Monday, 29 September 2014

10/5/2014 Healthy Junkies @ The Unicorn

So I find myself at The Unicorn yet again. There must have been other bands on as well as Healthy Junkies but I only seem to have photos of them from the night and five months later I can't remember anything else about the evening. OK, beer may have been involved. Actually, I'm sure beer was involved but I've got a shit memory at the best of times - in fact for as long as I can remember...
I always enjoy shows by this band - partly because I like their catchy songs, but also because they play with a genuine love for what they do.
Danny Fury is back on drums for this gig - enjoying a change from his 'day job' of fronting Tango Pirates.
Two albums in and the band have plenty of material to pick from when they put a set together, so songs tend to get changed around quite a bit to avoid things getting stale.
Healthy Junkies mixture of punk, glam. and grunge along with their memorable songs have helped them build up a following - as has playing regularly at their own night at this venue as well as others around town. Doing the odd tour of the UK and abroad as well as some festivals has also helped spread the word - this is a band who are definitely 'paying their dues' and starting to reap the rewards.
 As I seem to see them nearly every month I'm running out of thing to say about them....
This band's regular shows at The Unicorn are always entertaining and there is a good atmosphere of like minded souls in the venue.
Same time next month then?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

17/4/2014 The Wildhearts @ The Electric Ballroom

WiLDHEARTS gig is always something I look forward to, and this one even more so than usual due to the support acts.
This time Ginger is supporting himself and playing with two different bands tonight - the first of these being Hey! Hello!
This is a project Ginger started as part of his PledgeMusic output. The 'Hey! Hello!' album is a really good slice of pop/punk and received much critical acclaim as well as winning two Pure Rawk Awards.
However, the album was intended as a one-off project and there were never any plans to form a full band and play any gigs. Until now. Ginger and American vocalist Victoria Liedtke have recruited ex-AntiProduct bassist Toshi, and ex-Towers Of London guitarist 'The Rev' for live duties - Ginger played all the instruments on the album himself.
The band play a great half hour set of tuneful pop/punk - most of the album gets played including 'Black Valentine', 'How I Survived The Punk Wars', and the ridiculously catchy 'Swimwear'. It all goes down a storm - people really like this stuff!
Hey! Hello! are supporting The Wildhearts on this UK tour and this is probably the first and last time the band will ever play in this country - there as no plans to make another album as this was only ever intended as a one-off project. I think it can be considered a highly successful one though as the album made number one in the UK Rock Chart and some fans think it's the best thing Ginger has ever done. I wouldn't argue with that as I found it a highly enjoyable album and I absolutely love the Frank Kozik artwork.

This show has a really strong support bill and I was looking forward to seeing the Von Hertzen Brothers, but I get detained towards the back of the venue talking to people and caught very little of their set. I tend to bump into loads of people I haven't seen for ages at gigs like this.

For similar reasons to described above, I don't get very near the front for the Wildhearts set. It's not the end of the world though as Wildhearts shows are all about the songs and the amazing atmosphere. Needless to say, it's a highly enjoyable set. The songs span the band's career quite broadly from the first EP to latest album 'Chutzpah!', although there is little material from the later era around the 'Riff...', '...must Be Destroyed', and 'white' albums.
Scott Sorry is back in the band for this tour as the hugely popular Jon 'Random' Poole is otherwise engaged elsewhere. The Wildhearts are on fine form at the moment and possibly playing better than ever. It goes without saying that the crowd in this sold out venue had a terrific time!
Most the usual crowd pleasers get an airing along with some live rarities like 'Junkenstein' and finishing with the ever popular '29 x The Pain'. See here for the full setlist. Sorry the pictures are so crap - I'm not getting on very well with my current digicam - on paper it's spec is better than my previous one but I have trouble getting good results at gigs. Also, I can't remember much about shows when writing about them five or six months later - hence me not writing much about gigs at the moment. Things should improve when I finally get up to date with my blogging...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

12/4/2014 Vamps 'N' Gypsies & White Coast Rebels @ Boston Arms Music Room

Just when we all thought we'd seen the last of  Vamps 'N' Gypsies, they reappear from nowhere (or Guildford - whichever is more desolate) with a new lineup.

