Trevor’s Out and about
For the month of May 2018
Trevor Locke’s monthly round-up of musical events.
So. That was May then. Onwards towards June. We are making some changes to the way this feature is presented.
That will take a while. But please come back and see it – soon.
31st May 2018
A big night at Brewdog
with Lee Spencer, Siobhan Mazzei, Mark Elliot, The Simpletones and The Brandy Thieves
What a night! What music! OK. I want you to imagine that you went to a show at a pub in Leicester and saw Ed Sheeran, Adele, The King’s Singers and Gogol Bordello. Now that would be something! Well tonight I did something similar. But better. The line-up was better. The music was better. This was the gig of the month.
The show was opened by Lee Spencer. Sadly, I arrived late and missed his set. Sorry.
Mark Elliot. Not seen him for ages. An amazingly good voice which he uses to good effect.
Siobhan Mazzie. A singer that I have followed for a very long time. Years and years. In my opinion one of the best female singers and songwriters in Leicester. Her strong voice was held tightly in control. The effect was spell-binding.
Another music act I have not seen for along age was The Simpletones. No instruments; just four beautifully harmonised voices. Leicester outstanding barbershop quartet. Wonderful music.
The headline band of the show tonight was The Brandy Thieves. Marvellous. Wonderful. Andrea Kenny is the lead singer. Chris Swirls the drummer. Alongside them a trumpet player, banjo player and accordianist. Music of the highest quality.
Brewdog. Not been inside that building for years. Many, many years. Wasn’t it called Varsity at one time? Well. It’s a lot better now. The show was held upstairs in a room on the first floor. The sound system has under the management of Simon Lubkowski, a member of the Simpletones group. And very good it was, too.
29th May 2018
The University of Leicester Big Band
at The Loaded Dog.
I am a huge fan of The Big Band. Having seen them before a few times, tonight’s show at The Loaded Dog was a must-see event, for me. This really is a big band. It has over twenty musicians. It plays tunes and songs that are big in every other way. The audience was big. Tonight the ample audience was delighted by the massed ranks of saxophonists, trumpeters, trombonists, and goodness only knows that other kinds of instruments were being played.
A selection of jazz, sing and popular melodies were played. The various solo singers were marvelous. This was the sound of a big band. Vast resources of brass. A very different musical experience to the majority of gigs I go to. A considerable credit to the Leicester music scene. Not many other towns can boast a band of this size and talent. Seeing the Big Band is all about the music but it is almost about the experience, the atmosphere, the vibe.
The Loaded Dog. I remember it well. The times we used to have there. And yet, I have not been there for a long time. It’s not the kind of pub I would go to on a night out. It’s not for us old age pensioners. It’s one of the Leicester’s most popular student pubs. We used to put gigs on there – back in the day. Many years ago. One of two were very successful. I used to meet by mates there – the cream of the local rockerati. A fantastic night out.
26th and 27th May
Glastonbuget music festival
I spent two days at Glastonbudget. Read my report, starting with my overview of the festival.
22nd May 2018
Jazz at the Regent Club
An evening of Jazz focused on music from Hollywood and Broadway played by a variety of bands. These were tunes rooted in musicals and films. Take, for example, the song by Nat King Cole – Nature Boy. It was released in 1948. It has been used in a variety of films, including The Talented Mr Ripley and in the musical Moulin Rouge of 2001. Everyone knows the song Summer Time, from the folk opera Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. Dating from 1935. One of the great classic jazz songs of all time. Many artists have recorded this song including Ella Fitzgerald, who also performed it with Louis Armstrong. Remember Tequila? Everyone knows that crazy tune. With its Latin vibes. American band The Champs sold over a million records of it earning them a gold disk. That was in 1958. It also requires the audience to shout “tequila” at appropriate places. It has been covered by innumerable bands and singers. Another tune that is a great favourite is Judy Garland’s 1939 hit from he Wizard of Oz, Somewhere Over The Rainbow. And then there was I Remember You from the 1942 film The Fleet’s In. Famously sung by Dorothy Lamour.
These were a few examples of the king of music we heard this evening. With a lot of these songs it’s all about the interpretation. They become Jazz tunes when they are played by a Jazz band. That teaches us a lot about music. Jazz is a genre the roots of which life deep within the music history of twentieth century. When Billie Holiday sang Cole Porter’s Easy to Love, she gave it her own unique style. Porter wrote the song for the 1936 film Born To Dance. I remember it well from a record I had of Ambrose and His Orchestra. In the 1930s. Ambrose led a highly acclaimed dance band, recording many of the most famous Cole Porter classics. This was one of my favourites. You can see why I enjoyed this concert so very much. A band will take a well-known popular song and improvise around it, weaving instrumental solos into the fabric of the tune. Tonight we enjoyed a fine selection of much-loved songs and tunes.
