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

The Recks

The Recks

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

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

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

Liberation Day press cutting 13/05/17

Full Review

The Devotees

The Devotees

Liberation Day has changed.

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

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

Unclassified

Unclassified

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

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

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

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

Problematic

Problematic

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

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

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

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

Monty McMonagle of The Silverados

Monty of The Silverados

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

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

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

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

Bob and Rich Klein of Clameur De Haro

Bob and Rich of Clameur De Haro

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

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

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

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

Richey Powers of The Recks

Richey Powers of The Recks

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

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

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

Chris Dean of The Devotees

Chris Dean of The Devotees

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

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

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

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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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Vale Earth Fair 2016 – Vale Castle – 28/08/16

Asian Dub Foundation at Vale Earth Fair

Asian Dub Foundation

On Sunday 28th August 2016 the Vale Earth Fair staged what was, arguably, its biggest event to date as the centre piece of a year of shows celebrating the festivals 40th anniversary.

Headlined by Asian Dub Foundation, the 12 hour event spanned six stages and most styles you can think of with visiting acts and Channel Islands bands and DJs including the returning TeaspoonriverneckLord VapourToupeThe Correspondents and many more.

My review of the festival was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 3rd 2016 (you can see it below with an easier to read version below that) and you can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Vale Earth Fair 2016 review - 03/09/16

 

40 years ago an idea was hatched to head up to the Vale Castle with some musicians and spend a summer day raising money and championing good causes while having a good time with some live music.

Teaspoonriverneck at Vale Earth Fair

Teaspoonriverneck

Over the years since 1976 festival culture has emerged with summer in the UK seeing festivals every weekend and, it seems like, every suitable field or open space welcoming music of one kind or another at some point.

With Chaos, Sark Folk Festival, Chateau De Son, Smaashfest, The Gathering and more Guernsey is no different but, through it all, the Vale Earth Fair has retained a certain je ne sais quoi that, in many ways, sets it apart – a bit like our local answer to that godfather of music festivals, Glastonbury.

Having grown to include six stages spanning everything from hip hop to psytrance to punk to stoner rock its fair to say there’s something for everyone and certainly true that its impossible to see and hear everything on offer at the Vale Earth Fair. But here is a recap of what I saw and heard over the course of the 12 hours of the main event.

Elisha Horsepool

Elisha Horsepool

As with last year the live music started on the ‘outside stage’, this year renamed Viewalalu (there’s a joke in there somewhere I’m sure for those who know its location), with a showcase for some of the young musicians from the School of Popular Music.

Much like the rest of ‘SOPM’s work this gave the group of youngsters a unique chance to perform on stage to an audience beyond the confines of the school’s open days and allow the audience a glimpse at the future of Guernsey’s live music scene.

Of the three acts featured today I caught Elisha Horsepool’s solo acoustic set and, while it all sounded good, the highlight came with her final song, an original which showed a conviction and talent that is very promising.

Having made quite an impression on Liberation Day and at a series of other shows since, Equilibrium kicked off the main stage and, after taking a few songs to warm up, sounded better than ever. Another young band they showed more dynamic on stage and set the mood for the music to come despite the first shower of the day sending a few of the audience in search of cover.

Honest Crooks at Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

For reasons that are a bit beyond me one of the hottest bands on the local scene at the moment, Honest Crooks, were second up on the main stage and delivered the first fully confident blast of sound to fill the castle walls.

Despite the early slot it was clear quite a few had turned out early to see them and their super-tight reggae tinged ska-punk got people dancing earlier than I ever remember seeing at the Earth Fair.

Stay Near proved itself a perfect song to help celebrate the festival’s anniversary while a cover of What I Got by Sublime was particularly appropriate as the classic of the genre was released 20 years ago this weekend making for a double birthday.

Heading down the hill to The Busking Stage (where I was putting in a performance) I had my first taste of Problematic who’s grungy, hard rock sounds were a pleasant surprise and certainly lived up to the buzz surrounding them in recent months.

Buffalo Huddleston at Vale Earth Fair

Buffalo Huddleston

Another band with a seemingly unfeasibly early slot on the main stage were Buffalo Huddleston but, much like Honest Crooks, it was clear that a crowd had come specifically to catch the folk-hop juggernaut.

With the sun coming and going all afternoon, Buffalo Huddleston brought the musical sunshine with their relaxed vibes and added some more chilled out elements to their mid-afternoon set and people took little encouragement to get moving to the trademark energetic sounds.

If it was upbeat but relaxed inside the castle walls it was upbeat and furiously energetic on the Viewalalu stage as Jawbone blasted out their blistering brand of punk rock. Back in full on four-piece mode with Steve back on vocals (much to the delight of guitarist Lee’s vocal chords, no doubt), the band had some sound issues to start with but once this cleared up they were their usual shambolic best.

