Rainham Beer and Music Festival, 22nd and 23rd June 2018

If you like beer and you like music, you’ll love this! The first Rainham Beer  and Music Festival is taking place on 22nd and 23rd June 2018 at the Oast Community Centre right by Rainham Station. Yeah, that one – the one that everyone says “I went to something there years ago but haven’t been since.”

It’s now got new people running it and they’re building something really  special down there. There have been lots of improvements to the building already, as it’d been neglected for years, but these things aren’t cheap. Hence the festival is aiming to raise money for the next phase of the work.

One Friday 22nd June, the music is provided by Careful Now Promotions and they’ve got a cracklingly tempting  line-up for you:

7.00 – 7.40 – Stuart Turner is an alternative to your usual singer-songwriter. Having released two solo albums, Turner formed the ironically titled band Stuart Turner & The Flat Earth Society, (who now feature former Dentists guitarist Bob Collins), who released their album ‘Scowl‘ in the summer of 2017. An unusual mixture of indie-pop, skiffle, folk, rockabilly and balls to the wall rock and roll, five albums in they still defy any attempts to classify them, but with the song writing constantly challenging, constantly changing and never the same performance twice.

7.55 – 8.35 – Darren Hayman is an English singer-songwriter and guitarist. He was best known as the writer, lead singer and guitarist in Peel favourites and multiple Festive 50 botherers, Hefner. Since Hefner disbanded in 2002, Darren has embarked on a prolific solo career releasing more than a dozen  albums under his own name, while also appearing on albums by Papernut Cambridge, Rotifer and The Great Electric. He has regularly worked with The Wave Pictures, producing an album for them, directing three of their music videos and briefly employed them as his backing band.

His most recent work has been a series of songs based on ‘Thankful Villages’, which are those who, during both world wars, didn’t lose any of their folk that went off to fight.

8.50 – 9.30 – Fightmilk are a band who were formed of frustration in 2015 after a string of bad break-ups and boring jobs. They write entitled millennial songs about getting drunk with the right people, falling in love with the wrong ones and always being the girl found crying at parties.  They leave odd time signatures or wanky chord changes to other people. Not enough people are making pop music anyway. You can dance to all of their songs apart from the slow ones, though they’d like you to try and dance to those too.

They released an EP, ‘Pity Party’, on Fierce Panda records – according to For the Rabbits, “An EP so good we’ll even forgive them releasing a song about New Year’s Eve in the middle of July” – and are set to release our first album, ‘Sometimes It’s Good to Be Alone’, later this year.

9.45 – 10.45 – Theatre Royal were formed in 2009, naming themselves after the now demolished Theatre Royal in Chatham. The band released their debut album ‘From rubble rises…’ in 2010. Three subsequent albums have been released since their debut, the most recent being ‘And then it fell out of my head’ on independent label Vacilando 68.

All four albums have picked up a host of fine reviews and regular airplay on BBC 6music and Radio X / XFM, as well as being championed by cult New York DJ Bill Kelly on WFMU in New Jersey. Live the band have had the pleasure of sharing a stage with the likes of The Chameleons, Public Image Ltd, The Flamin Groovies, The Wedding Present and Sweet Baboo.

Theatre Royal take their cues from the last 50 years of guitar music, creating clattering yet literate pop music laden with harmonies and chiming guitar lines. Comparisons have been made to such names as Buffalo Springfield, Echo and The Bunnymen and The Go-Betweens. Theatre Royal are currently working on their fifth album to be released shortly.

Admission to the festival is a miserly £4.00 each day, which also gets you a commemorative glass, and allows you into the music area as well. If that’s not an absolute flippin’ bargain, I don’t know what is.

Please note that there is music on the Saturday as well but that is a whole different ball-game and organised by a different bunch of people. They are offering these local acts from 7pm onwards:

Ancient Orange
Ravella Bridge
Turtle Circles
Love Reptiles

See you there on the Friday evening and I’ll happily join you in a pint or two of something tasty to wash the music down with.

Trust Fund, Swearwolves – Chatham Riverside – 28th August 2016

I’m pretty sure this is the closest gig to home that I’ve paid to get into. It’s certainly my first one at the Riverside One Studios next to Chatham bus station. Chuck in a top-notch band, and a mere fiver to get in, and we were definitely onto a winner.

