Monthly Archives: March 2017

Mallory Knox Review|Live at Sheffield Leadmill

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Written by Jamie Downie and Tom Dawes

Having played Download, Reading & Leeds, and Slam Dunk festival, and now touring their 3rd album Wired, this explosive rock five-piece are no newcomers to success. We got the pleasure of seeing the first of Mallory Knox’s sold out headline gigs on the tour.

 

On Saturday, March 25th, we headed down to Sheffield’s famous Leadmill. Fortunately for us, there was not just one great band on, but three! It was a sold out event with Fatherson, Lonely the Brave, and Mallory Knox headlining.

 

Scottish band Fatherson were the first on stage, and they started the night off brilliantly. Their mix of anthemic rock tunes and indie guitar tones sounded huge and the subtle vocal acrobatics effortlessly performed by singer Ross Leighton added a unique flare. Song after song, we were surprised by their high-quality song writing and fantastically tight rhythm section, especially that of drummer Greg Walkinshaw, who played remarkably perfectly throughout Fatherson’s set. Watch out for Fatherson in the future!

 

Then was Cambridge band Lonely the Brave. Their sound could be described as a tasty mix of massive Biffy Clyro-style choruses and catchy Snow Patrol-esque melodies and chord progressions. They played another great performance, and Lonely the Brave’s singer, David Jakes, another great vocalist, singing impressively high notes without so much as flinching. Their vibe was close to that of Fatherson but perhaps a touch darker and more post-hardcore compared to Fatherson’s indie sound.

 

Both support acts received very good receptions from the crowd, who were all firmly into them. However, miraculously, they saved their energy for the main event. Finally, Mallory Knox take to the stage, starting off with their lead single off of the new album, “Giving it Up”, quickly followed by “Ghost in the Mirror”, a fan favourite off of their second album “Asymmetry”. The rowdy Leadmill crowd are cramped together for this sold out show, yet still find the energy to dance, bounce, and mosh to a mixture of new songs like “California” and “Wired” and older classics like “Beggars” and “Wake Up”. Knox keep the crowd entertained throughout, however, to hype their new songs up. Bassist Sam Douglas often sings along with the crowd, albeit with some crazy facial expressions, while frontman Mikey Chapman belts out the singalong choruses and controls the crowd fantastically. The highlight of the night was 9 songs in, when Chapman got the crowd to get down low, only to bounce up like crazy to the incredibly catchy second single off of the new album, “Lucky Me”. After playing “Shout at the Moon”, arguably their most famous song due to radio airplay, they finished their main set with “Saviour”, a new song hoping for some good in the midst of many divisive political decisions over the past year. They soon returned for an encore, ending the night on a high with “Lighthouse” off of their first album and their new single “Better Off Without You”. The boys performed incredibly well, and the fans responded above and beyond. They had a right to chant “YORKSHIRE! YORKSHIRE!” at the top of their lungs throughout the set. As for the bands, all three are fantastic live, and we can guarantee that seeing them in the future will be worth every penny!

An Interview with Vukovi (and their van driver Steve)

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Interview by Jamie Downie and Tom Dawes

Tom (TD): Yeah if you could all just like introduce yourselves to begin with?

Janine Shilston (JS): Hi I’m Janine and I’m in Vukovi

Jason Trotter (JT): Yes you are

JS: And I’m an alcoholic

(laughter from all)

JT: Hi my name’s Jason and I play bass

Colin Irving (CI): Hi I’m Colin and I play drums

Hamish Reilly (HR): Hello I’m Hamish and I play guitar

Jamie (JD): So you guys are currently touring to promote your new self-titled album which was released yesterday, (which is) fantastic by the way, (I) love it. What was the recording process for the album like, and how did you go about to make the album sound the way it does?

JS: Honestly…

HR: Two words: Bruce Rintoul (the album’s producer)

JS: Yeah, Bruce Rintoul basically. He just exceeded our expectations completely. Like… I don’t know, I just feel like he took it the next level

TD: Yeah, the production was really something

JS: Aye, I can’t compliment him enough about it because he made our lives so much easier

HR: Do you know Bruce Rintoul?

JD and TD: No…

HR: He did, like, Fatherson’s last album

JD: Ahh right, yeah

HR: He’s like one of the best guys in Glasgow

JS: In the UK I’d say!

