Caught Live: Wayward Sons (with Doomsday Outlaw), o2 Academy Liverpool, 15th September 2018

The opening date of what Wayward Sons billed as a ‘winter tour’ actually took place before the Autumn Equinox, so (technically) it was still summer! Pedantry aside, it was good to see veteran rocker Toby Jepson back in our city for the first time in years, with his current band Wayward Sons.  The one-time Little Angels frontman has since carved out a career as a producer, but returned to the stage with this outfit a year ago. Their debut album (‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’) gained a lot of airplay on Planet Rock, with their live performances (supporting the likes of Inglorious and Steel Panther) being warmly received.

Their ‘real’ tour comes in October/November, when they play a series of dates supporting Saxon and then headline their own run, so this one was a little bit of a bonus for fans at this end of the M62 (like your correspondent!) who often bemoan the lack of this kind of event here. It looked like it was going to be a ‘selective’ kind of turnout, but as so often happens the place filled up substantially five minutes before the headliners were due on stage. Those who preferred to stay in the pub missed out on Doomsday Outlaw, a five-piece from Derby who play old-school classic hard rock.  I caught the end of their set in Buckley recently (when they supported Graham Bonnet Band) and thought they were impressive. Here though, the sound was absolutely ear-splitting, a bit much for the smaller room at the o2 Academy. Above the din, it was clear they have a fine vocalist in Phil Poole, even if during their last number he failed to emulate Daltrey’s mic-swinging technique – the ‘clonk’ of his mic hitting the headstock of guitarist Steve Broughton. He almost ‘corpsed’ after that in embarrassed laughter but recovered enough to get through the song. Anyone going to the subsequent dates should check these guys out.

Wayward Sons came on fairly early at around 8:30 and the first thing that hit you was that volume – they were just as loud (if not more so) than the support! Opening with ‘Alive’ from the album, their sound is as heavy as any headbanger could want, plenty of meaty guitar from axeman Sam Wood as well as Jepson himself on rhythm. There is still enough melody in the mayhem to provide singalongs in the choruses, and the frontman took every opportunity to get the crowd involved.  All of the songs from the album were played, as well as two non-album tracks from their ‘Don’t Wanna Go’ single (‘Radio Denial’ and ‘Backslide’), plus two Little Angels covers later in the set. One of those was inevitably ‘Kicking Up Dust’, which spawned the name of this band and the other was set closer ‘Young Gods’. These were delivered with far more grunt than they were in the Little Angels days, and as an added bonus they even ended proceedings with the closing segment of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’!

Although he does take pains to make sure everybody else in the band is recognised, Jepson is one of those frontmen who just naturally grabs the attention. He seemed to have a permagrin all night, proclaiming he’d play a gig ‘every night’ if he were allowed to. He also seemed happy to be back in Liverpool after all this time, reminiscing with the audience about playing at the Royal Court. He does have impressive players alongside though, particularly Phil Martini on the drums. It was a little tough to hear Dave Kemp on the keyboards, since the PA was set to kill (!) however.

A fine night of old-fashioned classic hard rock then, performed with verve and enjoyment by all present. Hopefully it won’t be as long until next time Toby Jepson rocks up in Liverpool, but if I’m being honest the volume was a bit excessive all evening. For those who still insist that ‘if it’s too loud then you’re too old’ – well count me as ‘too old’ if you like but on this occasion I was glad of the improvised tissue paper ear defenders I had in all set!

4 – Deserving

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Caught Live: L.A. Guns (with Jared James Nichols, Stone Trigger), Tivoli Venue Buckley, 8th September 2018

Confession time: I went along to this gig primarily to see Jared James Nichols. The Wisconsin blues/rocker has won a lot of friends on these shores in the past few years and has also gained a few famous fans into the bargain. One of those is Tracii Guns of tonight’s headliners, but more on that in a moment.  L.A. Guns were one of those bands that kind of passed me by in the 80s sleaze rock glory days; you couldn’t go to a rock club night without hearing either ‘One More Reason’ or ‘Sex Action’ but for whatever reason, I never got to see them live.  Recently the two mainmen, British-born vocalist Phil Lewis and the aforementioned Tracii Guns have reunited after many years fronting their own versions of the band and have been rebuilding their fan base by touring not just in the USA but also coming to Europe and the UK.

