The Masquerade Ball

Featherstone Castle
12th-13th November, 2021

Friday 12th November

The first party I had attended since January 2020, Of course, it was an important one. Parties at Featherstone Castle always are, so maximum preparation was in order, my lift wasnae arriving till 6pm. So had a full day to look my best. My Covid Test was negative and the absence of Party in my life was about to be rectified with a whole gathering of beautiful people that I havenae seen for two years. I knew that it was going to be a wonderful Bohemian experience.

My faithful carriage arrived on time, thankyou Cal Howland, a new friend made, and we were off in an electric car, another Divine first. Gliding down south with a stop in Carlisle to charge up the battery, we eventually arrived at our destination at 9.00pm sharp. I was so happy and ready to boogie, trousers and knickers off, kilt on and ready for the amazing Cenote Soundsytems that would provide sonic fidelity in three rooms for the duration of our entertainment. Happy Smiley people abound. Everyone knew that this was going to be a good one.

DJ Falex warmed up The Blue Room spinning golden oldies on the wheels of steel to take the groove through till Saturday. I hopped through to the ballroom for a catch-up and natter with Summer Lawson and we had some Healing time on the comfy couch as Hungry 4 Apples took to the stage, a brilliant band of musicians that hail from my native Yorkshire, wonderfully fronted by the gifted singer, Nathan Pies, and no strangers to the Castle.

This band of merry Yorkshiremen have gifted us with their collective muse in years past. After a two year break from performing live they brought Rock N Roll finesse to the Ballroom in fine form. The saying ‘a break is as good as a rest’ certainly rang true, & I was totally transfixed by this sterling performance for the entire duration. The last Song had me in raptures of joy with the perfect flavours of Primus. Hungry 4 Apples really do have something special.

By 3am I was growing weary and in need of a bit of rest and recuperation, so I returned to the Annex for a bit of a rest. Divine’s Sober now, so was pacing myself. I knew that I was on fire duty all day Saturday and the coming night I was very very excited for. Minerva Wakes, Erb And Ting and Sex Cakes. Three bands that Divine had been patient to review for some time and as if by magik all three were to be Gracing The Ballroom that coming night. Yeeeha.

Saturday 13th November

As Dawn Broke and the Autumnal Sun began to rise, I went to check the wood situation out. Hmmmm… indeed there was enough to cover the three fires upstairs and the Hearth in the Dungeon. Divine does take pride in his fire duties and keeping all the revellers warm is in Divine’s nature. It was a lovely day and the rolling green of Featherstone’s grounds were just breathtakingly beautiful (Sigh ❤ ) So I stocked up three wheelbarrows full and tended to the castle fires. Making sure each was glowing heartily, at mid day, I went for a shower and freshen up, a bit of a powernap before Mel Tiger Cats DJ Performance and yes it was a lovely skilled master mix of Disco Classics from the vaults of yesteryear further warming up a cozy Blue Room.

It was just as the Drum N Bass was revving up in the dungeon I lit the fire in the Hearth, making sure it was glowing heartily. Divine headed to witness the bill of pectacular Rock N Roll Brilliance that was about to unfold. But first it was Dinner time as performance artists and revellers rejoiced on hearty Fare, MacNCheese with a choice of Vegan, Vegetarian and meaty options available, along with some really really yummy heart and belly warming soup. Another 5 Star performance from The Masquerade Party Kitchen Crew.

To begin proceedings Minerva Wakes took to the stage of The Ballroom to deliver spoken word and contemporary performance art in a rather brilliant way. Minerva Wakes a one Woman powerhouse of creativity called Jo D’Arc, a lady who also plays Bass for the legendry Girobabies and fronts the sibling duo and power garage rock band “The Twistettes.” This is why my anticipation for this performance was so huge; Minerva Wakes I hadnae witnessed before so this is why it was extra special. The Castle Party Massive were blessed with a very entertaining Bohemian hour of brilliance, Trip-Hop Theatrical Amazingness and the debut of Minerva Wakes’ forthcoming album. This was the 5 Divine Star Opener of a night of 5 Star entertainment, Absolutely Brilliant.

