Friday, 25 November 2016

20/11/2016 Billy Walton Band @ East Barnet Valley United Services Club

Something rather unexpected tonight; an American blues band on tour - playing in a tiny club in Barnet! The outfit in question is the Billy Walton Band. I'd never heard of them until I saw this 'Beat Club' show being promoted by North London promoter Pete Feenstra - what first caught my eye was the venue: East Barnet Valley United Services Club. I'd never been aware of much happening here in the way of live music apart from the odd very middle-of-the-road cover band. Maybe this is a sign of things to come? I certainly hope so.

The place doesn't have a great reputation locally and as they don't serve real ale I'd never have reason to set foot in there normally. It's a members only club anyway, and as Groucho said "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member". I'd checked out the band on their website and they sounded good, plus I knew the beer was cheap in the club even if not to my usual taste. I was quite looking forward to checking this gig out, but I was also curious to see how many people actually turned up? I was wondering if I'd be feeling sorry for the band - used to touring and playing good venues, but playing in a tiny club to only a handful of people? Who knew that a quality band from the USA would be playing in this little club not known as a music venue? Would the local music crowd used to seeing cover bands for free in local pubs be prepared to cough up £12 on the door? For a band they'd never heard of?

I needn't have worried - when I arrived the place was full! In spite of my concerns the promoter obviously knew what he was doing. The band had actually played locally at least once before without me knowing, and there were people here tonight wearing the band's T-shirts. It was an odd crowd though - to me anyway as I felt a bit out of place in a room full of blokes in their 50's and 60's - not the sort of gig I'm used to at all. I haven't been in a crowd like that since I saw Dave Edmunds play at Shepherds Bush Empire a few years ago - and I felt out of place there too. Although the club was full, I hardly recognised anyone - which is very unusual for a local gig. Judging by the lack of trade at the bar in spite of the dirt cheap prices, and the amount of cans of Coke lying around I suspect most of those present weren't local and many had driven to the gig. I think promoter Pete Feentra probably has his own crowd of followers who will travel from all over North London to his shows - although there seems to be a very narrow demographic with an almost entirely male crowd and virtually no young people. In fact almost no one under 40 years old. Still, unlike most of their age group this crowd are out and actively supporting live music - and that can only be a good thing.

As I arrive the support band are still playing. They are called Fuzzwalker and are really good from what little I catch of their set - they remind me of current U.S. band White Denim. I wish I'd got there early enough to see their whole set. To the bar! Only £2.30 for a pint of Theakstons? Yes really. OK, so it's keg and not real ale - but at that price I'm not complaining... After a couple of those I look to see what's in the chiller cabinets behind the bar to see if they have any Newcastle Brown or similar? No Broon, but I do spy Marston's Old Empire IPA - it's 5.7% and only £2.50 a large bottle - that's me sorted for the rest of the night then!

Then it's on to the headline act. As expected the Billy Walton Band are pretty good. It's good solid rockin' blues. The band are all excellent players, and Billy Walton himself is a likable frontman as well as a very good guitar player. He's a bit of a showman too, but without going over the top - he's just having fun.
I think the setlist is mostly original material, although one song sounds familiar and may have been a cover. It's all good stuff though. Even though I didn't really know any of the songs I still enjoyed the set. To be honest, I wouldn't have traveled into Camden or the West End and paid £12 to see a band I didn't know playing unfamiliar material, but if it's happening locally then things like this are worth checking out - and I'm glad I did. I will have to keep an eye out for future events like this at the club - hopefully this will be the first of many as tonight's show seems like a great success.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

18/11/2016 The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing @ Islington Academy

