Friday, June 28, 2013

Ruts D.C. are touring with The Damned! Oh yes!

Issue 13 of the always-worth-reading Vive Le Rock magazine is out this week, with lots of good stuff as always including articles on The Cramps, Primal Scream, The Undertones, New Model Army among others. It's also got this advert on page 27, to which I have very little else to add...

Monday, June 24, 2013

The utter madness of the good old (sinner)boys...

So in my post - Stooges delirium what better way to spend my first Friday night off in a while than watching top Rory Gallagher tribute band Sinnerboy at Tropic At Ruislip? There could have, indeed should have been more people in attendance but the band didn't let that bother them (or if they did then they didn't show it) as they powered their way through two sets of the mighty Mr. G's finest work. Given the renowned excellence of Rory Gallagher as a live act (and if you don't know much about the man have a look at this astonishing performance of 'Shadow Play' from The Montreux Jazz Festival in 1979 - I saw him play around this time and he was absolutely incredible) it almost goes without saying that attempting to recreate his stage sound is a big ask, but the band made a great job of it. I was always a big Gallagher fan, and I must admit that I hadn't heard some of the songs for absolutely ages - time to dig out 'Irish Tour '74' methinks... and indeed it was a good day all round, as I spent the afternoon working on some potentially new song ideas for Ruts D.C. with Dave Ruffy. Yes that's right, new song ideas for Ruts D.C. - how cool is that?

Saturday evening Utter Madness played at a party in a Wandsworth back garden. I'd not met Paul the drummer before - he played with the band many years ago and was making his first appearance with them for a very long time, although you'd have been hard pushed to notice as he did an absolutely splendid job. Talking to him in the pub before the show he revealed himself to be an old mate of the afore-mentioned Mr. Ruffy; he also has played for the likes of The Alarm and Then Jericho which gives you some idea of the high standard of his playing. The show itself was a 75 minute long blast of Madness hits and assorted ska favourites which went excellently well, with everyone on top form and much audience merriment throughout. A good night's work - and it was a good afternoon's work yesterday when I depped with The Good Old Boys at another garden party, this time in Sunbury. Our two sets seemed to last no time at all - always a good sign - and while I was aware of a few mistakes on my part the rest of the band seemed to be pleased with my efforts, which can only be a good thing. Oh and I got to play 'Pick Up The Pieces' with Richard Hudson of Hudson Ford and 'Hush' with Nick Simper of Deep Purple. Excellent!

This coming Saturday Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks visit The Dolphin in Uxbridge; they're also out gigging the night before but my good friend Pete is stepping in for me as I'm depping in The Repertoire Dogs. I haven't played with them since last February, and the last time I did I was violently sick after the show. Hope that doesn't happen this time...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Savage Stooges

Last night I went to see Iggy and the Stooges supported by Savages at The Royal Festival Hall as part of the Yoko Ono-curated Meltdown Festival. If ever a night promised much, it was this one. If ever a night delivered much, it was this one...

I'd heard a lot about Savages, not least from Segs who had posted 'Shut Up' on the Ruts D.C. Facebook page and raved about them generally; the four black-clad figures who made their way onto the stage just after 7.30pm might have been boys, might have been girls, a quick 'Hi!' and we're into the first number, jagged bass and guitar lines colliding with syncopated drums with a solitary vocal soaring above, below, within you and without you. An hour later it ends and what a long strange trip it's been, where The Velvet Underground met Siouxsie And The Banshees at Joy Division's house for white light, speed and cupcakes. I think I liked them although I could be wrong; if I ever find myself with a bit of spare cash I'll buy their album and see if I can decide either way. It feels like it's the least that I can do.

