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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.