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Sound Guernsey: Sons of the Desert, Honest Crooks, Equilibrium, Cosmic Fish – The Fermain Tavern – 17/03/17

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert and friends

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

Sound Guernsey‘s March 2017 show had a very punk-ska flavour to things with their old formula of two young bands playing alongside two more experienced groups.

Cosmic Fish kicked off the show with a set of old-school pop-punk starting with Green Day’s Welcome To Paradise and continuing in similar fashion.

Compared to when I’d seen them throughout last year the trio have come on in leaps in bounds and, while they still have some way to go in terms of audience interaction and performing confidence, their renditions of songs by Blink-182, Good Charlotte and their ilk have a lot going for them.

Cosmic Fish

Cosmic Fish

Throughout the set there were a few moments where the energy found a good level that, in a perfect world, would have seen the audience get more energetic (they remained attentive but restrained) and it was the closing pair of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle and Blink’s All The Small Things that closed the set in a high.

Another band who made a good impression last year and have built on that are Equilibrium.

Having been one of the young highlights of the early Sound events the band went on the play Liberation Day and the Vale Earth Fair amongst other things but like the openers they seemed to have stepped up their game once more.

Sticking with a similar pop-rock selection, including a couple of extra Red Hot Chilli Peppers tunes, the band had a much more relaxed energy from the off and this was clearly infectious.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

The aforementioned Chilli Peppers track Otherside was a highlight of the set as was their take at Blink-182’s Stay Together For The Kids where several members of the band swapped instruments.

Their takes on Basket Case and All The Small Things (also done earlier by Cosmic Fish) didn’t quite match the previous band’s but in all it was a good set and, with a little bit more power, Equilibrium will be a band worth keeping an eye on.

After a few months off following a very busy 2016, Honest Crooks were starting to gear up for an already busy summer season as they took to the Tav’s stage. While they were a little lose compared to past gigs it was all relaxed and fun as they mixed their own songs with some more ska oriented covers and they had the crowd going from the start.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a genuinely funny ‘play some Slayer moment’ (a rarity these days where that joke wore thin a decade ago) and great covers of Reel Big Fish’s Beer and Sublime’s Santeria it was really their own songs that provided the highlights and they certainly set the mood well for the night’s headliners.

Following the more modern ska warm up, Sons Of The Desert set out to provide a perfect primer for all thing two-tone and of the late 70s/early 80s UK ska scene. Spanning tracks from The Beat and The Selecter to Bad Manners and Madness it was prime upbeat skanking material all the way.

With the audience a sea of bouncing red fezzes thanks to the always manic and energetic Chris Pearson, it wasn’t long before everyone was on the dance floor and both the band and audience were having a whale of a time.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

The band themselves are something of an eccentric mix of performers that come together brilliantly and create a huge sound with a three-piece brass section and Andy Coleman on the organ bolstering the usual rock band line up for a real authentic two-tone sound.

There were many highlights in the set but for me Lit Up Fatty, Too Much Too Young and set closer Night Boat To Cairo were the standouts before it all went a bit chaotic in the encore with the entire audience joining the band on stage for a skank to bring one of the most energetic Sound nights yet to a close on a major high.

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Guernsey Gigs Jam Night – The Fermain Tavern – 03/03/17

Agents of Obscure Enterprise

Agents of Obscure Enterprise

While most weeks we have the pleasure enjoying live music from a variety of bands, Guernsey Gigs staged a show with a bit of a difference to kick of March with a ‘jam night’ at The Fermain Tavern.

The set up was pretty simple, any musicians could put their names in one of the ‘sexy buckets’ (no one could work out why they were sexy but we were told they were) related to their particular skill and names were chosen at random to form a band generally consisting of a guitarist, bass player and drummer with, in some cases, a vocalist and a ‘wildcard’ entry as well.

The newly formed band would then, after coming up with name, have twenty minutes on stage to jam and see what would happen.

The first band of the night were possibly the one with the toughest job of getting things underway but with John McCarthy, Pete Le Lacheur, Jack Crisp and Gregory Harrison amongst them things were in safe hands. Going by the name Agents of Obscure Enterprise things were mostly blues rock noodling but at points some nice grooves were found and Greg’s violin added some extras along with Jack’s funk-scat like vocals.

Bitch Master General

Bitch Master General

The second act found a kind of jazz-hip-hop-punk fusion with the addition of a saxophone as the wildcard and Silas The Assyrian Assassin himself on vocals. While this might sound like a mismatch the band, going by the name of Bitch Master General, provided one of the highlights of the evening.

Featuring Lord Vapour guitarist Henry Fears and Brunt bass player Elliott Mariess it was not surprising which musical direction Existence is Pain (a cheery name) took as the duo were joined by Seven Day Riot drummer Scott Angus for a long hard rock jam. Henry did what he does so well in his regular band with some cracking riffing and solos, while Elliott found space for some enjoyable rolling grooves.

With James Dumbleton being drawn as the wildcard and coming armed with a tin whistle and violin amongst other instruments (we were spared the bagpipes tonight!), Prolapsed Conscience created yet another hybrid sound with a kind of Celtic funk blues with Henry Fears on guitar, Claire Moxie on drums and Jack Crisp back on vocals.

