

The match was a good back and forth with the heels beating down on both faces, all the great Bayley chants (which she seemed genuinely enthused by) and lots of ‘How you doin’’ chants. it was mostly Carmella suffering at the hands of the heels building to a hot tag to Bayley which again got a huge response.

With all four competitors involved Carmella and Bliss headed to the floor distracting Jax and allowing Bayley to hit the monster heel with her Bayley-to-Belly Suplex finisher for the three. This move was a big surprise and probably amplified the winning pop even more and it was sustained as Bayley made her way around ringside giving out hugs to anyone with an ‘I’m a hugger’ t-shirt.

Tye Dillinger vs Hugo Knox

Tye Dillinger

‘The Perfect 10’ Tye Dillinger

Being from Manchester it was clear that Knox was expected to be the hometown hero in this match as he is English, unfortunately for him and despite the best efforts of both Dillinger and WWE, Tye is getting huge reactions for his perfect 10 gimmick and this continued here, with his work in the ring and natural charisma coming through despite his best efforts to play the bad guy.

The match was good, with newcomer Knox coming across well with some great athleticism for a bodybuilder type guy but he succumbed to Dillinger’s Perfect 10 fireman’s carry neck breaker and the imbalance of the heel/face work did spoil it a little, but Dillinger is just too good at what he does to boo and chanting ’10’ along with his is a great crowd moment.

Austin Aries vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas

Austin Aries

Austin Aries

As Aries stepped out, complete with a cape that should be an instant heat winner, he was getting cheered hugely.

As he picked up the mic in the ring though he proceeded to cut an excellent heel promo that did a great job of getting across the cocky side of ‘The greatest man that ever lived’ and almost totally counteracted the initial cheers to set the stage nicely for a fast paced match with NXT newcomer (but seasoned performer elsewhere) Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.

While having a reputation from CMLL in Mexico and NJPW in Japan as La Sombre (amongst others) Andrade hasn’t quite found his place in NXT yet but, working with a veteran like Aries, it was clear the two brought out the best in each other.

This was the first match to feel genuinely competitive with both men looking for big moves and feeling a bit tighter than what had come before.

Austin Aries vs Andrade Cien Almas

Cien reacts to a dropkick in the corner

Andrade’s springboard moonsault feint into a standing moonsault is hugely impressive as was pretty much everything Aries did, even if he didn’t hit any of his big high-flying trademarks (again fairly expected these wouldn’t be used on a non-televised show).

With a great back and forth and both men playing things excellently the end came with Cien countering what looked like it would be a brain buster and connecting with his running double knee in the corner. This looks far more impactful in person but with Shinsuke Nakamura’s range of knee strikes being present on the same show it feels like an odd choice of finish.

While on paper Aries doing the job sounds strange it worked in the context of this show with everything being very feel good and this was one of those matches where both men came out well regardless of who took the fall.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Bobby Roode

Bobby Roode

Bobby Roode

To start the next match, scheduled, of course, for one-fall (ONE FALL! – I’ll never quite get why the UK crowd shouts this each match but its fun) some unfamiliar music hit and the screen displayed some nondescript lights so, as former TNA standard Bobby Roode headed out the crowd were initially caught off guard before popping pretty big for this long teased newcomer to NXT.

As Roode entered the ring, looking like a classic wrestling heel a la Ric Flair in his sequined robe, his cocky heel persona really came through and without even taking the mic the crowd was already accepting him as a bad guy when the lights went out and Shinsuke Nakamura’s already familiar theme hit and crowd exploded at the proposition of this ‘dream match’.

Being relatively new to Nakamura I’m already a huge fan but as the lights came up and he strutted his way to the ring it was clear that his charismatic presence is even bigger in person than on-screen and he received the biggest reaction of the night.

Nakamura hits the Kinshasa

Nakamura hits the Kinshasa

With the crowd chanting for both men the duo circled each other but eventually the Nakamura chants (along with ‘Shinsuke Bomaye’ and singing of his theme song) won out and the pair put on the match of the night going back and forth and hitting the fiercest looking strikes and some of the biggest general moves of the show.

Throughout occasional shouts of ‘BEER!… MONEY!’ in reference to Roode showed that this crowd knew they were watching something special and, for a non-televised show we were not disappointed and both men hit a series of big spots culminating in Nakamura’s inverted exploder and Kinshasa/Bomaye knee strike that was the move of the night and rounded off the first half of the show in a huge way that wasn’t to be bettered.

NXT Tag Team Championship
American Alpha vs The Revival (c)

American Alpha

American Alpha

With the crowd re-energised after the emotional drain that was Nakamura/Roode the second half opening with a rematch from last week’s Takeover: The End as American Alpha headed to the ring to challenge The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championship.

Despite their all American gimmick the work of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable has endeared them well beyond the US and they got one of the biggest reactions tonight as they made their way out and it was clear both they and the crowd were ‘Ready, Willing and Gable’ (sorry I couldn’t resist).

While not such a big reaction Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder were greeted as heels should be with  good-natured negativity that continued throughout the match with many different ways of playing up to the running joke that no one knows who is who out of the two.

