Music

Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh, Fred Abong and Pete Harvey, Foxlowe Arts Cente, Leek, Friday the 8th of November, 2019

Kristin Hersh is an influential American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist musician and author, known for her solo work and with her indie rock band Throwing Muses and noise rock trio 50FootWave. She has released eleven solo albums. Her guitar work and composition style ranges from jaggedly dissonant to traditional folk.

Kristin is visiting the UK for three intimate gigs during November – in Leek, London and Hebden Bridge – accompanied by her partner Fred Abong, Throwing Muses’ bass player, who opens solo for Kristin; and cellist Pete Harvey.

Kristin is currently touring her highly acclaimed Fire Records release, “Possible Dust Clouds”; and Fred is also playing in promotion of his latest EP, “Pulsing”.

The first night of the mini UK tour was in Leek at the Foxlowe, to celebrate 1000 events at the Arts Centre. Centre Manager Vicki Heath is a huge fan of Throwing Muses and Kristin, so she had no hesitation in asking for Kristin to play to celebrate this milestone for the venue. Vicki was ecstatic when the Foxlowe was able to secure the booking, along with indie rock fans of all ages from across Staffordshire and the wider North West, who quickly snapped up the available tickets.

As previously mentioned, Fred opened solo for Kristin, watched by Kristin and Pete, and played songs from his own repertoire on guitar. Pete had already made an appearance on stage, setting his cello up, giving a strong indication to the audience that Kristin was going to be accompanied for her set. Fred also came out beforehand and carefully placed an impressive and fine-looking trio of Gibson and Fender guitars on the stage too.

Thus, the stage was set for Kristin.

The venue was full, with an appreciative but reverent audience showing their love for Kristin and her extensive body of work, including old and newer songs. Her set was mesmerizing, powerful and moving. Kristin’s vocal style ranges from softly melodic to impassioned screaming, and she has an occasional vibrato that punctuates some of her more dramatic phrasing. You can’t take your eyes off her for a second, and I think that many people in the audience couldn’t quite believe that they were in such close proximity to their heroine.

Highlights included haunting (forgive me, no pun intended) renditions of Your Ghost, and City of the Dead, amongst many others from her back catalogue and new solo records.

A massive thank you to all who were involved in making the gig happen, including Andy Norton, The Situation, and Shameless PR (apologies if I’ve missed anyone off); Ivan Sherratt for the always sterling Sound duties; the staff and volunteers at the Foxlowe (you know who you are); and especially to Kristin, Fred and Pete for coming and playing for us. We sincerely hope to welcome Kristin, Fred and Pete back to our town and Arts Centre again in the future. Thanks also to all the fans who came out for the show despite the cold, the wet and the difficult travelling conditions, and filled the room. Look out for more indie gigs soon, as we have a rich and varied roster of upcoming acts at the Foxlowe over the next few months. Here’s to another 1000 events at the Foxlowe, and reaching the 2000 mark in a few years’ time!

Fred Abong, at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kristin Hersh at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kristin Hersh at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kristin Hersh at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kristin Hersh at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Kristin Hersh, Fred Abong and some of the Foxlowe Arts Centre Staff and Volunteers

Photos 1 to 5 by Giles Metcalfe.

Chip Taylor and Adam Coxon

Adam Coxon, Chip Taylor, Gøran Grini and John Platania

Adam Coxon, Chip Taylor, Gøran Grini and John Platania at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek, as an addition to the Leek Blues and Americana Festival programme, on Wednesday the 6th of November, 2019.

On Wednesday night, the Foxlowe was graced by the presence of the legendary New York singer/songwriter Chip Taylor (the Brill Building dwelling writer of “Wild Thing” – by The Troggs, and Jimi Hendrix – and “Angel of The Morning” – sung by PP Arnold, Evie Sands, Merrilee Rush, Juice Newton, Nina Simone and more; as well as other classic songs) with John Platania on electric guitar (record producer, session musician, guitar player – notably with Van Morrison and others) and from Norway, keyboardist Gøran Grini.

