I first met Ray Jones about three years ago at a Time Out gig Mollie Marriott was playing. Two years later, Ray was fronting up a company (Talentbanq) promoting live performances by unsigned artists. It must have been quite a journey to make this happen; the reason it worked is that Ray and his fellow directors are absolutely passionate about music, live music particularly and that’s the reason the company’s working so well. Ray’s nominated a combination of favourite venues and events for his High Fives and given us carte blanche to add some narrative and photos. Let’s hope this works.

 

229 Great Portland Street 24/01/18

This venue hosts some really interesting events, including low-key warm-up gigs for artists preparing for arena tours. On the night of the Talentbanq launch, the action started in the small room before moving to the main auditorium (which was packed to the rafters) for the big stage action. Quite a launch event for a new company. The photo is Rebecca from Anavae.

26 Leake Street 10/05/18

Another first. The inaugural live music event at 26 Leake Street in the arches under Waterloo Station. You got the initial feeling from the audience that it was more about the occasion than the music, but that attitude evaporated as soon as Belle Roscoe (with the full band line-up) took the stage. And then on to Lisa Canny, again playing a full band set featuring the show-stopping laser harp. The photo is Lisa Canny.

Caffe Nero Brighton, The Chill Out Sessions 17-18/05/18

Let’s take a small Caffe Nero branch just off Brighton seafront and have a mini-festival there just as The Great Escape is kicking off. And, over two days, let’s have three artists playing every hour between ten in the morning and six in the evening. It sounds crazy and it probably was, but it worked, it ran to time and featured thirty-six artists (pretty much the entire Talentbanq roster at that time). The opening day was everything you could wish for at the coast – gorgeous sunshine and loads of delighted Caffe Nero customers listening to superb performers for free. The photo is Clint Nelson playing cajon while backing Mark Sullivan.

The Jazz Café, Camden – Hollie Rogers, Joe Slater, Dan Owen 29/05/18

A more traditional venue that has benefitted hugely from a refit that pretty much rectified all of the original layout problems. This was a cracking triple bill featuring two of the Talentbanq powerhouses, Hollie Rogers and Joe Slater with blues prodigy Dan Owen topping the bill. Joe and Hollie were both enthusiastically received by a knowledgeable and respectful audience before Dan Owen took centre stage and blew the roof off. The photo is Joe Slater.

L’Escargot – The Soho Music Festival 16/06/18

Another interesting and iconic venue and even more interesting concept; three sessions (morning, afternoon and evening) in three rooms, with audiences moving from room to room while the performers play three sets in the same place. The event was hugely eclectic, I honestly can’t recall a gig where I’ve seen a crooner, a classical pianist and a rapping Celtic harpist (that’s Gary Williams, Genia and the inimitable Lisa Canny) and will be back in 2019. I suspect it will be bigger. The photo is Gary Williams.

On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to be involved with all of these Talentbanq gigs and to work with a team who really look after the gig photographers. We all appreciate it – Allan.

We made a special effort this year to make the High Fives more visual and to invite more gig photographers to make a contribution. The first to respond was Michael Butterworth who Allan has met at many a gig this year. Michael’s a great live music photographer but, unlike most of those people who are in the pit at gigs or who use their elbows and shoulders to get to the front of the stage, he’s a really good bloke. Here’s what he has to say about his favourite things this year.

 

Wow, what a year. I’ve met a lot of new people this year and covered more gigs than ever.

1 – Ferris & Sylvester @ Battersea Arts Centre

 

I was asked to photograph this gig by a friend. As I often do, I checked them out on the internet to get a feel for them and boy, was I a lucky snapper.

They are an up and coming London duo, who are great songwriters – With clear references in their catchy setup to the mid-60s sounds of Greenwich Village combined with their meatier blues tones, Ferris & Sylvester sit somewhere between Jack White and First Aid Kit (great band). Their clever combination of blues, folk and rock ‘n’ roll has created a distinctive genre of their own.

As I usually follow where the music takes me, The Battersea Arts Centre was new to me. It’s a lovely old building (in the mists of fundraising for refurbishment) the gig was in the wood-panelled Great Hall, with the stage sticking out into the room, just in front of the three French windows.

I also bumped into my friend Paul (Pablo) Ettinger, in the interval and he told me about his new business venture Talentbanq (see below).

2 – Lots Holloway and Lisa Canny @ Soho Music Festival

 

Aligned with the Mayor’s #SoundsLikeLondon event taking place throughout June and as part of Music Venue Trust’s #FightbackLondon campaign to support independent venues, TALENTBANQ announces The Soho Music Festival . A one-day celebration of independent music and musicians to be held at one of Soho’s most famous addresses. A festival that is designed to grow over the next three years to bring back music to basements, small rooms and rooftops in the bohemian district flanked by Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue.

