Thursday, 22 June 2017

Isle Of Wight Festival 2017 - Part Four - Every Time You Close Your Eyes

Saturday 12th June (cont).

So after a bit of a break the Isle Of Wight saga continues. I was emotionally drained from the last entry and needed time, man. Plus I had a day in Sheffield with my girlfriend, wrote the Cask Corner quiz, had internet issues and was just generally lazy. Talk Talk have blamed the weather and/or a non-existent pet for the internet issues. Plus I wrote the whole thing then managed to delete it all somehow, which is a shame 'cos there were some really good bits that I can't remember now. Me and technology just don't get on.

You find me back in the Big Top VIP bar trying to compose myself after Bang bang Romeo's blistering set. I would have chilled in the dressing room probably until their Hard Rock set on the Sunday but The Strawberries were due on stage at This Feeling Jack Rocks so I was back out into the blistering sun, speed walking my way across the site. I'm not built for speed. I'm not even sure I'm built for walking. Hammocks I can do but they were sadly lacking this year.

My relationship with The Strawberries began at Leeds Fest last year and they are firmly installed as one of my favourites of the up coming crop. Ridiculously young but with a sound that harks back to the best in psychedelic rock whilst still remaining fresh and original. Kind of retro way ahead of their time. (I've realised writing this I love an oxymoron). Their presence and musicianship is impeccable. New single 'She Rhymes To Get Away' is simply one of the greatest songs I've ever heard. 

The Strawberries
I could talk about The Strawberries for ages but we've a lot to get through.They are joined on stage for the last song, 'Laburnum House', by Tom from The Blinders (another one of my favourites - actually can we just take it as read that virtually every band mentioned here are one of my favourites).

Sam Strawberry & Tom Blinder
This happened a lot on the This Feeling stage this weekend and kind of sums the whole thing up. All the bands hang out together back stage and are stage front (or, as mentioned, on stage) when their compadres are playing. Not just at festivals though. You go to any This Feeling gig and you will see members of other bands in the crowd. I said last year how it felt like one big family, it's moved on from that. It feels like a movement now - a defiant rallying call against all those saying guitar music is dead and that there are no quality new bands anymore. There really is. They're here right now and it doesn't take too much effort to find them. Go to any This Feeling gig and you will come away having seen your new favourite band (or more than likely bands). Mikey Jonns will go down in music history as the man who has worked his arse off, for over ten years now, to give these bands a deserved platform. With people like Aaron Procter and George Holmes tirelessly grafting too, not just at festivals but at gigs across the country, week in, week out there really is no end to how far this movement can go. I feel very honoured and very lucky to be a very small part of it. Of course none of this could happen without the talent and it is testament to every act that played that the This Feeling Jack Rocks tent was pretty much rammed all weekend. 

Backstage Heavy Suns have arrived and are already on it, I talk football kits with Ross Micklethwaite (his chosen stage attire for Sunday is a rather fetching Barnsley shirt circa 1989), The Shimmer Band cruise in and I drunkenly tell them how much I love them. (Seriously, it was a proper arms round the shoulders, 'You're my besht mate, I love you,' moment. I'm still cringing about it). The Blinders are hanging out with Strange Bones, Mint (with damaged bass player) are deep in conversation with The Surrenders, Paves are telling The Jackobins about my hugs, The Assist are having a kickabout. I love this.

The Blinders are next up, probably the most talked about band this year. Not only the most exciting band I've seen recently but probably ever. Even if you're not a fan you simply can't ignore them. Tom Haywood resplendent in a Native American headdress and obligatory face make up, Matty Neale a frenzied ball of sweat on drums - the perfect juxtaposition to the ever-cool Charlie McGough on bass. (I'm sure being that good looking must be illegal). 

(I may owe Alan Wells photo credit here. Even if I don't credit to Alan for being a seriously top bloke).

The Blinders beg, plead, insist and demand that you listen to them. They pound their way into your mind, your heart and your soul. They are simply a force of nature. 

Back backstage and I arrange an Arcade Fire date with Tom before heading to the Hard Rock stage to catch Paves. I've not seen Paves for well over 8 months and it's been far too long. A blues/rock outfit who play with the assured certainty of Ronnie Scott veterans. Luke's vocal belies his slender frame, gorgeous and powerful in equal measure. Another high energy performance, Luke, Perry and Tikz are never still while Tom is just a blur on drums. I've never seen them complete a set without at least one member departing the stage (Perry's stage dive at Leeds Fest is the stuff of legend now). It's Tikz this time who finds himself in the photo pit, for a considerable length of time. It's a killer of a stage to get back on. 

Picture credit Alex Voss
It's another blistering set from a band destined for bigger and better. I nicked this video from their facebook page:

Time for another wander, The Kooks on the main stage. I like The Kooks but it's still all sounding a bit flat down there. I wander back to my tent to grab some more contraband beer and stumble across Mel C at the Big Top. Bizarrely this is the second time I've seen her live. She was at V99, probably one of her first solo gigs. She sang Anarchy In The UK ('I am an antichrist, I am a Sporty Spice'). That went down well. Today though she was sounding (and looking) good. Beers grabbed and smuggled in. I say smuggled, I'd still only had the one altercation with security and I'm back at This Feeling to catch the end of Strange Bones - another joyous raucous wall of noise. I saw them recently at Donny Social but really wish I'd caught the full IOW set and not dithered about Kooking etc. 

