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

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

Nickajack

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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Gig Review: Sleaford Mods, Rock City, 3rd November 2016 @SleafordMods @Rock_City_Notts

Words: Richard Mackman

Photos: Fi Stimpson

An edgy sense of anticipation was apparent as I entered Rock City on 3rd November 2016. The venue was filling up with a veritable horde of punters. It’s the kind of gig where it’s alright to be weird, because everyone’s a bit fucking weird here.

The electronic punk duo take the stage to a victorious acclamation from the closely packed crowd. I feel that this is an act coming into their prime now, who are clearly relishing their time in the spotlight as a venerated phenomenon.

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What we get tonight is a much more oblique set than a year ago –  less of the obvious and more of the unusual, including 3 brand new ditties replete with suitably pithy sarcastic expletives and which were more than enough to have me eagerly anticipating their next release.

Williamson’s antics this evening (he’s got some brand-new moves) as he hustles himself around the stage conjure an image of a baboon with Tourette’s.

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The geezer operating the devil’s karaoke, Andrew Fearn, lurks in the background like a minacious persona, Beck’s bottle tightly in fist, aiding and abetting.

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Sleaford Mods are almost impossible to pigeonhole. A band that divide opinion, just like fucking Marmite. We witness a caustic blend of Crass-age Punk copulating with Cooper Clarke on Meth and Lydon trussed up in the boot of your car with Cirrhosis itch.

Jason Williamson is for real. In his words… “What you’ve got to remember, when you leave here tonight, is that you didn’t come here to see Sleaford Mods – we came here to see you”.

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Gig Review: The Divine Comedy at The Junction, Cambridge, 20th October 2016 @divinecomedyhq @lisaoneillmusic @cambjunction

At 5pm on a dreary Thursday evening, I received a message telling me that I had been added to the guest list with a photo pass for The Divine Comedy that very evening. A few panicked moments of organising childcare ensued, and I was then on the road to Cambridge to photograph one of my favourite ever bands! My car was filled with a frisson of excitement for the next hour and 15 minutes.

On arrival, The Junction was already pretty full, and it was very apparent that every person there felt exactly as I did.

Support act Lisa O’Neill was the perfect opener to The Divine Comedy.

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With her far-fetched tales (including one where she ended up making Irish stew for Elvis Presley), and her voice that made me imagine she only consumes the most luxurious chocolate and nothing else, she impressed, captivated and tickled the fancy of her audience.

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She was utterly delightful, and nicely set the tone for what was to come.

Setlist:

The Galway Shawl

Nasty

Elvis, I Give You Irish Stew

Pothole in the Sky

Planets

Sparkle

The time soon arrived for Neil Hannon and his band of quirky men to grace the stage. Hannon’s droll wit was immediately evident, just as I had hoped.

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I have always listened to The Divine Comedy’s intricate, classy tunes with fondness. To witness them live was beyond what I could have expected. Their fresh, lively compositions speaking of romance, laced with comedy and regaling the history of 18th century Russia both entertain and charm the audience in equal measure.

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Hannon himself is the ever-present member of the band when others have come and gone. He is the design behind the output. He may be small of stature, but he is superhuman in personality. Without his intelligent, odd, gentlemanly, mischievous, sincere, kooky ways, there would be no such music in the world.

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That evening, I was enchanted, bedazzled and fascinated, and left wanting more… there is no better sign of a great gig than that!

Setlist:

Down in the Street Below

Assume the Perpendicular

Bad Ambassador

Bang Goes the Knighthood

The Complete Banker

Generation Sex

Our Mutual Friend

Alfie (Cilla Black cover)

The Certainty of Chance

Sweden

How Can You Leave Me on My Own

To the Rescue

Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piedmont

The Frog Princess

A Lady of a Certain Age

Catherine the Great

Funny Peculiar (with Lisa O’Neill)

At the Indie Disco

Something for the Weekend

Becoming More Like Alfie

I Like

National Express

Encore:

Absent Friends

Songs of Love

Tonight We Fly

Gig Review: @WilkoJohnson at @CambridgeCornEx , 14th October 2016

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There’s very little I can say about a Wilko Johnson gig that hasn’t already been said in the majority of reviews. We all know he’s returned from the brink, against all the odds, and is still going strong. We all know what an incredible musician and songwriter he is, both with Dr Feelgood and as a solo artist. We all know that his loyal band members Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe have been chosen because they are faultless, have impressive stage presence and are exciting to listen to. I don’t really need to tell you any of that though, do I.