Prolapsed Conscience

Prolapsed Conscience

Despite some interesting moments, particularly thanks to the wildcard instruments and drums, most of their sound felt a little too much like the same riff rolling on and on for the twenty-minute set in fairly unremitting fashion.

With Elliott Mariess on guitar, Graham Duerden of Tantale (and the evening’s compere) on drums, Tom Relf on bass and Gregory Harrison back with his violin Black Slags (can I repeat that? I just have) spent 20 minutes building up an epic instrumental with Greg’s violin working well alongside Elliot’s guitar work.

It had to happen eventually but The Screaming Ninnies, made up of Static Alice‘s Dominique Ogier (vocals), Jawbone‘s Dan Keltie (bass), Rob Gregson (guitar) and Brunt’s Christiaan Mariess (drums), felt like the first real miss match of the night with grunge, punk and pop all battling. Despite the groups’ best efforts they never quite wrangled their own styles into something coherent so, if nothing else this served to show quite how hard this jamming thing can be.

Nick Farnham

Nick Farnham

Named after a member of the audience, Nick Farnham was comprised on two-thirds of Lifejacket, John McCarthy and Claire Moxie, along with Tom Relf on bass, Paul Dowdney on tuba (possibly the wildest of the evenings wildcards) and Jade Grace on vocals.

Jade’s particular style brought a 70s rock vibe to the beginning of their jam with tuba adding a nice dynamic to the bass sound before things took a more indie turn with Moxie and John taking something of a lead and building the whole thing to great dance rock climax.

To round off the night it became a bit of a bigger jam with Henry, Graham, Elliott, Greg, Jack and Dom all taking to the stage and they developed a sound that I can only describe as a kind of sonic madness with everyone just going for it over one another, so to speak, but again with some fine moments amidst the chaos.

Final jam of the evening

Final jam of the evening

While the night as a whole was a mixed bag in terms of the music, and there seemed to be something of a drought of guitarists, for a first go at something like this it worked really well. Added to that in the relaxed atmosphere everyone seemed very much in the spirit of the occasion both onstage and off.

What stood out most thought was just quite the level of talent there is in Guernsey’s musical community as just getting up on stage with a group you’ve never played with before is certainly not an easy thing and if this happens again it would be great to see even more and varied a group of musicians take to the stage and see where things end up.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey website

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The Silverados – The Vault – 24/02/17

The Silverados

The Silverados

While I usually focus on bands playing original music in Guernsey, the island also has another side to its music scene, like most towns, with a vibrant set of cover bands playing in the pubs around the island.

These range from the likes of Stuck to the Ceiling and Day Release who emphasise the rock in their pop to Element 6 who are upbeat pop hits through and through and The Laird’s Chair who do their own traditional folk thing in the same spaces. Within this scene, comparatively recently formed four-piece The Silverados, have created their own rock ‘n’ roll flavoured niche.

Made up of four well-known faces from past bands, The Silverados are Susann Hatcher (vocals), Monty McMonagle (guitar), Dave Hatcher (bass and vocals) and Darran James (drums), so even before they started there was a certain expectation for those who know King Rat & The Soul Cats, The Johndoes, Nemesis and others.

Monty McMonagle of The Silverados

Monty McMonagle

Launching into a spot on version of Dick Dale’s Misirlou (or ‘the theme song to Pulp Fiction‘ to many) set the tone well as they delivered two hours of tunes with a strong rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly vibe to them.

A couple of Stray Cats numbers followed before things diverted and we were treated to covers as varied as Snow Patrol, Elle King and Soft Cell but all with the same rockabilly twang and rhythm shaking their way through.

Although The Vault wasn’t that busy a few made it onto the dancefloor and it was clear that though many present hadn’t seen the band before (myself included) we were all highly impressed.

As anyone who’s knows them might expect while all four members of the band put on a good show it was Monty’s guitar work that was the highlight. He absolutely nailed the rockabilly riffs of Brian Setzer and Dick Dale on his Gretsch guitar and expertly converted the sounds of the poppier tracks into swinging blues and rock ‘n’ roll tones that made them sound like they’d always been played that way.

The Silverados

The Silverados

After a short break The Silverados second set took a similar format, this time starting with The Surfaris’ Wipeout before a few more Stray Cats tracks. This set had something of a looser feel to it as we got versions of Aerosmith, The Eurythmics and The Beastie Boys songs amongst others.

Closing on a reprise of Misirlou ended things on a high and, while this band certainly deserve a bigger and more energetic audience than the one they had tonight, they bring something different to Guernsey’s cover band scene that has potential to do that now rare thing of crossing over with some of the bands playing their own stuff on the island – and this will only be developed when Dave gets into the swing on his double bass!

Silverados press clipping 04-03-17

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Sound Guernsey: Asylum Seekas & Friends and Sons of a Maniac – The Fermain Tavern – 17/02/17

Sons of a Maniac

Sons of a Maniac

After taking a break in January following their great Christmas party night, Sound Guernsey returned to kick off February half-term with yet another night championing new live music for a young audience.

It was very much a night of two halves and brand new band Sons of a Maniac kicked it off, following a recent well received outing in a local Battle of the Bands.

