Guernsey Festival 2012 – review

So here’s my full, unabridged review of the 2012 Guernsey Festival. You can read a version of this in the Festival edition of Gallery Magazine Guernsey released in July.

You can see a full selection of my photos and videos from the festival here.

YouTube playlist of my Guernsey Festival videos

Review

Saturday

So the second Guernsey Festival (and my first) has come to an end and provided a mixed bag of a weekend but ultimately ending up in a really good experience with some great music, both new and old.

Things kicked off with a bang on Saturday as the winners of the Channel TV Studio Jam contest Teaspoonriverneck opened proceedings with their blackglamgrooverock sounds on the festival’s main stage.

Despite the small number who had turned up early the Spoons seemed to draw what energy they could from the crowd along with their own to play a strong set mixing tracks from their new album Do It Again and classics from their back catalogue ending on the always rousing Eaten By The Devil.

With the sound of Teaspoonriverneck still ringing in my ear it was time to head outside, where I would spend much of Saturday afternoon as acts from Guernsey and Jersey formed the backbone of the days line up on the Centre Circle/Chaos stage.

First on the outside stage in the sun was Adam Powell, Jodie Webber and Iain Baxter (aka Space for Someone Else) who provided some spot on sounds for a sunny afternoon in a field. Relatively new to the local music scene the acoustic three piece played a selection of original tracks which may have been occasionally too low-key for the large area their sound was trying to fill but with songs like this already in their repertoire they proved themselves an act worth keeping an eye on.

The local music continued next as more people slowly began to make their way into the festival grounds with China Aster. For a band who’ve only been together a little over a year and a half China Aster have certainly become a band worth watching.

The recent addition of a full-time bassist to the band has allowed the band to really come into their own in terms of performance and it was certainly on display today as they played what, to me, was their most assured performance yet with a strong selection of original songs that made for a great sound on the sunny afternoon and bridged the gap excellently between the chilled out acoustic material of the previous act and the full on indie rock of Last of the Light Brigade.

With a new album recently released (their first with distribution off island through Paisley Archive) Last of the Light Brigade have been going from strength to strength over the past year and continued that upward trajectory this afternoon.

Playing only their second set as a four piece (with the addition of Andy Coleman on keys) the band’s songs came through despite a couple of issues with the sound which failed to mar the set and ending on the storming Little Billy provided one of my highlights of the whole weekend.

As the afternoon continued the music continued in strong style, particularly from Jersey’s Kevin Pallot, Irish band General Fiasco and metallers In Tyler We Trust.

As the sun set the main stage tent filled up for the first of weekend’s big names, Macy Gray. While the festival atmosphere had struggled to materialize across the afternoon the sense of anticipation before Macy took to the stage began to bring out the vibe I’ve experienced over the years from the Vale Castle and Pleimont to Reading, but, as the singer and her band took the stage, I lost this feeling.

While I have heard Macy Gray sing in the past (though never in person) and her voice has always seemed strong and unique tonight she was barely audible and at times seemed to be relying on her excellent backing singer and the crowd to fill the gaps, but the crowd didn’t seem familiar enough with the songs to make it work.

This combined with the fact that she sang a set largely comprised of covers taken from her new album led to an unsatisfying experience for me and, it seems, many of the people I spoke to later in the evening.

The Spindle Sect, who were the Chaos pick of the weekend, sadly also left me somewhat disappointed. Despite bringing some much-needed heavier sounds to proceedings, and playing well, it was hard to shake the notion that the style of nu-metal the band were playing was coming to this festival 15 years too late.

The Centre Circle/Chaos Stage headliners were a different matter entirely however.

Little Barrie are a band I had previously never heard of but had been assured were “like Thee Jenerators times 100” and I would be hard pressed to argue with that assessment.

Taking the basic garage rock template and infusing it with a power and energy I haven’t seen in a long time, Little Barrie simply provided one of my highlights of the weekend showing of a deft musicianship within the deceptively complex guitar parts which roared from the stage and even the death of a bass amp mid song didn’t slow the band down.

