Tag Archives: Sons of the Desert

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

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert and friends

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

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

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

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

Cosmic Fish

Cosmic Fish

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

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

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

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

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

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

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

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

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

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

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

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

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

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

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

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Live Music on Liberation Day – 09/05/16

Equilibrium

Equilibrium on the Albert Pier stage

Every year on 9th May the island of Guernsey comes together to celebrate the island’s liberation from occupying Nazi forces in 1945.

A big part of these celebrations has become the live music that takes place around the island in pretty much any venue capable of hosting it. For the 2016 Liberation Day I headed into St Peter Port where the ‘official’ celebrations were taking place to experience 8 hours of non-stop live music.

My review was first published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 14th May – you can find an easier to read version below the cutting – and you can see my photos from on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page by clicking here.

Liberation day music review scan - 14/05/16

Full review

It seems more than ever music was part of the Liberation Day celebrations in 2016 with gigs pretty much everywhere they could be all weekend, from a storming night of hard rock at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday to Market Rocks on Sunday to Vale Earth Fair’s annual all-dayer at The Last Post on Liberation Day itself (and countless gigs all over the rest of the island). With St Peter Port being the traditional focus of festivities plenty of music was on offer there too so I headed down, first to Castle Cornet, during the afternoon, then later to the Albert Pier.

The Crowman and The Fiddling PixieThe Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie

The Crowman and The Fiddling PixieThe Crowman and The Fiddling Pixie

With the music getting going at three o’clock the morning’s rain had begun to clear by the time The Crowman stepped onto the stage in the castle’s middle ward. Starting off a bit slow he seemed to pick up after breaking a string on his acoustic guitar, though this didn’t stop him playing two more songs on the same instrument without batting an eyelid before switching to the banjo.

As ever the performance was as lo-fi as they come and, while I’m not sure all in the steadily growing audience quite got it, The Crowman and the Fiddling Pixie got some feet tapping and heads nodding and got a good response to their songs. A particularly nice moment came with the addition of Lemmy and Philthy Animal Taylor to their song Mystery Train.

The music continued round on the Castle’s South Battery with a very well-played but a bit too quiet set from guitarist Chris Taylor before a slow and soulless run at a selection of ‘1940s style’ songs from vocal trio Les Blondettes and an mp3 player (or CD player, or similar). The phrase that sprung to mind was ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’, I’ll let you work out quite how this performance fitted that statement.

Buffalo Huddleston

Buffalo Huddleston

Back on the middle ward I had a chance to catch a couple of songs from Buffalo Huddleston who, as ever, had drawn a big crowd and were sounding great, though the audience were a bit more sedate than I’m used to seeing for them – maybe something to do with the rigidly enforced alcohol free zone stretching as far as the castle for the day.

A bit of awkward booking meant I had to split my time between the two stages at the castle to also catch some of The Space Pirates of Rocquaine’s set. Being short Lisa Vidamour meant the performance was maybe a little more sedate, but none-the-less Mark Guppy, Tim Corbett and Jess Nash carried the vocals excellently while the whole band played a great set despite fighting a lack of on stage monitors.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

As they played the sun even came out for the first time that day and, with their originals alongside a cracking cover of Billy Bragg’s You Woke Up My Neighbourhood, they brought a real sense of fun to the afternoon.

While the music was rounding up Castle Cornet it was just getting going on the Albert Pier with Equilibrium kicking off things off with a tightly delivered set of pop, rock and pop-punk songs.

This was my second time seeing the band (who it transpires are all only 14 years old!) and, while they were still a little on the polite side, they seemed much more confident and at home on stage, largely un-phased playing to a few hundred people.

The lead trio brought a great presence to the songs with some fantastic harmony work on Dancing On My Own, while the bass player had some impressive, if understated, moments and if they continue on like this and can add some more originals to their set they will worth keeping an eye on in years to come.

Matt and Marcas of The Secret Smiles

Matt and Marcas of The Secret Smiles

After a few years of seemingly being a bit on-again/off-again The Secret Smiles presented a united front here with a set of 60s/90s folk-indie hybrid sounds that perfectly complemented the now warm evening sun.

Frontman Matt Ward strikes the quintessential image for this type of thing, somewhere between Dylan and a Gallagher (or maybe a more Liverpool based equivalent) complete with 12-sting acoustic guitar and confident swagger.

