The Limbs of Romney are a duo formed during lockdown by East Sussex musicians Andrew Myers and Chris Watkins. Although they are Hastings-based both have connections to Lancaster, where Myers is originally from. So, as a Hastings-based blogger also originally from Lancashire, this was bound to pique my interest.
The pair have just released a digital-only four-track EP Home to Shore.
Explaining how the duo came about, Andrew Myer explains:
“Chris and I met during one of the gaps between lockdowns. He literally knocked on my door one day and asked if I wanted to make music with him. Someone had told him I was a musician. We live in Hastings but we both have connections with Lancaster, where I’m originally from. So – we had a chat and started playing together. We immediately established a great rapport and working relationship. We write everything together, although Chris writes all the lyrics and so far has been responsible for the final mixes, laying up from the basic piano and guitar. We managed to play together regularly for a few weeks, then it was the second? third? lockdown and we had to resort to communicating by email and sending stuff backwards and forwards.”
The EP is very much inspired by tales of the sea. They weren’t trying to cash in on sea shanty craze, they are keen to assure me, as neither of them claim to be up to date enough with modern day culture to cash in on any new-fangled craze. The duo’s music is narrative folk very much driven by piano and guitar but they aren’t afraid to throw in some experimental touches, too, giving the EP a slightly ethereal, other-worldly quality. The maritime themes clearly provide a rich basis for the duo’s storytelling and down here in Hastings, of course, there’s no shortage of source material to provide inspiration.
“Our first effort ‘Home to Shore’ is a celebration of the sea – it’s three songs, with a ‘storm interlude’ which depicts a shipwreck. Chris likes to research a topic and base lyrics on that, so these songs are the fruit of many an hour spent at the Shipwreck museum in Hastings.”
All four tracks are available on YouTube here, as well as being available on Spotify.
And what next for The Limbs of Romney?
“Our current project is writing music for the ‘Town Explores A Book’ festival in St Leonards – all based on the life of Edward Lear. We should be getting some local exposure through the festival.”
Based in Hailsham in East Sussex, Tim Izzard is a musician who has worked across a variety of musical genres but Starlight Rendezvous, released last month, is his debut rock album. Taking glam-era Bowie as its starting point the album makes nods in the direction of pop, prog, rock and garage, and delivers something that is both creative and original yet unashamedly wears its influences as unselfconsciously as Mick Ronson in his golden Starman costume.
Izzard tells us: “It’s a play-it-loud, 40 mins concept album (remember them!) where the time is 632 AF, we are in a Brave New World and ‘The Visitor’, Thomas Jerome Newton, is still alive and still waiting to find his way home after nearly 200 years.”
Izzard adds: “I wanted to write an album that sounded like what first and still excites me musically and that I’d want to listen to once finished. So back to Bowie playing Starman on TOTP and the album, Ziggy. Roxy Music’s first two albums, Transformer/Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Bowie’s live Beeb version of Waiting For The Man still does it for me.“
“The chords and melody for Man Who Fell To Earth came easily to me one day, and just sounded immediately like it should be a tribute. So the title Man Who Fell To Earth I chose as he appeared like an alien on TOTP and left us so dramatically two days after Blackstar, almost as if his mission had been accomplished. The lyrics name-check his songs but also the impact they had on me ‘listening in my room’.“
That self-penned Bowie tribute, the excellent ‘Man Who Fell To Earth’ has already been picking up airplay including here on BBC Radio Sussex and in the US on glam rock internet station Dandy’s Stardust Dive.
Tim Izzard’s album Starlight Rendezvous is available on Bandcamp here:
Hot on the heels of Lancashire-based folk-rockers, Merry Hell, who released their eco-themed Emergency Lullabies album last November comes Temperature’s Rising, another environmentally-conscious album title from another act immersed in the UK folk scene: East Sussex’s Milton Hide.
I’ve much enjoyed seeing this husband-and-wife acoustic duo, Jim and Josie Tipler, out on the live scene here in East Sussex on a number of occasions. Their thought-provoking, observational and often humorous self-written songs were always a treat to witness and it was a delight, therefore, to get my hands on their debut album.
