Each year the so-called ‘music scene’ of the Bailiwick of Guernsey evolves and fluctuates, much like its international counterpart, but within its own little microcosm, and 2014 was no different.
The year started out with The Recks still riding high, following their supreme run throughout 2013, and they often-eclipsed visiting headliners as well as other locally based acts at live shows. This was particularly evident when they supported Babyhead in March and were part of the Triplestoked events in April.
Another band who rode high during the first half of the year were youngsters, Francisco. Hitting their stride as the year started they seemed poised to be the Guernsey band to watch for the foreseeable future as they played support to The Hoosiers at the final Triplestoked event and staged their own well-supported record launch. However that show, and their debut EP It’s Not Over Yet, marked the end of the band as wanderlust and university beckoned and they headed off in their own ways, leaving many wondering what could have been.
Francisco were far from the only band putting out recordings this year with The Crowman’s second album The Resurrection of Blind Jack Lazarus, Burg’s solo debut Leave This Town and Last of the Light Brigade’s Last Laugh all appearing during the first half of the year.
Neckbeard’s take on doom metal saw them win the Channel Island’s leg of the Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses events, gaining them a slot at the festival in August along with rave reviews from around the world for their album, From The Clutches Of Oblivion.
Meanwhile, Ukuladeez sheer exuberance and upbeat tunes got them a slot at The Edge of the Sea festival in Brighton following the release of their debut The Awesome Adventures Of The Girls With The Tiny Guitars.
Summer was, of course, festival season with Chaos, Sark Folk Festival and the Vale Earth Fair all bringing their share of highlights.
Chaos was first at the end of June celebrating its 10th anniversary with visiting acts Therapy? and [Spunge] impressing all, while local power metallers Nemesis bid farewell (for the time being). The real highlights came lower down the bill though as To The Woods marked their territory as a band firmly on the rise, The Recks stormed The Peace Tent and Buffalo Huddleston got the usually quiet Sunday afternoon of the festival jumping.
The Sark Folk Festival followed the next weekend and once again the varied line up was packed with highlights. Amongst those was the annual Recks homecoming set which, this year, happened late on Sunday morning and brought what could have been a subdued crowd to life closely followed by visiting act CC Smugglers who played what, might not only have been set of the weekend, but one of the best sets I remember seeing all year.
Buffalo Huddleston again pulled out something special with their Saturday afternoon set that, following their outing at Chaos, set them on a path that would roll through to the end of the year where they seemed to not put a foot wrong and become the biggest band in Guernsey, with particularly impressive performances at many gigs including their own album launch (alongside CC Smugglers) and the very impressive debut album itself, Sunrise.
The Vale Earth Fair was again packed with some great performances across its six stages with highlights coming from The Get Down endorsed The Mouse Outfit, Robert J. Hunter, The Recks, Buffalo Huddleston (once again), Birmingham’s Dead Sea Skulls and, making their return to a Guernsey stage, Of Empires.
The second half of the year saw Of Empires take things to a new level as, shortly after their appearance at the Earth Fair, they released their debut EP Stranger Sensations. This gained a lot of positive response from across the world and, in early December, saw them named as the unsigned band to watch in 2015 by MTV Brand New.
Another band who put out a debut record, in this case a full album, later in the year were Static Alice. Having gigged seemingly almost every weekend at various venues around the island, they were certainly one of the busiest bands of the year and, with their take on pop-rock as heard on The Ghost of Common Sense it was clear to see why.
Other records released in the second half of the year included debuts from The Electric Shakes (a Bournemouth based act featuring former Jenerator, Steven Lynch) and Raptor Shack, a young band who pulled together a fairly disparate group of influences to make an infectiously enjoyable rock EP, The Wild.
Another vinyl release came from Mura Masa who, though now more based in the UK due to university, was born and raised in Guernsey and had his debut, Soundtrack To A Death released through Jakarta Records and also appeared on Jo Wiley’s show on BBC Radio 2 where his song Shibuya was track of the week.
Another major highlight in the raft of debut albums from 2014 came from Lifejacket. Perfectly capturing their cynical, abrasive form of indie post-rock, Let’s Get This Out Of Our System And Move On was a real treat of a listen.
With more than a year gigging regularly in London, and occasionally back in Guernsey, Alderney’s Robert J. Hunter seemed to start hitting pay dirt in 2014 as he was picked up by Spectra Records and the same booking agency as the likes of Morrisey, Lit and Kings of Leon before his debut single, Demons, entered the iTunes UK Blues Chart at number one in December.
The year was rounded off by a few highlight gigs including the return of Last of the Light Brigade, following a lengthy break after the release of Last Laugh. The Risk made a one-off Christmas outing celebrating their 30th birthday and their inclusion on the Millions Like Us compilation and, rounding off 2014 on a big bang, the Vale Earth Fair brought Dead Sea Skulls back to lay waste to The Fermain Tavern alongside SugarSlam, To The Woods and Robert J. Hunter on the last weekend of the year.
Special mention also has to go to The Get Down, and its main organiser DJ Oneofakind, who held some of the most successful nights of the year at The Fermain Tavern and brought over some big names. As well as The Mouse Outfit, The Get Down featured Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde and Jurassic 5’s Chali 2NA before rounding off the year with the launch of the new album from Asylum Seekas.
With these just being some of my personal highlights of 2014, 2015 has got a lot to live up to as, once again, for an island of 60,000(ish) people, Guernsey proved to be punching well above its weight when it comes to new music. This is, of course, all thanks to the hard work and dedication of a lot of people; from the artists and musicians who make the music to those who run the venues and the technical people who make it all loud.