Culture on the Cheap | Hull 2017

It’s been 2017 for over three months now and I’d started to beat myself up for not getting totally immersed in the cultural events which are happening in the city.

There were two arguments telling me to shut up. One: you’re often involved in cultural events, so all these additional events are no ‘biggy’. (That didn’t convince me much.) Two: You’re a busy working woman and the winter months don’t offer much motivation. (That angered me a little, but did seem justifiable.)

So, when my friend visited from London for the warmest weekend of the year so far, we decided to pack as much culture in as possible. On a budget, because, well…

Saturday started off as early as possible with a bus ride to The Deep. For me, this trip was free as I still had a couple of weeks on my year-long ticket from 2016. I never resent paying for The Deep and I think it’s absolutely amazing that they offer the year-long opportunity.

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There’s a couple of new attractions at The Deep which we were excited to see. The first being the new arrival of two Loggerhead Sea Turtles, named Mabouche and Sansbecco. It was explained to the crowd gathered around the viewing point that these turtles couldn’t be released back into the wild as they are missing their lower jaws – a result of being caught on a long line in the Mediterranean – and so wouldn’t survive. I was shocked by how large they were, and I think it was the smaller of the two that we actually got to see up close.

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The second attraction was an art installation entitled Washed Up Car-Go, part of the year-long Look Up programme. Coastline collected by artist Chris Dobrowski has been placed within three cars located in The Deep’s car park. The idea behind it was to represent the high-tide mark, where the debris collected by the ocean washes up on-shore, reflecting the idea of “our decadent disposable culture of mass consumption.” I liked the idea, and it linked in with previous artwork which has been exhibited at The Deep produced from the items washed up onto beaches. However, I found this particular installation was less impressive and nowhere near as striking. I liked the idea, but I wasn’t blown away by the actual pieces. We saw two of the three cars and they were rather similar, so we didn’t bother seeking out the third. For me, artwork is about creating a conversation and this didn’t work for us. We understood the concept and, after taking a couple of photographs, we were able walk away from it.

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We headed down Humber Street and stopped off at Humber Street Gallery to see the Raft of the Medusa which is displayed in the gallery space behind the bar. This piece reflected the dangerous journey of the crew of the Medusa, aboard the raft they salvaged together, as well as acting as a reminder of similarly treacherous journeys taken by slaves and migrants past, present and future. This got us talking a little bit more. The clothes strewn around the room, flowing from suitcases, could have represented anyone from almost any time. The raft itself told a vivid story and was a conversational focal piece. And the artwork around it was interesting. What I did miss was the “pungent smell” that was advertised, making this less multi-sensory. But we were talking about this artwork and we were linking it to stories from the news and our own experiences at sea.

We chose not to have a drink at the Gallery, instead opting to sit outside Butler Whites where we could take in the entire view of the Marina. We saw people standing at the podium for The City Speaks, another part of the Look Up programme. The idea is that you speak into a steel lectern where the microphone picks up your spoken words and translates them into a scrolling dot-matrix text on the tidal barrier at the top of Humber Street. We saw a few people standing up on the lectern but no dot-matrix, and with no Hull2017 volunteer around to guide us, we were unsure as to whether this was something we could participate in one the day.

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Saturday finished off with a trip to the Hull Maritime Museum, stopping before the door in order to take several photographs of the Weeping Window installation, significant to the pair of us as the thousands of poppies had made a similar journey to my friend, from London (the HM Tower of London, where they were originally exhibited) to Hull. It’s been massively photographed and a huge talking point in the city.

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The Maritime Museum was fascinating, specifically because I work with students who are studying Maritime Studies. There’s a huge whale skeleton and the exhibits take you on a journey of the former Town Dock offices which tell a story of the whaling community and the fishing heritage as well as including art installations. One installation which is there until the 28th August is the Offshore: Artists Explore The Sea.

This installation is shared between the Maritime Museum and Feren’s Art Gallery, which we visited on the Sunday. We enjoyed the aspects of this art collection in Feren’s; in particular, the outfit which represented coral. The outfit is on display and a video is shown of it being worn. It’s difficult to explain without sounded a little odd, because initially I found it a little odd. Reading the information and watching the video made it more and more interesting. The other video installation we noticed was of a squid currently residing in a formaldehyde tank the length of the space between two screens in which this artwork is presented.

I’m not one who has ever really shown interest in art galleries. I enjoy music and theatre and spoken word, artwork I can comfortably engage with. So I always get nervous when expressing my opinions about art and art galleries. There were several pieces in Feren’s which I was happy to simply walk past. One I stopped at specifically was the Rembrandt. Here until the end of August, The Ship Builder and his Wife is one of five loans from the Royal Collection Trust which will be displayed at Feren’s between 2017 and 2021. We discussed the story and of the painting and the details we could spot, within the expressions and the paperwork of the ship builder. It’s also just a little exciting to see something with the word ‘Royal’ attached.

Of the two days, we paid for one ticket to go into The Deep (between us both), and that ticket will last another 12 months. We purchased food and drinks, naturally, and had the option of donating to the museums and galleries. To visit an aquarium, a museum and two galleries for the total cost of £12.50 is pretty amazing.

We were blessed with the most stunning weather, which meant that we were happy to wander around and stumble on the new eateries that are popping up around the city as well as taking our time to snap photographs whenever and wherever we saw something which captured our interest.

