Tuesday, 7 August 2018

4/6/2018 Gabriella Jones & Stacie Collins @ The Water Rats

A nice easy gig to get to for me just a few minutes walk from Kings Cross Station. I haven't been to The Water Rats for a while and there has been a change of owners and management since my last visit, plus a complete refurb - and guess what? Yes, a big hike in the bar prices at was once a reasonably priced venue. Still, at least this venue's notoriously piss stinky toilets don't smell as foul as they used to. More tables and chairs have appeared in the back room near the stage - NOT good for when rock acts are performing like tonight. I arrive just in time to see Gabriella Jones.
This singer/songwriter from the Midlands doesn't mess about playing folky acoustic sets like your typical artist of that ilk. No, she goes out slinging a Les Paul guitar and a full rock band! She doesn't mess about. It's not a heavy metal or hard rock band, but this is no lightweight pop act - in spite of some of the "Future pop Queen" hype in her promotional material. There is a definite Led Zeppelin feel to some of her songs - with Planet Rock presenter Wyatt Wendels helping out on drums and apparently channelling his 'inner Bonham' adding fuel to the fire!
There are quieter moments to the set too as Gabriella puts down her guitar, and then you can see where the "Pop Queen" hype comes from - she certainly has the voice to be able to sing 'pop' and well as kicking out the jams on the rock stuff. In between the more poppy and the harder rock material Gabriella also throws in a cover of the Bobby Bland classic 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City' - later made famous by Whitesnake. Naturally, the set ends with the radio friendly crowd pleaser 'Take Me To The Party'. But it's not time to go home yet....

Stacie Collins is a new name to me. Country rock apparently, but the logo on her backdrop suggests far more rock than country - which is promising. And that's exactly what we get. She hits the stage in a ball of energy - this chick ain't messin' around! Fast, loud, and brimming with a sassy rock 'n' roll attitude - you can't ignore Stacie Collins! Not a million miles away from the cow/punk of Jason and The Scorchers this is high octane rock 'n' roll with a Country twist.
Stacie Collins is a real livewire as well as a harderned road warrior. She plays a mean blues harmonica too!
One minute she's on the stage, next minute she's singing from a table in the crowd, and a minute later she's at the back of the venue looking you right in the eye and singing right in your face! There is no escape - hiding at the back is no good! However, as the set goes on things slow down and quieten down. Things get a lot more 'Country'. It's Monday night and I've been up since six after only about 3 hours sleep. I'm sure the set will liven up again in due course, but it's starting to drag a bit now for me with several slow songs in a row. One or two I could take, but I have to be up again at six tomorrow morning and this is too much. I sneak out the door and head off home hoping Stacie doesn't spot me leaving and call me out! Fortunately she doesn't.  It was worth coming out on a Monday night, but without the energy level being maintained through close to 100% of the headliner's set my attention isn't being held enough to keep me in the venue any longer. Sorry Stacie - maybe another time....

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

6/5/2018 Britrock Must Be Destroyed!

What a great bill!

I'm not sure Dodgy could be described as 'Britrock' - they were always far more of an 'Indie' band as far as I was concerned, although I do have one of the singles in my CD collection. Unfortunately, the service on the Piccadilly line is particularly shit today with signalling problems and cancellations galore - resulting in my not only missing Dodgy, but Terrorvision as well!
I eventually arrive at the rather full looking venue in time to see The Wildhearts. Terrorvision were on great form by all accounts and have ensured things are 'Fired up & lairy' in preparation for the next act.
The WiLDHEARTS are hardly a band that even need anybody to warm up for them - when they hit the stage they are on fire straight away! Long time fans of the band are pleased that Danny McCormack is now back in the band - something that many people thought would never happen for a variety of reasons. Danny has had a few health problems over the last several years, which have unfortunately led to him having part of a leg amputated and spending time in a wheelchair. He is now managing to get back on his feet for at least some of the time, and makes a special effort to be standing up for the first song of the set - the anthemic crowd-pleaser 'I Wanna Go Where The People Go'. What a fantastic way to start the show!
I thought the Wildhearts were on excellent form, although some people did moan afterwards about the setlist not having the usual selection of rarely heard and obscure songs, B-sides, and the odd cover version. However, this show is part of a 'joint headline' tour with the three main bands receiving equal billing and a revolving 'headliner' for each gig - so the band's setlist had to be a 'Greatest hits' affair - and I have no doubt it contained the strongest selection of songs of the night - not that Terrorvision are lacking in hits and have had greater commercial success.
It goes without saying that the Wildhearts set is an absolute stormer! The songs include 'TV Tan', 'My Baby Is A Headfuck', 'Suckerpunch', 'Greetings From Shitsville', 'Caffeine Bomb', 'Vanilla Radio', 'Everlone', 'Sick Of Drugs', 'Weekend', 'Nita Nitro', 'Love U 'til I Don't' and the inevitable '29 x The Pain'. Sing-a-long classics every one of them! No other band on this bill has a list of songs as great as this, although Terrorvision come close.

