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You will have noticed my considerable respect for & excitement concerning the Live On Stage project if you've been reading my article over the months.

In fact I mentioned project members Mugshot as far back as my round up of 2022's Godiva Festival before knowing much about the bigger picture.

The astonishing & inexorable rise of Project Overload both on record (they released their debut album ‘New Beginnings' this year) and live & subsequently their appearance on the Main Stage at Godiva Festival 2024, with fellow project members Loophole up there the next day, has accelerated the need to focus upon what's going on.

My thanks therefore to the project team for inviting to me to their Summer Showcase at Coventry's HMV Empire and for the input from some of their members plus participating musicians to help me paint an accurate picture for you.

Organised by Coventry Music Hub & taking place at The Tin, its mission is to allow "..young musicians to form rock bands, develop song writing skills, learn about the music industry and take part in live performances" and as such involves artists aged from 11 to 18.

The team of mentors/tutors consists of Mark Patton from the Music Hub who leads the first year of the two year course, his colleague Alex Stott, second year leader Mason Le Long, Nina McLean-Ellmann and Michelle Bailey-Le Long who work with both year groups and Steve Weir who works with the second year.

As Mark told me: "by supporting our young bands to step on stage and learn of the other areas in the music industry, we hope they will always remember their journey with Coventry Music and The Tin Music & Arts, continuing to raise the profile of Coventry city's live music scene. "

Mason & Michelle will be known to many of you already: the former as a producer of so many artists we've covered as well as his own work with Batsch & !nvisible Hand and Michelle not only as a member of bands such as Deathsex Bloodbath, Duck Thieves and Sister Panic but for her work as a film maker. It is primarily through these two generous people that this article has been able to be written.

Nina (whom again you may know for her sound technician work at The Tin and elsewhere) was in the aforementioned Mugshot and later Permanent Daylight & hence is a Live On Stage contemporary of Project Overload: one of the great features of the project is the underlying philosophy of "there's no such thing as being too young" and to see someone evolve directly from being a student to a tutor (she teaches aspects of sound) is very exciting. No wonder the project prepares thirteen year old musicians to get ready to win "Godiva Calling".

Those of you who are aware of my career in education will probably appreciate my profound interest in what the project is doing. To help musicians at a critical time when personal musical skills are probably developing nicely and help them to develop what they are doing in a way which emphasises their own unique creative voice is crucial.

At this point, there are too many Svengali types looking for fresh talent to mould: at their least egregious these tend to try & persuade young musicians to copy the work of successful models: at worst it leads to various forms of exploitation. After we lost Gemma Leahy Waddell, one of the things I focused on was her hard work in these areas offering completely the opposite sort of mentoring philosophy, so it's great to hear of others operating similarly.

Confidence building must lie at the heart of this process: taking the form of both that approach to writing your own material saying what you want to say, whatever others may be whispering in your ear but also the physical form to get up on big stage & play naturally. I've written how Project Overload owned the Godiva Main Stage, but it's illuminating when the parent of one of the members of Loophole mentioned to me the "nerves of steel" he perceived in them: and I totally agree. Promoting this must be a priority at Live On Stage judging by what I see.

And I saw a great deal in one evening: the featured bands were Loophole, Electric Blue, Creative Sounds, Luminae, New Obsession, Rosewood, What About Eric? and Lucent.

All were skilful at what they did (some were jaw-droppingly so) but it was the attitudes which impressed even more. That confidence was there for starters: and I'd emphasise that within the broad characteristics of the project, there was much diversity. Several bands were up there with Project Overload and Loophole in terms of readiness to play anywhere. But this is a two year course & some were on year one, others year two & the age ranges were from eleven to eighteen so you'll catch me writing about them individually in some sort of sequence over the next few years as they play more in public & record, but unless the usual pressures of keeping bands together operate unhelpfully, I see no reason why you'll not experience them all.

There was also an overwhelming sense of community with bands supporting each other (far from always the case in the wider world of course), delighting in each other's music & having such positive relationships with the course team.

I took the opportunity to try & chat with some key players during the evening, though some were just too busy and I wanted to taste all of them (unfortunately the speed of sets and rapid (and highly skilled) changeovers meant that I only heard a couple from my interview room backstage) so as to try and capture the essence of Live On Stage.

The ideal starting point with a bridge back to previous articles would be starting with Loophole & I was delighted that Lucas, George, Nancy & George spared me the time literally just before they had to go on stage (and I mean that: they walked straight onto stage as we finished. The calmness & serenity of how they did that was eye opening: I'd never normally have attempted an interview with a band just before stage time).

Since this is the first time I've focused on the band rather than describe their performance, I thought it best to begin with examining how they saw their music. Lucas led on this one: "I think our band is mostly indie rock pop sort of based and I think for me especially, the bands and artists which take my interest and we incorporate into our music are Declan Mckenna, Jamie T, The Arctic Monkeys: they're all great bands and artists that I feel are really helpful in the creation of our music". George (the drum playing one) agreed: "a lot of the musicians that we listen to personally influence the different types of music that we play".

Loophole have actually evolved out of a previous band which included Lucas, Nancy, guitarist George and a drummer, Georgia, who left to be replaced by George on drums as part of the Live On Stage project "I think we're all really thankful for that, that we got this opportunity".

In terms of the Loophole journey to date, Lucas feels "I think it's got off to a really good start, playing at Godiva Main Stage the other weekend: we've been playing lots of gigs, HMV Empire tonight, many gigs at the Canal Basin, at The Tin, which is a really nice, homely environment, it's a really nice venue and I think what we're hoping to do is record more songs, write more songs and play at bigger venues, just try & expand our growth. I really enjoyed Godiva: it's such a big experience in our band career so far. To play such a big stage so early on, it's almost like a fever dream: it doesn't seem real. I think we're just so thankful that we had that opportunity and we took it & played really well to our audience and made a really good day of it."

Nancy expanded upon this: "I think Godiva was a really good opportunity for all of us and I think it definitely helped getting us more exposure on social media and meeting the other bands backstage was a bit of an achievement".

George (guitar) added "we played really well with minimal mistakes. We were backstage watching Beverley Knight and that was really good. There was also Oh My God! It's The Church. I quite liked them. They were good".

I asked them if six months previously they'd have anticipated playing such a stage, the answer came "absolutely not". While having dreamed of it, they seem to have considered themselves not on a level of bands who did play it: an assessment they've now hopefully fully revised.

In terms of next steps, building on this achievement, they are very grounded: they are, as Lucas says, "trying to play some gigs, get exposure & to write more songs & to release them. This band I think is really good at expressing ourselves which is a really good way to write music. The best part is just having fun with friends."

I asked the band for tips for you to check out: they suggested both Batsch & Duck Thieves and from the project, Luminae (and when I heard the latter later, I understood why).

They finished with Lucas telling me "how lucky we are to be given all of these opportunities by the Live On Stage project because without it, none of this would have happened. We're just really grateful & hoping to make more music".

Personally, I doubt that many of even the most experienced and skilled of musicians would necessarily be keen to or possess the right skillsets to work with young musicians, so I wanted to explore with Michelle & Mason more of the values side of what brought them into the project.

Ironically, the story's origins are far more prosaic than ideological: Mason putting their involvement down to a consequence of all his previous work at The Tin, causing them to "fall into it" with his venue & band experience being key factors into be invited to participate. "And suddenly, all of a sudden I was managing it." Michelle then spoke about their values "it is about developing skills of developing know-how of the local music scene and nationally as well, but the most important thing is about seeing the confidence grow in the kids. Confidence building is one of the core values of the project I would say.  We definitely give them the space to develop their own creativity and to develop songs: it really is student-led practice. Another core value of the Live On Stage project is to give the young adult the empowerment and encouragement to find their creative voice. Just to see the evolution of the kids: when they do their first gigs, they are really shy, really nervous and then by the time they leave the project, they're rock stars, they're owning that stage and it makes us really proud."

