Monthly Archives: November 2015

Tantale and Grant Sharkey – De La Rue – 28/11/15

Tantale

Tantale

With storm Clodagh (apparently, who names these things?) battering Guernsey with gales and rain what else is there to do on a Saturday evening but head out for some live music? (Well I guess you could stay in and watch Saturday night TV but, other than Doctor Who, I’d suggest this is the more preferable option).

So, with that in mind the De La Rue in St Peter Port was my chosen destination to catch the final night of regular visitor Grant Sharkey’s latest tour along with Tantale who were showcasing their new album.

Despite the evident effects of “living out of a smart car” for the best parts of the last month, Grant Sharkey seemed far more relaxed on stage here in the more intimate surroundings of the town pub than the last few times I’ve caught him at The Fermain Tavern.

Grant Sharkey

Grant Sharkey

Over the course of those last few shows his act had worn somewhat thin for me and what I had once enjoyed as a smart, satirical, performer seemed to have become something of a hectoring presence lacking some of the humour for which he gained his reputation.

Here though, Grant seemed to have something of the old charm back so, while still focusing his gaze on satirical subjects it was, predominantly, with the satirical side firmly back in place.

Uncle Twinkle Fingers provided a dark view of the world’s mainstream media, the title referring to Rupert Murdoch in far from flattering ways, while I’m Sorry To Hear You’re A Racist took on even greater meaning when accompanied by a story about performing it to an audience including members of the EDL in Andover.

Grant created a surprisingly varied sound with just his double bass and stomp box expanding his solo sound more widely than in the past helping carry the one man show and the presence of a very on side and engaged audience helped the atmosphere further and, as the set came to an end with The Onesie Song the audience, who had already filled what passes for a dancefloor, were well warmed up and eager for more.

After a short break for some tunes from DJ Binary Reaper, Tantale hit the stage with a renewed sense of energy.

Tantale

Matt and Graham of Tantale

With new album Just Add Vice having dropped in the previous week the alt-rock four-piece seemed to have regained the energy and excitement they had when they launched their debut album with a packed show at The Fermain Tavern three years ago.

The new songs sounded great in the live environment with more of a full on rock edge than the albums prog-y twists but with some of the psychedelic twists still in place that got heads nodding and a few bodies moving on the dancefloor.

Go To Get Gone and The Question stood out as a particularly good double-header earlier in the set, between them displaying the various sounds Tantale work in with real dynamics existing from the short, high energy former to the more developed and varied latter.

Tantale

Steve and Louis of Tantale

As the set went on the energy of the performance seemed to wane slightly and the band’s occasional, somewhat frustrating, on stage persona began to return, however as they neared the end of the set the positivity returned leading to a climax of Coming Home from debut album The Known Elements that left many in the still busy pub calling for more.

With more gigs coming up to showcase Just Add Vice Tantale are taking a different approach to launching their new album and I would strongly advise that, if slightly psychedelic grunge rock are your think they will be well worth catching between now and Christmas.

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

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: November 2015 – To The Woods, Tantale and Sound Guernsey

To The Woods

To The Woods

Click here to listen to the show

For the November 2015 edition of the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show I took a look at two newly released albums and a new series of events bringing live music to the island’s under 18-year-olds.

To The Woods launched their debut album at the end of October and they joined me for a suitably ‘lairy’ semi-acoustic session and interview talking about how the band came together and how they’ve gained the formidable reputation they have over the last couple of years.

Tantale

Tantale

Tantale welcomed me to their rehearsal bunker in Torteval and told me how finding this base of operations reinvigorated the band leading to new album Just Add Vice and about how they feel they fit in with the rest of Guernsey’s music scene.

And Jon Bisson from Sound Guernsey and James Radford from HONEST CROOKS spoke to me about the new series of events that started last weekend aimed at bringing live music to 11 to 18 year olds in the island.

You can listen to the show until 26th December on the BBC iPlayer or by clicking here.

Tracklist

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Sound Guernsey present Buffalo Huddleston and Honest Crooks – The Venue – 20/11/15

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

With Guernsey’s youngsters largely unserved when it comes to chance to experience live music a new group has emerged to try to remedy that situation.