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Sometimes, though, even knowing all of the details like those above can’t prepare you for attending a gig which culminates in everything being resolved in your mind, where you feel perfectly relaxed to be yourself and like you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

First off, he selected a wonderful support act in the shape of Aaron Keylock, a young Blues Prog Rock guitarist and singer with his trusty bassist and drummer by his side.

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I was blown away by this guy – he is seriously worth checking out. Here’s his new single “Against the Grain”:

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Wilko with his wild duck walk, wild eyes and even wilder guitar playing, Norman’s bass solos that make you shiver both inside and out and Howe’s bombastic, full-bodied beat tightly melded together to form a musical force that got people rising from their seats to move every muscle, pore and follicle. A good old boogie-woogie to classic blues and rock n’ roll, and all is right with the world.

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Video by Alien Outback on YouTube:

Until next time, “Bye Bye…”!

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Gig Review: @FLAGband at @TheUnderworld , Camden, 2nd August 2016

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CH3 are something special. The crowd knew it, I very quickly realised it. They had an especially rabid little group of fans standing front and centre, one of whom was invited onto stage for “You Make Me Feel Cheap”, for which they needed “a woman to sing this one”, much to her great delight – that was definitely a moment for her to treasure! These guys have shamefully never been on my radar, but I’m SO glad they are now.

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A Wilhelm Scream were almost a sporting event, such was the feverish movement onstage coupled with all of them wearing shorts and sweating it out like warthogs. Meanwhile the crowd were turning their “hardcore pop” music (yeah, that’s a thing now) into a contact sport. Incidentally, bassist Brian J. Johnson is INCREDIBLE. He made moves on that bass that are so sexual they should probably be illegal, whilst simultaneously producing the most immense sound. Damn good!

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Stephen Egerton is quite the most ferocious rhythm guitarist I have ever seen. His perspex guitar sheened with sweat as he slashed and burned his way through segue after segue with all the fire & skill of Johnny Ramone on Angel Dust.

You know the age old tale of the quiet kid at the back of class causing the most trouble? With Bill Stevenson, it’s a case of the quiet fella at the back of the stage making the most noise. He’d give any Punk drummer a run for their money – I can’t imagine what would happen if he actually chose to hit those drums using the full force of his muscles! He hit the mark with every single beat. On. The. Money.

Half way through his vocal onslaught, Keith Morris quite rightly stopped proceedings when some idiot decided to spit on him – he was suitably scathing in response, to the sounds of an approving audience. Making his moody way through the rest of the set, it later transpired that he wasn’t feeling too hot – he fooled us all, giving us what we wanted – a boisterous, agitative, inebriating performance.

Dez Cadena spent the evening eyeballing those who were analysing every move FLAG made – which was pretty much everyone in that hot, sweaty room. The coolest of the cool, he effortlessly ambled through all 23 songs in front of a few hundred people whose high expectations were very much met.

If you want the ultimate in bass guitar shred, Chuck Dukowski is your man. My god, that man can work that bass (< understatement!). If he’d have played any harder, I reckon he’d have obliterated that instrument. He later also proved he’s a thoroughly good man by chatting away to me post-gig and offering me a beer – who was I to refuse?!

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That night was one of outrageous energy levels and rage verging on insanity – there was no pause for breath or thought, and certainly no time to think about the amount of bruises which would later make themselves known.

An unpredictable, dysfunctional yet immensely zestful and exhilirating night was had by all those present. Anyone who doubts the existence of Punk Rock needs to go and watch FLAG. Pronto.

Festival Review: Buckfest 2016 @info_buckfest

I had been looking forward to Buckfest for weeks. I was slightly disappointed that due to responsibilities that go along with being an adult I couldn’t be there from the beginning, but it meant that when I arrived at 2.30pm the festival was already in full swing, with the sun shining, people enjoying their first drinks of the day and kids enjoying the various amusements laid on for them (especially the BUCKFEST colouring boards! Genius idea!).

The first band I managed to catch were The Goodges, something of a spinoff from Soulweaver as the latter take a break. Performing well-known covers by bands such as Iron Maiden and Jet, and a fair amount of Soulweaver favourites for their regular followers. I love that they got out into the crowd and that they were clearly enjoying themselves – that kind of passion from a band is truly infectious.

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Hollowstar were, for me, one of the strongest bands of the day and I hope to see them much further up the bill in the future.

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They are amazingly polished, and they absolutely knew how to work that crowd to everyone’s advantage. I loved taking photos of them as they were interesting, fun, photogenic and varied – they made my job very easy! I’ll definitely be looking these guys up and seeing them again.

Other levels of entertainment to fit every genre were provided across the three stages, from Dale Taylor with his relaxed country/indie rock vibe…

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to the summery alternative calypso of Easydread…

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to Big Lou’s Cradle of Sound and their good old fashioned jive music…

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and everything in between. Each of the bands who played appealed to decent sized groups of the attendees, and there were always plenty of people watching, dancing and cheering appropriately.