Friday finds me heading down to Islington for a dose of Steampunk. Not wanting to patronise the vastly overpriced Islington Academy bar a visit to the nearest Wetherspoons is required for some refreshment beforehand. Along with many other gig goers in the past I used to frequent the Glasshouse boozer adjacent to the venue upstairs before and after the show. However, Wetherspoons in their wisdom have recently decided to close it. Fortunately, they have another pub near the tube station - not so handy for the venue, but better for the last minute dash for the last train home. I bump into some friends in the pub, and manage a quick three pints before heading to the show. As is often the case I have missed the opening act -  CuT on this occasion - not on purpose, just 'cos I can't get my shit together. Unfortunately I also miss at least half of the following act; this is Andrew O'Neill, who is also the guitarist in the headliners. As well as being a musician he is a stand-up comedian. He is very funny. Just as well really. I will have to catch one of his comedy sets one day - I am pleased to hear him announce that he will be bringing back his 'History Of Heavy Metal' show - friends tell me it's very good!

And so, onto the headline act - The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. I think this is the biggest headline show they have ever played. It's good to see them taking things up a level - this isn't easy for an unsigned band who have to do everything for themselves.
This lot are one of the most entertaining acts out there. Most bands tend to work pretty much on one level and just try to make the best music they can - while hopefully also being a good live act. TMTWNBBFN do more than that. The music is good, and well played, but also their lyrics are interesting and thought provoking - they take you into their own twisted Victorian world. Singer Andy Heintz is visually the most striking member of the band with his topper and dyed beard - more 'Victorian' looking than the rest of the band - apart from the gas mask hanging from his waist - this genre seems to thrive on contradictions: LOUD METAL GUITAR, and then the singer is sitting down playing the saw with a violin bow as the band play an acoustic number.
Although this band fall into the Steampunk genre, there is probably more metal in there than punk. Guitarist Andrew O'Neill is a total metalhead - being particularly fond of death metal and the more extreme side of things. He is also a very good guitarist and throws some thunderously heavy riffing into the mix - some riffs that Black Sabbath, Metallica, or Slayer would be proud of. Bass player Marc Burrows is probably more what you would expect a Steampunk musician to be like, and adds a well received solo acoustic song to the set. Drummer Jez Miller thunders away on drums at the back and keeps things rolling along nicely.
Unusually, the band include a cover in their set - an apt and well executed version of The Kinks 'Victoria' - possibly better known to many in the crowd is the cover of this song by The Fall. The TMTWNBBFN version is excellent. The band's own songs are dark - sometimes very dark, but also often funny. The music can be very heavy at times, but there is also a lot of humour in there. Naturally, much of the humour is dark too, and there is also quite a bit of political satire. The whole mixture is enormously entertaining and gives the band a very unique character - I think they are in a class of their own.
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing are proud to call themselves a band of 'genuine actual Londoners'  - and you could be forgiven for thinking there might be a Chas & Dave influence in there along with Slayer in songs like 'Margate Fhtagn'. This song about a daytrip to the seaside that doesn't end well for Granny is always a big favourite with the crowds. The lyrics to the songs are clever and funny - plenty to keep you interested. New single the dark and creepy 'This House Is Not Haunted' gets an airing tonight, and we hear about 'Zombie Albert' in the funny and catchy 'Victoria's Secret'. The band also pay tribute to some of their heroes of the Victorian era with songs about the great engineers 'Steph(V)enson' and 'Brunel' - probably their most popular song and tonight's show closer.
 All in all a night of fantastic entertainment and worth every penny.

PS: If you want to see some really good pictures from this show by Ila Desai then click here.

And so, back to the pub. Only The Angel aren't allowing anyone in for some reason - it's not late and the pub doesn't appear particularly full. There was a 10.00 curfew at the venue and it's far too early to go home on a Friday night, so we went to the Nag's Head for beer instead.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

