Tag Archives: Ukuladeez

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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Chaos Voodoo 13 – 23-25/06/17

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

For the thirteenth year the Greenman MCC and friends took over a few fields at Pleinmont in Guernsey for their annual party weekend – Chaos!

This year with the subtitle Voodoo 13 the festival featured two stages of live music for three days featuring everything from the lightest of folk to the heaviest of rock along with the bike show and whatever other shenanigans might happen when you put a few hundred bikers and music lovers in a field.

My review of the event was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1 July 2017 and you can read that, and an extended version, below.

You can also see my galleries of the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos 13 review - part 1 - 01/07/17

Chaos 13 review - part 2 - 01/07/17

Extended review

It might be unlucky for some but for Greenman MCC and the rest of the crew behind Chaos it turned out to be one of their best weekends of bikes, beer and, what we’re focussing on here, bands, yet.

Day 1

Silas The Assyrian Assassin at Chaos 13

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

As has become customary the weekend started out in The Peace Tent with Silas The Assyrian Assassin first up on Friday afternoon. Delivering one of his more coherent sets to the small but appreciative audience it was nice to hear the intentional humour along with the more pointed opinions in his songs more clearly than sometimes.

Highlights came in the form of a ‘cockney’ reworking of Dandy Warhols’ Bohemian Like You along with a series of topical original songs generally bemoaning the state of the world in his uniquely witty way.

Fly Casual frontman, Damo, followed Silas with a slightly more straightforward, but none-the-less enjoyable, set of acoustic indie, including some songs from his long time band which are always nice to hear.

The main stage got going with one of the islands up and coming younger bands, Rogue. While they seemed to have a few sound issues they didn’t let that slow them down and their mix of rock covers including the likes of Skid Row, Guns ’N’ Roses, System of a Down and Muse were a nice warm up for the evening.

Blacksmith at Chaos 13

Blacksmith

Having debuted last year, power metal trio Blacksmith upped the ante adding costumes to the mix in helping to tell their tale of the heroic ‘smith saving a princess from an evil dragon. While it may all sound a bit ridiculous the band wear it lightly and with a fun manner, and delivered their chuggy riffs brilliantly.

The first visiting band of the weekend were Jersey quintet Short Was Found. Having made their Guernsey debut at Chaos last year they came with something of a built-in following and it was clear why

Their energetic, hardcore tinged, punk rock was as fast, punchy and powerful as you could want and frontman James Pallot was a force of nature on stage.

The addition of second guitar has filled out their sound in the right way and it was nice to hear some upbeat punk rock as most of Guernsey’s harder punk bands are being a bit quiet.

Having already played the JT Market Rocks event to Chris Tarrant and friends (yes, really) earlier in the evening Honest Crooks hit the stage for a headlining set in The Peace Tent with a purpose and it wasn’t long before the crowd was packed in and skanking away.

Honest Crooks at Chaos 13

Honest Crooks

The chance to play a longer set really showed off their repertoire from great originals to well-chosen covers spanning everything from The Specials to Reel Big Fish to, somewhat bizarrely, Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl.

Whatever they were playing though the audience were loving it and they put in an early bid for highlight of the weekend.

West Country rockers That Band took things in a different direction on the main stage with some sub-Red Hot Chilli Peppers style funk rock. While all four members played and performed very well and were perfectly listenable their set didn’t really ignite the crowd the way funky rhythms should making for a set that, while well-played, couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a dud.

SugarSlam at Chaos 13

SugarSlam

SugarSlam have become main stage regulars at Chaos over the last few years and never fail to deliver, and Chaos 13 was no exception.

Having been in the studio over the last few months they took the chance to air a lot of new material and the upbeat power pop grunge continued where they left off with their Fameless album and quickly got the crowd excited.

Rounding off the set with a pair of covers, Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades, left what was a loose but fun set on a high.

Having given the event its theme and following appearances on TV hailing them as one of the UK’s best undiscovered bands, there was a real sense of anticipation for the excellently named Johnny Cage & the Voodoogroove.

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove at Chaos 13

Johnny Cage and the Voodoogroove

Their genre defying brand of dirty rock ’n’ roll certainly came with a good groove.

The band brought an excellent character and vibe to a slick and tight performance that kept the crowd at the front, and in the case of two more ‘enthusiastic’ ladies on the stage with them, dancing. This brought the first night Chaos to a close on a high point and set the bar for the bands to follow.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the first day

Day Two

Track Not Found at Chaos 13

Track Not Found

Following a performance at the previous night’s Sound Guernsey show for under-18s, Track Not Found continued their three gigs in three days weekend by opening up the main stage on Saturday lunchtime.

The young three-piece have built a good reputation over the last year and continued to build on that here.

While it took them a little while to build the energy up and they were a little looser than normal, by about half way through the set, around the time guitarist Grace Tayler broke a string, they hit their stride and didn’t let the missing string slow things down to get the day going in fine fashion.

When it comes to energy you can always rely on Jawbone and this was no exception.

The set started a little on the back foot as Dom from Static Alice filled in for the bands regular frontman Steve as he raced to the site on his lunch break. As soon as he did appear though the band were all systems go with their scrappy, sloppy take on punk rock.

Jawbone at Chaos 13

Jawbone

While covers of the likes of Misfits, The Damned, Alkaline Trio and Men At Work (yes really!) have been their standards, their set of originals is growing and while Choice was a little too sloppy here Generation Y more than made up for it with its NoFX-like take on a bleak, nihilistic but still singalong sound.

While The Crowman is something of a regular in The Peace Tent, this year saw him arrive with his recently formed Crowband in tow, as heard on his new album, and they did a great job of building on The Crowman’s signature garage folk sound.

The whole set had a playful and relaxed feel though the more melancholy songs still cut through and made their point and Pimbo (with the aid of a megaphone) was one of Chaos’ most surreal moments in a while (and that’s saying something in The Peace Tent).

The fun folky vibes continued with Clameur De Haro and they quickly had The Peace Tent packed for a relaxed performance mixing their great songs with some well-chosen hard rocking covers that got people singing and clapping along.

WaterColour Matchbox at Chaos 13

WaterColour Matchbox

While it was a folky afternoon in the smaller field the main stage continued rocking with WaterColour Matchbox delivering a tight and slick set of their progressive, conceptual rock with the metallic edge dialled up for this show.

While their songs aren’t music to chill out to even on a relaxed Saturday afternoon they went down well and in the setting of the big Chaos stage they sounded suitably huge.

Having made a strong impression on their first visit to the island a couple of months ago Great North were one of the weekend’s most anticipated acts in The Peace Tent and they didn’t disappoint.

With the tent crowd at its most subdued the husband and wife duo’s voices became the focus of attention and were instantly absorbing.

Great North and Gregory Harrison at Chaos 13

Great North and Gregory Harrison

While the songs were often on the darker or more serious side Hayden Donnell brought a lighter side with a quick wit between the songs that provided the perfect balance and a few songs with Gregory Harrison on banjo just added to all this.

After the bike show and a set from The Phantom Cosmonaut (that I won’t review for obvious reasons) Brunt brought the heavy to The Peace Tent.

A band who built their reputation in this space a few years ago, the tent was busy for their return and really got into the slow and crushing grooves which flowed from the stacks of amplifiers on the stage and, while it was clear they have a dedicated following at the front, they made an impression on all gathered out of the fog.

The Recks at Chaos 13

The Recks

After a year away The Recks returned to Chaos in their spiritual setting here of The Peace Tent and hit the stage in front of a packed audience.

