Tag Archives: grunge

Static Alice EP launch with Honest Crooks, track not found and Common Room – The Fermain Tavern – 20/05/17

Static Alice

Static Alice

After making their reputation with countless live shows over the last few years Static Alice have also found the time to record and release both a full length album and EP, and now, they’ve marked the releases of their third record, another EP titled Warrior, with what looked set to be a special show at The Fermain Tavern.

Continuing something of a trend they began a while ago two of the support acts were at the newer and younger end of the scene, with acoustic pop trio Common Room on stage first.

With acoustic guitar, bass guitar and vocals and a very pop sensibility, Common Room presented something a bit different to many acts over here. Vocalist Olivia Manheim seemed to have all the ingredients to be an excellent an engaging front person, though maybe was a little restrained in the face of a small and distant audience here.

Common Room

Common Room

Common Room were at their best when all three members relaxed into the performance as happened a few times, particularly on an impressive original song and as the set went on, and they definitely made a good impression on the small audience.

Second of the young bands was track not found. While they took a couple of songs to hit their stride once they did their combination of grunge, punk and indie rock sounded as good as ever.

While Grace Tayler leads the band with a singular presence that brings to mind Dresden Doll’s Amanda Palmer run through a noisy rock filter, Emma Thomas (drums) and Maisie Bison (bass and vocals) more than ably fill out the rest of the sound, with both carving their own niche within the band.

track not found

track not found

Once again the band gave it their all with Code Red and Ecstasy being particular highlights of a set that continued to win over new fans.

Like the headliners, Honest Crooks are another band who’d taken a bit for a break from live shows earlier in the year.

After outings at Chaos at the Jam and for the Vale Earth Fair’s Liberation Day show at The Last Post where they added organ and saxophone player Naomi Burton to their line up, they brought this more developed ska sound to The Tav .

Being my first time seeing this version of the band I wasn’t sure what to expect and it did take them a little longer than usual to settle into their normal fun and upbeat vibe but, once they were there, the additional sounds really lifted the music to a new level with the best moments allowing a new sonic dynamic between James Radford’s guitar and the organ and saxophone parts.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a couple of new songs thrown into the mix, along with some old favourites and a couple of well-chosen covers, Honest Crooks drew the most people onto the dancefloor but with still only a small crowd the set didn’t quite live up to their much deserved reputation.

Even though they were launching a new record Static Alice started out in much the way they usually do with a selection of their now fairly well-known and established pop-rockers, in typically tight and energetic fashion.

Unfortunately with most of the audience seemingly more interested in the bar than the band their efforts did little more than elicit some light bopping from the dedicated few who remained on the dancefloor.

A decent mid set run at Audioslave’s Cochise (the set’s only cover), in tribute to the recently departed Chris Cornell, seemed to grab a little more interest but this soon waned which is a real shame as, as I’ve said before, Static Alice have a strong line in hooky, driven, rock that, at its best, can really get a crowd going.

Static Alice

Static Alice

With three of the four tracks from the Warrior EP saved for a final blast and demonstrating a slightly heavier side to the band even these fell flat as the obvious effort being put in from in the stage seemed to be lost in an energy sucking void before it reached the audience.

While there are always reasons for low turn outs at shows this one felt particularly hard to reconcile given the effort all four acts put in but it ultimately turned what should have been a celebratory night of high energy music into something disappointingly flat.

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

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Sound Guernsey: Burning at Both Ends, Jawbone, WaterColour Matchbox and Track Not Found – The Fermain Tavern – 21/04/17

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

Jawbone

Jawbone

As Sound Guernsey have now announced their involvement with both the Chaos and Vale Earth Fair festivals this summer, it might just be me, but their April show at The Fermain Tavern seemed to have a further increase in its positive atmosphere amongst the assembled youngsters.

The first band to form out of the Sound events, Track Not Found, opened the show and once again showed some development following recent appearances in front of new audiences at both a The Vault and the recent metal night at the The Tav.

With more fuzz in the sound here and a more deliberate pace their grungy blues had something of an added stoner quality to it.

Track Not Found

Track Not Found

While the band have become nice and tight they still lack something in stage presence between the songs, but this is a minor criticism and something likely to develop with time and guitarist/vocalist Grace Tayler in particular has a great look evoking something of the riotgrrl feel of the 1990s but with her own twist.

