Gig Review by @INeedDirection : Jesca Hoop, 27th Oct 2017, Birmingham @JescaHoop @hareandhounds

Reviewed by and photos taken by Tracey.

An exquisite creature, Jesca Hoop steps delicately and somewhat precariously onstage in an elegantly outlandish outfit: all Victoriana ruffles atop an aptly hooped skirt, part rigid corsetry, part deconstructed birdcage. As if such a cage could hope to contain this rare Californian songbird.

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Beneath the lattice grid of her skirt is a perfect black lycra silhouette; an alluring metaphor for being able to see beyond the top layer to the bones beneath. Her songs, ethereal folk tales, murder ballads, sorrowful love potions and incantations, are far more than the sum of their parts. More than just her pared back guitar style and trilling, quivering voice. They fill the room and seep into your psyche.

Opening with the title track of her latest album “Memories Are Now“, her voice sends a hushed chill across the small pub room, candles flickering on bistro tables occupied by a silent, awestruck crowd of a hundred or so. She commands the stage with an understated sense of theatre but in an ocean of calm. The stage lighting, though, is a little harsh for so slight a figure and her delicate features are illuminated in blue for the entire set lending an extra otherworldly charm to the proceedings.

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It was with curious excitement that I bought my ticket for tonight, not having seen her live before and having mainly only listened to her collaborations with Guy Garvey or Sam Beam. Her band tonight are one half Californian and one half Texan. She, of course, now lives in Manchester. For 9 years she declares dolefully. But she thinks Birmingham is colder and darker than Manchester and that’s why we invented Heavy Metal. In Manchester, she tells us, they only sing sad songs. But are we happy she asks? We Are. Probably happier than Manchester. We’re happy and yet her mournful songs get under your skin. ‘Hunting My Dress’ (which she jokes should be renamed ‘Where’s My Skirt’) is bittersweet, stark and haunting. And the cold, bitter refrains in ‘The Lost Sky’ stab at your heart, all prickled staccato.

There is no easy exit from the stage at the Hare and Hounds and after the last song of the set, she stays at the back of the stage pretending to be invisible whilst trying to bite off an irritating hangnail she’d bemoaned a song earlier. She appears to be having a conversation with herself. Gesticulating, questioning, replying. On her return to the blue spotlight for the inevitable encore, she dedicates the next song to a musician friend; a well-known drummer familiar to most in the room who is recovering from a stroke. This is news to us; we are suitably dismayed. She prays for good news, wipes away a tear and sings the beautiful ‘City Bird’. After the gig, I searched for news of said drummer’s fate. Nothing. Not a peep. Did she make it up? Does she feature a different drummer in each city of her tour? Does she have some strange Spinal Tap tendency to kill off drummers? Anyway, I digress. For her finale, she sings a swooning a cappella song:

“You’re sitting out there / Did you know what you were in for? / The change in the air / When you stepped through the door”

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There is a reverential hush in the room – a perfect silence. She’d had a brief inaudible exchange with her band mates in-between songs earlier on in the set and then looked back to us and apologised, “Sorry I forgot you were there. Do you ever do that? Wake up from a strange dream and you’re not where you thought you were?” Yes totally, I do that. And no, I’m not sure we did know what we were in for, nor do we know when we shall awake from this strange and beautiful dream.


Album Review: The Empty Pages @theemptypagesuk

Reviewed by Pete, Edited by Fi

I was so pleased to hear some good friends from Peterborough and Stamford playing music that they have created themselves, having previously seen and heard the guys play some fabulous covers whilst calling themselves “The Overdubs”. I was intrigued to hear what has been achieved when they decide to put pen to paper.

“The Empty Pages” is certainly a diversion from what I normally expect from them. The album consists of 10 tracks created in the Country style not normally associated with our boys, although I always knew that they were well capable of playing any style that they choose to play, given the eclectic range of the covers band.


All songs are by Kieran Wade, who is also highly accomplished on lead guitar, and also adds some backing vocals to Stuart Hendry`s excellent singing, Stu also plays rythmn guitar, the two working as accessories to each other, producing superb results.

Sean Dunmore is awesome as ways on the drums, and holds the band together with great timing and rhythm. He also adds some fabulous backing vocals when required.