HR: (He’s also done stuff for) Eliza and the Bear

JS: Aye

JT: What was really good about this time was that we have always been hard on ourselves in terms of songwriting, like we’ll always be really picky when putting stuff together, so it’s like we filtered it to a point where we were like, right we think this bunch of tracks will be good enough. And then we brought Bruce and our other producer friend Nick in and did a load of pre-production and whittled it down even more, and refined each of the songs, and they helped us go “Yeah see that songs great but change that bit”

JS: Or “drop that song”

JT: Yeah exactly

JS: You get too attached to stuff, you know what I mean?

JT: Yeah sometimes you just need someone to be a (jerk) for you and then you feel a lot better, so we’ve like whittled it down and then just recorded it in a few places that we were familiar with. Rather than having to fork out for a fancy studio somewhere, we’ve ended up just sticking to what we knew and refining it as best we could.

HR: We looked at like MAD Studios and stuff, but it was just like unreasonable pricing and you had to travel, and we were like “nah”

JS: Aye, and it’s like we know it works, we’ve recorded in Chem19 and 45 (A Side Studios) loads of times, it’s like if there’s no problem (to) fix, you know what I mean? Why change when you know it works?

TD: Yeah, yeah

JS: In terms of the songwriting, I think we get bored very easily. I think a lot of the songs on the album were written quite last minute, not like as in the day before but I think if we sit on songs for too long, you overthink them, and you think “Oh, I don’t know if I like that anymore” and you start changing it too much. But I think that works for us. Don’t get me wrong, the more you play them live, the more you develop them.

TD: So do you guys each have a favourite track off the album?

JS: Yeah. I think “I’m Wired”, that’s my favourite.

TD: What do you like about that one?

JS: I say this all the time, but when we did the album, I really wanted it on the album, like it was the only song where I was like “it needs to go on the album”. So like, me being sneaky, I was like, to the boys, “We should all pick one song we have to have on the album and no one can argue it” but aye, the consensus was we were going to put it on anyway. But, I don’t know, I just think it’s very complex and quite dark, I like dark songs, and it’s got that trancey vibe to it

JD: Yeah, it does have that trancey vibe

JT: Like it’s always one of those ones where you feel you’re getting away with something quite naught by having something like that in one of your songs, like you shouldn’t be able to do this but we can!

JS: Aye, heavy synths, kinda like Calvin Harris

HR: Yeah, it’s a bit dancey

JS: Aye, for me it’s my favourite

TD: Yeah? What about the rest of you? Do you agree?

JT: We (Hamish and myself) ended up having the same favourite last night but I’m going to change mine up and say “Wander”. It’s a song for a long time that we’ve had in various versions for ages and then never quite committed to finishing it, and when we did finally finish it and start producing it, I think the three boys had really liked it for a long time and it took you quite a while to bond with it until you heard it recorded?

JS: I hated it. And Bruce, Bruce is the one that’s always got my back so I was like “yeah I don’t like this one”, but Bruce was like “No, this one’s going on the album” and I was like “for God’s sake!” But I love it now, I do. Again, it was Bruce. With the production of it and stuff, now I genuinely love it. He completely converted me.

HR: You just about cried the first time you listened to it

JS: Oh I did, I genuinely did, when I was listening back to it, I was like “What the hell” like, it’s just a nice feeling.

TD: Do you think you perform it better now after hearing it?

JS: Oh that’s what I mean, I love playing it live now, I hated it before and I love it now. But it didn’t sound like that before we went in and recorded it

HR: Yeah, I think like the difference between when you’ve recorded something and you learn it in the new recorded version, and then you go and play it, it just feels different because you know how it should sound

JT: Yeah you have a sound in your head

HR: Yeah exactly, and that helps people that are watching us as well, like “I know what this sounds like”

JT: Colin?

CI: For me, my favourite is “And He Lost His Mind”

JS: That’s the best to play live, that’s the funnest live

CI: Yeah, it’s an amazing song to play live. See, when I look at the setlist, that’s the one I look forward to. Pretty much, that is the only reason

HR: It’s mad, like the drums are like a mad flourishy groove

JS: I try to put Colin off, because it’s a really hard song to drum to apparently, so I always try to put him off on stage, he just avoids total eye contact

HR: Just don’t, I do that, I just don’t look

JS: Yeah, just don’t look at her, YOU’LL TURN TO STONE!

CI: Kinda goes with your haircut doesn’t it?

