Tag Archives: The Surfin Birds

BBC Introducing Guernsey: September 2017 – Of Empires and Sark Roots Festival

Of Empires and Sark Roots Festival

Of Empires and Roz & Lazlo from Sark Roots

Click here to listen to the show

As BBC Introducing prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday, BBC Introducing in Guernsey marked nine years on the air while wrapping the 2017 summer festival season for its September show.

I spoke to Jack Fletcher from Of Empires about their summer which has seen the slick rock ‘n’ roll four piece make their first foray into the UK’s mainstream festival scene with appearances at both Isle of Wight and Reading festivals thanks to promoters of all things guitar music based, This Feeling.

I also caught up with Sark Roots Festival organiser Roz following their second successful event celebrating not just the great music of the Channel Islands but all things environmental as well.

On top of that I had a brief look back at the 2017 Vale Earth Fair and, in marking the show’s birthday, a few of the tracks that have made a mark over the past decade or so.

You can listen to the show by clicking here

Tracklist

You can read my look back at Guernsey’s 2017 summer festival season here

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Guernsey’s Summer Festival Season 2017

Jupiter and Okwess at the Vale Earth Fair

Jupiter and Okwess on the Castle Stage at Vale Earth Fair

With the autumnal weather setting in and music events moving back into the island’s indoor venues, I think its safe to say as we move into October that Guernsey’s ever-growing summer festival season has come to an end.

As with every year it seems more and more events are labelling themselves as festivals or have that feeling of big, outdoor, events that typifies the British and European style of music festival; from the long running likes of the Vale Earth Fair to the House On Herm events or the food and drink ‘festivals’ that often feature live musical entertainment.

This year’s festival season began, as it is prone to, with Liberation Day on 9th May.

The Recks

The Recks

While the Vale Earth Fair were part of the now customary street party in St Andrews, the ‘official’ side of the celebrations in St Peter Port came in the form of LibRock 2017 on the Albert Pier.

Like last year this event showcased not just big names like The Devotees, The Recks and Clameur De Haro, but also gave a chance to some of the island’s younger bands to appear in front of a bigger crowd, namely Unclassified and Problematic.

Read my review of LibRock

The Guernsey Literary Festival was next on the list and that featured a night of live music and poetry at The Fermain Tavern before Guernsey Arts Commission‘s Arts Sunday took over the St Peter Port Seafront.

Tantale on the BBC Introducing Guernsey stage

Tantale

As it has every year Arts Sunday featured about as much live music as it was possible to fit in from the young performers of The School of Popular Music and the Thirst Music School, to a selection of established performers staged by The Vault, to the BBC Introducing Guernsey Stage that was curated to showcase some of the artists featured and championed by BBC Introducing in the islands including Blue Mountains, Buff Hudd, The Recks, Tantale and Thee Jenerators.

Read my review of BBC Introducing Guernsey at Arts Sunday

The first of the big, fully fledged music festivals of the year came at the end of June with the 13th happening of the Chaos Weekend (generally these days shortened to simply, Chaos).

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

After a few up and down years this year’s felt very much back to its past prime with a few visiting headliners such as Graveyard Johnnys and Johnny Cage & The Voodoogroove, sharing the stage with the best rock bands Guernsey has to offer like Heave, Static Alice and SugarSlam, while The Peace Tent showcased everything from New Zealand folk duo Great North to the doom rock of Brunt to Flexagon‘s brand of psytrance.

Read my review of Chaos Voodoo 13

While I skipped this year’s Sark Folk Festival in favour of the British Summer Time event in Hyde Park featuring Green Day, Rancid, The Living End and more, the big live music events continued throughout July with the Sound Guernsey School’s Out Party, the School Of Popular Music Summer Showcase and a Vale Earth Fair Fundraiser before the main event itself.

