Tag Archives: live music

BBC Introducing Guernsey: June 2017 – Arts Sunday Lookback

The Recks at Arts Sunday

The Recks at Arts Sunday

Click here to listen to the show

Earlier in the month BBC Introducing Guernsey held its third live event with a stage as part of Guernsey Arts Commission’s Arts Sunday event on the St Peter Port seafront (read the review of that event).

So for the June edition of the radio show I featured tracks recorded live on the day from Thee JeneratorsThe RecksTANTALEBuff Hudd and Blue Mountain (along with a little preview of Hummingbird, the new EP from the folk duo).

Not only that but we had music from a couple of bands playing national festivals; Of Empires who recently played The Isle Of Wight and Mt. Wolf who were playing at Glastonbury and we had a look ahead to next weekend’s Sark Folk Festival.

You can listen to the show on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Tracklist

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BBC Introducing Guernsey live at Arts Sunday – St Peter Port – 04/06/17

The Recks on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

The Recks

With the seafront in St Peter Port thronging with people BBC Introducing in Guernsey added a unique mix of new sounds to Guernsey Arts Commission’s Arts Sunday event for a third year.

As folk trio Blue Mountains took to the stage a crowd had already gathered and they weren’t disappointed.

Fresh from recording a new EP (due out in the coming weeks) the band’s set was drawn mostly from this new material and started the day off in fine fashion.

That new EP’s title track, Hummingbird,was again a highlight as was their take on Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl.

Blue Mountains on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Blue Mountains

While the set was darkly soulful in places, as we’ve come to expect, it provided a relaxed start to the day and as the sun shone they held an audience and seemed to attract some new fans as well.

While the name may be similar to his full band, Buffalo Huddleston’s leader Mike Meinke, aka Buff Hudd, brings a very different dynamic with his solo performances.

Playing a more percussive style of acoustic guitar, creating both rhythm and melody he held the audience enraptured even in this busy atmosphere.

Buff Hudd on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Buff Hudd

Despite the attention to detail of the style, his performance remained upbeat and relaxed and was highlighted by a very impressive version of recent single Don’t Worry Yourself delivered in Japanese and the genuinely unique Monolimbtastic, written to be played even if the performer has a broken left wrist.

While the first two acts had been on the more low-key side of things the energy was soon kicked up several gears by Tantale.

Fresh off a UK tour the four-piece seemed more focussed than ever leading to one of the best sets I’ve seen from them. 

With new material mixed in with the old they wrangled their epic psychedelic side in with their driving grunge rock and seemed to grab a crowd largely unfamiliar with their music and keep the engaged throughout.

Tantale on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Tantale

Amongst the well-known tracks they also slotted in a few new songs suggesting more of the same great sounds in the follow-up to Just Add Vice.

The energy jumped up again as The Recks took to the stage, newly revived after a string of shows in Guernsey and Jersey including Reasons and Liberation Day, they attracted the biggest crowd of the afternoon.

It was clear some in the audience weren’t familiar with the band but many quickly got into the sounds and discovered a lot to like in the fusion of folk, jazz, indie and psychedelia (and even a little disco) flying from the stage.

The Recks on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

The Recks

New song She’s A Revelator has quickly become a standout track and was again here while the likes of She Wants That Too had people singing along to the chorus as the enigmatic quintet provided a musical highlight of the day.

After a brief shower that did little to dampen the atmosphere along the seafront Thee Jenerators hit the stage with a nonstop blast of their typically erratic and raucous garage rock that began with City At Night and ended 45 minutes or so later with Daddy Bones with barely a breath taken throughout. 

The set was packed with favourites new and old with bandleader Mark Le Gallez a constantly moving bundle of nervous energy driving them onward.

Thee Jenerators on the BBC Introducing stage

Thee Jenerators

While it’s probably true to say a sunny afternoon outside isn’t Thee Jenerators natural habitat, they didn’t seem to let that deter them and, as all the other acts did, held a fair-sized crowd throughout with a mix of longtime fans and those hearing them from the first time.

As the seafront began to clear and the various stalls and stages that lined it and the piers were packed away, there was a sense that both with this stage, and the event as a whole, Arts Sunday had once again created a genuinely celebratory atmosphere with music at the heart of it.

