Dingwalls, Camden Lock
Friday 7th December 2018
Dingwalls is a unique 500 capacity venue in the heart of Camden in London. Its history dates as far back as 1973 and has had many bands grace it’s stage over the years including emerging acts and established international superstars as well as a regular venue for a thriving comedy scene. In recent years Dingwalls has played host to acts such as the Foo Fighters, The Strokes and Mumford and Sons. Around the time that Dingwalls was opening, a new form of music was emerging in the American South. A mixture of blues, country, gospel and the English invasion of rock and roll that later was to be coined the phrase “Southern Rock.” The music was filled with style and emotion and with bands in the forefront such as the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and a band from Jacksonville, Florida called Molly Hatchet, named after a famous 17th-century axe murderess. Least that's what the official websites say.
The reality on a cold December night is a small venue in the heart of Camden, surrounded by venues filled with young and beautiful Christmas revellers, hosting 300 odd mature rock fans. It's a nice little venue, with low ceilings and a 4 tiered floor allowing all to have a good view of the small cramped stage. Rather unusually, at the back of the venue, alongside a well stocked bar, is a kitchen supplying high end nosebag to the restaurant upstairs. It isn't every venue you have to fight your way to the bar through chocolate cheesecake. They did say it was unique. Opening tonight's festivities are Federal Charm, the 4 piece blues rock band from Manchester, currently warming the ears of Planet Rock listeners with tracks from their latest album, Passenger. It's an interesting album of varied styles of blues and rock. Unfortunately for them, the sound quality tonight is frankly awful. So the subtleties of frontman Tom Guyers vocals and lyrics are lost in the terrible mix. Unfortunately, this is to be the theme for the evening. The lads give their all with all the enthusiasm you would expect from a vibrant group of talented musicians. The growing crowd appreciated their efforts. Shame the sound engineer didn't.
As the four piece made their exit, and the stage was readied for the main event, we were again given another unique 'treat'. Every venue plays music whilst the punters are waiting for the next act to hit the stage. We usually cheer when it's NOT AC/DC. Now i love a bit of AC/DC but surely there must be other CD's available. Well tonight we were treated to Fats Domino and some thirties jazz. Or somesuch. Hardly the most appropriate music for tonight's Southern rock extravaganza but It certainly raised an eyebrow or two. At least the sound quality was good enough to warble along to Blueberry Hill.
Entering to Whitesnake's 'Here I Go Again', the Jacksonville five piece take to the stage. Over the years, Molly Hatchet have seen a number of members come and go, many sadly passing away far too young, not least of which was founding member Dave Hlubek, who passed away at the too young age of 66 last year. But the current line up have been keeping Molly alive for over a hundred years between them. Centre stage, sporting a huge white stetson, is vocalist Phil McCormack who personifies what Hatchet are all about- big, brash, loud and proud. To his right is long time axeman Bobby Ingram, a diminutive mullet topped maestro sporting a beautiful PRS through a cranked Marshall amp. Behind him is Keyboardist John Galvin and bassist Tim Lindsay stage left. And hidden behind all, presumably in a hole is drummer Shawn Beamer. With the audience stepped up on the 4 tier auditorium, we found ourselves looking down upon the band. And the only part of Mr Beamer we could see was his head. Or his hair to be more precise. And his long blond hair spent the entire evening performing it's own Timotei advert as fans blew it into a permanent Gonk. It was probably the highlight of the evening,
Opening track Whiskey Man is one of the bands iconic tracks from their 70's album Flirtin' With Disaster, a classic southern rock track. Unfortunately, this is also where the current line-up shows what is probably the most notable absence - they lack a second guitarist. Southern rock is typified with harmonic dual guitars, a role taken by keyboardist Galvin since the loss of Hlubek. And, despite the excellent guitar skills of Ingram, the sound of backing keys just did not sound right. To make matters worse, the sound was muddier than ever. But Hatchet are not to be put off by such trifles. They launch into their set of classic tracks like Bounty Hunter and Gator Country, with it's excellent Ingram solo, as well as 'newer' tracks (1996) like the slow slusher that is Devils Canyon from the album of the same name. McCormack banters with the crowd, borrowing a camera from the front row to do his own bit of paparazziing, and generally having a good time. Although he is somewhat more sober in his dedication of Fall Of The Peacemakers to all the US Servicemen and women. And the Royal Navy. Presumably the Pongoes and the Crabfats have upset him. He also felt the need to pledge his allegiance to the US flag. Which was nice. I guess the mid-Brexit Brits struggled a little with that. But despite the sound quality, the set bounced along at a fair pace with the Hatchet faithful loving the catalogue of great songs, including a short solo from the frantic folicles, and a fun cover of It's All Over Now. Penultimate anthem Boogie No More was dedicated to all the past members whilst closing track Flirtin With Disaster ended the evening on a high. No encore needed, the good ole boys made their way to the bar to end the evening in typical southern style whilst we made our way out into the night to watch the festive party girls throwing up into their sequined clutchbags.
Christmas - It's called the silly season for a reason. Entertainment to excess in a unique way - just like watching Molly Hatchet at Dingwalls. They are a great band, and Dingwalls is a great venue. I guess there are just nights when it doesn't click. Don't get me wrong, we had a great time. But having seen the boys absolutely kill it at Hard Rock Hell in 2016, i know what tonight could have been. Come on Dingwalls, get that sound sorted. You mess with the Hatchet and you're Flirtin With Disaster. Upset those lads and you'll Boogie No More...
Molly Hatchet setlist
It's All Over Now (The Valentinos cover)
Beatin' the Odds
One Man's Pleasure
Fall of the Peacemakers
Dreams I'll Never See (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
Boogie No More
Flirtin' With Disaster
Hard Rock Hell 12 Day 1
Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales
Thursday 8th November 2018
Hard Rock Hell is 12 years old this year and a lot has changed in those dirty dozen years. Starting in the relatively tropical climes of Minehead, the three day festival of Rock has moved locations a couple of times and evolved into a smooth running familiar feeling format that the faithful masses flock to every year. It shows how popular this festival is with its faithful fans that 2019 has more or less sold out before 2018 has begun. One huge factor might be that the current location in Pwllheli really is the arse end of nowhere to get to and, as usual, we are being subjected to the worst that Mother Nature (no relation) has set aside for North West Wales in November. Next year is the far more accessible paradise resort that is Great Yarmouth. We look forward to not travelling ten hours to get there.
So to HRH 12. We fight our way through the wet and cold from our accommodation at this Haven holiday park to the main arenas where all the action happens. The great thing about festivals in holiday camps is that you get warm, dry comfortable accommodation with some kick ass purpose made venues with great sound and plenty of bars. Day 1 is a relatively low key day with only one of the two stages open and just half a dozen acts. But it is no throw away day - we get some top Rock with some stellar names. As usual, we are treated to the 'opening ceremony' which this year was a notably unimpressive. Previous years have seen some lavish productions whilst this year we had our ever lovely fire juggling girls, dressed as a raft of Harley Quinn's cavorted to the strains of Marilyn Manson's 'Mobscene'. Short but sweet.
Opening act are the Glasgow based Eden's Curse, a multinational quintet with sounds reminiscent of bands like Europe and Journey. The keyboards really shone through as the guitar was struggling with technical issues which soon resolved to bring some more Metal vibes. Guitarist Thorsten Koehne plays a guitar that is the bastard love child of a flying V and an SG which proved to be the vital ingredient. Their short set was watched by a small but growing crowd and was appreciated as a fine start to the weekend.
Following on, and now playing to a full house are Myke Gray. For those unfamiliar, the namesake guitarist was an integral part of nineties rockers Skin. His current incarnation is a vehicle for the Joe Satriani lookalike to play like a Joe Satriani soundalike. For this festival however, the instrumentalist has had the inspired idea of recruiting Kim Jennett, from Voodoo Blood, for vocals. What a powerful little powerhouse she is. With only a week or so to learn a back catalogue of Skin tracks, she - and the band - really kicked it in. Classics like 'Take Me Down To The River', 'Look But Don't Touch' and 'Shine Your Light' were belted out with the force of a West Wales weather forecast. Great band, great set, easily the find of the day.
Seasoned rockers Rock Goddess took to the stage to give the now packed auditorium a tour of classic NWOBHM style Metal. Whilst only a three piece they pump out some loud and lairy Rock through the ubiquitous Marshall stacks. Great sound. Finishing with Girlschool's 'Heavy Metal Rock 'n' Roll', the level of testosterone increased manyfold.
The penultimate, and for me, the most eagerly anticipated band is Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. Mr. C., once of Motorhead for over 30 years, has put together a band including his three sons, Tyla, Dane and Todd who play some kick bottom Rock and Roll. Whilst having their own distinct sound, they are made from the same straight up Heavy Rock and Roll material of the aforementioned Motorhead. With an hour long set, the playlist was a well balanced mix of their own material and Motorhead classic covers. When we saw them a few years ago they had limited material of their own but following the release of their album 'The Age Of Absurdity', they have some really strong material. 'Freak Show' and "Get On Your Knees' being good examples. But it was covers of classics like 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S', 'Ace Of Spades' and 'Silver Machine' (dedicated by Phil to all past Motorhead heroes sadly no longer with us) that got the crowd properly pumped up. Finishing with a cover of 'Bomber', they boys show that they have evolved into a class act that deserves to be headliners at any festival.
Headliners and closing out day one is Michael Schenker and his Fest - a celebration of all the incarnations of bands that the German axeman has graced. The stage saw luminaries such as Graham Bonnett, Gary Borden, Robin McCauley, and Dougie White taking turns on vocals, bringing their own flavour. It was indeed a fest for the Schenker die hard singing along to everything from the Scorpions to his latest 'Take Me To The Church'. Not a bad way to end a wet and wild day. Back through the starry Welsh evening, assisted by the local branch of the RNLI, we reflected on what had been a great opening day. Roll on tomorrow. Bring on the Paracetamol.
Michael Schenker Fest setlist
Holiday (Scorpions song)
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Vigilante Man (Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock song)
Take Me to the Church (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Captain Nemo (Michael Schenker Group song)
Night Moods (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Assault Attack (Michael Schenker Group song)
Coast to Coast (Scorpions song)
Messin' Around (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Armed and Ready (Michael Schenker Group song)
Into the Arena (Michael Schenker Group song)
Bad Boys (McAuley-Schenker Group song)
Heart and Soul (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Warrior (Michael Schenker Fest song)
Shoot Shoot (UFO song)
Natural Thing (UFO song)
Only You Can Rock Me (UFO song)
Rock Bottom (UFO song)
Lights Out (UFO song)
Hard Rock Hell 12 Day 2
Pwllheli, Gwynedd, North Wales
Friday 9th November 2018
Day 2 awakes to find a change of weather. Yes, it's got a lot worse. Stormforce hurricane Blodwyn, or whatever the bleeding thing is called, has clearly purchased late tickets on StubHub. So we battle our way back to the stage areas for today's helping of sonic delights. Today's format sees two stages with 19 acts between them. Nestled between the two stages is a ski-bar allowing the punters to break the gruelling 30 metre journey for liquid refreshment as well as a haven for the nicotinely challenged. A brief word of praise here for the staff who worked long hours in frankly horrible conditions. Service was always good and usually with a smile. Or grimace if Blodwyn was ordering.
Opening act on the smaller stage two are London 5 piece Dead Man's Whiskey who started the day with their excellent Doomy Blues Rock set. Despite everything, stage 2 was pretty chocka and were very appreciative of the boys acts. Notable tracks included an unusual but enjoyable Rock cover of Seal's 'Kiss From A Rose' and a very poignant track dedicated to singer Nico Rogers mum. Great start to the day lads.
Openers on stage 1 are Epsom's Vambo. Having seen this 4 piece powerhouse perform on the tiny Orange stage at the Stone Free Festival, it was great to see them spread their wings across the expanse of the main stage. The small crowd arousing from the previous night’s revelries grew as did their appreciation of Vambo's 70's inspired Rock. Frontman Jack Stile cavorted around the stage like a madman, despite suffering from 'proper man flu' blasting out powerful lyrics on a set that included a cover of Zeppelin's 'Good Times Bad Times' as well as their last single 'Why, Why, Why' and next release 'Misery'. Which it wasn't. Drummer Steve Price and bassist James Scott keep the powerful groove going whilst axeman Pete Lance shows his awesome chops, not least of which on the closing cover of Deep Purple's 'Burn'.
The day was then spent yoyoing between the two stages, via the various bars, deciding which of the acts to choose from. Thunderstick are a 5 piece from London fronted by vocalist Vixen who changed outfits between every song. Everything from dominatrix to a teddy bear hugging girl whilst belting out Toyah Wilcox like vocals. The NWOBHM style band, who have been around since the early eighties, kept the now crowded stage 1 arena entertained with chugs and squeals. And that was not just the guitars. Not sure what the coffin was doing on stage. Maybe that was where Vixen kept her props.
Back on stage 2, Kim Jennett who fronted for Myke Gray yesterday, appears as her full time persona The Voodoo Woman fronting the excellent Voodoo Blood. Again her powerful vocals shone through the Heavy Rock Blues with a theatrical flourish and a kick in the cochlea. Crowd participation included Kim getting the crowd to all sit down and then jump to their feet. Less a jump and more a gradual creaking raising of the dead. The audience loved them.
Other notables include the almost Punk Blitzrieg, famous for their eponymous track covered by Metallica, who wowed the stage 1 faithful. VA Rocks, a three piece female trio from Sweden brought some young rocking fun to stage two and the Dan Reed Network brought much voiced praise from stage 1 visitors.
