Monthly Archives: March 2016

Sting – Into The Light

Sting - Into the Light DVD coverIn 1985 Steve Borden, aka Sting, first stepped into a wrestling ring. Now, 31 years later, speculation is rife that his in-ring career is over following a neck injury sustained in September 2015 during a match with then WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins.

With that in mind, as we approach Wrestlemania weekend 2016 and Sting being inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame, I thought it seemed the right time to take a look at the documentary released in mid-2015 charting the career of the man dubbed ‘The Icon’.

The main documentary, running at just over an hour, deals with most aspects of Sting’s 30 years in the ring as well as some elements of his personal life and, while clearly very much produced from the WWE point of view, it does allow some interesting stories to come through.

Like many of the more recent WWE documentaries, made since the dawning of the WWE Network, Into The Light takes something of a dual path approach to its story; one focusing on the more ‘reality’ aspect of the then current build up to Sting’s debut in WWE and the other looking at his history.

Sting circa 1990

Sting circa 1990

All of this is highlighted by a series of new interviews with Sting himself where he opens up, in relatively candid terms, about his path. As a wrestling fan dating back to the early 1990s for me the most interesting parts of this revolve around his feud with Ric Flair that spanned the late 1980s to the final WCW Nitro show in early 2001. This segment gives a real insight into the way the wrestlers work together and quite what it means to them to compete at the top of their ‘sport’.

Along with the Sting interviews the documentary is packed with inserts from a range of stars, past and present, and again it’s Sting’s contemporaries from WCW that provide the most insight, particularly his old ‘running buddies’ Lex Luger and Rick Steiner.

Notable by his absence here (especially as Jerry Jarrett appears and rival company TNA even gets a passing mention) is Scott Steiner, though given rumours surrounding his relationship with WWE it’s not really surprising.

All too brief in all of this are a couple of clips of Ultimate Warrior who broke into pro-wrestling with Sting and it would have been great to hear more of this, sadly circumstances of course prevent that.

Sting and Ric Flair at The Great American Bash

Sting and Ric Flair at The Great American Bash

As things get up to the era of the NWO in WCW we get some more insight into how the company was being mismanaged that, while never totally explicit, back up a lot of what is rumoured and discussed. While he remains polite about it, its clear that Sting was hugely frustrated by all the ‘politics’ at play around Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff and that this had a major effect on both his professional and personal life.

Knowing some of the history of Steve Borden outside of the ring I wasn’t surprised to see some sections about his faith. While I always find these kind of things a bit trying, they do represent what is clearly a strong aspect of the man and fed into his choices about working with WWE over the last decade and a half – though given his work in TNA this isn’t totally convincing.

What I’ve described as the more ‘reality’ sections are fascinating in their own right as they allow a view into the day-to-day working of the WWE away from the pro-wrestling that shows quite how huge and varied a concern it is.

Sting and John Cena

Sting and John Cena

Along with clips of meetings with Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque, we get to see inside ‘Titan Towers’ in Stamford, Connecticut with meetings about merchandise, community/charity work and more.

This all culminates with a look back at Sting making his WWE debut at Wrestlemania 31 against Triple H. While it skirts certain questions it is an interesting insight into, arguably, the most historic match at that event.

Bonus Features

As with all these documentaries the DVD/Blu-Ray release comes with a bunch of off-cut extra ‘stories’ and these don’t disappoint.

Sting at Wrestlemania 31

Sting at Wrestlemania 31

While not essential to the story told in the main feature they offer some new insights from the origins of the Scorpion Death Lock/Sharpshooter (as explained by Tyson Kidd) to more behind the scenes looks at WWE to Sting’s then revolutionary entrances rappelling from the ceiling in NWO era WCW.

Along with these are a series of career spanning matches that, along with the previously released Best of Sting set, offer a pretty exhaustive look at Borden’s career from early matches with the Warrior-to-be as The Blade Runners through WCW and up to the match with Triple H at Wrestlemania 31.

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Sound Guernsey: Blakalaska, Flexagon, Equilibrium and Loose Ties – The Venue – 27/03/16

Blakalaska

Blakalaska

Even as I arrived at The Venue for the Easter Sunday Sound Guernsey event it was clear this was going to be a busy one with more than 100 tickets sold before the show, it wasn’t long until capacity was reached and new band Loose Ties took to the stage.

Made up of students from St Sampson’s High School, Loose Ties were making their first public performance. This comprised a set of covers delivered mostly fluidly despite the obvious nerves on display.