For once I got to Buckley in time to catch the first band; Ireland’s Stone Trigger were warming up the early arrivals with their own take on the late 80s Sunset Strip era. They looked the part, especially vocalist Tommy Rockitt in his shades, big hair and ripped (red!) trousers complete with obligatory studded belt. Vocally he reminded me of Spike, with a similarly throaty delivery, though they were more 80s LA than early 70s London with their material. They did play with commendable enthusiasm considering they started out before a sparse audience, but got those people rocking and ended before a considerably larger crowd.

Next up was Jared James Nichols, backed once more by bassist Greg Cash and drummer Dennis Holm. Just as he did at Chester earlier in the year, he set the stage on fire with incredible (fingerstyle) guitar playing. Performing tracks from his ‘Black Magic’ album alongside selected covers, he sprang a surprise when he introduced Tracii Guns to the stage. The even bigger surprise was the choice of song for them to jam on – Black Sabbath’s ‘N.I.B.’! A rendition that Iommi himself would have approved of, this was a real highpoint of the evening, and we hadn’t yet had the headliners! Greg Cash on the bass was a showman in his own right, throwing shapes, pulling grimaces and when given the opportunity, demonstrating his own dexterity.

The only L.A. Guns album I had back in the 80s was their second offering, ‘Cocked and Loaded’ and I suppose I should have given that a listen beforehand, instead I had come to this gig ‘cold’ on their material. Not expecting a great deal, what I got was a full-on rockin’ performance from an outfit that was much more than two old stagers reliving their glory days. Phil Lewis was a revelation; his voice has held up a lot better than many other veteran rock singers from the same era that are still doing the rounds. Not only that, he looked in great shape, bounding about the stage, geeing up the crowd and generally performing like he was in front of 20,000 not something like 200! Meanwhile his compadre Tracii Guns was on fire, unleashing blistering solo after blistering solo, and also doing his best Jimmy Page by playing guitar with a bow! They surprised me by playing ‘Sex Action’ fairly early in the set, which was understandably heavy on tracks  from the first two albums but also showcased some newer material including ‘Speed’ – a number that was more Speed Metal than Sleaze Rock!

The rest of the band (drummer Shane Fitzgibbon, rhythm guitarist Adam Hamilton and bassist Johnny Martin) gave the two frontmen plenty of room but also got a good share of the spotlight themselves – all contributed backing vocals, and Martin in particular stood out with his feet-apart stance and a hairstyle I can only describe as ‘overgrown moptop’! Near the end of the set, Tracii Guns returned the favour by bringing back to the stage Jared James Nichols for an instrumental jam, then for their closing number also reintroducing Stone Trigger guitarist Andi Andrews.

All told this was a fine night, this venue once held rock nights weekly where the likes of LA Guns would be played, and it’s great to see the old place well and truly back on the gig map putting on bands, even those who performed here first time around are now finding themselves back in Flintshire to rock us again. You could say L.A. Guns and their support acts got this crowd to party like it was 1989!

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: The SoapGirls, The Old Courts Wigan, 26th August 2018

It’s been a trying time for South African punk rock chicks The SoapGirls of late, having gained many friends and followers with their relentless touring of the UK, they’ve also had to endure what appears to be a co-ordinated hate campaign. They’ve had their Facebook page deleted, forcing them to rebuild their following from scratch; the individual profiles of both girls (bassist Camille ‘Mille’ Debray and her guitarist sister Noemie, a.k.a. ‘Mie’) as well as their mother/manager Sam Debray have also been subject to various temporary bans. The reasons for this are unclear other than somebody definitely doesn’t like them, and are trying to stop them from performing. Indeed, days before this date, one planned gig in another city was pulled by the venue (which I shan’t identify, since I’ve no desire to give that place any mention!) and another scheduled for this week has also been cancelled. They’ve also had to fend off some quite outrageously untrue allegations, which could have been rectified by spending just five minutes talking to Mille, Mie or Sam.  Nonetheless they are made of sterner stuff than their ‘haters’ reckon with – hey, they’re from South Africa and they come tough there – but they are definitely doing something right, with some of their fans prepared to travel up and down the country (and into continental Europe, where they will play more dates this year) to see them play.

Their controversial image stems from their stage attire – sometimes little more than body paint, boots, and a few tattered remnants (!) and other times, leotards and hand-written slogans on their arms and legs. They’ve also been known to involve fans in bizarre challenges such as drinking their ‘voodoo’ cocktail of whatever alcoholic drinks were around at the time or ‘persuading’ fans to get on stage dressed in just outsized ‘nappies’ – these antics have been scaled back of late however, with the trio (they’re accompanied by a touring male drummer, currently Sam Ogden) preferring to focus on showcasing new material from a forthcoming album.  This performance in Wigan was actually a headline set for the venue’s Summer Festival, an all-day event featuring numerous bands from the North West and set in the Vault room at this former court house turned music and arts centre.