American Alpha vs The Revival

Gable arm drags Dawson

It wasn’t all Revival heckling though and Alpha got many renditions of 2-Unlimited’s Euro-pop classic No Limit as reworked with Jordan and Gable’s names – I’m not sure if this chant makes any sense outside of the UK, or even to the two wrestlers, but they seem to love it as much as the crowd does.

Despite it being pretty obvious the belts weren’t going to change hands here both teams did a good job of selling that it might, putting on an excellent exhibition with Dash and Dawson being excellent at playing the old school heels, distracting the ref so cheating could occur, engaging with the crowd and generally being a great modern-day versions of classic teams from the NWA in the 1970s. American Alpha on the other hand are their antithesis being excellent ‘pure wrestlers’ like a more sane version of the Steiner Brothers crossed with Kurt Angle (we got another ankle lock tease spot from Gable), giving the two teams a perfect chemistry together.

The Revival

The Revival – victorious

Of course The Revival came out on top but, with it being thanks to some foul play from Wilder helping Dawson get the pin it left American Alpha looking good and strong and was as pitch perfect a tag match as your likely to see, even if we didn’t get to see the Shatter Machine or Grand Amplitude.

After the match American Alpha stayed in the ring and appeared genuinely touched by the huge reaction they got from the crowd which was great to see.

NXT Women’s Championship
Peyton Royce vs Asuka (c)

Asuka

Asuka

As soon Royce was announced as the challenger here it was clear where this was going which spoiled it a bit as a contest but, despite that she put on a good show and we got to see more from her than we have so far on TV and she worked effectively as a heel including a nice referee distraction spot leading to a tarantula-like hold in the ropes.

Asuka on the other hand was excellent in her silent killer kind of role, despite which she is a face, but she still let the match go back and forth a little before unleashing her ranger of strong style strikes and holds, including a great looking Shining Wizard, before getting the expected win with the Asuka Lock.

NXT Championship
Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe (c)

Finn Balor

Finn Balor – 2 Sweet!

By this point it was clear what the main event was going to be but the greeting for Irish grappler Finn Balor was immense as he stepped through the curtain and threw the hand signal for the Bullet Club/Kliq to be greeted with most of the crowd returning it.

Another unassumingly charismatic performer Balor had the audience in his hand throughout and the positivity of his reaction was matched only by Nakamura tonight and, from a heel side, his opponent Samoa Joe.

Joe in person is genuinely fairly terrifying when he wants to be. Built like a tank the so-called Soman Submission Machine is a real monster and played the part to a tee here as he seemed impervious to much of Balor’s offence in the early going. Both guys hit a lot of signature spots, most of which looked nice and tight continuing the story of their ongoing rivalry brilliantly and the crowd, though somewhat divided in their support, were engaged throughout.

Samoa Joe

Samoa Joe

With Finn starting to make a come back on the champ, Joe bailed from the ring and found a steel chair and, after a bit more offence from Finn, Joe smacked him with it in the gut, then the back leading to a disqualification. This, of course, saved his championship, but felt anti-climactic until Balor retaliated and went back and forth with Joe leading to a Coupe De Grace from the top rope sending the champ to the back.

After the match Finn got on the mic and cut a great promo, initially it felt like a standard, ‘thanks for coming, this was the best night of the tour’ kind of thing, but as we all started chanting ‘Thank you Finn’ it seemed to change to something more heartfelt as the Demon said we shouldn’t be thanking him or any of the others wrestlers, they should be thanking us for supporting them and coming out to see the shows.

Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor

Joe with the facewash on Balor

Coming from a guy who’s truly worked his way up from the bottom (including moving from his home to the UK, then Japan, then America to pursue his dream) this was genuinely quite something and as this maybe Balor’s last tour before he moves to mainstream WWE it gave it something of an extra special ‘farewell tour’ moment and ended a great show on a real high, even if Roode and Nakamura put on the best match of the night.

For me, other than reenforcing my love of pro-wrestling, what this show did most was show just how fun wrestling shows can be and that it takes everything from the dancing of No Way Jose to the ‘strong style’ fighting of Shinsuke to Nakamura to the genuine, heartfelt performance of Finn Balor and Bayley to make a wrestling show, making it about as close to variety as you really get in this day and age.

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Vale Earth Fair 40th Anniversary Exhibition

Vale Earth Fair 40th anniversary40 years ago a group of Guernsey’s music lovers, free thinkers and, for want of a better word to make a point, hippies… came up with the idea of getting together at the Vale Castle at the height of summer and championing all the sort of causes you’d think they might through the medium of music.

Now, more than 30 festivals later and after settling on the name Vale Earth Fair, the collective they have grown to become are staging a series of events to mark the milestone. As well as gigs featuring both visiting favourites alongside some of Guernsey top musicians (including a fantastic show from Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons and an extra special Unplugged night) they have branched out with an exhibition of posters, artwork, photos and more from each of the festivals.