The inclusion of a piano added something a bit different to most young rock bands and all five members showed potential that could easily begin to be reached with the confidence that comes after a little more experience in front of an audience.

Loose Ties

Loose Ties

Another new young band took to the stage next, Equilibrium. A little more experienced than Loose Ties, this was still my first chance to see them and I was impressed both by their playing and their choice of covers.

Spanning upbeat jangly indie like Scouting For Girls’ hit She’s So Lovely to Blink 182’s All The Small Things to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army it was a varied collection and all delivered with a relaxed and vibrant feel.

Drummer Charlie really powered the band from the back and, at the risk of sounding patronising, it was great to see a pair of female guitarists (Lili and Elle) fronting the band, along with vocalist Ivy, that gave the band a different dynamic from the usually male fronted rock bands I’m more used to seeing on local stages.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

Getting calls for an encore Equilibrium delivered a second run of All The Small Things and, while it was maybe all a bit reserved and polite, they again showed a huge potential and really got the crowd going.

After two straightforward pop-rock cover bands things took a turn for the more experimental as Flexagon made their live debut in two-piece form. Armed with an Ableton Push set up and electronic drum kit, as soon as they set up it was clear this wasn’t going to be something many in attendance were used to and, in that, the duo didn’t disappoint.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I got it in spades. Rhythmically focused electronic sounds were layered one upon the other creating dense, sprawling tracks with hard to resist yet relatively laid back beats. The whole thing felt fluid and organic with what seemed to be an improvised edge, but was tight enough to create an engaging performance that got many a head nodding, mine included.

Flexagon

Flexagon

While it wasn’t the sort of music to fill a dancefloor it was clear many were engaged from the sidelines and it gave a good flavour of what could be expected in The Peace Tent at Chaos (after the live music) to this audience who would have been unlikely to experience that before.

As Blakalaska set up on stage they provided a DJ set which drew many back to the dancefloor and even instigated something of a dance off with Loose Ties’ piano player busting out some breakdancing moves, all of which kept the audience engaged for the night’s headliners.

Playing with a reduced line up thanks to an injury that kept guitarist Oliver Farrimond from appearing, Blakalaska didn’t let this phase them one bit as they launched into their huge sounding electro-rock. Instantly the crowd filled the dancefloor and, while maybe not as active as the audience at Jonah Beats earlier in the month, were clearly loving the sounds.

Lee of Blakalaska

Lee of Blakalaska

The use of pre-recorded guitar parts did mean the band had to stick to a more rigid performance than usual, which made some of it feel a bit restrained, though it was impressive to see a band carrying on in the face of a missing member.

Frontwoman Lee Rosete put on a great show (despite taking ‘selfies’ mid-song – I don’t think that will ever stop frustrating me) that really engaged the audience while Barney as ever excelled on the V-Drums that help give the band their unique sound and power.

With this newer songs built on the familiar ones to continue the bands evolution and they closed the night off on a real high that marked, to my mind, a high point of the Sound Guernsey shows so far – and long may they continue giving youngsters a chance to not only experience a broad range of live music but also play to their peers away from school.

You can see a full set of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: March 2016 – Ramblin’ Nick Mann, Robyn Sherwell and Mt. Wolf

Robyn Sherwell, Ramblin' Nick Mann and Mt. WolfClick here to listen to the show

On this month’s BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show I had three guests spanning a range of the music being made by Guernsey artists.

The session this month came from Ramblin’ Nick Mann who recently put out his debut album, One Eye In The Past, and he played six of his lo-fi, homemade, blues for us on one of his cigar box guitars (we didn’t use the beer can mic for this one).

I also spoke to Robyn Sherwell who has just completed a UK tour and released her self-titled debut album following on from a huge year in 2015 where she played Glastonbury, was featured by Jo Wiley on BBC Radio 2 amongst many other things.

And I heard from Stevie McMinn of Mt. Wolf who played this month’s SXSW music festival in Austin Texas.

You can hear all of this and more on the BBC iPlayer for the next 30 days by clicking here.

Tracklist

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Ginger Wildheart – Year of the Fanclub

Ginger Wildheart - Year of the Fanclub album coverSince beginning his relationship with Pledgemusic on the Triple Album Project that became the sprawling 555%, Ginger Wildheart has become one of the most prolific releasers of music I’ve ever witnessed. From his solo work through to the side projects like Hey!Hello! and Mutation it has seemed like a near constant stream of music has been pouring from the ‘Geordie in Wonderland’ into the ears of his eager fans.

