Monthly Archives: October 2017

Octoberflame IX: Night Two – The Observatory, Santa Ana – 27/10/17

Tiger Army and guests

Tiger Army and guests

Arriving at The Observatory in Santa Ana, Orange County, a little before doors for the second night of Tiger Army’s ninth Octoberflame Halloween weekend spectacular, there was a real sense of community spirit amongst the crowd, reminiscent of when I last saw The Wildhearts when they were touring their PHUQ album.

It was clear talking with just those around me that these feel like more than just regular gigs, even though the band have been back to a regular touring schedule for the last two years, with people travelling from as close as minutes away to those from nearby cities, other states or, like in my case, considerably further.

It was also clear their was a strong contingent there to catch the opening band, Las Vegas based, So Cal regulars, The Delta Bombers.

Combining a little bit of country with a lot of rock ‘n’ roll and a raw rockabilly kind of energy the quartet blasted out from the off and had the crowd with them all the way.

The Delta Bombers

The Delta Bombers

Dressed for the night as The Hives as their choice of Halloween attire, they were reminiscent of the Swedish garage rockers in terms of energy but with more grit thrown into the mix.

Their big presence and big sound, highlighted by the huge voice of frontman Chris Moinchen, that stood out even in an a capella moment, and the brilliant work of drummer Kirk Highberger, meant that as their thirty minute set came to an end it was clear many wanted more, myself included.

As with my past Octoberflame experience, Tiger Army have curated each night to feature a varied line up, so after the sizzling rockabilly of The Delta Bombers it was time for some pure vintage So Cal punk rock from Channel 3.

While they may have a looked a little like the teacher from The Breakfast Club fronting a punk band, it was clear right away the image didn’t really match the attitude.

Being one of the lesser elder statesmen bands of Californian punk rock they played a brand of fairly standard but highly enjoyable skate punk that was a little lose around the edges in places.

Mike Magrann of Channel 3

Mike Magrann of Channel 3

Given the welcome received by The Delta Bombers it was hard to escape the fact that there weren’t as many here for CH3, so they had a bit of a struggle winning over the audience, but, by the half way mark people were getting into it.

By the final track of the set they got a pit going and seemed to have won over many fans, not surprising given frontman Mike Magrann’s charm and energetic presence.

After a slightly protracted break, and it felt like the air conditioning being switched off, Tiger Army stepped onto the stage to a huge reaction and the mosh pit kicked off in earnest from opener Ghost Tigers Rise, onwards.

With a different set on each of the three nights of Octoberflame, it felt like this one was maybe a little on the harder and faster, more punk and psychobilly, side of the ban’ds repertoire, but it featured enough variation to keep everyone happy.

While the band were a little sloppy on some of the lesser played songs, playing to this, metaphorically if not entirely geographically, hometown crowd meant this was all taken in stride and every song was greeted like a hit single and the pit never let up, save for a brief waltz to the slowest of numbers.

Tiger Army and their crowd

Tiger Army and their crowd

The standard trio of Nick 13 (guitar, vocals), Djordje Stijepovic (bass, vocals) and Mike Fasano (drums) were joined by two guests to augment their live sound, allowing for more rarely heard album tracks to be realised.

First was backing vocalist Savi who’s astonishing voice made sounds I would otherwise have assumed might be a very well controlled theremin adding at points a suitably spooky atmosphere but also adding to the bands more recent noirish vintage tendencies.

Also joining the band, on keyboards, was TSOL’s Greg Kuehn adding to the Southern California punk community feel and again helping out on both some of the newer tracks and a few of Tiger Army’s older more country tinged moments.

Ending the main set on Santa Carla Twilight (a particular favourite of mine) and their anthem Never Die the band were soon back for an encore that left the hot (in both senses) crowd satisfied, at least until the next night for those doing the Octoberflame marathon, and backed up the feeling that, in this setting, Tiger Army’s fan base feels as much like a movement as that I’ve seen with The Wildhearts and My Chemical Romance in their prime.

You can see more of my photos from the show over on Facebook by clicking here

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: October 2017 – Sound Guernsey and 10 years of Introducing

Sound Guernsey on BBC Introducing-Guernsey

Anni and Jon Bisson from Sound Guernsey

Click here to listen to the show

Earlier this month BBC Music Introducing celebrated 10 years of supporting new and upcoming music from around the British Isles with BBC Introducing Day.

For the October 2017 edition of BBC Introducing in Guernsey then, I presented a show very much looking back and looking forward.

