Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Wildhearts, Baby Chaos and Hey Hello – Shepherds Bush Empire – 25/09/15

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

Six years to the week since I last saw them, and at the same venue, I eagerly headed into the Shepherds Bush Empire to help The Wildhearts (and around 2,000 fans and friends) celebrate the 20th anniversary of their much-acclaimed second album – P.H.U.Q.

Before that though, with the venue already nice and busy, Wildhearts’ frontman Ginger’s newest band, Hey! Hello! started things off with their mix of spiky, punky guitars with pop harmonies.

Featuring a new line up since the release of their debut album the sound remained exactly what you’d expect and it seemed to me Hollis J was far more suited to the rock show setting than her predecessor with a voice to match.

While Hollis was whipping the crowd into a frenzy, bass player Toshi was all over the stage and Ginger, while comparatively static, was clearly having a great time as many in the crowd sang the words back to this new band.

Hollis of Hey! Hello!

Hollis of Hey! Hello!

The set predominantly drew on their first album, but a few new songs showed there is plenty more to come, including the announcement of a new album.

Ending the short but sweet set on Swimwear many in the audience were calling for more and it seems Ginger has once again hit on a magic musical formula redefining just what pop-rock can mean in a world of bland mediocrity.

Second support on the tour were a band who first toured with The Wildhearts back in the mid-90s but called it a day in the late-90s, Baby Chaos.

Back together, and with a new album, the Scottish quartet delivered a sound firmly placed in that much overlooked time for British rock that married elements of Therapy? and Placebo with a truck load of thunderous riffs.

Baby Chaos

Baby Chaos

While clearly a bit more accustomed to smaller venues than this big old concert hall, the band’s huge sound more than filled the space and their genuine enthusiasm for being back on stage was infectious winning many new fans (myself included) while delighting their die-hard followers and excellently setting the stage for what was to come.

As soon as the opening bars of The Wildhearts‘ I Wanna Go Where The People Go rang out from Ginger and CJ’s guitars the positive atmosphere in the Shepherds Bush Empire jumped even further and didn’t let up for the next hour and three-quarters.

On record P.H.U.Q. is a tour-de-force album that spans styles and moods somewhat like a mid-90s, cocaine fuelled, Abbey Road-era Beatles record with a chip on its shoulder. Live it took on something of a new aspect as every track became a kind of celebration with everyone in the venue, from the band on stage to those in the upper circle, and even astonishingly hard-working roadie Dunc, getting in on the action of singing, dancing and reveling in a unique and classic set of songs.

CJ Wildheart

CJ Wildheart

One of the things I love about The Wildhearts is the sense of unpredictability they bring with them, any fan of the band can tell you stories of gigs that have descended into a kind of chaos as well as shows that have reached a special kind of height.

Thankfully this one was of the latter and is probably the best outing I’ve experienced from the band. The first half of the set was a run through of P.H.U.Q. with highlights coming in the opener, Baby Strange, Nita Nitro, Jonesing For Jones, Whoa Shit You Got Through, Be My Drug and Getting It with the audience’s singing and interaction being as much a part of the show as the band’s performance on stage.

After a brief break the band were back tearing through a set of ‘hits’ from their other albums spanning everything from Don’t Be Happy Just Worry to Chutzpah and once again every song was a mass singalong.

Ginger and Dunc

Ginger and Dunc

With Anthem from Endless, Nameless getting a rare a well received outing alongside crowd-pleasers like Weekend and Geordie In Wonderland the whole thing reached a climax with Ginger’s homage to his heroes 29x The Pain (complete with Ritch Battersby leaving his place behind the drums for ‘the duck song’) as sheer positivity flowed through the whole place as we headed out into the night.

As a celebration goes no show has quite reached the level of pure enjoyment for me that this one did tonight, in fact I’d put it up with the best music events I’ve been to (alongside Rancid at Brixton in 1996). It showed that, for a band who’ve been together for the best part of three decades, they can still put on a high energy show that connects with an audience and, while looking back, it didn’t feel like a simple nostalgia show.

