My eldest daughter, Mhairi, is one of the organisers of the Ventnor Fringe so I went to their recent ‘secret gig’ to support the cause and I have to say that I was very pleased that I did as I was absolutely bowled over by the talent on show and would so far as to say it’s the best gig I’ve been to in a very long time.
It was a secret gig so there was a degree of cloak and dagger about the arrangements. All the pre-booked punters had to gather at the Industrial Estate. Yes, Ventnor does have one, and it’s where the main railway station used to be at the end of the tunnel.
Everyone probably assumed that the gig was going to be in one of the caves up there. But no, this was not the case as they then had to troop down Mitchell Avenue to a private home in a converted stable block, where the large ground floor lounge had been cleared for a makeshift stage and seating area. A perfect arrangement that meant most people could see the stage and the venue was a very generous offer by Wilf and Ann Underwood.
First up were the Shutes who I saw last a couple of years ago, and they were good then and are now excellent. Their sound seems to have matured and is more rounded and complete. Lead singer Michael Champion is doing even more weird and wonderful things with his voice to great effect – I was quite astounded.
Will Aidan was on after quick pause, with his passionate melodic songs. Will hails from Lymington and has a very interesting technique for playing the guitar across his knees, although he also plays it in the more usual position. He apologised for shouting in his songs but actually that was part of why they sounded so good. You can’t get a point across without raising your voice I feel.
Another short break and then Tulah and the Black Gang took to the ‘stage’. Or should I say Tulah and the Black Gang ‘took’ the stage for they were absolutely fabulous. Tallulah Smith has an amazing voice – she warbles, or maybe she yodels, I’m not sure which but the result is quite unique and fabulous. David Champion and Jack Clutterbuck were on guitars and backing vocals and doing a mighty fine job of it too.
I especially liked the one about a cowboy – as did everyone else. But the songs were all quirky and ear catching. The funniest one was about loving someone for his ‘hairdo’ – now haven’t we all done that at least once girls? I felt as if we might be at the launch of a band that are going to seriously go places as Tallulah swung from side to side, hands in her pockets and heart and soul in her songs whilst the guys gathered slightly self-consciously around their microphone, reminiscent of the early Beatles. Was this was the Island’s answer to the Liverpool Cavern?
So I am now looking forward to the next Ventnor Fringe ‘secret gig’ with baited breath. You have to be a member of the Fringe to attend it so I suggest you get onto their website and sign up pronto. And I’m not just saying this because I’m ‘family’ – but I’m glad I am.
Applications from artists wanting to be part of the Ventnor Fringe this summer are now open.