Sunday, June 30, 2019

Beatz Music & Gig Buddies go Country...

For several different reasons, one being the soulful soundtrack, another the highly quotable dialogue, The Blues Brothers is one of the few constants on my ever-changing list of favourite films*. John Landis' madcap musical comedy, with its raft of Saturday Night Live's early stars performing alongside some of Stax & Atlantic's best musicians, is a surreal portrait of early 80's America (replete with levitating Nuns and a Twiggy cameo).

In one of the film's most memorable scenes our behatted protagonists rustle up a gig at a misbegotten venue in the middle of nowhere, a roadhouse that is not at all welcoming to the Brothers' brand of R'n'B. From my first watch of the film this venue, and the quip about it having both kinds of music, coloured my view of Country music and its fans as a cinematic punchline; bottle throwing red-necks love Tammy Wynette. 

Whilst the sequence is still admittedly funny I have found, having watched the film again through my now considerably older eyes, that it unfairly stereotypes both the music it tenuously represents and the folk who listen to it. That might sound a bit PC but, as I've got older, my tastes have broadened and now an evening spent listening to both the theme from Rawhide and Stand By You Man on repeat, drinking beer and singing along, definitely appeals. 

Unfortunately Bob's Country Bunker only exists in a 35mm world however, in our reality, venerable Portsmouth venue The Wedgewood Rooms boasts at least some of the magic of a roadhouse (the trademark sticky floors and cold beer I mean, not a wall of chicken-wire across the front of the stage to protect the musicians). Admittedly the Wedge may be more Donny that Marie but it has credentials enough to host an evening of modern Country music. 

And when better to do so than on America's birthday? 

This Fourth of July the Wedge will don its blue jeans, polish its Dingo boots, and welcome some modern Country music onto its stage, and it's all thanks to Gig Buddies and Beatz Club. These two organisations promote regular events for adults with disabilities which, whilst providing people with special needs an authentic night of live music in a safe environment, are open to ALL music lovers who want to share a good night's entertainment. 

The line-up for this Thursday night's hoe-down features a performance from local singer-songwriter Alex Krupa, some multi-instrumentalist mellifluousness from RSD Unsigned 2019 shortlisted act Hengistbury, with four-piece Dirt Road Diary closing the evening with a no doubt loud set of Country Rock.

Tickets are for this hootenanny are just £5, available in advance from the venue, with carers getting in for FREE. Yee haw! (sorry, I just couldn't help myself)

* Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back are the other two

Friday, June 28, 2019

Follow The Sun Festival

There is so much good new music out there, so many prospective new favourite bands and artists who want your ear's attention, that it can sometimes seem a struggle knowing where to begin with life's musical buffet. What's better, wilfing your way through SoundCloud or typing random characters into Spotify's search box? Should we wait for 6Music to spin our new musical obsession or go along with Last.FM's "if you like this then you might like that" algorithms? Or, if you're at all like me, do you spread yourself across all options in a desire to hear as new music as you can? Decisions decisions, there are only so many hours in the day, etc etc..

One of the more sociable ways of encountering new music is obviously the humble gig where, just possibly, you might be lucky enough to catch a future stadium band in their first support slot (have I ever mentioned the time I saw The Killers play such a set at The Wedgewood Rooms?). Better yet are music festivals, sprawling events where a wider array of music is invariably on offer, although enjoyment of such events can depend on just how much confidence you have in your Wellingtons

If you fear that your galoshes are suspect, are distrustful of Ian McCaskill's brethren, or simply don't want to walk too far then fear not, these are salad days for indoor festivals, one or two day shindigs that offer tasty musical morsels in a mud-free environment. Portsmouth was previously home to one such urban festival, SouthseaFest, an annual event that turned Albert Road's pubs into pop-up venues.

Unfortunately SouthseaFest is no longer running however, such was its impact, like-minded groups of promoters have channelled its spirit into a new series of microfestivals that call Pompey home; from the multi-venue joys of Dials and Icebreaker to the one day, one venue affairs of Golden Touch and Follow The Sun, all showcase a variety of both local and national acts.

The latter of these returns to the Edge of The Wedge for a second instalment this July, with a hand-picked by London-based promoters CloseUp, with the Wedge's sibling venue boasting a compact and bijou performance space which offers punters the opportunity of enjoying an intimate musical experience without the need for a trusty pair of Hunters.

