The Claim, Theatre Royal, Love Family – Homespun Medway Music Festival

Across Medway (from east to west) in Gillingham, Chatham & Rochester venues including The Barge, Nags Head, Billabong Club, Eagle Tavern, Gordon House Hotel, Ye Arrow, Granville Arms, Singapora, Guildhall Museum and The Crown, the Homespun independent Medway music festival was a massive success on every level.  The gigs were all well attended and very professionally staged, while being professionally managed by collaborating local promoters Medway Eyes, Tea, Motherboy and Suburban Kings.

A special preview show at The Barge kicked off proceedings on Wednesday (10th) night with solo performances from Dave Read, Stuart Turner, Didi Bergman & John Forrester; and over the course of two days (Friday 12th & Saturday 13th July 2013) the Medway Towns were awash with a plethora of local talent.  Some old performers had crawled from beneath stones to perform alongside the fresh and vibrant sounds of young Medway.  The weather was perfect and there was the added bonus of seeing old faces, both supporting and performing in what will hopefully become an annual event.

Part of the fun was downloading the timetable to plan your route between venues, like runs between festival stages at Glastonbury.   As I prepared to follow a touching acoustic performance from singer/songwriter Chris Hearsey at the Granville Arms with a short walk to The Eagle to see Tape Error it was mentioned that they had cancelled due to the singer ‘not feeling well’. It is at this point I would like to mention the tragic passing of the Tape Error’s very talented Chris Austin.

In the evening, three bands played at Rochester High Street’s Gordon House Hotel. The Love Family who reformed several years ago treated the audience of friends and fans to a set which included old songs like ‘Body & Soul & Heart & Mind’, tracks from their 2012 debut album, ‘Out Of Reach’ and their current four track ‘A Soundtrack’ EP including the crowd-pleasing songs ‘Somewhere Waiting’ & ‘Something Start’. The Love Family played a very tight set of what I can best describe as post-grunge drone.  Think Husker Du meets…. Husker Du.  The Love Family sound is a high voltage humming wall of sound built on layers of biting guitars, heavy throbbing bass lines, solid non-fancy pounding beats and the distinctive Americana vocal-style of Gary Robertson.

A change in music direction as Theatre Royal took to the ‘stage’. With two albums and a box of single releases already to their name, they played a spotless set of very impressive, well structured alternative ‘indie’ pop songs which perfectly suited the evening humidity of one of the hottest days of the year, so far. Over the past couple of years I’ve seen Theatre Royal play many gigs, none of which have been disappointing.  But tonight they appeared to reach a higher level as they rattled through a list of songs including my personal favourite, ‘Foreign Shores’. In the late 1980s The Claim & The Dentists were a perfect match and performed together many times both in Medway & London.  In 2013, the twisted, alternative pop of Theatre Royal is a perfect match for the latest returning performance of The Claim.

Back in the day, The Claim would play regularly across Medway venues.  But these days performances are rare.  Hence they sell out! There has been a handful of gigs in the past few years which leads me to believe they are in limbo, somewhere between a reformed band and a one-off show to promote a ‘best of’ CD. Like a group of zombies, The Claim currently reside in the alternative pop world of the undead, and with every year that passes, appear to becoming local pop legends.

Following a return to their beloved Cliffe, where they played, by all accounts a strange, emotional village hall gig on the Thursday, The Claim headlined Homespun with a bright, shining performance. Similar to Theatre Royal, The Claim’s alternative pop songs have a certain something that propels them far above their contemporaries, both then and now.  Dave Read’s singing style is as distinctive as Morrissey, Johnny Rotten, Bob Dylan or any other great vocalist and deserves to be spoken about in such company. The songs are pure pop perfection, and very British.  Too late for C86 or too early for Britpop?  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s just not good enough to write and play tight, catchy, original songs that once you’ve heard them stay in your head and keep you humming for… years.

The Claim played a set of crowd pleasers.  Not difficult considering everyone present was there to see them & know the songs inside out.  Although each has their favourites, everyone would probably agree that The Claim haven’t got a bad song!

Homespun appears to have left everyone it touched, praising the event and saying one thing.  It would be good if this became an annual Medway music festival.

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