Jawbone at Vale Earth Fair

Jawbone

Along with the usual standout covers from the likes of Rancid, The Damned and Misfits, the highlight of the set came with a new original song that brought to mind the political influence of The King Blues run through a more full on punk filter – I probably can’t repeat them here but some of the lyrics regarding a former prime minister and a farmyard animal were particularly vicious.

Having gained a reputation with support from BBC Introducing and BBC 6Music, She Drew The Gun arrived on the main stage with a certain expectation and, from an opening spoken word piece delivered with forceful conviction by Louisa Roach and touching on many subject close to the heart of the Vale Earth Fair and its followers, delivered from the off.

From there they weaved a course through a set of loosely psychedelic indie-pop that washed over the audience, seeping between the neurones in a way that made them a highlight of the day. While they bore many similarities to many bands who’ve played the Earth Fair over the years they stood out above most and distracted from the rain that chose this time to reach its peak.

She Drew The Gun at Vale Earth Fair

She Drew The Gun

Past festival regulars Toupe made their return to the Viewalalu stage in slightly altered but none the less eccentrically groovy form.

Famous for their dual bass guitar and drums line up, lead bass player Karl is MIA at present so a guitarist has been brought in to replace him – while this gave them a more ‘normal’ line up appearance the music was exactly what we know and love and they got one of the biggest audiences outside the castle walls with the likes of Haircutz and Ninjas getting people grooving along.

If elements of She Drew The Gun tapped into some of the more political and indie side of the Vale Earth Fair’s usual mix, French five-piece Dynamics brought the dubb-y, reggae side out. While not my personal choice of sound the band got a groove going that was clearly infectious around the castle and provided a highlight for many.

The highlights of their set came when they took famous songs and treated them in their own way including a mash-up of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, The Doors’ Riders On The Storm and Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams and their version of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

Teaspoonriverneck at Vale Earth Fair

Teaspoonriverneck

Toupe weren’t the only band making a come back for this special Earth Fair and the highlight of these returns (and my personal highlight of the day) came in the form of the ‘classic line up’ of fuzz-grunge-rock’n’roll three piece, Teaspoonriverneck.

With a crowd gathered at the front in anticipation the band started slow with George from their self-titled debut album before tearing through a set of their particular brand of doom and stoner infused psychedelic heaviness, spanning their first four releases, that had heads banging throughout, as if they’d never been away.

Riff after riff and hit after hit would be a suitable description of the set but it was Blonde Witch, Truck, Gideon & the Black Jaws, Ribshack Supertwang and stone-cold classic Eaten By The Devil that were the highlights and sounded huge on this stage and gave the day its only real ‘moment’ for me.

Over the past 10 years or so a band called Rumpus have been regular visitors to the Castle but this year they came in slightly different form. Going by the name Heads Off and with a more sociopolitical and punk-y edge the trio brought a set of bass driven eccentric post-rock to the Viewalalu stage.

Heads Off at Vale Earth Fair

Heads Off

Bassist and vocalist Danny Lowe exuded a unique charisma that drew more to the stage as the set went on and as the very loud music began to hammer itself home a few got moving but, despite the excellent performance (including Rumpus favourite Woods), the crowd remained disappointingly small for this very impressive band.

Having previously been a highlight of the Vale Earth Fair just before Buzzcocks provided one of the festival’s most disappointing moments, The Correspondents brought a buzz with them that had drawn many to the Castle Stage in anticipation and the duo of Mr Bruce and Chucks didn’t disappoint.

Combining elements of jazz, hip-hop, drum ’n’ bass and electro to make a kind of Bright Young Things-era electronic pop, the duo were captivating from the off. Mr Bruce is undeniably the visual centre point, dancing in astonishing fashion for the duration and somehow singing and working the crowd and mic at the same time, they brought a real celebratory tone to the event.

The Correspondents at Vale Earth Fair

The Correspondents

Chucks meanwhile works hard behind an array of technology clearly performing as much as his counterpart, just in slightly more understated way, and providing the duo its musical backbone in a way that is likely often overlooked but essential.

Parisian four-piece Porcelain headlined the Viealalu stage with a set of tight, synthy, dark indie that brought to mind Guernsey’s dark-disco pioneers Gay Army. While the music was very well delivered they were only playing to a small (if enthusiastic) crowd that seemed a shame given their place on the bill.

Having reportedly been on the Vale Earth Fair Collective’s list of wanted acts for many years there was genuine excitement about the arrival of Asian Dub Foundation to close out the main stage.

This anticipation was soon transferred into an enormous energy flowing back and forth between the band and audience as a huge mash-up of genres filled the castle. Heralded as one of the best live bands in existence they certainly backed up this claim and closed off an already celebratory event on a high.

Lord Vapour at Vale Earth Fair

Lord Vapour

Speaking of closing things on a high, as I headed down the hill from the Castle stoner rockers Lord Vapour were still getting loud and fuzzy on the Viewalalu stage.

This highlighted how the Vale Earth Fair has always brought some of the biggest names to the island while also giving new bands a chance to reach a broader audience, all while championing good causes.

So, heres to another forty years!

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