Gigs of 2017 part three

For part one click here

For part two click here

AUGUST

Always a fairly fallow time for tours, as it’s the height of festival season in the UK, plus I had a holiday in North Wales to enjoy this month! So the only gig I got to was once again at Stalybridge Tavern, for their ‘Punk Sunday’ multi-band bill held every so often. Because it was an all-day event that meant it was possible to get there and back by train from Liverpool, handy for me still recovering from my ankle injury at that time. There were several bands on including Australian outfit The Mis-Made, my reason for going was to see those iDestroy girls once again. They were as usual excellent, however my leg wasn’t up to standing through this whole event so after their set I headed home to give it a much-needed rest! This month saw the Hope & Glory Festival take place in Liverpool; sited at St Georges Plateau it was billed as a ’boutique’ event with three stages, but anyone who knew the area would have foreseen the problems which blighted day 1 (lengthy queues, little space to move) and with some acts actually axed from the bill because of an over-running schedule it all went wrong. The music on offer wasn’t at all to my taste, but even if it were I could have told them there would be logistical issues having an outdoor music event in such a confined space. The second day was simply called off and the organisers were slammed in the local media.

SEPTEMBER

Only two gigs this month; the first was a second outing to see Women In Rock, this time at Chester’s Live Rooms. Their regular guitarist was back (so no Rosie from DORJA this time) and one of the female singers was different to the previous occasion I saw them at Stoke-on-Trent. They have a revolving cast of singers who appear as and when available; the set performed was along similar lines however. Their repertoire is mostly 1980s hits but they do include a few that are not so obvious. For instance they play Skunk Anansie’s ‘I Can Dream’, and also deviating from the norm a little they play Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’. (That was a number one hit in its day, mind you!) The only aspect of female-fronted rock they don’t really cover is European symphonic Metal; it’d be nice to see a Nightwish, Within Temptation or even a Delain (slight bias!) song added, as I’m sure their audience would be receptive. The other gig I saw this month was also at Chester,  but in the L2 bar area which was decked out with tables and chairs for the occasion. Finnish blues guitarist/singer Erja Lyytinen paid the Live Rooms a visit, drawing a small crowd of blues/rock devotees she blasted away the serene setting with a storming demonstration of rock guitar. I’d never heard of her until this year but made a note of her next visit, which, when speaking to her after her set, she told me would be in March 2018. (She is scheduled to play in Southport at the end of that month.)

OCTOBER

I’d been off the road for some time by this point, the car I could not drive during my injury needed more work doing to make it driveable than I thought it was worth, so it was public transport and strictly local gigs at this point! First up was Martin Turner, a founding member of  1970s rock band Wishbone Ash. He did used to tour under that name but a legal dispute with former bandmate, guitarist Andy Powell, saw the latter gain exclusive use of the Wishbone Ash name. Hence this gig was billed as ‘Martin Turner, EX-Wishbone Ash’! This gig was at the Brindley Theatre, a small civic hall in Runcorn town centre and would see he and his band play two sets, the second being a complete performance of Wishbone Ash’s 1971 album ‘Argus’. The show was extremely good in all aspects; a clear sound balance, fine playing from all concerned and plenty of classic songs to please the audience. Only thing was, this show coincided with an England World Cup qualifier, so the audience was ‘selective’. So much so, I bought a ticket on the night and found myself in the second row, centre of the stalls! A pity, since he is still in fine form, but he has played to a packed house in nearby St Helens too so does have a following in these parts still.

Next up was a long-awaited show from US band Living Colour. Last time I saw these was in 2004 at Birkenhead, and this show at Liverpool Hangar 34 came a year after their planned 2016 UK tour with Glenn Hughes was suddenly scrapped. That left intended openers Stone Broken high and dry, at least until the ex-Purple man arranged his own tour in January of this year. Living Colour then lined up this tour for autumn 2017 and again featured Stone Broken as support. This was my first visit to Hangar 34, situated in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle it is a very good venue for bands this size, with good sight lines, a decent stage/sound system, and a capacity of around 800 it ranks alongside places like Manchester’s Academy 2. It is however a fair walk from the transport hubs, so even if you are local-ish you have a long hike here from getting off the bus in the city centre. Nonetheless it is a good venue and one that should be able to attract more bands to our city/ Stone Broken gave a good performance, with one or two new tracks from an upcoming album aired (they later revealed they’d signed with Spinefarm Records for their second album) and drummer Robyn Haycock played with such power she managed to knock over half of her kit while playing! Living Colour were greeted like returning heroes; singer Corey Glover was in a flat cap reminiscent of The Lancashire Hotpots (!) but sounded just as potent and passionate as he was in 1990. He has virtuoso players all around with Vernon Reid, Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun cooking up a mighty storm. A great set, and let’s hope it isn’t another decade before they come back.