Reef were certainly a very big band for a while back in the day and it's their turn to 'headline' on this night of the tour', but if you asked me to name their 'greatest hits' I could only think of two of them - I honestly can't remember more than a couple of their songs. However, they reformed not long ago and now have a brand new album out.
The band  has a new guitarist, in the form of Jesse Wood - son of Ronnie. The band also have a new look and sound - when I first heard the title track to their new album 'Revelation' I couldn't believe it was Reef - they sounded like AC/DC! I really liked this new song though. Apart from the new guitarist this is actually the original 'classic' Reef lineup, although you might struggle to believe that with Gandalf now apparently on bass!
New song 'Revelation' still means there are only three songs I actually recognise in the whole of Reef's set - the other two being 'Naked' and of course their huge hit 'Place Your Hands'. They are a good live band, but their lack of more than a few recognisable songs leaves them wanting as 'headliners' tonight - either the Wildhearts or Terrorvision both had far stronger setlists of great and instantly recognisable songs. The crowd thins out noticeably during Reef's set, and I'm sure this is only in small part due to people needing to catch last trains home - they just don't have the songs to keep people's attention compared to the previous two bands.
Reef do get some criticism later for playing a set of almost entirely new and unfamiliar material, although to be honest I couldn't tell if most of the band's set was actually from the new album or just older material that I wasn't familiar with. They struggled to keep my attention apart from those three songs I have already mentioned, and even 'Revelation' I thought sounded weak and disappointing compared to how it sounded on the radio recently.
Things did brighten up as bit when a couple of female backing singers appeared on stage - one of whom was the wonderful Lynne Jackaman of Saint Jude fame. However, even this got some fans moaning later as they accused the band of performing a 'Gospel' set of new material - which is absolute bollocks as it most definitely wasn't a Gospel set. I stayed to the end of Reef's set regardless, but if I'd have known how uninspiring I'd find the rest of their set apart from three songs I think I'd have headed to the pub earlier. Still, the Wildhearts made everything worthwhile - and things seem to be looking up for the band as they are on fine form at the moment and have quite a few festival appearances coming up this year plus a brand new album in the pipeline...

Monday, 30 July 2018

12/4/2018 Last Great Dreamers @ The Black Heart

Thursday night finds me back at the Black Heart.  Tonight's opening act is ex-UK Subs/Dogs D'Amour/ Crybabys/Vibrators (and many other bands) guitarist Darrell Bath. Tonight Darrell is playing a solo electric set.
Darrell has a rich back catalogue of songs to pick from, both from the bands he's been in and also his own solo material. His guitar playing is something special and he has a knack for making it look totally effortless - it just seems to 'happen' as if by magic and the notes tumble from his fingers. He has a very natural feel for this raw blues and rootsy type material. I look forward to seeing him play with his own band again this summer...

A very good turnout in Camden on a 'school night' - great to see so many people that still go out mid-week to support the underground rock 'n' roll scene. I was very late discovering Last Great Dreamers and I still don't understand how such a great band went under my radar first time round in the early 1990's. In 2014 they returned. It's still less than a year since I first saw them - this being the third time since then. After hearing them a few times on Dave Rengade's show on Hard Rock Hell Radio I finally caught them live at last year's Camden Rocks Festival and was amazed as how good they were! Tonight they have yet another stand-in bassist - the more eagle eyed amongst you who have been long-term readers of my blog might recognise one-time Nikki Sixx/DeeDee Ramone lookalike Burty from another band from a few years ago, but he's more recently been a member of Tigertailz.
Things have moved on a bit since last year and now they have a brand new album '13th Floor Renegades' out tomorrow - this is the album release show.. As with their earlier releases, there are some cracking songs on there - these guys really know how to write a catchy pop/rock song - and then deliver it amazingly well live! Tonight's set is a mixture of old and new, with such unknown classics as 'Oblivion Kids', 'White Light Black Heart', 'Dope School', and tonight 'Ashtray Eyes' sounds particularly good.
Once again Last Great Dreamers deliver a fine set of really well written catchy pop/rock songs with immense confidence and swagger. I hope I won't have to wait until next year to see them again...

