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FESTIVAL REVIEW — FOUR PLAY

The FOUR PLAY FESTIVAL is a low profile affair held at the Acoustic Couch in Bracknell and organized by local progressive rock band SPRIGGAN MIST.

Jade Vine at FOUR PLAY… a celebration of folk-prog talent…

It is a celebration of folk-prog talent and attracts an unprecedented array of  free-spirited individuals, including [but not limited to] steampunks, pagans, hippies, fair folk and people of peace.

The unhurried schedule means that bands have enough time on stage to deploy their longest songs and tackle their most extravagant numbers.

The Acoustic Couch is a community project built in the concrete heart of Bracknell town and offers locals a pleasant and welcoming place to come and enjoy live music.

Mila Verney_of Jade Vine – mind-blowing musical content…

First on stage at FOUR PLAY were the five-piece JADE VINE based in London. This band was formed by the brothers Constantine (guitars, vocals) & Marios Magdalinos (guitars, vocals) in 2006.

Constantine & Marios wrote the first songs and gigged extensively as a duet before bringing the band together. At Bracknell we saw Mila Verney (piano & keyboards) and Yannis Paloyannidis (bass) with Babis Margaritidis (drums.)

We enjoyed songs like “Lost it All” that had a shimmering murkiness to them. We loved the repetitive guitar motifs and the slightly off-kilter drum-work. We also appreciated the vocals that we thought were reminiscent of Fish. Their neo-prog achievements soared with mind-blowing musical content, astounding lyrics and expert musicianship. Their 2016 album “MIND OF A MAN” is out now.

Kindred Spirit – tranquilizing yet sinister textures…

We’ve written about Elaine Samuels and her band KINDRED SPIRIT many times before.

It was great to see them onstage at Bracknell bringing their extraordinarily beautiful prog-folk songs to life and creating a series of imaginatively elaborate musical ideas.

Wolves at the Door” had a fretful sax [Catherine Dimmock] and lamenting violin [Martin Ash ]and created ever-developing sensations of enhanced anxiety.

The song formed part of what Elaine described as the “Beast” cycle — consisting of three songs . The cycle was completed by “Run Red.” This had tranquilizing yet sinister textures — peacemaker flute with violin flares.

The bass-play on this song was excellent too [Mike Hislop] as was Catherine’s backing vocals. The remarkable thing about Kindred Spirit was that the band soldiered on without their drummer [he was taken ill at short notice] yet they managed to deliver a very polished and surprisingly tight performance.

Multi Story- dramatic vocal performance…

Cult Welsh prog band MULTI STORY was formed in the 1980s.

Around the dramatic vocal performance of Paul Ford and Rob Wilsher’s wizard keyboards and superlative programming.

At that time [1984] the band was invited to the BBC Maida Vale studio to record a session for Radio One Rock Show with Tommy Vance. The band was signed to Heavy Metal Records [FM label] and recorded a debut album in 1985 at Rockfield Studios.

Paul Ford was replaced by Grant Nicholas [who went on to be the Feeder front-man] and Grant worked on an album with the band in 1986 :Through Your Eyes — though the project broke up shortly afterwards.

The members of Multi Story went on to have successful careers in production and film projects and more recently, the original writing partners Rob Wilsher and Paul Ford starting working again. A new band began playing shows during 2015 in support of their project “Crimson Stone.”

Paul’s delivery at Bracknell was dramatically poignant — bordering on theatrical at times — and included some superior guitar-play. Rob’s keyboards were, as expected, sheer quality of class. A series of oscillations, waves and huge columns of sound. The song-melodies were catchy — with instant appeal. And often reminded us of 1969 era The Who.

Spriggan Mist’s Max Cilia – intoxicating musical layers…

If this event is to become something more ambitious in the future then the organizers will have to watch their ticket sales. [Fifteen pounds is good for a “full day of music” but too much for locals who might want to drop-in to catch just one or two bands.] They should also look at the possibility of wider promotion. It looked as if most of the audience consisted of “Sprigg” fan-club members or supporting musicians.

FOUR PLAY was a completely enjoyable way to spend a day. With hugely talented performers, friendly hosts and good (cheap) beer. What’s not to like?

