The gigs to see in York this month – May 2017

1 May 2017 @ 5.53 pm
| Entertainment

Thanks to David Nicholson for stepping in at short notice when I suddenly found myself unable to put last month’s column together.

Having read his round-up for April, it’s obvious that I’m going to have to up my game. It was good to see him mention a few gigs that I would have included and nice to see a few that I wouldn’t have due to a lack of knowledge of the bands playing.

As with most things a different style and different opinion can really freshen things up.

Personally, April was a bit of a disaster for live music. Being on call at the beginning of the month meant that I missed my beloved Mostly Autumn launch their 12th studio album at the Crescent and the same reason means I wasn’t able to get to Holy Moly and The Crackers at the same venue at the end of the month.

In between, my live music experience consisted solely of a couple of Italian gentlemen playing keyboards and singing more or less the same songs every night for ten nights. Oh well, at least the hotel was nice, the sun was shining (mostly) and the wine was flowing.

Fibbs vs The Cres

Mentioning the Crescent leads me to realise that Fibbers used to feel like a second home to me.

There were times when the hand stamp from one gig had barely started to fade (have you tried washing them off without the use of a scrubbing brush?) before the next one was added.

I still expect it to be my most frequented venue this year, but I think it will be much more of a close run thing with, perhaps, the Crescent giving it a run for my money.

(Other venues are available and, obviously, put on some great gigs. However, while each has its good points, they also have their bad – I’ll save mentioning them for another time perhaps when I’m feeling more belligerent…)

Anyway, enough of the waffling. What is there to see this month?

Opening weekend

First up, two gigs featuring local bands that could just not only kick start your weekend but see most of it off.

I have to admit that I haven’t, so far, “got” the hype around Glass Caves, but that might be because the one time I managed to get to see them I was told afterwards that they hadn’t put on their best performance.

Maybe I’ll give them another shot when they headline Fibbers again on the 5th. Their last gig at the venue sold out.

That and the fact that they were featured on the BBC website during Independent Venue Week means they must be doing right by a number of people. If I’m there, you’ll find me somewhere near the back – I’m too old for mosh-pits.

Support comes from Manchester indie-pop quartet Corella, Borderline – one of the few York bands not to have a lead guitar – and fellow Yorkies Cry Baby.

On the 6th, once you’ve recovered from that gig, head across town to the Fulford Arms where they will be hosting one of their infamous all-dayers, with live music from noon to 11pm.

Along with a second chance to see Borderline, you will also be able to see the début performance from new alt-rock York band Asphodels, a first York appearance from Sheffield’s Steve and the Sea, a one-man operation who uses loops, electronic beats, synths and haunting vocals and a first full-band line-up for Huddersfield’s Liam Sullivan.

The highlight could be the brilliantly named No Scary Bears – the new band from former We Could Be Astronauts guitarist and Idle Jack drummer Simon Himsworth.

He now adds frontman to his musical CV and pulls together Dave Hartley (Van Der Neer, We Could Be Astronauts, Hijak Oskar), Robert Loxley Hughes (We Could Be Astronauts – hmmm, there’s a theme developing here – Idle Jack & The Big Sleep) and Chris Bush (The Y Street Band, Beth McCarthy) to help him.

In York terms it is an all-star line-up, almost a supergroup and one I will be watching out for. In total, there are 15 acts on the bill and, best of all, it’s free.

Supporting locally

A study in contradictions, Luke Haines once claimed that New Wave, the 1993 début album from his band The Auteurs, was the album that started Britpop.

Ten years after that release, however, he went on record to say that the genre consisted of “a bunch of bands who weren’t good enough to exist in their own right”. The album only sold 12,000 copies, but missed out on a Mercury Prize to the more commercially successful Suede.

Just as the Auteurs were gaining popularity, Haines broke both ankles, bringing an end to their 1994 European tour, originally claiming, then later denying, to have done it deliberately.

Further bands, a solo career and film music followed and has led to Haines’ first appearance in York – described as another legend being dragged kicking and screaming to the city – at Fibbers on the 14th.

If you are going to this gig, do yourself a favour and get down early enough to see the support act. Marbled is one of the most personable singer-songwriters I have come across in this city, as well as being one of the best.

