Saturday, 25 October 2008

Rock Of Ages 1: Part 1 - 24/10/08

So the first night of the first Rock Of Ages has happened and a mixed bag it was – but not when it came to the quality of the bands!

First on the bill were new band About An Hour, playing only their second public show.

After last Sunday’s great set at Barbados, the band fired on all cylinders from the start tonight with their cover of ‘Maniac’ from the film Flashdance starting the night on an upbeat bang.

Unfortunately the crowd were less energetic with only a few getting moving, and all sticking to the shadows, surely giving the band the impression they were playing to no one!

Despite this About An Hour played a great set of their unique mix of pop, rock and punk, with the whole band working very well together and clearly enjoying themselves, and front man Danny Pheonix was on the best form I’ve seen since the Third Time Lucky come back show over a year ago.

Second up were Brit-rockers Stratosfear who had drawn a few extra into the venue, but still the audience remained firmly in the shadows around the side of the room.

The band played on undeterred and launched through a mix of covers and original tunes taken from their forthcoming CD. As ever the band sounded like a slice of 90s British rock with more than a hint of the 1960s and 70s sound that inspired them.

With their originals standing out over the covers I got the distinct impression they should do what a lot of local bands do and focus on the original material as once again ‘Waste Of A Good Weekend’ and ‘I’ve Got Nothing, You’ve Got It All’ really stood out as the sets highlights – and the addition of a second guitarist has really developed their sound in a good way.

The punk spirit continued next but with more of an American influence with 2 Minutes 2 Late who, much like Stratosfear, mixed up covers and originals and again sounded better on the original tunes than the covers.

The main problem 2 Minutes 2 Late had tonight, and that they often have at shows, is their over apologetic nature, which, while very polite, gives the impression that they are less than confident in their abilities – something they should not be, as they uniformly play entertaining sets of dance and sing-a-long pop punk.

Again though during 2 Minutes 2 Late, despite a decent crowd having now showed up they still remained firmly toward the back and sides of the room for the most part causing the band to clearly have difficulty connecting to their audience.

This all changed though when Teaspoonriverneck took to the stage as suddenly there was a line of people ready to rock out along the front of the stage.

Starting out with now minor-classic ‘Thanatoid Ripsnorter’ they had the crowd with them all the way with most singing along to the band’s older material and clearly getting into the new stuff.

The band debuted several new numbers tonight which showed that once again they are refusing to stand still with ‘Saw The Low’ and ‘Sundial’ increasing the bands psychedelic rock edge and ‘Hunting’ turning things on there head and almost sounding like an indie-rock song – albeit still with that unique Teaspoonriverneck something.

With two encores of ‘Eaten By The Devil’ and the seldom played ‘Blonde Witch’ whipping the crowd into a moshing, headbanging frenzy they closed the night on a real high and set a standard for the second night's bands.

About An Hour and Lydia Pugh - 19/10/08

With everyone involved in local music always seemingly going on about the lack of venues on the island, it is always nice to see another place open its doors to live music.

One place that has in recent weeks is Barbados, normally more of a regular nightclub venue they have reserved Sunday nights in October and November for ‘Guernsey Rocks’ nights of live music.

First on stage on the October 19th 2008 event was solo singer/songwriter Lydia Pugh who provided a great mix of covers and originals to a mixed audience, some of whom didn’t even to seem to realise the music was coming live from the stage!

Despite the slightly odd crowd and being roped off like some kind of museum exhibit Lydia played some fantastic songs, with her own compositions and her version of Incubus’ ‘Wish You Were Here’ really standing out.

The only real criticisms of I can find of Lydia are that tonight she was maybe too mellow for such a late slot on a Sunday and that her performance, while technically proficient, can sometimes lack a little soul.

Tonight’s second band were making their live debut tonight and About An Hour really showed signs of good things to come.

Kicking off with their version of ‘Maniac’ they played a selection of fantastic dance along pop-rock, with a hint of punk that sounded like the perfect marriage of the members previous bands Third Time Lucky and It Still Stands.

With a really fun style and presence on stage, thanks in part to ever-charismatic front man Danny Phoenix, About An Hour even managed to get a few people dancing and really seemed to ‘click’ together on stage.

Getting rid of the rope between them and the audience definitely worked to the bands advantage and despite the slightly odd vibe in Barbados the band played like they’d been playing together for a long time and were used to this venue too.

With a debut EP already recorded and due for release soon and more gigs in Jersey and over here in the pipeline it seems About An Hour could be heading for great things.

