LIVE REVIEWS, 2021.
THE SATELLITES / THE PHOBICS / THE ELECTRICS. The George & Dragon, Acton, 22/5/2021. I think this was one of those things that used to be called… gigs? It seems so long since we were able to go out to such events and, for this occasion at least, things were still quite different. The G&A is usually a lively venue, but while some restrictions were still lingering, it meant the audience had to remain seated while the bands played and if you wanted a drink, you had to wait for the bar-staff to come and take your order rather than approaching the bar. This all proved awkward especially as there were so many people who hadn’t seen each other for a year or more, so they obviously wanted to catch-up with old friends and socialise. That being said, most if not all of the audience did their best to comply and appreciated the difficult situation that the promoter and bar-staff had to contend with. At the end of the evening, it was great to see and hear things moving again, even if it was a bit peculiar. So… first onstage are The Electrics, who seem to have lost a few members since last time I saw them, most notably no saxophone. But that doesn’t prevent them from delivering a powerful mix of Hard Rock and Detroit-style proto-punk. I’ll be hoping to see them again soon, as gigs start to become more frequent! Next up, The Phobics. With this combo being pretty local to the ‘hood, it does sometimes seem like I go to see them every week or two, so the extended gap of no-Phobic-activity has been particularly noticeable. But that only served to make this more special. The band clearly look to be enjoying the chance to play-live again and the audience, although unnaturally confined to seats, are enthusiastic and appreciative. A great set of songs, from ‘Down & Out in Deptford’ through to ‘Burnt Rubber’, it’s really good to have The Phobics back onstage! Finally, it’s time for The Satellites and it’s good to see the break hasn’t softened them at all. They’re just as eccentric and entertaining as ever, with plenty of bizarre but catchy songs to keep your attention focused. They may not be an ‘orthodox’ punk band (was punk ever supposed to be orthodox?) but in their ongoing quest to spread ‘Eeyore in the UK’, they’ve carved out a place for themselves that’s all their own. Long may they continue to make it a very noisy and enjoyable place to visit!
ANARCHISTWOOD. All Ages Record Shop, 26/6/22. Anarchistwoods’ gigs on the pavement outside All Ages have become a bit of an annual tradition, but this year it was a little more poignant. This was the first time they’d played live since the sad loss of guitarist Candy, although the buoyant atmosphere ensured he was still very-much there in spirit. Secondly, after all the lock-down-lunacy, this was also the first time a lot of us had seen each other for many months, especially in conjunction with live music. The weather is pretty decent, so everyone (fans of the band as well as curious onlookers from the local flats and houses) is intent on having a good time and the band are intending to play two half-hour sets, the first featuring songs from their upcoming album while the second would include older material. Well, the first 30 minutes goes well, the music sounds good and everyone seems to have a smile on their face, including two beat-coppers who wander past. But it’s just as the band begin their second set that proceedings are tarnished by an unwelcome presence. Three unnecessary vanloads of police turn into the street (completing blocking it for any other traffic, which the gig-crowd wasn’t) and basically hang around, unable to understand what was going on and generally leering in an intimidating fashion. They hassled the shop-staff and, despite not a hint of trouble, just hung-around creating a bad vibe. Anarchistwood managed to play a few more songs before they decided to cut things short. The police eventually left, content that they had spoilt the fun. It was nothing to do with law and order, of course… after all, if they had wanted to tackle real criminals, they should have gone down to 10 Downing Street!
BLUE CARPET BAND / YUR MUM. The Birds Nest, 2/7/21. This is my first gig back at the Birds Nest since its’ interior renovations. It’s quite different to how it was, but I won’t go into details as they probably won’t make any sense to most of you. All I have to say is that, although the new stage area is a big improvement and the PA sound seemed a lot better, it’s still rather awkward to get a good view if there’s a large crowd in attendance, which there was tonight. Anyway … I arrive in time to see Yur Mum a duo who seem to be constantly on tour (that’s the beauty of a two-piece band, travel-arrangements are a lot easier to sort out.) Featuring bass, drums and vocals only, their music is reminiscent to the much-missed No Means No, although Yur Mum also add plenty of their own character and intent to the overall sound. Having not seen or heard them before now, they will definitely be a band that I check-out again. After a short break, it’s time for Blue Carpet Band and, although half of the band members seem to have changed yet again, musically they kick off as if they’ve never been away. Elements of The Cramps, the Ramones and Stray Cats collide in a lo-fi, high energy wall of sound, orchestrated and conducted as ever by frontman Djamel, whose stage-presence is the essential element. Blue Carpet Band have steadily improved and developed over the past few years and are dependable fun in smaller venues like this. Lets hope they can now start to make the transition to bigger audiences and more recognition.
THE PHOBICS / SHOCKS OF MIGHTY. The Pelton Arms, 24/7/21. I make no excuse for this, as I fucked-up. Over the past few years there have been a series of gigs at this lovely venue, billed as ‘Punk at the Pelton’ and organised by Jon Willis of the band Junko Fuse. However, this was to be his swansong (due to moving away from glorious Sarf Londen) so I totally intended to be there for JF. But typically, I arrive thinking that they’ll be onstage second and as it turned out, they’d already played, first on the bill. So… mega-apologies for my error, thanks for setting up so many fine gigs and best of luck with your new plans! Anyway… Shocks of Mighty play a fine set, a punky reggae mix that always hits the mark, even despite a recent change of drummer, and then it’s a quick change over and the Phobics are blasting away in their (new) spiritual home, delivering the punk rock’n’roll by the shovel-load. Is there a better way to spend an evening? There might be but it would involve a lot more cash than I’ve ever seen. What can I say… Phobics plus great venue and enthusiastic audience equals all the fun you can hope for from a gig! Don’t miss the next one.
