Tag Archives: Equilibrium

Chaos Voodoo 13 – 23-25/06/17

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

For the thirteenth year the Greenman MCC and friends took over a few fields at Pleinmont in Guernsey for their annual party weekend – Chaos!

This year with the subtitle Voodoo 13 the festival featured two stages of live music for three days featuring everything from the lightest of folk to the heaviest of rock along with the bike show and whatever other shenanigans might happen when you put a few hundred bikers and music lovers in a field.

My review of the event was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1 July 2017 and you can read that, and an extended version, below.

You can also see my galleries of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos 13 review - part 1 - 01/07/17

Chaos 13 review - part 2 - 01/07/17

Extended review

It might be unlucky for some but for Greenman MCC and the rest of the crew behind Chaos it turned out to be one of their best weekends of bikes, beer and, what we’re focussing on here, bands, yet.

Day 1

Silas The Assyrian Assassin at Chaos 13

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

As has become customary the weekend started out in The Peace Tent with Silas The Assyrian Assassin first up on Friday afternoon. Delivering one of his more coherent sets to the small but appreciative audience it was nice to hear the intentional humour along with the more pointed opinions in his songs more clearly than sometimes.

Highlights came in the form of a ‘cockney’ reworking of Dandy Warhols’ Bohemian Like You along with a series of topical original songs generally bemoaning the state of the world in his uniquely witty way.

Fly Casual frontman, Damo, followed Silas with a slightly more straightforward, but none-the-less enjoyable, set of acoustic indie, including some songs from his long time band which are always nice to hear.

The main stage got going with one of the islands up and coming younger bands, Rogue. While they seemed to have a few sound issues they didn’t let that slow them down and their mix of rock covers including the likes of Skid Row, Guns ’N’ Roses, System of a Down and Muse were a nice warm up for the evening.

Blacksmith at Chaos 13

Blacksmith

Having debuted last year, power metal trio Blacksmith upped the ante adding costumes to the mix in helping to tell their tale of the heroic ‘smith saving a princess from an evil dragon. While it may all sound a bit ridiculous the band wear it lightly and with a fun manner, and delivered their chuggy riffs brilliantly.

The first visiting band of the weekend were Jersey quintet Short Was Found. Having made their Guernsey debut at Chaos last year they came with something of a built-in following and it was clear why

Their energetic, hardcore tinged, punk rock was as fast, punchy and powerful as you could want and frontman James Pallot was a force of nature on stage.

The addition of second guitar has filled out their sound in the right way and it was nice to hear some upbeat punk rock as most of Guernsey’s harder punk bands are being a bit quiet.

Having already played the JT Market Rocks event to Chris Tarrant and friends (yes, really) earlier in the evening Honest Crooks hit the stage for a headlining set in The Peace Tent with a purpose and it wasn’t long before the crowd was packed in and skanking away.

Honest Crooks at Chaos 13

Honest Crooks

The chance to play a longer set really showed off their repertoire from great originals to well-chosen covers spanning everything from The Specials to Reel Big Fish to, somewhat bizarrely, Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl.

Whatever they were playing though the audience were loving it and they put in an early bid for highlight of the weekend.

West Country rockers That Band took things in a different direction on the main stage with some sub-Red Hot Chilli Peppers style funk rock. While all four members played and performed very well and were perfectly listenable their set didn’t really ignite the crowd the way funky rhythms should making for a set that, while well-played, couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a dud.

SugarSlam at Chaos 13

SugarSlam

SugarSlam have become main stage regulars at Chaos over the last few years and never fail to deliver, and Chaos 13 was no exception.

Having been in the studio over the last few months they took the chance to air a lot of new material and the upbeat power pop grunge continued where they left off with their Fameless album and quickly got the crowd excited.

Rounding off the set with a pair of covers, Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, left what was a loose but fun set on a high.

Having given the event its theme and following appearances on TV hailing them as one of the UK’s best undiscovered bands, there was a real sense of anticipation for the excellently named Johnny Cage & the Voodoogroove.

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove at Chaos 13

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove

Their genre defying brand of dirty rock ’n’ roll certainly came with a good groove.

The band brought an excellent character and vibe to a slick and tight performance that kept the crowd at the front, and in the case of two more ‘enthusiastic’ ladies on the stage with them, dancing. This brought the first night Chaos to a close on a high point and set the bar for the bands to follow.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the first day

Day Two

Track Not Found at Chaos 13

Track Not Found

Following a performance at the previous night’s Sound Guernsey show for under-18s, Track Not Found continued their three gigs in three days weekend by opening up the main stage on Saturday lunchtime.

The young three-piece have built a good reputation over the last year and continued to build on that here.

While it took them a little while to build the energy up and they were a little looser than normal, by about half way through the set, around the time guitarist Grace Tayler broke a string, they hit their stride and didn’t let the missing string slow things down to get the day going in fine fashion.

When it comes to energy you can always rely on Jawbone and this was no exception.

The set started a little on the back foot as Dom from Static Alice filled in for the bands regular frontman Steve as he raced to the site on his lunch break. As soon as he did appear though the band were all systems go with their scrappy, sloppy take on punk rock.

Jawbone at Chaos 13

Jawbone

While covers of the likes of Misfits, The Damned, Alkaline Trio and Men At Work (yes really!) have been their standards, their set of originals is growing and while Choice was a little too sloppy here Generation Y more than made up for it with its NoFX-like take on a bleak, nihilistic but still singalong sound.

While The Crowman is something of a regular in The Peace Tent, this year saw him arrive with his recently formed Crowband in tow, as heard on his new album, and they did a great job of building on The Crowman’s signature garage folk sound.

The whole set had a playful and relaxed feel though the more melancholy songs still cut through and made their point and Pimbo (with the aid of a megaphone) was one of Chaos’ most surreal moments in a while (and that’s saying something in The Peace Tent).

The fun folky vibes continued with Clameur De Haro and they quickly had The Peace Tent packed for a relaxed performance mixing their great songs with some well-chosen hard rocking covers that got people singing and clapping along.

WaterColour Matchbox at Chaos 13

WaterColour Matchbox

While it was a folky afternoon in the smaller field the main stage continued rocking with WaterColour Matchbox delivering a tight and slick set of their progressive, conceptual rock with the metallic edge dialled up for this show.

While their songs aren’t music to chill out to even on a relaxed Saturday afternoon they went down well and in the setting of the big Chaos stage they sounded suitably huge.

Having made a strong impression on their first visit to the island a couple of months ago Great North were one of the weekend’s most anticipated acts in The Peace Tent and they didn’t disappoint.

With the tent crowd at its most subdued the husband and wife duo’s voices became the focus of attention and were instantly absorbing.

Great North and Gregory Harrison at Chaos 13

Great North and Gregory Harrison

While the songs were often on the darker or more serious side Hayden Donnell brought a lighter side with a quick wit between the songs that provided the perfect balance and a few songs with Gregory Harrison on banjo just added to all this.

