Oxjam Takeover 2011 Saturday 22 October

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Oxjam 2011 logoIt was at Oxjam last year that the idea was first asked of me (by the lads from much missed Bel Casino) to write up the gigs I go to, to help promote the bands I see and big up this amazing music scene.

Now one year on, this blog has grown its own shape, and the Oxjam takeover is bigger and better than ever. Its all started for 2011 at On The Rocks, where the Grubnium DJs are starting things off, and 60 Million Postcards, where I’ve come down for an acoustic afternoon with Ness.

Si Genaro @ Oxjam - 60 million postcardsJohn Llewellyn is just finishing, Sofi Reed is just heading out having started things off, and Si Genaro takes to the stage. He’s playing some more laid back and contemplative numbers, perhaps as its an afternoon chill; Ness likes that he has a different style to many other artists. Si Genaro with Kimari Raven @ Oxjam - 60 million PostcardsAt the end he’s joined in a duet by Kimari Raven, and final song has MC Jon on stage with him.

Tim Somerfield @ Oxjam - 60 Million PostcardsTim Somerfield takes Si’s place, again staying chilled at the start. Saying he’s chilled though, there’s a lot of fast left hand fretwork going on in conjunction with the chorded right hand. Tim picks up the pace and goes more upbeat toward the end, making more of the crowd that have turned up for him.

Chris Woodford @ Oxjam - 60 Million PostcardsThe penultimate artist this afternoon is senor Woodford, just him and his 12 string guitar, playing it as brilliantly as ever, though he seems to only do a short set.

Krista Green @ Oxjam - 60 Million PostcardsKrista Green dashes in, cold off the street having busked for a while, provides great musical entertainment, yet its time for us to leave, having been here for a few hours, Ness needs to get home and I prepare for the night to come…

Sofi Reed @ Oxjam - SpyreI start the night at The Spyre, where Sofi Reed is kicking things off for the evening, having also started it all earlier at 60 Million Postcards. There are a few lighting and power problems – as I walk in Sofi ends her first song with no PA, which she wittily and humourously blames on my walking in, in this intimate environment. She plays favourite Breathe, then Broken Windows. As she starts the latter, the room descends into darkness as everything trips out. She soldiers on totally alone, in the dark, and still sounds fantastic!

MC Pat Page with County Hospital
Ed Pope back in Bournemouth

County Hospital @ Oxjam - WinchesterOn to The Winchester, where County Hospital are in full swing. They play their first song they ever played here in the Winch at their first gig, Mystery Shopper. The enigmatic Ed Pope is back in town, giving it large on the drums, its also great seeing Tim so relaxed and enjoying himself at this first County Hospital gig in town for a while. Luke on bass seems just one big grin. Pat Page joins them for one song as a guest MC, something different again, while Tim mucks about on an iPad. Slipping into their closer, Clare joins the stage to add some vocal changes to what has possibly been the best and most intense performance I’ve seen them give, ever.

Not Made In China @ Oxjam - Smokin AcesThe happiest band in Bournemouth, probably (Not Made In China) are in Smokin Aces starting off the nights festivities. DJ Trev from the Blind Pig Hot Swing Floor Show is hosting this evening. Not Made In China start as they mean to go on, straight into an African style guitar led swing / calypso. Trevor Hill introduces Not Made In China @ Oxjam - Smokin AcesThey also have some great harmonies going on.

Martin Roberts - Safari Park @ Oxjam - WinchesterBack to The Winchester and Safari Park (yet another band the irrepressible Martin Roberts has formed) have replaced Powdered Cows on the bill. I’ve not heard this 3 piece before, all three sing, Martin is on bass with this one. They are playing eminently accessible music, tuneful and enjoyable, not at all the quirky yet fun material I was expecting from knowing the other acts Martin is behind.

Trac Pawley introduces Mischa @ Oxjam - SpyreOn again to The Spyre. Trac Pawley of Language, Timothy! is hosting the Spyre, with The Chairman providing musical interludes. Masters Of None (Chris Woodford and Jeven) are halfway through their set, making good magic on their dual guitars. Masters Of None @ Oxjam - SpyreIts all instrumental, which makes it all the more special, especially since Chris takes it on himself to barrack some of the audience (well, Mischa and myself) in this great venue. 

