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!
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 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
Don’t Say It’s Over
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
Brand New Hate
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
I met with Ryan Hamilton on 2nd March 2017 before his gig at The Portland Arms, Cambridge to chat about his current tour and the new album Devil’s in the Detail.
Hi, Ryan. Good to see you again. So, what brings you to these shores?
We wanted to tour over here again after last year ended up in such a good place for us. Ginger Wildheart kinda scooped us up and said “I love this band” and once we got that kinda stamp of approval it seems like the sky’s the limit. So we did a new album and we knew it was gonna come out in February and we wanted to do a tour, but we wanted to do something different because I knew there was going to be a lot of press around the new album with things like radio station visits. So what we did is this acoustic thing where some of the shows are a full band (like tonight) and some are just me and some are me and my piano player friend Carol. Between all that we’ve got the radio station visits, a lot of promotional stuff for the album. So that’s why we’re here, it’s been just the best. Tonight and one more show in London – the album launch, which is sold out.
We saw you at the Portland Arms last July with Ginger Wildheart – how did your liaison with him come about and how did you find him to work with?
Ginger was at a party with some friends and they were doing a thing where they were playing new music and someone said “you gotta listen to this guy!” and put one of my songs on. The story goes – Ginger stopped and was like “hold on” and got lost in the song. He enjoyed it enough to really pay attention for 3 minutes – it’s just that thing that never happens anymore, he messaged and said “I love your band, I want you to go on tour with me” and I didn’t know him before at all. I wish more people were like that. If I get to keep on doing this I will try and do as much as I can – I hope to be that way.
What other projects have you done in the past before getting together with The Traitors?
I was in a band called Smile Smile who were a fairly big deal in America and Canada, but we never made it in the UK. I was in that band with my fiancée at the time. We had a moderately successful single on the radio, we had our first tour with a tour bus… and then she cheated on me. She then brought the guy on tour – this was all public knowledge and in the news back home. It was terrible, but it kinda fuelled that band even more – it was this mental thing where I was like “I’m living my dream but I hate this”. After we got home, she moved out of our house and in with the dude. I started writing these really dramatic songs about what she did to me and email them to her. Her response was not to get upset or anything (she’s very strange) – she wrote a piano part and sent it back, kinda like a middle finger to me. That turned into an album’s worth of material – I never thought it would be an album but I kept sending them and she kept sending them back. That album to date is the most successful thing I’ve ever done, even though The Traitors are creeping up fast.
In between, I was in a band called People on Vacation with Jaret Reddick who sings in Bowling for Soup. As much fun as that band was to be in, it basically taught me everything I didn’t want to be in music. It was full of managers and the typical music industry douchebags that I just loathe – greed, lying, cheating, all of that. It was like watching a movie and thinking “are these real people?”. My band mates in The Traitors were in that band with me, so when I made my exit I said to them “you’ve seen this too, stick with me please” – and they did. I’m fairly sure I did ok.
How did you arrive at the band name?
We’re all big Star Wars fans and The Force Awakens with the Storm Trooper who ends up being a good guy but they think he’s a bad guy. We had been throwing names around, Mickey and Rob had done one tour as The Traitors but it was kind of like an inside joke, then the Star Wars thing happened and the t-shirts saying traitor with helmet and bloody hand print were everywhere, and after everything with People on Vacation I left saying “I’m doing what I want, you don’t tell me what to do” so the traitor thing really rang true and it made sense.
What or who has inspired you to play the way that you do?
All the people you probably expect. Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, I love David Bowie. Anyone who did things their way, figured it out on their own and no matter what happened they didn’t deter, they stuck with their vision and believed in themselves and something inside them knew “this is what I’m gonna do and you’re not gonna tell me any different”. So those people – Andy Warhol, too – they were brave enough in themselves and they just decided they were going to be successful whether it took a year or 20 years. I’ve always loved music but didn’t learn to play guitar until my early 20s. A lot of my friends and acquaintances in this business started playing when they were teenagers in a high school band, so that was extra motivation for me as I was a late starter.