Suddenly James Williamson's guitar is the loudest thing that any of us has ever heard - the opening riff of 'Raw Power' roars out as the rest of the band scramble into place, desperate to get their instruments fired up as Iggy Pop sprints across the stage, dancing to the beat of the living dead as the band that never bit the weenie soars into orbit around him. 'Gimme Danger little stranger' - the pace drops as the intensity rises, new songs follow old songs follow new songs follow old songs, huge slabs of sound ricochet around a room that can hardly contain what's happening within. Tonight 'Search And Destroy' isn't just the best song title ever, it's the best song ever, a tumultuous celebration of rock 'n' roll at it's most potent and powerful. Iggy wants the whole audience to join the band on stage for 'Fun House' and suddenly everybody wants to be in The Stooges, but surely everybody who's there is in The Stooges anyway - at least that's how it feels, it's us against the world and the world doesn't stand a chance. 'Joanna' and 'Beyond The Law' slam into 'Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell' and 'No Fun', 'I Wanna Be your Dog' is heavier than heavy, louder than loud, greater than great. After 'Sex And Money' from the new album 'Ready To Die' Iggy sneers 'you'll all like it in 40 years time' - but suppose we all like it now? Suppose the world finally caught up with The Stooges at last? What A Wonderful World this would be, as someone once sang. Meanwhile 'Open Up And Bleed' and 'The Departed' take the mood down below sea level before a bone-crushing 'Louie Louie' bombs out the last pockets of resistance. It's all over - or is it? No one leaves the stage - 'better play another song then' says our leader and an outrageous 'Cock In My Pocket' brings an unforgettable evening to a close. Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin, and The Stooges rule - ok?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Welcome to the cheap seats

It's been a case of 'played two, watched one' this weekend for your humble narrator :-

Friday saw The Upper Cut venture South of the River Thames for the first time; I depped with The Atlantic Soul Machine at Patrick's Bar in Crystal Palace back in March, and remembering it to be a basement venue I decided to take my Fender combo as it's a bit lighter than my recently acquired Marshall. (Yeah I know - but like all six foot tall men I'm a complete wimp!) When we got there the very nice young lady behind the bar told us that we were playing upstairs, and indeed the house P.A. system had already been set up for us. Given the fact that the guv'nor told us after the show that he thought that we'd been a bit loud maybe it's just as well that the mighty Marshall didn't make an appearance? While we were setting up a cheery chappie came over and told us that he was Phil Lynott's cousin; he then went on to tell us that he'd been in prison and The Army. He seemed happy enough... overall the band played very well if not excellently, and although it took a a while for things to get going (and indeed for the audience to arrive as there was only a handful of people in the bar when we started playing - the venue is on the Crystal Palace Triangle and we were told that people wander from bar to bar throughout the evening) we ended up playing a couple of encores and being rebooked for July 26th. It's good when that happens, although remind me to adjust the lights before we start playing next time as both Roger and myself were nearly driven insane by the strobe effect setting. Nasty!

The next night Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at The Wishing Well in Hayes. You know it's interesting - when you tell people that you're playing in Hayes you generally get comments like 'take a crash helmet', 'wear some armour' and even 'you're going to get killed'. It's funny how some places just have that sort of reputation isn't it? Well in this case they were all wrong (and yes I did get comments like that) as it turned out to be a highly enjoyable evening with everyone in the band on top form and our 2+ hour performance (I didn't realise that we knew that many songs!) going down very well with all concerned. The Blistering Buicks are becoming a very good little band!

