LIVE REVIEWS, 2022.
THE STRANGLERS / RUTS DC, Brixton Academy, 5/2/22. Ruts DC are an ideal support band for The Stranglers, with a musical style that has always been so much more than ‘basic punk’ and a good selection of both old and new material to keep their set lively and unpredictable. They also the kind of character that keeps everyone’s attention, despite being a three-piece band on such a large stage, while they also have the quality of songs that you just can’t ignore! Limited to a 45 minute set, they play so many great songs in rapid succession, from ‘In a Rut’ through to ‘West One’ and ‘Staring at the Rudeboys’ through to ‘Psychic Attack’. I go to see Ruts DC as often as I can, but having them play alongside the Stranglers is a real bonus! This tour had been announced as The Stranglers final ‘full’ UK tour and, as with many other bands, had been delayed due to Covid. Sadly, the pandemic also resulted in the death of Dave Greenfield, which came as an tragic and unexpected loss for the band and their fans. Fortunately, the band had almost completed their latest album, ‘Dark Matters’, before this event, so it was finally released as a fitting tribute to Dave’s legacy. As an original member of the band, he played such an important role in defining their sound, so the tour also gained further poignance in the circumstances. To their credit, the band didn’y play-up to the situation but rather just played as well as ever, mixing old favourites with tracks from the new album in a perfect example of their continued vitality. Starting off with ‘Toiler on the Sea’, quickly followed by ‘Something Better Change’ and ‘Sometimes’, the band set their pace straightaway before presenting the excellent ‘Water’ from the latest album. Things take a slower tempo over the next few songs, including ‘Skin Deep’, a rare live version of ‘Don’t Bring Harry’, ‘Strange Little Girl’ and ‘Always the Sun’, interspersed with more new songs like ‘The Last Men on the Moon’, before ‘Grip’ and ‘Curfew’ raise the temperature once again. The main set then worked towards its’ climax with ‘Straighten Out’, ‘Duchess’ and ‘Hanging Around’, guaranteeing a massive ovation from the audience. The first encore is somewhat restrained, musically at least, but certainly tinged with emotion, as they play through two recent songs, ‘The Lines’ and the tribute to their missing comrade, ‘If You Should See Dave’. I doubt if anyone on the venue missed the relevance of that song. Another huge burst of applause rang out before the band returned for their second encore, this time restoring the energy levels with blistering versions of ‘5 Minutes’, ‘Go Buddy Go’ and ‘No More Heroes’. What an amazing gig this was! Some will no doubt be saying that, with only JJ Burnel now left from the original line-up, the band are no longer ‘real’, but just go and see them playing live. You could never play something this powerful unless it’s the real deal!
THE CHORDS UK, 100 Club, 19/2/22. Funnily enough here’s another band that may only have one original member but are still an incredible live band and also intent on releasing great new albums. In this case, this was part of a tour promoting their latest album, the excellent ‘Big City Dreams’. Starting the set with ‘Listen to the Radio’ (first track from the new album) was a bold statement, especially when it was quickly followed by the classic ‘Something’s Missing’, creating an instant comparison point. But it pays-off because the new is just as great as the old in this case. Chris Pope is still writing material that really stands-up perfectly alongside the songs that the original band produced. In fact, the whole set is mostly made-up of new songs, but the quality remains so high that no-one’s complaining. In fact, two of them, ‘Hey Kids, Come the Revolution’ and ‘Twenty First Century Girl’ are amongst my favourite moments this evening. A couple of cover versions (‘Join Together’ and ‘Pressure Drop’) also make a welcome appearance, together with older faves like ‘So Far Away’ and ‘The British Way of Life’, which ended the main set before a short but perfect encore of ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’, new and old perfectly complimenting each other again. If you haven’t seen or heard Chris Pope & the Chords UK yet, you really need to rectify that situation as soon as you can!
GIRLS IN SYNTHESES. Shacklewell Arms, 25/2/22. Last time I saw GiS at this venue, they were supporting someone else and a large chunk of the audience departed once they had finished. This time, they’re headlining and the place is packed. Which is a good indication of their growing popularity and the fact that few bands in the UK at present can match the power and razor-sharp delivery that they present. As I’ve said before, you need to think of Big Black at their best or early Helmet to get some idea of the musical territory that they inhabit. It’s aggressive and in your face but also strangely insistent, something that you can’t ignore. After a while you’ll find yourself glued to the spot and unable to leave. Back to their regular three-piece line-up, they sound at their very best tonight and I’m sure that a few good support-slots with appropriate bands could easily win them a much wider audience. In the meantime, catch them wherever and whenever you can.
