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

The Lemmings

The Lemmings

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

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

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

Avocado Geff

Avocado Geff

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

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

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

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

The Buried Kings

The Buried Kings

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

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

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

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

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

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

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

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

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

Gay Army

Gay Army

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

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

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

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

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

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

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

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Vale Earth Fair Fundraiser – The Fermain Tavern – 22/07/17

Rentoclean at The Fermain Tavern

Rentoclean

Every year The Vale Earth Fair gears up for their summer festival with a series of fundraisers but this year, they come with a slight difference, as the collective are raising money for a new van and have even set up a crowd funding campaign to help.

With that in mind they presented a night of live music at The Fermain Tavern headlined by the return Rentoclean, a band who, a couple of years ago, had a strong reputation as the band to book if you wanted a party.

With only a handful gathered around tables at the back of the venue Jacques Evans started off the night with a set of reggae tinged acoustic balladry. While he’s always shown a raw talent on both acoustic and electric guitar Evans’ set here showed he has begun to pull it together into something more coherent.

Jacques Evans at The Fermain Tavern

Jacques Evans

Gone are the extended jams of old, replaced with a series of enjoyable, if slightly melancholy, love songs, alongside a few customary reggae covers that are always going to go down well with the Earth Fair crowd (even if they are slightly lost on me).

In addition to this Jacques employed some strategic use of a loop pedal to augment the solo acoustic guitar sound in a way that some who some who rely on the trickery of the loop pedal would do well to learn from (Ed Sheeran and acolytes, I’m looking at you).

An instrumental track later in the set did lose the focus somewhat as its mix of loop work and intricate Spanish style playing led Jacques to become a little too self-absorbed on stage but otherwise he provided a good warm up for the evening.

Lord Vapour at The Fermain Tavern

Lord Vapour

For the second night in a row Lord Vapour took to the Tav’s stage (before heading into town for a later session at The Vault, making it a three gig weekend) and for the second night they brought the impressive, heavy grooves.

They may have been in slightly loser mode than the previous night but still held it together well with new songs providing some highlight moments along with subtly titled set closer, Sugartits. While the audience weren’t as receptive as the youngsters at Sound the band seemed more relaxed making for a highly enjoyable set.

With the audience still rather on the small side and content to stay at the back of the room Citizen-X took to the stage for an audio/visual experience like no other in the island.

Those at the back probably missed the visual side of the show thanks to the location of the projector, but for those who bothered to head forward we were treated to one of the good Citizen’s best performances yet.

Citizen-X at The Fermain Tavern

Citizen-X

With new tracks alongside older ones it was clear he has added a darker tone to his electronic sounds, with creepily surreal imagery to match and the two far more in sync and smoothly presented than in the past.

While one of his tracks made it more explicit, there was a sense of harmony being created from an underlying anarchy and chaos and, while there is still a slightly missing performance element (I’m confounded as to what that could be, mind you), Citizen-X’s show continues to develop into something genuinely fascinating.

After a brief pause for some more reggae, dub and punk sounds from Earth Fair Collective member and regular DJ Rob R, Rentoclean took to the stage and hit the ground running in the manner they always did as tight reggae rhythms with a punk edge filling the Tav.

Unfortunately the small crowd that had gathered earlier seemed to have already started to leave meaning, beyond a handful of enthusiastic fans on the dance floor and another handful lurking at the back, Rentoclean were playing to a nearly empty room.

Rentoclean at The Fermain Tavern

Rentoclean

One of the band’s hallmarks has always been that they are best with a vocal and energetic audience in front of them and as the set went on it wasn’t surprising that things began to drag.

While they remained tight and sharp during the songs, in between they took time to chat with each other more than the audience losing whatever energy may have built up every few minutes and, while they didn’t resort to the extended jams they sometimes have in the past, it still felt like more of a challenge than a show.

