Tag Archives: lifejacket

School of Popular Music and Guernsey Gigs Summer Show – The Fermain Tavern – 04/08/17

The Lemmings

The Lemmings

For the last few years Guernsey’s School of Popular Music (SOPM) have held a week-long summer school where they put youngsters together in ‘bands’ and, with the help of the school’s teachers, put a set together to busk in town on the Thursday before performing for friends, family and well wishers at The Fermain Tavern on the Friday evening.

As with last year the event then continued with a group of more experienced bands organised by Guernsey Gigs.

Once again the bands pulled together by SOPM were very impressive given their ages and mixed experiences with each one of the eight having at least one highlight moment.

Avocado Geff

Avocado Geff

The Lemmings started the night off with some pop punk before what looked like the youngest band of the night, Thee Unloaders, delivered the a truly unique version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Clash of the Bloosers and the improbably named Squidward On A Chair both went down well with the crowd before Avocado Geff (featuring The Violet Diversion’s Kiya) delivered some grunge-tinged acoustic songs with Kiya continuing to stake her claim as a true up and coming front woman.

Purple Paradox and World On Fire featured some of the best moments, particularly on the latter band’s version of Sweet Child O’ Mine before Lady And The Tramps closed the first part of the event with some semi-acoustic songs.

The second part of the night when, unfortunately, due to the awkwardness of Guernsey’s licensing laws anyone under 18 had to leave, began with relative newcomers, The Buried Kings.

The Buried Kings

The Buried Kings

Made up of Elliot, Harvey and Steve Falla they are something of a family band, but, I’m pleased to say, that while that sounds like a rather naff concept that isn’t what they were.

Taking Elliot’s style of blues and adding in a nice dose of modern folk, with the inclusion of Harvey’s mandolin and Steve’s double bass, made for a broad and deep sound with all three providing vocals as well.

More lighthearted than Elliot’s solo material many of the songs contain Guernsey and Sark references including Bec Du Nez (the cider rather than the place) which sounded like something of a family favourite tipple.

While they had a few technical issues with the upright bass it wasn’t enough to entirely detract from the overall performance which was a fine way to start the evening, even if the crowd was woefully small.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

Its been quite a while since Lifejacket have graced a stage and it showed during their first few songs as they seemed to struggle to find their usual intensity.

By the time they got to the celebrity baiting Meanwhile In Hollywood though they hit their stride and the last half of their set was heading back to their past form.

A few new songs showed that, while they sticking to the same formula of powerfully hard indie rock, strongly inspired by the likes of Mclusky, they are developing it in their own ways with different rhythms slipping in behind the barked vocals.

While this wasn’t their most slick outing, with a set at the Vale Earth Fair coming up I hope we get to see more of them and hear more new material soon.

Gay Army

Gay Army

Another band who haven’t been seen in a while are, Gay Army. Despite this they were as darkly intense as ever as frontman Rolls prowled the Tav’s dance floor while Jo, Ian and Jay owned the stage with the swirling wall of dark disco noise that has become their trademark.

Rolls once again showed that he is genuinely one of the island’s most charismatic frontmen whether playing to 5 or 500 people (I’ll let you guess which number tonight’s audience was closer to) and with tracks like Cracked Amerika sounding enormous Gay Army proved they’ve lost none of their power over the years.

Blasting into a set with a raft of songs from their early days Thee Jenerators seemed reinvigorated playing the back to basics trashy garage songs that made their name. As the set went on newer songs came too with the same energy driving them.

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

While it was one of their more physically restrained sets until the very end, possibly down to the sadly small audience, the band were more relaxed than I’ve seen them in a while.

Mark Le Gallez lead them in a non-stop garage rock blast highlighted by the best rendition I remember hearing of I Hate You So Much along with classics like Mystery Man and Burn Down The House to close the night on an energetic, if disappointingly barely witnessed, high.

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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BBC Introducing Guernsey: August 2016 – Clameur De Haro and Vale Earth Fair Preview

Clameur De Haro in the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Clameur De Haro in the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Click here to listen to the show

Summer festival season continues in full swing with this month’s BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show as I welcomed a band who’ve played all the big ones so far and I take a look ahead to the Vale Earth Fair’s 40th Anniversary.

Clameur de Haro have already played Chaos, Sark Folk Festival and The Gathering (amongst a lot of other gigs) this summer and still have Smaashfest and more to come. They joined me in the studio to have a chat and record a session of three of their own songs and one a pop-rock classic given their own unique ‘bluegrass’ treatment.

