Tag Archives: Bexhill

Record Store Day 2017 – live from Music’s Not Dead, Bexhill-on-Sea 22/4/17

My article was originally published by The Stinger here

When he arrived at 7.30am they were snaking around the block confirms Richard, one of the co-owners (along with his business partner Del) of Music’s Not Dead. Bexhill’s independent record store was set for another busy Record Store Day.

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Going some ten years now, with the aim of championing the nation’s remaining independent record stores, Record Store Day has been coming in for a fair bit of stick in recent years. Record companies release a load of limited edition vinyl while punters out to make a fast buck snap it up first thing and then sell it on at vastly inflated prices on ebay later that day. The whole thing is little more than a cynical exercise in profiteering, so the argument goes.

The reality, however, is quite different maintains Richard when I catch up with him during a temporary lull,”There’s always one or two in the queue like that, and you know who they here, but the vast, vast majority are here because they want to buy a record from an artist whose music they love.” He is also keen to stress that it has helped them gain loyal customers who proceed to then come in throughout the year – which was the main motivation for the whole initiative in the first place.

So, in spite of some of the press cynicism, at Music’s Not Dead they are wholehearted champions of Record Store Day and are happily shifting 1,000 units of special limited edition releases to purchasers who are in the main real, genuine fans.

Personally, however, I would no more queue up at a record shop at 7.00am in the morning than I would camp out overnight to buy a cheap sofa in the Boxing Day sales. And while I’ve been a happy participant in numerous Record Store Days, my purchases in recent years have included a second-hand Status Quo Live CD, a stack of half price Blur CDs and the most recent Santana album in bog-standard format, hardly exclusive limited editions any of them. But there is far, far more to Record Store Day than queuing up for limited edition vinyl, a point Richard is keen to stress as I make my way in to Music’s Not Dead around mid-day shortly before the programme of live acts kicks off. “We don’t want it to be just about us filling the till all day. It is also about us giving something back to the community and supporting artists.”

They have an impressive line-up for Record Store Day this year: 80s/90s indie front-man, Pete Astor, performing a solo acoustic set; alt-folk band, Noble Jacks (minus their drummer due to space restrictions); guitar/double bass acoustic duo, Moss & Clarkson; solo Americana artists, Jason McNiff; Nashville-tinged country duo, The Worry Dolls; and headliner, the soulful, folky, bluesy rising star, Emily Barker.

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Trevor Moss who performed as half of Moss & Clarkson today remains an enthusiastic supporter of Record Store Day. As well as the fun of performing he sees it playing a small but significant redistributive role for “the poorer end of the music industry,” as he puts it, whether shops, labels or performers. “We know about some of the things that go on. But on the whole all the people we come across are here because they’re sincere,” he enthuses to me after his well-received performance.

By late afternoon the sun had come out and was shining brightly through the shop windows, parents and their kids lounged about on the floor soaking in the ambience, Jason McNiff gave a lovely laid-back set and somehow it all began to take on the vibe of a very, very minature summer festival.

Emily Barker, the final act of the day, gave an utterly stunning set with selections from her new album recorded in Memphis, including an incredible tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She’s appeared on the small shop-window stage at Music’s Not Dead some half a dozen times now and is also an enthusiastic champion of Record Store Day. She had already performed sets in stores at both Portsmouth and Lewes before turning up in Bexhill. “I had to leave Stroud at 5am this morning. I’ve had four hours sleep but the minute I got in the car and started up the engine this morning I was excited about Record Store Day.”

Certainly the view from where I was standing at Music’s Not Dead was that it was about celebrating independents – labels, stores and artists, it was about a genuine community event and it was definitely very much all about the love of the music.

And today’s purchase? The very unlimited and non-exclusive edition of the new Fairport Convention CD for a tenner – but with cakes, live music and friendly company thrown in for free. You don’t get that at Amazon.

http://musicsnotdead.com/

Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 10/12/16

My review was originally published on The Stinger independent music website here

Having been warmed up very nicely by the support acts, Felix Hagan & The Family and Esmee Patterson, the place is absolutely throbbing when Frank Turner comes on stage.

“I believe first impressions count,” declares Turner a couple of songs in. And bang – he certainly achieves that. Opening with ‘I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous’ from his 2008 album ‘Love Ire and Song’ he combines anger, affection, passion, celebration and wry humour – and that’s all in the space of a single song. In terms of delivery and audience response it’s more like an encore than an opening song but that level of energy is maintained song after song after song.
1035x1035-mi0003888505-313x313Six albums into his solo career, it has only been the two most recent that have made it into the top five and his singles have hardly ever troubled the charts. Yet he’s built up an absolutely devoted fan-base. Deservedly so, from tonight’s performance.