TALENTBANQ programmed 12 hours of live music to take place in The Salon Noir, Salon Vert and The Library at L’Escargot on Greek Street. Heralded as one of the capital’s finest French restaurants, its upstairs rooms whisper the stories of times gone-by and provide exquisitely intimate spaces to discover new music.

From 11am to 11pm L’Escargot hosted no less than 10 red-hot, breaking acts – each chosen for their ability to deliver exceptional live performance. Uniquely the day was divided into three sessions, where the audience moves from room to room.

The artistic line up ranged from Classical Crossover Piano, through Tango, to UK County, Swing, Rock and possibly the wildest Celtic harp ever to grace a stage. All this plus of course an after-party because in Soho; when the music stops, the music starts!

Among the many talented musicians, two stood out for me, Lots Holloway a multi-instrumentalist Lots Holloway writes and produces catchy indie-pop tunes. Her talent for song writing shines through in clever lyrics, strong melodies and memorable songs that manage to stay with you long after you first hear them.

The second was a real firecracker – Lisa Canny. She’s a charming red headed Irish singer song writer whose main instrument is a harp, however when she gets going it isn’t a gentle classical music recital you get – she attacks it, on occasions, like a heavy rock lead and bass guitar.

3 – Dan Owens @ London Jazz Café

 

At one of London’s most iconic live music venues. The Jazz Café features live music with a restaurant around the balcony.

What a night of music, opening the evening was the charming Joe Slater, who delivered a smooth, saturating blend of rock, blues and soul that is beyond his years.

Drawing inspiration from The Beatles, The Boss and Oasis, Joe’s songwriting and unique vocals take listeners on a journey comprised of energetic sing-alongs and anthemic ballads, full of interior and reflective moments, that only the greats could inspire.

The filling of this amazing musical sandwich, was given to us by wonderful Hollie Rogers who often plays with a full backing band or as a duo with double bass (as she did that nigh), and performing with notable candour and honesty and with endorsements like these:

“Reminiscent of Carole King and Joni Mitchell, amazing voice” – Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)

“A magnificent and powerful voice” – Suzanne Vega

Do I have to say more?

Finally Dan Owen, what a tour de force. Dubbed as an old blues man, he has been singing publicly since he was 13 (nearly half his life). Dan performs with the raw power of that deep, rich, resonant voice, he has gone from performing for politicians at Westminster to partying in Nashville with Willie Nelson. This young man from Shropshire, with the big blues voice has a wealth of stories to share.

He performed many of his own song and closed the evening with a rendition of ‘Little Red Rooster’ a classic blues song, perfectly demonstrating his power and energy.

 

4 – LAIKIPIA @ Century Club

 

In lovely venue, just off Shaftsbury Avenue, this was the first musical journey at the Century Club with Paradise London Live and Success Express Music.

A fabulous evening of new and emerging music culminating in a passionate and energetic performance by LAIKIPIA (named after an area of Kenya).

As is their intent, they are best described in their own words:

Through the original worlds that their music explores, LAIKIPIA has developed a distinct sound, combining a unique blend of harmony driven storytelling, hypnotizing dance floor beats, and melody rich instrumentals.

LAIKIPIA is creating new music true to themselves; strangely alien, yet comfortably familiar, their music welcomes all ears, completely disregarding the walls between genres.

So you see, quite a unique and amazing duo.

5 – Afterhere @ 229 The Venue

 

I’ve shot several things this at this venue, including the official launch of TALENTBANQ, single and album launches – however the one I’ve picked was this one.

As a huge Heaven 17 fan, I was delighted and privileged to whiteness Afterhere’s debut live performance. This is a brand new project of HEAVEN 17 front man Glenn Gregory and Berenice Scott.

While Glenn Gregory along with band mates Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh scored a number of hits including ‘Temptation’, ‘Come Live With Me’, ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’ and ‘This Is Mine’ as Heaven 17, Berenice Scott joined their live set-up in 2011 while releasing her most recent solo album ‘Polarity’ in 2014.

As well as Heaven 17, the pair have also been part of Holy Holy, the supergroup led by Spiders drummer Woody Woodmansey and producer Tony Visconti who perform the songs of David Bowie from the period between 1969 to 1973 at concerts around the world.

As Afterhere, Berenice Scott and Glenn Gregory got their first commission for the soundtrack of the ITV drama ‘Liar’. With their debut album ‘Addict’ released this year, music from it featured in another ITV drama ‘Vanity Fair’ broadcast in September 2018.

