Tag Archives: Life

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.

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A Busy Day in Hull City Centre (20.06.2015)

I knew it was going to busy day, especially after a reduced sleep post-gig. It’s always busy in the city centre on a Saturday. But this was more than your average Saturday.

First of all it was the Lord Mayor’s Parade, an annual event with a ‘green’ parade walking one mile around the Princes Quay and Old Town section. This year the theme was ‘Hats Off To The Mayor’, with a competition open to the public to make their own hat.

Up until last year, I had been a part of the parade, walking with a local group of Rainbows. However, our unit has now disbanded and so I watched the groups of participants assemble along Princes Dock Street from the window of Cuckoos, where I ate a delicious lunch with a friend. A pirate ship (which my friend argued was inadequately entitled, as it held only two pirates) was parked directly outside our window, and we were able to see the range of costumes pass us by.

The Pirate 'Boat'
The Pirate ‘Boat’

Our lunch consumed, we headed to the bottom of Whitefriargate where Steel Trinity were positioned. They played music to onlookers awaiting their glimpse of the parade, which seemed to have timed itself perfectly with the heavens opening their bulbous clouds.

It didn’t dampen the spirits of any of the participants, even if it did affect the moods of some of the onlookers. There was dancing and singing, musical instruments and puppets, all joyfully playing to the crowds. Some costumes were very well designed for the troublesome British weather: umbrellas transformed into jellyfish and large hats designed to look like other creatures.

Underwater creatures getting a watering
Underwater creatures getting a watering

While all of this was taking place, there was a demonstration happening in Queens Gardens. An anti-austerity protest.

At 2pm, I headed over to The Warren, a resource centre which opens its doors to young people during weekdays. Saturday 2th June, however, the doors opened to the general public in order to host a special gig in partnership with the anti-austerity demonstration.

Hull Against Austerity gig poster

I entered as Joe Solo performed a song of revolution to a scattered crowd, some stood and some sat directly before the stage. He song further songs about protest – describing the mining strikes of 30 years ago – and songs in protest – one about a friend who was arrested for setting up a soup kitchen in a disused building. For his song ‘No Pasarán’, he had the crowd get involved. A song about a Hull volunteer who fought against fascists in the Spanish Civil War, the title means ‘They shall not pass’, and when this line was sung during the chorus we were invited to join in, producing a tuneful chant. “It sounds better with your fist in the air,” he told us, highlighting the need for strength in numbers but also representing the non-violent approach to this protest.

He also took time to promote the We Shall Overcome events which, similar to this gig, have no monetary ticket prices. Instead you are invited to bring along donations of tinned and dried foods for the local food banks. A positive reaction to the recent election results, there will be a series of events over the weekend of October 2nd-4th across the country, celebrating music and culture while supporting those affected by the cuts. This was met by the loudest applause of the gig, showing further the solidarity in those gathered.

Next onto the stage was the manager of the Warren with a few words about austerity and how his organisation fits into this. He opened with strong words: “the whole theory of austerity is bullshit.” He stated that it was fantastic to see so many people, young and older, at both the demonstration and the gig, explaining that this is “your future… this is where it begins again” and that we needed to “get angry in a controlled and measured and campaigning way” because “that’s what scares them the most”.

Performers in Queen Victoria Square
Performers in Queen Victoria Square

Following him was 12 year-old Eva Davies with her original songs. Not a protest singer like Joe Solo, she was singing about those things which affect teenagers in Britain; opening with a re-telling of Romeo & Juliet did elude to the theme however. The point being made here is that opportunities such as this will become lessened if too many cuts take place. With so many volunteer-run organisations struggling and venues being strangled with legislation, there are fewer chances for someone like Eva to share her talent.

Nothing’s Happening were next onto the stage; a punk band full of political opinions. The crowd – all besides one very young boy who sat right up front – were on their feet for this act. Lead vocalist Casey Stead referred to another punk singer: Jon Lydon, better known as Jonny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, who has quoted in several newspapers for telling everyone to make sure they use their vote and calling Russell Brand a “bumhole” in response to his political “revolution” last October.