So, Fishing For Luckies in two years then?

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Neil Innes, Ushti Baba and Buffalo Huddleston – The Fermain Tavern – 19/09/15

Neil Innes at The Fermain Tavern

Neil Innes

For this year’s Guernsey Literary Festival music event, following on from the like of Attila The Stockbroker, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Ruts DC in the past, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band founder and general musical surrealist Neil Innes played The Fermain Tavern along with Bristol’s Ushti Baba and Guernsey’s own Buffalo Huddleston.

The show formed part of the wider festival that saw various guests including Will Self, Jack Straw and Helen Lederer giving talks and readings around the island.

You can see a gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 26th September.

Neil Innes, Buffalo Huddleston, Ushti Baba review - 26:09:15

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2015 – Elliot Falla Session and Vale Earth Fair Review

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla in session

Click here to listen to the show

With the 2015 summer festival season coming to an end for the September edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I looked back on the islands’ longest running festival, the Vale Earth Fair.

We spoke to Of Empires, To The Woods and main stage compere Grant Sharkey and had music from Lifejacket, Thee Jenerators and Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons as well.

As well as that Elliot Falla came into the studio to record an acoustic session and tell me about his debut EP.

You can download to the show for the next four weeks on the BBC iPlayer Radio App or stream it through the iPlayer website but clicking here.

Tracklist

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Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor

I don’t normally do reviews of individual episodes of a series but I’m making an exception in this case as, not only am I a huge fan of Doctor Who (historically at least), but this new season has something of a ‘make or break’ feel for me.

To put that into some context, I found the last season (8 by the new timeline), the first to feature Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, more than a bit disappointing.

With the exception of the Missy revelation there is little from it that has stuck in my mind a year later and I was left with the feeling that with this and Sherlock show runner Stephen Moffat may have taken on more than one man could deal with, leading to Doctor Who becoming somewhat like high profile fan fiction.

Doctor Who - A mysterious boy

A mysterious boy

In the build up to this season I had found my interest somewhat lacking as the powers that be in BBC’s marketing department seemed to be relying on revealing major plot points as a way of keeping us interested.

Inevitably they have ended up ‘spoilering’ a few key aspects of the story before it even started. So, I came to the new episode, The Magician’s Apprentice, more than a little doubtful.

Starting off with a rather traditional Doctor Who looking setting that could easily have been a quarry in Wales (and I really hope that at least some of it was) the pre-credits sequence managed, in one line that I won’t spoil here, to generate more intrigue than the entire last season combined and had me hooked.

The DoctorFrom there we got some back and forth with companion Clara, back at home on Earth, and UNIT while an inventive looking new kind of creature hunted for the Doctor.

To talk much more of plot details would be something of a spoiler, but suffice to say there was quite a lot to take in that I hope gets at least some kind of explanation as the series goes on.

The middle section of the episode did revert back slightly to some of the directionlessness and gimmickry of the previous season, but that was soon dealt with and the sense of intrigue returned with a further nod to the past, including a brief glimpse of Tom Baker’s Doctor.

Tom Baker's Doctor

Tom Baker’s Doctor faces a dilemma

As the episode drew to a close, on both a big ethical cliffhanger for The Doctor and a wider storyline cliffhanger, I was left with much more positive feelings than I’ve had for the show in a while.

A lot still remains to be seen in how these big set ups are dealt with going forward, and if it all succumbs to the same lack of direction as the last season, but for an opening episode The Magician’s Apprentice had a lot of good points that I hope mean we are in for a more engaging and controlled show again, like Doctor Who can be at its best.

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A summer of music in Guernsey 2015

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

As we head into autumn and all the outdoor music of the events seem to be rounding both nationally and in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, I thought I’d take the chance to look back over a packed summer of shows highlighted by the islands’ three big festivals, but with a lot more besides.

May

The first big outdoor event took place as spring turned into summer back in May, as Guernsey celebrated the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day. Along with the traditional cavalcade along the St Peter Port seafront and events in all the parishes, live music formed a cornerstone of the event with the Vale Earth Fair putting on their now annual show at The Last Post in St Andrews and the JT Rocks ‘mini-festival’ taking place on North Beach.

