Bar Zuka launch Open Mic; Solid Air

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Chris Woodford @ Bar Zuka 10 OctMonday night means its Solid Air in the Cellar Bar, first I drop in on Ant Lewis’ new open mic in Bar Zuka. Aaron Gregory is just finishing, and Chris Woodford goes on as I’m there.

Spending that 20 mins or so means I miss Fran Milner’s Solid Air opening set; Si Genaro is out-performing himself on stage in an acoustic appearance. I wander upstairs to see some people, meaning I miss Krista Green’s first set for a while¬†(she’s just returned from a break in Thailand).

Ant Henson & Krista Green @ Cellar Bar 10 OctWhen I return Ant Henson is sharing his stage with a couple of people during his slot, Krista dueting vocally with him in a cover of The One, then another friend on harmonica joining for the last couple, by which tiime he’s broken both G strings on his 12 string, hence going commando (his gag) for the closer.

Si & Si @ Cellar Bar 10 OctSi Crockett is doing yet another last gig ever, this time not with full band (since Ant is running aforementioned open mic, and Rio is unavailable.) So it turns into Si and Si double act, almost fitting for his last last gig, since its how he started before forming the band around him.

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Si Crockett, Cella Creeps @ Cellar Bar

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Si Crockett Cellar BarAnother Friday night, another Cellar Bar gig. I’ve heard Si Crockett play lots recently, in his Big Face or Small Face Reggae guise, so its quite rare at the moment to see him solo acoustic, as he is tonight. His playing is more of an excuse to exercise his wonderful voice, with guitar accompaniment, the whole package is good as a result. He also announces his departure to pastures new, as he’s off doing the backpacking thing at the end of the summer.

Cella Creeps Cellar BarOn to Cella Creeps, a gig that has been misbilled a few times as Cellar Creeps or Mutual (not Mutant) Vinyl – obviously caught a mood as Ed announces themselves as Fearne ūüôā . Strong bass beats, good lead riffs and solid drumming mark the music, the whole being a very atmospheric emo-like sound. For a more complete description, see my previous posts on their Dorset Music Awards 2011 appearances. Suffice to say this gig features new material, reworked old material, and original material, all fantastic to enjoy.

They get up to their usual artistic antics. After playing personal fave Ride Beat (Mark dedicates it to me) Ed announces he feels “disconnected” and sits on the floor of the bar to play the next instrumental. All very chilled and mellow – until that is they divert into a funk jam, just because they were asked to at another gig, and it kind of worked then. It works now, too.

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Final

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Ali (and later, Martin) from Constellation join me in the studio this evening.¬† Despite being together and gigging for over a year, Constellation only hit my radar through entering the 2011 Dorset Music Awards, where they reached the Semi Final stage. I’ve written much about them as a result on this blog.¬†

Having the chat in the studio is enlightening about how they formed from¬†friendships formed at classes in music technology, and how Ali was subsequently recruited as a vocalist.¬† We also talk a little bit about now old song The Flower Song, and about their supported charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers.¬†

The songs played are special exclusives, prepared yet unfinished cuts from their latest recording sessions, a CD to be produced real soon now.  As ever, really enjoyable, made more so by fan interaction via received texts, calls and emails from fans.

I’m then (in slow time) off to the Bournemouth Unplugged Final in O’Neill’s.¬† Its been a long journey from that first Heat in February, perhaps made more so by the mad rush to get from the studio to the bar in time to hear the first act.¬† Of the 32 acts entered, many have been amazing, I’ve picked up many new guests for the show.¬†

Of course there have been some that have been good, but just uninspiring – there are too many people that are picking up a guitar, strumming some chords and putting over lyrics¬†– it’s not as easy as that, but even so need to be something a little bit different to stand out from the crowd.¬†

Overall, it has made for some nights of amazing music, even if it means continuous cajon playing (the unplugged bit effectively means no drum kits) for percussive accompaniment.¬† I’ve also been surprised to see my preconceptions blown away on some occasions, when having to structurally break down music into objective categories to define what’s best.