While their acoustic-driven melodies are at the heart of Temperature’s Rising there’s plenty more to the album besides. The dozen songs here are all ones that the duo have performed live over the years. However, a cast of guest musicians, their contributions all recorded separately and expertly weaved into the album within the necessary constraints imposed by life in lockdown, add rich texture to the duo’s melodies.
Bruce Knapp from Moltenamba provides some deliciously Americana-flavoured guitar on several tracks, Fred Gregory and Phil Jones from Hatful of Rain come in on mandolin and string bass respectively, while Ian McIlroy from Rough Chowder plays accordion and Simon Yapp from Ian Roland Subtown Set adds some distinctive fiddle-playing. The whole album is produced and engineered by John Fowler of Dandelion Charm who also utilises his multi-instrumental talents on guitars, bass, keyboards and drums while Clare Fowler, the other half of Dandelion Charm, adds some backing vocals.
The title track ‘Temperature’s Rising’ utilises the full band set-up to deliver a rousing modern-day folk-rock anthem. Josie Tipler: “Greta Thunberg was making news and climate activists were very prominent in the media. Also, there was a lot of protesting going on – anger over US elections and Brexit. “
Meanwhile, ‘A Little Piece Of Mind’ sees Jim and Josie in classic acoustic duo mode. With a more than a nod to the melody of Elizabeth Cotton’s evergreen skiffle favourite ‘Freight Train’ the lyrics here similarly utilise train metaphors but the song is actually Josie’s ode to the menopause and mid-life crisis.
The poignant ‘Littlefield’, inspired by Jim spotting a welcoming light in the window of a house that had been empty for many months, channels the spirit some of those classic English folk-inspired singer-songwriters in the vein of Sandy Denny et al and is beautifully sung by Josie.
‘Say It All The Time’ is another highlight. Quite unlike anything else on the album, the song was initially prompted by a bleak mood that came over Jim during a walk on the South Downs one day and the subsequent death of a musician friend who had tragically taken his own life. It was originally released as a charity single back in 2019 to raise awareness of suicide prevention. Remixed for the album the spiky, slightly eighties, slightly goth-sounding keyboards from producer and multi-instrumentalist, John Fowler, really make this track and perfectly capture the mood of the song.
Mention should also be made of the beautiful packaging including fold-out lyric sheet featuring original artwork by Hastings artist Helen Bryant.
Anyone who is already familiar with Milton Hide’s live act will want to buy this album but hopefully ‘Temperature’s Rising’ will also help bring the duo’s unique talents as songwriters, singers and musicians to a much wider audience. A very welcome full-length debut from Milton Hide with some superb musical guests.
Personal, amusing, heart-breaking, making a point, performances from the duo Milton Hide have always been memorable, strong in melody and full of hooks. Storytellers at heart, many of their songs are grounded in traditional English song, whilst others are rooted in other folk traditions, such as Appalachian, Klezmer and popular music. Emerging out of the East Sussex open mic and folk club circuit five years ago, the acoustic duo picked up many plaudits for their debut EP, Little Fish, released in 2018.
Now husband and wife duo, Jim and Josie Tipler, are set to release their first full-length album: Temperature’s Rising. All the songs on the album are self-penned originals that Milton Hide have performed live over the past few years.
Josie Tipler: “The name of the album and title track, Temperature’s Rising, seemed very appropriate when we started to work on the album. Greta Thunberg was making news and climate activists were very prominent in the media. Also, there was a lot of protesting going on – anger over US elections and Brexit. Added to which I was in the midst of menopause and suffering frequent hot flushes. All in all, the temperature was metaphorically and actually rising. Little did we know it was going to be even more appropriate as the global pandemic took hold.”
The line-up of musicians appearing on the album are all people the duo have met through playing live. Being unable to come into the studio because of Covid-19 restrictions, the guest musicians all provided their parts to producer, John Fowler, which he then weaved into the songs utilising his incredible editing skills.
Jim Tipler:“We perform as an acoustic duo but, as with our previous EP release, we made the decision to simply present each song in the way we feel best suits it. For some, this is pretty much as we perform it live, for others, we have given it a full band treatment.”
