Tag Archives: performance poetry

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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Arguments Yard: My Autobiography by Attila The Stockbroker

Arguments Yard by Attila The StockbrokerThe lives of many punks from the late 70s and 80s have been rendered in text in recent years with varying results, I have in the past particularly enjoyed John Lydon’s first autobiography, but none I have read thus far have quite left me with the same feeling as this one.

Attila The Stockbroker, aka John Baine, has been something of a punk journeyman, starting out as a bass player before taking on mandolin, mandola (specifically one called Nelson), fiddle, medieval recorders and it seems anything else that comes his way. But it was his brand of ‘ranting’ performance poetry that made his name.

As well as the stories of gigs and tours, from Harlow in Essex to New Zealand, Canada and pretty much all over Europe, what really stands out in Attila’s story is how everything is related to his strong political beliefs and how these associate with his work.

From the start its clear (even if you didn’t know before, though chances are if you’re reading Arguments Yard you do) that Attila’s politics are, to say the least, to the left of things – I won’t go into detail as I know I’ll just get the specifics wrong. This informed a lot of the choices of gigs and tours he made and leads to us getting a very interesting insight into a side of the world in the 1980s the mainstream media tends not to discuss very much.

Particularly fascinating in this are the chapters on his tours of East Germany (and other Eastern Bloc countries), which paint a far more balanced picture than I’d ever heard. Certainly it wasn’t all wine and roses, and in some places things seem particularly bleak, but there is also a strong streak of free discussion and creativity evident – at least in East Germany.

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells

Attila (seated) with fellow ranter Seething Wells in the mid 1980s

What this serves to show, along with his discussion of his role in miners strike protests, is the level of truth Attila seems to imbue all his work with – again if you’re familiar with his oeuvre this won’t come as a surprise but its impressive to read none-the-less.

More fascinating stories are told of Attila’s formative years on the punk circuit delivering his left-wing message in the face of the National Front and the British Movement, far right organisations that had a worryingly large following in the early 1980s (and sadly seem to be raising their ugly, likely shaved, heads again today – boneheads though, not skinheads).

Much like the East German passages, these shed a new light (for me) on a period I’d only really ever heard one side of.

All these stories could be rather heavy going, but, in the deft words of Attila, they are engaging and absorbing throughout – even when he’s talking about football!

Having seen Attila perform a few times (and I’m proud to say having supported him once as my musical alter-ego) its clear he writes very much as he speaks. Throughout his voice came across, making it almost like having the audio book playing in your head, or Attila there telling you these stories first hand.

Dropped in at appropriate times across the book are some of Attila’s poems and the lyrics to some of his songs that help in telling the stories and setting the scene. Many of these are out of print elsewhere and are no longer performed making Arguments Yard the only place you can easily find them and again, through Attila’s writing style, they really leap off the page if his voice is kept in mind while reading.

Attila The Stockbroker on stage with Barnstormer

Attila on stage with Barnstormer at Vale Earth Fair 2014

The final third of the book deals with much more personal matters but again these are rendered in fascinating and truly open style, and still run through with a (mostly) more relaxed string of gigs and tours. This all culminates in Attila’s most personal and emotionally effecting work, in many ways his masterpiece, The Long Goodbye.

As a fan of Attila already, and sharing some (if not all) of his political ideals – I think it was Fat Mike from NoFX who said if you agree with everything someone else says it’s deeply suspicious – I very much enjoyed Arguments Yard, but I think for anyone with an interest in punk rock, performance poetry, and life in Britain and Europe in the last half century there is a lot to enjoy, all told through the unique, honest and powerful voice of a true ranter.

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