Highlights in their set came with Ecstasy and new song Code Red both of which demonstrated not just their sound but their way of writing songs exactly as they want them in their own way, which is refreshing to hear in a young band.

Following a successful couple of first gigs over the last few months WaterColour Matchbox brought their brand of nu-grunge flavoured prog metal to Sound.

While it seemed to lack some of the metallic bite of their outing at the recent metal night, the four-piece were still as tight as they come and did crank up the heaviness a few times as the set went on.

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

With heads banging to some of the heaviest sounds the Sound crowd had been treated to, the band debuted a new song indicating we can expect more of the same to come.

After the precision controlled delivery of WaterColour Matchbox things couldn’t have been much more different as Jawbone took to the stage with their usual chaotic brand of punk rock.

While the classic covers that have been their hallmark up to now were all present, correct and hugely enjoyable, it was the raft of new originals that brought the highlights. Combining something of the abrasive Californian skate punk of the likes of NoFX and mixing it with the intensity of the classic British style led to a sound at once politically charged and vaguely nihilistic with a typically direct lyrical streak.

Steve of Jawbone

Steve of Jawbone

In the midst of the chaos that saw guitarist Lee Burton don a wedding dress (for reasons best known to himself) and bass player Dan Keltie head of stage with bass and mic for a run at The Damned’s Neat Neat Neat, frontman Steve Scratton demonstrated a newly confident side to his performance properly interacting with the crowd during the songs in a way rarely seen over here.

All this made for a set that was my highlight of the night and, suitably enough, included their take on The Misfits’ Astro Zombies on Jerry Only’s birthday.

The punk rock vibe continued, in slightly different form, with the powerful pop punk of Burning At Both Ends.

Over the last year ‘BABE’ have become one of the favourite bands for the Sound audience and, while going on a bit late mean the crowd had shrunk somewhat, they still got the audience onto the dancefloor from the start.

Another band debuting some new songs, BABE showed they are continuing with more of the same as their first album, in this case no bad thing, and the crowd ate it up.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

For me they lacked the raw energy of Jawbone that I love, but it’s hard to escape the infectious quality of Burning At Both Ends and with a streak of heaviness alongside some great singalong moments they closed the show on a high, maintaining their spot as Sound favourites.

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Granite Wolf, WaterColour Matchbox, Thunderbox and Track Not Found – The Fermain Tavern – 24/03/17

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

Its been quite some time since there’s a been an event advertised as a ‘metal night’ in Guernsey. With the general drifting of popular musical styles, metal bands have generally had to find their way into more varied line ups so, when this cropped up in the local gig guide, it had my interest piqued from the start.

Added to this was the fact all four bands were relatively new and two I had never seen live before.

track not found started off the night with one of their first full gigs away from their Sound Guernsey origin.

Having developed over the last year, the trio combine elements of grunge, riotgrrl and the kind of power-blues Jack White has made his name with to create a sound fairly unique to Guernsey – if it hadn’t been clear before, their cover of a track by Highly Suspect tonight just added to the blues rock feel.

While the band were still a bit lose in places they also found some nice grooves and dynamic shifts within their songs making them far more than the run of the mill pop punk cover act we’ve come to expect in the younger end of the island’s music scene.

Track Not Found

Grace and Emma of Track Not Found

Grace Tayler lead the band with a performance that is hard to look away from with a unique guitar style that, while not always succesful, again leads to the bands’ difference, and vocals unlike any female performer I’ve heard over here. Both Emma Thomas (drums) and Masie Bisson (bass and vocals) also have enough attitude and presence to make them far more than just the backing band.

While they still have a way to go in finding their own sound and identity, and in terms of stage presence, track not found are certainly a highlight at the younger end of the scene and proved it tonight, winning over a number of the often staid adult gig going crowd.

From a band with such a high level of inventiveness they are struggling to contain it the night shifted to one following a well trodden path but doing it with a degree of success, ThunderBox.

Taking nu-metal and its mid 200os evolution, the five-piece started off a bit rough with a Linkin Park cover before settling down a few songs in to some perfectly serviceable covers of the likes of Slipknot, Korn and Soil.

ThunderBox

ThunderBox

This is a style never really known for its nuance and ThunderBox fit that perfectly and I will admit that, for the most part, they miss my era of hardcore metal fandom by a few years so I don’t have the nostalgia for these tracks that it was clear many in attendance did.

