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.
“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.
“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.
“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 main benefit of being in a band is about having a good time, while also doing something you love and are passionate about. Effectively this band is our 5-a-side football team.”
Except there’s only three of them. Streaming Lights consists of Steve Minns, Ryan Gibbins and Chris Flynn.
Founded in 2010, they’ve become a recognisable name on the Hull Music Scene. Known for their energetic stage antics and Minns’ distinguishable falsetto tones, their music is incredibly difficult to pigeonhole. When I first saw them perform, in their earlier days, they produced a much heavier sound with clear rock influences. Now, I’d be inclined to use the words ‘electric’ and ‘fun’ (these words, and synonyms of these words, being ones I have certainly used when reviewing the band). And it is this which draws you in: the boyish frivolity (synonym) of their stage presence, entertaining the crowd with humorous banter and general silliness.
Their lyrics too are cleverly comical. On 2014 album ‘KICK’ you’ll find songs about the addictive lure of EBay, the all-encompassing allure of a pair of slippers and the desire to see inside someone else’s mind. With catchy choruses and buoyant beats, it won’t take you many spins before you’re singing along at one of their shows.
“a patchwork quilt of different things”
And now that their audience has become comfortable with these songs, the lads are producing new tracks in the hope that it won’t take another three years before the second album. ‘Box Room Boy’ is their new single, launched at The Sesh on June 30th, with the video being released a couple of days later.
And this weekend they are performing at The Big Gig alongside other popular Hull bands. If I haven’t already convinced you that these boys are something to experience, then get down there just for the fun of it – see what the fuss is all about.
La Bête Blooms have a sound which is propelled by the raw energy the band expel on stage. A review in NME compared their single ‘Stay Away’ to the “feral ferocity of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’”.
Off stage, you find a very different group of individuals. They are lead singer and guitarist Daniel Mawer, Jack Gallagher on bass, John Copley on lead guitar, Louisa Robinson on keys and James Coggin behind the drumkit. With the exception of spritely James, who breaks all stereotypes associated with drummers, they all appear to be serene, even timid, souls. They admit to being rather camera-shy, having one of their most iconic music videos using animation by Jake Machen to express their personality in a potent and colourful manner.
But this is the power of their music, which brings forth the beast within and offers a way to express that sense of freedom and enthusiasm.
A La Bête Blooms set is difficult to describe without sounding a little over-dramatic. Mawer’s lyrics are laced with heart-felt emotion, drawing the audience into their grasp. Once there, the thrashing guitar-fuelled sound captures you and refuses to let you loose again. I’ve never seen Mawer remain on stage for an entire set, needing to sit, or even lie down in the crowd, as a means of cooling off during one of their more heavy songs. They perform with a natural ease, taking it in their way, and leading the audience down the path in which they build.
Photographs by Luke Hallett.
This is the interview I conducted with La Bête Blooms back in October, when they released their EP:
And here is the interview I conducted more recently for their cover feature in Browse Magazine:
Nix: Last time we interviewed you guys, you’d just released your debut EP. What’s been going on since then?
Daniel Mawer: We’ve recorded two singles. We did that… like a month ago.
John Copley: It was a bit more than that. Was it February? The start of February.
Daniel: Yeah, so we recorded two singles with the same guy who did the EP – Matt Peel, in Leeds. He’s moved places, into in like a converted church. And then we’ve just finished a run of four days [of their April tour] with London, Nottingham, Coventry and Liverpool.
Nix: How have you found this tour?
Daniel: The last time we spoke to you, we’d just done the October one with six dates over the course of a month. This was… we have seven dates, but four of them were like Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. That was different, coz we stayed over for a couple of them – we’ve not done that before, have we?
James Coggin: No. It was good.
Daniel: It felt better doing that as well. It felt good doing like a little batch all together.
Nix: Did it feel more like a proper tour?
Daniel: Yeah, exactly, yeah. Rather than coming home and having a few days, we straight to a hotel and then back to it the next day. It was more like a holiday really though, wasn’t it?
John: We forgot we had gigs sometimes.
Daniel: Spent too much money as well. Went to a Monkey Forest. John’s idea, wasn’t it John?