The Wholls are next up. BBR stablemates on ZY Records and another band I'm seeing for the first time. The Wholls are simply pure, infectious rock 'n' roll. Right from the off your feet are going, then you're grinning inanely before your body follows what your feet started. Another band to check out at your earliest convenience. 

The Wholls - Thanks to This Feeling for the pic

Next up are the two bands I've not seen before who I'm most excited about seeing - Arcade Fire on the main stage but first The Shimmer Band at This Feeling. I love The Shimmer Band (we've established that) but managed to keep missing them live for a variety of reasons. The Bristol 5 piece kick straight into What Is Mine and from the off they have the crowd in the palms of their hands. It's another wall of noise, this time majestic, exhilarating, anthemic, euphoric. If The Stone Roses hadn't had the enforced hiatus between their two albums this is the band they would have mutated into. Only not as good. Tom Newman can sing for one thing. They are my favourite addiction. I stand by my drunken I love you. 

The Shimmer Band
Again I could talk all night about The Shimmer Band but time is pressing and I don't think I could ever articulate just how staggeringly good they are.

We head to the main stage where Arcade Fire are already up and running. Amazingly we find all our fellow travellers and get pretty close to the front. Sadly this is more than likely down to poor ticket sales. I count ten people on stage. It could be more. My eyesight isn't what it was. There's a lot of interchanging of instruments too just to confuse me. With 5 albums to go at (including next month's release Everything Now) they have quite the catalogue to throw our way. At times maybe a tad self indulgent but you kind of expect that from Arcade Fire. We get three new songs, we get Rebellion (Lies), we get The Suburbs, we get Neighbourhood #1 & #3, (Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) comes complete with a Saynor/Sercombe kazoo duet. We nailed it). It's absolute pandemonium. A host of people simply having a good time and embracing the quality that is Arcade Fire. At one point myself and Joel have Blinders' Tom stood on our shoulders, briefly. Balance was an issue and he went crashing into the crowd. 

This video says way more about the gig than I ever could - the BBR/Paves/Blinders/Arcade Fire love-in. I'll be honest, I was flagging.

They end with Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), (Arcade Fire love brackets as much as me), and it's back to the tents, stopping off for Ross to get all rock star as we have an impromptu Chemical singalong.

Groupies aren't what they used to be
Apart from a few post gig beers that was Saturday. We'll get to the end of this marathon blog eventually. I'm pencilling in Monday. (Saturday has a wedding, Sunday has a radio show and a visiting girlfriend). 


Monday, 19 June 2017

Isle Of Wight Festival 2017 Part Three - The Tears Of A Clown

Saturday 10th June

So 2am finds myself, Sam and Holly waiting for the Bang Bang Romeo charabanc to touch down. Quite a week for the band: Oxford on Wednesday with Starsailor, recording some TV on Thursday, the NME Lock In on Friday, an acoustic set on the ferry from Southampton and now gearing up for 3 sets at the IOW Festival (Big Top, Hard Rocks & This Feeling). You can never accuse them of not putting the work in. 

They followed the beacon in (I'm sure the hat is the only reason I keep getting invited back) and after hugs it was back to camp, apart from Joel and Alan (Joel's Dad, van driver, bass player with Monkey Dust and all round top bloke) who went to see what this year's site had to offer.

I awoke to find the the sun had done it's thing on the Friday. And to think I'd told everyone they'd need wellies

Either that or I'd been sleepwalking through white paint.

A more successful shower this morning before the compulsory wander for bacon and coffee. Inexplicably ended up with a waffle instead of bacon. Bumped into Paves again. Two days in and I'm already in a routine. Also bumped into Sharron and TV's Chris Walker, which was a relief. Chris too had caught the sun. For me its just meant trying not to leave my DNA everywhere all week as the inevitable happened. For Chris it meant explaining to his Doctors bosses that they'll have to rewrite some kind of Sergeant Rob Hollins in mystery sunburn in October incident (he's currently filming Halloween stuff). Either that or spend six hours in make up.

Today was gig day for Bang Bang Romeo, Big Top - same as last year but in a better slot, 2.45. It was also the only two must see bands on the main stage day for me - Slow Readers Club and Arcade Fire. First job was to sort all the Big Top passes out. I say job, I just followed Sam and the band around as they liaised with their management (ZY Records) to get everyone sorted. The later slot meant I could check out the opening band on This Feeling, The Surrenders. A band that effortlessly mix blues and psychedelic rock and deliver it with style and panache. Seriously, these guys were class. 

We got the call that all the passes were ready and we could get into the Big Top dressing room. As Slow Readers Club took to the main stage I was rounding people up and trying to be useful. I could hear them, just couldn't see them. It almost counts. Once again Sam forbade me to carry owt (bloody hernia. Bizarrely very few people seemed interested in seeing or touching it. Shame. I like to share) so I just sat in the dressing room charging my phone and drinking the band's beer and explaining to anyone who would listen about my relationship with BBR (7 years now. That's more than some of my marriages put together) while Stars' team got to work.