ANTHRAX / DOGSHITE / PAPAL PLOT / EMILY FLEA. The Dublin Castle, 30/7/21. Perhaps not entirely accurate, date-wise, but this was a multiple launch event for several new releases on the increasingly impressive Grow Your Own record label, with new records emanating from Emily Flea, Dogshite and Anthrax. The prospect was exciting which made me attend early enough to end-up hauling equipment inside for the soundchecks, but that’s all part of the experience. More importantly, it was great to see old friends again for the first time since Covid went Crazy, so I know this is going to be a great night. Emily-the-ex-Flea takes to the stage first, just a solo set, voice and guitar, which puts more emphasis on the lyrics, but they’re direct enough to cope with the attention. Emily clearly has a strong vision and if she can focus it accurately, she may well become one of the most important voices on the punk scene over the next few years. Next onstage are a young band called Papal Plot , who I know nothing about. Even searching online, I discover little more, but their set is pretty interesting, a mix of punky aggression and post-punk intrigue. I can’t give you more info because I can’t find it, but definitely a band to check-out. But it’s the next band, Dogshite, that really make the unexpected impression of the night. I’d seen them once before in New Cross and they hadn’t really made much of an impression, partly due to their uninspiring name, but tonight, with all of the material from their new EP, ‘Mass Deception’, they are magnificent. The new songs are very impressive, the music is powerful and tight, whilst singer Carmel delivers the lyrics with real passion. I wasn’t expecting to be blown-away, but that’s what happened and it’s a great feeling when it occurs. Check this band out as soon as you can! Finally, Anthrax are headlining and as they begin to play their set, it soon becomes apparent that their new songs are some of the best that they’ve ever performed. Featuring a new female singer alongside original vocalist Oskar, the lyrics sound more poignant than ever, whilst musically the band are tight and inventive, continuing the course they began in 1980, mixing the attitude of early Punk Rock with the raw energy of early 80’s hardcore to create something unique. Anthrax continue to pick their targets accurately and respond with appropriate words and music. At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you take notice or try to hide away from what’s really going on.
OMEGA TRIBE / ANARCHISTWOOD. Old Queens Head. 31/7/21. Wow, two gigs in two nights! That hasn’t happened for a while, but then again, one gig in one night hasn’t been happening either, so let’s just go with it. Down to Stockwell for an interesting line-up. Due to train delays, I miss the first couple of bands but arrive in time for Anarchistwood who are sounding better than ever. I’m not sure if I like this place as a venue. The bar seems rather expensive and there’s no stage as such, meaning that you can’t see the bands too well unless you’re standing on their toes, but there is a good atmosphere which is always a positive. Anyway, Anarchistwood play a fine set of new and older material which goes down really well, while Omega Tribe seem to play mostly new material that I don’t recognise, apart from a few older songs. I’m not sure what to make of this. If a band wants to move forward that’s fine, but why reform as something if you’re not going to refer to your original intent. Omega Tribe wrote some truly great songs during the Eighties and while I don’t dislike what they’re doing now, I don’t understand why they’ve ditched so much of their past. I’ll keep hoping that they achieve a better balance in the meantime, but I know they can be a lot more impressive than this.
GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS / TREEBOY. Shacklewell Arms, 7/8/21. After several attempts to see GiS before the lockdowns (they developed a nasty habit of announcing gigs on the same nights that I was already going elsewhere) I finally get to see them live! And this was a special one… having not played in public for so long, they managed to sneak onto this bill as the support act, which was great for them and their fans, but the unfortunate headliners were in for a thrashing before they even reached the stage! Tonight also turned out to be a bit different for GiS, as they were joined onstage by a fourth member (playing bass and keyboards, as and when necessary) although I’m not sure if this is a permanent addition. Having not seen them live before now, I can’t comment if it was a noticeable improvement, but the overall sound was still incredibly powerful and impressive. Think of Big Black at their best, mixed with the early abrasive sound of Helmet, the more recent sonic assault of Metz and certain elements of Suicide… that will point you in the right direction, even though GiS produce a sound and delivery that’s very-much their own. They play a relatively short set but within that time, they produce so much. It’s powerful and inspiring, making you want to hear more as soon as they end a song. Or maybe even making you want to form your own band... It’s raw, it’s primal, and it’s vital. Right now, I can’t recommend this band enough. After them, the headliners… well, let’s just say, most of the audience made an early exit.
JERRY SADOWITZ, Leicester Square Theatre, 13/8/21. I only found out about this event a few days beforehand, but managed to get the word around so that a few of us ended-up attending. In my opinion, Jerry Sadowitz is probably the best British comedian you can see at the moment and despite his ‘notoriety’, he is a naturally-talented performer who has never received the credit he deserves, even though many others have borrowed-heavily from his act and achieved wider success by watering-down the material. I’ve seen him perform several times and have always been impressed, but tonight may well be the best I’ve ever seen. It was almost like a continuous, brutal rant from start to finish, but he delivered his material with real precision. It almost made me feel breathless just watching him, so he must have some real stamina to present his work at such a pace. He railed against the politically-correct, he exposed the international LGBTQ conspiracy that is currently attempting to undermine human society and he even managed to introduce dear ol’ Uncle Jimmy Savile towards the end of the set (he’s still enjoying getting his own back of that evil piece if shit and quite rightly so!) I can understand that a lot of people are never going to enjoy Jerry Sadowitz, but if you have an open mind and can appreciate comedy with real edge, there is no-one better. It’s as simple as that.