John: It was.
James: I enjoyed that!
John: It wasn’t that good.
Louisa Robinson: Everyone enjoyed that.
Daniel: It was kind of like East Park but worse… there’s more to see at East Park.
Louisa: Yeah, different varieties.
Daniel: Once you’ve seen one monkey, you’ve…
James: Don’t say you’ve seen them all. Coz you haven’t. There were 140 monkeys there, and you didn’t see them all.
John: Anyway, enough about monkeys…
Nix: Were there any venues which you particularly enjoyed?
Daniel: Well, we’ve played Nottingham before, so we knew what we were expecting with that. It was a Friday night; it does really well on a Friday.
James: I think every venue seemed to have its own…
John: It was all very different, wasn’t it?
James: Yeah, everything was so distinct. It was really nice, actually.
John: Yeah. Some were really big, and one was literally a tiny, little…
(Here, John was asked why he was wearing his sunglasses indoors by a member of staff. James pointed out that this is because John is “cool”.)
Daniel: Coventry was nice: the Tin. It was next to a canal, and it felt the middle of nowhere to be honest. It kinda was. Maybe ten minutes before we played, a lot… like twenty, thirty people were stood up, ready to watch us play. So that felt like a gig, a proper gig. Not like a night where we’d just jumped in…
John: Yeah, and people had paid for that one.
Daniel: Yeah, people had paid to come and see us. They looked after us as well.
James: Yeah, yeah, very hospitable.
John: Good food.
Nix: So, where else features on this tour?
Daniel: Wakefield, Leeds and the Sesh. We’re playing The Hop in Wakefield, Wharf Chambers in Leeds, and then we’ve got the Sesh. But they’re like the other tour; it’s really over the next month.
Nix: And, then, what’s next for La Bête Blooms?
Daniel: I suppose when we’ve done these dates, we’ve got the first single coming out in July, which we’ve recorded.
James: Got to do a video.
Daniel: Yeah, video and a few dates will go with that as well. It all kicks into summer after we release the single. The usual… same kind of summer we always have.
John: Yeah, Wembley Festival…
Daniel: Yeah, no. Obviously, we’ve been doing them [Hull festivals] for three or four years. Everybody looks after you, everybody knows each other. So, yeah…
There are some bands who exude so much passion and drive that it just sucks you in.
Babies did exactly this when I met with them in a café a couple of weeks ago for a cover interview with Browse Magazine. Over cups of coffee and pots of tea, I witnessed the enthusiasm and desire which keeps them going back to the rehearsal room, back to the stages on which they perform. Even when it feels like everything is against them.
Two days later, I attended their EP launch at the Adelphi, this time with the intention of capturing them in photographic form. My diddy camera and I are getting better at this, and I was pleased with the outcome. Sadly, stepping down from the stage at the end of the night, Ry, lead singer and guitarist of Babies, did not express the same sentiment about the night.
I entered the Adelphi to see the lads – Ry Smith, Joe Vickers and Sam Mackereth – in giddy excitement. I picked a t-shirt with their band name sprayed thrice onto the front, and wandered through for to get a drink and seat. The room was warmly lit, as the Adelphi often is, and on the back wall was a banner, their name spraypainted across a white sheet. I love the DIY element of it, the effort to ensure their name was seen without too much funding. It says: this is us, take it or leave it.
The night started off with Kev La Kat, who has supported the band in other ways also. I’ve always been inspired by the courage it must take one man (or indeed woman) to stand before an audience alongside only instruments. Kev La Kat did have an array of instruments – guitar, laptop, soundboard and keys – and through these he produced some wonderful sounds. An ideal warm-up for the night, getting the scattered crowd engaged with the stage.
Next onto the stage were Trash, an indie-pop band hailing from Chesterfield. Theirs was the first of interesting stage set-ups. You’re so used to seeing the lead singer positioned centre-stage, that it’s a little uncomfortable when bands decide not to follow this. Trash had their singer to the left, with the bassist at central focus; made more bizarre as he was the least animated of the band. I enjoyed their sound: energetic guitars with a pounding bass beat from the drums. It was easy to move to, making photography difficult.