Sunday, 1 April 2018

1/4/2018 Gabriella Jones @ The Black Heart

I'm starting to ease myself back into gig-going after the motorcycle/car crashes of the last few months and associated injuries and lack of disposable income. Managing to avoid being an April Fool (in my eyes at least) I head down to Camden and a venue I haven't been to for quite a while now. I'm at The Black Heart in Camden to see Gabriella Jones.
This singer/songwriter from Birmingham is not your typical singer/songwriter - she plays electric guitar instead of acoustic and fronts a rock band. Her promotional  posters display the quote "Could this be a future pop queen in our midst?", but I think this is doing her an injustice. Sure, she has the looks and vocal ability to be a 'pop star' - but there is more depth to her than that.
At one point in the set Gabriella puts down her guitar for a song or two and just sings - I guess this is where the "future pop queen" thing comes from, but she's soon strapped her Les Paul back on and is rocking again. This singer/songwriter seems far more influenced by Led Zeppelin riffs than folky acoustic songs - a refreshing change! She and her band finish their set with her single that Planet Rock have given daytime airplay to - 'Take Me To The Party'. I'm sure she's not short of invites! ;-) Talking of Planet Rock - the sharper eyed amongst you might recognise the drummer in the band? It's an interesting and entertaining show and Gabriella is happy to chat to people and sign stuff afterwards.

Next up are Samarkind. This lot are pretty much an unreconstructed 1970's style hard rock band - but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
They have a great sound and are excellent live performers - they look like they have spent years polishing their craft. Their singer has an excellent voice as well as being a very good frontman. The bass player looks like he really ought to be in Deep Purple, but is a good player and rivals the singer and lead guitarist for stage presence - unusual for a four stringer. This is definitely a band worth checking out if they head your way.

All in all a great value for money night out in Camden - under a tenner on the door to see two great bands.

Friday, 23 March 2018

23/3/2018 Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors + The Main Grains @ Surya

This is a really good bill at a surprisingly small venue - I guess it's the best (available on a suitable date) London venue they could find while booking this 'Young, Dumb, and full of Rum' tour. Not surprisingly, it's sold out in advance. I arrive to find this intimate downstairs venue already packed out. so as Main Grains frontman Danny McCormack is having to play the gig sitting down until he adjusts to his 'new' leg it's not worth bothering trying to get any pictures as I can hardly see him! The band turn out a good set of solid tuneful punk 'n roll though - not a million miles away from Danny's old band The Yo-Yo's. This band are good fun, and new single 'The Rain Is Over Now' is a definite progression form their earlier heavily Ramones/Yo-Yo's sounding materiel.

I've only seen Ryan Hamilton and the Traitors once before (supporting Ginger Wildheart) but was sufficiently entertained to want to see them again. Country rock isn't really my thing, but Ryan and Co. put a decidedly different twist on it and it's more 'rock' than 'country'. Ryan himself is a very open and engaging frontman who tells some interesting and funny stories about his earlier career between songs - he was signed to a major record company deal with a band while still quite young and naive - and got screwed over big time by the music business. He doesn't seem bitter about it though, and seems to regard it all as a time of valuable lessons learned. And he has some great stories - his Tom Petty one is particularly touching.
The set is more 'rock' than 'country', and with Rob Lane on bass it was always going to ROCK! The lead guitarist was pretty good too! There is more talking between songs than at a normal rock show, but it's cool on this occasion as Ryan has a very relaxed onstage persona that draws you in. He is also very funny - particularly when he takes some audience members to task for talking during his performance instead of paying attention to the show! It's a top evening's entertainment!

PS: This venue has since closed.

PPS: Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors are playing at Camden Rocks festival
 this year along with the Main Grains - I highly recommend you go!

It's been a long day so I don't hang about after the show as I've already had trouble with the trains getting to the gig. As I walk back from the station I notice what appears to be a lot of smoke rising into the air. As I get closer I see flames and a lot of flashing blue lights - the (now disused) pub round the corner is going up in flames! I count at least five fire engines in attendance.
This is a very sad sight to see as the estate now has no pub and it was a well known local landmark as well as a local amenity while it was still open. I can't help feeling this fire is very 'convenient' for the owners/developers. Not a very nice end to a good night out.