Despite a few ups and downs (and an unforgivable metal version of Electric Six’s Gay Bar – no band needs to cover that song again, ever) their set was perfectly enjoyable and I could see fitting in perfectly at a party for those who grew into a love of metal between 2003 and 2006.

WaterColour Matchbox couldn’t have looked much different with keyboard and synthesiser front and centre and a set of exploratory, semi-prog metal to play through.

From the off I was surprised at the ‘metallic’ nature and heaviness of their sound as the four-piece drove their way through a set drawn from their debut album Fragments, Artefacts and Ruins.

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

The addition of Scott Michel on bass added a good dynamic to the performance as his heavy bass underpinned the more intricate guitar work of Mikey Ferbrache and the guitar, piano and vocals of Pete Mitchell.

Mitchell in fact seemed more engaged with the music than I have seen from him in other bands and it transmitted more to the audience, even if there were a few moments where the number of parts he was playing got a little too much for him, but these were brief.

Closing as their album does on The Wall and Homeward Bound, their most prog songs, ended the set on a high and seemed to impress many in the crowd who were headbanging along.

Having formed from the ashes of Brutus Stonefist, Granite Wolf continued their pursuit of riffs and beer in fine form blasting through a set of tight, quick and punchy metalcore.

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

The atmosphere they brought had something of a throwback to gigs half a decade ago, but it wasn’t the worse for it and built more of a positive atmosphere than many bands manage, particularly in the heavier music side of things. This was mostly driven by a breakdown of the invisible barrier between the band and the audience and a ‘we’re all in this together’ type feeling.

Musically the band were on blistering form once they settled in with riff after riff delivered at breakneck pace and some nice grooves as well – Road To Home was a particular stand out in all these regards.

Keeping it short and sweet added to this and, though they did come back for an encore, Granite Wolf did just what they needed to do – highlight the night with an uncomplicated blast of noise that got heads banging and bodies moving and showed that, even if its less obvious than it has been in the past, metal in Guernsey still has a lot of life left in it.

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

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The Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam – The Fermain Tavern – 11/03/17

The Sacred Hearts at The Fermain Tavern

The Sacred Hearts

After four years away early 1990s Guernsey music legends The Sacred Hearts made a rare appearance at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 11th March 2017.

Alongside fellow 90s rockers SugarSlam the band were not only celebrating a major birthday for one of their number but also helped raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity as something of a follow-up to last year’s Jonah Beats event.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 18th March 2017 and you can read it below. You can also see a full gallery of my photos from the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam review 18-03-17

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Against Me!, Milk Teeth and Mobina Galore – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 08/12/16

Against Me!

Against Me!

Heading into Camden’s famed Electric Ballroom venue on a surprisingly mild December evening it was clear that the night’s headliners, Floridian punk rockers Against Me!, had brought a sense of occasion with them.

Snaking down Camden High Street from the venue’s doors, waiting for them to open, was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve seen for a show all clearly attracted by the message of inclusivity the band have been championing for, at least, their last two albums but in less specific ways their whole career.

This idea of inclusivity was reflected in the supporting line up. It sounds like something that shouldn’t need commenting on but, as this was, I think, the first time it’s happened at a gig I’ve attended, all three bands were at least female fronted but in each case this was far from their defining factor.

Winnipeg duo Mobina Galore kicked off proceedings with a wall of grunge punk noise that combined the fuzz sound of Nirvana-era Seattle with the heavier end of The Offspring’s brand of pop-punk.

Mobina Galore

Mobina Galore

Jenna and Marcia were instantly captivating thanks to the sheer power of their sound, the fact there were two and not at least four people on stage was never sonically noticeable, bringing to mind the likes of The Hyena Kill and Science of Eight Limbs in different ways

This, combined with the way they worked together and obviously fed off one another’s energy, created something that got the already big and still growing audience nicely warmed up.

Had the set gone on any longer I worried their sound may have become a bit repetitive but for a raging half hour Mobina Galore were powerful and absorbing from start to finish.

It was obvious from their reception that Stroud based quartet, Milk Teeth, brought quite a following with them and as they launched in Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation before segueing into their own material that quickly gained more.

The band’s sound was rooted in pop punk but they weren’t scared to venture into heavier territory and it was when they merged the two that they hit their best moments.

