Simon Says festival 2016
Saturday 23rd July 2016
De Montfort Hall and gardens
This is the final edition of our coverage of the Simon Says festival of 2016.
This page is about SATURDAY
Our thanks to MIL’s media team for their hard work capturing the visual side of the event over two long days: Kevin Gaughan and Pascal Pereira. © All photographs credited to them are their copyright and may not be reproduced elsewhere with their persmission.
The order in which we report on acts is roughly the order in which they performed but not always exactly.
Saturday 23rd July 2016
On a small stage in the garden, singer Steve is giving the crowd an impressive performance. Singing some of his owns songs and some well-known covers, Steve Faulkner has the audience enthralled and entranced. As Stevie Jones (he of the Wildfire Sessions) said when he introduced the Leicester singer, Steve Faulkner is something of a legend and added he is “a lovely fellow.” Straight away, Faulkner gets into his first song. People who had not seen him before are immediately impressed by the quality of his voice and the agility of his guitar playing.
For those of us who had been blessed to have seen his performances many, many times before, there could have been no better way to start a day of music than with this versatile and splendid performer. Faulkner attacks his songs with energy and anger. This is an artist that really knows what musical performance is all about. Looking at the faces of the people in the audience, I see those fixed gazes that indicate intense captivation.
The sky overhead is azure blue, the sun is shining down and a gentle breeze rustles the leaves above the grass and here is this guy with a guitar making marvellous music and adding even more heat to the warmth of the midday sun. With Faulkner there is no holding back; he attacks his songs with considerable enthusiasm and angst. His set delivers a range of musical styles but it is when he gets into his more ‘bluesy’ numbers that we see him at his best. Steve tells the crowd that his last song is one that everyone will know and the first bars pulsate from the guitar; many at that point know what is coming next; one of the highlights of the acoustic repertoire; Faulkner’s Billie Jean. Many artists have sung this song; but when he sings it, it is Faulkner’s version. The lyrics are the same; the melodies are the same but the performance is his own and no one has ever done it like this.
As the last chords of Billie Jean bounced into the garden, I stand up and applaud enthusiastically along with everyone else. Printed programme in hand, I make my way to my next station stop knowing that what lies ahead of me will have moments just as enthralling as the one I am leaving. My hit list has some very prestigious names on it; some of them legends of the local music scene; others are the bands that stand out. Hot sunshine now and the forecast promises good weather.
On arrival the usual meet and greet happenings for me. I briefed my media team. A walk round the site to find out where everything is – where the stages were located. No a lot of change from last year. Meeting various musicians some of whom I had not seen for a long time.
Another artist I know well takes his place on the Band Stand.
He sometimes performs at the open-mic nights at The Soundhouse, the venue where he works as a gig promoter. Fine vocals and equally fine guitar accompaniment is music to our ears.
A large number of musicians gathered on the stage in the Marquee. Notice, on the far left of the picture, Gaz Birtles playing the Saxophone. The Birtles are a well-known musical family here in Leicester. This group was here at the festival last year too. It is not often you see a Sousaphone in a band.
In my programme notes it says: ‘multi-instrumental wizard and genre-hopper, sings songs of love and peace and outer space – sometimes moving and magical, sometimes cosmic and funny.’
Everything is looking nice and lovely. I prepared my notebook and headed over to the Outdoor Stage for Dead Question. I saw four musicians on the large saddle-shaped stage. One of them I recognised – James Ellingworth – as someone who turns up in several bands and acoustic groups. Even though he has been coming to these festivals for many years, this is the first time that the young guitarist had got to play at one. The large field in front of the stage soon began to fill with dynamic sounds, sounds delivered with passion and commitment. The lead singer – Oscar Prince – took the group through the set of rock songs, sounds that were edged with metal and explosive guitar passages.
Mia and The Moon
A group that is popular at festivals and appears in many of the top shows around town.
The site has not yet at full capacity and round at the front door a queue snaked its way under the white pillars of the portico as people had their tickets checked and their bags searched. The De Montfort Hall is one of Leicester’s best venues. It certainly is the one I most enjoy going to for a big event. It’s a fine Georgian building, completed in 1913 and constructed by what was then the Corporation of Leicester. Inside, the main hall can hold up to 2,000 people seated. To one side of the main hall there is a spacious bar and café; to the other, a smaller room with a bar. A key feature of the event is the opening up of the large field outside the hall, where there are another two stages and a sloping grass area where the crowd can sit on bales of hay, picnic tables or just plant themselves on the sward. This provides festival-goers with an inside/outside experience; it’s like your average music festival but without the mud and if you need it there are comfortable seats in the main hall and adjoining reception areas.
The festival opens up the whole of the DMH and its surrounding gardens to the thousands of music-lovers who come from all over the country to enjoy the two days of music-making. The other thing you notice about the place is that it’s all run with an air of quiet efficiency. DMH uniformed staffers run round picking up rubbish and emptying waste bins and there are always ushers available to help with enquiries.