Fact: everyone is talking about austerity. Even if they don’t fully understand what it entails, or how it will directly impact them, the idea of it is absurd. Martin Deane, MP for the Green Party in Hull North, spoke further to that which he had said earlier in Queens Gardens at the demonstration. He declared that “austerity is a con” and that “we’re a city of culture, not a city of cuts!” With a view of cuts to libraries and hospitals, not to mention the way education is falling down the plughole of politics, he said that he encouraged everyone present to fight against austerity.

Last to the stage were popular Hull band, LIFE, with Stew Baxter taking to the drums as Rich is unable to perform at the moment. Starting off with their first single ‘Crawling’, they encapsulated the frustration many felt at the election results. Guitarist Mick Sanders declared, “I hope everyone stuck it to the man today,” before they launched into catchy tune ‘Money’ – during which Mez Sanders added to the lyrics “who even likes money anyway?”. Their set was one which could bring the crowds in – a popular local band who are making their name across the UK – but also one which demonstrated the power of political beliefs and in giving words to your opinions and emotions. They performed as they would any gig, but embedded in the lyrics are the political views of these young men living in a torn society.

Steel Trinity
Steel Trinity

It was a day to feel accomplished, and a day to feel a part of something. I do what I can for charity, supporting local organisations as I do local bands. I wanted to be there for my students and for the local community and for those who had come together to fight a worthy cause. I managed all of this, though I left feeling that in order to do so I was unable to give myself entirely to any in particular.

This is true of many things. Hull is so alive with activity that it is difficult to attend everything – support everything. But I do my bit, and I hope that others too did their bit on this busy Saturday in Hull city centre.

Tunes To Check Out

Let me start you off this month in my lovely home city of Hull. LIFE released their new EP I Knew I Was A Rat on Monday 11th May, and I’ve been listening to it ever since. I now own 3 copies of ‘Take Off With You’ as I had previously bought it as a single. Do I care? No. It simply means it tends to appear more often than any other song when playing all my tunes on random.

I actually featured the single ‘Go Go Go’ in my March Tunes To Check Out, the video (shot by ShootJMoore) has since been hosted by Vevo. But it is second track ‘All Your Friends’ which I am most enjoying. This track summarises the sound I associate with the band; Mez shouting out to the listeners as an introduction to the song, a clear beat from bassist Loz and drummer Rick, and some lovely guitar pieces from Mick (who wins me over every time I see them perform live). Their lyrics are fast-paced and laced with cultural references, from Breaking Bad to the Grapes Of Wrath. Their sound is furiously fun.

The next two suggestions are from bands I’ve seen sharing a stage with LIFE.

First all, Storms, who co-headlined with the band last year, and who I quickly bonded with. Now signed to MUK Records, they’ve cleansed themselves and started afresh with their new single ‘Girl’. I was saddened to see their tracks disappear from my Soundcloud stream, but immensely pleased to see them receiving significant media coverage with this track which holds onto their sound. (Too often a record label alters the sound of a band, cleaning it and stripping away all that makes it beautiful. Thank you MUK for that.)

It opens with a high-pitched guitar, the video introducing you to the protagonist who has an unhealthy interest in one specific girl. George Runciman’s vocals are gentle and yet strong, adding an additional layer which compliments the instruments. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to suggest that manic stalking is the way to get the girl, but it makes for a fun video.

My last suggestion is from Frankie and The Heartstrings’ new album Decency, which I have already pre-ordered on vinyl in huge anticipation and a moment of sheer joy when I spotted it on their website.

The video for forthcoming single ‘Think Yourself Lucky’ is immensely fun, even if it doesn’t really seem to make sense. Showing the band dressed like a 1950s rock band, lead singer Frankie bounces around before the musicians, dancing with balloons and a young gentleman (I want to say gentleman, anyway). Drummer Dave Harper flirts from behind his kit, while Michael Matthews, Michael McKnight and Ross Millard attempt synchronised guitar moves. If you’ve ever seen this band live, you’ll know that this is exactly what you can expect from the guys, perhaps without the synchronised movements from those wielding guitars.

I openly admit to having fallen completely head over heels (and every other euphemism for obsession and unashamed adoration) for Frankie and The Heartstrings. They’re fun, they’ve got a crisp and funky sound, and they never fail to put a smile on your face.

