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Vale Earth Fair 2017 – Vale Castle – 27/08/17

Jupiter and Okwess at the Vale Earth Fair

Jupiter and Okwess on the Castle Stage

For its 41st year the Vale Earth Fair once again took over the Vale Castle over the bank holiday weekend at the end of August with six stages of music across 12 hours.

Not only that but this year’s event spread onto the Saturday with Sound Guernsey presenting some of the island’s newer and younger talent on the same main stage.

With visiting headliners like Chali 2na & Krafty Kuts, Jah Wobble & The Invaders of the Heart and Jupiter & Okwess sharing a stage with favourites from the island like The Recks, Robert J. Hunter and SugarSlam the festival was one of the most varied yet.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 2nd September 2017 and you can read the full version of it below the cutting and you can see a full set of photos on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Vale Earth Fair review - 02/09/17

Full review

The Crowman at Vale Earth Fair

The Crowman

While the Channel Islands has more than its fair share of music festivals spanning rock, pop, dance, folk, classical, jazz and more it’s hard to argue that the longest running is generally the most varied. Whether you want dub reggae, psytrance, gypsy jazz swing, indie rock or more, the 41st Vale Earth Fair was one of the most diverse festivals the islands have seen in recent memory.

Of course with six stages it would be impossible to even come close to seeing everything so, I’ve focussed simply on what I saw on my meandering path through the 12-hour-long event, mostly focussing on the main ‘Castle’ stage and the Viewalalu (formerly the ‘Stage Against the Machine’ ‘outside’, ‘Discharge’ or ‘free’ depending on your vintage) stage.

Starting as they meant to go on the Castle stage got underway with the Channel Island’s finest purveyor of steampunk garage folk, The Crowman and his Crowband.

Joined today by Holly ‘Gotta Hotrod’ Hollingsworth on banjolele and Tinshack on guitar and kazoo, The Crowman warmed up the crowd with a light-hearted and enjoyable set drawing on his three albums.

While it all went a bit chaotic in places the trio dealt with it all in a lighthearted manner and both band and audience had a great time, especially as the band pulled out two of their most surreal flights of fancy, The Adventures of Captain Brown and the brilliantly deranged Pimbo.

SugarSlam at Vale Earth Fair

SugarSlam

While their set may have felt somewhat early (they filled in a short notice) SugarSlam didn’t let that phase them as their energetic power pop rock was a refreshing blast on the Earth Fair’s main stage.

Following old classic Psychobabble the veteran band drew mostly from their soon to be released new album and its hard to argue with their infectious and upbeat presence, especially on a big stage like this.

As the set closed with Sacred Hearts’ Mark Le Gallez joining them for a lose and fun take on that band’s Adorable, and the sun blazed down in uncharacteristic fashion, the stage was set for an undeniably upbeat and energetic day of music.

While Le Quartette brought some pop classical vibes to the Viewalalu Stage the Busking Stage, this year looking even more like someone’s living room than before (can we get a list of some of those book titles Greg?), welcomed Paul Sharod of The Surfin’ Birds, or more accurately a motley selection of various members of the Weymouth based band.

Squidhead at the Vale Earth Fair

Squidhead

Despite being a little worse for wear from the Earth Fair warm up gig the previous night there was a lot of fun being had with Sharod delivering some bluesy rock ’n’ roll before Squidhead (not named for the squid shaped hat he was wearing) playing some fun, acoustic tunes, unsurprisingly often about having a drink, while the audience relaxed in the sun doing just that.

As Buff Hudd drew a big crowd to the Viewalalu for his acoustic folk-hop stylings the first act from ‘the other island’ took to the Castle Stage.

Hot Plastic combined drum machine rhythms with live guitar, bass and vocals to create a kind of infectious and powerful pop-rock that went down a storm in the already busy castle.

For one track they went a bit bluesy as they were joined by Robert J. Hunter who’s band were up next.

Robert J. Hunter at the Vale Earth Fair

Robert J. Hunter

Its been a while since I’ve had the chance to catch Rob’s band and, with this being their second of three festivals in two days, their dirty blues was bigger and tighter than ever, before they hopped on a rib to play the Hackett Hoedown in Jersey!