Honest Crooks at the Vale Earth Fair

Honest Crooks

This year the Vale Earth Fair was marking 41 years and did so with one of the most stacked line ups in some time. The main stage was headlined by Chali 2Na & Krafty Kuts, Jupiter & Okwess and Jah Wobble & The Invaders of the Heart with the local side represented by The Recks, Robert J. Hunter, SugarSlam and more. Meanwhile outside the Vale Castel The Honest Crooks headlined with Lifejacket, Near Bliss and more.

Read my review of the Vale Earth Fair

In past years the festival season has really come to an end with the Vale Earth Fair but last year and this its extended well into September, not only is there Smaashfest but the Sark Roots Festival has quickly grown into something that feels like an established event.

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

This year the event grew from last year’s first to feature a mix of bands from Guernsey and Jersey along with visiting acts from the UK and even New Zealand highlighted by Buffalo Huddleston, The Honest Crooks and The Surfin’ Birds.

Read my review of Sark Roots Festival

With plenty more going on besides, from The Rocquaine Regatta to the North Show and more, its fair to say summer in the islands is about as packed as it can be with events with a strong musical presence that serve to highlight quite how spoilt we are for new music in the islands.

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Sark Roots Festival 2017 – 15-17/09/17

Sark Roots Festival Field

The festival field

In 2016 the Sark Roots Festival appeared on the Channel Islands scene, late in the season and looking in some way like a cross between the wildly successful Sark Folk Festival and the Vale Earth Fair, combining a diverse selection of musical acts with workshops on various earthy subjects and the idyllic setting of Sark – specifically a field to the north of the island overlooking Guernsey and Herm one way and Alderney and France the other.

I’ll admit that I was initially sceptical, while the music side looked good it didn’t seem to be anything we hadn’t seen at any of the other festivals happening around the Bailiwick over the summer and the other stuff, which to my mind looked like a lot of ‘hippy nonsense’ (to use the polite version of my commonly used phrase), looked like too much distraction from the music.

After good reports from pretty much everyone who went, and as I missed the 2017 Sark Folk Festival, I thought I’d give it a go for this year though and I have to say it failed to live up my original expectations in the best of ways.

Sark Roots Festival Field

The festival field

Of course the location was spectacular  – other than the destroyed vineyards and intentionally abandoned properties, where in Sark isn’t?

The set up of the field, while reminiscent of the folk festival, was rather more rustic and humble with extra additions of a play area including trampoline, tight ropes and a home-made climbing frame, several fire pits which would come into their own later in the evening and various tents and tipis where the weekend’s non-musical events would take place.

The main tent included a good-sized stage at one end and, slightly separate, a bar at the other selling a range of small brewery beers and ciders from Sark Brewery, Guernsey’s White Rock Brewery and Rocquette Cider.

Day 1

Ten Toe Hobo

Ten Toe Hobo

So onto the music which began with a regular of pretty much all festivals in the islands, Ten Toe Hobo.

Delivering possibly a more blues tinged version of his usual busking style set he provided a relaxed start to the weekend that really captured the tone perfectly.

The set got more energetic as it went on with original song Loose Lips a favourite as always and Move On, another original track I’m sure I’d heard before, also sounding great and of course the song that has become something of his theme tune, Charlie Winston’s Like A Hobo being another highlight.

While a few bands and performers have come out of Sark over the years there was only one truly Sark based act on the bill here, Big Sheep.

Big Sheep

Ash, Dave and Roz of Big Sheep

Featuring the festival’s lead organisers Roz (ukulele) and Lazlo (bass) along with leader Dave (guitar and vocals), Ash (trumpet and vocals) and part-time Space Pirate Jess (fiddle) they presented their usual mix of original tunes and songs and a few made famous by The Levellers.

While there were a few points where it all became a bit of a mess when it coalesced they have a great sound, particularly with Roz’s vocals working alongside Dave’s to build some deeper tones.

For obvious reasons they were very warmly received and got the first dancers of the day up with a group of the island’s youngsters who seemed to be having a great time all weekend and gave the whole thing as much a community fair kind of feel as that of a festival.