THE PROFESSIONALS, Water Rats, 9/3/22. As a warm-up for their upcoming tour with SLF, The Professionals announced a gig at this relatively small venue. Unsurprisingly, it sold-out almost instantly. On the evening, the bar filled-up pretty early and there’s a great atmosphere even before the gig starts. There was a support band, but I didn’t catch their name and the few songs I saw weren’t very impressive, so I’ll just leave it at that. Once they’re done, The Professionals don’t keep us waiting too long and quickly launch into their set. It’s a great mix of old and new material and it’s nice to see the band clearly enjoying themselves just as much as the audience. Songs like ‘Kick Down the Doors’ and ‘1,2,3’ still sound superb, while newer titles like ‘Good Man Down’ and ‘Spike Me Baby’ seem destined to become classics in their own right. The gig is packed and sweaty but I doubt if anyone was complaining. When you get to see a gig as good as this, you need to make the most of it whatever the conditions. The only thing you need to know is that The Professionals are a band that you need to see, whenever you get the chance to do so.
ANARCHISTWOOD, The Finnish Church, 10/3/22. Here’s a venue that I’d never heard of before now, let alone ever going there. The Finnish Church is actually more like a community centre and is located between Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. It’s a fairly modern building and while the main area doesn’t have a stage, as such, the place does have good acoustics and a friendly atmosphere. There’s also a small, reasonably-priced bar, which is very useful! Anyway, this is the launch party for Anarchistwoods’ new album, ‘Chiasmata’, so they’re intending to perform the whole thing live (followed by a selection of older songs.) The new album has had a difficult time coming together, what with the lockdowns and the sad loss of original guitarist Paul, but the eventual results have certainly lived-up to their spirit and resilience. The band make use of the available space to include video backdrops, extra costumes and masks, even an onstage dancer, making this more an event than just a ‘gig’. There’s a good-sized audience in attendance, which adds to the atmosphere and celebration. It’s as if everyone in the room is a vital part of the performance and the DIY nature of Anarchistwood is actually quite empowering. What else can I say? Well, I’d certainly like to see more events at this venue, so fingers-crossed. And as for ‘Chiasmata’, now that I’ve heard it all, I can definitely recommend that you hear it for yourself. If you like your punk rock with some imagination and a real sense of individuality, then this is something you may well enjoy. And you really need to see them live, as well!
CHARLIE HARPER / YOUTH Punk Art Show, 11/3/22 Following the demise of the Underdog Gallery, the annual Punk Art Show had to find a suitable location for their ongoing plans and I’m glad to say that they found a new home at the Museum of Youth Culture, near Cambridge Circus in Soho. Tonight, the place is packed with exhibits and most of the artists are in attendance. Add this to the many fans and guests who turn-up, it makes for a great atmosphere, even despite the sweltering heat! The ground floor has plenty to keep us interested, although it’s the basement that seems to be the place to be. And not just because that’s where the bar is… there’s an area set-up in one corner for live music and the entertainment kicks-off with a performance by Youth. As a founding member of Killing Joke, a renowned DJ and producer, as well as a collaborator with Paul McCartney, he has a wealth of music to choose from for his appearance, so what we get is… a lengthy, acoustic version of ‘Roadrunner’! Not what anyone expected, but it’s a great song, he played a great version and we all enjoyed it! Soon afterwards, Charlie Harper gets up for another short acoustic set. The audience really gets into this and Charlie is obviously enjoying himself (possibly reminding him of the days when he used to busk around the West End?) I can’t remember what he played, but he ended with a version of ‘Warhead’, which worked really well with the audience singing along. After this, I go upstairs to meet a few friends and get involved in meaningful conversations, so I miss whatever else happens downstairs (I think JC Carroll played a set…) Eventually, the heat gets to me and I decide to leave in favour of some fresh air, but the Art Show had been good fun yet again.
UNDERTONES / HUGH CORNWELL. Electric Ballroom, 12/3/22 The combination of The Undertones and Hugh Cornwell on tour together was a stroke of genius and worked really well. Although musically, they both have their own distinct styles, they certainly complimented each other in a positive way and it was good to see the audience at the Electric Ballroom filling the place early in time for Hugh’s set. Playing alongside a bass player and drummer, the former-Strangler began with several ‘solo’ songs (including ‘Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit’ and ‘Big Bug’) before delving back to his time as a Man in Black, treating us to stripped-down versions of ‘Duchess’ and ‘Goodbye Toulouse’. No keyboards, but the songs still work surprisingly well like this and the audience response seems to confirm it. The next few numbers switch between old and (more) recent songs, including great versions of ‘Skin Deep’, ‘Always the Sun’ and ‘Strange Little Girl’, before the big surprise (for me, anyway…) a version of ‘Five Minutes’! It’s always been one of my favourite tracks by the Stranglers, but as it was one of JJ Burnel’s songs, I really didn’t expect to hear Hugh singing it. That said, he delivered a great version and more than justified its’ inclusion. Finally, he goes back to his very first single release, ‘London Lady’, with a version that was perfect end to a powerful set. It reminded me that I really need to go to Hugh’s gigs more often!
