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....

Saturday, 10 September 2016

22/7/2016 Ginger Wildheart Band, Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors + Hey! Hello! @ Brooklyn Bowl

This was another of those nights that I always knew was going to be fun - and it was! The venue is a comparatively new one to London's live scene. Brooklyn Bowl is getting a reputation for being rather a good place to go and see bands. Although it is situated in the O2 complex at Greenwich it doesn't feel as 'corporate' as most of London's medium to large venues do these days - it seems to have a more friendly and relaxed atmosphere with the security and other staff being friendlier than most other venues. It's not a solely dedicated music venue - it's also a ten pin bowling alley and restaurant. The less said about the fucking outrageous prices for a pint at the bar the better though. However, a little research beforehand revealed a Wetherspoons style (but not an actual Wetherspoon) pub also in the O2 complex called the Slug & Lettuce serving real ale at a surprisingly reasonable price - London Pride at only £3.65 a pint. So that's where I spend my my beer money before and after the gig instead of in the venue.

Suitably refreshed I arrive at Brooklyn Bowl with a few minutes to spare - I particularly don't want to miss the first support band. Ginger being a canny lad has decided to support himself at this show - it's not the first time he's pulled off this trick, but it seems popular with the fans so why not? It's not as if he has any shortage of material to play. In fact, this show is part of a whole tour with Ginger playing with two different bands each night. So tonight's opening act is Hey Hello! - Ginger's other other band. Or something. The big difference between this band and Ginger's various other bands and projects is that he doesn't front the band himself.- he takes a step back from the pressure to become *just* the songwriter and (mainly rhythm) guitarist. I think he want's to have fun on stage being being just a guitarist again - and he certainly seems to be enjoying it. Hey! Hello! are a lot of fun.
There have been some changes in the Hey! Hello! camp since they were last seen on stage. The changes have in fact all been singers, with the first two being lost along the way. The band's second singer bailed just before a tour earlier this year - which was somewhat inconvenient to say the least as the band's second album was already in the can. Many auditions took place, and the album is finally being released with a variety of people taking lead vocal duties on different songs. For this tour vocal duties are being taken care of by Cat Southall - is she the band's new singer? Who knows? She does a very good job though - both vocally and with her stage presence. The rest of the band is unchanged and they are rock solid performers - Toshi (ex-AntiProduct) on bass, and the Rev (ex-Towers Of London) on lead guitar are a dynamic duo with much stage experience between them and they certainly do justice to Ginger's songs while drummer Ai keeps a good solid beat at the back and drives things along.
Most of the band's debut album gets an airing, but there isn't time for all of it  The band's self-titled album is a pop/punk cracker stuffed with great tunes like the brilliantly catchy 'Swimwear' and dark and twisted lyrics along with some good advice for up and coming new bands in the form of 'How I Survived The Punk Wars' - I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on the forthcoming Hey! Hello! Too! album.

Ginger gets a break for (most of) the following band's set. Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors are new to most people in the UK, although their bass player isn't. Yes, it's that rock/pop/punk hired gunslinger Rob Lane again!
Ryan Hamilton was a new name to me until this tour, so I was going in cold as far as his material goes. He is an American country rock singer/songwriter - with the emphasis more on the rock. Not quite the sort of act I'd normally go and see, but I warmed to his set as time went on. He has a good band, and an engaging personality - his sense of humour and struggle to understand the British sense of humour he has encountered on tour was quite entertaining.. Ginger reappears at the end of the set to join the band with a run through the REO Speedwagon classic 'Take It On The Run' - he looks like he's having a great time!

The fun ain't over yet for our Northern hero as he is soon back on stage with his own band. The new version of the band he has put together for these shows ending with the Ramblin' Man Fair is pretty good. Ginger is reunited with his old Silver Ginger 5 bandmate Conny Bloom - best known for his time in Sweden's Electric Boys as well as the final version of Hanoi Rocks. Conny has great onstage charisma and definitely has the whole 'rock star' vibe going on - a great addition to the band. Toshi also joins Ginger on stage for the second time tonight, while the drum stool is occupied by the phenomenal  Denzel.- when the band launch into Wildheart's classic 'Suckerpunch' he sounds like he is drumming for the mighty Motörhead!
The setlist is a terrific run through Ginger's career ro date: Some WiLDHEARTS classics, the fantastic 'Sonic Shake' from SG5 and a load of stuff from Ginger's various solo albums. The inevitable 'Geordie In Wonderland' (seen on Top Of The Pops performed by the Wildhearts back in the day) get's played, along with Ginger's new take on the same subject of someone new to London finding themself as a stranger alone in the city - a cautionary tale called 'If You Find Yourself In London Town. Ginger has just released this as a single and you can see the video here. See if you can recognise any of the places in the video....
Needless to say, there are loads of sing-a-long favourites and the atmosphere is terrific! This is certainly one of the best gigs I've been to this year - not just because of the great music and the people playing it, nut also because the venue is better than most and it's easy to get a good view. Unlike many of the city's best known venues Brooklyn Bowl is a place I'll be happy to return to in future.
My rubbish pictures were taken on my phone this time - I didn't bother taking my camera as I knew someone with far better photography skills and equipment would be there doing a far better job than I could ever manage - if you want to see the proof go to Trudi Knight's website for a load of top quality pictures from this gig.