The other festival was The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Lancashire on Saturday, and from what I heard the hard touring is paying off.

After The Phantom Cosmonaut had a great time making a noise on Viewalalu, Jawbone brought scrappy punk rock to the stage outside the castle with all the punchy, high energy, craziness we’d expect, reconstructed bionic collar bones and all…

The party really started to get going back in the Castle with some excellent dub-y ska from UK visitors Tree House Fire who seemed custom-made for getting the Earth Fair crowd moving before The Recks, making a triumphant return to the Earth Fair, continued the trend.

The Recks at the Vale Earth Fair

The Recks

After a more down and dirty outing at the warm up show the previous night the genre and geography defying five-piece kicked off strong and smooth.

As the set went on they seemed slightly derailed before launching into less frequently heard old favourite Trainwreck, but by closer Lights they were back on track to close out one of the day’s highlight sets.

While the Viewalalu has become the festival’s often more ‘out there’ or esoteric stage, a visiting act from Jersey outdid all previous expectations.

Looking like a deranged circus had invaded, The Crack defied explanation as the face painted, gorilla costumed, nun’s habit wearing (a ‘Crack habit’, geddit?) group ran through a set of cabaret sounding, music hall madness that ran from King of the Swingers to Agado (complete with fully interactive crowd dancing) that was infectiously enjoyable if maybe a bit too bizarre to experience when unprepared.

Usually the Vale Earth Fair features one or maybe two stand out headline acts, but this year, to my mind, it looked like there were three filling the evening on the Castle Stage.

Jah Wobble at the Vale Earth Fair

Jah Wobble

While their music was about as varied as you’re likely to find sharing a stage anywhere, as a microcosm of the festival’s diversity they are an excellent example, to my mind it was the first who was the most familiar; Jah Wobble, along with his band The Invaders of the Heart.

Having made his name as one of the original members of John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd (PiL), Wobble (aka John Wardle) has since explored world music with The Invaders and it was this heady mix of ambient, dub-y sounds we were treated to.

While I have to admit the music didn’t grab me on a personal level, and from what I heard the lead guitar was a little overbearing, the crowd were loving it with many decreeing Wobble and co not just the highlight of this year’s events but of all Earth Fairs, and who am I to argue with that.

Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo Jupiter & Okwess continued the world music vibes with hints of rock and were the second of the days acts to get the ‘best Earth Fair band ever’ judgement from many of the long-standing festival goers as they kept the crowd hot and moving as the warm evening rolled on.

Chali2na and Krafty Kuts at the Vale Earth Fair

Chali2na and Krafty Kuts

This all culminated with the arrival of hip-hop legend Chali 2na, along with ace DJ and co-conspirator Krafty Kuts.

While Kuts music provided the back drop and had the crowd going off from the start, Chali 2na’s presence, personality and rhymes filled the big stage and provided the Guernsey audience with something the likes of which most would never have experienced on our little rock (save the privileged few who caught him at a special Get Down night a couple of years back).

This all closed the night on the Castle Stage on a massive high that pushes the best the Earth Fair has ever offered.

While all that was going on the Viewalalu Stage kept things, mostly, closer to home and more rocking.

The Surfin' Birds at the Vale Earth Fair

The Surfin’ Birds

The Surfin’ Birds added a second guitarist since the previous night’s warm up show which developed the band’s more psychedelic side along with the garage rock ’n’ roll and they got the audience rocking along from the start.

Once again it was hard to avoid their infectious energy with drummer Liam Sharod again providing a few highlight drum solos, particularly on South Coast Stomp.

As the set went on though their long weekend of gigging (and associated extracurricular activities) started to take their toll and they drifted just the wrong side of the ‘rock ’n’ roll chaos’ line meaning their set didn’t end on the high it might have as Surfin’ Bird fell into disarray.

After a rapid turn around Guernsey indie rock favourites Lifejacket launched into their set and the usually tight and precise band seemed a little loser than normal which combined with a few technical difficulties to make for one of their more challenging outings.

Lifejacket at the Vale Earth Fair

Lifejacket

Despite that there were moments where they pulled it together and kept the audience on side, even if they didn’t play one of the songs most often ‘requested’ of them (I think I side with frontman Andy Sauvage in thinking that joke has run its course), but Lifejacket survived, albeit slightly more battered by the experience than they would have liked.

