Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Final

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Ali (and later, Martin) from Constellation join me in the studio this evening.  Despite being together and gigging for over a year, Constellation only hit my radar through entering the 2011 Dorset Music Awards, where they reached the Semi Final stage. I’ve written much about them as a result on this blog. 

Having the chat in the studio is enlightening about how they formed from friendships formed at classes in music technology, and how Ali was subsequently recruited as a vocalist.  We also talk a little bit about now old song The Flower Song, and about their supported charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers

The songs played are special exclusives, prepared yet unfinished cuts from their latest recording sessions, a CD to be produced real soon now.  As ever, really enjoyable, made more so by fan interaction via received texts, calls and emails from fans.

I’m then (in slow time) off to the Bournemouth Unplugged Final in O’Neill’s.  Its been a long journey from that first Heat in February, perhaps made more so by the mad rush to get from the studio to the bar in time to hear the first act.  Of the 32 acts entered, many have been amazing, I’ve picked up many new guests for the show. 

Of course there have been some that have been good, but just uninspiring – there are too many people that are picking up a guitar, strumming some chords and putting over lyrics – it’s not as easy as that, but even so need to be something a little bit different to stand out from the crowd. 

Overall, it has made for some nights of amazing music, even if it means continuous cajon playing (the unplugged bit effectively means no drum kits) for percussive accompaniment.  I’ve also been surprised to see my preconceptions blown away on some occasions, when having to structurally break down music into objective categories to define what’s best.

So, four acts in the final, Si Crockett, Chris Woodford, Phil King and Krista Green.  Every one of them plays what many say is their best set ever. The pub is absolutely packed – other artists from the competition, loads of fans of local live music, meaning the atmosphere is electric, and gives one a chance to catch up with nearlyeveryone who’s anyone on the circuit.  Enough of my ramblings, on to the prizes.

ITG song writer award.

This is for the best overall songwriter in the competition.  Martin from ITG productions wants to reward people with good original content and amazing tunes.  Goes to Ant Henson.

TL sound.

This is for PA hire, studio recording time and other related goodies.  Goes to Si Crockett.

Dreadlock photography.

This is for a free photo shoot by one of the upcoming portrait photo stars of the music scene, Old Bloke. Goes to Si Crockett, “for playing the best I’ve ever seen him play”

Purbeck Folk Festival.

Here Cath Burke is looking for an act that will fit particularly well into the vibe of this specific festival.  Goes to Krista Green.

Endorset in Dorset.

Gee starts by saying he isn’t used to and dislikes this judging lark (thanks for the support Gee, we’ve had to do this for 3 months!) and gets involved this time as the festival organiser available.  Goes to Chris Woodford.

New guitar (vouchers).

This was delayed with the main prize as they’re both awarded by Fiona, O’Neill’s manager. Its £350 worth of vouchers for a new guitar, since she wants the receipient to choose one for their style, rather than force something unwanted on them. Goes to Phil King.

Overall winner Bournemouth Unplugged 2011.

Finally we get to the end of the night – it’s been delayed (along with the previous prize) for 10 minutes beyond the others by Ant in the interests of suspense.  Fiona announces the winner as Krista Green, who wins a nice silverware trophy, a string of pub gigs at O’Neill’s bars in London, and rapturous applause.

Well done to all who entered and got through to any stage in the competition, particular shouts to Ant Lewis from Fairplay for organising everything, to Steve from TL Sound who’s been there each week driving the PA system, and to Fiona for setting aside most Wednesdays to allow musos to invade the bar mainly on their terms!  Also fellow regular judges Harry from Chaplins, Tone from bhone for the heats, Cath from Purbeck Folk Festival for sitting in occasionally, and Martin from ITG for taking some heat with me for unpopular decisions.

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Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Quarter Final 4

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Hessian join me in the studio tonight – or rather, four of the five of them.  Tilly (bass) can’t make it to town, yet phones to join into the interview conversation from wherever she is (London, I think).  The band have played other gigs in addition to the times I’ve seen them during the Dorset Music Awards, so there’s ripe material for discussion there. 

They’ve also been spending time recording some tracks – Sam is putting the finishing touches to their latest recording while we’re in the studio together, mixing the vocal takes. As we play it out towards the end of the show, they listen relatively intensely over the studio foldback, understandable since they’ve not heard it before!

