Ant Henson Leaving Party

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Si Genaro @ Ant Henson leaving do, Centre Stage 11 NovSi Genaro is on stage back-announcing Rachel Henson‘s Imaginary Jam Band as I walk in, he then takes the music floor with a couple of surprisingly decent and straightforward tunes – he’s giving the beat-boxing a miss (apart from the last song of six) instead playing and singing his songs au naturel. Something that works well is whistling between his teeth, with a touch of reverb its very atmospheric. Shows that as well as being the performance, he can also be a performer.

Hannah Robinson @ Ant Henson leaving do, Centre Stage 11 NovHannah Robinson starts her set with Monster, and continues with some more great work. Its better hearing her in this folk club venue, even though its noisier than a normal folk club evening, its still quieter than the music pubs and clubs she normally frequents. Her voice is very clear, the guitar work very open and delicate.

Ant Henson @ Ant Henson leaving do, Centre Stage 11 NovAfter a short interval (where I take the opportunity to catch up with some of the great and the good in the room) Ant Henson takes to the stage. I’ve not heard him in such a long time; I realise I’ve missed the rotund sounds from his 12 string when I hear them again.

Ant Henson with Nicky Hann @ Ant Henson leaving do, Centre Stage 11 Nov

He’s inviting various people to join him in songs, Tom Francis starts with him on Djembe, first joiner is Nicky Hann on flute for something fairly contemplative; they explain that she was the one that really got him gigging through a Parisian busking tour years back. Ant Henson and Fran Milner's helping hands @ Ant Henson leaving do, Centre Stage 11 NovLeo joins next, he’s accompanied Ant with percussion pretty much everytime he’s played recently. They all leave and Fran Milner joins Ant, to “cover his mistakes on piano”, as he puts it. He does a cover of an Our Blinkered Eyes song, Glass Eyed Doors. Ant Henson with Tom Flanery & Si Genaro duelling harmonicas @ Ant Henson leaving do, Centre Stage 11 NovNext up are  Tom Flanery and Si Genaro on duelling harmonicas as the pace picks up, such that the music is fast and furious by the time Tom Francis and Leo rejoin on percussion for 20 42, a supposed spoof song that kept its place in Ant’s set as its turned out he likes it.

Ant Henson with Tom Francis, Tom Flanery, Stephen King Leo @ Ant Henson leaving do, Centre Stage 11 Nov

A good evening, and a great send off.

I drop into Chaplins Bar on the way home, and Adam Phillips (Asp, Fish Out Of Water) has the whole bar clapping and hollering as he finishes an energetic song.

Alex Cope @ Chaplins, 11 November

Alex Cope is running the night for Andy Stock, and closes the evening, playing a few covers, and also inserting a lot of his own material, in the style of some of the covers

Spank The Planks Evening

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Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 Oct

Spank The Planks are an Appalachian Dance troupe,

Broken String Band @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 Octaccompanied by The Broken String Band. The Bournemouth Folk Club have given them an entire evening to curate, so we are promised a variety of acts to take us on a journey around the Appalachian region and beyond…

Broken String Band @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctThe band start with their rendition of Turkey In the Straw (or Turkey In The Oven, as they dub it) before an introductory dance from the troupe, followed by a special dance gifted to Spank The planks by a visiting troupe over for Sidmouth Folk festival a few years back. John - Melodion @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctJohn (guitar in the band, though playing melodion here) takes us into the Appalachian valleys, then South America with a couple of tunes before regaling us with a comical rhyming story recital rooted in the North of England.

Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctNext up are the dancers with Mississippi Sawyer. This is a dance originally to the tune of the same name, however the band (nicely contrary) prefer to play the tune Cold And Frosty Morning for this dance. David Lambert - Dulcimer @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctDavid Lambert then regales us with some tunes: Going Over Jordan on dulcimer with melodion accompaniment from John, banjo solo of Kitchen Garden, then Woody Guthrie’s Ain’t Nobody as re-arranged by Billy Bragg.

Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctMore dancing with Old Joe Clark, then North to Ohio with the band playing Big Sciota before a blues journey to the Southern deltas with guitar and harmonica thanks to David and Dick.

