LIVE REVIEWS, JULY-DECEMBER 2019
JOHNNY STINGRAY BAND. Bad Idea Factory, Leytonstone, 4/7/19. The Bad Idea Factory is a new Bar / Gallery at the top of Leytonstone High Street and it seems like a very nice place indeed. Johnny Stingray is a former member of The Stingrays (you’d never have guessed) amongst others, and an artist whose work veers towards the darker, Voodoo-esque aspects of Americana, much of which has been appropriated by various bourbon-soaked bands. This evening is a launch event for an exhibition of his work and, as befits the occasion, he’s brought together a selection of musicians, including Urban Voodoo’s, Revillos and Pork Dukes, for a shambolic but highly enjoyable celebration. It didn’t have to be over-rehearsed as rock’n’roll was never meant to be too technical and the important thing is that everyone, the audience, bar staff and musicians, all had a great time. Admittedly, the frequent-beers probably helped, but that’s no reason to complain ! Great new venue, great Art, great music. What else could you want for free ?
KISS. O2 Arena, London, 11/7/19. This was something I wanted to see but wasn’t going to pay £75+ for a ticket. Fortunately, at the last moment, Tom Phobic and I discover some tickets available online for less than £20 each which seemed like an offer we couldn’t refuse ! Supposedly their final tour, although they also announced a farewell tour nearly 20 years ago, so who knows ? Whatever the deal, you should know that it’s going to be entertaining. I can understand those that don’t like their records, but the live spectacle is so ridiculously over-the-top that it reaches almost surrealist proportions. Even Spinal Tap didn’t go this far and you’d have to be a professional cynic not to enjoy this show. There’s a fireworks display beyond-belief (everything blows-up !), silly costumes, between-song banter that verges on stand-up, and plenty more to keep you laughing. Plus, despite those naysayers, they do have some great Glam-stompin, hard-rockin’ songs as well. Only the most pretentious could fail to enjoy ‘Detroit Rock City’, ‘Deuce’, or the magnificently-pompous ‘God of Thunder’. Gene Simmons struts, breathes fire and spits blood whilst Paul Stanley acts as self-appointed ring-master, condemning the crowd when they don’t make enough noise, but ultimately flying above their heads on a zip-wire to perform two songs on a special podium in their midst, up close and personal ! Things do get a bit weird when Paul, clad in tight black spandex, sings ‘I Was Made For Lovin’You’ to a mostly sweaty male audience, but we can get past that….The main set ends after nearly two hours and, of course, the encore has to go even further. It begins with Eric Singer performing the ‘sensitive’ ballad ‘Beth’, complete with grand piano (at no point could we see if he was actually playing, but that’s not really important…) Then we have ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’, complete with giant balloons (borrowed from Alice Cooper) and glitter bombs, followed by the inevitable ‘Rock’n’Roll All Nite’ with Paul and Gene hovering above the audience on crane- platforms. And fireworks. Always more fireworks ! Will I go out and buy any of their records ? No. But I’ll be laughing and talking about this show for ages. As the lights go up and the crowds file-out, they play ‘God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You’ over the PA… the precise details are debatable, but somewhere, the sentiments abide.
NEGATIVE APPROACH / STIFF MEDS. Venue 229, 12/7/19. In one of those weird bits of synchronicity, the day after seeing Kiss playing ‘Detroit Rock City’, I’m going to see a band from that very place ! Negative Approach are, of course, an important part of the Detroit Hi-Energy Rock’n’Roll heritage and it’s always great to see them. This time, they’re playing the smaller room at the 229, which is just about perfect for them. It has a good stage, a decent stage and it’s just about the right size… the audience comfortably fills the place but there’s still enough room to breathe ! I get there early to catch up with the chaps. It’s always good fun hanging out with them, talking about great music and sharing some beers. And this time there’s a bit of a bonus as their original bass player, Pete Zelewski (who lives in London these days) has come along to catch his old friends, so it’s nice to meet him as well. Anyway, there’s a couple of support bands but I only manage to see Stiff Meds, a relatively young band playing fast, aggressive hardcore with their feet in both US and UK camps. They’re actually pretty impressive and I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing / seeing them some more. A really good way to warm-up the proceedings ! Once they’re done, Negative Approach take to the stage to get ready and whilst Ron is setting-up his equipment, we’re briefly treated to the sight of a (possibly drunk) girl Go-Go dancing to the PA tapes right in front of him… I can only say that he looked bemused ! But once they’re ready to go, the place goes off. The band tear into the first song and the audience go berserk. Bodies are flying across the pit and onto the stage, it’s as close to utter chaos as things can get without it all falling apart. But this is what Negative Approach are good at – they push things to the limit but somehow keep it all together. In the true Detroit tradition, they kick out the jams and leave the rest to the audience. They never disappoint and I’m sure that if they ever thought they might, then they just wouldn’t do it. They run through all of the classics from the original album and EP, this time adding the bonus of a guest appearance from Pete, playing bass on ‘Ready to Fight’, a song that he co-wrote. Not that many can see him playing as his arrival prompts a massive stage invasion… There’s a great cover of ‘Borstal Breakout’ and, right at the end of the set, a cover of the Weirdo’s classic ‘Solitary Confinement’. It’s a great finale, but unfortunately we don’t get an encore… I think this was down to the venue rather than the band, turning up the lights far too soon, but then again it’s always a great feeling when a gig leaves you wanting more rather than less. I can not recommend Negative Approach enough. I know that it’s easy to be cynical about bands reforming after such a long absence, especially when they do it without all of the original members, but the fact is, there are few hardcore bands you can still see who can play as well as this. Just go and see them, then try to tell me it isn’t the real deal…
