Tuesday 28th June. Latin, American and African music at the Regent. One of those nights. Not just one of those nights. This was an outstanding experience. On stage tonight was Sofrito, the Latin Blues band influenced by Latino and Cuban Vibes. Describing itself as ‘stylistically unique’, their leader is Tony Webster and the vocalist Astra Sirbon and a total of eight artists altogether which I believe is an octet. Tonight we enjoyed the vibes of Reggae, Samba, Carlos Santana and South Africa. Among others. It really was a superb evening of musical delights. Three percussionists with an array of instruments including the Djembe, bongos, tom-toms … (I wished I knew all the names) and a wide variety of things that were scraped and shaken. A magnificent cocktail of sounds. One number had what I thought might have been a South African sound; which I particularly liked. It was all so wonderful that a few people got up and danced. The whole thing was intoxicating. This is a band that will attract an increasing following.
Sad news. Some of those who played tonight would have known Adrian Blissett the musician who very sadly passed away on Sunday (26th October) after an illness. He was widely known and much admired amongst the musical fraternity of Leicester. Originally from Wolverhampton, Adrian settled in Leicester for much of his life. He was involved in much ore than music but it was his playing that m,any of us will remember most.
After the lock down. The lock down ended, Leicester slowly returned to something like normality. I ventured out to a variety of music gigs. I plan to write more about this quite soon but for now … Here are some notes about what I attended (in reverse order of date):
Friday 10th June 2022. I was at the Soundhouse to help celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Stayfree. Many notable faces appeared tonight and some of them were on people I had not seen for years. Many, Many years. I saw Ian Redhead and Caroline Wright from Stayfree. The first band to perform was Stonedead Villains. They delivered strong vocals and plenty of punch and pulsating beats. Diceratops was a band I have seen before. The singing was vociferous and the music laced with scintillating guitar passages. They gave out a great wall of found that flashed and fizzed, full of verve and energy. Terrific. I wish I could have stayed for Produkty but I have leave early to get the last bus home. Transport bedevils my nights out in a way it did not when I lived in the city centre.
Thursday 9th June. The Exchange Bar. An open mic night. Open to both musicians and spoken word artists. Which I why I was there. I read my poem The Guitarist – a piece inspired by the many hard rock and metal musicians that I have encountered over the years. A good turnout meant the room was full. Nice to see that Leicester can still draw a crowd of really nice people interested in the arts. The first group of the evening was called Cosmic Boulevard, a group of three students from Leicester University. Although not a long set, it was one that sparkled with talent.
If you want to read my poem The Guitarist: it is on my Blog.
Tuesday 31st May.
The music of the celebrated musician Django Reinhardt has long attracted me and so a performance by Swing Gitan (one of the best interpreters of his style) was an unmissable occasion. An ensemble I have seen before, their musical virtuosity is always astounding. Read about them and many more jazz artists on my column, in this magazine.
Friday 8th April 2022
Words by Trevor Locke; Photos by Kevin Gaughan
A rare chance to visit the Y theatre, in East Street. The main attraction tonight was the headline set by Demons of Ruby Mae, It has been a long time since I was last at the Y. Good to be back though. A great little theatre.
The Fazed is one of Leicester’s longest-running bands. I have been following them for years. Many, many, years. A group with a great deal of experience. Their sound filled the hall. Great to see Dave Sherratt on the main microphone. No shortage of engaging beats and enjoyable rhythms. Some new songs from an old band. Looking as fresh today as when they started. Songs that were briskly paced. Vibrant indie rock. Backing vocals from the bass player. It drew enthusiastic appreciation from the audience. They have played at this theatre before. Probably more than once.
Between Fazed and Demons a new band. Not one that I have seen before. Young Decades hailed from Leicester and Nottingham. The band took an incredibly long time to set up but, having got going, they played some ear-pleasing music. I liked the fact that they had backing vocals for some of their songs. Always a good sign, in my opinion. With two keyboards on stage, their sounds had an engaging mix of guitars, drums and electronic music. Plenty of push. This was music I could get to like.
