Category Archives: review

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

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. 

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)

Highlights of the Humber Street Sesh

Humber Street Sesh is a moment of joy, written into my diary before the new year has even started. It is where my blog began – the moment, last year, when I decided to start writing again.

And so I decided to treat the festival like one giant Sesh.

I try to attend as many Tuesday Sesh nights as possible, which is difficult when you work a Monday-Friday day-job (and also want to attend gigs on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday). My rule for Sesh is simple: either I have to be entirely free (a school holiday with no plans to catch up with friends or other work business involving Browse) or I have to be enticed by one of the bands. This meant that I didn’t use Street Sesh as a means of finding those bands I haven’t seen before. If I stumbled past one, great, but if I didn’t, no worries. There’s plenty of time for this at other Hull festivals – we’ve got Folk Festival, Freedom Festival and Trinity Festival in the coming weeks.

So, instead of reviewing everything here (after all, you can read my reviews of the festival on other platforms), I’m going to give my highlights of the day, in no particular order.

BABIES

Ryan Smith, Babies
Ryan Smith, Babies

It’s been long enough since they announced their split for me to cool down about it. I had expressed my upset to lead vocalist Ryan, but assured him that I would support them until the end. Performing on the Newcomers Stage, it seemed haunting that this was their last performance together.

I stood before the stage minutes before they were due to start, and noticed that there was some issue with a gizmo in Ryan’s hands. This issue seemed to be fixed, but it did lead to technical difficulties throughout their set. Fortunately, Babies have become used to this misfortune (at their EP launch it was Joe’s lead which lead to us not hearing his bass at all) and performed to their best ability.

Full of energy, full of smiles, Babies performed their last set with passion. The scattered crowd – their stage placed on Victoria Pier, they seemed to tower over us – congratulated them loudly as they concluded, and I spotted a couple of faces wash with momentary sadness.

All the best to the boys of Babies and their future endeavours. I doubt this is the last we’ve heard from them; music lovers tend to get drawn back in at some point.

LIFE

Mez Green, Life
Mez Green, Life

It was this time last year when I was first introduced to Life, before embarking on my first press conference with these boys. So, I just had to see them perform Street Sesh again.

The Main Stage had the largest gap between performers and audience, with quite a drop were a member of the band to jump down and try to physically engage with the audience. And that’s a typical part of Life’s performance; Mez hurling himself at the crowd in a fit of energy.

I hadn’t needed to worry. Their set was as wonderful as ever. Mez moved around the entire stage, he and his brother Mick stepping over the monitors onto a platform just before the stage, conversing with the audience. Stewart Baxter, stepping in for Rich on drums, was all energy – it’s often such a shame the drummer gets hidden at the back of the stage.

The band had also been in the crowd for Babies, with Mez taking a moment of their set to comment on the band and wish them all well. Before launching – literally – back into the music, taking that dive off the stage to meet the crowd and circle the grass before the barrier during ‘Take Off With You’.

STREAMING LIGHTS

Another band who are all energy is Streaming Lights, who have been a highlight in the music scene for the last twelve months for me. I don’t think I’ve missed one of their gigs so far this year, and they never disappoint.

Performing on the Dead Bod stage, they were sandwiched between two equally popular acts – Folk royalty Hillbilly Troupe and the fantastic Danny Landau Band. Lead vocalist Steve Minns stated at the start of the set that their sound was quite different to that of the others which fit more comfortably into the Folk genre, though it worked to introduce the more rock sound Danny Landau offers.

Sadly, the lighting was too much for my camera. So I pinched this photograph of Streaming Lights from Paul Newbon.
Sadly, the lighting was too much for my camera. So I pinched this photograph of Streaming Lights from Paul Newbon.

Still, it didn’t matter whether or not they fit into the genre of the stage – that’s one of the joys of the Sesh, that all genres are represented and get their chance to perform to a diverse audience. The crowd remained, shifting slightly as some moved backwards to the Minerva bar and others moved forward to embrace the music.

