If you are not of this parish then you may not of heard of Dave Monks. If you are, then you will be aware of his BBC Radio Merseyside, Saturday evening ‘Introducing’ show. For anyone with their finger on the pulse of local music it is essential listening. For new artists from North-West England, his show may be the first time their music gets some recognition and airplay. Monks also hosts a regular emerging talent showcase, offering the opportunity to play at Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club. Tonight’s line-up includes two Wigan bands Stanleys, and The Facades, bookending local singer/songwriter Fiona Lennon.
The Facades are Alannah Webb (vocals/guitar), Evan Armstrong (lead guitar), Sam Bowery (bass), and Luke Ashton (drums). They suffered a little from technical issues during their opening track, new single, I Might Say. Ashton’s cymbals seemed to be trying to get away from him, and Armstrong’s guitar seemed to get lost in the mix. These problems were thankfully short-lived and fully resolved by the opening bars of their second song In Theses Woods.
‘We’re going to cheese it up a bit’ said Webb as she introduced third song –Don’t Ask. As the song started, I initially thought that the band were employing some sort of chorus effect on the vocals. As I looked around the room I soon realised that was not the case. The majority of young women in the crowd were singing along to the song’s gently-delivered, opening lines – ‘Don’t ask for my number, don’t ask for my name, don’t ask my friends either, ‘cos they, they know your game’. It was a sincere, powerful, and tuneful show of solidarity. The song Better is undoubtedly going to be The Facades festival anthem. Emphasizing the band’s dynamism, Tell Me had a deeper, darker, brooding, almost cinematic, P J Harvey feel to it. A bold, entertaining set was brought to a conclusion with former single That Letter, a song with jazz drums, ska guitar and searing vocals.
Fiona Lennon is a Liverpool based singer/songwriter whose influences are cited as Fleetwood Mac, Alicia Keys, The Beatles and The Corrs. Backed by a four-piece band Lennon presented the audience to a real cornucopia of a set displaying elements of pop, rock, soul, country and Americana, all played with aplomb.
Lennon opened her set with Undignified, which was followed by The Only One, a tune that combined to great effect, simple country melodies with soulful, Motown vocals (the chorus brought to mind Smokey Robinson’s The Tracks Of My Tears). Ain’t No Other was another song that outwardly displayed a country-rock influence. There were a couple of new songs Stay High and Coming Of Age, the latter sandwiched between Lennon’s first two singles – You Really Got a Hold On Me and A Little Longer. It was my first time seeing Fiona Lennon. It won’t be my last. I and the rest of the audience appreciated her’s, and her band’s well delivered set. Mind you, there is a history of ‘Lennon’ performance’s going down well at The Cavern.
Seeing Stanleys had not quiet become a ‘bucket-list’ item for me, but it had started to become a bit of an obsession. I first become aware of them in 2020 via the compilation album brits & pieces, which featured their debut single – A Better Life. Suitably impressed by it I vowed to catch the band live. However, a combination of Covid cancellations and clashes with rearranged dates had up until now, thwarted my ambition.
So as Stanleys walked on stage at The Cavern to the strains of The Mike Flowers Pops version of Wonderwall, I was in a high state of anticipation. Stanleys opened their set with the lead track from their 2021 EP Look Back, a song with swirling guitar riffs from Jake Dorsman, and equally billowing vocals from singer Tom Concannon. The next song Time Waits For No One had a danceable, almost Big Beat groove to it, and brought the efforts of drummer Rob Hilton, and bass player Harry Ivory into sharp focus.
The band played the song that first brought them to my attention – A Better Life – before they played You, a track that lyrically and melodically has a pleasing, northern, Smiths-like quality to it. As a tribute to the venue and it’s history Stanleys played a well-received cover of All My Loving. They finished their set with Measured In Gold a song whose riffs dripped with Northside guitar-jangle. It’s only about 25 miles from Wigan to Liverpool and a good contingent had made the relatively short journey to The Cavern. They had helped to create a lively atmosphere and I’m sure they went home happy. As did I, my wait more than vindicated.
In a strange act of synchronicity, the album that first introduced Stanleys into my consciousness – brits & pieces – is due to have it’s third compilation released this coming week. And who features on Volume 3? None other than the nights opening act – The Facades. It’s thanks to the work of brits & pieces, Dave Monks, and many like them across the country who champion new music, that we are given the opportunity to discover our new favourite artists. More power to them I say.