While it took them a few songs to get warmed up and there seemed to be some technical issues with Greg’s banjo (no jokes about banjos please), they worked through this expertly and were soon back and rolling in fine form with everyone swaying and grooving to a selection of songs ranging from new numbers recently added to their set to older ones not heard from the band since their reformation.

Heave are a band who have become the stuff of legend.

For a brief period a couple of years ago the duo delivered a series of crushingly heavy and loud sets before promptly disbanding, apparently never to be heard again.

Heave at Chaos 13

Heave

So, as soon as their name appeared on the line up for Chaos 13, they became the most anticipated band of the weekend and as soon as Neil Ettasse hit his drums and Steve Lynch’s Explorer guit-bass and wall of amps roared into life the old power was back.

With seven songs in 45 minutes it was a thick, crushing, obscenely loud racket in the best of ways that quickly got the first proper pit of the weekend going.

Steve and Neil were as tight as ever, as if they’d never been apart, and with the likes of Swamp Monster Is Loose, Smoking Molasses and epic closer Tomahawk they did what PUNiK did last year of becoming not just a highlight of the weekend but a highlight of all Chaos.

Following the onslaught of Heave was going to be no mean feat and its a bit of a shame for Graveyard Johnnys that the crowd seemed to go through a brief period of recovery while they started their set.

Graveyard Johnnys at Chaos 13

Graveyard Johnnys

Thankfully the punkabilly trio are clearly an experienced crew and soon got the crowd on side leading to another pit kicking off, in fact one of the biggest I’ve seen at Chaos in quite some time.

Frontman and upright bass player Joe Grogan played with a great charisma that whipped the audience in the frenzy while Callum Houston was a non-stop dynamo pulling punk and rock ’n’ roll licks from his blonde Telecaster in fine fashion and Tom Lord looked like something from a post apocalyptic movie behind his rolling drums.

Graveyard Johnnys provided another highpoint of the weekend and ended on a killer cover of Golden Earing’s Radar Love to close out a great day spanning everything from the lightest folk to the heaviest of rock.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the second day

Day Three

As something of a change to past Chaos events the Sunday afternoon of the festival was given over to a Battle of the Bands on the main stage in conjunction with Sound Guernsey, showcasing eight of the island’s young bands.

Lysergic at Chaos 13

Lysergic

While there are things to say about all the bands who took part there are a few things that apply to all of them. That is that they are all amazing talented given their ages and experience and, while the performances aren’t the level of the big bands of the last two days they all showed at least hints of some great performers to come as they develop and get more gigs under their belts.

Lysergic opened the day and were totally new to me. The first half of their set had an edgy and slightly psychedelic nature to it (appropriate given their name, was that intentional?) with covers of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer and The Rolling Stones Paint It Black before the singer and the guitarist swapped roles and things went in a grungier direction.

This second vocalist brought a crazed energy that was great to see in a scene where the younger bands can often be a little on the polite side and I was almost surprised he didn’t end the set by throwing himself through the drum kit a la Kurt Cobain in his prime.

Vice at Chaos 13

Vice

One thing that has really stood out with the current crop of young bands in Guernsey is the number of female performers and Vice are a prime example of this. The all-girl five-piece sounded great on the slightly heavier, darker numbers from the likes of Highly Suspect and, while they could do with a bit more grit to back it up (something that comes with time), they put on a great show with their singer particularly standing out with a charismatic and confident turn.

Another female fronted band were The Violet Diversion and it wasn’t long before their singer, Kiya, was following in her uncle Stace Blondel’s footsteps and heading out on the speakers across the front of the stage, getting face to face with the crowd.

While Kiya led the charge the rest of the band were solid as well and, while their selection of songs didn’t give them the coherent image of their leader they put on a great show.

The Violet Diversion at Chaos 13

The Violet Diversion

The last band before the break are one with a little more experience, Equilibrium. While their energy was a bit up and down today they still put in a good showing and when they did hit their stride they made a great pop rock sound.

After a brief trip to The Peace Tent for a little self-described ‘smutty’ folk from A Day Before Thursday, Acoustic Accord kicked off the second half of the Battle of the Bands with a cover of Buffalo Huddleston’s Sky High. The band followed this with well-played piano and acoustic guitar covers of a range of songs, backed up with a violin and drums. While they were a little reserved for my tastes but undeniably talented musicians.

Another band who, despite their appearance, have been playing for a year or more are Cosmic Fish. It having been a while since I last saw them they’d noticeably come on again and, while still a bit loose in places, have added more power to their pop punk sound that is coming together into something very enjoyable.

Blue Mountains at Chaos 13

Blue Mountains

At this point I’ll apologise to Track Not Found for missing their third show in three days but The Peace Tent called for a toastie and Blue Mountains.

With their new EP, Hummingbird, unofficially released here (the official launch will be at Sark Folk Festival) the trio mixed their set up a bit but did exactly what we’ve come to expect; delivering a series of darkly hued folk songs based on styles of Americana with their own flavour increasingly creeping in making them one of the islands truly special bands to see and hear.

Back at the Battle Rogue were back on stage and looking far more confident than they did on Friday afternoon. While they still have some rough edges to smooth out their set was far more assured with drummer Luke Corbin and singer Carmen Stella Tippet particularly impressing – and it’s always nice to hear Skid Row’s Youth Gone Wild.

Buff Hudd and Jull-z at Chaos 13

Buff Hudd and Jull-z

With all the bands having performed the judging panel (made up of a selection of members of the stage crew and organisers) made their deliberations and announced Vice as very worthy winners with Track Not Found an honourable second, but, as with pretty much all battle of the band’s style events, all the bands were winners getting seen by a bigger audience and getting an experience they are unlikely to get for a while (or at least another year if they get invited back to Chaos in the future).

With ‘silly games’ taking place in the main field in the way they only do at Chaos the music continued in The Peace Tent with Buff Hudd. It’s hard to think of a more perfect act for this setting and Mike Meinke delivered on that as people chilled out in the tent, some singing and grooving along. Once again the Japanese version of his song Don’t Worry Yourself was a very impressive highlight along with the slightly mind-bending instrumental Mono-limb-tastic.

Ukuladeez at Chaos 13

Ukuladeez

The folky vibes continued in somewhat more surreal form next as Ukuladeez hit the stage and seemed intent on playing a game of how many people can we fit on The Peace Tent stage at once.

Within that though they delivered probably the best set I’ve ever seen from them combining their sense of fun with some great catchy songs packed with genuine humour.

With the expanded band including not just bass and drums as we’ve heard before but violin, pipes from James Dumbarton melodica and, for one track, the Folkatron 3000 (its hard to explain) from Peace Tent’s terrestrial leader Stretchy Stuff along with a choir of the Ladeez’ mums it made for a highlight set of the weekend in The Peace Tent in the most improbable of ways.

Burning At Both Ends at Chaos 13

Burning At Both Ends

Back in the main tent Burning At Both Ends kicked off the final evening session with a set of their storming style of pop punk.

With the Sound Guernsey faithful at the front and singing along the band gave it their all and this set in particular really showed frontman Peter Mitchell coming into his own in the role.

Catchy new songs stood alongside now well-known favourites and the band closed their set by inciting a circle pit for their final breakdown.

Over the years Static Alice have become firm Chaos favourites and their brand of power pop rock rarely fails to get the crowd going and this was no exception.

From the start Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais were all in full on performance mode getting up on the speakers in front of the stage and rarely dropping the energy for more than hour.

Static Alice at Chaos 13

Static Alice

With the biggest crowd I remember on a Sunday night in a long time Static Alice showcased songs from their new Warrior EP alongside older material that it was clear a lot in audience were familiar with before ending on a crowd pleasing encore of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz.