So, four acts in the final, Si Crockett, Chris Woodford, Phil King and Krista Green.¬† Every one of them plays what many say is their best set ever. The pub is absolutely packed – other artists from the competition, loads of fans of local live music, meaning the atmosphere is electric, and gives one a chance to catch up with nearlyeveryone who’s anyone on the circuit.¬† Enough of my ramblings, on to the prizes.

ITG song writer award.

This is for the best overall songwriter in the competition.  Martin from ITG productions wants to reward people with good original content and amazing tunes.  Goes to Ant Henson.

TL sound.

This is for PA hire, studio recording time and other related goodies.  Goes to Si Crockett.

Dreadlock photography.

This is for a free¬†photo shoot by one of the upcoming portrait photo stars of the music scene, Old Bloke. Goes to Si Crockett, “for playing the best I’ve ever seen him play”

Purbeck Folk Festival.

Here Cath Burke is looking for an act that will fit particularly well into the vibe of this specific festival.  Goes to Krista Green.

Endorset in Dorset.

Gee starts by saying he isn’t used to and dislikes this judging lark (thanks for the support Gee, we’ve had to do this for 3 months!) and gets involved this time as the festival organiser available.¬† Goes to Chris Woodford.

New guitar (vouchers).

This was delayed with the main prize as they’re both awarded by Fiona, O’Neill’s manager. Its ¬£350 worth of vouchers for a new guitar, since she wants the receipient to choose one for their style, rather than force something unwanted on them. Goes to Phil King.

Overall winner Bournemouth Unplugged 2011.

Finally we get to the end of the night – it’s been delayed (along with the previous prize) for 10 minutes beyond the others by Ant in the interests of suspense.¬† Fiona announces the winner as Krista Green, who wins a nice silverware trophy, a string of pub gigs at O’Neill’s bars in London, and rapturous applause.

Well done to all who entered and got through to any stage in the competition, particular shouts to Ant Lewis from Fairplay¬†for organising everything, to Steve from TL Sound who’s been there each week driving the PA system, and to Fiona for setting aside most Wednesdays to allow musos to invade the bar mainly on their terms!¬† Also fellow regular judges Harry from Chaplins, Tone from bhone for the heats,¬†Cath from Purbeck Folk Festival for sitting in occasionally, and Martin from ITG¬†for taking some heat with me for unpopular decisions.

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Semi Final 1

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Solid Air HopeFM Kimari Raven Sofi ReedLiveWire Live! with Solid Air

My guests tonight are the¬†delightful ladies¬†Kimari Raven and Sofi Reed; Solid Air’s Conrad is my regular guest host. We spend a lot of time talking about the Oxjam fundraiser just been, where over ¬£1300 was collected from a single day event.¬† There’s also a lot of focus on upcoming gigs, Sofi has one on Thursday at the Winchester, and Conrad is featuring Kimari at Monday’s Solid Air in the Cellar Bar. There are other things he’s looking forward to, we also feature some tracks from his archives looking back, and fresh music he has – it’s great having Conrad on the show as he has such a different outlook than myself on artists and music.

Embodied microphones!Sofi and Kimari have brought guitars with them, so we are serenaded – unfortunately for me, they don’t do one of their duets in the studio, however its fairly clear they’re quietly singing along to each other. We also have a bit of a laugh about Sofi’s elastic face – she pulls the most wonderful expressions while she’s concentrating on performing.

The first photo is while Kimari is playing Monster, the second of their faces obscured by the microphones as we’re talking about Sofi’s expressions. As can hopefully be gathered all in all it’s a fun time in the studio, and we head off together to O’Neills for the first of the two Bournemouth Unplugged Semi Finals.

