Festival Review: Buckfest 2016 @info_buckfest

I had been looking forward to Buckfest for weeks. I was slightly disappointed that due to responsibilities that go along with being an adult I couldn’t be there from the beginning, but it meant that when I arrived at 2.30pm the festival was already in full swing, with the sun shining, people enjoying their first drinks of the day and kids enjoying the various amusements laid on for them (especially the BUCKFEST colouring boards! Genius idea!).

The first band I managed to catch were The Goodges, something of a spinoff from Soulweaver as the latter take a break. Performing well-known covers by bands such as Iron Maiden and Jet, and a fair amount of Soulweaver favourites for their regular followers. I love that they got out into the crowd and that they were clearly enjoying themselves – that kind of passion from a band is truly infectious.

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Hollowstar were, for me, one of the strongest bands of the day and I hope to see them much further up the bill in the future.

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They are amazingly polished, and they absolutely knew how to work that crowd to everyone’s advantage. I loved taking photos of them as they were interesting, fun, photogenic and varied – they made my job very easy! I’ll definitely be looking these guys up and seeing them again.

Other levels of entertainment to fit every genre were provided across the three stages, from Dale Taylor with his relaxed country/indie rock vibe…

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to the summery alternative calypso of Easydread…

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to Big Lou’s Cradle of Sound and their good old fashioned jive music…

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and everything in between. Each of the bands who played appealed to decent sized groups of the attendees, and there were always plenty of people watching, dancing and cheering appropriately.

In the ten or so minutes before The Expletives took to the stage as the penultimate band, there was a sense of anticipation and with it the gathering of a much larger crowd. Seeing a lot of folk with 70s punk rock t-shirts on was something of a harbinger for what was to follow once the band kicked in their set.

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The Expletives are a niche band, offering a grandiloquent blend of late seventies punk and new wave fare. Frontman Sean Dunleavy even acts and behaves like Jonny Rotten, and grabs the crowd by the scruff of the neck whilst his tight as a tick band deal out a constant barrage of razor sharp punk standards.

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Guitarist Richard Mackman has a ferocious sound and a never ending arsenal of poses; punk rock is a state of mind, and this man knows it.

 

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16 year old Vincent Mackie on the bass looks cool as fuck, wielding his Fender Precision with the panache of Dee Dee Ramone, for one so young he already has the look and the prowess well in place.

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The Expletives tease, insult and entice the crowd for 55 minutes; the spirit of 1977 is truly alive here this evening.

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Even contemplating attempting a Queen tribute band demands particular skills, and a certain look and likeness.

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Rock Q managed to pull it off, with an excellent Freddie impersonator, and a more than adequate Brian May, who not only had the guitar and the amp tone, but also the curly hair and curly guitar lead.

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The rhythm section, however, sagged a little – the bassist called in plenty of bum notes and the drummer was no Roger Taylor, sounding rather wooden and unfeeling with his delivery at times. Overall, though, this kind of high level tribute covers act is a tall order, and they more than got away with it.

It’s worth noting that the singer was drafted in at very short notice when the usual guy was taken ill. He’d never met the rest of the band before, and the fact that he slotted in so flawlessly and without arousing suspicion is to be applauded.

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The highlight for me was pulling off “Bohemian Rhapsody”, to the delight of an all ages and eclectic crowd – it’s not an easy song to produce live, and this lot nailed it. Nicely done.

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All in all, Buckfest is at a mere £5 serious value for money family entertainment, perfectly and creatively organised and a heck of a lot of fun. I can’t wait until 2017!

Gig Review: Ginger Wildheart, The Portland Arms, 20th July 2016.

The Portland Arms is the size of the average person’s sitting room and to see such bombastic rock n’ roll this close up and personal is a rare opportunity indeed. It’s like watching these people in their rehearsal rooms. Literally three feet between us and the players. This is exactly how one should experience a rock band. In this scenario, the musicians cannot hide behind big PA production and sound systems, and the calibre of their ability and skill is raw and naked. I can quite honestly say that this is my favourite venue of 2016.

