I have just got hold of the new 4-track EP by Eight Rounds Rapid - you know, the band that supported Wilko Johnson at his farewell shows last month and who feature his son Simon on razor-sharp guitar - and it is, to use a technical term, bloody great. The item in question can be purchased from their website here - I suppose it's unlikely that I for one would have heard of the band without the Wilko connection (and it's very difficult for me to keep that out of the equation) but I genuinely think that they're a very good band well worthy of attention. Have a listen and see what you think... and talking of the mighty Mr. Johnson he has announced that following a guest appearance with Madness last Friday he has played his last live show. It's weird isn't it - since the announcement that he is suffering from terminal cancer he's played some extraordinary farewell shows, and I bet I wasn't the only person kidding themselves that 'he'll be alright after all'? You can see him playing with the band here and read the story here - let's hope he enjoys his time in retirement.
Last Friday saw a launch party for the new Ruts D.C. album 'Rhythm Collision Volume 2' at The Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, Birmingham. There was a certain amount of confusion as to whether the band would be playing or not - Dave and Segs were always going to be DJ-ing, The Cracked Actors and the Black Bombers were always going to be providing live musical entertainment, I was (ahem!) always going to be behind the merchandise table with CDs and T-shirts a-plenty, but it was never actually advertised as a Ruts D.C. gig... a few days earlier I had a phone conversation with Segs which went along the lines of 'so if we were to borrow some drums and amps and play as a three-piece, what songs could we play?' Good question!
My good friend Big Andy (who is!) joined me behind the merchandise desk while The Black Bombers (great garage-y rock'n'roll, definitely worth keeping an eye on) and The Cracked Actors (reggae/ska stuff, good but they played for a bit too long for me) did their stuff and Dave and Segs span some tracks in between times. We'd had a 'so what songs could we play then?' chat in the dressing room earlier in the evening and had come up with a rough plan - in the event we played (from memory so I might be wrong) 'Whatever We Do' / 'It Was Cold' / 'Backbiter' / 'Dope For Guns' / Staring At The Rude Boys' / 'In A Rut' and an encore of 'Babylon's Burning' to scenes of not-inconsiderable audience mayhem. Segs and Dave told a couple of very funny stories, I met Roland Link who wrote 'Kicking Up A Racket', a biography of Stiff Little Fingers and who is currently writing a book on The Ruts / Ruts D.C. and everyone I spoke to thought the evening was a great success. I think it was too!
On Saturday evening The Upper Cut journeyed to Welwyn Garden City to play at Grant and Rachel's joint 40th birthday party at Panshanger Golf Club. It had been a while since I'd played at an event such as this - I always remind myself that the live entertainment is only a small part of the evening (after all, it's the person or people that the party is being thrown for that should be the centre of attention don't you think?) and that for that reason it's not a 'gig' as such, more a gathering of family and friends that happens to have a disco and a live band. I suppose this is all to make me feel better when the band is all but ignored which is something that so often happens at nights like this - we weren't ignored this time but you could feel people wondering why we were there and why the disco wasn't happening all evening. That said we did get some nice comments from a few people and there was no outright hostility so overall it was definitely a 'more-pluses-that-minuses' sort of evening - and the band hadn't played for a while so it was good to all get together again.
Sunday morning rehearsals seem to be the way of things with Back To Zero, and this week it was my turn for a local one - Andy, Sam, Squirrel and myself amassed outside RnR Studios in Uxbridge at 10am and waited...and waited... and waited... eventually a sheepish lad turned up to let us in mumbling about 'forgetting to put the clocks forward'. Well, I guess we've all done it haven't we? Over the next four hours we ran through all the material that we're intending to play at next month's gigs, and I have to say that it's all sounding rather fine. There's often a moment in rehearsals when you stop sounding like a band of musicians and start sounding like a 'band' - ours was somewhere on Sunday morning. There's still a keyboard player to add and one of the original singers is going to guest on a few songs but as it stands at the moment Back To Zero are already sounding good to my ears.
After a couple of late nights and an early morning I spent a fair bit of Sunday afternoon asleep - I'm sure that didn't used to happen when I was younger? Hmmm... anyway at 8.30 in the evening I was using the magic of Skype to talk to Rich, Tom and Ian of Music Scene Investigation, and from 9-10pm we all participated in the latest podcast of said programme. We had three good songs to review this time (that's not always the case!) as you can tell if you watch the show here - I still think that song 3 was the best don't you?
Of course after being asleep half the day I was wide awake at 10 o'clock in the evening, which meant that I was able to pop down to The Crown And Treaty where an all-day festival of original (as opposed to cover) bands was taking place. When I got there a rather scary black metal band were playing (sadly I don't know their name - incidentally if they ever read this and think 'hang on a minute, we're not black metal' than I apologise profusely!) and I'd arranged to meet my old mates Pete (still recovering from last week's SLF gig) Grant and Sam with whom I cowered at the back (it wasn't much quieter there to be honest!) before moving nearer to the stage to watch Frowser. I last saw them many (15?) years ago when I remember them being very impressive although it wasn't really my type of thing - Grant is a bit of a fan, Sam is less convinced and Pete missed them as he decided he'd had enough to drink and went home. I must say he did look as though he'd been there a while... anyway they were still very impressive although they're still not really my type of thing, although it must be said that it's great to see them still playing and indeed writing new material. However I have to agree with Sam's analysis that you 'watch them and think they're great but you can't remember a single song in the morning'. He's correct - I think they are, and no you can't...
Happy Easter everyone! Yeah!