And talking of good little bands last night I ventured over to The O2 Arena to see that well-known mod band The Who. I'd heard some very mixed reports about the venue, from some folk calling it the best 'big' venue in the country to others saying that they would never visit it again. I'd always much prefer to see a band in a smaller venue, and as I sat something like a quarter of a mile from the stage (I was in what I believe are referred to as 'the vertigo seats') wondering just how long I could make a £5 plastic glass of flat lager last I don't mind admitting that I was ready to unconditionally hate the evening - I'm pleased to say that any such thoughts disappeared a few seconds into Vintage Trouble's first song. I was first alerted as to their excellence by fellow former Chicago Blues Brothers man Matt who recommended this clip of them playing 'Blues Hand Me Down'; I subsequently bought their excellent 'The Bomb Shelter Sessions' album and so were really looking forward to seeing them play. Indeed if I'm honest it was their presence on the bill that convinced me to get a ticket, as I'd hesitated for a while not least due to the expense. (You and I both know that I'd have gone anyway, but I'm trying to play hard to get here! Incidentally I bought a ticket just a few days ago on Seatwave for well below than the face value. Result!) Great as the album is if anything they're an even more dynamic prospect live, with singer Ty Taylor an unstoppable ball of energy and charisma and the rest of the band up there with him all the way. Much of their set was presumably new songs (well, they're not on the album) but it's a testament to their quality that the rapidly-arriving audience was singing along with choruses and joining in at every opportunity. That said they weren't really given much choice - Vintage Trouble didn't come across  a support band, but more as a headline act, a great band from the moment they hit stage to when they left it to walk through the audience to sign merchandise at the back of the hall. I've never seen a band in a venue this size do that before. Absolutely brilliant. 
The Who, as seen from
Block 416, Row P, Seat 835.
Well it looked like them
on the screens...
So how do The Who follow that? Simple - with the sound of the sea. 'Quadrophenia' often splits the jury even among their most ardent followers, with many finding it overwrought and difficult to get close to, while others consider it to be the band's crowning achievement. Me? Well I'm definitely a long way nearer to the second analysis that the first, and as such I guess I'm very unlikely to give any show that features the album in it's entirety a bad review - that said the last time that I saw them perform it back in 2010 it was one of the least convincing shows that I'd ever seen the band play. Not so this time - with a completely new stage set and background films (no 'talking head' narration this time) and a lot of new faces in the band the whole thing worked wonderfully well, with Pete Townshend playing superbly and Roger Daltrey's vocals continuing to amaze. And thanks to the wonders of modern technology their departed bandmates both made appearances, with John Entwistle 'playing' a bass solo during '5.15' and Keith Moon's classic vocal in 'Bellboy' bringing a massed smile to the audience's faces. And it was great to hear 'Drowned' played by the band rather than as a solo acoustic piece by Townshend - I don't think I've heard it played electrically since way back in the early '80s. I thought the films worked particularly well especially during the two instrumental pieces 'Quadrophenia' and 'The Rock', with the former using footage from the end of World War II through to the mod era of the 1960s and the latter continuing the story up to the 9/11 attacks. As 'Love Reign O'er Me' bought things to a suitably epic climax the audience's reaction seemed to me to be more like the reverential applause that you might get at a classical concert rather than the euphoric type normally associated with rock shows - that's not to say that it didn't go down well, more that it seemed to get an extraordinary amount of respect from the assembled multitude. Maybe 'Quadrophenia' is now seen in a different, more 'serious' light? 
Meanwhile in the vertigo seats the beery bunch of lads next to me didn't seem to know it at all, wondering loudly if Ve Ooo were gunna to play any ov vere old stuff - they didn't seem too familiar with 'Who Are You' or 'You Better You Bet' either, although 'Pinball Wizard' seemed to get their attention to the stage for at least a couple of minutes. Meanwhile the rest of the audience had left their previous reverence well behind, and with mayhem and chaos erupting all around a thunderous end salvo of 'Baba O'Riley' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' bought the band's contribution to the evening to a magnificent close. It only remained for Townshend and Daltrey to finish proceedings with an oddly fragile-sounding 'Tea And Theatre' - as I left my seat the beery lads were contemplating where vey were gunna get anuvver drink from, while the rest of us were safe in the knowledge that the two surviving members of The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band In The World had kept us all from wondering what we would do without The Who for another day. 

A fine evening all round - and there's another one on the horizon this Thursday...

Friday, June 14, 2013

'Radio waves... move like pollen in air...'

Commercial time - here are a few things that have caught my eyes and ears over the past couple of weeks :-

GLM - the band formed by original Lurkers members Pete Stride (guitar), Nigel Moore (bass) and Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes (drums) - have put a new track 'A Perfect Storm' up for free download on their website. There is also an interview with Mr. Stride on the always-worth-visiting Louder Than War website in which among other things he talks of the band playing some live shows later this year. To fans of The Lurkers (and indeed GLM) like myself this is splendid news! In addition Esso has made an extraordinary appearance with Garry Bushell on the Radio Litopia podcast. Have a listen here - it's very funny, but it's not for the faint-hearted...

It's been a good time for drummers on the (Internet) radio, as Dave Ruffy from Ruts D.C. appeared on Shoreditch Radio last Friday, telling some great stories and playing some of his favourite music. You can hear it here, and it's well worth a listen. And while we're on the subject of Ruts D.C. our new album 'Rhythm Collision Volume 2' is now available on vinyl as well as CD - you can get it now from Amazon or from the band at forthcoming gigs. A record - a proper record! Great stuff!

And I've just heard the extraordinary news that Wilko Johnson is apparently planning some more shows despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer and indeed playing a series of farewell gigs earlier this year. What can I say? Well 'thank you God' springs to mind... in the meantime you can click here to hear the great man's recent appearance on the BBC Radio 4 show 'Mastertapes' - highlights are many and varied, not least when he's asked if he has ever used any effects on his guitar -

'Pedals? Listen man, I'm a guitarist, not a cyclist!'

Comments like that go a long way towards explaining why he's also a hero.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You upset me baby

It's been something of a 'bits-and-pieces-week' since last we spoke...

