Cant wait for this little festival next weekend. Some brilliant bands, some brilliant mates a great way to round off the summer 🙂
Wow! So today I have been set a challenge to write about the three most important songs in my life and to explain what it they mean to me. Quite honestly I almost ignored the challenge. 3 songs, seriously. Just for a moment let me give a little context to the size of the task.
My CD collection is at a minimum 5000 discs. In addition to that I have cupboards full of vinyl and tapes that haven’t seen the light of day in over 20 years. I listen to music almost constantly, not a single day ever passes in my life when I don’t listen to music, not one, ever! I have boxes of discs that have never been listened to, I have 30k songs on my iPod and I am being asked to pick 3 songs. It is an impossible task, my favourites would change on a day to day, if not an hour to hour basis.
However, in the UK today we are seeing a political frenzy as we get ready for the people in Scotland to go to the polls in the referendum on Scottish independence. I am an Ulster Scot, a unionist by tradition and yet I am hoping that the Scots will vote for independence. There is no doubt that a yes vote will tear down the entire British political system and this is the real outcome that I want to see. Why? Because the whole political system in the UK is corrupt from the bottom to the top. So what has all this got to do with the 3 songs I am going to pick to complete my task? well I believe that music can be a power for good, that it can make people think, that it can challenge the establishment, that it can generate an interest in Politics.
So what songs have I picked?
1.) Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers
2.) Battle of the Beanfield – The Levellers
3.) Criminal Justice – Ferocious Dog
Alternative Ulster is a song from my youth and is the song that awakened my ability to question the status quo, to examine and to be sceptical about what we are told by the arms of state and politicians, to realise that vested interests are at play and that society at its heart is deeply unfair.
The battle of the Beanfield by the Levellers tells of how the Police and the state criminalised people in the UK simply for wanting to visit Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice. There was a an anti government movement in the UK at the time, a campaign of civil disobedience. This was primarily based around the introduction of the ‘Poll Tax’ a tax that was seen as deeply unfair as there was no means testing, The mega rich paid the same as the person on benefits. People in their thousands were being criminalised and sent to jail because they couldn’t pay. Thatchers Government used the Police to smash the resistance. The Police were accused of being heavy handed and of extraordinary levels of violence towards protesters.
The lead singer of Ferocious Dog worked until very recently as a miner in Nottinghamshire. The song Criminal Justice explains how the Police and arms of state were used to crush the miners during the strikes in the mid 1980’s. Thatchers Government were forcing UK mines to close whilst at the same time importing millions of tons of coal from Poland and elsewhere. Thatcher set out to crush the trade unions, to undermine workers rights, collective bargaining and to make it easier for employers to sack employees. She was ultimately successful. In the years sine we have seen poverty in the UK increase. In 2014 there are an estimated 2m people in the UK who are dependent on food banks, this at a time when taxes are being cut for the richest in our society. Once again the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
So those are my three songs for today, politically charged songs for a politically charged atmosphere.
Before I start I realise that at times I am guilty of repeating the same point on a number of occasions. This time however I make no apologies for doing so. It is a simple truism that when you attend a music festival you will always find something that blows you away. At last weekends I found a number of artists and bands that I really liked several that I was extremely impressed with and one that I believe has every attribute required to go as far as she wishes in the music industry. That person is Kaia Viera, an acoustic folk singer from Wimborne in Dorset.
Kaia is young, just 17 but she has a real stage presence. She draws every eye to her and she looks like she enjoys every moment that she is on stage and she looks fantastic, a beautiful English Rose. If she is nervous she shows no sign of it as she launches into a beautiful set consisting mostly of her own songs. Where she does cover someone else’s songs she chooses them judiciously and puts her own mark on them. Her cover of John Martyn’s “May you Never” is simply stunning. I wouldn’t have expected one so young to have heard of John Martyn much less covered one of his songs.
Kaia is very much of the Nu-folk generation, her guitar playing focuses on a simple folk finger picking style, but she brings that style very much into the 21st Century. She makes very clever use of loop pedals to provide a depth to her performance. She records these live on stage and then uses the loop to provide a beautiful backing to her singing. Nowhere is this more evident than on “The fool” The version below will show you what I mean. The technique is very well done, not over used and adds to her beautiful singing. Make no mistake her voice is simply stunning, especially at the high end of her range, her phrasing and enunciation are perfect and she puts over a vulnerability in her singing that doesn’t seem possible in one so young. I was reminded of a young Sandy Denny, hunt out Sandy’s demo version of “who knows where the time goes” and compare it with the video below, you will see what I mean. I can pay Kaia no greater compliment than to say she bears comparison with the greatest ever British female singer songwriter.