Playing a mix of 90’s and 00’s pop-rock standards from the likes of Snow Patrol, Coldplay and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers the five-piece, while clearly nervous, sounded good. As they settled down their were moments where they found some really nice grooves and frontman Sam Ashcroft has something going on when he breaks through the nerves.

Above all though what came across and really worked for them was the sense of fun and enthusiasm they brought, with smiles all round throughout that were infectious and got through to the audience.

B-boy Dave Hyett

B-boy Dave Hyett

With something of a switch of tone Asylum Seekas’ DJ Minirol, took to the decks while the scene was set for a night of grime and hip hop by Dave Hyett getting a dance off going with his classic b-boy moves.

Inspired by him several of the crowd took turns showing off their moves while others gathered round to watch and cheer them on in what was a lot of fun.

As Test Switch took the place of Minirol the live hip-hop portion of the night got going with Lowlife.gy.

With a confident and legitimate feeling delivery, Lowlife was captivating from the off as he delivered a series of what felt like rough and ready, but impressive, sketches and he definitely has a presence on stage that went down well and kept some of the crowd breakdancing.

Lowlife.gy and Test Switch

Lowlife.gy and Test Switch

Jordan Mauger, aka Atari, was up next with Smellz on the decks delivering a more electronic inflected set of grime.

While his delivery was somewhat more proficient the tracks still felt like sketches rather than totally finished products and he seemed to have more trouble keeping a connection with the audience, possibly due to the more intense nature of his style for this more upbeat and fun-loving crowd.

Finally of the trio of new(ish) faces was Doyle, again along with Smellz, keeping a similar style to Atari but with a slightly lighter feel. Again the tracks felt like sketches but with a lot to like and some spot on delivery.

For all three of these young performers I’m not sure the audience entirely knew how to react (and I’ll admit as I often have, neither did I) but its great to hear something new and for both the performers and the audience to be exposed to something new and fresh.

Asylum Seekas

Asylum Seekas

As soon as Asylum Seekas hit the stage at full strength, with DJ Minirol alongside MC’s Jimi Riddlz and Apex, the dance floor of The Tav filled up and everyone seemed up for the energetic performance that was delivered.

Much like at past Sound Guernsey shows, Guernsey Bus was a highlight of the Seekas’ set with Jimi Riddlz heading into the crowd to get them singing along to the title.

While there were points where the audience began to drift after what had been a fairly intense hour or so of hip hop from the support acts, Asylum Seekas brought them back in towards the end of their set by setting up a freestyling game.

Asylum Seekas

Jimi Riddlz gets in with the crowd

With Minirol providing a bag of ten random items purchased from local budget store Poundworld, Apex and Jimi Riddlz freestyled around these in fun and lose but still impressive form, with everything from Marigold gloves and cardboard pirate hats to thermal socks and Chewit sweets coming out of the bag.

With a couple more tracks to close Asylum Seekas once again showed why they have been so popular for so long as they have some great lyrics and are like nothing else in Guernsey and, above all, they work damn hard at what they do on stage and it really pays off and once again did here bringing the night to a close on a high.

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

Some of my photos were used alongside the review of the show in the Guernsey Press published on Saturday 25th February 2017:

Sound Guernsey review and photos - 25/02/17

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Vale Earth Fair New Years Eve Party – The Fermain Tavern – 31/12/16

The Recks

The Recks

2016 was a landmark year for Guernsey’s longest running music festival, the Vale Earth Fair, as it marked 40 years since the first fair took place.

To celebrate that they organised a series of special events from their unplugged night to a return visit from recent favourites Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons to the main festival itself and, to round of the year, a new year’s party like no other with The Recks, Vienna Ditto and Gay Army.

My review of the show was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 7th January 2017 and you can see a full set of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

The Recks, Vienna Ditto and Gay Army review scan - 07/01/17

New Years Eve can often be an odd night for events as people look to do rather different and specific things to ‘ring in’ the new year, so a regular live music show may not be much of a draw. Thankfully the Vale Earth Fair Collective were on hand at The Fermain Tavern to round off their 40th Anniversary celebrations with a selection of bands chosen to make this feel like something special, and in that they certainly delivered.

DJs St. Ace and Vauvert Underground kicked things off (as well as filling in between the bands throughout the night) and set the scene with a suitably varied selection of tracks ranging everything from Faith No More to The Jam to Grace Jones to Motorhead and as the night wore on they kept people on the dance floor until the bitter end.

Gay Army

Gay Army

First on stage though were Gay Army. Having been absent for the last year or so it was good to see and hear them back and they launched into things with their usual wall of nicely un-festive noise and darkness.

Jo Reeve’s guitar filled the Tav with with a swirling mix of distortion and delay while Ian Allsopp and Jay Allen’s rhythms added a groovy, dance-y, underlay that got a few moving early on (albeit at a polite distance from the stage).

That distance was filled by vocalist Rolls who prowled in front of the stage like a man possessed and, though he was at times an intimidating presence, it is he that tops off Gay Army’s sound to make it the dark, rhythmic beast it is.

Even if a few seemed slightly put off by the constant intensity as the set wore on, closer Cracked Amerika ended it on a high point that felt perfectly suitable for the transition from 2016 to 2017.

