Prophets of Rage – Self-Titled

Prophets of Rage album coverTwenty five years ago Rage Against The Machine blasted into the world with an incendiary hybrid of heavy metal and rap fuelled by perceived injustices and inequalities in life in the USA.

Since then the band have come and gone a couple of times with varying levels of success, and each have pursued their own careers outside the band, but the trio of Tom Morello (guitars), Tim Commerford (Bass) and Brad Wilk (drums), following a few stints with the late Chris Cornell as Audioslave, have now reconvened, joined by hip hop pioneers Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy and B-Real of Cypress Hill, under the name Prophets of Rage.

Given the political outlook of all six men it’s probably unsurprising that they should be so re-energised now and across their self-titled debut there is a newly found power that was missing from Rage Against The Machine’s resurrection when I saw them at Reading Festival in 2008.

Here, from the opening strains of Radical Eyes onwards, Prophets of Rage mix everything you’d expect them to in a great balance that brings the hard rock groove of Audioslave into the metallic edge of Rage Against The Machine, with the biting MCing of Chuck D and the more varied but no less pointed vocal stylings of B-Real, all with DJ Lord being a constant presence along with the band.

Prophets of Rage band

Prophets of Rage

It’s hard to not compare this to Rage as, sonically, there are a lot of similarities but, compared to that band’s work this is, unsurprisingly, more mature. Certainly it is packed with political motive, titles like Unfuck The World, Hail To The Chief and Who Owns Who, make that obvious before you even listen, but rather than the largely polemic ranting of Zack De La Rocha, Chuck D and B-Real add something more to it making it much more digestible and more personal feeling.

The supergroup is always a worrying concept and Prophets of Rage certainly fall into that category but, unlike some examples, they don’t feel like several other acts rammed together but do feel like a new band in their own right, just fuelled by the same things as their past projects.

Added to all of this is the fact that songs are hugely catchy and great to listen to.

Prophets of Rage live

Prophets of Rage live

It’s not often a record can sit in the CD player in my car for a week and just loop, but this one does and each listen reveals new things, from the interplay between Morello’s guitars and Lord’s decks to how well Chuck D and B-Real’s voices work together to make a bigger sound that I can envisage and really want to experience live just from listening.

The album has no real weak points but its opening trio of tracks (Radical Eyes, Unfuck The World and Legalize Me) are a solid highlight as are Hail To The Chief and Take Me Higher and I can only imagine (and hope) that with the continuing political upheavals taking place Prophets of Rage will have fuel for plenty more great music to come.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2017 – Of Empires and Sark Roots Festival

Of Empires and Sark Roots Festival

Of Empires and Roz & Lazlo from Sark Roots

Click here to listen to the show

As BBC Introducing prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday, BBC Introducing in Guernsey marked nine years on the air while wrapping the 2017 summer festival season for its September show.

I spoke to Jack Fletcher from Of Empires about their summer which has seen the slick rock ‘n’ roll four piece make their first foray into the UK’s mainstream festival scene with appearances at both Isle of Wight and Reading festivals thanks to promoters of all things guitar music based, This Feeling.

I also caught up with Sark Roots Festival organiser Roz following their second successful event celebrating not just the great music of the Channel Islands but all things environmental as well.

On top of that I had a brief look back at the 2017 Vale Earth Fair and, in marking the show’s birthday, a few of the tracks that have made a mark over the past decade or so.

You can listen to the show by clicking here

Tracklist

You can read my look back at Guernsey’s 2017 summer festival season here

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Guernsey’s Summer Festival Season 2017

Jupiter and Okwess at the Vale Earth Fair

Jupiter and Okwess on the Castle Stage at Vale Earth Fair

With the autumnal weather setting in and music events moving back into the island’s indoor venues, I think its safe to say as we move into October that Guernsey’s ever-growing summer festival season has come to an end.

As with every year it seems more and more events are labelling themselves as festivals or have that feeling of big, outdoor, events that typifies the British and European style of music festival; from the long running likes of the Vale Earth Fair to the House On Herm events or the food and drink ‘festivals’ that often feature live musical entertainment.

This year’s festival season began, as it is prone to, with Liberation Day on 9th May.

The Recks

The Recks

While the Vale Earth Fair were part of the now customary street party in St Andrews, the ‘official’ side of the celebrations in St Peter Port came in the form of LibRock 2017 on the Albert Pier.

Like last year this event showcased not just big names like The Devotees, The Recks and Clameur De Haro, but also gave a chance to some of the island’s younger bands to appear in front of a bigger crowd, namely Unclassified and Problematic.

Read my review of LibRock

The Guernsey Literary Festival was next on the list and that featured a night of live music and poetry at The Fermain Tavern before Guernsey Arts Commission‘s Arts Sunday took over the St Peter Port Seafront.

Tantale on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Tantale

As it has every year Arts Sunday featured about as much live music as it was possible to fit in from the young performers of The School of Popular Music and the Thirst Music School, to a selection of established performers staged by The Vault, to the BBC Introducing Guernsey Stage that was curated to showcase some of the artists featured and championed by BBC Introducing in the islands including Blue Mountains, Buff Hudd, The Recks, Tantale and Thee Jenerators.

