Tuesday, 8 December 2015

24/10/2015 Johnny Throttle, Role Models & The Featherz @ The Finsbury

After a great value for money Friday night out at The Unicorn, Saturday at The Finsbury is good value too - Some Weird Sin club @ The Finsbury is cheap on the door and only ruined by the vastly overpriced and rather mediocre ale on offer. If you are lucky enough to actually get served at the bar as it was taking some people 20-25 minutes just to get a drink. I gave up in the end - waiting ages to get ripped off at the bar is just taking the piss. It's not worth waiting that long even if the beer is better and reasonably priced. The Unicorn is so much better in this respect, although it can take a while to get served there too sometimes.

As usual the Some Weird Sin crew have put a good bill together - even more rock 'n' roll than usual. I've been wanting to see The Featherz for some time. They didn't disappoint.
This female fronted band are a lot of fun! There is a very strong Bowie influence, both visually and musically. It's Glam Rock, but with a strong punk 'in-your-face' attitude. They describe themselves as 'Flock Rock' - make of that what you will. Their best song is the hilarious and risque 'When Was The Last Time You Had Sex?' - an attitude fueled answer to being chatted up by creepy guys.
The Featherz are different and entertaining - definitely worth seeing again.

Next up are the Yo-Yo's/Loyalties offshoot Role Models.
This lot have all 'paid their dues' in previous bands over the years - and it shows. Think 'punk', think 'rock & roll', think catchy tunes. Not a million miles away from the Yo-Yo's but without the rough edges - but they are no squeaky-clean pop group either.

Finally tonight we have the welcome return of Johnny Throttle. This is full-on dirty punky rock 'n' roll! This band are back with a slightly different lineup after apparently splitting up a year or so ago. I only got to see them once before but there were terrific then, and they still are.
Johnny Throttle are probably showing more 1950's/60's garage rock 'n' roll influence than 1970's punk tonight but they are just as raw and dirty as they were before - only the look has changed a bit. This is the most genuinely exciting rock 'n' roll band I have seen for a long time - I hope this show is more than just a one-off comeback.

Monday, 7 December 2015

23/10/2015 Muff Wigs & Healthy Junkies @ The Unicorn

Back to The Unicorn for another good value for money (FREE entry and cheap bar prices) 'Rock 'N' Roll Rendezvous' night hosted by Healthy Junkies. I was looking forward to seeing Pollypikpocketz again but unfortunately they had to cancel due their drummer injuring his hand.. The first band I got to see was The Muff Wigs.
They didn't really float my boat with their generic shouty hardcore, although one of their singers had a surprising charisma and manner about him.

Healthy Junkies were excellent as usual with their punk/glam/grunge/pop inspired mixture of rock 'n' roll.
I never seem to get tired of seeing this band as they are great performers and always adding new songs to their set as well as bringing back the odd old one and throwing in the odd Nirvana or T-Rex cover.
I only got to Camden in time to see two of the four bands this time but it was still worth the trip.

Monday, 26 October 2015

15/10/2015 Wolfsbane @ The Dome

Although the mighty Wolfsbane reformed several years ago, it's not often that the band's loyal followers (known as Howling Mad Shitheads) get to see the band play live. But now they have booked a whole tour to celebrate the release 25 years ago of their 'All Hell's Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson's Place' EP. They have also just recorded a brand new EP entitled simply 'ROCK!'  This is the first date of the tour - starting in London. The date is billed as being at The Dome in Tufnell Park, but turns out to be at the smaller Boston Arms Music Room - a nice venue in it's own right.

Due to a couple of reasons I decide to take the bike down instead of getting the tube: 1. The venue bar prices have taken a massive hike over the past two or three years - going up several times faster than my wages. A bottle of Newcastle Brown used to be very reasonably priced at this venue at not much over £3 - now it's well over £4 so they can stick it up their arse - I'd rather go without than be ripped-off like that. Another place that I have now decided is a 'non-drinking venue' for me. 2. Tufnell Park tube station is closed until well into next year due to the lifts being replaced. Why does it seem to take much longer just to put new lifts in than it did to build the whole station in the first place?

I arrive to find support band Quartz already playing. I also discover I have missed another support band - I thought there were only two bands on the bill? The other band was called Speed Trap - somewhat ironic for me as 'Speed' is part of the name of the model of motorcycle I rode to the gig - I also got caught by a hidden speed camera soon after getting it, and the area of the gig is infested with speed cameras and 20 MPH speed limits! It concentrates the mind somewhat... To be honest I'd never heard of Quartz before - apparently they were part of the NWOBHM, but they slipped under my radar somehow. Anyway, they sound a lot better than they look tonight - not a million miles away from Diamond Head - who were obviously also heavily influenced by Black Sabbath. The sound is pure NWOBHM and the guitarist is very good, although he doesn't look like he would even like heavy metal - let alone be able to play it! He looks like he should be playing in the corner of a pub in an old man's blues band - but he can play the shit of of his guitar and gets a great 'metal' sound out of his rig. The band's singer - a newer and slightly younger recruit (who appears to have suffered far less from the ravages of time) says of his two bandmates "These guys did loads of drugs back in the day - and look what happened? Don't do drugs kids!". Quartz turn out a solid and enjoyable set of 70's/80's sounding metal - finishing with a (not really necessary) cover of the Dio fronted Sabbath classic 'Heaven And Hell'.