So what did you want to do before that?
I didn’t really know. I was a terrible teenager with drugs, alcohol, partying… I went to university to study advertising and marketing, I thought that was cool but I always really, really loved music. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I decided I wanted to do music, I was just kinda lost. A lot of people go through the motions and never really figure out what they want to do – they just end up at a job and I guess I was never programmed that way.
Your new album Devil’s in the Detail was released on Valentine’s Day on your own label Fannypack Records – how has that gone down?
Very well – it cracked the top 40 on the UK iTunes chart, got to number 39 which I’ll take every time. I make this joke though – people say “I’m number 1 on iTunes!” but you can actually change it where you keep going down the categories and then take a screen shot where it looks like you’re number 1 but it’s on contemporary, classical, Spanish spoken word – but you’re still number 1! So good for you, I guess! But our album is selling really well and we’re doing everything ourselves and we don’t need to ask permission – we just do it.
So tell me about your experiences with record labels before setting up your own?
Just the worst and the same story you hear time and time again, you’re just so excited to be signing to a record label and my first band signed to one that had a lot of money and a lot of big promises, and at the time I thought it was the best thing ever. I got a house that I couldn’t afford a year after and it was just ridiculous. You have this idea about what it’s going to be but really you’re just signing this big bank loan and hopefully you pay it all back. Thankfully, that band did well but I never made any money. Really all I ever did was pay people back which sucks. And they still own my songs – to the point where I can’t even go and re-record them, they own them for a really long time and it would involve getting a lawyer. They see something as a product that they can make money from and they made plenty.
Who are the other guys in your band – they came across as very seasoned players.
I didn’t know them before People on Vacation – Jaret and I started the band, we had the opportunity to tour the UK. Jaret knew Rob (I didn’t), Rob knew Mickey who was doing drum lessons at the time. Mickey did really well in the music business in his late teens/early 20s in a hair metal band but it never quite got as big as he wanted. He then got married, had 2 kids and made a great life for himself. 10 years went by and Rob called him asking if he wanted to play drums for this band, so he’s getting a second chance that not many people get. He’s a great dad, but now he gets to finally do the thing that he almost got to do. I didn’t really know the dudes until Jarret reached out to Rob, who contacted Mickey, we ended up in a room rehearsing then went on tour over here.
What are the highlights of your career with The Traitors so far? Do any particular gigs stand out for you? Who else have you shared a stage with?
Some of my favourite shows ever are a couple on that Ginger tour, just because it was a new audience for us. We knew we’d have a handful of people who knew us but Ginger’s audience is very Ginger-y – you know what I mean? They’re there to see Ginger, so we knew that if we could win that crowd over they’d be very loyal. We loved playing for that crowd because they’re music lovers and appreciators. They aren’t just there to say “we were at the Ginger show”, they’re there to hear the music and have an experience. So on that tour the Glasgow show, the London show and here at the Portland Arms were good ones – I remember that show because I passed out that night, I was sitting here and Ginger was here – there was a portable fan, Ginger put the fan right in front of me, took his shirt off and was wafting the air, it was very strange because he was shirtless – but what a sweet man.
Other than that, we did our first tour as this band under just my name. We got to the first show in Edinburgh and it was sold out – we were like “holy shit!” – I will never forget that one, people were singing these brand new solo songs and it was very satisfying. Just like anything, you want to get to the next level at your job so for me it just feels like a promotion.
So, how does this all fit in with family life?
Well, I met my wife in Newcastle – she’s a Geordie girl. I didn’t even know what a Geordie girl was, someone should have given me a handbook! I think because I’ve been through so much shit and made all kinds of terrible decisions with substances and women and whatever else, it took somebody as challenging as my wife – entertaining is probably the word. It doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful, way out of my league – I still look at her sometimes and think “Really? Good for you!” But I don’t have the urge to have kids and Holly doesn’t either – maybe that will change, but right now it’s way too easy to go on tour so we just go.