Thanks to all involved… especially the co-hosts Spriggan Mist & Kindred Spirit and their fantastic crew. Also thanks to the staff at Acoustic Couch who made this special day so friendly.

Words & Pictures : @neilmach 2017 ©
Links:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/www.sprigganmist.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/KindredSpiritBand/
https://www.facebook.com/multistoryband/
https://www.facebook.com/TheJadeVineUK/

GODSPELL — by Eagle House at Wilde Theatre

It’s Lent so we decided to get “churched up” this week.

We headed to the excellent Wilde Theatre, at South Hill Park to see the Eagle House [ School in Sandhurst] present their GODSPELL.

The 1971 show with music by Grammy award winning Stephen Schwartz [Enchanted ] and a loose script based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew ( originally re-envisioned by playwright John-Michael Tebelak) is a popular show for touring companies and has enjoyed many revivals.

The structure of the GODSPELL musical is a series of parables interspersed by rock arias that have been inspired by the Book of Psalms.

The structure of the musical is a series of parables interspersed by rock arias that have been inspired by the Book of Psalms.

The original London production starred characters like Julie Covington, David Essex, Jeremy Irons and Marti Webb. We were fortunate enough to have seen the original West End Wyndhams production back in 1972. But we love to see new productions and were excited to see the Eagle House show.

In the Seventies the stage show was a fluid and conceptual performance. It borrowed elements from dance, music and circus to tell the story of “Christ’s Passion”.

In the early days of the stage-show the figure of Christ was dressed as a clown. His “tribe” were portrayed as a group of irresponsible, long-haired hippies.

Now the hippie clothing is gone, because today’s youth movements tend to be associated more with athletic trainers and sportswear. The younger elements of the Eagle House Godspell Team wore printed t-shirts with the hash-tagged “Godspell logo” while main cast members wore distinctive tartans.

The magnificent Wilde Theatre is perfect for this kind of innovative, unpretentious presentation. At Godspell the audience was seated on all four sides of the staging.

After the exultant sound of a brass shofar the audience and cast “Prepared” for the “Way of the Lord”. This first song was an exceptionally compelling and enthusiastic number, sung by the whole cast [all five teams] who circled the newly baptised Christ in a spiritual state. Followers were given rubber wristbands to show their affiliation and discipleship.

Exceptionally compelling and enthusiastic…

A characteristic of the earliest shows, and all theatrical productions since, has been topicality.

Once we saw Godspell during the period known as the Three-Day Week, this was in the “power-cut Seventies” and the big joke was that it didn’t matter how dark things got because the audience was “The light of the World.”

Similarly, during the storytelling from Eagle House we had mentions of Facebook, Premier Inn, Justin Bieber and Fake News.

And of course the big, rich baddie (before “All for the Best” ) was Donald Trump.

Ben Trunck, perhaps shorter in stature than we expected, played a fascinating Jesus character — full of vivid personality. While Mark Dickin interpreted Judas skulking presence perfectly.

A feeling of “loving community” encompassed everything…

Each year group of Eagle House wanted to stage their own parable and musical number — so this meant the show was a wonderful consolidation of excellent sketches — each interconnected with the next.

The overall experience, from the perspective of the audience, was a feeling of “loving community” that encompassed everything.

Day By Day” always was — and still is — the most memorable song from the show and in Basingstoke the number was handled intelligently and with sympathy.

All Good Gifts” was brilliantly choreographed and elegantly efficient. Also, at one point, after “Save the People” we had an army of scary zombies grabbing at souls…

There was humour, movement, excitement and tenderness throughout the show — with great dramatic use of simple objects, like the coloured blocks.

Our favourite song was “On The Willows” — it came after the Last Supper scene. Psalm 137 — from which the song is taken — has been set to music by several composers over the years and the lament found in Godspell is possibly the best of all of them. The Eagle House vocalists performed the difficult harmonies with distinction.

This was an excellent production.

All 128 cast members [ages 9 to 13] should be congratulated, as well as their staff at Eagle House and the committed parents who made it all possible.

