Listings

    No events to show

Follow

Twitter

|

Facebook

|

MySpace

|

Last.fm

RSS

Subscribe

Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Live Music Review: TV Nights

A nu-folk night at Ronnie Scott's? Whatever next! Luckily for us it was a joy from start to finish, and gave us a sneak peek at the exceptional talent emerging from the current folk scene.

Written by Rachel Clare

Bobbin Bicycles wall
Natasha-Thompson-Bobbins-Bicycles-Girl-Cape-Illustration
Bobbin Bicycles by Natasha Thompson.

I first heard of Bobbin Bicycles just over three years ago, shop when as a nascent bespoke bike company they contacted me to suggest featuring some of their imported upright Dutch bicycles in my Amelia’s Magazine fashion spreads. This was a canny move from husband and wife team Tom Morris and Sian Emmison because I am a big fan of cycling and we shot Bobbin Bicycles several times for the final print issues of the magazine.

Bobbin Bicycles tom and sian
Tom and Sian in Bobbin Bicycles. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Today Bobbin Bicycles has grown into a well known business that employs six people and is set to open a bespoke and vintage bike repair workshop. They’re launching their own brand of upright Bobbin Bicycles in Australia, visit this to be followed shortly thereafter in the USA and are set to produce their own brand of Bobbin Bicycles branded panniers and capes. They’ve quickly become the go to people for the kind of upright bicycle that is increasingly favoured by townie types looking for sturdiness and style, buy information pills and indeed they’re so busy that Sian barely has time to say hello as she poses for a photo before returning to the phones in her subterranean office below their lovely shop in St John Street, Islington in North London. Instead I catch up with the lovely Tom in the basement of their bulging store to find out a little bit more about Bobbin Bicycles.

Alexis-West-Bobbin-Bicycles-tom morris
Tom Morris by Alexis West.

The love affair with bikes (and with each other) began long ago in Amsterdam.
Both Tom and Sian were fine artists living abroad who fell in love with riding Dutch bikes. It was about a whole lifestyle that was old fashioned, elegant, relaxed and most of all sociable, for in Amsterdam it is not uncommon to ride in groups and chit chat along the way. They were commissioned to film a bike race for the Dutch Arts Council, and the rest, as they like to say, is history.

Fast forward to 2001. London. The daily grind.
On their return home to the big smoke Tom found work in advertising, and Sian worked for cult furniture company SGP, which is based on Curtain Road. But they dreamed of something more… and so in-between freelance work they started to import bikes from Holland. At first this meant touring around Holland in a van to pick up bikes which they shipped back to the UK to sell from a storage unit. Within weeks they had moved onto Eyre Street Hill in Farringdon, where they shared a space with watchmakers and jewellers.

Bobbin Bicycles bells

Their glamourous “atelier showroom” was a bit like Turkish gambling den.
No one else had thought to specialise in Dutch bikes and soon their appointment only showroom was so popular they were selling ten bikes a day. Being well schooled in the ways of branding they targeted their customers with great care: Tom draped a curtain over the grottier bits of the workshop and played nice music. Customers got the “wow” factor when coming in off the street and soon the national newspapers started to call when they wanted a story about upright bikes.

Pashley began to stalk them.
Bobbin Bicycles had moved to Arlington Way by the time that Pashley paid them a secret visit. Thinking that not everyone wants a Dutch bike Tom had already approached the well known British brand, but he was unaware of the mutual interest. Pashleys are smaller in size and offer more gears, plus they offer the added bonus of all British manufacture UK. Fast forward to 2010: Bobbin Bicycles now operates from a lovely little shop in Angel and is one of over 100 UK stockists of Pashleys, but who else can boast their very own exclusive colour range? At Bobbin Bicycles you can now pick up the Pashley Provence in a special mint or mustard colourway.

Bobbin Bicycles

Upright bikes have become a lot more fashionable of late.
As more cyclists take to the roads many are choosing to ride sit-up-and-beg bikes of the type that Bobbin Bicycles sell, and lots more bike manufacturers are “having a pop” at simple upright bikes. Downstairs Tom shows me some new Globe bikes made by the huge company Specialised. People are now making appointments to visit Bobbin Bicycles from as far away as LA and Russia. *NB: I do not condone travelling across the world to purchase a bike. But definitely buy a bike. Everyone should have one.

