GuilFest 2005

Claire Toomey | Quietus | Louise Scott | Jorane
Nerina Pallot | Who Will Miss Mary? | Martha Tilston

Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey, UK ~ 15-17 July 2005

concert review

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Review © Stephen Lambe 2005 | Images © Stephen Lambe 2005
HTML and Editing © Russ Elliot 2005 | Last updated: 31 July 2005

Though hardly on the scale of the Glastonbury yet, GuilFest is winning a reputation as one of the premier summer rock festivals in Britain. Having attended the Saturday last year, we took the plunge and went for all three days this year, mainly shuttling between the main stage, the second, "Uncut" stage and the two "Liveclub" tents, hosting lesser known, unsigned bands.

A few trends struck us immediately. Firstly, the rather tedious parade of mediocre indie bands on the two small stages bordered on the depressing. Most were worthy, some were good, a few were terrible. Radiohead and Muse clones were much in evidence. Very few had any genuine distinctiveness, relying on derivative guitar figures and vocal stylings. Oh, for a keyboard player! Secondly, the number of female artists seemed to have dropped considerably. Over all three days we saw fewer than on just one day last year.

Nonetheless, there were still some marvellous moments. We have already given some coverage (review) to the hugely talented teenager Claire Toomey on Musical Discoveries, and hope to continue this year as her career develops. A promotion to a Friday slot on the second stage this year was celebrated with a 30-minute set featuring a few songs from her debut EP, plus two new songs written with Judie Tzuke, who was there to witness Claire's performance in person. The quality of Claire's songwriting continues to improve, as does her confidence as a live performer and her new, young band also played seemed to play with genuine enthusiasm for the material.

Also worth mentioning was a young, three-piece, indie band with a nice line in funky basslines called Quietus. They played an engaging 30-minute set on one of the small stages, fronted on guitar and vocals by the tiny yet talented Jo Maltby. Her deep, powerful vocals really made the songs stand out, as did her inventive guitar playing.

Saturday started with a minor disappointment. Louise Scott promised much, but in the end delivered a set of rather plodding AOR. She has a good voice, but it lacks character and needs better material. An artist to watch, nonetheless.

Jorane couldn't have been more different, however, playing an astonishingly powerful 45-minute set on Saturday afternoon. The French-Canadian cellist / vocalist really is totally unique. The way her powerful cello combines with Simon Godins' guitar--particularly his pedal steel--dropped jaws throughout the audience. Her voice, too, is a wonder--folky yet immensely powerful, and she has remarkable presence, considering her small stature and the fact that as a cello player, she has to sit down throughout the performance. Highlights of the set were the complex; rather progressive, in fact--textures of "Dina," and her daring cover of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused." Imagine that famous Jimmy Page guitar riff played on a cello. Expect more coverage for Jorane at Mmusical Discoveries soon. This was a remarkable performance, and an exciting talent.

Following Jorane in more conventional singer-songwriter style was the lovely Nerina Pallot from the Channel Island of Jersey. With the help of a male guitarist / backing vocalist, she performed a short set of fragile, spellbinding songs, playing both guitar and piano. She seemed relaxed and confident, has an excellent voice and the songs have plenty of character about them. She is certainly another artist to watch carefully.

Sunday brought another highlight, in Who Will Miss Mary, sure to become another Musical Discoveries favourite. This five-piece alternative rock band from London are fronted by the charismatic Mary Leay, who has a superb voice which combines beautifully with the rest of the bands tight, melodic harmonies. Even on first listen the songs, performed with skill and dynamism, stand out as potential classics. Again, expect more on this band here soon.

Martha Tilston arrived armed with a battery of musicians who provided plenty of instrumental colour to her intimate, folk-tinged set. Martha has an excellent voice with the songs to match, suggesting that a long and varied career might be hers whether she stays within the folk / roots genre of moves further afield. She is another highly promising artist, and a pleasure to watch.

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