The band seemed to have gone their separate ways - both personally and geographically several years ago. Lead guitarist Stu remains from the previous version - the only member who appears to have been active musically since the band fell apart with other bands and solo acoustic performances keeping him busy.
However, the band have unexpectedly bounced back for this (one off?) gig in London - apparently reforming due to a request from a promoter.

For a variety of reasons only three members of the classic lineup are featured in this possibly 'for one night only' version of the band - drummer Jamie still keeping the beat at the back

Without original bassist Rich Elson rhythm guitarist 'Flash' Danny has moved over to take his place - also assuming some vocal duties. Danny also shared lead vocals originally on one of the band's best songs 'Running After You' - sadly missing from tonight's set.
Also conspicuous by her absence is original singer Nikki Jones - her place tonight taken by Suvi Rinne who has come all the way from Finland! She can certainly sing alright, and at times seems to share some of the mannerisms of Nikki - whether by accident or design it's hard to tell.

Not surprisingly there are no new songs tonight, but the band have plenty of good stuff to pick from already from their three EPs - they had enough for a full album if only they had stayed together. You can still find some of them scattered online in various places.

Flash Danny is still 'flash' - he always used to throw himself (often literally) wholeheartedly into the band's performance and he continues to do so tonight.

So is this the last we will see of this once promising young band? It's currently looking highly unlikely the classic lineup from back in the day will ever get back together - which is a shame as they had some cracking songs and were always great fun live. Although tonight's show is OK and we get to hear most of the bands best material, it doesn't capture the excitement of the band at their best. Worth seeing for sure, and no doubt they would improve with more gigs if they were to play regularly again, but I think they need Danny back on rhythm guitar and a regular bass player. I think this gig was only ever meant as a one-off to 'test the water' and Suvi although capable was only ever going to do this one show as she doesn't live in the UK. So maybe this really is the last ever Vamps 'N' Gypsies gig....

PS: If you search my older blog posts you can find quite a few Vamps 'N' Gypsies gigs featuring the old lineup of the band....

Final band of the night are White Coast Rebels. If you like the heavier side of 80's rock then you will probably like this lot.

They is nothing very original about their look or sound, but they play well - and more importantly - they play like they mean it.
I didn't realize it the previous time I saw this band, but actually they are from Spain - which explains why they aren't seen in these parts very often. However, they are good at what they do, sound very professional, and also have some above average quality songs - worth catching if they are down your way.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

8/4/2014 Bermonsey Joyriders, Bubblegum Screw & Healthy Junkies @ The Black Heart

I'm at a different venue in Camden this time - not as cheap as The Unicorn but at an easier to get to location. The Black Heart is easy to miss if you don't know where it is, but it's worth seeking out. Sometime it's good for real ales, and other times there is only one on tap. It's got rather pricey in the past year or so though, compared to being pretty reasonable two or three years ago. It's only yards away from Brewdog - which is handy. Needless to say I spend some time in there as well...

Meanwhile, at the Black Heart...
 Healthy Junkies are on first - it's makes a change to see them somewhere else than at The Unicorn.
They turn in their usual polished set of Glam punk tinged grunge with some catchy songs and a lively performance.

Next things get rather sleazier...
Dirty New York style rock 'n' roll with a large measure of punk attitude is the oder of the day here.
Frontman Mark Thorn throws all his best Jagger/Johansen shapes and moves - his energy level is amazing!