While Rentoclean haven’t really changed what they’re doing I can only think that Guernsey audiences have found newer sources for their fun, punky, reggae-ish party music, particularly since the arrival of Honest Crooks and, in a slightly different vein, Buffalo Huddleston, which meant the return of this band wasn’t greeted with the excitement it might have been a few years ago.

On top of that, with the proliferation of live music events around the island, a simple Vale Earth Fair fundraiser no longer attracts the kind of crowds it would have done five or ten years ago making what on paper should have been a great, high energy night, fall a little flat.

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

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Sound Guernsey School’s Out Party – The Fermain Tavern 21/07/17

Unclassified at The Fermain Tavern

Unclassified

Following on from the Battle of the Bands at Chaos 13, Sound Guernsey’s Summer Of Sound continued with a School’s Out Party at The Fermain Tavern on Friday 21st July with Unclassified, Blakalaska, The Phantom Cosmonaut, Lord Vapour and Kings.

Unclassified opened the show and continued Sound Guernsey’s ethos of giving new bands a place to get gig experienced and showcase their music.

While their performance could do with a bit more power and conviction they got a nice bounce going with their pop rock covers as the set went on and went down well as the night’s audience were arriving. 

Lee of Blakalaska at The Fermain Tavern

Lee of Blakalaska

After quite some time away Blakalaska made a rare appearance next. While they took a couple of songs to get in their groove and for the sound to be levelled out, once they did they were as tight and huge sounding as always.

Going on so early I think did a disservice to a sound that is custom but for late night dancing but they still had the audience interested and got some dancing as the set went on.

While they are perfect on a big stage in the more intimate confines of the Tav they did lack a little connection but it’s always a treat to hear their unique take on dance rock.

After The Phantom Cosmonaut assaulted the crowd with their brand of Strong Style a Rock ‘N’ Roll things got a bit loose and groovy with Lord Vapour.

Joe of Lord Vapour at The Fermain Tavern

Joe of Lord Vapour

With tasty riffs and heaviness aplenty the trio did exactly what we’ve come to expect, taking their songs and jamming them out into that psychedelic space beyond.

With a few new tracks (including one inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune, following in the footsteps of Whitechapel Murders and winning them many bonus points in my book) amongst numbers from their first album they too sounded huge and really got the young audience head banging away and loving it.

With one of the most varied lineups I’ve seen in sometime the night’s headliners continued that trend as Kings launched into a set of polished precision pop.

It was great to hear something so unashamedly energetic and fun and clearly designed to get an audience jumping and singing along, and that they did.

Eli of Kings at The Fermain Tavern

Eli of Kings

Strategic and well done use of samples and backing tracks elevated their sound in a different direction and, along with the pop, there was a constant hint of an edge that kept it interesting and away from becoming too saccharine.

Frontman Eli Crossan had the audience in the palm of his hand throughout with a non-patronising manner and impressive voice, while Casey-Joe Rumens took a massive, arena rock, guitar sound and made it fit in the Tav perfectly closing the night and launching the summer holidays on a high.

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

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Hattie Briggs, Buff Hudd and Gregory Harrison (and a little Pirating at the Castle) – The Fermain Tavern – 14/07/17

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

Every summer Castle Cornet, the medieval castle that stands at the entrance of Guernsey’s harbour, is thrown open on Friday evenings for the Castle Nights events featuring a selection of live music in different areas of the fortification. Before heading up to The Fermain Tavern this evening, I went to the castle to catch The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

Its been a while since I’ve seen The Space Pirates and they’ve had a bit of a shake up in that time with fiddle player Jess Nash moving into a more part-time capacity (though she did sing a couple of songs tonight) and Nick Dodd joining to add some subtle electric guitar to the mix. Despite this, the general feel of the band’s high energy, fun, rock infused folk remains unchanged and was on fine display.

While the older more well-known songs had a large number of the audience singing along and were the backbone of the set three new songs were included. While the first got a bit lost thanks to sounding like it would need a big sound with lots of harmonies and the likes to be totally effective, the other two continue the band’s style perfectly.

