Festival fiasco in Liverpool as day 2 of Hope & Glory is cancelled

‘No festival today’

The curt message posted on social media by the organisers of the first (and increasingly likely, only) Hope & Glory Festival was the coup de grace for this event, plagued by logistical problems on its first day and cancelled altogether on the second, leaving many bands who had been booked to perform high and dry.

The event, which has been advertised for several months, was something I had not taken a great deal of notice of, as the bill featured mainly indie fare which wasn’t my cup of tea. One or two acts looked interesting but I thought at £55 for a day ticket and £85 for the weekend was a bit much to see maybe a couple of bands I might like. The event did however generate interest nationally and internationally, with fans coming from across the country and some had flown in from other countries. Held in St Johns Gardens, behind the neoclassical St Georges Hall in the centre of Liverpool, the organisers promised a range of bands playing across three stages, which right there should raise red flags to anybody who knows that part of the city.  A video that the event organisers released on Facebook shows the intended layout of the site, which they claimed would be suitable for up to 12000 attendees:

Hope & Glory Festival site layout

Hope & Glory Festival site layout (screenshot from organisers’ promotional video)

One glance at that layout makes it clear that there’s no way that site could accommodate 12000 fans comfortably. For those not familiar, the garden area is set from the street to the right (William Brown Street, site for the main ‘Great Exhibition Stage’) by a wall, accessible only by steps in one or two places.

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Location for main stage (screenshot taken from organisers’ promotional video)

Straight away that creates bottlenecks, if people wished to go from one stage to another. In addition, the main stage being set on that narrow street would create yet more overcrowding. The site was just not big enough to hold three stages – one would have been enough, and sure enough on the Saturday (the only operational day), reports of sound from one stage bleeding over to the other stages were coming in via social media. (There was a third stage, set aside for smaller acts).

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Second stage location (screenshot taken from organisers’ promotional video)

On the day itself there were enormous queues snaking down Lime Street, around the corner into St John’s Lane (to the left of the picture), leading to what appeared to be the only entrance into the site. Tickets had been on sale right up to the day of the event and reportedly also available on the day itself, going off what took place it is clear the festival was massively over-subscribed. Questions on facebook before the day were asking about wristband pass-outs, a system which was initially going to be put in place but had been withdrawn at the eleventh hour, leading to some frustrated comments even before the event began. As it became clear that nobody was getting into the site anger grew, and before long the police arrived on the scene to deal with the massive overcrowding. Some disgruntled fans gave up altogether and headed for the bars instead, while the schedule was thrown out by the disruption with acts coming on up to two hours later, playing truncated sets. One big name (singer Charlotte Church) was axed from the bill altogether, presumably in a bid to get the event timescale back into some sort of order, but she was left stranded, having travelled from South Wales with her band only to find she had no slot in which to perform. In a prelude to the next day’s events, she put out an appeal on social media for any venues in the city who might be able to put her on. That was answered by Liquidation at Heebeejeebees, who hastily arranged a gig for her within the hour.

The scale of the problem on the Saturday is illustrated by this video from the Liverpool Echo:

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Bands such as The Fratellis, Razorlight and James did get to play, however by this time many fans had abandoned hope of getting in and had left the site, leaving those already there to queue for the bars and for the toilets, neither facilities were sufficient for the amount of people there leading to yet more overcrowding. The set by James appeared to save the day for many, but a barrage of criticism on their Facebook page and by the number of tweets condemning the organisers for what appeared to be a shameful lack of organisation followed.