PETER PERRETT / OH GUNQUIT. Somerstown Festival, 13/7/19. Somerstown Festival has been happening for quite a few years, but it’s only been in the last few that it’s expanded and become more ambitious. It has to be careful because, as a local community-based festival, it wouldn’t be able to cope with huge crowds, especially as it’s a free event, but so far it seems to be managing to keep the right balance. Basically, Chalton Street (halfway between Euston and Kings Cross) gets closed-off for the afternoon and the organisers fill it with stalls, several stages, funfair rides and places to buy food and drink. There’s a real mix of people but the important thing is the genuinely friendly and inclusive atmosphere. I really hope they can keep this going for a long time. Today, there are several bands that I’d like to see but some of them are playing early in the afternoon and, with the best intentions, I don’t manage to get there until 3.30. But at least I do get to see Oh Gunquit who play their set with all of their usual frenetic sense of fun. Always an act that will put a smile on your face. After they’ve played, there’s a gap of an hour or so, which gives me plenty of time to catch-up with various friends and have some food and drinks, before heading down to the main stage to get a good vantage point for the headliners, the Peter Perrett band. They seem to be having a few problems as they set-up, but eventually they’re ready to play and, despite some PA limitations, they sound great. Starting with an older song, ‘Baby Don’t Talk’, they then delve into songs from the previous album with the title track, ‘How The West Was Won’, slowly building but drawing-in the audience and their attention as it does so. This is a truly classic song, one that will go down as one of the best he’s ever written (and there’s plenty contending for that place already !) Further tracks from the last album follow, before the real treat of the day, as Peter welcomes John Perry and Alan Mair onstage for an Only Ones reunion ! They only play four songs together – ‘From Here to Eternity’, ‘The Whole of the Law’, ‘Another Girl,Another Planet’ and ‘In Betweens’ – but it’s a pleasure to see these guys playing together again (and in many ways, even more cool that they did it at a low profile event like this !) Sadly, Mike Kelly is no longer with us, but I wonder if this event was an indication that the material they recorded during their last reunion may finally see the light of day ? Fingers crossed ! Anyway, after these songs, Peters’ current band return and this time we get a selection of songs from the current album, ‘Humanworld’. This is really such a great record, with songs like ‘Once is Enough’, ‘Love Comes on Silent Feet’ and Jamie’s song ‘Master of Destruction’ perfectly fitting alongside his fathers’ work. My only complaint is that they didn’t play the excellent ‘I Want Your Dreams’, but I can wait for the next time. They finish their set with one of their more uptempo songs, ‘War Plan Red’, followed by a cover of the Velvet Undergrounds’ ‘What Goes On’ and, much that I still wanted to hear more, the finale couldn’t have been better than that. Peter Perretts’ return to the world of music is as good as it gets. There are many occasions when an ‘absent-legend’ gains credibility just by releasing any old waffle after a time away, but Perretts’ two solo albums have both been full of great material and it would take a real charlatan to claim otherwise. At present we have an opportunity to see him live with a great band and hear new records that add to his legacy. Be sure that you don’t miss your chance.
SCREAMING DEAD / THE PHOBICS. The Birds Nest, 13/7/19. As the Somerstown event ends by 7.00, it leaves plenty of time for more activity in the evening. I get a lift from Tom & Charlie of The Phobics as we’re all heading down to Deptford, where they’re scheduled to play with veteran horror-punks Screaming Dead. We get there pretty early, so I wander off to get something to eat while the bands are setting-up. Back to the pub and a decent-sized crowd is there to see the bands. It’s going to be a little different tonight as Moyni can’t play (the old war-wound is playing-up…) so Jeff is playing bass. Despite the staff-shortage, it still goes well and they play a great mix of older songs and tracks from the upcoming album. You gotta love dem Phobics (as the graffiti used to say…) I haven’t seen Screaming Dead since the mid-Eighties, but they used to be a decent band and I’m intrigued to see what they’ll be like now. Well, they actually sound really good and certainly play with as much energy as they used to have. They run through their songs at a convincing pace, including older favourites like ‘Valley of the Dead’ and ‘Night Creatures’ along with more recent material, plus covers of The Damneds’ ‘New Rose’ and ‘Love Song’ (they always reminded me of The Damned anyway) and towards the end of the set, ‘Paint It Black’ (which they’d released as a single back in 1984.) Only singer Sam Bignall delves into the more theatrical looks these days, with face-paint giving him a sinister appearance which perfectly matches the themes of the songs. The set goes down really well and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this band again. Anyone with a taste for The Ramones, Misfits and Damned should definitely check them out.