First of the headliners on stage 1 are veteran girl Rockers Girlschool, still performing an excellent hour plus set from 40 years of material. Opening with 'Demolition', the set included newer material like 'Come The Revolution' from their 'Guilty As Sin' album, 'The Hunter', 'Never Say Never' and 'Screaming' with classics like 'Hit And 'Run', 'Race With The Devil' and closing favourite 'Emergency'. As long term friends of Motorhead it came as no surprise that they paid tribute when they played 'Take It Like A Band as a dedication to their friends. A fine set.
Headliners on stage 1 for the night are the mighty Saxon. No strangers to the HRH Festival, the lads who are celebrating their 40 years in the business next year, had collected a number of awards at the HRH awards ceremony and still managed to squeeze in a gig at Bath before returning to wow us with a 2 hour set of professional smooth arena Rock. Because Saxon are the epitome of a smooth professional and class act. The arena was packed with barely enough room to sweat. Opening with 'Thunderbolt', the band seamlessly wove their fabric of awesomeness. Then a setlist including 'Sacrifice', 'Nosferatu', classics like 'Motorcycle Man' and 'Strong Arm Of The Law', got the crowd jumping and pumping. They also paid tribute to Lemmy and co, who greatly supported them in their early years, by playing their Motorhead tribute track "Rock And Roll'. The well received track resulted in a member of the crowd pitching his denim waistcoat, adorned with Motorhead patches, onto the stage. Frontman Biff picks it up, don's it over his trademark trenchcoat, and precedes to sing 'And The Bands Played On' and 'Crusader' adorned in it. A remarkable touch from Biff was the trouble he took to sign the waistcoat before returning it to the delighted owner. Class act. The tracks kept coming from the stalwart Yorkshireman including 'Wheels Of Steel' before closing with the anthemic 'Denim And Leather'. The closer included the ever joyful crowd participation with Biff and bassist Nibbs Carter both wearing crowd donated denims which were again signed and returned. A fantastic band that never fails to deliver and sound as fresh as ever despite their forthcoming anniversary.
As we left the arena, and accompanied Blodwyn back to our accommodation for a nightcap, and arrange baling precautions, we reflected on another fine day of music. HRH XII is doing mighty fine so far. Tomorrow has a lot to live up to. Now bugger off Blodwyn, you have outstayed your welcome.
Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
Strong Arm of the Law
Power and the Glory
Solid Ball of Rock
The Secret of Flight
Dallas 1 PM
They Played Rock and Roll
And the Bands Played On
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Sons of Odin
Princess of the Night
The Eagle Has Landed
Heavy Metal Thunder
Denim and Leather
HRH day 3
All hail day 3. More rain than hail. As we make our way to the venue, Noah is spotted in the car park breaking pallets for his building project. Save us a space mate.
Day 3 follows day 2's format with the two stages and 20 acts shared between them. Again it was a hokey - cokey between the stages, by way of the excellent bars. In, out, in , out and shake it all about.
Opening act on stage two are the marvellous Bad Flowers. The three piece fronted by blond Tom Leighton with his blonde Tele get the party started with their fast paced bluesy rock. With Dale Tonks providing some fast paced bass and Karl Selckis battering the drums it was a great way to blow the cobwebs away as the Flying V through Orange amps proclaimed it was business as usual for the day.
The acts come thick and fast with Ryder's Creed up next (more cowbell.....) The Staffordshire 5 piece produced some more hard Rock with a hint of Pearl Jam about it although the classic rock vein was strong. These lads were award winners at last year's HRH awards and are clearly a force to be reckoned with. The packed crowd enjoyed them. And then madness came to town as the metal\mental rockabilly experience that is The Dukes of Bordello from southern Sheffield took to stage two. As they describe themselves, they are the rock and roll trashcan troubadours from the seedy side of town. Well this town hasn't got a good side so they fit right in. A 3 piece of vocals and guitar, full double bass and drums, they got the crowd rocking 'All in the name of rock and roll.'
Meanwhile, over on stage 1, opening act Kaleb McKane was cut from an entirely different cloth. Mainly tie-dyed and trippy as far as I could tell. Playing tracks from his Universe in reverse EP with early Bowie influences mixed with a classic rock edge. He's one of those artists that is difficult to pigeonhole, which I guess is just what he wants. Intricate guitar skills are displayed through unconventionally structured songs. And so begins a day of contrasting styles on the main stage. HRH have always looked to mix it up with the acts that they book, although always within the boundaries of classic rock and metal. Following acts like Hawklords, a space rock and formed and frequented by ex Hawkwind members give us, well, Hawkwind style space rock. And Massive, the hard working rock band from Melbourne, although they cite their home town as 'the tour bus'. Like a number of the bands today, they are rising Stars and a familiar sight around the festivals and venues of Britain.
Back on stage two we are treated to Smoking Martha and their full on Aussie punk come rock performance. Front woman Tasha, dressed in the tightest shortest leopard skin number left us in no doubt about her credentials. A strong voiced wonder she mesmerized the fans with her Amy Lee sound.
Stage 1 gets our interest as we live the delights of our youth, or even our parents youth, as John Coughlans Quo take to the stage. The eponymous Coughlan, long time drummer for the denimed giants, has put together a 4 piece that brings a raft of Quo classics back to enjoy again. Opening with Caroline, the band play some near note perfect renditions of Roll over lay down, April spring summer and Wednesdays, Break the rules and Paper plane as well as the original Pictures of matchstick men which will be 50 years old next year. Emerging from behind his drumkit, Coughlan addresses the raptured crowd and remembers the much missed Rick Parfitt with a heartfelt round of applause from the audience. And in his memory they played the festival defining Rain before raising the bar again with Big Fat Mumma, Rocking All Over the World and closer Down Down. Great songs that I defy anybody not to "shake it all about' to.
Penultimate act on the main stage are Femme Fatale, the 1980's girl power band still going strong today despite a couple of sojourns. Frontwoman Lorraine Lewis is one of the originals who has kept the rock alive thanks to her latest troupe of metal maidens providing the powerful rock backing to Lewis vocals. Flanking her are the duo of guitarists Courtney Cox and Nikki Stringfield who are also 'Troopers' in the fantastic Iron Maidens. Opening with Fortune and Fame, the Femmes cranked out tracks including Rebel and One More For The Road, with Lewis prancing around the front of the stage bantering with the audience and shaking her thing. The set finished with Cradle's Rockin', If and Big One.
Closing act, headliners, and the reason I booked the festival last year, are my favourite current rock band - The Dead Daisies. A collection of proven talent, the Daisies released their third album earlier this year, to critical acclaim and considerable radio airplay, and have been touring almost constantly since. Indeed, the five piece had only just returned from the Kiss Cruise, via a week off in New York, where they were pumping out their brand of classic and classy rock music in 30 degrees of sunshine off the Florida coast. So similar to Pwllheli....
Entering the stage to Rose Tattoo's Rock and Roll Outlaw frontman John Corabi launches into the opening track Midnight Moses with Marco Mendoza assisting on vocals whilst playing some pumping bass, Rhythm guitarist, and driving force behind the Daisies is Aussie Dave Lowy who plays some sumptuous SG's - i particularly like the matt black one. Dave also happens to be a qualified pilot who flew across the Atlantic at the controls of his own plane. So rock and roll. Lead guitarist Doug Aldrich is the fretboard wizard with all the skills and thrills that makes everyone want to pick up a six string. Annoyingly cool, he plays a Les Paul like a god wielding a hammer, smiting any naysayer who dare declare that rock is dead. And behind all is newboy drummer Deen Castronovo, a self confessed Kiss fan. Guess he enjoyed the cruise then. The band have only been together since 2012 but are so tight, and look and sound like they have been playing top quality guitar rock forever. But what makes them stand out is how fresh they sound too. They play a near two hour set from across their albums but also include covers of the Stones Bitch, The Who's Join Together and Deep Purple's Highway Star to highlight the British influence which has shaped their sound. In addition, each member of the band was introduced with a small snippet of some classic rock covers. See if you can guess which of them was chosen by Castronovo from the setlist below... But it's their own material that I am singing in my head hours after the set - Make Some Noise and Leave Me Alone being just a pick of a fine crop. With an encore of Mexico and the Beatle's Helter Skelter, they closed stage 1 with the intensely satisfying flourish that a great festival deserves. Top, Top, stuff.
Leaving Stage 1 for the last time we look in on stage 2 for closing act The Wild, who had the honour of closing the festival. A Canadian rock act that lives up to it's name - wild by name and wild by nature. Loving some of the dance moves fellas.
So for the last time, we head back to our accommodation with the bands of the day still ringing in our head. Mainly the Daisies 'Last Time I Saw The Sun' which seemed to sum up the weather. And the Daisies 'Long Way To Go' when i thought about the journey home again. But it has been worth it. It has been another triumph for the HRH team. So goodbye Pwllhelli, and thanks for all the great memories over the last six years. Now lets see what Great Yarmouth has to offer. With Dee Snider, Michael Monro, Buckcherry, Gun and Toseland already named, amongst others, it looks like it will be a blast.
Midnight Moses (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band cover)
Make Some Noise
Dead and Gone
What Goes Around
Last Time I Saw the Sun
Join Together (The Who cover)
Burn It Down
With You and I
Intros: You Shock Me All Night Long / I Love Rock 'n' Roll / School's Out / Long Live Rock 'n' Roll / It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like it)
Leave Me Alone
Bitch (The Rolling Stones cover)
Song and a Prayer
Long Way to Go
Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)
All photographs courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
Thursday 8th November - Stage 1
18:00 - 18:40 Eden's Curse
19:00 - 19:40 Myke Gray
20:00 - 20:55 Rock Goddess
21:15 - 22:15 Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons
22:35 - 00:15 Michael Schenker Fest
Friday 9th November - Stage 1
14:00 - 14:50 Vambo
15:10 - 16:10 Thunderstick
16:30 - 17:30 Blitzkrieg
17:50 - 18:50 Vintage Caravan
19:10 - 20:10 Dan Reed Network
20:30 - 21-45 Girlschool
22:05 - 00:05 Saxon
Friday 9th November - Stage 2
12:50 - 13:30 Dead Man's Whiskey
13:50 - 14:35 Blind River
14:50 - 15:35 Renegade Twelve
15:55 - 16:40 Voodoo Blood
17:00 - 17:45 VA Rocks
18:00 - 18:45 Sinside
19:00 - 19:40 City of Thieves
20:00 - 20:45 Anchor Lane
21:00 - 21:45 The Dust Coda
22:00 - 23:00 Witchfynde
23:15 - 00:15 SNEW
00:30 - 01:30 Everyday Heroes
Saturday 10th November - Stage 1
13:40 - 14:25 Kaleb McKane
15:00 - 16:00 Hawklords
16:20 - 17:20 Massive
17:40 - 18:40 Tygers Of Pan Tang
19:00 - 20:00 John Coughlan's Quo
20:20 - 21:45 Femme Fatale
22:05 - 00:00 The Dead Daisies
Saturday 10th November - Stage 2
12:00 - 12:30 The Bad Flowers
12:45 - 13:30 Ryders Creed
13:45 - 14:30 The Dukes Of Bordello
14:45 - 15:30 The Rising Souls
15:45 - 16:35 Stand Amongst Giants
16:45 - 17:30 Black Star Bullet
17:45 - 18:30 Walkway
18:45 - 19:30 Smoking Martha
19:45 - 20:30 The Loved & Lost
20:45 - 21:30 Riders To Ruin
21:45 - 22:30 Red Hawk Rising
22:45 - 23:45 Demon
00:00 - 01:00 The Wild!
All photographs courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
L A Guns
31st August 2018
It's the end of the summer break and the kids are on their way back to school. So it's time to check that they have the essentials. Overstuffed pencil case with mainly redundant utensils? Check. School blazer three sizes too big to allow them to 'grow into it'? Check. New shoes destined to last less than a term? Check. LA Guns tour ticket? Check. All set then. Apparently the latter is non-essential but then we are talking about the school of life, and there's nothing more important at school than great teachers, so with tonight's line up we are in for some serious musical education.
Class tonight will be held at the excellent O2 Islington, with the first lesson starting at the early time of 6.30. With train disruption causing some to get to registration late (poor performance - see me), openers Stone Trigger had a somewhat threadbare audience to entertain. Did the Dubliners mind? Feck no, they had a blast. Entering the stage to their customary Terminator soundtrack, the four piece let loose their dogs of war with all the enthusiasm of the new kids at school. Although this lot have been around since 2011 so have scuffed a few pairs of shiny shoes in their time. Opening track 'Children of the Night' gives them a chance to unleash their considerable energy showing the influences of tonight's headliners along with other 80's west coast metal bands. Singer Tommy Rockit looks more like he was born in Redondo Beach LA rather than Ranelagh DUB, with obligatory long hair, red strides and eyeliner and a strong voice to boot. Whereas guitarist Andii Andrews looks smooth in comparison picking some fine lead licks from his beautiful cherry sunburst Les Paul through a Marshall stack. Andrews is happy to look mean and moody doing his thing whilst Rockit provides the showmanship. Providing back line are lefty bassist Peter Jordan and drummer Moyano El Buffalo. Despite the small crowd they played as if to a packed arena. Rockit gave everything. It was a fine rocking performance with tracks like 'Got To Get It On' and 'Rattle Your Bones' getting a good reaction - chugging riffs and screaming vocals will get you that. Finishing with their recent single 'Edge of Insanity' and a cover of the epic Lizzy track 'Killer On The Loose', they were a great opening act.