Ably supported by local singer-songwriter Adam Coxon, a seated full house was treated to an evening of mellow, heartfelt, emotional songs from Chip and his band, as well as unintended interjections from Chip’s mobile phone. Chip forgot to turn his mobile phone off, and kept getting texts and calls during his set. At one point, he pauses the song in progress to get his phone out of his pocket, reject the call, and then, without missing a beat, start up the song again. A class act.

The rapt audience also listens intently to Chip’s between song tale telling and introductions, on such diverse topics as hearing Country music for the first time as a child, horse racing and betting, his time in the Brill Building, Parnell’s Irish Bar in New York, and being a Whiskey Salesman.

I could go on and recount Chip’s set, but Chip describes it better himself. As an extract from Chip Taylor’s Road Journal entry for the Foxlowe Arts Centre gig says:

“By the time we finished dinner it was pretty much time for Adam [Coxon] to go on the stage and sing a few songs before we got up to do one long show.

Joan and I got there to see a little bit of Adam’s set and sat in the back clapping with other fans for his fine performance.

We got on stage promptly at nine… Right away we knew this was a crazy wonderful audience… It seemed like such comfortable fit, with equally crazy folks playing the music!

Gøran Grini and John Platania were absolutely amazing tonight. Working their magic in and out of all the songs, leaving lots of breathing room in each one. Again, the hits and the up-tempo songs seem to feel loose and good and very well responded to by this great group … we had good fun with the opening song, the Real Thing and “Track 224“ was over-the-top good tonight. Johnny Cash’s “Big River“was raw and great with amazing solos by John and Gøran.

But the songs that seemed to draw the most attention and get the most elongated applause again were the silent ones… The beautiful silent ones. Among the absolute magic ones for the night were “Whiskey Salesman”, “I Like Ridin’”, “Theme for an American Hero”, “What a Smile You Had”, “He’s a Good Guy as Well you Know”, “There’s Nothing Coming out of Me That I Like”, “I’ll Carry for You” and of course the biggest crowd pleaser of all these days is always “Fuck All the Perfect People“!

This audience was just really special.. An audience like this helps make the songs like “He’s a Good Guy” more than just songs being played… More like prayerful things being thought together and communicated and felt together. Some audiences do that for you… and so far, the audiences we have been playing for have been exceptional in this regard. Tonight, you could hear a pin drop during the performance of the songs and you could hear all the little soulful nuances being played on stage by Gøran and John.

This crazy, spontaneous audience brought out the best in us and them.. it was one of those nights!

After a wild “Fuck All the Perfect People”, with the audience singing the chorus loud and clear very early on in the song, we ended with “I Wasn’t Born in Tennessee” from the 1973 classic, Last Chance.

We left to a standing ovation and got a chance to say hello to some of [the audience in the bar area]…”

Thank you to Adam, Chip, John and Gøran for an amazing night, the staff and volunteers at the Foxlowe, and to everyone in the audience who came out on a wet night in Leek to catch the show. We look forward to welcoming you back to the Foxlowe again.

Adam Coxon at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Chip Taylor, Göran Grini and John Platania at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Chip Taylor, Göran Grini and John Platania at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Giles Metcalfe and Chip Taylor

Photos 1 to 3 by Giles Metcalfe, Photos 4 and 5 courtesy of Joan Taylor (thank you, Joan).

Little Victor and his Combo

The larger than life Little Victor – AKA Victor Mac, “The Beale Street Blues Bopper” and DJ Mojo Man – graced Leek and a full house at The Foxlowe for The Blues and Americana Festival with his presence on Saturday the 5th of October; supported by Dominic “Chuck Berry” Cooper’s Red Berryn, playing the music of Chuck Berry.

Along with his Combo – his backing band – Little Victor gave us a rollicking and rambunctious night of Blues and Rock ‘N’ Roll, straight from the heart of Memphis to a packed room in the Midlands home of Blues and Americana.

Little Victor is an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player; well-known on both sides of the pond for his rich, quirky and inspired real deal postmodern down-home Blues. He has been called ‘the King of Grit’ and the antithesis of meaningless virtuosity.

