Miles travelled this weekend so far : 128
Date : Saturday 8 August 2009 (am)
Date of writing this review : 20 August 2009
It was an interesting lineup on the Classic Rock Society stage, mixing some more traditional rock acts in with the progressive rock, and first up are Emerald Sky, a 3-piece who played some excellent straightforward rock. They open with Madness, from their second album Shadows Of Darkness, and as the drums roll off we get some Thin Lizzy treble licks from guitarist Ceara O’Neill, then she kicks off with a hard riff before the sound gains a lighter feel as we move into the soft vocals of Aislinn O’Neill. It is an uptempo, melodic track, with some crunching guitar in the background, and Aislinn’s wonderful vocals dominate. It flows on with the guitar sound building into an intricate solo with a hard edge, Ceara’s fingers playing on the neck, and the solid rhythm from drummer Siobhan O’Neill takes us into a big finish. Next up is Dark Angel, also from the album, and they ease into the intro, the drums tapping and the guitar floating, then the drums kick off, the vocals are smooth and the guitar riff cuts in. It rocks off with the vocals soaring, now sounding more confident, and a great melody rocks us into a considered guitar solo with some flourishes. It is a really enjoyable light, rocking uptempo track and another guitar part takes us to the close. To be honest, Back In Black by AC/DC is an inspired choice given the way they perform it – I have never been a fan or a band just playing the original track and sounding like the original band, and Emerald Sky certainly do not fall into that trap here. They still keep that down and dirty feel, and the guitar sounds great and the rhythm section is so solid, but the vocals give it a whole different twist and the solo has a more laid back feel, and then they build it into a massive finish. Not Alone is from their first album and sees some bluesy guitar flowing as the hi hat taps, then the riff kicks off and we rock. Then it eases back into thatÂ blues-rock feel as the vocals come in, building in parts and then the track bursts through harder, with a wonderful melodic theme running through the guitar part, and this hard rocking guitar and the soft, smooth vocals make a great combination while the drums hold the whole thing together. The drums thump us into Movers & Shakers, also from their first album, and Aislinn’s bass thuds and the guitar crunches across it all. The drums move on to a rolling rhythm as the guitar sound grows, and the track continues to build as the vocals add another layer. It kicks into a swirling guitar solo, now with an insistant beat, bouncy, rolling, rocking, and over the top of it all we have those wonderful vocals – brilliant.
I had managed to mis Mother Black Cap when they played at The Peel, so I was interested to see them here. “Good evening. No. Good morning – that’s a good start. Actually, it’s 1 minute into the afternoon”, is the opening from frontman Iain Jackson, and I already know this is going to be a fun set. They open with Breydon Sunrise from their difficult second album, The English Way. The very melodic sound drifts in and builds, the vocals coming in on top, and Bob Connell’s keyboards are tinkling with guitar bursts from Martin Nico, and producing a mellow sound, very English, reminding me of that Gabriel-era Genesis sound and Camel. It brings in a harder edge and the guitar pierces through and soars, before everything comes together and it flows on with a very solid sound. “That blew the cobwebs off”, says Iain. Next up is Thirty Five, from their debut album In the Comfort of your own home, the guitar sound is circling, with the keyboards running under it, and Callum Connell’s drums tapping along, before it explodes out as the vocals come in, then settling again and moving along in waves. The sound is swirling and circling as the vocals punch through powerfully, questioning, and then the guitar eases on into a big sound as the vocals soar, and the track now has a rich, full sound. It picks up as the keyboards flow, then moves into a complex rhythm part with some excellent bass from David Newson, before easing down into a more jazzy sound, melodic, mellow. The vocals come back in and it returns to the original theme as it eases to a close. “Prepare yourselves for a 45 minute song which has been cut down”, and it is the title track of the current album, The English Way, moving into a flowing guitar part, bluesy and soaring, easing along as the sound builds. The keyboards float in as the drums tap along, the the guitar picks up the tempo and the drums kick off and the track rolls on, before settling as the guitar climbs. The drums tap along and the bass thumps as the vocals come back in, the sound taking on a harder edge as it moves along. There is a stirring rhythm running through it as the keyboards come through layer after layer, then bursts from the guitar as it moves into an insistant part, the track rolling on again with a big edge to it. The track has really come together with a great melody and a great beat, before easing off as the guitar echoes, and yet still pierces through. The sound is drifting as the keyboards come through, and it builds again with a martial beat, the guitar sound circling then pushing through, taking over, and the drums beat harder and kick off as the guitar part bounces through hard, and then there is a lighter feel as the whole track takes off, and it quietens as the vocals come through, before rocking off again to move into a flighty guitar solo, and it soars to a close.
