Music

Leek Blues and Americana Festival

Now in its 6th year, the historic market town of Leek plays host to an array of local, national and international talent – showcasing the very best in Blues & Americana music. The Festival is set against a backdrop of independent shops, high street favourites and thriving specialist markets with host venues comprising a mix of real ale pubs, craft beer bars and the community arts centre.

5 Days:  Starting Wednesday 2nd October – Sunday 6th October 2019

20+ Venues : Pubs, bars, cafés and arts centres all hosting

60+ Acts: Over 60 Blues & Americana acts throughout the town centre of Leek

Headline acts here at the Foxlowe are:

Martin Harley, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers and Little Victor and his Combo.

Adored and Definitely Mightbe Leek Arts Festival 2019

Perennial local favourites Adored and Definitely Mightbe brought the sounds of Manchester to Leek Arts Festival on Friday the 3rd of May, 2019.

150 or so merry indie music fans packed out the Foxlowe and enthusiastically danced and sang along to every word from the classic Stone Roses and Oasis back catalogues, played faithfully – and to the faithful – by Adored and Definitely Mightbe who returned to the Foxlowe after a triumphal gig here last year.

Adored opened proceedings with their tribute to the Stone Roses, as their seminal debut album turned 30 this week. The set featured songs taken mostly from that self-titled debut album, including I Wanna Be Adored and Fools Gold, but also Ten Storey Lovesong from the much delayed follow-up, 1995’s Second Coming.

Definitely Mightbe are the longest established Oasis tribute band in the world, with over 2,000 shows under their belt. After the interval and a change of clothing and backdrop, Definitely Mightbe took to the stage for a set of anthemic Oasis classics, ostensibly from their first two albums.

Leek’s own Kev Pyne, who played bass in Adored and Definitely Mightbe and was a real character, sadly died unexpectedly in October 2018, and the Oasis song Live Forever was dedicated to him on the night in a fitting tribute.

Adored at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Adored – Stone Roses tribute

Adored at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Adored – Stone Roses tribute

Adored at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Adored – Stone Roses tribute

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – Oasis tribute

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – Oasis tribute

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – ‘Liam’ aka Ian Alcock

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – Oasis tribute: ‘Liam’ and ‘Noel’

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – ‘Noel’ aka Paul Mitchell

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Johnny Dowd and Park Doing

It has been a great couple of months for fans of Americana and Blues in Leek, as the Foxlowe has recently staged amazing performances from some of the top exponents of the genres.

Hot on the heels of Kris Barras and the Jack J Hutchinson Band, Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax, and the mighty Bob Log III and Husky Tones, the legendary Johnny Dowd brought his trademark Twisted Americana Country Blues to the Foxlowe on Friday the 12th of March, 2019, ably supported by Park Doing and Michael Edmondson.

Park Doing and Johnny Dowd both use drum samples, loops and pedals, in the vein of fellow US guitar mavericks Thomas Truax and Bob Log III, and Johnny and his band also inhabit the same twisted David Lynchian Americana universe as the aforementioned Truax and Gemma Ray. However, each individual’s sounds and stagecraft set them apart from their contemporaries. A fantasy future Leek Blues and Americana festival lineup of Gemma Ray, Thomas Truax, Bob Log III, Park Doing, Mike Edmondson and Johnny Dowd on the same day would be awesome, but who would go onstage last? Hmmm…

Anyway, back to Friday night’s gig…

So, first up onstage was Park Doing, who describes his music as “Psychedelic Disco Blues”. Sporting a corduroy jacket, and a hat that looked to have been styled upon the one worn by Brad Dourif in Wise Blood, Park plugs in and attends to his bank of effects pedals and sampler before introducing his first song.

With “These machines kill cashists” emblazoned on his road-worn electric guitar – a clever twist on the message immortalised on radical folk singer Woody Guthrie’s acoustic guitar (“This machine kills fascists”) – Park and his sonic armoury of effects pedals, samplers and loopers, and beat box crank out such idiosyncratic songs as Punk Rockers Don’t Need To Wear Watches; If You Don’t Say It Right, Don’t Say It At All; and You Know What To Do, So Do It – words of homespun wisdom set to an accompaniment of live guitar, loops and lo-fi trip hop beats.

After ably setting the tone for the evening’s entertainment, Park leaves the stage, changes into his blue velvet jacket, and loses the hat.

