Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Fay Hallam Trinity and The Sonic Jewels at The Retro Festival, White Waltham Airfield August 09th

Fay Hallam
This was our first visit to the snappily titled Retro Festival (no relation...) and it turned out to be a big success. The Saturday we attended was really well organised with the festival site boasting a huge array of stalls and shops, everything from vinyl records and gig posters to clothing and nostalgic home artefacts and bric-a-brac. A lot of the crowd were dressed to impress and there were some immaculately costumed aficionados ranging from the 1940's swing era and 50's Rockabilly to 60's Hipsters and 70's Hippie-chic flower children. All ages and tastes for retro, vintage and nostalgia were catered for and there was a pleasant family-friendly atmosphere where Mods mingled with Rockers and Teddy Boys exchanged pleasantries with Punks. Along with the various retail stalls there were many other activities to keep you occupied throughout the day including a tattoo parlour and hairdressers, DJ's, dance tuition classes, live music and Burlesque performances.

Scooters at the Retro Festival
If you preferred your nostalgia motorised there was an impressive and varied collection of vintage motorbikes, cool Lambrettas and Vespas and classic cars on display. If your interests were more historical, industrial or agricultural, no problem, you could get your hands dirty with steam engines, tractors and an assortment of old Army vehicles. Aviation fans could enjoy a helicopter ride to take you up for a perfect panoramic view of the festival site and there were some stunning acrobatic flying displays which defied you to keep your food down as the pilots performed death-defying stunts above our heads. However, as far as we were concerned the main action was strictly of the more down-to-earth variety and most of our time was spent in the Ricky-Tick tent, named in honour of the legendary local Sixties Club of the same name. One of the original Ricky-Tick DJ's Martin Fuggles was the compare for the day and the Sidewinder and 100 Club DJ David Edwards played some great tracks to get everyone in the mood before The Sonic Jewels took to the stage.

The Sonic Jewels at the Retro Festival
The flamboyant London based three-piece opened with "Dark Road To Venus" the title track from their excellent debut album and then proceeded to rattle through a great set of completely new and unreleased songs. "Rattlesnake" was a particular favourite of mine as it had a powerful Wilko Johnson style rhythm guitar riff driving it along at break-neck speed. There's a bit of a mix-up on the intro to "Dancing on Mines" but when they finally get it back on the rails it proves a big hit, reminding me of The Seeds and 13th Floor Elevators. "Bring Back" has a great Hendrix inspired intro and proves that the new album will be every bit as good as their excellent debut. The band are just great together and have a good on stage chemistry. There were some impressive guitar pyrotechnics from Justin, singer and bassist Laurence handles his duel roles perfectly and drummer Danny keeps it all powering along nicely. They announced that the next track "Woland's Candle" would be a future single but it was the next track "Time" that was a real stand-out song, a stunning Garage Rocker that reminded me of The Music Machine. Next came an OK cover of "Helter Skelter" which seemed a bit unnecessary considering the strength of their own material.

Laurence of The Sonic Jewels
This was apparent as they followed it with the excellent "Yeah Yeah No No" which somewhat bizarrely sounded like a mash-up of Nirvana's "Come As You Are" and The MC5's "Looking At You". Although the band might take a lot of their influences from the more progressive rock of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Jimi Hendrix the good thing, for me at least, is that their songs are short and to the point and are stuffed full of melodic riffs and memorable choruses. If you like inventive and exceptional guitar work and great musicianship then The Sonic Jewels will be right up your street but they also have a groove and an underlying edge that will appeal equally to fans of the rawer side of Psych and Garage Rock. The band are currently working on their second, as yet untitled, album and when I caught up with Justin after their set he told me there was also a possibility of releasing an E.P. in the meantime and we will be sure to keep you updated.

