To say The Fermain Tavern stages a diverse range of live music has always been an understatement. Over just the last month or so this seems to have been even more the case from the garage rock ‘n’ roll of The Electric Shakes to internationally renowned hip-hop from Blackalicious and with a drum ‘n’ bass night thrown into the mix too things got even more eclectic for this night.
Organised by Flexagon, away from The Peace Tent banner he more often operates under, the night had a more serious tone, with more of a focus on the music being presented than the various other shenanigans associated with The Peace Tent, and it started out with iOS musician, Citizen-X.
As a relative newcomer to the live scene (in this form) every time Citizen-X takes to the stage his performance evolves, and this was no different.
This time, as well as his iPad, on which he creates and performs the music, he had a laptop on stage running the animations he had also created to go along with the songs on a screen which took up half the stage.
This led to the smoothest performance I’ve seen from Citizen-X in terms of the full product with the film aspect working much better with the music to create a more rounded package.
One track that particularly stood out in this sense was Metropolis which combined shots from Fritz Lang’s silent sci-fi classic with a hugely atmospheric soundscape-like track.
While this wasn’t music to fill the dancefloor, though a couple of the newer numbers do have a more dance music feel to them, Citizen-X received the best response I’ve seen him get yet from the audience making for an all round personal best of a set and it ended on a nice note of Spock in tribute to Leonard Nimoy.
A reduced, three-piece, version of Tantale were next on stage – short lead guitarist Louis Le Couteur who was busy lambing on his recently acquired farm. This led to a slightly imbalanced performance, as, while some tracks worked fine without the two guitars, others did seem to be missing something.
With various bits of between song noodling it took a while for the band to settle into a flow, but, when they did find their groove, their unique (for Guernsey) prog-ish grungey indie worked very well.
Once again they didn’t draw more than a couple of the more curious punters onto the dancefloor but that didn’t seem to effect them. Drummer Graham Duerden in particular came across as one of the most contented looking performers I’ve ever seen, genuinely enjoying and relishing his work behind the kit. This along with Matt Smart’s bass playing showed them to be one of the more overlooked rhythm sections in the island.
While Tantale seem to have lost the momentum they had a few years ago when they all but sold out the Tav for their debut album launch, there are still strong hints of some great material in their performance here, even if it was a bit hit and miss on this occasion.
After a bit of too-ing and fro-ing with their vast array of pedals and technical gizmos, Semu Ca took to the stage with a real air of anticipation in the Tavern, as it was clear a strong contingent had turned out very specifically for this Jersey two-piece.
The first half of the set was, unfortunately, marred somewhat by continuing technical problems but the duo of Dominic Pallot and Stefan Riccio did a great job of making it all work and continue as best they could.
Describing their sound is, for me at least, almost impossible as it combines pre-programmed drum loops with an array of live loops of bass, guitar, trombone, keys and vocals all delivered with a mind-boggling precision to create soundscapes so epic you’d think there were 10, 20 or more people making the sounds.
During this first half of the set I was left with the feeling that I wasn’t sure that the Tav was the ideal venue for the music as it seemed to me it would be more effective either in a very small intimate venue or completely the opposite, in a huge concert hall. That said, the sound system in the Tavern did do their music justice.
The second half of Semu Ca’s performance took a different turn as they treated us to three excerpts from their soundtrack to the 1922 Swedish film Haxan. With most of the technical issues resolved the sounds became darker, more brooding and more rhythmic and, if anything, even more layered.
Accompanied by some fine, subtle, use of lighting from Lloyd Helyer and clips of the film showing a ‘history’ of witchcraft and witch hunting the atmosphere became suitable oppressive, in the best of ways, and brought the night to an end on a real high that left me wanting to see Semu Ca perform their entire soundtrack with the film running (if you caught them doing just that at Branchage last year you are extremely lucky).
Due to Semu Ca’s earlier technical issues their set ran late leaving no time for Flexagon and Grram to make their live debut, but, other than that, this night of eclectic music was generally very enjoyable and continued to show the diversity of music on offer and being created around the Channel Islands.