After the bike show and a set from The Phantom Cosmonaut (that I won’t review for obvious reasons) Brunt brought the heavy to The Peace Tent.

A band who built their reputation in this space a few years ago, the tent was busy for their return and really got into the slow and crushing grooves which flowed from the stacks of amplifiers on the stage and, while it was clear they have a dedicated following at the front, they made an impression on all gathered out of the fog.

The Recks at Chaos 13

The Recks

After a year away The Recks returned to Chaos in their spiritual setting here of The Peace Tent and hit the stage in front of a packed audience.

While it took them a few songs to get warmed up and there seemed to be some technical issues with Greg’s banjo (no jokes about banjos please), they worked through this expertly and were soon back and rolling in fine form with everyone swaying and grooving to a selection of songs ranging from new numbers recently added to their set to older ones not heard from the band since their reformation.

Heave are a band who have become the stuff of legend.

For a brief period a couple of years ago the duo delivered a series of crushingly heavy and loud sets before promptly disbanding, apparently never to be heard again.

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

So, as soon as their name appeared on the line up for Chaos 13, they became the most anticipated band of the weekend and as soon as Neil Ettasse hit his drums and Steve Lynch’s Explorer guit-bass and wall of amps roared into life the old power was back.

With seven songs in 45 minutes it was a thick, crushing, obscenely loud racket in the best of ways that quickly got the first proper pit of the weekend going.

Steve and Neil were as tight as ever, as if they’d never been apart, and with the likes of Swamp Monster Is Loose, Smoking Molasses and epic closer Tomahawk they did what PUNiK did last year of becoming not just a highlight of the weekend but a highlight of all Chaos.

Following the onslaught of Heave was going to be no mean feat and its a bit of a shame for Graveyard Johnnys that the crowd seemed to go through a brief period of recovery while they started their set.

Graveyard Johnnys at Chaos 13

Graveyard Johnnys

Thankfully the punkabilly trio are clearly an experienced crew and soon got the crowd on side leading to another pit kicking off, in fact one of the biggest I’ve seen at Chaos in quite some time.

Frontman and upright bass player Joe Grogan played with a great charisma that whipped the audience in the frenzy while Callum Houston was a non-stop dynamo pulling punk and rock ’n’ roll licks from his blonde Telecaster in fine fashion and Tom Lord looked like something from a post apocalyptic movie behind his rolling drums.

Graveyard Johnnys provided another highpoint of the weekend and ended on a killer cover of Golden Earing’s Radar Love to close out a great day spanning everything from the lightest folk to the heaviest of rock.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the second day

Day Three

As something of a change to past Chaos events the Sunday afternoon of the festival was given over to a Battle of the Bands on the main stage in conjunction with Sound Guernsey, showcasing eight of the island’s young bands.

Lysergic at Chaos 13

Lysergic

While there are things to say about all the bands who took part there are a few things that apply to all of them. That is that they are all amazing talented given their ages and experience and, while the performances aren’t the level of the big bands of the last two days they all showed at least hints of some great performers to come as they develop and get more gigs under their belts.

Lysergic opened the day and were totally new to me. The first half of their set had an edgy and slightly psychedelic nature to it (appropriate given their name, was that intentional?) with covers of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer and The Rolling Stones Paint It Black before the singer and the guitarist swapped roles and things went in a grungier direction.

This second vocalist brought a crazed energy that was great to see in a scene where the younger bands can often be a little on the polite side and I was almost surprised he didn’t end the set by throwing himself through the drum kit a la Kurt Cobain in his prime.

Vice at Chaos 13

Vice

One thing that has really stood out with the current crop of young bands in Guernsey is the number of female performers and Vice are a prime example of this. The all-girl five-piece sounded great on the slightly heavier, darker numbers from the likes of Highly Suspect and, while they could do with a bit more grit to back it up (something that comes with time), they put on a great show with their singer particularly standing out with a charismatic and confident turn.

Another female fronted band were The Violet Diversion and it wasn’t long before their singer, Kiya, was following in her uncle Stace Blondel’s footsteps and heading out on the speakers across the front of the stage, getting face to face with the crowd.

While Kiya led the charge the rest of the band were solid as well and, while their selection of songs didn’t give them the coherent image of their leader they put on a great show.

The Violet Diversion at Chaos 13

The Violet Diversion

The last band before the break are one with a little more experience, Equilibrium. While their energy was a bit up and down today they still put in a good showing and when they did hit their stride they made a great pop rock sound.

After a brief trip to The Peace Tent for a little self-described ‘smutty’ folk from A Day Before Thursday, Acoustic Accord kicked off the second half of the Battle of the Bands with a cover of Buffalo Huddleston’s Sky High. The band followed this with well-played piano and acoustic guitar covers of a range of songs, backed up with a violin and drums. While they were a little reserved for my tastes but undeniably talented musicians.

Another band who, despite their appearance, have been playing for a year or more are Cosmic Fish. It having been a while since I last saw them they’d noticeably come on again and, while still a bit loose in places, have added more power to their pop punk sound that is coming together into something very enjoyable.

Blue Mountains at Chaos 13

Blue Mountains

At this point I’ll apologise to Track Not Found for missing their third show in three days but The Peace Tent called for a toastie and Blue Mountains.

With their new EP, Hummingbird, unofficially released here (the official launch will be at Sark Folk Festival) the trio mixed their set up a bit but did exactly what we’ve come to expect; delivering a series of darkly hued folk songs based on styles of Americana with their own flavour increasingly creeping in making them one of the islands truly special bands to see and hear.

Back at the Battle Rogue were back on stage and looking far more confident than they did on Friday afternoon. While they still have some rough edges to smooth out their set was far more assured with drummer Luke Corbin and singer Carmen Stella Tippet particularly impressing – and it’s always nice to hear Skid Row’s Youth Gone Wild.

Buff Hudd and Jull-z at Chaos 13

Buff Hudd and Jull-z

With all the bands having performed the judging panel (made up of a selection of members of the stage crew and organisers) made their deliberations and announced Vice as very worthy winners with Track Not Found an honourable second, but, as with pretty much all battle of the band’s style events, all the bands were winners getting seen by a bigger audience and getting an experience they are unlikely to get for a while (or at least another year if they get invited back to Chaos in the future).

With ‘silly games’ taking place in the main field in the way they only do at Chaos the music continued in The Peace Tent with Buff Hudd. It’s hard to think of a more perfect act for this setting and Mike Meinke delivered on that as people chilled out in the tent, some singing and grooving along. Once again the Japanese version of his song Don’t Worry Yourself was a very impressive highlight along with the slightly mind-bending instrumental Mono-limb-tastic.

Ukuladeez at Chaos 13

Ukuladeez

The folky vibes continued in somewhat more surreal form next as Ukuladeez hit the stage and seemed intent on playing a game of how many people can we fit on The Peace Tent stage at once.

