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Guernsey Gigs Jam Night #2 – The Fermain Tavern – 22/09/17

Who Would Dare Give Me The Raspberry

Who Would Dare Give Me The Raspberry

Back in March Guernsey Gigs put on an event that was a bit of an experiment, based on the idea of some of the open mic nights that take place but formalising it with randomly drawn selections of musicians being given 20 minutes to ‘jam’ and see what happens.

Given that the first was a success for both musicians and the curious audience, there was a bit of buzz around this second version of the event with a broader scope of musicians putting their names in the buckets to play.

While people were arriving and the first of the jam bands were getting things together the Ten Toe Hobo hopped up on stage to play a short impromptu set that found the feeling of the night very well in the way only he can.

Ten Toe Hobo

Ten Toe Hobo (slightly in the dark)

When it comes to a night like this of course it’s a little different to a normal gig as none of the bands are bands and none of the songs are songs and just getting up on stage takes more confidence than certainly I have, whatever the outcome.

The first band, dubbed I think accidentally Not Yet by the evening’s compere Graham ‘G-Dog’ Duerden, were slightly more prepared than most of the night’s combos and delivered a set of funky, jazzy instrumentals led by the saxophone of Boondoggle‘s Dennis Allen.

One thing about a jam night like this which is always something of a worry is that each group will just fall back into a kind of standard bluesy groove, so it was encouraging that even between the first two groups neither came close to doing that.

Deliberate Mistake

Deliberate Mistake

Deliberate Mistake, as they called themselves, threw together elements of psyche and indie with hip hop. With Silas The Assyrian Assassin on vocals, the backing provided a more relaxed groove for his insistent, Beastie Boys like punk rock-rap style delivery but for the most part it worked.

With Christiaan Mariess of Brunt on drums it was no surprise that The Dangles had a heavy groove going throughout nicely balanced by some more of Dennis’ saxophone and his Boondoggle comrade Carrie’s vocals.

While the next couple of bands didn’t quite gel as well they still led to some nice moments. Sexual Content featured some Doors like hints from The Recks‘ Richey Powers before he switched to guitar in Quintessentially Human and showed some fine power blues stylings as they neared their climax, showing off something we don’t get to see normally.

Key Change

Key Change

Possibly the most unexpected grouping of the night saw City Limits‘ lead guitar whiz, Glenn Holmes, teaming up with Ukuladeez (all counting as one vocalist). While they found a few nice jams amongst their bizarre mixture, I think their highlight moment was when Ellie added some percussion in the form of tap dancing. 

And then it was Murray Brown… Named for the Burning At Both a Ends guitarist whose name had been drawn several times across the night despite the fact he wasn’t actually there and combining the forces of Lord Vapour, Mechanical Lobster and Citizen-X, amongst others to create something like a deranged version Hawkwind but with more extreme vocals drenched in reverb and delay creating a highlight of the night.

As the night neared its end things went off the rails somewhat as last group, Who Would Dare Give Me The Raspberry, filled the stage with performers who played with a great fluidity considering the situation.

Murray Brown

Murray Brown

With Rentoclean‘s Kieran Smale scratching on the decks (following drumming duties earlier) adding yet another new sound and Gregory Harrison delivering a kind of scat vocals with beat boxing and rap thrown in, they ended the night in a way that showed exactly the best of what this night could do, getting different groups of musicians together and creating something new that, at the start of the night, no one thought they’d be playing.

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

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Chaos Voodoo 13 – 23-25/06/17

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

For the thirteenth year the Greenman MCC and friends took over a few fields at Pleinmont in Guernsey for their annual party weekend – Chaos!

This year with the subtitle Voodoo 13 the festival featured two stages of live music for three days featuring everything from the lightest of folk to the heaviest of rock along with the bike show and whatever other shenanigans might happen when you put a few hundred bikers and music lovers in a field.

My review of the event was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1 July 2017 and you can read that, and an extended version, below.

You can also see my galleries of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos 13 review - part 1 - 01/07/17

Chaos 13 review - part 2 - 01/07/17

Extended review

It might be unlucky for some but for Greenman MCC and the rest of the crew behind Chaos it turned out to be one of their best weekends of bikes, beer and, what we’re focussing on here, bands, yet.

Day 1

Silas The Assyrian Assassin at Chaos 13

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

As has become customary the weekend started out in The Peace Tent with Silas The Assyrian Assassin first up on Friday afternoon. Delivering one of his more coherent sets to the small but appreciative audience it was nice to hear the intentional humour along with the more pointed opinions in his songs more clearly than sometimes.

Highlights came in the form of a ‘cockney’ reworking of Dandy Warhols’ Bohemian Like You along with a series of topical original songs generally bemoaning the state of the world in his uniquely witty way.

Fly Casual frontman, Damo, followed Silas with a slightly more straightforward, but none-the-less enjoyable, set of acoustic indie, including some songs from his long time band which are always nice to hear.

The main stage got going with one of the islands up and coming younger bands, Rogue. While they seemed to have a few sound issues they didn’t let that slow them down and their mix of rock covers including the likes of Skid Row, Guns ’N’ Roses, System of a Down and Muse were a nice warm up for the evening.

Blacksmith at Chaos 13

Blacksmith

Having debuted last year, power metal trio Blacksmith upped the ante adding costumes to the mix in helping to tell their tale of the heroic ‘smith saving a princess from an evil dragon. While it may all sound a bit ridiculous the band wear it lightly and with a fun manner, and delivered their chuggy riffs brilliantly.

The first visiting band of the weekend were Jersey quintet Short Was Found. Having made their Guernsey debut at Chaos last year they came with something of a built-in following and it was clear why

Their energetic, hardcore tinged, punk rock was as fast, punchy and powerful as you could want and frontman James Pallot was a force of nature on stage.

The addition of second guitar has filled out their sound in the right way and it was nice to hear some upbeat punk rock as most of Guernsey’s harder punk bands are being a bit quiet.

Having already played the JT Market Rocks event to Chris Tarrant and friends (yes, really) earlier in the evening Honest Crooks hit the stage for a headlining set in The Peace Tent with a purpose and it wasn’t long before the crowd was packed in and skanking away.

Honest Crooks at Chaos 13

Honest Crooks

The chance to play a longer set really showed off their repertoire from great originals to well-chosen covers spanning everything from The Specials to Reel Big Fish to, somewhat bizarrely, Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl.

Whatever they were playing though the audience were loving it and they put in an early bid for highlight of the weekend.

West Country rockers That Band took things in a different direction on the main stage with some sub-Red Hot Chilli Peppers style funk rock. While all four members played and performed very well and were perfectly listenable their set didn’t really ignite the crowd the way funky rhythms should making for a set that, while well-played, couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a dud.

SugarSlam at Chaos 13

SugarSlam

SugarSlam have become main stage regulars at Chaos over the last few years and never fail to deliver, and Chaos 13 was no exception.

Having been in the studio over the last few months they took the chance to air a lot of new material and the upbeat power pop grunge continued where they left off with their Fameless album and quickly got the crowd excited.

Rounding off the set with a pair of covers, Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, left what was a loose but fun set on a high.

Having given the event its theme and following appearances on TV hailing them as one of the UK’s best undiscovered bands, there was a real sense of anticipation for the excellently named Johnny Cage & the Voodoogroove.

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove at Chaos 13

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove

Their genre defying brand of dirty rock ’n’ roll certainly came with a good groove.

The band brought an excellent character and vibe to a slick and tight performance that kept the crowd at the front, and in the case of two more ‘enthusiastic’ ladies on the stage with them, dancing. This brought the first night Chaos to a close on a high point and set the bar for the bands to follow.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the first day

Day Two

Track Not Found at Chaos 13

Track Not Found

Following a performance at the previous night’s Sound Guernsey show for under-18s, Track Not Found continued their three gigs in three days weekend by opening up the main stage on Saturday lunchtime.

The young three-piece have built a good reputation over the last year and continued to build on that here.

While it took them a little while to build the energy up and they were a little looser than normal, by about half way through the set, around the time guitarist Grace Tayler broke a string, they hit their stride and didn’t let the missing string slow things down to get the day going in fine fashion.

When it comes to energy you can always rely on Jawbone and this was no exception.

The set started a little on the back foot as Dom from Static Alice filled in for the bands regular frontman Steve as he raced to the site on his lunch break. As soon as he did appear though the band were all systems go with their scrappy, sloppy take on punk rock.

Jawbone at Chaos 13

Jawbone

While covers of the likes of Misfits, The Damned, Alkaline Trio and Men At Work (yes really!) have been their standards, their set of originals is growing and while Choice was a little too sloppy here Generation Y more than made up for it with its NoFX-like take on a bleak, nihilistic but still singalong sound.

While The Crowman is something of a regular in The Peace Tent, this year saw him arrive with his recently formed Crowband in tow, as heard on his new album, and they did a great job of building on The Crowman’s signature garage folk sound.

The whole set had a playful and relaxed feel though the more melancholy songs still cut through and made their point and Pimbo (with the aid of a megaphone) was one of Chaos’ most surreal moments in a while (and that’s saying something in The Peace Tent).

The fun folky vibes continued with Clameur De Haro and they quickly had The Peace Tent packed for a relaxed performance mixing their great songs with some well-chosen hard rocking covers that got people singing and clapping along.

WaterColour Matchbox at Chaos 13

WaterColour Matchbox

While it was a folky afternoon in the smaller field the main stage continued rocking with WaterColour Matchbox delivering a tight and slick set of their progressive, conceptual rock with the metallic edge dialled up for this show.

While their songs aren’t music to chill out to even on a relaxed Saturday afternoon they went down well and in the setting of the big Chaos stage they sounded suitably huge.

Having made a strong impression on their first visit to the island a couple of months ago Great North were one of the weekend’s most anticipated acts in The Peace Tent and they didn’t disappoint.

With the tent crowd at its most subdued the husband and wife duo’s voices became the focus of attention and were instantly absorbing.

Great North and Gregory Harrison at Chaos 13

Great North and Gregory Harrison

While the songs were often on the darker or more serious side Hayden Donnell brought a lighter side with a quick wit between the songs that provided the perfect balance and a few songs with Gregory Harrison on banjo just added to all this.

After the bike show and a set from The Phantom Cosmonaut (that I won’t review for obvious reasons) Brunt brought the heavy to The Peace Tent.

A band who built their reputation in this space a few years ago, the tent was busy for their return and really got into the slow and crushing grooves which flowed from the stacks of amplifiers on the stage and, while it was clear they have a dedicated following at the front, they made an impression on all gathered out of the fog.