We left the band to get stage ready and retired to the VIP Big Top bar pre gig. (I know right!! I am very, very aware of how lucky I am). Bumped into the omnipresent Jimmy Mac for the first of about 80 times that weekend. Jimmy is a grafter. So much so that I'm certain he's cloned himself. No man can do that much work and be in that many places. Last year at the Big Top the band started with a decent sized crowd that grew as they played. This year it was already heaving before they set foot on stage. 

Pretty much since Leeds Fest last year the band have been camped in the studios recording their debut album. When that hits it's gonna be a monster. As per, the songwriting machine that is Ross Cameron has been churning out gem after gem. There are three relatively new songs in today's set. They start with 'Johannesburg' from the Chris Kimsey produced 'We Were Born' EP. Joel's bass leading the band into a gorgeous dusk laden nightmare.

Joel Philips

The band seem to have gone up yet another level. Joel Philips and Richard Gartland are as tight a rhythm section as you will find. They've found that telepathy that all great rhythm sections need. Joel's fluidity letting Rich throw in fills that you wonder how he'll ever get out of. You're still wondering as the songs fly to further heights. 

Richard Gartland

All this allows Ross to twist his guitar straight through the heart of the songs whilst simultaneously caressing them, sometimes to within an inch of their lives. When you wake up at night thinking you've heard a noise and don't know whether to be scared or relieved that all is safe? That's Ross Cameron's guitar. 

Plus, to quote Radio X's Gordon Smart, 'He's too good looking to be a man'. I'm not jealous at all.

Ross Cameron
The band make a glorious, sumptuous, monstrous, massive beautiful noise. It's needed to back the sheer power of Anastasia Walker's voice. I honestly believe that no other musicians could do credit to the weapons that Stars has in her locker. They are truly a band. More than a band. A gang. A powerhouse. A complete unit up there on stage. Of the highest magnitude.

Anastasia Walker
The band power through the Cameron/Walker penned new song that is 'Runaway' before the opening licks of 'You And I'. Any band, ANY BAND, on the planet would kill just for the intro. Stars sings of a 'loaded pistol' and that's just how the band deliver it. Richard's gunfire pounding beat deflected by Ross' impenetrable guitar as Stars voice soars and dives through every soul there. Many, many words will be written in years to come about the power, range and magnificence of this voice. None will do it justice. 

'Cemetery' is next up. First time I've heard it live for a couple of years at least. It's always had a special spot for me. Not only is it a stunning tune but with the parenthesised 'Ode To The Independent Record Store' it was always gonna have a place in my heart. Sadly my record shop is no more. Cemetery indeed. Still, it's good to have it back sounding better than ever. 

New single (released the same day) 'Chemical' follows. It's the song I've heard the band perform most. Ross wrote it many, many years ago. This new reworking is sublime though. It's the sound of a band who know just how good they are and just where they are going. It's a breathtaking plea that love must be more than just a chemical reaction. Musically and lyrically it has taken on it's own life. It's a force of nature. If you haven't bought it yet do so. 


Despite the countless times I've heard it before it is 'Chemical' that brings the first tear to my eye. Seeing a band (and your mates) on a big stage, tearing it up, looking like they were born to be there is just something I don't think I'll ever get tired of witnessing. I am indescribably proud of these guys.

Two new songs follow. 'Natural Born Astronaut' is as close to pop as they get but it still undoubtedly has the BBR hallmark. The chorus is ridiculously infectious. Stand out moment has to be the 5,4,3,2,1 countdown mid song that you fully expect to lead into a joyous cacophony but instead we get an acapella Stars sounding almost vulnerable. Once more an example of the supreme songwriting that abounds here. Interestingly Astronaut is Greek for Starsailor. Given the relationship the two bands have built recently (Starsailor's Barry Westhead has played keys live with BBR a few times now and appears on the upcoming debut album) it's wonderfully apt. Things slow down with the gorgeous, melancholic 'Beautiful World'. I'm not the only one crying now.

Former closer 'Invitation' is the penultimate song of the set, still a rousing beast of a song. The 'I have a question' call and response getting louder every time. Stars stage presence is second to none. You have a feeling right there that anything she asked of the crowd she'd get.

A reworked Adore Me is installed as set closer now. It is, and has always been, not only a thing of beauty but one of my favourite songs ever. It is haunting. It's a desperate plea to be loved. It's a plea that can't be resisted. (On a personal note the band dedicated this song to me at Tramlines 2 years ago just as I was undergoing heart surgery. I can never thank them enough for that). Now though the song mutates into a raucous finale. Stars says her farewells and the band take centre stage thrashing every last drop out of the emotion sodden Big Top. Joel in particular looks every bit the rock star as he batters his bass into submission. I'm not just crying now. I'm roaring. I don't care. It's tempting to steal Jon Landau's 'I saw the future of rock 'n' roll' quote on seeing Springsteen for the first time. They were that good.

