The first Fermain Fest saw sets from Tantale, Bright_Lights, Lifejacket, Party In Paris, Bulletproof, The Black Vote, RentOClean, The OK, The Phantom Cosmonaut and Mike Meinke in front of a busy crowd.
When the world gives you a decidedly drab and dreary winter’s day, as it did this past Saturday, it is a gift when you get the chance to spend the day (and most of the night) holed up in a venue with some excellent live music – and that’s just the opportunity The Future Shock and The Fermain Tavern gave us with the first Fermain Fest.
The “mini-festival” started out in chilled out style with Mike Meinke and his acoustic guitar. Mike has been demonstrating his skill on the guitar for years and today was no different but it was when he was joined on stage by violinists Becky Hamilton and Sarah Van Vlymen that his set really came to life.
Adding an extra depth to Mike’s sound with both the violins and backing vocals it made for a set which stuck in the memory of many who turned out early and marks a brilliant, new-ish, sonic path for Mike.
Today was my second chance to see The OK following their debut gig last November and, while they seem to have become a little more comfortable on stage, they were still one of the days least memorable acts. That said, there is great potential still there for them to become a cracking rock party band with a little extra confidence.
The highlight of their set today came with their original song which the whole band, but especially frontman Joe Le Page, seemed much more confident in playing.
Being one of the most incessantly fun bands to watch on the island RentOClean did what they do best at Fermain Fest by playing some upbeat gypsy-reggae-party-punk with massive grins on their respective faces. Having seen them several times recently it’s hard to find anything new to say, as, when they stick to this formula, they are unbeatable at what they do and today fell into that category and, talking to a few people at the Tav after the set, they certainly won some new fans.
The Black Vote were up next and presented one of their most together sets I remember with a definite extra hardcore edge to things. As ever their trick of walking the razor’s edge of total collapse was in effect but drawing a few people to the front their energy packed and spite fuelled punk racket drew a few closer to the stage as we headed into the evening.
Despite their set being cut short by a broken bass drum The Black Vote were everything we’ve come to expect today and, while it may not be to all tastes, is still hugely enjoyable if you like that kind of thing (which it’s probably clear I do).
The Black Vote’s seemingly spiritual big brothers, Jersey’s Bulletproof were on fine form tonight (when are they not?) as they tore through half an hour of politicised skacore punk in the way only they can.
With more heading onto the dancefloor now it was clear why they’ve gained such a following with a real rapport with the crowd, both old fans and newcomers alike, and by the end of the set many were shouting the words back at the band as brand new songs fitted in seamlessly alongside classics like Blood Stained Money and Jersey Hate and this seemed to be one of the bands that people had come to see at Fermain Fest.
The musical mood couldn’t really have shifted further from Bulletproof to Party In Paris who’s cabaret pop I have enjoyed when seeing them in the past. Tonight though they seemed to lack any sense of impact for me, though this may have come from their placement straight after the swift kick to the head that are the Jersey punks.
Despite my feelings the band really had the audience on side with the dancefloor now packed, if still somewhat static, but I couldn’t help feeling that, despite a few moments, and singer Gemma Honey’s best efforts, there seemed to be a sense of passion lacking in their set tonight.
The fire and energy on stage was certainly upped again with Lifejacket. Having been absent from the live scene for a while it was good to see them back and they certainly haven’t lost a step, with the intensity and world view that marked them as my best new band of 2011 still in full flow.
There may have been a couple of moments where their set didn’t go as smoothly as maybe they would have liked tonight but this all seemed to just add fuel to fire and make them a truly musically exciting and, for Guernsey at least, unique live prospect that succeeded in keeping the Fermain Fest crowd, both fans and newcomers to the band, enthralled throughout.
From a band we’d not seen in a while to one currently making regular live appearances it was Bright_Lights’ time to fill the Tav with their electro-rock noise.
Once again they played a great, tight set to an enthusiastic crowd who by now were packing the dancefloor of the venue, despite not actually dancing a great deal, and I think their music certainly contains such a mix of styles there is potentially something in there for almost everyone, though for me, once again, I was struck by the distance they maintain from the audience in terms of charisma and connection which left tonight’s set feeling a little on the cold side.
The first Fermain Fest was rounded off by Tantale, a band who’ve certainly had a solid upward trajectory over the last couple of years, tonight however, seemed to be something of a misstep on that path.
While some bands suit a rough and ready approach, Tantale aren’t one of them and this marred their usually slick sound tonight as they also seemed to lose the connection with the audience which I’ve seen them display previously.
Tantale also seemed to suffer from something that I’ve mentioned in the past which is audiences leaving before the last band, there are many things this could be put down to but still seems odd to me.
Anyway, despite that the first Fermain Fest was certainly a success showcasing some of the best bands on offer in Guernsey and seemingly introducing many of them to an audience who hadn’t seen them before.