If you live a bus ride, a train ride away from Hull, then you’d be silly not to pop by. You can make a day out of what we did over the weekend, and for very little money. With a bit of planning via the Hull2017 website, you can ensure that you fit as much in as possible. And if you can plan a couple of weeks ahead I certainly advise that you check out the ‘What’s On’ section of the website and check if there are any ticketed events happening which you don’t want to miss out on.

A day of culture and, with a Day Plus Pass from The Deep, a logical reason to return.

A Rather Laidback Review | The Calais Sessions

I was excited about ordering this CD. It combines two of the things I am very passionate about in my life: my love of music and the work I do with refugees in our local area. I’ve always enjoyed learning about other cultures and their varying traditions. So when I saw an advert asking me to purchase The Calais Sessions CD, I knew it was something that needed to be on my shelves.

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The album is a collection of songs featuring musicians who resided in the Calais Jungle. A makeshift studio was set up in the camp and an array of instruments were offered to the people. The website and album sleeve both promote this as the voices of those people behind the headlines. But it is also an expression of raw and pure emotion from those who have fled their homes because of traumas the majority of British folk can never truly understand.

My first time listening to the album was in the kitchen (a fine place to review an album), cooking up a fusion of Italian and Spanish. The first track was ideal for the job, as I needed to make a basic bread dough and knead for 5 minutes. On shuffle, the first song played was Deskovo Oro, an ideal 6 minutes and 11 seconds long. I finished kneading just in time for the song to change over.

The track was produced quickly, with all of the musicians involved being given a chance to express their skills and styles through their own adaptation of Blagoja Deskoski’s track of the same title. Lead by a Romanian violinist, there is a clear bass established through drums and other string instruments then accompany. It’s fast-paced and had me moving around the kitchen more than I would had I not been listening to the track. With no vocals, I wasn’t distracted and so focused entirely on the stunning sound.

Many of the songs are in a different language. The opening track to the album is called The Lost Singer, performed by four Syrians and dedicated – the CD sleeve has kindly translated the words – to ‘the Syrian martyrs’. La Llorana is a Spanish song, telling a truly sorrowful story. Ya Rab’oun was written by 21 Abdullah from Kuwait, where the main language is Arabic. Khandahar is sung in Farsi, though the original poem was written in English. Yesus and Hallelujah are both sung by singers of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin. The track Ismail is named after the artist, who was known as ‘the music man of the jungle’, who fled his country after being threatened by the Taliban who refused to let him perform.

University Story is a collaboration between an Iraqi rapper and two UK volunteers who have done a lot of work in the Jungle. It is a mixture of languages: I’m not sure whether the rap is done in Kurdish or Arabic – it doesn’t sound familiar to me at all, so I assume not Arabic. It’s a stunning song, with the English lyrics summarising the physical reaction to a love torn by distance.

Long Road has a traditional folk sound to it. It was produced by the team who ran The Calais Sessions, and is dedicated to all the musicians they’d discovered in the Jungle. It summarises to beautifully the natural association with all refugees “so far from home” and touches on the sentiment of those volunteers who can picture their home as the place they will return to, knowing that the people this track is aimed at cannot do the same.

It is the giggles at the end of Deskovo Oro and the cheers and whooping at the end of bonus track Every Heart That Loves which captures my heart. No matter how terrible the situation may be, music can always be a way to release emotion, share emotion and have voices heard. Even if you don’t understand the words, you cannot connect with the voice and the instruments and join with the story.

For me, the album is beauty. When listening to it is easy to forget that this beauty was created in a place symbolic of loss and devastation. It had me dancing around my kitchen and I have already grasped a couple of lyrics so that I am singing along.

All profits from the sale of this album go to Citizens UK. To get your own copy head over to http://www.thecalaissessions.com/buy-music

Hull Help for Refugees: A Night of Hull Talent

So often we read the horrific tales of refugees making their way to safety, some not surviving the journey. Hull Help for Refugees does everything it can to support those in need, not only here in Britain but further afield in such places as Calais and Greece.

On the night of January 28th, a cold evening with a scattering of stars marking the sky, the charity held a fundraiser at Kardomah94. It wasn’t an evening to wallow in misery. We can do that by watching the news. This was a night for likeminded people to get together and enjoy local music and raise some money for a fantastic cause.

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Emmie Craft opened the night with a cover of Guns and Roses ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. It was a fitting start for many reasons: it’s a popular and well-known song the audience could connect with; it highlighted elements of the images of refugee children shown on the slideshow which filled the brief intervals; it showcased Emmie’s fantastic, malleable voice. That opening song established the professionalism with which this young performer brings to an event, as well as setting the pace of the evening.

She performed a mixture of covers and own compositions, not sticking to one genre but mixing rock with modern and classic pop. What struck me the most was how much her own songs stood out against the cover tracks. One girl and her guitar, she owned the stage with her words. Singing about memories and love and the beauty of the world, she captured my full attention with an original track she has yet to name.

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One performer in, the crowd was surging, and the room was already buzzing with energy. Emmie had warmed the night, and we welcomed Warthilas to the stage. Warthilas is a man named Farid whose stage-name means Without Borders. His collection of songs were sung in English, Berber, Spanish and French, and his banter even chucked some Deutsch in there too. It took no time at all for the audience to join the stage: tapping feet, clapping along, singing the chorus of “Freedom” to one song.

