Lots of reasons for the music lover to have festive cheer this month says Ian Massey
It may be the lead-up to the festive season but the short days and miserable weather shouldn’t put you off heading out to see some of the fantastic live music available in York in December, including a handful of Christmas themed gigs.
If you are already in town, why not pay for a couple of extra hours car-parking, stick the Christmas shopping in the boot and head over to one of the city’s venues to support the local music scene?
Two very special events
I’m going to start this month’s round-up with two events that especially deserve your support.
Marc McGarraghy, under the guise of Yellow Mustang Photography, works as hard as anybody to promote the incredible musical talents to be found in York.
His photographs have graced publicity material, CD releases and websites (as well as bringing more than a touch of professionalism to my own reviews) and there barely seems to be a local musician that he doesn’t know.
Throughout December and stretching into January you can see Local And Live, an exhibition of his work, at the Fossgate Social.
The launch party will also feature performances from a raft of local artists, all of whom have featured in Marc’s pictures.
Pop along from 7.30 on the 5th of December, have a look at the pictures and take in music from Boss Caine, Unfinished Drawings, Two Reasons Why, Finch and the Moon, Alice Ostapjuk and Sophie McDonnell & Stu Allen.
The 19th also sees a local showcase in the form of the annual Boss Caine All Star Fibbers Festive Fundraiser, as some of the city’s musicians perform to raise money for charity.
This year’s event (the 14th Mr Lucas thinks, although he admits he has lost count) is set to raise money for the Jack Raine Foundation and hopes are that last year’s total of £1,300 will be beaten.
The line-up is fantastic, with Cardboard Radio and The Falling Spikes reforming for the gig and playing alongside Black Night Crash, Chris Helme and his band, Van Der Neer and Boss Caine himself/themselves.
Tickets are just £5. If you only go to one gig in December, this should probably be it.
Putting York’s musicians at the top of last month’s round-up seemed to go down well so I’ve decided that, barring special events, local headliners and support acts will be the main focus of this column in future.
I won’t be ignoring touring acts but you might have to read further to get to them. As I’ve mentioned before, York has such a wealth and diversity of talent. The scene deserves more attention and by heck is there a lot of good stuff around in December.
First off, you can experience the Merseybeat/ Brit-pop mix of one of my current favourites The Rodeo Falls, along with the happy poppiness of The Blueprints (a band I always seem to just miss seeing) as they support Man Made at Fibbers on the 4th.
Man Made themselves are fronted by Nile Marr, son of legendary Johnny, and the word is that they won’t be playing small venues for too much longer. Tickets are £5.
If you aren’t heading to the Fossgate Social on the 5th, you can choose from two other local acts.
Indie/ folk/ rockers Pelico, with special guest Nik Lowe, will be spreading some festive cheer at the Basement (£5).
The 6th sees Liverpudlian guitar-slingers Lives play Fibbers and support comes from three York bands that, I have to be honest, I haven’t heard of before.
Their album Canaries has been described as “a proper mix of rockabilly, scuzz pop, jangle and wonky rock” by BBC Introducing’s Jericho Keys (£5).
Unfortunately, while the line-up sounds intriguing, I won’t be adding to my local knowledge as I already have a date with energetic modern folk-rock proponents Blackbeard’s Tea Party at The Duchess (£5 adv/ £6 otd).
The rock band Vega probably can’t be said to be local but twins Tom and James Martin, who play guitar and keyboards respectively, were born in York.
With a third album – Stereo Messiah – out now (I really liked their debut – Kiss of Life – but haven’t picked up the others… yet), they will be supporting Joe Elliott’s Down N Outz at Fibbers on the 9th.
Yes, that is Def Leppard frontman and that probably accounts for the ticket price (£20).
A completely different sound can be found at The Basement on the same day when Ian Kay’s Soul Dream will bring you a set of Motown classics, as well as some of the less played hits of that era (£5).
There’s another reunion at Fibbers on the 12th when Idle Jack & The Big Sleep, the only York band I know of that play a theremin, come together to celebrate their tenth anniversary and showcase songs from Stone Tape Theory volumes 1 and 2.
Another fully local bill sees David Ward McLean and his band provide support (£6).
Fibbers again, and there’s a must-see gig for me on the 13th when Cloud Atlas take to the stage.
Part of the Mostly Autumn family tree, by way of Breathing Space and Stolen Earth, Cloud Atlas have defined their own sound of prog-rock with an Eastern influence.
Support for this comes from symphonic rockers Winter In Eden, a band I have wanted to see for a while (£10).
If you are looking for something a bit louder, head over to Fibbers on the 15th and you will find a bill that combines two York bands, Broken Skulls and The Bastard Sons, alongside two from America on a rock bill that has a degree of synchronicity in its makeup.
Rock and metal fans should head over and show some love for the local bands and a big welcome to the US ones (£9).
There is more rock, of the heavy and punk varieties, at Fibbers on the 20th when The Fear play a farewell show that was originally scheduled for earlier in the year.
Another bill made up entirely of local talent, none of which I have come across before, can be found at Fibbers on the 21st. Ashley James, alt-rockers This Resistance and lo-fi rockers The Silent Fears support rock and roll three-piece The Blue Dawns, who finish their 13 date December tour of England and Scotland with a hometown gig (£5).
Finally, shake off the Christmas dinner, Boxing Day leftover turkey sandwiches and mince pies by heading down to Fibbers (again) on the 27th to see York’s Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, Aynt Skynyrd, as they perform classics such as Sweet Home Alabama, Gimme Three Steps and the brilliant Freebird (£6).
It’s no surprise that there are a few festive concerts around the city this month.
The biggest sees South Yorkshire folk singer Kate Rusby performing new variations on familiar carols at the Barbican on the 12th (£22, £15 for under 16s).
Elsewhere, The Mellstock Band bring their costumed show of early instruments, song and spoken word, The Christmas Hearth, to the National Centre for Early Music on the 9th (£20, includes mince pies and mulled wine).
The same venue, on the 17th, plays host to Blast From The Past, who will be presenting medieval festive songs played on authentic instruments.
Songs and costumed stories promise a light-hearted evening for young and old alike (£12).
The best of the rest
I’ll be honest, there’s not a great deal more that catches my eye, but that doesn’t mean other people won’t be interested.
Big names, at least in the past, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel and Showaddywaddy, who have just celebrated 40 years in the music business, are both playing the Barbican, on the 13th and 19th respectively (£22.50 and £18.00, also respectively).
Drummer and occasional singer and composer for the legendary Ramones, Richie Ramone, is the biggest name appearing at The Basement this month.
Along with Leeds band The Idol Dead, will be appearing on the 19th (£14).
Finally, the Black Swan Folk Club has just two acts playing in December, and Martin Carthy has already sold out his two dates.
Anglo-French band The Churchfitters, however, still have tickets available, although demand means they are also playing two dates.
Catch them on either the 8th or 11th (£11).
A final word
As usual there is more. Not as much more as in other months, but still more. Open mic nights, free music in pubs and a handful of gigs that I haven’t mentioned, but which you might enjoy.
Feel free to comment if you think I have missed anything worthwhile.
All that remains is to wish everybody who reads this column a merry Christmas and happy New Year and, if I may, to suggest a New Year resolution – to support live music in 2015.