The last time Ruts D.C. visited The Music Complex in Deptford was to rehearse for last month's show at The Underworld in Camden; rather than busy ourselves with serious work as our 'big London gig' was on the immediate horizon we chose to attempt most if not all of our set in a rockabilly style before going to the pub opposite. Last Tuesday's gathering was a bit different, as with no gigs for a while we decided to get together to look at some other songs from the band's back catalogue as well as trying out some ideas for new numbers. Well that was the plan - what actually happened was that decided to play a few songs from our set in the style of The Upsetters (well, we'd jammed a few chords that we thought sounded a bit like them and then found ourselves playing 'West One (Shine On Me)' in a similar way. Strange but true. Incidentally if you follow this link you'll see the afore-mentioned song from our Southampton show a few weeks ago - watch the chap in front of me during the guitar solo and you'll see him making a well-known gesture at me throughout. I didn't think it was that bad!) before... no, not going to the pub (we did that after the session!) but actually getting down to what we were there for. Many an-idea was tried, arrangements were altered, and we all felt that progress was made. Another similar session is planned for the not-too-distant future - more news as and when I have it, as they say.

Well so far so good - except that by the time I got home I wasn't feeling too well. We'd only had a couple of drinks (honest!) so that wasn't the cause; however after an early night I woke up the next day feeling as though I hadn't been to sleep, all heavy limbs and heavier head. I managed to stumble through a day at Balcony Shirts before going home and falling asleep for an hour-and-a-bit. Rock'n'roll eh? Still I felt a bit better so made it back into Uxbridge to meet Scott from the shop at Harris + Hoole where he was due to play a short acoustic set with your humble narrator joining him for a couple of songs. When I got there a chap who's name escapes me (Sorry! But I'd not been well!) was playing some difficult sounding jazz piano (I'm not entirely sure that there's any easy sounding jazz piano, but that's another story. Mind you, what do I know?!?) which sounded very appropriate in the context of the venue and indeed the evening. Next up was John Napier who I first met back in the 1980s when his band Hector's House played a few shows with The Price. I always thought that he wrote good songs back then and if his set here was anything to go by he still does. Scott then played a couple of songs before asking me to join him for 'Ain't No Pleasing You' and 'Taarabt's Too Good For You', both of which went well not least considering that the extent of our rehearsal was to decide on keys and talk through the songs when I arrived at the coffee shop. It could all have gone horribly wrong but thankfully it didn't. Last on was R.W. Hedges, a good friend of Scott's who did very well in the Mojo magazine 'New Voice' competition a couple of years ago. He'd put the evening together and finished proceedings very well. All in all a highly enjoyable evening in an excellent venue - let's hope they put more musical events on there in the future.

Fridy evening saw The Upper Cut return to The Admiral Nelson in Twickenham for the first time in quite a while. I took the opportunity to try out my newly-acquired Marshall combo as mentioned in these hallowed pages last week - I didn't get as much time as I would have liked to get to grips with it during the week (I've not been well you know!) but overall I think I've made a good purchase as it certainly sounded good where I was standing. It's definitely a 'rockier' sounding amplifier than my Fender (as you would expect) and to be honest it might be a bit much for The Upper Cut but I might give it another go this weekend (we're at Patrick's Bar in Crystal Palace this coming Friday) and see how it sounds. The show was a good one too, with everyone playing well and ending with Sue the landlady offering us money to play for longer. This happened in Colnbrook last month too - maybe we should just charge more and then play for longer?

After a Saturday in the shop (not too busy but busy enough) I had what felt like my first Saturday night off in ages - at last a chance to catch up with things that need doing and maybe even have an early night given that I'd not been feeling well earlier in the week... obviously I didn't do anything of the sort as I went to The Crown And Treaty to see punk covers band No Lip. They feature my old mate Pete Bradshaw on guitar (back in the day he was known to many as 'Suts' after attempting to adopt the stage name Peter Sutcliffe - they were odd times...) and did a pretty good job of summoning up the spirit of '77. And Pete and myself did a pretty good job of drinking far too many drinks after the show. Well - Saturday night out and all that...

And last night it was back to The Three Wishes in Edgware for the the Monday night jam session. An enjoyable evening all round, and it's a regular event that's well worth a visit - you can find their Facebook page here if you're interested. I'm still a bit surprised that I like it as much as I do...