Last but very definitely  not least are Bermondsey Joyriders. This is probably the best proper rock 'n' roll band in town, and also with the finest punk credentials.
This lot have some cracking songs from the two albums they have released to date - there is another already in the can. Some of the songs are so catchy you are singing along to them the first time you hear them. They are also the sharpest dressed band in town, with a unique look as well as their own sound.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

5/4/2014 Top Buzzer, Brassick & Healthy Junkies @ The Unicorn

This Saturday night finds me back at The Unicorn for another free gig. As usual I don't catch the first band but arrive in time to see Top Buzzer. This band are new to me and feature ex-Roolettes and Traci Hunter Band guitarist Mike on six string duties.
The music is punky punchy new wave influenced rock 'n' roll.
The band have been described as "Weezer meets Billy Idol" or "The Toy Dolls meet The Wildhearts".

Taking the music to the people!
 It's pretty in your face stuff - tuneful but with plenty of attitude and tightly played.

Next band are Brassick. They are this month's outfit from out of town - the midlands in this case.
They play more uncompromising punk rock with some ska and metal thrown into the mix.
Brassick are powerful and agressive - a difficult band to ignore.

Finally we get the resident band Healthy Junkies - headining their own monthly club night.
I've seen this band so many times now than I'm running out of things to say. They always put on a good show though, and their grunge tinged pop/punk appeals to a wide audience.
There are plenty of catchy and memorable tunes pulled from the two albums they have released to date.
You never know quite what's going to happen at a Healthy Junkies show, but at least one member of the band will end up on the floor at some point!
And so ends another surprisingly cheap night out in Camden - because at The Unicorn you don't pay 'Camden' prices - just normal North London pub prices.

Monday, 22 September 2014

28/3/2014 Status Quo @ Hammersmith Odeon

I've liked going to Hammersmith Odeon less and less over the years. Seeing AC/DC there when it reopened a few years ago after they took all the seats out downstairs was a highlight, but it's been downhill since then. This is my first visit since it's latest refurb and it's actually a lot nicer now. Before I even leave home I have resolved not to use the bar in the venue though - well over £4 for a pint of piss - they can keep that. Fortunately there are one or two half decent pubs between the tube station and the venue...
The scene is set...
Tonight's support act is a terrific choice - Wilko Johnson! Here I am seeing him for the last time. Again. He and his band knock out a terrific set - despite being terminally ill Wilko is lively and looks to be enjoying himself! He can feel the love from the crowd and it seems to do him the world of good - the best medicine he could get. Like the Telecaster wielding headliners he is fired up and gives his own Telecaster a good seeing to in his own unique style.
 The audience lap it up and seem genuinely pleased and moved by his performance - while Wilko seems thrilled to suddenly find himself playing to such a large crowd, and touched by their reaction to him. The usual (early era) Dr Feelgood R&B classics are cranked out with surprising energy and the set is rounded off with a fine version of 'She Does It Right'. I could go home happy after that without even seeing the headliners!

Even though I love the classic 1970's era Quo (when they still knew how to rock) I have never seen the band live. I really lost interest when they seemed to turn into a pop group and started churning out soppy mush like 'Margarita Time', 'Living On An Island', and 'In The Army Now'. I had no interest in seeing the current lineup of the band with it's more recent 'hired hands' - they might be excellent musicians but the later version of the band seemed like a lightweight parody of the original to me. If it wasn't the original lineup then I wasn't interested. Then came the excellent Alan Parker documentary Hello Quo - which ended with hatchets being buried and the four original members meeting up for the first time in years. They met at a rehearsal studio and actually played together at the end of the film. Which left one big question hanging in the air - 'What if....'

So a year or so later they seem to have decided it was a good idea and a few dates featuring the original lineup were announced. Not surprisingly there was massive demand, and the tickets sold out before I had a chance to get one. So that was that. Or so I thought...

A year later and the 'Frantic Four' (were they ever really referred to as that back in the day?) are out on another short tour - for what looks like it really is the last time. This time I manage to get a ticket, and I am pleased that the London shows are at the comparatively 'intimate' Hammersmith Odeon instead of the huge and soul-less Wembley Arena like last year. I'm really pleased about this as I'm sure the band must have played here many times in their earlier days with the old lineup. The icing on the cake it that the band will be performing the whole of their classic 'Status Quo Live' double album at these few shows - in my opinion it's one of the best live albums ever.