The Recks on Liberation Day 2015

The Recks

Being a show of two halves JT Rocks showcased some of the best talent the island has to offer in front of a big audience, with the first half of the event featuring some of the islands’ top original bands in Asylum Seekas, Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks and Static Alice.

The second half of the show, meanwhile, presented two of the top cover bands from Guernsey in Fade2Grey and King Rat & The Soul Cats.

Read more about JT Rocks on Liberation Day here

June

Moving into June and the annual Arts Sunday event featured a wealth of live music including the first BBC Introducing Guernsey live stage featuring Rentoclean, Buffalo Huddleston, Blue Mountains and Chloe Le Page.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

June was rounded off by the first of the big festivals, Chaos. Taking place in a few fields up at Pleinmont and featuring a broad mix of local and visiting acts.

Though somewhat scaled back this year, Chaos offered something of a return to its old atmosphere alongside the music.

This included headliners Robert J. Hunter, Stormbringer and FlashMob with highlight sets across both the main stage and The Peace Tent from Buffalo Huddleston, To The Woods, The Electric Shakes and Lord Vapour.

Read more about Chaos XI here

The same weekend as Chaos Guernsey’s Robyn Sherwell took to the BBC Introducing Stage at the Glastonbury Festival representing BBC Introducing in Guernsey.

July

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

A week after Chaos, July got going with the second big summer show, Sark Folk Festival.

Having sold out in minutes last November there was a huge sense of anticipation and the festival certainly didn’t disappoint with more international acts rubbing shoulders with bands from around the Channel Islands.

Highlights of the folk festival included Robert J. Hunter, The Recks, Buffalo Huddleston, Clameur De Haro and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine while The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers delivered an inspiring, semi-busking, set.

Read more about Sark Folk Festival here

As the month rolled on BLAKALASKA released their debut EP with a show at The Fermain Tavern featuring an astonishing performance by Falenizza Horsepower while the Vale Earth Fair headed down to Rocquaine for their annual stage at the Rocquaine Regatta with Toby Falla, The Space Pirates, Ukuladeez and French visitors Les Matous.

August

Richey Powers of The Recks

Richey Powers of The Recks

August started out with The Recks completing a mini-tour of the Channel Islands with back-to-back shows in Sark, Guernsey and Jersey as they warmed up for an appearance at Boomtown festival in the UK, following outings earlier in the summer at the Isle of Wight Festival and Jersey’s Folklore.

This was followed by a weekend of big gigs at The Vault with the return of Gay Army one night and Stone Em All launching their new EP with a show alongside Lord Vapour the next.

Guernsey’s annual traditional summer shows also featured a wealth of live music this year including The Recks and Buffalo Huddleston putting in great sets at The North Show.

For the 39th year the Vale Earth Fair took over Vale Castle for the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend to present what was one of the best of their festivals I’ve attended. The main stage was headlined by hip-hop legends Jungle Brothers while my highlights came in the form of Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons, Thee Jenerators, Lifejacket and Of Empires rounding off my 2015 festival season on a real high.

Read more about The Vale Earth Fair here

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons

With other festivals and big shows including Chateau Du Son, Dynamicz, Elevate and Smaashfest, amongst others, 2015 has possibly been the biggest summer yet for music in Guernsey with some big names appearing at all the events.

Once again it seems the summer really belonged to Buffalo Huddleston with storming performances in Sark and at Chaos, as well as at other shows including Jersey’s Folklore festival and packing local pubs like hasn’t been seen in a long time.

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Lifejacket, To The Woods, Paper Saints and Ollie Goddard – The Vault – 12/09/15

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

While Jersey celebrated Pride and the Proms were playing on the Pier the Leo Club of Guernsey put on a show at The Vault in St Peter Port to raise money for Grow Limited and Guernsey Mind.

First on stage was Ollie Goddard, frontman of indie rockers Coastal Fire Dept., in acoustic solo mode. Playing a selection of ‘covers’ of the band he fronts, along with a Pixies number or two, he played with a sense of conviction that showed these songs come from a very real place.