Following that was always going to be a challenge and Maverick Sabre, headlining the main stage, didn’t live up to it. The slower pace of his music along with his delivery sadly left me cold, though there seemed to be many on hand, front and centre of the pit, who were loving it.

Photos from Saturday

Sunday

Sunday started off with CourageHaveCourage, another band who’ve only been around a short time but have used that time well. These guys have played stages across the UK over the past year and took the opportunity of playing the Guernsey Festival to reveal a new sound and style.

Adding synths to the mix has changed their style drastically and, while the reception to this has been mixed and, for me, didn’t entirely work today, it’s always good to see a band brave enough to play what they want and develop their sound rather than sticking to the same thing people are used to.

Despite my personal misgivings a dedicated group of young fans of the band had gathered along the security barrier and lapped up the new songs with Lioness in particular going down very well.

As the morning rain stopped Mt. Wolf kicked off the live music on the Centre Circle/Chaos Stage. Featuring a pair of performers from Guernsey amongst their number on guitar, violin and vocals the band sounded great with chilled out sounds combing acoustic folk-ish tones with electronic influences.

While the crowd was still small as they played they went down well and I for one would love the chance to see them in a more intimate setting like the Fermain Tavern.

The final live local act of the weekend was a collaboration between Guernsey based reggae MC Deemas J, local DJ Limey Banton and London-based DJ and producer Wrongtom.

While I’ll be the first to admit reggae of this nature isn’t something I’m totally up on Deemas delivered an impressive performance on the mic, spending much of the set in front of the stage engaging directly with the audience and freestyling while Wrongtom and Lime added the backing track to this with their own freestyle aspect.

Jersey’s Lloyd Yates was up next with his upbeat folk sound once again being perfectly suited to the mid afternoon outside stage at the festival and showing why he and his fine band have been making waves across the UK over the last year.

As Sunday afternoon went on it was clear more people had turned out today, despite the mud and earlier rain, than Saturday afternoon and by the early evening this led to the development of the great atmosphere that can make or break or a festival.

As this vibe developed Scottish rockers Kassidy played a storming set on the mainstage and quirky four piece Kitten and the Hip brought unique jazz-dance sounds to the Centre Circle/Chaos stage which started to get people moving in the early evening sun.

Things really kicked off though as The Charlatans took to the main stage for a run through of their seminal Tellin’ Stories album. Demonstrating what it is that has made them one of the bands from mid-90s Britpop movement to still be discussed and revered by current indie fans they came across as more youthful and vibrant than 90% of the other acts playing this weekend.

Ska legends The Selecter closed proceedings on the Centre Circle/Chaos Stage with a rousing set of skank-a-long tunes which drew the biggest crowd the outside stage saw all weekend and, much like The Charlatans did, showed why some bands last and some don’t as they had the crowd dancing despite the increasingly slippery mud underfoot.

Back on the main stage and it fell to the Kaiser Chiefs to close the festival and they didn’t disappoint.

While I’ve never been the band’s biggest fan it is undeniable that for a festival they are about as perfect as a band can get and from the off had the packed tent singing and dancing along with frontman Ricky Wilson’s infectious energy getting to everyone in the tent.

Debuting two brand new songs tonight added something extra to the set, but it was clear that the crowd tonight was here for the hits with the likes of I Predict A Riot, Everyday I Love You Less And Less and Everything Is Average Nowadays going down a storm.

In the end the second Guernsey Festival had its ups and downs both in terms of music and atmosphere but it ended on an undeniable high and provided something Guernsey doesn’t usually get to see while giving the wealth of local talent in the island and new and exciting showcase.

While the cost of festivals like this is always a talking point and the future remains up in the air, it would be great to see the Guernsey Festival continue and become an established, more pop based alternative, to the other great summer festivals that already take place on the island every year.

Photos from Sunday

YouTube playlist of my Guernsey Festival videos

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2 thoughts on “Guernsey Festival 2012 – review

  1. Very informative review of the festival, I really want to witness one like this one when I will be there. Long back I had read a book on Guernsey, it was story of a young man, author had described this place in a great way that I wanted to go to Guernsey, now my long life dream has come true as I am going there soon.

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