Dick & David @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 Oct

The dancers are back for Cotton Eyed Joe, again with a unique musical interpretation. What is most apparent with the dancing is how combinations of simple sets and moves can build into complicated dances

Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctPigs Foot is a tune from Birmingham Alabama, the industrial centre of the Appalachian region, all about putting the pig iron in the furnace to make steel, followed by Copperhead Road, the Steve Earle song about moonshining and drug cultivation. Finally the first half is closed off with a dance to Shortening Bread

The band open the second set with June Apple, and an introduction – we have John on guitar, Steph on octave mandola, Ethan on fiddle, David on mandolin and Dick on acoustic bass. Then a dance, Yellow Rose, the tune of which has been recomposed by fiddler Bob who is sitting out of the band at the moment (arm trouble), yet is here in the audience. David & Dick @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctDick and David then play Red Rooster Blues, this time on slide guitar and harmonica, before Keith Solo - Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctKeith solos a scottish clog dance originating from Fife around the 1900’s.

Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctThe dancers return for Ducks On The Pond, one starts, then each joins in turn before we have all four stepping in time to the tune. Next the band play Shady Grove. Most of these tunes feature the fiddle heavily as the lead melody instrument, mainly with guitar or mandolin being the backup rhythm. Ethan & Steph @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctMore dancing with Arkansas Traveller then some Irish tunes with Ethan and Steph, the reason being Appalachian music is influenced by Irish, Scots Irish, Northern European and native American folk music. The next dance is Cluck Ole Hen; with five dancers this shouldn’t work (normally dances are arranged in pairs) yet it does for this choreography.

Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctThe band then play The Eighth Of January, all about how the Appalachians stuffed it to the British in the 1776 War For Independence. Next is an extra dance that demonstrates the interworking between the dancers themselves, and the band. Three dancers each take it turns to pass a rhythm around, two together and one, then the band come in, all in perfect time with each other. Whiskey Before Breakfast next with the whole troupe as a finale. The encore is the band with a Scottish song, Sleep Soundly ‘Til The Morning. Spank The Planks @ Bournemouth Folk Club 7 OctA great varied night along a good theme.

Catherine Burke Album Launch Party

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Catherine Burke & Band @ Catherine Burke Album Launch Party 29 JanI’m at the Bournemouth Folk Club again for this celebration party for Catherine Burke‘s album launch, and Catherine has roped in a few friends to help out with the musical entertainment. Krista Green opens with her usual mix of great acoustic songs, followed by Ant Lewis doing some Dusty Cuts and Our Blinkered Eyes material, followed by Ele O’Kerwin (billed as 13 year old brilliance, she is 13 so no photo published) performing some amazingly touching keyboard numbers.

After the customary break and raffle to keep the folk club going, the main event of Catherine Burke and her band take the stage to gig the new album. I’ve obviously heard her quite a few times live this past week as she’s plugged tonight’s gig round town. Most of the songs are with full band – string bass, banjo & fiddle, a couple of songs are just Catherine on her acoustic guitar. These latter are the soulful songs, the fuller band tunes tend to be more full on in nature; all songs are pretty much autobiographical being inspired by moments and people in her life.

As expected by the instrument choice, and for those that know Catherine’s music preferences, many of the songs have a bluegrass sound and rhythm, and she rattles the lyrics out fast and furious, yet absolutely crystal clear. There’s also a lot of banter about why the songs are written, and some comments read as innuendo by some in the audience, even innocently intended as they are…there’s plenty of on stage shenanigans too, for example one song was only heard by the band this afternoo, yet one wouldn’t know to hear it, a toggle between E and A minor, Jimmy’s Song.

Krista Green @ Catherine Burke Album Launch Party 29 JanAnt Lewis @ Catherine Burke Album Launch Party 29 Jan

Folk Club – Rex Preston & Miranda Sykes

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Rex Preston & Miranda Sykes @ Folk Club 26 JanI’ve been invited to the Bournemouth Folk Club tonight by one of the promoters, Catherine Burke, as two people she recommended would be right up my street are playing, in Rex Preston & Miranda Sykes. They are an epitomal example of the amazing acts at the folk club – see the folk club website for their upcoming gigs. – Rex is a former local chap (so qualifies for the blog in his own right)

Rex sings harmonies and plays exquisite mandolin work, with very delicate finger picking; he also switches to a bouzouki for some songs. Miranda plays double bass, and has an amazing voice, clear and carrying; a guitar and ukelele are also available to her.