The Recks at Chaos 13

The Recks

After a year away The Recks returned to Chaos in their spiritual setting here of The Peace Tent and hit the stage in front of a packed audience.

While it took them a few songs to get warmed up and there seemed to be some technical issues with Greg’s banjo (no jokes about banjos please), they worked through this expertly and were soon back and rolling in fine form with everyone swaying and grooving to a selection of songs ranging from new numbers recently added to their set to older ones not heard from the band since their reformation.

Heave are a band who have become the stuff of legend.

For a brief period a couple of years ago the duo delivered a series of crushingly heavy and loud sets before promptly disbanding, apparently never to be heard again.

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

So, as soon as their name appeared on the line up for Chaos 13, they became the most anticipated band of the weekend and as soon as Neil Ettasse hit his drums and Steve Lynch’s Explorer guit-bass and wall of amps roared into life the old power was back.

With seven songs in 45 minutes it was a thick, crushing, obscenely loud racket in the best of ways that quickly got the first proper pit of the weekend going.

Steve and Neil were as tight as ever, as if they’d never been apart, and with the likes of Swamp Monster Is Loose, Smoking Molasses and epic closer Tomahawk they did what PUNiK did last year of becoming not just a highlight of the weekend but a highlight of all Chaos.

Following the onslaught of Heave was going to be no mean feat and its a bit of a shame for Graveyard Johnnys that the crowd seemed to go through a brief period of recovery while they started their set.

Graveyard Johnnys at Chaos 13

Graveyard Johnnys

Thankfully the punkabilly trio are clearly an experienced crew and soon got the crowd on side leading to another pit kicking off, in fact one of the biggest I’ve seen at Chaos in quite some time.

Frontman and upright bass player Joe Grogan played with a great charisma that whipped the audience in the frenzy while Callum Houston was a non-stop dynamo pulling punk and rock ’n’ roll licks from his blonde Telecaster in fine fashion and Tom Lord looked like something from a post apocalyptic movie behind his rolling drums.

Graveyard Johnnys provided another highpoint of the weekend and ended on a killer cover of Golden Earing’s Radar Love to close out a great day spanning everything from the lightest folk to the heaviest of rock.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the second day

Day Three

As something of a change to past Chaos events the Sunday afternoon of the festival was given over to a Battle of the Bands on the main stage in conjunction with Sound Guernsey, showcasing eight of the island’s young bands.

Lysergic at Chaos 13

Lysergic

While there are things to say about all the bands who took part there are a few things that apply to all of them. That is that they are all amazing talented given their ages and experience and, while the performances aren’t the level of the big bands of the last two days they all showed at least hints of some great performers to come as they develop and get more gigs under their belts.

Lysergic opened the day and were totally new to me. The first half of their set had an edgy and slightly psychedelic nature to it (appropriate given their name, was that intentional?) with covers of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer and The Rolling Stones Paint It Black before the singer and the guitarist swapped roles and things went in a grungier direction.

This second vocalist brought a crazed energy that was great to see in a scene where the younger bands can often be a little on the polite side and I was almost surprised he didn’t end the set by throwing himself through the drum kit a la Kurt Cobain in his prime.

Vice at Chaos 13

Vice

One thing that has really stood out with the current crop of young bands in Guernsey is the number of female performers and Vice are a prime example of this. The all-girl five-piece sounded great on the slightly heavier, darker numbers from the likes of Highly Suspect and, while they could do with a bit more grit to back it up (something that comes with time), they put on a great show with their singer particularly standing out with a charismatic and confident turn.

Another female fronted band were The Violet Diversion and it wasn’t long before their singer, Kiya, was following in her uncle Stace Blondel’s footsteps and heading out on the speakers across the front of the stage, getting face to face with the crowd.

While Kiya led the charge the rest of the band were solid as well and, while their selection of songs didn’t give them the coherent image of their leader they put on a great show.

The Violet Diversion at Chaos 13

The Violet Diversion

The last band before the break are one with a little more experience, Equilibrium. While their energy was a bit up and down today they still put in a good showing and when they did hit their stride they made a great pop rock sound.

After a brief trip to The Peace Tent for a little self-described ‘smutty’ folk from A Day Before Thursday, Acoustic Accord kicked off the second half of the Battle of the Bands with a cover of Buffalo Huddleston’s Sky High. The band followed this with well-played piano and acoustic guitar covers of a range of songs, backed up with a violin and drums. While they were a little reserved for my tastes but undeniably talented musicians.

Another band who, despite their appearance, have been playing for a year or more are Cosmic Fish. It having been a while since I last saw them they’d noticeably come on again and, while still a bit loose in places, have added more power to their pop punk sound that is coming together into something very enjoyable.

Blue Mountains at Chaos 13

Blue Mountains

At this point I’ll apologise to Track Not Found for missing their third show in three days but The Peace Tent called for a toastie and Blue Mountains.

With their new EP, Hummingbird, unofficially released here (the official launch will be at Sark Folk Festival) the trio mixed their set up a bit but did exactly what we’ve come to expect; delivering a series of darkly hued folk songs based on styles of Americana with their own flavour increasingly creeping in making them one of the islands truly special bands to see and hear.

Back at the Battle Rogue were back on stage and looking far more confident than they did on Friday afternoon. While they still have some rough edges to smooth out their set was far more assured with drummer Luke Corbin and singer Carmen Stella Tippet particularly impressing – and it’s always nice to hear Skid Row’s Youth Gone Wild.

Buff Hudd and Jull-z at Chaos 13

Buff Hudd and Jull-z

With all the bands having performed the judging panel (made up of a selection of members of the stage crew and organisers) made their deliberations and announced Vice as very worthy winners with Track Not Found an honourable second, but, as with pretty much all battle of the band’s style events, all the bands were winners getting seen by a bigger audience and getting an experience they are unlikely to get for a while (or at least another year if they get invited back to Chaos in the future).

With ‘silly games’ taking place in the main field in the way they only do at Chaos the music continued in The Peace Tent with Buff Hudd. It’s hard to think of a more perfect act for this setting and Mike Meinke delivered on that as people chilled out in the tent, some singing and grooving along. Once again the Japanese version of his song Don’t Worry Yourself was a very impressive highlight along with the slightly mind-bending instrumental Mono-limb-tastic.

Ukuladeez at Chaos 13

Ukuladeez

The folky vibes continued in somewhat more surreal form next as Ukuladeez hit the stage and seemed intent on playing a game of how many people can we fit on The Peace Tent stage at once.

Within that though they delivered probably the best set I’ve ever seen from them combining their sense of fun with some great catchy songs packed with genuine humour.

With the expanded band including not just bass and drums as we’ve heard before but violin, pipes from James Dumbarton melodica and, for one track, the Folkatron 3000 (its hard to explain) from Peace Tent’s terrestrial leader Stretchy Stuff along with a choir of the Ladeez’ mums it made for a highlight set of the weekend in The Peace Tent in the most improbable of ways.

Burning At Both Ends at Chaos 13

Burning At Both Ends

Back in the main tent Burning At Both Ends kicked off the final evening session with a set of their storming style of pop punk.

With the Sound Guernsey faithful at the front and singing along the band gave it their all and this set in particular really showed frontman Peter Mitchell coming into his own in the role.

Catchy new songs stood alongside now well-known favourites and the band closed their set by inciting a circle pit for their final breakdown.

Over the years Static Alice have become firm Chaos favourites and their brand of power pop rock rarely fails to get the crowd going and this was no exception.

From the start Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais were all in full on performance mode getting up on the speakers in front of the stage and rarely dropping the energy for more than hour.

Static Alice at Chaos 13

Static Alice

With the biggest crowd I remember on a Sunday night in a long time Static Alice showcased songs from their new Warrior EP alongside older material that it was clear a lot in audience were familiar with before ending on a crowd pleasing encore of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz.

This closed Chaos on an upbeat note and brought to an end what felt like a newly revived event with something of the spirit of old back with brand new young bands rubbing shoulders with established acts and some great visiting headliners.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the third day

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Guernsey Gigs presents Thee Jenerators, Joe Young and The Bandits and Silas The Assyrian Assassin – The Fermain Tavern – 06/05/17

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

With a bank holiday last weekend and another coming up next week with Liberation Day, it was hard to escape the feeling of this being something of a limbo weekend, but, thanks to Guernsey Gigs, there was the hope of rock ‘n’ roll salvation at The Fermain Tavern.

The night started off in slightly more sedate fashion than that though with the acoustic punk stylings of Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Silas combined aspects of his past work fronting some the islands most notable punk bands of the last decade with hints of the ranting poetry style of Attila the Stockbroker but all in package that looked constantly on the verge of collapse.

Following a full play of The A-Team theme tune, his performance tonight seemed a little lacking in the energy and spirit of his best ones. That said it was still entertaining enough with the usual grace notes like fumbling with a folded up set list still working well.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Musically it was as you’d expect with highlights coming with Trust Fund Anarchist, Interesting Facts and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while we didn’t get the full song, Boozing’s My Religion started out as a nice play on the REM classic.

By the end of the set, an improbable cover of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up with Stace Blondel providing backing vocals from the audience, it had picked up a little and it remained entertaining but I couldn’t help but think Silas really needs a more intimate space and engaged audience to really be properly effective.

Styles couldn’t have shifted much more next as Jersey four-piece Joe Young & The Bandits launched us through a time warp into the 1970s for a set of hard rocking power blues.

While I found it hard to engage with their performance there was no denying how well they evoked the sounds and styles of the likes of Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin, et al, but through a set of convincingly created original songs.

Frontman Martin o’Neill (there is no actual Joe Young) was nicely energetic (when he wasn’t stood frustratingly with his back to the audience) though there were moments that felt a little too much like Tenacious D, but in the throwback context they worked ok.

Joe Young & The Bandits

Joe Young & The Bandits

Bass player Eddie Laffoley meanwhile was the most naturally energetic on stage and even put in some nice vocal performances in a few tracks. Of course a band like this wins or loses with its guitarist and Greg Alliban more than lived up to expectations with his playing, but again I found it hard to find a connection with the performance.

Joe Young & The Bandits may be a barrage of cliché but it’s hard to ignore the head nodding groove they invoked, even if it was nothing I hadn’t heard a hundred times before.

After a short break Thee Jenerators took to the stage for the first time in a good while and, to start with, it looked like the good but not great feel of the night was going to continue as the band ran through a few of their newer songs.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

As soon as they launched into Fight The Power from their Jenerator X debut though things seemed to kick up several gears and never let up as we experienced possibly the most powerful garage punk assault this version of the band have produced to date.