This closed Chaos on an upbeat note and brought to an end what felt like a newly revived event with something of the spirit of old back with brand new young bands rubbing shoulders with established acts and some great visiting headliners.

Click here to see my full gallery of photos from the third day

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

Gregory Harrison and Nathan Arnaud in the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Greg and Nathan in the studio

Click here to listen to the show

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

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

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

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

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

Tracklist

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Chaos 12: 24, 25, 26 June 2016 – Extended Review

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK at Chaos

For the 12th year in a row the Greenman MCC took over a few fields at top of Pleinmont in Guernsey for Chaos; a weekend of, in their word, ‘bikes, beer and bands’, of course my focus is always on the bands side of things.

With two stages with music across three days the arrangement was the same as the last few years and featured a range of artists from the Channel Islands and beyond including some familiar faces and some newcomers including the likes of PUNiK, The Hyena Kill, SugarSlam, Falenizza Horsepower and more.

My review was published in The Guernsey Press on 2nd July 2016 and you can read an extended version below, you can also see my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Chaos review - 02:07:16

Extended Review

Day 1

For the 12th year in a row the usually rugged landscape of Guernsey’s most southwesterly point again welcomed the Greenman MCC for their Chaos weekend music festival and bike show. With the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing up over the cliffs, conditions couldn’t have been much better as I got to the site on Friday afternoon and headed to The Peace Tent, where the live music traditionally begins.

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

Silas The Assyrian Assassin

With the tent decorated in its usual psychedelic way a notable addition this year was a cardboard cut out of Elvis who would join all the weekend’s acts on stage starting with Silas The Assyrian Assassin. Delivering probably his most fluid and enjoyable set to date Silas (aka longtime Guernsey punk frontman Andy Duchemin) combined some pointed acoustic songs with some jokes, most of which couldn’t be published here but raised some laughs.

Musically the likes of Slacktavist, Trust Fund Anarchist and others aim extremely pointed barbs at the failings of modern society and, coming as Facebook and Twitter were flooded with the post-Brexit backlash, felt all the more suitable. Along with these we got the usual twisted take on Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, The Hokey Cokey through a filter of The Smiths and a demonstration of Duchemin’s psychic abilities which were uncanny.

The acoustic sounds continued with A Clockwork Langoustine, featuring Stace Blondel and Dan Haggarty – both formerly of Mechanical Lobster (you can see what they did there). The duo delivered a great selection of 90s alt-rock and metal classics from the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Danzig along with a few songs by their previous band, almost unrecognisable without the industrial metal trappings. The whole thing was hugely enjoyable and was the first time I’ve heard Blondel’s impressive voice used properly in a long time while Haggarty’s acoustic lead work was spot on.

The OK at Chaos

The OK

With The Peace Tent already in full swing the main/beer tent stage – this year dubbed The War Stage – got going with pop-rock four-piece The OK. Playing their last show it was clear the quartet were out to have some fun and it made for one of the most relaxed performances I’ve seen from them and drew one of the bigger crowds I’ve seen for an opening act here. While it may not have been a blistering start, their songs were solid enough and started warming up the growing crowd well.

If things weren’t going full-tilt before, To The Woods soon changed that as they launched into what felt like an uncharacteristically early set. Warming up over the first few songs it wasn’t long before their loud and ‘lairy’ grunge rock was firing on all cylinders with Fire, a song that had a few singing along.

To The Woods at Chaos

To The Woods

With Bobby Battle’s between song chat toned down slightly this was To The Woods back to the form that made their reputation over recent years and it was great to see. While there was still plenty of Bobby’s unique presence to go round, it allowed the songs a chance to stand out again, kicking off the first mosh of the weekend and culminating powerfully with Hit The Switch and Jack Attack.

Having made their return to the stage on Wednesday night at The Fermain Tavern, Guernsey’s hardcore veterans Insurrection blasted into their set with a wall of powerful noise. Bringing a shot of bleak nihilism and rage, in a surprisingly good-natured looking package, the five-piece continue to grow in power as they mixed songs from their 1980s heyday with material from their reformation EP and brand new tracks.

With lyrics like ‘human race a waste of life’ and the beast and imp dynamic of front duo Mark Le Page and Ian Allsopp, Insurrection were blastingly visceral and again the political talk of the day seemed to add yet more relevance to their impassioned music.

Honest Crooks at Chaos

Honest Crooks

Back in The Peace Tent and a very different side of punk rock was on display as Honest Crooks were making an early claim for set of the weekend with the tent packed and skanking. The trio have really hit a new level in the last couple of months and topped it again here.

Having made their first visit to the island last November, Manchester duo The Hyena Kill were clearly very excited to be back as they continued to bring the noise to The War Stage with a set of thunderously heavy metal-tinged rock.

Delivering the Reuben-esque (not in the painting sense) music with passion and power, their sound, created with a guitar and drums, was as loud as they come but surprisingly pure and precise and, to me, were everything Royal Blood had promised by failed to deliver.

The Hyena Kill at Chaos

The Hyena Kill

The onstage chemistry between Steven Dobb (guitar) and Lorna Blundell (drums) was huge and their energy infectious and deserved to whip the crowd into a brutal mosh, however as seems rather common in Guernsey audiences, this failed to quite take off despite the clear love being shown.

Having failed to wow me 12 months ago, Brit metallers Stormbringer were back once again. While more entertaining than my memory suggested and featuring a frontman with some genuine stage presence, not to mention all the right posturing, their brand of power metal infused retro-thrash just felt a bit too safe, particularly after the strength of The Hyena Kill. The highlight of their set came in the form of a cover of Talking Heads Psycho Killer that, if a bit derivative, was pretty fun.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK

Derivative and safe are certainly not words that could have anything to do with the first day headliners, Japanese punk quartet PUNiK. Forgoing a proper soundcheck to launch into their set, they provided what, in the festival’s 12 year existence, may be its first taste of real musical chaos.

Combining noise, energy and passion in equal measure this was something the likes of which I’d not seen on our fair shores before and the crowd was as into as the band throughout bringing a real sense of the democratising nature of punk rock as it felt like we were really all in it together. Tagu made for an impressive frontman, playing nonstop despite breaking a string during their first song, while Makoto was a great punk lead guitarist.

Throughout though the focal point was Guernseyman Nigel, making his first visit to the island in 23 years he was all over the stage and at points was clearly genuinely moved by the reaction to this band of misfits from the other side of the world.

PUNiK at Chaos

PUNiK and friends

The highlight of their set came with Hello!! that sounded like something The Wildhearts could have come up with in their heyday and with stage invasions and everything not nailed down going flying they closed off the first day of Chaos with an expletive laden highlight in the festival’s history.

Day 2

After such a performance the night before it was probably fitting that the second day of Chaos started in a fairly hardcore vein with a new Jersey band, Short Was Found, on The War Stage. Featuring the rhythm section of Bulletproof along with two other familiar faces from Jersey’s music scene they delivered fast and tight punk rock with guitar solos thrown in making for an interesting mix that clearly had an effect on those still recovering from past excesses.

Clameur De Haro at Chaos

Clameur De Haro

The hangovers were soothed somewhat by the upbeat, folky fun of Clameur De Haro who set the scene by opening with their hillbilly take on Black Sabbath’s Supernaut. With one of the biggest audiences I’ve seen this early on a Saturday the band were on top form with all the members sharing out vocals duties more than in the past giving the whole thing a wider sound.

With their own infectiously catchy songs alongside classic rock covers, including a particularly good take on Paradise City that drew a great response (especially from the members of Jersey’s Flashmob), the Clams showed they can be just as welcome on the main stage here as at the Sark Folk Festival – one of few bands able to claim that.