9/11/2016 JoanOvArc album launch show @ The Black Heart

This is a gig I've been looking forward to for a while, and it certainly doesn't disappoint! The Black Heart is pretty full for this album launch show and there is expectancy in the air. It's been a long time coming but JoanOvArc's debut album is finally here - I've been seeing the band play some of these songs live for over ten years so it's great to get them on a well produced and recorded CD at last. After some false starts with record companies and managers over the years JoanOvArc have been in the world famous Rockfield studios with 'name' producer Gil Norton, and the results are impressive. The material is a mix of old favourites and new songs - tonight's set reflects this and varies from full on in-your-face rock to the odd quieter and slower number. But although some of their songs are very catchy and commercial the emphasis is very much on the rock. And these girls can rock very hard indeed when they want too. Tonight they explode onto the stage with a terrific performance!
It's the second time this year that I've seen the band at this venue - the first being when they played to a full room at mid-day to open the Camden Rocks Festival. This is the third time I've seen them play in Camden this year (although they have done so many times in the past) and they really seem to be taking things up a gear or two in 2016 with festival appearances and daytime national radio airplay on Planet Rock. Most the lead vocals are by bass player Sam - she is a fine singer and full of energy.
JoanOvArc are on fine form tonight, but then again they always are - I've seen them over fifty times over the years and I've never seen them be less than excellent. They have worked very hard to get this far and are top quality musicians with a great deal of live experience. It finally looks like all the hard work is starting to pay off.
Some of the older songs like 'Live Rock 'N' Roll' and 'Seeds Of Summer' have grown and evolved over the years - no JoanOvArc show is complete without them. 'White Trash' is a newer song that has also become popular with the fans over the past couple of years. However, some very strong newer songs have appeared in recent times, like the new album's title track and opener 'Ride Of Your Life' - a tribute to the many biker fans they have won over at motorcycle rallies. Recent single 'Dragon In The Sky' is also memorable.
JoanOvArc have always been a terrific live act, not just because of their musical ability and good songwriting, but also because of the sheer passion they play with - this is a band who really mean and really feel every note they play.
After a few songs the first of the night's special guests appears - John Altman AKA the infamous 'Nasty Nick' from Eastenders. This guy has the stage presence to do a very convincing version of Johnny O'Keefe and the Dee Jays 'Real Wild Child'.
As well as being an actor John is no stranger to the art of fronting a rock band - he took the place of the late Gary Holton in a more recent lineup of the Heavy Metal Kids.
Then it was back to the girls on their own playing original material - I think virtually the whole of their new album got played. They must have done a good job of promoting the album as it looked like most of if not all the CDs on the rack on the merch stall got sold.
JoanOvArc played a highly polished and confident set as usual, with a little extra gloss added by a keyboard player on some numbers tonight - there is even some trumpet!
Shelley cranked out some cracking solos and exhibited natural flair and show(wo)manship - I wish I could play as well as that!
Soon we get another guest singer - this time it's Adam Barron. I'm not familiar with this guy, but I've seen him perform as a guest with this band in the past and apparently he has also appeared on The Voice as well as with Mick Ralphs Blues Band - there is another Bad Company link coming up a little later.... Adam is certainly a good singer, and I much prefer his version of 'With A Little Help From My Friends' tonight to Joe Cocker's cover.
JoanOvArc certainly seem to have made some good connections in the rock business, and next the Bad Company link is continued with the appearance of Dave 'Bucket' Colwell - who took Mick Ralphs place on guitar in a later version of the band.
They launch into a terrific version of Led Zeppelin's 'Rock And Roll' - featuring not one but three guitar solos!
The band are really on fire as Shelley and Dave trade solos - and I think Shelly just shades it.
Meanwhile, at the back Debbie looks like she is having the time of her life playing the late John Bonham's part and trying to destroy the drum kit! Mind you, Debbie always looks like she's having the time of her life when she is pounding the skins for JoanOvArc - and she really does pound them! Best drummer I've seen all year.
After some less frantic songs mid-set like the bouncy 'Work' and the catchy and melodic 'Running Away' the intensity builds. It's great to see this band playing a headline show and being able to play for well over an hour. Things seem to ease off a bit briefly as the band launch into 'Freebird' - a song they rarely play these days as they concentrate of playing their own material. Rhythm guitarist Laura takes lead vocals for this song after swapping between and rhythm guitar and bass with Sam for a song earlier in the set. 'Freebird' builds to it's crescendo and things really start to take off - the band absolutely love playing this song - and you can really tell! Some bands play this song just as a 'crowd pleaser' but JoanOvArc play it because they enjoy it so much and are so totally into it. I have seen many bands play this song over the years, but I've never seen anyone play it as well or with as much pure passion as JoanOvArc! Debbie on drums looks like she is going to explode with excitement, while Sam looks like she might stomp right through the stage. Shelley is on fire and totally in her element as she tears up her fretboard.