What is impressive about their performance is not only the good tunes, some of their own, plus songs of artists they’ve played with such as Imogen Heap, and other well known tunes (like I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free , otherwise known as the BBC Film 2012 theme). They also move about the stage – its quite engaging to see Miranda move away from the mic to join Rex for an instrumental, as this requires lugging the double bass around to do so.

Kimari Raven & Kat Hattersley @ Kimari Bday 26 Jan

Catherine Burke @ Kimari Bday 26 Jan

Tony Two Dogs @ Kimari Bday 26 Jan

Then on to O’Neills for a more usual night – it’s Kimari Raven‘s birthday and she’s playing as I arrive with Kat accompanying. Tony Two Dogs and Catherine Burke also play while I’m present, before I head home (dropping in on Veetacore in the Cellar Bar, who have stopped by the time I arrive) after another busy night of good music.

Dorset Music Awards Live Heats


I started writing this halfway through the “DMA40”, 41 live bands over one weekend of amazing live music heats, for reasons that will become obvious as other blog posts materialise, I was unable to publish halfway through the weekend.  For those that don’t know, I had been invited to be on the judging panel for this, the most active event ever on the local music circuit.

I’ve spent 12 hours over two days watching, listening to and critiquing 39 bands (1 extra slipped in at the pre-heat stage, 2 didn’t make it), and while the upfront thought of this was daunting (12+ hours?, 40!? acts), during the day itself it’s an absolute delight.  As ever with the Dorset Music Awards, it’s a highly polished event, and somewhat charged (not as highly charged as some of the later stages can get) as many bands here are aware of how important these awards can be to careers.  I take my role in these proceedings seriously, yet hopefully good humouredly – we’ve all got to live with each other after this, after all…

Overall, the absence of ladies was particularly noticeable – particularly for the rock acts, hence I saw very little to differentiate vocally or visually, and just playing your stuff loud and proud isn’t going to help sway opinion.

It’s a little different this year – the bands can ask us for instant feedback after they’ve played; many unfortunately didn’t take this opportunity, however for those who are interested I have one hopefully two “good thing”s, and one perhaps two “room for improvement”s for each act (looking at it, much of these are repeated comments).  I’ll share these “verbal one liners” that have been shared with those bands that asked, Trevor and Richard have asked me not to publicly share anything about any of our thoughts on details (I’ll be writing individually to bands using the contact email the chaps provide).  I’ll also not be talking about who’s got through and so forth.

Judging Notes

There seem to have been an awful lot of rock bands this year, all playing good stuff, and only some providing anything more than just the music – and we are being asked to judge on live performance above all else.  To me, this means being good at performing, drawing in and working with an audience, a bit of stage movement where possible to suit the music and the mood, it’s not just about having good music, as that’s been proved to reach the live heats. As there were so many rock bands, those that captured our attention for whatever means were seen in a different light than those that just turned up and played (probably really good) tunes.

I’ve also seen many of these acts (25/41), some of those many times before, and some I would count as good friends (12/41).  To keep my impartiality, and prove for Richard and Trevor’s sake that I’m keeping impartial, these acts are “marked” harsher than they would normally.  We supply a “Yes, Maybe Yes, Maybe, No” score for each to enable uu to quickly seek agreement on the majority of the 20 that do or doin’t go through, then “haggle / agonise” over the rest.  I deliberately down-change friends to the next value along, and then rely on the other judges to provide their thoughts to put a band through either directly, or into the melting pot.

I also cannot count past performances (good or bad) into the mix.  I purely have to go on what is presented to me on the day.  This is very harsh, because the number of times I’m out mean I’ve seen bands generally play good gigs and bad gigs (that’s why I still keep the blog going after the first impetus, so I can look back at bands to see what I think).  This will often play against a band in these type of do-two-song competitions, as in the back of my mind I think I know they can do better, or worse, than what they’ve done.  E.g. I saw Mobius Strip on the Saturday night, not twigging they’d be back on the Sunday in the line up.  They performed well both times; on Saturday night they had a massively active crowd going for them, which wasn’t there in entirety on the Sunday.

Feedback Comments

As ever, these are my opinions, offered (as ever in my blog) in the interests of encouragement and yet to provide opportunity for improvement.  My opinions aren’t offered to try and pull down or discourage, but in the hope that those that go through will know something to try in the next rounds perhaps, and those that don’t go through perha

Day One

So to some brief notes, in order of appearance, we have:

Sepia Daze – Tough opening as the first band, and did good with this.  Energetic music, would like to see more audience engagement during songs.

