Tag Archives: School of Popular Music

School of Popular Music and Guernsey Gigs Summer Show – The Fermain Tavern – 04/08/17

The Lemmings

The Lemmings

For the last few years Guernsey’s School of Popular Music (SOPM) have held a week-long summer school where they put youngsters together in ‘bands’ and, with the help of the school’s teachers, put a set together to busk in town on the Thursday before performing for friends, family and well wishers at The Fermain Tavern on the Friday evening.

As with last year the event then continued with a group of more experienced bands organised by Guernsey Gigs.

Once again the bands pulled together by SOPM were very impressive given their ages and mixed experiences with each one of the eight having at least one highlight moment.

Avocado Geff

Avocado Geff

The Lemmings started the night off with some pop punk before what looked like the youngest band of the night, Thee Unloaders, delivered the a truly unique version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Clash of the Bloosers and the improbably named Squidward On A Chair both went down well with the crowd before Avocado Geff (featuring The Violet Diversion’s Kiya) delivered some grunge-tinged acoustic songs with Kiya continuing to stake her claim as a true up and coming front woman.

Purple Paradox and World On Fire featured some of the best moments, particularly on the latter band’s version of Sweet Child O’ Mine before Lady And The Tramps closed the first part of the event with some semi-acoustic songs.

The second part of the night when, unfortunately, due to the awkwardness of Guernsey’s licensing laws anyone under 18 had to leave, began with relative newcomers, The Buried Kings.

The Buried Kings

The Buried Kings

Made up of Elliot, Harvey and Steve Falla they are something of a family band, but, I’m pleased to say, that while that sounds like a rather naff concept that isn’t what they were.

Taking Elliot’s style of blues and adding in a nice dose of modern folk, with the inclusion of Harvey’s mandolin and Steve’s double bass, made for a broad and deep sound with all three providing vocals as well.

More lighthearted than Elliot’s solo material many of the songs contain Guernsey and Sark references including Bec Du Nez (the cider rather than the place) which sounded like something of a family favourite tipple.

While they had a few technical issues with the upright bass it wasn’t enough to entirely detract from the overall performance which was a fine way to start the evening, even if the crowd was woefully small.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

Its been quite a while since Lifejacket have graced a stage and it showed during their first few songs as they seemed to struggle to find their usual intensity.

By the time they got to the celebrity baiting Meanwhile In Hollywood though they hit their stride and the last half of their set was heading back to their past form.

A few new songs showed that, while they sticking to the same formula of powerfully hard indie rock, strongly inspired by the likes of Mclusky, they are developing it in their own ways with different rhythms slipping in behind the barked vocals.

While this wasn’t their most slick outing, with a set at the Vale Earth Fair coming up I hope we get to see more of them and hear more new material soon.

Gay Army

Gay Army

Another band who haven’t been seen in a while are, Gay Army. Despite this they were as darkly intense as ever as frontman Rolls prowled the Tav’s dance floor while Jo, Ian and Jay owned the stage with the swirling wall of dark disco noise that has become their trademark.

Rolls once again showed that he is genuinely one of the island’s most charismatic frontmen whether playing to 5 or 500 people (I’ll let you guess which number tonight’s audience was closer to) and with tracks like Cracked Amerika sounding enormous Gay Army proved they’ve lost none of their power over the years.

Blasting into a set with a raft of songs from their early days Thee Jenerators seemed reinvigorated playing the back to basics trashy garage songs that made their name. As the set went on newer songs came too with the same energy driving them.

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

While it was one of their more physically restrained sets until the very end, possibly down to the sadly small audience, the band were more relaxed than I’ve seen them in a while.

Mark Le Gallez lead them in a non-stop garage rock blast highlighted by the best rendition I remember hearing of I Hate You So Much along with classics like Mystery Man and Burn Down The House to close the night on an energetic, if disappointingly barely witnessed, high.

You can see more 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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School of Popular Music Summer Party – The Fermain Tavern – 05/08/16

A Box

A Box

Over the last few years a few new music schools have emerged in Guernsey giving youngsters a chance to learn music away from the more formal and classical training offered by the School’s Music Service.

One such is the School of Popular Music who operate regular classes across a range of disciplines and encourage their students to play the music they like in bands as well as solo.

For their 2016 summer project they got a group of young musicians together and gave them a week to form bands, practice and prepare for a show at Guernsey’s premier music venue, The Fermain Tavern.

With ages ranging from 8 to 15 the first half of the evening, showcasing these young musicians, was certainly a mixed affair but the thing that struck most throughout was the level of enthusiasm, fun and commitment all these players showed.

Rainbow Pugs

Rainbow Pugs

First band on, known somewhat cryptically as ‘A Box’, delivered, like all the young bands, a set of reasonably well-known covers.