In 2014 this led to the setting up of G.A.S.S. – essentially a fanclub that, along with a host of optional extras, came with a selection of new music released on a monthly basis. As the project reached its conclusion this music was condensed down into the 12 track, commercially released, album Year of the Fan Club that essentially acts as something of a continuation of the stream of albums that started with Valor Del Corazon in 2005 to (so far) Albion in 2013 that preceded this, though it also shares a fair chunk of DNA with the earlier Break In The Weather compilation from the Singles Club project.

Given the nature of its creation this is a very varied album, even by Ginger’s standards and, taken as a whole is something like Kiss and ELO having a scrap with Trent Reznor overseeing while the amassed heads of 80s and 90s indie rock throw in their advice from the sidelines. In that it is pretty much what you’d expect from an album of this nature but amidst this sonic variety a few tracks really stand out.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

Down The Dip starts things out with Ginger’s trademark rock guitars that remind us of The Wildhearts’ heyday, but with the glammier and poppier end of things turned up as has come out in some of his solo work and set the scene for what we’ve become used to.

This is followed by the undeniable ‘single’ of the set, the Courtney Love featuring Honour, that is as precise a piece of punky pop as Ginger has released in a long time. The combination of Love and Ginger’s voices works really well here, in a manner similar to Hey!Hello!, and with Ginger’s empowering lyrics coming from Love it creates something of a perfect storm of upbeat pop-rock with an interesting depth if you want to find it.

Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now is another highlight in a rather different way as it sways from upbeat to angry both lyrically and musically in a manner those who’ve heard the rest of Ginger’s output will be familiar with. It also seems to fall into a loose group of songs about some of the more frustrating elements of the music industry along with Hey!Hello!’s How I Survived The Punk Wars and Don’t Stop Loving The Music.

Ginger Wildheart and Courtney Love

Ginger and Courtney Love

Along with the glam-pop and punk rock, Ginger also finds time for a couple of country tinged numbers highlighted by If You Find Yourself In London Town that offers a continuation of his love/hate (though I’d go with mostly hate) relationship with England’s capital that first showed itself on The Wildhearts’ Greetings From Shitsville.

Here though things are less outright angry and come more in the form of some advice for people heading to the city for the first time. This comes with a strong ring of truth and experience that give it the authenticity of the best country, albeit in a very different setting.

Toxins & Tea sounds like a riot in a fun fair decrying pretty much every negative aspect of humanity in the modern age but with a wit and sense of fun that elevates it from the polemical. This is closely followed by Mr T & Me that feels something like a follow-up to Jake (from the Yoni album) and, in a rare moment, seems to deal directly with Ginger’s family life.

Year of the Fanclub album artwork

Year of the Fanclub album artwork

Ostracide rounds off the album much like it began with thunderous heavy glam rock which, after the stylistic meanderings, is a good way to re-ground and a good point to end things.

As a complete album, Year of the Fan Club is, understandably, all over the place, but in that there are a few gems that seem to hint at potential things to come and, while not every song is a knock out, as ever it shows an artist working with a great level of freedom that is always good to see in something away from the small-scale DIY scene I am more used to writing about.

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Gregory Harrison – Self-titled EP

Gregory Harrison EP coverHaving initially come to my attention as fiddle player with The John Wesley Stone, The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and in The Ukuladeez backing band, Gregory Harrison has since carved himself a niche as a, usually solo, acoustic performer. Now, taking this onto the next level, Harrison has released a self-titled four-track EP that gives a taste of his sound, in varied fashion.

The record starts off in unashamedly non-acoustic fashion with a crash of instruments that coalesce into the anguished Demons. This track, and third song Working For Nothing, showcase Harrison working with a full band and both feature impressive layering of sounds based around the initial acoustic songs.

Within this framework are intricate electric guitar parts, pianos and more and at times give something of a feel of Dave Matthews Band with a fusion of genres present, but with a slightly more indie rock vibe n the mix.

Over this Harrison’s rich voice is laid and, while there are points where it feels the recording process has missed some of the potential emotion, it is none the less impressive and at its best moments effecting.

The other two tracks are something a bit different.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Taken By The Brew is a more melancholic and sedate tune but again with the full band and, as the shortest track on the disc feels a little unfinished. Listening to the lyrics though, this may be part of the point and it runs dangerously close to feeling a little over earnest, despite being well delivered.

