Sunday, 13 August 2017

9/8/2017 Dark Lord back on the radio!

I've been looking forward to this for a while - this week I was a guest on Dave Renegade's show on Hard Rock Hell Radio. I had been a guest in the studio at Total Rock Radio a few years ago when Alex and Clare from AntiProduct had their own show on the station, but this time on Hard Rock Hell Radio I actually got to pick most of the music on this three hour long show. And talk a load of bollocks while getting progressively more drunk. Not very professional I know, but I'm not a professional so I can do what I want! Other recent guests on the show have included Duncan Reid and Nigel Mogg.

If you want to hear me make an idiot of myself you can listen to the show at your leisure at the link here. There are a few surprises in there, as well as many bands who will come as no surprise to those who know me! I went in armed with enough music to last for over six hours, so I had to leave out a lot of stuff I was hoping to play. Also, there was a load of other music I wanted to play that we couldn't play due to file format issues with the radio station software - so the show was only half as good as I wanted it to be - there were a lot of great  bands that would have been new to most listeners who I really wanted to play. I am having trouble ripping from CDs at home at the moment, so there were some glaring omissions - no AC/DC or Led Zeppelin for instance! Nothing from my favourite Ramones albums either. When picking the music for the show I was limited to stuff that I already had on MP3 - there was so much I have on CD/vinyl that I'd have loved to play but couldn't bring with me!

Here is the full tracklisting - including a few songs chosen by Dave Renegade - see if you can guess which ones?

1 Intro - Hanoi Rocks
2 Never Shut Up! - Texas Terri Bomb
3 Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio - Ramones
4 Crying Shame - Motörhead
5 Vanilla Radio - The Wildhearts
6 I Got Sound - Fireroad
7 Kick It Down - Girlschool
8 Live Rock N Roll - JoanOvArc
9 Waking Up The Neighborhood  - Planet Of Women
10 Wolfman Sideburns - Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons
11 Sweet N Sour - The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
12 Summer That Never Was - The Idol Dead
13 When the Rain Comes - Jacobites
14 How Come it Never Rains - Dogs D'Amour
15 Crash - Aerosmith
16 Honey from a Knife - The Cult
17 Pump It Up - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
18 I Am The Resurrection - The Stone Roses
19 Groove is in the Heart - Deee-Lite
20 Wall Of Glass - Liam Gallagher
21 Blockbuster! - The Sweet
22 Chez Maximes - Hollywood Brats
23 Everybody Loves You (When You're Dead) - Kitty Hudson
24 Personality Crisis - New York Dolls
25 In Cold Blood - Johnny Thunders
26 29 X the Pain - The Wildhearts
27 Beer For Breakfast - Silver Ginger 5
28 Hurt - Johnny Cash
29 Generation RocknRoll - Wolfsbane
30 Spend Your Money - The Main Grains
31 King Rocker - Generation X
32 Back At The Funny Farm - Motörhead

Doing this show with Dave Renegade was a lot of fun! We'll have to do it again sometime - I think we had some terrific music on the show, but this was just barely scraping the surface of what I was hoping to play. I have loads and loads more stuff in store, old bands, new bands, stuff that's only been very rarely played on any station anywhere, and plenty of stuff I'm sure has never been heard on any other station. Stuff that will have you thinking "This is great - why have I never heard this before?".  There was lots more stuff I wanted to talk about as well, but we just ran out of time - those three hours went so fast! Hopefully Dave and me can do another show together before too long - and the next one will be even better! In the meantime, Dave Renegade's 'Dark Heart of Camden' radio show is on Hard Rock Hell Radio every Wednesday night at 21.00 GMT and I highly recommend listening to it. The show is packed full of dirty raw rock 'n' roll, punk, a bit of indie and the odd bit of metal - plus maybe some country, and often some unexpected surprises too! The station broadcasts 24/7 so there is always something rockin' happening.

Thanks again to Dave Renegade for inviting me to be a guest on his show - I really enjoyed it!

Monday, 7 August 2017

2/8/2017 Duncan Reid and the Big Heads + The Ramonas @ Haunt

A new venue to me, in a part of town I rarely venture to. However, it's not too hard to get to - just a couple of trains for me, and easy to find as I walk up Stoke Newington Road. £8 isn't bad to see a couple of good bands, and I'm already pretty sure I'm going to enjoy both of them. I'm not disappointed either. A bit of research beforehand reveals that the venue sells 'craft beer'. Craft beer = expensive at the best of times, and a check on the venue's website reveals West End prices - which I'm not prepared to pay in the Dalston/Stoke Newington area. Further research reveals that there is a Wetherspoons just a few minutes walk up the road - so this is where I do all my drinking before and after the gig. On arrival at the Rochester Castle I notice that I'm not the only one who has had exactly the same idea and I see a few people in there who are also at the gig later - one of them even wearing the headline band's T-shirt! An increasing number of people seem to be avoiding drinking at the overpriced bars in music venues these days and doing their drinking in the nearest 'spoons or other nearby pub instead. I wonder if music venues are wondering why their bar takings seem to be so low? The Rochester Castle has more character than 'yer average Wetherspooms and is a genuinely old pub - I find out later that it used to be a music venue in it's own right and a lot of very well known punk bands played there back in the day. I find several ales and ciders at around 6% - stronger than I usually find in my local 'spoons. I like this pub!