Bobbin Bicycles baskets
Piles of baskets in the basement of the shop.

Steel or aluminium? Why, what’s the difference?
Pashleys are made with a beautiful thin lugged steel frame, but most modern bikes are made from lightweight aluminium that makes for a more juddery ride, though they are definitely not as heavy when lifting up steps. Bobbin Bicycles can cater to all your upright wishes and stock a huge range of brands including the wonderfully named Swedish Skeppshult.

London has way more cycling tribes than other cities.
In other cities the cyclists tend to look quite homogeneous, but here in London we have many different identifiable types. Tom was amongst the first to label the big three cycling tribes for an article in the Independent. The Traditional, Fold-up and Fixie tribes can now be broken into multiple subsets and mash ups, including the Fixed Tweed tribe.

Tweed Run by Emma Raby
Tweed Run by Emma Raby.

Bobbin Bicycles ran a tea stop for this year’s Tweed Run.
The Tweed Run is perfectly Bobbin: an annual celebration of all things upright and traditional about cycling. This year they presented a prize for the best decorated bike to a lady from Holland, who arrived with an old 70s shopper decorated with a multicoloured knitted saddle cover and matching dress guards on the back wheels.

Tweed run by Maria del carmensmith
The winning bike by Maria del Carmen Smith.

Boris bikes. Good news for Bobbin Bicycles.
Tom loves the idea of cycling into town on Boris bike and then getting a cab back. Or simply having the option to avoid the horrors of the night bus. Even though the amount of money spent on cycling in the UK is a fraction of what is spent in countries such as Denmark, Holland and Germany the new London bike scheme will undoubtedly encourage more people to cycle. Here’s how it goes: people will try them out instead of investing in a cheap bike from Halfords. Once they get into the idea of cycling they will realise how heavy and unwieldy the Boris bikes are and will decide to graduate onto something nicer. Hopefully a Bobbin Bicycle, for instance.

boris bike by vicky yates
Boris Bike by Vicky Yates.

Collaborations are good fun.
In the cabinet behind me are wonderful bowler and deerstalker hats designed to fit over helmets. They were made by the historically influenced milliner Eloise Moody, who has also created a sexy reflective nurses cape. Bobbin Bicycles will launch their own range of panniers and capes for spring 2011, and the shop stocks lots of small boutique brands you would not find elsewhere. They’ve provided bikes for a Mark Ronson video and the newspapers always come knocking when they want to borrow a pretty upright.

Abi Daker - Eloise Moody - bikes
Eloise Moody by Abigail Daker.

They are moving back to Arlington Way.
Well, in a manner of speaking. The shop in Angel is bursting at the seams and they’ve decided to open a new workshop on Arlington Way in October, just three doors down from their previous location. Dedicated Bobbin mechanics will specialise in the servicing of vintage bikes and hard to get components such as hub gears. But all cyclists will be welcome.

Bobbin Bicycles jewellery
Bobbin Bicycles jewellery.

Vintage Goodwood here we come.
Bobbin Bicycles have provided Vintage at Goodwood with a fleet of promotional bikes so that they can flyer all over town. They have a pitch at the festival alongside the Old Bicycle Company from Essex – which specialises in Penny Farthings. Sadly, here we don’t come. Amelia’s Magazine has not been made welcome at Vintage at Goodwood.

The independent bike shops all get along.
And why not? They all specialise in their own thing, and quite often a boyfriend and girlfriend will come into Bobbin Bicycles with different ideas of what they want to ride. The girl wants an upright, the boy wants a fix. So they send him down the road to Condor Cycles or up the road to Mosquito. Yes, 80% of their customers are female, possibly down to the attitude and service of Bobbin staff, which is deliberately very accessible and non technology based.

Winter Cycling by Joana Faria
Winter Cycling by Joana Faria.

