Tag Archives: Blue Mountains

Acoustic Night with Blue Mountains, Mick Le Huray, Richey Powers and Llewellyn Van Eeden – The Fermain Tavern – 08/04/17

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

After a jam night and an international Folk Americana night, Guernsey Gigs continued their run of shows at The Fermain Tavern by inviting four acoustic acts on to the stage. Spanning veterans of the scene to new performers the night featured a mix of sounds, once again in a relaxed ‘club’ style setting.

First up was Llewellyn Van Eeden. Having played open mic nights and a few smaller gigs including a set on the busking stage at last year’s Vale Earth Fair, this was only my second chance to catch him play and, for the most part, it was an enjoyable performance.

With a blues feel to the majority of his set, Van Eeden added a nice abrasive edge that didn’t feel forced to a fairly standard sound.

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Adding a harmonica to a few songs rounded it off, albeit in still standard way, and, combined with a relatively easy-going nature on stage, made for a nice way to start the night.

Later in the set we were treated to a folkier song in Afrikaans before the set closed on a pair of what can only be described as ‘pirate folk’ that, while a little novelty, were good fun and went down very well with the audience.

While better known as frontman of psychedelic folk beast The Recks, Richey Powers had the opportunity to show a slightly different side of himself going solo. For the most part it was what you’d expect with folk sounds from various traditions rubbing shoulders with something of an American indie rock sensibility.

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

Much like with The Recks, Richey’s songs were often long, and in a solo setting a little over long on a couple of occasions, but generally were engrossing rides that drew the audience in.

The solo setting also gave us the chance to hear the more intricate side of Richey’s playing that often gets lost in the multilayered sound of The Recks.

With Frugal Heart providing a nice highlight the set then ended with a more intense stomping blues-y song that, if nothing else, proved a good pair of Cuban heels can work just as effectively as an amplified stomp box.

Mick Le Huray is a longstanding member of Guernsey’s music and folk scene and has been a fixture of the Sark Folk Festival since its inception and many events before. With his first solo album recorded and released in the last year he has found something of a new lease of life and that was evident here.

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Accompanied by Andrew Degnen on fiddle, Mick played a set strong with the feel of the 1960s folk revival delivered with a real sense of feeling and humility. Andrew’s violin expanded the sound nicely but didn’t help the set dragging a little in the middle for me when it went a little too traditional folk for my tastes.

A song with Guernsey French lyrics and a more upbeat closer brought Mick’s set to an end on a high point though and made a nice contrast to the two younger solo performers that came before.

In trio mode tonight Blue Mountains delivered a set made up of many songs, but all continued their journey into a melancholy side of dark Americana.

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

With Andrew Degnen’s fiddle and a few tracks where Mike Bonsall swapped from guitar to banjo, Blue Mountains new songs expanded their range of sounds but it was the harmonies and style that remained at the heart of their songs.

A real highlight of the new songs came with Hummingbird, while We Come & Go shifted things into slightly more upbeat territory towards the end of the set, it was just a shame the audience had drifted away somewhat by this stage of the night.

Rounding the night off on a great vocal harmony moment to close their take on Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl, Blue Mountains concluded things on a high point and, as this gig was clearly promoted as the first in a series, I hope to see more music of this quality in this relaxed setting going forward.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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Nessi Gomes, Blue Mountains and Buff Hudd – The Fermain Tavern – 14/01/17

Nessi Gomes and her band

Nessi Gomes and her band

Back in January Nessi Gomes made her long-awaited return to a Guernsey stage to play a set of all her own material and launch her debut album, Diamond & Demons, with a very special event at The Fermain Tavern.

Along with Nessi were stand out performances from both folk duo Blue Mountains and the Buffalo Huddleston‘s Mike Meinke in his solo incarnation, Buff Hudd.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in Guernsey Now magazine in March 2017 and you can read it below.

Nessi Gomes album launch - Guernsey Now - March 2017

This video wasn’t recorded at the show but around the same time and gives you a great idea of Nessi’s music…

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: February 2017 – WaterColour Matchbox and Of Empires

WaterColour Matchbox on BBC Introducing Guernsey

WaterColour Matchbox in the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Click here to listen to the show

As BBC Music Introducing moves on with its 10th anniversary that has so far included the relaunch of the Uploader tool for submitting tracks (click here to find out more), BBC Introducing Guernsey returned with another show highlighting new music from the islands.

This month’s live session came from WaterColour Matchbox. Live they are a prog-metal-grunge hybrid four-piece but it was founding duo Peter Mitchell and Mikey Ferbrache who joined me for the session, playing acoustic versions of tracks from their recently released debut album Fragments, Artefact and Ruins.