Suitably refreshed I head back to Haunt - which seems a pleasant enough place that also specialises in vegan food if that's your kind of thing. I see a few familiar faces in the crowd. downstairs in the basement where the bands play - it's quite a good turnout for a Wednesday night in a virtually unknown music venue that isn't in Camden or the West End - actually it's quite full. It's a good few years since I've seen The Ramonas. I saw the original lineup soon after they formed, as well as other lineups later - I think the whole band must have changed several times over since they started. Still, it's a Ramones tribute so you know exactly what you're gonna get. And that is what we get. All the'hits' and more - loud, fast, and in your face. It's a lot of fun! Which is just as it should be. The original Ramonas were great, and this lot are pretty good too. It's a tight and well drilled set - these girls have obviously rehearsed hard to get this good. There's no messing about - one song straight into the next with the regulation 'WUN-TOO-FREE-FOR! It's exactly what you want from a Ramones tribute - most of your favourites played hard and fast.
I'm particularly pleased as my favourite Ramones album 'Rocket To Russia' is heavily featured. My only criticism with their representation of the Ramones is that although the drumming is fast, hard, and powerful - it doesn't have that really fast beat on the hi-hat that Tommy and later Marky perfected. The original band's drummer Taz taught herself how to play drums from scratch just to play in the Ramaonas and she had that cymbal thing totally nailed! There is a bit of a lull towards the end of their set when the singer announces that they are going to play a couple of songs of their own. Don't get me wrong - they are OK, but it's not what we paid our money for. If they want to do their own songs maybe they should do them under another name? 'cos maybe a couple of our favourite Ramones songs that got missed out of tonight's set could have been played instead of their own songs. Just sayin'.....

So, onto the headliners.
I'm sure the Ramones must have been an influence on Duncan Reid and the Big Heads, and Duncan's first band The Boys were one of the first generation of UK punk bands who appeared soon after the Ramones changed everything - but this band don't sound much like the massively influential  New York band at all. And nor are they meant to.
Duncan's old band The Boys were known as 'The Beatles of Punk' for good reason - they might have had a rough and ready sound, but they had really good catchy tuneful songs. The Big Heads frontman and bass player obviously learned a lot about songwriting during his time with The Boys, and he has put this to good use with his current band.
The tunes are great, and the songs tell interesting stories based on real-life experiences. The punk edge is still there though - more noticeable in the band's high energy live shows which I actually prefer to the slick and maybe over-sweet sound of the band's studio recordings.
The live situation is where Duncan Reid and the Big Heads really shine - this is a tight and dynamic live band.
Three albums into this band's life and they are building up a strong catalogue of material to pick their set lists from - no need for this band to just keep playing the same ten or so songs at every gig like some bands seem to for years. This keeps things constantly fresh, evolving, and interesting.
There is one tense moment when Duncan nearly get's his teeth knocked out by the microphone after an over-enthusiastic dancer at the front sends the mic stand flying into the singer's face - playing rock 'n' roll is not without it's risks!
As usual, the band's own repertoire of catchy pop songs with a punk edge is filled out with one or two Boys songs such as 'First Time', 'Brickfield Nights', and the Hollywood Brats 'Sick On You' (as covered by The Boys on their first album) to bring the show to a climax. Everybody goes home happy. And I go back to the pub for another hour...

Friday, 4 August 2017

5/6/2017 Mark Gemini Thwaite & Maleficent @ Proud

Monday night and only a couple of days after Camden Rocks Festival and I find myself back in Camden at one of the venues I was in on Saturday. I can't say Proud is one of my favourite venues in Camden, and I have issues with the bar prices and ale selection (or lack of) but I have to admit it has otherwise improved over the last few years. One thing which makes the place nicer to visit tonight is the lack of the usual annoying and obsequious toilet attendants - I can't stand those creepy fuckers! I am quite capable of taking care of my own needs in the toilet thank you - I don't need any help.

I make a special effort to get down early enough to see Maleficent.
It's the first time I've seen this band in quite a while - they've been a bit quiet over the last year for various reasons.
Now they are back, with a new bass player and guitarist - down to a single guitar player now. This is an act that's hard to categorise - Not exactly Goth, although there are obvious Goth influences. Not exactly Glam or metal either, but always an interesting show to watch - I am impressed that singer Maleficent Martini manages to wear three different sets of shoes in only fifteen minutes or so! Starting off in scarily high and Glam heels, then ballet shoes for some dance moves (she is a trained ballerina) and then trainers!
Some new songs are being added, and I'm glad to see there is a much stronger 'live band' vibe and much less reliance on things like laptops - which can and do go fail in live situations. No technical problems tonight - just a strong and slick live performance.
You never know quite what is going to happen at a Maleficent show, but you know that it will never be boring.
Having two singers makes things more diverse and interesting and Mortimer Cain adds some aggression and grit to the proceedings.
I'm a little disappointed 'Model Song' isn't included in tonight's set, but time is short for an opening act, and new songs need to be tried out and added to keep things fresh and interesting. All too soon Maleficent's show is over - I hope I won't have to wait as long until their next gig.