Top tips for autumn and winter cycling.
Many people are merely fair weather cyclists (not me!) but cycling through the British winter will keep you warm. You’ll arrive at work with a good feeling inside, blood pumping, ready to get down to business: you don’t get that sitting on an overheated bus. But make sure you have decent lights because they’ll make you feel really smug when it gets dark early. Get a good cape to whack over the top of your clothes if it’s raining. Waterproof trousers are not a good look but leather jackets are. They keep the wind out and they look good too. Stay on your bikes! Honestly, it’s by the far the best way to travel at all times of the year. And I speak from experience.

You can visit the friendly staff at Bobbin Bicycles at 397 St John Street, London, EC1V 4LD or you can drool over their website here. And do say hello at Vintage at Goodwood.

Bobbin Bicycles SHOP

Natasha-Thompson-Bobbins-Bicycles-Girl-Cape-Illustration
Bobbin Bicycles by Natasha Thompson.

I first heard of Bobbin Bicycles just over three years ago, no rx when as a nascent bespoke bike company they contacted me to suggest featuring some of their imported upright Dutch bicycles in my Amelia’s Magazine fashion spreads. This was a canny move from husband and wife team Tom Morris and Sian Emmison because I am a big fan of cycling and we shot Bobbin Bicycles several times for the final print issues of the magazine.

Bobbin Bicycles tom and sian
Tom and Sian in Bobbin Bicycles. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Today Bobbin Bicycles has grown into a well known business that employs six people and is set to open a bespoke and vintage bike repair workshop. They’re launching their own brand of upright Bobbin Bicycles in Australia, page to be followed shortly thereafter in the USA and are set to produce their own brand of Bobbin Bicycles branded panniers and capes. They’ve quickly become the go to people for the kind of upright bicycle that is increasingly favoured by townie types looking for sturdiness and style, dosage and indeed they’re so busy that Sian barely has time to say hello as she poses for a photo before returning to the phones in her subterranean office below their lovely shop in St John Street, Islington in North London. Instead I catch up with the lovely Tom in the basement of their bulging store to find out a little bit more about Bobbin Bicycles.

Alexis-West-Bobbin-Bicycles-tom morris
Tom Morris by Alexis West.

The love affair with bikes (and with each other) began long ago in Amsterdam.
Both Tom and Sian were fine artists living abroad who fell in love with riding Dutch bikes. It was about a whole lifestyle that was old fashioned, elegant, relaxed and most of all sociable, for in Amsterdam it is not uncommon to ride in groups and chit chat along the way. They were commissioned to film a bike race for the Dutch Arts Council, and the rest, as they like to say, is history.

Fast forward to 2001. London. The daily grind.
On their return home to the big smoke Tom found work in advertising, and Sian worked for cult furniture company SGP, which is based on Curtain Road. But they dreamed of something more… and so in-between freelance work they started to import bikes from Holland. At first this meant touring around Holland in a van to pick up bikes which they shipped back to the UK to sell from a storage unit. Within weeks they had moved onto Eyre Street Hill in Farringdon, where they shared a space with watchmakers and jewellers.

Bobbin Bicycles bells

Their glamourous “atelier showroom” was a bit like Turkish gambling den.
No one else had thought to specialise in Dutch bikes and soon their appointment only showroom was so popular they were selling ten bikes a day. Being well schooled in the ways of branding they targeted their customers with great care: Tom draped a curtain over the grottier bits of the workshop and played nice music. Customers got the “wow” factor when coming in off the street and soon the national newspapers started to call when they wanted a story about upright bikes.

Pashley began to stalk them.
Bobbin Bicycles had moved to Arlington Way by the time that Pashley paid them a secret visit. Thinking that not everyone wants a Dutch bike Tom had already approached the well known British brand, but he was unaware of the mutual interest. Pashleys are smaller in size and offer more gears, plus they offer the added bonus of all British manufacture UK. Fast forward to 2010: Bobbin Bicycles now operates from a lovely little shop in Angel and is one of over 100 UK stockists of Pashleys, but who else can boast their very own exclusive colour range? At Bobbin Bicycles you can now pick up the Pashley Provence in a special mint or mustard colourway.