Mischa @ Oxjam - SpyreMischa is on next, he’s lost his Merry Men this time and is performing solo, however he’s promised a few changes to his set as a result. He starts strong, announcing a feed line I gave him regarding DMA (billed as soloist and came with a band) whereas now he’s billed with band and is himself. Nice when people take what you say and reuse it ! Back to the music, as expected he’s animated and energretic, even though he’s come back from Devon, just for this gig. The Bands That Saved My Life is a song I don’t think I’ve heard before, though I must have done, full of angst yet still upbeat and happy. Love it.

Spiders @ Oxjam - WinchesterSpiders are another new band to me, they are playing good solid rock pop when I walk in to The Winchester. Strong drums and bass work with guitar riffing over the top. These guys then grab Ed Pope for his sax skills and they break into a form of jazz funk number for his appearance. The two guitarists are sharing vocals across songs since both have decent voices. We also have some dance moves being busted at the front of the crowd, good stuff.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.230707500316938.61483.100001330690156&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=234519013269120&set=a.230707500316938.61483.100001330690156&type=3&theaterI catch the last 3 songs of Empire Affair‘s set at Champions. I’m personally pleased to see a largish crowd here too. The lads are giving it large and loud, I’m pleased I made the detour to visit. Neil is doing just about everything he can to inject energy and verve into the performance, which the others resolve with their pumping tunes.

Mutant Vinyl front line @ Oxjam - 60 Million PostcardsI arrive at 60 Million Postcards in time for Mutant Vinyl‘s set, just missing the ends of both Kentucky Fight Club at Smokin Aces, and Dirty Jerkers here at 60 Million Postcards. Mutant Vinyl announce this as their reunion, and its a bit different than their last gig in town, full 6 piece plus roadie Mitch. They are funking around with the rhythms something amazing, Mutant Vinyl back line @ Oxjam - 60 Million Postcardswith Ed’s lyrical eloquence interspersed with little sax solos in the opening number. All this while being able to hear “f… all” through the monitors (as he puts it). As expected there’s a full crowd here all in anticipation of the return, covering the full length of the long bar at the start, and quite reaching to the door by the middle of the set. Crowd to the doors @ Oxjam - 60 Million PostcardsAt the end Acid Honey is inevitably thrown in, however totally remixed live and thrown around, both pumped up, then taken to a chilled out vibe, as Pat takes to the stage briefly to MC some stuff. The band carry on building a crescendo from chilled to full on crashing rock chords at the end, to immense applause and cheers. Mutant Vinyl are back (for this one night only, at least)!Mutant Vinyl Sax break @ Oxjam - 60 Million Postcards

Peace, Love & Gloves @ Oxjam - On The RocksOn The Rocks has Peace, Love and Gloves doing their rock thing to their usual huge crowd of people, all jumping around to the incessant beats. They also feature MCs doing bits and pieces of the vocal line, turning an otherwise three piece into five. Having heard a very early demo tape, almost acoustic in nature, I’m impressed with their live set, and the huge energy they produce from stage, send into the rowd, thhen feed off to push for a better gig and show

Michael Wookey @ Oxjam - SpyreI started the evening at The Spyre, and end here (well, almost), right at the very end of Michael Wookey‘s set, and manage to hear his encore, which is a simple number on onmichord and vocal synthsizer. He’s also shirtless when I walk in, I hear afterwards it was as intense a performance as an artist can offer; right on the boundaries of music and fine art, and is loved all the more as a result.

DO(MI) @ Oxjam - 60 Million PostcardsJet down to catch the last last act – Disco’s Out (Murders In) at 60 Million Postcards again (running a little late). Like so many of the acts tonight, they are really going for it and giving out one of their best sets ever. The usual unusual costumes are evident; they end in grand style, with Martin ending up on the drum kit hiding in the ceiling… DO(MI) finale @ Oxjam - 60 Million PostcardsA great party end to a great party night, with DJs on after to continue into the small hours.

I head on to Smokin Aces just to see what’s happening, and really enjoy the set played by DJ L33R0y, though I can only stand the pace until 2am or so, having been out for nearly 12 hours!

In all, 6 venues, 8 comperes/DJs, 17 bands and artists all crammed into 1 day/evening … How cool and together is this music scene in Bournemouth?!?  – please remember the Oxjam Bournemouth CD is available on bandcamp – 22 tracks for £5.