THE PHOBICS / CHAOS UK, The Birds Nest, 27/8/21. It’s a nice warm evening and there’s a decent crowd to see The Phobics at the Birds Nest, so it almost feels like the lockdowns never happened. Well, at least until you go inside the pub as the interior has had a major remodelling and I think most of us are still getting used to it… Anyway, the main support tonight is from a London band called Chaos UK (not to be confused with the Bristol-based noisemongers) who originally formed in 1978 and released one obscure single in ’79. To be honest I was not much-impressed with their set tonight and I’m not sure if they had a problem with the sound or something else, but they just didn’t sound very good. Any band can have an off-night, so perhaps they’ll be better next time… Actually, The Phobics did seem to have a few sound problems of their own at first, but they seemed to clear-up after a couple of songs and they were able to play their set with all the energy and enthusiasm that we expect from them. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen The Phobics play at the Birds Nest (let’s just say, they’re now on the third new stage since they first played there!) but it’s always good fun. The Phobics are a great rock’n’roll band and that’s always going to encourage an audience to get involved and become part of the show. Once that atmosphere comes together, it’s always going to be great evening. It’s good to have both The Phobics and the Birds Nest back!
ANARCHISTWOOD / PIG etc Brixton Windmill, 29/8/21. The South London Punk Collective have been running ‘Punk Rock BBQ’ events at The Windmill for a few years, but this is the first one I’ve been to. I’m glad I got there this time, because it turned out to be a great event. Starting in the mid-afternoon, bands played inside the venue whilst food was served in the pub garden, giving you the option of checking out the bands or taking a break to socialise outside. It all made for a good, relaxed atmosphere. Anyway, by the time I arrive I’ve missed the first couple of bands but get there in time for Slow Faction. I haven’t seen this band for a while, but they sound rather good today with a harder guitar sound that really brings out the best from their mid-paced punk rock songs. There’s a quick turnaround once they finish and the next band are Backstreet Abortions who have been making a name for themselves over the past five years or so. Featuring members of The Varukers and Sick on the Bus, the band have a musical style influenced by early 80’s UK punk as well as bands like UK Subs and the Upstarts, but what really makes them stand-out are Jesse’s vocals, which are both powerful and melodic. Well-worth checking out. There’s another short break before P.I.G arrive onstage to play a strong set of hard-edged metallic punk. The more I see them live, the more I enjoy their music. I’m not sure if they’ve released any records, so this is the only way I get to hear them and it does seem that you have to get more familiar with their songs to properly appreciate them. They’ve got their own style and once you get into it, there’s plenty to enjoy. Anarchistwood are next up and they play an excellent set of old and new material, mixing punk rock energy with a genuine eccentricity that at times recalls the likes of The Cravats, Cardiacs, maybe even Frightwig… The thing is, there seems to be so many ideas and influences going into their music that it really becomes difficult to try and pin them down, but then again, why would you want to do that? All you need to do is listen / watch with an open-mind and you’ll find a whole range of great sounds and visuals to keep you on your toes. They may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you like your punk rock to be a bit different, this is a band that you need to investigate. Tonights’ headliners are Sick on the Bus who are certainly popular, but not a band that I particularly like. I did hang around for a few songs to see if I’d enjoy anything this time, but I’m afraid they still didn’t appeal to me. At least that meant I was able to catch my last train easily enough!
THE BLUNDERS / DOG ROTTEN, The Birds Nest, 4/9/21. I was sent some demos by The Blunders a while ago and was pretty impressed, so it was a real bonus when the Birds Nest started to announce gigs again and it turned out that the Blunders would be one of the upcoming bands. As it’s a Friday, I head down to Woolwich straight after work, get myself something to eat and then catch a bus along to Deptford. I missed the first band, but I do get to see Dog Rotten, a band from South London (I think) who mix NYHC-style punk with bursts of rap-style vocals , shared between the two frontmen. During their better songs, it works really well, although at some points it gets a bit too repetitive. But they have plenty of energy and some good ideas, so I think this is a band with potential. The Blunders are a three piece who recall some of the more interesting bands of the early Anarcho-scene (Omega Tribe, The Mob etc.) Their songs tend to be based around the rhythm section while the guitar is played sparingly rather than thrashing along, which allows for more space in the music for the lyrics to be heard properly. There’s still plenty of energy in their songs, but it’s just more tempered to allow the words to have a stronger impact as well. I was very impressed with this band and I certainly recommend that you see or hear them at the earliest opportunity.
HAGAR THE WOMB /GENN etc Venue 229, 18/9/21. This was an event promoted by the Loud Women organisation, which endeavours to encourage women in music on a DIY basis. It seems strange that such a thing should still be an issue, but unfortunately bias against women still remains a problem within the music industry (and plenty of other places as well.) Recent times have seen a shift towards conservative attitudes, but this has also caused opposition to develop in a positive way. Indeed, this festival was the biggest Loud Women event to date, and featured more than twenty bands playing across two stages through the course of the day. There’s a large audience in attendance throughout the day and, despite the variety of bands and styles, the crowd support all the performers with the enthusiasm they deserve. The first band I see are Genn, from Brighton, who I’ve wanted to see for some time. As it turns out, their music seems to have developed away from the garage-punk style that I’d first heard towards a more post-punk style, but the change works really well and suggests that this could be a band who really make a mark for themselves. I will definitely be trying to see them again soon. In contrast, IDestroy (a three-piece band from Bristol) have a more stripped-down punk rock style, mixing elements of grunge and melodic harmonies to great effect. Their style is instant and insistent and you can see that they’re really enjoying themselves onstage. I hadn’t heard them before today but, again, this is another band I will want to see again.