So, although the two of them have played together for the last seven years, this was their first live outing as a band and with Glenn playing keyboards live, as he said “I’m a bit nervous, as although I play the keyboards in the studio for Heaven 17, I usually just sing when we perform live”. The other key difference was Berenice sings most of the vocal parts. Two of the stand out songs for me were the title track and single form the album ‘Addict’ and the powerful ‘Blackout’. As always, the evening went too quickly, but there was an extra special surprise for the final song. Their version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’, a Bob Dylan classic, was introduced by James Strong the Director and Producer of ‘Vanity Fair’ – whose idea it was to adapt the song for the series.

With such a great year, musically, I found it hard to pick out just five amazing gigs.

 

So, Allan’s shown us his favourite black and whites from 2018 already, it’s time for the colour shots now. You might recognise some of these, you might not. The Riot Squad like them. We’ll let Allan tell you about them:

Joe Slater @The Jazz Café

A bit of a strange gig this one, because it was the first major gig after a bit of a health wobble. However you look at it, it was great to be in the same room as Joe Slater, Hollie Rogers and Dan Owen. It was a really warm evening in a venue where the aircon struggles at the best of times and Joe’s fashion statement was to wear a hoodie. I’d just picked up the camera with the wide-angle lens when this happened:

DJ Lusinda @Party in the Park New Cross and Deptford

I saw this festival on Facebook and it was just around the corner from the day job. I got in touch, volunteered my services and I was in. What a great move that was. The sun shone for the entire day and the atmosphere among the festival-goers, volunteers and performers was absolutely superb. During the early afternoon, DJ Lusinda worked with Holly Flo Lightly and Minx to deliver a classic set of London hip-hop. I could have chosen any one of half a dozen photos from this set, but here’s the one I’ve gone with:

Mavis Staples @Cornbury Festival

This was my first year with photo accreditation at Cornbury Festival and I have to say it was a good ‘un and a chance to meet up with fellow gig photographers. My attentions were concentrated mainly on the second stage and the Caffe Nero stage, but the one artist that I really wanted to capture was the legendary Mavis Staples. She was totally outstanding and I somehow managed to grab this shot:

Julia Gurry @26 Leake Street

Julia’s one half of Belle Roscoe, along with brother Matty and this was the first time I had the chance to see them. Just sayin’ now, you need to see these guys; they are sensational. They’re also incredibly photogenic, both of them. This was the opening night for live music at 26 Leake Street, under Waterloo Station and it was a memorable on for most of the right reasons; I shot my first book cover there, for starters. Anyway, Julia, nice lighting, what do you think was going to happen?

Lisa Canny @26 Leake Street

The same night; how strange is that? The first time I’d seen Lisa Canny as well. Lisa plays harp and banjo, sings and raps. I’ve no idea how you would classify her and I’m not going to try. I’ve got lots of nice shots of Lisa, but nothing matches the intensity of this basilisk stare:

 

2018 has been a cracking year for gigs. I’ve been all over London and I’ve even managed to get to Staffordshire, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire and Brighton. I might have to do a count at the end of the year to work out how many different gigs and bands I’ve seen. I haven’t seen a bad gig, I’ve seen a lot of good ones and I’ve seen a few absolute belters. I’m guessing that those are the ones you want to hear about, yeah? As always, in no particular order.

 

Martin Harley & Daniel Kimbro @The Union Chapel

A year before this event, Martin told me after his gig at The Forge in Camden that he was booking The Union Chapel. He had no idea if he could fill the venue, or if he would break even on the event. At that time, I suspect I was more confident than Martin was. Anyway, fast forward a year to March 10th 2018 and a packed Union Chapel (almost sold out on pre-sales) saw finger-style guitarist Mike Dawes open for the dynamic duo. The intimacy of Martin and Daniel’s small venue performances scaled up perfectly for this particular venue. The combination of superb playing, perfect harmonies and the laconic interplay between songs was absolutely entrancing. Martin’s Weissenborn playing and Daniel’s virtuoso bass (I actually wanted to hear the bass solo) combined perfectly to create an almost Spectoresque wall of sound at times. And then the obligatory unplugged Union Chapel encore. Want a great Christmas gift? How about the live DVD?

Photo courtesy of John Hayhurst.

John Fogerty and Steve Miller @The O2

I really loathe the O2. It’s impersonal and it’s ridiculously expensive; it’s everything that winds me up about the enornodromes. And, as the start of the evening proved, if the mix isn’t spot-on it can sound awful in the auditorium, which it did for most of Steve Miller’s set. Which was a shame because the last half-dozen songs, when the mix was finally right, sounded superb.

But the reason for my tolerance of this corporate barn was John Fogerty. I’ve been a fan of his work since I was a teenager, progressing from Creedence Clearwater Revival to the solo material. He has a phenomenal back catalogue of classic songs, most of which were dusted off for this gig. When you can open your set with “Travelin’ Band”, you can’t go too far wrong. The band was absolutely stunning; all superb musicians, with keyboard maestro Bob Malone dashing around the stage between blasts of piano and Hammond. The greatest hits all got their airing (including the one we know better from Live Aid and Quo, “Rocking All Over the World”, which he only plays in Europe) but, in a little tribute to New Orleans, we got covers of “Don’t Mess With my Toot Toot” and the Gary Bonds song “New Orleans”. Just phenomenal. Read what Steve J thought about it here.