As the set went on some more raucous elements started to come out, particularly on To The City, but throughout their were hints of The Stranglers, The Jam and others in amongst the lighter tones where the melodies led the way.

It all culminated in their final song that combined everything that had come before perfectly and had the feel of what could be a great single and went down very well with the now big crowd on the pier leading to an encore of New Order’s Blue Monday.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With the crowd nicely warmed up and the earlier bad weather and power cut seemingly forgotten, Honest Crooks hit the stage to continue their now year and a bit long ascent. Their upbeat ska-punk was spot on for this event and James Radford really looked the part, and seemed far more confident, in shades on the big stage, much more so than at other venues.

With lots of top-notch original songs rubbing shoulders with covers from Sublime, Gentlemen’s Dub Club and more their music, that contains a non-self-consciously political streak along with an upbeat sense of fun, had people dancing and singing along throughout before an encore was demanded that came in the rather brave form of Sublime’s Date Rape! (thankfully I don’t think many were listening to the lyrics)

Following this performance I’d say Honest Crooks have taken the spot of Guernsey’s premier summer party band, and really they only just seem to be hitting their stride.

Element 6

Element 6

Following that was going to be a challenge for anyone and, while their set of pop-rock covers was pretty well delivered, Element 6 were facing quite a task.

Their performance was solid, as you’d expect from the now well experienced function band, but their funk-reggae take on The White Stripes Seven Nation Army was a misstep from which they never really recovered for me, though they did get a good number singing along to the hits.

As several thousand pounds were detonated in the sky above the castle, Sons of the Desert were setting up on stage and, as the fireworks finished, they launched into a great set of highly skank worthy ska. The nine-piece band captured the feel and style of the musical excellently with Colin Leach and Chris Pearson leading from the front and involving the energetic crowd from the off.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

For a band like this it would be very easy to stick to the mainstream classics but, while all the big hits of Madness, The Specials, et al appear, room is made for more left field choices such as a track from the Tokyo Ska Orchestra and a ska’d up Nirvana cover that were great to hear and helped round off the day in excellently, partying style.

Not only was the selection of music on offer for Liberation Day 2016 impressive but also served to show the breadth of talent Guernsey has for this particular art, far more than our 60,000ish population really should have.

From upcoming youngsters to longstanding veterans there was something for all tastes and from all ages with a real sense that people can do whatever they want with their talents, which is a great message to take away from a day celebrating liberation.

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Vale Earth Fair 2013

Buzzcocks headlining the show

Buzzcocks headlining the show

On Sunday 25th August 2013 the Vale Castle once again became home to the Vale Earth Fair music festival with six stages of live music over 12 hours spanning everything from folk and country to psytrance and stoner metal.

As ever the event was raising money for charity with Burma Campaign, Free Tibet and Bridge2Haiti being the main charities being supported and represented at the festival.

You can see my full gallery of photos from the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 31st August.

Here’s my review from the Press and a highlight video from Guernsey Gigs and you can read my extended review below that.

Vale Earth Fair 2013 - 31:08:13 scan

Extended Review

With six stages and more than 50 acts packed into 12 hours the Vale Earth Fair remains one of the most densely packed festivals, in terms of music, going, so seeing everything was never an option, but here I hope to give an overview of my view of the day, largely focused on the Castle Stage and the Stage Against The Machine.

Izzy Sheil

Izzy Sheil

That said my day started off chilling out on the grass at the bottom of the hill where the festival’s smallest stage was located and I enjoyed the sounds of Izzy Sheil first followed a little later (after The Phantom Cosmonaut’s musical foray of the day) by Marco Argiro.

While both played very different styles of acoustic tunes, between them they captured the vibe of the stage with pop-folky things rubbing shoulders with rockier stuff but all stripped back to the absolute basics while people relaxed on the grass verge or brought their tickets for the festival.

Up in the castle the first band I caught were The John Wesley Stone who launched into their usual exuberant performance from the start as the crowd largely stuck to sitting down, but none-the-less seemed to appreciate the music on offer and the effort put in, which included bloodshed from Hillbill thanks to his double bass, but as ever, he soldiered on with the aid of ace tunes and gaffer tape.

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

Meanwhile, on the Stage Against The Machine, there were more retro sounds, though this time of a rock ‘n’ roll vibe, with The Surfin’ Birds. With vintage guitars and tones they mixed their take on classics from the likes of The Cramps and The Novas with great originals to create something a bit different but greatly appreciated that seemed to be one of the highlights of the festival for those watching.

