Over the last few years the Guernsey Gigs Unplugged Club has become something of a regular highlight of my gig going from its origins in The Lion’s Den at The Golden Lion to its current incarnation at Local & Wild at St James.
That said, what with one thing and another, I had missed the last few months so was very much looking forward to the May 2022 edition and, as it’s been a while since I’ve written about the event, I thought I would.
Now regularly compered by Kiya Ashton, who began things tonight with a couple of her solo songs, the night is somewhat like an open mic night, in that anyone is welcome to get up and play a few songs (or read a few poems, etc) whatever their level of skill or style.
This event though, unlike some other open mic events, is very much more focussed on the performer with (generally) minimal amplification leading to those in the audience to be naturally more engrossed in the music, along with which each month includes a longer set from a featured artist, this month’s being Charles Stenner.
This edition, while possibly more solo guitarist based than some, was still a varied affair.
After Kiya, relative newcomer Andy Bougourd played some of his original songs which he’s been trialling here and at other open mics before planning to record them.
Regular player Ernie Roscouet followed, highlighting the age range of the event as he began with an anecdote about growing up in Jersey during the Occupation of the island during the Second World War, before playing a selection of songs spanning the 1930s to the 1960s with his usual loose and jazzy but highly impressive style.
More commonly seen playing bass for The Honest Crooks or SkySkrapers, Charlie Holmes made a surprise appearance (as much a surprise to him as us it seemed) playing some of his funky instrumentals, that he said he’d not played for over nine months, but he went down a storm and it’s always good to hear him playing these.
Another veteran of the local scene, Scots John, was next with a selection of classic folk revival type material including Bob Dylan and Neil Young, before a more recent arrival, but one who has really found a home here, Garry Minto, aka Its Own Animal, did something a bit different aided by a loop pedal but without his range of synths and drum machines and included a new song that combined some epically layered guitars that brought Pink Floyd to mind, with an almost spoken word vocal over the top.
Then Kiya Ashton was back, this time with her band The Folkadelics, to round off the first ‘half’ of the evening with a stripped back preview of what we could expect from them when they played at The Last Post on Liberation day for the Vale Earth Fair.
As has become tradition the break featured the raffle, an affair as much about the fun of it as the prizes, though this time round one lucky person went home with a new compact bass amp, while a few records and some guitar accessories made up the rest of the prizes with the ticket sales going towards funding future events and projects for Guernsey Gigs.
After the raffle the evening’s featured performer, Charles Stenner, took to the stage and played a terrific extended set of his pop folk and more, packed with highlight moments.
Starting with a couple of songs on the guitar he then moved to the piano before the mandolin (including the rather wonderful The Wicker Man), and then invited a few guests up on stage including Marie-Dom Bolt on whistle for a traditional tune and then Marcus Meredith for a few songs too.
After his set the evening was rounded off, as curfew approached for the venue (and was well passed for many in attendance) by Egita Strauta singing a few acapella songs, which is always a terrifically bold thing to do and she sounded great and I’d love to hear her with some accompaniment.
Once again then, the Guernsey Gigs Unplugged Club provided a great variety of music, different to what you might expect, and including some brand new material from both new and well established performers and I’d strongly recommend popping along in future if you want to play some new stuff and give it a test run or just enjoy some new music in a relaxed and friendly environment.