When the Cookie crumbles
19th May 2018
The Sunlight Machine, The Scruff and The Keepers at The Cookie
A gig promoted by This Feeling with The Sunlight Machine, The Scruff, The Keepers.
Sunlight Machine. Two musicians. Not unusual but certainly uncommon. The Scruff, from Bedford, gave us an energetic stage performance. The lead vocalist sang well. They played vibrant, edgy dance tunes.
The Keepers. I saw this band on 30th January 2016. At the Soundhouse.
They provided a good start to their set, which had plenty of punchy rhythms and strong vocals from lead singer Jordan Jones. The band hails from Northampton. Their sound was quite distinctive. Reminiscent of the era on which it is based.
It’s far into May already. I have been going to gigs since the start of the month and now I am seriously behind with my writing. Why? Too much going on. Too many other things to do. Having said that. Let’s press on.
April was a good month. The one memory that stands out for me, in what was a very full month, was the performance of Leicester band Chambers, at the Soundhouse, on 14th April.
I thought that was an outstanding performance [Music in Leicester magazine]
Bands at the Shed
Late last month I was at The Shed. One of the acts I saw that night had a very strange name: The Ten Weird Creatures from the Mariana Trench. Three musicians one of whom played what I thought might be a glockenspiel. That performance was part of a night that featured mainly student acts. Which reminded me that student bands can be an important source of new musical delights, in this city.
Jazz and more jazz
May stood out for Jazz. I recently discovered the Regent Jazz club; having been to a couple of their concerts, I became a member of the club. On 1st May I went to a concert at the Regent social club where I thoroughly enjoyed the two large jazz bands that played. The Regenerates and the Not So Big Band. Large ensembles of musicians with a wide variety of brass and other instruments. It was an evening of musical delights. Tunes included works by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billy Strayhorn, Bobby Troop, George and Ira Gershwin, and others. I liked the venue – it was comfortable, spotlessly clean and well organised. A very pleasant place in which to spend an evening. I went back there on 15th May for another Jazz show, this time with The Citizens of Swing. Again, very enjoyable. A refreshing change from rock gigs. I am looking forward to some of the concerts that are coming up, over the next few weeks. A full programme of Jazz concerts is given on the club’s website. Regent Jazz.
Music industry funding
A very different kind of musical event took place on 4th May. This was the conference organised by the Hand Made festival. The programme included a range of speakers, presenting either individually or as part of a panel. I particularly enjoyed the talk given by Celia Archer, a musician from a band called The Big Moon, based in London. She spoke about the formation of the band she is in, and answered questions from the audience. It was an interesting and stimulating start to the day. She discussed many of the ways in which bands can make money. Not something you hear much about these days.
Nik Sharpe chaired a session. He is part of the Hand Made festival. He talked about promoting gigs (he is connected with The Cookie) and booking bands. Nik has been putting on shows in Leicester for more than six years. Nik said that Leicester did pretty well for a city of its size. He mentioned artists like Mahalia, Declan McKenna, Arcades and By The Rivers. Nike told the audience that it was all about having a clear plan of what you want to achieve and working with booking agents. Nick suggested that Leicester’s lack of a large arena is less important now than it was two years ago and suggested that our city has not been disadvantaged by the lack of an arena-sized venue. Very big venues, like those to be found in Nottingham, Birmingham and Coventry, attracted massive international acts that can sell tens of thousands of tickets. National touring bands would prefer to sell out smaller venue in which they can be closer to their fans, these days.
BBC’s Dean Jackson chaired a session about music funding. This provided a considerable wealth of information about grants that are available to musicians and music acts. Panelists suggested that there is money out there to help with music start-ups, recording sessions and even international tours. It is all a question of know where to look and how to interpret the funding criteria. This was a very good event – one that I hope will be repeated next year. All the people, that I heard speak, gave high quality presentations that were informative and easy to listen to.
Bank holiday in the sun
Bank holiday Monday. 7th May. I went to The Western, a pub in the vicinity of Narborough Road. Taking place was a day of music organised by Joe Doyle (he of Homeless Shakespeare band fame.) The event also acted as a fund-raising benefit for Leicester homelessness charity One Roof. A total of £58.72 in cash was put into the collecting tins; in addition, a large amount of goods were donated to give to homeless people. It was a long day. From early afternoon through to late evening, there was a non-stop programme of singers, musicians and groups, performing outside in the garden area.