I do find it reassuring when, during a pre-match pint, the main band wander in to the same pub. It confirms that I’m in the right area, I’ve managed to get there on the right day and that the gig will more than likely be going ahead. Not all of these have happened on previous days.

The privilege of being the first band to play a Community Centre Presents gig here were Swearwolves, consisting of one person singing and playing bass: not something I’ve seen before.

Probably fair to say the songs weren’t overwhelmingly upbeat but, as much of life isn’t, this seemed fair enough. As a Dad of a couple of young people, who seem to be under much more pressure than I was at that age, I can empathise with the angst being displayed. Also, I always admire solo artists – there’s nowhere to hide if things go askew. It’s just you and whatever you can think of to defuse the situation and move on.

The night’s main attraction though were Bristol’s Trust Fund and I couldn’t help but wonder what had persuaded them to troop down to Medway on a Sunday evening. (I found out later that they like playing towns and venues they haven’t been to before, which is an admirable line to follow).

Trust Fund @ Riverside One (28.8.16)

A man lighter than their recent Indietracks appearance, during which Ellis appeared strangely distracted, they were on top form, although the fairly intimate setting did lend it rather more of an air of rehearsal room than  seething mosh-pit. Well, it was Sunday evening.

Dan is always worth keeping an eye on, unlike many drummers. He wandered off during a song where he wasn’t needed very much, disappearing through a door at the side, returning in time to join in when required. He also played while flat on the floor for one song.

I love the approach to their songs which aren’t your usual verse/chorus standards and some of the newer songs are more of bursts of ideas, than fully-formed 3-minute stories but it all sounded wonderful. Shades of early Supergrass and bags of energy and enthusiasm, coupled with a tight performance gave Community Centre Presents a night they should be proud of. And well done to those people who turned out to see it.

rust Fund @ Riverside One (28.8.16)

A really successful opening night and I really hope they do many more like this. People were invited to write down who else they’d like to see play in Medway and it’ll be very interesting to see who they get along next time from the mixture of suggestions. Hint: Peaness or Young Romance would be just dandy, if you want my view, folks. Not too many people in either band (it’s a small venue) and both are at about the right stage of their careers where they might consider it. Oh, and both are excellent, of course!

Pop South Festival, Glasgow – Sunday 14th February 2016

After a stomp up to the hill in Queen’s Park in the morning to look out across the city to the snow-covered hills to wake up, back to the Glad Café we went to spend more time shut in a dark room.

Catenary Wires - (c) Robin Halls
Catenary Wires - (c) Robin Halls

Bill Botting (aka Two Drink Minimum) and his sister Hannah were on first with a bunch of gentle acoustic songs including his Christmas song, perfect with snow in the air. They were reinforced halfway through by bass and second guitar, to flesh out the sound. As guitar was from Paul Rains, they were close to sounding like Allo Darlin, especially with Hannah singing solo. Which was nice.

Paul made his escape in good time to hot foot it back over to Edinburgh, where Tigercats and Chorusgirl were continuing their tour that evening.

More laid back songs came from Two White Cranes, whose Radisson Blue album, I’ve been listening to for a while. Not all of this lights my wick but certainly enough of it to enjoy Roxy’s set a lot. Her powerful and clear voice is simply lovely to listen to and the guitar sound she gets is wonderful.

Catenary Wires continued the laid back feel to the day and Rob pulling up a chair so he could play guitar just seemed somehow appropriate. I’ve always adored Amelia’s voice and they played all the songs from their debut CD, as well as one or two new ones, which are reassuringly in the same relaxed and unremittingly downbeat vein. Upbeat and optimistic these songs are not and more power to them for being so.

Duglas T. Stewart - (c) Robin Halls
Duglas T. Stewart - (c) Robin Halls

I didn’t recognise Gordon MacIntyre under his beard but as soon as he started to sing, any doubts of it being an imposter disappeared. Although seemingly pestered by the ghost of Darren Hayman, resulting in a couple of false starts, he gave us a great set, with a few ballboy songs for good measure.

I don’t get the chance to see him perform anywhere near often enough so this was a welcome opportunity for which I was appropriately grateful.