Featuring Toby and Jamie of Cosmic Fish gave them a bit of a head start and they played a competent set that showed all four have a lot of potential.

Rainbow Pugs (the bands all chose their all names and, no I don’t know what their inspiration was) were the youngest band of the night and were joined on stage by SOPM’s Alex Wilson who helped guide them through the short set that was well delivered despite the understandable nerves in front of a big audience.

I Blame The Parents probably had the best name of the evening (and the best I’ve heard in a while) and were highlighted by a few guitar players and a drummer who certainly brought the right attitude and swagger to the stage and showed that with time they could bring a complete package.

Clear Vision

Clear Vision

Next up were Lanterns who swapped instruments around mid set, showing a few members have skill in multiple disciplines which is always impressive for someone who just about muddles through on one. Once again another group with some obvious musical talent and plenty of potential.

I’m not sure if they do but Clear Vision came across as a group with a bit more playing experience than the previous bands and rocked their way through their set admirably.

Special mention has to go to their lead guitarist who managed to successfully combine the riffs of Queen’s We Will Rock You and AC/DC’s Back in Black all with a foot planted firmly in the monitor in a classic rock ’n’ roll pose.

Sorry Imogen rounded off the young bands with a set highlighted by a selection of impressive harmonies and a generally relaxed vibe.

They closed their set on a reworked take of Bon Jovi classic Living On A Prayer rounding off the first half of the evening with a real sense that live music in Guernsey is in safe hands, even if they could do with a few more bass players.

Sorry Imogen

Sorry Imogen

After a bit of break as, disappointingly the youngsters couldn’t stay on in the venue, Elliot Falla opened the later part of the show with his brother Harvey in tow on mandolin.

As always Elliot’s take on acoustic indie blues sounded very good and the addition of the mandolin and second vocals added a nice folky side to the sound, along with some harmonies that tempered Elliot’s voice.

That said, his voice has come on impressively even in the few months since I’d last seen him play and with a batch of new songs its clear Elliot is really coming into his own.

If Elliot Falla’s performance was well delivered if a little low-key for a party, Clameur De Haro soon changed that launching into their bluegrass inspired set with their usual sense of fun.

Clameur De Haro

Clameur De Haro

Unfortunately a broken string soon stalled proceedings for a few minutes, though the band took it admirably in their stride joking with both one another and the audience while fiddle player Josh De Kooker took the chance to play a quick jig that got a few dancing.

After that brief break the band were back on it, building on the already good atmosphere in the venue highlighted by their ode to Guernsey’s most famous politician, Dear John and even getting a smile out of cajon player Shifty.

The good atmosphere continued as the small but enthusiastic audience headed onto the dance floor as Honest Crooks took to the stage. The ska-punk trio really felt as if they were on home turf here and entirely playing to their fans and friends making for one of the most relaxed and fun sets I’ve seen from them.

Joined on kazoo by To The Woods’ Bobby Battle for a fair bit of the set, this was one of those gigs where the lines between band and audience were well and truly blurred in the best of ways.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With covers by Sublime, Reel Big Fish, Gentlemen’s Dub Club and others receiving some of the most instantly positive reactions it is to the credit of the band that their original songs stand alongside these classics of the genre and, I would suggest, that if I didn’t know which were covers and which were originals there would be no difference.

Rounding off with that song by Sublime closed the night on a high that showcased not just some of the current best musicians playing ‘popular music’ in Guernsey but made it clear that there is a lot more good stuff to come.

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Vale Earth Fair 2015 – 30/08/15

Jungle Brothers at Vale Earth Fair

Jungle Brothers

For the 39th year the Vale Earth Fair took over the Vale Castle on Sunday 30th August.

The Channel Island’s longest running music festival has long had a reputation for the breadth of music it offers and this year was no different with everything from psytrance to house to hip hop to groove metal all having their place on the bill across the 12 hour event.

My review of the festival was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th September and you can read an extended version of that beneath the cutting below.

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

Vale Earth Fair review shot - 05:09:15

Extended Review

As the sun shone down and marathon runners snaked past I made my way up the hill to Vale Castle last Sunday lunchtime for this year’s Vale Earth Fair where, over 12 hours, more than 60 bands, musicians and DJs would be appearing across six stages.

Ukuladeez

Ukuladeez

With one of the strongest local line ups in years bolstering headline acts Jungle Brothers and Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate from the off their was a sense of positivity and anticipation across the site that continued all day.

Live music got underway first on the Busking Stage at the bottom of the castle hill with Ukuladeez. Though they were slightly drowned out by the somewhat overbearing breaks ‘n’ beats stage (this would be balanced as the afternoon went on) their small crowd still enjoyed the tunes, though the early slot did seem to sap some of their usual joie de vivre.

