Monthly Archives: July 2016

BBC Guernsey Introducing: July 2016 – Chaos, Sark Folk Festival, The Gathering and more

Of Empires at The Gathering

Of Empires at The Gathering

Click here to listen to the show

With as many festivals as there were weeks in July 2016 the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show for that month took a look back at three of them.

First was Chaos where I spoke to The Hyena Kill and we had music from them, PUNiKSugarSlamScience of Eight Limbs and HONEST CROOKS.

Then came Sark Folk Festival – I spoke to performer and organiser Claire Rakich and we also heard from Blue Mountains and organiser Josh De Kooker with extra music from Burg and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

Finally new festival The Gathering where I spoke to Static Alice and we heard brand new music from Of Empires.

You can listen to the show on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Tracklist

Click here to listen to the show and as I’ve been nominated for an award for my work for BBC Introducing Guernsey you can vote for me here!

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Sound Guernsey Summer Party – The Fermain Tavern – 24/07/16

Blakalaska

Blakalaska

Since last November Sound Guernsey have been running monthly nights at The Venue giving under-18s a chance to experience some of the wide variety of new, live music available in the island.

For their summer party though, they stepped things up a bit, moving to their new home at The Fermain Tavern for an extended session featuring some of the bands who’d been most popular at the monthly nights alongside a couple of newcomers.

The first hour of the show had been deemed an open mic session, but only one, brand new, act took up the offer, Figure It Out. Formed literally within the last few weeks the quartet played a couple of songs and, while they were probably playing out a bit too soon, their enthusiasm couldn’t be faulted and they seemed to have an idea of what they wanted to be doing, even if it wasn’t really there yet.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

The first advertised band on the line up have been around for the last year or so and have gained quite a reputation in that time and showed why tonight. Much tighter than even a few months ago Equilibrium have a light, poppy tone that sounds great on the likes of Scouting For Girls’ hit She’s So Lovely and got the already enthusiastic audience bobbing along.

While they don’t quite have the attitude for the slightly edgier songs they play, as a band they connected well with the crowd here and continue to show growth making them a band still worth keeping an eye on.

Track Not Found were billed as ‘the first band born out of Sound’ as they made their ‘proper’ debut. Mixing 90s style American indie, grunge and a hint of Riotgrrl the trio were a breath of fresh air amidst young bands playing the same old covers as one another. Already presenting a united front in terms of both sound and attitude all three came with presence and power and their songs backed it up.

Track Not Found

Track Not Found

Drummer Emma Thomas was a stand out, far more assured, confident and in her zone than when with The Bone Idols, while dual leaders Maisie Bisson and Grace Taylor captured the crowd from the off.

Taylor was particularly impressive giving off a confidence and ability beyond her years and, while the trio still have plenty of rough edges to work on, this goes down as one of the best debut sets from a genuinely new band I’ve seen in a long time.

From a band taking their first steps to one heading for their last, The Doomsday Project were fully in fun mode for their penultimate performance. This sense of fun that is embodied by frontman George Russell, but is clear in the performance of the other three members too, is making for some of the best shows I’ve seen from them, following their set the weekend before at The Gathering.

Already warmed up the crowd came forward from the start and it wasn’t long before they were bouncing, particularly when Smash Mouth’s All Star got an airing.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

A highlight of the set (that was reprised for the encore) came with a run at Slave’s The Hunter that saw the band and the crowd all crouching down in preparation for the song’s roaring middle section. Even if The Doomsday Project don’t quite have the bite of the Kent duo it worked really well with a great relatable energy between the young band and audience that permeated the entire set.

Wrapping up with Chelsea Dagger (before the encore) closed off probably the best set I’ve seen The Doomsday Project deliver and if they are capable of this regularly it will certainly be a shame to see them go.

For the second time this weekend Honest Crooks took to The Fermain Tavern stage and it wasn’t long before the crowd were getting into their punk-ska-reggae sounds.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Once again the band played a blinder and, having seen them many times recently, I will admit that my focus drifted and I took the chance to get some skanking in. If a band can be as engaging with their own material as with covers by Sublime and their ilk then they must be doing something very right.

To ease in the change of musical styles DJ Four-Q took to the decks and filled the dance floor as his hip-hop sounds even got a fairly elaborate ‘dance battle’ going on in the middle of the floor – it looked like something out of a movie!

Then, with the crowd already worked up Jimi Riddlz and Apex of Asylum Seekas joined Four-Q, feeding off the energy from the crowd who, unlike some other audiences, weren’t shy about the call and response moments.

Asylum Seekas

Asylum Seekas

Seeing this trio in front of such an energetic crowd is to see them at their peak and they were as entertaining as I’ve ever seen them, ranging from the intensity of Riddlz work to Apex’s more lighthearted touches.

It felt like a mini Get Down was kicking off for a few minutes as the set flew by culminating in undeniable crowd pleaser Guernsey Bus.

Having been one of the most popular bands from all of the past Sound Guernsey events Blakalaska were suitable headliners and from the start had the crowd involved with their captivating electronic, dance-rock sounds.

Despite missing guitarist Oliver Farimond (his parts were filled in from Ollie McVey’s bank of electronics) the band sounded huge and the high energy of the earlier sets was still flowing, even if the crowd had shrunk a little (likely down to it getting a bit later on a Sunday night).

Blakalaska

Blakalaska

While most of the set is familiar the fact the band play rarely meant it still sounded fresh and there were some newer songs in the mix too culminating in an encore of Hands Up that had the desired effect of closing Sound Guernsey’s first show in their new venue on a real high – lets hope this carries on when the under 18 nights continue monthly from September.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and a few of my photos were used in The Guernsey Press along with Becky Cox’s review

Sound Summer Party - photos 30/07/16

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Sons of Cain album launch – The Fermain Tavern – 22/07/16

Sons of Cain

Sons of Cain

As anyone who follows music of any kind will know things come in waves with different sounds and styles ebbing and flowing and some trends becoming more popular than others, this is true even within the small scene in Guernsey.

So, when Sons of Cain appeared earlier in the year with grand plans for a heavy metal concept album and live show to go with it they stood out against the prevailing scene in the way that metal often has, for better or worse.

Arriving at The Fermain Tavern for the show there was an odd atmosphere to the place and ska-punks Honest Crooks seemed oddly nervous for a band with so many gigs under their belt. After a few festival shows it was great seeing the three-piece back up close and once they got going the nerves clearly vanished as they delivered their usual fun show.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Mixing up their now fairly well-worn set a bit provided some new dynamics but the crowd didn’t connect with it like they have at other gigs. Largely this was probably down to the fact that the trio stood out like a sore thumb when compared to the heavier bands making up the rest of the bill and the podium and pole set up in the middle of the dance floor didn’t really help either essentially blocking a chunk of the stage for the audience.

The reason for this podium was what came next as a quartet of agile and rhythmically gifted young ladies performed a set of pole dancing routines. While the dancers themselves performed some impressive things I couldn’t help but find this part of the night a little out-of-place and the concept as a whole somewhat dated.

The likes of Motörhead and Motley Crüe are known for their use of dancers during their performances but none of the bands on offer tonight fit that style, though it was nice to hear some Sisters of Mercy played loud through the PA for one of the routines…

'Soloman Cain' of Sons of Cain

‘Soloman Cain’

Positioning themselves in the middle of the show, rather than headlining, felt like an odd choice for Sons of Cain but the crowd headed forward in anticipation as the trio took to the stage.