“We asked John Fowler to record and produce it as we had previously worked well with him on a single, Say It All The Time. We knew John would not be afraid to add instrumentation where required and can also play really well. The advantage of working with other musicians is that they pick up on things in your music that you sometimes don’t notice yourself. We love John’s enthusiasm and amazing attention to detail. It was a great symbiosis and a lot of fun! That said, we had to complete the album, using social distancing – spacing ourselves out in the studio as well as doing some recording ourselves in our home studio.”
Milton Hide are:
Jim Tipler – guitars, vocals and piano
Josie Tipler – vocals, clarinet, cajon and xylophone
The full line-up of album guests is:
John Fowler from Dandelion Charm – engineer/producer and multi-instrumentalist: guitars, bass, keyboards and drums
Clare Fowler from Dandelion Charm – backing vocals
Bruce Knapp from Moltenamba – guitars
Fred Gregory from Hatful of Rain – mandolin
Phil Jones from Hatful of Rain – string bass
Ian McIlroy from Rough Chowder – accordion
Simon Yapp from Ian Roland Subtown Set – Fiddle
Artwork for the album was created by Hastings artist Helen Bryant who uses bright inks and watercolours with pen outlines to produce unique striking imagery.
1. ‘Temperature’s Rising’ – with a full band this is a rock track that was inspired by the first Women’s March after the inauguration of President Trump and the marches against Brexit, with the popular slogan “Bridges, not walls”
2. ‘A Little Piece Of Mind’ – is an ode to menopause and mid-life crisis.
3. ‘Littlefield’ – was the first single released from the album, late 2020. Whilst walking the dog one dreary depressing evening, Jim spotted a light in the window of a house that had been empty for many months. It cheered him up.
4. ‘Riding The Whale’ – describes Jim’s childhood memories of playing games on the beach with his dad
5. ‘Making Progress’ – a bit of a rant about stresses of the modern world – work, capitalism, the media and politics.
6. ‘Buckle Up’ – inspired by the true story of Sergeant Paul Meyer USAF, who ‘borrowed’ a C130 transport aircraft to fly from England back to his newly-wed wife in Virginia. A tale of extreme love and homesickness.
7. ‘Turnaround’ – the band often get lost and we now see this as a metaphor for our life. You can always change the road you’re on if you think you’re getting nowhere.
8. ‘Something You Don’t See Everyday’ – A social comment on the irony of becoming desensitised to daily horrors served up to us by modern media platforms. (contains a swearword – radio edit available)
9. ‘Spacetime’ – Professor Brian Cox explained the theory of spacetime on a documentary that Jim watched late one night. It made perfect sense after a large glass of Irish whiskey. This is Jim’s memory of the explanation.
10. ‘Say It All The Time’ – describes a black mood walk on the South Downs. Previously released as a single and re-mixed and mastered for the album.
11. ‘The Ghosts Of Milton Hide’ – written as a retrospective warning to our own children to avoid the woods after dark.
12. ‘Took To Wing (Nightingale)’ – an original modern fable about a woman seeking refuge from abuse and finding freedom in the forest. A finale to the album.
Milton Hide – what they say:
“…A superior folk-club act with a great deal of potential.” Rock’n’Reel magazine
“…high in melodic quality, perfectly-matched voices and rich with storytelling…” Folk Words
“Lovely stuff”Mike Harding
“This is a surprisingly enchanting EP” Northern Sky Magazine
“This is one of those mini-albums which goes straight onto my playlists in its entirety, with its thought-provoking lyrics and catchy tunes.” Trevor Oxborrow – The Folk Show
Some sad news to start off 2021 was waking up on New Year’s Day and finding out, via social media, that Mick Bolton, the talented pianist who played with Mott The Hoople in the 70s and Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the 80s, has passed away.
Following the departure of Verden Allen and his eventual replacement by Morgan Fisher, Mick ended up touring with Mott The Hoople throughout the second half of 1973 and can be heard on the much-celebrated ‘Mott The Hoople Live’ album.