JS: Aye, someone did say that, “Alright Medusa?” That is for Colin

TD: And you next (Hamish)?

HR: My favourite’s “Prey”. As to why…

JT: Is it actually?

HR: Yeah man, I don’t know why, I think it’s just made up of like 4 notes and it’s probably like the most full sounding song I think

JD: Right, yeah I agree

HR: That’s really why

JT: And you get to play with your whammy pedal throughout the whole thing

HR: It’s just really euphoric

JS: Yeah, and again Bruce, he was like “Let’s take down the BPM” so he kinda…

HR: It was the first verse

JS: So the tempo we originally wrote it in, he was like “let’s make it slower”, and he totally, again, it brought in that sort of euphoric, almost ballady vibe, whereas before, we were playing it quite fast, and  it wasn’t feeling right, and it made such a big difference doing that

TD: Yeah, it sounds cool

JD: Cool. So, as everyone listening to this can probably tell, like me, although my accent’s gone a bit, you guys are from Scotland…

JT: No, Never!
JS: Aye, I can kinda hear a wee bit of twang in there

JD: Yeah, like I’m from Dunfermline originally but I’ve lost it

Steve the Van Driver (SV): That’s like…I can walk to the Fife sign from my house

HR: Our van driver Steven!

JS: Aye, this is our van driver Steven. WHO IS THAT MAN? WHY IS HE NAKED?

SV: Me and Dave,  the tour manager, encompass Dunfermline on both ends, we’ve got our eye on you!

JD: Haha, fair enough!

JT: Why don’t you introduce yourself?

SV: Hi I’m Steve. I’m the best.

(Laughter from all)

JT: He’s not wrong!

JD: Fair enough! So yeah, for Scotland, Scotland’s produced a lot of great rock artists over the years and pop artists. Do you guys have any influences from those Scottish artists when producing your music or performing it live?

HR: Nope

JS: Nope. I think Biffy (Clyro) you have to, like we have so much respect for them

JT: We’ve all got like our own little story of where we listened to them and how we grew up, and in some way we’re influenced by Biffy Clyro

TD: Yeah, we’re both big Biffy fans as well

JS: Aye, they’re just amazing

JT: They’re from like just like down the road from us

JS: You can tell they do it for the music and not doing for the fame. They just do it to make good music

HR: Yeah, like see when Puzzle came out?

JD: Yeah

HR: Like, that changed the way I play guitar. I forgot about it, but I was at uni and I would just jam to it, and it literally changed how I held and played the guitar, like no joke. I forget about that sometimes, but I was massively influenced by that album

JD: Yeah, Puzzle’s probably my favourite Biffy album

JS: It is amazing

HR: Yeah I remember I saw them live and they opened with “Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies”, and they had a massive drop and it was just unbelievable that night

JS: Was that the big flag thing that dropped?

HR: It was like a big white sheet that dropped. They were all silhouetted behind it

JS: Do you know they cut that up and put it in their album?

HR: Oh that was Only Revolutions, but I know what you mean. But yeah, it was incredible. Amazing.

JS: See, I quite like the Cocteau Twins. A lot of folk say that I sound like them a lot, and it wasn’t until I listened to them that (I realised) they’re amazing, and they’re Scottish.

HR: Who were they?

JS: The Cocteau Twins they’re called, they’re amazing. And I never really heard of them before.

TD: Ahh right, yeah I haven’t heard of them

JS: Check them out, they’re so good and so ahead of their time. They were like an 80’s, 90’s band, Scottish, and honestly I couldn’t believe it. See when I listened to it, I was like, “This sounds like something that would be out today!”

JT: I’m going to throw something obscure out there to do with Scottish influences. I grew up listening to Annie Lennox and The Eurhythmics from quite a young age. My mum listened to it a lot, and Annie Lennox’s vocals are incredible, and I think that’s probably part why I’ve ended up really enjoying playing with Janine’s vocals as they’re so prominent, and the way you layer up your vocals, there’s shades of it in there

TD: Right, yeah. What about besides Scottish artists? What kind of influences do you cite?

HR: Rage (Against the Machine) are probably a massive one. They’re the biggest one, for me anyways

JS: For this past album, Bring Me the Horizon’s a huge influence, in terms of record production and in an innovative sense, I think they really inspired us. I wouldn’t say we sound like them, but certain things that we’ve picked up a lot on from their album, I just think it’s perfection.

