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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

http://www.skinnylister.com/

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.”
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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.
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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’.
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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.
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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…!)

*Laughter*

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

Set:

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.

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Set:

Th1rte3n or Nothing

Dysfunctional Professional

The Clash

Brand New Hate

Bloody Tears

Nomadic

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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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”.

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“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.

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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

Interview & Gig Review: Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors, Cambridge, 2nd March 2017

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!

Gig review…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Gig Review: Hunter and the Bear, Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 17th Feb 2017 @HunterTheBear

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!

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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!

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Pembroke Tenneson’s setlist:

World Keep on Turning (Fleetwood Mac)

Look Out Below

Black Books

Good to Me

Oh Well/Heartbreak Hotel (Fleetwood Mac, Elvis)

Blackbird (Beatles)

The Fracking Song

Watch Your Man

Green River/Born on the Bayou (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Coffee

Bipolar Love

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Hologram

Hey, My Love

Renegade

Evelyn

Burn it Up

Blood Red Skies

Warrior

I Am What I Am

You Can Talk

D.R.K.

Oh, Daisy

Won’t You Ever Come Home

Like a Runaway

Paper Heart

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My advice? Get along and see them on their upcoming tour before they’re playing venues where you can’t get close anymore!

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