Read my review of BBC Introducing Guernsey at Arts Sunday

The first of the big, fully fledged music festivals of the year came at the end of June with the 13th happening of the Chaos Weekend (generally these days shortened to simply, Chaos).

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

After a few up and down years this year’s felt very much back to its past prime with a few visiting headliners such as Graveyard Johnnys and Johnny Cage & The Voodoogroove, sharing the stage with the best rock bands Guernsey has to offer like Heave, Static Alice and SugarSlam, while The Peace Tent showcased everything from New Zealand folk duo Great North to the doom rock of Brunt to Flexagon‘s brand of psytrance.

Read my review of Chaos Voodoo 13

While I skipped this year’s Sark Folk Festival in favour of the British Summer Time event in Hyde Park featuring Green Day, Rancid, The Living End and more, the big live music events continued throughout July with the Sound Guernsey School’s Out Party, the School Of Popular Music Summer Showcase and a Vale Earth Fair Fundraiser before the main event itself.

Honest Crooks at the Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

This year the Vale Earth Fair was marking 41 years and did so with one of the most stacked line ups in some time. The main stage was headlined by Chali 2Na & Krafty Kuts, Jupiter & Okwess and Jah Wobble & The Invaders of the Heart with the local side represented by The Recks, Robert J. Hunter, SugarSlam and more. Meanwhile outside the Vale Castel The Honest Crooks headlined with Lifejacket, Near Bliss and more.

Read my review of the Vale Earth Fair

In past years the festival season has really come to an end with the Vale Earth Fair but last year and this its extended well into September, not only is there Smaashfest but the Sark Roots Festival has quickly grown into something that feels like an established event.

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

This year the event grew from last year’s first to feature a mix of bands from Guernsey and Jersey along with visiting acts from the UK and even New Zealand highlighted by Buffalo Huddleston, The Honest Crooks and The Surfin’ Birds.

Read my review of Sark Roots Festival

With plenty more going on besides, from The Rocquaine Regatta to the North Show and more, its fair to say summer in the islands is about as packed as it can be with events with a strong musical presence that serve to highlight quite how spoilt we are for new music in the islands.

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Shock Treatment

Shock Treatment blu-rayFor a long time, Shock Treatment, Richard O’Brien’s follow-up to cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a mysterious footnote in cinema history relegated to second-hand VHS or an occasional obscure late night TV showing.

Now though, thanks to Arrow Video, it’s been released in fully restored high-definition from as part of a Blu-ray collectors pack along with the soundtrack CD and the usual other bits and bobs.

The film is, in some ways, a direct sequel to Rocky Horror, continuing the story of the now married Brad and Janet Majors (sadly not Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon but Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper, of Suspiria fame).

Set in the studios of DTV, an apparent Black Mirror-ish all-encompassing reality TV network (long before the phrase came to mean anything) in their hometown of Denton, it echoes its forebear in many ways.

Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper

Brad (DeYoung) and Janet (Harper)

Firstly it has the feel of a series of loosely connected vignettes, secondly the antagonists are a brother and sister/incestuous lover duo played with creepily surreal brilliance by O’Brien and Patricia Quinn (with more than a hint of Riff Raff and Magenta), thirdly it features a selection of suitably rock ‘n’ roll songs to string it all together.

The setting is also very suggestive of ‘The Frankenstein Place’ from the original, with the feeling of being a kind of separate realm to Brad and Janet’s usual reality, but the transition to it is less well handled so we don’t get such a clearly defined other space that it really feels like the film needs to make sense.

Along with this we get some great production design that makes it feel like we are really trapped in a low-budget local TV network along with Brad and Janet, while the selection of cast members is one to behold; from Barry Humphries as a kind Frank like ringleader, to a very young pre-Young Ones Rik Mayal and Ruby Wax to several recurring performers from Rocky Horror which help tie things together, including Charles Gray and ‘Little’ Nell Campbell.

Shock Treatment cast

Mayal, Quinn, Campbell and O’Brien

Not only are some of the cast recurring but the entire main production team also returns, helping the at least stylistic similarities.

While it’s all rather ‘bonkers fun’ (to quote my immediate reaction on Facebook) it’s falls down when compared to its predecessor in a couple of crucial ways.

First is that it lacks a central figure, like Tim Curry’s Frank N Furter, to really lead us through the vignettes. Janet is arguably the lead here but never quite grabs the screen enough, while Humphries’ vampiric TV host Bert Schnick fills the physical space but not the thematic one, though there are hints that in a different world he might have.

Second is that it doesn’t have such a strong over arching message though it feels likes its trying to reach for one. Rocky Horror struck such a chord with its anthemic cry of ‘Don’t dream it, be it!’ while Shock Treatment feels more like a warning against the cult of celebrity and reality TV. In that it is impressively prescient, but it just never quite gets it across in the way you feel it wants to.

Barry Humphries and Richard O'Brien

Humphries and O’Brien

So, while its obvious why Shock Treatment hasn’t found a place in the pop culture pantheon that its predecessor did, even O’Brien admits it’s a mess, it remains more than the footnote it had been relegated to and if it’s anything like Rocky Horror its appeal will grown with familiarity.