That looked like it was meant to be the end of the show, but due to popular demand the girls threw in an encore of a repeat of 'Live Rock 'N' Roll' - which went down a storm!
What a show that was! There was never a dull moment in nearly an hour and a half. JoanOvArc really are at the top of their game at the moment, and it looks like things might to finally about to really start happening for them after all their years of hard work. If you want to check them out, they will be back in Camden on December 17th when they play at Proud as part of a Camden Rocks promotion.

And so to BrewDog....

BTW: JoanOvArc's new album Ride Of Your Life is well worth checking out.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

15/10/2016 Jelly & Healthy Junkies @ The Unicorn

Saturday night finds me heading for Camden - eventually. I arrive at the station with a couple of minutes to spare for once - only to find that (not so) Great Northern have cancelled my train. Again. I think this has happened 3 out of the last 4 times I have tried to use this service. If anything Great Northern are even worse the First Capital Connect where when they ran the trains on this line, and they certainly don't deserve to keep the franchise either. Half an hour until the next train - what to do? There is a Wetherspoons pub virtually in sight of the station - a couple of minutes later I'm in it. Time for a pint and 30 minutes later I'm back on the platform at the station waiting for the next train. Only the train indicator display says that the train is now only going as far as Alexandra Palace instead of Moorgate as advertised. I only need to get to Finsbury Park but this train is fuck all use to me. So back to the pub I go. Another pint and half an hour later I finally get on a train to Finsbury Park - a whole hour after I was supposed to. Thanks a lot Great Northern.

As a consequence of the shit service (again) from Great Northern trains I completely miss the first two bands on the bill at The Unicorn. I finally arrive to find Jelly halfway though their set.
This is the first gig Jelly have played since their original singer Stevie left the band so I'm not sure quite what to expect. The new guy is a pretty good frontman, but completely different to his predecessor. The songs are still good of course, and the standard of musicianship high as ever. The band's material is quite retro and reminiscent of 1970's rock, but with a modern twist to it.
As usual Jelly draw a decent crowd, and they are treated to some newer songs that aren't featured on the band's debut album - it will be interesting to see where they take things from here...

As usual as it's their own monthly club night Healthy Junkies finish off the night. Their 'Punk 'N' Roll Rendezvous' nights at The Unicorn are always entertaining with a good mixture of bands.
Healthy Junkies themselves are good fun with their grungy poppy punky mix of catchy tunes.
With three albums under their belts now there is no shortage of decent songs for the band to pick from. I actually remembered to put my camera in my pocket before leaving home this time, but my attempts at taking pictures without flash didn't come out well at all as you can see. I did turn it on when I got into a better unobstructed position closer to the band later on in their set - what a difference it made!
My other pictures were worse than what I could have done with my phone camera, but there's no way I can afford a better camera at the moment.

Still, it was a good night at The Unicorn as usual - well at least the part of it that Great Northern trains finally allowed me to get to was anyway. With free admission at this venue and cheap beer at normal pub prices you can't go far wrong really - although the beer prices do seem to have gone up since my last visit here.