Instead of trying to appease or placate disappointed fans, or even showing that they might at least have taken some of the criticism on board for the Sunday, the next day the cancellation was announced on social media with those three words ‘no festival today’. That was it, no explanation, no apology, nothing. With more ‘name’ bands scheduled to play on the Sunday including Ocean Colour Scene, the Lightning Seeds and Space, that left all of those acts in the lurch. Tim Booth of James was also scheduled to play again, as part of ‘Hacienda Classical’ but after he posted a tweet slamming the organisation, they gave only a spiky response instead of the expected contrition:
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By midday on the Sunday the stages were being dismantled, as the tag #HopeAndGlory Festival began to trend and venues across Liverpool were already mobilising to do what they could to put on stranded acts, or make some sort of goodwill gesture to the people who found themselves in the city centre with their event cancelled. Another event (Liverpool Loves) was also taking place elsewhere in the city centre, their organisers were swift to invite would-be Hope & Glory attendees to their stage. Some of the bands did get to perform; the Zanzibar put on the Lightning Seeds at short notice while other venues including Magnet, and Hangar 34 also tweeted that they would make themselves available for acts who wished to play there.  The fact that these venues had to pick up the pieces after the festival descended into chaos was reminiscent of the scenes a decade ago, when the outdoor stages at the Mathew Street Festival (a free, annual event that took place across several stages in the city centre, featuring mostly tribute bands) were suddenly cancelled with days to go by their organisers. That year, bars and venues went out of their way to accommodate bands and this cancellation prompted similar scenes.

Cancellation notice (pic: David Munn/Liverpool Echo)

The whole debacle does little for the image of the city, other than to show that there is still a defiant spirit among the bars and clubs to make something of a bad situation and try to give something to those who’d wanted to spend the weekend watching live music. Those venues deserve bouquets, while brickbats are fully merited for the organisation behind Hope & Glory, a PR company called tinyCOW based in the Midlands.  This would appear to shatter that company’s credibility once and for all, however over the course of the weekend stories emerged that the people behind tinyCOW have previous history of staging events which went wrong. In a particularly disgraceful twist, their twitter account not only passed all blame onto a production manager, condemning him for not installing walkways in time and – worst of all – publishing an email address for all complaints to be directed to him as opposed to the organisers themselves. This was rightly condemned on social media by fans who saw it as the buck-passing exercise it was. Meanwhile, the fire was turned up still further on Tim Booth who got a post from the festival organisers’ account telling him to ‘go back to your yoga’ – a bizarre comment from the organiser to one of their main acts:

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When the dust settles on this debacle, there are questions to be answered. First of all, did anybody do any due diligence on this company who arranged the festival? It has emerged that they have a track record of disputes for previous events, were no questions asked of these?  Secondly, how did they get a licence to stage this event in a space so obviously unsuitable for the amount of people who came? The site was far too small for a projected 12000 people, there were bottlenecks owing to the layout of the land, there were obstacles everywhere and getting around must have been nigh-on impossible. With all that in mind how could it possibly have been passed as safe? Linked to that, and thirdly, who signed it off? Presumably the city council must have cleared it, questions must be asked about their role in this fiasco. On the evidence of the reports, it must be considered miraculous there was not a disaster at this event, which would have been catastrophic for this city. At the very least there should be a resignation from within the council department who passed this event as safe to go ahead.

As said at the top of this post, the musical fare offered at this event was not to my taste, nevertheless when live music events are staged here I want them to pass off well, leaving visitors with good memories – not the frustration and anger which must be felt by visitors after this fiasco. The tickets were not cheap – unsurprisingly there are many calls for refunds, which have also been batted away by organisers referring people only to their ticket agents. That, like so much of the attitude from them, is insufficient and insulting. It is to be hoped this has not caused lasting damage to the city’s hard-won reputation for staging events, nor the ability of the city to attract name acts to perform in Liverpool.

As it was, there was better and more effective communication from artists performing at the event than there was from the festival organisers, which should mean that this company will never be trusted again to deliver a large-scale event in this, or any other city.

Dio back on the road – as a hologram

It used to be said death was a great career move for musicians; at least for those who still stood to gain from the music they left behind that was certainly the case, as albums would be repackaged over and over again with ‘unreleased’, ‘demo’ or ‘rare’ material often added. Until now it was never considered that the deceased artist could actually be sent back out on tour, but that’s all changed now with the news that a holographic recreation of Ronnie James Dio is to go on the road, backed by a live band featuring musicians part of the last Dio line-up to tour while he was still alive.

Perhaps presumptuously, this tour is called ‘Dio Returns’ and several dates across Europe have already been announced for November/December this year. The holographic recreation of Dio made its ‘live’ debut last year at Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, at the end of a performance by Dio Disciples (formed from the surviving members of the last Dio line-up), with a rendition of ‘We Rock’ using vocal taken from a DVD issued in 2002. The hologram is the work of Eyellusion who collaborated with Wendy Dio (Ronnie’s widow/former manager), and it made a further appearance at this year’s Pollstar Awards with the band performing live alongside the hologram.