Reflecting on his introduction to the world of Mott, Mick wrote on his website:
“In May 1973 I auditioned for Mott The Hoople as piano player. They had a huge hit in 1972 with David Bowie’s song All The Young Dudes and, following the release of their 1973 album Mott and the departure of organist Verden Allen, they were about to take on a piano-player and a Hammond organist to promote their new album. I didn’t get the piano job – it quite rightly went to Morgan Fisher. But a couple of days later Stan Tippins the band’s manager phoned to ask if I could play Hammond organ. When I answered yes I was told I had got the job.”
“The US and UK tours were virtual sell outs and we played some memorable concerts with some great support acts.”
Former Mott The Hoople colleague, Morgan Fisher, paid tribute on social media, writing:
“RIP Mick Bolton. My organ buddy in Mott the Hoople, 1973. One of the sweetest of men, and a fine musician.”
I met Mick at several Mott The Hoople related events over the years, where he was always happy to discuss his time with Mott and his fond memories of touring with the band.
However, when I moved to Hastings in 2016, where Mick and his wife also lived, I would see quite a bit more of him. He was a much in-demand performer on the local music scene around Hastings and Rye. Indeed, the first ever gig I attended as a Hastings resident, as opposed to occasional seaside visitor, was seeing Mick perform at a local bar. You can read my write-up here.
I’d often see Mick and his wife Carol out and about, walking along the seafront in St Leonards or enjoying gigs from a plethora of visiting bands at the De La Warr and other local venues, spanning everything from classic rock to folk.
A talented pianist and a warm-hearted man his passing is a real loss to music and to the local community here in Hastings.
Throughout the Covid crisis the Music Venue Trust has worked to help secure the future of hundreds of grassroots music venues that have been hit by the catastrophic economic impact of the pandemic. The campaign is now focusing efforts on those venues under most imminent threat of permanent closure, ones where all other avenues of available funding from government schemes have been exhausted. Grand Elektra of Robertson Street, Hastings is one of thirty such venues on the #SaveOurVenues Red List of grassroots music venues most at risk of closure, nationally.
A number of major acts, including Ash, Muse, Kasabian and The Kooks as well as jazz icon Gil-Scott Heron, have all played there. Previously known as ‘The Crypt’, the 450 capacity venue was brought back from closure and fully refurbished back in 2015 and rebranded as the Grand Elektra. With the support of the Music Venue Trust a crowdfunding appeal has now been launched to save it.
Venue operator, Paul Mandry, told me:
“Grand Elektra fund raising via crowdfunding is so important to grassroot music venues, especially ones like us that didn’t successfully get the governments arts recovery fund, due to not ever filling out these forms before. As an independent I’ve never assumed we were viable and on top of the first lockdown, not getting certain information from accountants left us non eligible. Since that deadline we’ve had no signs that we could reapply which is a double blow because now we would be eligible as we know how to make a better case and have all the details from accountants ready to resubmit.“
“Not having the support from the arts council left us not being able to cover fixed bills like rent and lease hire which are mounting up daily, putting the venue in to the critical zone with #saveourvenues. The Crowdfunder is to cover these costs until March 2021 so we can stay open and entertain the town community like we want to do, without crippling debt, which could push us off the cliff edge we are on.”
Paul is full of praise for the role the Music Venue Trust have played throughout this crisis:
“Without the support of MVT this dreadful situation could have been a lot darker and harder to circumnavigate through to this point. We are not alone Beverley, Mark and Gang at MVT should be knighted for what they’ve accomplished throughout this global crisis. So many of us are forever grateful for their relentless energy to support and help save as much as they can of this decimated sector. I personally can’t thank them all enough.”
Emerging from Tyneside at the start of the 1970s Lindisfarne quickly carved out a unique place for themselves as one of British rock’s most original bands. Their pioneering sound, combining acoustic instruments like mandolin and fiddle with their electric blues roots, proved the perfect medium to deliver the catchy, memorable songs provided by the band’s resident writers Alan Hull and Rod Clements.
Tragically, Alan Hull died in 1995 and the original band eventually called it a day in 2003. However, for several years now Lindisfarne have been back in business with a classic line-up of long-time members. Fronted by original founder-member Rod Clements and Alan Hull’s son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm, they are joined by Ian Thomson (who was with original band throughout the 1990s and early 2000s) on bass and Steve Daggett (who initially played with the band in the mid 1980s) on keyboards, along with fellow Geordie and former Roxy Music drummer, Paul Thompson.