JOHNNY MOPED / BITE. Brighton Pipeline, 19/7/19. This was an event that I wasn’t going to miss, even before I knew who was playing ! My old friend John Roundear was about to reach his 70th birthday and his son, Chayre, was setting up a surprise party / gig for him. It took a few months to set-up, but Chayre had done a great job and had managed to keep everything secret. Initially, several Brighton bands were due to play but then Slimy Toad also volunteered the services of the Mopeds and the whole event became even more special. Anyway, everything worked out surprisingly smoothly for me as it’s possible to catch one of the late trains back to London and then the N89 night bus stops right next to Blackfriars station, which will take me all the way home to Erith. It’s a pretty long journey but as I had things to do over the rest of the weekend, it was pretty convenient. So, I catch a train down to Brighton and arrive at the venue just as John has turned-up and found out what was happening. He looks genuinely chuffed and everyone is buying him drinks, so I don’t think he could imagine it getting any better ! The Pipeline is a nice but fairly small venue (run by the same people who used to run The Pipeline in East London.) The place is very busy and there’s lots of people to talk with, so I have to admit that I miss a couple of bands, although I do see one called Bite, who apparently feature John’s grandson on drums (that’s three generations of Roundears who have played drums, don’t-cha-know ?) They’re all pretty young, but they play rather well and have some interesting songs, so not bad at all. But when it’s time for the Mopeds to play I make a point of getting a good vantage place as I know it’s going to be great seeing them in such a small place.
The big surprise is that some of the Mopeds haven’t turned-up and, for once, it isn’t Johnny ! Jacko and Martin have been unable to get to Brighton this evening, so Chayre has been drafted-in to play drums while former drummer Dave Berk is going to play bass ! You would think that this might be a recipe for disaster, but they actually play rather well, running through a set of mostly older songs with their usual panache. There were a few mistakes along the way but nothing horrendous and, well, it was a party-atmosphere so no-one was being critical. For some reason, Toad has brought an old crash-helmet and tries to get Johnny to wear it onstage… the reason for this was unclear and it didn’t last very long (it was a sweaty, crowded room, so a crash helmet would hardly be comfortable stage-wear !) Ahh, what can I say, it was really good fun and it also ends early enough so that there’s time for one more drink (and some cake) before we have to leave. This is when it gets a bit weird… despite it being a nice, warm evening upto about an hour ago, whilst we’ve been watching the Mopeds, a torrential downpour has developed. It’s only a short walk back to the station, but even with an umbrella I get soaked. Anyway, Johnny and Rob are also catching the train (in their case, back to Croydon) so I buy some beers at an off-license in case any of us felt thirsty on the way home… It just seemed like the right thing to do. So, I don’t get home until about 3.00 and I’ve been drenched, but what a great way to spend an evening !
POISON IDEA / DOMESTICS. Colchester Arts Centre, 30/7/19. Poison Idea have announced that this will be their final European Tour and, while I’m not so sure that will be the case (there have been a few ‘farewell’ shows in the past, but they always came back…) I’m not going to take any risks. As well as their date in London, they’re also going to play in Colchester which is just about do-able by train. It’s a great venue (a former church, no less) and they try to have gigs finished there by soon after 10.30 so that anyone who needs to catch the last train at 11.00 has a good chance of doing so. With odds like that, I definitely fancy my chances of seeing the gig and getting home ! So, straight after work, I catch the train from Stratford and an hour or so later, I’m sneaking backstage to catch up with Jerry A. Always good to see him and I’ve got to say, he’s looking really well these days. They’ve all been enjoying this tour so, again, whether it does turn out to be their last time remains debatable… why stop doing something if things are going well and all of the band are enjoying it ? The main support tonight are The Domestics who I don’t think I’ve seen before although I’ve heard / reviewed their records in the past. Live, they’re a pretty impressive unit, playing tight, fast hardcore with a confrontational edge. Very powerful and probably one of the best bands playing this style of hardcore in the UK right now. But it’s Poison Idea that everyone is here to see and fortunately, we don’t have to wait long. As soon as everything is set-up, they assemble onstage and launch into ‘Hangover Heartattack’, instantly grabbing the attention of everyone in the audience. From there on, it’s just one great song after another – ‘Just to Get Away’, ‘Punish Me’, ‘Taken By Surprise’, ‘Plastic Bomb’, the relatively recent ‘Calling All Ghosts’ and a truly blistering version of ‘Getting The Fear’. The thing is, they’ve all been suffering from colds during the past week or so and are still recovering (the drummer was asleep in the van prior to the gig) so this set isn’t even firing on all cylinders ! Regardless, they sound incredible. Perhaps they’re not as wild and unpredictable onstage as they once were, but now the music really speaks for itself and that’s what we really want. As it turns out, they play a shorter set than usual, with no encore, as the drummer still isn’t feeling great and has pretty much exhausted himself with this set. But I don’t think anyone felt short-changed and I’ll be seeing them again the following evening. I’ve got a few busy days ahead of me, gig-wise, but if this is an indication of how it’s going to go, it’ll be no problem at all.