Comprised of a few familiar faces from Guernsey’s music scene, including Adam Powell on guitar and former Goldfish Don’t Bounce guitarist Iain Baxter on bass, Blacksmith made their debut here. As expected from the members they played in a tight and polished fashion, delivering some solid heavy rock that was fine but felt a little disconnected and emotionless.

Lord Vapour at Chaos

Lord Vapour

Having highlighted Saturday afternoon in The Peace Tent last year Lord Vapour looked to do the same on The War Stage and, if not as exceptional as 12 months ago, did exactly what they do – delivering slabs of groovy stoner rock – and did it well. The main stage PA allowed the band to sound genuinely massive and their bluesy rock showed its crossover appeal in this location as well.

With new tracks in the set, including one inspired by sci-fi novel Dune (always likely to win me over) along with the older ones the highlight came with their final song, Sugar Tits, that rounded things off well before the bike show saw the music take a break.

While things were getting rocking on the main stage, The Peace Tent stuck with some more relaxed acoustic sounds to start its Saturday with Neale Packham, a folk trio led by James Dumbelton and Blue Mountains keeping things varied but light for those gathered on the sofas and floor.

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

Fun and games in The Peace Tent

While the bike show was going on in the main field, complete with awards in various categories and the obligatory burnout competition, its was time for some fun and games in The Peace Tent. These things combine to give Chaos the thing that makes it unique and more than just a gathering in a field for some music.

Another past Saturday afternoon Peace Tent stand out, Brunt, hit The War Stage after the bike show and proceeded to flatten all who stood before them with a wall of volume.

Within that though was a clarity that allowed all three members more intricate moments to be heard, particularly the more subtle, melodic sections of Ave Thompson’s lead guitar work that came with a real deftness of touch on his Les Paul.

Brunt at Chaos

Brunt

The trio barely engaged with the audience and rarely even stopped between tunes, but in this case it suited the music perfectly as a large number of heads nodded along.

After the fun and games things started to get rocking in The Peace Tent with The Swallows. The first half of their set was a little distracted thanks to the array of children they’d brought with them but once it settled down the five-piece have some great alt-rock power.

Lisa Vidamour and Rachael Cumberland-Dodd are a spot on front duo for this kind of thing as they ran through covers of the likes of Pixies and The Breeders and set the scene for the rockier things to come.

Science of Eight Limbs at Chaos

Science of Eight Limbs

The peace was well and truly shattered next as Science of Eight Limbs took to The Peace Tent stage. Much like The Hyena Kill they took what Royal Blood brought to the charts and did something far more interesting and powerful with it, in this case combining a rock/metal hybrid sound with funky rhythms and impressive intricacies.

While extremely technical and precise in places the UK duo’s performance and chemistry was effortless and got what I think may be The Peace Tent’s first fully fledged mosh pit going and left many confounded with the range of noise and sound produced by just two people making for one of the sets of the weekend.

With broken voices and soon broken strings, SugarSlam brought the party atmosphere to The War Stage with a set of their characteristic grungy power-pop-rock.

 SugarSlam with Flashmob at Chaos

SugarSlam with Flashmob

Having been working with the crew all weekend frontman Plumb was clearly riding a wave of energy to propel him through the set that was excellently backed up by the rest of the band, along with Jay and Harry from Flashmob for a run at Guns ’N’ Roses’ It’s So Easy.

Playing with power and punch that made them feel like headliners they delivered a storming version of The Stooges Be Your Dog dedicated to PUNiK.

Back in the other field The Peace Tent was packed as Buffalo Huddleston once again provided a high point of music and atmosphere as has become their trademark.

The rock continued on The War Stage with Peppered Ant Legs running through their gamut of hard rock classics. Delivered with plenty of fun and flair, even if Danny Joyce’s bass playing was a bit suspect in places, but they certainly found their groove for a great run at Black Sabbath’s Faeries Wear Boots.

Falenizza Horsepower at Chaos

Falenizza Horsepower

With a bass stack set up either side of the drum riser it was time for another two-piece to take the stage and once again deliver something loud and powerful. Jersey’s Falenizza Horsepower provided great swathes of sonic experience mixing bass, vocal and guitar loops with powerful drums to build and create huge songs that filled the big tent.

While often overlooked Dave Spars vocals are a rich component of the songs that combine elements of indie, rock, metal and doom in one unique package that was backed up by a great light show here and seemed to go down a storm with the big crowd.

With intro music from A Clockwork Orange, Kill II This launched into their set of industrial-tinged metal and put in a strong performance.

Kill 2 This at Chaos

Kill 2 This

Simon Gordon, a familiar face from his days in Thousand Points Of Hate, is a great frontman reaching out and connecting to the crowd along with guitarist Mark Mynett.

With a lot of sequenced backing sounds it gave the whole thing a very big feel but with that came a certain artificiality which, coming after Falenizza Horsepower and the previous night’s realist flurry of PUNiK, made it hard for me to connect with a set that felt well delivered if, ultimately, somewhat generic.

Day 3

As is traditional the final day of Chaos got going with Cramps O’Clock, an hour of music from the cult psychobilly band as DJ’d by myself, followed by some suitable silliness from Peace Tent pilot, Stretchy Stuff.

Jo and Friends at Chaos

Jo and Friends

In a slightly more normal fashion Jo Marsh and friends started the live music on The War Stage.

Delivering some nice soft rock to start the day the hastily assembled band did a decent job (particularly young drummer Toby Beasley also seen in Cosmic Fish) and started the more mellow day as it meant to go on.

After the high energy set last night Mike Meinke of Buffalo Huddleston was back in his stripped back form as Buff Hudd who continued the chilled but upbeat vibes with his guitar and didgeridoo. Stripped of all accoutrement really shows Meinke’s skill at playing and songwriting and Jull-Z joining him for a few songs kept the vibes flowing.

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

Lisa Murfitt and Kiya at Chaos

The live music in The Peace Tent was equally chilled out to start the day with Lisa Murfitt providing some dark folky sounds both a capella and with a piano. She was also joined by young singer Kiya for a couple of songs who impressed as well.

The volume returned to The War Stage with punk rockers Jawbone. As is their way the set was suitably chaotic throughout with bass player Dan Keltie off out into the crowd and guitarist/vocalist Lee Burton spitting his vocals out with a mix of power and fun.

Previous frontman Steve Scratton joined them onstage for a few songs at the end that were the tightest Jawbone sounded today. Throughout though it was a great fun wake up call for a Sunday afternoon highlighted with their take on Men At Work’s Land Down Under and The Ramones’ Bonzo Goes To Bitburg.

Jawbone at Chaos

Jawbone

With another break in the music on the main stage for some games in the field involving motorbikes, tug o’ war and possibly the most extreme eating contest Chaos has yet seen, things carried on in The Peace Tent with the bluesy, jazzy sounds of Carrie & The Turtlenecks.

The trio were nice and relaxed and had a real sense of fun to their performance, though Carrie seemed oddly distracted by an earlier coffee spill. Despite that she showed a good strong voice which was backed up by some great guitar, clarinet, saxophone and harmonica that offered a completely different sound to everything else on offer this weekend.

After some more slightly surreal games The Ukuladeez took to the stage and continued the relaxed vibes of the day, upping the energy a bit and chatting with the audience, as well as helping Stretchy celebrate a surprise birthday.

Tantale at Chaos

Tantale

The evening session on The War Stage got going with Tantale upping the rocky sounds alongside their psychedelic influences. This was the tightest and most focussed I’ve seen them in a while which once again showed how good a band they can be when it all comes together for them.

