Folking Fearne

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Took a rare opportunity tonight. Ness likes the group Fearne, who were on at the Bournemouth Folk Club. The club was formerly a regular Sunday pilgrimage for us, it hasn’t been for too long…

Opener Franziska Pretsch demonstrated the modern folk art at its best (or worst, depending on point of view) – solo singer songwriter guitarist with an amazing voice, formerly of this parish now sucked up into the big smoke up country. Good stuff.
Fransiska was followed by an amazing duo, Shadrack Tye, Sam Robson with percussive guitar and Tina Longford on fiddle accompanying Tina’s wide ranging voice, perfectly paired with Sam’s harmonies in their original material. They broke into an a capella Nobody Knows, winning the audience over even more…

Fearne folk club AlexI almost feel sorry for the headliners needing to follow such a scintillating performance.
No worries on that score. Nick dropping his bass to join Alex and Adam on mandolin for the first tune, an unforeseen development that worked for this first full band acoustic outing I’ve witnessed since the line up reshuffle.
A couple of new songs started the set before some favourites from the EP showed how much this always appreciative audience love their local grown heroes.

Very early Fearne song Doing All I Can To Make You Smile (from the unreleased first album) raised some laughs, all due the comment “it’s a real instrument, honest” as Adam showed a melodica off.. A great gig, in front of a great audience…

Finished off the night introducing Ness to Fiona Fox courtesy of Chaplins, playing a (for Fiona) troublesome gig, though I didn’t notice particularly for the few songs caught; only when Fiona spoke was the throat crisis noted. Took the opportunity to pass on what I’d discovered about VocalZone lozenges and poorly throats…

Smart people do it with coloured pencils

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Lucy Davies opening up – good to hear her on at the start of a night rather than a nightwatchman, which has been her normal slot on these sort of evenings, more’s the pity. Lucy has some amazingly positive songs, even about not necessarily positive situations.
Quirky songs also feature in the set – creating an overall wholesome sound filling the Cellar Bar with her vocals. 

When I hook up with her to chat later, I find out I’ve missed some good nights and parties, simply through feeling being a little run down and hence taking things a little easier on the gig front these past couple of weeks.

Lucy is followed on to the now seemingly oversmall stage by the 8 piece choir that are the Smart Family Band.
Tim Smart is one of life’s experimental creative types, endlessly trying new things at gigs. His sense of adventure sometimes writes cheques the performance cannot deliver, much to the amusing entertainment of those witnessing the wonderful chaos.
Not so tonight. The band are well rehearsed and in good voice, having spent the weekend recording a 6 track EP. Indeed, this EP is the focus of the gig, with the usual Smart twist.

The EP is blank, the sleeve decorated in a bare and sparse manner. It includes 6 inch-square boxes ready for us to draw an impression of each track as they are called out from the platform – colouring pencils provided!

Smart Family Band EP final decorated fullThis creates a buzz and laughs almost overshadowing the performance itself, especially as the first song (track 1-my representative picture is of the twitter bird & 8 heads with open mouths) is purely choral. Short on the CD, this is especially lengthened for this debut performance. Then comes the command – “Change Pencils!” We are expected to switch colours with others in the crowd to draw the next song title on our cover.

The next song is wrong for me – I have a peach coloured lemon, replacing my correctly coloured plums (Lemons Not Plums is the title). Here’s my finished work, for you to laugh at!

As I’m showing here, this active audience participation almost outweighs the engaging and spirited performance, not a distraction but an engaging and lively difference, meaning this gig will no doubt remain in my mind as much as when Quinn’s Quinney had us playing musical chairs!

Finally Si Crockett takes to a late stage, and recognises this by only performing four of his numbers; these (as ever) go down well with the remaining crowd – although personally and quietly I’m rather pleased he calls in an early end to his slot – I’m bushed by this time…

Entertainment in the Studio

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The Luminaires were my guests on the show tonight.

They are a new band, made up of remnants and soloists from around the area – they are so new, that they’ve only played 3 times before coming on the show!  Normally I wouldn’t entertain such a concept, since I prefer guests to have a CD to hand, plus have a few stories of life on the music road.

The Luminaires are different.

When I saw their first gig (at the Oxjam Bournemouth Takeover) they blew me away – they were the only band I put a (brief) description up about, compared with all the other artists seen over that weekend.

In talking to them, we had such a wide ranging interview, covering :

  • their own music (plugged and unplugged);
  • X-factor (we all dislike what it’s doing to live music);
  • The Princess Bride and other pop kitsch movies;
  • pub quizzes (Dave particularly is a bit of a savant);
  • Chaplins and the Cellar Bar (since they believe it’s the ideal venue – small and pumping when music kicks off)
  • various known and unknown African countries!

In all, a most enjoyable interview for me, although we did spend a lot more time talking than playing music!