Bobbin Bicycles

Upright bikes have become a lot more fashionable of late.
As more cyclists take to the roads many are choosing to ride sit-up-and-beg bikes of the type that Bobbin Bicycles sell, and lots more bike manufacturers are “having a pop” at simple upright bikes. Downstairs Tom shows me some new Globe bikes made by the huge company Specialised. People are now making appointments to visit Bobbin Bicycles from as far away as LA and Russia. *NB: I do not condone travelling across the world to purchase a bike. But definitely buy a bike. Everyone should have one.

Bobbin Bicycles baskets
Piles of baskets in the basement of the shop.

Steel or aluminium? Why, what’s the difference?
Pashleys are made with a beautiful thin lugged steel frame, but most modern bikes are made from lightweight aluminium that makes for a more juddery ride, though they are definitely not as heavy when lifting up steps. Bobbin Bicycles can cater to all your upright wishes and stock a huge range of brands including the wonderfully named Swedish Skeppshult.

London has way more cycling tribes than other cities.
In other cities the cyclists tend to look quite homogeneous, but here in London we have many different identifiable types. Tom was amongst the first to label the big three cycling tribes for an article in the Independent. The Traditional, Fold-up and Fixie tribes can now be broken into multiple subsets and mash ups, including the Fixed Tweed tribe.

Tweed Run by Emma Raby
Tweed Run by Emma Raby.

Bobbin Bicycles ran a tea stop for this year’s Tweed Run.
The Tweed Run is perfectly Bobbin: an annual celebration of all things upright and traditional about cycling. This year they presented a prize for the best decorated bike to a lady from Holland, who arrived with an old 70s shopper decorated with a multicoloured knitted saddle cover and matching dress guards on the back wheels.

Tweed run by Maria del carmensmith
The winning bike by Maria del Carmen Smith.

Boris bikes. Good news for Bobbin Bicycles.
Tom loves the idea of cycling into town on Boris bike and then getting a cab back. Or simply having the option to avoid the horrors of the night bus. Even though the amount of money spent on cycling in the UK is a fraction of what is spent in countries such as Denmark, Holland and Germany the new London bike scheme will undoubtedly encourage more people to cycle. Here’s how it goes: people will try them out instead of investing in a cheap bike from Halfords. Once they get into the idea of cycling they will realise how heavy and unwieldy the Boris bikes are and will decide to graduate onto something nicer. Hopefully a Bobbin Bicycle, for instance.

boris bike by vicky yates
Boris Bike by Vicky Yates.

Collaborations are good fun.
In the cabinet behind me are wonderful bowler and deerstalker hats designed to fit over helmets. They were made by the historically influenced milliner Eloise Moody, who has also created a sexy reflective nurses cape. Bobbin Bicycles will launch their own range of panniers and capes for spring 2011, and the shop stocks lots of small boutique brands you would not find elsewhere. They’ve provided bikes for a Mark Ronson video and the newspapers always come knocking when they want to borrow a pretty upright.

Abi Daker - Eloise Moody - bikes
Eloise Moody by Abigail Daker.

They are moving back to Arlington Way.
Well, in a manner of speaking. The shop in Angel is bursting at the seams and they’ve decided to open a new workshop on Arlington Way in October, just three doors down from their previous location. Dedicated Bobbin mechanics will specialise in the servicing of vintage bikes and hard to get components such as hub gears. But all cyclists will be welcome.

Bobbin Bicycles jewellery
Bobbin Bicycles jewellery.

Vintage Goodwood here we come.
Bobbin Bicycles have provided Vintage at Goodwood with a fleet of promotional bikes so that they can flyer all over town. They have a pitch at the festival alongside the Old Bicycle Company from Essex – which specialises in Penny Farthings. Sadly, here we don’t come. Amelia’s Magazine has not been made welcome at Vintage at Goodwood.

Bobbin Bicycles wall

The independent bike shops all get along.
And why not? They all specialise in their own thing, and quite often a boyfriend and girlfriend will come into Bobbin Bicycles with different ideas of what they want to ride. The girl wants an upright, the boy wants a fix. So they send him down the road to Condor Cycles or up the road to Mosquito. Yes, 80% of their customers are female, possibly down to the attitude and service of Bobbin staff, which is deliberately very accessible and non technology based.

