Friday, 19 June 2015

13/6/2015 Jelly & Healthy Junkies @ The Unicorn

My evening doesn't get off to a good start. I'm already running late, and when I arrive at the station I find my train has been cancelled! Thanks a lot Great Northern! - they are just as bad as First Capital Connect who ran the service until losing the franchise recently. Great Northern deserve to lose it too as their trains are often late.

When I finally arrive at The Unicorn I have missed most the bands and Jelly have almost finished their set too.
There is a good crowd in to see this band playing their 1970's/80's style rock with a modern twist. Album number two is on the way from this band and some new songs are played tonight along with stuff like 'Get Outta Jail' from their excellent debut album.
All too soon Jelly's set is over - I look forward to hearing more new stuff from them soon - and hopefully catching their whole show next time...

At least I get to see all of the set from Healthy Junkies - tonight headlining their own monthly club night at this venue. Not everyone get's to see the whole set though; there is a bloke I noticed earlier nearly getting to a fight who is obviously off his face - the security guys persuade him it's time to leave after he keeps dancing around and crashing into people. The bastard trod on my blue suede shoes so the fucker deserved to get thrown out!
The band's 'Rock 'N' Roll Rendezvous' is always great value for money - free to get in, cheap beer, and three or four bands who are all worth a look.
Healthy Junkies themselves are always good fun - almost too good tonight as a moshpit breaks out and gets a bit out of control - selfish bastards spoiling the enjoyment of people who are just trying to watch the band..
The crowd and the moshpit fuckers stop me getting many pictures, but the band give a good performance as usual - their new drummer is shit hot - very fast and really driving things along.
Like the previous band, Healthy Junkies are also adding new songs to their set now album number three is in the pipeline - it will be interesting to hear how the band progress with their punk/pop/grunge hybrid sound.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Camden Rocks festival 2015

This is an event I have looking forward to for months - the Camden Rocks festival has gone from strength to strength over the last two or three years. If you are a rock fan there are bound to be plenty of bands you like whatever style of music floats your boat - over 200 bands spread out over more than 20 venues all within a few minutes walk of each other. And all for a mere £30. What other festival can rival that in terms of value for money? And no camping required as it's easily accessible by public transport - plus you don't have to be ripped off by corporate bars and rip-off beer prices. Don't like the quality of beer or the prices in the venue? No problem - there are plenty of other pubs and bars to choose from a couple of minutes walk away and once you have your wristband you can come and go as you choose all day long.

The first bands started in various venues at mid-day. I arrived in Camden Town around 11.30 and found the wristband collection much improved from last year - it was at the World's End pub and I didn't have to queue at all - very well organised! The only snag with there being so many bands playing is that there will inevitably be timing clashes and some of the bands you particularly want to see are on at the same time. But as there is so much to choose from you are spoiled for choice and you can't complain really. I started out with a shortlist of 22 bands I wanted to see. I knew it was unrealistic to expect to see all of them before I'd even started checking the stage times. I soon narrowed it down to around 11 bands I thought I could realistically expect to see. I eventually caught only 9 of them, but even that was great value for money.

After picking up my wristband I have some time to spare, so I gravitate to the nearby BrewDog for some quality beer while waiting for the queue outside the Black Heart to shift into the venue when it opens it's doors.... Just after 12.00 I observe that the queue has vanished - it's time to rock!
My day at Camden Rocks is kicked off at The Black Heart with the ever dependable Healthy Junkies. Unlike last year the Orange amplifiers (sponsors of the festival and providing amps at all the venues) have turned up on time and the band can actually start when they are supposed to.
This band never fail to disappoint and they continue to refine their live set as they work towards album number three.
Singer Nina has developed her lively stage persona over several years with a more individual style compared to her earlier style more influenced by Queen Adreena and the amazing Katie Jane Garside.
 Healthy Junkies are really fired up today - particularly impressive as it's not even lunchtime yet!
 The band are on top form, and as they have been given only 30 minutes to play they condense their two album plus repertoire  into a quality set of pop/punk/glam/grunge influenced rock 'n' roll.
The band are in a more suitable venue at this year's Camden Rocks and in spite of hitting the stage much earlier this year they find themselves playing to a lot more people - the room is pretty busy!
It's amazing how many people are in this room at midday as the first bands are taking to stages in various venues and I struggle to get any decent pictures are there are four photographers in front of me snapping at the band.

It's a shame Healthy Junkies only get to play for 30 minutes - they have more than enough decent songs to fill an hour as they have two albums under their belt and a third on the way.
After Healthy Junkies have finished playing to a surprisingly full Black Heart I head off to Proud to catch The Amorettes
These three girls from Scotland have been getting quite a lot of attention over the past year with festival appearances and some good support spots. They have also managed to draw a sizeable crowd to the Proud Galleries to check them out. The audience are rewarded with a tight and punchy set of somewhat generic hard rock - not so much Girlschool or Rock Goddess and sounding more like a female Airbourne - although with better vocals. The band had already played most their set by the time I found my way into the venue and as the place was so full I didn't manage to get any decent pictures before the band finished playing. The Amorettes seem like a band worth checking out properly at a future gig though...