I caught some of the other bands on the bill, two of whom I made mental note of to look out for in future were stoner rock trio Shallow Waters. These guys badly want to be Kyuss, playing some trippy, out there jams featuring tons of overdriven guitar, and Neptune Valley who immediately preceded the SoapGirls. These were a four-piece who, despite some loud shirts,  had a neat line in pop-rock but still with enough guitar riffing and soloing to please an ageing headbanger like me.

By the time the SoapGirls themselves were due to come on it was already well past 11pm; fortunately it was a bank holiday the next day so I wasn’t worried about the night running too late and as I was driving, also not worried about getting home! Opening with ‘Society’s Rejects’, the title track from their last album, it was clear from the off that Mille in particular was in fiery mood. She was all over the stage, having a bit of room for once to throw shapes, she made the most of it. If she wasn’t storming all over the stage, she was bending backwards (she actually fell over twice doing that during this set, before reasoning that it’d be easier if she took off her high-heeled boots!) or doing the splits. All while still playing the bass! When she wasn’t performing gymnastics, she was delivering some from-the-heart speeches, slating politicians (‘none of them care about you or I’), and urging those present to make the most of their time (‘you have one life’) by not pandering to what others – be it work bosses, family members, whatever, expect from them. Mille is a driven, passionate performer at the best of times but on this night she seemed particularly angered.

Meanwhile over on the other mic guitarist Mie seems to have taken a more active role with lead vocal – she took lead vocals a lot more than I’d seen her do in the past, which did free Mille up more to perform her acrobatic routines. Her voice has got stronger in the past year too, she has always been the slightly more restrained voice of the two but now she’s roaring almost as much as her elder sister. Of course Mie’s guitar riffs are as heavy as ever, she sets that Ibanez Jem and Blackstar amp to destroy! All backed up by their redheaded sticksman from Stoke-on-Trent; Sam Ogden on the drums drives the sisters along splendidly, and you know how highly they regard their current drummer by the amount of stick they give him between songs! For all the seriousness of some of Mille’s speeches, she hasn’t lost her sense of humour, there were some quite ribald jibes aimed at Sam on the kit. All in jest, of course! The new songs they unveiled in April have become a big part of this set, in particular ‘My Development’. A song written after a confrontation with a neighbour back in South Africa, who objected to their playing practice at home, they’ve given said neighbour short lyrical shrift in this number! For ‘Bad Bitch’ they invited two people up on stage, only one took them up on it but another appeared, holding a sign stating ‘We Stand With The Soap Girls’. ‘Sam’s On Crack’ and of course, their party anthem for the downtrodden worker ‘Champagne Cocaine’, ended the set with the floor still bouncing despite the late hour.

As ever, both Mille and Mie were straight out afterwards, still in what passed for stage wear (!) to chat with the attendees, sell CDs and T-shirts, or just chat and have a picture taken. Mille, fiery and fierce on stage, reverted to a sweet and friendly figure once off, happily chatting to whoever was around, while Mie also mingled with fans and posed for pics, still with her headdress on! They know many faces from the gigs now, but have time for everyone. This aspect goes to show how much they put into their night, they must be tired after such an energetic set but still give their time to their fans. They have a few weeks left playing dates in continental Europe and some more in the UK after that, before returning to South Africa over the winter months. I hope to see them at least once more before they head home, and when they return in 2019 there should be a new album (their fourth) available. They are quite the live experience, and seeing them while they’re still playing small venues is recommended.

5 – Delightful

The SoapGirls on Facebook

Caught Live: Graham Bonnet Band, Tivoli Venue Buckley 24th August 2018

One number into this set and already the veteran rock shouter is having to improvise, giving us a short blast of ‘Only One Woman’ (a hit for  The Marbles, which Bonnet sang on) as well as rattling off a few gags and even explaining why there were carrots on the drum riser! (A comical reference to a long-ago but well-documented incident with Michael Schenker.) The reason for the hold-up was because drummer Mark Benquechea had managed to SNAP a cymbal stand while playing the opening song! There isn’t much Graham Bonnet hasn’t experienced in a long, and chequered career, so it didn’t take long for he and the band to get back into their stride once the drummer had finished his frantic repair work.