The whole room became one body: a community brought together by the solidarity of passionate entertainment and a worthy cause.

Central to the evening, Little Crooked Weather took the stage; a stripped-back version of the main band, consisting of Will, John and Roy. I’ve seen the band in various guises – stripped right back to just Holly and Will, to the full six-piece ensemble – and timg_7074hey always deliver a fantastic set. Their sound is country, rock, folk. It’s catchy and soothing and possesses the soul.

Their sound has the power to engage with you one-to-one regardless of the size of the crowd. And I spend every set saying I love each song. My stand-out favourite is ‘Control Your Blues’ which I was blessed with having dedicated to me on the night. The guitar introduces the beat in which possesses your body, you’re swaying slowly to the sound, from one side to the other. Will’s deeply soothing voice enters your mind, releasing any negativity. You are liquid, floating above the floor as you are taken into the embrace of the music. And Roy’s harmonica is the final casting spell to take your mind drifting away.

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Sometime after performing this, they invited the next artist onto the stage prematurely. Cecil Jones, with his saxophone, was welcomed to join them. And his addition, which Will described as a battle between saxophone and harmonica, created such a powerful moment. The somewhat improvised instrumental with which their set finished lingered throughout the night, with people returning to it in their discussions.

And so when Cecil took to the stage on his own, we were all already enticed. His performance was a mixture of popular songs, with Cecil alternating between lead vocals and instrumental performance. Tracks such as George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ took on a new life, and brought every age bracket and nationality in the room together.

His final track was his own composition celebrating the twinship between Hull and Freetown, Sierra Leone. It celebrated the City of Culture and touched on the similarities between the two.img_7004

In a couple of the intervals, we’d had further entertainment from two young lads, Ronith and Shobal. They had performed a song together and Shobal had wowed the audience – shocking and very much impressing them – with his street dance moves and light-up shoes. As our final act, Rowland took to the stage, he was joined by Ronith. A young teenager, he’s not had many performances on a stage such as this, but his confidence was uncountable. Together they performed a couple of tracks, completely unprepared. It summarised the freedom of the night: it was one to celebrate any local talent that was willing to take to the stage. All the performers volunteered their time, and Rowland went that extra little mile to support another young and enthusiastic performer before completing his own set.

Mark Rowland’s sound has adapted over the last couple of years since I reviewed his EP. With a loop pedal, he is able to create a more layered sound, performing his own melodies and beats. His song ‘Bread and Butter’ talked to us about the need to embrace each other regardless of our background, and this ideology summed the evening up wonderfully.

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It was late by the time his set started, and as we’d had some young members of the audience, many of them had departed for the night. The handful of us who stayed until the end were able to enjoy his track ‘Tears Fall’ which was written with the current wars and violence in mind, and was first performed at his own fundraiser for War Child.

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I think Will from Crooked Weather actually summed up the night perfectly: “Eclectic, diverse and beautiful.” It was an evening of people who were enthusiastic both about music and the plight of refugees. The event didn’t pigeon-hole any aspect of the night. It was a night for everyone with the aim to support as many people as possible.

 

Thanks to all who attended the evening and donated money to the cause. Hull Help for Refugees raised over £400 with this event. To keep up to date with the work of the charity, please visit their Facebook page (link above).

 

Photos | © Melvyn Marriott

Finding the Right Words | Hull Language Cafe

Hull, like most cities, is home to a mixture of people. And every other Wednesday evening there’s an event which invites many of these people to share in the delights of their varied personalities.

A year and a half ago, Hannah Shaw decided to start a Language Café in this city where so many cultures live side by side. She got the idea while travelling in Europe, an opportunity undertaken through ERASMUS.  Living abroad, these events seemed common, and offered a chance for someone new to the area, and not always confident in the native lingo, to meet new people and immerse themselves in both the language and lifestyle.

Upon her return, she realised that Hull didn’t have anything available to the general public in the way that they were so readily available in mainland Europe. So, she set one up.

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 “The cake helps!”

Originally held at Wagons on Princes Avenue, it then moved to the intimate Lydia’s Cakeaway on Newland.

The venue is quaint and simple, and what makes it truly splendid is that it is open solely for the purpose of the Language Café on these nights. From 7pm to 9pm, people from all over Hull come to drink tea, eat cake and discuss whatever they feel capable of in whichever language they choose. Whether you’re studying a language, reengaging with a lost language or are holidaying soon and want to learn some useful phrases, you are made welcome at this fortnightly gathering – which has been known to get very busy, as Hannah described nights where there had been standing room only and she was filled with guilt as people turned away.

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“Friendships have been made here.”

When you first enter, the room is flowing with conversation. Some you can pick up; other segments are lost in a language you may not know. You’re given a sticker on which is written the languages you wish to practise: some have one language, while others have two or three. There’s tea, coffee and delicious tempting cakes.

The crowd is one which quickly feels friendly. On my first Language Café night, I was quickly invited to join the main group. It was a quiet night – the university students on a break – and I was nervous about testing out my shaky language skills on strangers. But after a few minutes of chatting in English, we launched into a conversation in German, learning about each other in a language in which I was once fluent. I wasn’t anxious for long, and, although my German is very unstable, I found I was laughing at the jovial stories and enjoying the broken flow of words. We stumbled over vocabulary, we jumbled the grammar somewhat, but we successfully managed a conversation almost entirely in German.