Mason expanded on that point "it really is so rewarding when you watch them on the Main Stage at Godiva or here at The Empire after a year of work: I mean not only the bands we've been working with for two years but the ones we've worked with for one year & seeing their evolution from September until now is pretty amazing. They are all at different stages, there is a lot of variation in where they are at in terms of their progress as a band but they are all making that progress and that's the bit that's really rewarding to see."

Michelle continued: "what's great is to see the first watch the second years on stage and learn from them and celebrate them: it's a nice community of kids. What do we get out of it? We get to be really proud of these young musicians: the next generation in Coventry but also the next generation of the people at The Tin, like Nina who was in one of the first original bands and now she's teaching sound on it. To see Nina become a colleague, a collaborator, someone that we are proud of but is also completely an equal and has such a great input and a way with the kids .. the kids love her: Nina's the favourite, which is fine!"

As noted, Nina has the unique status of having been a project member and has moved onto a tutoring role which gives her perspectives I was eager to tap into…. "It's really amazing to be honest. It was such an important project to me that to be able to support from the other side, it feels like a really important thing for me to be able to do. It happened fairly quickly after I was out of the project and I think that was partially because I'd been so involved for so many years" (Nina did work experience at the Tin thanks to being part of Live On Stage).

Responding to what Mason & Michelle had told me (above) about how this circumstance made her relationship with project members different to that of the other tutors, she said: "often when you speak to people like Mason & Michelle when you're on the project, you don't really realise that their experience of music is still current: I don't mean that in a negative way. As someone who's been through the new stuff & the new drama of being in a band is important as well I think: there are times when you don't get on necessarily when in a band, particularly one which was put together by other people".

And on the palpable sense of mutual support that I was picking up: "the support that over the years I've received & the support that I'm hoping to give is just immense. Mason & Michelle were always there for Mugshot & Permanent Daylight, showing their support in every way they can".

She talked also of how she still played herself (in fact she later guested on bass with Lucent) but was so busy with her sound tech work to be part of a band currently: in fact I hadn't expected her to be at the gig but she'd come back from working at a festival, slept until 4 and made it to the showcase.

I wanted to catch up with Project Overload too for several reasons: their stupendous rise & rise over the past months and also how that relates to their experiences on the course. Luckily, I got to speak with Lucas as he was there playing with Loophole & later on with Tom & Callum who were present in the audience.  Chatting first about the big gigs they've just played: "I think we're all still trying to take it in: obviously it's a really big feat, that  we managed to get onto the Godiva Main Stage on the Saturday, playing to just under a thousand people, which is definitely one of our biggest gigs and we're hoping to keep that going, maybe go somewhere else outside of Coventry. We've got a gig in Birmingham which is coming up in September and a festival we're looking forwards to". They were also processing playing on the same stage as people like Sam Ryder with millions of followers: "surreal: it shows how far we've come".

In terms of new material, apparently they have plenty ready for recording a new album in 2025 (no danger of "second album syndrome") so although I told them I loved "Wildfire" which they played as part of their Godiva set & can be found on social media, such are the riches available that the most I got from them was that it …"might be a good shout for a single as I think it's one of our strongest songs". They are really excited to bring some of this previously unheard material into their set.

Inevitably with a group on such a trajectory there were plans which I can't yet share with you but will knock your socks off when they come to fruition.

With regards to how Live On Stage helped them get here, they told me about the tutorial support & guidance they'd received from Alex, Mark & Mason, drilling down into specifics like stage presence, what it's like to be in a band, how to interact as a band: but crucially not dictating how to play.

What is clear from their trajectory is that having nurtured young musicians over the duration of their time with the project, once they start moving, they fly. My advice to you is to keep your ears & eyes alert for the bands I saw. Already there is a sense of privilege for me to have caught Project Overload & Loophole so early in what can be distinguished careers: others such as Luminae, What About Eric? or Lucent are already on my "to do" list for their no doubt imminent recordings and future live reviews: the others are on the road too. Keep on watching this space.

 

If you know anyone who'd like to enrol for 2024-25, please direct them to this page:

https://www.coventrymusichub.co.uk/directory-record/9/live-on-stage

I asked the alumni of the project to whom I spoke what they'd say to anyone thinking of joining: "take your shot, take your opportunity: they provide lots of opportunities: they offer lots of gigs, lots of support, lots of help to get into a music career. It's a really good start for years 6, 7 & 8 in expressing themselves in music" (Project Overload).

"Just do it. When you start out, you can be nervous and that's sort of the point. The project is there to help those nervous first starters to get to a place where they're much less nervous and support them through that into being in a full band. There is expected stage fright: we work through that as part of it: that's why it's so important" (Nina McLean-Ellmann).

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Having previewed the Glastonbury debuts of Izzie Derry & Dolly Mavies for you, I thought readers might like a follow up piece on their experiences.

The short & simple answer to this is to recommend that you check out their social media sits as both of them vlogged in articulate detail of their performances & wider enjoyment of the festival: so you get it in their own words & with visuals too.

Nevertheless I caught up with both of them to elicit their thoughts & here they are:

I chatted with Izzie before her Godiva Festival performance, midway between Glastonbury & her new single release ("If We Don't Laugh We'll Cry").

This is what she had to say about it all: "absolutely incredible: possibly the best week of my life I wasn't expecting to play it quite so soon but I always said that I wouldn't go to the Festival until I played. Now I've gone, I've played & it's a bit surreal I played one set on the Wednesday & one on the Thursday & I think that worked out quite nicely because the big stages weren't open then and so the smaller stages, like I was playing on, were quite crowded because there wasn't as much to go to .There were a few friends of mine there but everyone else there were like new people. There were loads of people who were just brand new to my music. It was kind of exciting to play somewhere where no-one knew who I was. I had loads of people coming up to me afterwards & saying how good I was. There was a mother & daughter came up to me and they lived in Brighton so they could follow me there, so that was lovely. I didn't meet any (big stars) but I did get to see a lot of music I was excited to see like PJ Harvey, I'm a huge huge fan of hers. I guess that following Glastonbury I'll be playing some more shows, releasing the new single & hopefully carrying on the momentum applying for shows & festivals next year that having done Glastonbury this year, we're more likely to get chosen".

Dolly was trickier to speak to: she is currently amidst a whirl of activity and so we settled for online contact which went thus: "Glastonbury was amazing….We had an incredible time, it was a dream come true and an amazing opportunity. We will hopefully return next year!"

Just back from Scotland, she also announced today an Autumn tour of Britain including Birmingham's Sunflower Lounge & the Green Note in London: prestigious dates which don't even take into account "the Glastonbury effect": these simply reflect the esteem which helped take her there. One can only speculate as to what will happen when the effect kicks in (and I imagine that Izzie's current announced dates also are yet to take the career boost into effect).

I'm sure that you feel as pleased for them as I do.

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Only a week ago, I suggested that "expect the unexpected" was a thread running through the artistry of those of whom I wrote. Few of them epitomise that more than King of the Alps, that restlessly innovative group for whom repetition is anathema.

Known generally for their elusive yet beautiful songs which explore the avenues to the human heart with the degrees of (un)certainty of adulthood, few (if any) releases features the same exact lineup of any of their predecessors & often significantly different instrumentation.

