Leek Blues and Americana Festival

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.

Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2018 FXLW

Now in its sixth year, the expanded Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2018 was held at 20 different indoor and outdoor venues all across Leek, with more than 60 bands playing, from Wednesday the 3rd of October to Sunday the 7th of October. The Festival was a great success.

On Wednesday the 3rd of October, The Foxlowe Arts Centre hosted The Guy Tortora Band, with support from Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef.

Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Dave Luke & Chuck Micallef

The Guy Tortora Band, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Guy Tortora Band

Sunday the 7th of October saw the FXLW: Americana sessions taking place all-afternoon and into the evening, featuring an eclectic lineup of six bands and artists playing from 12 noon until 7pm – Adam Coxon & Rick Ford, The Rye Sisters, Mean Mary & Frank James, Lissy Taylor, Fine Lines, and The Strange Blue Dreams.

Adam Coxon & Rick Ford, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Adam Coxon & Rick Ford

The Rye Sisters, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Rye Sisters

Mean Mary & Frank James, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Mean Mary & Frank James

Lissy Taylor, at the Foxlowe Arts Centre

Lissy Taylor

Fine Lines, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

Fine Lines

The Strange Blue Dreams, at The Foxlowe Arts Centre

The Strange Blue Dreams

A big thank you to everyone involved – the artists who played on Wednesday night and on the Sunday, the sponsors, the Foxlowe staff and volunteers for all their hard work in staging the events, and to all that attended.

All photography by Giles Metcalfe.