The next act is definitely more 'Goth' - musically at least. This show is to promote the new MGT album 'Volumes'. Mark Gemini Thwaite has certainly paid his dues over the years - playing guitar in many bands, including Spear Of Destiny, and a long stint in The Mission which certainly enhances his Goth-cred! I remember seeing him play at The Barfly a few years ago when he was in New Disease. Now he has just released his first solo album.
The new album 'Volumes' features a very impressive array of guest vocalists - including Ville Valo of HIM, Julianne Regan from All About Eve, Wayne Hussey of The Mission, Ricky Warwick of Black Star Riders and The Almighty, Saffron from Republica, and Miles Hunt of The Wonderstuff. Obviously you aren't going to get all those people singing in a small Camden venue on a Monday night, so lead vocals tonight are provided by Ashton Nyte of The Awakening - who also sings a couple of songs on the album and is easily the most 'Goth' person in the band tonight.
As well as mostly MGT compositions the album features a couple of covers: 'Seconds' by The Human League sung by Saffron, and a very surprising ABBA cover! - Ville Valo takes lead vocals on a brilliantly Goth version of 'Knowing Me Knowing You'. Ashton Nyte does an excellent job tonight of performing songs sung by other vocalists on the album and is a good frontman in his own right.
As might be expected, the overall vibe of the album and tonight's show is dark and Gothic - but not down and miserable. These are well crafted songs performed by fine musicians and together they create a moody atmosphere without it seeming grim or cliched.
All in all it's been an interesting and entertaining rainy Monday night in Camden - well worth a trip out into the gloom.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Camden Rocks Festival 2017

3/6/2017

So the day has finally arrived - one of the best events of the year as far as I'm concerned. Camden Rocks Festival continues to grow year after year. Last year: 200 bands. This year: 250 bands. Last year: 20 venues. This year: 25 venues. The price of the ticket is growing even faster - it's nearly doubled since 2009. It's still good value for money, but the problem is - however many hundreds of bands are playing - you only have time to see a certain number of them in one day! And the more bands that are on the bill, the more timing clashes there are going to be! This made things difficult even in the early years of the festival and difficult choices had to be made: Who to see? And who to miss even though you really wanted to see them too?

There is an additional problem this year: Although all the venues are within walking distance of each other and many are less than five minutes apart. Most of the venues are very close to Camden Town tube station and the Camden Lock/Stables Market area. But a couple of the venues are right on the Southern borders of Camden: Koko and the Crowndale (formerly the Purple Turtle) while a new venue has been added right on the Northern edge: The Fiddlers Elbow is the other side of Chalk Farm - so if you are going to see a band at the Crowndale and the next band you are going to see (who might be starting just as the previous band you've seen are finishing) then you have a problem!

So with 250 bands playing this year planning my day was even more difficult than usual. I went to Camden Rocks last year with I shortlist of 28 bands I wanted to see - I only managed to catch 11 of them.This year I started off with a shortlist of 32 bands....

My first port of call was Dingwalls Canalside - which is one floor below the main Dingwalls venue. I arrived just after 12.00 which was when the festival kicked off at various venues round Camden - the place was already packed!
Consequently I didn't see much of The Idol Dead's set, but they sounded great! This terrific band were one of the highlights of last year's Pure Rawk awards - and their punky but tuneful hard rock certainly didn't disappoint here either. It's good to see these Northern lads can draw a crowd in London. A not unattractive young lady handed me a flyer for next year's Pure Rawk Awards during the band's set - something to look forward to for next year already.

Next I was off to the Electric Ballroom to catch the start of The Urban Voodoo Machine.
The show got off to a spectacular start, but before the 'Bourbon soaked Gypsy blues bop 'n' stoll' really kicked in I had to leg it for the Underworld to see Hands Off Gretel. Although it's ages since I've seen the Voodoos, I have been wanting to catch Hands Off Gretel for quite a while but haven't managed to until now.
I found myself rather disappointed by this band as it seemed to be a case of 'Style over substance'. The vocals didn't sound good and nor did the guitars - rather dated riot grrrl with plenty of attitude but lacking good songs - a strong image but not much to back it up. I didn't stay long as it was a longer than usual walk to the next venue...

I arrived at the southern extreme of the Camden area in time to catch another female fronted (in fact all female) band who were much better. This was The Kut at The Crowndale. This venue is the former Purple Turtle and was one of the best venues in Camden. The place has had a refurb since closing as the Purple Turtle and being wrecked by squatters. The layout of the place is still the same and it still has the potential to be a really good live music venue again.
This band sound like they take the music a lot more seriously than the outfit I saw shortly beforehand elsewhere in Camden. The songs are less grunge and more straight ahead rock - there is nothing 'dumbed-down' about The Kut - frontgal Princess Maha can pull off a quite flash and technical guitar solo as well as coming up with some catchy and memorable songs.
The place fills up quite a bit while the band are playing - The Kut are certainly starting to build a following and I'd been looking forward to seeing them again after catching them supporting JoanOvArc last year in Stevenage and also seeing them in Camden with The Fiascos. If I had a 'Bands to watch out for' list then The Kut would be on it! More on this venue later...

