With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

Sunflower Thieves and Epilogues – Songs Under Skies – National Centre For Early Music (NCEM), York – Wednesday 16th June 2021 July 5, 2021


This was the final show of 5 of the second series of Songs Under Skies (the last was September 2020) in the grounds of the iconic and frankly gorgeous York venue the National Centre For Early Music (NCEM). Tonight we had even more local talent proving once again that York and Yorkshire bloody rock it! Before it all started though, I had the opportunity for a long chat with the supremely talented Laura Kindelan. I am definitely looking to more music from her! (No pressure Laura!) First up was Epilogues a.k.a. Mikey who regular readers will have spotted on these pages before. By his own admission Mikey writes many sad songs, but he does fill them with truly stupendous lyrics. His second song of the evening was “Sixteen” from his new EP released a few months back, yes it was a sad song, but truly beautiful too. “The Gap” was absolute epic Epilogues, even with what Mikey referred to as a nightmare chord. I loved “Two Weeks” which I believe is about a broken relationship. Mikey gave us some idiosyncratic ad libs while tuning his guitar, including the line “and the crowd went mild”. I may have to borrow that in the future. My favourite song from this set was a new one, “I’m Just Glad That You Stayed”.

Next up were an act that I had not seen or heard before, Sunflower Thieves. They are purveyors of perfectly matched voices and heavenly harmonies. They kicked off their set with the sublime “Don’t mind The Weather” which was released as a single this year. It is the perfect song for a beautiful, balmy summer evening. They played a couple of new songs, apologies if I got the titles wrong. “34 Days” and “Going Out With You”. The latter has an early 70s US West Coast coffee bar vibe. It would have fitted perfectly in an acoustic afternoon session at the Troubadour in Los Angeles back in the day. I adore “Hide And Seek” which is about being carefree and being nostalgic for childhood. It evoked many wonderful carefree and youthful memories for me. They played a tune that they wrote with the multi talented Sam Griffiths of the Howl And The Hum, but I missed the title, but it was probably my favourite of the whole night. I also really love “Heavyweight” a song about social anxiety, which I suppose couldn’t be more topical right now. I definitely want to hear more from the Sunflower Thieves and I am sure that I will!

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Alice Simmons and Zak Ford – Songs Under Skies – National Centre For Early Music (NCEM), York – Tuesday 15th June 2021 June 22, 2021

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 9:36 pm
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This was show 4 of 5 of the second series of Songs Under Skies (the last was September 2020) in the grounds of the iconic York venue the National Centre For Early Music (NCEM). Tonight it was the turn of some musical talent that help showcase just what a wonderful hotbed of music York actually is. First to take the tiny stage was Zak Ford who has featured on this blog before as a solo artist and also as vocalist for This House Is Haunted. This was apparently his first gig in two years thanks to Covid. His first song, which I think was called “Use A Light” was very Jeff Buckleyesque in style and delivery. On his next song he unleashed some sublime guitar work which was reminiscent of Jonny Greenwood in one of his more mellow moments. I love “Healing Place”, it is a yearning, proto ballad with an underlying happy vibe. One of my favourite Zak Ford songs is “My Body” and tonight’s rendition maintained the songs haunting beauty. Zak did Bon Iver proud with a sublime cover of “Hey Ma”. Like many musicians Zak has continued to write and he played us a lovely tune called “Hopes And Fears” which he wrote in a very positive frame of mind during the first lockdown last year. I am looking forward to seeing Zak play live again, either solo or as a part of This House Is Haunted.

