Simon Says… 2017
Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th July 2017
This is the final edition of our report on Simon Says…2017. A list of all the acts at the festival has been added at the bottom of this page.
This report is intended to offer a brief guide to a selection of the acts that appeared at the festival. In many cases these are ones that we have seen before; so we often refer back to what we have already said about them. The textual side of this report is therefore not unlike the programmes notes provided by the festival brochure. with so many stages becoming live in quick succession (and sometimes overlapping) it was impossible to see every act that took part. Our coverage has been selective but our limited resources did not allow us to view every performance that took part.
Simon Says… – now in its fifth year – has established itself a major part of the local calendar; if not, the national one. This year’s event presented Leicester’s music – across the spectrum. Singers, bands, groups, an eclectic mix of much of what our city has to offer.
To use any of these photos, please ask Kevin Gaughan on Facebook for permission. All photos are © Kevin Gaughan.
Saturday 29th July
Brandon Neal opened the Band Stand stage – the garden at the side of the De Montfort Hall. Energy unleashed. It was a fervent start to the programme. Brandon has an album coming out soon, he told his audience.
A singer and songwriter whose music revels in pop, punk and startling lyrics.
A singer and musician whose blues and soul songs are hugely enjoyable.
Opening the Marquee Stage. We saw Anoa at Glastonbudget back in May. An increasingly popular band, they have a good selection of tunes and a presence on the stage.
Lots of foot-tapping indie and rock and roll tunes. Very enjoyable.
Back on the Band Stand, it was time for Dan Wright. Dan has got an EP which is out now. An artist who had been around for a long time. His set of vibrant folk songs have not been heard in a while.
The Indoor Stage – the one inside the De Montfort Hall – was opened by Leicester band Aztec Temples. Good songs that reached out to the audience. Getting to play on the stage at the De Montfort Hall is not something that happens to many local bands. Lighting was good; Jamie Borland was on the Lighting desk.
Jamie Borland was working on the sound desk during the sets for Aztec Temples and later for Skam.
Leicester’s longest-serving rock band; continusously in operation for nearly a decade or more.
Three of Leicester’s finest musicians.
Skam’s set on the indoor stage today was sensational.
The Daydream Club
A beautiful performance; Daydream Club has been a much acclaimed part of the Leicester music sene for many years. a delightful performance that drew much positive acclaim from festival-goers.
Dawson Smith is one of the city’s long-serving musicial maestros; he often can be seen at festivals and at shows around the city with various combinations of musicians. Always a great band to listen to, their set of tunes never fails to please.
Having seen a couple of days earlier, they were still fresh in my mind. We saw them in July at Duffy’s bar.
Music that has plenty of roots in various styles of music; a great pleasure to listen to and always a delightful show to experience.
Always good to see Michael Vickers. His set on the Band Stage was very bit as good as the one he did at the Riverside Festival a few months ago. Michael has been playing in Leicester as a solo artist for many years; his songs are full of vitality and captivating lyrics.
This year, as in previous years, Demon FM was at the festival broadcasting live and doing interviews with some of the acts that took part.
Having seen this ensemble before, I was delighted to see them again at this year’s festival. They are all musicians of high calibre and what they do is make absorbing and delightful music.
The Dedbeats. Rhett Barrow’s band has an enthusiastic following. The band played a set at the Soundhouse a few days after the festival; a brilliant set that bristled with vigor and vibrancy. Rhett Barrow is one of the city’s most celebrated song writers and singers.
A singer and musician who had been around for quite a while both as a solo artist and band member.
Beside the main entrance was the Demon FM outside broadcasting set-up. Artists gave interviews and there was a live feed from the indoor stage.
One of Leicester’s most unusual bands. Not mainstream. They have their own stream; a tributary of the river Alternative. Singer on guitar at the front; singer on the drums at the back. Pretty good stuff. Pretty good… Ash Mammal put on a show that marked them out. They played the festival last year when they were on the Marquee stage; this year – the indoor stage.
Aziz and Dal
Aziz Ibrahim and Dalbir Singh Rattan are the pioneering creative force behind the new Asian Blues genre mesmerizing audiences worldwide. Their set offered a blend of psychedelic music, melodies and percussion. Aziz Ibrahim is a currently the guitarist in AzMik, a collaboration with former ‘The Smiths’ drummer Mike Joyce, lead guitar with the Pakistani band Overload, Co-Founder of Fret Sector (EDM collective) and the founder of Aziz & Dal the Asian Blues Collective. Ibrahim is known for his work as lead guitarist for several internationally acclaimed bands and artists including The Stone Roses, Simply Red, Ian Brown, Paul Weller, Steven Wilson, Asia & Rebel MC.
A little light rain in the afternoon did nothing to deter the enthusiasm of the festival-goers who were quite happy to sit outside under their umbrellas.