I also spoke to Jack Fletcher, frontman of Of Empires, about their upcoming new EP – the long-awaited follow-up to Stranger Sensations – and what the now Brighton based band have planned for 2017.

You can listen to the show thorough the BBC iPlayer or by clicking here.

Tracklist

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: January 2017 – Nessi Gomes and Robert J. Hunter

Nessi Gomes on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Nessi Gomes on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Click here to listen to the show

As BBC Introducing enters its tenth year I started off 2017 with a special live session from Nessi Gomes, a look at Robert J. Hunter‘s new album and a selection of brand new music from around the islands.

Following the release of her debut album, Diamonds & Demons, last autumn Nessi Gomes returned to Guernsey in January 2017 for a show at The Fermain Tavern, while she was in the island she joined me in the studio to record a solo acoustic session featuring tracks from the album and two brand new songs.

Having released three albums in the past two years I caught up with Robert J. Hunter and spoke to him about his latest release, Where I’m From, and what its been like making his mark on the blues scene in the UK since he left the islands.

As well as this there was new music from WaterColour MatchboxBurning At Both EndsElliot Falla and more.

You can listen to the show on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here or with the BBC iPlayer Radio App.

Tracklist

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The Recks Return with Lord Vapour, The Secret Smiles and Blue Mountains – The Fermain Tavern – 28/10/16

The Recks at The Fermain Tavern

The Recks

After more than a year away, and seemingly having gone their separate ways as 2015 came to an end, alternative indie-folk five-piece The Recks made their live return on Friday 28th October 2016 at The Fermain Tavern.

As well as unveiling a new line up the band were also marking the release of their second official single, Low Life, from their long-awaited (and still yet to be released) debut album.

Support on the night came in the form of three bands chosen by The Recks, stoner blues rock behemoths Lord Vapour, melodic indie band The Secret Smiles and dark folk duo Blue Mountains.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th November 2016 and you can read it below, you can also see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

recks-return-gig-review-05-11-16

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BBC Guernsey Introducing: July 2016 – Chaos, Sark Folk Festival, The Gathering and more

Of Empires at The Gathering

Of Empires at The Gathering

Click here to listen to the show

With as many festivals as there were weeks in July 2016 the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show for that month took a look back at three of them.

First was Chaos where I spoke to The Hyena Kill and we had music from them, PUNiKSugarSlamScience of Eight Limbs and HONEST CROOKS.

Then came Sark Folk Festival – I spoke to performer and organiser Claire Rakich and we also heard from Blue Mountains and organiser Josh De Kooker with extra music from Burg and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

Finally new festival The Gathering where I spoke to Static Alice and we heard brand new music from Of Empires.

You can listen to the show on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Tracklist

Click here to listen to the show and as I’ve been nominated for an award for my work for BBC Introducing Guernsey you can vote for me here!

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The Gathering – North Field – 15, 16, 17 July 2016

Of Empires at The Gathering

Of Empires

New music festival The Gathering took over the North Field football grounds over the weekend of 15th, 16th and 17th July 2016 for three days of music showcasing a variety of music from the island.

With headliners including SugarSlam, Static Alice, King Rat & The Soul Cats, Fade To Grey and Of Empires it was a mixed line up including bands playing their own material, veteran performers and bands more usually seen rocking the pub circuit.

My review of the festival was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 23rd July and you can read an extended version below that.

You can also see a full set of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

The Gathering review 23:07:16

Extended Review

Day 1

Lord Vapour at The Gathering

Lord Vapour

A new music event is always a good thing to hear about, especially when the organisers are talking about something on the scale of this, The Gathering, taking over the North Field football pitch and surrounding fields with three stages of music across three days.

As I arrived at the site midway through the afternoon of the first day things seemed very spread out on the enormous field with the dance tent in one corner near the entrance and the acoustic stage in the far opposite corner. Around the edges of the field were a few ‘trade’ and food stalls and in the distance I could vaguely here the sounds of Lord Vapour beginning their set.

The main stage was located at the far end of the site at the western side of the club’s main football pitch with the beer tent and VIP area opposite. The few had turned out early on the Friday mostly populated the area between the sound control tower and the stage but in such a big space it felt pretty empty.

None-the-less Lord Vapour were grooving their way through their set in the loose manner that has become their trademark. This was derailed slightly by a few issues with the drum kit doing its best to escape the riser, but the band soldiered through starting off my weekend on a positive note.

Common Room at The Gathering

Common Room

While things were heavy on the main stage the acoustic stage was offering some nice summer-y vibes from young trio Common Room.

They were a little rough around the edges and suffered a bit from the main stage sound bleeding across but they were nice to listen to and would have suited the sunnier days to follow to a tee.

The heaviness continued on the main stage with Stone Em All. This show was something of a landmark for the band as it marks the end of them as a regularly performing live band and they gave it their all.

