Oxjam Takeover 2012

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oxjam bournemouth 2012 posterThere’s been much anticipation and build up yet again for the takeover this year, and the start is slightly delayed in the Pier Theatre due to VT difficulties creating more suspense…

Martin interviewAnd we’re off – Powdered Cows start with Lobster, Martin fresh from being interviewed by Beth Graham who’s producing an Oxjam Bournemouth Takeover Rockumentary. Powdered Cows @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012There’s been promise of a spectacle from Martin, he starts solo with his electronics for a couple of songs, before a lion and a crocodile join him for Lion Lion, with invite for the audience to take some percussion and create the song together

Catch up with Livvy in relaxed mode @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012There’s delays in 60 Million Postcards too, so I catch up with one of the Oxjam queens, Livvy, who’s taking a moment outside.

Boolays @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012

I head back to the Pier where the Boolays are hitting their last two songs, both of them debuts for the band. Soprano sax, twin dueling acoustic guitars and twin female vocals with male accompaniment means I’m in a brief delight.

Jack Grace @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Jack Grace is solo acoustic today, and sounds absolutely crystal clear on the vocals, while the guitar gently plays along to itself for much of the material thanks to his loop pedal. The fantastic ambience of the awesome pier theatre really works well for Jack’s voice.

Jack Vallier @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012I reach 60 Million Postcards in time to hear Chris Woodford have a large shout up by compere Si Genaro. As ever, Chris plays a blinder. Jack Vallier is next up, and chooses to do a set of acoustic covers, starting with Wonderwall, which doesn’t go down as well as Krista’s version did last night. One bit of really good news – Tony Warren is back on the local music scene having had three years away in London; we have a bit of a natter and a catch up.

Citizen Perez @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Citizen Perez (Steve Perry) is up next in 60 Million Postcards, and everyone that’s told me about Citizen Perez has been right – what Steve does here is totally different to the other material he’s produced in the other acts he’s in. He’s doing new material (some involving kazoo) as well as acoustic versions of songs from other acts (like Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) ). Something that works well for him is the novelty kazoo taped to the microphone, such that he can still play guitar whilst using the kazoo. Makes for an interesting combination.

Not Made In China @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Back to The Pier, and one of my favourites, the happiest band in Bournemouth, Not Made In China are on stage. Their music is in major keys, with some great contrary bass work, big positive rhythms, and the killer vocals which somewhat tell of life in these times. People are clapping along, the only thing missing for me are the dancing idiots like me, but then this is a seated venue after all… Lee (Escape From 98) is with me, between us we cook up a new genre, African Indie, to place Not Made In China.

Annie Winter @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Annie Winter is doing her set at 60 Million Postcards; she’s recruited a full band behind her, Tim on string bass, Ben on cajon and Joe (Potter) on guitar and vocal. She’s singing winsome songs with a laid back feeling, perfect for a dreamy afternoon; with my rushing back and forth I’m feeling I’m not partaking in that vibe. My loss, and yet I wouldn’t have it any other at this moment in time 🙂

Compere Si Genaro introduces Tim Somerfield @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Tim Somerfield is given another of the Si Genaro treatments, and kicks off with last years Oxjam CD contribution There There. Tim’s voice soars over the guitar chord work, as if a bird released to float around the venue, major chords giving a positive lift to the songs. As I leave to reach the pier Tim starts Supervillain Alter Ego, which is on this years Oxjam album.

I’ve missed Our comperes Martin Roberts & Timo Peach @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Mischa and catch Martin & Timo filling the gap so the Chicken Soup Choir can set up. They interview conductor Julie, who together with pianist Esther inherited a choir and set up Chicken Soup, because its good for the soul as she puts it. The Chicken Soup Choir @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012When the choir are revealed as the curtain lifts, I’m amazed at the size of it. They’re singing various pop rock songs, starting with what I think is Elbow, then Ash and Radiohead (I really don’t know my modern non-local music anymore). All the various instrumental components are sung, with oohs and ahhs and the like to make up the accompaniments.