While most in The Vault seemed content to treat it as background music, those watching and listening were given a good show – but I couldn’t help thinking the songs would be taken to a new level with a full band behind them.

Things took a turn for the poppy as Paper Saints took to the stage. This was my first time catching the band that evolved from the now defunct Party In Paris and, while the have retained the pop vibe, it now comes with a much more synth heavy flavour.

Paper Saints

Paper Saints

With the music lead primarily by Toby Boucher’s keyboard, and with an electronic drum kit and occasional saxophone, it was like taking a trip to the 80s, but unfortunately without the energy of the like of Depeche Mode, Eurythmics or Yazoo.

While the band, for the most part, all delivered their parts well it was hard to escape the slow pace of the songs that led to whole set feeling a bit on the flat side and failed to show any member in their best light. The distraction of a mid-set raffle announcement didn’t really help matters either.

The music couldn’t have been much more different next with To The Woods firing off on their return to the bars of St Peter Port after their performance at the White Hart earlier in the summer. It seemed frontman Bobby Battle was in confrontational mode, despite most of the crowd actually being on his side this time round, and while their were fireworks in the sky outside he brought his own to his band’s performance.

To The Woods

To The Woods

Despite this the band’s usual, positive energy wasn’t far away as Battle relaxed into the set, including a mid song drinks order over the stage-side bar, while James Ogier was even more animated on stage and Dan Garnham looked more like a barely contained drumming animal behind the venue’s much discussed drum screen.

While the audience drifted somewhat (possibly due to the Proms’ fireworks display outside) most returned by the end and even got a brief mosh pit going to round off another storming set in To The Woods’ journey to their upcoming double album release next month.

After another brief charity raffle announcement post-rockers Lifejacket hit the stage with the more focused approach they showed at the Vale Earth Fair still solidly intact. From the start they blitzed through the set with high-speed and huge energy that has always typified their music.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

While the crowd initially drifted again, possibly due to the tonal change, as the set went on they warmed to it while Lifejacket were at their most engaging with Andy Sauvage’s focused, intense delivery backed up by a loose and relaxed John McCarthy on bass and the powerful drums of Claire Mockett.

A brand new song near the end of the set typified all that has become Lifejacket’s sound, showing a band developing strongly but still keeping their essence intact. Set closer Yacht Shoes brought things to an end with a wall of distorted sound all of which seemed to go down very well with both the crowd and the staff of the bar.

Being a charity show of course one of the main aims, as well as showcasing some great music, was to raise some money and over the course of the evening more than £800 was raised for Grow Limited and Guernsey Mind making it a successful night all round and another great example of alternative music getting heard in St Peter Port.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

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Against Me! – 23 Live Sex Acts

Against Me - 23 Live Sex Acts album coverLive albums come in a few different flavours; there are those that are cynical cash-ins on a band’s moment in the spotlight, those that come when the band seem incapable of recording a new studio album, those that are so overdubbed they may as well be a new studio album and those that are so under produced they are almost unlistenable.

Along with these come the very few that sound like they are genuinely intended to capture a moment and do so in a way raw enough to sound live but also well produced enough to be listenable. On their new live album, 23 Live Sex Acts, Against Me! succeed in delivering something that thankfully falls into this latter camp.

Recorded during the 2014 tour for their critically acclaimed Transgender Dysphoria Blues album at the fabulous named ‘Gritty Clit’ in Kiev, Indiana things start as they mean to go on with an insistent, marching drum beat and an announcement from frontwoman Laura Jane Grace stating, very matter of factly, that its time to “Fuck shit up”.

Laura Jane Grace of Against Me

Laura Jane Grace

This ‘never mind the bollocks’ attitude is something that has typified Grace’s public demeanour for the last couple of years and its great to hear it here. Whether she’s delivering socially and politically powerful songs, clearly having a good time with the crowd or berating the venue security her presence is astonishing, even in simple audio.

