Live Music in Leek

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.

 

 

The Smears playing at Foxlowe arts centre

Playing in the New Year – January 4th, more details soon in the meantime have a look at this great video

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