Southern Ukulele Store Boscombe Ukelele Social @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Susbus (Southern Ukelele Store Boscombe Ukelele Social) fill the stage as did the choir. Lisa McQuillan and Jonty Johnson share most of the singing honours, though many others are pulled out of the esemble to solo and sing. I must admit much of my attention is on Nacho Jase, who’s playing bass ukelele and hiding at the back, yet seems to be filling the stage with his presence. Paul Tucker is our narrator, and there’s a spare appearance by Martin Roberts on kazoo.

Mutant Vinyl @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Mutant Vinyl have something special prepared for us tonight – I was with them last night as they were preparing the act for tonight. Ed starts trying to get his sax and vocals working to his satisfaction with the sound guys and the effects processing. Its not working for him so he invites his friend, birthday boy Tim Smart to join the stage. Luke also steps in, as Ed moves to the drums and Tim announces …. County Hospital…. County Hospital takeover the takeover with Mutant Vinyl @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012This means that the charismatic Ed switches to the enigmatic Ed and starts playing the tricked out beats he’s so good at, while Tim, Marc and Luke rock out some wonderful experimental stuff – then promptly leave the stage after the one song. Artistic Impression or what?  [It later transpires that this early exit wasn’t in the plan, its just that Ed couldn’t get the over-FX sound he wanted, so rather than give a bad show in his eyes, took the brave decision to chop his act, even though this causes angst and consternation for some – particularly the poor organisers of the venue].

head of a cuban trojan @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Head Of A Cuban Trojan (HOACT) have nearly played their awesome set out as I walk in, there are just three songs left, and they are amazing. Heavy bass, over egged guitar, a bit of a grunge thing going on. Then they start megaphoning the lyrics just to add to the musical contusion. Love it

El BosCo @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012El Bosco are a subset of Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) in appearance, totally different sound. Great melodies on Steve’s guitar, Ttubbs has some great beats going on, and Ed is pumping out the bass like a live one. Proper pop rock stuff, and everything starting to be turned up to the max on the PA. Its a little bit grungy like HOACT, yet not similar as there’s different things going on in the music and the vocals. Again I’m liking it, and am a bit torn to move to another venue.

Get The Tape @ Ontherocks Bar, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012On The Rocks next (as I turn up at The Pier for Momo:Tempo to hear Tim say he’s finished), where Get The Tape have just started. Big screamo shouty rock, upon which regular readers will know my views. Even so, Get The Tape are different from the rest, their drummer is able to play some really fast timely stuff, while the lead guitar is producing great tunage, rather than the mushy chords I normally associate with the style. Another band I want to hear more from in the future, despite my general reservations on the genre.

Know One @ Pier Theatre, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Know One are playing what’s been dubbed as their last ever set on the Pier Theatre stage. Starting with some long-lost Two Tone material as an intro and sort of soundcheck, they soon move into the moshing stuff they’re known and loved for. Massive bass work, big horns (Callum still running around with that sax) and the others making good with the drums and the chord work. They are really on fire, and they even play their request song that they never normally play, Invisible Reality. I leave before the end, though, for…

Yellowgroove @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 201260 Million Postcards again, this time for Yellowgroove who are in the middle of their 5 hour remix of Spread Your Love (Like A Fever), by all accounts they’ve done everything needed to satiate this noisy and active crowd. They get such a great groove on as they start Manimal, while still managing to take the rip out of their mate Nick. A brief crowd incursion causes a bit of havoc with Simon’s electrics, before they go into their next single Fading Out (available on the Oxjam CD), which is where I move out to On The Rocks.

Escapefrom'98 @ Ontherocks Bar, Oxjam Bournemouth 2012Escape From 98 have just started, and immediately start the heckling going. I have no paper to throw at them in return (their gig the night before in Salisbury culminated in a paper ball fight), so just bellow instead. We need to start a thing going – they have a new song Chorus where they encourage the crowd to shout the title – just shout “NO!”, kids. And they’ll love you forever and stuff :). A great set and a good end to this venue.

Mother Ukers @ 60 Million Postcards, Oxjam Bournemouth 201260 Million Postcards now have the Mother Ukers down, we’re still rammed in here as they play Love Cats then Cars before murdering Bowie (in a nice way), by turning Space Oddity into a chirpy number, while still retaining the modal nature of the song.

