Tag Archives: indie

Guernsey Literary Festival presents The Recks, Heidi Joubert and Harry Baker – The Fermain Tavern – 13/05/17

The Recks

The Recks

Every year the Guernsey Literary Festival sets aside a night of its week-long event to combine music and poetry in the live environment of The Fermain Tavern. In the past this has welcomed the likes of John Cooper Clarke, Linton Kwesi Johnston, Attila The Stockbroker and Ruts DC and this year, in a slight twist, it featured world poetry slam champion Harry Baker, jazz percussion YouTube sensation Heidi Joubert and our own schizophrenic indie folksters, The Recks.

With the venue already busy early on Heidi Joubert took to the stage with her band for a soundcheck that, it transpired, had been delayed by the artists being unable to find the venue during the afternoon (and seemingly the festival organisers unable to give them suitable directions or chaperone them accordingly), so this set things off in an odd way and, seemingly, reduced the length of Baker’s performance as well.

Harry Baker

Harry Baker

This was doubly a shame as, for the five or six poems we were treated to, Baker was excellent. From the surreal flight of fancy Dinosaur Love to a poem about the love between a pair of prime numbers, to his tongue twisting, poetry slam winning, piece of verse centred on the letter P, Baker was one of the most entertaining and engaging performers I’ve witnessed, particularly when you consider he came armed with nothing but his voice and his words.

With a largely subtle performance side setting off his word play, he was a delight and, while I didn’t quite get the parody aspect of his Ed Sheeran reworking, it rounded off his set with a barrage of excellent puns turning a Sheeran love song into something I don’t doubt is far more entertaining and endearing than the original – I just wish there’d been time for more.

After a brief break The Heidi Joubert Trio returned to the stage and proceeded to stumble and dawdle their way through a set of easy listening, Latin style, jazz – interspersed with much talking to the sound man and trying to convince the audience to at once ‘shake it’ and, later on, be quiet!

A little research after the show seems to indicate that much of Joubert’s fame stems from a video of her busking on a train going viral on Facebook and she wasn’t shy in telling us about that during the set either, but what may work in a short online clip failed to remain interesting for the better part of an hour.

Heidi Joubert

Heidi Joubert

Rather than a collection of songs what we experienced felt like a disorganised jam of a set and, while all three were clearly very good players, it didn’t come together to make anything approaching an enjoyable whole and mostly amounted to a lot of other people’s riffs and lyrics forced into jammed out grooves and delivered with a sense of knowing arrogance that was ultimately hugely frustrating.

After that something needed to happen and, thankfully, The Recks delivered.

With something more of an energetic attitude than I have seen from them in a long time they launched into their set (a very similar line up of songs to that heard on Liberation Day) at breakneck pace and never looked back.

All five members of the band seemed intent on making their mark and, while Richey Powers was just the frontman we’ve come to expect, it was Gregory Harrison who really seemed to up his game revealing an intensity previously only hinted at and perfectly fitting his place in the band.

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

With next single In The Garden taking on something of a new spirit and the twisted disco of new song She Ain’t No Revelator providing a couple of highlights the performance reached its climax in three-part encore ending on a genuinely deranged Papa Leworthy that was as heavy and dirgey as this band could ever muster.

It’s just a shame many who’d come along early missed the genuine highlight of the night by leaving early and I’m not sure I can put into words how disappointing it was (not to mention disrespectful) that a majority of the events organisers also seemed to have vanished well before their own event was over, but none-the-less The Recks continued their current run of great shows as they head towards the height of summer festival season.

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

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: April 2017 – Elliot Falla in session and Vorlon

Elliot Falla and Vorlon Daz Carre

Elliot Falla and Vorlon

Click here to listen to the show

On the April 2017 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I featured a pair of guests spanning the range of guitar music in Guernsey.

Elliot Falla was in session with his brand of folk influence indie-blues including tracks from his recent Throne EP and brand new songs. He also told us not only about the making of the EP but also how its been expanding his gigging away from the island following regular shows in Brighton and London over the last few months.

Vorlon on the other hand is a project from long-standing heavy metal musician Daz Carre. He told us about his new album, intense extreme metal project False Sense of Security, as well as his time playing music in the islands which began in the mid-90s and has taken in bands such as Crunchy Frog, Earthcorpse, Darker Shores, Mechanical Lobster, Nemesis and more primarily as drummer but also playing bass and guitar.

You can listen to the show for the next 30 days through the BBC iPlayer Radio App or by clicking here.

I also announced that BBC Introducing Guernsey will again be going live as part of Arts Sunday, you can find out more about that here.

Tracklist

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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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Robert J. Hunter – Where I’m From

Robert J. Hunter - Where I'm From coverWith the release of his third album, Where I’m From, Alderney born blues artist Robert J. Hunter has reached something of a landmark moment creating a stripped back live set of semi-acoustic songs to complement the more intense blues rock of his past releases.