And two Wednesdays later, I was filled with anticipation as I took those steps along Newland Avenue. The lure of using my language skills again stronger even than the desire for a cupcake of some ingenious design.

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“This is migration to Hull.”

There are people of all ages and nationalities who attend. When asked how many languages she’d encountered over the eighteen or so months, Hannah stumbled. She rattled them off: French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Persian, Thai… languages spoken by people from Europe, South America, Asia… A true mixture and a reflection of the diversity in this small city.

Most advertising is done word of mouth. There’s a Facebook page and events are set up in time for each event. There’s the board in Lydia’s with the necessary details. But from that point it is people like myself who have attended for a few nights and then shared their experience with friends and family.

We all share language. Not everyone has the desire to learn several, but what can be enjoyed on the night is this one thing which joins us all together. The crowd not only share their knowledge but also their experiences and their differing cultures. People gather with the confidence that they will not be judged, that we are all there to enjoy this same thing and learn with enthusiasm.

The next meeting is Wednesday 8th June.

 

Originally written for Browse Magazine, culture section.

Hull Help For Refugees Fundraiser | 04.05.16

Hull Help for Refugees are always doing what they can to ensure they live up to their title. Last month, I visited their Spring Fete, and this month I was delighted to attend their Hull & East Riding Ukulele Night, hosted at Kardomah94.

It was an early start, and one I welcomed on a Wednesday evening. The sun shining outside, some would question the decision to enter the darkened back room of this venue, but with such lovely people inside it was impossible to stay away.

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I was welcomed by friends I’ve met through working with Open Doors Hull, a charity which aims to support asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers in the city, and sat amidst the busy room of personalities. It was the most bustling I have seen the venue, which I visit regularly for gigs and events.

There was an instant buzz, and during the first ukulele band – 13 members crowding the stage – the audience was clapping, singing and bouncing along. It was a fantastic way to start the evening, lifting the weight of the working day from our shoulders and bringing the entire room together.

Next up was a poet, Johanna, who read three poems: one about her husband’s job as a tanner in Hull, which had the crowd laughing; a more serious poem entitled “Refugee Baby” which fitted into the theme of the night; and her poem “On The Beach” which lifted the mood once more.

Another large ukulele group then took to the stage – apparently you can only Uke in large groups – and performed a range of songs which suited the diverse audience. I particularly enjoyed their use of the kazoo – well, four kazoos to be exact – which they used in a couple of tracks.

We were then entertained by a local theatre group who performed a snippet of their new production “Last Panto in Little Grimley”, which will be performed at the Lord Mayor’s Gala.

The final ukulele band performed after a short break, performing a full range of tracks. We’d enjoyed everything from ABBA to Bowie to “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book. And, as with the other bands, the entire room came together as one. It was wonderful to hear the acoustics of the room: the bass generated as people tapped their feet and vocals creating a 3D effect as they harmonised concurrently around the room.

 

What the evening was about was raising funds and awareness for the charity. I am delighted to announce that £690 was raised on the night, through ticket sales and donations.

But that is just a segment of what is needed. The current aim of the charity is to send a container to Athens to support the increasing number of refugees seeking safety here. It’s still possible to support the cause:

  • Donations of tents, gazebos, sleeping bags, clothing for all ages, food packages, sun lotion, toiletries and baby supplies are needed to fill the container. Donations can be dropped off at either UNISON 39, Alfred Gelder Street (Monday to Friday 9:30am-4:30pm) or Kingston House 50/54, Bond Street (Saturday & Sunday 10am-12pm).
  • Cash donations can be made payable to UNISON REFUGEE FUND (cheques) or via the gofundme page.

You can read more about what the charity is doing to support people here and on their Facebook page.

Electrifying and Thunderous: The Loudhailer Electric Gathering #1

A kaleidoscope of colours, sounds, personalities and guitars: the Loudhailer Electric  Gathering was a night to evoke the imagination.

Warming Kardomah94 from 8pm was Cathy and Dez Allenby, a former third of folk acid trio Forest. Armed with a range of instruments, including a shruti box which was introduced to us, their performance was a mixture of Forest tracks from albums Forest and Full Circle. The room was filled with an ethereal sound which always brings to mind the fairy tale element of folk music, but with a clear modern overlay. Cathy and Dez’s vocals worked wonderfully together, to the backdrop of a haunting tone from the instruments.

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I was struck with awe by how fluidly Dez worked all the instruments, admitting that he couldn’t manage the bouzouki and the whistles used in one track. His harmonica balanced around his neck, he switched between bouzouki and English concertina, adding percussion where he could. I loved that each song had its own clear sounds, demarcated by each musical instrument.

For the second part of their set, they invited Lou and Rich Duffy-Howard up on to the stage with them, adding an enriched sound with Rich’s guitar and the beat of Lou’s bass. Des himself summarised this modification when he told the crowded room “We’re all peace and love and things. But we’re all rockers at heart.”

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The sound was further amplified when Lou and Rich returned to the stage – a wardrobe change and mixture of faces as Loudhailer Electric Company started their set. Ignited by the lightshow from Josh Bell of L.A.D. Events Limited, Lou and guitarist Jeff Parsons, clad in a bright pink two-piece, were luminous on stage.