Talking about this latest tour together, Park said:

“I got a call from my good friend Johnny Dowd who asked me to tour with him again, this time in the Netherlands and England. He also asked me to sing with him during his sets, so I am doing double duty (the hardest working man in show business!). It’s an honor to perform with him — he has taught me so much over the years.  He has taken to calling me and his guitar player Mike Edmondson “The Hummingbird Singers.””

Park then joins Johnny onstage for his set as part of backing band with Mike Edmondson. This backing band may or may not be called The Bluebells or The Humingbirds (it may even change from gig to gig). I could have sworn that the band are introduced as the Bluebells, possibly or probably because of their natty blue velvet patterned jackets.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, and hailing from Ithaca, New York, Johnny Dowd’s sonic brand of dark and ramshackle alternative country-blues noir, with boom box beats, calls to my mind the recorded spoken word output of William S Burroughs (especially The “Priest” They Called Him, by Kurt Cobain and William S. Burroughs), early lo-fi Beck, and white blues guitarists such as Johnny Winter and Peter Green. Typical of Johnny’s style are the experimental, noisy breaks in his songs and strong gothic elements in the lyrics as well as in the music. There is also a strong undercurrent of black humor and the absurd in his work too.

The use of samples and technology mixed with good old fashioned stagecraft places the performance firmly in the 21st Century, although the music of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s is paid homage to, including a Bo Diddley medley, and referencing James Brown and Blaxploitatation (the song White Dolomite). Johnny cites James Brown’s Live at the Apollo as his lifelong favorite album, and Live at Paris Olympia 1971 “has got to be high on the list”, according to Johnny’s interview with Americana UK. Avant garde jazz musician and cosmic visionary Sun Ra, and godfathers of grunge Blue Cheer, are also big favourites too. Johnny and his sidemen put on an entertaining show, which includes incendiary guitar playing from all three musicians, sweet harmonized backing vocals, spoken introductions to the songs, poetry and even some coordinated choreography with audience participation!

Johnny Dowd’s songs, stories and poetry are about the perennial topics – love, sex, death, religion, life on the road, and (dysfunctional) relationships (both familial and romantic) and break-ups and their aftermath – but delivered with enough self-awareness, self-deprecation and tongue in cheek humour to stop it from all becoming too maudlin and depressing. This ain’t no country music- or blues-style “born-under-a-bad-sign-my-woman-left-me-my-dog-just-died-I’m-so-lonesome-I-lost-my-job-and-the-man’s-repossessed-my-car-and-the-bank-has-foreclosed-on-my-mortgage-it’s-raining-hard-the-leevee-has-broken-and-the-water’s-three-feet-high-and-rising-and-I’ve-finished-my-last-bottle-of-whiskey” cry-fest! No, siree, Bob. There are laughs a-plenty, both in terms of the interactions between the musicians and the audience, and in the songs themselves (the humour is dark, but it’s there). There’s even a goofy dance routine to lighten the mood!

Johnny stands up (he stays sat down for the set up to that point), places his guitar on his chair, and exhorts the seated audience to get up on their feet and mimic the band’s choreographed dance moves. The band are doing the Butterman Dance – whilst shouting, “Butterman, oh yeah!” – and Johnny joins in and we all do too: a surreal but funny couple of minutes during the set. Park cleverly and expediently dedicates the song and dance to Leek’s very own Butter Market. Nice one. Good local knowledge.

When the song and dance is over, Johnny compliments the crowd for their audience participation and enthuisiasm, saying “There’s no fear in Leek”. There may be no fear in Leek, Johnny, but there is very definitely an “eek” in Leek! Sorry, I’ll get my coat…

Other highlights include a rocking Bo Diddley medley of Hey, Bo Diddley and Who Do You Love, How Much Emptiness Can you Swallow?, a coruscating but poignant grunged-up version of Frank Sinatra’s It Was a Very Good Year, Jesus Loves Me by Joey + Rory, and Country legend Conway Twitty gets a surreal namecheck too!

A love for late 50s and early 60s Death Discs is also evident. A cover of the ‘splatter platter’ paean to twisted metal and mangled bodies, Teen Angel by Mark Dinning, is played in a respectful homage to the original, and as a rendition it would be wholly in keeping as a Twin Peaks: The Return end of episode performance at The Roadhouse tavern.

The Death Disc, also known as a ‘splatter platter’, ‘car crash song’ or quite simply a ‘teenage tragedy song’, is a style of ballad popularised in the 50s and 60s sung from the point of view of either a dying (or dead) teenager or the dying (or dead) or surviving teenager’s sweetheart, as is the case in Teen Angel.