Thinking about it, these three bands would make a pretty decent line-up. Don’t ask me which one I’d stick in the headline spot though…

Tunes to Check Out

Check out these new tracks from Hull bands, featured now on Soundcloud:

Superfast and super-loud, ‘Go Go Go’ is the one LIFE song I’ve so far failed to learn the lyrics to at their live gigs. It opens with a heavy set of drums and guitars, before the lyrics cut in. You’ll be glad to know that there are some slower parts, and you will be able to join in with the line “Oh no, I gotta go” from which we can only assume the title was developed.

This is the ideal tune for mid-set in a LIFE show, energetic and aggressive with moments in which you can catch your breath. And, if you are going to try and sing along, you’ll need those moments!


BABIES are holding their EP launch this Thursday at the Adelphi, performing a hometown gig towards the end of their tour. ‘Beach Date (When Yr Dead)’ is the first track on the EP; a slow and seductive tune which summarises their sound for me. Indie-rock meets surf-punk, they tease you with their sombre tune, before hurling catchy lyrics at you.

Alongside ‘Sink’ and ‘Teeth’, this tune is the less catchy and does not kick you with quite the colourful language as the title track.


And last in my list is something completely new. The only track featured on the Soundcloud page for this mysterious ensemble.

Boundaries of Us’ is the first track released by Assembling Languages. A thoroughly electric tune with guitars looping over guitars. An upbeat tune with sombre lyrics, this is one which gets you moving subconsciously. I dare you not to sing along as the backing vocals repeat the word “Pull” behind the final verses.

Previously, I would have been ignorant and obnoxious enough to cast this tune aside, simply stating that it wasn’t to my taste. But there’s something captivating about it; after just one listen, I found myself singing it aloud down the street.

Independent Venue Week 2015

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend two of the gigs being held at The New Adelphi Club, as part of Independent Venue Week 2015.

Thursday 29th January – The Weeks / Apache Relay / Young Jack 

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.

Young Jack (Burning Heart Photography)
Young Jack (Burning Heart Photography)

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.

Apache Relay (Burning Heart Photography)
Apache Relay (Burning Heart Photography)

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.

The Weeks (Burning Heart Photography)
The Weeks (Burning Heart Photography)

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.

Saturday 31st January – Frankie & The Heartstrings / LIFE / Vulgarians

(Paul Newbon photography)
(Paul Newbon photography)

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.

Ryan Wilson-Preen, Vulgarians (Paul Newbon photography)
Ryan Wilson-Preen, Vulgarians (Paul Newbon photography)

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.

Mez Green-Sanders, LIFE (Paul Newbon photography)
Mez Green-Sanders, LIFE (Paul Newbon photography)

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.

Mick 'The Blur' Sanders, LIFE (Paul Newbon photography)
Mick ‘The Blur’ Sanders, LIFE (Paul Newbon photography)

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.

Frankie & The Heartstrings (Paul Newbon photography)
Frankie & The Heartstrings (Paul Newbon photography)

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.

Frankie & The Heartstrings (Paul Newbon photography)
Frankie & The Heartstrings (Paul Newbon photography)

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!”

Reviews were originally written for Browse Magazine Hull.

Thanks to Louie Scott (Burning Heart Photography) and Paul Newbon for the photographs,and to Stewart Baxter for the Youtube clip.

Independent Venue Week

A week of celebrations for those small music venues around the UK, and a nod to the people who run them. Week in, week out these venues offer local artists the chance to experience playing live in front of a varied audience, as well as inviting those from further afield.

From Monday 26th January – Sunday 1st of February, venues across the UK will be hosting an eclectic mixture of the talent which has graced their stages as part of Independent Venue Week. Stewart Baxter, of Warren Records, pointed out that “January is always quiet month for all businesses and a time when these venues struggle so IVW helps highlight these places, bring in big acts and put a spotlight on places like the Adelphi.”

Hull bands always refer back to their times at the Adelphi, the iconic venue situated on De Grey Street, which kicks off their celebrations with a reminder of their 30th birthday shenanigans. On Sunday 25th, they will be showing a film premiere of the Live performance of the Kaiser Chiefs gig from November for members of the club.