Nick Dodd and Tim Corbett of The Space Pirates of Rocquaine at Castle Cornet

Nick Dodd and Tim Corbett

One, written by mandolin and guitar player Tim Corbett brought a slight country and indie tone while Guppy’s, SS Briseis, was a rabble rousing drinking song, suitable given its subject famously sank with a load of Algerian wine off the island’s coast.

Despite the line up change the band, if anything, felt more focussed and tighter than some past performances and Nick’s guitar added a nice country twang and a slightly different dynamic in places. A few technical issues didn’t seem to faze them and they left the crowd, packed into the castle’s middle ward, calling for more.

You can see a few more of my photos of their set here

After their set I made a swift move up to The Fermain Tavern where a new visitor to the island was playing, alongside a couple of more familiar faces.

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison started the night off in solo mode, without either longtime bass player Nathan or recently added drummer Peter. This provided an interesting contrast to his more recent outings and shone more of a light on his guitar playing and his deeply lovelorn lyrics.

While his performances used to sometimes feel a little mannered it seems his time back in a full band (now he’s in The Recks) has made him more relaxed on stage, giving a new honesty and openness to his songs adding a real passion to his performance along with his deep and rich vocals.

Also flying totally solo tonight was Buffalo Huddleston frontman Buff Hudd. With that in mind he had chosen to expand his sound with a stomp box at one foot and tambourine at the other, along with his didgeridoo and guitar.

Buff Hudd

Buff Hudd

With the audience more focussed and quiet than at many of his gigs (this couldn’t be much more different from his recent outing in The Peace Tent for example) he chose to add an even more intricate side to his playing, or maybe it just came across as more, really showing off his unique skills.

I Don’t Care What You Think About Me added a nice light-hearted touch mid set while Mono-Limb-Tastic did its usual job of wowing the crowd with its ‘one-handed’ style making for a stand out performance for Buff Hudd.

While she had never visited the island before and, as such only drew a small audience, it was clear that Hattie Briggs came highly recommended as a number arriving commented that friends and family in the UK had sung her praises to them.

As soon as she began her performance (backed for a majority of the set by Gregory Harrison on guitar and violin) it was clear why.

Hattie’s songs have a slightly melancholy feel spanning the area between pop, folk and the singer-songwriter movement, with tales of lost love and love never found, amongst other subjects.

Hattie Briggs

Hattie Briggs

What really stood out though was her voice. While there are many good female voices of a similar style doing the rounds something about Briggs went beyond that, leading to more than one to comment that, if we hadn’t known better, she could have almost sounded like a very well record CD. This captivated the audience in a way rarely seen at the Tav, bringing almost all to a focussed silence.

While, for me, it did get a little musically same-y as the set went on that is a personal taste criticism and I seemed to be alone in this feeling.

A couple of well-chosen versions of songs previously done by Eva Cassidy later in the set brought the performance to a rousing close before the audience called Briggs back (in a slightly subdued way) for a final rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that had most of the room singing along and ended the night on a definite high and I would hope if Hattie makes a return to the island more venture out to hear her as I know a large number of people would enjoy her music and missed out.

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

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Guernsey Gigs Acoustic Night #2 – The Fermain Tavern – 06/07/17

The Gregory Harrison Trio at The Fermain Tavern

The Gregory Harrison Trio

With the Sark Folk Festival a recent memory for some, Guernsey Gigs took the chance to stage their second acoustic night at The Fermain Tavern as a kind of wind down event featuring a few of the artists who had played the festival the prior weekend.

Guernsey folk scene stalwart Phil Capper was first up and did exactly what has made his formidable reputation over the years, playing a set of songs mixing his own material with versions of traditional folk and ‘folk revival’ songs.

Something of what I would see as a classic ‘folk club’ style performer Phil may not always be the most precise of players but he tells the stories of the songs excellently through both his vocals and his guitar playing and he finds the spirit in the songs he chooses with an impressive voice and musicality.