 

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Guernsey Gigs Jam Night #2 – The Fermain Tavern – 22/09/17

Who Would Dare Give Me The Raspberry

Who Would Dare Give Me The Raspberry

Back in March Guernsey Gigs put on an event that was a bit of an experiment, based on the idea of some of the open mic nights that take place but formalising it with randomly drawn selections of musicians being given 20 minutes to ‘jam’ and see what happens.

Given that the first was a success for both musicians and the curious audience, there was a bit of buzz around this second version of the event with a broader scope of musicians putting their names in the buckets to play.

While people were arriving and the first of the jam bands were getting things together the Ten Toe Hobo hopped up on stage to play a short impromptu set that found the feeling of the night very well in the way only he can.

Ten Toe Hobo

Ten Toe Hobo (slightly in the dark)

When it comes to a night like this of course it’s a little different to a normal gig as none of the bands are bands and none of the songs are songs and just getting up on stage takes more confidence than certainly I have, whatever the outcome.

The first band, dubbed I think accidentally Not Yet by the evening’s compere Graham ‘G-Dog’ Duerden, were slightly more prepared than most of the night’s combos and delivered a set of funky, jazzy instrumentals led by the saxophone of Boondoggle‘s Dennis Allen.

One thing about a jam night like this which is always something of a worry is that each group will just fall back into a kind of standard bluesy groove, so it was encouraging that even between the first two groups neither came close to doing that.

Deliberate Mistake

Deliberate Mistake

Deliberate Mistake, as they called themselves, threw together elements of psyche and indie with hip hop. With Silas The Assyrian Assassin on vocals, the backing provided a more relaxed groove for his insistent, Beastie Boys like punk rock-rap style delivery but for the most part it worked.

With Christiaan Mariess of Brunt on drums it was no surprise that The Dangles had a heavy groove going throughout nicely balanced by some more of Dennis’ saxophone and his Boondoggle comrade Carrie’s vocals.

While the next couple of bands didn’t quite gel as well they still led to some nice moments. Sexual Content featured some Doors like hints from The Recks‘ Richey Powers before he switched to guitar in Quintessentially Human and showed some fine power blues stylings as they neared their climax, showing off something we don’t get to see normally.

Key Change

Key Change

Possibly the most unexpected grouping of the night saw City Limits‘ lead guitar whiz, Glenn Holmes, teaming up with Ukuladeez (all counting as one vocalist). While they found a few nice jams amongst their bizarre mixture, I think their highlight moment was when Ellie added some percussion in the form of tap dancing. 

And then it was Murray Brown… Named for the Burning At Both a Ends guitarist whose name had been drawn several times across the night despite the fact he wasn’t actually there and combining the forces of Lord Vapour, Mechanical Lobster and Citizen-X, amongst others to create something like a deranged version Hawkwind but with more extreme vocals drenched in reverb and delay creating a highlight of the night.

As the night neared its end things went off the rails somewhat as last group, Who Would Dare Give Me The Raspberry, filled the stage with performers who played with a great fluidity considering the situation.

Murray Brown

Murray Brown

With Rentoclean‘s Kieran Smale scratching on the decks (following drumming duties earlier) adding yet another new sound and Gregory Harrison delivering a kind of scat vocals with beat boxing and rap thrown in, they ended the night in a way that showed exactly the best of what this night could do, getting different groups of musicians together and creating something new that, at the start of the night, no one thought they’d be playing.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Greenman Chaos Night – KGV – 23/09/06

As the BBC website has started to remove a lot of older content (including a lot of mine) I may, from time to time, resurrect older pieces on here – this is one of those – originally posted as part of Guernsey Unsigned (the forerunner to BBC Introducing Guernsey) in September 2006.

All names are left as credited at the time and the only edits are for tidying up and corrections.

Spitshine - KGV - 23/09/06

Spit Shine Blues Band

As lightning flashed in the sky outside the KGV bar welcomed an eclectic night of music from some of Guernsey’s best new bands.

Heading up the stairs from the entrance to the bar of the KGV I could hear the sounds of some good old rock ‘n’ roll in the form of Johnny B. Goode being played live by the Spit Shine Blues Band.

Featuring J.J. Corbin on lead guitar and vocals, the band rocked through a set of blues and rock ‘n’ roll covers which sounded like they came from the soul of a young Eric Clapton. Corbin in particular stood out as a fantastic young guitarist with a great voice which could grow to become a real gravely blues drawl should he want it to.

Though he was not the only stand out as the band’s drummer showed his stuff as well and the saxophone and bass held it all together to present a great sound, especially for a band who I believe don’t play together on a regular basis.

After the Spit Shine Blues Band treated us to a full on ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll ending’ to their set things took a turn for the mellower as semi-acoustic trio Said in Silver took to the stage.

Guitarist/vocalist Diggi started the set by asking “how do you follow Joe Corbin’s band?” and it seemed that Said in Silver had the answer.

Said In Silver

Said In Silver

Playing a collection of original tunes and covers the three piece worked through their nerves to sound great with Diggi acting as a hugely charismatic and witty frontman and Astrid vocals sounding great and fitting the songs perfectly.

Their stand out tracks were undoubtedly their rendition of Alanis Morissette’s Ironic and their own song My Saturday Afternoon in London, but all of the songs sounded great and they showed definite promise with such good original material, if they can overcome their nerves.