While the rhythm section of Keith (drums) and Joe (bass) had gone to a small effort to fit the conceptual metal vibe, visually it was frontman Vinny who’d gone all out as his alter ego ‘Soloman Cain’ (isn’t there a comic book character called that?) in an abundance of black leather, make up, white contact lenses and a pair of elaborate, black angel’s wings.

Unfortunately one band member in costume doesn’t guarantee a good show and, while they thrashed their way through the songs Sons of Cain largely failed to connect with the audience who, a few songs in, drifted from the dancefloor.

Occasionally joined by former Stone Em All axeman Lee the band did have some nice moments, particularly when they got into some classic thrash style passages, but as a complete package it all fell somewhat flat in a plodding retread of the kind of thing Dio was doing nearly forty years ago. None of this was helped by a sound mix that saw the guitars lost in the general murk and the pole dancers clearing their equipment away on the dancefloor midway through the set.

While it’s always good to see a band try something different, here Sons of Cain fell the wrong side of power metal ridiculousness and it was hard to tell if they were taking it all a bit too seriously or were just out to have some slightly silly fun.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

With the dance floor now clear of poles and podiums Lord Vapour launched into their set in punishingly loud fashion. As they worked their way through the first track the crowd returned from wherever they’d been hiding and the band shimmied into their loose grooves as they always do.

While I will admit to having grown a little tired of Lord Vapour’s extended jams there’s no doubting they are well delivered and have gained them a dedicated following and they were in the midst of a prime example of that as I slipped out into the night after one of the most unusual night’s I’ve experienced at ‘The Tav’ in quite some time.

See my full gallery of photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Facebook page

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The Gathering – North Field – 15, 16, 17 July 2016

Of Empires at The Gathering

Of Empires

New music festival The Gathering took over the North Field football grounds over the weekend of 15th, 16th and 17th July 2016 for three days of music showcasing a variety of music from the island.

With headliners including SugarSlam, Static Alice, King Rat & The Soul Cats, Fade To Grey and Of Empires it was a mixed line up including bands playing their own material, veteran performers and bands more usually seen rocking the pub circuit.

My review of the festival was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 23rd July and you can read an extended version below that.

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

The Gathering review 23:07:16

Extended Review

Day 1

Lord Vapour at The Gathering

Lord Vapour

A new music event is always a good thing to hear about, especially when the organisers are talking about something on the scale of this, The Gathering, taking over the North Field football pitch and surrounding fields with three stages of music across three days.

As I arrived at the site midway through the afternoon of the first day things seemed very spread out on the enormous field with the dance tent in one corner near the entrance and the acoustic stage in the far opposite corner. Around the edges of the field were a few ‘trade’ and food stalls and in the distance I could vaguely here the sounds of Lord Vapour beginning their set.

The main stage was located at the far end of the site at the western side of the club’s main football pitch with the beer tent and VIP area opposite. The few had turned out early on the Friday mostly populated the area between the sound control tower and the stage but in such a big space it felt pretty empty.

None-the-less Lord Vapour were grooving their way through their set in the loose manner that has become their trademark. This was derailed slightly by a few issues with the drum kit doing its best to escape the riser, but the band soldiered through starting off my weekend on a positive note.

Common Room at The Gathering

Common Room

While things were heavy on the main stage the acoustic stage was offering some nice summer-y vibes from young trio Common Room.

They were a little rough around the edges and suffered a bit from the main stage sound bleeding across but they were nice to listen to and would have suited the sunnier days to follow to a tee.

The heaviness continued on the main stage with Stone Em All. This show was something of a landmark for the band as it marks the end of them as a regularly performing live band and they gave it their all.

Suited and booted for the occasion the five-piece metal band have evolved from something many (myself included) found hard to take seriously into a solid and effective unit, unfortunately here the big space in front of the stage was only populated by their hardcore followers and it was obvious it was hard work for the band to maintain the energy they needed across the set.

Stone Em All at The Gathering

Stone Em All

Rounding things off with their now traditional set closer of Cathedral’s Hopkins (The Witchfinder General), possibly the best I’ve heard them do it, it’s a shame to see this band who staunchly stuck to their guns in the face of all musical trends go.

Another band who suffered from the small crowd were Honest Crooks who’s ska-punk seemed to lose some of its bass funk in the translation from the stage to the field.

Regardless the band gave it their all and adding To The Woods’ Bobby Battle on kazoo for High Grade helped boost things a little.

Ending the set somewhat suddenly with Stressball it felt like they still had more to give and just seemed to be getting the small crowd warmed up, but I guess that’s part of a festival show.

With recently added bass player Danny Joyce in full over the top flow, Peppered Ant Legs headed into a set of classic hard rock covers that felt a little out-of-place amidst all the bands playing mostly their own material tonight.

Peppered Ant Legs at The Gathering

Peppered Ant Legs

As ever the trio have a sense of fun, looking fairly ridiculous (kilts and pith helmets featured), but played solid renditions of the likes of Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and more.

Danny’s showmanship may have slightly overshadowed his brother Matt’s role as frontman and it didn’t feel quite as slick a performance as sometimes, but their version of Sabbath’s Fairies Wear Boots is always a treat and as Metallica have proven its hard to go wrong ending a set with Seek & Destroy.

The crowd seemed to have reached its peak as SugarSlam took to the stage and it was clear the band took this as a chance to have a blast on stage which was genuinely infectious.

It may not have been their tightest show as the four-piece grunge-influenced rockers mixed a few covers of the likes of Nirvana and The Sacred Hearts with their own great songs and those in attendance seemed to enjoy it, albeit from a distance, before the band rounded off the set with Stace Blondel joining them for Guns ’n’ Roses It’s So Easy and then a blast through Ace Of Spades.

Static Alice at The Gathering

Static Alice

While the crowd had shrunk it was clear as Static Alice hit the stage that those that remained had come to see the headliners. The audience heading closer to the stage helped create a little atmosphere right down the front and the band did what they always do and put on a show making full use of the huge stage.

This wasn’t quite a highlight like their recent headline slot at Chaos but this still felt like a top-level performance and the band clearly worked hard to keep the energy up to the attentive but not so energetic audience.

Closing the set of on a few covers of Ballroom Blitz and Boys Of Summer closed the first day on a high point but it was clear many were wondering and hoping if the numbers would pick up for day two.

My photos from the first day of the festival

Day 2

Day Release at The Gathering

Day Release

Arriving at the site as openers Day Release were mid set on Saturday lunchtime I was hoping that the day would be busier than what I had seen the previous and, while the first few bands played to small crowds, this steadily grew throughout the afternoon.

Its been a while since I’ve seen Day Release but they did exactly what I’d expected, delivering a solidly performed set of covers that show why they’ve made something of a reputation on the local pub circuit.

Their performance felt a bit lost on the big stage and with a small audience but that is one of the ever-present perils of being first on at a show like this.

Never ones to let anything stop them punk rockers Jawbone launched into their set with their usual sloppy enthusiasm. In three-piece mode without frontman Steve, it wasn’t long before guitarist Lee’s voice started to go and by the time they attempted The Misfits’ classic Astro Zombies it was clear there were problems.

Jawbone at The Gathering

Jawbone with Dom

Thankfully Dom from Static Alice was on hand to help out with a couple of songs before Lee and Dan muddled their way through The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down) to round off a fun if slightly desperate performance.

Things were a bit more relaxed and folky on the acoustic stage with Blue Mountains delivering a set of their soulful, dark folk.

A bit odd out in the open air in daylight the darkly hued songs still sounded great but it was hard to escape the notion that this stage (particularly today) was simply acting as background music for the fenced off ‘gin and Prosecco garden’.

