Monday, 13 July 2015

5/7/2015 East Barnet Festival - Part 2

Sunday finds me heading back down to the park for the last day of the 2015 East Barnet Festival. Once again the weather is lovely - warm and mostly sunny, without being too warm. Unfortunately, I don't manage to make it down in time to see the The Silver Manatees who were one of the bands I had been looking forward to seeing - they were very good last time I saw them. Being in the pub until after midnight after yesterday at the festival probably didn't help matters... Still, Sunday is an interesting day at the festival - with a few surprises.

The first act I actually managed to see was Kerrie Masters. This girl was new to me but seems like seasoned and experienced performer. She is a soul/jazz type singer who also plays the flute.
Kerrie has an excellent voice and knows how to use it. Her band are good too - although a bit on the dull side. Maybe this is deliberate to highlight the singer? The songs are funky and soulful, but there is a bit of a a surprise when Kerrie launches into an AC/DC song! The unexpected cover of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' is performed in a very laid back and relaxed fashion - so much so that I suspect a lot of the audience don't even realise they are hearing one of the all time classic hard rock songs!

The tempo is taken up a bit when well known local pop/rock/soul covers band Paparazzi take to the stage.
This is probably the most varied set of the day and includes numbers by The Scissor Sisters, Creedance Clearwater Revival (in a Tina Turner style) and even Guns 'N' Roses! Their singer Andrea can really belt out a tune!
Paparazzi have a good sound and play really well - definitely one of the highlights of the day.

The next act is a bit of a surprise - no one seems to know who Vigilante are. The singer has an American accent but claims to have been born locally. Fortunately their playing is better than their wigs!
The band play original hard rock songs and aren't as bad as they look - I guess they don't mean to be taken too seriously anyway. The frontman is actually quite charismatic and entertaining - which is just as well as the songs don't really hold your attention that well.

Next up is well known local musician Mark O'Connor - who appears to be a last minute addition and doesn't appear on the bill. He performs a short solo acoustic set and is always a lively performer.
Next were popular local rock covers band Texas Flyers. The band are all highly experienced musicians and regular performers at this festival as well as in local (and further afield) pubs. Their set consists mainly of well known rock and blues classics, but there are a few more rarely heard songs thrown into the set as well to keep things interesting.
This is a band who know the right sort of songs to play to get people going.
A Texas Flyers set is always entertaining, but all too soon it's over and it's time for today's headline act...

Variety has always been a feature of the music at the East Barnet Festival, and today is no exception. After various acts earlier in the day featuring funk, rock, pop, and soul (and that's just on this stage - there are 3 others) today's show is brought to a close by something completely different - Minnie's Henhouse. I've known about this band and been wanting to see them for a long time, but this is the first time I have actually managed to see them. This is a long way from the type of music I'll normally go and see - it's from a time before there was even such a thing as rock & roll. I wasn't even sure if I'd like it as people had been telling me it probably wasn't my kind of thing. Minnie's Henhouse is an act as much as it is a band, and the musical style is taken from the 1920's to 1940's. Not the sort of thing people who know me would expect me to like at all. Little do they know that many many years ago I used to listen to a show late at night on Capital Radio that used to play this sort of stuff. I listened mainly because there was nothing else on the radio at that time of night to be honest. But I still listened - so there must have been something I liked about it...

This is a cleverly put together act, and although this music is from a time before 'rock' - it rocks! It swings and it rolls too. The music is lively, fun, and energetic. Minnie herself has great stage presence and charisma - a natural performer who works hard all the way through the set - although there is one entertaining interlude where she takes a chance and asks a member of the crowd to get up on stage and carry her while she sings a song - something that could have easily ended in disaster depending on how much he had been drinking - good thing she didn't ask me! It was very funny though - and didn't quite end in disaster! At one point a 'special guest' is introduced to sing - the brilliantly named Pimms Brooke (New/East Barnet residents should get the joke) who had apparently flown in from Dubai for the show.
There were a few surprises in the Henhouse - just when you are getting into the 1920's/30's vibe - a very familiar song pops up in the set - one you are more used to hearing played by Nirvana! This band certainly keep you on your toes...
Most the band had dressed in period costume to some extent - apart from the violin player - but at least her hairstyle was very 1920's. I'm not complaining though 'cos she had great stage presence. Nice boots too!
There always seemed to be something happening on stage and it seemed a polished and professional show - while still being a lot of fun and having a slight edge to it.
In spite of Minnie's Henhouse being a long way from the sort of act I'd normally go and see I thought they were worthy headliners for Sunday's bill and I thoroughly enjoyed their set - great fun! This was a great end to the 2015 East Barnet Festival and I look forward to seeing this band again.