Also featuring his now regular band mates, James Le Huray and Greg Sheffield, the album continues Hunter’s journey that began as a teenage guitarist in blues bands like Rawcuz Crowzz in Alderney before moving to Guernsey to develop his sound as a solo artist and as part of Twelve Ton Trouble (amongst others).

His move to London saw him take on his music as a more serious business resulting in several mini-tours of the UK and countless shows in and around London developing him into the formidable performer and songwriter he now is.

Where I’m From has been released through Spiritual Records and is available to listen digitally on Spotify and Apple Music and in physical form through Rob’s own website.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 10th December 2016

Robert J. Hunter - Where I'm From review scan

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

The Recks at The Fermain Tavern

The Recks

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Channel Islands Pride Movie Nights – 52 Tuesdays and Cabaret

Fermain Valley cinema

The Fermain Valley cinema

Following the previous Saturday’s parade through St. Peter port, Channel Islands Pride week continued in Guernsey as Liberate staged a pair of film screenings of two rather different movies that’s fall under the ‘LGBTQ cinema’ banner, 52 Tuesdays and Cabaret, at The Fermain Valley Hotel’s small but well appointment private cinema (an ideal location for these kind of events).

The two films fall into very different areas of the ‘LGBTQ cinema’ canon but, in their own ways both tackle a host of issues while also having a far broader appeal than that specific cinematic niche may often thought to have.

52 Tuesdays is an Australian indie drama from director/co-writer Sophie Hyde, that tells the story of a teenage girl (Billie, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey) going through many of the usual coming of age rigmarole seen elsewhere with the addition of her mother (James, formerly Jane, played by Del Herbert-Jane) is taking the first steps of transition.

52 Tuesdays posterOn paper this sounds like it could be a fairly heavy-handed conceit but, with the films largely verite-ish style it all just becomes part of the ebb and flow of Billie’s young, often confusing, life – though it’s interesting to note that the transition isn’t portrayed as the most confusing aspect of this experience.

The title of the film stems from the fact that Billie and James meet weekly on Tuesday evenings and the construction of the film follows this showing us (mostly) only what happens on these Tuesday evenings.

This gives the viewer the chance to see, and the filmmakers a chance to show, aspects of James’ transition over the course of a year rather than a more compact period so it allows exposure to many more ‘day to day’ aspects than I had previously seen depicted, and it never suggests that this snapshot of a year is the complete process.

Along with this we get Billie’s transition into young adulthood and the two are juxtaposed and played off each other very well, even if Billie’s side of the story occasionally has the whiff of soap opera. This is counteracted by the style of the production and the performances which never feel anything less than real.

52 Tuesdays - James and Billie

James and Billie

While not perfect 52 Tuesdays is an energetic and engrossing real life drama that largely steers clear of the stereotypical tropes of soap it could easily veer into and highlights the disconnect between the reality of these situations and that usually depicted through mainstream media while also highlighting the issues faced by those transitioning in a way that isn’t like watching an educational film.

The addition of the coming of age storyline then gives the film an added accessibility away from what might be perceived as a niche, one note, ‘issue’ film, making for something that I couldn’t help but feel could connect with a wider audience if they were just given the chance.

Cabaret movie posterFrom low-budget indie drama to a mainstream award-winning film regularly cited as a classic but still falling firmly into the LGBTQ cinematic canon, Bob Fosse’s startling and unique musical, Cabaret.

Set in the dying days of Weimar-era Berlin it follows English student Brian Roberts (Michael York) on his journey into the city’s hedonistic nightlife led by cabaret performer Sally Bowles (Liza, with a Z, Minnelli).

From the off the style is almost entirely in contrast to 52 Tuesdays as Fosse uses what, at first, feel like almost Brechtian verfremdungseffekt alienation techniques by situating all the music with the Kit Kat Club cabaret, almost commenting on the surrounding action. Here Joel Grey as the master of ceremonies (often referee to as ‘Emmcee’) provides a standout performance at once welcoming and sinister as the story progresses and we get scenes of chaotic decadence juxtaposed with the brutal rise of the Nazi party.

Running alongside the cabaret scenes we get the story of Brian and Sally’s apparent affair which is, for the most part more naturalistic – although the presence of a lot of soft focus keeps it at something of a distance.

Cabaret - Max, Brian and Sally

Max, Brian and Sally

It’s here a more open side of LGBTQ representation and general sexuality appears, away from the potentially seedy and heightened world of the cabaret club, as Brian at first appears to be gay, then later bi or pan, while he and Sally enjoy an explicitly polyamorous affair with playboy baron Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem).

Even today this is dealt with in surprisingly straight forward fashion and it’s no surprise this raised more than eyebrows in the early 1970s, though equally it is all a bit idealised in its way.

