On Friday 21 February at 8 pm the featured artists at the Semitone Studios live music event are Picnic Area for a welcome return visit. They were last at Semitone last June. The lineup coming to Semitone is Wayne Mcdonald (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) and Andy Callen (electric guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals). Following their set we will as usual have an open mic.
Admission free but contributions towards costs are welcome.
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Wayne McDonald and Andy Callen met on the Manchester acoustic scene in the early noughties. They started working together following the splits of their former bands: "Because They Came From The Wrong Side Of Town" and "The Spinning Fields" in 2005. In 2006 they became "Picnic Area" (on the basis that they were a British band playing country music, and picnic areas are what you find in the British country-side!) As a duo, they released their first release, the confidently-titled "The essential Picnic Area". This was a sprawling 21 track DIY recording made at home, in Wythenshawe. It nevertheless drew some favourable comments in early reviews.
The additions of Simon Parkin, Matt Crawford, and Paul Manina resulted in a flexible line-up capable of playing any type of gig. The follow up extended player: "You know you want it!" was recorded with legendary producer Bill Leader and engineer/ jazz keyboardist: John Ellis. Simon Parkin left the band in September 2012, to be replaced by Stephen Braithwaite on drums. Paul Bratt also joined the band as an occasional member in 2013, playing congas and bongos.
Picnic Area play frequently in the Manchester area, including their own monthly "Picnic Club" Americana and acoustic showcase at Fuel Bar in Withington. They have hosted events at the Middlewich Festival, Cheshire, and have played support to many leading acts on the British new country scene, such as Quiet Loner, and The Good Intentions. They host and play at the annual Manchester Americana Festival, and in 2013 by invitation appeared at the prestigious Grillstock Festival in Manchester. 2015 proved to be the most exciting year of the band's life up to this point, with a highly successful performance at London's "Slaughtered Lamb" along with two Americana festivals at Prestwich, and Todmorden.
The band rounded off the year by launching their new album "Classics" at Manchester's: "Wonder Inn". The night was a huge success. The album is available through Limefield Records, and features the familiar production skills of John Ellis and significant contributions from Ellis, himself and special guests: Dave Rigby and Rachel Donnelly. 2016 saw a number of extremely positive reviews for "Classics", and some great gigs including a slot at London's "Come down and meet the folks" supporting the brilliant Darren Hayman (ex-Hefner).
Living in the shadows of Brexit and Trump provided unexpected creative inspiration for the Picnics, and songwriting was prolific during 2016/17 leading to the recording of a 3rd studio album with young producer Andrew Glassford, featuring guest appearances from The Good Intentions' Gabi Monk. During the same period the band were delivering storming live performances, for example at a Hope Not Hate benefit in Manchester (with their musical soul brothers The Bleenees) and at Stockport's Musicians Against Homelessness. The new album "No country for young men" is due for release on the Limefield label in early 2018.
The Picnics have a settled 5 piece lineup of: Stephen Braithwaite (drums), Andy Callen (guitars, backing vocals), Matt Crawford (bass), Wayne McDonald (vocals, acoustic guitar), and Paul Manina (harmonicas, keyboards, percussion). Paul Bratt (congas) frequently joins the lineup for gigs and recording.