The Stage Against The Machine was next to get going with a showcase for a couple of acts from the School of Popular Music. Jesse Byrne is a young solo acoustic singer-songwriter who, while a bit standard, certainly seemed to have the musical skill to grow into something good.

The Bone Idols

The Bone Idols

He was followed by an exceptionally young rock band, The Bone Idols, who sounded great for a first full public gig (even without a bass guitar), with their mix of covers that would already put some established cover bands I’ve witnessed to shame. And it’s always good to see a new female performer with some attitude, in this case their drummer.

As people began to find their spots inside the castle Schema welcomed them with their mix of funky jams. This was my first time catching the quartet since their recent reformation and, while not much has changed, their laid back approach was a nicely relaxed way to start the day and caught the general Earth Fair vibe very well while the band looked like they were having a great time on stage which was very infectious.

After a successful return at Chaos earlier in the summer, indie three-piece Fly Casual returned to the Earth Fair on the Stage Against The Machine and drew quite a crowd for the early hour. Despite fighting some sound issues the trio sounded great and gone was the nostalgia that marked their last outing leaving just some really good songs in its place that was the first of many highlight performances across the day.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

Fly Casual were quickly followed by the currently very busy Lord Vapour who did exactly what they’ve been doing all summer in drawing a crowd down to the front and delivering loose, groovy hard rock.

On this bigger stage their lordships may have lost a little of the atmosphere that has marked their previous gigs, but it still sounded great and everyone on and off stage seemed to have a great time.

After a storming headlining slot at Chaos and a highlight set at Sark Folk Festival it felt a bit odd seeing Robert J. Hunter and his band quite so early on the bill today. That didn’t deter the dirty blues three-piece though as they delivered a tight and lively set that had a few grooving along in front of the stage while others lazed in the still present sun.

Once again both Rob and the band continued to demonstrate the growth that near constant gigging leads to showing they have really grown into their sound and style to become a full package of a band to rival any blues band I’ve seen.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Back on the Stage Against The Machine things got bouncy as Honest Crooks brought their brand of politico-ska-punk to the day.

Fitting in perfectly with what makes the Earth Fair what it is, the band continued their run of great shows that have built them a dedicated and energetic following who were skanking throughout.

Even with the slight misstep of an under rehearsed new song (complete with kazoo filling in for the band’s long searched for brass section) Raddy, Cheese and Andy’s mix of well-known covers and originals made them the first band to get a dedicated crowd dancing as the fog began to roll in.

While Bonsai Pirates brought their upbeat acoustic, pirate themed tunes to the main stage, late booking Gay Army stormed the castle walls outside. With their insistent, urgent post-punk indie rock in full force they drew the biggest crowd yet, though typically for a mid-afternoon audience they were appreciative if not too energetic. Rolls Reilly soon made up for this though with his ever-flamboyant performance as the four-piece showed they are well and truly back on the battlefield.

Jack Fletcher of Of Empires

Jack Fletcher of Of Empires

One of the most anticipated bands of the day strutted onto the Castle Stage next looking every bit the super cool rock ‘n’ rollers they are in black denim and leather and shades, it was Of Empires.

Marking their first performance back in Guernsey since last year’s Earth Fair it was clear the now Brighton-based band were very happy to be back and on the big stage.

Frontman Jack Fletcher owned the space like a kind of more interesting Bono, while guitarist Matt Berry showed he has grown immeasurably as a performer (he was already an outstanding guitarist) as they grooved their way through a set of predominantly new material.

With their swagger and style backing up their great songs they showed all the makings of future event headliners and, ending on older favourite Carla, made for a powerful finish that started the festival’s evening of rock ‘n’ roll excellently.

That rock ‘n’ roll swiftly continued in garage-y form as Thee Jenerators blasted onto the stage. Taking us from the precision of Of Empires to a kind of visceral ‘raw power’ the crowd were popping from the start and new single Daddy Bones really elevated the energy in the castle to a new level.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Frontman Mark Le Gallez takes to these bigger shows like a duck to water and really gave us a show today as he appeared bedecked in yet more black denim and leather and with his hair slicked into a widows peak (appropriate for newer number Bela Lugosi) while bass man Jo Reeve expanded his energetic on stage repertoire to include swinging from the rigging!

Having only seen this version of the band in pubs it was good to see they can still bring it on a festival stage and really energise the Earth Fair’s afternoon crowd and get them ready for an evening of dancing even as the cloud and fog rolled in, in earnest.

After a bit of a break to enjoy some of the festival’s ‘famous’ vegan lightning burgers (it was a good year for them this year) the rock ‘n’ roll vibe continued with Jersey’s premier trashmen, The Cryptics.