Bad Magic – Good solid rock, well played and balanced.

Darren Hodson & The Southern Companion – great South Coast (USA) sound, longest name here, does the “Darren Hodson” bit need to be present? (later discussed it sets them apart from Darren Hodson solo).

States Of Matter – Tidy endings and well conducted to do this. Bit cliche rock. Consider more audience engagement.

Krista Green – Enjoyable.  Visibly get the crowd on your side if you can.

Veetacore – Good 80’s style (retro). Good crowd engagement – looking around etc.  Could smile a bit more.

Escapefrom’98 – Better than last time seen (see last week’s write up).  Good ska/punk and a lot of fun.

Robin Joynson – Good catch of vocal levels (enabling tuning) between songs. Good demonstration of confidence.

Voice of Reason – Lot of fun. Good voice.  Bass player hat entertaining (kept slipping over face).

Estee’s World – What you did would be good for street work, consider finding a DJ for live performance?

Ollie Mutter – Good working the crowd. Would appreciate more interest going on with the guitar work.

Pachango – Awesome.  Never apologise or comment from the stage on how feel about own performance.

The General Public – smashed it (was an amazing performance).  Could Hope (keyboard) stand up?

Sean Hatton (Solo) – Well played, well sung.  Brave and confident doing a new song (and telling us about it).

Know One – Again, another smashed it performance.  Uniforms good (only band noted to have a “look”).

Lets Go Safari – Liked the harmonies.  Good guitar work, but didn’t really “grab” me

Aaron Gregory – Can tell he’s absolutely passionate about the music, yet guitar sounded unclear and “mushy”.

Icarus Falling – Good contrast, and good vocal, though was unsure by the mumbled introduction to songs.

Shaun Gary Palmer – Good vocals and good guitar style, though it sounded “mushy”.

Yellowgroove – Love it. Like the jumping around and the audience incursion.  Normally have a crowd – didn’t see them this time.

Peace Love and Gloves – Good commercial sound, brought a huge crowd (though unsure what they were shouting).  Personally not a fan of the shouted lyric.

Day Two

Simon Lane – Good songs, good vocal range.  Unsure about the use of the music stand.

Dirty Jerkers – Good and loud (not overblown) despite the early start

Blue Stone Walls – didn’t show (think the same band didn’t show last year)

Tom Clements – Want to see again.  would be good for Bournemouth Unplugged (if it runs)

Constellation – Good engagement with the crowd. Second song a winner, unsure about the first (uniqueness)
Monkey’s Uncle – Good crowd winner.  Good harmonies. Cheesey dance, but I like it.

The Devils Rejects – Good songs well played.  Would like to see more stage animation to suit the music (second song better than first). [hard to find on facebook…]

Switchmen – didn’t show

Manikin Time Shark – Like the space they’ve given to each other to solo in.  As this is progressive rock (and niche) consider also dropping keys out for a time too, to make the music more accessible for non-prog fans.

JCJesus – Good bass and violin combination.  Not my preference of musical style but well performed.

Yoofs – Worked on the look re:hair.  Get out there and gain gig experience (easy to say, hard to do I know).

Paint It Blue – Tight band.  Clean guitar work. Hannah is an asset. They noticeably stuck around for much of the day.

Empire Affair – Good tunes and well performed.  Felt they lost the thread through being overblown loud.

Sketchy – Liked the keys work (although they didn’t seem to – used the F word).

Tim Somerfield – Here all day (+++). Good technique, ace timing (counting silence).

Space Ace Robot – What ?!?.  They’re enjoying what they’re doing, though it’s pretty inaccessible – futuristic Jazz.

Mobius Strip – Lots of moving about in keeping with the music.  Need to get the crowd moshing around.

Jack Grace – Like the groove, and like the vocal lines without the band being full on – different.

Pump Action Radio – Good solid rock, well played. Would need to be a bit more animate on stage for me.

The Deltorers – Good vocal work, and OK sounds. The live performance wasn’t stand-out (seen a lot of rock this weekend). [say they’re from Bristol]

Overall Impressions

What am I walking away with from seeing all these acts? Which ones were memorable? Which ones would I like to see go further?

