From a personal point of view, December sees family, friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues (and this year the return of a little-known film franchise – yes, I have interests outside of music…) vying for time that would usually be available for me to head out to gigs.
In some ways, then, I’m thankful that, as the years draws to a close, the number of gigs drops off. In others, there are some crackers that I genuinely wish I could get to.
Wish I Was Here
Earlier this year, York’s own Vesper Walk performed their Fallen Angel show on eight consecutive nights at the Edinburgh Fringe festival to good reviews and the accolade of being a “recommended show” on the Fringe Review website.
The show is a mix of music, dance and story-telling and draws upon multiple influences. One reviewer said that the style of music reminded him of “Camel, Marillion, Nick Drake, The Enid, opera, The Beatles and even Broadway”.
Given that three of those can be found in my CD collection, I am gutted that I can’t get to the Black Swan on either the 11th or 19th to see the final two performances of this highly original show before the girls lock themselves away to work on a new piece.
For the last couple of years I have managed to get along to Fibbers for the Annual Boss Caine Xmas Fundraiser.
As I understand it, the Boss himself doesn’t really “do” Christmas, but over the last 14 years he has brought together some of the finest local musical talent for a gig that raises money for charity – usually, I believe, local but this time to boost the coffers of Médecins Sans Frontières.
Sharing the bill with Boss Caine (and his usual host of musical friends) this year are Soma Crew, …And The Hangnails, The Blueprints and The Federals, along with). Sadly, this year, it takes place on the 18th, another date I can’t make.
I Will Be There
Regular readers will no doubt have noticed that I make no secret of my interest in progressive rock and I will definitely be ending the year with two gigs from that genre.
I only know Matt Berry as an actor from his appearances in The IT Crowd and previous mentions on what’s on listings, but a colleague has recommended him to me as a live musical act.
Looking at the Wikipedia entries for his various album, they are listed as prog rock (amongst other genres, all of which appeal to me) and that is usually enough to entice me along, probably with a handful of tenners and a plan to invest in some of those albums at the end of the gig.
The fact that Berry also opened for current Prog-god Steven Wilson at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year is further proof of his prog credentials.
His touring band, The Maypoles, includes former Bluetones frontman Mark Morris on guitar and they appear at Fibbers on the 5th.
I know more about Lifesigns, having seen them earlier this year (and, thus, being slightly surprised that they are back in York already) and already owning their, so far, only studio album.
Led by John Young, who has played with or for the likes of Bonnie Tyler, Scorpions and Asia and who has enough influence within the industry to get guest stars such as Steve Hackett, Thijs Van Leer and Jakko Jakszyk to play on that debut album, they provide a classic sound of keyboard-led prog rock.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again at Fibbers on the 12th, especially as support comes from York’s own Cloud Atlas.
Of course, there are a few Christmas-related shows on in the city this month.
Yorkshire folk singer Kate Rusby will be at The Barbican on the 17th to perform new variations on Christmas carols, along with songs from her three album releases.
This promises to be more of a festive event than just a gig. Expect Christmas jumpers and a lot of fun.
It’s not quite a Christmas gig but, at the Basement on the 20th David Ward Maclean will perform his regular end-of-year solstice concert.
The evening will be opened by Edwina Hayes, before David and special guests combine to play a selection of his own songs.
Vying for attention on the same evening is The Magical Christmas Tree at The Black Swan.
With a set list chosen by the audience, who pick scrolls from the magical tree, this should be a diverse and quirky evening of songs, carols and instrumentals from Pete Morton, Chris Parkinson and Emily Sanders.
Before all those, though, The National Centre for Early Music has its Christmas Festival.
Spanning the 4th to the 12th, this sees a number of concerts from acts as diverse as The European Union Baroque Orchestra (the 4th), L’Arcadia, featuring Ulrike Hofbauer, past winner of the York International Young Artists Competition (the 6th) and Ex Cathedra (the 11th).