Friday, 16 March 2018

16/3/2018 Shush @ Nambucca

Well it's been a while....
 ...since a sausage roll? No - since I either saw Shush or went to Nambucca. I haven't seen Shush simply because for various 'real life' related reasons the band just haven't been doing anything. That might be changing... As for the venue itself - it's been largely off my radar since it reopened (again) in 2014. This is probably because the venue's current batch of promoters move in different circles to me, and also they simply haven't been putting bands on that I'm interested in seeing - the place seems to have largely abandoned rock/punk/rock 'n' roll and gone back to being a mainly indie hangout. Nothing wrong with that, but it's not my scene.
The venue itself has changed beyond all recognition: The new much larger stage area now repositioned right at the back of the venue is vastly improved and now much move like a proper dcdicated music venue.. The bar has been (no doubt at great expence) moved from one side of the room to the other - this seems really stupid and pointless - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.Real ale has gone and the prices have gone up massively, so I do my drinking at the Coronet (Wetherspoons) down the road instead.
It's great to see Shush back in action again after hardly playing at all for several years, and they are as good as ever - especially as the legendary ex-AntiProduct drummer Simon 'Gonk' is back in the band. This man is a real powerhouse and drives things along greatly. The band have plenty of excellent and catchy pop/punk songs, although I am slightly disappointed that their pissed-off anthem 'Fuck You!' is missing it's usual finger gestures on this occasion!
It's good to see some familiar friendly faces from the old AntiProduct days in the crowd to support ex-AntiProduct and current Shush members Milena (vox/guitar) and Gonk (drums) , and also nice to note that people will still come out to see Shush after a long break from the scene - lets hope the band's appearances will become a more regular affair from now on....
The following band are not doing anything to excite me, and discussion with Shush guitarist Andy and some other friends reveals that I'm not the only one feeling that - so a short walk down Holloway Road to Big Red is suggested. This turns out to be an excellent idea! Not only is the beer better and cheaper, but we discover there is also a band playing. It's free to get in so what's not to like?
Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the band (may have been Stonewire), but they were excellent! Going to Big Red turns out to be a very good move, and it's also much closer to the tube station for the journey home - just like the old days. Well I say 'old days' but it was less than ten years ago that I was at Big Red and the much missed Gaff Club just up the road all the time - great days!

Friday, 2 March 2018

2/3/2018 Duncan Reid and the Big Heads @ The 100 Club

The 100 Club is pretty much the spiritual home of punk rock in London, so it seems the ideal place for Duncan Reid and the Big Heads to play....
...and so it proves - as the middle aged bloke who has had a little (maybe more than a little) too much to drink demonstrates when he leaves a little puddle of puke on the floor by the stage before having to excuse himself and lurch off to the bogs. 
He's obviously having a good night anyway. But will he remember any of it tomorrow?
Punk rock chaos takes place on stage, but this band are actually very good live performers.
The music is very tuneful pop-punk - Duncan Reid learned a thing or two about writing a catchy tune when he was in his old band The Boys - they weren't known as 'the Beatles of punk rock' for nothing.
Although this band's songs are very catchy, and dare I say it commercial - there is plenty of rock 'n' roll and punk attitude in their performance - the level of energy is very high!
Duncan's own songs are very catchy and tuneful, but as usual the band finish their set with some Boys classics like 'Brickfield Nights', 'Sick On You' (originally by the infamous Hollywood Brats) and 'First Time' - always a fantastic show closer!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Is my luck finally starting to change?

Yesterday I found 5p in the gutter outside the station. Today I found 20p on the platform at another station. Things are looking up!

Monday, 15 January 2018

How come it never rains...

So on Sunday I finally started to feel really positive about things for the first time in months. Back at work and earning again for a few weeks. Continuing to make a good recovery from breaking my wrist in a motorcycle accident and now almost back to normal. Playing the guitar again and finally getting back to full reach in the fingers and nearly full flexibility in my wrist. I'd even managed to get to a couple of 'proper' gigs in December. I won't be back on two wheels for a while, but for financial reasons rather than any fears of getting back on a bike - I'd get back on one tomorrow if I had one available. However, it's the middle of winter and even if I won the lottery I wouldn't think about buying another bike before spring - I don't like being cold and/or wet - or getting my machine covered with all that salt shit they cover the roads with at this time of year that makes it go rusty and corrodes the aluminium. Besides, freezing myself on a bike isn't going to help me recover from my recent injuries. At least I still have the car....