There’s a short wait before The Undertones take to the stage and by this point, the venue is as packed as I’ve ever seen it. They don’t waste time, kicking-off with ‘Family Entertainment’, ‘Billy’s Third’ and ‘You’ve Got My Number’, sounding just as exhilarating as they did when you first heard them. From that point onwards, the set includes so many songs that are instantly recognisable, even if you’re not the bands’ biggest fan. The thing is, songs like ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘The Love Parade’, ‘Here Comes the Summer’ and ‘It’s Going to Happen’ all work like real ear-worms, and once you’ve heard them, they’ll never leave your brain, even if they weren’t the massive hits that they deserved to be. I’m a little disappointed that there aren’t more of their (relatively) recent songs in the set (especially as the new ‘Dig What You Need’ compilation is giving fans a second chance to enjoy their post-Feargal output.) But ‘Thrill Me’ still goes down really well, as usual, and ‘Oh Please’ is a highly under-rated moment. The main set builds up to a climax with ‘When Saturday Comes’, ‘Listening In’ and a blistering version of ‘Get Over You’, before the encore delivers ‘More Songs About Chocolate and Girls’, ‘I Know a Girl’, ‘Hypnotised’ and the classic amongst classics, ‘My Perfect Cousin’. Unbelievably, I still know people who won’t go to see The Undertones because ‘it won’t be any good without Feargal’. Well, it’s not the same, but Paul McLoone does a great job and the band, as a whole, are still simply superb. If you’re one of those misguided souls that still won’t go to see them, you’re only spiting yourself.
JOWE HEAD PLAYS SWELL MAPS. Rough Trade East, 24/3/22 As reviewed previously, Jowe Head had assembled a group of friends and associates to play two nights at Café Oto last December. Although billed as ‘The Swell Maps Sessions’, rather than trying to treat it as an actual reunion, the band more than lived-up to expectations and left fans hungry for more. Well, we didn’t have to wait too long, as the band reassembled at RTE just a few months later to celebrate the publication of Jowes’ excellent book, ‘Swell Maps 1972-1980’. A brief but highly entertaining Q&A session with Jowe starts the proceedings before the full band take to the stage. The set is different tonight, with the songs mainly culled from the first album and early singles but also including several fine selections from their later releases to keep us on our toes. They open with a blistering version of ‘H.S.Art’ and from the very-start, the sound is awesome. Also, without so many guests coming and going onstage, it allows the momentum of the set to really take over, propelling the songs along with their own, natural energy. The connection between Jowe and guitarist Luke Haines is really obvious, although it’s clear that everyone onstage is enjoying themselves just as much as the audience! Classic songs like ‘International Rescue’, ‘Real Shocks’, ‘Read About Seymour’ and a truly stunning version of ‘Midget Submarines’ fill the first half of the set, before less obvious tracks like ‘Helicopter Spies’ and ‘Bronze and Baby Shoes’ sneak into the list. Tonights’ only guest is Gina Birch (of The Raincoats) who duets with Jowe on ‘Harmony in My Bathroom’ and ‘Cakeshop Girl’, adding a perfect twist to the original songs. The set finally comes to a climax with an adrenalin-fuelled romp through ‘Vertical Slum’ and a great jam of ‘Full Moon’ which delves into ‘Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun’ and probably a few other references along the way. This had been a truly special event, sounding even better than the gig I saw a few months earlier at Café Oto. As Jowe teases right at the end, ‘Perhaps we’ll be back… if you want us to?’ Of course we want them to. Who wouldn’t want to see something as good as this again and again? Well, fingers-crossed, and if you get the chance to see them, make sure you don’t miss it.
MING CITY ROCKERS / THE PHOBICS / SCANT REGARD. Hope & Anchor, 25/3/22 Ahh, back to the Hope & Anchor on a Friday evening, what could be better? As usual, there’s plenty of friends to catch-up with and a great atmosphere. Plus, some good music to keep us entertained! First-up, Scant Regard, which is basically Will Crewdson (ex-Rachel Stamp and currently guitarist for Adam Ant.) It’s a real solo project, just Will on guitar accompanied by a drum machine. But it works really well, performing instrumental tracks inspired by rock-n’roll, Spaghetti Western soundtracks and Surf music. It’s a fine way to start the evening, but when The Phobics take to the stage, that’s when it really takes off. They play a great set tonight with plenty of energy and the audience react accordingly. They may have been the support band but on this occasion, it was clear that the majority of the audience were there to see them and the crowd responded enthusiastically throughout the set. With plenty of songs from their most recent album, ‘Burnt Rubber’, we also get treated to a few new songs which are always good to hear. Hopefully, it means that there’s going to be a new record on its’ way, but we’ll have to wait and see… In the meantime, you’ll just have to enjoy the gigs! Finally, tonights’ headliners are Ming City Rockers from Grimsby who, in some ways, have a similar musical approach to The Phobics. They combine trashy rock’n’roll with New York Glam and deliver their songs with energy and attitude. That said, for me they had a pretty tough job following The Phobics’ set and on this occasion, hearing and seeing them for the first time, they didn’t really make the impression I had hoped for. That said, I’ll still try to check them out again some time, as they’ve obviously got the potential to be something special.
JOWE HEAD. Rock’n’Roll Rescue, 7/4/22 Fortunately, as I’m also going to another gig later-on this evening, this event starts pretty early. It’s a launch-party for the latest issue of Pioneer Punk Art Zine, a Dutch magazine featuring Art-contributions from various Punk Rock associated individuals. In this particular case, the magazine has been ‘curated’ by Gaye Black and features contributions from, amongst others, Billy Childish, David Arnoff, Gina Birch and Nicky Tesco. It’s an interesting project and well-worth tracking down (go on and Google!) Anyway, whilst the partying gets underway (mainly involving beer) there’s also going to be some live music, with Jowe Head (who seems to be everywhere these days!) He’s brought along a drummer and bass player for this short set and they perform in the ‘Parkway Arena’ (eg, the back room of Rock’n’Roll Rescue.) The first few songs are, presumably, some of Jowes’ solo material, but they do treat us to a Swell Maps tune at the end of the proceedings (‘Midget Submarines’, I think, although my memory isn’t clear on that fact) and it’s a good way to end the first part of the evening, before I have to catch the tube down to Oxford Street in time for…
STEVE IGNORANT. 100 Club, 7/4/22 Unfortunately, I’d missed the set from Zoundz by the time I arrived, but was in plenty of time for Steve and his band. It’s been a while since he’s played a Crass-retrospective set in London, but his current band are more than up to the job and it all goes really well. I know that some people have whinged about Steve playing Crass material again, but at the end of the day, they’re songs that he originally wrote or recorded so it’s his prerogative as to whether he should perform them again. Personally, the way I see it is that I never got the chance to see Crass, so to finally see and hear these songs being played live by the original singer with a great band is something I can really appreciate. The music is still innovative and the lyrics are just as relevant now and in some cases, even more relevant. At the end of the day, if you don’t like the idea of Steve performing his own songs, then don’t go. It’s as simple as that. Anyway, on to the important stuff, the set began with ‘The Gasman Cometh’, followed quickly by ‘Do They Owe Us a Living and thereafter, the set includes a mix of songs from right across the Crass back catalogue. Carol Hodge steps up to perform vocals on ‘Batamotel’ and ‘Shaved Women’, which are both highlights, while my own personal favourites tonight are the excellent versions of ‘Big A Little A’ and ‘Rival Tribal Rebel Revel’. After the set ends, the applause brings the band back for an encore, starting with a second version of ‘Do They Owe Us a Living’ and then, a real surprise, as the band launch into a cover of ‘Ziggy Stardust’! Well, it is the song that Crass took their name from and Steve was a big Bowie fan back at the time so, why not? It’s a bit rough and ready, and Steve’s voice isn’t entirely suited for it, but I think everyone enjoyed the moment. It was a great gig and the songs still really mean something. What’s more valid than that?
KILLING JOKE / BRIX SMITH. Hammersmith Apollo, 9/4/22. The day before this gig I had been to the dentist to have some treatment on an abscess. My mouth was still very sore so I was taking painkillers and antibiotics and trying not to collide with anyone. I was also not supposed to be drinking, all of which is not an ideal situation for a Killing Joke gig. But we managed to get a good viewpoint towards the middle of the venue and decided to just watch the bands from there, with only occasional trips to the bar… Anyway, Brix Smith was playing with her new band which among others features Deb and Jen from My Bloody Valentine. Despite what you might be expecting from her previous musical escapades, her new songs seem to be leaning more towards a harder, alt-rock sound, together with a hint of grunge. Her new album, ‘Valley of the Dolls’ (yet to be released at this point) has been produced and co-written by Youth, which explains the connection with Killing Joke. Fortunately, their sound is heavy enough to appeal to Killing Joke fans and whilst it is a little strange to see Brix onstage without her guitar, she prowls the stage like a confident front-person. There are no songs from her previous ‘solo’ releases, but towards the end of the set, they do play a cover of ‘Totally Wired’, which is a bit odd as it’s a song that The Fall released several years before Brix joined them. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for her to play something from when she was in the band? That said, it’s still a great song and the band play it with style, so fair enough! I think the set will make more sense when the album is released and we’re more familiar with the songs, but on this showing, I think this is going to be another great twist to Brix’s tale. Not too long to wait until it’s time for Killing Joke, and as soon as they arrive onstage, Geordie launches into the intro for ‘Love Like Blood’. It’s a little surprising to hear this song opening the set, but it sounds as great as ever. It’s quickly followed by ‘Wardance’ and ‘The Fall of Because’ and I’m really tempted to head down to the front, but I have to keep reminding myself, it could literally end in tears… Considering the recent lockdowns, ‘I Am the Virus’ is more poignant than ever, while older tracks like ‘Requiem’, ‘We Have Joy’ and ‘Money is Not Our God’ also retain their relevance. The set progresses with a powerful momentum, featuring a great mix of older and more recent material, until the main set climaxes with the double-barrel blast of ‘The Wait’ and Pssyche’. We don’t have a long wait for the encore, which gives us the excellent ‘The Pandys Are Coming’ (which doesn’t get played live as often as it should) ‘Change’, Bloodsport’ and ‘Pandemonium’. Superb! Whatever’s happening in the world outside, isn’t it great that Killing Joke are still here to provide respite from the bullshit?
