Audrey – EP (Review)

Playing in and around Hull, as Audrey, the original rock and roll band are destined to be stars. The band started off as a jam between the songwriter and drummer, then before they knew it, a 4 piece band were in the pipelines. They promise to hold an energetic and engaging live set up and you can purely hear that in their studio work too. Released only last Saturday (20th October), the hugely anticipated EP is strong, with them completely selling out their EP launch too.

The powerhouse that is “See the Light” enters sounding like a pure, live session recorded while the band were in their element of just jamming together. They create a contrast of classic rock influences such as Tom Petty & The Rolling Stones, which highlights strongly with this track. Vocal screams from the singer are portrayed in a way that you can hear every emotion he’s singing. As for the song subject, it’s never really put down onto paper what it is. I feel that it’s about something along the lines of trying to get out of something you don’t want to be involved in and seeing the light is a way that you know that everything is going to be ok in the end. 

“She Says” was released as their debut single, and it’s a proper bluesy number. The instrumentation reminds me of ZZ Top mixed with an Oasis 90’s rock song structure. There’s a psychedelic aura going on through this song that takes you through a type of haze. It’s definitely the most catchiest song on the record so far purely because the rhythm is in your face and there’s no escaping it. She Says seems to be about a relationship gone sour and this song is the revenge track. Similar to something that Alanis Morissette did with the whole of Jagged Little Pill…

“Watch Me Go” is more alternative rock than rock n roll. With comparisons to Foo Fighters, this track really showcases how well the band gel together. Everything is neatly put together with the big arrangement. My favourite part has to be when everything slowly fades away and we’re left with a guitar squeal into a lovely, slow solo. The solo is covered with a subtle fuzz and a quick delay after. As the solo gradually goes on, the song starts building again. A roaring scream from the lead vocalist exclaims that the section has come to an end and the real breakdown evolves. The 5:04 minute song comes to an end with a face melting solo… Lovely work.

“Glad to Be” is a completely different approach to their music and was not what I was expecting their last song to be like. It surprised me that much that it’s actually become my favourite track off the EP. Versatility shines through this song as it’s folky feel tells us a story of love. Audrey have really captured the essence that the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin did with their live shows… they’d rock it up for a bit, then halfway through, would strip down their songs and make an acoustic set. It’s a real clever thing to do as you get two different kinds of people, who like different types of music listening to your music. As a whole, I’m really glad to have reviewed this EP because of it being so pure. You can literally feel every emotion.

Favourite Tracks: See the Light, She Says, Glad to Be
Score: 7/10

https://www.facebook.com/audreytheband/

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The Dollymops – Gap Year Tourists (Review)

You may never have heard of The Dollymops, but for any newbies, they’re a 4 piece, indie-punk band from Oxford. Drawing influences from the classic indie prodigies that are The Libertines, The Strokes, The Clash and that small band from Manchester called Oasis, The Dollymops second EP has that refreshing indie sound that every indie band strives to have. While still sounding quite vintage, the band have modernised the noughties indie sound with attitude.

“Plastic Proletariat” tells a story of a plastic (in other words “fake”), working class man. You know the band are quite angry with who ever this song is about with them even calling him a “condescending twat.” The angst and the pure indie accent that the singer portrays in this song identifies the song as a pure indie anthem. You can tell from the moment the song starts that this is such an important track in the Dollymops discography. Perhaps it could be a stepping stone towards a more rock and roll approach to their music. 

“Pied Piper” instantly reminds me of elements from The Kooks. It’s an upbeat, bouncy song that makes you tap your foot from the get go. As the vocals are introduced, I can’t help but think that Sean Stevens (lead vocalist) sounds similar to Morrissey. As for the instrumentation, it’s pretty straight forward all the way through and doesn’t really escalate. The subject of the song is situated about a “Pied Piper” and again, doesn’t really escalate to explain the true meaning. Perhaps it could be a metaphor and the pied piper is simply someone who encourages people to follow them and copy their actions. It’s never really stated properly what it’s about, making the audience feeling a little bit unsure of what’s going on. 

3 seconds of pure silence introduces “Addicts” before a melodic guitar riff enters with an identifiable punk tone. The chord progression is moved quickly and feels slightly rushed over the vocals. As the whole band enters, the mix of the song sounds like the band have recorded a live version in a garage, which I find really cool, you get the rawness of the band that way.. They probably didn’t actually record it in a garage though, it just sounds like it. Before we know it, the song has come to an end a bit too quickly. I feel that the song was screaming for a bigger arrangement to another world of possibilities for the band. 

