There’s something stirring in the island of Jersey. The island, measuring only nine miles by five, and better known for its low-tax status and for iconic TV detective Jim Bergerac, has surreptitiously become a hotbed of musical activity.
Boasting four music (and film) festivals – remember, on an island smaller than the Borough of Westminster – and a number of acts that have burst into the mainstream or are bubbling away in the indie side wings, Jersey may not quite have the history of London or Manchester, but is certainly punching above its weight.
Sitting just fourteen miles from the coast of France, Jersey is the most southerly point of the British Isles, and is a crown dependency, making it part of the United Kingdom but self-governed. Constantly fought over between the English and French for centuries, it has a uniquely Anglo-Norman atmosphere and even has an ancient language known as ‘Jerraise’ – a little used French dialect which is spoken fluently by only a tiny amount of the island’s elder generations. With some of the most stunning beaches and lush countryside in Europe, it’s really unlike any other place in Britain.
First an introduction to Jersey’s music festivals is needed. The jewel in the crown of the Channel Island Festival scene is Jersey Live Music Festival. A two-day event with a capacity of 10,000, it’s stages have been graced by some of Britain’s biggest and hottest acts since its inception in 2004, including The Prodigy, Kasabian, Razorlight, Dizzee Rascal, Basement Jaxx and Foals. It also has a heavy leaning on dance music, with a Dance Arena that has seen the likes of 2ManyDJs, James Lavelle, Scratch Perverts and Andy C wowing the Jersey Live crowd.
This is just the BEST reception we have had at a festival all year. Jersey is just so cool! The audience are amazing! We wanna come back next year. Surreal & super-f***ing cool! (Tom Meighan, Kasabian)
Branchage International Film Festival is, as the title suggests, primarily a film showcase event, but has attracted national attention for its marrying of film and music events, and its wildly imaginative site-specific screenings. From documentaries in German underground barracks (the island was occupied by Nazi forces in WWII) to children’s animations in medieval castles, Branchage has a programming template that has attracted some amazing leftfield acts such as British Sea Power, Paloma Faith, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, The Correspondents, Sigur Ros’ string band Amiina, Broadcast, The Oscillation and Top Cats.
Two of the smaller festivals on the scene are the Folklore Festival, which will feature Van Morrison and Ray Davies in 2012, as well as the MASS electronic music festival, which has been headlined by Audio Bullys and Pendulum, alongside dance acts Example, Nero, Beardyman and Dirtyphonics.
The year-round live music and dance scene is thriving too; artists and DJs to have visited the island in recent times include Ash, Hadouken, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Chase & Status, Annie Mac, Dillinja, Fake Blood, Felix Martin (Hot Chip), The Tiger Lillies, Ferry Corsten, Men in Masks and Capitol K, as well as chart acts such as Peter Andre, McFly, James Morrison and Russell Watson.
Jersey's Local Acts
As well as attracting some of the biggest names in indie and dance music, Jersey has also exported some fine acts to the UK in recent times. The biggest name is Nerina Pallot, the Brit and Ivor Novello Award-nominated singer-songwriter whose second album ‘Fires’ went Gold in the UK and has achieved notable chart success with singles ‘Everybody’s Going to War’ and ‘Sophia’. She’s now working with Kylie Minogue on the Australian singer’s new album.
More familiar to indie audiences perhaps will be Romance. Based in London, the goth/shoegaze four-piece are centred around Jersey-born frontman Jamie Lovatt, and have come to national attention as part of the East London goth scene that features the lies of Ulterior, S.C.U.M and Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump. Featuring as part of an NME cover story based around White Lies and the recent blossoming London goth scene, Romance have risen to national indie attention and have recently toured the UK with White Rose Movement, as well as touring Japan and becoming the sweethearts of the Japanese editions of Vogue and Daxed & Confused magazine. NME said, “R O M A N C E will be your new favourite band.”
Among the bands who are breaking through is The Lloyd Yates Band, an acoustic folk outfit who recently signed a deal with a major label and who have worked with Take That/Boyzone producer Ray Hedges. The Valentines are another act to have received major label attention, and were handpicked to support Babyshambles on their UK tour. Suede’s Bernard Butler is said to be a fan of their indie-punk-doo-wop sound and a mooted single with Butler at the helm is in the pipeline. The Midnight Expresso is one of the more off-the wall acts to have emerged from Jersey, a spandex-clad Wesley Willis and John Shuttleworth-inspired lounge-rap act who has performed at Latitude festival as well as supporting the likes of Mr Hudson, Pete & the Pirates and Micachu, and has received radio airplay from Radio One’s Rob da Bank, and even had a camera crew follow him for a Current TV documentary. Other notable Jersey acts who have received national press or performed at UK festivals include Marvel, The Author, Pevin Kinel, Schema and electro-metal act Robot Ninja Dinosaur B******s.
With a long history of iconic concerts in Jersey, stretching as far back as the days of visits from The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden (who spent a period of time living in Jersey) and The Jam, and a richly diverse music scene that encompasses rock, dance, jazz, blues and classical acts, Jersey is well worth a visit for any one of its exciting and unique festivals. And the aforementioned Jersey acts are well worth keeping an eye out for.
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