Occasionally though, they plunge even more radically off piste : 2020's "Happy Christmas, All Will Be Fine" being the most radical to date: until today's release of their ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel'  album has offered a serious challenge.

I had not expected a spoken word album in my wildest imaginings: so thank you once again to Paul Ingram & Simon Ward for the element of surprise ("no one expects the Spoken Word Album").

In fact ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel'  is so esoteric even by their standards of diversity and variety that initiator Paul had originally considered it as a side project to released under a different moniker. Thankfully Simon convinced him that weird ideas fall comfortably within the King of the Alps DNA.

The songs themselves are named  "Why?", "Wealth Could End Poverty", "Ununited Humans", "You Can't Grow Bananas in Milton Keynes" "Change the Future" and "We Are All the Same".

I've never reviewed anything quite like this, so had little idea of the technical difficulties involved. The project was delayed by COVID19 but even so, at that point, the search for a collaborative narrator wasn't getting anywhere: presumably the idea was too freaky for any of those approached to contemplate and so it's Paul you'll hear.

What he had not anticipated though was how difficult it was to fit the music to the existing words and so when you play it, please have in mind a lot of hard graft, composing, arranging & rehearsing.

What you hear in fact are six very different tracks with the music clearly written to reflect the words: rather than (for example) the approach of John Cooper Clarke whose musical settings of his poems (much as I really like them) tend to be jazzy mood tracks not particularly related to what he's reciting (though in a few places he almost starts singing).

Drums (Paul's instrument of yore with bands such as The Giraffes) appear more prominently than on most King of the Alps tracks: the significance of which eludes me (which is hardly surprising given the overall context). To be honest, you could strip the words away & be left with some decent instrumentals so much effort has gone into the backing tracks which include a range of sounds including samples.

The words though are the centre of the project & the mixing ensures that though they are supported & complemented by the music (and even emphasised by it), you are not distracted from them. We're talking Big Themes: societal as against the personal which tend to shape Paul's song lyrics.

Racism, xenophobia, inequality, fear, the environment, the role of the media, politicians, property/capitalism, materialism, greed and many more targets appear in his sights on the album, mostly set to ominous forms of accompaniment, yet tying all these together is the theme made most explicit in "Change the Future": he's challenging us all to effect change in our individual lives and to abandon the issues he's previous discussed: by multiple communal actions we can have an impact. At this point, the music becomes lighter & the urge to sing becomes greater as the words are more positive and his manifesto is emphasised by closer "We Are All the Same" (set to the brightest, funky, party-based backing) which emphasises our global communality, our shared interest in overturning the forces of darkness and our combined power to do so.

Taken as a  whole, ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel'  is a very powerful piece of work: outlining the problems for the bulk of the record is offset by offering solutions, or potential ones, in the final tracks & given the album title, Paul has a sense of optimism that it might come off.

 I agree with Simon: this fits nicely into what King of the Alps have always done: musically it's a high quality, highly listenable album. Lyrically, it addresses both matters of the heart and dives straight into the heart of the matter by looking at the bigger issues facing humanity & thus complementing what Paul's written about before.

I'm not even sure it's really a spoken word album at all: I'm inclined to go with it being an example of Sprechgesang of which there are significant numbers of examples in popular music, some by really big names.

If you care about the world in which we live & like thinking deeply, ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel'   could be your cup of tea.

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As you'll have read in my in my article about Matthew Mansfield (aka Matt Hernándezearlier this week, my intention had been to pop down to the Warwick Beer, Cider and  Music Festival at Warwick Racecourse yesterday, catch "Hot Music Live Presents" featured artists K C Jones & Alchemista and chat with him about our joint desire to put on some new gigs to offer live opportunities for local original musicians.

That very sadly was not what came to pass, though I went nevertheless & saw the music I had anticipated, but processing the Matt shaped hole was no easier for me than it was anyone else.

It's still not easy to find adequate words, but talking with others and listening to music (especially as he'd set the event up), helped get a few ideas into better order.

It wasn't a tribute concert: it couldn't be given the fact that it was already programmed & had a different focus and above all because the vast majority of local original artists who had given online testimony as to their feelings & memories were not playing. I imagine that I am far from the only one wondering whether such an event might not be possible somewhere down the line, though even that could only hope to feature a fraction of those whose careers he had helped set in motion & had encouraged.

A couple of big credits first: to event organiser Jo Ward who quite apart from putting it all together under challenging circumstances also helped facilitate my attendance & hence this review.

Sound engineer Mick Davidson, Matt's close collaborator quite literally had two roles to fulfil: not easy at the best of time with swift stage turnarounds but under the circumstances of loss, well one can imagine. The sound was impeccable.

Karen & Colin Jones had come straight from their previous gig at Folk on the Farm on Anglesey (not a short drive) which tells you a lot about their commitment.

The K C Jones duo is a very flexible act: although (understandably) we at "Hot Music Live" tend to focus upon their roots folk side which includes both their own originals & those which Karen performs as a solo artist, they also have a lighter side: their "pop" set as she puts it. This was the more appropriate one yesterday: their darker material was best left for other times & other places.

It didn't really affect their playing though: we got a good run through of their range: complex for a duo with duets, harmonies, solo guitar, two guitars, guitar & harmonica all appearing to create variety thinly veiled by a pleasant sense of simplicity.

This is my first live review of Alchemista: I could only wish the circumstances were not quite as they were. In fact both bands did what Matt would have wanted & poured their heart and souls into fine, truthful performances where music took precedence over other feelings. That said, Caroline's tribute to him was both moving & spot on: and hence appreciated.

Sticking for the main part to "greatest hits" that we've reviewed in studio release form, the band also unveiled a new track, the gorgeous "Rose From the East" alongside favourites like "Summer's Healing Time", "Calico Jack" and "Like Danny DeVito". There was even a song about moths: shame Joe Wilson wasn't present for that one.

The song was not the only unveiling: the gig featured not just bass player Aaron Clews' live debut with Alchemista but his live debut full stop. Odd to have reported on two such milestones in one week (after that of Charlotte Faulconbridge at the Godiva Festival) but a privilege too.

Hitherto the band's sound engineer, Aaron fitted excellently into the sound: and again credit to Mick for weaving together multiple elements, each of which played crucial parts in the complex arrangements: the other strands being Colin Halliwell's drums, Peter Garelick's guitar, Paul Jayes' keyboards plus Caroline Luxton-White's lead vocals & occasional second keyboard. For completists, Paul & Peter swapped instruments for the finale "Jewels on an Ebony Sea" demonstrating versatility as well as virtuosity.

I'd contemplated recommending Alchemista to you as much for their live work as their recordings & that has come to pass: they are compelling live: their skill at realising sophisticated material is complemented by the warmth & humanity which they bring to playing: they clearly love their music and that is a characteristic of so many musicians to whom Matt introduced me.

So where do we go from here? I imagine that many readers will be wanting to attend Matt's funeral (details on the "Hot Music Live" Facebook page: please let his sister Sarah know if you are coming as the logistics are likely to be challenging). I normally like to leave the identity of dedicatees of upcoming volumes of "Hot Music Live Presents" under cover until release, but in this case, I guess most of you will not be too surprised that a really exciting & diverse new instalment will emerge in mid-August dedicated to Matt.

Warwick Beer, Cider & Music Festival had been an event close to his heart: he continued to work with them even when other commitments had limited his capacity to put on all his other regular events.  I gather from Jo that finances are tight, as they are for so many similar enterprises, so I hope it continues to be held and under the aegis of someone with Matt's values.