5 Stars

Words: @neilmach 2017 ©
Links: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SouthHillParkArtsCentre
http://www.eaglehouseschool.com/

Godspell at The Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park was ann amateur production presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd

THE ALI MAC BAND — Live in Staines

Original Birdman ALI MACKENZIE with his renegade pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll talent — Strawbs drummer Richard Hudson, Glitter Band bassist Bill Phillips, and Renaissance guitarist Simon Bishop — form the ALI MAC BAND.

They play good-time rhythm and blues, replete with soul-thumping harmonies and the tightest musicianship you are ever likely to witness.

We saw their sold-out show this February 16 at the STAINES RIVERSIDE CLUB.

Their perfectly handled recreations included many favorites from the American soft-jazz songbook ( like Little Feat’sWeed, whites and wine…” flavoured ‘Willin‘ ) and teasing blues pieces like Willie Dixon’s provocative “Hoochie Coochie Man” or intelligently voiced soul-hits such as Eddie Floyd & Steve Cropper’sKnock on Wood.”

THE ALI MAC BAND - the tightest musicianship you are ever likely to witness... Photo Credit @neilmach 2017 ©
THE ALI MAC BAND – the tightest musicianship you are ever likely to witness…
Photo Credit @neilmach 2017 ©

In the mid sixties THE BIRDS were the biggest rhythm and blues act in London.

They appeared on TV’s Ready Steady Go and released four hit singles including the Holland-Dozier-Holland number “Leaving Here.”

That Birds song went onto inspire Lemmy’s Motörhead [Leaving Here was their debut single — 1977.]

Famous for their vocal harmonies and exciting live performances THE BIRDS came close to becoming as big as THE WHO.

They first ventured onto the scene in 1964 as The Thunderbirds but decided to change their band-name to The Birds to avoid confusion with Chris Farlowe’s band.

But when “America’s answer to the Beatles” aka the folk rock band THE BYRDS entered the UK Singles Chart with “Mr. Tambourine Man” (1965) the British BIRDS were forced to take action to defend their “trading” name.

Surrounded by an excited buzz of media coverage, the BIRDS manager began to take legal steps to prevent the American upstarts from using their name. But the court favored the Los Angeles “Byrds” and by 1967 the British band had faded.

Ali McKenzie was the original leader of that particular ensemble (voice and harmonica) along with Ronnie Wood (guitar) Tony Munroe (guitars) Kim Gardner (bass) and Pete McDaniels (drums).

At Staines, Ali Mac’s band — understandably — distanced themselves from the compositions of Dylan and McGuinn. Instead they played some lasting rockabilly hits (such as Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Big Boy Crudup’s “That’s All Right”. )

With Simon’s effervescent guitar playing, Bill’s adventurous and tight bass and Hud’s precise rhythms, it was a night of class entertainment.

Ali’s remarkable vocal work — his mastery of tension and release — and controlled use of vibrato, was truly astonishing. It’s not often we witness vocal skills of this quality.

Another stunning show at Staines…

Support the RIVERSIDE CLUB and keep LIVE MUSIC alive…

Words & Pictures: Neil Mach 2017 ©
Link: https://www.facebook.com/StainesRiversideClub

PAPA GEORGE and MICKY MOODY — Live in Staines

Award-winning bluesman PAPA GEORGE and legendary guitarist MICKY MOODY played a live concert at the fabulous STAINES RIVERSIDE CLUB on Thursday night. Rock vocalist and talented composer ALI MAAS joined them onstage as a special guest.

The duo played a selection of blues, rhythm and blues, soul and gospel songs that included some choice cover songs as well as a selection of Papa George’s own first-class numbers.

Songs like Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” had the crowd swaying along with its indolent lurching pace — the lethargic guitars and fervent passion of the lyrics penetrated every moment.

George’s fine picking on “You Can Love Yourself” ( by contemporary Delta blues artist Keb’ Mo’) was praiseworthy. As was the liquid bottleneck slide work from Micky.

Here George’s voice was wood-tar and old brandy seeing him perfectly capable of producing cream-hazelnut highs — husky-textured but sweet, sweet, sweet — from those incredible vocal folds.