With the Vale Earth Fair marking its 40th birthday I looked ahead to the festival on Sunday 28th August with tracks for the likes of TeaspoonriverneckBuffalo HuddlestonFlexagon and more.

You can listen to the show by clicking here for 30 days after the first broadcast.

Tracklist

 

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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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BBC Introducing Guernsey: February 2016 – Wondergeist, Twice Dead Records and Jonah Beats

Wondergeist in session on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Wondergeist in session

Click here to listen to the show

Following hot on the heels of the BBC Introducing Guernsey takeover spots on BBC Radio 1, I was back in more usual surroundings of BBC Radio Guernsey on Saturday 27th February 2016.

For this month’s live session I was joined in the studio by acoustic two-piece Wondergeist, along with their sometime djembe player Stu, and they treated us to live versions of four tracks from their self-titled debut album.

I also spoke to Chris and Soraya from Jersey’s Twice Dead Records who have been inviting Guernsey bands over to ‘the other island’ to play for the last couple of years, including recent gigs featuring Lifejacket and Byzanthian Neckbeard.

As well as that I looked at a few of the acts playing the Jonah Beats charity all-dayer taking place on March 5th at Vale Castle, click here to find out more and buy tickets.

You can listen to the show for the next month on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here (or you can download it or listen with the BBC iPlayer Radio App).

Tracklist

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Twice Dead Records present Lifejacket, Zoohair and Sick Men – The Town House – 06/02/16

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

As Storm Imogen prepared to batter the Channel Islands with force 12 winds I hopped onto a small plane with indie rockers Lifejacket to head over to Jersey for a show with a pair of bands at The Town House in St. Helier organised by Twice Dead Records.

Having not been to a live music event on ‘the other island’ for a number of years (the last time was when Nemesis stormed The Live Lounge with Jersey metallers Salem’s Lot) I was curious to see not just what the bands were like, but the venue and the audience as well.

Arriving at the venue in the afternoon I was pleasantly surprised. From the outside The Town House looks like an old cinema but inside it’s a nicely decked out pub, not too modern, not too shabby but the right mix of the two. The venue itself was an upstairs room with its own bar, a decent (for a Channel Islands venue) stage and plenty of room for an audience.

The walls may have been decorated with various posters of old bluesmen, but it gave the place something of an authentic feeling and, while not perfect, certainly had the feel of a venue and was decently appointed as such. Later on, with the lights lowered a few drinking and waiting for the bands, this atmosphere increased further and I can imagine it working great when its packed and the crowd is bouncing.

Sick Men

Sick Men

Having missed soundcheck and only arriving at the venue two minutes before their stage time, opening duo Sick Men took to the stage 15 minutes late and in rushed fashion.

This was, unfortunately, followed something of a false start due to a broken drum pedal so, by the time they got going, they were already fighting a losing battle.

Once they got a little momentum going the drums and electric bass pair had some interesting ideas but they never quite coalesced, while making a joke of their tardiness felt unprofessional, as only one of their friends seemed to get the humour.

While the small but growing audience stayed hanging back they seemed at least appreciative but, doing a noisy rock bass and drums act on the home island of FalenizzaHorsepower is always going to be a risky move and here Sick Men felt just a bit too primitive and unrefined – though showed some promise had things not been so rushed.

With quite a reputation behind I was looking forward to seeing Zoohair, who I have vague memories of seeing a decade or so ago. Certainly their multi-faceted indie rock was delivered with a slick confidence that showed a band with a long history and it was nice to see a band deliver a tight set with no baggy waffle or extended stops for tuning and the like.

Zoohair

Zoohair

While the bass guitar may have been a bit on the quiet side it’s very hard to find much to criticise about the band and they were warmly received by the now somewhat larger audience.

With that however, there wasn’t a lot that stood out either which, combined with some poor lighting that made it hard to see the frontman as he sang, made it a challenge to actively engage with the band and his voice was a little too weak for the musical backing at times.

Over the last couple of years Twice Dead Records have invited a series of bands over the small (but surprisingly expensive) stretch of water between Guernsey and Jersey and, by all accounts, they’ve all gone down very well. Added to that list now are indie-rock three-piece Lifejacket and, while Zoohair may have had the biggest audience, most stayed around for the visitors despite it being only their first gig away from home.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

From the start the difference from the previous bands was as clear as a kick to the chest as Lifejacket launched into their noisy, raging take on indie with a purpose. Having felt somewhat ‘safe’ at their recent outing at Sound Guernsey, something more edgy was back in the feel of the band here. This, combined with their comfort with their older songs and sense of excitement in the new ones, made for one of their most powerful performances in a while.