As Reading based duo Vienna Ditto set up on stage I was curious. They played the Vale Earth Fair itself in 2015 and though I missed them I had heard very good reports from many and, what with this seemingly being the year of the two piece band, I was hopeful.

Vienna Ditto

Vienna Ditto

Unfortunately what followed was 45 minutes of a largely disjointed, glitchy, mess of sounds combining synths, sharply distorted guitars and vocals in a way that rarely seemed to structurally coalesce into any kind of sustained groove and a total absence of any hook.

Confusing ‘chat’ between the tracks and an insistence of telling people to dance didn’t help and while the projections on the back of the stage looked nice they didn’t add anything either or even seem to connect to the songs.

Certainly the two members of the band were good at what they were doing, particularly the vocals stood out strongly, and towards the end of the set there were a couple of moments where it seemed to come together a little more but it was too little too late for me.

Despite my misgivings a fair few headed onto the dance floor and looked to be enjoying it and I was left thinking I could see how this could be as impressive as I was told, it just didn’t get there tonight.

Richey Powers and Mox of The Recks

Richey and Mox of The Recks

Having reformed back in October this was only the second appearance from the new line up of The Recks and once again there was something of a sense of anticipation for it and the dance floor filled as they got themselves set up on stage.

Kicking off with the historically highly energetic Lipstick & High Heels and latest single Low Life it soon became clear that once again, while the band are tighter than they’ve ever been, it all felt a bit slow and the sense of excitement and danger that once made them so compelling was yet to be re-found or replaced. This made for a very odd set that certainly was not by any stretch unenjoyable as both the songs and the performance were great, but just missed something.

Just before midnight they launched into old favourite She Wants That Too and the whole band seemed to get a new energy reminiscent of old that I hoped would carry the rest of the set. Unfortunately midnight meant a break for bagpipes, kisses (for the lucky ones), hugs and general auld lang syne mumbling.

Ash Jarman and Richey Powers of The Recks

Ash and Richey of The Recks

Following that we got something an encore from The Recks with Valentine getting some of the previous energy back and Papa Leworthy closing the show and leaving many calling for more.

While this was certainly a mixed bag of a night it was a great way of seeing in the new year and closed off a highlight year for the Vale Earth Fair in exactly the way they have always done things; with varied, interesting and different sounds showcasing just what Guernsey and the islands have to offer alongside visitors you may not otherwise get to experience – and here’s to more of it in 2017 and beyond.

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Music in Guernsey – Review of the Year 2016

2016 has been another packed year for music in Guernsey and the Bailiwick. With more festivals than ever, events seemingly most nights of the week all year and many records released covering everything from acoustic folk to drum ‘n’ bass to heavy metal its fair to say the ‘scene’ is possibly the most varied it has ever been.

My review of the year was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 31st December 2016 and there’s a full version below.

Review of the Year 2016 press scan

2016 has been something of a landmark year for me with regards to Guernsey’s music scene as it marks ten years since I started reporting on music on the island. In that time countless bands have come and gone, some making massive waves others barely ripples, but it’s been very rare that any haven’t at least given it their all.

This level of enthusiasm from bands, DJs and any other performers can, I think, be credited with 2016 being the year when locally produced music seemed to most crossover into Guernsey’s mainstream public consciousness.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

One of the ways I think this crossover has occurred has been with the recent proliferation of music festival and ‘all-dayers’, hitting a high of at least 10 across the past year ranging from the established and varied likes of the Vale Earth Fair and Liberation Day to more specific events like Chateau De Son and Smaashfest or charity based shows like Jonah Beats.

Jonah Beats set the bar high for these back in March with a day spanning everything from lo-fi folk to pounding drum ’n’ bass at the Vale Castle. Highlights on that day included Blakalska, SugarSlam, the return of The Swallows and a rare big stage appearance from Last Of The Light Brigade. The organisers also released a double CD compilation album to raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity.

The summer festival season got going, as has become the standard, with the Chaos weekend. While the event has been bigger in the past, this year’s slightly scaled down show had something of the old atmosphere back.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

This was certainly helped by the presence of great visiting bands like Japanese punks PUNiK (who also released a fine debut album), Manchester noise-rock duo The Hyena Kill and experimental rock two piece Science Of Eight Limbs.

As well as the visitors Honest Crooks continued their run of great shows with a standout set in The Peace Tent that had everyone skanking as the sun set, while SugarSlam, Brunt and Static Alice stormed the War Stage across the weekend.

The Sark Folk Festival continued its run of great events with this year’s having less of the ‘us vs them’ atmosphere of traditional folk fans and those out for a fun weekend in a field.

Burg with Becky

Burg And The Back Porch Band

Musically there was a lot of good stuff on offer but it was the artists with their roots in the islands that really stood out for me. The highlight came from Burg & The Back Porch Band bringing some Americana to the spectacular teepee stage on the Saturday evening and invoking impressive singalong moments as well as creating one of the best atmospheres I can remember at a show in a long time.

Meanwhile Robert J. Hunter, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine, Buffalo Huddleston, Nessi Gomes and visitors Mad Dog Mcrea provided other choice moments.

New festival The Gathering took place at North Field in July and showcased a real variety of bands from the island. With three days it felt like almost every band with a slightly mainstream angle was featured on the main stage but it was the Friday and Sunday evening that brought the musical highlights for me with SugarSlam and Static Alice playing to a disappointingly small crowd on the opening night and Kings and Of Empires closing the show on Sunday on a real high.