Adelphi IVW poster

With events following each night of the week, there is a collection of talent from Hull and beyond to pull the audience in. This is the key element of Independent Venue Week. At a quiet time of the year, audiences often forget to support their local acts. The Hull music scene is growing significantly, with an increasing number of venues. But for every new venue or band willing to play, they need the audience to follow and support them. The summer festivals pull in huge crowds, but it is the weekly nights and small venues outside of the city centre which need your support throughout the year. Stewart added that “These places are responsible for every live act you see today, everyone started at a local venue, and without their support and belief in new music we wouldn’t have any of it. So it’s important to remember where it all starts, to support these bands now knowing that many of them will go on to greater things and we have helped them get there.”

#madeinhull poster

On Tuesday there is something different on the cards. #MadeinHull will see 10 bands on the stage, playing the instruments which have been set up for them. Selected at random on the night, each of these bands will then have the chance to perform a couple of songs to the crowd who gather. No messing about, simply get up and play when your name is called out. For the small price of £2, a night of opportunities.

On Thursday, US bands The Weeks and The Apache Relay, grace the stage, alongside Hull’s own Young Jack. This one is expected to bring in a huge crowd, after their last visit to the Adelphi was sold out.

On Friday, Fruit is hosting Summat Good, featurin Paris XY, Oedipus The King and T.G.L.D for a night of music and art, as the art collective Something Entirely Different produce work around the venue. A reminder that Hull boasts not only its growing music scene, but also the art scene as well.

frankie & heartstrings gig poster

Back at Adelphi, Saturday night sees Sunderland band Frankie & The Heartstrings perform, with support from the fantastic LIFE and new band Vulgarians. Their music described as “the terrible truth for the creative freaks”, they have an energetic sound, which I assure you will you on your feet and moving around the room. A fantastic line-up.

Concluding on Sunday with Lach reading from his debut book of poetry, ‘The Thin Book of Poems’. Described as “a face-ache funny, beat-punk-unplugged joy” by The Guardian and “a gruff-and-tough punk turned poet with a heart of gold” by Timeout New York, this night, with support from The Pub Corner Poets, offers a relaxed, humorous adventure.

Don’t let the January chill keep you at home this week. Even if you can only spare the one evening to support our local venues, ensure you get down to either The New Adelphi Club or Fruit. With such a collection of artists available, there’s something to entice everyone.

Top 5 Browse Moments of 2014

This year has been a year of changes. A year where bridges have been mended and new friendships forged. I started a new school and joined the team of Browse Magazine.

Now, just before I look forward to the exciting newness of 2015, I’m going to look back over the last few months of 2014 – my time with Browse and the wonderful opportunities I’ve had while being a part of the team.

Photo by Luke Hallett
Photo by Luke Hallett

It started with Issue 004: MOTHER when I was asked to review the band COAVES as part of the weekly Sesh review. Three reviewers reviewing three bands; I was glad to get these guys. Their music is that wonderful mixture of sunny tunes, guitar-lead instrumentals and copious amounts of talent. Three confident singers, they come together to produce a sublime sound, and they’re never scared to try something new and admit when something doesn’t work.

Recently, I’ve been doing some more work with COAVES, who have competed in the Scunthorpe Rock Open and supported Pigeon Detectives at Fruit, and will be starting the year working with the band to promote their single ‘Waves’. They are certainly ones to look out for.

Photo by Stew Baxter, Warren Records
Photo by Stew Baxter, Warren Records

Another of my favourite Hull bands is LIFE, who featured on the front cover of issue 009. Published the same night as they performed with Kaiser Chiefs for the Adelphi 30 celebrations, we stated that that was the reason for featuring them – Black Delta Movement had received loads of press from the Hull Daily Mail, so we felt LIFE deserved a little bit too. In truth, our editor decided that if we got them in then Meg and I might stop going on about them so much. As if!

So, on top of reviewing them at the Adelphi 30 gig, Meg and I got to interview lead singer Mez and his guitarist brother Mick: our first videoed interview for the magazine. We’d both met them before at Press Pack and the interview felt much more like a chat than a Q&A, which was the perfect way to start off this additional role for the mag. We were both glad that there wasn’t the room for us to feature on the screen – the confidence for this would come later…

The Talks @ Welly

As time has progressed, I’ve taken on more and more at Browse. But issue 013 (unlucky for some) was one I felt particularly proud of. Our cover band were The Talks, an amazing ska band who I realised I had first seen perform on an episode of Hollyoaks! Working hard over the half term, I contacted the band for a text interview while they were touring Europe for their album launch, as well as writing the bio, an album review and then headed out on a schoolnight to review their hometown gig at the Welly. It was fantastic to work with them, pestering them to meet deadlines and then hugging a very sweaty Pat at the end of their gig.

