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.