Down and Out meanwhile is something a bit different and has a more raw edge akin to Harrison’s live shows. With just an acoustic guitar and voice it gives a closer representation of Harrison’s songwriting and it seems to allow his performance more freedom.

This self-titled EP, while a stylistically mixed bag, allows an insight into the songwriting and varied musical approach of Gregory Harrison and certainly acts as a great primer to his work and starting point for hopefully more to come.

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Tantale, Wondergeist, The Bee Charmers, Gregory Harrison – The Fermain Tavern – 12/03/16

Wondergeist

Wondergeist

Having only made their official debut last year, since that time Wondergeist have gigged regularly and released an album of multi-faceted indie rock along with a host of guest artist and now are calling it a day (on a regular basis at least) as their leader Peter Gilliver prepares to move away from Guernsey.

To mark this they staged a gig at The Fermain Tavern featuring as many as their collaborators as possible as well as something of a leaving party for Peter.

This started out with Gregory Harrison, accompanied by new double bass player, Nathan Arnaud. Across the set Harrison’s projected energy went up and down, but, at the high points, the performance was truly powerful. Most of this power came from the emotion drawn from the songs and came with an understated presence, at times though this broke out, as in Low and Demons, giving a real dynamic sense.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Arnaud’s subtle bass work added an extra depth to the acoustic guitar sound that can often become repetitive and both players came across far better than at their previous outing at Jonah Beats. While the set had a few moments that did lack some of the energy and passion that made its best moments so engaging the whole thing was well played and Demons, the lead single from Harrison’s debut EP, closed it on a highlight.

During the two opening acts it became clear that, while certainly some were appreciating the music, many had come for the more social occasion of the event.

While I have no problem with people having a chat at the back or at the bar, throughout the second half of Gregory Harrison’s set and all of The Bee Charmers a few decided it would be suitable to stand in front of the main PA speakers and shout over the sound coming from. While distracting as a member of the audience, I couldn’t help but feel it was extremely offensive towards the performers on stage – anyway rant over and onto The Bee Charmers.

The folky four-piece, who seem to straddle the line between hipster and hippie (I assume this at least makes them hip), certainly play an interesting selection of songs and with a unique range of instruments including ukulele, acoustic guitar and djembe along with some harmonised vocals.

The Bee Charmers

The Bee Charmers

Their performance though veered from some very nice moments, in particular their take on traditional song Matty Groves and a darker hued murder ballad type number later in the set, to songs that felt like we were watching a band rehearse and at points the dynamic on stage almost looked like two separate duos rather than a cohesive quartet.

With the aforementioned (not so) background noise they had something of a struggle on their hands which wasn’t helped by the constant referral to an extensive looking set of notes of a music stand that acted as something of a barrier even for those of us paying attention.

Ultimately this meant that while there were moments that sounded perfectly nice the set as a whole was unspectacular, though I’d more than give them the benefit of the doubt given the lack of interest shown by a majority in the audience who didn’t even seem willing to give them the first chance.

Wondergeist

Wondergeist

It was clear as the band set up and began playing, that most in attendance were here to see Wondergeist as the dancefloor soon got busy with people actually making their way to the front during the first song.

The usual two or three-piece form was expanded to a full production indie rock band with front duo Gilliver and Steve Wickins flanked by a drummer, percussionist, djembe player, acoustic guitar and additional backing vocals.

This really helped the songs come to life and show the diverse nature of the writing and gave it something of a unique sound for a band playing in Guernsey.

Undeniably the central focus of energy coming from the stage was Gilliver who delivered his electric guitar parts and vocals with an intense passion, while Wickins performed with a more laid back attitude that made for a nice contrast.

Peter Gilliver of Wondergeist

Peter Gilliver of Wondergeist

Unfortunately, despite the evident effort being put in, for much of the set the electric guitar was a bit lost in the mix but for those stood near enough the front to hear it the dynamic was present.

As the set passed the half hour mark the audience began to drift but a solo acoustic track added a bit of a twist that hooked people back in for a final salvo that culminated in a brand new ‘farewell’ song written especially for the occasion which left the set on a high.

As has become a regular occurrence with Tantale going on late (past 11:30) the Tavern had quietened down somewhat once the band had finished setting up but those remaining were clearly looking forward to it.

Throughout the set there was something of an odd dynamic between the four band members with bass player Matt Smart and frontman Steve Wickins in particular seeming at odds. While this was a bit uncomfortable it did make for the most interestingly edgy performance I’ve seen from the band in some time – albeit maybe not for the right reasons.