And as the (surprisingly reasonably priced) beer tent shuts at 21.00 - it's back to the pub....

Same time next year then?

PS: Did anybody spot that a certain bass player turned up in more than one band?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

4/7/2015 East Barnet Festival - Part 1...

Always a good day out - if the weather is OK. Fortunately this year the weather could hardly have been better. I would say that the East Barnet Festival is always great value for money, but actually it's better than that as it's free! Well it's free to get in, but obviously things like the beer tent and the funfair aren't free - although (very unusually for a festival) the beer tent has real ale and the beers are at normal pub prices. Why can't all festivals be like this? It's so nice to be able to have a few festival beers in the sun without feeling you are being ripped off. However, I'm not here for the beer - I can always go to the few remaining local pubs for that.

There is a wide variety of live music to be found over the various stages, but none of the early acts on the Saturday look like my sort of thing and I've got to get my shopping done so I don't get down to the park until mid-afternoon when The Fraudsters are playing.
This fairly well known local rock covers band turn out a solid set of crowd pleasers. Then it's time for something a bit different. With a name like Dark Skies this band isn't likely to be a 'pop' or indie act - and they certainly aren't. If you were expecting something more Goth/rock/metal then you'd be right - Metal to be precise. Their sound is not a million miles from Black Sabbath. They are obviously good musicians and have written some decent songs, but how do they expect anyone to take them seriously as a metal band when they dress like this?
I quite enjoy their music, but although they play well they appear to be performing a set of entirely original material. The crowd don't recognise any of the songs - they just don't 'get it' at all. And the singer doesn't seem to 'get' why although he makes a good effort at giving a proper 'rock show' performance no one really seems to be into what they are doing.
Lose the shorts guys - as a 'metal' band they make you look ridiculous. A basic schoolboy error, but you are not the first 'rock' band to make the same mistake at this event.

Next act on the main stage is local blues band and East Barnet Festival regulars Hokum. They look like a standard middle aged pub blues band, but they actually give a more lively performance than many of the younger bands today.

Meanwhile, there is good stuff happening elsewhere on the site. There is a stage for new young bands and some of the times the stuff going on here is more lively than what's happening on the main stage - at one point there is a good band of kids with a girl singer doing a Rage Against The Machine song - one of the heaviest things I hear all day.
I seem to miss Rangoon back on the main stage - or at least I don't seem to remember anything about them - shurely I wasn't in the beer tent the whole time? Things got a bit strange after that. Next was something billed as Pop Coulture and a 'special guest' was introduced. I can't remember his name but I think he was a 'celebrity' from some TV show like Pop Idol or The Voice. He was given 'star' status and performed solo to a backing track. Nobody seemed to know who he was - apart from the handful of 'fans' who seemed to be going crazy in front of the stage. Maybe they had bused in specially? Or minibused in. And there would have been a few spare seats on the bus. Another act that no one apart from a (very) few who the hype seemed to work on seemed interested in. He was the only act of the day to do an 'encore' (even though hardly anyone was watching and it was so obviously pre-planned) and returned having changed out of his 'pop star' threads into jeans and a leather jacket for some instant 'rock-cred'. I doubt anyone was convinced (apart from the tiny rent-a-fan 'crowd' at the front) or even cared.

Fortunately things took a major turn for the better with today's headline band - an act I suggested for this festival years ago but I never thought would play in spite of their local popularity..
The Fabulous Feedback Band used to play regularly in Barnet a few years ago and built up a considerable local following. They are (or were) a rock covers band - a very good one but have now moved up in the World and call themselves a 'Function band'. Nearly all the rock stuff that earned them a big following has been ditched in favour of a far more indie/pop set for wedding and corporate gigs. I don't think many of the currant local festival crowd actually knew of this band previously, but they went down a storm regardless - getting a far bigger crowd down the front and dancing that the previous 'star' turn. And they didn't even resort to playing 'Mustang Sally', 'Brown Eyed Girl' or the dreaded 'Sex On Fire'. Well done lads!
This band were easily in a different class to anyone else - all the other bands I saw today looked like 'pub bands' however well they played. The Fabulous Feedback Band were the only ones who didn't wear shorts - none of the other bands seemed to get why shorts make you look shit. This is why they will remain pub bands. Go figure.
The Feeedback band played songs people like, and they played well. All the other bands I saw today played well too, but this lot play very well. They were very polished and professional, but that's not what made them easily the best band of the day. They looked great compared to all the other bands, but that's not it either. They had something the other bands were sadly lacking in - charisma and stage presence.And of course it helps that they play songs most people know. A great end to the day! And so to the pub - then back tomorrow for more...