Next on the main stage are the similarly-named (but entirely different) I,Doris, who treat us to songs based around their ‘Doris-philosophy’ (if you see them live, the whole concept will be explained) and whilst their set is full of their own songs, it’s their inspired version of the Squeeze classic ‘Up the Junction’ (re-written from the female point of view) that really steals the show. I check out a few more bands on the mainstage over the rest but no-one really impresses me as much as the bands I’d already seen. However, through to the back room and the second stage, there’s a band called The Empty Page who play a grungey version of punk-pop that’s very effective. However, it’s the headliners on this stage that I’ve been waiting for. It’s been a long time since I last saw Hagar The Womb and after all the insanity of the lock-down era, I’m really looking forward to watching The Hags’ much more enjoyable version of chaos. It’s also going to be a bit different tonight, as vocalist Ruth hasn’t been able to get down from North Wales, leaving Karen to handle the vocals. Despite her trepidation, she actually does a very good job and, whilst I hope that Ruth is able to rejoin the ranks very soon, Karen proved that she’s more than able to do the job. The set goes really well, with a mix of both old and more recent songs, played with the bands’ usual mix of ability and playfulness. Mitch disappears into the audience for a particularly long sojourn (whoever let him get his hands on a wireless bass guitar has much to answer for!) and friends join them onstage for a glorious finale of ‘Dressed to Kill’, leaving a memorable impression on everyone who watched them. I’ve missed this band over the last two years and it’s really great to see them again!
DAMIDGE, The Amersham Arms, 19/9/21. Damidge were originally active in the late 80’s / early 90’s but then took a lengthy break before reforming around ten years ago. Since then, I’ve seen them a few times and it’s been a bit confusing because their line-up seemed to change quite often, with only vocalist Al and guitarist Alex consistent members. But they’ve been getting a lot more focused over the past few times I’ve seen them and this gig saw them with new bass player Moyni (also of the Phobics) alongside John Clifford (ex-Conflict, P.I.G) on drums so I’m intrigued to see and hear how it all comes together. Well, I’m not familiar enough with their songs to tell you what they played this evening, but as expected, the whole band sounded really solid. Their music is raw in an early 80’s UK punk style, but it also allows plenty of space for Al’s vocals, giving you a chance to actually hear what he’s singing about (obviously an important part of what this band are doing.) Damidge have got a hard-edge but they also have songs that are catchy and enjoyable, so I hope this line-up sticks together to get themselves better-known. No idea if any new recordings are on the horizon, but if the standard of this gig was anything to go by, they really ought to try to make something new available soon.
THE SKIDS / DUNCAN REID & THE BIG HEADS. Islington Academy, 9/10/2021. This was a great line-up and I wasn’t going to miss it, but with the Curse of Covid still lurking with intent, there were a couple of surprises to be faced. Firstly, the door staff were insisting that you either produced proof of a recent negative Covid test or you had to take one there and then (to give them credit, they actually provided the test kits for anyone who needed them, so fair enough.) But once inside, came the real shock. Whilst I know that clubs and venues have lost-out on income during the lockdown and are entitled to raise their prices to try and balance the books, raising the cost of a pint to £7.00 could easily be perceived as taking the piss. Luckily I’m here for the music and I’m not going to let such things spoil it for me. The Big Heads arrive onstage pretty early and promptly launch into their set. Having had the misfortune of releasing their latest album, ‘Don’t Blame Yourself’, just before the first lockdown, they’ve had no chance to promote it, let alone play any of the songs live, so you can see and hear how eager they are to be onstage again. They start rather early and the audience are still arriving during their set, but once inside everyone seems to be paying attention. It’s easy to see why. With the best of their older songs and a selection of excellent tracks from ‘Don’t Blame Yourself’, they have a set packed with catchy, exciting material that’s instantly likeable. They also look great onstage, hardly staying still for a moment. There’s a real chemistry in this band and by the end of their set, they’ve really won-over the audience. Let’s hope they can reclaim the lost momentum of the past 18 months and get on with establishing themselves as one of the best bands in London.
I’ve seen The Skids several times since their reformation and been impressed on each occasion. Tonight is no exception. Starting with ‘Animation’, which sounds even more powerful when they play it live, they continue with old favourites ‘Of One Skin’, ‘Charade’ and ‘Charles’, before playing ‘Kings of the New World Order’ from the recent ‘Burning Cities’ album., which fits-in perfectly with their older material (the whole album is great actually, you should do your best to hear it if you haven’t already.) And there are plenty more classics to be heard, from ‘The Saints Are Coming’ and ‘Working for the Yankee Dollar’ through to ‘Circus Games’ and ‘Masquerade’. Of course, ‘Into The Valley’ still gets the biggest response of the evening, before a fine version of ‘The Olympian’ brings everything to an end. With the venue closing at a ridiculously early time (so their poxy student-disco can open-up 30 minutes later) The Skids only have time for a one-song encore and, bizarrely, choose to cover ‘Complete Control’. It turns out that the song is included on their new ‘covers’ album, but I would still have preferred more of their own. No matter, it’s only a small gripe and I certainly enjoyed the whole gig. Two great bands in one evening, what more could I want?
TV SMITH AND RICHARD STRANGE. 100 Club, 15/10.2021. Although they’ve known each other for many years and collaborated together, very little of their efforts have been released. In fact, I think only ‘Back From the Dead’ (versions were recorded and released by both The Adverts and Doctors of Madness’) had been available before now. But after a four decade wait, an albums’ worth of demos recorded by the duo back in 1978 has finally been made available and they announced a short series of gigs to celebrate the event. It proved to be a very interesting evening, with TV Smith beginning proceedings with a set of his own, aided and abetted by another regular collaborator, drummer Vom Ritchie. This is a great way to start the gig, and is quickly followed by a set from Richard Strange. Accompanied by several musicians, he goes through a selection of his own, solo material as well as several Doctors Of Madness favourites (including ‘Mitzi’s Cure’ and ‘Suicide City’) before the two come together to perform a set of their collaborations. Songs like ‘Torpedo’, ‘Making Machines’ and ‘The Last Human Being in the World’ sound great, emphasising the quality of this material and really raising thoughts of what might have happened if these songs had been recorded in a proper studio and released as a full album? As it is, it’s great to be able to hear the songs resurrected after so much time and a treat for fans of each artist. ‘Back from the Dead’ is also included in the set, prompting the return of Vom to the stage, and the gig eventually comes to an end with versions of ‘One Chord Wonders’ and ‘Don’t Panic England’ (a Doctors of Madness song originally recorded with Dave Vanian, no less!) I have no idea whether these two have plans to record or play together again, but if you get the chance, be sure not to miss it.