Ahead of their fiftieth anniversary tour back in the spring I caught up with Rod Clements for this interview. Sadly, Covid came along and, like every other band, Lindisfarne’s 2020 tour had to be cancelled. Some new dates have now been scheduled for 2021 – check the band’s website here. Since this interview took place former band member Charlie Harcourt has also sadly passed away.
DJ: This tour marks the band’s fiftieth anniversary. What can fans expect?
RC: Fans can expect a celebration of the band with five good pals who’ve been working together now in this incarnation for six years. Everyone in the band, particularly, is at one with Lindisfarne. And we’ll be playing our handful of hits and lots of other stage and album favourites we’ve accrued over the years!
DJ: Ray Jackson reformed the band a few years ago and then he retired and you stepped in. What was it like coming back to Lindisfarne again and did you need much persuading?
RC: Well it came as a total surprise to me. I mean Ray, as you say, reformed the band. They actually went out under the name of Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne which, to be honest, I didn’t think was a particularly good idea, in relation to the democratic spirit of the band. But, anyway, after that he decided to retire. The rest of them decided that they wanted to carry on and they asked me to rejoin – which was a complete surprise to me. It was a surprise when Jacka retired and then a further surprise when they asked me to rejoin. I wouldn’t say I jumped at it straight away. I was very, very pleased to have been asked but I had other things going on in my solo career which I wanted to clear and check out with other people before I made a decision. But everybody I spoke to said, “Yeah you should go for it”. And so I did. I accepted. And I’ve never regretted it once. It’s been great on several levels for me. I don’t know how much you know, Darren, about the current line-up. Have you ever seen us?
DJ: Oh yes, I saw you last time you were at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings two years ago. I really enjoyed it. Fantastic!
RC: Well there’s only been one change since then which is Charlie Harcourt has retired for health reasons so we are down to a five-piece. But I think, if anything, that makes us more of a dynamic, close-knit unit. No disrespect to Charlie, of course. Great bloke. Great musician. But I think we’re more tightly focused now.
DJ: And do you still keep in touch with other former members? Obviously two of the original five are no longer with us.
RC: We are in touch to an extent. We don’t see that much of each other. My focus is on the current band. But obviously sometimes messages go astray and things like that. So we’re in touch when we’re relaying them to the people they’re intended for. And there are historic business connections – old and miniscule royalty payments [laughs].
DJ: You need to make sure you don’t fight over the miniscule royalty payments!
RC: Indeed. It’s all very amicable over things like that.
DJ: You were in Jack the Lad at one point when three of you splintered off from Lindisfarne. Will you also be playing any Jack The Lad songs during this tour?
RC: Well we have done. I’m not sure if we’ve any planned for this time out. For instance ‘Why Can’t I Be Satisfied’ we’ve done with this line-up. That was Jack The Lad’s first single. And yeah – we may well do one or two of my other contributions.
DJ: There’s a website that lists all the bands that played on Hastings Pier in the 1960s and 1970s and so I checked and apparently Lindisfarne played there in January 1975 – but you wouldn’t have been in the band at that point I don’t believe? However, Jack The Lad did play the pier in March 1975. Any memories?
RC: I don’t think I would have been there! I think I’d left Jack The Lad by then and been replaced by Ian Fairbairn and Phil Murray.
DJ: So have you any memories of playing Hastings during the 70s heyday?
RC: Well I remember playing Hastings with a later line-up – although still including Alan (Hull). Because Alan was big friends with Kenny Craddock who lived in Hastings and Colin Gibson (both former Alan Hull/Lindisfarne collaborators). So we’ve had good connections with Hastings for a long time. Kenny, of course, is sadly no longer with us. But yeah it’s a nice town to visit. I think we feel a certain amount in common with it. It’s got a kind of a left-field feel about it. It’s a bit alternative.
DJ: And going right back fifty years ago here. You were in a band called Brethren who teamed up with the late Alan Hull and changed your name to Lindisfarne. Now I love that island. I’ve visited several times but who came up with Lindisfarne as the name for the band?