On top of this she delivers a (for to the point punk rock) varied vocal performance that is as impassioned as they come and still retains a hint of the more hardcore style the band’s early albums displayed alongside the cleaner tones of more recent material.

She’s ably backed by her right hand man and guitarist James Bowman who’s the only other member to be with the band since their first album and here provides backing vocals and extra guitar sounds that work to deepen the sound of the songs live so they match those on the more production heavy albums and with bassist Inge Johannson vocals add a gang dynamic to proceedings.

Atom Willard of Against Me

Atom Willard

With Johannson’s sped up rock ‘n’ roll bass and Atom Willard’s similarly styled, driving drums, the sound of the band is tight as they come as they deliver a sound that spans pop-punk singalong to distorted noise inflected moments and everything in between.

While the band is as precise as punk rock gets and the songs are one of the finest selections you’ll find, what really makes this album work is its vitality. Throughout the performance is tremendously high energy, as you’d expect, but what really stands out is that the rough edges haven’t been tidied up.

During New Wave, for example, Grace stops the song to challenge security on their attempt to eject someone from the show and, of course, the crowd is on her side, while later on you can hear her voice straining around Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ and How Low both things that on some albums would have been removed or tidied up, but here are left intact and help make the record.

Laura Jane Grace of Against Me

Laura Jane Grace

The set list is a career spanning one and as close to a ‘greatest hits’ set as a band with no chart ‘hits’ could get, while also drawing heavily on the latest album. Highlights include Pints of Guinness Make You Strong, True Trans Soul Rebel, High Pressure Low, Black Me Out and the more considered but hugely powerful set closer The Ocean that comes with a new sense of poignancy following Grace’s more recent life events.

A two song encore rounds of the album in upbeat style, including a well captured mass singalong, completing a set that lives up to the reviews of Against Me’s recent gigs and makes for one of the most honest and enjoyable live records I’ve heard.

Photos by Scott Nathanson at SFL Onstage.

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Vale Earth Fair 2015 – 30/08/15

Jungle Brothers at Vale Earth Fair

Jungle Brothers

For the 39th year the Vale Earth Fair took over the Vale Castle on Sunday 30th August.

The Channel Island’s longest running music festival has long had a reputation for the breadth of music it offers and this year was no different with everything from psytrance to house to hip hop to groove metal all having their place on the bill across the 12 hour event.

My review of the festival was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th September and you can read an extended version of that beneath the cutting below.

You can also see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Facebook page.

Vale Earth Fair review shot - 05:09:15

Extended Review

As the sun shone down and marathon runners snaked past I made my way up the hill to Vale Castle last Sunday lunchtime for this year’s Vale Earth Fair where, over 12 hours, more than 60 bands, musicians and DJs would be appearing across six stages.

Ukuladeez

Ukuladeez

With one of the strongest local line ups in years bolstering headline acts Jungle Brothers and Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate from the off their was a sense of positivity and anticipation across the site that continued all day.

Live music got underway first on the Busking Stage at the bottom of the castle hill with Ukuladeez. Though they were slightly drowned out by the somewhat overbearing breaks ‘n’ beats stage (this would be balanced as the afternoon went on) their small crowd still enjoyed the tunes, though the early slot did seem to sap some of their usual joie de vivre.

The Stage Against The Machine was next to get going with a showcase for a couple of acts from the School of Popular Music. Jesse Byrne is a young solo acoustic singer-songwriter who, while a bit standard, certainly seemed to have the musical skill to grow into something good.

The Bone Idols

The Bone Idols

He was followed by an exceptionally young rock band, The Bone Idols, who sounded great for a first full public gig (even without a bass guitar), with their mix of covers that would already put some established cover bands I’ve witnessed to shame. And it’s always good to see a new female performer with some attitude, in this case their drummer.

As people began to find their spots inside the castle Schema welcomed them with their mix of funky jams. This was my first time catching the quartet since their recent reformation and, while not much has changed, their laid back approach was a nicely relaxed way to start the day and caught the general Earth Fair vibe very well while the band looked like they were having a great time on stage which was very infectious.