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Papa George at Staines Riverside Club — here with Ali Maas

Jesus on the Mainline”  ( Ry Cooder)  was finely picked.

This gradually evolving Gospel number is a crowd favorite.

Encouraged to sing, the crowd at Staines joined-in enthusiasticall with the good-natured call and response.

Who likes John Lee Hooker?” cried Papa George. There was a yell of support so the musicians launched into “Crawling King Snake.

This a delta-blues song from the 1920’s that is almost always identified with Hooker. George’s voice on the piece was curmudgeonly and appropriately raw — but the guitarists had a whole lotta fun with the arrangement when they stumbled upon Muddy Waters’ “You Need Love” [the precursor to “Whole Lotta Love”]

The dynamic interaction and interdependence between these two consummate guitarists — plus their whiskey ‘n’ dry voices, with velvet textures — along with a canny song choice and the highlight ALI MAAS appearance — meant that this was a night to remember.

Words & Pictures: Neil Mach 2017 ©

Link: https://www.facebook.com/StainesRiversideClub/
SUPPORT LOCAL LIVE MUSIC

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Staines Moor — Talk by Earl Gray

Earl Gray, of the Association for the Preservation of Staines Moor, gave a talk this week to residents of Moor House in Staines.

Staines Moor is the largest Commons in the area. Earl reminded residents that the facility is only 100 meters from their door.

Photo Credit: Fr Philip Dyer-Perry; Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Staines
Photo Credit: Fr Philip Dyer-Perry; Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Staines

This 1,269 acre [513 hectares — the Site of Special Scientific Interest also includes the King George VI Reservoir] is a local treasure.

It’s home to 330 different plants, some species rare both nationally and internationally, also between 60-70 species of birds, especially waders, and lots of other unusual wildlife.

The grassland is home to one of the largest yellow ant colonies in Europe.

This important local habitat has a 1000 year history — the 289 acres of common land is dissected by the River Colne and The Bonehead Ditch and is bordered by the Wraysbury River — although the moor is much older, and was probably used by Neolithic man, detailed records go back to around 1500.

Earl explained that a Court Leet is still held frequently. The last year Court Leet was held in Staines-upon-Thames last year. This ancient court dates back to medieval England, when the Lord of the Manor exercised certain rights over his tenants concerning the administration of the manor and the moor. Twelve moormasters are appointed — they manage the grazing of the moor for the 200 ‘commoners’ who regularly use it. However, the moor is free for all visitors and is much loved by dog lovers and nature enthusiats. If you haven’t been yet — it is well worth a trip.

Earl suggested to the audience that the future of Staines Moor is precarious: the most obvious threat is the third planned runway at Heathrow and also the sixth possible terminal. He fears that perhaps 60% of our moor might vanish — lost in the construction of airport facilities.

Earl summed up saying that he has spent 47 years of his life protecting and promoting the moor. He hopes that this important conservation area will remain an accessible nature reserve for many future generations to come.

Report: Neil Mach 2016 ©

Links:

Staines Moor Preservation – APSM

Staines, Egham & Englefield Green Appreciation Group

Friends of The Elderly, Moor House Staines

CASE HARDIN — Live in Staines

You didn’t see it. You weren’t there. You can only imagine — You shoulda been there, man…

For those people who still support live music in Staines, last night’s show at the RIVERSIDE CLUB was a treat.

The terrific CASE HARDIN were in town — they are signed to Clubhouse Records, named after a character in Boston Teran’s thriller “God Is A Bullet” and onto their fourth album “Colours Simple.”

This was the standout gig of the year.

We had already seen this band [whose main songwriter Pete Gow has been described by Q magazine as “a songwriter like no other”] at the “Down By The Riverside” blue-grass night. Then we were totally immersed in the Vermilion River muddiness, and the sweetly drooled guitar. We thought their songs “convinced and anointed us...”

We have been looking forwards to the return of these Americana & country rock paragons.

Case Hardin - lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotion upset... Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©
Case Hardin – lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotion upset… Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©

After a rousing start, the band brought us into a private world of feverish imagination — “Fiction Writer” — one of a selection of numbers from the new songbook.

This brushed across the room, soft yet edgy. The lyrics were filled with potential heartache. Every note shook us with emotional upset.

