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.
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.
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.
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 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…
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.