After a successful return at Chaos earlier in the summer, indie three-piece Fly Casual returned to the Earth Fair on the Stage Against The Machine and drew quite a crowd for the early hour. Despite fighting some sound issues the trio sounded great and gone was the nostalgia that marked their last outing leaving just some really good songs in its place that was the first of many highlight performances across the day.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

Fly Casual were quickly followed by the currently very busy Lord Vapour who did exactly what they’ve been doing all summer in drawing a crowd down to the front and delivering loose, groovy hard rock.

On this bigger stage their lordships may have lost a little of the atmosphere that has marked their previous gigs, but it still sounded great and everyone on and off stage seemed to have a great time.

After a storming headlining slot at Chaos and a highlight set at Sark Folk Festival it felt a bit odd seeing Robert J. Hunter and his band quite so early on the bill today. That didn’t deter the dirty blues three-piece though as they delivered a tight and lively set that had a few grooving along in front of the stage while others lazed in the still present sun.

Once again both Rob and the band continued to demonstrate the growth that near constant gigging leads to showing they have really grown into their sound and style to become a full package of a band to rival any blues band I’ve seen.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Back on the Stage Against The Machine things got bouncy as Honest Crooks brought their brand of politico-ska-punk to the day.

Fitting in perfectly with what makes the Earth Fair what it is, the band continued their run of great shows that have built them a dedicated and energetic following who were skanking throughout.

Even with the slight misstep of an under rehearsed new song (complete with kazoo filling in for the band’s long searched for brass section) Raddy, Cheese and Andy’s mix of well-known covers and originals made them the first band to get a dedicated crowd dancing as the fog began to roll in.

While Bonsai Pirates brought their upbeat acoustic, pirate themed tunes to the main stage, late booking Gay Army stormed the castle walls outside. With their insistent, urgent post-punk indie rock in full force they drew the biggest crowd yet, though typically for a mid-afternoon audience they were appreciative if not too energetic. Rolls Reilly soon made up for this though with his ever-flamboyant performance as the four-piece showed they are well and truly back on the battlefield.

Jack Fletcher of Of Empires

Jack Fletcher of Of Empires

One of the most anticipated bands of the day strutted onto the Castle Stage next looking every bit the super cool rock ‘n’ rollers they are in black denim and leather and shades, it was Of Empires.

Marking their first performance back in Guernsey since last year’s Earth Fair it was clear the now Brighton-based band were very happy to be back and on the big stage.

Frontman Jack Fletcher owned the space like a kind of more interesting Bono, while guitarist Matt Berry showed he has grown immeasurably as a performer (he was already an outstanding guitarist) as they grooved their way through a set of predominantly new material.

With their swagger and style backing up their great songs they showed all the makings of future event headliners and, ending on older favourite Carla, made for a powerful finish that started the festival’s evening of rock ‘n’ roll excellently.

That rock ‘n’ roll swiftly continued in garage-y form as Thee Jenerators blasted onto the stage. Taking us from the precision of Of Empires to a kind of visceral ‘raw power’ the crowd were popping from the start and new single Daddy Bones really elevated the energy in the castle to a new level.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Frontman Mark Le Gallez takes to these bigger shows like a duck to water and really gave us a show today as he appeared bedecked in yet more black denim and leather and with his hair slicked into a widows peak (appropriate for newer number Bela Lugosi) while bass man Jo Reeve expanded his energetic on stage repertoire to include swinging from the rigging!

Having only seen this version of the band in pubs it was good to see they can still bring it on a festival stage and really energise the Earth Fair’s afternoon crowd and get them ready for an evening of dancing even as the cloud and fog rolled in, in earnest.

After a bit of a break to enjoy some of the festival’s ‘famous’ vegan lightning burgers (it was a good year for them this year) the rock ‘n’ roll vibe continued with Jersey’s premier trashmen, The Cryptics.

The Cryptics

The Cryptics

While more aloof than the preceding bands their mix of great songs and ‘cool’ is hard to fault as the ever-charismatic Screamin’ Jonny Moth owned the stage while GTO brought the Detroit inspired guitar sound.