Demons of Ruby Mae. Not seen them for a long time but I do recall going their gig on 10th May 2019 at the O2 when one of the support bands was Midnight Wire. Originally a duo comprising Jonny Gavin and Adam Rowley, tonight several other musicians joined them for some of the songs. You tell as soon as they began their set that this was a band at another level. Gavin’s vocal are still as superb as they were in the old days. His voice is very recognisable. Their songs were full of tone, atmosphere, colour and enchantment. I remember being at Demon’s launch night held at the Concordia theatre in Hinckley which was a sell-out event. Jonny amplified the song by banging on a set of drums at the front of the stage. His powerful vocals were fell of presence. The band’s songs were lyrical, laced with infectious rhythms that danced around the hall. Between passages of intense passion there were moments of of real poignancy. Adam’s piano gave the music an added dimension, brightening and sometimes darkening the mood but always contributing a element of richness to the sound. It was an extraordinary set from a band that was born in Leicestershire.
Saturday 2nd April 2022
I went to see one of my favourite bands, Oceans Apart. A review has been published of this gig.
Also on stage tonight was Ohana, another of the bands I follow enthusiastically. This gig marked what was called The Shed Re-Launch event, which accelerated the venue being taken over by new management. Elisabeth having moved on to pastures new, Tom Carnell is not the head Honcho of Leicester longest-running permanent live music venue. Over the two days a series of iconic local bands have appeared, including Out City Fires, Scumbag Lion, Chambers, Earls, and Brandon Neal.
Tuesday 29th March
Regent Jazz put on a night with The Hot Club Quartet. On stage were well-known musicians Arthur Tyers, Curtis Billingham, Gary Reader and Mike Sole. They got off to a flying start
Saturday 5th February
I was at the Soundhouse to see two of the greatest bands to have been part of the local music scene: Skam and Furies. The Furies made a comeback. I remember when I was extremely enthusiastic about this band. I wrote effusive reviews about them and never failed to attend one of their gigs in Leicester. The crowd packed in around the front of the stage; The Furies had not lost its devoted following. It had been a long time since last I saw them. Although I had forgotten most of their old songs, the one thing I had not forgotten was the astonish voice of lead singer Alex Beattie. The band’s music was energetic and full of captivating rhythms. I recalled the old days when I considered The Furies to be among the very best songsmiths of the Leicester music scene. As far as I can recall, the last time I saw them was at The Musician on 20th June 2014. I wrote a review about their set. At that gig, they said it was their farewell show. Possibly because Joe Connor was leaving. I considered them to be one of Leicester’s elite bands. Back then, Alex Beattie and Neal Hill were in the band – as they still are. It was an incredible night.
Sunday 23rd January
O2 Academy, Leicester. On arrival, I was badged as ‘royalty.’ I felt honoured. Tonight I was there to see two bands I have seen many times before – Hell’s Addiction and Skam. Neither of these massive acts had been see by me for a very long time. I was lucky to briefly meet Steve Hill and Matthew Gilmore from Skam, shortly before they went on stage.
I was also at the O2 yesterday for the first day of this two-day festival of metal. I heard Dig Lazarus. Another of the exceptional bands from this city whose music has gone down in history. The band’s music was pounding and powerful. Strong vocal ere easily heard over the ear-bleedingly loud backing. Bear in mind I live my life in very quite surroundings, these days.
Saturday 16th October
Oceans Apart at The Shed
Leicester band Oceans Apart play at The Shed. It was really good to see a large gathering of fans tonight. Now the lock down has finished, people are starting to come out again. This band has roots that go deep into the musical soil of Leicester. I have known some of these musicians for as very long time. It is wonderful to see them back on the stage of The Shed, where I have seen them so many times before over the years.