While there were moments throughout the set where each band member seemed to lose their thread a little they didn’t let that slow them down as they powered through a selection of songs spanning their whole time together from Mystery Man to  French Disco to Yellow Fruit Pastille to Daddy Bones and got most of the small audience onto the dance floor.

With three encores culminating with a version of Bela Lugosi that verged on completely falling apart, Thee Jenerators put in a set that ended up showing them as the cathartic force of nature they are at their best and, as frontman Mark Le Gallez pointed out, there may not be many bands like this left around these days but we’re glad of those that there are, and I’m very glad there’s Thee Jenerators.

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

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Punk Night at the Tav – The Fermain Tavern – 08/10/16

Short Was Found

Short Was Found

With five bands on the bill, one of whom was marking the release of their debut album and another was making their non-festival Guernsey debut, it was a busy night at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 8th October 2016, celebrating punk rock in many forms.

First up was Silas The Assyrian Assassin who did exactly what we’ve come to expect armed with his acoustic guitar, an always impressive streak of cynical vitriol and some undeniably questionable jokes. As always the set came to life when Silas was playing off heckles from the audience, while his ability to ignore taboos and work this into songs is reminiscent of NoFX’s Fat Mike.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas’ best moments tonight came with his songs dealing with society and politics such as Trust Fund Anarchist and God Bless The Daily Mail and, while the set began to ramble by the end, it was a good start to proceedings – if you like that kind of thing.

Burning At Both Ends changed the atmosphere considerably with their brand of pop punk which was as solid and tight as they come – in fact their performance here made me wonder if it was maybe a bit too precise.

Despite this their songs are undeniably great examples of their style and, as the set went on, their energy increased, particularly following slower number What If Someday They’re Not There.

With this the audience began to get more invested and the energy began to flow both ways as in the best performances rounding off their set on a high and making a great case for picking up their newly released self-titled debut album.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

From one extreme to the other, energy is never something that Jawbone have to worry about while precision seems to not really be something that matters to them so much, and tonight was no different as they ripped through a set of punk classics and originals in their usual, no frills, style.

Back to their full strength line up is when they are at their best and are one of the most fun bands playing in Guernsey today, and they proved this here.

Their original songs bring to mind a mix of NoFX, Rancid and Jersey punks Bulletproof as highlighted in what guitarist Lee described as ‘A love song between myself and the Tory government’.

Jawbone

Jawbone

Rounding the set off with The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg along with Silas on guest vocals marked an energetic and fun highlight and brought to mind punk gigs of years past with songs delivered in sloppy fashion but with real passion.

With the energy up Honest Crooks kept it going and continued the old punk gig spirit with their ska and reggae infused sound.

Particularly notable early in the set was bass player Cheese being handed increasing numbers of shirts and jackets and continuing to play despite his arms being largely immobile as he overheated under the stage lights.

Back to the music and it was exactly what we’ve come to expect from the trio with tight songs delivered with energy and fun designed to fill a dance floor – and that’s just what they did.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks with Lee and Dan

As the set went on they were joined by Lee from Jawbone for a particularly heartfelt take on Rancid’s Fall Back Down before his bandmate Dan joined them for kazoo and Bez like dancing duties on Gentlemen’s Dub Club’s High Grade.

With midnight fast approaching the atmosphere in The Tav dropped somewhat, as it tends to at this time, as people headed to town while Short Was Found were setting up. None the less the band launched into a loud and furious assault of a set mixing hardcore and metal with straight up punk rock.

Frontman James Pallot delivered with a forceful conviction as always and former Bulletproof rhythm duo Lee and Darren were tight as ever with Darren’s drumming speed and intensity particularly standing out.

Short Was Found

James of Short Was Found

As the set went on the small audience came and went and, while the thrashy guitar solos provided something of a diversion it was hard for the short sharp shock approach from the start of the set to not become a bit repetitive which combined with the lower energy in the room to make for a slightly disappointing climax, but this was far from the fault of the guys on stage giving it their all.

What tonight did prove though was that punk rock is as much a varied force to be reckoned now as it ever was and, while I might be a bit biased, it offers something for pretty much anyone from fun high energy danceable sounds to socio-political vitriol all in an uproarious musical package.

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

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Chaos 12: 24, 25, 26 June 2016 – Extended Review

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK at Chaos

For the 12th year in a row the Greenman MCC took over a few fields at top of Pleinmont in Guernsey for Chaos; a weekend of, in their word, ‘bikes, beer and bands’, of course my focus is always on the bands side of things.

With two stages with music across three days the arrangement was the same as the last few years and featured a range of artists from the Channel Islands and beyond including some familiar faces and some newcomers including the likes of PUNiK, The Hyena Kill, SugarSlam, Falenizza Horsepower and more.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on 2nd July 2016 and you can read an extended version below, you can also see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos review - 02:07:16

Extended Review

Day 1

For the 12th year in a row the usually rugged landscape of Guernsey’s most southwesterly point again welcomed the Greenman MCC for their Chaos weekend music festival and bike show. With the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing up over the cliffs, conditions couldn’t have been much better as I got to the site on Friday afternoon and headed to The Peace Tent, where the live music traditionally begins.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

With the tent decorated in its usual psychedelic way a notable addition this year was a cardboard cut out of Elvis who would join all the weekend’s acts on stage starting with Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Delivering probably his most fluid and enjoyable set to date Silas (aka longtime Guernsey punk frontman Andy Duchemin) combined some pointed acoustic songs with some jokes, most of which couldn’t be published here but raised some laughs.

Musically the likes of Slacktavist, Trust Fund Anarchist and others aim extremely pointed barbs at the failings of modern society and, coming as Facebook and Twitter were flooded with the post-Brexit backlash, felt all the more suitable. Along with these we got the usual twisted take on Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, The Hokey Cokey through a filter of The Smiths and a demonstration of Duchemin’s psychic abilities which were uncanny.

The acoustic sounds continued with A Clockwork Langoustine, featuring Stace Blondel and Dan Haggarty – both formerly of Mechanical Lobster (you can see what they did there). The duo delivered a great selection of 90s alt-rock and metal classics from the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Danzig along with a few songs by their previous band, almost unrecognisable without the industrial metal trappings. The whole thing was hugely enjoyable and was the first time I’ve heard Blondel’s impressive voice used properly in a long time while Haggarty’s acoustic lead work was spot on.

The OK at Chaos

The OK

With The Peace Tent already in full swing the main/beer tent stage – this year dubbed The War Stage – got going with pop-rock four-piece The OK. Playing their last show it was clear the quartet were out to have some fun and it made for one of the most relaxed performances I’ve seen from them and drew one of the bigger crowds I’ve seen for an opening act here. While it may not have been a blistering start, their songs were solid enough and started warming up the growing crowd well.

If things weren’t going full-tilt before, To The Woods soon changed that as they launched into what felt like an uncharacteristically early set. Warming up over the first few songs it wasn’t long before their loud and ‘lairy’ grunge rock was firing on all cylinders with Fire, a song that had a few singing along.

To The Woods at Chaos

To The Woods

With Bobby Battle’s between song chat toned down slightly this was To The Woods back to the form that made their reputation over recent years and it was great to see. While there was still plenty of Bobby’s unique presence to go round, it allowed the songs a chance to stand out again, kicking off the first mosh of the weekend and culminating powerfully with Hit The Switch and Jack Attack.

Having made their return to the stage on Wednesday night at The Fermain Tavern, Guernsey’s hardcore veterans Insurrection blasted into their set with a wall of powerful noise. Bringing a shot of bleak nihilism and rage, in a surprisingly good-natured looking package, the five-piece continue to grow in power as they mixed songs from their 1980s heyday with material from their reformation EP and brand new tracks.

With lyrics like ‘human race a waste of life’ and the beast and imp dynamic of front duo Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp, Insurrection were blastingly visceral and again the political talk of the day seemed to add yet more relevance to their impassioned music.

Honest Crooks at Chaos

Honest Crooks

Back in The Peace Tent and a very different side of punk rock was on display as Honest Crooks were making an early claim for set of the weekend with the tent packed and skanking. The trio have really hit a new level in the last couple of months and topped it again here.

Having made their first visit to the island last November, Manchester duo The Hyena Kill were clearly very excited to be back as they continued to bring the noise to The War Stage with a set of thunderously heavy metal-tinged rock.

Delivering the Reuben-esque (not in the painting sense) music with passion and power, their sound, created with a guitar and drums, was as loud as they come but surprisingly pure and precise and, to me, were everything Royal Blood had promised by failed to deliver.

The Hyena Kill at Chaos

The Hyena Kill

The onstage chemistry between Steven Dobb (guitar) and Lorna Blundell (drums) was huge and their energy infectious and deserved to whip the crowd into a brutal mosh, however as seems rather common in Guernsey audiences, this failed to quite take off despite the clear love being shown.

Having failed to wow me 12 months ago, Brit metallers Stormbringer were back once again. While more entertaining than my memory suggested and featuring a frontman with some genuine stage presence, not to mention all the right posturing, their brand of power metal infused retro-thrash just felt a bit too safe, particularly after the strength of The Hyena Kill. The highlight of their set came in the form of a cover of Talking Heads Psycho Killer that, if a bit derivative, was pretty fun.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

Derivative and safe are certainly not words that could have anything to do with the first day headliners, Japanese punk quartet PUNiK. Forgoing a proper soundcheck to launch into their set, they provided what, in the festival’s 12 year existence, may be its first taste of real musical chaos.

Combining noise, energy and passion in equal measure this was something the likes of which I’d not seen on our fair shores before and the crowd was as into as the band throughout bringing a real sense of the democratising nature of punk rock as it felt like we were really all in it together. Tagu made for an impressive frontman, playing nonstop despite breaking a string during their first song, while Makoto was a great punk lead guitarist.

Throughout though the focal point was Guernseyman Nigel, making his first visit to the island in 23 years he was all over the stage and at points was clearly genuinely moved by the reaction to this band of misfits from the other side of the world.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK and friends

The highlight of their set came with Hello!! that sounded like something The Wildhearts could have come up with in their heyday and with stage invasions and everything not nailed down going flying they closed off the first day of Chaos with an expletive laden highlight in the festival’s history.

Day 2

After such a performance the night before it was probably fitting that the second day of Chaos started in a fairly hardcore vein with a new Jersey band, Short Was Found, on The War Stage. Featuring the rhythm section of Bulletproof along with two other familiar faces from Jersey’s music scene they delivered fast and tight punk rock with guitar solos thrown in making for an interesting mix that clearly had an effect on those still recovering from past excesses.