Teen angel, teen angel, teen angel, ooh
That fateful night the car was stalled upon the railroad track
I pulled you out and we were safe, but you went running back…”

David Lynch and the clientele at the Roadhouse would approve, I think.

All-in-all another memorable night at the Foxlowe, in front of a select crowd of appreciative and knowledgable Americana fans. Thank you to everyone who came out to support the venue and the artists. We hope to see you again soon.

Any milage in that fantasy festival lineup suggestion…?

Park Doing at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Park Doing at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Park Doing at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Bob Log III and Husky Tones

The mighty Bob Log III returned to the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Sunday the 24th of March, 2019. With support from Husky Tones – the perfect girl/boy, punk-blues alchemy combo, a blistering Bristol-based punk blues duo who hit with the force of a much bigger unit – the Foxlowe audience was treated to a unique gig experience that will stick in the memories of all those present for a long time (assuming that they were sober enough to remember the events of the night!).

First up onstage were Husky Tones, who are Victoria Bourne on drums and vocals, and Chris Harper on guitar and vocals. Both Husky Tones and Bog Log III make a mighty fine racket, using a single guitar and drums/percussion attack strategy that hits you in the gut (and other areas) and gets the audience up and moving. Victoria comes from the Maureen Ann “Moe” Tucker (stand-up drummer of the legendary The Velvet Underground) and Meg White (sit-down drummer of the also legendary The White Stripes) school of hard-hitting, primal drumming. Victoria bounces up and down in her Dr Martens AirWear soled boots and punishes the drum skins like they’ve been very naughty indeed!

Victoria states:

When playing live I want our gigs it to feel like a special party that Chris and I have invited you to. Performing is one of those extraordinary experiences where some gigs I feel like jumping around and screaming in a bright red PVC dress and fishnets and others where I feel exposed, intimate, vulnerable. Just like our songs, sometimes wild and full of punk attitude whilst others are stories of beauty and love. Keeping you engaged without knowing where we might take you next. I want you to sweat with me, dance to me, cry with me, to make you feel alive…”

We did, Victoria, we did, and you did. Thank you. Sunday night was definitely a “jumping around and screaming in a bright red PVC dress and fishnets” night!

Chris also attacks his guitars hard, in a crunchy, dexterous, raging style. At times his right arm is a blur of motion as he hunches over and chops and slashes at his black Fender Strat, or switches to a battered Fender Telecaster, leans back and plays with a slide.

Chris states:

“I’ve played guitar for many years, wandering in and out of many styles but I always come back to the blues, a smashy, trashy, crashy version of it that is. Husky Tones gives me the chance to be a riff machine and to jump around on stage making a big, fat noise. I like riffs, I like grooves and I like good lyrics, the lyrics have to have something individual about them. I like songs to be about something not just relationships, I like songs about the world, about politics, about living a better life and of course, about love in all it’s forms. But it has to make me tap my feet or sway in time.”

Chris has an impressive array of effects pedals, including Fuzz and Wah-Wah, but, as any quality guitarist will tell you, its not about the effects pedals, its what you do with them. Right? You got it.

I’m sure we’ll see Husky Tones at the Foxlowe again in future, and look forward to welcoming them back.

Next up was the one-man force of nature that is Bob Log III! Robert Logan Reynolds III, to use his full Sunday name, and the one his ever-loving Mom calls him by, is an All-American slide guitar one-man band, based in Tucson, Arizona, and Melbourne, Australia. During performances, he plays his old Silvertone archtop guitars, wears a full body human cannonball glitter suit, boots made for stomping, and a helmet wired to a telephone receiver. This allows him to devote his hands and feet to guitar and kick drums.

The crown prince of punk blues, and a Fat Possum recording artist, witnessing Bob Log III live is an unmissable and unforgettable experience. Bob unleashes a torrent of hardcore Mississippi Delta blues, hip hop beats and punk rock. The crash helmet telephone distorts the vocals and his hands, arms, legs and feet become a blur of jump suit clad limbs as he plays slide, triggers drum machines and drums with his feet simultaneously. Bob then adds extra ingredients to this punk blues bouillabaisse with his unique version of audience participation. More often them not he’ll bounce a couple of audience members on his knees while playing (this certainly happened, see below), and then brings on the infamous Boob Scotch. The audience are invited to literally stick their boob in his scotch which he then drinks. If Bob feels satisfied he will then launch into his anthem Boob Scotch!

