Fish ‘n’ Kyps Evening

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Fish - Fish Heads @ Mr Kyp

Having had a long day (started on the 05:12 train) away in London I catch the majority of Fish and the Fishhead’s acoustic set at Mr Kyps. They’re running through some of the classic 80’s Marillion material, with Fish breaking off and telling stories, particularly when asked what happened to his head (he’s lost his trademark hair). At the point I get my head into gear he’s asking for requests, which he receives in plenty and ignores or cusses most of them away.

He decides on Jigsaw, and has to look up the words from a folder of his back catalogue, still joking all the way. His voice is still steady and sure, even if some of the high range pitches I’m familiar with from the ’80’s recordings are absent. Its all good. He takes 5 minutes to interact with the crowd with regards sex and relationships, before launching into Just Good Friends.  Something else – he’s continually chucking in references to a Mk II Jaguar he’s seen in a garage window here in town…

Fish - Vigil - Fish Heads @ Mr KypsHe shares an interesting view of Cuba and Che Guevara comparing relative freedoms against living in invisible boxes before launching into Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors – its even more relevant now than it was in 1989 when written. For this he’s walking around the crowd, telling the story through the song – he gets to the inevitable line “I’m just a voice in the crowd”, and exhilaratedly shouts “I’m in the crowd”. Things go totally silent at the close … “The deadliest weapon is truth” before the applause somewhat detracts from the moment. This perfectly leads into Fugazi – messed up world (radio rules mean I’m not about to publish the proper interpretation…).

Frankie - Frank Usher - Fish Heads @ Mr KypsFossy - Foss Paterson - Fish Heads @ Mr KypsWhat I’m enjoying  about the whole gig is that the entire big sound I’m used to from hearing the studio or live albums is being reproduced on an acoustic guitar by Frank Usher, and a RD-700SX keyboard played by Foss Paterson.

For the encore Fish breaks into Sugar Mice, with the story of how this was written in 1986 before mobile phones, about having arguments over long distance (and uber-expensive) phone calls from the USA to back home, when he’s had to beg a venue manager to be able to even make the call. This is even more special for me than the other greats he’s included tonight – it was this song that introduced me to Marillion in the first place back in 1987.

This has been an amazingly intimate gig, and so much better as a result.

Mother Ukers @ Bhone end of the ride @ ChampionsOn to the Bhone End Of The Ride event at Champions – grandmaster of Bhone Tony Foster is off to new pastures so has thrown a farewell party. Saturday Sun were on the bill, and Mother Ukers are just finishing up as I arrive, doing their usual messed about versions of classic songs.  Tone himself is in mellow mood, it’s pretty much the last many of us will see of him as he departs more or less immediately after this gig for his new home in Edinburgh.

end of a long night after a long day - thanks Cellar Bar CrewI drag myself home via the Cellar Bar, where astonishingly the Rubber Soul bands have long-since packed up for the night – it’s only just gone midnight when I arrive.  Some of the female Cellar Bar Crew wander in dressed in fabulous evening dresses, sporting Movember mo’sista moustaches.  Soon the eye-liner is out, and we all end up looking something like this…  What an awesome evening, to top off what had been an eventful (if long) day.

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Bhone Birthday Fundraiser – Final (5th) gig.

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Bit of a car malfunction so I arrive just in time to miss Saturday Sun. Talking with them and Martin from Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) (who’s trumpeting with Mutant Vinyl tonight) they had a great time and apparently ran with a good set.

Blackwater Caravan

Blackwater Caravan bhone bdayBlackwater Caravan are on stage when I walk in. I caused a bit of controversy at the Dorset Music Awards when I didn’t recognise their talent then. They are kicking some munged up grunge – distorted vocals are wailed out, accompanied by what sounds like a fuzzboxed bass and screaming totally overblown guitar, which turns out is a problem with the PA system.

These guys are placing a lot of energy into what they’re doing, and there are moments of solo brilliance. Their intros and outros are nicely segued, one song cleverly merges into the next at one point. Lead Zac’s solos are well performed, and he chooses a good set of effects for those, what I get lost in is when he switches to rhythm pieces and the previously mentioned over-volumed distortion mashes over his vocals.

