Monday, 3 September 2018

3/9/2018 Porcelain Hill & Lord Algae @ The Unicorn

Monday night. In Camden? Yes - it's a 'School night'. Guess what? Getting to bed an hour or so later now and then won't kill you. Yes really - you'd be surprised. Apparently, Monday night is 'Blues Night' at The Unicorn. Which is odd as I'd describe neither of these acts as 'blues bands' - although of course being 'rock' means their music is blues based if you dig down deep enough. I like blues, but that's not why I'm here. A few weeks ago at another band's gig I randomly discovered an amazing but unknown American band who had been hard at work touring the UK's toilet circuit. I told a musician friend of mine about this band as I thought he might like them, particularly as his own band and the US act are both power trios.  So I was quite surprised when a few weeks later both bands turned up on the same bill at one of my favourite Camden venues! Coincidence?

My friend's band were on first. They are called Lord Algae - formerly the 'The Lord Algae Review'. They are a rock covers band, but a very good one. They put their own twist on the songs they cover, and don't play all the same tired old standards that most rock covers acts play. The set is very varied, veering from 1950's rock & roll, to James Brown, and the next minute they could be playing Motörhead!
The standard of musicianship is very high - frontman Max plays bass like Jack Bruce, while singing with a much grittier bluesy voice. Guitarist Jimmy reminds me of the late Gary Moore at his hardest rocking and most bluesy, while the drummer does the best Keith Moon impression I've ever seen - without actually making and effort to look like 'Moon the Loon'. This is a top quality band, and the music is played with a rare and genuine passion for the songs. This band is well worth catching if you see they are playing in a London pub near you
Next up we have a very different power trio, but an amazingly good one! There are only a handful of people there to see the bands in this Camden pup on a Monday night, but Porcelain Hill play this gig as if it's a packed out sweaty club show on a Saturday night!
The energy level is sky high from the moment these guys hit the stage!
From what I have seen so far, this band play every show as if their lives depended on it - even to a handful of people in a pub on a Monday night. This band take no prisoners!
The songs are their own apart from one or two covers, but this band are so good that it doesn't matter if you've never heard their songs before.
Porcelaine Hill put on a show, but they don't need fancy clothes, lights, or stage props - they are the show. The frontman puts a new twist on the old 'playing-guitar-behind-your-head' trick and plays a whole song (including a pretty good guitar solo) with his guitar behind his back. And makes it look easy.
The music is basically ROCK, but with funk, soul, and blues mixed in. If you can imagine the Jimi Hendrix Experience crossed with Cream then you are in the same ball park. The musicianship is electrifying!
These guys play like they mean it.
This is how you play rock 'n' roll!
Go and see this band if they head your way - you won't regret it. They are coming back to the UK in spring 2019.

People who won't go out 'because it's a school night' are missing out BIG TIME!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

2/9/2018 Shuttleworth Collection Heritage Day @ Old Warden

Another excuse to deploy my new bike for exactly the sort of thing I got it for - going to work by motorcycle is great when the weather is OK, but days out like this is what I really love having a bike for. Ironically, today I find myself riding it back out to not far from when I got it from. It's a beautiful day for riding, and it's also perfect air display weather.

It's many years since I've been to Old Warden - I think the last time was on one of my old 500cc 2 stroke Suzukis. This time I'm on a machine with around 3 times as much power that weigh's virtually the same - this is fun!
Today's event is the Shuttleworth Heritage Day. The day's flying programme is very varied and features aircraft from the very earliest days of aviation up to World War Two. The Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden in Bedfordshire really is a wonderful place. If you are interested in vintage aircraft, cars, or gardens there is so much to see. As far as air displays go, the atmosphere here is wonderful, and very informal compared to many bigger more commercial events elsewhere. It all feels so relaxed. The flying programme is interesting and varied.
My little digicam isn't really up to capturing airborne aircraft - even with it's zoom they are little more than dots in the sky so I didn't really bother. Photographing aircraft actually in the air where they belong is a waste of time unless you have a powerful telephoto lens - and even if I possessed suitable equipment I wouldn't have been able to carry it on the bike so you'll have to make do with pictures of planes on the ground instead. Things kick off with a short aerobatic display by modern civil aircraft. Then things get more interesting with a performance by some vintage gliders. I thought this rare Kirby Kite from between the wars was particularly beautiful.