Andy Dearlove is ever-present with the steadying influence of that lovely bass.

1. Autumn Girl – a punchy uplifting number with great harmonies, could be a good track for dancing, or just getting into the groove.

2. Bring Me Home is a slower track with clear lyrics in the classic country style.

3. The Old Mill Lane we hear Keiran`s voice with a nice melodic tune and some great guitar pickin`.

4. The Night I Saw Her Dance back with Stu`s vocals, a lovely melody – shall we dance?

5. Looking Down From Peveril Beautiful lyrics, beautifully sung by Stu.

6. Magic 66 No vocals on this upbeat instrumental.

7. We`re Going To Go Far Easy listening in a classic country style.

8. Face In The Crowd Typical country/pop with clear lyrics and excellent guitar licks.

9. Glad To Be Free Another quicker rhythm track maybe for dancing, yeehaa!

10. Welcome To The New World Pleasant and melodic track, slowing things down to meet the end of the record.

In its entirety, the composition was performed and produced in a professional manner, the band was tight, with all four band members complementing each other very well. All in all a very enjoyable experience, well done lads, and thank you.

Buy the album on bandcamp (digital) or The Empty Pages’ website (cd).

Follow The Empty Pages on Twitter and facebook.

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The Australian Pink Floyd, 30th September 2017, Birmingham @aussiefloyd

Australian Pink Floyd, Saturday 30th September 2017 at Birmingham NIA.

Words by Peter Stimpson

Photos by Fi Stimpson

I was looking forward to this gig as we all travelled the 60+ miles from home to the Birmingham NIA. We left home early as we planned to have food and drink at The Malt House near to the Arena before the event, a pleasant atmosphere and serving good pub grub.

After refreshments we transferred to the NIA to gain entry and find our seats, an excellent seating position situated in Block B, row R, in front of stage.

The countdown ensued with the familiar sound of a heartbeat that would launch the band into the first track from “Dark Side of the Moon”. The band proceeded to expertly play their way through the whole of the album seamlessly with a faultless performance. Lorelei and the girls were fabulous in their rendition of “Great Gig in the Sky”, adding to the performance was an incredible light show that “Pink Floyd” themselves would have been proud of, a nice touch being the replacement of some of the graphics and characters with those of Australian origin, the famous prism had become the shape of the continent Australia, and the kangaroo was also featured in the performance.


After performing all of the tracks on Dark Side of the Moon, the band played a couple of tracks from other “Floyd” albums including “The Wall”, featuring a larger than life depiction of the School Teacher, then went for a well earned break for around 30mins.


After the intermmission the band came back on stage to play more fabulous Pink Floyd music from several different albums, there were tracks from The Final Cut, The Wall, Animals and Wish You Were Here. The audience listened intently, many singing along to the wonderful music enthusiasically. The title song from “Wish You Were Here” was a triumph, and I doubted if the band could top that track, but then they played “Run”. Everyone was on their feet for this, clapping and singing along with the band and generally having a great time.


The concert followed the familiar format as they finished the performance and exited stage. Everyone knew that it was not the last they had seen of the band, after a fair amount of applause, the band returned to the stage to perform their fabulous version of “Comfortably Numb”, with this track the band exceeded all expectations, the music was exquisite, and the timing spot on. The guitar work was so close to the original Gilmour rendition that if you closed your eyes one could imagine David actually playing.


All of the band members played their part with total professionalism, from the brilliant guitarists and bass player, to the excellent and hardworking drummer, the marvellous saxophonist, the superb keyboard player through to the lead vocals and the fabulous and gorgeous backing singers.


After the performance our party was invited back stage by Lorelei McBroom to meet the members of the band, this was like icing on the cake for us, my Grandsons were well stoked about meeting the band, as I was, but especially I appreciated speaking with Lorelei, she is such a lovely lady.

As the evening ended we made our way back home contented,,,, apart from the detour as the M6/M1 was closed !! More time to listen to Pink Floyd, though…!


Gig Review: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, 28th September 2017, Nottingham

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Nottingham, 28th September 2017

There was a frisson of excitement all the way around the arena on Thursday night as a growing crowd awaited the arrival of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. In time, they swept onto the stage and took up their places, Cave himself sitting centrally and taking a good long look at his keen audience.