We all make a sharpish exit from the studio, as I head off to O’Neills again to some shock news – Boyd and Wain have cancelled their appearance tonight in the Quarter Finals, effectively putting themselves out off the competition. I’m in two minds about this news – one half says that they are such brilliant musos they would provide a lively and enjoyable set. Many I speak to are also of the same mind.

My other voice is asking what is an act playing gigs in the States and who could easily book themselves a set of London sessions doing in a competition like this anyway.

Moot point really, they’ve pulled out, and Joel Gregory has slipped under the wire as act 16 (Saturday Sun also don’t get put forward for missing their Quarter Final)

Again I’m writing my comments on the fly as I hear the acts, in preparation to make statements to the audience here.

Tim Somerfield

Tim Somerfield Bmth UnpluggedQuiet intro – says “start where left off last time then on into different material” – don’t need to tell me that as I probably wouldn’t remember anyway.
2nd song clever chord work putting on syncopation with left hand. Also in 3rd song, and others – waiting for another style.
Obviously has his crowd here, yet not making the most use of them to my mind. Even at the end when I comment on this in my judges verbal response, there’s no reaction. Leads me to think of that line from John Cleese in the parrot sketch – Voomph? That wouldn’t Voomph if it had 2000 volts through it.
OK chat to cover tuning, fast de tune.
Confident patter for stage presence, yet not much else.
Strong clear voice.
Liked chord work on last one, shows a different style from what’s gone before.

Andy Stock Band

Andy Stock BandBefore start – Cast of thousands or so it seems compared to Tim’s solo slot.
Solo start then band come on one by one helps with working out the levels originally.
Like the reworking of a cover – making it yours – sounds like it was rewritten specifically for tonight?
2nd song a bit too long of similar repetition, still I like the personalisation. Sounds a bit muddy on the PA. Awkward when there’s 2 good PA guys in the band. Tight on the musical breaks.
Set seemed too short, turns out they have space for another song (which Andy solos) There’s a lot of talent there, could do with more polish.

Si Crockett

Si Crockett Bmth UnpluggedSi Genaro has lost his harmonicas this very night, so makes a little notice at the start thanking those who’ve rallied round and helped him out – first time I’ve seen him serious for a long time…
Laid back start, turning Ain’t No Sunshine into his own style. 3rd shows off Si Crockett’s voice with some high pitched crooning.
Big Face Reggae starts waking things up a bit, still laid back yet bigger audience reaction
Si C voice and Si G beat boxing save the day for Sunshine, was becoming a bit samey to my ears. MSSB (full title not repeatable here – Radio Rules) wakes up the stage a bit, a bit of action at the last.
A few ‘in’ gags regarding Small Face Reggae and Big Face Reggae (his non-unplugged band)

Joel Gregory

Joel Gregory Bmth UnpluggedBit of a surprise to hear him back.
He’s not doing that much of particular interest on the guitar. His voice is good though – clear lyrics
One very vocal crowd member
Turns out he’s a wildcard re-entry who responded when Boyd & Wain pulled out. This is a little unfair both on him and on others, however competition runners reserve the right etc. etc.

The winners who go through to the semi finals are announced as The Andy Stock Band and Si Crockett, this doesn’t go down too well with those who felt Tim Somerfield played the better set of at least one of those. Where some weeks have had very close results this time there is only a close-ish gap of 3% between each of the acts; I end up taking some time listening to Tim’s right to reply (as does Fiona, the sponsor of the overall competition) anyway.

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Quarter Final 3

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Bit of a hit and miss show tonight – my guests baled on me with about 20 hours notice, so I populated the time instead with many promoters providing details of their wares:

Trev Hill from Dorset Music Awards: final in the O2 Academy this Saturday – unheard of to have local bands in on a Saturday night. Trev also talked about Smokin’ Aces (feat. Mutant Vinyl this Friday).

Tone Foster from bhone: a weekend of fundraising gigs for Julia’s House and Dorset Cancer Fund over the May Bank holiday

Andy Razz from Chaplins: the weekend highlights inc. Andy Stock band supporting Friday night’s entertainments.

Pete from Apples & Snakes regarding Thursday night’s poetry slam competition between Southampton and Bournemouth.

Finally a phone in from Dave of the New Forest Pit Ponies, who will be guesting on the Radio Boscombe show in a could of weeks.

