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

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Leeds Festival - This Feeling Stage - Sunday 28/08/16

So I had no desire to go to Leeds Fest at all. The massive festivals don't appeal to me and the Leeds line up didn't have me rushing for my debit card. Then This Feeling announced their line up. It truly was the cream of the up coming crop. Check out their Leeds listings and make it your mission to go see ALL those bands as soon as you possibly can.

I was still umming and ahhing though. A weekend ticket was a financial and logistic impossibility. Running my own shop does mean I can just bugger off should I fancy. Buggering off doesn't put money in the till though. To be fair being open 6 days a week doesn't put much money in the till either but, well, you get what I mean.

I was toying with the idea of buying a Sunday ticket. Bang Bang Romeo were playing the Sunday and I really wanted to see them round off a phenomenal festival season. Getting there was doable. Getting home was gonna involve begging for a bed somewhere or sleeping on a station. 

Now in my youth I spent a lot of time sleeping on stations. One night at Kings Cross after a Pogues gig in 1987 was particularly memorable. ('Do you want a cabbage mate. Free. Here, have a cabbage'. Maybe you had to be there). Manchester Piccadilly was an OK place to sleep too. Birmingham New Street less so. Didn't help that they made train announcements as I was trying to phone in sick for work. Bristol Temple Meads was lovely. Edinburgh Waverley was my favourite though.

 I digress. As a 48 year old who's had heart surgery (yes I'm still clinging to that as my go to excuse) none of that really appealed.

I put a shout out on facebook and my Welsh Sine FM colleague JJ answered the call. He was at Leeds all weekend but going home after it had all finished Sunday night. Logistics sorted I bit the bullet and bought a Sunday ticket. 

The next day Bang Bang Romeo messaged me to say I was down as crew for the Sunday. Another facebook shout out to sell my ticket. Thankfully Sheffield's finest, the erstwhile Mat Hume was buying. 

As I plied my vinyl wares reports were coming in of the somewhat moist conditions in Leeds. I say Leeds, we all know it's Wetherby Festival really. By the time I got there on the Sunday it looked like this:

Sam Craggs. Hat and glasses model's own. Mud courtesy of the British weather

I have no wellies. The boots were gonna have to take the hit. Shorts too as I'd rather have wet, muddy legs than wet, muddy jeans. The festival hat was dug out for one last foray and 9am Sunday morning found me at Bentley train station with a bunch of festival goers all in the wrong attire.

I had an email saying follow the arrows at Leeds station for the festival shuttle buses. There was one arrow. Pointing the wrong way. (There was going to be a lot of boring travel waffle now. Some walking too. And a bit about nettles but let's skip to some festival stuff)

You find me back stage at the This Feeling Jack Rocks stage with one half of Bang Bang Romeo (Ross and Joel), some Heavy Suns and free Jack Daniels. As we hung around Judas arrived with Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy in tow. (Judas' singer John is Abbey's brother). I complimented Crouchy on Saturday's goal line clearance then asked for the obligatory photo. I did claim I just wanted my photo took with someone taller than me but we all know I'm just a horrendous name dropper.

One of us has 22 goals in 42 England appearances

Having told the big man that he had to check out Bang Bang Romeo later in the day I headed out to catch Heavy Suns.

Heavy Suns were the opening band. A big ask at any time. A huge ask on the third day of a festival. A massive ask given the line up that was to follow. They were quality. Anthemic, guitar laden pure indie rock 'n' roll with (favourite DJ) Ross Micklethwaite throwing some psychedelic guitar and keys over the whole mix. A cracking start to the day and a bar already set high. 

Heavy Suns
Heavy Suns

Mat Hume had hoped to be there for 12. At some point I'd have to brave the main festival site and the knee deep apocalyptic mud to deliver his ticket. 12.30 and his lift still hadn't arrived. When I did Leeds Fest for the full weekend in 2012 I took an old Nokia. By the Monday morning it had lost one bar of charge. Today, within 4 hours my iPhone was already thinking about calling it a day. Worrying when you're trying to make vague arrangements to meet someone. 