Monday, 31 October 2016

7/10/2016 Syteria, JoanOvArc & The Kut at Club 85

Friday night finds me getting on my bike and heading off to a gig - in completely the opposite direction to normal. Heading north out into the sticks I arrive in Hitchin a lot quicker than if I had got the train, and spending a lot less on petrol than I would have done on the train fare - £12 return apparently. Considering that the venue is in a smallish town out in Hertfordshire Club 85 is an amazing place. Holding a few hundred people, plus having a large stage with decent PA and lighting systems it's actually a far better venue than most in London. Although it's not as big as the rightly famed Rock City in Nottingham, Club 85 also has you asking the same question - why haven't we got venues this good in London? Maybe Hitchin has a more enlightened council? It's cheap as chips for a four band bill as well - only £6.60 for a ticket bought online or £8 on the door. Bargain! Not that there aren't decent  4 band bills to be had for similar money (or even free) in London if you avoid the more corporate rip-off venues. Bar prices at Club 85 came as a bit of a shock for somewhere well out of London though - I saw someone being charged £4 for an ale, and I got stung for £2.80 (I think) just for a tiny can of Red Bull! Being on the bike I wasn't going to be boozing anyway, but it's something to bear in mind if I consider getting the train up here in future.

The night is billed as 'Women That Rock' - a night of all female (nearly) rock bands. I've heard some people say recently that we should no longer be making a point of bands being 'female fronted' or being an  'all girl band', but that's how this show was presented and that's what I'm saying it is - because it is. I've probably been guilty of this in the past, but if pointing it out gets a few more punters in the door then everybody wins. Right? And it's only going to encourage more girls to pick up guitars - so that can only be a good thing too. Right? Well if you don't think so then you can fuck off right now.

First band on the bill were Screech Bats. Unfortunately I didn't arrive in time to catch any of their set. I got into the venue just as Syteria were starting their set.

I realised once I was watching my first band of the evening that I had forgotten to put my freshly recharged camera on my jacket pocket before leaving home - so you'll have to make do with pictures from my phone. My current camera isn't very good for gig pictures anyway so it probably doesn't make much difference. However, this venue's otherwise rather good lighting rig shines some bright lights directly at the crowd from the back of the stage a lot of the time making it very difficult to time photos to avoid it - after a while I start to wonder if someone operating the light show is watching me and doing it on purpose every time I try to take a picture!
This is a new band from Leeds formed by lead guitarist Jackie Chambers from Girlschool - a band who played at this same venue about fifteen years ago and are still going - you can catch them on tour supporting Saxon soon.... Syteria are more of a metal band compared to Girlschool's more classic hard rock sound, but that's not to say they don't have any good tunes 'cos they do.
This is the second time I've seen this band this in the last few months. They were good when I saw them at their London debut, but I think they are better tonight in a bigger venue and playing to a much more crowded room. They sound pretty heavy and they rock pretty hard - these facts are definitely appreciated by tonight's rock loving crowd.
Syteria certainly give a good account of themselves tonight and I'm sure they have won over a lot of new fans.