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Just Another Friday Night on the Town(s)

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Soul Baby @ Christchurch FestivalChristchurch Festival this weekend, started off in style by the Bournemouth Ukelele Social – a kerfuffle at the gate means I hear them from afar rather than in the tent. Sounds good though. Soul Baby are a big attraction here, coupled with the start time (8 30) there is a half capacity crowd in this place, not bad for what is normally a quiet Friday night start.

No wonder they draw a crowd, half of them work at one of the big firms I’m town so they all come out, plus the music is good – soul covers in the main, with other matching tracks thrown in. Plus the visual attraction of four leading ladies on vocal harmonies, backed up by solid backline, no wonder they are popular.

Mils Malone and the Magic Tones at SpyreReally enjoyable, all the better for having Ness with me, however we need to depart (meaning we miss headline Pronghorn) as its been a busy evening so far what with running the kids craft club and all. A quick toast top up and I head out to Spyre where Looking Through Glass are launching their second album She’s My Co-Pilot.

Mils Malone and the Magic Tones are on stage as I walk in, good solid pop/rock, and I’m liking what I’m hearing for the two songs I catch at the end of their set. An overlong interlude and Looking Through Glass take their places. As expected they are dressed smart with their trademark retro-throwback monotone look. Their sound has really developed and settled into a good groove.

Looking Through Glass at SpyreDave has crystal clear vocals that float easily over the smooth sounds from the band, with trumpet accentuating the music. Kelly is also harmonising and backing on occasion, a welcome addition. They’re gigging the whole album tonight, in order. If you liked the EP (The Cycle Never Ends) you’ll love this fellow. Standout tracks: 1993, For My Baby. If you’ve not come across them before, check them out.

Big Face Reggae at Smokin AcesThey take a break and I take the opportunity to see Big Face Reggae at Smokin’ Aces. It’s also Martin Roberts’ and others birthdays so a big party atmosphere. Big Face Reggae are great as ever, and there’s something about having the band in your face (or you in their face) as you’re skanking around. Afterwards end up in the Cellar Bar with more mates just hanging around. Great night, despite the late finish.

Dorset Music Awards – Heat results announced

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Well, it’s all over, and 20 of arguably the best acts in Dorset have made it through to the public voting Quarter Finals of the Dorset Music Awards 2011 – and I feel able to talk about it properly 😉 

First off, big kudos to everybody daring enough to enter the awards in the first place, and to then play in the heats – it must be absolutely daunting to know that you’re giving a performance that you will be assessed on, that could possibly change where you’ve been heading so far.  I don’t play publicly anymore, so you’re already way many steps ahead of me, a mere critic. Admittedly I’m one who prefers to offer critical appraisal rather than pure criticism, so I found it hard to make some harsh decisions in the judging chambers.

Those acts chosen are (in the order seen in the Heats):

Sarah Griffin
Mischa
Powdered Cows
Saturday Sun
Sirpico
  Lauren Bannon
Pachango
Cella Creeps
Big Face Reggae
Not Made In China
  County Hospital
Rapids
Hessian
Evolver
Bel Casino
  Fearne
New Volunteer
The Neon Tigers
Constellation
Kinnie The Explorer

 
I had some disappointments – Blackwater Caravan were one band who I had heard of but never seen before, and I had passionate discourse with the other judges that I just didn’t “get” why their loud and up to 11 show was so stunning – they didn’t really stand out to me.  Moontown and Amity Road were the same – I enjoyed being entertained by them, and was enthused by their attempts to win the crowd over, yet wasn’t able to sway the other judges to my opinion. Other acts that got a positive yes from me and didn’t go through were Moll Storey and Transend – which surprised the others!

In the vein of offering critical appraisal, all my comments have been made available to the bands via the event organisers, good and bad.  I’ve also offered an opinion on what they could do to improve my view of them, which will possibly get me into a lot of trouble. Controversy here we come :D.
My performance highlights looking back were :

  • Mischa, who reached the Semi Finals last year and re-entered, turning up this time with a full band to up his game – big UP
  • Hessian – filled the place with a really buzzing crowd and woke up the venue just before lunch
  • Sitting Pretty – while the grunge look and sound isn’t a preference of mine, they just got up and did it, just not quite well enough to make the cut for me.
  • Transend – I really don’t like their music style, but I didn’t care.  They came in with great ‘attitood’ and woke the place up.
  • Amity Road – Many of the bands on the stage nearest the door had a hard time drawing the crowd away from the bar – these guys already had an audience, called for (and received) more, then gave a strong visual performance to enhance their sound.