Mischa

Mischa BU SF1Mischa is first up, he is active and moving, with just enough of a story between songs to keep interest before getting boring. There’s lots of noise in the pub, but he’s overcoming it. All through his set there’s lots of applause from all over the pub – I’m at the back for the first part of his performance and the activity is clearly visible from where I am, let alone from the judges table at the front.¬†

He has his lumberjack-esque looks with the check shirt, I’m really loving the energy all three are putting into it – there’s also more cello this time.¬† He goes for the growling lyric option in Overworked and Underpaid, which I feel works for the music and the performance he’s giving, though I think other judges disagree with me on this.

Chris Woodford

Chris Woodford BU SF1He’s brought two guitars with him tonight, yet starts playing on just one, leaving us some anticipation for what’s coming up.¬† He moves on into playing the harmonics by sliding the guitar on to his lap, dobro style.¬† Halfway through we hear the second guitar, before he uses a mobile phone to create some industrial sounds on the first guitar – while I’m not sure¬†what that’s about, it’s something different and experimental, which I like.¬† He gives a big finish, huge volume and a huge energetic shout “Come on!” as he reaches his crescendo and ends.¬† The crowd react accordingly.

Bob Fletcher

Bob Fletcher Korozyf BU SF1In my mind I bet he’s thinking “How to follow that”,¬†My answer¬†to myself is¬†by being the best that you can, he’s giving some good lively strumming then beat boxing, getting some reaction, not just from his crowd (although they start things off).¬† He performs a slow quieter song (with permission from the crowd, which is a nice touch) – this is brave and he pulls it off, +1 for originality!

For a couple of songs Korozyf joins him for MC’ing, then Bob gets the crowd clapping along before throwing things into a loop pedal and building a huge sound as a result.¬† He turns the loop volume down at the end using some fancy foot work while still singing – not seen that before, normally people stoop to control them, interrupting their unlooped playing to do so – this allows Bob to continue playing and is an impressive touch, hard to do and he pulls it off.

The inevitable Tom Jones is performed, and this time he rings the changes by not standing on chairs etc, but just wanders around a small part of the crowd, I like this as I expected him to do the same as before, changing it like that shows he can be flexible while still doing an impressive show.  Definitely my choice act of the evening.

Si Crockett

Si Crockett BU SF1Si is doing his usual material, of which much has¬†previously been said.¬† We are treated to harmonies from Si Genaro, not just harmonica. Talking of the latter, he’s got “new shiny ones since his last ones got nicked”, as he puts it. Nacho Jase on Congas is putting on his own little show at the back – I later refer to him as Nutjob Jase as a result of his acting as “a yob at the back” – good fun.

Si also plays a slower song compared with the rest of his set, my difficulty this time is that while the three of them are tight as ever, they seem to have changed tonight into three individuals playing together, rather than a band (which was how¬†Mischa felt like). Sunshine takes things up slightly before Cheeky Monkey rocks the place – there’s a hint that Genaro’ll go off on a 30 min solo, he doesn’t, and they move into last song Big Face Reggae, in all a brilliant show, I just feel not one of the best ones they’ve done.

Judges Result

We then move into counting up our scores, and adding an element for the crowd vote (which has been re-introduced for these rounds).¬† As ever we have been marking out of ten on Originality, Song Writing Ability, Technical Ability and Stage Presence/Audience Interaction.¬† The crowd vote adds another 10, 8, 6 and 4 in order of most votes received, making it 20% of the total.¬† There is an additional “clapometer” style score out of 5, and a “star quality Y/N ” for us to pick our favourite two.

I’m surprised to find that we have one act clearly ahead of all the others, the other three just have 0.5% between them, all scores are near the 150 mark (max points available 180 as we have four judges tonight).¬† We have to go to another (quieter) room to deliberate, as some of us aren’t happy about how these have panned out, and we know how important it is to get this correct.¬† Even so, we know that our results aren’t going to be popular, as the one with the most crowd votes (Bob Fletcher) has not been selected.¬† We’ve all had to make compromises in our choices, we agree to abide by our group choice, even if we personally disagree with it.

The finalists selected tonight are Chris Woodford and Si Crockett, so big congratulations to them, and big shouts go out to Mischa and Bob Fletcher, who did everything that was required and more, but then that’s what sucks yet is what¬†competition is about, I guess.

