Davina And The Vagabonds
Robin 2 Sept. 9th
Where to start, I am selective in the bands I see and review, too much hard work if your not likely to enjoy the music. I have seen some excellent bands and fine performances, rarely disappointed, but occasionally, you just have to revise your reference points.
Davina and The Vagabonds have defrag’d my hard drive, and written a new sector. They are just stupendously, bloody good. Its cream cake day, time to open that 50 year malt, words may fail me.
Davina sparkles with mischief on the piano, everything from beautifully soulful blues to full on barrel house, is at her fingertips. In her voice I hear elements of Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Paloma Faith, in a fusion of Jazz and Blues.
The Vagabonds dovetail with Davina perfectly, superlative trumpet and trombone, from Dan and Ben, who both add to the vocals. Underpinned with double bass and drums from Andy and Alec.
The play is a mixture of New Orleans blues, Dixie, a bit of Rock & Roll, and large doses of jazz and blues. BUT, everything is delivered in their own style, whether its Fats, ‘Ain’t That A Shame’, Etta’s, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ (superb) or Chuck’s ‘Nadine’. They are not a covers band, these songs receive original interpretation, and then some! Some lovely Trombone and trumpet work from Ben and Dan places ‘Nadine’ on a different level.
Self penned compositions liberally sprinkle the session, the deeply soulful ‘Blues Got A Hold Of Me’ contrasts with the tango rhythms of a cheeky ‘I Really Try To Be Good’, Eartha Kitt could not have done it better. ‘Lipstick And Chrome’ is a rollicking full on, swinging, Dixie band start, leading into Davina’s energetic boogie on the piano, ‘River’, runs deep into the blues waters.
Hold it there; its not just about the fabulous musical performance conjured up by this band, there is a huge bucket-load of humour and banter mixed in, the audience is drawn in to the fun. Davina vocally jousts with the sounds Dan can squeeze out of that horn. Have a look on You Tube for ‘St Michael Vs the Devil’, and you will get the idea and feel of Davina and co. ‘St James Infirmary Blues’ is to die for!!!
The whole evening seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, I wanted more, much more. The tour in the UK is brief, following an extensive time in Europe. I hope they all return soon, but don’t tell anyone else, I may not get through the door. Blues with a difference, indescribably wonderful.
Words And Photos By Graham Munn
Lakefest is only a couple of years old but with it’s idyllic setting, family friendly atmosphere and compelling mixture of musical mayhem it’s already fast becoming a real favourite for festival followers bringing in locals and folk further afield.
This year’s event saw the organizers compile a wonderful line-up from cult favourites (The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Duke Special, et) to festival mainstays (Missing Andy, The Levellers, Ocean Colour Scene, The Beat) via up and coming locals (The Lights, Whipjacks, The Feddens, etc).
The Indigo Kings opened the proceedings with a delightful mix of swing, upbeat pop and sing-a-long harmonies that soon had the assembled masses swaying, nodding and even bopping (bit early for full on dancing!), the likes of Jump Jive Daddy and Holy Woman seduced the masses and proved to be the perfect start for the forthcoming proceedings.
Missing Andy arrived late but quickly stole the stage, packing out the arena with a frenzied combination of upbeat, holler along indie anthems, ska infused dance along s and punchy, fist in the air laments that had the whole tent bouncing in unison. As ever the likes of Young Disciples, Money and Dirty Suzanna incited a mass sing-a-long, with the crowd baying for more after a pummelling finale.
Covers bands aren’t normally my kind of thing, however The Chip Shop Boys are worth a mention for their tight, energetic and fun set taking in everyone from Daft Punk to The Killers via Chic, The Beatles and Queen.
Over on the second stage (Floating Globe Stage) we caught a couple of songs by local punky misfits Skewwhiff and a glorious set of accordion wielding, double bass pumping, pirate punk by local favourites, The Whipjacks.
Back on the mainstage, the suitably lubricated audience wanted to strut, skank and dance so ska legends The Beat provided the perfect soundtrack to get the party started. The band rattled off Rock The Casbah, Big Shot, Tears of A Clown and of course Mirror In The Bathroom to captious applause and frantic bouncing aplenty as The Beat once again delivered a thrilling set of crowd pleasers.
The Lights rocked the Floating Globe with a brilliant set of male/female vocal interplay and infectious indie pop, before Ocean Colour Scene completed the opening nights proceedings with their usual set of Brit-pop anthems and hook-laden indie classics, sending us off into the night in style.
Due to the day job I had to miss the likes of Cosmo Jarvis and Baka Beyond, but thankfully we managed to hit Lakefest as the maverick genius that is Duke Special took to the stage, now it’s almost impossible to describe the sound of the three-piece band, but the combination of piano, sax and the most extensive drum kit you can imagine helps create one of the most intriguing and infectious blend of caberet pop known to man and the likes of Digging An Early Grave and Apple Jack (not to mention a wonderful laidback take on Love Will Tear Us Apart) soon seduced the masses.
Continuing the oft-kilter sound only in a more spaced out psychedelic manner was veteran Arthur Brown and his Crazy World. The band kicked up a witchy brew of synths and riffs whilst the man himself acted as master of ceremonies on a deranged take of Put A Spell On You and the obligatory Fire. Arthur even managed to venture into the audience much to their delight to boogie with the masses at one point during his memorable set.
Local heroes Roving Crows stormed the mainstage with their blend of celtic ska, folk and good old fashioned rock n roll, imagine if you will a mash-up of all that’s good from the likes of The Waterboys, The Levellers, Runrig and The New Model Army, throw in some Dexy’s soul and a dose of ska and you have one of the most potent sounds to have taken to the stage. The crowd lapped up the band’s fantastic and diverse set with Roll On Tomorrow proving to be a particular note worthy highlight from their glorious playlist.
The Levellers concluded the night with a storming set of infectious, driving political folk/punk, delivering all the fan favourites such as Beautiful Day, One Way Of Life and the evergreen anthem Hope Street, each one hollered back by the crowd and received with the plaudits they richly deserve.
Sunday, and some had started journeys home, ready for the toil of Monday morning. There was still plenty of footfall and the camp followers were spread around the grounds of the festival. Wille and The Bandits, were sound checking, and were ready to kick off in a sparsely populated main stage. This was going to be good, it always is from this band. They take essentially blues and classics, restructure them, and perform them in a unique way, alongside their own well crafted songs. Elements of rock steady and ska are present in their music, it is a beautiful sound. The huge canopy starts to fill, drawn in by the magnetic rhythms of Wille & co. ‘Black Magic Woman’ streams out across the grounds, more pack in. Previously uninitiated were transfixed, ‘Angel’, opens with a long lead in from Matt on 6 string bass, superb. They close with a reworked ‘Money For Nothing’, a full 7 minutes & a pleasure to listen to, they have won many new fans here. Wait for the new album to be launched in autumn, followed by a UK tour.
Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun, followed, a local band from Cheltenham. Styled as folk rock, they sort of brought Big Country to mind. The band is never still dipping and shifting back and forth, only the vocal stream pulls them to a microphone, an element of punk maybe. ‘A Song About Death’ and ‘England’s Dead’, seem morbid subjects, but the songs are anthemic with arena filling sound. Worth a listen if that’s you taste, check out some videos on You Tube.
3 Daft Monkeys, is a ‘world’ folk band, and for this outing, 4 turned up, Athene, Tim and Lukas were joined by percussionist Richie using hand drums and cymbals. Athene plays fiddle, Tim a 12 string acoustic and Lucas looks after bass. Athene is like a dancing nymph ably assisted by Lukas, as Tim presents most of the vocal leads. I particularly liked ‘Paranoid Big Brother’, nice fiddle from Athene, quirky lyrics, and changing pace, drive this song along. ‘Under One Sun’, again brings interesting lyrics, lead vocals from Tim again. The band are entertaining to watch and listen to, plenty of interaction and good humour in the songs. Hope to see them again for a forthcoming CD launch tour, including Hare & Hounds in Birmingham. All in, a good, fun band with a different approach to writing and performing, almost befitting a circus setting.