Steve Wickins and Matt Smart of Tantale

Steve Wickins and Matt Smart of Tantale

Despite having a solid back catalogue of originals, most of which seemed to be delivered with something of an improvised streak here, the band felt the need to throw a Nirvana and Radiohead cover into the set.

Unfortunately neither really hit the mark and the Radiohead song in particular seemed to descend into a noodly mess before they pulled things back on original final track Coming Home.

With people calling for more Tantale left them wanting, though the set remained a mixed bag and it was the band’s own songs that were the highlights and left the night on something of a strange, but it appeared ultimately celebratory, note.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Jonah Beats – Vale Castle – 05/03/16

Blakalaska at Jonah Beats

Blakalaska

On Saturday 5th March 2016 a special one-off live music event was held at the Vale Castle in Guernsey (home of the annual Vale Earth Fair music festival) as part of a fundraising drive for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity to fund ongoing medical care for local youngster Jonah Gillingham.

The day featured more than 20 acts and artists over 12 hours spanning genres from acoustic folk to drum ‘n’ bass, via rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal, indie and lots more.

The day ended up raising more than £14,000 and with the Jonah Beats compilation album (that was launched the previous night) still available hopes to raise even more.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 12th March 2016 and can be seen below (and below that is an easier to read slightly extended version) and you can see a gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

Jonah Beats review - Guernsey Press 12/03/16

Full Review

When it came to light last year that further treatment for young Guernseyman Jonah Gillingham wasn’t going to be funded by HSSD a fundraising drive began to help him. It wasn’t long before Pete Bretel of SugarSlam, Daz Carre from Chaos and a team of others had the idea of staging a live music event to help with the campaign.

Fly Casual

Fly Casual

As the event came together, in something of an unprecedented move, many of the island’s festival and music event organisers rallied behind the cause.

So, as I headed up to the Vale Castle on a cold, but thankfully dry, March Saturday, it was to see a show co-organised by the various people behind Chaos, Vale Earth Fair, The Get Down and Hard Riddims with gear, time and (crucially) a marquee donated by LH Events and Regency Events Ltd.

Fly Casual kicked off the live music to a small but growing crowd at midday and it was the best set I’ve seen from them since their return to the stage. While they feel slightly like a band out of time now their funky, upbeat indie came with an understated confidence and sense of fun that was a great way to start the day at, what proved to be, one of the most relaxed but well run festivals I’ve attended in the islands.

Dan and Jade Haggarty

Dan and Jade Haggarty

Across the day the music was set to be non-stop ‘bouncing’ from end of the tent to the other with barely a time to catch your breath. So, on the smaller Vale Earth Fair Stage next to the bar, the afternoon began with Jade Haggarty making her public debut.

Accompanied by her uncle (former Mechanical Lobster axe-man) Dan on guitar, once Jade’s nerves subsided she delivered a soulful vocal performance highlighted by a cover of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black that was far more than a simple carbon copy.

Element 6’s slick, function band sound, stood out like something of a sore thumb on this line up but, none the less, they are one of the best pop cover bands I’ve seen in some time and its always nice to hear Gordie Liu busting out a solo while their take on Tina Turner’s Nut Bush City Limits was certainly a cracker.

Tantale

Tantale

Lo-fi folky blues came next from Rob Gregson, accompanied variously by James Le Huray on mandolin, Helene Herve on vocals and his son George on bongos which gave the set a nice busky feel and summed up the community spirit of the whole event well. After a bit of a nervous start the set developed an upbeat, jazzy feel that certainly entertained the crowd.

The main stage music was more back on track with Tantale’s psychedelic indie and, while their grooves may be loose, their performance today was nice and tight. With occasional djembe added to their usual mix of sounds they were well received by the crowd despite both those on and off stage working against the cold that was to become one of the only criticisms of the day.

Fighting the cold even more on the VEF stage was Ramblin’ Nick Mann but this seemed to give an extra force and impetus to his three-string, homemade, blues performance which got the audience engaged with its mix of homage and humour.

To The Woods

To The Woods

If there was going to be one moment when things took a turn for the chaotic it was going to be when To The Woods hit the stage and they didn’t disappoint.

With two amplifiers blown during the set (in fact one before it even started) Bobby Battle was his usual larger than life self – in fact there was a sense here that he may have stepped too far into self-caricature, but none-the-less the trio’s performance was the first to draw the audience to the front and, while certainly rough around the edges, was energetic fun throughout.