Next up the chaos promised in the events name almost came to fruition in the form of Spat. Blasting out a style of pure punk not seen in a long while they too combined original material and covers to brain scrambling effect.

Spat

Spat

The band’s tuning up set the stage for what was to come with shambolic shouts of “We can’t hear the ****ing guitars” and this chaotic sound continued throughout the set displaying their punk credentials well with covers of the Anti-Nowhere Leagues So What and Ramones Now I Want To Sniff Some Glue all presented through Jack Sunderland’s barking screams, bringing to mind any number of the great British punk bands of the late 1970’s and 80’s.

Being the only band to really get the crowd going we were treated at one point to the sight of a full on three-man circle pit as well as a slightly larger standard mosh. The band ended up with some true class as Lee Burton smashed his guitar to pieces before Jack slammed his mic stand into its remains to create an ear splitting wall of noise.

Sadly falling victim to the fact that a majority of the audience had cleared off by the time they came on Bald Justice still played their blues rock and old school metal with true style, making the floor shake to the sounds of some Black Sabbath classics as well as other covers and some of their own songs.

Bald Justice

Bald Justice

Stand outs were their own tune Sweet Ophelia which they pulled out early in the set and their covers of Sabbath’s The Wizard and N.I.B. which closed things off.

Showing the ability and the class to carry on playing with such a depleted audience the band’s energy only seemed to wane slightly at one point towards the middle of the set before building itself up again by the end and they definitely deserved more people to hear them play, though as the band’s bassist Mutley said afterwards “I haven’t had to follow a proper punk band in 15 years” and following a band like that must be a challenge, especially when the crowd were so clearly behind Spat.

When it was all said and done the night clearly belonged to Spat, although all four bands put on great performances, and it just goes to say many happy returns to Lloyd and Boon and that’s a hell of a way to have a birthday bash.

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Sark Roots Festival 2017 – 15-17/09/17

Sark Roots Festival Field

The festival field

In 2016 the Sark Roots Festival appeared on the Channel Islands scene, late in the season and looking in some way like a cross between the wildly successful Sark Folk Festival and the Vale Earth Fair, combining a diverse selection of musical acts with workshops on various earthy subjects and the idyllic setting of Sark – specifically a field to the north of the island overlooking Guernsey and Herm one way and Alderney and France the other.

I’ll admit that I was initially sceptical, while the music side looked good it didn’t seem to be anything we hadn’t seen at any of the other festivals happening around the Bailiwick over the summer and the other stuff, which to my mind looked like a lot of ‘hippy nonsense’ (to use the polite version of my commonly used phrase), looked like too much distraction from the music.

After good reports from pretty much everyone who went, and as I missed the 2017 Sark Folk Festival, I thought I’d give it a go for this year though and I have to say it failed to live up my original expectations in the best of ways.

Sark Roots Festival Field

The festival field

Of course the location was spectacular  – other than the destroyed vineyards and intentionally abandoned properties, where in Sark isn’t?

The set up of the field, while reminiscent of the folk festival, was rather more rustic and humble with extra additions of a play area including trampoline, tight ropes and a home-made climbing frame, several fire pits which would come into their own later in the evening and various tents and tipis where the weekend’s non-musical events would take place.

The main tent included a good-sized stage at one end and, slightly separate, a bar at the other selling a range of small brewery beers and ciders from Sark Brewery, Guernsey’s White Rock Brewery and Rocquette Cider.

Day 1

Ten Toe Hobo

Ten Toe Hobo

So onto the music which began with a regular of pretty much all festivals in the islands, Ten Toe Hobo.

Delivering possibly a more blues tinged version of his usual busking style set he provided a relaxed start to the weekend that really captured the tone perfectly.

The set got more energetic as it went on with original song Loose Lips a favourite as always and Move On, another original track I’m sure I’d heard before, also sounding great and of course the song that has become something of his theme tune, Charlie Winston’s Like A Hobo being another highlight.

While a few bands and performers have come out of Sark over the years there was only one truly Sark based act on the bill here, Big Sheep.

Big Sheep

Ash, Dave and Roz of Big Sheep

Featuring the festival’s lead organisers Roz (ukulele) and Lazlo (bass) along with leader Dave (guitar and vocals), Ash (trumpet and vocals) and part-time Space Pirate Jess (fiddle) they presented their usual mix of original tunes and songs and a few made famous by The Levellers.

While there were a few points where it all became a bit of a mess when it coalesced they have a great sound, particularly with Roz’s vocals working alongside Dave’s to build some deeper tones.

For obvious reasons they were very warmly received and got the first dancers of the day up with a group of the island’s youngsters who seemed to be having a great time all weekend and gave the whole thing as much a community fair kind of feel as that of a festival.

Sergeant Pipon's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sergeant Pipon’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The first of the weekend’s acts from Jersey was Sergeant Pipon’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (abbreviated to Sergeant Pipon on the programme).

They came across like a slightly more risqué answer to the The Space Pirates of Rocquaine with a foot a bit more firmly in rock ’n’ roll territory.

With songs of drinking, debauchery and other nocturnal activities, run through a filter of tunes sounding suspiciously like some familiar favourites, they were the first of the weekend’s band to get really irreverent and were great fun with it.