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Electric and Loud are two words which certainly suit the band – not only in image but in their sound. The room was rocked with from the first track On The Run, “a murder song” we were told by Rich, to their en core, a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ which Rich declared was in tribute to “Paul and Grace” of Jefferson Airplane.

With members of former bands such as Dead Fingers Talk, Red Guitars and Planet Wilson, I knew the night as going to be fuelled with energy. What I hadn’t expected was to be quite so caught up in the verve. Lou’s constant smile was captivating, their enthusiasm as they performed songs about mental health and travelling to the Adelphi on a bus from Holderness was captivating. I’d fallen somewhat into a winter slumber over the past couple of months, but this gig has certainly woken me up.

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My favourite track changed from one to the next as they worked through the setlist. I have to say that Out To Sea was my favourite of the night: featuring all the sounds of Folk and Rock music that I adore. The searing guitar in the arms of master Jeff Parsons, the heavy beat of Rich Walker’s drums, Rich’s soulful harmonica and Chris Heron’s sweet violin all working in harmony with Lou’s powerful vocal leadership was mesmerising. Together it produced something which literally moved me, forcing me to react even in this seated venue.

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I found Loudhailer Electric Company difficult to compare to any other musician. With such an eclectic array of influences, all of which you could taste in their tunes, they’ve developed a powerful sound which is entirely their own. Mesmerising instruments – the backdrop to the stage a line-up of them – were used to tell enticing tales through the voices of such electric personalities.

If you do nothing else this year, get yourself to another of their Psychedelic Gatherings and enjoy their sound for yourself. I know I aim to be there at Gathering #2.

Jeff Parsons, Lou Duffy-Howard, Rich Duffy-Howard, Rich Walker, Cathy Allenby, Dez Allenby, Chris Heron
Jeff Parsons, Lou Duffy-Howard, Rich Duffy-Howard, Rich Walker, Cathy Allenby, Dez Allenby, Chris Heron

All photo credit goes to Paul Newbon. 

2015: a summary in local music

We are drawing to the end of 2015.

I’ve been rather quiet recently. Well, as far as gigs have been concerned. I’ve not even been down to the weekly Sesh night for the past couple of months, instead feeling as though I have been dragged home from work by some undistinguishable force which throws me into the warmth and calmly tells me to ‘stay’. It’s not that there haven’t been fantastic things happening, I just haven’t found the energy to motivate myself into attending any of them.

So, now that I have started my Christmas holiday and begun to unwind, I find myself looking back over those warmer months which were spent in sweaty music venues and at crowded festivals.

This is my summary of 2015, through the musicians who have made this year an absolute blast.

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Frankie, of Frankie & The Heartstrings 

And I start with my (second-only-to-the-Manics) favourite band, who I discovered in January of this year at The New Adelphi Club during Independent Venue Week. Their charisma and energy drew me to the stage and had me dancing along. I’ve since gushed with animated enthusiasm about Frankie and The Heartstrings, ensuring I stayed up to date with their latest album ‘Decency’ (pre-ordered so that it arrived at the earliest possible moment) and booking my ticket for the tour, when they returned to Hull in October. I can’t get through a Frankie gig with notepad still in hand. I just can’t focus on making words make sense when they perform; unable to stop my entire body from reacting to such tracks as ‘Think Yourself Lucky’. I stated in my review of their October gig that “It’s impossible not to feel elated when Frankie & The Heartstrings are on stage. They are everything wonderful about live music: fantastic tunes, glorious banter and more energy than a hummingbird after a can of Red Bull.”

 

My favourite home-based band is of course Streaming Lights. Since September of last year I have followed these boys to almost every single gig, which included most of the festivals over the summer, and interviewed them for their cover feature in Browse Magazine. It was their Freedom Festival 2015 set which shines out as the most colourful of them all. Headlining the Fruit Music Stage, they performed to a crowded Humber Street who chanted and cheered and sung along. Jumping from one corner of the stage to the other with my camera, aiming to capture every moment possible, I watched the crowd become frothed up with excitement. Every set is a humorous collection of catchy tunes and general silliness, which warms you on even the most freezing of a night. They make my cheeks ache from laughing too much, and I rarely awaken the following day with any voice left. With every set they improve, becoming more and more animated as they develop their sound and their presence in the Hull music scene.

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Streaming Lights

A new voice on my radar this year has been Mark Rowland, who now goes by the stage name of Signs of Home. Supported by percussion from Coaves’ Conor Maher, he performs an energetic acoustic set which features emotional and fun songs. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing his EP, “The First One”, of which the opening track has become one of my most played tracks of the year. “Just Another Nerdy Kid” summarises geek-chic with simple lyrics, a clear meaning and a catchy chorus which will have a new audience singing along. I compared his vocals to Ed Sheeran – “a charming voice which comforts you, pleasantly taking your hand and guiding you through the music” – because the EP reminded me of my first impressions of the busking wonder, but having since seen Mark perform at a number of events, my view of him as a performer is less comparable with a focus solely on the lad before me.