Within that though they delivered probably the best set I’ve ever seen from them combining their sense of fun with some great catchy songs packed with genuine humour.

With the expanded band including not just bass and drums as we’ve heard before but violin, pipes from James Dumbarton melodica and, for one track, the Folkatron 3000 (its hard to explain) from Peace Tent’s terrestrial leader Stretchy Stuff along with a choir of the Ladeez’ mums it made for a highlight set of the weekend in The Peace Tent in the most improbable of ways.

Burning At Both Ends at Chaos 13

Burning At Both Ends

Back in the main tent Burning At Both Ends kicked off the final evening session with a set of their storming style of pop punk.

With the Sound Guernsey faithful at the front and singing along the band gave it their all and this set in particular really showed frontman Peter Mitchell coming into his own in the role.

Catchy new songs stood alongside now well-known favourites and the band closed their set by inciting a circle pit for their final breakdown.

Over the years Static Alice have become firm Chaos favourites and their brand of power pop rock rarely fails to get the crowd going and this was no exception.

From the start Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais were all in full on performance mode getting up on the speakers in front of the stage and rarely dropping the energy for more than hour.

Static Alice at Chaos 13

Static Alice

With the biggest crowd I remember on a Sunday night in a long time Static Alice showcased songs from their new Warrior EP alongside older material that it was clear a lot in audience were familiar with before ending on a crowd pleasing encore of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz.

This closed Chaos on an upbeat note and brought to an end what felt like a newly revived event with something of the spirit of old back with brand new young bands rubbing shoulders with established acts and some great visiting headliners.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the third day

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Sound Guernsey: Sons of the Desert, Honest Crooks, Equilibrium, Cosmic Fish – The Fermain Tavern – 17/03/17

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert and friends

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

Sound Guernsey‘s March 2017 show had a very punk-ska flavour to things with their old formula of two young bands playing alongside two more experienced groups.

Cosmic Fish kicked off the show with a set of old-school pop-punk starting with Green Day’s Welcome To Paradise and continuing in similar fashion.

Compared to when I’d seen them throughout last year the trio have come on in leaps in bounds and, while they still have some way to go in terms of audience interaction and performing confidence, their renditions of songs by Blink-182, Good Charlotte and their ilk have a lot going for them.

Cosmic Fish

Cosmic Fish

Throughout the set there were a few moments where the energy found a good level that, in a perfect world, would have seen the audience get more energetic (they remained attentive but restrained) and it was the closing pair of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle and Blink’s All The Small Things that closed the set in a high.

Another band who made a good impression last year and have built on that are Equilibrium.

Having been one of the young highlights of the early Sound events the band went on the play Liberation Day and the Vale Earth Fair amongst other things but like the openers they seemed to have stepped up their game once more.

Sticking with a similar pop-rock selection, including a couple of extra Red Hot Chilli Peppers tunes, the band had a much more relaxed energy from the off and this was clearly infectious.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

The aforementioned Chilli Peppers track Otherside was a highlight of the set as was their take at Blink-182’s Stay Together For The Kids where several members of the band swapped instruments.

Their takes on Basket Case and All The Small Things (also done earlier by Cosmic Fish) didn’t quite match the previous band’s but in all it was a good set and, with a little bit more power, Equilibrium will be a band worth keeping an eye on.

After a few months off following a very busy 2016, Honest Crooks were starting to gear up for an already busy summer season as they took to the Tav’s stage. While they were a little lose compared to past gigs it was all relaxed and fun as they mixed their own songs with some more ska oriented covers and they had the crowd going from the start.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a genuinely funny ‘play some Slayer moment’ (a rarity these days where that joke wore thin a decade ago) and great covers of Reel Big Fish’s Beer and Sublime’s Santeria it was really their own songs that provided the highlights and they certainly set the mood well for the night’s headliners.

Following the more modern ska warm up, Sons Of The Desert set out to provide a perfect primer for all thing two-tone and of the late 70s/early 80s UK ska scene. Spanning tracks from The Beat and The Selecter to Bad Manners and Madness it was prime upbeat skanking material all the way.

With the audience a sea of bouncing red fezzes thanks to the always manic and energetic Chris Pearson, it wasn’t long before everyone was on the dance floor and both the band and audience were having a whale of a time.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

The band themselves are something of an eccentric mix of performers that come together brilliantly and create a huge sound with a three-piece brass section and Andy Coleman on the organ bolstering the usual rock band line up for a real authentic two-tone sound.

There were many highlights in the set but for me Lit Up Fatty, Too Much Too Young and set closer Night Boat To Cairo were the standouts before it all went a bit chaotic in the encore with the entire audience joining the band on stage for a skank to bring one of the most energetic Sound nights yet to a close on a major high.

One of my photos of the show was used along with a review from Becks Cox in The Guernsey Press:

Sound-review-March-2017-for-blog

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Music in Guernsey – Review of the Year 2016

2016 has been another packed year for music in Guernsey and the Bailiwick. With more festivals than ever, events seemingly most nights of the week all year and many records released covering everything from acoustic folk to drum ‘n’ bass to heavy metal its fair to say the ‘scene’ is possibly the most varied it has ever been.

My review of the year was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 31st December 2016 and there’s a full version below.

Review of the Year 2016 press scan

2016 has been something of a landmark year for me with regards to Guernsey’s music scene as it marks ten years since I started reporting on music on the island. In that time countless bands have come and gone, some making massive waves others barely ripples, but it’s been very rare that any haven’t at least given it their all.

This level of enthusiasm from bands, DJs and any other performers can, I think, be credited with 2016 being the year when locally produced music seemed to most crossover into Guernsey’s mainstream public consciousness.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

One of the ways I think this crossover has occurred has been with the recent proliferation of music festival and ‘all-dayers’, hitting a high of at least 10 across the past year ranging from the established and varied likes of the Vale Earth Fair and Liberation Day to more specific events like Chateau De Son and Smaashfest or charity based shows like Jonah Beats.

Jonah Beats set the bar high for these back in March with a day spanning everything from lo-fi folk to pounding drum ’n’ bass at the Vale Castle. Highlights on that day included Blakalska, SugarSlam, the return of The Swallows and a rare big stage appearance from Last Of The Light Brigade. The organisers also released a double CD compilation album to raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity.

The summer festival season got going, as has become the standard, with the Chaos weekend. While the event has been bigger in the past, this year’s slightly scaled down show had something of the old atmosphere back.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

This was certainly helped by the presence of great visiting bands like Japanese punks PUNiK (who also released a fine debut album), Manchester noise-rock duo The Hyena Kill and experimental rock two piece Science Of Eight Limbs.

As well as the visitors Honest Crooks continued their run of great shows with a standout set in The Peace Tent that had everyone skanking as the sun set, while SugarSlam, Brunt and Static Alice stormed the War Stage across the weekend.

The Sark Folk Festival continued its run of great events with this year’s having less of the ‘us vs them’ atmosphere of traditional folk fans and those out for a fun weekend in a field.