A top night out with Ginger & Co at an excellent venue - now back to the pub for another pint or two before jumping on the tube home.....

Monday, 5 September 2016

East Barnet Festival 2016

I don't seem to have many pictures from this year's East Barnet Festival although I was there on the Saturday and Sunday. The weather wasn't bad - mostly dry which made a nice change. There were one of two showers on the Saturday though.
There were loads of bands on over the weekend - covering a wide variety of musical styles, so there really was something for everybody. There was the usual funfair, and loads of other attractions like food and craft stalls, a dog show, and a car show. On the Saturday I was a bit busy and missed some of the acts, although I did manage to check out the beer tent. Quite thoroughly. And also the pub after the festival had finished for the day...

To be honest I can't remember all the bands over the weekend. The Faith Stealers were good as usual but I was otherwise engaged and couldn't get any pictures of them. I missed The Fraudsters somehow as well.
I'm afraid I can't remember who these guys were.
 Or these. All the bands I saw were good though.
One of the weekend's better acts was a young and female fronted band called Front Rumours. Young but good musicians playing quite commercial pop music and a singer who could have a bright future ahead of her.
There was also Barnet's 'most infamous band' Binge Drinking making their third appearance at the festival. They cranked out some good old rock 'n' roll - and that always goes down well.
Well known local acts like Tim Leffman appeared again, and singer Kerrie Masters added to the flavour and variety of the event. Sunday's headline act were The Trembling Wilburys - a very professional tribute act - appearing to have George Best replacing George Harrison! There were popular with the crowd though.
Overall it was a great weekend and I think it's fair to say a good time was had by all. Even the weather was OK! Same time next year then?

To the pub....

Sunday, 4 September 2016

25/6/2016 Duncan Reid & The Big Heads @ Nambucca

Several years ago I used to be at this venue regularly. There used to be plenty of the sort of rock 'n' roll and punk bands I like playing there. Then the ale prices started going up and trade going down - along with less of the sort of bands I like and more bad metal bands. Then it shut. Again. There seems to be a bit of a repeating pattern here - Barfly and 12 Bar Clubs anyone? Anyway, Nambucca re-opened a couple of years or so ago after yet another massive and expensive refurb. The stage area at the back is much bigger and better - more like a proper music venue than the back room of a pub. However, they have inexplicably demolished the old bar and rebuild it on the other side of the room. I can't see any point in doing that at all and it's seems a huge waste of money - what were they thinking? Oh yes, and there is no more real ale, the beer quality has gone down as the prices have gone up even further - and the music seems to be mostly indie band instead of rock 'n' roll. So I have hardly been to Nambucca in the couple of years since it reopened. I stopped going to the Barfly regularly a few years ago for similar reasons. However, in a rare turn of events tonight they have actually booked a band I like.
It's Duncan Reid and the Big Heads. Guesting on guitar is Mauro Venegas - lately of Johnny Cola & The A-Grades and currently in The Godfathers.
Regular guitarist Sophie prowls the other side of the stage and keeps the energy level very high with a dynamic performance.
If you are wondering why there appears to be a Welsh flag draped over the mic stand; It's to do with football, the World Cup, and the fact that the two girls in the band (Karen the drummer being the other one) are from Wales.
This band are terrific live. Frontman Duncan has a strong punk rock background as he used to play bass in The Boys - known back in the day as 'The Beatles of punk' due to their knack of writing songs with catchy pop hooks. Duncan has retained his pop influence along with keeping a punk edge - he writes songs which get stuck in your head and are as good as any pop song you'll hear on the radio. But when he gets on stage with The Big Heads what you get is a really good rock 'n' roll band.
Duncan Reid and the Big Heads now have two albums under their belts and many more quality pop/punk songs than they can possibly fit into tonight's all too short set. However, they still manage to squeeze in a couple of classics from Duncan's old band The Boys: the brilliantly catchy 'First Time' and 'Sick On You' - which was originally by London's infamous Hollywood Brats - a punk band before anyone had even invented punk. Tonight's short but sweet set from The Big Heads was great fun - let's hope it's not too long before they are playing in London again...