HR: It’s why you like dark songs, isn’t it?

JS: Aye, exactly. And they portray that amazingly. It’s dark, but very catchy.

HR: That’s probably why “I’m Wired” is your favourite

JS: It is! It’s probably because you can imagine Bring Me playing it

SV: “I’m Wired” is a goth masterpiece dressed as a summer anthem, that’s how I see it

HR: It is!

JS: That’s a great description! A great description of our band!

JT: Steve, the best!

Laughter from all

JS: Queens of the Stone Age are one of my favourite bands, PJ Harvey, Bjork

TD: We’re going to ask you for a song to play after your song on the radio

HR: Oh, one song?
JD: Yeah, all of you have to collectively choose one song

Collective ooh’s

HR: What band?
JS: Well, we probably more collectively like Bring Me than Queens of the Stone Age. Or we could do Rage…

HR: From any time period?
TD: Yeah, from any time period

JD: The only limitation is that it has to be either rock, metal, or indie

JS: Right, ok

HR: Well that rules out Steps anyways

JS: “Tragedy” by The Bee Gees

CI: It’s got to be a Bring Me song

JS: I know, I know

HR: What Bring Me song?

JT: I think it should go an album back though, from That’s the Spirit, because I think there’s more from that

JS: Well I love “Can You Feel My Heart”. That is a great song

HR: Alright, well put that one on then

JD: Yeah, we’ll do that

JS: Well, are you guys up for that?

CI: Yeah, I’m down with that. Either that or “The House of Wolves”

HR: “House of Wolves” is my favourite one. “Sempiternal” is incredible

JS: Aye, that would be a good one too. And “Shadow Moses”

JT: “Shadow Moses” in fact, yeah

HR: I don’t know, because on the new album “Happy Song” is amazing

JS: I love, in the new one, I love “Doomed”

HR: “Doomed” aye that’s amazing

JS: It’s so hard

TD: We’ve got a lot of options. We’ll pick one if that’s easier?

HR: Yeah, you guys pick one!

JD: Yeah, we’ll just pick one of those

JS: Yeah, one of them

JT: Lucky dip

JD: Alright, we’ll do that then. Need to ask about the music videos because I really like them I think they’re really cool and unique. Do any of you guys come up with the ideas for the music videos?

HR: Me and Janine do yeah

JD: Ahh right. So does that explain why for “Target Practice” you end up with a rocket launcher and a tank Hamish?
HR: No, “Target Practice” was one of the only videos we did with a video production company years ago.

JS: Yeah, they’re friends of ours.

HR: Is that even still online?

JD: Yeah

JS: Yeah, it’s on their channel though

HR: Is it on their thing? But yeah, we started doing our own videos from “We are Robots” onwards

JD: Ahh ok. So like, “Boy George” and “Animal?”

JS: Yeah they were all ours

HR: Yeah, “So Long Gone”, “La Di Da”, what else have we done?
JS: “Boy George”, “La Di Da”, “Animal”, yeah. “So Long Gone” as well yeah

HR: We’re lucky enough to have video production friends up in Glasgow who do us good favours

JS: I think, because Hamish is more technical minded, he can do all the editing, and he’s got a better eye for what shots to take and what to look out for, whereas I don’t have a clue with that, so I just come up with an idea, and it can be something like mermaids diving off a cliff and Hamish will go “Right, cannae really do that, that’s not going to be possible”. He’s good at steering me, as in like that’s going to work and that won’t.

HR: Yeah! I agree!

JS: Yeah, what she said!

TD: What would be your favourite moment be being in Vukovi?

HR: Last night, in King Tut’s (the first show on their tour in Glasgow). It was mental man

JS: Aye, honestly, I never cry, but at one point last night, I actually felt like I was going to cry

TD: Really?
JS: Yeah, like you know when you’re trying to not cry and your lip’s all like that (quivering)? I was just like, what the hell is wrong with me man? It was just unreal, and overwhelming.

HR: I’d say before that it would probably be Download (2016). Playing at Download Festival is sick. We all spent the whole weekend there and we were knackered, soaking wet, covered in mud, and then I’d seen like some of the best bands in the world that I grew up listening to, and then went on stage and got to play in front of 1000 people. It was like, this is it! This is what it’s all about!