Suited and booted for the occasion the five-piece metal band have evolved from something many (myself included) found hard to take seriously into a solid and effective unit, unfortunately here the big space in front of the stage was only populated by their hardcore followers and it was obvious it was hard work for the band to maintain the energy they needed across the set.

Stone Em All at The Gathering

Stone Em All

Rounding things off with their now traditional set closer of Cathedral’s Hopkins (The Witchfinder General), possibly the best I’ve heard them do it, it’s a shame to see this band who staunchly stuck to their guns in the face of all musical trends go.

Another band who suffered from the small crowd were Honest Crooks who’s ska-punk seemed to lose some of its bass funk in the translation from the stage to the field.

Regardless the band gave it their all and adding To The Woods’ Bobby Battle on kazoo for High Grade helped boost things a little.

Ending the set somewhat suddenly with Stressball it felt like they still had more to give and just seemed to be getting the small crowd warmed up, but I guess that’s part of a festival show.

With recently added bass player Danny Joyce in full over the top flow, Peppered Ant Legs headed into a set of classic hard rock covers that felt a little out-of-place amidst all the bands playing mostly their own material tonight.

Peppered Ant Legs at The Gathering

Peppered Ant Legs

As ever the trio have a sense of fun, looking fairly ridiculous (kilts and pith helmets featured), but played solid renditions of the likes of Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and more.

Danny’s showmanship may have slightly overshadowed his brother Matt’s role as frontman and it didn’t feel quite as slick a performance as sometimes, but their version of Sabbath’s Fairies Wear Boots is always a treat and as Metallica have proven its hard to go wrong ending a set with Seek & Destroy.

The crowd seemed to have reached its peak as SugarSlam took to the stage and it was clear the band took this as a chance to have a blast on stage which was genuinely infectious.

It may not have been their tightest show as the four-piece grunge-influenced rockers mixed a few covers of the likes of Nirvana and The Sacred Hearts with their own great songs and those in attendance seemed to enjoy it, albeit from a distance, before the band rounded off the set with Stace Blondel joining them for Guns ’n’ Roses It’s So Easy and then a blast through Ace Of Spades.

Static Alice at The Gathering

Static Alice

While the crowd had shrunk it was clear as Static Alice hit the stage that those that remained had come to see the headliners. The audience heading closer to the stage helped create a little atmosphere right down the front and the band did what they always do and put on a show making full use of the huge stage.

This wasn’t quite a highlight like their recent headline slot at Chaos but this still felt like a top-level performance and the band clearly worked hard to keep the energy up to the attentive but not so energetic audience.

Closing the set of on a few covers of Ballroom Blitz and Boys Of Summer closed the first day on a high point but it was clear many were wondering and hoping if the numbers would pick up for day two.

My photos from the first day of the festival

Day 2

Day Release at The Gathering

Day Release

Arriving at the site as openers Day Release were mid set on Saturday lunchtime I was hoping that the day would be busier than what I had seen the previous and, while the first few bands played to small crowds, this steadily grew throughout the afternoon.

Its been a while since I’ve seen Day Release but they did exactly what I’d expected, delivering a solidly performed set of covers that show why they’ve made something of a reputation on the local pub circuit.

Their performance felt a bit lost on the big stage and with a small audience but that is one of the ever-present perils of being first on at a show like this.

Never ones to let anything stop them punk rockers Jawbone launched into their set with their usual sloppy enthusiasm. In three-piece mode without frontman Steve, it wasn’t long before guitarist Lee’s voice started to go and by the time they attempted The Misfits’ classic Astro Zombies it was clear there were problems.

Jawbone at The Gathering

Jawbone with Dom

Thankfully Dom from Static Alice was on hand to help out with a couple of songs before Lee and Dan muddled their way through The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down) to round off a fun if slightly desperate performance.

Things were a bit more relaxed and folky on the acoustic stage with Blue Mountains delivering a set of their soulful, dark folk.

A bit odd out in the open air in daylight the darkly hued songs still sounded great but it was hard to escape the notion that this stage (particularly today) was simply acting as background music for the fenced off ‘gin and Prosecco garden’.

Ramblin' Nick Mann at The Gathering

Ramblin’ Nick Mann

The folkiness continued with Ramblin’ Nick Mann going for a full on performance of the DIY blues character he’s been building over the last couple of years.

As ragged and rough as music like this should be, complete with homemade guitars and mic, there was a nice irony seeing such an un-corporate sound under a big advertising banner for a local telecoms company as he drew the biggest crowd I’d seen at this stage yet (though bigger was certainly to come).

As they head towards their final show The Doomsday Project were in top form bringing some upbeat, fun pop punk to the main stage in the mid-afternoon.