Stone Trigger setlist
Children of the night
I declare war
Gotta get it on
Larger than life
Show your hands
Rattle your bones
Edge of insanity
Killer on the loose
Photos courtesy of The Wrinkly Rockers
In school terms, Wisconsin's Jared James Nichols is surely a star pupil. Tall, good looking and with a Colgate smile, the long haired guitarist with snake tattoos looks every part the LA metal rocker. But looks can be deceptive. Whilst he can rock out with the best, there is a strong blues vein running through the LA cheese as well as some spectacular technique. One of the most notable, and refreshing things of note is that JJN plays an 'affordable' Epiphone Les Paul ('Old Glory') that has clearly seen some action. Unusually, he has removed the neck pick up (and the selector switch and volume/tone pots) so only has the trebly neck pick up. Played through a Blackstar amp, this produce a harsh metal tone but, as JJN eschews a pick and plays with his fingertips, he gets some extraordinary tones from a hugely simple rig. And boy does he put that rig through it's paces. When he's not throwing the Epi around his body or up to the ceiling, he is bashing the poor D'Addario's with every part of his considerable anatomy or, failing that, the guitar cable, to squeeze out some great sounds. Here's proof that quality is not necessarily down to how much you spend on your rig. And the speed that he gets with his fingers is faster than many can manage with a pick. And not a note out of place.
The star pupil has some qualifications to his name too. Following his move to Los Angeles in 2010.,he quickly gained notoriety by winning the prestigious Gibson Les Paul Tribute Contest as well as Musicians Institute Most Outstanding Player Award. Watching him, i can see why.
Backed up by bassist Gregg Cash and drummer Dennis Holm, the trio all look remarkably similar although JJN seems to tower over the other two despite Cash's 6ft. And a fine trio they are. Although there to compliment JJN's talents, Cash and Holm are skilled musicians themselves. How many times do you see acclaimed musicians touring with a 'backing band' only there as a prima donna's bitch? Well the JJN trio are a band of equals, making great music without ego. When you have the skills, they speak for themselves. It also helps that they are three of the nicest guys you are likely to meet.
The set is a fine mix of funky rock blues although with a rock edge and tracks like 'Last Chance' and 'Don't Be Scared' getting the now full classrooms attention. But it was when JJN invited one Tracii Guns onto stage where they performed an excellent cover of Sabbath's 'NIB' that the evening was made for me. With Holm outdoing Bill Ward on the drums, and Cash, bass slung low and grinning like an evil goblin, the only thing missing was a shambling mess on vocals. Great track - excellent cover. Great band.
The missing piece from NIB heralded the entrance of our main event as Ozzy's 'Diary Of A Madman' filled the packed auditorium. And entering the stage with a nonchalant swagger comes the iconic guitarist Tracii Guns and lead vocalist Phil Lewis. So where was Michael Grant? Well he has now moved on to be replaced, eventually, by ex LA Guns bassist Adam Hamilton on rhythm guitar whilst bass duties are expertly handled by Johnny Martin. Shane Fitzgibbon is still there on drums. Keeping track of personnel changes in LA Guns is like getting to grips with your new lesson timetable. Old and new subjects, and in different places too.
As always, they look the part of an 80's metal band. Lewis dresses all in black sporting a black top hat with steampunk goggles and his LA Guns sleeveless jacket whilst Guns sports a battered old Harley Davidson denim cut down, both sporting tattoos showing a lifetime of rock and roll heritage. Tracii - a true professor in the arts of guitar work - sports a worn Les Paul played through the obligatory metal Marshall stack. Hamilton, in contrast hides his short grey hair under a natty black hat whilst sporting a Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt under a smart black jacket. The Union Flag badge on the jackets lapel was a nice touch too. Welcome to the UK lads. Johnny Martin again sports all black with matching straight black hair whilst Fitzgibbons seems to be wearing a large drumkit. He's in there somewhere.
Opening track Is the rocking 'The Devil Made Me Do It' from their 2017 'The Missing Piece' album followed by 'Electric Gypsy' which gets the now full auditorium well and truly moving. Lewis is an experienced, charismatic and talented frontman both effervescent yet cool at the same time. And Guns is just on fire. He is a truly iconic guitarist, followed via social media by adoring guitarists, like students learning at the feet of a master. Yes, he plays a Gibson, but tonight he is playing through Headrush multi effects pedalboard. He's more pedal god than pedagogue though. These modern gadgets are not usually the domain of our master musicians but Tracii Guns has always been one to innovate when it comes to equipment. And he drags some impressive tones from them too. During the awesome 'Over The Edge' he wields a violin bow, a la Jimmy Page, to get some interesting variations from otherwise slow, sludgy track. Tracks alternate between balls out rock like 'I Wanna Be Your Man' to slower power metal tracks like 'The Floods The Fault of the Rain'. For 'Speed', Guns changes his trusty Les Paul for an unusual striped Chubtone guitar which lifted the slightly muddy sound with it's brighter pickups although it clearly couldn't keep up with the master as a broken string during 'I Wanna Be Your Man' sees the LP back where it belonged. In the hands of a man who knows how to use it. For 'One More Reason' he takes centre stage, torturing the instrument whilst performing a true guitar masterclass, on his knees.
One of my favourite tracks - 'Hellraisers Ball' - has one of those chuggingly addictive riffs that epitomises everything that is great about this genre of rock. Lewis is nonchalant almost to the level of indifference as he relinquishes the track to the guitar guru. But he's back with a bang, and a tambourine for 'Malaria'. Not very rock and roll but very good. It's during 'Malaria' that Guns now breaks into physics teacher mode by 'playing' with a Theramin - a quirky sound altering device which changes pitch when Guns moves his hands towards it. It probably ranks as the only thing more dull during a gig than a drum solo. No wonder i used to skive off physics - usually to listen to LA Guns. Thankfully, the maestro's fingers were returned to his guitar fretboard to wow us with a guitar solo with every skill on display. Ending the solo with AC/DC's 'Hells Bells' it's just what we needed to get back into the groove. And with 'Never Enough', the crowd were happy to sing their little hearts out like the school choir at the Christmas carol concert. Ably conducted by Mr Lewis, the choirmaster.
A break in the set sees Jared James Nichols return to the stage, this time with a full fat Gibbo around his neck. The resulting jam was a master of blues rock, with JJN towering over the relatively diminutive Guns, trading licks with all the joy of the great masters and prodigies. Spine tingling stuff.
Penultimate track 'The Ballad of Jayne' sees a slower lament with Guns playing some excellent solo work whilst Lewis again conducts a heartfelt singalong. Closing track is. in contrast, the angry 'Rip and Tear' which ('My name is Phillip') Lewis uses to introduce the band and bid adieu to our hearing as they sign off with a bang.
Leaving the stage to the strains of 'So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night' from The Sound of Music, the boys head off to headline at the HRH Sleaze festival. Well who else is better qualified.? The gig over, we did what all kids do after class - head out for a quick grout and a cheap lager before heading home. Those of us taking guitar class are already pondering our homework. Something i was never any good at doing years ago. But then i never had such excellent teachers. The school of cock rock is back in session. And LA Guns are a class act.
LA Guns setlist
The Devil Made Me Do It
Over the Edge
Kiss My Love Goodbye
The Flood's the Fault of the Rain
I Wanna Be Your Man
One More Reason
Never Enough (with Jared James Nichols)
The Ballad of Jayne
Rip and Tea
Photo courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
Ramblin Man 2018
Mote Park, Maidstone
30th June 2018 – Day 1
The Ramblin Man festival, held in the beautiful Lakeland park of Mote Park in Maidstone, is now in its fourth year. The Ramblin Man festival has evolved over its short lifespan with tweaks being made each year to fine tune it to the organisers requirements. In the inaugural year, the headline act was Greg Alman – hence the festivals name – and has since seen such rock luminaries as The Scorpions, Black Stone Cherry, Airbourne, Extreme, Saxon and ZZ Top headlining - not bad for such a blossoming festival. But this year’s acts weren’t such an obvious draw for me. Had the Ramblin Man peaked too early? Had he strayed away from the beaten track? Let’s see.
The format this year is for a two day event spread across three stages, although there is the option of attending a small Friday night event held at the adjacent leisure centre. The ethos behind the organisation appears to be to provide a varied range of music with each of the three stages boasting a theme, albeit with some licence. Today’s three stages are the Classic Rock Rising Stage – a showcase for new talent, the Outlaw Country Stage – showing country/ blues and the Planet Rock Main Stage, hosted by Planet Rock DJ Paul Anthony, where the headline acts appear. The timings of the three stages were fairly well coordinated with minimal clashes and each of the stages being close enough to each other to easily move between without impinging on each other’s sound. Scattered around the stages are numerous food outlets and beer tents – this is also a beer and food festival folks (winner!) – as well as numerous trade stands. Anyone want to buy a motorcycle? Put this all in beautiful parkland with ample room to chill and add some of the hottest weather of the year (29 degrees of unbroken sunshine) and you have the recipe for a fabulous weekend of rocking rapture. Oh, and as you may know, I’m a guitar nerd so be prepared for lots of guitar references. Apologies, but it was a guitar nerd’s paradise.
First up on the Outlaw Country stage are Thomas Wynn and The Believers. The Floridian sports a cowboy look with fancy weskit and hat and wields his six (string) shooter (a Gibson SG) through the ubiquitous Marshall amp to produce some glorious swampy blues rock with just a hint of gospel. Accompanying him on vocals is his sister Olivia whilst supporting bass, keys, harmonica/acoustic guitar/vocals and drums provide a really full sound that gets proceedings underway in fine style. With a heavy keyboard influence, and raw guitar sound, this is more Boot Hill than Oklahoma. Great start Ramblin Man.
Over on the Classic Rock Rising Stage are Dead Man’s Whiskey, a 5 piece from London. Sporting twin Gibson Les Pauls through Marshal and Victory amps (sorry – I did warn you…) this young band provided some classic rocking sounds with just a hint of Whitesnake. Sporting a NWOCR t-shirt (new wave of classic rock in case you were wondering) lead singer Nico Rogers did exactly what it said on his shirt – produced a new wave of some classic sounding rock. Stand out track for me was ‘War Machine’, with a great sweeping guitar solo, from their new album ‘Under Gun’.
And so to the main stage where Scottish rockers Gun treated us to what must now be considered classics of their considerable back catalogue including ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’, Better Days’, ‘Steal Your Fire’ and their cover of ‘Word Up’. Lead singer Dante Gizzi, sporting classic shades and a white denim jacket, stood proud front and centre, flanked by guitarists Giuliano Gizzi (a black Yamaha) and Tommy Gentry (a red Les Paul) owning the stage and the audience. A great festival band, there’s nothing to dislike about Gun with tracks that are unlikely to offend anyone with a modicum of musicality, and plenty to please the singers, dancers and fist pumpers. With new material (‘Take Me Down’) from their recently released album ‘Favourite Pleasures’ the sort set was finished with the U2 like ‘Shame On You’ topped off with their cover of the Beasty Boys ‘ You Gotta Fight For Your Right, To Paaaarrrttttaaaayyyy!’. Excellent stuff.
Back to the Rising Stage and for me, possibly the find of the festival. Gorrilla Riot are a 5 piece bundle of excitement from Manchester reminiscent of early GnR although with a strong vein of blues flowing through them. With three guitars (steady Mother! – two Les Pauls and an SG) they make a big sound and frontman Arjun Bhishma made a big impact on the clearly supportive audience. The set went from hard rocking to groove rock with hypnotic beats. Lead guitarist Liam Henry on the SG produced some fine work without being overbearing. Again we have proof that young guitar rock is alive and flourishing. Their recent single ‘Bad Son’ got some critical acclaim in the music press and their latest single ‘ Down The Road’ , a country blues lament from their new EP ‘American Honey’ is likely to follow suit. I will look to check them out again next time they are in town.
Photo courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
Back at the main stage and we are treated to another turn of musical direction with punk metal stalwarts Therapy. 30 years on and the attitude doesn’t change as Ulsterman Andy Cairns (playing a lovely black SG through a Marshall JCM…sigh) opens with their cover of Joy Divisions ‘Isolation’ supported by bassist and fellow Ulsterman Michael McKeegan whilst Derby’s Neil Cooper celebrated his birthday by providing the driving drumbeat. With the lilt of a ‘Liam Neeson accent’ Mr Cairns and friends entertained the crowd including the singalong of ‘Neil, Neil, drum like a mother something-or-other’ and a tribute to the recently departed Vinnie from Pantera.
The festival really went into full gear as we switched between stages. On the Rising stage Brighton’s Rocket Dolls initially disappointed when we discovered they were 3 fellas but the smiles soon returned when we heard their grunge influenced brand of rock. Nikki Smash on lead (a Strat in case you were wondering) and vocals fronts with Joe Constable on bass and Benji Knopfler on drums. Lots of riff heavy rocking for all to enjoy. Another band that has been rightfully getting the attention of the media.
Over on the Outlaw stage, Skinny Molly show their Skynyrd pedigree, southern, swampy rock credentials with a very well received set. Frontman Mike Estes (ex Skynyrd and Blackfoot) sports a Les Paul Junior and uses it to good effect to crank out some awesome rock sounds including ‘If you don’t care’ and ‘When the going gets tough, the tough go fishin’ but it was the closing cover of ‘Freebird’ that got the crowd jumping. A great festival song in the sunshine.
A quick trip back to the Rising stage for a brief stint with Welsh duet Henry’s Funeral Shoe. The brothers Clifford could best be described as a younger Seasick Steve on speed. Very entertaining and an ideal festival band. Guitarist and vocalist Aled made great use of the slide on his Strat whilst Brennig kept the thumping beat.
Back to the main stage and the Cadillac Three. What a band. And what a collection of guitars – a new pair on virtually every song (swoon….). Nashvilles greatest advert (the name is emblazoned everywhere including on frontman Jaren Johnston’s arm) are another success story who have graced the Download stage amongst others. To quote Johnstone ‘There are heavy bands, and there are country bands. Us – we’re both’. It’s country rock alright with dirty slide and a Tennessee mojo that the fans lap up. Opening track ‘Tennessee’ says it all and is followed by hits including ‘Peace, Love and Dixie’ and ‘Tennessee Mojo’ (are you getting the theme yet?) before ending with ‘The South’. Not a damn yankee in sight neither. I have always liked this lot but they have gone up a good few notches in my estimation following their great set.