RC: Well, we were already signed to Charisma Records as Brethren and we were recording our first album when Charisma told us there’s an American band called Brethren and they’re going to be huge and we’re going to have to come up with a new name. And we spent ages trying to think of a name – finding one that suited everybody. And then our producer, John Anthony who produced Nicely Out of Tune (the band’s 1970 debut album), was visiting the north-east and we were rehearsing and he was going through songs with us. And somebody mentioned that they’d been up to Lindisfarne at the weekend – just for a trip out. And John said, “What was that? What did you say?” And so we repeated the name Lindisfarne to him and he said, “That’s it!” When he knew what it meant he said that’s the perfect name for you. And we went eh? Really? Because, you know it sounded to us a bit like calling it Wallsend or something like that. And he said, “No, no – it’s a great name.” And I have to say, the more we thought about it, the longer we mused on it, the more appropriate it seemed. You know, being an island and a tidal island – it’s kind of semi-detached from the mainstream. It stands on its own a bit, as we have done, and it’s very much of itself. And it’s a name that’s served us very well over the years.
DJ: He was totally right wasn’t he?
RC: He was yes.
DJ: And are there any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
RC: Just to say we are very proud to be out and about celebrating the original spirit of Lindisfarne, musically and politically. And our stance is we’ve retained the first principles and we’re having a great time doing it.
You can check the band’s tour dates for 2021 by visiting their website here
This was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here
For a town that rightly prides itself on the quality of its frenetic live music scene, the closure of pubs and entertainment venues across the country back in March hit Hastings especially hard. And while the summer has witnessed a tentative return to some sort of normality for many pubs, social distancing requirements mean it is likely to be some time yet before the sound of live bands can be heard wafting out of any of them. In recent weeks, however, live music has returned with a bang in the shape of the ‘Live and Unlocked’ sessions on Hastings Pier.
Starting in late July and continuing throughout August and September, the pier is hosting live music every Friday evening from 5pm, every Sunday lunchtime from 1pm through to 3.30pm, and occasional gigs on Saturday. John Bownas, one of the key figures behind ‘Live and Unlocked’, explains how the project started.
“As with so many things, luck played a big part in how I got involved with this project,” says John.
“I was lucky to have got the job a few years ago as manager of Love Hastings Ltd – effectively making me the town centre manager. I was then lucky to have been able to recruit Peter Rolfe as the business ambassador for the town.
“Peter has a long history of involvement with the local DJ scene, and when he found out that the Music First team were taking over the management of the pier he had the foresight to set me up with a meeting with James and Tuf – who are the brains behind the operation.
“These guys have a real passion for Hastings and their history of promoting events on the pier before the fire makes them the perfect team to breathe life into the space. It’s been amazing to watch it transform over the last few weeks from an empty stage into a thriving tourist attraction and community facility for the town.
“In chatting to them I mentioned how I had run various festival stages in the past (including the Left Field at Glastonbury) and how I currently ran the Hastings Flyer website as a local music listings resource. In turn they told me that getting a live music programme going was a big priority for them – and things just sort of developed from there.”
John explains that, initially, the team were just thinking about Friday nights but the project soon became more ambitious. “I have a habit of trying to squeeze as much out of any opportunity like this that I can,” he says. “So Friday nights quickly became late afternoons as well, as we agreed to kick off the live shows from 5pm to cater for the crowds who like to find somewhere straight after work.
“It wasn’t long before I realised that even with eight weeks worth of Friday nights there wasn’t enough time to put on all of the local acts who deserved a space – so we decided to add Sunday lunchtimes to the programme… and a few Saturdays got thrown into the mix as well.”
The live gigs have undoubtedly proved a huge success. “Everything kicked off with a Sam Calver show,” says John. “Straight away we knew we were onto a winner. Since then we’ve had two Friday nights and one Sunday gig, and the bands and crowds have absolutely loved it. I’m getting dozens of requests to perform every week and tables fill up in no time.”
In past decades, of course, Hastings Pier was a legendary venue hosting many legendary bands. Following its multi-million pound refurbishment after the 2010 fire destroyed most of the original buildings, its sleek new minimalist look was not without its detractors. However, in these current times, when social distancing is key to the viability of any live entertainment venture, the pier has proved the ideal venue.