Turner and his excellent band pack in many highlights from his solo career in a two-hour set, including a good smattering of songs from his latest album ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’, in addition to an old Million Dead song ‘Smiling at Strangers on Trains’ as part of his encore.

From a well-connected, well-to-do family, Turner’s libertarian brand of politics has attracted strident criticism in some quarters, and he’s been notably hammered as a right-winger in the Guardian. I can’t pretend I’ve analysed Turner’s philosophical beliefs in great detail but of his between-song interventions tonight three could be described as vaguely ‘political’ in one way or another.

The first was a plea urging support for the charity War Child, an undeniably worthy humanitarian cause. The second was a passionate speech in support of the Safe Gigs for Women campaign, highlighting the unacceptable nature of the harassment and abuse that far too many women are forced to endure while trying to enjoy a live gig. And the third was pretty much a theme that ran through his chat throughout the course of the evening; namely the very collectivist ideal of urging the audience to look out for one another and to take some of that spirit away with them into the outside world.

Indeed, the only performer I’ve seen place a similar degree of emphasis on that whole ‘audience-as-community-thing’ was the avowedly-socialist, veteran folk singer, John Tams. What Tams never did was follow that through with stage-diving into the audience and being transported from one side of the hall to the other by a rapturous sea of fans, but you get the point…

A passionate advocate for live music, Turner tells us that tonight is his 1,995th solo gig. Judging by tonight’s performance one suspects there will be many thousands more, and he’s promised to come back to Bexhill soon.

The greatest voice on the contemporary music scene? Probably not. One of the most charismatic and compelling performers of his generation? Almost certainly.

More info on War Child can be found at: warchild.org.uk  

More info on Safe Gigs for Women: sgfw.org.uk

Setlist:
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
The Next Storm
I Still Believe
Losing Days
Try This at Home
Long Live the Queen
Glorious You
Polaroid Picture
Silent Key
Plain Sailing Weather
Wessex Boy
Mittens
Cleopatra in Brooklyn
The Way I Tend to Be
The Opening Act of Spring
The Road
If Ever I Stray
Out of Breath
Photosynthesis
Smiling at Strangers on Trains
Recovery
Get Better
Four Simple Words

dlwp-frank-turner-and-the-sleeping-souls-840x561Photo credit: official tour publicity

http://frank-turner.com/home/

The Divine Comedy at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 25/10/16

My review was originally published on The Stinger independent music website here

Perhaps one of the most unlikely outfits to come to prominence during the 90s Britpop era, Neil Hannon’s orchestral pop ensemble The Divine Comedy still retains a devoted following, is still selling records (the Foreverland album released in September hit number 7 in the UK charts) and is still filling venues.

The De La Warr Pavilion tonight is completely sold out and is absolutely ram packed by the time Hannon and his band take the stage.

Songs from throughout The Divine Comedy’s eleven-album career are greeted with a wave of affectionate familiarity as soon as each one starts up, not just the hit singles.

We are most certainly in the presence of a hall full of true fans. For the more casual observer like myself, I took the precaution of going along with a hardcore super-fan lest I needed anything explaining about the world of Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy.

I needn’t have worried. The evening was effortlessly and infectiously enjoyable.

Besides the ever-present Neil Hannon, The Divine Comedy has had a changing cast of supporting musicians over the years but he has certainly assembled a very talented bunch as they swoop through a vast variety of sounds and styles throughout the course of the evening.

There may be a wry tongue-firmly-in-cheek mode about many of the lyrics but the music is always delivered with absolute sincerity, authenticity and passion. Theatricality and musicality thus combine.

A few songs in and Hannon has donned a bowler hat and brolly for his scathing account of the global financial crash ‘The Complete Banker’ and later on he’s striding around the stage in full Napoleon outfit: ‘Napoleon Complex’ is the opening track on the new album by way of explanation.

One highlight is an unexpected but perfectly fitting cover of the late Cilla Black’s hit ‘Alfie’ before the band go on to perform Hannon’s own ‘Becoming More Like Alfie’

Hannon certainly has a gift for crafting lyrics. As a witty but bitter-sweet observation of everyday life ‘At The Indie Disco’ would even give some of Ray Davies’ finest tunes a good run for their money.