The title track of the EP “Gap Year Tourists” rounds off the EP lovely. It’s a feel good song with lyrics full of wit and charm. The delivery of the song is simply just fun. This song would simply get any Dollymops fan on the dance floor straight away, just from the first bar. I can really hear The Smiths in this song and the post-punk vibe that’s radiating off this song is filled with nostalgia. A well crafted EP of some great songs. Their weak points aren’t even weak points, they are pure qualities of their work. I’d say the band need to get slightly tighter as there’s always room for improvement with any artist. The charisma of the band have really opened my eyes and they’ve definitely got a new fan over here. 

Favourite Tracks: Plastic Proletariat, Addicts, Gap Year Tourists
Score: 7/10

https://www.facebook.com/TheDollymopsOfficial/

https://www.instagram.com/thedollymopsband/

Vertical Noise – It’s Not What You Think (Review)

Vertical Noise are known as a power trio. A simple layout of vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Sometimes, music is best kept simple and this band certainly showcase the simplicity in their line up. Saying that, they take influences from bands such as Muse, Blood Red Shoes and I can really hear the rawness of The Sex Pistols Queens of the Stone Age in their music too. 

“Club Music” begins the EP with a drum and bass beat that makes you believe that the song is going to be like, well, club music. This only lasts around 4 seconds before entering the actual song. It’s heavy and a big track. With different sections sealing the song together, it’s noisy and very punk. They rebel against the mainstream system with lyrics such as “I don’t like club music, I think it’s a waste of time.” It’s very opinionated, making it political in a way that people could disagree, making you like the song more because of how it’s so diverse.

The next track features comical behaviour with lyrics such as “you’re batshit crazy in your Howard Hughes dressing gown.” “Nice Stuff” has a very careless nature. The imperfect vocals make the song push that little bit more with what sounds like a teenager having a bad tantrum. With the vocals sounding similar to Johnny Rotten (The Sex Pistols), the 4 minute song doesn’t dynamically build as much as hoped. The continued momentum of the song gets a bit repetitive until the song cuts out to a dark, melodic bass line before the other instruments return. I personally really like the cleverness of the lyrics and how sometimes they don’t fit in time with the music, and it  makes it uneasy to listen to but nevertheless, you still carry on listening to find out more.

With what sounds like Tom Morello having a guitar battle with Matt Bellamy, you’re automatically glued to hear how “Carbon Copy” turns out. I think the band have tried to sound similar to Rage Against the Machine and Beastie Boys in this track, which is always a plus. The lyrics are clever again, and sound like they’re sung by River Cuomo (Weezer). You could say that this band are taking so many influences and just mixing it together to get their sound. Never in my life would I have thought to have mixed vocals like River’s with in your face guitar madness like Tom Morello, but these things happen I guess and Vertical Noise have created this pure cool, original sound.

“Twatellite Navigation” (a rude version of Satellite?) is a bit forced in my eyes to begin with and the more than 5 second pause in the song is a bit too much and makes the song feel like it’s a completely different track. Maybe that’s what the band were wanting, which is cool, but as a personal preference, it feels a bit forced and wanting it to work well. The beginning is slow and features similar tones to Foo Fighters guitar tones in their track “World” (which is a very underrated track of their’s btw.) Anyway, towards the end of Twatellite Navigation, there’s another pause which I feel just doesn’t need to be there as long as it is. The song subject is never really identified fully, and the only thing identified is to “Do what you want, do what pleases you” which leads back to the careless, attitude of a punk teenager that the band keep portraying.  

“Countless Video Interruptions” is the longest track on the EP and probably features the biggest sound on the whole EP too. The first two verses are the exact same lyrics but sung differently which makes it sound like he’s actually singing something completely different. Clever tactic right there. I really like how they simply interrupt the “Countless video interrupt..” with big guitars and adrenaline. It was slightly expected to happen but that just makes it more eager to listen to see if it DOES happen and it did. As much as the track is strong, it feels similar to all the others and doesn’t really show much versatility for the band. 

The title track of the EP; “It’s Not What You Think” is a lot more of a softer approach for the band. The subtle harmonies are really quite prominent and lovely to hear. As the song builds, the band still situate in the lovely, stereo delay aura of the song. It really is a nice track to end such a loud EP. It is definitely needed after the great noise before. The love song wraps up the EP in a way that it reassures you that the band are simply “Not what you think.” 

Favourite Tracks: Club Music, Carbon Copy, It’s Not What You Think
Score: 6.5/10

https://officialverticalnoise.bandcamp.com/album/its-not-what-you-think-ep
https://www.facebook.com/verticalnoise/

Jorja Smith – Lost & Found (Review)

The 21-year-old from Walsall is on her way to a global status. Having already collaborated with artists such as Drake, Stormzy and Kendrick Lamar, her debut album contains her best work yet in my eyes and showcases her originality. Released back in June of this year and lasting only 45 minutes, this R&B album is filled with all the great aspects you’d want in one. The album took 2 years to record with Jorja co-writing most of the songs with other artists. She’s only 21 and is completely extraordinary, and I’m sure she’ll be like a fine red wine, which gets even better with age.