“What has dawned on us is that the pier is a unique space right now,” explains John. “We haven’t yet found anywhere else that is able to stage regular live music to so many people. It’s quite possible we’re actually the largest live music venue in the country at the moment … or possibly in the whole of Europe. That’s a really humbling thought!
“And the important thing is that it is a safe space. Tables are well-spaced, and as long as people are sensible there are no more risks than those associated with a trip to the supermarket. What’s for certain is that this proves beyond a doubt that the pier’s future as a live music space is assured.”
This review was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here
Darren Johnson couldn’t get any friends to come with him to savour the delights of Saturday Unplugged, when a myriad of lesser known bands play short acoustic sets in numerous pubs across the Old Town and now St Leonards. But that didn’t daunt him, and of course he had a brilliant time, as logged below. Darren also took the photos.
“Ooh, we’d have loved to have come to Fat Tuesday again but we’re dog-sitting.”
“I really wanted to come but I’ve got to spend the weekend preparing something really important for work.”
“I was definitely going to come but I woke up feeling full of cold so I’m just going to spend the day mooching in bed.”
My various attempts at rounding friends up for Fat Tuesday’s Saturday Unplugged session proved utterly fruitless this year. But I’d agreed to do a write-up for HOT, plus I was really looking forward to it so, sod it, I’m not going to let a complete absence of drinking buddies put me off. What it does mean, however, is that I arrive in Hastings Old Town – where 40 artists play multiple sets across 20 different venues (plus, for the first time, an additional 15 artists across five venues in St Leonards) – without much of a plan for the afternoon.
Plans for previous years had involved doing a bit of background research on each of the acts and working out who to see, or everyone choosing one or two acts and formulating a rough plan from that, or simply holing up in one pub for the whole afternoon and enjoying whatever came along. This year, however, I arrive with no plan at all.
I make my way to the Royal Standard on the seafront, always a nice pub with a great selection of live music throughout the year, and arrive just as the band are about to take the stage for the first slot of the day. Lost Revellers combine gypsy jazz, Celtic folk, Eastern European traditional music and classical to deliver something quite delicious. It’s a wonderful start to the afternoon and they go down a storm as I’m sure they did for the rest of the day.
I decide to hang around for the next band: the Hastings-based Buddha Triangle. There’s an equally diverse range of musical influences on display once more, but this time it’s a blend of soul, funk, reggae and rap. In their 15-minute set they deliver to the audience a taste of each of those. It’s fun, quirky and highly entertaining, but creative and original, too.
Still in the Royal Standard I’ve already had several pints, we’ve not even been going an hour yet and I’m starving. I take some time out from the bands and pop across the road to Neptune Fish and Chips restaurant for a plate of plaice and chips and a cup of tea before deciding to head along Rock-a-Nore to the Dolphin for more music. I get there just as Creature Creature are finishing off their last song. Hmm, they sound quite good. I check where else they are playing so I can catch them later on. Next up in the Dolphin is Earl Grey. No strangers to Fat Tuesday, their acoustic Americana-flavoured vibe with some delicious electric guitar goes down a treat.
Earl Grey at the Dolphin
Another pint downed and it’s time to work out where Creature Creature are playing and catch up with them (as per my highly improvised plan). I make my way down George Street to the Anchor but before I get there I’m waylaid at Butler’s Gap. A crowd has gathered to watch a busker playing some beautiful slide guitar and the drummer out of Buddha Triangle has set up his kit on the pavement next to him to provide an impromptu rhythm section. The crowd lap it up and it carries on like this until the drummer’s band-mates drag him away in time for their next scheduled appearance. It’s never just about the scheduled appearances at Fat Tuesday though…
I make it to the Anchor just in time to hear Creature Creature. The Brighton-based five-piece initially started out as folk-punk outfit 40 Shilling On The Drum before moving into hard rock territory. For their Saturday Unplugged acoustic set though they return to their folk-punk roots. Highly enjoyable, I will definitely explore this band further in future.