SPARKS. The Roundhouse, 17/4/22. Big thanks to my friend Vicki, who provided tickets for this gig. Cheers! The date had actually gone through quite a few delays, having originally been announced before the first lockdown and re-scheduled twice before the show actually went ahead. On top of this, the release of Edgar Wright’s excellent documentary ‘The Sparks Brothers’ in 2021 had also brought the band to the attention of a much wider audience, meaning that the gig was sold-out well in advance. There’s no support band tonight, so it’s a little strange that the show starts later than expected, but once onstage Ron and Russell are the centre of everyone’s attention. But in typical Sparks’ contrariness, instead of starting with some of their better-known songs to get the audience on their side, they begin with ‘So May We Start’ from the soundtrack of the recent film ‘Annette’, followed by ‘Angst in My Pants’ and ‘Tips for Teens’ – both great songs, but hardly their best known numbers. But the thing is, a Sparks show is always about the whole performance and, as the set progresses, the audience becomes more and more involved, whether they already know the individual songs or not. There’s plenty of room for older songs like ‘Under the Table With Her’, ‘Get in the Swing’ and even ‘Wonder Girl’, as well as songs from their most recent album, ‘A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip’, like ‘Stravinsky’s Only Hit’ and ‘Lawnmower’. And along the way, they also have fun with lesser known moments like ‘Shopping Mall of Love’ (with a rare lead vocal from Ron) and ‘Music You Can Dance To’, before they lead up to the end of the main set with enthralling versions of ‘When Do I get to Sing My Way’, ‘Number One Song in Heaven’ and, of course, ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’. The applause is ecstatic and the band reappear quickly to deliver a wonderful version of ‘Suburban Homeboy’ and ‘All That’ another song from ‘A Steady Drip…’.By this point they’ve been playing for nearly two hours, so it’s fair enough that we only got one encore, but the applause and cheers still continue even after the lights have gone up. We’d all been waiting a long time for this gig, but in the end Sparks had made it all worthwhile.
DISCHARGE / ASSERT, New Cross Inn, 28/4/22. I never saw the original Discharge because, by the time I was going to gigs in London, they’d ditched their classic sound in favour of the ‘Grave New World’ material. I’m glad to say I never saw that! The only time I did see them was the line-up featuring Rat from The Varukers, supporting UK Subs. They were bloody awful that night, so I lost interest in them again and it wasn’t until a lot more recently that I started to hear good things about their latest line-up, featuring yet another new singer, Jeff Janiak. I was curious to check them out again, to see if they really were up to scratch, so when they announced a gig at New Cross Inn, I decided that I really ought to be there. I had expected there to be a big crowd for this gig, but the place is absolutely packed when I arrive and there’s a good atmosphere in the place even though the main support band, Assert, are playing and not sounding great. They’re not bad, I suppose, but they don’t seem to have anything that makes them stand out. So I catch up with a few friends, have a couple of beers and wait for Discharge. It’s the 40th Anniversary of their classic album, ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’ but instead of playing it in its’ entirety as many bands would, the set is made up of songs from right across their career (apart from the naff metal shite.) So we get to hear ‘The Blood Runs Red’, Fightback’, ‘Ain’t No Feeble Bastard’, ‘Never Again’, ‘State Violence State Control’, ‘Decontrol’… in fact, they play pretty much everything that a fan of their original style would want to hear. Additionally, now playing as a five-piece with two guitarists (brothers Bones and Tezz) their sound is now immense, delivering just the sort of pummelling effect that you’d want from songs like these. With original member Rainy nailing the bass down in place and current drummer Dave Caution delivering the necessary d-beats, frontman JJ does a great job with the vocals, with just the right amount of aggression and clarity. There’s no getting past it, this is the way that I always wanted to see Discharge and its’ no wonder that the popularity of the band now is the highest its’ been since the early 80s. I know that Discharge were never going to appeal to everyone, but if you were ever a fan of the original band, then this line-up is one should try to see.
