It seemed perfectly fitting for Ukuladeez to launch their debut album, The Awesome Adventures Of The Girls With The Tiny Guitars, with something a bit different from a regular gig. So, on the longest day of the year, they and a collection of their family, friends and general well-wishers headed down to the Moulin Huet Tea Room for a tea party, with something a bit different.
The first thing that was a bit different for a sunny afternoon tea party was Guernsey’s own purveyor of garage-folk, The Crowman. Following a broken string early in the set which delayed things a little, he was soon back and bashing his way through a selection of songs from both of his albums and generally going down well with the growing audience.
Performing today without the Fiddling Pixie did make for an even more stripped back sound as she normally brings a sweeter tone with her backing vocals and violin to the Crowman’s insistently pounding guitar and rock ‘n’ roll singing. Nonetheless, he set the scene for the music to come and started the afternoon well.
Following an impromptu fly past by a visiting military helicopter, apparently piloted by the sister of one of the Ukuladeez, Jersey’s Esther Rose Parkes took to the stage along with Dan MacFarlane and Becky Hamilton.
It’s been a few years since I’ve had the pleasure of catching Esther live and I was far from disappointed today. Esther played a selection of folky stories and tales with two acoustic guitars and a violin, topped with her mesmerizing voice, that was smooth as silk but in a place where it felt like it could break at any moment, giving it an amazingly absorbing vulnerability.
While her sound, which with the addition of Dan’s second acoustic guitar really had an extra depth to most solo acoustic acts we hear, was perfectly suited to a sunny afternoon, there were moments where I thought it would work just as well in a, metaphorically smoky, club in the depths of night.
On top of this was a song called Pimped Out Toaster which went to prove Esther’s not all seriousness and earnestness and rounded things off well as the tea garden filled up for the afternoon’s main attraction.
Over the last few years Ukuladeez have shown some moments of being an enjoyable quirky band but, I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never quite got it. Well here they changed my mind as their vocal harmonies came together excellently and each member had their moments to shine be it on vocals, uke, harmonica or washboard, while the rest remained tight and “jangly”, in the best of ways.
What really stood out, as well as the performance, were the songs. They have developed from a few originals that felt like half-formed ideas into a fully rounded set of their own material (as evidenced by the existence of the album) that are lighthearted and fun and generally seem designed to lift the spirits in one way or another.
With extra instrumentation of violin and upright-bass, provided today by Becky Hamilton and Pip Orchard respectively, the sextet have become something genuinely enjoyably fun to listen to and watch and, with set closer Jammy Hands, show there’s a surreal edge to all this as well.
As everyone began their trek back up Moulin Huet hill I was left with the feeling that there really couldn’t have been a better meeting of music and location for this event and that Ukuladeez have become a great band and broken away from the hipster gimmickry they appeared to be based on in the past, and I’m now very much looking forward to listening to the album.