Tag Archives: lifejacket

Pride of Guernsey awards – 07/10/17

Pride of Guernsey awardsLast night I attended my second Pride of Guernsey awards ceremony after being nominated, for the second year in a row, for the Moonpig Arts Contribution Of The Year Award.

For some context the awards are run by The Guernsey Press to celebrate people in the local community in a range of categories from Overcoming Adversity to Parish Champion to Young Achiever.

Following my nomination last year by Andy from Lifejacket and this year by Dan from Jawbone I was announced as a finalist, alongside Martin Cordall and Glenn Drake – longstanding musical director the Guernsey Youth Theatre (amongst other things) and charity choir leader respectively – following a public vote.

Pride of Guernsey medalThen, in a moment of complete surprise, I was announced as winner of the award for 2017 at the ceremony at the Guernsey Press offices.

Anyway, that’s the back story and it comes at the end of a pretty big week for what I do through BBC Introducing as it’s marked nine years of the BBC Introducing Guernsey radio show and ten years of BBC Introducing nationally.

I can’t remember exactly what I said by way of an acceptance speech but this is a rough summary of what I can (and what I wanted to say), and really I just want to thank anyone who voted for me and all the great bands and musicians working over here without whom I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, write about or otherwise promote.

“First of all thanks to Dan from Jawbone for nominating me this year and if you want to see some great punk rock go check them out, they’re the best doing it over here right now.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me but really what this is all about, and what what I do is all about, is promoting the unsigned, undiscovered, under the radar (that’s the slogan) music being made in the islands and obviously I couldn’t do that without the bands, musicians and artists making it.

Guernsey’s always had more than its share of great live music, since The Roberts Brothers back in the 60s through Ponders End, The Risk, The Pulse, Crunchy Frog, Hobo Sounds, Mechanical Lobster to Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks, Mura Masa and so many more, there’s so much great music being made that deserves to be heard, and there’s loads of gigs on tonight and every weekend so go out there and experience it – when we’re done here, go to a show!

Thanks!”

If you want to check out what BBC Introducing Guernsey is all about the best place to go is the Facebook page by clicking here

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Guernsey’s Summer Festival Season 2017

Jupiter and Okwess at the Vale Earth Fair

Jupiter and Okwess on the Castle Stage at Vale Earth Fair

With the autumnal weather setting in and music events moving back into the island’s indoor venues, I think its safe to say as we move into October that Guernsey’s ever-growing summer festival season has come to an end.

As with every year it seems more and more events are labelling themselves as festivals or have that feeling of big, outdoor, events that typifies the British and European style of music festival; from the long running likes of the Vale Earth Fair to the House On Herm events or the food and drink ‘festivals’ that often feature live musical entertainment.

This year’s festival season began, as it is prone to, with Liberation Day on 9th May.

The Recks

The Recks

While the Vale Earth Fair were part of the now customary street party in St Andrews, the ‘official’ side of the celebrations in St Peter Port came in the form of LibRock 2017 on the Albert Pier.

Like last year this event showcased not just big names like The Devotees, The Recks and Clameur De Haro, but also gave a chance to some of the island’s younger bands to appear in front of a bigger crowd, namely Unclassified and Problematic.

Read my review of LibRock

The Guernsey Literary Festival was next on the list and that featured a night of live music and poetry at The Fermain Tavern before Guernsey Arts Commission‘s Arts Sunday took over the St Peter Port Seafront.

Tantale on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Tantale

As it has every year Arts Sunday featured about as much live music as it was possible to fit in from the young performers of The School of Popular Music and the Thirst Music School, to a selection of established performers staged by The Vault, to the BBC Introducing Guernsey Stage that was curated to showcase some of the artists featured and championed by BBC Introducing in the islands including Blue Mountains, Buff Hudd, The Recks, Tantale and Thee Jenerators.

Read my review of BBC Introducing Guernsey at Arts Sunday

The first of the big, fully fledged music festivals of the year came at the end of June with the 13th happening of the Chaos Weekend (generally these days shortened to simply, Chaos).