With deliberate movements that matched the creeping brilliance of his lyrics, he shifted gracefully closer and closer to the edge of his seat (and the stage) throughout “Anthrocene” and “Jesus Alone”.

All of a sudden, he became a Messianic figure, poised gently over those of us next to the barrier. He was so close that I swear I could smell his aftershave and see the stitching on his very cool shoes.

As a songwriter and especially as a vocalist, Nick Cave intuitively understands and appreciates the power of overstatement. The whole set was brimming over with Cave’s dark sense of adventure – there’s no shortage of macabre humour in his songs. At certain points, he appears wracked by doom and dark-suited he strides around the stage bellowing his deep falsetto tones into the microphone.

Tupelo shuffles out with the neck hair raising results you’d expect. The Ship Song followed by Into My Arms are almost unbearable in their evocation of emotion. The Weeping Song is punctuated by orchestrated clapping, conducted by Cave himself.

It would be negligent, if not outright criminal, not to mention the Bad Seeds… what a well oiled and incredibly skilled band… in the art of subtlety, mood and sentiment. Coupled with Cave’s larger than life mutation of darkening folk blues and raw punk energy, it’s no wonder their sincere and reverent followers gravitate towards them like moths to a flame.

I cannot think of anything being in a position to rival a Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds show. It is the most generous and wondrous of gifts.

Gig Review: Swans, Birmingham Asylum, 24th May 2017 by @INeedDirection

Swans, Birmingham Asylum, May 24th 2017

Writer and photographer: Tracey B

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act I scene II:

Arial: All hail, great master! Grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure, be ’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds. To thy strong bidding, task
Ariel and all his quality.

And so stands Michael Gira, centre stage, as if on an enchanted isle, amidst his admired musical collaborators, like Prospero and his spirit, Arial, conjuring and directing his storm; arms aloft, dark brooding eyes low, conducting each swell and each lull in the soundscape that surrounds him. With gestures as bizarre as a high kick or wild whipping arms, or as slight as a raised eyebrow or a lowered hand, Gira choreographs a ballet of ballast, a tango of tinnitus. The result is a sound that’s immense, immersive; a performance that’s intimate and personal. For though I am surrounded by a few hundred other people, I feel perfectly alone in my reverie. From my position at the front, slightly off-centre, I can easily make eye contact with the band and I take full advantage of this with each member in turn (save for the keyboard player hidden behind a stack of amps) holding my gaze, brazen and steadfast, until it’s acknowledged, maybe returned with a smile. What can I say? I’m a demanding and disarmingly direct viewer. But this is the advantage of small venues and the confrontational nature of performance works best when a connection can be made with its audience.


Though Swans are widely credited as the loudest band on earth, current decibel levels are bearable (I wear precautionary earplugs nonetheless) and my ears vibrate instead with high-tensile energy. The sound is far from unrelenting aural assault; the set employs clever nuances of sound and technique, contrasts and builds. This tour promotes Swans 14th studio album, The Glowing Man, and also serves as a farewell party to the current cast of players, a line-up established in 2010 (Gira intends to play henceforth with a revolving cast of collaborators). The set list comprises a mere 6 songs, yet lasts 2 ½ hours. Yes that’s right, 2 ½ hours. Anyone aware of my views would know I usually insist brevity is the key to perfect music. And while that may hold true for pop music, it doesn’t apply to the experimental arena in which Swans hold court. I’m loath to promote Sting-endorsed ideology – especially in the middle of a Swans review – but there are tantric forces at play tonight. There is something to be said for drawing out pleasure; for elongating the process to elevate the desired result. And desire is key here. Have you ever felt on the very edge of orgasm for over two hours? My skin tingles in anticipation of each chime, each harmonic touch. I am transfixed, hypnotised, breathless, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Each note, it seems to me, is delivered with full awareness of the effect on its rapt recipients.


