Tag Archives: music

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.

Jeff Parsons LECo

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.

Lou Duffy-Howard LECo

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.

Rich & Lou LECo

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)

Music Memories: Soundtracks

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

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

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Unicorn

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

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

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

Labyrinth

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

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

The Lion King

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

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

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

Freedom Festival 2015 – in summary

The things which made my weekend:

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

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

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

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

Streaming Lights - Steve & Ryan Streaming Lights - fist pump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tangle - Freedom Festival 2015 Tangle 3

Things which didn’t work for me:

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

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

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

New acts I now follow:

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

Scarlet Riot - Freedom Festival 2015

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

Spring King - Freedom Festival 2015

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

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

Here’s to Freedom 2016.

Top New Tunes of the Summer

I haven’t introduced you to some new tunes for a while, totally missing July in the whirlwind that the month was. So, here’s a slightly longer version of my ‘Top New Tunes’ looking at those artists who are releasing new material over the summer. Artists you may be checking out at the festivals, or ones who could get you in the right mood while packing your backpack.

First up is Leeds-based Masses with their new single ‘In Circles’. Having a countdown on Facebook, I found myself subconsciously anticipating this track, to which the video was unleashed on August 2nd.

Masses have a really enjoyable rock sound, and this track showcases the Cain Cookson’s charming voice. Soft at the beginning, within the chorus it picks up, making it ever more catchy.  It reminds me of the early Matchbox Twenty sound, a pure rock sound which captures emotion seemingly effortlessly.

Another catchy tune, this time from a Hull band and from a different genre. ‘Behind These Eyes’ is the first track to feature on Three Day Millionaires’ self-titled EP, released last month.

A punk rock band, they cross over into the metal sound with heavy ruthless vocals. I’m not usually one for scream-come-singing, but recently I’ve been increasingly intrigued by the metal genre. I dallied with it somewhat in my teenage years (I dated a guy in a death metal band and had an episode of listening to a lot of Children of Bodom). Now, I’m finding myself drawn to more and more local Metal bands.

This track features some very catchy parts – the parts you can make out on the first time of listening to it – as well as some parts where I imagine I’d be moving too much to sing along to anyway. I can certainly picture myself on the outskirts of a circle pit of true metal fans, enjoying this band, even if it’s not my usual choice of noise.

You can get your hands on their music via their Bandcamp or in the physical form at the Warren merchandise stall at local festivals.

A band I can’t get enough of is Storms from London, and they’ve recently released my favourite of their tracks. ‘Shame’ is a fantastic tune, which starts directly on a high. George Runciman takes you on a journey of vocals, introducing the title of the song as he screams over the guitars, but then softening for the verses. The chorus is sung loudly as the guitars pick up and create a fantastically loud noise.

This track just does everything for me – it’s rough, it’s quick and yet has slow moment. I probably won’t be seeing these guys over the summer (a shame in itself, as they are awesome live), but I will definitely be playing this track in preparation for a good night out – it’s a great get-in-the-mood track from a very talented and fun band.

You can get this track free from their website (stormsband.com) as well as from the usual means: ITunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify.

Back to Humberside, on the other side of the water, The Finest Hour have released their new single ‘The Scrapheap’, available to buy from their Bandcamp.

Energetic punk folk, this band hit the nail on the head every time. Delivering a softly sung, guitar-heavy track, ‘Scrapheap’ is a song which we can all relate to. I don’t have much to say about this track, as I think it speaks volumes itself. If you haven’t already check out Cleethorpes-based The Finest Hour, I urge you to do so at the next opportunity.

And finally back to Hull. You may have seen Breeze performing at Humber Street Sesh, all clad in white and performing this song along with a selection of their best tracks.

New song ‘Sam Wave’ features a chorus which you’ll find stuck in your head for hours after playing it, with a tune which will keep you upbeat. It’s got a more summery sound to most of their other tracks, contrasting with the deep sultry voice of Aron Gilbey.

And with the video filmed locally, you can see just how beautiful this part of the country really is, on those days when the sun decides to shine.

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.

Humber Street Sesh – Decisions to be made…

Next weekend, on the first day of August, Hull Marina will be taken over by Humber Street Sesh. And with over 180 acts across twelve stages, how are you possibly going to plan your day and get to see everything?

If you’re me, and you’ve worked with several of these artists, you’re in a losing situation: there’s going to be a clash somewhere. But if you don’t have that issue, and you’re just out to soak up as many acts as possible, you may still consider planning your day beforehand.