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This article is pretty much a mirror to my anticipatory one on the 2024 Godiva Festival which I wrote a month ago: having looked forwards to certain acts, here's my experiences & reactions to having had the pleasure.

I didn't catch everyone I had on my list: circumstances do tend to get in the way don't they & over the years I'm slowly learning to get the "quantity/quality" balance better for my own enjoyment. The rushing between stages to hear snippets of sets is giving way to hearing more complete ones & accepting that I can't get to every one. However that does mean a few regrets I must say.

First up: a huge appreciation to the Festival organisers. Obviously there is a massive amount of work they do completely out of the public eye without which it simply would not happen. Most of it is terribly detailed too. Every Festival is at the mercy of the weather & Godiva 2024 suffered more rain than in previous years: and critically the show went on thanks to prodigious efforts.

The public possibly don't see the evolution of the Festival quite as much as I do, so kudos for changes this year. There was more curation going on (their term seems to be "takeovers") and I think this results in more diversity & the right grassroots artists getting a chance. As with the last few years, the Boudica slot (this year it was The Go! Team) acts as a mid-Festival pivot & vital catalyst for those experiencing it.

With quite tightly focused stages (for example the Cov ConneX Kingston Stage), the sense that particular threads & genres can be found more easily by the right audiences is a good move. It's also great that despite the changes at the BBC, their stage was a highlight still: and I saw more there than anywhere else.

Above all, I felt that Godiva 2024 is their closest ever to surfing the zeitgeist in reflecting where Coventry & Warwickshire music currently is. To feature artists such as Duke Keats or Bar Pandora who are redefining local music along with stunningly original talents like Ace Ambrose, Duck Thieves and the fresh from Glastonbury Izzie Derry is what Godiva should be about, as is the featuring of continually evolving artists like Abz Winter or completely leftfield bands like The Caroline Bomb.

But to me, if there was a highlight, it was that both (very) young bands from the Live On Stage project based at The Tin, that is Project Overload & Loophole were showcased on the Main Stage. This was a very significant moment (well two moments) as both bands have the clear potential to go much further & to have them in such a high profile position is arguably what Godiva 2024 should be most pleased with.

I've been praising Project Overload all year (and clearly I'm far from the only one) and to watch their growth in live confidence is a privilege. The slight nerves I saw during the opening number at their HMV gig are long gone and they spread themselves across the huge Godiva stage space without needing to stay close together: and they really used it well, despite obviously never having been on anything like it before. The one most liberated I suppose was vocalist Emily who is swiftly developing into the onstage focus, not just moving around to generate energy but also in her song introductions (which have come a long way in three months), working the crowd & the power of her singing is now just right for even spaces this large.

The material too is now showing just what it can do when given the opportunity it was given on Saturday. All the hours honing it are paying off entirely. Towards the end of the set, such were the dynamics, sassiness and confidence of the performance, that a comparison with ‘Plastic Letters' era Blondie entered my head when they unveiled "Wildfire": a brand new song.

I felt really privileged (second use of that word in three paragraphs, but it's the best fit) to have witnessed this set. I think Project Overload can go a long way & to be able to say "I was there" is quite something. It's hard to think of too many artists over the 25 years of Godiva (it's been going far longer than any of the band have been alive) who have made such an impact so early in their careers.

The following day, fellow project members Loophole were up there too: even younger than Project Overload (whose guitarist Lucas sings with Loophole), they were up there entirely on their own & separate merit. They are still at the stage where a few initial nerves could be detected, but they soon blew those away & attacked their set with gusto.

Lucas was something of a revelation: being the youngest in Project Overload, he gets on with playing his guitar. With Loophole, he not only sings, but sings lead and does the introductions. Bass player Nancy also sang lead on some numbers giving variety to their sound. Instrumentally the band were really tight & that no doubt contributed to their ease up there: and I wouldn't want to leave out the names of the other two members, the guitarist & drummer, but since they share the name George, I only need give one.

I've seen Project Overload several times now & am long sold on them. This was my first Loophole gig though and I look forwards to many more.

In fact, that leads me neatly onto a plug for the Live on Stage Summer Showcase at the HMV Empire on 16th July where I can see both bands and all the others involved in the project & you can see for yourselves if you missed them at Godiva. (Tickets via this link:

https://www.eventim-light.com/uk/a/62aaf91212e4de0a6a8997a8/e/6661ab6637745539edadad19)

If those two bands were revelatory, then they were not the only ones: and each was revelatory in their own fashion.

Ace Ambrose unveiled her latest version of The Oddity (as you will possibly be aware, health & other issues have thrown her challenges over recent years and keeping the previous lineup together during periods when performing wasn't an option was not feasible) and (as you would expect), they brought whole new perspectives to her music. I've heard "Jukebox Time Machine", her signature song, in various arrangements, but never with that full on and powerful approach. Their names? Jack Tate on lead guitar, Joey Celino on rhythm guitar, Keith Kasama on keyboards, Luke John Chapman on bass guitar & Joey Adkins on drums.

They took "A Town Called Love" to entirely new places: since the arrangement reminded me of Crazy Horse, this presumably was deliberate & raised the already great song to new mythical heights.

"Jericho" was very much made for these times (I anticipate its release) and as Ace swapped the mask of The Stranger for a Palestinian flag themed jacket, this was the ethical/political highlight of the Festival. Ace is a passionate artist anyway, but what her family suffered in Gaza is almost beyond reflecting in mere music. A true artist though has the opportunity to speak for the oppressed & the voiceless & stand witness to their stories & frankly she does that extremely well. I just wish she didn't need to.

Politics is of course (or should be) a personal thing and the Duck Thieves are no less political than Ace. In fact they also favour striking visuals & reference (pop) culture but few people would find it difficult to confuse the two bands.

As per my review of the most recent EP, ‘Eyes Up Here', the songs tackle weighty issues such as misogyny & racism head on (there is no compromise in their lyrics) but they sell their values with lashings of humour which in no way undermines the messages: in fact laughing at bigots is a pretty good tactic. They really don't like being mocked.

The lack of lyrical compromise inevitably had to lead to some toning down of the expletives on the Family Field: but again, the message was clear.

However, despite the power of the recordings, you only get a slice of Duck Thieves' majesty by that route: they are so much a live band with key parts of their identity impossible to capture on disk.

Not only is there a wealth of visual input, but they work so hard on the details (literally). Yesterday, they distributed hand made frisbee viruses (well, threw) during "I'm Not A Virus", lugged an exercise cycle onstage from which Justin performed "Geeks Make Better Lovers" (never seen that before), waved hand made placards during "For The Love Not The Money" and the duck plumages were the most lush to date.

Part of their charm is inciting the audience so your attention is split between the two: significant members of well-known local bands were encouraged into dancing to "In Liverpool We'll Barn Dance" though none of them won the prize…. Thank goodness for festivals or you'd never see them in their full glory.

Stylusboy & Monday Nights are both very different types of artist, but like Ace & everyone else here, deserve fully attentive audiences to appreciate the subtleties of their songs: not always easy at festivals, but they got it here.

Stylusboy tends to appear in early slots (why I wonder?) which doesn't help his audience sizes which is a pity: he's an excellent performer & his songs which celebrate lives in a gentle & respectful manner and which he works so hard over deserve plenty of hearings. I always enjoy his sets but I wish I had more company at some of them.