Sergeant Pipon's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sergeant Pipon’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The first of the weekend’s acts from Jersey was Sergeant Pipon’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (abbreviated to Sergeant Pipon on the programme).

They came across like a slightly more risqué answer to the The Space Pirates of Rocquaine with a foot a bit more firmly in rock ’n’ roll territory.

With songs of drinking, debauchery and other nocturnal activities, run through a filter of tunes sounding suspiciously like some familiar favourites, they were the first of the weekend’s band to get really irreverent and were great fun with it.

With the sun now set the tent was filling up for The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and, with them at full, eight-piece, strength on stage, the upbeat tones continued and they soon had a few dancing at the front.

The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Louis and Clem of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers

Clem and Louis Brouard sharing the stage they added to the family feel of the festival while their brand of lo-fi, vintage, rag time sounded as good as ever.

Gemma Honey’s sweeter voice and Clem’s abrasive vocals played off each other brilliantly while a few songs previously heard from The John Wesley Stone were highly appreciated and Ash Jarman continued to show his ridiculous musical skill swapping from brass to some very finely played spoons!

With quite a sonic contrast Lord Vapour brought their fuzzy cosmic grooves fresh off their recent debut European tour.

With new material that builds on their past jammed out heavy psychedelia they built to huge crescendos and, while in the past they have sometimes felt rhythmically imbalanced they had a more measured pace here that saw them at their best driven by the relaxed but powerful drum work of Squirrel.

And, as Richey from The Reck’s pointed out, they all have great looking hair.

Monty of The Pirates

Monty of The Pirates

While Lord Vapour had got heads nodding it was The Pirates (formerly Pirate Party Brigade) from Jersey who really got the moving with the highly skankable punk ska energy.

As a party band par excellence they blasted through a set of infectiously energetic songs in tight and punchy fashion led by the brilliantly gritty charisma of Monty that provided a strong highlight of the first day.

And then came Sark (and Channel Island) favourites, The Recks

Being undeniably in the party spirit on a technical level the band were just the wrong side of lose and ended up going about as all over the place as a band can while still sticking to a performance.

Richey of The Recks

Richey of The Recks

With that though they brought an amazing energy to the tent that ran into the crowd and back and it was one of those moments of everyone coming together in a way that defies conventional wisdom making for a rousingly raucous performance.

Ending on a take at old favourite Porcupine that was maybe a little too busked, their performance here suited the mood of the night and rounded off the first day of the festival in an appropriate style – oh, and Richey was wearing a very nice coat… (he might have told me to point that out).

You can see more of my photos from the first day of the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

Day 2

After a raucous end to the first night my second day at the festival began (after a failed attempt at dodging some rain after breakfast) in much more sedate fashion with Blue Mountains.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

Their relaxed and fun manner worked well to give their rather dark songs a lighter edge and they held the gradually growing crowd rapt.

Andrew Degnen added a ukulele to one song, along with his usual fiddle on the others, particularly Henry Lee which was reworked with a bigger lead violin part, and they debuted a brand new song about Sark as, they pointed out, it seems you can’t be a folk band in the islands without a song about the place, all before coming to a fine climax with Emmy Lou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl which was as evocative as always.

Things got a bit more groovy next with some upbeat indie from Jersey’s Axon Bower. While there wasn’t anything much new to their sound for a summer afternoon in a field it was spot on and brought some great vibes to the event as the sun looked set on staying out.

Tantale

Tantale

Continuing with an indie rock sound, but in a slightly different way, were Tantale.

Going acoustic for this more sedate event they mixed originals with covers from the likes of REM and Soundgarden and captured some of their usual psychedelic tones with a very chilled out feeling.

Added to this was the fact that they were playing with Jawbone’s Alex Childs on drums showing a very different side to her playing than in her regular band and putting in a stellar performance having only had two practices!

Lead by a relaxed Crowman, The Crowband took Sark Roots on a surreal flight of fancy that mixed folk, steampunk and music hall in a way unlike anything else.