Just when you think we might have seen the last of Wolfsbane they pop up again! Last time I saw them they said "See you next year!". That was about two years ago now - with no sign of any activity from the band since. Now they are suddenly back with a newly recorded EP and a full tour! The last time we saw them was when they were promoting their (very good) comeback album 'Wolfsbane Save The World' - a varied and interesting album containing some cracking songs that are up there with their previous output. Although pies may have been eaten and there is more hair on the faces of some band members than on their heads these days, one thing about Wolfsbane that hasn't changed is the ferocity of their performance and the fire in Blaze Bayley's eyes! The band sound just as good as ever - in fact guitarist Jase Edwards probably has a heavier sound now and plays even better than he did back in the day. Drummer Steve 'Danger' must scare the shit of his drum kit as he beats it to within an inch of it's life - while bassist Jeff Hately unbelievably still looks exactly the same as he did in the band first time round, although his trademark Gibson Thunderbird bass seems to have been retired in favour of a more bulletproof Fender Precision.
Starting with 'Steel' - the opening track from the band's terrific '...Kathy Wilson...' EP there is no let-up to the power and intensity of tonight's set. Naturally, said EP is heavily featured in the setlist - but there are so many good songs on that release that it's always been well represented in the band's live shows. You just can't have a Wolfsbane show without the EP's title track and the singalong anthem 'Paint The Town Red'.
Naturally, the set is full of the band's classics like 'Black Lagoon' and 'I like It Hot' as well as some choice cuts from their comeback album like the autobiographical  'Smoke And Red Light' and the uplifting 'Blue Sky'. The band keep things fresh by not playing just the same old 'hits' every time they go out on tour - they also throw in some rarely heard songs like 'Lifestyles Of The Broke & Obscure' with it's crushingly heavy riffing from their virtually unknown self titled album - their last before splitting up but the best sounding album they ever made. It's terrific to hear 'obscure' gems like this! Surprisingly, there are no new songs tonight from the band's brand new 4 track 'ROCK' EP - I think the reason being that these songs were so recently recorded that the band haven't had enough time to rehearse them up to play on the tour.

The audience are well into it and the atmosphere is terrific with loads of people singing/shouting along at the top of their voices - Wolfsbane shows are enormous FUN! Much of this is due to Blaze being such a brilliant frontman - he is determined that you will have a good time - whether you like it or not! And I'm pretty sure everyone does - I know I did.

Blaze's rants and 'snake oil' spiel between songs are highly entertaining and it's fun guessing which song is coming up next from his long and corny hammed-up introductions to the songs. There is nothing to compare with a Wolfsbane show! Blaze looks like he totally believes in what he is doing, and his staring eyes and crazed persona make you believe it too. He does let the odd smile slip - we can tell he is enjoying this as much as we are! All too soon the show is over, but what a show it was - I'm sure nobody goes home disappointed. This year as the band exit the stage they give no clue about when they will be back again, but still imply that they will be back. Let's hope they don't leave it so long next time....

Skint though I am, I spend some cash on the new EP instead of the venue's vastly overpriced beer. It's money well spent too - this new self-produced stuff sounds far meatier and heavier than the disappointingly lightweight Rick Rubin produced 'Live Fast, Die Fast' debut album. There is a variety of interesting songs involving subjects such as how it's actually OK to keep on playing in a band as you get older, catchy commercial stuff about would-be/has-been movie stars, and social comment on how times have changed regarding 'alternative' culture. Not unlike Saxon's 'Denim & Leather' Wolfsbane have a knack for writing songs I can personally identify with.

Jumping on the bike the journey home only takes twenty minutes - who needs the tube and overpriced venue beer anyway?

Oh yeah - my pictures are shit as usual these days, but if you want to see a load of really good photos from this gig in excellent qualitiy click here to go to Trudi Knight's photo album.

Monday, 12 October 2015

26/10/2015 Desperate Journalist & The Ooh Mao Mao's @ Some Weird Sin club

After seeing The Wildhearts last night anything else is likely to be an anti-climax, but this looks like an interesting event as well as being easy and cheap to get to. The excellent Some Weird Sin club has been leading a nomadic existence since the closure of it's regular venue Buffalo Bar in Highbury earlier this year. Events have been held at various other venues - the last one being at The Lexington in Pentonville Road. That one was quite a success - see one of my other recent blog posts. This month sees the club happening down in Green Lanes at The Finsbury. The venue is a pub almost right next to Manor House tube and directly opposite Finsbury Park itself - the actual park that is - not the station. It suits me well - as I mentioned - it's very easy and cheap to get to on the Piccadilly Line.

I've only been to this venue once before (to see JJ Rosa - see another old blog post) - that was about two years ago shortly after it had been refurbished. It has just been refurbished again and there have been some noticeable changes; the stage has been moved to the opposite side of the back room, and I get the impression the room itself is smaller. The layout seems to work well enough though. One change which isn't so good is the ale prices! On my last visit I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of real ales on tap, and at reasonable prices. The prices are no longer reasonable and all the ales on offer are rather on the week side - a pint of not very strong Doombar is well over £4. There is no justiification for this - over the past two or three years the price of a pint at certain venues has gone up at several times the rate of my wages. Unfortunately there isn't a Wetherspoons close to this venue, and I certainly won't be spending much of my hard earned at the bar at the prices they are charging. As no one else seems to be drinking the real ales maybe I'm not the only one who thinks they are really overpriced?

Oh yes - the music...

The Ooh Mao Mao's are playing when I arrive. An Anglo-American band making their London debut tonight.
They play dirty sounding punky rock 'n' roll - dark and slightly menacing. Their American accented singer has more than a touch of Morticia Addams about her, although with a much shorter skirt! She has very good stage presence and looks like she owns it. The band have a more US sound overall and are certainly worth checking out.

I didn't bother taking many pictures - the venue has a smoke machine. This is fine for adding some 'atmosphere', but shit for photography as the auto-focus on my camera can't focus through the haze.

Tonight's 'Secret headline band' are playing under the name 'Sad Hack'. Actually they are called Desperate Journalist. The name means nothing to me to be honest so I don't know why they are going to the trouble of playing under another name. There are some people here who do seem to know them though, and I recognise at least two members of the band as being Some Weird Sin club regulars -including an ex-member of Johnny Cola & The A-Grades who also DJ's at this club!
Described as "intense and shimmering post-punk" they seem to take some time to get into their stride. It seems a bit shoegazey to me but they play well. There doesn't seem to be anything memorable as far as the actual songs go for most of their set....
It's not until the last couple of songs in their set that they really seem to get going, but they do manage to impress me with the intensity of those final two songs. If only they could harness what they captured then for the rest of their set. Still, I guess it's still early days for this band and I expect they will pop up at this club again - it will be interesting to see them in a year or so's time...