Graham Bonnet is currently enjoying an Indian Summer to his own career; having not long turned 70 he still has the mighty delivery which lured Ritchie Blackmore to hire him in Rainbow, of course it is Bonnet’s voice heard on their most enduring hit ‘Since You Been Gone’. This set took in a varied selection of songs ranging from his time in Rainbow, a few from his only album with Schenker (‘Assault Attack’), some Alcatrazz (new guitarist Kurt James has the nimblest of fingers, ideal for taking on Malmsteen solos);  even a couple of numbers from his time with Impelliteri (‘a band I was with for about a week!’, joked the singer) and of course his 1981 solo hit ‘Night Games’ which came early in the set. There weren’t too many new or even newish numbers played, it was more a set designed to please the punters than plug any new album.

Kurt James only joined up with the band earlier in the year, he gave a splendid performance on lead guitar. Whoever has that role has got a big job on his hands, considering the kind of axemen Bonnet has worked with in the past, but he handled it all with ease. That’s the only change to the line-up since last I saw them however; keyboardist Jimmy Waldo (from the Alcatrazz days) and of course bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone remain. The performance was high-octane, with many harder rocking numbers delivered in a set that must have lasted around 90 minutes. ‘Since You Been Gone’ came towards the end, and the band closed out with a faithfully-delivered ‘Lost In Hollywood’. There wasn’t an encore, but it was a full value set and took us close to midnight by the time it ended.

Bonnet still has the voice, and has a potent band to do justice to his back catalogue. He’s been back on the road for a few years now, and with him looking and sounding in such good shape long may his revival continue.

I didn’t see too much of the rest of the bill, so apologies to Gin Annie who I shall have to catch another time, but what I saw of Doomsday Outlaw was pretty good – an old-school old-time rock ‘n’ roll band who sound like they’re from the Deep South, but are in fact from Derby. They don’t bring much new to the party but are well worth checking out.

However the evening was all about that old fella with the impressive resume – I look forward to seeing Graham Bonnet and his band again soon.

4 – Deserving

 

Shout About It Live! (featuring REWS) at Constellations Liverpool

I only found out about this event days before it took place, thanks to a post from the Saturday headliners REWS. A live music event which also intended to showcase gig photography, it was actually a three-day event, with the Friday being a sort-of preview intended for those in the gig photo business to get together and ‘network’ while bands played. With my nights out currently rationed and having to be scheduled in advance, I made sure I was going to be there to see REWS play. The Saturday was an all-day event, with bands playing from midday through until 11pm, but as it turned out I was detained at home until around 7pm, meaning I couldn’t get to see much of the bill. As I was going primarily to see the rock duo though, it wasn’t a biggie.

I got to Constellations, a bar with a back room for live bands set in what looked like a former industrial unit in the Baltic Triangle area (close to Hangar 34, mentioned in the previous post) to find none other than Shauna and Collette of REWS posing by a mural nearby, taking selfies. They seemed happy to hear at least one person had come specifically to see them (!) though of course had it not been for their post, I’d not have known about this event anyway. It had little publicity, being independently-organised and after entering and watching one of the bands (a guitar-orientated, but indie-leaning quartet) I took in the exhibition that was also in place down the side of the hall. Showcasing some pretty good live gig photos from both big-time shows and smaller local gigs, this was an event aimed at giving budding gig snappers something to shoot without having to worry about photo passes. As such, I should have brought my own (ageing!) DSLR, but I’d gone as a gig punter rather than photographer so took the usual digital compact.

A short time later I got talking to one of these DSLR-toting snappers, who turned out to be the organiser of the event! A Wirral-based gig snapper called Georgia Flynn, she explained the reason for putting on this event and was happy to talk techie camera stuff to someone whom she probably didn’t realise was an old photo geek who used to develop E6* for a living (!) I did tell her I liked to take the odd snap for this blog, and she gave me her web URL where her work is displayed. After watching another band and observing the stream of DSLR users heading to the stage I took another look around before the penultimate band came on, who were Himalayas from Cardiff. I’ve seen these guys before when they supported Marmozets at the o2 Academy earlier in the year, so knew what to expect – indie-esque, but plenty of wallop from Jimmy Page lookalike guitarist Mike Griffiths and drummer  James Goulbourn. Frontman Joe Williams gave the snappers plenty to shoot when he took an off-stage walkabout near the end, as well as stand on the bass drum in true rock fashion!  A good live band worth seeing, though they were getting rather a muted reception from a floor filled with people aiming to get a good photo as much as take in a gig.