OA put on a magnificent set. The band’s stagecraft was well above average, the lighting being managed by Jamie, who has worked the magic many times before. Now the band’s music is harder and more metally than in days gone by when they were the champs of pop. OA’s set began with ‘Such a pity’ and several other songs were sung before they got to ‘Fever’ and ‘Karma’ before doing their new number ‘Snake Around My Heart’ OA did 15 songs altogether; clearly a band with an extensive repertoire.
One of the support bands was called Side Project, a pop/rock band based in Leicester, who were great. Oceans Apart band posted on Facebook: ‘We will be supporting our good friends Our City Fires on the 26th November at the firebug, cannot wait to play another sick show, catch you all there !! ‘
Saturday 9th October 2021
O’Hana at The Shed
I went to the Shed tonight for the first time since the start of the lockdown. I was there to see one of my favourite bands.
The last time I saw O’Hana was on 9th July when they played at The Soundhouse. Tonight they were at The Shed – a venue I had not been in since 2019. It was good to see them again. Jack, the drummer, told me the band has an album coming out soon. They also had a new T-shirt design and I was proud to be the owner of one of them. Tonight O’Hana was the headline band – always a sign that a band is making it.
I like the music of this band very much. Their songs are full of compelling rhythms and their set is varied in pace and vibrancy – so the whole set is never samey. On stage, the band members look like they are enjoying themselves and they moved about with a sense of energy and passion. In my view you can tell a good band from the way its musicians move on stage; they have to live the music and show that in their stage craft. I enjoyed tonight’s gig very much; as I stood in front of the stage, I felt like it was being back in the good old days. Just like it was in days gone by, before the pandemic.
On O’Hana’s set list tonight: Life Sucks, I’m Stressed, Scared Of Nothing, Save Your Money and Cuppa Tea, amongst others. A good selection of what they are all about. Hear some more on the O’Hana YouTube.
All in all a good night out for me and one that plenty of other people also enjoyed.
Saturday 2nd October
James’s Cafe Bistro, 5 East Bond Street, Leicester
Music with Andrea Kenny, Carol Leeming and Jerome Gamble. Another remarkable evening of musical excellence. Billed as ‘Andrea Kenny (with Token Boy) + support’, the poster for tonight’s show also listed Carol Leeming & Random Acts of Senseless Beauty (the musicians that backed Carol’s performance), Jerome Gamble and Honey Hepworth (burlesque). Token Boy being the group of musicians that backed Andrea’s set.
Despite this venue being in the middle of nowhere, it was actually a nice place; most people thought so. Hard to find (for people on foot) it was a pleasant enough place when you got there.
This was a set of extraordinary performances. The room was packed when Carol Leeming did her set of poems and songs. Backed by a group of musicians, including the celebrated Kevin Hewick on guitar, with Wayne Matthews and Nick Murphy. Leeming is a high-profile artist, poet and singer whose status has promoted her to the very top of Leicester’s glitterati. She recited some of her poems and sang some of her songs – a truly wonderful experience.
When I arrived Jerome Gamble was at the microphone. His voice filling the room with subtle and evocative sounds. This Leicester singer has been treading the boards of our city for some time. To quote from a comment made by Kevin Hewick (On Facebook), “Jerome was really impressive, he has a nice mellow jazzy feeling and an excellent guitarist. I gather he’s quite new to Leicester but he made a lot of new friends on this night.” Perhaps not all that new because I had met him before, quite some time ago.
Andrea Kenny is one of a handful of top musicians and singers whose bands have electrified audiences in Leicester over many years. Sadly, I missed most of her set because I had to rush off to get the last bus home – very late at night. Not good for someone of my age to be out on the streets at such an hour.
I noticed many famous people in the audience; musicians, promoters and local artists of note. A good turn out for this prestigious event.
It is rewarding to see that Leicester is still producing high standard events now it is opening up again after the lockdown.
Tuesday 21st September
Jazz at the Regent
Pianorama, performed by Chris Conway, Mike Sole and Lee Spreadbury. Each of these musicians performed solo sets in the first half of the evening. In the second half, they played together as a trio. This was at Regent Jazz which always meets every Tuesday evening.
