Blackpool Music Festival – April Keen, Blue Zen and Belvadere light up Blackpool

Blackpool Muisc festival

April very keen to impress…..

On a reasonably warm mid October evening the illuminations glowing nearly as brightly as all the tail lights on the cars that are bumper to bumper on the promenade, there is a rare ‘nice’ atmosphere in the town centre which is more relaxed than normal, perfect for a bite to eat and some acoustic tunes…..

The venue for tonight’s entertainment is the popular trendy bistro bar, Toast. I would say from the off that if there was a reason that more should be done to support these kind of events then I’m living proof that they should, not somewhere I would normally eat on my own but I am tonight…. That’s what you call incremental business?!

The reason for my solo excursion became apparent a little after the scheduled allotted time as the first act got underway and 16 year old Blackpool girl, April keen starts with an original track called ’17’ quite apt considering she delivers an opening track like someone of older years…. Unfortunately Toast is not particularly conducive to live acts unlike its sister venue in nearby St Annes, so April had to start the set battling for space on the stage with a waitress clearing plates and the bar man thinking he was on the ‘smash the bottle show’ and going for the world record but she pushed on like a true professional all the same. The PA wasn’t particularly kind to her vocals either but one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that quality will always shine through in the end.

Her vocal style reminds me of Sinead O’Conner or maybe Dolores O’Riordan, as I expected Zombie to be belted out for the next track but the second track started quietly with her picking the chords with aplomb despite of all the restaurant noise and was quite rightly greeted by great applause by the end. The audience it is fair to say was mixed, those who stopped to watch seemed to enjoy it and show their appreciation, some I fear didn’t even notice her…….to be fair Toast, certainly at this end of town caters for people who want  to eat rather than people looking to see where the next talented artist is coming from and any act who would normally play here would be for the masses whim and not their curiosity. Tough crowd.

However, still smiling and although once or twice overwhelmed with the cackle of laughter from one side of the room who were blissfully unaware of anything going on around them quite frankly, she played on.

Stand out track for me and a family favourite is Candle, a beautifully crafted tune paying homage to a tough time. The delicate start draws you in as she sets the scene with warmth and fragility and she shows great versatility  with a tempo change Radiohead would have been proud of which I felt illustrated the determined nature she clearly has as an individual. I often say you can tell a lot about a person with their song writing and she told me a lot in the 25 minutes she had my attention. She has a future.

On a personal note I’d like her to explore her musical canvas a little more and as she develops her song writing I hope she takes a look at the likes of Lucy rose and Ellie Goulding as a guide as I find interesting timing changes and an off beat rhythm a little more interesting than the traditional style of folk, but for tonight at least she had a more pressing concern of trying to pull off a gig with a ‘distracted’ audience shall we say and as April quite eloquently sang herself in one of her own tracks written only a week earlier………’Put down your weapons, show me your gun, put up your hands and show me I’ve won’  and by golly tonight she certainly had.

Blackpool music festival

Classy MzDee and Jay tell their stories of life…

Next up Blue Zen.  A duo from Manchester who are very friendly bunch I have to say as I had the pleasure of a brief chat with Jay before the set. MzDee was already singing elsewhere before here and they were already up against it as we had started late due to technical issues….and as soon as they finished here they were off to end their night in Scrooges, something I was very used to in my youth as well!!!

MzDee instantly took charge of proceedings and swapped the mic for a better one and the two musicians set themselves up to play. A very chilled tone was set intantly….a wonderfully delicate sound in which a lot of time and thought had obviously gone in to. Probably lost on a lot of people in here, but they built a lovely atmosphere to tell their personal stories of experience and opinion which consisted of raw emotions and deep feelings and how they manifest themselves in modern day life; the kind of urban quality one expects from city based acts.

MzDee has a classy velvety feel to her voice that makes you hang on to every line but again you felt this couldn’t be truly appreciated in a venue that was more geared for quality food than quality music……. the introduction and first verse of ‘Just Watch me’ had  the frothy milk of a large Latte made over the top of it……industrial maybe, but not really in context of the lyric nor the mood.

They say less is more and the simple approach to their song writing gives a solid impression of quality. Lovely mood and tempo changes to keep you on your toes…. They were a pleasure to listen to and to have as guests to our humble town.

Please note at this stage I’ve probably said a little more than maybe I should about the venue and I want to be clear the staff were very polite and the food was exceptional but I feel for a venue for this type of event it probably  wasn’t best suited and should be noted for next year. However, in the meantime try their Carbonara it was lush…?!!?

It was time to move on now and over the road to Eddie Gees to watch the final act of the  night………..


The word Belvedere  originated from the late 16th century: from Italian, literally  ‘fair sight’, from bel  ‘beautiful’ + vedere  ‘to see’ and I feel that the name, by design or chance, is becoming more apparent each time I see them. For those of you who know Eddie Gee he is very well known around these parts for being  the Fylde Coast King of Soul, he is Blackpool’s very own soul train and it wouldn’t surprise me if this man taught Barry White all he knows about sophistication and panache. Disco and Soul is Eddies life and Eddie Gees is the home of disco and soul so it proved an interesting choice for our 3 piece from Blackpool with a folky/country Mumford and sons-esque image and vibe.

Blackpool Music Festival

Belvadere at Eddie Gees….

Jon Bamborough, festival organiser, explained to me that this was what the festival was all about, showing different people what different music is out there and the quality in which it can be delivered. Tonight this responsibility, however, was laid on very young shoulders but the job would never have been given to them if the organisers didn’t feel they were up to it. Such maturity in people so young they took to the stage and showed everyone instantly that they are extremely talented and that they will go far.

Belting out tunes with just a bass kick, guitar and piano would be impressive enough but the combined strength and beauty of the vocal from 18 year old Jess is incredible. Add to that the harmonies from band mates Harrison and Danny and they do have something truly beautiful. It didn’t take long for the small crowd expecting disco and soul to get jigging around the room to the sound of Belvadere’s well crafted versions of classic popular covers, it was clear to everyone these guys would go down well on any stage.

They have a unique sound they can work with and develop in to whatever style they see fit…….. some might say they are already there… but for me there is way more to come yet from these youngsters; they’ve only just warmed up!

So as I stated earlier whether Belvadere was a name chosen by design or not….whether you see them or not, there is definitely something beautiful going on here.

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