Next is the most popular by far band of the evening, partly because being from neighbouring Stevenage JoanOvArc are virtually a local band, but also because they have spent years of hard work gigging in London as well as Hertfordshire building a following.
It looks like all that hard work is finally starting to pay off. It's taken a long time, and in more recent times JoanOvArc seem to have been overtaken by bands like The Amorettes (another all female 3 piece featuring two sisters) and Tequila Mockingbird who have't been going as long but seem to have somehow got the media and airplay breaks which have eluded the even more deserving JoA. Tequila Mockingbyrd have even been getting recent airplay on Planet Rock with a song called 'I Smell Rock & Roll' that sounds more than a little like JoA's older 'Live Rock 'N' Roll'. Interestingly, both bands will be playing on the same bill in December along with The Amorettes.
I've seen this band many times over the years, and I've never seen them be less than very good. Tonight is no exception and JoanOvArc are on fine form - spurred on all the more by playing to what is effectively their 'home crowd'. Not that they need a familiar audience to get a good response - this is a band that excels in winning strange crowds over. They do this partly through having plenty of strong material, but also though the sheer power and passion in their performance - this is a band who never ever seem like they are just going through the motions - they look like they absolutely love playing live - in fact they live for it. It's very obvious that really mean it - and they throw everything they have into every show.
Although JoanOvArc can be very 'pop' if they want to and can make music that sounds very commercial, at heart they are very much a ROCK band and are highly influenced by the classic rock of the past - which isn't to say they can't put a modern twist on things. Some of their more recent songs like 'Say Sayonara' and new single 'Dragon In The Sky' are very commercial sounding - when these girls hit the stage they can (and do) rock as hard as anybody - lead guitarist Shelley is often seen wearing a Ramones or Motörhead T-shirt. This is no 'fashion statement' - these are bands she loves and are a major influence on JoA even though they don't sound like either of those classic bands. What this band does best is rock out, and some of their older songs like 'White Trash', 'Seeds Of Summer', and 'Live Rock 'N' Roll' would be totally at home on stage at any major rock festival. I'm pleased when they dedicate a song from their forthcoming debut album to "All the bikers out there" - although I didn't actually see any motorcycles outside apart from mine. The band have played quite a few biker festivals and their style of music goes down well with that crowd. The forthcoming album is called Ride Of Your Life and I'm really looking forward to hearing it.
Shelley's sister Sam takes most of the lead vocals as well as playing bass - and she does a fine job on both, with her vocals being particularly clear and powerful - no forced or affected 'raw' vocals in this band. Comparatively recent addition to the band (JoA were a power trio for their first few years) Laura also takes the lead vocal on some songs as well as playing solid rhythm guitar. Meanwhile, and the back Debbie on drums is the real powerhouse behind the band and really drives things along with a mixture of sensitive playing and aggressive push.
JoanOvArc don't play many covers in their sets, and as tonight's performance is not a headline set there didn't seem to be time to play anything other than their own material. However, Sam announces that due to a number of requests from fans in the crowd they are going to play a song that they only rarely perform these days - 'Freebird'. This band have plenty of their own songs that I like, but seeing them play 'Freebird' really is something special! I have seen many bands playing this song over the years, but I've yet to see anyone play it better and with more passion and enthusiasm than these girls - Shelley really is on fire when she rips into the solos! Some bands play this song really well, but still seem like they are going through the motions playing a known crowd-pleaser - but when JoanOvArc play this song they are totally into it and play as if their lives depended on it!
With some bands, ending the set with a cover can seem a bit of a cop-out, but after hearing JoanOvArc close their show with a truly storming version of 'Freebird' I feel sorry for any act that has to follow them....

I have to feel a little sorry for the last band of the night - I think someone might have not made a very good job of the running order for tonight's show. The Kut seem to have drawn the short straw and now they have to follow JoanOvArc - that was never going to be easy.
This band from London don't seem to be having the best night as they are having to use a stand-in bass player due to the usual girl having 'reliability' issues or something. The guy helping out instead does a good job though, and I wouldn't have guessed he wasn't the band's usual bass player if the singer hadn't pointed it out.
The Kut get over a slightly shaky start and kick into a gutsy grunge flavoured set. The singer/guitarist seems likeable and the band have have decent tunes - I soon start to warm to them. The band leader Princess Maha invites JoanOvArc on stage to add backing vocals to one song which adds interest to the set.
After a few songs I find myself starting to enjoy this band's set and decide I wouldn't mind seeing them again sometime. I think I nearly saw them at Camden Rocks festival earlier this year when they were also on the same bill as JoanOvArc (who I did see) but stage timing clashes meant it was not to be.
Princess Maha proves herself to be an engaging personality on stage, and also shows she can really play guitar by ripping out a quite flash and technical guitar solo at one point as well - there is more to this girl than meets the eye.