With the crowd now growing and relaxing in the sun the band seemed to go down well and even got a handful on their feet for a mix of original songs from their debut album and classic punk covers including their now standard, excellent, take on Jilted John and a surprisingly good Alternative Ulster (even if it didn’t quite have the passion Stiff Little Fingers gave the original).

The Doomsday Project at The Gathering

The Doomsday Project

Stoked brought us back into the world of the pub covers circuit with a good set of rocking tunes that was fun, if a bit heartless, but provided a nice soundtrack for those working their way through the contents of the beer tent while ‘chilling’ out in the now blazing afternoon sun.

The covers continued with Stuck To The Ceiling but, with Stace Blondel fronting the band, this wasn’t going to be a rote tread through of standards. Coming across as a real burst of energy Stace looked like a manic hybrid of Ozzy Osbourne and Bruce Dickinson whatever songs he was singing and the rest of the band left him to it while they delivered the music is a solid and unfussy way.

It wasn’t long before Stace was scaling the PA stacks at the side of the stage while blasting out everything from David Bowie to Lady Gaga, his charisma is undeniable and it drew a few more onto their feet for a dance at the front.

Tantale at The Gathering

Tantale

Being the only band entirely dedicated to their own material on the main stage today made Tantale feel a little out of place as we headed into the evening and this wasn’t helped by a sound mix that, further away from the stage, made them sound almost a cappella.

Despite this their lightly psychedelic indie sound was spot on for a warm summer evening but I couldn’t help think that regardless of the band’s best efforts it didn’t quite come across as well as it maybe should have.

Back firmly in classic tune territory Guernsey music stalwart Pete Frampton led his band into a fine performance of middle of the road rock. While very well-played its hard to get too excited about as the band worked their way through the set in steady, slick fashion and the audience continued lazing in the now setting sun.

King Rat and the Soul Cats at The Gathering

King Rat and the Soul Cats

As King Rat & The Soul Cats took to the stage with a bigger, clearer sound than anything so far this weekend the crowd immediately took notice and got to their feet.

Tight, sharp and as on it as can, be the ten-piece band played their way through a set of soul and Motown classics, newer songs and a few originals (including a never before played track intended for their never recorded second album) which demonstrated why they have the reputation they do.

Chris Dean once again showed himself to be one of the best frontmen Guernsey has seen, working the crowd excellently, while Susann Hatcher gave him a run for his money when she took the lead.

With the audience fully invested as the set went on they provided one of the first highlight performances of the weekend.

Buffalo Huddleston at The Gathering

Buffalo Huddleston

After a bit of last-minute re-ordering a stripped back version of Buffalo Huddleston took to the acoustic stage in front of by far the biggest audience that stage would see all weekend, regardless of the lack of light and it being almost impossible to see the band if you weren’t right at the front.

Despite not having a violin player Mike, Simon, Tom and Jull-z didn’t miss a step and the crowd were into it throughout, even singing in some of the violin parts or otherwise just getting into the relaxed and funky grooves that left many questioning why they weren’t main stage headliners.

Now fully into tribute band territory Fade To Grey headlined the main stage with a set that was great fun and very hard not to have a nostalgic sing and dance to – even if you weren’t actually there the first time.

Fade To Grey at The Gathering

Fade To Grey

Kriss provided the visual lead for the band, all postures and poses in a suitably knowing and camp way, while Nikk and Little Gary Numan seemed to be the musical core of the band leaving Andi to provide the synth drum fills.

The crowd was certainly now big enough that the there was a great atmosphere in the main field, especially if you were down the front, and, while it may not be a highlight for the serious musos, its hard to fault the quartet as they rounded up on an encore of Together In Electric Dreams.

If an 80s electronic tribute wasn’t your thing Clameur De Haro were delivering a different type of fun on the acoustic stage with their unique take on bluegrass.

Clameur De Haro at The Gathering

Clameur De Haro and Stace

With a good-sized crowd jigging along the band got Stace Blondel and Bobby Battle on for extra vocals on Born To Be Wild before, so the story goes, continuing their set into a pure acoustic encore pushing the event curfew to its limit.

My photos from the second day of the festival

Day 3

After the high of Saturday night, as is usual Sunday lunchtime is hard work to get going and the job fell to young band The Bone Idols.

Playing to friends, parents, the next band and a handful of others all four seemed pretty proficient for their young ages (credit both to them and School of Popular Music where they formed) but the lack of a dedicated bass player made their sound a bit uneven.

The Bone Idols at The Gathering

The Bone Idols

While Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Michael Jackson’s Thriller are brave songs to attempt they gave them a good go and they were at least the second young band of the weekend to give us a run through of Green Day’s Holiday with the potentially offensive words censored – I can’t help but think if you think a song has offensive bits and you don’t want to offend, just don’t play it…

But I digress, The Bone Idols kicked off the day well and set the tone for the afternoon with more upbeat covers.

