Sunday 24th July 2016
Simon Says festival
De Montfort Hall and gardens
This page is for SUNDAY.
Day two. My morning begins in the Marquee. On stage, a series of singers are introduced, in a very gentlemanly manner, by Kevin Hewick. John Fryer is giving us early birds a spirited set of songs. A veteran of Leicester’s stages, Fryer has been entertaining audiences for many, many years.
Though not that many in number, the audience sitting on the grass inside the big white tent is clearly enjoying the music. On to the stage comes The Cadence. Two artists whose chilled and atmospheric music captivates the listeners.
All these artists are nominees of the City Acoustic Club, the Monday evening gatherings at The Musician and one of Leicester’s longest-running open mic nights.
Reuben Wisner comes before the mic and begins his set with a cover of a song by the Spice Girls; which is unusual because Wisner sings mainly his own numbers. I listen intently and think ‘wow! what a singer. What a voice!’ He is what I would call ‘a born natural singer.’ It comes out of his innermost being; he seems to give life to his songs effortlessly. Wisner then moves on to one of his own songs – ‘Stranger‘ – it’s a song that illustrates his gifts as a lyricist. Every word is crystal clear. His guitar playing is equally enthralling as his nimble fingers pluck at the strings.
I notice that the Marquee is beginning to fill up. Wisner’s set is varied with different tempos. Each song is greeted with warm appreciation by the audience. I recalled the time I saw him perform at the Musician in January 2015. Back then I wrote:
Reuben Wisner is a teenager who has recently come to notice on the Leicester music scene. I saw him for the first time at the Soundhouse on 13th December and recognised that he could be the next big star on the local singing circuits. When it comes to singing, Wisner has what it takes. His voice has a naturally attractive timbre and he used it very effectively to deliver his songs – all his songs all he wrote himself. In his second number, Raindrop Meteorite, he used his foot pedal to enhance the guitar lines. This allowed him to concentrate on his vocals while the backing track continued to play from the pedal device. His songs, though fairly short, were not lacking in impact. Wisner is clearly a song writer with a lot of talent. His vocals were strong and his articulation clear and he seemed to achieve an effortless impact. Tonight’s set suggested that Wisner is one of the best newcomers to the Leicester music scene and, in my opinion, he fills the gap that was left when Samuel Idwal moved away to London. Wisner’s songs, with their captivating lyrics, were full of intensity and drama. His song Don’t You Dare was cheerful and upbeat and, like Jackson, you could easily see Wisner on the theatre stage. Both of them had that kind of voice and stage presence. His song Electric, he wrote when he was 15, Wisner told the audience. In Apologise, Wisner tried to get the audience involved, rehearsing them in the chorus and striving to get them to sing along with it. With that many singers in the room, it should not have been difficult. His last song was Nights Like These, a captivating ballad that topped off an excellent set. Quite remarkable.
Wisner leaves the stage to sustained applause. Compère Hewick returns to introduce the next group, one whose appearance I have been eagerly anticipating. 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.
Hearing those delightful riffs and rhythms brought back so many happy memories of days gone by when music was much more than it is now. The sound of the Gadjos is one of my most abiding musical delights. Several times, members of the group played solos that drew applause from the audience, during the performance. That is rare but it signals real appreciation of musical skill and artistic ability.
Music of his calibre is a rare treat, I say to myself. What makes this group stand out is their ability to take a well-known tune – in this case Billie Holiday’s ‘All Of Me‘ – and to put their own take on it weaning into a well-known memory their highly distinctive gypsy folk sound – thee is nothing else like it on the local music scene. As Kevin Hewick commented, after their performance “it was like being in a Parisian café in the 1930s.”
There was no let up in the programme, even this early on a Sunday morning. Had I not been so totally rooted to the spot in the Marquee I would have gone to see someone whose work I know really well, on the other side of the site.
Vickers played on the Band Stage. A singer and songwriter I have known for many years. His name appears often in the pages of this magazine. Cheerily delight in his performance style, he never fails to please audiences of all ages.
My programme notes say ‘Sweet soulful vibes witha strong influence of RnB. Her music blends thoughtful lyrics with urban beats.’
