Friday, 5 May 2017

11/4/2017 Duncan Reid & the Big Heads + Spizzenergi @ The Black Heart

As regular readers will have noticed, I've not been getting out to gigs much this year - times are hard and I'm having to be very selective. There are a lot of gigs that I normally wouldn't have missed that I have actually had to miss over the last few months. Even if they are free or cheap tickets I still have to factor in transport and booze costs. However, the tickets for this show at the Black Heart are only £8 - £9 with online booking fee from MusicGlue. Not all venues/booking agencies rip you off these days. I save on transport costs (and travelling time) tonight by going on the bike - there is a handy motorcycle parking bay directly outside the venue. OK so I can't have a drink, but I wouldn't have drunk in the venue at their prices anyway - I'd have gone to BrewDog a few yards up the street instead - also expensive but nicer and more 'bang-for-your-buck' on strength. Going on the bike I won't drink at all so that's more money saved, and I get down there in half the time it would take on the train.

It's a really strong bill for only £8, but unfortunately I don't make it down there in time to see the excellent Role Models - having a day job isn't conducive to seeing the first band on the bill on week nights. Next on the bill is Spizzenergi. Although I sometimes see Spizz himself at punk gigs around town and I still own an original 7" vinyl copy of the hit single 'Where's Captain Kirk?' I have never actually seen Spizzenergi live. Until now.
I am expecting a bit of a 'one song wonder' of a set featuring the hit single and nothing else of substance. It turns out rather better than I was expecting and is actually quite an entertaining show. I'd forgotten that there was also a lesser single called 'Soldier Soldier' with a cover of Roxy Music's 'Virginia Plain' on the B-side - both songs feature in the set. Also played is the surprisingly good single from 2014 'City Of Eyes'. Spizz himself is a bit of a caricature - sending himself up a bit as a larger-than-life figure. He is an engaging and entertaining frontman though, and I find myself quite enjoying the set.
The current Spizzenergi band is actually rather good - particularly the rhythm section featuring a terrific drummer and a monster bass sound provided by Ben from The Fiascos. Luca from The DeRellas also provides rock 'n' roll lead guitar. This band is good fun!

And so on to the headliners. I've seen this band several times now and really enjoyed their shows.
Duncan Reid and the Big Heads are here to promote their forthcoming album Bombs Away.
Duncan & Co. are proving to be quite prolific as 'Bombs Away' will be their third album - and it doesn't seem long since the first was out. This is a a very good live band, but what impressed me straight from the start was the quality of the songwriting. Duncan Reid learned his trade as the bass player in first generation UK punk band The Boys. Some of that band's songs still feature in his current band's set, and they certainly deserve to be - not for nothing were The Boys known as 'the Beatles of punk'. They had great really catchy pop tunes with a dirty punk edge. 'Honest' John Plain' the Boys main singer/guitarist is present at tonight's show.  Also present is Andrew Matheson from the infamous Hollywood Brats - I nearly ran him over with my motorcycle outside earlier. Accidentally obviously.
The venue is pretty full by the time Duncan & Co. hit the stage - I believe it is by then a sold out show. I doubt anyone goes home disappointed as the band are on top form - I've yet to see them do a less than excellent show. There is a bit of a change in the lineup tonight as the second guitar position is taken by Nick Hughes of the Role Models - doing double duty tonight as his main band opened tonight's show. Last time I saw the band Mauro Venegas formerly of Jonny Cola & The A-Grades was in that position, but as he has since joined The Godfathers I suspect he isn't available much of the time. The dynamic Sophie K Powers continues to raise her guitar game, and I suspect she could now carry the show on her own - but some bands are just better with two guitars.
The band really get the crowd going with their lively performance and catchy pop/punk songs. Material from the band's first couple of albums makes up the bulk of the set, but there are also one or two songs from the new album, including the title track 'Bombs Away' - well this is an album promo show!
The atmosphere is terrific in this intimate venue, and it gets even better towards the end of the show when some vintage punk classics from The Boys get played - 'First Time', and the Hollywood Brats 'Sick On You' as covered by The Boys on their first album. I was hoping Andrew Matheson might step up to sing the latter like he did with this band at a show at The Lexington a couple of years ago, but the former Hollywood Brats frontman apparently chooses not to on this occasion - maybe he is keeping his powder dry as there might be some form of activity in the pipeline from his old band... All in all it's been a great Tuesday night out - yes, I said Tuesday. This proves there is a still a hardcore of undeground music fans who aren't afraid to go out on a 'school night'. Long may it continue.

Monday, 1 May 2017

31/3/2017 JoanOvArc & Syteria @ Big Red

Sorry it's taken me a month to get this published - I've been having a lot of computer problems, and I also managed to lose all the pictures I took on the night! I knew I'd downloaded them off my phone and digicam, but after spending ages searching hard drives and multiple flash drives I couldn't find them anywhere - I've been living in PC chaos this year and after various attempts to install new operating systems (and failing) plus endless backing up and formatting hard drives and swapping in/out various hardware trying to make things work it's been tough trying to get anything done. I eventually found the pictures, but but they were pretty poor quality due to the venue lighting and smoke machine, plus due to the aforementioned tech problems I don't currently have any decent photo editing software installed on my PC to tidy them up a bit so I had to use them 'as is'. Yes, I know there are crap - but you should see all the ones I didn't use!