Milk Teeth

Milk Teeth

Becky Blomfield was a constant focus with powerful vocals along with a great line in high kicks and bass playing while Billy Hutton, celebrating a year on guitar with the band, acted as a great counterpoint.

Highlights of the set came with Swear Jar and a very nice slower number from Blomfield that was the first moment of the audience consciously coming together in support of a band’s explicit lyrical sentiments – though plenty more such moments were still to come.

With a nice little speech from Hutton continuing this, Milk Teeth delivered a brilliantly uncynical performance that, judging by the audience response at the end of the set, saw them win over many new fans to their diverse punk rock sound.

As a banner revealing a pair of black and white, Rocky Horror-eque, lips was revealed and Against Me! hit the stage the now packed crowd in the sold out Electric Ballroom pushed forward and the level of excitement surpassed possibly any show I’ve ever attended.

Against Me!

Against Me!

Launching into True Trans Soul Rebel before a surprisingly powerful 333 and then Haunting, Haunted, Haunts the band matched this excellently and proceeded to ride a wave of energy with the audience for the next 90 minutes spanning their entire career, balancing older material with a focus on songs from new album Shape Shift With Me.

Despite the fact some of the subjects dealt with in Laura Jane Grace’s lyrics can be on the dark side their delivery camet with a positive attitude and a huge, infectious smile, throughout, with Dead Friends, White Crosses and Delicate, Petite and Things I’ll Never Be highlights of the first part of the set in this regard as the audience sang virtually every word back at the band, at times almost out doing the PA.

While the first half of the set would have made this a stand out show in anyone’s book something changed to elevate it even further when, in the introduction to Bamboo Bones, Grace made a comment that, while she is an atheist she got the impression that the energy she feels performing is the equivalent to that the evangelical claim to feel in church.

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard) of Against Me!

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard)

This seemed to strike a particular chord with the audience, myself more than included, as we shouted back the words ‘What god doesn’t give to you, you have to go and take for yourself’ with an astonishing conviction and invoking a sense of a ‘punk rock revival meeting spiritual’ which continued for the rest of the night.

From there through Boyfriend, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I Was A Teenage Anarchist and an almost overwhelming Black Me Out, Against Me! took this further elevated energy and converted it into something truly life affirming and poignant on both a personal and social level.

Throughout the set all four members of the band were astonishing. Grace and guitarist James Bowman (the other long-standing member) clearly have a telepathic connection on stage. Inge Johansson (who joined in 2013) looked like Johnny Ramone picked up a bass and got a whole hell of a lot happier while being an energetic powerhouse and clearly having a powerful connection with Grace while Atom Willard (also in the band since 2013) was mesmerising behind the drums, truly thundering and powering the band’s folk-tinged punk rock.

Inge Johansson of Against Me!

Inge Johansson

As the audience called for more Grace headed back onto stage alone and, as well as a customary thanks to the crowd, made the point that playing in the UK means she can be pretty sure she’s not playing for anyone who voted for Trump, before delivering a particularly poignant solo version of Baby I’m An Anarchist from the band’s debut, again with full crowd vocal backing.

With the rest of the band back FuckMyLife666 and a particularly rousing Sink, Florida, Sink closed the show with the audience a sweaty, moshed up mess but still calling for more even as the house lights came up and the backing music returned.

Only beginning to disperse once Grace returned to the stage to distribute some guitar picks brought to a close one of the best night’s I’ve spent in a music venue anywhere (this may be up with the Rancid gig at Brixton in 2006 I have bored my friends about) and re-confirming a sense of punk rock (and live music in general) as not just a genre but a feeling, a lifestyle and a place that is genuinely accepting and life-affirmingly positive in an entirely uncynical way.

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SugarSlam Vs Insurrection – De La Rue – 03/12/16

Insurrection

Insurrection

It might only have been the first weekend of December but it was clear in St Peter Port on Saturday night that Christmas Party season was in full swing, so it was refreshing to find an antidote to all the forced camaraderie and bad jumpers at the De La Rue, as veteran bands Insurrection and SugarSlam marked milestone anniversaries.

With 30 years under their belts old school British-style hardcore act Insurrection only make occasional appearances these days but, with gigs in the UK over the past couple of years and talk of new recordings on the way, they are far from dormant.