Fay Hallam
I had never seen The Fay Hallam Trinity play live before so I was really looking forward to this, especially as I had been enjoying the new album "Lost In Sound" so much. Unsurprisingly, we got a good selection of songs from this latest Blow Up Records collaboration with The Bongolian, but the one hour set also spanned most of Fay's career, all we needed were tracks from The Prime Movers and The Gift Horses to make it a full house. The band started off with the excellent "1975", which you can hear in Episode 8 of Retrosonic Podcast, and it's as evocative of the era as an episode of "Life On Mars" with it's tales of Alvin Stardust, yellow chopper bikes and David Essex. Fay looks great but is half hidden behind the huge wooden cabinet of her Hammond organ and her voice soars on "I Call Your Name" from the underrated Phaze, the band which also featured ex-Prisoner, Solarflare and JTQ member Allan Crockford and drummer Russ Baxter who now both play in Galileo 7.

The Fay Hallam Trinity at the Retro Festival
The pace slows for the stunningly beautiful "In The Fire" which I always thought would make a perfect James Bond theme. Unfortunately, it's the only track they play from the superb "Realm". Then we get two cuts from "Lost In Sound", the laid back Bossa Nova sound of "I Can't Cry" which highlights the excellent drumming of Kieran McAleer and percussion of Fay's son Sam Day. There's a bit of a breather as the band and crowd debate the correct pronunciation of 'scone' and a false start on "Alive" as the lack of lighting meant that Kieran couldn't read the set-list. The instrumental "Astrud" from "1975" comes next and then we are treated to two great tracks from Fay's mid-80's band Makin' Time (who also featured future Charlatans bassist Martin Blunt), the impossibly catchy "Feels Like It's Love" and "I Get A Love From You" with another of Fay's very talented family, Josh Day, taking over on lead vocals. Josh does a great job on piano and organ throughout and his expansive style covers the lack of guitar really well. Indeed, The Fay Hallam Trinity are about as much fun as you can have at a gig without guitars! However, Bassist Dan Wilson injects a bit of the "Rock" element into proceedings to make me feel more at home as he jumps about the stage, he's really into it, totally lost in the sound, if you pardon the rather awful pun.

Fay Hallam at the Retro Festival
Next up is a cover of "Let The Sunshine In" from the musical "Hair", although it's more in the style of Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger's take on their "Streetnoise" album rather than 5th Dimensions' more easy-listening version. In fact Brian Auger's Trinity are probably the closest reference point, not just in the appropriation of the name and the use of the Hammond but in blending jazzy Psychedelia with driving Soul music. "Dancing" from Lost In Sound is one of the stand out tracks of the set and another Makin' Time track "Eating Up The Cold" starts off with Fay's Hammond coming in over the top of a great piano riff. A cover of The Artwoods Ska'n'B stomper "If I Ever Get My Hands On You" is really excellent and of course The Artwoods featured another organist par excellence, Jon Lord, who would later go on to join Deep Purple. The title track from "Lost In Sound" is next and the set ends on a high with my favourite track from the album, the faultless "Freefall", with some tremendous stabbing Hammond chords from Fay. DJ David Edwards leads the calls for an encore and the band return for a cover of The Flirtations' Northern Soul classic "Nothing But A Heartache" which leaves everyone with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

Sam, Dan and Josh of The Fay Hallam Trinity
Fay Hallam (with DJ Dave Edwards in the background)
Overall it was a really great, well organized and fun day out and I am already looking forward to next year's Retro Festival and if they can get some more live acts to play the Ricky-Tick stage throughout the day, I think it would be pretty close to perfection. Here's some more photos...

DJs Martin Fuggles and David Edwards

Hot Rockin' Ltd - Note flyers for our next Retro Man Blog gig...!
Justin and Danny from Sonic Jewels

The Fay Hallam Trinity
Thanks to Hot Rockin' Ltd. for displaying some flyers for our next Retro Man Blog Night. All Photos Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014. For more photos of the Retro Festival head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook Page and hit "Like" for access to the exclusive photo album.

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