Albert Lee & Peter Asher @Cornbury Festival

For various reasons, Cornbury was the only festival I did this year. It was a bit of a mixed bag on the main stage, but the bill on the second stage across the weekend was eclectic and classic. The one performance I didn’t want to miss was Albert Lee & Peter Asher in the Caffe Nero tent on Saturday evening. I wasn’t disappointed; the songs were delivered in an Everly Brothers style (well, Albert did play in their band) and were interspersed with anecdotes about songwriting greats in the 60s and 70s on both sides of the Atlantic. It was all very laid back but the quality of the playing and the harmonies was absolutely superb. I’m a big fan of the duo format and this was the ‘two voices, two instruments’ at its absolute best. The tent was packed throughout the set and the entire audience left with a warm glow.

Belle Roscoe & Lisa Canny @26 Leake Street

This was the first night of live music at a new venue and it introduced me to not one but two new artists.

Belle Roscoe are brother and sister Matty and Julia Gurry. They play gigs in the duo format, but also have a band for bigger gigs (like this one). The songs are strong, the harmonies are great and the arrangements, with Matty’s guitar and Julia’s floor tom and keyboard playing augmented by bass, drums and guitar are powerfully percussive. It’s a big sound and it completely won over a crowd who were mainly there for the occasion, and not necessarily the music. And that was just the start of the night; there was still Lisa Canny to come.

Lisa also adapts her live arrangements according to the size of the venue. She’s perfectly happy with just the harp and banjo, but this was also a full band set. Lisa’s originally from Cork and a traditional Irish music background; that background is part of what she’s about now, but there’s a lot more. She blends Celtic influences with pop and rap to create a totally infectious mix that’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at times most of the audience was absolutely stunned by what they were seeing and hearing. And then the finale; Lisa playing a projected laser harp (honest, and I was stone-cold sober). A bit of a night.

Skatalites & The Majestic & Nell’s Jazz & Blues

Another night out with Steve J and Mrs J in a slightly smaller venue. Nell’s is renowned for its intimate atmosphere, with a cabaret layout and a very chilled vibe. I hadn’t heard The Majestic before and I loved the band; proper roots reggae. They’ve been around for years doing their thing around West London and they’re such a powerful reggae unit. It’s not about individuals, it’s about everyone playing their part to create a slinky, sinuous groove. I hear a band like this and I can’t understand why there are people who say they don’t get reggae.

 

I didn’t know what to expect from Skatalites, apart from the obvious “Guns of Navarone”. The membership may not be the originals, but most of these guys have been in the band for decades. They’re tight and punchy with the classic tenor sax, trumpet and trombone horn section. It’s a pleasure to hear guys who are this good just doing their thing; but that’s not all. Part way through the set they were joined by the phenomenal ‘Queen of Ska’, Doreen Schaffer. She’s looking a little fragile now, but the voice is still there and the audience loved it. I think I had something in my eye at one point.

It was a taste of carnival at the end of October.

Day 2 at Cornbury was always going to be a game of two halves. Caffe Nero had lined up a huge array of unsigned talent on their stage, kicking off at 9:15 and running through to the early evening. After checking out the running order, I was perfectly happy to spend the first eight hours of Saturday watching the Caffe Nero/Talentbanq selection. In fact, I was telling anyone who would listen to get their asses down to Caffe Nero to watch the Saturday lineup.

Katy Hurt got the day started with her UK Country thing before handing over to the 21st century folk of Daisy Chute. It was a fairly laid-back introduction to Saturday morning without a hint of the whirlwind that was about to descend on the Cotswolds. How about a flame-haired Celtic harpist who sings, plays banjo and raps? Yep, that’s Lisa Canny and she’s a force of nature, mashing up pop and roots into a gorgeous musical melange.

And that’s only halfway through the day; there was still Emily Barker’s gorgeous Americana followed by the powerful and soulful Joe Slater (go and see him if you get the chance, he’s a great writer and powerful, charismatic performer) before things got really out of control. Houndstooth (formerly Coffeepot Drive) absolutely tore it up, getting the second standing ovation of the day (Lisa Canny got the first) before handing over to Nuala to close the day for Caffe Nero.

And for the evening, the Songbird stage featured two legends; PP Arnold was back in the game following the release of “The Turning Tide” (originally recorded in the sixties) followed closely by the fabulous Mavis Staples. From the (as yet) unknown to the legendary in one day, and still a day to go.

You can see the photos here.