CRISIS. Hope & Anchor, 17/10/2021. I think this was the first Crisis gig since the lockdowns, so it was good to see them playing so well and obviously enjoying themselves. The current line-up and the addition of new material to their set has made them a formidable musical unit, with singer Lloyd James and drummer Aurora Lee really adding their own talents and character to the ongoing sounds of Tony Wakeford and Clive Giblin. Much that it was great to see them performing all the old Crisis classics at their earlier gigs, now that they’re adding new songs like ‘The Hammer and The Anvil’ from the last single and tracks from the new ‘Escalator’ EP, they’ve added new dimensions to the sound of the band, without sacrificing the authenticity of the older material. I doubt if many would have expected Crisis to return with only one original member in the new line-up and be quite as impressive as they have proven to be, but the evidence is out there for you to investigate. A new, valid line-up has come together and found a way to do things properly. Miss them at your peril!
NINA CONTI, The Bill Murray, 19/10/2021. Not so long ago, if someone mentioned ‘ventriloquism’ it was generally met with a lack of enthusiasm. But Nina Conti has found a way to bring the format forward and her subsequent success and popularity have been much deserved. Luckily, she still performs occasional shows at smaller venues like The Bill Murray (this is a warm-up for her upcoming ‘Dating Show’ tour) and it’s the perfect way to see her. For the first part of her show, her infamous Monkey acts as protagonist, making the introductions and chatting with the audience. However, ‘his’ aim is not to put people at ease but rather to see where his blunt questions and barbed-comments will lead… Nina herself often looks aghast at what ensues, but her natural ability to improvise and allow the character to run-with-it are her real strengths. Monkey is retired for most of the remaining set, which then involves volunteers from the audience and face masks which let Nina temporarily take control of their personalities. The results are often hilarious as hapless guests are thrown into new relationships and possibilities. It can be quite outrageous at times, but hidden behind the masks, the guests are never subjected to humiliation. And that’s why this works so well. Nina has found a way to involve the audience directly without just embarrassing them. Additionally, the unpredictable direction of the dialogue is guaranteed to keep the audience’s attention, as they wait to see where it will go. Whether you’re lucky enough to see a show at a smaller venue like this, or one of the bigger venues on her upcoming tour, do yourself a favour and be sure to be there.
THE PROFESSIONALS / DESPERATE MEASURES, The Garage, 24/10/2021. It’s a Sunday evening and quite a few people still being wary about going to gigs, but there’s still a healthy turn-out for The Professionals. Desperate Measures open-up the proceedings and their line-up has changed since the last time I saw them, as well as their sound. Their new material seems to be heading towards a mix of Detroit rock’n’roll and Seattle grunge, which is a bit of a leap from their earlier, punkier style, but it does seem to suit them. I’ll be intrigued to hear their new album. Anyway, The Professionals are using this current run of dates to launch their excellent new album, SNAFU, and from the moment they hit the stage, you can see and hear that they’re on top form. Guitarist Rich Jones is standing-in on this tour and does a really good job (he previously played with Tom Spencer in The Loyalties, so he knows the territory) while Tom, Paul and Toshi are as tight as ever. Starting out with an older song, ‘Payola’, they then play a set featuring tracks from each of their three albums, with those from ‘SNAFU’ sounding even better than on the LP. ‘Silly Thing’, in the middle of the set, is the only direct Pistols reference although as I’ve said before, in many ways this was really a Professionals song anyway. ‘Kick Down the Doors’ is a classic by anyone’s standards, whilst the set ends with ‘1-2-3’ which remains one of my favourite songs, either by The Professionals or The Avengers! The well-deserved encore includes a brisk cover of ‘Steppin’ Stone’ and ‘Little Boys in Blue’, ending the evening on a really high note. The Professionals are a truly exciting band right now and I can only recommend that you get to see them as soon as you can.
SCREAMING DEAD / THE PHOBICS / GOGO CULT. Hope & Anchor, 29/10/2021, This is a great line-up for the Annual Rockaway Beech Halloween gig, which is always something you should attend. Screaming Dead are one of the original UK ‘Horror-punk’ bands, while The Phobics are another bunch who have never been afraid to dress-up for the occasion, so what could be better? Go Go Cult are first onstage tonight and I’d been looking forward to seeing them again, but the set doesn’t go as well as hoped. I don’t know what it was, but they just seemed to be a bit lacklustre on this occasion, but I suppose any band can have a bad night… I’ll still check them out again. In comparison, The Phobics have no such problems and blast through their set with lots of energy and great tunes. Plenty of songs from their most recent album, ‘Burnt Rubber’, a bunch of older ones and even a couple of new tracks. It’s a fine set and now the atmosphere is buzzin’. Screaming Dead take to the stage and right from the off, they keep the place on its’ feet. With an good mix of songs from their original incarnation (1980-85) plus new material that they’ve written since their reformation in 2014 and a few choice-covers, they play an exciting set that’s met with plenty of enthusiasm from the audience. Yup, Rockaway Beech rocked Halloween once again!