Saturday, 11 July 2015

28/6/2015 A little piece of aviation history - over Barnet!

A nice day for a walk in the park? Not really - not as far as the weather goes anyway... So why was I in the park then? Well I had to pop out to the shops to get some milk for my breakfast on Monday morning, and I like to take the 'scenic route' even if it takes a bit longer. While I was in the park I happened to witness a remarkable and never to be repeated event that lasted only a few seconds. Was it coincidence that I was in the park at that exact minute? Maybe not...

2015 is the last year ever that it will be possible to see a remarkable piece of British engineering in the skies. Avro Vulcan XH558 was built in 1960 and retired by the RAF in 1993, and that seemed to be that. Until 1998. A massively ambitious and expensive project was launched to get the now privately owned aircraft back in the air - with absolutely no help from the RAF or the government. Amazingly, both the project and the aircraft got off the ground - after 14 years XH558 flew again. It was originally thought that it would be possible to fly the Vulcan for another two or three years. It has now flown for eight years since it's return to the skies, but for a variety of reasons it has been decided that although the aircraft is in amazingly good shape and has been very reliable 2015 will be the last year it will fly. Ever.

The Vulcan is a remarkable piece of history in it's own right, and this particular machine is the last example of a British designed and built four engined jet aircraft of any type flying anywhere in the World - we shall never see it's like again.

As part of it's last year of flight it was decided to pay tribute to the RAF's old V-Bomber force (which also included the Victor and short lived Valiant bombers) by flying the Vulcan over every single remaining intact example of these three classic aircraft in the UK. This 'Salute to the V-Force' tour was planned to take place in two stages over this weekend, and on the Sunday it would be flying over London to pay tribute to the Vulcan at the RAF Museum in Hendon. The aircraft would only be making a single low level flypast over the museum at Hendon - any sort of air display there would be frowned upon these days - although Hendon aerodrome was once the venue for the World famous air display that has more recently taken place at Farnborough. I was thinking of jumping on my bike and heading over to Hendon (taking advantage of the free motorcycle parking at the museum) to catch the unique site of a Vulcan flying at low level of the site. However, it was raining in the morning and low cloud made it look possible the day's flight might not even take place - the Vulcan can fly safely in cloud and rain, but there isn't much point if no one on the ground can see it! I didn't much fancy getting a soaking on the bike as I slithered about on wet greasy London roads and then possibly standing in the rain and not seeing much anyway....

A little research provided the Vulcan's exact flight path - after it's flypast at Hendon it would be heading to Duxford in Cambridgeshire to fly over the examples of the Vulcan and Victor at the museum there. It's route to Duxford would take it right over Barnet! So maybe I didn't need to go to Hendon after all? I didn't think I'd see much from home - too many obstructions, but the park would be slightly closer to the Vulcan's flightline and is only a couple of minutes walk away so...

The rain had stopped and the low cloud was clearing. For once my planning actually worked out perfectly. The Vulcan was due over Hendon at 14.00 and by that time I had positioned myself in a carefully chosen vantage point in the park to get an unobstructed view. I looked over towards Hendon just a few miles away and sure enough at around one minute past two a small and very distinctive delta shape in the sky grew rapidly larger - accompanied by a growing roar! The Vulcan's planned flightpath would have taken it right over Barnet Church, but it seemed to be flying East of there and actually much closer to me than I expected! I may well have got a better view of the Vulcan right on my doorstep than if I had gone to Hendon to see it. I had occasionally in the past seen Concorde's flying over London, but they were much higher than this equally distinctive delta shape. The astounding Concorde is now history, and only to be seen in museums - soon the same will be said of the mighty Vulcan. But not today. I didn't bother taking my camera with me as past experience has shown that unless you have a massive telephoto lens an airborne aircraft will always look tiny - even if it's really close up. I wanted to soak up the sight and sound with my own senses as it happened, and I find wielding a camera really gets in the way of that - and this was a moment I would never experience again. I took a couple of very quick pictures on my phone before putting it aside and enjoying this unique moment. The Vulcan looked far far closer to me standing in the park than it does on the pictures from my phone - I felt I could almost see the pilot looking down at me! And of course there was the famous 'Vulcan roar' - a sound probably never heard so loud and so low over this spot, and never to be heard again over London.
I sort of expected a few other aviation enthusiasts to be in the park to witness this event - in much the same way as steam locomotive fans gather on the platforms in Barnet when they know an old steam loco will be hauling a special train through. As the Vulcan's roar grew quieter and the aircraft started to climb away over the woods leaving four trails of black smoke behind it I looked around me - I was alone in the park. It felt strange. I know many many other people over North London will have just seen and heard the Vulcan pass low overhead - even if many of them didn't know what it was or why it was there, and I'm sure there were hundreds at the RAF Museum in Hendon specially so see it fly over. But I was the only one standing in the park to witness this once in a lifetime event - it felt almost as if the aircraft had just flown over especially for me - a secret rendezvous in the park - my own private air display. A special and unique moment in time that I will always remember.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

