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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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Guernsey Gigs Folk Americana Night – The Fermain Tavern – 25/03/17

Great North and Will Wood

Great North and Will Wood

Following their inaugural Jam Night event the Guernsey Gigs guys were at it again on Saturday 25th March with a night of international playing folk americana style songs at The Fermain Tavern.

Guernsey’s Gregory Harrison was behind the event and opened the show with Chris Callahan from Nashville, Great North from New Zealand and Will Wood also from New Zealand but via Berlin.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1st April 2017 (you can read it below) and you can see my photos from it on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Folk Americana night review scan 01-04-17

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Granite Wolf, WaterColour Matchbox, Thunderbox and Track Not Found – The Fermain Tavern – 24/03/17

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

Its been quite some time since there’s a been an event advertised as a ‘metal night’ in Guernsey. With the general drifting of popular musical styles, metal bands have generally had to find their way into more varied line ups so, when this cropped up in the local gig guide, it had my interest piqued from the start.

Added to this was the fact all four bands were relatively new and two I had never seen live before.

track not found started off the night with one of their first full gigs away from their Sound Guernsey origin.

Having developed over the last year, the trio combine elements of grunge, riotgrrl and the kind of power-blues Jack White has made his name with to create a sound fairly unique to Guernsey – if it hadn’t been clear before, their cover of a track by Highly Suspect tonight just added to the blues rock feel.

While the band were still a bit lose in places they also found some nice grooves and dynamic shifts within their songs making them far more than the run of the mill pop punk cover act we’ve come to expect in the younger end of the island’s music scene.

Track Not Found

Grace and Emma of Track Not Found

Grace Tayler lead the band with a performance that is hard to look away from with a unique guitar style that, while not always succesful, again leads to the bands’ difference, and vocals unlike any female performer I’ve heard over here. Both Emma Thomas (drums) and Masie Bisson (bass and vocals) also have enough attitude and presence to make them far more than just the backing band.

While they still have a way to go in finding their own sound and identity, and in terms of stage presence, track not found are certainly a highlight at the younger end of the scene and proved it tonight, winning over a number of the often staid adult gig going crowd.

From a band with such a high level of inventiveness they are struggling to contain it the night shifted to one following a well trodden path but doing it with a degree of success, ThunderBox.

Taking nu-metal and its mid 200os evolution, the five-piece started off a bit rough with a Linkin Park cover before settling down a few songs in to some perfectly serviceable covers of the likes of Slipknot, Korn and Soil.

ThunderBox

ThunderBox

This is a style never really known for its nuance and ThunderBox fit that perfectly and I will admit that, for the most part, they miss my era of hardcore metal fandom by a few years so I don’t have the nostalgia for these tracks that it was clear many in attendance did.

Despite a few ups and downs (and an unforgivable metal version of Electric Six’s Gay Bar – no band needs to cover that song again, ever) their set was perfectly enjoyable and I could see fitting in perfectly at a party for those who grew into a love of metal between 2003 and 2006.

WaterColour Matchbox couldn’t have looked much different with keyboard and synthesiser front and centre and a set of exploratory, semi-prog metal to play through.

From the off I was surprised at the ‘metallic’ nature and heaviness of their sound as the four-piece drove their way through a set drawn from their debut album Fragments, Artefacts and Ruins.

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

The addition of Scott Michel on bass added a good dynamic to the performance as his heavy bass underpinned the more intricate guitar work of Mikey Ferbrache and the guitar, piano and vocals of Pete Mitchell.

Mitchell in fact seemed more engaged with the music than I have seen from him in other bands and it transmitted more to the audience, even if there were a few moments where the number of parts he was playing got a little too much for him, but these were brief.

Closing as their album does on The Wall and Homeward Bound, their most prog songs, ended the set on a high and seemed to impress many in the crowd who were headbanging along.

Having formed from the ashes of Brutus Stonefist, Granite Wolf continued their pursuit of riffs and beer in fine form blasting through a set of tight, quick and punchy metalcore.

Granite Wolf

Granite Wolf

The atmosphere they brought had something of a throwback to gigs half a decade ago, but it wasn’t the worse for it and built more of a positive atmosphere than many bands manage, particularly in the heavier music side of things. This was mostly driven by a breakdown of the invisible barrier between the band and the audience and a ‘we’re all in this together’ type feeling.

Musically the band were on blistering form once they settled in with riff after riff delivered at breakneck pace and some nice grooves as well – Road To Home was a particular stand out in all these regards.

Keeping it short and sweet added to this and, though they did come back for an encore, Granite Wolf did just what they needed to do – highlight the night with an uncomplicated blast of noise that got heads banging and bodies moving and showed that, even if its less obvious than it has been in the past, metal in Guernsey still has a lot of life left in it.

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

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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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