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

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

Static Alice

Static Alice

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

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

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

Common Room

Common Room

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

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

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

track not found

track not found

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

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

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

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

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

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

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

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

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

Static Alice

Static Alice

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

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

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

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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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LibRock 2017 – Albert Pier, St Peter Port – 09/05/17

The Recks

The Recks

Once again live music was at the core of the Liberation Day celebrations for 2017.

As well as events all over the island the ‘official’ part came with Centre Stage Guernsey’s LibRock 2017 on the Albert Pier on the St Peter Port seafront with music from The Devotees, The Recks, Clameur De Haro, The Silverados, Problematic and Unclassified.

My review of the show was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 13th May, you can read it below with an extended version underneath that, and you can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Liberation Day press cutting 13/05/17

Full Review

The Devotees

The Devotees

Liberation Day has changed.

I remember a day of the St. Peter Port seafront being packed with people, plenty for everyone to do (yes including the controversial ‘fun’ fair) and a real atmosphere and feeling that ‘everyone was here’.

As I made my way along the seafront from North Beach this year though this was not the case. All there seemed to be as an ‘attraction’ were a series of stalls selling locally made gifts and novelties, most of which you can see any given Sunday in the same place over the summer.

Unclassified

Unclassified

Thankfully though something else existed behind this celebration of arts and crafts mediocrity – on the arm of the Albert Pier there was the chance of something genuinely celebratory…

As with last year Centre Stage kicked off their LibRock event with a pair of younger bands.

Unclassified were making their first foray into the world of big public performances and, with their harmonies and varied instrumentation gained the attention of those gathering on the pier.

Though it seemed a little masked by nerves, singer Louise Madden had a good sense of stage presence that grew as the set went on ending on a high point medley of songs including Blondie’s Call Me and Queen’s We Will Rock You.

Problematic

Problematic

Still young but more experienced, Problematic continue to come on in leaps and bounds and demonstrated that again.

Frontman and bass player Harvey Falla showed a nice streak of presence and performance which was excellently counterpointed by guitarist Harvey Page looking aloof and cool behind his shades, in just the way a teen rock ‘n’ roller should.

With original songs standing up along side covers of the likes of Slaves and Royal Blood the trio made a big sound with some great raucous moments and hints of real power.

The rock n roll continued, in a slightly different vein, with The Silverados slick, fun, rockabilly-pop.

Monty McMonagle of The Silverados

Monty of The Silverados

While they took a couple of songs to warm up (both literally and figuratively I imagine given the north-east wind) they were soon rolling along well and started to get the first few memebers of the crowd dancing.

Their best moments came with excellently reworked versions of Eurythmics Sweet Dreams and Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars before climaxing with The Stray Cats Rumble In Brighton which always suits a sunny seaside show (though I didn’t see any actual rumbling tonight) and as ever guitarist Monty McMonagle’s was a twang-tastic highlight.

With the beer tent finally open and the crowd starting to ‘warm up’ a little, Clameur De Haro brought their eccentric brand of hillbilly rock to the stage.

It didn’t take long for the growing crowd to start filling the space in front of the stage and for more to get dancing, with many singing along not only to the classic rock covers from the likes of Queen, Black Sabbath and Van Halen, but the band’s own songs too which they seem to have custom-built for a fun and rowdy singalong.

Bob and Rich Klein of Clameur De Haro

Bob and Rich of Clameur De Haro

Clameur De Haro are perfect for a day like this and, in their own slightly ramshackle way, provided one of the two highlight sets.

Since their return at the end of last year The Recks had struggled somewhat to rediscover what I can only describe as their ‘mojo’ but tonight, following an outing at the Reasons festival in Jersey a couple of weekend’s ago, it was all back.

The five piece meandered their way through their set of typically ‘schizophrenic psychedelic’ sounds that spanned everything from indie rock to latin rhythms.

Lovers In The Night started it out and got the audience dancing and singing and that only grew more as they played through both well-known songs like recent single Low Life and In The Garden and brand new songs She Ain’t No Revelator and Parisian Stupor.

