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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