Clameur De Haro at Chaos

Clameur De Haro

The hangovers were soothed somewhat by the upbeat, folky fun of Clameur De Haro who set the scene by opening with their hillbilly take on Black Sabbath’s Supernaut. With one of the biggest audiences I’ve seen this early on a Saturday the band were on top form with all the members sharing out vocals duties more than in the past giving the whole thing a wider sound.

With their own infectiously catchy songs alongside classic rock covers, including a particularly good take on Paradise City that drew a great response (especially from the members of Jersey’s Flashmob), the Clams showed they can be just as welcome on the main stage here as at the Sark Folk Festival – one of few bands able to claim that.

Comprised of a few familiar faces from Guernsey’s music scene, including Adam Powell on guitar and former Goldfish Don’t Bounce guitarist Iain Baxter on bass, Blacksmith made their debut here. As expected from the members they played in a tight and polished fashion, delivering some solid heavy rock that was fine but felt a little disconnected and emotionless.

Lord Vapour at Chaos

Lord Vapour

Having highlighted Saturday afternoon in The Peace Tent last year Lord Vapour looked to do the same on The War Stage and, if not as exceptional as 12 months ago, did exactly what they do – delivering slabs of groovy stoner rock – and did it well. The main stage PA allowed the band to sound genuinely massive and their bluesy rock showed its crossover appeal in this location as well.

With new tracks in the set, including one inspired by sci-fi novel Dune (always likely to win me over) along with the older ones the highlight came with their final song, Sugar Tits, that rounded things off well before the bike show saw the music take a break.

While things were getting rocking on the main stage, The Peace Tent stuck with some more relaxed acoustic sounds to start its Saturday with Neale Packham, a folk trio led by James Dumbelton and Blue Mountains keeping things varied but light for those gathered on the sofas and floor.

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

While the bike show was going on in the main field, complete with awards in various categories and the obligatory burnout competition, its was time for some fun and games in The Peace Tent. These things combine to give Chaos the thing that makes it unique and more than just a gathering in a field for some music.

Another past Saturday afternoon Peace Tent stand out, Brunt, hit The War Stage after the bike show and proceeded to flatten all who stood before them with a wall of volume.

Within that though was a clarity that allowed all three members more intricate moments to be heard, particularly the more subtle, melodic sections of Ave Thompson’s lead guitar work that came with a real deftness of touch on his Les Paul.

Brunt at Chaos

Brunt

The trio barely engaged with the audience and rarely even stopped between tunes, but in this case it suited the music perfectly as a large number of heads nodded along.

After the fun and games things started to get rocking in The Peace Tent with The Swallows. The first half of their set was a little distracted thanks to the array of children they’d brought with them but once it settled down the five-piece have some great alt-rock power.

Lisa Vidamour and Rachael Cumberland-Dodd are a spot on front duo for this kind of thing as they ran through covers of the likes of Pixies and The Breeders and set the scene for the rockier things to come.

Science of Eight Limbs at Chaos

Science of Eight Limbs

The peace was well and truly shattered next as Science of Eight Limbs took to The Peace Tent stage. Much like The Hyena Kill they took what Royal Blood brought to the charts and did something far more interesting and powerful with it, in this case combining a rock/metal hybrid sound with funky rhythms and impressive intricacies.

While extremely technical and precise in places the UK duo’s performance and chemistry was effortless and got what I think may be The Peace Tent’s first fully fledged mosh pit going and left many confounded with the range of noise and sound produced by just two people making for one of the sets of the weekend.

With broken voices and soon broken strings, SugarSlam brought the party atmosphere to The War Stage with a set of their characteristic grungy power-pop-rock.

 SugarSlam with Flashmob at Chaos

SugarSlam with Flashmob

Having been working with the crew all weekend frontman Plumb was clearly riding a wave of energy to propel him through the set that was excellently backed up by the rest of the band, along with Jay and Harry from Flashmob for a run at Guns ’N’ Roses’ It’s So Easy.

Playing with power and punch that made them feel like headliners they delivered a storming version of The Stooges Be Your Dog dedicated to PUNiK.

Back in the other field The Peace Tent was packed as Buffalo Huddleston once again provided a high point of music and atmosphere as has become their trademark.

The rock continued on The War Stage with Peppered Ant Legs running through their gamut of hard rock classics. Delivered with plenty of fun and flair, even if Danny Joyce’s bass playing was a bit suspect in places, but they certainly found their groove for a great run at Black Sabbath’s Faeries Wear Boots.

Falenizza Horsepower at Chaos

Falenizza Horsepower

With a bass stack set up either side of the drum riser it was time for another two-piece to take the stage and once again deliver something loud and powerful. Jersey’s Falenizza Horsepower provided great swathes of sonic experience mixing bass, vocal and guitar loops with powerful drums to build and create huge songs that filled the big tent.

While often overlooked Dave Spars vocals are a rich component of the songs that combine elements of indie, rock, metal and doom in one unique package that was backed up by a great light show here and seemed to go down a storm with the big crowd.

With intro music from A Clockwork Orange, Kill II This launched into their set of industrial-tinged metal and put in a strong performance.

Kill 2 This at Chaos

Kill 2 This

Simon Gordon, a familiar face from his days in Thousand Points Of Hate, is a great frontman reaching out and connecting to the crowd along with guitarist Mark Mynett.

With a lot of sequenced backing sounds it gave the whole thing a very big feel but with that came a certain artificiality which, coming after Falenizza Horsepower and the previous night’s realist flurry of PUNiK, made it hard for me to connect with a set that felt well delivered if, ultimately, somewhat generic.

Day 3

As is traditional the final day of Chaos got going with Cramps O’Clock, an hour of music from the cult psychobilly band as DJ’d by myself, followed by some suitable silliness from Peace Tent pilot, Stretchy Stuff.

Jo and Friends at Chaos

Jo and Friends

In a slightly more normal fashion Jo Marsh and friends started the live music on The War Stage.

Delivering some nice soft rock to start the day the hastily assembled band did a decent job (particularly young drummer Toby Beasley also seen in Cosmic Fish) and started the more mellow day as it meant to go on.

After the high energy set last night Mike Meinke of Buffalo Huddleston was back in his stripped back form as Buff Hudd who continued the chilled but upbeat vibes with his guitar and didgeridoo. Stripped of all accoutrement really shows Meinke’s skill at playing and songwriting and Jull-Z joining him for a few songs kept the vibes flowing.

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

The live music in The Peace Tent was equally chilled out to start the day with Lisa Murfitt providing some dark folky sounds both a capella and with a piano. She was also joined by young singer Kiya for a couple of songs who impressed as well.

The volume returned to The War Stage with punk rockers Jawbone. As is their way the set was suitably chaotic throughout with bass player Dan Keltie off out into the crowd and guitarist/vocalist Lee Burton spitting his vocals out with a mix of power and fun.

Previous frontman Steve Scratton joined them onstage for a few songs at the end that were the tightest Jawbone sounded today. Throughout though it was a great fun wake up call for a Sunday afternoon highlighted with their take on Men At Work’s Land Down Under and The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg.

Jawbone at Chaos

Jawbone

With another break in the music on the main stage for some games in the field involving motorbikes, tug o’ war and possibly the most extreme eating contest Chaos has yet seen, things carried on in The Peace Tent with the bluesy, jazzy sounds of Carrie & The Turtlenecks.

The trio were nice and relaxed and had a real sense of fun to their performance, though Carrie seemed oddly distracted by an earlier coffee spill. Despite that she showed a good strong voice which was backed up by some great guitar, clarinet, saxophone and harmonica that offered a completely different sound to everything else on offer this weekend.

After some more slightly surreal games The Ukuladeez took to the stage and continued the relaxed vibes of the day, upping the energy a bit and chatting with the audience, as well as helping Stretchy celebrate a surprise birthday.

Tantale at Chaos

Tantale

The evening session on The War Stage got going with Tantale upping the rocky sounds alongside their psychedelic influences. This was the tightest and most focussed I’ve seen them in a while which once again showed how good a band they can be when it all comes together for them.

Only playing rarely these day, Crazy Babies hit the stage with power as they tore through a set of Ozzy Osbourne songs.

Frontman Stace Blondel was clearly in highly energetic mode, having been told he wasn’t allowed to climb the stage rigging he decided to spend most of the set out on the floor with the audience which really brought them into the set and got everyone involved.

Crazy Babies at Chaos

Crazy Babies

Back on stage the rest of the band were the tightest I remember seeing them in sometime and, as ever, Scorch was highly impressive with his Randy Rhodes style licks on lead guitar all making for a hugely fun set that was perfect to reenergise the Sunday evening crowd.

With the energy back up Static Alice launched into their set and a good-sized crowd gathered considering the late hour on the final day.

While they were musically as tight as ever the pop-rock four-piece seemed to be out to have fun even more than usual which led to a great performance with Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais all using the whole stage.

Static Alice at Chaos

Static Alice with Jay from FlashMob

Jay from Flashmob was back on stage once again to add extra guitar to Black Cadillac Man and Static Alice showed something I’ve not seen from them before as they demonstrated they are possibly the only rock band in the island capable of pulling off a truly populist headlining set of this nature.

With an encore of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell they closed out Chaos 12 on a high which, in all, was one of the most all round enjoyable editions of the festival I have attended.

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Chaos XI: 26, 27, 28 June 2015 – Extended Review

Chaos festival siteEvery festival in Guernsey generates discussion in the build up to the event, but it seemed Chaos 2015 took this to a new level. From the debate this time last year about the festival’s future to the more recent discussion of the smaller, rearranged festival site to the, apparently, more modest line up of acts everything seemed to be open for debate while the organisers worked to put on the show just like they have every other year.

Arriving at the site on Friday lunchtime as gates opened, yes it was a smaller set up than the last few years with what used to be the main field now halved and the main stage reduced in size, while The Peace Tent had been moved to the adjacent ‘campsite’ field. Despite these changes it was undeniably still Chaos and, from the start, it seemed to have something of the feeling and atmosphere back that, for me at least, had lessened slightly in recent years.

Day One

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

The live music began in The Peace Tent with Silas The Assyrian Assassin. His set spanned the line between music and comedy even further than previously and while the jokes and much of the subject matter of the songs were still wildly inappropriate, he seemed to go down well with both those familiar with his act and newcomers.

Highlights of the set included Slacktavist and Trust Fund Anarchist, a pair of acoustic songs raging against the current pop-politics typified by the likes of Russell Brand and those who use social media as their primary political platform.

