Well I didn't play any shows myself last weekend (or at least I wasn't intending to...) but I did see a couple of bands :-
Friday night at The Crown and Treaty in Uxbridge and a young band called Girl In the Garden take to the stage. I'd seen a poster for them in the venue the previous weekend and Sam had said that he'd seen them and they were good so Pete, him and myself decided to go along. Sam was correct, they were good, very tight and well-rehearsed - something that we all agreed we were not even close to being at their age! I was a bit disappointed when they played a few cover versions as their own material was very good but I suspect it was to allow them to play in places like this where a lot of the audience want to hear familiar material. They reminded me a bit of The Arctic Monkeys (no bad thing) although I must say that overall I was very struck by what good players they all are - I suppose that in these days of guitar institutes and online tuition everybody is a virtuoso now. Is it just me or does it make them sound a bit, for want of a better term, grown up? It'll be interesting to see where they go next.
Rockstock at The Halfway House in Barnes couldn't have been more different than the previous night's band. They feature the ever-excellent Pete Parks on guitar, Andy Heart on bass and vocals and the brilliantly-named Ivan Hoe (you don't know how much I hope that's his real name!) on drums and they offer what I guess could best be called 'classic rock covers'. Unlike Girl In The Garden this wasn't exactly a slick performance, being basically Pete and Ivan having a go at whichever song Andy called up. Well either that or the rehearsal studio was closed... that said they attempted some very ambitious material (as I was to discover!) and they mostly pulled it off, albeit with the odd wrong turn here and there. In the interval Pete asked me if I fancied doing a couple of numbers with them - somehow I found myself attempting 'Pinball Wizard' and (gulp!) 'Stairway To Heaven' (whatever happened to a bit of 12 bar rock 'n'roll eh lads?!?) and all things considered I didn't make too bad a job of them, although as usual I wouldn't have mentioned it here if it had...
Time for the first studio rehearsal (as opposed to getting together around one of our houses) for Back To Zero, at Soundlab Studios in Loughton. In the course of the session we looked at seven songs including both sides of their 1979 single 'Your Side Of Heaven' / 'Back To Back', and without wishing to sound too big headed they all sounded pretty good to me. It certainly sounded good for our first time in a studio together, although I guess that proves the worth of our earlier meetings. There's still a lot of work to do before our gigs in May but talking to Andy and Sam in the pub afterwards (Squirrel sadly couldn't stick around) we all agreed that this is a band that we're all getting really excited about. Excellent!
The Friday just gone (March 1st in case you're getting confused - I know I am!) saw Tropic At Ruislip invaded by punk rockers (mostly middle-aged punk rockers, but punk rockers nonetheless) for an evening with The Pistols and The Ramonas. I'd been looking forward to seeing The Ramonas for a while as I'd heard good things about them, and I must say that they didn't disappoint. I suppose an all girl Ramones tribute band is only ever going to be a bit of a one line gag - but it's a good gag, and the girls do a fine job of emulating Da Bruddas, even if the shouts of 'One-Two-Three-Four!' are in a rather higher pitch than I remember them. And The Pistols were great too - it's always interesting to see a band that I've recently depped in, and the excellent Steve Tones was in fine form throughout as were the rest of the band. Paul / Rotten did however break rule number 1 in the live music performance handbook when he decided to take the mickey out of Phil the soundman - I suppose Phil could have chosen to retaliate with a wall of feedback so the resulting silence from Paul's microphone was probably the best option, at least from the audience point of view. It was great to see plenty of people at the gig too - a fine night all round.
Saturday night I depped in The Atlantic Soul Machine at Patrick's Bar in Crystal Palace. I played with the band on Christmas Eve which must have gone well since they asked me back (!) and although there wasn't chance to get together for a rehearsal this time the show was if anything better than my first outing with them. We were joined by John O'Leary for a version of Howlin' Wolf's 'Who's Been Talkin'' ('It's on the 'Rocking Chair' album' said John cheerily, which only added to the confusion of the band members that hadn't heard the song) and started the second set with the previously unrehearsed 'Ooga-Boo-Ga-Loo' by The Jazz Crusaders (no,I'd not heard it before either) both of which could have gone horribly wrong but thankfully sounded good. There was much dancing and merriment from the enthusiastic audience, and everyone seemed to be happy with the show which is always a relief from my point of view as a sub-sti-tute. And it was good to see Pete Feenstra again too - he remains as tireless as ever in his promoting of live music in London, which can only be a good thing for all concerned.
And talking of seeing bands that I've recently depped in, last night I saw The Good Old Boys at The Brushwood Inn (it'll always be The Turks Head to me!) in Hillingdon. Bill's depping for Nick on bass but other than that it was The A-Team of Alan on vocals, Pete and Simon on guitars and Hud on drums; with an early start in prospect I got there around 7.40 pm to find them already into their first set which sounded good if a bit loud for the room. (God I must be getting old!) Add to that the fact that they were mostly playing to lads who had been there all afternoon for the Arsenal vs. Chelsea match and so weren't too interested in the music and you've got the recipe for a somewhat patchy first set. Things improved considerably in the second half not least because more of the band's followers had arrived by then, and by the last few songs it was definitely a case of 'all's well that end's well' - at least it was until the aforementioned lads decided to get a bit too boisterous with each other and a small set-to ensued. It's always a shame when that happens, and it's definitely a shame when there's a band on as it might put people off from supporting live music at the pub in the future. Let's hope not, as the pub is only just starting to put groups on and the area could definitely do with a venue.
Right - this week sees Ruts D.C. play in Newport and Bristol, Wilko Johnson's farewell gigs and another Back To Zero rehearsal. A good few days in prospect then...