Guitarist and vocalist Andy Sauvage was on fine form between songs as well as during them, with succinct but entertaining introductions to some numbers (and referencing the recent Islamophobic Guernsey scandal) while during the songs he showed a good dynamic in his vocals.

He and Mox (on the drums) were, necessarily, somewhat rooted to their positions on stage, but bass player John McCarthy seemed more freely moving than ever, giving a visual focus but never over stepping the mark to take away the spotlight when it needed to be elsewhere and, in repositioning his microphone to be able to hear the lone monitor, gave the band a much more gang like image than previously.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

It was clear I wasn’t alone in enjoying the performance as the Guernsey trio received the most enthusiastic audience response of the night and, while it wasn’t a night for a packed dancefloor, many in attendance made a point of saying they would like to them back over soon while picking up copies of Lifejacket’s debut album.

While the crowd could have been bigger, my first experience of The Town House as a venue, and first show in Jersey in several years, was definitely a positive one. While it was Lifejacket who came out on top (not that this was a competition) it was great to get just a small taste of the clearly vibrant and varied music scene the other island has to offer and it would be great to see more pan-island shows spreading the Channel Islands’ music not just from Guernsey to Jersey but coming back the other way as well.

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

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: January 2016 – Robert J Hunter and Flexagon

Robert J. Hunter on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Robert J. Hunter

Click here to listen to the show

A new year on BBC Introducing Guernsey started with a lot of new music spanning everything from folky jangliness to raw hip hop to dirty blues to psytrance.

The dirty blues came from Robert J. Hunter who came into the studio to record a four track acoustic session and tell me about his second album, Before The Dawn, and the release of a pair of new EPs coming up in the very near future.

Flexagon provided the psytrance and Goa style sounds as he told us about his debut album Helios and we premiered a new track of his remixing BLAKALASKA‘s Machine.

As well as that there was new music from Atari, Ukuladeez, Citizen-X and Ramblin’ Nick Mann and we took at listen to the three artists nominated for the Guernsey Ambassador of the Year Award; mura masa, Of Empires and Robyn Sherwell.

Click here to listen to the show or download it on the BBC iPlayer Radio App

Tracklist

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Sound Guernsey present Lifejacket and Lord Vapour – The Venue – 22/01/16

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

After hip-hop and reggae last month and punk-ska and folk-hop the one before, things got undeniably more rocky for the third Sound Guernsey live music event for under-18s as they welcomed stoner rockers Lord Vapour and ‘hard-indie’ troupe Lifejacket to their stage at The Venue.

Lord Vapour started things off with their brand of groove fueled, vintage-tinged, rock and immediately seemed to engage the young crowd getting more than a few heads nodding.

With new songs mixed in with those we’ve been hearing for the best part of the last year they have extended their range somewhat to include a slightly broader mix, but it’s certainly the more groove based tracks that work best compared to more the more heavy metal flavoured numbers.

The trio suited the small stage well with Joe Le Long and Christiaan Mariess really rolling with the rhythm on bass and drums, while Henry Fears lead guitar wailed impressively over the top (though his vocal moments were less impressive).

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

As the set went on the audience began to drift somewhat and I’ll be the first to admit that there were points where Lord Vapour’s sound did get a bit ‘same-y’. At just over an hour their set felt over long no matter how well delivered their lose, semi-improvised, jams were.

Far more to the point were Lifejacket who blasted out of the blocks in their usual intense fashion. Seemingly fuelled by a barely contained ire at the world in general, they too grabbed the attention of the crowd and held it in probably a more sustained way.

With a few newer songs laced through the set the trio were at their slickest tonight and there were points where the performance was almost too slick for its own good, losing a bit of the intensity they have at their best. Nonetheless they gained cheers and applause after every song, I think much to their own surprise given the fact this was an audience most of whom had never had the chance to hear them before.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

Even with the good response the audience remained largely static and maintained a polite distance from the stage. This is something that has come up time and again with regards to many gigs on the island in recent years (with a few notable exceptions) so its hard to tell if the reason for the lack of interaction from the audience is down to this crowd being less experienced gig goers of if it’s just something to do with audiences in Guernsey in general. It could of course be the music, but all of it seemed to be eliciting a strong positive reaction.