With the sun now set the tent was filling up for The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and, with them at full, eight-piece, strength on stage, the upbeat tones continued and they soon had a few dancing at the front.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Louis and Clem of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Clem and Louis Brouard sharing the stage they added to the family feel of the festival while their brand of lo-fi, vintage, rag time sounded as good as ever.

Gemma Honey’s sweeter voice and Clem’s abrasive vocals played off each other brilliantly while a few songs previously heard from The John Wesley Stone were highly appreciated and Ash Jarman continued to show his ridiculous musical skill swapping from brass to some very finely played spoons!

With quite a sonic contrast Lord Vapour brought their fuzzy cosmic grooves fresh off their recent debut European tour.

With new material that builds on their past jammed out heavy psychedelia they built to huge crescendos and, while in the past they have sometimes felt rhythmically imbalanced they had a more measured pace here that saw them at their best driven by the relaxed but powerful drum work of Squirrel.

And, as Richey from The Reck’s pointed out, they all have great looking hair.

Monty of The Pirates

Monty of The Pirates

While Lord Vapour had got heads nodding it was The Pirates (formerly Pirate Party Brigade) from Jersey who really got the moving with the highly skankable punk ska energy.

As a party band par excellence they blasted through a set of infectiously energetic songs in tight and punchy fashion led by the brilliantly gritty charisma of Monty that provided a strong highlight of the first day.

And then came Sark (and Channel Island) favourites, The Recks

Being undeniably in the party spirit on a technical level the band were just the wrong side of lose and ended up going about as all over the place as a band can while still sticking to a performance.

Richey of The Recks

Richey of The Recks

With that though they brought an amazing energy to the tent that ran into the crowd and back and it was one of those moments of everyone coming together in a way that defies conventional wisdom making for a rousingly raucous performance.

Ending on a take at old favourite Porcupine that was maybe a little too busked, their performance here suited the mood of the night and rounded off the first day of the festival in an appropriate style – oh, and Richey was wearing a very nice coat… (he might have told me to point that out).

You can see more of my photos from the first day of the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

Day 2

After a raucous end to the first night my second day at the festival began (after a failed attempt at dodging some rain after breakfast) in much more sedate fashion with Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Their relaxed and fun manner worked well to give their rather dark songs a lighter edge and they held the gradually growing crowd rapt.

Andrew Degnen added a ukulele to one song, along with his usual fiddle on the others, particularly Henry Lee which was reworked with a bigger lead violin part, and they debuted a brand new song about Sark as, they pointed out, it seems you can’t be a folk band in the islands without a song about the place, all before coming to a fine climax with Emmy Lou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl which was as evocative as always.

Things got a bit more groovy next with some upbeat indie from Jersey’s Axon Bower. While there wasn’t anything much new to their sound for a summer afternoon in a field it was spot on and brought some great vibes to the event as the sun looked set on staying out.

Tantale

Tantale

Continuing with an indie rock sound, but in a slightly different way, were Tantale.

Going acoustic for this more sedate event they mixed originals with covers from the likes of REM and Soundgarden and captured some of their usual psychedelic tones with a very chilled out feeling.

Added to this was the fact that they were playing with Jawbone’s Alex Childs on drums showing a very different side to her playing than in her regular band and putting in a stellar performance having only had two practices!

Lead by a relaxed Crowman, The Crowband took Sark Roots on a surreal flight of fancy that mixed folk, steampunk and music hall in a way unlike anything else.

The Crowband

The Crowman and Shacks

With entertaining chat between the songs, things got more demented as the set went on with cultural reference points spanning everything from Isambard Kingdom Brunel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to The Hangover via the small northern town of Pimbo, culminating in a singalong to Give Me Booze from their latest album to finish.

Things didn’t get much more conventional next as what Parish 13 took to the stage looking and acting like they could be residents of Royston Vasey.

While they started off looking and sounding like a gypsy/pirate novelty act, as they went on and people got on their feet it started to feel a little more organic with an interesting selection of songs including cover of Gogol Bordello and The Mad Caddies.

While it was hard to escape the feeling they were trying a bit too hard for the novelty factor they upped the energy in the tent well as we headed into the evening.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The piratical theme continued, albeit in slightly less of a forced fashion, with The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

It took a couple of songs but they soon got the crowd involved with a set that was the perfect balance between their more restrained, family friendly, selves and their more rock ’n’ roll tendencies.

Rise sounded anthemic once again while SS Briseis brought a rowdy punk energy before they delivered an encore of Mr Le Goupillot to close the first highlight set of the weekend.

After recent outings at the 2017 Vale Earth Fair and its warm up show Weymouth quartet The Surfin’ Birds returned to the islands with quite some fan fare.

A grooving jam set the tone at the start before we spent an hour surfing the psychedelic waves with a strong garage heart.

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

The set and sound were different from their previous visit showing a band capable of quite some variety who all played off one another on stage excellently making for a tight and powerful performance that was the best I’ve seen from them and was another highlight of the festival.

With a lantern parade going on outside the tent remained packed for the big ska party of The Honest Crooks.

This band couldn’t be more suited to an event like this and the crowd was skanking from the start. With a selection of their own great songs making up the bulk of the set there were a few covers thrown in too but all were warmly greeted and the addition of trumpet player Danny on a few songs added an extra level to the ska punk sound.