Has anyone come over here with you?
My parents are here! They’ve seen me go through Smile Smile and everything else. I keep telling them “seriously, things are happening in the UK” so come and see for yourselves! So they flew over for the last few shows and it’s cool to have them here.
What’s next for you guys?
So now it’s been 2 years since starting over, re-establishing after pissing all the industry people off… but now we’re at the point where we’re selling out medium sized shows over here. Tomorrow is a big venue in London which sold out pretty quick.
Here’s something else people don’t think about. You can break down my life by the size of vehicles I’ve toured in. So, at first it was an SUV, then a van in the Smile Smile days then a tour bus. Then I was back in a van with People on Vacation then back on a bus again. Then that ended. We were then back over here in a rental car for a house party tour, then back up to a van – we’re in a little larger van now, a nice van and we’re doing a tour over here later this year back on a bus. [Fi – so next – your own plane?? Ryan laughs]
Well, thank you for chatting to me – have a great show tonight and I hope the London show goes really well, too!
Thanks, this was fun!
This was the penultimate gig on Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors’ acoustic tour. Last time Ryan was at The Portland Arms, it was to support Ginger Wildheart and was a tightly packed crowd. This time, there was a group of dedicated followers up front and interested parties dotted around the rest of the venue. Sadly not sold out, but a lovely atmosphere nevertheless.
First up was Danny Gruff, an acoustic singer-songwriter with a great sense of humour – he had the crowd laughing, doing dance moves (yes, even us photographers did as we were told), singing and bantering throughout his set. A genuine delight – hoping to see him again.
Next on stage was Chrissy Barnacle, who hails from Glasgow. She also features on Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors’ new album in the form of backing vocals. An inspired choice as support, when I was chatting to her before the gig, she described her music as “evil freak folk”. I was intrigued, to say the least. She didn’t disappoint – her lyrics are honest and sometimes scathingly so.
Her voice is unique (although reminds me a little of Joanna Newsome in places) and her guitar playing is mesmerising – she’s a very talented young lady and loves what she does. Her stories about the songs are amusing and make her very personable. She also wasn’t deterred when a couple was heavily making out stage left – she gave a wry, knowing smile and then got on with what she was there to do. A true professional. I’d love to see her again.
The headline act finally made their way to the stage, to suitably approving cheers from a very happy crowd! In comparison to last time I saw them, this was a more relaxed set with an additional chat between songs from Ryan and great banter with the crowd. Ryan and The Traitors are so at ease playing together, even making a joke after playing one of their tunes for the first time in a while and getting it a bit wrong. This band are so down to earth – although they’re popular, they don’t have the massive ego some bands have which makes you feel like you’re truly with friends.
Highlights of the show for me were the delightfully uplifting Be Kind, Rewind, new songs We Should Never Have Moved to L.A., Heavy Heart and old favourite Ode to the Idiots. All of the new songs go down really well – indeed, a lot of the crowd know them already which is a great sign – people have been buying the album! Result!
Ryan is very anti-bullying following a bad experience of his own where he was targeted online by one man who had a vendetta of him. He supports the Ditch the Label charity and it was great to hear him talk about it during the gig – he really wants people to know there is always someone you can turn to. He finished by saying that if you feel you have no-one else you can send him an email and talk to him. He’s a wonderfully kind man who has got through his own personal battles and wants to help others who need it. This very much comes through in his songs, too – what a great message for people who are struggling for their own personal battles.
If you’ve not heard of Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors yet, then now is the time. They are touring again in the UK later in 2017. Buy their music. Get tickets. You won’t regret it.
Being in a band is a difficult business right now. Gone are the days of going to your local record store, putting on a pair of headphones, hearing something new that you like and buying the album straight away. Bands generally rely on social media to get the word out there, and listeners now expect to get their music for nothing. Yes, there are those of us who still buy albums – I personally like to have something tangible as well as supporting hard-working bands financially.
