The view from The Royal Standard
My review was originally published on The Stinger independent music website here
The ‘Unplugged Saturday’ ran across sixteen different pubs in Hastings Old Town on Saturday afternoon as part of the Fat Tuesday weekend.
Each bar was hosting ten different acts for fifteen minute acoustic slots between 1-6pm, with each performing at multiple venues. That gives you 160 separate performances to choose from – all free – so punters had a choice of strategies. You could either stay in the same place and take in a succession of acts, loyally follow one band around all afternoon or, what I suspect the majority did, take a bit of a mix and match approach trying out a few different venues and a few different acts.
In order to have the best possible chance of taking in as many acts and as much variety as possible for this review, however, I parked myself in the Royal Standard on the seafront for the full afternoon. (Well, it would be the full afternoon but I got slightly sidetracked en route and missed the first act – apologies to Strum & Bass!)
So, first three general observations about the afternoon:
1. The variety of acts was enormous – from the jazzy vibes of Andy Harston, to the massed choir of Vocal Explosion, to the raucous punk-folk of Matilda’s Scoundrels there was a real range of musical styles and formats.
2. It all ran like clockwork – getting large numbers of musicians and their instruments performing around the town and ensuring everyone gets to the right venue at the right time ready to start and finish bang on time is obviously a logistical operation but, impressively, it all ran very, very smoothly, certainly in the Standard.
3. The livelier acts tended to make the biggest impact – having just fifteen minutes to build a rapport with audience and complete the set meant that the acts who could immediately grab the audience by the throat were tending to have more impact than the more reflective singery-songwritery types
It was enormous fun and a great annual celebration of the town’s live venues and live music scene. Much as I enjoyed it I’m sure it’s probably not how most of us want to consume live music on a day-to-day basis. So as well as enjoying it for its own sake I also took it very much as a showcase for particular acts I’d like to see a lot more of in the future.
And three acts who really stood out for me:
Again, apologies for missing the Strum & Bass duo – their brand of vintage slap-bass acoustic rock n roll (which I checked out on You-tube when I got home) would normally be right up my street.
But here are three acts who definitely stood out for me at Unplugged Saturday that I will certainly be checking out again.
1. Matilda’s Scoundrels – How come it’s taken me this long to check out Matilda’s Scoundrels? Hastings’ ‘folk-punk’ band are brilliantly entertaining, reminding me of a cross between The Levellers, The Clash and folk-festival favourites Blackbeard’s Tea Party.
They brought a big crowd in with them and, after bringing the house down, took a fair chunk of the crowd out with them again when they set off for the next venue. Fortunately, I was able to catch them on the Sunday at Flairz, as part of the Off Axis event, for a half-hour full electric set. I’m a total fan. I’ll be seeing a lot more of this band I hope.
2. Harry Osborne – While all the acts were well-received I did stress that the 15 minute format in a crowded pub probably created a bit more of a challenge for some of the less raucous, more reflective sets. One act who absolutely rose 100% to that challenge was guitarist/singer, Harry Osborne, who was able to create an immediate connection with the audience and went on to deliver some fine songs and sensitive guitar playing. Definitely on my ‘one to watch’ list, a talented, engaging singer-songwriter who can also be found performing with a band Someone /Anyone.
3. Le Skiv – The last act of the afternoon I the Royal Standard Le Skiv were a brilliant way to finish. Describing themselves on their Facebook biog as “incorporating the feeling of a Nova Scotian kitchen party to create a good ol’ sonic hoedown” they pulled off that vibe perfectly. Banjo, guitar and percussion, lovely harmony vocals and some lively but beautiful songs they went down a storm and are another band I want to catch more of.
A brilliantly fun (if fairly drunken) afternoon with a list of bands I am keen to see more of, Fat Tuesday’s Unplugged Saturday was a definite hit.