The small strip at the front of the stage starts filling up as a trickle of people leave their seats to dance along to it. “It’s fine by me,” says Hannon, “come on up.”

Soon the De La Warr Pavilion becomes its very own indie disco as more and more people squeeze to the front to dance away to this gloriously catchy tune, audience and performance melding into one.

From the back of the hall it couldn’t have looked any better if you had spent a week choreographing it.

It’s not long before everyone is out of their seats.

The whole place is on its feet for National Express, the bands biggest hit which has probably done more for brand awareness of the UK’s largest coach operator these past twenty years than any amount of paid-for advertising, even if the jolly hostess with the trolley does still struggle to get by to charge those sky high fees…

An utterly charming and naturally witty performer and a talented singer and song-writer with an ability to cross genres and elicit a whole range of emotions, in a different era Hannon would probably have been labelled an all-round entertainer.

For sheer talent and showmanship The Divine Comedy is clearly deserving of the loyal following it continues to attract.

http://thedivinecomedy.com/

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The Equatorial Group at Music on the Bandstand, Bexhill-on-sea 6/8/16

Independent record stores that have managed to survive firstly the big chains, then the rise of Amazon then the downloading craze have tended to be the ones that made themselves far more than just a place to buy records and CDs. The Music’s Not Dead store in Bexhill-on-sea is a classic example. Its thirst for promoting music seemingly limitless and unconditional. Not only do they host regular live performances in store, they also hook up with the De La Warr Pavilion over the road to put on numerous events including this outdoor mini free festival on the terrace of the pavilion by the seafront. The first band on today The Equatorial Group particularly caught my eye.

“Sounding like Crazy Horse colliding with Fleetwood Mac on a dusty road” as their Facebook profile has it. Gentle acoustic guitar, some nice pedal steel, harmony vocals and some great laid-back lead guitar solos, their blend of slow, countrified Americana was just perfect for a hot August afternoon with a few beers by the sea. They’ve got some good original songs, too. And as you could pick up both of their self-produced EPs (2014’s Glebe and 2015’s Elvis) on CD for a fiver it seemed silly not to buy them and explore this band a little further. I’m impressed.

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The Eastbourne-based band have been around since 2011 and are now happily on my radar for the future. Anyone into this type of music is well advised to keep an eye out for them. And well done to both Music’s Not Dead and De La Warr Pavilion for giving a platform to acts of this calibre.

https://www.facebook.com/theequatorialgroup/?fref=ts

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Oysterband with June Tabor at Bexhill-On-Sea 27/9/14

If you think you’ve seen the run of charming but fairly samey faded seafront concert venues, Bexhill-on-Sea’s De La Warr Pavilion is something quite spectacular. A beautiful and lovingly restored 1930s modernist building it proves to be a worthy setting for Oysterband and June Tabor.  Following an acoustic set from singer-songwriter (and talented guitarist) Sam Carter as support, the band initially do a set on their own featuring songs from their latest album, Diamonds on the Water, as well as older favourites.  The Wilderness, one of the new ones, was inspired by the band’s trip to Canada where, on a day off from touring, they experienced the natural wonders but also the potential dangers of the Rocky Mountains and its fearsome bear population. “You’re not the master here” goes the chorus of this poignant reflection on man and nature.

After a short break, Oysterband perform their second set with guest singer, the great June Tabor. Both band and singer have illustrious back catalogues and both are stalwarts of the folk and festival scene. But the two combined produce something very special indeed. Their first collaboration was in 1990 on the acclaimed Freedom and Rain album. They followed this up with a further collaboration in 2011, Ragged Kingdom, and live collaborations have continued on and off for many years. Their set tonight delivers songs from both of these albums, a superb mix of traditional folk songs, like Bonny Bunch of Roses and Dark Eyed Sailor, together with inspired folk-rock covers of such marvellously un-folky material as Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, which Tabor and John Jones of Oysterband sing as a duo.  Seeing is believing for anyone who has the slightest doubts about the beauty of these songs in the hands of Tabor and Oysterband.

The band has a distinctive sound. It’s folk-rock but, unlike their predecessors who pioneered the genre, having emerged in the late 70s rather than the late 60s the cultural references are different with a more contemporary feel and this is reflected in the sound. Allied with Tabor’s unique voice it is little wonder that this has been hailed as one of the most successful musical collaborations in the world of folk and folk-rock. The audience tonight is clearly in agreement. The appreciation and warm affection for both are clearly apparent throughout tonight’s performance.

http://www.oysterband.co.uk/

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