And their album is one I play over and over. It’s fantastic for that Friday night feeling, when you’re physically destroyed after the working week but emotionally ready to go out and party for the weekend. Energetic tunes with meaningful lyrics – it’s easy to miss the message within the words, but you should listen to them carefully the next time you get a chance.

Photo by Chris Pepper
Photo by Chris Pepper

This leads me directly into the first time I featured on a video interview. As with issue 013, I took on writing the main features of issue 016: Black Delta Movement. Having annoyed myself at being too busy to interview Hillbilly Troupe in the previous issue, I was excited to be working with this band. I’d reviewed them as part of many of the festivals, the Adelphi 30 gig and as part of Hulloween, but I’d never reviewed them as the focal feature.

I’ve often felt the disadvantage of not being born and bred in Hull. I didn’t go to school with any member of the bands in the area – I’ve taught a couple – and often my face is just one of many in a crowd. But these lads didn’t care about that. Bass player Liam informed me that his mum reads all my stuff, and the pre-interview chat was comfortable and relaxed.

My confidence soared from this point; not just on-screen but generally in myself. I was at the point where I knew people were reading my stuff and offering me some positive feedback (always lovely to hear) and I was taking on more and more opportunities, putting myself out there and becoming a firm feature within the magazine.

Dan Mawer - La Bete Blooms

To pick a final feature is actually the hardest of them all. But I went with another band who I have interviewed and reviewed, now a couple of times. This feature was actually all a bit last minute for me. For issue 012, I met up with La Bête Blooms for a short video interview and a review of their EP launch at Fruit. Nobody else was free to interview, so I agreed. This was fine, all planned and going as expected. That was until I was informed that the person reviewing wasn’t able to make it. I turned to Luke, our photographer, and sagged at the concept of the late night before school. But I was there and it was due to finish before midnight – not too late.

I had listened to their tracks as part of the research for the interview, so I had an idea of what to expect. They’d mentioned that their live sound was quite different to their mastered and recorded stuff. But I was not in any way prepared for what I experienced in the intimate back room of Fruit. I commented that there is a beast within the band, and I stand by that. Dan Mawer is one of the nicest guys I have ever met: he never misses the chance to say hello if you’re in the same room as him, he always asks how the mag is doing, and his smile is the most positively charming sight you’ll see at the Sesh on a Tuesday. Then you throw a guitar his way and get him on that stage and you’re blinded by the transformation. That smile will be there at the start, but a guitar solo later and he is smashing the place up. I was amazed to see every mic stand upturned by the end of the set, and recall rushing home to write up my notes so that the review included everything I took from my first La Bête Blooms experience.

Four months of working for the magazine, now I can’t imagine my life without at least one gig a week and lists of artists I need to contact. My CD collection has taken on a strong Hull accent. My friends fall into two categories: those I gig with and those who listen to my constant reviews of gigs (even if they’ve just read it online).

I’ve always said you should start the year as you mean to go on. And so Browse Mag Sessions #2: NYE is the place I will be: alongside friends old and new, amidst writers, photographers, musicians and readers.

2015 sees a lot of new starts for me, but being a part of Browse is something I am pleased to say will continue. Here’s to more exciting experiences.

A Sesh Review – 09.12.14

Regardless of the long day I had spent at work – eleven hours of students and parents clawing for my attention – I was going to attend this week’s Sesh. LIFE were headlining, and if the long night killed me then, at the very least, I could say that I was able to love LIFE until I took my last breath. Their last gig of the year, I was worried that my scrambled brain would not do them justice, and so took on the role of fan rather than reviewer, merely acting on behalf of Browse’s Twitter page for updates.

Having dosed myself up with flu medicines, I had survived Parents Evening, and in less than an hour I had refreshed myself enough to hop into the taxi which would take me to The Polar Bear. This bar, with its small decorated beer garden and stages directly next to the men’s bogs, is becoming a favourite haunt of mine. I don’t visit regularly as such, but if given the option, I’ll meet friends or colleagues there for a drink and a chat.