Fortunately the next venue on my list is nearby, and right on my route back to Camden Town. On paper it appears to be yet another new venue, but the location on the map looks familiar. My suspicions are soon confirmed and new venue 'Be At One' turns out to be the former Flowerpot/Tommy Flynn's pub - now expanded and turned into a trendy wine bar. I don't even bother finding out what the bar selection or pricing is like - I know neither will be to my liking. However, the music certainly is! Unfortunately, this is another case of (as often happens at Camden Rocks) a band being put into a venue that is far too small for them! Consequently, when I arrive I find the place is already full and security are operating a 'One in- one out' system. The band in question is Massive Wagons. I've been aware of this band for a while since Ginger endorsed them and had them as a support band. They have recently become better known and scored daytime airplay on Planet Rock with their charity single Back To The Stack - a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt of Status Quo. It's bloody good - you should download it straight away! The band are already in full flight by the time I find myself standing in the queue in the street outside wondering if I will manage to get in before the band finish? People are only trickling out of the venue terribly slowly in ones and twos every few minutes.... After ten minutes or so I finally get in. Obviously, the place is already rammed - I can't see the band at all!
Fortunately, I can hear them - and they sound excellent! If the new bands that are starting to appear on Planet Rock these days are anything to go by then the current trend in rock music seems to be going back to bands with well written songs packed full of meaty riffs and singers who can actually sing. Maybe all the generic bands with dumbed down nu-metal style riffs, uninspired guitar solos and shit shouty/cookie monster/screamo singers have finally had their day? Bands like Massive Wagons, JoanOvArc, Inglorious, and Stone Broken seem to be reviving the 'Classic Rock' format with new music of a quality that has been sadly lacking in the rock scene until recently. In spite of the regular "Rock is dead" pronouncements by those seeking publicity for themselves, these new bands are proving that rock is very much still alive and kicking. The proof is in this packed out venue full of enthusiastic rock fans!  Although I am probably in the venue for less than half of Massive Wagons set, at least I get to hear them play 'Back To The Stack' and the rest of what I hear from the band is pretty good too.

There seemed to be a bit of a lull in the bands I wanted to catch in the early to mid-afternoon, but from 3 o'clock onwards everything seems to be all happening at once! Straight after Massive Wagons I have to head back to the nucleus of Camden Town to see Stone Broken at Proud. I think this has actually turned into a fairly decent venue these days - apart from the poor beer selection at the massively overpriced bar. And those fucking annoying toilet attendants! This is the first time I've seen Stone Broken - although I have been impressed by most the songs of theirs I've heard on the radio. The singer is good and has an excellent voice in a Paul Rodgers style. The band don't look much - very much like a generic pub band rather than rock stars, but they sound a lot better.
The only low in their set (for me personally) was the inevitable inclusion of their token power ballad 'Wait For You'. I say 'token' because that's how it seems to me - a very generic sounding 'power-ballad-by-numbers' that feels to me like it was written as a 'box-ticking' exercise to satisfy someone at a record company. The first time I heard this song it already sounded like I'd heard it a hundred times from other bands. Apparently the fans like it, so what do I know? This would definitely be the moment to visit the bar or toilet as far as I'm concerned, but apart from the token soppy ballad to keep the girls in the crowd happy I thought Stone Broken's set was excellent! They have a great 'classic rock' sound, without sounding like they are influenced by or ripping off any classic rock band in particular. Their songs are good, with some hard crunchy riffs and fine vocals. This is definitely a band I'd go and see again - and I'd know there would be a handy bar/toilet break in the middle of their set when they play that song.

Next I head off to the Black Heart to try and catch the infamous Soap Girls. After hearing very mixed reports about this act I want to see what all the fuss is about. I arrive to find the place absolutely rammed! It's difficult even getting in the room and there is sod all chance of seeing much. As far as I can tell the Soap Girls are just a guitar wielding duo rather than a full band, but people seem to find duos perfectly acceptable as rock acts these days and the Graveltones and Royal Blood seem to be doing pretty well. Actually, the Soap Girls sound pretty good and seem to have catchy and tuneful punk/grunge sounding songs. Unfortunately, the venue is far too full to see the band or enjoy their performance - it's so uncomfortable I give it up as a bad job and leave after a couple of minutes.

I head off to Dingwalls to try and catch what's left of The Main Grains. Fortunately this venue is far less crowded. This band are good fun with some catchy punk 'n' roll tunes - in much the same style as frontman Danny McCormack's old band the Yo-Yo's. This band played at Camden Rocks last year, but this year Danny is having to perform sitting down. After some ongoing medical problems and having some toes amputated over the last year or so he has unfortunately had to have part of one leg removed as well. Danny has been determined not to let this hold him back and has been playing gigs sitting down until he can be fitted for an artificial leg. What a trooper!
The Main Grains have some catchy songs, and with the odd Yo-Yo's tune thrown in as well they create a good atmosphere in what is one of the festival's better venues.