My tips for the finalists?  Sarah Griffin again, The Neon Tigers, Mischa, Big Face Reggae, Fearne. Now watch my kiss of death see them all go out in the Quarter Finals :-o. 
Who would I really like to see do full sets on one stage? Cella Creeps, County Hospital & Powdered Cows purely because they were the most artistically stylish, and The Neon Tigers because of their sense of musical theatre.

What surprised me were the number of acts that weren’t a definite yes from all three of us judges – it did make me wonder if those who entered had really taken on board the Tips for Entrants notes provided by Dorset Music. Having said, that, I’m also guilty of not reading them until afterwards, yet I am in accord with the “Band Persona” and “Stage Presence” comments.  I felt that acts had some members that were trying, yet were let down by others in the band.

I’m reminded of a time I saw The Strokes I think it was (my sister-in-law had them on the telly) – they were just standing there, live on stage, playing the music, looking at the floor.  Why bother doing a live gig if that’s all you’re going to do? Is being part of the crowd (and that wonderful experience) enough to compensate when the same tunes can possibly be heard better on your Hi-Fi?  I’ve probably just alienated many in the Bournemouth gigging crowd, and perhaps you my audience, by being so candid, however I feel that if I want to see a band live I want to be captivated to some extent by the live show.  If I just wanted to hear good music, I can pick up the CD and listen without going out.

I’m minded that the vast majority of acts in Bournemouth are absolutely fantastic, strong musically and in stage presence, which is perhaps why this is such a tough town to make a break in – we just haven’t got enough venues and outlets to showcase the massive talent visible to us all.  I’m very glad and grateful Dorset Music (amongst soooo many others) push themselves and the boat out so far to make this scene what it is.

Here’s to more great music on the scene, and to the Quarter Finals near the end of the month.

Second Update on Dorset Music Awards

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…So we’ve reached the end of the Dorset Music Awards heats.  Amazing music – I will be posting my thoughts on the bands seen later (when permitted by the team). I also now don’t envy those who will have to judge the next round but one (the semi finals) – the quarter finals are down to public vote, where acts need fans to help them get further on.

Suffice to say we had a long debate over a large number of acts. Yes, some decisions were more or less automatic (if 2 of the 3 of us agreed “yes” or “no”).  That still left a large number that were debated long and hard.  Us three judges each made some tough calls, we each “fought our corner” for those we’d liked (or even not liked enough), we each have had to make concessions that we didn’t agree with, however at the end of the 90+ minute session, we are all satisfied with the final list, albeit still perhaps personally disappointed we didn’t have it all our way… 😉

We know there will be some surprises, and apologies in advance as we know there will be some big disappointments.  It is my understanding that each act will receive feedback on what they did or had that allowed them to go through, or what it was that meant they failed to go through, or that they were close and either just did or just didn’t make it.

Admittedly, that means I now need to write up nearly 40 pages of notes made during the sets we’ve seen.  Gosh.  Overall (apart from that seemingly daunting task) I’ve had an absolute blast; I only hope my input has been of sufficient quality for Rich and Trev that they allow me the privilege (and pain) of judging again another time.

Now, I’m almost looking forward to judging in the next competition I’ve been asked to participate in, Bournemouth Unplugged.

For the record, the bands/acts seen today were (in order, and for anyone that didn’t get to see these, sorry in the main you’ve missed a blast):

Connor Heather

Lucas Raye

Not Made In China

Looking Through Glass

County Hospital

Rapids

Sitting Pretty

Dan Rumsey & The Bitter End

Hessian

Evolver

Transend

Icarus 1

Bel Casino

Moll Storey

The Blackened Blue

Fearne

New Volunteer

The Neon Tigers

Dead Lettuce

Constellation

Kinnie The Explorer

Quick Update on Dorset Music Awards

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OK, so we’re halfway through the Dorset Music Awards 2011 Heats – this year I’ve been given the privilege of judging this stage of  these prestigious awards.