This had all the makings of a good night - and it certainly didn't disappoint! This show is the London date of the 'Women That Rock Tour' that is currently heading round the UK featuring these two excellent bands. Two great bands playing in a rock bar in Holloway Road, free admission, and beer at reasonable(ish) prices - what's not to like? Big Red has been a popular watering hole with rockers for many years now, but in more recent times it has also taken steps towards becoming a live music venue as well. Not every night, or even every week, but live ROCK bands now appear here fairly regularly - something which goes down very well with the bar's regular clientelle.
Tonight features Syteria playing their second ever London show. The first was at the top end of Holloway Road at the former Archway Tavern, and now they move to a point near the middle - before maybe eventually working their way down to The Garage at the other end of Holloway Road? And maybe even further on the other side of Highbury Corner to the larger Islington Academy one day? But tonight finds them playing in a far more suitable venue compared to their first London show, and to a much bigger crowd.
They seem to thrive in this venue and are definitely playing to the right sort of crowd. Even though the band are based in Leeds and have hardly played in London at all there are quite a lot of people already wearing Syteria T-shirts - and the merch stand ensures there are even more being worn by the end of the evening. This band are obviously doing something right!
Girlschool lead guitarist Jackie Chambers started this band back in her home town oop North a couple of years ago. Girlschool are still going, but they tend to have a lot of downtime between festival appearances and recording new stuff so Jax wanted to keep busy and get out there playing - so Syteria were born. The band are all good players and performers - bassist Keira is in demmand and has recently been on a UK tour with Australian girl rockers Tequila Mockingbird standing in for their usual bass player who couldn't make it to the UK.
This new band is noticeably heavier and more 'metal' than Jackie's 'day job' band, although Girlschool are no lightweights as far as hard rock bands go. Syteria are more heavy in both image and sound, but Jackie's punk rock roots show through when the band throw in a cover of the Ramones classic 'Rockaway Beach'. Apart from this it's pretty much original material all the way and there are some good catchy tunes in there. The band are already getting people singing along to their own songs like 'Sheeple', 'Hypocrite', and 'Revolution' from their forthcoming album 'Rant-O-Bot'. Syteria are all good musicians and have great stage presence so it's an entertaining show that makes you want to see them again.
The 'Women that rock' theme for these band's current tour (we'll turn a blind eye to Syteria's male drummer - although he does a good job) continues with tonight's other band the always excellent JoanOvArc. Like the previous band they have drawn quite a crowd tonight if the amount of JoanOvArc T-shirts in the audience is anything to go by.
This is a band who always deliver. With their debut album just released and airplay on Planet Rock radio plus being featured on Hard Rock Hell Radio recently things are really starting to look up for them. Anyone who has seen these girls play live will tell you this is long overdue! The Album's title track and biker anthem 'Ride Of Your Life' is a strong early part of the band's set, but there is even better to come....
In London tonight the band have found themselves in the right venue with the right crowd - a large bar full of rockers who want to rock out big time on a Friday night. This is exactly what happens. JoanOvArc are highly experienced performers who absolutely thrive on a crowd like this. They have brought a load of their own fans to Big Red tonight for their first visit here, but they also have no trouble winning over a lot of people who have never seen them before and many regulars who have probably never heard of them - this band are really in their element tonight.

As the band know they are playing to a rock crowd they pull out all the stops tonight - they are on fire! As well as the full-on out and out rockers this band are so good at like 'Live Rock & Roll', 'White Trash' and 'Seeds Of Summer' the band still show their more pop/commercial side with songs like recent single 'Dragon In The Sky' plus the very melodic 'Running Away' and 'Five Years'. I look round when they are playing newish song 'Work' from the album and this song which to me has a rather Katrina & The Waves 'Walking On Sunshine' feel has most of the people in the room bouncing up and down even though they have probably never heard it before - the band are creating a terrific atmosphere!

As there are only two bands on the bill tonight JoanOvArc have the chance to play a much longer set than usual - they play for over an hour and by no means use up all the original songs in their repertoire they have built up over the years - they have some great songs which they don't play anymore as they have to make room for the newer stuff. Tonight they have time to play virtually their entire new album plus a few other bits and pieces. The long awaited album 'Ride Of Your Life' is a great showcase of the bands varied strengths - from out and out hard rockers, to ballads and more commercial 'pop' sounding songs - all well crafted and played. But it's the rockers that really reach and and grab you - this is where the band's real passion lies and also where they really shine as an amazing live act! There isn't really any need to play any covers tonight as they have already won the crowd over with the strength their own songs, but they know throwing in 'Ace Of Spades' towards the end will go down a storm in this venue - and it does. To finish the show and also really whip this rock loving crowd into a frenzy they finish with 'Freebird'. I have seen many bands cover this song over the years - most of them very good - but no one can touch the JoanOvArc version of this song. They play it not because it's a known crowd-pleaser and will win an audience over or get them a repeat booking - they play it because they absolutely love playing it. And it shows. The sheer passion and love the band show for this song when they perform it really is something special and genuinely exciting - it really is an amazing climax to the show and the feeling they put into the song and the feeling it generates in those watching is something I have very rarely felt.
It's been a great night out and didn't cost much either - free admission and only £1.50 each way for transport. Both the bands were terrific and I hope to see them again soon, although I expect I'll have to pay to see them next time. Sorry there weren't more pictures - especially of JoanOvArc (and in particular the lovely Debbie on drums and Laura on guitar) but most were far too poor quality to use.