POISON IDEA / BUTCHER BABY / INCISIONS. New Cross Inn, 31/7/19. I head down to New Cross pretty early as I know there’s going to be a lot of friends down for this gig, but I’m still surprised to see such a big crowd hanging around outside the venue. It’s a nice warm evening (and the off-license just across the road is a lot cheaper than the bar inside) so everyone is content to socialise outside and wander in to check out the support bands as they play. It’s a really great atmosphere and you just know that this is going to be a great gig even before it’s started. I bump into Jerry again and give him a bunch of singles from the ‘Fear & Loathing’ archives (he’s still a pretentious record collecting asshole after all these years, and I respect him for it !) I also point out the plaque on the side of the building that commemorates the Anti-Nazi’s who marched against the NF during the so-called ‘Battle of Lewisham’ back in 1977… ‘Hmm’, he says. ‘Perhaps we should play ‘Discontent’ tonight ?’ Of course they should ! Anyway, in the meantime, I have a few beers with a bunch of friends and check out the support bands. Incisions are a hardcore band who’ve come down from Manchester to play this gig and I’m glad they made the effort. Very powerful with a super- tight rhythm section holding everything together, they reflect influences from the early days of hardcore (Black Flag, Circle Jerks) through to some of the better moments of Epitaph’s glory days and even a few hints of the better Oi bands. Yup, this is definitely a band worth checking out further. Main support comes from Butcher Baby, a London band formed by members of The Restarts and Blue Carpet Band amongst others. Not unsurprisingly, they play a style that veers towards early Eighties UK punk and they do it pretty well but it all depends on if you’re still into that style of things now. They’re not really offering anything new, so you’re going to love ‘em or loathe ‘em. And, finally, it’s time for Poison Idea. The gig is totally sold out and I don’t think I’ve ever seen New Cross Inn so packed. As Poison Idea blast into their first song, the PA sounds great and the audience are really into it. I’m standing at the side of the stage with my camera, but even here I’m being jostled by slam dancers… no worries, you’ve got to expect that at a Poison Idea gig, especially one as good as this. They play a lot of the same songs as the night before, but the set-list is pretty different… halfway through, they deliver a stunning version of ‘Discontent’, as promised, and for me, it doesn’t get better than that, although ‘Taken By Surprise’, ‘Plastic Bomb’ and ‘Alan’s On Fire’ are high-up on the list. This really was one of the best times I’ve seen them and I’ve never seen them play a lack-lustre show. When the set comes to an end, they stay on stage rather than having to force their way through the crowd and I start yelling for ‘Getting The Fear’ for the encore, but sadly it’s not to be. No worries, they finish with one final song and then the place gradually empties. As I’ve said before, was this really their last gig in London ? If so, they really went out on a high, but while they’re still this great, it would be a shame if they never come back again… And 2020 is going to be their 40th Anniversary… it would be a real shame if they weren’t around to celebrate that !