Peace Tent newcomer Neale Packham, aka The Neale Packham Experience, soon followed with a more traditional acoustic set of some great sounding covers and originals. Despite it being his first time at Chaos he seemed to get the mood immediately and delivered a fun and light-hearted performance, including a great blues number about being caught in a power cut, and asking if it was ok to play some Coldplay… he decided against it, but did deliver a great little Ed Sheeran cover.

More acoustic sounds followed from Elliot Falla. Falling firmly in the soulful young singer-songwriter with a guitar mould, Falla delivered a very smooth and professional sounding set and, while he was somewhat reserved on stage this fitted the chilled out mood early on in The Peace Tent.

Stalk The Lantern

Stalk The Lantern

Stalk The Lantern kicked off the weekend’s full-scale bands on the main stage and, while they took a few songs to hit their stride, their rough around the edges pop-rock was certainly an upbeat way to start things off.

The four-piece seemed to have trouble engaging the slowly growing crowd but, at this early stage of the festival that’s not too surprising. Highlight numbers Walk With Lights and Dust went down well and, with a little more polish, could become something special.

Jersey’s Pirate Party Brigade kept the positive vibes going on the main stage and upped the energy considerably with their brass-infused party rock. Frontman Monty embodied their spirit in every way, clearly already a few sheets to the wind but hugely charismatic with an attitude custom-made to get a festival crowd going.

To The Woods

To The Woods

The rockier side of Chaos got going with grunge monsters To The Woods. The intense power trio delivered a set packed with a raging power as guitarist/vocalist Bobby Battle tore up the stage and the audience’s ears in the best of ways while Dan Garnham was on top form behind the drums.

Looking extremely comfortable on this bigger stage this may have been To The Woods best show yet and they seemed to step up their game another level in terms of musical performance, energy and building a great atmosphere with the crowd.

What seemed to be night of the power trios continued with Bournemouth’s The Electric Shakes adding a Stooge-y garage rock feel to proceedings.

Oozing cool from the off, the Shakes tore through their set with Raw Power (if you’ll pardon the pun) with Steve Lynch in formidable frontman form channeling a mix of garage and hard rock in his style not seen since the peak time of Teaspoonriverneck.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

Bassist Eric equaled this as he threw shapes and poses but still nailed the performance technically, while Basha’s drums rolled, thundered and pounded and the band proved themselves the perfect kind of act for a biker festival.

While the main stage was rocking Jersey’s Sephira was bringing groovy, psychedelic sounds to The Peace Tent that had a growing contingent of the Tent’s fabulously wonky inhabitants grooving on the dancefloor, while, as is custom, others chilled out on the sofas soaking up the UV soaked ambience.

Having spent the last few years gigging in London, Robert J. Hunter brought his band to headline the first night of Chaos and did so in the style of a triumphantly returning hero, but all with his modesty well intact.

Robert J Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

Turning provided a strong and punchy start to the set that was followed by more powerful, heartfelt, blues. New number Preacher showed another side to the band’s sound and demonstrated how Rob’s voice has continued to grow and mature in both power and conviction while drummer Greg Sheffield’s backing vocals excellently counterpointed Rob.

With a long headlining set the trio delved in their extensive back catalogue and showed how Rob’s older songs have developed to stand alongside the newer material and it was nice to hear some blatant but well executed Stevie Ray Vaughan aping going on at points.

As a band Rob, Greg and bassist James Le Huray have really gelled since I last saw them and played off one another excellently for more than an hour and, with more great songs like See You In Hell and single Demons, closed off the first day of Chaos 2015 on a very strong high.

You can see more of photos from the first day of Chaos on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

Day Two

Ramblin' Nick Mann

Ramblin’ Nick Mann

While Friday had finished with full band power blues, Saturday began with lo-fi, DIY blues from Ramblin’ Nick Mann and his biscuit box guitar.

This was by far and away the most confident and assured performance I’ve seen from the Ramblin’ one and his songs of Channel Islands tropes and folklore delivered in an affected southern drawl have a unique and enjoyable quality that was a nice low-key way to start the day.

The unenviable task of launching the main stage went to The Doomsday Project but the four-piece pop-punk band stormed it with a tight and confident performance in the face of a somewhat jaded audience.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Even since their recent album launch the band have come on in leaps and bounds and a highlight of their set here were the confident harmonies (a staple of pop-punk) that, in particular, made their take on Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love shine and, for me at least, showed a band who could easily have shone higher up the bill.

Back in The Peace Tent and things continued with Gregory Harrison. With a hugely rich voice, this genuine and modest performer delivered everything from the soul, whether it was original material, or his own take on the work of others, and matched the continued relaxed feel in and around the tent.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

The mid-afternoon Saturday set in The Peace Tent has become something of a landmark one as the general mellow vibe is shattered by something crushingly heavy. In the past Heave and Brunt have put in highly memorable performances here and this year their successors, Lord Vapour, had the chance and didn’t disappoint.

By their own admission the band were a bit ‘loose’ (a night at Chaos could do that to anyone) but, none the less, they grooved their way through a set that rocked and swung in equal measure. Despite his evident nervousness Joe Le Long came across as a natural frontman and Henry Fear’s guitar playing showed even more improvement (and it wasn’t in a bad state to start with) as the packed tent reveled in the groove with heads nodding along in the heat.

After a break for bikes, burnouts and tattoos, Chaos mainstays Stone Em All hit the main stage, fresh off a stint in the studio recording a new EP.

Stone Em All

Stone Em All

Every time I see this groove metal five-piece they get better and this was no exception. With two excellent guitarists trading leads, and as solid a metal rhythm section as you’ll find over here, there’s a lot to enjoy.

While I’m still not a fan of Robert Hotton’s vocal style I definitely found myself enjoying it more this time, particularly on the newer songs, and his energy, presence, charisma and enthusiasm cannot be disputed. The fact he writes heavy metal about serious socio-political subjects also gives the band something different to many in their genre, particularly currently in the Channel Islands.

Things couldn’t have been much more different in The Peace Tent as skiffle-folk-n-rollers The John Wesley Stone brought a hillbilly hoedown feel to the festival.

The John Wesley Stone

The John Wesley Stone

A crowd had certainly come out to see them and they had a few dancing while on stage the band were, typically, a bit all over the place but with such energy they carried it with aplomb as Hillbill launched himself from an amplifier and Jimmy scaled the double bass.

After a ten-year absence indie trio Fly Casual returned to the stage and, while I don’t have the nostalgia for them that many in attendance did, I could certainly see something of what all the fuss around them was about. With a great set of indie originals Fly Casual came with a laid back nature as well and it was good seeing Damo back with a band after his long run of solo outings over the years at Chaos.

Much like the mid-afternoon slot, the evening set in The Peace Tent has become a special one with Rentoclean, Blakalaska and The Recks having packed the tent in the past as the sun set. This year that slot went to Buffalo Huddleston who are riding a wave that began at last summer’s festivals and hasn’t let up since.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston join the crowd

Bolstered further by the return of Becky Hamilton to their ranks, the folk-hop six-piece did what most expected, delivering one of the performances of the weekend and certainly the one that saw the most band/crowd engagement.

As the set went on the band and crowd literally became one as all but drummer Simon headed down from the stage and everyone was dancing and singing along together while the whole tent seemed to be bouncing. New song Mr. Cloud was reprised for an encore following a genuinely epic Sunrise closing this special performance on a real high.

To close Chaos 2015’s second day two visiting bands took to the main stage.

Sovereign

Sovereign

First were Dutch metallers Sovereign, featuring Guernsey’s Aaron Grant (formerly of The Bio-Nightmares) among them.

They delivered an intense set of industrial-tinged tech-death-metal with a dark sci-fi vibe reminiscent of Fear Factory combined with more modern metal styles. The band were extremely tight and their raging sounds got the first pit of the weekend going as the masses of energy on stage translated out into the crowd.

Following this was going to be a challenge for anyone and it fell to UK metallers Stormbringer to do so. Blasting out with an hour of riff-filled power metal that combined cleaner vocals with a good dose of dirty, distorted guitar they played a perfectly tight and smooth set.

Stormbringer

Stormbringer

Every member of the band threw all the right shapes and styles with bass player Darren McCullagh and front man Jimi Brown being particularly charismatic presences. Unfortunately following the intensity of Sovereign left the set feeling less powerful than it possibly could have and I couldn’t help feeling that, though well delivered, there wasn’t anything particularly fresh to their performance.

You can see more of photos from the second day of Chaos on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

Day Three

Following the Chaos and Peace Tent tradition of Cramps O’Clock (an hour of the garage rock band’s songs to wake up and/or confuse those who are still recovering from the Saturday night) Brunt started the live music off loud, slow and heavy.

Brunt

Brunt

A wall of fuzz filled not just The Peace Tent, but the whole festival site and the trio’s loose, fuzzy grooves drew a fair crowd despite the ‘early’ slot. Across the performance it felt like there was more freedom within the band’s playing, particularly in Ave’s guitar, which added to the feeling within their instrumentals.

Brunt were joined by Ben Mullard on vocals for a couple of songs that added a new twist to what they do, before the set was cut short by a broken snare drum. Nonetheless the band played a great set that started the day in style.

Despite the heavy start Sunday afternoon was almost exclusively reserved for acoustic acts across both stages and that started on the main stage with Ollie Goddard of Coastal Fire Dept. Ollie’s acoustic indie was exactly what you’d expect if you’ve seen the full band and he was chatty and engaging throughout as he told stories through songs with a really passionate performance.

Buff Hudd

Buff Hudd

After a show stealing set in The Peace Tent the night before Mike Meinke presented a stripped back solo version of many of Buffalo Huddleston’s songs, along with a few other originals, in the guise of Buff Hudd.

Armed with his guitar, didgeridoo and a bass drum, a new side of the songs was revealed and showed off another side of Mike’s playing that we haven’t had a chance to hear in sometime.

With many ‘chillin’ out on the grass in front of the main stage Buff Hudd’s songs really fit the feeling of the afternoon and he even got granted an encore following an impressive new song featuring the didgeridoo.

The acoustic performances continued in The Peace Tent with The Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie starting off their set in fine form, but unfortunately it was cut short by technical issues.

Ukuladeez and Johnny-O

Ukuladeez and Johnny-O

Ukuladeez soon followed and put in a very tight set of their quirky, fun songs. The group, who were short one member here but joined by Graham Duerden on the drums, were genuinely funny, engaging and inventive with a highlight coming in the form of their new song about Facebook that echoed a similar sense to their older Heat Magazine number.