The structure of each song relies on a well-honed ritual; a musical Kama Sutra: The guitar begins, gentle and impassive, strumming a held chord accompanied by tender arpeggiated lap steel passes. The bass joins slowly, the back of a thumbnail rubbed erotically along the strings. My pulse throbs to a low rumble of bass drum and isolated piano chords. As the piece builds and the pace gathers, the keyboard resonates, becomes a spectrum-filling electronic choir. Lap steel and bass: a forceful assault of strings, an arduous pounding. The guitar swirls in dizzying, swelling, ascending and descending fret board patterns all pinned down by a cacophony of percussion. And Gira’s voice, so vital, so primal; a wail that cries of all human emotion. And my heart thumps and my breath quickens. And. And. Oh and…


And as if to acknowledge my need for the spiritual in addition to a physical and emotional response, in one of the few gaps between songs, Gira tells a Zen story he’d heard about a monk and a tiger. A monk out walking is confronted by a tiger and in his bid to escape he runs to the edge of a cliff, his only option being to jump. Falling, he grasps onto a vine but, as he hangs, a mouse begins to gnaw at the top of the vine. Resigned to his fate of death by tiger above or the long drop below, he spots a strawberry growing from the cliff, reaches out and eats it. It was the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted. Gira says he has no particular words of wisdom to impart but to live in the present and make each moment count. Well tonight he made around 150 minutes count for everything and more. And it was the sweetest thing I ever tasted.

The Dizzy Miss Lizzys, Charters Bar, Peterborough, 2nd June 2017 by @steverodz

The Dizzy Miss Lizzys

Charters Bar, Peterborough, Friday 2nd June 17

Writer and photographer: Steve Rodriguez

Editor: Fi Stimpson

Peterborough’s musical chameleon Gizz Butt rocks out Charters again with his talented The Dizzy Miss Lizzys, The Beatles and classic rock covers band.

The guys in this band, or Friday’s incarnation of this band anyway, have probably been in more bands than I’ve had pints of beer, and it shows. Gizz on lead and rhythm guitar and vocals, Simon Martin on bass and backing vocals, Thorin ‘Fozzy’ Dixon on drums and a surprising guest appearance by Richard Gombault [Editor: previously of successful Peterborough band Midget] on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Their sets are always entertaining and not a single song is given rough treatment or paid lip service to, it’s full on rock from the off. Although the AC/DC Thunderstruck intro that got the lads on the table nearby chanting along at the top of their lungs didn’t materialise into the full song, it gives an idea of what this band are there to do, please the crowd. That’s what they do. Any classic or hit rock song is in their repertoire and to compliment all this there’s a healthy dose of Beatles covers as that is how the band started, as a Beatles covers band. Sometimes the sets are split, half Beatles and half anything goes, but tonight it was all mixed in to a huge cacophony of guitar, drum and bass. There was the usual guitar solos from Gizz, but even a Fozzy drum solo made an appearance tonight, all the ‘rock’ ingredients were present.


Songs like Get Back, Help, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Hey Jude, All the Young Dudes, Sweet Child O Mine all blend in to the same set seamlessly and in the case of the quieter Beatles songs, all get a suitable ‘turn up to 11’ type treatment with heavier bluesy guitar solos and driving bass.

The personal highlight of Friday for me and possibly a few others was Firestarter, the Prodigy classic from ‘97. For those not familiar with Gizz Butt he was the Prodigy live guitarist during their fat of the land tour in the late 90’s and has played with many household names, including Foo Fighters. Firestarter, although apparently not rehearsed much or 100% perfected, sounded spot on. Gizz is probably at his best vocally on songs like this as Punk bands are pretty much his mainstay, Janus Stark and English Dogs two of his previous bands are steeped in punk roots, albeit the former with a more metal edge.


If you haven’t had the chance to see The Dizzy Miss Lizzys then go,the next time they’re playing, your ears and throat will hurt but guarantee you’ll remember dancing to Hey Jude with your arms round whoever…

Gig Review: Skinny Lister, 3rd May, Nottingham & 4th May, Cambridge, 2017 @SkinnyLister

Skinny Lister – Devil Heart Fight Tour with Support from AJJ band

Rescue Rooms – Nottingham 03-05-17 and The Junction – Cambridge 04-05-17

Written by Martin Tillyer, Photos by Martin Tillyer, Edited by Fi Stimpson.

The first time I saw and heard Skinny Lister was as support for Frank Turner along with Will Varley in November 2015 at Rock City – these artists are all on the Xtra Mile Recordings label.