Only playing rarely these day, Crazy Babies hit the stage with power as they tore through a set of Ozzy Osbourne songs.

Frontman Stace Blondel was clearly in highly energetic mode, having been told he wasn’t allowed to climb the stage rigging he decided to spend most of the set out on the floor with the audience which really brought them into the set and got everyone involved.

Crazy Babies at Chaos

Crazy Babies

Back on stage the rest of the band were the tightest I remember seeing them in sometime and, as ever, Scorch was highly impressive with his Randy Rhodes style licks on lead guitar all making for a hugely fun set that was perfect to reenergise the Sunday evening crowd.

With the energy back up Static Alice launched into their set and a good-sized crowd gathered considering the late hour on the final day.

While they were musically as tight as ever the pop-rock four-piece seemed to be out to have fun even more than usual which led to a great performance with Dom Ogier, Scott Michel and Luis Morais all using the whole stage.

Static Alice at Chaos

Static Alice with Jay from FlashMob

Jay from Flashmob was back on stage once again to add extra guitar to Black Cadillac Man and Static Alice showed something I’ve not seen from them before as they demonstrated they are possibly the only rock band in the island capable of pulling off a truly populist headlining set of this nature.

With an encore of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell they closed out Chaos 12 on a high which, in all, was one of the most all round enjoyable editions of the festival I have attended.

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Various Artists – Jonah Beats

Jonah Beats album coverA few weeks ago I published my review of the Jonah Beats mini-festival that happened on the first weekend of March at the Vale Castle, along with the launch of the compilation album that was put together to coincide with it all raising money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity.

Well, here now is my review of that album featuring a host of Guernsey and Guernsey related artists spanning genres from folk to doom metal and pretty much everything in between.

You can get the album physically at The Golden Lion or Kendall Guitars in Guernsey or listen and download through Bandcamp.

The review was first published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 9th April 2016.

Jonah Beats CD review scan 09:04:16

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: January 2016 – Robert J Hunter and Flexagon

Robert J. Hunter on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Robert J. Hunter

Click here to listen to the show

A new year on BBC Introducing Guernsey started with a lot of new music spanning everything from folky jangliness to raw hip hop to dirty blues to psytrance.

The dirty blues came from Robert J. Hunter who came into the studio to record a four track acoustic session and tell me about his second album, Before The Dawn, and the release of a pair of new EPs coming up in the very near future.

Flexagon provided the psytrance and Goa style sounds as he told us about his debut album Helios and we premiered a new track of his remixing BLAKALASKA‘s Machine.

As well as that there was new music from Atari, Ukuladeez, Citizen-X and Ramblin’ Nick Mann and we took at listen to the three artists nominated for the Guernsey Ambassador of the Year Award; mura masa, Of Empires and Robyn Sherwell.

Click here to listen to the show or download it on the BBC iPlayer Radio App

Tracklist

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Music in Guernsey – Review of the Year 2015

2015 has felt like something of a divided year in music coming from the Bailiwick of Guernsey with a lot happening on the island while a few musicians and bands starting to make their mark and get some recognition in the wider world.

Two names that immediately spring to mind in that regard are Mura Masa and Robyn Sherwell.

Mura Masa

Mura Masa

Mura Masa, aka Alex Crossan, rounded off 2014 with the release of vinyl ‘mixtape’ project Soundtrack To A Death through Jakarta Records but has since gone on to receive airplay and support from Huw Stephens and Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC National Radio as well as starting his own label with distribution through Polydor.

The ‘on air’ features included a live session on Huw’s prime time new music show on BBC Radio 1, as well as being heard around the world on Apple’s new Beats Music platform with tracks from his debut EP proper Someday Somewhere.

This all culminated with being selected by Beats Music as one of their artists to watch in the new year and being named on the BBC Music Sound of 2016 long list (at time of writing the short list has yet to be announced).

You can read my interview with Mura Masa from last January here

Robyn Sherwell also saw a big expansion in recognition over the course of 2015. Early in the year her EP, Islander, surfaced with its title track dedicated to her home island.

Robyn Sherwell at Glastonbury

Robyn Sherwell at Glastonbury

This soon saw her featured by Jo Wiley on BBC Radio 2 (who would follow her closely throughout the year) and helped lead to her securing a spot on the BBC Introducing Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, becoming the first BBC Introducing Guernsey artist to earn that accolade.

With more recordings appearing, the second half of 2015 saw Robyn’s music featured on the trailer to the movie Suffragette starring Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan.

You can read my feature on Robyn’s appearance at Glastonbury here

A few other Guernsey artists also began to make their own strides into the wider world this year.

Following the release of their debut EP, Stranger Sensations, late last year, Of Empires signed a publishing deal with Metropolis Music and spent much of the first half of 2015 working on new material.

Of Empires

Of Empires

This saw them score a support slot on tour with Adam Ant as well as various other shows around London and Brighton and very well received Guernsey shows at the Vale Earth Fair in August and the festival’s Christmas event at The Fermain Tavern.

Robert J. Hunter and his band also made great in roads into the UK releasing two albums over the course of the year, Songs For The Weary in February followed by Before The Dawn in November, as well as completing their first tour of the UK and gigging relentlessly both as a band and solo around London and a few shows in Berlin.

Buffalo Huddleston also received the accolade of being voted Best of British’s Unsigned Band of the Year following a Facebook poll, but more about them later, while The Recks, Static Alice and Flexagon also made appearances off island.

The John Wesley Stone

The John Wesley Stone

Back on home turf most of January was a bit on the quiet side but the Vale Earth Fair’s annual unplugged night started to ramp things up featuring a show stealing, truly unplugged, set from The John Wesley Stone who took their instruments off stage and played up close and personal with the audience.

This was followed by The Get Down doing what they do best and putting on one of the highlight nights of the year in February as they welcomed hip hop legends Blackalicious to The Fermain Tavern and proceeded to not only sell the place out but slay the crowd with beats and rhymes like you couldn’t believe.

February also saw one of Guernsey’s musical prodigal sons, former Jenerator Steven Lynch, return with his new band The Electric Shakes to get The Fermain Tavern rocking and rolling alongside Lifejacket and To The Woods. February at The Fermain Tavern was rounded off by the return to our shores of Rumpus who more than surpassed the nostalgic memories of their Vale Earth Fair appearances.

The Doomsday Project

The Doomsday Project

Having been playing around the island for a few years February marked the launch of the debut album from young pop-punks The Doomsday Project with a special show at The Vault that showed how the four teens had gone from shy youngsters playing their favourite covers at the Rock of Ages nights to a fully fledged band in their own right.

If things weren’t already varied enough only two months in, March was highlighted by a pair of very different shows. First was a visit from Jersey duo Semu Ca, with support from Tantale and Citizen-X, who played excerpts from their new soundtrack for Swedish silent film Haxan at The Fermain Tavern.

Meanwhile live music returned to The Bowl as pop-rockers Static Alice along with Last of the Light Brigade and Chloe Le Page organised the first gig there in many years in hopes of resurrecting it as a venue for all ages.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Live music in the month then rounded off with the debut of Honest Crooks opening a show at The Fermain Tavern and instantly making a mark that would see them go on to garner quite a following as the year went on.

Guernsey music also took a step into the national limelight in March as BBC Introducing Guernsey took up residency on BBC Radio 1 for a week giving a selection of musicians the chance of getting heard by a much wider audience and letting the outside world have a view into our unique scene.