Another quarter of Bang Bang Romeo (Richard) had arrived with stage tech extraordinaire Sam Craggs so after Heavy Suns had finished I did my carrying heavy things bit. My basic contribution to TeamBBR is to play their songs on the radio and carry an amp occasionally. I am fully aware of how lucky and spoiled I am to be part of the set up. I am angling to be official biographer one day though. 

More free JD (told you I was lucky and spoiled) then back to the stage for Leeds band The Strawberries. They are alarmingly young. Christ, when singer Sam Neil was born I already had one divorce under my belt. They have a sound that belies their age though. Songs that should be sung in smoke filled seedy back rooms. I absolutely love 'em.  Plug time - Social bar, Doncaster, October 14th. 

The Strawberries

It was at this point that I made my first venture to the main site. Sam needed cash and tobacco. I wanted to get my bearings for the two meet ups I had planned. (Mat's ticket and JJ's lift home). It was carnage. If you stood still for any length of time you'd still be there now. And people. So. Many. People. This body just isn't designed to yomp through mud. 

It was just too much. We headed back for the relative calm of This Feeling pronto. Plus Dantevilles were on and we both wanted to catch them. 

Mat update: 13:30 - Set off but nowhere near yet. 

Those that know me will know my weakness for jangly indie guitar bands. Dantevilles can't fail for me. Fresh from supporting Blossoms at their (No.1) album launch Dantevilles are on fire. Their brand of catchy, indie pop has the tent bouncing.


The Leeds main stage has nothing on what Mikey Jonns and This Feeling has put together here. I can see why it's been nicknamed 'The Zone'. It's one big, gloriously talented family. The support all the bands show each other is admirable and something a lot of musicians, no matter what level they're at, could learn from. 

14:00 - Mat's in Leeds but the traffic is at a stand still.

Judas next up. Remember when U2 were good? I mean really good. Before they took over the world and way before Bono got a God complex. We're talking Boy, October, War era U2. Judas are reminiscent of that but better. Still raw but coherent with it. A polished rawness if you will. They rock. They really rock. They had a main stage slot today too and it was clear why.

John Clancy - Judas

The last of the BBR quartet (Starsie) had turned up now with her entourage. They were there for the whole weekend. I just wouldn't have coped. Good work ladies. 

Mat now in the car park queue but not moving. 

Given that my phone was never gonna cope with the tedious job of phone calls and a host of messages to Mat I decided to get some food and head up to the main entrance. Bumped into JJ at the steak sandwich (that was never medium rare) stall and made very vague arrangements for my lift home. When it comes to organisational skills I have none. I started my trek through Armageddon to find the main entrance.

I missed it. Walked from one end of the site to the other. The main entrance is the yellow gate. I'd seen a yellow flag in the distance and went for it. I ended up further away from the main entrance than ever stood under an inflatable banana. My eyes aren't what they were. At least from my vantage point I could see where I'd gone wrong. Back into the melee. It was around this time that I made the decision that no matter who was playing elsewhere I wasn't leaving the Jacks Rock stage again. (It meant missing Blossoms and Avalanche Party but both are on the radar in the next couple of months. And there was no-one else I was desperate to see away from This Feeling).

Arrived at the main gate and collapsed. Someone in the box office kindly charged my phone a bit so I could let Mat know where I was. No bottles are allowed on the festival site so as I sat waiting for Mat I was given so much reviving bottled beer. I love JD but it's not a session drink. This was such a relief. 

Mat duly arrived with crushing man hugs and I headed back to the mud free relative calm of the This Feeling stage just in time to catch the end of Medicine Men. Gutted that I'd missed Liberty Ship but back in time for Paves.

I love Paves. Face melting blues/rock delivered with so much energy it leaves you exhausted just watching.  Luke Shield has one of those voices. You look at his slender frame and wonder just where it's coming from. Tom Triggs beating his kit into submission so much that after the set he could barely walk. Tikz shredding with consummate ease and Perry (I got their names right for once) delivering the stage dive of the day. I think he was trying to climb on his monitor. It slipped and he went head first in the photo pit. I honestly thought he'd killed himself, crumpled like a Dutch cyclist before he leapt back up to help Tom batter the drum kit. 

Another plug - Social Bar, Doncaster, Sept 30th. 