Bob wasn’t drinking (much) on Sunday night, and there was a distinct lack of drinks bought for him on stage (sorry, Bob, that was very remiss of us!) but he still wanted to toast the audience. Luckily, he had the foresight to bring a toaster, a loaf of sliced bread, and paper plates onto the stage, and the bread duly got toasted throughout the set, assisted by a couple of impromptu Toast Techs (Andy and JR), before being distributed to the hungry audience. Apparently, that was the onstage debut of the toaster, but no doubt it will become a feature of his stagecraft going forwards.

Gigs at the Foxlowe can be quite genteel and civilised affairs, but a polite, sedate, seated gig this was not!

Balloons – blown up and then burst; Prosecco, an inflatable duck, me ducks!, and a dog bowl; bread and the aforementioned toaster all featured; along with a few technical hitches; audience participation (not all of it solicited); and wild dancing all contributing to the pervading vibe of chaos and good-natured anarchy! Victoria and Chris also contributed to the performance during Bob’s set, with Victoria drinking Prosecco from the dog bowl, and both Chris and Victoria taking turns to sit on Bob’s knee when he invited the audience up on stage to get selfies and a little knee bounce action! The Prosecco filled inflatable duck was passed around the audience and quaffed from until it was empty, before finding it’s way back to the stage.

No inflatable dinghy crowd surfing on this occasion, unfortunately, as both the stage and the ceiling are too low for that. Bob did venture out into the crowd to high five his appreciative audience and get up close and personal though, despite “not being able to see shit!” through his visor.

In this current world of homogenised and mass marketed music, we need true mavericks like Bob Log III more than ever. Missing you already, Bob. Come back soon.

Husky Tones at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Husky Tones at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Husky Tones at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Bob Log III at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Photos 1 to 10 by Giles Metcalfe, Photos 11 and 12 by Mark Brammar.

 

 

Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper

Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper played an intimate semi-acoustic and spoken word set to a seated audience of dedicated and knowledgeable fans at the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Wednesday the 20th of March, 2019.

Marty Willson-Piper is a British guitarist & singer-songwriter who has been writing and performing with many bands and artists all over the world for the past 35+ years. He is best known as a long-time member of the Australian psychedelic rock band The Church. Willson-Piper contributed to all of the Church’s studio releases until 2013 and was a touring member from 1980 to 2013.

Well known as a man whose music voices the paradoxes of pain and beauty in a lyrical and musical style that snags the attention of the audience and remains in their consciousness long after the music has ceased. In live performance, this penetrating depth of music is coupled with fabulous humour that is nothing but British, intelligent, and vastly inappropriate (in all the right ways).

He was also the guitarist for the English alternative rock band All About Eve from 1991 to 1993 and again from 1999 to 2002. In 2005 he joined veteran Australian band The Saints to record and tour.

Marty, on a well-loved and battered Takamine 12-string semi-acoustic guitar held together with copious amounts of gaffer tape, and wife Olivia, on violin and wearing a lovely pair of Cowboy Boots, mixed songs from Marty’s long and varied career with extended spoken word interludes and banter with the intimate, seated audience of loyal and long-standing fans.

Sometimes seated themselves (somewhat precariously in Marty’s case, on a rather wonky high stool) and sometimes standing, the married couple presented their lyrical and beautiful songs to the appreciative audience, interspersed with double checking which song was coming next (the setlist had been misplaced), spontaneous on-the-spot stream-of-consciousness song writing based on conversations with the audience and tangential observations from Marty and Olivia, musings, observations and expositions, and tall tales from Marty’s long music career.

An entertaining raconteur, Marty’s topics of conversation, tall tales and shaggy dog stories included bucolic pastoralism; the best way to fill up empty space in your house; descending chord progressions in songs; Onesies and Womble Suits; whether there was anyone famous from Leek; local radio interviews – leading to discussing Stoke-on-Trent and the Six Towns that comprise it; touring with The Cult, Italian Police with machine guns and the exact sartorial definition of good and evil as far as the Italians are concerned; Venice sinking under water; having a near death experience when a plane he was on suffered a catastrophic engine failure on an internal flight in Australia; Bryan Adams; Prog Rock – Olivia hosts and curates the Night of the Prog Festival in Germany – Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, with Gary Kemp on vocal duties (how and why did this happen?!?); telephone calls with David Gilmour and asking him to produce and guest on an All About Eve album, then being starstruck upon seeing him in the studio and asking him daft questions; disclosure on who actually played the famous baseline to Money; and skiing and song writing with Madonna!