I was of course there for REWS who had come out onto the floor during Himalayas’ set, getting a bit of attention from a few punters who wanted pics with the girls. After a short period of setting up they kicked into life with a set of at least eleven songs, mostly drawn from their ‘Pyro’ album. Guitarist Shauna Tohill was a blur of energy on the stage, making the most of the (decently-sized) stage since she had most of it to herself!  Meanwhile Collette Williams set about hammering her way through this set with nifty rhythms, which had your correspondent attempting to drum along using the edge of the stage as a ‘snare’, particularly during ‘Miss You In The Dark’! Having seen the duo once before at the Shipping Forecast across town, I knew what to expect, but this was a particularly enjoyable performance. Though I made sure to get plenty of snaps on the digital compact, I had a good headbang as well! Once again, most present were there in a photography capacity and although they got a few cheers from the floor (particularly from this direction) it did feel more like an industry showcase, which I suppose it was!
Nevertheless it was a storming performance from Shauna and Collette, which must have pleased organiser Georgia who told me beforehand she’d booked them because  she particularly wanted a female act to close the evening. If you’re reading this, Georgia – I can think of a few others to recommend to you 😉

Hopefully this event will grow in the future, it deserves to become a fixture on Liverpool’s live scene especially since the focus (sorry!) is on giving people a chance to try their hand at photographing live music. There was another day devoted to acoustic acts on the Sunday, sadly real life intervened again so I couldn’t attend that day.

Presented below are some shots I took of REWS during their set, for the photo geeks I used an (older) Olympus SZ-16 compact at either 800 or 1600 ISO (the light was actually pretty good for such an event, and was a consistent colour – none of the dreaded ‘red light of death’ seen at so many gigs now!) and because of the black clothes worn by many of the acts, REWS included, I tend to under-expose by 1/3 to 2/3 stop so that the camera isn’t thrown by over-compensating, and burning out the faces of the performers.


For more about Shout About It please click this link:
Let’s Shout About It

To visit Georgia Flynn’s own photography website:
Georgia Flynn Creative

Finally, thanks to Georgia herself for my post-gig snap with Shauna and Collette!

Me with Shauna and Collette of REWS

Me with Shauna and Collette of REWS (pic: Georgia Flynn)

*E6: Slide/Transparency film, from 35mm through to 10″ x 8″ sheets!

Caught Live: Vintage Trouble, Hangar 34 Liverpool 14th August 2018

A band that’s been on my ‘keep meaning to see’ list for some time, LA rock/soul/bluesers Vintage Trouble squeezed this and a handful of other dates in between their UK festival appearances this summer.  Although several of my friends have raved about them in the past I’d never got around to seeing them until now, and I had only sketchy knowledge of their work. Enough to know that they were influenced greatly by soul / rhythm & blues artists from the 1960s as much as rock, so I was expecting an energetic performance.

Hangar 34 hasn’t been going for very long but has established itself already as a popular live venue; a decent-sized floor with a good stage, good sight lines wherever you are in the room and even a small balcony to the rear, its only slight disadvantage is the fact it is located in the south end of the city, in what’s now known as the Baltic Triangle ‘creative quarter’ where there have been many bars, cafes, live venues and creative business spring up in recent years. It is about a mile from the main railway stations, a little less to the main bus station so, a pretty decent walk if you were to use public transport. With that in mind, although fairly local I drove in, and found a spot mere yards from the door of this venue. I entered expecting to see a support band, what I got was a DJ on the stage complete with rig, playing a selection of Northern Soul favourites for the early arrivals. The place was not busy at all when I got there, allowing me to get fairly close to the stage, but as the DJ set wore in with us being treated to such classics as ‘The Snake’, it got steadily more busy.

The band eventually came on around 9pm, to a crowd I estimate of around 500 – not capacity but not too bad for a midweek gig. They all gathered around into a huddle prior to commencing the set, something like a football team would do, before kicking things off with ‘Run Like The River’. Snappy dressers to a man, the sheer energy and heat given off by this band soon had the guys’ nice clothes (particularly the polka-dot shirt of singer Ty Taylor) soaked in sweat! Coming over something like a modern-day James Brown if he had Led Zeppelin backing him, this was something to behold even for a first-timer like me.  Taylor is a master of the stage, getting this crowd eating from his hand from the first minute to the last, commanding the attention, and getting the most raucous response from any crowd I’ve seen in years. This 500-strong crowd sounded like 5000 at times!