I decided on a bit of a chill backstage while watching Tom struggle to lift a sandwich before it was back into the throng for Asylums. Such an aptly named band. They're brilliant if not a little crazy. You'd love to go for a beer with them but you'd have the emergency get out phone call planned just in case. Imagine The Vaccines doing the soundtrack for Naked Lunch. Another band destined for main stage slots - they have the tunes, the presence, the energy and the hair. JJ had told me they were ones to catch and he was so right. Thankfully JJ was there photographing (with his already full memory card) and I could let him know my change of plans. Sam had kindly agreed to put me up in Sheffield that night so I didn't have to worry about trying to find a small Welshman in the dark at the end of a very long day. 


By now Bang Bang Romeo had a dressing room with all the luxuries that that entails (beer, sandwiches, plug sockets) and I decided to rest my weary boots.

All the This Feeling bands had played to decent sized crowds but there was definitely a buzz going round about Bang Bang Romeo and from my vantage point backstage I could see the crowds flooding down the hill to the Jack Rocks stage. I'd been given the important job of removing Starsie's wellies before they went on stage. I do have my uses. Wardrobe now. I'm not sure I can do justice to what happened next but I shall try.

Bang Bang Romeo

Revolver is now firmly down as set opener. It had barely kicked in when Abbey Clancy leaned over to me and said 'These are fucking amazing'. Not one song in and the masses are already bouncing. They were perfect. I pity those people for whom music stops at their ears. Music of this magnitude grabs your body and soul and takes over. The band, the crowd, the songs become one entity. It takes on a life of it's own. This is a band already fully aware (when on stage) of just what power they have. An obviously emotional Stars still has the crowd wrapped round her twirling fingers as the powerhouse of Ross, Joel and Rich hammer one crafted gem after another deep into the heart of the This Feeling crowd. Stars' voice is a brutal, beautiful weapon. I've said it before - there is no better singer coming out of the UK at this moment. A voice like that could easily distract from the band but it doesn't. The unit that is Bang Bang Romeo is phenomenal. 

Joel and Rich are as tight a rhythm section as you will find. It's impossible not to dance to the groove they deliver during The Bliss. Ross' guitar drags you through the most gorgeous nightmares. The riff for You And I is just dangerous, backed by Rich's machine gun drumming. The tears came as they slowed things down with Chemical, by far the oldest song in the set but still as fresh as when I first heard it 5 (?) years ago. Stars was fighting back the tears as she mesmerised the enraptured crowd. That set me off. Looking around I was far from the only one. 

Johannesburg and Reach Out gets the audience flying again. 'Whisper the words of.....drums' maybe my single favourite moment of any live BBR set. I looked over to the side of the stage and Crouchy is jumping higher than he did when he netted against Trinidad And Tobago in the 2006 World Cup. (Unassisted this time). Invitation kicks in. It's a monster of a finale. Bodies are flying everywhere even before Starsie's crowd invasion.

I'm still gamely jumping with a Paves guitarist on my shoulders but I was relieved when a steward told us to behave. As Revolver is a perfect opener, Invitation is a natural set closer. 'A little more now' demands Stars, the band reaching a glorious, cataclysmic crescendo. The crowd give a little more and then some every time.

If there is any justice in the world Bang Bang Romeo will be delivering sets of this immensity on the biggest of stages next festival season. 

Back stage the band are mobbed as I wander round with the stupidest of grins on my face carrying Starsie's wellies. Abbey Clancy is already on the phone to Jools Holland. I mentioned that on stage the band are fully aware of the power they deliver. Backstage 'what just happened?' seems to be the delighted mantra. I collar Peter Crouch for an 'I told you' moment. He just leaps on me with words like 'massive' and 'the find of the festival'. 

I'm done. Nothing can follow that. Not even Chili Peppers on the main stage. I carry an amp all of ten yards to a van then collapse on a sofa unsure if I'll move again. There's still 2 bands to play Jack Rocks but I'm gigged out. Sam, being the diamond that he is, has decided to give me and Rich a lift back to Doncaster. I'm so grateful I could have cried. 

This Feeling Jack Rocks Stage, Leeds Fest 2016 - you were magnificent. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Tramlines 2016 - Part Two: What you wearing under that?

Saturday 23rd July (cont.)