Two nights later, and I was back in Chester to see Stevie Nimmo at the Live Rooms for the second time. The difference this time was that his brother Alan was playing guitar for him – days before this tour started, Stevie broke his right arm in a cycling accident. Alan, meanwhile had been forced to reschedule the dates for his own band King King, owing to an ongoing throat ailment rendering him unable to sing. He could still play guitar though, and it was perhaps fated that the two brothers should pool their talents. Alan slotted in seamlessly, so much so Stevie could be seen playing air guitar with his one good arm at times! A week later and I was planning to see Marco Mendoza play a rare solo show in Liverpool, at the Magnet. That was however scrapped by the venue late on (ticket sales were slow, at best!) and it was thanks to support band Black Cat Bones that he still got to play in the city, as they hastily arranged another venue (Studio 2) for him to play. This was a great night, Black Cat Bones were themselves praised by the Dead Daisies man both for their set and that they rescued this gig. When the main man came on, he gave a virtuoso performance with that bass, and with a vocal talent that is all too often hidden as a backing singer in his regular gig. He didn’t care that few people had showed, he gave us what amounted to a private performance and went out of his way to involve everyone present. One of the gigs of the year for me because it was so personal.

My last gig of October was one booked earlier in the year, when funds permitted (!) Dutch symphonic metallers Delain, one of my favourite current bands, were playing a special run of dates and featuring Nightwish’s Marco Hietala as guest vocalist. The only UK date was in London, and I decided that it would actually be easier to travel to Utrecht in their homeland than venture to the UK capital. Fans of Delain know that the Nightwish bassist has a long relationship with this band; he played bass on their first album ‘Lucidity’ and has contributed vocals to several of their albums alongside regular singer Charlotte Wessels. When the time came for this gig however, I was unsure whether I’d be fit enough to make it owing to a recurring back ailment which rendered me almost immobile! It eased off sufficiently on the day however and I travelled,. After surviving a tumble down the steps at the hall (TivoliVredenburg Ronda) I found a good spot and settled to watch the openers, Swiss folk-metallers Cellar Darling who impressed the crowd. Also on the bill were Austrian band Serenity, a high-energy Power Metal act familiar to Delain fans as they’ve supported them before, who were entertaining as ever. Delain themselves were cheered to the rafters from first song to last, in the singer’s home city and when they introduced Marco Hietala, this place needed a new roof! Many songs were played that don’t normally feature in their set, especially ones where the Nightwish bassist did appear on record. They’d just released a live DVD from a show filmed a year earlier and revealed during this show that it was also being filmed. I look forward to that one when it does come out.

Part four click here

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Caught Live: Living Colour (with Stone Broken), Hangar34 Liverpool 6th October 2017

They might have been a year late but, it’s such a rare opportunity to see Living Colour in the UK that this show had to be attended. Even better was that they came to Liverpool this time! A year ago they pulled out of a scheduled tour with Glenn Hughes, and although the former Purple man did rearrange his dates for early 2017 it was without the US rockers alongside. Also left stranded somewhat were Midlands rockers Stone Broken, who were scheduled to open on that tour. However, they did support Glenn Hughes on his rearranged tour and for this run, Living Colour made good on their earlier cancellation by booking the Walsall foursome as openers.

Also a year has passed since this venue, located in the Baltic Triangle district in the south end of Liverpool, first opened its doors. The area has become something of a creative hub in recent years, and in its first 12 months of operation the venue has already become a fixture on the live scene in this city. With a capacity of around 750, all standing floor but with a small balcony towards the rear, it is a venue fit enough to draw many more bands to this end of the M62. It will hopefully mean rock fans in this area won’t always have to make the journey to Manchester, as remains the case for far too many tours still.