Streaming Lights have adapted their set recently, taking on more instrumentals and with a range of new songs in addition to bringing back some of their older rockier tunes. A thoroughly positive performance, the crowd reacted with equal vitality; at one point what appeared to be an item of clothing being thrown onto the stage, to which Ryan Gibbins retaliated by hurling toilet roll into the audience.

They even teased the audience with my favourite song – possibly their only slow one – ‘Slipper Song’, Steve singing the first word before announcing “it’s not the night for it”, and instead launching into their latest single, ‘Box Room Boy’.

Fantastic stuff, keeping the energy at a high and ensuring that the cold of the darkening sky didn’t get a chance to seep in.

BABY TOOTH

This was the first time I had seen Baby Tooth perform. I only caught the very end of their set on the Green Bricks Stage, and I was impressed that their live sound is pretty much what you hear on their recorded tracks.

What captivated me even further was what happened when they realised there was another ten minutes in which they were entitled to perform. Instead of launching into an original song or a cover of a popular grunge track, which would match their look, lead singer Nanny McGee unhooked the microphone from the stand and launched into a rather psychedelic version of ‘The Real Slim Shady’. It was totally unexpected and hilariously different to their look, but executed perfectly. I was amazing, grinning throughout the performance.

COAVES

I’d expressed the difficulty in which I had in selecting a headliner when such a wonderful selection was on offer. My decision to see Coaves was based on a number of things: the Newcomers Stage was in close proximity to the Dead Bod stage where I was seconds before; it was drummer Conor’s birthday, and I’d started the day with him supporting Mark Rowland in the Acoustic Marquee; and, simply, they are bloody brilliant.

The crowd was scattered. There were ten other amazing acts on, so this wasn’t a surprise. But for Coaves, this was fine because you need space to move. Their set is fuelled entirely by high octane energy, and this is mirrored in the reaction from the crowd.

They concluded with ‘Change Your Mind’, Jonny inviting everyone to have “a really good dance”. And with the addition of a new outro, all four members huddled around the drumkit, and two confetti cannons to just clinch that loud, frantic ending which you just don’t forget easily.

I’ve heard amazing things about the all of the headliners, but as someone who’s also been a part of the local music scene for around a year the Newcomers Stage felt appropriate. An amazing day for everyone, with eleven amazing headline acts sending the crowds away from the marina with smiles on their faces and all the adrenalin to fuel whatever they planned for the rest of the night, whether that be at the official After Party or not.

Artwork on Victoria Pier
Part of the Photography Exhibition on Victoria Pier

On top of all this, I was proud to see just how involved members of Browse were in the festival. Our Arts Editor Lucy Howson was painting live alongside other artists. Three of our photographers, including my good friend Paul Newbon, featured in the Photography exhibition which spread across Humber Street and Victoria Pier. And our Editor-in-chief Mike White was a headliner himself, DJing inside the Silent Disco.

A festival for the people by the people of Hull – everyone involved, in whatever role, should be very feeling very positive right now.

The First One – an EP by Mark Rowland

I first met Mark in an art gallery. He told me he had an EP coming out soon.

It is now out.

The First One EP cover

Of course, I’d heard the name: social media does that to you, gives you a tonne of information which is logged somewhere randomly in your brain ready for that equally random moment when you’ll need it. And it was when I heard one of the tracks on this EP that I realised I had also heard his voice at an open mic night which Mark was hosting.

“I got my guitar, and I know how to use it”

The first track of his first EP – aptly named ‘The First One’ – is entitled ‘Just Another Nerdy Kid’. It starts off which opens with a rather upbeat Samba-esque sound. I guess now that geek-chic is a fashion statement not to be mocked, such a topic is one for celebration. It’s a fantastic way to step into his music, introducing the four-track EP with flair and excitement. The lyrics are nice and simple, the meaning clear, with a catchy chorus I can picture people singing at his gigs.

His lyrics and voice are easily comparable to Ed Sheeran: a charming voice which comforts you, pleasantly taking your hand and guiding you through the music. With his powerful guitar and the backing drums, the instruments balance this without taking over in any way. Track three reflects a very similar sound to some of Sheeran’s acoustic pieces, demonstrating a sound which is both relaxing and exciting. You can dance to these tracks or have them on in the background as a soundtrack to whatever activity you’re supposed to be paying more attention to.

