Saturday, 16 April 2016

Why Glastonbury Festival Can't/Won't Leave Worthy Farm

OK back out of a music blogging hiatus to lay out a few reasons that I can't see Glastonbury Festival ever leaving Worthy Farm in Pilton.

This could be quite amusing to look back on should it actually happen :-)

Keeping it brief and short on excessive research, here are the points to consider.....

  • History
The festival has been held at the same site since 1970.  That's a hell of a long time.  Over 45 years of events has seen the transition from flower power to punk to new age travellers to the present day increasingly (worrying) apathetic consumerism.  Nearly half a century.  Music careers that have started and ended in BA4, from legends to flash-in-the-pan flavours of the month.  The very name 'Glastonbury' is synonymous with the music festival as opposed to the nearby town itself, even with all of it's exulted sexy history.  I'm not lamenting over an old football stadium here, this is an area nearly as big as Bath, a whole city with a million memories and stories.

  • Geography
As we all know the mythical power and gravitas of the festival is inextricably linked with it's position along the ancient leylines.  Taking place each year on the weekend following or as close to the Summer Solstice, the festival has always been synonymous with the wishes and grace of (frankly, cool) pagan traditions and rituals.  Isn't it great that it's in the middle of nowhere?  That's the whole point!  If you make it to the site, you deserve to be there.  Bands who turn up have to rough the journey like the rest of us.  Even those who arrive by helicopter can't simply check into the nearby 5 star hotel.  For them it's roughing it like the rest of us (to varying degrees).  Overlooked by Glastonbury Tor, a true beacon, can the magic and mythology of the festival survive anywhere else without the support of those who follow these magnificent events? 

  • The Stone Circle
For many, this area of the festival is a truly special and lifechanging space.  Friends are made, tribal music danced to, drugs shared, love spread, effigies burned, nights slept to be awoken by the beautiful haze of dawn.  It's played a part in conception, betrothal, enlightening, insert your own experience here.  Sure, stones can be positioned in another field somewhere but can an area rich in history and unrestricted hedonism with such vibrance and serenity really be replicated?  If you've not been there, skip a band or two and get yourself up there and suck it in.

  • The hippies
Whether you like them, love them or want to be them, you can't deny that the hippies/new age travellers/whatever you want to call them, are still a key part to the culture and unique atmosphere of the fesitval.  Throughout the history of the event they have remained a fascinating constant, mixing unpredictability and charm; for many reminding us of why it's important to remember to look beyond the material trappings of our non-Glastonbury modern lives.  It's great to see reminders of how we used to live, taking only what we need from the earth's natural resources and seeing them about the place signifies a simpler life of looking after and respecting one another as human beings not commodities or competitors.  From the upheaval and persecution by the law in the 80's (where Michael Eavis allowed them to live on his lands) up until now, they have a bond to the land and the Eavis family.  Would we see them if the festival moved, maybe, but it just wouldn't feel the same.

  • Access
OK so we've all been sat in the car on the A37 for hours waiting to get in but imagine how much worse it will be deeper into Somerset.  You can at least approach the festival from the M5, Bristol and Wiltshire.  There's something quite special about driving past the site the rest of the year, I get goosebumps I won't lie.  From Canards Grave through to the Highwayman Pub, the old Babycham deer in Shepton Mallet, the roundabout and that hill which dips into the gully where you're beautifully waved in towards the trail of corrugated iron and car park fields.  An awesome buzz every single time.

  • Michael Eavis -the shrewd businessman
For those of you thinking Mr Eavis is a doddering old-timer, just a simple farmer who's handed over the reins, I'm afraid you're very wrong.  Michael Eavis is a very clever man who has out-witted local councils, the press and establishment for many years when the festival has been fined, vilified and threatened.  He has no intention of moving the festival from Pilton.  It's convenient for him to have it on his doorstep and he loves the history of the event.  For years he's gone through the usual haggling over renting additional land from nearby farmers and he's simply sick of being held to ransom.  Instead of continuing to increase the margin he's giving away to these heartless barons, he's decided to call their bluff by threatening to move the festival.  Faced with the prospect of losing their bounty, the leeches will have to climb down on their proposed rates for rent.  They've exploited the appeal and need for land of the event, they won't make as much money leaving the fields to pasture that's for sure.  Eavis is simply playing a clever sales tactic game to see who blinks first.  He's the Alex Ferguson of festivals, plain and simple.

  • Familiarity
Year after year, people keep coming back.  I know, I've done 15 of the last 16 of them.  People like the set-up, although fields and stages are freshened up and occasionally shifted, on the whole it's easy to navigate around in whatever state of consciousness you're in to those who have been before.  From Pilton Pasta to the Cider Bus to the Park Stage tower, it's rich in landmarks and meeting points.  Some of us can only deal with so much change.  We have internal google map algorithims where we can instantly work out distances from one end to the other, can we make it to X stage by Y o'clock?  Hmm, maybe, have to break into a light jog though!

  • A new site
We've heard rumours about Longleat.  Yes, that's right, the place with the roaming monkeys and lions, the zoo experience most folk outside of the middle classes can't afford to take their kids.  Hmm, I can't see it going there, where do you figure all of the above factors fitting in there?  I read something about it being in London I hear you say, sorry that's just bollocks from some fame-hungry London MP.  Maybe it'll be somewhere nearby?  Maybe, that wouldn't be so bad I guess, but you would notice the difference.  Aren't there enough of us banging on about how great it used to be without adding another factor to the list?

