Rock Regeneration Birthday Bash

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Chinners & John @ Mr Kyps Rock Regeneration Party 1 MarchRock Regeneration have been gig going for years, and blogging and reviewing them online for 12 months.  This is reflected during intervals between the four bands that are on, where the guys are not only compèring the show, but introducing themselves too, e.g here Chinners introduces John, who does much of the background work on their website.  A big thanks to the lads – they’ve got me down here to see four great bands, and all I need to do is give them this write up!  Well done for doing what you do, and Happy Birthday. My usual clash of priorities tonight, having agreed to review this gig and realising I had an earlier appointment, fortunately only down the road at the RNLI. Means I miss Peace Love and Gloves open this birthday bash, so I only get to properly see three of the four greats.

Empire Affair @ Mr Kyps Rock Regeneration PartyThere’s something to be said for taking the tempo of songs down just a little, Empire Affair seem to have done that tonight. It gives a lot more space to let the musicality shine, and allows for a lot more showboating, something these guys excel at. As Neil himself encourages us – “enjoy yourselves, as no matter what you do you won’t look as big a tit as me and what I do up here!” The band look is another set-apart from the crowd look – all in white makes a big difference to the normally black rock de rigeur dress. The set is the now standard remarkable for Empire Affair, Neil overacts splendidly, the others are cool on the guitars, drummer Darren is well spot on, a fantastically enjoyable set. Closer Take Me Down is messed about with a lot, bass riff from White Stripes Seven Nation Army underpins a lyric from Sweet Dreams as a sort of break beat, before crashing back into the usual good danceable stuff

The Frequency @ Mr Kyps Rock Regeneration Party 1 MarchMr Kyps is becoming almost a regular venue for The Frequency, this is their 2nd gig here in as many weeks (they supported The Who’s Simon Townshend last time). They start with a huge build of guitars and a drum crescendo before breaking into what promises to be a storming set of tunes – until Dan (guitar) has a nightmare and creates a pause for switch and retuning. As expected this doesn’t throw them, they get on with being four pretty boys kicking out good numbers and pulling the crowd along with them. I’ve not seen The Frequency live for a while (despite many invites) either full on or acoustic, they have a curious mix of heavy chords and big choruses, with gentler open spaces that works well. Aus is using the stage well, threatening a crowd invasion for some parts to create more of a stir. Dan H-S takes advantage of the large stage too – in places the bass is silent, and he steps into the dark side-stage areas to visually emphasise the musical absence, a good touch.

Lady Winwoods Maggot @ Mr Kyps Rock Regeneration Party 1 March We have a great close to the night with Lady Winwoods Maggot, who pull no punches as ever with the Americana Death Western as they now dub themselves. The music is some of the best around, still, and the whole show is just fantastic, even cut down to an hour as it is, and without their lighting rig. On stage banter intersperses the numbers, some modern classics like Chase The Cat and Chupra Cabra, mixed with some of their more recent greats like some from the Buffalohead album including the title track, Billy Tango and O’Keefes Slide. I’m enjoying myself so much I don’t write many more notes here and now, it’s really good music, played really well, on a really good stage. Really good fun!

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Dorset Music Awards Live Heats

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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.

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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

More Friday Parties – 28 Oct

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Empire Affair - Red LightAfter a select gathering of friends for a mates birthday, I continue my night out at my geographic local, The Athelstan. Empire Affair are there, I noticed when slipping in earlier in the month with mates for a drink. As is expected they are full on, taking up the stage area by the door.

They’re covering Flyaway when I walk in; move into their own material, as they promote their Red Light EP, then back to the covers for the crowd pleasers. All of it is musical, loads going on from all three guitaists, with Neil (vocals) in particularly shouty mood – small wonder, halfway through their newest song, he leaves the band to it and slips to the bar for a red bull!

Oxjam Crew & Ski @ Shindig, fri 28 octOn to the Winchester, and this months Shindig; dedicated as the Oxjam closing party, Tapioca are just finishing their set – good rockin blues. As they end host Ski Daddle gets the Oxjam crew onstage for a little thank you, before the rest of the Kentucky Fight Club join him for a final rock out and mosh.

KFC @ Shindig 28 October - thanks to Steve Biddle for the photoThere are solid rock drums and tricky mandolin parts to the pumped up numbers, even their slow-at-the-start song, Wild Wild West, featuring gentle soft key synths gets the KFC pumped up action – there’s a reason these guys call their event Shindig :). Thanks to Steve Biddle for the photo.

Ski Daddle close up @ shindig Fri 28 OctThe covers they throw in also get the KFC stomp around treatment, Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling is tricked up and fancy with the string tie effect, as is their take on Iron Maiden’s Run To The Hills and the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary. I’m exhausted by the time they finish, as seem most of the others in the crowd.  Totally made up for by the presentation of a bottle of bourbon from host & frontman Ski Daddle – goes down very well as I write this up!

Andy Grant Trio @ Cellar Bar fri 28 OctI hook up with friends Old Bloke and Mia (with others) and head off to Smokin’ Aces, where Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) are supposed to be playing ’til midnight.  However, they ain’t – they’ve been long packed up and gone by the time 11-ish comes round as we walk in.  Ho hum off to my true local the Cellar Bar for some fun and frolics…and the Andy Grant Trio are holding a late-finishing session :).  They look like they’re loving it, the crowd they have are loving it, and top tunes are emanating from the stage as a result – need to catch these guys live if you can, particularly when they pump it up for a venue like the Cellar Bar.

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.

27 July Show : Empire Affair & The Worry Dolls

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Empire Affair on HopeFMAll arranged at a little short notice, this week’s show. I’d originally planned for the annual New Wine Rebroadcast that tends to happen at this time of year. This year the week changed, so I had to call in my reserve act, Empire Affair, previously warned, but with very little time for promotion. This was a double mistake, both just because I want to let my audience know with as much notice as possible to give the bands that guest for me as large a following as possible, and as Empire Affair had written saying they would love to give HopeFM through my show the exclusive on their debut EP.

This might a bit obtuse, however while Empire Affair may be new on the scene, they come from good stock, having had many years experience getting it right (sometimes wrong, but mostly right in my opinion) in a former band. They’ve finalised their sound, smartened up their act (I’ve managed to miss them live so far, my loss) yet still retained the energy and the punch of their youth.

This flamboyance comes out in the interview, I’m loving my time with them and its over literally too quickly, they can only manage the first hour of the show before they have to dash off into rock star God-dom !?! And I hold the fort for the final hour with my music choice and gig guide.

I remember The Primitives had an album, subtitled How To Squeeze 15 Elephants Into A Test Tube. With The Worry Dolls we have a similar effect with musos on the O’Neills stage, itself not the smallest stage in town.

The Worry Dolls @ O'NeillsThe lead singer Emma’s vocal talents are impressive, she hardly needs the (rather overblown tonight) PA to make herself heard over the widespread band. What I didn’t appreciate when I saw them for the first time was the guitarist hidden at the back of the stage – Jon – also known for his talents with another fave band of mine, The Neon Tigers.

Tonight their sound is good, and I like being given the chance to fully appreciate what they should sound like. What I can’t convey here is the camararderie they display between songs. I don’t know and can’t tell if they’re telling the truth about when they say they’ve written this song or that song about other members of the band, however I don’t really mind, it all makes for a good craic.