This concert was an incredible experience. Its degree of excellence, musically, was stratospheric. Each musician had a distinctly different style. But when they came together, they provided music that was like the confluence of three rivers converging into a delta of musical excellence.
Spreadbury’s dreamlike colours were enchanting. Rapturous electronic inventions evoking nocturnal images, shapes and forms of glimmering hues. Conway’s clever weaving together of rhythms and riffs was complex yet captivating. Sole’s homage to modern jazz had carefully calibrated cadences that gave scintillating patterns of sound.
I watched each of them perform his solo set. Then they played together – never having done so before – (I was told) collectively, in the same room, at the same time. Even getting the three of them here tonight was an achievement. I did not know what to expect before the concert; I am sure no one did. This was, after all, a unique event. It is a pity that no one made a proper recording of what happened tonight. There were some people holding up mobile phones. Over the twenty years that I have been writing about music in Leicester, I have never witnessed an event as remarkable as this. It was a concert that deserves to be written into the history books. I have heard some remarkable performances of jazz in this city. On several occasions I have asked musicians how they extemporise their music. Almost everyone I spoke to said they did not know how they did it. Something just happened. Something that was unique and defied analysis. It was also wonderful. It could well be a very long time before we see something like this again in our town. But then, Leicester is full of surprises. To these three keyboard players, I bend my knee.
Saturday 21st August
Glastonblaby Music Festival
Saturday. I went to my first outdoor event since the start of the lock-down. It would have been Glastonbudget but that was cancelled. So it was instead Glastonblaby. Not quite so far to go. This was a festival I had been attending almost from the time it began. The bus took me to Blaby from the city centre. This year the festival was held at a new venue – The Lions Rugby Ground. The idea behind the event is to raise money for a variety of local charities such as Mission Food Bank, Soft Touch Arts, the Blaby and Whetstone Youth & Social Club and the Travers Foundation. On arrival I was given a wristband and a copy of the official programme. This was the sixth Glastonblaby. Last year the event was streamed over the internet. Before I left Leicester I checked the weather forecast; it did not look good. Thundery showers. As it turned out, apart from a couple of light showers, the day was largely dry.
There was a programme of continuous live music, performed on either the main stage or a little one to its left. Across the field there was also the Soft Touch Arts area where live performances also took place.
A performance by the Heartland Roots Band, on the main stage, provided a good start. The band played its own music and covers in the Americana style as it originally was. Today the band was described as Brit-Country.
On the field were a variety of people in costumes including a group of Storm Troopers.
Liam Illiffe provided a delightful set on the main stage. The nineteen-year-old singer and songwriter had appeared at Glastonbudget and several other local events.
The Fazed is one of the longest-running bands in Leicester, the other being Ferris.
Sadly I needed to leave early. But I enjoyed being at a live music event again and it got me out of the house.
That means I missed the headline act Kade Smith, the singer who appeared on the ITV programme The Voice. I also missed The Collective and their set of reggae, ska and hip-hop which was a disappointment for me, given how much I like those styles of music.
In a few days time I will be 72; I can’t hack it liked I used to but I am glad I made the effort just one more time.
Saturday 7th August.
A Night at a Normal Gig
The Soundhouse. I went to see a band that I liked, back in the good old days. Smack Jack. The thing about this show was its normality, now that the lockdown has finished, people were able to stand to see a band. And, they did not have to wear masks.
I booked my ticket online a few days before the gig. Best not to leave things to chance; just turning up at the door and expecting to get in is one thing that had not gone back to the way things were.
I went to see them when they played at Glastonbudget festival in May 2018. I said, at the time, that I thought the band’s music was raw, catchy and very engaging. Their lead singer – Josh St. Claire – had star quality and his vocals were sizzling. As I said after they played at my birthday bash, “This band will go a long way.”
I saw Smack Jack at Duffy’s Bar on 10th August 2018. They were on a line-up with Ohana and Event Horizon. I thought their music was memorable and brought together a rich tapestry of riffs and rhythms. They gave us an intoxicating cocktail of musical ideas. That’s what I said back then.