As the Sunday headed into the evening full bands returned to the main stage with Near Bliss kicking things off. The three-piece Nirvana tribute delivered generally good and enjoyable reproductions of the grunge bands hits and album tracks.

Near Bliss

Near Bliss

Featuring two members of the heavily grunge influenced Tantale unsurprisingly led to a band having a lot of fun playing and Steve Wickins’ guitar and Matt Smart’s bass really fit the sound while Stu Ogier thundered away on the drums in appropriate style.

Near Bliss seemed to go down well, though the audience was still in subdued Sunday mode and, while reproducing iconic material is never going to be 100% successful, they did a great job at it.

Fresh from performances at the Isle of Wight Festival and Folklore in Jersey The Recks hit the stage and within two songs had everyone on their feet.

While the set wasn’t as high energy as the band’s recent show at The Fermain Tavern it was still a special moment of a set as the tent was the busiest I remember seeing it on a Sunday since [Spunge] a few years ago and the crowd, if not really going for it, were all moving with the music and having a great time.

The clarity of the sound from the bigger PA also allowed more elements of the The Reck’s sounds to cut through, showing even more the huge musicality of the group while the crowd sang along to a lot of the material which is always impressive for a band who’ve yet to officially release a record.

The Recks

The Recks

Rounding off the set on the upbeat trio of She Wants That Too, Trainwreck and Papa Leworthy brought the energy at the main stage to a high, certainly for the day, and approaching that for the weekend.

This energy didn’t let up as Jersey pop-metallers Flashmob launched into their set with boundless enthusiasm. Mixing some great originals with well-chosen covers of less obvious tracks by some big bands the Jersey boys played their hearts out and everyone was having a great time.

Flashmob are about as clichéd as metal can be with song titles like Rock ‘n’ f’n Roll and Pedal To The Metal but its all delivered irony free and for fun, without any sense that this has been over thought.

Flashmob

Flashmob

Harry Sutton is an excellent, charismatic, frontman backed by the ever gurning, high energy, guitar duo of James De Heaume and Andy Harris and their infectious enthusiasm made an amazing way to close Chaos.

It all ended up with the whole tent dancing along to a metal version of The Time Warp and then, after much teasing from the band, the Toy Dolls take on Nellie The Elephant blasting through the PA.

Though slightly smaller in scale this year, Chaos once again managed to deliver a great weekend of music that seemed to become much more than it looked like it might have been on paper, with some genuinely special moments and an increased positive energy that made the whole event something of a triumph.

You can see more of photos from the third day of Chaos on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

A short version of this review also appeared in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 4th July 2015, it looked like this:

Chaos XI review scan - 04:07:15

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Chaos 10 – 27, 28, 29th June 2014

Therapy?

Therapy?

For the 10th year in a row there was Chaos at Pleinmont over the weekend of 27th, 28th and 29th June 2014.

Bands from the UK and Channel Islands mingled with bikers and fans from around Europe with headliners coming in the form of Therapy?, Nemesis and Rat Salad on the main stage and BLAKALASKA, The Recks and Ukuladeez in The Peace Tent.

You can see a full set of my photos from the weekend on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page:

Photos of Day One

Photos of Day Two

Photos of Day Three

My review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th July and below is an extended version:

Chaos 10 review pic - 05:07:14

Extended Review

Bikes at Chaos 10For the 10th, and possibly final, year the Greenman MCC took over a couple of fields at Pleinmont to celebrate all things to do with bikes, bands and beer. Here though I’ll mostly be focusing on the bands but there were certainly plenty of the other two there as well.

Day One

As seems to have become tradition the music started out with acoustic acts in The Peace Tent on the Friday afternoon. Having become almost its own mini-festival within Chaos, The Peace Tent this year was once again expanded with a mix of acoustic acts, bands, DJs and various other performances, all within the slightly wonky confines of the psychedelically decorated tent, and first on stage was Silas The Assyrian Assassin.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

I can only assume it’s a kind of roguish charm that allows Silas to get away with some of the material he does as, in some other festivals, some of this stuff may well get him barred, but this afternoon the crowd seemed to be mostly laughing along to the wildly inappropriate humour contained with the acoustic dark punk and indie, and, let’s be honest, your unlikely to hear anyone else turn The Hokey Cokey into miserablist indie.

Over on the main stage things got going with Coastal Fire Dept. playing what I think is only their second full-scale gig. Since that first gig they showed that they had consolidated their sound somewhat into something very 90s with hints of Radiohead, Pixies and Nirvana.

While they were certainly a tighter band than at their last outing they did little to transmit off the stage, though connecting with the crowd as first band up on such a big stage, is certainly an unenviable task.

The first of the weekend’s visiting acts came in form of Jersey metallers FlashMob. In the past I hadn’t been too impressed by this bunch of young power-pop-metal-glamsters, but here they seemed to have found their sound. Certainly the big stage and sound works well for their brash posturing ‘cock-rock’ style and it’s always great to see younger bands doing well.

FlashMob

FlashMob

Could they be the future successors to Nemesis? If they keep on like this, I think they’ve got a shot – and they certainly win the prize for best publicity of the weekend as you could barely go 30 seconds without seeing someone in one of their t-shirts.

Following their show stealing set here last year was never going to be an easy task and, unfortunately, SugarSlam didn’t quite manage it. That said, despite a few slightly sluggish moments, they still played a good set, and its nice seeing original drummer Brett back in the band as well.

With old songs, new songs and a couple of their classic covers, including an always appreciated run of Sonic Youth’s Sugar Kane, once this new line up (it was also guitarist Lofty’s second gig with them) settles down I think there’s going to be some more great stuff coming from SugarSlam.

[spunge]

[spunge]

Regular visitors [Spunge] were up next and were their usual upbeat selves from the off which got the crowd going almost instantly.

With circle pits and sing-a-alongs, [Spunge] once again showed why they have the reputation they do as they celebrate their 20th anniversary and, while this show wasn’t as raucous as last year’s full on stage invasion, its clear that these boys are local favourites and showed they seem incapable of playing a bad gig.

The biggest band of the weekend were headlining the Friday night this year and it was clear as the tent got even busier that there was a real anticipation for Therapy? with fans from the UK and Finland making the trip to see them. Kicking off with Trigger Inside set the scene well and over an hour and a half they tore through a set of their unique mix of punk and metal (with a liberal sprinkling of pop) that spanned their entire career.

Andy Cairns of Therapy?

Andy Cairns of Therapy?

If I’m honest there were times where the sound got a bit lost in the sheer volume and tone of Andy Cairns’ double Marshall stacked guitars, but despite this the set was massively enjoyable with Cairns being much more of a jocular, bantering showman between songs than I expected and name checking several of the local acts which certainly won them even more respect from the crowd than they already had.

Ending with an epic encore, including the likes of Knives and Screamager along with a rocked up Diane and a run of Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law, dedicated to all the bikers, Therapy? proved why they are the so renowned even 20 years since their supposed commercial prime and they show no signs of slowing down.

Day Two

Rick Jones

Rick Jones

As the music began on Saturday lunchtime its clear there were many fuzzy heads and aching bodies shambling around the field so it was nice of the organisers to start off with something a bit more relaxed in the form of Rick Jones and his acoustic guitar.

This seems to have become a traditional slot for Rick and it’s always good to hear him play his set of suitably gritty but laid back songs. He rounded his set off with a couple of highlights in Seal’s Kiss From A Rose and his storming take on Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road.

The relaxed laid back air was soon shattered though as To The Woods hit the stage with their traditional cry of “Brrrrap-brrrap-brap!” and launched into their grungey set.

To The Woods and friends

To The Woods and friends

They did start out a little slow today as they seemed to be joining the masses in the fuzzy head feeling, but by the half way mark they were back on all cylinders and they went on to prove that even since they were booked they’ve upped their game to a higher level than being opening band.

Being joined on stage for Is This Rock ‘N’ Roll by producer James Le Huray and SugarSlam’s Plumb added a nice moment that bolstered an already good set into something of a show stealer.

Static Alice were up next and showed just how slick a pop-rock act they’ve become over the last few months and they really did their best to use the size of the stage for all its worth. Dom has an unreconstructed power to her voice that can still sometimes go a little too far but is becoming part of the bands’ signature sound that went down well with the crowd who were still a bit subdued but were getting into it from a relaxed position.

Bobby Didcott of Stone 'Em All

Bobby Didcott of Stone ‘Em All

While Jo and Lydia played some hastily reworked shark themed numbers in The Peace Tent (you probably had to be there…), Stone ‘Em All hit the main stage as the day’s first all out metal band. Compared to when I last saw them play Stone ‘Em All came across like a new band, guitarists Bobby Didcott and Lee Oliver were both excellent with solo and harmonic lead parts aping all the best metal and new drummer Alex Charlwood brought a new power to the rhythm section.

Despite a serious cold frontman Robert Hotton even managed a good performance and actually sounded better in his current under the weather state than I had heard from him in the past. I will freely admit to not always being a fan of Stone ‘Em All, but on the power of this show they might still be capable of winning me over.

Jersey’s Bulletproof have become stalwarts of Chaos over the years, having played, by their count, eight or nine of the ten festivals to date, and on the strength of their set here it was clear to see why. They were raging from the start and their ska infused hardcore never let up. Though the crowd was relatively small for them they were hugely enthusiastic and you’re rarely likely to ever find as true and tight a band playing a venue this size anywhere else.

Back in The Peace Tent Robert J. Hunter was bringing his soulful indie-blues to the show and wowing the chilled out crowd as he showed just how his time gigging regularly in London has helped his performance grow.

Mitch of Brunt

Mitch of Brunt

Instrumental stoner-doom three-piece Brunt were up next on the main stage and, while they are not a band to transmit masses of personality from the stage, playing through such a big PA system meant their sound was crushingly huge and this was more than enough to keep the crowd enthralled and draw more in.

Brunt debuted a couple of new songs, including some with occasional vocals that showed a new side for drummer Mitch, who did his best to evoke Sabbath-era Ozzy Osbourne with some extra growls. I still the think the atmosphere of The Peace Tent suits more alternative bands like Brunt, but their sound today could not be argued with!

The Recks

The Recks

Jersey’s Pirate Party Brigade lifted the energy of the main stage next with their gypsy-ish punk-y party sounds while a band with whom their share certainly similarities, The Recks, began yet another packed show-stealer of a set in The Peace Tent.