It's been an excellent night and terrific value for money - apart from the bar prices. Well worth a ride out from 'The Smoke' even it not so warm October. All three bands that I saw were well worth seeing.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

30/9/2016 The Amorettes & Love Zombies @ The Black Heart

Friday night finds me heading down to Camden. As usual my first port of call is BrewDog to avoid the silly beer prices in the venue I am going to. I find they have a beer called 'Born To Die'. I think Lemmy would have approved of that name so I down a couple of them, although at 8.5% it's not as strong as some of the other beers I have enjoyed in there. However, it's the strongest beer they have tonight so it will have to do.

Suitably refreshed I head the few yards down the street to The Black Heart. The gig has sold out well in advance and the small room upstairs is rammed! This is the fourth time I've seen The Amorettes and the third time this year - they really knocked me out at the Pure Rawk Awards and Camden Rocks Festival earlier this year. They certainly don't disappoint tonight either. As this show is part of a joint headline tour the band get to play a longer set than usual. The room is full and it's quite hot inside even though Summer has come to an end, but the Amorettes seem to thrive on these conditions. The band's current single 'Let The Neighbours Call The Cops' appears surprisingly early in their set but goes down a storm. Another highlight of tonight's set is 'Hot And Heavy' - seeming like a particularly apt anthem for tonight's sweaty little venue! The band are very loud, raw, and in-your-face - which is just how I like my hard rock to be. I am also struck by how good their stagecraft is - they have obviously worked hard at this, and now it is really paying off. Once again I thoroughly enjoy the Amorettes show, although due the packed venue and not being near the front (maybe because I left BrewDog too late) I don't enjoy it as much as the last couple of times - the band themselves are just as good though. Actually, - they weren't good - they were great!

Last to play tonight are Love Zombies. As this is a joint headline show tonight's running order was decided by the toss of a coin at soundcheck time. I'm not sure if Love Zombies won or lost the toss... Judging by the friends I've randomly bumped into at tonight's gig who also happen to be WiLDHEARTS fans quite a few people are here to see Love Zombies because of the (now broken - but that's another story) Ginger/Hey! Hello! connection. However, in spite of this it's quite apparent that more people are here to see the Amorettes as the crowd had thinned out noticeably for Love Zombies. To be fair, the latter are a pretty good band and very entertaining. Frontgal Hollis has a huge amount of energy. This pop/punk/grunge band are good fun and well worth seeing, but the Amorettes are a very tough act to follow! Love Zombies are obviously good musicians and have some decent songs - I was certainly impressed when I caught part of their set at last year's Camden Rocks Festival. However, tonight they strike me as a slightly mismatched outfit who don't totally gel in the same way as the Amorettes who hit you right in the face as a really tight and complete package. Mind you, Love Zombies did have something the Amorettes didn't: Cake. Lots of cake. Apparently it was someone's birthday. Isn't it always? Well it is at pub gigs anyway. There was an 'audience participation' section of the show - featuring lots of balloons and party poppers. And cake. Cake went flying through the air - it was all over the crowd and the floor. It was like an explosion in a cake factory. I still had some on me when I got home.

Wot - no pictures?  Well I did have my camera in my pocket, but as the venue was so rammed and I didn't get near the front I didn't bother even trying to take any pictures as I knew they would be so crap.

As usual I ended up back at BrewDog after the show. No one seemed to notice I had cake on me.

Friday, 16 September 2016

1/8/2016 Choking Susan & Healthy Junkies @ The Unicorn

I don't think I've ever been to The Unicorn on a Monday night before, or seen Healthy Junkies on a Monday night either. However, here I am for what is a warm up show for some bands playing at the Rebellion festival. It's a strong bill for a Monday night, but unfortunately I don't get to the gig as early as I'd have liked and I miss Serratone and Red Lion Licks. I just catch the last song by Neon Animal - a new band featuring Mark Thorn of Bubblegum Screw. As far as I can tell it's pretty much business as usual and if you liked Mark's previous band then you'll probably like this one too.