So, I finally get to see the classic original Status Quo lineup playing all the songs from their live album - and one or two others. It's great to see Alan Lancaster take lead vocals on set opener 'Junior's Wailing' as well as a few other songs later on.
Francis Rossi was quoted as saying after last year's 'Frantic Four' shows that has was a little disappointed as the band were a bit under-rehearsed. Although the band play well tonight, I can see what he meant as it's certainly not the tightest set I've seen from a major band - I'm sure they were much better in the 1970's, although I have only the live album to go on. John Coghlan seems a bit like he has trouble keeping up at times and seems a little behind the beat, but I still really enjoy the show and am very glad I managed to get a ticket.
It's quite a thrill for me to finally see Status Quo play - particularly this original version of the band. To be fair, they could never be as good as they must have been over 30 years ago, and two members of the band have done very little since then. Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt are very much the ones driving everything along and play better and tighter than the other half of the band - but that's only to be expected as they have hardly stopped over the past 30 years and must have played many of those songs countless times since this earlier very of the band fell apart and still play them regularly as part of the current band's set.
This might not be the sharpest performance I've seen by a band this year but I thoroughly enjoy the show and the atmosphere in the venue is terrific!
Classic after classic is rolled out, but the band stick strictly to songs that this version of the band would have played back in the day - everything is from before the 'Rocking All Over The World' abum. I have absolutely no complaints about that though - no 'In The Army Now', 'Living On An Island', or 'Margarita Time'! The setlist went something like:Junior's Wailing, Backwater / Just take me, Is there a better Way, In My Chair, Blue Eyed Lady, Little Lady / Most of the Time, Rain, April Spring, Summer and Wednesday, Railroad*, Oh Baby,  4500 Times inkl. Gotta Go Home, Big Fat Mama, Down Down, Roadhouse Blues, Caroline, Bye Bye Johnny. Things went a little wrong for the final song and seemed a little hesitant as Alan Lancaster seemed to forget the words to 'Bye Bye Johnny'.
Although it has to be said the band do seem a little under-rehearsed for such major and historic shows, I still think was a great value for money ticket and I'm really glad I didn't miss this last chance to see the 'classic' version of the band. I may never bother seeing Status Quo again as I'm not fussed about the modern lineup of the band - and even if I do see the band again one day they will never have a setlist as good as the one they played at this show!

22/3/2014 Eureka Machines @ The Borderline

This was one of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of the year, and also one of the best - as most of us knew it would be. Personally I reckon the brilliant and multi-award winning Eureka Machines are the best live band in the UK. Of course as I haven't actually seen every single band in the UK this might not be the case. I really haven't seen anyone better though. This band have a habit of selling out their London shows - not bad for a band from Leeds who are totally ignored by the mainstream media and get no virtually no airplay anywhere. Now they have sold out another show at The Borderline.

This is a totally unique band. They all dress the same in smart suits and creepers, but they play songs with really loud and heavy riffs. And pop melodies. Some of the lyrics are rather dark, and some are rather silly. They play their music very tightly as a band, and deadly seriously and precisely - but there is a very strong undercurrent of humour! Eureka Machines play very well indeed - like machines in fact - but their shows are enormous fun!
The atmosphere at this band's gigs is always fantastic, and you can tell that although the band take their performance very seriously they are having a great time playing their catchy pop/rock songs for us - and we can't help having a great time too! Frontman Chris Catalyst is highly entertaining and has a great line in banter - right up there with Thunder's Danny Bowes as possibly the funniest man in rock! The songs themselves are interesting with their odd humour, clever twists and turns,  meaty riffs, and jolly fine tunes. Click here to check out the title track to the second album 'Champion The Underdog'  Almost like a poppier version of the The Wildhearts or Therapy? - but with some seriously heavy riffing - you might even hear the odd Slayer riff during the show! After releasing two excellent albums the band were on the verge of calling it a day after several years of hard graft for little return, but a highly successful PledgeMusic campaign last year enabled them to make a third album the aptly titled 'Remain In Hope'- and very good it is too. Check out the autobiographical video for 'Pop Star' to see what it's really like being in a struggling band from oop North. The songs on this album are well written - particularly the very poignant and autobiographical 'Eternal Machines' - a song which has a great deal of meaning if you have followed the band's career to date...