We also enjoyed “First to Know”  — the ever-building song from the “Every Dirty Mirror” album that includes the scrabble word “stanchions.”     The choppy texture of guitar on this number reminded us of Denny Laine.

After discussing the merits of Scottish gin [Isle of Harris is apparently taken with a slice of pineapple on the Outer Hebrides ] we savoured the hoppy upbeat number “The Streets are Where the Cars Are (The Bars are Where the Girls Will Be.)

This has super-efficient keyboard work from Roland and schmaltzy lines of guitar from the talented Jim Maving. This band’s sounds are distinctively dry with a peppery aftertaste and gooseberry hints. Maybe HARDIN CASE are the musical equivalent of a sip of gin on the bitter Western Isles

“Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.”
“Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.”
After the break the band returned to treat us to a selection of acoustic covers. They ventured “into the crowd” — up-close and personal. It was a moving experience. The first song they played was “Carmelita”.

Warren Zevon is a great inspiration and influence for us.” Said vocalist and frontman Pete Gow. “And if you don’t know who he is — then maybe the last hour has been a complete mystery to you…

This number was brilliantly performed and properly ardent.In fact, it was the most exciting song of the night. Tim Emery played upright bass [“Cor that’s a big one...” shouted one wisecracker) while Roland Kemp, the band keyboardist played timbrel and provided sweet backing vocals.

If you can imagine something like the poetry of Bob Dylan peformed with the heart of Tom Petty and, perhaps, the merest hint of super-dry Johnny Cash with the fruitful finish of Leonard Cohen, then you might get somewhere near to the angled beauty and detailed instrumentation of CASE HARDIN.

But, in reality, these guys are like nothing else …

It’s a shame — you were not there!

Words & Images: Neil Mach 2016 ©
Link:
https://www.facebook.com/casehardinband

 

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FRAN MGILLIVRAY BAND — Live in Staines

This week — still celebrating a “Month Montage of Blues” in STAINES — we went to the RIVERSIDE CLUB to see the FRAN MGILLIVRAY band (with Mike Burke.)

Fran is the bassist with the colourful and expressive voice who adds energizing structure to the blues-tunes she performs. Fran plays alongside the great talent of Mike Burke, on guitar.

Fran started playing folk, roots and blues music in the late 1970s with Mike Burke, and appeared at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1977 following the release of the album “Into the Light.”

Fran McGillivray curative simplicity and subtle reflection. Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©
Fran McGillivray curative simplicity and subtle reflection. Photo Credit: @neilmach 2016 ©

The band have recently been mixing their new album [Riverside Club favorite Alan Glen is a guest on the recording) so we were pleased they chose to play a couple of songs from the upcoming release including “When, when, when.”

This is a song about looking back to a time before gadgets and smart-phones. When forming and maintaining relationships was perhaps easier (who knows?) This was a cool number, full of expression and a touch of yearning.

We loved the choppiness of numbers like “Hard Working Woman.”

Fran’s vocals on this song reminded us of Elkie Brooks during her Vinegar Joe days. We also enjoyed the fluency on tracks like the ‘Little Walter‘ standard “Blues with a Feeling” — although we could have done with harmonica for this one.

In the 1990s Fran and Mike formed the urban blues band “So Long Angel” and they played us the showy and vibrant “Ecstasy” from that period. It was filled with a fusion of jazz and psychedelia and was our favorite number.

In amongst the jazz-tinged songs and country-blues offerings — all played with nuanced voice and robust bass lines from Fran and expressive finger style from Mike — was a handful of rhythm and blues numbers, such as Rufus Thomas danceable “Walking the Dog” with sexy bass notes and flames of guitar.

We also loved the Fran McGillivray version of “Not Fade Away” with its rough sharpness, Bo Diddley beat (enriched by percussionist Roger Nunn) and very pleasant, languid voice.

This was a positive, upbeat and mellow show full of curative simplicity and subtle reflection.

An outstanding evening of quality musicianship.

Next to Staines Riverside Club: Case Hardin Thursday September 22
Words & Pictures: Neil Mach 2016 ©
https://www.facebook.com/franmcgillivrayband/