Douglas T. Stewart from BMX Bandits did a ‘solo’ spot, accompanied by a few friends. Not knowing anything about him, I had no idea what to expect. Having seen him I’m still not totally sure how to describe it or what I thought!

Coming across as more than a bit Radio 2, with close harmony singing from his chums, they took a turn for the more surreal by covering an Ivor Cutler song. Not something I’ve experienced before but a whole-hearted thumbs up from me all round.

I’d not really clicked with Pete Astor before but his set was really good. About halfway through, it just sort of fell into place for me. Maybe it was the beer kicking in, maybe it was knowing we were reluctantly running out of time, or maybe it’s just because Pete writes good songs and performs them really well. Probably a combination of all of these.

Regardless, it was a great way to end a fabulous weekend. Thanks to Pop South for putting this on and thanks to Glad Café for hosting us all. A perfect remedy for the mid-winter blues.

Pete Astor - (c) Robin Halls
Pete Astor - (c) Robin Halls

Pop South Festival Glasgow – Saturday 13th February 2016

Occasional Flickers, a band name to make every poster maker think carefully about the fonts used to advertise their gigs, had a stand-up drummer and beards-a-go-go, although they paid the price of being first on as there were barely more people watching than performing. Veering from vaguely akin to Veronica Falls to something altogether more jangly, they reinforced the unwritten rule that every band first on each day mustn’t be too challenging for any lurking hungover souls. The disappointing sight of what appeared to be a “man-bun”, lost them a couple of points but there were extremely considerate regarding time management, as they were keen not to run out of songs before their slot was up, something they managed admirably.

Milky Wimpshake - (c) Robin Halls
Milky Wimpshake - (c) Robin Halls

Thirty minutes spent in the company of Milky Wimpshake will always be a worthwhile investment.

They were utterly professional throughout and rattled off a selection of new and old songs, accompanied by Sophie on vocals for the newer ones – something that works rather well. It might just be me, but I always take delight in listening out for mentions of Gormenghast in the lyrics and it makes me smile when it does. One day, I’ll get round to asking Pete just how many there are.

I’d always been meaning to explore MJ Hibbert and the Validators, as I’ve liked what I’ve heard and in our house the Christmas album gets dug out each year, to add that year’s new track to and to brighten up a generally over-rated time of year.

I really enjoyed them. Having one band member standing at the side of the stage with a pile of cardboard sheets to use as props bode well for later on and so it proved, guiding us through things to do before you’re thirty. Sadly, I

seem to have missed a fair few and am too late to catch up. As many of the songs were, appropriately enough, about getting older, I did allow myself an ironic smirk that I was watching them while drinking a mug of tea and celebrating reaching my half-century.

Mammoth Penguins finished off the first half of the day in fine style, allowing us to catch up with what Emma’s been up to lately. There’s a harder edge here, compared to other recent outings I’ve witnessed and her voice shows

no sign of losing either its distinctive qualities or its power. This lot had been on the list to dive further into for far too long and, on this evidence, would repay the effort. The CD has now been ordered, although quite why I didn’t just buy it up there I don’t know…

Considerately, they were careful not to run over time, as there was an hour break for grub after them, before the eagerly anticipated evening session got underway.

A very swift curry later and we were back in position for what was expected to be a pretty cracking evening line-up, kicking off with the ever wonderful The School. I’d been wondering how all eight of them were going to fit onto what certainly wasn’t an overly large stage but, as they were two light, it was just a cosy fit rather than a major problem.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had the pleasure of their company now but it’s always an absolute blast and, in an ideal world, I’d have them play a gig locally every month or two and I’d genuinely not tire of it. All three albums are a joy and they consistently give me a great deal of pleasure.

While I’m more than happy to traipse around the country watching bands like this in the company of like-minded people, why aren’t these bands getting more back for their efforts? I was persuaded to watch some of the Brit Awards this week and, apart from having Sleaford Mods lyrics running round my head throughout, contrasting that artificial world of false camaraderie, hype and lack of any real talent or soul against the genuine thing in Glasgow was striking, if ultimately depressing.

Hot on their numerous collective heels, were Chorusgirl, another band I was particularly looking forward to seeing. To heighten my enjoyment, I’d also managed to secure a highly desirable position to watch them from, being about six feet from both bar and stage. You don’t get that at the O2.