The world truly is theirs.

Just writing this has left me emotionally drained again. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Many thanks to Rutherford Photography for the use of the BBR photos.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Isle Of Wight Festival 2017 Part Two - It's A Waiting Game

Friday 8th June

So the rain finally wandered off at about 2am having failed to break the IOW spirit. The acid reflux had been lansoprazoled to hell and I slept. By the time I woke the sun was giving it the full beams. I sat half in, half out my tent and reflected. I was warm and dry. I'd already seen some quality bands. OK my phone and camera were dead but my mates were arriving today. All was good.

Last year I didn't brave the showers and kidded myself that wet wipes would keep me fresh. They really don't. So showers it is. There's no pleasant way of saying this. The first cubicle I went in had a turd in it. I mean, c'mon!! The toilets can be seen from the showers, it's hardly a long walk, and failing that we're surrounded by bloody fields. Who felt the need to crap in a shower? Twat. I quickly dived in the second cubicle. All good. Thought I'd just check the flow. It went everywhere. Clothes soaked. Again. Still, at least it worked. Got in the shower properly only to find out I'd picked up my mouthwash instead of shower gel from the tent. I also found out that stood under the shower the flow did in fact go everywhere apart from on me. Managed to miss me totally. And I'm a big unit! So ten minutes of dancing around getting wet I come out smelling minty fresh. Except the showers were boiling so I came out sweating more than when I went in. Still better than wet wipes though. And the sun was shining and my mates were arriving later etc.

The plan was that two car loads of my fellow festival goers would be on the 1pm ferry while the band would be arriving in the early hours having played the inaugural NME Lock In in that London on Friday evening. I wandered into the site in search of bacon and a coffee and with the hope of bumping into Chris and Sharron. I didn't. I did bump into the Paves though which is always a pleasure. Singer Luke had managed to stay dry all Thursday night till some 6'5" idiot in a soaking wet orange poncho leapt on him. I apologised. Luke has long championed the healing properties of my hugs (it's due to the stupidly long arms) and booked one in for 5pm Saturday around the time of their Hard Rock Stage set.

I carried on my wander, found the greatest coffee ever but no Chris. Obviously I have no relevant photos now but here's one I took earlier.

There was bugger all happening musically so I loitered in my tent with beer and an unresponsive phone. It did kick in long enough for me to message Sam (driver of car 2 carrying the WAGS (Charlotte, Katrina, Holly and Alanah (technically not a WAG but, er, hang on, I've totally lost track of theses brackets now))). I think that's right. Told Sam my phone was dying and I'd meet them at the same place we camped last year. Got the message back to say they were gonna miss their ferry then my phone gave up completely.

It was still sunny but very windy so I failed to notice my legs gently sizzling on gas mark 8 as I waited. Thankfully not for long. Sarah, Patch and Robbo (3 welcome additions to last year's expedition) hadn't missed the ferry and trollied up desperate to make camp before the rest arrived. Robbo had bought his tent only the day before. I say tent. It was a blow up mansion. We could have hosted dinner parties in it. (I think it's where Bang Bang Romeo filmed the Chemical video - yeah you've not seen that yet have you. Well when you do you'll get it). The third wave finally landed at about 5pm. We battled with new tents and the wind and moved pop up tents round till we had our 'circle of love'. I nearly herniated my hernia trying to blow up an air bed. I'm 49 you know. We could hear Rag 'N' Bone Man in the distance and decided we should finally go check out some music.

Kaiser Chiefs.

Sorry for the language but for fuck's sake! 

I agreed to go, one, 'cos I wanted the company and, two, to show how awful they are. They didn't let me down. OK the sound wasn't great, the wind was taking some of it on a merry dance somewhere above The Solent and the screens weren't working but Kaiser Chiefs bravely battled against this to show what an appalling band they have become. Not sure if it's coming across but I'm not a fan.

We headed promptly back to This Feeling Jack Rocks stage where Aaron Procter kindly furnished us with back stage wristbands and we ligged between bands. Told Mint and Plastic People how awesome I thought they were, kissed one of The Blinders (Matty I think, it's already getting hazy) and generally hugged people. It would be impossible to mention every band I saw at This Feeling so sadly I'm gonna have to cherry pick a bit. Broken Witt Rebels get the award for most improved. They've gelled into a seriously tight rock 'n' roll band and easily went on my 'gotta see again soon list'. 

We headed over to the Big Top to catch the end of Alison Moyet's set, the second best singer appearing on that stage this weekend. There was a desire from some of the group to catch Run DMC on the main stage. I was never a huge fan and again a band battling against dodgy sound. They also seemed intent on alienating 98% of the crowd by dedicating every song to the 'real' Run DMC fans who had been with them since the '80s. Really wish I'd stuck to my guns and watched The Jackobins.