Burg with Becky

Burg And The Back Porch Band

Musically there was a lot of good stuff on offer but it was the artists with their roots in the islands that really stood out for me. The highlight came from Burg & The Back Porch Band bringing some Americana to the spectacular teepee stage on the Saturday evening and invoking impressive singalong moments as well as creating one of the best atmospheres I can remember at a show in a long time.

Meanwhile Robert J. Hunter, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine, Buffalo Huddleston, Nessi Gomes and visitors Mad Dog Mcrea provided other choice moments.

New festival The Gathering took place at North Field in July and showcased a real variety of bands from the island. With three days it felt like almost every band with a slightly mainstream angle was featured on the main stage but it was the Friday and Sunday evening that brought the musical highlights for me with SugarSlam and Static Alice playing to a disappointingly small crowd on the opening night and Kings and Of Empires closing the show on Sunday on a real high.

Static Alice at The Gathering

Static Alice

Whether The Gathering becomes a regular part of the island’s festival calendar remains to be seen but as an event helping spread the word about the great talent in Guernsey to a wider audience it certainly did a good job.

The Vale Earth Fair this year certainly claimed its place as centrepiece of the island’s musical calendar as the Collective presented a year-long series of events celebrating its 40th anniversary.

The festival weekend itself was as big as its ever been with a series of gigs across the Friday and Saturday leading up to the main festival day.

Teaspoonriverneck at Vale Earth Fair

Teaspoonriverneck

Asian Dub Foundation were one of the biggest headliners the show’s ever seen but for me the highlights came with She Drew The Gun, a special appearance from Teaspoonriverneck, The Correspondents and Heads Off, though special mention has to go out to Honest Crooks and Buffalo Huddleston who, with earlier slots, did a great job of getting the festival atmosphere going much earlier than usually happens.

Along with the festival weekend the Collective staged an exhibition of photos and poster art chronicling the 40 years of the event which was a fascinating chance to chart some of the performers who’ve been there for the whole time and see how the event has evolved since its humble origins. The now annual Unplugged and John Peel tribute nights both provided some great moments, but it was the return of Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons that was my Vale Earth Fair related highlight.

Away from the festivals there was of course plenty of other music going on, in fact I think its fair to say that with the exception of Sundays there seemed to be something musical happening every day of the year if you knew where to look.

For me though the highlights amongst all of this came in the form of the Sound Guernsey events for Guernsey’s youngsters. Showcasing a range of music they have grown from relatively humble intentions with shows at The Venue to fully fledged event gigs at The Fermain Tavern.

Honest Crooks at Sound Guernsey

Honest Crooks

Their summer party being a highlight of this as The Doomsday Project, Honest Crooks, Asylum Seekas and Blakalaska shared a stage with already impressive new comers Track Not Found and Equilibrium while their Christmas Party later in December gave was another great night.

When it comes to new bands a few have stood out. As well as the aforementioned Track Not Found, hardcore metallers Granite Wolf made an impressive debut in September developing on the likes of Brutus Stonefist and She Haunts The Roads and I very much look forward to hearing more of what they’ve got to offer.

The real stand out of the new crop though were Burning At Both Ends who have taken the fairly well trodden pop-punk template and breathed a new life and energy into it, winning over many fans with their tight live shows and impressive debut album.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

As well as great music on the island, musicians continued to spread their wings further afield.

Along with two BBC Introducing showcases on BBC Radio 1 featuring 12 acts, a few stand outs emerged, Robyn Sherwell continued her rise with the release of her debut full length album to much acclaim back in April, including a UK tour and having one of her songs picked up for use on the trailer to Hollywood movie Suffragette.

Nessi Gomes also completed a hugely impressive crowdfunding campaign leading to the release of her debut album, Diamonds & Demons which was supported by a tour of the UK, Europe and the Middle East which will culminate with the official Guernsey album launch event next month.

Of Empires continued their march to becoming bona-fide rock ’n’ roll stars with support from all over the place including debuting new single Baby Darlin’ Sugar on BBC Radio 1 through BBC Introducing and picking up many nods as one of the UK bands to watch as we head into the new year and they prepare for the release of more music and a lot more gigs.

Robert J. Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

Meanwhile Robert J. Hunter continued gigging around London and the rest of the UK regularly, initially supporting his second album, Before The Dawn and then releasing his third, Where I’m From, though the Spiritual Records label a couple of weeks ago.

Plenty more records were released this year with Space Pirates of Rocquaine’s Vraic & Roll, Lord Vapour’s Mill Street Blues, Brunt’s Blackbeard and the aforementioned Burning At Both Ends all standing out, but it was a single, Drifting, from the duo of Flexagon and Buff Hudd that really seemed to take off, receiving much praise and also being picked up by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music.

As the year neared its end The Recks made something of surprise return with a new single and line up and they look set to make 2017 their year as they plan to finally unleash their long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album and in a standout live moment SugarSlam (yes, them again, they’ve had a great year) and Insurrection marked their 25th and 30th anniversaries respectively with an excellent night at the De La Rue.

Insurrection

Insurrection

It’s safe to say that 2016 has been an impressive year for music in Guernsey with a real variety of sounds and styles coming to the fore (beyond what’s mentioned here drum ’n’ bass and electronic music have had a real growth as well with Hard Riddims and Strategy gaining footholds as regular events) and opening up what could easily be a small and insular scene to a wide audience, and lets hope that continues with more people heading out to listen to new music around the island and there’s already some exciting sounding things coming up!

And a few particular highlights by category…

Band of the Year – Honest Crooks
Festival Stage/Event of the Year – Vale Earth Fair’s 40th Anniversary celebrations
Newcomers of the Year – Burning At Both Ends
Set of the Year – Burg & The Back Porch Band at Sark Folk Festival
Album of the YearRobert J. Hunter – Where I’m From
Visiting Band of the Year – PUNiK

You can listen to the BBC Introducing Guernsey review of the year radio show here

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Sound Guernsey Christmas Party – The Fermain Tavern – 20/12/16

Eqilibrium at Sound Guernsey

Eqilibrium

As I arrived at The Fermain Tavern on Tuesday evening, through a sea of bad Christmas jumpers, Santa hats and other festive ephemera, Equilibrium were mid-way through a set of upbeat pop rock to kick off the Sound Guernsey 2016 Christmas party.

The band really came into their own on the slower more melodic tracks that showed off their talent with harmonies, but it was the rockier stuff that quickly got the crowd bouncing and singing along, culminating in a rendition of Slade’s Christmas classic, Merry Xmas Everybody. Equilibrium may still be a little rough around the edges but they are one of several young bands with great potential and already have built quite a fan base.

After the accessible, easy pop sounds of Equilibrium, young trio Track Not Found put a slightly different spin on things with their shoegaze-y indie grunge.