Photo courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
Back to the Outlaw stage for a thrilling acoustic set from Myles Kennedy, surely the coup of the festival for the organisers. The Alter Bridge/Slash frontman is achieving even more success, if that’s possible , with his latest solo album Year of the Tiger, and treated us to a selection of tracks including the title track, a cover of Alter Bridge’s ‘Cry Of Achilles’ and an amazing acoustic cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’. He’s an incredible vocal talent but an even more amazing guitar talent. A fact that is all too often overlooked. Kennedy is just a natural talent and a natural performer.
On to the main stage and what was the performance of the day, and probably the festival. The phenomenon that is Steel Panther. I love this band. Puerile, base, childish – all the things I aspire to be. The Californian ‘parody’ band of the 80’s are so in character that they are all too believable. With every 80’s hair metal cliché on display, the four piece entertain the crowd in a way nobody else did, or would dare to do. Their total irreverence of other people was only eclipsed by their irreverence for themselves although all nicely packaged in a narcissistic front that sees more primping and preening than an LA prom night rest room. Visually stunning, these fellas are also audibly impressive as their image is supported by superb musical talent. The irreverence included a ‘tribute’ to Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen by Sticks (Zadinia) and we were treated to an impromptu stage visit from a tottering gibbering Ozzy Osbourne who looked remarkably similar to the notably absent vocalist Michael Starr. With (sexy) Lexxi Foxx on bass and hairspray, and Satchel on Lead guitar, the West Coast smutmeisters entertained all but the most miserable so-and-so’s with crowd participation set to maximum. Poor Holly, the girl who was sat centre stage with a large inflatable cock to play with whilst Starr sang ‘Community Property’ was only eclipsed by the mass ‘stage invasion’ of every woman of legal age. Plus a couple who probably weren’t. Ending with their anthemic ‘Death to all but metal’ the LA glam metallers left the stage to a huge applause and left many a happy festival goer singing lyrics that their mum wouldn’t have approved of. Again, another fantastic festival band.
And so to the headline act, Mott the Hoople were formed over 50 years ago. In that time they have been seen as rock, glam and even country-hippie. This latest reincarnation sees iconic frontman Ian Hunter reunited with Morgan Fisher on keys and Ariel Bender on guitar. Entering the stage to the strains of ‘I vow to thee my country’ Hunter, on acoustic guitar, and the band launch into a set of classic Mott the Hoople tracks as well as a collection of tributes and medleys from artists that have contributed to, or influenced their music. Whilst as different as you can get from the preceding Steel Panther, they still bought an air of fun to the stage and to the audience. Well received and well presented, they were a fine way to end the Ramblin day. With more glorious sunshine forecast, bring on tomorrow.
Mott The Hoople Setlist
American Pie / Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll
Rest in Peace
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Pearl ’n’ Roy (England)
Roll Away the Stone
Sweet Jane (The Velvet Underground cover)
Walking With a Mountain
All the Way From Memphis
Medley: Jerkin' Crocus/One of the Boys
Medley: Rock'n'Roll Queen/Crash Street Kidds/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On/Violence
All The Young Dudes
Photo courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
Planet Rock Main Stage
Mott The Hoople 21:15 – 22:45
Steel Panther 19:25 – 20:25
The Cadillac Three 17:40 – 18:40
Therapy? 16:10 – 16:55
GUN 14:45 – 15:30
No Hot Ashes 13:30 – 14:00
Outlaw Country Stage
Steve Earle & The Dukes 19:45 – 21:15
Myles Kennedy 18:15 – 19:15
Skinny Molly 16:45 – 17:30
Me and That Man 15:30 – 16:15
The Adelaides 14:30 – 15:00
Thomas Wynn and The Believers 13:25 – 13:55
Classic Rock Rising Stage
The Rising Souls 19:55 – 20:55
The Dust Coda 18:40 – 19:25
Henry’s Funeral Shoe 17:30 – 18:10
The Rocket Dolls 16:20 – 17:00
Gorilla Riot 15:20 – 15:50
Dead Man’s Whiskey 14:35 – 14:55
Icarus Falls 13:25 – 13:55
Those Damn Crows 12:30 – 13:00
Ramblin Man 2018
Mote Park, Maidstone
1st July 2018 – Day 2
Morning Campers! Those partaking of the camping facilities had the pleasure of waking up to another beautifully sunny day with the prospect of more beer, food and great music. A lazy hazy Sunday morning was spent regaling tales of ales with accounts of the amounts before the festival doors opened again at noon.
Sunday follows a similar vein to Saturday although today we have three slightly different stages. A Blues stage, a Prog stage and the Planet Rock main stage again. First stop was the Prog stage. I thought it was the Blues stage because it was blue. Surely it should have been a multitude of psychedelic colours? It did mean however that I caught a couple of prog acts that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Second Relation, from Gotzis, Austria are a five piece playing a metal/rock form of prog music, although, like much prog, had a heavy keys sound. Frontman Bastian B. Berchtold carried out his duties whilst giving some heavy bass accompaniment although kept the banter to a minimum. They were well received before the theatrical experience that is Goldray made their very theatrical entrance. The psychedelia missing from our surroundings was brought in abundance as singer Leah Rasmussen and guitarist Kenwyn House (of Reef fame), adorned in flowing robes of many colours (although mainly yellow) lit up the small stage. This is classic prog – long complex songs with a Kate bush vibe as Rasmussen’ vocals carry across the intricate fretwork of House Telecaster. Some funkiness crept in but this was predominantly magical prog with stand-out track ‘The Forest’ attracting warm applause.
The trouble with festivals is avoiding the timetable clashes. One of my not to miss moments is the Kris Barras Band over on the colourless Blues stage. Kris is an MMA fighter-turned-musician who pulls no punches when it comes to his blues rock. Kris was voted in the Top 15 Blues Guitarists in the world by the reader's of Music Radar/Total Guitar Magazine which will give you some idea of how good he is. He is also the new frontman for USA super-group, Supersonic Blues Machine featuring legendary artists such as ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons who are also touring the UK at the moment. The Torquay 4 piece produce some excellent swampy blues rock that really made them stand out from the crowd. Barras sports an oilcan/junkbox guitar for some excellent slide guitar before switching back to his trusty strat for regular blues rocking. Piano/keys from Josiah Manning bring a melodic accompaniment to the great groove. They were hugely appreciated by the large crowd lapping up the sun, and the excellent beers.
Back at the Prog stage are Finnish prog heroes The Von Hertzen Brothers. Playing a mix of classic rock combined with progressive elements, folk, punk and contemporary rock the band has a sound for everyone. Guitarist Kie, playing his battered white strat, gets some killer sounds out of his Vox amp with a set that has heavy guitar but also a big keyboard sound that has Rush-like qualities. Mikko Von Hertzen has a happy look on his face the whole time, although, if you are young, good looking and front a popular band, why wouldn’t you be. The heat of the weekend feels at it’s hottest here as Kie quips to the assembled photographers ‘We look way better when we are soaked’. And not a drop of rain all day.
Appearing on the main stage are the supergroup that are the Sons of Apollo. Comprised of rock dignitaries drummer Mike Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan, keyboardist Derek Sherinian, vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, and guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, this lot have some pedigree. Their all too short set was a snippet of their current full tour set but included some of the rocking from their recent album Psychotic Symphony, a collection of tracks that has influences from each of the band. Us guitar nerds were also treated to the rare sight of Bumblefoot playing a twin neck six string guitar alongside Sheehan playing a twin neck bass. Now that’s not something you see very often. With Soto leading the vocals, the crowd joined in in a totally microphone free singalong that could have ruined Soto’s voice on the UK debut for the band, but he belted out closing track ‘Coming Home’ with some gusto so all is well there then.
Following on the main stage from establishment are the new blood that are Blackberry Smoke. Although you couldn’t get a more 1970’s looking band if you tried. I say new blood, the Georgian 5 piece of Charlie Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards) have been around for nearly 20 years now. And the guitar nerds got a whole festivals worth of eye candy in just one band. Played through boutique Germino amps, the southern rocking sound has a prog keyboard tinge to it. Tracks like ‘Six Ways To Sunday’ has a shuffle beat with a busy bassline and a real feel good factor to it whilst ‘Let It Burn’ is a sultry slow blues with a keyboard solo and a Gibson 335 Wah-fest. Sandwiched around a cover of the Beatles ‘Come Together’, it was exquisite. Tracks from the new album ‘Find The Light’ get an airing but it’s favourites like ‘Shakin Hands With The Holy Ghost’ and ‘One Horse Town’ before finishing with ‘Ain’t Much Left Of Me’. I could have listened to them all day.
Last minute stand in Big Boy Bloater made a fine fist of covering for Chas and Dave who were forced to withdraw due to illness. Wishing the East End duo well, the Surrey cockney entertained the crowd with his dirty strat blues and humorous lyrics and banter. This big fella has some fine chops, as well as a history of session guitar playing in his bag of tricks, that showcases why he is a regular at festivals as well as across the gamut of blues playing radio stations. Currently touring his new album ‘Pills’, Bloater had also performed a small acoustic set to the VIP tent the previous day which raised a number of smiles. Dedicating his song ‘The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle’ to all the ugly ones in the audience, he endeared himself to all. It’s nice when you are made to feel special.
Photo courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
Next on at the main stage was Halestorm. Singer Lzzy Hale looked stunning in a heavily studded black leather jacket, with matching high heel/platform boots, over a glorious red dress that complimented her bright red lipstick. With a Gibson Explorer to finish off the ensemble she really looks the part. Ms Hale is no shrinking violet with a deep and soulful voice which matched perfectly with the bands heavy rock sound. ‘Please do not be gentle’ she pleaded to the crowd. With tracks like ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ and ‘Mayhem’ it wasn’t going to be a gentle set. It was metal done well with a large number of the crowd there to specifically see Lzzy’s brand of rock that has seen the Pennsylvanians tour with some of the top names in rock and metal. ‘Freak Like Me stood’ out as a real crowd pleaser. They are returning to the UK in September to tour as headliners for their new album ‘Vicious’. And I am sure that it will be.
Closing off the prog stage is ex Marillion front man Fish. Despite being a solo artist for nearly 30 years, the Scottish singer-songwriter and occasional actor was happy to play the first side of Marillions ‘Clutching At Straws’ album in it’s 25 minute entirety as well as finishing with an encore of
‘Slàinte Mhath’ and ‘Incommunicado’ from side two. Also including a couple of his solo tracks, the iconic frontman with his iconic scarf and genre defining iconic voice treated the progsters to what was the epitome of a one hour set that left the fans satisfied and dehydrated in equal measures. There are some extremely happy faces leaving the prog tent for the last time this weekend.
Closing the Blues stage are the equally iconic Gov’t Mule. The southern rock jam band was originally formed as a side project of The Allman Brothers Band by guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody but has become a headline band in its own right. The all too short set included a number of Mule tracks (including ‘Mule) as well as an Allman brothers track (‘Blue Sky’) with Charlie Starr from Blackberry Smoke and then Bernie Marsden joining them for closing tracks ‘Heartbreaker’ (Free cover) and Whitesnake’s ‘Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City’. As a self-confessed ‘Muleteer’ I could have watched them all night but the Blues stage had to come to a close for the final act on the main stage.
Photo courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
So headliners for the final day of the festival are The Cult. A difficult band to pigeon hole, they have vibes of rock, punk and metal but all packaged together with great lyrics and seriously catchy hooks. There aren’t many bands who have such gravitas and cool yet are ubiquitous in the advertising world for catchy themes. Originally from Yorkshire, where they think what they sing and sing what they think, the five piece have had some tough times but keep coming back, to the delight of their loyal fanbase. Frontman Ian Astbury, dressed all in black, sports a large white Gretsch for opener ‘Wild Flower’ which he sings with as much gusto now as he did as when it was released 30 years ago. With fellow Cult original Billy Duffy on guitar coming from Manchester, you can see why this war of the roses has such energy and passion. They work off of each other to produce great songs with great energy. The hits keep coming with ‘GOAT’, ‘Lil Devil’ and ‘Spritwalker’ whipping up the crowd as the sun sets behind the massive stage. By saving their classic ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ for their encore the sunburnt masses drift off into the night happy that they have had all of their musical buttons pressed.
So did the Ramblin Man stray from the path? No, but he certainly chose an alternative route. The festival generally ran smoothly and seemed to be well attended although numbers felt slightly down on previous years. The choice of stages was good with a good variety of music although the main stage felt a little too varied at times. When you have set the bar as high as the rambling Man has achieved in previous years, it is difficult to maintain that standard. It was a great festival of music, beer and food and a great chance to catch up with old friends and new bands. But for this year at least, it is over. So, in the words of Led Zeppelin:
‘The time has come to be gone
And though our health we drank a thousand times
It's time to ramble on’
The Cult Setlist
Deeply Ordered Chaos
King Contrary Man
Sweet Soul Sister
G O A T
Love Removal Machine
She Sells Sanctuary
Photo courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
Planet Rock Main Stage
The Cult 20:45 – 22:15
Halestorm 19:00 – 20:00
Blackberry Smoke 17:15 – 18:15
Sons Of Apollo 15:50 – 16:35
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown 14:30 – 15:10
The Last Internationale 13:10 – 13:55
Prog In The Park
Fish 19:15 – 20:45
Mostly Autumn 17:30 – 18:30
Von Hertzen Brothers 15:50 – 16:45
Voyager 14:35 – 15:15
Goldray 13:25 – 13:55
Second Relation 12:30 – 13:00
Gov’t Mule 19:15 – 20:45
Big Boy Bloater 17:30 – 18:30
Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind 16:00 – 16:45
Laurence Jones Band 14:35 – 15:15
Kris Barras Band 13:15 – 13:55
Connor Selby Band 12:25 – 12:55
Photo's courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix. See the full range of his excellent lens skills at his website here:
Stone Free festival
Sunday 17th June 2018
So day two followed the form of day one, with the same festival/gig split, although the emphasis today was more towards prog as the headliners later will show. But the day started again with a choice of the Orange and Indigo stages with a range of sumptuous delights to enjoy. Being a Sunday, and Fathers Day, the North Greenwich peninsula was busier than ever with visitors enjoying the varied local attractions mingling with the festival goers. Being outside, the Orange stage attracted a number of day trippers looking to see what all the fuss was about, and some of whom seemed to really enjoy the show. Says something about the quality of the acts that they can entertain an audience which contained a number of non-musos. Or maybe they were just trying to avoid being dragged around the shops. Or they preferred the excellent choices of beer on offer.
