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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.