Free Range Music at Fermain - 18/10/08

The first ever Free Range Music night took place at the Fermain Tavern on Saturday 18th October 2008 and featured a varied and undeniably different sound to most gigs taking place in Guernsey.

Organised by Jamie-Lee it was him, and his trusty acoustic guitar, who started the evening’s live music.

Taking the old instrument and doing something highly new and inventive with it is Jamie’s real strength is he plays the guitar like a guitar, piano and bongos, all at the same time.

This style of percussive guitar leads to a very impressive sound which, in the form of Jamie’s semi-improvisational instrumentals, started the evening off in a very mellow mood while maintaining a great sense of musicality and skill.

Second to take to the stage were the first of the evening’s ‘jam bands’, Parched. Mixing reggae, rock and more ambient sounds Parched played three or four extended jams, often surpassing the ten-minute mark, that veered from mellow and relaxed sounds to crashing rock.

These heavier moments were often driven by the drums, which were played in a unique manner that produced a sound at times reminiscent of the great John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.

The only real criticism that I can find of Parched is that at times they overused certain sounds, especially on the lead guitar, and seemed to have difficulty ending their jams which often had the feeling they could continue forever – but I got the impression there were things the band would lose as they grow and develop.

The night’s second ‘jam band’ were up next in the form of veteran three piece The Fuzzey Group who play a style of music ideal for losing yourself in.

Using drums, guitars, keyboards and saxophones the Fuzzey’s created sounds that ranged from apocalyptic post punk to heavily jazz infused rock and covered most things in between.

This amazing variety of sounds, and the ways in which they create, shows a level of musicianship rarely demonstrated on any stage (not just in Guernsey) and was coming from a band who seemed to gel much more than the last time I saw them play the Fermain around a year ago.

To close the night things took a more upbeat and entertaining slant as bluegrass-rockabilly-country-and-western-skiffle-rocksters The John Wesley Stone took to the stage and soon had feet tapping.

Another band who use quite a range of instruments including guitars, banjos, violins and even a homemade tea chest bass, the bands four members put on quite a show with Hillbill often standing atop the tea chest bass and “yeehaws” a-plenty ringing from the stage.

The band’s highlights tonight came in the form of their “truck driving and drugs” song ‘Caffeine, Benzedrine, Nicotine and a Little Bit of Luck’ and their closing run though of Johnny Cash’s ‘Cocaine Blues’ both of which had people up and dancing and left everyone with a smile.

Peppered Ant Legs and Swallows - 15/10/08

With the Thomas De La Rue fast becoming the premier venue for live music in St Peter Port many had gathered there, despite it being a ‘school night’, on Wednesday 15th October 2008 to see a rare appearance by ‘lady-rockers’ Swallows and some old school hard rock and pop from the Peppered Ant Legs.

Swallows kicked the evening off with their take on the indie rock style played by many super trendy bands at the moment.

Despite a slightly slow start, the band were soon flowing well and if it was true that they hadn’t had much time to rehearse for this gig it didn’t show.

What really struck about the band was the sense of fun and humour they add to a style of music that can often take itself too seriously and become somewhat po-faced. This was really shown by singer Rachel and guitarist Lisa who’s on stage interplay really provided an entertaining show.

Following their set I was left wondering how many of the songs were covers and how many were originals because, Swallows did that rare thing of managing to own every song whether they be their own or not.

It’s just a shame this band don’t make more appearances, as it is always a refreshing treat to see them play.

After Swallows came a band who have been appearing fairly regularly in recent months at various venues, the Peppered Ant Legs.

Playing covers ranging from the spaced out heavy metal of early Black Sabbath through to the upbeat pop of the Dave Clark Five they are an undeniably unique proposition, and tonight they were on entertaining form.

The band really come into their own on the rockier numbers where they come across in a much more confident light, however the pop tunes, including tonight a great version Manfred Mann’s ‘Mighty Quin’ add a real sense of fun to proceedings - even if there were a few too many extended moments retuning and changing guitars.

The Ant Legs real highlight tonight though came in the form of their closing salvo of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Communication Breakdown’ and Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)’, a rarely heard gem, which rocked the night well before a run through of rock classic ‘Voodoo Child’ which seemed to leave all in the pub satisfied.

Spoonful - 13/09/08

With its recent renovation the Fermain Tavern already seems back on the path to being one of Guernsey’s premier spots for live music, much like it was when it welcomed many bands, both local and visitors, in its glory days of the 1970s and 80s.