The Crowband

The Crowman and Shacks

With entertaining chat between the songs, things got more demented as the set went on with cultural reference points spanning everything from Isambard Kingdom Brunel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to The Hangover via the small northern town of Pimbo, culminating in a singalong to Give Me Booze from their latest album to finish.

Things didn’t get much more conventional next as what Parish 13 took to the stage looking and acting like they could be residents of Royston Vasey.

While they started off looking and sounding like a gypsy/pirate novelty act, as they went on and people got on their feet it started to feel a little more organic with an interesting selection of songs including cover of Gogol Bordello and The Mad Caddies.

While it was hard to escape the feeling they were trying a bit too hard for the novelty factor they upped the energy in the tent well as we headed into the evening.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The piratical theme continued, albeit in slightly less of a forced fashion, with The Space Pirates of Rocquaine.

It took a couple of songs but they soon got the crowd involved with a set that was the perfect balance between their more restrained, family friendly, selves and their more rock ’n’ roll tendencies.

Rise sounded anthemic once again while SS Briseis brought a rowdy punk energy before they delivered an encore of Mr Le Goupillot to close the first highlight set of the weekend.

After recent outings at the 2017 Vale Earth Fair and its warm up show Weymouth quartet The Surfin’ Birds returned to the islands with quite some fan fare.

A grooving jam set the tone at the start before we spent an hour surfing the psychedelic waves with a strong garage heart.

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

The set and sound were different from their previous visit showing a band capable of quite some variety who all played off one another on stage excellently making for a tight and powerful performance that was the best I’ve seen from them and was another highlight of the festival.

With a lantern parade going on outside the tent remained packed for the big ska party of The Honest Crooks.

This band couldn’t be more suited to an event like this and the crowd was skanking from the start. With a selection of their own great songs making up the bulk of the set there were a few covers thrown in too but all were warmly greeted and the addition of trumpet player Danny on a few songs added an extra level to the ska punk sound.

The Honest Crooks

The Honest Crooks

With a longer set than expected they packed in the tracks and even got Henry from Lord Vapour up for kazoo duties on Gentlemen’s Dub Club’s High Grade (its safe to say he’s no Bobby Battle on the instrument but did drink a pint from a shoe as if to make up for that – I’m not sure why either), before the band closed their set with a big jammed out ending that got the a small pit going amongst the revellers at the front.

It seems only inevitable that after all that Buffalo Huddleston would close the show and they did it in just the fashion we’ve come to expect.

Buffalo Huddleston

Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

Their upbeat folk-hop had the audience going from the start and its hard to argue with the appeal of this band with new songs greeted as positively as more well-known ones building a great atmosphere in the tent that permeated out into the field leading to two encores, and there was a point where I wasn’t sure if the crowd would let the band leave the stage rounding off the second day on a real high as we relaxed around a fire pit watching distant lightning arcing across the sky.

You can see more of my photos from the second day of the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

Day 3

John Le Sauvage

John Le Sauvage

As is probably to be expected the Sunday of the festival was a more relaxed affair but it was good to see that by lunchtime the site was getting busy and, with the sun well and truly out and it feeling like a summer’s day the field became the perfect place to relax and enjoy the afternoon.

Musically things got going with John Le Sauvage playing a mix of country and folk style songs in a chilled out fashion.

With an easy manner on stage he went down well spanning everything from Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues to Pulp’s Disco 2000 and Cranberries’ Zombie.

After letting their rock ’n’ roll side out the previous night The Space Pirates of Rocquaine (billed as The Bootleg Pirates) were back for something a little more sedate.

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

Starting out with a few solo and duo songs from Guppy, Lisa and Tim to set the mood before the full band, including extra vocals from Jess Nash on a few songs, took to the stage for a very different set to the previous night including their more folky songs.

They still found time for some upbeat moments though, like their take on Billy Bragg’s You Woke Up My Neighbourhood and their own Follies D’Amour before ending on an atmospherically slowed down version of The Witch of the Longfrie.