A night of music will easily draw me out into the cold, and the thought of pleasant company makes the prospect all the more delightful. I was venturing out alone, knowing that I would be able to meet up with Paul Newbon, who has recently joined the Browse team and who I also met at a LIFE gig. Greeted by the smiling face of Dom Abbott, of Black Delta Movement, at the bar, I ordered my drink and had a quick chat. The bar was already quite busy, but I found Paul seated next to family members of Mez and Mick from LIFE. Thinking about it now, I realise how rude I was to have recognised them and not introduced myself – apologies mum and dad of LIFE; please blame it on my being terribly unwell and scatter-brained.

Mike Wright
Mike Wright

From behind his booth, Mak announced the first artist. Mike Wright, formerly of Bonnitts, took to the stage as just he and his guitar. Playing three melancholy songs, he captivated the scattered audience. Yes there was chatter, yes people still ordered their drinks, but in our booth we watched intently. Paul returned with a brief review: “That was jolly good.” (That’s why he does the snaps, and I do the writing.) He performed with the simplistic beauty of vocals and instrument, drawing those of us who listened intently in with every word.

Laurel Canyons remind of La Bête Blooms – not vocally, but with their style. A casual look but a powerful performance. Opening with an instrumental track, I wasn’t really sure whether I wanted them to bring the vocals in. It was so aggressively beautiful, that I feared vocals would distort the sound. Fortunately, just like Dan Mawer’s coarse melodies, Jake Cope’s vocals merely added to the aura created in the room. Performing songs from their EP ‘Now We’re Rebuilding’, they displayed a vocal and instrumental range of skills. At times the instruments took over, all four putting their energy into this, and then suddenly mellowing to allow Cope’s vocals to flow over the crowd.

Jake Cope - Laurel Canyons
Jake Cope – Laurel Canyons

From the EP, my favourite song is ‘Cry Hard, Cry Fast’. The up and down pattern of both instruments and vocals is very pleasing.

Their set ended with them all unplugging the instruments, and stepping down into the crowd. I merely needed to swivel on my stool, but stood to get a clear view. Cope still clutching his guitar, Paul Burdett, France Lahmar and Arv Teeroovengadum stood beside him, harmonising. A stunning sound, somewhat overshadowed by the chatter of those behind, but well worth standing for. I look forward to seeing more from them.

Grabbing another drink from the bar at the end of their set, I was greeted by Jon and Jordan from Coaves, who admitted they’d been discussing my recent article on the band. I’m not used to knowing anyone outside of the relatively inbred teacher circle, and I was humbled by their kind words. Yet again, I was overwhelmed with how lovely everyone is, as we chatted like good friends about their recent performance at the Scunthorpe Rock Open Finals and their upcoming single launch.

Reuben - The Hubbards
Reuben – The Hubbards

The Hubbards were up next. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them, but I went with high expectations. Reuben has a stunning, unique voice, and I enjoy the more uplifting sound that they have.

The crowd swelled, reaching the stage. I couldn’t see well without standing, so moved closer to the stage with the others, having also met up with our working reviewer Bob. They performed their most popular songs, and they performed very well. But their interaction with the audience didn’t match the energy of the other bands. The set was good, but I wasn’t blown away – which I have been before when seeing them live. There was a bit of banter, but just no electricity.

I’m seeing them again next week as they support Pigeon Detectives at a sold out gig at Fruit, and hope they’ve a bit more spark them.

LIFE
LIFE

Last, and certainly never least, was LIFE. I’d already shuffled my way to the front of the stage. Mak had said earlier in the evening that he wasn’t ashamed to admit that they were his favourites on the Hull music scene – I didn’t know we had so much in common. Again the crowd, having pushed themselves back in the interlude, flooded the space before the stage. I realised my mistake at having stepped forward early, positioning myself right next to a speaker and leaving a view of only Loz and Mez.

Mez & Mick - LIFE
Mez & Mick – LIFE

I’ve seen these guys enough times to know their set pretty well, but there was even more thrown into this last performance of the year. Mez was everywhere; into the audience, crawling onto Rich’s drum kit and, when he was on the stage, tipping himself into the crowd. Mick, also on form, was bouncing at every opportunity, a blur of shadows on the back wall to me. Suggesting that they slow things down a bit, Mez introduced their fastest song ‘Go Go Go’ and showed off his vocal talents with the super-speedy lyrics.