The evening ends in fine form with a little auction trying to sell off some particular one-design T-shirts, all to raise more funds for this worthy cause, before we continue partying the night away. I give up the party and take the option to leave for home, since I have diving in the morning.  A great, if wearing, day, thanks to the full on efforts of the team, Katy, Liz, Lauren, Livvy, Jo, Geoff and Andy, and all the others that I’m not aware of.  Please can we do it again, next year?!?

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Powdered Cows CD Launch

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Powdered Cows @ Cellar Bar 17 SeptMartin from Powdered Cows joined us in the studio last week for a plug of this gig, and his new album. He’s been on for about 20 minutes by the time I arrive after swimming, and the usual array of electronica is around him, as I’ve tried to capture in the shots. He’s accomplished as a guitarist, hardly surprising considering his musical abilities, yet its amazing to hear yet another set of instruments being shown off by this versatile fellow.

Casini Division @ Cellar Bar 17 SeptAn acquired taste, Casini Division, which they seem to accept themselves judging by their on-stage announcements. Loads of effects on the electric guitars, with a synth slowly beating behind the vocals, creating a mix of some dreamy trance tunes and heavier riff work. It goes down well with those who are here, especially as they keep this trance-rock style while breaking into poetic shouted chant over each other as a finale.

During the gig I was introduced to a pleasant chap with a not so nice sobriquet (Radio Rules), who played as The Schemers before I arrived. Apparently worth catching, despite the name. Another time…

Dorset Music Awards Quarter Final 3

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DMA logoAs with the other heats, tonight I’ve seen and heard 5 high quality acts, and would not be in a position to pick any clear winners were I to be asked.

Seems the voters can’t either – no specific spoilers, but I’ve heard the voting is very close across many of the 20 acts, and this year looks to be record voting. When Trev was on HopeFM’s LiveWire Live show with me this week, he let it be known that at this halfway stage of the public voting round, around 5000 votes have been cast, compared with about 6000 in total for the whole competition last year.

Therefore the message to acts is clear – please please please if you want to have a clear win to go through to the next round, rather than have to go through another tiebreak judging process, shout your “vote-for-us” plugs about everywhere.

Hessian DMA QF3On to describing this Quarter Final: Hessian start – I’ve been looking forward to hear them again since they gave me such a wake up call at the Heats. This time they’ve not brought the huge crowd with them, this also means the room is half empty as they start.

Guitar led synth based rock, hooks and melodies, tight silences, lots of motion and communication between each other; also plenty of plugs for themselves. One of the last songs features some cutting harmonies from the two singers, lots of pauses in the music also feature demonstrating just how tight this band are together. All good stuff.

NMIC DMA QF3Not Made In China are as ever a lot of fun, while still being unable to box or label genre-wise. Really happy upbeat chords from JJ, Gav’s smile and ska-like bass riffs, Tiff’s clear lyrics above everything, with Matt’s personality able to shine through the drums. The Winchester has now filled up, though still not at capacity, and there’s a modicum of movement on the dance floor.

Sirpico DMA QF3Its the middle of the evening, and Sirpico‘s turn to wow me, which they easily achieve. Even before being announced by Trev, Al is on the mic welcoming people and encouraging them to step forwards. This sets up the scene for a rocked up set of 4 lads dressed in cool black, playing their guts out to a crowd that the majority of don’t start out as theirs, but are slowly being won over. Their fans have some quality heckles too, e.g.:
     Al: here’s the only slow one we do
     Heckle: and I bet that’s at f*^*in’ 1200 BPM too

Powdered Cows DMA QF3Powdered Cows take my artistic award for the night (no real surprise there) something that I haven’t appreciated before is how, while the songs sound like they’re in similar keys, there are subtle differences between them, making it well nigh on impossible to just jump in and accompany them, as Ed Pope does on sax for a couple of numbers. Tonight the first few tracks are very heavily guitar oriented, with strong drum beats. Soon Martin switches from guitar so the synth plays a big part, drums turn into tambourine & whistling before there’s a total instrument switch around between Amy (drums now guitar) & Deena (vice-versa). Meanwhile Angus stays solid playing bass throughout.