Anyhow, openers on the Orange stage are StoneWire, a five piece seeped in blues, rock and country vibes. Fronted by the powerful vocals of Sky Hunter, the short set showcases a mix of riffy rock and melodic bluesy sounds that delights the small but growing audience. Again, they are another band who would have no trouble filling the Indigo - both audibly and literally - and are sure to be at a venue near you soon. If you like your Zeppelin, give them a listen.
Following on are what can best be described as the explosion that is Vambo. The Epsom 4 piece have exploded onto the scene with airplay on Planet Rock and shows both home and abroad. Indeed, following the set, the band are off to Hungary to do a couple of shows in the homeland of guitarist Pete Lance. Another day, another Hungarian guitarist.... Vambo are a great young band influenced by the rock bands of the seventies. Lance's searing guitar goodness - a Les Paul through a fantastic Kemper modelling amp - are pure rocky filth and goodness and he shows some considerable skills up and down the fretboard. Vocalist Jack Stiles, taking his looks and styling from 70's legend Roy Wood of Wizard, has an extremely powerful voice. Their closing track - a copy of Deep Purple's Burn - showcases what fine vocal talents he has. You don't cover such iconic rock tracks like that lightly and he nailed it. I would have been happy just to have seen that but their short set was full of their own excellent material, including 'Fast Car' and their new single 'Why, Why, Why' which is getting some considerable radio airplay. With bassist James Scott completing the DM booted front of stage and Drummer Steve Price driving the whole ensemble from behind the kit, they are an excellent addition to the festival and, probably the best band of the two stages today. Yes, they are that good. Another of my must see again bands.
Next up on the Orange stage are Fire Red Empress, another up and coming band that radio stations are showing an interest in. Fronted by the delightful Jennifer Diehl, wearing a black floppy hat, dark glasses and shawl, she looks like a grieving girl next door. But when she sings, it's all happiness in the world. The 5 piece play chunky sludgy stoner rock with the Gethin brothers guitars providing the growling backline to Diehl's cutting voice. She reminded me a little of Geddy Lee's Anthem in her pitch and tone but was versatile enough to go from low and powerful to haunting and screamy. An absorbing band.
Off to the Indigo stage to catch the tail end of Ginger Wildheart's acoustic set. Ginger is a man of many acts, fronting the rocking Wildhearts but also championing a circus of assorted talents. Today sees him at his most stripped down with just an accompanying acoustic guitarist, percussionist and female co-vocalist. Watching him at ease on stage is like watching a street troubadour entertain with jokes and singalongs. His closing track 'Geordie in wonderland' aptly describes the dreadlocked Ginger's show. Again, another excellent choice of act for this wonderful festival.
Staying at the Indigo stage we are treated by the appearance of Tyketto, the five piece rock band from New York. Fronted by former Waysted singer Danny Vaughan, they are another extremely professional act entertaining the crowd with what was, by their standards, a far more funky set than you would expect. As Vaughan quips during one of the funkier jams between bassist Chris Childs and guitarist Chris Green, 'This has turned into a Barry White medley!' Vaughan is another hugely entertaining front man and the band seem to just be the most relaxed people having a good time playing what they love. Which pervades to the growing audience, Finishing with their anthemic 'Forever Young' the crowd warmly applaud them off the stage before rushing to see the closing act on the Orange stage, The Bad Flowers.
I say rushing, most are happy to stop for beers along the way, but still ensure the Black Country trio get a lot of love. Frontman and guitarist Tom Leighton provides the front line alone whilst bassist Dale Tonks, complete with Monster Truck t-shirt, takes centre stage, albeit a small one, showing that bassists need love too. Making up the naughty blooms is drummer Karl Selickis doing a fine job of keeping the two frontmen in their rhythmic place. As a trio, they work damn hard, with Leightons Les Paul and wah pedal getting some mileage and Tonks bass solo showing a commendable work ethic. With tracks like Thunder Child in their repertoire, they show they are a force to be reckoned with. Showing an emotional thanks to the audience for the support they have received the set closes the excellent Orange stage for the day and the festival. The Bad Flowers - a great bunch.
Back to the Indigo for the final act on that stage - the iconic guitarists guitarist, Richie Kotzen. I think it sums up how appreciated Mr K is by other musicians that, standing next to me in the Indigo were Joanne Shaw Taylor and bassist Luigi Cassanova. Just hours before her own performance in the arena, JST took the time to see a master at work. Because a master he is. Or maestro. Although not classical, Kotzen has reinvented himself a number of times so that it is hard to pigeonhole him in any one genre. The once glam hair metal guitarist of poison enters the stage wearing a floppy broad brimmed hat and loose casual shirt more akin to Bill and Ben than Bret and CC. Because the man is comfortable in himself and his abilities. Playing his signature Telecaster through his signature Victory amp, Kotzen takes us through every guitar trick and nuance, utilising assorted effects and pedals, but always with the music as the focus, not the performance. And for pure guitar skills he is breath-taking. Stand out track for me was 'Love is blind'. It was a great way to end what was the 'festival' part of the day and had the adoring audience calling for more.
And so to the O2 arena and the start of the 'gig' part of the day. This is where the prog part of the day kicked in with the atmospheric Anathema playing to a completely seated arena. Is this some indication as to the age of the audience that they are expecting? Anathema are not an anathema to me but are a more experimental young progressive rock band with symphonic qualities that contrasted sharply with the bands we had seen during the day. I say young, they have been around since the early 90's but it's all relative. The Liverpudlian 5 piece produced some extensive electronic rock consisting of assorted keys, double drums and exquisite guitars. With female vocalist Lee Douglas providing the focus, the Cavanagh siblings concentrated on producing some epic progressive rock music but with a more modern slant than the following acts. With influences from past members who have played with the likes of Cradle of Filth and My Dying Bride they have a unique slant on prog that is refreshing. They were certainly appreciated by the admittedly older audience.
Following Anathema, and in no way prog at all, is the afore mentioned Joanne Shaw Taylor. A rocking blues guitarist, influenced heavily by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hendrix, prog she is not. She does however rock. Those who know my words will know that i have seen JST many times and cannot rate her highly enough. Opening up with her trusty blond Telecaster with 'Dyin' to know', the trusty blond launches into a fine set. Only a few years ago JST was doing the rounds of the pubs and clubs, but you would think she had been playing arenas all her life. Having toured with the likes of Joe Bonamassa she is no stranger to larger venues - I saw her recently at The Royal Festival Hall. One of the things i love to see when watching the Black Country lass is her beaming smile as she loses herself in the power of her own brand of blues rock. She is a genius guitarist who has learned much from her love of SRV and Mr Kotzen. With newer tracks like 'Dyin to know' and 'Wrecking Ball' mixed with classics like 'Diamonds in the dirt' the all too short set was excellent. Switching between the Tele and the Les Paul (such a beautiful combination to behold) the audience had a prog free 45 minutes of spectacular blues guitar and soulful singing. Closing with the ever present classic 'Going Home' she signed off in style. But I wasn't going anywhere just yet.
Now everyone has a guilty pleasure and Supertramp are mine. Although they are a pleasure that I am in no way guilty of. Just don't tell my rock mates. The arguably prog band have had a number of radio hits of many years that have graced many a pop station. Roger Hodgson, vocalist and all round musician from the band treated us tonight to what was a near note perfect rendition of their greatest hits. Hodgson, dressed in a crisp white suit is the consummate humble gentleman who still has an astonishingly good voice. Backed by a collection of extremely talented backing musicians, Hodgson absolutely enthralled with a set that truly blew me away. Switching between instruments he sang 'Take the long way home' (keyboard), School (guitar) 'Breakfast in America' (Keys), 'Hiding in my shell' (keys), 'Logical song' (keys), Lord is it mine (piano), 'Dreamer' (keys), 'Fools overture' (piano), 'Give a little bit' (12 string acoustic) and 'It's raining again' (keys). And all the way through his voice was as it had been all those years ago. In contrast to the power of previous acts, the music was almost a lullaby in comparison but had me singing loudly along to every track. Guilty pleasure? Nobody should feel guilty at experiencing such pleasure. Mr Hodgson I salute you, And I will be first in the queue when tickets go on sale for his shows at the Royal Albert hall in May 2019.
Closing and headline act, and the most progressive of prog bands are the mighty Yes. And this time it includes the trio of Rick Wakeman, Trevor Rabin and Jon Anderson. Celebrating 50 years of Yes, the three musicians who represent the purist prog years of the seventies and the 'mainstream' 80's incarnation presented an affirmation of their finest tracks. Anderson, holding centre stage still has a phenomenal voice. So specific to the Yes sound, his voice carried across the cavernous arena and carried the faithful to years gone by and memories half remembered. Wakeman, adorned in his trademark cloak, stood in the middle of a round of keyboards tinkling the ivories with his trademark grumpy old git look. But he certainly was enjoying himself. And Rabin cavorted around getting some iconic sounds out of his heavily decorated Strat. With supporting musicians including the happiest drummer in the world - who wouldn't smile like that getting the chance to play such gloriously intricate drum tracks - the three headliners showed what craftsmen they are. Each made their way into the audience who delighted in being up close and personal with their heroes. With a spectacular lighting show the performance was a visual and audio delight. The crowd delighted in what was a masterpiece of progressive music. A great way to end a great festival.
As the crowds drift away into a warm summers night, I am left to reflect what has been another great day at a great festival. Act of the day for me has to be Roger Hodgson for sheer enjoyment although JST and Richie Kotzen could have easily been contenders. For a relatively new festival Stone Free really have got the mix right. Great sounds, great location, I urge you to go next year. Greenwich is famous as being the home of the Greenwich meridian - the centre of the world in time terms if you like. This weekend, it has been the centre of my music world.
I've Seen All Good People
And You and I
Rhythm of Love
I Am Waiting
Heart of the Sunrise
Owner of a Lonely Heart (with 'Sunshine of Your Love' by Cream snippet)
Stone Free festival
Saturday 16th June 2018
Festivals are many and varied these days with everything from one to five days, in fields, arenas or even whole communities. You have something for everyone. Muddy fields with hundreds of thousands of people or small intimate venues with just a handful of faithful fans. The Stone Free festival, now in its third year, boasts the prodigious O2 Arena as its home so you would imagine it is a large cavernous venue with large headline acts. Well it is. But it also boasts smaller intimate venues like the Indigo O2 which holds about 1500 people and, just for this festival, the small outside Orange Amps stage, catering for a couple of hundred.
Saturday is the first of two days and is an unashamedly rock orientated day. Openers on the bijou Orange stage are Nitroville, a 5 piece hailing from East London. Being the Orange stage, all the bands are playing through Orange amps but, thanks to the excellent sound engineering of Vision, the sound of each band is clear and individually distinct. Fronted by a powerhouse vocalist, Nitroville open the days proceedings in fine style. Telecaster and Les Paul guitars provide a strong front line that matches vocalist Tola Lamont with a busy bass backline. And the smallest drumkit ever seen on stage. The short set is warmly received by the growing crowd, gathering under a beautiful Summer sky. It doesn't have to rain at every festival you know.
One of the issues at festivals can be the potential clashes of bands. Stone Free does an impressive job of timing bands to have a minimum of time spent shuffling between stages. The Orange and Indigo stages swapped time slots with a smoothness and both finished (just) before the first act opened in the main arena. Well done to the organisers.
Staying at the Orange stage we were treated to what were arguably the best band of the day. Bold words for only the second act but London based Killit really hit the spot. To call them London based would be unfair to their international make up. Hungarian guitarist Niro Knox plays some seriously dirty Rock and Blues on a seriously dirty Les Paul. Someone lend him a wet wipe. And accompanying him on a beautiful PRS is the equally beautiful French Claire Genoud. Fronted by vocalist Gaz Twist, clearly the result of a wild night involving Bruce Dickinson and Scott Weiland, the five piece play some excellent Rock Metal. Knox is a Hungarian Slash who could have done with a bigger stage. Great rocking band who I will seek out again. Ones to watch.
Changing stage to the Indigo finds the more unusual duet that is The Picturebooks. The Teutonic twosome create some huge sounds with just percussion and a semi acoustic guitar. And the large sound system in the excellent Indigo venue. It's one of those venues that I go to almost regardless of who is playing. The right size, good acoustics and a large bar. And frontman Fryn Claus Grabke had his dad doing sound desk duties tonight. Bet that saved a few bob. Their clever Rock Blues set was a joy to behold, being both innovative and interesting. Dare I say, an ideal festival band.