The line-up for this year's instalment includes Londoners LONA and Shanghai Blues, local bands Sad Palace and Dutch Criminal Record, Southsea-based singer-songwriter Megan Linford, Isle of Wight indie-rockers JEPH (who release their new single, Space, via Honeymooner on Friday 5th July) and the hottest thing out of High Wycombe, Only Sun (woefully bad pun intended).

Topping the bill is Lauran Hibberd who, fresh from touring the UK & Europe alongside American indie-rock outfit Hippo Campus and supporting Norwegian pop-punk's Sløtface in London, will be taking her wry brand of observational indie pop to this weekend's Glastonbury Festival. If you miss her sets on the Greenpeace & BBC Introducing stages you'd best get yourself a ticket for Follow The Sun.

Follow The Sun 2019 takes place at the Edge of The Wedge on Saturday 13th July, with doors open from 1300. Tickets are priced at a very reasonable £10 (plus booking fee), available now either via TicketWeb or the venue, and punters are advised that the event has a 14+ age restriction.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Emptifish @ The House of Rapture

Portsmouth's legendary lost Surf Punks Emptifish return for a home-town show next weekend, headlining a night of Garage Rock at the city's newest venue, The House of Rapture. In the 80's the band's gigs gained an infamous reputation, due to in part to an often raw connection with some of the more raucous Pompey fans, leading to Emptifish gaining a  ban from playing within the city limits. Whilst it could be argued that this censure led in part to the band's split, on the eve of recording their debut album no less, time heals most rifts (even The Eagles reformed, despite Don Henley's famous quip) and, after all this time, it only seems fitting that their latest gig is in the shadow of Fratton Park 

Support on the Skaraman curated night comes from Sci-Fi Punk supergroup The Gary 7, a band featuring members of Armoured Flu Unit, Thee DB3, The Good Time Charlies and, of course, Emptifish themselves, with mood music between sets courtesy of DJ Paul Groovy.

The band recently released a new single, Haunted, through local label Mayfield which featured ex-Damned drummer Rat Scabies on percussive duties (I remember seeing Dead Men Walking at The Wedgewood Rooms some years ago, an evening notable for Captain Sensible telling some rather interesting and slightly off-colour anecdotes about his old bandmate, but those are tales for another time).
Tickets for the Saturday 6th July gig are £8 in advance, available now from the venue, direct from the bands involved or in person from Lord Sonic's shop on Albert Road.  

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Golden Touch Festival

Somewhere here, squirrelled away at the bottom of a cardboard box that is itself hidden under a pile of similarly nondescript brown cubes, there is a copy of Razorlight's debut album. I mention this as, try as I might not to reference the Johnny Borrell-sized elephant in the room, from the first I heard of Portsmouth's latest one-day festival, one song from that album keeps appearing at the back of my brain. And yes, I realise by telling you this I've no doubt provided you with a similarly plaguing earworm. 


Golden Touch Festival (you're humming it already aren't you?) is a new indoor event from the folks at Fitz Promotions, a two-stage event showcasing some of the best up-and-coming musical talent from the South Coast and further afield, which boasts a hand-picked selection of acts; from bands championed by the likes of BBC 6Music's Steve Lamacq & Huw Stephens to one who recently supported Bastille, all will perform across both stages at The Wedgewood Rooms and the Edge of The Wedge next weekend.

The line-up features psych-rock courtesy of London's Beach for Tiger, indie-rock from Wedgewood Rooms Showcase 2018 winners Brother Deep and Portsmouth's own Crystal Tides, singer-songwriters Casey Lowry & Ulysses Wells, Sheffield four-piece Oddity Road and a Macclesfield take on indie pop from Cassia. Tom Lumley & The Brave Liaison and The White Lakes bring the sound of Oxbridge, joining Guildford rock foursome CascadeBlithe, High on Neon, Submariner, Kings & Castles and local lads Neverman on the bill.