So there you have it.  It can't move.  It won't move.  Or maybe I won't move with it.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Long Pours - Tuesday 13th January, Stag and Hounds

It’s a proper nasty night out with driving sleet in deepest darkest January, what better then than getting yourself down to the local for some fiery driving rock?  Did I mention it’s free?  Yep, fair play to the Stag and Hounds in Old Market for putting on another colossal bill of free local music on for the entire month of January just when we’re all feeling the pinch after Christmas.

Relatively new to the Bristol scene are The Long Pours, a group gaining in popularity for their ability to credibly tackle a multitude of genres from whiskey-fuelled blues and anthemic rock to Pearl Jam ‘Ten’ era grunge stopping off for a slab of country, Americana and the odd well-crafted cringe-free ballad.  What you get as a result therefore is the type of band that you’d take your wife, mistress, folks, kids and rowdy mates to see with the re-assurance that they’d all find something impressive.

This quintet have a clutch of killer tunes that have earned them headline slots around town most notably at The Fleece and Louisiana recently and a reputation for putting on a real show.  Amongst their weaponry are the vocal acrobatics of frontman Ben Fernihough; the bristled singer capable of the soulful serenade one minute and summoning the demons from the bowels of hell the next.  Opener ‘Paperweight’ cruises well, Fernihough’s deep south (Wales) gravelly tones hitting the spot from the off.  Jason Selby brings the 70’s rock god kudos with equally stylish shoes and sideburns, a spit of Jermaine from Flight Of The Conchords, the versatile guitarist works in a seamless tandem with the enigmatic frontman throughout.

Best track is the Soundgarden-like menacer ‘Suddenly Green’ which has them firing on all cylinders, for a moment there I can see the stag’s head bopping above the fireplace.  It begins with ‘Something In The Way’ style off-key strumming before the entry of Mark Harris’ superb yet sinister angular guitar work.  Guy Davies’ (of ‘Fauns’ fame) virtuoso drumming shines throughout, driving the band forward towards an all-out rock assault finale that frankly can’t last long enough.  Next track ‘1, 2 Many’ is a moody affair that would suit a Tarantino soundtrack, more rapid-fire stick work and a joyously over-blown guitar solo that soars over the bar chatter.

Fernihough’s song ‘Ten Feet Tall’ is currently in the semi-final of the UK Song-Writing Contest and it’s not hard to see why as this country-rock belter gathers its melodic pace, in the end climaxing with some terrific Eagles-esque harmonies.  ‘Bloodline’ concludes the 30 minute set and we’ve gone full circle to more grungy goodness.  ‘There’s a fever, it’s in my bloodline’ howls Fernihough with the kind of ball-grabbing passion and power that will have other bands looking on with envy.  In all this is a top set from a band that seems to improve with every listen.

Best Track: Click on link below

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Carny Villains - Friday 26th September, The Fleece

Roll up, roll up its Friday night and time for the long awaited debut album launch of hugely talented circusy types The Carny Villains, renowned now as one of Bristol’s most entertaining live bands.

‘Cosmic, Sci-Fi Desert Warriors’ is the selected dress code for the crowd from tonight’s headliners at a lively Fleece.  And their audience haven’t let them down as upon arrival you could be forgiven for thinking you’d walked onto the set of some sort of burlesque Doctor Who episode.  Atop the stage the majority of the band is in some pretty imaginative drag with sparkly necklaces and an odd array of hats and accessories.  Frontman Willy Brothwood dons a black leather jacket and a feather head-dress, Invisible Circus legend Doc Francisco puts in an appearance sporting menacing face-paint, a Saxon cloak and trilby with a large pointy tail.  Multi-talented singer/musician Sarah Fielding has a comparatively quiet costume were it not for except for the inclusion of a fluffy badger on her head.

Anyway, enough about costumes.  This band of top musicians has travelled the world as house band for the Invisible Circus and impressively scored over 50 live shows; they’ve become a real standalone draw where the only thing for sure is to expect the unexpected.  What you know you’ll always get is variety, theatre and fun as anyone who has ever seen them at Carny Ville can testify.  At one time they’ve described themselves as a ‘Stomping Swing Circus Show Band’ and it’s clear from tonight’s performance that there’s more to the quirky ensemble these days than merely their circus roots.

They open with ‘Down To The Ground’ the lead track from the new album which is an entertaining tale of a prison break to the tune of yet more frantic violin, thumping double bass and punchy horns.  ‘Trouble On The Green’ is a hilarious take on 1960’s married life in a well-to-do Kent village where an overburdened housewife finally snaps after catching her cricket loving husband playing away, “she cut up his shirts and then burnt down the shed, she swallowed the goldfish and sledge-hammered the piano, shoved the baby under the grill and the cat in the fan oven.”  Ouch.  ‘Poond Fafteh’ continues the humour as it opens with a Scottish(?) circus narrative and a ska-fuelled jam that sees Brothwood’s blazing trumpet and Leo Hess’ possessed violin make the floor bounce in a curious funk of Cuban and latterly Balkan rhythms.

