With festival season in Guernsey well and truly over L’Islet Records kick started the autumn gigging calendar with a pair of back to back shows at The Vault with an acoustic night in Friday 17th and a (almost) fully electric show on Saturday 18th September.
In an interesting, but unsurprising, note it was Coastal Fire Dept (really the people behind L’Islet Records) who bookended the weekend starting the first night with a rare acoustic outing, translating their ‘grunge from the Vale’ sound into something far less distorted and noisy.
The first half of the set felt a bit awkward as the band clearly worked hard to get used to the different sounds on stage but, from about half way through when they headed into their more recent material, it all settled down into something that sounded great.
Loner, released as an acoustic b-side to most recent track What Do I, started that and from there they were off to the races with the songs appearing to be far more considered for this kind of performance rather than simply thrashing through them as they would on electric instruments but on acoustic, and it was clear the band were far more confident by this point in the set too.
A stripped back version of recent screamer Gun was another highlight (with a suggestion that it might get an acoustic release soon) as was Fuck The Scene, including a huge scream from Bobby Battle, while their traditional set ender Molly’s Lips did the same duty here and it all left me wanting to hear them do an even more expanded ‘unplugged’ performance with added instrumentation a la Nirvana Unplugged – but maybe that’s taking things too far?
And then it was time for the acoustic-folk-bluegrass-pop-metal maelstrom that is Clameur De Haro who, it seemed, had made the rather in character choice of spending the bulk of the hours between soundcheck and their set in the nearest local hostelry (not helped by a round of Fireball shots mid-set).
This led to a performance that was, true to form, a bit all over the place, but all the better for it, as they mixed their own good time sing alongs with covers of some great classic rock tunes from Supernaut to Paint It Black to Ticket To Ride.
While they didn’t start slow they picked up the pace and energy terrifically as the set went on and even a mid set break (unplanned but seemingly rather necessary) didn’t derail things and they had many in the venue singing along to both the covers and their own tunes as banter flew both between band members and the band and crowd at the front.
With the crowd calling for more we were treated to a somewhat erratic cover of Ace Of Spades to close proceedings and show that an acoustic show needn’t be a relaxed and sedate affair.
Saturday 18th September then was billed as being the noisier night of the two, and certainly would go on to become that, but began with The Crowman, in this instance backed by Mark Guppy and Wiggy of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Disaster, tonight dubbed ‘The Shitbirds’.
Given they’d only had two rehearsals as a trio things held together remarkably well though it did start to fall apart a bit as it went on, not helped by Crowman managing to unplug his own guitar a few times mid song, but at no point did it really seem to derail them as much as you might expect.
Black Mary was a highlight along with a bit of a throwback of a song from The John Wesley Stone and an acoustic run at The Disaster’s Shit Boyfriend before Guppy and Wiggy left the stage and Ozzy joined to add some basic drums to a couple of fuzzy banjo tunes to finish on a nicely noisy point.
After their (comparatively) quiet performance the night before Coastal Fire Dept were back to their usual electrified and noisy selves.
Clearly more relaxed and at home in this mode they wasted no time getting up to to full strength as they delivered almost the same set as the night before (with a couple of additions).
Again it was the newer songs that really stood out with Loner, Gun (for which they were again joined by Granite Wolf frontman Shinfo) and What Do I all sounding like a real step forward for the band with a much greater depth and texture to the music.
It also felt like they’d started to apply some of this to the older tracks too and it’s always good when you see a band take an obvious step forward.
While they gave it their all throughout the crowd, while engaged, felt somewhat distant compared to sometimes but for the most part this didn’t effect the performance with the energy from the crowd growing slightly as it all went on, enough so an encore of Nirvana’s School was warranted if not as raucous as it might be.
While it was a good weekend of live music all round it was, maybe ironically, the first and supposedly quieter night that was the real energetic highlight, though across both Coastal Fire Dept showed some interesting new wrinkles to their grunge-y, alt-rock sound and, if this was their last gigs of the year as they suggested, it certainly could have been worse.