Back to the Big Top for The Pretenders, another of my all time favourites although I'd not seen them since 1987! They were magnificent. Chrissie Hynde has never sounded (or looked) better. Before one song she dedicated it to one of the greatest ever songwriters, a guy from Muswell Hill. 'That'll be Ray Davies then', said I. 'Ray Davies' confirmed Chrissie before going into The Kinks' Stop Your Sobbing. An elderly lady in front of me looked at me in what can only be called awe as I regaled her with the tale of Chrissie and Ray. I thought everyone knew. 

Brass In Pocket was still ringing in my ears as I hot footed it back to This Feeling to catch the end of False Heads (brilliant, slightly anarchic and wonderfully messy) and final act Trampolene. There's been a lot of hype about Trampolene and rightly so, another joyous cacophony of guitar laden gems and the greatest stage dive of the weekend. (I'm gonna see if I can nick a photo here). 

Courtesy Will Ireland Photography

So after a slow and dubious start to the day I'd seen some truly awesome bands again. I avoided the churros/hot chocolate combo and we headed back to base to await Bang Bang Romeo's arrival. 

More ligging tomorrow. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Isle Of Wight Festival 2017 Part One - Strong And Stable

Thursday 8th June

So here we go again, my 2nd visit to the Isle Of Wight. Actually that's not strictly true. I went on a family camping holiday in the mid 70s when all an 8 year old me was bothered about was seeing the dinosaurs at Blackgang Chine. (Insert your own Rod Stewart/dinosaur joke here and when we get to the end of all this blogging I'll tell you why you're wrong). 2nd visit to the Isle Of Wight Festival is what I mean courtesy of the magnificent and insanely generous Bang Bang Romeo. At least last time I could carry things. This year I came complete with hernia which is odd 'cos I never bloody do owt. Still, I'm 49 you know.

So when the IOW line up was announced I was let's say a little less than enthralled. Main stage only had 2 must see acts for me (and I missed one of them), Big Top and The Hard Rock stages looked a lot healthier and then Lord Of The Zone, Mikey Jonns, announced the This Feeling Jack Rocks line up and it became the festival to be at. The This Feeling stage became a festival within a festival with the cream of the upcoming crop spread over 4 days. 

But we'll come to that. My IOW didn't get off to a brilliant start. 7am Thursday found me stood in the pouring rain outside my local polling station waiting to put an X next to Mr. Miliband's name. That done I waited for TV's Chris Walker to pick me up and begin our journey. TeamBBR were heading down in three (it became four) waves this year. No histrionics this time. Made our ferry with time to spare, an uneventful crossing, a drive straight to the right gate (A4 if you must know) at the festival site, picked up our many wristbands, parked and ventured in. I picked the same spot we camped at last year as Chris and his good lady Sharron headed for their teepee, or tipi if we're going to be historically accurate. 'It's only a five minute walk' they were reliably informed. It turned out to be on the other side of the island. We parted with plans to meet up that night at the Big Top. I didn't see them again till Saturday morning.

So after a mixed bag of weather the sun was finally shining but the wind did seem keen to whisk my tent away to fairer shores. Accommodation finally sorted, although it looked neither strong nor stable to use a parlance of our times, I had a nap. I'm 49 you know, plus there was no access to the arena area til 5pm.

If the tent looks wonky it's 'cos it is

I woke up to find it raining. Not just raining. We're talking biblical forty days and forty nights stuff here. Torrential doesn't even cover it. I unpacked the poncho, grabbed a bag full of cans and braved the elements. No main stage this evening but Big Top and This Feeling both had bands on, bands on my must see list. Past one lot of security, then another, and another with my bag of cans (this will become relevant later) and got to the Big Top. Sex Pissed Dolls had just started. Now I like to think I'm open minded as regards music, we can't all like the same thing etc, but I just don't see the point in the Sex Pissed Dolls. So, head down in the driving rain and straight on to This Feeling for my first find of the weekend. I'd never heard Plastic People before tonight. Rock/funk quality tunes with a singer who has to be heard to be believed. Lazy music journalists will tell you that guitar music is dead and there are no good new bands coming through. They are so wrong it's laughable. Check out any band on this list and you'll see why.

Time to brave the rain again as The Alarm were on at the Big Top. The Alarm weren't cool in the 80s and still aren't cool now.

They are one of my favourite bands.


As with a lot of uncool bands though a zealous following has lead to over 5 million sales worldwide. Also check out the story behind the band The Poppy Fields and see how Mike Peters called out the music business and media on it's preconceived perceptions. (The film Vinyl is based on this story). Tonight they are magnificent. Mike Peters still has that gruff Welsh delivery that I fell in love with way back in '83. Their tunes are still epic tales of love and hope in the face of a loveless and hopeless reality. Mike and his wife Jules (playing keyboard tonight) are both cancer survivors. He set up the Love Hope Strength Foundation to raise awareness and funds to benefit fellow sufferers. He dedicated the song 'Time' to those people tonight. It was as moving as it was powerful. I fell in love with them just a little bit more tonight. 

It all starts to go a bit wrong now. It was whilst chugging on a can as I danced and sang to '68 Guns' that a security guard collared me and told me I wasn't allowed cans on the site. I mentioned the lack of information about this anywhere, the three security check points I'd already passed, the fact that vendors were selling soft drinks in cans and told him in no uncertain terms he wasn't taking them off me. We agreed that I could keep them but if I had any on me on site over the next few days they'd be taken off me. I say we agreed. I lied. 