Boondoggle brought some jazzy acoustic pop the show and were much more relaxed on stage than when I’ve seen them in the past, capturing the mood excellently.

With a different combination of sounds thanks to Carrie’s great voice and Dennis’ clarinet and sax they stood out from the pack of acoustic artists currently on the scene in the islands.

Carrie from Boondoggle

Carrie from Boondoggle

With the boat calling I just had time to catch New Zealander Monty Bevins before heading off to the harbour and he continued the afternoon’s atmosphere with a soulful singer-songwriter style.

While young men with acoustic guitars are ten a penny he was in the upper set of those on the circuit, if not being truly remarkable, but sounded nice.

Sark Roots Festival then was in many ways exactly what I expected but in others nothing like I anticipated. With some great music on offer it all came packaged in probably the most laid back of any of the festivals in the islands and certainly left a strong impression, even on this sometimes jaded and cynical sort.

You can see more of my photos from the third day of the festival on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

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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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Vale Earth Fair Warm Up: The Surfin’ Birds and The Recks – Thomas De La Rue – 26/08/17

The Surfin' Birds and guests

The Surfin’ Birds with AJ and Richey

It’s become tradition that the night before Guernsey’s longest running festival, the Vale Earth Fair, a pair of the bands playing the main event take to the stage at the De La Rue in St Peter Port for a more relaxed warm up.

Even with the Sound Guernsey event taking place at the Vale Castle, 2017 was no different with The Recks and their, in some sense, brother band from Weymouth The Surfin’ Birds.

While The Recks were on solid form it took a while for the audience to sneak forward and fill the dancefloor and it is odd seeing this band who usually get the headline slots going on first.

While they were a bit more loose than usual, particularly when it came to working out what to play next and on She Wants That Too, as they set went on their energy, and the audiences, built.

The Recks

The Recks

A new track led by Gregory Harrison added a slightly slower, more country-folk, feel to things but it was the usual tracks that were the highlights, recent single Low Life and She Ain’t No Revelator in particular, and by the end of the set the dancefloor was full.

Weymouth rock ’n’ roll trio The Surfin’ Birds promised to jam things out with some friends and they didn’t disappoint from the moment they launched in their take on Link Wray’s Jack The Ripper onwards.

Mixing their own songs with versions of blues rock ’n’ roll standards they were on fire, despite looking like they might be on the verge of total collapse at points, they held it together with a primal will that actually made them super tight.

Paul Sharod of The Surfin' Birds

Paul Sharod of The Surfin’ Birds

While Paul Sharod wielded his guitar like it was an extension of himself, his brother Liam set the drums rolling with several drum solos that did that rare thing of feeling like part of the songs rather than an indulgent add-on.

As the set went on they were joined on numerous occasions by The Reck’s Richey Powers (a long time collaborator of Sharod) and AJ, most commonly seen with Burg & The Back Porch Band, who added some harmonica to the bluesy flavour tracks.

Sharod headed further and further into Lux Interior territory, aided by a few Cramps moments including Human Fly and The Crusher (although I know that isn’t a Cramps original) before closing the set on a trio of standout moments; their own I’m An Elvis Man led into a Be Bop A Lula that descended into a crazed take on Surfin’ Bird to close the night on a high, setting everyone up for the following days festival with great energy.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: July 2017 – Chaos, Sark Folk Festival and more

Vice and Track Not Found at the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Vice and Track Not Found

Click here to listen to the show

On the July 2017 edition of BBC Introducing in Guernsey we had a festival special of a show with more besides.

For my look back at Chaos Voodoo 13 I spoke to the winners and runners-up of the Chaos/Sound Guernsey Battle of the Bands, VICE and track not found, while hearing music from some of the weekend’s highlight acts.

I also heard from some of the artists who played the Sark Folk Festival including Burg & The Back Porch BandJoe Corbin and Ukuladeez.