“Lost & Found” is the song that made me fall in love with Jorja’s music. The production on the track begins with a wave of clarity, before we hear “yeah like that, sounds cool” from Jorja. With her common accent, it makes the song more real. Angelic vocals suits the atmosphere, grooving into an effective beat cementing that this album has successfully landed. A subtle key change takes us into the actual song making the introduction that extra special. Jorja wrote this when she was only 15. She wrote it as she felt a bit lost when she went to London for the first few times, but she found herself while she was there and adapted to her surroundings. Hearing the maturity of her voice blending in with the soulful, chilled vibes of the song puts the cherry on top of a beautifully, crafted track.

Introducing the next song, we hear humming, which we don’t really think much of it. It wasn’t until I did a bit of research on “Teenage Fantasy” and found out that the recording of the so-called humming was actually recorded by Jorja while she was babysitting at 16. Finding out this fact makes the song a whole lot clearer to the so-what nature of some teenagers and it definitely brings back some nostalgic memories from my teen days. The first two lines of the song deals with the story of “you weren’t the person I thought you were,” we all know someone in our lives who turned out to be the complete opposite of what we thought. Teenage Fantasy hits the nail on the head completely. When we’re young, we want to be in love and feel that we’d only be happy if we were in a relationship. I can say this, as I did the exact thing. As time passes by, you realise that you have to love and accept yourself before you can love someone else and the way that Jorja portrays this message is mesmerizing.

Confronting and having the courage to say goodbye to someone takes some guts, especially when they meant/mean a lot to you. The story of “Where Did I Go?” explains exactly that. The production on this track is slightly more upbeat from the percussion being so prominent, and it makes sense as this track was produced by Sam Wills whereas the first two tracks were done by Charlie Perry. As much as this is a good track, I feel the melody is a bit predictable and not as thought out as the first two tracks. The subjects behind the song is effective though.

“February 3rd” is a lot more mellow than any track so far, making it a whole new direction for the album. “There’s a life outside I didn’t know” means that Jorja is now at an age where she is seeing things differently, and a lot more real. When we’re young, we hardly have any fears and see things in a completely different light, and it’s when we get older that we realise that we were in this little safe haven through our younger years. After the first lyric, the song changes into another relationship scenario. This travel showcases that Jorja feels that the guy is playing games and isn’t taking the relationship seriously. After all, a relationship is for both sides, not one-sided at all.

Finally, Jorja has left the boy in “On Your Own” who’s been giving her grief and he’s on HIS own now. Jorja has essences in her voice that sound like Sia, especially when she sings “on your own tonight.” I find Jorja as a lazy, slurry singer in this track, which is a complete positive. It gives her voice that attitude the song needs. The song doesn’t really award her range as such, it shows off her tone and control though. While she gets quite personal in this, the smooth beats make the song dynamically work. I would like this song to build a bit further though, it feels like it’s craving a stronger arrangement.

Well, you guessed it, “The One” is another song about a boy. As much as the songs are really great, they’re getting a bit repetitive with the subjects. The song deals with Jorja looking back on her past relationships that have failed and how she hopes she doesn’t become dependant on a person again. I do really like however that Jorja features “Choosers, Takers and Begging Heartbreakers” in the lyrics. Choosers are people who simply choose to love without a thought. Takers are people who know exactly what they want, but don’t feel the need to show it back. Begging Heartbreakers are people who simply beg to have someone in their life, just to throw it back in their faces and hurt them.

Moody, melancholiness are highlighted through “Wandering Romance” which suits the subject of an unstable relationship. It feels like the big ballad on the album, but at the same time, it still makes you want to dance. Usually the audience just want to watch and listen to ballad’s, but you can tell this song will also be a hit for our inner dancers at Jorja’s live shows. Saying that, I feel this may be the weakest track on the album purely because it doesn’t personally take me anywhere. I don’t feel anything emotional with it. Plus the constant background voice that sings “bruh” is quite annoying.

Arguably Jorja’s biggest track to date, as in popularity, “Blue Lights” has a big arrangement and warm production. The song questions why people should feel guilty about something if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. “Don’t you run when you hear the sirens coming, when you hear the sirens coming” is a fitting lean towards Dizzee Rascals “Sirens” and later in the song, it actually features a sample of the song. The song has a big message with people quoting that it was written for her friend who had a knife in their bag. We don’t know exactly what the song was written about and that makes it a whole lot more interesting. It gels the facts together that it can be about anything you want it o be, making it a lot more personal. Blue lights could link towards police cares as well. The song isn’t innocent, it’s in your face, dark and serious. The song was released two years prior to the album, so no wonder it’s so big.