Since that date, I have also had the pleasure of seeing them headlining on the first part of the Devil Heart Fight tour in 2016 and then as support for the Dropkick Murphys in London in January 2017.

As soon as the dates for this year’s UK tour were announced I ordered tickets for both of the shows being reviewed here, from this you can gather that yes I do like their music and I also had an idea what to expect from them.

The support – The AJJ Band from America – were new to me, having only seen one video clip on YouTube. “Goodbye, Oh Goodbye” comes over as a very quirky American pop type track. I have to say that having now seen them live they are so much more than that.

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The Rescue Room gig was sold out and the room was nearly full for the AJJ set, some of crowd had obviously seen them before and knew what their shows were like.

As they came out it was obvious that there was kit sharing going on as the drummer was using Skinny Lister’s kit. I think that this was a good thing as they are then not forced to be cramped up onto a stage and left with no room to move and also allows for a quicker change over between bands, some of the more well-known bands should perhaps take note of this.

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AJJ are touring as a four-piece band and start off with “Cody’s Theme”, the first track on their latest album “The Bible 2” which soon had the crowd moving around. They then played through a mixture of back catalogue and new songs that varied in pace, the slower numbers having the crowd listening to the thoughtful lyrics which showed the band’s observations on life. They are definitely a tight band and have the audience hooked; the energy they show is highlighted near the end of the set with the singer doing forward rolls around the stage. Anyone that likes Will Varley and Beans on Toast would definitely enjoy this and I know I will go to see them on their next tour.

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The room fills up to capacity as we wait for Skinny Lister to come on with most having already seen them before; it was good to see people in the crowd that we had met previously at the Bodega gig last October, it feels like a big friendly party is about to start and it does with as they come onto stage to start off with “Wanted“ the first track off Devil Heart Fight, a real upbeat punchy number. They then proceed in the usual Skinny Lister party mode through tracks take from all of their Album releases with the majority of them from Devil Heart Fight (9), Down on Deptford Broadway (7) and Forge and Flagon (6).

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Mid set they fitted in a new song “Thing Like That” which still has the typical Skinny punch too it, could well get to be a crowd favourite once more people know the lyrics.

There is a variance in pace as they slow down for some very soulful vocals from Lorna on tracks like “Bonny Away” sounding reminiscent of Sandy Denny.

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Skinny Lister certainly entertain with a flagon of rum passed out among the audience (sad to say that the Flagon had disappeared at the end of the night).

Party George, Lorna and Max’s dad, was in the crowd and Lorna set off to see him going crowd surfing in a dress, she certainly is one very brave lady.

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Scott Milsom the double bass player is certainly fitting in well having replaced Michael Camino – although I will miss his crowd surfing with the double bass.

They ended up with a three-track encore “Beat it from the chest”, “Hamburg Drunk” and “Six whiskies”, a track that should be played at the end of the night in any pub (it is on the playlist in my local).

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It was interesting to go to The Junction 2 in Cambridge to see both bands the following night to see if they could party just as hard, this gig wasn’t sold out, this was possibly because of the band Alabama 3 playing in The Junction 1 next door.

Both bands produced sets that were of the same excellent quality as the night before with some variance in the setlist order. Skinny Lister had to resort to sending a bottle of rum into the audience due to the replacement flagon they had obtained needing to be cleaned out before it can be used.

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The Skinny Lister audience is growing and I think they will soon be having to tour in larger venues, take your chance to see them in these smaller more intimate ones whilst you still can.

Both bands are very approachable and always spend time talking to the audience after the show, helping out with the merchandise sales and signing CD covers

Skinny Lister are a really hard working band and will be appearing at various festivals over the summer and continuing the Devil Heart Fight tour into Europe later in the year.

They are definitely worth seeing live – go to see them if you get the chance.