Healthy Junkies are great fun as usual with their blend of punk, glam, and grunge.
With three albums in the can and what must be hundreds of live shows under their belt this band have become a tight and polished live act with a strong repertoire of catchy pop/punk songs.
This band have done well from running their own monthly club night at this nice little Camden venue - ensuring that they are always playing regularly themselves as well as putting on many other bands at their shows and generating extra exposure for all. Some of the bands who play at their 'Punk N Roll Rendezvous' club come back time and time again as they build their own following.

A band who don't appear in the UK as much are Choking Susan - they travel over from their native Detroit about once a year for a tour.
Fronted by the remarkable Colleen Caffeine this is full on punk rock with added shock rock and glam.
'In your face' doesn't come close to describing this band and their singer's attitude, but the music backing her up is tight and hard.
You cannot fail to be entertained by Choking Susan - Colleen absolutely throws herself into this 100%. I've been aware of this band for quite a few years now, but this is the first time I've actually managed to see them. I shall have to make sure it's not the last - even if I have to wait another year.
Towards the end of the band's set it becomes apparent that a 'special guest' has just arrived in the venue and is going to join the band on drums. This is the icing on the cake for me as my evening ends with me watching Robin Guy playing drums on the Stooges classic 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' - which is even more special for me as I've been on the same stage at this venue playing the same song a couple of times in the past year or so.
This has been a lot of unexpected fun for a Monday night, and being the Unicorn it's a cheap night out too with free admission and beer at pub prices rather than Camden or West End prices - what's not to like?

Monday, 12 September 2016

30/7/2016 Syteria @ The Lounge (Archway Tavern)

Girlschool's lead guitarist Jackie Chambers has a new band (Girlschool are still gigging and recording BTW) and this is their first ever show in London. It's (sort of) my first ever visit to this venue - well this room anyway. Actually, this is the former Archway Tavern of Muswell Hillbillies/Kinks fame - a place I have visited quite a few times over the years under various different names. In more recent times I have been there it has been 'Dusk to Dawn', The Intrepid Fox, and now a large room upstairs round at the back is called The Lounge. The big old ground floor bar closed as the infamous Intrepid Fox earlier this year - maybe it really is the end this time? Since then it's supposedly going to be turned into a restaurant, although at the time of my visit it looked derelict inside. PS: A week later the ground floor appeared to be being refurbed into a bar. Anyway, upstairs I go. My first impression isn't good - I get quite a shock being stung for a fiver just for a bottle of Old Speckled Hen. That price ensures I don't go to the bar again all night and doesn't encourage me to return to this venue. To be fair, the door price of £7 is very reasonable for 3 bands while the actual venue is quite nice with a big stage and good sound and lighting systems. Unfortunately, I don't manage to get there in time to see the first couple of bands.
Syteria are based in Yorkshire and still a pretty new band. Although formed by Jax from Girlschool, Syteria are nothing like her 'day job' band. Although this is a female fronted band they do have a bloke on drums. The music is tuneful and catchy, but definitely heavier and more 'metal' than Girlschool. Jackie's lead playing is melodic, but she is more free to rip it up and go a bit wild than she is with Girlschool who have a more established style and format - she looks like she is having a lot of fun - not that she doesn't when she plays with Girlschool, but as this is her own project she has more freedom for self expression.
Everybody in this band plays and performs well - singer Julia really throws herself into it and looks like she is auditioning to be a member of Judas Priest! This band look as well as sound more 'metal' than Girlschool who although lumped into the whole NWoBHM genre are more of a classic hard rock band with a raw punky edge. However, Jackie shows her punk rock roots when Syteria launch into a cover of the Ramones classic 'Rockaway Beach' to end the show.
Here is some video from this gig - not taken by me BTW - it's on the band's website.
I look forward to catching Syteria again when they get back to London. I expect it will be at a different venue, although bar prices aside I quite liked The Lounge.

PS: I was back at The Lounge a week later, and possibly as a result of me moaning about the price of a beer a whole pound had been taken off the price of a pint. Sometimes venues/management/promoters do actually listen....