Tag Archives: The Fleece and Firkin

Government moves to protect live music venues

Some good news on the future of small grassroots music venues reported by M Magazine.

The British government is introducing new legislation giving local authorities the powers to better protect live music venues against redevelopment pressures.

The new regulations, which come into effect on 6 April 2016, mean developers are now required to seek prior approval on noise impacts before changing the use of a site from offices to residential dwellings.

Recent development right extensions, which have allowed premises to change from commercial buildings to residential ones, have put pressure on music venues by making them prone to noise complaints from residents once they move into the area.

UK Music, the Music Venue Trust and the Musicians’ Union have welcomed the government’s move.

This is probably a case where The Devil is in the details, especially given the sometimes murky relationships between property developers and local government planning departments, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

And as the full article rightly states, it’s not about preventing much-needed housing from being built, it’s about not putting property developers’ profits ahead of the pre-existing cultural life of the area.

It’s too late for The Point in Cardiff. But let’s hope it makes the future of venues like The Fleece & Firkin in Bristol a little more secure.

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Panic Room, The Fleece & Firkin, Bristol

Anne-Marie Helder of Panic Room at The Fleece

Panic Room’s “Wildfire” tour was eagerly anticipated. Although all the individual band members have been active lately, Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards playing as Luna Rossa, Yatim Halimi playing bass for The Steve Rothery Band, and drummer Gavin Griffiths touring with Fish, it’s almost a year since Panic Room’s last live appearances together. It’s also the first chance to see them with new guitarist, Dave Foster, on loan from Mr So and So for the rest of the year.

The tour follows an interesting format, with the band performing a short set from their soon to be released crowdfunded acoustic album, followed by a headline-length electric set, in effect acting as their own support band. For a “school night” they attracted a fair-sized crowd at Bristol’s Fleece and Firkin for the fourth night of the tour.

The acoustic set was semi-acoustic in parts, with Dave Foster adding some bluesy electric guitar on a few songs, and Gavin Griffiths returning to his kit after playing the first couple of numbers on a cajon. With the exception of one brand new number, the beautiful ballad “Rain and Tears and Burgundy”, it was stripped-down reworkings of material from across the band’s history, including a delightful take on the quirky “I Am A Cat”, a reggae-style “Black Noise”, and the less-is-more versions of “Song for Tomorrow” and “Promises” played as encores a year ago.

The electric set focused on the big richly-layered atmospheric numbers and the out-and-out rockers, and turned into a greatest hits set featuring established favourites alongside songs that hadn’t been performed live for years. The way it went from highlight to highlight demonstrated just how strong a back catalogue Panic Room have built up over four albums.

They dazzled with the jazzy “Chameleon” featuring a brief flute solo, the eastern-tinged percussion-heavy “Tightrope Walker”, the soaring title track of “Skin”, and the remarkably emotive “Dust”. They rocked out with “Apocalypstick” from the very first album including a spectacular keyboard wig-out by Jon Edwards, the organ-driven metal monster of “Dark Star”, and the Zeppelinesque “Hiding the World”. As always, Anne-Marie Helder was on superb form vocally, combining range and power with emotional depth and completely dominating the stage. She’s been voted Prog Magazine’s female vocalist of the year more than once for a reason.

Panic Room at The Fleece

Dave Foster made his mark on guitar, demonstrating the versatility that Panic Room’s hugely varied music demands; from atmospheric fills and bluesy soloing to hard-edged riffing and jaw-dropping shredding. We even saw the appearance of a twin-neck guitar on a couple of songs. For music like Panic Room’s the lead guitarist matters as much as the singer, and Dave Foster proved to be a very good fit.

Last year’s tour, good as it was, emphasised the jazz-flavoured adult pop side of the band’s music. But Panic Room have always been a band with feet in more that one camp, and this time around the emphasis was as much on the classy hard rock side, something that had been missing the last time round.

It will be very interesting to see where Panic Room go next. The acoustic album is close to release, after which the band return to the studio to begin work on another new album, again featuring Dave Foster on guitar. But before that there are still two more dates on the tour to go, at Manchester Sound Control and Bilston Robin 2.