Another swift switch around brought Honest Crooks to the stage, standing in after the last-minute cancellation of the announced headliners, but that didn’t seem to matter to the audience one bit as they got skanking right away.

With new covers thrown in amongst the originals and a new aspect brought to some of their material now that Naomi Burton’s sax and keys have found their place in the band, the Crooks proved once again why they are one of the biggest things in Guernsey music right now.

Honest Crooks at the Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

This was all brought to close by Near Bliss inciting a mosh pit with their chaotic take on the music of Nirvana.

While a band is never going to recreate the magical presence and charisma of that Seattle trio, Near Bliss captured the spirit of the close of the Earth Fair well as things descended into a kind of anarchy generally only seen on our shores once a year.

For its 41st year the Vale Earth Fair felt reinvigorated and refreshed with bigger crowds, bigger atmosphere and a growth on its already diverse line up showing once again why this remains at the top of the Channel Island festival season.

You can see more of my photos from the Vale Earth Fair on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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BBC Introducing in Guernsey: August 2017 – Le Quesne, Alderney Week and Festival Previews

Le Quesne, aka Tyler Edmonds, on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Le Quesne, aka Tyler Edmonds, on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Click here to listen to the show

For the August 2017 edition of BBC Introducing in Guernsey I welcomed into the studio an artist who we’ve featured since the shows inception who is taking things in a new direction.

I also heard from two of the bands who headed to our northern most outpost for Alderney Week and having a look ahead to the final festivals of the season.

I first featured Tyler Edmonds music in the show’s early days when he was (as he still is) leader of Last of the Light Brigade (previously known as No Ambition and Stratosfear) but now he has released his first solo record under the name of Le Quesne – he joined me this month for an interview and a live session.

Also on the show we heard from Robert J. Hunter and The Recks who, along with others, performed earlier in the month as part of Alderney Week.

And I took ahead to the Vale Earth Fair and Sark Roots Festival which round off this years festival season which now stretches right into September.

You can listen to the show by clicking here

Tracklist

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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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BBC Introducing Guernsey: June 2017 – Arts Sunday Lookback

The Recks at Arts Sunday

The Recks at Arts Sunday

Click here to listen to the show

Earlier in the month BBC Introducing Guernsey held its third live event with a stage as part of Guernsey Arts Commission’s Arts Sunday event on the St Peter Port seafront (read the review of that event).

So for the June edition of the radio show I featured tracks recorded live on the day from Thee JeneratorsThe RecksTANTALEBuff Hudd and Blue Mountain (along with a little preview of Hummingbird, the new EP from the folk duo).

Not only that but we had music from a couple of bands playing national festivals; Of Empires who recently played The Isle Of Wight and Mt. Wolf who were playing at Glastonbury and we had a look ahead to next weekend’s Sark Folk Festival.

You can listen to the show on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Tracklist

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: May 2017 – Static Alice, Mura Masa and The Recks

Static Alice - BBC Introducing Guernsey

Static Alice

Click here to listen to the show

The May 2017 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey was a little different to usual with no live session but interviews with a range of artists and a look at the upcoming BBC Introducing Guernsey live stage on Arts Sunday.

Static Alice were my main guests as they release their new EP Warrior and told me about making the new record and their plans for the band.

Following his nomination for an Ivor Novello award and ahead of the release of his debut album we heard from mura masa (aka Guernsey-born producer Alex Crossan).

And as part of a look at the Arts Sunday event we heard from The Recks as well as featuring tracks from Thee JeneratorsTANTALEBuff Hudd and Blue Mountains

You can listen to the show for 30 on the BBC iPlayer Radio App or by clicking here.

Tracklist

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: March 2017 – Gregory Harrison in Session and Vinyl Vaughan’s

Gregory Harrison and Nathan Arnaud in the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Greg and Nathan in the studio

Click here to listen to the show

BBC Introducing Guernsey returned to the airwaves on Saturday 26th March 2017 with another two hours of music from around the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

This month I was joined in the studio by Gregory Harrison, one of the people behind a pair of recent shows organised under the Guernsey Gigs banner.