There were more issues with gear as The Crowman and Fiddling Pixie stomped their way through their set of garage-folk as the steampunk eccentric’s kick drum fell off the stage during the second song and had to be propped up by crowd member Chris for the rest of the set.

The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie

The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie

Despite this the Crowman had something of his old sense of fun back and took this all in his stride leading to a set that was a bit of a shambles, but an entertaining and endearing one with some great songs amongst the madness.

Seemingly custom built for summer festivals Buffalo Huddleston felt a little out of place on such a cold day, but that didn’t really slow them down as they drew the biggest crowd yet.

With a couple of new songs in the mix and a slightly more varied sound they managed to bring a bit of a summery vibe to the show and eventually got the crowd bouncing with the help of MC Jull-Z and audience favourite set closer, Mr. Cloud.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

Deep and soulful folk was next from Gregory Harrison and his new double bass player. Unfortunately, while their playing was spot on, the duo’s set was a little shaky thanks to feedback issues from the bass and tuning issues brought about by the temperature.

Having helped launch the Jonah Beats compilation album the previous night at The Golden Lion, Static Alice were back on more familiar, full-power, territory here which led to one of their standard slick and smooth pop-rock performances.

With a great sound balance, Dom Ogier’s powerful voice fitted in nicely alongside the rest of the band and they continued Buffalo Huddleston’s crowd interaction getting them singing along to songs from both their debut album and recent EP.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Arriving barely minutes before they were due on The Doomsday Project wasted no time launching into a set of garagey pop-punk. Delivered with their trademark youthful exuberance there were points here where that seemed a bit of a pose as, despite their age they’ve been gigging for a good few years now, making it feel a little misjudged.

That aside they delivered the second most genuinely engaging performance so far (after To The Woods) and showed a broader range than I’ve seen from them in the past that went down well and gained them many favourable comments from the audience.

Show organiser Pete ‘Plumb’ Bretel was up next fronting SugarSlam and it was clear he was being driven by the energy of putting on the show (and probably little sleep in the past few days) and his band went with him.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

Delivering a set of energetic, powerful and driven grunge tinged power-pop it was the most fun I’ve seen the band have on stage possibly ever and it was infectious.

With their own songs going down a storm, closing covers It’s So Easy (by Guns ‘n’ Roses) and I Wanna Be Your Dog (by The Stooges) rounded off one of the highlight sets of the day.

The rocky vibes continued with the return of The Swallows, bringing their own grown up riotgrrl take on indie rock ‘n’ roll. Despite their own concerns the set was tight and fun and got more assured as it went on culminating in the storming rock ‘n’ roll of Wild Man with Sister Ray and Rocqchick inparticular being on storming form – I hope they don’t wait so long to play again this time round!

Swallows

Swallows

With My Girlfriend’s Been Sectioned and new song Sweat a stripped back three-piece Last of the Light Brigade kicked off a super-tight set.

Without the second guitar their sound may have been missing some of the bigger ‘production’ elements of their newer material but this gave them a greater edge that has been one of their strongest points for the last ten years and makes it all feel a bit more authentic.

The audience clearly agreed with me as they gathered at the front for Tyler, Stu and Kyle’s punky indie that rounded off with a storming Little Billy.

With a delay drenched electric guitar, acoustic rhythm and a djembe, Wondergeist leant a trip-hop vibe to things echoing sounds of early 90s indie with some of the psychedelic feel of one of the afternoon’s earlier bands, Tantale.

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

While it was a bit of a stylistic shift from the rocky sounds going on around it the trio delivered it well and its interesting to see band capable of switching from acoustic duo to full band to seemingly anything in between with ease.

Much like The Swallows, Pepppered Ant Legs hadn’t been seen on stage in some time but they didn’t seem to have missed a step with their excellent delivery of classic rock covers from the likes of AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Motörhead. Dedicating their set not only to fundraising effort but also drummer Pip’s dad, Arthur Blondin (and getting a cheer for it), they were fired up and delivered.

The whole thing came with something of a knowing nod and wink that brothers Matt and Danny Joyce played up to that with aplomb and, with closer Motörhead, went down a storm.

Peppered Ant Legs

Peppered Ant Legs

Another band who played the previous night’s compilation album launch, Blue Mountains brought things back down a little with their Apalachian folk sounds.

Expanded now to a four piece their songs came with a greater depth, albeit with Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall still as the core. Their dark and haunting songs perfectly suited a cold evening like this, and provided something of a break from the previous string of rock acts.