DESCENDENTS / CJ RAMONE. Shepherds Bush Empire, 2/8/19. The Descendents are back at the Empire, scene of the infamous gig in 2011 when Milo’s voice collapsed after just a few songs… He’s managed to get things sorted-out since then and no such mishaps have occurred since that unfortunate evening, but unsurprisingly, Milo was a little nervous about being in that same place again. Although not as nervous as I was when I got to the venue only to find that my name wasn’t on the guestlist ! The swines ! Fortunately, I bump into old friend and former ALL roadie Mitch, who explains that the band are all asleep (suffering from jetlag) and he’ll try to get things sorted out but, in the meantime, I have to take him to the evil empire itself (Westfields) for some emergency shopping. Once this is done, he disappears backstage and luckily, Bill is now awake and my pass is quickly sorted. Aww, I love those guys ! Anyway, I’m finally inside and the main support, CJ Ramones’ band, are already onstage. They sound really good and play a mixed set of old Ramones classics and his own recent material with all the energy and attitude it deserves. It is a bit odd to see a former Ramone with a large beard and shaven head, but he’s just being true to himself and why shouldn’t he ? This is one of the few remaining links to that legendary band and he certainly put in the hard work to earn his name. He’s still playing with a good band and has a great selection of songs, old and new, to draw on. I really enjoy his set and I will certainly be checking out his recent records, as well as trying to catch him live next time he’s on tour. Once he’s done, I go back to find Mitch and we wander down to get a good vantage point by the side of the stage. I wasn’t intending to stay here all through the gig, but as it turns out, the view is really good and the sound is loud and clear, so that’s where we stick for the duration. As usual, the band members appear onstage right on time, with Milo immediately rambling about ‘that last time’, before the music kicks-off with ‘Suburban Home’. The crowd go mental, jumping, dancing and singing along. The Descendents are one of the few bands who may have been around for the best part of forty years, but their audience seems to get younger (or at least stay the same age it was previously) everytime they tour ! But it’s not surprising in many ways – they always wrote great songs that any generation can relate-to and the tunes are some of the catchiest you’ll hear from any band. With all the energy and power of punk and hardcore, but combined with the Pop sensibilities of the Beach Boys, Beatles, Ramones or Buzzcocks, this is a band who have written songs to soundtrack growing-up and kids are always going to latch on to them. Damn, all the waffling and they haven’t even reached the second song… ‘Everything Sux’ ! Hard to believe this is over twenty years old now… I still think of it as a recent album… But again, that’s part of their timelessness. Another oldie, ‘Hope’, before ‘On Paper’, one of the great tracks from their latest LP, ‘Hypercaffium Spazzinate’, which effortlessly show that the quality of the bands’ songwriting remains as high as it always has been. From here on, the setlist continues at a breakneck pace, covering all points of their career… ‘Silly Girl’, ‘Rotting Out’, ‘Clean Sheets’, ‘I Don’t Want to Grow Up’, ‘When I get Old’ and a great version of their most recent single, ‘Who We Are’. The set ends with a magnificent run of ‘Coolidge’, ‘Thank You’ and ‘Descendents’… how could it be any better than that ? Well, the applause and cheering is loud enough to bring the band back onstage pretty quickly, so we soon find out. ‘’Merican’, ‘I’m the One’, ‘Bikeage’ and the highly appropriate ‘Smile’ (“Toil away and at the end of the day, You can look back on a game well played”) Again, the cheering threatens to be louder than the gig we’ve just watched, so there’s one more encore featuring the classic ‘Pep Talk’ and the recent’ Fighting Myself’. It’s a long time since I first heard this band but they’ve never disappointed. Really nice guys and what a great band ! Long may it continue to be so.
THE AVENGERS. The Borderline, 3/8/19. Bit of a odd one tonight, as I’ve been going to this venue since the late Eighties and it’s recently been announced it will be closing-down at the end of this month. Another victim of the indiscriminate rents and business rates that plague Central London. Just consider how many venues there used to be in this small area which have all been closed down due to one unscrupulous scam or another… The Astoria, LA2, The 12 Bar, the Marquee, The Metro… and now The Borderline. Despite what they might claim, the politicians clearly don’t care about live music in this City, not when Big Money is involved. I wasn’t even a particular fan of The Borderline, but I’d much prefer it was still there as a live venue rather than not being there at all. Anyway… The Avengers are back in the UK to play at Rebellion and have booked several of their own dates around the country as well. Of course, with it being the same weekend as the aforementioned festival, it does mean that a lot of people who would normally attend their show in London are currently in Blackpool, but regardless, there’s still a good turn-out for this show. It’s an early start – 9.00 – and there’s no support band which seems a bit odd (perhaps the venue staff are feeling apathetic going into the last few weeks of their job ?) but at least that means everything runs pretty smoothly. The band arrive onstage and after a few technical adjustments, start with a brief instrumental intro before Penelope joins them and they launch into ‘We Are The One’. Unlike their previous London gig at The Garage, where the PA sound really let them down, everything is sounding great tonight, really clear and loud, even despite the hiccups that Joel is having with his bass amp. A few songs in and Penelope asks if there are any teenagers in the audience, only to be met with nervous sniggering… ‘Oh, well’, she continues, ‘I guess this one will have to be for the teenagers-at-heart’ and the band blast through ‘Teenage Rebel’. ‘Corpus Christi’ makes an unusually early appearance in the set but that’s not a problem as it sounds great wherever it is, while ‘Uh-Oh’ features Penelope and Joel’s rather suggestive duet and ‘Second to None’ still sounds even better than The Professionals eventual version (‘One-Two-Three’ – the song was originally written by Steve Jones but was first recorded by the Avengers when he produced a studio-session for them in 1979.) The set comes to an end with a run of their best known songs, ‘Open Your Eyes’, ‘Car Crash’, their cover of ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘The American in Me’… of course, the applause quickly brings the band back to the stage, although Joel has to explain that ‘our singer is so famous that you need to cheer louder to bring her back !’ Penelope appears moments later oblivious to the wind-up that Joel had just delivered. The encore features another cover, ‘Money’, promptly followed by their own classic, ‘I Believe In Me’ and the evening ends with the whole crowd sporting big smiles across their faces. As soon as their equipment is made safe, all the band members come out to the bar area and chat with their fans and friends. For many years I never expected to see this band play live, but I’m glad to say that I’ve had the chance on several occasions and they’ve more than lived up to expectations, both as musicians and as people. Trust me, this is a band you need to see !