As well as telling me about the shows he spoke about joining The Recks last year, being part of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and of course his own music, and he played an acoustic session for us with Nathan Arnaud accompanying him on the bass.

I also took a look at Guernsey’s new independent record store that has grown out of the charity record fairs that take place around the island, Vinyl Vaughan’s.

You can listen to the show for 30 days after the broadcast date by clicking here.

Tracklist

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The Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam – The Fermain Tavern – 11/03/17

The Sacred Hearts at The Fermain Tavern

The Sacred Hearts

After four years away early 1990s Guernsey music legends The Sacred Hearts made a rare appearance at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 11th March 2017.

Alongside fellow 90s rockers SugarSlam the band were not only celebrating a major birthday for one of their number but also helped raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity as something of a follow-up to last year’s Jonah Beats event.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 18th March 2017 and you can read it below. You can also see a full gallery of my photos from the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam review 18-03-17

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: December 2016 – Review of the Year

BBC Introducing Guernsey 2016 sessions

Some of our sessions from 2016

Click here to listen to the show

To round off 2016 on BBC Introducing Guernsey I put together a show packed with some of the best music featured on the show across the year.

Featured were tracks from our regular acoustic sessions including Burning At Both EndsThe Secret SmilesClameur de Haro and more.

There were also album tracks and singles from The RecksOf EmpiresRobyn Sherwell and others as well as a look at some of the highlight artists from the summer festivals and a few brand new tracks as well.

You can listen to the show on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here or through the BBC iPlayer Radio App on mobile devices.

If you are making your own music you can upload it to BBC Introducing by clicking here

Tracklist

You can read my review of the year here

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Music in Guernsey – Review of the Year 2016

2016 has been another packed year for music in Guernsey and the Bailiwick. With more festivals than ever, events seemingly most nights of the week all year and many records released covering everything from acoustic folk to drum ‘n’ bass to heavy metal its fair to say the ‘scene’ is possibly the most varied it has ever been.

My review of the year was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 31st December 2016 and there’s a full version below.

Review of the Year 2016 press scan

2016 has been something of a landmark year for me with regards to Guernsey’s music scene as it marks ten years since I started reporting on music on the island. In that time countless bands have come and gone, some making massive waves others barely ripples, but it’s been very rare that any haven’t at least given it their all.

This level of enthusiasm from bands, DJs and any other performers can, I think, be credited with 2016 being the year when locally produced music seemed to most crossover into Guernsey’s mainstream public consciousness.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

One of the ways I think this crossover has occurred has been with the recent proliferation of music festival and ‘all-dayers’, hitting a high of at least 10 across the past year ranging from the established and varied likes of the Vale Earth Fair and Liberation Day to more specific events like Chateau De Son and Smaashfest or charity based shows like Jonah Beats.

Jonah Beats set the bar high for these back in March with a day spanning everything from lo-fi folk to pounding drum ’n’ bass at the Vale Castle. Highlights on that day included Blakalska, SugarSlam, the return of The Swallows and a rare big stage appearance from Last Of The Light Brigade. The organisers also released a double CD compilation album to raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity.

The summer festival season got going, as has become the standard, with the Chaos weekend. While the event has been bigger in the past, this year’s slightly scaled down show had something of the old atmosphere back.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

This was certainly helped by the presence of great visiting bands like Japanese punks PUNiK (who also released a fine debut album), Manchester noise-rock duo The Hyena Kill and experimental rock two piece Science Of Eight Limbs.

As well as the visitors Honest Crooks continued their run of great shows with a standout set in The Peace Tent that had everyone skanking as the sun set, while SugarSlam, Brunt and Static Alice stormed the War Stage across the weekend.

The Sark Folk Festival continued its run of great events with this year’s having less of the ‘us vs them’ atmosphere of traditional folk fans and those out for a fun weekend in a field.

Burg with Becky

Burg And The Back Porch Band

Musically there was a lot of good stuff on offer but it was the artists with their roots in the islands that really stood out for me. The highlight came from Burg & The Back Porch Band bringing some Americana to the spectacular teepee stage on the Saturday evening and invoking impressive singalong moments as well as creating one of the best atmospheres I can remember at a show in a long time.