I was too taken with Kaia’s performance to spend time writing down the names of her songs. I do remember that she played ‘flightless bird’ and ‘Safebound’ both of which can be heard on her sound cloud site. I just sat back, closed my eyes and listened to a beautiful, relaxing, soulful singer who wrapped me up in sound. A perfect sound for a lovely warm sunny September afternoon.
I believe that Kaia has all the attributes required to forge a very successful career in this, the most difficult of industries. She has the looks, the voice, the presence and the talent. We all know that in this day in age those attributes are all too often not enough. Hard work, constant gigging and a stroke of luck along the way are needed too. I am confident that with support and the right guidance she will make her own luck. I can’t wait to see her again and I hope she will get something out on disc sooner rather than later.
This weekend (12 & 13 September 2014) saw the running of the inaugural Acoustic Movement festival in sunny Dorset. To be totally honest I have absolutely no idea how Acoustic Movement turned up on my Facebook feed, but turn up it did. I was intrigued, great name right? I joined the Facebook group and realised that this was a new festival, that it was being held just a few miles down the road from home and that the artists were going to be local bands, no big names, no advertising, no website, no online ticket sales, just local gigging musicians getting together to play music in the open air over a September weekend. At a cost of just £15 for two days of music including camping there really was nothing to lose. I popped off to my local record store and bought tickets for my wife and I.
This time of year is insanely busy for my wife at work. She is working 12 hours a day 7 days a week and those are on the days where she is not overworked. We have also had builders at home for the last 6 weeks so as you can imagine Shirley is exhausted. On Thursday evening she looked so tired I wasn’t sure we should go, but in the end we decided to go. After all we were only a few minutes from home and if it wasn’t working out then we could come home.
I prepared the Van on Friday and an hour after Shirley got home we were on our way. On arrival at the site we drove straight in, parked up and settled down for an al fresco meal and a glass of wine. At about 7.30 we made our way down into the arena just in time to catch the last couple of songs of Aaron Gregory‘s set. I was a bit disappointed not to have seen more of his set as what I had heard of him on sound cloud was fairly Grungy electric rock, I really wanted to see how it would work acoustically.
Next up was Milk Machine, a band with both ‘Taff’ Morse & ‘Hawkeye’ Hoolihan (the organisers) from Gigs and Rigs playing in it. These guys were superb, one of my favourite bands of the weekend actually. Think Ade Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds and you are on the right lines. Yes they play mostly covers but with a similar twist great fun and very good musicianship. The mandolin Andy from the Jack Ratts in particular is outstanding. I am very much looking forward to seeing the Jack Ratts at Bearded Theory in May
Mischa & his merry men were up next playing a nice mix of original songs with a few covers thrown in. Now its hard to categorise bands like this I am going to settle on folk rock, mainly because they played a variety of rocky tunes and have a (very good) fiddle player. To be fair bands like this who have a fiddle player are right up my street and inevitably I loved them. I have tried to find some information about the band to share with you guys but their Facebook page, soundcloud page and band camp pages do not have any meaningful information or a bio of the band. In a digital age you have to make information easily available. It isn’t difficult but it is important, especially if you want to get your name known.
Perhaps Mischa could take a lesson or two from the next act up, the wonderful Bonsai Pirates. These guys are awesome. I have seen them a couple of times over the summer. They are great fun playing a variety of what can only be called Pirate rock. The band all dress as pirates and put on a great show. The evening was rounded off by Catballou a 3 piece outfit who play a rockabilly and americana style of music. Now I confess that this kind of music isn’t really my cup of tea but these guys are really good at what they do. Sadly around the middle of their set Shirley was dead on her feet, literally sleeping whilst standing up, we therefore left and wandered the couple of minutes up the hill to a nice warm bed. It was wonderful that Shirley was able to say that she felt really relaxed and that she was very glad we came.
Saturday morning dawned bright clear and sunny. Well when I say ‘dawned’ I am sure it did but it was certainly bright clear and sunny when I crawled out of bed at about 10.30. This is something of a record for me, I am normally an early riser. It was great to sleep late for a change though I did have a terrible headache when I got up. A nice Al Fresco breakfast soon put me right though and I then spent a really relaxing couple of hours sitting in the sunshine strumming my guitar. It really was delightful, people passing, stopping for a chat, smiling and waving and one young man even popped over to share his raspberries with us. Seriously, what a lovely bunch of people.
We enjoyed just relaxing for a while and then wandered down to the arena at about 2.30. Music through the afternoon was beautifully selected. Mostly solo sets from a variety of artists amongst them Sean Gary Palmer, Ian Sedwell, and Jack lockyer all of whom played a mix of original tracks with the odd cover thrown in. I particularly liked Jack Lockyers cover of Bob Dylan’s’Tales of Yankee Power (señor). I love this song and it doesn’t get covered that often, perhaps ironically it does get covered by ‘Show of Hands’ and Jack also covered one of their songs. Highlights of the afternoon for me where the wonderful modern folk songs by Kaia Viera and the incredibly powerful soul songs from Joley and Wilmor. I won’t say too much about them here as I will review their performances separately in the coming days.
As the day progressed we saw a good variety of performances ranging from Gaelic folk from the Threadbare Ravens, acoustic Blues and Roots from the Johnny Boxcars and grunge metal from the Brothers Grimmer. Whilst none of these are really my thing I did enjoy them all though I think that the Brothers Grimmer felt well outside of their comfort zone. I don’t wish to offend but to be honest I also found the street dance antics whilst the Brothers Grimmer were on stage an unnecessary distraction. Street dance doesn’t really fit with this style of music and, whilst it was fun for a couple of songs I found it repetitive and distracting after a while. Sorry!
The Sunstone Collective were much more up my street. My feet started to move as soon as the 5 piece jazz – funk band hit the stage. These young guys laid down a superb groove, great musicianship and no gimmicks. I thought they worked really well in an acoustic environment and I thought that they really enjoyed themselves. The crowd really enjoyed their set and they had everyone dancing.
Soul Hole are another band that worked really well acoustically. A group of skilled, enthusiastic musicians playing a blend of funky blues based rock. Again this band went down really well with the crowd, their enthusiasm is infectious. I always think that when a band is having a good time on stage then everyone else will enjoy themselves too.
And so we came to the climax of the weekend with a set from Quinns Quinney, a collective of what at times seemed like about 100 musicians. They certainly packed out the stage and the big top, they had everyone on their feet. We had seen most of the band over the course of the weekend in other bands but this project certainly brings something different and their brand of skiffle based madness was a great way to finish the weekend.
Acoustic movement has a fantastic family feel to it. Most people seemed to know each other and this contributed to a superb relaxing laid back weekend. There was plenty of variety across the board and I enjoyed every artist I saw. The prices for food and drink on the site were very good and some of the beer was even reduced from £3.50 to £3 a pint on saturday. The site could deal with a lot more people and I believe it does when the same crew stage the ‘Wonky Donk’ festival in July. The site is ideal, well sheltered in a little valley, compact and had the weather been bad it would have been possible for everyone to get undercover. The campsite is sloping with not many flat areas so this could have been an issue for some, I also suspect that the site would be very muddy in bad weather.
I should also add that this event was an absolute steal at just £15 for the weekend. The whole thing was run for charity and on a not for profit basis. The whole team and everyone involved deserves a huge amount of kudos and good karma for that. This is a little festival that I think has tremendous scope for development. Whilst I have absolutely no criticism of the event I would love to see it develop into a showcase for acoustic talent as opposed to ‘electric’ bands playing acoustically. I really feel that there is a gap in the market for that sort of event and as a showcase for both acoustic and local talent Acoustic Movement could fill that gap.
Thank you for a superb weekend, I look forwards to the next one.
Look I know that sometimes I am guilty of returning to the same subject on occasion. Regular readers will be aware that I have reviewed both gigs and an album by the Bleedin Noses. However, I make absolutely no apologies for returning to the band to share this with you. Please watch the video, honestly, it is a work of genius. A tribute to Badfinger and to the television show Breaking Bad. The whole thing shot in the South Wales Valleys. Who knew that South Wales and New Mexico had so much in common.