AT GMF16: SUNDAY
Day two of this weekend’s Gibraltar Music Festival promises to be varied and very special indeed. That’s according to former Culture Minister and music enthusiast Fabian Vinet, who takes Chronicle readers through some of Sunday’s international highlights.
It’s Sunday, early afternoon. Your feet still ache after grooving to Ne-Yo and Rosario and pogo-ing to Travis’ “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” the day before, but you’re praising the wonders of the paracetamol for having taken the edge of yesterday’s excesses. There are ten hours of great live music ahead - not forgetting the DJs, circus performers, comedians, poets, array of food, drinks and the unique Gibraltarian, family atmosphere of a Festival that I guarantee you no other community of our size could possibly assemble. Sunday is an attractive fusion of very current big-name stars (Jess Glynne, Zara Larsson), a spot of nostalgia (Bryan Ferry), feel-good summery sounds (Heather Small) and a variety of Rock (The Fratellis, Europe and of course headliners Stereophonics). But Sunday is also a day of discovery.
My advice is that some time is put aside for unearthing some of the visiting performers who may not (yet) be household names but could well deliver some of the day’s stand-out moments. On the Gibtelecom Stage, for instance, there’s Dan Owen, who possesses a really lovely voice, full of character - I particularly like his song “Fall Like A Feather”. The Seaside Stage plays host to Juan Zelada, a UK-based Spanish singer-songwriter with a soulful style that thanks to great little songs like “Breakfast In Spitafields” has seen him supporting the likes of the late Amy Winehouse, on her Back To Black tour, and the sublime Michael Kiwanuka. Also recommended are Jake Isaac(he’s supported former GMF stars Ella Eyre and Paloma Faith, and played at Glastonbury a couple of years ago), Lawrence Taylor (check out the falsetto tones and crescendo of “Bang Bang”) and the nonchalant, cool style of Jeremy Loops, who’ll have played his enjoyable “Trading Change” album in Barcelona and Madrid the two previous nights and will follow up his GMF slot with a stint at Bestival in the Isle of Wight and an extensive tour of Europe and Australia during what’s left of the year.
The round-up of genres this year is perhaps even more eclectic than ever, and - as always - there’s a Reggae ambassador present, the honour on this occasion falling on Wolverhampton-born Macka B, currently celebrating thirty years since the release of his debut album, “Sign Of The Times”. Throughout this time, the practising Rastafarian has performed with artists like Burning Spear, The Wailers, Lee Perry and Kool And The Gang. And on the subject of ‘cool’, they don’t come much more fashionable, stylish and chic than the legendary Bryan Ferry. Perhaps similarly to the genius that was David Bowie, the former Roxy Music frontman, lyricist and principal songwriter is as much known for his elegant sartorial style as he is for his equally-suave music. It has certainly been a glorious career and it will be a privilege for us to enjoy a set that I suspect will be made up of solo highlights like “Slave To Love” or “Don’t Stop The Dance”, at least a couple of Roxy classics (“Love Is The Drug” will surely be in there) and perhaps a Bob Dylan cover or two.
Ferry headlines the Gibtelecom Stage, which earlier in the evening plays host to Los Secretos, one of the most significant bands in the history of Spanish Pop Rock. Their very first single, “Déjame”, soundtracked the ‘movida madrileña’ which gave birth to so many musical formations in Spain, and remains one of their most identifiable songs, along with the more comparatively recent “A Tu Lado”. At the time and through much of their career, the core of the band was made up of the Urquijo brothers - Javier, Enrique and Alvaro - but Enrique died back in 1999 and these days only frontman Alvaro and guitarist Ramón Arroyo remain from the classic line-up. It’s fair to say that line-up changes have also plagued Europe over the years. Their commercial peak came with “The Final Countdown”, “Rock The Night” and “Carrie” (all from the same album, their third, in 1986) but in fact the current formation of the Swedish five-piece fronted by Joey Tempest is the same one that recorded “The Final Countdown” thirty years ago! Not everyone’s cup of tea - too heavy for the Pop fans who were taken in by those big hit singles, too commercial for much of the Metal crowd - to their credit, Europe have left behind the keyboard-heavy sounds of the Eighties and have now embraced a harder-edged approach, as evidenced by last year’s “War Of Kings” album. Sadly, from their perspective, a sizeable part of the crowd will only stick around to hear THAT set-closing song.
Rock fans have it very good on Saturday. Apart from Europe, the Stereophonics (more of which later) and our very own Metro Motel kicking things off on the Seaside Stage, we’re fortunate to welcome The Fratellis. Best known for their massive hit singles “Chelsea Dagger” and “Whistle For The Choir”, the Glasgow ensemble now have four albums under their belt and will no doubt deliver a turbo-charged, energetic, sleazy (in a good way), rowdy, riff-heavy set with melody-heavy tracks like “Baby Don’t You Lie To Me”, “Baby Fratelli” and “Henrietta” making an appearance. Fancy something a little bit more refined? You could do much worse than Heather Small, the big-voiced star of M People. Her solo career unfortunately stalled shortly after the successful release of her song “Proud”, but Small’s set will also include plenty of M People anthems like “Moving On Up”, “Search For The Hero” and “One Night In Heaven”, guaranteed to have everyone - yes, even the Metal-heads - singing along.
A real coup for the GMF organisers has been attracting two of the biggest, most current chart stars in the UK and Europe: Zara Larsson has had a great year, having performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of UEFA’s Euro 2016 (and featured on its official song by David Guetta) and landed big hits all over the continent with her superb “Lush Life” and “Never Forget You”, the latter a collaboration with MNEK. She will be followed on the Main Stage by Jess Glynne, who has this year made the most of her popularity and enjoyed high-profile slots at Glastonbury, V Festival, T In The Park and just about every major festival this side of the Atlantic. Having first risen to prominence as a featured artist on Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” (that’s the same Clean Bandit who were due to play at the GMF two years ago but then failed to turn up, offering some feeble excuse or other), Glynne then made it to the very top with her own songs “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”, “Right Here” and “Hold My Hand”, all of them perfect slabs of Dance Pop. Jess Glynne is one of the biggest names on this year’s bill, headlining an arena tour of the UK in November, and is more proof - should it be needed by the doom and gloom social media doubters - of just how far our Festival has come in such a short time.
Indeed, Stereophonics have this summer co-headlined the Isle Of Wight Festival, one of the UK’s biggest, and yet here they are, bringing our small but successful event to a close. In my view (and I speak as someone who’s witnessed several Stereophonics performances over many years), they’re the perfect festival headliners: An uncompromising Rock band, with an extensive back catalogue, but with plenty of singalong moments to ensure it’s not just the rockers who’ll enjoy their set. Kelly Jones fronts the Welsh outfit, his unmistakably raw vocals riding over top tunes such as “Dakota”, “The Bartender And The Thief”, “Maybe Tomorrow”, “Have A Nice Day” and their take on “Handbags And Gladrags”, each of them a classic.
And as the last chords of feedback drench the audience at midnight, 15,000 Gibraltarians and visitors will for a moment forget their sore feet (and, let’s face it, a few sore heads) and be able to look back at the last two days, smile and say to themselves, as I know I will: “Well, that was the best weekend of the year”.