Dr John Cooper Clarke, Stamford Corn Exchange, 4th May 2017

Words: Richard Mackman
Photos: Fi Stimpson
“Like a nightclub in the morning  you’re the bitter end, like a recently disinfected shithouse you’re clean ’round the bend.”
Me and my mates had memorised every line of ‘Twat’ by the time we were 17, and knew of other such classic hoots that Dr J C Clarke had inflicted upon the world such as ‘Beasley Street’ and ‘I Don’t Want to be Nice’.
Sadly it took me 30 years to getting round to seeing the man in the flesh, but finally I was to see him on the small intimate stage that is Stamford’s Corn Exchange.
The man still has the iconic look and feel to him, post punk and new-wave as heck – as if  he’d tardis’d right back to 1978. Wearing dark sunglasses that barely hide a hard stare, JC looks at each one of us it seems, just to check we are playing attention.
His poems, damn sharp, clever and pithy  are delivered so quick fire that one has to concentrate to pick up every detail of his polemic. As well as the verse, recited from a large and voluminous tattered  A4  notebook, the bulk of the material consisted of extremely funny anecdotes covering numerous subjects such as ex wives, the quaintness of Stamford town (Stamford-en-le-Frith as he christened it!) to getting old and rickety.
Highlights for me included ‘Get back on drugs You Fat fuck’, ’ Things are Going to Get Worse’ and ‘Beasley Boulevard’.
From the first few lines of sarcasm to the end of the set  JCC gave the impression of a guy completely at ease with his talent; and he has plenty.
We left 90 minutes later, with aching sides and faces, elated and damn happy – with a slice of Dr Clarke’s mischievous and be-devilled sense of humour jammed into our souls.
A class night.

Interview and Gig Review: The Virginmarys, Rock City, Nottingham, 15th March 2017

We met up with Ally and Danny from The Virginmarys before their gig at Rock City. Here’s what they had to say…

Fi: So guys, how did you meet?

Ally: Dan and I met years ago, we were at college together and it was a really bad course. It was a music course and it had just started out. Dan and I were kindred spirits where we were like ‘well who can I realistically play with on this course?’ I ended up moving in with Danny and his family and we have jammed ever since.

Danny: Yeah, we pretty much passed the course at my house. We got on well with the guy who was running the course, bless him, the course must have killed him because when we first turned up and he was bright-eyed and dead happy and buzzing and I think there was loads of money from the lottery that had been put into it. By the end of it, we’d go up to him and ask if we could record it at mine and he would be so stressed out with the others he would be like ‘yeah yeah go ahead’ and it was great.

Ally: We always had this dream of being a band, travelling around and we’ve had a few different bass players since we started. Matt has only recently left, due to it just being the right move for him. It’s hard work being in a band not making much money if you have a family. You kind of ask yourself where it’s going, and you have to really want to do it.

Fi: How do you know Ross?

Danny: I have known Ross for years, in Macc you know everybody. If you went there people would look at you like ‘who’s that?’ I’ve always known him and he’s a wicked bass player. He knew the songs inside out. We invited him to a gig and he played for us, and he knew the songs already.

Fi: When did you get your recording deal and what was your first release?

Ally: We got spotted on a platform like Myspace (before Myspace existed) then we got signed to some guys from LA. They thought ‘we just need to develop them, sprinkle a bit of glitter on then we will sell them on’. It’s hard to maintain your integrity and keep playing the music that you love and that you believe in. You kind of fail as a band depending on what type of character you are, there is only so long you can play what your hearts not in or you’re gonna give up or its gonna backfire.

Richard: You remind me of some very cool bands from the late 90s such as China Drum, Three Colours Red and Cable. Who were your early influences?

Ally: I think when I was a teenager I was always listening to the Beatles but as I got older and started picking up guitars, I kinda started getting into Three Colours Red and the Wildhearts. I like rock and punk. There’s just like a realness to it. I got taught by a guy who did blues. I love Fleetwood Mac and BB King and I always go back to it.

Fi: What do you sing about? What inspires you to put pen to paper?

Ally: It’s a communication. You are expressing yourselves in the only way – it’s kind of like a medium that seems more effective, more appealing than just speech. I was always shy as a kid, and musicians helped me with their way of expressing themselves. It would be a lot different if I only had a microphone, not instruments, and I had to do a comic routine. You have to have a persona type thing. For inspiration, it’s what’s going on in the moment. It’s a bit like a diary, and its a form of communication that helps you get thoughts across.

Danny: Our new song is called Donald Trump! (Not really…!)