The Honest Crooks

The Honest Crooks

With a longer set than expected they packed in the tracks and even got Henry from Lord Vapour up for kazoo duties on Gentlemen’s Dub Club’s High Grade (its safe to say he’s no Bobby Battle on the instrument but did drink a pint from a shoe as if to make up for that – I’m not sure why either), before the band closed their set with a big jammed out ending that got the a small pit going amongst the revellers at the front.

It seems only inevitable that after all that Buffalo Huddleston would close the show and they did it in just the fashion we’ve come to expect.

Buffalo Huddleston

Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

Their upbeat folk-hop had the audience going from the start and its hard to argue with the appeal of this band with new songs greeted as positively as more well-known ones building a great atmosphere in the tent that permeated out into the field leading to two encores, and there was a point where I wasn’t sure if the crowd would let the band leave the stage rounding off the second day on a real high as we relaxed around a fire pit watching distant lightning arcing across the sky.

You can see more of my photos from the second day of the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

Day 3

John Le Sauvage

John Le Sauvage

As is probably to be expected the Sunday of the festival was a more relaxed affair but it was good to see that by lunchtime the site was getting busy and, with the sun well and truly out and it feeling like a summer’s day the field became the perfect place to relax and enjoy the afternoon.

Musically things got going with John Le Sauvage playing a mix of country and folk style songs in a chilled out fashion.

With an easy manner on stage he went down well spanning everything from Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues to Pulp’s Disco 2000 and Cranberries’ Zombie.

After letting their rock ’n’ roll side out the previous night The Space Pirates of Rocquaine (billed as The Bootleg Pirates) were back for something a little more sedate.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

Starting out with a few solo and duo songs from Guppy, Lisa and Tim to set the mood before the full band, including extra vocals from Jess Nash on a few songs, took to the stage for a very different set to the previous night including their more folky songs.

They still found time for some upbeat moments though, like their take on Billy Bragg’s You Woke Up My Neighbourhood and their own Follies D’Amour before ending on an atmospherically slowed down version of The Witch of the Longfrie.

Boondoggle brought some jazzy acoustic pop the show and were much more relaxed on stage than when I’ve seen them in the past, capturing the mood excellently.

With a different combination of sounds thanks to Carrie’s great voice and Dennis’ clarinet and sax they stood out from the pack of acoustic artists currently on the scene in the islands.

Carrie from Boondoggle

Carrie from Boondoggle

With the boat calling I just had time to catch New Zealander Monty Bevins before heading off to the harbour and he continued the afternoon’s atmosphere with a soulful singer-songwriter style.

While young men with acoustic guitars are ten a penny he was in the upper set of those on the circuit, if not being truly remarkable, but sounded nice.

Sark Roots Festival then was in many ways exactly what I expected but in others nothing like I anticipated. With some great music on offer it all came packaged in probably the most laid back of any of the festivals in the islands and certainly left a strong impression, even on this sometimes jaded and cynical sort.

You can see more of my photos from the third day of the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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WWE Mae Young Classic – Final (and more)

Mae Young classic finalists Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler

Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler

A couple of weeks ago I took a look at the opening round of the Mae Young Classic, WWE’s international women’s wrestling tournament.

Since then the second round, quarter and semi finals have all been aired leading to a live final pitting Japan’s ‘pirate princess’ Kairi Sane and her devastating flying elbow drop against MMA fighter, and one of Ronda Rousey’s ‘four horsewomen’, Shayna Baszler and her debilitating suplex into a rear naked choke style sleeper hold.

Like the first round the second had its fair share of great moments but it was the quarter finals where the tournament really began to come to life with all four matches being some of the best women’s wrestling I’ve ever seen.

Shayna Baszler and Mercedes Martinez

Baszler and Martinez

In this round my highlights came in the Kairi Sane/Dakota Kai match and particularly the contest between Scottish wrestler Piper ‘The Viper’ Niven and Progress Wrestling Women’s Champion, Australian competitor Toni Storm.

The semi-finals then upped things even further setting a par not just for women’s wrestling but for any matches within the WWE Universe (to use their phrase) this year.

Baszler faced off against her mentor on the indie circuit, Mercedes Martinez, in a match pitting fighter against fighter.

The match had that MMA crossover feel with stiff striking and legitimate looking submission holds with both women looking like contenders.

It was accumulated shoulder and knee injuries for the older Martinez though that were her downfall giving Baszler her place in the final.

Kairi Sane and Toni Storm

Sane and Storm

The second semi-final had a more standard pro-wrestling feel to it with Sane’s Japanese high-flying against the Antipodean Strong Style of Toni Storm.

Again both women looked like they could make it to the final and both hit big moves, including a top rope to the floor crossbody from Sane that saw her go headfirst into the metal ramp.

Despite that it was Sane who would connect with her diving elbow on Storm to get the win and set up a real clash of styles and personalities in the final.

Final round – Las Vegas, Nevada – 12/09/17
Kairi Sane (Japan) vs Shayna Baszler (USA)

When I first heard that the final was going to be taking place after a Smackdown show in Las Vegas, rather than sat the NXT Arena at Full Sail in Orlando, I was concerned.

If 205 Live has shown us anything it’s that the crowd following the two-hour Smackdown show can be pretty burnt out, especially when faced with less well-known competitors and, as the opening chunk of the show on the WWE Network rolled on, this was looking to be the case.

Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler

Baszler gets the upper hand on Sane

After a look at the ‘red carpet’ for the evening, largely an excuse to further remind us of the building feud between the MMA and WWE horsewomen, as well as a nice little mention of Netflix’s GLOW, we headed back to the arena where commentators Jim Ross and Lita got a mild reaction and the challengers headed to the ring.

While Baszler got little response from the crowd on her entrance and Sane only marginally more, as they were announced in the ring by returning long time ring announcer Lillian Garcia it seemed the audience began to realise this was a special event, and as the lights dimmed more than usual for a big WWE arena show this continued.

The match itself was great with the size and style difference between the two women exploited to the full.

Kairis Sane hits an axe-kick on Shayna Baszler

Sane hits an axe-kick

With some fairly even back and forth wrestling it was Baszler, clearly playing the heel now, who took the upper hand with a stiff looking kick to Sane’s head that sent the Japanese fighter to the floor before Baslzer got the first real two-count.

From there Baszler focussed on the submission angle working on Sane’s right arm with a range of nice ‘joint manipulation’ style holds along with nasty looking versions of armbars and several attempts to apply the double wrist lock (aka the Kimura).

Sane came back with chops only to be derailed by a knee lift reminiscent of Kenny Omega’s V-Trigger, but on a third attempt she connected with her impactful spear injuring Baszler’s ribs.

This then became the story of the third act of the match, as Baszler aimed for the arm but Sane found the weakness in her opponent’s ribs. A top rope flying forearm was countered into a rear naked choke, Baszler’s signature hold across the tournament, but Sane escaped thanks to the rib injury.

Kairi Sane double stomps Shayna Baszler

Tree of Woe double stomp from Sane

The climax came following a forearm battle on the top rope leading to a tree of woe double foot stomp which garnered ‘this is awesome chants’ from the now fully invested crowd, and then an immaculate version of Sane’s spectacular take on the diving elbow drop giving her the three count and the trophy.

Given all the competitors in the tournament this match was a great final pairing as they combined storyline with the more sporting feel brilliantly and this was summed in a moment after the bell when the two hugged and Baszler, previously a vicious heel, clearly said thank you to the more experienced Sane.

Kairi Sane elbow drop on Shayna Baszler

Sane hits her diving elbow drop for the win

Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Sara Amato then presented Sane with the typically ludicrously oversized trophy in what felt like a genuine wrestling moment, possibly even more so than TJ Perkins’ win in the Cruiserweight Classic Last year and up with Tyler Bate’s win in the United Kingdom Championship tournament.

While this show felt a little short at barely 30 minutes – I’d have liked to maybe have seen tag match featuring Storm & LeRae against Niven & Mendez as they were all shown to be in attendance, the final was far from the great contest with a dead crowd I was expecting.

In fact it was a great match with a newly invested crowd and more than suitably rounded off what has been a great tournament featuring some of the best in ring work WWE is likely to see this year, regardless of gender, and I hope this becomes a recurring event like the Best of the Super Juniors tournament in New Japan or Chikara’s King of Trios.

Stephanie McMahon, Sara Amato, Kairi Sane and Triple H

McMahon, Amato and Triple H congratulate Sane

But I think it’s safe to say that in the end the right woman won and the whole tournament has done a great job of setting up some upcoming stories and characters for the regular TV shows while giving some future talent a place to make a mark and maintaining a certain legitimate feel often lost in WWE’s ‘sports entertainment’ product.

Photos from WWE.com

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Guernsey Museum at Candie – Unseen World, Evolution and Folklore Exhibitions

Guernsey Museum at Candie

Guernsey Museum at Candie

When you live somewhere it’s very easy to overlook and almost forget about some of the things right on your doorstep that are generally considered as something for tourists.

So, having seen the latest exhibition at the Guernsey Museum at Candie Gardens was coming to an end and that they’d just opened a new section of their standing exhibit about the islands folklore, I thought I’d go and take a look around.

The museum is relatively small, but, divided in to several sections, they pack a lot in with three spaces for changing exhibitions and an area for a standing display of art related to the island and exploring its history and folklore.

The main exhibition space, and my main inspiration to visit, was given over to look at part of the museum’s collection of historical photographs by F.W. Guerin, a renowned documentarian of the island in the early 20th century, under the name Unseen World.

The Swansea aground at Vazon

The Swansea aground at Vazon

Split into sections looking at people, places, events and (given the choice of Edwardian era and inclusion of photos from the coronation celebrations) King and Country, the exhibition focussed on the years from the coronation of Edward VII to the start of the First World War, 1902 to 1914.

Along with the rather excellent photography, reprinted from the original glass plate negatives which gave some of the images a surprisingly modern quality despite the subject matter, was a commentary on the events including quotes from the newspapers of the day that really helped highlight the differences, and similarities, between then and now.

To my mind the most striking images were of the High Street, Albert Pier and States Chamber which remain in many ways unchanged and are instantly recognisable, and those of a ship run aground at Vazon and scenes from the southwest of the island that really look like a different world – one that in places looked like it could as easily have been from 200 or 300 years ago as a century.

Opposite the main exhibition gallery is a smaller space that has been given over to the Guernsey Arts Commission for the continuation of their greenhouse gallery that previously existed in the Information Centre building on the seafront.