Back to Sound Guernsey though and once again both bands put in great performances that were generally well received and  more youngsters seemed to appreciate what they were experiencing than previously (with the notable exceptions of Buffalo Huddleston’s wildly received set a few months back) and the organisers seemed confident they are now reaching the untapped audience of young music that exist on the island.

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Music in Guernsey – Review of the Year 2015

2015 has felt like something of a divided year in music coming from the Bailiwick of Guernsey with a lot happening on the island while a few musicians and bands starting to make their mark and get some recognition in the wider world.

Two names that immediately spring to mind in that regard are Mura Masa and Robyn Sherwell.

Mura Masa

Mura Masa

Mura Masa, aka Alex Crossan, rounded off 2014 with the release of vinyl ‘mixtape’ project Soundtrack To A Death through Jakarta Records but has since gone on to receive airplay and support from Huw Stephens and Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC National Radio as well as starting his own label with distribution through Polydor.

The ‘on air’ features included a live session on Huw’s prime time new music show on BBC Radio 1, as well as being heard around the world on Apple’s new Beats Music platform with tracks from his debut EP proper Someday Somewhere.

This all culminated with being selected by Beats Music as one of their artists to watch in the new year and being named on the BBC Music Sound of 2016 long list (at time of writing the short list has yet to be announced).

You can read my interview with Mura Masa from last January here

Robyn Sherwell also saw a big expansion in recognition over the course of 2015. Early in the year her EP, Islander, surfaced with its title track dedicated to her home island.

Robyn Sherwell at Glastonbury

Robyn Sherwell at Glastonbury

This soon saw her featured by Jo Wiley on BBC Radio 2 (who would follow her closely throughout the year) and helped lead to her securing a spot on the BBC Introducing Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, becoming the first BBC Introducing Guernsey artist to earn that accolade.

With more recordings appearing, the second half of 2015 saw Robyn’s music featured on the trailer to the movie Suffragette starring Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan.

You can read my feature on Robyn’s appearance at Glastonbury here

A few other Guernsey artists also began to make their own strides into the wider world this year.

Following the release of their debut EP, Stranger Sensations, late last year, Of Empires signed a publishing deal with Metropolis Music and spent much of the first half of 2015 working on new material.

Of Empires

Of Empires

This saw them score a support slot on tour with Adam Ant as well as various other shows around London and Brighton and very well received Guernsey shows at the Vale Earth Fair in August and the festival’s Christmas event at The Fermain Tavern.

Robert J. Hunter and his band also made great in roads into the UK releasing two albums over the course of the year, Songs For The Weary in February followed by Before The Dawn in November, as well as completing their first tour of the UK and gigging relentlessly both as a band and solo around London and a few shows in Berlin.

Buffalo Huddleston also received the accolade of being voted Best of British’s Unsigned Band of the Year following a Facebook poll, but more about them later, while The Recks, Static Alice and Flexagon also made appearances off island.

The John Wesley Stone

The John Wesley Stone

Back on home turf most of January was a bit on the quiet side but the Vale Earth Fair’s annual unplugged night started to ramp things up featuring a show stealing, truly unplugged, set from The John Wesley Stone who took their instruments off stage and played up close and personal with the audience.

This was followed by The Get Down doing what they do best and putting on one of the highlight nights of the year in February as they welcomed hip hop legends Blackalicious to The Fermain Tavern and proceeded to not only sell the place out but slay the crowd with beats and rhymes like you couldn’t believe.

February also saw one of Guernsey’s musical prodigal sons, former Jenerator Steven Lynch, return with his new band The Electric Shakes to get The Fermain Tavern rocking and rolling alongside Lifejacket and To The Woods. February at The Fermain Tavern was rounded off by the return to our shores of Rumpus who more than surpassed the nostalgic memories of their Vale Earth Fair appearances.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Having been playing around the island for a few years February marked the launch of the debut album from young pop-punks The Doomsday Project with a special show at The Vault that showed how the four teens had gone from shy youngsters playing their favourite covers at the Rock of Ages nights to a fully fledged band in their own right.

If things weren’t already varied enough only two months in, March was highlighted by a pair of very different shows. First was a visit from Jersey duo Semu Ca, with support from Tantale and Citizen-X, who played excerpts from their new soundtrack for Swedish silent film Haxan at The Fermain Tavern.