“Lifeboats (Freestyle) was written with Tom Misch (which you can instantly recognise by the jazz-like chords.) The track explains how people drown in their own thoughts and difficulties in life. Whereas Lifeboats are the imagery to how we escape, but if we put that into our life’s perspective, what is a lifeboat a metaphor towards? Our close ones? Music? Who knows, we never really find out, leaving it unfinished and allowing us as the audience to get more personal to reflect the song in our own lives. The song is also linked to Kanye West’s track “All Falls Down” which channels the same context as Jorja’s… we now know where this song was inspired from. It also links to the title track Lost & Found with the first lyric being “Why do we all fall down?” I love the charisma of Jorja’s common Walsall accent in this track. It makes it more human and intimate. 

The next track is an acoustic, sad song. Jorja sings to someone who she’s lost that she’s in pain and simply misses them. “Goodbyes” are one of the hardest things any human being has to do. The song is emotional and makes me think of the people I’ve lost in my life and really does hit close to home. There’s a lot of R&B singers who have tried writing songs in this similar structure which musically works, but their versions haven’t been as emotional as this. In Jorja’s case, she didn’t actually lose anyone, but her friend did. She wrote the song in her shoes and really emphasises the way her friend felt. Sometimes we never get chance to say goodbye to someone and show them in their last moments how much they meant to us, that’s why you should always show someone you love, that you love them. I’m getting all cheesy now, but there’s no other way to say it really. 

“Tomorrow” is like a sequel to Goodbyes. Wishing that all things will make sense tomorrow is like pushing your dilemmas to the next day because you don’t want to sort them out there and then. A lot of the tracks on the album are either mid-beat or downbeat, this song is slow and doesn’t really escalate in any way. Vocally, Jorja’s voice is heavenly and you can hear her imperfections which makes it a whole lot more honest, but as a whole arrangement, it doesn’t really work for me. Same goes for the last song on the album “Don’t Watch Me Cry.” It’s still keeping that mellow momentum going strong. The song features emotions that are heard while being left in a relationship. Jorja strives her emotion of past relationships and her love life throughout the whole of her album, but she doesn’t dwell on it say as much as, lets say, Adele does. Adele makes her songs sad to pursue her emotion that little bit more across. Whereas with Jorja she makes it more aware that it’s ok to be upset when broken-hearted and that everything will be alright in the end. 

Concluding the album, it’s strong and really proves that love is such an important emotion.

Favourite Tracks: Lost & Found, Teenage Fantasy, Where Did I Go? February 3rd, On Your Own, Blue Lights, Lifeboats (Freestyle), Goodbyes

Score: 8/10

The Sean Gaffney Band – The Story of How We Lose Control (Review)

Sean’s a musician from a little place called Bishops Castle in Shropshire. Sean’s soulful approach to his music screams out in his original compositions with his own band complimenting his work beautifully. With “The Story of How We Lose Control” being almost 3 years old in two weeks time, the debut solo album is beaming with light in all the right places.

“Chalk On A Wall” is full of charisma with comparisons to artists such as Maroon 5 jazzed up with Jamie Cullum’s chord progressions and wit. An absolutely killer track to debut the band’s album. The song’s rhythm from the instruments and even the lyrics makes you want to shake your hips and jive. The mix feels comfortable, in my own preference though, I’d make the guitar solo a tad more quieter as the warm tone it gives off is really quite overpowering. Saying that, it doesn’t ruin the song as it does gives it an even warmer accent. 

At the end of the day, we always find ourselves saying at some point in our life that It is… “What It Is.” The composition is built around a melodic acoustic guitar riff using a similar resonance to Newton Faulkner and his music. I really find the structure and progressions of the song makes it that extra special. Memorable moments feature the build up into a heavy 00’s rock part before ending up back into the acoustic chilled vibe of the song… Seriously, where the hell did that come from?! 

“No Need to Sleep” is probably one of the most colourful songs on the album because of it’s careless nature. I can see why people like this song a lot because it’s dived into the allure of Jason Mraz and Daniel Bedingfield. It’s the pop highlight of the album for sure. I must say though, a personal opinion again, but I actually prefer the acoustic version as it feels slightly more emotional towards the topic of there’s no need to sleep.

Beginning with an industrial like drum beat,  before the hook line portrays “please don’t take me higher” “Don’t Take Me Higher” is my personal favourite. Instantly within the first 30 seconds, the song is interesting and an important track in Sean’s repertoire. Revolved around a minor key, the track is dark and full of moments that make you believe that this electronic inspired track is one of the best tracks on the whole album. The unnaturalness of the track is uneasy and slightly unsettling, but it’s the lyrics and voices that comfort us to really love this song. 