Next I head back to the Black Heart to catch the Role Models. Fortunately the place isn't as full as it was earlier with all the middle aged blokes perving over the Soap Girls! The Role Models are good fun and have some excellent songs veering over to the poppy commercial side of punk'n' roll.
I keep missing this band recently as they always seem to be first on the bill and I can't get there in time to see them, so it's good to finally see them again today. I stay in the Black Heart for the next band - one of the highlights of the festival for me. It's the second time I have seen Duncan Reid and the Big Heads recently at this venue If one of the band members looks rather familiar it's because he was on stage with the previous band as well - Nick Hughes 'day-job' band is the Role Models, but the Big Heads have been 'borrowing' him for gigs recently as Mauro Venegas is often needed to play guitar in his other band The Godfathers. Nick is no stranger to depping in bands and I have previously seen him playing with the Yo-Yo's and/or the Loyalties.
After selling out this venue for their album launch show earlier this year the band have again managed to get a lot of people into the room. With terrific songs and a great live presence it's not hard to see why. Duncan certainly learned a thing or two about writing catchy songs while he was in his old band The Boys.
The new album 'Bombs Away' is rather good and contains some cracking tunes, but I prefer hearing them played live without the glossy studio sheen and polished production which renders the sound a little too sweet and pop sounding for my taste.
It also helps the Duncan Reid and the Big Heads are a very good live band with a high energy level - this is genuinely exciting pop/punk from a very dynamic band. As usual some Boys songs are included in the set, along with the infamous Hollywood Brats classic ''Sick On You' - as covered by The Boys on their first album.
After all the excitement of Duncan Reid and the Big Heads I just have time to hot-foot it up to the extreme Northern fringe of the Camden Rocks Festival - actually the Fiddler's Elbow is more Chalk Farm/Kentish Town than Camden, but it is worth the walk. The reason for my hike is Last Great Dreamers
This band were apparently well known back in the early to mid 1990's and part of the same scene as The Quireboys and Dogs D'Amour, but somehow they completely slipped under my radar. I can't understand quite how this happened and I have only recently heard songs of their's such as 'Oblivion Kids' and 'Dope School'. These songs impressed me so much that I really wanted to see the band live - so here I am.
I was not disappointed - this band are very very good indeed. They look great and they sound amazing. Their songs are excellent too - catchy and poppy, but with a gritty slightly punk edge. There is a definite '70s glam rock influence and also a 1980s/90s trash glam look like the Quireboys and Dogs D'Amour, but there is also something more sleazy, and decadent about them - plus an element of danger.
Last Great Dreamers are possibly the best band I see all day at this year's Camden Rocks Festival - they really are the whole package and the band drips charisma and stage presence. They come across as very slick, polished and professional, but without being bland and squeaky clean. On stage they act, look, and sound like major rock stars - and it's hard to believe a band this good never reached that status, and in fact remained unknown outside the underground rock scene.
Another thing about Last Great Dreamers that really surprises me - although this band are really good, there is hardly anybody here to see them. Maybe twenty people (if that) are in on the secret, but those present are obviously fans of the band and not just random punters who casually wandered in to see who was playing. I'm sure no one who saw this band left disappointed.

Sadly, after seeing some really good bands over the course of the day the remainder of my Camden Rocks Festival turns out to be somewhat of an anti-climax. After seeing a band at the extreme Northern end of the Camden area, I head back to the extreme Southern fringe. I could get the bus or train but I'm not that unfit or lazy and I prefer to walk as I know I have time. It's trying to rain a bit but it gives up before I pass the Roundhouse.

I arrive back at The Crowndale, this time to see Lilith and the Knight. I've been wanting to see this intriguing band since being given one of their CDs a while ago. Looking forward to finally seeing them I get into the venue - only to be asked to leave by security. Why? Because I was wearing a baseball cap! I had been in the venue for longer than the entire set by The Kut earlier in the day - while being identically dressed - and no one from security had said a word. When I pointed this out to the jobsworth security twat he said it was a rule insisted upon by the Council before they would grant the licence. So how come every other Camden venue I've been in all day hasn't had a similar condition imposed upon them? And how come I was in The Crowndale in plain sight of security for nearly an hour this afternoon without any of them pointing this out? No one tells me how I can or can't dress - especially in what is supposed to be a ROCK venue - this is the exact opposite of what rock & roll is about. I am forced to leave before Lilith and the Knight take to the stage - it looks like I will have to wait a while longer before I finally get to see them.  There is only one other band left to see on my list for the 2017 Camden Rocks Festival - The Garage Flowers. Guess what venue they are appearing at? Yes - The Crowndale!  And that's not for another two hours. I decide to cut my losses and head home early.

