Archive | June 2010

soundCHECK 52 – June 24th 2010

So did anyone go to the Lynton & Lynmouth festival the other weekend?

I did. Loved it. And while I was there me and a friend coined content for this week’s column of such potent entertainment value that it would have scorched the very page upon which it was printed. That the idea was promptly forgotten was due in no small part to my tiny mindtank losing itself in a cocktail of liquor and loud music.

The primary protagonist in this episode of mindwipe was a bottle of white which met my strict criterion for the purchase of wine: cheaper than £4. This particular plonk drew stark parallels with Luciano Pavarotti in that it was Italian, full-bodied and slightly disconcerting. The architect of this stripper-of-stomach-lining was evidently having a good day creatively when he christened his concoction ‘The Italian Job’. Genius! You know a bottle of wine is from a special division of filthiness when its lack of quality is compensated for by linguistic tomfoolery. These are my very favourites.

Anyway, before this turns into vineCHECK I should segue into mentioning some of the awesomeness that LLAMA dispensed so abundantly. Of the local bands that played, Pickpockets & Skyrockets negotiated the main stage with a typically confident, tuneful and engaging performance. But it was off-piste treats that were the most exciting. Like the band from Bristol who nonchalantly set up their drum kit, amps and instruments in the beer garden outside The Bath Hotel. They bashed out shimmering power pop treats full of glistening melodies and fizzy bits of synth to a gathered crowd of around 40. Their guitarist was incredible. They were (and are) called The Liftmen. They’re signed to Twisted Nerve. Check them out.

They share my moment-of-the-weekend prize with whichever band it was that stunned my lugholes in The Bath Hotel on Saturday night as part of Andy Votel’s B-Music project. I think they were called Voice Of The Seven Thunders but I can’t be sure. Whoever they were, their epic instrumentals and furious energy rifled through the tiny pub. They were a thrilling, harrowing delight.

And of course it’s hard to write about LLAMA without mentioning the utterly stunning landscape in which it sits or the heart-warmingly friendly festival atmosphere. There were portly and jolly chefs BBQing super-tasty burgers in the street and selling them for the bargainous price of £1.60. There were even pubs that halted musical proceedings so revellers could delight in England’s heroic 1-1 draw against the formidable attacking prowess of USA. I LOVE this festival!

This week’s gigs: Any Newton and Jenna Witts play in Lilico’s tonight (24th); Rooster Shotgun Damage play with Unnamed Heroes in The Olive Branch in Barnstaple on Friday (25th); The Breaks Collective take to The Palladium in Bideford on Saturday (26th); Tequila Rockin’ Bird travel to The Junction in Plymouth the same day (26th); Sam Dowden strums away in The White Horse in Barnstaple on Wednesday (30th); and Spinlords Of Spintania make a welcome return to the stage the same evening at The Palladium in Bideford (30th).

I shall leave you with the thrilling news that this column is one year old this week. So to any of you who have cast a discerning eye over my scatty and hopelessly grandiloquent music-ramble over the last 12 months I bid a hearty thanks. Thanks!

I’m off to celebrate with a glass of the finest pikey wine money can’t buy. Bye.

soundCHECK 51 – June 17th 2010

Wild Westcountry. As far as events go, it’s a name that conjures an image of yokel bedlam as gadabout pranksters hurl clumps of pasty while their super-strong cider sloshes in tankards in time to a live soundtrack of thigh-slapping country music.

Anyone? No? Just me then.

Regardless, it’s an image that couldn’t be further from the truth. And one that Shaun Winfield, event organiser, is quick to banish from my off-piste little mindtank. “The name was coined by my brother-in-law as a bit of a joke” he explains before pausing and reflecting, “It didn’t actually work out that well. When we started, everyone thought we were putting on country music.”

Rejoice! I wasn’t alone in my assumption after all! Still wrong, though.

Wild Westcountry began life at Queen’s Theatre four years ago. “We used to go to London a lot and kept finding really good club nights,” Shaun explains on what prompted him to start his own. “We thought it would be good to get something down here, especially as we knew a lot of good bands.”

Using DIY indie nights in London and the brilliant Truck Festival (with whom Shaun has ties) as blueprints, Shaun launched Wild Westcountry. “We felt there wasn’t really an outlet for the alternative music scene down here. We wanted to put on a smaller version of Truck.”

To that end, Wild Westcountry continues to grab nationally recognised musicians by the scruff of the guitar-neck and haul them Devon-wards. This year plays host to Danny And The Champions Of The World, whose frontman also led the much-loved Grand Drive, and Daniel Land And The Modern Painters, whose acoustic set at Pilton Village Hall earlier this year beckoned a slew of goosebumps with its beguiling beauty. Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou, Treecreeper, and Neil Halstead also feature on the bill.

“We’re punching above our weight a bit,” motor-mouths Shaun on Wild West Country’s habitually strong line-up. “Because we play in a little hall in Pilton people are really surprised with the quality of music we put on.”

The local contingent is represented by Peter Bruntnell; the brooding and lavishly harrowing melodies of Spectres; and a DJ set from friend-of-milliners and holder of the most eclectic record bag in the land: Matt The Hat. The acts performing on the main stage will be punctuated by acoustic performances near the bar. A bar which will be open, fully licensed, and bountifully stocked.

The venue of this jewel in the North Devon Festival crown? Pilton Village Hall. Doors are at 6.30pm on Saturday (June 19th).

Shaun speaks with the pace and enthusiasm of a man who gives a lot to music, and gets a lot from music. “The night is self-funded. We get some marketing help from the North Devon Festival but we fund the night ourselves. We just have to hope we make the money back on ticket sales.” I’d ask him whether it was worth the gamble were the answer not already abundantly clear from the way Shaun eagerly talks about the bands that are booked.

Tickets are on sale now, priced £10. They are available from Pilton Stores or you can phone 01271 373 392 to bag a pair for you and your favourite person. Tickets will also be available on the door.