But that’s enough reminiscing, I prefer to look at what’s happening musically in Guernsey today and one thing that has struck me, and that has found a home in the confines of the Fermain, is the growth in the popularity of blues music.

With artists like Seasick Steve making a mark in the wider world Spoonful have been drawing bigger and bigger crowds over the past 6 months and this culminated in their show at Fermain on September 13.

Billed as a ‘Farewell to Joe (for now)’ the band started the night with something a bit different, a set of acoustic numbers even featuring an upright double bass – an instrument rarely seen outside of jazz nights over here these days.

While the acoustic sounds got things off on a mellow note it was when the band plugged in that the night really got rolling and, despite a few sound issues, every one in the pub was definitely enjoying the show.

The blues groove was laid down by the rhythm section of Paul Langlois and Nigel Davies whose work often seems over shadowed in press coverage of the band, but was, as always as tight as any you are likely to find.

Over this came the sounds of Andy Mason’s harmonica and Joe Corbin’s guitar which when ‘duelling’ really demonstrated a band that just seem to click.

Joe once again demonstrated his ability with the guitar, which, despite his almost violent manner of playing, really seems to find the soul of blues and seems to still be developing.

We were treated to something extra tonight as Lydia Pugh joined the band for a run through of ‘Fever’ and hinted at a new direction for them with a slightly jazzy feel to the blues.

With Joe heading away to college Spoonful’s future direction seems up in the air, but, based on tonight’s performance, it looks promising, and definitely a good shade of blue.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Discharge Punk Night - 04/10/08

A few years ago the place to be if you were a fan of heavy, punky and generally alternative music in Guernsey was the Hockey Club where a group known as Discharge would put on the sort of nights to get bodies moshing and heads banging.

Well since the demise of that location as a regular venue Discharge have had to make do with their place within the Vale Earth Fair and their annual 3 day festival at Pleinmont alongside the Green Man MCC Chaos Weekend.

On Saturday 4 October 2008 however, this changed as Discharge held the first of (hopefully) many monthly nights at the Fermain Tavern – this month focussing on punk rock.

With the lights dimmed and a smoke machine working overtime the Tavern had the feeling I remember from my early gig going days there when it was one of the darkest and dankest venues on the island.

This was the perfect atmosphere for a Discharge show and things got off to a ferocious start with the twisted punk assault of The Ejaculations.

Mixing original material with distorted cover versions of pop hits and straight up hardcore covers The Ejaculations proved themselves an at once entertaining yet still extremely punk proposition.

Never ones to be restricted by what others perceive of them they paid there own unique tribute to Elton John with their take on ‘Crocodile Rock’ and Los Lobos with a track clearly influenced by ‘La Bamba’!

This though was just the sideshow as when they put their minds to it they did what all great punk acts do, divide opinion and play some great uncompromising music. With Andy as focal centre and undeniably entertaining front man, this left James Burton and Dan Garnham to provide the driving rhythm of the band.

Being down a member tonight didn’t seem to have dimmed their impact, if anything they seemed more focussed than ever and as they left the stage following their version of Misfits classic ‘Where Eagles Dare’ many seemed to have enjoyed their set, despite the constant heckling throughout.

Unfortunately following The Ejaculations it seemed the already small crowd shrank even further giving pop-punkers 2 Minutes 2 Late a major challenge, but they carried on regardless and despite a clearly ill guitar player played a great and fun set.

As ever Pikey and co didn’t really do anything that could be considered mould breaking, but that has never been their point as they combine classic pop punk covers from the likes of Jimmy Eat World. Blink-182 and Bowling For Soup with originals in a similar vein to provide great slices of nostalgia for people like me and great accessible dance-y sounds for the younger crowd members - just tonight there was no one to dance.

The thing that stood out for me about their show tonight was how their originals fitted in with the covers and all had a familiar sing along vibe to them which is always impressive.

Tonight was definitely a good start for the newly rejuvenated Discharge nights, I just hope that future shows have a higher attendance.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bluez Crewz at the Tav with Spoonful and Rawcuz Crowzz - 16 August 2008

Over the years the Fermain Tavern has gained a reputation as being one of Guernsey’s premier live music venues and on 16 of August 2008 this was marked by the unveiling of a selection of photographs celebrating the history of performances at the pub, from Elton John to The Risk.

But it was live music most had gathered for, as it was time for another ‘Bluez Crewz’ night at the Tav.

First on the bill tonight were a band from Alderney, The Rawcuz Crowzz. Formed late last year, and with a drummer who only started playing late last year, they played their own unique style of nu-blues clearly influenced by bands like the White Stripes as well as more traditional blues acts.