Sound Guernsey launched on 20th November 2015 at The Venue at Fermain, just across the road from the island’s home of live music The Fermain Tavern, with Buffalo Huddleston and Honest Crooks.

The event was attended by a sell out crowd of 120 under-18s (and a handful of supervising adults and this reporter), and offered a safe and relaxed environment to see a couple of Guernsey’s top bands. While it was clear many were already fans of Buffalo Huddleston the show also gave many a chance to get to know Honest Crooks whose ska-punk seemed to win a lot of new fans.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 28th November 2015 and you can see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page:

Sound - Buffalo Huddleston and Honest Crooks review scan 28:11:15

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San Francisco – October 2015 – Part 1

San Francisco

San Francisco

It’s been a few weeks since my return from California so this will take a slightly different approach to my blogs from my previous trip (which can be found here) and will, possibly, come with something of a sense of hindsight.

Flying into San Francisco in late October it was clear that the much reported drought the region was experiencing had had a great effect on the landscape with fields and open spaces that, on my last visit had been green, appearing parched under the tropical paradise like blue skies.

Once out in the open after a surprisingly quick stop at immigration it was clear why, as rarely did the temperature drop below the mid 20s day or night for the duration of my stay – while not great in environmental terms this made for a particularly good climate for exploring the city.

Taking a taxi from the airport (located south of the city and right on the bay) gave me the chance to get my bearings and take in some impressive urban vistas (for an island boy like me) as the Twin Peaks mountains looked down over the sprawl of San Francisco.

Entering by freeway from the south, after some more industrial surroundings, you soon find yourself surrounded by smaller wooden houses of Bernal Heights, Mission District and Potrero Hill before entering the city’s street system ‘South of Market’ by the AT&T Park baseball stadium and surrounded by high-rise offices that give way to the city’s few skyscrapers in its Financial District.

Within two or three blocks of that though the city really comes to life and, as I was dropped off on Broadway, bustling centre of the original city’s nightlife for over a hundred years, I already felt as if I’d caught a taste of the contrasts San Francisco offers.

North Beach apartment

My AirBnB apartment

Despite being my third trip to ‘the city by the bay’ this was first time staying in what felt like the living city thanks to the AirBnB service through which I had rented a cosy and well-appointed top (fourth) floor apartment for the week.

Having briefly spoken to him on the phone on the way from the airport the owner of the apartment, Jason, popped in shortly after my arrival to say hello and check all was ok and I couldn’t have asked for a friendlier welcome.

Following a few notes about the small apartment block we were in from Jason and a few no doubt stupid post-long-haul flight questions from me, he uttered the sentence that I think summed up Broadway, the street that really divides the Financial District and the more ‘real’ North Beach area perfectly for me: “When you head out, if you want strippers or weed go left, if you want liquor or groceries head right.”

Whether this was a piece of standard patter or not it hit the nail on the head and captured something g of the bohemian spirit that has been a fixture of this area since the city was first settled. Close to the old docks, North Beach welcomed sailors from around the world, followed in the 1950s by the still clearly evident ‘Beat Generation’ and now a wide range of pretty much everyone as Chinatown and Little Italy merge and hipsters and vagrants share the streets – all it seems with little hassle from any higher authority.

Pizza Calzones

4am/7pm pizza

Despite this description I’ve rarely felt safer in a city than I did here and it was clear this was a feeling held by the locals as well with a communal spirit pervading.

Following a trip to find the nearest supermarket where, despite living the old idiom “two countries divided by a common language”, I got hold of some suitable tea and breakfast food, and an attempt at eating a fairly amazing pizza at Calzones, at what my body was screaming was about 4:30 in the morning, I settled in for an early night before beginning my holiday in earnest.

 


 

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

There are few things that come to mind when San Francisco is mentioned; there’s the fog, the Golden Gate Bridge, counterculture, and, of course, Alcatraz.

Despite this being my third trip I’d still yet to visit the former prison island so I got up early(ish) on my first morning and headed down to Pier 33 to catch the ferry across to the island. For those with knowledge of the Channel Islands the ferry reminded of a slightly larger version of those that service Herm and Sark. I was particularly impressed by the hybrid diesel, solar and wind-driven engines – such use of renewable energy being far more evident throughout this trip than even two years ago.