Staying in the Indigo we were treated to the phenomenon that is Triggerfinger. A Belgian three piece, dressed in some snappy duds, you would be forgiven for thinking they were at the wrong venue. Until they hit the first chord that is. With a bassist (Paul Van Bruystegem) who looked like a bouncer, and a drummer (Mario Goosens) who was clearly Boris Johnson taking a day off from ruining the country, they looked like an 80's Pop band as frontman Ruben Block wears the sort of suit that would make ABC's Martin Fry green with envy. Or swirly red and gold in this case. Playing a single pick-up Gibson SG through a Vox amp, Block gets some quite cutting Metal tones to accompany the almost Stoner Rock tracks. Not what I was expecting. Almost quirky, I can only describe them as - well, Belgian. But as moreish as chips with mayonnaise, they were another hugely entertaining act. The incredibly minimalist 'My Baby's Got A Gun' showed how powerful a few notes can be. As was the brutal solo that followed. Finishing with Iggy Pop's 'Funtime', they left the audience with smiles on their faces.
Back to the Orange stage for the Dirty Thrills who played us some dirty Blues. The 4 piece were a slick act with the look of gypsies and street dandies adorned with a multitude of scarves and devilish looks. An Ibanez hollowbody is the axe of choice for guitarist Jack Fawdry whilst frontman Louis James, son of Moody Blues singer Nicky James, provides the lungpower with added swagger. Fawdry wastes no time removing his shirt to perform his rocking Blues skills whilst jumping around like an excited schoolboy. He even perched himself on the somewhat small Orange amp at one stage. Dangerous stuff. James accompanies with harmonica to a thumping bass line. We get to sing-along to a medley of tracks, including Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady' to finish an all too short set.
The bands come thick and fast now as we head back to the Indigo to see the rising stars that are Stone Broken. Hailing from Walsall in the West Midlands, they could easily be from Birmingham AL. The four piece are the current favourite of radio friendly rockers everywhere although that doesn't make them bland or insipid. Au contraire. Frontman Rich Moss, brandishing a beautiful Les Paul, leads the band in some memorable rock songs. Regulars on the radio, the short set is stuffed with recognisable riffs and singable lyrics. There's a reason why they get so much airplay. They're damn good. Assisted by guitarist Chris Davis on a humbucker packed Fender, there is an almost brutal Metal edge to the Hard Rock sound. How could that be bland. Female drummer Robyn Haycock hides behind a drumkit festooned with an Animal muppet - she is neither - and is pleasingly given a short drum solo which she makes interesting. An almost impossible feat when it comes to drum solos. Again, the Stone Free festival delivers the goods.
Closing the Orange stage, and vying for band of the day are Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics. The former Heaven's Basement front man has created his own band although the set contained a number of Heaven's Basement tracks. No complaints from me, I love Heaven's Basement. But this is a new animal. Aaron's sister Laurie wields a mean Fender Telecaster whilst Tom McCarthy assists with a stunning Gordon Smith Les Paul style white guitar. The short set includes a number of tracks from their delightfully named 'The Man With Stars On His Knees' album sprinkled with the aforementioned Heaven's Basement tracks - including a firm favourite, 'Fire Fire'. Aaron is known as a huge Freddie Mercury fan and the album includes a number of tracks with Queen like harmonies. Today saw a rawer approach with hard guitars and hard singing. After handing out a couple of freebie beers to members of the audience (I was lucky enough to receive one - it has in no way influenced this review.....) Aaron proceeds to draw the crowd closer into a compact mass to enable to surf his way onto their shoulders before finishing the song with a headstand whilst still perched precariously on the crowds shoulders. The rakishly thin warbler, all boots and braces, has never been known to be shy.
So back to the Indigo to see the closing act on that stage that is the brutally pleasing assault on the ears that is Orange Goblin. Not sure where the band got there name from - lead singer Ben Ward looks more like a huge black orc than an orange goblin. Maybe the (relatively) diminutive axeman Joe Hoare is the inspiration. Whilst Ward prowls the centre of the stage like the scary Tolkeinesque beast, commanding and getting the attention from the rapturous audience, the real power behind the sound is the Gibson SG Marshall amp combo of Hoare. It's real basic Hard Metal power. Their t-shirts say it all. Hoare sports a possibly ironic Kiss t-shirt, Ward drapes himself in an Entombed shirt. It was a finale of filth with some chugging rhythms and powerful wah filled leads. The band have been together as a foursome since 1995 and are as tight as a crabs bum. The crowd includes a number of Goblin faithful who delighted in bringing an unlikely Stone Free wall of death to the mix at the instigation of the man on the mike. I wouldn't disobey him. All done with great humour and fun and ended what was a fantastic set of bands and, in some ways, the festival part of the day.
What makes Stone Free different is the switch from a festival feel when the smaller stages close to a regular gig night when the main stage opens for the nights final three acts. The headliners. Hmmm, let’s say big names. Openers Buckcherry are another firm favourite of yours truly but found themselves in the cavernous O2 Arena playing to a virtually empty crowd. Partly because the fantastic Orange Goblin slightly over ran although probably because the fans took the opportunity to take advantage of the many and varied eating and drinking establishments. Which was a shame because the mercurial band were on form tonight with frontman Josh Todd showing more gusto than previous gigs I have seen him perform recently. Whilst it is good to see a great band like Buckcherry getting an outing on a large stage, I love them best in a hot sweaty club environment where you get up close and personal. They did their best, and played their hearts out with classics like 'Sorry" and 'Broken Glass', but were victims of scheduling. I would have liked to have seen them play the Indigo instead.
Penultimate band of the night were Dave Mustaine's Megadeath - the ego has landed. Clearly a crowd puller, the original Thrash Metallers played to a considerably fuller arena with their brand of guitar virtuosity. It was a great set although Megadeath have always been a vehicle for Mustaine to showcase his talents whilst the band appear to be there as extras. Add into the mix the regular haranguing of the world for all its ills and you get the Dave Mustaine show. It's great Rock, don't get me wrong, and the crowd loves it, although they were thanked for it by some personal abusing of individuals in the audience by the man himself. Not sure if it was meant in jest or not. It's difficult to tell with Mr M. The set included some classic Megadeath tracks including my favourite 'Symphony of Destruction'. They do write some bleedin' good songs.
Closers and headliners are the mighty Scorpions. One of those bands that have been around for so long that they are deemed Classic Rock although I still think of them as newer Metal. A great choice as headliners, the set includes more singalong favourites than you can shake a tail stinging arachnid at. With the recent addition of Mikkey Dee on drums we were also treated to a cover of Motorhead's 'Overkill' as well as an exquisite drum solo. It was 90 plus minutes of Classic Rock in the truest sense although Rudi Schenker and Matthias Jabs wielding their guitars with full Heavy Metal gusto and frontman Klaus Meine easily switching between bellowing Rock and romantic ballads. It was a great show and a fine way to finish off what was an excellent first day. Takeaway from day one were Killit and Aaron Buchanan. I love it when you find great new talent. What will day two hold?
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
Is There Anybody There?
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy's Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Follow Your Heart / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind Of Change
Tease Me Please Me
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo Mikkey Dee
Big City Nights
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane
The Roundhouse, London
18th May 2018
Metallers Machine Head have been knocking around for a few years now, originally forming back in 1991. The current line up comprises original frontman Robb Flynn, long time drummer Dave McClain, guitarist Phil Demmel and bassist Jared MacEachern. Hailing from Oakland CA, the frantic foursome epitomise what old school metallers should look and sound like. All dressed in cut down work shirts over tattoos and ripped jeans, and sporting a hirsute look reminiscent of the barbarian hordes that battered down the establishment that was Rome, our modern day music warlords are just as aggressive as their warrior predecessors. Wielding their Jackson and ESP guitars like the axes they represent, they batter the world, and their adoring audience, in a manner that can be best described as controlled brutality. And even that control can sometimes slip. At two preceding gigs in the UK, the gig had to be stopped due to injury to a moshing maniac. But that is why Machine ‘Fucking’ Head continue to maintain such a cult, and ever growing, following. Machine Head is about brutality. Subtlety is not a much used word with this lot who use the stage as their platform to purge their demons and try to right the wrongs they see in this world. It is their salve, their therapy, their Catharsis.
Catharsis is also the 9th and latest album release in a career of a band who wears their collective hearts on their studded sleeves. Never shy to put into words subjects many an artist will shy away from, Machine Head do so with such vitriol and passion, with every expletive emphasised to the max. Not for sensationalism, only for the correct effect. When they scream ‘ Fuck the world,’ as the opening line to their new album opener Volatile, you can be sure that we all sing it with them with as much anger and angst as they do. Because this is catharsis for all. A packed auditorium of alcohol induced metal heads scream along to the lyrics whilst battling each other in an effort to release their demons and come out the other side purified of their cares, for just a night at least. To quote Rob Flynn, posting on social media after one recent injury to a member of the MFH faithful:
‘Machine Head shows are rough, we know it. Part of the fun of being at our shows is the rowdy, drunken, nature of it all, circle pits, jumping, releasing negative energy in a positive way. Hell, surviving a Machine Head pit is part of the danger and fun of our concert experience. I myself can't tell you how many "war wounds" I walked out the pit with when I was young, and I'm proud of every one of 'em. Busted nose, chipped teeth, broken rib at a Slayer show in 1991... they were all lived-to-tell-about-it-moments... some bizarre rite-of-passage young men put themselves through.’
The stage, at the somewhat inappropriately sophisticated venue that is the Roundhouse, is suitably Spartan compared to some of the overblown set ups that some of the larger bands hide in front of. There is no hiding from these fella’s though. With clever use of lighting and smoke, the required level of atmosphere is achieved with minimal fuss, because Machine ‘Fucking’ Head is a band that really is a machine. Eschewing a support act, this machine of full on power metal take to the stage for 3 hours of non-stop, in your face, torque. And I do mean torque in its literal sense of ‘a force acting on an object which causes that object to rotate’. Because that’s what MFH do to the crowd. It’s a night for the moshers in the whirling vortex of the mosh pit.
Photos courtesy of Rob Cook
Ordinarily I would wholeheartedly approve of bands like MFH championing the cause of up and coming bands by introducing them as support artists. But the selfish part of me revels in the chance to see the main act play for three hours with a set that not only includes an ample helping of the new tracks from their brilliant new album, but also gives us loads of the classic tracks that brought us here tonight in the first place.
Entering the stage to the sounds of Ozzy’s Diary Of A Madman, the opening track Imperium is one such classic followed by said Catharsis opener Volatile, complete with it’s opening battle cry. And it’s a cracker too. All MFH albums have that formula that includes guttural screaming vocals with brutal chugging riffs and emotive lyrics. Chuck in some high octane guitar work, machine gun drumming and epic songs and you have the formula that is the success that is Machine Head. And it’s a formula that doesn’t get stale. Because they are the vital components that go to make up great metal. But also included within that maelstrom of power is a melodic edge that lifts the tracks from aggressive noise to become memorable tracks that get the blood pumping and the head smashing. This is metal but it is also music.
The mosh pit is always the place to be as Flynn exhorts the masses to form the biggest circle possible within the confines of the circular venue and lets them fly with warlike abandon as he launches into another power classic like the warrior kings of old unleashing their barbarian hordes on the world. This is war. There is blood spilled and casualties are taken, but there are honours earned and the thrill of victory as you survive to fight another day. Flynn is a modern day Vercingetorix uniting his worldwide tribes into a cohesive unit that is the metal family. ‘Machine Fucking Head, Machine Fucking Head’ is the battle cry of the fist pumping barbarians.
The stamina of all is put to the test as classic tracks like Ten Ton Hammer, Davidian and The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears are intermingled with new tracks like Kaleidoscope and Beyond The Pale. Even so called ‘slower songs’ like Descend the Shades of Night are as full fat as any hardly allowing the pack to gather breath. The three hours are as intense as you can get but sadly fly by far too quickly. It’s also a night good enough for two encores, ending with the anthemic Halo from The Blackening album. Flynn, a consummate front man, constantly marshals his troops and instils that feeling of family that is so common amongst metal fans everywhere. It is a night of triumph and good feeling despite the anger and frustration voiced and the blood that has been drawn.
Thankfully there are few casualties tonight as the battered and bruised, walking wounded faithful exit the plush auditorium past the bemused ushers who are more used to witnessing Vivaldi than Vercingetorix. Don’t worry though, it all happens again here tomorrow. Just mop up the spilt blood and restock the bar before we get here please. The machine that is MFH drives ever onwards regardless of what this world tries to do to stop it. And I’m firmly on board. You can keep your sanitised radio friendly music. You can keep your lovey-dovey lyrics. I’m on this caravan of catharsis and no-one is getting in its way. All aboard. It’s a rock and roller coaster of a ride where you perch precariously between sanity and madness. As Flynn sings 'Cause that's what happens when you balance life on a triple beam.’
Photos courtesy of Rob Cook
Machine Head Setlist
Now We Die
The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears
Clenching the Fists of Dissent
From This Day
Ten Ton Hammer
Is There Anybody Out There?
Beyond the Pale
Killers & Kings
Descend the Shades of Night
Exhale the Vile
Aesthetics of Hate
Helvetica Light is an easy to read font, with tall and narrow letters, that works well on almost every site.
Photos courtesy of John Bull at Rockrpix.com
The Dead Daisies
10th April 2018
Rock is dead! Rock is dead! There is no great guitar music being made any more they say. Piffle, tosh and hogwash I say to them. Music has always been a transient art and quality will always survive. It goes in cycles with popular music being guided by the masses. If it’s good, it will be created by those who love it. It’s a bit like the way we listen to music. Vinyl, changed to 8 track, to cassette to minidisc to CD to MP3 and now back again to vinyl. And so it is with the music, it changes with the times and goes in cycles. So much of our current music is based upon, or even covers of, songs of yesteryear. Reports of rocks death is greatly exaggerated. The life blood of rock music these days is not the vast record sales of yesteryear. With downloadable music draining the funds from artists, they turn to live touring to make a living. It’s rock’s ‘live-support’ system if you like. So gigs like tonight’s triumvirate of talented bands is the beating heart of today’s reviving rock scene with the attending punters the life blood. Time to get donating.