“I don’t need your sympathy, coz when I fall like the sun I will rise again”

The topics of the lyrics are of the everyday thoughts: fears of society’s perspective; the weekly slog to that one night which has no alarm clock signalling its end; that need to simply feel that everything is all right.

It is this sentiment which is explored in the second track, ‘It’s Alright’. It has a love song vibe when opening – a classic sound which never fails to remind me of the 90s – a love song which reflects on a range of situations. The instruments lured me into those emotions, but separate the lyrics from the instruments and you can relate this to any time in which you’ve needed to hear those words.

Track four is a solemn track. Simply named ‘I’, the lyrics tie the entire track together: referring to the man the “nerdy kid” wishes to be. This track showcases all of Mark’s vocal talents, demonstrating the emotion almost entirely through his voice, supported by instruments but working stunningly in the acoustic setting.

I can highly advise that you download this EP. It is available in its entirety from Soundcloud and Last.FM. If you’ve ever enjoyed even one Ed Sheeran song, then you will love Mark’s sound. Music which speaks to the everyday guy, to the everyday relationship.

Simply beautiful.

Originally written for Browse Magazine Hull.

Streaming Lights Headline The Sesh 30.06.2015

Last time I was at the Sesh, we were interviewing Streaming Lights. On the stunning evening of the 30th, I met up with the lads again for their headline slot and launch of their new single ‘Box Room Boy’.

Imogen Hart
Imogen Hart

A small crowd had gathered quickly, there near the front of the room to support 16-year old Imogen Hart. This was her debut at Sesh, though she has performed at other events. Imogen has a voice which you can easily lose yourself in; her songs laced with emotions. There are many young singers surfacing – from Freedom Road Creative Arts, as Imogen has, as well as other institutes – and she is one of the brilliant performers who will be taking to the In Training Youth Stage at Humber Street Sesh.

It was a powerful warm-up which got you moving to the beat. Mak compared her to Emily Moulton, stating that he was “in awe” of her talents. I have to say that I am rather enjoying these Sesh nights which start with an acoustic act: after a long day at work, you often find the need to be gently eased into the mood.

Jon Calvert - Coaves
Jon Calvert – Coaves

Next up were Coaves, who don’t do anything in moderation. They started their set in high energy with ‘Waves’, a summery upbeat number which you’d struggle not to dance to. The crowd were clapping along, singing the chorus and moving with the boys on stage. Even with their slower tracks, all four bandmembers are bouncing with energy – it’s really quite intoxicating – Jonny climbing on the furniture and Liam spinning in circles.

The only downside to their set was that it lacked their usual outro: missing their heavy attack on the drumkit.

Fronteers
Fronteers

The Polar Bear was quite busy by the time Fronteers stepped up to the stage. This band is the one I have not seen for the longest time, having seen all three others on the bill in the last couple of months, and I was glad to see that they had grown in confidence. They’re developing their sound: less cover tracks and more conversation with the audience. But I still found it was lacking something. They had regular followers dancing in front of the stage, but their set didn’t work for me with that placement: sandwiched between two physically energetic bands, I felt there was a dip in on-stage charisma. Which is a shame, because I did enjoy their set – it just wasn’t the one I remembered upon waking up the following day.

And I was there mostly for Streaming Lights, headlining Sesh for the second time this year. Mak had warned the crowd that their set would be “eventful”, stating that they were “everyone’s favourite” as he welcomed them to the stage.

Steve Minns - Streaming Lights
Steve Minns – Streaming Lights

Opening track ‘Shake It Up’ seemed to act as an instruction; the crowd quickly regaining their energy. In between songs – those from album KICK, a few older ones and newer ones – Ryan handed out CDs of their latest single. People quickly moved forward to claim this prize, though sadly the music video had not been completed on time (it is now available on Youtube) for us to take home this piece of joy.