In the ten or so minutes before The Expletives took to the stage as the penultimate band, there was a sense of anticipation and with it the gathering of a much larger crowd. Seeing a lot of folk with 70s punk rock t-shirts on was something of a harbinger for what was to follow once the band kicked in their set.

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The Expletives are a niche band, offering a grandiloquent blend of late seventies punk and new wave fare. Frontman Sean Dunleavy even acts and behaves like Jonny Rotten, and grabs the crowd by the scruff of the neck whilst his tight as a tick band deal out a constant barrage of razor sharp punk standards.

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Guitarist Richard Mackman has a ferocious sound and a never ending arsenal of poses; punk rock is a state of mind, and this man knows it.

 

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16 year old Vincent Mackie on the bass looks cool as fuck, wielding his Fender Precision with the panache of Dee Dee Ramone, for one so young he already has the look and the prowess well in place.

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The Expletives tease, insult and entice the crowd for 55 minutes; the spirit of 1977 is truly alive here this evening.

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Even contemplating attempting a Queen tribute band demands particular skills, and a certain look and likeness.

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Rock Q managed to pull it off, with an excellent Freddie impersonator, and a more than adequate Brian May, who not only had the guitar and the amp tone, but also the curly hair and curly guitar lead.

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The rhythm section, however, sagged a little – the bassist called in plenty of bum notes and the drummer was no Roger Taylor, sounding rather wooden and unfeeling with his delivery at times. Overall, though, this kind of high level tribute covers act is a tall order, and they more than got away with it.

It’s worth noting that the singer was drafted in at very short notice when the usual guy was taken ill. He’d never met the rest of the band before, and the fact that he slotted in so flawlessly and without arousing suspicion is to be applauded.

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The highlight for me was pulling off “Bohemian Rhapsody”, to the delight of an all ages and eclectic crowd – it’s not an easy song to produce live, and this lot nailed it. Nicely done.

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All in all, Buckfest is at a mere £5 serious value for money family entertainment, perfectly and creatively organised and a heck of a lot of fun. I can’t wait until 2017!

Gig Review: Ginger Wildheart, The Portland Arms, 20th July 2016.

The Portland Arms is the size of the average person’s sitting room and to see such bombastic rock n’ roll this close up and personal is a rare opportunity indeed. It’s like watching these people in their rehearsal rooms. Literally three feet between us and the players. This is exactly how one should experience a rock band. In this scenario, the musicians cannot hide behind big PA production and sound systems, and the calibre of their ability and skill is raw and naked. I can quite honestly say that this is my favourite venue of 2016.

Massive Wagons are a band we’d never encountered before. They smashed their way onto the stage and went on to prove themselves as being for real. Lead singer Baz reminds us of a supercharged King Ecbert from Vikings. Deftly wielding his mike stand like some kind of war weapon, it’s a miracle he didn’t take out the guitarist to his left, such was the confinement of area on stage. We would like to hear their album and know their tunes so that next time we encounter these boys there is more familiarity.

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When Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors took to the stage, we both did a double take; the bass player looks like Kurt Cobain, the keyboard player like a young Axl Rose and Ryan himself was more Dylan than Bob. However, that’s where comparisons ended. We were presented with a distinctly American sounding set of very mature material, extremely polished and clearly well gigged. Mr Hamilton had an incredible rapport with the audience, with jocular references to quaint English swearwords in-between swigs from a full bottle of Merlot. Again, we’d like to hear their recordings.

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Ginger Wildheart is an enigma. With a veritable plethora of projects, albums and line-ups over the past 26 years, this man is armed to the fucking teeth with great songs. At a guess, there are in excess of 400 numbers to choose from. We were treated to a delectable set cherry picked from Silver Ginger 5, Ginger’s solo work and, of course, The Wildhearts. It makes you wonder how this guy chooses his tunes, and the joy of it is that you never know what you’re going to get. Ginger is no stranger to the art of mixing it up.

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The venue was hotter than the black hole of Calcutta, and it looked like it had been raining sweat across the stage. At times, the band looked grimly focused, but not entirely comfortable with the heat.

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Highlights of the set for me were “This is Only a Problem”, “Top of the World” and the warming inclusion of “Geordie in Wonderland”.

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The band seemed eager to get off stage and cool down after such a heroic performance. Ginger vanished into thin air, but the last we saw of his band were the three of them heading in the direction of the kebab shop across the road in search of Kofta. A genial, intimate night.

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Words by Richard Mackman

Photos by Fi Stimpson