The highlights of their set came at its conclusion with a song with the excellent chorus of ‘Hey Devil, I love you cus you’re evil’ followed by Black Lucy and a blistering run at MC5’s Kick Out The Jams.

Rhythm and blues driven post-punk was on order next from Londoners, The November Five. While they suffered from a distant audience, many of whom had headed inside the castle, they delivered an effective set that grew into a genuinely powerful wall of sound with some real fire behind it.

Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate

Sekou Kouyate and Joe Driscoll

The reason that many had headed to the main stage was the return of Earth Fair favourite Joe Driscoll. Having first played the festival in 2006 after being discovered by The Get Down’s DJ Oneofakind, this year saw him return with a full band co-led by Guinea’s Sekou Kouyate.

Delivering a vast expansion on Driscoll’s usual solo guitar loop and MC work their funky rhythms had possibly the day’s biggest crowd moving and grooving. Particularly fascinating about this set was the kora being played by Kouyate that added a new sound to the mix that I’d never heard before, this combined well with Driscoll’s guitar and MCing and created something unique and highly engaging.

Following a few impressive sky illuminating blasts of lightning the heavens opened as Lifejacket took to the Stage Against The Machine and the audience grew and packed down to the front. Undeterred by the rain blowing into their faces the post-rock three-piece delivered they most focused set to date with a large amount of newer material rubbing shoulders with songs from their debut album which was getting its physical release marked here.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

The new songs develop on the blistering intensity of the old with chief songwriter Andy Sauvage showing further inventiveness within his chosen genre while being an intense frontman. To this was added a newly broadened but still distinctly ‘Lifejacket’ set of beats from drummer Moxie while John McCarthy’s precise, distinctive bass lines stood alongside his more fun-loving on stage demeanour.

All this culminated in a career best performance from the band that shows they have a lot more to offer and that went down exceptionally well with the crowd who stuck around and grew no matter how soaked they might be getting.

Jungle Brothers

Jungle Brothers

While Lifejacket rocked outside the castle, this year’s headliners hit the main stage and the rapidly dampening audience (some complete with umbrellas) soon got bouncing to the dance-y hip-hop sound of Jungle Brothers. As always for Earth Fair headliners the crowd were into it throughout and the performers responded in kind making for the kind of huge atmosphere only the Vale Earth Fair manages to deliver in Guernsey.

The rock ‘n’ roll returned to the Stage Against The Machine for the day’s visiting headliners, Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons.

Having wowed the crowd at the De La Rue the night before, the Basingstoke based three-piece wasted no time doing the same at the main event as vocalist (and occasional guitarist) Puss Johnson, bedecked in full cat attire, led the trio through a set of powerful, posturing ‘dirty rock ‘n’ roll’.

Puss merged the stage presence of the likes of Joan Jett and The Cramps into a perfect package with great vocals, knowing lyrics and a real star quality. In many bands a costume like this would feel like a gimmick, but here it was backed up by the music and performance to create something natural, genuine and unique.

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Puss was backed by Dirty Jake and Filfy Antz who musically matched their leader and each brought their own vibe to the set creating a fresh take on an old sound that drew a big crowd that Puss took the time to go and meet face to face several times during the set, in all making them my, and many others, top visiting band of the day with calls having already begun to get them back over to the island.

Having spent the last few years building quite a reputation the honour of closing the Stage Against The Machine fell to To The Woods this year and, as they stepped onto the stage to WWE wrestlers’ D-Generation X’s theme song, it was clear they had every intention of stealing the show.

To The Woods

To The Woods

For the following 45 minutes they proceeded to do exactly what they’ve become known for, delivering blistering grunge rock as Robert ‘Bobby’ Battle led the trio as only he can while Dan Garnham provided the pounding driving force from behind the drums. Here that led to the days only full on mosh pit and even an attempted wall of death!

While they may not have stolen the show To The Woods certainly brought things to an impressive climax and rounded off a day where Guernsey’s musicians showed they can more than hold their own alongside visiting acts as part of an event that rounded off the island’s festival season on a major high.

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