JOHNNY MOPED, The Prince Albert, Brighton, 30/4/22. Brighton has often been referred to as ‘Croydon-by-the Sea’, so it’s not surprising that the Moped connection is also strong. The Prince Albert is also a very convenient venue, located mere seconds away from the train station and well-known for serving decent pints. So what could be better than a Saturday afternoon gig? Well, I wasn’t going to miss it and despite a few hiccups, I’m pleased that I didn’t. On top of everything else, it’s a lovely, sunny day, perfect for wandering around the Lanes and eventually sneaking into a pub for a crafty beer… But back to the Prince Albert, the gig is sold-out and the place is packed. Due to the lockdowns I haven’t the Mopeds for a while, so it’s particularly appreciated that this gig really caught them on top form. The audience were really up for it and even though they played a lot of their more recent material during the first half of the set, it was all going down just as well as their older classics. There’s not many bands that have reformed after a lengthy absence and produced new material that stands up so well alongside their older songs, but the Mopeds have achieved that. ‘Real Cool Baby’ and ‘Catatonic’ fit into the set with style, and even ‘Black Witch Climax Blues Band’, which seemed a bit out-of-place when I first heard it on the ‘Lurrigate Your Mind’ album, has steadily become another audience-favourite since they’ve been playing it live. Of course, everyone still wants to hear all the old classics like ‘Incendiary Device’, ‘Darling Let’s Have Another Baby’ and ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ and the band still deliver them with style, but doing so alongside all the newer songs means that they still have a momentum that keeps it vital. The gig was packed, hot and sweaty, but by the end, I don’t think anyone left without a smile on their face. What a great way to spend a weekend!
THE PHOBICS / CHAOS UK / DISSENT, The Birds Nest, 6/5/22. Friday night, nice weather, back to the Birds Nest! Yeah, that’s enough temptation for me and the evening starts off pretty well with a short set from Dissent, who play a mix of punk rock styles which work pretty well. Not knowing much about them, I can’t really give you any info, but they’ve certainly got some good ideas and plenty of energy so, although they may not be there just yet, this is a band with quite a bit of potential. I’ll be checking them out again. Which is more than I can say about Chaos UK. Not the legendary Bristol hardcore band but a combo that existed in North London during the late Seventies and released one 7” in 1979. It’s not very good, regardless of how ‘collectable’ it may be now. Unfortunately, the band don’t seem to have improved with age, either. No idea how many original members are still involved and basically, I don’t care. Going by this performance, they’re not very good at all. But at least The Phobics are on fine form tonight and manage to salvage the rest of the evening. The set is mostly made up with songs from their most recent album, with tracks like ‘Gentrification’, ‘Path of Love’ and ‘Burnt Rubber’ really standing out alongside older faves like ‘Boy Band’ and ‘Down & Out in Deptford’. There’s a lively audience in attendance and a boisterous atmosphere, so the set goes really well and ensured that we all had a good time.
MAN ON MAN. The Lexington, 21/5/22. This is one of the few occasions when I can describe something as ‘gay indie-pop’ and have no worries about not being PC. Man on Man are a duo featuring Roddy Bottum and Joey Holman. Roddy is, of course, best known as a member of Faith No More, although Man on Man probably have more in common with one of his other bands, the excellent Imperial Teen. While Roddy has never been averse to addressing his sexuality in his songs, the subject matter is much more upfront in Man on Man, although done in a pretty playful manner rather than being preachy or alienating. I have to admit, I’ve only heard a limited amount of their songs so I can’t really review their set in depth, but what I can say is that played live, the songs have a lot more impact, combining catchy melodies with a dirtier guitar sound and stronger rhythms. Not knowing what kind of crowd this gig would attract, it was good to see the place packed-out with a mix of different people, from Faith No More fans through to people from the gay scene, with no animosity or intimidation at all. Man on Man are obviously a musical entity in their own right and whilst their lyrics may alienate them from a more mainstream audience, I doubt if they’re worried about that. It’s just good to have them doing their thing!
PETER PERRETT / JAIME PERRETT / MONOCHROME SET / SPIZZENERGI / BOOTLEG BLONDIE / JOHNNY MOPED. Brighton Concorde, 29/5/22. One of the saddest pieces of news I was given this year was the untimely loss of Jordan Mooney. In recent years, she’d made a return to the ‘punk’ scene, both with the publication of her autobiography, ‘Defying Gravity’ and her regular attendance at gigs in Brighton, London and elsewhere. I was lucky enough to meet and interview her, finding her to be a genuinely nice, inspiring and supportive person. So this memorial concert, with proceeds being donated to causes that she championed (music and cats!) was something I couldn’t miss. I travelled down on Sunday morning with my friends Tom and Dee… the event was running from early afternoon through to 11.00pm, although the first band we intended to see were Johnny Moped at 3.30. It was a particularly notable gig for the Mopeds, as regular guitarist Robot was unable to attend and was being replaced for this one-off occasion by their original guitar player, Captain Sensible. I would have expected the Mopeds to be playing much higher on the bill, especially taking this into account, but I’m sure there was some valid reason why that wasn’t the case. Regardless, the band sound as good as ever. Due to the previously-mentioned circumstances, the set is made-up of songs from the bands’ earlier days (no doubt the material Captain is familiar with) but that’s not going to be a problem for the fans. ‘VD Boiler’, ‘Panic Button’, ‘Darling, Let’s Have Another Baby’… it’s all great stuff after all. By the time they get to ‘Incendiary Device’, they’ve got everyone’s attention, ending the set with a blistering version of ‘Hard Lovin’ Man’ and their excellent cover of the Eddie Cochran classic, ‘Something Else’ (which they recorded sometime before Silly Vicious, or whatever his name was…) So, a short set, but perfectly formed and I’m sure Jordan would have loved it. There’s a lot of bands playing and quite a few that didn’t really interest me, so I’ll only mention the ones that I paid attention to. Bootleg Blondie are a tribute band but rather good at it. Watching their act, they are pretty impressive and today, they also have a special bonus as they are joined onstage by original Blondie member Gary Valentine, playing additional guitar for the latter part of their set. I’m not a massive fan of tribute bands, but these guys do it very well.