Winter Cycling by Joana Faria
Winter Cycling by Joana Faria.

Top tips for autumn and winter cycling.
Many people are merely fair weather cyclists (not me!) but cycling through the British winter will keep you warm. You’ll arrive at work with a good feeling inside, blood pumping, ready to get down to business: you don’t get that sitting on an overheated bus. But make sure you have decent lights because they’ll make you feel really smug when it gets dark early. Get a good cape to whack over the top of your clothes if it’s raining. Waterproof trousers are not a good look but leather jackets are. They keep the wind out and they look good too. Stay on your bikes! Honestly, it’s by the far the best way to travel at all times of the year. And I speak from experience.

You can visit the friendly staff at Bobbin Bicycles at 397 St John Street, London, EC1V 4LD or you can drool over their website here. And do say hello at Vintage at Goodwood.

Bobbin Bicycles SHOP

Natasha-Thompson-Vintage-Goodwood-Illustration
Vintage at Goodwood by Natasha Thompson.

I must admit, approved I’ve had my reservations from the start. Right from the moment when they wheeled out that universally irritating celebrity known as Lily Allen. Young, for sale rich, famous and by all accounts a pain in the butt. Best known amongst the vintage community for out-bidding everyone else on all the best clothes at auction. Admittedly the closest I have ever got to Lily Allen was when she nonchalantly flicked cigarette ash on me as I passed her huge chauffeur driven four wheel drive on my bike one day last summer. But I think this tells me enough.

Vintage at Goodwood is a new festival. A new festival afloat in the sea of other festivals now populating British weekends throughout the summer months. Not a weekend goes by without at least two or three wonderful festivals that I know about to chose from, and many others that I don’t. Trying to find a niche market that hasn’t already spent as much as they can afford on summer festival frivolities is surely not an easy thing to do. Not surprisingly Vintage at Goodwood hasn’t sold out in it’s first year.

lilyallen-vintage dress(by cat sims)
Lily Allen in a vintage dress by Cat Sims.

So, they’ve done a notably huge amount of advertising – plastering everything from Bobbin Bicycles to bus billboards with the distinctive Vintage at Goodwood posters, which proclaim a festival that places as much emphasis on art, fashion, film and design as it does on music. All well and good, it’s a trend pioneered by the likes of Latitude and Secret Garden Party, but I’ve yet to fathom exactly how the mix works this time round. The only emphasis I can see has been on ‘curating’ a very large shopping area: even John Lewis gets a presence on their old-fashioned High Street.

Vintage at Goodwood poster
A Vintage at Goodwood poster near Brick Lane.

And who, exactly, is the “glamping” crowd they want to attract? “Vintage” as a lifestyle choice is something wholeheartedly embraced by people on a budget who like to champion an individualistic, upcycling, DIY aesthetic. Many of my readers for instance. Why, I’ve been wearing Chazza clothes since I could walk into a shop. Beyond Retro is my local store. Okay, since from about 1999 I’ve mainly favoured clothes from the 1980s over anything earlier, but today even this most silly of decades gets the Vintage treatment at Vintage at Goodwood.

But the Goodwood Estate also hosts Goodwood Revival – a glamourous motoring and aviation event aimed at people with a little bit more money than your average Vintage Enthusiast of the kind I speak of. It’s been written about in posh supermarket Waitrose’s own magazine, and fawned over by the right wing press. “They are used to catering to Goodwood Revival, who are basically mostly very wealthy, vintage car/plane owners… and where people ONLY seem to care how much money/how many stately homes you have.” This is clearly a festival with pretensions to be more than the mere stamping ground of a bunch of fashionable east end types. And yet many of these very people are the ones making the festival happen. Thrifty vintage enthusiasts fill the vintage shopping area with their stalls. They’re volunteering their time to be stewards of boudoirs. Vintage bloggers have written glowing posts about how much they look forward to the festival, thereby ensuring there is huge amounts of hype online to compliment the more traditional advertising. But are these very same people being looked after by the corporate wheels of Goodwood, Freud Comm and co?

