For the past six years Independent Venue Week has been championing bars, clubs, pubs and, for want of a better word, music halls up and down the UK that are run independently of major sponsors and support grass roots music both from their own neck of the woods and beyond.
In 2020, for I think the first time, Guernsey and the Channel Islands have their own venue involved as St James staged a night of new music featuring bands from Guernsey and Jersey as well as a pair of visiting acts, one with something of a further local link.
Having won the battle of the bands at Chaos last summer young trio Case On The Base have spent the last twelve months rising up through the youthful end of the island’s music scene with shows at the Vale Earth Fair, Sound Guernsey events and more gaining a reputation as a band with a solid grounding in the grunge sound of Nirvana and their ilk while penning a few songs of their own.
Tonight they played a comparatively short set but it featured even more of their own songs which took their initial grunge inspirations and added their own twist and their own angsty energy, something that is missing from so many of the young bands trying to do similar.
This was highlighted by two songs one of which was a burst of punk rock energy while the other took elements of punk, doom, goth and more with terrific effect while even tracks we’ve heard from them before, like closer Hypocrisy, showed signs of evolution.
Last year, when they were still known as Hot Plastic, The Tarantulips made a strong impression when they played a double headline show with The Recks at The Fermain Tavern and as the audience moved forward as they took the stage here it was clear there was a sense of anticipation for their performance.
Living up to all hype the Jersey based trio delivered a set of exquisite indie rock tracing the boundaries of that genre on all sides bringing summery vibes one moment and darkly rocking sound the next, captivating the audience throughout.
Nic Dinnie brought a great relaxed presence as frontman though he showed he had edge both in his playing and vocals when needed while Jon Caws was an understated powerhouse behind the kit and one of those drummers you can get almost hypnotised watching as he swings and crashes around the kit.
Elisa da Silva meanwhile may have been more unassuming on bass but when she stepped up to the mic she really made an impact, particularly with new single Gush which acted as a real showcase moment for her making everyone want to hear more.
While The Tarantulips aren’t outwardly ostentatious they captivate first with their sound then their performance which was highlighted by not just Gush but excellent rock ’n’ roller Prison Bird, the dance-y goodness of Eyes and more epic closer Apple that featured the terrific lyric ‘nobodies born there, but we all die there’ as The Tarantulips once again stated their case as one of the bands from the islands to watch this year.
Brighton based Stone Cold Fiction are another band who made an impression on visiting the island last year when they played the Viewalalu Stage at The Vale Earth Fair which has led to them working with new local record label Magic Moustache Records on an upcoming vinyl release of their recent new album, Strange Times.
While something of a shift of styles from The Tarantulips they may not have pulled the crowd to the front in the same way but their fuzzy mix of prog, jazz and stoner rock certainly went down well as the music flowed and washed around the hall.
With some truly lovely dynamics the sounds ebbed and flowed as the three guys on stage (Matt, Alex and Stephen) seemed to have that telepathic link with one another that marks best bands.
While their set felt comparatively short, they certainly unleashed some big sounds culminating in a closing number that upped the heaviness and groove but didn’t drop the dynamics or complexity bringing to mind everything from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd to Rush in one unassumingly youthful package.
Another band from Brighton, tonight’s headliners Beach Riot certainly struck the audience even before they started with each of the four members looking like they were coming from a different band.
As they launched into the set though this all became clear as their sound, what they term ‘fuzz pop,’ brilliantly combined a mix of rock power and pop harmony with three voices providing vocals for a majority of the time while the two guitars, bass and drums delivered a constantly shifting backdrop of varied, often harder edged, indie rock.
While, unfortunately, this ended not being the night for it, their music had the feel of being built to get a crowd jumping and even in the face of a less energetic audience all four members of the band still transmitted a power from the stage that did eventually start to get to a few around the hall.
As the set went on the band showed a slightly darker side along with the upbeat harmonies and their driving sound did leave the audience calling for more, to the apparent surprise of the band.
Nonetheless an encore was granted and came complete with a fun, if comparatively tame, stage invasion that went to show the link the band had managed to make with the audience.
With the second Sound At St James in the coming weeks and a series of regular live music events booked in across the year this show set a high standard for what the venue has to offer now and was certainly a fine celebration of independent artists, independent music and independent venues capturing the spirit Independent Venue Week perfectly.