Phil Capper at The Fermain Tavern

Phil Capper

For me he’s at his best in the more energetic songs and his final number, I Will Go, was one of these and got the small but attentive audience singing along to the rousing chorus.

Working for both the Guernsey Museum and Guernsey Language Commission, James Dumbelton has taken the opportunity to learn as much as he can about the island’s own folk music and shared some of that with us here.

Armed with two sets of pipes, a mandolin and a fiddle (not all at once) he took the audience on a journey through some of the historical music of Cornwall and Normandy that may have given some identity to Guernsey’s own music and played a few Guernsey French songs as well.

I don’t really remember hearing Guernésiais sung before and it was great as I’m very accustomed to hearing it spoken and, even if his accent seemed a little soft compared to what I’m used to, it opened up the language in a new way.

James Dumbelton at The Fermain Tavern

James Dumbelton

Along with that he highlighted the links between Norman and Norsemen with his music and was energetic and engaging in a way I’ve not often seen from a solo folk music performer – getting the audience to sing along in Guernsey French was a particularly impressive moment.

Gregory Harrison has been playing for several years around Guernsey (and before that further afield as well) and in that time added bass player Nathan to his line up. Now he’s added a drummer, front man of Burning At Both Ends and WaterColour Matchbox amongst other things, Peter Mitchell, to complete a three-piece band, imaginatively going by the name The Gregory Harrison Trio.

While Greg’s music has always been enjoyable away from the bands he’s in, the addition of a more complete backing band, including backing vocals, does give something of the feel closer to his recordings giving many of the songs a new vitality and depth, and allows Greg a little more space to perform – something he’s shown he’s more than capable of with The Recks.

Gregory Harrison Trio at The Fermain Tavern

Gregory Harrison Trio

In that regard this set felt far more relaxed (though according to the singer this wasn’t so much the case at their debut in Sark) leading to a couple of highlights in an otherwise very strong outing.

Low was particularly epic with a depth and power that just kept growing while their last song grew into something huge that had the audience clapping along before they were called back for an encore of the lead single from Greg’s self-titled EP, Demons, that topped it all to close the night on a high.

With a promise of more acoustic nights in the future, along with other shows, Guernsey Gigs are trying to expand things in the island’s music scene in a way not seen in a few years and, on the strength of this and past shows, they are starting out strong.

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

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Static Alice EP launch with Honest Crooks, track not found and Common Room – The Fermain Tavern – 20/05/17

Static Alice

Static Alice

After making their reputation with countless live shows over the last few years Static Alice have also found the time to record and release both a full length album and EP, and now, they’ve marked the releases of their third record, another EP titled Warrior, with what looked set to be a special show at The Fermain Tavern.

Continuing something of a trend they began a while ago two of the support acts were at the newer and younger end of the scene, with acoustic pop trio Common Room on stage first.

With acoustic guitar, bass guitar and vocals and a very pop sensibility, Common Room presented something a bit different to many acts over here. Vocalist Olivia Manheim seemed to have all the ingredients to be an excellent an engaging front person, though maybe was a little restrained in the face of a small and distant audience here.

Common Room

Common Room

Common Room were at their best when all three members relaxed into the performance as happened a few times, particularly on an impressive original song and as the set went on, and they definitely made a good impression on the small audience.

Second of the young bands was track not found. While they took a couple of songs to hit their stride once they did their combination of grunge, punk and indie rock sounded as good as ever.

While Grace Tayler leads the band with a singular presence that brings to mind Dresden Doll’s Amanda Palmer run through a noisy rock filter, Emma Thomas (drums) and Maisie Bison (bass and vocals) more than ably fill out the rest of the sound, with both carving their own niche within the band.

track not found

track not found

Once again the band gave it their all with Code Red and Ecstasy being particular highlights of a set that continued to win over new fans.

Like the headliners, Honest Crooks are another band who’d taken a bit for a break from live shows earlier in the year.

After outings at Chaos at the Jam and for the Vale Earth Fair’s Liberation Day show at The Last Post where they added organ and saxophone player Naomi Burton to their line up, they brought this more developed ska sound to The Tav .