JS: Me and Colin… the backstage area, the VIP area was amazing, but me and Colin on that day, we didn’t realise that our passes meant that we were allowed to use all of the facilities. So we kinda just walked into this tent and there was a masseuse, a tattoo artist, hairdressers, chef, bar… we just walked in and sat there all day, and it wasn’t until the last 2 hours when we were like that: “by the way, I think we’re forgetting about this!” and we were gutted because we realised we could, we were trying to cram in and get a sleeve tattoo!

Laughter from all

HR: Was there a tattoo artist there?!?!

JS: Aye, there was like a top tattoo artist, like one of the top tattoo artists in the country, and apparently his assistant was this famous pin-up girl, stunning pin up girl, and I was just sat there watching all day and honestly I would’ve gotten a tattoo. (Could’ve gotten) Free tattoos, my hair done, get a massage, food, so I was raging!

JT: And there was us, freezing our butts off… we could’ve gotten a haircut!

JS: Aye, we were just like “NO! WE NEED TO MAKE THE MOST OF THIS!”

JD: So, speaking of Download Festival, you’ve been announced for a few festivals so far: 2000 Trees, Truck, and Y Not Festivals…

HR and JS: Yeah, yeah

JD: Can we expect any more festival announcements, like Reading and Leeds possibly?

HR: Yeah, we’ve got a few planned, but obviously we can’t say anything at the moment, but there’s a few coming up

JD: Yeah, yeah

JS: There’s two big ones that we’ll probably announce soon

JD: Cool

HR: I think there’s more tours as well. Actually I think we’re announcing another tour really soon!

JS: Yeah, yeah

JD: Sweet. Last question really, have you got any advice for upcoming and coming musicians who want to make it in the music industry, like us?

JS: Don’t be terrible!

JT: Yeah, don’t be terrible and don’t be a jerk! That’s our two go-to ones, isn’t it?

JS: Aye, just honestly, just be yourself, that’s what’s really cool

JT: Make sure you have good connections with the people you’re in the band with, and make sure you’re patient with them

HR: Make friends with sound guys, drivers, techs…

JS: Cameramen

HR:…everyone you can because favours because favours go so far! Do you guys play in any bands?

JD: Aye

TD: Yeah, we play in a band together

HR: Ahh cool ok

JD: Yeah, he (Tom)’s vocals and rhythm guitar, I’m bass

JS: Awesome, you’ll need to send me a link!

HR: Make as many pals as you can

JS: And honestly, don’t just throw all your music out there, just try and drip-feed people

HR: Watch what other bands are doing

JS: Yeah, yeah, exactly, if they’re the same genre, just see what they’re doing and see how they approach things. I take it you’ve done recordings and stuff?
JD: We’re actually doing our first recording next week

JS: Oh that’s cool, well that’s good so you’re still very new

TD: Yeah, we’ve only been together since November, but yeah we’ve got some studio time next week

JS: But that’s good that you’re not just kinda sat up and gone and played 100’s of gigs, because that’s just like, don’t just play all of the like, do you know what I mean?
HR: “Truth is we’ve played over 100 gigs as of today”

JS: “Yeah we’ve played over 40 gigs IN LEEDS”

JT: Here’s a tip for recording-wise: practice a lot and pre-produce.

JS: Yeah, because you’ll always change…

JT: So, before you go in, know exactly what you’re going to do before you go in. As in like, if you’re unsure about the structure of a song and think “ahh, we’ll figure it out”, figure it out before you go in, as you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

HR: And don’t get disheartened if it changes when you’re recording

JS: Aye

JT: Aye, sometimes it’s a good thing when that happens

JS: That’s the beauty of it. The more you play a song, and that’s what’s amazing about songs, you write it at first and you think “It’s alright, maybe it’s not bad” and the more you play it, it totally flourishes. Like, everyone starts to get into their own style, and that’s what’s the best about it.

HR: What is it you guys are recording? Like a single, or an EP, or?

TD: Yeah we’re just going to record one of our tunes. It’s kind of like a single, just a demo to send to people really. It’s an original one

JS: Cool

HR: Cool. Have you played any shows yet or?

TD: Not yet no, but we have a few things coming up so

JD: We just need to find time when we’re all in Huddersfield at the same time really

TD: Yeah we’re all from different places which doesn’t help

JS: Oh really?

HR: God man…

JD: Yeah, he’s (from) St. Albans, I’m from Scotland but live in Norwich now, then we’ve got our drummer’s from Ireland, and our lead guitarists is from Darlington…

JS: How the hell did you do it?