April got going with an Easter Sunday special at The Fermain Tavern with Last of the Light Brigade, Lifejacket, To The Woods and Isabelle Sheil. The following weekend saw legendary, genre-defying, band The Blockheads follow in their comrade Wilko Johnson’s footsteps by playing a storming set at a packed Tav to help Space Pirate Chris Denton celebrate his birthday – that’s quite a way to have a birthday party!

Lord Vapour at The Vault

Lord Vapour

Having released an EP at the very end of 2014, stoner hard rock band Lord Vapour made their live debut with a mid-week ‘showcase’ show at The Vault and proceeded to not only start off a series of gigs that spanned venues and islands across the rest of the year, but also show how surprisingly good the small St. Peter Port venue can be for seriously heavy music.

Liberation Day in May has become renowned for its live music events and 2015 was no different with it all being highlighted by the JT Rocks stage in St Peter Port.

As well as featuring great sets from Static Alice, Asylum Seekas, Fade2Grey and King Rat & The Soul Cats it marked the return to the stage of Sark based outfit The Recks (with new drummer Mox) and the beginning of what was to be something of a special run for Buffalo Huddleston.

The Recks on Liberation Day 2015

The Recks

And of course it really marked the beginning of the Bailiwick’s big outdoor, summer music events.

Back indoors and a personal highlight was the visit to the island of Eureka Machines, a band I’ve been following for a number of years, who played a great set to a disappointingly small audience but seemed to have a great time doing so regardless.

May came to a close with a double-header of Fermain Tavern gigs spanning everything from folky murder ballads to rock ‘n’ roll to doom metal as Brunt, Tantale, Lord Vapour and Gregory Harrison kicked off the weekend while The Recks, Ray & The Guns, Blue Mountains and Citizen-X closed it.

The outdoor shows continued in June with the first BBC Introducing Guernsey live stage at Arts Sunday featuring Rentoclean, Blue Mountains, Buffalo Huddleston and Chloe Le Page while the month was rounded off by the annual Chaos Festival.

Robert J Hunter

Robert J. Hunter

Now into its second decade this year’s event had many stand out moments from the return of a much more confident and assured Robert J. Hunter headlining the first night to Buffalo Huddleston stealing the show in The Peace Tent in a way that became their calling card wherever they went for the rest of the year.

Other highlights of the festival were To The Woods and The Electric Shakes on the Friday night, Lord Vapour on Saturday afternoon and The Recks and Jersey’s Flashmob closing the weekend out in fine style on the Sunday.

The following weekend many of Guernsey’s musicians and fans decamped to Sark, along with many visitors, for the Sark Folk Festival which, once again, was a special event in the way only it can be.

For me this was the year the locals really stole the show from the bigger visiting names with Robert J. Hunter again putting in a special performance, The Recks mixing things up with a host of new songs (and an epic Led Zeppelin cover) and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine closing the show with one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from them.

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

The weekend though belonged (once again) to Buffalo Huddleston who packed the Vermerette Stage tent and had seemingly everyone singing (and dancing) along, so much so the side of the tent had to be opened to allow more people to get in on the show.

Away from the festivals July continued with the release of the debut EP from Blakalaska, Machine, accompanied by a launch gig at The Fermain Tavern with support from Jersey’s Falenizza Horsepower who put in a genuinely unique performance. This was followed by a disappointing visit to the island by a version of 60s band The Animals (though missing pretty much every crucial member of the band).

With the festivals being an opportune time for it a few more bands put out albums and EPs in July with Ukuladeez releasing their Cosmic Tea Party EP and Blue Mountains’ debut LP dropping around the time of the folk festival as the month was rounded off by the Vale Earth Fair’s annual jaunt to the Rocquaine Regatta.

The Recks

The Recks

Over the first weekend of August The Recks undertook a tour of the Channel Islands taking in Sark, Guernsey and Jersey with visiting support act Markuz. While slated as an album release tour the record failed to materialise but that didn’t stop the band and their various support acts putting on some great shows.

This came alongside performances at The Isle of Wight Festival, Boomtown, Jersey’s Folklore Festival, Guernsey’s North Show and even a set in Herm across the summer before, somewhat surprisingly, the Sark based quintet announced their split in December.

While a smaller event on paper, the return of Gay Army to the stage always had the potential to be something special and, along with Ray & The Guns at The Vault it was just that with many hailing it as one of the gigs of the year and I’d be hard pressed to argue that it wasn’t up there with them.

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons

A very busy August continued with the release of Stone Em All’s Villains EP with probably their best live outing to date at The Vault while the month culminated with the island’s longest running festival the Vale Earth Fair on the bank holiday weekend.

With the main stage highlights for me coming from Thee Jenerators and Of Empires it was The Stage Against The Machine’s line up that stole the show this year, particularly closing triumvirate of Lifejacket, visitors Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons and To The Woods, but many others as well.

Lifejacket continued their run of great shows supporting the release of physical editions of their debut album at a special charity show at The Vault in September alongside Paper Saints, To The Woods and Ollie Goddard. The Guernsey Literary Festival once again presented a night mixing spoken word and music as they welcomed Neil Innes to The Fermain Tavern with Ushti Baba and Buffalo Huddleston while my September was rounded off with a visit to London to see The Wildhearts (not a Guernsey gig but a highlight for me).

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

October started out with the third visit of the year from The Electric Shakes, this time playing alongside Gay Army and Ray & The Guns at The Fermain Tavern and it continued with To The Wood unleashing not only their debut album, but its follow-up EP as well and what was, by all accounts, a standout night of live music on Halloween, though I missed this through attending gigs from Ghost and Tiger Army somewhat further afield.

Following hot on the heels of To The Woods, November saw more records being released with Static Alice launching their new EP with a show at The Vault, while Thee Jenerators dropped their latest, The Devil’s Chords, in a special vinyl edition and Tantale’s second album, Just Add Vice, emerged alongside a series of showcase gigs, including supporting Grant Sharkey.

The Graveltones

The Graveltones

London hard-blues duo The Graveltones also hit the island with support from SugarSlam, Chloe Le Page and Jersey’s Tadhg Daly, while a new series of gigs specifically for under-18s launched under the name Sound Guernsey at The Venue with Honest Crooks and Buffalo Huddleston.

December was all about Christmas party shows with the Vale Earth Fair staging a double-header at The Fermain Tavern featuring Rentoclean, Tantale and To The Woods on the first night and Honest Crooks, Of Empires and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine on the second with Of Empires stealing the show to cap off an excellent year for them.

Asylum Seekas

Asylum Seekas

Meanwhile Sound Guernsey’s second event was their Christmas special introducing youngsters to Toby Falla, Rentoclean and Asylum Seekas. A couple of albums also surfaced as the year came to a close with the debut from Flexagon gaining quite a following online and newcomers Wondergeist releasing their first record, somewhat out of the blue, too.

Undeniably 2015 has been a packed one for music from the islands but, as it draws to a close, it would hard not to admit that there is a feeling that what gets refered to as Guernsey’s music ‘scene’ is in something of a state of flux. Where it all goes from here is anyone’s guess but with the quality of music being produced I hope more can connect with the wider audience it deserves. Buffalo Huddleston have proved they can connect with a crossover audience and it will just take a few of that crowd to explore a little deeper and things could really take off…

I don’t normally do these but thought I would this year, based on what I’ve seen and experienced, here are a few highlights by category…

Band of the YearBuffalo Huddleston
Festival Stage/Event of the YearThe Peace Tent/Stage Against The Machine
Newcomers of the YearHonest Crooks
Set of the YearBuffalo Huddleston at Sark Folk Festival
Record of the YearLifejacket – Let’s Get This Out Of Our System And Move On
Visiting Band of the YearPussycat & The Dirty Johnsons

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A summer of music in Guernsey 2015

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

Jull-Z and Mike of Buffalo Huddleston

As we head into autumn and all the outdoor music of the events seem to be rounding both nationally and in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, I thought I’d take the chance to look back over a packed summer of shows highlighted by the islands’ three big festivals, but with a lot more besides.