I find out later that a friend of mine also had trouble with security on trying to get into the same venue to see The Garage Flowers - and although he was wearing a hat, it wasn't a baseball cap (which is supposed to the specifically named headwear not allowed) and even a member of the band had trouble getting into the venue because security didn't like his hat either! So 'security' aren't at all consistent in what headgear is or isn't allowed - what a shit way to run a venue! Fortunately Camden has plenty of other venues that are far more welcoming, so I shall be spending my money in them instead in future. There was none of this bullshit when the place was the former Purple Turtle - that was a great music venue, but the people running The Crowndale don't seem to have any idea how to run a venue. No baseball caps allowed? I see they have some rap/hip-hop nights booked for the future - I'd be interested to see what happens when that crowd all turn up wearing their usual baseball caps!

So unfortunately my 2017 Camden Rocks Festival ended on a sour note - through absolutely no fault of any of the bands - all of which I enjoyed. The ones I got to see anyway. So lets compare my 'Final score' with last year's festival:

2016. 200 bands in 20 venues. 28 bands on my list - 11 actually seen.
2017: 250 bands in 25 venues. 32 bands on my list - 11 actually seen.

I did manage to see 2 of the bands this year that I missed from my list last year.

Overall, it's not looking such good value for money this year. The ticket price has gone up considerably - along with the number of bands and venues. But there are only so many hours in the day, and although there were 50 more bands playing this year I didn't get time to actually see any more bands than last year. So is it worth the extra ticket price? To me personally, the answer is NO. I'm sure some of the money for the higher ticket price is used to attract bigger headline bands - but from my point of view that's pointless as I don't get time to see them anyway. And part of the reason I like the festival is that I enjoy being able to see many new underground bands for the first time. Is Camden Rocks Festival maybe getting too big? I think it might be. It could be in danger of losing sight of what makes it so great - possibly last year's festival was as big as it can get and still remain grounded and it may have reached it's tipping point this year.

Anyway, in spite of the problems with a certain venue (which has since banned/blocked me on Twitter for daring to complain) I had a great day out as usual.
Same time next year then?


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

24/4/2017 Johnny Thunders Tribute Night @ Mau Mau Bar

I find myself out on a Monday night for the second week in a row, but there is a good reason. I'm at Mau Mau Bar for a Johnny Thunders tribute night. The venue is small, but rather cool. It's free to get in and although there is no real ale you can get a bottle of beer for £2.50 or a large can of cider for a a little more. The crowd are as cool as the venue and it's surprisingly busy for a Monday. At least half of those present appear to be musicians. and quite a few of them end up getting up to play on the venue's small stage. Among those present is Peter Perrett from the Only Ones - who was keen to get up to sing 'Chinese Rocks', but apparently a drummer who knew the song well enough couldn't be found in the room.

There is a sort of 'house band' playing when I arrive. They don't seem to have any connection to the late Johnny Thunders but they are rather good and I warm to them to the extent of being interested in seeing them again some time - if only I could remember their name....

Among those taking to the stage is the familiar figure of Dave Renegade - looking not unlike his cousin 'Alabana Country Joe' who I saw only last week. Dave plays a short solo acoustic set including the Thunders classic 'You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory'.
Another familiar figure to hit the stage is Nigel formerly of the Gasoline Queens but now the Kult 45's - he makes a glorious racket with his new Gretch semi.
Yet another very familiar figure takes to the stage in the form of former Cock Sparrer and current Bermondsey Joyriders guitarist Gary Lammin - a big fan of the New York Dolls and Heartbreakers frontman tonight pay's tribute to - in fact his band have recorded a song on one of their albums called 'Johnny Thunders Was A Human Being'.
The evening draws to a close a bit earlier than I expected - probably due to it being a Monday night. It's been a good night though, and although this has been my first visit to Mau Mau Bar I'm sure it won't be the last.

Monday, 12 June 2017

17/4/2017 Country Joe Renegade @ The Lamb

I've never been to The Lamb on Holloway Road before, although I've heard some good things about it. It's got plenty of character and gives the impression that it probably has an interesting past. Real ale at reasonable prices is always a bonus! Some places appear larger on the inside than they look on the outside - this place seems the opposite. Weird. It's not that busy on a Monday night, but tucked away in the back part of the pub I find Country Joe Renegade playing a solo acoustic set. 

If he looks a bit like well known North London musician Dave Renegade that's because he's his cousin from Alabama. ;-) His badly behaved cousin. Not a million miles away from Howling Willie Cunt - but without all the swearing! Country Joe turns out a set of mostly original songs to a small but select crowd. His songs are interesting and heartfelt. It's a nice relaxed atmosphere and the staff at the pub seem friendly and genuinely enthusiastic about the place - I shall return in the future....

Friday, 5 May 2017

11/4/2017 Duncan Reid & the Big Heads + Spizzenergi @ The Black Heart

As regular readers will have noticed, I've not been getting out to gigs much this year - times are hard and I'm having to be very selective. There are a lot of gigs that I normally wouldn't have missed that I have actually had to miss over the last few months. Even if they are free or cheap tickets I still have to factor in transport and booze costs. However, the tickets for this show at the Black Heart are only £8 - £9 with online booking fee from MusicGlue. Not all venues/booking agencies rip you off these days. I save on transport costs (and travelling time) tonight by going on the bike - there is a handy motorcycle parking bay directly outside the venue. OK so I can't have a drink, but I wouldn't have drunk in the venue at their prices anyway - I'd have gone to BrewDog a few yards up the street instead - also expensive but nicer and more 'bang-for-your-buck' on strength. Going on the bike I won't drink at all so that's more money saved, and I get down there in half the time it would take on the train.