JuneChanpoomidle-VintageGoodwood
Illustration by June Chanpoomidle.

At Amelia’s Magazine we’ve always tried to support as many small festivals as possible, especially the new ones, the ones focused on green issues and the ones that will appeal to our readership. You’d think, given this quote in the Telegraph (soz) today, that I would be the ideal kind of press to invite along to Vintage at Goodwood. “Vintage fashion is a win-win. It’s about upcycling, recycling, thriftiness and great design. I felt this was the right time to celebrate it and show people how good vintage links music, fashion and film.” Does this sound anything like the kind of stuff we promote on this blog, day in day out? Only this week we’ve published interviews with Think, Act, Vote and Bobbin Bicycles, both of whom have a presence at Vintage at Goodwood that gets a mention in our blogs.

Unhappy at the way that the press team for Vintage at Goodwood dismissed me without so much as a by your leave, and uneasy about the complaints I noted on the Vintage at Goodwood Facebook site regarding a lack of transparency over ticket pricing a few weeks ago, I decided to dig around for a bit more information. Someone, somewhere clearly has money. Freud Comm are the huge corporate PR agency responsible for the massive amounts of press you see. They also look after Nike, Asda, KFC, Sky, the Olympics and drinks giant Diageo, who has close ties to the festival. Cheap they cannot be to hire.

I am small fry to Freud, as are all those other eager bloggers. Freud doesn’t even have a twitter feed. Or a blog. They are beyond such things. But they also don’t understand the power of such things. Or maybe they would not be so dismissive of those with such close ties to the market they are trying to reach.

Glamping By Jessica Sharville 2
Glamping by Jessica Sharville.

As soon as I started to ask around I discovered a lot of unhappiness… and I was only scratching the surface. Bloggers that have gushed about Vintage at Goodwood for months had applied for press passes only to be turned down this, the week before – forced to purchase their own tickets to experience the festival they so much wanted to write about. Even seasoned journalists writing for big websites have been turned down. Now I’m no marketing genius, but it seems to me that if you have a new festival, and you haven’t sold out, it makes no sense at all to turn down any enthusiastic journos. After all, it costs the organisers nothing to let people in for free, and our eagerness should be appreciated because it doesn’t come without costs to us when we don’t have huge expense accounts to fall back on (travel and food soon mount up). Presuming that Vintage at Goodwood would like to continue next year, surely it’s a wise idea to maximise your chances of positive press from day one? For this very reason I will always send a press copy of Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration to any blogger that asks, no matter how well read their website is, or not. I appreciate that you want to spend time writing about my project. (ask away)

But there’s more…. getting Vintage at Goodwood off the ground has not been without its casualties along the way. And here you’ll have to bear with me if I adopt an air of secrecy – many of these people are still going to Vintage at Goodwood anyway – but tell me this, does this sound like a happy bunny? “It is a real shame as I have not met one person who is genuinely excited to go. Most are curious about how bad it will be and want to see it fail due to the poor behaviour from the organisers.”

Vintage illustration by Nathalie Laurence
Vintage illustration by Nathalie Laurence.

As Vintage at Goodwood have decided to focus on the shopping aspect of the event the costs of stalls have spiralled, well out of the reach of many young Vintage Stockists. A key curator has dropped out. One Vintage Enthusiast who shall remain nameless told me that “It’s all a big money making sham.” Many things will cost more (on top of the ticket price) during the festival. Another told me “I may as well rent a shop in Brighton for a month for the price they were asking for a pitch the size of a stamp.” I find all of this desperately sad. As a way of life Vintage is not about this. I understand the need for a new festival to break even, but at the expense of all those who help out along the way? It’s just not right.

Another quote: “I have heard nothing but bad things which is so sad as I have high hopes for the event.” I really wish I was able to get along to Vintage at Goodwood to make a judgement on it myself. As a concept it sounds great. Many many good friends will be attending, including Tatty Devine, Supermarket Sarah, Bobbin Bicycles, Think, Act, Vote… the list goes on. I would have loved to have covered the green lectures and meet the people who attend in all their fabulous finery. Vintage as a lifestyle is something I wholeheartedly support. As are festivals. Can you imagine a better bunch to photograph, illustrate and talk about for Amelia’s Magazine?