There was a break at the Classic Rock Society stage now, so I quickly moved to the main stage, but because everything had been running to time I had missed the beginning (and middle) of the set from Dave Kilminster and Murray Hockridge, which was a shame – but those who were already there were clearly having a great time. For those who do not know, Murray is a solo artist with a most brilliant voice, and Dave is world-reknowned for his guitar work with iCon and the Roger Waters live show. I joined just as they were closing out Point Of Principle. Next up was Early Warning Sign, easing in with Dave picking out the notes on his acoustic, a gentle sound with Murray’s vocals subdued, smooth (at times he sounded as though he might not be 100% on the day, and yet still sounded like one of the best soulful voices out there). It gradually builds into a bigger sound with the vocals growing, the sound still easing along, not quite drifting as it clearly has purpose, and a lovely melody from the guitar. Dave comes in on vocals too and the track has a great sound to it, forceful, before easing off as Dave picks out his part and closes with a wonderful flourish. They continue with Just Crazy from Dave’s solo album, Scarlet, with Dave on a 12-string acoustic and vocals. His voice is emotional, strident, and the track is simply holding as the guitar sound circles, before his strumming moves us on through a lovely melody, with Murray adding in some rhythm on the cajon. Dave eases along creating a big sound from his acoustic, then moves things off, surging, the sound growing bigger still, before easing down as he picks out a part, with more layers looping under it, and there is some wonderfully intricate fingerwork on the neck, everything now coming through in waves as it eases to a close.Murray says they are going to do a “lesser known cover version”, although it has recently become far more well known, and this is their version of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, “with a tweak”. Dave picks out the intro on his 6-string acoustic and the track gradually builds, and we ignore the feedback which is clearly causing Dave some problems. Murray’s vocals come in as the track continues to build, and he really does have the perfect voice for this song, with it becoming more rounded, forceful, full of soul as his voice soars, the guitar running under his sound. It eases along beautifully, wonderful vocals, sweet-sounding guitar, and Dave picks out a very intricate part in complete silence from a transfixed audience. Murray’s vocals come back in and it flows again, easing to a close with guitar flourishes and the vocals soaring. They finish their set with another cover, this time of Joe Cocker’s My Father’s Son (I think…I might have that wrong !). Murray picks out the guitar part and Dave is using an eBow on his 12-string acoustic with a slide…and the wonderful sound soars ! And now Murray’s vocals also grow and soar, and the combined sound is swirling around until the beat clicks in and we move on. Dave’s guitar sound is still very atmospheric and floating, and it eases along with the focus now on Murray’s superb vocals. The sound grows more substantial and Dave lets loose with some uptempo strumming, Murray tapping along on the cajon as he sings. It is a frantic sound now, racing, before easing down into Dave picking out a part and Murray’s vocals flowing to the close. “Thank you, good afternoon”, says Murray, and I am just disappointed I had had to miss the rest of the set.
