Monday, 14 March 2016

5/3/2016 Part 2. London SS @ The Hope & Anchor

...and so I leave The Barfly behind and head for Islington, but not without a refueling stop at BrewDog before leaving Camden. And then another as I land in Islington for a more reasonably priced beverage before my second gig of the night. Soon after that I find myself at the Hope & Anchor - one of London's best known pub-rock landmarks. It's only £5 on the door for several bands, and the ale upstairs is decent quality and very reasonably priced - a venue that encourages you to return. Unfortunately you can't say that about many of London's music venues these days  The Hope & Anchor is a venue steeped in rock history, and tonight hosting a band dripping in punk rock mythology - the band that never was, but now is - the infamous London SS.
This is a band that never actually played any gigs in it's earliest days as punk was in it's formative stages in London back around 1975-1976. An amazing amount of people went through the band's ranks in a short space of time who went on to become well known in some of the UK's most legendary punk bands - but the London SS themselves fell apart before punk broke in Britain. Today the only member from the band's early days is ex-Hollywood Brats guitarist Brady who has reformed the band in recent times. Once again the band has a lineup prone to changes... Brady himself is prone to changes - of image. Hollywood Brats were a band ahead of their time - they had a full-on Glam Rock image but a punk rock attitude and sound - before anyone had even heard of punk. Brady can be a bit of a contrary bastard when he feels like it, and tonight he elects to go completely glam and dress in drag while playing the entire set sitting down on his amp - for reasons probably known only to himself...
Regardless to whatever is going on in his head, Brady certainly plays well tonight - even though he appears somewhat detached from the rest of the band.
It's up to livewire frontman Jimi to carry the show tonight, but even he seems a little subdued compared to his normal crazed self.
The band play well and sound good tonight, but it's a bit of a weird vibe compared to their usual performances.

5/3/2016 Part 1. JoanOvArc @ The Barfly

A few years ago I used to get to see JoanOvArc in and around London regularly, but their appearances in London these days are few and far between and I haven't seen them for ages now. However, it's great to see them back in Camden. I saw the band at The Barfly several years ago, but it was a bit of an odd night - though no fault of the band. The venue had installed a barrier in front of the stage - which totally killed the atmosphere; Low stage + barrier + less than full venue = a very un-rock 'n' roll vibe. Fortunately there is no barrier tonight and things are much better. These girls always give a great performance regardless of the circumstances and are a very professional act who play to a very high level.

It's Saturday night in Camden and there are plenty of people in the Barfly who have come to see JoanOvArc - they don't go home disappointed.
JoanOvArc get off to a flying start as they tear into their new single 'Live Rock 'N' Roll' - now re-recorded with well known producer Gil Norton at the famous Rockfield studio. This is a song they often save until the end of their set, but it makes an explosive introduction tonight with Shelley really ripping it up on the solo!
The band have changed their image a bit since I last saw them - their original more 'rock' look had been replaced by a more 'glam' image, but tonight they have a semi-military appearance that harks back to the days of NWoBHM. The Barfly has a lot more rockers in the crowd tonight instead of the more usual indie scenesters at this venue - JoanOvArc serve up just what they want - lashings of hard but tuneful rock played with genuine passion.
The band often throw one or two covers into their set, but as they are only allowed to play for half an hour tonight there is only time for one, but it is a bit special. I'd already noticed that Shelley is purely by coincidence wearing exactly the same Motörhead T-shirt as me, and for the last song she announces it will be their tribute to Lemmy - I know she is a big Motörhead fan. JoanOvArc rip into 'Ace Of Spades' - but this version has a different twist to it - the band have added a horn section!
The horn-enhanced version of 'Ace Of Spades' works surprisingly well, and rhythm guitarist Laura takes lead vocals instead of main singer Sam who sticks to bass duties for this final song of the night. Once again JoanOvArc have triumphed with a powerful and dynamic set and won over a crowd who were partly here for the other bands..
There is dancing and headbanging at the front as JoanOvArc finish their set - there are four bands on the bill so they can't play for long, but they certainly go out with a bang.

I feel sorry for any band who have to follow JoanOvArc - for reasons best known to the promoters the girls are the second band on a four strong bill in spite of their great experience as a live act. I haven't heard of any of the other bands on the bill, but I hang around long enough to catch part of the following band's set.
They are an interesting power trio with a lively girl on drums and they rock a lot harder than the normal Barfly indie fare. They have a good sound and plenty of energy, but none of the songs I hear really grabs me. I'd like to tell you who they are, but they made the basic beginners mistake of not announcing themselves. They aren't a bad band, but very few people seem to have come to see them compared to JoanOvArc so I don't think their position on the bill after JoA was justified - from what I saw tonight JoanOvArc should have been headlining. I quite like this band all the same, and it would be interesting to see them in a year's time to see how they have progressed. Normally, I would have stayed to see the rest of their set, but the overpriced/poor quality venue bar doesn't make me want to hang around - and I have another gig to get to....

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

27/2/2016 CJ Wildheart @ Hoxton Bar & Kitchen

It's been quite a while since CJ has been out on the road - apart from with the Wildhearts of course. But that band tends to have a lot of downtime, and CJ has not been idle. Now with a third solo album under his belt he has decided it's time for a few gigs. CJ's first solo album '13' was well received, and he has since released two Pledge albums - 'Mable' (named after a hen!) and now 'Robot'. 
CJ's solo stuff doesn't sound anything like the Wildhearts, or even his post-Wildhearts (before his eventual return) band The Jellys. I liked The Jellys as a live band but found them a bit too sticky-sweet on record. I'm glad to say the sound is meatier and heavier on his post-Jellys albums though. The sound is poppy and melodic - without sounding lightweight, but not as riff-heavy as the Wildhearts.
CJ has put a good band together to support his latest album - featuring Lee Wray from Zen Motel on bass (again) and Chris from Eureka Machines on second guitar. Both are fine musicians and fit in well - Lee has toured China in the past in CJ's band.
The turnout in Hoxton this Saturday night is strong and I think it's fair to say everybody had a good time and enjoyed the cheerful and bouncy set CJ and Co turned out - let's hop it's not so long next time before their return.
The only downside is that the venue decree the show must end at 10.00. Who is ready to go home at this time on a Saturday night? The room is hosting a club playing 'dance' music after CJ's show and as the club crowd slowly trickle in and the shite music starts the 'rock' crowd decided it's time to leave - the overpriced bar is no incentive to stay. However, I have discovered there is a Wetherspoons pub almost next to Old Street station and as I'm heading that way anyway that is where we repair to. The pub is still open at midnight and is surprisingly empty considering how fashionable the area has become. Result! Then with the new Great Northen timetable now featuring trains through Old Street at weekends it's only a 20 minute train ride home.