I wanted to go to the Hillbilly Moon Explosion gig at Carnglaze from the first moment I heard about it, back in January. When it came to it however my timing was a bit off… an all night party the night before meant I’d only had 3 hours sleep and I started the day by stumbling across a sitting room of sleeping musicians to get to my lift. So Rock n Roll!
Carnglaze Caverns is an old slate quarry in the Loveny Valley, near the village of St Neot, Liskeard. It consists of 3 man-made caverns, the first (the Rum Store) is huge and contains an auditorium with seating for 400 and has previously hosted concerts by folk-rock artists such as Fish and Fairport Convention. The second cavern is home to a colony of male bats which fly around during the performances, and the lowest cavern has a deep lake and was where the cover image for Echo & the Bunnymen’s LP Ocean Rain was shot.
It is a stunning setting but as it is open to the public during the day, access to the stage for loading in is not straight forward. I spent the day with sound and lighting techs Matt and Keith – helping with the daunting task of unloading huge speakers, stage lights and other essential equipment and rolling these in a variety of carts and flat bed trolleys up the gravel path into the dripping mouth of the cavern and then down into the depths of the Rum Store (avoiding running any tourists down where possible). After covering several miles doing this, next up was helping with the musicians’ gear and being general ‘gofer’ (tracking down spanners, plasters and other unexpected things) for the visiting band HME who had driven down from London after flying in from Zurich that morning.
KWK Promotions, the organisers, had thought of virtually everything else and the green room (a conservatory with a huge grape vine running through it) was stuffed to the brim with delicious pasties, sandwiches scones, cakes, coffee, wine, beer and anything else any of the bands and crews might fancy. At one point I found myself sitting round the table with Sarah Marie and the Eyelid ladies eating chocolate cake and drinking tea whilst gossiping about babies and life with kids! …A slightly surreal moment more WI meeting than Rock n’ Roll 😀
On stage though these lades really know how to rock. The Eyelids are an all-girl band with an infectious garage, punky, psychobilly sound. They have previously supported some big names (The Damned, Evil Devil, The Beat, Imelda May to name a few) and they certainly grab your attention with their zorro-mask makeup and stark black clothing. Kelly Green on vocals is mesmeric especially when she breaks out the Theremin and twins Louise (double bass) and Michelle (drums) have a strange unearthly quality to them that is fascinating. Sharon Mitchell (guitar) provides energetic riffs that complement and weave around the punchy rhythms from the twins.
Sarah Marie, Cornwall’s new rising star, was next up performing a set with Samuel Howard (I Am Wander) and Louise and Michelle from The Eyelids providing drums and double bass. Sam’s Nashville guitar is a perfect foil for the raw power of Sarah’s voice and together they created a funky, bluesy and eclectic sound; sometimes country, sometimes R&R but also including Jefferson Airplane’s eerie ‘White Rabbit’.
And then finally the moment that all the chequered and polka-dotted, crepe soled and quiffed fans were there for: Hillbilly Moon Explosion, the band that has been taking Europe by storm. This was a treat for both the eyes and ears, and entertainment at the highest level – Oliver Baroni on bass and lead vocals smoulders darkly, while performing incredible acrobatics, climbing on top of his instrument and throwing it around whilst he gyrates. Lead guitarist Duncan James, on his beautiful Gretsch, provides the comedy with his rubber face and angular poses whilst drummer Sylvain Petite sits solidly at the back of the stage looking like he has escaped from a film noir detective movie and is now working under cover. And then there’s the lovely Emanuela Hutter on lead vocals and rhythm guitar – one minute serene and poised, singing etherial operatic scales, the next belting out songs like a wild woman. Was it worth the wait? You bet! Raw, powerful, rock n’ roll but also stylish, modern and exciting… even with 3 hours sleep and a days grafting behind me I couldn’t help dancing.