Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Semi Final 2

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Victor is in the studio with me tonight – eventually. He’s been suffering from car trouble, which is a little worse when said car is also one’s home when away from home.

Irrespective, he makes it for just over an hour, and what a delightful time it is, wandering all over as he reminisces about places he’s been, including national TV on his parents native Malta, where he spent his early years.

We play much from his latest CD Moonbeams, and hence talk some about the recording sessions (mainly all just one take, in a garden) and the reasons behind the songs. 

At the end I head off to O’Neill’s for the last of the judging sessions for Bournemouth Unplugged.  As ever, the notes here are those I jotted on the night for comment.

Krista Green

Krista GreenGood reception, working it by encouraging the crowd with clapping etc Well received throughout, yet not going absolutely nuts
Clear vocals, breath-y where it matters (2nd song)
Good eye contact
Walking Talking Catastrophe I like the harp-like sound she produces

Good variety of standard styles, pick, strum, percussive, staccato, well executed and chilled out
Overall a very clean set and pleasant, doesn’t grab me with excitement, as it is so chilled.

Wakes things up a bit with the last song through loop pedal use, yet tells us its an experiment so of course it doesn’t work out first time around (or 2nd or 3rd 😦 )
Once programmed up it is effective, and I like that she’s persevered with it – must be first use over a PA too. Unfortunately it all goes horribly wrong at the end, yet might have still worked had I not then picked up the “oh that didn’t work”!
So awards to trying, and I hope she carries on developing it as it will bring an extra dimension to her already accomplished set

Johnny Neesom

Johhny NeesomVery clever stuff, fast rapping over the plain chords
However, he’s running out of breath a bit (at least he recognises this) Again, clear vocals (they need to be as his performance hinges on that)
Not overfond of the near continuous swearing – he’s already had one song banned by the pub from previous appearances.
Sitting down is never going to deliver the energy that standing can deliver, even though this mode suits the songs he’s playing, which puts a sombre mood into things, even though he goes down OK with the crowd. He sticks to three songs as the last one Lullaby is symphony length.
As its a symphony style, there are multiple phases, picking, tapping, percussion, strumming, plucking, then harmonics as if a lap steel – all very open and laid back – it helps that I’d heard this at a session a few days back, as its somewhat familiar in places, albeit its perhaps 12-15 minutes long

Andy Stock Band

Andy Stock BandFirst impression is they’ve all dressed smart – except crockett. Even AJ has put a suit on for the gig!
Andy starts solo, then brings the rest of the band in with a “let’s do this thing”
Musically there’s a lot going on, and it takes some time for all instruments to be picked up.
Good bass lines and runs from Johnny, good guitar work from Andy, can’t really hear AJ’s harp or Ben’s banjo, and overall thiings aren’t really together.
For 3rd song AJ sings and Ben switches to violin, Andy joins AJ in a gravelly harmony
Things start coming together with a song castigating the modern tech life where we speak loads on facebook and through phones, yet can seem to be in a pub on our own a lot. The banjo is more audible, other things are less intense, and the song is a proper lament.

Phil King

Phil KingIts funny, I find myself willing him to pick things and kick them off, which I know he can do. Its Amanda (friend) that starts things going, trying to get people up and dancing.
Phil threatens to kick things off the stage literally, as Si Crockett has left his cajon on stage, comments about which get a good laugh
He then proceeds to give us a show and a half, good styles, good songs, good voice, good set.

Judges Result

This time (compared with last week) it’s fairly clear cut, all judges are of the same opinion.  The two Finalists are Krista and Phil, so congrats to them. When the results are announced this time, there’s no massive barracking from the crowd.  Its a shame it was so obvious, yet we still had four good performances.

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Luminaires @ Solid Air

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The LuminairesThe support band haven’t made it, so individual members of The Luminaires are performing short acoustic sets to fill in the time. By the time they take to the stage, a sizable crowd have turned for this last gig for a while. Drummer Dave is travelling for a few months so this is a bit of a farewell party.

As alluded to, these guys are all solo acoustic artists, and when they come together as The Luminaires something good happens, they are one of those genuine bands where the total is greater than the sum of the parts.

The Luminaires - pen workEven on the Cellar Bar’s small stage, they manage to put on a decent stage show, Aaron having just about enough room to put on the front man act while Joel, Spencer and Steve create some good sounds behind him. Aaron also shows off some newer vocal talents, working with Joel (and occasionally Dave) munged together by Conrad’s talents on the desk effects.

At the end of the night, one of the more dedicated fans shows off some nice pen work – Dave wants the photo for posterity.  Good gig, good crowd, and a good send off for Dave.