The difficult part comes from the 15 minutes after we annouce this unpopular result, as some very vocal people think we’ve made the wrong decision.¬† I just try to take the flak from my mates and move on, although Fiona (O’Neills manager) has to step in at some point as things are getting passionately¬†verbal between people.¬† Funny that I seem to be the only judge around at this point – makes me rather unpopular!¬†

Its a shame this mars the three hours of absolutely amazing music that have made the rest of the evening an entire delight for me.

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Quarter Final 4

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Hessian join me in the studio tonight – or rather, four of the five of them.¬† Tilly (bass) can’t make it to town, yet phones to join into the interview conversation from wherever she is (London, I think).¬† The band have played other¬†gigs in addition to the times I’ve seen them during the Dorset Music Awards, so there’s ripe material for discussion there.¬†

They’ve also been spending time recording some tracks – Sam is putting the finishing touches to their latest recording while we’re in the studio together, mixing the vocal takes. As we play it out towards the end of the¬†show, they listen relatively intensely¬†over the¬†studio foldback, understandable since they’ve not heard it before!

We all make a sharpish exit from the studio, as I head off to O’Neills again to some shock news – Boyd and Wain have cancelled their appearance tonight in the Quarter Finals, effectively putting themselves out off the competition. I’m in two minds about this news – one half says that they are such brilliant musos they would provide a lively and enjoyable set. Many I speak to are also of the same mind.

My other voice is asking what is an act playing gigs in the States and who could easily book themselves a set of London sessions doing in a competition like this anyway.

Moot point really, they’ve pulled out, and Joel Gregory has slipped under the wire as act 16 (Saturday Sun also don’t get put forward for missing their Quarter Final)

Again I’m writing my comments on the fly as I hear the acts, in preparation to make statements to the audience here.

Tim Somerfield

Tim Somerfield Bmth UnpluggedQuiet intro – says “start where left off last time then on into different material” – don’t need to tell me that as I probably wouldn’t remember anyway.
2nd song clever chord work putting on syncopation with left hand. Also in 3rd song, and others – waiting for another style.
Obviously has his crowd here, yet not making the most use of them to my mind. Even at the end when I comment on this in my judges verbal response, there’s no reaction. Leads me to think of that line from John Cleese in the parrot sketch – Voomph? That wouldn’t Voomph if it had 2000 volts through it.
OK chat to cover tuning, fast de tune.
Confident patter for stage presence, yet not much else.
Strong clear voice.
Liked chord work on last one, shows a different style from what’s gone before.

Andy Stock Band

Andy Stock BandBefore start – Cast of thousands or so it seems compared to Tim’s solo slot.
Solo start then band come on one by one helps with working out the levels originally.
Like the reworking of a cover – making it yours – sounds like it was rewritten specifically for tonight?
2nd song a bit too long of similar repetition, still I like the personalisation. Sounds a bit muddy on the PA. Awkward when there’s 2 good PA guys in the band. Tight on the musical breaks.
Set seemed too short, turns out they have space for another song (which Andy solos) There’s a lot of talent there, could do with more polish.

Si Crockett

Si Crockett Bmth UnpluggedSi Genaro has lost his harmonicas this very night, so makes a little notice at the start thanking those who’ve rallied round and helped him out – first time I’ve seen him serious for a long time…
Laid back start, turning Ain’t No Sunshine into his own style. 3rd shows off Si Crockett’s voice with some high pitched crooning.
Big Face Reggae starts waking things up a bit, still laid back yet bigger audience reaction
Si C voice and Si G beat boxing save the day for Sunshine, was becoming a bit samey to my ears. MSSB (full title not repeatable here – Radio Rules) wakes up the stage a bit, a bit of action at the last.
A few ‘in’ gags regarding Small Face Reggae and Big Face Reggae (his non-unplugged band)

Joel Gregory

Joel Gregory Bmth UnpluggedBit of a surprise to hear him back.
He’s not doing that much of particular interest on the guitar. His voice is good though – clear lyrics
One very vocal crowd member
Turns out he’s a wildcard re-entry who responded when Boyd & Wain pulled out. This is a little unfair both on him and on others, however competition runners reserve the right etc. etc.