The Cryptics

The Cryptics

While more aloof than the preceding bands their mix of great songs and ‘cool’ is hard to fault as the ever-charismatic Screamin’ Jonny Moth owned the stage while GTO brought the Detroit inspired guitar sound.

The highlights of their set came at its conclusion with a song with the excellent chorus of ‘Hey Devil, I love you cus you’re evil’ followed by Black Lucy and a blistering run at MC5’s Kick Out The Jams.

Rhythm and blues driven post-punk was on order next from Londoners, The November Five. While they suffered from a distant audience, many of whom had headed inside the castle, they delivered an effective set that grew into a genuinely powerful wall of sound with some real fire behind it.

Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate

Sekou Kouyate and Joe Driscoll

The reason that many had headed to the main stage was the return of Earth Fair favourite Joe Driscoll. Having first played the festival in 2006 after being discovered by The Get Down’s DJ Oneofakind, this year saw him return with a full band co-led by Guinea’s Sekou Kouyate.

Delivering a vast expansion on Driscoll’s usual solo guitar loop and MC work their funky rhythms had possibly the day’s biggest crowd moving and grooving. Particularly fascinating about this set was the kora being played by Kouyate that added a new sound to the mix that I’d never heard before, this combined well with Driscoll’s guitar and MCing and created something unique and highly engaging.

Following a few impressive sky illuminating blasts of lightning the heavens opened as Lifejacket took to the Stage Against The Machine and the audience grew and packed down to the front. Undeterred by the rain blowing into their faces the post-rock three-piece delivered they most focused set to date with a large amount of newer material rubbing shoulders with songs from their debut album which was getting its physical release marked here.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

The new songs develop on the blistering intensity of the old with chief songwriter Andy Sauvage showing further inventiveness within his chosen genre while being an intense frontman. To this was added a newly broadened but still distinctly ‘Lifejacket’ set of beats from drummer Moxie while John McCarthy’s precise, distinctive bass lines stood alongside his more fun-loving on stage demeanour.

All this culminated in a career best performance from the band that shows they have a lot more to offer and that went down exceptionally well with the crowd who stuck around and grew no matter how soaked they might be getting.

Jungle Brothers

Jungle Brothers

While Lifejacket rocked outside the castle, this year’s headliners hit the main stage and the rapidly dampening audience (some complete with umbrellas) soon got bouncing to the dance-y hip-hop sound of Jungle Brothers. As always for Earth Fair headliners the crowd were into it throughout and the performers responded in kind making for the kind of huge atmosphere only the Vale Earth Fair manages to deliver in Guernsey.

The rock ‘n’ roll returned to the Stage Against The Machine for the day’s visiting headliners, Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons.

Having wowed the crowd at the De La Rue the night before, the Basingstoke based three-piece wasted no time doing the same at the main event as vocalist (and occasional guitarist) Puss Johnson, bedecked in full cat attire, led the trio through a set of powerful, posturing ‘dirty rock ‘n’ roll’.

Puss merged the stage presence of the likes of Joan Jett and The Cramps into a perfect package with great vocals, knowing lyrics and a real star quality. In many bands a costume like this would feel like a gimmick, but here it was backed up by the music and performance to create something natural, genuine and unique.

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Puss was backed by Dirty Jake and Filfy Antz who musically matched their leader and each brought their own vibe to the set creating a fresh take on an old sound that drew a big crowd that Puss took the time to go and meet face to face several times during the set, in all making them my, and many others, top visiting band of the day with calls having already begun to get them back over to the island.

Having spent the last few years building quite a reputation the honour of closing the Stage Against The Machine fell to To The Woods this year and, as they stepped onto the stage to WWE wrestlers’ D-Generation X’s theme song, it was clear they had every intention of stealing the show.

To The Woods

To The Woods

For the following 45 minutes they proceeded to do exactly what they’ve become known for, delivering blistering grunge rock as Robert ‘Bobby’ Battle led the trio as only he can while Dan Garnham provided the pounding driving force from behind the drums. Here that led to the days only full on mosh pit and even an attempted wall of death!

While they may not have stolen the show To The Woods certainly brought things to an impressive climax and rounded off a day where Guernsey’s musicians showed they can more than hold their own alongside visiting acts as part of an event that rounded off the island’s festival season on a major high.

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SOPM Christmas Hootenanny – The Fermain Tavern – 13/12/14

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

To round off their first full calendar year Guernsey’s School of Popular Music put on a show at The Fermain Tavern featuring a mix of bands and performers associated with, and just enjoyed by, the school.

As well as featuring the much-anticipated return to the stage of indie rockers Last Of The Light Brigade with new bass player Kyle Torode, the gig included Lydia Pugh, Thee Jenerators, The Secret Smiles and Subversion.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 20th December 2014.

SOPM Christmas Gig review scan - 20:12:14

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