Now Eureka Machines know they have a strong and loyal fanbase to support them they are keeping going. They are starting to get noticed a bit and this year made a very well received appearance at the Sonisphere festival at Knebworth as well as getting a little airplay on Team Rock Radio.

PS: A fourth album (again on PledgeMusic) is now in the pipeline and a London show has been booked for November - I suggest you get a ticket before it sells out because it definitely will. You can't possibly not enjoy a Eureka Machines show.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

8/3/2014 A Mouth Full Of Matches, Gasoline Thrill & Healthy Junkies @ The Unicorn

Another Saturday finds me back in Camden at the monthly 'Punk 'N' Roll Rendezvous' club. This night at The Unicorn is always excellent value for money as it's free to get in and the drinks are at normal pub prices - that's not Camden or West End venue rip-off prices, just North London pub prices. There are usually three or four bands on the bill and if you like punk, rock 'n' roll, or just general rock music you are bound to like at least one of the bands - maybe all of them. And even if you only like one of them you haven't paid to see any bands you didn't like and you can still have a few beers without feeling ripped off.

As usual I'm not well organised enough to arrive it time to see the first band Black Sixteen. I do manage to catch A Mouth Full Of Matches though.
As is usually the case at these club nights, one of the bands is from out of town - the midlands in this case.
To be honest I can't remember much about what the band sounded like 6 months or so later but I think they were quite good.
The girls on guitar and bass are sisters. I wasn't deliberately just trying to take pictures of the girls - honest! They were on the other side of the stage to where I was standing and they just seemed to end up over on my side in front of the camera.
There - just to give some balance - there was a bloke playing guitar too!
Well, now you know what A Mouth Full Of Matches look like you can click the link and go find out what they sound like for yourselves.
Worth catching next time they are in town I think.

Next band is Gasoline Thrill
This band have evolved over several years and were originally called Catfight. I remember seeing them once or twice at the much missed Gaff club in Holloway Road.
I think this is the second time Gasoline Thrill have played one of these club nights at The Unicorn and the bring a modest but loyal following with them.
The music is raw and punk influenced rock 'n' roll, but tuneful - not a million miles away from The Distillers or the infamous Courtney Love.
 They are joined by a guest on bass for the last few songs - she fits in pretty well.
It's good to see some audience participation towards the end of the set - there is always a good atmosphere at these show's Healthy Junkies put on.

And speaking of the headliners...
 Healthy Junkies have really thrived since they have been running their own monthly club night at The Unicorn - they get to play regular shows and pick bands they like to play with in a venue that people actually like going to.
 The band seem to really like playing here, and there is always a decent crowd when they hit the stage.
The band continue to evolve and the 'musical chairs' continues on the drum stool - I'm not sure if Danny Fury is still in the band or not but he isn't playing tonight.
 Dave Renegade has fitted in perfectly on bass duties and seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself.
Phil and Nina have a dynamic chemistry on stage and are the longest serving members of the band - also being the only current members of the band to have performed on the two albums the band have released to date.
Healthy Junkies always put on an entertaining show filled with catchy tunes and solid musicianship. They are a hard working band these days and are often playing gigs all over the country and abroad, and the more they play the better they get.
All too soon Healthy Junkies set is over - the drawback to headlining their own nights being that if things run late (as they often do) then they have to cut their own set short. Having a virtual residency at the venue they can't afford to run over time and upset the management or the local residents and licencing authorities. Still, at least I know that at this venue I can always stay to see the last band and not have to worry about missing the last bus/train home - something some other London music venues could learn from...

Same time next month then?