I'd brought my phone this year to liaise with the second wave of the travelling Bang Bang Romeo crew. My plan was to just have it turned off until Friday afternoon when they were due to land, Ever tried ignoring your phone and leaving it off for 24 hours? I can't do it. It's why I left it at home last year. My phone was just about dead already and had not done the job I'd intended for it. Still, I had my trusty camera. Full battery it had reliably informed me on Wednesday evening. It too had lied. 

So had the rain eased off? No. Visibility was about 20 yards. I was a 6'5" bloke in a bright orange poncho with a bright orange hat on and Chris and Sharron still had no chance of spotting me. As I wandered back to This Feeling I caught sight of Starsailor's James Walsh who kindly agreed to be on one of the last pics my camera would take that weekend. Starsailor were on at the Big Top later. He looked happy. I looked like a soaking wet bloke in an unflattering hat/poncho combo who's phone has just died, who's had a run in with security and can't find his mates.

So I was back at This Feeling to catch Grimsby band Mint, infectious guitar laden psychedelic pop with serious hair thrown in. They are a great live band and definitely one to catch. (Quick plug -  see them at Doncaster Leopard June 24th). At least musically my night was going well. Mint clashed with Starsailor and I felt given James had agreed to the photo I really should catch their set. The plan was to catch the end of it after Mint had finished. The rain now was just ridiculous. The site starting to churn up into every festival goers nightmare. I had visions of the Armageddon that was Leeds Fest 2016. I stayed where I was telling myself it was OK 'cos I could hear Starsailor and had seen them recently. Ish. I was entertained by Shambolics and Blackwaters before the rain finally got fed up of it's kill them all mission. 

Razorlight were due on at the Big Top. I was never a massive fan, probably in the most part due to the ludicrous ramblings of Johhny Borrell. Still, they did bang out a good tune and I decided they were worth a tramp through the mud for. Strolling onto stage and going straight into In The Morning was always gonna work. Sadly I found it all downhill from there. For someone so outspoken in the past Borrell had very little interaction with the crowd, the songs got a bit samey and my sodden body wanted it's sleeping bag.

The last photo my camera managed

I wandered off to treat myself to churros and hot chocolate and got accosted by a Sky News reporter asking me about the election results. 'Tell me what they are and I'll let you know'. 'Hung parliament' he said. I waxed lyrical about my mistrust of exit polls giving 1992 as a prime example and gave my views on Theresa May and her campaign. 'You can't say that on TV' I was told then he asked how old I was. 'I'm 49 you know'. 'Yeah we want someone younger' and he promptly walked off. 

I trudged back to my tent and had a ridiculously restless night as the churros and hot chocolate gave me the worst acid reflux ever. Still, the sun comes out tomorrow.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Black Spiders - Fuck Off Black Spiders Tour Sheffield/Nottingham 2nd & 4th May 2017

So where to start with this one. Well the parental advisory message may be both apt and too late but nevertheless anyone of a sensitive disposition should probably look away now.

Sometime last year Black Spiders announced they were to be no more. One last gig was planned and that was to be it. The fans clamoured for more and eventually Pete ‘Spider’ Spiby kicked in the door of their collective padded cell and unleashed his Spiders on the UK one last time. An 8 date Fuck Off Black Spiders Final Tour.

We start in Sheffield, Black Spiders base for many years, for day 6 of the tour. It promises to be a special night. It was certainly memorable. 4 songs in and we lose power to one side of The Corp. Monitors still working but no PA (or lights in the gents). Roadies are running everywhere. Every so often you get the standard ‘put 50p in the meter’ shout but all to no avail. They’ve blown the national grid (or something). An engineer is called but by 10:30 it’s agreed by all that the gig will have to be postponed.

We move onto Nottingham and what was to be (and may still be) Black Spiders last ever gig. In a remarkable reversal of standard behaviour I’d actually bought tickets for this one. I felt after years of guest lists (thanks Dark Shark) it was only polite to finally pay to see ‘em, given I’d never get chance again.

It was my first visit to Rescue Rooms. Adjoining neighbour, Rock City, had always been my favourite venue but I may have to rethink that. Rescue Rooms is a quality venue with a great sound. Tonight it’s a sell out. A heaving mass of bittersweet anticipation.

Ennio Morricone’s La Resi Dei Conti from A Few Dollars More echoes out. Every time I’ve seen Black Spiders it’s been their intro music – The Settling Of The Scores. It’s never been more apt. Tiger Si Atkinson taps out the beat and we’re straight into Si, El Diablo from debut album Sons Of The North.

 The first thing that hits you is the sheer power of the band. These guys have been doing this in various guises for some time, their musicianship is second to none. They don’t claim to be reinventing the wheel. They just play balls out, hard, fast magnificent rock. Only they do it better. They’ve always been just a little bit frightening on stage too.

 I love it.