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Crimson Sky & Red Jasper, The Fleece, Bristol

Crimson Sky at The Fleece and Firkin, Bristol

Red Sky at Night was the second of two double bills featuring the Bristol-based bands Crimson Sky and Red Jasper, a home town gig at the Fleece and Firkin in the centre of Bristol.

Opening act was Neodeals, who are Also Eden’s Rich Harding and Simon Rogers playing as a acoustic duo. Their half-hour set consisted of Also Eden material drawn from “Think of the Children” including the magnificent title track, and from the forthcoming “[Redacted]“. The songs came across remarkably well in acoustic form, with two interlocking guitars making a remarkably rich sound. As well as a strong vocalist, it’s often the guitar playing that makes the difference between a memorable acoustic act and a forgettable one, and Neodeals were memorable for all the right reasons.

Crimson Sky put in another enthusiastic and energetic performance with their mix of classic rock, prog and a touch of 80s new-wave. With a shorter than usual set they drew heavily from the EP “Dawn” with a few favourites from their 2009 album “Misunderstood”. This was the first gig with Adrian Ogden occupying the drum-stool on a permanent basis, and he acquitted himself superbly. This is likely to be Crimson Sky’s last live appearance for a while, as they concentrate on writing and arranging new material, and will be very interesting to see what they come up with.

Red Jasper at The Fleece and Firkin, Bristol

When I last saw Red Jasper many years ago they had a folk-rock feel, reminiscent of Jethro Tull. Now, with a much changed lineup with former drummer David Clifford now fronting the band, there was little of the folk flavour in evidence, with the six-piece band taking on a more of a 80s pop-prog flavour. It may be my lack of familiarity with their material, but they didn’t make quite as strong an impression as the other two bands, with a lot of the songs sounding rather similar. But they still had their moments, played with a lot of energy, and there was some great guitar work from founder member Robin Harrison.

This sort of gig, with a bill of two electric bands plus an acoustic opener represents an increasing common format in the progressive rock world. While some fans prefer to see their heroes play longer sets as sole headliners, double or triple bills attract bigger crowds, and expose the bands to each others’ audiences, which can only be a good thing. I last saw Red Jasper many years ago at a very poorly attended show in Windsor, where the support band outnumbered the paying punters. Twenty years later, while by no means full, The Fleece did attract a decent-enough crowd for a Thursday night.

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The Reasoning, The Fleece and Firkin, Bristol, 12-Nov-2010

Rachel Cohen at The Fleece and Firkin in Bristol

“And then there were five”, said Rachel Cohen at the start of The Reasoning’s gig at The Fleece and Firkin in Bristol. The departure of guitarist, vocalist and founder member Dylan Thompson on the eve of the tour came as something as a shock. The band’s decision to rehearse and tour as a five-piece rather than postpone the tour was a brave one, which left quite a few people wondering quite how they’d reproduce much of their complex multi-layered material live.  So I set out to for Bristol, a new venue for me, not quite knowing what to expect from them.

As soon as they took the stage and launched into the prog-metal of “Dark Angel”, it was clear that they’d pulled it off. Far from having obvious holes in the sound, the slimmed-down incarnation of The Reasoning simply gives each of the musicians more space.  Less was indeed more. As they always have been, the band were both tight and had really high energy level.

Naturally they played a much rearranged setlist, dropping many of the songs that relied on Dylan’s lead vocals in favour of songs with Rachel singing lead. So we saw the return of songs like “Within Cold Glass” from their first album, and the first UK appearance of the Dream Theater-esque 14 from their most recent album “Adverse Camber”.  Keyboardist Tony Turrell, who’s previously only sung backing vocals, took the male lead vocal on “Awakening” and “A Musing Dream”, while Matt Cohen, who’d previously not been let near a microphone, added some backing vocals. Owain Roberts did a superb job as sole guitarist, nailing the solos he hadn’t previously played.  Tony Turrell’s keys weren’t always that prominent in the mix, but his solo spot, with sections of Fish’s “Plague of Ghosts” and bits of assorted Marillion tunes went down extremely well with a certain section of the crowd.

As one of the band said, when their backs are against the wall, they come out fighting. The slimmed-down Reasoning still rock, and it will be interesting to hear where go next, especially when they return to the studio.

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