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse

This space has, over the years, featured a range of art from local artists, or those working locally, spanning all sides of the visual media from traditional paintings to video work and more.

This visit the exhibition, called Evolution, showcased some of the highlights of the island’s schools’ end of year art shows.

I must confess a little bias toward this exhibition as I was involved with originating these kind of shows during my time at the Commission and they have consistently acted a great way for a wider audience to see the great talent coming through the island’s schools.

As with previous versions the work here was diverse and highly impressive spanning photography to sculpture and drawing to video games as art. Particularly striking was a piece called The Greenhouse as well as the captivating sculpture in the middle of the gallery.

The rest of the museum features a standing display of art from the island which includes some interesting pieces ranging from historic landscapes to modern works from the likes of Chris Foss and Peter Le Vasseur, as well as a an exploration of the history and folklore of Guernsey.

Guernsey Museum history section

The history section of the museum

While the history part is a longstanding feature charting everything from Neolithic burial sites to Roman trade routes to the, comparatively, recent links with Britain, the folklore section is a new addition.

With much of Guernsey’s traditional history having only been recorded verbally, this draws on three sources attempting to collate some of the stories told in Guernésiais (aka Guernsey French or Patois) into written English.

The exhibition contains newly created artwork (similar in style to some from locally made comic Zone 1 but I didn’t see any names of artists), artefacts from the museum’s collection and newly written versions of the stories to explore everything from the faerie caves dotted around the island to the local werewolf stories to the real life tales of those convicted of witchcraft and how that bleeds into the more fantastic.

Guernsey folklore art display

Some of the folklore art

While designed to be understood by all with simple layouts and use of interactive elements, the displays are created to offer something to everyone from children to adults and, whatever your previous knowledge of the subject might be, added a new dimension to the already fascinating story of the island.

In all this made for an enjoyable hour or so (I could easily have stayed longer if I’d had the time) exploring some aspects of the island’s history I wasn’t so aware of, as well as some I was, and demonstrated quite how good Guernsey Museums (which span other sites around the island like Castle Cornet and Fort Grey, amongst others) can be.

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It (2017)

It 2017 posterThe image of Tim Curry as Pennywise The Dancing Clown, the most famous visage of Stephen King’s famed horror creation It, is one that has been ever-present in the back of my mind as a pop culture avatar of fear, despite the fact I’ve never seen the mini-series (later edited into a film) he appeared or (entirely) read the book on which it was based.

Now director Andy Muschietti and a host of producers have brought the tale of Derry, Maine to the big screen with Bill Skarsgård in the Curry role. 

The story follows a group of junior high school kids over the summer of 1988 as a number of their classmates disappear and they begin to see strange things. While I’m sure many already know the story I won’t elaborate much more.

Anyone familiar with the original will know it was based in 1958 and, while I was sceptical about the update, it largely works well as it falls suitably before cell phones and the themes of growing up and ‘coming of age’ fit just as well to both eras, though there are a couple of moments that feel a little anachronistic.

The group of young actors who play the self-named ‘losers club’ are, once the film settles in, all excellent but it’s Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denborough and Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh who really stand out finding some of the emotional depth that exists in King’s epic novel and making it come to life.

It - The Losers Club

The Losers Club

Meanwhile the other members of the club are somewhat relegated compared to their text selves, but this is understandable as part of the translation and all have enough to do to not feel like ‘red shirts’.

As well as this perennial bully Henry Bowers has an extra added quality on top of his physical brutality and nastiness that may be me seeing things but aren’t there but if not is a very nice touch.

What really makes the film work though is the atmosphere it creates. Across its first half we see Derry as a normal town but with something else creeping just below the surface and, through the youngsters view, it is a surprisingly sinister place.

Muschietti does a great job of creating this feeling mixing modern horror tropes with much of Kings’ source material, translated startlingly to the screen, along with something of the idea that when following young characters you keep everything shot at their level. Then in the second half we meet this sinister something face to face.

It - Pennywise - Bill Skarsgard

Skarsgard as Pennywise

Added to this is a Pennywise who treads the line between ridiculous and terrifying expertly.

Skarsgård’s performance occasionally raises a laugh but within it is more of that creeping sense of fear that the character needs, combined with enough well judged jump scares to keep you on your toes.

On top of this other aspects of It appear and are equally effective, making it clear that Pennywise is just one facet of the fear demon (or whatever It actually is) but like in the book he is the one who seems to cut through the most.

If I have one criticism of the film it’s that it seems to miss something of the more deep-seated ideas that exist within the book and are a strong part of King’s work in general, but this may be down to the fact that this film is only half the story so I’m hoping some of this gets dealt with when we meet the adult versions of our heroes.

It - The house on Neibolt street

The house on Neibolt street

To counter this though the film does build a very nice streak of ‘coming of age’ that feels far more well handled than I’ve seen in cinema for a long time, bringing to mind the works of John Hughes and films like The Goonies or (more recently) Stranger Things.

Andy Muschietti’s It, then, combines a nostalgic adventure film sensibility with the kind of creeping horror found in the best supernatural chillers and an iconic horror creation that could live on like Freddie, Jason, Michael Myers, et al, and I can’t wait for Chapter Two…

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