Meanwhile live music returned to The Bowl as pop-rockers Static Alice along with Last of the Light Brigade and Chloe Le Page organised the first gig there in many years in hopes of resurrecting it as a venue for all ages.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Live music in the month then rounded off with the debut of Honest Crooks opening a show at The Fermain Tavern and instantly making a mark that would see them go on to garner quite a following as the year went on.

Guernsey music also took a step into the national limelight in March as BBC Introducing Guernsey took up residency on BBC Radio 1 for a week giving a selection of musicians the chance of getting heard by a much wider audience and letting the outside world have a view into our unique scene.

April got going with an Easter Sunday special at The Fermain Tavern with Last of the Light Brigade, Lifejacket, To The Woods and Isabelle Sheil. The following weekend saw legendary, genre-defying, band The Blockheads follow in their comrade Wilko Johnson’s footsteps by playing a storming set at a packed Tav to help Space Pirate Chris Denton celebrate his birthday – that’s quite a way to have a birthday party!

Lord Vapour at The Vault

Lord Vapour

Having released an EP at the very end of 2014, stoner hard rock band Lord Vapour made their live debut with a mid-week ‘showcase’ show at The Vault and proceeded to not only start off a series of gigs that spanned venues and islands across the rest of the year, but also show how surprisingly good the small St. Peter Port venue can be for seriously heavy music.

Liberation Day in May has become renowned for its live music events and 2015 was no different with it all being highlighted by the JT Rocks stage in St Peter Port.

As well as featuring great sets from Static Alice, Asylum Seekas, Fade2Grey and King Rat & The Soul Cats it marked the return to the stage of Sark based outfit The Recks (with new drummer Mox) and the beginning of what was to be something of a special run for Buffalo Huddleston.

The Recks on Liberation Day 2015

The Recks

And of course it really marked the beginning of the Bailiwick’s big outdoor, summer music events.

Back indoors and a personal highlight was the visit to the island of Eureka Machines, a band I’ve been following for a number of years, who played a great set to a disappointingly small audience but seemed to have a great time doing so regardless.

May came to a close with a double-header of Fermain Tavern gigs spanning everything from folky murder ballads to rock ‘n’ roll to doom metal as Brunt, Tantale, Lord Vapour and Gregory Harrison kicked off the weekend while The Recks, Ray & The Guns, Blue Mountains and Citizen-X closed it.

The outdoor shows continued in June with the first BBC Introducing Guernsey live stage at Arts Sunday featuring Rentoclean, Blue Mountains, Buffalo Huddleston and Chloe Le Page while the month was rounded off by the annual Chaos Festival.

Robert J Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

Now into its second decade this year’s event had many stand out moments from the return of a much more confident and assured Robert J. Hunter headlining the first night to Buffalo Huddleston stealing the show in The Peace Tent in a way that became their calling card wherever they went for the rest of the year.

Other highlights of the festival were To The Woods and The Electric Shakes on the Friday night, Lord Vapour on Saturday afternoon and The Recks and Jersey’s Flashmob closing the weekend out in fine style on the Sunday.

The following weekend many of Guernsey’s musicians and fans decamped to Sark, along with many visitors, for the Sark Folk Festival which, once again, was a special event in the way only it can be.

For me this was the year the locals really stole the show from the bigger visiting names with Robert J. Hunter again putting in a special performance, The Recks mixing things up with a host of new songs (and an epic Led Zeppelin cover) and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine closing the show with one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from them.

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

The weekend though belonged (once again) to Buffalo Huddleston who packed the Vermerette Stage tent and had seemingly everyone singing (and dancing) along, so much so the side of the tent had to be opened to allow more people to get in on the show.

Away from the festivals July continued with the release of the debut EP from Blakalaska, Machine, accompanied by a launch gig at The Fermain Tavern with support from Jersey’s Falenizza Horsepower who put in a genuinely unique performance. This was followed by a disappointing visit to the island by a version of 60s band The Animals (though missing pretty much every crucial member of the band).

With the festivals being an opportune time for it a few more bands put out albums and EPs in July with Ukuladeez releasing their Cosmic Tea Party EP and Blue Mountains’ debut LP dropping around the time of the folk festival as the month was rounded off by the Vale Earth Fair’s annual jaunt to the Rocquaine Regatta.

The Recks

The Recks

Over the first weekend of August The Recks undertook a tour of the Channel Islands taking in Sark, Guernsey and Jersey with visiting support act Markuz. While slated as an album release tour the record failed to materialise but that didn’t stop the band and their various support acts putting on some great shows.