As you will recall we are in the Crystal sweatbox awaiting October Drift. I was chatting with John and Scott from Gingerbeard Promotions and we all agreed that with the energy these boys put into their live sets combined with the heat they may well finish their set as a three piece or worse. Walls of noise were mentioned in part one of the blog. That's what October Drift are but with melodies and licks diving in and out. It's a beautiful cacophony delivered with relentless, breakneck ferocity. 

After some very sweaty hugs it was time to make a move, Bang Bang Romeo 'secret' set at Rocking Chair. I got there and immediately apologised to Paves for missing their set and then promptly got all their names wrong. Professional to the end. I don't usually plug via the blog but Paves are at Social in Donny on Sept. 30th. Be there. I'll be there calling Perry, Tom and vice versa. 

Caught up with Holly and Charlotte from TeamBBR. (Yes, that's what we're calling ourselves now). 

Chatting with guitar hero Ross outside and two young ladies coveted our hats. It was a worrying moment. I feared spending the rest of Tramlines with hat hair as oppose to having a ludicrous orange beacon on my head. Wandered inside and found one of Section 60. I apologised for missing their set too but the set never happened so I didn't have to feel guilty for too long. Crystal was an icebox compared to Rocking Chair. The place was filling up, the ceiling dripping, BBR setting up and drummer Rich already having to towel himself off. 

Went to the bar to find Section 60 cohort and good mate Mark Howe in charge. Now there's a guy who can run a piss up in a brewery. The place is rammed as Bang Bang Romeo take to the stage. Rocking Chair were hosting the This Feeling stage. I've waxed lyrical about This Feeling before. Not only are This Feeling pushing some serious quality it's also like one big talented family. The bands all support each other. It's a beautiful thing. It's also why I ended up with various members of Paves and Jackals Rose on my shoulders at various points. 

This was an iconic gig. The whole place bouncing and word perfect. Bang Bang Romeo will have a career playing massive stages but I hope every now and then they still do intimate gigs like this. Shameless name dropping moment: Strangers wasn't initially in the set for tonight but they played it 'cos I love it so much. It is my favourite song. Ever. The slow build of Ross' achingly gorgeous guitar and Starsie's imploring vocals make me weep every time. As the song takes off the place erupts. First time I've seen crowd surfing at a BBR gig. We're straight into set closer Invitation. It's a blistering assault. It's magnificent. As it pumps to a climax Stars wanders into the crowd. 'A little more now' she demands. I'm nudging Tiks from Paves into a stage invasion and suddenly the stage is full, the room like a writhing mass of snakes as sweaty bodies fly everywhere. 

Photo credit: Jenny Betts

When the book is written of the history of Bang Bang Romeo this will be seen as something not only special but vital in their onward trajectory. 

Outside to cool down and reflect on what had just happened. I realised I had to find Sam. Thankfully Sam found me, a sweaty, emotional mess outside Rocking Chair. Milburn were doing a secret set at Leadmill but I was done. I remember little about getting home apart from Sam saying mind the steps. I failed in this one simple task, fell through his door and mangled my knee. I really shouldn't be allowed out. 

Sunday 24th July

Today's priority was BBR on Tramlines Main Stage. It was when I laughingly did some what I call work again. First stop was Foundry Studio. It's where Sam works and where BBR rehearse and record. It's where their gear was. Cars loaded up and off to Ponderosa. I lifted a few cases, eyed the beer in the dressing room warily and opted for more coffee. Whilst all this was happening Catfish And The Bottlemen were sound checking. More shameless name dropping: They came off stage and Van recognised me from a Leopard gig at least 3 years ago. We had a good chat about music in general then I got all fanboy.

BBR sound check complete. We had a bit of a flap about a missing bottle of tequila and red wine from Hinds rider. It never did get resolved. Wasn't me. I fell out with tequila 8 years ago in York. Stage front with Holly and TV's Chris Walker.

Just before we started crying

Met up with fellow Sine FM presenter Stevie P and watched Bang Bang Romeo be magnificent once again. Strangers, as per, made us all cry. (Ross' Mum in particular). As Holly and myself sobbed Rich kindly laughed at us from behind his kit. New song You And I was a drum fuelled joy, Chemical, easily the oldest tune in the set sounded as fresh as the first time I heard it, Invitation got the singalong it merits. They can do no wrong.