A year on from their debut performance at last year’s Chaos, Byzanthian Neckbeard arrived here with a purpose as they are launching their debut album, From The Clutches Of Oblivion, and preparing for their performance at Bloodstock festival and they didn’t disappoint. While they’ve always had a good sound they seem to have pulled it all together much more now with the guitars working together in a more satisfying way and in general they were the tightest I’ve seen them.

Dano of Byzanthian Neckbeard

Dano of Byzanthian Neckbeard

This didn’t go unnoticed with the crowd who they had headbanging and, with a style that can often seem impenetrably heavy, they even drew more of a crowd as the set went on. With big things on the horizon, it seemed Byzanthian Neckbeard are stepping up their game to meet the challenge.

Demise of Sanity were up next and after the depth of sound and power behind Byzanthian Neckbeard they were something of an anti-climax. While they did a good job on delivering their thrash metal which spanned eras from classic to more modern style stuff, it didn’t quite live up to the expectation of their position on the bill.

With rumours flying that this might be their last show ever, Nemesis were highly anticipated tonight. Things didn’t start too well as, after a protracted 50 minutes spent setting up they then had two lengthy pieces of entrance music before launching in Master Commander. It wasn’t long though before this was forgotten and the over arching fun that power metal can provide was infecting the whole tent.

Nemesis

Nemesis

If I’m honest before tonight, on the basis of recent outings, I’d been a bit skeptical, and its easy to sneer at songs about swords and dragons and the like, but here Nemesis did what they do best – ridiculous, well-played, enthusiastically delivered and received, all out metal. Certainly things were more Spinal Tap than Iron Maiden for most of the set but it was very hard to not just go with the flow and enjoy it.

With confirmation that this is the last time we will see Nemesis for at least a number of years, it was a good send off for the band and rounded off Chaos 10’s biggest day in fine style.

Day Three

Oliver Wade

Oliver Wade

After the Peace Tent tradition of Cramps O’Clock (an hour of non-stop tunes by the psychobilly quartet) the last day of Chaos 10’s music was started by young performer Oliver Wade.

With a pure and vulnerable sound to both his voice and guitar Oliver’s performance was a good chilled out way to start the day as most in The Peace Tent occupied the sofas with a cup of coffee or ‘hair of the dog’ to try to get back into the festival spirit.

As a new performer Oliver didn’t project off stage very much but that is something that will come in time and he did a good job of carrying on with his soulful songs despite a Wendy House walking its way across the tent in front of him, and I look forward to seeing what more Oliver has to offer as he goes forward.

Chilled out acoustic things were also starting things off on the main stage with Damo of Fly Casual. Damo is another performer who’s become something of a regular and always puts on a good performance with banter with the crowd and 90s style acoustic indie songs being a great way to start the day.

The OK

The OK

He was followed by The Ok who seemed ill-at-ease on such a large stage. All four members of the band are clearly perfectly capable on their chosen instruments but today they all seemed very rigid in their performance, which sucked a lot of the energy from the songs and left me thinking there’s more to the band than they are currently letting out.

Buffalo Huddleston are a band who have gone from strength to strength since last summer and I think they reached their highest high here. Playing at a slightly faster pace than usual, which matched the mood in the tent, the recently added bass and drums clicked right in with the violins, guitar and vocals to create one of the most musically satisfying moments of the weekend, if not the year.

Mike and Becky of Buffalo Huddleston

Mike and Becky of Buffalo Huddleston

By the end of the set people were up and dancing and the tent was the busiest I remember seeing it on a Sunday at Chaos marking this as possibly the strongest contender for set of the weekend.

While the tug-o-war and spicy pizza competition were going on elsewhere Tonight The Skies kept things chilled out in The Peace Tent. As ever Hollie Martorella proved why her voice is so well commented on and their selection of songs from their debut release are now familiar and went down very well. The highlight of their set for me though was a new number inspired by Nine Inch Nails which took their airy sound and added some distortion to make something new and interesting but still clearly Tonight The Skies.

After the fun and games The Cryptics brought a much-needed upbeat garage rock injection to the main stage as they fuzzed and strutted their way through a set of songs that sound fresh and lively but true of their inspiration in the late 60s.

The Cryptics

The Cryptics

While garage doesn’t always work on a big PA it really did here and with a bunch of songs that get lodged in your head The Cryptics showed themselves to be something of an uncelebrated gem of the Channel Islands scene – Kick Out The Jams, indeed!

Two years since they last played together Whose Shoes stepped onto The Peace Tent stage and ran through a set of frontman Dave Etherington’s standard troubadour style numbers like they’d never been apart. It’s always a treat to hear them play and with original number Loose Lips (Sink Ships) getting the biggest reaction of the set shows they are clearly and rightly well-remembered. Ending on Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning was also a brilliantly fitting end to their set for Chaos.

My time in The Peace Tent was rounded off with a rather special set from Becky Hamilton and friends. Becky’s sets have become something of a Sunday tradition in The Peace Tent and this year the stage was filled with people playing everything from guitars and drums to washboards, cowbells and toy pianos, all making for something of a fun and special set for everyone involved and the likes of which only The Peace Tent is really capable of providing.

Skid Rue

Skid Rue

80s glam covers were order of the day next with Skid Rue (though they don’t do any Skid Row songs) and while their set was sloppy it was great fun – and sloppy fun sounds about right for a set of Motley Crue, Guns N Roses and the like. Stace was, as ever, his usual exuberant frontman self – though he didn’t try and climb the scaffold around the stage this year!

The sloppiness continued with Chaos 10’s last band, but in less of a fun way, as a clearly ‘worse for wear’ Rat Salad took to the stage to pay tribute to Black Sabbath. While there were moments of clarity in the mix and the singer did a mean Ozzy impersonation vocally, it was a bit too loose and left Chaos on a bit a low point.

That said the weekend as a whole was one of the best Chaos weekends to date and if this is to be the last big festival they put on it would be a fine way to go out – but let’s hope that’s not the case and we get more Chaos next year!

Thanks to Plumb and Guernsey Gigs for the videos.

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Chaos 2013

Mallory Knox with their crowd

Mallory Knox with their crowd

The ninth annual Greenman MCC Chaos Weekend took over the Pleinmont Headland in Guernsey from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th July 2013.

With bands from Guernsey, Jersey and the UK appearing (including Mallory Knox and [Spunge]), alongside DJs and, of course, the clubs bike show, it was everything we have come to expect from the festival, albeit in slightly reorganised form with only two stages of music concentrating the festival-goers focus somewhat more.

You can see my photos from the festival over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 20th July 2013, and below the scans of that you can read my full, unedited review of the whole weekend.

Click the image to read the article

Click the image to read the article

Videos throughout the review come from Aleks Ward and Guernsey Gigs.

Full Review

Day 1

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Anyone arriving at Chaos as the gates opened may not have been getting exactly what they expected from a music festival come bike show as, while there were already a few motorcycles lined up in the field and the other assorted trappings of such a show were in evidence, the first music to really get going was in The Peace Tent where, before the live acts, Vraic Beard was playing some tunes ranging from indie rock to American marching bands while the early festival goers, and volunteers who’d been on site for the best part of the week, chilled out on the Tent’s sofas.

The job of being first live act of the weekend went to Silas The Assyrian Assassin who has played this role before and seemed comfortable with the small crowd with whom he bantered between songs while telling jokes which ranged from the genuinely funny to the “I can’t believe he just said that”.

Musically Silas was on good form today with a few new songs finding their way into his usual repertoire, in particular a new “hip-hop” track impressed several in the tent with both its wit and its musicality – careful Silas, people might actually start to take your music seriously!

The afternoon in The Peace Tent continued with more small-scale acts, firstly with Ten Toe Hobo playing an extended set with help from Rob Gregson on bass that once again showcased the Hobo’s great performance style and songs.

Oliver Daldry

Oliver Daldry

This was followed by Oliver Daldry who made his Peace Tent debut in an open mic slot last year and was invited back for a full set this time. Playing a style of very current acoustic pop it was unsurprising to hear one of his tunes had almost made it onto an ad for Google, but, that aside, his sound was excellent for the Friday afternoon as people continued to relax with Peace Tent staples of coffee and toasties going down with more standard festival fare of lager and cider.

The Phantom Cosmonaut was next up in The Peace Tent but I’ll leave views on him to others (though I had fun up on stage once again). This was followed by Brunt, making their Chaos debut.

While they could have done with a few more people in the tent to build the atmosphere what I saw of their set of stoner instrumentals was once again excellent and I can’t wait to hear what this band can commit to record in the near future.

My first full band experience of the weekend on the main stage came from newcomers Byzanthian Neckbeard. There was a palpable sense of anticipation as, while this was the band’s first gig, all four members are familiar faces in Guernsey’s heavy music community.

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Byzanthian Neckbeard

Their style combined slow and heavy riffs with growled vocals to create a kind of hybrid of stoner, doom, black and death metal. While their set was clearly a first outing for a band and, at times, it seemed not to instantly gel as well as many had hoped, they certainly showed that they are a band with room to grow who will be well worth keeping an eye on if you have heavier tastes.

The stoner-y rock vibe continued next, albeit in considerably lighter tones, with Teaspoonriverneck. Stripped back to a three-piece the band debuted a selection of rocking new songs alongside some old classics like Blonde Witch and, while those in the beer tent enjoyed it, they certainly suffered from the tent being seemingly rather empty.

Bright_Lights

Bright_Lights

In the Peace Tent meanwhile Bright_Lights were having no such crowd problems as, while they were still quite subdued, the tent was packed with people on the sofas and relaxing on the floor to the band’s dance-rock hybrid. I only caught their last few songs but its safe to say they were on powerful form and, closing with a storming new song, seemed well set up for their set on the main stage at the Vale Earth Fair later in the summer.

Jersey’s Bulletproof were bringing some Channel Island skacore to the Beer Tent next and, while they once again demonstrated that they are one of the tightest bands going today, they also suffered from many in the tent not really engaging with them (though the tent was now starting to get busier) and, while the energy was upped as they blasted through favourites Blood Stained Money and Jersey Hate, it was clear much of their music was a little out of sorts with what many were at Chaos for on Friday night.

Evarane

Evarane

This atmosphere soon changed when Evarane took to the stage though as suddenly it seemed many youngsters who hadn’t been so into the rock or punk earlier in the evening emerged from the shadows and were into Evarane’s mix of pop and rock from the start.

With an ongoing tour supporting re-energised emo-rockers Funeral For A Friend, Evarane were clearly on enthusiastic form and certainly put their all into the show with Beka Pritchards not standing still from the start to the end of their set and the rest of the band doing their best to match her pace and, while they may lack some subtlety and control in their music, they more than make up for it with energy.