Monday Nights provided me with my main conundrum of the weekend as their set clashed in theory with Project Overload. My first (stupid) strategy was to catch the first half of the latter & dash over, but they were just too terrific & I stayed for the whole thing before hurrying over, fearing that Monday Nights had finished. Fortunately the usual stagetime slippage had occurred and certainly more by luck than judgement I caught 80% of their show. Which was gratifying.

Monday Nights (in trio mode on this occasion)  offer something considerably more rewarding than the plethora of bands trying to emulate famous acts: theirs is a sophisticated repertoire and it's occurred to me since, possibly the best place in a lineup might be the more chilled out parts of a festival: the sort which Bar Pandora had the following day.

I reckon it was before COVID19 that I last caught a live Shanade gig (though lord knows I saw plenty before then) so it was with much pleasure that I got to see her on this occasion. What with motherhood, it was inevitable that her previous high work rate wasn't going to be sustainable, but great as it was to see her back, the revelation was how much she has been writing: so much so that she had a set of songs I'd never heard (though I was pleased that she popped a personal favourite "Lessons" in by popular demand as an encore.)

On a moving note, she dedicated her first song to Matt Mansfield/Hernández which in itself was highly appropriate, though what made it more so was how suitable it was: obviously she wrote it long before his passing. There was of course much talking about Matt & how he touched lives and careers throughout the weekend.

More revelatory still was the sound of the songs: really different to anything you've heard from Shanade in the past: this is a stunning new collection & I can't wait to hear them recorded… though she did make it clear to me when I put that to her that what with everything else in her life, we might best not hold our breaths. Still: there is a magnificent record out there for future pleasure.

You'll know from other articles that Izzie Derry arrived at Godiva having played twice at Glastonbury 2024: I hope to feedback much of what she told me in another article, but it's so uplifting to watch an artist who's played locally so much (including many times at Godiva) reach a new level & it's good to think that her experiences doing so helped lead her along that path.

Not only will I be reporting separately about Izzie's Glastonbury, but tomorrow you'll be reading a review of her new single "If We Don't Laugh We'll Cry" too & there is a big danger of my repeating myself between three pieces…. So as not to bore you in that way, please keep an eye open for the others and for now I'll reveal that she previewed the new release for us, that it works just as nicely solo as it does in its full arrangement (though to be accurate she plays all the instruments on that too) and to my surprise (a pleasant one), most of her set was of recent songs, especially from her ‘Til We Reach The Sun' album which I thought were too complex for performance in this way.

I think "expect the unexpected" is a link between the musicians of whom I write & Levi Washington epitomises this. I've possibly heard him play some original compositions more than once, but the man is so prolific across so many styles that music just pours out.

Even so, his new collaboration, named "Washington X Bridge" with keyboard player Charlotte Faulconbridge took me by surprise.

If her name is not familiar to you either, that's understandable. An accomplished jazz player, nevertheless, not only was this her live debut with Levi, but her live debut full stop. Levi has been mentoring her while they've been working together & I'm obliged to Dan Sambell who interviewed her on the BBC about her book "Too High To Function" for filling me in on much of her story, challenges & triumphs and why it's taken Levi's encouragement to reach this significant moment  (that's a plug for the book by the way).

Speaking with her afterwards, it was clear that she had the debutant's lack of reference points to know how well the gig had gone: so I was more than happy to tell her it was faultless. Levi had gone to the jazz end of his repertoire to create this body of work, though Charlotte's playing went from the highly melodic to the funkily rhythmic as required. This was very special: I hope that this is merely the first of many such events: equally the songs were just too good not to be recorded, which is a point I made with some urgency to Levi: not that I was the only one.

Festivals (if they are any good) have characteristic vibes and Godiva on a sunny Sunday is no exception. Thankfully the deluge which came just before Washington X Bridge went on stage had dissipated completely for Bar Pandora's quintessential Sunday afternoon vibe set. (Credit to Levi maybe: that's twice this summer (after Motofest) that his music has summoned up the sun.)

It's tricky to say much more about Bar Pandora given my review earlier this week (I saw both of them & Project Overload at the Love + Madness event at the HMV Empire mere days ago. How lucky am I?), but this was the first time I've seen them outdoors and the music suits it. The flowers all over the kit plays a part (that's a plug for "Bar Pandora and Parma Vi0let's Flower Ball" at the LTB on Saturday 20th July by the way: tickets via this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bar-pandora-parma-violets-flower-ball-tickets-899946533307).

I've been waiting three years for this band who have created such a stir to make the Festival & they provided the culturally fit I always knew that they would.

The crowd soon reassembled from its various shelters & among the many groovers were quite a lot of the great & the good from the local scene. Two of whom were so in a place of their own to not notice their shout-out from the BBC's Phil Upton onstage. Quite a lot of bliss being conjured up. If you run a festival and are looking for the right band for that magic moment, I would suggest considering Bar Pandora.

Happy 25th birthday therefore to Godiva! I honestly think that this was the most forward facing of them all &I hope this continues. Heritage needs celebrating and fans love their established favourites but to stay vital & alive, it also needs to do what it did in 2024 & capture today while keeping an eye & ear upon tomorrow.

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Frequently actual songs grab me passionately and draw me into their embrace, but very occasionally I engage even earlier when the very title is so unusual that my first instinct is to say: "I need to hear this".

And so it was the case with the new single from Everything We Do (Kaity Rae and Joe Dolman), which is called "Every Night In Vegas".

If anyone knows of any other song which has previously had this title, then you are more informed than me. Personally, I consider it unique.

It's a romantic metaphor rather than a "Casino" type tale of crime & mayhem: the subtext being "I'm betting it all on you".

From this original starting point comes what is the lyrical highlight of their career to date.

Collaboration is a most delicate flower: sometimes the most promising ones on paper just don't gel and if they are to work, the outcome needs to exceed the sum of the parts.

In this case, the two of them had, as you'll know from previous articles, been writing together well before the group was formed & so the compatibility was established. I'm less aware of the effect on Kaity's writing, but I wonder if any Joe fan, reading the lyrics a couple of years ago would have attributed them to him? The partnership does seem to have moved him artistically into new areas where he'd not have otherwise ventured.

I had a chat with him a couple of weeks ago & raised with him my concern that having worked so hard for so long in establishing his name & artistic identity, a break in solo activity might result in lost career momentum.

What struck me, quite apart from what he said was how relaxed and at ease he was regarding the matter. He will not be dropping his solo career, but is obviously so pleased by how Everything We Do is going that this currently takes priority.

There was justified pride in his voice & words & that alone tells a story.  The trust they clearly possess in each other as well as the strength of their co-writing has led to something greater than what each brought.

Part of that is that inspiration to take paths untrodden (the vocal sound is another aspect one would not have expected on previous evidence) and part is probably the experiences each has had. This has resulted in what I'd characterise as an emphasis on quality control. This manifests itself in the attention to detail of the writing (and their performance skills enable them to  pull off the feat of sounding relaxed & spontaneous in sharing a song into which a lot of work must have gone) but also the care to only release work which they perfected and, the most impressive of all possibly, to be very strategic in their live dates. Many new artists launching a new act could be forgiven for blanket touring to raise their profile: Joe & Kaity have favoured quality over quantity with fewer gigs, but those played in prestigious & suitable venues. They see Everything We Do concerts as sufficiently special as to ration.

"Every Night In Vegas" grabs the attention from pre-playing and retains it throughout. This is high quality popular music but vitally it is highly distinctive. I don't think either party need worry about departing from how they had been making music before as this quality song is such a compelling artefact with the capacity to slice its way through the really densely populated marketplace. Joe is far from cynical (though he's level-headed and realistic) so I am sure anyone he works with is cut from similar cloth, and I doubt that this was written coldly to try and get a hit: but they deserve to do just that because of that degree of originality & because the song is a warm & well observed one about uncertainty & optimism being balanced, of reaching for the right words to convey depths of devotion and right below, underpinning the whole, absolute faith in a shared future.