One of the great artists of Leicester. He has history behind him. He certainly knew how to work a crowd
Many might remember, like me, Uncle Frank’s performance at the Summer Sundae festival of 2011:
The Musician Stage concluded with a stupendous set by Leicester’s Uncle Frank, the band fronted by Frank Benbini, the drummer from Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Once again, the crowd turned out in large numbers and the marquee was bulging at the seams for this popular act. Clearly, local Summer Sundae goers knew what they want to see and hear and were in the right place at the right time. In a surprising opening, a contingent of band members started playing drums in the back stage area and then marched round to the middle of the tent where they wound their way into crowd with their thumping drum beats. Wearing sun glasses flashing with red lights, they made a spectacle as dusk fell over the site. They continued playing as they made their way to the stage, playing When The Saints Go Marching in. With the big, bouncy hip-hop style beats, they soon turned the gig into a party. A load of balloons made into huge flowers were thrown into the audience to add to the general party atmosphere. Another great piece of live musical entertainment from a remarkable show band, brought to a close the first day of The Musician Stage. [Arts in Leicester magazine, 2011]
Arts in Leicester magazine is no longer on line; it was taken down last year. We often use quotes from the archive of the magazine as part of our celebration of the history of Leicester’s music.
The Marquee stage was pretty near full for Uncle Frank’s set.
What will I take away about the festival? Well, for one thing, meeting people. Lots of stars of the local stages past and present. The rockerati, as I call them. It’s really nice to say hello to people (some of whom I have not seen for a long time) and catch up on stuff. I have been to all the SSF events bar one- 2014 when we covered the Leicester Music Festival, which happened at the same time.
Sunday 30th July
After a night of almost continuous rain, the clouds parted and the going was pretty good. None of that mud that brought the Y-Not festival to a premature end this weekend.
Paula Anne Driver
A long-established singer and songwriter of the Leicester scene. Her quirky songs have enthralled audiences for many years.
Jazz Cafe with the Status Trio in the Marquee Stage. For me the final piece on this performance came at the end. It was moment in the whole event. Eight musicians were on the stage for a ‘open-mic’ impromptu session. The band called for someone from the audience to get up and sing a song. On to the stage came Ben Marshall. He performed Superstition. It was extemporised; but you would not have known that had you missed the first few minutes. It was simply wonderful. Jazz happens at The Donkey, in Welford Road, on every second Thursday in the month. Well worth a visit if today’s set is anything to go by. The Status Trio: Mike Sole – Keyboards, Neil Segrot – Bass, Dave Anderson – drums
On the Outdoor Stage. Art rockers bringing a cocktail of music styles to the stage.
Kenneth J. Nash
On the Band Stand stage Kenneth J. Nash. Beautiful songs brimming with drama and eloquence.
The Midnight Dogs
In the Marquee, The Midnight Dogs. A Sunday Lunch of rock and roll. On the band’s Facebook page they have put ‘Good Old British Bar Room Rock & Roll.’
Gu-Ru. A band I have seen before; I said: ‘GU-RU is an odd name. For a band. The band’s page on Facebook says: ‘Full-tilt motor groove.’ They are from Leicester, like the bands that went before them. They like the Doors, Frank Zappa, Return to Forever, Captain Beefheart, Pink Floyd (does anyone actually not like Pink Floyd) and a few others whose names even I do not recognise. Lee Spreadbury is on the keys. In his vest. He was the one who created the band. They say they fuse together soul, funk which is true but I hear jazz and blues. Dynamic rhythms. A sense of swing. Complex arpeggios of riffs.Intense and complex multi-layered mixtures of sounds. Brisk paced melodies. The songs cantered down the home straight, full of energy and vitality. Music that is out of the ordinary. Not your run-of-the-mill stuff. They even claim to have a Moog Synthesiser on the stage. There is simply nothing about them that fails to impress. [Music in Leicester magazine, 28th October 2016]
On the indoor stage a wonderful performance by Charlotte Carpenter and her musicians. Good music, good singing. Read about her performance at The Cookie on 31st January 2014.
Her Name is Calla
What is the difference between a band and an orchestra? If, like me, you can been watch some of the music concerts from the BBC Promenade Concerts, you will have noticed that they who two types of ensembles giving concerts – one type they call orchestras and the other type they call bands. Clearly, these overlap. What I heard from the stage was orchestral music. The group on the stage included a violinist and a trombonist. This was another of the highlights of the festival, for me, if not for many others. It was music that was transporting. Evocative.
