I will not lie: yes, I do miss going to gigs all the time. When we made the decision to move to Dorset, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to buy tickets on a whim for all the bands we wanted to see. When I was a music journalist and living in London, I could go to four/five gigs a week (hey, who could refuse a free entry to a metal/goth/industrial/cyberpunk/neofolk/other alternative genre gig?). Then I moved to Essex and any gig would entail an hour on a train, both ways. As I was a hardened commuter, it was fine for a few years.
But for my last year in the South East, though, the train journeys to and from London for gigs, exhibitions and the like became a pet-hate - and an expensive one at that.
So when our excellent local band The Dolmen (who happen to be big players on the UK and European alternative circuit) organise a gig in their hometown to celebrate a local historical event, we just had to be there.
And the bonus: they invited London band PerKelt to come and join us in Weymouth! Or rather, it seems, PerKelt volunteered their services for expenses only according to The Dolmen’s frontman Taloch Jameson. This was quite a brave move following the disruption to the road and transport networks caused by “the Beast from the East” and storm Emma!
Thankfully, everyone made it to the Weymouth Centenery Club – granted, not the most glamorous of venues, but anyone who’s been to a gig at the 02 Academy Islington in London knows that appearances can be deceptive and it’s what’s happening inside that counts!
The concert was part of an annual weekend of events organised around the theme of The Crabchurch Conspiracy, an aborted 1645 royalist plot to retake the ports of Weymouth and Melcombe for the King during the English Civil War. Every year, re-enactments and dramatizations of the conspiracy take place in Weymouth to celebrate the triumph of the local anti-royalists – and the free spirit of the local inhabitants, past and present.
Present of course was the author of the book which has inspired the whole weekend – Mark Vine, who wrote the book recounting the events, The Crabchurch Conspiracy.
The Dolmen started by playing songs from their album The Crabchurch Conspiracy, written to accompany the book. To add some drama to the proceedings, each track was introduced with gusto by an actor setting the scene for each song. The band's evocative, action and emotion-packed set took us to the heart of the story.
You could almost smell the sweat, the gunpowder and the blood and hear the screams of the slain and wounded.
PerKelt are based in London and are a young, multi-national and multi-instrumental (and incredibly energetic) outfit who will probably blow your mind if you see them live. Signed to Suriya Recordings, a new record label launched in the autumn of 2017 by no other than Youth (yes, Youth, you know, the legendary producer and founding member of one of our favourite bands, Killing Joke!), PerKelt play "Pagan Speed Folk". Recorders, tribal drums, acoustic guitar, harp, fiddle (courtesy of brand new member Duncan) - it is an explosive mix inspired by folk tales and legends and the writings of William Shakespeare! There is an energy here, and some mystery too... Paya's voice rises above the music like an enchanted entity and you cannot take your eyes off her as she switches recorders, then goes from harp to recorder and from recorder to voice. David, the "smiling drummer", provides the raw energy whilst Stepan's virtuoso classical guitar playing contributes the core thread for each song. Breathtaking (literally!)
It was time for Taloch to swap his acoustic guitar for an electric one and The Dolmen gave us an absolutely brilliant set; this is a band who play to huge crowds but always seem to put the same energy into their concert wherever they are and how small the venue (thankfully, the volume monitor in the corner behaved itself!).
This is "Medieval Celtic Folk Rock" for the 21st Century, at its best and most inspired, with rousing and solid melodies, spiritual and meaningful lyrics, oodles of charisma and a passion for freedom which is incredibly infectious.
As PerKelt joins The Dolmen for the last few minutes, we know we are in for a treat - and all musical hell breaks loose, and the evening ends with a huge, raucous Celtic bang.
It was an event of fantastic music and storytelling, of passion and enthusiasm for history, human endeavour, imagination and creativity. I feel privileged to have been there!
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