 Guitarists Mark ‘Dark Shark’ Thomas and Ozzy ‘The Owl’ Lister prowling and snarling, Adam ‘The Fox’ Irwin throwing his bass around as he stares insanely into the moshing throng. Along with ‘Tiger’ Si Atkinson on drums (tonight resplendent in make up and a fetching red dress) you’re never sure if they wanna buy you a pint or rip your still beating heart from your chest. Si could be classed as a lead drummer, standing on his kit conducting the crowd, demanding, and getting, a louder response every time. Fronting all this is Pete ‘Spider’ Spiby. Amongst the mayhem it’s easy to forget just what a skilled rock vocalist Pete is. Especially on tracks like St. Peter. There is some serious range there and he’s bang on the money every time.

They power through a 14 song set that dips into all eras of Black Spiders’ output. The crowd know all the rules – fingers in the air, good natured insults flying, word perfect singalongs. It is undoubtedly a celebration of a class rock band. The genuine love you feel for the band from the fans is overwhelming. One thing is for certain – no one wants Black Spiders to fuck off.

Tonight’s show closer is naturally Stay Down. It used to nestle nicely in the middle of the set but it’s the only song they could end with tonight. Mid song the band abruptly stop. Pete insists the crowd all raise their middle fingers to the band and scream ‘Fuck off Black Spiders’. (It used to be fuck you Black Spiders but this is the last chance we’ll get). Never have I known the words ‘fuck off’ be yelled so lovingly. If you were witnessing it for the first time I can only imagine how bizarre it all seems.

It’s all part of the quality rock ‘n’ roll show that Black Spiders have always put on though. But that’s it, apart from maybe a rearranged Sheffield gig Black Spiders have fucked off. I bid them a fond farewell and hope they change their minds. Right now we need bands that are just about enjoyment, Black Spiders are one of those bands.

Set List.

Si, El Diablo
Kiss Tried to Kill Me
Raised by Wolves
St. Peter
What Good's a Rock Without a Roll?
Man's Ruin
Teenage Knife Gang
Blood of the Kings

Just Like a Woman

Stay Down

Friday, 28 April 2017

Skinny Lister - Leadmill - 27th April 2017

It’s the second night of Skinny Lister’s headline, sold out UK tour on the back of third album The Devil, The Heart & The Fight. Skinny Lister always seem to be gigging. I have no idea when they find the time to write and record new material but they manage it and the quality never slips. Their third album is glossier and more polished than Down On Deptford Broadway and Forge & Flagon but it still has that distinctive Skinny Lister feel. Punk Shanties I think has to be the accepted Lister genre. Certainly live the new songs get the full on SL treatment.

There are many things I crave in a live performance but paramount is fun. To see a band fully immerse themselves in the joy of playing live will always lead to a great gig. It feeds into the audience and the night is a constant domino effect. As the band get more and more vibrant on stage the crowd get more and more chaotic. Skinny Lister live are immense fun. And more. Their musicianship is second to none. Each band member delivers.

Front and centre is Lorna Thomas, a whirling, flirtatious dervish. The only time she stops flailing round the stage is on one of her many excursions into the crowd. A brave move for someone who was having costume issues. She’s flanked by singer/songwriter/guitarist Dan Heptinstall and multi instrumentalist Max Thomas. Max is also a blur. All accordion and barked vocals. The energy is palpable. Must be something in the Thomas genes, still if your Dad is Party George it’s inevitable.

Dan is a major talent and a superb singer. The quality of his songwriting is evident for all to see. As is his permanent grin throughout the gig.

Latest addition to the band is Scott Milsom on double bass. He’s slid into the Lister fold nicely. Flinging his instrument around as if it’s nothing. Have you felt the weight of those things!? Along with Thom Mills on drums they are a rhythm section to match any. Finally stage right is guitarist Sam Brace. He manages to join in the madness whilst never missing a lick and still remaining the epitome of cool. It’s a gift. (Great shirt too).

I saw Skinny Lister play the same room 2 years ago to somewhere between 30 – 40 people. It was a great gig. The band still delivering their high powered set and the crowd still managed to polish the flagon off. To see them now playing to a sell out crowd, all there for a singalong party was, well, emotional. I have to confess to shedding a tear. By the time the flagon reached me this time it was empty. Why is the rum always gone? Didn’t stop me holding it aloft as the band delivered the greatest singalong song ever in John Kanaka.

We get a 23 song set spread out over the three albums. Five off Forge, eight from Deptford Broadway and nine from The Devil. We even get a brand new song with Thing Like That as Dan gets political for a change. I spoke to him after the gig. “I don’t want to be Billy Bragg but certain events you just can’t ignore”.

They kick off with Wanted, the opening track from The Devil, The Heart & The Fight and it was none stop for the rest of the night. Often the band are drowned out by the raucous Sheffield crowd. Skinny Lister don’t mind. More than any band I’ve seen Skinny Lister make sure that we’re all part of the gig. It’s a night of mutual wild abandonment. The only other act I’ve seen come close to this is stablemate Frank Turner.