As they launched into opening song Regression (following a suitably politically dark intro tape) they more than proved this with a wall of fuzz and feedback guitars, thundering drums, powerful bass and the distinctive howls of vocalists Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp.

Insurrection - Le Page and Allsopp

Le Page and Allsopp of Insurrection

While it could be argued their more political material, mostly now dating back to late 1980s, is gaining a new relevance, it’s hard to view the hardcore/anarcho punk style without a strangely nostalgic feeling, even for me who wasn’t there first time around, and it was clear tonight that any messages were largely preaching to the converted.

Newer songs like Speak Your Mind and brand new one Black Dog though felt far more immediate with less specific but still important messages and slightly more advanced sounds, Black Dog even headed into doom-like territory with quite a groove developing under the intensity.

All that said regardless of the subject matter the band played with a real ferocity and pace that, while possibly not to the taste of the more casual punters in the audience was in its way refreshing, even if this was possibly the most good-natured set I have seen from them – complete with spontaneous tequila shots mid-set from one enthusiastic audience member.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

While not quite as longstanding as Insurrection 2016 marked 25 years since SugarSlam first hit the stage, I believe at an all dayer in the bowels of Beau Sejour. The last couple of years have seen the revived band go from strength to strength with stand out performances at several shows and festivals and here they seemed to approach the gig with a new-found confidence combined with a relaxed and fun nature that really suits their grungy, power pop/rock style.

Their set may have felt on the short side but I got the feeling they were playing at a kind of hyper speed, possibly to try to follow the openers, but that didn’t stop it being a great performance that had the now expanded crowd (including several in bad jumpers by this stage) engaged.

Drawing mostly on their own songs (with a few crowd pleasing covers thrown in) their sense of fun was infectious and it’s hard not to sing along to likes of State, Crank and Psychobabble while Jackals showed the band’s heavier side.

SugarSlam - Brett and Plumb

Brett and Plumb of SugarSlam

The set culminated with AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie that, I’m told, highlighted their first ever show, before they were called back for their now customary tribute to Lemmy and blast through Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades that left the audience still shouting for more.

All of this combined to make for a surprisingly relaxed night of great music away from the enforced jollity of the season and showed why, when you have the right bands, the De La Rue is capable being one of the best spaces for live music in town.

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

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Lifejacket, SugarSlam and Granite Wolf – The Fermain Tavern – 24/09/16

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

After a summer packed with festivals and outdoor music events around the islands live music headed back indoors on the last weekend of September 2016 as The Fermain Tavern kicked off its ‘Awesome Autumn’ with the first Sound Guernsey gig of the new school year for under-18s on the Friday and Lifejacket, SugarSlam and new band Granite Wolf on Saturday 24th.

Starting the season with a new band seemed particularly fitting and as soon as Granite Wolf hit the stage it was clear we were in for a treat. Comprised of former members of Brutus Stonefist, She Haunts The Roads and To The Woods there was a fair suspicion of what we could expect and no one was let done as the five-piece delivered a collection of punishing hardcore driven metal.

Granite Wolf’s short but intense set was perfect for the style of music that, if you’re not a fan, can be somewhat repetitive, though the grooves in the heaviness kept me engaged throughout.

James and Robert of Granite Wolf

James and Robert of Granite Wolf

While frontman Tom Domaille wasn’t quite as upfront as he was in his Brutus Stonefist days his voice was exactly we’ve come to expect while his brother Robert on bass and drummer Dan Garnham provided a visual focus as well as that groove. Mark Mercier and James Ogier on guitars delivered riff after riff in the manner that was always this troupe’s trademark in their past incarnations.

There may still be work to be done with the ‘performance’ aspect, but, for a debut outing, Granite Wolf put on a fine show and kicked off the night with a real blast in every sense.

After high-profile sets at Chaos and The Gathering the more intimate confines of The Fermain Tavern brought out a different aspect of SugarSlam with a more relaxed and fun feeling to their performance but all the while, of course, led by their excellently pitched grunge flavoured power-pop rock.

They kicked off their set in high gear and, despite a bit of a mid-set guitar problem, didn’t look back.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

Drawing on a collection of songs that spans more than 20 years they all sounded fresh from the likes of Crank and Psychobabble from their mid-90s debut to State (released earlier this year), it all fell together seamlessly and the band were as tight as they come.