During the intermission, I did a round of fire tending, stoking the fires and feeding them with the lovely Featherstone wood, grabbed a coffee and headed back to The Ballroom comfy couch to bear witness again to genuinely gifted talent. Now this one was a total surprise and completely new to Divine; a band (again from Yorkshire – Good Time! its always a good thing) called Masi Masi, fronted by a multi -talented instrumentalist. With the voice of an angel, called Joe McGrath, this young man would put Jamiroquai to shame, an absolute gifted soul. Another Star within The Ball Room, Massi Massi and Joe McGrath are gonna be massive… talent such as this always rises to the top.

This next performance I knew was going to be massive; Erb N Ting fronted by Groove Armada’s MC Mike Daniels on lead vocals and Jen Lynn Davis on supporting vocals. With the guitar and electronic wizardry of Al Roberts how could this not be a brilliant thing to witness, further blessing the Castle Massive with Rock N Roll brilliance. Jen blew me out of the water with her vocal range, totally complimenting Mike’s genius with a voice that appeared to be channelling Amy Winehouse. Honestly, this was the best night of my life since Groove Armada Headlined Lindisfarne. Erb N Ting even closed the set with Groove Armada’s classic, Superstyling. Absolutely brilliant and all in The Ball Room of musical delight.

As you can guess I was having the musical equivalent of Kundalini rising on the mega talent rammed night of excellence and just as I was thinking could it be any more brilliant, Sex Cakes took to the stage and climaxed with a performance that was just absolutely out of this world. Like all the bands on this stella line up, this was my first time of seeing them live. Oh my, how blessed could we be. Fronted by The Duchess, a poignant voice of truth that tells it as it is with no punches barred. This Goddess has something to say and it needs to be heard and indeed it will be. (All-Seeing. All-knowing Thats Divine ❤ ) And that’s just the lyrical prowess.

The Lynch Pin is the Electronic Mastery, Synths, Beats and Guitar by The Ploughman, a superior take on electronica in league with Orbital and Underworld, powered along with the Punk Rock power bass lines of The Baron. A collective of genuine performance art genius. No one was expecting this, performance art that is dynamite. Imagine Underworld with something to say words and beats that naturally grabs one attention with a resounding Yes!. Absolute Musical and performance art mastery. This was the climax to a night and weekend of performance art Orgasms, bubbling with delight insight and Bohemian Mastery. A night that moved my World and all I had witnessed for the first time in the flesh and not on a screen. Indeed the Cream Of The Crop Graced The Ballroom of 2021’s Masquerade Ball. A night that will enrich our souls forever.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

An Interview with Sam McGowan

Hitting pipes with Flip Flops has proven to be a great success for JunNk. The Mumble caught up with the man behind it all

Hello Sam, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Hello! Currently I am sitting in sunny Florida, enjoying being back in America after not being able to visit for so long due to the pandemic. I was born in Essex, England but live in the south in the heart of the New Forest.

When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
As a kid, I was always a part of some amateur dramatic group; but it was when I first started studying Performing Arts at Brockenhurst College and being immersed with other talented performers where I thought this is something I wanted to do.

Can you tell us about your training?
My musical training is all self-taught, I learnt to play guitar first, and used this skill through school and college for bands and musical theatre shows, which increased my love of the arts. However, it was when I started JunNk that I learnt how to play drums and piano. A ‘learning on the Job’ approach; I knew early on that JunNk had the potential to be huge, so I didn’t want to hold back.

By 2021 you have become quite the polymath – a performer, producer, director, and manager. Why so many strings to your bow?
I have always strived for success in everything that I do; I want to deliver the best, which led me down a path of learning as much as I could, expanding my skills and knowledge in order to have the best understanding of everything I was involved in.