As usual at present, I leave early to dash to O’Neills for Bournemouth Unplugged. Mischa starts and again I’m leaving my judging comments here.

Mischa

MischaVibrant. Great Up stuff
Timed percussion on Air I Breathe
City Breaks improv jam percussion. Good effort & different with the tone poem style. Don’t need to tell us (upfront) its a new untried song – we wouldn’t know otherwise
Only applause from crowd during set, whoops only from me that I can hear!.
Starting to sound samey y 3rd song Memories
Lots of patter from Mischa, including judge schmoozing !
lots (too much?) ukelele compared to cello
Great bop at end with Overworked & Underpaid. Typical Mischa putting his all into it.

Us judges get told off at the end for applying some constructive criticism vocally during our feed back section.
Only nice comments allowed vocally in the pub, it seems.  Specifically we’d mentioned the bit about ukelele rather than cello, and Mischa had changed his set that night as a result of comments from the Dorset Music awards.  My response was to ask him to turn and read the screen (where the Bmth Unplugged logo was displayed)!.

Dan Rumsey

Dan RumseyStill got those untrimmed guitar strings (that I commented on at DMA heats)
Nice choice of progressive chords in 1st song (missed name)
She Wolf different style guitar still similar vocally
Has a (vocal) posse with him, yet not really catching on around the pub (unlike Bob Fletcher’s masterclass last week)
“La’s” are brave and show confidence that hasn’t really been that present so far. 5th song.
Also tuneful wailing going up the octave
His stuff grows on you.

Phil King

Phil KingSounds surprised to have a posse. Starts with Life’s Rich Tapestry, one of my faves of his
Good variety chords, finger work,
Good banter to cover tuning, and noticed the out of tune (+1 tech recovered)
2nd Irish style ringing the tempo changes.
Clear lyrics throughout so can properly judge the song writing ability
Come Together is done in a totally gritty manner, taking a low chord approach rather than the high chord in the riff
Good intro to Iridescent Lightbulbs showing off a range of techniques before launching into a solid yet repetitive sequenced riff, broken by bridges and false endings
Good variety of song choices in the set overall – high originality for that.

David Mansell

David MansellGreat ballad opener – rich
Keeps it to a low key set for all songs
Clear voice, rich resonance on the guitar.
Great story telling through the songs.
Not really demonstrating different styles either vocally or on the guitar
Not the type of music to cut across here, which is a shame as it’s good mellow stuff

 On the night the two acts to gvo through are Phil King and Mischa – the latter only clear by half a point.  I feel a bit churlish as Mischa hasn’t stuck around, I suppose being ill and yet still perfoming like he has has to be taken into considedration!

Bournemouth Unplugged Quarter Finalists

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Fairplay logoI’m at the Bournemouth Unplugged Heats results party, huge numbers of musicians here – most of the heats entrants plus many others.

Yellowgroove Bmth Unplugged PartyYellowgroove are the house band for the evening, they kickoff (eventually) in fine form with their former single (that I played on the show tonight) Son Of A Working Man. They merge straight into These Times, no breaks to speak of, just segues galore. Hero Wanted starts like I’ve never heard before, Jack putting in some awesome beats to get the crowd tapping and clapping along. Instead of stopping between songs to call the shots, Simon talks over the intros, which are extended for him to do so, yet not turned into drawn out affairs – there is interest here to keep the ears tickled, and I’m loving it!

Speaking to them afterwards, they’re really pleased to be able to play in front of many fellow musos, many of which (asking around) haven’t seen them before.  I’m really pleased at the way their sound and stage presence has developed, even if slightly annoyed at the excessive volume through the inappropriate house PA.  I’m increasingly finding that overegged live sound never shows off a band to me in the best light.

Anyway, here’s you really wanted to see, those artists that are through to the Quarter Finals (starting next week).
They are annouced in four groups throughout the evening, and there are two artists with drawn scores, so rather than drop both to make 15, Fairplay have awarded both the chance to go to the next round.  In drawn order, we have:

Bob Fletcher,
Boyd & Wain,
Dave Mansell,
Saturday Sun,

Si Crockett,
Tim Somerfield,
Phil King,
Andy Stock Band,

Coke Can Jack,
Krista Green,
Tony Two Dogs,
Ant Henson,

Dan Rumsey,
Chris Woodford,
Jonny Neesom,
The Sabres,
Mischa,

I’m surprised at some results – disappointed the female vocalists are only represented by Krista (who’s heat I missed), as are many of the other ladies I talk to (understandably – means many of them missed out). 