Their funky tunes had people moving in full swing, their entire body reacting the sound. Considering the heat we’ve had, it was impressive that people had this energy left. It was certainly a rather sweaty affair; bassist Ryan Gibbins declared “I need a Solaro” before they introduced ‘Box Room Boy’, intended this to be their penultimate song. However, ending with a long instrumental, and Steve Minns telling the crowd “I love you”, we called for more. Much more: this was the first time I had experienced a double encore at the Sesh, with Steve admitting that he wasn’t sure he could remember how to play any other songs. Mak was ready to lead them into more tunes, perhaps keeping them there all night, but it was not only us on the floor who had work in the morning.

A warm night of fantastic music from four extremely talented acts: The Polar Bear was well and truly struck by a wave of scorching energy this Sesh night.

Photos by Paul Newbon

The Big Gig – a small person’s perspective

Adka (a small person)
Adka (a small person)

I went to my second festival of the year today. The Big Gig festival: a new festival to come to Hull, aimed at integrating those who often feel socially marginalised. I went with a small group of friends, one of which was the toddler from whose perspective I have decided to write this review.

Meet Adka: she’s just turned two and she loves to bounce, run and generally get under people’s feet. She’s been brought up with local music having me around. This was her second Hull festival.


Aunty Chidders (that’s me by the way) had told me there would be pirates. She hadn’t told me that there would be a big musical bird. It was so big. And it made good sounds when I hit it with a foam stick. The lady let me have as many sticks as I wanted, and we were all allowed to try and make as many noises as we could. This was fun.

With mama and the mermaid in the Pirate Experience
With mama and the mermaid in the Pirate Experience

But then I saw the pirates and I wanted to see their show. It was a Senses show, and we were allowed to join in. We went into a dark tent, where we were given musical instruments. I had two: a weird thing with beads and a maraca. We played the instruments loudly while a pirate sang a song about being out at sea. I was also given a glowing fan, which was cool and had lights which flashed and made the tent look really nice. Then, we met a mermaid who sang to us all. Then, there was a fight, which scared me a little bit. The pirates were fighting about gold bars, which the adults found funny.

I was quite tired though, as I usually have a snooze at this time of the day. So after this, the adults had something to eat while I slept.

Joining in with the Sunshine music
Joining in with the Sunshine music

When I woke up, we were inside again. There were more instruments, so I wasn’t even grumpy! We were asked to sit in a big circle  and then a Sunshine Music lady gave us all an instrument. I had some bells and Aunty Chidders gave me a drumstick which was really good at poking people. I tried as many of the drums out as people would let me – most were happy to share – and then I sat with mama while we made loud and quiet noises. I enjoyed this, but it did get too loud.

That was the only problem with the day. I like the bands – one of my favourite songs is ‘Modern Disco’ by Streaming Lights – but it was very loud in the main stage area. Aunty Chidders was going to introduce me to them, but that Nineties Boy was rapping too loudly and I got scared. There was a good crowd in that room, and other children were happy to dance near the stage, but I wasn’t sure about it.

Sorry that I didn't get to see you play, Streaming Lights. Did you play my favourite song?
Sorry that I didn’t get to see you play, Streaming Lights. Did you play my favourite song?

That was okay, because there was still plenty to do outside. I went to the big musical bird again, and then there were games on the lawn. I especially liked playing Connect Four (well tidying up the Connect Four and making it somewhat more difficult for the others to play when she found how to release the counters) with a couple of other children, who were very friendly.

Everyone was friendly. They let me into the Pirate Experience a second time and let me out again before the shouting pirates came on.

Aunty Chidders stayed a little longer to watch some of her favourite bands, but five hours was enough for me and my parents. I really enjoyed the Big Gig. Can I come back next year?

I did like the big musical bird.
I did like the big musical bird.

It was a day for everyone. Aimed at those with learning disabilities, there was so much thought into ensuring everyone had access. There were areas designed for wheelchair users to ensure that they could see the music stages and spaces made for them to join in all of the activities.

Though we didn’t have anyone in our group with a learning disability, toddlers and their parents can often feel there is not a proper place for them at a music festival. This was not the case here. Adka, her parents, and my other friends all declared that they had a really enjoyable day. Many festivals claim they are family-friendly; not all of them succeed in this. Big Gig did.

I, too, look forward to returning next year.