The winners who go through to the semi finals are announced as The Andy Stock Band and Si Crockett, this doesn’t go down too well with those who felt Tim Somerfield played the better set of at least one of those. Where some weeks have had very close results this time there is only¬†a close-ish¬†gap of 3% between each of the acts; I end up taking some time listening to Tim’s right to reply (as does Fiona, the sponsor of the overall competition)¬†anyway.

Dorset Music Awards Quarter Final 4

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DMA logoWe’re at the last week of the Dorset Music Award Quarter Finals, and anyone watching Facebook and Myspace will already be well aware of this – 20 bands, most of which are actively on the “vote for me” campaign trail have reached this stage, ten will be decided upon by this,¬†the public voting round.¬† On paper, this last night promises to be the best of the four, the line up could almost be construed as anyone’s ideal final lineup, all the acts here are huge names on the circuit.

Sarah Griffin Dorset Music Awards QF 4Sarah Griffin¬†opens, again she’s performing solo, and being soulful with it, really pouring out her heart into the songs. Upbeat Crazy Kate is an exception, otherwise she’s keeping with her ballads. There is promise of upbeat to come, (or even a beat, she jokes) if she gets through to the next round.

issTV are here again this week, catching interviews with a number of the bands (OK, I have a little bit to do with some introductions). They’re intending to produce a package on the whole music awards, so are trying to catch everyone they can in these stages

Mischa Dorset Music Awards QF 4Mischa¬†is¬†the second act presenting himself to us tonight, he’s again gone with¬†the full more or less unplugged band; he was on the show the other week with Roland (cello, ukelele), he’s also brought Ed¬† on bass and Si C on cajon, making for a full rich sound, yet still laid back and summery feeling. Opening with his classic Air I Breathe, its more of an extended jam session as they all bounce off each other.

I also have another catch up with Alex Marle Рhe runs the Music Mania events at the Winchester, and is organising a stage at the Rugby Sevens over the Spring Bank Holiday (6 bands,2 days, £30 a ticket, unless you speak nicely to Alex as he has some reduced price ones available.)

New Volunteer Dorset Music Awards QF 4New Volunteer seem to take a long time to set up, but its worth it. They open with just a looped glockenspiel, growing their sound and building it in a very open manner Рnot much soloing going on, just a laid back crescendo. As the set progresses they become more mainstream Рone song reminds me a bit of See Emily Play by Pink Floyd, melody-wise. They are flamboyantly dischordant and wonderfully artistic musically.

What I am disappointed at is the crowd, or lack thereof. This is really surprising since (as I said at the start) the 5 acts on tonight on paper make the best line up of the competition so far. Having said that, none of them (with one exception) have really brought much of a crowd with them, excuses could be it’s paddy night (I’m still puzzled that everyone goes a bit mad for an Irish night) or that they are on too late (in Fearne’s case probably true, they have a lot of fans at the younger end of the age spectrum).

Big Face Reggae Dorset Music Awards QF 4Big Face Reggae¬†(Si Crockett in band mode) is our penultimate liner tonight – I’m wondering if he’s feeling a bit misplaced – this is his 3rd gig in 2 days now and he starts with a cover (I thought DMA was an original music competition, unlike last nights comp.!)
He’s roped in Nacho Jase, and Si Genaro again tonight, with the addition of Ant Lewis on bass. The cover was a laid back Bobby McFerrin number which settles the lineup and sets a good scene, he then slips more into his beach induced surf / skank material. The four of them are very tight, as pauses, accelerandos¬†and rallentandos in the music demonstrate.