For the last song, he launched himself into the audience with more vitality than I’ve seen before. Circling the crowd, he gave his mum a little squeeze before finishing off back on stage with the other lads. It took them seconds to be off and out the door for the compulsory chat with Nineties Boy, but I imagine they appreciated the chill of the winter air after that set.

Mez - LIFE
Mez – LIFE

A night of intense highs, it really was a cracking line-up.

I ended the night with the song ‘Take Off With You’ and started the following day with my phone alarm playing Mick’s guitar solo from the very same song. I recalled the night so clearly, tiny segments growing into larger accounts; words forming on the tips of my fingers, desperate to be written down. LIFE always give me something to write about. And write it I did.

It’s a bit long, but I won’t apologise for that.

Thanks to everyone who kept me company and chatted with me on the night, and to The Polar Bear for hosting another fantastic evening of music. And special thanks to Paul, who also supplied the images used in this post.

Storms & LIFE: Second Night of the Tour

The second night of their November tour, LIFE performed their hometown gig metres away from the space in which they usually rehearse.

Life
LIFE

Last time I saw LIFE perform at the Adelphi, it was for the venue’s birthday celebrations. It was packed so tight I would have been more comfortable with my hands in my neighbour’s pockets. This experience was bound to be contrast with that. A Thursday night, I’d expected it to be quiet, but there was just the right collection of supporters in order to create a comforting and sociable buzz.

Supported by Witty’s Passage and Babies, there was time to get a couple of drinks and settle into the evening before the co-headlining bands set to the stage. I attended with a fellow contributor for Browse Magazine. I had planned not to work the event, attending as an encouraging fan. Alas, at the last minute we couldn’t get a photographer, so I took on this role. I had one aim: get a shot of Mick which wasn’t a terrible mess of blur.

Storms
Storms

We entered as Witty’s Passage performed, greeted by Mez, and took a seat next to the merchandise table. One massive bonus to a midweek gig is that you can usually get a decent place to park yourself. But we couldn’t help feel somewhat saddened by the gap in front of the stage. For the musicians, it is always wonderful to see crowds gather as close as they can. I knew, though, that this wouldn’t hinder our LIFE.

Storms, promoting their EP on the tour, came across as aptly named. Their song ‘Shame’ is a mixture of soft and heavy vocals. A track accompanied by a soulful beat and fast-paced instrumentals, it rang around my head even as I rode in the taxi home.

Heavy sounds and a harmonic clash of vocals, there was barely a break between tracks as they swam from one song to the next. The guitarist, Felix Howes, did stop at one point to compliment Witty’s Passage and Babies, stating that Hull has “got some f*cking talent”. My favourite track was ‘Swell’, which started with a calm welcoming instrumental and then pulled you into the riptide of noise between verses. Their set concluded with a cover of ‘My Girl’, the remains of their energy thrown into the final chords, leaving amps still ringing as they stepped from the stage.

Though both bands fit into the genres of rock and punk, their sounds are very different. Storms are a loud, powerful force, whereas LIFE are a whirlwind of energy and charisma. Both empowering and mesmerising, creating a sound which pushes its way into your heart.

Life @ Adelphi 06.11.14
Mez

The short interlude between co-headliners, saw Hull’s LIFE open in their traditional manner with ‘In Citrus’, instantly hooking the crowd with their familiar tune and bouncing beats. Another popular song, ‘Money’ had the crowd stepping forward and dancing. Mez joined their fans on the floor for a couple of tracks, with Loz and Mick hanging off the stage. “You’re only close enough if you get wet from this,” Mick told us, as he shook his damp barnet. This is the spell that they cast; that within a couple of tracks they’ve worked up the audience as much as their sweat levels.

New songs ‘Membership Man’ and ‘Go Go Go’ featured, as promised, with Mez introducing the latter as “this one’s very fast”. It didn’t stop a couple of us trying to sing along, which the brothers commented on, adding they’re not even sure they can follow along with the lyrics. “I just go nananana,” joked Mick.

