RockShot Mag recently headed out to South London’s Clapham on a sunny weekend for a very special event. Past the famous Common and the drinkers unwinding in the mottled sunlight was The Omnibus Theatre, an elegant host for Music Makers Festival.
A two-day independent music event curated with love by London-based musician Albert Man and his manager and co-organiser Manoja Ullmann, Music Makers’ concept derives from their aspiration to give independent artists an opportunity to showcase their talents to a wider audience. Albert and Manoja know the importance of having a community to support the independent music scene and called on musicians they have personally collaborated with or know through their work to perform.
Kicking off proceedings was UK singer-songwriter Steve Young and his band, performing country music with an acoustic pop/folk twist. Steve began his career as session guitarist and over the past few years has made the globe his musical home, his nomadic adventures spent playing alongside a host of artists including Lionel Richie and Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes. Recently his own magnetic blend of acoustic pop, blues, rock and alternative country has drawn the attention it deserves.
Opening track In My Dreams from 2016’s Troubadour album has enjoyed airplay by Radio 2’s legendary Bob Harris amongst others. Steve has a warm, acoustically driven sound and a poetic mix of lyrics which immediately captivates. Trembling Heart was a standout track and Integrity, from 2014’s debut EP Little Things was bluesy with charming hooks. Steve’s performance was witty and relaxed, reinforced by his rich and effortless voice. It takes a brave musician to cover Pink Floyd, but Steve executed a great version of Shine on You Crazy Diamond, the first song he learnt to play in 1989.
Closing track Back to Mine was a funky, thumping ending to a memorable set with a stunning guitar solo. His White Label EP, only available to buy through Pledge Music, is out soon.
London-based singer-songwriter Matt Perriment was up next, bringing an immersive blend of alt/folk indie-influenced sound to the stage. He performed tracks from his debut full band EP Everlast and is fresh from a European tour supporting Josh Savage. Cattle Bay, penned while travelling on London’s Underground, is about the woeful number of people doing the jobs they hate (“the message is do what you love!” he said with a grin).
He performed a distinctive set that showcased melodic song-writing and meaningful lyrics, with tracks including It’s Too Late Tomorrow and Distance. Even his guitar tuning was soothing. Matt is about to embark on a tour of New Zealand in October where no doubt his intricate and engaging style will win over new fans.
Succeeding Matt was London-born, New-York based artist Adam Masterson whose debut album One Tale Too Many amassed critical praise and features Van Morrison alumni and session musicians. Although no stranger to performing with well-knowns (he has opened for Stereophonics in both London and Cardiff, supported Tori Amos in the UK and the US and shared the bill with Amy Winehouse) I was particularly struck by his own resonant sound, inventive lyrics and cool personal style which had parallels with the 1960s and brought to mind The Kinks.
Adam’s inspiring set included Farewell Blue Eyes and Jasmine and, really, the tracks could have dropped down from any time or place. With a new album being recorded, it’s exciting to see what’s coming next.
The Omnibus Theatre was the perfect venue for this festival, with an intimate stage that perfectly framed the artists and rows of theatre seats in perfect symmetry. In between acts, the main bar was full of festival goers, press and artists and guests were invited to tinkle on the Grand Piano. The event was masterfully MC’d by musician, poet and host Johnny Marriott and interviewer and Sofar Sounds MC Sofia Loporcaro.
I had been lucky enough to sit close to Tony Moore during Adam Masterson‘s set and he had such a comfortable ease about him. What I didn’t realise was that I was in the company of such a hard-working seminal musician and entrepreneur; ex-Iron Maiden and The Cutting Crew member, manager, producer, promoter and creator of influential The Kashmir Klub (where he gave Adam Masterson his first gig 19 years ago) all feature on his eclectic CV to date.
Tony is a confident and engaging performer and with just himself, a digital drummer and a solid, proper rock ’n’ roll set he didn’t need much else – the crowd loved him. His exciting slot included the tracks Waiting, the moving So Many Ways (Of Missing You) and The Best Day Of Your Life which offered a wise philosophy about not living in the past and appreciating the moment, all punctuated with some some classic call and response with the audience. A new album is imminent from the ‘Renaissance Man of Rock’ and it’s just what the world needs right now.