Spizzenergi have always been a good live band, but in recent years they’ve been surprisingly excellent. I think the steadier line-up has really helped to produce a band that can play the classic Spizz-songs with plenty of energy and accuracy, bringing out the best in all of them, as well as introducing some fine new numbers. Spizz himself remains the unashamed extrovert that he’s always been and I know some may not be enticed by his persona, but when he delivers songs like ‘Where’s Captain Kirk’ and ‘Soldier Soldier’, you really can’t help but enjoy yourself. He may only be a legend in his own lunchbox, but he’s a legend none the less. Monochrome Set are a band I’ve never really got into, so I’m intrigued to watch their set. Formed by former members of the (original) Adam & the Ants, I did listen to some of their songs back in the Eighties, but found them to be too ‘new wave’ for my tastes. And I’m afraid, that’s still how I feel about them now, although I suppose the hip phrase would be ‘post-punk’ nowadays. Either way, it all points towards something that would only be loved by art-student wannabes and I just haven’t got any time for that.
The big problem with today’s event came courtesy of Covid… the headline band was supposed to be Gaye Bykers on Acid, but they had been forced to cancel when one of them contracted they dreaded lurgi. This meant that Peter Perrett was now playing last and we’d have to catch a later train back to London, but there wasn’t much-else that we could do. Fortunately, the set was worth the hassle. It’s actually split in two, with the first half coming from Peter’s son, Jaime, who as well as playing alongside his father, has been playing and releasing his own accomplished music for quite some time. His set is good and I will definitely be checking-out more of his music. Soon enough, Peter appears to join the band onstage and plays a short but thoroughly enjoyable set, featuring a few songs that I didn’t recognise (possibly new?) alongside songs from his recent solo albums, a couple of Only Ones classics (From Here to Eternity’ and ‘Another Girl Another Planet’) before finishing with his excellent cover of ‘What Goes On’… well, what went on for us was a desperate rush for a taxi to ensure we caught our train, but it had been a great day and I think it was all worthwhile. Big thanks to Tom and Dee for making sure I kept going in the right direction!
DESCENDENTS / WONK UNIT. The Forum, 11/6/22. It’s a really nice, sunny day and The Descendents are back in town, so it’s starting to feel like Summer! As usual, I turn-up early in the afternoon to catch up with the chaps and discuss all the weirdness that’s been happening since they were last here. Fortunately, they all seem to have avoided the worst excesses of the Covid plague, but they also have one sad piece of news, in that their former legendary roadie, Daniel ‘Bug’ Snow had recently died. Having worked with The Descendents and ALL since the mid-Eighties, he would tour with them through all of their UK and European tours and I met him many times. Always a really nice guy, he was an integral part of the band rather than just someone working for them and, while he hadn’t been able to tour with them in recent times, it’s still a shock that I’ll never see him again. My condolences go out to his friends and family. Back to the show, the venue fills-up really quickly (early gigs on Saturday nights) and the support comes from Wonk Unit. Having only seen them in small venues before now, it’s a bit odd to see them on a large stage but they handle it well, certainly going down well with the audience and warming-up the crowd just right. The atmosphere starts to buzz and soon enough, it’s time for the mighty ‘Dents. As usual, once they’re onstage there’s very little messing around as they deliver their songs in rapid succession. Old material mixes perfectly alongside tracks from recent albums like ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’ and ‘9th & Walnut’ (although technically, that album includes songs originally written back in the late-Seventies…)
The thing is, The Descendents have continually produced great songs and their lyrics have always been able to reach out to their fans, meaning something more than just ‘pop-punk’ cliches. Similarly, their music has always had more depth, coming from influences as diverse as Black Sabbath, the Beach Boys, the Ramones, X and Devo, to create something that’s totally their own. Others may sound like The Descendents, but The Descendents just sound like themselves. And it may have taken a lot of work, but it’s been worth their effort, as their audiences are continually expanding and attracting new generations of fans who relate to both the music and the lyrics. Unlike many older bands, they don’t just attract their older fans (ahem!) as anyone can still love their music for the same reasons. They may have been around for a long time, but they’ve never become jaded and they’ve never abandoned the Quest for All! Long may they continue. Tonight. their encore features some special guests, as two of the girls from The Linda Lindas join them onstage to add vocals to a rowdy version of ‘All-o-Gistics’. At the time of this gig, not too many people in London would have known about The Linda Lindas (myself included) but by the time you read this review, they may well be massive. Just check out their song ‘Racist Sexist Boy’ on Youtube to find out what you need to know! As I said before, the gig comes to an early end due to the venues’ selfish policy of chucking-out gig-goers so they can charge more money for the late-night disco… That said, it gives me a chance to sample Bill’s cocktail-mixing talents and I have to say, it was a merry way to end the evening! Let’s hope it won’t be too long before they’re back again.