After the bands have finished the DJs take over to take things into the small hours. I have to say the music they play is really good! It's a very cool mixture of everything from classic 1950's rock & roll (which always get's people dancing!) to Beatles and Stones classics, 1970's UK Glam Rock and punk, to the more up to date indie rock stuff - with the emphasis being very much on bands that do actually rock. After not looking that busy when I arrived earlier (probably because there were so many people sitting outside) the club has filled up nicely later on and the dancefloor is looking lively!
Oh yes - there were free shots on offer later as well! It was certainly a good night out and (ale prices/strength apart) I would be quite happy if this venue became the regular home for the Some Weird Sin club. The club is back at the same venue in October, and with a rather good bill as well...

Saturday, 10 October 2015

25/9/2015 The WiLDHEARTS & Hey! Hello! @ Shepherds Bush Empire

Shepherds Bush Empire is another venue I have added to my 'Non-drinking' list due to their poor quality beverages and rip-off prices. I had started going to the O'Neil's pub on the corner for before/after gig beers instead, but had found it less than satisfactory. A little online research revealed a Wetherspoons in the shopping centre next to the green - why hadn't I discovered this years ago? Suitably refreshed I head off to the venue and arrive with a few minutes to spare before opening act Hey! Hello! This is a new band from Ginger and seems to be his current favourite project. It's also been popular with his (and the Wildhearts) fans as well as getting good reviews and radio play on the rock stations - although the BBC continue to pretend this band doesn't exist. They never liked the Wildhearts much either so I guess that's no surprise. Ginger seems to have been doing quite well for the last few years without any help from the BBC so maybe he's not bothered... One can't help but get the feeling that certain bands and artists are secretly and inexplicably blacklisted by some stations who's format you would think they'd fit right into. Nothing changes but the shoes...

My train of thought seems to have become derailed - getting back on track; There have been some changes in the Hey! Hello! camp over the past year. Original singer Victoria Liedtke who appeared on the band's self titled debut album has gone. Her place has been taken by Hollis Mahady from Love Zombies - who seems to have fitted in very well. The other change is only temporary: the second guitar spot has previously been filled on live shows (Ginger played all the instruments on the album) by ex-Towers Of London and Prodigy lead guitarist the Rev. He's currently taking time out as he's just become a father and on this tour his place is taken by the very capable Chris Catalyst from the brilliant Eureka Machines.
Hey! Hello! are a very different band to the Wildhearts, and quite deliberately so. This is much more of a pop/punk outfit, but still with a dark edge if you dig a little deeper. Ginger seems to be enjoying this project enormously - both on stage where he doesn't have to sing lead vocals, and in the studio where he is enjoying working on the next Hey! Hello! album. Ginger seems very keen on being  just a songwriter and guitarist in this band and is devoting great enthusiasm to this project.
This is the first time I've seen Hey! Hello! with Hollis singing - Victoria was very bouncy and lively and a hard act to follow, but Hollis throws herself wholeheartedly into this project and is full of energy! She tears around the stage like a human dynamo and really knows how to work a crowd. With a rhythm section of original AntiProduct bassist Toshi (Chris Catalyst also had a spell in AntiProduct on bass duties) and Ai on drums this is a very good live band - they all look and perform like stars. Unfortunately the 30 minute set time doesn't allow the band to play the whole of their album and How I Survived The Punk Wars is conspicuous by it's absence. However, we did get 'Honour' - the song Ginger wrote, sung, and recorded with Courtney Love, and the incredibly catchy 'Swimwear' for the 'Hey! Hello!' album. All too soon the band's set is over, but it's great fun! Anybody wanting more will be able to catch the band on their own headline tour later this year... As you can see, my pictures are rubbish as usual these days - but if you want to see some really good pictures of Hey! Hello! then I suggest you go and look at the ones taken at this gig by the excellent Trudi Knight here. There's loads of them!

Next up are the recently reformed Baby Chaos. They also have a new album to promote.
After seventeen years away this Scottish  band are still full of energy. However, they didn't really connect with me first time round and they don't tonight either. They have some good riffs, decent songs, and they still seem passionate about what they do. They certainly play well enough, but to me there is something missing - that spark, that star quality - that something special that makes them stand out from the crowd. They don't look like 'rock stars' - they don't look like a band. They just look very ordinary - like some blokes in the pub. Oasis or Blur could get away with that because they had songs you would remember even if they looked boring, but even though Baby Chaos play OK tonight there is nothing to make me remember them. Which is probably why they never made it first first time around.

On to the headliners - a band who have never let me down live. This WiLDHEARTS show is a bit special - well they all are to some of us. But what makes the shows on this tour even more specialler (is that a word? It is now) is that the band's second album 'P.H.U.Q.' is being performed in it's entirety - for the first time ever. And also the last. It's definitely one of the best albums they have ever made and contains many songs that have gone on to become classics/fan favourites over the years. Personally, I would say it's one of their two best albums - the other one being their debut 'Earth Vs The Wildhearts'. This is certainly a gig most Wildhearts fans really won't want to miss. It's hard to believe that this album is now twenty years old - it hasn't dated at all. This must be an odd experience for the band's highly popular guitarist C.J. as he wasn't actually on the P.H.U.Q.' album due to being fired as it was being recorded - something Ginger has since admitted was a mistake. However, C.J. has been back int the band for many years now and it feels like he has never been away. Original Wildhearts bassist Danny McCormack has also been absent from the band for a few years now so only half of the band on stage tonight were actually on the original album. Judging from the terrific atmosphere in the venue tonight these details aren't of massive importance to the fans.
The band kick off their set with the enormously popular album opener 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go' - a song which is more usually heard closing the set. What a fantastic song to start with though! Many of the songs on the album have only rarely been played live in the past, and song of them never - making this show all the more special. It must have been quite a challenge to learn some of the album's long and complicated arrangements. The band do a pretty good job of reproducing this record - originally meant to be a double album until the record company decided otherwise. However, most the other songs intended for the double album later surfaced on the fan club only release 'Fishing For Luckies' - so hopefully we can look forward to a tour to play all those songs next? As promised, the band play the entire P.H.U.Q. album - needless to say it goes down a storm! There is even a little surprise at the end as Ginger introduces a special guest - they have tracked down the lady who screams 'SHUT UP!' right at the very end of the album to stop the 'on and on and on and on...' chant. She performs her screeching part to close the set and the band leave the stage to thunderous applause!