Playing as a three piece without a bass led to some moments of their music feeling somewhat sparse but the guitar and harmonica did their best to cover any gaps and with Derek Williams natural banter and blues vocals they put in a strong show for their Guernsey debut.

The most impressive thing about the band was their spirit of almost a DIY punk ethos playing blues.

Following them came Spoonful who as ever played a great show thanks to the four great musicians who form the band, however as sometimes seems to happen I got the impression tonight that a lot of the time they were a band serving Joe Corbin as ‘front man’.

Not that that is necessarily a bad thing as Joe Corbin is a very talented young performer but it occasional gives an awkward feel to the performance.

This awkwardness though was usually dissipated by the extended jam sections where the whole band seemed to gel effortlessly into one blues driven unit which everyone seemed to get into.

With only a few gigs left with Joe I have to wonder where Spoonful will go next but for now they remain a great explosion of raw blues.

The Finale - Full Review

Note: Part of this review appeared in GBG magazine - this is the full version featuring JJ Corbin, Day Release, Teaspoonriverneck and FireFly from the Performing Arts Centre on August 8th 2008.

Anyway on the real stuff....

The end of every summer in Guernsey sees large numbers of 18 year olds head off to university and higher education off the island, and as a result it means that August and September often marks the end of regular performances from some of the island’s younger bands.

August 8 2008 saw emo-metallers FireFly reach this point as they staged ‘The Finale’ at the Performing Arts Centre, marking their final show.

First on stage was another young man who will be heading off island come September, J.J. Corbin. Having become known and seen primarily as front man of electric blues bands, either in the Spitshine days a year ago, or more recently with Spoonful, for this show Joe took the stage alone and armed with just his amplified acoustic guitar.

Mixing acoustic blues and easy listening rock Joe once again showed the talent that has grown within him over the last few years as both his style of blues and other numbers really hit all the marks.

His solo material also shows the diversity in his music from Damien Rice like sounds through to the original blues style of Robert Johnson all of which seemed to go down very well with the relaxed, if a little distant, crowd.

Day Release were next up on stage and seemed to bring the energy in the hall up slightly with their mix of indie-rock covers. Having improved vastly since I last saw them around a year ago, they played covers which were not just the usual songs every covers band plays and they played them with an enthusiastic style and presence that got the crowd moving.

Unfortunately they had only just got into the swing of things when their set was over leaving a bit of an unsatisfied atmosphere to things.

This was soon forgotten though as Teaspoonriverneck took to the stage for the first time since Guernsey Live. Roaring through a set mixing up classic material from their self titled debut with tracks from current mini-album ‘Craft of Lisia’ and new songs such as the soon to be sing-a-long favourite ‘Fuzzbomb’ tonight the band sounded at their best and were undeniably “heavy as a really heavy thing” (to quote Strapping Young Lad).

The crowd reacted to the upped heaviness kicking off the first real mosh of the night and with a line headbanging away at the front of the stage.

By the time FireFly took to the stage the crowd had swelled to provide a good sense of atmosphere and occasion to the large venue, and they weren’t disappointed as the band delivered one of their most focussed and best performances to date.

Combining everything that has made them great over the past few years from the fun stage presence to the heartfelt and brilliantly delivered lyrics of their songs FireFly were on top form for their finale.

And when front man Jamie took a seat at a grand piano we were treated to a great little solo moment really showing another side to his performance.

Despite a few difficulties with the newer elements of the set this was one of the best shows FireFly have ever delivered and it seemed to bring everyone in attendance together with a real spirit of camaraderie.

While it is a shame to see bands with as much potential as FireFly disband, hopefully it’s individual members will be able to move on and create new and even more interesting music, but in the mean time, what a way to bow out!

Thee Jenerators and The John Wesley Stone at the De La Rue - 2 August 2008

Guernsey has had many bands over the years who are out there to be a bit different from the pack. One that springs to mind in the current musical climate is The John Wesley Stone whose mix of upbeat tunes I can only think to describe as country-and-western-rockbilly-bluegrass-skiffle-pop.

Their show at the Thomas De La Rue in St Peter Port on August 2nd 2008 was a prime example of that. Mixing a range of instruments, including a banjo, violin, electric guitar and upright ‘tea-chest’ bass the bands music is the kind of thing that makes your foot tap regardless of what your brain wants it to do.

A mention really has to go out to the bass the band used – homemade from an old crate, a broom handle and a piece of wire and played in typically unique style by Mark ‘Hillbill’ Le Gallez it really adds a true feeling of the makeshift style of skiffle and bluegrass to the band.

