Event: Music Makers Festival
Date: 6th - 7th October, 2018
Location: The Half Moon, Putney, London
Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
The Music Makers festival in just it’s second year is rapidly becoming one of the premier events on the London music calendar. It wonderfully showcases the ‘songwriter and the song’, with original music the main focus. But with the occasional cover song added for good measure.
With 14 acts performing over two days the festival had an excellent new home at the historic music venue The Half Moon in Putney. The festival also highlighted the great talent and high quality music we currently have in the independent music world. Albert and Manoja even managed to add a few surprise guests into the already fantastic line-up.
The festival opened with a fantastic young St. Albans based singer-songwriter Hope, with her beautifully crafted reflective piano ballads and pure vocals. Playing a mix of original material and a Nora Jones cover, Hope created the perfect opener with her very compelling performance. She mentioned that her father used to drink in The Half Moon in his university days, so it was very fitting that she had the opportunity to perform at the venue. Hope will also be supporting Brian McFadden at The Boisdale in Canary Wharf in early November.
Travelling over from Cork was one of Ireland’s most prolific singer-songwriters Jack O’Rouke. Dramatic and powerful piano ballads were the order of the day. A great mix of contemporary folk, blues, jazz and Americana, including an anthem for the recent marriage referendum in Ireland and a wonderful cover of Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’ to finish.
Next up were the fast rising London based Country Pop and Americana band Two Ways Home. This time the band was playing in trio format with Lewis, Isi and Michael, which I thought worked very well. Gaining a lot of experience from running their own London Nashville style ‘Songwriter In The Round’ show ‘The Round Up’, they were perfectly at home on the Half Moon stage. Performing a mix of new and older songs they explained the origins their compositions, including some recent co-writes in Nashville including ‘Hope & Glory’ and ‘Vegas Wheel’. Their set ended with the the audience singing along to the very catchy ‘Push & Pull’.
Travelling up from Brighton was Jacko Hooper who has supported both James Bay and James Blunt on tour. Jacko had not performed in London for over a year, so it was a rare opportunity to catch him live. His songs reminded me of Damien Rice and Glen Hansard. One of the highlight of his set was the duet ‘Runaway With Me’ with special guest Rebecca Wrangler.
It was only fitting that one of the wonderful key organisers of the MM festival the award winning Albert Man took to the stage next. Joined by Dan on bass and Joe on drums Albert played a selection of new songs including ‘Chasing Rainbows’, ‘Blink’ and some old favourites ‘Shotgun’, ‘Say Out Loud’ and ‘Groundhog Day’.
One of my favourite bands of the day were the Treetop Flyers, a Folk-Rock/Americana band from London. Playing a rocky bluesy stripped set with just two members and one sitting in the audience. Super songs, guitar playing and vocals. They are supporting Israel Nash at the Scala soon and I would highly recommend booking a ticket. Also please check out their recently released self titled album.
The evening concluded with an excellent set by London based four-piece AKA George. Full of catchy songs, driving rhythms and a electrifying stage presence, they reminded me of the sadly missed INXS. Hailed as a ‘genius’ by Pharell Williams, AKA George is current gaining a lot of recognition with 30 million YouTube views, a headline performance one one of the stages at Glastonbury and one of the band singles ‘Stone Cold Classic’ used on a recent Skoda advert. Definitely one to watch for the future.
The Sunday programme began in a similar way to Saturday with an excellent opening set from a young singer-songwriter, this time the very talented Lucy May Walker. Lucy is based in London but is originally from Redditch. You will often find Lucy busking around London including at the famous Southbank. Armed with her trusty acoustic guitar and thoughtful catchy songs she charmed the audience. One of the highlights of her set was her song about London living ‘You’re Not Alone', which she entered into a London song competition. Lucy will be having a live session and interview with Jeremy Vine on his BBC Radio 2 show on the 31st October. Also please check out her latest EP ‘Heartbreak Songs’
Also joining us from the Emerald Isle was Irish singer-songwriter Declan Greene. With great craic and a rich powerful vocal Declan was a charming and engaging showman. Opening his set with a powerful unaccompanied song and then picking up his acoustic guitar for the rest of the set. Songs included ‘River’, ‘Clean Break’ and a cover of the Moody Blues ‘Nights In White Satin’. The last song saw Declan play his song ‘Stay’ unplugged in the middle of the audience, exiting the packed room with the audience still singing along to the chorus.
London based singer-songwriter Mide and his band provided a change of style with their combination of smooth Soul, R&B and Rock, joined my fellow band members Joseph and Michael. Mide played a great set including ‘Name’ which he said was great for weddings, the rocky uptempo toe-tapper ‘The Way You Move’, a tribute to his father ‘Wind Chimes’ and two lovely songs about love ‘Wonder’ and ‘Falling For You’.
As a surprise the very talented Dublin born Gavin James performed a great two song mini-set. First with his song ‘Always’ on acoustic guitar, which he described as the ‘saddest song ever’ and then a lively duet with Declan on the Bruce Springsteen classic ‘Dancing In The Dark’.
The very classy Danni Nicholls always makes in impression with her great brand of UK Americana. She was nominated as ‘Artist of The Year’ at the recent AMA UK awards and it isn’t to difficult to understand why. Danni is currently working on her third studio album and from what I’ve already heard it is going to be very special. Her set included songs from the new album ‘Loosing It’ and ‘Ancient Embers’ as well as a few older favourites ‘Hey There Sunshine’, ‘Beautifully Broken’, ‘Back To Memphis’, ‘Long Road Home’. To finish ‘A Little Redemption’ which is based on a hymn, had all the audience joining in on the humming section.
Continuing the high quality music was London based Howard Rose with his brand of Soul and Country Rock n Roll. Howard was joined on stage by band members Joe Cartwright (bass) and Damon Claridge (drums). An excellent set including songs from his latest EP ‘Changes’ and a great cover of Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without You’
Mercury nominated Michele Stodart of The Magic Numbers is always a class act. With her 1964 Gibson Hummingbird in hand she treated the audience to new songs and songs from her solo album. She was joined by band members CJ James on drums and Andy Bruce on keys/bass. Listening to her set was a perfect way to spend a chilled Sunday night.
Closing the festival was another Irish singer-songwriter Kim Hayden from Wicklow and her band. Kim was a semi-finalist on the TV series ‘The Voice Of Ireland’ and see mentioned that it was her first time performing in London. Joining her on stage were Gus Crawford Collins, Geoff Warner-Clayton and brothers Ben and Ian Cully. Kim said that her drummer is from Putney, so he was playing on home turf. Often sharing the lead vocals with Ben, Kim played a lovely and entertaining set of her songs including her new single ‘Trouble’.
A special thank you to MMF founders Albert Mann and Manoja Ullmann for arranging, organising and hosting such a great festival. To Ross Macintyre (Play That Country Music) who did a a great job MCing and interviewing the artists and to all the hard-working MMF team. A special thanks also to Nina Jackson and her team at The Half Moon including sound engineer Linnea Kempe, who I thought did a fantastic job all weekend.
I can’t wait until the next one, a definite date for your 2019 diary.