Next were a couple of very rare racing aircraft from the 1930's. The Miles Hawk Speed Six was a pretty hot number in it's day. Only three were ever built and this one from 1935 is the only one surviving in the whole World.
Appearing with the Hawk was something very special that I have been waiting for many years to see in the air - the de Havilland DH88 Comet. This is a particularly rare aircraft as only five were built and only two survive. This is the only one complete and airworthy. This type was designed for the 1934 England to Australia  air race - which it won, as well as breaking numerous speed records. Finally seeing this in the air was a real highlight for me.
I think this is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built - along with the World's first jet airliner, also designed and built by de Havilland and also sharing the name Comet.
This aircraft (along with the later jet airliner) was designed and built down the road at Hatfield, Herts. The famous Hatfield landmark the art deco 'Comet Hotel' (now a Ramada Inn) near the old aircraft factory proudly displays a scale model of this aircraft on a pole outside.
A splendid and very realistic full size replica of this historic machine also used to hang in the modern Galleria shopping centre in Hatfield, but has been removed in recent times - I'd love to know what happened to it...
Next was another rarity - a Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz. This is a 1930's German training aircraft.
Things move on to the 1940's with an appearance by a Dakota from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, but as it didn't land - no pictures from me! Continuing the 1940's theme things get more exciting - the Mk XI Spitfire is a very rare beast, and also one of the best looking of the breed. Today we are treated to not one, but two of these elusive machines!
This is probably the first and only time in at least 65 years that two of this mark of Spitfire have flown together. It will also almost certainly be the last time two of these rare birds are ever seen in the air together.
The Mk XI is a special lightened and unarmed Photo Reconnaissance model of this thoroughbred machine and  is the fastest Merlin engined mark of Spitfire - capable of well over 400 MPH. These two aircraft put on a dynamic and exciting display!
I make absolutely no apologies for including loads of Spitfire pictures - there are plenty of these two  I didn't include, and there was also another Spitfire present - but more of that later.
I enjoyed spotting the detail differences in these two 'identical' model Spitfires, but I won't bore you with the details....
After all the rare blue Spitfire excitement we returned to the theme of training aircraft.
The next segment featured a post war de Havilland Chipmunk and two Miles Magisters. One in pre war training yellow...
 ...and one in wartime camouflage.
Continuing the theme of training aircraft we now move from the UK to Russia.
The Po-2 was originally designed in the 1920's as a trainer, but was best known for it's use in WW2 against the Germans on the Eastern Front and even later in the Korean War when it was used against the Americans - who nicknamed it 'Bedcheck Charlie' due to it's nightime use for psychological warfare. As in WW2 it was used to fly very low and very slow over enemy lines in the middle of the night while the soldiers below were trying to sleep - while dropping small bombs on them. Although little physical damage was done on these missions, the damage to morale and sleep deprivation was considerable - the the Po-2 was very hard to see or shoot down in the darkness. This example was built in 1944.

Continuing the biplane theme we move on to the 1930's with the Gloster Gladiator.
Like the P0-2 this type remained in service into WW2 by when it was already obsolete. It still continued in combat against more modern aircraft in Norway and Malta.
One of the aircraft that replaced the Gladiator in service was the Hawker Hurricane.
This example is a rare Mk.I and a genuine Battle of Britain veteran.
Also seen here is a later 'Sea Hurricane' produced for the Navy to help protect Atlantic convoys.

Taking to the air with this aircraft that lives here was another Shuttleworth Collection resident.
Like the Hurricane the Supermarine Spitfire found fame in the Battle of Britain, but like the collection's Hurricane this is actually a later model. This is a Mk V from 1941 and with it's cannons and clipped wings looks quite different to earlier versions.
Next we take a step backwards in time from WW2 to WW1 with the Sopwith Triplane and Sopwith Camel - both of which managed to evade my camera. Also evading my camera were the sleek Bristol M1C monoplane, the SE5A (which I did catch in a hanger later), the Avro 504DH60XComper Swift, and Desoutter I. I did manage to catch the Tiger Moth and Avro Tutor on the ground from a distance.
And also the Bristol Fighter which took part in the WW1 section of the air display.
Later we were treated to a spectacular display of aerobatics by a much more modern biplane - this Pitts Special - which has been fitted with a bigger more powerful engine than standard.
There was quite a contrast to end the day's flying - the Edwardians.
This featured the 1910 Avro Triplane and the 1910 Avro Boxkite - both replicas built for the 1965 film 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines'.
I wasn't really looking forward to this part of the show as I expected it to be slow and boring. Actually, I found myself really enjoying it and it was one of the highlights of the day for me!
Those old machines fly so slowly, and they can turn so tightly due to their low speed that they turn inside the airfield's perimeter and never move far from the crowd. This is such an incredible contrast to something like a B-52 which will fly past and then take 5 minutes just to turn round and come back! It is an absolute delight and a fascinating spectacle. It really fires up the imagination to think what flying must have been like over 100 years ago, and what an amazing spectacle it must have seemed at the time.

Even once the air display is over there is still plenty to see. The collection of vintage aircraft, cars, and motorcycles is well worth a visit in it's own right and I'm in no hurry to go home. There is time to have a look at some of the aircraft that didn't take part in the display.

And also a chance for another look at some that were seen in the air earlier.

There is also a chance to have a closer look at some of the aircraft that were flying earlier as they are moved off the airfield into the hangers.

And then there is a chance to look at some of the many treasures in the hangers - this SE5A seen flying earlier.

The weather really couldn't have been better - sunshine all day, but without it being too hot. A great day out!