The Sonic Breakfast Top Ten – Five To One

I’m hesitant to publish my Sonic Breakfast Top Ten Five To One. Charts such as this are pretty meaningless anyway. I’ll have good friends who are wondering why they’re not in this top five; others who’ve featured on Sonic Breakfast this year might compare themselves to those in the top ten and find it difficult to understand why they’ve been omitted over and above ‘x’…

And in many ways such a response is right. What’s the point of doing anything if you’re not incredibly proud and protective about your craft? I’ll reiterate though – there’s a reason why I’ve featured each and every one of the acts I have on Sonic Breakfast this year – and that’s because they EXCITE…..

Onwards to the top five….

5. Workers In Songs

One of the lovely and slightly scary things about writing pieces for ‘Sonic Breakfast’ is that you’re never quite sure if you’ve interpreted intent accurately – or if you’ve messed up big time. I was pretty sure that there was an uncomfortable edge to the video for ‘Crazy Without You’ from Workers In Songs frankly brilliant album, ‘That Glorious Masterpiece’. Morten Krogh from the band confirmed in E-mail afterwards that, “you really get many of the things that we try to get through to the listener! Good job and respect from here!” Phew – thank goodness for that. They’ve got a new video from the album that’s due for release soon but, as that’s not yet ready, here’s one from their back catalogue.

 

4. Ash Mammal 

Ash Mammal are THE most exciting band playing in Leicester at the moment. I was unable to make their headline show at the Musician just a couple of weeks ago but my Facebook timeline was littered with comment from people who have views I respect about how great a gig it was. They use a quote from my original piece as a strapline; ‘an exercise in punkish unpredictability‘. This makes me ever so slightly fuzzy. 2015 has got to be the year in which more people realise just how exceptional they are. I’m told by Beaumont Weed that their new material pushes them up to next steps. I cannot comprehend where that takes them too. They’ll still be like marmite – but give them a try if you haven’t to date.

 

3. Dylan Seeger – Claye

Not one that’s prone to make rash predictions, I’d put money on the fact that you won’t see Dylan Seeger’s album, Claye, featured in any other top ten lists of 2014. This is the biggest of crying shames. If you’ve got some time off between Christmas and the New Year, do yourself a massive favour and give it a proper listen. This is finely crafted art. It’s an album that continues to give well after the initial listen. Dylan seems resigned to the fact that his craft will remain ignored and under-valued.

 

2. Chemistry Lane – An Interview

You can tell a lot about a band by the way that they answer questions that are sent to them. It’s been one of my favourite ways to source articles this year, partly because the onus is placed upon the band to convey whatever they want in particular ways. Chemistry Lane are a team of perfectionists over their craft and their approach to answering questions was no different. It seemed that the Chester tourist board jumped upon this article with the content sparking all manner of debate. I’ve never been to Chester. Perhaps, I should go. Expect an album from the scintillating Chemistry Lane in 2015 (or 2017 – they are perfectionists after all).

 

1. The Watanabes

The second half of 2014 seems to have been a busy one for The Watanabes. The release of their EP, ‘Draw What You Like’, has yielded all sorts of praise-laden reviews. Over in Japan, the gigs appear to be getting bigger and the fan-base is growing.

There’s a school in Peterborough. At that school, a teacher has started to show her form group videos from Sonic Breakfast. I’m told that the one for ‘Yuriko, Yuriko’ had quite a calming impact on her class. Friends of mine also thanked me for highlighting the Watanabes to them. The Watanabes seem like perfect gents. And I’m sure that they’ll appreciate this. Making things better is a pretty fine outlook with which to approach another working day. 

 

I have loved producing Sonic Breakfast this year. I’ll resolve to write even more regularly in 2015 and discover another fine set of acts that I’ll have no option but to share..

The 10th Original Bands Showcase final

Tonight’s the night of the 10th Original Bands Showcase final in Leicester. This’ll be a night of celebration, sweat, endeavour, smiles and jubilation. It’s become something of an event in the annual music calendar of this fair city and I can’t wait to get on down to the Musician tonight to see what happens.

