After a night of some of the heaviest music Guernsey has to offer in a suitably small and dark room (that’s no criticism in this case) Saturday 31st July 2021 was a rather different affair out in a field on the west coast for the annual Rocquaine Regatta and the Vale Earth Fair’s stage featuring Band Of Crows, The Erberts, The Roughtones and the return of Track Not Found.
Band Of Crows, it turned out, was a reduced version of The Crowband under a new name with Mark ‘The Crowman’ Le Gallez joined by acoustic guitarist Mark ‘Wiggy’ Gillson, for a set of their brand of steampunk driven pseudo-folk.
After the first song Crowman casually announced this may well be his last gig which added an extra frisson to the occasion, none the less the remained was exactly what we’ve come to expect with eccentricity meeting catchy songwriting head on and even including a couple of new songs.
At one point Crowman commented that when he played a steampunk festival in the UK they ‘weren’t sure if he was a comedian or an idiot’ but given the level of entertainment and fun in his performance here I’d have to go with the former (of those two options) but of course he’s much more than that and, if this was his last show, as he closed with a couple of rousing stomp-alongs on the banjo, he will be sorely missed.
The Erberts popped up on the scene, as if from nowhere, over the last couple of months or so and I was intrigued to find out exactly who they were and what they did.
As they took to the stage it became clear they were made up of the bulk of RentOClean along with Joe Le Long (of Lord Vapour and Magic Moustache Records) which put certain expectations for their sound in place of something rooted in reggae but with maybe a bit of retro rock thrown in.
What we got wasn’t quite that, though certainly the retro rock side was more than evident with a laid back and easy feel perfect for a warm summer evening like this.
Across the set apt comparisons were made to the likes of Little Feat, The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan’s less folky work and it was clear the band won a lot of new fans by the end of their set with calls made for more.
Ska band The Roughtones took to the stage with their numbers severely depleted with a missing guitarist and a couple of absent brass players, none the less they launched into their set as if they were at full strength.
Delivering a set made up primarily of Madness and The Specials songs they had a great energy despite being understandably a little scrappy.
Throughout the set it was clear singer Tobi Batiste is really getting the hang of fronting a band, even if there is maybe a bit too much of a hint of Jim Morrison to his renditions of the songs of Suggs, Dammers, et al which gave it a slightly odd feel but the moments where he adopted a slightly higher register sounded particularly good.
After a ‘secret and surprise’ outing in Sark last weekend Track Not Found returned to a Guernsey stage, with their original line up, for the first time since Chaos 2019, and their first show of any sort since later that year, and from the start they were playing at their best.
After a couple of songs they seemed to have some technical issues but really didn’t let that slow them up and, as they played a new (to us at least) track that, in a way, sounded like their answer to My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade.
As the sun went down they switched things up another gear with the second half of the set being possibly one of the best they’ve ever played.
Throughout they were erratic and edgy in the way they always were but with a manner and confidence that showed they’ve all grown as musicians and performers considerably over the last two years, spurred on here no doubt by a dedicated group of fans at the front who, as the set went on were singing back every word.
Highlights of the set came with Code Red, Ecstasy and Everybody Hates Track Not Found, before an encore reprise of Code Red ended their set in a high point.
Hopefully this won’t be the last time we see the band but, if it is, there have been far worse final gigs and it rounded off a very fine evening of music in grand style once again making the Vale Earth Fair’s presence at the Rocquaine Regatta one of the comparatively hidden, lo-fi, gems in the Guernsey music calendar.