Thanks to Ian (below) and James Heathcote on sound for great hospitality and an enjoyable gig. If it wasn’t for those stairs and the gear!
Our band travelled from all over the UK and we’re glad we did!
Here’s a review of the acts and links to their various pages:
Tom Slatter (in solo voice and acoustic guitar mode) started us off with colourful and dramatic word painting including the apocalyptic “Some of the creatures have broken the locks on the door to lab 558” – available here on his website. I’m enjoying his full band versions and there’s a great mix of Yes storytelling and Bill Bailey!
Tom was followed by Darkroom (no-man guitarist Michael Bearpark and bass clarinettist and computer wizard Andrew Ostler) featuring guest looper Hazal Elif Yalvaç from Istanbul. The long evolving textures were resonant and deep, especially with the rich bass clarinet (nice sound here, James!) and the pulsating modular sequences really gave it drive and urgency. Add to that Michael’s melodic phrases on electric guitar and this was a special one off just for EppyFest. It’s a pity that our violinist Steve Bingham was unwell as he too is a no-man alumnus, from the Love and Endings tour/album.
The Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet were up next and we had a chance to chat with them backstage. They often get called “Gothic Jazz” and one can see why. The mix of jazz trio and Sylwia Bialas’ female vocals was very effective . The tasteful and fluid solos from pianist Frank Harrison and Asaf Sirkis’ inventive cross rhythms and drum solos were very powerful (and loud!). I was really pleased when, during their finale, bassist Patrick Bettison demonstrated his improv chops. Impressive stuff. Find out more here.
The impressive, humble and tuneful Marvin B Naylor followed with an opening song which I felt was inspired by Jon Anderson’s modal musings (“Thank you so much, thank you”). Did I mention I worked for Jon in 2005 on some orchestrations? #PhilTomsNameDrop – Marvin ended with a very well received cover of David Bowie’s Space Odyssey. It’s so great to hear a 12-string played so beautifully and creatively in a solo setting. More of this please! Check out his page here.
Then it was our turn. Judy Dyble sang with us, her Band of Perfect Strangers (minus the “sick” violinist Steve Bingham and regular cajon player Ian Burrage). We played a few tracks from the album Flow and Change (still available on LP/CD/mp3) plus a couple of new tracks: Faded Elvis and See What Your Words. A little taste of Giles, Giles & Fripp’s (Brondesbury Tapes) I Talk to the Wind was our finale. If you like the prog-folk with classical overtones then I recommend the full length version of The Sisterhood of Ruralists (12 mins) and the 19 minute epic Harpsong – which tells the story of Judy’s early folk life with Fairport Convention (featuring Simon Nicol playing), additional vocals by no-man‘s Tim Bowness and then pre-King Crimson layers by Robert Fripp, wind by Ian McDonald and our regular album drummer Pat Mastelotto. Harpsong is on the album Talking With Strangers. Check out Judy’s website here.
For more of my live string arrangements and orchestral layers for Judy Dyble, Alistair Murphy (our main songwriter/pianist) and others, please check out this website or my SoundCloud.
Finally the amazing collective of voices, hurdy-gurdy, faux-sackbuts, clarinet/tenor sax and the rest of William D Drake‘s upbeat band took us to the end of the evening and rang out over the Stroud roofs. This great “renaissance prog?” ensemble had everything – extensive narrative word painting, crazy rhythms and metre, circus attitude and overall a great passion for entertainment and song. A fellow Chelmsfordian, like me, William led his band well and really pushed the boat out. I must listen to more via his website here!
Overall, it was a great day in a pleasant, if busy, town and I was humming many of the tunes all the way back home to Colchester! Here’s to EppyFest6!
(Credit to Ian’s official photographer for the photos)