Static Alice at The Gathering

Static Alice

Whether The Gathering becomes a regular part of the island’s festival calendar remains to be seen but as an event helping spread the word about the great talent in Guernsey to a wider audience it certainly did a good job.

The Vale Earth Fair this year certainly claimed its place as centrepiece of the island’s musical calendar as the Collective presented a year-long series of events celebrating its 40th anniversary.

The festival weekend itself was as big as its ever been with a series of gigs across the Friday and Saturday leading up to the main festival day.

Teaspoonriverneck at Vale Earth Fair

Teaspoonriverneck

Asian Dub Foundation were one of the biggest headliners the show’s ever seen but for me the highlights came with She Drew The Gun, a special appearance from Teaspoonriverneck, The Correspondents and Heads Off, though special mention has to go out to Honest Crooks and Buffalo Huddleston who, with earlier slots, did a great job of getting the festival atmosphere going much earlier than usually happens.

Along with the festival weekend the Collective staged an exhibition of photos and poster art chronicling the 40 years of the event which was a fascinating chance to chart some of the performers who’ve been there for the whole time and see how the event has evolved since its humble origins. The now annual Unplugged and John Peel tribute nights both provided some great moments, but it was the return of Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons that was my Vale Earth Fair related highlight.

Away from the festivals there was of course plenty of other music going on, in fact I think its fair to say that with the exception of Sundays there seemed to be something musical happening every day of the year if you knew where to look.

For me though the highlights amongst all of this came in the form of the Sound Guernsey events for Guernsey’s youngsters. Showcasing a range of music they have grown from relatively humble intentions with shows at The Venue to fully fledged event gigs at The Fermain Tavern.

Honest Crooks at Sound Guernsey

Honest Crooks

Their summer party being a highlight of this as The Doomsday Project, Honest Crooks, Asylum Seekas and Blakalaska shared a stage with already impressive new comers Track Not Found and Equilibrium while their Christmas Party later in December gave was another great night.

When it comes to new bands a few have stood out. As well as the aforementioned Track Not Found, hardcore metallers Granite Wolf made an impressive debut in September developing on the likes of Brutus Stonefist and She Haunts The Roads and I very much look forward to hearing more of what they’ve got to offer.

The real stand out of the new crop though were Burning At Both Ends who have taken the fairly well trodden pop-punk template and breathed a new life and energy into it, winning over many fans with their tight live shows and impressive debut album.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

As well as great music on the island, musicians continued to spread their wings further afield.

Along with two BBC Introducing showcases on BBC Radio 1 featuring 12 acts, a few stand outs emerged, Robyn Sherwell continued her rise with the release of her debut full length album to much acclaim back in April, including a UK tour and having one of her songs picked up for use on the trailer to Hollywood movie Suffragette.

Nessi Gomes also completed a hugely impressive crowdfunding campaign leading to the release of her debut album, Diamonds & Demons which was supported by a tour of the UK, Europe and the Middle East which will culminate with the official Guernsey album launch event next month.

Of Empires continued their march to becoming bona-fide rock ’n’ roll stars with support from all over the place including debuting new single Baby Darlin’ Sugar on BBC Radio 1 through BBC Introducing and picking up many nods as one of the UK bands to watch as we head into the new year and they prepare for the release of more music and a lot more gigs.

Robert J. Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

Meanwhile Robert J. Hunter continued gigging around London and the rest of the UK regularly, initially supporting his second album, Before The Dawn and then releasing his third, Where I’m From, though the Spiritual Records label a couple of weeks ago.

Plenty more records were released this year with Space Pirates of Rocquaine’s Vraic & Roll, Lord Vapour’s Mill Street Blues, Brunt’s Blackbeard and the aforementioned Burning At Both Ends all standing out, but it was a single, Drifting, from the duo of Flexagon and Buff Hudd that really seemed to take off, receiving much praise and also being picked up by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music.

As the year neared its end The Recks made something of surprise return with a new single and line up and they look set to make 2017 their year as they plan to finally unleash their long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album and in a standout live moment SugarSlam (yes, them again, they’ve had a great year) and Insurrection marked their 25th and 30th anniversaries respectively with an excellent night at the De La Rue.

Insurrection

Insurrection

It’s safe to say that 2016 has been an impressive year for music in Guernsey with a real variety of sounds and styles coming to the fore (beyond what’s mentioned here drum ’n’ bass and electronic music have had a real growth as well with Hard Riddims and Strategy gaining footholds as regular events) and opening up what could easily be a small and insular scene to a wide audience, and lets hope that continues with more people heading out to listen to new music around the island and there’s already some exciting sounding things coming up!

And a few particular highlights by category…

Band of the Year – Honest Crooks
Festival Stage/Event of the Year – Vale Earth Fair’s 40th Anniversary celebrations
Newcomers of the Year – Burning At Both Ends
Set of the Year – Burg & The Back Porch Band at Sark Folk Festival
Album of the YearRobert J. Hunter – Where I’m From
Visiting Band of the Year – PUNiK

You can listen to the BBC Introducing Guernsey review of the year radio show here

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Clameur De Haro and The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers – The Golden Lion – 23/12/16

Clameur De Haro at The Golden Lion

Clameur De Haro

As the offices closed up for Christmas The Golden Lion in St Peter Port was packed on Friday 23rd December 2016, Christmas Eve-Eve, and with many having already been in the pub for several hours it was down to Clameur De Haro and The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers to provide the entertainment.