WALTER LURE / THE DERELLAS. 100 Club, 10/8/19. As the last remaining Heartbreaker and the one who actually regained his health, Walter Lure remains a vital link to the glorious legacy of his former band. Fortunately for us, he also still enjoys travelling and performing, so we’ve been lucky enough to see him play in London several times over the last decade. But this occasion, a (slightly late) celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the classic ‘LAMF’ album is something a bit different. Instead of the (very good) band that he usually plays with, this time he has special guests in the shape of Mick Rossi (Slaughter & The Dogs), Mark Laff (ex-Generation X) and Nigel Mead of The Duellists. This line-up isn’t likely to be repeated so it’s something that can’t be missed, but I’m still surprised when I get to the 100 Club and find it as packed as it was. Seriously, I haven’t seen it this crowded for ages and, while the band certainly deserve the attention, the problem is that there are a few idiots in the audience who seem to have no consideration for those around them. Intent on barging through the crowd or refusing to let others pass by, these are just the sort of selfish twats we can do without. Yeah, I know it can be frustrating when a venue is as busy as it was this evening, but acting like a moron isn’t going to make it any better. Regardless, I enjoy The DeRellas as much as usual. Energised by the enthusiastic atmosphere, they play with plenty of gusto and sound better than ever. I haven’t seen them for a while, but when I see them deliver a set like this, you can’t help but want to see them again, soon. And then, it’s time for Walter Lure’s band… the place is really buzzing as they take to the stage and, when they kick-off with ‘One Track Mind’, it seems as if the whole place is up on its’ feet and dancing. Classics like ‘All By Myself’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ follow in quick succession, before the first surprise of the evening, a cover of Slaughter & The Dogs’ ‘Situations’ which, while it isn’t one of their more well-known tracks, fits-in perfectly with the Heartbreakers-vibe of the evening. Not to be outdone, Walter then introduces ‘Crazy Kids’ from his post-Heartbreakers band, The Waldos, and very good it is too. Another cover, ‘Busted’ (made famous by both Ray Charles and Johnny Cash) takes a slower more Bluesy tempo but keeps the attitude levels high, before one more SATD cover, ‘Stranded’, from their most recent LP, ‘Vicious’. But back to the main event, and now it’s time for ‘Pirate Love’, Get Off The Phone’ (which should have been dedicated to all the cell-phone zombies) ‘Born to Lose’ and ‘Chinese Rocks’. The audience are all looking breathless and it’s hard to tell if it’s the sweaty, claustrophobic conditions in the club or the sheer quality of the music. ‘Too Much Junkie Business’ ends the main set before the cheers quickly bring the band back onstage for two more. Appropriately, they play a great cover of ‘I’m Waiting For My Man’, before ‘Do You Love Me’, another cover but one pretty much owned by The Heartbreakers. Overall, it hadn’t been a particularly long set, but it had packed-in everything that we wanted. A short time after the lights go up, the band all come out to chat with the fans and it’s a cool end to the evening. People who saw the original Heartbreakers back in the day always tell me that they were an incredible live band. Walter Lure on his own may only be one part of that band, but he really does his best to live up to that reputation and certainly never lets us down.
THE SHADRACKS / DAEMONIC FONCE / YOUNG KNIVES @ Clerkenwell Festival, 25/8/19. Last years’ festival had to be cancelled at short-notice when unexpected torrents of rain hit London (I blame it on Boris) so it was typical that this year we were treated to a veritable heatwave. Which meant that shady-space under the trees was at a premium and the local pubs / off-licenses made a killing ! Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that… Spa Fields is a lovely little public area, perfect for a (relatively) small event like this and I hope that it continues for many years to come. It has a real community-atmosphere, even though many of the attendees aren’t necessarily local. But everyone’s there for the same reasons, to have a good time. Whilst it stays like this, it’ll be one of the best free days-out you’ll find in London. The main attraction may be the bands, but there’s also plenty more to enjoy…The Dog Show (forget Crufts, this is the real deal… where else do you find prizes for ‘Dog Who Looks Most Like Its’ Owner’ ?) and the wonderful Rock’n’Roll Jumble Sale stalls. It’s also a great social event and you’re guaranteed to meets lots of friends as well as at least a few new faces. It’s this overall atmosphere that makes things special because I do have to admit that most of the musical selections this year weren’t that great. There’s a couple of singer-songwriter types that are instantly-forgettable and headliners Young Knives are nothing special at all, although The Shadracks do their best to inject some energy into the proceedings. This Medway-based three-piece are still pretty young, but they’ve got a good knowledge of their musical roots (Sixties Garage and Seventies Punk Rock) which they inject into their own songs in a way that avoids being too obvious or predictable. There may be a few Childish-comparisons along the way, but they’ve steadily got better and better every time I’ve seen them and are definitely starting to create their own character. A great, snotty version of the Buzzcocks’ ‘Boredom’ was a fine highlight of their set, although their own songs were no less enjoyable. After them, another band, DaemonicFonce (the spelling seems to vary depending on where you read it.) These chaps are at the very least interesting and I also watch their set all the way through. I’m not entirely convinced, but their mix of psychedelia and punk-post-punk ethics certainly has them going in the right direction. I won’t claim to know much about them, but certainly worth further investigation and ones to keep an eye and / or ear open for… But after that, musically, the afternoon whimpered-out. Which is possibly down to my taste rather than anything else, as the event does try to cover a broad ground. Whatever, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I got home early and I’m already looking-forward to next year !