Following Trash was Oedipus The King, a band I’ve heard huge things about but hadn’t witnessed for myself until that night. They are truly a force to be reckoned with, and rather – sadly, but honestly – stole the show. Lead singer and guitarist, Daniel Symes stood to the right of the stage, furthest away from where I started their set. His powerful voice drew the audience in, physically moving them closer to the stage, and then stepped out to join them, circling the crowd. They have a natural confidence, having mastered their stage craft to demonstrate power over their audience while maintaining a secure link with them.
Even with an issue regarding a guitar lead, which had guitarist Sean Hartley unplugging and re-plugging his two guitars until he could get one of them to produce the required sound; this too was done with confidence and ease, creating a little joke when he was successful and able to join in with his band.
This same issue continued into the headline set, with Joe taking the left corner of the stage and the dodgy lead. While he tackled with this, Ry and Sam kicked into their first few songs, a mixture of their older tracks, those on their EP and a couple of newer tracks, yet unheard. Joe, fighting with the lead, performed on his bass, but I couldn’t be sure we could hear any of it off stage.
And so close are these boys that Joe’s struggle seemed to become the band’s struggle. Ry forgot to tune his guitar during one song, and things started to slip as they focused on these details.
From the crowd, I simply saw these passionate boys doing their best. Oedipus The King had stepped things up so greatly, that any fall would be a colossal one. However, the enjoyment was still there. The boys of Trash lined up along the front of the stage – Babies t-shirts on, the orange and red spraypaint glittering in the lights from the stage – moving to the sound.
So, when Ry stepped down from the stage and said to me that he was unhappy with the set (his words were much more brutal), I simply smiled and told him I had enjoyed it. It was DIY, it was rustic, it wasn’t perfect, but it was bloody good fun. When Joe finally gave up on the dodgy lead, he grabbed drumsticks and thrashed his annoyance out with Sam, and it was loud and exciting. That’s what you can take from a Babies gig – loud excitement.
Yes, Babies can improve their game. They have a collection of brilliant songs, with a sound unlike most bands in the area, and they’ve a solid following who support them whole-heartedly. These things happen, and with practice and growth of confidence, they don’t seem as significant. Babies are still in their (mind the pun) baby years of their music career, and I am sure they will take from this the lesson which will make them more powerful performers who can command the stage and drive their music deeper into the world.
Back in 2002, there was an eruption of guitar bands in Hull, mirroring exactly what was happening in the rest of the UK. But there weren’t as many options for these bands wanting to spread their music as there is now. If you were unsigned and under the radar, then getting your music out on local or national radio could be difficult. People simply wanted to trust that you were good enough for the masses to listen to. And so, in our very city, it was decided that this was a platform our local artists needed.
Alan Raw, known by the BBC as a session drummer in various bands as well as having taught camera skills previously in the building, was selected as the ideal face for the show. Speaking to him about this time, he told me that he was “in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing”. Performing with a recognised band who John Peel had introducing onto London stages, he knew what it was like to both be under the radar and well and truly in sight. So, needing “someone who knew all the bands and didn’t mind telling people how much they loved them”, Alan was a natural fit for the bill.
Stepping out from behind the curtain that hangs before most drummers, he joined producer Katy Noone and John Anguish (who, in addition to Martha Mangan, still manages BBC Introducing Humberside) and “Raw Talent” was launched. He turned up on his first night with a suitcase, rescued from a skip outside, filled with vinyl and CDs and was faced with somebody on the desk who he was told to watch, copy and then take over.
And since then, he’s become a recognisable name not only in the Hull Music Scene, but further afield, as he hosts both the East and West Yorkshire shows.
In the past, there has been a stigma around Hull, which has led to bands not getting the recognition they deserve. Alan Raw described the music industry in contrast to that of football, where you have talent scouts constantly out looking for the next big thing. “In music, we’ve not had that structure… BBC Introducing is that structure.” And it started right here in Hull, and has established itself as something significant in the last 13 years. New talent can more readily make it on to bigger and better things, with the help and support of their local radio station.