There also seem to have been problems with the guitar, it needs tuning after nearly every song, and I’m pretty sure that not every song is in a different tuning. Towards the end of the set the PA gets sorted and the over-distortion is reduced, allowing us to appreciate Zac’s vocal talents more effectively, and talent there is a plenty, it’s just not been that great a showcase due to the lack of PA clarity earlier.

Rapids!

Rapids! bhone bdayThese start with their strongest track from the EP that impressed me so much. High amount of movement, catchy tunes, clear vocals, loads going on, impressive from the outset. Something must be going on backstage, lead Matt let’s the impressiveness slip during the gap by mentioning something about a guitar amp, I miss th exact coment but its clear the rest of the band don’t like this, which I think is funny.

Maybe he’s using whatever it a a goad to spur him on, he’s certainly putting a lot in to tonight’s performance, as are the rest of the band. Halfway through the second track there is some amazing bass work shaking the room, who would think that a slow alternation between two notes would be so powerful. They seem to be going down well with the crowd too, lengthy applause follows each song, possibly something to do with the really catchy keyboard/synth work, one song in particular is very 80’s in appeal (thinking Simple Minds here)

Matt Rapids! Closeup bhone bdayMatt has an interesting mic technique – he uses an upright stand when not on synth, holding the mic with both hands, looking up into the air rather than at anyone in the audience. He also has what looks like frustration but what I think is just his eccentric tendancies, jumping about, or standing on the spot kicking his knees together, putting on an in places alarming show. Their intros are also worked out – they tend to be quite sparse e.g. Drums on rims, guitar just picked staccato through a simple effect, then the full song comes in, eiter gently blending or gloriously crashing, either way entirely appropriate to the tune concerned.

Mutant Vinyl

Mutant Vinyl bhone bdayThese guys have grown so much through the various gigs they’ve played since the last time I saw them. Heavy and melodic at the start, they allow the art to shine through the music throughout. Dread is their homage to dub beat, its at once instantly memorable, yet promising of distant things – I think its very Egyptian in its stance, rather than Jamaican, then they throw in a grunge riff just to make things more interesting than they already were. Its also tonight’s first outing for Ed’s sax, more on this later.

I say this as next up is Wind That Woke Our Baby, some could call it soft rock however it has much in similar with some of the China Crisis in my memory. Mark (lead guitar) has a “pretty” riff for this one (I’m allowed to use pretty – that’s how Ed described it) then it builds into a more rootsy rock, all along Mark’s riff continues – very much like a koto sound from his guitar. Next there is more sax and this time Mark’s using a drum stick in right hand to create some chords. It then progresses into a rolling rock beat from drums while sax is sprayed all over, in a musical sense!

The next song is a Kings Of Leon cover, Knocked Up, and pin drop silence is requested, this is because guest vocalist introduced as Kya starts very quietly, while the music gently plays in the background, very melodic bass work leading the song on. This gentle start builds into a crescendo, which explodes in the third chorus. Martin Roberts is invited up for a special bhone 5th birthday version of Acid Honey. This should normally start with a sax solo over a steady drum beat then bass kicks in with a single note rhythm. Thanks to Martin this is a sax and trumpet solo, both playing the same riff in time, in the same octave. Great start well rehearsed and executed.

Mutant Vinyl Crowd Surf bhone bdayFor the sax break after the first verse, Martin and Ed take turns to have a playoff, before Martin switches to megaphone, another is invited up to play guitar while Ed grabs a third guitar. Meanwhile the band are all jamming out together while Ed calls for (and gets) a mosh pit. For their encore, they claim to have no material, until deciding to go with Guns Of Brixton, inviting Rob and Claire on stage to jam. Towards the end some crowd surfing goes on, before a glorious shambles of an end involving guitars, leads, sticks, amps and bundling.

To sum up, all bands tonight have represented a new breed of talent rising through the ranks, rather than out and out rock as many over the past days have been, all these acts are bringing something different to the party. Does this represent a change in focus for music in Bournemouth?