There’s a real craft to their multi-instrumental breakouts and the kind of live energy that most bands couldn’t sustain as proven on best track of the night, the fantastic ‘Trial Of Henry Jones’.   Two covers end the night’s proceedings and they couldn’t be further away from each other, again testament to the band’s ability to surprise.  First up there’s a breakneck folkfest for Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ takes the roof off before a bonkers version of Reel 2 Real’s ‘Move It Move It’ invites a stage-invasion.  Show band music can really grate after half-an-hour or so once the novelty of nostalgia fades but this group are different.  When you think you’re an extra in the latest Boardwalk Empire series this band turn the tables with some banging ska or some Eastern European turbo-folk that’s just, well, lots of fun.  Be sure to check them out the next time the circus comes to your town.

Best track:
The Carny Villains - 'The Trial Of Henry Jones'

Buy album here;
The Carny Villains - 'Why Am I Here?'

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Dizraeli and the Small Gods - Friday 6th June, Fiddlers

One of Bristol’s finest exports is back in BS3 with all-star band The Small Gods and they’ve never sounded so good. Rowan Sawday aka Dizraeli is an award winning spoken word poet, rapper and hip-hop freestyler with an exceptional talent and having dazzled the music press with impressive debut ‘Engurland’ (City Shanties) five years ago the Bristolian ex-pat has since taken the country by storm by somehow fusing English folk with contemporary hip-hop. Yes you read that right; Folk-hop.

Having called upon, amongst others, the services of a flautist, double bassist, Scratch DJ, beatboxing champion and guitarist for his solo record he then adopted them for his next project in the guise of The Small Gods.  In doing so he appears to have assembled something of a supergroup with himself as ringmaster unleashing a collective sound that is unusual, diverse and at times lyrically and sonically devastating.  After a six month break from gigging to focus on writing new material, the one-time UK Poetry Slam Champion is clearly buzzing to be back in his home-town spitting humour-filled, gritty and always honest observations about love, life and loss.  Rap with a Bristolian accent certainly has a real charm to it and combined with plummeting bass and glossy vocals from the multi-talented Cate Ferris on opener ‘Sailor’ the packed Fiddlers crowd are totally gripped.  “Isn’t it amazing where a pissed kiss leads” Dizraeli ponders as the atmospheric track walks us through his recollection of a one-night stand amid eerie keyboard effects and mangled vocals.

‘We Had A Song’ dips into a kind of acid-jazz lounging before more heartfelt lyrics about a lost friend along with snapshots of Dizraeli’s past “I’m made of lost tapes, I’m made of lost mates I made in the days where I could barely cut the cross-fade.” Its lapped up by a young audience tonight, hip-hop will always ensure that. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see it follow the diversity of the music the band are producing as word gets around of the musical barriers that are being annihilated here. Mid-set we get our first real glimpse of UK female Beatbox champion but also superb double bassist(!), Bellatrix. In an improv skit with an audience suggested subject matter, Dizraeli freestyles backed by the vocal percussion/ distinctive spits and booms of one of music’s oddest instruments. DJ Downlow adorned in a blue boxer’s kimono then gets his moment of glory shortly after, again demonstrating a mastery of his trade as Dizraeli hauls him to the front.

Biggest cheer of the night is for ‘Nevermind’ which sees the band at their most upbeat and accessible; an easy to love romp with irresistible beats, scratching, shrill flute, spanish guitar and cheeky melodica. That’s before we even get to the lyrics which are a series of hilarious one-liners that bring about a venue-wide echo back to the stage of ‘It doesn’t matter what you look like, all that matters is you dance cos its a very very short life.’ Finishing with ‘Million Miles’ and Cate Ferris steals the show with the kind of vocal acrobatics that make your hair stand on its very end. It’s not a million miles away from Eminem ft Dido’s ‘Stan’ but the outstanding Ferris blows the MoR coffee-table queen right out of the water with this performance. Almost spent, Dizraeli even chances a double stage-dive to the delight of the crowd, this gig really had it all.   

Best Track:

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Jimi Goodwin - Sunday 18th May, Thekla

“I’m not doing Doves stuff anymore, I’m doing Odludek now” the rattled former indie-band frontman calls with odd Russian accent as his arms mimic robotic movements.  Jimi Goodwin, now 45, cuts a northern Oliver Reed as he clutches his huge bass on his first solo UK tour, 5 years after his previous visit to Bristol and after which the Manchester band went on a ‘permanent hiatus.’

Debut release ‘Odludek’ is apparently Polish for loner or pilgrim which Goodwin felt suited the new project and chapter in his career.  The album itself is an eclectic mix of mid-paced indie-rock (a la Doves) with elements of country, electronica, keyboard led Elbow offcuts and an unwelcome splash of early 90’s Euro-dance (a nod to those days in Sub Sub).  From the start, comfortable as ever in front of the crowd, he raises his pint saluting all corners and balconies aboard the Thekla and kicks off with dramatic key-stabs of ‘Terracotta Warrior.’  Unshackled and on a voyage of discovery, lyrically the track is indicative of the rest of the album as Goodwin bellows out “I know who you are but who am I?”  There’s something a little more daring about his solo work, more Ian Brown than Morrissey in terms of first efforts and its all the better for it.  ‘Oh Whiskey’ is an understated yet still anthemic cut of country acoustic-rock quality, midway through it ascends a level and somehow has everyone dancing.  Doves rouser ‘Snowden’ maintains the momentum and reminds us of the real power of Goodwin’s range and how good the band really were at their peak.  “It’s time for a gameshow!” he jests when the bewildering muzak of ‘Man v Dingo’ begins to his own obvious embarrassment as he makes the sign of a cross, I don’t think this one will be on the next tour.