The short trip across to Alcatraz was a fascinating one in itself as the various rushing tides and currents of the bay were clearly evident, even on this calmest of days, and the views of the San Francisco skyline from ‘treasure island’ and the Bay Bridge round to the Golden Gate were tremendous.

Alcatraz signAs we docked at the island’s small jetty and the infamous cellblock loomed above us atop the steep-sided ‘rock’, what really caught my eye was the large sign on the facade of the old admin building. Detailing the basic features of the island and the rules for admission from its prison days above the sign, in large red, hand painted letters are the words ‘Indians welcome’.

This instantly sparked my curiosity and revealed one of several fascinating stories of Alcatraz not associated with its time as a prison. When the island was all but abandoned and derelict in the early 1970s a group of native Americans occupied the island under the name ‘Indians of all Nations’. While they were eventually evicted from the then still government-owned facility their protest, which lasted almost two years, set in motion the ongoing programme returning lands and rights to native people of the USA and the marks of it are evident all over Alcatraz adding an extra layer to it’s already rich history.

Alcatraz tunnel

One of the early buildings on the island

This layered history is at once figurative and literal as you explore the island. Under the current admin building are the remains of a Civil War era fort that was the first structure built here, it’s mid 19th century brick work giving way to the blocks of the more modern construction.

The cellblock itself has a similarly layered physical history and the former fort parade ground is lined with the ruins of mid 20th century houses built to home the prison guards and their families. This all combines to make the islands whole 22 acres worth taking the time to explore separate to the famous prison.

Of course, the tour of the cellblock is the island’s centerpiece attraction and it is genuinely fascinating. Featuring audio recordings for former guards and inmates it conjures a real sense of quite how isolated life was for the inmates and why it gained the reputation it did.

This is highlighted in a part of the tour that takes you past the big, single glazed, heavily barred, external windows through which, on the right day, the sounds of the bustling and vibrant city could be clearly heard across the short stretch of water acting as a constant reminder to inmates of what they were missing during their incarceration.

Alcatraz prison

Inside the cellblock

The other highlights come in the stories of the escape attempts which ended with varying levels of success, the most fascinating of which involved a trio escaping into the sea never to be seen again – though authorities still regularly receive information on the men (now at least in their 80s) and there is still a multi-million dollar reward should any of that lead to their arrest!

My visit happened to fall on one of the clearest and calmest days possible so the 360 degree panoramic views of the Bay Area afforded by Alcatraz’s position were a fine bonus and added some context to the inner city urban geography. I can heartily recommend taking at least half a day to explore Alcatraz should you find yourself in the Bay Area as it is an experience like no other.

Southern panorama from Alcatraz

Looking south and west from Alcatraz

After a slightly bumpier crossing back, which seemed to surprise a few on the ferry despite being calmer than the average trip to Sark, I headed down The Embarcadero, past the occasional ‘Tsunami evacuation route’ signs towards, The Ferry Building. Though this footpath lines one of the cities major roads – six lanes of traffic and two tramlines – The Embarcadero from Pier 39 to The Ferry Building is a pleasant place for a stroll with views across the bay toward Oakland and Berkeley and several restaurants and bars it’s clearly well maintained for visitors but without the intense tourist feel of Pier 39.

Heading inland at The Ferry Building (now more market and boutique shopping mall than actual ferry terminal) takes you into the city’s main thoroughfare of Market Street, though not before a chance to browse the stalls of a small local arts and crafts market where you could pick up anything from typical naff souvenirs to hand-made jewellery and photographs.

Tsunami Evacuation route

Tsunami Evacuation route

Though only made up of maybe 20 or 30 stalls in the small junction plaza at the top of the street it had its own atmosphere with traders, visitors and the inevitable and ever-present homeless contingent all chatting about anything that happened to come to mind – and I’m sure some sales were made too, though that was less obvious.

Barely a block down market street though and the feel was very much that of a bustling financial centre with high-rise office building on all sides representing a range of banks and financial institutions and after meeting up with a friend we walked around the feet of a few of these Titans, topped by the Transamerica Pyramid, as we headed back toward Broadway.