No spoilers here, all the acts were awesome (except the two that didn’t turn up – that is very disappointing and means they excluded two other acts who may have wanted this more than them).  I’m not going to comment at all at present – we debate the results at the end of today, and the results will be published some time later in the week by Dorset Music Awards.  Then I’ll feel able to publish my highlights.

What I am pleased to say is that I have been genuinely surprised by some performances – some acts I’ve not seen before have been amazing (how come I’ve missed them?) and others I have seen before have really pulled out all the stops to impress the judges and the audience.

We’ve already had some healthy and robust discussions as judges over what we’ve thought of some bands, so I’m half looking forward with anticipation to tonight, with another day of great music ahead of me, and half with trepidation and apprehension at the monumental task I have as one of the three judges having to decide which twenty acts of the now 38 (hoping none pull out today) we’ve seen are “better” than the other 18, and so deserve to play in front of their audiences at the public vote round.

Here’s who I saw, in order:

Sarah Griffin

Down By The Waterside

Mischa

Stop Go Sixty

Beckett

Sketches Of The Adverse

Powdered Cows

Saturday Sun

Sirpico

Lauren Bannon

Manikin Time Shark

Pachango

Blackwater Caravan

Amity Rd

Cella Creeps

Moontown

Big Face Reggae

DO(MI) at DMA – One Band Two Stages

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Having hosted a full day of the most excellent music, the end of the first day of the Dorset Music Award heats is closed by last years festival winners Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) .

They’re playing over two stages, with (as DMA’s Trevor points out) two PA systems, two sets of speakers and all the foldback speakers linked together somehow
        And it is awesome.

Opener Blow My Mind has them all in full effect. Being on the different stages enthuses them to compete for the crowd (the small band are on one stage, the brass and keys etc on the other). What I find more amusing is that they can’t do the normal talking to each other, resulting in a lot of fun play between them:
Steve: “I’ll start it and you join in when you know what it is”; he even goes over there for Clown, since the start relies on brass and guitar doing big chords together

Possibly as a result of this, they think the two stage idea sucks (and say so); they are still incredibly tight despite the split difference; I think it all adds to the novelty mystique around Disco’s Out (Murder’s In). Inspired by a plea from Big Face Reggae earlier in the heats, lead Steve encourages lunging, the results are mixed, and inspires yet more competiton between the stages as the brass also want their share of lunge-ers, ably provided by Alfie (Animal Talent Show) being an obliging nutter.
Its also the first time I think a band have been asked to do an encore, and them almost collapse and their face drop – they are exhausted having been partying all day at the award heats.

Moving on to Champions Brothers Grimmer, The Hops and The Neon Tigers are billing. I miss the former; The Hops are full of energy, well dressed in suit uniform really rocking out. Its a good crowd as well, which is really good to see at Champions. Possibly all down to the hard work Tone is putting in as booking mananger, as well as promoting for bhone.

As well as energy, the Hops again have some good solid tunes – Back To The Beach again is a favourite; I have to ask myself for a London band three of which are ex-Bournemouth to be singing a rock song about beaches seems a little odd, especially when it doesn’t have anything of the “Bournmouth Sound” beach surf vibe about it.  Good all the same.

And so on to the headline for the night, The Neon Tigers. They have really upped their game since the last time I saw them perform, with a big intro on a darkened stage. When they were on LiveWire Live they made a big thing about bringing a sense of theatre back to live music, here I see this being worked out.
This time, Richard’s transition from keys to the gorgeous double necked strat is simpler than before – gone is the poncho, he stays in the dark tight fitting clothes, and even retains the hat while he rocks out.
One thing that accompanies gigs from The Neon Tigers are offerings of delicacies and sweets; tonight is no exception – Spacedust (exploding candy) this time!

OK this is new – during The Boy Needs Help intro, Richard leaves the stage while the rest of the band rock it out, drawing out and playing fugues with the riffs. When he returns its a transformation from stage cool black into illuminating red. So, The Neon Tigers the best rock band currently in Dorset? 100+ people in Champions would definitely agree tonight, find out tomorrow at the 2nd day of the Dorset music awards heats (they’re on at about 5pm Sunday)