At the time of writing there haven’t been any further dates confirmed, although the camp have promised a ‘world tour’ taking in many countries including the UK. I consider myself one of Dio’s long-time fans, having first seen him with the original incarnation of his own band at the 1983 Donington, going on to see many performances afterwards including three occasions with Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell. The blurb promises a set taking in his spells with Rainbow and Sabbath, as well as his own band, and they have created a stage set reminiscent of the tours in support of the ‘Sacred Heart’ and ‘Dream Evil’ albums. This, then is surely a must-see for a fan such as myself?

Well, no, not for me thanks. I was fortunate to see Dio on what I estimate to be 17 times, over a period spanning almost 30 years and nothing these technowizards can do will come remotely close to what I got from seeing that guy perform live. He wasn’t just a great singer (he was arguably the best), he could deliver the goods every single night and even in his latter years, with the songs taken down a step, he still astonished, and had the energy of a man at least twenty years younger. That’s why it was such a sad day when he was unable to play that last tour in 2009 having been diagnosed suddenly, and worse when that illness finally took him in 2010. He was irreplaceable, a total one-off, and until now the Disciples have paid tribute by using current singers inspired by his music such as ‘Ripper’ Owens. They don’t try to BE Ronnie James Dio, they interpret his songs their way, but most importantly of all, they are performing LIVE. Behind the technological magic that has made this possible, what we’re still dealing with here is a recording of Dio played over a band on stage. Despite Wendy’s repeated assurances that Ronnie ‘would be giving this his blessing’, I’m unconvinced. Surely he’d want his fans to see live bands giving all they have to an audience, the frontman and the band feeding off the crowd energy in the same way he did? You can’t replicate that with a 3D image.

Another thing which has raised red flags with me is this: what if this tour actually is successful? Will audiences accept this more willingly as time goes on, and will that mean Eyellusion or another company will produce holograms of say, Lemmy, or Bowie? This technology is in its infancy and will only improve, so I fear this is the thin end of the wedge. Even as I type I can imagine Sharon getting Ozzy to stand in a studio somewhere and re-enact his stage moves so that they can be recreated for a similar project once he’s no longer here. The same with other classic bands nearing the end of their careers; surely KISS will have taken note and Gene is already looking into how to apply this technology to his own band/brand. Then there’s the ultimate long-standing rock band: this idea would allow the Rolling Stones to keep going long after all the members have left us, so you can bet somebody somewhere is working on this idea for every big-ticket rock star still capable of pulling an audience.

With that in mind, where will that leave REAL live bands, those coming up and hoping to reach the same status as those that came before? In a pickle, that’s where. If the future of ‘live concerts’ is holographic recreations of major names, then there’s only so much disposable income to spend on shows and it is those smaller bands, the ones your friends tell you ‘I’ve never heard of them’ as though that renders them non-existent, who will take the brunt of this hit. I would like to think the likes of Iron Maiden (a band who have historically tried to do right by their fans) would have no truck with this idea, but I can think of many veteran bands who may well be tempted to go down this route for when they are no longer here, yet still want to generate income for their estates.

I’m not a fan of this idea at all, despite being as amazed as anybody else at the work that must have gone into making this possible. Consequently I shall be sitting out the ‘Dio Returns’ tour when it does come to this country, and will look instead for gigs by real, live musicians standing on that stage playing and singing in front of me, not a fancy projected image going through all the motions while an archived vocal recording plays.

Perhaps in an ironic twist, it is the other Dio offshoot band (Last In Line, featuring original members, guitarist Vivian Campbell and drummer Vinny Appice; bassist Jimmy Bain was also involved until his death last year) who appear to be the preferable option for Dio fans who still want to see that music performed live. Campbell was of course infamously canned from Dio’s band in 1986, causing a rift between him and the singer which never healed, and he spent years distancing himself from his time with Dio after he reappeared, first with Whitesnake and then Def Leppard. However, since Dio’s death he has come to terms once again with the material he had a hand in writing, and has performed with Last In Line whenever possible between Def Leppard tours, and of course around his own treatment (Campbell was himself diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013). These shows, despite some criticism, cannot be lucrative for the Leppard man so his motivation must be to reclaim his right to that music.