The growling singer appears slightly irked when there’s no attempt to echo lyrics back on ‘Panic Tree,’ most likely forgetting that the album’s has been out little over a month and its far from the most memorable on there.  The pick of the rest of the new stuff is ‘Lonely At The Drop’, balls-out rock that ends up jamming like ‘Come On’ by The Verve with searing stratospheric guitar.  Doves tracks ‘Last Broadcast’ and ‘Sulphur Man’ go down well, the former sounding funky as ever, the latter utterly enthralling with its brooding verses and big chorus making it a trademark melancholic triumph.  Returning for an encore he seems a little short of ideas and tunes left to play.  The crowd are baying for Doves songs and hailing him with all manner of album-track suggestions, this must have happened at earlier gigs on the tour but it doesn’t sit well with the burly singer.  The aforementioned mini-meltdown threatens to turn the atmosphere before an amusing suggestion to begin the gig again appears to be the compromise.  So off we go again with a second run-through of ‘Terracotta Warrior.’  Half the audience heads for the exit.  Those who stay get a fairly uneventful ‘Northenden’ to finish, a bit of an anti-climax to what was an entertaining first solo foray to Bristol and a genuine expectation that there’s better still to come.

Best Track: Click on link below
Jimi Goodwin - 'Oh! Whiskey'

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Delays - Weds 7th May, Thekla

Blissfully sun-drenched indie-pop sugary enough to rot your teeth a bit on-board the Thekla tonight for the return of the Delays; a band once declared as most likely heirs to the Stone Roses throne. 

The Southampton quartet are back in Bristol to open a tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of debut album ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’ which still remains their most celebrated and accomplished piece of work to date. It could be said that the Delays are both ahead of and behind their time. With a heavy nod to The La’s but hitting upon elements of what would become nu-rave (Klaxons etc) and the more recent art-rock scene (Foals et al) they shot to prominence delivering anthemic semi-psychedelic power-pop packing enough punch to worry the Top 30 album chart three times and so nearly with it prolonged mainstream success. With a 5th album on the way after a lengthy break there’s a fair bit of ground to make up but tonight we’re looking back at a time when the Delays had the ears of all with a notebook and pen. Don’t get me wrong, I do totally get why some people don’t like this band -the style can often be formulaic opening tracks with overly cheerful synths and Greg Gilbert’s inimitable falsetto. And with kid brother Aaron on keyboards chipping in with those high-pitched harmonies we get something reminiscent of The Hollies amid jangly Byrds guitar and some often bizarre early Depeche Mode electro-noodling. By that reckoning you’ll either love it or hate it - judging from the vociferous turnout who are hollering back at the band with hands clapping aloft here tonight, it’s looking like absence has made the heart grow still fonder.

Running in the order on their debut we get a vibrant opener with ‘Wanderlust’ its tropical ice-cream van keys giving way to Greg Gilbert’s dizzying vocals backed by the splashing of drums.  As the gig develops its hard to remember a band that look like they’re enjoying themselves so much.  Blonde-mopped Gilbert flips from choirboy to wannabe rock god throughout ‘Nearer Than Heaven’, probably the group’s best known hit which has a real timelessness. ‘Long Time Coming’ completes a triumphant trio that has so far seen the crowd singing, dancing and the odd good-natured though rather witless heckle.  It’s not to say they can’t rock out (‘Stay Where You Are’) or even hit on some nu-rave (‘On’ and ‘Lost In A Melody’) but they sound at their most convincing on tracks like ‘Hideaway’ and ‘Satellites Lost’ where gimmicky effects are sidelined by a trademark arrangement of twinkling guitars and luscious harmonies that no other group is brave enough to do in these hipster-led times.

Encore ‘You And Me’ is pacy and string-laden evoking front-of-stage jerking and those unusually smooth turning to strained vocals.  It’s not going to be blaring out of any boy-racer windows anytime soon but the Delays have never been ashamed of writing heartfelt indie-pop, they’re fearlessly chasing top spot unattached from a scene and clearly rejuvenated.  

Best Track: Click on link below

The Delays - 'Long Time Coming'

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Yes Sir Boss - Fleece, Thursday 3rd April

There’s something about adopted Bristolians Yes Sir Boss that just oozes fun.  Matt Sellors’ gang knows how to work a crowd and arrive well-armed with trumpet, sax, melodicas, what looks like a child’s xylophone and some outrageously catchy tunes.  Opening their UK tour at a busy Fleece with the launch of second album ‘King In A Rocking Chair,’ the quintet have now added the sound of the mid-west to their ever-expanding tally of genres.  Inspired by Bristol favourites Babyhead, the group has amassed a loyal following drawn in by their energetic live shows that somehow manage to blend elements of ska, indie, reggae, swing jazz, blues and pop without making a huge mess.