Camden’s Koko is an old theatre style venue, dating back to 1900, with a capacity of about 1400 over three levels. It’s small enough to be intimate yet holds enough to make some noise. The crowd tonight has a considerable number of gentlemen of a certain age – let’s call them ‘Koko pops’. I apologise for that terrible pun – I am a cereal offender…. But there are also many a fine lady too. Which sums up our opening act The Amorrettes. Fine ladies indeed.
Formed in 2009, they have grown as an act and supported the likes of Wasp, Airbourne and Black Star Riders as their star has risen. Entering the stage to Slade’s ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ this trio of feminine power set out to do just that. Dressed in refreshingly understated attire for an all girl group, the Scottish three-piece let their metallic brand of rock do the talking rather than their image. But still managing to look amazing whilst they do so. Lead guitarist and vocalist Gill Montgomery, sporting a fine gold Vintage V100 through a Blackstar amp, produces the full front line by herself with some skill. It’s a tough ask to provide the vocals, rhythm and searing lead but she manages with great success. Would the band benefit from a second guitarist to relieve her of some of these duties? Probably, but the band have created their sound as a three piece and it’s sounding good to me. Sisters Heather McKay – bass guitar, backing vocals and Hannah McKay – drums, backing vocals - provide the rest of the huge sound that the fine sound system at Koko pumps out to a fairly packed crowd. The set is short with a great metal rock sound without being too flashy. You don’t have to play at a hundred miles an hour to produce good metal. Sometimes less is more. Except when it comes to volume of course. Crank it up girls. With their most recent fourth album, Born to Break just released, their catalogue of music continues to grow and with collaborations like "Everything I Learned I Learned from Rock 'n' Roll", written by Montgomery and Ricky Warwick, it’s getting better all the time. They chose it as their closing number and a good choice too. Go check out one of their many gigs in a venue near you shortly.
The Amorettes Setlist
Born to Break
Let the Neighbours Call the Cops
White Russian Roulette
Bull by the Horns
Everything I Learned, I Learned From Rock 'N' Roll
So what to you give an ailing rock scene to help it recover? Well, The Treatment obviously. And it is responding well. The Cambridge 5 piece have no mean pedigree of their own. They too have supported bands like Wasp and Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy and played at festivals like Sonosphere and The Steelhouse Festival. But the band of today has changed somewhat in line-up over the years. The only original members are Dhani Mansworth on drums and the diminutive Rick "Swoggle" Newman on bass. These two stalwarts have all the energy now that they had when the band formed back in 2008 and form a fine backline for the new kids on the block. You might be thinking that you are seeing double with the front line as Tagore Grey – guitar/backing vocals and Tao Grey – guitar are yet another set of siblings gracing our stage tonight. Twin Twins. How will the Daisies emulate that. Sporting matching leather jackets, long hair and distinctive chest tattoos, these young fellas provide the rock swagger through their SG/LP style guitars. Taking to the stage to Ozzy’s ‘Runaway Train’, it’s a classic rock sound with a strong vein of metal running through it. New boy frontman Tom Rampton, who has had solo success as well as fronting bands like Louder Still, fits the line-up perfectly and delivers a short set that showcases his fine vocal talents. Despite the power of the music, this is a singers band. And the band have tracks to prove it. With great songs like The Doctor and Running In The Alley With The Dogs, this is a set that you can sing along to and fist pump with equal vigour. It even gave my mate’s jacket the horn it was so good. Finishing with their anthemic Shake The Mountain they gave a good account of themselves and were a real crowd pleaser. Announcing a tour in September with support from the wonderful Tequila Mockingbird, that is a gig we will definitely be attending to see this fine bunch of fellows perform a larger headlining set. I have no doubt they will be able to carry it off.
The Treatment Setlist
Let It Begin
I Bleed Rock+Roll
Running With The Dogs
Get the Party On
Shake the Mountain
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So to The Dead Daisies, a band I would describe as my favourite current group. Formed in 2013 they have been a revolving door of artists famed for playing in many a well-known band. And that door revolves on purpose. Whilst retaining founding member David Lowy on guitar, the Daisies have collected a wealth of talent and influences to produce 21st Century rock that wouldn’t be out of place in the 80’s. Coming with that wealth of experience is a huge nod to classic tracks from years gone by. The Daisies are no strangers to covers and, whilst their set includes much of their own fine material, there is a wealth of familiar hits to please the crowd from their younger days.
Entering the stage to Rose Tattoo’s Rock N Roll Outlaw, the five piece blast the crowd with the opening track Resurrection from their new album Burn It Down, released just days before the start of this tour. It’s proper balls out rock and a great opening track to both album and live set. Axeman Doug Aldrich sports a twin neck Gibson SG (there’s the twins I was looking for earlier – well done DD) through a Marshall JCM800. How much more rock can you get. Lowy’s accompanying Gibson Flying V through a Friedman amp provides a full bodied rock sound that will wake the dead. Marco Mendoza, a giant of a bassist in every sense quite rightly takes stage front instead of hiding at the back as many a shrinking violet (daisy?) is prone to doing. As an accomplished vocalist, he assists Corabi throughout the set. And behind all is the ‘new weed’ Deen Castronova, taking up the baton - or sticks in this case – as the pounding beat that keeps this bunch of Bellis together.
Front Man John Corabi has been there and done that with the best, including fronting for Motley Crue for a while, and is the consummate professional, at ease with his world and phased by nothing. Just as well as following the opening track there was a short stage malfunction. Treating that like just another day in the office, Corabi entertained the crowd by ‘waxing’ about a romantic liaison the day before with Kate Beckinsale in Madamme Tussaud’s well known London tourist attraction. Apparently she has some interesting qualities which will need to be verified. Kate, if you could give me a call to confirm I would be grateful. John says he forgot to take your number.
Power restored, the set proceeds with a great mix of old and new tracks, with the new album getting some rightful love. It is an excellent album and one that has not been off of my gramophone since it was released. Castronovo’s new blood seems to have infused the band with even more enthusiasm and fun which shines through both on the album but especially live. These guys are having a ball. Aldrich performs with a collection of guitars, including Les Pauls and a Telecaster style guitar, showing all the showy skills expected of a man of his calibre, although always in keeping with the song. After What Goes Around he has a moment of jamming fun which included a few bars of Zeppelins Whole Lotta Love. These guys just love their music – and that of others – and delight in playing classics whenever they can to a hugely appreciative audience. Anyone not getting down to the Zep classic must be surely dead from the hair down. Assuming they have any left. That’s not to say that their own material isn’t well received. It is. Track after track is pumped out with aplomb, including what are now classics like Mexico and Last Time I Saw The Sun, broken only by the obligatory drum solo from Castronovo which he kept thankfully brief. Nothing against his drumming skills but drum solo’s are for the purist. I’m more purile than purist.
Also from their new album is their cover of The Rolling Stone’s Bitch. What a great song to cover and again a nod to British bands who have influenced The Daisies. Their version is excellent and I am sure Keef would be delighted. After the excellent With You And I, Corabi takes the time to introduce the band members who all had their few minutes alone in the spotlight. Again, they chose to play a few bars of classic tracks which went down a storm. Marco recalled his Thin Lizzy days with a snippet of The Boys Are Back In Town whilst Aldrich had the cajones to give us Smoke On The Water. Lowy had a few bars of Highway To Hell whilst Castronovo thumped the Simmons out of I Want To Rock And Roll All Night. Finishing the introduction, Corabi showed that Dio’s Heaven And Hell is a song that few other than Dio could carry off. Corabi did so with style. Finishing the set with Midnight Moses from the underappreciated Revolucion album, the band disappeared from the stage for a nanosecond before reappearing for the obligatory encore.
The Encore opened with their epic track Judgement day, a proper heavy rocking power song and ended with yet another nod to their British rock heroes, Helter Skelter, which they covered on their 2014 EP Face I Love. And it included a few bars of Zep’s Nobody's Fault But Mine too. Scrumptious. It was a tour de force of everything that is great about rock music. Great musicians, great songs, expertly played and enjoyed by all. Here is proof that there is still great rock music being made and performed, alongside great rock from years gone by. Yes, music has become a different commodity these days, more likely to end up on a PS4 game soundtrack or an advert than being played live. But that’s how the world works. I bet when Dvorak wrote his "New World" Symphony he didn’t expect it to be used to advertise Hovis. Accept music for what it is and love the music that you love. Rock music is still very much alive. Rock music isn’t dead, it’s just pushing up The Daisies.
The Dead Daisies Setlist
Make Some Noise
Song And A Prayer
Dead And Gone
What Goes Around
Last Time I Saw The Sun
Burn It Down
All The Same
Bitch (Rolling Stones cover)
With You And I
Long Way To Go
Devil Out Of Time
Photos courtesy of The Wrinkly Rockers
Wayward Sons, Inglorious
Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith
26th January 2018
If you are going to see a band at the ‘Hammy Odeon’, they don’t get any hammier than Steel Panther. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Steel Panther are a band that likes to parody 80’s hair metal bands but are far too good as musicians to be considered a parody themselves. Dressed in obligatory 80’s spandex and leery outfits, their elaborately coiffured manes top an ensemble that Motley Crue must surely have patented. Their material is everything that your mother warned you about, which is what seems to make them as attractive an act to enjoy an evening out with as any other these days. Their lyrics are as base as you can get with subtlety truly consigned to the trash can (or dustbin as all correct English speaking people would say). You might think that a parody type band are just playing an act. Well these boys stay in character 24/7. With every song boasting sexual prowess, oversized genitalia and electromagnetic attraction to women (not that they would ever use such an under-demeaning phrase for the gentler sex), these four Californians walk the swagger and talk the Jagger.
Tonight sees a packed out audience of young rockers, many dressed up in homage to their hard partying American cousins. The 80’s hair metal fancy dress outfits have obviously sold well with many of the manly testosterone filled geezers looking prettier than their girlfriends. And more of those beautiful ladies later. Dotted amongst the youth are a few greyer hairs just as eager for an evening of irreverent schoolboy fun. As well as a few serious types who are in for a bit of a shock.
Opening act Wayward Sons are Toby Jepsons latest excellent band. The Little Angels frontman has put together a four piece of good old rock goodness that has seen remarkable success in their short existence with airplay on Planet Rock as well as appearances at Rambling Man and Hard Rock Hell.
Sporting a beautiful Gibson Flying V, through a Marshall stack, Jepson launches into Alive with all the assurance of a singer who knows his craft and knows that his material is good. Alive is an intense zombie-filled ode to hope, peace and love taken from his new album Ghost Of Yet To Come. It’s a great song from a great album.
Joining him are Sam Wood on guitar, Nic Wastell on bass, Dave Kemp on keys and Phil Martini on drums. Wood, a tall young rocker who looks like he has been lifted from an early Rush album cover, accompanies Jepson on a Les Paul whilst taking the solo limelight.
Switching to an Ibanez hollowbody, Jepson keeps the rock coming with new tracks like Ghost and Crush before dedicating Something Wrong to the recently departed Fast Eddie Clark.
Finishing the short set with their radio hit Until The End, the boys give it all they have leaving Jepsons Ibanez with all its strings broken, which he throws across stage to his beleaguered guitar tech to raise from the dead. The sound tonight is rather muddy which is a shame as the songs lose some of their bite and, at times, Jepsons voice could be clearer. But the short set is a mastery of great British rock and is hopefully the foundation of a larger catalogue and future headline tour. One I will want to see.
Wayward Sons setlist
Until the End
Following the rising stars that are the Wayward Sons, and another rock act who are going great guns, are Inglorious. Fresh from a hugely successful tour last year the 5 piece take to the stage to the curious intro music that is the theme tune to BBC’s Grandstand. Even more curious is how the packed audience manage to sing along to it with all the gusto of their favourite rock track. Because it’s fun.
Whereas Jepson and co are adorned in traditional denims and shirts, Inglorious get a lot more glitzy on us. Frontman Nathan James, a large long haired blond, appears in a dazzling sparkly black jacket whilst the twin guitar goodness is shared between Les Paul wielding Andreas Eriksson and Strat wearing Drew Lowe. Both are sporting similar black hats, with Lowe wearing a military style jacket that is schizophrenically festooned with sergeant’s chevrons, officer’s epaulettes and more medals than a GI Joe. That’s some military service record you have there Drew. Bassist Colin Parkinson is, on the other hand, quite soberly dressed in comparison whilst Captain Caveman on the drums (aka Phil Beaver) appears to be completely covered in hair. So I have no idea what he was wearing.
Inglorious are another talented bunch of musicians with frontman James a booming powerhouse of a voice, nimbly prancing around the stage flanked by the two behatted axemen. All five are active and energetic and a joy to watch. Despite the now slightly improved sound, the power of the Whitesnake/Zeppelin/Deep Purple inspired rock shines through and gets the crowd jumping. Scream for me Hammersmith cries Nathan, so the crowd duly obliges. Opening track Read All About It, is the first of a number from the new album and a hard rocking, strong vocal delight that sums up their brand of rock nicely. Breakaway allows Drew to employ a Wah to great effect taking them into a great set that includes Warning, a slow twin guitar chug which morphs into a fast rock with screaming vocals, and the radio friendly Taking The Blame. It’s a shorter set than their headline one (obviously), but no less powerful, it packs some punch and still showcases their considerable talent.
Set closers Holy Water sees Drew switch to a fabulous Fender Telecaster for a slower bluesier groove whilst their radio hit Until I Die is rightfully saved for their finale. Great stuff. I look forward to see them hitting the stage at Download later this year. They will go down a storm there just as they did tonight.