Smack Jack. What a wonderful band! I remember when they played at my birthday party back in August 2018. Also on the bill was another of my favourite bands – Not My Good Arm. These were two of the best bands in Leicester, I thought at the time. Their styles of music were strongly contrasting. Smack Jack played what they called ‘psychedelic grunge’ where as NMGA were more like jazz rock. At the time of that gig, Smack Jack was a relatively new band. I recognised that the kind of music they played would make them popular and successful. Tonight, little had changed. Still the same thrilling sound. Still the same sizzling performance. Just more experienced. Just better than ever. The band has a debut album on Soundcloud the tracks being Where’s Peterborough, El Secreto and Totalitarian Vegetarian. I listened to the songs before I went to the gig, Smack Jack put on an exhilarating performance.
Another band I saw tonight was Sweet Amber, one I had seen several times before. I thought they were good back then, so, tonight it was brought back to me just how good they are. The audience clearly enjoyed the songs, as much as I did. The sound was punchy and vibrant. It was good to see Sweet Amber again after such a long time. After a couple of years of not being able to see bands playing at gigs this was a real treat. It brought it all back to me – the experience of live rock music in a small venue. Wonderful!
At tonight’s gig at the Soundhouse, The fans had crowed into the front-of-stage area so that I cold not get close enough to take an photos. As the lead singer of Sweet Amber said to me, just after the performance had finished, “Those guys are fuckin’ amazing”, a sentiment with which I heartily concurred. The music was packed with energy and the songs delivered with an awesome level of vibrancy. For the first time in years, I saw fans dancing at the front. Had I been twenty years younger I would have joined them. It was a night like the ones we used to have. Drinks were served from the bar. Masks were not being worn. It was just like the good old days of live music.
The thing I noticed most abut tonight’s gig at the Soundhouse was the audience was standing in front of the stage. Last time, during the lockdown, we all had to sit on chairs. It was like we had gone back in time to before the pandemic had started. And getting your drinks from the bar, rather than being served by a waiter. Not having to wear a mask. Life like it used to be in the pre-Covidian era.
Carol Anne Salusbury-Bryne told me, “The dream team are back at The Musician Pub on Friday 2/7/21 Robert J. Hunter, The Jupiter Blues and Chambers – Doors 7.30pm. Limited tickets are available online from Ticketweb. More information about Casbah gigs is available on Facebook.
For fans of Bob Dylan and The Waterboys head for Sunday 13/6 1pm-5pm at The Musician Pub Limited Tickets here: The Musician Pub website.
Jill Lerner told us: “I am promoting Belshazzar’s Feast who are playing at the Y Theatre, on Monday 17th May. Find out more from the Y Theatre website.
Jack Franklin at The Soundhouse has been in touch. He told us: “The SoundHouse has started programming shows from May 22nd! Utilizing our Beer Garden Stage, we will be hosting Live Acoustic musicians every Saturday, 1PM – 6PM then continuing to stay open into the evening both inside and outside, without live entertainment. We have lots of tables outside and with regulations being relaxed on the 17th May, we don’t expect a maximum of six per table thus, we won’t be asking for any reservations. It’s all free entry so pop down with friends or on your own, see the new physical improvements both inside and out and catch great artists such as Joe Scott, Paddy McCullough, Les Eastham, John Fryer, Autumn Dawn Leader and many more!
All major shows at The SoundHouse will commence from June 25th, with a live gig on every Friday and Saturday for the foreseeable future! Head to our website for tickets and information.
On 11th May, The Musician posted on Facebook: Well that’s great news, confirmed that we can definitely reopen next week. Looking forward to seeing some of you at our first gig on Wednesday 19th May and at the many great gigs we have after that.
I am working on more details so please come back soon. Also, I will be reviewing new music tracks from local artists.
Older content – for 2020 – has been moved from this page to the archive page.
Last edited: 3/1/21