OS ROCK & BLUES SOCIETY

2018 was an interesting year for the OS Rock & Blues Society with our first collaboration with UMA (Unsigned Music Awards), who launched Midem 2018 by showcasing several new acts at Bunga-Bunga in Covent Garden. They followed this with a great evening at 100 Wardour Street announcing the nominees for the Unsigned Music Awards.

5 April 2018 saw us assembling at a new venue, The Curtain Hotel, in EC2, to see the phenomenal JJ Rosa – and boy oh boy she did not disappoint! However, the surprise of the evening came in the form of a trio, Fades. Eye opening and jaw dropping stuff. Imagine London Grammar but with Hannah Reid on steroids. The two Jeckyll brothers built a tight and melodic foundation upon which singer, Hero Baldwin, gave full vent to her powerhouse voice – this is a serious band to watch.

A fun gig at The Shepherds Bush Empire was provided by the excellent Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats.

However, for me, the gig of the month was at the Jazz Cafe where the brilliant but incomprehensibly under rated Nerina Pallot performed a set of such infinite variety and excellence that rendered the audience slack jawed with admiration. Her output is really quite extraordinary. She has six albums to her name and fourteen EPs. In 2014, she released one EP every month for one year-which could be described as ‘going it’ somewhat!

A fun OS Rock Soc event was one evening in May at The Half Moon in Putney, where we saw the trio William the Conqueror delivering their original brand of Americana – I am intrigued to see how this band progresses.

Sadlers Wells in June saw Sasha Siem launching her beautiful and charismatic new album Flower Flower. This is an interesting concept in that she is releasing it one track at a time per month!

OS Rock Soc fav Mollie Marriott performed a blistering set at The Water Rats in July. Although the prize for quirkiest and least expected event must go to erstwhile ’60s star and latterly uber star manager and record producer Peter Asher teaming up with legendary guitar hero, Albert Lee (late of The Crickets and the Everly Brothers backing band) who played many classics interspersed with some fascinating gossipy anecdotes.

Two newcomers, both of whose new albums I am thoroughly enjoying are Australian singer/songwriter, Juanita Stein and Irish equivalent, Catherine McGrath. Good lyrics and storytelling wrapped up in memorable melodies. Alas, I missed both of their gigs but if you see their gigs advertised in 2019, grabs some tickets – I am sure that it will be worth it!

October was a good month! Post-punk Brighton combo Yonaka have been blowing audiences away across the country, they are an excellent live band and I’m looking forward to their album release. Canadian country rock talent Lyndsay Ell made a return visit to The Borderline and despite having had all of her equipment stolen, put on a pretty good show. Unfortunately, she clashed with another OS Rock Soc fav, Joanne Shaw Taylor, whose gig I missed, sadly.

Saint Agnes virtually marmalised The Borderline with a Volume 11 delivery of tracks from their new EP, Death And Glory Gang – wonderful stuff delivered with style and elegance.

Darlingside are a Boston based close harmony combo, of whom I had not previously heard and who kicked off the November gigs in fine style at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. They were well worth a hearing and were ably supported by the excellent folk/rock trio Wildwood Kin. Finnish guitar heroine Erja Lyytenen shredded her riffs in fine style at The Borderline and where Paul Simon soundalike, Josh Rouse, delivered his elegant oeuvre too.

14 November saw members of OS Rock Soc convening at 229 Great Portland Street for the London debut of soul/blues combo Funkin’ Souled Out  featuring our very own OS Society Chairman, Hannah Durden (Nugent 01), giving a Force 10 performance on saxophone, delivering tight and accomplished covers of soul and disco classics.

One of the last gigs of the year was an absolute peach. Country and blues rockers, Larkin Poe, played their first headline tour gig at the Islington Assembly Hall to a sold out packed house and boy, were they on fire! The two sisters, Rebecca on vocals and playing blistering guitar riffs and Megan, who is queen of the slide guitar, did not let up on the intensity of their performance. For those of you who ignored my advice or failed to secure a ticket, you have another chance: they will be back in April!

Two other OSs gave London Debut performances just before Christmas. First was Mali Mae, Mali Aitchison (Nugent 18), who opened the evening at The Ritzy in Brixton. A few weeks later, Tash Woods (Queen’s 18), featured at Thousand Island in Islington. Both gave confident and spellbinding performances and I shall be following their progress and will alert you to their forthcoming gigs – after all, we must support our own!

The final gig of the year was given by 2018 Mercury Prize winners and current rock darlings, Wolf Alice. Two excellent albums into their career, this band just had to be seen. So, a few nights before Christmas, the Rock Soc convened at the 02 Brixton Academy where we were treated to a masterclass of diverse rock styles and genre. Singer, Ellie Rowsell, performed faultlessly. Whether using her megawatt voice to fill the vast auditorium with driving rock, gentler and emotive love songs or channelling her inner Johnny Rotten and spitting out invective like a post punk princess! Really Terrific stuff.

So, all in all, a pretty satisfactory year, although it has to be said that there is a preponderance of girls making bigger waves in the industry than boys. Come on guys let’s try and even things up a bit!

2019 has some enticing gigs lined up from Joe Bonamassa, Amy Shark and we are hoping for confirmation of dates for a possible Bruce Springsteen appearance. I shall, of course be alerting you to new and emerging acts throughout the year, too.

Meanwhile, please do send in any recommendations of acts and new albums that you feel would be of interest to our fellow members and, if you happen to be a performer yourself, please do not hesitate to let us know of forthcoming gigs – we can then spread your particular gospel far and wide throughout the land in the hope of developing your fan base.

Nigel Milne (Chandos 68)

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