The gigs to see in York right now – July 2017

2 Jul 2017 @ 10.02 pm
| Entertainment

I began my last column by explaining that it didn’t feel right to be encouraging people to go to gigs because of the atrocity in Manchester

Just days later, a pop-princess whose music I wouldn’t normally give a second thought about listening to not only wowed me but also seemed to win the hearts of most of the nation.

I’m not naive enough to think that Ariana Grande organised the whole benefit concert herself, but it was a triumph, not just in its quick turn-around, the acts on the bill, or the amount of money it raised but in how it showed that music can both bring people together and heal.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big “Well done!” to all involved.

It’s prog, Jim, but not as we know it…

As, depressingly, the nights start to draw in and festival season kicks into high gear, there are less gigs to tempt me out to the local venues. I have only found 28 gigs at the venues I cover (there are probably more – I can only go by what those venues put on their listings) and four of those are tributes.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t interesting stuff around, and I’m going to start with a venue I don’t normally cover because, well, it’s not normally there…

As part of the Great Yorkshire Fringe event, which runs across the city from the 21st, local band Stillhouse are launching their début EP – Love Is The Weight.

It takes place in The Shed in Parliament Street on the 29th. I have already seen this trio – Jonny Neaves (guitar and vocals), Polly Bolton (mandolin and vocals) and Matthew Mefford (double bass) – a couple of times and really like their music, which they describe as “progressive acoustic”, with roots in bluegrass, blues and folk.

It’s not what springs immediately to mind when I see the word “progressive” but it is lively and brilliantly entertaining and has already drawn plaudits from the likes of Chris Helme.

I’m looking forward to the EP and getting to know the songs more intimately than I can during a live set.

Another local favourite of mine (after seeing him just once) is Joshua Burnell.

He, along with his band (which again features Matthew Mefford), play the Basement on the 22nd. This time the music is “progressive folk-rock” and it is a little bit more what you would expect from the P-word.

I’ve said before (if not here then elsewhere) that Joshua’s album – Into The Green – was one of my favourites of last year.

It’s very much an album of two halves. The first a collection of individual songs that sound both modern and traditionally folk-like – there is bawdiness, violence and gentleness all in there somewhere.

The second is a concept piece, a suite of songs that tell the story of shepherd venturing into unknown and scary territory that has an almost Tolkienesque feel (the album artwork is by long-time Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith).

I have seen the album compared to the likes of Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood and Selling England By The Pound from Genesis with their fusion of folk and rock and, performing live, the band put on a great show.

Rock classics

With the closure of the Duchess and knowing that it was highly unlikely that they would ever be playing Fibbers, I had resigned myself to not seeing Hayseed Dixie again.

However, the pioneers (and sole-proponents?) of “rockgrass” are back in York, at the Crescent on the 19th. If you haven’t come across this band before, they are a sight and sound to behold.

Originally formed as a hillbilly tribute to AC/DC (hence the name) they have moved on to cover, in bluegrass style, an eclectic mix of rock classics from the likes of Queen, through Aerosmith, Motorhead and The Darkness.

They also perform their own songs, which are equally as good, and have released 14 albums. This band used to pack out the Duchess so I’m guessing the Crescent will be very crowded.

Just one word of warning – don’t, as one perhaps slightly inebriated member of the audience did last time Hayseed Dixie were in York, complain to frontman John Wheeler that he is talking too much between songs or you might just be invited to meet up with Wheeler outside the venue after the gig has finished.

And I don’t think it was to share a cigarette…

Despite getting into music during the new wave of British heavy metal in the late 70s and early 80s, I have never owned a Rainbow album.

It was with Rainbow that Graham Bonnet found, if not fame – his first hit single came with The Marbles in 1968 when Only One Woman reached number 5 – but his voice, when Ritchie Blackmore invited him to replace Ronnie James Dio as vocalist for the 1979 album Down To Earth.

It was this that Bonnet credits as changing his musical outlook from R&B (that earlier single had been written by the BeeGees) to a more rock focus.

