My last gig of last year saw your humble narrator depping with Mr. Tibbs at The Greyhound in Chalfont St. Peter. When I first got offered the gig Martin the singer said that I'd be 'standing in for Tony', which I didn't think too much about - until a perspective setlist arrived by email and it dawned on me that in addition to playing guitar Tony also plays keyboards on quite a few numbers, which of course meant that I'd have to play something that at least approximated to the keyboard rather than the guitar part on those songs. Confused? So was I! Add the fact that it being New Year's Eve we were playing something like 40 songs over three sets and I suddenly found myself with rather more work than I might at first have thought. Still it's better than sitting at home wishing that I had a gig... in the event it turned out to be a highly enjoyable affair - singer Martin and drummer Bruce used to be in The Cane Toads, and with that band's guitarists Pete and Malcolm both attending the atmosphere was good from the word go. Chris the bass player made a very good job of some very tricky material ('Rio' anyone?) and new-ish guitarist Stuart played very well throughout. Me? I'd be lying if I said that I didn't put a foot wrong all night (there were a lot of songs, some of whom I was very unfamiliar with - well, that's my excuse anyway!) but overall I was pleased with my efforts, and it was certainly interesting trying to get some of the keyboard parts onto guitar. Audience-wise we began with studied indifference and the ill-advisedly-clad young ladies (surely they must be freezing?!?) asking for Amy Winehouse songs ('do we look like we can play any?' said Martin derisively) with sweary young chaps attempting to impress them by dancing wildly though not particularly well; we ended with a full dance floor, a girl asking if she could do a 'new year rap' (Martin let her do it, none of us could understand a word that she said) and proclamations that we were the best band ever. New Year's Eve eh?
I spent the first evening of 2014 with Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes at The 12 Bar Club in London. We arrived just in time to miss Black Juju - a shame since we both agreed that any band named after an Alice Cooper song would be well worth checking out - but were there in time to see The Transients, who I really enjoyed (let's face it, anybody that plays 'The Good's Gone' and 'See No Evil' has to have something going for them haven't they?) although I missed a fair bit of their set as I received a phone call from Segs telling me that he was due to be playing guitar at Ronnie Biggs's funeral on Friday. Weird! While I was talking to him Esso ran into rock photographer Paul Slattery who he last met back in the late-70s when Paul accompanied The Lurkers on a tour of Ireland - much jollity ensued with some very funny stories of those dim and distant times. Excellent. By now Special Branch were on playing Dr. Feelgood songs a-plenty among the older rhythm and blues classics. Hmmm... don't I play in a band like that?
On to the main event - The Fallen Leaves. I saw a few songs by them at the same venue several months ago and had been looking to catch a full gig since then; they feature original Subway Sect guitarist Rob Symmons and later Subway Sect singer Rob Green who has a fine line in onstage comments ('we play simple songs for complex people') as well as namechecking Leonard Sachs in 'The Good Old Days' and pouring himself a cup of tea from a thermos flask during guitar solos. I suppose they're best described as a garage band, but whatever label you choose to use I thought they sounded great, with loads of energy and the Symmons guitar sounding like the musical equivalent of a scythe. Great stuff all round.
Last night I made my first visit to Tropic At Ruislip for quite a while, to see Who tribute band Who's Who. It's easy to be cynical about tribute bands (and I sometimes am!) but arriving to find the venue nearly sold out can only be a good thing can't it? I've regularly referred to my enthusiasm for The Who on many occasions in these hallowed pages, and as such I find myself sometimes being over-critical of any Who tribute band - however in the case of Who's Who I can only say that they make a difficult job sound easy, and as with pretty much every other time that I've seen them play they sounded absolutely tremendous. But like I say, they usually do.
And tomorrow night I make my first appearance of the year on Music Scene Investigation, reviewing three songs that have been sent in for consideration by new artists. It's always an interesting show, so if you're anywhere near the Internet at 9pm then why not tune in? It'll be good to have you along.
So - 2014 then. Let's see what happens next...