It seems there’s always at least one Beatles tribute band doing the rounds and, at the moment, that’s The Day Trippers.

The Day Trippers at The Gathering

The Day Trippers

Delivering a set largely drawn from the Fab Four’s early days they play them well with a smile and a sense of fun that was spot on for a sunny afternoon.

The songs, of course, are timeless but they came across well and the band did them justice making me wonder why they weren’t part of the previous night’s tribute act session.

The Secret Smiles 60s-90s indie hybrid should have been perfect both to follow on from Beatles’ songs and for a sunny afternoon but unfortunately a lot of their jangly guitar sound got lost somewhere in the mix today.

Despite this the band’s authenticity and good songs made for an enjoyable set but, like Tantale the previous night, I couldn’t help but feel this was a missed opportunity.

Blacksmith at The Gathering

Blacksmith

After making their debut at Chaos, Blacksmith put in a much more assured performance here giving a little more explanation to both their name and the concept that drives their heavy metal songs.

Delivered with a bit more conviction the story of the blacksmith’s quest for his maiden fair isn’t quite there yet but its something a bit different at least.

The acoustic stage continued on the Sunday as well and my highlight there came from newcomers Lighthouse.

With nice acoustic melodies and vocal harmonies the trio seemed to bridge the gap between being very nervous and very modest in a charming way that was backed up by the music.

Lighthouse at The Gathering

Lighthouse

Vocalist Lucy Cave has a sweet voice with a bit of bite behind it where needed, though I’m not sure the affected Irish accent was necessary but, thanks to Matt Champion we can at least rest easy with the knowledge that Galway is, indeed, in Ireland.

I’ll freely admit that, in the past I’ve not really enjoyed what I’ve caught of Underdog, but today they seemed in their element and at their best as they rocked through a set of pop-rock covers – it may be custom-built for the pub circuit but it worked well on the big stage here.

Knowing who’s featured in the band it should be no surprise that Kings provided a pitch perfect set of modern indie pop, but the quality of it was still beyond my expectations.

Kings at The Gathering

Kings

With upbeat dance-y sounds, darker thematic substance and some hugely impressive harmonies the four-piece are like little else in the island at the moment.

Frontman Eli Crossan delivered his vocals with a real soul and range while Casey-Joe Rumens provided some epic guitar solo work in what was as slick and smooth a performance as we saw all weekend. Closer The Enemy provided a highlight of a genuine highlight set.

Following that the well performed Led Zeppelin tribute of Easily Led was something of a come down.

The band got the legendary sound they were working towards well and Kashmir in particular was an impressive highlight but the lack of energetic performance and falling where they did on the bill possibly didn’t show the band in the best light.

Taking rock ’n’ roll and giving it the coolest of grooves headliners Of Empires were on top form from the off.

Of Empires

Of Empires

Always clearly excited to be back on home soil frontman Jack Fletcher was maybe less manic tonight but still energetic and worked the crowd with aplomb while Matthew Berry’s guitar work provided a laconic groove perfect for a warm evening.

With a lot of new songs alongside tracks from their debut EP highlights came in a cover of Shakin’ All Over and new songs See You With The Angels Kid and Baby Darlin’ Sugar.

All of this brought the weekend that had, if I’m honest, been a mixed affair that often felt more about socialising in the sun than celebrating music, to a fantastic close. While there were a few teething problems and some things could have been done better I hope to see The Gathering return in a refined form giving Guernsey’s musicians a chance to showcase their music to an even wider audience.

My photos from the third day of the festival

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Sark Folk Festival – 1, 2, 3 July 2016 – Extended Review

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson

Now into its seventh year the Sark Folk Festival continued its huge success on the weekend of 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 2016 after tickets officially sold out in less than half an hour the previous November.

With that in mind there was clearly a lot of expectation for the festival and with all accommodation and transport to Sark packed for the days around there was a real buzz on the island from my arrival on Thursday 30th June.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th July and you can see a full set of my photos from each day of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my extended review is below the cutting.

Sark Folk Festival review - 09:07:16

Extended Review

Claire Rakich

Claire Rakich

Day 1

After some wet and foggy weather put paid to the usual outdoor party and open music session at the Bel Air on Thursday night, this year’s Sark Folk Festival didn’t really get going until the festival gates opened on Friday afternoon.

In the past its been the Alligande Stage that has been home to the festival’s first acts but, in something of a sign of their new, more equal position, it was the smaller stages that heard the first music this year, in their new home of an amazing ‘double teepee’ style tent in the festival’s second field.

Under this new canvas long time festival performer Claire Rakich was first to step onto Les Burons stage with a mix of acoustic guitar and unaccompanied songs.