From there, along with solo material, he has sung for the Michael Schenker Group (briefly, before being fired after one gig) and his own band Alcatraz, along with a number of other short-lived projects.

Since 2015, Bonnet has been touring with The Graham Bonnet Band, performing songs from his long career, as well as releasing new album – The Book – in 2016.

The band are back at Fibbers on the 26th, with support from Evyltyde, one of London’s fastest rising metal acts.

There is also a tinge of sadness in the rock/metal camp as, after 15 years (of, as they say, “blood, sweat and beers”), three albums, three EPs, numerous gigs and festival appearances both in the UK and abroad, York’s metal behemoths RSJ are calling it a day and signing off with a farewell show at Fibbers on the 21st.

Support comes from fellow York metallers The Family Ruin and, in what I’m not sure is an air of mystery or some in-joke that has completely bypassed me – the gig write-up has a post-script stating that this may not be the support’s real name – “Skeletron”.

Musical youth

As well as the veterans, there are a number of more youthful bands on during the course of the month, mostly at the Basement.

It all starts starting on the 8th with indie-rockers Bayonet, fresh from supporting King No-One and with an upcoming appearances at the Tramlines festival in Sheffield.

Also on the bill, more indie-rock from local bands Dvsk and The Televangelists.

On the 10th, King No-One’s frontman Zach Lount returns to the Basement for another of his intimate solo shows – just him, a piano and his voice – and a chance for the audience to learn more depth behind the songs.

It took a bit of digging to find out much about Billie Marten. Her website doesn’t include a biography and her FB music page is sparse in detail.

The write-up (which seems to have come from a Guardian review of debut album Writing Of Blues And Yellows) for her gig at the Basement on the 11th states that she is a Yorkshire schoolgirl and yet she has over 25,000 likes on Facebook.

Eventually, I found a BBC page devoted to her for their Sound Of 2016, which tells us that she comes from Ripon and was, at the time, 16 and has been making music since she was nine.

Appearances on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and a tweeted endorsement from Ed Sheeran regarding her song Bird, might go some way to explain that number of likes. In any case, the songs I have listened to on Spotify are beautiful, breathy folk.

It has been a while since I’ve seen Jonny Gill’s pop-punk band On The Ropes on the listings, but they are also back at the Basement on the 12th, as Riff Media showcase some of the best rising bands from the local area.

It’s a mixed bill and, along with the headliners, you can also see Glass Hearts, a post-hardcore band from Barnsley, folk-rock band Dalton and an acoustic performance from Josh Nash, frontman of Amongst Thieves.

Scooting across to Fibbers and, on the 15th, Selby pop-rock band Native City headline a bill that also includes indie-rockers Frames, York-based pop-punk band Minster Conspiracy (who I think take this month’s record for youngest band, with most if not all the members still at school) and Luke Pierce.

The best and the rest

One of the problems when putting this together is knowing what order to list the gigs in.

Naturally, most times, I put my personal highlights first, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be going to see bands further down the list, or that the last band I mention isn’t as worth going to see as the first – it’s all a matter of taste. There are so few gigs this month that I’m going to mention them all, rounding up the remainder in date order.

I know that a lot of people are looking forward to the 3rd, when Americana/ country/ blues singer Justin Townes Earle (son of Steve) is making an appearance.

Based solely on the people I know who are excited by this gig, I would probably have gone along if I wasn’t down for being on call that night.

The first of the Fulford Arms’ three advertised gigs comes on the 6th, when “90s teenage heartthrobs” Possum headline a bill that also includes Shrieking Violet, alt-rockers from York, Bradford’s Trigger Thumb (whose list of influences include Muse and The Dillinger Escape Plan) and Seep Away, another York band, this time described as hardcore rock.

There’s a punk party at Fibbers on the 12th, when American veterans The Dickies bring their brand of comedically-inclined bubble-gum punk to the UK for a 40th anniversary tour.

Alongside originals you might hear high-speed covers of the likes of Sabbath’s Paranoid, The Moody Blue’s Nights In White Satin and even the Banana Splits theme tune. Sounds like a sort of Hayseed Dixie for fans of punk.