Golden Touch Festival kicks off at 1330 next Saturday, 29th June, and tickets for this sonic smörgåsbord are a mere £10 (available in advance from the venue). Now, how do I get rid of a Razorlight earworm? Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Highlights of Our Modern World @ The Wave Maiden

Portsmouth's Dials Festival is an excellent showcase of new music, presenting local and touring talent that the average gig-goer may have otherwise not had the joy of stumbling across. Last year's festival provided me the pleasure of encountering both the jaw-dropping live spectacle of Brighton's LibraLibra and the mellow tune-scapes of Pompey's own Highlights of Our Modern World (or HoTM for short).

Watching a man hunched over an array of boxes and keyboards, twiddling nobs and fettling his MacBook, may not immediately appeal to those who like their performance art high in the frenetic. The experience of enjoying HoTM perform live is, however, more art than performance, with the music seeping into your pores and allowing your brain to paint pictures in your mind. OK, I'll admit that sounds more than mildly pretentious, but trust me on this one.

If you'd like to enjoy this experience then your luck is in; HoTM headline a Lathe To The Grave curated night at The Wave Maiden in Southsea next weekend, a line-up that also includes Winchester-based DJ and instrumentalist Inkhromo, Portsmouth's own trip-hop & glitch legend Yeti and new local talent Yung Chow.

Doors are from 1900 next Saturday, 29th June, with entry to the gig only £5 (or £3 for NUS cardholders). G'won, you know you want to...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Moi Caprice - 'Maureen'

"I never really want to see you when the Sun is shining..."

After some ten years away Danish indie-rockers Moi Caprice have returned with a new single, an homage to a doomed character in Sergio Leone's classic Spaghetti Western Once Upon A Time In The West. Unlike Leone's epic, a gorgeous sprawling tale of greed, honour and revenge in the old west, Maureen is five minutes of tight synth, programmed percussion and breathy vocals. This ode to Maureen McBain, whose family's fate acts as a catalyst for an equally bloody chain of events, might not seem a likely topic for a song but Moi Caprice have previous form in taking inspiration from the big screen; the name of their debut album was also inspired by Leone's 1968 epic and their last long player, 2008's We Had Faces Then, both took its title from Sunset Boulevard and included a song paying tribute to Claudia Cardinale.

As a taster for the band's forthcoming fifth album Maureen bodes very well indeed, although we'll have to wait until the Autumn (at least) to hear what other magic the reformed line-up of Michael Møller, Casper Henning Hansen and David Brunsgaard, now joined by touring guitarist Jakob Funch and Fridolin Nordsø on bass (replacing Jakob Millung), have wrought in the studio.

The band haven't exactly been idle in the saddle in the intervening years, individually they've busied themselves as touring musicians or have embarked on solo projects, the most notable of which is Michael Møller's A Month of Unrequited Love. This  daily release of love songs grew into a 31 track LP, Denmark's first crowd-funded vinyl release.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a fan of the band (I'd have to check Last.FM to find out just how many times I've listened to The Art of Kissing Properly, it's definitely in high double-figures though), I am therefore understandably chuffed that they're back in action. And if you're wondering what the relevance of the harmonica at the end of the music video is then, well, you'll just have to watch the film

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

GROWfest 2019

Music is a bountiful feast, an endless buffet of mellifluous morsels to suit all tastes, open to all who want to listen. And so it should be with life, open to all of us to enjoy to the best of its advantage; we all share this pale blue dot and it behoves to make our collective journey through space and time as good as it can possibly be. To paraphrase the legendary duo of William "Bill" S. Preston Esq. and Theodore "Ted" Logan, we should be excellent to each other.

Some people who are channelling their inner Bill & Ted are the fine folks at Southampton's GROW Project, a day service for adults with learning disabilities that offers its members assistance in acquiring new skills, focusing on improving both their independence and quality of life. In addition to their excellent work day-to-day the GROW Project also organises a FREE one-day music festival, GROWfest

GROWfest was set up with the aim to provide a free, safe environment for adults with learning, mental or physical disabilities in which to enjoy the festival vibe (an experience that, yes, the rest of us take for granted). Since the first festival in 2017 GROWfest has, ahem, grown in both size and scope, opening itself up to all in the community to enjoy together.

The line-up for GROWfest 2019 so far includes five-piece cover outfit The Honest Lawyers, and local singer-songwriter Jack Howson, with more acts still to be confirmed.

GROWfest 2019 takes place at the Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, this Saturday, 22nd June, with live entertainment from 1100 to 1600.