‘The Clams’ started things off downstairs with the crowd already packed up to the front as they launched into their set. Mixing their own songs with covers of rock classics and some festive fare, all in their own ‘sort-of-bluegrass’ style, the audience were into it from the start.

Being right at the front I could hear things perfectly though, given the layout of the pub and the wall of people going about half way down the bar, it was hard to tell how far back the music penetrated but that didn’t matter as we were all having a great time at the front with the band being their usual chatty and relaxed selves.

Clameur De Haro (and Mike from Blue Mountains)

Mike from Blue Mountains gets up close to Clameur De Haro

Christmas covers invoked mass singalongs but it was also great to hear not only the other covers but also the band’s original songs being sung back at them which helped increase the party atmosphere even further.

As the first set reached its peak with accidental stage invasions and more Christmas classics it was clear everyone, both on and off stage, was well into the festive spirit (or was it spirits?) before the music moved upstairs into the newly opened ‘Lions Den’ bar.

In its past life the upstairs room of The Golden Lion had been a semi-abandoned pool hall, but now, after some extensive renovations thanks to new owners White Rock Brewery, its has been converted into an old-fashioned feeling bar room with a small stage area at one end. While clearly made for more relaxed events the old world feel perfectly suited The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and the energetic audience were certainly up for more great music.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Clem and Gemma of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

The Skillet Lickers style of ragtime street skiffle went down an absolute storm with people dancing from off the off and packed to the front, much like downstairs. A few sound issues early in the set were ably worked through and around by the now experienced band.

Added to their generally fairly fluid line up here was Andy Coleman on trombone and, given his experience playing everything from jazz to mod to ska, he fit in perfectly and it was like he’d been jamming with the band for years as they rolled through their repertoire of obscure vintage lo-fi classics in their trademark style.

Gemma, Clem and Shacks trio of vocals all played off each other excellently while Greg, Ash and Andy all had a chance to shine on musical leads as Paul kept the bass rhythm going on his battered looking tuba as the party atmosphere continued.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Ash, Andy and Shacks of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

With their first set finished Clameur De Haro were back downstairs for more of the same, albeit a little more ramshackle and well lubricated than an hour previously, and the atmosphere just kept lifting and lifting making for a great way to see in the Christmas weekend and a great round off to live music in 2016 (excepting of course the events happening on New Years Eve) that was very similar to how my musical year started back in January.

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

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Sound Guernsey Christmas Party – The Fermain Tavern – 20/12/16

Eqilibrium at Sound Guernsey

Eqilibrium

As I arrived at The Fermain Tavern on Tuesday evening, through a sea of bad Christmas jumpers, Santa hats and other festive ephemera, Equilibrium were mid-way through a set of upbeat pop rock to kick off the Sound Guernsey 2016 Christmas party.

The band really came into their own on the slower more melodic tracks that showed off their talent with harmonies, but it was the rockier stuff that quickly got the crowd bouncing and singing along, culminating in a rendition of Slade’s Christmas classic, Merry Xmas Everybody. Equilibrium may still be a little rough around the edges but they are one of several young bands with great potential and already have built quite a fan base.

After the accessible, easy pop sounds of Equilibrium, young trio Track Not Found put a slightly different spin on things with their shoegaze-y indie grunge.

Grace Tayler of Track Not Found

Grace of Track Not Found

The band have already gained a reputation for being something a bit different at the younger end of the Guernsey music scene and they continued this trend as their extended songs veered from a kind of sparseness to thick fuzz tones over which Grace Tayler’s vocals, also veering from tuneful to screams and roars, laid.

While they still lack some of the stage craft necessary to entirely live up to their potential, Tayler already has a kind of enigmatic presence that could become a signature, while playing almost all their own material shows they have a real creative drive with stories and emotions to transmit in their own way.

As the set went on this drew the audience in, helped by a cover of Slaves’ The Hunter, with The Doomsday Projects’ George Russell on vocals before, ending on a grunged up cover of Wham!’s Last Christmas.

After that Zak Trimmer treated us to a brief more relaxed interlude with a couple of solo piano songs. Displaying quite some confidence chatting with the audience his pair of covers went down well, particularly a brave and largely successful take on Bohemian Rhapsody that got carried through its more rocking moments by an inevitable mass singalong.

Problematic at Sound Guernsey

Problematic

Kicking off with an original by the name of Spiteful, Problematic’s set started on a high point they never quite made it back to. Mixing bluesy tones and grooves with hard indie rock and a bit of Muse’s sensibilities made for an interesting sound but one that never quite coalesced into a convincing whole, despite being very well-played.

None the less, after Track Not Found’s more nod along stuff, it provided the perfect soundtrack for the bouncing bodies on the dancefloor, building the energy towards the trio of headliners and Problematic are yet another on the growing list of young bands with a lot of potential who will be worth keeping an eye on as they grow.