The music journalist Johnny Whiteside, writing in the LA Times, described Little Victor’s style of music:

“Little Victor (is) an untamed maverick whose raw, primitive sounds are the utter antithesis of the contemporary Blues model. The offbeat singer-guitarist eschews the genre’s prevalent trend for streamlined six-string virtuosity in favour of wild shouting, stabbing guitar and heavy, almost hypnotic, rhythmic repetition. He can effortlessly switch from shadowy, primitive low Blues to the polished, uptown Beale Street-style R&B to wild, wicked boogies, and all of it is put across with expressive, soul-deep conviction.”

His live shows are an unusual blend of juke joint blues and cabaret, and Saturday night at The Foxlowe was no exception.

Little Victor comes over like a mixture of John Lee Hooker, Slim Harpo, Pee Wee Herman, Muddy Waters, Peter Sellers, RL Burnside, James Brown, Salvidor Dali, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tommy Cooper, Jimmy Reed, and Screaming Jay Hawkins, all rolled into one! A larger than life character indeed!

Sporting an array of sharp attire, black sunglasses and natty headwear – leopardprint berets and fezzes – and a cape, Little Victor and his equally well-dressed Combo played songs from his new album, entitled “Deluxe Lo-Fi”, as well as cover versions and material from his “Back To The Black Bayou” album. Ably backed by his band, Little Victor’s rowdy, joyous showmanship was a joy to behold. Prowling the stage at times, Little Victor whipped his guitar lead around, did nifty and well-honed moves with his mike stand, stood on a stool which he later kicked over and off the stage, and ventured out into the audience, meaning that you could never take your eyes off him. Woe betide you if you should talk during his set too, as the couple sat near to the stage found out when he called them out for having a conversation whilst he was telling a tale between songs! Appropriate and orchestrated audience participation was encouraged, however, with call and response sections within the songs (“Shake Your Boogie”, and “Another Sleepless Night”), and audience interaction between numbers.

Sponsored by CTD Architects, we were delighted to have Little Victor and his all-star Combo with us for the Festival this year.

Prior to his set, Little Victor was presented with a sketch portrait by Leek and Foxlowe Creative Hub-based artist, Gavin Bowyer. Gavin was commissioned by the Leek Blues and Americana Festival to produce sketch portraits in his own signature style of each of the acts playing this year.

The photo of Little Victor receiving his portait from Gavin is by Mark Brammar.

All other photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Little Victor recieves his sketch portrait from local artist Gavin Bowyer

Little Victor recieves his sketch portrait from local artist Gavin Bowyer. Photo by Mark Brammar.

 

Dominic "Chuck Berry" Cooper's Red Berryn

Dominic “Chuck Berry” Cooper’s Red Berryn. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Little Victor and his Combo, Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Little Victor and his Combo. Stool still onstage. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Little Victor and his Combo, Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Leek

Little Victor and his Combo. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Little Victor and his Combo, Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Leek

Little Victor and his Combo. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley and Sam Brookes

Martin Harley, supported by Sam Brookes, kicked off the Foxlowe’s Leek Blues and Americana Festival as a host venue for live music on Wednesday the 2nd of October.

The Festival as a whole opened with a showing of the film Amazing Grace in the cinema room in the Foxlowe on Tuesday night, followed by Festival First Call with Mike Gledhill in the Cock Inn on Wednesday afternoon, but the Foxlowe opened its doors on an unseasonably chilly evening to welcome a great turnout for Martin Harley’s brand of electrified Country Blues.

As Martin’s website states:

“I’m ready to make a bigger noise……Muddy Waters invented electricity right?”

“In 2019 British guitarist and songwriter Martin Harley is making a change. Having created a deep impression on the acoustic blues roots and Americana scene with his last two Nashville recorded albums, his highly anticipated new record finds a new and exciting sound. An Intimate and gritty analogue album, recorded in a remote chapel deep in the wilds of Pembrokeshire. Taking county blues riffs to the electric bottleneck slide guitar, served with sweet vocal harmonies over the driving rhythms of co producer and drummer Harry Harding (Yola Carter/William the Conquerer) Award winning Australian bassist Rex Horan finalises the line up. He has recorded and performed with Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Laura Marling.

“Through Harley’s road worn songwriting style this record explores hopes and fears for fast changing times, offering gospel like comfort and consolation. The song ‘Roll With The Punches’ implores the listener not to get dragged down when challenges seem unsurmountable. ‘Coming Home’ asks questions beyond the end of life and ruminates on freedom from worldly desires.