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Browse Magazine issue 27, featuring La Bete Blooms in Thieving Harry’s (photograph credit goes to Luke Hallett Photography) 

The most intimate gig I attended this year was that of La Bête Blooms when they celebrated their fifth year as a band. Hosted at Thieving Harry’s, a café with ample character located on Hull’s picturesque marina, they were joined by friends and family, including that of supporting performers Emily Moulton and Tom Skelly. Three fantastic music acts, their music made ever more beautiful as we watched the setting sun through the open doors of the venue. Spilling out of these doors, La Bête Blooms performed one of their less aggressive sets, featuring new single “Summer”, the lyrics of which had been written into a small book that we were able to take home with us.

2015 has been an amazing year for local music. There is so much that I haven’t mentioned in this summary. There have been births – bands such as Vulgarians and Fronteers who have formed out of the ashes of former bands – and deaths – most notably the separation of BABIES who were quickly becoming one of my favourite local bands. There have been highs – mostly highs – and a few lows: as there is every year, we have taken the positive and the negative. But mostly, Hull has continued to shine as a brilliant star amongst many other wonderful music scenes.

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Ryan Smith, BABIES, performing at HSS for their final gig. 

I realise that I haven’t mentioned some significant names. LIFE performed at Leeds and Reading Festival on the BBC Introducing stage, giving them their well-deserved spotlight on the festival rota. For my birthday, I enjoyed the sounds of Less Decieved and Liberatae Mae (now both minus one member but still performing regularly) who supported the fantastic delight of Funeral For A Friend. I’ve spent a lot of time at Yasmin Coe gigs, amazed by the talent of such a young girl.

Truth is, there’s been so much to get excited about. And there continues to be. 2016 will bring more music, more memories.

Don’t forget to continue supporting local artists and your local independent music venues. Without continued support from friends, family and fans, they can not work. And if they can not work, then they can not supply is with the gift of their music. It’s a win-win really.

Frankie & The Heartstrings, Night Flowers and Carvell at Adelphi 02.10.15

Weary from the working week, I found myself slogging my way down to the Adelphi for a night of music. A night of music I had been anticipating since the initial announcement that Frankie & The Heartstrings were opening their tour in our fair city.

It was silly of me to ever doubt the joy in which a Frankie gig can bring. The Adelphi promised “3 of the best” and they certainly delivered.

Carvell
Carvell

First on the stage was a band you’ve probably yet to hear. If you check out Carvell on Facebook or Soundcloud, you won’t find much. That’s because the band are relatively new, bringing their live debut to Hull after signing with a major record label you may well have heard of. A London-based four-piece, their sound is that of a guitar-fronted rock band, a beat catchy enough to get your foot tapping from the outset. And though you catch onto the instruments quickly, you can’t as quickly snap up the lyrics and sing along too easily – leaving you wanting to find more about them. Not being able to go home with a CD so that soon you would be quickly singing along at a gig would certainly have disappointed some members of the audience.

They concluded their set with what will be their first single, ‘Sway, which they aim to release imminently. It starts with a simple guitar introduction, building the noise quickly before calming down just enough to allow the vocals to lay atop the sound. Each instrument held its own, clearly visible in the ensemble, while also working well to generate the sound which will likely define this band.

It was a sound which pumped into the audience, a scattered crowd which grew in size as the band performed, and was received with loud cheers. A debut which showed some nerves – the bassist kept to his end of the stage with an air of anticipation. But it was a debut which held a lot of promise. I can imagine their sound permeating the charts, that relatable rock with choruses has you unconsciously singing on the bus.

Carvell
Carvell
Night Flowers
Night Flowers

Next up was Night Flowers, a band with origins in Humberside but a base currently in London. With two lead vocalists, the male, Greg Ullyart, commented on how good it felt to be back performing at the Adelphi, whereas the female, Sophia Pettit, expressed increasing joy at her first experience in the iconic venue. If you’ve seen the band perform before, you may be surprised to see the addition of Sophia – this was my first time, and I certainly enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm she brought, alongside her melodic vocals.

The level of energy grew quickly throughout the night, the engagement with the audience increasing. The entire room moved to the music of Night Flowers, and within the one set the toilets were discussed, Ronnie Pickering brought up, and the room sang “Happy Birthday” to the Adelphi along with the band. Even if I hadn’t thoroughly appreciated their sound, I certainly enjoyed their banter.

Night Flowers
Night Flowers
Frankie & The Heartstrings
Frankie & The Heartstrings

What I love about Frankie & The Heartstrings is the sheer frivolity in which they perform. It’s a playfulness which seeps out of their records, forcing you to be in a good mood. If only they could perform for us all every Friday evening!

They played all their classic tunes from previous albums as well as the very best from third album ‘Decency’ for which the tour is promoting. This included title song and opener ‘Decency’ and their next single ‘Money’, not to be confused with a single by a Hull band who appeared at the front of the crowd.

Frankie introduces the band's new bassist
Frankie introduces the band’s new bassist

Frontman Frankie moved across stage, stretching into the audience and inviting them to sing along. We filled the room, moving with the band. A gaggle of lads before the stage had been chanting “Sunderland” all evening, and were fortunate enough to receive a song dedicated to them (with a plea to quit the chanting). I even spotted Frankie and drummer Dave Harper posing for the cameras which circled them, eager to catch the fast-paced musicians as they performed.

Frankie
Frankie

I was particularly excited by the end of their set, when they performed two of my favourite Frankie tracks: ‘Think Yourself Lucky’ from the new album and ‘Fragile’ from first album ‘Hunger’. I even had to put my own camera down for ‘Lucky’ watching to see if the moves from the track’s music video were engrained in those band members holding guitars – indeed it seemed to be as Ross Millard and Michael McKnight moved almost in sync, while the new bassist remained somewhat more static – and dancing with equal energy myself.