He has some serious talent backing him too, from relentlessly pounding drummer Richard Danielson, to the trilby-hatted duo of guitarist Nalle Colt and bassist Rick Barrio Dill, through to ‘fifth Troublemaker’, touring keyboardist Brian London. They were given a spot midway through to play an instrumental while Taylor took a (deserved) breather, each member got a brief solo spot to show their respective ‘chops’.  All terrific players, though it’s that drummer who stood out for me. The band had some new tracks to showcase from an upcoming album which isn’t out yet, but to me all of it was new – having not cribbed their material beforehand!

Taylor was everywhere, all over the stage, pulling some impressive gymnastics and occasionally vaulting over the barrier to join us in the crowd. He even emulated Cormac Neeson at one point, getting everyone to crouch down around him in the same way that The Answer’s frontman sometimes does, and that’s not the only thing he did that reminded me of another frontman. Towards the end of the show he asked for and got, the crowd to introduce themselves to a nearby person they didn’t know. That’s something which has been tried by Shinedown’s Brent Smith on three occasions whenever I’ve seen them, but he couldn’t get many involved. The Vintage Trouble singer did the same thing with ease, as we all shook hands with a stranger near us! He even did one number from that balcony (it was unused on the night otherwise) and seemed to relish in the audience contact, even being crowdsurfed back to the stage! For their encore, he led the whole band off the stage at the conclusion of their last number and through the crowd to the merchandise stand at the back of the hall – one way of ensuring we all knew that was the final song!

Vintage Trouble said that they always enjoyed playing in Liverpool, since the city had that ‘grimy’ feel which made them feel at home – this venue hasn’t quite developed that ‘grime’ yet, being so new, but the part of town it’s in certainly fits that description, as it consists of former factories and warehouses. When they come around again next year, don’t hang about and get a ticket to see these fellas. For a high-energy feel-good show, they’re hard to beat.

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: The Kut, Liverpool Zanzibar 3rd August 2018

I really must take note of set times when going to these gigs! Having bounded through the city centre, I took no notice whatsoever of the times printed on the sheet of paper in front of the chap who took my fiver as I entered the Zanzibar, a long-established but somewhat tucked away venue in Liverpool. I got through the door to find the place pretty much deserted, save for bar staff and a certain Princess Maha. The Kut leader happily greeted me and chatted for a few moments, explaining that her bandmates (drummer Diana Bartmann and bassist Stella Vie) were off looking for some food. Had I thought this through more, I could have done the same thing. Oh well, there was plenty of time and so I supped a beer and waited, while Maha went off presumably to join her colleagues…

When Princess Maha came back she informed me that there’d been a bit of a mix-up with the booking. It turned out the venue manager had been off ill (he’d had spinal surgery!) The group had been unable to reach him, unaware of this and actually showed up at the venue hoping that this gig was still on! Because of this, no support acts were booked, and there had been little in the way of publicity for the gig. A bit of a contrast for Maha, Diana and Stella then, as they’d only played to a packed crowd in Blackpool the night before as part of the Rebellion punk rock festival! Nevertheless, the trio went ahead with their set, to a handful of people who’d heard about the date and showed.

When I saw The Kut earlier in the year supporting Marco Mendoza in Manchester they played with a different bassist; Stella Vie has now returned to the fold after she sat out those dates in order to focus on her finals towards her degree. Her bass was almost as prominent as Maha’s guitar all set, at least from my position practically on the stage with them!  For their (slightly profane!) number ‘Bad Man’ the position became actually on the stage; traditionally they ask at least one audience member up to join in ‘backing vocals’ and with there being so few there, your correspondent got the nod to join in! I’m not a musician, not even a vocalist, so I did try and give both Maha and Stella the room to do their thing but got to contribute the vocal on the chorus and the um, hook (play the track for yourself on Spotify, you’ll understand!)

They ran through a set mainly consisting of numbers from their full debut album ‘Valley of Thorns’; others included the catchy ‘I Want You Maniac’ and ‘Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll’ which not only featured some fine finger tappin’ lead guitar from Maha, but an additional guitarist in Jake Reverand Turl.  Despite the band saying they’d just treat it as a rehearsal, it was a full-on, full-energy set with everyone giving it 100 percent anyway. The few there were appreciative, it may have been a Bad News-esque turnout but they got a far better cheer from those who came than anything Vim Fuego and co managed!

Following the set they had plenty of time for a chat and pics, just about everyone there came away with something off the merch (I treated myself to a CD of the new album, plus a green vinyl single for a bargain £2!) The trio should be commended for coming and playing even though few showed, and even though they were not themselves certain they had a gig to play! The band are playing dates throughout August and well into autumn, so there’ll be more chances to catch this hard-working trio live. Recommended that you do so.

