Brentwood, 2.26pm: 9°C, clear sky

2017 highlights and reflections

Paul Golder writes for the Brentwood Gazette

Supporting the local music scene is a massive part of what we do on Phoenix FM and I always take the opportunity of the new year to reflect on the Essex bands and singers we have supported in the last 12 months and a look ahead for the ones to watch in 2018.

We recorded exactly 150 sessions in 2017 – 133 of these were live acoustic sets and the remainder were recorded in the two recording studios we collaborate with, Creative in East Horndon and Studio 6 in Witham.

It’s hard to pick out favourites but here are some of my personal highlights:

It was a major achievement to record a session with cult psychedelic rock band GONG.  The highly influential band, who have formerly featured rock and jazz virtuosos Steve Hillage, Pip Pyle, Charles Hayward and Bill Bruford in their line up, recorded three amazing songs for us weighing in at a total of 36 minutes between them.  Part of the secret of getting them to agree to record for us was that – unlike the BBC – we told them they could play for as long as they liked!

It was great to get 90s Britpop band SALAD back in for their first plugged-in radio session for nearly 20 years too.  The band, whose semi-acoustic line-up feature Essex guitarist Paul Kennedy alongside former MTV VJ Marijne van der Vlugt and Julian Cope guitarist Donald Ross Skinner, are touring in the spring and will be releasing two new albums in the next year or so.

Southend band THE BEATNIKS have played for us before but have had a change of personnel with a new Brazilian frontwoman, Isabella, giving the band more of a bossanova edge.  Their Hammond-fuelled session for us at the Creative studios in November was definitely one of my musical highlights of the year.

Brentwood band OCEAN FLAWS showcased more new material during the summer and hopefully we’ll be seeing more from them in the coming months.

Talented Londoner RHYS LEWIS, recently signed to Decca and playlisted by Radio 2, also came in to perform a trio of songs live on Michelle Ward’s morning show.

Former X Factor finalist SAM CALLAHAN visited us in October to play his new single live and talk about his future plans.

Up and coming 17 year old singer/songwriter KATY FORKINGS recorded three sets for us, including one on our 10th birthday celebrations in March when we broadcast live from the Holiday Inn.

Former frontman with Canvey band The Ends, DARRAH, also visited us to perform his increasingly impressive solo material.

Artists from further afield were also featured with Japanese shoegazers TAFFY visiting Brentwood for their 4th session with us, and Swedish/Australian duo PERFECT BLUE SKY playing more summery pop/rock.

Originally from Australia but now residing in East London, twin sisters Susan and Catherine – THE TALL POPPIES – recorded a second session for us in the autumn with three wonderfully crafted bittersweet baroque pop tunes.

As far as the band with the best name goes, it has to be a toss-up between East London rock band SUBLIMINAL KITTENS and Clacton rock and blues trio DAD’S OLD PANTS.

As far as 2018 goes, I’m looking forward to new music from Romford 60s revivalists THE EVERGLOWS, Southend’s ASYLUMS who will be releasing their 2nd album this year alongside the new album from lo-fi slacker rock band GHOST MUSIC.

There will be no shortage of local acts coming in to talk and play live with sets confirmed for January from THE LIGHTWORKER, LEO C, SOPHIE GRIFFITHS and ANGEL AND THE MELODYHORNS.

It’s going to be an exciting year for our presenters and local artists – and we’re also hoping to finalise a partnership with one of the biggest and best boutique festivals in the south east too, so watch this space!

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