ZOUNDZ / ANTHRAX / HAGAR THE WOMB / FOXCUNT, New Cross Inn, 12/11/2021. It’s an early start tonight, so I arrive straight from work just in time to see the first band, Foxcunt. I don’t know much about them, but musically they remind me of bands like Lost Cherrees and A-Heads, mixing Anarcho-punk with catchy melodies, so it’s a good way to start the evening. Next-up, Hagar the Womb, but they’re still missing Ruth and Steph isn’t playing this gig either! That said, despite some sartorial problems for Karen, they still deliver a great set that’s plenty of fun and full of great songs. Karen handles the vocals on her own again and does so really well, but let’s hope the band will be back to full-strength again soon. Anthrax, on the other hand, have a really solid and powerful line-up at the moment and, together with the recent release of their ‘Serf’s Out’ album, also have some of the best material that they’ve ever written. With the addition of Lara as a second vocalist, it’s really added new more depth and possibilities to their songs. Anthrax are a band that really should be attracting a lot more attention. Finally, it’s time for Zoundz. I have to admit, I’ve never been a massive fan of this band, partly because their live performances can be quite erratic. I’ve seen them play great gigs and I’ve seen them play some pretty poor ones, but tonight I have to say, this may have been the best time I’ve seen them so far! Steve Lake and the current line-up are obviously enjoying their first gig for nearly two years and play a really tight, powerful set that mixes both old and new material. The encore features a guest appearance from Mark Astronaut during ‘Can’t Cheat Karma’ which is absolutely magnificent (you can watch it here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyZCNVONHa8 ) and ‘Dymystification is similarly superb. What can I say? This was a great gig from start to finish.
DOGSHITE / SHOCKS OF MIGHTY, Overdrive Studios, 20/11/21. Although it’s rehearsal studios on a full-time basis, Overdrive also occasionally hosts gigs and it’s a great place for it. There always seems to be a good crowd in attendance, everyone seems to know each other and, despite the relatively small size of the room where the bands play, there’s always seems to be a great atmosphere. Tonight, I arrive a little late and miss the first band, Dissent, but see all of the set from Shocks of Mighty, which is tight and entertaining. Main band tonight are Dogshite, whose mini-album on Grow Your own Records (‘Mass Deception’) has been one of my favourite releases this year. Despite a few PA problems, they play a great, boisterous set involving punky melodies and catchy hooks, mixed with some occasional Ska rhythms and fronted by Carmel’s insistent vocals. The room was packed while they played, but everyone seemed to be looking-out for each other and there were no problems at all. It was a fine way to spend an evening and I hope it won’t be too long before they have another gig down there!
UK SUBS / EDDIE TENPOLE, Venue 229, 24/11/21. Some time ago, I told a friend that we’d only know for sure when the lockdowns were truly over when the Subs started touring again… Well, there’s been a bit of delay, but here they are, back on the road celebrating the 40th Anniversary of ‘Brand New Age’. If I had to choose, I’d probably say that ‘Brand New Age’ is my favourite Subs album, so this was an event not to be missed. I arrive to find the inimitable Eddie Tenpole already onstage, delivering his set with just his trusty acoustic guitar, but still keeping the full attention of the audience. The thing is, he’s such a unique character that you quickly get drawn into his musical world, and he has such a great set of songs (both old and new) that you really can’t afford to lose focus while he’s onstage. Of course, I would love a chance to see him play a full Tenpole Tudor gig with the original band once again, but if I only get to see his solo sets, I’ll still be more than happy. The UK Subs arrive onstage with the menacing opening bass notes from ‘You Can’t Take it Anymore’ and from that point onwards play a blistering set. This is the first time I’ve seen them with their new drummer (Dave Humphries) and he does a pretty good job, even though he’s only been on the stool for a few weeks. I’m sure he’ll be up to full-speed in no time at all. The band blast through the songs from ‘Brand New Age’, including favourites like ‘Barbie’s Dead’, ‘Warhead’ and ‘Emotional Blackmail’, before delving into the rest of their back catalogue, including ‘Rocker’, ‘Party in Paris’ and of course, ‘Stranglehold’. The band sounded great, Charlie’s voice is as strong as ever, and the crowd loved every minute of it. When you see them play a gig as good as this, you can only be impressed that Charlie shows no signs of slowing down!
AMYL & THE SNIFFERS, Rough Trade East, 26/11/21. This was a launch-night for the new Amyl album and fortunately I was offered a spare ticket (cheers, Vince!) as I remain of the opinion that Amyl & the Sniffers are a band that you really need to see in a smaller venue, rather than the bigger places they’ve been playing recently. Not that I begrudge them their success, but the sort of primitive rock’n’roll they play, combined with Amy’s spontaneous stage-antics, is really more suited to a venue where it’s all happening in your face. But good luck to them and I hope they make the most of their popularity. Tonight, there are still some precautions in place due to Covid (you can’t blame a band for not wanting to get sick while they’re on tour!) but the audience is still lively and the band put everything into their performance. The three musicians get straight down to work, delivering tight, powerful tunes with nothing too flash or unnecessary to spoil the show, while Amy is as hyperactive and determined as ever. Not as much stage-diving as usual, but in the circumstances, that was fair enough. We get about 30 minutes of music that seems to speed-by in no time at all, but that’s the beauty of Amyl & the Sniffers. They don’t mess about!
SWEET, Islington Assembly Hall, 28/11/21. I never saw the original Sweet, but did see the Brian Connolly version of the band during the early Eighties, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also tried to see them at The Venue in Victoria a few years later (not sure which line-up that would have been) but when we turned-up it had been cancelled at the last moment. Since then, I hadn’t tried to see them again but after enjoying my interview with Andy Scott recently, this was a gig I couldn’t miss. There are a few Covid –related problems on the way in, so I missed the first couple of songs, but once inside the hall, the band are sounding great! With only Andy remaining from the original band, it wouldn’t be difficult to get a bit cynical about this line-up, but the musicians played the songs just as you’d want to hear them (and, after all, it was Andy Scott’s guitar-sound that was always at the heart of the Sweet classics) while the current singer, Paul Manzi, obviously has a more metal-orientated vocal style, but keeps it in check for the older songs and delivers them with just the right style. For me, it seemed that the setlist switched between older and more recent material pretty fairly, adding their new tracks but leaning more towards the older ones to keep the audience on their toes. And that created a great atmosphere, helped along by the place being packed! Even the fact that it was a Sunday evening and that fears of Covid were still lurking couldn’t dissuade this audience (good for them!) I’m not familiar enough with the band’ more recent albums to give you the names of the newer material that they played, but the set did include ‘Action’, ‘Hell Raiser’, ‘Teenage Rampage’, ‘Fox on the Run’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Blockbuster’, and that’s a list that should have you salivating! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this gig, but I have to say, I was very impressed. The songs still stand-up, the current line-up play them well and the new material is more than acceptable. I have no problems recommending the current line-up of The Sweet to anyone who wants to see a great band playing great songs… If you’ve ever enjoyed Sweet, I’m sure you’ll love it!
SWELL MAPS / CULT FIGURES, Café Oto, 3/12/21. Well, it wasn’t really Swell Maps… the sad loss of both Epic Soundtracks and Nikki Sudden means that could never happen again, but with Jowe Head and John Cockrill in attendance (along with guests like Luke Haines, Lee McFadden, Dave Callahan, Gina Birch and others) this wasn’t just as close as we can get, it was the true spirit of Swell Maps resurrected for the event. Unfortunately, as the event was spread over two nights (the first featuring songs from the ‘A Trip to Marineville’ era, while the second centred around ‘Jane From Occupied Europe’) I was only able to attend the first night (the original dates had been delayed by the poxy-plague) and the second night now clashed with another event. But as it turned out, the setlists weren’t too strict and most of my favourite material was played on the first night, so I was more than happy… Firstly, original SMaps associates (and recently-reformed in their own right) the Cult Figures played a short but perfectly formed set. A lot of the songs were from their recent releases so I can’t tell you what they were, but of course, the renowned ‘Zip Nolan’ took pride of place and set the tone just right for the rest of the evening. There’s a short wait while the various Swell Maps associates assemble on the small stage area, but suddenly a guitar rings out and they’re straight into ‘HS Art’… it sounds superb and sends a tingle down my spine (either that or a desperate ferret had sneaked down the back of my shirt…) The packed audience react ecstatically, while there’s a brief switch-around as Lee swaps his bass for a guitar and announces ‘I’ve been waiting my whole life to play this’, before strumming the intro to ‘Read About Seymour’. The band then take little time before launching into ‘International Rescue’ and ‘Let’s Build a Car’ and I seriously doubt if the gig could be going any better! This is followed by a strangely psychedelic ‘Gunboats’ and ‘Bronze & Baby Shoes’, before a truly excellent version of ‘Midget Submarines’. Songs rarely get any better than this! But then we get ‘Real Shocks’ and ‘Vertical Slum’ before they sneak into an extended version of ‘Full Moon’, variously mixed with excerpts of ‘When the Saints Go Marching-in’ and ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’. It’s a perfect way to end the set, a nod to Swell Maps’ original krautrock influences as well as their rock’n’roll roots. The encore is brief but perfect, ‘Harmony in Your Bathroom’, and then it’s sadly over (except for the lucky souls who can also make the second night…) I have only one gripe, that they didn’t play ‘Dresden Style’, but I can still live in hope (which, after all, is better than living in Essex…) Otherwise, this was a gig that was by all intents, just as good as I always hoped that Swell Maps would be. This was so good that I can only hope that this line-up decides to give us a chance to see them again. If so, do not miss them!
JOHNNY MOPED / MONTY OXY MORON. The Lexington, 4/12/21. It would take something rather special to make me miss the second night of the Swell Maps sessions, but typically, after both gigs being rescheduled, this evening clashed with another of my favourite bands, Johnny Moped. So I decided to see one night by each of them, although as it turned out, delays on the trains almost made me miss this one altogether! The Phobics were also on the bill and I completely missed their set, as well as half of Monty’s, because two trains were mysteriously cancelled and, as a result, I arrived over an hour late. But what I do see of Monty’s set is surprisingly entertaining… Monty is, of course, keyboard player for The Damned and I think this may have been his first ‘solo’ gig, but I had been worrying that he might play some of the more obscure psychedelic, space-rock stuff that he has previously indulged-in alongside the Captain, but as it transpires, he plays a much more uptempo set including Damned songs, which work surprisingly well, especially a climatic version of ‘Smash It Up’ which has the whole audience singing along! Yup, good ol’ Monty, he did the business! Hopefully, he’ll play a few more gigs like this and everyone can get to see him and appreciate the part he plays with The Damned. I haven’t seen the Mopeds for some time, but tonight they were on top form, despite the hiatus enforced by the lockdowns. Playing plenty of songs from their most recent album, ‘Lurrigate Your Mind’, they sound really tight and solid tonight, not what you might expect if you’re aware of their chaotic history, but the proof is there in the PA. The band may not take everything too seriously, but they don’t treat their music as a joke. Admittedly, it may not be to everyone’s taste but they treat their new songs just as respectfully as their older classics. As a result, songs from the latest LP such as ‘Black Witch Climax Blues Band’ and ‘Hey Belinda’ are already as enthusiastically received by the audience as the older favourites. Although, that said, who wouldn’t get excited when they launch into the opening bars of ‘VD Boiler’, ‘Panic Button’ or Incendiary Device’ (or, for that matter, ‘Real Cool Baby’ and ‘Rock’n’Roll Rookie’…) When the encore arrives, there’s a bit of a bonus… Monty’s keyboard reappears onstage and he joins the Mopeds for a totally rockin’ version of ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’. I don’t know if this was previously rehearsed, but he really hits the spot, delivering raucous keyboards that could see him being renamed ‘Jerry Oxy Moron’ or ‘Monty Lee Lewis’… either one would work. It’s the perfect end to a perfect set.