May

The first big outdoor event took place as spring turned into summer back in May, as Guernsey celebrated the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day. Along with the traditional cavalcade along the St Peter Port seafront and events in all the parishes, live music formed a cornerstone of the event with the Vale Earth Fair putting on their now annual show at The Last Post in St Andrews and the JT Rocks ‘mini-festival’ taking place on North Beach.

The Recks on Liberation Day 2015

The Recks

Being a show of two halves JT Rocks showcased some of the best talent the island has to offer in front of a big audience, with the first half of the event featuring some of the islands’ top original bands in Asylum Seekas, Buffalo Huddleston, The Recks and Static Alice.

The second half of the show, meanwhile, presented two of the top cover bands from Guernsey in Fade2Grey and King Rat & The Soul Cats.

Read more about JT Rocks on Liberation Day here

June

Moving into June and the annual Arts Sunday event featured a wealth of live music including the first BBC Introducing Guernsey live stage featuring Rentoclean, Buffalo Huddleston, Blue Mountains and Chloe Le Page.

The Electric Shakes

The Electric Shakes

June was rounded off by the first of the big festivals, Chaos. Taking place in a few fields up at Pleinmont and featuring a broad mix of local and visiting acts.

Though somewhat scaled back this year, Chaos offered something of a return to its old atmosphere alongside the music.

This included headliners Robert J. Hunter, Stormbringer and FlashMob with highlight sets across both the main stage and The Peace Tent from Buffalo Huddleston, To The Woods, The Electric Shakes and Lord Vapour.

Read more about Chaos XI here

The same weekend as Chaos Guernsey’s Robyn Sherwell took to the BBC Introducing Stage at the Glastonbury Festival representing BBC Introducing in Guernsey.

July

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

The Space Pirates of Rocquaine

A week after Chaos, July got going with the second big summer show, Sark Folk Festival.

Having sold out in minutes last November there was a huge sense of anticipation and the festival certainly didn’t disappoint with more international acts rubbing shoulders with bands from around the Channel Islands.

Highlights of the folk festival included Robert J. Hunter, The Recks, Buffalo Huddleston, Clameur De Haro and The Space Pirates of Rocquaine while The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers delivered an inspiring, semi-busking, set.

Read more about Sark Folk Festival here

As the month rolled on BLAKALASKA released their debut EP with a show at The Fermain Tavern featuring an astonishing performance by Falenizza Horsepower while the Vale Earth Fair headed down to Rocquaine for their annual stage at the Rocquaine Regatta with Toby Falla, The Space Pirates, Ukuladeez and French visitors Les Matous.

August

Richey Powers of The Recks

Richey Powers of The Recks

August started out with The Recks completing a mini-tour of the Channel Islands with back-to-back shows in Sark, Guernsey and Jersey as they warmed up for an appearance at Boomtown festival in the UK, following outings earlier in the summer at the Isle of Wight Festival and Jersey’s Folklore.

This was followed by a weekend of big gigs at The Vault with the return of Gay Army one night and Stone Em All launching their new EP with a show alongside Lord Vapour the next.

Guernsey’s annual traditional summer shows also featured a wealth of live music this year including The Recks and Buffalo Huddleston putting in great sets at The North Show.

For the 39th year the Vale Earth Fair took over Vale Castle for the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend to present what was one of the best of their festivals I’ve attended. The main stage was headlined by hip-hop legends Jungle Brothers while my highlights came in the form of Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons, Thee Jenerators, Lifejacket and Of Empires rounding off my 2015 festival season on a real high.

Read more about The Vale Earth Fair here

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons

With other festivals and big shows including Chateau Du Son, Dynamicz, Elevate and Smaashfest, amongst others, 2015 has possibly been the biggest summer yet for music in Guernsey with some big names appearing at all the events.

Once again it seems the summer really belonged to Buffalo Huddleston with storming performances in Sark and at Chaos, as well as at other shows including Jersey’s Folklore festival and packing local pubs like hasn’t been seen in a long time.

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Vale Earth Fair 2015 – 30/08/15

Jungle Brothers at Vale Earth Fair

Jungle Brothers

For the 39th year the Vale Earth Fair took over the Vale Castle on Sunday 30th August.

The Channel Island’s longest running music festival has long had a reputation for the breadth of music it offers and this year was no different with everything from psytrance to house to hip hop to groove metal all having their place on the bill across the 12 hour event.

My review of the festival was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 5th September and you can read an extended version of that beneath the cutting below.

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

Vale Earth Fair review shot - 05:09:15

Extended Review

As the sun shone down and marathon runners snaked past I made my way up the hill to Vale Castle last Sunday lunchtime for this year’s Vale Earth Fair where, over 12 hours, more than 60 bands, musicians and DJs would be appearing across six stages.

Ukuladeez

Ukuladeez

With one of the strongest local line ups in years bolstering headline acts Jungle Brothers and Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate from the off their was a sense of positivity and anticipation across the site that continued all day.

Live music got underway first on the Busking Stage at the bottom of the castle hill with Ukuladeez. Though they were slightly drowned out by the somewhat overbearing breaks ‘n’ beats stage (this would be balanced as the afternoon went on) their small crowd still enjoyed the tunes, though the early slot did seem to sap some of their usual joie de vivre.

The Stage Against The Machine was next to get going with a showcase for a couple of acts from the School of Popular Music. Jesse Byrne is a young solo acoustic singer-songwriter who, while a bit standard, certainly seemed to have the musical skill to grow into something good.

The Bone Idols

The Bone Idols

He was followed by an exceptionally young rock band, The Bone Idols, who sounded great for a first full public gig (even without a bass guitar), with their mix of covers that would already put some established cover bands I’ve witnessed to shame. And it’s always good to see a new female performer with some attitude, in this case their drummer.

As people began to find their spots inside the castle Schema welcomed them with their mix of funky jams. This was my first time catching the quartet since their recent reformation and, while not much has changed, their laid back approach was a nicely relaxed way to start the day and caught the general Earth Fair vibe very well while the band looked like they were having a great time on stage which was very infectious.

After a successful return at Chaos earlier in the summer, indie three-piece Fly Casual returned to the Earth Fair on the Stage Against The Machine and drew quite a crowd for the early hour. Despite fighting some sound issues the trio sounded great and gone was the nostalgia that marked their last outing leaving just some really good songs in its place that was the first of many highlight performances across the day.

Lord Vapour

Lord Vapour

Fly Casual were quickly followed by the currently very busy Lord Vapour who did exactly what they’ve been doing all summer in drawing a crowd down to the front and delivering loose, groovy hard rock.

On this bigger stage their lordships may have lost a little of the atmosphere that has marked their previous gigs, but it still sounded great and everyone on and off stage seemed to have a great time.

After a storming headlining slot at Chaos and a highlight set at Sark Folk Festival it felt a bit odd seeing Robert J. Hunter and his band quite so early on the bill today. That didn’t deter the dirty blues three-piece though as they delivered a tight and lively set that had a few grooving along in front of the stage while others lazed in the still present sun.

Once again both Rob and the band continued to demonstrate the growth that near constant gigging leads to showing they have really grown into their sound and style to become a full package of a band to rival any blues band I’ve seen.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

Back on the Stage Against The Machine things got bouncy as Honest Crooks brought their brand of politico-ska-punk to the day.