Richey Powers of The Recks

Richey Powers of The Recks

The new songs managed to catch the imagination right away with Parisian Stupor bringing those latin rhythms to the fore in a way that at once sounded like one of guitarist/banjo player Gregory Harrison’s solo songs and a Recks song rolled into one in the best of ways.

While the cold weather may have removed a bit of the sweaty, visceral thrill The Recks have often brought to The Fermain Tavern, they reached a crescendo with Train Wreck, Valentine and Lights re-staking their claim as one of the best bands the islands have to offer.

After the traditional fireworks veteran favourites The Devotees hit the stage with a bang!

Chris Dean of The Devotees

Chris Dean of The Devotees

Unfortunately the bang was one of the stage amps blowing a fuse, but, after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing from the crew (who did a great job all day), things were soon back up and running and Chris Dean and his band treated us to a rousing set of songs spanning from The Who to Pulp and back again.

For the crowd who stayed out braving the cold it may as well have been a festival as they jumped around and sang along with glee.

For the final salvo the band were joined on stage by Sons of the Desert’s brass section for some expanded tracks including a great take on The Who’s 5:15 from Quadrophenia, Chelsea Dagger and Parklife while The Jam’s Town Called Malice brought Liberation Day 2017 to an upbeat close that almost made you forget the disappointment of the rest of the official ‘celebrations’.

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Guernsey Gigs presents Thee Jenerators, Joe Young and The Bandits and Silas The Assyrian Assassin – The Fermain Tavern – 06/05/17

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

With a bank holiday last weekend and another coming up next week with Liberation Day, it was hard to escape the feeling of this being something of a limbo weekend, but, thanks to Guernsey Gigs, there was the hope of rock ‘n’ roll salvation at The Fermain Tavern.

The night started off in slightly more sedate fashion than that though with the acoustic punk stylings of Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Silas combined aspects of his past work fronting some the islands most notable punk bands of the last decade with hints of the ranting poetry style of Attila the Stockbroker but all in package that looked constantly on the verge of collapse.

Following a full play of The A-Team theme tune, his performance tonight seemed a little lacking in the energy and spirit of his best ones. That said it was still entertaining enough with the usual grace notes like fumbling with a folded up set list still working well.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Musically it was as you’d expect with highlights coming with Trust Fund Anarchist, Interesting Facts and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while we didn’t get the full song, Boozing’s My Religion started out as a nice play on the REM classic.

By the end of the set, an improbable cover of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up with Stace Blondel providing backing vocals from the audience, it had picked up a little and it remained entertaining but I couldn’t help but think Silas really needs a more intimate space and engaged audience to really be properly effective.

Styles couldn’t have shifted much more next as Jersey four-piece Joe Young & The Bandits launched us through a time warp into the 1970s for a set of hard rocking power blues.

While I found it hard to engage with their performance there was no denying how well they evoked the sounds and styles of the likes of Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin, et al, but through a set of convincingly created original songs.

Frontman Martin o’Neill (there is no actual Joe Young) was nicely energetic (when he wasn’t stood frustratingly with his back to the audience) though there were moments that felt a little too much like Tenacious D, but in the throwback context they worked ok.

Joe Young & The Bandits

Joe Young & The Bandits

Bass player Eddie Laffoley meanwhile was the most naturally energetic on stage and even put in some nice vocal performances in a few tracks. Of course a band like this wins or loses with its guitarist and Greg Alliban more than lived up to expectations with his playing, but again I found it hard to find a connection with the performance.

Joe Young & The Bandits may be a barrage of cliché but it’s hard to ignore the head nodding groove they invoked, even if it was nothing I hadn’t heard a hundred times before.

After a short break Thee Jenerators took to the stage for the first time in a good while and, to start with, it looked like the good but not great feel of the night was going to continue as the band ran through a few of their newer songs.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

As soon as they launched into Fight The Power from their Jenerator X debut though things seemed to kick up several gears and never let up as we experienced possibly the most powerful garage punk assault this version of the band have produced to date.

While there were moments throughout the set where each band member seemed to lose their thread a little they didn’t let that slow them down as they powered through a selection of songs spanning their whole time together from Mystery Man to  French Disco to Yellow Fruit Pastille to Daddy Bones and got most of the small audience onto the dance floor.