It’s hard to pick out highlights in fact I’m not gonna try. It was 90 minutes of bliss. Special mention for show closer Six Whiskies though. It’s a perfect ending. I’m wrapped in a mass hug with people I’ve never met before, all word perfect and wonderfully out of tune. It was a drunken singalong without the drunk bit. That’s how Skinny Lister make you feel.

If you love live music you have to see Skinny Lister. I can’t put it any more simply than that.

Set List
George's Glass
Tragedy In A Minor
Geordie Lad
Devil in Me
Thing Like That
What Can I Say
Bold as Brass
John Kanaka
Rollin' Over
Trouble on Oxford Street
Seventeen Summers
Fair Winds & Following Seas
This Is War
Bonny Away
Forty Pound Wedding

Beat It From the Chest
Hamburg Drunk
Six Whiskies

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Elbow - Doncaster Dome 15/03/17

This is an Elbow review. Trust me.

July 1989 and I'm living with one of my best mate's, Nidge, in his sister's flat in Golders Green. (His sister was in America learning all kinds of zoo stuff, or something).We were just off the back of Glastonbury 1989. Now people may tell you that 1995 was THE year of Glastonbury. They're wrong. 1989 was truly iconic. It was still small enough to be intimate, big enough to feel like you were part of something special and had a line up to die for. Plus I paid for my ticket by cheque a month before the festival and it cost me £26 for the weekend. This was way before estate agents from London thinking they were having it large, spoilt kids getting a weekend ticket from Daddy so he can have a weekend's peace to spend with Mummy or the chav influx. The NME review of the weekend started 'The bastard sun shone and shone and shone. At night the moon was orange. Another big smiley'. It was scorching. Acid house had just kicked in and The Stone Roses were just around the corner. You could feel it in the air with every shout of hash for cash. You were part of something happening. That weekend made me realise I needed to be somewhere other than Donny, hence Golders Green. What a time to be alive.

Sundays at this time fill me with the fondest memories. I'd wake up with the sun streaming through the window. One of us, usually Nidge, would nip out for the Sunday papers and we'd pass the morning with sun, coffee, quality press and cigarettes. The cigarettes were just my vice and the quality press is long gone. In the afternoon we'd either pick up Nidge's guitar and bongos and head to Leicester Square to busk Elvis' songs to American tourists or, if one of us had any cash, grab a couple of bottles of wine, some fine cheese and head up to the heath for a payless busk and a picnic. Sunday night was spent watching covers band Speedway at The Castle in Golders Green. Nowt special but immense fun.

If I were to relive those days 28 years later Elbow would be the soundtrack. It was after all a perfect waste of time.

Now I realise I'm looking at this through nearly 30 years of rose-tinted clouded memories and we probably spent more time sat around wondering how we could afford sausages. (We lived on sausages. I went radical once and bought some crispy pancakes. It didn't end well). My point, I think, is this: Many of those days were perfect. I never realised it at the time obviously. I'm writing all this to remind me in years to come just how perfect Elbow were last night.

Elbow seem to have got massive without anyone noticing. Their live show is far more suited to a festival headline slot than most of the acts currently on the 'festival headline roundabout'. 7th studio album Little Fictions was released with minimal fuss in February this year and promptly parked itself at Number One. Yes there have been BRIT Awards and a Mercury Music Prize but when you compare it to the frankly ludicrous media storm surrounding Ed Sheeran's latest release it really was 'minimal fuss'.

What Elbow have are frankly gorgeous songs played with the consummate ease and professionalism of a band fully aware of what they have. Even with the loss of drummer Richard Jupp they, ahem, never miss a beat. Almost to prove this they open with the 2nd single off Little Fictions, the drum driven Gentle Storm. In Guy Garvey they have a man with a velvet voice and a laid back, nonchalant charisma on stage. I've seen comedians at the Dome less funny than Garvey. Similar to Springsteen he makes any gig feel intimate.

A 15 song setlist sees naturally a third coming from Little Fictions but a healthy dose of back catalogue too. As with with everything Elbow do it is immaculately thought out. Mirrorball and New York Morning are particular jaw dropping. I go from goosebumps, to tears to an inane grin throughout the gig, sometimes in the same song. Scattered Black And Whites is dedicated  to Guy's sister who's in the crowd that night. The Birds reaches new heights, floating across a Dome crowd loving every single second. Magnificent (She Says) is just, well, magnificent. Released in December 2016 it was the single of the year. No argument.

Set closer One Day Like This has Guy urging the crowd to sing the 'Throw those curtains wide' coda with at first no band, then no clapping, then quieter, quieter, quieter, just hum it, now as loud as you can. He gets the desired response every time.

The encores come with Lippy Kids and an almost brutal Grounds For Divorce. As with everything that has gone before they are flawless. Any band that strives for perfection MUST see Elbow live. A word I heard many times on the night and since is majestic.

It all promised to be magnificent. It was.


Gentle Storm
The Bones of You
Fly Boy Blue / Lunette
All Disco
New York Morning
Scattered Black and Whites
Little Fictions
My Sad Captains
The Birds
Magnificent (She Says)
One Day Like This

Lippy Kids
Grounds for DivorcePlay Video