As a band who, in a slightly altered form, once headlined the mainstage at the Vale Earth Fair, Blakalaska came prepared with a huge sound to round off the live acts on the main stage here. Perfectly suited to this kind of event they had the crowd going throughout with their mix of deep electronic and powerful rock sounds.

Blakalaska

Blakalaska

Drummer Barney remains both an astonishing musical and visual focus as he attacks his electronic drums with a deftness and precision that is astonishing while singer Lee Rosette’s vocals soared above the pounding music.

Following Blakalaska was never really going to possible so, instead, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine, who closed off the Vale Earth Fair stage, launched into their set in the most rocking, upbeat and fun fashion I’ve seen from them yet.

While this may not suit the folk festival, here the folk rock act really got the crowd going. With Lisa Vidamour in full on ‘Rocqchick’ mode and Mox pounding away on the drums they rounded off the live bands in great style.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

At this stage it was clear the crowd in the tent had changed and got somewhat younger as they rushed the main stage for The Get Down crew, comprising DJ Four-Q and a host of MC’s including Asylum Seekas’ Jimi-Riddlz, newcomer Atari and more.

It was at this point I bowed out of the show but the tent was bouncing as I headed down the hill from the castle and all reports suggested this continued throught to curfew with DJ’s Oneofakind and Limey Banton before Hard Riddims closed the night with drum ‘n’ bass.

In all Jonah Beats was a triumph raising upwards of £14,000 for the campaign and bringing together musicians and organisers from across the island’s music spectrum like no other.

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Hey! Hello! Too! – Hey! Hello!

Hey! Hello!

Note: This is a review of the subsequently deleted version of Hey! Hello! Too! featuring Hollis on vocals you can read my review of the commercially released version by clicking here.

A couple of years ago Ginger Wildheart unveiled yet another new project as an outlet for a subset of his now vast catalogue of songs that didn’t really fit the styles of The Wildhearts, his self-named band, Mutation or any of the other musical endeavours he was involved with.

Going by the name Hey! Hello! it was a two-piece based studio project that culminated in a self-titled album (you can read my review of it by clicking here) featuring Ginger on all instruments and Victoria Liedtke on vocals.

Since then Hey! Hello! has moved on a bit, Victoria has gone on to other things to be replaced by Hollis J (also of Love Zombies) and a band has been formed featuring, along with Mr. Wildheart on guitar and vocals, Toshi (bass), The Rev (guitar) and Ai Sugiyama (drums) and now, in March 2016, a second album has been released as part of Ginger’s Round Records campaign on Pledgemusic.

As you might expect, given the changes in the band, Hey! Hello!’s sound has developed somewhat but it is still based firmly at the poppier end of Ginger’s trademark sound. While the original album drew comparisons to Sex Pistols fighting with ABBA, added to this already heady mix here are more hints of glam and metal which in many ways makes this something of a successor to Silver Ginger 5 and their one-off record Black Leather Mojo.

Hey! Hello! live in September 2015

Hey! Hello! live in September 2015

Lead single Automatic Love starts off the record with dueling guitars and sets the scene well with what certainly feels like a band album, albeit one clearly led by the songwriting of their founder.

As with much of Ginger’s output in recent years this album continues the theme that he is free of all constraints and is creating what is, essentially, his own musical visions – this is something that has been most obvious on Albion and particularly the Mutation albums, but is evident here, albeit in a more pop sense.

Though certainly with titles like Loud And Fucking Clear this is pop that is unlikely to trouble mainstream radio (and that’s the less adventurous listeners loss).

Across the record Ginger, as always, doesn’t shy away from subjects that don’t often make for pop songs so, as well as his possibly slightly cynical view of romance, we get the likes of Kids that deals with a certain frustration of how having children can spoil ones social life, to Don’t Stop Loving The Music that is, in many way, a direct follow-up to How I Survived The Punk Wars from the first Hey! Hello! record.

Hey Hello - Toshi and The Rev

Toshi and The Rev

If this all sounds a bit intellectual, thankfully that is remedied by power-pop hooks galore that had me singing along even on my first listen – an impressive fat considering I’d only properly heard Automatic Love and Body Parts before.

Musically all the band members deliver but it is the vocal link between Hollis and Ginger that really stands out. Compared to Victoria, Hollis adds a good level of rock ‘n’ roll edge to her parts while also sounding as close a melodic match to Ginger as we’ve heard since CJ in the classic Wildhearts material – albeit in a different kind of way.