Signed to Stoned Records, the label created by fellow Devon-bred Joss Stone, has worked out well for the band and a more than decent duet with the marmite singer on their debut has helped them reach into a wider mainstream audience.  Since then they’ve played Glastonbury, performed sessions on Radio One and toured Europe honing their versatile craft.  Tonight they kick off with the bouncy ‘Buy It Up’ –an amusing attack on over the counter culture “you got no personality so you get your tits out on TV, but those things are like Zepellins ready to explode in the jet stream.”  Moving on and the new bluesy stuff comes to the fore with the quiet cowboy lilt of ‘Feel The Love’ and Sellors gravelly vocals just about win over the noisy chatter from those just here to skank. 

The shift from ska to blues doesn’t seem to have lost them too much of their appeal though and any hint of a mid-set lull is quickly dispelled with a near-perfect version of Pulp Fiction soundtrack classic ‘Misirlou’ which brings the house down with Sellors fingers working over-time and First’s blazing trumpet leaving everyone beaming.  “Not Guilty” holds within it a lyrical reference to the bands name and with a political overtone shows that its not just about meshing together whatever they can find in the music cupboard.  The horns take centre stage on the reggae-tinged track which somehow moves from a rasping Cuban trumpet solo to a throbbing RHCP funk/rock salvo.

“Is everyone up for something really filthy?” cries Sellors as the band lurch into standout track ‘Dirty Grave’ with signature mischievous horns and what sounds like the thumping bassline borrowed from ‘Eye Of The Tiger.’  This is the band at their best whipping up bluesy grooves that get the crowd moving amid Sellors’ whiskey-ravaged, menacing deep-south vocal; filthy indeed.  A few skanks later and we’re nearing the end as drummer Reuben heads around the back of the bar, clearly shattered, only to be hauled back for a curfew smashing second encore which sees a cheeky oik invades the stage to instigate one last venue-wide boogie.  And so concludes a thoroughly enjoyable musical taster menu from one of the cities best who are sure to cement their reputation this summer as firm festival favourites.

Best track: Click on link below
Yes Sir Boss - 'Dirty Grave'

Buy albums here:
Yes Sir Boss - 'King In A Rocking Chair'
Yes Sir Boss - 'Desperation State'

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Lonely Tourist - Stag & Hounds, Friday 14th March

The Lonely Tourist certainly didn’t cut a solitary figure at a heaving Stag and Hounds tonight as he launched his third and best record yet ‘Shouting At Weather.’  This genial purveyor of top class folk/skiffle storytelling appears to have been unequivocally adopted by the natives since the former Odeon Beatclub singer/guitarist decamped to Bristol from Glasgow a few years back.

After securing a fantastic line-up earlier in the year for ‘Stagfest’ gigs at this pub are always a lively affair and it’s fast becoming one of the places to be for seeking out emerging talent.  Paul Tierney aka the Lonely Tourist is a regular support fixture to many who’ve performed there and has played in almost every available venue/square foot that you can throw down a loop pedal across the city, including a fantastic slot at the 02 Academy warming up for, well; a shambolic, Babyshambles gig late last year.  Put simply to the uninitiated we’re watching Johnny Cash with the broadest Scottish accent heard since a pair of bespectacled brothers last tormented the airwaves, strumming acoustic and mandolin at a speed falling just short of wild, telling sharp-witted tales of talent squandering (‘Rattling Around’, ‘Send In The Clowns’) and prolific boozing (‘Ten Green’, ‘Last Glass’.)  

With a shy demeanour and a packed out room it’s a situation that you’d imagine would be uncomfortable for the self-deprecating singer, who all too often depicts himself as bereft of talent and support, but he seems to take it all in his stride.  There’s a tight band behind him for the first half of the gig its great fun from the off.  “The jukebox gets more money than me for standing singing songs” Tierney triumphantly cries on ‘Watch For The Sharks’ in it’s desperate lyrics versus bouncy melody Smiths-ness.  Slowing down soon after and the lyrical ingenuity knows no bounds as Mr Tourist takes us through life in the eyes of an insect (‘Fly On Your Window’) before concluding quietly “please put up with me and don’t try to kill me.” 

‘Clydebank 360 Feedback’ charts the life of a downtrodden, reluctant call centre supervisor dedicated by Tierney to anyone who hates their boss which predictably brings a hearty cheer.  Simple acoustic melodies with the emphasis on humour and cheerful despair(!) are the orders of the day but it actually never comes across as overly indulgent or grossly negative.  On ‘Rattling Around’ a stomping ode to relentless gigging, there’s further regret and disappointment but always with a rye smile and a perfect metaphor; “I’ve added up the change in life’s guitar case, two buttons, a Euro and eighty nine pence.  It’s good to know I’m doing this for fun, cos someone’s making it, well I make none.”  Great stuff.

“Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Paul Tierney Paul Tierney” is perhaps one of the most unlikely choruses you might ever hear for our finale.  This isn’t some egotistical self-homage but all part of what is the Lonely Tourist’s most lyrically brilliant piece of work yet; ‘The Ballad Of Paul Tierney.’  Picked up by BBC6 Music the tune tracks the tragically short-lived football career of the singer’s namesake whilst cleverly linking their fortunes of hope, promise and supposed failure within their respective careers. The entire crowd bellows it back arms aloft to unexpectedly bring the singer back on for one more.  It’s another superlative performance from one of Bristol’s best songwriters, charming and converting all before him.