Grace Tayler of Track Not Found

Grace of Track Not Found

The band have already gained a reputation for being something a bit different at the younger end of the Guernsey music scene and they continued this trend as their extended songs veered from a kind of sparseness to thick fuzz tones over which Grace Tayler’s vocals, also veering from tuneful to screams and roars, laid.

While they still lack some of the stage craft necessary to entirely live up to their potential, Tayler already has a kind of enigmatic presence that could become a signature, while playing almost all their own material shows they have a real creative drive with stories and emotions to transmit in their own way.

As the set went on this drew the audience in, helped by a cover of Slaves’ The Hunter, with The Doomsday Projects’ George Russell on vocals before, ending on a grunged up cover of Wham!’s Last Christmas.

After that Zak Trimmer treated us to a brief more relaxed interlude with a couple of solo piano songs. Displaying quite some confidence chatting with the audience his pair of covers went down well, particularly a brave and largely successful take on Bohemian Rhapsody that got carried through its more rocking moments by an inevitable mass singalong.

Problematic at Sound Guernsey

Problematic

Kicking off with an original by the name of Spiteful, Problematic’s set started on a high point they never quite made it back to. Mixing bluesy tones and grooves with hard indie rock and a bit of Muse’s sensibilities made for an interesting sound but one that never quite coalesced into a convincing whole, despite being very well-played.

None the less, after Track Not Found’s more nod along stuff, it provided the perfect soundtrack for the bouncing bodies on the dancefloor, building the energy towards the trio of headliners and Problematic are yet another on the growing list of young bands with a lot of potential who will be worth keeping an eye on as they grow.

Despite being seemingly constantly gigging this year, this was my first time seeing Buffalo Huddleston since the summer and it made it something of a refreshed experience for me.

Mike Meinke of Buffalo Huddleston

Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

The band seemed more relaxed on stage than I have seen in a while as they did exactly what they do best getting the audience involved with their upbeat, ‘folk-hop’, vibes from the start.

Sunrise stood out as a highlight tonight and it was nice to see the crowd responding to the whole band and not just Jull-z, as sometimes happens, and Mr. Cloud rounded off the set in fine style with everyone dancing and singing along.

After a Christmassy start Burning At Both Ends rounded off what has been an excellent first year for them with a set of their typically tight and energetic pop-punk and the audience responded accordingly going as far as to get something approaching a pit going.

Peter Mitchell of Burning At Both Ends

Mitch of Burning At Both Ends

There were a few point across the set where it sounded as if frontman Peter Mitchell was having trouble with his voice but he battled through as the words were sung back at him by quite a number in the crowd, probably more than to any other band tonight, showing just how Burning At Both Ends have caught the imagination of the young crowd.

What If Someday They’re Not There provided a nice slower interlude mid-set before they got everyone bouncing once more and guitarist and bassist, Martyn Brown and Adam Dawe, headed off into the crowd bringing the set to a close on a high.

Static Alice kept the rocking energy up in the room as, despite being six bands in, the Sound crowd showed little signs of flagging (sugar and caffeine are marvellous things!). The band seemed even more relaxed on stage than usual and their mix of stage presence and precise, tight packages of pop-rock were the perfect thing for this party.

Dom Ogier of Static Alice

Dom of Static Alice

Along with the usual favourites like Hurricane, King Kong and Black Cadillac Man, Static Alice introduced a new song and told us they are in the early stages of work on a new album they hope to record and release in the new year. Based on this we’ll be getting more of the same kind of rock, and that’s no bad thing.

With an encore almost called for, the band launched into their take on The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz anyway and brought another standout night for Sound Guernsey to an end. Lets hope that continues as we head into the new year as it really feels like a new scene is beginning to grow at these shows that can only start to feed into the energy of the rest of Guernsey’s ‘scene’.

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

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Vale Earth Fair 2016 – Vale Castle – 28/08/16

Asian Dub Foundation at Vale Earth Fair

Asian Dub Foundation

On Sunday 28th August 2016 the Vale Earth Fair staged what was, arguably, its biggest event to date as the centre piece of a year of shows celebrating the festivals 40th anniversary.

Headlined by Asian Dub Foundation, the 12 hour event spanned six stages and most styles you can think of with visiting acts and Channel Islands bands and DJs including the returning TeaspoonriverneckLord VapourToupeThe Correspondents and many more.

My review of the festival was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 3rd 2016 (you can see it below with an easier to read version below that) and you can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Vale Earth Fair 2016 review - 03/09/16

 

40 years ago an idea was hatched to head up to the Vale Castle with some musicians and spend a summer day raising money and championing good causes while having a good time with some live music.

Teaspoonriverneck at Vale Earth Fair

Teaspoonriverneck

Over the years since 1976 festival culture has emerged with summer in the UK seeing festivals every weekend and, it seems like, every suitable field or open space welcoming music of one kind or another at some point.

With Chaos, Sark Folk Festival, Chateau De Son, Smaashfest, The Gathering and more Guernsey is no different but, through it all, the Vale Earth Fair has retained a certain je ne sais quoi that, in many ways, sets it apart – a bit like our local answer to that godfather of music festivals, Glastonbury.

Having grown to include six stages spanning everything from hip hop to psytrance to punk to stoner rock its fair to say there’s something for everyone and certainly true that its impossible to see and hear everything on offer at the Vale Earth Fair. But here is a recap of what I saw and heard over the course of the 12 hours of the main event.

Elisha Horsepool

Elisha Horsepool

As with last year the live music started on the ‘outside stage’, this year renamed Viewalalu (there’s a joke in there somewhere I’m sure for those who know its location), with a showcase for some of the young musicians from the School of Popular Music.

Much like the rest of ‘SOPM’s work this gave the group of youngsters a unique chance to perform on stage to an audience beyond the confines of the school’s open days and allow the audience a glimpse at the future of Guernsey’s live music scene.

Of the three acts featured today I caught Elisha Horsepool’s solo acoustic set and, while it all sounded good, the highlight came with her final song, an original which showed a conviction and talent that is very promising.

Having made quite an impression on Liberation Day and at a series of other shows since, Equilibrium kicked off the main stage and, after taking a few songs to warm up, sounded better than ever. Another young band they showed more dynamic on stage and set the mood for the music to come despite the first shower of the day sending a few of the audience in search of cover.

Honest Crooks at Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

For reasons that are a bit beyond me one of the hottest bands on the local scene at the moment, Honest Crooks, were second up on the main stage and delivered the first fully confident blast of sound to fill the castle walls.

Despite the early slot it was clear quite a few had turned out early to see them and their super-tight reggae tinged ska-punk got people dancing earlier than I ever remember seeing at the Earth Fair.

Stay Near proved itself a perfect song to help celebrate the festival’s anniversary while a cover of What I Got by Sublime was particularly appropriate as the classic of the genre was released 20 years ago this weekend making for a double birthday.

Heading down the hill to The Busking Stage (where I was putting in a performance) I had my first taste of Problematic who’s grungy, hard rock sounds were a pleasant surprise and certainly lived up to the buzz surrounding them in recent months.