The P.H.U.Q. album clocks in at around 50 minutes - so then what? After a short break the band return for what is effectively a 'greatest hits' set - minus the P.H.U.Q. songs obviously, but it's not like the band have a shortage of other material to draw from - far from it! It's a Friday night, so 'Weekend' is a very appropriate song to start the second set. The remainder of the evening consists mostly of songs from earlier in the band's combustive career, although 'Mazel Tov Cocktail' from the band's most recent album 'Chutzpah' gets an airing - Scott Sorry who was the bassist on this album was originally due to play on this tour but for reasons unexplained his place has been taken by the ever popular and more than capable Jon 'Random' Poole - for my money a far better all round musician. The ten song long second set contains crowd favourites like 'Everlone', 'Suckerpunch', 'Geordie In Wonderland', 'Sick Of Drugs', and the inevitable '29 x The Pain' as well as Ginger taking over Danny's vocal duties for the rarely heard 'Anthem' from the infamous 'Endless Nameless' album - definitely something for everyone there! Maybe we will get a tour for that album as well one day?
Ginger was smartly dressed for the Wildhearts part of tonight's show, while he seemed to very much dress down for the Hey! Hello! set - looking much more rock 'n' roll in jeans and a leather biker jacket covered in patches. Was I the only one to be surprised at this and expect it to be the other way around? Was this deliberate? Maybe so as Ginger has always been a bit of a contrary bastard. Maybe he just likes to keep people guessing - or maybe I'm reading too much into it and he didn't even give it a thought? Whatever, the music was great, the band played really well, and they all seemed really into it. Ginger said they have all enjoyed this tour much more than they were expecting, and C.J. has said it was one of the best tours he has ever been on!
It's certainly been a terrific night, and both band and audience seem to have thoroughly enjoyed it! Ginger has said recently that he is never likely to write another Wildhearts album (although surely a Pledge campaign for one would hit target in record time!) and anyone familiar with the band's and particularly Ginger's personal history should understand why. However, he has also said that he thinks the Wildhearts will continue to play live for the time being. It's a given that he can take the band out on tour once a year and they will continue to sell tickets probably for several years to come - maybe longer.... There are still plenty of albums left that the band can do 'anniversary tours' for, and I'm sure the demand from the fans is still there that they could just take a standard Wildhearts show out on tour - it's not like there is any shortage of both familiar and rarely (or never) before heard songs to fill setlists for many years to come..... As regards any possibility of future Wildhearts albums - I'm not holding my breath, but it's not by any means unknown for Ginger to change his mind about things. I believe what he says on the subject now - but who knows what the future might hold? As long time followers have learned over the years regarding both Ginger and the Wildhearts: the one thing you can expect - is the unexpected.

See you next year then?

PS: For loads of terrific pictures from this show go to see Trudi Knight's photos here.

Monday, 28 September 2015

10/9/2015 Warner E. Hodges @ The Borderline

Unfortunately I didn't manage to catch Jason & The Scorchers guitarist Warner E. Hodges on his last visit to the UK and I'm not familiar with his newest material. Consequently, I'm not quite sure what to expect - apart from some shit-hot guitar playing. This is exactly what I get!
Warner has put together an all new (well nearly) band to tour his latest solo album. Some of you may well recognise the bass player as the irrepressible Jason Knight who also toured with Warner last year as well as joining Ginger onstage with Warner to perform Ginger's favourite Jason & The Scorchers song 'White Lies' at his Birthday Bash.
Some people may also recognise the second guitarist Mikael Fässberg from Sweden's Bonafide - Mikael is also a mean six-stringer in his own right.
When I have previously seen Warner E. Hodges play the music has been very much in a country-rock style - so I am somewhat surprised tonight when the show starts with several songs than sound almost exactly like AC/DC! And this pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the set. Certainly no complaints from me on that score. Warner later tells us that his favourite band ever is actually AC/DC.
I think it's fair to say that Mikael and Jason are pretty big AC/DC fans too if their performance tonight is anything to go by. Actually, this won't surprise anyone who has ever seen Bonafide.
There is precious little taste of country music to be heard in Warner's set tonight - this is an out and out rock 'n' roll show and there is no let up. The guitars are loud, dirty, raw, and in-your-face - exactly as they should be. As you might expect, Mr Hodges new album 'Gunslinger' is heavily featured in tonight's setlist, and (guitarwise at least) it sounds more than a little like AC/DC. Warner is happy to share the limelight with his bandmates - making sure everyone gets a namecheck, and even letting Mikael take lead vocals to perform his own song 'Parade'. This is a very entertaining show, not just because of the music but also because Warner has some great stories to tell between songs!
There are surprises in store later as some special guests appear on stage...
Ex-Bad Company guitarist Dave 'Bucket' Colwell appears for a song or two - an old friend of Warner's as their band's toured together last year.
More surprises follow as in addition to a Jason & The Scorchers song earlier some covers finish off the evening - including a wild and ragged 'Tie Your Mother Down' and a final bit of country in the form of 'Take Me Home Country Roads' for a singalong end to the set.
A cracking set from a terrific bunch of musicians - well worth battling through the West End traffic on a motorcycle for. My pictures are crap as usual due to my current cheapo camera being very unsuited to gig photography compared to my lower spec earlier ones. If you want to see some really good pictures from this show then check out Trudi Knight's pictures here.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

9/9/2015 The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing @ The Barfly

I don't go to The Barfly very often these days. It's now on my list of venues I won't drink at, but the main reason I don't go there much any more is because it rarely books decent rock bands any more. As I know I won't be drinking I decide to head down there on the bike - there's a handy motorcycle parking bay round the corner, and I'll also avoid the temptations of the nearby BrewDog with it's tasty but expensive beverages. Petrol costs are cheaper than train fares, and it's only a fiver for a ticket to see The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing so it's a cheap night out all round.

I've been having difficulty getting to see these Steampunk merchants over the past year of so for various reasons, and the last time I did get to see them was under less than ideal conditions at a very overcrowded Camden Rocks festival this summer. Fortunately things are better tonight even though the Barfly is sold out. I decide to concentrate on enjoying the show instead of taking pictures - which I know won't be much good with my current camera anyway.
The band are on good form and seem to be in high spirits (probably gin) most likely due to playing a sold out show to an enthusiastic crowd - the atmosphere is excellent! With their third album 'Not Your Typical Victorians' about to be released The Men... have plenty of material to choose from for their setlist tonight. There are some new songs as well as regular crowd pleasers like 'Third Class Coffin', 'The Gin Song', 'Margate Fhtagn' and the ever popular 'Brunel'. This is probably the only band in the world who seem to be influenced by both Slayer and Chas & Dave! Their lyrics are both intelliigent and funny, while the music is at times very heavy indeed - and what other band features a guitarist playing some of the heaviest riffs you will ever hear -  while wearing a dress? I've no doubt this fucks with some people's heads, but knowing guitarist/stand-up comedian Andrew O'Neill that is probably exactly his intention! This is certainly a band like no other - who else but The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing would release a single on a wax cylinder? Yes really! This band have a keen sense of (mainly Victorian) history and their shows are enormous fun!

Monday, 21 September 2015

5/9/2015 Towers Of London @ Nambucca

No - that date isn't a mistake! The infamous Towers Of London played at Nambucca back in 2006 - but now a whole nine years later they are back at the same venue. Both band and venue have seen some big changes since then - not all of them for the better. Nambucca closed last year, and later reopened after a change of ownership and yet another massive refurbishment. The 'new' Nambucca is virtually unrecognisable inside. One major change is that the bar has been moved to the other side of the front room - I can't see any reason for doing this and it seems a complete waste of time and money to me. The other major change is to the back part of the pub and the stage area. Again. The dividing wall which was put in during the last refurb has now been ripped out again, and the whole downstairs is effectively one large room. The stage has been moved from the side to the back of the room and is now much larger. Unlike the apparently pointless  work done in the front half of the building this is a major improvement. A new bigger PA and lighting system has also been installed and the back part of the building now looks far more like a proper purpose built music venue.

So what are Towers Of London like these days? Much the same as they were in their earlier days really, but without that spark they used to have - the band has never been the same since Rev and Snell left. Tonight there is no bad behavior, no audience baiting, and not as much excitement. Unlike this band's old shows, the only outrageous thing in this venue tonight is the bar prices! That said, Towers play well enough if not brilliantly and are worth seeing for old times sake. If you liked them before then you'll probably still like them, but maybe not as much. And if you hated them back in the day then you'll still hate them - but maybe not as much.
Fortunately Towers Of London seem to have disowned their dreadful 'Fizzy Pop' era and it's ill-advised fashion choices - they play no songs from that album tonight - there were only a couple of decent songs on it anyway. Image wise the band have returned to their earlier pseudo punk/Glam look of leather jackets and slogan painted vests.
Yet again the band have a new lead guitarist and another new drummer. Both of them are competent enough, but just seem to be making up the numbers rather than adding anything to the band or bringing anything new. How long they'll last is anyone's guess.
Naturally, most of the bands setlist for this low profile comeback is picked from the first album 'Blood Sweat & Towers' and we get the expected 'I'm A Rat', 'Kill The Pop Scene', 'Fuck It Up', 'Air Guitar' and so on - all the crowd pleasers. They don't have enough time to play the full album, but we do get several brand new songs - which sound OK but nothing special.
Frontman Donny informs us that there is a new album on the way - hence the new songs. More gigs seem set to follow, and the album should appear next year. The band do seem to have retained at least part of their old following, although Nambucca is obviously not sold out and many of the old faces who used to be regulars at Towers show are conspicuous by their absence. Still, that's not so surprising considering how long the band have been away and how many times their comebacks have petered out before even starting. It's hard not to think that this is a band who had a chance to get somewhere, but then blew it. Not many acts get a second chance. It will be interesting to see what their plan is - assuming they actually have one? It might be that they have a different agenda this time round and are just doing it for fun now.

As for the 'new' Nambucca... They seem to have 'fixed' a few things that weren't actually broken, although the new stage area is a major improvement. Like the refurbished Unicorn only a mile away it looks in places like they are still waiting for the builders to come back and finish the job - did they run out of money? Unfortunately, the bar prices are something Nambucca doesn't have in common with The Unicorn. When the previous version of Nambucca opened the beers were reasonably priced and there was real ale on tap - neither of those things apply to the new Nambucca. Not only is there no real ale to be found, but the prices for a pint are fucking outrageous and Newcastle Brown is £4.50 a bottle. They can stick that up their arse - I have added this place to the list of music venues I will no longer drink at.