Being my first time seeing this version of the band I wasn’t sure what to expect and it did take them a little longer than usual to settle into their normal fun and upbeat vibe but, once they were there, the additional sounds really lifted the music to a new level with the best moments allowing a new sonic dynamic between James Radford’s guitar and the organ and saxophone parts.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a couple of new songs thrown into the mix, along with some old favourites and a couple of well-chosen covers, Honest Crooks drew the most people onto the dancefloor but with still only a small crowd the set didn’t quite live up to their much deserved reputation.

Even though they were launching a new record Static Alice started out in much the way they usually do with a selection of their now fairly well-known and established pop-rockers, in typically tight and energetic fashion.

Unfortunately with most of the audience seemingly more interested in the bar than the band their efforts did little more than elicit some light bopping from the dedicated few who remained on the dancefloor.

A decent mid set run at Audioslave’s Cochise (the set’s only cover), in tribute to the recently departed Chris Cornell, seemed to grab a little more interest but this soon waned which is a real shame as, as I’ve said before, Static Alice have a strong line in hooky, driven, rock that, at its best, can really get a crowd going.

Static Alice

Static Alice

With three of the four tracks from the Warrior EP saved for a final blast and demonstrating a slightly heavier side to the band even these fell flat as the obvious effort being put in from in the stage seemed to be lost in an energy sucking void before it reached the audience.

While there are always reasons for low turn outs at shows this one felt particularly hard to reconcile given the effort all four acts put in but it ultimately turned what should have been a celebratory night of high energy music into something disappointingly flat.

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

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Guernsey Literary Festival presents The Recks, Heidi Joubert and Harry Baker – The Fermain Tavern – 13/05/17

The Recks

The Recks

Every year the Guernsey Literary Festival sets aside a night of its week-long event to combine music and poetry in the live environment of The Fermain Tavern. In the past this has welcomed the likes of John Cooper Clarke, Linton Kwesi Johnston, Attila The Stockbroker and Ruts DC and this year, in a slight twist, it featured world poetry slam champion Harry Baker, jazz percussion YouTube sensation Heidi Joubert and our own schizophrenic indie folksters, The Recks.

With the venue already busy early on Heidi Joubert took to the stage with her band for a soundcheck that, it transpired, had been delayed by the artists being unable to find the venue during the afternoon (and seemingly the festival organisers unable to give them suitable directions or chaperone them accordingly), so this set things off in an odd way and, seemingly, reduced the length of Baker’s performance as well.

Harry Baker

Harry Baker

This was doubly a shame as, for the five or six poems we were treated to, Baker was excellent. From the surreal flight of fancy Dinosaur Love to a poem about the love between a pair of prime numbers, to his tongue twisting, poetry slam winning, piece of verse centred on the letter P, Baker was one of the most entertaining and engaging performers I’ve witnessed, particularly when you consider he came armed with nothing but his voice and his words.

With a largely subtle performance side setting off his word play, he was a delight and, while I didn’t quite get the parody aspect of his Ed Sheeran reworking, it rounded off his set with a barrage of excellent puns turning a Sheeran love song into something I don’t doubt is far more entertaining and endearing than the original – I just wish there’d been time for more.

After a brief break The Heidi Joubert Trio returned to the stage and proceeded to stumble and dawdle their way through a set of easy listening, Latin style, jazz – interspersed with much talking to the sound man and trying to convince the audience to at once ‘shake it’ and, later on, be quiet!

A little research after the show seems to indicate that much of Joubert’s fame stems from a video of her busking on a train going viral on Facebook and she wasn’t shy in telling us about that during the set either, but what may work in a short online clip failed to remain interesting for the better part of an hour.

Heidi Joubert

Heidi Joubert

Rather than a collection of songs what we experienced felt like a disorganised jam of a set and, while all three were clearly very good players, it didn’t come together to make anything approaching an enjoyable whole and mostly amounted to a lot of other people’s riffs and lyrics forced into jammed out grooves and delivered with a sense of knowing arrogance that was ultimately hugely frustrating.

