Between 2013 and 2017 I attended Simon Says at De Montfort Hall, which was a 2 day festival with the majority of acts being local to the East Midlands. Last year it was postponed while some works took place in the gardens of De Montfort Hall, which would allow them to hold bigger events outside in the future. While Simon Says hasn’t come back, at least with their Gigs In The Gardens series of events this summer, one was dedicated to showcasing local acts with this BBC Introducing event.
The weather was looking fantastic for the day, with doors opening at noon, and the first act on at 12.30, there was a decent amount of people queuing to get in before the event officially opened. I made my way around the site to see what was where and get familiar with where I had to go to get into the pit to take photos of the acts on stage. I noticed that all the acts were due to go on stage at half past the hour (apart from the headliners) so it was easy to keep track of when the next act was due on stage.
Just before half past twelve I made my way to the photo pit and Dean Jackson, who had chosen the acts to perform for this event, made his way onto the stage to introduce the first artist, Michael Vickers. I quickly noticed that it was a bit tricky to take photos as the sun was shining brightly and it was just catching the front of the stage where Michael was standing for most of his set. It can be hard to kick off a festival, but there was a good crowd coming into the gardens and Michael did a great job. All the acts apart from the last two were to have a 30 minute set, with a bit of leeway due to a 30 minute time to change over for the next act, and Michael played for around 35 minutes. With two other members on stage for most of the set, his final song was just him alone, and he still didn’t look out of place. Advertising his upcoming EP launch throughout his set, this is a man destined for greater things and I’m sure he’ll be gracing stages of this size for years to come.
Next up, at 13.30 were Gazelle, a Leicester based rock and roll band. Out of the 9 acts on the bill for this event, there were a few that I hadn’t seen before and Gazelle were one of them, so I was looking forward to this. Another 30 minute set and after taking a few photos from the pit I went and headed out onto the grass, found a bit of shade and enjoyed the rest of their performance. Some great original music from this band, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any gigs they play locally in the future.
The next act, and another I’d not seen before, was Ro Jordan, and I was pleasantly surprised by the change of style, which would continue throughout the day, so there was something for everyone. Another act that looked like she belonged on a stage this size, even beforehand I noticed that she had advertising banners placed on either side of the stage to promote her music. She had good stage presence, moving around and using the stage to its full potential, instantly taking the mic off the stand and moving around. It was mentioned in her introduction by Dean Jackson that she’s had her music played on BBC Introducing and also 1Xtra, and I can see why. A fantastic talent, showcasing some amazing songs, one to keep an eye on for sure.
Mason Bailey was up next, who is a solo artist, but for today’s event he was joined on stage by fellow musician, Chris Bramley, who played guitar. Performing mostly originals, but throwing in a couple of covers now and then from the likes of Lewis Capaldi and Ben E King. There was a decent crowd forming by this point of the day, and I noticed there was a section standing at the front who were avid fans of Mason, and rightly so, it was another fantastic set from an artist who totally deserved to be on that stage.
Judith Ude was the next performer to grace the stage, alongside her husband, and once again it was a bit of a change of style. Coming out onto the stage and bringing a harp along with her, it was instantly a change up from all the other acts performing. A more soulful sound went down really well at this point during the day, when people could chill out and relax in the sunshine, which is what I did after taking a few photos from the pit.
Up next was a band that I technically haven’t seen perform before, but they are made up of members from other bands who I have seen before, and I was really looking forward to their set, it was Oceans Apart. Another band that was using the stage, and at times areas off the stage, to its fullest, moving around and just making to most of being on a stage this size. During one of the songs the bassist and guitarist both came off stage, ran around for a bit in the pit, and then got back on the stage for the rest of the set. They had a section of fans at the front of the crowd who were there throughout the set, and as well as playing up for them, they were great to photograph as they play a lot to the cameras. After taking a bit of a break from being in bands, it’s great to see them back and performing where they belong, on big stages, in front of fantastic crowds. I’ll definitely be looking at other gigs they have coming up and I’ll try to get along when I can.
Another change of styles with the next act, who was Harri Georgio and The Well Behaved Young Men. Playing mostly originals and getting the crowd dancing, they did perform a couple of covers, one from Leicester legend Engelbert Humperdinck and then recent summer track, Old Town Road. Lots of moving around on stage from everyone, and really energetic, which translated to the gathering crowd who were enjoying every second of it. One thing I really liked was the number of guitar solos in their set, I do love a good guitar solo.
Penultimate act for this event was Arcades. It’s been a while since I last saw Arcades performing, must have been around 2 years ago, but they’ve been away for a bit and it’s great to see them back. I took some photos from the pit and then went out to once again watch the rest of the set while chilling out on the grass. Being the penultimate band they had a slightly longer set time of 45 minutes and I found a good spot to watch what was an amazing looking and sounding set. They dedicated one of their songs to guitarist Matt, who sadly passed away, which is why they took a bit of time off. Playing newly released singles to a good sized crowd, with the sun going down, the lighting looked amazing and they all looked like they belonged. They’ve recently been out on tour and I would suggest you catch them while you can, as I’m sure it won’t be too long before this band hits the big time.
Headlining this BBC Introducing event of Gigs In The Garden were Demons Of Ruby Mae. I went along to their show at the O2 Academy show earlier on in the year, (which you can read here) and while I’ll try and not repeat myself, it was a very similar structure to that show. They started off as a duo, then later on in the set introduced the full band. Being the headliners, their set time was longer than others and they played for around an hour to a good sized crowd as the sun had set and the night was drawing in. It was more of an electric / rock sound compared to others on the bill, but I think the variety in acts was one of the things that made this a great event.
I do miss Simon Says, and I do hope there is a possibility of it coming back one day, but as a kind of alternative in showcasing local acts and allowing them the opportunity to perform on a stage like this, it was a fantastic day, and I’m sure all in attendance would agree.