With three encores culminating with a version of Bela Lugosi that verged on completely falling apart, Thee Jenerators put in a set that ended up showing them as the cathartic force of nature they are at their best and, as frontman Mark Le Gallez pointed out, there may not be many bands like this left around these days but we’re glad of those that there are, and I’m very glad there’s Thee Jenerators.

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

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

Jawbone

Jawbone

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

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

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

Track Not Found

Track Not Found

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

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

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

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

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

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

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

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

Steve of Jawbone

Steve of Jawbone

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

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

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

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

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

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

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

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Acoustic Night with Blue Mountains, Mick Le Huray, Richey Powers and Llewellyn Van Eeden – The Fermain Tavern – 08/04/17

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

After a jam night and an international Folk Americana night, Guernsey Gigs continued their run of shows at The Fermain Tavern by inviting four acoustic acts on to the stage. Spanning veterans of the scene to new performers the night featured a mix of sounds, once again in a relaxed ‘club’ style setting.

First up was Llewellyn Van Eeden. Having played open mic nights and a few smaller gigs including a set on the busking stage at last year’s Vale Earth Fair, this was only my second chance to catch him play and, for the most part, it was an enjoyable performance.

With a blues feel to the majority of his set, Van Eeden added a nice abrasive edge that didn’t feel forced to a fairly standard sound.

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Adding a harmonica to a few songs rounded it off, albeit in still standard way, and, combined with a relatively easy-going nature on stage, made for a nice way to start the night.

Later in the set we were treated to a folkier song in Afrikaans before the set closed on a pair of what can only be described as ‘pirate folk’ that, while a little novelty, were good fun and went down very well with the audience.

While better known as frontman of psychedelic folk beast The Recks, Richey Powers had the opportunity to show a slightly different side of himself going solo. For the most part it was what you’d expect with folk sounds from various traditions rubbing shoulders with something of an American indie rock sensibility.

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

Much like with The Recks, Richey’s songs were often long, and in a solo setting a little over long on a couple of occasions, but generally were engrossing rides that drew the audience in.

The solo setting also gave us the chance to hear the more intricate side of Richey’s playing that often gets lost in the multilayered sound of The Recks.

With Frugal Heart providing a nice highlight the set then ended with a more intense stomping blues-y song that, if nothing else, proved a good pair of Cuban heels can work just as effectively as an amplified stomp box.

Mick Le Huray is a longstanding member of Guernsey’s music and folk scene and has been a fixture of the Sark Folk Festival since its inception and many events before. With his first solo album recorded and released in the last year he has found something of a new lease of life and that was evident here.

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Accompanied by Andrew Degnen on fiddle, Mick played a set strong with the feel of the 1960s folk revival delivered with a real sense of feeling and humility. Andrew’s violin expanded the sound nicely but didn’t help the set dragging a little in the middle for me when it went a little too traditional folk for my tastes.

A song with Guernsey French lyrics and a more upbeat closer brought Mick’s set to an end on a high point though and made a nice contrast to the two younger solo performers that came before.

In trio mode tonight Blue Mountains delivered a set made up of many songs, but all continued their journey into a melancholy side of dark Americana.

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

With Andrew Degnen’s fiddle and a few tracks where Mike Bonsall swapped from guitar to banjo, Blue Mountains new songs expanded their range of sounds but it was the harmonies and style that remained at the heart of their songs.

A real highlight of the new songs came with Hummingbird, while We Come & Go shifted things into slightly more upbeat territory towards the end of the set, it was just a shame the audience had drifted away somewhat by this stage of the night.

Rounding the night off on a great vocal harmony moment to close their take on Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl, Blue Mountains concluded things on a high point and, as this gig was clearly promoted as the first in a series, I hope to see more music of this quality in this relaxed setting going forward.

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

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Ghost and Zombi – O2 Apollo, Manchester – 31/03/17

Zombi at the O2 Apollo in Manchester

Zombi

From the outside, and I think largely due to its location outside the city centre, the Manchester Apollo is, for a large theatre-style venue, a fairly unassuming building, once inside its main auditorium though it has a similar feel to the likes of the Brixton Academy or Shepherd’s Bush Empire with its impressive design that, by chance, seemed to perfectly suit this show.