“If success can be measured by growing global demand to attend Martin’s dynamic life performances then perhaps his touring schedule is proof of that. He recently played to full house at the Union Chapel in Islington and has appeared at Edmonton, Vancouver, Canmore and Calgary folk festivals in Canada, Glastonbury, Bestival, Beautiful days in the UK, numerous European and US tours and events including the AMAs, The Bluebird in Nashville and Tønder in Denmark. In 2018 Total guitar ranked him #16 in the worlds greatest acoustic guitarist poll and he was nominated as Instrumentalist of the year at the Americana music awards.”

Ably supported by acoustic singer-songwriter, Sam Brookes, who has been described as being “reminiscent of Tim Buckley as he glides between the lower and upper registers of his four-octave range. His pure voice, evocative lyrics and soaring melodies have made him a rising figure in the alt-folk scene”, the appreciative and reverent audience were treated to an uplifting and at times highly poignant and moving set, including renditions of ‘Roll With The Punches’, ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’ and ‘Winter Coat’.

Prior to his set, Martin was presented with a sketch portrait by Leek and Foxlowe Creative Hub-based artist, Gavin Bowyer. Gavin was commissioned by the Leek Blues and Americana Festival to produce sketch portraits in his own signature style of each of the acts playing this year.

The photo of Martin receiving his portait from Gavin is by Mark Brammar.

All other photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley receiving his sketch portrait from Gavin Bowyer

Martin Harley receiving his sketch portrait from local artist Gavin Bowyer. Photo by Mark Brammar.

 

Sam Brookes supporting Martin Harley and playing to a full room at Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Sam Brookes supporting Martin Harley and playing to a full room. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley playing lap slide guitar

Martin Harley playing lap slide guitar. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley and Band

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Leek Blues and Americana Festival Sunday Sessions Sister Suzie and the Right Band

The final day of the Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019 saw an enforced change of venue due to the poor weather conditions and health and safety concerns.

The Sparrow Park stage, sponsored by Old Smithy Tattoo Parlour, was dismantled, and the scheduled bands moved indoors to the Foxlowe, which had been on standby in case of this eventuality. The organisers and volunteers pulled out all the stops to make sure that everything went ahead, and the running order and start times were unaffected.

I caught the tail end of festival favourite Lil’ Jim‘s set, and then settled into my seat for Sister Suzie and the Right Band‘s brand of explosive Rhythm and Blues.

Who is Sister Suzie? Well, Suzie hails from Northumberland’s wild and rural northern border, and has been bringing her natural downhome charm, undiluted, to southern climes for the last few years, including appearances at Glastonbury. The band has also toured Europe, before heading to the Midlands capital of Blues and Americana – Leek.

Suzie was joined onstage by drummer Neil Marsh, Al Nicholls on tenor sax, guitarist Matt Jackson, and Eddie Edwards on stand-up double bass. The band’s Sunday Session set was a rock and rolling mixture of original material and cover versions that drew heavily on the songs of Elmore James and Irma Thomas in particular, as well as a poignant duet between Suzie and Matt on Angel from Montgomery, made famous by Bonnie Raitt.

The bolder and more boisterous members of the audience were soon up and out of their seats and twisting down the front, along with the youngest audience member, who absolutely stole the show by boogieing along too! The interaction between the toddler and Suzie was priceless, funny and altogether too cute.

Before the show, Suzie was presented with her portrait by local and Foxlowe Creative Hub-based portrait sketch artist Gavin Bowyer. Gavin has been busy producing specially commissioned sketch portraits of all the acts appearing at this year’s Blues and Americana Festival.

Thanks again to Old Smithy Tattoo Parlour for sponsoring the event, as well as extending big thanks to the various acts, the Festival organisers and volunteers at the Foxlowe for making sure that everything ran smoothly.

We hope to welcome Sister Suzie and the Right Band back to the Foxlowe soon.

All photos used with kind permission.

All photos by Mark Brammar.

Sister Suzie and Gavin Bowyer

Sister Suzie and Gavin Bowyer, at the presentation of her portrait sketch.

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

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.

 

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