Here is a clip from my review of this band when they played in October 2010:
The concert included an set of orchestral proportions from the astonishing band Her Name is Calla. Hailing partly from Leicester, they took a long time to get set up. As sound guy Ollie grappled with the large number of instruments being wired up and tuned in, I spotted a piano, violin, cello, bass, drums, flute, trombone and what looked like a laptop and bank of electrical gizmos. Even the cello has an effects pedal, so it was no surprise that it seemed to take a long age to get ready. More orchestra than band, their set of evocative pieces were symphonic in scale, with pieces lasting for up to 10 minutes or more. Songs began with long mood setting intros, creating atmospheric landscapes of music, before Thomas Corah comes in on the vocals, skilfully singing the vocal part in a rich and beautifully toned voice. These highly creative pieces were like Bruckner symphonies, structured into first and second subjects, building up slowly towards breathtaking climaxes. Serene, inspiring and magnificent layers of sound from the strings and wind sections with musicians often adding in layers of vocal backing when the dynamics of the piece required. This highly unusual but exhilarating music experience lacked any comparison within the Leicester circuit. The audience stood spell bound as the group unfolded one hypnotic, euphoric song after another. They created luscious, shimmering waves of sound and the effect was mesmerising. Even though at times, the volume of sound was more than was justified, tending to drown some of the instrumental layers, the whole set was a magical moment. I have since listened to their recordings and can see just how wonderful their work can be. Not the band of choice for most rock aficionados, but for those of us who go for the bigger picture, musically, this was a breath taking performance. [Arts in Leicester magazine, 2010]
Quadrophenia Club Night Live
Tribute to the mods.
Tom Nurse will be remembered by many fans as the lead member of The Screening.
Beautiful vocals and gorgeous singing from this duo, returning to Leicester after previous appearances at the De Montfort Hall.
When I saw The Gadjos last year, I was deeply impressed. I wrote:
On stage I see some familiar faces: Arthur Tyers (guitar), Mike Sole on double bass, Curtis Billingham on guitar and at the front singer Karen Dixon. I was fond of this group of musicians when they used to play at The Shed, back in the old days when I started going to live music venues. Members of this group used to improvise numbers and jam together, sometimes long after the customers had gone home. I can see before me now some of the finest musicians of Leicester; artists with years of experience.
Today’s line-up was different; but the music was as compelling as ever. The artistry of the musicians was amazing. As ever. This was a set I had been eagerly awaiting. Delicious gypsy folk music full of totally infectious rhythms.
Chris Conway and Dan Britton played on the Maruqee stage.
on the Band Stand. Dr. X. Blues and Country evoking tunes.
Someone asked me if, during this festival, I had discovered any new talent. Well this was it. Two remarkable singers. Beautifully harmonised voices. Superb singing. They had attracted one of the largest crowds I had seen all weekend in the Band Stand area. Nia Soul will be appearing in Jubilee Square on 12th August as part of the Cosmopolitan festival. You can also see them at the Soundhouse on 4th August.
A large group of musicians assembled on the outdoor stage for the show presented by Lakuta. Jazz, funk, soul, more than enough to please everyone.
The indoor stage attracted a large crowd of people.; A full drum kit on the riser; and another set of snare drums at the front of the stage. An array of keyboards. Some of electronic set up surmounted by a laptop. These were played by five musicians. Tunes that even I recognised. The music was actually quite complex; more so than what you would expect from the influences of ska and reggae, dub, punk.
Very exciting; very enoyable. Nver seen them before but what an awakening it was to be there on the indoor stage to experience their set.
The headline act for the Outdoor Stage was billed as ‘Let’s play… 2016’ A large line-up of musicians came on to the stage including some from Uncle Frank, Goldwater, Gu-Ru, Gaz Birtles and many more.
One of the many artists on stage was the singer and musician Gaz Birtles. Also on stage – Goldwater’s Grant Decker, one time member of The Dirty Backbeats.
Gaz Birtles, promoter at The Donkey Venue and singer with the band Yellowbelly.
More than we could fit in. A marvellour festival. We wish we could have you brought you more.
It was a pretty good festival; the weather was fairly kind, most of the time. The programme did not offer all genres of music; one noticeable absence was hip-hop. Despite having several outstanding rappers and hip-hop artists in Leicestershire, none were to be seen over the two days of this year’s event. Even the hugely important and influential metal scene was left out. Fair dos. You might say. It’s a festival with a slant, a certain take on popular music where the less popular genres are not easily accommodated. Metal does of course have its own event at the De Montfort Hall but not all of our excellent metal bands got through to play at it. Not everyone likes metal; but then not everyone likes folk. Generally, the programme offered a broad selection of music styles, enough to keep most of the people happy, most of the time. It would have been nice to have seen some comedy; Leicester has a lot to offer from its own cadre of comics and spoken word artists. But then one comedian means one less music artist. Unless of course, you include the musical comedians.
An enjoyable and worthwhile festival that offered a broad and very valuable insight into the great wealth of talent in the city of Leicester and county of Leicestershire. Good value for money, too.
List of acts taking part as per the printed programme
Bodrum Sailing Club
Dawson Smith and the Dissenters
Aziz & Dal
Jim Bob (Cater USM)
The Daydream Club
The Whiskey Rebellion
Rice N Peas
Smoove and Turrell
Mick Pini & The Strange Blues
Hymn for Her
The Hardy Band
Her Name is Calla
Quadrophenia Club Night Live
The Tin Pigeons
The Double Yellers
Let’s Play… 2016
Jazz Cafe with The Status Trio
The Midnight Dogs
Chris Conway & Dan Britton
The Della Grants
Paul Anne Driver
Kenneth J Nash
The Ruby Doos
Dust & Debris
The Downtown Difters