And if you're in the Hayes area this Saturday evening Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks have a short notice gig at The Wishing Well (it's on the Uxbridge Road opposite the police station - you can do your own 'that'll be handy for when the fight breaks out'-type punchlines if you like...) which should be an interesting evening, not least because they've only just started putting bands on there. Let's hope there's an audience!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Whole lotta shakin' goin' on

As I think I mentioned a posting or two ago in the midst of various gigging expeditions both near and far over the last couple of months I've also been (somehow!) managing to do some days at Balcony Shirts. With the gigs a bit fewer and further between for the next few weeks it's been back behind the counter for your humble narrator, and I'd all but forgotten how busy it can get in there, with stag and hen parties, holiday shirts, corporate work wear and more alongside the t-shirts that the shop usually produces. Back to work in the real(-ish) world then! Still not playing as much myself gives me chance to get along to see some bands, starting with Lee Thompson's Ska Orchestra at The Dublin Castle in Camden Town on Tuesday evening. A great show saw the band joined by Bitty Maclean for a few songs including their excellent new single 'Fu Manchu'; fellow Ruts D.C. man Seamus Beaghen is on Hammond Organ, and with eleven people in the band the stage was almost as crowded as the venue. After the show Seamus introduced me to former Stiff Records boss Dave Robinson, who I met briefly many years ago when I was playing with Neck - he did a good job of remembering me, although I somehow doubt that he actually did!

Wednesday it was off to Bonners Music in Eastbourne to check out a secondhand Marshall Vintage Modern 2266C 50W combo. My good friend Paul Cope had lent me one when Ruts D.C. played in Southampton last month (you can see and hear the amp in this clip of 'Staring At The Rude Boys' from the show) and I had been so impressed with it that I immediately started looking for one - I found this one on eBay a couple of weeks ago, and as luck would have it Big Al Reed was doing some shows in the area - he went to the shop, tried it and on finding that it sounded good suggested that I went down to try it. Somewhat extravagantly I not only bought the amplifier but got myself an Electro-Harmonix Neo Mistress Flanger pedal as well. There go the wages! Well - the amp sounded great and the pedal will be useful for the dubbier parts of Ruts D.C.'s repertoire. Now I've just got to sell my Fender Blues Deville combo as quickly as possible...

Talking of Big Al Reed I played two gigs with him this weekend, the first of which saw The Blistering Buicks visit The Three Mariners in Bagshot. With Dave the drummer gigging elsewhere Howard made his first appearance with the band, and he did a very good job in my not-so-humble opinion. Mind you he usually plays for Shakin' Stevens so he must be pretty good if you think about it... as a show it was definitely a game of two halves - in the first set it was a case of 'if anything can go wrong, it will' - I had a faulty lead, Big Al's acoustic guitar wouldn't work through the P.A. system and then his electric guitar wouldn't work either before a drink was knocked over all-too-near to his effect pedals; most spectacularly of all Chris's keyboard stand collapsed during 'Hoochie Coochie Man'. He did a heroic job of putting everything back together, to such an extent that he was set up ready to play a solo before the song ended! Fortunately the second set could hardly have been more different, and it was definitely a case of 'all's well that ends well' - in the end. Compared to the dramas described above Sunday's duo gig at The Feathers in Chalfont St. Giles was a straightforward affair - three 30-odd minutes sets, some songs with backing tracks and some without, and good fun all round. As always Al conducted the meat raffle - he pulled the first number out with the words 'and the winner is - Big Al', then when he read what was actually on the ticket he discovered that he had indeed won; I was asked to pull the next ticket out and, you've guessed it, I'd won too. (Yeah I know a vegetarian shouldn't buy a meat raffle ticket - but I thought I'd try to support the pub. Would anyone like some steak? It's no good to me!) From there is back home to make my latest appearance on the Music Scene Investigation podcast. Tom was unavailable due to illness so has place was taken by John who along with Ian and myself reviewed three excellent tracks by new artists - I say it every time I'm on there but the standard of the material submitted really is very high as you can see if you watch the latest episode here - I don't think I was too hard on Ian... was I?

Yesterday it was another busy day in Balcony Shirts followed by a visit to the jam night at The Three Wishes in Edgware - all good stuff, and there's hopefully a good day in prospect today, as Ruts D.C. are rehearsing. There are no gigs on the immediate horizon so we're getting together to run through some different songs from the band's back catalogue and to try out some new ideas. Should be interesting... actually I'd better get going or I'll be late!