Sunday, September 30, 2012

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Stow Festival Ye Olde Rose & Crown 21st September 2012.

Having waited over an hour past the scheduled time to be allowed to pay my £5 and go upstairs to the Theatre at Ye Olde Rose & Crown on the second night of Stow Festival, I was not in the best mood to appreciate the promised night of folkish delights. 

I sat frustratedly through a solo set by a very pleasant woman called Sarah (aka “Bobbing for Apples”) that suffered from feedback that an hour of extra sound checking had not rectified. Audience reaction divided between semi pissed camp followers and polite applause for someone trying hard in very trying circumstances. She was actually a lot better when she really performed genuinely unplugged to avoid the feedback. Sarah was followed by a better but still mixed performance from another solo performer, Blabbermouth (a name more apt for the compere Paul Mosley). His set was better if a tad over earnest.

I was in need of something distinctly good to bother sticking around any longer in this hot and socially exclusive theatre room. Local band Candidate (see pic above) got off to a bit of a shaky start, but hit their stride half way through. Some nice Byrds-like arpeggio guitar and genuinely tuneful and emotionally engaged performances upped the quality of this gig no end. According to the band’s lead singer who I met earlier, few people like them except some comedian bloke who writes in The Grauniad called Stewart Lee. I think they deserve a wider blessing than him.

Moses (see pics above), a now E17 based but originally Huddersfield folk combo, I think, were apparently re-crossing some particular epic journey to grace us with their presence after 10 years apart (or so I could gleam from the onstage and rather cliquey banter by some of the blokes in the band with their dedicated followers).  Paul Mosley turned out to be their lead singer but even he, the night’s organiser, didn’t condescend to say what the name of his band actually was. I had to work it out from the description of their set in the programme. They were good, however, albeit that their incessant upbeat rootsy rousing performances occasionally seemed a bit forced, a bit like much New Folk in general (c.f. the Mumfords). The guitarist has the making of a good stand up comic, shame he didn’t do a warm-up while we were waiting for the gig to start. 

I can’t say if From The Deep, the final act (as billed), performing some kind of “swampy blues”, appeared or if they were any good as I had exited by this point. My problem that, and the late start. I think these gigs need better organisation, better sound engineers and a higher quality threshold for some of acts. Remember, Stow Fest/Ye Olde Rose & Crown organisers, some punters are paying, not (as elsewhere) cocking an occasional ear from the luxury of the bar.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stow Festival 2012

The four day Stow Festival
kicked off Thursday night (20.9.12) with a selection of gigs in pubs and clubs across, unsurprisingly, Walthamstow. I got to see two. Not at the same time you understand, but by cycling fast under the influence. I was initially waylaid in Billy the Builders Bar in Clapton where I got bored waiting for a would be Django Reinhardt to appear and peddled back to E17.

The Duke’s Head (established 1837 it says above the stage; I think that’s actually when Wellington took command of the British armed forces) is in Wood Street. This is apparently now a regular free music venue whose threshold I had not crossed until walking into The Irregulars in full pelt. The Irregulars are a ska band specialising, it seems, in songs from “The Harder They Come” Soundtrack, some late 70s early 80s ska revival covers, and some obscurer numbers, obscure to me at least. There were quite a few ageing rude boys in attendance (all terribly polite these days), quite a few regular drinkers, and a few not so “local” looking people. There was a great atmosphere and the almost all-white band could play alright. Reflecting the inclusive spirit of the now rather old UK ska revival, not all the punters were white I am pleased to say.

I entered on “Miss Jah-Maica” (ouch) and exited on “Too Much Too Young”. There were two Beat covers as well, but sadly no “Stand Down Margaret” (she is reborn, no?). The evening was a lot of fun. Beer, like in so many pubs in the Stow, is not cheap at the Duke, but worth it perhaps if other bands who play here are of this calibre.

My next and final stop of the night was The Victoria. Once feared by “non-locals”, this upstairs and out of the way place on Hoe Street is actually a refreshing change from the more renowned music and arts venues such as Ye Olde Rose and Crowne where beer is pricey, gigs (like during the Stow Festival) are often in the theatre upstairs and therefore not free, and it’s not that easy to get a drink when busy. The Victoria has taken to holding Glam-Jam nights on Saturday that also charge, but offer an entertainment and a songbook hard to find elsewhere in Walthamstow.

The Victoria last night was hosting a free performance by Los Otros (see pics above; sadly taken after the event). They are modern jazz band with a front man with more than a touch of the trad about him. I only caught the last three numbers so it’s hard to judge the performance properly, but these boys can certainly play. A young tenor sax player (Polish, so I was informed) with good feel, and a very able drummer, double bass player and pianist who soloed to great effect. The bass man had more than a passing resemblance to Steve Howe from Yes (the band that couldn’t say “no”), which threw me somewhat. The front man sings at some distance from the mic which allows his voice, more a whisper than technically brilliant, to work to full atmospheric effect on top of, but not overly dominating, the excellent players. They finished with “All Blues”. I didn’t expect to hear a track from Miles Davis’ "Kind of Blue" album in The Victoria. Excellent.