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

After a few up and down years this year’s felt very much back to its past prime with a few visiting headliners such as Graveyard Johnnys and Johnny Cage & The Voodoogroove, sharing the stage with the best rock bands Guernsey has to offer like Heave, Static Alice and SugarSlam, while The Peace Tent showcased everything from New Zealand folk duo Great North to the doom rock of Brunt to Flexagon‘s brand of psytrance.

Read my review of Chaos Voodoo 13

While I skipped this year’s Sark Folk Festival in favour of the British Summer Time event in Hyde Park featuring Green Day, Rancid, The Living End and more, the big live music events continued throughout July with the Sound Guernsey School’s Out Party, the School Of Popular Music Summer Showcase and a Vale Earth Fair Fundraiser before the main event itself.

Honest Crooks at the Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

This year the Vale Earth Fair was marking 41 years and did so with one of the most stacked line ups in some time. The main stage was headlined by Chali 2Na & Krafty Kuts, Jupiter & Okwess and Jah Wobble & The Invaders of the Heart with the local side represented by The Recks, Robert J. Hunter, SugarSlam and more. Meanwhile outside the Vale Castel The Honest Crooks headlined with Lifejacket, Near Bliss and more.

Read my review of the Vale Earth Fair

In past years the festival season has really come to an end with the Vale Earth Fair but last year and this its extended well into September, not only is there Smaashfest but the Sark Roots Festival has quickly grown into something that feels like an established event.

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

This year the event grew from last year’s first to feature a mix of bands from Guernsey and Jersey along with visiting acts from the UK and even New Zealand highlighted by Buffalo Huddleston, The Honest Crooks and The Surfin’ Birds.

Read my review of Sark Roots Festival

With plenty more going on besides, from The Rocquaine Regatta to the North Show and more, its fair to say summer in the islands is about as packed as it can be with events with a strong musical presence that serve to highlight quite how spoilt we are for new music in the islands.

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Vale Earth Fair 2017 – Vale Castle – 27/08/17

Jupiter and Okwess at the Vale Earth Fair

Jupiter and Okwess on the Castle Stage

For its 41st year the Vale Earth Fair once again took over the Vale Castle over the bank holiday weekend at the end of August with six stages of music across 12 hours.

Not only that but this year’s event spread onto the Saturday with Sound Guernsey presenting some of the island’s newer and younger talent on the same main stage.

With visiting headliners like Chali 2na & Krafty Kuts, Jah Wobble & The Invaders of the Heart and Jupiter & Okwess sharing a stage with favourites from the island like The Recks, Robert J. Hunter and SugarSlam the festival was one of the most varied yet.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 2nd September 2017 and you can read the full version of it below the cutting and you can see a full set of photos on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Vale Earth Fair review - 02/09/17

Full review

The Crowman at Vale Earth Fair

The Crowman

While the Channel Islands has more than its fair share of music festivals spanning rock, pop, dance, folk, classical, jazz and more it’s hard to argue that the longest running is generally the most varied. Whether you want dub reggae, psytrance, gypsy jazz swing, indie rock or more, the 41st Vale Earth Fair was one of the most diverse festivals the islands have seen in recent memory.

Of course with six stages it would be impossible to even come close to seeing everything so, I’ve focussed simply on what I saw on my meandering path through the 12-hour-long event, mostly focussing on the main ‘Castle’ stage and the Viewalalu (formerly the ‘Stage Against the Machine’ ‘outside’, ‘Discharge’ or ‘free’ depending on your vintage) stage.

Starting as they meant to go on the Castle stage got underway with the Channel Island’s finest purveyor of steampunk garage folk, The Crowman and his Crowband.

Joined today by Holly ‘Gotta Hotrod’ Hollingsworth on banjolele and Tinshack on guitar and kazoo, The Crowman warmed up the crowd with a light-hearted and enjoyable set drawing on his three albums.

While it all went a bit chaotic in places the trio dealt with it all in a lighthearted manner and both band and audience had a great time, especially as the band pulled out two of their most surreal flights of fancy, The Adventures of Captain Brown and the brilliantly deranged Pimbo.