SWANSEA SOUND, Rough Trade East, 10/12/21. Swansea Sound are a new band featuring former members of Tallulah Gosh, Heavenly and The Pooh Sticks (although it’s the lesser-known Marine Research that grabs my attention.) The band are named after a recently deceased radio station and the song itself is dedicated to the people who lost their jobs and community-identity due to corporate business taking-over services that they don’t understand or appreciate. However you look at it, it’s a fucker. Musically, Swansea Sound are a lot louder and (punk) rockier than you might expect, but it all comes together really well. Amelia Fletcher’s vocals are very appealing and provide a perfect counterpart to the guitars and rhythm section. In fact, it’s quite removed to previous things that these guys have done. I enjoy the set, even though I was never really a fan of their previous bands. Sometimes, you just have to go with it… I definitely want to hear their album!
SEEDS OF 77 / STARJETS / FAIR WARNING, Dublin Castle, 10/12/21. This was the gig that I was intending to attend when I was talked in to going to see Swansea Sound earlier in the evening. It still works out, as I arrive at the Dublin Castle just in time to see most of the set from Fair Warning. I haven’t been able to find-out much about them (just take a look on Google to see how many bands have used that name) but they’re a pretty young, female-fronted band and I thought they were pretty good. They definitely have a lot of potential so I hope they stick with it and make a mark for themselves. Next onstage are Starjets or, at least, a version of Starjets…. Originally from Belfast, this was a band who enjoyed some success in the late Seventies, during which time they released classic punky-powerpop singles like ‘War Stories’ and ‘Shiraleo’ as well as the album ‘God Bless the Starjets’. There is some confusion now as, since reforming, the four original members play together for gigs in Belfast, whilst only one of them (I’m not sure which) now lives in London and plays with a different line-up when they play over here. Which is a bit peculiar, but the line-up tonight do a pretty good job and I would say, deserve a lot more credit for what they’re doing. Especially over the past couple of years, things have not been easy for bands and at the end of the day, this line-up did a good job of delivering those old Starjets songs. I’d still love to see the original band members playing their music, but in the meantime, this is a version of the band that I’m more than happy to see.
Moving on to Seeds of 77, I’m not sure if this was previously announced as such, but this seems to be their final gig. Founding member / guitarist Fin Panton has health problems that now prevent him from playing live, so the other members have decided that it’s not right to continue what was originally his project, which is sad because their recently-released album has so much potential. But sometimes things can’t go any further… That said, their set tonight, without Fin in attendance, was a stunning show, playing all the highlights from the LP and a few covers (particularly an excellent version of ‘Molly’s Lips’.) Seeds of 77 have been a fine band and it’s sad that they’ve had their trajectory cut short, so I can only hope that at some point at least some of them can continue making further music together in some way.
THE KUNTZ / LOAD, New Cross Inn, 13/12/21. I saw Kunt & The Gang at this exact venue a couple of years ago, which was meant to be his farewell tour. Well, he’s back, albeit it now with a full band, and I don’t think anyone is going to be complaining. We all need some entertaining filth on occasions, just to get through the day-to-day crap that we have to endure. Kunt provides filth by the bucket-load and, well, if you can’t take the joke, why don’t you just leave? Yes, his lyrics could be accused of being sexist or misanthropic, but it’s interesting how many young women attend his gigs and laugh their heads-off same as everyone else! I know there’s always going to be a few morons who take these things seriously, but those kind of idiots are still going to be morons whether they go to a Kuntz gig or not. The support band, Load, are already playing when we arrive and they’re doing some kind of trashy hard rock thing which didn’t really impress me, but then it’s just a short break before The Kuntz arrive onstage. There’s a slight delay when Kunt asks someone to move because they’re standing right in front of him, pointing a video camera in his face. It’s a reasonable request, but the bloke starts to get mouthy about it until eventually the whole audience is chanting for him to ‘Fuck off!’ Once the problem is resolved, the band launch into their set. The music is punky hard rock while the songs are mostly old Kunt & the Gang ditties, including classics like ‘Paperboy’ and ‘Use My Arsehole…’, plus, of course, their Massive Xmas hit (Top Five, no less!) ‘Boris Johnson is Still a Fucking Cunt’… at last, lyrics that you can really believe in, backed by a riff borrowed from the Glam rock anthem, ‘Rock’n’Roll’. Everybody sang along, everybody laughed, and everybody got drunk (probably) leaving only one important question… When is Jools Holland going to invite them on TV?
THE UKEDELICS. The Pelton Arms, 23/12/21. This was an odd one because I just arranged to go to The Pelton for a couple of beers with friends, only to discover that a couple of other friends were playing a gig there as part of The Ukedelics. Bonus all round! Unfortunately, the internet seems to be full of bands called The Ukedelics from all around the world, so I can’t provide much more info for ya, but this band are all female, mostly ukulele players (there’s a bassist and a drummer involved) and play a good set of different musical styles including covers and their own material. The things that I remember most are an excellent cover of ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and one of their own songs that celebrated the excellent Deptford Dub Club. I can’t say much more about this evening apart from, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to seeing them again!