A large group of musicians gathered on the Outdoor stage to provide a vibrant and uplifting set of songs for the Sunday congregation of music lovers. In a very enjoyable set, the band delivered some of their own songs, including the one about growing up in Leicester – Daisy Chains. Three things to know about Idle Empire: (1) the band performed at the grand final of the Original Bands Showcase (OBS) held at The Musician in May this year, and were the overall winners this year.
(2) The band was at the Western Park Festival earlier this month
(3) they played at last year’s Simon Says festival.
This is where you realise just how good the sound systems were at this event; every instrument could be clearly heard and nothing was lost from the music coming through the speakers.
Kermes is one of the Leicester bands that have shot into the limelight this year. Many people commented on how exciting their performance was and there was much cooing and clucking about them from the aficionados of the Leicester music scene. I guess that includes me too. When we talk about the music of Kermes we have use all the -ings: exciting, enthralling, fascinating, engaging, inspiring…
I was asked by the interviewer on Demon FM today what I thought about unusual names from bands and where they came from. I said I would be interested to know how this band chose their name. I found out that ‘kermes’ is a dye – a red dye obtained from the crushed dried bodies of a female scale insect, used for colouring fabrics and manuscripts. I think I might have mentioned, in that interview, ‘Wife Divorces Man accused of hotel leap’ as being probably the most odd name for a band, ever. Mind you, We Three and The Death Rattle could come a close second.
The members of Kermes all gave a brilliant performance today but it was that of lead singer that fizzed with energy that deserves the most plaudits.
I recall the first time I saw this band – at The Musician I think – I was blown away by them. They were at the HandMade festival earlier this year.
Now 18, Mahalia has been writing songs since she was 12. She told her audience on the Indoor Stage, that she comes from a family of song-writers. I saw her for the first time at The Soundhouse, at one of the open-mic nights. Totally unknown in those days, when she started to sing (then aged around 14) everyone’s jaws dropped.
Mahalia had a show at The Cookie in 2014. [Music in Leicester]
Today she was all by herself on the big indoor stage at the DMU but she totally commanded the room and came across as charming and amiable and clearly had the audience in her grasp. Her vocals were wonderful, full of beautifully executed decorations with a timbre that was as soft as velvet and as shiny as silk. It was a heart-warming set. Even with just Mahalia and her guitar on stage, the large audience was spellbound. Putting down her instrument, she recited a poem she had written, interspersed with note perfect a capella songs. Mahalia also accompanied herself on the piano keyboard for one of her songs – ‘Borrowers. ‘ Her set drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
Something of a historical performance was caught on camera when Geoff was joined on stage by The Gadjos.
Vibrant, upbeat songs with plenty of catchy bits. Today, on stage with his band; Henshaw is a singer who works as well with a band as he does when he performs solo. Like Jersey Budd, he enjoys a growing musical success.
The Henshaw publicity machine works well. Large and powerful vocals filled the hall as Henshaw provided a set that got the audience moving.
The garden band stage saw a sizeable gathering for Luke Broughton.
The audience was completely captivated by Broughton’s singing, with his wide vocal range, often in a high register, he delivered a set of songs that were hauntingly beautiful and transporting. After a quite extraordinary performance he was greeted with rapturous applause.
Billed as ‘power vocalist, writing future stadium anthems’, Howard Rose lived up to the hype.
On stage with his band, two other musicians, the trio pumped out some very big sounds led by the powerful vocals of Rose, who gained notoriety as the lead singer of Haich, a band from Melton Mowbray, which was active around 2008. He then went on to have a solo career during which he took part in The Voice TV programme in 2015.
We very much appreciated the real ale bar; I know others did too.
Roger Wilson and Chris Parkinson
Playing folk songs from various parts of Europe, on the Outdoor Stage, these two musicians were marvellous; I really enjoyed their music.
Uptown Ska Collective
If you are not familiar with this group here is what they say on their Facebook page
The Uptown Ska Collective is the brainchild of Specials? bassist, Horace Panter. He says: “I have wanted to get a band like this together for years; the seductive quality of these rhythms is irresistible … it is impossible to stay still while this music is playing.” Using the core of the additional musicians from The Specials (keyboards and horn section), he has put together the ultimate moving dance feast. “The guys I’m using are seasoned musicians; they all know one another so the musical rapport is amazing and, like me, they live and breathe this stuff.” ?This stuff? is classic ska, based around the work of the legendary Skatalites out of Kingston Jamaica’s Alpha School. It also ventures into reggae, citing the majestic compositions of Rico Rodriguez, another Alpha alumni and original Specials stalwart. “I want to find a new audience for this music; to my mind it belongs on World Music stages on balmy sunny evenings. It’s the musical equivalent of sunshine, the sexiest music in the world!”