Best Track: Click on link below
Lonely Tourist - 'The Ballad of Paul Tierney'

Buy Albums here:

'Shouting At Weather'
'I Live Where You Are'
'Sir I Am A Good Man'

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Monday, 3 March 2014

Gaz Brookfield - Exchange, Friday 28th February

The term ‘Local Legend’ can be attributed all too often but to those around the city who’ve seen the gradual emergence of D.I.Y. singer/songwriter Gaz Brookfield, it’s a more than appropriate title as the penultimate date of his latest tour reaches a packed rowdy Exchange.

Playing over 300 gigs a year without a label, manager, agent or (quite often) a reliable means of transport, the well travelled acoustic people’s poet is back in his adopted city after the release of outstanding 3rd album ‘In The Company Of Thieves.’  An even better proposition with a full band and fiddle behind him, it’s easy to see how he’s amassed such an army of admirers in the South-West and beyond.  For an entry fee of less than two pints, we’re treated to real quality throughout.  Ieuan Williams impresses early on, a young Welshman with a great future ahead.  Next up Sam Eason charms the crowd and gets them singing, the flame-haired bearded singer turns the air all warm and fuzzy.  Dueting on ‘Cliches’ with talented wife Beth on vocals and I can see a fair few blokes reaching for their partners shoulders in one of many moments of pop brilliance.

On to our headliner who bravely opens a gig in Bristol with an ode to Swindon; ‘SN1’ -whacking and knuckle-rapping his well-worn acoustic as he goes.  The band behind him appears well drilled and the perfect foil for his fast-paced accessible folk with violinist Ben Wain playing stealing the show on crowd favourite ‘Limelight.’  The autobiographical ‘Towns’ follows as a real highlight.  Not for the first time Brookfield successfully mixes humour and brutally honest sentiment with ease as we’re told (about his parents), “folk called them the Brookfields, I call them Mum and Dad” and more movingly, “coz playing songs to folk like you is what keeps me alive.”  I’m pretty sure he’s not exaggerating here.

Interaction with the audience is an essential element to any of his shows.  There’s a unilateral charge of glasses in honour of “every real musician” on witty anti-plastic pop anthem ‘Diet of Banality;’ with a clutch of proudly hoisted middle fingers at the mention of the dark lord Cowell.  ‘Tell It To The Beer’ sees the charismatic singer alone on stage with harmonica and guitar delicately taking us through his early career in a doomed rock band, the track dedicated to his former band members genuinely haunts and chokes before concluding “I wouldn’t change the life we led for any other.”  Having triumphantly tackled plagiarism (‘Frank and Sam’) and life on the road eating service station sandwiches (the fun folk-fest of ‘Land Pirate’s Life’), there’s a further writing maturity on recent single ‘Black Dog Day.’  It’s quite simply one of the best songs I’ve heard addressing the issue of depression, the lyrics made more poignant when dispatched with bucketloads of throaty passion and an unusually weighty alt-rock.

Musically there’s a case for Frank Turner meeting Dylan but substituting politics for the pursuit of happiness, unburdened by material trappings and rejoicing in living for today.  Final tune ‘Westcountry’ is a big event demanding participation and the multi-talented musician appears genuinely and rightly humbled by their vociferous reaction.  More comedy in the lyrics (forgetting London, he’d rather see the West End of the M4 corridor) but it’s an open homage to Bristol and further proof of a real bond between a singer and his home-town fans that is rarely seen.  Not for the first time I leave a Brookfield gig with the feeling that he really is one of them, living the dream for everyone one of them who in turn do their utmost to keep him going on the road.  Not a fortnight ago an emergency batch of merch was bought to help him pay for car repairs to continue his 25 gig February tour.  What still defies belief is that such quality can come from an unsigned artist with a gigging ethic that even Springsteen couldn’t match but similarly a man who lives to play live for his fans; their faith and support is certainly rewarded when he delivers an astonishingly good performance like this one.

Best track: Click on link below
Gaz Brookfield - 'Towns'

Buy albums here:
Gaz Brookfield Albums

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Chris Webb - Bank Tavern, Weds 19th February

For some time now, in a welcome oasis amongst the bustle of Broadmead, quite possibly Bristol’s smallest pub; The Bank Tavern has been a home from home to some of the city’s best up-and-coming musical talent.  With a safe capacity of just 70 this lively venue has been the perfect regular practice ground for one hugely talented 23 year old local Philosophy graduate soon to release his third album (“If Dragons Started Forest Fires.”)

A folk/pop prodigy, Chris Webb plays and curates Wednesday night sets there with guest supports of the highest order from the likes of Lonely Tourist, Mary Spender, Ellen Cox and more.  Mostly seated affairs and with a respectful crowd, Webb’s Wednesday gigs at the Bank don’t require any financial transaction and the singer can be seen working the room and thanking punters for coming along, which is a nice touch.  Alternating 30 minute sets with Tim Manning, frontman of country/Americana trio Blind River Scare we’re treated to some precision picking and well-crafted tales of everyday life.  Within the music you can hear the influence of some acoustic singer-songwriting classics (John Martyn, Nick Drake) to more contemporary alt-folk (Gomez and Josh Ritter, whom he covers well later on.)