Ramblin' Nick Mann at The Gathering

Ramblin’ Nick Mann

The folkiness continued with Ramblin’ Nick Mann going for a full on performance of the DIY blues character he’s been building over the last couple of years.

As ragged and rough as music like this should be, complete with homemade guitars and mic, there was a nice irony seeing such an un-corporate sound under a big advertising banner for a local telecoms company as he drew the biggest crowd I’d seen at this stage yet (though bigger was certainly to come).

As they head towards their final show The Doomsday Project were in top form bringing some upbeat, fun pop punk to the main stage in the mid-afternoon.

With the crowd now growing and relaxing in the sun the band seemed to go down well and even got a handful on their feet for a mix of original songs from their debut album and classic punk covers including their now standard, excellent, take on Jilted John and a surprisingly good Alternative Ulster (even if it didn’t quite have the passion Stiff Little Fingers gave the original).

The Doomsday Project at The Gathering

The Doomsday Project

Stoked brought us back into the world of the pub covers circuit with a good set of rocking tunes that was fun, if a bit heartless, but provided a nice soundtrack for those working their way through the contents of the beer tent while ‘chilling’ out in the now blazing afternoon sun.

The covers continued with Stuck To The Ceiling but, with Stace Blondel fronting the band, this wasn’t going to be a rote tread through of standards. Coming across as a real burst of energy Stace looked like a manic hybrid of Ozzy Osbourne and Bruce Dickinson whatever songs he was singing and the rest of the band left him to it while they delivered the music is a solid and unfussy way.

It wasn’t long before Stace was scaling the PA stacks at the side of the stage while blasting out everything from David Bowie to Lady Gaga, his charisma is undeniable and it drew a few more onto their feet for a dance at the front.

Tantale at The Gathering

Tantale

Being the only band entirely dedicated to their own material on the main stage today made Tantale feel a little out of place as we headed into the evening and this wasn’t helped by a sound mix that, further away from the stage, made them sound almost a cappella.

Despite this their lightly psychedelic indie sound was spot on for a warm summer evening but I couldn’t help think that regardless of the band’s best efforts it didn’t quite come across as well as it maybe should have.

Back firmly in classic tune territory Guernsey music stalwart Pete Frampton led his band into a fine performance of middle of the road rock. While very well-played its hard to get too excited about as the band worked their way through the set in steady, slick fashion and the audience continued lazing in the now setting sun.

King Rat and the Soul Cats at The Gathering

King Rat and the Soul Cats

As King Rat & The Soul Cats took to the stage with a bigger, clearer sound than anything so far this weekend the crowd immediately took notice and got to their feet.

Tight, sharp and as on it as can, be the ten-piece band played their way through a set of soul and Motown classics, newer songs and a few originals (including a never before played track intended for their never recorded second album) which demonstrated why they have the reputation they do.

Chris Dean once again showed himself to be one of the best frontmen Guernsey has seen, working the crowd excellently, while Susann Hatcher gave him a run for his money when she took the lead.

With the audience fully invested as the set went on they provided one of the first highlight performances of the weekend.

Buffalo Huddleston at The Gathering

Buffalo Huddleston

After a bit of last-minute re-ordering a stripped back version of Buffalo Huddleston took to the acoustic stage in front of by far the biggest audience that stage would see all weekend, regardless of the lack of light and it being almost impossible to see the band if you weren’t right at the front.

Despite not having a violin player Mike, Simon, Tom and Jull-z didn’t miss a step and the crowd were into it throughout, even singing in some of the violin parts or otherwise just getting into the relaxed and funky grooves that left many questioning why they weren’t main stage headliners.

Now fully into tribute band territory Fade To Grey headlined the main stage with a set that was great fun and very hard not to have a nostalgic sing and dance to – even if you weren’t actually there the first time.

Fade To Grey at The Gathering

Fade To Grey

Kriss provided the visual lead for the band, all postures and poses in a suitably knowing and camp way, while Nikk and Little Gary Numan seemed to be the musical core of the band leaving Andi to provide the synth drum fills.

The crowd was certainly now big enough that the there was a great atmosphere in the main field, especially if you were down the front, and, while it may not be a highlight for the serious musos, its hard to fault the quartet as they rounded up on an encore of Together In Electric Dreams.

If an 80s electronic tribute wasn’t your thing Clameur De Haro were delivering a different type of fun on the acoustic stage with their unique take on bluegrass.

Clameur De Haro at The Gathering

Clameur De Haro and Stace

With a good-sized crowd jigging along the band got Stace Blondel and Bobby Battle on for extra vocals on Born To Be Wild before, so the story goes, continuing their set into a pure acoustic encore pushing the event curfew to its limit.

My photos from the second day of the festival

Day 3

After the high of Saturday night, as is usual Sunday lunchtime is hard work to get going and the job fell to young band The Bone Idols.

Playing to friends, parents, the next band and a handful of others all four seemed pretty proficient for their young ages (credit both to them and School of Popular Music where they formed) but the lack of a dedicated bass player made their sound a bit uneven.

The Bone Idols at The Gathering

The Bone Idols

While Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Michael Jackson’s Thriller are brave songs to attempt they gave them a good go and they were at least the second young band of the weekend to give us a run through of Green Day’s Holiday with the potentially offensive words censored – I can’t help but think if you think a song has offensive bits and you don’t want to offend, just don’t play it…

But I digress, The Bone Idols kicked off the day well and set the tone for the afternoon with more upbeat covers.

It seems there’s always at least one Beatles tribute band doing the rounds and, at the moment, that’s The Day Trippers.

The Day Trippers at The Gathering

The Day Trippers

Delivering a set largely drawn from the Fab Four’s early days they play them well with a smile and a sense of fun that was spot on for a sunny afternoon.

The songs, of course, are timeless but they came across well and the band did them justice making me wonder why they weren’t part of the previous night’s tribute act session.

The Secret Smiles 60s-90s indie hybrid should have been perfect both to follow on from Beatles’ songs and for a sunny afternoon but unfortunately a lot of their jangly guitar sound got lost somewhere in the mix today.

Despite this the band’s authenticity and good songs made for an enjoyable set but, like Tantale the previous night, I couldn’t help but feel this was a missed opportunity.

Blacksmith at The Gathering

Blacksmith

After making their debut at Chaos, Blacksmith put in a much more assured performance here giving a little more explanation to both their name and the concept that drives their heavy metal songs.

Delivered with a bit more conviction the story of the blacksmith’s quest for his maiden fair isn’t quite there yet but its something a bit different at least.

The acoustic stage continued on the Sunday as well and my highlight there came from newcomers Lighthouse.

With nice acoustic melodies and vocal harmonies the trio seemed to bridge the gap between being very nervous and very modest in a charming way that was backed up by the music.

Lighthouse at The Gathering

Lighthouse

Vocalist Lucy Cave has a sweet voice with a bit of bite behind it where needed, though I’m not sure the affected Irish accent was necessary but, thanks to Matt Champion we can at least rest easy with the knowledge that Galway is, indeed, in Ireland.

I’ll freely admit that, in the past I’ve not really enjoyed what I’ve caught of Underdog, but today they seemed in their element and at their best as they rocked through a set of pop-rock covers – it may be custom-built for the pub circuit but it worked well on the big stage here.

Knowing who’s featured in the band it should be no surprise that Kings provided a pitch perfect set of modern indie pop, but the quality of it was still beyond my expectations.

Kings at The Gathering

Kings

With upbeat dance-y sounds, darker thematic substance and some hugely impressive harmonies the four-piece are like little else in the island at the moment.