Mick
Mick

Who, by the way, I did get a non-blurry photograph of. The only issue the guys had was the low ceiling. Mez climbed the drumkit, curving himself around the rafters, and Mick did mention afterwards that he almost did himself an injury when throwing himself around the stage.

What I adore about this band is their sheer love of performing. They are the only band where I can guarantee the mic stand is more likely to spend it’s time off stage than on. There is never a doubt in my mind that I will leave delighted with their set, empowered by the bond they create with their audience.

Between them, Storms and LIFE are a mesmerising clash of noise and stage presence. Bands to be reckoned with, and bands you will hear about for a long time into the future.

You can still catch these guys on their co-headline tour, which continues across the UK until 13th November.

Life - Nov 2014 tour

Take Off With Life

You see the word everywhere: life. The media is constantly telling us how to improve our life, as are our supermarkets, doctors and friends. Well, now, the media is also talking quite a bit about the band LIFE.

Life performing at Freedom Festival
Life performing at Freedom Festival

LIFE consists of Mez and his brother Mick, Loz and Rich. Though they have their clear roles on stage – Loz on bass, Mick on guitar, Rich on drums and Mez just about everywhere with as many microphones as he can carry – they are a clear unit, working as a band of brothers who love to make music together. Still considering themselves a new band, having officially formed only last year, they are humbled by the response they have received from live crowds over the last summer of festivals. It took only three songs to hook me, captivated by their natural presence on stage.

Mez
Mez

Since then, I have had more and more opportunities, sharing in some of the big moments the band have experienced. Headlining at Freedom Festival and sharing stages with Chicago’s Twin Peaks and Leeds’ Kaiser Chiefs, these guys have never stepped back and let others take the fire and determination which drives them. And it is with this power that they are building a vast collection of fans, with regular gigs in hometown Hull and in London.

The month of October was another turning point for the band, as they signed with Grand Jury and cast their nets across the pond. Now that singles Take Off With You and Money are available on ITunes in the US, they are sharing their live performance with audiences across the UK.

Nov Tour - Adelphi poster

November will be a busy one as the band take off on their 9-day tour, featuring visits to three Yorkshire towns. Four best friends, they’re looking forward to getting on the road and doing what they do best. Mez says “we love gigging” adding that when back to back in this manner “the adrenalin is almost double.” Leaving their day-jobs behind, they can get back to forging that bond with their audiences.

Having seen the band perform numerous times, to huge festival crowds and in more intimate venues, I can already feel the energy with which they take everywhere they go. Energetic really is the only adjective to describe their act – as visual a display as it is auditory. Mez will find every nook and cranny of the stage, filling it with sound and sweat as he wears the band’s name on the back of his leather jacket. In interviews, they have repeatedly said that a live performance is about that connection with the audience, and Mez will never finish a set without getting as close, if not into, the audience as possible. He shares a mic with the crowd, inviting them in with well-known songs such as the catchy tunes of In Citrus and the popular Crawling. Mick and Loz share the stage, criss-crossing and high-kicking as they play, with Rich, cushioned in the back of the stage behind his kit, adding to the powerhouse of enthusiasm. Equally, with new songs Go Go Go and Membership Man you can expect fast-paced energetic sounds.

LIFE fill any stage, and can still take on more. They’ve come across issues in the past, where technology has let them down, but nothing can slow them. They feed from the energy of the crowd and play every show as if it were their last, giving it all. You can see it in their every feature: the sweat dripping from their brows; the ferocity with which they play; and the spirited conversation with the audience.

Central to monumental times for a Hull-based band who aim to be a “leading light” for their community, which they describe as “the underdog which is sick of being labelled”, LIFE are peeling back the paintwork and getting into the purity of punk. They are a band who have put their lives into performing and creating music, and they are a sight which has to be seen. Rarely do I fall so quickly for a band the first time I see or hear them, but LIFE grabbed me by the collar and dragged me into their world.

Still young but so strong, this tour is a significant stepping stone in their musical career. Indeed, as soon as it is over, they head back to the London studio to continue recording in preparation for an eagerly anticipated album.

For your taste of LIFE, get yourself to the nearest venue and see for yourselves.

Nov Tour poster 1

Preview originally written for Yorkshire Gig Guide.