His rather unusual guitar playing is showcased on the brilliant ‘Lost Boy.’  Using his thumb to play the rhythm by strumming the bottom three strings and picking the top three for the melody it sounds like we have a musical poltergeist in the room.  It’s a cool trick and one seldom seen that definitely helps to provide added depth.  Webb’s smooth yet powerful voice also demands attention especially when married with some knockout lyrics; “Nocturnally I’m organised and scattered in the day, by evening I’m a warrior drinking innocence away.”  Likewise, ‘Sundance’ involves some pretty swift strumming worthy of more ears.  Although the tunes are relatively simple in structure, Webb appears to have nailed the art of the catchy chorus with witty lines and the odd guitar trick; all delivered with a smile upon his face.

Now a full-time musician and with an intimate launch party on Friday, Webb has definitely progressed his sound.  New tracks ‘Keyrings’ and ‘Platforms’ certainly sound more immediate and there’s a greater more confident vocal reach than on his debut.  It’s difficult for a solo artist to stand out in a city with so much talent already at its disposal but if you see him in a support slot around town or on a Wednesday night you’ll see for yourself that the humble guitarist has the technical ability and songcraft to go far.

Best Track: Click on link below
Chris Webb - 'Lost Boy'

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Boxer Rebellion, Thekla, Thursday 6th February

Curiously named after a late nineteenth century peasant uprising in China; multi-national indie post-rockers The Boxer Rebellion win yet another battle aboard a packed Thekla.

It’s been an interesting journey so far for a band who’ve had their fair share of ups and downs.  Promising first release ‘Exits’ garnered critical support from NME and Kerrang rubbing shoulders with debuts from Bloc Party, Kasabian and the Kaiser Chiefs in the last real mainstream indie high-watermark back in 2005.  Having signed to Alan McGee’s ill-fated Poptones label which soon imploded the band found themselves homeless and in paid employment to produce a follow up release.  Entirely self-funded, mostly from tireless gigging, it was the first ever digital iTunes only album from an unsigned band to enter the US Billboard chart.  Latest effort ‘Promises’ is a progression of sorts as (in the studio at least) the band swap those early aggro rock-outs for Sigur Ros-like loops, layers and effects pedals.

Arriving at the Thekla and with a storm raging outside, the soggy audience of mixed ages are treated to an hour of piano-led building anthems, two-dimensional grunge and deafening distortion (think ‘The Bends’ era Radiohead).  They begin with ‘The Runner,’ a punchy punky ball-grabbing intro which goes down well.  Clean-cut Tennessee-bred frontman Nathan Nicholson then flits from guitar to keyboard, hitting those towering choir-boy falsettos for the most part with eyes closed and praying hands aloft.  There’s no doubting that Nicholson is an accomplished singer but his voice can sound a little generic at times, it would appear that balancing the technical ability to reach for high notes comes at the expense of injecting real passion.

Visually they have solid rock credentials with thick-set dynamo Australian guitarist Todd Howe and outstanding hairy Brit drummer Piers Hewitt.  Hewitt stars throughout with some top-class rapid-fire spattering that lifts the occasional gloom even when sharing drumming duties in a three-way attack with Howe and bassist Adam Harrison on the rousing ‘New York.’  Moving through the set and ‘Step Out Of The Car’ would sit comfortably on ‘Pablo Honey,’ once again for all its bluster you can’t help that feel that Nicholson feels more comfortable in front of a keyboard playing to the Coldplay sect nowadays.  ‘Diamonds’ proves a real crowd-pleaser and it’s easy to see how its guitar hook and stratospheric chorus would land it on so many US TV shows and soundtracks (‘One Tree Hill’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ et al.)  New single ‘Keep Moving’ breezily bounces before old favourite ‘Watermelon’ whips up a maelstrom of crunching guitars and rare throaty howls showing that they can still rock hard.

‘Fragile’ is the night’s highlight which sees Harrison back on the drum pads in tandem with Hewitt’s stunning kit work, Howe twiddles the effects knobs and Nicholson soars over a crescendo of fuzz.  Final tune ‘Gospel of Goro Adachi’ feels like the sound that U2 have recently been struggling to nail.  Gentle piano melody, breathy vocals, synthy pads, another scything masterclass from Howe (who plays keys, axe and drums!) before Nicholson and Harrison drop to their knees and pound on the effects pedals.  We’re left with a wall of noise and a huge ovation for a band who are strikingly superior live than on record and who will surely continue to win admirers.

Best Track: Click on link below
Boxer Rebellion - 'Diamonds'

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Matthew And The Atlas - Louisiana, Sunday 27th January

Former landscape gardener Matthew Hegarty has assembled a tight folk/rock ensemble of real quality and with a hotly-anticipated April debut album on the way the future is looking very rosy for the recent Mumford and Sons support band. 