After that something needed to happen and, thankfully, The Recks delivered.

With something more of an energetic attitude than I have seen from them in a long time they launched into their set (a very similar line up of songs to that heard on Liberation Day) at breakneck pace and never looked back.

All five members of the band seemed intent on making their mark and, while Richey Powers was just the frontman we’ve come to expect, it was Gregory Harrison who really seemed to up his game revealing an intensity previously only hinted at and perfectly fitting his place in the band.

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

Gregory Harrison of The Recks

With next single In The Garden taking on something of a new spirit and the twisted disco of new song She Ain’t No Revelator providing a couple of highlights the performance reached its climax in three-part encore ending on a genuinely deranged Papa Leworthy that was as heavy and dirgey as this band could ever muster.

It’s just a shame many who’d come along early missed the genuine highlight of the night by leaving early and I’m not sure I can put into words how disappointing it was (not to mention disrespectful) that a majority of the events organisers also seemed to have vanished well before their own event was over, but none-the-less The Recks continued their current run of great shows as they head towards the height of summer festival season.

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

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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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Sound Guernsey: Burning at Both Ends, Jawbone, WaterColour Matchbox and Track Not Found – The Fermain Tavern – 21/04/17

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

Jawbone

Jawbone

As Sound Guernsey have now announced their involvement with both the Chaos and Vale Earth Fair festivals this summer, it might just be me, but their April show at The Fermain Tavern seemed to have a further increase in its positive atmosphere amongst the assembled youngsters.

The first band to form out of the Sound events, Track Not Found, opened the show and once again showed some development following recent appearances in front of new audiences at both a The Vault and the recent metal night at the The Tav.

With more fuzz in the sound here and a more deliberate pace their grungy blues had something of an added stoner quality to it.

Track Not Found

Track Not Found

While the band have become nice and tight they still lack something in stage presence between the songs, but this is a minor criticism and something likely to develop with time and guitarist/vocalist Grace Tayler in particular has a great look evoking something of the riotgrrl feel of the 1990s but with her own twist.

Highlights in their set came with Ecstasy and new song Code Red both of which demonstrated not just their sound but their way of writing songs exactly as they want them in their own way, which is refreshing to hear in a young band.

Following a successful couple of first gigs over the last few months WaterColour Matchbox brought their brand of nu-grunge flavoured prog metal to Sound.

While it seemed to lack some of the metallic bite of their outing at the recent metal night, the four-piece were still as tight as they come and did crank up the heaviness a few times as the set went on.

WaterColour Matchbox

WaterColour Matchbox

With heads banging to some of the heaviest sounds the Sound crowd had been treated to, the band debuted a new song indicating we can expect more of the same to come.

After the precision controlled delivery of WaterColour Matchbox things couldn’t have been much more different as Jawbone took to the stage with their usual chaotic brand of punk rock.

While the classic covers that have been their hallmark up to now were all present, correct and hugely enjoyable, it was the raft of new originals that brought the highlights. Combining something of the abrasive Californian skate punk of the likes of NoFX and mixing it with the intensity of the classic British style led to a sound at once politically charged and vaguely nihilistic with a typically direct lyrical streak.

Steve of Jawbone

Steve of Jawbone

In the midst of the chaos that saw guitarist Lee Burton don a wedding dress (for reasons best known to himself) and bass player Dan Keltie head of stage with bass and mic for a run at The Damned’s Neat Neat Neat, frontman Steve Scratton demonstrated a newly confident side to his performance properly interacting with the crowd during the songs in a way rarely seen over here.

All this made for a set that was my highlight of the night and, suitably enough, included their take on The Misfits’ Astro Zombies on Jerry Only’s birthday.

The punk rock vibe continued, in slightly different form, with the powerful pop punk of Burning At Both Ends.

