Every year since his death in 2004 the Vale Earth Fair have staged an event paying tribute to DJ John Peel. Peel’s work on BBC Radio 1 (and elsewhere) gained a reputation for discovering and breaking new and eclectic music spanning styles from world folk to grindcore and it has taken the BBC Music Introducing network of presenters, producers and radio shows to even attempt to replicate his work (for which I feel very privileged to be a part).
The Vale Earth Fair’s event tries to do some justice to this by offering anyone with an interest in music in Guernsey to have a 15 minute DJ set over the course of an evening as near to the anniversary of Peel’s death as possible – the 2016 edition took place at the Thomas De La Rue in St Peter Port on Friday 21st October.
19 ‘DJs’ took up the opportunity and provided one of the most enjoyable nights of non-live music I can remember. Being selected by a random draw there was no sense of ‘programming’ the event and anything could have set next to anything else, in a manner Peel often employed (whether intentionally or not) and I think its safe to say that everyone present will have heard something they hadn’t heard before.
What this meant as well was that if a particular DJ wasn’t playing anything to your taste it wouldn’t be long until someone else was on the decks (though of course there’d be no guarantee of them playing anything you might like either).
That said, across the whole night I really can’t think of any sets that weren’t at least enjoyable on some level, even those that included what sounded like recordings of morris dancers or entirely cheesy pop.
Across such a varied night its hard to pick highlights but there were a few moments that really stood out, particularly some Napalm Death from DJ Vauvert Underground and a nice noisy number I forget the name of towards the end of Miss San Frandisco’s set. Also Jawbone guitarist Lee following Public Enemy with Bonnie Tyler was quite a moment as was Josh from The Secret Smiles and Clameur De Haro cracking out System of a Down’s Chop Suey, a song which has particular nostalgia following my days DJing at Aberystwyth RocSoc.
With many different methods used to select the tracks played, some played sets of songs they hadn’t heard until the day before, others went for classics and some seemed (thankfully) intent on pricking the potentially pompous vibe of an evening of musos playing for musos, I based my set on what I’ve been listening to recently spanning doom-ish metal to punk ’n’ roll via garage rock.
In the end this all did a great job of providing a fine nights entertainment and, to my mind, did a decent job of paying tribute to such a great champion of new music (though there could have been more of a few styles, but the lack of ‘programming’ is one of the events charms) and it continued the Vale Earth Fair’s own 40th birthday celebrations as we head into the autumn/winter gigging season.
For those who might be interested this is what I played (click on them to have a listen):
- Ghost – Missionary Man
- Ginger Wildheart – Only Henry Rollins Can Save Us Now
- Against Me! – Crash
- The Fuzztones – Ward 81
- PUNiK – Hello!!
Photos courtesy of Vale Earth Fair