Over the last few years a few new music schools have emerged in Guernsey giving youngsters a chance to learn music away from the more formal and classical training offered by the School’s Music Service.
One such is the School of Popular Music who operate regular classes across a range of disciplines and encourage their students to play the music they like in bands as well as solo.
For their 2016 summer project they got a group of young musicians together and gave them a week to form bands, practice and prepare for a show at Guernsey’s premier music venue, The Fermain Tavern.
With ages ranging from 8 to 15 the first half of the evening, showcasing these young musicians, was certainly a mixed affair but the thing that struck most throughout was the level of enthusiasm, fun and commitment all these players showed.
First band on, known somewhat cryptically as ‘A Box’, delivered, like all the young bands, a set of reasonably well-known covers.
Featuring Toby and Jamie of Cosmic Fish gave them a bit of a head start and they played a competent set that showed all four have a lot of potential.
Rainbow Pugs (the bands all chose their all names and, no I don’t know what their inspiration was) were the youngest band of the night and were joined on stage by SOPM’s Alex Wilson who helped guide them through the short set that was well delivered despite the understandable nerves in front of a big audience.
I Blame The Parents probably had the best name of the evening (and the best I’ve heard in a while) and were highlighted by a few guitar players and a drummer who certainly brought the right attitude and swagger to the stage and showed that with time they could bring a complete package.
Next up were Lanterns who swapped instruments around mid set, showing a few members have skill in multiple disciplines which is always impressive for someone who just about muddles through on one. Once again another group with some obvious musical talent and plenty of potential.
I’m not sure if they do but Clear Vision came across as a group with a bit more playing experience than the previous bands and rocked their way through their set admirably.
Special mention has to go to their lead guitarist who managed to successfully combine the riffs of Queen’s We Will Rock You and AC/DC’s Back in Black all with a foot planted firmly in the monitor in a classic rock ’n’ roll pose.
Sorry Imogen rounded off the young bands with a set highlighted by a selection of impressive harmonies and a generally relaxed vibe.
They closed their set on a reworked take of Bon Jovi classic Living On A Prayer rounding off the first half of the evening with a real sense that live music in Guernsey is in safe hands, even if they could do with a few more bass players.
After a bit of break as, disappointingly the youngsters couldn’t stay on in the venue, Elliot Falla opened the later part of the show with his brother Harvey in tow on mandolin.
As always Elliot’s take on acoustic indie blues sounded very good and the addition of the mandolin and second vocals added a nice folky side to the sound, along with some harmonies that tempered Elliot’s voice.
That said, his voice has come on impressively even in the few months since I’d last seen him play and with a batch of new songs its clear Elliot is really coming into his own.
If Elliot Falla’s performance was well delivered if a little low-key for a party, Clameur De Haro soon changed that launching into their bluegrass inspired set with their usual sense of fun.
Unfortunately a broken string soon stalled proceedings for a few minutes, though the band took it admirably in their stride joking with both one another and the audience while fiddle player Josh De Kooker took the chance to play a quick jig that got a few dancing.
After that brief break the band were back on it, building on the already good atmosphere in the venue highlighted by their ode to Guernsey’s most famous politician, Dear John and even getting a smile out of cajon player Shifty.
The good atmosphere continued as the small but enthusiastic audience headed onto the dance floor as Honest Crooks took to the stage. The ska-punk trio really felt as if they were on home turf here and entirely playing to their fans and friends making for one of the most relaxed and fun sets I’ve seen from them.
Joined on kazoo by To The Woods’ Bobby Battle for a fair bit of the set, this was one of those gigs where the lines between band and audience were well and truly blurred in the best of ways.
With covers by Sublime, Reel Big Fish, Gentlemen’s Dub Club and others receiving some of the most instantly positive reactions it is to the credit of the band that their original songs stand alongside these classics of the genre and, I would suggest, that if I didn’t know which were covers and which were originals there would be no difference.
Rounding off with that song by Sublime closed the night on a high that showcased not just some of the current best musicians playing ‘popular music’ in Guernsey but made it clear that there is a lot more good stuff to come.