Another thing is the number of Chaplins & Cellar Bar regular artists that have made it through. I try accusing some them of jingo-ism, until it’s pointed out to me that very few of them turned up to each other’s heats to vote, so they must have gone through on crowd-winning accolade only. 

I’m fairly sure the judges votes can’t have been exclusively favoured towards these artists – I know mine weren’t, even though I can’t explicitly remember everyone of the (4 scores *4 acts/heat  *7 heats = 112!) scores I’ve submitted since February (I missed just one heat as a judge).

I must say I like the idea of the crowd vote at the time of the artist appearance, linked with an objective judged opinion.  Means its a little harsh on out of towners (Logan Carter, Saturday Sun), however as the latter have shown (they were in the heat I missed so I don’t know the crowd size) it is possible to do enough to go through.

Congratulations to all who made it this far, and big love to those who didn’t.
With the astounding quality of the majority of the 32 acts seen, the only advice I can give to those who didn’t make it is keep working at the live stuff – looking back through my notes on here, there were only a handful of artists that I thought weren’t at a well-above average level, and all clearly deserved to be there.

Sunday Best & Sessions

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Very quick post to suit the very short night. 

Krista Green facebook photoAfter a church music group practice I start at O’Neills where Fairplay have informed me Krista Green is playing.  When I walk in she’s playing mellow songs, her voice is really strong which I guess is as she does a lot of busking around town.

I missed Krista’s Bournemouth Unplugged heat (the only one I couldn’t make) so I think the last time I heard her was when she made an appearance on the radio show. Its a shame the place is half empty as she’s giving what I consider the performance of a lifetime – as I’ve not seen her play before I don’t know if she’s alsways like this, but the songs, though soulful, are still uplifting.

After covering All Right Now she finishes with a punchy self-penned song, percussive beating as each chord is played, with the chords being staccato-stopped as a result. Really enjoyable. She’s playing at Mr Kyps On 14 April and would be well worth catching there if you can – message her for a ticket.

I’ve also been chatting with Steve from TL Sound. Looking at the site he has some good material to say he’s only just started doing what he’s doing now with the dedicated studio set up, although he’s been mixing for a long time.

On the way back I drop into Chaplins very briefly – Antonia Edgeley-Long has played, Bex Grant is playing, Tony TwoDogs is waiting to go. A few brief words with Andy (Japan, Andy?) and I’m gone.

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Heat 7

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Bmth Unplugged 2011My guests tonight are Amity Road, they have 3 gigs in 3 days coming up. They are a lot of fun to talk to, both on and off mic, we spend a lot of time talking about sooo many differnt topics.

I have very little pre-prepared material to go on, my research notes are a ripoff of what I said about their Dorset Music Award Heat appearance:  Movement and action with the music. Lee (bass)  good moves. Good crowd management. Loud heavy rock, very musical. Getting crowd to clap along first time seen here, and liked it. Already had a crowd, rare for 2nd stage, then pulled more across. Audience responded well to clapping in song, and afterwards.  Drummer in arm cast !?!?  good soloing guitar when not solo vox.

They have a lot of texts and emails coming in to the studio – they’ve plugged facebook hard before joining me on the station. We only get to play 3 of their CD tracks, and Karl performs Angels solo live acoustic, filmed by both of the others – he wants some content for youtube or something – while they’re discussing it I’m on mic promoting choice gigs. I left my phone outside the studio so couldn’t take a snap of this for your pleasure.

After what seems far too short a time I head off to Bournemouth Unplugged at O’Neills, penultimate time for the heats.

Kimari Raven Bmth Unplugged

Kimari Raven starts, she has some upbeat songs, and a strong voice and compact vocal range to sing them with, which suits what she’s doing. Her fave song she chooses to cover is The Moody Blues Knights In White Satin, which also happens to be one of my faves. She does a really god job of making it her own, even though she afterwards admits she had a number to choose from, and decided on that one more or less at the last minute…

Johanna Stahr Bmth UnpluggedJohanna Stahr is accompanied by one third of Mother UkersJonty on ukelele, which is different to many of the other acts in the competition. She is playing her usual material on chorded guitar, with Jonty providing some flavour with harmonies and melodies. As Johanna doesn’t normally play covers , she also switches to Ukelele for their take of The Carpenters (They Long To Be) Closer To You. Again her songs are upbeat up to a point, Si Genaro is invited up for her ballad Sunshine to add some flavour, and the crowd love it.