In 2007 the BBC acknowledged a national need for the huge amount of new music being produced across the UK to be recognised. From Guernsey to Merseyside, from Ulster to Leicester, from Sheffield to Somerset, there is now somewhere for local bands to share their music and engage with a wider audience. Just as the Sesh in Hull provides a weekly live gig where local bands can play, BBC Radio was now providing a way in which anyone could tap in and see what was on offer.
In addition to the local scene, this also opens up the opportunity for Radio DJs to discuss the music in their area and promote them further afield. If a Hull band is touring and has a gig in Oxford (for example), then the sister show can also showcase them, expanding their profile and introducing them to an even wider audience. And the aspect of live music continues to flow through the veins of the organisation, with weekly live sessions and opportunities such as performing on the BBC Introducing stages as such events as Bestival and Glastonbury.
It all starts with the Uploader, an award-winning tool which means any band can create a profile, upload their music and direct it to their local BBC Introducing show. From this too, it can be shared with national shows at the click of a button by Katy, Alan or Martha. This is precisely how MOTHER gained airplay on Radio 1 and secured a slot at Leeds and Reading Festival. To be considered for any of these opportunities, you must start with the Uploader, which can be found on the webpage www.bbc.co.uk/introducing. There are currently over 5000 tracks in the local Uploader, with varied playlists being shared weekly.
I shall conclude with the words of Alan Raw, summarising exactly what our local BBC Introducing believes: “Hull bands are brilliant. And they need to get out and find out for themselves that they can go anywhere and easily be the best band on the bill.” One stepping stone to achieving this is getting that feature on their local BBC Introducing Humberside.
A massive thanks to Katy, Alan, Martha and John at BBC Introducing for welcoming Chris and myself into the studio, and to Streaming Lights and Emma Fee for agreeing to being photographed. As well as huge thanks to Chris (Jemstar Images) for taking fantastic images to accompany my feature.
They may be young, but they’ve got some old-school funk in their sound.
Formed in 2012, Young Jack have taken the local music scene in their grasp, performing at a range of venues across the city, including both shopping centres, as well as further afield. Though they’d like you to think they are a band of lads named Jack, this is not quite the case – though, a band of jack the lads wouldn’t be far from the truth – they consist of lead singer Luke Bowe, lead guitarist Daniel Higgins, bassist Jack Rowland, drummer Jack Allbones and on percussion ‘Tommy Bongo’.
Influenced by the music they listened to with their parents, these young lads bring to the stage a more aged and classic sound: a soul and motown vibe mixed into the indie rock tunes. “Cliff Richard in his prime,” they tell me.
I last saw them perform as part of the West Park Party launch, in Princes Quay. With an audience predominantly of young girls eager to see Union J, their sound was something different to the others in the line-up. They brought a bit of classic rock to the stage, proving that your age does not define the way in which you should sound. And there wasn’t a person in the crowded shopping centre who didn’t turn their head. I was pleased to hear teenage girls saying they would check the lads out on their Facebook page.
Their previously released singles were all made possible with thanks to Warren Records, who the lads speak very highly of, thanking Stew Baxter and the team for all their effort and belief which kept the band motivated.
Now looking to take the next step, the band are breaking out of the UK with a gig overseas. Performing the top support slot for The Happy Mondays, Young Jack will be performing at the Rugby Spy Tens gig in Ibiza this June, a three-day event which involves forty teams from across the globe playing knockout tens rugby mixed with DJ sets and live music.
Proving that you’re never too young to establish a music career is thirteen year-old Yasmin Coe. And with fans including Emma Fee, she’s making waves across the local scene.
Her natural flair for music saw her taking to any instrument on offer. She started piano lessons at six years old, as many young kids do, moving onto guitar at eight. Since then, she has also taken up violin and clarinet, as well as joining a choir. It was here that she truly found her passion for performing, singing alongside others equally enthusiastic. Even though her sound is very different to where she started, it is this which keeps her motivated. She described her belief that anyone should do what makes them happy. “If you love it … if you want to do it … “ then Yasmin says you should. Taking to the stage in 2011, she was rewarded for her singing talents at the Cottingham Music Festival. Her live debut was at Humber Street Sesh, following gigs at Freedom and Trinity Festival, where she was able to play to a wide range of people.