It's a really strong bill for only £8, but unfortunately I don't make it down there in time to see the excellent Role Models - having a day job isn't conducive to seeing the first band on the bill on week nights. Next on the bill is Spizzenergi. Although I sometimes see Spizz himself at punk gigs around town and I still own an original 7" vinyl copy of the hit single 'Where's Captain Kirk?' I have never actually seen Spizzenergi live. Until now.
I am expecting a bit of a 'one song wonder' of a set featuring the hit single and nothing else of substance. It turns out rather better than I was expecting and is actually quite an entertaining show. I'd forgotten that there was also a lesser single called 'Soldier Soldier' with a cover of Roxy Music's 'Virginia Plain' on the B-side - both songs feature in the set. Also played is the surprisingly good single from 2014 'City Of Eyes'. Spizz himself is a bit of a caricature - sending himself up a bit as a larger-than-life figure. He is an engaging and entertaining frontman though, and I find myself quite enjoying the set.
The current Spizzenergi band is actually rather good - particularly the rhythm section featuring a terrific drummer and a monster bass sound provided by Ben from The Fiascos. Luca from The DeRellas also provides rock 'n' roll lead guitar. This band is good fun!

And so on to the headliners. I've seen this band several times now and really enjoyed their shows.
Duncan Reid and the Big Heads are here to promote their forthcoming album Bombs Away.
Duncan & Co. are proving to be quite prolific as 'Bombs Away' will be their third album - and it doesn't seem long since the first was out. This is a a very good live band, but what impressed me straight from the start was the quality of the songwriting. Duncan Reid learned his trade as the bass player in first generation UK punk band The Boys. Some of that band's songs still feature in his current band's set, and they certainly deserve to be - not for nothing were The Boys known as 'the Beatles of punk'. They had great really catchy pop tunes with a dirty punk edge. 'Honest' John Plain' the Boys main singer/guitarist is present at tonight's show.  Also present is Andrew Matheson from the infamous Hollywood Brats - I nearly ran him over with my motorcycle outside earlier. Accidentally obviously.
The venue is pretty full by the time Duncan & Co. hit the stage - I believe it is by then a sold out show. I doubt anyone goes home disappointed as the band are on top form - I've yet to see them do a less than excellent show. There is a bit of a change in the lineup tonight as the second guitar position is taken by Nick Hughes of the Role Models - doing double duty tonight as his main band opened tonight's show. Last time I saw the band Mauro Venegas formerly of Jonny Cola & The A-Grades was in that position, but as he has since joined The Godfathers I suspect he isn't available much of the time. The dynamic Sophie K Powers continues to raise her guitar game, and I suspect she could now carry the show on her own - but some bands are just better with two guitars.
The band really get the crowd going with their lively performance and catchy pop/punk songs. Material from the band's first couple of albums makes up the bulk of the set, but there are also one or two songs from the new album, including the title track 'Bombs Away' - well this is an album promo show!
The atmosphere is terrific in this intimate venue, and it gets even better towards the end of the show when some vintage punk classics from The Boys get played - 'First Time', and the Hollywood Brats 'Sick On You' as covered by The Boys on their first album. I was hoping Andrew Matheson might step up to sing the latter like he did with this band at a show at The Lexington a couple of years ago, but the former Hollywood Brats frontman apparently chooses not to on this occasion - maybe he is keeping his powder dry as there might be some form of activity in the pipeline from his old band... All in all it's been a great Tuesday night out - yes, I said Tuesday. This proves there is a still a hardcore of undeground music fans who aren't afraid to go out on a 'school night'. Long may it continue.

Monday, 1 May 2017

31/3/2017 JoanOvArc & Syteria @ Big Red

Sorry it's taken me a month to get this published - I've been having a lot of computer problems, and I also managed to lose all the pictures I took on the night! I knew I'd downloaded them off my phone and digicam, but after spending ages searching hard drives and multiple flash drives I couldn't find them anywhere - I've been living in PC chaos this year and after various attempts to install new operating systems (and failing) plus endless backing up and formatting hard drives and swapping in/out various hardware trying to make things work it's been tough trying to get anything done. I eventually found the pictures, but but they were pretty poor quality due to the venue lighting and smoke machine, plus due to the aforementioned tech problems I don't currently have any decent photo editing software installed on my PC to tidy them up a bit so I had to use them 'as is'. Yes, I know there are crap - but you should see all the ones I didn't use!

