REVIEW: Almost Famous Live @The Golden Lion, St Ives, June 10

MARK Wilks and Jimmi Proctor were announced as winners of the Almost Famous song competition at a packed celebration gig on Sunday, hosted by BBC radio presenter Jeremy Sallis. More than 100 free Almost Famous CDs were given away on the night which saw a

MARK Wilks and Jimmi Proctor were announced as winners of the Almost Famous song competition at a packed celebration gig on Sunday, hosted by BBC radio presenter Jeremy Sallis.

More than 100 free Almost Famous CDs were given away on the night which saw an eclectic line-up of seven artists take to the stage at the Golden Lion in St Ives.

The night's entertainment began with Moosejaw whose sophisticated acoustic set had the crowd clapping along among their political and poetic lyrics. Sounds of Nick Cave and Jim Morrison mixed and served a beautifully slow version of Into The Night perfectly.

Comfy Slippers announced themselves as "not Right Said Fred" and they were true to their word. However, the St Neots duo did bring a welcome sense of humour (and a kazoo) to their three- song set. Their song competition entry, Preacher Came Too must surely be one of the most saleable and coverable songs we received. It's classic-sounding, emotive, but not overly personal and has wit and wordplay without being gimmicky. Keith and Peter even painted their own t-shirts with their website address on them especially for the night. Unfortunately, their guitar straps obscured much of the address - so to make amends for that you can find them at www.comfyslippers.co.uk.


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Gabrielle Wright then wowed the crowd with her beautiful, yet unusual voice and mesmerising fingerpicking guitar. Think of a chilled out Bjork singing emo-tinged Simon and Garfunkel songs. I can assure you it sounds wonderful - her music is gentle and restrained - there's no melodrama or theatrics. It's music you have to come to and make an effort for, but it's rewarding to those who do.

Following Gabrielle onto the stage were our winners Mark Wilks and Jimmi (James) Proctor from St Neots - although they were unaware of their success when they played to the crowd. They make a great duo - they have the sound of a Noel Gallagher acoustic session, but with Mark just attending to the singing, he's able to be more of a frontman than a lone singer-songwriter might be. Winning song When We Were Young was delivered unassumingly, but the quality of the writing was there for all to hear.

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Next on stage was Godmanchester's NJ Phist whose melodic hip-hop tracks shook the crowd from their acoustic guitar-induced state of mellowness. NJ has an effortless stage presence - there's no show or trappings needed, he held the crowd by simply being present on the stage being who he was. He has an energy and soul about him when he raps and together with his lyrics it's clear he has a depth and heart to what he'd doing. What do I know about hip-hop? - I'm a die-hard Dire Straits fan - but there are some qualities that are common to all good music and they were so clear in his song entry, In The Rhyme Light and throughout his performance.

Our penultimate band were Fenstanton's 9foldpunch. You may have heard me mention them before in Almost Famous - and there's a reason for that. They have the songs, the style, the riffs, the energy. Rarely does simply citing musical genres sum up a band particularly well, but three words really get to the essence of 9foldpunch: pop, punk, rock. And it's poppier, punkier and rockier and certainly more fun than you can possibly imagine. If you live within 50 miles of Fenstanton and have not seen these four guys play you are missing out.

So, where to go after six fantastic acts? It could only be...a seventh, and St Ives' very own Bomb Factory were happy to be that band. It is fair to say that Bomb Factory will always divide an audience. It is also fair to concede that they won't necessarily split the audience half and half. I'm not quite sure what fraction they truly appealed to, but it was certainly a lively fraction. The band's potentially alienating characteristics include building a wall of buzzing distorted guitar, a raging lead singer and a DIY feel that might make any audience member feel they are intruding on an energetic drink-fuelled rehearsal. Put simply, Bomb Factory's one redeeming quality is that they are amazing. However tiny that fraction of the audience might ever be - I'll want to be part of it.

The Audio Files, presented by Jeremy Sallis is on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire 96FM & 95.7FM between 6pm and 7pm every Thursday for live bands, live interviews and the latest on the local music scene.

CHRIS BOLAND

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