The first hour of the show featured the organisers of the Sound Guernsey events for under-18s, Jon and Anni Bisson, who over the last two years have provided a place for the islands youngsters experience live music while also giving new bands a place to play alongside some more established acts.

Then for the second half of the show I took a look at some highlights of the past decade of music in Guernsey (there too many to fit into an hour) as well as the BBC Introducing 10th birthday celebration that took place at Brixton Academy earlier in the month.

Along with that I took my usual look at some bands who’ve been gigging around the island recently and we featured the new single from Kings (you can see the video below).

Everything Everything at Brixton

Everything Everything at Brixton

You can listen to the show online for the next 30 days by clicking here

Tracklist

 

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Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 posterEver since the announcement of Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-if movie of the early 80s, there was a sense of worry, for two reasons.

First was wondering could a sequel heading back into this world after such a long break live up to its predecessor and not just spoil it, and secondly, given it took about three watches for me to properly appreciate the original, would I be left cold and/or more confused than satisfied after a first watch.

As the film begins and we are introduced to Ryan Gosling’s new Blade Runner, K, initially appearing very similar to Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, as he speeds across a future California under a grey sky and over a vast ‘farm’ to track down a renegade replicant.

Through this encounter we learn that K is also a more modern form of replicant and what at first appears rather routine sets in motion a series of events that build on the themes, mysteries and story of the original film in a wider context.

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049

Gosling as K

What really makes Blade Runner 2049 work so well is how it expands what we already know of this world; from the thirty years between the settings, to showing us more of this ruined future Earth, but all with purpose and not just to show off some impressive special effects (though it does have impressive special effects).

Added to this is the attention to detail in this being a future of the world Scott created rather than just a future version of now.

I won’t go into too much detail of the plot, but as it goes on it raises some pretty big questions for a major blockbuster level film, particularly focussing on what it means to be human.

While this is the same question raised in the original here it is developed further, both through the advancements in the technology of the replicants and with the introduction of holographic life forms.

Blade Runner 2049 Los Angeles

Los Angeles 2049

This is then balanced with a good dose of noir styled dialogue, some very well handled and never gratuitous action that actually moves the story forward and a pace that echoes the original and stands out from current blockbuster cinema by being very measured and deliberate – in less talented hands it could be called slow but it never feels that, rather crediting the audience with patience and intelligence.

As the film ends with enough sense of mystery maintained to not spoil the original and with enough story told to leave new questions, Blade Runner 2049 is a great movie that has everything in place it might need to become a longstanding classic of the genre, and based on this I’m now even more excited by the rumoured prospect of Denis Villeneuve directing a new version of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

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Dinosaur Jr and Easy Action – Regency Ballroom, San Francisco – 20/10/17

Dinosaur Jr

Dinosaur Jr

Heading into the rather grand looking surroundings of the Regency Ballroom on Van Ness I didn’t know entirely what to expect. While opening band Easy Action were a total mystery to me, Dinosaur Jr came with a formidable reputation and, while I’d not heard much, I very much liked what I had.

Detroit four piece, Easy Action, kicked things off in suitably loud fashion echoing their geographical forebears by combining something of the Raw Power of The Stooges with something of the righteous anger of the MC5, though it was less clear where this ferocity was being directed as the vocals were an incomprehensible wall of distortion throughout.

The power trio set up of the band were impressive with the rhythm section highly effective in a no-frills kind of way, while the guitarist switched from locking into the rhythms to riding waves of swirling feedback and bringing out some garage rock solo work very nicely.

Easy Action

Easy Action

Unfortunately, as it went on, the distorted raging vocals became a bit too repetitive losing any dynamic the band were creating, but it was all appreciated politely if not hugely enthusiastically by the audience – and it was nice to hear a fuzzed up cover of Cheap Trick’s ELO Kiddies.

Then, with more gear on stage than looks generally sensible for three men (including two drum kits along with J Mascis’ trademark wall of amplifier and a similar amount for bass player Lou Barlow), Dinosaur Jr eased into an 18 song set, including encores, that lasted for the better part of two hours.

From the start the sound they created was truly immense easily filling the not quite packed venue, but not in a way that became overbearing, something I was surprised at given their reputation for volume.

Dinosaur Jr

Dinosaur Jr

While its undeniable that Mascis’ guitar is the star of the show in Dinosaur Jr, here there were points where it was all we could hear, with the drums and bass at times getting lost and at no point did Mascis’ or Barlows’ vocals come across at all – to the extent that there were points where you could see them singing but hear nothing of it.

Despite that the playing was impeccable showing why they have the reputation they do, Mascis in particular.

Unfortunately the momentum they built up in each song was often lost soon after as Mascis stopped to tune, change guitars and tune again between most songs, along with points where a second guitarist, synth player or second drummer would shoehorn themselves onto stage.

All this made it hard to properly get into the performance and that seemed to be felt across the crowd with everything being clearly appreciated and much polite applause being heard, but little more.

Dinosaur Jr and Necros

Mascis and Barlow with Swalla and Sakowski

Once the band did the traditional vanishing act before the encore, the energy and atmosphere picked up a bit as they welcomed Todd Swalla of hardcore band Necros to the stage along with Easy Action bass player Ron Sakowski (also formerly of Necros) for a blasting run at that band’s Reject with Barlow on vocals.

This was all rounded off with Easy Action frontman John Brannon joining Dinosaur Jr for a noisy version of The Stooges’ TV Eye to close the night on a raucous note.

While I found it hard to entirely engage with Dinosaur Jr, and they weren’t as loud as I was expecting (which was slightly disappointing) this was still an impressive show and the trio did an excellent job of being an internationally known name while maintaining something of the edge you find when seeing a new band in a small venue.

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Mindhorn

Mindhorn posterComing from the same group of people that created Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Christmas rock opera AD/BC and The Mighty Boosh, there was a fairly solid set of expectations going into Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby’s Mindhorn.

To say it didn’t disappoint in these is an understatement as the story, in an echo of Darkplace, focusses on a less than successful vintage television show.

Here though, rather than just showing that programme, Mindhorn takes this and, through a murder mystery maguffin on the Isle of Man, brings the character into the real world, through the prism of now washed up actor Richard Thorncroft (Barratt).

Really, the plot is a bit of a sideshow to creating a series of scenes that see Thorncroft do his best to reboot his career with the aid (or lack there of) of a series of side characters from the relatively normal, former love interest and co-star turned local TV journalist Patricia Deville (Essie Davis), to the twisted caricature PR emprasario Geoffrey Moncrief (Richard McCabe) and the apparent villain to Mindhorn’s super heroic detective, The Kestrel (Russel Tovey on excellently bizarre form).

Julian Barratt as Thorncroft/Mindhorn

Barratt as Thorncroft/Mindhorn

This all runs very close to the line of not working at all, but, in the hands of so many performers and creators well versed in this kind of flight of fancy, it is a hilarious ride of a film.

Barratt in particular puts in a great turn as Thorncroft/Mindhorn that makes what could be a genuinely horrible character engaging and entertaining, even if we never really care too much if he ends up rebooting his career – but then I’m not sure that’s ever the intention.

The rest of the supporting cast all do an admirable job too, giving their all despite some impressively bizarre scenes that you feel some actors might not be able to deliver with enough of a straight face.

The setting and references may be where the film hits a roadblock in its appeal. While similar in some ways to the likes of The Naked Gun, which had a universal appeal, this relies on references to standards of 80s British TV maybe a little too much.

To me, comments about Bergerac, John Nettles, Wogan and more, make perfect sense, but I can only imagine that on an audience younger or outside the UK they may be lost.

Simon Farnaby as Clive Parnevik

Simon Farnaby as Clive Parnevik

The setting of the Isle of Man may also cause the same problem. While it’s easy to recognise the caricature of the place presented in Mindhorn, it is a very British feeling locale I’d expect to find in a television sitcom rather than a film (though that didn’t harm Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz).

In the end though Mindhorn is a great fun film that, while it’s unlikely to bec e to modern classic, features a couple of great performances and comes with a sense of uncynical fun in its ridiculousness that is hard to fault.

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Foo Fighters – Concrete And Gold

Foo Fighters - Concrete And Gold - album coverFor the past two decades Foo Fighters have been gradually transforming from pop-grunge pioneers to stadium rock titans.

While their last album, the geographically conceptual Sonic Highways (that came with an accompanying series of documentary films about the cities where each track was recorded) had some interesting moments, its hard to argue that the band have slipped comfortably into fairly middle of the road territory of late, with their reputation relying on the big songs from their first four or five albums.

So, onto new release Concrete And Gold and, unfortunately, it doesn’t really buck this trend.

While its hard to find any major standout moments, even several listens in, there’s still a lot to like here as Dave Grohl and co seemingly go on a journey through their influences, all with their own flavour added in.

Across the record things switch from Led Zeppelin aping to Fleetwood Mac like passages through The Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd and no doubt more.

