Caught Live: Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts (with The Amorettes), Waterloo Music Bar Blackpool 22nd June 2019

Much as I would love to say I came along to check out a band I’d never heard of before, that’s only partially true. I had only heard of this band a few days prior, but the impulse decision to come to this show was based on the fact that The Amorettes were support. The band as we knew it actually split earlier this year with the departure of the McKay sisters (drummer Hannah and bassist Heather) leaving singer/guitarist Gill Montgomery to rebuild. In one of those strange coincidences you get from time to time, at around the same time Aussie trio Tequila Mockingbyrd had just parted company with their own singer/guitarist. So, two bands of a similar style, one needing a rhythm section and the other needing a frontwoman, it only made sense that these should join forces especially since it was heavily suggested by fans of both bands that this should happen. The hybrid Tequila Amorettes have announced they’ll honour previously booked dates by both, and in addition to this they have just expanded the live line-up to a foursome with the addition of second guitarist Laurie Buchanan.

As it turned out this was only the second full show performed by the new line-up, at this converted pub in the southern end of Blackpool. A dedicated rock bar and live venue with a reasonably big stage and a decent viewing area for a pub, this was also only the second time I’d ventured to this place for a gig this year. The T-Byrd/Amorettes came on led by drummer Josie O’Toole, who sat at her kit and just slammed it for the next hour. Any concern that this merged band wouldn’t be quite the same was soon dispelled as the T-byrds drove along this material with just as much oomph as the McKay sisters did, powering through a set of around ten songs – all of which were designed to get fists pumping and heads shaking. O’Toole really has some motor in her, giving it the beans and locking in superbly with bassist Jacinta Jaye. The addition of a second guitarist proved to be useful mid-set when Montgomery lost the low E string of her guitar while playing, she demonstrated impressive dexterity in getting the errant string off while still singing her lines! The fact she had a rhythm guitarist covering the parts helped of course but it was amazing to see her playing, singing and being guitar tech all at the same time. Proof that women are much better at multitasking than we fellas, then (!)

I’m not sure whether this arrangement will continue beyond the tours booked for both acts, but if you go to see either ‘The Amorettes’ or ‘Tequila Mockingbyrd’ this year you’ll get these four ladies, and you’ll get a hard-hitting, hard-rocking set in either case. I’d hope that this line-up will carry on past this year, whichever name they choose to go with as the Aussie pairing fitted in like they’d always been there. I see no reason why they can’t play a set combining the two band’s songs whether they continue as The Amorettes or Tequila Mockingbyrd. Excellent stuff and we hadn’t had the main act yet!

When you’ve not heard a note from a band before seeing them for the first time it’s difficult to write much about them, so to cut to the chase I did enjoy Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts, but it took me a few numbers to get into it. All of the band came on wearing suits and ties, Hamilton himself also in a hat, and they played a set which to me was like a harder Blackberry Smoke with added infusions of humour. A five-piece band with a potent lead guitarist in Dave Winkler, and Carol Hodge on keyboards and backing vocals, rounded out by drummer Mickey Richards and bassist Rob Lane, I’d assumed that because Hamilton is American (Texan, to be exact) that the rest of the band were too. Not so, all bar Hamilton are British and between songs, he made much of the cultural differences between his country and ours. He had this crowd give several ‘yeeeeehaaaawww’ chants, much to his amusement, and made many jokes about British slang words not known in the US. In addition, he was amused to have it pointed out what the acronym of their latest album ‘This Is The Sound’ spelt out (has anybody mentioned this to Swiss prog-metallers Cellar Darling, by the way?) 😀

Though there is a clear country influence to their sound (Hamilton himself does sound like Charlie Starr vocally) they’re probably a bit too far over to the rock side to appeal to country fans, not that this mattered to a pretty decent crowd, all of whom had me at a disadvantage since they all knew this stuff!

I’d certainly go and see these again if they came near me, but it was the Amorettes now powered by Tequila (Mockingbyrd) which led me to jump in the car and head up the M6, and I look forward to seeing more of this merger in the near future.

Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts Facebook page

The Amorettes Facebook Page

Tequila Mockingbyrd Facebook Page

 

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Bonafide (with Tequila Mockingbyrd, Killer Bee), o2 Academy Liverpool 6th March 2017

The gigs are coming thick and fast this month, it is almost as busy a time as autumn tends to be in this country. Third gig already in March for me and it sees a triple bill head into Liverpool, headlined by Sweden’s Bonafide. I’ll confess I knew little to nothing of this band until recently, when a track of theirs was played on the Sunday night rock show on a local radio station airing in the Merseyside region. Even in this time of social media, there’s a lot to be said for a bit of good old-fashioned radio airplay and when I found that this band were coming to Liverpool, I decided to go along.

I since learned that they had performed at Hard Rock Hell last winter and reportedly went down very well; celebrating their tenth year as a band in 2017 Bonafide are supporting their latest album ‘Flames’ with this tour, taking in quite a few British towns and cities. The other bands on the bill were openers and fellow Swedes Killer Bee, and Aussie all-girl trio Tequila Mockingbyrd. Killer Bee came on early, to only a couple of people on the barrier (one of whom was your correspondent!), the bar staff and a handful of die-hards. Giving a short set of Saxon-flavoured Metal, they gave a good account of themselves and performed with commendable enthusiasm, considering they have probably rehearsed to more people than were here at that time!  Next band up did draw a few more people to the floor, as the girls (grrrls?) of Tequila Mockingbyrd took to the stage. Singer/guitarist Estelle informed us early on that their regular bassist Jess was unable to take her place on this tour, before introducing us to stand-in four stringer Keira. The stunningly attractive Keira had only learned the set in around two days, yet sounded like she had been part of this band all along. The band were a hard-hitting, hard rocking power trio with emphasis on ‘power’ – lots of meaty guitar riffs from Estelle, slamming drums from Josie and nifty fills from Keira. They reminded me somewhat of fellow all-girl trio iDestroy, perhaps a lazy comparison but they are similarly uncompromising in their approach.

The girls drew a crowd at the merch table immediately afterwards, as drummer Josie told us that they’d sold all their initial stocks of their CD album ‘Fight and Flight’ but that her brother was driving up all the way from Buckinghamshire (?!) just to bring further supplies. He must have been lucky on the M6 heading North, as there were CDs available at the stand and I bagged myself one just as Bonafide hit the stage. Although more people had arrived by this time, there was still plenty of room in the venue as I headed straight back to the barrier to see these guys go through their paces. Their influences are clear for all to see (and hear); frontman Pontus Snibb wields a Gibson SG with menace, while fellow guitarist Anders Rosell might wear a Francis Rossi-approved waistcoat, and play a Telecaster but is a solid, dependable rhythm guitarist. The rhythm section of this band was its strength I thought, I found myself thumping the barrier in time with drummer Niklas Matsson and even when Snibb took a lead guitar solo, the head was still bobbing along to the relentless rhythms. They played a selection of songs from their back catalogue as well as some from ‘Flames’, as stated I am not familiar with their songs, but am definitely familiar with their style – it was a fine display of old-school hard rock, not showy, not trying to push any one member to the fore, just a hard-driving unit.

The gig, coming on a Monday night, was far from packed out (for three obscure bands, they probably did well to get anybody along considering the tour wasn’t that well publicised) but those that came enjoyed a great night of rock and I for one intend to look out for any of these bands when they come around again. As a side note, stand-in Tequila Mockingbyrd bassist Keira’s regular gig is with Syteria, and they are scheduled to play in Chester in early April. Time and money permitting, I will go along.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving