Fiona Fox

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FionaFiona Fox @ Chaplins, 1 May is performing a number of covers with a few originals in Chaplins Bar tonight, to separate groups of half a dozen people. Its funny how different audiences respond, there’s probably been perhaps 30 people through the bar while she’s been on, most staying for a few songs. Throughout this tough gig Fiona draws in those she has, working with them to make an evening of it.

By far the most entertaining through singing along and dancing are some later members, who really make Fiona pull out some stops to keep them entertained and start then keep a vibe going. Shows she’s able to work with whatever people she has, even if only in handfuls at a time! To break this, one of the rather merry ones is sent to the garden, and pulls in pretty much the whole bar to enjoy some classics together (The Joker, American Pie, Brown Eyed Girl etc)

General Public Show – Foxy

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The General Public @ HopeFM studio, 21 MarchAfter a long wait The General Public are able to join me in the studio, the delay has been caused by a booking in October being pushed back as the band were recording new material then. The new material is still being recorded and produced thanks to difficulties unfortunately typical to the recording process, however expect six high quality tracks very soon.

Irrespective, its a good time for them to join me, they are in the middle of performing perhaps the best they’ve ever done as part of the Dorset Music Awards, and its my first show for a couple of months as I’ve been on a Wednesday night training course with GodFirstThe General Public generously opt to do a full studio set, rather than a cut back acoustic session, that means small drum kit, bass and amp, acoustic guitar, and (huge) keyboard.

As hoped and expected, we have a great time together; that amount of gear they bring in means we don’t really start the interview segment of the show until the second hour, even so the time flies by. We have 3 live songs, and a couple of recordings. I was privileged to be given the first radio play of their debut EP Seppa Visions, now I’ve been given an exclusive sole early production cut of Your Boring from the aforementioned studio sessions. All interspersed with a lot of interview and chat about their music, music in general, and the song writing reflections on society. There’s also a diversion about face dancing, after one of my comments about Mike’s facial antics during performances. I have a great time, and they say they have too, good stuff.

Fiona Fox & Claire Beeston @ Chaplins, 21 MarchAfter this, and a bit of work tidying up (for example 2 months out and the CD’s are a mess) I head over to Chaplins Open Mic, where Graham Basic Blues Jones is performing some material, followed by Chris Brockman playing some fun covers. Next we have Fiona Fox, making a return to music after nearly a year’s absence. She’s playing a whole bunch of covers, the first ones well rehearsed, however her popularity ensures she’s kept playing and so the songs become ever more random, and some of them fall apart. This could be a disaster for anyone else; Fiona‘s stage presence blows all of that away and turns the evening into a performance to really enjoy.

Fiona‘s out with friend Claire Beeston tonight, and invites Claire to join her for one tune, before Fiona herself is enticed to sing some of her material. This is reluctantly delivered, as she thinks these are old songs, a shame as they are still good, and really show off her voice, still good after a year off.

Bhone Birthday Fundraiser – 4th gig

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By the time I arrive in Champions (slightly late through doing some dive club activities for BSAC), Zaardvark are already playing. I’m disappointed I’ve missed Yaaard‘s set, since I’ve not heard Chris Catlin doing things before, and I hear he’s one of the most appreciated remixers in town. I also gave gig 3 a miss through other commitments.


Zaardvark bhone BdayI love their instrumental tunes, even though there are are no names delivered, these are knocked out pretty smartly. It’s quite funny as none of the lads want to speak, they just want to get on with the music. Dave (behind the drumkit) is perhaps the most likely to be a front man, yet he takes a step back in Zaardvark to put the music first.

Having said that about the tightness of the sound, one intro is muffed – Dave’s excuse is that’s what happens when he tries not to count out loud – small wonder really, it’s in a five beats to the bar time signature, with awkward cross-rhythms within that.

There are loads of effects also being generated on top of the music from this eclectic three piece outfit, the fourth man is a composite of an ipad with a click track and pre-recorded synth, a sampler driven by this footswitch, and Mark’s array of foot pedals, pre-programmed to match the track sequence.