“I Need A Shower” takes us back to Sean’s comfort zone of funky, acoustic soul. It has an essence of a gypsy jazz track but without the fast tempo and vocals. It’s a playful track that is quite cheesy, but it works. The rhythmical voice of Sean drives us along into a scat like section that reminds me of The Jungle Book’s “I want to be like you..” Yes, it is THAT playful. The walking bass line takes us through the song and before we know it, the 3 and a half-minute song comes to an end and we’re left wanting more and more. 

Next is a sleazy blues composition and the slowest track on the album. “Three Heartbeats” shines dual vocals in the chorus singing two different parts makes the emotional song a lot more personal. The two vocals empathise with both parties that are in this love battle. You can never really go wrong with taking a solo in a blues track, as long as you stay in the key and phrase the notes right, it’ll go well, just like the solo in this. It’s simple but effective. Sitting halfway through the album, it’s nice to have this heated, mellow record to sit back and chill for a moment. 

“Heroes Back to Humans” features the same emotional vibe that Three Heartbeats displayed. We hear different kind of vocals come from Sean with his rap like verses sounding similar to Ed Sheeran but with better music backed up behind him. The backing band behind Sean are Joshua Davies – drums, percussion, Alex Pickford – vocals & Geoff Grimes – keyboards. The production on the album is done by Will Richards. At the end of the day, most heroes are humans anyway, and the message of this song is amazing as it implies that no matter what you do, you’re still human and still have your own boundaries and your own interests.

Music video  – https://www.facebook.com/TheSeanGaffneyBand/videos/841525449377533/

“Interlude” shows Sean’s skills on the guitar and vocals even more than before. This song has just took the bar and put it way higher. The song is humorous and definitely has moments where I chuckled in the first verse. An interlude is defined as a short amount of space or a dramatic piece, and I like how this Interlude is nothing like an interlude. It’s definitely dramatic and makes you feel something, but it’s not short and it hasn’t got a lot of room… by that I mean, there’s lots of things going on at once. This makes the song so much more interesting because we definitely wasn’t expecting that. 

Going back to Sean’s acoustic roots, “The Gambler” showcases his guitar skills, mores specifically, his hammer on ability. The whole song is planted within the folk genre as Sean tells a story simply about a gambler. With the harmonies, we find ourselves listening to a song that takes us into a nostalgic, flashback moment of the importance of folk in the 1960’s. With artists such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, who just simply sang and played guitar… which sounds simple, but what they did is make every part of the song say something for itself, and that is EXACTLY what Sean’s did with this track.

As much as Never Better” & “Escape Routed” are great, it shows a lot of the elements that we’ve heard already on the album. It would have been nice to hear another arrangement like Don’t Take Me higher as that was completely unexpected, whereas Never Better we’ve heard before in the other songs, but played better. Escape Routed has a gorgeous guitar tone that makes the song shine. It’s always really hard to have songs at the end of the album that stand out and keep you glued through the album. They are still good songs but I feel like they lack the wit that the other songs portray.

“Christ and Science” is just what I wished for. We have that acoustic, industrial sound again. The track features a big arrangement filled with many instruments all at once. You couldn’t get bored with this track as every time you listen to it, there’s something else you haven’t heard in the mix before. The orchestral arrangement proves that Sean and his backing band are really talented and are influenced by so many things around them. They are true musicians who play mature, responsible music that I feel I won’t get tired of listening to any time soon. 

Favourite Tracks: Chalk on A Wall, What It Is, Don’t Take Me Higher, I Need A Shower, Three Heartbeats, Interlude, The Gambler, Christ and Science.

Score: 8/10

https://www.facebook.com/TheSeanGaffneyBand/

https://www.seangaffney.net/

Worcester Music Festival 2018 (Review)

I spent most of last weekend at Worcester Music Festival and I swear, it gets better each year. Here’s a few words on some of the acts I saw this year…

Friday 14th

Maefield: Formed only recently of the pairing of Theone Mae Dawes (Coat of Many) & James Chatfield, the two improvised most of their set and if that’s not talent, then I don’t know what is. The chemistry that Chatfield and Theone spark on stage is captivating throughout their set and the way they connect with the music that they make is truly breathtaking. Feeling every note, every loop, every effect is vital in any performance. A quirky set filled with audience interaction which is always a plus. The whole audience was crying with laughter when James looped Theone speaking about “how the set is completely improvised,” they then made that hilarious loop into a short composition. Genius work by my good friends.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqex7JSi7BU