A well-known figure on the folk scene as a solo artist, Hegarty was the first signing to Communion Music, now home to Ben Howard, Treetop Flyers and er, Gotye.  Now with a band that give the bespectacled frontman’s best tunes an atmospheric cinematic power and brooding brilliance, the group appears destined for a shot at the big time themselves.  It’s fair to say that the nation may be a little Mumforded-out right now but fear not, Heggarty and Co are bringing a brand of folk which uplifts and surprises substituting a hint of rhythmic dubstep for those well-worn faux-irish hoe-downs.  Mysteriously absent tonight are the sumptuous vocal harmonies from long time collaborator Lindsay West, but in truth her absence reveals an edgier less trad-folk sound that may prove more of a mainstream attraction. 

Two things hit home from the start of this gig; firstly there’s no bassist –those sustained basslines are in fact coming from the keyboardist.  Secondly, Hegarty’s voice commands the complete attention of his audience; his fractious warble holds the room with a timeless quality only really equalled by fellow retro crooner Richard Hawley.  New single ‘Pale Sun Rose’ opens with a melodic maritime banjo met by a tropical guitar hook and a ground-rumbling, plummeting soprano.  It’s one of a fair few that enchant the sell out crowd with its thick synthy layers that oddly benefit from those chirpy slappy electro drums.  There’s a reasonably awkward silence between tracks with little crowd interaction, many of their tunes seem to rather uncomfortably and abruptly just, well; end.  Regardless, next track ‘Everything That Dies’ is a classy anthem including a hovering bassline and a transfixed Hegarty borrowing from Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’ as he booms out the bittersweet mantra “You said everyone you know, one day will surely die/But everything that dies in some way returns.”  Throw in some shuffling drums and choral harmonies and it all sounds strangely uplifting without the band at any point breaking the shackles. 

The performance drifts a little shortly afterwards and the intensity does drop giving way to earnest folk that veers into the middle of the road.  ‘Out Of The Darkness” brings it back to the boil and it’s another slow-burner which showcases the frontman’s vocal gymnastics amid a cold piano.  Snappy drums, rattly bass and a wall of distortion underpin the impressive penultimate track which couldn’t be further away from the folky Americana of the first two EP’s.  Hegarty humbly thanks the crowd before announcing “we have to go now because we haven’t got any more songs.”  How the long-awaited debut will fare you feel will much depend on whether they continue their fantastic experiment; with a bigger venue tour already booked in, the beaming audience tonight certainly hope so.

Best Tracks: Click on link below

Matthew And The Atlas - 'Everything That Dies'

Kindly published by Bristol 24-7

Monday, 20 January 2014

Evil Twin - The Lantern, Friday 17th January

Lo-fi Bristolian indie hopefuls Evil Twin have a reputation for being one of the hottest properties on the unsigned local circuit and after a rip-snorting forty-five minute rock assault it’s clear to see why.

Together for under a couple of years, the band have already taken their self-confessed ‘no bollocks music’ to the Dot-to-Dot and Green Man festivals as well as a string of support gigs around the region.  Opting to hone their sound in front of a live audience and shunning the expensive lure of the studio has paid off for the recent graduates whose diverse range of influences shows that they’ve done their rock’n’roll homework. 

They’ve got some promising support of their own in the shape of intense melodic Alt-J’ish trio Tiers and a superb set from an energetic young band formally known as ‘Why Kill Ian?’ -Bridgwater’s pop-punk quartet ‘Bridges’.  Bereft of shoes, this early Kings of Leon influenced group definitely make themselves at home on the stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd.  Bearded frontman Ethan Proctor’s vocals are reminiscent of Brandon Boyd (Incubus) on best track ‘Storming The Palace’ which bombs along with joyous ferocity.  Crunching guitars from ‘Dirty Harry’ villain Josh Redman-Thomas and some classy shimmering drums get the audience shuffling and with top new single ‘Amor’ imminent, they’re definitely one to watch. 

BBC Introducing favourites Evil Twin are deserved headliners tonight and baseball capped singer songwriter Andrew Barnes leads the band out to a hearty ovation.  The skinny front-man struts confidently about the stage dropping dirty guitar riffs and stretching vocals that fall just short of Jeff Buckley.  Not a bad introduction at all.  Early track ‘Situation’ opens with an Arctic Monkeys fuzzy chainsaw guitar riff and punchy Automatic bass with a welcome twist of a brizzle accent.  With a lo-fi feel and harmonies borrowed from Pavement it’s a trip back to the late 90’s for some but with far more bite and way less indulgence.  It’s not all about youthful punchy rock as the second half of building Led Zep rock-out ‘Sinister Woman’ testifies.  A real cut of quality; this one showcases Barnes’ gut-wrenching range and a real writing maturity beyond his years.

There’s not much banter between songs but in truth the crowd are here more out of curiosity and hope than familiarity, they do however appear to be won over by the time we get to debut single ‘Dusk Til Dawn’.  Another monstrous Queens Of The Stone Age riff is unleashed with delicious pomp amid Barnes howling “I didn’t start this, throwing punches in the dark.”  Louis Jones' screeching guitar bosses the track from start to finish, bass-man Anton Larkin proving the perfect foil for what is the band’s strongest tune to date.  It’s a thoroughly enjoyable ride; tight, polished and pounding indie perfection, check them out for yourself it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed.
Kindly published by Bristol24-7: 

Click on links below

Evil Twin - 'Sinister Woman'
Evil Twin - 'Dusk Til Dawn'