Fitting in perfectly with what makes the Earth Fair what it is, the band continued their run of great shows that have built them a dedicated and energetic following who were skanking throughout.

Even with the slight misstep of an under rehearsed new song (complete with kazoo filling in for the band’s long searched for brass section) Raddy, Cheese and Andy’s mix of well-known covers and originals made them the first band to get a dedicated crowd dancing as the fog began to roll in.

While Bonsai Pirates brought their upbeat acoustic, pirate themed tunes to the main stage, late booking Gay Army stormed the castle walls outside. With their insistent, urgent post-punk indie rock in full force they drew the biggest crowd yet, though typically for a mid-afternoon audience they were appreciative if not too energetic. Rolls Reilly soon made up for this though with his ever-flamboyant performance as the four-piece showed they are well and truly back on the battlefield.

Jack Fletcher of Of Empires

Jack Fletcher of Of Empires

One of the most anticipated bands of the day strutted onto the Castle Stage next looking every bit the super cool rock ‘n’ rollers they are in black denim and leather and shades, it was Of Empires.

Marking their first performance back in Guernsey since last year’s Earth Fair it was clear the now Brighton-based band were very happy to be back and on the big stage.

Frontman Jack Fletcher owned the space like a kind of more interesting Bono, while guitarist Matt Berry showed he has grown immeasurably as a performer (he was already an outstanding guitarist) as they grooved their way through a set of predominantly new material.

With their swagger and style backing up their great songs they showed all the makings of future event headliners and, ending on older favourite Carla, made for a powerful finish that started the festival’s evening of rock ‘n’ roll excellently.

That rock ‘n’ roll swiftly continued in garage-y form as Thee Jenerators blasted onto the stage. Taking us from the precision of Of Empires to a kind of visceral ‘raw power’ the crowd were popping from the start and new single Daddy Bones really elevated the energy in the castle to a new level.

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Mark Le Gallez of Thee Jenerators

Frontman Mark Le Gallez takes to these bigger shows like a duck to water and really gave us a show today as he appeared bedecked in yet more black denim and leather and with his hair slicked into a widows peak (appropriate for newer number Bela Lugosi) while bass man Jo Reeve expanded his energetic on stage repertoire to include swinging from the rigging!

Having only seen this version of the band in pubs it was good to see they can still bring it on a festival stage and really energise the Earth Fair’s afternoon crowd and get them ready for an evening of dancing even as the cloud and fog rolled in, in earnest.

After a bit of a break to enjoy some of the festival’s ‘famous’ vegan lightning burgers (it was a good year for them this year) the rock ‘n’ roll vibe continued with Jersey’s premier trashmen, The Cryptics.

The Cryptics

The Cryptics

While more aloof than the preceding bands their mix of great songs and ‘cool’ is hard to fault as the ever-charismatic Screamin’ Jonny Moth owned the stage while GTO brought the Detroit inspired guitar sound.

The highlights of their set came at its conclusion with a song with the excellent chorus of ‘Hey Devil, I love you cus you’re evil’ followed by Black Lucy and a blistering run at MC5’s Kick Out The Jams.

Rhythm and blues driven post-punk was on order next from Londoners, The November Five. While they suffered from a distant audience, many of whom had headed inside the castle, they delivered an effective set that grew into a genuinely powerful wall of sound with some real fire behind it.

Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate

Sekou Kouyate and Joe Driscoll

The reason that many had headed to the main stage was the return of Earth Fair favourite Joe Driscoll. Having first played the festival in 2006 after being discovered by The Get Down’s DJ Oneofakind, this year saw him return with a full band co-led by Guinea’s Sekou Kouyate.

Delivering a vast expansion on Driscoll’s usual solo guitar loop and MC work their funky rhythms had possibly the day’s biggest crowd moving and grooving. Particularly fascinating about this set was the kora being played by Kouyate that added a new sound to the mix that I’d never heard before, this combined well with Driscoll’s guitar and MCing and created something unique and highly engaging.

Following a few impressive sky illuminating blasts of lightning the heavens opened as Lifejacket took to the Stage Against The Machine and the audience grew and packed down to the front. Undeterred by the rain blowing into their faces the post-rock three-piece delivered they most focused set to date with a large amount of newer material rubbing shoulders with songs from their debut album which was getting its physical release marked here.

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

The new songs develop on the blistering intensity of the old with chief songwriter Andy Sauvage showing further inventiveness within his chosen genre while being an intense frontman. To this was added a newly broadened but still distinctly ‘Lifejacket’ set of beats from drummer Moxie while John McCarthy’s precise, distinctive bass lines stood alongside his more fun-loving on stage demeanour.

All this culminated in a career best performance from the band that shows they have a lot more to offer and that went down exceptionally well with the crowd who stuck around and grew no matter how soaked they might be getting.

Jungle Brothers

Jungle Brothers

While Lifejacket rocked outside the castle, this year’s headliners hit the main stage and the rapidly dampening audience (some complete with umbrellas) soon got bouncing to the dance-y hip-hop sound of Jungle Brothers. As always for Earth Fair headliners the crowd were into it throughout and the performers responded in kind making for the kind of huge atmosphere only the Vale Earth Fair manages to deliver in Guernsey.

The rock ‘n’ roll returned to the Stage Against The Machine for the day’s visiting headliners, Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons.

Having wowed the crowd at the De La Rue the night before, the Basingstoke based three-piece wasted no time doing the same at the main event as vocalist (and occasional guitarist) Puss Johnson, bedecked in full cat attire, led the trio through a set of powerful, posturing ‘dirty rock ‘n’ roll’.

Puss merged the stage presence of the likes of Joan Jett and The Cramps into a perfect package with great vocals, knowing lyrics and a real star quality. In many bands a costume like this would feel like a gimmick, but here it was backed up by the music and performance to create something natural, genuine and unique.

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson

Puss was backed by Dirty Jake and Filfy Antz who musically matched their leader and each brought their own vibe to the set creating a fresh take on an old sound that drew a big crowd that Puss took the time to go and meet face to face several times during the set, in all making them my, and many others, top visiting band of the day with calls having already begun to get them back over to the island.

Having spent the last few years building quite a reputation the honour of closing the Stage Against The Machine fell to To The Woods this year and, as they stepped onto the stage to WWE wrestlers’ D-Generation X’s theme song, it was clear they had every intention of stealing the show.

To The Woods

To The Woods

For the following 45 minutes they proceeded to do exactly what they’ve become known for, delivering blistering grunge rock as Robert ‘Bobby’ Battle led the trio as only he can while Dan Garnham provided the pounding driving force from behind the drums. Here that led to the days only full on mosh pit and even an attempted wall of death!

While they may not have stolen the show To The Woods certainly brought things to an impressive climax and rounded off a day where Guernsey’s musicians showed they can more than hold their own alongside visiting acts as part of an event that rounded off the island’s festival season on a major high.

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: August 2015 – Gregory Harrison in session and Stone Em All

Gregory Harrison

Gregory Harrison

Click here to listen to the show

Being broadcast the day before the 2015 Vale Earth Fair on the August edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I spoke to one of the newer members of the Earth Fair Collective, Gregory Harrison, who is running the festival’s Busking Stage this year and played a special live session for the show.

I also spoke to Robert Hotton and Lee Oliver the lead vocalist and lead guitarist, and creative driving forces, of heavy metallers Stone Em All who have just released their new EP, Villains.

The show is available to listen to for a month on the BBC iPlayer or to download on the BBC iPlayer Radio App.

Tracklist

And here’s a video Guernsey Gigs made with Gregory Harrison for his version of Ray Lamontagne’s song Like Rock ‘n’ Roll and Radio:

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