They played a couple of tracks from the forthcoming album live in the studio – Today (a solo by Joel on the night, that will become a Luminaires number); Reality Check (about what the future could be like if X-factor is the only source of inspiration for budding musicians); and opener Hostage, which we didn’t talk about much at all!

In all, the two band songs showed off some good talent – lead and rhythm guitarists (Steve & Joel, although they swap) giving their all with twiddly bits and riffs respectively, Simon and Dave providing a decent enough bass and drum accompaniment (even unplugged) for Aaron’s vocals

After the show, dropped in to Urban Reef to see another friend, Victor, only to find he’d finished his two sets by the time I got there, so ended up just talking and catching up in his van instead. Shame I missed his set, he’s another brilliant acoustic artist.

Chilled Out Vibes

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Monday night means Solid Air night – the 3rd Monday of the month for me means swiming with the Dive Club, so I get to the gig later than normal.

I walked in to the Winchester just as Saturday Sun were about to start (I’d missed opener Coke Can Jack in full band guise following the other week’s Pink Moon acoustic performance).

I’d caught half of one of Saturday Sun’s songs at the Oxjam takeover weekend, and Si Genaro had raved about them later when questioned about Oxjam on the Oxjam retrospective show I held on air. 

In single words, I’d describe Saturday Sun as acoustic melodic and atmospheric, while also very rhythmic.  They were utilising varied tunings throughout the performance, to create some interesting pieces. 

This tuning detracted slightly from the overall atmosphere for me, since there were lengthy delays between songs to sort out said tunings, meaning the gig never really hit a stride in my opinion.

Having said that, the songs these chaps from Swanage have produced are mellow and chilled, yet one of them played (I think it was Crocodile Skin) started with this vibe, before growing into a wailing shrieking pulsating anthem, with strong beats from drum, foot beat box and foot-operated tambourine – impressive stuff.

They’ve home-produced their The Deepest Woods EP (nicely artistic cover) with four studio and two live tracks – this is again varied while still in the chilled-out mode, with the rhythms kicking in perfectly suitably. 

Nothing jumps out and surprised in the tunes, which is exactly what is wanted for this type of music, the tunes morph and grow and fade  in a very intimate manner.

Looking at their gig list, they’ve picked up a choice slot at the end of November, the Skunk Anansie after party show in Brighton, as well as the more usual local venues (Champions, The Winchester)

Would I personally see them again? I wouldn’t immediately go out of my way to find them (give time for the stage act to improve), but the EP has been stuck in my player ever since they kindly gave me a  copy – look for a mention in Listed Magazine real soon now…

Wholehearted Acoustic


This post talks about the Friday night Chaplins gig by Mischa with Si Crockett, and The Sarah Griffin Band. Also a bit of a packed weekend (more later).

I managed finally to catch Sarah Griffin in concert with the full band; I’ve missed the last couple of performances (e.g. Oxjam) and last saw her solo acoustic a few months back… She was ably supported by probably the nicest musician on the current Bournemouth circuit: Mischa (fresh from folk club appearance the night before).

Mischa was doing a solo acoustic set when I walked in, before he was joined by Si Crockett to make some things up on percussion.  While Mischa‘s tunes are always really good, and he wholeheartedly enters every performance, my highlight tonight was enjoying the interaction between them both.  Unrehearsed, Si was more or less making things up as they went along, on either Djembe or Cajon, depending on how Mischa felt and directed.

Asking Si about this afterwards, wondering how he did it, all he offered was that he enjoys playing percussion for others since he’s not responsible for everything in the gig, as he is when he’s the solo artist.  Admittedly, to my mind he was paying a lot of attention to Mischa‘s rythmns, and managed to acheive an exceptional level of accord, such that the endings and beginnings were coherent; no mean feat for an unrehearsed jam!

Mischa’s voice ably carried itself over Si’s sideshow – with his usual references to lifes loves and hates, whether in the upbeat and strummed shouting numbers, or the more intimate ballads.  Every song with Misha comes with a (just right length) story, and an encouragement to members of the audience – just making him such a delightful artist to behold.  After a big shout for Sarah Griffin, he abandons the stage on a high, bathed in sweat after another “give it his all” performance.

After the usual and obligatory break, The Sarah Griffin Band take to the stage. Sarah has been a real enigma to my mind, I’d heard her solo before, and thought she was good, nice but just good.  Then in February/March this year a CD comes along and smacks me between the eyes.

Sarah’s album (Above The Parapet) more or less came out of the blue for me – and her live band performances at that time were enough to see her through to the final of the 2010 Dorset Music Awards (didn’t win, however did receive the accolade from the judges as “one of the acts with most promising commercial viability”).

The tunes on Sarah’s CD are all fantastic – every single one of them.  I reviewed the CD for Listed Magazine (Issue 26) earlier this year; nearly every tune was eligible for inclusion on the HopeFM playlist (even other artists have raved about it – Lou Brown was on the show and spent a lot of time praising Sarah’s CD instead of previewing her own work.)

