Tag Archives: Gigspanner

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner at The Stables, Hastings 27/11/14

Gigspanner is not Steeleye Span. In spite of the slight similarity in name and in spite of the presence of long-standing ex-Steeleye fiddle supremo, Peter Knight, Gigspanner are a different proposition from the folk-rock legends entirely. And utterly wonderful for it, they are too.

Those attending a Gigspanner concert can expect a slew of varied musical influences: English folk-song, Irish traditional, French waltzes, Cajun playing, African sounds, and many more, all form part of the repertoire. The result is far from a random around-the-world mish-mash, however. Knight’s virtuoso fiddle combines with Vincent Salzfass’s conga drums and Roger Flack’s distinctive semi-acoustic electric guitar-playing to create something truly unique. Together, and it’s clear from seeing the three of them on stage how much they feed off working with one another, the trio create a sound that’s both coherent and instantly identifiable,  producing a recognisable Gigspanner feel across whatever they do. The way Salfaaz builds up a rhythm on his congas is a delight to hear and utterly captivating to witness. Royal Academy-trained Knight provides everything you would expect from one of the UK’s foremost folk fiddle-players, playing magnificently on tunes like The Butterfly, a traditional tune the band have turned into an absolute musical masterpiece. But you get much more out of Knight’s fiddle besides. Finger plucking his instrument for some of the numbers (like Dave Roberts’ French Waltz and Bonny Birdy) he draws some truly amazing sounds out of it. They even do a fast and furious Cajun fiddle number where Knight plays the instrument with his bow while Flack joins him pounding the very same strings with elongated drum sticks, or fiddle sticks as the famous expression has it

I have seen Gigspanner on numerous occasions but tonight’s performance being in Hastings, where the trio formed and continue to play regularly, gives it added poignancy. A number of the songs and tunes tonight have a direct Hastings connection, including Seagull, a song recalling Knight’s days spent playing shove ha’penny in one of the local pubs, and Rolling Down the Bourne, a tune named after the main thoroughfare (and underground stream) which runs through Hastings Old Town where the Stables Theatre is based.

A talented, imaginative and hugely creative trio, Gigspanner live is something well worth witnessing. Just don’t go expecting All Around My Hat…

http://www.gigspanner.com/index.html

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Previous review: Gigspanner at Whitstable

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner at Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable 29/3/14

“It’s like magic isn’t it – trying to work out how they manage to get all of those sounds from those instruments.”

Neither my words, nor the words from some cheesy promotional blurb but an off-the-cuff remark from a fellow audience member at  Gigspanner’s performance  in Whitstable. Fronted by Peter Knight, until recently the longstanding virtuoso fiddle player with folk rock legends, Steeleye Span,  Peter is joined by Roger Flack on guitar and Vincent Salzfaas on conga drums.  The three produce some truly amazing sounds together and, while there are undoubtedly strong English folk influences, their music embraces a whole range of influences, including French, Cajun and African sounds.

While I was very familiar with Peter’s work in Steeleye Span, until I saw them for the first time two years ago I was only vaguely aware of his side-project, Gigspanner . And it’s a long time since a single act has had as much of an impact on me in such a short space of time, as Gigspanner has. Tonight is the sixth time I’ve caught up with them in two years and each time I’ve found their performance even more spellbinding than the last. At times Roger Flack’s beautiful melodic guitar reminds me of an early Peter Green, particularly on opening instrumental, The Butterfly. Combined with Knight’s haunting fiddle and Salzfaas’s beautifully subtle but infectiously rhythmic pounding of the congas brings a mesmerising start to the set. Dave Roberts French Waltz, another favourite of mine in the Gigspanner set, is an old French waltz that they learnt from the late Mr Roberts, Knight explains. They’ve never been able to find the original title so the title, Dave Roberts French Waltz, has stuck.

There are songs, too. Those familiar with Steeleye Span’s large back catalogue will know that as well as Maddy Prior’s unmistakable vocals, there is often the odd contrasting but beautifully sung song from Peter Knight. Some of these, like Bonny Birdy and Seagull (Knight’s paean to the pub game shove ha’penny)  are performed tonight, but given the unmistakable Gigspanner treatment. New additions to the set include a lovely version of folk standard, She Moves through the Fair, and a slowed down take on the old Steeleye favourite, Hard Times of Old England.

Although audiences at the Horsebridge, a beautifully constructed contemporary arts centre close to the seafront, generally tend to be on the restrained side they certainly showed their appreciation tonight and the standing ovation, whopping and cheering at the end of the set was thoroughly deserved.

Gigspanner have now been performing several years and their first album came out in 2009. However, it was only at the end of last year that Knight finally said farewell to Steeleye Span. I’m a huge fan of both bands but when I read the announcement I felt a sense of relief that at least Knight was leaving Steeleye Span to concentrate on Gigspanner, rather than the other way round. Although a hard act to follow, Steeleye will, I’m sure, find an able replacement for Knight. What would be a real tragedy, as tonight’s performance demonstrated, would be if the world were to be denied more live performances of the wonderful and totally unique music of Gigspanner.

http://www.gigspanner.com/

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