Veetacore impressed me – they were the only band doing what they’d done – and I still have “Dogger Bank” running round my head, despite hearing loads of music since. (I have played this on the show, but even so it’s just memorable). They also one of the groups to feature a female lead, doubly memorable.

Pachango put on a great show – everything seemed to come together for them, though negative comments from the stage at the end spoilt it for me. Remembering back to last year (which I can’t count for the judging part of the job), the performance this time was so much better.

Know One seemed to be the only group that had thought through their appearance with regards a “uniform look” of black shirts and ties, they also played excellently.

Tim Somerfield seemed to have arrived before I did on the Sunday and stuck around for near enough the whole day.  He also played well, though his legendary customary crowd vitally didn’t seem to make an appearance for his performance. I also found out (at the end of the judging process) that he was supposed to have had a fuller band with him

An Audience With Nigel Waite & Friends

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The evening starts with an introduction by Nigel, telling us about SeeAbility (formerly Royal School for the Blind) and the kids and carers that in these times need to find increased sources of funding, which is what this concert is all about.

Les Wild (compere for the evening) sets a mood and announces opener Stan Graham. I feel for Stan, he has a hard job to do in opening both the big bill, and warming up the large crowd that have turned up for this album launch. Pleasantly, the audience need little urging as Stan has a good set of singalong tunes – easy choruses to pock up, and Stan is quietly enthuastic about us joining him – dropping completely out for a refrained chorus so we can hear ourselves as the audience.

Johnny Coppin is invited to take a solo turn next up (he’s been billed as accompanying Nigel, yet hardly needs an introduction)
Obviously well known and liked within the club for good reason, this nationally acclaimed star only plays a couple of guitar tunes and a keyboard song; surprisingly to me the audience also gently join in at appropriate moments. Doing a bit of research later, I discover Johnny produced Nigel’s album, a snippet I’ve missed in the announcements.

I’ve not seen Tinderbox for a long time, so this listening session is long overdue. They play two songs, one from each of their first couple albums, again starting in the singalong mode that the evening has encuraged.
Monique drops a couple of allusions to her pregnancy, with a comment that she’s feeling hormonal and teary – rather endearing though. They finish with a heart rending song from the upcoming fourth album (estimated release near the end of the year). I guess they’ve been asked to keep their patter between songs short, as Dan hardly gets a word in, leaving his fingers performing the guitar magic to do the talking.

Compere Les Wild has his work cut out while the stage is reset for Martyn Windham-Read & Iris Bishop. Iris’ Concertina and Martyn’s voice are a beautifully different combination, before Martin picks up a guitar to add to the ensemble. Nigel interupts the set to ask Martin to insert a 4th track into his set list – this is a pretty tune that could just go on forever – and that is intended to be interpreted both ways! It was a song writing exercise, intended never to be performed, however if one likes it, its wondeful. Of couse, a repetitive tune and words, if one doesn’t get the vibe, can seem to go on forever!

Finally, after the interval and inevitable raffle draw, Nigel joins the stage, with Iris and Jonny to start; eventually Les, Bob Whitley (on blues harp) and Nigel’s daughter Marianne have all taken part at different junctures.

Nigel is charmingly self-deprecating – he quips “normally after the interval there’s the professional artist for the evening – not tonight obviously!”  He’s also comically just slightly clumsy (only a small amount), able to make light of tapping Iris on the head with the guitar by mistake. This continues as a running joke for the rest of the evening…

There are some good stories behind the songs, and interesting anecdotes about the songwriting and recording process, which I judge not able to be shared here, sorry! (despite the title of the post).

The evening has also been a success for SeeAbility, £650 has been raised on the door and via the raffle, in addition to any album sales.

On the way home I drop in to see Antonia Edgeley-Long at Chaplins – she’s headlining the Sunday Session tonight. It’s a rare pleasure for me to hear her solo voice, more often than not she’s joining Voodoo Vegas for a song or two, or fronting her rock covers band Supercharger Heaven. She finger picks, while singing at a pitch which is slightly elevated from her normal speaking voice. Yes OK, I’m a sucker for female vocalists, and I’ve been spoilt tonight with hearing two with exquisite tones with Monique from Tinderbox and now Antonia.

Andy Stock and AJ close the night with a couple of nicely hammed tunes, or perhaps I should say out-of-tunes, as they have a friendly argument about the guitar and blues harps not matching, all in all a very pleasant Sunday evening.

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…