Some new songs received an outing, and some re-workings of a couple.  Of particular note was a cover of Abba’s Mamma Mia – a very brave alternate tuning rendition, downkey and to an interesting set of chords that in my mind gave new meaning to this old favourite.

I’m unsure how the rest of the audience found it – admittedly as the last song in the set it subdued things a little, such that the shouts for more had to be encouraged a little; the encore of an upbeat and pacy Fall of the Meek showed again the variety the troupe of artists around Sarah can handle.

Saturday was taken up with a HopeFM fundraising Christmas Fayre – the relevant item to this blog was that by chance the stall I was helping with was next door to Kestrel Medical, the owners of VocalZone. I’d not heard of this before; apparently (according to the testimonials) many musicians and public speakers never do a gig without it.

I tried a free sample – wish I’d had these last Wednesday – might have saved me a day off work sick with a lost voice. They do not contain any anaesthetic at all, merely ingredients that relax the vocal chords without affecting the vocal sound at all – much better than the couple of Sambucas that I know some artists insist on to relax their throat!

Mr Husky, live on air…

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I’m always humbled on a Wednesday night. Humbled that talented musical artists will spend the best part of their evening with me talking about their art, creativity and other things of life.

This Wednesday was the turn of Tom Collier (facebook, myspace), who was in with Connie from Solid Air.  It was fortunate Connie was there, really. My voice had given up (come down with some form of illness), so to various catcalls of “Whispering Bob” and “Mr Husky”, arranged for Connie and Tom to do most of the links and promoter phone-ins.

I’ve reviewed Tom’s album Red Wine And Tangerines in the November 2010 issue of Listed Magazine (see page 44). I make mention of clear  (to me) Pink Floyd overtones – there are also signs of Prefab Sprout influences there…

Tom himself comes across as a quietly confident, passionate man, enthusiastic and eager to make good things happen.

The way he described the album was that critics had suggested it was slightly downbeat and perhaps depressing.  I would disagree, some songs may appear downbeat maybe, but I do find Tom’s tunes hauntingly beautiful.  Whenever I suggested a track to play it was “oh yes, that’s a good one” – and they are, all of them.

We even had a HopeFM exclusive (something Connie always likes as an angle) – the first ever airing of the final incarnation of the album, through including the brand new single Lost Horizons in the show output.

For some reason, the phones seemed incredibly busy –

  • Mark from the Winchester promoting a weekend of musicians’ musicians, beginning with Doug McLeod;
  • Sofi running the debut Mouseboy Productions night at Champions with a CD launch by Nick Harpham.
  • Beca promoting the BHF Red Rock night (featuring some of my fave artists) at Champions.
  • and finally Andy Razz with news of a Cellar Bar gig by my favourite female singer songwriter with band at the moment, Sarah Griffin.

After that packed yet slightly subdued show due to my illness, decided best not to go out afterwards to a gig; dropped in on Andy Stock’s open mic at Chaplins (my now usual Wednesday night haunt) to explain this – Andy had 8 acts wishing to perform, before anyone had touched a note…Missed a good one there.


A Noisy Monday!

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After a brilliant IET lecture about the Lightning Electric Car (125mph, 150 mile range with no engine in sight, purely electric motors) went to my usual source of new bands, Solid Air at the Winchester.

Shadowkey were up first, good and tight, just too loud to be enjoyable – even through my professional earplugs!  Their front man was very lively (despite hiding in the shadows at the side of the stage), making a big thing of getting the audience to participate, which the small number of loyal followers clearly enjoyed. They won me over, anyway.

Voice Of Reason were also incredibly tight (for a local band). Lead man Adam re-introduced himself to me at the end of the gig; we’d met when he was promoting the Bournemouth Comic Relief single in 2008.  Turns out Voice Of Reason are so tight, depsite being new on the scene, as they were formerly …And The Magical 8 Ball Band.  I’d never managed to get along to see this previous incarnation, so was pleased to have been present at this inaugural Solid Air outing for them in their new guise.

Adam play interesting stuff on keys, as well as being a very energetic front man (leaping from keys at the back to solo singing at the front, jumping into the crowd and on the drums, wonderfully entertaining stuff).  Also interesting to see a band that have their stage act nicely tuned – one of the first local bands I’ve seen in a while to have introductory music to which they enter the stage.

Both bands seemed to have a loyal, if small, following, screaming along and responding to all the cues provided by the lead men (or bassists, or whoever chose to drive the audience participation at the time).  Really pleased to have managed to catch both bands, even with the noise issues.  Get rid of the overwhelming volume into something manageable, and here find two bands that clearly mutually respect each other, and could both go far…

Also interesting to note that Steve from The Gnostics (and other bands e.g. Djambo) dropped in to book a slot in a few weeks time – watch out for that one coming up…

So even though only two bands instead of the usual four, pleased I managed to get out to see them, and an early finish to boot!

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