HR How did you do it?
JS: Is it like Tinder for bands?

JT: Were you at the show in Norwich before?

JD: No I wasn’t

JT: We were supporting FVK (Fearless Vampire Killers)

JD: Ahh no I must’ve missed that one!

JT: Because it rings a bell, but there was a very English-speaking gentlemen that happened to be from Scotland

JD: Ahh right

JT: Because when you said that you were from Norwich, it sounded very familiar!

TD: Right, cool, great, well thanks for speaking to us today!

JS: No problem, nice to meet you’s

TD: And we’re looking forward to the show

JS: Yeah, thanks for coming!

HR: Forgot we were playing a show!

Circa Waves – Different Creatures Album Review

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Reviewed by Georgia Barlow

‘Different Creatures’ is definitely not the follow-up album you expect. From Circa Waves’ light-hearted indie-pop, they have rapidly developed in their genre. Much heavier, the first track ‘Wake Up’ is an instant showcase to their new direction, with fast paced beats and Slaves-like riffs.

Kieran Shudall, the frontman for Circa Waves had always talked about making something much more meaningful and different to their stereotypical ‘love’ issues, and this is wonderfully portrayed through their new album. Delving into the slightly more personal matters all the way to global ones, the play definitely explores more in depth themes.

Whilst it’s reported that they’re trying to bin-off their typical indie band riffs, I personally think they do a really good job of it. This album is mature, and the band themselves seem a lot more serious about their careers and genres implied.

The title track is unquestionably one you should read the lyrics for. The lines ‘Twenty thousand souls are sold tonight / Making us their home / And as you close your eyes again tonight / Remember where you are’ are beautifully poetic in displaying their opinion on such political matters as it undeniably is assumed to be about the current refugee crisis. In many cases, musicians are looked down upon for having a political opinion and a lot of supporters feel like they shouldn’t broadcast what that opinion is. However, I personally think that Circa Waves do this amazingly well in this track, as they disguise their thoughts through arpeggio riffs and incredibly produced vocals.

When the album does touch on the issues of love and relationships in songs such as ‘Fire that Burns’, it is done in such a lyrically stereotypical way but the music definitely compensates for this. The track is energetic and feisty, which isn’t what you expect for a song about such an overused topic. The lyrics ‘You call me a liar / You call me so innocent’ seem extremely relatable and clever in consideration to the audience they attract, with many of them being teenagers.

‘And you walk in the steps of the men that you grew up with / But maybe they’re better equipped at dealing with this’. These lyrics from the track ‘Out on My Own’ can definitely be interpreted in different ways from listener to listener. NME recently discussed that it was about male depression and anxiety which Shudall had witnessed amongst his friends. This unquestionably removes the ‘flimsy indie’ reputation and replaces it with an outlook much more mature and sincere.

Overall the album is undoubtedly worth a listen. Circa Waves came back stronger than anyone could’ve thought and they’re back with much more than their last album. If you’re into your heavier riffs and the more controversial side to lyric-writing then you’ll definitely appreciate this one.

★★★★☆

Fairport Convention Review|Live at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall

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Written by Nathan Berwick

It’s hard to write a legitimate review when the only reason you agreed to do it was for a free ticket to one of your favourite bands. It’s even harder when you’re told not to write good reviews because nobody hires “that guy”. Alas, here’s a review of one of my favourite bands and their incredible support. Introducing: Fairport Convention and Sally Barker (respectively).
Hastily penned notes hurriedly tapped into a cold, hard phone screen seems a harsh juxtaposition to Fairport’s classic sound. Pondering over the long-standing “Winter Tour” tradition I’d just witnessed while sat in the pub next door was a vain attempt to soften the “post-gig blues” amid the veritable no man’s land between venue curfew and the foreboding notion that was the last train back to Huddersfield.