In these intimate surroundings Rakich’s voice was captivating and at its best when unadorned by accompaniment as she shifted from lighthearted and fun songs to genuinely haunting moments all delivered with a relaxed self-deprecating confidence that started the festival on an evocative high.

On the bigger stages a full strength, eight-piece, version of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers opened proceedings on the Vermerette Stage. With so many instruments in play this could have been a sonic disaster but credit to the sound team for getting a great sound and the Skillet Lickers for playing their rag-time street busking blues very well.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

While many kept a bit of a distance in the already busy tent this was a great upbeat way to start things as the band played off one another excellently with Clem Brouard and Shacks leading the way, and they even had a washboard player today!

The more Americana end of folk continued on the Alligande stage with JD & Folk delivering a set of country-folk standards that were well performed if a bit flat after the somewhat manic energy of the Skillet Lickers.

Continuing their run of festival dates after Chaos the previous weekend and Dark Hollow the week before that, Blue Mountains returned to their spiritual home on Les Burons stage.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Unfortunately for much of the set Colleen Irven’s vocals were a little lost in the mix which lost the performance some of its power. The band was still highly enjoyable though, and delivered a wide set of songs ending with an excellent pure acoustic moment on the floor of the tent, in amongst the large crowd they’d drawn down the field.

One thing the Sark Folk Festival has always done is stretch the limits of the definition of folk and roots music and far as it can go and this year’s prime example of that were Guernsey alt-rock, indie, crew Wondergeist.

Despite the slightly out-of-place style, the laid back sounds the band made were spot on for the early evening slot and, had the sun been beating down like we all wished it were, I think they would have made even more of a mark. Nonetheless, with the tent packed – mostly it seemed for the music and not to avoid the weather – Wondergeist were a nice change of pace amongst the more acoustic and stripped back sounds on offer.

Robert J. Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

With people already standing while the band set up (and a few shouts for them to sit down by those seated further back) it was clear Robert J. Hunter and his band brought some expectation along with them – not surprising following last year’s excellent set here.

From the off they didn’t disappoint as they blasted out their brand of dirty blues, albeit in slightly more acoustic form than usual, with Hunter continuing to show why he has gained the reputation he has. With the tent packed this may not have been quite the stand out set last year’s was but it was still a highlight of the first day of the festival.

Dallahan brought things back down a little with set of much more traditional, mid-tempo folk that had an upbeat quality to it. The quintet played off each other very well, demonstrating a real musical chemistry, that, from about the half-way mark, started to get to the audience who began to get a little more lively.

Mad Dog Mcrea

Mad Dog Mcrea

There was no choice but to be lively to the infectious hybrid-folk sounds of Mad Dog Mcrea. With huge energy coming from the band they added a bit of a rock beat to their folky sounds that reminded me of Gogol Bordello in places (especially when they broke into Start Wearing Purple during their encore).

With the whole tent bouncing along to songs about pirates, unfortunate goldfish and more, the six-piece band’s folk ’n’ roll sounds provided my highlight of the first day.

The upbeat sounds only continued to round off the night with Monster Ceilidh Band who had the Alligande Stage tent packed to bursting and, mostly, dancing along throughout. Before I get to the band I feel the need to mention the line of people staunchly sitting in their plastic chairs in the midst of the tightly packed crowd. They may have been wanting to make a point about people standing up earlier, or simply not wanting to move, but it seemed they could easily have become a danger to themselves or others had the crowd surged in any direction as they are wont to do at events like this, anyway i digress….

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band

Monster Ceilidh Band mixed live dance rhythms with traditional sounding ceilidh (Scottish and Irish dancing) tunes in another kind of hybrid-folk. For the first half of the set I was a bit worried this would all become a bit same-y to my untrained ear, but as it went on the band varied and mixed the sounds up with elements of drum ’n’ bass to keep it varied, interesting and above all huge, culminating in a tune dedicated their drum ’n’ bass hero Andy C.

With two encores called for and delivered Monster Ceilidh Band rounded off the first day of the festival on a high and with the sort of crowd that we’re used to seeing for the typically more busy Saturday night.

My photos from the first day of the festival

Day 2

Singing circle

Singing circle

With more than 12 hours of music on offer the second day of Sark Folk Festival could be compared to the musical equivalent of a marathon so its nice that it got going in relaxed form with an informal circle singing group in the open air before the music on the stages began.

Sark’s own harbour master, Peter Gabriel Byrne, and his band were first on stage with some light acoustic balladry that continued the relaxed ‘early’ feel. As is to be expected the rotating cast of musicians from Sark is limited but former Recks trumpeter Ash Jarman and others showed a real variety to their playing as they made appearances across the weekend.