During the interval, dedicated vinyl collectors and fans of Marty’s previous bands got their rare records signed, including records that Marty himself doesn’t have in his huge archive of vinyl records, before the second half of the set commenced.

Marty has often been photographed in a Big Star t-shirt, and he and Olivia ended the set with a cover of Thirteen from Big Star’s #1 Record, after which Marty and Olivia left the stage to well-deserved applause.

As ever, Marty, Olivia and the Foxlowe would like to thank everyone who came to the show, and we hope to see you again soon.

Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Marty and Olivia Willson-Piper at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Elles Bailey and Demi Marriner

Elles Bailey and band, with special guest support from Demi Marriner, played an intimate seated audience gig at the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Friday the 15th of March, 2019 as part of her Road I Call Home tour.

First up onstage was Demi Marriner, playing solo and acoustic.

The name Demi Marriner is common tongue in the UK music scene, and for good reason.

Armed with a stack of notebooks, a head full of ideas and a collection of incredible jackets (plus a very fetching hat), Demi Marriner is a songwriter well worth keeping track of. Riding shotgun alongside her unique, outstanding songwriting are Demi’s powerful, emotive live performances. Demi’s confidence and professionalism on stage sparkle even more than her guitar strap and matching capo. Whether she’s pouring out her heart in an intimate solo shows, as was the case on Friday night at the Foxlowe, or kicking down the saloon doors with her incredible backing band, Demi knows how to impress.

After a successful debut EP ‘Tracks and Trails’, and follow up EP ‘Dandelion’ reaching numbers 1 and 2 respectively in the iTunes UK Country Album Charts, Demi is galloping forward with even stronger new material and a live EP.

The southwest songstress’ tassel boots have already graced many a great stage, including; The Symphony Hall supporting Rufus Wainwright, the main stage at Wychwood Festival, the Forest stage 2000 Trees, as well as being a regular at Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Demi has made her mark performing in the UK, Ireland, Europe and Canada, including support shows for Jon Gomm, Tia McGraff, BJ Barham (of American Aquarium), Cattle & Cane and Elles Bailey.

Demi’s passion and emotion is so contagious, it is almost impossible to not be captivated from the offset. We’re sure that we’ll see her again at the Foxlowe, and look forward to welcoming her back again in future.

Next onstage were Elles Bailey and her band – Joe Wilkins on guitar, Matthew Waer on bass, Jonny Henderson on organ, and Matthew Jones on drums.

Elles’ headwear game is also strong, as she was also wearing a hat.

They say you get a lifetime to write your first album, and the blink of an eye to make your second. Elles Bailey wins either way, which is why she’s ready to follow the widespread success of Wildfire with the stunningly mature and highly personal synopsis of a year that changed her life in forthcoming album ‘Road I Call Home’ out March 8th 2019

Back in September 2017, Wildfire broke down barriers to win rapturous praise right across the music media landscape. “Every genre,” says Bailey with a smile. “That was such a surprise. The title track, written with her band guitarist Joe Wilkins, also had Bailey racing from Spotify novice to nearly one million streams, while the album itself is close to two million, and still the playlists come in for it.

Now, the great news for all of Bailey’s ever-expanding army of admirers is that she is all set with her follow-up statement. Road I Call Home. Bailey made the sophomore record chiefly at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, with Brad Nowell sharing production duties with Steve Blackmon, but also cut two tunes for it with her own touring band at Mono Valley in Wales, including first single Medicine Man. It’s a remarkable companion to Wildfire that retains all of the fire of the debut set, but adds new maturity, perspective and downright soulfulness.

“Wildfire was written over five years,” says Elles, “Road I call Home was written over one. It tells the story of touring Wildfire, and how my life has changed since. I feel it delves deeper, and deals with loss, love, anger, determination and life on the road, with more than 200 gigs under my belt and many miles travelled.”

Like its chart-topping predecessor, Elles’ new album features co-writing contributions from high-calibre collaborators, including British hit-making legend and Ivor Novello Award winner Roger Cook, storied Memphis and Nashville giant Bobby Wood, as well as Dan Auerbach (of Akron, Ohio powerhouses The Black Keys) on the infectious ‘Little Piece of Heaven’.