Show over, I helped carry stuff again, I've definitely found my role in the BBR set up, and then chilling back stage. I somewhat rudely left Stevie to his own devices. I did apologise later but I'll do it again now. Sorry Steve. But I was back stage with a bar. Hinds were on the main stage but we didn't hear anything that tempted us away. Plus the band were being interviewed in a toilet by Christian Carlisle.

Having known Christian a few years now I'd say this was standard.

Jurassic 5 next. Had a skank with Sine FM boss Steve Mundin as the band showed why they've pretty much owned hip hop for getting on 25 years now. It will never be a genre I truly love but when it's done this well it's infectious.

Public Service Broadcasting were on stage next. If you read back through old blogs you will know how much I love this band. If you've ever listened to my radio show you will know how much I love this band. I love this band. They struggled a bit today. Ponderosa was packed with Catfish fans and I'm guessing the Venn Diagram for PSB/Catfish is a tad sparse in the middle. They're also a band who are at their best indoors or after dark. The visuals are an integral part of a PSB gig. I still loved them though. No one does what PSB do and that alone should be celebrated. 

J. Willgoose Esq.


I met up with the band afterwards and J.Willgoose Esq. talked about looking out on a sea of Catfish fans. He called the gig a shocker. They do set their standards very high. I love them. Have I mentioned that? I did the fanboy photo thing as Wrigglesworth bravely nicked my hat. I didn't mind. He's a legend.

Dilemma time. I really wanted to see Catfish And The Bottlemen on the Main Stage. I really wanted to see Hello Operator at Rocking Chair. I do love Catfish. (In the PSB/Catfish Venn Diagram I'm firmly planted in the middle). The timings made both possible but it's quite a yomp from Ponderosa to Furnival Gate. We decided on a taxi into the City. I've seen Catfish many a time and will do again. Bumped into Christian Carlisle again who fancied the Hello Operator plan so as Sam, Holly and Rich dived into one taxi I ended up in the back of a black cab with a man in a kilt thrusting a microphone in my face. We managed to make it very seedy indeed with talk of traditional kilt wearing and fake taxi porn. It's credit to Christian that he managed to edit it into something that he could broadcast on his BBC Introducing Tramlines special. We got to Rocking Chair to find things running a tad behind schedule. 

I have no idea who she is but she really wanted in on the pic. Bumped into Stevie P inside and again apologised for abandoning him. Found my favourite DJ Ross Micklethwaite and before Hello Operator came on stage the rest of TeamBBR turned up who had stayed to watch Catfish. D'oh! 

Hello Operator are another of the This Feeling bands destined for great things. It's a beautiful noise. There is a wealth of bands out there that you have to check out. Hello Operator are high up that list. Another sweat box of a gig that again ended up with a mass stage invasion. 

And that was it. Another taxi journey home that I don't recall. My initial plan had been to get up early enough on the Monday to get back to Doncaster in time to open the shop. Those that know me will not be surprised to hear I got back to Donny at about 4.30pm.

Tramlines. It breaks you but it's truly wonderful. Let's do it all again next year. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Tramlines 2016 - Part One. Flat Caps And Festival Hats Reunited.

Well this is a brave move. Starting a Tramlines blog over a week after the festival finished. I was too busy/fragile to do one last week so let's just see how the memory holds up.

Friday 22nd July

I love Tramlines. So vibrant, so much going on. so many bands, so many that I always end up missing someone I really wanted to see. To really do it justice you have to stay over. I've tried doing the commuting thing and usually end up missing something. Usually the last train home.

I landed about 3pm and met up with Sam who had very kindly offered to put me up for the weekend. First port of call was Sheffield Uni to pick up my press pass. We got a taxi to the wrong place, realised we weren't too far from where we were meant to be, started walking in the wrong direction, stopped, re-evaluated, walked in the right direction, nearly graduated, found my press pass. Sam had to drive down to Coventry that night so we had time for a quick jar before he had to dash. 

As you can see the meeting point hat had made the journey. Very popular it turned out to be too. Ah, flat caps and festival hats reunited.

