Every year The Vale Earth Fair gears up for their summer festival with a series of fundraisers but this year, they come with a slight difference, as the collective are raising money for a new van and have even set up a crowd funding campaign to help.
With that in mind they presented a night of live music at The Fermain Tavern headlined by the return Rentoclean, a band who, a couple of years ago, had a strong reputation as the band to book if you wanted a party.
With only a handful gathered around tables at the back of the venue Jacques Evans started off the night with a set of reggae tinged acoustic balladry. While he’s always shown a raw talent on both acoustic and electric guitar Evans’ set here showed he has begun to pull it together into something more coherent.
Gone are the extended jams of old, replaced with a series of enjoyable, if slightly melancholy, love songs, alongside a few customary reggae covers that are always going to go down well with the Earth Fair crowd (even if they are slightly lost on me).
In addition to this Jacques employed some strategic use of a loop pedal to augment the solo acoustic guitar sound in a way that some who some who rely on the trickery of the loop pedal would do well to learn from (Ed Sheeran and acolytes, I’m looking at you).
An instrumental track later in the set did lose the focus somewhat as its mix of loop work and intricate Spanish style playing led Jacques to become a little too self-absorbed on stage but otherwise he provided a good warm up for the evening.
For the second night in a row Lord Vapour took to the Tav’s stage (before heading into town for a later session at The Vault, making it a three gig weekend) and for the second night they brought the impressive, heavy grooves.
They may have been in slightly loser mode than the previous night but still held it together well with new songs providing some highlight moments along with subtly titled set closer, Sugartits. While the audience weren’t as receptive as the youngsters at Sound the band seemed more relaxed making for a highly enjoyable set.
With the audience still rather on the small side and content to stay at the back of the room Citizen-X took to the stage for an audio/visual experience like no other in the island.
Those at the back probably missed the visual side of the show thanks to the location of the projector, but for those who bothered to head forward we were treated to one of the good Citizen’s best performances yet.
With new tracks alongside older ones it was clear he has added a darker tone to his electronic sounds, with creepily surreal imagery to match and the two far more in sync and smoothly presented than in the past.
While one of his tracks made it more explicit, there was a sense of harmony being created from an underlying anarchy and chaos and, while there is still a slightly missing performance element (I’m confounded as to what that could be, mind you), Citizen-X’s show continues to develop into something genuinely fascinating.
After a brief pause for some more reggae, dub and punk sounds from Earth Fair Collective member and regular DJ Rob R, Rentoclean took to the stage and hit the ground running in the manner they always did as tight reggae rhythms with a punk edge filling the Tav.
Unfortunately the small crowd that had gathered earlier seemed to have already started to leave meaning, beyond a handful of enthusiastic fans on the dance floor and another handful lurking at the back, Rentoclean were playing to a nearly empty room.
One of the band’s hallmarks has always been that they are best with a vocal and energetic audience in front of them and as the set went on it wasn’t surprising that things began to drag.
While they remained tight and sharp during the songs, in between they took time to chat with each other more than the audience losing whatever energy may have built up every few minutes and, while they didn’t resort to the extended jams they sometimes have in the past, it still felt like more of a challenge than a show.
While Rentoclean haven’t really changed what they’re doing I can only think that Guernsey audiences have found newer sources for their fun, punky, reggae-ish party music, particularly since the arrival of Honest Crooks and, in a slightly different vein, Buffalo Huddleston, which meant the return of this band wasn’t greeted with the excitement it might have been a few years ago.
On top of that, with the proliferation of live music events around the island, a simple Vale Earth Fair fundraiser no longer attracts the kind of crowds it would have done five or ten years ago making what on paper should have been a great, high energy night, fall a little flat.
You can see more of my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page