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Mayor fest is a feast of originals and tributes to the best

Peter Dennis gives us a flavour of the opening night of Mayor-fest which took place at The Picturedrome…

Mayor-fest, as the name suggests, is a three day event organised by the Mayor of Northampton to raise awareness and funds for his chosen charity, Alfie Bear’s Journey.

The festival was a mixture of original and tribute acts which will showcase some of the town’s best talent. Fresh from dates on the continent Northampton’s own AMII DAWES had the pleasure of opening the proceedings. Performing songs from her album ‘Little Blue Book’ saw Amii win over the audience with a heartfelt honesty. ‘I Belong to You’ and ‘The Valley’ featured insightful and intelligent lyrics and she took ‘Ring of Fire’ and made it her own. Armed only with an acoustic guitar ‘The Siren Song’ and ‘I Can’t Stay the Night’ saw Amii bravely baring her soul. Closing with a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ marked Amii as one to watch.

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Up next were another local band, the high octane KINGS GAMBIT. With a sound that mixed traditional folk with Irish jigs and techno music and delivered with punk attitude it’s folk, but not as we know it. In their eight year history the band have released a string of critically acclaimed albums and have become firm favourites on the festival circuit and on the strength of tonight’s performance it was easy to see why. With their highly infectious sound the band had the whole of The Picturedrome bobbing in unison by the end of their first song and the band provided the perfect soundtrack for a Friday night. Instantly likeable and energetic Kings Gambit are perhaps Northampton’s best kept musical secret, but that’s sure to change.

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To many people the very notion of tribute bands is something of an anomaly, nothing more than vaudeville pantomime. To others they offer a glimpse into their heroes pasts, to a time before they became bloated by the excesses of the music industry. THE SMYTHS fell firmly into the second camp. However all questions about the validity of such acts were dispelled as soon as the band hit the stage and launched into a blistering version of ‘The Queen is Dead’. The band generated a frenzy I haven’t witnessed an original band propagate for some time. Not only a tribute to The Smiths, the band peppered their set with the best of Morrissey’s solo work as ‘Suedehead’ and ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’ effortlessly rubbing shoulders with the older material. Finely chiselled and coiffed vocalist Graham Sampson crooned like the man himself and, close your eyes, as if by magic we were transported back to The Smiths headlining The Derngate in 1985. After a short interval the band returned for an hour of more classics ‘Interesting Drug’, ‘Panic’ and ‘Ask’ all raised the temperature before the band returned for a majestic encore of ‘How Soon is Now?’ thereby proving that the soundtrack to a million tortured adolescents is in safe hands.

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