Despite being a slightly odd location, the ‘Inner Street’ of Guernsey’s Market Building gives the exhibition a real sense of the journey that the Earth Fair (as its generally abbreviated to) has been on as you make your way down one wall spanning 1976 through to late 1990s and back along the other side tracing the last 15 years or so.

Vale Earth Fair Posters

Vale Earth Fair Posters

This journey is a fascinating one as, throughout, familiar names stand alongside those lost to the memory of those who were there (and can remember being there). For me names like Errol Groves (a permanent fixture since the start), Two Trumpets, various incarnations of Paul Fletcher and Earthcorpse have a certain familiarity but some of the others conjure impressive ideas of what they might have been.

This is really brought home with the Big Band List that stands at the end of the journey, listing, as you’d expect, every band who’ve ever played the festival over the years and, on a selfish note, its great seeing my own musical project named alongside the likes of local luminaries Teaspoonriverneck and The Sacred Hearts as well as visitors like Skindred and Buzzcocks.

As one journeys around the exhibition its impossible not to draw comparisons with what feels like the Earth Fair’s spiritual forefather, Glastonbury, as it goes from humble, simple looking origins into far slicker and more ‘corporate’ looking fare. Bigger stages with impressive light shows are evident in the newer photos while the poster and programme artwork develop into some highly impressive designs – particularly considering the comparatively simple nature maintained by the volunteer organising collective.

The Big Band List

The Big Band List

If anything my only real criticism of this exhibition would be that it didn’t contain enough. While it offers a glimpse into the history of the festival it is a tantalising one that cries out for more, and I’m sure there is more, while at the same time continuing to back up the well-worn (but none the less true) notion that Guernsey is spoiled with the amount and variety of music being created on our little rock of 65,000 or so people.

The exhibition opened on Friday 3rd June with a selection of live music spanning both the history and variety represented by the festival. Veteran performer Colette Esteves started it off with her acoustic guitar and selection of 60s new folk and 70s style songs delivered in a timeless fashion that never fails to impress.

Regular Earth Fair main stage compere Grant Sharkey followed and created a huge sound in the reverberation chamber of the room that was, at points, organ rumblingly deep to the extent it was rendered hard to listen too but, none the less, had a few laughing and singing along to its messages that suit those of the festival being celebrated.

Colette Esteves

Colette Esteves

Before the assembled crowd decamped to The Golden Lion for more music and refreshment Citizen-X brought the event to a close with his iOS driven soundscapes that again suffered from the room’s huge reverb effect.

Despite the sound issues the music added a great extra to the visuals on offer and marked the launch of the exhibition in perfect style, as the Vale Earth Fair continues its celebrations in preparation for the main event at the end of August.

You can see a few more of my photos from the launch night on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Tiger Army – V…-

Tiger Army V coverIn their near 20 years as a band Tiger Army have continually defied the generic stereotypes of their chosen style, while none the less continuing, in many ways, to be impossible to describe as anything but a psychobilly band.

While their first two albums certainly fell into this category the third and fourth began to stray and now, with V…- they have taken things yet another step beyond to create what could be a soundtrack to a film noir while packing in some great punk power as well.

As has become traditional the record (and I feel I certainly can call it that as it is available not only as CD and digital but also on vinyl with a great looking gatefold sleeve) begins with a short instrumental opening that merges into first track proper, Firefall, that shows while Nick 13 has evolved both his own and his bands sound punk rock ’n’ roll and pyschobilly is still a strong part of Tiger Army’s make up.

From there the album weaves in a vaguely laconic fashion through what feels like a dark night of rock ’n’ roll drenched in the Americana and 1950s obsessions of the band’s leader while maintaining the idea of this being created by a gang of Orange County vampires akin to antagonists of seminal 1980s movie The Lost Boys.

Tiger Army in 2016

Tiger Army in 2016

Lead single Prisoner of the Night (debuted at last year’s Octoberflame shows) sets a tone for the film noir-ish quality of what is to come and really this link between the sense of visuals and the music is something that defines the album throughout leading to something of a concept album feel – albeit nothing like the proggy self-indulgence that might suggest.

As well as the ever-present thrum and thwack of the double bass and Nick 13’s Gretsch guitars (both in overdriven and more melodic style) the album features a host of new sounds growing on the developments seen on 2008’s Music From Regions Beyond.

So we get pianos, strings, organs, pedal steel guitars and, possibly most notably, brass, that gives a slightly mariachi or Mexican feel to some of the songs and adding a western movie vibe to the noir.

While World Without The Moon and Devil Lurks On The Road are fairly typical of what we’re used to from Tiger Army, Dark And Lonely Night really highlights the 1950s sounds coming in the form of something that, in a different context, could be mistaken for being from an easy listening crooner and shows Nick 13 has grown into a confident singer and frontman from the howls and screams of the band’s early days.

Tiger Army live by Samantha Madnick

Tiger Army live by Samantha Madnick

Culminating with the feel of a south-west US sunrise on In The Morning Light, V…- completes what feels like a long hot night on a lower key note. After spanning everything you’d expect from Tiger Army and more the album shows a band confidently treading their own path regardless of what some other parts of their subculture may think of them to create a great record that continues to show extra levels listen after listen.

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