This is a song about universal values, yet told in a witty & memorable way. May their efforts be rewarded.

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Is this now a thing? The other day, I was flexing myself to review "Data Machinery" by Duke Keats and then he dropped a guerilla release of "English Countryside"/"Loan Sharks" into the tiny gap before the promised single: now the Dirt Road Band have joined the game. I was all ready for their debut album ‘Righteous' (and sources within the band confirm that yes, it is imminent) when they shared another brace of tracks today: this time we have "Been So Long" and "You Steal My Heart".

Just as the last pair "Cheap Talk & Whiskey" and "Don't Count for Nothing" seemed to have been selected with great care (in order to demonstrate their breadth of musical interests from Americana to British pub rock sweaty rhythm & booze, these ones share another strand of the DRB DNA: the great pleasure they get from occasionally adding keyboards to the mix and playing off these. All well and good: except that as the DRB love a good guest artist and so each track involves a different player. I've reported on Bob Jackson joining the band live & I'd heard that he'd been spotted in Woodbine Street Studios with them: so no surprises. Given that Bob has long played with DRB drummer Ted Duggan in Badfinger, the connection and chemistry is long established (though it's mildly disappointing that his initial fame in the shockingly short-lived Indian Summer seems to vanish into the haze of history). I hadn't heard though that latter-day Specials member Nikolaj Torp Larsen had also been recording with them (nice to have some surprises after all): obviously the link here is via bassist Horace Panter and if you look at the writing credits for his time in the band (chiefly the ‘Encore' album), you'll see how pivotal he was (mind you he also played on Grammy/Brit/Golden Globe/Oscar winning "Skyfall" too).

So Steve Walwyn wrote the songs & got to play with keyboard playing collaborators of his two bandmates while once again John Rivers wove the elements together in a way which accentuates all parts while blending them into a whole.

This is important because although huge numbers of songs feature keyboards, many use them for padding and provision of various effects such as not being able to afford a string session.

The DRB are a really organic band and deal in raw & authentic sounds, so if they want to work with a keyboard player, they want one who plays lead: which is what you get here. As I say, the others relish playing off each one rather than just having something mellifluous lurking behind them in the mix.

"You Steal My Heart" (aka "the one with Bob on it") is another example too of the experimentation the band like to indulge in so as not to be simply revelling in a nostalgia-fest. Sonically it is very distinct from the other tracks shared so far & plays interesting little games. For example the opening guitar sounds like John sent Steve to the far end of a long long cellar to record (yes there's a lot of echo), yet in complete contrast his vocal is not only the cleanest so far but it's way up in the mix: the most highlighted of his singing thus far on an album where instrumental playing otherwise takes central stage in the sound picture. "You steal my heart and tear it clean apart" is the refrain so the sound might be a bit of a reference there.

The piano solo appears out of nowhere and so has extra impact: it really is worth the price of the track by itself. They don't play ‘em like that anymore and it'll naturally evoke memories of Stevie Winwood, Georgie Fame etc. And in keeping with the tight taut philosophy, it comes in smartly, delights & departs just as quickly: enjoy it while it lasts.

"Been So Long" (i.e. "the Nikolaj one") is a different kettle of fish entirely. As previously revealed, the Dirt Road Band groove as well as swing. Not everyone can do these things: I wonder sometimes if it's innate? Bands can up the volume and notes per minute rate so as to hide any inability in this direction (it's not a crime after all) but the DRB can slow it right down like they do here (though being top musicians the variation in what they are up to is pretty near constant). They smoulder a lot. Things crackle and pop and Steve offers up a few harmonics among the succinct licks. Once again the Hammond is held back in the arrangement until its moment arrives and then takes centre stage: this time a la Booker T or Jimmy Smith, yet once again, you'd best savour it while you have it (or play the song again) as it flashes by.

A meditation on the passing of time, it is possibly the one track on ‘Righteous' which speaks autobiographically for the band (to some extent at least). In that context it contains an elevating emotional element. Normally, I'd probable waffle on at this point about potential single status but I think the DRB are wisely sharing most of the album tracks in pairs precisely so we get familiar with them and do not get overwhelmed by the full ten.

When you get to play the complete set, you'll be taken with the diversity. When I first saw this band (its first gig), it was the "Dirt Road Blues Band" and although they play a lot of high class blues still, I think they were wise to drop the word from the name: they have so much to offer but restricting themselves to one genre would be a needless self-limitation.

These are songs of experience both in terms of Steve's words and their accumulated playing skills. However I'm sure they'd be justifiably cheesed off with my suggesting anything which sounded like I thought that they were a bunch of old codgers revisiting past glories. The experience shapes the compositions: the zest for continuing to make new original music fires the performances & they always sound like they are having a whale of time doing this thing which they do.

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Although her magnificent album ‘Til We Reach The Sun' was in part a striking manifestation of what I dubbed "Angry Izzie" with her tearing effectively into those who had wronged & upset her, to characterise the whole collection as her using that voice would be inaccurate: though since most of the songs in question were previously released as singles, they did (until experienced within the context of the whole set), create quite an impressive tone of outrage all the more startling given her previous public persona.

However, several other dynamics were in play which ought to be considered: though the sequence did begin with fury, it nuanced as it went, through defiance, refusal to be victimised and an overall determination to maintain the moral higher ground, leading to pity for & amusement at the ones who'd caused hurt. Thus, taken as a complete set, the album showed plenty of looking back (in anger at times) but also positive looking forwards.

Within that were songs which either had no negative perspectives of the past ("Young and Free") nor any other period ("Shake": which can also be found on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Twelve').

So emerging into the post ‘Til We Reach The Sun' era (and that now includes the career breakthrough of playing twice at Glastonbury 2024) we next experience her new single today: "If We Don't Laugh We'll Cry" which doesn't so much as revert to an earlier version of herself but more plugs directly into her permanent values & reminds us of them. Ideas of compassion, humanity & positivity, albeit tinged a little by the sadness of the stuff she's had to process but now (I trust) got out of her system. Songwriting has a very powerful cathartic potential.

What one picks up on right from the very opening lines is how much (actually rather dark) humour is now entering her writing. A good humoured artist she may always have been, but all her earlier songs seem relatively serious & high minded once you've heard this one kick off. It's a beautifully calibrated balance of emotions.

Izzie told us a few years back that she'd "learned to grow" and certainly her work since then demonstrates that so effectively.

I have been working on the assumption in recent reviews that as her career has evolved into band arrangements, her capacity to play the newer material by herself would diminish. Well as a testament to the strength of the writing, her songs possess the capacity for varied interpretation: I heard her preview "If We Don't Laugh We'll Cry" on Sunday at the Godiva Festival and it was just as moving in its stripped back form as the studio version. I detect too in this one (and several off the album) that her voice is now adding lower notes to those we are used to hearing (a theory she thought was possible when I ran it past her) and this aspect too tends to accentuate the sense of growth & change.

What too is unique is that this is her first release which is wholly her own composition, performance and production: something of which she is rightly very proud. (She also considers it "the most beautiful song" she's ever written & I have no grounds on which to contest that). A well known singer & guitar player, we've seen her turn into a live keyboard player & behind the scenes she has now become a fully fledged multi-instrumentalist. Equally, she has been working hard on production techniques: so much so that she has a credit on Lauren South's debut album ‘Tiny Boat' for her advice in that direction.