Of course, a vital market to get interested is teens – they are the future of music in every way and have been since the 50s when “the teenager” really started to exist. You know what I mean.
It was, therefore an absolute pleasure to go to a gig and see a gaggle of teens standing at the front, adoringly watching their favourite band’s every move and singing every syllable.
I am talking about Hunter and the Bear when they appeared at Voodoo Lounge in Stamford on Friday 17th February 2017 as a warm-up gig in the run-up to the tour for their debut album “The Paper Heart”. Of course, their audience wasn’t limited to the youth of today – there was a great mix of people who seemingly followed the guys around the country! That, for me, is the mark of a band who has something a little bit special…
Supporting was Anglo-American singer/guitarist Pembroke Tenneson. He had immediate stage presence and a smile that could melt the iciest of hearts. He proceeded into a lovely acoustic set of self-written songs and covers, largely favouring Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles – a big thumbs up from me!
Lively, cheeky and engaging, he had the audience on his side within seconds, especially his two lady hecklers who I think had more on their mind than just the music! I will be seeing Tenneson again – he’s got a fair few gigs listed for this year already, so urge you to do the same!
Pembroke Tenneson’s setlist:
World Keep on Turning (Fleetwood Mac)
Look Out Below
Good to Me
Oh Well/Heartbreak Hotel (Fleetwood Mac, Elvis)
The Fracking Song
Watch Your Man
Green River/Born on the Bayou (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
I Believe in Miracles (Hot Chocolate)
A Day in the Life (The Beatles)
Just moments later, Hunter and the Bear launched themselves onto the stage in a pleasingly rock n’ roll fashion! The entire set was high energy, slowing down only slightly to catch their breath during their calmer-paced tracks.
This band has been compared to popular folk bands such as Of Monsters and Men and Mumford and Sons, but for me the guys have a much more rock edge to their style, complete with a solo from each band member (Chris’ bass solo was most excellent…!) and definitely the image to go with it. Comparisons are way too freely made on this occasion methinks!
I couldn’t stop smiling during the entire gig – the band’s energy was infectious and the effect on the crowd was that they were mentally tethered to the guys and their music throughout.
Hunter and the Bear are garnering a reputation a lot of bands these days would be envious of. They’ve got a following, they’ve got charisma and attitude, they’ve got awesome tunes, they’re getting gigs at great venues and most of all they’re selling tickets and hopefully albums aplenty.
I came away from the gig tonight feeling happier than I have in ages and with a brand new favourite band in my heart.
Hunter and the Bear’s setlist:
Who’s Gonna Hear You
Hey, My Love
Burn it Up
Blood Red Skies
I Am What I Am
You Can Talk
Won’t You Ever Come Home
Like a Runaway
My advice? Get along and see them on their upcoming tour before they’re playing venues where you can’t get close anymore!
SONG OF THE WEEK:
|Def Leppard||Pour Some Sugar on Me||@instantkarma80 @annatheforager|
|System of a Down||Sugar||@sirsidneyp|
|Sonic Youth||Sugar Kane||@beardedsteven|
|The Chemical Brothers||Life is Sweet||@eveshambaggy|
|Echo & The Bunnymen||Lips Like Sugar||@gigticket @miftin81 @skylarkingmatt|
|Carter USM||Sweetheart Sugar Baby||@jason_dobson|
|The Smiths||Sweet & Tender Hooligan||@antmeals|
|The Cocteau Twins||Sugar Hiccup||@caroline_binnie|
|The Sugarcubes||Hit||@annatheforager @maxinesimons1|
|Stone Roses||(Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister||@pineapplehurts|
|Yo La Tengo||Sugarcube||@durutti74|
|The Chiffons||Sweet Talkin’ Guy||@pinkyblonde_|
|Natalie Merchant||Life is Sweet||@lsherrington1|
|The Searchers||Sugar and Spice||@staffs75|
|Guns n’ Roses||Sweet Child o’ Mine||@antmeals|
|Jesus and Mary Chain||Just Like Honey||@gigticket|
|Stephen Duffy||Sugar High||@maffrj|
|The Clint Boon Experience||White No Sugar||@neilc79|
|Nitzer Ebb||Sugar Sweet||@sirsidneyp|
|Maria McKee||Life is Sweet||@rosbif65|
|Tom Waits||Chocolate Jesus||@antmeals|
|Lightning Seeds||Sugar Coated Iceberg||@miftin81|
|Rolling Stones||Brown Sugar||@mattowlbeak|
|Syreeta||Your Kiss is Sweet||@skylarkingmatt|
|The White Stripes||Sugar Never Tasted So Good||@musicvstheworld|
Words: Richard Mackman
Photos: Fi Stimpson
The Main Grains bill themselves as timeless rock and roll, and they are just that. With similarities to Danny McCormack’s former project The Yo-Yos, the Grains smash out half an hour of brash and rambunctious four chord Ramones-esque sub-punk. Considering the man has only one leg these days, Danny is not only clearly very glad to be on stage, but also grateful for the love and support he gets from tonight’s crowd. He did, after all, used to be bass player for The Wildhearts. He is also in the possession of what looks to be his old yellow Fender Precision, the sound of which could eviscerate a stegosaurus at 30 yards. Jobs a good’un, and thank you very much.
Massive Wagons are a long haired, flying V type quality rock band, in some ways an atavism in this day and age, but they pull it off with panache. Lead singer Baz looks fresh from the cast of Vikings, whacking his mike stand around like a bloodied broad sword. For a fella of small stature, he has a big gob and an even bigger personality. I would like to hear these guys on record so that next time I have more of an opportunity to sing along. Clearly a hard working and tenacious band, and one would think another of Ginger Wildheart’s wise choices as support. We will be seeing you again, boys!
And so onto The Wildhearts… I think this is my 38th time seeing them since November 1992, and Rock City belongs to The Wildhearts. Despite the ridiculous early curfew time, they pile into tonight’s set with confident gusto.
We are hearing some songs hear tonight I don’t think I’ve ever heard live before. “Fishing for Luckies” was the decadent, peacock-like companion to “Phuq” and we get the lot, pretty much. Inglorious” IS glorious. “In Like Flynn” kicks enormous quantities of arse.
My favourite for this evening is “Do the Channel Bop”, coming across like Bird’s dream topping. “Sky Babies” was also splendid – and unless I am much mistaken, we got all 11m24s of it.
Jon Poole was on bass again tonight – an incredible player, also a former member of The Cardiacs. Respect.
The encore tonight commenced with Danny’s chair being dragged out and McCormack treating us to some extra bass contributions alongside Poole. Ginger and CJ are locked in and synchronised – effortlessly as usual. I guess that’s what happens when you play shoulder to shoulder for 25 years.
The only thing missing tonight was Ginger’s old sticker-infested Les Paul custom – I’ve always loved the sound of that guitar.
Yep – another great Wildhearts show.
Reviewed by Zoe
4.The City Falls
8.Better Keep Today
“Neon” from London based Rock/Indie solo acoustic artist Scott Dean is a little gem of an album that definitely warrants a second and third listen.
Short and sweet, with two of the songs being short instrumental offering, at first visit, “Neon” is easy on the ear (although please don’t worry, I am not implying this is “Easy Listening”).
Nothing too edgy or niche, the overall sound and tone of the album will appeal to a broad range of listeners and is instantly likeable – as a musician Dean is clearly very accomplished – beautiful, delicate acoustic guitar, smooth and polished like some lovely musical pebble, and Dean’s vocals are the right blend of melodic with just a touch of huskiness. I was put in mind of Grant Nicholas or, dare I say it, a less grating Daniel Powter.
However, if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover that lyrically there is a thoughtfulness but also some grit, and darker elements.
The songs, for the most part, have definite narratives and they are more pained, more pensive than the largely major chord progressions would imply – somehow managing to be both dark and simultaneously elevating, and at times cinematic.
