Every year the Vale Earth Fair takes over the Vale Castle for 12 hours of music on the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend, but, around that weekend, loads of other gigs take place as warm ups and wind downs from the main festival.
One such gig took place at The Fermain Tavern the night before the Earth Fair as The Future Shock presented US rockers Jonny Lives! alongside Guernsey’s Lifejacket and The Crowman and Jersey’s Any Given Sunday.
The night started out with The Crowman, as always accompanied on violin and some backing vocals by the Pixie aka Emma Weldon. Switching between banjo, acoustic guitar and electric resonator guitar The Crowman was on fine form tonight with a selection of new songs due to appear on an upcoming new album, alongside some of his now more familiar numbers.
The highlights of his set came from two directions, first were the couple of slower numbers where Emma added backing vocals which showed off a side of The Crowman’s songwriting often lost in the more rock ‘n’ roll aspects of his other songs with the extra vocals adding a real new depth to his sound. Secondly was a couple of those more rock ‘n’ roll numbers with the resonator sounding better than ever so Mystery Train, which pays tribute to many influential musicians from Kurt Cobain to Dave Fuller, and The Cramps-esque Lucifer Lady which rounded off the set which went down well with the small crowd.
I guess this is an appropriate point to mention the ‘crowd’. Being the night before the Earth Fair, and with so many other gigs, both VEF related and not, going on, the Tavern was disappointingly quiet tonight so the atmosphere was sadly lacking across the night despite the best efforts of all four acts.
Any Given Sunday are a four piece from Jersey but for tonight were playing an acoustic three-piece version of their usual show. Mixing funky bass lines with intricate guitar work and some great upbeat vocals they managed to get a few of the more enthusiastic people at the Tav moving while it seemed everyone else was more quietly enjoying the show.
The closest thing I could compare them too locally would be Pushang, but with more rapped vocals and beatboxing, which is what really made their already good sound come to life tonight.
Once again tonight Lifejacket put their all into a show that saw the crowd drop possibly to the lowest point of the night, which I’ve yet to understand as once again their combination of blistering music and well constructed lyrics showed a band who put more thought into what they say on stage than most and play it with real passion. Tonight’s show in particular saw them blast through their set with more energy than I have seen from them in a while – now they just need Guernsey’s gig goers to catch up with them.
US rockers Jonny Lives! were up next and they are becoming familiar faces over here, especially bassist Marco Argiro and drummer Peter Landi who have visited the island several times with their band The Killing Floor.
Combining garage-y rock and new wave tinged pop in great style Jonny Lives! certainly attracted the biggest crowd of the night and got people dancing though the set itself seemed to get lost in technology a couple of times as Jonny Dubowsky had a few issues with effects – for the remainder of the set though he was a consummate frontman and guitarist and his songs seem custom-made for venues like the Tav, but ideally when they are packed.
Despite the small crowd, this show acted as a fine pre-cursor to what was to come the next day and certainly managed to get me in the mood for the festival, musically, if not atmospherically, speaking at least.