The Pink Diamond Revue – Eccentric to say the least, but the band got my attention from the moment I walked in. Only managed to catch 3 of their songs, but they still left a big impression on me and my friends. The band are fronted by “Acid Mol” who’s a model from another dimension. The band’s sound is big for a duo, featuring elements of Electronic Rock and sound like The Prodigy had a baby with David Bowie. Yep. That bizarre. The band confirm that its ok to be different and I feel that’s what’s lacking with a lot of music. They have the balls and the whole package for a killer show. I reviewed their single “Acid Dol” featuring local artist Legpuppy here.
https://www.facebook.com/Thepinkdiamondrevue/

GOWST – Once again, only managed to catch the end of this band’s set but I was blown away with their melodies. Specialising in Math Rock, the boys of GOWST delivered a powerful set that filled the room with an atmosphere of warm smiles. Complicated melodies and rhythms but simply brought out and made look easy by the talented trio.

Connor Maher Quartet – Always deliver and get tighter each time I see them, if that’s even possible. The band bounce off each other and ooze with flair and clarity in all the right places. The songs are catchy and from the get go, you’re hooked on the lyrics. The warm sound of the quartet compliments the sweat and personal moments of the lyrics. You feel every single word Connor exclaims. I always get amazed by his vocal range, just wow, the boy can sing. I didn’t manage to see the last few songs of the set as we all had to leave for another show.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bafQmWsa7PQ

The Stiff Joints – Who needs the gym when you have the Stiff Joints is what I always say. I think I did at least 10,000 steps in their 50 minute set. It’s got to be the 7th time I’ve seen the Stiff Joints and they just grow from strength to strength. The energy, the songs, the instrumentation, they have the whole package. It’s hard to find a tight ska band but The Stiff Joints live up to every expectation. They filled the capacity and some of my friends couldn’t even get in to see them which sucked. They definitely need to play in a bigger venue next year.
https://www.facebook.com/thestiffjoints/

Saturday 15th

I didn’t manage to see any bands on the Saturday as I played two sets myself (which I felt went pretty well, here’s some photos of my set!)

On the night, I went to another gig that wasn’t part of WMF, but a show for Phi Yaan Zek’s album launch which you can read that review here.

Phi’s gig finished quite early so I managed to shoot back to Worcester and catch my good friend Chris play in his blues original rock band called Voodoo Stone. They tore the roof off the Chestnut. Originally, they were a 5 piece band, and now they’re just 4. I must say, I prefer them as a 4 piece. The raw sound they give off is vintage and Chris’ guitar work reminds me of guitarists such as Joe Bonamassa and Jimi Hendrix, a true blues sound. Screaming through his marshall amp, the tones he created was to die for. Claire’s mature voice is rich and sings every note perfectly. Distinctive voice to say the least, you automatically know it’s Claire. The rhythm section were on point throughout the performance cementing the badass essence that blues music needs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q2O7LYl6hc

Sunday 16th

I went to see my fellow Kidderminster College friends play on their stage at WMF on the Sunday and the talent of the college never fails to amaze me. I finished college this year so it was nice for me to go back and to actually listen to the acts instead of play on the stage myself. Missed the first 2 acts though which was a shame. 

Vicki: Compromising of Vicki Pingree and Vikki Matthews, the two girls performed with Finn Fraser King on drums and made a lovely acoustic sound. Vicki’s voice is so identifiable, it’s like Kate Nash morphed into Portishead’s singer Beth Gibbons. I think it could have been the band’s second gig, so it’s nice to see them in the early days of their work and I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing how their music progresses. 

Next were Tree of Wyrd. Fronted by the lovely Hannah Law (who I had a privilege to be in a band with a few years ago called Wyldwood) who’s voice is just a strong powerhouse. It was my first time seeing Tree of Wyrd and they honestly exceeded my expectations. Think “Folk Grunge” and that’s the sound of the band. The 5 piece will be climbing up the ladder in no time, I can feel it. Killer original songs and a lovely rendition of the well known Talking Heads song “Psychokiller.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhyyVyOQ6CY

Hey Jester: Well I won’t be biased as my boyfriend is the front man, but the band absolutely killed it and that’s the god honest truth. Honestly, for a trio, their sound is huge. The crazy, melodic bass lines from Joe Davies, the unreal, powerful drum parts from Nick Davies and strange, unusual guitar effects and Jeff Buckley like vocals from Mirron Webb make Hey Jester. Stand out track for their set had to be Cleanse, not only is the rhythm of the song so funky, but the screaming guitar solo at the end takes us into a whirlpool of crazy imaginations. If you haven’t seen them live yet, you need to do so.
FFO: Muse, Jeff Buckley, Thundercat..
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPCnvXtc4Xs