With broad influences, ranging from One Direction to the The Beatles, Yasmin sees her music as a release of emotions. She explained that “when something hits you hard … you can sit with your guitar for ages”. Writing her own songs from the experiences a young girl has, she treats her songwriting as a means of “[getting] the emotions out there”. New single ‘Leave and Let Go’ is about accepting the loss of those close to you, whether through death or a move to another country. This gives her lyrics a power which draws you in, instantly identifying with the content.
On Saturday 7th March, her single launch takes place at That’s Entertainment, Prospect Centre. The first in-store promotion gig to happen in Hull since The Paddingtons performed at HMV, this offers anyone and everyone a chance to hear her perform live. Being a teenager, many of her fans are of a similar age, but her sound is something which will capture the attention of anyone wandering past on a busy weekend afternoon.
She described the store’s recent introduction of local music as “good that they’re encouraging local artists”. And though she’s a fan of current pop bands, such as One Direction, she recognises that there is often more talent in those performing for the love of it, than manufactured bands who often get more time in the spotlight. And this gig is a perfect example of what local musicians can offer their fans – intimate and friendly.
So, show your support for this talented young woman at 1pm next Saturday. Copies of her single will be available for purchase, which includes an additional track to that which will be available on ITunes.
Halfway through Independent Venue Week, Thursday was my first chance to get out and taste something from the diverse menu offered. Arriving a little later than I usually do, I dived into a crowded room, just as the live music was about to start.
Hull’s own, Young Jack were a wonderful warm up act to support the visiting bands. Always charismatic, always full of energy, their music gets any crowd moving. And the crowd were on their feet from the very first song, spilling forward quickly.
Their sound is funky rock, mixing in the up-beat soul rhythms with classic guitar-lead rock. I’ve described the band previously as Rolling Stones meets James Brown. And indeed, the one cover they played was one of his. Their own songs are equally catchy, with a chorus which is easy enough to pick up and sing along to, intermixing powerful instrumentals. They’ve mastered a fantastic sound, though at times it is a sound which seems too old for the young lads: the aural demonstration not quite matching what you see on stage.
Lead vocalist Luke Bowe engaged with the audience at times, suggesting that we “clap along a little bit” to a couple of songs. But overall, a hometown crowd will do this out of loyalty rather than because they are entranced by the music or performance. The bands who followed, both hailing from over the waters, had mastered these showman tricks, taking the stage entirely.
Not the headline band, but sandwiched into the central slot, The Apache Relay were the highlight of the night, for me at least. From Nashville, Tennessee, they describe their sound as indie roots. As with Young Jack, you heard the clear rock sound with the undercurrent of other influences: country, folk and blues. Harmonies sweeping you off your feet, a bass beat getting those feet tapping again, and the stunningly soft and charming voice of Michael Ford Jr.
Ford’s hips were swaying with the music, hypnotising you further as the music drew you forward. A softer sound than the other two bands, I felt the last of the shivering cold from outside warming, as though I were sat before a homely hearth. Starting with a mellow sound, this grew in volume and intensity, demonstrating a range of musical comforts. Though I’d not heard much of their music before the gig, I found I was swaying quite naturally to the sound. It was instantly enjoyable, with my favourite track being the one which concluded the set.
Throughout, Ford was engaging with the audience. He introduced members of his band, announcing that it was drummer Steve Smith’s birthday. Leaning into the crowd, there was conversation which filled the short intervals between songs, complimenting the crowd and venue as he stated that it was an “honour to be playing this legendary venue … you’re beautiful Hull”. And the crowd responded well by shuffling even closer to the stage.
For a Thursday night, the Adelphi was packed – the few yards in front of the stage rammed with feet. Space was tight, making any dance moves minimal. But this is a testament to The New Adelphi Club, an iconic venue in the city.
Headlining band The Weeks took to the stage as everyone shuffled forward yet again. Between bands, people filtered from the front, only to eagerly return to their places. All the way from Jackson, Mississippi, they brought a very classic rock and roll sound.