It’s impossible not to feel elated when Frankie & The Heartstrings are on stage. They are everything wonderful about live music: fantastic tunes, glorious banter and more energy than a hummingbird after a can of Red Bull.

And though I had started the night feeling lacklustre, by midnight I was exhilarated. Many went on for more, spending that vigour in the various bars along Newland and Princes Ave.

If you haven’t caught them yet, get yourself to a Frankie gig. They’ve only just started their tour!

3 Frankie & The Heartstrings @ Adelphi 02.10.15

Friday 09.10 – Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham, UK

Saturday 10.10 – Hackney Wonderland, London, UK

Tuesday 08.12 – Rock City, Nottingham, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Wednesday 09.12 – Tramshed, Cardiff, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Friday 11.12 – Nick Rayns LCR, UEA, Norwich, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Saturday 12.12 – O2 Academy Birmingham, Birmingham, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Monday 14.12 – Usher Hall, Edinburgh, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Tuesday 15.12 – Caird Hall, Dundee, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Thursday 17.12 – O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Friday 18.12 – O2 Academy Liverpool, Liverpool, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Saturday 19.12 – O2 Academy Brixton, London, UK  (with The Charlatans)

Music Memories: Soundtracks

On Thursday, I was sat in one of the 600 cinemas across Europe showing The Rocky Horror Show Live. And, sadly, time has passed with not a moment to write about it. I have talked about it at length with friends and colleagues, but have not had the chance to review it.

So instead, I shall place it as number one on my list of favoured soundtracks from my youth. It would be up in the top five regardless, though perhaps not taking the top spot. Still, it is worthy of a top spot here and there.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I don’t recall how old I was when I first watched the film, but I imagine it was at home with my parents. They were not against us watching controversial shows. However, I know I had watched it several times before my twelfth birthday, as that summer my family – my mother, brother and I – dressed as transvestites for our local carnival. The sports club in which my parents worked had a float in the parade every year and had a bit of a reputation for being the loudest of them all.

My brother and I loved the parade, watching those in the darts team dressing up and dancing down the street. And that year was one we would never forget. I remember wearing a lycra top which was utterly inappropriate in any other setting, and I recall seeing far too much of one of my older friends who dressed in his mother’s lingerie to assume the role of Frank-N-Furter.

Safe to say, we were a hit with the locals. So much so that for the next few years there was always a Rocky float trying to achieve the reaction we had (I am sure they failed; as far as we were concerned, we were always the talk of the town).

I didn’t see the stage production until a couple of years ago, when Rhydian performed as Rocky, so sitting in the cinema was only my second live production. And it was amazing to see Richard O’Brien as part of it.

I’ve decided that, although Tim Curry will always be the shining star of the beautiful men who have played that iconic role, David Bedellla is taking up a close second.  As soon as he comes on stage, your eyes are drawn to his lips, large and glittery and one aspect of the most beautifully wicked smile!

My favourite character however, has always been Eddie. How could he not be when played by the wonderful Meat Loaf who so punctuated my childhood with his stunning ballads. When everyone else was singing Time Warp, I was singing Hot Patootie. So, here’s Hot Patootie:

The Last Unicorn

A classic of the 80s, The Last Unicorn was produced by some of those who went on to work for Studio Ghibli. The soundtrack is by America and is one of the most beautiful soundtracks I have ever heard.

This film was one of the go-to films for our babysitters, knowing that we would be drawn into the story for the full length of the film.

It is one which reminds me of the innocence of childhood, one which takes me back to that time when your dreams were as real as they could be. And I am still often glued to my seat for the entire film even though I’ve watched it many dozens of times.

Labyrinth

I don’t think there’s a child of the late 80s – early 90s who hasn’t seen this movie, and who hasn’t felt that David Bowie’s package wasn’t a significant aspect of their youth.

I loved David Bowie’s music, my mum being a fan (much of my early music taste was based on my mother’s). And I loved his portrayal of the Goblin King in the movie, developing quite the imaginary love affair. I don’t recall performing the role of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, waiting for my prince to come and rescue me with a kiss. As a child, I opted to replace the character of Sarah Williams with my own personality. I wanted to meet strange creatures and dance in a giant dress at a masked ball. I loved the magic of it, as well as the music.

The Lion King

As I am sat writing this, The Lion King is playing in the background. Adka (who I introduced in my – our – review of The Big Gig) is a big fan of ‘Baby Lions’ and so we are watching it at least once a day at the moment.

I was 8 when it first came out, but did not become attached to this film until 2001 when my youngest brother was a year old. Just as with Adka, putting this film on would both pacify and entertain my brother for almost an hour and half. We would sing the songs together and dance to Hakuna Matata.

Whenever I think of my brother as a young baby, I think of Lion King. Before he was interested in football or Minecraft, this was his ecstasy.  And it was my ecstasy too, for I loved to see him happy.

Freedom Festival 2015 – in summary

The things which made my weekend:

It won’t strike you with much surprise that my highlight of the weekend was Streaming Lights.

When the initial programme came out, I was convinced that I would be camped outside the Yellow Bus Stage for the headline slot. And at 9:45pm I was stood clutching the barrier at the front of this stage, with thousands stood behind me watching the amazing Public Service Broadcasting.