After a brief rest we headed out to navigate the bus system to Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences. Thankfully, San Francisco has a great public transport system that is fairly easy to understand, once you get the hang of it, and is surprisingly quick at taking you from one side of the city to the other and even across the bay if you use the underground BART network.

Thursday evenings at the Academy, the city’s main science museum, is Nightlife, where the museum reopens exclusively for over 18s to explore the exhibits, see some special attractions and have some food and drink. This particular Thursday the theme was all things space related so I was in my element!

Academy of Science dinosaurThe centerpiece highlight for me was the show in the museum’s spectacular Imax-like planetarium. Narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson it explored the universe from Earth to the far reaches 14 billion light years away with a focus on dark matter and dark energy.

While the show was clearly aimed at an audience with only a superficial understanding of the subject (like me) it was still somewhat brain-melting in its scope but enthralling throughout and the visuals alone would have been breathtaking – I could easily have sat watching the flying star fields all night if given the chance!

As well as the usual science museum type exhibits the Academy features a subterranean aquarium that for the purposes of tonight was doubling as a kind of nightclub (the fish didn’t seem to mind one bit) and it was quite an experience exploring its dark tunnel-like structures with a specialty cocktail in hand listening to vaguely psychedelic trance beats.

Academy of Sciences AquariumAfter taking part in the fun pub-style quiz, themed to match the night, and exploring the inevitable gift shop it was time to head home, but I would strongly recommend that you check out Nightlife if you’re in San Francisco on a Thursday night as no matter the theme I imagine it would be a fascinating experience and a chance to explore the museum away from the school parties and family holiday groups during the day.

Read the second part of my blog on my trip here

You can see more of my photos from the trip on Facebook by clicking here

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The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

The Ecstasy of Wilko JohnsonIn January 2013 rhythm and blues guitarist Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and, electing not to go through chemotherapy, was given 10 months to live. At this point, for what all expected to be barely a few months, his career went into overdrive as he appeared on BBC Breakfast TV and in pretty much every UK newspaper while crisscrossing not only the British Isles but Japan as well, as he undertook a farewell tour.

At the same time filmmaker Julien Temple documented this while conducting seemingly lengthy interviews with Johnson to create this feature, The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson.

In most hands this would likely have become an enjoyable career retrospective and partner to the concert film shot in 2013 at Koko in London carrying on where 2009 film Oil City Confidential left off, Temple though is not most hands. Having built a reputation documenting particularly British bands, musicians and institutions from The Sex Pistols and Joe Strummer to Glastonbury and London (in The Modern Babylon), Temple takes a subject and lays it alongside other British archetypes through film and other imagery to create documentaries that tell the story of their subject but also offer insight into what they may mean to culture as a whole.

Wilko JohnsonIn that regard, for The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson he takes 1946 David Niven vehicle, A Matter of Life and Death, and Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Throughout the film Temple calls back to these two pictures in different ways; much of the interview with Johnson is conducted on the beach at Canvey with the guitarist sat across a chess board from a robed figure, highlighting the (then) inevitable and unwinnable game with the reaper. In contrast, and I can only think this was added later, we get clips of Niven from the 1946 movie that sees him return from a perceived afterlife.

Along with this Temple takes clips of other films and imagery to really use his chosen medium to tell the story he wants to tell and make the points he wants to make in a way very few manage. Another who springs to mind with this talent is Mark Cousins, making for something absorbing both visually and aurally, in a way to match the more obvious story being told with perfect balance.

Wilko JohnsonOf course, Wilko is the main focus of the film and the title gives a hint of what he brings. While his situation might suggest the film could be quite a depressing experience, it really isn’t. Certainly there is a sadness in clips from his farewell shows and in his anecdotes of saying goodbye to not just people and fans but even the planet Saturn from his modest, home observatory.

What cuts through this though is the revelatory nature of Johnson’s response to his diagnosis where he explains, in typically poetry filled detail, how he suddenly realised how to live in the moment and see the wonder in everything. This may sound somewhat trite but, coming from the very grounded persona of Wilko, it is clearly honest and true and Temple captures Johnson’s genuine nature expertly.