Buffalo Huddleston at Vale Earth Fair

Buffalo Huddleston

Another band with a seemingly unfeasibly early slot on the main stage were Buffalo Huddleston but, much like Honest Crooks, it was clear that a crowd had come specifically to catch the folk-hop juggernaut.

With the sun coming and going all afternoon, Buffalo Huddleston brought the musical sunshine with their relaxed vibes and added some more chilled out elements to their mid-afternoon set and people took little encouragement to get moving to the trademark energetic sounds.

If it was upbeat but relaxed inside the castle walls it was upbeat and furiously energetic on the Viewalalu stage as Jawbone blasted out their blistering brand of punk rock. Back in full on four-piece mode with Steve back on vocals (much to the delight of guitarist Lee’s vocal chords, no doubt), the band had some sound issues to start with but once this cleared up they were their usual shambolic best.

Jawbone at Vale Earth Fair

Jawbone

Along with the usual standout covers from the likes of Rancid, The Damned and Misfits, the highlight of the set came with a new original song that brought to mind the political influence of The King Blues run through a more full on punk filter – I probably can’t repeat them here but some of the lyrics regarding a former prime minister and a farmyard animal were particularly vicious.

Having gained a reputation with support from BBC Introducing and BBC 6Music, She Drew The Gun arrived on the main stage with a certain expectation and, from an opening spoken word piece delivered with forceful conviction by Louisa Roach and touching on many subject close to the heart of the Vale Earth Fair and its followers, delivered from the off.

From there they weaved a course through a set of loosely psychedelic indie-pop that washed over the audience, seeping between the neurones in a way that made them a highlight of the day. While they bore many similarities to many bands who’ve played the Earth Fair over the years they stood out above most and distracted from the rain that chose this time to reach its peak.

She Drew The Gun at Vale Earth Fair

She Drew The Gun

Past festival regulars Toupe made their return to the Viewalalu stage in slightly altered but none the less eccentrically groovy form.

Famous for their dual bass guitar and drums line up, lead bass player Karl is MIA at present so a guitarist has been brought in to replace him – while this gave them a more ‘normal’ line up appearance the music was exactly what we know and love and they got one of the biggest audiences outside the castle walls with the likes of Haircutz and Ninjas getting people grooving along.

If elements of She Drew The Gun tapped into some of the more political and indie side of the Vale Earth Fair’s usual mix, French five-piece Dynamics brought the dubb-y, reggae side out. While not my personal choice of sound the band got a groove going that was clearly infectious around the castle and provided a highlight for many.

The highlights of their set came when they took famous songs and treated them in their own way including a mash-up of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, The Doors’ Riders On The Storm and Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams and their version of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

Teaspoonriverneck at Vale Earth Fair

Teaspoonriverneck

Toupe weren’t the only band making a come back for this special Earth Fair and the highlight of these returns (and my personal highlight of the day) came in the form of the ‘classic line up’ of fuzz-grunge-rock’n’roll three piece, Teaspoonriverneck.

With a crowd gathered at the front in anticipation the band started slow with George from their self-titled debut album before tearing through a set of their particular brand of doom and stoner infused psychedelic heaviness, spanning their first four releases, that had heads banging throughout, as if they’d never been away.

Riff after riff and hit after hit would be a suitable description of the set but it was Blonde Witch, Truck, Gideon & the Black Jaws, Ribshack Supertwang and stone-cold classic Eaten By The Devil that were the highlights and sounded huge on this stage and gave the day its only real ‘moment’ for me.

Over the past 10 years or so a band called Rumpus have been regular visitors to the Castle but this year they came in slightly different form. Going by the name Heads Off and with a more sociopolitical and punk-y edge the trio brought a set of bass driven eccentric post-rock to the Viewalalu stage.

Heads Off at Vale Earth Fair

Heads Off

Bassist and vocalist Danny Lowe exuded a unique charisma that drew more to the stage as the set went on and as the very loud music began to hammer itself home a few got moving but, despite the excellent performance (including Rumpus favourite Woods), the crowd remained disappointingly small for this very impressive band.

Having previously been a highlight of the Vale Earth Fair just before Buzzcocks provided one of the festival’s most disappointing moments, The Correspondents brought a buzz with them that had drawn many to the Castle Stage in anticipation and the duo of Mr Bruce and Chucks didn’t disappoint.

Combining elements of jazz, hip-hop, drum ’n’ bass and electro to make a kind of Bright Young Things-era electronic pop, the duo were captivating from the off. Mr Bruce is undeniably the visual centre point, dancing in astonishing fashion for the duration and somehow singing and working the crowd and mic at the same time, they brought a real celebratory tone to the event.

The Correspondents at Vale Earth Fair

The Correspondents

Chucks meanwhile works hard behind an array of technology clearly performing as much as his counterpart, just in slightly more understated way, and providing the duo its musical backbone in a way that is likely often overlooked but essential.

Parisian four-piece Porcelain headlined the Viealalu stage with a set of tight, synthy, dark indie that brought to mind Guernsey’s dark-disco pioneers Gay Army. While the music was very well delivered they were only playing to a small (if enthusiastic) crowd that seemed a shame given their place on the bill.

Having reportedly been on the Vale Earth Fair Collective’s list of wanted acts for many years there was genuine excitement about the arrival of Asian Dub Foundation to close out the main stage.

This anticipation was soon transferred into an enormous energy flowing back and forth between the band and audience as a huge mash-up of genres filled the castle. Heralded as one of the best live bands in existence they certainly backed up this claim and closed off an already celebratory event on a high.

Lord Vapour at Vale Earth Fair

Lord Vapour

Speaking of closing things on a high, as I headed down the hill from the Castle stoner rockers Lord Vapour were still getting loud and fuzzy on the Viewalalu stage.

This highlighted how the Vale Earth Fair has always brought some of the biggest names to the island while also giving new bands a chance to reach a broader audience, all while championing good causes.

So, heres to another forty years!

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Sound Guernsey Summer Party – The Fermain Tavern – 24/07/16

Blakalaska

Blakalaska

Since last November Sound Guernsey have been running monthly nights at The Venue giving under-18s a chance to experience some of the wide variety of new, live music available in the island.

For their summer party though, they stepped things up a bit, moving to their new home at The Fermain Tavern for an extended session featuring some of the bands who’d been most popular at the monthly nights alongside a couple of newcomers.

The first hour of the show had been deemed an open mic session, but only one, brand new, act took up the offer, Figure It Out. Formed literally within the last few weeks the quartet played a couple of songs and, while they were probably playing out a bit too soon, their enthusiasm couldn’t be faulted and they seemed to have an idea of what they wanted to be doing, even if it wasn’t really there yet.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

The first advertised band on the line up have been around for the last year or so and have gained quite a reputation in that time and showed why tonight. Much tighter than even a few months ago Equilibrium have a light, poppy tone that sounds great on the likes of Scouting For Girls’ hit She’s So Lovely and got the already enthusiastic audience bobbing along.

