27 August 2022
As is tradition, the night before the Vale Earth Fair, there was a warm up show and, while it has taken place in different venues in the past, this year it was away from its usual home at the De La Rue with a move up the hill to St James and with music this time around coming from The Roughtones, The Crowman, Jersey visitors Benny The Moth and the returning Track Not Found.
Two-Tone style ska ensemble The Roughtones began proceedings and, while their shows seem increasingly rare for all the usual reason young Guernsey bands often only play during university breaks, they were probably the tightest I’ve ever seen them with their rhythm section on particularly impressive form throughout.
The bulk of the set was made up of Madness covers, which gave the whole thing a jovial bounce, and front man Tobi Batiste has an engaging presence with the brass section on fine form tonight too, but it was a couple of non-Madness tunes that brought the highlights.
Mid-set a rendition of The Specials’ Little Bitch showed a big new energy for the band while an unexpected run at Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Geno sounded great too and got the night going very nicely.
After a break of nearly a year this marked The Crowman’s return to a Guernsey stage, tonight flanked by longtime collaborator The Fiddling Pixie and more recent addition to ‘The Crowband’ Wiggy, on acoustic guitar.
After starting the set with a few of his more serious songs, including Ghosts which is always a highlight, the set seemed to go off the rails even by The Crowman’s standard with songs cut short and skipped entirely but he kept the audience engaged throughout even getting a clap along going later in the set.
While I’m not sure all in attendance entirely understood what was going on there’s no denying he has some infectious songs in his garage folk repertoire and there was a sense of a musical performance slipping into a kind of performance art but I don’t think I’ll ever not enjoy a performance from The Crowman, especially after such a lengthy break.