If you want to fill a big hall with people, put on a ska band. Inside the DMH there were nine musicians on stage including the singer and the room was full with people quite a few of whom were dancing to the infectious rhythms.
The Hardy Band
Leicester’s The Hardy Band plays Acoustic Pop, Folk, Country, Americana and they formed last year.
Very pleasing; very enjoyable. Good vocals, they played to a packed Marquee. I note that Charlie Jones is a member of this group. I remember her very well from Charlie and the Martyrs, a very good in its day.
Sadly, they were awesome before the advent of this magazine. A tiny detail but there is a very good photo of them on the wall of Firebug, just by the upstairs bar.
Let’s Play… Bowie
In a tribute to David Bowie, acts from the festival played his songs.
On the band’s Facebook page it says ‘Filthy Gypsy Blues. featuring members of The Dirty Backbeats, Ego Armalade, Moonlights and Platforms.’ You might recognise some of the faces on the stage – I did.
The Kirkland Turn
Out of Karma
We saw Cohesion at The Musician, last year.
We Three & The Death Rattle
This group was at Handmade festival this year
The Wonder Stuff
The headline of headlines, The Wonder Stuff is a band celebrating thirty years of music. Today’s appearance is by no means this band’s first time in Leicester. They mentioned playing at The Princess Charlotte. I sit on the terrace and write; the sky is still fairly light, even though the sun has gone behind the skyline. A steady stream of people flows passed me into the main field to take up their positions for the closing act of the festival. Two full days of music gave gone by but it has all been very good. The Outdoor Stage is washed in purple lighting and artificial smoke is rising from it into the atmosphere. the sounds of bands playing still reverberate around the area. Children run around, strings of daisy chains on their heads.
Jon O’Neill comes on to the stage. He invites the crowd to congratulate the previous act. In a verbal flourish he introduces The Wonder Stuff. This band is celebrating thirty years of making music. The band launches into its first song. The sounds of the violinist fill the air and the band breaks into the exhilarating bars of the first tune with the voice of the lead singer soaring over the melody. Beams of light are illuminated by the billowing smoke from the stage.
On stage: Miles Hunt, Malcolm Treece, Peter Whittaker, Martin Gilks, Martin Bell, Stuart Quinell, and Erica Nockells (probably, the membership has changed over the years with Miles Hunt being there from 2000 and Erica Nockells from 2005. So I am told.)
The band has performed in Leicester before, including duo sets by Miles Hunt and Erica Nockells. What I hear is dynamic music laced with compelling rhythms. The tunes are lively and stomping, the kind of stuff you would expect from a top-drawer group.
Earlier this year the Wonder Stuff released a new single – For The Broken Hearted – which comes from their album 30 Goes Around The Sun.
Let us for a moment pay tribute to the festival’s sound engineers all of whom have worked so hard over these two days to ensure that what we were listening to was of such a high standard.
A large number of people could be seen taking photographs over the course of the festival.
About the Simon Says festival 2016
The 2016 festival (held on 23rd and 24th July 2016) was the event’s fourth year. Links to previous reports on MIL are listed below. The festival was organised in partnership with The Donkey, Firebug and The Musician. A complete list of all the 70+ acts that performed is published on this magazine.
A weekend ticket in 2013 was advertised at £20; a one day ticket for Saturday at £15 and a day ticket for Sunday at £8.
2016 tickets – Weekend tickets at special advance prices, cost £30 for adults, £20 for students, £10 for under 16s and £7.50 for under 10s. Under-5s get in free but still need to book a ticket.
¹ Band names: Gadjos. Arthur Tyers said: “It’s what gypsies call people like us in France. I think in Britain they call us ‘gorges’ which has same origin. From Romany ” ‘Gorger’ is sometimes used to denote ‘countrymen.’ Gadjo denotes ‘non-gypsy’.
More Simon Says coverage
Our coverage of the festival on Saturday.
A complete list of all participating acts
Coverage of the festival in 2015.
2014 – I think MIL did not cover the SSF this year because we were at the Leicester Music festival.