Massive Wagons are a band we’d never encountered before. They smashed their way onto the stage and went on to prove themselves as being for real. Lead singer Baz reminds us of a supercharged King Ecbert from Vikings. Deftly wielding his mike stand like some kind of war weapon, it’s a miracle he didn’t take out the guitarist to his left, such was the confinement of area on stage. We would like to hear their album and know their tunes so that next time we encounter these boys there is more familiarity.

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When Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors took to the stage, we both did a double take; the bass player looks like Kurt Cobain, the keyboard player like a young Axl Rose and Ryan himself was more Dylan than Bob. However, that’s where comparisons ended. We were presented with a distinctly American sounding set of very mature material, extremely polished and clearly well gigged. Mr Hamilton had an incredible rapport with the audience, with jocular references to quaint English swearwords in-between swigs from a full bottle of Merlot. Again, we’d like to hear their recordings.

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Ginger Wildheart is an enigma. With a veritable plethora of projects, albums and line-ups over the past 26 years, this man is armed to the fucking teeth with great songs. At a guess, there are in excess of 400 numbers to choose from. We were treated to a delectable set cherry picked from Silver Ginger 5, Ginger’s solo work and, of course, The Wildhearts. It makes you wonder how this guy chooses his tunes, and the joy of it is that you never know what you’re going to get. Ginger is no stranger to the art of mixing it up.

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The venue was hotter than the black hole of Calcutta, and it looked like it had been raining sweat across the stage. At times, the band looked grimly focused, but not entirely comfortable with the heat.

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Highlights of the set for me were “This is Only a Problem”, “Top of the World” and the warming inclusion of “Geordie in Wonderland”.

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The band seemed eager to get off stage and cool down after such a heroic performance. Ginger vanished into thin air, but the last we saw of his band were the three of them heading in the direction of the kebab shop across the road in search of Kofta. A genial, intimate night.

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Words by Richard Mackman

Photos by Fi Stimpson

Gig Review: Ocean Colour Scene, Moseley Park, 15th July 2016 @OCSmusic

Walking down the road towards Moseley Park on a sunny Friday evening, all I could see was people with that trademark mod haircut who were heading in the same direction as me. I could easily have been back in 1996, except for the fact that a lot of those guys are packing a few extra pounds these days!

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There was an excitement in the air, fuelled by sunshine and alcohol and the prospect of seeing one of the bands we identify most with 90s Britpop, Ocean Colour Scene, as they perform for the 20th anniversary for possibly their most popular album, “Moseley Shoals”.

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At 8.45pm we no longer needed to wait, and out sauntered the band in front of a crowd who were, quite frankly, ecstatic to see them.

OCS burst straight into a cracking start with “The Riverboat Song”, “The Day We Caught the Train” and “The Circle”. The crowd are in full voice and they don’t give up for the entire gig. The band respond to this in kind and launch wholeheartedly into belters such as “40 Past Midnight”, “Policemen and Pirates” and my personal favourite “Profit in Peace”.

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It was such a pleasure to finally see OCS in action – shamefully, and despite the fact that their music made up part of the soundtrack to my late teens, I had never seen them live before. Even more fortunately for me, my first experience of them live was one where I was also able to take photos from the closest possible spot – it couldn’t get any more perfect!

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Musically, OCS were unerring in their delivery. Cradock is still one of the best guitarists around – absolutely mesmerising to listen to and to watch. Oscar Harrison oozes cool from every pore, and with every drum beat. New bassist Raymond Meade took the whole evening in his stride and really proved himself as a good fit in this well established band. Good work, that man. Simon Fowler is exactly the frontman I expected; smiley towards everyone around him, note perfect and revelling in the crowd’s reaction.

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Finishing off with the quintessential and suitably flawless “Hundred Mile High City”, Ocean Colour Scene gave us the perfect end to a week in a beautiful and meaningful venue. That was a night I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Thank you, guys.

Set List:

The Riverboat Song

The Day We Caught the Train

The Circle

Lining Your Pockets

Fleeting Mind

40 Past Midnight

One For the Road

It’s My Shadow

Policemen & Pirates

The Downstream

You’ve Got it Bad

Get Away

Robin Hood / Live Forever

Better Day

Profit in Peace

So Low

Get Blown Away

Travellers Tune (with PP Arnold)

Hundred Mile High City