Constellation DMA QF3Constellation have had a crowd here since the beginning of the night, so understandably there’s a lot of noise when they finally take to the stage. This also means that The Winchester is still absolutely packed as they play – if there was an extra award for crowd commitment and dedication, these guys would be strong contenders! Once announced they kick straight into a big drum solo to start the set. These guys are a great party band, positive major keys, upbeat/ reggae style guitar beats, and everyone here seems to be here for good time, judging by the noise and heckles.

A specific shout out to Josh from Conversion Studios, he’s offering part of the prize package, and we had a brief chat once introduced by Trev to each other.  Also to two particular members (who will remain nameless – they know who they are) of one of the acts in the Quarter Finals – placing bets on whether they get a mention by name or not in this blog – nice try chaps, I’d say OP wins for that!

Champions Fancy Dress

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Powdered Cows Champions

By far the most noticeable thing about tonight is the large number of animal costumes that have invaded the packed out venue. Turns out a hen party of musos and others have decided to finish off their night in here.

Powdered Cows are playing their last song. By all accounts their set has not been as experimental as usual; a solid string of good tunes, to my mind the last song is musical, melodic and pretty, which fits what I’ve been told by others.

What I’m really enjoying seeing is the varied numbers of people that have come out tonight, so many different musos and hangers on like myself.

Zaardvark Champions

This is Zaardvark‘s debug gig, and its a good one. There were rumours of this being “music one can’t dance to”, different rhythms in every bar and so on – typically artistic and creating a mystique about themselves (as per the facebook bage). That is not the case. Instrumental to the point of being progressive, thumping beats and not much evidence of non dancing going on! To the contrary, many are whirling away…

Zaardvark Pedals

What does stand out is the dominance of sounds being generated by guitarist Mark, and the amazing array of pedals needed to create the effects, to the envy of some of the other guitarists present. Talking to him afterwards, it takes effort and concentration, but worth it!

Halfway through one long number, drummer Dave uses a bass break to turn his snare upside down, and plays it as a djembe. Overall, I’m impressed and loving it and would recommend them to anyone who loves their music instrumentally flavoured, and slightly more trippy than chilled.

Achilles are the closer here in Champions tonight; with so much relying on so many sound generations they take slightly longer than the norm to setup, but it’s worth it.

Achilles Champions

 

 The music is again instrumental, sax led with overlays of synth and keys, underwritten by very melodic bass tunes, and a sprinkling of synth-esque guitar. The whole being so polished-sounding that one can forget it’s not tunes that have been worked over for hours for a recording, its all being produced live in front of the audience.

As for Zaardvark, the case could be made that the tunes that Achilles put together again isn’t music to dance to; my counter-argument: the driving drumming and the bass riffs make vibrating and gyrating nigh on impossible. An amazing act to see, and it easy to see how Achilles wowed everyone at the 2009 Dorest Music Awards.

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.

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

Powdered Cows and Save The Bat!

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Powdered Cows logoAfter a splendid meal with the dive club at the Spyglass and Kettle, saunter into the Winchester for the last act of the night. As usual after a heaving Sunday night the place has been drunk nearly dry – it’s good to see that our pubs are having good nights.

As ever the welcome is warm at the Winch – Steve from Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) is here, since Powdered Cows contain some of them.  Also my first ever Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy” recipient moment, courtesy of Ed Pope (another Powdered Cows member(sax))

I’ve missed the Bunglechords (and the Bongoose trio), but no matter – they (and / or their following) are still around to make a noise so kudos to them and a worthy mention even though I missed them!

When Powdered Cows come on, the music is clear and melodic from this different four piece – it’s the first time I’ve heard Martin sing solo and he has a good voice, even if helped along a bit by the Solid Air reverb system (namely Connie and his twiddly bits)

Guitar, bass, drums and sax makes for a different mix. Martin‘s soundbites between songs add to the atmosphere, whether it be a typical Martin-esge gag, or vaguely serious plugs for the Bat Conservation Trust, which Martin is clearly passionate about.

The three-piece are good and tight allowing the aforementioned Ed to pile additional flair into the sound. He jumps around the stage a fraction also, adding a bit of visual spirit into the aural delight of e.g. final track Vampire Moustache.

Their next gig is Champions 19th Feb as Martin enthusiastically announces at the end of the set.