Read All About It
Change Is Coming
Taking the Blame
I Don't Need Your Loving
Until I Die
Lights go down for the headline act with a waft of peroxide pervading from the stage. The strains of Van Halen’s Everybody Wants Some heralds the entrance of the not so shy phenomenon that is Steel Panther. And everybody wants some too. Cue the boisterous moshing, fist pumping and general bonhomie that sets the scene for the next 100 minutes of classic Hammy Odeon, hammy band fun. It’s like being transported back to the halcyon days of Poison and Ratt but in the heart of London W6’s true home of metal rather than the LA strip. It’s hot, sweaty and with a hint of sardines. Much like Steel Panthers lyrics. Smells like sushi…
Those serious types who had enjoyed the more traditional rock gig up until now soon made their way to the quieter parts of the theatre, assuming they hadn’t already been inadvertently propelled there by the whirling dervishes in the mosh pits. I like a mosh or two, and don’t feel I have had a good time if I haven’t left a gig with the odd bruise or two, but this one left me with a feeling of kinship with Steve Austin. Anyone got a spare $6 million?
In true 80’s parody style, frontman Michael Starr struts around the stage, proclaiming his self-confessed importance to women and urging them to partake in ‘titty-cam’ which a surprising number are happy to do, usually sat atop the shoulders of their large boyfriends. No-one in the audience seems to have any issue with this, especially the ladies. There were times when I didn’t know where to put my face. There were other times when I clearly did but the large boyfriends made that impossible.
Guitarist Satchel dominates stage right, proudly wielding a signature Charvel pro-mod DK guitar in luminous yellow with Bengal stripes – worth almost $150 he claims. His guitar skills are top notch, when he isn’t too busy making lascivious hand gestures or arranging carnal liaisons with anyone and everyone. Sexy Lexi Foxx takes stage left where his bass playing prowess takes second place to his hair preening duties. A hand held mirror and can of Silvikrin is never far from his grasp. And backing them up is Stix on drums, out Animaling the muppets. They are a feast for the eyes, a banquet for the ears and an advert for a large lunchbox.
Opener In The Future sums up the nature of their material with every dive bomb, trill, drum fill and pout that the 80’s can throw at us whilst regaling us with a story of futuristic sex robots. Get the picture? Eyes Of The Panther is a homage to ladies of the more mature years whilst Goin' in the Backdoor is the opening track from their latest album, although clearly concerned with openings of a different variety. Interspersing these musical delights is a fair amount of banter with the crowd. Very amusing, although there were times when the talking went on just a little too long.
Asian Hooker and Tommorrow Night are classics from the Feel The Steel and Balls Out albums respectively and get the gyrating masses singing along with their stage bound heroes with every expletive at full blast. There is something delightfully liberating about shouting the worst of swear words at the top of your voice, amongst likeminded idiots.
Now I’m no stranger to the odd expletive, or sexual suggestion, many of which have proved to be anatomically impossible, but Steel Panther take it to whole new extremes. How anyone of a PC nature could not be offended is beyond me but the audience arrive expecting to be shocked and just lap it up. To suggest that the boys are misogynists would be doing misogyny a huge disservice but no one here, especially the women (chicks, babes, birds etc…) are complaining. This is no Presidents Club, more a lechers convention. If you are in any further doubt, check out the setlist.
But to concentrate on the gloriously purile and hugely enjoyable act that is Steel Panther, would be to undermine what excellent musicians these fellas are. You can’t put on a show like this if you haven’t got the musical skills to back it up. Each member has a history of playing in ‘real’ rock bands and their prowess is unashamedly flaunted for our delight and delectation. Frontman Michael Starr (aka Ralph Saenz) was briefly a singer with L A Guns. Axeman Satchel (aka Russ Parrish) has played alongside the likes of Sebastian Bach and Paul Gilbert. Drummer Stix Zadinia (aka Darren Leader) previously played with Parrish in a band called The Thornbirds whilst Bassist Lexi Foxx (aka Travis Haley) formed Steel Panther with Saenz having previously played with him in the previous incarnation Metal Skool.
Wasted Too Much Time and Poontang Boomerang, also from the latest album, almost feel like ballads before order is restored with Satchel displaying every guitar trick (or is that cliché?) in the book during his outrageously over the top solo medley which includes classic rock tracks like Sweet Child Of Mine, Iron Man and the genre defining Doh, A Deer……
A regular feature of a Steel Panther show is the invite for ladies to join the stage show, usually to encourage them to share their charms with the audience. I think even the band were taken aback when the stage was subsequently filled with young girls clamouring to join the party. There must have been sixty odd girls joining in which left the lads swamped. It was an ironically fantastic display of girl power. They completely stole the bands That’s When You Came In, conducted the crowd singalong to Weenie Ride and rocked to 17 Girls In A Row before being shepherded off of the stage by some harassed looking stage hands.
(Dis)order was restored with Glory Hole before ending the set with the anthemic Death To All But Metal. If ever there was a song that should be adopted by all metal fans as an anthem, this is it. I would like to quote you some of the lyrics but most would be censored and the lawsuits from famous musicians would be many-fold. Go Google them.
For their encore they returned to the stage for the love ballad singalong Community Property (‘My heart belongs to you, but my cock is community property…’) – Shakespeare would be proud – before signing off with Party All Night – something they, and we, would have been quite happy to do. But all good things must come to an end. Battered, bruised, ears ringing but smiling inanely, the crowd disperses back to reality. For a fleeting moment, we were badly behaved children, sniggering to naughty words and remembering a day when this sort of behaviour is what was expected of a rock star. But most of them are dead now.
Lemmy once stated that if Motorhead moved next door to you, your lawn would die. If Steel Panther moved next door they would probably try to smoke your lawn instead. After having a chick filled party on it first. Party on dudes.
Steel Panther setlist
Everybody Wants Some!! (Van Halen song)
In the Future
Eyes of a Panther
Goin' in the Backdoor
Wasted Too Much Time
That's When You Came In
17 Girls in a Row
Death to All but Metal
Party All Day (Fuck All Night)
King King/Rhino’s Revenge
Shepherds Bush Empire, London
17th January 2018
Life is all about choices. One of which is which band do I go to see for my first review of 2018? Do I go and see the fabulous Sari Schorr at the Half Moon in Putney or do I see King King and Rhino’s Revenge at the Shepherds Bush Empire? Tough decision. Now I could make some terribly contrived play on words about ‘A bird in a band is worth two at the Bush’ but that would be contemptible on so many levels…. So I won’t. Instead, I will tell you that I opted for the latter, and a good choice it was too.
A wet and blustery Wednesday night finds yours truly rocking up at the excellent Shepherds Bush Empire, the iconic music venue, originally built in the early 1900’s as a music hall. So a pedigree venue that has pleasingly been catering for musical tastes, as originally intended, for over a century. With a capacity of about 2000, the theatre style venue has a large standing auditorium with seated circles and boxes. It is of a size that allows both a feeling of crowding and intimacy with excellent acoustics. Tonight sees that capacity near full with stalwart blues lovers, busy enough for a great atmosphere but with enough room to swing a zimmer or make a break for the loos. So how do opening support act Rhino’s Revenge go down with this blues loving crowd?
Rhino’s Revenge is the touring band of Status Quo bassist’s John "Rhino" Edwards. A self-confessed revolving door or artists, Rhino describes the band as being like a low league football team, constantly utilising on-loan players. Well he has managed to get some Premier League players in his current team. The trio consists of Rhino on bass and vocals with FM’s Jim Kirkpatrick on guitar and drummist Richard Newman, who has worked with the likes of Paul Rogers and Rory Gallagher,
on percussion. The set consists of a number of Status Quo covers but is also varied enough to be described as blues, rock and even punk at times. Rhino is a cheerful frontman at ease chatting with the crowd whilst having a great time playing some Quo tracks that might not make a Quo setlist but are deserving of some live airplay love.
Opening track One Note Blues sets the scene with a great blues boogie getting the crowd warmed nicely. Guitarist Kirkpatrick sports a lovely blond Fender Telecaster and is the vibrant sound of the band with Rhino and Newman providing the strong rhythmic backing. The setlist meanders through whimsical tracks like My Name Is Stan – a song written about Rhino’s dog – to the politically charged Republican. Written 20 plus years ago about bigoted US politicians, the song resonates today all the more than the day it was penned. Although the set included a number of Quo covers, this didn’t feel like a Quo set – the songs were distinct enough to make this a Rhino Revenge gig rather than a Quo tribute band. In fact the only track that felt like a Quo track was closing song Two Way Traffic, a radio staple from the 2011 album Quid Pro Quo. The set was entertaining and musically tight. Rhino has a good voice and is able to multitask the incredibly difficult challenge of playing bass and singing. A much more difficult feat than you might think. With a number of dates booked in the coming months, go out and see the Rhino to make sure he doesn’t become an endangered species.
Rhino’s Revenge set list
One Note Blues
Belavista Man (Status Quo cover)
Gravy Train (Status Quo cover)
Busy Doing Nothin'
My Name Is Stan
Bad News (Status Quo cover)
Two Way Traffic (Status Quo cover)
King King are a band I have seen a number of times before and was due to see at the end of 2017 but the gig was cancelled due to voice issues for lead singer Alan Nimmo. Indeed, I reviewed their gig in November 2016 and the cherubic Mr Nimmo was suffering with health issues then. Tonight, he took to the stage in fine form and in hale and hearty health. It’s the opening night of his new tour which he describes as being a baptism of fire playing at such a prestigious venue. But Mr Nimmo is too modest. King King have been a rising star that have had commercial success as well as professional recognition. The Shepherd’s Bush Empire is the obvious choice for a band of this stature. And the size of the obviously devoted crowd supports this too.
The four piece consists of frontman Glaswegian Nimmo swapping between his trusty ‘Fat Strat’, which gets the bulk of attention, and a very tasty Gibson Les Paul. Played through some sumptuous Budda Superdrive amp heads, this is a real quality tone rig. The humbucker on the silver Fat Strat gives the superb blues axe that extra kick in the sporran and the Les Paul just drips warmth.
The smiling Lowlander is supported by regulars Lindsay Coulson on bass and Wayne Proctor on drums and completing the line up on keys is new boy Jonny Dyke. Although Nimmo is the focus of the band with his exquisite vocals and guitars skills, Dyke provides the strong rhythm and melody to each song. Utilising a mix of organ and piano, there are hints of the band that Nimmo’s Whitesnake t-shirt proclaims.
The set is a nice choice of new tracks from the latest album Exile & Grace, released in October 2017, as well as some tracks that can now be considered old favourites. Although debut album Standing In The Shadow was only released in 2013. Set opening track (She Don’t) Gimme No Loving, also the opening track of the album, starts with an intro showcase of Dyke’s organ skills before developing into a full on blues rock track. Nimmo holds the stage – bright red tartan kilt and suede workboots sharply contrasting his black rock t-shirt – with his beaming childlike smile warming the hearts, and making him look like a big kid in a sweet shop. His silver Strat is put through its paces with a dexterity that is intricate but not overly flashy. Its rock blues played the way it should be. With thanks to the audience patience – the gig was rearranged cancelation last year due to his voice issues – the band follow with Waking Up from the King King Live album. Another rocky blues track, it shows that the voice is back where it should be. No signs of damage or decay here. The slower and more melodic You Stopped The Rain is a thoughtful song written about his brother Stevie’s illness. Melodic, but not gloomy, it’s a heartfelt song about dealing with suffering, although with a positive lilt. It gives the big man a chance to wear his big heart on his big sleeve.
Switching to the Les Paul, Nimmo raises the environmental banner with Broken, a song about the damage being done to the planet. A serious subject, yet played with that ecstatic smile on his face, the song is a with a strong singalong chorus ably supported by Dykes organ sound. It’s another from the new album that looks like will become a staple set list track. Switching back to the Strat, and keeping Dyke very much to the fore, Long History Of Love from the Standing In The Shadows album is a real crowd pleaser with a surprisingly strong crowd singalong. That is the benefits of having sensible sound levels – great band sound and the ability to hear the crowd. It’s a mellow blues ballad with a great keyboard solo. Great song.
Lose Control and Rush Hour are older songs and crowd favourites with further crowd participation. New album track Long Time Running shows off Proctors drumming skills, with hints of the Rolling Stones about the track, before Nimmo switches back to the Les Paul for Stranger To Love. Unusually, he dedicates the track to a member of the audience who is celebrating their birthday. Cheaper than buying a card I suppose. It’s a slow sultry blues track, in the Paul Rogers style with an extensive guitar solo allowing us to experience the delightful sounds of Gibson’s premiere export. The solo dips and builds with the now famous acoustic playing (i.e. not through the amp) to a near silent audience straining to hear the sound of wire and wood echoing off of the cavernous music hall walls. The song certainly finished on a high, both musically and sonically.
Set closers saw Nimmo switch back to the Strat again for classic rock blues track Crazy and then getting funky with All Your Life. This gave the band the chance for some serious jamming to the rapturous applause of the masses.
The obligatory encores saw the four heroes emerge with beaming smiles and launch into new track Find Your Way Home, a slow rock type ballad that has hints of 80’s AOR stadium rock about it before finishing up with the ever popular Let Love In. As a happy band left the stage, the infectious Nimmo grin had found its way onto every face in the venue. Shepherds Bush Empire building was completed in the King King reign. Job done. Well Done
On an evening of choices, the bands choice of tracks were a great mix of songs showcasing their multiple talents and showed that my choice of gig was a good one. What a great way to start a new year of music. Let’s hope both bands have a successful year ahead, with albums to tour and fans to amass. They are definitely worth a view, both are great bands. This wasn’t just a good gig. It was choice.
King King set list
(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin
You Stopped The Rain
Long History Of Love
Long Time Running
All Your Life
Find Your Way Home
Let Love In
Photo's courtesy of Edyta Krzeska and Paul Hine