Again, lead vocalist Cyle Barnes, demonstrated a variety of skills whereby the frontman becomes middleman between the musicians and their listeners. He was also complimentary, announcing at the start of their set that “we’ve been looking forward to this gig”, again calling the people of Hull beautiful (which, of course, we are). There was energy from all members of the band. Due to the increasing surge of the crowd, who seemed to find space which hadn’t been there during the previous acts, I was unable to see much of the stage. However, you could feel the energy flowing back over you, and every now and again Barnes’ would appear as he bounced across the stage. With no instrument, he displayed his enthusiasm for their music by moving around throughout the instrumentals, and leaning into the crowd when at the mic.
The audience didn’t need to be asked to clap along for this band, who are well established on the stage, taking control of the entire room through their natural rapture.
I was comfortable with the sound of all three bands. Though performing different styles of rock, they were equally engaging and enthusiastic. And it was through their demonstration of this that I found I was joining in with the movement of the crowd, whose own excitement seemed to grow with each set.
If you haven’t yet heard of US bands Apache Relay or The Weeks, then I definitely advise you do so. Both bands have music available at the usual outlets, including Soundcloud and Spotify.
A long day of drizzle, I had almost been tempted to let the weather put me off. Nothing could lift the spirits on a day in which even the sun hadn’t wanted to grace the skies. Still, LIFE were playing, and I had yet to see new Hull band Vulgarians perform. And, if that wasn’t tempting enough, I was rather excited about seeing Frankie & The Heartstrings on the penultimate night of their IVW Tour.
The Adelphi was comfortably busy. Surrounded by friendly faces, the clinking of glasses and rumble of chatter defied any doubt that it was going to be a good night was quickly dashed.
Vulgarians started the proceedings. Their sound is more metal than rock, with Ryan Wilson-Preen’s deep vocals and powerful instrumentals lead by Tom Morrell’s guitar. I appreciated that you could hear the lyrics, as recently it’s bugged me that live gigs focus more on making noise than allowing the audience to concentrate on the words. That said, it was the instrumentals which held me with Vulgarians. As charismatic as Wilson-Preen is, his voice cannot compete with the lead singers of the bands set to follow him on stage, making them stand out even more as something different. Though stood on the opposite side of the room from him, it was Morrell who had me engaged.
I’m glad Vulgarians are getting the chance to share their music with varied crowds, and as a new band they will have a lot to learn about their own sound and the way in which to work those crowds. Wilson-Preen was on the edge of the stage almost throughout the set, but there still seemed to be something holding him back from directly connecting with the audience. This will come over time, and it is clear this band has what it takes to leap to the next step.
Anyone who’s ever read any of my other reviews of LIFE, knows that I am entirely hypnotised by the band. I can listen to and enjoy pretty much any genre of music, but the sound I really love is exactly which is on their menu: an upbeat, catchy rock sound which encompasses the punk attitude, and blends in an intellectual reflection of popular culture.
Mick Sanders started things off with a few chords on his guitar, before they introduced us to one of their new tracks, ‘Yeah’. Their set consisted of their most popular tracks, as well of some of the newer ones – some entirely new to their fans’ ears – as a taster for the album which they assure us is on the way.
During ‘All Your Friends’, lead vocalist Mez Green-Sanders was out into the crowd, demonstrating his usual passion for engaging directly with their audience. So busy was the venue that he couldn’t get far, but this never stops him from giving his all to the performance. The energy they excrete from the stage is what’s always drawn me to them. And every set contains an element of chaos. I’ve seen many live sets where microphones have fallen apart or fallen over, but never have I seen one accidentally hurled at the cameraman.
With Frankie and The Heartstrings, it’s easy to see where Mez has learned some of his showmanship from – having supported Frankie & The Heartstrings with former band The Neat. Equally upbeat and energetic, front-man Frankie Francis takes the stage by storm. He had the crowd so involved, that they became an additional instrument, clapping in time with the bass even without the need to be instructed.
The banter between band members was as joyful as that between band and audience. Drummer Dave Harper added hilarious jokes throughout the set, demonstrating his knowledge of the city when he asked who was heading to Spiders after the gig. Apparently he once had a ‘dalliance with a lady’ there. A courteous band, they thanked both the venue and supporting acts on more than one occasion; uplifting to hear such praise for our home-grown musicians.
