Archive | April 2010

soundCHECK 44 – April 29th 2010

Alluringly ramshackle by definition, DIY clubnights bubble up sporadically and unpredictably; like rock ‘n’ roll volcanoes. They come in all shapes and sizes but are united by one trait: a shelf-life that is impossible to predict.

Some burn brightly but expire fast, like North Devon’s Fermez La Bouche (curated by the now defunct LOAD.CLICK.SHOOT!), The Small Print’s Disco 2000 (now relocated to Birmingham) and Comic Book Heroes (the victim of perpetual disarray). Others last longer. The slow-burn of Generator is a fine example.

The fate that awaits Versatility, North Devon’s newest clubnight, is therefore hard to predict. But if its destiny is determined by the enthusiasm of its organisers, it has a bright future.

“We’re going to put on one big night every 6 months. We want to keep it sporadic” I’m speaking to Jamie Adam, part of the team behind Versatility. “We’re not catering for a certain target audience. It’s for every age, and every taste. We want to attract people who really love music.”

Versatility is a new night for North Devon. It’s genres of choice include funk, soul, jazz and hip-hop. “There’s a lot going on musically in North Devon but a lot of it’s the same. We really want to try and do something different. The more variation there is in this region, the better it is for everyone.”

When pressed about his new night, and music in general, Adam speaks passionately. The clarity with which Versatility has been organised suggests he’s been in the clubnight game before. “Versatility originally started 12 years ago. We were 4 DJs who got together and did some gigs. It was really successful. Now is the right time to bring it back.”

The opening night features DJ sets from Moff, Todd & Tax from The Breaks Collective, a live performance from Rural Jazz Alliance (a six-piece who peddle a mind-boggling fusion of jazz, funk, folk, and Latin music), as well as funk and soul from the resident Versatility DJs: Joe Roberts, Si Roberts, Jeremy Weakes, and the man with whom I speak – Jamie Adam.

Versatility is relaunched at The Riverfront Café on Saturday (May 1st). Doors are at 8pm and it runs until 1am.

“It’s a great start to the Bank Holiday weekend” Adam enthuses. From the sounds of it, there can be slim argument against that sentiment.

But while DIY clubnights are the seedbed of a healthy local music scene, national festivals are a glorious Oak Tree of musical celebration, monoliths of musical brilliance. Festival season is fast approaching and T In The Park has come up trumps in the line up stakes once again. This summer also sees Glastonbury celebrate its 40th year. But it’s not all about national festivals.

This weekend also ushers the annual extravagant-beer-swilling, live music revelry of The Landmark Beer Festival, now in its tenth year. Booze and music are such natural bedfellows that it seems impossible for this festival to fail. Especially when the live music is free all weekend. Among Saturday’s highlights is the plinky-plonky electronic-indie prettiness of Pickpockets & Skyrockets, while Sunday’s best bits include TRIPS and Zapotecs.

But the most hotly anticipated band of the festival has to be Little Comets. Their immaculate dancefloor indie pop is instantly infectious and completely loveable. If you don’t believe me go to myspace.com/littlecometsmusic and listen them up. Their booking represents a sizeable coup for The Landmark. Catch them before their ascent goes stratospheric.

The quality of the line up is such that I shall be there sporting the proverbial bells that people say they will wear (but never do) when they wish to communicate a strong intention to attend a particular social event. This despite the fact that 50% of the festival is entirely profitless for my spirits; my body currently governed by a strict no-booze policy that I have imposed with the desperate hope that it will help me through The Great West Run on Sunday 2nd. Running a half marathon on a hangover isn’t so much asking for trouble as sending it a limo with a note on the backseat saying: ‘Come and get me. Love from Jamie.’

There’s also June’s Lynton and Lynmouth Music Festival (LLAMA) to look forward to. The full line up has been announced and promises as ever to storm North Devon with an army of musical talent drafted from across the UK. Andy Votel is perhaps the most exciting artist to appear. He’s a long-time friend of Badly Drawn Boy and his leftfield, lo-fi dance music is compelling. His appearance is part of the festivities taking place on Saturday 12th June in Lynmouth’s Bath Hotel as B Music take over for the day and host some of the festival’s most enticing acts. Highlights include the soulful, sun-scorched 60s sound of Doug Shipton and the rollercoaster, spectral thrills of Voice Of The Seven Thunders.

Other noteworthy acts of the festival include Day Of Days with their heartbursting melodies, Asbo Kid, and Bristol’s Call The Doctor. And this year, all music venues are free to enter. For the full line up, point your internet here: http://www.llama.org.uk.

My conclusion is a shameless plea. Please have a rummage around your digital pockets to see if there’s anything with which to sponsor me for the aforementioned Great West Run. I’m raising money for the North Devon branch of the MS Society. They do some amazing work and rely on donations to keep it all ticking over.

I have embarked on habitual ten mile runs to prepare my sapling legs for their impending challenge. Raising some dosh will mean they were worthwhile. You can make a donation at beatms.mssociety.org.uk/netcommunity/jamieharper. It only takes a minute.

Happy Bank Holiday. Between Versatility and the Beer Festival, there’s something for most musical palettes this weekend.

soundCHECK 43 – April 22nd 2010

What do you get when you add half of Swim Team to half of Chasing Lions? Swimming Lions? Nay! The answer is a new band named Denilson.

When Swim Team announced at the end of March the unfortunate news that they would be splitting up, their MySpace announced: “Sometime in the future a few of us will be starting a new project.” It transpires that this was not so much band babble as fact declaration. And that vague “sometime in the future” was much closer than anyone dared think.

For Swim Team may have sunk to the seabed of a band abandoned, but its members have their armbands on nice and snug and are happily flapping away in new musical streams. In fact the lines between the end of Swim Team and the beginning of Denilson turned out to be more blurred than a Specsavers waiting room.

‘Swim Team’’s farewell gig at Inn On The Square a couple of weeks ago was played not by Swim Team, but the new line up for Denilson. It was abundantly clear that fresh musical stirrings were afoot.

The most romantic manifestation of this came when the locally revered frontman – Lee Hiller (or ‘Lee-from-Swim-Team’ to the ever-inventive colloquial tongue) – paused between songs to shower his watching crowd with aural missiles. Denilson demos flew from the stage like white doves from a rusty cage. It was at once a death and a birth; a butterfly from a chrysalis.

Denilson are Lee Hiller and Matt Cambridge (Swim Team), and Joe Morris and Sam Gillbanks (Chasing Lions). And like the hallowed Brazilian footballer of the same appellation, the musical incarnation of Denilson have formidable finesse. Fans of Swim Team will not be disappointed. Go and listen and to the fantastic ‘New Routes’ and find out how to bag their songs for nuffink at myspace.com/denilsonuk.

Curiously, however, the songs on Denilson’s demo were co-written by Swim Team guitarist, Adam Mason.

He has since joined Glastonbury outfit In Gratitude. They are right good! Craftsmen of epic, life-affirming indie tunes, they are perhaps the most tangible example of what Swim Team were aiming at. With engagingly structured songs, beautiful melodies and a signer with a damn near angelic voice, you should do the right thing and listen them right up – myspace.com/ingratitudeuk. You can also catch them at The Croft in Bristol on Monday (26th).

Elsewhere, Tequila Rockin’ Bird take to The Olive Branch in Barnstaple on Friday (23rd); Your Twenties, Chasing Lions, and TRIPS play for Generator Promotions at Inn On The Square on Saturday (24th); The Dead Betas play The Palladium in Bideford (also on Saturday); and The Breaks Collective visit The Ride Café in Plymouth on Thursday (29th).

Time for some Supergrass. R.I.P.