Frontman Eli Crossan delivered his vocals with a real soul and range while Casey-Joe Rumens provided some epic guitar solo work in what was as slick and smooth a performance as we saw all weekend. Closer The Enemy provided a highlight of a genuine highlight set.

Following that the well performed Led Zeppelin tribute of Easily Led was something of a come down.

The band got the legendary sound they were working towards well and Kashmir in particular was an impressive highlight but the lack of energetic performance and falling where they did on the bill possibly didn’t show the band in the best light.

Taking rock ’n’ roll and giving it the coolest of grooves headliners Of Empires were on top form from the off.

Of Empires

Of Empires

Always clearly excited to be back on home soil frontman Jack Fletcher was maybe less manic tonight but still energetic and worked the crowd with aplomb while Matthew Berry’s guitar work provided a laconic groove perfect for a warm evening.

With a lot of new songs alongside tracks from their debut EP highlights came in a cover of Shakin’ All Over and new songs See You With The Angels Kid and Baby Darlin’ Sugar.

All of this brought the weekend that had, if I’m honest, been a mixed affair that often felt more about socialising in the sun than celebrating music, to a fantastic close. While there were a few teething problems and some things could have been done better I hope to see The Gathering return in a refined form giving Guernsey’s musicians a chance to showcase their music to an even wider audience.

My photos from the third day of the festival

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The Space Pirates of Rocquaine – Vraic And Roll

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine - Vraic and RollWith their show-stealer of a performance at the 2016 Sark Folk Festival, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine released their second full length album, Vraic & Roll.

Pulling together a number of songs that have become live favourites over the last couple of years, since the release of their debut Vraic & Ruin, the record tells tales of Guernsey combining history and legend with a good dose of poetic licence.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 16th July 2016 and you can read it below.

Space Pirates album review - 160716

The album artwork is by Guernsey based artist and designer Helen Arnold and you can find out more about her work on her website.

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Sark Folk Festival – 1, 2, 3 July 2016 – Extended Review

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Now into its seventh year the Sark Folk Festival continued its huge success on the weekend of 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 2016 after tickets officially sold out in less than half an hour the previous November.

With that in mind there was clearly a lot of expectation for the festival and with all accommodation and transport to Sark packed for the days around there was a real buzz on the island from my arrival on Thursday 30th June.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th July and you can see a full set of my photos from each day of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my extended review is below the cutting.

Sark Folk Festival review - 09:07:16

Extended Review

Claire Rakich

Claire Rakich

Day 1

After some wet and foggy weather put paid to the usual outdoor party and open music session at the Bel Air on Thursday night, this year’s Sark Folk Festival didn’t really get going until the festival gates opened on Friday afternoon.

In the past its been the Alligande Stage that has been home to the festival’s first acts but, in something of a sign of their new, more equal position, it was the smaller stages that heard the first music this year, in their new home of an amazing ‘double teepee’ style tent in the festival’s second field.

Under this new canvas long time festival performer Claire Rakich was first to step onto Les Burons stage with a mix of acoustic guitar and unaccompanied songs.

In these intimate surroundings Rakich’s voice was captivating and at its best when unadorned by accompaniment as she shifted from lighthearted and fun songs to genuinely haunting moments all delivered with a relaxed self-deprecating confidence that started the festival on an evocative high.

On the bigger stages a full strength, eight-piece, version of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers opened proceedings on the Vermerette Stage. With so many instruments in play this could have been a sonic disaster but credit to the sound team for getting a great sound and the Skillet Lickers for playing their rag-time street busking blues very well.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

While many kept a bit of a distance in the already busy tent this was a great upbeat way to start things as the band played off one another excellently with Clem Brouard and Shacks leading the way, and they even had a washboard player today!

The more Americana end of folk continued on the Alligande stage with JD & Folk delivering a set of country-folk standards that were well performed if a bit flat after the somewhat manic energy of the Skillet Lickers.

Continuing their run of festival dates after Chaos the previous weekend and Dark Hollow the week before that, Blue Mountains returned to their spiritual home on Les Burons stage.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Unfortunately for much of the set Colleen Irven’s vocals were a little lost in the mix which lost the performance some of its power. The band was still highly enjoyable though, and delivered a wide set of songs ending with an excellent pure acoustic moment on the floor of the tent, in amongst the large crowd they’d drawn down the field.

One thing the Sark Folk Festival has always done is stretch the limits of the definition of folk and roots music and far as it can go and this year’s prime example of that were Guernsey alt-rock, indie, crew Wondergeist.

Despite the slightly out-of-place style, the laid back sounds the band made were spot on for the early evening slot and, had the sun been beating down like we all wished it were, I think they would have made even more of a mark. Nonetheless, with the tent packed – mostly it seemed for the music and not to avoid the weather – Wondergeist were a nice change of pace amongst the more acoustic and stripped back sounds on offer.

Robert J. Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

With people already standing while the band set up (and a few shouts for them to sit down by those seated further back) it was clear Robert J. Hunter and his band brought some expectation along with them – not surprising following last year’s excellent set here.

From the off they didn’t disappoint as they blasted out their brand of dirty blues, albeit in slightly more acoustic form than usual, with Hunter continuing to show why he has gained the reputation he has. With the tent packed this may not have been quite the stand out set last year’s was but it was still a highlight of the first day of the festival.

Dallahan brought things back down a little with set of much more traditional, mid-tempo folk that had an upbeat quality to it. The quintet played off each other very well, demonstrating a real musical chemistry, that, from about the half-way mark, started to get to the audience who began to get a little more lively.

Mad Dog Mcrea

Mad Dog Mcrea

There was no choice but to be lively to the infectious hybrid-folk sounds of Mad Dog Mcrea. With huge energy coming from the band they added a bit of a rock beat to their folky sounds that reminded me of Gogol Bordello in places (especially when they broke into Start Wearing Purple during their encore).

With the whole tent bouncing along to songs about pirates, unfortunate goldfish and more, the six-piece band’s folk ’n’ roll sounds provided my highlight of the first day.

The upbeat sounds only continued to round off the night with Monster Ceilidh Band who had the Alligande Stage tent packed to bursting and, mostly, dancing along throughout. Before I get to the band I feel the need to mention the line of people staunchly sitting in their plastic chairs in the midst of the tightly packed crowd. They may have been wanting to make a point about people standing up earlier, or simply not wanting to move, but it seemed they could easily have become a danger to themselves or others had the crowd surged in any direction as they are wont to do at events like this, anyway i digress….

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band mixed live dance rhythms with traditional sounding ceilidh (Scottish and Irish dancing) tunes in another kind of hybrid-folk. For the first half of the set I was a bit worried this would all become a bit same-y to my untrained ear, but as it went on the band varied and mixed the sounds up with elements of drum ’n’ bass to keep it varied, interesting and above all huge, culminating in a tune dedicated their drum ’n’ bass hero Andy C.

With two encores called for and delivered Monster Ceilidh Band rounded off the first day of the festival on a high and with the sort of crowd that we’re used to seeing for the typically more busy Saturday night.

My photos from the first day of the festival

Day 2

Singing circle

Singing circle

With more than 12 hours of music on offer the second day of Sark Folk Festival could be compared to the musical equivalent of a marathon so its nice that it got going in relaxed form with an informal circle singing group in the open air before the music on the stages began.

Sark’s own harbour master, Peter Gabriel Byrne, and his band were first on stage with some light acoustic balladry that continued the relaxed ‘early’ feel. As is to be expected the rotating cast of musicians from Sark is limited but former Recks trumpeter Ash Jarman and others showed a real variety to their playing as they made appearances across the weekend.

Getting together seemingly once a year in an official capacity Whose Shoes are always a bit of a treat and this year was no exception. Led by Dave Etherington, this year celebrating his birthday and literally heading directly from his tent to the stage, his loose vibe leading the band makes for a hugely enjoyable style of busking blues.

Whose Shoes

Whose Shoes

With insistent, upbeat rhythms throughout and Sarah Van Vlymen’s violin providing some nice leads there were many highlights but renditions of Like A Hobo, Whiskey Train, It Gets There Slow and encore of original song Loose Lips were some fine early highlights of the day.

After much travelling and working on her debut album Guernsey singer songwriter Nessi Gomes made her Sark Folk Festival debut on the Tintageu Stage with a set of captivating, classical guitar accompanied, songs. Her enchanting voice and guitar playing had those in the tent and gathered on the slope outside in rapt silence making for another moment like only this festival can deliver.

As the cliché goes, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Clameur De Haro marked their third birthday on the Vermerette Stage by launching into a folked up take on Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild.

Clameur De Haro

Shifty’s stage dive

Its impossible not to have a good time when this band are playing and they got people dancing early on in the day and had the tent packed for a set that included everything from a guest appearance by Deputy John Gollop to a stage dive from cajon player Shifty making for a show guaranteed to make you smile and have tunes stuck in your head for days to come.

Back on more of an even keel Jerseyman Kevin Pallot brought the Saturday afternoon back to a slightly more relaxed feel with his three-piece band. The trio delivered a selection of rhythmically powerful folk pop that had something to say and showed another side of this regular festival performer’s work away from the past full band material I’ve heard.

The Laird's Chair

The Laird’s Chair

In the slot reserved in the past for The Barley Dogs, their spiritual successor The Laird’s Chair made their Sark Folk Festival debut. Taking on the more traditional folk side of what the Barley’s did the quartet struggled a little with a broken fiddle string early on but recovered to deliver a fine set of songs and tunes.

Despite battling some issues with onstage feedback (a regular occurrence on the Alligande stage it seemed) the Gren Bartley Band delivered a set of nice relaxed pop-y folk music that was nice and easy to listen to but never really seemed to go anywhere.

A regular fixture at the festival The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie had a good-sized crowd down at the Tintageu Stage. Starting with a few of their more folky songs which show an often overlooked depth to Crowman’s writing, it wasn’t long before the garage side of the self-described ‘garage-folk’ sound started to come through but the audience revelled in all of it, singing along to the likes of The Robert Johnson Resurrection Blues with gusto.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

With a crowd already gathered while they were setting up, festival regulars The Space Pirates of Rocquaine had even more to bring to their performance this year as they were marking the release of their second album, Vraic & Roll. With Lisa ‘Rocqchick’ Vidamour in full on ‘rock star mode’ throughout, the band delivered what is probably their best set to date mixing the energy of last year’s show stealing closing set with slightly more considered playing to hit a sweet spot between the two.

Along with Lisa a standout point was the power Moxie’s drumming brings to the band that has transformed them somewhat into a more definitely folk-rock act that has real cross generational appeal. With the crowd clapping and singing along highlights came with the likes of Cruex Mahy, Prosperity and Folk Everything amongst others culminating in an encore of Mr Le Goupillot all making for possibly the performance of the festival.

O'Hooley and Tidow

O’Hooley and Tidow

Due to the timings on the Vermerette and Alligande stage having slipped a bit I was only able to catch a small section of O’Hooley & Tidow’s performance but it sounded as excellent as we have come to expect from these regular visitors. With genuinely touching and impassioned moments alongside songs like their ode to small Yorkshire breweries, Summat’s Brewin’ , the duo who span folk and anarchy are truly worth seeking out.

As I headed down to the teepee stages Gregory Harrison was in full swing in front of a large crowd with his soulful bluesy songs coming across as well as I’ve ever heard and getting a very positive reception. This led to an encore in the form of a timely rendition of John Martyn’s I Don’t Want To Know About Evil with an amazing sing along.

Burg with Becky

Burg with Becky

Having been away for a few years (aside from visits with his garage rock band The Electric Shakes) Burg, AKA Steve Lynch, made his return to the Sark Folk Festival with new band members AJ (gob irons and backing vocals) and Olly (upright bass) in tow. Building on Burg’s stripped back americana/country/folk sound the trio delivered some slow and loose grooves that would be perfect for a hot day but also fit surprisingly well on this chilly summer night.

While Burg’s playing and delivery was, as ever, second to none, AJ played his harmonica like I’ve not seen before with real dynamics from the sound of a steam train down to haunting atmospherics and for the one song he took lead vocals, a rendition of Coming Home originally by Dallas Green, many heralded him as one of the best voices of the weekend. The trio were join by Becky Hamilton on fiddle for a couple of songs just adding more to the southern vibes and with the crowd singing along in the intimate tent it made for my standout performance of the weekend.

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson with Ash

Hat Fitz and Cara with Ash

For the second night in a row the Alligande Stage tent was standing room only as people packed in to catch another returning act, Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson. The Australian/Irish duo played a set of their more upbeat bluesy material that came with a presence that filled the tent and a huge amount of onstage chemistry that helped the already great songs sound even better.

Fitz was amazing to watch from a playing perspective as his guitar seemed to be an extension of himself while Cara had a similar connection with her drums but then added to it with washboard, flute and whistle while both wailed out soulful heartfelt vocals as well. With enough dynamic across the set to keep it hugely engrossing they invited Ash Jarman on stage for final track Power and a much called for encore that rounded off the second day of the Festival on possibly its all round highest point to date.

My photos from the second day of the festival

Day 3

Scotts John

Scotts John

After such a full on Saturday the final day of the Sark Folk Festival is, for the most part, a far more relaxed affair and it started off with a small crowd who’d braved the morning rain listening to Guernsey folk stalwart Scotts John.

Coming from the 60s new folk tradition John tells stories with his songs that are always worth hearing highlighted here by his song Sark, written in his native Glasgow in 1977, after his first visit to the island, its amazing it’s now getting played back on the island that inspired it.

Sark’s own folk band, Big Sheep, started to liven things up a bit on the Alligande Stage. Led by local shepherd Dave and his ever revolving group of musicians, including former Recks Barney and Ash and Jess of The Space Pirates, they mixed original tunes and songs with numbers by the likes of Joni Mitchell and The Levellers.

Big Sheep

Big Sheep

Across the set they built the energy and if you focussed on stage you could forget the weather outside and be transported to a nicely relaxed, sunny summer’s day. While a bit scrappy in places as they aren’t a full time band they still play well together and it wouldn’t be Sark Folk Festival without them.

Having travelled from Shetland Ross Couper and Tom Oakes started out by trying to get their audience on their feet but realised it was going to take a bit more work, so dived into a set of lively instrumental tunes on guitar and fiddle. After a while a few did start to get to their feet and it was clear that this pleased the duo, but either way their music was great clap along stuff backed up by some excellent chat between songs that perfectly suited the relaxed atmosphere.

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

While The Vraic Gatherers played their usual Sunday afternoon set on the Vermerette Stage the Alligande side of the tent was quickly filling up in anticipation of the final band of the weekend, Buffalo Huddleston.

With violinist Becky Hamilton back the band mixed things up somewhat starting out with the original trio of Becky, Sarah Van Vlymen and Mike Meinke delivering a few of their early songs before being joined by the rest of the band. This gave the set a nice build that the audience rode into a frenzy singing and dancing along for over an hour.

With most of the songs being sung back at the band the amazing popularity of Buffalo Huddleston was evident and fantastic to see for a band from the islands playing their own music.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

As I headed back to the harbour I could hear the band’s encore across the valley and closer Sunrise sounded huge with the crowd’s singing audible as well, rounding off what had been a great festival on an insurmountable high – I don’t envy the organisers trying to top this festival next year!

My photos from the third day of the festival

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Absolutely Fabulous The Movie poster25 years or so ago, at the height of her powers, Jennifer Saunders unleashed her PR guru character Edina ‘Eddie’ Monsoon on the world, alongside perpetual hanger-on Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), in BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. Now, following a few one-off specials since the original TV show ended in 1996, the show has transferred to the big screen following in the footsteps of seemingly every British sitcom from Dad’s Army and On The Busses to The Inbetweeners with predictably mixed results.

The story, what there is of it, revolves around Eddie accidentally killing supermodel Kate Moss and going on the run with Patsy to the south of France. What this really provides is a framework on which to loosely hang a series of jokes and set pieces that have a feeling of ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’, rather than the well judged jokes and moments Saunders’ work on TV is more known for.

That’s not to say it isn’t funny as it has some great moments both harking back to the TV series and poking fun at the ever-increasing cult of modern celebrity.

On top of this though, and I guess as part of it, more than anything the film feels like an excuse to parade celebrity cameos across the screen. So we get Kate Moss, bigger cameo style parts for Lulu and Emma Bunton (gamely playing along) and a host of others no doubt including some I didn’t get. Standouts of these come in the form Jean-Paul Gaultier, Barry Humphries (twice, sort of) and Jeremy Paxman – a list which sums up something of the sublime to the ridiculous nature of the whole movie.

Eddie (Suanders) and Patsy (Lumley)

Eddie (Suanders) and Patsy (Lumley)

As the film goes on the plot becomes even more flimsy so that rather than reaching a conclusion it just sort of stops, following a montage of what conveniently happened and something that seems to be aping the classical denouement of Some Like It Hot but totally missing the mark. It feels as if after 90 minutes the writer, editor and director just decided they’d had enough and it was going to finish.

What really holds the film together are the performances, Saunders as Eddie is as ridiculous as you’d expect and, while it feels a little over the top when scaled up it, is what made the character. Lumley as Patsy is pitch perfect throughout, treading a line of ridiculousness excellently, even when the material may not live up to it, and is, in many ways the movie’s standout.

Away from the leads the usual cast of supporting characters return with Julie Sawalha’s Saffie carrying on where she left off in the series as if no time had passed, while Bubble (Jane Horrocks), Mother (June Whitfield) and newcomer Lola, Saffie’s daughter (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness) all play their parts well even if I felt there was space for more, particularly from Whitfield who was always a standout of the TV series.

Patsy, Lola (Donaldson-Holness) and Eddie

Patsy, Lola (Donaldson-Holness) and Eddie

What this all leads to is a film that feels like its got enough ideas for a TV episode but stretched out to 90 minutes while still looking a bit too much like a TV show in places and, while far from the worst movie based on a British TV sitcom, never quite lives up to its source material – and that Kylie version of The Band’s This Wheel’s On Fire over the closing moments is awful.

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The Wildhearts – Never Outdrunk, Never Outsung: P.H.U.Q. Live

The Wildhearts - Never Outdrunk, Never Outsung: PHUQ Live2015 marked the 20th anniversary of The Wildhearts second full length album, P.H.U.Q., and the British rock four-piece marked that with a tour playing the album in its entirety (as released anyway) to packed houses of clamouring fans. During the tour they recorded a live version of the album which has now been released via lead man Ginger’s ongoing Round Records campaign on Pledgemusic.

If you’re a fan of the band (as I am, otherwise why would I have pledged) you’ll know P.H.U.Q. is, arguably, the band at their creative peak, though much of this was stifled by record company interference, a huge intake of drugs and much infighting. Quite which of these had the biggest effect is probably up for discussion but I’ll side with Ginger and say it was EastWest Records that caused the most problems, causing what could have been a double CD epic to be compressed somewhat into what was finally released. None-the-less the album contains some of the bands most recognisable and long-lasting songs.

Kicking off with the double pop-rock blast of I Want To Go Where The People Go and V-Day, played at super speed and with enough punch to fell a concrete elephant, Never Outdrunk, Never Outsung starts as it means to go on with the band clear of mind and body and preaching to the very much converted.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

After these we get a bit of chat from Ginger sounding as relaxed as he ever has on stage before the first fully captured sing-a-long moment of the record on Just In Lust. Having been at the London leg of the tour I can confirm that every word was sung along by the crowd but of course, on the record we want to hear the band too and the balance between the two is spot on. So, the sing along passages are there in all their glory while in some places the crowd is a quiet background to Ginger and CJ’s always excellent harmonies – oh! and CJ’s guitar is perfectly audible throughout (in joke of the die hards there).

As it goes on the likes of Jonesing For Jones and In Lily’s Garden channel The Beatles’ more psychedelic moments through an arena rock filter while Caprice, Woah Shit, You Got Through and Naivety Play get the balance of The Wildheart’s trademark punk/metal/rock hybrid sound to a tee. All this combines to make this possibly the definitive sounding version of this record in many ways, though it would hardly be for me to say that, but this may well become my ‘go to’ version of P.H.U.Q. going forward.

As expected from The Wildhearts it has its expletive drenched moments (due to some of their content I find it sadly obvious this band never broke the mainstream, but I wouldn’t have it any other way) with the semi-spontaneous sing along Up Yer Arse Ya Fuckin’ Cunt, and this all helps to capture the atmosphere of the show and celebratory feel that it had in person.

CJ and Ginger Wildheart

CJ and Ginger

Culminating with a football terrace-like sing along on Getting It the main record ends, like its studio counterpart, on a scream of ‘Shut Up’ cutting to appropriate silence.

At this point I’m not sure on the final physical commercial release track list but, on the digital Pledgemusic version, after a brief silence the sound of the crowd fades back up with them singing traditional encore call of Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me before the band launch back into something of a greatest hits shuffle, 5 song mini-set.

Here even the band fully join in the celebratory tone of the whole thing with Ginger encouraging lighters to be waved during the middle part of Weekend and Stormy In The North, Karma In The South coming across with a far more rock ’n’ roll spirit than it’s studio version. This is all closed off with 29x The Pain, a song that started life as a b-side but has become both the band and Ginger’s anthem celebrating the music that inspired The Wildhearts making for a fine set closer whenever it gets played, especially with The Duck Song sneaking in in its wake and undercutting any potential po-faced-ness with outstandingly silly fun.

Wildhearts 2015

The Wildhearts, circa 2015

While its hard to be entirely impartial here I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable live albums I’ve heard as it captures not only the music excellently, but also as much of the atmosphere and spirit of the event as well as it possibly could.

Put it on, turn it up, close your eyes and sing along as if you were there – so when’s the Fishing For Luckies or Endless, Nameless tour?

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Chaos 12: 24, 25, 26 June 2016 – Extended Review

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK at Chaos

For the 12th year in a row the Greenman MCC took over a few fields at top of Pleinmont in Guernsey for Chaos; a weekend of, in their word, ‘bikes, beer and bands’, of course my focus is always on the bands side of things.