HOLLYWOOD BRATS / THE VULZ @ Nells, Kensington, 31/8/19. There was a lot of anticipation for this event, the return of the Hollywood Brats after 45 years ! Well, since the publication of Andrew Mathesons’ excellent biography of the band, ‘Sick On You’, and the subsequent release of their original recordings as a double CD (also entitled ‘Sick On You’) there was certainly plenty of interest in the possibility that the band might play again. But that being said, the eventual announcement still came as a sudden surprise. Three original members – Andrew, Brady and Casino Steel – would still be involved, while the rhythm section would be handled by Kent Norberg and Martin H-son (both members of the current line-up of The Boys, appropriately enough.) Reforming after 45 years isn’t something that many bands would consider, but having seen Andrew make a few guest appearances with other bands, I knew that his voice still sounded great and the rest of the band were certainly capable, musically, so I had high hopes. Unsurprisingly, the gig sold out in advance and the place is already packed, hot and sweaty by the time we arrive. The Vulz take to the stage pretty soon and deliver a decent set of punky-glam-rock’n’roll which is a decent way to get proceedings moving-along, even ending their set with a good version of ‘First Time’ by The Boys. But the real focus of the audience is waiting for the Brats. There seems to be quite a long gap while everything is set-up for the band, but at last, they walk out onstage, with Andrew joining them last. He’s grown his hair longer than the last time I saw him, still looking as suave and debonair as always… We may have been waiting more than four decades for this gig, but now they’re onstage, they don’t mess around, launching into ‘Tumble With Me’ and ‘Chez Maximes’ with all the energy and attitude that the songs deserve.
Right from the outset, they sound amazing, even better than what most fans had even hoped for. By all usual standards, they really shouldn’t have been this good, but they lived up to the legend with real style and panache. The set continues with more of their old songs like ‘Courtesan’ and ‘Nightmare’, a cover of ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ and even a brand new track, soon to be released as a single, called ‘Vampire Nazi’ (isn’t that a great title !) Another cover sees the appearance of long-time Brats fan, Flob Geldof, joining Andrew to sing ‘I Need You’. Fortunately, his mic isn’t turned up too loud in the PA, so he doesn’t ruin it… The set lasts just over an hour, climaxing with their infamous version of ‘Then He Kissed Me’ and, of course, ‘Sick On You’. The applause is loud and enthusiastic, but for some reason they don’t play an encore and, somehow, it seemed just right that they left us all wanting-more. I have no idea of what further plans they may have to follow-on from this gig, apart from the upcoming single, but I can’t imagine they’ll keep us waiting another 45 years for another show ! In the meantime, if you’re not already a fan, be sure to read ‘Sick On You’ and buy the CD… you’ll soon be kicking yourself and wishing you’d been at this gig.