Meanwhile Robert J. Hunter, The Space Pirates of Rocquaine, Buffalo Huddleston, Nessi Gomes and visitors Mad Dog Mcrea provided other choice moments.

New festival The Gathering took place at North Field in July and showcased a real variety of bands from the island. With three days it felt like almost every band with a slightly mainstream angle was featured on the main stage but it was the Friday and Sunday evening that brought the musical highlights for me with SugarSlam and Static Alice playing to a disappointingly small crowd on the opening night and Kings and Of Empires closing the show on Sunday on a real high.

Static Alice at The Gathering

Static Alice

Whether The Gathering becomes a regular part of the island’s festival calendar remains to be seen but as an event helping spread the word about the great talent in Guernsey to a wider audience it certainly did a good job.

The Vale Earth Fair this year certainly claimed its place as centrepiece of the island’s musical calendar as the Collective presented a year-long series of events celebrating its 40th anniversary.

The festival weekend itself was as big as its ever been with a series of gigs across the Friday and Saturday leading up to the main festival day.

Teaspoonriverneck at Vale Earth Fair

Teaspoonriverneck

Asian Dub Foundation were one of the biggest headliners the show’s ever seen but for me the highlights came with She Drew The Gun, a special appearance from Teaspoonriverneck, The Correspondents and Heads Off, though special mention has to go out to Honest Crooks and Buffalo Huddleston who, with earlier slots, did a great job of getting the festival atmosphere going much earlier than usually happens.

Along with the festival weekend the Collective staged an exhibition of photos and poster art chronicling the 40 years of the event which was a fascinating chance to chart some of the performers who’ve been there for the whole time and see how the event has evolved since its humble origins. The now annual Unplugged and John Peel tribute nights both provided some great moments, but it was the return of Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons that was my Vale Earth Fair related highlight.

Away from the festivals there was of course plenty of other music going on, in fact I think its fair to say that with the exception of Sundays there seemed to be something musical happening every day of the year if you knew where to look.

For me though the highlights amongst all of this came in the form of the Sound Guernsey events for Guernsey’s youngsters. Showcasing a range of music they have grown from relatively humble intentions with shows at The Venue to fully fledged event gigs at The Fermain Tavern.

Honest Crooks at Sound Guernsey

Honest Crooks

Their summer party being a highlight of this as The Doomsday Project, Honest Crooks, Asylum Seekas and Blakalaska shared a stage with already impressive new comers Track Not Found and Equilibrium while their Christmas Party later in December gave was another great night.

When it comes to new bands a few have stood out. As well as the aforementioned Track Not Found, hardcore metallers Granite Wolf made an impressive debut in September developing on the likes of Brutus Stonefist and She Haunts The Roads and I very much look forward to hearing more of what they’ve got to offer.

The real stand out of the new crop though were Burning At Both Ends who have taken the fairly well trodden pop-punk template and breathed a new life and energy into it, winning over many fans with their tight live shows and impressive debut album.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

As well as great music on the island, musicians continued to spread their wings further afield.

Along with two BBC Introducing showcases on BBC Radio 1 featuring 12 acts, a few stand outs emerged, Robyn Sherwell continued her rise with the release of her debut full length album to much acclaim back in April, including a UK tour and having one of her songs picked up for use on the trailer to Hollywood movie Suffragette.

Nessi Gomes also completed a hugely impressive crowdfunding campaign leading to the release of her debut album, Diamonds & Demons which was supported by a tour of the UK, Europe and the Middle East which will culminate with the official Guernsey album launch event next month.

Of Empires continued their march to becoming bona-fide rock ’n’ roll stars with support from all over the place including debuting new single Baby Darlin’ Sugar on BBC Radio 1 through BBC Introducing and picking up many nods as one of the UK bands to watch as we head into the new year and they prepare for the release of more music and a lot more gigs.

Robert J. Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

Meanwhile Robert J. Hunter continued gigging around London and the rest of the UK regularly, initially supporting his second album, Before The Dawn and then releasing his third, Where I’m From, though the Spiritual Records label a couple of weeks ago.

Plenty more records were released this year with Space Pirates of Rocquaine’s Vraic & Roll, Lord Vapour’s Mill Street Blues, Brunt’s Blackbeard and the aforementioned Burning At Both Ends all standing out, but it was a single, Drifting, from the duo of Flexagon and Buff Hudd that really seemed to take off, receiving much praise and also being picked up by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music.