On top of that mura masa told us about releasing his self-titled debut album with a special signing at Guernsey’s HMV store and I had a brief look ahead to next month’s Vale Earth Fair.

You can listen to the show by clicking here.

Tracklist

And here’s a new video from The Recks that also came out this month, as a little bonus bit:

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The Surfin’ Birds – Self-Titled

The Surfin' BirdsHailing from Weymouth (seemingly by way of Detroit) The Surfin’ Birds self-titled debut LP runs the gamut of retro rock ‘n’ roll over 11 tracks.

The trio have been plying their trade on the live circuit for a few years and have a few EPs under their belt all of which has very much culminated in this record which draws their various sounds and influences together.

Things open with a pair of fuzzy garage rockers, She’s Twisted and Baby I’m A Man, that evoke a certain Stooge-y something and set a firm foundation for what’s to follow.

As the disc rolls on, I was listening on CD but really this feels like it should be on vinyl, we get more fuzzy rock, rubbing shoulders with twangy instrumentals and semi-psychobilly moments.

Paul Sharod of The Surfin' Birds

Paul Sharod at The Vale Earth Fair

The instrumentals are a nice change of pace to most of what I’m used to hearing and the three main instruments share time in the lead position to great effect, though of course its Paul Sharod’s guitar that takes pride of place.

Setting them apart from other Dick Dale wannabes is a psychedelic edge that is present across the whole record and changes thing up just enough to make it the band’s own.

A highlight of the darker tinged stuff comes with the slightly knowing Graveyard Groupie that combines the vibe of The Cramps with elements of the more British and European psychobilly movement.

Here we see the Sharod’s lyrics come to the fore with a sense of slightly of kilter fun and a vocal delivery that again apes his heroes while still maintaining enough of himself to make it their own.

What having these three distinct sorts of songs does is allow the band to present a varied but still (somewhat oxymoronically) coherent sound that keeps the listener guessing while still creating a clear sonic identity for the trio.

This coherence is aided by a suitably lo-fi, fuzzy, production job that on some albums would be a bad thing but here is perfect – you can hear everything you need to clearly, but it sounds like a product of the 60s, like something from a weird Sonics session that went a bit wrong (and oh so right).

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

With this record The Surfin’ Birds take the sounds of Dick Dale, The Cramps, The Sonics and The Stooges and ram them all together, head on, to create something that, while based on that description could easily be a mess, is a great rock ‘n’ roll record.

In terms of more mainstream things brings to mind The Hives and stands alongside follow English Channel based acts The Electric Shakes, The Cryptics and Thee Jenerators as proof that garage rock can still be a force to be reckoned with and stand out from a sea of music that often has the look but not the substance.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: August 2013 – Vale Earth Fair and The John Wesley Stone

The John Wesley Stone at the Vale Earth Fair

The John Wesley Stone at the Vale Earth Fair

For the August 2013 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I reviewed the Vale Earth Fair festival which took place on Sunday 25th August and interviewed Hillbill and Tinshack from The John Wesley Stone about the band’s second album, Shiraibu.

You can read my review of the Vale Earth Fair here and my review of Shiraibu here.

The show itself is available online via the BBC iPlayer. here, until Saturday 7th September but if you don’t get a chance to listen here’s the tracklist from the show:

Tracklist

And here’s a video of The John Wesley Stone playing a few months ago:

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Vale Earth Fair 2013

Buzzcocks headlining the show

Buzzcocks headlining the show

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

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

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

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

Vale Earth Fair 2013 - 31:08:13 scan

Extended Review

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

Izzy Sheil

Izzy Sheil

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

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

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

The Surfin' Birds

The Surfin’ Birds

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

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

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

The Recks

The Recks

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

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

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

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

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

SugarSlam

SugarSlam

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

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

The Correspondents

The Correspondents

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

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

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

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

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

Bright_Lights

Bright_Lights

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

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

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

Last of the Light Brigade

Last of the Light Brigade

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

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

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