Speaking as a Dio fan since the 1980s however, I’d have to disagree with Disciples guitarist Craig Goldy; this new show cannot be the same as experiencing Dio ‘live’; those ‘poor quality youtube videos’ are all we have left.

To close this post here is one of those videos – there are several officially-released shows from the 1980s which have appeared on youtube and this one from 1986 shows Dio in top form, complete with stage show – including Denzil the Dragon! (A show I was lucky enough to catch twice when they came to this country in May 1986) 🙂

Royal Court Theatre Liverpool gig archive project

Last week I responded to a Facebook post from the Royal Court Trust asking for people’s memories of gigs held at the venue. I still have several ticket stubs from shows I’ve seen there, although not for every gig, and I may be biased but the place was and remains my favourite gig venue. Sadly the theatre no longer hosts rock gigs, as it has just had an extensive refurbishment and its focus is now on plays.

Back in the 1980s however, it was a different story. Run-down and with dilapidated decor, it was an ideal venue for rock concerts. The theatre is small, but with a balcony and a circle it still could hold a reasonable crowd, especially as they had removed the seats in the stalls so that the floor was all standing. (The Manchester Apollo did not do the same thing until the 1990s). Also at that time, Liverpool’s radio station (Radio City) hosted a regular rock show presented by Phil Easton, who seemed to know anyone who was anyone in the world of rock music. It’s no exaggeration to say that many top-name bands called at Liverpool because of his influence.

For a period of about four years in the 1980s, almost every name band played at the Royal Court. That included some of the top rock bands of the day; Rainbow, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Def Leppard, Gary Moore – all played on that stage. Things began to taper off around the middle of that decade as bands got bigger and started to play at larger venues elsewhere in the country which were just starting to appear then, but as newer bands came through they also would invariably call. The ‘hair metal’ years saw Bon Jovi play there, as did others who followed in their wake such as Cinderella and Skid Row. Later on as newer Metal and alternative metal acts appeared, the venue played host to such bands as Pantera and – this is incredible to think looking back – Rage Against The Machine. One of the best gigs I have seen there was from the Foo Fighters, again looking back it is amazing to think they played this tiny theatre in my city, but they did in 1997.

There were gigs at the Royal Court up until around the mid-2000s, when the venue management changed hands. If I remember rightly, the last gig I saw there was Placebo in 2006 before the place abruptly changed tack, undergoing a refit and becoming a comedy club complete with tables and chairs installed in the downstairs area. In my view the loss of the Royal Court as a concert venue all but removed Liverpool from the gig circuit; there isn’t really a mid-size venue that can take its place currently operating. The o2 Academy is not as big (nor as good); the Mountford Hall at the University is not used anything like it could be, and although there are 700-800 capacity venues such as the recently-opened Hangar 34, there isn’t a place suitable for bigger bands on the circuit to play in. The arena is there for mega-acts but there isn’t that 2000-3000 capacity hall which Manchester has, hence we frequently miss out on bands.

Looking back at the good old days when UK tours meant 20 cities and not 4 or 5 then, here are a selection of my old gig ticket stubs from my days going to see my favourite bands at the Royal Court:

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CD: Inglorious ‘II’ (Frontiers)

This was an album I meant to do a write-up on long before now; I went to the band’s Liverpool in-store appearance in May and picked up this record on the day, but ‘stuff’ kept intervening and it’s only now, with me out of gig-going action temporarily that I have got around to this one.

Inglorious are the latest in a long line of British rock bands touted as ‘the future of rock’; they were saddled with a tag of ‘The New Deep Purple’ by some commentators, which I thought was a little unfair. For one thing Deep Purple didn’t hit their stride until their fourth album and then only after a change of singer and bassist! Also, when Purple were at their peak, they were also at their most dysfunctional, something that this band could well do without as they make their own way in the rock scene. The tag was one this band could never live up to, and their debut album of last year showed promise, but ‘In Rock’ it wasn’t.