With two stages with music across three days the arrangement was the same as the last few years and featured a range of artists from the Channel Islands and beyond including some familiar faces and some newcomers including the likes of PUNiK, The Hyena Kill, SugarSlam, Falenizza Horsepower and more.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on 2nd July 2016 and you can read an extended version below, you can also see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos review - 02:07:16

Extended Review

Day 1

For the 12th year in a row the usually rugged landscape of Guernsey’s most southwesterly point again welcomed the Greenman MCC for their Chaos weekend music festival and bike show. With the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing up over the cliffs, conditions couldn’t have been much better as I got to the site on Friday afternoon and headed to The Peace Tent, where the live music traditionally begins.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

With the tent decorated in its usual psychedelic way a notable addition this year was a cardboard cut out of Elvis who would join all the weekend’s acts on stage starting with Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Delivering probably his most fluid and enjoyable set to date Silas (aka longtime Guernsey punk frontman Andy Duchemin) combined some pointed acoustic songs with some jokes, most of which couldn’t be published here but raised some laughs.

Musically the likes of Slacktavist, Trust Fund Anarchist and others aim extremely pointed barbs at the failings of modern society and, coming as Facebook and Twitter were flooded with the post-Brexit backlash, felt all the more suitable. Along with these we got the usual twisted take on Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, The Hokey Cokey through a filter of The Smiths and a demonstration of Duchemin’s psychic abilities which were uncanny.

The acoustic sounds continued with A Clockwork Langoustine, featuring Stace Blondel and Dan Haggarty – both formerly of Mechanical Lobster (you can see what they did there). The duo delivered a great selection of 90s alt-rock and metal classics from the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Danzig along with a few songs by their previous band, almost unrecognisable without the industrial metal trappings. The whole thing was hugely enjoyable and was the first time I’ve heard Blondel’s impressive voice used properly in a long time while Haggarty’s acoustic lead work was spot on.

The OK at Chaos

The OK

With The Peace Tent already in full swing the main/beer tent stage – this year dubbed The War Stage – got going with pop-rock four-piece The OK. Playing their last show it was clear the quartet were out to have some fun and it made for one of the most relaxed performances I’ve seen from them and drew one of the bigger crowds I’ve seen for an opening act here. While it may not have been a blistering start, their songs were solid enough and started warming up the growing crowd well.

If things weren’t going full-tilt before, To The Woods soon changed that as they launched into what felt like an uncharacteristically early set. Warming up over the first few songs it wasn’t long before their loud and ‘lairy’ grunge rock was firing on all cylinders with Fire, a song that had a few singing along.

To The Woods at Chaos

To The Woods

With Bobby Battle’s between song chat toned down slightly this was To The Woods back to the form that made their reputation over recent years and it was great to see. While there was still plenty of Bobby’s unique presence to go round, it allowed the songs a chance to stand out again, kicking off the first mosh of the weekend and culminating powerfully with Hit The Switch and Jack Attack.

Having made their return to the stage on Wednesday night at The Fermain Tavern, Guernsey’s hardcore veterans Insurrection blasted into their set with a wall of powerful noise. Bringing a shot of bleak nihilism and rage, in a surprisingly good-natured looking package, the five-piece continue to grow in power as they mixed songs from their 1980s heyday with material from their reformation EP and brand new tracks.

With lyrics like ‘human race a waste of life’ and the beast and imp dynamic of front duo Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp, Insurrection were blastingly visceral and again the political talk of the day seemed to add yet more relevance to their impassioned music.

Honest Crooks at Chaos

Honest Crooks

Back in The Peace Tent and a very different side of punk rock was on display as Honest Crooks were making an early claim for set of the weekend with the tent packed and skanking. The trio have really hit a new level in the last couple of months and topped it again here.

Having made their first visit to the island last November, Manchester duo The Hyena Kill were clearly very excited to be back as they continued to bring the noise to The War Stage with a set of thunderously heavy metal-tinged rock.

Delivering the Reuben-esque (not in the painting sense) music with passion and power, their sound, created with a guitar and drums, was as loud as they come but surprisingly pure and precise and, to me, were everything Royal Blood had promised by failed to deliver.

The Hyena Kill at Chaos

The Hyena Kill

The onstage chemistry between Steven Dobb (guitar) and Lorna Blundell (drums) was huge and their energy infectious and deserved to whip the crowd into a brutal mosh, however as seems rather common in Guernsey audiences, this failed to quite take off despite the clear love being shown.

Having failed to wow me 12 months ago, Brit metallers Stormbringer were back once again. While more entertaining than my memory suggested and featuring a frontman with some genuine stage presence, not to mention all the right posturing, their brand of power metal infused retro-thrash just felt a bit too safe, particularly after the strength of The Hyena Kill. The highlight of their set came in the form of a cover of Talking Heads Psycho Killer that, if a bit derivative, was pretty fun.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

Derivative and safe are certainly not words that could have anything to do with the first day headliners, Japanese punk quartet PUNiK. Forgoing a proper soundcheck to launch into their set, they provided what, in the festival’s 12 year existence, may be its first taste of real musical chaos.

Combining noise, energy and passion in equal measure this was something the likes of which I’d not seen on our fair shores before and the crowd was as into as the band throughout bringing a real sense of the democratising nature of punk rock as it felt like we were really all in it together. Tagu made for an impressive frontman, playing nonstop despite breaking a string during their first song, while Makoto was a great punk lead guitarist.

Throughout though the focal point was Guernseyman Nigel, making his first visit to the island in 23 years he was all over the stage and at points was clearly genuinely moved by the reaction to this band of misfits from the other side of the world.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK and friends

The highlight of their set came with Hello!! that sounded like something The Wildhearts could have come up with in their heyday and with stage invasions and everything not nailed down going flying they closed off the first day of Chaos with an expletive laden highlight in the festival’s history.

Day 2

After such a performance the night before it was probably fitting that the second day of Chaos started in a fairly hardcore vein with a new Jersey band, Short Was Found, on The War Stage. Featuring the rhythm section of Bulletproof along with two other familiar faces from Jersey’s music scene they delivered fast and tight punk rock with guitar solos thrown in making for an interesting mix that clearly had an effect on those still recovering from past excesses.

Clameur De Haro at Chaos

Clameur De Haro

The hangovers were soothed somewhat by the upbeat, folky fun of Clameur De Haro who set the scene by opening with their hillbilly take on Black Sabbath’s Supernaut. With one of the biggest audiences I’ve seen this early on a Saturday the band were on top form with all the members sharing out vocals duties more than in the past giving the whole thing a wider sound.

With their own infectiously catchy songs alongside classic rock covers, including a particularly good take on Paradise City that drew a great response (especially from the members of Jersey’s Flashmob), the Clams showed they can be just as welcome on the main stage here as at the Sark Folk Festival – one of few bands able to claim that.

Comprised of a few familiar faces from Guernsey’s music scene, including Adam Powell on guitar and former Goldfish Don’t Bounce guitarist Iain Baxter on bass, Blacksmith made their debut here. As expected from the members they played in a tight and polished fashion, delivering some solid heavy rock that was fine but felt a little disconnected and emotionless.

Lord Vapour at Chaos

Lord Vapour

Having highlighted Saturday afternoon in The Peace Tent last year Lord Vapour looked to do the same on The War Stage and, if not as exceptional as 12 months ago, did exactly what they do – delivering slabs of groovy stoner rock – and did it well. The main stage PA allowed the band to sound genuinely massive and their bluesy rock showed its crossover appeal in this location as well.

With new tracks in the set, including one inspired by sci-fi novel Dune (always likely to win me over) along with the older ones the highlight came with their final song, Sugar Tits, that rounded things off well before the bike show saw the music take a break.

While things were getting rocking on the main stage, The Peace Tent stuck with some more relaxed acoustic sounds to start its Saturday with Neale Packham, a folk trio led by James Dumbelton and Blue Mountains keeping things varied but light for those gathered on the sofas and floor.