Most, if not all, of the program is well outside my knowledge and comfort zone, but full details can be found here.
Bring It Home
There are opportunities to see some local bands throughout the month, including some you might have noticed on the streets of York and others that could be said to represent the more quirky aspects of the York music scene.
Indie rockers Glass Caves started the year busking in cities across the UK, then self-funded their debut album, Alive, and sold out most of the gigs on its launch tour.
They return to Fibbers on the 4th. On the same night, fellow buskers The Y Street Band will be playing at The Fulford Arms.
For those who like classic space rock, The Victoria Vaults will be playing host to two hours of Hawkwind covers from York tribute band Do Not Panic on the 5th.
Acoustic duo Sing Ramona Sing, who have just released their second EP – Fuel For The Fire – can be seen at The Basement on the 19th.
Disco Mister, the two teachers from York whose Bring It Home football anthem was the only new England song to break the Official Singles Chart during 2014’s World Cup, will be at the same venue on the 22nd.
As far as I can see, there are no international acts visiting York in December (apart from those at the NCEM), but there are still opportunities to see artistes from further afield, including a mini-invasion of frontmen.
Unusually for The Black Swan Folk Club, they have a Wednesday night gig as Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan plays a two-night “residency” of traditional songs, modern covers and originals at the venue on the 2nd and 3rd.
The music of Coventry’s 2 Tone Ska revival band The Selecter brings back memories of my school days and, for me, wondering what the madness of ska was all about. (Do you see what I did there?) Fans of the genre can catch them when they appear at The Duchess on the 3rd.
The Black Swan Folk Club and promoter Please Please You have combined to bring Scottish band Shooglenifty to York on the 13th, specifically to The Crescent (off Blossom Street), during the band’s 25th anniversary year.
A mix of traditional Scottish dance music and more contemporary beats, and described at least once as “hypno-folkadelic-ambient-trad”, this is more of a get-on-your-feet-and-join-in type of gig than the usual Black Swan fare, hence the change of venue.
As to those frontmen… John Bramwell, from Manchester’s I Am Kloot appears at The Basement on the 6th, while Tyla J Pallas, the only constant in the 30-plus year fractured history of London’s Dogs D’Amour, will be performing a full band, electric set at The Fulford Arms on the 17th.
Support comes from Boss Caine, and Terrorvision’s Tony Wright will be at the same venue on the 20th.
A final word
As usual, that is just a flavour. There are other gigs at all the venues I have mentioned above, as well as the many free gigs and open mic nights at the various bars and pubs throughout the city.
Check out The Roman Bath, The Spread Eagle and The Habit (just three examples) if you fancy some free music with your beer.
Below is a chronological list of the main gigs I covered above. All details are correct at time of putting this column together and ticket prices are as advertised. Paying on the door at Fibbers will cost a pound or two more.
|2nd||Dick Gaughan||The Black Swan||£12|
|3rd||The Selector||The Duchess||£16.50|
|Dick Gaughan||The Black Swan||£12|
|The Y Street Band||The Fulford Arms||Free|
|5th||Matt Berry and The Maypoles||Fibbers||£17.50|
|6th||John Bramwell||The Basement||£16|
|11th||Vesper Walk – Fallen Angel show||The Black Swan||£4 adv/£6 otd|
|13th||Shooglenifty||The Crescent||£15 adv/£17.50 otd|
|17th||Kate Rusby||The Barbican||£26.88 (£17 for under 16s)|
|Tyla J Pallas||The Fulford Arms||£11|
|18th||Annual Boss Caine Xmas Fundraiser||Fibbers||£5|
|Sing Ramona Sing||The Basement||£5|
|Vesper Walk – Fallen Angel Show||The Black Swan||£4 adv / £6 otd|
|20th||David Ward Maclean||The Basement||£8 adv/£10 otd|
|The Magical Christmas Tree||The Black Swan||£11|
|Tony Wright||The Fulford Arms||£11|