Wilko Johnson, Norman Watt-Roy, Julien Temple and Dylan Howe

(l-r) Wilko Johnson, Norman Watt-Roy, Julien Temple and Dylan Howe

Along with this Temple still finds time to give something of a look back at Wilko’s life and career from his birth on Canvey Island through the childhood flood of the estuary island to his marriage, forming Dr. Feelgood and subsequent life as a seemingly non-stop touring musician and minor renaissance in the late 2000s with a mix of photos, archive footage and material shot for Oil City Confidential.

As it seems things are about to reach their inevitable climax there is, as in all the best stories, a twist. The film concludes with a pair of new interviews with Wilko, sat in his garden and on the beach again with his guitar, talking about his (still on going) astonishing recovery and his new outlook on life on, as he says, the birthday he wasn’t meant to be there for.

In this we hear Johnson playing guitar for the first time since his supposed retirement and see footage of his return to the stage with Norman Watt-Roy. Throughout there is something of a new perspective and humility from Johnson which brings the film full circle but with the earlier spectre replaced with the signature red and black Fender Telecaster.

Wilko Johnson at KokoMuch like Temple’s other films The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson is a kind of visual poem telling its story through the language of film as well as the words of its subject and in doing so goes deeper than a straight documentary ever could telling a story that is at once human, political, spiritual and, above all, honest in its outlook.

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Thee Jenerators – The Devil’s Chords

Thee Jenerators - The Devils ChordsAfter a long wait and a couple of line up changes Guernsey’s garage-rock godfathers, Thee Jenerators, are back on record with new full-length album The Devil’s Chords.

In typically contrary style the record was released digitally with little fanfare in the summer, ahead of their appearance at the Vale Earth Fair, before a fully fledged vinyl edition emerged in November.

My review was published on the Gallery magazine website on Friday 20th November 2015 but unfortunately, since the Guernsey edition of the magazine folded at the end of 2015 its no longer available there.

So here is the review in full

The Devil’s Chords

15 years into a career with roots stretching back far further, Thee Jenerators are back with their fifth album The Devil’s Chords. Being the first to feature this line up of the band; founding members Mark Le Gallez (lead vocals) and Ozzy Austin (drums) are joined by longtime saxophone and organ man Garrick Jones and newcomers Jo Reeve (bass) and Andy Sauvage (guitar), making for a slightly different Jenerators, but still a band firmly based in retro, garage, rock ‘n’ roll.

Jo and Mark of Thee Jenerators

Jo and Mark of Thee Jenerators

With each of their previous albums the band seem to have taken on slightly different themes, from the punky leaning of Jenerator X through mod and ska, rock ‘n’ roll and leading to Rejeneration’s strongly 1960s garage influenced tones. Here they take a bit of each of these to create a varied album that is all unmistakably Thee Jenerators.

Mixed in with this, the newer members bring something of their own to proceedings with Reeve’s basslines retaining the sense of Le Gallez’s from Rejeneration but with a greater fluidity and power, helping bring the rhythm section to life even more than previously, while Sauvage’s indie-rock influences are evident giving the whole thing a slightly new feel with hints reminiscent of 1990s British guitar bands.

The Devil’s Chords kicks off with rocker City At Night that has proved a potent live show opener and sets the scene well. Lead single Daddy Bones follows this and is one of the more garagey highlights of the record alongside the Theremin drenched Bela Lugosi which continues the sound of Rejeneration but with added overtones of psychobilly and horror movie fandom.

Le Gallez’s mod-ish tendencies reappear on Where’s Polly Gone and a revisited Who The Hell Is Frank Wilson (originally featured on second full length The Kids Are… Not Alright) while album closer Keep On Knocking takes us back to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.

Recorded analogue and almost all live makes for a genuinely vital sounding record with all the performers’ power coming across and Le Gallez in particular sounding as strong a frontman as he ever has.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

The fact that it sounds like there are a few missed notes here and there adds to the live feeling, but bolstered by extra studio work, including guitar overdubs and backing vocals, really succeeds in capturing the sound that has built Thee Jenerators’ reputation while adding that extra something that can only be captured on record.

As well as a digital release, a physical version is available on vinyl with detailed artwork by Mikal Dyas that completes a full package of a record in a vein akin to the many influences shown by the band and maintaining their defiantly ‘retro’ yet vital manner.