I could sing Fairport’s praises indefinitely, whether we were to discuss their understated mastery of odd time signatures, Nicol’s hybrid-picked control over the guitar, Pegg’s weaving bass lines or Sanders’s astounding delay-laden fiddle. However, my distaste for stories that start with a teaser of the ending bleeds through and I must, ironically, begin at the beginning (of this night, at least).
Climbing the stairs into one of the most traditional “music hall” venues I’d ever set foot in, I was greeted by the steward with a crack of “Ah, the under 60s have arrived!”. Unfortunately, he was correct. The joys of Fairport Convention seem to have been lost on the younger generations (not for lack of trying on my part) but that didn’t matter. Taking seats, the mood washed the entire crowd without exception. There was excitement in the air. We were all there for the same reason.
Sally Barker’s opening E minor chord (also an open chord) begun her set as it meant to go on. A deep, dark, melancholy tonality almost wept from her guitar which, without encountering her previous material, left me unsure of the set’s direction. Her masterful vocal control and quality certainly reflected her successes with “The Voice”.

With the chord progression continuing to the C and D, as did her music cycle through tales of revenge, heartache, scorn and greed all succinctly packaged in the audience participation refrain of “talk, talk, talk about money” (with a descent to the major third in place of the minor, sure to warm even the heart of the coldest Prog Snob).
An unexpected guitar talent (the “unexpected” side of which being an unfortunate side effect of becoming a TV vocal presence), Sally’s songs were chordally intricate, displayed exciting use of fingerstyle, coupled with large dynamic range resultant of “Slap Bass” style attack in places.
Sally’s set ended with Fairport taking stage to join her for a rendition of her 21-year-old LCM student son’s piece I’m Not Whole. Not my favourite of her set however, but the agathokakological track was carried by Fairport Convention’s backing; giving the upbeat misery a life of its own driving well into Fairport’s staged coup.
Sally Barker was tremendous and, as she vacated the stage, I knew to eagerly expect her at later points in Fairport’s set; as is tradition on these cold nights of the winter tour.

Sally Barker is an act to see again, whether with Fotheringay or in her solo works.

Fairport Convention’s tour marks their 50th anniversary as a band, difficult to forget with their aptly titled 50:50 @ 50 album for sale during the show – containing an even split of live and studio material – marking the momentous occasion. Even more difficult to forget with their shameless, yet still tongue-in-cheek plugging of the release. A sad reflection of Fairport’s career under-the-radar. While mainstream success is not necessarily the goal, the band have amassed a faithful following throughout their tenure on the folk scene and the fan’s dedication is shown to be well placed by the quality of musicianship and songcraft on display. Though on their 50th birthday, these folk-rockers (or metalhead in the case of bassist Dave Pegg) are certainly not past their prime; merely different. This current lineup is Fairport Convention’s longest standing, and is a well-oiled machine as a result. It was wonderful to hear classics from throughout their career such as Genesis Hall, Matty Groves and Farewell, Farewell revisited standing side by side with their more recent material, the last of which had never been brought to stage during the era of the Liege and Leif album from which it hails. The spectacle was engaging for both the audience members in the “cheap seats” (such as myself) and the boxes above despite the shouts of “rattle your jewellery then” being made in jest by guitarist and singer Simon Nicol. The band’s light comedy between songs is something of a rarity in most contemporary pop or rock acts, and was a bonus of the evening. The band don’t take themselves too seriously and the interaction made the audience more comfortable and made the night akin to sharing a few beers and a song around the fire with some good friends rather than the potentially overbearing prospect of visiting a packed music hall to sit quietly and listen to a live act.

After taking a short interval, Fairport Convention returned for a second set (value for money) which led to the only downfall for the show. The first song of the band’s that I was ever introduced to (Lord Marlborough, the opening track of the 1971 album Angel Delight) was played over the PA during the interval, so I sat disappointed that I wouldn’t get to hear the track live, though a live version is included on the 50:50@50 album.
More of the same level of excellence was to come, along with a return of Sally Barker to accompany the band for a rendition of Rising For the Moon from the album of the same name; the last to feature vocalist Sandy Denny. The piece was excellent, remembering Denny’s vocal embellishments perfectly though the band’s updated sound made the song still relevant without being a rehash of old material. Portmeirion and The Girl From the Hiring Fair were other songs of note from the evening were Sander’s “Save our NHS” speech was met with a divided crowd from a self-proclaimed “hippie pacifist” and a pensive ballad of first loves that had the whole audience silent.

But the spell was soon broken. Ending with the aforementioned Matty Groves only to come on with an encore; though great, the set would have been finished perfectly there. The packed train home was awaiting me and the band were to move on to the next night: such is life on the road.

There we have it, Fairport Convention’s 50th anniversary show with Sally Barker. An amazing night, which can be continued for a full weekend at their Cropredy festival from between the 10th and 12th of August.

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