After a summer packed with festivals and outdoor music events around the islands live music headed back indoors on the last weekend of September 2016 as The Fermain Tavern kicked off its ‘Awesome Autumn’ with the first Sound Guernsey gig of the new school year for under-18s on the Friday and Lifejacket, SugarSlam and new band Granite Wolf on Saturday 24th.
Starting the season with a new band seemed particularly fitting and as soon as Granite Wolf hit the stage it was clear we were in for a treat. Comprised of former members of Brutus Stonefist, She Haunts The Roads and To The Woods there was a fair suspicion of what we could expect and no one was let done as the five-piece delivered a collection of punishing hardcore driven metal.
Granite Wolf’s short but intense set was perfect for the style of music that, if you’re not a fan, can be somewhat repetitive, though the grooves in the heaviness kept me engaged throughout.
While frontman Tom Domaille wasn’t quite as upfront as he was in his Brutus Stonefist days his voice was exactly we’ve come to expect while his brother Robert on bass and drummer Dan Garnham provided a visual focus as well as that groove. Mark Mercier and James Ogier on guitars delivered riff after riff in the manner that was always this troupe’s trademark in their past incarnations.
There may still be work to be done with the ‘performance’ aspect, but, for a debut outing, Granite Wolf put on a fine show and kicked off the night with a real blast in every sense.
After high-profile sets at Chaos and The Gathering the more intimate confines of The Fermain Tavern brought out a different aspect of SugarSlam with a more relaxed and fun feeling to their performance but all the while, of course, led by their excellently pitched grunge flavoured power-pop rock.
They kicked off their set in high gear and, despite a bit of a mid-set guitar problem, didn’t look back.
Drawing on a collection of songs that spans more than 20 years they all sounded fresh from the likes of Crank and Psychobabble from their mid-90s debut to State (released earlier this year), it all fell together seamlessly and the band were as tight as they come.
There was some brand new material in the set tonight as well, and mention of a new EP in the (hopefully) near future, and that fitted in just as well. SugarSlam certainly fall into the top bracket of bands gigging in Guernsey and certainly deserve a far bigger audience (though there was a decent crowd for them tonight).
Rounding off the set with crowd pleasing covers of Guns ’n’ Roses It’s So Easy and The Sacred Hearts Adorable (a song The Slams seem to have adopted) closed their already very good set on a high.
After more choice, if slightly incongruous, pop selections from DJ Vauvert Underground, Lifejacket took to the stage and delivered the most engaging and enthusiastic set I’ve seen from them in a while.
The band have spent the last few years slowly building a dedicated fan base and that was in evidence tonight as it was clear most in attendance were totally engaged giving the band a kind of cult flavour that fits well with their general demeanour.
With new twists on older songs and some brand new material alongside Andy Sauvage (guitar, vocals), John McCarthy (bass) and Claire Moxie (drums) had the sense of a band in the midst of an evolution taking the best of what’s come before and building on it.
While clearly still very much Lifejacket, the new songs added more dynamic to the set and alongside a frantically paced take of crowd favourite Brains made for a hugely satisfying experience that left the crowd calling for more.
As a way to kick off the new season at the Tav I would be hard pressed to find a better choice for Guernsey’s premier music venue celebrating three rather different but complimentary rock bands that highlight the diversity of new, live music available on the island.