While it still sounds like a Foo Fighters record, with various parts harking back to their post-grunge heyday, its hard to escape the fact that all those other bands do their thing better than the Foos do – though I’ve no doubt it will all sound immense in a live environment.

Foo Fighters 2017

Foo Fighters

As well as the proud influence displaying, this is the first time I can remember Foo Fighters (and by definition, Grohl) being so obviously political.

La Dee Da is the most obvious example, but it does permeate the record as a whole, giving it a slightly odd place in the Foo’s cannon but fitting in perfectly with the current zeitgeist of American (and wider western) society that is hugely politically charged – though I want to make it clear this is nothing compared to the likes of the recent release from Prophets of Rage.

The album also sees Foo Fighters move away from producer Butch Vig who across their last couple of records had come across as almost an extra member of the band. Here though production duties go to Greg Kurstin and, whether its down to production or not I can’t entirely say, the final product sounds far more muddled than the band’s past output.

Foo Fighters live 2017

Foo Fighters live

In the end then, Concrete And Gold sees Foo Fighters continuing on their path to span the gap between genuine credibility and out-and-out pop, and they once again do an admirable job and will no doubt sell out arenas and stadiums the world over.

However, I doubt that in 15 or 20 years anyone will be talking about any of these songs the way they do today about My Hero, Everlong, Breakout, All My Life or Times Like These.

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Granite Wolf and SugarSlam – The Vault – 13/10/17

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

Following Brunt at The Golden Lion a couple of weeks ago and WaterColour Matchbox at The Vault last weekend the loud, heavy end of Guernsey’s music scene continued to be represented in St Peter Port on Friday 13th October 2017 as hardcore riff machine Granite Wolf and hard power pop quartet SugarSlam rocked the venue on the seafront.

After a bit of time away Granite Wolf launched into their set in tight, punchy and intense form with their brand of hardcore with hints of heavy metal making a refreshing blast to the senses.

While its hard to pin down visually quite why, the five-piece presented a united, gang like, front on stage and this was infectious with the audience at the front feeling like part of the process of the energy flowing through the room.

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

With riffs and beatdowns aplenty they did get a couple of modest mosh pits going but it seemed many in the crowd were more worried about spilling their pints than really letting go on the dancefloor, but nonetheless they got into the heavy sounds.

With a good mix of fast, speed metal, heavy head banging stuff and powerful hardcore, Granite Wolf once again set out their stall as one of the bands to watch in the island – I just hope they get to gigging a little more regularly now they seem to be back to their more solid, original, line up.

After something of a protracted break to set up and sound check, SugarSlam hit the stage in slightly heavier mode than usual, no doubt to try to match the earlier band, however, less than two songs in they ran into trouble with a blown amplifier.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

With that hastily fixed they were back on form and racing through a set mixing covers and originals new and old, but by this time the audience had sadly diminished to quite a degree.

Undeterred the band blasted on and those who remained clearly had a great time with songs by Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age going down just as well as the band’s own – Jackals being a particular, immense sounding, highlight that isn’t heard as much these days.

Given the time and an under the weather drummer the band cut their set short, wrapping up with their take on Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Rockin’ In The Free World, before the audience convinced them back for a super speed blast of Ace Of Spades to close the night on sweaty and exhausted high.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King book coverStephen King’s sprawling epic is one of the stories that has become ingrained in the popular culture of the last three decades. A big part of that will be down to Tim Curry staring TV adaptation and the more recent movie version, but also thanks to the sheer scale and relatability of the novel.

Even by King’s standards It is a sprawling tale that comes in three-fold fashion. Set in the town of Derry, Maine in both the late 1950s and mid 1980s it traces a group of youngsters who become a group of friends in the 50s, while also charting their reunion in the 80s and mixing in the mysterious history of the town at the same time.

In many hands this could easily be done through obvious flashback or just become an absolute muddle, but King weaves the three threads together expertly and actually plays up on the switching time frames to great effect in a few of the novels more intense passages.

This method makes it a unique exploration of the divide between childhood and adulthood and, while It certainly features it’s fair share of gruesome terror, it is this that is the crux of the story – like the best horror tales it takes a real world experience and explores it through heightened metaphor, in this case the titular beast, dubbed by the characters simply, It (seen most famously as Pennywise The Dancing Clown but having as many faces as there are people to see it).

Stephen King

Stephen King

In this way its astonishing to think any would ever try to make a film of It. Much like The Shining, King’s particular vision is so ingrained in what the written word can do and a film can’t that it’s genuinely refreshing to read, even more than 30 years since it original publication. Again like The Shining this really comes to the fore as the book heads towards its climax, but is present throughout.

