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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.