The last time The Fermain Tavern changed hands it was marked with a full refit for Guernsey longest running live music venue and a launch show featuring 70s British R’n’B legend Wilko Johnson.
This time things have been less obvious, externally, but nonetheless, following a a few big name dance events this line up, featuring a pair of the Channel Islands top bands in The Recks and Hot Plastic along with strong support from the ever popular Ukuladeez and new up and comers Isle Stone, certainly also had the feel of the big event.
Being a sunny evening outside Isle Stone did take to the stage in front of a rather small audience but didn’t seem to let that deter as they made their way through a set of grunge and funk driven rock, including more originals than ever before.
The originals certainly showed the band have an ear for what makes a good song and provided many of the highlights, including a couple of instrumentals.
As performers they continue to grow as well with front man Reuben Esterhuizen clearly becoming more comfortable on stage and bass player Kristian Queripel being a stand out, if unassuming, player.
Both guitarists, Alex Queripel and Charlie Stevens, shared lead parts and sounded great doing it, but it’s hard to argue with the stage presence of Stevens.
Complete with Hendrix style jacket tonight and a Stratocaster to match and he did his best to live up to that strong combination, particularly on set closer Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire.
While they felt a little undisciplined in places, particularly the covers, which included Pearl Jam’s Alive and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, there was still the feeling that seeing Isle Stone now is seeing the beginnings of a band that could become a top act in years to come.
After a few years of regularly gigging, the last twelve months or so has been comparatively quiet for the Ukuladeez, but, following some time in the studio in recent weeks and months and an outing at Arts Sunday, this felt like a return to form for the band at full force.
With the classic six piece line up along the front and three extras in the backing band of a drums and bass rhythm section and melodica, they delivered a selection of songs from across their time together including a couple of new ones with their usual sense of subversive fun.
Across the set Ellie Mitchell became something of a front person for the band, providing a focal point that is something they’ve sometimes lacked, and particularly her and Fay Warrilow played off each other brilliantly (especially on Speak French).
That said each member had their particular moments in the spotlight when called for but this made for one of the tightest and most together performances I’ve seen from the band allowing the songs to really stand out with highlights including Rabbit Hole, their Facebook song and newer closer Carpark which left things on a high.
Hot Plastic are a band who’ve been making waves over the last year with a run of singles and gigs both in Jersey and the UK, this though was their first proper, full scale outing in Guernsey (following a somewhat waterlogged show at last year’s Vale Earth Fair).
From the off it was clear what all the hype was about as the now larger audience was treated to a mix of American style indie and garage rock from the trio that perfectly balanced pop sensibilities with a bit of an edge.
While only a trio they had a tremendous sound and power, topped off with a real presence and charisma (as well as great playing) from guitarist and singer Nic Dinnie which captured the audience from the off.
Something about them reminded me of past visitors to the Tav from New York, Johnny Lives along with hints of The Killers less poppy stuff, but along with it bits of the early 2000s garage rock revival of The Strokes, The Hives and White Stripes.
After their set they were called back for a genuine encore rounded off with a reprise of their opening number which, after nearly an hour stage, came with even more power and energy than it had previously.
I don’t say this lightly but, after seeing them just once, Hot Plastic are well on the way to becoming a new favourite for me on the Channel Islands’ scene.
After a tour of the south of England and an appearance on the BBC Introducing stage at Arts Sunday, The Recks were back on (sort of) home turf and started exactly how you’d expect with the audience filling the dancefloor for the indie-folk-gyspy-jazz sounds.
While the audience wasn’t the most energetic the band have played to at the start it was clear they were still loving it and even some early issues with the banjo amplification (a notoriously difficult instrument it seems) didn’t slow them up as the audience warmed up.
The same new songs heard the previous weekend made an appearance and, as predicted, the jazzy sounds of Sam The Clam began to work their magic starting the songs journey to becoming a live favourite.
Following a tremendous version of She Ain’t No Revelator, as the band neared the end of the set with popular single Train Wreck, there seemed to be an odd shift in energy between the band members.
They rode the wave of that into another new song though that added a heavier dimension to things before they closed on long time live favourite Lights that maybe wasn’t the smoothest I’ve heard but came with a darker energy and still closed the night on a high continuing the trend for The Fermain Tavern being a key venue in the music scene of not just Guernsey but the Channel Islands as a whole whoever’s name is above the door (and long may it continue).
You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing In The Channel Islands Facebook page by clicking here