More shocking now is the depiction of the rise of nazism in Germany with racial abuse, violence and a clear depiction of the kind of creeping nastiness that I can’t help but see reflected in the world today. This is brilliantly portrayed in a scene at a very typical looking country fair type event as the crowd join in with a youthful, blonde haired Nazi in singing a song dedicated to the fatherland.

Cabaret - Joel Grey

The Master of Ceremonies

The culmination of what feels like three nearly independent threads comes in surprisingly melancholic fashion for a big musical with Sally drawn back into the world of the cabaret but with the decadent Weimar audience replaced with brown shirts with red armbands as Brian returns to England.

This leads to an ambiguous feeling of the end of innocence pervading Sally’s haunted delivery of ‘Cabaret’ before the credits roll in silence and we ponder what we all know came next.

As a double bill to show as part of Channel Islands Pride Week 52 Tuesdays and Cabaret were interesting choices but ones that spanned a surprising breadth of LGBTQ issues and experience in their own way and I couldn’t help but think it would be great to make screenings like this a more regular part of Liberate’s work, although the question of how to encourage more than just an already familiar audience into the cinema would be the biggest issue.

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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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Tadhg Daly – Taghazout

Tadhg Daly - TaghazoutOver the last few years I’ve followed singer-songwriter Tadhg Daly and his band (originally called The Five Mile Road, in reference to their home island’s famous surf spot) from their origins in Jersey as a grunge and alt-folk tinged indie band through the release of their debut single Learn To Live in 2014 and now onto the release of their first EP, Taghazout.

The EP has two rather distinct sides to it with the first and third tracks and the second and fourth sharing a similar feeling.

Lower The Sound opens the record in brooding fashion, building both structurally and emotionally from groovy organ sounds to acoustic and electric guitars and finally the full band with a reverb heavy electric guitar solo soaring over it all. Third track, Don’t Tell Me, shares many similarities to this showing the darker, more introspective, side of Tadhg’s style.

Control Yourself and Without You I’m Alone, meanwhile, add a bluesy feel to the sound, stemming from the band’s past grungy tones. On these Daly seems to be channeling another Channel Islands’ export to the UK, Alderney’s Robert J. Hunter, in his vocal tones – albeit with his own, slightly more subtle, less all out anguished, twist.

Tadhg Daly

Tadhg Daly

All four tracks feel produced and polished to perfection and, in some ways, this is one of the downfalls of the EP. With this production style on songs of this nature, it feels they’ve lost something of the heart that I can hear in the lyrics or just below the surface within Daly’s performance.

On top of this the overlaying of backing vocals on each track, while at times well used, feels a little overdone, often overriding Daly’s own performance in a way that makes me wonder if there was a lack of confidence in the accessibility of his voice (something I can’t see at all).

As a whole Taghazout has something of the feel of a soundtrack to a hangover, or at least a Sunday morning feeling. With a slow building start leading to a mellow but brooding nature with deep thoughts overlaid on modern blues music that feels on the verge of emotionally breaking down though never quite stepping over that boundary. While it may not be perfect, as a first EP it showcases Tadhg Daly in a way that is at once accessible and hints at a deeper, darker, side to both his songwriting and performance.

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Gregory Harrison – Self-titled EP

Gregory Harrison EP coverHaving initially come to my attention as fiddle player with The John Wesley Stone, The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and in The Ukuladeez backing band, Gregory Harrison has since carved himself a niche as a, usually solo, acoustic performer. Now, taking this onto the next level, Harrison has released a self-titled four-track EP that gives a taste of his sound, in varied fashion.

The record starts off in unashamedly non-acoustic fashion with a crash of instruments that coalesce into the anguished Demons. This track, and third song Working For Nothing, showcase Harrison working with a full band and both feature impressive layering of sounds based around the initial acoustic songs.

Within this framework are intricate electric guitar parts, pianos and more and at times give something of a feel of Dave Matthews Band with a fusion of genres present, but with a slightly more indie rock vibe n the mix.

Over this Harrison’s rich voice is laid and, while there are points where it feels the recording process has missed some of the potential emotion, it is none the less impressive and at its best moments effecting.

The other two tracks are something a bit different.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Taken By The Brew is a more melancholic and sedate tune but again with the full band and, as the shortest track on the disc feels a little unfinished. Listening to the lyrics though, this may be part of the point and it runs dangerously close to feeling a little over earnest, despite being well delivered.

Down and Out meanwhile is something a bit different and has a more raw edge akin to Harrison’s live shows. With just an acoustic guitar and voice it gives a closer representation of Harrison’s songwriting and it seems to allow his performance more freedom.

This self-titled EP, while a stylistically mixed bag, allows an insight into the songwriting and varied musical approach of Gregory Harrison and certainly acts as a great primer to his work and starting point for hopefully more to come.

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