I was so organised this year with a print out of my proposed schedule and a map. In a staggering turn of events it took till Saturday afternoon for the schedule to go out the window. I blame the beer and the sun. 

First port of call was Crystal to catch up with the legendary Neil Hargreaves and his much better half Rebecca Fearnley and to deliver some headphones, as you do. Next up over to West Street Ale House to see my good friends Murder At The Seaside. Was a bit surprised to see Sam Chadwick (Velcro Teddy Bears) outside but this is his new venture. Teddy Bears were on my list. That didn't happen.

There's a trend already starting. I managed to drown my camera in beer at the IOW festival and now the zoom doesn't work. It's either full on or nothing at all so most pics are just me and mates or me being proper fanboyish. Sorry.

See what I mean. I love Murder At The Seaside. Supremely talented musicians (apart from Lil Dave the drum machine - temperamental bugger) and Phil, Sally and Heather are just some of my favourite people ever. The sound wasn't great which seemed to a common occurrence Friday night but they battled through and delivered as always. A very pleasant start to the weekend's music.

Back over to Crystal to see my mates The 48ks. The sound was poor here too. Ryan had his first ever diva strop on stage but given he couldn't hear a thing up there it's forgivable. I'm sure it's no comfort to the band that the sound Saturday and Sunday was spot on.  I did manage an actual live shot though.

Christian Carlisle briefly thrust a microphone in my face but I can't remember a thing we said and thankfully Christian lost all his Friday night interviews. 

No time to chat to the lads sadly as I had to hot foot it to the Leadmill for The Enemy. As is well documented this is The Enemy's final hurrah and I wanted to catch them one last time having seen them twice before and been disappointed. They didn't let me down and disappointed again. The sound was atrocious but I'm certain it's down to the band this time. It sounded just like my previous Enemy gigs. Admittedly I was in a strop as the Leadmill was a heaving sweatbox, I was a tad drunk and a lass stood at my side moaned I was in her way. Now I appreciate at 6'5" I'm a nightmare at gigs but I can't help it and have as much right to stand where I want as anyone. I always try to be considerate and try not to stand in front of people who's view I will obviously spoil. But she was stood at my side. The only view I was obscuring for her was of the cloakroom. I pointed this out and she insulted my hat. Out of order. Anyway, I moved. It was the easiest way. 

Someone told me on Saturday that I'd missed the point of The Enemy and they make a wall of noise. A wall of noise can be tuneful though. Still, I did seem to be the only person in there not enjoying it. I nipped outside for some fresh air (cigarette) but went out the exit as oppose to into the smoking area. I couldn't face wading through the throng as my ears bled so I called it a night just as Sam got back from Coventry. That worked out nicely. 

I still love albums 1 & 3 though.

Saturday 23rd July

I awoke feeling a little fragile but Sam's coffee, an insanely good shower and view's like this

were bringing me round. Sam had a day in Birmingham (I think) today. I'd been invited for breakfast by my good friend Zoe so got dropped off in Hillsborough and went for more coffee with Zoe and her lovely daughter Holly. (Holly think's I'm cool. She's wrong but I'm not gonna tell her that). They took me out for breakfast (thank you) and then dropped me off at Ponderosa, Main Stage. I'm so spoilt. Still on schedule, Ginger Tom and Little Comets to start the day. 

Found my Tramlines 2014 cohort Mark Loraine and wife Gail who is so losing at the forehead slapping competition. (I spent Tramlines 2015 with a brilliant Italian surgeon saving my life. Bloody immigrants). 

Mark Loraine, not an Italian surgeon

Ginger Tom have something and I'm not quite sure what it is. Certainly Dan and Tom's harmonising is a thing of beauty and they write the most alarmingly gorgeous indie-pop but there's something else there that I'm buggered I can put my finger on. The addition of Luke on bass and A.B.C. on drums has given the band some meat. I should point out that A.B.C. is Alex Byard-Cooke. They don't have an 80s new wave band in gold lame suits playing drums. (No accent for the e there but lame works just as well). 