My life seemed to be on a downward spiral since the motorcycle crash in September with the loss of my bike along with five gigs I had to pull out of - four as a bass player in someone else's band, and one with my own band which was particularly important to me. But finally things seemed to bottom out and I began to pull out of my dive. At last I was starting to feel positive about things again.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel - and it wasn't an oncoming train. Or was it?

So feeling much better about things I drove off to work on Monday morning. I'd only gone a couple of miles when as I negotiated a tight corner I saw a Range Rover apparently cutting the corner off and crossing over to my side of the road. BANG! We collided head-on. Fortunately neither of us was going very fast and there were no injuries to either party. We pulled off the road to exchange details. She said sorry and admitted it was her fault - without any prompting from me. She blamed her door mirror for obstructing her view, but I suspect she wasn't looking where she was going or wasn't paying attention for some reason - on the phone? It was still dark, and it was raining but the road was lit and visibility wasn't bad. I didn't notice much damage to her motor, but the high Range Rover bumper had gone right over my bumper and dented and distorted the bonnet, as well as knocking out one of my indicator lights.. Well at least her insurance would be paying for it all. She said I'd get a phone call later today or tonight after she'd spoken to her husband.....

I heard no more so I phoned my insurance company to find out what was going on. They informed me that she was now blaming me for the accident and claiming that she had stopped and I had crashed into her - virtually the opposite of what had actually happened! After admitting responsibility at the scene she had now completely changed her story! I can only assume that her husband (probably the owner of the vehicle) had talked her into changing her story and blaming me instead. It get's worse. My insurance company arranged to have the damage to my car inspected. It was declared a write-off straight away due to the age of the vehicle. In my opinion it wasn't too badly damaged and wouldn't have been that difficult to fix - but they decided it would cost too much to put right. To be fair, parts for a 20 year old car might have been difficult to obtain - especially if it needed a new bonnet - and the labour costs would have been high. They only valued my car as worth £450 - a fraction of what I originally paid for it when it was fairly new. I couldn't really complain too much being offered that for a 20 year old car that was visibly past it's best, although I was hoping it still had a few more years life left in it. However, my insurance policy has a £400 excess! So if they wrote the car off and the other party's insurance didn't cough up I'd only get £50 for having my car written-off even though it wasn't my fault! And of course I'd lose my 20 year's worth of no-claim bonus and have to pay a lot more for car insurance in future! There were no witnesses to the accident, or none that stopped anyway - so it's my word again's her's. I told my insurance company there was no way I was accepting any of the blame as it was completely her fault, but they said it would probably end up settled as being duel-fault or split-blame or something. So she will end up fucking me over big time and I will lose my car and get paid next to nothing for it even though the accident was totally her fault. And I have no money to buy another car. Even if I got paid the full £450 'value' for my car - what could I buy with that these days? Looks like I'm totally screwed. I think I'll be having to get the train to work for the foreseeable future...

The following day I was hoping to go to a gig down Holloway Road - some good bands and plenty of my friends there, but I'd been getting some aches in my side and back during the day possibly as a result of the accident - so I didn't go in the end as I didn't fancy travelling far on public transport and possibly ending up feeling pretty rough on a night out.

"How come it never rains?
It only pours....
...Well into the bright lights,
The rain in the gutter's still the same"

Tyla - Dogs D'Amour

One week later. My car is taken away for scrap - 15 years almost to the day since I got it. I could have cried. I don't think I've had any other car longer than four years or so. Another link with my past gone. So many memories - times out going to places with my dad. So many places I went in that car, I drove it nearly a hundred thousand miles - and it never broke down or failed to start. Not even once. On Sunday I drove it knowing it was for the last time ever - it felt very miserable. I got home and took all my bits and pieces out of it - quite a lot of stuff. On Monday morning I took one last forlorn look at it as I headed off to work - knowing it would be gone when I got home. I could have cried, but I think I've forgotten how....

Back on my downward spiral I go. Within the space of a few months I've broken my wrist, been off work for a long period and lost a lot of money, lost my bike, and now my car. I feel like I've lost part of my identity. I feel one part of my life may be drawing to a close, and I'm not sure what the future holds.