Monday, 7 September 2015

22/8/2015 Duncan Reid & The Big Heads + Department S @ The Lexington

This is the first Some Weird Sin club night I've been to since their old venue the Buffalo Bar in Highbury closed earlier this year. The club is still looking for a new home but has been having a few nights at other venues in the meantime. Tonight they are at The Lexington on Pentonville Road. It's a large pub venue with a decent sized room upstairs where the bands play. There is a bar upstairs, but the beverage selection isn't that great - although some decent real ales are available downstairs. Unfortunately the bar prices here have climbed noticeably over the past year or so and the ales can no longer be described as reasonably priced. Otherwise, it's rather a nice music venue. Some Weird Sin nights are always cheap on the door and even in a bigger venue with a 'name' headline band this was only £7 in advance - bargain!
First band of the night was Los Pepes. Not reinventing the wheel here - they play fast Ramones inspired pop/punk. They are a tightly drilled rock unit who know what they are doing and do it well. Their set was pretty relentless, with virtually no gaps between the songs - just BANG and straight into the next one. It was fairly generic stuff though and after a few songs they started to lose my attention...

Next it was the band I'd actually come to see - Duncan Reid & The Big Heads putting in (at least) their second appearance at Some Weird Sin . There was a good turnout to see them - especially considering Diamond Dogs were playing at Nambucca the same night  - a gig I would have liked to go to myself.
The ex-Boys bass player Duncan Reid has put a pretty good band together and has a knack for writing catchy pop/punk tunes.
Although the songs are very 'pop' in style this band rock pretty hard. Most the material played tonight was from the Big Heads two (so far) albums, but there were some songs from older bands thrown in as well - including 'Brickfield Nights' from Duncan's old band The Boys - who are still out touring and making new albums. 'Brickfield Nights' went down very well with the crowd. One or two members of The Boys were present in the audience and I did wonder if 'Honest' John Plain might get up and play with the band, but I think he was still recovering from a recent injury. Another Boys song the incredibly catchy 'First Time' is usually in this band's setlist and always goes down a storm -tonight is no exception. There is a surprise in store, and another even older song as ex-Hollywood Brats frontman Andrew Matheson is introduced. He ends the Big Heads set with a rousing version of 'Sick On You'.
'Sick On You' was a punk song before punk even existed - originally recorded for the Hollywood Brats one and only album released back in 1974. Keyboard player and songwriter Casino Steel of the Hollywood Brats was later a founding member of The Boys - who also recorded 'Sick On You' on their debut album in 1977 when Duncan 'Kid' Reid was still in the band. The somewhat enigmatic Andrew Matheson still has 'it' - excellent stage presence and charisma and might have become a star if he hadn't ditched the music business when Hollywood Brats imploded in 1975....
After a highly enjoyable set from Duncan Reid & The Big Heads (which turned out to be guitarist/keyboard player Alex Gold's last show before leaving the band) it was time for the headliners.
I had no idea Department S were even still going. Original singer Vaughn Toulouse died in 1991 and is now replaced by Eddie Roxy. To be honest the only song of theirs I can remember is their hit single Is Vic There? but they turn out to be a quite good punk/rock 'n' roll band tonight. I don't really know any of the songs - until the play an unexpected cover of the Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers classic Born To Lose - which doubles the amount of songs in their set I actually recognise! Towards the end of the set the singer puts his jacket on before leaving the stage - hey man you're doing it the wrong way round!
Needless to say 'Is Vic There' is dropped in towards the end of the set - also featuring Leigh Haggarty from Ruts DC on second guitar. It sounds great. Then there is an extended and rather self indulgent instrumental section before the band draw their set to a close. Now I realise why the singer put his jacket on - he's probably already waiting at the bus stop! The club carried on into the night way after the bands finished with the DJs spinning loads of classic punk/rock 'n' roll/indie sounds - a great value for money night out - apart from the ale prices.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Why I am getting bored of rock music - another rant about the state of rock radio.

I never thought this would happen, but I'm starting to get tired of rock music. Why? It's due to the repetitive, dull, and unimaginative playlisting on rock radio. I thought DAB radio was going to be great when it first started, but I have found it increasingly disappointing over the past five years. Yes, we have a far better choice of stations - and that's great. But all the rock stations are playing the same songs.

Team Rock Radio looked like changing all this - they really were a much needed breath of fresh air when they started broadcasting two years ago. But they recently decided to stop broadcasting on DAB and go online only - a huge step backwards in many people's view. They say going online only and making people listen through their PCs or Apps on mobile devices is the future. It's certainly not what most people actually want, although apps have their uses and can (in theory) be good if you are out and about - but so can FM or DAB and they are far more reliable. Who want's their radio listening frequently interrupted when their phone signal drops out? It's no bloody use in my car either. So unfortunately I can't listen to Team Rock much any more - not at all at work where I used to have it on most of the day, and not much at home 'cos listening via an app simply isn't convenient. What the people running Team Rock don't seem to get is that people like the sheer convenience and ease of use of conventional radio. When I get up in the morning or get home from work I just want to press one button and hear instant music. DAB or FM can deliver this - apps can't. I get home from work, turn on my tablet, wait for it to start up, wait for it to find my Wi-Fi signal and log into it, then launch my 'radio' app. Meanwhile, my tablet is downloading various updates for Twitter, Facebook, Play, Amazon or various other apps. Then various Twitter and Facebook notifications pop up. It might even decide to update one of my radio player apps too. So around five minutes after I could have pressed a button on my DAB radio and be listening instantly I am still waiting to actually hear any music from my app. Sorry Team Rock, but  this is not acceptable. They claim the reasons they have come off DAB after two years aren't financial - but as they also say it costs around one million pounds a year to broadcast on DAB. Go figure....