Dorset Music Awards Quarter Final 1

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If one wants to get along to these Quarter Finals must make it early – they start at 8pm. This is good as hopefully once “the crowd” (myself included) realise music starts earlier than it has been they’ll be prepared to come out early and nights won’t start slow. The knock on effect of this will then hopefully turn the last slot into a proper headline, rather than the graveyard it has started to become…

As intimated above, I didn’t manage to make it here until 9pm, so I’ve missed Evolver and Kinnie the Explorer. What I can’t miss is the capacity crowd – the Dorset Music Awards always pull out a lot of fans and also other musos, from within the competition and without.

Rapids go on as the third act of the evening, my first. They are energetic and loud, yet not to a volume where earplugs are needed. Front man Matt is kicking around all over the place, they are very high energy rock, pacey beats, fast bass and rhythm guitar riffs with screaming lead, and a bit of synth thrown in for good measure.

A bit of flavour is added by Matt jumping into the crowd and jumping away while still shouting the lyrics. The applause is polite, with a few whoops and cheers; there isn’t a lot of other movement going on to match the high energy performance. I’m therefore a little taken aback by the noise when they’ve finished – they’ve clearly won some people over.

Cella Creeps are the penultimate act. I love the spaced out sound lead guitarist Mark creates for their opening numbers. They are also producing some solid rock stuff as well, plus a small disclaimer from bass and vocalist Ed – “no we’re not Mutant Vinyl, some of us just look a little like them!”

This time the audience seem to be behind them more – more swaying for the slower numbers; more movement for the swifter elements. Something strange, Ed seems to have his own personal roadie – even to the point of plying him with a drink while he’s playing – turns out there are 3 songs without a break for bass and he’s thirsty!

At the end as part of their last song, Ed is clearly looking for something special – he steps forward to encourage some mates to start moshing, then jumps down into it – still playing bass – to join in. Cue close of set with tons of feedback….

Saturday Sun play to a still packed house, although has thinned out a little bit due to the 11:30 start time. As ever, they are open, wide open with the guitars and the beats. All dreamy stuff, yet there is still a lot going on with bass riffs, clever drums and rhythm guitar, all doing their build to crescendo then fade away to silence

They bring a different summer evening vibe – a feeling of calm and stillness. Well, to the front half of the room who are still paying attention – those round the bar appear to have lost interest. I think it’s more the nature of Saturday Sun’s music that these noisier people can be heard over the quieter tunes.

As ever with the Dorset Music Awards, a big shout goes to Trevor and Richard from Dorset Music Forum for organising and running another amazing night of live music in Bournemouth.

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

Chilled Out Vibes

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Monday night means Solid Air night – the 3rd Monday of the month for me means swiming with the Dive Club, so I get to the gig later than normal.

I walked in to the Winchester just as Saturday Sun were about to start (I’d missed opener Coke Can Jack in full band guise following the other week’s Pink Moon acoustic performance).

I’d caught half of one of Saturday Sun’s songs at the Oxjam takeover weekend, and Si Genaro had raved about them later when questioned about Oxjam on the Oxjam retrospective show I held on air. 

In single words, I’d describe Saturday Sun as acoustic melodic and atmospheric, while also very rhythmic.  They were utilising varied tunings throughout the performance, to create some interesting pieces. 

This tuning detracted slightly from the overall atmosphere for me, since there were lengthy delays between songs to sort out said tunings, meaning the gig never really hit a stride in my opinion.

Having said that, the songs these chaps from Swanage have produced are mellow and chilled, yet one of them played (I think it was Crocodile Skin) started with this vibe, before growing into a wailing shrieking pulsating anthem, with strong beats from drum, foot beat box and foot-operated tambourine – impressive stuff.

They’ve home-produced their The Deepest Woods EP (nicely artistic cover) with four studio and two live tracks – this is again varied while still in the chilled-out mode, with the rhythms kicking in perfectly suitably. 

Nothing jumps out and surprised in the tunes, which is exactly what is wanted for this type of music, the tunes morph and grow and fade  in a very intimate manner.

Looking at their gig list, they’ve picked up a choice slot at the end of November, the Skunk Anansie after party show in Brighton, as well as the more usual local venues (Champions, The Winchester)

Would I personally see them again? I wouldn’t immediately go out of my way to find them (give time for the stage act to improve), but the EP has been stuck in my player ever since they kindly gave me a  copy – look for a mention in Listed Magazine real soon now…