They are the perfect opening act for Little Comets.  Little Comets have cornered the market in upbeat summery indie anthems and were playing to an already sizeable crowd at Ponderosa. Much has been made of moving the Main Stage further out the city centre. I get it. Ponderosa is bigger than Devonshire Green and it feels like the organisers are in effect trying to make two Tramlines festivals. I personally preferred having the majority of stages more localised. Mostly 'cos my legs aren't what they used to be. This was the cause of the schedule now going to pot. 

The plan was Uni Arms for Steel Trees then on to Crystal but it was very hot and involved more walking than I dared. Taxi to Crystal it was. Crystal was rammed. Absolutely sweltering. I had to listen to Jackals Rose and Sabella from the beer garden. Bumped into the gorgeous Jenny Betts from Sine FM's Unsigned and Rewind and we decided we had to brave the sweat box for the next three acts, Puppet Rebellion, The Slow Readers Club and October Drift. I had wanted to nip out to catch Paves at The Rocking Chair but again heat, alcohol and crap legs put paid to that. 

I first saw Puppet Rebellion at Tramlines 2014. They were my find of that weekend. Since then they have a new singer in Oliver Davies and are stronger than ever. Gloriously tight and stomping with riffs to die for, they are the perfect foil for fellow Manc lads The Slow Readers Club. 

Puppet Rebellion

Billed as dark and brooding indie electro they are destined for huge things, Cavalcade is a flawless album and they have the live chops to back it up. This is their third consecutive year on Tramlines Crystal stage. It's not big enough for them now. You just can't move. Despite the heat no-one is going anywhere. Chants of 'Readers' follow every track. All this on the back of supporting James on tour. Join the club as soon as you can.

The Slow Readers Club

I didn't realise how packed the weekend was. We shall do a two part blog. Tune in tomorrow for more sweat, stage invasions, a flying Saynor and loads more live music!! 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Isle Of Wight Festival Part Four - Are We Nearly Home Yet?

Sunday 12th June (cont.) 

We join our heroes in the post euphoria of the Hard Rock Stage gig. I was eyeing Ross' amp warily when we were informed there was a little buggy to take all the gear back to the cars. Oh the relief. There was a cocktail bar with deckchairs and hammocks next to the stage all overlooking the River Medina which looked way more appealing than amp carrying. 

I caught some of Apollo Junction but was a bit gigged out. In the same way as The Struts at Tramlines 2014, Bang Bang Romeo had broken the festival for me. That set would take some following. Plus did I mention the cocktail bar and hammocks?

This is what happened: 

The cocktails were free for artists and crew as well. Why!? Why would you do that. I mean, thanks and all that but I paid for it later. Having sampled A Kind Of Magic and Gimme Honey, Iggy's Pop became the cocktail of choice. So laying in a hammock, sipping cocktails in the sun with my mates, having just watched the set of the weekend. It doesn't get much better. 

The Cribs were on the main stage but I was in a hammock, man. I wasn't moving. The chaps running the cocktail bar coveted my hat but as I pointed out, somewhat eloquently given the circumstances I thought, it was a fine adornment covering a somewhat dubious head and was going nowhere. 

We eventually moved to watch Paves on The Hard Rock Stage. This had to be done, hammock or no hammock. As Rich said after it was a show not just a performance. Doors comparisons are inevitable but also lazy. They're more much more than that. It's full on in your face rock, delivered with what can only be called nonchalant charisma. You simply can't ignore them. Check them out as soon as you possibly can. Another band destined for much bigger things. 

Back to the hammocks and more Iggy's Pop. We were in danger of never going anywhere else ever again. Paves joined the BBR posse for some much needed refreshment, the two drummers sharing a hammock. A drammock anyone? 

Tom is not just an astounding drummer, even while singer Luke is in danger of flattening his kit he's also an astoundingly nice guy. 

We eventually made a move, Ocean Colour Scene on The Main Stage. Moseley Shoals was pretty much my 90s soundtrack (sod Oasis) and this couldn't be missed.  When you can open your set with The Riverboat Song you've pretty much won already. Follow that with The Circle and, my favourite OCS song, Lining Your Pockets and we're entering delirium levels here. 

And so it went on, You've Got It Bad right up to set closers Hundred Mile High City and The Day We Caught The Train (possibly the best singalong all weekend). 