While the reception from many of the older audience members was, to say the least mixed, the younger crowd were lapping it up and, while they come across as something of a bunch of chancers (in a good way I think), Evarane seemed to win over some new fans tonight.

Mallory Knox

Mallory Knox

The tent filled further as headliners Mallory Knox hit the stage and, like Evarane, didn’t let up for the duration of their set which had the front half of the tent moving throughout with a mosh breaking out on more than one occasion despite the band’s poppier tones.

While the band’s sound was very different from past Chaos headliners it seemed to bring a new audience of youngsters to the festival and by the end even some of the stonier faces in the crowd at least had to admit Mallory Knox were a tight band with an ear for pop-rock crossover tune. Even if they are a more pop proposition than the likes of Viking Skull or Mentallica who have filled this slot in the past it certainly seemed to give a new generation a taste of what Chaos can be.

Day 2

Stone Em All

Stone Em All

The second day of Chaos started off with Stone Em All on the Chaos Stage in the beer tent and, while in the past I have not been a fan of this band, today they impressed me. With Aleks Ward and Luis Morais on guitar the band have a more complete and accomplished sound which suits the heavy rock and metal style they are going for, also, it has to be said, frontman Bobby Hotton’s antics certainly work better on the bigger stage offered by Chaos.

With a set from Stalk The Lantern next (which like The Phantom Cosmonaut I will leave you to make your mind up on) the next band I caught was CoffeeShopKnifeFight who seemed to play one of the better sets I’ve seen them deliver and their final track in particular stood out for me as mixing their brutal approach to music with frontman Aaron Grant’s unique stage presence brilliantly and, if it was the last time we see them, which it looks as if it may be, they went out on a high.

Twelve Ton Trouble

Twelve Ton Trouble

Twelve Ton Trouble made their second appearance in the beer tent and showed just how much they’ve grown since their debut last year. Fresh off the release of their first album the band were on top form and are quickly becoming one of those bands who never really play a bad show as, despite some technical issues today, they played consummately and once again seemed to be growing new songs as a band which is moving them in a slightly new, but still greatly appealing, direction.

As the bike show went on in the field, those less into that side of proceedings began to gather in The Peace Tent for a set that came with a lot of anticipation.

Last year Heave stole the show to a packed out tent and, as the heavy rock two-piece riff machine took to the stage they seemed set to do so again. The set seemed to start off a little less energetic than last years, possibly due to the heat in the tent, multiplied no doubt up on the stage, but, once they got everyone standing and “slow headbanging” things were back on storming form and with thunderous drums and roaring guit-bass Heave once again showed why they have quickly become a highlight of local heavy music.

Heave

Heave

Quickly heading back down to the beer tent I caught a little of Jersey’s FlashMob and, with a couple of Motley Crüe covers and an original got a taste of a great young rock ‘n’ roll band I certainly want to check out in full as soon as possible.

Back up in The Peace Tent and it seems many had stayed put after Heave for Buffalo Huddleston. Expanded with Jull-Z MC’ing the group have become yet another local music highlight and their combination of guitar, violins and vocals made the perfect combination for Chillin’ on the hot summer afternoon we were being treated to.

Chaos regulars Choke were next to grace the main stage and, as ever, were on stage to have fun as well as play some seriously heavy metal. This year they based the majority of their set on the back catalogue of Sepultura with Phil Skyrme taking on vocal duties and Stace Blondel picking up the bass.

The likes of Roots and Refuse-Resist got heads banging before Choke closed their set with a medley of Slayer numbers it safe to say that while they may not be the tightest band in the world that wasn’t really what they were about today and both on and off stage everyone seemed to be having a great time.

It was old school British punk next from Charred Hearts who were making their first visit to the island and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Having been spoilt by the likes of the UK Subs playing the Tav in recent years the Hearts seemed like a slightly lesser version of them, but that’s to compare them to some of the best, and they were perfectly suited to this weekend’s mish-mash of bands and, above all, like many of the bands on the bill, seemed to be having a lot of fun while providing us with some fine entertainment.

Before I look at the trio of headliners on the main stage, it is more than worth mentioning what was going on up in The Peace Tent as The Reck’s took what had been building all afternoon and turned it into the biggest most bouncing party the tent has ever seen with the intimate vibe and high energy party-folk combining to create something genuinely amazing which marked a high point among high points for The Peace Tent.

While not officially all billed as headliners it was clear to anyone who follows music in the islands that the three final bands on Saturday night were all worthy of the title.

Of Empires

Of Empires

First up came Of Empires riding a wave of momentum they stormed through their set of impressive originals, including a diversion of an acoustic track featuring a mandolin.

Frontman Jack Fletcher really comes into his own on this big stage and has certainly grown from his days fronting metalcore band My Last Victory into a real swaggering rock ‘n’ roll frontman. Once again the highlights of the band’s set were singles Carla and I Am The Night – that is until they invited The Risk’s Mark Le Gallez up on stage with his bass for a set closing rendition of a Hendrix style All Along The Watchtower that provided yet another highlight of the weekend.

SugarSlam continued things and, while they seemed a little slow to grab the crowd initially, it wasn’t long until the band were playing to a lively audience and their mix of originals and well-chosen covers had people dancing and singing along with real high energy.

Getting people singing along to their own songs SugarSlam seemed to hit a new high tonight which even saw singer and guitarist Plumb holding out his mic for the crowd to sing into in true rock star style that was only a taste of what was to come next.

It’s always been very easy to be a bit sniffy about headliners, Big Machine, with their hair metal wigs, overblown showmanship and cheesey rock covers and tonight was no different as they reunited their original line up for their final show.

Big Machine

Big Machine

If I was of the mood to be sniffy I could easily say they seemed to be playing these songs a bit slow tonight and that their guitars were too quiet leaving the solos a little lost and their sound was often drenched in feedback…

But, that would be to do a disservice to what Big Machine are all about as, from the start, where they rocked through versions of Dio’s Holy Diver and Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law, to their closing number Leddy held the crowd in the palm of his hand while, foot on the monitors Stefan and Mark wailed through their solos and Stu and Guy provided the rhythms that held this machine on its tracks.

Saturday night at Chaos in particular has always been about having a good time and with a band like Big Machine it’s very hard not to do this and, sure they could have been tighter, but that didn’t seem to matter to those packing the front half of the tent and dancing and singing their hearts out.

Day 3

Damo

Damo

Sunday at Chaos always has a feeling of the day after the night before and The Peace Tent has certainly become the place to be for this with coffee and toasties, along with a healthy dose of psycho-garage-rock ‘n’ roll at Cramps O’Clock, working on the hangovers.

Live music for me though got going in relaxed form on the main stage with Damo. formerly frontman of Fly Casual and, more recently his own solo acoustic act. It had been a few years since Damo had performed in public so it was certainly good to see him back as he showed he still has a fantastic voice and his acoustic indie is something we don’t hear a huge amount outside of open mic nights so makes a nice change in this environment.

He was followed by another solo acoustic act, this time upping the energy a bit, in the form of Jersey’s Rick Jones. Combining blues and folk tones with a clear influence from Dave Matthews he made a brilliant sound that held those relaxing on the grass in the tent rapt as his sound filled the whole sonic range and, ending on a rendition of Copperhead Road he provided a more subdued highlight.

Things got a bit livelier next as youngsters The Doomsday Project took to the stage. Playing a set of pop punk covers from the likes of Blink 182 and Green Day, along with a few originals, the band continued their growth and, while todays audience was, to say the least subdued, they seemed to go down well (despite their slightly irksome habit of censoring the covers they perform).

Party In Paris

Party In Paris

The relaxed air continued in the tent next despite the best efforts of Party In Paris whose upbeat pop rock was up to its usual standards but failed to set the tent on fire today – though they can hardly be blamed for that as everyone had trouble while the sun was still up today.

Jersey’s Pirate Party Brigade also faced the same problem but persevered with a highly entertaining set of ska-rock that reminded me of Guernsey’s RentOClean who I think they’d make a brilliant line up with at a future gig.

It seems the heat was certainly getting to people this afternoon and sitting and listening was about all anyone was up for, but this didn’t really spoil the good atmosphere around the site as Tyger Wang took to the stage.

Tyger Wang

Tyger Wang

Playing a set of classic 80s rock covers this band seem like natural successors to Big Machine, if with a little less stage presence and, with the set list they boast, it was hard to not just outright enjoy the run through of classics from Van Halen to Bon Jovi by way of Joan Jett and Billy Idol that started to get heads nodding, and a few more enthusiastic bodies moving, around in the beer tent.

As Jersey’s Harlequin Knights took to the stage they continued to get people moving with their sounds which seem to stem from the other side of the 80s to Tyger Wang and is reminiscent of Guernsey’s Gay Army, but with a dose of the more current indie sound injected in too.

Their set really came alive when Marcus Harley began to demonstrate the more MCing side of his vocal skills culminating in a fantastic bit of freestyling from the whole band.

And this is where things changed as the sun set and many of the volunteers prepared to let their hair down after a long weekend of work and [Spunge] took to the stage.

[Spunge]

[Spunge]

With 20 years under their belts as a band the UK ska-punkers played to the smaller crowd as if the tent was packed and soon had all but a very resistant few dancing in what quickly became the biggest party moment of the weekend with those the band described as “the Chaos hardcore”.

Over the course of the set [Spunge] played all their most well-known tunes in what was a self-consciously ‘greatest hits’ style set punctuated by genuinely warm and funny chat, drinking games and other general tomfoolery that culminated in a stage invasion with 90% of those in attendance skanking along with the band to Kicking Pigeons.

For anyone who went home early on Sunday you missed a genuine highlight, not only of this festival but of all nine years of Chaos, which rounded off a very good weekend in truly great style and all I can say is I hope we get to celebrate 10 years of Chaos next year.

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Rock of Ages 15 – videos and photos

So, here are some photos and videos from Rock of Ages 15 in Guernsey.

Rock of Ages has been going for about three and a half years now giving bands in Guernsey a chance to play on a bigger than normal stage through a bigger than usual PA and in an all ages environment.

This time round saw the first Rock of Ages “acoustic” night (though a lot of us also played electric, just solo) and a night of bands.

Once again quality of the vids and pics is a bit shaky in places as all done on my iPhone (and some pics using the Hipstamatic app)

And check out some pro shots from the Unplugged night here: http://www.guernseymotorsport.com/rock-of-ages-15unplugged

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