Elles and band put in a storming performance, owning the small stage at the Foxlowe. That is, until the unheralded appearance of a spider temporarily halted the gig. Elles is legitimately terrified of spiders, and this one abseiled down from the ceiling right in front of her! Luckily, after telling the audience just how scared of spiders she is, the spider was humanely removed by bassist Matthew Waer and the show continued. Spiders don’t usually play a prominent part in proceedings at the Foxlowe, but perhaps we need to employ the services of a spider wrangler for future gigs, or Elles could specify one on her rider?

As with Demi, the Foxlowe looks forward to seeing Elles and band here again in future – sans spiders. Perhaps as part of the Leek Blues and Americana festival? We wish Demi, Elles and band well with the rest of the tour, and – as ever – thank everyone who turned out for the gig, not least those that travelled from far afield to support Demi and Elles.

Demi Marriner at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Demi Marriner at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Elles Bailey and band at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Elles Bailey and band at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Elles Bailey and band at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Rodney Branigan and the Deadbeat Damsels

‘First Class US import’ Rodney Branigan, supported by local live music scene stalwarts the Deadbeat Damsels, brought his unique brand of ‘Full Contact Folk Music’ to an intimate seated gig at the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Saturday the 9th of March, 2019.

First up onstage were the Deadbeat Damsels, featuring Jill Povey on Guitar and Vocals, Alison Savigar on Vocals, and John Crimes on Percussion (no Steve Giddings on Lead Guitar this time round), and playing a mixture of Americana, (Alt) Country and Country Rock, old & contemporary, with strong voices and beautiful harmonies. Cover versions on the night included tracks from First Aid Kit, and Ward Thomas amongst others. Playing the Foxlowe for the first time – the Deadbeat Damsels are more used to performing in the pubs in and around Leek – we’re sure that we’ll see them onstage here again in the near future.

Featuring a percussive dual guitar sound – ‘One Man, Two Guitars’ – aided by pedals and sample loops, Rodney Branigan performs an original and virtuoso blend of progressive folk, rock, flamenco, classic, bluegrass and jazz guitar (and mandolin, when it stays in tune), mixed with stories from the High Plains of Texas, anecdotes and dirty jokes – all of which he calls ‘Full Contact Folk Music’.

Rodney takes the stage, and after greeting the audience launches straight into his trademark dual guitar attack on his song “about schizophrenia” – Schizophrenia – “just to get it out of the way early”. An hour and a half long set features covers of Creep by Radiohead, The Way You Move by Outkast, and Come Together by The Beatles, as well as Rodney’s own material, including the evocative and moving paean to trying to grow trees on the High Plains of Texas, One Seed, and Devil’s Delight (which he dedicates to his mother, with tongue in cheek), as well as incendiary instrumentals and his shortest song of the night – an accapella paean as to why you shouldn’t leave your vinyl records out in the sun!

Highlights included tales of trashing expensive guitars and trying and failing to get his money back from the manufacturer; innuendos and British expressions for solitary pursuits; the relative merits of George W Bush compared to Donald Trump and the former’s attempts to replace sex education in American schools with an ‘Abstinence Programme’; a dirty joke about two divorcees meeting in a bar; his relatively clean-living lifestyle these days and applying for permanent UK citizenship; why his merchandise stand only had Rodney Branigan tea towels on it; whether or not Leek has any hip hop fans; and his risky and potentially life-threatening act of dual guitar showmanship that has previously left him unconscious twice and with facial injuries needing stiches, prompting the use of motorcycle googles on previous occasions! Rodney, for reasons best known to himself and not made clear to the audience, performs the stunt with one jean trouserleg rolled up and a wink to the audience (perhaps the act of rolling up his trouserleg sets him up mentally, only Rodney himself can say), before hammering his dual guitars so hard that three of the strings break on one of them and then twirling one of the guitars around his head and sitting down in one connected blur of motion, all without missing a note! We saw Kris Barras play his guitar behind his head and with his teeth, Jimi Hendrix style, a couple of weeks back; but Rodney’s act of guitar showmanship was all the more impressive because of the potential – and actual, in previous performances – level of jeopardy and risk of bodily injury! Thankfully, everything went OK this time. Phew.

As ever, both acts who played on the night and the Foxlowe thank everyone who came out to support live music in Leek, and we look forward to seeing you at the Foxlowe again soon for upcoming gigs.