This final touch completes a record that brings Thee Jenerators full circle in some ways while helping to define and clarify a sound that, while drawing on much of rock ‘n’ roll history, is certainly their own and continues to prove the old adage, “The Devil has the best tunes” (or in this case chords, I guess).

Thee Jenerators - The Devils Chords - November 2015

Here’s a little preview of what to expect from The Devil’s Chords:

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The Graveltones, SugarSlam, Tadhg Daly and Chloe Le Page – The Fermain Tavern – 13/11/15

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

Friday 13th November 2015 will go down in history as a tragic day, and one that hit home to the international music community, following events at the Bataclan in Paris (and elsewhere around the city).

While that was happening though the music continued, and will continue, in many places and one such was The Fermain Tavern where (an admittedly slightly small) crowd had gathered to catch garage-blues two-piece The Graveltones along with Guernsey’s SugarSlam and Chloe Le Page and Jersey boys Tadhg Daly.

Chloe was first on stage with a set of acoustic pop with a bit of blues, a bit of country and a bit of rock thrown in to give it a nice edge. Following time gigging in the UK in recent months Chloe’s performance here had grown hugely in confidence with a more measured delivery allowing the real feeling to come through in her original songs – particularly Oblivion and Heartbreaker.

Chloe Le Page

Chloe Le Page

With a few covers to end some of her previous nerves clearly came back but she carried an acoustic take on AC/DC’s Highway To Hell well to finish Chloe delivered probably the best performance I’ve seen from her yet that was very well received by the audience.

After a slightly lengthy break (it transpired the frontman had misplaced his capo) Tadhg Daly and his band took to the stage. Being relatively regular visitors to the island each show has seen them develop and build their sound from a relaxed kind of acoustic driven alternative rock to, now, something much more grunge influenced. Within that here they still retained the relaxed and ‘loose’ personality they’ve always had, just with a much louder backing with Tadhg now armed with a Telecaster rather than an acoustic.

Tadhg Daly

Tadhg Daly

During the songs themselves though the band were musically tight and Tadhg displayed some great impassioned delivery of his vocals as well as really working his guitar while both he and guitarist Zach Pygott rode waves of feedback to create a kind of dark summer night grunge pop.

With a small audience who were largely new to the band, they went down well even if the crowd were largely happy to be curious observers rather than invested interactors, which at points seemed to frustrate Daly. But none the less it was a good set even if the loud sounds did lack a certain edge they seemed to be calling out for.

Following what all accounts suggest was a great return on Halloween, SugarSlam were back and loud here. Though the audience remained fairly low energy the band did their best with the atmosphere in the room with frontman Plumb really putting on a great show regardless as Brett Stewart’s manic drums powered things forward.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

With a lot of new material, alongside songs from both their previous albums (Crank was a particular highlight for me), SugarSlam showed they aren’t resting on their previous work and are continually moving forward and appeared determined about that and just as full of piss and vinegar as ever.

Ending their set with Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, dedicated to the late Philthy Animal Taylor, SugarSlam played a set of grungey power pop designed to tear the house down, though they maybe only cracked the walls and smashed the windows tonight.

It was clear as soon as The Graveltones took to the stage that they were who everyone had come out to see as the dancefloor area was soon busy. Having gained a reputation in the Channel Islands following a couple of appearances at Jersey Live this was my first chance to catch them and, from the start, they came across like the bastard offspring of Heave and The Black Keys delivering sweaty, loud, energetic, glitchy, blues driven rock ‘n’ roll.

Both members of the band brought an unorthodox style to their performance. Jimmy O was seemingly one with his guitar as he writhed his body back and forth across the stage and howled into the mic. Meanwhile Mikey Sorbello thundered on the drums with an amazingly deft touch for such a huge sound and all delivered with a contrasting sense of serene contentment.

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

The first half of the set was all loud, over driven, blues rock that really connected with the audience who, though not up for moving around a lot, were clearly really into it, as the songs flowed one into the other like some kind of spiky disjointed yet perfectly formed stream of sonically abused consciousness.