At 10pm, however, I was twisting my way out from this crowd and into the one which had already formed in front of the Fruit Trade Music Stage.

And boy was I glad to have made this decision. Everyone I’ve spoken to said how amazing Public Service Broadcasting were, and I have no doubt in this, but anyone who saw Streaming Lights was saying the same thing. Every time I see these guys, they grow stronger. Their music is utterly fun, their energy unrelenting, making for a fast-paced and humorous set. Between Ryan’s intoxicated fist pumps to the guy in the audience who took control of the audience in chants and calls, this was a set which didn’t pause even for a breath. My chest hurt from laughing so hard, but the night ended on a high.

Streaming Lights - Steve & Ryan Streaming Lights - fist pump

I caught the end of Urban Astronaut on the Saturday as I headed down to the Marina. Performed by members of Highly Sprung as part of “Gone in 20 Minutes”, they told the story of the planet destroyed. The crowd was so dense however, that I could only see so much, though watching the Astronaut spinning in the air was quite fascinating.

Spotting the set up for this performance on Sunday, I parked myself on the floor and joined the front row for the entire set. With a two year old on my knee, we watched and took photographs as the story unfolded in full. In short: the atmosphere has turned toxic, leaving the ground barren and the air dangerous to breathe. A girl wearing a dress which reflected the summer sky set the stage, forming a circle with dirt and ‘planting’ flowers around. “Look after this for me,” she asked my toddler friend, engaging with key members of her audience. From up King Edward Street, four masked figures rolled a contraption which held the Astronaut in place. He bounced up and down, launching into the air above spectators’ heads. This brought more and more people. Their dance continued as a diet, the Astronaut fearing the girl who tried to comfort him and show him that life can survive once again on Earth.

It was amazing to watch as the Astronaut launched into the air, sailing above the audience who watched in awe. Children and adults alike seemed to watch with the same intrigue.

There was the chance to vote for your favourite of the “Gone in 20 Minutes” performances. However, I was watching so intently that I didn’t note the code and number down to text my vote. And the crowd dispersed so quickly that I couldn’t catch someone to ensure this was done. I’m not even sure how I check which performance won, but if it wasn’t this one then those I missed must have been extraordinary!

Urban Astronaut - Freedom Festival 2015 Urban Astronaut - Freedom Festival 2015

Taking kids to one of the days meant that I got to experience those attractions where a single lass may not be overly appreciated. “Mums and dads” were welcomed to join in with their offspring in Tangle, and so I joined two friends and their toddlers. And in doing so, I saw how this was both a wonderful idea for kids and also something… well, not. One of the little ones was just tired enough to be overwhelmed by the whole thing; surrounded by people in an environment she wasn’t used to, a tantrum ensued. Her little friend, however, enjoyed it so much that I was literally dragged back into the queue so that we could have a second go.

Such a simple idea, this was great fun and produced a colourful piece of art when complete. Absolutely loved it, and so did most of the children who joined in.

Tangle - Freedom Festival 2015 Tangle 3

Things which didn’t work for me:

The World Village Market didn’t really seem all that worldly. I saw a range of food stalls which offered cuisine from around the world – Turkish kebabs, French crepes, Chinese noodles and some delicious hot and spicy Indian curry – but little by the way of worldly goods. Considering the theme is Freedom, I would have expected more Fairtrade stalls. There didn’t even seem to be the usual extent of local stallholders as usual. Perhaps simply worded incorrectly, but I just didn’t agree that this aspect of the festival was achieved.

More of a niggle than a criticism, there were often huge crowds for events which were quite obviously going to be popular. I missed out on seeing Faust because the crowd was already six-deep when they started. I’ll accept some of the blame, as I’d not kept track of time as well as I should have to get myself to the front of the queue, but a larger space or some seating at the front of the crowd would have solved this. The Yellow Bus Stage were no longer using their deckchairs: could these have been put to use here?

I think this is something the festival-goers need to consider next year. But also something which the organisers could give some more thought to. Many of the attractions were repeated over the weekend, but sadly Faust was not one of these.

New acts I now follow:

I caught two new acts performing on the Bridge Stage on the opening night of the festival, catching the end of their sets as I wandered over to enjoy local bands I have seen many times.

Scarlet Riot - Freedom Festival 2015

The first was Skarlett Riot, a Scunthorpe-based rock group. Frontwoman Skarlett was wearing a rather impressive outfit. Their sound is reminiscent of the wonderfully heavy nu-metal and punk rock of the 2000s, guitar-fuelled and aggressive while still rhythmic enough to move to. It was a sound I could easily get caught up in, and I would love to see them perform again.

Spring King - Freedom Festival 2015

Spring King, fresh from Reading and Leeds festival stages and about to embark on a tour supporting Slaves, instantly got my attention as their guitarist threw himself and his instrument around. Whereas two of the band seemed pretty static, this guy and lead vocalist/drummer Tarek Musa seemed to exude endless energy. It was great to see a drummer fronting a band, though he was situated quite deep into the recesses of the stage.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. The idea of Freedom was everywhere, with people being given the chance to voice their opinions as well as listening to the ideas of others. The variety of music and theatrical performances, spread over the weekend for thousands to attend. And all for free!

Here’s to Freedom 2016.