Getting together seemingly once a year in an official capacity Whose Shoes are always a bit of a treat and this year was no exception. Led by Dave Etherington, this year celebrating his birthday and literally heading directly from his tent to the stage, his loose vibe leading the band makes for a hugely enjoyable style of busking blues.

Whose Shoes

Whose Shoes

With insistent, upbeat rhythms throughout and Sarah Van Vlymen’s violin providing some nice leads there were many highlights but renditions of Like A Hobo, Whiskey Train, It Gets There Slow and encore of original song Loose Lips were some fine early highlights of the day.

After much travelling and working on her debut album Guernsey singer songwriter Nessi Gomes made her Sark Folk Festival debut on the Tintageu Stage with a set of captivating, classical guitar accompanied, songs. Her enchanting voice and guitar playing had those in the tent and gathered on the slope outside in rapt silence making for another moment like only this festival can deliver.

As the cliché goes, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Clameur De Haro marked their third birthday on the Vermerette Stage by launching into a folked up take on Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild.

Clameur De Haro

Shifty’s stage dive

Its impossible not to have a good time when this band are playing and they got people dancing early on in the day and had the tent packed for a set that included everything from a guest appearance by Deputy John Gollop to a stage dive from cajon player Shifty making for a show guaranteed to make you smile and have tunes stuck in your head for days to come.

Back on more of an even keel Jerseyman Kevin Pallot brought the Saturday afternoon back to a slightly more relaxed feel with his three-piece band. The trio delivered a selection of rhythmically powerful folk pop that had something to say and showed another side of this regular festival performer’s work away from the past full band material I’ve heard.

The Laird's Chair

The Laird’s Chair

In the slot reserved in the past for The Barley Dogs, their spiritual successor The Laird’s Chair made their Sark Folk Festival debut. Taking on the more traditional folk side of what the Barley’s did the quartet struggled a little with a broken fiddle string early on but recovered to deliver a fine set of songs and tunes.

Despite battling some issues with onstage feedback (a regular occurrence on the Alligande stage it seemed) the Gren Bartley Band delivered a set of nice relaxed pop-y folk music that was nice and easy to listen to but never really seemed to go anywhere.

A regular fixture at the festival The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie had a good-sized crowd down at the Tintageu Stage. Starting with a few of their more folky songs which show an often overlooked depth to Crowman’s writing, it wasn’t long before the garage side of the self-described ‘garage-folk’ sound started to come through but the audience revelled in all of it, singing along to the likes of The Robert Johnson Resurrection Blues with gusto.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

With a crowd already gathered while they were setting up, festival regulars The Space Pirates of Rocquaine had even more to bring to their performance this year as they were marking the release of their second album, Vraic & Roll. With Lisa ‘Rocqchick’ Vidamour in full on ‘rock star mode’ throughout, the band delivered what is probably their best set to date mixing the energy of last year’s show stealing closing set with slightly more considered playing to hit a sweet spot between the two.

Along with Lisa a standout point was the power Moxie’s drumming brings to the band that has transformed them somewhat into a more definitely folk-rock act that has real cross generational appeal. With the crowd clapping and singing along highlights came with the likes of Cruex Mahy, Prosperity and Folk Everything amongst others culminating in an encore of Mr Le Goupillot all making for possibly the performance of the festival.

O'Hooley and Tidow

O’Hooley and Tidow

Due to the timings on the Vermerette and Alligande stage having slipped a bit I was only able to catch a small section of O’Hooley & Tidow’s performance but it sounded as excellent as we have come to expect from these regular visitors. With genuinely touching and impassioned moments alongside songs like their ode to small Yorkshire breweries, Summat’s Brewin’ , the duo who span folk and anarchy are truly worth seeking out.

As I headed down to the teepee stages Gregory Harrison was in full swing in front of a large crowd with his soulful bluesy songs coming across as well as I’ve ever heard and getting a very positive reception. This led to an encore in the form of a timely rendition of John Martyn’s I Don’t Want To Know About Evil with an amazing sing along.

Burg with Becky

Burg with Becky

Having been away for a few years (aside from visits with his garage rock band The Electric Shakes) Burg, AKA Steve Lynch, made his return to the Sark Folk Festival with new band members AJ (gob irons and backing vocals) and Olly (upright bass) in tow. Building on Burg’s stripped back americana/country/folk sound the trio delivered some slow and loose grooves that would be perfect for a hot day but also fit surprisingly well on this chilly summer night.

While Burg’s playing and delivery was, as ever, second to none, AJ played his harmonica like I’ve not seen before with real dynamics from the sound of a steam train down to haunting atmospherics and for the one song he took lead vocals, a rendition of Coming Home originally by Dallas Green, many heralded him as one of the best voices of the weekend. The trio were join by Becky Hamilton on fiddle for a couple of songs just adding more to the southern vibes and with the crowd singing along in the intimate tent it made for my standout performance of the weekend.