Solid Air – County Hospital Gig Hit

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Mr NodgeMr Nodge is on stage. His vocals are clear and distinct, showing some good song writing, accompanied by pleasurable guitar. Team Fabulous were on first, the night is crowned by an altered line up of County Hospital. Starting with a shortened Mystery Shopper as a three piece, joined by extra guitar for some furious and fast action in Houston We Have A Problem, up to a five piece with swapped drummers while we have a switch to melodica and ukelele for quieter Holiday.

County HospitalThey stay in this guise for a couple more songs. PJ Harvey back to single guitar, this time with trumpet accompaniment before we’re back to the 3 piece for Robot. With County Hospital’s experimental nature, there is a lot of clever and subtle music going on once you deconstruct the complexities, and its always a great show.

Til Death Do Us Part features a new instrument – iPad2 working as a synth making some really clever and interesting music and noises all of itself. Its not obvious that this is new, even though it was only considered a couple of hours before the gig.

The band finish by inviting audience members on stage continuing their finale jam, while they grind along to the groove in the crowd. County Hospital gigs can be misses if the experiments don’t work out – I’m pleased to have been at one of the best hits ever.

The Frequency on Hope FM

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The Frequency are a four piece band, one of those rare acts that are able to transcend the full on rock out sound and their acoustic set with equal panache. They are one of the few bands I’ve been happy to feature on the show twice in recent succession; making their first appearance on the show in February, they were on again on 18 May.

The Frequency On HopeFMThe reason was a change in name and consequent sound and style from their previous incarnation, and their latest EP “High Society”. Acoustically they have 3 guitars and percussion, and its in this guise they join me in the studio -sans percussion, Phil being away at the time. Austyn Brown is the main man, however its Dan and Dan that steal the show, Dan Hammond-Smith particularly seems to know more than I do about the music scene, and hence makes their whole interview spark with life.

They are full of in-jokes, yet disarmingly include the listener (and me) into their lives and lifestyle, in a manner that at once enthuses and amuses. I seem to consistently interject that The Frequency have invaded the studio, since they barely need me to question them in the interview. Their songs are treated with aplomb, are differently produced live versus the EP versions, so have no hesitation playing them back to back with each other.

Manager, promoter and agent Norbert Canine also joins us, so I’m able to probe the background life of the lads too, which makes a nice change – he is totally sold on the guys, even though he’s missing the big football game to join us. The photo shows them in live session, and I find the two hours has gone far too quickly. They are taking a break from gigging, yet have a major exclusive to announce live on air – big news as they’ve been selected to play for a showcase organised by Alan McGee in London, supporting Alabama 3; it shows their generous nature to include such a major announcement for our show.

This gig will be on Saturday 1 July, coach transport to the gig and entry is all being included in the cover price they’re offering, check out their website or facebook for booking details. Another great show, thanks to the calibre of The Frequency.

May Focal @ Smokin’ Aces

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Smokin’ Aces is a great little bar – its obviously a good place to hang out, many people I don’t recognise as musos are here just enjoying what’s going on. The only blights are the abysmal lack of free parking at 10 pm in the town centre, and an exhorbitant £1.50 for half a glass of squash.  Just a short report tonight…

Isobel Thatcher

Isobel Thatcher Smokin AcesShe’s on when I arrive, she’s got a great voice, she’s also sickeningly young with a huge amount of talent. She’s just playing an acoustic guitar and singing, but I’m doing her an injustice with that description, definitely worth seeking her out again.

Natalie Betts

Natalie Betts Smokin AcesBelied by the name as this is a four piece band, Natalie leading on acoustic guitar and voice, with bass, drums and accompanying female vocal. They are playing good stuff too, voices working well in harmony. At the end they cover Teenage Dirtbag, its rhythmic, and an amazing difference to the original showing their creativity.

Vida

Vida Smokin AcesThese are the house band for Focal evenings. Three incredible ladies with amazing individual voices, combining their talents together and having a good time with it. Oh – there’s Karl & Rio playing for them to sing against. The ladies being Kristy, Elena and Natalee, they all have their various heritages, indeed Kristy and Elena were in much missed funk band Otto together.

Vida Smokin' AcesThey take turns leading each song, with the other two placing harmonic Ooohs and Aaaahs accordingly, or singing a choral lyric, again harmonised. Their cover of In The Air Tonight is incredible, each takes a different harmony, combined singing a capella, plus taking one line at a time solo, while still in their harmonic key.

As Karl gently brings the music in the verse is more poetised than sung, and we get two drum ‘ins’. The thing I really like is the clear communication between the ladies, signals showing counts, going high or low, and ordering their voice parts. Brilliant.