I started JunNk in 2008 with 3 of my best friends, from a performance point of view it was a 25% split on stage, however everything behind the scenes needed a lot more attention, everything from running the business, marketing, branding, bookings to building the equipment, arranging the music, casting additional performers. The list goes on, I quickly adapted the ability to do it all and I loved it. Producing and directing more JunNk shows as we started expanding, creating new ideas and opportunities for the company. It was, and still is, a rush and my passion for the show and my determination to ever expand makes it all worth it!

So, what for you makes a good piece of theatre?
For me, it is about being able to create a world that you can immerse yourself into, a complete interactive experience; I want to forget about everything else except what I am watching.

You’re also quite an award winner – can you run us through a few?
JunNk first won a Sky 1, TV show called Don’t Stop Me Now back in 2012 which was the start to our awards. Following that we went on to win the ‘Act of the Year’ award for our corporate engagements in the UK in 2013. Our Edinburgh fringe debut in 2016 led to us win the ‘Spirit of the Fringe Award’; fast forward to 2019 and our debut at the Orlando Fringe where we won 3 awards; Best Family Show, Pick of the Fringe and Best Marketing.

On to JunNk; where, when how & why did you get the initial impulse to create the show?
JunNk started as a college project, and we had a dance exam for part of our performing arts course; collectively we weren’t the best dancers, so we created a very basic form of JunNk to get past the exam.

It was laid to rest after college until we entered a competition on ITV’s tv show Dancing on Ice, they were searching for an act to tour with the production show; I pulled the guys together to take part and we were placed 5th overall. We then entered a local talent competition in Bournemouth, we came runners up however a talent scout watched our performance and later offered us some work if we could create a 45-minute show. This was the starting point to the creation of the JunNk you see today.

Can you give us an overall picture of the JunNk experience?
Truly like nothing you’ve ever seen before; using various items commonly found in a junkyard, the four hilarious performers energetically combine superb acappella singing, captivating percussion, innovative musical creations and mesmerising gymnastics to produce a lively, dynamic and fun show that consistently delights audiences of all ages and nationalities.

From using bottles as panpipes and watering cans as trumpets, to playing well-known tunes on drain pipes with flip flops and a PVC tube as a didjeridoo, a show that really is a unique and sensational whirlwind of pure entertainment that should definitely not be missed!

So its essentially a ‘rubbish-powered variety show’- how do the audiences react in every age group?
We have been very selective with the variety that we add to the show to make sure we can reach a wide spectrum of ages. The show is perfect for all and due to the lack of spoken word also makes it popular internationally for all cultures!

Who writes the material for the show – the jokes, the comedy, etc.?
The material normally starts with a basic idea, a song, a sketch etc and then we would workshop it in a rehearsal; essentially if we found it funny it would go in the show. Quite a lot of the show was generated by me and some of the guys just messing around. When it comes to the music, depending on the songs I would arrange some and bring them to a rehearsal and we would ‘JunNk-ify’ them.

Since its inception, then, how has the show evolv’d?
Most things have a ‘sell by date’ so I try to keep most things updated and current, some bits of material continually do well with the audience so have become classic parts of the show. The biggest part of the show that evolves is the creation of instruments, I’m constantly coming up with new ways to make music, building more equipment to deliver even more unique ways to make sound!

Tell us about China & Abu Dhabi?
Even though JunNk is based in the UK, we have done more tours in China and Abu Dhabi than England; both countries are unbelievable, I love them, and our show is always so well received. Incredible theatres and amazing people, I cant wait to get back over and tour them again.

So Covid. How big an obstacle did it prove to JunNk’s progress?
Live entertainment has certainly been one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, with ongoing and ever-changing restrictions plaguing its full comeback. Even in a pre-covid world, the entertainment business is far from easy, with live entertainment usually operating on a last-in, first- out basis, often being seen as a disposable luxury for most events. The pandemic caused the JunNk to lose two year’s worth of contracts overnight. Like many, the company was devastated, however persistence and determination managed to keep the company alive and growing and we are coming back stronger than ever!

