CRF : Springfest – Emerald Sky

Venue : Arkenstall Centre, Haddenham
Date : Saturday 3 April 2010
Date of writing this review : 6 April 2010

I do not normally do this, but I am going to post the beginning of this blog before I finish the rest, just because I want to highlight a couple of imminent gigs from the opening act of the day, and knowing how long it is taking me to type up these things, there is a fair chance the gigs will have been and gone before I finish the full thing.

This was Springfest, an all day fundraiser for the Cambridge Rock Festival, incorporating a whole day of music and a beer festival.  And if you bought an earlybird ticket like I did then you got it all for £25 – seriously, with 8 bands for £25 it defies belief that there were not even more people there.  Those who were will have gone home very well entertained, and I am sure will be back for the main festival in August.  Unfortunately The Pure Floyd Show had to pull out at the last minute for reasons beyond their control, but Ed Mayhew stepped in, meaning that the lineup was Emerald Sky, Tinlin, Taildragger, Lime Shark, Ed Mayhew, I/O Earth, Winter In Eden and Karnataka.  You can see what I mean about value for money !

Emerald Sky
Someone remind me to never switch on the BlackBerry on a Saturday morning when I am heading to a gig.  Work has been getting in the way of things recently, and it did again this weekend, making me late for the beginning of the Emerald Sky set (though it made me miss all of the Breathing Space gig the following day, so I should be thankful for small mercies).  I had been very impressed by Emerald Sky when they appeared on the Classic Rock Society stage last year, and they continued to impress me with this performance, as I walked in half way through their excellent version of Metallica’s Enter Sandman, remaining faithful to the essence of the song while giving it their own feel, the thumping rhythm from Siobhan on drums and Aislinn on bass, swirling, grating guitar from Ceara, and then Aislinn’s wonderful vocals on top, before it hits into a screeching guitar solo, which Ceara holds with the tremelo, then she riffs the hook as the vocals come back in and the rhythm holds us until the drums break us out and it kicks on.  It holds into some more guitar flourishes before kicking on again, Ais and Ceara jamming together before pushing it into a big, crashing finish.  I am glad I caught at least some of that !  They continue with On The Run, “an old one of ours”, from their debut album, Rock & Roll Icon, the bass rumbling with tapping cymbals before the guitar screeches in sharp and develops, the track easing as the vocals flow through fast, the drums rolling and kicking us away as the smooth vocals soar, and the guitar hook follows that lead and flows through smoothly itself, before the track rumbles on with purpose then breaks out and crashes on with the vocals soaring again, very melodic and full, and the track moves on before fading to a sudden stop with the guitar hook hanging.  Next up is Not Alone, also from the debut album, the drums tapping in and the bass rumbling alongside some bluesy guitar, before Sioby really kicks with the drums and it blasts away – do not let her size deceive you, because she packs plenty of power into her playing when it is required.  The guitar hook is circling melodic as Ais rich vocals flow through, and the track is pushing along hard and upbeat with the drums driving us.  The guitar screeches through, absolutely controlled as Ceara develops the part, and the vocals come back in as the track thumps on, crashing to a fading end.  They keep with the debut album for the next track as well, Hellraiser opening with the drums tapping in before hitting on hard.  The guitar is circling and the bass rumbling before the guitar riffs away upbeat.  The vocals come in and it thumps on with a wonderfully melodic guitar hook circling.  The vocals are rising higher, screaming out perfectly at times, and the guitar cuts through, slashes through the sound and moves into a intricate part which Ceara performs to perfection, and makes look easy as her fingers are playing on the neck of the guitar, before the track thumps on again, moving back into the melodic guitar hook.  It pushes on with the drums growing, the vocals soaring high, and moves into another crashing finish.

Movers And Shakers is another from the debut album, starting hard with the drums pounding in and the bass thumping.  The guitar echoes and then riffs through with a hard sound, with the cymbals crashing into that sound.  The guitar develops as the vocals flow on top and it rocks along hard.  The vocals are so soft on top of the hard sound that it produces an absorbing combination as the guitar develops with intricate flourishes, and the track drives on to a sudden end.  They go into their latest album, the excellent Shadows Of Darkness, for the final two tracks of their set, beginning with Insurrection.  The drums tap in and the guitar flows away fast with an Irish touch to the sound, before riffing hard with the bass as the vocals flow in smooth and melodic.  It kicks on hard and fast, racing behind the strong vocals as the guitar cuts through and gradually develops screeching into the original theme, with the drums crashing around it.  There are some wonderful textures within the sound, the smooth vocals with the sharp guitar, and the guitar much more melodic as the vocals drop out, and through it all the drums keep it together.  Then they blast on, the guitar coming through again as Ceara plays on the neck, once again screeching through as she develops the sound but always keeping it very melodic, before moving into the original theme again and circling it, the rhythm from the drums and bass consistently insistent behind her, and the vocals flow through and it plunges on.  The guitar cuts through again before the track holds into the vocals until the drums kick us on with something of a progressive metal feel at times, and the guitar shrieks through, with Ceara showing her dexterity both on and around the neck, and the track continues to ebb and flow, a fine display of their talents and their variety.  A big tom sound from the drums rolls with the guitar before there is more intricate work on the neck and it pushes into a soaring, fading close.  They finish up with Electric, which is a pretty good description of the amount of their set I was lucky enough to catch, and Ais kicks it off with “thank you very much for being completely awesome” before the sound thumps in and it blasts on, again very melodic.  Note perfect high vocals flow through effortlessly as the drums rattle and the guitar riffs, and the track bounces along upbeat with the vocals playing around, the guitar sound staying low as the vocals stay very high, and once again they produce a wonderful sound through such a combination.  On the face of things they are producing straight forward rock, but if you dare to listen a little closer you can hear the complexities of their influences coming through, taking matters to another level, and this is a classic example of that – listening to everything that is going on under the surface.  The guitar cuts through and circles the hook before the vocals come back in, and it drives on with the drums relentless.  The vocals rise into the flowing, melodic chorus, the vocals sounding sublime, and then it kicks away again, moving on and developing the themes before hitting the bouncy chorus again, pushing out of that and then easing as Ceara plays on the neck, picking notes, a lighter feel, still melodic, floating, a fine display of her versatility as she runs the notes together and the sound becomes sharper before screeching out, and they kick on into the catchy chorus again, then flowing smoothly into the guitar hook and building into a big sustained close, and their set receives the huge applause it deserves.

I have seen Emerald Sky twice now and am seeing them twice again over the next week (and it will still not be enough), and at all times they have been (or will be) the opening act, and quite simply they are far better than that, so you know you are on to a good thing if they are on the bill.  They are playing at The Luminaire in Kilburn on Friday 9 April with Aeon Zen and Jebo as part of a series of London-based gigs from the Classic Rock Society.  And then I will be catching them at Roadmenders in Northampton on Tuesday 13 April when they are supporting Glamour Of The Kill.  They are also back at the Cambridge Rock Festival this year, opening proceedings on the main stage on Sunday 8 August, and I will be making sure I am not late for the start of their set that day – you should make sure you are down the front too.

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