Richard: The world appears to be going to hell in a handcart at the moment. Do current world events at home and abroad affect what you say in your songs?

Ally: Yeah, they kinda are what you write songs about. We have made a conscious effort with this new material to give people hope and not say how rubbish everything is. The only way it will change is people switching on and realising the power they have. We have got a lot of younger people coming to our gigs – listening and understanding they are the only ones who can change what is happening.

Danny: The first record we did we were playing a lot of classic rock clubs, but the last album wasn’t necessarily purposefully against classic rock but there are more different scenes now so since then there’s a different crowd coming on board instead of just blues rock fans. Rock is pretty broad and we’ve got a good mix of people coming along.

Fi: Do you guys find you need to have regular work as well as the band?

Ally: Bits and pieces here and there.

Danny: We seemed to have more money before we signed with labels and stuff – because you have to give away your money!

Maddy: What are the most memorable shows you’ve done to date?

Danny: Leeds and Reading on the main stage last year was pretty big, really cool for both of us. New Model Army always stand in my mind, they were amazing. It was a proper eye opener. We drank too much on that one, so we just stood there shaking and wishing we hadn’t. Justin came over and said their fans are like one band fans so they took a while to warm up to us. 

Ally: Our fans are a bit like that too – they all meet up before shows and stuff.

Danny: New Model Army’s fans make a pyramid on each others shoulders, I thought it was a rave when I saw it. We got a good reception from them and they still come and see us. Skunk Anansie were great -Mark the drummer found out my cymbals broke and gave me his, and gave me a snare drum too!

Fi: What was it that inspired you to do the People Help the People tour?

Ally: That was just an idea that came from the fact you can actually do something. We got like two tonnes of food by the end of it. It was more about the people getting together and doing something to help. It was awesome that so many people donated. It feels like you’re brought up a certain way, moulded through a system and certain things don’t seem possible, but they are and you can do it. It was amazing of you to get involved – we relied on people like you. It was really cool.

Richard: Punk rock has always traditionally been the music of resistance. What have you guys taken from Punk rock?

Danny: It’s always been a big part of us playing, it is such a broad term. Whenever we have a photo shoot or videos or record an album, we always think about what we want to sound like – bands like The Clash. It’s cool but honest.

Ally: I hope there’s always going to be a place for Punk, I’m hoping that something slips through the cracks and more people listen to it again, because it is brilliant. We wouldn’t have found it unless we listened to certain things then I wouldn’t have opened my mind. It inspired me to go on a search to express myself – people should always try to do that.

Fi: What other English bands do you rate at the moment and would recommend to us to check out?

Danny: We have a band on – it’s the first time we’ve requested a band so we’ve got The Hyena Kill, from Manchester onwards, that we chose. The Wytches are really cool.

Ally: There aren’t that many rock bands. I’ve been listening to a lot of soul and disco at the moment, it makes stuff feel passable.

Fi: What are your plans for the rest of 2017 and beyond?

Ally: We will release a lot of music on EPs and a new album. The reaction has been amazing. You can sometimes just get lost in this world of thinking it’s going to be great and this is going to work, but it’s hard to plan, you just get lost in the jargon and nothing really happens.

Danny: Divides went really well -it was amazing to work with Gil Norton, we all love him. It’s weird to think he’s such good friends with Ally, that he’ll just call up for a chat. That album was awesome. We would probably still be promoting it now, but after Matty went we started to write new stuff instead of using Divides – it just feels right to do new stuff now.

Fi: Thanks guys – looking forward to hearing the new stuff and to seeing you on stage very soon indeed!

Gig review:

The Virginmarys are very difficult to pigeonhole, as are their audience. There is the feral energy of punk rock, some kind of blues sludginess going on and an immediately focused intensity that only a three piece band is able to present you with.

Ally Dickaty’s voice at times reminds me of Dan McCafferty of Nazareth. There is a brash yet melodic sensibility to their songs and a tightness that puts the hairs up on the back of your neck.


Drummer Danny Dolan, apparently suffering from a ferocious chest infection, lays into his traps with the same sort of panache you’d expect from a rockabilly drummer, sometimes standing up and being hunched over his kit. I imagine he gets through a fair few cymbals!