There was some brand new material in the set tonight as well, and mention of a new EP in the (hopefully) near future, and that fitted in just as well. SugarSlam certainly fall into the top bracket of bands gigging in Guernsey and certainly deserve a far bigger audience (though there was a decent crowd for them tonight).

Rounding off the set with crowd pleasing covers of Guns ’n’ Roses It’s So Easy and The Sacred Hearts Adorable (a song The Slams seem to have adopted) closed their already very good set on a high.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

After more choice, if slightly incongruous, pop selections from DJ Vauvert Underground, Lifejacket took to the stage and delivered the most engaging and enthusiastic set I’ve seen from them in a while.

The band have spent the last few years slowly building a dedicated fan base and that was in evidence tonight as it was clear most in attendance were totally engaged giving the band a kind of cult flavour that fits well with their general demeanour.

With new twists on older songs and some brand new material alongside Andy Sauvage (guitar, vocals), John McCarthy (bass) and Claire Moxie (drums) had the sense of a band in the midst of an evolution taking the best of what’s come before and building on it.

Claire and John of Lifejacket

Claire and John of Lifejacket

While clearly still very much Lifejacket, the new songs added more dynamic to the set and alongside a frantically paced take of crowd favourite Brains made for a hugely satisfying experience that left the crowd calling for more.

As a way to kick off the new season at the Tav I would be hard pressed to find a better choice for Guernsey’s premier music venue celebrating three rather different but complimentary rock bands that highlight the diversity of new, live music available on the island.

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

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Lord Vapour, To The Woods, Lifejackt and Gregory Harrison – The Fermain Tavern – 07/05/16

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

With a three-day weekend for Liberation Day this year the sheer amount of live music going on over the three days was huge. My musical weekend began at The Fermain Tavern where three varied but heavy rock bands took to the stage across the course of evening, following a lower key acoustic opening.

That acoustic kick off came from Gregory Harrison accompanied by his double bass playing friend. The addition of the double bass to Harrison’s usual deep and soulful acoustic rock did bring a new musical depth, but, given their lack of rehearsal time before the show meant they stuck with the more down beat material from Greg’s repertoire. This somewhat compounded the lack of engagement from the mostly distant audience most of whom stayed chatting around the back of the venue.

None-the-less Greg and his bandmate played very well and with a brand new track rounding off the set did, eventually, up the energy in their music and in the room getting a highly positive reaction from those who cared to listen.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

After a fairly long break from a Guernsey stage (they did play a show in Jersey a few months ago), Lifejacket were back tonight and their time away seemed to have increased the intensity pouring from all three members of the band.

Coupled with this heightened intensity of performance came a now familiar but at times slightly reworked set of songs that drew a crowd down in front of the stage from the off.

While band leader and frontman Andy Sauvage very much focused on the songs as Lifejacket played, bass player John McCarthy provided something of a visual focus, but I have to say my only real criticism of Lifejacket tonight, particularly in comparison to the later bands, is the lack of audience engagement and showmanship during the set.

If Lifejacket were a band to focus on the technical side of their music as they play, from the off it was clear (as if I didn’t know already) that To The Woods were very much the opposite – particularly in the case of their larger than life frontman, Robert ‘Bobby’ Battle.

Bobby of To The Woods

Bobby of To The Woods

Starting the set with a new song, and dotting a few more throughout, its clear they aren’t a band resting on their musical laurels as the new numbers all develop on their grungy formula, one even brought to mind the likes of Pearl Jam from rhythm section James Ogier (bass) and Dan Garnham (drums) as Battle raged over the top in his own inimitable style.

As the set went on mosh pits and attempts at stage diving came and went, while Fire even encouraged a bit of a shout-along (though Bobby isn’t quite Freddie Mercury yet, despite his poses). The crowd did begin to drift a bit towards the end hinting that possibly To The Woods do the opposite of Lifejacket in coming across as too much about the personality as they perform – though they certainly have the songs to back it up.

A special mention has to go to Dave Riley (formerly a bandmate of Bobby in Iron Cobra) for possibly the best/worst stage dive and crowd surf the Tav has seen to date.

After a bit of a protracted break, during which much of the audience drifted away, Lord Vapour launched into their set with a wall of fuzzy, phase-y noise that just about coalesced into a slightly too loose version of their sensitively titled song, Sugar Tits.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

With Island Man they seemed to get back into a nice groove for a few songs before the lead breaks and jams grew and grew to the point where the structure of any songs fell apart.