Despite being seemingly constantly gigging this year, this was my first time seeing Buffalo Huddleston since the summer and it made it something of a refreshed experience for me.

Mike Meinke of Buffalo Huddleston

Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

The band seemed more relaxed on stage than I have seen in a while as they did exactly what they do best getting the audience involved with their upbeat, ‘folk-hop’, vibes from the start.

Sunrise stood out as a highlight tonight and it was nice to see the crowd responding to the whole band and not just Jull-z, as sometimes happens, and Mr. Cloud rounded off the set in fine style with everyone dancing and singing along.

After a Christmassy start Burning At Both Ends rounded off what has been an excellent first year for them with a set of their typically tight and energetic pop-punk and the audience responded accordingly going as far as to get something approaching a pit going.

Peter Mitchell of Burning At Both Ends

Mitch of Burning At Both Ends

There were a few point across the set where it sounded as if frontman Peter Mitchell was having trouble with his voice but he battled through as the words were sung back at him by quite a number in the crowd, probably more than to any other band tonight, showing just how Burning At Both Ends have caught the imagination of the young crowd.

What If Someday They’re Not There provided a nice slower interlude mid-set before they got everyone bouncing once more and guitarist and bassist, Martyn Brown and Adam Dawe, headed off into the crowd bringing the set to a close on a high.

Static Alice kept the rocking energy up in the room as, despite being six bands in, the Sound crowd showed little signs of flagging (sugar and caffeine are marvellous things!). The band seemed even more relaxed on stage than usual and their mix of stage presence and precise, tight packages of pop-rock were the perfect thing for this party.

Dom Ogier of Static Alice

Dom of Static Alice

Along with the usual favourites like Hurricane, King Kong and Black Cadillac Man, Static Alice introduced a new song and told us they are in the early stages of work on a new album they hope to record and release in the new year. Based on this we’ll be getting more of the same kind of rock, and that’s no bad thing.

With an encore almost called for, the band launched into their take on The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz anyway and brought another standout night for Sound Guernsey to an end. Lets hope that continues as we head into the new year as it really feels like a new scene is beginning to grow at these shows that can only start to feed into the energy of the rest of Guernsey’s ‘scene’.

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

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Against Me!, Milk Teeth and Mobina Galore – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 08/12/16

Against Me!

Against Me!

Heading into Camden’s famed Electric Ballroom venue on a surprisingly mild December evening it was clear that the night’s headliners, Floridian punk rockers Against Me!, had brought a sense of occasion with them.

Snaking down Camden High Street from the venue’s doors, waiting for them to open, was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve seen for a show all clearly attracted by the message of inclusivity the band have been championing for, at least, their last two albums but in less specific ways their whole career.

This idea of inclusivity was reflected in the supporting line up. It sounds like something that shouldn’t need commenting on but, as this was, I think, the first time it’s happened at a gig I’ve attended, all three bands were at least female fronted but in each case this was far from their defining factor.

Winnipeg duo Mobina Galore kicked off proceedings with a wall of grunge punk noise that combined the fuzz sound of Nirvana-era Seattle with the heavier end of The Offspring’s brand of pop-punk.

Mobina Galore

Mobina Galore

Jenna and Marcia were instantly captivating thanks to the sheer power of their sound, the fact there were two and not at least four people on stage was never sonically noticeable, bringing to mind the likes of The Hyena Kill and Science of Eight Limbs in different ways

This, combined with the way they worked together and obviously fed off one another’s energy, created something that got the already big and still growing audience nicely warmed up.

Had the set gone on any longer I worried their sound may have become a bit repetitive but for a raging half hour Mobina Galore were powerful and absorbing from start to finish.

It was obvious from their reception that Stroud based quartet, Milk Teeth, brought quite a following with them and as they launched in Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation before segueing into their own material that quickly gained more.

The band’s sound was rooted in pop punk but they weren’t scared to venture into heavier territory and it was when they merged the two that they hit their best moments.

Milk Teeth

Milk Teeth

Becky Blomfield was a constant focus with powerful vocals along with a great line in high kicks and bass playing while Billy Hutton, celebrating a year on guitar with the band, acted as a great counterpoint.

Highlights of the set came with Swear Jar and a very nice slower number from Blomfield that was the first moment of the audience consciously coming together in support of a band’s explicit lyrical sentiments – though plenty more such moments were still to come.

With a nice little speech from Hutton continuing this, Milk Teeth delivered a brilliantly uncynical performance that, judging by the audience response at the end of the set, saw them win over many new fans to their diverse punk rock sound.

As a banner revealing a pair of black and white, Rocky Horror-eque, lips was revealed and Against Me! hit the stage the now packed crowd in the sold out Electric Ballroom pushed forward and the level of excitement surpassed possibly any show I’ve ever attended.

Against Me!

Against Me!

Launching into True Trans Soul Rebel before a surprisingly powerful 333 and then Haunting, Haunted, Haunts the band matched this excellently and proceeded to ride a wave of energy with the audience for the next 90 minutes spanning their entire career, balancing older material with a focus on songs from new album Shape Shift With Me.