Belle Roscoe are Melburnian siblings Julia and Matty Gurry, usually backed by a five to six piece band, but in duet form for Music Makers. They have built a dedicated underground following in Europe for the past few years and hit the festival scene hard. Their rousing new wave indie folk/rock sound has been defined with the help of collaborations with musicians such as Stromae and legendary US producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins and Father John Misty).
They created a great atmosphere from the start; joking with the sound technician, offering witty track introductions and finishing off each other’s sentences. Kicking off with Side Stepping, their twin acoustic guitars and smoky vocals were complimented by thumping percussion. They exude an effortless vibe, simmering somewhere between Fleetwood Mac and Arcade Fire and even when Matty’s guitar string broke they were unfazed. Another guitar was placed quietly on the stage (from headliners Prose it turns out) proving how strong the sense of community is amongst independent musicians. “You’re not getting it back” quipped Matty as they performed Gun to My Head. It was an epic set, including the stomping, bluesy Let Me Cut In, sprinkled with anecdotes from their time living and working in Paris, and included tracks from 2016’s self titled EP as well as being a platform to debut new material from their forthcoming new album. Lucky us.
Much praise has been lavished on Dani Sylvia, and rightly so. Winner of 2016 Unsigned Music Awards ‘Best Songwriter’ award, Dani has proved herself an exciting presence on the music scene and has performed with Tom Jones and Paloma Faith. She has a richly soulful voice and expansive vocal range, with honest and relatable lyrics. Dani’s set was engaging, rousing and emotional, and aside from Free from recently released Monologues EP, she debuted tracks from her forthcoming debut album Tall Tales, giving the audience a tantalising take of her new material. With Dark Blue, Dani gives a powerful, from-the-heart performance and December starts slow then hits you with a soulful uplift. Impressive stuff, and although it’s a phrase that’s often easily banded around, Dani is definitely one to watch.
Penultimate act Up Down Go Machine are London-based Sam Martin (drums) Stephen Hallwood (vocals/guitar), his sibling Rita Hallwood (keys/main backing vocals) and Stephen Plumb (bass/vocals) hailing via from Wales, via Lincolnshire and Kent. For Music Makers it was just Sam and Stephen weaving delicate folk melodies around a stripped back, acoustic guitar led sound with percussion for extra intensity. With definite nods to Jeff Buckley and Ray La Montagne, but without sacrificing their Celtic roots, it was a strong and memorable performance. New single The Gambler is out now.
Soon it was time for headliners Prose to conclude an epic first day. The Mancunian trio have been compared to The Streets and Plan B with a unique fusion of hip-hop, acoustic guitar and beats that offers a canny observation on life and touches upon some very personal subjects. I caught Beats maker/producer Dave Stone, rapper Mike Murray, guitarist Lee Royle and Steve Hermitt earlier in the evening as they played an impromptu set around the Theatre’s piano and it was captivating.
Their debut album Home of The Brave was released last July to critical acclaim and they have continued to sell out shows and gain early radio plays from DJs such as Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Radio X’s John Kennedy. It was a fitting end to a festival that celebrates independent music and homemade talent.
Day two featured Mark Sullivan, Tara Lee, Brian McGovern, Anna Pancaldi, The City and Us, Tom Speight, Michele Stodart and Albert Man himself.
Manoja Ullmann and Albert Man should be applauded. They have singlehandedly created a fresh, creative celebration of independent music. Each artist was memorable in their own right but it is a testament to Manoja and Albert’s skilful curation that each act blended seamlessly; there was a lovely fluidity to the festival. As Tony Moore used to say at The Kashmir Klub “…there’s no cover charge. All you have to pay is attention” and I’m so glad I did.
This is music that moves you. All hail the music makers.
Live Review by Nicola Greenbrook at Music Makers Festival 5th & 6th August 2017.
Nicola has her own Music, Fashion and Lifestyle website, Material Whirl.
Photography by Paul Lyme