Top of the bill on Sunday, Chas & Dave, 50 years as likeable cockney geezers, ready for a knees up and boogie woogie. I have to be honest, as popular as they appeared to be, I had hoped for a bit more depth, but it was, as it always has been, simple sing along songs. That did not seem to concern the packed main stage, all the remaining festival fanatics crowded in and around the he marquee. The beer and cider flowed, all had a good time. Only a spectacular firework display awaited to close the event.
Photos and Day Three by Graham Munn
Stomp & Holler Live @ The Artrix; Bromsgrove
Last year at Worcester Beer Festival, I saw and listened to Stomp & Holler’s first ‘outing’. Oliver and Abby had evolved from the Blues Tribe, were playing alongside Chris in ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ and had gathered a drummer, Martin, guitarist, Lee, and saxophonist, John. It had been a good evening, though possibly not fully appreciated by the ale enthusiasts glued to the muddy fields of last ‘summer’.
Enjoyable as the evening was, I felt Martin, the drummer, was not fully relaxed into his role. I saw a more complete and accomplished show at Ledbury theatre a few months later, and now here I was at the Artrix to see the band again, I knew Martin was a drummer of repute, and am pleased to say he has, in my humble opinion, grown roots in the band.
John I had seen before when guesting with the old Blues Tribe, and can really appreciate his breathing life into an array of sax’s, as well as some very nice touches on the flute.
Lee is a talented guitarist who has a distinctive influence on the overall sound of this Orleans style band.
The ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ element, Abby, Chris, and Oliver, fit well together as you would expect, but the style and direction is much livelier, with a mix of Blues, Jazz and Swing.
They open at full bore with signature piece ‘Crazy Up In Here’, with strong vocals from Abby and Oliver. Abby takes lead vocals, and she has a fine voice, in ‘Start It Up’, with Lee stepping forward for a spot in ‘Lucky Man’.
This is the aperitif for one of my particular favourites, sung with some real Cocker mouth grit (that’s Joe, not the little place in Cumbria), ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’. This is played at a funereal pace, suitable perhaps for the opening dirge at a New Orleans procession; it fits Oliver’s gritty vocals as if tailor made.
The first set ends with a strong driving blues of ‘Webstop Checker’, with leads coming from Lee, supported with Oliver’s trumpet and John’s sax, Martin firing up the furnace with Chris shovelling in the coal!
Second set kicks off with a heartfelt ‘Lonesome town’, with Oliver’s unique vocal qualities coming to the fore.
‘Whys It Always Me’, is a more cockney lad style, with Chris taking the vocals, feeding in back to Oliver for a gravel laden ‘Hadn’t Been For Love’, back in blues mode.
The evening seems to rush through, as is always the case when enjoying good music, Abby taking lead again with ‘Tell it Like It Is’; a chorus of ‘happy birthday’, were there really that many birthday’s in the Artrix that evening? A crowd pleasing ‘Evangeline’, running through to a reprise of ‘Crazy Up In Here’; which is where we came in. The difference here is the interwoven, layered vocals from Abby, Oliver, Lee, and Chris.
Overall a good night’s entertainment from 6 very accomplished musicians that have gelled well together since inception.
The music is eminently suitable for getting up and dancing, which I suspect many on the night would have liked to do, I believe the original plan was for the Artix to leave a floor are and partial seating. For whatever reason, it was fully seated, which meant much ‘squirming’ in seats, the standing ovation was inevitable, lets have more!
Words And Photos By Graham Munn
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