26/6/2015 Last night ever at the Purple Turtle

Friday night and there are far too many things going on - unfortunately I can't get to all the gigs I want to get to. Tufnell Park tube station being closed for the rest of the year doesn't help me include anything happening there if I'm trying to get to many gigs as possible in one night and time is of the essence - so I have to travel straight through there and get off the train at Mornington Crescent for the Purple Turtle.

I was very sad to learn that this great Camden music venue is closing. I've not been there often in the last couple of years or so, but it used to be a regular hangout of mine a few years ago when it (or it's various promoters) used to book far more of the type of rock 'n' roll bands that I like. It's always been a very reasonable price on the door and the Newcastle Brown Ale used to be reasonably priced too. I had seen countless great bands there over the years - as well as some not so great ones. It's always been one of the few venues I have actually looked forward to visiting. It's a nice size, has good views of the stage from various points, the toilets aren't too disgusting, the bar is above average and there are places to sit and chat. Many changes and improvements have been made since I first visited the venue when the stage was at the front by the windows. Unfortunately the lease has now expired, and the landlords (Camden Council) seem unwilling to let the club remain for the remaining three years until the building is knocked down for redevelopment. I don't see why what appears to be a perfectly sound building needs to be demolished, although I suspect it's just Camden Council wanting to flog the land and make a lot of money. What is more puzzling is why the Council (who claim to support the arts and 'alternative' culture) would apparently rather have the building empty for the next three years instead of having a popular music/club venue paying rent? It must be gutting for the people who run the venue as I can see quite a lot of money has been spent on upgrading the seating area since my last visit, and I believe they planned to spend a lot more on further upgrades to the venue in the future as well...

So, Friday night finds me heading down to the Purple Turtle for probably the last time ever.
It's only £3 on the door tonight - bargain! Even better news is that all drinks are only £3 all night! I look for the usual Newcastle Brown Ale as I get to the bar, but they don't seem to be stocking the old standby any more. I'm not as disappointed by this as I once would have been as the stuff doesn't seem to taste or smell the same these days - possibly because it's not even brewed in Newcastle anymore. The legendary beer seems to have lost it's character... However, I do find an acceptable substitute behind the bar in the form of Dublin Porter - at only £3 I drink as many of them as possible in the time I am in the venue - well it's helping to support live music isn't it? Actually, I think they just want to get rid of all the booze before the venue closes down. I do my best to help them out....

Well known promoter on the underground rock scene Mick Monsta is one of the main people behind tonight's show, and he is determined to make the venue go out 'LOUD'. I hadn't heard of most of the bands on the bill:

The Day Of Locusts
Empire Warning
Healthy Junkies
Die Kur
The Mercy House

However, I did want to catch Healthy Junkies even though I only saw them the other day elsewhere in Camden.
Actually, it made a nice change seeing them somewhere other than The Unicorn - although I did see them at the Camden Rocks festival recently too.
The band are on good form tonight - their new drummer has been really powering their sets along since he joined a few months ago.
Even though Healthy Junkies are one of the first bands on tonight, quite a few of their loyal fans are here early enough to see them. They are not disappointed.
This mob are pretty seasoned performers by now, and I'm sure their catchy blend of pop/punk'glam/grunge wins a few more people over tonight.
Although the band aren't using their normal backline they get a good solid meaty sound.
All too soon their set is over - and so is my night in Camden as I have to rush off to get back for a local gig...