As we arrived Zombi had just taken to the stage and spent the following 45 minutes creating huge instrumental soundscapes that combined a movie soundtrack feeling with that of a live rock show.

Armed with a bass guitar, an array of synths and a drum kit the duo barely looked up from their instruments as they evoked the sounds of John Carpenter, Vangelis’ score for Blade Runner or Eno’s work on Dune but with added groove that flowed over the audience who were quietly receptive at first and by the end genuinely appreciative of this rather different opening act.

After a surprisingly short break, and with the headliner’s drums and keyboards still covered by a black sheet, the house lights dimmed slightly and the usual between band stock rock tracks were replaced by choral and orchestral, almost church-like, music.

Ghost

Ghost

As anyone who knows anything about them will know, Ghost are a hugely theatrical band and this started before they even stepped on stage with the ‘roadies’ coming out to uncover the gear and sound check the drums in a highly ritualistic way.

These weren’t your usual cargo shorts and t-shirt adorned people either but were smartly dressed in black, all setting the scene of what was to come, an experience the band refer to as a ‘ritual’ rather than a concert, show or gig.

With the intro music reaching a crescendo and the hall bathed in a red light the band launched, almost out of nowhere, into the lead track from their Popestar EP, Square Hammer. Getting one of the biggest reactions of the night it was clear this was a crowd as much enamoured with the band’s new material as the old (slightly different from my last time seeing the band) and this set the performance off on a high that, for the most part, it never came down from.

Papa Emeritus III is, of course, the focal point of Ghost on stage and whether he’s in his ‘anti-pope’ like robes (as he was for the first chunk of the set) or the more recently added vintage style suit with Ghostly adornments, he is mesmerising. Coming across something like a hybrid between the classic black metal frontmen in appearance and Freddie Mercury in mannerisms he acts as conduit for the music that could really be described in a similar way.

Papa Emeritus III of Ghost

Papa Emeritus III

Throughout the set he moves about the stage with a stately grace commanding both band and crowd with a wave, a point, or a gesture that is rarely seen in metal away from arena behemoths. As the set went on, and particularly once the robes were cast aside, he developed a playful relationship with the group of Nameless Ghouls that are the rest of the band, particularly the lead guitarist, at times feeling like they were playing up a rivalry for stage presence but all the time within the performance.

Musically the Ghouls were sounding as great as you’d expect and, while on a couple of occasions the lead guitar duels felt a little off, it wasn’t so much to derail any enjoyment of the show and was brief.

As the set went on the band hit all the big points of their back catalogue (with one exception) and the it was good to see newer tracks He Is and Cirice sit alongside Year Zero, Con Clavi Con Dio and Ritual in the crowd’s affections, though it was clear there were two camps within the crowd of longtime time fans and relative newcomers (like me), but in general, they all came together with an appropriate sense of congregation.

With the customary visit from the Sisters of Sin for Body and Blood (communion was offered to those nearer the front) and a few asides from Papa playing on his suitably off-kilter charisma, a balance was maintained between great, musically lighter-end heavy metal, and pure entertainment (no mean feat given the often po-faced nature of much heavy metal these days) and Ghost delivered a set that culminated in a truly epic encore of Monstrance Clock.

The Nameless Ghouls of Ghost

The Nameless Ghouls

Described by Papa Emeritus III as ‘a celebration of the orgasm… in the name of Satan’ it was the perfect conclusion to the set as it left the crowd, and Ghost’s on stage leader, signing its final refrains (“Come together, together as one. Come together, for Lucifer’s son”) together before the lights came up and we headed back out into the sadly less fantastic real world.

While If You Have Ghost was the only track I thought was missing from the set, Ghost’s performance here was something to behold

It combined the darkness of the darkest heavy metal with a twist more poppy than most metal bands would ever dare and all delivered as a complete package making it truly the ‘ritual’ they describe it as and a complete self-contained event that is one of the best ‘show’ style concerts I have ever attended.

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