I wonder where she will go next? To some extent, the issue is discussed in a separate article which I'll be sharing soon which focuses on her Glastonbury experiences.

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I am completely shocked by the news of the death of Matthew Mansfield (aka Matt Hernandez). My thoughts go out to his family: I cannot begin to imagine how devastated they are.

To put into some context for "Hot Music Live": while always moved by music, writing about it was never something I conceived of doing: for example, the Leamington music scene at the time before I started was both too stagnant & cliquey for this to work.

If I had to nominate a catalyst for all I now do, it would be Matt's championing of new (often very young) original talents: ones who would never have been given a chance in the venues of the day. Matt put on nights of original music at places like the Grand Union in Leamington, Cox's Yard in Stratford & the Wild Boar and Great Western in Warwick, which provided early live opportunities for more musicians whom we've featured than I can list: for example I saw the very first Folly Brothers gig (when they were a duo) at one of his shows. I also remember sharing a table with an unknown woman to hear an unknown 15 year old singer/guitarist: I turned to her to ask if she was enjoying it as much as I was: she was: it was her son Jakes Melles (now Jake Rizzo professionally) and again that was one of the very first of his live outings. Bit by bit, I grew as enthusiastic at what was emerging as Matt already was. His zest was infectious.

I could go on: but the main thing is that Matt picked up on artists before anyone else, gave them opportunities and provided caring & supportive environments when no-one else would. I don't think "Hot Music Live Presents" could ever have happened without him.

Starting a family changed things for him & the time to do all the above needed to be spent more at home, so his ventures came to an end. However I get frustrated still about the lack of live chances for original music & so back in February 2020, Matt & I were planning new HMLP/Night of the Musicians events at the Wild Boar when COVID19 struck. (He was wanting to get back into promotion but not to bear the burden alone).

I was planning to see him at the Warwick Beer & Music Festival next week (he organised the music for that) to see about picking that one up. Now it will never be.

Matt was such a key person in getting talent started but most people will probably remember him for the flamenco sets he modestly performed with great virtuosity: they should not be forgotten nor should the other thing that only a few moments in his company evidenced: what a thoroughly decent & lovely chap he was.

Rest in Peace.

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Thankfully there has been a short turn around between my live review of the Dirt Road Band at The Arches In which I explained that my review of their debut album ‘Righteous' needed to wait for the ju-ju men at their bank to work their magic regarding electronic payment processing and that being resolved, so here I go.

As you know, the band have released the majority of the album as individual releases already, so you got the chance to process each one & give it its due. I have therefore  reviewed already "What's Going Down", "Next Train Out of Town",  "Cheap Talk & Whiskey", "Don't Count for Nothing", "Been So Long" and "Steal My Heart" so they should be familiar to you: especially if you acquired them on Bandcamp as I advised you to do.

"Never Get Over Losing You", "Worry No More", "Cutting Room Floor" and "On The Up" complete the ten song set & appear today online for your pleasure (with hard copies also an option).

As my various meditations on this band have said before, the identity as a "blues band" is indisputable, yet they dropped the overt use of the term "blues" in their name some time ago: I suspect that players of the experience of Steve Walwyn (guitar & vocals), Horace Panter (bass guitar) and Ted Duggan (drums) are unwilling to lock themselves into any artificial constraint & as the first six tracks have already evidenced, the breadth and diversity of their interest are such that the push the envelope of the genre to the point where it's best just to take them as they are.

"Worry No More" features Friday night's guest James Oliver playing guitar with Steve and Sam Powell the harmonica on "On The Up", which, taken with the keyboard contributions from Bob Jackson & Nikolaj Torp Larsen which I have mentioned before, offer external additional textures to the songs concerned and shape their individual characters very significantly.

However, these are guests and not core band members (I guess their appearing live to play the songs in question will be a sporadic phenomenon at best) and the truth is that the trio themselves can provide all the variations and changes of style necessary to build sets of considerable variety: as Friday's setlist proved. This then is shared with you via the immaculate production by the band & John Rivers.

The title of the album is ‘Righteous' and these three have been on the merry-go-round of professional music for so long that sticking to their principles & defying bullshit is etched into their nature. They are three of the most polite & friendly people imaginable, but they stand their ground tenaciously. Consequently, I refuse to entertain the notion that the ten songs are so varied because of some cynical commercial ploy (I can't imagine anyone urging them to cover demographics as presumably many artists experience) but it's because they have broad tastes: and can play them.

Written by Steve, but obviously owned by them all, the songs could be borrowed by a documentary maker to illustrate an evolving history of blues based music. Let's start with "On The Up" (the "harmonica one") which apart from the superb harp solo (and only having the one on the album increases its power) demonstrates too the DRB lightness of touch. Despite the adrenaline fuelled passion & speed of the live shows & plenty of the tracks, they work just as well at lower volume & pace as shown on this rather 1940's blues type number.

"Worry No More" with twin guitars is necessarily faster & more spiky to make the most of the extra input. Has Steve ever hammered on more in a song? Possibly never. Status Quo ought to cover it if they have the sense. Along with "What's Going Down", whatever American roots lie behind this music, these songs could only have been written & performed by British musicians with a nodding acquaintance with punk rock & pub rock.

Album opener "Never Get Over Losing You" is to riffage what "Worry No More" is to the hammer-on. Steve seems to balance the existential angst of trying to get through life as best he can, which shapes many of his songs, with the occasional admission of light & love into his writing: though here any great sense of optimism is quenched by the love being of the lost variety.

"Cutting Room Floor" is (I assume) a witty update of the Howlin' Wolf song (which I have heard Horace play with Blues2Go) and is faintly reminiscent of the sort of sound Free went for. The lightest & most affectionate of his lyrics on the album (though that is not to ignore the satirical bite) it's as much a dig at the film industry as anything (the bar in the song is presumably metaphorical) and offers a handy respite from the intense numbers around it.

It's a bit intense too getting four new tracks which need your head getting round rather than the double headers earlier, but their being so different makes the task less traumatic.

However playing all ten back to back…. Now that's quite something.

If you haven't read Horace's regular detailed blogs about his life in music: you don't know what you're missing. Witty & illuminating, they offer his inside perspectives on the stuff we enjoy from outside. Regarding the gig on Friday, where a half dozen of the ‘Righteous' songs were played, he singled out "Cheap Talk & Whiskey" as working particularly well. Now they all sounded great to me on record & the ones I've heard live, but it does prove how conscientious they are given that self critique.

And the there are several keys to trying to describe the Dirt Road Band. One is that although on paper, at this stage in their distinguished careers, they could be playing the music they love for themselves: except they are not: they aim to stimulate & delight audiences & get them moving & they reflect afterwards on how individual songs went so as to further hone their live act.

The blues is on surface a simpler form of music (and its roots explain why) and these songs reflect that: yet beneath that misleading surface is so much technique. And as I've said so often about the DRB, it's tasteful technique, without excess nor bombast. After my comment the other day about Ted not using toms with the band, he kindly shared a story with me about Norman Watt-Roy first seeing them live at Putney's Half Moon and declaring "No tom tom ….. fucking love it" which is quite a seal of approval.

As I say, playing ‘Righteous' all through cannot be taken lightly. Don't think of sitting back in your armchair with a glass of something. It's not that sort of album. You'd be better off warning the neighbours or better still inviting them round & clearing space for dancing.

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I am so pleased that if you read the magazine & check out the tracks on "Hot Music Live", one of the stories it tells about the exceptionally healthy state of original music in Coventry & Warwickshire is the very leading & influential role in which female creative artists have played.