Despite the fact some of the subjects dealt with in Laura Jane Grace’s lyrics can be on the dark side their delivery camet with a positive attitude and a huge, infectious smile, throughout, with Dead Friends, White Crosses and Delicate, Petite and Things I’ll Never Be highlights of the first part of the set in this regard as the audience sang virtually every word back at the band, at times almost out doing the PA.

While the first half of the set would have made this a stand out show in anyone’s book something changed to elevate it even further when, in the introduction to Bamboo Bones, Grace made a comment that, while she is an atheist she got the impression that the energy she feels performing is the equivalent to that the evangelical claim to feel in church.

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard) of Against Me!

Laura Jane Grace (and Atom Willard)

This seemed to strike a particular chord with the audience, myself more than included, as we shouted back the words ‘What god doesn’t give to you, you have to go and take for yourself’ with an astonishing conviction and invoking a sense of a ‘punk rock revival meeting spiritual’ which continued for the rest of the night.

From there through Boyfriend, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I Was A Teenage Anarchist and an almost overwhelming Black Me Out, Against Me! took this further elevated energy and converted it into something truly life affirming and poignant on both a personal and social level.

Throughout the set all four members of the band were astonishing. Grace and guitarist James Bowman (the other long-standing member) clearly have a telepathic connection on stage. Inge Johansson (who joined in 2013) looked like Johnny Ramone picked up a bass and got a whole hell of a lot happier while being an energetic powerhouse and clearly having a powerful connection with Grace while Atom Willard (also in the band since 2013) was mesmerising behind the drums, truly thundering and powering the band’s folk-tinged punk rock.

Inge Johansson of Against Me!

Inge Johansson

As the audience called for more Grace headed back onto stage alone and, as well as a customary thanks to the crowd, made the point that playing in the UK means she can be pretty sure she’s not playing for anyone who voted for Trump, before delivering a particularly poignant solo version of Baby I’m An Anarchist from the band’s debut, again with full crowd vocal backing.

With the rest of the band back FuckMyLife666 and a particularly rousing Sink, Florida, Sink closed the show with the audience a sweaty, moshed up mess but still calling for more even as the house lights came up and the backing music returned.

Only beginning to disperse once Grace returned to the stage to distribute some guitar picks brought to a close one of the best night’s I’ve spent in a music venue anywhere (this may be up with the Rancid gig at Brixton in 2006 I have bored my friends about) and re-confirming a sense of punk rock (and live music in general) as not just a genre but a feeling, a lifestyle and a place that is genuinely accepting and life-affirmingly positive in an entirely uncynical way.

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SugarSlam Vs Insurrection – De La Rue – 03/12/16

Insurrection

Insurrection

It might only have been the first weekend of December but it was clear in St Peter Port on Saturday night that Christmas Party season was in full swing, so it was refreshing to find an antidote to all the forced camaraderie and bad jumpers at the De La Rue, as veteran bands Insurrection and SugarSlam marked milestone anniversaries.

With 30 years under their belts old school British-style hardcore act Insurrection only make occasional appearances these days but, with gigs in the UK over the past couple of years and talk of new recordings on the way, they are far from dormant.

As they launched into opening song Regression (following a suitably politically dark intro tape) they more than proved this with a wall of fuzz and feedback guitars, thundering drums, powerful bass and the distinctive howls of vocalists Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp.

Insurrection - Le Page and Allsopp

Le Page and Allsopp of Insurrection

While it could be argued their more political material, mostly now dating back to late 1980s, is gaining a new relevance, it’s hard to view the hardcore/anarcho punk style without a strangely nostalgic feeling, even for me who wasn’t there first time around, and it was clear tonight that any messages were largely preaching to the converted.

Newer songs like Speak Your Mind and brand new one Black Dog though felt far more immediate with less specific but still important messages and slightly more advanced sounds, Black Dog even headed into doom-like territory with quite a groove developing under the intensity.

All that said regardless of the subject matter the band played with a real ferocity and pace that, while possibly not to the taste of the more casual punters in the audience was in its way refreshing, even if this was possibly the most good-natured set I have seen from them – complete with spontaneous tequila shots mid-set from one enthusiastic audience member.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

While not quite as longstanding as Insurrection 2016 marked 25 years since SugarSlam first hit the stage, I believe at an all dayer in the bowels of Beau Sejour. The last couple of years have seen the revived band go from strength to strength with stand out performances at several shows and festivals and here they seemed to approach the gig with a new-found confidence combined with a relaxed and fun nature that really suits their grungy, power pop/rock style.

Their set may have felt on the short side but I got the feeling they were playing at a kind of hyper speed, possibly to try to follow the openers, but that didn’t stop it being a great performance that had the now expanded crowd (including several in bad jumpers by this stage) engaged.

Drawing mostly on their own songs (with a few crowd pleasing covers thrown in) their sense of fun was infectious and it’s hard not to sing along to likes of State, Crank and Psychobabble while Jackals showed the band’s heavier side.

SugarSlam - Brett and Plumb

Brett and Plumb of SugarSlam

The set culminated with AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie that, I’m told, highlighted their first ever show, before they were called back for their now customary tribute to Lemmy and blast through Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades that left the audience still shouting for more.

All of this combined to make for a surprisingly relaxed night of great music away from the enforced jollity of the season and showed why, when you have the right bands, the De La Rue is capable being one of the best spaces for live music in town.

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

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