Across the two main timeframes King creates a true ensemble of characters, seven in the heroic gang and a group of antagonists and side players, all of whom are brilliantly drawn and created to give them all real purpose and individuality.

In the 50s passages this grows into a real coming of age story that goes far beyond anything you’re ever likely to see in the cinema, and likely to read anywhere else, particularly in a later scene that has caused much discussion but, to my mind, is handled well enough to fit the story (even if it is a little gratuitous).

Meanwhile in the 80s all these characters are clearly explored developments of the same people and, while at first several appear possible a little too coincidentally successful and the lead being a horror writer veers towards the possibility of King echoing himself, it’s not long before they all make sense and the two time zones link up perfectly.

Added to the coming of age story, where It could represent several aspects of that process, the mysterious and evil presence in Derry grows in the adult sections to represent more grown up troubles and again King balances this, whether its visions of domestic abuse or addiction or more in a way that is never heavy-handed but laced through within the individual stories of the characters.

It original cover

Original cover

What I think really makes It stick in the mind though, beyond even just being a thrilling ride of a story, is how it marries aspects of ancient legend, folktales & fables and pulp horror, again echoing the three-fold aspect of the setting.

In doing this it feels like a story that has always been there; clowns have always had a slightly scary edge, children always play in the places adults think scary and wrong and, as children at least, we all know that something lurks just beyond what we can see, waiting to do whatever unspeakable acts it might be there to do. While as adults we have to deal with other monsters unknowable in youth but strangely echoing.

This all comes together to create one of the most compelling novels I’ve encountered that has more depth than its reputation suggests and is at once both chilling, gruesome and thought-provoking in equal measure and I think contains enough substance to have something different in each of those aspects for everyone – I am also now even more confused how they make the rest of the story into the second part of the recent film.

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Pride of Guernsey awards – 07/10/17

Pride of Guernsey awardsLast night I attended my second Pride of Guernsey awards ceremony after being nominated, for the second year in a row, for the Moonpig Arts Contribution Of The Year Award.

For some context the awards are run by The Guernsey Press to celebrate people in the local community in a range of categories from Overcoming Adversity to Parish Champion to Young Achiever.

Following my nomination last year by Andy from Lifejacket and this year by Dan from Jawbone I was announced as a finalist, alongside Martin Cordall and Glenn Drake – longstanding musical director the Guernsey Youth Theatre (amongst other things) and charity choir leader respectively – following a public vote.

Pride of Guernsey medalThen, in a moment of complete surprise, I was announced as winner of the award for 2017 at the ceremony at the Guernsey Press offices.

Anyway, that’s the back story and it comes at the end of a pretty big week for what I do through BBC Introducing as it’s marked nine years of the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show and ten years of BBC Introducing nationally.

I can’t remember exactly what I said by way of an acceptance speech but this is a rough summary of what I can (and what I wanted to say), and really I just want to thank anyone who voted for me and all the great bands and musicians working over here without whom I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, write about or otherwise promote.

“First of all thanks to Dan from Jawbone for nominating me this year and if you want to see some great punk rock go check them out, they’re the best doing it over here right now.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me but really what this is all about, and what what I do is all about, is promoting the unsigned, undiscovered, under the radar (that’s the slogan) music being made in the islands and obviously I couldn’t do that without the bands, musicians and artists making it.

Guernsey’s always had more than its share of great live music, since The Roberts Brothers back in the 60s through Ponders End, The Risk, The Pulse, Crunchy Frog, Hobo Sounds, Mechanical Lobster to Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks, Mura Masa and so many more, there’s so much great music being made that deserves to be heard, and there’s loads of gigs on tonight and every weekend so go out there and experience it – when we’re done here, go to a show!

Thanks!”

If you want to check out what BBC Introducing Guernsey is all about the best place to go is the Facebook page by clicking here

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Brunt, Buff Hudd and Tim Bishop – The Golden Lion – 30/09/17

Brunt at The Golden Lion

Brunt

On the 30th September 2017, for the first time in years, loud and heavy rock music returned to the downstairs bar at The Golden Lion as Brunt took to the small stage alongside acoustic acts Buff Hudd and Tim Bishop.

The event was organised as a fundraiser for Action Aid and presented one of the most varied line ups seen at a show like this in a while.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 7th October 2017 and you can see more of my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Brunt, Buff Hudd and Tim Bishop review

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