Fearne Dorset Music Awards QF 4Last on tonight are¬†Fearne who kick off an awesome set – they are really antsy on stage as if they have a point to prove, like they own this competition (as they well should). This is DMA year 6, Fearne have been going in varying guises for 6 years, and this is the first time they’ve entered. They are also the only band tonight that have a vocal crowd, that (as per last week’s final act) have to be in contention for most tenacious fans award. The fans are active, moving forward on request and very vocal. I really hope that¬†in particular these guys have done enough to get through this fan vote round.

In conclusion then, Fearne have given the best overall performance, and New Volunteer are my pick for the most “arty”, and also just about have an edge on the others for¬†providing the most musical interest; all acts have been superb tonight.

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Heat 7

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Bmth Unplugged 2011My guests tonight are Amity Road, they have 3 gigs in 3 days coming up. They are a lot of fun to talk to, both on and off mic, we spend a lot of time talking about sooo many differnt topics.

I have very little pre-prepared material to go on, my research notes are a ripoff of what I said about their Dorset Music Award Heat appearance:  Movement and action with the music. Lee (bass)  good moves. Good crowd management. Loud heavy rock, very musical. Getting crowd to clap along first time seen here, and liked it. Already had a crowd, rare for 2nd stage, then pulled more across. Audience responded well to clapping in song, and afterwards.  Drummer in arm cast !?!?  good soloing guitar when not solo vox.

They have a lot of texts and emails coming in to the studio – they’ve plugged facebook hard before joining me on the station. We only get to play 3 of their CD tracks, and Karl performs Angels solo live acoustic, filmed by both of the others – he wants some content for youtube or something – while they’re discussing it I’m on mic promoting choice gigs. I left my phone outside the studio¬†so couldn’t take a snap of this for your pleasure.

After what seems far too short a¬†time I head off to Bournemouth Unplugged at O’Neills, penultimate time for the heats.

Kimari Raven Bmth Unplugged

Kimari Raven starts, she has some upbeat songs, and a strong voice and compact vocal range to sing them with, which suits what she’s doing. Her fave song she chooses to cover is The Moody Blues Knights In White Satin, which also happens to be one of my faves. She does a really god job of making it her own, even though she afterwards admits she had a number to choose from, and decided on that one more or less at the last minute…

Johanna Stahr Bmth UnpluggedJohanna Stahr is accompanied by one third of Mother UkersJonty on ukelele, which is different to many of the other acts in the competition. She is playing her usual material on chorded guitar, with Jonty providing some flavour with harmonies and melodies. As Johanna doesn’t normally play covers , she also switches to Ukelele for their take of The Carpenters (They Long To Be) Closer To You. Again her songs are upbeat up to a point, Si Genaro is invited up for her ballad Sunshine to add some flavour, and the crowd love it.

Si Crockett Bmth UnpluggedSi Crockett starts with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy, featuring Si Genaro on blues harp again. It creates a laidback tone to the set, and allows the chaps to harmonise with each other in the choruses. Nacho Jase joins on congas and the summery vibe continues, in a very laid back fashion, yet absolutely belted out. I know Si C¬†can really kick things up, even just on his own, tonight with the¬†additions of Genaro and Jase he’s keeping it low key. Despite this the place is buzzing with his compelling tunes.

Tim Somerfield Bmth UnpluggedTim Somerfield closes and has clearly brought a big crowd with him judging by the noise¬†despite some now empty tables. I last heard him some six months ago, and said then I’d want to see him again. I like what he‚Äôs doing; chord choices and progressions are unexpected, what sound like dominant sevenths and minors create an interesting contrast. He‚Äôs also throwing in chopsa nd staccato chords, and at one point breaks into some intricate finger work on the fretboard. Mountain by Biffy Clyro is his cover for the evening.

Another night of good playing and entertainment, making it so hard to judge between the acts – looking over my notes I can only find a one or two point difference across the criteria we’re asked to score under.

As is customary on my way home, drop into Chaplins and The Cellar Bar with¬†Steve for a catch up with the open mic, which while it’s finished still has a lot of people talking music with guitars.

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