See him live and pick up a copy of his recent album – State Of Mine – to see why I say that.

There is another great local support act at The Basement on the 19th, when The Bronze open for Lisbee Stainton.

While The Bronze – a duo of Holly Taymar and Chris Bilton who “make subtly affecting acoustic songs which you can slow dance to” – appear content to play their music in and around York (well, I say that, but I assume they might not say no to international stardom…), Hampshire’s Stainton, a singer-songwriter with a folk acoustic style and a distinctive eight-string guitar, has toured with Joan Armatrading and as part of Seth Lakeman’s band.

Both acts have, however, received airplay from Bob Harris.

Not a support act, but I have literally just noticed that Jodie May Wortley has not only a gig, but a headline EP launch at the Crescent on the 23rd.

I have been aware that this young lady performed around York (through knowing her dad on Facebook – one of the people I have “met” through music) but have never seen her on any listing, so I assume she has been playing open mics and the like before this. I’m going to try to get down to this one.

Ringing bell(y)s

Scanning this month’s listings, one name jumped out at me and yet I can’t work out why. I definitely remember the name Echobelly, but can’t bring to mind any of their music and nothing in the write-up on Fibbers’ site sounds familiar.

Their Wikipedia entry brings out more of those aforementioned contradictions – apparently they were often compared to Blondie (who I love) and influenced by Morrissey (who comes nowhere near my list of “likes”).

They are also listed as being alternative rock and Britpop (which might one day make a small appearance in my music collection, if it’s lucky). Anyway, apparently they are back, with a new album – Anarchy and Alchemy – being released this month and they are at Fibbers on the 27th.

The Chameleons is another band whose name I remember but whose music has passed me by. Chameleons Vox is the continuation of that band (and, coincidentally, one of a few music T-shirts I saw being sported in Italy last month).

Their appearance at Fibbers on the 17th is the start of chapter two of their Magical History Tour, a career-spanning set of songs chosen by the fans.

Guitar styles

Guitars underpin the sound of so many bands and, while guitar music was being decried as dying a short while back I have yet to see any evidence of this.

For lovers of different playing styles and guitar sounds you might want to consider The Crescent on the 20th, when London indie-rock band The Rifles will be performing a special acoustic show.

Or maybe try The Basement on the 5th, when two of the UK’s best percussive fingerstyle guitarists – Jon Hart and Daryl Kellie – come together as folk duo Set Adrift.

My personal choice would be Fibbers on the 21st, for a couple of bands I have seen before.

Alan Nimmo, frontman of blues band King King, comes on stage in kilt and boots, with the build of a prop-forward and yet possesses a deftness of touch on his guitar that has to been seen to be believed.

His performances of A Long History Of Love, including a stunning guitar section which soars and fades to almost silence has resulted in audiences at The Duchess and The Barbican being so quiet that you could have heard a pin drop.

Sadly, the last time the band played York that song had been dropped from the (still brilliant) set list. Support on this tour comes from Norfolk’s Bad Touch who I saw supporting The Answer back in 2015 and enjoyed very much.

Famous names

As usual, there are a number of more famous names playing the city’s bigger venues, although I have to say that most this month appear to be aimed at, let’s say, more “mature” audiences.

These include the likes of Aled Jones and Joe Longthorne at the Grand Opera House (11th and 15th).

Meanwhile Daniel O’Donnell, Al Stewart and Shakin’ Stevens play the Barbican (3rd, 5th and 18th).

For those of a somewhat more contemporary bent you can find Irish rockabilly singer Imelda May at the Barbican on the 16th (with ticket prices topping out at an eye-watering £99.68).

Or you might be lucky enough to get hold of one of the few remaining tickets for her countrymen The Cranberries, whose single Linger, was one of my favourite songs of the Nineties, at the same venue on the 27th.

My personal choice would be Ward Thomas, again at the Barbican, on the 2nd.

I thought about seeing this country music duo, comprised of twin sisters Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, when they played Fibbers back in 2015 but, for some reason lost to the mists of time, didn’t go. A recent brief appearance on the BBC’s One Show showed me something of what I had missed.