As this happened, and midnight neared, they once again began to lose many of the audience and, while there were some great riffs and impressive moments from all three members that showed a great potential, it was hard not to see their stoner grooves as becoming unstructured noise with guitar posing from Henry Fears and Joe Le Long’s vocals descending into an uncontrolled wail.

With a few calling for an encore after a bit of a break Lord Vapour rounded their set with what may or may not have been a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady that closed the show off on an odd note given the very impressive performances that had come before.

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

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Doomed, Dangerous and Dashing – The Fermain Tavern – 13/02/16

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

As soon as doors opened at The Fermain Tavern on Valentine’s weekend there was a sense of anticipation in the air, and not for the annual forced celebration of all things consumerist that happens on 14th February. Instead what people were looking forward to was, not only a night of great new music, but also the return to the stage of two of the island’s most popular bands in Last of the Light Brigade and, opening the show, Byzanthian Neckbeard.

After nearly two years away from a Guernsey stage (in which time they’ve lost a guitarist) doom metallers Byzanthian Neckbeard made a statement from the off with the use of sheer volume. Normally Paul ‘Taz’ Etasse’s drums are the loudest things in any room, but here the sound blasting from Phil Skyrme’s twin amp stacks outstripped even that.

It would have been easy for such volume to be too much but, given the style of music being played, it made for the perfect, crushing, sound and emphatically made the point that this band are back.

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Playing as a three-piece now the sound has morphed slightly with less of the ‘solos’ (if that’s the word) and feedback work, but it was just as satisfying. Phil’s screaming, roaring, vocals were suitably backed in places by Dan Robilliard’s while Dan’s bass locked into tight, thunderous grooves with Taz’s drums to great effect, leading to the highlight of the set for me in the very groove driven closing number.

With a large crowd down in front of the stage throughout, Byzanthian Neckbeard felt like a band with something to prove and they certainly delivered not just ear-splitting volume but heavy, powerful songs that all combined in a performance that could rival bands of this style at any level.

The audience was already warmed up and still growing as To The Woods launched into their set with more purpose than I’ve seen from them in sometime and certainly having a large, enthusiastic crowd seems to add extra power to frontman Bobby Battle’s already impressive energy.

To The Woods

To The Woods

It was at this point that it struck me that, with the cross-section of ages and fans of different genres, the audience gathered at the Tavern bore more of a resemblance to those at the L’Ancresse Lodge and such in the past, than any I have seen in a while, adding even more fuel to the good atmosphere.

With a couple of new songs further bolstering To The Woods selection they tore through the set with aplomb, with Bobby ending up in the crowd on at least three occasions. Bass player James Ogier meanwhile, looked to be having as good a time as ever as his more understated performance included a spot on delivery while drummer Dan Garnham was on blistering form.

While this was happening on stage a pit kicked off on the floor in a way I haven’t seen in a long time, complete with stage diving from Bobby’s former Iron Cobra band mate Dave Riley.

To The Woods

Dave takes a dive

When To The Woods first formed Bobby made the point that it was a band he hoped would make people sit up and take notice and, based of this performance, that’s certainly what they’ve done.

With Byzanthian Neckbeard providing the doom and To The Woods providing the danger (certainly for those in the path of Bobby when he headed off stage), it was down to indie rockers Last of the Light Brigade to bring the night’s dashing element.

After a spell on the (no doubt financially more lucrative) local cover and function circuit Tyler Edmonds and Stu Carre have now solidified the four-piece version of the band they founded more than a decade ago, with Kyle Torode on bass and John McCarthy seemingly now a permanent addition on second guitar.

The time away from regularly playing their own material may have seen the band’s followers drift and, combined with the quite major difference in style from the night’s earlier bands, left them playing to a noticeably smaller crowd. As the set went on though the number on the dancefloor rallied as people got into Light Brigade’s slightly tweaked sound.

Last of the Light Brigade

Tyler of Last of the Light Brigade

The new line up has morphed the band’s earlier mod-revival/indie-punk sound into something with a little more reserved cool to it. Still present are the attitude and songs of old but added to it is something of the swagger demonstrated by the likes Of Empires, making for an ultimately satisfying combination typified on new song, and set opener, Sweat.