The last song is indicative of their electro jazz style. Rather than just have a click track, they’ve opted for a click with synth overtones, therefore lots of electronic twiddly sound generator bits mixed into it. These are then mixed with heavily effect loaded guitar and bass.

The crowd, that seem to have heard these guys many times before, go appropriately nutty. Talking afterwards, not all the pieces have titles, and Zaardvark are building up to having them all presented together in an Opus, so they are all essentially different  movements of the same grand work. Good stuff, and look forward to that gig.

Matt Marr

Matt Marr bhone bdayAs these guys step out from the green room, I’m surprised to see friends Ed Pope and Martin Ruddock walk on stage. I’d previously looked for a band listing and not found one, so falsely assumed it would be Matt Marr doing a solo set (not that I’ve seen him before, either).

The opener is pretty heavy, then there’s a bit of kerfuffle because things don’t work initially as Matt switches to an acoustic, they’re then straight into a rock and roll inspired track. A switch back to electric rhythm guitar and we’re back to the heavy stuff, this time the keys are just about audible over the hugely loud guitar work.

Another electric to acoustic switch, using the same lead for both guitars must cause a problem for Paul on the mixing desk which probably why the levels are all over the place each time there’s a switch. Its only a mild distraction, I can just about make enough of the vocals to hear the stories in the songs, and these are songs with a story, showing there’s a talented song writer within Matt.

The latter half of the set is different, more pop focussed rather than heavy, with very catchy choral licks, this vein continues for the rest of the set, very punchy drums, and lively poppy music with it.

At the end Matt announces the band, Ed Pope on bass, Martin Ruddock on guitar and backing vocals, Grim Reaper on keys, Dixie on drums (when Matt says he needs no introduction Dixie gets his own little cheer). Matt himself as you’ve hopefully gathered is on guitar and vocals.

Dutch Husband

Dutch Husband bhone bdayTony from bhone gives Dutch Husband a huge build up, and understandably so for this reunion gig. I don’t think I’ve seen them live before, they were in the studio a long time back when I wasn’t able to make it; I loved the show they did when I listened back; their tracks have been regularly featured on the show ever since, even though they’ve not been together for some time.

There is a long pause after their opening track, turns out lead guitar Paul’s amp has blown and a replacement is hastily arranged. Apparently tech difficulties were a regular feature of Dutch Husband gigs when they were gigging.

As I’m not familiar with their live material, I’m unprepared for what follows. One song I discover afterwards [thanks Zaardvark] is called Map Of The Map courtesy of True Swamp Neglect (youtube link) has the refrain Aaah, the DH regulars know what’s coming and go mad in the appropriate moments, also joining in at the end with Aaahs on cue.

The songs are punchy and rocky, with generally New Order-esque bass lines from Imogen. They all rock out with huge sniles on their faces in the musical interludes between lyrics.

Then again we have true grunge numbers like White Teeth, where the guitars aren’t doing much as all the melody comes from a tiny keyboard, meanwhile there’s a large mosh thing going on in the front.  Good heavy and serious rock gig, and totally enjoyable. However I leave early to reach a totally different party vibe at O’Neills – sort of Big Face Reggae doing a sort of acoustic set.

Big Face Reggae

Big Face Posse O'NeillsI say sort of Big Face Reggae (perhaps should be called Big Face Posse) as there are a load of extras joining them on stage. Sort of acoustic as there’s lots of other things going on.

Its Fiona’s (O’Neill’s manager) birthday, and there’s a total party vibe as a result, walking in just before midnight I’d expect a few drunks, seems everybody is totally merry and has been for most of the evening, hence the mood is electric and glorious. 

Catching up with Si Crockett afterwards (leader of Big Face Reggae) he’s played so many gigs over this weekend, his fingers are worn, blistered and cracked, both as a result of guitar work but mainly from percussion.  He says he doesn’t care though, such has been the time he’s had over the break.