Shiraz Hempstock – Soulful acoustic set performed by Shiraz and Charlie Bird on acoustic guitar. Playing well-known covers for all to hear is always pleasing for a young audience in my eyes as they like to hear songs they know. Dynamically, some songs didn’t seem to go far but Shiraz’s voice stood out. With influences from Amy Winehouse, Ed Sheeran, the young 17-year-old has a bright future ahead of her.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5nKUkj__l0

Redwood – The one thing that’s always stood out from Ellie ever since I first met her was that she really does live for her music. Her songs are personal and you can feel every emotion drip out of every pour when she’s performing. She jokes about how her songs are about breaking ups and boys, but after all, love is such an important thing to preach about. Her songs are clever written and deliver perfectly when live. The imperfections of the sustain piano pedal and slightly out of tune guitar just creates more tension and eager to listen to the songs. She’ll go far, that’s for sure, I mean how couldn’t she? Her voice is exceptional.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZAjl_eopCc

Coat of Many – Reggae influenced blues pop vibes mirror off Coat of Many. You could easily identify Theone’s voice in a loud room full of singers singing, it’s THAT distinctive. Playing original songs featuring a new track “Bamboo” (which will be featured on their debut album), the 5 piece gel perfectly together to create the perfect atmosphere for their shows. A wonderful rendition of Amy Winehouse’s Stronger Than Me was performed as well. If you haven’t seen Coat of Many yet, snatch any opportunity to see them, they won’t let you down.
https://www.facebook.com/CoatOfMany/

Last band of the festival for me were the insanely talented, Junior Weeb. What a fantastic band and their set list is improving all the time. Their stage prescence is incredible, with frontman Chris Phee coming out into the audience and playing guitar for us all. You just can’t help but dance to Weeb, and their originals songs are filled with nostalgia, 90’s funk rock vibes. Love them, they are such a party band and even lovelier guys. Just a shame that their set was cut slightly shorter because of the Arts Workshops curfew.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY0W3TQ8GDk

So overall, a successful year at WMF and here’s a pic from one of my sets! Taken by Geoffrey Head.GH

Phi Yaan Zek’s Album Launch Review – 15th September 2018

Photo taken by Me on Steve Lawson's camera!

reality.jpg

Located on a warm Saturday night at Kidderminster College, the night began with one of the college’s talented bands; Hey Jester. The Hey Jester boys are really causing a stir with their progressive rock music. The songs. The image. The sound. They have the whole package. Think early Muse but with incredible Myles Kennedy like vocals. Even had people coming up to me after the show saying that they’d go watch Hey Jester play their own headline show, it was THAT good of a set. Frontman, Mirron Webb was pretty busy all night seeing as he featured in Phi Yaan Zek’s all star band…

Well, what can I say… it’s been 5 days after the show and I’m still speechless from Phi’s set. Incredible. With Phi playing electric/acoustic guitar and vocals, his backing band featured Steve Lawson on Bass (who actually stood up and played.. this was a surprise to say the least), Andy Edwards on Drums, Ola Olsson on Trumpet, Lalle Larson on Keyboard and Mirron Webb on Guitar. They kicked the show off with a new track off Reality Is My Play Thing called “Alive.” It’s fast and full of charisma. The week before the album launch, the band actually filmed a music video for Alive which features zombies… It’s rather mad. It will be released soon. Once the song was finished, there was a huge roar come from the crowd of praise towards the band and there’s no doubt that the momentum stayed all the way to the end of the gig as it truly did. The 3 minute song is filled with many notes to say the least. It’s in your face constantly and you can’t ignore it and why would you want too? It’s wonderful and hearing the song live really lived up to the expectation of the studio version. There were a few moments where Phi’s microphone feedbacked but the sound was sorted out quite quickly.

“Kindling” has a memorable chorus which I found myself singing when performed live. It’s the killer riff that is the most insane thing about the song. What an introductory to the band. I know that some of the band members had said that learning Phi’s songs has been one of the hardest things they’ve ever learnt, but my goodness, they pulled off a brilliant show. “Reunion” was a stand out track for the show. It’s a scary song anyway but seeing the musicians actually perform it was even scarier. Think Frank Zappa but slightly madder… it is possible as it’s Phi. The song was released on Phi’s 2007 album “Anomalies.” This song just put the cherry on the insanity cake. Wow.

“Frequency Calling” is another newbie and was performed near enough the exact same as the record. Starting off with Phi’s lyrics “no signal.. seems broken, your message is forgotten, so borrow this radio and allow your dreams to flow”, the song begins acoustically and even features a superb acoustic guitar solo from Phi. It then reaches it’s peak when the full band are introduced. I really enjoyed sitting back and seeing where this song takes me mentally. The interference of the song took the audience through a bizarre journey of accepting yourself and things around you.