With such a long time playing together it was clear to see the onstage relationship between Tyler and Stu, with Tyler a more confident frontman than ever. Next to this Kyle and John still come across as the ‘new guys’ with Kyle often almost playing up to the audience too much and John, if anything, doing the opposite and hiding in the shadows.

As the set went on, and the crowd got more involved, it clearly helped the band increase their energy further on stage leading to a closing duo of older songs My Girlfriend’s Been Sectioned and an extended Little Billy rounding off a great night of music that excellently showed off just a small selection of the impressive new and original music being made and played in the island.

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

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To The Woods – Those Deadbeats and Self-Titled EP

To The Woods - Those Deadbeats album cover

Those Deadbeats artwork

Those Deadbeats

Since 2012 To The Woods have been forging a reputation based on their powerful and, in their words, ‘lairy’ live shows. In October 2015 they released their long-awaited debut album, recorded over the summer of 2014, with a spectacular show at The Fermain Tavern.

Having been recorded quite a while before its release the Those Deadbeats feels like something of a time capsule of To The Woods as, not only does it feature the bands original line up (with Jake Martel on bass, since replaced by James Ogier), it features songs that have since fallen from their live set.

The album starts off exactly as anyone who has seen the band would expect, with a grunge influenced sound over which the unique vocals of Robert Battle roar. Album opener Deadend in particular captures all of this well and brings to mind Nevermind-era Nirvana with a slightly more lo-fi and down to earth edge.

To The Woods original line up

To The Woods original line up

As the record goes on there is a surprising amount of dynamic in the band’s song writing with punky smashes to the face like Fire sitting alongside potentially more considered numbers such as The Ballad and even the seemingly autobiographical on the, in its way, witty, Taxi.

This sense of dynamic is something that can be lost when To The Woods are storming through a live set so its nice to be able to hear it here.

On top of this two of the tracks are clearly augmented with extra musicians in comparison to their live versions with Is This Rock and Roll featuring extra vocals and guitars from Sugarslam’s Pete Bretel and Last of the Light Brigade’s Tyler Edmonds while The Ballad features Tyler and, on distortion drenched violin, Gregory Harrison.

Unfortunately there are points on the record where the lo-fi grungy aesthetic goes a bit too far with drums and vocals occasionally getting lost in the mix behind walls of distorted guitar and surprisingly brittle cymbal sounds.

To The Woods

Robert Battle of To The Woods

The other thing that seems to be lost, and I’ve no idea how you’d capture it, is some of the energy of To The Woods live performances. As this really is what has gained them their reputation it makes the album feel like it’s not all it could be. As I say though, quite how you’d capture this on record I don’t know.

What this all combines to make is something of a mixed bag, certainly its far from being a bad album and Those Deadbeats demonstrates many of things that make To The Woods what they, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing.

Note: I’ve been informed since publishing this that the originally released CD version of the album suffered some issues in the post-production process, a re-mastered edition is set to be released on Bandcamp


Self-titled EP

As well as Those Deadbeats October 2015 saw To The Woods release a self-titled EP.

While released simultaneously, the six-track collection was recorded a year later with the band’s new line up with James Ogier on bass and from the off the development is huge.

T’Otherside kicks things off like a comparative punch to the gut with deeper, thicker instrument tones as well as (for the most part) far more advanced songwriting.

To The Woods at Vale Earth Fair

The 2015 line up of To The Woods at Vale Earth Fair

Five of the six tracks have become highlights of the band’s live set in recent months with Hit The Switch and Burmuda being two of the band’s strongest songs.

This EP captures much more of their live essence than the album and, while Robert Battle’s unique stage presence and charisma will never be harnessed on record, this is a close second and certainly captures their sound far more suitably.

The songs here all have a more rounded feel to them retaining elements of the grungy, punk-ish sounds of the first album but added to this is a more hard indie aspect. In a recent interview the band said they started out wanting to play music similar to Brit rockers Reuben and what is captured here is certainly closer to that in tone, both in its production and songwriting, albeit in the band’s own style.

To The Woods EP cover art

EP artwork

With all of this the production work from James Le Huray serves the songs far better here with studio effects used well to augment the songs and, in particular, offer definition to Battle’s constantly roaring vocals.

In comparison to Those Deadbeats the EP is a far more satisfying listen and manages to go someway to doing what remains impossible of capturing at least an aspect of the band’s live presence.

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