Next up is another artist who has been featured in these pages before, Alice Simmons. A very talented singer songwriter and performer who I believe has the talent and potential to go a long way. I spoke to Alice earlier in the evening and understandably she was nervous, as almost every artist probably is after a year or more of not being able to perform. But on stage there was not even a hint of nerves from Alice as she glided through a wonderful set with support from the guitar maestro known as Tim Downie. “Bridges” is a plaintive ballad over which Alice’s smoky vocal glides over the tune like a banished angel seeking a return to heaven. Next up was a stunning cover of James Brown’s “It’s Man’s Man’s World” which in the hands of a female vocalist transforms into a feminist anthem. Alice was on top form for this, she has a Winehouse sized talent. She readily admits that she writes mostly sad songs and maybe there is some truth in that, but when they have the depth and quality of the sublime, lilting ballad “State Of Mind” I don’t really mind at all. But for all the sad songs Alice is most definitely a happy person. Alice ran through a great cover of Paolo Nutini’s “Candy”, a song I must confess that I am not very familiar with, but she made it her own. Perhaps my favourite of Alice’s original songs is “Black Coffee”, it has depression, desolation and despair, proving again that she does write sad songs, but oh so very well. She closed her set with an inspired choice of cover, the 25 year old Blackstreet smash “No Diggity”. Alice performed the song like it was made for her, but the real star for this finale was the incredibly funky acoustic guitar sounds from Tim Downie. I recommend you explore both of tonights incredibly talented artists further, you will not be disappointed!

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Songs Under Skies – No. 6 – Elkyn and Fawn – NCEM, York – Thursday 17th September 2020 September 22, 2020

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 10:57 pm
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Thanks to this vile bastard Covid-19 I went to my last gig more than half a year ago on Saturday 14th March, now 187 days later I am finally got to another gig. It is the sixth and final in the Songs Under Skies series of acoustic shows in the grounds of York’s National Centre for Early Music (NCEM). I had planned to attend two earlier shows the previous week, but illness, not Covid-19 thankfully, put paid to that. These shows were masterminded by the NCEM, the Crescent and the Fulford Arms with support from the Music Venues Alliance. I would like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone involved, of all the things I have missed during lock down and beyond, it is live music that I felt the most. It was also great to meet up with so many great people from York’s fabulous music scene. Thank you Zac, Chris, Harkirit, Mikey and Marc to name just a few!

There were two acts on each of the six nights. Gates opened at 6:30pm and the first act was on at 7pm with a 30 minute break at 7:30pm while the final act took the stage at 8pm for a 30 minute set. My evening was kicked off by the delightful Elkyn with their weird, wonderful and warm folky sounds. Set opener “Seventeen” was built on Simon and Garfunkel style harmonies, soft acoustic guitars and a harmonic drone in the background. Is it even possible to have a harmonious drone? I don’t know, but this bloody well was! All of Elkyn‘s songs were quite special, “Change” was underpinned by a more harmonic almost orchestral drone. It is a new song that had never been played live before, it is a truly gorgeous melancolic chill out tune. They played the lead single from their new EP ‘Beech’ it is called “Yue” (I think). This sublime song, which rippled with raw emotion, was probably my favourite Elkyn performance. There was an extended guitar tuning session, which the band should have introduced as a strange avant garde classical guitar movement, we would have been impressed. After this we arrived at “Stupid World” which was overshadowed by the noise from the bottle bank next door being emptied. But Elkyn did not let that get them down, they are real troupers, and, wait for it, they didn’t bottle it! Lyrically the song is very powerful, with lines like “where can I go from here, I can’t flee from that” which for some reason made me think of the hardships so many of us have endured in the past six months. Check out Elkyn on Spotify by clicking here, you will not regret it.

In a rather nice twist of fate the second and final act tonight were Ilana and Crispin better known as Fawn. Why was that a nice twist of fate, well Fawn were on the bill at my last gig on March 14th. That was at the Fulford Arms where they were supporting Julia Bardo. Kitty VR was also on the bill that same night and she made her own Songs Under Skies appearance the previous week. Ilana’s vocals throughout were exquisite and very Joni Mitchellesque on the first song. “I Know Nothing” is a song all about making dumb decisions in your youth. Ilana’s voice carried a supreme range of emotion on this song, the same breadth and depth that a young Linda Rondstadt could do so well. In the middle of the set headless guitarist Crispin (he was a little tall for the small stage) left Ilana alone for a stunning, immensely beautiful song about uncertain times, a perfect theme for 2020. Her yearning vocal and deep lyrics took the evening to a real peak. “Romans, Vikings And Knights” is a song that Ilana wrote about her then home city, York. This was many years ago when she worked at the Fulford Arms. Crispin provided some spot on slide guitar on this track. Another song was an ode to another former hometown of Ilana’s, “Sleeping Giant” tells of a mountain near her old home town in the US. The story of this particular peak is that it is in fact a giant taking a very long sleep. The legend says that if the giant wakes up the world will end. But as Ilana pointed out despite the apocalyptic feel of 2020, the giant is still asleep. Click here to get some Fawn in your life, you know it makes sense!

All photographs were taken by the hugely talented Marc McGarraghy of Yellow Mustang Photography

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Graeme Clark – National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) – York – Wednesday 5th September 2018 September 6, 2018


Thanks to those excellent people at showfilmfirst myself and the wonderful Catwoman a.k.a. Catherine had the opportunity to see Graeme Clark off of Wet Wet Wet at the National Centre for Early Music in York for just a quid each! We arrived in plenty of time to see the talented Mr Finn Paul who was the support act. Finn has a self-deprecating, engaging personality and he also has some great songs. I sensed a few influences; maybe a bit of Hozier and on “Treat Her Fair” there was definitely a trace of Finlay Quaye. My favourite song from Finn’s set was “The Watcher” which is obviously very deep and possibly quite dark too. He also included a rabble rousing cover of “The House Of The Rising Sun” and an Eddie Vedder song from the ‘Into The Wild’ soundtrack.

Then it was time for the main man of the evening Graeme Clark, former bass player and songwriter from 80s and 90s Scottish pop Titans Wet Wet Wet. Graeme is not only a great singer songwriter and an excellent performer he also excels as a raconteur. His stories about how his songs came to be and his life with Wet Wet Wet were amusing, heartfelt and very honest. It is 31 years since Wet Wet Wet broke into the UK charts with “Wishing I Was Lucky” in 1987. Their debut album ‘Popped In Souled Out’ topped the UK album chart that same year. Graeme has just released a mini album titled ‘Radio Silence’ and he showcased most of the songs from that collection here. Everyone one of them was introduced with an origin story which had the audience captivated. “Polaroid Luv”, “Fall To Pieces” and “Caledonia Soul” are gorgeous songs but none can top the power and emotion of the emotional “Ghost” with the kind of lyric that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, in a good way. Graeme’s vocal style has echoes of Bono’s softer side and even a feel of Robbie Williams without the histrionics. A very special mention to the outstanding fiddle playing of Fiona Cuthill who added great depth to many of Graeme’s songs.

Obviously Graeme was not going to leave us without playing any of the old Wet Wet Wet hits and he began with “Goodnight Girl” a UK number one from 1991. If you thought you needed Marti Pellow’s blue-eyed soul vocal to make this song work, then think again because Mr Clark smashed it and all of us in the crowd were singing along at full volume. He told us about his love for Pellow his friend from school days as he introduced “Somewhere Somehow”. He believes that when the song was recorded it featured Pellow’s finest ever Wet Wet Wet vocal performance. I think you might be able to guess the song that Graeme closed the show with, yes it was 1994 mega smash hit, number one in the UK for fifteen weeks, “Love Is All Around”. For the record Clark said that he still loves the song. He invited the audience to join him on stage to sing along with him and about a dozen people did. It was a more than fitting finale for a really enjoyable and intimate show in a beautiful venue.

Public Service Announcement: all photos are from my cheap android phone from China. Videos are all found on YouTube. If you wish to be credited for any of the videos or would like them taken down please let me know.

 

 
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