In terms of numbers, the percentage of featured female musicians has improved enormously (I am sure plenty of you would not see that process as anywhere near complete) and in respect of my regularly expressed feelings that the local scene is at an all time high in terms of originality, diversity & quality, it's striking how many of the apparent catalysts are female or are bands with female members (of course there are several obvious examples of artists who prefer to travel well worn roads as well, but that's to be expected).

I was therefore delighted to attend much of the special female artist showcase organised by the Love + Madness project which sought to highlight this trend (I'd of course also steer you towards the groundbreaking work of the Boudica Festival team, most of the gigs at The Tin and LTB Showrooms and of course Joe Colombi's Sink or Swim Promotions has offered so many opportunities to female artists).

The project was founded by Pandora Craig & Sam McNulty and this Love + Madness event was evidently very much Pandora's baby & it was impossible to miss her overflowing enthusiasm yesterday (even in the pitch dark of when I arrived it was obvious when I encountered her).

Thankfully, I caught four of the acts: all were wonderful & we've featured all four on ‘Hot Music Live' volumes, I'm delighted to say.

Equally thankfully, in the limited time available (Pandora squeezed six acts into three hours and big credit to the HMV Empire sound & stage crew for immaculate change overs and sound) there was space for a short (three song) set from Pandora herself (with a supergroup backing band of Paul Quinn on drums, Baz Eardley on lead guitar and Neil Ingram on bass) which gave her a platform for her joy to express itself.

The other three bands I caught were very much at the crème de la crème end of the "what's new & freshest about in local music?" spectrum: Bar Pandora, Project Overload & Shanghai Hostage (weren't we spoiled with all that talent in one afternoon?). (The other acts on later after I'd left were Chrissie Dux & Vamoosery).

Not only would I always take any opportunity to see these bands (as did the large number of others at the event), but each one brought some new aspect for me to comment on: as you'd expect with this level of talent.

I'd previously only caught Bar Pandora with Charlie Tophill being supported by Matt Rheeston (also of Batsch and many others) but of late, the band has become a trio for live work with Indira of Lucifer Sky playing various additional instruments including bass (hopefully we'll be featuring Lucifer Sky in the future too). The short sets necessarily meant "greatest hits" being played but that really helped condense each band's appeal down into some very powerful moments. In this case, the well-known songs came across in new guises with Charlie freed from such a burden of providing so much of the instrumentation: her guitar playing was more punchy than ethereal and the songs gained muscle & power in addition to their previous grace.

Project Overload have erupted like a rocket this year & there seem few limits on where they are going. Like Bar Pandora, they will be making their Godiva Festival debut this week: and on Main Stage too. The accolades keep rolling in & with merit. Fairly obviously, not everyone there yesterday had seen them live yet & judging by comments I solicited from what was a really knowledgeable audience, my enthusiasm is very much shared.

The stage size worked in their favour (I enjoyed their set at the HMV shop which I reported to you but really this space better served their act) and the confidence just continues to grow (again, I validated this with others, including people who've followed their career from its very earliest days). They are as powerful now as they are melodic, thoughtful & catchy. I mentioned last time out how Emily's vocals seemed to have a great deal of potential for impact & dynamic range & she really is unlocking this now. Of course Project Overload are 80% male but in her they increasingly possess a front person of character and onstage focus which I am sure will tend to be the centre of attention for a lot of reviews to come: though I hope she gets the credits for her lyrics too as they are high class.

Shanghai Hostage are one of Coventry's most popular live acts (I look forwards to their making Godiva one year) and it was a sad little bit of local music history that yesterday was Ian Todd's last gig as a member (he was telling me of the exciting plans he has for future music): so I am glad that I was there for that.

Again, the space helped unlock many of the qualities of the band (looking back, it's interesting how many of my more recent Shanghai Hostage gigs have been in more restricted spaces). The wit, good humour, zaniness and thought provoking ideas for songs help define them, but so does their ability to really funk the place into a bit of a frenzy & the option to get loud, make their stage moves etc just gives you Hostage Plus.

As I say, you can catch several of these great bands later this week at Godiva if you couldn't make it yesterday (Pandora is on the Cov Stage on Friday evening, Project Overload on the Main Stage at 1325 on Saturday afternoon and Bar Pandora is on the Cov Stage at 1540 on Sunday afternoon).

There are also plenty of other local female acts and acts featuring female members whom we've covered & who are also breaking boundaries: including Abz Winter on the Serendipity Stage on Friday at 2100, The Caroline Bomb on the Resonate Stage at 2115 on Friday, Ace Ambrose on the Cov Stage at 1400 on Saturday, with Duck Thieves following her and on Sunday, Izzie Derry (fresh from playing Glastonbury) at 1300 on the Cov Stage, followed by Shanade. I'd also draw your attention to Loophole (whose Lucas is also a member of Project Overload) who won the Under 18 category of "Godiva Calling" and so will be playing on the Main Stage on Sunday at 1220: they are so new that I've not had a chance to write about them yet. And of course Boudica will be presenting The Go! Team on the Main Stage at 1625 on Saturday.

The future is looking bright for Coventry & Warwickshire music & part (a big part) is that the originality of local female artists is being freed from the various mechanisms which denied it much of a voice. Anyone playing a part in promoting what's happening & those doing this needs our support & Pandora made it very clear that she at least saw yesterday as a start & not as a one off.

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For ages, I regarded Eight Miles High as some form of heritage band: one whose star shone & then went out & that was the basis on which we included their song "These Days" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three' way back in 2020 (and which was originally released on their ‘Features' EP in 1993)

That was of course until they came together again last year to record "Fox" and "Breathless" which we reviewed for you back in October.

Now there's no stopping them: there are yet more freshly recorded songs coming our way this summer & in the short space ahead of their release, they've shared the (remastered) fruits of a 1991 live session at Rhythm Studios in Bidford-on-Avon.

Cut by Simon Kelly (vocals),  Mark Patrick (keyboards and programming ), Greg Sibley ( guitars), Simon Ward (bass) and drummer Gary Cody, the resultant album is called ‘91' and consists of the tracks "Box Me In", "What Can You Do?", "Not The Way", "Taking Over", "Never Mind", "Do You Know How It Is?", "Unscrupulous" and "I Jump I Fall".

There is one track played here which also appeared later on ‘Features': "Taking Over", so you do get a lot of songs you won't have previously possessed in any form.

Intriguingly there is also a video which Gary made at the time for his degree course and which Simon Ward recently rediscovered so you can see what they looked like 33 years ago and Patrick McGoohan fans will like it too: it can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnS68n9uSUA

The video features "Box Me In" and on listening to it, you have to wonder why it didn't make rich men of them: it's as good if not better than other hits of a similar style of the time.

I guess it was one of their big songs: it's got that "single quality" in a higher dosage than the other tracks, but all are worth exploring not least because of the variety equates with the quality of composition & performance (if this was a live take, they were clearly an accomplished & tight combo despite their relative lack of experience compared with 2024).

Maybe that's why Eight Miles High (it's a great name isn't it?)  are one of music's footnotes and not a Wikipedia entry: too diverse in their stylings? While people like me tend to celebrate this sort of approach, seizing the baggy zeitgeist to achieve fame & fortune probably required more slavish adherence to the genre's conventions than they were prepared to give: which makes it 1991's loss. The music does stand up better in 2024 than some homogenous "style of the moment" album would have done.

Let's see now what their 2024 songs are liked: I really liked the 2023 pair.

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