 

The OBS is the brainchild of the formidable yet fair Val McCoy. Dig beneath the surface (she doesn’t suffer fools gladly) and here you have a woman who is probably even more passionate now about supporting and nurturing local talent than she was 10 years ago when this venture started. For each year, OBS provides a platform for developing and established acts to take to the stage and further hone their craft. Tonight is the culmination of a series of heats, callbacks and semi-finals.

It was seven (or perhaps eight) years ago that I first got involved. A friend of mine, Richard Haswell (the man behind the excellent and now sadly no more Summer Sundae festival) got in touch and asked if I would judge at a final. I didn’t have a clue what to expect but the promise of free beer was enough to convince. That night a band from Hinckley, ‘The Chairmen’, took the plaudits but what struck me was the air of support and friendliness amidst the sweat covered crowd. They might have been there to see one band but they were cheering all.

The OBS mightn’t be a model for everybody. Some are suspicious of the competitive elements involved. Responding to music can be a personal thing so how can individuals say that one band is better than another with any authority? And the truth is that they probably can’t. But the competition is just a part of this showcase. For me, this is much more about the networking opportunities, future gigs and new friendships formed. The best bands see winning as secondary to the experience and opportunities provided.

For the last few years, it’s all taken place in the Musician, a venue I’ve praised previously in this blog. There’s a cast of characters here who all throw themselves behind the OBS. Andy Mann, the soundman, works his bollocks off to ensure that the tight turnarounds look smooth to anybody within the crowd. The bar staff take an active interest with Chris, Chris, Holly and others never being shy on expressing their opinions (in a friendly way). And the contributions of Darren, Nicola and Wayne all contribute to the impression that this is a supportive, positive event.

There’s six bands that’ll take to the stage tonight. One thing you can always guarantee within an OBS final is that they’ll be stretching across a range of genres yet all excelling in their chosen styles. I’ve featured two previously within this blog, Tapestry and Stop That Train. But, in truth, I could have just as easily featured any of the other four and not impacted upon the quality. Ash Mammal, Beneath The Lights, The Della Grants and 8 Miles High make up the sextet on offer.

The OBS final is nothing without the crowd though. It was the friendliness and supportiveness of the crowd that first attracted me to these events. And though people have moved on, the feeling within the audience seems to have stuck. It’ll be a packed out, sweat-laden affair tonight. It’ll be one of the best gigs many in the crowd will have ever been to. We’ll dance, we’ll sing, we’ll drink and laugh. But, above all, we’ll realise that live music is the winner.

I’ve got my special costume ready for tonight… Now, I just need to go and get my hair done…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beneath The Lights do not share any of their music for embedding upon Soundcloud.  

Tapestry

The weekend started well. Another band showcase night down at the Leicester Musician. Four varied acts all at the top of their craft and an appreciative, wise audience flexible enough to hop across genres.

Late additions, The Matchstick Men, did their cause no harm at all when they opened the night with their Springsteen-influenced sound. The Della Grants showed their consummate experience with a powerful,polished set of bar-room blues and Ash Mammal showed why just two weeks earlier their brand of twee punk (drawing influences from Marc Bolan) had the young (and old) flocking to their sell out show at the Y Theatre. All bands to watch on this local scene. 

But this post is about the final band of the night, Tapestry. I simply was not prepared for the show they delivered. 

There’s nothing wrong with a band that wear their influences on their sleeves but when that translates into yet more Arctic Monkey/Kasabian/Oasis wannabees I can very quickly lose the will to live. Tapestry set up on stage and there’s not a guitar in sight. Instead, here we have saxophone, drums and a bewildering array of keyboards, korgs and drum machines. The stage is a messy tardis.

Alex, Elliott and Taylor proceed to bang drums, to press keys, to bewilder with their technology. Amidst it all we get the sweetest of soul voices, bursts of sax jazz, mash-ups that fry and a charm that belies their teenage years. It’s not a rock n’roll set but it inhabits that uncertain space between band and DJ. It’s thoroughly modern, thoroughly now and I can’t wait to see them again soon.

They’ve got an EP out. Here’s a soundcloud sampler..