In truth, and with no disrespect to any of the other bands, the reason I was here today was to see a toilet roll on the stage, I mean, the world’s smallest progressive rock band, Tinyfish. And after the break, here they were on the Classic Rock Society stage. I had seen them a few times before and had been very well entertained every time. And their music is pretty damn good as well. Read on, and you will see what I mean, on both points. Vocalist and guitarist Simon Godfrey is straight in, looking at the assembled crowd, “Hello. This is what we like to see…scattering. Cluster !”. And they are ready to launch into The Sarcasm Never Stops. Well, they would be, but as drummer Leon Camfield points out to Simon, “yeah, turn the amp on”. Now, before we go any further I should make something clear – Tinyfish are a quite brilliant band musically, in my humble opinion, but what sets them apart from so many other bands it the almost constant stream of on-stage banter within the band which then flows out into the audience (yeah, ok, mostly it is more of a ‘crowd’) – so there may be many asides within this review, but see that as adding to the experience, not taking away from the music. Right, now we have that sorted, the drums and bass burst in. A lovely guitar riff to start with from Jim Sanders before the guitar soars off, very melodic, underlined by some thick bass from Paul Worwood. It rumbles along and then some stacatto riffing really gets us going into a large, expansive sound as Simon’s vocals come in. The track bursts through in phases and eases along, a hard edge to the sound, and Leon, serial drum killer, having a lot of fun and a damn good go at killing the DeeExpus drum kit. Joking aside again, you need to go a long way to find a better live drummer than Leon, and he is always a joy to behold (even when he has swine flu). Jim’s solo flows out subdued, considered and then piercing, as the rhythm drives us on through a track which reminds me of a wonderful Rush sound. Simon kindly dedicates it to Rich Wilson of the new music magazine Classic Rock Presents Prog. Leon queries the sound he is getting on stage, saying he cannot hear Simon’s vocals. Some wit in the audience (are you looking at me?) suggests that the rest of us might enjoy that too. The Big Red Spark is the title track from the forthcoming album and it eases in with another big sound, the drums kicking, the bass thumping and the guitar circling, producing a grand, epic sound which eases along, pausing and holding as the guitar works round the beat. The drums start moving us on as the guitar stays floating, and then Leon is playing with his electronic box of drumming sound effect tricks, with a drumstick in his mouth, before he kicks us off again and Jim’s solo pierces through as leon throws a drumstick away. We move into some more circling guitar before a big finish to the track. Simon tells everyone about the merchandise (including the new dvd One Night On Fire) and everyone says hello to Nellie. They ease into Nine Months On Fire, from their debut album, the guitar cutting in and sliding on, the drums rolling on as the bassÂ thumps. It is the vocals which are taking us on until the beat picks up, the track builds and builds and flows into a great melody, a sharp, aggressive sound, stacatto drum smashes, rocking out, a seriously hard edge. Silence. “And that’s the first half of the song”, and then it eases along melodic, the guitar parts pushing through, the drums kicking in and rolling along but softer now. Moving on in phases, layer on layer, building, holding then flowing off into a wonderful solo, and dramatic drumming into the close of the track.”It proves Mike’s rob is live at least”. Simon urges those with camp chairs to use them because the next track is a long one. “Is it ?”, asks Jim. “It goes into the next one”, replies Simon, “It’s good that we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.” “At least we’re cheap”, is the retort from Leon. Build Your Own Enemy is also from the debut album, an atmospheric opening from the guitars before the drums come in and it flows along mellow in waves, another wonderful melody, floating as the bass stays gentle and the drums ease us on. And while the track is swaying along Leon and Paul share a joke and I spot Guy Manning in the crowd. It is an excellent composition, so much going on within it, and it pauses into a considered, climbing solo, before the voclas come back in more forceful than before and the guitar sound soars, leading us into a big sound to bring that to a close, as Robert Ramsay comes on stage, wearing a lab coat and carrying a clipboard, and the sound continues as he recites his Pagodas spoken word part to take us into Wide Awake At Midnight, the guitar picking out a part to take us on, the drums tapping, gradually building with intricate guitar sounds in there, the vocals climbing and the guitar soaring through as the bass rumbles. A restrained solo comes down and the guitar riffs as the drums roll around, then a big stacatto sound from the guitars, before Jim lets his soar again, melodic and piercing, the drums picking things up and we rock along. The guitar is still cutting through everything, and there are oriental sounds coming from leon’s direction as Jim strums on. The vocals come back in and there is a strange feel within the track as it winds on, then a big guitar sound again as it kicks off and really grows, a full sound driving along now, piercing guitar screeching before the sound eases down and becomes more melodic as it rolls on. The guitar bursts out once again, moving higher and higher, then eases into a big close to a magnificent, epic track. And Leon comes in, “Your patience is legendary”. DeeExpus sing a Happy 16th Birthday to Catherine. “This is a shorter one, more relaxed, so if you want to have a heart attack this is the one to have it to”. We get Driving All Night, a gentle intro with Jim producing some glorious slide guitar, easing along relaxed and mellow, with the vocals strident at times, before suddenly kicking off with a harder edge, Paul’s bass thumping. Then the slide sound comes back in, it eases down and drifts along, until a harder sound closes it out. “That song is available on the Curious Things ep, written by 14 year olds”.Simon asks if we want a slow one or a fast one, and Leon points out it does not really matter because we are getting both of them anyway. First up is Cinnamon, a track which kills Leon because of the demands it puts on him, but within which he usually kills the kit because of the demands he puts on it. It is another from the excellent Curious Things ep. The drums kick in and the bass thumps, the guitar riff cuts through and the track drives on. There is an awesome rhythm running through it – and I mean awesome in the true sense of the word – a sharp sound which rolls along, with so much going on within the track. The guitar is playing around the rhythm, before everything eases down into Leon’s box of delights and Jim picks out the theme from Red Barchetta by Rush. Then the track bursts out again, flows along with all the layers coming together into some screeching guitar, then pauses (Leon says, “I need a rest”), and launches off again into a big close, and echoing guitar brings it down. Next up is Ride, about Bill Hicks. Leon is in again, “I get to use the Early Learning Centre tambourine”, which he proclaims is the best sounding tambourine out there with a golden ethereal quality. “It’s got a you size quality to it”, replies Jim. Jim’s guitar eases us into the ballad, the vocals then carrying us on with the guitar running under them, and the line “outside this…tent”. The drums come in and the track moves on with the guitar flowing, then picking up the tempo and rocks, piercing through, and a fuller sound continues on, then stops, the vocals coming in with the guitar strumming, and it ends on a big power chord. Leon’s box of tricks are producing all sorts of atmospheric sounds. Simon asks, “Is the nutter back ?” and Rob is indeed back on the stage, making rabbit fingers behind Simon’s head. He produces his dramatic spoken word intro to Motorville and the drums hit in and we roll. A great guitar sound from Jim as Paul’s bass rumbles through, solid as ever, the the guitar dominates, melodic as the rhythm changes, and we are back to the intro sound and some hard rocking before it pauses down and the guitar is melodic once more, and the vocals come in as the track drifts along. The track builds again and then bursts into the original theme, the guitar circling into a big finish.
I see there are members of Mother Black Cap in the audience now. Simon continues, “This is usually the last song we play. That was a very out of tune guitar”. “Jazz”, says Leon. Jim introduces the band as Simon tunes his guitar. Simon tells us how this is Jim’s last gig before moving to Sweden, and so “this is called Swedish Jim” (it sounds like All Hands Lost). It gently sways in, “Baby, it’s dark outside (what a lie)”, and the bass thumps through as the drums tap in. A bigger sound now as it still eases along, the guitar really coming through. The tempo rises as the guitar flows, piercing sounds soaring, the drums keeping us moving. Then it pauses before the drums kick in and it builds again as the cymbals crash, and Rob is back on stage in his Summer’s End 2008 tshirt (no doubt, like the rest of us, looking forward to Summer’s End 2009), and the guitar sound keeps sliding through as he narrates. Simon says, “Robert Ramsay” with a guitar pick in his mouth, and then seeing someone at the egde of the stage says, “I would just like to say that is a brilliant chicken hat, sir” and the track explodes away, a cutting guitar sound driving us as the bass rumbles through and the track rocks along. It is racing before pausing as the guitar floods out and the vocals come in as the guitar soars. Paul’s bass is thumping hard as the guitar pierces once more, building into a flowing, considered solo which sways along. Then back to the original theme, easing along then growing into a larger sound as the guitar again cuts through. “We’ve been Tinyfish and you’ve been very patient”, and they build it to a massive finish and the crowd erupt and call for more. But time is up.
There are two ways to see Tinyfish live. You can buy the new dvd, or you could get along to The Peel on 5 September, when they will be playing with DeeExpus in support. While you are there you can buy the dvd anyway. And the DeeExpus dvd.
And next up were DeeExpus, but I had to leave to get back to Leamington Spa for the Fish Convention and sets from Pendragon and Fish. So I missed DeeExpus for the third time ! At least now I will get to see them at The Peel, and should be able to catch them out tour with Touchstone as well – more on that when I get to my blog for Sunday from the Cambridge Rock Festival.