Despite the basic kit and feel good approach the band have some great songs in their catalogue which proves they are something more than the gimmicky novelty act they may at first appear - as, and in the right situation I could see them filling a dance floor – though tonight’s audience seemed more intent on kicking back with a beer and enjoying the show.

The real highlight of the bands set musically was, in my opinion, ‘Caffeine, Benzedrine, Nicotine and a Little Bit of Luck’, which summed up everything this band is about – great music, high energy and a good sense of humour.

After a short break the alter egos of The John Wesley Stone’s Hillbill and Lynchburg were back on stage with Thee Jenerators and, as ever, they didn’t disappoint.

With the energy levels high from the off and Mark Le Gallez off the ‘stage’ and into the crowd by the second song, things got going very quickly and soon quite a few were up and dancing, and many stayed there throughout.

With many of the bands now classic tracks from their two albums rubbing up along side newer numbers the band provided something for everyone, including a duet version of ‘French Disco’ featuring The Swallows’ Rachel Cumberland-Dodd.

The new tracks the band played stood up extremely well with the ‘classic’ material and featured some new things including more use of the dual vocal aspect of Mark Le Gallez and Steve Lynch all the while not dropping the energy levels and keeping people dancing.

As ever Thee Jenerators showed why they are one of the most popular and talked about bands in Guernsey as they left people wanting more in the De La Rue.

Hogwash 2008

The third and final of Guernsey’s summer bike shows, The Hogwash, took place in a field over looking Vazon bay on 18 and 19 July 2008. Featuring everything you’d expect from a bike show – including burnouts, bands and, in some cases, large amounts of beer – the show was a great event for anyone with a love of engines and loud music, and, for the first time, lawnmower racing.

But more about the music… the Saturday kicked off with 2 Minutes 2 Late, who had already gone down well the night before. Sounding tighter than ever they did they played well in the face of the still small crowd and seemed to be appreciated.

An interesting change to there usual pop-punk came in the form of a Bob Dylan cover with a guest vocalist who added an extra dimension to things and left me wondering if we are likely to see more of this kind of thing from them in the future.

Second on the back of a truck style stage were Tora Bora whose brand of electric blues was great for relaxing in the sun on such a hot afternoon. Mixing traditional blues sounds with elements of The Doors and occasional Latino moments made for a great sound that continued next with J.J. Corbin.

While more known now for his work with full blues bands these days Corbin took to the stage alone with just his acoustic guitar and treated us to a mix of blues standards and his own compositions which added a relaxing feel to bike show madness that was ramping up in the arena.

The upbeat pop-rock of The Nelkons promised to lift the atmosphere next and, while they were onstage they did a great job, especially on their new track which features an extra added violin. Unfortunately The Nelkons drew one of the day’s short straws as they were continually interrupted by the lawnmower racing and bike show awards, which rather spoilt the flow of their set.

Finally on the outside stage was pop-punkers Poor Attempt who have continued to grow over the last few years into a great band, again though the bikers side of things interrupted the set with the tattoo competition and though they played again later in the beer tent the break seemed to drain the energy that this band can possess leading to a slightly disappointing outing today.

Joe Corbin was back on stage in the beer tent following the protracted event that was the tattoo contest, but this time fully electrified with Spoonful. Their driving blues proved a great start to the evening’s entertainment and went down very well with the now packed tent.

Once again Corbin showed his talent on guitar, especially in the sections where he worked very closely with Andy Mason’s harmonica, but also the often overlooked rhythm section really had a chance to shine tonight as Spoonful provided one of the days true highlights before quickly heading south to play their second gig of the night at The Venture Inn.

As always with The Hogwash one band seems to draw the short straw of having their set broken up by the ‘adult entertainment’ and this year Subversion got that slot. Despite this the band did their best and seemed to go down well with their classic pub style rock and punk-rock covers the highlights of which were versions of Foo Fighters’ ‘Everlong’ and Black Sabbath classic ‘Paranoid’.

After another show by the strippers, and about an hour and a half late, No Paparazzi hit the stage and their mix of extremely tight pop and rock covers provided a great end to the day as they got many at the front of the tent dancing and, despite the late start, kept playing until the PA was turned off and left everyone with a good mood as it seemed the party was set to continue through the night.

Let's Start Again

Ok so, I said I'd start posting somewhere again, and that's gonna be here, hopefully I'll keep this up to date with Guernsey gig reviews and maybe a few from further a field - hope you all enjoy.