The band are built around singer Nathan James, whose pyrotechnic vocals certainly attracted attention. They have striven to present themselves as a band, not just a vehicle for the singer, but such is his voice, his presence, that he does dominate the spotlight, just as (for example) David Coverdale before him did with Whitesnake. However all the members have contributed to the songwriting on this album, including guitarist Wil Taylor who, after recording his parts for ‘II’ parted company with the band at the end of 2016, to be replaced by his own predecessor Drew Lowe. Taylor has since formed another band (Deeva) and has been back at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios this year (where this album was recorded), working on new material.

So what do we make of this follow-up album by Inglorious? CD in the deck, let’s press play…

It certainly gets off to a good start with ‘I Don’t Need Your Loving’; typical of their old-school rock style yes, but it’s a catchy number which ticks all the boxes. Hard riffs, singalong chorus and an early chance for James to show off those pipes. From there though, the album is full of material that could have been written by any number of those bands in that long line of acts that came before them. Titles such as ‘Hell Or High Water’, ‘Taking The Blame’, and ‘Change Is Coming’ give away what to expect even before you get to them, that this isn’t going to break any new ground. The playing is fine, the drums kick with enough wallop and the guitars slash away with intent, but these songs just don’t stick. Like the first album, you’ll come away with the impression you’ve heard this record many times before, the only thing that makes them stand out is the voice. There are fast-paced rockers (‘Taking The Blame’, ‘Hell Or High Water’), slower songs (‘Making Me Pay’), ones with Whitesnake-style gentle intros which bring the band in with a wallop (‘Tell Me Why’, ‘Change Is Coming’, ‘Faraway’), guitar workouts for axeman Andreas Eriksson such as the shred solo on ‘I Got A Feeling’, but this is an album that is a distillation of so many 1980s hard rock bands, nothing you haven’t heard many times before. It is all so familiar, that the only reason for picking it up is if you’re a particular devotee of James’s vocal style.

The in-store appearance aside, I’m still yet to see this band live (they are touring the UK in October 2017) and I’m sure they’ll cook up a storm live, but for me they need some stronger songs – even if that means an external writer. They can imitate the style of previous bands, but there is little to innovate here. I’m afraid this album only reinforces the perception that it is a vehicle for James, however hard he tries to tell us otherwise and I still feel the way I did after hearing this band’s debut – sooner or later he will be recruited into a supergroup or will be offered a solo mega-deal, one he would be crazy to refuse. This is a band made up of dependable, solid players but fronted by a singer who cannot be confined by this act for ever.

Inglorious II

Inglorious II

3gtrs

3 – Decent

 

Album: HAIM ‘Something To Tell You’ (Polydor)

Back in 2013, there was no escaping HAIM. The group, made up of three sisters from California first came to UK attention at the beginning of that year, winning the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll of music industry figures. From then on, following a UK tour in the spring they played Glastonbury, T In The Park, and Reading/Leeds – all of these appearances were televised on BBC, significantly boosting their profile. Their first full album, ‘Days Are Gone’ did not appear until the autumn of that year but by the time it did, they were as well-known in the UK as they already were in their native Los Angeles. When the record was released, it showed two distinct sides to the group.

On album, their music was radio-friendly pop with harmony vocals to the fore, with more than a hint of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles to their sound. Against that, the record’s modern production sheen brought their sound up to date. However, they were a completely different proposition live; middle sister Danielle (the more reserved of the trio) was cast as primary lead vocalist, while showing herself to be a mean lead guitar player, unleashing hard rocking solos in songs that had nothing of the sort on record. She also played drums on the album, however for live performances the sisters enlisted drummer Dash Hutton (a friend of eldest sister, bassist/vocalist Este) who toured full-time with the girls.  Este herself was the most outgoing of the trio, engaging the crowd between songs with banter punctuated by more than a few choice F-bombs, while youngest sister Alana ‘Baby Haim’ took up the other side of the stage, given a multi-faceted role on rhythm guitar, additional drums and keyboards as well as vocals.

Later on the group added a full-time touring keyboardist (Tommy King) to take some of the load off Alana, expanding the live group to a quintet. The band live were more akin to a hard rock act than a pop group, songs would feature Danielle cutting loose on the guitar far more than on record, and to close their set the girls would take to drums themselves to bash away alongside their drummer in a spectacle reminiscent of that done by The Scorpions in recent years. The band toured extensively for the next two years, coming back to the UK in 2014 for a tour of bigger halls, and a return to Glastonbury in the summer, but back in their homeland their popularity really blew up when they were selected to support pop megastar Taylor Swift. From there on in they haven’t looked back, although this second album has been delayed somewhat by the meticulous nature of their studio work. The group actually pulled out of planned festival dates in summer 2016 in order to focus on completing the album, releasing a statement apologising to their UK fans.