The first visitor of the month to the Black Swan Folk Club arrives on the 13th.

That’s when Georgia Shackleton, a graduate of Newcastle University’s folk music course, brings guitarist Aaren Bennett and mandolin ace Nic Zuppardi, as the Georgia Shackleton Trio, for a night of Americana, folk and self-penned material.

Also on the 13th, there’s a night of shoegaze at the Fulford Arms.

Headliners Dose (also from Newcastle) are described as atmospheric yet melodic, with haunting vocals, dark synth swells and intertwining guitars. Sounds interesting.

Joining them are Leeds-based Colour Of Spring and York alt-rockers Asphodels.

Jack Savoretti’s recent sold-out gig at Fibbers had to be rescheduled when he had the chance to appear on national TV on the same evening.

The new date is the 16th and, while tickets for the original date are still valid, this gig is no longer showing as sold out. So, if you missed out last time, you might have a chance.

One of Ireland’s most respected and best loved performers, Jack Lukeman is a mult-platinum selling, award winning singer-songwriter who has performed at Glastonbury and The Royal Albert Hall.

On the 18th you can see him in the much more intimate surroundings of the Basement.

On the 19th and 20th, the Basement is also playing host to two gigs for Oxjam when, across the two nights and in true Wars of the Roses style, bands from the finest counties on Earth (well, in my opinion, the finest county and one other) will be playing for charity.

On the 19th you can see Puppet Theory, Cabezudos and Affairs, (Manchester, Liverpool and Manchester respectively).

Then on the 20th it is the turn of Able’s Army, Palmes and The Brazen (Huddersfield, Huddersfield and Yorkshire/ Birmingham).

While the money raised by Oxjam gigs normally goes to Oxfam, in this case 50% of the proceeds will be donated to victims of the Manchester attack.

There are two other gigs across the city on the 20th. Maggie Holland returns to the Black Swan for the first time in over ten years, while the evergreen Elkie Brookes returns once again to the Grand Opera House.

Back to the Fulford Arms for three days of punk, ska and hardcore across the 21st to the 23rd.

Looking at the bill, there only two bands I have heard of and, as you well know by now, punk isn’t my thing. I’ve brought it to your attention. If you want more details, they are available here.

On the 27th, the brilliantly-named Wizz Jones, a pioneer of the British folk scene and still going strong in his late 70s, is back at the Black Swan.

Rounding out the month, the highly-regarded Urban Voodoo Machine can be found at the Crescent on the 29th.

Their Bourbon-soaked Gypsy-blues has been recommended to me a number of times but the Stillhouse gig prevents me from seeing them this time around.

There’s bound to be more. There always is, especially at other 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 will cost a pound or two more.

On a smartphone? Scroll horizontally to see all the info

Date Act Venue Price
3rd Justin Townes Earl Crescent £15
6th Possum Fulford Arms £4
8th Bayonet Basement £5
10th Zach Lount Basement £6
11th Billie Marten Basement £5
12th The Dickies Fibbers £15
On The Ropes Basement £5 adv / £6 otd
13th Georgia Shackleton Trio Black Swan £8 adv / £9 otd
Dose Fulford Arms £4
15th Native City Fibbers £5
16th Jack Savoretti Fibbers £27.50
18th Jack Lukeman Basement £12
19th Puppet Theory Basement £5
Hayseed Dixie Crescent £17.50
20th Able’s Army Basement £5
Maggie Holland Black Swan £9 adv / £10 otd
Elkie Brookes Grand Opera House £25 – £36
21st RSJ Fibbers £8
21st – 23rd Swinefest 2017 Fulford Arms £20
22nd Joshua Burnell and band Basement £5 adv / £8 otd
26th The Graham Bonnet Band Fibbers £15
27th Wizz Jones Black Swan £11 adv/ £12.50 otd
29th Urban Voodoo Machine Crescent £12
Stillhouse The Shed (Parliament Street) £7