As a long time fan of Ginger and his music its hard to give a view as to whether Hey! Hello! Too! would ever crossover to a wider audience than already established fans, but I can’t help think that for anyone with a love of vibrant, honest, power-pop driven rock ‘n’ roll there’ll be something to enjoy here and, despite Ginger’s long and tumultuous history, Hey! Hello! certainly have the songs and style to stand apart from that as their own entity in their own right.

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Jonah Beats Album Launch – The Golden Lion – 04/03/16

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

The day before the Vale Castle became the venue for Jonah Beats, an all day music event raising money for the charity appeal ‘Helping Jonah – Helping Others’, some of the artists playing the mini-fesitval appeared at The Golden Lion to ‘warm up’ and help launch the Jonah Beats compilation album.

The album collects 26 tracks by Guernsey artists and was funded by the pub helping lead to the £14,000 raised so far by the Jonah Beats event and all four acts playing here feature on the double CD set.

First on the Lion’s modest stage (its hard to believe I once saw metallers Choke fit their drums, two Marshall stacks and more on this stage) was Blue Mountains. Newly expanded to a four-piece line up with founders Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall joined by Andrew Degnen (fiddle) and James Le Huray (mandolin) the band’s sound was deeper and more an emulation of their debut album than previously.

While this expansion may have removed a little of the effective simplicity of their sound it certainly gives them more options which were demonstrated on the new original songs in the set.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Unfortunately it was hard to get too much of a good idea of the new sound here as there seemed to be a volume war going on between the band and those drinking in the pub who, at this early stage of the evening didn’t seem too interested in Appalachian murder ballads and Americana style folk.

By the end of the set the audience did begin to quieten down but it made for a challenging performance both for us watching and listening and, I would imagine, the band on stage – though a new original song about a souls being sold to the devil of the Coupee stood out from the pack.

Static Alice did something a bit different next by turning their energetic pop-rock down to fit the smaller venue. At first I wondered how this would work as, although I’ve heard them play successful acoustic sets, this kind of half and half, quiet electric, approach was a new one to me – but in the end the four-piece pulled it off.

Static Alice

Static Alice

While Dominique Ogier’s vocals were a little over powering at times with the more restrained backing it was interesting to hear a less overdriven guitar from Luis (though he still managed to dance around his extensive pedal board of effects).

After their semi-acoustic effort at the Vale Earth Fair’s Unplugged show at the end of January Honest Crooks took the same approach tonight and delivered the night’s highlight set.

The ska-punk trio took their performance up a level once again tonight and it wasn’t long until the crowd in the pub were packed up to the front like gigs here of old, giving it the feel of shows at the old Lion, but in much more pleasant surroundings.

Honest Crooks audience

The audience sang along to Honest Crooks

While they played a few of their own songs, they said that as it was a gig in a pub they’d add some extra covers to the set.

It was these that got the crowd involved with their take on All About That Bass, Reel Big Fish’s Beer, Gentleman’s Dub Club’s High Grade and Sublime’s Date Rape and What I Got getting the crowd singing along and made for a special set.

Following Honest Crooks tonight wasn’t going to be easy for anyone and, for Citizen-X this was compounded by what seemed to be technical difficulties with the visual side of his show. Despite this his chilled out soundscapes were well delivered but didn’t seem to translate to the audience here.

Citizen-X

Citizen-X

No matter though the evening showcased a selection of the music on offer on the Jonah Beats compilation while helping raise some money for the charity and showing that, while it’s a bit different, The Golden Lion can also be an atmospheric small venue for live music.

If you want to find out more about the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity click here for their Facebook page

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Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons, Thee Jenerators and The Phantom Cosmonaut – The Fermain Tavern – 27/02/16

Puss Johnson

Puss Johnson

After their annual Unplugged night kicked off the year the Vale Earth Fair Collective continued their 40th anniversary year with the return of one of the bands who highlighted their 2015 festival, Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons.

As well as the dirty rock ‘n’ roll three-piece the night featured Guernsey’s own garage godfathers, Thee Jenerators, with something a return to form set, while The Phantom Cosmonaut opened the show playing his first set since last summer’s Chaos weekend.

My review of the Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons and Thee Jenerators was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th March 2016 (and there was also a review of The Phantom Cosmonaut by Claire Menzies which you can see further down the page).

Pussycat and The Dirty Johnsons and Thee Jenerators review scan - 05:03:16

and here’s that review of my alter-ego:

The Phantom Cosmonaut review scan - 05:03:16

And finally a taste of Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons in their latest video:

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