Bassist Ross Massey, the new boy, presents a Flea-like figure, a skilled fingerstyle player who exhibits a commanding persona stage left.


We get 18 songs, several of which I’m not familiar with, but the sign of a great band is that it does not matter – the energy and delivery entice you in.


Highlights for me include opener “Dead Man’s Shoes”, the China Drum-esque “Just a Ride”, “Free to Do Whatever They Say”, “Ends Don’t Mend” and finale “Bang Bang Bang”.

There is something very timeless, working class and ‘English’ about what they do. Hearing Ally’s M-accent in the songs is very endearing, a refreshing change from that American whine we are all too familiar with.


The Virginmarys are a very likeable band and one that you can be reassured I will see again this year.

Black Star Riders, 14th March 2017, Rock City, Nottingham – review by Martin Tillyer

Black Star Riders supported by Backyard Babies and Gun, Rock City, Nottingham,14th March 2017

Having been away for the weekend watching a selection of tribute bands at Legends of Rock ‘Yarmageddon’, I came home on Monday evening to a message offering me the chance to go see the Black Star Riders at one of my favourite venues. I knew I wouldn’t turn it down.

I had not seen either of the support bands before so it was going to be interesting to see what the build up to the headliners was going to be like.

Gun came on with the crowd already building up, they brought their own blend of traditional British rock (Scottish to be more precise).


Their set had a good balance from their back catalogue including the cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” and a cracking new track “She Knows” from Gun’s forthcoming album.


Let It Shine

Word Up!

Don’t Say It’s Over

Better Days

She Knows

Steal Your Fire

Shame On You.

Band – Dante Gizzi, Vocals – Jools Gizzi, Guitar – Tommy Gentry, Guitar – Andy Carr, Bass – Paul McManus, Drums

Following these were Swedish rockers Backyard Babies, This was a band I hadn’t previously heard of. From the start they were into a set that had far more pace with a harder edged rock with a heavily Punk influenced sound, bringing to mind bands such as Hanoi Rocks.



Th1rte3n or Nothing

Dysfunctional Professional

The Clash

Brand New Hate

Bloody Tears


Minus Celsius

Look At You

Band – Nicke Borg, Vocal – Dregen, Guitar – Johan Blomqvist, Bass – Peder Carlsson, Drums

Each of the support acts played for about 40 minutes, leaving about 30 mins until the Black Star Riders which soon went by. This was to be the third time I had seen them – the first was at Download. At that time I had not heard of them, but did initially think they sounded like a good Thin Lizzy covers band (we were not near enough to really see the stage and the weather was shocking)! I was so impressed with their original music, and when I returned home to investigate them and found that they had Scott Gorham on guitar it became a lot more obvious why! I bought the first album at that point. At that time the set was actually split 60 – 40 % of new tracks to the old Lizzy tracks.


Tonight, they started off the set with the title track of the new album “Heavy Fire” before leading into “Bloodshot” and “The Killer Instinct”. It was then back to the new album for “Dancing with The Wrong Girl”.

It is becoming obvious that they are a really tight unit giving their own blend of rock still with Irish influences which you would expect with Ricky as a front man.


“Soldierstown” and “Hey Judas” lead to two more of the new tracks, “When the Night Comes In” and “Cold War Love” which is a slower number, one of my favourites from the new album.


“All Hell Breaks Loose” speeds it up again next, followed by a track that I, perhaps controversially, feel didn’t need to be in the set, “The Boys are Back in Town”. Time has moved on and now into their third album they are definitely a band in their own right and in my opinion they don’t need to keep the Lizzy Link going.

Back then to “Hoodoo Voodoo”, “Who Rides the Tiger”, another faster punchier number, followed by “Blindsided”.


“Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed” and “Testify or Say Goodbye” from “Heavy Fire” lead into penultimate tracks “Kingdom of the Lost” and “Bound for Glory”.

With the finale of “Finest Hour”, BSR had been on stage for well over an hour and I wish it could have lasted much longer – an amazing performance as I had expected.


I did hear people saying at the end they wished they had played more Thin Lizzy… but to me, they are the BLACK STAR RIDERS and nothing else is required.

Thank you, until the next time…

Review and photos by Martin Tillyer

Editor: Fi Stimpson