While they don’t quite have the attitude for the slightly edgier songs they play, as a band they connected well with the crowd here and continue to show growth making them a band still worth keeping an eye on.

Track Not Found were billed as ‘the first band born out of Sound’ as they made their ‘proper’ debut. Mixing 90s style American indie, grunge and a hint of Riotgrrl the trio were a breath of fresh air amidst young bands playing the same old covers as one another. Already presenting a united front in terms of both sound and attitude all three came with presence and power and their songs backed it up.

Track Not Found

Track Not Found

Drummer Emma Thomas was a stand out, far more assured, confident and in her zone than when with The Bone Idols, while dual leaders Maisie Bisson and Grace Taylor captured the crowd from the off.

Taylor was particularly impressive giving off a confidence and ability beyond her years and, while the trio still have plenty of rough edges to work on, this goes down as one of the best debut sets from a genuinely new band I’ve seen in a long time.

From a band taking their first steps to one heading for their last, The Doomsday Project were fully in fun mode for their penultimate performance. This sense of fun that is embodied by frontman George Russell, but is clear in the performance of the other three members too, is making for some of the best shows I’ve seen from them, following their set the weekend before at The Gathering.

Already warmed up the crowd came forward from the start and it wasn’t long before they were bouncing, particularly when Smash Mouth’s All Star got an airing.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

A highlight of the set (that was reprised for the encore) came with a run at Slave’s The Hunter that saw the band and the crowd all crouching down in preparation for the song’s roaring middle section. Even if The Doomsday Project don’t quite have the bite of the Kent duo it worked really well with a great relatable energy between the young band and audience that permeated the entire set.

Wrapping up with Chelsea Dagger (before the encore) closed off probably the best set I’ve seen The Doomsday Project deliver and if they are capable of this regularly it will certainly be a shame to see them go.

For the second time this weekend Honest Crooks took to The Fermain Tavern stage and it wasn’t long before the crowd were getting into their punk-ska-reggae sounds.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Once again the band played a blinder and, having seen them many times recently, I will admit that my focus drifted and I took the chance to get some skanking in. If a band can be as engaging with their own material as with covers by Sublime and their ilk then they must be doing something very right.

To ease in the change of musical styles DJ Four-Q took to the decks and filled the dance floor as his hip-hop sounds even got a fairly elaborate ‘dance battle’ going on in the middle of the floor – it looked like something out of a movie!

Then, with the crowd already worked up Jimi Riddlz and Apex of Asylum Seekas joined Four-Q, feeding off the energy from the crowd who, unlike some other audiences, weren’t shy about the call and response moments.

Asylum Seekas

Asylum Seekas

Seeing this trio in front of such an energetic crowd is to see them at their peak and they were as entertaining as I’ve ever seen them, ranging from the intensity of Riddlz work to Apex’s more lighthearted touches.

It felt like a mini Get Down was kicking off for a few minutes as the set flew by culminating in undeniable crowd pleaser Guernsey Bus.

Having been one of the most popular bands from all of the past Sound Guernsey events Blakalaska were suitable headliners and from the start had the crowd involved with their captivating electronic, dance-rock sounds.

Despite missing guitarist Oliver Farimond (his parts were filled in from Ollie McVey’s bank of electronics) the band sounded huge and the high energy of the earlier sets was still flowing, even if the crowd had shrunk a little (likely down to it getting a bit later on a Sunday night).

Blakalaska

Blakalaska

While most of the set is familiar the fact the band play rarely meant it still sounded fresh and there were some newer songs in the mix too culminating in an encore of Hands Up that had the desired effect of closing Sound Guernsey’s first show in their new venue on a real high – lets hope this carries on when the under 18 nights continue monthly from September.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and a few of my photos were used in The Guernsey Press along with Becky Cox’s review

Sound Summer Party - photos 30/07/16

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Live Music on Liberation Day – 09/05/16

Equilibrium

Equilibrium on the Albert Pier stage

Every year on 9th May the island of Guernsey comes together to celebrate the island’s liberation from occupying Nazi forces in 1945.

A big part of these celebrations has become the live music that takes place around the island in pretty much any venue capable of hosting it. For the 2016 Liberation Day I headed into St Peter Port where the ‘official’ celebrations were taking place to experience 8 hours of non-stop live music.

My review was first published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th May – you can find an easier to read version below the cutting – and you can see my photos from on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

Liberation day music review scan - 14/05/16

Full review

It seems more than ever music was part of the Liberation Day celebrations in 2016 with gigs pretty much everywhere they could be all weekend, from a storming night of hard rock at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday to Market Rocks on Sunday to Vale Earth Fair’s annual all-dayer at The Last Post on Liberation Day itself (and countless gigs all over the rest of the island). With St Peter Port being the traditional focus of festivities plenty of music was on offer there too so I headed down, first to Castle Cornet, during the afternoon, then later to the Albert Pier.

The Crowman and The Fiddling PixieThe Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie

The Crowman and The Fiddling PixieThe Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie

With the music getting going at three o’clock the morning’s rain had begun to clear by the time The Crowman stepped onto the stage in the castle’s middle ward. Starting off a bit slow he seemed to pick up after breaking a string on his acoustic guitar, though this didn’t stop him playing two more songs on the same instrument without batting an eyelid before switching to the banjo.

As ever the performance was as lo-fi as they come and, while I’m not sure all in the steadily growing audience quite got it, The Crowman and the Fiddling Pixie got some feet tapping and heads nodding and got a good response to their songs. A particularly nice moment came with the addition of Lemmy and Philthy Animal Taylor to their song Mystery Train.

The music continued round on the Castle’s South Battery with a very well-played but a bit too quiet set from guitarist Chris Taylor before a slow and soulless run at a selection of ‘1940s style’ songs from vocal trio Les Blondettes and an mp3 player (or CD player, or similar). The phrase that sprung to mind was ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’, I’ll let you work out quite how this performance fitted that statement.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

Back on the middle ward I had a chance to catch a couple of songs from Buffalo Huddleston who, as ever, had drawn a big crowd and were sounding great, though the audience were a bit more sedate than I’m used to seeing for them – maybe something to do with the rigidly enforced alcohol free zone stretching as far as the castle for the day.

A bit of awkward booking meant I had to split my time between the two stages at the castle to also catch some of The Space Pirates of Rocquaine’s set. Being short Lisa Vidamour meant the performance was maybe a little more sedate, but none-the-less Mark Guppy, Tim Corbett and Jess Nash carried the vocals excellently while the whole band played a great set despite fighting a lack of on stage monitors.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

As they played the sun even came out for the first time that day and, with their originals alongside a cracking cover of Billy Bragg’s You Woke Up My Neighbourhood, they brought a real sense of fun to the afternoon.

While the music was rounding up Castle Cornet it was just getting going on the Albert Pier with Equilibrium kicking off things off with a tightly delivered set of pop, rock and pop-punk songs.