The place from the outside looks like a nondescript factory unit, but once inside you see a nice, spacious hall with a decently-sized stage and good sight lines from pretty much wherever you are. It is located a little further away from the centre of town which is its only drawback.

On the ticket it stated the doors were to open at 7pm; not so, I got there just at that time to find there was a queue running right along the street still. They didn’t open up until at least 7:30, and after entering and finding a nice spot towards house left,  Stone Broken came on while the hall was still filling up. I was directly in line with drummer Robyn Haycock’s kit, set up towards my side of the stage. The guys and girl gave us a run-through of numbers from their promising debut album ‘All In Time’, alongside a new one (‘Doesn’t Matter’) which according to frontman Rich Moss will feature on their new album scheduled for early 2018. They have a strong sound built on heavy downtuned guitar riffs, allied to the hit-em-and-stay-hit drum style from the permanently headbanging, permanently smiling, Robyn Haycock. She had a mishap midway through this set when two cymbal stands fell over mid-song (taking out her ride, crash and one splash cymbal), which at first went unnoticed by her bandmates. She actually managed to recover the stand holding her ride cymbal before the end of the song without losing the beat, but was subjected to some ribbing from the lads when they finally noticed her picking up half her kit when they ended that number!  Stone Broken are definitely ones to watch, they are still not the finished article; apart from the slower ‘Wait For You’ it was all in a similar style. But for a band with one album under their belts, there’s plenty of time to develop their repertoire.

It’s been over ten years since last I saw Living Colour, when they played Birkenhead at the now-defunct Pacific Road Arts Centre, so I was eager to see what they brought to the table this time. Frontman Corey Glover and guitarist Vernon Reid were both sporting flat caps, the former’s tweed headgear and specs made me think he was trying out for The Lancashire Hotpots (!) All thoughts of chippy tea-inspired comedy folk were blown out of the water once they struck up though. These fellas are all virtuosos on their respective instruments, it’s sometimes hard to know where to focus the attention as both Reid and bassist Doug Wimbish throw out lick after lick, while drummer Will Calhoun thunders out some complicated fills of his own, all while holding everything together. Starting off with ‘Preachin’ Blues’, a cover of Robert Johnson which appears on LC’s latest album ‘Shade’ they followed up with ‘Wall’ from 1993’s ‘Stain’ album. This one really did make the viewer look all over the stage, there was so much going on even as the song reached its conclusion. The ‘big rock ending’ had the entire band noodling away, all this time Glover kept the vocal refrain ‘The Wall Between Us All Must Fall’ going throughout, until only his voice was left standing. The effect was more impactful than I can describe here!

The band are here to promote most recent album ‘Shade’, but the set featured several tracks from debut ‘Vivid’ including fan favourites ‘Cult of Personality’ and ‘Middle Man’. Their incendiary delivery of ‘Elvis Is Dead’ (from ‘Time’s Up’) was followed up by an equally fiery blast of ‘Hound Dog’ complete with hip-shaking from the singer! His vocal was sometimes obliterated by the heavyweight playing all around him (or perhaps it was the sound balance from my spot!) but when he could be heard, he was in fantastic voice. He’s lost nothing in almost thirty years, there are few other singers I could say the same about.

Although much of their material tackles some serious, political matter, they still have fun on the stage. Corey even took up a seat to the side of the stage, literally inches away from me to watch the other guys play at one point! There was a solo spot featuring Doug Wimbish, where he got to use his huge array of effects including an octave pedal, which allows him to emulate a guitar and play a lead solo of his own. Will Calhoun got a solo spot too, which enabled me to see him for the first time all night (he was obscured by his ride cymbal from my spot) as he emerged from the kit, having looped a beat so that he could play on a hand-held electronic frame drum.

This band play hard rock with the emphasis on hard – there is an intensity, a passion, about their playing which is lacking in many so-called ‘metal’ bands around today. As such, whenever they come around it’s always a privilege to see them and I very much hope it isn’t another decade before they return!

5 – Delightful

 

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.