May is a huge month for music in York and there I surely something for everybody, including the first of the city’s outdoor festivals.
The YO1 Festival takes over the Knavesmire on the 4th, with eight stages providing a diverse range of acts, local and international, from acoustic to electronic, reggae to rap, ska to garage rock.
This all leading up to a headline set from American hip hop pioneers De La Soul, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut album 3 Feet High And Rising. Tickets are still available, at a variety of prices and packages.
The pick of the after show parties can be found at The Duchess later than night (after midnight) when York’s own The Federals, reforming for a slot at the festival, can be found playing their brand of garage rock alongside Tidals and Jakoby. Entry is £2 with a festival wristband or £4 without.
Blasts from the past
There is plenty of choice for those of us who like music from a time before TV talent shows.
Again, my pick of gigs at The Barbican is already sold out, despite the £40 – £60 price tag for tickets – Sixties Australian pop icons The Seekers, a band which evokes memories of my parents’ slim record collection.
Ian Anderson has been active musically, in one form or another, since 1962 (the same year The Seekers formed).
While he has announced that his most famous band, Jethro Tull, are “no more”, he is continuing his solo career. This includes two albums continuing the story of Gerald Bostock, who first featured on Tull’s 1972 album, Thick As A Brick.
Anderson promotes Homo Erraticus, the newly-released second of these albums, at the Grand Opera House on the 15th, with tickets priced at £31.90 – £35.90.
Read our Ian Anderson interview here.
Moving into the Seventies, The Rutles were originally formed as a Beatles spoof for a sketch on Eric Idle’s BBC TV series Rutland Weekend Television.
Featuring Neil Innes (Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) they became popular enough to tour and record and they are at Fibbers on the 14th (£20) to perform songs from the band’s repertoire as well as Neil Innes’ solo career.
The Blues Band was formed in 1979 by Paul Jones (formerly of Manfredd Mann and now Radio 2 DJ) and can be seen at Fibbers on the 8th (£20).
Martin Stephenson And The Daintees released their first single in 1982 and, between the band and their frontman, they have a combined discography of more than albums.
Playing folk-rock, the live performances combine intimacy and humour with exuberance and can be experienced at The Duchess on the 1st (£16 adv/ £18 on the door).
They also seem to be the vanguard of an invasion of Sunderland-based acts playing York this month. Scottish brothers Pat and Greg Kane formed sophisti-pop duo Hue And Cry in 1983 and released the platinum selling album Remote in 1988.
Touring as an acoustic duo, they bring their Remote Stripped show to The Duchess on the 31st (£18.50 adv/ £20.50 otd).
Finally from the Eighties, RnB and soul veterans Barrence Whitfield and the Savages can be seen at Fibbers on the 10th (£12.50).
Those who like folk music, in all its various forms, are well-served around York this month.
The former play their energetic brand of English folk music on the 1st (£8.80) while the latter’s interpretation of traditional North American music can be heard on the 8th (£7.70) as part of his UK spring tour.
A more modern interpretation of the genre can be found at The Basement on the 21st, when Blair Dunlop (son of Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention and The Albion Band fame) will be promoting his second album, House Of Jacks – officially released a few days after this gig. Tickets are £10.
The traditional and modern are combined by the delightful Moulettes, their orchestral strings mixing with stunning vocal harmonies at Fibbers on the 2nd (£8).
Folk rock (along with dream pop) is represented by The Smoke Fairies at The Duchess on the 28th, touring to promote their eponymous second album, released after a brief flirtation with the idea of giving up the band.
To round of this multi-facetted genre, we have New Zealanders French For Rabbits at The Basement on the 13th (£4 adv/ £5 otd).
Touring Europe on the back of their debut EP while also recording their first album, this duo’s brand of dream folk is haunting and lovely.
Rock, metal and alternative
For those who like things a bit louder might want to start at The Duchess on the 5th where they can see Japan’s Electric Eel Shock, famous (or should that be infamous?) for drummer Gian playing with four drumsticks and nearly naked (for which he was been arrested in Hong Kong).
Their brand of garage rock is catchy, sometimes explicit and very listenable. (£8.50 adv/ £10.50 otd).
If explicit lyrics aren’t your thing, then avoid Fight Like Apes, an alternative rock band from Dublin who play the same venue on the 8th (£7 adv/ £9 otd).
Musically, I can’t think who to compare them to, but vocalist MayKay has hints of Debbie Harry to her.
Over at Fibbers on the 16th, Northern Irelanders Southern are being hailed as the 2014 equivalent of Haim, at least in the fact that they are potentially the sibling-band of the year.
Their mix of blues and alt-pop rock (together with a hint of folk) with finger-picking guitar along with bigger riffs, produces a great sound.
Support for this comes from highly-regarded York band The Blueprints and tickets are £6.
The Lake Poets is actually multi-instrumentalist Martin Longstaff, another of the Sunderland invasion, but the Fibbers gig on the 23rd (£7) is a full band affair.
On the evidence of April, the music billed as “alternative” might not be as rocky as others in this section, but it is brilliant.
Also from Sunderland are Frankie And The Heartstrings, more indie than alternative they were featured on the BBC last year when they opened a pop-up record shop to promote their second album, The Days Run Away.
It proved so popular that it is now a permanent store which often features live music. They are appearing at Fibbers on the 25th (£8).
Three local rock bands headline Fibbers this month. A Joker’s Rage – visually a cross between Kiss and the famous Batman villain – kick things off on the 3rd (£5) with their highly energetic brand of metal which usually sees main man Zak Taylor’s makeup running well before the set reaches its end.
This band has some very vocal fans and seem destined for big things. The music isn’t half bad either. Four Stones Deeper are, in my opinion, one of the brightest and most enthusiastic young bands around York at the moment.
Based on past gigs they will entice a big crowd into Fibbers on the 22nd (£4) with songs reminiscent of the likes of Enter Shikari.
I don’t remember Black Night Crash from their first time round but I am familiar with Jim Gipson’s Robert Plant-like vocals from other bands and his solo work and I love them.
They play their old stomping ground on the 24th (£5).
Finally for this section, catch Virgil And The Accelerators and their blues-rock at The Basement on the 20th while you can still see them in small venues.
Having toured alongside Michael Schenker, Uriah Heap and Wilko Johnson, as well as playing all over Europe, it surely won’t be long before Virgil McMahon and his band (including brother Gabriel on drums) are playing to much bigger crowds than they will be in York. Tickets for this one are £10.
There are a couple of charity gigs featuring local singer songwriters at The Basement in May. On the 2nd, Laura Kindelan launches her first EP, Rise, with a gig to raise money for Jessie’s Fund.
A few days later, on the 15th, the charity SNAPPY will benefit from a gig featuring Unfinished Drawings (aka Toby Burras – you’ve probably seen him busking around York) as well as Rory Hoy and Johnny Dobbs.
This one is £4 in advance or £5 on the door.
Over at the Woolpack it will be interesting to see which Mark Wynn turns up on the 16th – the conventional version from releases such as Lovers, Losers and Wasters or the more idiosyncratic, but no less entertaining version, that I saw perform at The Basement last year.
You are more likely to know what you are getting when Boss Caine plays the same venue on the 31st. Although, after his participation in a recent charity gig at the York Theatre Royal, there is now a greater chance that you could see him perform a cover of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.
Tickets are advertised as £12 and £18. With Chris Sherrington, one of the forces behind the DV8 Festival, recently taking over the pub, along with a recent appearance there by Jordan Reyne, this could turn out to be the place to see alternative music in York.