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson with Ash

Hat Fitz and Cara with Ash

For the second night in a row the Alligande Stage tent was standing room only as people packed in to catch another returning act, Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson. The Australian/Irish duo played a set of their more upbeat bluesy material that came with a presence that filled the tent and a huge amount of onstage chemistry that helped the already great songs sound even better.

Fitz was amazing to watch from a playing perspective as his guitar seemed to be an extension of himself while Cara had a similar connection with her drums but then added to it with washboard, flute and whistle while both wailed out soulful heartfelt vocals as well. With enough dynamic across the set to keep it hugely engrossing they invited Ash Jarman on stage for final track Power and a much called for encore that rounded off the second day of the Festival on possibly its all round highest point to date.

My photos from the second day of the festival

Day 3

Scotts John

Scotts John

After such a full on Saturday the final day of the Sark Folk Festival is, for the most part, a far more relaxed affair and it started off with a small crowd who’d braved the morning rain listening to Guernsey folk stalwart Scotts John.

Coming from the 60s new folk tradition John tells stories with his songs that are always worth hearing highlighted here by his song Sark, written in his native Glasgow in 1977, after his first visit to the island, its amazing it’s now getting played back on the island that inspired it.

Sark’s own folk band, Big Sheep, started to liven things up a bit on the Alligande Stage. Led by local shepherd Dave and his ever revolving group of musicians, including former Recks Barney and Ash and Jess of The Space Pirates, they mixed original tunes and songs with numbers by the likes of Joni Mitchell and The Levellers.

Big Sheep

Big Sheep

Across the set they built the energy and if you focussed on stage you could forget the weather outside and be transported to a nicely relaxed, sunny summer’s day. While a bit scrappy in places as they aren’t a full time band they still play well together and it wouldn’t be Sark Folk Festival without them.

Having travelled from Shetland Ross Couper and Tom Oakes started out by trying to get their audience on their feet but realised it was going to take a bit more work, so dived into a set of lively instrumental tunes on guitar and fiddle. After a while a few did start to get to their feet and it was clear that this pleased the duo, but either way their music was great clap along stuff backed up by some excellent chat between songs that perfectly suited the relaxed atmosphere.

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

Ross Couper and Tom Oakes

While The Vraic Gatherers played their usual Sunday afternoon set on the Vermerette Stage the Alligande side of the tent was quickly filling up in anticipation of the final band of the weekend, Buffalo Huddleston.

With violinist Becky Hamilton back the band mixed things up somewhat starting out with the original trio of Becky, Sarah Van Vlymen and Mike Meinke delivering a few of their early songs before being joined by the rest of the band. This gave the set a nice build that the audience rode into a frenzy singing and dancing along for over an hour.

With most of the songs being sung back at the band the amazing popularity of Buffalo Huddleston was evident and fantastic to see for a band from the islands playing their own music.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

As I headed back to the harbour I could hear the band’s encore across the valley and closer Sunrise sounded huge with the crowd’s singing audible as well, rounding off what had been a great festival on an insurmountable high – I don’t envy the organisers trying to top this festival next year!

My photos from the third day of the festival

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Various Artists – Jonah Beats

Jonah Beats album coverA few weeks ago I published my review of the Jonah Beats mini-festival that happened on the first weekend of March at the Vale Castle, along with the launch of the compilation album that was put together to coincide with it all raising money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity.

Well, here now is my review of that album featuring a host of Guernsey and Guernsey related artists spanning genres from folk to doom metal and pretty much everything in between.

You can get the album physically at The Golden Lion or Kendall Guitars in Guernsey or listen and download through Bandcamp.

The review was first published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th April 2016.

Jonah Beats CD review scan 09:04:16

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: March 2016 – Ramblin’ Nick Mann, Robyn Sherwell and Mt. Wolf

Robyn Sherwell, Ramblin' Nick Mann and Mt. WolfClick here to listen to the show

On this month’s BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show I had three guests spanning a range of the music being made by Guernsey artists.

The session this month came from Ramblin’ Nick Mann who recently put out his debut album, One Eye In The Past, and he played six of his lo-fi, homemade, blues for us on one of his cigar box guitars (we didn’t use the beer can mic for this one).

I also spoke to Robyn Sherwell who has just completed a UK tour and released her self-titled debut album following on from a huge year in 2015 where she played Glastonbury, was featured by Jo Wiley on BBC Radio 2 amongst many other things.

And I heard from Stevie McMinn of Mt. Wolf who played this month’s SXSW music festival in Austin Texas.

You can hear all of this and more on the BBC iPlayer for the next 30 days by clicking here.

Tracklist

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