Anyway, my train of thought has become derailed. Getting back on the tracks... Now Team Rock has chosen to remove itself from my list of DAB radio listening options what is left? Planet Rock? Well I was initially pleased to discover this station a few years ago when I got my first DAB radio, and also Absolute Classic Rock. But I soon realised they were both playing mainly the same songs - the same tired old classics that I used to love. Back then they both broadcast in good quality stereo. Oh how things have changed - and not for the better. See my previous blog on this subject. Team Rock is no longer on DAB while Planet Rock and Absolute now broadcast in poor quality mono - another step backwards. When I was a kid I first moved over from the BBC's Radio 1 to Capitol Radio because it sounded so much better in FM stereo compared to Radio 1's shitty mono AM signal. Later Xfm appeared - this was great in it's early years with plenty of rock, metal, and classic punk during daytime, as well as loads of great indie stuff. Xfm grew increasingly commercialised as time went on after various sellouts and takeovers - eventually dropping rock and becoming a pop/indie station. I originally bought a DAB radio to listen to Xfm at work where the FM signal was poor, but then I soon discovered several other 'rock' stations. Salvation seemed to be at hand - I no longer had to put up with pop dross like LaRoux and all the overhyped mediocre indie bands Xfm were pushing. I was mainly switching between Planet Rock, Absolute Classic Rock, and The Arrow (which was great 'cos it didn't have adverts, news, or DJs - just music) but it was all too good to last. I got bored with Absolute Crock when I realised it didn't play any new music. Planet Rock wasn't much better as the new music it played was by only a few bands and seemed a bit of a token gesture. New music by old bands, but not many new bands. Like other commercial radio what got played seemed to be dictated largely by the major record companies pushing their own artists, while smaller record companies with limited budgets didn't get a look-in - and unsigned artists could forget it.

Things started to get a bit boring. Then the audio quality (one of the big selling points for DAB in it's early days) started to be compromised. Stations which used to broadcast in good quality stereo went mono and also decreased the audio quality (again see my previous blog on this subject) so it was like going back to the bad old days of shitty mono AM/MW broadcasting that I thought Capitol Radio started to sweep away back in the 1970's. So much for progress.... Team Rock was never in stereo for the two years it was on DAB - even for a million pounds a year. I think the government is largely to blame for this as they privatised the radio broadcasting system, so now it is no longer a public service but a 'Cash Cow' for companies like Arqiva to extort money for providing a poor quality product. One million pounds a year just to provide a shit quality mono DAB radio signal across the UK. Someone is making a hell of a lot of money out of this while providing a very poor service.

So it's goodbye to Team Rock from me as far as regular daytime listening is concerned. Absolute is just too boring and repetitive - do I really want to hear 'Paranoid', 'Freebird', 'Smoke On The Water', 'Won't Get Fooled Again', 'Ace Of Spades', 'Back In Black', etc every single day for the rest of my life? And have some idiot like Russ 'The Cock' Williams who knows little about rock music and is reading notes off a piece of paper telling me "What a great song!" after every song - I don't need some moron telling me 'Highway To Hell' is a great song - I can tell that for myself thank you. Which leaves Planet Rock - which is now also in shit quality mono on DAB. Team Rock gave Planet Rock a much needed kick up the arse and made them add a lot of new and old bands to their playlists that they never used to play before, but now they are sitting back and relaxing as their main rivals have taken themselves out of the game. Planet Rock don't have to try anymore - and it shows. The station is getting lazy again - it seems to be more repetitive now, and the programming far less imaginative. It used to be so much better when I could switch between three or four stations all day at the press of a button when adverts, a song I didn't like or was bored of, or just too much talking bored me. Planet Rock is now the least worst 'rock' station on DAB. It's OK for three or four hours, but there is no way I could leave it on all day - it's far too boring.

I've almost entirely given up on the 'rock' stations now - they are killing my love of rock music with their repetition, and their boring and dreadfully unimaginative playlisting. I can't take any more! So what's the alternative on DAB? I've been listening to the BBC's 6Music at the weekends mostly for some time now. They do seem to champion mediocre singer/songwriters, and there is the odd bit of unremarkable pop music that belongs on Radio 1, but there is also a refreshing mixture of indie, rock, classic punk, blues, and old school rock & roll. Also, they seem to only employ DJs (or are they all 'presenters' now?) who are passionate and knowledgable about music *some other stations take note* and mostly musicians themselves. I don't like all the music, or all the presenters but that's always going to be the case on any station - but there is enough to keep things interesting and I like the variety. It's also the least repetitive station I know - I particularly like this. 6Music now sounds at times a lot like the 'alternative' music station Xfm used to be. Also, they play some old rock & roll and blues stuff that I won't hear on any other stations outside of their 'specialist' once or twice a week shows. It does annoy me at times that there is too much talking on 6Music though - it is called 6Music and Music is what I want to hear! If I want to hear talking I'll tune into a 'Talk radio' station OK? It's nice not to be constantly interrupted by annoying and repetitive adverts though - thank God for the BBC!

Ironically, I have also started listening to Xfm again! Ironic because Xfm is the reason I bought my first DAB radio, but I stopped listening to the station soon after as I discovered other stations that played the rock music that Xfm had stopped playing. Xfm now seems to be slightly less repetitive than it was when I gave up on it a few years ago, and seems to have largely abandoned the lightweight Radio 1 style pop rubbish they had started playing a few years ago. They might only play one 'rock' song every hour or so, and they still champion mediocre indie bands but they play some good new and old indie stuff too. Xfm has certainly improved, but it's certainly nothing like as varied and interesting as it used to be back in the days when it was a genuinely 'alternative' station. It's actually not that far from being a commercial version of 6Music now, but not as varied or with as good 'presenters'. Xfm still has the legendary Ian Camfield though - possibly the only genuine ROCK fan on the station these days, although he can no longer play Metallica, Motörhead, Iron Maiden etc all the time in daytime like he used to back in the golden days of Xfm.