SugarSlam at Vale Earth Fair

SugarSlam

While their set may have felt somewhat early (they filled in a short notice) SugarSlam didn’t let that phase them as their energetic power pop rock was a refreshing blast on the Earth Fair’s main stage.

Following old classic Psychobabble the veteran band drew mostly from their soon to be released new album and its hard to argue with their infectious and upbeat presence, especially on a big stage like this.

As the set closed with Sacred Hearts’ Mark Le Gallez joining them for a lose and fun take on that band’s Adorable, and the sun blazed down in uncharacteristic fashion, the stage was set for an undeniably upbeat and energetic day of music.

While Le Quartette brought some pop classical vibes to the Viewalalu Stage the Busking Stage, this year looking even more like someone’s living room than before (can we get a list of some of those book titles Greg?), welcomed Paul Sharod of The Surfin’ Birds, or more accurately a motley selection of various members of the Weymouth based band.

Squidhead at the Vale Earth Fair

Squidhead

Despite being a little worse for wear from the Earth Fair warm up gig the previous night there was a lot of fun being had with Sharod delivering some bluesy rock ’n’ roll before Squidhead (not named for the squid shaped hat he was wearing) playing some fun, acoustic tunes, unsurprisingly often about having a drink, while the audience relaxed in the sun doing just that.

As Buff Hudd drew a big crowd to the Viewalalu for his acoustic folk-hop stylings the first act from ‘the other island’ took to the Castle Stage.

Hot Plastic combined drum machine rhythms with live guitar, bass and vocals to create a kind of infectious and powerful pop-rock that went down a storm in the already busy castle.

For one track they went a bit bluesy as they were joined by Robert J. Hunter who’s band were up next.

Robert J. Hunter at the Vale Earth Fair

Robert J. Hunter

Its been a while since I’ve had the chance to catch Rob’s band and, with this being their second of three festivals in two days, their dirty blues was bigger and tighter than ever, before they hopped on a rib to play the Hackett Hoedown in Jersey!

The other festival was The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Lancashire on Saturday, and from what I heard the hard touring is paying off.

After The Phantom Cosmonaut had a great time making a noise on Viewalalu, Jawbone brought scrappy punk rock to the stage outside the castle with all the punchy, high energy, craziness we’d expect, reconstructed bionic collar bones and all…

The party really started to get going back in the Castle with some excellent dub-y ska from UK visitors Tree House Fire who seemed custom-made for getting the Earth Fair crowd moving before The Recks, making a triumphant return to the Earth Fair, continued the trend.

The Recks at the Vale Earth Fair

The Recks

After a more down and dirty outing at the warm up show the previous night the genre and geography defying five-piece kicked off strong and smooth.

As the set went on they seemed slightly derailed before launching into less frequently heard old favourite Trainwreck, but by closer Lights they were back on track to close out one of the day’s highlight sets.

While the Viewalalu has become the festival’s often more ‘out there’ or esoteric stage, a visiting act from Jersey outdid all previous expectations.

Looking like a deranged circus had invaded, The Crack defied explanation as the face painted, gorilla costumed, nun’s habit wearing (a ‘Crack habit’, geddit?) group ran through a set of cabaret sounding, music hall madness that ran from King of the Swingers to Agado (complete with fully interactive crowd dancing) that was infectiously enjoyable if maybe a bit too bizarre to experience when unprepared.

Usually the Vale Earth Fair features one or maybe two stand out headline acts, but this year, to my mind, it looked like there were three filling the evening on the Castle Stage.

Jah Wobble at the Vale Earth Fair

Jah Wobble

While their music was about as varied as you’re likely to find sharing a stage anywhere, as a microcosm of the festival’s diversity they are an excellent example, to my mind it was the first who was the most familiar; Jah Wobble, along with his band The Invaders of the Heart.

Having made his name as one of the original members of John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd (PiL), Wobble (aka John Wardle) has since explored world music with The Invaders and it was this heady mix of ambient, dub-y sounds we were treated to.

While I have to admit the music didn’t grab me on a personal level, and from what I heard the lead guitar was a little overbearing, the crowd were loving it with many decreeing Wobble and co not just the highlight of this year’s events but of all Earth Fairs, and who am I to argue with that.

Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo Jupiter & Okwess continued the world music vibes with hints of rock and were the second of the days acts to get the ‘best Earth Fair band ever’ judgement from many of the long-standing festival goers as they kept the crowd hot and moving as the warm evening rolled on.

Chali2na and Krafty Kuts at the Vale Earth Fair

Chali2na and Krafty Kuts

This all culminated with the arrival of hip-hop legend Chali 2na, along with ace DJ and co-conspirator Krafty Kuts.

While Kuts music provided the back drop and had the crowd going off from the start, Chali 2na’s presence, personality and rhymes filled the big stage and provided the Guernsey audience with something the likes of which most would never have experienced on our little rock (save the privileged few who caught him at a special Get Down night a couple of years back).

This all closed the night on the Castle Stage on a massive high that pushes the best the Earth Fair has ever offered.

While all that was going on the Viewalalu Stage kept things, mostly, closer to home and more rocking.

The Surfin' Birds at the Vale Earth Fair

The Surfin’ Birds

The Surfin’ Birds added a second guitarist since the previous night’s warm up show which developed the band’s more psychedelic side along with the garage rock ’n’ roll and they got the audience rocking along from the start.

Once again it was hard to avoid their infectious energy with drummer Liam Sharod again providing a few highlight drum solos, particularly on South Coast Stomp.

As the set went on though their long weekend of gigging (and associated extracurricular activities) started to take their toll and they drifted just the wrong side of the ‘rock ’n’ roll chaos’ line meaning their set didn’t end on the high it might have as Surfin’ Bird fell into disarray.

After a rapid turn around Guernsey indie rock favourites Lifejacket launched into their set and the usually tight and precise band seemed a little loser than normal which combined with a few technical difficulties to make for one of their more challenging outings.

Lifejacket at the Vale Earth Fair

Lifejacket

Despite that there were moments where they pulled it together and kept the audience on side, even if they didn’t play one of the songs most often ‘requested’ of them (I think I side with frontman Andy Sauvage in thinking that joke has run its course), but Lifejacket survived, albeit slightly more battered by the experience than they would have liked.

Another swift switch around brought Honest Crooks to the stage, standing in after the last-minute cancellation of the announced headliners, but that didn’t seem to matter to the audience one bit as they got skanking right away.

With new covers thrown in amongst the originals and a new aspect brought to some of their material now that Naomi Burton’s sax and keys have found their place in the band, the Crooks proved once again why they are one of the biggest things in Guernsey music right now.

Honest Crooks at the Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

This was all brought to close by Near Bliss inciting a mosh pit with their chaotic take on the music of Nirvana.

While a band is never going to recreate the magical presence and charisma of that Seattle trio, Near Bliss captured the spirit of the close of the Earth Fair well as things descended into a kind of anarchy generally only seen on our shores once a year.

For its 41st year the Vale Earth Fair felt reinvigorated and refreshed with bigger crowds, bigger atmosphere and a growth on its already diverse line up showing once again why this remains at the top of the Channel Island festival season.

You can see more of my photos from the Vale Earth Fair on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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BBC Introducing in Guernsey: August 2017 – Le Quesne, Alderney Week and Festival Previews

Le Quesne, aka Tyler Edmonds, on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Le Quesne, aka Tyler Edmonds, on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Click here to listen to the show

For the August 2017 edition of BBC Introducing in Guernsey I welcomed into the studio an artist who we’ve featured since the shows inception who is taking things in a new direction.

I also heard from two of the bands who headed to our northern most outpost for Alderney Week and having a look ahead to the final festivals of the season.

I first featured Tyler Edmonds music in the show’s early days when he was (as he still is) leader of Last of the Light Brigade (previously known as No Ambition and Stratosfear) but now he has released his first solo record under the name of Le Quesne – he joined me this month for an interview and a live session.

Also on the show we heard from Robert J. Hunter and The Recks who, along with others, performed earlier in the month as part of Alderney Week.

And I took ahead to the Vale Earth Fair and Sark Roots Festival which round off this years festival season which now stretches right into September.

You can listen to the show by clicking here

Tracklist

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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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