Wayne in Blue and Ochre by GarethAHopkins
Wayne Hemmingway (he’s behind Vintage at Goodwood) by Gareth Hopkins.

Sadly it is not to be. I can’t afford to pay for a ticket, especially given the time it takes me to write a festival up, which usually approaches a week and bearing in mind that no one pays me to write. It’s also very tiring (as anyone working the festival circuit will tell you), which is why I’ve stayed at home in London for the past few weekends – although I had set aside time to visit Vintage at Goodwood and see if it lived up to the hype. Instead I hope to hear from others who are going, fingers crossed. And do tell me your thoughts too, especially after the event. I hope you have a truly wonderful time if you are going, either as a punter or a contributor. Everyone. But organisers, remember this. Look after your team. They are what will make Vintage at Goodwood what it is, not the rich people glamping it up in luxury teepees and yurts. Don’t forget what Vintage as a lifestyle truly means…

* I did make it to VAG in the end… My review of Vintage at Goodwood is now online and you can read it here.*

Phil King. Illustration by Courtney Lee

There seems to be something slightly off kilter about going to the legendary home of London’s jazz scene to hear folk music but on this particular evening the pinstripe suits and trilbies made way for plaid shirts and beards, find as live music night TV Nights kicked off their bi-monthly folk night at the Upstairs bar at Ronnie Scott’s.

Run by up and coming live promoter Vaz Pilikian aided by musician and self confessed “Robin to Vaz’s Batman” Henry Brill, about it TV Nights is fast becoming a regular fixture in every devoted folkie’s calendar, ambulance with upwards of 5 nights a month pouring forth some of the best new folk music out of various underground venues across the capital. With the ethos of keeping the musicians happy above all else, Vaz has certainly managed to pull together an impressive and eclectic line up and yes, to my untrained eye, they all seemed to be pretty happy, so things are looking good.


Phil King. Illustration by Stuart Whitton

YouTube Preview Image

First up is Bristol based singer songwriter Phil King. Immediately captivating the crowd with his pure yet powerful vocals and his charming vulnerability, his accomplished set is a mixture of Damien Rice style heartfelt balladry, John Martyn guitar picking melancholia and the raw energy of a busker.. Reminiscent of Glen Hansard’s busker in his Oscar winning film Once, Phil sings to a spot a foot or so above the crowd’s heads and seems to immerse himself totally into his music, grinning and grimacing his way through the set – perhaps in part due to the intimate surroundings and the desire not to sing directly into the audience’s faces, but also due to the personal and tender nature of his songs. Here is a man laying his heart wide open, with nothing but his guitar and harmonica for company, to a room full of strangers and that in itself is worthy of respect. The fact his music is also so heartwarmingly good makes being in the crowd a thoroughly enjoyable experience.


Tamsin Wilson. Illustration by Yelena Bryksenkova

Next on the bill is a guest appearance from the brilliant Tamsin Wilson. On a short whistle stop break back in old Blighty, Brit Wilson is currently based in Boston, studying music at the highly respected Berklee School, but has managed to spare an evening in her busy schedule to come and share her talents with us lucky lot. A diminutive figure on the stage with a simple guitar and a spotlight shining in her face, Tamsin’s tiny speaking voice barely makes it over the growing chuntering of the after work crowd who had taken over one end of the bar. The rest of us lean in to hear her introduction, but it soon becomes irrelevant as she embarks on a confident and near faultless set. Sounding immediately like an English Feist, Wilson’s voice is crystal clear and perfect, with enough edge to her alt-folk pop songs to keep it from being too commercial or saccharine. With her coquettish glances at the crowd and a knowing twinkle in her eye, she is nothing short of captivating, which is sadly tainted by the constant fight against the drunken barking of the bar crowd who all but drown her out. With the more devoted of us shhhing and scowling to little avail, what would have been a fully absorbing and satisfying set turned into a battle of wills between the devoted music fans and the devoted beer fans. A massive shame, but then again with such a huge talent, Wilson will win the battle to be heard in the end, that’s for sure.