Their second album – Cartwheels, released last year – not only reached number one in the UK country chart, but in the main album chart as well, making them the first British country act to top that chart and, therefore, they are officially the most successful such act to date.

The Shires (arguably better known) only reached number 3 with their album released in the same month. I guess Ward Thomas’ days at Fibbers are now over.

The best of the rest

As usual, there is so much more happening around the city. If rap is your thing (I’ll let you guess whether it is mine) you can catch MC Devvo on his final tour at Fibbers on the 13th.

Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance has toured in support of Ed Sheeran and Elton John and both Sheeran and Bonnie Raitt appeared on his 2013 album Joy Of Nothing. You can catch the man himself at Fibbers on the 18th.

The Basement has its usual eclectic mix of acts, including Roxanne de Bastion, a German-born singer who blends nods to 60s psychedelia and thoughtful lyrics into pop songs.

She can be seen on the 4th, while Yorkshireman Al Goodwin puts in an acoustic performance of his album Birth, Death and In Between on the 18th.

The Black Swan Folk Club continues its expansion into the NCEM with a visit from young Welsh band Calan on the 3rd.

Using fiddles, guitar, accordion and bag-pipes these five virtuoso musicians vary between old traditions and haunting songs which explore the legends of Wales, telling stories of fairies and magic, myth and mischief. It almost sounds like prog, it definitely sounds like fun.

Back at their usual venue, the club also have offerings from Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith on the 11th and Miranda Sykes on the 25th.

There’s also a charity night, with a number of local acts raising money for St Leonard’s Hospice on the 18th.

At the Crescent, you can see American singer-songwriter Simon Joyner on the 3rd, and Coventry-based Jordan Mackampa on the 21st.

I get criticised for not mentioning many gigs at the Fulford Arms, who I am told put on music most nights. Well, at time of putting this column together, their website lists just three gigs and I found another on the Please Please You website.

I have already mentioned the all-dayer, so the rest are three-piece British rock band from York The Undercard on the 23rd, Greek grunge punks Barb Wire Dolls on the 25th and the PPY gig which brings Michigan-based psych-rock band Heaters to York on the 24th.

There’s bound to be more. There always is, at all the venues. As usual, the comments section is where to note things that I have missed, that you think should get a shout-out.


Here is the usual chronological list of the main gigs I covered above. All details are correct at time of putting this column together and ticket prices are as advertised. Paying on the door at Fibbers will cost a pound or two more.

On a smartphone? Scroll horizontally to see all the info

Date Act Venue Price
2nd Ward Thomas The Barbican £19.04, £22.40
3rd Daniel O’Donnell The Barbican £42.00, £47.60
  Simon Joyner The Crescent £8
  Calan NCEM £15
4th Roxanne de Bastion The Basement £5
5th Glass Caves Fibbers £8
  Set Adrift The Basement £8 adv / £12 otd
  Al Stewart The Barbican £39.20, £43.68
6th All-dayer Fulford Arms Free
11th Aled Jones Grand Opera House £28.65 – £80.15
  Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith The Black Swan £9 adv / £10 otd
13th MC Devvo Fibbers £7
14th Luke Haines Fibbers £17.50
15th Joe Longthorne Grand Opera House £21.25 – £23.75
16th Imelda May The Barbican £28.00, £39.20, £99.68
17th Chameleons Vox Fibbers £17.50
18th Foy Vance Fibbers £15
  Al Goodwin The Basement £7 adv / £10 otd
  Shakin’ Stevens The Barbican £36.40, £39.20
18th Charity night The Black Swan £6
19th Lisbee Stainton The Basement £10 adv / £12 otd
20th The Rifles The Crescent £15
21st King King Fibbers £20
  Jordan Mackampa The Crescent £5
23rd The Undercard Fulford Arms Free (?)
  Jodie May Wortley The Crescent £3 adv / £5 otd
24th Heaters Fulford Arms £7
25th Barb Wire Dolls Fulford Arms £8
  Miranda Sykes The Black Swan £12
27th Echobelly Fibbers £15
  The Cranberries The Barbican £40.00, £47.50 (limited avail.)