I’m not saying that to make the most of HSS, you have to plan. No way! By all means, wandering rather aimlessly is a fantastic way to come across a diverse range of bands, solo singers and artists of all shades. By all means, discard the map, let your feet make the decisions. I’ve stumbled across some amazing bands this way: Streaming Lights, King No-One, LIFE

But, if you’re a little bit like me, then you’ll want to plan out at least some of the day.

Stages list
Stages list (click to enlarge)

So, my first suggestion is that you pick a genre. Let’s say you just want to see guitar-fuelled indie rock. It’s a popular genre for festivals. And Hull has loads of such performers. You’re going to want to start at the Hull College Group Newcomers Stage, with The Magdalenes kicking things off at 11:40. Stick around for a couple more acts – maybe have a picnic in front of the stage – because The Shed Club and Office Party are well worth your time. They’ll be the perfect indie warm up. Next, I’d advise the Alternative Main Stage: to be honest, to cover the sub-genres of indie, you want this to be your comfort zone of the festival. At 3pm, you’ve got BREEZE followed by Audio Subscene and Affairs. For the evening selection, head over to the Green Bricks Stage, where Rebel Sell perform at 5:30, followed by Magic Carpet Factory; two fantastic bands, who I certainly aim to see. You want to settle yourself here, or end up back at the Alternative Main Stage for the duration of the evening, taking in either headliners Age of Atlas or Black Delta Movement.

Stages list
Stages list (click to enlarge)

My second suggestion is pot luck. Pre-prepared pot luck. The danger here is that you could end up running from each stage throughout the day, therefore tiring your feet out more than needed and being unable to dance as much you may want to. However, if you take out the stages which really don’t interest you – genre-wise – then at least you know that each selection is likely to please. Pick a time and then pull a stage out of a hat. You could start off with a Break Dance Workshop at the Sesh Urban Quarter, taking in the fringe options at Corn Exchange with Mr Sneaks, and ending up at the Newcomers Stage with Coaves.

Third option: build the noise. Start off mellow, and meander the stages until you’re fuelled with a heavy, loud sound. Test all genres, and see a full range of acts. You could start at the Acoustic Marquee with Mark Rowland and The Dyr Sister, two fabulous storytellers. Then try out the Speak Easy Stage, with the charming Neil Thomas and Will and Holly (Little Weather) who are on at 3:40. Then check out the Newcomers Stage with the last performance from Babies followed by Fronteers. You’ll want to head off at this point, as Cannibal Animal follow – too loud and energetic for just yet – over to the Dead Bod Stage for the full band Crooked Weather and Quicksilver Kings. By this point, it’ll be turning to night-time and you’ll be up for a dance. You could stick around here, because the next few bands are a lot of fun, but for more noise you want to be heading over to the Alternative Main Stage for La Bête Blooms. You can pick a genre for the end of the night, deciding on the one which best suits your mood: Ska at the University of Hull Main Stage with The Talks, featuring Neville Staple; the Fruit Stage for some hairy punk sounds from Ming City Rockers; or popular local metal artists at the Rock & Metal Warehouse with The Colour Line.

Silent Disco HSS2015
Silent Disco (click to enlarge)

You could plan your day based on the artists you know and love. As I say, this would cause major issues for me; mainly at 10pm when I’m ready to park myself in front of my chosen headliner. Coaves, a band I’ve done loads of work with and who have the perfect summer sound, are taking over the Newcomers Stage. The Finest Hour, hailing from over the bridge, are at Corn Exchange. Danny Landau Band, another funky summer sound, are on the Dead Bod Stage. I might even decide to support my editor at Browse in the Silent Disco tent. But then there’d be the Black Delta Movement versus The Talks argument I’ve been having since I first saw the line-up, as they take to the Main and Alternative Main Stages.

Fact is, there is no perfect plan. Because on top of the music, there’s art, there’s activities for the kids, there’s generally just bumping into friends and socialising. So perhaps the wandering aimlessly option is perfectly valid.

That, or you select no more than five acts – allowing both an element of organisation and the freedom to find new and wonderful acts unseen at previous festivals. If you do this, I can highly suggest stopping at the Youth Stage, where you’ll find Yasmin Coe headlining at 8:30pm (an early night for the young performers) who is launching her single ‘Nothing Better’, collaborated with Endoflevelbaddie, at the festival.

Whatever your plan of action, the day aims to be fantastic. A family festival for the people by the people of Hull.

See you there.

Just in case you want to plan - a map of the area.
Just in case you want to plan – a map of the area. (click to enlarge)