Band leader Alexander T Smith introduces Lucura. The indoor stage has a large, window-like screen at the back on which are projected live images of the artists. An array of lights sweep across the stage area and hall, projecting shapes and colours. Lucura is a band we have seen before; Keith Jobey reviewed their gig at The Cookie, in May of last year [Music in Leicester magazine].
Impressive sounds and good vocals from Lacura and the songs are well crafted. The band completes it set with ‘All Things Tragic‘, recently released as a single.
I make my way from the pleasant coolness of the indoor hall into the hot sunshine and head over to the Marquee for a performance by Ali Clinton and his band. I find my colleague Kevin sitting on the grass, clearly enjoying the music coming from the stage. He tells me “they have really good songs; you can hear remnants of the great rock legends in them, phrases you would recognise from the masters of rock.” Kevin has no shortage of praise for what he has just heard. “This is not just a good band – they are special”, he tells me.
I look around the spacious white marquee and see that quite a few people had similar thoughts, judging from the size of the audience filing out for their next pint of beer and next musical assignation.
I walk around to the garden with the band stage. On it members of Leicester band The Fazed are playing and I hear the singing of Dave Sherratt leading them in the songs. Long have I been a fan of this group and have admired the fine vocals of the lead singer. What I heard is music that has immediacy and appeal. Seeing them today brought back many happy memories of gigs gone by.
Titanic Jazz Band
on the Band Stand on Saturday afternoon.
A text message comes in – Demon FM want to see me so I head over to the front of the DMH where the radio station has set up its microphones and outside broadcast equipment. Jas Minhas is presenting a live show; I put on some earphones and listen to Greg Poole, singer and Soundhouse promoter, talking about his band and life in Stoke on Trent. Very soon I am talking live on air about the festival. I comment on what an important event it is to the life of the city and then he asks me about Mage – a local band that I know well and will be seeing later on.
In just a few moments I have finished with the radio and am standing in the Indoor Stage listening to the said band Mage. They are playing what I would say is the heavier end of the music spectrum. Amazing sounds are thundering from the stage.
David Wyatt is the singer with this soul/blues rock band.
Not My Good Arm
Back outdoors, Jon O’Neill introduced a band I know well – Not My Good Arm. A popular band at festivals and other shows, I saw them last year at the Riverside festival [Music in Leicester magazine]
But in fact my knowledge of this band and its musicians goes back a lot farther than that. Two of them were in ‘Brass Bears’, Tom Heywood was in a couple of bands that were my favourites long ago.
Big brassy songs with the fizzing vocals of Tom Heywood. An upbeat set, delivered to a capacity crowd. Ska-infused music with trumpets and trombones.
The great thing about this festival is it gives people an opportunity to see bands and singers they might not have seen in a while. Kevin Hewick – one of Leicester’s legendary music artists – is a singer and songwriter of considerable reputation whose long knowledge of and experience in music is phenomenal.
Martin Luke Brown
One of Leicester’s celebrated singers and songwriters, Martin Luke Brown was on the Indoor Stage. Fans of his might like to read one of our previous reviews of his appearances in Leicester. [Music in Leicester magazine]
Here is a clip: ‘I had not seen Martin Luke Brown for a long time. From the very first bars of his first song, Martin’s magical voice filled the room with brilliance. One of Leicester’s most successful singers and songwriters, Martin is the living proof that it can be done. Playing keyboard and singing, Martin gave a performance that was sensational, a set that had all the hallmarks of the MLB experience: passion commitment and energy. ‘
Courtney Askey is no stranger to the pages of this magazine. The Leicester singer is said to ‘play an amalgamation of lo-fi, grungy, folk-tinged alternative music.’
In January, we covered the launch of her single at The Cookie. Keith Jobey wrote ‘ After the solo stint it’s time for the single, Paris Apartment. For this she’s accompanied by Andy and Dan again as well as Jeeves and Cass from Ash Mammal on guitars and Elliot on keys tucked away at the side. A party on stage if ever there was one!… With her lo-fi grungy sound sounding grungier than ever it was a great start to another year. So it’s Courtney Askey, not Courtney Love, and this is Leicester and not Malibu, but there was no crashing and burning tonight, just stars exploding.’
The Marquee was full to capacity as Ash Mammal took to the stage. They filled the spacious area with the tunes that have earned them the reputation of being one of Leicester’s most popular bands.
This is a band whose reputation has soared in recent years.
Most Ugly Child
Martin Luke Brown
The Strangler Figs
Not necessarily the longest-serving ska band, not always the most widely known but certainly one of the best. If anyone’s spirits were flagging after a long hot afternoon, Last Edition would be the band to raise them.
7pm I take a walk around the site. All stages have ample audiences. Everyone is saying what a good festival this is. The turn-out looks good. This is a crowd that knows its bands – they know what to see, where to go.
