Four years ago Lee Graham, event organiser and general all-round good bloke found a way to give back to a cause dear to his heart and founded the Just Push Play event to raise funds for the St.Nicholas Hospice following the loss of his father 4 years previously. Now after three years the event had outgrown its original home The Constitutional Club and moved across the road to The Apex.

A bill featuring a diverse mix of musical genres and styles was put together, selected from the rich vein of local bands and some heavy hitters from beyond the Suffolk border.

Sadly Circadian had to pull out at the last minute due to their drummer injuring his hand, so with a quick re-shuffle and a later start time six bands took to the stage.

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Opening act Mouse Drawn Cart an acoustic quartet fronted by local musical iconoclast Dave Jago, started the event off juxtaposing the gentle acoustic and caressing sounds of guitar, violin, keyboard and percussion with poignant lyrics tinged with sadness and loss. Halfway through the set Dave solo’d offering up a first public performance of “The Day You Stopped” dedicated to a close friend who had recently passed away. This was countered with the comically titled song “don’t get scared of aging, this is what happens when you don’t die” an ode to benefits and experiences of a long life. This unique performer closed his set out with a Guns and Rose cover continuing the dark theme established with the dedication of a song to Charles Manson,  with a rendition of “I used to love her (but I had to kill her)”

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A complete change of pace and an injection of levity was provided by the self-titled “best rockabilly band around” The Fretz who had people up dancing and rocking. Running through the Rockabilly songbook the Stray Cats were to be expected, sharply contrasting with two classic and rocking covers of Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” and the Rolling Stones “The Last Time”, some Johnny Cash, another perennial favourite Stray Cats “ Runaway Boy”. Lots of slap bass, driving snare drum rhythm, finger clicking strumming guitars and shrieking solos made for an exciting set from this experienced 4 piece.

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Up next was Ipswich band In My Disguise, who it transpired played their first gig at the 2nd Just Push Play event two years ago. Two years on and this 4-piece heavy rock band played a full set of their own compositions. Covering the stage with sheer energy, this was a stand out performance and they would have easily slotted into the previous night’s Renegade Twelve gig at the same venue and acquitted themselves well.

“Hour Glass” with its chugging guitar and bass coupled with intelligent melodic vocals is the template of their sound, but lighter songs such as “Fear” and the tender closing song “Clarity” from the EP “Alone With You” show this band have a deft lyrical touch and a wide sound pallet. This is a band with a future.

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Continuing the theme of contrast and juxtaposition, Sudbury duo Amethysts brought their harmonic synth pop to the show, bringing the aural and visual tempo back down after the frenetic energy of In My Disguise.

Looped and layered sounds, overlaid with subtle reverberating lead guitar floating over punctuated synth drum beats, draped with vocal harmonies of such beauty, was a transformative experience and an inspired choice to give them this slot on the bill.

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Acknowledging their influences amongst their original compositions, they performed Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”. At times harmonising or singing as one with Clarice, Simons voice floats in an out lending a deeper warmth and roundness to the overall sound. At the beginning of the last number “Belong” the sound was reminiscent of Clannad’s Moya Brennan, such was the smoothness and sonority of the vocals balanced in the musical soundscape.

Amethysts are having a successful year, headlining gigs, playing festivals and based on this performance have a great future ahead of them.

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Getting to the pointy end of the evening, another change in pace with the onslaught of another Ipswich band Druids, with their brand of surreal Heavy Rock laced with a healthy dose of Glam.

Currently performing as a duo of Bass and Drums and based on this performance a lead guitar was not missed or needed. Heavy, gloriously distorted thunderous bass riffs at times played at a frenetic tempo, driven by Joel’s equally consummate drumming accompanied by the surreal imagery evoked by the lyrics define this band as unique and unmissable.

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An engaging performer, wit and humourist, Jay’s appearance, movement and performance is unpredictable and larger than life, much like the music that in turn can be heavy fuzz rock on numbers such as “Mission”, glam funky on “Stuart Slater Alligator” or 1980’s electro pop infused “ Time”. Like the subject of their material this band is not of this planet, catch them before they leave for Mars.

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The Bad Flowers

As Lee tells it, The Bad Flowers were signed up early to the idea of the Just Push Play event, fully committed to the endeavour and this showed throughout their 90 minute set. This was very much old school heavy blues rock with the essential ingredients of a Les Paul, a Fender Bass and a few big drums, oh and a Flying -V for good measure. Any band that can drop in Black Sabbaths “War pigs” seamlessly into one of their own numbers and when you shut your eyes its is Black Sabbath in the room playing before you, are to be respected.

From the Black country, their sound is influenced by the regions legends but at times is funky and definitely no pastiche. Tom Leightons vocal delivery, guitar tone and playing have a unique clarity that lends their sound a fresh quality. Dale Tonks thundering tuneful bass is always present, filling in the gaps, driving the music forward but the occasional funky fill shows there is more behind the thunder. Karl Selickis’s powerful but sensitive drumming providing the relentless underpinning for the lead and bass to an accompaniment of shimmering cymbals. The perfect ending to a perfect and varied line-up. Roll on Just Push Play 5.

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All proceeds from the event were in aid of St. Nicholas Hospice, and while the move to the Apex has been the next step in this events journey, seeing an increase in ticket sales, the organisers job for Just Push Play No.5 is to take it to the next level and spread the word even further. Considering what has been achieved already by a very small team, I have no doubt this event will become a regular fixture on the calendar and a testament to Lee Grahams commitment to a cause close to his heart, a feat gratefully acknowledged on the night by the hospice’s community fund raiser George Chilvers.

 

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