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Semi Final 1

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Solid Air HopeFM Kimari Raven Sofi ReedLiveWire Live! with Solid Air

My guests tonight are the delightful ladies Kimari Raven and Sofi Reed; Solid Air’s Conrad is my regular guest host. We spend a lot of time talking about the Oxjam fundraiser just been, where over £1300 was collected from a single day event.  There’s also a lot of focus on upcoming gigs, Sofi has one on Thursday at the Winchester, and Conrad is featuring Kimari at Monday’s Solid Air in the Cellar Bar. There are other things he’s looking forward to, we also feature some tracks from his archives looking back, and fresh music he has – it’s great having Conrad on the show as he has such a different outlook than myself on artists and music.

Embodied microphones!Sofi and Kimari have brought guitars with them, so we are serenaded – unfortunately for me, they don’t do one of their duets in the studio, however its fairly clear they’re quietly singing along to each other. We also have a bit of a laugh about Sofi’s elastic face – she pulls the most wonderful expressions while she’s concentrating on performing.

The first photo is while Kimari is playing Monster, the second of their faces obscured by the microphones as we’re talking about Sofi’s expressions. As can hopefully be gathered all in all it’s a fun time in the studio, and we head off together to O’Neills for the first of the two Bournemouth Unplugged Semi Finals.

Mischa

Mischa BU SF1Mischa is first up, he is active and moving, with just enough of a story between songs to keep interest before getting boring. There’s lots of noise in the pub, but he’s overcoming it. All through his set there’s lots of applause from all over the pub – I’m at the back for the first part of his performance and the activity is clearly visible from where I am, let alone from the judges table at the front. 

He has his lumberjack-esque looks with the check shirt, I’m really loving the energy all three are putting into it – there’s also more cello this time.  He goes for the growling lyric option in Overworked and Underpaid, which I feel works for the music and the performance he’s giving, though I think other judges disagree with me on this.

Chris Woodford

Chris Woodford BU SF1He’s brought two guitars with him tonight, yet starts playing on just one, leaving us some anticipation for what’s coming up.  He moves on into playing the harmonics by sliding the guitar on to his lap, dobro style.  Halfway through we hear the second guitar, before he uses a mobile phone to create some industrial sounds on the first guitar – while I’m not sure what that’s about, it’s something different and experimental, which I like.  He gives a big finish, huge volume and a huge energetic shout “Come on!” as he reaches his crescendo and ends.  The crowd react accordingly.

Bob Fletcher

Bob Fletcher Korozyf BU SF1In my mind I bet he’s thinking “How to follow that”, My answer to myself is by being the best that you can, he’s giving some good lively strumming then beat boxing, getting some reaction, not just from his crowd (although they start things off).  He performs a slow quieter song (with permission from the crowd, which is a nice touch) – this is brave and he pulls it off, +1 for originality!

For a couple of songs Korozyf joins him for MC’ing, then Bob gets the crowd clapping along before throwing things into a loop pedal and building a huge sound as a result.  He turns the loop volume down at the end using some fancy foot work while still singing – not seen that before, normally people stoop to control them, interrupting their unlooped playing to do so – this allows Bob to continue playing and is an impressive touch, hard to do and he pulls it off.

The inevitable Tom Jones is performed, and this time he rings the changes by not standing on chairs etc, but just wanders around a small part of the crowd, I like this as I expected him to do the same as before, changing it like that shows he can be flexible while still doing an impressive show.  Definitely my choice act of the evening.

Si Crockett

Si Crockett BU SF1Si is doing his usual material, of which much has previously been said.  We are treated to harmonies from Si Genaro, not just harmonica. Talking of the latter, he’s got “new shiny ones since his last ones got nicked”, as he puts it. Nacho Jase on Congas is putting on his own little show at the back – I later refer to him as Nutjob Jase as a result of his acting as “a yob at the back” – good fun.

Si also plays a slower song compared with the rest of his set, my difficulty this time is that while the three of them are tight as ever, they seem to have changed tonight into three individuals playing together, rather than a band (which was how Mischa felt like). Sunshine takes things up slightly before Cheeky Monkey rocks the place – there’s a hint that Genaro’ll go off on a 30 min solo, he doesn’t, and they move into last song Big Face Reggae, in all a brilliant show, I just feel not one of the best ones they’ve done.

Judges Result

We then move into counting up our scores, and adding an element for the crowd vote (which has been re-introduced for these rounds).  As ever we have been marking out of ten on Originality, Song Writing Ability, Technical Ability and Stage Presence/Audience Interaction.  The crowd vote adds another 10, 8, 6 and 4 in order of most votes received, making it 20% of the total.  There is an additional “clapometer” style score out of 5, and a “star quality Y/N ” for us to pick our favourite two.