For a time things took on a more boogie rock ‘n’ roll flavour before returning to the blues but, by this point, I have to admit my interest began to wane somewhat. The Graveltones may be the perfect band for a half hour festival set or in a packed and sweaty club, but tonight it just felt like they went on a little too long and as their set past the hour mark I began to wonder if they were nothing more than a fairly standard blues band with a relatively flimsy gimmick…

The Graveltones

Despite that their performance really couldn’t be faulted and in light of other events taking place as they blasted their music forth from guitars and amps and speakers and drums the duo summed up something of the strength, power and vitality of live music that must be celebrated and experienced now more than ever.

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Static Alice – Beautiful Mystery

Static Alice - Beautiful MysteryGuernsey based pop-rockers Static Alice released their second recording, the Beautiful Mystery EP, with a pair of shows at The Vault in St Peter Port on the weekend of 6th and 7th November 2015.

Funded partially by a Kickstarter campaign and recorded in Brighton the release almost exactly a year on from their debut, The Ghost of Common Sense.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th November and you can read it below:

Static Alice - Beautiful Mystery EP review scan - 14:11:15

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Static Alice EP Launch with Ric Lean – The Vault – 07/11/15

Static Alice

Static Alice

On the weekend of Friday 6th and Saturday 7th November 2015 pop-rockers Static Alice took over The Vault to launch their new EP, Beautiful Mystery.

The first night was a special show for those who donated, via Kickstarter, to the project for getting the EP made, giving them the chance to see a special set from the band and get hold of the CD version of the record before anyone else.

The second night was open to the general public so I went along to see the regularly gigging band for the first time in a while and get my copy of the EP.

Support on the night came in the form of Ric Lean who was drafted in at the last-minute but showed himself to be a consummate performer none-the-less.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th November and you can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Static Alice EP launch review scan - 14:11:15

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Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook PosterI approached David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook at the recommendation of a friend and, coming into it, I had very little expectation beyond what I’d remembered hearing around the time of its release which, in my mind, had made it sound like a fairly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy – thankfully that assumption proved mostly wrong.

Certainly the film includes ‘romance’ and it does have its comedy elements, however it does this in a context of what I’d call a ‘comedy drama’ if that phrase didn’t conjure images of Sunday evening TV as much as it does.

The story follows Bradley Cooper’s Pat and picks things up as his mother arrives to collect him from a ‘mental health facility’ where, it transpires, he’s been undergoing treatment for bi-polar disorder.

From there it deals with his return to his parents house, the reactions of himself, his friends, family and neighbours to his release and the situation that led to his being incarcerated in the first place. Following this we see development of a new relationship between Pat and Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany which occurs in a way that is a good solid twist on the conventions of the Hollywood ‘rom-com’.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

The main thing that Silver Linings Playbook focusses on is the relatively taboo issue of metal health (though why it’s as taboo as it is remains largely inexplicable and with films like this that is changing).

While many films might labour this point and become a bit ‘worthy’ what David O. Russell’s work does is simply incorporate them into the story and it deals with them in a rather refreshingly honest and seemingly realistic way – though there are a few melodramatic moments, but that is part of it being a movie.

The plot too has its share of melodrama, especially in its climactic scenes which do feel a bit contrived in places (particularly as relates to the story around the bets made by Pat’s father), but again this is largely forgivable within the film’s wider context.

What really roots the film are the performances which are as open and honest as I’ve seen when dealing with these issues. Cooper and Lawrence do the main part of the work and are entirely believable throughout leading to as many moments of humour as sheer discomfort, and everything in between, which seems to excellently sum up what they are dealing with.

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook

Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver

Meanwhile Robert De Niro turns what could have been something very one note, in the role of Pat’s father, into something more with an extra layer that helps elevate the character and expose another sub-thread to Pat’s story (though he has a few Meet The Parents moments thrown in too). This comes both from the script and his performance but in the wrong hands it could have been very ham-fistedly delivered.

With an underlying message that mental health should be worked with, rather than explicitly ‘cured’, Silver Linings Playbook manages to offer a different perspective on its subject to most mainstream fare, while remaining firmly within the context of a Hollywood style film and certainly presents a lot to think about in the context of a genuinely entertaining and engaging situation comedy.

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