In April 2017 HAIM finally unveiled a taster for this record, the haunting, brooding ‘Right Now’ which turned out to be an early, ‘live in the studio’ performance. To say the least, after the runaway success of their first album expectations were high for ‘Something To Tell You’ – especially after a four-year gap (Leppard-esque, if you will!) between this and ‘Days Are Gone’. The record was released at midnight on Friday, 7th July, becoming available immediately to listen to on Spotify. Time to settle back and see what the LA sister act have in store for us this time, then…

If you’ve seen this band live and were hoping for an album that captures that harder live sound more accurately, prepare to be disappointed. The material here is smooth, slick, well-produced (perhaps OVER-produced? Bearing in mind that the final result is exactly how the band intended it to be) but, once again it shows that on record this group is a different beast to the onstage version. That’s not to say it is a bad album; it’s actually very good, the songs are designed to ease their way into your brain and take root – you’ll find yourself humming one or more of these ditties after one listen to this album. If anything it is smoother than ‘Days Are Gone’; the group worked once again with producer Ariel Rechtsaid to deliver an album that will sound great in the car, whether you’re heading down a freeway in the summer sun or stuck in a traffic jam on the M62 on a cold, wet Monday morning. There are some nifty basslines from Este in tracks such as recent single ‘Want You Back’, but guitar from Danielle is used sparingly, often buried in the mix such as on the playout for ‘Little Of Your Love’. I’d expect that to be radically different once they hit the stage.

The vocal harmonies that have led to those Wilson Phillips comparisons are present and correct, and they venture into RnB territory with songs such as ‘Treat You Right’. On that track, surprisingly there is another lead guitar playout from Danielle, unsurprisingly it is again buried deep within the production. On ‘You Never Knew’ they go into full Fleetwood Mac mode; the echoed backing vocals will make you think immediately of ‘Little Lies’ from Mac’s 1987 album ‘Tango In The Night’.

The girls’ drum background is shown once again in ‘Kept Me Crying’; this album’s ‘The Wire’ with a beat throughout that will inevitably lead to audience handclaps when it’s played live. This one DOES have a more prominent, fuzzed-out guitar outro. The highlight for me is penultimate track ‘Right Now’; a slow-burner starting out with a church-style organ and gradually building up, deploying the heavy guitar chords for the only time on the record midway through and then introducing those syncopated drums. Even so, the live version as seen on their recent BBC appearances is superior, the production is a little bit too strong with unnecessary (IMO) effects added to Este’s backing vocal. That could have been the album closer, but they have chosen to end things with the gentle ‘Night So Long’, demonstrating once again their close harmony vocals.

You won’t find thought-provoking lyrical content on this record, it is all concerned with boy/girl relationship issues. With that in mind it is a little baffling that this band is considered ‘indie’ by some, this is pure ear candy that has many tracks that could be singles, surely many will be picked up by radio in the coming months. Besides ‘Want You Back’ and ‘Little of Your Love’, tracks such as ‘Found It In Silence’ and the title track are potential hit singles.

If you’re more of a rock fan and were hooked by this group’s live prowess, you’ll need to put aside your metallic leanings in order to enjoy this record. If you can do that, there’s much to enjoy on this album. Consider it a successor to ‘Tango In The Night’ and you’re about there.

Haim 'Something To Tell You'

Haim ‘Something To Tell You’

4 – Deserving

All change in the DORJA camp; farewell Holly and welcome Sarah Michelle

Almost a year to the day since DORJA announced themselves with their track ‘Fire’, they have now had a change to the line-up. Founding guitarist Holly Henderson announced her departure last month, as her own solo career is set for lift-off. She has plans to play live with her new band, and with a new EP imminent and an album in the can for release later in the year she perhaps felt that she could no longer give her all to DORJA. With dates of their own booked for July, the remaining quartet (guitarist Rosie Botterill, drummer Anna Mylee, bass player Becky Baldwin, plus LA-based lead singer Aiym Almas) conducted an online search for a new guitarist, and they have today announced their new member.

Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, new six-stringer Sarah Michelle has several years’ experience touring the UK and Europe, most recently with tribute act ‘The Magic of Michael Jackson’. Her guitar influences include Eddie van Halen, Gary Moore, Jimi Hendrix and Paul Kossoff, and she maintains a channel on YouTube with over 1.2million views at the time of writing. She appears to be a natural fit for this band, and I was hoping to get to a show or two in order to see for myself what she will bring to the party. However I shall be out of action for most of July having sustained a fractured ankle (following a recent gig, note not during it!) therefore I cannot travel to any of the scheduled dates. Beyond disappointed at that, since I know the other four members well and would no doubt enjoy their set, but it will have to be another time.

The dates for DORJA’s upcoming tour are listed below, if a show is reachable I recommend attending, since the band members can only come together at irregular intervals (singer Aiym Almas is based in LA, with Sarah Michelle in Dublin and the other girls all based in England).

For further information please see the band’s Facebook page.

DORJA UK dates July 2017
Lastly, here is a clip of Sarah Michelle herself from her youtube channel:

DORJA guitarist Sarah Michelle

DORJA guitarist Sarah Michelle

Caught Live: The Strypes, Arts Club Liverpool 9th June 2017

The crowd who showed at the Arts Club for this gig by Irish retro-rockers The Strypes were clearly still in election mode, coming the day after the UK General Election which saw a clean sweep of seats in Liverpool taken by the Labour Party. Chants of ‘Oh, Je-re-my Cor-byn!’ rang out frequently, and were given plenty of encouragement by support act, Man & The Echo. Frontman Gaz Roberts made his own feelings abundantly clear, both between songs and during them, with his anti-Tory tirades going over well with this crowd. Their music was reasonably typical indie-rock fare, with emphasis on organ more than guitar, but their singer did stand out with his crooner-type vocal.

The Strypes were touring in support of a still-unreleased at the time third album (it came out around a week after this date), ‘Spitting Image’. Still barely in their twenties, this band are already veterans of the live scene, having performed in their native Republic of Ireland since their early teens. Their energetic live set included several new tracks from ‘Spitting Image’, but there were enough favourites there to please their followers. Live, they play HARD and have an intensity that many Metal bands would envy. The crowd on the floor responded in kind, with frequent moshpits throughout their set (yours truly anticipated this, and stood further back on the terrace-like area which still afforded a clear view of the stage!) There were still plenty of pro-Corbyn shouts during their set, and guitarist Josh McClorey acknowledged that while reminding the crowd that it wasn’t their election to get involved in! He played some killer leads and even threw in a snippet of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Cowboy Song’ at one point.

The Strypes at Liverpool Arts Club

The Strypes at Liverpool Arts Club

The main MC duties came not from frontman Ross Farrelly (looking cool in shades, a natty suit and a snazzy yellow and black striped (Stryped?) Telecaster guitar, but bassist Pete O’Hanlon. It was the bassist who handled most of the crowd interaction, getting them to jump, clap, or even just encourage them to go wild. They needed little encouragement! At the back, drummer Evan Walsh looked sharp, with a fifties-style haircut and loud jacket, he was immense behind the kit but must have been hot in that get up!

This band have had some critical pastings but have won themselves not just fans their own age, but many older ones who remember the likes of Dr Feelgood. The Feelgoods plus many others of their era are obvious inspirations to these young lads. They’re the real deal, a no-nonsense hard-driving four-piece who are already on their way to becoming huge thanks to their live performance.  I don’t think I’ve seen such an intense live act since early Airbourne, that’s how hard their delivery is. Seeing this group while they’re still playing small venues such as the Arts Club is thus highly recommended.

As a postscript, I got through this gig by staying clear of the pit but afterwards, having enjoyed a marvellous show, I managed to fracture my ankle walking back through the city to where I’d parked. Somehow I made it back to the car and was able to drive home again, but this has put me out of gig-going action for several weeks. Consequently, I have had to sit out several gigs I’d otherwise have seen and so this leg cannot heal quickly enough, I’m missing my fix! 😀

The Strypes Facebook page

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving