soundCHECK 332 – January 28th 2016

Remember what you were doing back in July 2009? I was writing my first soundCHECK column. Alas, the time has come to let fall the final curtain. To embalm the body and bury it with trinkets. To fling old father soundCHECK on the smouldering scrapheap pyre. No more, dear reader. No more.

“The aim of this new column is to try and capture the happenings of North Devon’s aspiring bands, and to tell you where and when you can see them,” parped the sanctimonious, dewy-eyed opening gambit of column number one. You can decide whether or not soundCHECK’s mission was accomplished, but for me the journey has been even more enjoyable than when I drove to the supermarket at 31mph to procure some gluten-free aubergines for dinner while listening to Sail Away by Enya at an anti-social volume with the windows down. People on the street were looking in a way that suggested they wished they could be more like me.

Over the last six-and-a-half years I’ve submitted 332 columns; 332 affronts on the English language. That amounts to around 140,000 words, give or take. Or to put it another way The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkein. Or The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger followed by Philosopher’s Stone by popular novelist and local girl Katie Hopkins. That’s a lot of words and makes me want to do a panic attack ALL OVER MY KEYBOARD TYPEWRITING MACHINE.

British people are not much good at saying goodbye. Admit it. It makes you feel weird when someone bids farewell with too much confidence or too much emotion. So I won’t linger in the doorway. But I suppose I should say thank you to my readers. Both of them have been extremely patient over the years. Thank you to The Journal for giving me the opportunity and sticking with it. And most importantly thank you to all of the bands, musicians, artists and promoters that have made this such an easy and fun gig.

Our local music-makers provide a soundtrack to life; a much-needed creative outlet that emboldens the region, liberates us from the tyranny of the mundane and provides a blissful release for the occasions when life is about as fun as writing your own obituary. Go to local gigs. Support local bands. You will end up in heaven.

Please talk to anyone else but me. For real this time. jharper[at] | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 331 – January 21st 2016

I once did running instead of walking during a fire drill.

Sometimes I use the same knife for the jam and the butter.

And when I’m strolling outside and see someone I know, I often try to pretend I haven’t seen them – even though I really have.

Basically I know what it feels like when you don’t play by the rules. But even I wouldn’t rewrite the script to the extent that the British weather has. During the first half of this so called winter, it was warm enough to walk to the shops in a kimono in the south, while the north was transformed into the filmset for a low-budget production of Waterworld, with nuisance rivers mischievously bursting into city centres. The January sales in York, Leeds and Manchester were that good.

The days where we artificially manipulate the weather through geoengineering can’t come soon enough. I mean obviously British people will have nothing to talk about and Mother Nature will rebel with some horrible, apocalyptic hurricane-lightning-storm that wipes out civilisation, but at least you won’t have to worry about the your kitchen looking like the interior of a capsized yacht.

For now, at least, the winter is finally as it should be round these parts: jaw-lockingly cold. The good news is you won’t have to faff about with your hot water bottle and Horlix for much longer, because – lo! – the first signs of summer have arrived: press releases about music festivals. And there’s one in particular you want to know about. You do, alright? So button it.

What the London-based organisers don’t realise is that hosting a festival in North Somerset called Samphire is going to usher a rhotic drawl from the locals sharper than any pirate cutlass. Regardless, Samphire is the latest addition to the West Country’s programme of summer festivals and takes place 8th – 10th July. And it is already record-breaking, becoming the fastest ever successfully funded festival on crowdfunding platform, er, Crowdfunder.

You can expect over 30 live acts from a bingo card of genres: folk, funk, house, techno, ska, reggae, afrobeat, pop, indie, jazz and disco as well as art, drama and comedy. To keep you suitably satiated there will be local ales, West Country ciders and honest grub. There’s a big eco-friendly bent to Samphire too: compost khazis, solar powered stages, wind turbines and a no-plastic-on-site policy.

Best of all is the location. Porlock Hill lies at the edge of Exmoor National Park and towers over the Atlantic. The views are great. And no danger of flooding. Find out more at

CONTACT: Please talk to anyone but me, unless you have local music news: jharper[at] | @testforpulse