Taking my leave again, I head over to Chaplins on the way home, where Fiona Fox has played a set.  She’s only just finished by the time I get there, we spend a bit of time just hanging out and having a laugh with others.  By all accounts she’s just played her best gig ever, she was great, the crowd were great with her, so she is totally on a high, which is great (yes I know there’s a lot of great there!)

Great [sic] stuff all round.

Fox Dubs

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Fiona Fox joined me in the studio tonight. I don’t know what she’s done, but whatever it was worked as there were a couple of emails waiting for me on the studio system, and during the show texts came in.

Normally all my emails happen offline as I do my preparation, I rarely get them duuring the show. Whether they are Fans, Friends or Family I don’t know, but Fi scores highly with each of them.

We’re chatting away, and its just too easy to lose track of time – she’s had some amazing experiences in her young life and generously shares many of the more palatable ones with us.

She plays a few songs live, and I’m gobsmacked. I’ve heard her play in rough bars and over dodgy PA’s which have done her voice no justice at all. Hearing her pure and unplugged is delightful, she has a very sweet yet strong vocal, and plays well enough too (one of the conversations we’ve had is over her feeling that she had lessons on lots of instruments, and never got along with any of them!)

Something I pick up on is what I term an “endearing giggle” at certain points within songs – she dismisses this as a bad habit yet not as a put down. Some have obviously suggested to her that this is irritating, I still beg to differ.

After the show I’m talking with the people in reception who’ve heard the show, and they’ve been impressed with her voice and playing, in much the same way I have been previously mesmerised.

On to the Dubs part of this post – Dubnium have arranged a fundraiser for Haiti at The Winchester and Dubheart are playing live (DJ’s later).

The crowd are all up for it, bobbing and swaying to the beats, Dubheart rise to this and know how to play their crowd. Interruptions to announce raffle prizes are all taken in their stride.

How to describe Dubheart for thoe who don’t know their style? Take the necessary thumping bass and add backstabbed beats from a harsh guitar. Mix in stonking drums (particularly crisp toms) and you’d have any old reggae band.

To turn this into Dubheart add keyboard synth blended with sampled noises interjecting the gaps in the rhythm, add in a Djembe and throw some designedly meaningful lyrics, and I’m still only half way to describing their vibe.

Haiti is close to my heart (Samaritans Purse do a lot of work there, and 3 friends have been out with them there as relief and aid workers) and its clearly on the minds of Dubheart and the crowd – every mention of the country gets a cheer.

Halfway through and Dubheart debut a new track. By this time whole place is jumping and rammed – even at the bar there’s no refuge, and eveeryone seems to be here for a party even though it’s a school night!

I leave that hopping atmosphere to enter another one at the Chaplins Open Mic. Poet HiHo is on, followed by Poet David. Jonathan Cotton is in the crowd which is a nice surprise, especially as I’ve just played one of his tracks on the show. JC is talking to Fiona, who has also gravitated to Chaplins the same as I eventually have.

Tina and Lynford are up next. He plays percussive guitar chords while she croons away building to a fever pitched crescendo. What’s particulaly noticeable about Tina is her animation as she sings , she moves along to her song like a mime performing, really refreshing to see and hear. Talking to them afterwards they have no promotional material or online presence, they are just starting something so watch out for that…

Graham Jones is up next with a twist – Michael (rest unknown) gets up to do some MC work on the mic and it works really well with the style Graham’s chosen to play in. At the end Mike gets a huge acclaim, then Graham continues doing his regular blues. I take my leave at that point, bumping into Fiona and partner Phil on the stairs as they prepare something for the Open Mic that regretfully I’m going to miss.

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…

Yellowgroove’s Introjuicer

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The Introjuicer is a Thursday night event run by Fairplay in Chaplins & The Cellar Bar.

This week it was the turn of Yellowgroove to take the headline slot (Fiona Fox supported – I wasn’t there early enough to catch her this night).