Introduced by James Clegg of BBC Introducing. An impressive singer (just turned 18) who has enjoyed the championing of the BBC and it is easy to see why. Kurtz has a vocal quality that blends perfectly with his dexterous finger work on the guitar. Having gained the support of Dean Jackson and his team at The Beat programme his career is taking off. Bear in mind that it was the same radio team who put on Jake Bugg on at one of the Summer Sundae festivals in this very venue and look what happened to him. Kurtz is a rather brilliant song writer.
Diesel Park West
This band is part of Leicester’s musical history. DPW is a band that has enjoyed serious hits, with songs such as ‘Back in the Day.’ Having formed in 1980, they have released ten albums and have had six singles in the UK charts.
I remember seeing the band at The Musician.
That was a unforgetable experience. This is a band that stands out and has a presence of it own. Seeing them playing live on stage today made me feel as though I was watching some iconic band, such as Crosby Stills and Nash. It was for me a privilege to see them.
I saw them for the first time at The Musician in 2011.
One indicator of the importance of a band is if they have an entry in Wikipedia.
The Brandy Thieves
When Jono introduced The Brandy Thieves, on the outdoor stage, he referred to Andrea Kenny as “the best singer I have ever heard.” Some of us thought he was not far wrong. They might not have been around as long as Diesel Park West but The Brandy Thieves are widely loved and hugely enjoyed.
Me, I adore their music – it’s totally infectious rhythms, its immediacy, its memorable melodies and lyrics. Lead singer Andrea Kenny – what a firebrand! As you would expect, a large crowd gathered in front of the stage to watch them. No accordion player! Where did he go? The band is looking for a new one, it would seem.
Time for some more ska.
Keith Jobey wrote about this band on our July roundup page. He wrote: ‘Are your Ex Comets too spacey? Are your Death Rattles too loud? Do you crave for a bit of country? Well get yourself along to see Mountaintop Junkshop and treat yourself to a slice of ‘Leicestacana.’ There’s no reason you can’t like all three bands of course.’ [Music in Leicester magazine]
Keith must have been thinking back to his piece in December when he said “We Three and the Death Rattle at the Cookie (KJ). At the Cookie it was time for a rare treat. The first gig since Handmade 2014 of the awesome We Three And The Death Rattle. After releasing their début album it appeared that they had perhaps called it a day. Then Ex Comets emerged who are effectively an expanded WTATDR and we’ve got Mountaintop Junkshop, but now Amy, Andy and Jon are back. There’s new songs and Amy now has a keyboard as well as the Theremin but it’s undoubtedly WTATDR. There were a lot of new songs in the setlist, over half in fact, but it was so good to hear Split Lips blasted out live again There’s a new album in the pipeline (hence the new songs tonight) so here’s hoping that there will be a few more sightings of them in the future. Hope it doesn’t mean Ex Comets are on the back burner now or is it greedy to want both bands active? [Music in Leicester magazine]
I would describe Jersey Budd as famous. On the Marquee stage with his band, he is a singer who has been around for a long time. I have seen him before at festivals; he is one of the Leicester acts to have made it in the music industry. Known to be a close friend of members of Kasabian, Budd performed at the 2015 Simon Says festival; we said, at the time, it was a rewarding experience to see Jersey Budd again.
‘Probably one of the most widely celebrated singers of this city, his set on the Indoor stage was accompanied by three backing singers and violinist, in addition to his usual guitarist and drummer. The Jersey fans were out in force. Introduced by compère Alex as a “local legend” Jersey was no stranger to the festival stages of the city and beyond. Today he showed the DMH audience what a master of melody he is, as he filled the hall with his characterful voice. The singer was mentioned in the recently published biography of The Heroes, a band that performed with him on several occasions [The Heroes in Golden Times… Music in Leicester] He released his first album Wonderlands in 2009. A strong football supporter, he released Louis Armstrong’s When You’re Smiling with Leicester City FC, in celebration of the club’s success in reaching the Championship Play Offs and he sang the song on the pitch before the first leg against Cardiff City at the Walkers Stadium. Jersey appearance at the Strawberry Fields Festival in 2013. He has appeared in a variety of European countries including a recent tour in Bulgaria as well as doing gigs in the local venues. He performed a brand new song, today, which opened with a lively and upbeat intro. [Music in Leicester magazine]
Budd’s album ‘Wonderland’ came out in 2009 and has been widely acclaimed.
I sat writing up my notes; someone stopped by to say ‘hello’ and commented ‘there were certain singers who sang from the heart with a passion you can feel. Andrew Kenny is one of them.’ I made a note of this and added that being a remarkable singer is not just about the ability to sing well; it’s not even about the ability to perform songs. With some artists there is a light about them, even an incandescence, something that bursts out of them from deep inside and makes them shine. That is something that comes with experience. They have to believe in their music; they also have to believe in themselves.
More on the Simon Says festival of 2016