This was my second time seeing the band (who it transpires are all only 14 years old!) and, while they were still a little on the polite side, they seemed much more confident and at home on stage, largely un-phased playing to a few hundred people.

The lead trio brought a great presence to the songs with some fantastic harmony work on Dancing On My Own, while the bass player had some impressive, if understated, moments and if they continue on like this and can add some more originals to their set they will worth keeping an eye on in years to come.

Matt and Marcas of The Secret Smiles

Matt and Marcas of The Secret Smiles

After a few years of seemingly being a bit on-again/off-again The Secret Smiles presented a united front here with a set of 60s/90s folk-indie hybrid sounds that perfectly complemented the now warm evening sun.

Frontman Matt Ward strikes the quintessential image for this type of thing, somewhere between Dylan and a Gallagher (or maybe a more Liverpool based equivalent) complete with 12-sting acoustic guitar and confident swagger.

As the set went on some more raucous elements started to come out, particularly on To The City, but throughout their were hints of The Stranglers, The Jam and others in amongst the lighter tones where the melodies led the way.

It all culminated in their final song that combined everything that had come before perfectly and had the feel of what could be a great single and went down very well with the now big crowd on the pier leading to an encore of New Order’s Blue Monday.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With the crowd nicely warmed up and the earlier bad weather and power cut seemingly forgotten, Honest Crooks hit the stage to continue their now year and a bit long ascent. Their upbeat ska-punk was spot on for this event and James Radford really looked the part, and seemed far more confident, in shades on the big stage, much more so than at other venues.

With lots of top-notch original songs rubbing shoulders with covers from Sublime, Gentlemen’s Dub Club and more their music, that contains a non-self-consciously political streak along with an upbeat sense of fun, had people dancing and singing along throughout before an encore was demanded that came in the rather brave form of Sublime’s Date Rape! (thankfully I don’t think many were listening to the lyrics)

Following this performance I’d say Honest Crooks have taken the spot of Guernsey’s premier summer party band, and really they only just seem to be hitting their stride.

Element 6

Element 6

Following that was going to be a challenge for anyone and, while their set of pop-rock covers was pretty well delivered, Element 6 were facing quite a task.

Their performance was solid, as you’d expect from the now well experienced function band, but their funk-reggae take on The White Stripes Seven Nation Army was a misstep from which they never really recovered for me, though they did get a good number singing along to the hits.

As several thousand pounds were detonated in the sky above the castle, Sons of the Desert were setting up on stage and, as the fireworks finished, they launched into a great set of highly skank worthy ska. The nine-piece band captured the feel and style of the musical excellently with Colin Leach and Chris Pearson leading from the front and involving the energetic crowd from the off.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

For a band like this it would be very easy to stick to the mainstream classics but, while all the big hits of Madness, The Specials, et al appear, room is made for more left field choices such as a track from the Tokyo Ska Orchestra and a ska’d up Nirvana cover that were great to hear and helped round off the day in excellently, partying style.

Not only was the selection of music on offer for Liberation Day 2016 impressive but also served to show the breadth of talent Guernsey has for this particular art, far more than our 60,000ish population really should have.

From upcoming youngsters to longstanding veterans there was something for all tastes and from all ages with a real sense that people can do whatever they want with their talents, which is a great message to take away from a day celebrating liberation.

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Sound Guernsey: Blakalaska, Flexagon, Equilibrium and Loose Ties – The Venue – 27/03/16

Blakalaska

Blakalaska

Even as I arrived at The Venue for the Easter Sunday Sound Guernsey event it was clear this was going to be a busy one with more than 100 tickets sold before the show, it wasn’t long until capacity was reached and new band Loose Ties took to the stage.

Made up of students from St Sampson’s High School, Loose Ties were making their first public performance. This comprised a set of covers delivered mostly fluidly despite the obvious nerves on display.

The inclusion of a piano added something a bit different to most young rock bands and all five members showed potential that could easily begin to be reached with the confidence that comes after a little more experience in front of an audience.

Loose Ties

Loose Ties

Another new young band took to the stage next, Equilibrium. A little more experienced than Loose Ties, this was still my first chance to see them and I was impressed both by their playing and their choice of covers.

Spanning upbeat jangly indie like Scouting For Girls’ hit She’s So Lovely to Blink 182’s All The Small Things to The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army it was a varied collection and all delivered with a relaxed and vibrant feel.

Drummer Charlie really powered the band from the back and, at the risk of sounding patronising, it was great to see a pair of female guitarists (Lili and Elle) fronting the band, along with vocalist Ivy, that gave the band a different dynamic from the usually male fronted rock bands I’m more used to seeing on local stages.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

Getting calls for an encore Equilibrium delivered a second run of All The Small Things and, while it was maybe all a bit reserved and polite, they again showed a huge potential and really got the crowd going.

After two straightforward pop-rock cover bands things took a turn for the more experimental as Flexagon made their live debut in two-piece form. Armed with an Ableton Push set up and electronic drum kit, as soon as they set up it was clear this wasn’t going to be something many in attendance were used to and, in that, the duo didn’t disappoint.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I got it in spades. Rhythmically focused electronic sounds were layered one upon the other creating dense, sprawling tracks with hard to resist yet relatively laid back beats. The whole thing felt fluid and organic with what seemed to be an improvised edge, but was tight enough to create an engaging performance that got many a head nodding, mine included.

Flexagon

Flexagon

While it wasn’t the sort of music to fill a dancefloor it was clear many were engaged from the sidelines and it gave a good flavour of what could be expected in The Peace Tent at Chaos (after the live music) to this audience who would have been unlikely to experience that before.

As Blakalaska set up on stage they provided a DJ set which drew many back to the dancefloor and even instigated something of a dance off with Loose Ties’ piano player busting out some breakdancing moves, all of which kept the audience engaged for the night’s headliners.

Playing with a reduced line up thanks to an injury that kept guitarist Oliver Farrimond from appearing, Blakalaska didn’t let this phase them one bit as they launched into their huge sounding electro-rock. Instantly the crowd filled the dancefloor and, while maybe not as active as the audience at Jonah Beats earlier in the month, were clearly loving the sounds.

Lee of Blakalaska

Lee of Blakalaska

The use of pre-recorded guitar parts did mean the band had to stick to a more rigid performance than usual, which made some of it feel a bit restrained, though it was impressive to see a band carrying on in the face of a missing member.

Frontwoman Lee Rosete put on a great show (despite taking ‘selfies’ mid-song – I don’t think that will ever stop frustrating me) that really engaged the audience while Barney as ever excelled on the V-Drums that help give the band their unique sound and power.

With this newer songs built on the familiar ones to continue the bands evolution and they closed the night off on a real high that marked, to my mind, a high point of the Sound Guernsey shows so far – and long may they continue giving youngsters a chance to not only experience a broad range of live music but also play to their peers away from school.

You can see a full set of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here

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