Their songs are mostly upbeat, with such catchy tracks as their single ‘That Girl, That Scene’. The entire room was bouncing, and even though their final song ‘Fragile’ is a little more mellow, the room was a-buzz with discussion about where else to take the night – we were warmed up and, unable to stop the adrenalin from flooding our veins, we were ready for more of the same.
A fast-paced night of entertaining music where the only truly negative I could find was that it had to end so quickly.
Though with a performance that strong, whenever I listen to a song from their setlist, I am able to reignite the music with the visual. A week later, and I am still expecting the room to burst into a flaming chorus of “yep-yeah whoa!”
Songs are poems put to music; music is a story with no need for words.
Folk in Hull was a tale told in nine chapters, taking the audience on a journey of the city and its music makers.
Our initial narrators were Lyn Acton and Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Jones, who kept the audience engaged with their humorous conversation and endless jokes, bridging that gap from the stage. It was in quick succession that each band took their part, mere minutes as they bounced from one side of the stage to the other.
Up first were guitar-yielding duo Farino, who released their debut album in 2008. Influenced by any music genre which includes the guitar, you could hear the Latin vibe in their opening track. As is often the case, we launched straight into the music, with a fast-paced instrumental to which you could easily picture dancers strutting around the room to. Showcasing all that you can do with the instrument, the audience was swiftly warmed up, energised by the sound and eager to hear more.
Describing themselves as earthy, unruly and original, Crooked Weather were next on the bill. It was difficult to place them into a genre, having a folk-rock look and with more of a blues sound, this five-piece introduced the art of storytelling into the night. Performing four songs, one of which lead vocalist Will Bladen described as “the folkiest thing you’ll hear all evening”, they pulled the audience in by the heartstrings.
Returning the focus back to the instruments were RPM (which stands for the first initials of each member: Rob, Paul and Mike). With roots in improvisation, they performed a block of consistent powerful sound; the drums and bass getting your feet tapping, while the saxophone made you sway.
The last band before the short interval was Lyn Acton’s own Pearl’s Cab Ride, ending the segment with the funky soul of this large band, meant that everyone was eager for more.
The mood was set by the musicians, bouncing as they did from one stage to another, building up that kaleidoscope of sentiment.
The highlights for me were yet to come, and they did not disappoint.
Hillbilly Troupe were the fifth act on stage, instantly raising the roof of Hull Truck. Performing without Mick McGarry, Lloyd Dobbs and Mick Murphy took on lead vocals while Martin Jones joined the ensemble to play trumpet during ‘I Wish There Was No Prisons’, during which Dobbs mimicked picking his pocket.
Bringing the volume down, but leaving the energy high, the Heron String Quartet took over with. The back curtain now lit up like the night sky, they performed three classical collaborations, taking us on a wordless journey into the night, which including one which mixed ‘Beethoven’s Fifth’ with The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ USA’.
Next up were dark grunge artists Fire: The Unstoppable Force. I’ve seen these guys a lot recently, and I’ve been saying they’re suited for a stage like this one. And, as their name suggests, the stage was unable to stop them; Alfie Steel did not instantly pick up his guitar, instead opening with a wolf call before taking the stairs in order to penetrate the audience. I’ve always said they are fantastic performers, and they proved this with every movement, reminding us that we were sat in a theatre and that music is more than just noise made by the instruments. Anyone who hadn’t seen them before were quickly enthralled, with members standing between songs as they applauded.
Wedging together two of my favourite bands, Tom Skelly and The Salty Beards took up their instruments next. Opening with ‘Morning Sun’, they started softly, easing us in while focusing our attention on Skelly’s luscious voice. Never failing to capture my heart, the world around them dissipated, fading to insignificance; those people who’d distracted me before as they stood to top up their drinks no longer there. The Salty Beards filling the space between songs with sound, you were kept hanging on, your heart beating in time with the music, which grew in ferocity.
