04 September 2006

Off The Tracks!

Welcome to Off The Tracks! As an integral part of the 18th Off The Tracks festival, we are proud to present… the 21st Century Silk Road!

That was the greeting on the programme sheet being handed out at the entrance to the festival this weekend! Many of the artists had been chosen because their ancestral roots could be linked back to the ancient "Silk Road", which meant a wider range of musical styles than in some previous years.

Most of my weekend centred on the main stage placed, luckily, in a huge marquee adjoining the real ale bar and open courtyard. I say luckily because the weather was not the kindest I have seen at Off The Tracks! Over Friday, Saturday and Sunday we saw rain, strong winds, rain with strong winds and finally, on Sunday afternoon, bright sunshine, with strong winds!

So, who did I see, what music did I hear…

Friday evening started with The James Warner Prophecies, a five piece rock/acoustic band from here in Derbyshire. This was the first time I’d seen this band play but I’ll be keeping an eye on their gig lists from now on! They played a good mix of tracks from gentle acoustic songs to full-blown rock numbers! A band I’d definitely like to see again.

Next up was LaXuLa (a.m.a). Not a clue where they came from! Somewhere in the UK! This was the first of the “21st Century Silk Road” bands. They played a mix of music with strong Flamenco, Moorish and Latin influences. Throw in a selection of Arabic and rock and you just about have LaXuLa (a.m.a). Not sure I’d travel to see them - only because they aren’t really my sort of music - but, if they turn up on the bill of another festival, I’d watch ’em!

Final band on Friday was Transglobal Underground. This lot kicked up a stir! Transglobal just about covers their music style! A mix of just about every sort of music you could think of, all with Dance as their main aim. The crowd were packed in solid for this band - the marquee was, quite literally, heaving at the seams! The highlight for me was the appearance of a Dhol Drum during a number of the tracks played. This is one of my favourite instruments and, coupled with a Sitar, gave this band a real Indian feel. Great band, great music, the crowd loved them, and so did I!

Saturday at OTT started, for me, at around 1:30PM, after I’d been into work in the morning. The rain had been non stop until around midday but by the time I arrived at OTT it had stopped and things were starting to dry up in the strong wind. The only downside to the wind was that it was so strong that some of the stallholders had to pack up early because their tents were being pulled from the ground!

The first act I saw on Saturday was Mark Gwyn-Jones & Psychicbread. Another local act new to me, and this time the main part of the performance was poetry, and I sat and watched, enthralled! Not exactly what I had in mind for OTT but I’ll be at the next local performance they do! Top entertainment!

Next up came Cassava, another of the “21st Century Silk Road” bands. This was the first band that I have to say I didn’t really take to. Very good at what they did - it just wasn’t for me. They played a mix of Drum & Bass, Hip Hop, Dance style music that was never going to win me over. I watched around half of their set before going in search of food and a beer! A good bunch of musicians from Guyana, Jordan, India, Jamaica and even the UK, but not my scene.

Wholesome Fish, not what I found to eat but the next band on the main stage. A Nottingham based band that played, well, their own style of music. If you have to put each and every band into a style bracket then I guess Cajun would be OK here. Very upbeat at times, very in your face at others, sometimes just gentle harmonies. A very good festival band that got the crowd on their side and may well have gone down even better if they had been given a later time slot. Seven people having a great time on stage and passing on that good vibe to the crowd.

After a break of around an hour to reset the stage, check the sound system over and generally get the whole place ready for the evening session, it was time for Neverland. If this band hadn’t been on the programme at this autumn's Off The Tracks I’m not sure that I would have been there! They were the band that made up my mind to buy a ticket. Neverland are another Derby based band, that have only been back together for around two years after taking a break in the mid/late ’90s.

Just a couple of tracks into the set and the crowd were getting into their stride - the dancing, if you can call it dancing when I start bouncing around, was starting to take over at the front of the stage! This was going to be a great hour or so, and that’s just how it turned out. Some of my favourite tracks, by any band, were played: FIRECRADLE, NEVER LEARNED TO SPEAK, KEBAB NO MORE, DOOM GARDEN JELLY FISH BLUES and THINK I’M GONNA BUY A CAR! In total, we were treated to 17 tracks in a set that was non-stop energy.

As the band left the stage at the end of their set it was clear that the crowd wanted more. A brief appearance by the MC, to stir up the crowd even more, and back came Neverland for one more track. Then came a bit of a surprise for me - Mick Doyle, Mandolin player with the band, pointed down at me and shouted into his mic "Rich! I got a message from America today! Nolika* says "Hello and that we’ve got to play Stars And The Blues for you!"" What a finish to what, I think, was the best band, and set of tracks, all weekend!

*Nolika is a friend, in the USA, that I have converted to Neverland, via the Albannach web site!

After all the bouncing around and excitement of Neverland I was in need of a break so, beer in hand, I watched some of the next band, Jah Wobble & The English Roots Band, from the edge of the marquee where the cool breeze and clear night sky bought me back down to earth. There’s not much I can tell you about this band because after only two or three tracks I gave up on them and went for a walk around the rest of the site. Too much in the way of bass, too little in the way of anything else for me!

The rest of the evening I spent either in one of the small bar areas watching groups of musicians sat chilling out and jamming together, listening to a small drum circle that got together on the edge of the campsite or at the Chill Out Stage were some of the smaller groups and acoustic sets were played.

So, onto Sunday and what is always a relaxing afternoon of more gentle entertainment. First up came Sumaya, a London based Flamenco group and one of the “21st Century Silk Road” bands. After some of the bands that had played over the past couple of days these were very different. Sumaya were three dancers, one guitar player and two percussionists. Not what I would go and see if they played on their own but they fitted into the rest of the festival OK.

The second band on Sunday afternoon was The Matzos, a five piece from Brighton and the final “21st Century Silk Road” band, playing a mix of Eastern European, Latin, Arabic and Celtic music. Their energetic style of playing soon had some of the crowd up on their feet and dancing, with many more standing clapping along with the music. Me, I just enjoyed sitting back in my chair with a bottle of Newcastle Brown and watching the day roll by!

All too soon, it was time for the final act of the weekend, Rory McLeod. I’d never seen Rory before but had heard of him and was looking forward to his show. He didn’t disappoint. He is quite simply a one-man band, playing guitar, harmonica, the spoons and also providing a drum beat via tap shoes! On top of the music, he also had some great jokes to tell, stories from his past and also one or two, welcomed, political opinions to share. A great entertainer and a great way to end the weekend.

Off The Tracks 2007 - I think I’ll be there!

No comments:

Post a Comment