“The City Falls”, an homage to the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”, is a great example of how Dean successfully manages to set a scene with his winning combination of moody, atmospheric sounds teamed with a strong storytelling vocal line.
Across the album, Dean deals with some rather hefty themes like betrayal and addiction (some touched a personal note with me – which I believe is always the mark of a good lyricist) as well as the perennial songwriter’s favourites of love and pain.
It’s clear to hear that mixing and producing this album has been a labour of love, it’s well thought out and measured; yet you sense fun was had in the making (I had a little giggle at the fleeting “guest appearance” from Craig David at the start of “Radio” – I do hope that was the intention!). Particular highlights for me are the delicate touch of the backing vocals on “The City Falls” and the driving guitar parts on “Radio” which has a real forward momentum.
The album has a couple of musical interludes – firstly the appropriately named “Intro” which had a deliciously growling bass line that personally I was little disappointed was not developed further in the album (maybe a request for the next release Scott?). It reminded me a lot of the start of “This Garden” by The Levellers, with a hint of jungle (geographical jungle – not “Massive”). The second is a bluesy little offering, “The Puzzle”. Definitely showing my age now, but it felt like the natural division between side A and side B where you would turn your cassette over (ask your Mum kids), a musical intermission that sounds almost experimental but also a chance for Dean to showcase his not inconsiderable skills.
There are a couple of stand-out tracks on Neon for me personally, the opening guitar of “Better Keep Today” honestly gave me goose bumps, haunting and atmospheric and well, just lovely. “Neon” itself is also a bit of an ear worm, the lyrics are deliciously dark (“lock me up now, give me the blue pill”) and the way the song builds works so well. Just incredibly well thought out.
Style wise, I heard smatterings of Dave Grohl’s more acoustic offerings, a heavy dose of Feeder melody wise (in particular “Lucky Seven”), the gentleness and subtlety vocally of Radiohead and some of the quirky sound injections of Kula Shaker – certainly a late 90s influence permeates.
Delicately striated, there is layer upon layer to each song; real depth, but despite that you can just tell that they would all work just as well completely stripped back in a one man and his guitar setting, which to me is always the real test of a good song, that it still works without the bells and whistles – the vocal and guitar are the real stars of this show. Listen to the way the less is more of “Better Keep Today” stands shoulder to shoulder with the more involved production on say, “Neon” or “Convince Me”.
In short this is a cracking collection, lovers of real quality song-writing and the clarity and depth of acoustic guitar (with all the trimmings of course) should definitely be adding “Neon” to their music libraries. And myself, I will be looking out for the next live gig to test my “just as good naked” theory….
Just before Christmas 2016, I reached out to people on twitter and asked them to play a musical game. The idea was to tweet the cover of an album they considered to be great, tag 3 other people in and include me. It proved to be a very popular game! Thank you to everyone for your suggestions. Here are the results…
1. Push the Pedal
2. For you my Love
3. Halo in her Silhouette
4. Free to do Whatever they Say
5. I Wanna Take You Home
6. Walk in my Shoes
7. Kill the Messenger
8. Into Dust
9. Moths to a Flame
10. Falling Down
11. Motherless Land
12. Living in my Peace
The Macclesfield trio’s second studio album to follow up 2013’s King Of Conflict. Divides was released 6th May 2016 on Cooking Vinyl.
The Virginmarys are: Ally Dickaty (lead vocals / guitar), Danny Dolan (drums / backing vocals), and newly recruited Ross (bass / backing vocals).
It’s all too easy to pigeonhole bands into a particular genre and if you can’t find one then you make one up. Nu Metal, Punk Pop, Hardcore, Industrial . . . . etc. etc. For The Virginmarys, you could try and stick them in a category, or make one up, or just accept that they really do have a bit of everything going on and are very very good at doing it.
