The nights are closing in and the music’s hotting up. Ian Massey picks out his highlights for Rocktober
As 2014 enters its final quarter I find myself becoming more and more excited by some of the upcoming gigs that our venues have to offer.
Among the nearly 70 gigs across the city’s main venues in October, there is a start of an end-of-year mini-invasion of progressive rock (my musical genre of choice) as well as a fair amount of blues and rock, along with the usual diverse mix of many of the local and touring bands.
I’m going to start this month’s round-up, though, with a very personal choice.
York band Dream Of Apollo had been around for a while when my gig-buddies and I stumbled across them in the back room of The Yorkshire Hussar one Friday evening back in 2011, when we were struggling to find a gig to go to.
I don’t think we were expecting to enjoy the gig as much as we did and, since then, I have not only seen the band almost every time they have played in York, but I have travelled to Harrogate to see them (I rarely travel to gigs these days), contributed to a pledge campaign to raise funds to record Alpha, their debut album and had the privilege of sitting in on one of the recording sessions for that album.
Their own music refuses to be pigeon-holed – indie-pop mixed with folk and a bit of rock – and they throw in an eclectic mix of covers from Dolly Parton to The Beatles.
Sadly, with the three core members of that 2011 line-up about to be scattered geographically, the band have decided to call it a day and are having a final farewell gig and party at the York Brewery on the 4th.
I suspect it will be emotional. I know it will be entertaining and, despite some big names appearing in York this month, this is my gig of the month for October.
Too often this genre of music is seen as the domain of beer-bellied, middle-aged men or gaming nerds who only venture away from their computers and out of their bedrooms to see bands who play songs about Hobbits and which include 20 minute keyboard solos.
While some of that is at least partly true, I’ve been to enough prog gigs now to see that they are attended by as diverse an audience as there is diversity of music itself, with many younger faces now watching an increasingly popular genre.
Unfortunately Welsh band The Reasoning have cancelled their entire tour and so it falls to some of the older names to fly the flag for the genre this month.
Hawkwind spin-off band Hawklords kick things off at Fibbers on the 21st as part of a tour to promote Censored, their third album.
Expect pulsating “space” rock and an entrancing lightshow. Support comes from York’s own Hawkwind tribute band Do Not Panic and tickets are £14.
A legal ruling means that Martin Turner, who returns to the Duchess on the 26th, can no longer use his previous touring name.
He will, however, still be playing the music of Wishbone Ash, the band he fronted for over a decade. (£15 in advance/ £17 on the door).
I won’t be going to this one, however, as I already have a ticket to see Steve Hackett play the music of his former band Genesis at the Barbican on the same day. (£27.50 – £29.50).
Aside from playing in bands such as Soft Machine and Deep Purple spin-off Warhorse, as well as playing alongside Eric Clapton and Stéphane Grappelli, jazz/ fusion guitarist and stalwart of the Canterbury Scene of the Sixties and Seventies, John Etheridge’s strangest claim to fame might be that he was once ordered to be deported from Romania by President Ceausescu while playing there with Icarus.
He plays the Duchess on the 16th, with boundary-crossing Kit Holmes, described by the Guardian as having “all the makings of a new British guitar heroine”, in support (£15 adv/ £17 otd).
Bernie Tormé has played alongside the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan and Dee Snider and has just released Flowers & Dirt, his first solo offering for 15 years, a double album of heavy, bluesy rock and roll.
He will be promoting it at Fibbers on the 17th (£10).
Also on the 17th Ben Poole, described by Torme as “one great special player” brings his blues guitar work to the Basement and presents me with a dilemma as to which gig to attend (£10).
At 80 years old John Mayall takes the record of oldest person to feature in my recommendations away from last month’s Wizz Jones.
He may, on the evidence of the last time I saw him perform, spend more time these days playing keyboards than guitar, but I’m going to include his gig at the Barbican on the 29th in this section partly because of the support act.
King King are a blues band from Scotland fronted by the kilted and booted Alan Nimmo, a man built like a prop-forward but who plays guitar with a deftness of touch. Two cracking and highly recommended blues acts on one bill (£27.50 – £29.50).