The Deadbeat Damsels at Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Deadbeat Damsels at Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Rodney Branigan at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax

Gemma Ray, plus band, and Thomas Truax, plus Hornicator and Mother Superior drum machine, played the Foxlowe Arts Centre on Friday the 1st of March. Following a whistlestop tour of Continental Europe, both artists recently hit England for a series of gigs at a select few venues, including the Foxlowe and the Hebden Bridge Trades Club.

Co-headlining and swapping the running order each night, Thomas Truax was onstage first (and frequently offstage, and outside as part of the performance). A quirky and eccentric mix of storyteller, inventor, performer and recording artist Thomas Truax, who travels the world with his collection of self-made instruments including his legendary ‘Hornicator’ and ‘The Stringaling’, supported Bob Log III at the Foxlowe previously before co-headlining with Gemma Ray this time around.

Mixing electro-acoustic steel guitar and live rhythm loops, plus percussion sounds coaxed from his Dr Seuss meets steam punk meets Heath Robinson-esque “drum machine”, called ‘Mother Superior’, Thomas Truax gradually builds up a magical and hypnotic sound over which he narrates tales about “about clones, butterflies, dogs, technology, loneliness, and other beautiful and sad things”. Further assorted homemade instruments, contraptions and gizmos, including ‘The Hornicator’, which is constructed from the shell of a junk gramophone horn, are utilised to create Thomas’ sound, and strings, springs and attached noisemakers on the afore-mentioned gizmos are plucked and set in motion too.

Thomas doesn’t confine his eccentric but captivating performance to the stage either, as he frequently wanders into the crowd whilst playing, and even goes outside the venue during ‘Full Moon Over Wowtown’, leaving the audience guessing as to which door he’ll reappear through or even if he’ll come back at all (hint – he always does). Wowtown is a surreal place from which some of the characters and events in Thomas’s songs originate, and fans of his music (or even just fans of the bizzarre and David Lynchian Americana) can subscribe to The Wowtown News, an email newsletter that he sends to a long list of email subscribers (GDPR rules may or may not apply in Wowtown).

Hailing from Essex but via Berlin, Gemma Ray and her band followed Thomas onstage for the second half of the co-headlining show.

Gemma Ray inhabits a similarly David Lynchian Americana audio world, with a woozy, hypnotic but unsettling mixture of Peggy Lee with Link Wray and Dick Dale-esque surf guitar (an accomplished and in-demand guitarist, Gemma plays with a wicked-looking kitchen knife at times, used as a slide running up and down the fretboard, and lodged behind the rear pickup on her guitar when not in use). Her and her band’s sound is akin to staring at a Blue Moon whilst underwater in the Pacific Ocean, sometime between the late 50s and early 60s, or the surfer from Crystal Voyager going under one too many times to the accompaniment of the Pink Floyd soundtrack. Both retro and yet contemporary, Gemma Ray and her band bewitch and beguile and ever so slightly unsettle (I’m reminded of that large kitchen knife again at this point!).

Eight album, called Psychogeology, is out now, and has been described by Gemma as ‘an ode to the majesty of landscape, the enormity of nature and time, and the inevitability of every human life eventually forming a minuscule part of further landscapes’. Music News states in their Psychogeology album review:

“This out-look has been honed from extensive global travelling and where [the Situationist concept of] ‘psychogeography’ is the seeking of a wandering un/subconscious resonance garnered from ‘urban’ areas, Ray goes ‘rural’, discovering a broader, wider, more expressive and expansive feeling of nature’s rhythms and tangents more attuned to the body’s inner torrents: the art of wandering in tandem with the art of wondering. ”

The review also references surf guitarists Dick Dale and Link Wray, and elements of Pipeline by The Chantays, and even perhaps ahead of his time but deeply troubled Joe Meek, Peggy Lee, the epic soundscapes of Pink Floyd, and all-girl groups like the Shirelles and Shangri-Las and torch singing chanteuses Billie Holiday and Julee Cruise could also be said to be part of the sonic mix.

The show finished with Thomas joining Gemma on stage to duet on a couple of songs, reinforcing the meeting of minds and bond between the two artists.

The Foxlowe thanks everyone who came out to the show, as did both Thomas and Gemma on the night, and we look forward to welcoming them back again in the future.

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

 

 

Kris Barras Band and the Jack J Hutchinson Band rock the Foxlowe

The Kris Barras Band and the Jack J Hutchinson Band rocked a sold out, hot and sweaty Foxlowe Arts Centre last night.