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

While the bike show was going on in the main field, complete with awards in various categories and the obligatory burnout competition, its was time for some fun and games in The Peace Tent. These things combine to give Chaos the thing that makes it unique and more than just a gathering in a field for some music.

Another past Saturday afternoon Peace Tent stand out, Brunt, hit The War Stage after the bike show and proceeded to flatten all who stood before them with a wall of volume.

Within that though was a clarity that allowed all three members more intricate moments to be heard, particularly the more subtle, melodic sections of Ave Thompson’s lead guitar work that came with a real deftness of touch on his Les Paul.

Brunt at Chaos

Brunt

The trio barely engaged with the audience and rarely even stopped between tunes, but in this case it suited the music perfectly as a large number of heads nodded along.

After the fun and games things started to get rocking in The Peace Tent with The Swallows. The first half of their set was a little distracted thanks to the array of children they’d brought with them but once it settled down the five-piece have some great alt-rock power.

Lisa Vidamour and Rachael Cumberland-Dodd are a spot on front duo for this kind of thing as they ran through covers of the likes of Pixies and The Breeders and set the scene for the rockier things to come.

Science of Eight Limbs at Chaos

Science of Eight Limbs

The peace was well and truly shattered next as Science of Eight Limbs took to The Peace Tent stage. Much like The Hyena Kill they took what Royal Blood brought to the charts and did something far more interesting and powerful with it, in this case combining a rock/metal hybrid sound with funky rhythms and impressive intricacies.

While extremely technical and precise in places the UK duo’s performance and chemistry was effortless and got what I think may be The Peace Tent’s first fully fledged mosh pit going and left many confounded with the range of noise and sound produced by just two people making for one of the sets of the weekend.

With broken voices and soon broken strings, SugarSlam brought the party atmosphere to The War Stage with a set of their characteristic grungy power-pop-rock.

 SugarSlam with Flashmob at Chaos

SugarSlam with Flashmob

Having been working with the crew all weekend frontman Plumb was clearly riding a wave of energy to propel him through the set that was excellently backed up by the rest of the band, along with Jay and Harry from Flashmob for a run at Guns ’N’ Roses’ It’s So Easy.

Playing with power and punch that made them feel like headliners they delivered a storming version of The Stooges Be Your Dog dedicated to PUNiK.

Back in the other field The Peace Tent was packed as Buffalo Huddleston once again provided a high point of music and atmosphere as has become their trademark.

The rock continued on The War Stage with Peppered Ant Legs running through their gamut of hard rock classics. Delivered with plenty of fun and flair, even if Danny Joyce’s bass playing was a bit suspect in places, but they certainly found their groove for a great run at Black Sabbath’s Faeries Wear Boots.

Falenizza Horsepower at Chaos

Falenizza Horsepower

With a bass stack set up either side of the drum riser it was time for another two-piece to take the stage and once again deliver something loud and powerful. Jersey’s Falenizza Horsepower provided great swathes of sonic experience mixing bass, vocal and guitar loops with powerful drums to build and create huge songs that filled the big tent.

While often overlooked Dave Spars vocals are a rich component of the songs that combine elements of indie, rock, metal and doom in one unique package that was backed up by a great light show here and seemed to go down a storm with the big crowd.

With intro music from A Clockwork Orange, Kill II This launched into their set of industrial-tinged metal and put in a strong performance.

Kill 2 This at Chaos

Kill 2 This

Simon Gordon, a familiar face from his days in Thousand Points Of Hate, is a great frontman reaching out and connecting to the crowd along with guitarist Mark Mynett.

With a lot of sequenced backing sounds it gave the whole thing a very big feel but with that came a certain artificiality which, coming after Falenizza Horsepower and the previous night’s realist flurry of PUNiK, made it hard for me to connect with a set that felt well delivered if, ultimately, somewhat generic.

Day 3

As is traditional the final day of Chaos got going with Cramps O’Clock, an hour of music from the cult psychobilly band as DJ’d by myself, followed by some suitable silliness from Peace Tent pilot, Stretchy Stuff.

Jo and Friends at Chaos

Jo and Friends

In a slightly more normal fashion Jo Marsh and friends started the live music on The War Stage.

Delivering some nice soft rock to start the day the hastily assembled band did a decent job (particularly young drummer Toby Beasley also seen in Cosmic Fish) and started the more mellow day as it meant to go on.

After the high energy set last night Mike Meinke of Buffalo Huddleston was back in his stripped back form as Buff Hudd who continued the chilled but upbeat vibes with his guitar and didgeridoo. Stripped of all accoutrement really shows Meinke’s skill at playing and songwriting and Jull-Z joining him for a few songs kept the vibes flowing.

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

The live music in The Peace Tent was equally chilled out to start the day with Lisa Murfitt providing some dark folky sounds both a capella and with a piano. She was also joined by young singer Kiya for a couple of songs who impressed as well.

The volume returned to The War Stage with punk rockers Jawbone. As is their way the set was suitably chaotic throughout with bass player Dan Keltie off out into the crowd and guitarist/vocalist Lee Burton spitting his vocals out with a mix of power and fun.

Previous frontman Steve Scratton joined them onstage for a few songs at the end that were the tightest Jawbone sounded today. Throughout though it was a great fun wake up call for a Sunday afternoon highlighted with their take on Men At Work’s Land Down Under and The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg.

Jawbone at Chaos

Jawbone

With another break in the music on the main stage for some games in the field involving motorbikes, tug o’ war and possibly the most extreme eating contest Chaos has yet seen, things carried on in The Peace Tent with the bluesy, jazzy sounds of Carrie & The Turtlenecks.

The trio were nice and relaxed and had a real sense of fun to their performance, though Carrie seemed oddly distracted by an earlier coffee spill. Despite that she showed a good strong voice which was backed up by some great guitar, clarinet, saxophone and harmonica that offered a completely different sound to everything else on offer this weekend.

After some more slightly surreal games The Ukuladeez took to the stage and continued the relaxed vibes of the day, upping the energy a bit and chatting with the audience, as well as helping Stretchy celebrate a surprise birthday.

Tantale at Chaos

Tantale

The evening session on The War Stage got going with Tantale upping the rocky sounds alongside their psychedelic influences. This was the tightest and most focussed I’ve seen them in a while which once again showed how good a band they can be when it all comes together for them.

Only playing rarely these day, Crazy Babies hit the stage with power as they tore through a set of Ozzy Osbourne songs.

Frontman Stace Blondel was clearly in highly energetic mode, having been told he wasn’t allowed to climb the stage rigging he decided to spend most of the set out on the floor with the audience which really brought them into the set and got everyone involved.

Crazy Babies at Chaos

Crazy Babies

Back on stage the rest of the band were the tightest I remember seeing them in sometime and, as ever, Scorch was highly impressive with his Randy Rhodes style licks on lead guitar all making for a hugely fun set that was perfect to reenergise the Sunday evening crowd.

With the energy back up Static Alice launched into their set and a good-sized crowd gathered considering the late hour on the final day.

While they were musically as tight as ever the pop-rock four-piece seemed to be out to have fun even more than usual which led to a great performance with Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais all using the whole stage.

Static Alice at Chaos

Static Alice with Jay from FlashMob

Jay from Flashmob was back on stage once again to add extra guitar to Black Cadillac Man and Static Alice showed something I’ve not seen from them before as they demonstrated they are possibly the only rock band in the island capable of pulling off a truly populist headlining set of this nature.

With an encore of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell they closed out Chaos 12 on a high which, in all, was one of the most all round enjoyable editions of the festival I have attended.

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