4 – Deserving

The Kut Facebook page

Picture Gallery: The Dead Daisies at Holmfirth Picturedrome 27 July 2018

I attended this gig by the Aussie/American hard rock ‘collective’ The Dead Daisies; having seen and reviewed a previous gig from earlier this year however I felt there was little need to do another review of this show. Aside from one or two changes to the set (incorporating a brief acoustic interlude, also featuring drummer Deen Castronovo taking lead vocal for one cover) it was as rockin’ a show as the gig I caught in Bilston.

So instead, presented below are a selection of shots taken at this gig. I didn’t have a particularly close spot, so these are the best you’ll get! Shot with an old pocket digital compact, they’ve been enhanced as best as possible for the web.  The support once again were Scottish girl trio The Amorettes, and a couple of snaps from their set are included.
All pics by Ronnie Soo 2018.

 

Caught Live: Holly Henderson, Drakes Maidstone 21st July 2018

Oops, I did it again. Apologies for the Britney quote but it’s rather apt! Last year I made a long road trip from Merseyside to Kent, taking several hours, just to see Holly Henderson play live with her then newly-formed solo band. This year, I did it again! She only plays sporadically at the moment, occasionally in London but mostly in her native Maidstone, with her band made up of musician friends she’s known for many years.

What made me do it was that I genuinely believe she has everything in her locker to become the next big music sensation to come out of this country: incredible playing talent, a remarkably diverse musical taste (how many girls in their early twenties do you know who have even heard of Martin Barre, let alone cite him as a leading musical influence?) and the ability to write those things all musicians need – songs. She has written, or co-written, material in a wide variety of styles, from punk and hard rock, to ambient or ‘dark pop’, through to deep house. In addition she is gaining a reputation as a composer of incidental music for TV and film productions, so fitting in live performances in amongst all of that must be tricky. With three EPs under her belt already she is gearing up for the release of her long-awaited album, recorded in LA with producer Pete Thorn. She has been working on securing the right deal for this album and the signs are that it will see the light of day this year.

This live appearance was at Drakes, a pub in the centre of Maidstone and was part of a multi-act bill. Sadly, besides Holly and band I was only able to see the first act (a young girl called Maya, playing solo with an electric guitar and a loop pedal). She was an enjoyable enough opener, before Holly’s band followed her. Now a six-piece band, I knew guitarist Jamie Chellar and his sister, harmony singer Katy, as well as drummer Luke Phillips from last year, but she has since added a keyboardist in Harry Morley to the live line-up, which is completed by bassist Reece Beard. There wasn’t a lot of room on that pub stage to accommodate them all, but they squeezed on with Jamie taking a position towards the rear alongside the bassist, with Holly and Katie alongside each other at the front. There was a few minutes of quick testing, they weren’t able to do much of a soundcheck owing to time constraints, then they launched into the actual set.

The set comprised songs which are to be featured on the upcoming album, and having heard snippets of studio material it was nice to be able to hear the songs played in full and put titles to them (I bagged a setlist sheet soon after their set). That was in part my motivation for travelling all that way; at present the only way to hear these songs is to see them done live, the teasers heard are more than promising but you get the full experience in this situation. (As an aside, the MC for the evening decided that this act should be dubbed ‘The Holly Henderson Situation’!) So songs such as ‘Doldrums’, and ‘Psycho’ (about a ‘bad Tinder date’ according to Holly herself!) finally made more sense having seen them performed in full. Her lead-off song ‘Loneliness’ came second in the set, a bit of a surprise since it is the one song from the album she’s unveiled in full up to now.

Live, this band does rock it out hard – Luke Phillips is particularly impressive to an ageing Metalhead like me – he can give it the beans on the drumkit, but can also damp it down as the situation requires. Another thing to note is that Holly does not hog all the lead guitar work on stage; she gives her ‘guitar compadre’ Jamie Chellar plenty to do as well. In closing number ‘Sold My Company’ he actually jumped off the small stage to join us on the floor to play the outro solo, not content with that he then cued in Luke Phillips for a ‘coda’ with Holly herself stood laughing while he really went for it in a ‘big rock ending’! She’s got a group of players that really bring this material to life, which considering the calibre of musicians she worked with in LA on the album itself (drummer Blair Sinta, bassist Jon Button as well as Pete Thorn himself) is testament to what an outfit she’s built around herself. They did take it down a tad with ‘Pride Can Wait’, a track previewed on her new website, it is a slower number but live, builds into a climactic ending with yet more guitar mayhem from Jamie Chellar.

The sextet were given raucous cheers after their all-too-brief set, they’re still a well-kept secret in the local area at the moment but that surely must change once this album gets out there. All being well, that will mean Holly and her band will play dates further afield and I remain hopeful of something in the North West soon! How she will fit all of this in among her burgeoning studio commitments is another matter, but it must be a nice problem to have to be in such demand.

I have presented a selection of photos from the performance below; taken with my trusty but ageing DSLR and using a flash bounced off the ceiling, they show Holly at her glamorous best with a lively band backing her up. She is a star waiting to be found!

5 – Delightful

Holly Henderson music website

Holly Henderson facebook page

Caught Live: DORJA, Actress & Bishop Birmingham 14th July 2018

This gig was a year late for me; I’d intended to see the international all-girl hard rockers in July 2017 but was unable to travel then owing to the fractured ankle sustained a month before. At that time the band had just introduced new guitarist Sarah Michelle, so it was doubly disappointing not to get the chance to see her line up with the band last year.  Because the band are made up of musicians who live some distance apart, they can only play selected dates. This run of dates took in a few shows in continental Europe and return dates at festivals held in Scotland and also the SOS Festival in Prestwich, near Manchester.  I was able to attend SOS Festival for the band’s Sunday appearance (a few photos from that event appear on this post) but this post will cover the gig played the previous evening in Birmingham.

Actress & Bishop styles itself as Birmingham’s ‘original and best’ music pub. There are two levels, the upstairs level was where the live music was to be held and I got there a little after 7:30. It was a multi-band bill and DORJA were to close out the evening. Of the other bands I saw, two of them were trios consisting of lead vocal, lead guitar/vocal and drummer (no bassist). That seems to be a trend now, not one I’m keen on as a bit of a rock ‘traditionalist’ but both Air Drawn Dagger and Kanada played with commendable energy. The trio format was about all they had in common though; Air Drawn Dagger were fronted by a female vocalist who used the floor as much as the (small) stage while Kanada were three guys ‘of a certain age’; their permagrinning guitarist provided much of the visual, with a headset mic to allow him to roam the stage as well as sing. Third band I caught were Midlands stoners Resurrection Men, boasting a 3-guitar line-up and some fuzzy-toned music that took several twists and turns.

There was a good turnout for DORJA with not just your correspondent having travelled some distance to attend, the band have now got some dedicated followers prepared to spend a lot of time and effort to see them play whenever the chance arises. It’s that fan dedication which enabled them to raise the funds to record their debut album ‘Gemini’ (available at these dates), it has been well-received by the fanbase which bodes well for any follow-up album. All the tracks from that album were performed live at this show, not in the order on the record though as they opened with ‘Reaching Out’. What was immediately noticeable was that live, the restraint shown on the record is completely gone. Guitarists Rosie Botterill and Sarah Michelle deliver the riffs with plenty of intensity, while the returning Becky Baldwin (she had only been able to play some of these dates owing to schedule clashes, with their producer Oliver Lee stepping in when required) gives her usual whirling dervish performance on bass. Anna Mylee gets a brief  drum solo mid-set, her playing was as impeccable as ever.

But it’s the singer who really captivates – Aiym Almas is a star waiting to be discovered. Her bluesy roar was in full effect here, and she has added a little bit of raunch to her stage presence too since last I saw her. An alluring presence, even in a band full of accomplished players she absolutely owns that stage. This was so good a performance, that I hope at least one of these dates were recorded for a possible release. They’re very good on record but live is a whole different level, they look like headline material for bigger venues already. They ended their main set with ‘Fire’, the song which started it all for them and for an encore they played their usual mashup of ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’.  Going off to big cheers, they were soon posing for pictures and chatting to their followers for some time afterwards.

This band are still a well-kept secret; their take on a classic blues-based rock sound allied with a lyrical theme of empowerment which runs throughout the ‘Gemini’ album does set them apart. It will only take one established band to snap them up for a support tour to push them up to where they deserve to be. The band are hoping to play more UK dates in the autumn, and it is strongly recommended to get to at least one of them before they do become the ‘must-see’ act I expect they will become.

As a postscript, presented below are a few shots from the band’s appearance at SOS Festival; they played a slightly shorter but equally well-received set there. SOS Festival is a rock/metal event held each July at the Longfield Suite in Prestwich, and attracts bands from all over the country. A well-run event with a main and acoustic stage, it is one I intend to attend again next year.

5 – Delightful

DORJA band website