The Jack J Hutchinson Band have supported the mighty Kris Barras Band on their Winter 2019 UK tour, throughout January and February.

Jack J Hutchinson is a British blues rock guitarist, based in London. The Jack J Hutchinson Band features: Jack J Hutchinson (vocals and guitar), Felipe Amorim (drums) and Lazarus Michaelides (bass).

The band, along with Stuart Moir and Alberto Manuzzi, are working on the follow-up to their critically acclaimed album ‘Paint No Fiction’. The record, with artwork designed by long time collaborator Aaron Gardner, is scheduled for release in the summer. Hutchinson has stated: “Most of the material has come together whilst on the road over the last 10 months or so. Whereas my previous record was written mainly at home with an acoustic guitar, a lot of the new songs came together in sound checks and in hotel rooms jamming on my electric. So, unsurprisingly, it feels like a much heavier album with a lot of movement.”

Some of that new material was played during the set last night, along with tracks from his critically acclaimed album ‘Paint No Fiction’ and a frenetic cover of ‘Oh Well, Part 1’ by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, and was well-recieved by the enthuiastic 250+ sell-out crowd of blues, southern rock and classic rock fans.

The Kris Barras Band followed the Jack J Hutchinson Band, and played a trademark blistering set that featured classic rock and heavy blues guitar and “soul-wrenching melodies“, along with bravura displays of Jimi Hendrix-esque showmanship (including playing the guitar behind his head, and with his teeth) mixed with a swirling Hammond organ and keyboard sound, pounding drums and heavy bass.

The set featured ‘Watching Over Me’, a song written for his late father who had inspired him to pick up the guitar when he was 6. As a musician himself, he had played bass in Kris’s band. Kris’ father lost his battle with cancer a few years ago. The spoken introduction to the song and the emotional delivery was a touching tribute and touched everyone in the audience I’m sure.

The Kris Barras Band members are: Kris Barras – Lead vocals/guitar, Josiah J Manning – keys, Elliott Blacker – bass, and Will Beavis – drums.

From the Kris Barras Band website bio page:

“Inspired by his father at the early age of only Six years-old, Kris was already making an appearance on stage before turning Ten. He has since gone on to spend more than twenty years thrilling audiences throughout the globe playing live.

“The band have appeared at major festivals throughout the UK and Europe. These include Ramblin’ Man Fair (UK), Rawa Blues Festival (Poland) and Bliuzo Naktys (Lithuania). 2017 saw the band complete two very successful tours in both the UK and Europe with 2018 lining up much more of the same.

“In April 2018, it was announced that Kris would become the new frontman for USA super-group, Supersonic Blues Machine.The band feature’s legendary artists such as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Steve Lukather (Toto), Eric Gales, Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule) and Walter Trout.

“Kris was nominated for ‘Blues Guitarist of the Year 2017’ by Total Guitar magazine and voted into the Top 15 Blues Guitarists in the World by Music Radar.

“‘The Divine and Dirty’ album was released in March 2018 and went in straight at number one in both the Amazon and iTunes Blues charts as well as Number 3 in the Official UK Blues/Jazz Charts, where it remained in the top 30 for 12 weeks. The album also reached the UK top 40 on Amazon for all music; the only blues-based band in that chart at the time.”

Jack J Hutchinson Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Jack J Hutchinson Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kris Barras Band - Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Limehouse Lizzy 2019 Tour

Limehouse Lizzy, who continue to keep the spirit of Celtic rock icon Philip Lynott and his band Thin Lizzy alive, are officially one of the hardest working bands in the UK.

Rocking up to a cold and icy Leek on Thursday the 17th of January as part of their 2019 Tour, they played to a packed room of Rock Fans of all ages, including the children and grandchildren of rockers old enough to have seen Thin Lizzy live in the 70s and early 80s.

As their Facebook Page states:

Attention to detail, playful audience interaction and that all important X-factor that leaves you with the feeling of witnessing the real thing have led to their performance being described as “beyond tribute”, by both audience and critics alike.

Returning to the Foxlowe for 2019, the audience were treated to the Celtic influenced tracks like ”Whisky in the Jar” and “Black Rose”, amongst the usual razzamatazz, audience banter and the classic tracks “The Boys are Back in Town”, “Sarah” and many others that we’ve come to expect from one of the most highly rated acts on the tribute circuit.

Limehouse Lizzy 2019

Limehouse Lizzy 2019

Limehouse Lizzy 2019

Photos by Giles Metcalfe

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