For the best of the last forty years Mark Le Gallez, and a rotating, suitably motley, crew of collaborators have been carving a furrow in Guernsey’s music scene that have taken them as far afield as Germany and California across a number of bands and the latest St James Presents… show highlighted four of them ranging from the first to make a significant mark up to Le Gallez’s current projects.
It was his currently most active project that got the night going, The Crowband.
Having originated as a solo project by Mark’s alter ego The Crowman it has grown since and here was at full force with ‘Fiddling Pixie’ Emma Lancaster (violin), Shaun ‘Tinshack’ Shackleton (harmonica and guitar), Mark ‘Holly’ Hollingsworth (banjolele) and Mark Gillson (guitar).
It took a couple of songs for the band, who have something of the feel of a folk session group, to get into the swing of their set and get the audience engaged but once they did it was a great fun set of their self styled ‘garage folk’ that warmed everyone up for the bigger, louder bands to come.
Highlights came with a darker, more traditionally styled, folk song (after a couple of false starts, all taken with a sense of fun), their song about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, complete with Kazoo, and the set closer a track by another band featuring Le Gallez, The John Wesley Stone, Spooky which was great to hear again.
Back in the early to mid-1980s The Risk was the first band of Le Gallez and longtime collaborator Colin Leach to make a mark and take their music, a mix of the mod revival of The Jam and a kind of psychedelic infused power pop, from landmark events in Guernsey as far as Broadway in San Francisco and shows down the US west coast.
Tonight they started out in straightforward three piece style, competed by Ozzy Austin on the drums, getting people moving with a selection of their own hits, including Jobs For The Boys, an extended version their always epic Twilight Zone, and Eddie & The Hotrods’ Do Anything You Wanna Do in tribute to that band’s singer Barrie Masters who died recently.
The second half of the set saw the trio joined by the brass of Andy Coleman (trombone) and Garrick Jones (saxophone) that just escalated the sound and energy even further building through the likes of Norma Jean, Good Together and a song that has become a big crowd pleaser Good Times to end.
As with the opening set the overall feeling was a hugely positive and celebratory one with the band and audience warming up further and by the end of the set both were sparking off each other with The Risk sounding as good as ever.
The energy (and the volume) only got higher next as Thee Jenerators hit the stage.
Formed in the early 2000s the band have, across several line ups, added a driving garage rock sound to Le Gallez’s playbook with him in full on frontman mode freed from the restraints of a guitar or bass, currently along with Andy Sauvage (guitar), Jo Reeve (bass), Garrick Jones (sax and organ) and Ozzy Austin again (drums).
Kicking off with a trio from their early days, Mary Jane, Fight The Power and Rocket 88 they delivered half an hour of sheer rock ‘n’ roll chaos fitting an impressive 16 short, sharp songs in spanning their whole time as a band.
Of course it wasn’t too long before Le Gallez was in amongst them, heading off stage, while bass player Jo Reeve, more anchored to the stage by his instrument, did his best to match his band leader’s energy ending up on the floor on several occasions whether by deign or not.
It might be a cliche but the band’s raw power might give them an erratic edge bordering on punk but, when they are on this kind of form they are a blast.
As they remain my personal favourite of the night’s bands I’d have been happy if they’d played twice as long but in this setting the short but sweet set, that included highlights like Roky Erickson Homesick Blues, Thee Witch and Mystery Man was a perfectly judged force of nature between the more polished acts.
With an air raid siren blaring the night’s headliners, the Sacred Hearts, hit the stage following on from their triumphant outing at the Vale Earth Fair in August.
The follow-up band to the Risk for Leach and Le Gallez they are currently joined by Colleen Irven (vocals) Mark Guppy (guitar), Chris Denton (bass) and Matt Hutchinson (drums) the band took the psyche power pop of their forerunners and slotted it into the British indie scene growing in towns like Bristol and Manchester to create something fresh that still sounds great today.
After Thee Jenerators they might have sounded fairly restrained but as they got going the Sacred Hearts had the crowd back at the front and dancing for a set that looks set to be this year’s feelgood hit of the autumn thanks to the likes of Free World, Lay Down My Head and Salvation.
The trio of vocalists, along with the dual guitar sound, set the Sacred Hearts apart from the other bands tonight as, for more than an hour, they showed how a pop sensibility within their psyche sound, while also being probably the slickest and tightest band of the night, could get the crowd singing along to all their favourites.
This was more than nostalgia though as the songs remain excellent and built to a storming climax of their now traditional mash up of their own hit Love Bomb and Billy Joe Royal’s (and Deep Purple’s) Hush before closing with their take of The Revillos’ Motorbike Beat that left the audience calling for more.
They were rightly rewarded then with another run at Salvation, complete with Le Gallez’s hand held strobe lights, sending us out into a rather wet and autumnal night on a warm and summery high and there’s already talk of a similar show happening next year with Speakeasy, amongst others, on the bill which I think many would be excited to see!