I’m surprised to find that we have one act clearly ahead of all the others, the other three just have 0.5% between them, all scores are near the 150 mark (max points available 180 as we have four judges tonight).  We have to go to another (quieter) room to deliberate, as some of us aren’t happy about how these have panned out, and we know how important it is to get this correct.  Even so, we know that our results aren’t going to be popular, as the one with the most crowd votes (Bob Fletcher) has not been selected.  We’ve all had to make compromises in our choices, we agree to abide by our group choice, even if we personally disagree with it.

The finalists selected tonight are Chris Woodford and Si Crockett, so big congratulations to them, and big shouts go out to Mischa and Bob Fletcher, who did everything that was required and more, but then that’s what sucks yet is what competition is about, I guess.

The difficult part comes from the 15 minutes after we annouce this unpopular result, as some very vocal people think we’ve made the wrong decision.  I just try to take the flak from my mates and move on, although Fiona (O’Neills manager) has to step in at some point as things are getting passionately verbal between people.  Funny that I seem to be the only judge around at this point – makes me rather unpopular! 

Its a shame this mars the three hours of absolutely amazing music that have made the rest of the evening an entire delight for me.

Petra @ No Ticket Needed

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Petra WCC stageA noisy Sunday evening expected – rock band Petra are in town for a one off UK gig, diverted from the O2 Islington. I’m out with Charlie, a friend from church who’s also a Petra fan

We have a short introduction from Julian the promotor for this gig, then the band walk on. The crowd are really up for this, seems many of them are regular attenders at the church that meets in the venue.

Big lighting system on the stage, and a good size means the band can wander about at will, although only front man Greg X. Volz is doing this at the start. The large amount of continuous fog and smoke makes for a great light show, yet sucks for any photos I want to take to give an impression of the night.

Drummer (Louie Weaver) is on possibly the highest riser I’ve seen in town, the floor is at chest height, meaning the kit towers over the left hand side of the stage. The keyboards (John Lawry) are to the right, alongside, on a slightly lower riser, such that their head height is the same, seems a strange arrangement, but allows them to look at each other I guess.

Petra WCC GregBass (Mark Kelly) and guitar (Bob Hartman) are at the front on each side, giving Greg a lot of space to hang about in. And boy does he make use of this, leaping about on the spot, getting the crowd to join in. Not bad for a bunch of old boys, who look younger than they are, but who later reveal they’re in their 60’s (just).

Bob switches around on guitars, from electric to acoustic, and we start getting slightly gentler with a soft synth intro from John while Greg does a little talk about the Christian life.

There are a lot of these little soliloquies, all encouraging, some mini preaches, some small examples of life on the road and how God upholds them through difficulties. All these life examples get appropriate responses from the audience. Mark (bass) shares how he lost his mum while the band were touring, and how their song Grave Robber helped him through that time – a reminder that death has been overcome, and any separation we have in this life is only temporary as a result.

I’ve not said much about the music, they are in a soft rock phase by this time (halfway through Grave Robber). The first three are punchy rock, verging on the hard, and up tempo, they include Second Wind and More Power To Ya. As would be expected for a touring band of international acclaim they are tight, lead vocals strong and clear, harmonies from any of bass, guitar or keys. Greg also wails with vibrato, still perfectly in tune.

Adonai segues into Back to the Rock then we’re back to the up-tempo songs after those two slow ones. Then an alternation of slow and uptempo, such as All Over Me and God Pleaser, each one packed with a message.

Greg is so obviously enjoying himself its a real pleasure to see. He’s also well versed in stage craft, a lot of looks and talks are to the whole house, including up to the balcony. There’s also no sign of a setlist anywhere on stage, just floor boxes and wireless systems. Greg also brings the band in and out, or is it the band bring themselves in and out, and he’s just postulating accordingly?

Petra WCC duelWe’re into Judas Kiss now. Halfway through John steps down and engages in a keys vs guitar duel with Bob. Awesome stuff.

Greg announces the reason why they decided to reform after his 25 years absense: to reach those who would believe in God yet are missing out from being linked into in churches – he coins the phrase Refire, not retire.

For their encore they play Stand Up For Jesus, and get the crowd to sing the refrain Without Him We Can Do Nothing. They are called back for a second encore an so finally finish with Let Everything That Hath Breath.

Afterwards we head to O’Neills to catch a drink; Ant Lewis, Kimari Raven and Steven Pritchard are performing, so we stop by and say hello. All in all an amazing night, big thanks to Julian and No Ticket Needed for putting the gig on, to Charlie for the company, and to Petra for trouping and doing a UK gig despite the hassle over it all.

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