There’s an international feel to the heavy rock scene in York this month. All-girl Swedish band Crucified Barbara, former punks but now hard-rockers, play Fibbers on the 11th, with Denmark’s Supercharger and fellow Swedes Junkstars in support (£10).
Coming from the other direction, Americans SOiL, American Head Charge and Hed(PE) are joined by Canadian band Wolfborne for what promises to be a busy night of metal, industrial rock, punk and, errm, Rasta at Fibbers on the 22nd (£17).
For those who like their music a bit quieter and more subtle, October brings a few gigs outside of the usual venue of the Black Swan.
While you can see the likes of Sunjay Brayne, Bella Hardy & Cara Luft and Mike Silver there on the 9th, 16th and 23rd respectively (£8, £12 and £9), you can also catch folk rockers Steeleye Span (I can’t believe they don’t have a website…) dancing around their hat at the Barbican on the 7th (£19.50) and the Celtic folk of Clannad at the Grand Opera House on the 12th (£32.90 – £37.40).
It was subtly pointed out to me last month that I have yet to mention York’s National Centre For Early Music in these articles.
I have no defence apart from the fact that, having never been there, I had completely forgotten about it.
To rectify that I will mention that Martin Simpson, acclaimed as one of the finest acoustic guitarists in the business, is playing there on the 4th (£18) while Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson will be entertaining the audience with border pipes, whistles, flute and Uilleann pipes (and vocals) on the 20th (£14).
I last saw Ezio and Booga, the small venue version of Cambridgeshire folk band Ezio, back in 2009 and, at the time, felt like I had crashed a private, fan-club-only party.
Pretty much all the audience knew all the songs. There may have been a set-list for that gig but audience members were also invited to text requests up to the duo.
The whole thing was very laid back with moments of humour and banter and some great guitar work. The duo play the Basement on the 23rd (£14).
Something a bit different
Sadly, I won’t be able to make Ólöf Arnalds’s gig at Fibbers on the 4th, which is disappointing in two ways.
Firstly the description on Fibbers’ website, which namechecks Björk and Sigur Ros, makes her sound quirky and different, something which I always look out for.
While I haven’t heard the former yet, the latter are my latest “quirky and different” discovery and I absolutely love them (£8).
Hayseed Dixie frontman John Wheeler is appearing at Fibbers on the 14th and I’m not sure what to expect.
The band plays bluegrass versions of classic heavy metal songs, expanding their repertoire beyond the original AC-DC covers. Whether Wheeler himself does the same, just in solo form, I’m not sure.
I’m certain, though, that he will be entertaining both during and in between songs. And woe betide any drunken punter who decides to suggest it might be better if he stops talking and plays music…
Somebody who I can’t work out whether I like or not – I think it depends on which of his personalities is performing at the time – is York’s Mark Wynn. He launches his latest EP at the Fulford Arms on the 18th.
I realise that most of the acts above are touring bands but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that York has a massive amount of local talent, some of which can be found in support slots for the tourers.
There are headline gigs for local acts as well, though…
Shoe-gazing psychedelics La Petite Mort play the Basement on the 15th (£3).
So much more
There are so many other gigs on around York this month that I struggled to pick highlights and my wife has already warned my daughter that I may well be almost non-existent around the house in October.
Away from acts I would recommend, but still including some I would go and see, you can find UB40, Level 42, Peter Andre, Gregory Porter and David Gest presenting another night of soul legends at the Barbican.
Dry The River, The Struts, The Datsuns and The Ginger Wildheart Band are among many more acts playing Fibbers. The Duchess will be playing host to the likes of The Wytches, The Tea Street Band and The Amazing Snakeheads.
The Basement continues its impressively eclectic mix of acts with the likes of Wolfen, Conquering Animal Sound and The Wave Pictures and the Grand Opera House has the charity gig York Rocks Against Cancer.
And that’s not to mention the many open mic nights and free gigs in pubs and bars around the city. Live music is alive and well and there really should be something for everybody, even if I haven’t mentioned it.