Amber States. Illustration by Dan Gray (Little Gonzales)

Up next is a highlight of the evening, the brilliant Amber States. The North London four piece fill the stage with not only instruments, but energy and charisma. Banjo, cello, guitars and keys create a sound not unfamiliar in the burgeoning nu-folk scene, but Amber States manage to steer clear of the hackneyed fiddle and guitar style that has become so popular and instead carve their own sound and produce a short but life-affirmingly magnetic set that gets the biggest crowd and the loudest cheer of the night. Their set is laden with catchy hooks, dreamy melodies, exhilarating builds and a toe tapping rhythms without being too paint by numbers folk, with lead singer Gavin Bell’s smoky vocals adding a rawness that sits perfectly over the top. The wonderful sound of Phil Noyce’s cello takes over where the typical violin would be and lets be honest, who doesn’t love a cello solo? They’re a handsome bunch, these boys, and together with such beautiful goosebumps-inducing songs as Morning Sun and Fall From Grace, they are a very appealing package indeed. Finding myself grinning like an idiot throughout their set, there is no reason why Amber States can’t take on the Mumfords and Stornaways of this world and win.


We Used To Make Things

The night takes a bit of a turn away from folk with the appearance of Hackney eight piece (yes that’s EIGHT) We Used To Make Things. Trumpet, trombone, guitars, keys, backing vocals, maracas, loud hailers and the kitchen sink are thrown at us by what can only be described as East London’s best non-pub pub band. Hitting the crowd with a full on and shameless pop set, We Used To Make Things are what it would sound like if The Divine Comedy got pissed, dropped the cynicism and tried to remake Sergeant Peppers in a small room in East London. With a trombone. And it’s thoroughly entertaining stuff. Perhaps teetering dangerously on the edge of ‘novelty’ at times, We Used To Make Things are a party band of the highest order and certainly have the personality to carry it off.


Juan Zelada. Illustration by Alexandra Embleton

Final booking of the evening is another step further into MOR territory with Spanish pocket rocket and piano prodigy Juan Zelada. A graduate from Liverpool’s answer to The Brit School, Paul McCartney’s LIPA, it is clear from the outset that Zelada is an incredible musician. He jigs and jumps behind his piano producing track after track of shiny pop soul and pseudo blues with infectious energy and charm. Zelada is a captivating performer who seemed to be having the most fun out of anyone in the room, which proved to win over even the most stuffy of ‘folkies’ in the crowd. Sadly, being past 11pm on a school night, the crowd had somewhat thinned out by the time he took to the stage, but this didn’t seem to matter to Juan and his band who produced perhaps the most committed performance of the night. Zelada is what Radio 2 producers dream of. He is shamelessly commercial and sits comfortably in the Jamie Cullum/John Mayer/Paolo Nutini school of pop which makes the booking a rather strange one for a folk night, but taken on his own merit, Zelada deserves to be huge. He is a perfectly polished pop package just waiting to be shot straight into the mainstream and by god, does he deserve it.

And there ended TV Nights at Upstairs@Ronnie Scott’s. A brilliant platform for unsigned artists, a melting pot of serious new talent and refreshingly ego free, Vaz and chums have a seriously good thing going here, which deserves to be a regular fixture for all serious nu-folk fans.

With thanks to our wonderful and talented illustrators, Courtney Lee, Stuart Whitton, Yelena Bryksenkova, Little Gonzales and Alexandra Embleton

Tags:

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar Posts:

2 Responses to “Live Music Review: TV Nights”

  1. Mithi says:

    Phil King is the best! We almost had him at our wedding – but he was busy doing a gig at the zoo … poo :(

    Instead I walked down the aisle to his “on my knees” …. still makes us wobble when we hear it.

    This boy is going to go FAR!

  2. Matt Brown says:

    Great stuff. Phil King and Amber States are amazing. Love ‘em.

Leave a Reply