As the year neared its end The Recks made something of surprise return with a new single and line up and they look set to make 2017 their year as they plan to finally unleash their long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album and in a standout live moment SugarSlam (yes, them again, they’ve had a great year) and Insurrection marked their 25th and 30th anniversaries respectively with an excellent night at the De La Rue.

Insurrection

Insurrection

It’s safe to say that 2016 has been an impressive year for music in Guernsey with a real variety of sounds and styles coming to the fore (beyond what’s mentioned here drum ’n’ bass and electronic music have had a real growth as well with Hard Riddims and Strategy gaining footholds as regular events) and opening up what could easily be a small and insular scene to a wide audience, and lets hope that continues with more people heading out to listen to new music around the island and there’s already some exciting sounding things coming up!

And a few particular highlights by category…

Band of the Year – Honest Crooks
Festival Stage/Event of the Year – Vale Earth Fair’s 40th Anniversary celebrations
Newcomers of the Year – Burning At Both Ends
Set of the Year – Burg & The Back Porch Band at Sark Folk Festival
Album of the YearRobert J. Hunter – Where I’m From
Visiting Band of the Year – PUNiK

You can listen to the BBC Introducing Guernsey review of the year radio show here

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SugarSlam Vs Insurrection – De La Rue – 03/12/16

Insurrection

Insurrection

It might only have been the first weekend of December but it was clear in St Peter Port on Saturday night that Christmas Party season was in full swing, so it was refreshing to find an antidote to all the forced camaraderie and bad jumpers at the De La Rue, as veteran bands Insurrection and SugarSlam marked milestone anniversaries.

With 30 years under their belts old school British-style hardcore act Insurrection only make occasional appearances these days but, with gigs in the UK over the past couple of years and talk of new recordings on the way, they are far from dormant.

As they launched into opening song Regression (following a suitably politically dark intro tape) they more than proved this with a wall of fuzz and feedback guitars, thundering drums, powerful bass and the distinctive howls of vocalists Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp.

Insurrection - Le Page and Allsopp

Le Page and Allsopp of Insurrection

While it could be argued their more political material, mostly now dating back to late 1980s, is gaining a new relevance, it’s hard to view the hardcore/anarcho punk style without a strangely nostalgic feeling, even for me who wasn’t there first time around, and it was clear tonight that any messages were largely preaching to the converted.

Newer songs like Speak Your Mind and brand new one Black Dog though felt far more immediate with less specific but still important messages and slightly more advanced sounds, Black Dog even headed into doom-like territory with quite a groove developing under the intensity.

All that said regardless of the subject matter the band played with a real ferocity and pace that, while possibly not to the taste of the more casual punters in the audience was in its way refreshing, even if this was possibly the most good-natured set I have seen from them – complete with spontaneous tequila shots mid-set from one enthusiastic audience member.

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

While not quite as longstanding as Insurrection 2016 marked 25 years since SugarSlam first hit the stage, I believe at an all dayer in the bowels of Beau Sejour. The last couple of years have seen the revived band go from strength to strength with stand out performances at several shows and festivals and here they seemed to approach the gig with a new-found confidence combined with a relaxed and fun nature that really suits their grungy, power pop/rock style.

Their set may have felt on the short side but I got the feeling they were playing at a kind of hyper speed, possibly to try to follow the openers, but that didn’t stop it being a great performance that had the now expanded crowd (including several in bad jumpers by this stage) engaged.

Drawing mostly on their own songs (with a few crowd pleasing covers thrown in) their sense of fun was infectious and it’s hard not to sing along to likes of State, Crank and Psychobabble while Jackals showed the band’s heavier side.

SugarSlam - Brett and Plumb

Brett and Plumb of SugarSlam

The set culminated with AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie that, I’m told, highlighted their first ever show, before they were called back for their now customary tribute to Lemmy and blast through Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades that left the audience still shouting for more.

All of this combined to make for a surprisingly relaxed night of great music away from the enforced jollity of the season and showed why, when you have the right bands, the De La Rue is capable being one of the best spaces for live music in town.

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

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