Si Crockett Bmth UnpluggedSi Crockett starts with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy, featuring Si Genaro on blues harp again. It creates a laidback tone to the set, and allows the chaps to harmonise with each other in the choruses. Nacho Jase joins on congas and the summery vibe continues, in a very laid back fashion, yet absolutely belted out. I know Si C can really kick things up, even just on his own, tonight with the additions of Genaro and Jase he’s keeping it low key. Despite this the place is buzzing with his compelling tunes.

Tim Somerfield Bmth UnpluggedTim Somerfield closes and has clearly brought a big crowd with him judging by the noise despite some now empty tables. I last heard him some six months ago, and said then I’d want to see him again. I like what he’s doing; chord choices and progressions are unexpected, what sound like dominant sevenths and minors create an interesting contrast. He’s also throwing in chopsa nd staccato chords, and at one point breaks into some intricate finger work on the fretboard. Mountain by Biffy Clyro is his cover for the evening.

Another night of good playing and entertainment, making it so hard to judge between the acts – looking over my notes I can only find a one or two point difference across the criteria we’re asked to score under.

As is customary on my way home, drop into Chaplins and The Cellar Bar with Steve for a catch up with the open mic, which while it’s finished still has a lot of people talking music with guitars.

Show & BU Heat 6

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My guests tonight are The Luminaires, with a cut direct from the studio of their debut EP. Its still in final mixdown stage, so the track that’s bought in to play has not been heard by some of the band even, it’s that fresh. They were last in the studio with me in November, after wowing me with their debut performance at the Oxjam take over; then our topics ranged across all sorts of topics; this time the chat is slightly more focussed – probably as band savant Dave is keeping a lid on himself and his wide-encompassing knowledge.

Afterwards I head onto the now familiar jaunt for Bournemouth Unplugged, O’Neills.

Jonny Neesom Bmth UnpluggedJonny Neesom draws the opening straw tonight. He’s got an interesting style, playing plucked open chords while providing an overwash of MC’d chant rap. Previously I’ve only heard him do 2 or 3 songs at an open mic, to hear him perform a fuller set is good, and shows he does have more songs in his repertoire, with more or less similar styles. When he sings, its very much tone poem style, really allowing a focus on the originality of the lyrics.

Chris Woodford is second. A very quick setup ( and tune up) and he’s in. The first chords still the place, he pauses, one can hear the silence spread across the room, before he launches into his now familiar routine. I’m sort of au fait with the material, yet I never know if I’ve heard each piece of his before or not. It’s varied both in dynamic and style, in that there is chord picking, chord struumming, finger picking (with either hand), taps, pulls, and then when one thinks there is no other style to show off, he slips into lap steel mode and throws in the other moves he’s known for. Winner of the 2008 Dorset Music Award, he’s no doubt on a cert to go far in this competition. Foo Fighters’ Everlong is his choice of cover – yet he’s made it totally his own.

David Mansell Bmth UnpluggedPenultimate act David Mansell starts with a little introduction, promising us a range of genres, and a (very short) story behind his opening song. I’ve not heard David play for a long time. He’s a traditional guitarist compared with the first two acts, he is not coming across as the singer songwriter-guitarist he really is. No sign of the endless strumming here, we are presented with some well-orchestrated chord sequences and foot tapping rhythms, accomplished jazz guitar and blues beats.

Shanon Fontaine Bmth UnpluggedShanon Fontaine closes the evening. She’s bright both with the greeting and the appearance. I must admit to having seen shanon around in crowds at gigs and speaking with her, yet not knowing she played. She has an open picked chord style for verses, pretty much a perfect accompaniment to her isolated voice. Yet for the choruses the now sliced chords pick up the pace and her voice boosts accordingly. In another song she hits some staccato chops that again augment and complement. Shanon is also experimenting with a loop/delay pedal, very basic usage but it helps provide extra depth to the deeper tones she’s singing this time around – this range seems to suit her better than the higher end she’s used up to this point.

Another enjoyable acoustic musical evening courtesy of Fairplay and Bournemouth Unplugged.

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