Next I move on to the London Trader and catch most of Doghouse Outhouse. A precociously-talented young bunch of musicians from Kent, their laid-back soul-infused sound gets a huge round of applause. I’m slowing down a bit drink-wise now but decide to head on to the Stag to catch old friends Milton Hide. Amidst all the fun and drunken revelry of Fat Tuesday there’s sometimes a danger that the eccentrically raucous bands on the circuit are the ones that grab people’s attention but I’m pleased to see the gentle and thoughtful observational ditties of this lovely acoustic folk duo are well-received.
Milton Hide at the Stag
We are now moving towards the end of the five-hour Saturday Unplugged session and I glance through the programme to work out where I want to be for the final slot of the day. A taste of Memphis rhythm & blues and early rock’n’roll in the shape of Sister Suzie and her band at the Jenny Lind seems like a perfect way to finish up. It is absolutely ram-packed. I just about squeeze in at the back but can’t hear a thing so, like several others, I go out on to the street to watch her set crowding around the open doorway next to the stage.
An afternoon of great music and terrible fashions – why do musicians’ ideas of quirky always involve one of just three outfits: Hawaiian shirts, ex-military uniforms or those waistcoat/trilby combos? Never mind. A huge variety of music, a great array of talent and copious amounts of tasty beer, Saturday Unplugged 2020 is another big success.
Another February, another Fairport winter tour. There has been a radical revamp of the set-list for this tour, however. This is not unwelcome. In recent years it was getting a tad repetitive. True, they had their 45th and then 50th anniversaries to celebrate and were rightly focused on delivering a set-list that reflected career highlights over the decades. For this tour the set is dominated by just two albums: the band’s latest Shuffle & Go and a revisit of the band’s 1970 album Full House. The latter is itself reaching its 50th anniversary this year (never let it be said that this band ever misses an opportunity to celebrate an anniversary…)
Before we get to any of this, however, the Americana-flavoured songs of acoustic guitar/harmony vocals duo Smith & Brewer go down extremely well. Fairport Convention have long used the support slot on their winter tours in a fairly strategic way to showcase emerging talent and bring artists to wider public attention. But for both musicality and entertainment value this act has been one of the finest to take this slot in recent years and they are suitably rewarded at the merch stand during the interval.
After sharing the stage with Smith & Brewer for their final song ‘Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me’ Fairport kick off their own set with much-loved show-opener ‘Walk A While’ but swiftly move on to tracks from the new album. I had not purchased the album prior to the gig so it’s a first taste of these songs. I particularly like the first of these tonight and the opening track on the album. One of my criticisms of recent Fairport albums is that some of the songs from Chris Leslie’s hand have been a little on the twee and whimsical side (‘Our Bus Rolls On’ anyone?). ‘Don’t Reveal My Name’ about the card magician Dai Vernon is dark, brooding and mysterious, on the other hand, and a great addition to the Fairport repertoire. We get a whopping ten of the album’s thirteen tracks tonight, including the wistful celebration of the nation’s pubs ‘A Thousand Bars’ and Chris Leslie’s ‘Moondust & Solitude’ marking the anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Some impressive songs in there, I will say.
After the interval there’s a few more songs from the new album, a blast of the wondrous ‘Farewell, Farewell’ from the Liege and Lief album and then it’s time to launch into that Full House celebration. Back when it was released in 1970, this was the first of the all-male Fairport line-ups where the band were working out their future direction following the departure of Sandy Denny (along with Ashley Hutchings). The five deliver nicely-worked treatments of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, ‘Sloth’ and ‘Doctor of Physick’ – albeit with Chris Leslie’s mandolin taking the place of Richard Thompson’s guitar licks (although Dave Pegg tells the audience that Mr Thompson, along with former Fairport drummer Dave Mattacks, will be joining the band to play the Full House album live at the Cropredy festival in the summer.)
The set ends with the usual trio of Fairport show-closers ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’, ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet On The Ledge’ and regardless of whether they have or haven’t played the De La Warr before (there was a bit of a dispute about this between Simon Nichol and Dave Pegg earlier in the evening) the band nevertheless have an appreciative audience tonight.
Don’t Reveal My Name
Good Time for a Fiddle and Bow / The Christmas Eve Reel
A Thousand Bars
Shuffle and Go
Moondust and Solitude
The Year of Fifty Nine
Sir Patrick Spens
Doctor of Physick
Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
Meet on the Ledge