Concluding the night, popular boys Bud Sugar were described by Lyn Acton as “one of the hits of the festivals last year”, and the calls from the crowd certainly back this up. Mixing rap, reggae and just about anything which takes their fancy, the audience clapped along as they played, casting the music around the entire room.
An amazing variety of talent, covering every genre of music and building the performance into the sound, Folk in Hull demonstrated exactly what makes this city strong. A tale which took many turns, saw many characters and ended with a happily ever after.
The average Saturday night might offer three bands. But this Saturday, down at the Adelphi, was certainly no average night out.
The back wall of the stage area, where usually you can read those names of previous visitors to the venue, was covered by a large white sheet. As I arrived, an image of moving liquid – not unlike that in a lava lamp – swirled across the fabric. It was serene and calming, especially with the room darker than I’d ever seen it before.
The Dyr Sister took to the stage first, with the backdrop of Zach Walker’s cymatic projections. As she looped together vocals and various instruments, powder and liquid bounced in the background, creating a visual representation of the sound. At first, I wasn’t sure it was in time, but slowly realised that it was merely my brain not connecting sound and image together as one.
Swelling in size and filling the room, the audience had to move forward during the first song, shuffling tables and stools closer to the stage These eager participants were able to enjoy popular songs such as “The Devil Draws in Crayola” as well as her newest tracks, available on her Christmas EP, “Coventry Carol” and “Yule Cat”, about a spritely animal who’ll gobble you up if you don’t buy the children new garments for Christmas. Sadly, those stood further back were less interested in these strange and traditional tales, loudly discussing their own. It could so easily have put everyone off, but instead performers and audience members alike ignored anything which wasn’t on the bill.
The final song of her set, “The Siren” was perfectly matched with what appeared to be a visual display of water reacting to the bass beat.
For Copenhagen, there were no visuals. Instead, creating an auditory demonstration of thumping tunes. Copenhagen are not the most energetic of performers. This is usually something which puts me off a live band, but it fit well with the busy Adelphi and the focus from the musicians ensured that the music was of the highest quality. They performed seven songs, all of which had the audience enthused and actively – at the very least – tapping their feet.
Halfway through the set, lead singer Kurt Gurnell announced that they were “going to wind things up a bit”, and they certainly did. Not ones to tease, all four instruments were thrown back into life, quickly adding vocals to create their heavy rock sound; guitar lead but with a punchy bass beat from the drums.
Following Copenhagen, the stage was quickly transformed, with all instruments and much of the sound equipment stripped away. I’d never seen the Adelphi stage look so big, as James Orvis stood behind his mixing desk and Zach Walker pulled his apparatus forward. No longer masked behind the stack of speakers, people eagerly discussed the science behind his artwork.
Central to the stage, Alice (the other half of Paris XY) was framed by the visual projection. I saw now why it wouldn’t have worked as spectacularly for Copenhagen, as she cast a silhouette into the circle of light.
The experience of a Paris XY performance is difficult enough to explain: a tantalising mixture of electronic sounds with the haunting harmony of Alice’s voice and her entrancing movements on stage. So, add in that extra layer of visual stimulus, and the dimensions of your response are multiplied.
Whatever the sixth sense is, I think I felt it during their third track. Alice seemed almost entranced by their music, captivating the audience as she moves in her own liquid formation. In the background, lights bounced, flickering like spits of lava in oranges and deep blues, further emblazoned as the smoke machine sent a grey cloud rippling to the back of the room.
Dressed all in black, with the darkness of the room, and the focus of the lights on the projection, songs such as their new single ‘Wytching Hour’ became even more haunting, eerily beautiful and electrifying. At one point a green robotic figure appears behind the stage, seeming to dance with the ethereal spectre of Alice’s shadow. What were probably the simplest elements of the set-up were made to feel complex, while those which were more complicated seemed to work so simplistically. All together, the experience was, as promised, a feast for the senses. Use of less condense matter, liquids rather than solids, were used to capture the sound of the faster songs, rippling across the screen as the sound ripped into your soul, flowing through your veins.
With such a succession of sound, the ending seemed too sudden. Even Paul Jackson was screaming for more, and so they played for another several minutes until hands of the clock signalled the witching hour itself.