It was a hot day of brilliant sunshine. I don’t want to list all the many excellent musicians that took part, but let me mention Paddy Hodgkinson and Sean Clutterham, Ruthie Coles, Stevie Jones and Joe Doyle himself. A very good day out; very enjoyable.
Flying in the Vault
No monthly round-up of live music would be complete with talking about visits to The Shed. In the Vault, on 12th May, I saw a band that was very good. Nothing unusual about that. But there was much about them that was particularly good. I think they were called Ohana, an alternative, indie rock band from Leicester. The band’s lead singer, Luke, had a good voice. The songs had attractive sounds and their performance on stage was full of vibrant vibes. I would certainly like to see them again. I see they are appearing at The Soundhouse on 5th June. The band that I had gone to see was Flying Kangaroo Alliance. This is a band that I have written about many, many times. Over many years. Great to see Meri Everitt again. She is a singer who has become something of an icon in Leicester’s music circles. Everitt is an artist of exceptional ability and experience.
Upstairs in the main room, the broadcast of the European Song Contest was on the big screen and the room was full of people. I don’t want to comment about the results. Irritating and irrational, is all I will say. I did however watch the performance by Ryan O’Shaugnessy, the entry from the republic of Ireland. One of the few musical contributions to the evening that was not farcical, his voice was entirely beautiful, the song bewitching and the theme of the song entirely laudable. It is songs like this, sung by artists of the calibre of Ryan, that makes the whole sorry thing redeemable. The Shed generally puts on a better evening of music-making most weeks of the year.
Earls hold court
Another venue that is, for me, always a joy to visit is Duffy’s Bar, in Pocklington’s Walk. A pub that bears an Irish theme in celebration of its founder, Leicester’s prestigious folk singer Jackie Duffy. On 18th May I was there to see Earls. This was an absolutely splendid night of music, rounded off by one of Leicester’s best rising acts. The evening’s line-up started with Leicester metalcore band – Every Rope A Noose. I loved the way they opened their first number – banging drum sounds, gradually building up the drama to where the female vocalist began. Thereafter, they kept up the momentum with crashing cymbals and thumping beats. They produced a volcanic eruption of noise and pyroclastic flows of incendiary rhythms and sounds.
Timmas. A band I have seen several times before. One that is getting widespread acknowledgements and plaudits from Leicester’s rockerati. Timmas, with their excellent lead singer Tim Baker, performed Feeling Good with its memorable refrain It’s A new Dawn, It’s a new day… a song made famous by Muse, Nina Simone, Michael Buble, etc. Timmas gave it their own take. Transmogrifying it into something akin to heavy metal – well, not actual heavy metal – but their version was bigger and louder than most I have heard. The music of Timmas is rich in craft and artistry. Each time I see them I am increasingly impressed by what I hear. Their set included a solo by drummer Tom Carnell the quality of which I last saw when I watched the 2014 film Whiplash.
Gallows High. When Gallows High played on 11th May, at Dryden Street, Martin Baker wrote: ‘We had Gallows High blast out on stage first with a great opening of seriously chunky set of awesome riffs for us all to get stuck into. There was some really nice guitar synergy that worked well backed up by the impressive bass lines.’ I saw them at Firebug. Their set was musically varied and what they gave us was exhilarating.
Earls. I have written about this duo many times before. Described as ‘two-piece skum punk’, its two musicians originate from Halesowen. They occupy a unique niche in the music of Leicester. Their song The Boys (Are Alright) represents what they do. It’s music that bulges with style and attitude. Each time I have seen them, this year, they have attracted an increasing band of followers; fans who adore their music and them as a duo. Justifiably so. They have given to Leicester the essence of punk. I said, previously, ‘Two guys who put out as much power and passion as an entire band. They were fantastic. Most of the audience also thought they were; judging from the fervent dancing going on during pretty much most of their set. They seem to have won a posse of new fans. Having seen them many, many times before, I have to agree with my mate who said “Every time I see them, they get better at what they do.” Anthony Lamb does the vocals and plays guitar; George Prosser does the drums.’ What Earls gives to a gig is high-octane musical style, exhilarating presence and an experience that few other acts can attain.
Both Timmas and Earls played at the Hand Made festival [Music in Leicester]
Well. That’s cleared some of the backlog. Still to come: an evening at The Cookie with The Keepers.