CRISIS / HYGIENE. The Fiddler, Kilburn, 18/9/19. Coinciding with the release of the first single by the current version of Crisis, this was going to be the first time I’d seen the band for a while. I turned up quite early with Vince (Morgellons) and promptly found that we should have booked tickets in advance (as they were £3.50 more on the door !) but apart from that, this proved to be a pretty nice little venue, perfect for a gig like this (and it serves a very nice pint of Guinness !) The first band, Hygiene, have been around for a while, although I was told that this is a pretty new line-up. Whatever the case, they weren’t bad, playing a sort of ‘post-punk’ style reminiscent of the type of bands played by John Peel around 1980. Some of their songs were more successful than others, but the set certainly suggested that they’re working in the right direction. By the time Crisis take to the stage, there’s a healthy audience in attendance and they’re greeted with plenty of enthusiasm. I have to say, it’s well-deserved, as this is probably the best gig I’ve seen them play so far. The sound is really powerful and, with several new songs in the set, they seem even more focused. They also have a new drummer (Aurora ?) whose style is very well-suited for their overall sound, adding just the right element of strength and precision. The set starts right at their beginning, with ‘No Town Hall’ and ‘PC 1984’, followed by a great, atmospheric version of ‘White Youth’, before the first new song of this set, which I think was called ‘Escalator’. ‘Back in the USSR’ follows before the a-side of the new single, ‘The Hammer and the Anvil’. I know that, initially, Tony Wakeford had not intended to write or record fresh material as ‘Crisis’, but with new singer Lloyd being inspired to write lyrics that fitted well with the original Crisis ethos, Tony and the rest of the band have created new music that really takes things forward. Just listen to the new single – it stands alongside the original songs but also takes another step further along. You’d have to be a real cynic not to recognise this, and this evening, the audience are certainly not going to fall for that stance. The set continues through all stages of the bands’ past, from the rough’n’ready punk rock of ‘Militant’ and ‘Kill Kill Kill’ through to the more involved personality of songs like ‘Laughing’, ‘Alienation’ and ‘Holocaust’, as well as further new songs like ‘Dead on the Shelf’, ‘Deeds Not Words’ and ‘At the Door’. Apart from Tony, this is an entirely new line-up, but one that understands how the original band evolved. As such, they’re creating their own sound, but making sure that it remains in keeping with the original band. The results to date have been pretty impressive. An encore of ‘On TV’ ends the night and I doubt that anyone here was disappointed. Crisis may be missing most of their original members, but for once, this is a new version that seems to be creating a whole new and completely valid chapter in the story of the band.
THURSTON MOORE BAND. Rough Trade East, 20/9/19. I turned-up way too early for this gig. The RT website had said the gig started at 6.00, but on the evening it wasn’t until 7.00. Consequently, I had to hang around for a while until some friends arrived, before we sneaked-off for a quick beer. Back at the gig, the shop is pretty crowded by the time the band take to the stage. The event is being held to launch the release of the new 3CD set, ‘Spirit Counsel’ and, as such, the band play a more experimental, instrumental set this evening. In some ways it refers back towards the music that Thurston once made with Glenn Branca, based around four guitars and the different textures and harmonics that they can create. The sounds develop gradually, at times almost drone-like and at others more bombastic or even brutal, but always entirely intriguing. It’s difficult to explain this in words as this is the kind of performance that really has to be witnessed, but if you are interested in Thurstons’ more experimental projects, this is something that you should check-out.
JUDGE / FIRM STANDING LAW / TIED DOWN. The Dome, 27/9/19. Judge were always one of the more controversial bands to emerge for the New York ‘Youth Crew’ hardcore scene. Their militant approach to the straight-edge message certainly irritated many of the naysayers, but in reality, their approach was really a reaction to the negative response encountered by earlier bands like Youth of Today when they had attempted to promote a basically positive ideal. Judge merely mirrored the accusations of the critics who had missed the point and, in essence, that wasn’t so bad, but such a stance can also appeal to the idiots who just want to start trouble. The band probably never meant for that to happen but unfortunately, there’s no accounting for morons. So… in their time, they released one great EP and one (if you exclude the ‘Chung King’ sessions) great album (less said about the ‘There Will Be Quiet’ EP, the better.) I missed them when they first played London a couple of years ago (gig-clash) but was keen to see them this time. I had heard some poor reports about their previous show, but I remained optimistic that if they were returning to Europe, they must have faith that any previous problems were an aberration and they could prove their point second time around. Anyway, it turns out that the original running order for the gig has changed around since I last checked, so I arrive in time to see Tied Down play a good set of UK hardcore mixed with old school US hardcore (Negative Approach, Slapshot etc.) Featuring former members of Voorhees and Break it Up, this is a band who know what they’re doing and certainly deserve to be seen and heard. Main support comes from Firm Standing Law who, I have to say, don’t really match up to Tied Down. They play a decent take on straight-edge hardcore but their onstage presence is lacking the same validity that Tied Down present. That being said, as far as I can make out, they’re still a fairly new band so there’s plenty of time for them to get things sorted. Not bad, but not (yet) something special. But now it’s time for Judge and I have to say, as soon as they hit the stage, they’re sounding great. The set pretty-much follows the running order of their ‘Bringin’ It Down’ LP and it sounds better than ever. ‘Take Me Away’, ‘Hold Me Back’, ‘Give It Up’… even ‘The Storm’ is sounding great. Mike is an impressive presence onstage, whilst Porcell provides all of the movement and dynamics. I’m very impressed by the band, even though certain elements of the audience are less welcomed (why be a wanker ? If you want to slam into someone, pick on Boris or Farage, not someone who’s just there to enjoy the same band that you like ?) As it continues, there’s a guest appearance from CIV (from the band of the same name) and the encore features ‘New York Crew’ from the first EP and their cover of the Blitz song ‘Warriors’ from the same record… Mike might not be able to replicate the harmonies from the original, but he and the band still capture the spirit of this classic. I hadn’t been entirely certain in advance that Judge would match up to expectations, but on this occasion, they more than met what I had hoped for. If they come back again, do yourself a favour and be sure that you check then out.