Oh - and one other great thing about 6Music and Xfm that makes them much more pleasurable listening and keeps me coming back - unlike all the other stations I have mentioned they still broadcast in good quality STEREO at 128Kbps!  For more on this bugbear of mine read this - I'm not the only person who gets really wound up about how DAB radio has not lived up how great we were told it was going to be. Ever get the feeling you've been swindled?

Monday, 3 August 2015

31/7/2015 The Vibrators @ The Hope & Anchor

I think this is my first visit to the Hope & Anchor this year and I find changes are afoot. It's business as usual in the ground floor bar and I'm pleased to find real ale on tap at reasonable prices. Downstairs where the bands play it's a different matter... The room is unrecognisable from my last visit and the bar has been moved yet again - it's now opposite the door as you go in and it's much smaller. This is not good when the room is busy. There is no sign of the old standby Newcastle Brown Ale either, so I have to keep running back upstairs when I want a drink. The stage has been moved to the other end of the room and is now equipped with a shiny new state-of-the-art PA system. The whole room has been completely refurbished in a similar 'modern' style to that seen in many pubs as they are refitted these days and turned into Gastro-pubs - and like those pubs all the old character that made them special has been stripped out of them. The old 'pub rock' vibe and character of this famous venue has been ruthlessly homogenised. I think this is the first event to take place since the refurb and they haven't even bothered to put signs on the toilet doors - leading to a lot of confusion for people who aren't familiar with the venue! Obviously a lot of money has been spent on modernising this small music venue - and yet the state of the toilets is disgusting! It's a pity they didn't sort them out while sanitising the rest of the place....

This sold out show is part of the Rockaway Beach series of club events, and tonight's event is in aid of the Rock 'n' Roll Rescue charity shop in Camden which is run by Knox of The Vibrators.

Ironically, although plenty of money has been spent bringing this well known venue up to date with state-of-the-art PA and lighting systems - the music from the bands tonight is very much from the past, with one band playing music from the early 1970's and the other band themselves dating from the mid 1970's. There is only one support band at this special 'One off' show - tonight we get to see the first ever performance from The Glitter Bombz.
If some of this new band look familiar it might be because they feature members from The Derellas and Healthy Junkies. The latter have a Glam influence, but this new band takes things right back to the classic Glam Rock days of the early 1970's with an all cover set.
It's 'Glam bam - thankyou mam!' all the way with this lot - with classics from Bowie, Slade, T-Rex, and even the Runaways. This is a lot of fun!
All too soon the Glitter Bombz set is over and the place fills up for the headliners.

I've seen The Vibrators a few times over the years, but never with anything approaching the classic original lineup that recorded the brilliant 'Pure Mania' album - a punk classic that is right up there with the first albums by The Clash, Damned, and Sex Pistols.
I actually think it is a finer collection of songs than any of them and 'Pure Mania' never got the recognition it deserved. However, the Vibrators set starts with the current three piece version of the band featuring drummer Eddie as the only original member along with ex-No Direction bassist Pete and punk rock 'n' roll journeyman guitarist Darrel Bath.
This version of the band plays some cuts from 'Pure Mania' as well as some of their more recent material - they are still touring and recording even now. Then comes the bit most of us have been waiting for - the newer members leave the stage to have their places taken by the people who wrote and recorded the band's debut album - it's the first time they have played together in 30 years!
Bassist Pat Collier doesn't appear in my pictures due to the crowd and the fact that he spent the entire set leaning against the wall at the side of the stage with an amused Charlie Watts style grin on his face. Singer/guitarist Knox was in the band until recently so is familiar with both the old and newer songs in the set. Like Pat Collier, guitarist John Ellis hasn't played in the band for around 30 years and has been more recently doing in his words "that singer/songwriter acoustic shit". He says it's good to be back playing rock 'n' roll again though.
After blasting through a few of the old 'Pure Mania' classics like 'Yeah Yeah Yeah', 'Sweet Sweet Heart' and 'Baby Baby' etc Pat Collier leaves the stage and another 'special guest' is introduced - it's Gary Tibbs who stepped in for the Vibrators second album 'V2' after Pat left the band.
More old Vibrators classics are cranked out, including hit single 'Automatic Lover'. There are a few technical problems with Knox's guitar, and Ellis makes a remark about it being some rubbish one out of Knox's charity shop as he says he never has problems with his own guitars! To be honest at times it looks like a bit more rehearsal time would have benefited the band as there is a bit of messing about and time wasted between songs when they have problems with equipment. They play OK overall though and seem to be enjoying themselves. To be fair, in spite of the shiny new PA system none of the bands get a good sound tonight and I don't think it's their fault.
Knox remains on stage for a few songs as the newer members of the band return - Eddie remains behind the drum kit for the entire show as the only original member - he's a real powerhouse and really seems to be the heart of the band as the member with the longest service. He also appears to have weathered the years far better than the other band members and is the only one who doesn't seem to look much different to how he did back in the beginning.
For the last part of the show the band return to their current slimmed down three piece lineup - with Eddie still thundering away on drums. I don't really know any of the songs they are playing by this stage, and some them are virtually brand new. This is the tightest and hardest the band have played all night - as if they really have something to prove - that they are still valid. And as these three members continue to tour and record together they sure are. Darrel in particular is really on fire by this part of the night! It's good to see him getting back to his old punk rock roots, although he's always been a rocker at heart even though he has been down more of a (mostly electric) singer/songwriter path in the past. At this stage of the night the current Vibrators have turned into an out and out rock 'n' roll band and Darrel is playing his heart out - I've never seen him this fired up before. I can't help thinking 'What if....?' when I see this guy rocking out - he really should have been a big rock 'n' roll star and I don't think I've ever seen such a 'natural' player.
It's been a wonderful night and great to see the original members of The Vibrators back playing together - a sight I thought I'd never see after missing them first time round. This reunion was intended to a a one-off for this special charity show, but the band announced tonight that the original members will be getting back together for another show at a larger venue nearby in Islington next year...

PS: You will be able to see The Glitter Bombz much sooner than that.