LOS SANTOS. Triangle Bar, 19/6/22. Having already missed a couple of gigs by this band, I made sure to get along to this one. Los Santos are a punk rock’n’roll band from London featuring ex-members of The Saints and The Members, as well as Vez from Wonk Unit on vocals (Alex from WU also plays drums with them, although he’s not available on this occasion) so it’s an interesting mix from the outset. The Triangle Bar is a great little venue just off Creek Road in Deptford, which as well as being a nice bar / café, also hosts occasional art exhibitions and musical events. Tonight, there’s a decent crowd along to watch the band and everyone seems to know each other, making for a good atmosphere. It’s not a formal event, so when the band are ready they set-up and start playing. The sound isn’t perfect but it’s more than adequate and the audience cheer the band along enthusiastically. They play some songs from their recent ‘El Corazon’ CD as well as a few that I didn’t recognise and they all go down well. Vez handles the vocals pretty confidently and the overall impression is that this is a band really enjoying themselves rather than trying to take things too seriously. That said, they’re obviously good musicians and have plenty of energy, so there’s a lot to enjoy. After the main set is completed, Vez stands aside and another friend joins the band for a short set of Saints songs (in tribute to Chris Bailey.) It was a good way to end the evening and while the songs may not have been note-perfect, it was nice that they were able to pay tribute. I’ll definitely be keen to see Los Santos again!
TV SMITH / PAUL TALLING. Rough Trade East, 28/6/22. This was a special event to launch the second volume of ‘London’s Lost Music Venues’, the excellent books that document the many well-known (and not so well-known) venues that are no longer with us. To capture the spirit of the event, TV Smith had been invited to open the proceedings with a short acoustic set, which he delivered with his usual style and enthusiasm. Mixing older material with more recent songs, it was a good way to start the event, especially as during his career, TV Smith has played many of the venues now included in these books. His set is very enjoyable, so it also gets the audience warmed-up for the second part of the evening, which features TV Smith, author Paul Talling and MC Ian Damaged talking about the book and generally rambling about people, places and gigs that have crossed their paths over the years. It’s actually pretty interesting as so many of these tales seem surprisingly familiar, either recalling gigs that you may have attended or venues that you may have been to. At the moment, London seems to be in a bit of a slump when it comes to decent venues, so it can be tempting to get pessimistic about the state of things, but the positive side of this is that there’s always going to be new bands and promoters out there, actively seeking new places for gigs to happen. So don’t worry about what may have been lost in the past, concentrate on what’s happening now! That said, the books are full of information and plenty of fun, so you should check them out. I have no problems recommending them very highly.
BABYSHAKES / DUNCAN REID & THE BIGHEADS / SMALLTOWN TIGERS. The Lexington, 3/7/22. This was the last night of the latest Pump It Up powerpop festival and it was certainly ending with a great line-up. I was looking forward to seeing all three bands, and that doesn’t happen very often these days. The place is already full by the time I arrive, just in time for Smalltown Tigers. Accordingly, their set gets a great response. An all-female trio from Italy, their music sounds like Joan Jett fronting The Muffs, or Suzi Quattro jamming with The Fastbacks. They have a hard-edge to their songs, but also pack-them full of melodies and plenty of energy. This is a band you really need to see live! Next up, Duncan Reid and the Bigheads, in what (technically) is the (much-delayed) launch for their most recent album, ‘Don’t Blame Yourself’. That said, as soon as they’re onstage, the band just get down to doing what they do best – playing their set with all the style and energy that the songs deserve. Just as their albums have got more and more confident and exciting, their live shows have steadily grown into some of the best and most exciting gigs you can catch on the live circuit. Again, this is a band you really need to see live and, unless you’re totally cynical or contrary, I’m sure you’ll be very impressed. Finally, it’s time for Baby Shakes. All the way from NYC, this is another fine band with a great mix of 60’s Garage, 70’s Glam, powerpop and punk. As you watch them, you can see that they’re really enjoying themselves and their attitude flows out into the audience. Their set is very entertaining and everyone is having a great time. I’m most surprised when their launch into my favourite Radio Birdman song, ‘Hand of Law’ and even more surprised when they perform it as an instrumental, but it still works and sounds superb. They also save another surprise for the end of their set, when they invite Damian O’Neill and Billy Doherty of The Undertones up onstage and they run through a raucous version of ‘Teenage Kicks’. It’s the perfect end to a great evening and, after this, I’m already looking forward to next years’ festival!