Now… “Ecstasies of the Starlight Self” is completely prog down to a tee. It’s one of Phi’s best songs in my eyes because it’s just so unusual. The studio version is featured on Phi’s album with Marco Minneman “Dance with the Anima.” The band made the 1:51 track into an over 3 minute epic of solos coming out of solos. It’s Phi’s scat like vocals in the song which just makes it so much fun. The drum and bass style drum parts are so important in this song creating a fast pace.

The song makes you dance, just look at Phi in this video.

Starting off the next song with something different.. anyone for a game of I spy? Phi picked an audience member for a game of “I Phi” which lead into probably the funkiest song of the set. It’s Mirron’s rhythmical guitar part that sticks out straight away with a memorable wah effect added to the sound. This is a track where it was lovely to see the band wander into their own comfort zones and play their own, unique solos. I Phi was definitely one of the best tracks on the night with the audience applauding so loudly at the end that it actually hurt my ears! The genuine fretless bass sound was clear from the get go. Sometimes people just use programme effect on a pedal to get a fretless sound, but not with Steve Lawson, he has the real thing. 

One of my absolute favourites of Phi’s is “Wondrous Self” purely because of the chord progression. Harmonically, the song is clever and looks so easy to play very from all the musicians on the stage. They made every song look so easy to play which is completely inspiring. If I had a go at one Phi Yaan Zek song, I think my hands would fall off. The song seemed to have gone by quickly, probably because we all enjoyed it so much and they say time flies by when you’re having fun. The next track was simply put as a wash of all emotions… EVER. It’s angry. It’s happy. It’s a rollercoaster. It’s like a…. “Brainwash.” Off Phi’s debut album released over 21 years ago, the song reminds me of something along the lines of The Prodigy covering a Gentle Giant track. It’s dark but also so bright to listen too. 

Featuring Phi back on the acoustic guitar, “Subtle” is a faint movement towards a soft song. It’s always nice to hear a slow song after listening to complete madness of Phi’s other discography and Subtle just proves that he can write in different types of moods, making him a very versatile artist, which we already knew. Subtle featured an absolutely gorgeous bass solo from Steve Lawson, I was completely mesmerised. Swiftly onto the next song, “Break the Ice” let Phi sit back a bit with the guitar work ever so slightly and let Mirron take control with an impressive guitar solo. Break The Ice sits exactly in the middle of the first half of Phi’s latest album and it fitted pleasantly towards the end of the set. 

Let’s forget about the music for a moment, I just wanted to say how wonderful Phi’s interaction with the audience was. “Does anybody like Dragonflies? What about Dragonfly Medicine?” I think that’s Phi in a nutshell… random and weirdly wonderful. ‘Cause let’s be honest… only Phi would write a song about Dragonfly Medicine. It’s the second song of the new double album and it’s everything you want in an instrumental. The rhythm is strange and out of this world. It’s Lalle and Andy the audience are watching in complete awe for this track. Both dominated the rhythm and showed the song who’s boss. 

“Down from the Mountain” is a stand out track on Phi’s latest album, which featuring vocals from Phi, plus Mirron in the choruses making the section more noticeable and strong. The song deals with isolation and to not get stuck in your head. The lyrics are quite dark for such a happy sounding song. It’s the rhythm of the vocals over the lyrics that stand out to me as a songwriter. It’s imaginative and a different way to deliver vocals successfully. Next up in the live set just happens to be the very last song on the double album “Reality Is My Strange Thing” which takes us through so many influences. There’s part where it sounds like a jazz standard, the next it’s an uptempo ska track. It’s completely and utter bonkers but so enjoyable to listen too. 

The ‘last’ song of the set, you know the one before people go “MORE” and the band have to do one more… just happened to be “Abigail’s Place.” Phi released Abigail’s Place 3 months prior to the album launch and I’m so glad he did, because everyone in the audience, I mean EVERYONE was singing “We’re going, we’re going, we’re going, we’re going to Abigail’s Place.” A memorable moment of the whole show. It’s always amazing when one song can bring so many people together for that special moment and that surely was a lovely moment. What made the show so amazing was watching the musicians on stage thoroughly enjoy the whole set and they were certainly in their element. 

And we then thought that was the end, until the roar of the audience shone through. Phi then exclaimed “well… we’ll do one more then.” Another interaction moment was when Phi got an audience member on the stage to begin the encore with “I want to tell you about the puffball that ate my village…” and with that one lyric, we all knew we were going on another adventure inside Phi’s head. It was like Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Gentle Giant and Gong just jammed on stage to create this circus sound. Before we knew it, the evening came to an end and I for one definitely could have listened to another hour’s worth of material. What a night.

When’s the next gig, Phi?

https://www.facebook.com/phiyaanzekmusic/

http://pyzmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HeyJesterBand/