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REVIEW: The Big Garden Party, 4th June

Posted on Thursday, 14 June by

To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Stone Cross Nurseries chucked aside their Carnations and Geraniums in favour of a jam-packed day of music. The event sold out well in advance and with a line-up of acts including Sam Tier, Audio 6, Laura Holding, No Exit, Ragati String Band, Alex The Great, Bat Country, Flash Bang Band, Glam Ryze and Beve And The Beatroots, people were expecting a great day out – but were they disappointed?

First up on stage was lone singer/songwriter Sam Tier. Perhaps a bit sleepy as an opening act, Sam took the audience through a selection of tracks that still managed to keep people’s attention, with changing pace and style. Sam Tier was an excellent musician, with an equally impressive voice, who, though he didn’t communicate with the crowd enough, looked and sounded confident.

Led by a very patriotic looking Tao Da Silva, Audio 6 were up next. Highly impressive as finalists at last year’s Eastbourne Extreme Battle Of The Bands they were definitely a band to watch out for but they really let themselves down on the day. Choosing to ditch their excellent original material, the band played a set consisting entirely of cover versions of songs like ‘Walking On Sunshine’, ‘Valerie’ (which, to her credit, Tao sang a lot better than Amy Winehouse does nowadays), ‘Zombie’ and ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’. Vocally Audio 6 weren’t up to their usual high standard and musically they seemed a little laid back, a bit too stripped down. Audio 6 are a great band, and Tao is an exceptional vocalist, but on the day they were lacking – a real disappointment. Despite that we can’t recommend them enough.

Accompanied by a band that looked a little out of place, Laura Holding was a real R&B singer with an infectious and multi-levelled voice. Moving between original material and covers, the young vocalist seemed a little like Yolanda Quartey of Phantom Limb, and easily built up a rapport with the audience. Holding brought a real R&B spark to songs that just carried the label of the genre, like Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’, and improved upon them massively. Laura Holding was virtually unknown before today, but we’re glad to have found her.

Quite a bit older than a lot of the other bands, No Exit started their set with a cover of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ which began to a chorus of cheers from the crowd. Though they weren’t particularly exciting to watch No Exit’s set list, made up of songs like ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Suspicious Minds’ and ‘Summer of 69′, easily grabbed the audience’s attention. Musically and vocally they were all of a high standard. Many cover bands are easy to just brush aside, after all they’re dime a dozen, but these guys did their job well.

Next up was the Ragati String Band. We try not to be too biased when it comes to music, we try to be open minded (though some would disagree), but despite that need to give everyone their dues we simply cannot do so with this band. They are, without a doubt, the worst act that’s ever been encountered. Butchering tracks like ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ and ‘Jolene’ the band were barely audible for most of their performance, a blessing perhaps, and were received appallingly by the crowd. Avoid at all costs.

Filling the gap before Alex The Great started, The Pentacle Drummers were a sight to behold; displaying more energy than most of the bands combined they were draped in the colours and flavours of the earth. A group of nearly twenty people, the drummers were astounding; standing in a semi-circle they worked through several routines, and displayed remarkable ability and timekeeping en masse.

A little similar to the band Captain, Alex The Great are quite remarkable, with colourful rhythms and beautiful harmonies they carried an atmosphere that whispered of acts like Bright Eyes and the Shins. Though their drummer and vocalist/guitarist stood out quite a bit the band were pretty rigid on stage, which spoilt an otherwise great set. However, it must be said that to dismiss a band just because they don’t move a lot is a little stupid, after all there are entire genres, like shoegaze, based around bands that barely move an inch.

Delayed by technical hitches, Bat Country were an obvious standout from the very first note. Their vocal and musical sound echoed that of quite a few other bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Fratellis, Dirty Pretty Things and local favourites Oxygen Thieves. With lots of strong notes and intricate little guitar lines, infectious rhythm and gang vocals the band were really easy to get into, and played a set that was sadly over too quickly.

With a bassist that spent his offstage time look like a multi-coloured VW Polo, Flash Bang Band stood out just as much as Bat Country, but suffered a bit due to a lack of clarity in their still distinctive vocals. The band had a bit of a post hardcore edge to them, as well as slight touches of Muse and rage Against The Machine, along with plenty of Nirvana-esque guitar work and special effects. Unfortunately they were a little difficult to concentrate on at times, and some of their songs really dragged.

Swing singer Stephen Dunnet was up next. Covering songs by artists like Chuck Berry, Dean Martin, CY Grant, Jim Croce and Frank Sinatra he was a fine singer, and had an almost perfect on-stage attitude, but didn’t quite have the spark of those he was imitating. Dunnet had the crowd singing along, and really raised eyebrows when he performed Paul Anka’s swing version of Oasis anthem ‘Wonderwall’.

Glam Ryze’s position as a real rock band was apparent from the very beginning. The first act to draw a crowd to the front rather than just get one or two people dancing, their ability to command seemed effortless. Led by frontman Mark Wrapson and guitarist Leo Burdett, Glam Ryze had a real grimy, gritty, edgy sound akin to classic American rock and just looked so at home on stage. As a frontman Mark seemed so natural, he held the mic stand in almost every conceivable way, and really worked to put on a decent show. The rest of the band, with real, adrenaline fuelled guitar flair and high impact drumming, created a sound that you felt as well as heard. Awesome.

Finally, but also sadly, after a long day of great music Beve And The Beatroots closed the show. Just like Glam Ryze they really got the crowd going and, even though the vocals seemed a little murky, their set of hits like ‘Lonely Boy’ by The Black Keys and Status Quo’s ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ were just lapped up. Beve And The Beatroots were electric.

The Big Garden Party exceeded all expectations. We really hope it happens again, but we don’t want to have to wait for another Jubilee!

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