My opening line in pretty much every conversation I had all weekend was either 'I had heart surgery last year' or 'Yeah well I saw Queen with Freddie in '86', More often than not a combination of the two. I'd have punched me eventually. I know people who slate Queen (I have done myself for political reasons) but you can't deny their output. But, having seen them with Freddie Mercury in '86 (I may have mentioned that) I was in two minds as to whether to watch them with Adam Lambert or head over to The Big Top for The Wonder Stuff. I was enjoying the company so much though that I stuck with Queen.

What they do now is a very fine line between  genuine rock Gods and a tribute band. They get away with it. Just. Having Freddie on the big screen dueting with Brian May for Love Of My Life is an excellent and emotional touch. Likewise the image of David Bowie as Under Pressure kicks in.

Adam Lambert is an excellent singer with great stage presence. As he says there can only ever be one Freddie Mercury and it's an honour to sing these songs with these two legends. Roger Taylor takes lead vocals on A Kind Of Magic and even has a drum duet with his son. When Brian May's guitar solo kicks in I know from experience I have time to get to the toilet and the bar and be back before the next tune kicks in. I do, just in time for Tie Your Mother Down, Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, We Will Rock You and finisher We Are The Champions. They can't really fail.  

We're not done yet. Main Stage was finished but we still had Feeder at The Big Top. This is were it all goes wrong for me. I lost everyone. I think I'd gone to the bar. Big Top was heaving so no chance of finding them. I watched Feeder from the back of the tent, I remember Buck Rogers but little else. Everything was going a tad wobbly and the next I remember is lying half in and out of my tent. Sam nudged me at one point to get in my tent. My reply was gnnnrrrraaaghup. Holly Pocket woke me at one point to go partying. Again my reply was just a noise. Joel reliably informs me that I did get up and walked past him at one point only to return an hour later and resume my foetal position almost in my tent. 

Monday 13th June

I awoke in my tent, in my sleeping bag but have no recollection of getting there. At 48 maybe I should stop trying to party with the 20 year olds. Nah, sod that. Sam had found a staff party apparently and spoke constantly of Andy Treacey and the BBR T-shirt. Ross and Katrina had to leave early with the car full of gear (all part of the same logistical nightmare that lead to us leaving late on the Friday). Ellen got back to her tent after they'd left. That is how you party.  

The minibus loaded with people was booked on the 4pm ferry so plenty of time to stare at showers then opt for coffee. We got packed up and headed off to find a pub lunch. Ross was having a nightmare journey having broken down and there were phone calls a plenty trying to arrange to get people and gear in the right place in about 8 hours time. My brain wasn't up to that amount of work. Ellen's JD weekend was taking it's toll.

Fragile doesn't cover it. A beer on the ferry had the opposite of the desired effect. Credit to Keith for driving all that way and Rich again for the navigation skills when basically we all felt like this:

So that was pretty much it. Glastonbury '89 was the best festival I'd ever been to. This was better. The perfect size, so friendly, incredibly helpful staff and just a seriously good time basically. 

It was made all the better by my fellow travellers:

Starsie, Rich, Ross and Joel - Bang Bang Romeo - destined for Main Stage and more. (Credit to Joel for surviving the weekend despite his skin colour being that of a sheet of glass by Monday morning). Thank you so much for inviting me. It was an honour to share this amazing time. 

Sam: A friend for life and just great company. Organised when it mattered.

Holly Pocket: A small ball of energetic fun (also had the best dress of the festival). Apologies for getting the nickname wrong.

Katrina: Mrs. Cameron (to be) who has a knack of looking stunning at 8am despite the excesses of the night before.

Ellen: Photographer extraordinaire and a party animal up there with the best.

Keith: Manager and despite the stresses brought it all together. Genuinely and unnervingly funny.  

TV's Chris Walker: Always a joy to be around. Nearly left his wine in the dog kennel. 

Charlotte: (Mrs. Stars.) Had an absolute blast throwing shapes together. Love you!!! :-)

I should also mention Ross who travelled down with us. He was DJing at This Feeling Friday and Saturday before heading off to France. I berated him for playing Mr. Brightside straight after Hidden Charms even though he wasn't DJing at the time. Apologies.

And the film crew Gary and Lewis who I barely spoke to cos they were always filming!

It's been emotional. Let's do it again.