Bedecked in matching T-Shirts, they lived up to pre-festival expectations and then some. Glorious songs delivered beautifully. You can’t really ask for much more.

One point struck me around now; the use of digital tuners. Is it me or do they encourage constant checking? It’s not a criticism, more an observation. Were things less in tune when they didn’t exist? Surely modern guitars hold their tune just as well or better than older kit? Anyone care to shed any light on this?

Tigercats. The wonderful, wonderful Tigercats. A band that just seem to keep getting better. Now with extra Paul Rains on guitar, surely they must be pretty much touching 11 on everyone’s personal scale of all that is good and wholesome in the world?

On this evidence that certainly are and they had the whole crowd in their hands from the moment they stepped onto the stage, bathed as it was in some rather unexpected red lights. We were treated to a scattering of new songs which hints that, after the more subtle approach of Mysteries, they intend to rocking out a bit more. Frankly, it doesn’t much matter what style or avenues they choose, if they continue to produce stuff of this quality.

Isle of Dogs was an instant attention grabbing album whereas Mysteries took time to bed in before narrowly edging ahead, in my book. Can they beat that standard with their third album? I hope so but the world may just explode with pleasure if they do. I certainly will.

They were as close to perfect here as I’ve experienced from any half-hour of my life.

Trust Fund closed the day and had a pretty short straw in having to follow Duncan and crew. However, the crowd were in a suitably good frame of mind to see past the various technical issues that they suffered and they gave an almighty performance, as befits a headline act.

Veering from noisy as hell to gentle and subtle, often in the same song, Ellis’ excellent vocals and arrangements gave us exactly what was needed. “Make it bleed!”

And so to the end of a superb day’s entertainment. Home to bed and the chance to do it all again the following day. Why isn’t every weekend like this?

Pop South Festival, Glasgow – Friday 12th February 2016

A bitterly cold weekend with intermittent snow – actual proper snow that we’re not used in the soft south – in a city that, if judged purely aesthetically, is always going to struggle to fight off being described as ‘brutal’ may not be considered a classic way to mark a significant birthday (as I have been repeatedly told this year apparently is) but it proved, in all ways, just about a perfect way to do just that.

I can only imagine what motivates the fine folk such as Pop South to organise events like these – it certainly won’t be the money. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of looking round a packed hall where people are obviously having a massively good time while the finest bands around churn out fab tune after fab tune, knowing that they made it happen. Whatever it is, long may it continue, as it allows those of us lucky enough to be able to get along to escape from reality for a few days. I don’t know about you but I need things like this to sustain me through the grind of everyday life.

Friday night’s openers were Joyce Delaney, a three-piece with bags of energy and enthusiasm, who made an early claim for the coveted ‘best looking bass of the weekend’ award. Chuck in a mass of enthusiasm, confidence, audience interaction and clap-a-long songs and we were definitely on to an early winner. In my excitement to capture my thoughts, my rapidly scrawled notes from their set included what appear to be the words “familiar pluty rap ham”, for no obvious reason. It was a only slightly gloomy in there and I was only on my first pint at this stage so I have no idea what I was moved to write down or why it ended up as it did. Perhaps they could write a song with that title and I’ll look like I was just ahead of the game, rather than a bit of an arse?

Jutland Songs took over and their fuller and more powerful sound kept the mood of optimism sustained. However, they lacked the confidence and attitude of the openers and were subsequently more of a slow burner than their short set really allowed for.

The splendidly named Breakfast Muff gave us masses of chorusy-fuzz, played for periods with their backs to the audience and swapped instruments at the drop of a plectrum. Two chorded noisy pop songs delivered with a sledgehammer force are pretty much irresistible and I lapped them up.

I’d seen The Tuts before and been underwhelmed by them, although that was a few years ago. Times move on and they blew me away here, though. Singer/guitarist Nadia led them through their excellent Clash-esque set with barely time to draw breath. I’m sure there couldn’t have been a toe in the room that remained untapped as they put every ounce of their heart and soul into the performance.

They are recording their debut album at the moment and need your help to pay for it. They have a Pledge website where you can choose just how far you’re prepared to go to support their efforts. I’ve chipped in and look forward to hearing the album: I recommend you do the same. We really do need to cherish and support bands like them, as we do for all the acts that played this weekend and other events like it, whenever and wherever they are.