Over the last year ‘BABE’ have become one of the favourite bands for the Sound audience and, while going on a bit late mean the crowd had shrunk somewhat, they still got the audience onto the dancefloor from the start.

Another band debuting some new songs, BABE showed they are continuing with more of the same as their first album, in this case no bad thing, and the crowd ate it up.

Burning At Both Ends

Burning At Both Ends

For me they lacked the raw energy of Jawbone that I love, but it’s hard to escape the infectious quality of Burning At Both Ends and with a streak of heaviness alongside some great singalong moments they closed the show on a high, maintaining their spot as Sound favourites.

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Acoustic Night with Blue Mountains, Mick Le Huray, Richey Powers and Llewellyn Van Eeden – The Fermain Tavern – 08/04/17

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

After a jam night and an international Folk Americana night, Guernsey Gigs continued their run of shows at The Fermain Tavern by inviting four acoustic acts on to the stage. Spanning veterans of the scene to new performers the night featured a mix of sounds, once again in a relaxed ‘club’ style setting.

First up was Llewellyn Van Eeden. Having played open mic nights and a few smaller gigs including a set on the busking stage at last year’s Vale Earth Fair, this was only my second chance to catch him play and, for the most part, it was an enjoyable performance.

With a blues feel to the majority of his set, Van Eeden added a nice abrasive edge that didn’t feel forced to a fairly standard sound.

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Llewellyn Van Eeden

Adding a harmonica to a few songs rounded it off, albeit in still standard way, and, combined with a relatively easy-going nature on stage, made for a nice way to start the night.

Later in the set we were treated to a folkier song in Afrikaans before the set closed on a pair of what can only be described as ‘pirate folk’ that, while a little novelty, were good fun and went down very well with the audience.

While better known as frontman of psychedelic folk beast The Recks, Richey Powers had the opportunity to show a slightly different side of himself going solo. For the most part it was what you’d expect with folk sounds from various traditions rubbing shoulders with something of an American indie rock sensibility.

Richey Powers

Richey Powers

Much like with The Recks, Richey’s songs were often long, and in a solo setting a little over long on a couple of occasions, but generally were engrossing rides that drew the audience in.

The solo setting also gave us the chance to hear the more intricate side of Richey’s playing that often gets lost in the multilayered sound of The Recks.

With Frugal Heart providing a nice highlight the set then ended with a more intense stomping blues-y song that, if nothing else, proved a good pair of Cuban heels can work just as effectively as an amplified stomp box.

Mick Le Huray is a longstanding member of Guernsey’s music and folk scene and has been a fixture of the Sark Folk Festival since its inception and many events before. With his first solo album recorded and released in the last year he has found something of a new lease of life and that was evident here.

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Mick Le Huray and Andrew Degnen

Accompanied by Andrew Degnen on fiddle, Mick played a set strong with the feel of the 1960s folk revival delivered with a real sense of feeling and humility. Andrew’s violin expanded the sound nicely but didn’t help the set dragging a little in the middle for me when it went a little too traditional folk for my tastes.

A song with Guernsey French lyrics and a more upbeat closer brought Mick’s set to an end on a high point though and made a nice contrast to the two younger solo performers that came before.

In trio mode tonight Blue Mountains delivered a set made up of many songs, but all continued their journey into a melancholy side of dark Americana.

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

Colleen Irven and Mike Bonsall of Blue Mountains

With Andrew Degnen’s fiddle and a few tracks where Mike Bonsall swapped from guitar to banjo, Blue Mountains new songs expanded their range of sounds but it was the harmonies and style that remained at the heart of their songs.

A real highlight of the new songs came with Hummingbird, while We Come & Go shifted things into slightly more upbeat territory towards the end of the set, it was just a shame the audience had drifted away somewhat by this stage of the night.

Rounding the night off on a great vocal harmony moment to close their take on Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl, Blue Mountains concluded things on a high point and, as this gig was clearly promoted as the first in a series, I hope to see more music of this quality in this relaxed setting going forward.

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

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