This had all the makings of a good night - and it certainly didn't disappoint! This show is the London date of the 'Women That Rock Tour' that is currently heading round the UK featuring these two excellent bands. Two great bands playing in a rock bar in Holloway Road, free admission, and beer at reasonable(ish) prices - what's not to like? Big Red has been a popular watering hole with rockers for many years now, but in more recent times it has also taken steps towards becoming a live music venue as well. Not every night, or even every week, but live ROCK bands now appear here fairly regularly - something which goes down very well with the bar's regular clientelle.
Tonight features Syteria playing their second ever London show. The first was at the top end of Holloway Road at the former Archway Tavern, and now they move to a point near the middle - before maybe eventually working their way down to The Garage at the other end of Holloway Road? And maybe even further on the other side of Highbury Corner to the larger Islington Academy one day? But tonight finds them playing in a far more suitable venue compared to their first London show, and to a much bigger crowd.
They seem to thrive in this venue and are definitely playing to the right sort of crowd. Even though the band are based in Leeds and have hardly played in London at all there are quite a lot of people already wearing Syteria T-shirts - and the merch stand ensures there are even more being worn by the end of the evening. This band are obviously doing something right!
Girlschool lead guitarist Jackie Chambers started this band back in her home town oop North a couple of years ago. Girlschool are still going, but they tend to have a lot of downtime between festival appearances and recording new stuff so Jax wanted to keep busy and get out there playing - so Syteria were born. The band are all good players and performers - bassist Keira is in demmand and has recently been on a UK tour with Australian girl rockers Tequila Mockingbird standing in for their usual bass player who couldn't make it to the UK.
This new band is noticeably heavier and more 'metal' than Jackie's 'day job' band, although Girlschool are no lightweights as far as hard rock bands go. Syteria are more heavy in both image and sound, but Jackie's punk rock roots show through when the band throw in a cover of the Ramones classic 'Rockaway Beach'. Apart from this it's pretty much original material all the way and there are some good catchy tunes in there. The band are already getting people singing along to their own songs like 'Sheeple', 'Hypocrite', and 'Revolution' from their forthcoming album 'Rant-O-Bot'. Syteria are all good musicians and have great stage presence so it's an entertaining show that makes you want to see them again.
The 'Women that rock' theme for these band's current tour (we'll turn a blind eye to Syteria's male drummer - although he does a good job) continues with tonight's other band the always excellent JoanOvArc. Like the previous band they have drawn quite a crowd tonight if the amount of JoanOvArc T-shirts in the audience is anything to go by.
This is a band who always deliver. With their debut album just released and airplay on Planet Rock radio plus being featured on Hard Rock Hell Radio recently things are really starting to look up for them. Anyone who has seen these girls play live will tell you this is long overdue! The Album's title track and biker anthem 'Ride Of Your Life' is a strong early part of the band's set, but there is even better to come....
In London tonight the band have found themselves in the right venue with the right crowd - a large bar full of rockers who want to rock out big time on a Friday night. This is exactly what happens. JoanOvArc are highly experienced performers who absolutely thrive on a crowd like this. They have brought a load of their own fans to Big Red tonight for their first visit here, but they also have no trouble winning over a lot of people who have never seen them before and many regulars who have probably never heard of them - this band are really in their element tonight.

As the band know they are playing to a rock crowd they pull out all the stops tonight - they are on fire! As well as the full-on out and out rockers this band are so good at like 'Live Rock & Roll', 'White Trash' and 'Seeds Of Summer' the band still show their more pop/commercial side with songs like recent single 'Dragon In The Sky' plus the very melodic 'Running Away' and 'Five Years'. I look round when they are playing newish song 'Work' from the album and this song which to me has a rather Katrina & The Waves 'Walking On Sunshine' feel has most of the people in the room bouncing up and down even though they have probably never heard it before - the band are creating a terrific atmosphere!

As there are only two bands on the bill tonight JoanOvArc have the chance to play a much longer set than usual - they play for over an hour and by no means use up all the original songs in their repertoire they have built up over the years - they have some great songs which they don't play anymore as they have to make room for the newer stuff. Tonight they have time to play virtually their entire new album plus a few other bits and pieces. The long awaited album 'Ride Of Your Life' is a great showcase of the bands varied strengths - from out and out hard rockers, to ballads and more commercial 'pop' sounding songs - all well crafted and played. But it's the rockers that really reach and and grab you - this is where the band's real passion lies and also where they really shine as an amazing live act! There isn't really any need to play any covers tonight as they have already won the crowd over with the strength their own songs, but they know throwing in 'Ace Of Spades' towards the end will go down a storm in this venue - and it does. To finish the show and also really whip this rock loving crowd into a frenzy they finish with 'Freebird'. I have seen many bands cover this song over the years - most of them very good - but no one can touch the JoanOvArc version of this song. They play it not because it's a known crowd-pleaser and will win an audience over or get them a repeat booking - they play it because they absolutely love playing it. And it shows. The sheer passion and love the band show for this song when they perform it really is something special and genuinely exciting - it really is an amazing climax to the show and the feeling they put into the song and the feeling it generates in those watching is something I have very rarely felt.
It's been a great night out and didn't cost much either - free admission and only £1.50 each way for transport. Both the bands were terrific and I hope to see them again soon, although I expect I'll have to pay to see them next time. Sorry there weren't more pictures - especially of JoanOvArc (and in particular the lovely Debbie on drums and Laura on guitar) but most were far too poor quality to use.