Following their gig at the Tavern the previous night New Yorkers Jonny Lives! were fired up for the show today and their mix of new wave pop and garage-y rock went down very well with the still static crowd who were sticking around in the open of the main castle despite the drizzle that had begun, but Jonny Lives! managed to keep the show going and not let the weather dampen any spirits.

Another band who played the previous night were Lifejacket and today they played one of the best sets I’ve seen them deliver as they stormed through a very confident performance of their original post-punk/post-rock to a large crowd. With the backing vocals in particular coming through clearer than ever today Lifejacket once again proved why they are one of my favourite bands in Guernsey at the moment and, I think, won over many new fans as well.

The Recks

The Recks

They were soon followed by The Recks, for whom the crowd grew even more to probably the biggest I’ve ever seen at the Stage Against The Machine in any of its incarnations. As they launched into their set it was clear to see why this band has gained such a reputation and following as their mix of schizophrenic indie folk soon had the crowd bouncing, dancing and singing along and the band themselves played their usual tight but flowing show with Richey Powers continuing on his path of being a true rock star style frontman and the band becoming a firm highlight of all three of this summer’s local festivals.

As the sun came out the dancing also began on the Castle Stage with MynieMoe’s combination of upbeat swinging sounds that followed on excellently from The Recks. With a sousaphone instead of a bass and a mix of brass, wind and electric instruments the band were a perfect representation of the Earth Fair’s musical styles and began the transition into the evening in the finest of styles.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

It was time for some skanking and moon stomping next as Guernsey’s own ska hit machine Sons of the Desert hit the stage with their take on classic ska tracks from across the years which encouraged even more to get up and moving as they took us on a journey from 60s Jamaica to the modern day via 2-Tone.

While it was firmly dancing time inside the castle back outside things got heavy and slow with Brunt. While their stoner grooves are still in the process of finding their niche, they attracted a crowd of headbangers to the front and impressed many with their extended jam-like tunes.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

The energy was soon back up though as SugarSlam stumbled onto the stage. The band may have already been feeling the effects of a day at a festival but rode the wave of this making for one of the loosest and most fun sets I remember seeing them play that had the crowd involved from the start – and the intro to JagerBomb was something more akin to a Motley Crue show than the Vale Earth Fair which made for a nice contrast.

Heading back into the castle to await the headliners I had the perfect festival moment of encountering an act of whom I had no prior knowledge and preconceptions and being blown away.

The Correspondents

The Correspondents

The act in question are two piece swing-jazz-drum’n’bass duo The Correspondents who combined genres and sounds with frankly amazing movement and vocals to create the perfect hybrid that set the crowd alight and heralded the night time festival vibe to perfection.

Following The Correspondents would be a task for any band but, with a reputation like theirs, it was something we all thought Buzzcocks would pull off with aplomb… sadly this was not to be.

From the start the band felt very imbalanced with original pair Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle standing out front while newer members Chris Remmington and Danny Farrant were largely relegated to supporting roles.

As the set went on this imbalance grew further as Diggle seemed to force himself and his guitar to the front aping Pete Townsend but, rather than having well crafted solos, simply extended good three minute pop-punk songs to eight minute marathons which, in honesty, led to the set feeling dull, while Shelley simply looked like he didn’t really want to be there.

Their encore may have brought a little more of a kick to proceedings but sadly it was too little too late and left me, and many I’ve spoken to since, feeling disappointed.

Bright_Lights

Bright_Lights

Thankfully Guernsey’s own Bright_Lights were on hand to redress the situation and close the Castle Stage on a real high.

Having only embarked on their dance rock revolution a year ago the band hit the stage with a new energy and confidence as their mix of electronica and noisy guitars had the still busy castle dancing straight away.

Seeing this band on this larger stage really showed how they have developed a sound all their own that deserved to have a rammed castle bouncing as they closed the days main stage on a real high.

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

While Bright_Lights were closing things in the castle, outside the job went to Last of the Light Brigade.

Riding a wave of momentum they headed into tonight’s show at full force and their natural camaraderie on stage combined with Tyler’s growing confidence as a frontman and performer made for a great set which rounded off an excellent day and, with a few obvious exceptions, made for one of the most consistently enjoyable and musically satisfying Vale Earth Fairs I can remember.

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