This came alongside performances at The Isle of Wight Festival, Boomtown, Jersey’s Folklore Festival, Guernsey’s North Show and even a set in Herm across the summer before, somewhat surprisingly, the Sark based quintet announced their split in December.

While a smaller event on paper, the return of Gay Army to the stage always had the potential to be something special and, along with Ray & The Guns at The Vault it was just that with many hailing it as one of the gigs of the year and I’d be hard pressed to argue that it wasn’t up there with them.

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons

A very busy August continued with the release of Stone Em All’s Villains EP with probably their best live outing to date at The Vault while the month culminated with the island’s longest running festival the Vale Earth Fair on the bank holiday weekend.

With the main stage highlights for me coming from Thee Jenerators and Of Empires it was The Stage Against The Machine’s line up that stole the show this year, particularly closing triumvirate of Lifejacket, visitors Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons and To The Woods, but many others as well.

Lifejacket continued their run of great shows supporting the release of physical editions of their debut album at a special charity show at The Vault in September alongside Paper Saints, To The Woods and Ollie Goddard. The Guernsey Literary Festival once again presented a night mixing spoken word and music as they welcomed Neil Innes to The Fermain Tavern with Ushti Baba and Buffalo Huddleston while my September was rounded off with a visit to London to see The Wildhearts (not a Guernsey gig but a highlight for me).

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

October started out with the third visit of the year from The Electric Shakes, this time playing alongside Gay Army and Ray & The Guns at The Fermain Tavern and it continued with To The Wood unleashing not only their debut album, but its follow-up EP as well and what was, by all accounts, a standout night of live music on Halloween, though I missed this through attending gigs from Ghost and Tiger Army somewhat further afield.

Following hot on the heels of To The Woods, November saw more records being released with Static Alice launching their new EP with a show at The Vault, while Thee Jenerators dropped their latest, The Devil’s Chords, in a special vinyl edition and Tantale’s second album, Just Add Vice, emerged alongside a series of showcase gigs, including supporting Grant Sharkey.

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

London hard-blues duo The Graveltones also hit the island with support from SugarSlam, Chloe Le Page and Jersey’s Tadhg Daly, while a new series of gigs specifically for under-18s launched under the name Sound Guernsey at The Venue with Honest Crooks and Buffalo Huddleston.

December was all about Christmas party shows with the Vale Earth Fair staging a double-header at The Fermain Tavern featuring Rentoclean, Tantale and To The Woods on the first night and Honest Crooks, Of Empires and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine on the second with Of Empires stealing the show to cap off an excellent year for them.

Asylum Seekas

Asylum Seekas

Meanwhile Sound Guernsey’s second event was their Christmas special introducing youngsters to Toby Falla, Rentoclean and Asylum Seekas. A couple of albums also surfaced as the year came to a close with the debut from Flexagon gaining quite a following online and newcomers Wondergeist releasing their first record, somewhat out of the blue, too.

Undeniably 2015 has been a packed one for music from the islands but, as it draws to a close, it would hard not to admit that there is a feeling that what gets refered to as Guernsey’s music ‘scene’ is in something of a state of flux. Where it all goes from here is anyone’s guess but with the quality of music being produced I hope more can connect with the wider audience it deserves. Buffalo Huddleston have proved they can connect with a crossover audience and it will just take a few of that crowd to explore a little deeper and things could really take off…

I don’t normally do these but thought I would this year, based on what I’ve seen and experienced, here are a few highlights by category…

Band of the YearBuffalo Huddleston
Festival Stage/Event of the YearThe Peace Tent/Stage Against The Machine
Newcomers of the YearHonest Crooks
Set of the YearBuffalo Huddleston at Sark Folk Festival
Record of the YearLifejacket – Let’s Get This Out Of Our System And Move On
Visiting Band of the YearPussycat & The Dirty Johnsons

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2015 – Elliot Falla Session and Vale Earth Fair Review

Elliot Falla

Elliot Falla in session

Click here to listen to the show

With the 2015 summer festival season coming to an end for the September edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I looked back on the islands’ longest running festival, the Vale Earth Fair.

We spoke to Of Empires, To The Woods and main stage compere Grant Sharkey and had music from Lifejacket, Thee Jenerators and Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons as well.

As well as that Elliot Falla came into the studio to record an acoustic session and tell me about his debut EP.

You can download to the show for the next four weeks on the BBC iPlayer Radio App or stream it through the iPlayer website but clicking here.

Tracklist

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