Got a memory? Good. Fetch your Marigolds, grab a hold of your grey matter and prepare for a gentle rummage around those squidgy engrams of yours.
You may recall that it was between just five and ten years ago that Barnstaple was home to hedonistic gig venues that bore testament to a ferociously feracious, fertile local music scene. Who can forget The Exeter Inn and its pervasive miasmata of sweat, pot and stale beer? It was an integral part of the curious allure that routinely saw hundreds of misfits and music fans huddle in “The Eccy’s” humble inner sanctum to watch cochlea-splitting live performances from some of North Devon’s best punk, rock and metal bands.
Then came Inn On The Square, whose felicitous layout regularly witnessed national breakthrough talent playing to hysteria-dazed crowds. Little Comets, Kasms and Kabeedies – along with countless local bands – all performed to audiences that routinely numbered in excess of 250 people. It was a big deal for local music. At its height there was something worth watching every weekend at Inn On The Square, assuming rival promoters weren’t showcasing the latest new local band at The Riverfront. Then there was The Olive Branch, The Rising Sun, The Ebberley Arms and The Cork & Bottle. I could go on. Everyone was at it. Barnstaple was a town stricken with the live music bug. And it was beautiful.
Flash forward to today and things are somewhat different. Given the grim fates and deathly closures of former bulwarks of the local music scene like The Exeter Inn and Inn On The Square, it’s fitting that today one of Barnstaple’s most notable gig venues is St Anne’s Chapel – a fourteenth century chantry building where they used to bury the dead and pray that the deceased had an easy passage through purgatory.
And my how those puritanical priests of yore would have been thankful for the calming presence of North Devon folk outfit Roholio, whose feather-light folk would have placated even the most punishing beasts of the underworld as souls – newly shed of their bodily vessels – ambled nervously toward the pearly gates. No matter. The priests’ loss is your gain. Roholio perform their plaintive, shimmering, gentle folk at St Anne’s Chapel from 8pm this evening (27th June) to celebrate the launch of their fourth album: Evergreen. Tickets cost £7.50, which includes a free drink to quaff and food to settle your stomach lest you fear being visited by an apparition from St Anne’s long, eventful history. Visit roholio.co.uk to hear some tracks. It promises to be a special night. Not least for the beauty and novelty of the venue, which seems the perfect setting to trigger hope for a musical Second Coming in Barnstaple.
Or maybe just a few more bands.
CONTACT: Making music locally? Doing something to help local artists? Come on, spill. Email jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk or tweet @testforpulse.
If the cliché holds true and teenagers really are walking angst-balls, equal parts furious with and scared of the world, then they have good reason to be. Look at the facts. The pandering, pampering attention that is so liberally lavished with childhood is hauled from under their feet and replaced with a society that treats teens with either suspicion, derision or as punchline fodder. Here to prove that not every teenager is the feckless no-hoper you think them to be is North Devon singer-songwriter Kiera Osment.
To label Kiera a rare talent would be a masterpiece of understatement. She is endowed with a honey-soaked voice that startles and sparkles in equal measure. She’s a proficient pianist and guitarist to boot. Go to soundcloud.com/kieraosment and listen to Kiera’s new song, Joker. You’ll soon see what I mean as her infectiously expressive voice soars above a moody, maudlin piano. It’s powerfully emotive and sounds destined to soundtrack some teary finale to a crap US drama where the cast are all fiercely attractive but essentially dead behind the eyes. Bottom line: Kiera is already good enough for the top. Pretty chuffing remarkable, then, that she has only just turned thirteen years of age.
It’s difficult to steal yourself from the jaws of hyperbole when listening to Kiera. Her songwriting ability and the command she exhibits over her voice are both beyond her years. Many of the pinchbeck stars that clog up the charts with their sonic dreck would rightly be envious. And while Kiera’s pensive, poignant songs have the capacity to wrench your heart, your emotions barometer will end up pointing firmly towards HAPPY. For it’s difficult not to be left dizzily inspired by the promise this young girl shows. That’s my opinion anyway. Maybe I’m too easily impressed. I was still chewing Play-Doh aged thirteen.
Before my inability to nuance this piece of writing with any semblance of balance reaches a cheek-reddening zenith, let me tell you that you can catch Kiera Osment at Boston Tea Party in Barnstaple tomorrow evening (Friday 14th June). And if that stirs your ambition for a weekend of live music, then you might like to head for Blackmoor Gate on Saturday (15th June). The Old Station House is hosting a live music all-dayer with artists like The Yum Yums, Red Kite and The Devil Delta Blues Band filling the bill. The acoustic niceties of Sam Dowden are worth catching. And when it comes to feisty covers of classic 70s rock, few do it better than The Roughnecks. Entry works out around £3 each – a percentage of which will be donated to Little Bridge House Children’s Hospice.
Right then. Where did I leave my Play-Doh?
CONTACT: I want all of your music news: good, bad and ugly. Email jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk or tweet @testforpulse.