I don't have far to walk as I leave as my next port of call is also in the Stables Market area and only yards away from Proud. I find myself in a very crowded Cuban to see the highly entertaining Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing. Unfortunately the venue is far too small for this popular band and as so many people got in the place before I did I hardly get to see the band at all - and from where I standing the sound is terrible as well. It's a shame as I've missed this band the last couple of times they have played in London and I was particularly looking forward to their set today.
The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing turn in a well played and most entertaining set of Steampunk as usual - why aren't these guys much bigger than they are? My pictures were crap, but if you want to see some really good ones by the very talented Sophie Garrett then click here.

Next I'm back at Prod again. Unfortunately most of the bands I particularly want to see at Camden Rock this year are at my least favourite venue and one I some time ago decided to stop drinking at due to the outrageously priced bar and it's poor beverage selection - I wear out quite a lot of shoe leather today rushing to BrewDog between sets today.

Unfortunately I miss most the the Love Zombies set. I'd never heard of this band until Ginger Wildheart introduced their singer to take vocal duties on some Hey! Hello! songs at his Birthday Bash show last year. At the time I assumed the appearance of Hollis Mahady on stage with Ginger was a one off... Anyway, her band Love Zombies are playing at Proud and I just manage to catch their last song - they were pretty good!
I'm sure it's no coincidence the the following act at Proud is Ginger himself. This is not yer usual Ginger solo show though - if there actually is such a thing. Over the last year of so this guy seems to have taken it upon himself to re-invent the music industry. The old record company based model is now largely dead in the water - and Ginger has abandoned ship. He's launched out on his own with a highly successful series of PledgeMusic campaigns. Not content with putting out Pledge funded albums, he is now doing a similar campaign to launch a new book telling the story of his life since he started The Wildhearts. Not only that, but he has just completed a solo tour -and he's re-invented that format too: Instead of touring the usual venues on the circuit he has deliberately avoided them and instead played at small seated theatres - old ones with an interesting history behind them. And instead of the usual type of solo acoustic show he has come up with a format he calls 'Songs & Words' - meaning he plays songs spanning his interesting and varied career, but also tells anecdotes in between - which works very well as he is an engaging and funny storyteller with a seemingly endless supply of material. On tour these shows can last two and a half hours with no support act - Ginger only gets about 45 minutes today so we get a very cut down version of the same format with a medley of songs played in an acoustic style accompanied by Jase Edwards from Wolfsbane on second guitar.
As expected this is highly entertaining! The only thing which some people aren't too keen on is the way the song medley arrangements move on so quickly that just as everybody has recognised the song and started singing along it changes into another song before we can really get into it - it's sort of Ginger-lite. It's still a very enjoyable show though, and Ginger seems to have really caught the bug playing his 'Songs & Words' shows in intimate theatre venues - he's enjoyed it so much that he is now planning to do more of these shows next year...

It's at about this point that my plans for the day start to unravel. Next I'm off to the Electric Ballroom to catch Black Spiders. I manage to catch their whole set and they are very good. The venue is packed and I decide to settle for staying at the back where I can still get a pretty good view, although it's a waste of time taking pictures back there with my cheapo digicam.
I've seen this band a few times but had to miss their last couple of London shows so it's good to see them again. They manage to sound heavy, but quite polished at the same time - they are not lacking in confidence and really look like they own this large stage in the biggest of the Camden Rocks venues.

Only a couple of minutes walk away from the Electric Ballroom is The Underworld - a venue which rivals Proud as my least favourite of this festival's venues. However, I've already decided not to be drinking in there either so that's one of my major issues with the venue out of the way. These days I need a good reason to set foot in The Underworld. Today a very good reason is provided by a legendary band from New York who I never thought I'd have the chance to see live. Seeing The Dictators in a small sweaty club (their natural environment) is possibly the highlight of my 2015 Camden Rocks. What better song to kick off their set with than 'The Party Starts Now!'? And it really does feel like a party - a very loud one!
It may not be the full original Dictators lineup but if it features Handsome Dick Manitoba and Ross The Boss then I'm more than happy, and it's about as close as it will ever be possible to get. And it genuinely feels authentic.
Like The Stooges and MC5 this is a band who were punks before anyone had heard of 'punk rock', and in spite of being no spring chickens (their first album was released in 1975) they still play with genuine fire and passion - it's very obvious these guys still 'mean it'. Ross The Boss is a damn fine lead guitarist and after helping kickstart the New York punk scene with the Dictators he later ended up in the infamous metal monsters Manowar of 'All Men Play On Ten' fame. The band's (no so) secret weapon is singer Handsome Dick Manitoba - a full-on 'in-your-face' frontman along the same lines as Rose Tattoo's 'Angry' Anderson (who I've also seen in this same venue). This guy is the real deal - also a New York bar owner and former taxi driver. He's also one of the best frontmen I've ever seen! No shrinking violet - he believes in taking the music to the people and jumps off the stage to sing 'Baby Let's Twist' from out in the crowd while encouraging audience participation.
This band provide the most fiery and exciting performance I see all day. Some well known newer bands don't convince me with the 'energy' and 'passion' in their live performances but these guys are in a different class completely - there is nothing forced or fake about this band and their performance here puts many famous younger reformed punk bands to shame. The Dictators are definitely not just 'going though the motions' for the money as many other old bands seem to be - this band are virtually worth the money for the festival ticket on their own and I'm sure most the other people who witnessed this show would agree - this was something special.

It's after I leave The Underworld that I realise my plans have gone horribly wrong. Having had a busy week all my planning had to wait until late last night. I knew there would be a few of the inevitable timing clashes between bands I really wanted to see, but thought I'd worked my way round most of them. I now realise I've just missed Tropical Contact who really impressed me at the Pure Rawk Awards earlier this year. I'm particularly gutted to realise I've also just missed the brilliant Eureka Machines - a band I've been looking forward to seeing for months and who I maintain are the best live act in the UK. Unfortunately, they were playing at Cuban for this year's Camden Rocks - a venue FAR too small for them (as it was for The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing earlier. Last year they played at the Electric Ballroom and got a lot of people in to see them so I doubt I've have been able to see much if I got to Cuban in time anyway. This is one the the problems with this otherwise great festival - there are difficult decisions to be made regarding what bands you can get to see; is it worth queuing outside a venue for so long to see one artist that you have to miss two or three others due to the time spent in the queue? To be fair, it worked out very well for me personally this year as although there were some clashes forcing me to miss certain artists I didn't have any trouble getting straight into any of the venues.

Even out in the street there was music going on - there was a full electric band busking outside the Electric Ballroom at one point, but unfortunately I didn't have time to stay and watch them. Then as I was walking back up to Proud (yet again) I heard a racket coming down the street towards me... was a band playing on a trailer being towed down the street!
I've no idea who they were but they sounded pretty good!

So I end up back at the dreaded Prod Galleries yet again.
I have a good reason for heading back there though - a bit of deja-ju. Ex-AntiProduct musos Alex Kane and Clare Pproduct are playing guitar and bass in Richie Ramone's band. They are no strangers to blasting out Ramones covers -  in fact 'Blitzkrieg Bop' often turned up in AntiProduct's own sets as well.
It's not the first time the AntiProduct pair have played in an ex-Ramones drummer's band as they were in Marky Ramone's touring band for a while as well. Alex is a much underated guitarist - he really ought to get another band of his own together as he is a great frontman and is wasted here.
This set is a lot of fun!
It could hardly not be fun as the set consists mainly of Ramones songs - and most of the crowd know all of them! It's actually the second time this band have played today as they performed a set of all Ramones songs at the Electric Ballroom earlier.
This set is another of today's highlights for me personally - I particularly enjoy seeing the band blast out a great version of 'Blitzkrieg Bop' with Alex taking lead vocals - all the more fun 'cos he is standing right in front of me playing a song I really enjoy performing with my own band.

Unfortunately, while all this is going on at Prod I am missing Maleficent - another band I had been particularly looking forward to seeing. If I walk back to the Black Heart were Maleficent are playing I'll still miss most their set - and I'll also miss most the set of the following band at Proud too by the time I've walked back. I feel bad about missing Maleficent as I haven't been able to see them for a while and the nearest I get today is a nice but random meeting with their lovely singer outside the Black Heart earlier.

Meanwhile, at Prod I get to see a lively set from the Michael Monroe Band. The former Hanoi Rocks singer is bringing the Glam back to Camden and is still one of the best frontmen out there.
Michael always has a good band and it currently features his former Hanoi comrade Sami Yaffa on bass and ex-New York Dolls guitarist Steve Conte - plus Amen, Black Halos, Yo-Yo's/Loyalties guitarist Rich Jones.
Michael & Co are currently out promoting his second solo album with his own band, but naturally a few old Hanoi Rocks songs get thrown into the set as well - needless to say this all goes down a storm with the crowd!
And so ends the 2015 Camden Rocks Festival - an outstanding day packed full of great music and terrific value for money!

As you can see, my pictures from the festival are rubbish! The wonderful Trudi Knight took hundreds of great photos at Camden Rocks (mostly of bands I didn't see myself) and you see see loads of them here.

Same time next year then?

Saturday, 6 June 2015