Push the Pedal kicks off this album and on the sound of the dirty bass intro you start to think it’s 1992 and Layne Staley is still alive, then, the drums and a vocal echo enters the fray and you’re in 1996 and listening to a new Oasis track. Precisely why this band can’t, and shouldn’t be, categorised. It’s a powerful guitar drum and bass driven track, but what would you expect from a 3 piece, and Ally gives it the rasping, powerful vocal treatment it deserves. In a very unsubtle way, it says play this album on 11 . . .
For you my Love follows where Push the Pedal left off but is more of an instant hit with an almost Flea/Frusciante intro and a Stipe vocal over the top. This quickly gives way to the more familiar vocal sound and again it’s a powerful riff driven track that keeps the album driving forward purposefully.
Halo in Her Silhouette is the most sing-a-long track so far and you just knew that chorus line was going to repeat in that tried and tested late 70’s punk style. Don’t be lead down a path of thinking this band are a 3 piece punk outfit pulling a 3 chord trick from their sleeve at every opportunity though, there’s a lot more going on here and it’s another affirmation that this band cover pretty much all musical bases.
More punk style sounds ensue on the next track, Free To Do Whatever They Say, with a snarling, spitting vocal and guitar fuelled intro that builds into a bridge and chorus with some perfectly placed repeated backing vocals. It’s a chant, a probable crowd pleaser and again has all the energy that the first 3 tracks set the bar for.
The energy doesn’t subside on I Wanna Take You Home, but things do slow down a little here and enables Walk In My Shoes to follow with it’s more sombre and deep feel. The piano comes to the fore much more prominently this time and compliments the almost haunting backing vocals perfectly.
Kill The Messenger keeps the keyboard but layers of distorted guitar and bass ride over the top and makes for a Pink Floyd-esque sound with it’s low chord changes ebbing and flowing through the chorus line of the song.
Although there’s a hell of a lot of energy in this album the band resist the obvious temptation to be more crude with their language and instead express their lyrics in a much more subtle and well crafted fashion. It’s a surprise then when Into Dust starts with the F word in the second line. This is not the recurring theme of the song however and it quickly develops into familiar expressive and well crafted lyrics.
Moths To A Flame is arguably the album’s standout track and sometimes it’s easy to forget this is a three piece band when you hear such a vast, complex sound all rolled into one song. It has emotion and expression in abundance and this carries throughout the whole track from the Kings Of Leon sounding intro to the Biffy Clyro-esque ending.
Sandwiched between Into Dust and Falling Down, Moths To A Flame would possibly sound completely out of place on any other album, but, as The Virginmarys have so many influences to draw from it’s no surprise that Falling Down starts with a vocal that’s everything Mick Jones in both its sound and delivery. More proof that not only the band have a range of sounds but Ally is equally adept at displaying his own vocal range to suit the songs, lines, syllables . . .
Motherless Land is a nostalgic trip back to the early 80’s and if John Cougar or Springsteen had written this one then we wouldn’t bat an eyelid, although neither do we here and instead get caught up in the story of the song, listening intently as it builds and builds to a crescendo, a well placed clean sounding guitar solo and a very fitting sudden ending.
If Moths To A Flame was arguably the album’s standout track then it would be fighting with Living In My Peace for the title, and it would be a closely run thing. The album’s closing track, draws on everything that’s gone before, energy, haunting backing vocals, a big vocal range, guitar driven melodies with pounding drum fills and beats and an emotive, expansive and atmospheric crescendo. It typically rises and rises then drops in that well fitting sudden ending to leave you thinking about what may have happened next.
If you’re a fan of music, listen to this album because I really think there’s something here for everyone and you won’t be disappointed. The north west seems to give us a lot of very respectable bands and The Virginmarys although not the typical shoe-gazing, jangly-sounding 60’s influenced mods that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from this neck of the woods, they can undoubtedly claim to be part of the club if they wanted to, but then again they’re likely to be perfectly at home being slightly different, and not in any way pigeonholed . . .
* Photos are from Ally’s recent gig in Peterborough as part of The Virginmarys’ People Help the People tour in aid of local food banks. Photos taken by and copyright to Fi Stimpson.