Family commitments were always going to stop me getting to the second day of York’s Little Festival of Live Music in time for the opening act, which was a shame as I’ve heard good things about Bryony Drake. When I eventually arrived, however, it was apparent that she had been replaced, apparently quite hastily and at short notice and, given who was coming off stage, I felt a lot less guilty (and slightly relieved) for not being there earlier.
So my evening entertainment started with Minster Conspiracy, a young Rock/Punk band. Normally when a band gets called “young” you are looking at university age. In this case, however, they probably needed to be second act on the bill in order to give them time to finish the night’s homework. That doesn’t stop their talent shining through, though. They remind me a lot of Four Stones Deeper, another York band with similar tastes in music and a female vocalist who is, perhaps, slightly more raw than you might be expecting, although Minster Conspiracy have added keyboards. Their set tonight opened with a couple of covers – McFly’s We Are The Young, All The Small Things from Blink 182, which included an impressive drum section from Morgan Thomas – before song I didn’t recognise. Then Ellie Hodson, whose vocals were growing in confidence with every song, announced that up next would be an original and that it would be “slower and quieter”. Maybe so, but How I Feel, a pop-punk ballad with a nice guitar-led section from Ryan O’Hara, was still loud in parts. More covers, some of which I not only recognised but owned, rounded out the set, including good versions of Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name and Paramore’s Still Into You and an admirable attempt at Sweet Child Of Mine (which, as a non-musician, I assume must be incredibly hard to reproduce exactly). This was a great set by a band whose talent belies their youth and it seemed to be enjoyed by an appreciative audience – the cheers and applause may have been led by the band’s parents, but everybody else joined in.
Before today, if you had mentioned Kirby Howarth to me I would have assumed you were talking about a Yorkshire village. It turns out, however, that he is another of York’s singer/songwriters and I wonder how many there are that I haven’t come across yet. The crowd had diminished slightly by the time he took to the stage, but he didn’t let that bother him, telling everybody not to shout at once and answering his own questions if there was no response. With stage timings seeming to have got a little out of kilter, Kirby delivered the longest set of the evening with thirteen songs inspired by events from his younger days (catching the last train back from Leeds after nights at The Warehouse, wondering whether a girl would be interested in him), reflections on getting older and love and life in general (including one based on a friend’s trip to Soho). It was a mostly melancholy set of songs – especially one song inspired by a new story inspired by a news story about a girl committing suicide – verging on dour at times, but the vocals were strong and clear, with the overall feel being a cross between Bob Dylan and Frank Turner. The set perhaps needed lightening up just a little, but that would be my only, slight, complaint.
The evening was completed by a short set from alternative rockers Blind Eye. Again there were covers. Apparently they normally only do one a set, but tonight decided to put in two – rocking versions of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and The Beatles’ Come Together. But it was their original material that really impressed. There was an indie style to them but with an undercurrent of almost Santana-like guitar work from Marcin Ellingham, especially during Blood & Diamonds. The performance was lively and loud, at times brash. Harley Daniels’ vocals strong with little of the shouting that some bands exhibit. Joey Leyland provided an interestingly chaotic drum line, including some nifty stick flips during new song Sunset although, admittedly, he did fall foul of his tricks later, dropping one stick and throwing the other away in mock disgust at the very end of And I, the more atmospheric final song of the set. There may only have been six songs in Blind Eye’s set but most were longer than standard. Night Life is, apparently, the shortest song they have written but it is still more than your average three-minute pop song. A short set that definitely whetted my appetite for more.