I can’t remember how I came across Yellowgroove, however they immediately impressed me, turned me into a core fan, and subsequently have been given slightly more coverage than other bands on the radio show (well, they are vey slick on their marketing, and keep asking me for phone interviews).

Walking down the Cellar Bar steps the size of the crowd (all unknown) was exceptional – Simon is a language school teacher, and arranges for his sudents to come and join in.  This was in marked contrast to last week.

The band are late – I’m on the outside steps talking to Fiona by the time they start up. I hear the strains of second song Son of a Working Man – one of my favourites. Oh well – Fiona finishes her fag, we wander in, gently push through to the front.

Instantly I’m again mesmerised by the rock, the stomp, and the improvements. These guys were good to start with, they’re fresh from a weeks recording session, which they expressed was not the best preparation they could have for a full set gig.

Even so they are tighter (though not playing some of the songs from the recording session) than previous; they’ve been gigging in Bristol, London and Southampton since the last time in Bournemouth.

After a full set of mixed known songs and those I’d not heard before (San Francisco is another new sound) they finished with a passionate rendition of Blood On The Flag.

The crowd were not going to let them get away with that, so for the subsequent encore Teenage Kicks was delivered – a surprising outing, and one that worked well.

Yellowgroove, note the name, catch a gig as soon as.

Show, Freeway & Open mic

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In short,

The long version:

Another show night (it being Wednesday). Joined for the regular first Wednesday of the month outing with Radio Boscombe, and their usual live and pre-recorded comedy, interspersed with bits of music and Anthony Fairweather‘s poetry, songs and humourous interludes.

After the show, hotfooted over to The Winchester for the regular first Wednesday of the month outing called Freeway Poets – Grow. Walking in late after the show means wading through a packed crowd, reaching the bar for a drink and some excellent nibbles courtesy of Lotus Seed, and being entertained by Performance Poetry.

Dangermouse was first act I saw, otherwise known as Olly Bland. Followed by aforementioned Anthony Fairweather before being capped by Will StophaTshaka was also scheduled next – giving a lift to Anthony and Laura meant I missed him.

All 3 acts vary, in their approach, yet all gave quality output and entertainment.  Unfortunately for Anthony and Will, technical problems seemed to plaque their performances, which did not affect Olly at all, who recited a couple of inspired pieces.

Anthony sings and rants to CD accompaniment on some pieces, yet the CD track seems to dip automatically DJ Announcer style whenever the mic is used – not great.  This, coupled with dodgy CD cues, seemed to be enough to put him off his first piece (he is a perfomance poet with a prominent speech impediment) yet he was able to recover sufficiently to give an overall good performance, hitting a chord with many of the crowd present.

Will was expecting to rely on a laptop, yet had connection difficulties.  A beat box he’d also brought along was playing up, causing him to mess up a few cues which all added to the entertainment.  “What this is”, he quipped, “is some bloke driving for 3 hours from London on the night there’s a tube strike to mess up a live performance in Bournemouth”.

Despite this, he seemed appreciative of the audience’s response, and genuinely grateful to have been offered a repeat invite to joint headline Freeway Poets.

Having offered to give Anthony a lift to the station (dropping Laura from Radio Boscombe off on the way) we left before the second joint headliner Tshaka, and before the artworks by some artists from  Technicolour Moon
 were completed – they were looking really promising.

On to Chaplins on the way home for the traditional Open Mic session – Fiona Fox giving her all on the guitar with her sweet voice.  She has what look like small and fragile hands, yet manages to pull off chords and stops with a panache others fail to acheive.  Talking to her afterwards, it’s not all about technique, (polymer coated strings help), although technique is a major part.

Del Bishop was in the chair next, playing a number of covers in his own style, offering some singalong opportunity.  Followed by son Sam, who’s set was far too short! (I blinked and missed most of it).  Andy Stock finished the night as is usual – another 12 am close (where does the time go?)

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