In the dark days of the Lockdowns, did you ever feel like you wanted to give it all up?
Honestly Yes, but that was on a cold dark winter’s evening during a power cut… it didn’t last! I then lit the fire and got to it. I turned to the digital age and quickly grew a TikTok following of eighty thousand followers, generating over ten million views. This was the spark I needed to kick JunNk into our post covid gear and start to get the show back out there.

Tell us about your collaboration with Dana McKeon?
This started as a covid project, I met Dana while we were both performing on a cruise, she’s an incredible artist. We had similar goals and an equal passion for creating music, we started by covering Justin Timberlake’s – Cry me a River before deciding to write an original song together. We put our heads together and wrote ‘Love Language’ where I mixed the original sound of JunNk and the beautiful vocals from Dana to write a commercial pop / tropical house song. Love Language made it into the top 10 in the Malta PRS charts. Me and Dana have more in the pipeline so keep those eyes peeled.

You’ve now got an eye on America – what stokes the interest & what are your Transatlantic plans?
So I started JunNk in Orlando, FL in 2018, we have 2 teams that are set for Cruises, theme parks and theatres, touching a market that we hadn’t been able to do with the UK team. America offers a world of opportunities, we have strong connections with Disney due to the Cruises we have done with them over the years, so we are now working closely with another production company to open as many opportunities as possible. A very exciting time that’s for sure.

& Finally, you’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show to a stranger in the street – whaddayasay?
JunNk the manic love child of Stomp and the Blue Man Group, come immerse yourself in our zany world of comedy and music.

Mid Life Krysis @ Room 2

Mid Life Krysis
Room 2, Glasgow
4th November, 2021

Room 2 is an up and coming Glasgow venue, just round the corner from George Square. The basement room spreads out at the bottom of the stairs, making it a basement venue. On this dark and wintery night it was host to a promotional evening involving four acts that were as different as polar opposite in style of music.

I was personally there to see the Steven Vickers’ hip-hop creation, Mid Life Krysis. This would be my own second listening of his act that he is constantly touring with. I met him on a trip to Arran where he performed at a house in a behind-the-scenes kind of evening.

Steven’s genius in full flow

At the Room 2 gig his act was second to perform, after a folk music duo on guitar. But Steven’s gig set list was enough for a concert all of its own. His now well-chiselled style was all about breaking free from any and all limitation in ruckus libations of complete rap and soul. His accent enhanced his outbreak of intentions, and gave the whole space room to venture into his whipped up ideas that he classes his lyrics and determines his beats upon.

So it was fit for dancing, zoning out with a power mixed in on almost a heavy techno level. He was the perfect artist, struggling with himself, and with the lies he sees all around him all the time. Using his musical venture and prowess to complain but also having a sharp cutting edge on things in life in his own Mid Life Krysis.

A booming sound coupled with comical, serious, ironic and even street level streams of a hard hitting hip hop. He was alone on the stage with only his music to go on, and his dance was something like an antagonism, almost like a fully dressed African standing ready for war.

The crowd was enamoured to his beats of progression, and there were rumours flying about because out man Steven is more than a struggling artist but the vein of songs dealt with very real perturbations of isolation, being homeless, and many themes that cut to the bone.

He magically interweaves it all into a heightened state of affairs managing to gut him-self while also creating a performance and a good time for his up and coming audiences through thriving through his musical genre.

The liveliness was quite the thing for a solo act managing to cram a great night out into a matter of an hour. We took it in with a good enthusiasm and did our best not to feel sorry for all the lines he has come up with. Lyrics that on their own would seem devastating but when put passionately to music and his composition where well travelled and we hope he’ll have the realisation that he was not suffering them alone.

But it’s good to hear someone saying it like it is, unafraid to confront the living daylights out of it by using music. All of which he does with nothing less than bravado and accomplishment. A zesty, dancy time for adult consumption he offers a conundrum of musical spheres and untold life experience.

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly